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Click here to Read The Part 1
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She was still licking her wounds from a good relationship that had ended very badly. Luckily for her, she was due back in Nigeria after earning a diploma from Stanford University when it happened. She needed a break from her very painful experience with Tunji, it was why she jumped at the offer of a bank job in Lagos when it came along. She was barely two weeks back in the country when she ran into Kate, a long-lost friend with whom she lost contact when she traveled out. They had been BFFs growing up and in the university, before she skipped school in 200 level and traveled out with her parents. They had endured a lot of mischievous escapades together and so she understood why she gave her a rough time when they ran into each other on one of the aisles at Shoprite in Ikeja. She had skipped out of the country without letting her know and couldn’t communicate with her (even if she had wanted to). Her behavior was not entirely her fault and she had asked Kate to lunch the next day so she could better explain and ask for her forgiveness. An invitation that was graciously accepted with a playful threat –
“I will make you pay for all those years.”
They had met at The Yellow Chilli, Kate had come with her adorable baby. She worked at a nearby hospital as a lab scientist, but was off duty. They spent a very pleasant three hours going over their past escapades and reconnecting. She learned about Kate’s charming husband and all about her work. They had reignited their old friendship and over the next few weeks a steady friendship developed. Every time they met, Kate spoke about her husband with loving dreamy eyes. It made her long for a man of her own that could make her feel the way her friend felt. She wanted to be able to speak about her man with such affectionate dreaminess.
It was not long for Kate to notice her own downcast mood when men were mentioned.
“Hey sis. What is eating you up?” She asked her on one of their hangouts. “What is the problem? You don’t have nothing good to say when I talk about men. I know all the things you did way back. So, don’t pretend with me o,” Kate was looking at her with a mocking smirk on her face.
“Ah, nothing. I just had my fill of the male specie. As a matter of fact, I just came off a very nasty one with one of the dirtiest of their kind. I am on sabbatical so to speak,” they both roared with laughter.
“But, you do have a strong relationship with your husband. I am happy that you found someone like him. Love is scarce, and genuine love is scarcer.”
“Well, you can say that again. He is a charm. Maybe one of these days, you will meet him. He is a gentleman and a stud and all that rolled in one,” they had laughed again.
It was good to laugh again. It was also good to have a friend from the past around to share a few nice moments with, when the everyday life of Lagos permitted.
So, it was very difficult to readjust to a life without Kate when she failed to show up for more than two months for their usual weekly rendezvous. She tried her numbers without success and kept coming to the Yellow Chili every Wednesday at 2 p.m. and leaving at 3 p.m. She finally accepted that Kate had gotten even with her for what she did all those years ago. She just hoped her punishment wouldn’t be for longer. She was the only one from her past that she knew and was comfortable with.
So, it was a pleasant surprise when she eventually got a call from Kate. She however sounded different from the vivacious Kate she knew. They arranged to meet that afternoon, and she had been shocked beyond imagination when she saw her. She was much leaner than when they last met. It was a sickly Kate that had showed up. Her eyes were colorless, distant with her cheeks shrunken.
“Oh My God! Kate.” She held her for a long moment. She was bony and fragile. “What happened to you? Hope no man trouble…..”
“I am sorry Buks. I had an illness and on top of that I lost my phones. There was no way to contact you or let you know. Unfortunately, I had no means of sending word to you until I was able to lift your number from one of the e-mails you sent to me. But, I am okay now. Glory be to God.”
They had a somber and subdued afternoon together. It was a surprise when Kate had offered to send her a “dream man soon”. She had told her the man was very similar to her own husband in many ways and was in need of a good woman.
“No, no, no Kate. I am not ready for a blind date or to be hooked with a guy now. I just started getting into the groove of things at work. I don’t need another man messing with my head and my life now”
“But, this is not just any man. He is someone I know very well and whom I can recommend to you. He will treat you right. All I will do is to send him your way. And if you don’t like him, you can drop him without him knowing what was going on.”
She had gone on to elaborate on her plans for hooking her up with this dream man, “You work at BankPHB on MBA way, so it works well for my plan. He also does business with your branch, so it won’t be difficult for you too. You just act normal and all. All I will do is to tell you his name so you can spot him easily when he comes to you.”
She had written the name on a slip of paper towel and given her a physical description. It was like the old days again, a game they played as childhood friends, always trying to hook each other up with male friends.
Both of them looking out for each other –BFFs.
That was how it began.
She had looked out every day since that day Kate gave her the name and description on a piece of paper. She knew the name by heart and had committed the physical description to memory. But for a month after that lunch date the ‘knight-in-shining-armor” never showed at the bank. The expectation was beginning to wane in her mind, and her focus redirected fully towards work when she saw him.
Her heart did a dangerous double somersault as he approached her desk from the entrance cubicle. He was every inch the demigod Kate had promised – smooth skin, a cute mouth, slightly hooked nose and very bright pair of eyes. He was taller than she had pictured in her mind, but in every other detail it was like she had met him before – the mental image was almost perfect.
She struggled hard to keep her face straight and dared not look at him when he spoke to her until she was sure she had herself under control. By some quirky twist of fate, she had been moved onto a new set of knotty accounts the previous day. They were accounts which had not been resolved by the previous guy who handled them before he was moved out of the system – each one of those accounts had its own peculiarity. She had not had time to study the files, and was just doing that when she sighted him; and as it would happen, in her attempt not to look directly at him until she was sure her composure was back, she occupied herself with fishing through the files in an attempt to cover up her high cheek color. It was in this way she came up with the file for Mr. Izuchukwu Amadi. It all clicked together at once.
Kate should have told her she was sending her brother her way. He is hot, very hot!.
And as they say, everything from then on became written.
He was very passionate the way he had pleaded his case. That coupled with the fact that he was as cute as a new-born babe made concentrating on what he was saying difficult. She could also see that she had scored a major point with him. He was struggling to keep himself from looking directly at her. Every time he did, he took a few moments to refocus his mind and pick up his thread of thought. He was like a scatter-gun at a battle field. Shooting off in hope to hit some targets – that happened only when he looked her directly in the eye.
This was not going to be hard. Already her heart was reaching out for the man, but her head was slamming on the brakes – very hard.
She didn’t need to hear too much to be convinced, so she had recommended his application for approval. She needed to get him out of the bank before he made her heart burst and spill all over the bank floor from her longing for a man, a man like him.
“Mr. Izu Amadi, I am recommending your application for approval. You have a solid business proposal here and I believe the BRICS is a territory our people need to be playing more in. We need to canalize routes into that market before the sharks from Europe and America get in there and muddy the waters.”
She registered the transition of many emotions as they flitted across his face upon hearing that she was approving his proposal. Surprise, understanding, gratitude and something she couldn’t define immediately. They all were projected upon his cherubic face before he left, bustling out of the bank with so much pomp.
The guy was a chronic gambler, she could see that from a mile away. But in this game, gambling is all they knew. Every day a high risk stakes were being played. Sometimes, the losses are monumental and so also the profits could be mind-boggling. The stock market and financial mine fields are not for the lily-livered. However, he had a very good record of having a hand of aces. He pays up his loans ahead of schedule too and had a sizable figure lodged in his account.
To her, he had marvelous potentials and he had done his part to give collateral that would cover his exposure to the bank, if at all anything went wrong. He was going to shoot into the ranks of their ‘star clients’ if his deals go as planned in his proposal. Of course, she knew there are margins for error and bad deals, but even if those are taken into consideration she was sure the profits were still going to be sizable. The risk levels, other than the amount he had asked for, were really low.
The tourism and hospitality business really didn’t need much more than commercial and salesmanship nous.
Moreover, his file was ‘healthy’ and her assessment was that he was a ‘safe’ candidate for the particular business transaction. She knew her emotions weighed in heavily on her decision, she however saw plenty professional justification for her decision. It made everything easier.
However, what was not easy is how to handle herself around Izuchukwu. He made her heart sprint like it never had before. Before leaving the office that day, with Izuchukwu’s files tucked in her carry-on bag for further study and risk assessment, she said a short prayer to God for her friend Kate, who served her this delicious brother of hers.
She made a mental note not to find herself alone with him. She might not be able to control how she would react.