Nathan stood by the glass slide window of his office staring out into the sunny busy street of Opebi.
Cars of all make and colour were speeding past the Elegance stone wall building in quick succession. A man pushing a barrow filled to the brim with an assortment of touch lights, adaptors, batteries and all what not went past.
His thoughts, as usual, twirled round Valerie. Around the events of that Thursday afternoon. It’s been almost two weeks and he still could not get over the heart-wrenching sorrow.
Even his own tears had shocked him. He’d been briefly embarrassed but her whispered ‘no man has ever cried with me before’ in a soft overwhelmingly awed voice had whipped away all embarrassment.
He turned away from the window remembering her anguished eyes as she’d quietly recounted the details of that awful crash. Her heartbreaking sadness as she’d recalled the wonderful foursome that made up their family, with the yet-unborn fifth member.
He remembered her wracking sobs as she’d related the horrible years that followed after her family’s burial at Asaba. The complete rejection from her entire family, fist from her father’s side and then from her mother’s.
The hopelessness of being ostracized as she was now branded a witch who’d survived unscathed a ghastly motor accident that took her entire family.
The trauma of having to live with an aging grandmother, who didn’t have much to give her – so she’d had to hawk all kinds of fruits depending on what was in season just to make extra money.
Then the four agonising years she’d had to spend at her Uncle’s home at Enugu, after her grandmother’s death.
The maliciousness and hatred of her aunt, who’d tormented her, in any way she could – constant beatings and verbal abuse, deprivation of food and clothing, excessive house chores, anything – just because she’d been forced to live under the same roof with an evil child who’d killed her entire family and was obviously seeking fresh victims.
Nathan clenched and unclenched his hands in fury as her voice echoed in his mind.
If everyone had failed her, what about her mother only sister? A woman who should have protected and cared for her like her own. Instead she’d thrown her out, after just a year with her in Lagos, for fear of losing a husband that was actually making sexual advances sixteen year old niece.
He sauntered back to his seat, his lips curled in disgust.
What in the name of God possessed men to abuse teenagers and force their attention on them?
And what evil had possessed the goddamned uncle to lie against her when caught trying to force himself on her?
And worse still, what had possessed an aunt to turn against her own late sister’s daughter, a girl she’d seen growing up, just because of her fear of losing her husband?
Evil. Perversion. Weakness. He sighed as he dropped into the swivelling chair. Things that destroy and eat away at the soul.
But thankfully somehow those first bitter ten years had kind off paved way for a decade of compassion, kindness, love, friendship and family from Kike, Mama Bee and Mammy, Mama Bee’s mother at Ibadan.
Nathan smiled. These people had come together, giving selflessly to help build the Valerie he’d met on Valentine’s Day.
The Valerie who’d wiped her tears, and his, and then had proceeded to watch a movie with him, amid a shared bottle of wine and really tasty crunchy grilled chicken.
The Valerie who had walked him to his car by ten p.m. and …
The intercom buzzed on his black leather covered oak table. He looked at it for a moment like some alien device. It buzzed again, a little louder this time.
“Yes Ameze.” He said as soon as he lifted the receiver. He listened for a moment before dropping back the receiver.
The Valerie who at this moment was making her way to his office door.
He adjusted the papers on his desk, patted down his shirt and blew out a breathe to calm his fast beating heart. Should he sit back against his seat or swivel?
For Christ’s sakes go meet her at the door, she’s the woman you just can’t get out of your mind not some client you need to impress.
He dashed to the door, opening it after a tentative knock.
Valerie smiled. “May I come in, Sir?” She asked in a solemn polite voice.
“Please do.” He smiled back stepping aside to allow her in.
“God, you are a sight for sore eyes.” Nathan exclaimed taking in her lavender flowery chiffon dress and black flats. He gave in to a yen before he over thought it.
Valerie instantly froze when his arms went round her in a hug. But she consciously relaxed her body, allowing her hands to go round his back, neck would have been a little too intimate.
“Hmm, you smell so nice.” He murmured in her ears. “I love the way you smell.”
Her heart flustered inside of her. Hmm, he felt so warm. Strong and warm. A really bad combination, she decided when she felt her heartbeat starting to thud. She patted him on the back and slipped out of his arms… just to be safe.
“Hmm, the office of the Chief Executive, impressive.” She said lightly looking round. “You do like a lot of wood work.” She commented. “And only the best too.” Touching the dark oak table and oval seats in front of the desk.
“Anything worth doing … you know.”
“They told me only Mr Boss has his office up here on the third floor.” She gave him a wink before turning to walk to the glass window. “Lesser mortals are all downstairs on the first floor.”
“Mr Boss chose to be here to he can keep a proper eyes on things.” He responded to her wink with a smile. He joined her by the window.
Through the closed slide glasses she saw two ladies crossing the road into the Elegance building. “Uh hmm, I can see.”
He followed her gaze and laughed. “Oh, that is just the fringe benefit.”
He gestured to the wooden settee with black leather covering. “This is a pleasant surprise.”
“Not a oh-God-what-the-heck-is-she-doing-here surprise?” She asked with a smile, sitting down.
“More like a God-I’m-so-glad-she’s-here surprise.”
She angled her head. “Just checking. It’s been two weeks, you know. Was actually starting to believe that you were avoiding me because I won you at Scrabble … feeling a little embarrassed, you know.” She gave a teasing smile.
“Won me at Scrabble?” Nathan scoffed. “Babe, I allowed you to win … chivalry, you know.”
“Really? We will just have to play another game just to make sure, right?”
“Go practice, girl, cos when the master comes you won’t know what hit you.”
“Men!” She rolled her eyes. “Just get ready to be smashed again.”
“Ha, pride goes before …” He allowed his voice to trail off, enjoying the easy smile on her lips, the teasing look in her eyes. God, he’d missed her, realizing just how much.
“What do I get you?” He asked remembering his manners. “A glass of juice?” He was already moving to the refrigerator.
“Only if you are having one.”
He poured two glasses of orange juice and walking back to the settee, passed her the one in his right hand.
“Thank you.” She said accepting the glass of juice.
Took a sip and then laid the glass on the table beside her. “So here I was sitting in my tiny clustered office, doing a bit of this and that.” She gestured with her fingers. “Then a thought from heaven hit me… poor overworked Nathan, huddled down over a desk … albeit a gorgeous desk.” She nodded to his desk.
“Having meetings, inspecting shipments upon shipments, deliberating with agents and clearance officers and so on and so on… then it struck, I should go visit him… spend a minute or two or even three…”
His grin widened.
“So I got into a taxi and voilà, here I am. Here to bring relief to an overworked man.” She sighed a long suffering look on her face. “The sacrifices I make.”
“A regular martyr, aren’t you?” He commented wide lips curved.
“The long suffering kind, you know.” Valerie sniffed. Then toppled into laughter.
Nathan watched how she held her sides as her entire face crinkled in helpless mirth. Deep throaty laugh gurgled out of sensuous lips.
She exhaled to stop herself laughing. She looked up to find dark-brown eyes fixed on her, desire poring through them. Her breathe caught. Her heartbeat skidded to a halt. She bit her lips.
He took her hands. Soft, warm, long… quivering. “I missed you.” He said in a low deep voice.
Her gaze faltered. “We talked every day.”
“I still missed you.” His hands caressed hers – slowly, tenderly.
She felt her heart spiral into full hopping mode. Her vision seemed to haze. She panicked.
“What’s a girl got to do to get a tour here?” She blurted out the first thing that entered her head.
He saw the panic in her eyes and did a mental step back. Get a grip man, before you have her thinking you seduce ladies always in your office.
Smiling easily he said. “My oversight. But today is your lucky day, you will be given a grand tour by Mr. Boss himself.” He got to his feet and dragging her up with him, before letting go of her hand.
She felt like her hand suddenly went cold. But ignoring the feeling, she smirked. “I guess I’m a lucky gal.”
He gestured to the door. “After you, your Majesty.”
Valerie tossed her head. “But of course.” She swayed majestically ahead of Nathan, who followed her grinning.
To be continued…