Annie still couldn’t believe that she had finally gotten a job in Lagos. The once monstrous city had suddenly decided to be nice to her. Her parents were ecstatic when she called to inform them. Terry was indifferent and had gone on a motivational lecture on why she should continue stripping. He had made her see the difficulties she would continually face in terms of distance between her office and her home. She understood that problem quite alright and for the past three weeks, she has been struggling with waking up by 5 am, leaving the house by 6 am and resuming work by 8 am. Her Boss; Mr. Daren had told her that some days, she would be required to resume by 7:30 am and that had made her panic because they shared the same office space on the top floor of the building. The office was designed in such a way that Mr. Daren was in another inner office while she was positioned outside the main area. Neka’s office was just the next door leaving both of them as the only occupants of that space unlike the other departments of the company that shared open spaces on each floor of the two storey building. This meant that she had to be on seat before he resumed work.
But she wasn’t really worried, her salary was a consolation. Although, she always got home late, she was okay with the terms of the company which required her to undergo a three months probation first before she would be made a full staff. Her salary for the first three months would be eighty thousand Naira monthly then, if she was fully absorbed into the system, it would be increased to the actual amount she was due. She would also be entitled to other fringe benefits which the HR would disclose after the end of the three months probation. She loved their offer and was determined to work hard to become a full staff.
So, out of excitement, she had told her neighbor, Mama David. The mother of five had created an uproar in the compound as she ran out of Annie’s room where she had gone to borrow matches and started shouting with joy to anyone who cared to listen that Annie had finally gotten a job as “second in command” on the “Island”. The whole “compound” had been instantly filled with shouts of joy and songs of thanks as neighbors either left their soups on their kerosene stove or stuck their heads out of their one room apartments to join in the celebration. Bros Zik had bought small stout for all the women and Star beer for the men. For them, it was a thing of achievement for an Ajegunle person to get a job with one of those “high flying” companies on the Island.
Annie had been embarrassed with joy. She had thought to herself, “look at these people, they don’t even know me that well, yet, my joy is their joy”. She had been overwhelmed with love and despite the fact that she nursed a deep resentment for her environment, she was thankful for the not so perfect people she had as neighbors.
Every morning posed to be the most mischievous. You never knew what awaited you on the highway. The wahala from all the mean yellow colored “danfo” buses always left you exhausted by the time you got to the office. The conductors were ruthless with their words and their curses when they found out that you didn’t have “change” that early morning, could mar your entire day. So Annie made it a point of duty to always buy something from her neighbors who traded corn and fruits in front of the compound so that she could have change for the early morning rush.
On this particular Friday morning, she left her home by 5:45 am and was lucky to get to the office by exactly 7:30 am. She was happy she had taken that risk to have left home earlier than 6 am as usual. So as she got into the spacious office, the first thing on her mind was to sleep.
She tried opening her eyes but the sleep was just too sweet to let go. Then as she grew into consciousness, she felt another presence. Gradually, her senses awoke to reality and she perceived the familiar scent of Hugo Boss which she had come to appreciate since the past three weeks but then, she knew she wasn’t dreaming. Mr. Daren was around. She quickly opened her eyes and sat up to adjust the strands of her carefully wrapped natural hair but she saw him standing and watching her. She was shocked and ashamed and confused. She quickly glanced at the wall clock and realized that it was only 8 am on the dot. She noticed that he was still standing there so she greeted him as calmly as she could.
“Good morning Sir. I’m sorry I slept off”
He had a slight frown on his fore head as he studied her but he replied;
“Good morning Annie. Long night again?”
“Not really Sir. I got home late as usual” she answered then she quickly added, “but it’s fine. I’m not complaining”
He nodded and turned to go into his office then as if remembering something, paused and called over his shoulder, “please come in for a sec”
Annie sat in front of her Boss and as usual, he took his time attending to some urgent emails before turning his attention to her.
“What time do you get home?” he asked
“9 pm Sir”
“Certainly that’s really late?” he said with a raised eyebrow
“Honestly Sir, I’m fine. I just had to sleep today cos I got here by 7:30”
“Alright then. Let me know if you need anything” he said and together, they went through his itinerary for the day.
Annie was worried. This was the third time Mr. Daren had caught her sleeping in the morning. The first time had been the very first day she had resumed work. She had left the house by 5:30 am , gotten to work by 6: 30 am and had slept till 8 am only because he had woken her up himself. Ever since, she had resolved to find a balance in time management. Now, he had caught her again. So during lunch, she had called Terry for a brief chat cos there was always a rush hour on Fridays. He had agreed and had promised to pick her up after work.
She was surprised at his eagerness to see her and suspected that there was something fishy about his eagerness but then, she ignored the nudge. Terry’s always been extra, she mused to herself.
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