“Oh my God, I’m late. Oh God, I’m late. Help me, help me, help me,” I muttered hurriedly as the car skid to a halt.
“Madam, we don reach,” the Uber driver announced.
I opened the door and literally jumped out of the car. Thank God I activated the pay via card option on my Bolt app. “Yeah, thank God for that”, I mumbled as I half ran towards the door.
I stood still for a moment while the security officer opened the door. I flashed him a smile and greeted in my best patronizing voice, “Good morning.”
“Good morning ma’am. Welcome to Radisson Blu.”
“Thank you,” I smiled wider.
Inwardly, I could barely contain myself as I tried to increase my strides on my way to the elevator.
“Could this traffic have been any worse?” I hit my head with my left hand. It was a reflex action. I did that whenever I was nervous. After about ten seconds in the elevator, I noticed it was not moving.
Great. Just great. I’ve not even pushed the button. “See your life outside Sade.” I quickly pushed in 6 and took a calming breath.
The elevator doors were about to close when a large hand. A really large hand, if I do say so, pushed the doors apart. A second later, I watched the owner of the hand get in. Our eyes met and I gasped.
He frowned as though trying to recollect. Then, his eyes brightened and almost immediately, returned to their previous indifferent state.
“Sade?” He asked coolly.
I smoothed down my skirt unconsciously with my left hand. “Yes. Sade.” Hope my outfit was okay? What if fresh pepper from the noodles I hurriedly ate is stuck in my teeth? “Good morning. It’s been a while.” More than a while. It’s been four years!
“Good morning. Yes, it has been a while,” he replied as he shoved his hands into his pockets and leaned on the wall. If I remember correctly, that used to be his signature pose.
“How have you been?” His deep baritone cut into my recollection episode.
“Fine eh. Good. Just good.” Quit babbling! “And you?”
And then, an uncomfortable silence.
Tunde was still staring at me and I was looking everywhere else but at him. Perhaps either one of us would’ve said something but then, the elevator dinged and we were at floor 6.
“Okay. Goodbye. See you around,” I clutched my laptop bag tighter and hurried out of the elevator to join the group of people seated.
It was a conference on project management and I was late! Introduction of speakers had begun.
“Thank God none of the speakers have been called up,” I muttered as I threw a smile at the woman on the next seat and brought out my laptop for positioning on my thigh. I was being paid for my job and I had to do my best. No time for tardiness or ogling dark, handsome, bearded young men (well, just one young man in particular) in the elevator or even anywhere else for that matter. All I had to do was focus and get my job done. Yes. F O C U S. Focus.
“…and now, let’s give a round of applause as we welcome our first speaker for today, Mr. Tunde Ade-Peters.”
All plans to focus fell to the ground in a heartbeat. I slowly joined in the clapping and let my hands go limp when I was done. How am I expected to focus when I’m staring right at Tunde? And not just the Tunde I fell in love with five years ago but this refined, triceps and biceps complete, more bearded, dark hunk Tunde?
I hissed under my breath. When Mrs. Adesina kept breathing down my neck stressing the importance of my presence, why didn’t I check the speakers at the conference? I would have wriggled my way out of it somehow.
“God, You have to help me here.” I prayed as I realized I wasn’t even listening to what he was saying.
“So, in Nigeria presently, what we have and what we need, especially when it comes to project management are still worlds apart. But, there is a solution. What is this solution? Take a look at the projector please and follow me.”
“I’ll follow you to the end of the world,” I mused as I watched him.
I closed my eyes and reminisced on our last meeting before the elevator episode this morning. Tunde had been so excited when he went down on one knee at that restaurant and asked me to marry him. I said no. That broke Tunde. I knew it. I didn’t just break his heart, I broke him. I could see it in his eyes just before I ran out of the restaurant leaving him shocked, mouth agape.
I opened my eyes and stared at him in admiration. “Would things have turned out differently?” I whispered. I watched his gesticulations and the way he held the audience spell bound. I noted the fine cut of his navy blue suit and his crisp white shirt with the red tie. I smiled weakly. “Things would definitely have been different.”
I stared at her picture and sighed. Then, I hissed and turned it face down on the table.
“I need to get back to work. I need to get my head back in this document.” I sighed in frustration and rubbed my eyelids with my fingers. How can I be on a five-page document for over an hour? This was not my usual self. And it’s all because of Sade. All because I got a glimpse, actually more than a glimpse, of her the day before.
Sade Akinwunmi, love of my life.
I got up from my swivel chair and strode to the glass walls of my Lagos office to stare at the outside world. The office was a corner office covered from top to bottom with see-through glass. It came in handy at times, like now, when I was too distracted to work.
I sighed again and walked back to resume my seat. I picked up the picture I’d dropped a few minutes ago.
“Beautiful,” I whispered as my fingers touched the picture reverently. “So beautiful.”
She was even more beautiful now. A lot rounder and curvier. She had gained a few more pounds in the last four years.
In the picture I held, I’d just met her then five years ago. She was slimmer then and her eyes shone with innocence. I had fallen head over heels instantly. It continued that way till she shattered my heart and left the scattered pieces for the bird of the air to pick up. I laughed bitterly and dropped the picture again _. Na guy man like me Sade take do nonsense. If not for God then, I wouldn’t have survived. I never imagined Sade would reject me and my offer. I thought she was in love with me but I guess I was wrong.
After then, I didn’t see her for four years till our meeting in the elevator the previous day. Okay, that’s not exactly true. I practically stalked her social media handles. My initial frown in the elevator the day before had been a ruse. Even if Sade had gained ten ounces, I knew how she looked. It had taken a little more effort to keep calm in that elevator when the only thing I wanted to do was to take her in my arms and forget about the rest of the world.
I followed Sade so well on social media that I knew she was in a relationship or out of one. Good for her, I’d not been able to handle a relationship since she dashed my heart to pieces. When I decided to try with one of my employees, Beatrice, it had ended in disaster. She complained that I was like an emotional brick wall, not giving or receiving any feelings at all.
Anytime Sade posted a picture on Facebook or Instagram, I was sure to study it for the greater part of the day. I knew when her lips became fuller and her cheeks rosier. No matter how she looked, she was still Sade. Simple Sade who could take my breath away.
I laughed as I recalled her simple white shirt and straight black skirt yesterday. She had paired it up with a cream-coloured boyfriend jacket and matching heeled shoes. Who wears a boyfriend jacket to a conference for God’s sake?
“Sade, that’s who.” Funny, she was even the one that had explained what a boyfriend jacket was to me when I had taken her shopping once while we were dating.
I wondered again why she was at the conference. I knew she was a scriptwriter. It was on all her bios across her social media handles.
“What was she doing at the conference?” I wondered again. I quickly placed a call to Yemi, my firm’s PR director. The firm had sent out proposals to a few organizations and invited them for a conference in Lagos. I was still at the Lagos office tying up loose ends. I had a few things to finish up here before travelling back to Abuja, my base.
Yemi picked up instantly.
“Yemi my man!”
“Boss, how far nau? How Eko dey treat you?” He replied casually. He was my employee but he was also a friend.
“I dey o. Eko dey too. I need your help please.”
“Anything for you. What’s up?”
“Do you have the attendance from yesterday’s conference? Your department should have issued reports by now, right?” I hoped my voice didn’t show I was nervous.
“Yes, they’ve reported. Should I send the attendance to you?” Yemi asked.
Thank You Jesus. “Yes please.”
“Okay. I just forwarded it to your mail.”
I loosened my tie and opened my mail on my tablet. “Thanks man. I just received it.”
“No problem. Do fast and come back abeg. Make we hangout.”
“I hear. See you later guy.”
I leaned forward and scrolled through the attendance list intently. “Hmmm…there you are.”
No. 78 – Sade Esther Akinwunmi (Denix Constructions).
My mind dashed back to a time when we made jokes about our initials. I joked that hers spelt SEA and she had taken to calling me TAP. That had even influenced the name of my firm. What I wouldn’t give to return to those times.
Wait, what? Denix Constructions? What was she doing there? I recalled that was one of the firms that had indicated interest in hiring us but their proposed budget was quite minimal. They wouldn’t have been my first choice out of all the other but, if Sade was somehow linked with them?
I placed a call to my PA immediately.
“Bukola,” I called.
“Place a call across to Denix Constructions. Schedule a meeting for 2pm this afternoon.” What are you doing Tunde?
“Tell them I’ll be there myself.”
I looked at my watch. 12:30pm. I took up the picture on my table and stared at the image again. Then, I dropped it and strode out of my office. “Let’s settle this, shall we?”
Read Episode 2 NOW😁