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The weather was strangely cold and Uyi watched as Temi shivered in her seat even though the AC in the office was turned off and the window next to her was closed. He wondered why of all days, she had decided not to wear a sweater. But needless to say, she was looking good in a plain white top that made no attempt at hiding her breasts and Uyi was glad that she had gone the extra mile to appear sexy. She had been a sight for sore eyes for him, a distraction from the complex matrix systems he had been staring into all day.
“Thank God it’s Friday!” A colleague exclaimed with his hands in the air and Uyi knew it was four o’clock. He smiled at the colleague who had gone back staring into his screen through thick glasses. He was a strange guy who rarely smiled nor frowned but did weird things like dance his way in or out the office, bang his head over his keyboard incessantly whenever frustrated and scream out ‘Thank God It’s Friday’ each time the clock struck an hour every single Friday. He was the only form of entertainment they had in the office since television was not allowed.
Uyi pushed out his chair and walked to Temi’s table.
“Hi.” She managed out a smile.
“Are you okay?” he asked and she nodded. “You don’t look too well. Is it the cold?”
She nodded again and he felt her forehead.
“Tems, your temperature is up.”
“Is it?” She let out a sniffle. “I have sore throat, headache and runny nose. I’ve taken Paracetamol sha.”
“You need something stronger. I’ll just run down the road and get you Actifed.”
“Work ends in an hour, so I can manage. Thank God it’s Friday. Phew!”
“You need to rest. Work has been so bad this week. As in, I’m seeing double on my monitor.”
“Your perfume is strong. Go away.”
“I’ll walk you home and nurse you if you promise not to jump on me again.”
Temi’s little, shy eyes shifted uneasily and she pushed him away playfully. “Go jor. I do one silly thing and you keep reminding me. Haven’t I behaved myself since?”
“By dodging me throughout the week and boning as if we’re fighting? Plizz! What if we had slept with each other?”
“Shhh!” Temi looked around, embarrassed, scared that a colleague had heard him.
“Go nau. I have work to do.”
“Omoruyi!” someone called and Uyi turned in the direction of the door to see one of the senior partners’ secretaries.
“Oga wants to see you immediately!”
Uyi nodded and turned back to Temi.
“Mr Enenche wants to see you?” Temi asked. “What have you done now?”
“I don’t like the guy. He looks like a pedophile.”
“What? It’s a vibe I get around him.”
Uyi shook his head and walked away. Outside his office he took a flight of stairs that led him up and came out to a long hallway. He walked to the last office on his right and peeped in. The secretary who had called him earlier was behind her desk and she pointed to Mr. Enenche’s door. Uyi walked straight to it.
As most bosses appeared, Mr Enenche was older than Uyi but he was still in his prime. He was bald with no signs of gray in his beard and was totally bereft of wrinkles. And also, like most men his age, he wore glasses that just wouldn’t rest anywhere else but on the tip of his nose. An Omega watch adorned his wrist and a suit that squeezed at the armpits but swagged of wealth was covering his upper body over an equally expensive-looking shirt. The weather did not seem to bother him because his AC was on and at a very low temperature.
“Good evening, sir.”
Mr. Enenche nodded but stuck his face to his laptop. Uyi watched the movement of his pudgy hand as it caressed the touchpad of his laptop.
“I need you to hack into a site for me. Can you do that?”
Uyi wondered if it was a trick question. Of course, he could hack into anywhere he wanted but it was against personal principles and work ethics. He replied nothing and fixed his eyes on a church poster behind Mr. Enenche.
“I asked you a question, dude. Can you hack into a site for me?”
The ‘dude’ unsettled Uyi but he replied, “I can, sir, but I’d rather not.”
“I knew you wouldn’t,” Mr. Enenche continued, his head still crouched over his laptop. “But if you have a younger sister whose virginity has become the butt end of randy men’s jokes, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to make sure you secure her honor?”
At this point, Mr. Enenche looked up into Uyi’s eyes.
“I know you’re aware of the site running solely to see Damaris ruined?”
Uyi considered this another trick question but saw through the man’s piercing eyes to know he was in trouble if he lied.
“Yes sir, I’ve heard about the site.”
“You know the people behind it?”
“I heard they work here.”
“I’m not aware of that, sir.”
“Do you know why I called you in particular?”
“Because I have watched you closely. Apart from the fact that your work is outstanding, you seem to have a godly comportment which is very hard to find in your peers.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“That wasn’t a compliment. I just stated a fact. Anyway, it pains me to see my little cousin being treated like a commodity on display.”
“Sir, your little cousin is Dami… Sorry, Damaris?”
“Yes. And she is under my guardianship. Her father will skin me alive if any bastard messes her up. I know she has her flaws but she needs direction and that is why I need you to find out what idiots are running that site. In short, I want the IP addresses of all the people who log on to that site. All of them!”
“Be sure that you’ll be rewarded.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“And by the way, I’m inviting you to my house on Sunday for my baby’s naming ceremony.”
Mr. Enenche went back to his laptop.
“My secretary would give you the details. Come with your girlfriend. I like to know my employees one on one.”
“And Omoruyi,” Mr. Enenche lifted his head. “Please keep this between us, will you?”
“Good.” He dismissed Uyi who walked out and hurried down the hallway. As he got to the stairs, he came across Dami who was speaking on her phone but she stopped him with her free hand and had him wait for her. During the wait, Uyi studied everything about her carefully, his eyes adoring her features without letting on what he was doing. Her face was carved to perfection with high cheekbones, twinkling brown eyes, a straight nose and full but wide pink lips that caressed each word she uttered. The touch of her hand on Uyi’s was smooth and she distractedly but gently stroked him, leaving goosebumps on his flesh.
“Hi.” She smiled at him after ending her phone call. Her hand was still resting on his and she applied gentle pressure with every word she spoke. “Uyi, right?”
“Dami, what’s up?”
“You didn’t ask me how I got your name,” she said and Uyi spared her a half smile.
“Does it matter?”
“Not that it does but hey, nice meeting you again.”
“And you smell really nice.”
She started up the stairs and Uyi made his way down.
“How do you feel?” Uyi searched Temi’s face as she rested her head on her pillow. He thought her eyes looked too sunken without her glasses.
“I’m fine,” she replied him and bit her lip. “Please close the windows.”
“No, you need clean, fresh air.”
“I’m still cold.”
“You’ll be fine under your blanket and once the drug kicks in, it’ll send you straight to sleep. Where’s your boyfriend by the way?”
“He’ll come later.”
Uyi thought he saw a lie in her eyes but he didn’t dwell on it. He reached for his laptop carrier from the floor and pulled out his laptop.
“You’re always insulting Naruto. Well, today, I’ll introduce you to it and I promise you that you’ll love it.”
“Whatever. Just play it. Hopefully it will put me to sleep faster than the Actifed.”
Uyi turned on his laptop and played the cartoon in question. Initially, Temi seemed interested in it but after she received a call from someone whom he suspected was her boyfriend, she turned her face away and backed Uyi for a long time. He could hear her sniffing every now and then and he suspected she was crying but he didn’t pry. Finally, she turned around and spared him a weak smile and continued watching.
“So who’s this guy with tribal marks?” she asked, pointing at the screen.
Uyi laughed. “It’s not tribal marks.”
“It’s what nah? Three lines on each side of his face like my grandfather.”
Uyi smiled. “He is the Naruto.”
“Okay. And that’s his babe?”
“Sakura? She’s his friend but she’s in love with his former best friend, Sasuke, who is now his enemy.”
“And from all indication Naruto is in love with the babe but she’s forming friendship abi?”
“But wait oh, why do they run with their hands behind their backs?”
“The ting tire me sef.” Uyi laughed and Temi hissed in amusement.
“You guys can watch rubbish.”
“But it’s better than watching Cuando sex me.”
Temi burst into laughter and went into a terrible coughing fit until Uyi held her up, rubbed her back and it subsided.
“It’s not Cuando sex me,” she corrected after finding her voice. “It’s Cuando Seas Mia and it means when you are mine.”
“Whatever. It’s cheesy nonsense. I can’t watch that mush with a gun to my head.”
“Speaking of guns to heads, why did Mr. Enenche want to see you sef?” Temi asked.
“It can’t be nothing serious with that man. It’s either he’s about to fire you or promote you. Which one?”
“Do they promote corpers?”
“Why did he call you nau?”
“He simply wanted me to find out who is running that totameavirgin website.”
Temi hissed. “I thought it was even something serious. Isn’t he a hypocrite!”
“What do you mean?”
“The person that is running the site is his very close friend.”
“Yeah. So how come he doesn’t know?”
“Well, friends stab friends in the back. But who is the person?”
“I’m not telling.”
“Temire, you’re not being fair.”
“I gave my word.”
“So did I and see how I just broke it by telling you.”
She stuck out her tongue.
“And they say women don’t know how to keep secrets. But seriously, you won’t tell me?”
“I hate you. And by the way, your nope sounds like dope. All your Ns are now Ds.”
Temi sniffed. “Stupid catarrh. And stupid hypocrite Mr. Enenche. He and his friend like to follow small-small girls and use them anyhow. So it serves him right that people want to use his cousin.”
“Wow. That’s harsh. What’s eating you like that?”
“Nothing. Back to our argument. Admit that romance movies and series are good.”
Uyi mock-vomited and she hit him with a pillow. Then they fell into an argument that dragged on for a while and in the end, Uyi had to admit that he had enjoyed some cheesy movies. Temi blessed him with a hug and rested on her pillow again. They settled into silence for a while as the exotic Japanese language coming from the cartoon pulled Temi into a snooze. When Uyi turned around to explain a scene to her, he found her asleep with her mouth slightly open due to the blockage in her nostrils. He pinched out some mentholated balm from a small container and applied it below her nose; he also moistened her lips with some of her cherry lip balm and lifted her blanket to cover her properly. He wrote a note and placed it by her nightstand before he left. Slinging his laptop carrier across his shoulder, he walked off into the night, hoping to catch a cheap cab being that all he had on him was three hundred naira.
There was no one home when Uyi walked in through the front door. Earlier Ovie had complained about being too broke to host anyone for their customary Friday shindig and made plans to go see his elder sister to raid her freezer. As usual, Peter also made plans to tag along, keeping to his scrubby nature. Now, with the house to himself, Uyi made a meal of jellof rice and sausages, popped open a can of cold beer and settled to eat and continue with his Naruto when Edet appeared. The front door was locked, so he pressed his face to the window and made gestures at Uyi to open up for him. But Uyi being in no mood to do so, continued with his alone time. Edet moved away from the window and went to the door and began banging on it, yet Uyi remained seated and upped the volume of his laptop. Edet returned to the window and peeped really hard to be sure someone was within, that he wasn’t just imagining things.
“Uyi, your papa! You dey craze?! Open dis door jor!”
Uyi ignored him and after more insults, he disappeared from the window. Uyi finished his meal and cartoon and went for another can of beer but Edet showed up again. He came with a loud bang that rattled the door and riled Uyi up. Uyi got to his feet, marched to the door, unlocked it and inivited him in. As Edet took the first step, Uyi rammed the door in his face, knocking him out cold on the floor. He remained there as Uyi locked the door again and went back to his beer. The night wore on and he listened to love songs on his laptop and went off to sleep, forgetting Edet outside.
The next morning had him waking late and to the buzzing of his phone. He stared into the screen to see Temi’s name and he took her call.
“Hey sicky-sicky. You’re up already.”
“You got my note?”
He heard a smile in her voice. “Yeah. How sweet.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Still not good oh. I’m still running a fever.”
“Okay. I’ll come over but hope your boyfriend is not going to be there. I don’t want wahala.”
“He traveled. Just come.”
Uyi had a wonderful time with Temi again. As he guessed, she wasn’t as bad as she had projected on the phone but she still needed little more nursing. He administered her drugs and held her head over steaming, balmy water to clear her nasal passages. Afterward, they worked on a client’s account, watched a movie and argued about trivial things. When it was getting dark, she begged him to stay awhile and made him a big bowl of soup to take home.
“Thank you, Uyi,” she said and hugged him in her tight kitchen.
“Anything for a friend.”
She released him and headed out first, deliberately brushing her backside against him. Uyi smiled at the seemingly innocent act but kept a blank face when she turned around to look at him. She went for her sweater and walked him out the door but didn’t go far. There was another hug and this time he felt her lips brush against his neck as she let go.
“See you on Monday,” he said.
“Good night.” She walked back in and he went home.
Sunday service was one of those long affairs. The pastor had too much to say, the choir had so much to sing about, people were thanking God for too many things and all the people that had starved church attendance in a while decided to show up. It was well past 2pm before the pastor said the closing prayer. Like many members, Uyi joined the church bus and it dropped him right at the junction of his street. Feeling satisfied and refreshed with himself, he walked home with a gospel tune in his head. Ovie and Peter were not back yet but Edet was in the compound when he walked in. He saw a plaster over the poor creature’s nose but he ignored him and he walked past.
“Uyi, abeg, make I explain wetin happen between me and Vivian.”
Uyi allowed him all the way to his flat and pretended to listen to his unpardonable excuse as he unlocked the door but when he stepped in and Edet tried to do same, he slammed the door in his face again. Fortunately for Edet, he wasn’t standing so close this time around.
Uyi made himself a large bowl of eba, had his lunch and fell asleep.
He woke up three hours later and dressed up to head to Mr. Enenche’s party at Asokoro. Following the address the secretary texted him, he found himself on a street that was lined with expensive cars. He could hear music in the distance and it drew him to the venue easily. He walked in through an open gate to face a magnificent house with a spacious lawn. There were large canopies with chairs covering the whole area. Women and children littered the place mostly but there was a section where men were hurdled together, sipping on beers and peppersoup. Uyi could spot some people from his office and they were mostly from management, but there were a few junior staff too, none of which he was acquainted with. He protectively held the gift he had come along with as a pair of little girls ran past him. He smiled at them and strolled straight to the front door and entered a sitting room filled with so many people. Nodding a greeting to anyone who cared, he waded further in, towards the dining area to see whom he could speak with. To his relief, Dami appeared. She was angrily walking past him as she murmured incoherently to herself but he stopped her and she slowly released a taut smile when she saw him.
“Hi,” she commented and hugged him tersely. “So good to see you, Uyi. The ass invited you?”
Uyi wasn’t so sure who the ‘ass’ was but he had a good idea that it was Mr. Enenche.
“He’s in his room,” she said. “Let me call him.”
She disappeared and reappeared a while later with a drink for Uyi. Mr. Enenche came out subsequently, looking tired but having a smile that Uyi had never seen him spare at the office.
“Omoruyi, you came. Welcome.” He shook his hand warmly. “I’m sorry I can’t offer you a seat because I don’t even have one for myself. I didn’t budget for this many people. It seemed everyone from my church showed up and more are still coming.”
“It’s how these things are.”
“You can say that again. Come this way, though.”
Mr. Enenche led him further into the house to a room that looked like a guest room but had a small parlor with a single plastic chair.
“Please, sit. I’ll have them bring you something.”
“Sir, this is for the baby. It’s small but…”
“Thank you, Omoruyi,” said Mr. Enenche, taking the gift Uyi was offering. “My wife would appreciate this. Thanks.”
Mr. Enenche walked out and Uyi could hear him call Dami’s name out. He heard her reply back in a rude tone and they both began exchanging words in Idoma. Their voices faded away immediately and Uyi busied himself with his phone. While doing that, someone poked her head in and announced to him that everyone was needed outside because the pastor was about to give his final blessings to the family before leaving. Uyi nodded and she left but he had no intentions of making it outside. He sat put and continued with his phone as the house emptied gradually. Minutes passed by and he could hear only a few voices around him and for that he was relieved, but not long after, he heard Mr Enenche and Dami at it again. There was another female voice in the mix and Uyi suspected it was Mrs. Enenche’s. He listened as they lashed out loudly in Idoma. Dami was the angriest as her tone rose with every syllable. He heard her pause to prevent a lump in her throat but a sob had broken in and she raged on with staccato words all fired out in Idoma and English. Not so sure if he should hang around any longer for the private family spat, Uyi got up and began heading for the door. However, he was stopped short by Dami who was storming out of one of the rooms, tears streaming down her face.
“Hey.” He put a gentle hand around her. She hesitated at first but the calm stare from his eyes made her turn around and crumble in his arms. It wasn’t what he had expected but he didn’t know how to push her away even though he knew it was the right thing to do, considering Mr. Enenche could show up any moment and have the wrong impression.
“Stop crying. It’s okay.”
But Dami held Uyi tightly and all hope of escaping her grip vanished out the window. He brought out his hanky and wiped her face just to have an inch away from her but she stuck to him and remained there. And just as he had imagined, Mr. Eneche and his wife appeared from nowhere and stood looking at both of them questioningly. Uyi tried to pull away but Dami held him tight and fixed stubborn eyes on the couple. She wiped her eyes angrily.
“You were asking who my boyfriend was? Well, here he is.”
Uyi’s mouth dropped open, and he wished it hadn’t because just as it hung there on its own accord, Dami shoved her tongue right through his lips with an angry kiss; and all Uyi could think of as he tasted her alcohol-flavored mouth was catching the next, available flight out of Abuja.