The sudden jerk of the cab pulled me out of my reverie. I looked around and saw many high-rise buildings all around me. We must be in the commercial and industrial district.
“Are we there already?” I asked the taxi driver.
“Yes ma’am.” He pointed to a particularly intimidating structure. “That building over there is your destination.”
“Oh, thank you. How much do I owe you?”
“Just #1,500, madam.”
“Okay, here you go.” I handed him two thousand naira.
He got out the change and gave me before I got down from the taxi. I waved to him and set off for the building he indicated earlier.
As soon as I stepped into the reception, I was impressed by the ambience. It was very cozy, with cool air wafting through the AC vents, and a soft music playing in the background. The atmosphere was very welcoming and I loved it. Ideas exploded in my head, I was giddy with happiness at what I could do with all the space.
I introduced myself to the receptionist, and before I knew it, I was ushered into a very plush office. This must be the office of the head of this company, I thought. I was still admiring the room when the receptionist closed the door behind me.
The ‘office’ was as long as a hall and as wide. There was open space and glass windows all around. I got the impression that whoever owns this office loves his space. One end of the room was clearly meant for entertainment and that was where I was facing. There were about five ornate chairs arranged in a semi-circular position and there was a very beautiful center table in front of the chairs. I admired the paintings on the wall; a particular one caught my eye, it was the picture of a boat on a stream with nobody on it. I wondered what it meant to the person that uses this office.
“You’re late.” Came a clear, crisp voice from the end of the room.
I whirled around and saw a man seated behind the biggest desk I had ever seen. The desk almost spanned the width of the room. He barely had space to move out from behind it. He was not smiling and his desk was not inviting either. Why does he need a desk so big? I thought. This must be the man I was supposed to meet, Adelaide’s cousin.
“I’m so sorry. I ran into some difficulty while coming.”
“Save your excuses, lady. I don’t have time to wait indefinitely for an appointment that was supposed to start twenty minutes ago. I have too much to do.”
“I know and I’m sorry. My car was towed by an angry LASTMA official and I couldn’t change his mind. I had to get a taxi here. I’m so sorry for coming late.”
“Lady, save your platitudes. I would have cancelled the appointment but I’m going on with it because of the glowing recommendations my cousin gave you. Now, will you sit so we can get this thing started?”
I was fuming. How dare this arrogant man talk to me this way? I’m not anybody’s lackey. I’m a woman in my own right and I don’t appreciate his curt orders nor his offensive address. I sat on the oversized chair facing his desk with all the dignity I could muster.
“Well?” he asked, while I had barely sat down.
I opened my purse and withdrew the CV I prepared for this interview. “Here is a copy of my resume. You’ll find in there the jobs I’ve successfully done and the recommendations I got from said jobs.”
He didn’t even accept the document. He just stared at me. “Since you’ve wasted half the time allotted to this interview, you’ll have to impress me with your words. There’s no time to read that. And you have to be very persuasive; so far, I’ve seen nothing to impress me.”
I couldn’t take it anymore. “You have been insulting me since the moment I stepped into this room. If you can get off your high horse long enough to accept my apology and let me explain myself, we might start off on a better foot.” I snapped.
“Well, well, well. She’s got fire.”
I tightened my mouth to keep from talking anymore. I had gone and blown the chance I had with my big mouth.
“Point of correction though, I didn’t attack you the moment you got in; as you spent those few moments gawking at my office.”
I shrugged. “Impressive enough but in my opinion not a very good job.”
I looked at him suspiciously. Is this another trap so he can jump down my throat again? He seemed amused though, not angry. I decided to go ahead anyway.
“Yes, really.” I looked distastefully at the monstrous desk.
“What would you do differently?”
“Well, for starters, I’ll get rid of that monstrosity you call a desk.”
He gasped. “What? My desk? Do you know how much this desk costs? Besides, it’s a tactic designed to intimidate and command presence.”
“I figured. I don’t care how much it costs, it’s hideous and you don’t need it. You command enough presence as it is.”
I cringed as I realized what I just did. I just paid him a compliment. Darn! He was smiling; the arrogant bastard. I ignored his smile and kept glaring at him.
“Interesting. What else have you got? I’m listening.”
I stood up to better access the office. I’m in my element, confident in my skin and in my abilities. “I’ll get rid of this carpet and……”
“I love this carpet.”
“The color is too dull, I’m aiming for a lighter, brighter color.” I walked to where the table and chairs are set. “Then, I’ll re-arrange this whole space to look more inviting. This……”
“What’s wrong with that space as it is?”
“It’s too close, too clustered. And will you let me finish my thoughts before interrupting me again?”
He smiled impishly. “Go right ahead, ma’am.”
My back was turned from him so I was able to roll my eyes. Now I’m ma’am, no longer lady?
“Thank you, kind sir.” I smirked. “Some of these paintings have got to go, there are too many. Another tactic meant to intimidate?” I looked back at him.
“You got that right.”
I laughed. “You’ve got this intimidation thing right down to a science.”
“Is it working?” I was startled to hear his voice right behind me.
I turned to him. “Not really. Did you think it was?”
“I wouldn’t have minded.” He smiled.
I watched him suspiciously. I really like that smile, it transformed his whole face and made him seem friendlier, more inviting. Plus, it does things to my weary heart. Was he flirting with me? That’ll be a very surprising turn-about. I decided to ignore him, while keeping my unruly heart under check.
I continued with my analysis. “I like the spaciousness of this office and I’ll like to enhance that. Give it a freer, more welcoming atmosphere. We’ll have to change the wall color, put up something warmer. You want to make your clients feel welcome, not intimidated.”
He smiled at that. “Okay.”
“Okay?” I looked at him incredulously.
“You’ve got me convinced and I can’t wait to see the picture you painfully painted for me. Let me get your estimate for the contract by the end of the week. And don’t be late next time.”
I was overwhelmed. “Wow, thank you!” I beamed. “I promise I’ll deliver on time.”
He put his hands in his pocket. “Good. And keep in mind you’re working with the whole building, not just in my office.”
“Really?” I almost hugged him in ecstasy before checking myself.
I clapped happily, giddy with happiness like a child. I was in design heaven.
“Now that that’s settled, let’s get down to what has been on my mind since you snapped at me earlier.”
He led me to a chair, urged me to sit down and he sat opposite me.
“And what’s that?” I asked.
“Would you go out to dinner with me tonight?” he squeezed my hand.
A jolt of feeling went through my hand and I frowned. I do not need this right now, I thought. I withdrew my hand from his.
“I’m afraid that’s impossible.”
‘Why is that?” he didn’t look the least bit ruffled.
“I don’t fraternize with my clients.”
“It’s just a harmless dinner, and we are two adults that know what we are doing.”
“Even so. It is a rule of mine, and I don’t intend to break it.”
“That’s too bad. I find you really fascinating. I bet you’ll change your mind though, once you see how charming I can get.” He gave me a pointed look.
“Don’t hold your breath, Mr. Daniel. I wouldn’t bank on me changing my mind if I were you.”
“We’ll see about that.” He stood up. “So, I’ll expect to hear from you before the week runs out.”
“No problem. Thank you so much for the opportunity.”
He gave me an enigmatic look, and my knees turned to jelly. This is so not happening. “Don’t disappoint me.” he said.
I stood up, grabbed my bag and headed to the door as fast as my legs could carry me. My heart was beating erratically and I had to get out from the influence of those eyes, that smile and that deep, dark voice. I was just about to turn the knob when the voice called my name. I looked back.
“See you around.” He smiled confidently, his eyes twinkling.
I nodded, and ran for my dear life.