Elsie hummed a tune and wiggled her body to its rhythm as she gave finishing touches to her face and hair.
She put her face closer to the mirror and bore her teeth widely in an exaggerated smile. “I feel good! No, no, no, great… I feel great! Awesome! On top of the moon!” she yelled, trying to mimic the famous Michael Jackson moonwalk.
She tripped and fell onto her bed and burst out laughing really hard she didn’t notice when her mother walked in.
“Today must be a very good day o”
Elsie sat up in her bed, clutching her sides and breathing hard as she tried to regain composure.
“Yes mother, the rest of my life is going to be very good!”
The mother retied her wrapper around her chest and took a seat on the edge of her daughter’s bed.
“Tell me about it”
“Kamal is coming home in two weeks!” Elsie yelled.
The older woman’s eyes widened with joy. “Aaah! You have to be really happy then. In fact, we all have to be”
Elsie pushed herself up from the bed, smoothened her dress over her hips, slid on a pair of stilettos she grabbed off her shoe rack and reached for her hand and laptop bags – the one she hung on her arm and the other, she balanced on her shoulder. She took one last look at herself in the mirror and satisfied with what she saw, flashed another ridiculous grin.
She turned to her mother. “I’m off mother”
“I’m too happy to keep anything in my stomach. I’m sure I’ll be fine till lunch”
“Toh. It’s alright”
She made out the room but stopped at the doorway. “Don’t wait up for me. Late night.”
“Take care o”
And with that, she was gone, humming her tune even louder.
Elsie jerked in her seat as her head hit the desk. She murmured some inaudible words and scratched her left arm with the nails of her right fingers, unsure of what exactly made it itch. She squinted at the screen of the laptop in her face as she tried to gather herself back together in one piece.
“Oohh… The NJ proposal…” she muttered, at the realization of what she had been working on before she dozed off.
She glanced at the clock on her laptop; it said eight-oh-seven. Elsie knew the cubicles and hall ways of the office would be empty; she remembered that Ezinne had come to say her goodnights almost four hours ago and one of the junior managers who had won the ‘most dedicated staff’ and ‘most hardworking staff’ awards for three consecutive years and was known to work late nights, was away on official assignment so she knew that she was all alone on the floor – with a janitor or two.
Her eyes felt heavier than her face, she needed to sleep and sleep well but, she had to get the proposal ready for seven o’clock the next day so her boss could take it with him on his trip – one she was glad she didn’t have to accompany him to. If she took the work home, there was no doubt that she wouldn’t be able to get it done before it was needed so she stuck with finishing her work before going home.
Elsie got out of her chair and walked into the small rest room in her office. She opened the tap and cupped her palm to collect some water which she splashed on her face in a bid to help awaken her and her senses too. After repeating the process about a half dozen times without any positive effect, she gave up on it, turned off the tap and dragged herself back into the office the same way she had come in.
“Oh God!” she snapped, “I need to finish this thing jare”
Her eyes rested on the fridge standing in the corner and she walked over to it. She thought: eating something might help. Elsie scanned through its contents – biscuits, chocolate bars, juice packs and a bottle of wine; she reached for the bottle of wine and slammed the door shut. One of her boss’ business partners had brought her the wine so many weeks before after they had sealed a multi-million deal with him – extremely nice man. She read the name of the product and her eyes widened when she saw the alcohol level – it was in the forties. Elsie wasn’t exactly the alcohol-consuming kind of person but she could remember getting wasted on a few occasions.
She returned to her seat and worked the cork with the screw she’d grabbed from the top of the fridge. She told herself she wasn’t going to get drunk, just a few swigs to keep her awake and alert. She took a first sip, squeezed her face into a slight distortion as the liquid burnt down her throat and sharply turned back to work. Indeed, the drink seemed to cooperate with her ‘plan’ as she felt more alert after a third swig.
Her intercom rang. She grabbed the receiver in the spirit of being slightly high and put it to her ear.
It was security, as she had guessed. A man was asking to see her.
“Who did he say he is?”
Elsie frowned at the mention of his name. She knew what he wanted but wondered how he knew she was still at work
“Let him come up”
She replaced the receiver and returned back to her work. Some five minutes later, there was a knock on her door.
She didn’t look up from her laptop as she asked her guest in nor as he actually came in.
It was now that she looked up. “Obinna”
She smiled; her half warm, half nasty smile.
He walked over to her side of the desk and she got up as he approached her and gave him a brief hug. His smile revealed the imperfection of his dentition – two of his upper teeth were missing, they had always been missing. He returned to the other side of her desk, pulled out one of the two chairs, sat and crossed his legs.
“Please have your seat” Elsie’s tone was heavily laced with sarcasm.
Obinna ignored her unfriendly attitude and smiled.
“How did you know to find me here?”
“Well, I was speaking to Emeka as he was leaving work and he mentioned as he drove out the premises that your car was still in”
“Ohhh, Emeka eh?”
Emeka was Obinna’s cousin who worked in one of the other offices in the building hers was in too. He was also the one Elsie didn’t like, she thought him a very lousy and arrogant person who never minded his own business.
Obinna gave a short laugh. “He actually thinks you’re having an affair with your chairman”
Elsie shook her head slightly. “It’s Emeka. He’s dumb”
“Hey ma’am! Easy on my cousin”
Elsie pulled her laptop closer. “What is it that brings you, Obinna?”
The grin on the man’s bearded face disappeared and was replaced with one that would draw sympathy from almost anybody.
“Elsie, I need Ezinne back. I need her”
Elsie didn’t say anything. Instead, she returned to her work and typed away on her laptop shifting her gaze between the keyboard and a number of papers within her reach.
“I’ve not been able to get her off my mind” Obinna continued, “and I know I will never be able to. Ezinne is my life, I haven’t been the same since she left”
“Please help me talk to her. I promise to change”
Elsie looked at him again. “Obinna, change?”
“I can swear”
“No, don’t bother. Don’t bother raining unnecessary curses on yourself because I won’t even talk to her about you not to talk of begging her”
“Elsie, please help me, you’re the only one I know she will listen to”
Elsie chuckled. “I know, that was why I kept hammering that she should break up with you”
Obinna sat up in his chair and his crossed leg fell to the floor.
“My friend doesn’t deserve the tinniest bit of what you put her through, getting in between the legs of everything called female”
His gaze fell to the floor, ashamedly. “I’m sorry. I really am”
Elsie shrugged and returned to her work. “Well, thank God you are but it doesn’t change anything. At least, I don’t think it does”
The room fell silent save the tapping of keys and the shuffling of papers. It must have been almost a quarter of an hour before Obinna broke the silence.
“I bet if I can get between your legs just once, you’ll come begging for more”
Heat from nowhere permeated her entire body and concentrated in her head. Her eyes shot out with rage and her stomach tightened in a knot.
“You surely are the stupidest of all men!”
She jumped on her feet and took some of her quickest and sharpest strides to the door.
She flung it open and left it ajar.
Obinna was on his feet, facing her, face blank.
Her head felt like a stadium filled with noise-making-feet-stomping fans – like it was going to explode.
“Obinna Ezeanya, get out of my office!”