Welcome back, enjoy this episode.
The conference hall was packed on Tuesday morning as people awaited the arrival of the Chief Executive Officer. Gradually DAA staff members filed into the hall in groups, whispering. The hall soon filled up in no time. Since no one knew the reason for the meeting, they all drew their own conclusions. The Managing Director didn’t give any reason for the meeting when he announced it that morning during team briefing. Guilty eyes roamed the hall. Team members shifted in their chairs. It was a known fact that the CEO didn’t visit without coming to address an omission or a commission. They all wondered what it was that day.
Nimi and Layefa sat close to each other. They, like others, were anxious about the CEO’s visit. Layefa drew close to Nimi. “Why is he coming?” she asked in a whispery tone. Nimi gave a shrug in response. “I thought he addressed all issues when he visited a few weeks back when we lost the Blue Sea Account.”
“I really don’t know why he is coming, Laye. I just wish he’ll address the issue of shortage of staff in certain departments. I’m tired of working like a ‘Jackie’” Nimi replied. She smiled as she replied her messages on WhatsApp.
“You’re so relaxed.” Layefa accused, eyes going from her face to her phone. “What if he’s coming to deal with us for something we have done?”
Nimi raised her eyes from her phone. She turned to Laye. “We didn’t do anything. Just relax. I don’t know why you’re so worried.” She looked over her shoulder at the person to her right. Her tone dropped to a conspiratorial whisper. “If anyone should be worried, it should be Mr. Uwem.” She smiled.
Layefa smiled too. “Ah, that’s true.” She agreed. “He hasn’t been punished for failing to submit the final design for the Blue Sea Account before we lost it”
The tension left Laye’s body. They had figured out who would be punished when the CEO came that morning. The Blue Sea Account was a major account that would have given the Agency global recognition, but they had allowed it slip out of their hands. The CEO came down hard on all teams and threatened a salary cut for their lost. It took several appeal letters before he reconsidered and launched an investigation into those responsible for the lost. That conclusion pleased Laye as she was not on the Blue Sea team. Nimi, was however on the team; even though Mr. Uwem had a larger part of the blame.
Laye watched Nimi now who kept chatting on her phone, completely lost to the events in the hall. Her narrow oblong face with angular cheekbones and a pointed chin was beautiful. Her pencil-thin eyebrows rose slightly as a smile spread across her face while her hands flew over her phone’s keypad. The smile lightened up her already glowing, dark skin. It was no surprise that Nimi had the best of all; she was beautiful through and through. She had the love of her life, even if they were having problems. She still had others showing interest in her, and it would definitely be Raymond’s lost to let go of her.
Laye heaved a deep sigh, fighting the envy rising within her. Nimi was her best friend. It was wrong to be envious of her, but she couldn’t help it. She didn’t have Nimi’s face, neither did she have her figure. The men wouldn’t even notice her. Beside Nimi, she felt like an ugly duckling. Forget the fact that she had an abundance of natural curls while Nimi couldn’t even uncover her short hair. Nimi outshone her in all. If Nimi had been an Art Director in the Agency, she would have been better than Laye. Being an Art Director was her only strong point, and yet she couldn’t judge by that. Nimi was one of the best Copywriters in her team, while she was just struggling to be recognized. She allowed the cold arms of self-pity envelope her as she thought more of her disadvantages. Her mother’s words danced in her head with heavy steps. Her head started aching as she thought of the last argument they had. Her mother had accused her of being an ingrate. She had told her in no simple terms that she was deliberately staying away from men so that she, her mother, would continue in sadness. This conclusion had been based on the number of men she interacted with every day and her refusal to date anyone of them. Her mother couldn’t believe that she was yet to attract any of her male co-workers. What would she do? She rubbed her aching forehead. Her eyes went over the men in the room, from copywriters to art directors, from designers to production artists, name it; DAA had them in shapes and sizes. Who was the one for her? Who would love her as much as she had loved Pere, and not break her heart like he did when it was almost time for them to discuss walking down the aisle?
These questions plagued her mind, sending a resounding headache across her head. Pere had such effect on her. The mere thought of him could cause a panic attack. She could already feel one coming as her heart started beating fast. She clutched her chest and placed a hand on Nimi’s shoulder. Nimi turned to her. Her eyes widened when she saw Laye breathing fast. Before she could react, The MD walked in to inform them of the arrival of the CEO. They all stood up. Nimi kept looking at Laye with concerned eyes. Laye fought for control of her emotions. She repeated the mantra she had recited over and over since her breakup with Pere two years ago and his wedding last year after dating for seven years. Just as she drew a steadying breath, the CEO walked into the hall with a young man. Immediately, Laye’s eyes settled on him, her breathlessness from moments ago was forgotten as her eyes followed the man to the front of the hall. His confident strides struck her and caused a stirring within her. Her mind went to Pere. A stirring course through her body and made her shiver a little. She turned sharply when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
“Hello, handsome,” Nimi whispered her eyes on the young man. “Is he the new Art Director?” She quizzed but continued without waiting for an answer. “I hope he’ll be on someone’s team.” She gave a knowing smile.
Laye cracked a smile despite her mood. “I know.” She replied in a conspiratorial tone, just as the MD welcomed the CEO.
The CEO adjusted the mic in front of him, cleared his throat and started speaking. “Good morning to you all.” He greeted. The staff chorused their greeting too. He continued, “Let me start by appreciating you all for the effort you put into making this Agency a great one. It is my prayer that God will reward you accordingly.” A chorus of amen followed his prayer. He expressed his thanks for a few minutes and encouraged them to work harder before moving to the crux of the matter. “I don’t want to dwell on the accounts we have lost, I’m believing that we would do more and get more accounts. To achieve this, I came here today with someone I trust so much and rely on.” He turned to the young man who bowed slightly in acknowledgment of the commendation. “Let me introduce to you the one who will manage the affairs of the Agency in my absence. He is my nephew, but I see him as a son. I introduce to you this morning, the Executive Director of DPassion Advertising Agency, Mr. Ken Timinipre.” He smiled at Ken and drew him closer to him.
The staff applauded the CEO’s announcement. Some faces beamed with smiles while others, in confusion. Laye belonged to the former. She kept grinning from tooth to tooth as Mr. Ken acknowledge their applause with a smile and a nod of the head. When the applause died down, the CEO urged them to work with him and give him all the needed support to make his work easy. He ended by asking Ken to speak to the staff. Laye moved forward in her chair as the ED took the mic.
“I’m glad to be here, and I know we’ll work together for the good of the Agency. Please, feel free to communicate with me if you have any problems. I look forward to a wonderful time with you all. Thank you.” He said.
The staff applauded again. The meeting came to an end, and they all got up to return to their different work areas. Laye pulled Nimi to the Art Office. She quickly shut the door behind her. “Oh, my God! Nimi, what do you think of our new ED” She asked, eyes dancing with delight like a child who found a pack of sweet.
Nimi gave a small smile and shrugged. “Well, he seems cool, but I can’t draw any conclusions yet. It’s his first day after all; in fact, his first hour. Let’s wait and see.” She reasoned.
“There’s something striking about him. Did you notice?” She asked.
Nimi shrugged. “I did.” She admitted. “But I’m not drooling over him like you.” She told her.
Laye opened the door slightly and peeked out. “Working in DAA just got better, Nimi. Everything has changed.” She closed the door and faced Nimi. “We have a young, handsome, hot…hmmm” She closed her eyes.
Nimi came to stand in front of her and snapped her fingers at her. Laye’s eyes flew open. “Snap out of it, Laye. For all you know, he could have a wife and children.”
Laye’s smile wobbled. “That’s true o. I’ll check his hand whenever I’m close to him.” She commented. “Just imagine me taking that ‘hottie’ home to meet my mother; she’ll be off my case forever.” A dreamy look came into her eyes. She turned back to the door.
Nimi laughed. “Dream on, girl. It cost nothing after all.” She teased. Just then, her phone beeped, notifying her of a text message. She drew her lock pattern and read the text. It was from Raymond.
‘Hey, Nimi. How is your day going? Can we meet after work? We need to talk.’
The mirth disappeared from her eyes when she read the text message. She suddenly felt afraid. Her heart pounded in her chest. Is this the solution I’ve been praying for, or the end I’ve been expecting? She pondered. No, she shook her head. The text sounded ominous to be a solution. For crying out loud, he even addressed her as Nimi. Whatever happened to ‘my honey bunch’, ‘sweetie’? Hmmm… what really is behind Raymond’s change? When all should be going well, he suddenly grew distant and cold. For two years, they had it good. He took her to see his mother a few months back, and that was the beginning of his new attitude.
Nimi shook her head in confusion. If the woman didn’t want me, she would have shown it. But she was all smiles and love.
Laye, sensing the sudden silence, moved away from the door and turned to her friend. Sad lines drew lines on where smiles had brightened just moments ago. “Hey, where did you travel to?” She asked, pushing her lightly.
Nimi drew a deep breath. “Raymond sent a text.” She said simply.
Laye studied her for a while. “What is it about?” she asked, carefully. From Nimi’s look, she surmised it wasn’t a good one.
Nimi gave a light shrug. “Nothing much. He just said we need to talk.” She moved into the office and rested against the window frame. She closed her eyes, trying not to show her fear.
Laye could read her of course. They have been friends for years, and she has had her own share of heartbreak. She could read the signs, but she would say nothing. She came to stand beside Nimi. “Everything will be fine, Nimi. You and Raymond will work things out. Don’t assume the worst until you meet him.” she placed a comforting arm on Nimi’s shoulder.
Nimi tried to smile, but her lips would not cooperate. They grew tight with anxiety. “I really hope so, Laye. From the depth of my heart, I hope so.”
The loud knock on the door, followed by a booming voice stalled further discussions. “Laye, open the door! I have things to tidy up.”
Their eyes went to the clock at the same time. Nimi gasped. “Oh, my God! I have a something to show my Creative Director. See you later, Laye.” She hurried out of the office, almost running into the other Art directors sharing the office with Laye. At the door, she turned to Laye. “Don’t spend your entire day mooning over the Executive Director.” She teased.
Laye’s laughter rang after her as she made her way to her work area. It was time for serious business. She needed it to keep her mind from drifting to Raymond.
Ken sat behind his uncle’s large oak desk. The office was twice the size of that of the manager of the company he worked for in Lagos. It wasn’t his first time being in his uncle’s office, but it was the first time he was there as the boss. He swirled around in the leather chair. His eyes moved from the shelf to the file cabinet; to the television and DVD sets on a small table and to the refrigerator beside the table. Everything was spic and span. He closed his eyes and sent a prayer of thanks to heaven. He didn’t deserve this, but God had made it possible.
He turned back to the table. He frowned when he saw the piles of files on it. He picked a pile and looked through them. There were application letters and proposal letters. He dropped them. There would be time for all that, he told himself. Now, he had to familiarize himself with the running of the Agency. He pressed the intercom and asked the MD to see him.
The MD arrived in a matter of minutes. Ken pointed him to a seat in front of him. “Thanks for coming.” He said. The MD nodded. He was a few years older than Ken, but he was a hard worker. Uncle Doutimi had told him that much and had encouraged him to work with him. “I just want an update on the Agency’s activities.” He told him.
“No problem, sir. I’ll get all information across to you.” He replied.
Ken shook his head. “I prefer you call me Ken.” He stated.
The MD laughed. “I’ll think about it.” He winked at Ken.
Ken smiled. “Alright then. I’ll like to meet with members of the staff after closing tomorrow. Please inform them.”
“Okay. Is that all?”
“Yes. For now.”
The MD got up and left. Ken looked through more files. God had given him the opportunity, and he was going to make the most of it.
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