Panic replaced shock. “NO, no, no, no! This can't be happening,” Namdi thought. What cruel God would toy with him like this, writing again into his life such low hanging fruit, glistening with a sweet fragrance, just asking to be plucked. He began to step in the opposite direction. The woman in the chair saw this; an amused smile appearing on her lips.
Namdi cursed, giving up all sense of decorum, preparing to turn tail and run. It would be the second time he would be running from a woman in his short life. Ada, a shiver running through his body as he thought of his primary school bully. His mum had said it was because she liked him; he should try talking to her. Taking her advice and asking Ada what her parents fed her to make her so big did not help matters. He finally had his chance for revenge years ago. It had not gone as intended.
The slowly moving door finally reached its end, exposing one more person in the room.
"Ahh, you recognise me? This celebrity status is useful shaa. If I had known, I would have set the fire myself long ago."
Seated in the only other chair in the room was the owner of the furniture store. Stopping his retreat, Namdi's analytical skills began to work in overdrive, connecting the dots.
"I dey play oh, before you label me an arsonist."
Namdi silently thanked the man for assuming his moment of silence to correct himself, weighing his likelihood of guilt.
"Mr. Aliyu, if I may call you that. We will be waiting for the report from the fire marshall before blame, if any, is assigned"
"Ahh, call me Baba Aga-tele, that's what my friends who saw me on television call me."
"Alright Mr. Aliyu."
Namdi said, completely ignoring what he thought was a silly name. Briskly, he walked towards his desk. On it was a single picture of him and his wife on a cruise, obviously moved. It was a simple solid desk; space in the center for him to stretch his legs. He would sometimes use that space to kick the only other chair in the office. A silly game he had played with the first receptionist was to buzz her in to come pick it up. She was quite creative in how she achieved this simple task. One day, he stepped off the elevator only to find her replaced with the current receptionist. A quick inquiry led him to knowledge of the old receptionist’s promotion to the Abuja branch. The new receptionist did not have the same creativity.
"You are in my seat."
Gracefully she rose, the office chair a throne, she the queen. She left behind two perfectly shaped butt prints in the soft supple leather. The amused smile never left her lips. Calm, composed, she was royalty. Everything within her control; all that she wished bent to her will.
Walking past Namdi, her bare arm brushed against him. He could smell the shampoo in her hair, the cocoa butter on her skin, carrying with it simple promises. Mr. Aliyu's face was buried in his bag, oblivious to the charged scene occuring beside him. She stopped behind his chair, crossing her arms below her bosom. With a thud, his bag fell to the floor, a few papers flying out.
The sound of the bag hitting the floor broke the spell on Namdi. His eyes opened, taking unsteady steps to his chair. Gathering the few papers together onto the desk, Baba Aga-tele smiled as he began to speak; Namdi sitting across the desk from him.
"Ahh, The official documents are all here. I'll leave you to it."
He stood up, preparing to leave.
"Mr. Aliyu, where do you think you are going? You have to give a detailed report of what happened. You are a witness to the insurance claim."
"Ahh! About that, I wasn't there when the fire started."
"What! You said to the reporter..."
"Haba! I wanted to be on Television. It was this sales girl who saw everything. She will fill out the report."
Getting up, he went to the door, quickly letting himself out. Namdi sat there furious, speechless, his eyes watching the door till it closed, sealing his fate. A heavy silence fell on the room. With exaggerated slowness, she walked round the seat Mr. Aliyu had just vacated. The world waited for her, time waited for her. Namdi could not look away, taking in every minute movement of her body, his fury draining. She sat down, a toned leg lifting to cross over the other. Her lips parted.
"You can call me Bisi."
Continued on next page...
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