Missing Gloria’s award dinner – or rather almost missing it was the wake-up call I needed.
It was true that I was enjoying working with Inka and her team but if it meant losing Gloria, I had to rethink it all. I could still lose Gloria if she really meant what she said about long distance relationships but it won’t be my fault. I knew I had to do something, I had to show Gloria I was all in.
So that Saturday morning I called my boss.
“Jude, is there a problem at the office?” He asked.
He was surprised to hear from me. That Saturday was one of the few days when we had nothing to do in the office and he would have imagined that I would not want to talk to him at all.
“There’s no problem sir. I just wanted to ask if I could come see you this evening sir.” I said.
“Okay, can’t this wait till Monday. I don’t know about you but I need a break from office matters.”
“This is something private sir. It won’t be any stress to you sir.”
He agreed and I began my preparation for my trip to my boss’ house. First on my list of preparation was a call to Gloria.
“Hmm, you are in a good mood.” She said.
“Oh yeah, I am.” I said and smiled. “So, I’m free today and I thought we should take a trip together.”
“Really? Oh my gosh! A trip where?”
“You’ll find out when I pick you up.”
“My man is being mysterious, me likey. Do I need to pack anything? When are we coming back?”
“You don’t need to pack anything. Just bring your smile and a good attitude.”
“I always have my smile packed but a good attitude… hmm, I’ll see if I can borrow some.” She said and laughed.
“Borrow some good attitude? Surely your mama raised you better.”
She laughed. “Speaking of my mama, she comes to town today but I probably won’t see her till tomorrow though.”
“Very nice, maybe I can finally meet her and see where that amazing figure came from.”
“Meet my mama? No sir!”
I wondered why she did not want me to meet her mother but it was probably better. You don’t cross a bridge before getting there. My main priority was our little trip that evening.
I was parked in front of Gloria’s house by 3pm. A minute later she stepped out of her door. She smiled when she saw me and waved.
I looked at her and knew again that I was doing the right thing, I could not lose this girl – not for anything. I came out of the car and hugged her and held on a little longer than usual. When I finally released her, she looked into my eyes and smiled.
“In addition to being all mysterious, my man is feeling a little emotional?” She asked as she jumped into the car.
“Whatever you say, my lady.” I said and started the car.
“So where are we going?” She asked.
“We, my lady, are going for our introduction.” I said.
“Really? Oooh, I’m excited. When I woke up this morning, something told me – ‘Gloria, prepare, for today you shall be introduced.’ And I didn’t believe.”
I looked at her face and laughed. I would never know a boring day with this girl.
“We’re going to my boss’ place.” I said.
She looked at my serious face and said. “We’re going to my uncle’s place together?”
“It’s time he knew. Don’t you think so?”
“Of course. I just can’t believe this is happening. You always insisted he can’t find out about us. What changed your mind?”
“Do you want the fun answer or the serious answer?” I asked with a grin.
“Who has time for serious? Tell me the fun answer!”
“I want to see the look on his face when he realizes that all this time, his precious niece wasn’t coming to office because she loved him.”
“Hey!” She said and hit my shoulder. “That’s not fun at all. Now I kinda want to hear the serious answer.”
“Okay,” I started. “The real reason is this – I don’t want to lose you. The very thought of it scares me.”
She looked at me, gave my arm a gentle squeeze and looked out the window.
We walked into my boss’ house holding hands. Of course it was her idea and I almost collapsed with relief when we didn’t meet my boss’ in the living room. I was able to subtly and successfully disentangle our hands. My boss’ children were torn between hugging their cousin or their dad’s assistant who practically lived in their house.
“Gloria?” My boss’ voice rang through the room and I felt a cold chill go down my spine.
“Good afternoon sir.” I said and moved to distract him from Gloria.
“Jude, are you not tired of seeing my face? Because, I am tired of seeing yours.” He said and smiled.
“Anyway, have you met my niece, Gloria? She has been to the office a few times.”
I looked at Gloria and we both smiled. He did not notice the smile, thank God.
“Gloria, I didn’t know you were coming here. Did your mother tell you she was coming to town today?”
“Yes uncle, she did. I will see her tomorrow.” Gloria replied.
“See her tomorrow? Why will you wait that long? She is already here.”
“She didn’t call to tell me she was already in town. Do you know where she is staying?” Gloria asked.
“Hmm,” A female voice said from inside one of the inner rooms. “You will know if you bothered to ask.”
“Mom?” Gloria said and went into the room.
Gloria’s mother was here? What was she like? What would she think of me? Maybe this wasn’t the right time to tell my boss about Gloria because her mother will definitely hear about it.
“So Jude,” My boss’ voice broke into my thoughts. “What do you have to discuss with me that couldn’t wait till Monday?”
“Uhm… the thing is…” Nah, I could not do it, not yet. “I think it can wait for now sir.”
“Are you sure? Because with my niece and my sister are here…”
Gloria stepped out of the room followed by her mother and I jumped to my feet. Gloria eyed me and seemed to be sending some sort of signal to me, I was not getting it. My eyes were on the woman behind her. Gloria’s mother was a short and slender woman, a little older than I expected. Her beauty was obvious to see and then she smiled and I saw where Gloria got her smile from. I would love this woman, I was sure. The question was, would she love me?
“Good afternoon ma.” I said, bowing as low as I could get without overdoing it.
“You must be Jude, hello.” She said.
Did she know who I was? Did she know about me dating her daughter? I looked at Gloria who shook her head. I did not understand what that meant. Gloria’s mother was away from me before I could reply her.
“Michael, does Gloria visit you often or this was just a coincidence?” Gloria’s mom asked my boss.
He laughed and said. “She does visit – the office more than the house though. And sometimes I don’t even spend more than five minutes with her, yet my favourite niece keeps visiting her dear undeserving uncle.”
“Really?” Mrs Damijo said and looked at me. “Are you sure you’re the one she’s visiting and not someone else.”
I got uneasy under her look and looked at Gloria for help, she rolled her eyes and left the room. That was unfair. I was confused and she was not going to help at all? Did Mrs Damijo know about us or not? I needed to know.
“So Jude, what do you do?” Mrs Damijo asked.
“Oh Jude is my assistant.” My boss answered. “I have to tell you, Jude is one hardworking boy. He does his job well and then does my job well.”
Well, that was great recommendation from my boss, I hoped that would count for me later when I needed it.
“Hardworking boy… So Michael thinks you are a boy? Are you a boy, eh Jude?” She asked with a straight face.
“Err, I’m sure he meant to say man ma.” I said, doing my best to smile.
“Are you saying your boss made that kind of silly mistake?” She asked.
I looked at my boss for help, he just looked at me, smiling.
“No ma, I’m just saying he called me boy but meant to say man.” I said and immediately knew that did not help me one bit.
“Michael says things he does not mean? Does that mean it is possible he doesn’t mean the ‘hardworking’ part too?”
I opened my mouth to reply but I had nothing to say. I swallowed and hoped for Gloria to come in and save me from all of these. I was not that lucky, instead my boss stood and left. I wished I could disappear.
“Now, that it is just the two of us, let’s begin the hard questions.” She said and moved to chair closer to me.
I shifted slightly away in my chair. Was she saying all the other questions were easy?
“Let’s start with this; how long have you been dating my daughter for?”
My heart leapt to my mouth and I said before I could stop myself. “She told you?”
“No, she didn’t but I’m her mother, I can see the way you look at her.”
Oh my God! I buried my head in my hands. I heard her laughing and I lifted my head.
“You should have seen your face when I asked those questions earlier” She said, still laughing. “It looked like all the blood had drained off it.”
“I’m sorry ma.” I said. It was all I could think of saying.
“Gloria has never pulled something like this on you? She learnt it from me and maybe got better.”
“She has but she is definitely not as good as you.” I said and allowed myself smile for the first time.
“I apologise for all of Gloria’s naughtiness, she got 80 percent of them from me.” She said and laughed again. “The other 20 percent she learnt on her own.”
Just then Gloria rushed into the room. She looked at her mother and then at me and paused.
“What is going on?” She asked.
“Nothing dear, I’m just meeting your boyfriend.” Mrs Damijo said.
Gloria opened her mouth. “You told her?”
“He didn’t have to tell me, you should know me better than that Gloria.”
“Hmm,” Gloria said and sat. “So why are you both smiling then? You like him?”
Gloria looked surprised, she had not expected her mother to like me?
“I’ll leave you guys to talk, I have to catch up with my brother. There’s obviously a lot we need to talk about.”
“Don’t worry I’m not telling him about you two. I wonder how he will take it; his favourite niece has not been coming to see her dear undeserving uncle after all; heart-breaking.” She laughed and left the room.
“I love your mom!”
“Will you date her then?”
“I could but then I have a younger version of her, that will do me just fine.”
Gloria came and sat close to me and held my hands. “I’m sorry for whatever trouble my mom put you through.”
“Are you kidding me? Your mom is amazing.”
“It’s just that, she has always had issues with my past boyfriends.”
“Really? All 47 of them?” I asked and laughed.
Gloria smiled and punched my chest. “I don’t know why but she never trusted my choices and then she specifically warned me not to get into any relationship during my NYSC.”
“You disobedient child.” I said. “But it’s not your fault. Your mom had no idea you would meet a handsome gentleman like me.”
She laughed and hissed. “Handsome, yes, gentleman? The jury is still out.”
Now it was my turn to laugh. She drew up her legs on top of the chair and snuggled against me.
So I came to tell her Uncle about us and ended up telling her mother? That was good except for one thing; her mom would go back home but her uncle is the one I had to deal with every day. I wished her uncle could just read it off our faces like her mother did. Was it necessary to tell him about it? But this was more about Gloria than me anyway.
So I asked,
“Gloria, on a scale of 1 to 10, how pissed will you be if I did not tell your uncle about us today?”