Port Harcourt, Nigeria
My heels sound a staccato rhythm as I walk into the marbled hallway of Briggs and Horsfall, a leading law firm with branches nationwide and a steady stream of high profile clients. It’s the place I spend most of my waking hours as a senior lawyer. Both my hands tightly clutch items very precious to me. My phone and purse in my left hand, and a steaming pack of Jollof rice and fried chicken in my right. It’s lunchtime and I can’t wait to dig in.
I step up to the array of lifts and call the first one with a clumsy elbow jab. As I wait for the gentle chime of the lift, I spy my reflection in one of the mirrored door panels. Even with a scowl on my face, I know I cut a crisp image. I’m wearing a sheer white blouse tucked into a black leather pencil skirt. A sleek pony tail and heels complete the look. Considering that my granny panty has worked its way into my bum crack causing me a great deal of discomfort, I’m obviously not the epitome of perfection I’m making out to be. But looking on the outside in, no one can tell anything is amiss. I wink and blow an air kiss at my reflection just as the lift door pings open and a stream of officious-looking people pour out.
Everyone does that right? Right? I smile wryly to myself. I’m hardly ever in a bad mood for long.
I walk into the lift with a straight face, hoping that no one saw my air kiss. As I hit my floor number and the lift door gently closes, someone sticks a hand through and opens the doors up once more.
Darn, I was hoping for some alone time so I could tend to business.
I step further in to create space for the intruder. Keeping my head down, I notice a pair of male shoes. A nice pair of shoes I might add.
I should try to see his face.
As the lift begins to move upwards, I realise the tight space has also been filled with his cologne. It smells rich and sexy, but not overpowering. I need to get a look quickly before we arrive at my floor. I begin to discreetly lift my chin.
Slowly, I caution myself. Please don’t make it obvious.
But time’s running out! I argue back. I really need to know if this is a potential or not.
Curiosity wins and I pretend I need to crack my neck and suddenly lift it up to twist my head sideways.
Except I look up right into his face and see that he is staring right back at me. Eyes wide open and lips slightly ajar. He is quite tall and even through his tailored suit, it’s obvious he is well-built. His chiselled jaw is framed by a neatly trimmed beard. Definitely a potential.
“I’m so sorry, didn’t mean to stare at you that way, it’s just that… umm,” He stammers.
He appears flustered and I try to crack a joke to lighten the mood.
“Are you an orphanage? ‘Cause I want to give you kids,” I say with my head cocked.
“Excuse me?” He replies, looking very confused now.
That came out wrong. I sound like a predator! I need to rectify it before things get worse.
I open my mouth to respond but the lift door pings open again. The HR manager, Mrs Princewill, walks in. She is a small but fierce old lady who I play up to, so I stop talking instantly.
I smile through pursed lips and say hello her. My stomach churns and I tell myself it’s just the lurch of the lift. Mrs Princewill looks up from her files and smiles at me.
“How are you doing, Tari dear?” she asks and I mumble a reply.
In one fluid motion she also turns to the man.
“Oh Mark! Perfect, I see you’ve met Miss Douglas already, she’s our stellar Mergers and Acquisitions lawyer. Just the person you need on your team,” she exclaims with a smile.
Wait what’s going on? I’m thrown off guard. Who’s Mark?
“The team from the Abuja office are just settling in on the Directorate floor. I was just heading up to speak to you about it, Tari,” She says, turning back to me.
She looks like a silver-haired ballerina doll swivelling between the both of us. It would have been funny in different circumstances.
I’m struggling to find the words to say. The lift door pings open on my floor and Mrs Princewill steps out first.
“Please meet me in the conference room in ten. I’ll give a formal introduction and brief you both then,” She says as she walks off.
I step out of the lift as well and stand staring at her back while Mark steps in front of me. He smiles and extends his hand.
“Let’s start all over,” He says with a smile, “Hi, I’m Mark Olaiya. I’m also your new boss,”
Both my hands are still clutching the food pack, purse and phone so all I can return is a weak smile. Things certainly just got worse.