In case you missed it, read Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6 and Episode 7
I opened my eyes that morning and immediately wished I did not have to leave the bed. It was not the first time I had woken up this way. And it started two months ago when Gloria broke up with me. I thought my mind was prepared for the break up after what I did but it wasn’t at all.
I stumbled through my daily activities for about two weeks before I finally decided I had to move on. And move on, I did. Or so I thought.
I rose from the bed and walked to the bathroom. I put some toothpaste on my toothbrush and looked into the mirror over my wash-hand basin. I dropped my brush and looked at my face, I almost could not recognize myself. My new beard was not working, it probably would if I took better care of it.
I sighed and went back into the bedroom. I picked my phone and went to my picture gallery and clicked on Gloria’s picture. It was the only one left but it was enough to torture me.
I shook my head at my own foolishness. What was the point of deleting all pictures and leaving one, or deleting her number when I had it memorized? I had not called her in the two months since our breakup, sometimes I wondered if I ever would. It was just a blissful short period of my life but now I had to move on.
I dropped my phone and headed back into the bathroom. I had work to get to.
I walked into my office and I immediately knew something was going on. There were several people dressed far too casual that they usually would. Maybe things did not look so different but I could tell that something was going on. I looked at Molade, she usually would just shut me down but even she looked approachable today. I walked to her desk.
“Molade, good morning.”
“Jude, how far?” She replied casually without her usual cynicism.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Going on where?”
“In the office…things look different.”
“Well, we’re all closing by noon today. We’ve all got a surprise party to go to.”
“A party? Everybody in the office?” I looked around with a frown.
“Of course.” She looked up at me. “Are you okay? You look like someone who hasn’t slept in days.”
“Yeah, I am fine. So whose party is it?”
“Are you kidding me? You’re his PA and you don’t know?”
Oh my God! It was my boss’ birthday, I had totally forgotten. I knew he was planning something but I had since lost interest in visiting his house or spending any more time with him than was required.
“Where is this party happening?” I asked.
“His house. It’s supposed to start by two so we can be done on time. Work resumes tomorrow.”
His house, it would mean Gloria would be there. I felt my heart begin to race, would I see her again?
Or maybe she would come with Tunji. Now that I was out of the picture, surely Tunji would have made his move.
“So, when are you going?” Molade asked. “We could go together.”
I shook my head. “I don’t know yet.”
I saw the look she gave me as I walked away from her desk but I ignored her, I had bigger things to worry about. Did I want to see Gloria after all this time? If I saw her, what would I do or say? I did not have an answer to any of this. Maybe I should not go, that way I did not have to decide on anything.
My phone rang, it was my boss.
“Good morning sir, I’m already in the office.” I said, looking at my watch.
“Of course you are. I need you in my house now, we have work to do.”
“You want me to come now?”
“I have a party starting by two, so of course you have to come now.”
“I’ll be right there sir.”
That would be perfect, I would do whatever he wanted me to and I could leave the house before the party started and people – Gloria, arrived. Or maybe seeing her would not be as bad as I thought. I shook the thought off my mind. Move on!
I walked into the house and immediately knew this was one party I wouldn’t be missed at. It was going to be huge, there will a lot of people. I could be here and not even see Gloria at all.
“Hey.” A voice called from behind me and I froze. I knew who it was, I had heard that voice so many times, I had dreamt about that voice so many times.
I turned around. “Gloria.”
I looked at her and a lump formed in my throat. I wanted to run to her and hug her, instead I just stood there speechless.
She looked glorious, and I intend no pun, it was just the word to describe her.
She looked different too, a little calmer than she usually was.
Finally she spoke. “How are you?”
I tried to smile and give an enthusiastic answer like someone who had moved on, instead I stood there and stared at her.
“Jude!” It was my boss. “I’ve been waiting for you, get in my study now!”
I looked at Gloria, she smiled and walked away. I smacked my forehead and followed my boss. I was so ridiculous, even I was embarrassed at being myself. I had such a wonderful opportunity to talk to Gloria alone and I blew it. I might not have that opportunity again. I shook my head and entered the study.
“Jude, sit down. Today is a day of celebration.”
“Yes sir, Happy birthday sir.”
“Yeah, thank you. But that is not what I was talking about.”
I sat up in my seat and waited for whatever good news was coming.
“Finally, our Finland deal has been sealed a hundred percent. Every signature is on the deal and in three months we open our office in Finland.”
That was great news. The deal had always looked set to happen but with huge deals like this, things could easily go wrong.
“That’s wonderful news sir. Congratulations.”
“Well, congratulations to all of us. There’s something else. I have decided that you go and start up the Finland office.”
I gasped and stared for a few seconds. Was he really offering me the Finland office? Since my episode with Inka and Gloria, my boss had grown distant. I was not expecting anything good from him, not now.
“I don’t know what to say sir.”
“Say yes.” He said and stood and offered his hand.
I stood and shook his hand. “Yes sir! Definitely yes!”
“Great! Then I have two great things to announce at my party today. I need to see my wife, she was afraid you would say no.”
“Why on earth will I do that?”
He laughed. “So, who is the first person you want to tell this great news.?”
Gloria! She was the one I wanted to tell but then I knew that was not going to happen. I shrugged and smiled.
“Okay Jude, tell whoever you want to but not anybody in the office. I want them to hear from me.”
I walked out of my boss’ office with mixed feelings. I felt joy at the great opportunity I had just received. But there was one person I wanted to share it with but I couldn’t.
The party was already in full swing when I arrived. Music boomed from speakers placed in strategic positions across the house. My boss’ kids were giving what looked like a special dance performance on a makeshift platform and the crowd were cheering them on. I walk through the house wondering if my hope to see Gloria again was smart or not. The real party had started, she could be here with a date now. And what was the assurance that she would want to see me again given the way I goofed my first opportunity.
I looked beside me and saw Inka. “Hello Jude.”
“Hi.” I said.
She did not hold any grudge about what happened between us and I was grateful. She was turning out to be the only friend that I had these days. I was glad to finally have someone to talk to.
“I heard the news, congratulations.” She said.
“Kiitos.” I said.
“Oh, you already speak Finnish?”
I laughed. “That’s the only word I knew.”
We watched the kids’ performance in silence. Finally they ended to a raucous applause and my boss came up.
“Hey, I need to go speak to the DJ.” Inka said and left.
I shoved my hands in my pocket and waited for the announcement.
“Thank you ladies and gentlemen for coming to celebrate my 40th birthday with my family and i” My boss started.
I looked away from him, Gloria was somewhere here, I wanted to see her face when the announcement was made. I had no idea what her feelings towards me were right now. Would she even care if I was leaving the country for a very long time?
I walked around the house while my boss talked. Gloria was nowhere to be found.
“Now, I have an important announcement to make.” My boss said. “It’s been in the works for a while now and I’m glad to announce that in in three months, we will open our Finland office!”
I smiled as people applauded. I was happy for my boss, he had done a lot of hard work and deserved all the success he was now enjoying. Even better was the fact that he had a beautiful family to share it with.
“Well, the office will not run itself,” He continued. “And I have no plans to leave Nigeria, not for a country where they don’t even know the difference between pounded yam and fufu.”
I braced myself for the announcement and the several stares I would get.
“So, to run our Finland office is a man who has been my right hand for a long time. Please put your hands together for the new MD, Jude Adenowo.”
I smiled and nodded as people congratulated me. The applause was going on for longer than I wanted and I was getting uneasy. Was Gloria seeing this? What was she thinking?
“Come on Jude, come up here and say something.” My boss said and my heart sank.
I walked up to the podium wishing I had followed my original plan and stayed at home. I had no speech planned and nothing was coming to mind.
I got on the podium and took the microphone from my boss.
“Kiitos. That’s Finnish for ‘thank you’ by the way.” I said.
I paused and looked around and saw Gloria standing alone. She was looking at me but I could not see if she was smiling or not from where I was standing. If I had any ideas on what to say, at that point they disappeared.
But still I had to say something.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity. Finland is great nation, we run a great institution, and it will be great for both parties. I feel privileged to be chosen to do something this important, I hope to repay the faith shown in me.” I said, handed the microphone back and was off the podium before I could be asked to say something else.
“That wasn’t bad.” It was Gloria again.
I stopped walking. “Really? Because I thought it was terrible.”
“Maybe it was and I’m just trying to make you feel good. Is it working?” She asked and smiled.
“Well, I think the smile did the trick. Yes, I feel good now.”
“Where are you going?”
“Home actually.” I said. “I haven’t been feeling very good since morning.”
“Okay. I hope you feel better.” She said, turned around and walked off.
I watched her walk away and wondered why she had left so abruptly. She had attempted starting a conversation with me twice today. Was she trying to say something?
I ran after her.
“Hey Gloria, hold up.”
“I thought you weren’t interested in talking.” She said and continued walking.
I was surprised. “Why would you think that?”
She stopped. “Two months Jude! Two months and you didn’t call or text or check on me at all!”
I was taken aback. Did she want me to call her? “I thought you did not want to see me.”
“Did I say so?”
“Yes, you actually did. ‘I don’t want to ever see you again.’ Those were the exact words you used.”
“Of course I did, I was angry. I was here waiting for my boyfriend to come back from Finland and he was there hooking up with every white girl that winked at him.”
“It was only one and I didn’t hook up with her.”
She rolled her eyes and walked off again. I followed her. She did not stop till we were out of the house. She stopped when we got to the stairs and sat. I joined her.
“I’m sorry Gloria. It was a mistake, one that I have regretted every single day.” I said.
“I saw the two of you together this evening.”
“She’s still my colleague and I promise you there’s nothing going on between us. There never was.”
She sighed and kept quiet. We sat in silence for few minutes. I wondered how she felt. I would never know without asking and telling her how I felt.
“Gloria, I missed you. I tried to move on but I never could. I still wake up every morning hoping some miracle could happen and everything I did could be undone.”
She reached for my hand. “Why did you never call? Two months is a long time Jude. Tunji asked me out.”
I withdrew my hand. I felt so lightheaded my eyes drooped close for a few seconds.
My heartbeat was out of control now and my tear gland was full, it was only a matter of time before they poured out their content.
But I had to hear her say it.
So I asked.
“Gloria, have I been replaced? Did you say yes to him?”