Amara drove into her compound completely exhausted. Even though hunger was biting into her stomach, all she wanted was to fall into a well-deserved sleep. She hadn’t been able to return to the office after seeing her client. The woman had been a huge pain in the neck, arguing out every single word that Amara spoke. Amara had pasted her official smile on her face until she was certain that her face would split from the force of it. As if that was not enough, she had to face an award winning traffic jam on her way back to the office, moving two inches forward every thirty minutes until she decided to head home instead.
Sighing deeply, Amara took her foot off the pedal and alighted from the car stiffly. She pressed the lock button and walked to her mini-flat apartment. She occupied the compound along with three other co-tenants, whose names she was not sure she could remember correctly. She hadn’t had the time to mingle with her neighbors and she did not really care anyways. She had met one or two people by chance but she always forgot their names after meeting them. Entering her apartment, her shoulders sagged a bit, but her sitting room was not made for a day like this. The bright green colour she used to paint the sitting room glared back at her, offering no warmth. Her sitting room was cold and emotionless; the exact way it should be, she reminded herself. She needed everything in her life to keep her in focus. There were no picture frames hanging on the wall, all that could be seen were the comfortable couches, portable flat-screen television hanging on the wall and a little stand for a DVD player and DVDs.
Without pausing in the sitting-room, she headed straight for her bedroom, where she knew she could feel better. She dumped her bag on the bed, using the last iota of strength in her to remove her shoes. She collapsed fully clothed on the bed, lowering her lids against her heavy eyes. She took delight in the relaxed feel of her body as exhaustion slowly edged away. Amara wasn’t even sure she could lift a finger as she motionlessly beckoned sleep.
Just as she slipped off the edge of complete consciousness, her phone rang, effectively waking her. She grudgingly checked the caller – Tina. Yes, Tina had again bumped into her life about a year ago and as much as Amara tried to keep the past firmly locked in the closed chapter of her life, Tina just would not go away. Apparently, Tina also had preferred life in Lagos and seen it as a better place to open her restaurant. She was still in the food business and Tina definitely reminded Amara of how much she missed her delicacies by occasionally awakening her taste-buds with her meals. Since ‘Ara P’ was engaged in outsourcing the catering jobs to others, Amara had since then made sure that Tina was contacted for the meals of every function. Even though Tina was part of her past, Amara could not stop herself from helping her with whatever she could. Amara kept a firm distance between them though; a distance that Tina never stopped trying to bridge.
“Hello Tina” she said tiredly into the mouthpiece.
“Hey girlfriend” Tina said excitedly. “What’s up with you?”
Amara almost sighed. “I am fine. How are you?”
“What sort of question is that?” Tina asked and Amara could almost see her rolling her eyes at the other end. “Stop this ridiculous formalities, I am not your employee”
Amara stifled a yawn and sighed. “To what do I owe the displeasure of your call?”
Tina laughed. “Now, that sounds like a friendly question. Anyways, I have got very good news for you”
Sleep clutched at Amara’s eyes and it was taking an intense effort not to hang up. “And what might that be?” she yawned this time.
“Well, since I discovered that you are having issues getting yourself a man, I signed you up for a blind date”
Amara jerked up instantly, all signs of sleep vanishing in an instant. “You did what?” she barked.
“A blind date” Tina said simply, with a mischievous edge to her voice. “You know, going out with someone you don’t know and-”
“Shut up” Amara barked, standing to her feet in annoyance. “What is the meaning of this? And who on earth gave you permission to invade my private life? Listen, whatever it is you did, it is none of my business, so tell the fool involved that he should go to hell”
Tina laughed. “Oh sweetheart, this is not an invasion, quite the contrary since you did not even allow me into your life in the first place. Anyways, I can’t tell your date to go to hell because frankly, I do not know him. And it is tomorrow” she dropped, seeming quite excited.
Amara fumed angrily as she stumped her foot noisily on the floor. “Well, all that is none of my freeking concern. Whoever it is would just have to wait in vain if he thinks he is waiting for me”
“You are going to stand him up? Oh no darling! In fact, I think you would cheerfully go on this date” Tina said.
“And what on earth would make me do that?” Amara barked.
“Well…” Tina drawled. “If you go on this really interesting date, I would cut down my charges for the upcoming wedding by half. How does that sound?”
Amara paused. “You can’t be serious.” Tina would not do that, would she?
Tina laughed. “See, I told you. I’ll bet you are already thinking of the perfect outfit for the romantic outing” she said laughing. “Bye babe, I would forward the details. This seems so interesting already. Too bad I won’t get to see it”
Tina hung up before Amara could think of a reply and Amara found herself glaring at the phone. She threw the phone on the bed and held her head in anger. She had known that Tina’s entrance into her life was nothing but bad luck. To her, Tina was a representation of her past and since nothing good happened in her past, she hoped there won’t be repeat episodes in her life again. She sat heavily on the bed, fuming in anger. The bargain was tempting though; she could save her company some cash, and all for what? Just a dinner with an idiot? No matter how much the idea repulsed her, nothing bad comes from getting more cash. It is just a stupid dinner, she told herself. How bad can it be?
Amara entered her office the next day with a splitting headache. She barely responded to the greetings of her staff as she went into her office. The impromptu blind date was this evening and thoughts of sitting opposite a man had kept her up for the most part of the night. She dropped her bag on the table and sat on her chair, trying to bring her thoughts back together. An ordinary date should not destabilize her this much, she told herself sternly, booting up her system. Even though she had never been on dates, she knew what it was like and it was very similar to the lunch meetings she had with clients. It was nothing to get worked up about but still, her brain hovered over that piece of riddle continuously,trying to figure out who she might be meeting. Even though men were the least on her agenda, she hoped the man would at least be handsome because that would probably make the outing less of a chore than it already was. She grunted. Tega entered with a concerned frown on her face.
“Are you ok boss?” she asked in concern.
“Perfectly” Amara murmured. Tega was about to probe further but a glare from Amara definitely gave her a clear warning. Amara waited for her system to fully boot and she faced Tega. “What was the response you got from Bracket?” she asked.
“Well, they prefer to give the full details of what they want physically” she said.
“That was expected” Amara said. “Call me Aisha; she should go there as soon as possible”
“That may not be a good idea boss” Tega said.
“And why not Miss Tega?” Amara asked with an irritated look.
“Well, because the M.D clearly wants you to come yourself. In fact, the message says that he would be able to make out time to see you around 5 pm”
Amara frowned. “And just who does he think he is? Does he think I sit here waiting for an opportunity to see him? I don’t give a damn if his company is the biggest in Africa, no one orders me around. If they cannot come here and he won’t have me send someone, then he is going to have to follow my timetable.” She ranted, letting her anger from last night take over.
“But you are free 5 pm” Tega said.
Not anymore, Amara thought in annoyance. “No, I am not”
“And 3 pm”
Amara sighed. “Tega, tell Bracket that I am only free 3 pm today. If that time is not ok with their boss then too bad” she said and Tega hastily exited to carry out her boss’ orders.
Less than an hour later, Tega entered, confirming the three o’clock appointment with a soft smile. Amara exhaled, she not only had to deal with a date, but also an arrogant man.
“Looks like you would be seeing the incredibly handsome man afterall boss” Tega said as she left. Perfect, Amara thought in anger. The day couldn’t be going any better!
The sounds of kitchen wares rang out softly as several people went around the large kitchen. Tina monitored the actions of her staff, ensuring that no mistakes were made even though she was sure that nothing like that could happen. Opening a restaurant was an excellent choice, along with coming to Lagos. The crowd in Lagos was what made it a perfect place for her. People were always there to dine in her shop, and Tina felt fulfilled. ‘Tina Cooks’ had quickly gained ground, thanks to her excellent meals which had people begging for more and Tina used the profits she gathered to expand her shop. Meeting Amara about a year ago had been like a dream come true because Tina had been searching for her for years. She still hadn’t told Tola and she felt guilty about it but she knew that Amara would not want that now. Tina had the feeling that Amara hadn’t fully recovered from the past but she had no way of helping since Amara completely shut her out. She only hoped that the blind date stunt would serve to bridge the gap between them and not further widen it.
Amara sat at the reception, waiting to see the ‘almighty’ owner of Bracket – Mr. Babs. Mr. Babs was obviously in a meeting and had been keeping her waiting for the past twenty minutes. Amara stared irritated at her watch again. Couldn’t he have left this task for his employees? She shook her head and took in a deep breath. Five minutes more, she told herself sternly. She couldn’t afford to waste her time here. She still had to meet with someone, and then there was that blasted date with someone she did not even know.
She saw three men leave Mr. Babs’ office and she looked at the secretary who hastily placed a call to her boss. “You can go in ma’am”
“Thank you” Amara said, jumping to her feet with her bag in her hand, placing a forced smile on her face. She knocked on the door softly and heard a low ‘come in’. She took in much needed air and opened the door. She concentrated on closing the door firmly, but as she straightened, her eyes landed on the man behind the desk and her eyes momentarily got stuck. Jeez, so Tega hadn’t exaggerated at all… the man was so staggeringly handsome that Amara had to blink several times to be sure he was real. She might have mistakened him for a sculpture or a piece of art if he hadn’t moved. Then, a soft smile appeared on his face as he studied her. He reminded her sharply of someone and that thought was one she did not want to pursue. But that slow smile and peering eyes was remarkably similar to that of someone she knew so well.
She remembered herself and moved away from the door, with her professional smile firmly in place. She stretched her hand for a handshake as she reached the table. “Hello sir, Ara Peters” she said.
The man stood with a smile still playing on his face. He took her hand and shook it firmly. “Maxwell Babs…”
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