His car was filled with more of his scent, cologne mixed with a little musky sweat smell. The cold air emanating from his air conditioner made the scent circulate around the car. His car was very neat and tidy, it also had a faint smell of newness like he didn't get it too long ago.
The drive was awkwardly silent and with every passing minute, I was starting to regret taking the lift. The little hold up on the road wasn't making things any better, we just sat there quietly, his eyes on the road and mine outside the window.
I didn't know if I should make a conversation with him or just keep shut. The first car ride I had with Noah wasn't as intensely uncomfortable as this one, maybe because Noah wasn't my immediate boss who with one wrong move or word could get me fired.
Activities outside the car were banal so I pulled out my phone and opened up the Wattpad app on it. It had been ages since I visited the app but I just wanted to keep busy so I randomly selected a book from my library and began to mindlessly read through.
"Do you mind if I put on some music?" He pointed at the car stereo.
I shrugged my shoulders. "It's your car"
"But I'm not the only one in the car... And you might not want the music on" he countered.
"I don't mind" I said politely
He nodded and turned the stereo on.
The Weeknd's 'Earned it' filled the whole car and I quietly began to sing along unconsciously.
Mr. Kachi turned to me. "Are you a The Weeknd fan?"
"No, I don't think I'll call myself a fan... But I listen to his music tho" I replied
"Is that even possible?" He returned his gaze to the road as the cars began to slowly move.
"Of course. I could listen to his music and like it but that doesn't make me a die hard fan" I said
He nodded. "I get your point"
The song changed to 'lust for life' by Lana Del Rey ft The Weeknd. The soft symphonious melody sifted the car, filling up the short silence that ensued.
"Soo, what type of music do you like?" He spoke up.
"Uhmm... I don't think I have a specific type I prefer. I like all types of music maybe except rock and roll" I replied
He chuckled. "Why?"
"I think it's more of loud noise than music. It's just my opinion sha"
"Do you have any favorite artists?" He asked turning into the next intersection.
"Uhh... For Nigerian artists, it will be 2face and Burna boy" I said
He nodded. "Okay. What about internationally?"
"Beyonce, I guess"
"What about male international artists?" He inquired
I could tell he was trying so hard to get me comfortable around him and so he was trying to make conversations every chance he got.
"I can't think of anyone off my head right now" I replied.
He nodded and I could sense that the conversation was going to die out if I didn't say something. I didn't want it to seem as if he was the only one bringing up topics.
"I can see you like The Weeknd" I gestured to the song playing on the stereo.
He chuckled. "Yeah, I do. I guess I'm a fan of his music, maybe not a die hard fan but a fan nonetheless"
"Of course" I chuckled a little. "What about Nigerian artists?"
"I don't really listen to Nigerian songs like that" he said with a tone laced with pride.
"So you're part of the people who feel big because they don't listen to Nigerian music" I blurted out.
I couldn't stop myself. I didn't even know when it came out, it was like my mouth went faster than my brain could register. Lucky for me, he just laughed.
"I don't feel big for not listening to Nigerian music" he didn't even sound convinced himself.
"Really?" I said with a 'I don't believe you' tone.
He laughed so hard, exposing his straight white teeth. It was a hearty laughter.
"I'll start listening to Nigerian music now" he said in defeat
I burst out laughing. I was laughing so hard that I had to catch myself and remind myself that he was still my boss, even though he wanted to be friendly.
"Do I turn right here?" He asked as we approached a T- junction.
My phone vibrated on the bed and quickly picked it up before it could ring out. I had just put Zozo to bed and I didn't want her waking back up.
It was Noah.
"Hey--" I whispered
"Hey, babe. Did you get home safely?" He said
Zozo stirred in her sleep, almost as if she could sense I was on the phone with Noah. I gently patted her back till she settled and became still.
"Yeah, I did" I whispered back
"Why are you whispering?" Noah said
"Zozo just fell asleep. Hold on, let me leave the room" I said softly.
I slowly got up from the bed and walked out of the room, closing the door gently behind me.
"Hello" I said a little louder
"Are you out of the room?" He asked
I heard a little shuffle in the background and then the sound of a car door slamming shut.
"I'm just getting home" he said
"I just wanted to make sure you got home alright. It was quite late when I called to cancel our plans which I'm very sorry about by the way" I heard a door open and close in the background. Probably his front door.
"It's fine" I said. " And I got home safely. My boss dropped me off"
"Your dad's friend? That was really nice of him" he said
"No, his nephew. My immediate boss, the one I told you I work under" I said.
There was a little silence on the other side of the line.
"Really?" He said in a tone that I didn't quite understand. "Well, that's nice of him too"
"Yeah" I stifled a yawn.
The day's bustle was slowly starting to get to me. My eyes watered as I tried to stifle a second yawn. I walked over to the sofa and laid down on it, placing my head on the hand rest.
"I'll let you go. I can tell you're tired" he said.
"No, no. I can still talk" I objected. "So how was your day?"
"Babe, we can talk some other time. Go to sleep" he said
"I'm good. I want to know how your day went" I protested
"Okay. So, I had a major surgery today and --" he started
He talked about how good the surgery went for him and I was genuinely happy for him. We talked some more and he was telling me about some medical procedure when I dozed off. As much as I tried to stay awake and listen to his medical talk, I couldn't.
(A couple of days later)
My desktop phone rang and I picked it up.
"Ijeoma, please come into my office" Mr. Kachi said
I placed the receiver down and stood from my seat. My Navy blue office skirt had hiked up so I gave it a little tug before walking up to the door. With two soft knocks, I walked in.
He looked up from his laptop. "I want you to go to Records and get me all the 'N' files from 2005 and 2006"
I nodded. "Okay, sir"
I turned around and headed for the Records office.
Chioma had taken a short sick leave, her father had fallen ill and someone needed to take care of him.
Chioma was somewhat open about things that had happened, unlike me. In the few weeks that I've been working here, I knew that her mother passed away when she was younger. I also knew that her father was a retired policeman and ever since he retired she became the breadwinner of her family. There was no boy in her family just a little sister who was still in secondary school.
She didn't really go into details about her life, only dropped the headlines and I wasn't inquisitive to ask for more information. Why would I anyway? It wasn't like I was also open about my own life.
Anyways while she was away, I had to do the work of both a secretary and a PA like she did before I came along. Basically like an executive secretary.
Ten minutes later, I was returning to the office with a bunch of files. I had to push the files against my chest in order to free up one hand for knocking and opening his door.
"Thank you. Place them over there" he pointed to a free spot on his long table.
I walked over and dropped the files gently on the said spot.
Mr. Kachi looked stressed out. His light blue dress shirt was folded at the sleeves and his Navy blue tie looked like it was tugged on. He had a couple of files spread out on the table in front of him. It looked like a scene out of a movie.
I was about to head back to my spot when he called me back.
"Help me look through those files for any NPA files" he ordered politely.
I nodded sharply and got to work.
His desktop phone rang and he picked it up. The words 'yes', 'no', 'okay' were uttered throughout the whole conversation. He closed his eyes and used his hands to massage the creases that formed on his forehead.
I could tell that whatever was being said on the phone wasn't relieving the stress he was under.
"Okay. I'll get back to you" he said before placing the receiver back in its place.
"Is something wrong?" I asked on impulse.
He let out a deep sigh. "Our containers are being held back for further inspection at the port"
"I don't even understand why they always single out our cargos for further inspection. The whole thing messes up our schedule, our clients don't get their goods on time and their customers don't get their orders at the time promised... At the end, it tells bad on us and we lose clients and money" he vented
I could see how frustrating and annoying that could be, I just nodded in understanding with a touch of empathy.
I was about to get back to looking through the files when an idea struck me. I quickly pulled out my phone from the pockets on my skirt. A few minutes of googling some things on the internet, a smile made its way to my face.
"What if we changed ports?" I blurted out.
Mr. Kachi looked up from his system, his face was masked with confusion.
"I mean... instead of using the Warri port, we could change to one of the two ports in Rivers State. It's approximately three hours away and we could have trailers bring the containers from there to Anambra. It will just mean we would spend more on the transportation from there to here but it will be better than being held up at the Warri port every time" I explained with excitement.
There was a moment of silence and the longer the silence lingered, doubt began to set in. I mean I didn't really know much about shipping cargos and stuff like that. Why did I even say anything?
"Never mind. I don't know what I was --" I started to say.
"No" he interjected. "It's actually a very good idea. I don't even know why I didn't think about it"
Relief washed over me and a wide grin made its way to my lips. The same smile was playing on his lips as he looked at me in wonderment.
"Rivers port" he muttered to himself whilst tapping his pen against a pile of papers. "Hang on, let me speak to my uncle"
He stood up immediately and walked out of the office.
My chest buffed out in pride and confidence, I was so happy. A feeling of accomplishment filled me and I carried that energy throughout the day.
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Till next time, my lovelies.