It was Valentine’s Day. And she had a blinding headache and a report to finish and submit.
Valerie Chibuike sat behind her office desk, wishing she had a magic wand; then she would magically cure this throbbing pain on her temple threatening to split her head in two. And just maybe as a side bonus, drown the excited voices coming through the door.
“Hey you, happy Valentine’s Day.” Kelechi’s laughing voice rang out at the hallway.
Valerie groaned, God, what was it about Valentine’s Day that had people going all bubbly and excited?
She sighed and shook her head. Giving the typed report one last frowning assessment, she clicked the Print icon on the laptop. Print, read again and submit, she ordered herself as she walked over to the Printer to pick the document as it slide out. She knocked down the dustbin as hurried back to her desk.
“Damn it!” She swore tossing the document on the desk. This is bound to happen when you have a clustered tiny room for an office, she thought crossly as she picked up the scattered trash.
Throwing the last rumpled paper in the dustbin, she huffed back to her desk. She swore again, more explicitly this time, today was turning out to be a nightmare. The report she’d tossed on the table was now going wet at the edges from water out of the plastic cup she’d dropped earlier, with the plastic cup now doing a great imitation of swing low swing chariot.
“Great.” She sighed picking a serviette from the pack on her desk, she tried to wipe away the wetness. The top paper scratched at the edge.
“Now why the hell did I ever think that wiping was what I needed to do?” She muttered. Swearing and cursing bad luck she dashed across the room. Squeezing herself between the water dispenser and the double-seater sofa, she raised the three page report towards the air conditioner.
A minute later, she brought down her hand and was just about to heave a sigh of relief when the thump sound stopped her, she looked at the paper just beneath the air conditioner, a massive wetness covered the centre of the report.
Valerie stared at the report, opened her mouth to curse, no sound came, instead she did something she hadn’t done all day…she laughed. Just threw back her head and laughed.
It was Valentine’s Day and amazingly enough her birthday. With a now wet-in-the-centre report added to a still scratched edge front page in her hand, Valerie laughed at her stupidity, walking back slowly to her desk. What had she been thinking of, trying to dry an already scratched document under an air conditioner?
She sighed deeply as she sat down, clicked on the Chop N’ Munch Folder on her desktop, selected the particular report. “Just reprint the damn document and go submit it.” She mumbled to herself.
She turned as she heard the door click open. It was Mama Bee. She almost groaned aloud, she’d come for the report.
Beelolari Olaitan entered the small office. She was a petite voluptuous woman, just about five foot, fair in complexion and quite pretty. And also a no-nonsense woman who had no patience for sluggishness and tardiness. And since she was her boss, Valerie sprang to her feet guiltily.
“Valerie, I’ve been waiting for the last thirty minutes for a simple report.” Her bright red painted lips were pursed. “Mind telling me what’s taking so long?”
“Ah … I’m sorry.” Valerie apologized rubbing her throbbing temple. “I just got delayed.” She grabbed the report from the printer, stapled the papers together and walked over to Mama Bee. “Here it is.” Trying hard to block out the throbbing pain in her temple.
Mama Bee took the report, her dark brown eyes narrowed as they scrutinized Valerie’s face. Instead of turning and leaving, as Valerie had hoped, she walked into the office, straight to the sofa, sat down and patted the seat on her right.
Valerie looked at her for a moment with sheer admiration in spite of herself. Mama Bee was a woman who knew what fitted her small full-figured frame, she was looking amazing as usual in her knee length black coloured chiffon skirt and shawl collared turquoise blue three button jacket top. Valerie saw the speculative look in her eyes, the love and concern. Sighing, she walked over and sat down beside her. Though she wasn’t really in the mood for a stop-allowing-this-get-you-down lecture, Valerie sat in the vacant space on the sofa and proceeded to listen, because Mama Bee was not only her boss but also her best-friend’s mother and above all an important part of the two people that made up her family.
“Bad night?” Mama Bee asked looking Valerie in the eye. She noticed the flash of pain as she tried to raise her head. “Did you sleep at all last night?”
Valerie looked down at her hands, squeezing them together. She wanted to rub her throbbing temple but didn’t want to draw attention to it. That would only mean more questions, more reproofs, more worries.
“Yes, I did.” Her voice sounded croaky even in her own ears. She coughed a little to clear it. “I am just tired, that’s all.”
Mama Bee had no patience for sluggishness or tardiness but she had a whole lot of it for a grieving broken heart. And this heart she knew had been grieving a long time, for a really long time. She looked at the beautiful young woman sitting beside her, fighting hard to hide the pain she was feeling, in her head, in her heart.
She sighed and took Valerie’s clenched hands in her own, unclenching them by her gentle touch. “So, it is Valentine’s Day and also your birthday and once again your heart break into tiny little pieces.”
Valerie bit her lips, hard. She wanted to shake her head, deny the pain in her heart. But this was Mama Bee, there was no deceiving her.
So eyes dark with pain and shimmering with tears, she looked up at the woman who was both a boss and a surrogate mother. “It’s so hard, Mama Bee, it’s so hard. And it doesn’t get any easier.”
Mama Bee nodded. “It is hard, very hard I’m sure, and yes it doesn’t get any easier.” Her eyes were firm and resolute. “But it won’t get any easier until you decide to let it get easier.”
Valerie withdrew her left hand, wiped her tears. “Mama Bee, do you think I don’t want this to get easier? You think I don’t want this to end? You think I don’t want this … this anguish, this pain, choking me … right here.” She touched herself just beneath her left breast. “You think I don’t want the constant aches and pains to end?”
Mama Bee’s heart twisted as she watched the tears flow freely down Valerie’s face. It broke her heart to see them, she wanted to wipe them away, end this pain, by leaving the issue … but she knew it was time, way past time.
“I think that unless you make the decision to let go, you will always be haunted by this.” She told her in a firm voice.
“How can I let go, Mama Bee?” Valerie cried not bothering to wipe the tears as they gushed out now. “How can I let go? It was Valentine’s Day and my birthday and all I wanted was to go for a stupid show … and they all died.” She broke down.
Mama Bee stretched her hand to grab the serviette pack from the desk close to the sofa. She passed them to Valerie.
“Sweetheart, I think you have cried enough … for a life time.” She picked out a serviette, swapped it gently, tenderly across Valerie’s cheeks, watched as the forlorn head drooped again. “Baby, you have been crying for the last twenty years and that’s more than enough for a life time.” She placed her fingers under her jaw and nudged Valerie’s head up. “It is time to stop crying.” She said gently but firmly.
Valerie stared at her through red rimmed brown eyes. “Can I ever stop crying?” She asked piteously.
“Yes you can.” Mama Bee told her in a soft voice. “You just have to make up your mind to stop and to begin to accept what happened. Above all, hear me when I say this to you again …”
She smiled tearfully when she saw the girl-I’m-not-playing-with-you look.
“…you were not responsible for the tragedy that happened. It was just the will of God and you have to finally learn to accept it.”
She nodded, clenching her fists to the tears flowing again. She’d heard that before. Heard it a thousand times but still cannot comprehend it. “How can it be God’s will to take my whole family from me in just one single moment?”
“I don’t know.” She took the clenched hands again. “But I do know this … they would want you to live again, really live again. Don’t you know that you are the only link they have left to this life?” She cocked her head to the left.
Valerie smiled a little sadly. “Mama used to angle her head just like that. She was so fair, so beautiful.”
“And her daughter is just as beautiful… if not more so.” She patted Valerie’s hands. “Valerie it is time to live again. It is time.” She gave her one last look before getting to her feet.
Picking up her report, she headed for the door.
Valerie watched her as she swayed her pretty highly-packaged body to the door in a graceful catlike manner, she was a woman who knew how to carry herself, she thought, loving this woman who her best friend’s mum and her own mother now.
Mama Bee turned just before she opened the door, pointed the report at Valerie. “Go home, young lady and that is an order.” Opening the door she threw over her shoulders. “I’m told there’s a wild party planned for tonight.” The door clicked shut.
Valerie’s brows shot up as she stared after her open-mouthed for about a minute. Then her lips curved in a smile. Getting to her feet, she grabbed a couple of serviettes, wiped her face as she strolled back to her desk. With a decisive touch of her forefinger she clicked the Shutdown icon on her laptop and waited a bit for it to finish the logging off process, then picking it up, dropped it into her backpack.
Grabbing her dark peach handbag on one hand and the black leather backpack on the other hand, she headed for the door, opened it, marched out and left it to click itself shut as she strolled towards the back exit door of the restaurant.
It was barely four p.m. and she was already heading home before the close of work at the express order of her boss. It was Valentine’s Day after all and also her thirtieth birthday. Valerie smiled to herself.
To be continued…
Read episode two here: