Sunday, 21 February 2021

Life and Everything in Between (Episode Two)

 



I flashed my brightest smile as I walked into Fulaan’s building. Adjusting my black maxi skirt and confirming that my white blazer was well-fitted, I raised my shoulders high and walked graciously. That was the best way to appear after the news of a breakup. And the report of your ex getting engaged to someone else.

 

Nothing could spoil this week. Not the marriage talk Mom had engaged me with this morning or the dreadful I received last night (Tolu getting engaged to Najeebah!). The week would be great. I could feel it!

 

“Hey, Rose! I greeted the receptionist with a bright tone as I unlocked my phone and went through the new notifications. My eyes widened in surprise as my phone buzzed with a million messages. When did I become an overnight celebrity?

 

Why are my colleagues sending swarms of messages? Did I get promoted?’ I wondered as I wrote my name on the register.

 

“Sorry oo, Rafiah,” Rose responded with a croaky voice.

 

I whipped my head to see her staring at me with sympathetic eyes.

 

I chuckled with creased brows. “Sorry for what?”

 

“Tolu got engaged to Najeebah. We’ve all heard the news. And…I’m wondering how devastating that must be. How would you cope…seeing them every day at work?” she said in a mockery tone. I could tell that she was trying her best not to smile.

 

I glanced around and realized that everyone had received the news. They were all staring at me. Oh my gosh! Wasn’t this the best moment to call in sick? I could just bring up an excuse and head home…but face Mom?

 

“Have a nice day,” I muttered as I dropped the pen and crept to my office, trying hard to ignore the pairs of eyes that were fixed on me.

 

I wondered why I had to go through such a traumatic experience. Home was a disaster…and now, I wouldn’t be able to breathe at my workplace. When Tolu had called our relationship quits, I thought it was the worst thing that could happen to me. I never knew what was yet to come- that Tolu would start a new relationship with someone from our department!

 

Fulaan’s office space was such that each department was apportioned to a room. So, I had to work in the same space with all of my colleagues…including Tolu and Najeebah.

 

Settling on my seat and placing my bag on my desk, I lowered my head and glanced through my unread WhatsApp messages.

 

Hi Rafiah. I heard about Tolu and Najeebah’s engagement last night. What can I say? Please be strong. It happens, and the lady is always the one to blame. Don’t let anyone’s mockery get past you. Be strong.

-          Nkechi.

Rafiah! I heard oo! Men are not worth it. Imagine what Tolu did. After breaking your heart, he went for someone else in your department. Ah, men are wicked. That’s why I’ve decided not to get married. One yeye guy also broke my heart. Let’s be friends. I owe you lunch.

-          Eugenia.

 

‘Eugenia, the tomboy? No way! I’d pass.’ I muttered as I ignored other messages and started to arrange my desk. I sighed deeply as I caught sight of Faith walking towards where I sat. Wrong decision; I could have just called in sick.

 

“Hello, Rafiah!” she greeted.

 

Faith was dressed in a red-fitted shirt and black mini skirt. She also painted her lips with red-bold lipstick. Late last year, news had it that Faith was having an affair with the company’s co-founder. And she has been promoted twice since the rumour broke out.

 

“Hi,” I smiled in return as I continued arranging my desk.

 

“I heard about what happened last night. The news is everywhere…”

 

 “Good morning, Faith. Please, can I have a word with Rafiah? Mr. Kolapo sent me.” Asmau said as she appeared in front of us.

 

Nkechi grinned, displaying her bold red lips. “Okay. I’ll see you during lunchtime. Take care, Rafiah.”

 

I heaved a sigh of relief as I stared at Asmau. “Thanks for bailing me out. These people have been bugging me since I entered this office. Tolu this…Tolu that. It is frustrating,” I sighed deeply as I stared at the ceiling.

 

“Asalamu ‘alaykum,” she greeted, staring at me with curious eyes.

 

“Wa’alaykumu salam. I’m just…” I was saying when she pulled me into a tight hug.

 

“It will be fine. Everything will be fine, in sha ALlaah. You’ll get through this.”

 

Tears stung my eyes as I noted that more colleagues were resuming at their desks. “How can I bear to see Tolu every single day? Abi, this is the period to resign from this job?”

 

Asmau pulled away from me and slapped my arm. “You can’t be serious. Because of a man? As I said, you’ll get through this. By the way, you look beautiful in this outfit!”

 

“Thank you, Asmau,” I smiled at her as I settled on my seat and turned on my computer.

 

As I opened the previous day’s document, I stared numbly at the screen and wondered if I was dumb. I mean, how did I even get this job, and why am I here? Why did I decide to become an accountant?

 

“Mrs. Lola is calling us for a meeting. We are to meet at the board room now!” Susie, the short and plump lady, said as she grabbed a jotter and pen and headed out of the office.

 

We all scrambled to our feet as we strolled towards the board room.

***

I could see Mrs. Lola talking earnestly and demonstrating with the movement of her arms. I could see that she was dressed in a white shirt and black palazzo. I could also spot that her wedding band was absent from her finger…again. However, I couldn’t pay attention to a word she was saying. My thoughts were transfixed to the news I received last night and what would become of me at the office.

 

 

I could spot Tolu from a distance, stealing a glance at Najeebah and sitting with pride and fulfillment. Najeebah was also staring repeatedly at the gold engagement ring resting on her middle finger. The smile on her face made it seem like she had achieved the most astounding feat in life.

 

My eyes were dizzy, and my legs felt wobbly as I tried to concentrate and take down notes like others. I tried to keep my eyes open, but they kept betraying me. It was no surprise because I spent last night bawling my eyes out.

 

I struggled to keep my eyes open again but soon…

 

“Rafiah!” Someone yelled at me.

 

I opened my eyes to see Mrs. Lola glaring at me. I glanced around and saw that everyone was glaring at me. “I’m sorry…I didn’t sleep well…” I muttered.

 

I heard giggles as I lowered my eyes and fought the tears from streaming down my face.

 

“Please, Rafiah, take this meeting seriously. Keep your eyes open and pay attention.” She bellowed as she continued her speech.

 

Stealing a glance at Tolu, I saw that he was staring at me. Asmau squeezed my arm as I opened my jotter and pretended to take down notes.

 

I spent the rest of the period pretending to be engrossed in Mrs. Lola’s talk. When we dispersed, I lowered my head and traced my way to my desk. It was then that I noticed someone standing on my path.

 

I froze in surprise and shock as I raised my eyes. It was Tolu, glancing at me with a quizzical look.  I could also spot Najeebah stealing glances as she walked past us. “Asalamu ‘alaykum, Rafiah.”

 

Tolu was tall and fair-complexioned with charming eyes. His eyes were everything! They dazzled whenever he smiled. I tried to bring forth words from my mouth but what came out were breaths of air.

 

“Rafiah?”

 

“Yes…yes…” I stuttered. “How are you…how is work?”

 

“AlhamduliLlaah, Rafiah,” he cleared his throat. “Erm, I just wanted to let you know that I’m sorry…I know this might be difficult for you…”

 

I let out a chuckle. “Difficult? No. I’m fine…we’re cool. There’s no issue at all,” I gulped hard.

 

Tolu smiled. “Well, I’m glad to know we’re on the same page. I’ll send you the wedding invitation card soon. Would you mind attending?”

 

“Oh…of course. It would be an honour.”

 

“Great. Have a great day at work,” he said as he walked away.

 

Asmau appeared behind me. “Are you okay?”

 

I scrunched out up my face as I let out a shuddering sigh. “Do I look fine? AstaghfirLlaah. I don’t, Asmau. Can we just continue with today’s tasks?”

 

Asmau stared at me with sympathetic eyes. “Yes, we can,” she replied as she held my arm.

 

***

I could spot the movement of Asmau’s lips as she talked earnestly about a topic, swinging her hands and widening her eyes to emphasize her point.  I wasn’t paying attention. All I think of was the way I had gotten disgraced at work this morning. Mrs. Lola had ridiculed me, and colleagues mocked me! My head couldn’t stop recalling the laughter that filled the air.

 

“Rafiah!” Asmau yelled my name.

 

“Yes?” I said as I put a spoon of rice in my mouth.

 

Asmau and I had gone for our lunch break. As we sat down and ate our meals, my thoughts were clogged with the incident that happened some hours ago.

 

She gave me an incredulous stare. “You’re saying you haven’t been listening to what I’ve been saying?”

 

I sipped from my bottle of water as I glanced at her with apologetic eyes. “I’m sorry. What have you been saying?”

 

“I was talking about how my husband bought a hideous gown for me…well, it’s pointless now. Tell me, what is bugging you? Tolu and Najeebah?”

 

I placed my hands over my head. “Everything, Asmau! Everything! What’s worse is that I have to see them every single day.” I blurted out as I took my phone from the table and logged into Instagram.

 

Colourful ad captivating pictures of people wearing happy faces filled my Instagram feed. I wondered if they were truly happy. As I double tapped on a post updated by a blogger dressed in an orange gown, my phone chimed with a new notification.

 

Hi Rafiah. How’s your day going?

-          Talhah.

 

Talhah was a financial journalist I had met in a Telegram group. He had sent a private message, and we started a conversation. He seemed like a smart and friendly person. Only that he rarely came online. Maybe this was the time to give social media relationship a chance. He could be the one! I’d read several stories of couples who met their significant other on social media. This could be it!!!

 

My face flickered in delight as I imagined Talhah appearing at the office with a bouquet of roses! My colleagues would be stunned. They would finally realize that my life could go on perfectly without Tolu!

 

“Rafiah?” Asmau called again.

 

I grinned as I looked up from my phone. Just then did my phone buzz with a new notification.

 

I was wondering if you’ll be free next weekend. We could meet in a public space. Say, Ndubuisi Kanu Park?

-          Talhah.

 

That would be awesome!!!

-          Rafiah.

 

After clicking the ‘send’ button,  I looked up to see Asmau glaring at me. “What? I am making sure I live my best life by forging ahead. I’ll be going on a blind date with someone I met on social media.”

 

Asmau spilled rice on her hijab as she heard what I just said. “A blind date?”

 

“Yes, Asmau. Life is about exploring. Who knows? He could be the one.”

 

“Well…I think you should take things slow…”

 

“It’s not like I’m getting married to him today. Asmau, if you lived with my mother, you’ll be desperate to get married. I’ll also go on a date with my mother’s friend’s son. I mean, let’s give everything a try.”

 

Asmau chuckled as she held her bottle of water. “Here’s to finding the one.”

 

I hit my bottle of water against hers. “Here’s to finding the one!”

 

“So, will you be attending my sister’s wedding? It will be fun!” she said with excitement.

 

“I don’t…know. I have no new dress to wear.”

 

“Speaking of new dress…remember that I told you my husband bought a hideous gown for me?” Asmau winced. “I was supposed to wear it to the wedding! He surprised me this morning by presenting a colourful box. I was like, ‘Oh, this might be the glamorous dress I had said that I wanted to wear to my sister’s wedding.’ Upon seeing the gown, I was shocked to see it was so ugly. Big, shapeless…and he didn’t buy it at a low price.”

 

I gave a burst of throaty laughter. “What did you do? How did you react?”

 

“I feigned a smile and acted like I was so excited. Then I placed a kiss on his lips,” she explained.

 

“Awwn…so pretentious. Why didn’t you just tell him the truth about the dress?”

 

“It will break his heart. Do you know what he must have gone through to choose the outfit? I don’t want to discourage him from surprising me with gifts.”

 

“Oh, I see,” I stated, wishing that I could be Asmau with a loving husband. “What will you do now?”

 

“I guess I’ll meet a good seamstress. We could make some adjustments. So…are you attending the wedding?”

 

“I don’t have a husband to surprise me with a dress,” I said as Asmau laughed loudly. “Seriously. I don’t have a dress to wear.”

 

“No problem. I’ll fix one for you before the day,” Asmau was saying when her phone started to ring.

 

A wide smile spread across her face as she answered the call. “My love…”

 

I turned away and faced my food, knowing it would be one of those long calls with her husband that wouldn’t end until the end of lunch break. 


Don't miss out on the previous episode:


Episode One


 

 

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