Elsie hunched over her laptop, working off her fingers and brain on the report for the last general executive meeting. As personal assistant cum secretary to the Chairman and executive director of the company, she was at all times “on the move” – mentally, physically and intellectually. Always at the chairman’s beck and call, she went with him from meeting to meeting and from appointment to appointment and even though her friends and family complained that she was often never available, Elsie loved her job because Kamal didn’t have problems with her schedule; he understood it perfectly and worked with it and, the pay was too good to be true. She had been able to bear forty percent of the cost of renovating the house, buy two plots of land in GRA and for herself, a Hyundai Accent, since she took up the job three years before.
Ezinne strode into Elsie’s office with her trademark notice of appearance – shouting what she called “hailings” and without knocking. She slapped a file onto her desk and proceeded to open the fridge.
Elsie swirled in her seat and smiled. “And when will you begin to practice simple etiquette?”
“Knocking before entering your office is etiquette? Nne, you’re on your own with that one o”
“Na only me you sabi harass eh?”
“For this office? Na only you o” Ezinne popped a can of Smirnoff, took a swig and settled in the chair across her friend’s desk, “I can’t be forming tush for all of these fifty-fifty shoulder pad people and come and do the same for you na”
Elsie shook her head and picked up the file. “What is this?”
“Na Boss talk say make I give you o say make you help am pass am to oga at the top”
Elsie flipped through the contents of the file and nodded knowingly. “Oh, the proposal”
“Ehn, e be like say na something like that”
“You no even sabi wetin them send you, nawa o!”
“Abeg nne, leave that side!”
Elsie laughed and then got up to stretch her sore limbs.
In her three years in Nelson and Copeland, Ezinne was the only friend she had made and had been able to keep. The dozen others, she had lost to a multitude of forces, jealousy and hypocrisy included. Ezinne was spontaneous, extroverted, care-free and funny, the exact opposite of herself but, they had been able to strike a balance in style, consistence and intelligence. While she had an office to herself as Secretary and PA to the Chairman, all her friend had to her name in the company was a four-by-four cubicle in the Marketing Department.
Her Blackberry beeped, notifying her of an incoming message. She picked it up, pressed a few buttons, stared at the screen a while, pressed a few buttons again, bit her lip, sighed and then dropped the phone on the desk.
“What?” Ezinne had her legs propped up on the desk.
“What about him?”
Elsie walked over to the fridge, took out a packet of biscuits, tore it open and began to chew on one.
“He leaves in eight days”
Ezinne placed her right palm on her chest and sighed in relief. “I was beginning to get scared”
Elsie didn’t say anything. She walked back to her seat and silently chewed on her biscuits.
“You knew this was coming, so what’s with the sad and worried face?”
Elsie let out a loud grunt and threw the packet on her desk, sending its contents spilling out. “That I knew doesn’t make it any better Nne. He’s going to be gone for six months, six frigging months!”
Ezinne sat up in her chair and leaned towards her friend, elbows folded on the desk. “Oya calm down o!” She picked one of the biscuits on the table and threw it into her mouth,” e never reach that level na”
“I’m so going to miss him!” She caught her friend’s gaze, “What am I supposed to do in six months without Kam?”
“For one, everyone that is not Kamal will get to see more of you seeing that he won’t be there to steal you away during your off-work hours”
Elsie chuckled. “You’re not even feeling my pain here, are you?”
“Nne, I dey feel am o, I dey feel am big time! You know say I dey twale you sef as you go allow your guy comot for six months! Chai!”
“Not every guy is Obinna, you know”
Ezinne sat back in her seat, the naughty smirk on her face disappearing. “I know girls to be nymphos, Obinna’s I do not understand. I dare not let him out of my sight for even two days; he’ll be between another woman’s legs!”
“You know, I’ve lost count of how many women he’s cheated with since we started dating”
“Ezinne, you know you should leave this guy. You deserve better”
“Nne abeg! Na so all of una dey tell me but you sef know say Obinna is the best of the guys I’ve had in seven years”
“If Obinna came, then a better man will”
“Elsie, stop preaching the message of waiting-for-Mr. Right to me. You know Obinna and I are getting hitched in two months, to break up with him and wait for a better man is going to be the most foolish thing I’ll do my whole life”
“Nne leave am! When will a better man come, in six years when I’ll be forty? ”
Elsie shook her head and began to gather the spilled biscuits back into the packet. She and Ezinne had gone down the you-deserve-better-than-Obinna road more times than she could count and she knew already that it was a fruitless journey.