From where he stood at the rear, he could see the sky. If he had not known before the colour of the sky to be azure blue, he would not have known then after staring for long if he was asked, because he was just looking, he wasn’t concentrating.
He had been standing there for what seemed like fifteen minutes and yet, it felt like just three minutes. He turned to face the eyes that were heavy on his neck. When he saw the little smile on her face, he knew his story had captivated her and he smiled too. Then, he did not know if he was smiling because she was, or because of the tale, he actually told.
“Was that how you met” she asked haven paid keen interest.
“Yes” he smiled. He liked the look of the office. Confidential was the word that came into his mind the moment he got in. he probably knew everything he would say would be confidential. He smiled again.
“So what went wrong?” she relaxed in her chair
“I don’t know, I just can’t explain it” he was confused as he sounded. He left where he was standing and took a sit before the eyes that were watching him. Unconsciously, he rubbed his palm on the smooth mahogany made table that stood tall to his half, he had done that several times before he realized he was nervous.
The eyes were still on him, heavy now, waiting for an answer and probably doing a scrutiny he did not understand. He shrugged and said “I wish I could explain, really”.
After the quiet study, she observed the smile he gave while telling the story and how he felt after telling it, she asked “how often do you tell this story?”
He let out air quietly; he was almost shy as he said “this is the first time I can actually remember telling someone”
She smiled. “All right, you should tell it often, it gives you a kind of feeling”. She added quickly. “Of joy maybe” he nodded in approval as she leaned forward, picked a paper and gave it to Richard. “At the next session, I want you to bring a list of everything she does that irritates you”
“Irritates me?” he scoffed.
“I know it sounds funny, but am sure you won’t be able to make a list”. She smiled. “At least, not a full one. Try it”
Richard nodded. Now the whole thing was beginning to look like a wrong idea, he did not think it would turn out that way, he thought.
She knew what he was thinking or could probably be thinking by the look on his face. Many of her clients who had similar problem could not make the list, while some did, but she knew fully that every one of them attempted it, either on paper or in their head. She consulted her desk clock; his session had expired seventeen minutes ago. She didn’t like one client eating into another’s time. “I would see you next week, Mr Richard” she smiled and offered him her hand; he shook it and stood up.
Without mincing, he knew it was a call to leave.
Richard lay on the bed, he pondered on everything he told Mrs Lycette earlier that day. He knew he did not tell her everything. It was hard for him; he had only told her how they met. He knew she probably would still ask him what his experience was like before they met.
When he was in school, he didn’t believe in love but he dated and dumped several girls. Richard had made a bet with his friends when he was in his first year that he would change his girlfriends every semester as he would change his closet, and they had name him Casanova. He had been doing that and getting away with it until he met Lara in his final year.
Richard saw Lara as different from the other girls, and she was indeed different. She was not as sophisticated as the others were, but she was the most beautiful and most restrained of all. Richard never dated girls who didn’t have a flamboyant status or who was not financially buoyant. He dated big girls as he would call it, but Lara was different. She did not have much sophistication as the others, but she had what they did not, grace; she was majestic. It took him three months to convince her to go out with him, unlike the other girls who had not cost him more than a week.
Lara had known Richard even before he knew her. She knew how he treated girls, how he treated her school mother and so she decided to avenge her. She agreed to date him after three months of relentless talking. She was the manager of the relationship, she would tell him what she wanted and what she didn’t, and Richard did not refuse because he wanted to have his way with her.
He would win her heart, sleep with her and mock her for all the stress she had put him through. He wondered why she was that difficult to get, she was of no status and sophistication yet she was playing hard to get. It was his custom to call or send text messages whenever he wanted to break up with his girlfriends. But he promised himself that he was going to break up with her immediately after the first time they have sex. The thought of how she would look made him smile.
Mechanically, she worked her way into his life. Whenever she visited him, she always had a plan drawn in her head. Like the other girls who would play sophisticated, Lara chose to be simple, which really melted Richard’s heart.
Richard thought he was still playing by his rules, but before he knew it, he had truly fallen in love. At first, he did not want to admit, but he could not live a day without seeing her. Lara made her visits so interesting that he wanted to have her around him always. She was fun to be with, she was lively and loved to play games men played, PES. He found himself looking forward to each visits.
After the semester, even his friends were surprised he had not dumped Lara yet, but he kept making empty promises that he would as soon as he got what he wanted. He could not tell his friends how he really felt about her. And before he knew it he had confessed his love to her.
Few weeks to his exams, he received a letter from Lara, he was surprised because for the whole months they had dated, and they had not for once communicated by the use of a letter. His mouth and eyes gaped when he guzzled the content of the letter, he was not sure of what he had read so he concluded that she was only pulling his legs but it obviously wasn’t the first of April.
Richard did not see her until three days after the letter came, which was unusual because they saw every day. She confirmed the written words she had sent him; Richard had almost collapsed when she told him. He pleaded with her to forgive him if he had wronged her and she had told him that the dating thing was a revenge mission and nothing more. “I only came to you to avenge Naomi” She had told him so simply without any emotions and it broke his heart more.
Lara was not the type to request for money or material things, for one thing, she was independent and contented but then Richard could not still calculate how much he had spent on her. He could not calculate the times he had denied his friends and skip lectures just to be with her, the only calculation he could make was what was left of his heart; zilch.
Richard had been down for weeks, he had never felt for anybody what he felt for Lara, he never took his girlfriend’s anywhere but he took her everywhere and even to his mother. After the break up, his mother had offered to talk to Lara but she had politely refused to see her, even Richard. Now, he had lost the wager, his heart and he was humiliated.
The rumour of what happened t him travelled faster than light, and in no time everybody who knew the Casanova on campus heard what happened to him, some said it served him right while few took pity on him.
He withdrew back into his shell. He knew falling in love was a mistake because he had always told his friends that love was a camouflage, unreal and unreliable. All he did was to take a risk, which got his heart traumatized, now he knew how it felt to be heartbroken; he wished he could turn back the hands of time. He told himself he would never have anything to do with love again.
However, when he met Lillian, the story changed. Richard and Lillian had first met in a grocery store. Richard was inside when Lillian came in; he had gaped at her until she got embarrassed and he almost dropped the basket he was carrying. She had looked exactly like Lara except that she was taller, darker and classier. Lillian was used to people looking at her but Richard had done more than looking, he had gawked at her. Richard apologized to her for his bad manners and paid for her purchase. He had been very careful not to ask her for her mobile numbers and he had been grateful when she didn’t proffer.
He could not stop thinking how much they look alike except that the new girl was more beautiful, if he had not looked well, he could have sworn it was Lara. Each time he went to the supermarket, he always remembered that he met a lady.
The next time they met, it was in his company, and three months had passed by. She was posted there as a corps member. When she took her posting letter there, she was accepted and told to start work the next week. When she resumed, the person she met showed her and the others round and introduced them to the existing staff except the C.E.O who was not around.
She was comfortable with her job, they had treated her like a staff and not a corps member who was serving her country or acquiring more knowledge. A small cubicle was confiscated for her even though it shut her out from seeing the comings and goings of people, but she liked it. People only noticed her when she was resuming work, taking files to her boss, going for lunch or going home.
Her job was to assist the Executive assistant of the CEO. She received direct orders from him. She had worked there for almost two weeks and not met the C.E.O. On a particular day when she had closed for the day; she ran into Richard in the elevator, they had both been surprised.
She told him she was working there as an assistant to the assistant of the C.E.O. she had told him with much pride which Richard could only translate to mean that she liked her job. She smiled when she saw the surprise on his face, she asked him if he worked there and he told her he was working there with an enigmatic smile.
When Lillian got to work the following day, she went to the receptionist to sign as necessitated, only to be told to see the secretary to the C.E.O. she mused at the thought of one person having a secretary and an assistant who was even being assisted. She did not ask the receptionist anything because she knew she would only be wasting her time. She went immediately to see the secretary before resuming to her office.
The secretary had told her she would be receiving orders from the CEO that day. The secretary made a phone call to her boss and asked Lillian to go in.
All the while she was working there she had never gotten to that wing of the building, what was she looking for? She scoffed. She had heard a lot about ‘the boss’ but never saw him, she envisioned a short man lumbered with a pot belly, a round head with an encumbered neck; always dressed in buba and sokoto, of course a suit will not hide the belly well, but she was disappointed and surprised when she got in. She met Richard standing across his seat and holding a file she figured he had retrieved from the cabinet that was still open. She opened her mouth but was dumbfounded, she could not speak a word, she closed it, swallowed the spittle that had accumulated and opened again, this time she was able to manage a garbled speech.
“Sir?” she had asked. She was still surprised because after they met in the elevator, he had dropped her off. In the conversation they had, he had dexterously not mentioned that he was the C.E.O and she had been so silly not to ask him the position he occupied or the department where he actually worked. Now that she saw the same smile he wore in the elevator, she understood.
“What are you thinking” he had asked after seeing the look on her face.
Truthfully, she replied. “A man lumbered with a pot belly”
He had giggled at her and said “That would be my father”
from that day she started receiving orders from the chief, Richard, and they went to lunch together every day, he also dropped her off every day. They became a little intimate and Lillian helped him to stop drinking.
Richard took the plain paper and a pen out of his folder. He wanted to do what he was asked to do. For a while, he looked into the air as if the answers were floating. He started
to write, after some few sentences, he cancelled it and started writing again. Before he knew it, he had turned the next page and he could not even make out a sensible sentence from what he had written so far.