I opened my eyes and looked at the alarm, it was five o’clock already? I hit the snooze button, pulled the duvet over my head and closed my eyes.
Aargh! Couldn’t I get five more minutes of sleep. I threw the duvet over my head and let the alarm ring. Then my phone began to ring, I stretched and grabbed it. My boss was calling; I wondered why he would be calling so early.
“Hello sir.” I said.
“Good morning Jude, did I wake you?”
“Yes sir.” I said expecting an apology.
“It is 7:30!” He said and I jumped off the bed. “Don’t you resume by 8 a.m. anymore?”
“Er..I’m sorry sir.” I said. I thought I had slept for only five more minutes.
“Anyway, I have news – great news actually.” He said. “We are going to Finland in three days.”
“We are? I thought…”
“Yes, I also thought we still had a month but we need to go now. So get your lazy butt out of the bed and be in the office in thirty minutes.”
Finland in three days? Several emotions were rushing through my head – excitement, anticipation, pride. Oh my God – Gloria! What was I going to tell her? Three days was too short a time to prepare to leave her. I dialled her number.
“Buenos dias, mi amor.” She said.
“I love when you speak Spanish.” I said with a smile.
“Did you just wake up? It’s seven thirty.”
“I also love when you point out my laziness.”
She laughed. “I wish I could get a magic potion to cure you of that.”
“Anyway, I need us to meet today. I’ve got some news.” I said.
“Really? Tell me now.”
“No, it’s something I need to tell you face to face.”
“Oh my God, are you pregnant?” She said.
I laughed. “Gloria, I need to get dressed for work, don’t delay me with your Oscar-worthy sense of humour.”
I had no idea what I would tell her but I had a few hours to figure that out. Hopefully, it wouldn’t end in me losing her.
I knew it was going to be a very busy day immediately I stepped into the office. Three days wasn’t a lot of time to get ready, there was a lot to be done. And there was only one person my boss expected to be stuck with all the work –me. Fortunately for me, the Finnish team had left Inka to help us and she did.
It was six pm before I looked at my watch and I decided I was too tired to do anything else. Surprising Inka had kept pace with me but now even she was tired.
“I think it’s time we closed if we want to be alive for the trip.” I said.
“Oh, I thought you’d never say that.” Inka said and laughed. “Do you work like this all year round?”
“Oh, yeah, we work pretty hard all year round.” It wasn’t so true, but it sounded impressive.
“Well, I’m impressed.” She said and patted me on my arm. “Now, that work is done, do you want to maybe grab something to eat?”
I paused, was she asking me out? No way was she doing that, she knew I had a girlfriend.
“Jude? If you have plans, we don’t have to go.” She said
“No, it’s fine, I don’t have plans.” I said. Oh wait! I had plans with Gloria!
“Okay cool, I’ll wait for you out front.” She said and walked out of the room.
What was I going to do? I did not want to disappoint Inka but I had promised Gloria I was going to see her. Plus I had something important to tell her. But Gloria was my girlfriend, I could explain to her and she’ll understand. I knew what I was doing was stupid but it was just one dinner, I had the rest of my life – hopefully, to go to dinner with Gloria.
“I can’t believe you stood me up last night.” Gloria said as she settled into her seat.
“I’m sorry Gloria. There was nothing I could do, she is alone in town, her colleagues have returned to Finland. Remember I’m supposed to help her anyway she needs.”
“Is that so? So you would have stood me up again today if she asked you to?”
“No, because she did and I told her I was going out with my girlfriend.”
“So, she asked again today? In a month’s time you will be in Finland with her, is this the plan – dinner every night?” She said. I could see she was getting increasingly upset now.
“I’m sorry Gloria. I should have come to meet with you yesterday, I was wrong”
“Hmm, well, at least I have a month to put my stamp all over you so no silly girl from Finland will steal my man.” She said and pulled my cheek.
“Well, you don’t exactly have one month.” I said.
“I know it’s not thirty days exactly Mr Mathematician.”
“Yeah, that’s not what I mean.” I said.
I told about her about the new time for the journey. She looked at me for what looked like an eternity to me.
“How long will you be gone for?” She finally asked.
“It will just be for a month this time.”
“A whole month?” She asked and I saw tears well up in her eyes.
I rushed of my seat and moved to her side of the table. I pulled her gently into a hug and held her.
“A month isn’t really a long time.” I said.
“Jude, a lot can happen in a month. I could lose you in a month.”
“You don’t have to worry about that, nobody in the world is tough enough to steal Queen Gloria’s man.” I said.
“It starts with one dinner.”
“Come on Gloria, Inka is just a colleague and that dinner was totally platonic.”
“She asked for another today, in Helsinki you won’t have the excuse of having plans with your girlfriend.”
“Gloria, I promise you nothing like that would happen. I’m committed to you, that means something to me. Is there any way I can prove it to you?”
My girl was hurting and I understood her fears but there was no way I was going to cheat on Gloria, not with Inka, not with anybody. I needed to prove to her that I was committed to her but I had no idea what to do. But I knew I could not leave Nigeria with my girl doubting my faithfulness, I would do something to prove it to her.
The alarm sounded and I shut it off. I was already awake waiting for it to permit me to get off my bed. My flight was that night and I was eager, a little too much than I would like to admit. It was my first flight to Europe and I was excited. I already had some of my things packed, I would complete the packing later in the day but my plan was to spend the day with Gloria. I was going to be away for a month and I was going to give her memories that would last her the month.
I grabbed my bible and headed for the living room. Today was very important in my life it was good that I started it right. I was at the door when my phone rang. I walked back and picked it, it was boss. Was I mistaken about the time again? I looked at the wall clock, I wasn’t, it was just after five am.
“Good morning sir.”
“Jude, I’m sorry, did I wake you?”
“No sir, I was awake already.”
“That’s good because I want you alive and alert. Be in my house in one hour.” He said.
“I should be at your house by six?” Oh no, my boss was going to disrupt my plans again?
“Yes please, we need to confirm some things for the journey. I discussed with Inka last night so she’ll be ready and waiting for you to pick her on the way here. Don’t worry we will be done in a couple of hours.”
I knew my boss, a couple of hours was code for the whole day. I had promised Gloria to spend the day with her and I would. If it would mean telling my boss about us then I would it. I had to prove my commitment to my girlfriend, not just to Gloria but to myself.
I prayed, got ready, picked Inka and was at my boss’ house by six thirty. He was asleep when we arrived.
“But he called me around five.” I said to his wife.
“My dear, don’t mind him. He made the call and went back to sleep but he’s told me to show you what you need to do.”
I could not believe it. My boss expected me to cancel any plans I had and do his work while he slept? I looked at Inka, she shrugged and began to work. I would do my best but I was going to see Gloria once it was ten o’clock.
Three hours later and the work still wasn’t done. I was yet to see my boss, and now I was livid. I told Inka about my plans for the day, she sympathized but there was nothing she could do about it. I looked at my watch, it was quarter to ten. As soon as it was ten, I would call my boss and excuse myself.
As if on cue, my boss walked in.
“Hello guys, how is it going?” He asked.
Inka answered him, I just nodded.
“Jude, I have some news, potentially bad news for you.” He said and I looked up at him. “There was a problem with your ticket.”
“A problem?” I asked. My heart was thumping, was I missing the Finland trip?
“Yes, let’s just say you don’t have a ticket for tonight’s flight.”
“But thanks to Jerr, you can still get one but you’ll need to go meet with one of his people at the airport.”
I looked at my boss and somehow I knew he was at fault for this ticket problem. He did not know about my relationship with Gloria but it was as if he was doing all he could to thwart it. I sighed, grabbed my phone and keys and headed for the car. It was still early, I could be done in a couple of hours and then I would see Gloria. I decided to call her first.
“Hey babe, are you on your way?” She asked.
“I wish.” I said and told her about the ticket problem.
“Hmm, I guess I can wait if it’s only a couple of hours. By the way, I have a surprise for you.” She said.
“I love surprises.” I said. “Wait, are you pregnant?”
She laughed. “I already used that, make your own jokes.”
I smiled and ended the call. I wished I could be with her already but if I was going to Finland that night, I needed to sort the ticket issue out. And it wouldn’t take more than a couple of hours anyways.
A couple of hours was all it would take? So I thought. It was already six thirty pm and I was still at the airport. I paced inside the office as I waited for Jerr’s friend to finally come out with my tickets. I spoke with Gloria every half hour and each time I told her I would out of there in ten minutes because that was what I was told. The day was almost over and now I wished I had told her to come to the airport.
It was six fifty when finally the man came in with my tickets. I collected them and was out of his office without saying ‘thank you.’ I sped back to town, I had just a little over two hours before I had to be back at the airport and I still had packing to do. I grabbed my phone and dialed Gloria.
“I’m so sorry Gloria but I just left the airport. I’m a little pressed for time, so could you please come to my house?”
I heard her humph and end the call. Should I call her back? There was no point, I wasn’t going to get a better response. If she didn’t come, I would pick her up on my way to the airport, she could drive my car back.
I was right, she did not come but there was no way I was leaving the country without seeing her. It was already dark when I arrived in front of her house; she was there waiting for me. She entered the car without saying a word. I looked at her as I drove off but I could not think of anything to say so we drove in silence.
By the time we got to the airport, my boss had already called me four times. ‘You need to check in,’ he kept saying. I screeched my car to a stop at the airport and jumped down to get my bag out of the trunk.
“Are you going to leave without saying a word to me?” Gloria said.
I dropped my bag. “I was going to check in and then sit down with you till it’s time to board.”
“Yeah of course, your flight comes first.” She said, entered the car and slammed the door.
I had some experience with girls, but handling this kind of situation had never been my expertise. But Gloria meant too much too me, I had to handle this well.
I put the bag back in the trunk and joined her in the car.
“Gloria, I’m sorry. I did not plan for any of this to happen.” I said.
“But it did Jude, it did. You will be off to Finland having a great time and I would be the one here, alone.”
“No, you won’t be alone. We will talk everyday – BBM, Whatsapp, Skype.”
She scoffed. “I can’t get your attention now we are in the same city but I will when you are thousands of miles away?”
I kept quiet. I did not think there was anything I could say that would go well for me at this point. We sat in silence for almost two minutes before she spoke again.
“You should probably go check in, I don’t want to be the reason you missed your flight.”
“Gloria, you know I love you, right?” I said, looking into her eyes. “I don’t know if I could ever prove it to you but if my word means anything, I give you that.”
“You know I had a surprise for you,” I had totally forgotten that. “My dad was in town and I told him about you.”
“Apparently mom already did. She must have raved about you because he was so eager to meet you. You wanted to prove your commitment and that was your chance.”
I sighed and put her head on the steering-wheel. I did not believe I could loathe going to Finland more than I did at that moment but I knew I still had to go.
So I asked.
“Gloria, when I land in Helsinki tomorrow, will I still have a girlfriend in Nigeria?”