Joy was bored out of her mind at the stakeholders meeting of the Scion Corporation that Thursday afternoon. The Internal Auditor was droning on in his less-than-stellar English for close to an hour now and so her mind drifted involuntarily towards the bee that had been buzzing around in her bonnet for a while now.
The events of the date with Kojo 3 weeks ago should have been the last things on her mind by then, to tell the truth. She’d been royally pissed for over a week and even till now, the memory could still drive her silently steaming mad in a minute or less. The sort of male animal that would instinctively oppose any woman who appeared to have more than a cursory opinion on matters that ran contrary to his own was downright despicable to her, but one who would immediately assume she would welcome any unsolicited advances and therefore take certain liberties was the absolute worst in her opinion.
Where was that bigot Julius or the two-faced Kojo when she had to endure cold winters slaving away at a fast-food joint before moving to the Walmart afterwards, and then temping on alternate weekends when her Ghanaian scholarship was abruptly terminated?! It turned out that a certain Hon. Somebody at the Ministry of ****** decided to halt payments in favour of channelling funds into an election campaign. Thank God they lost, she thought to herself with a satisfying spike of spite that briefly made her smile.
Mr Brako, the insufferably horrible orator, just then winked back at her – he thought the smile was for him! Immediately, Joy scowled fiercely back at him, causing him to stammer in his delivery before quickly looking away. Sometimes it paid to be considered as that weird too-known Obaa denden, if only to keep some people at bay.
Her iPhone just then vibrated – a Whatsapp message. She knew who it was – Yao. Against her better judgment she’d opened his message a day earlier, unwittingly rewarding him with those 2 blue ticks so he knew she’d read his invitation to dinner the next Friday night. He was the CFO of Trendsetter Inc., a co-competitor her firm still managed to do business with from time to time depending on the size of the contract and the country it originated from. Having the CEOs of both companies being siblings sometimes set up such unconventional circumstances for the competing teams of professionals under them, but business sometimes dictated the strangest of bedfellows for a person.
It was on one of such occasions that Joy first met Yao a week ago. She’d been planning on pushing the client to sell off an offshoot project to the magnate whose portfolio was currently being managed by Trendsetter Inc. but so far, none of her planned methods had managed to convince the Proprietor of GeneScience Technologies, Mr Johnson Afriyie, to agree to the sale.
Seated in the see-through boardroom with the team from Trendsetter Inc. just outside waiting to close the sensitive deal before the 24-hour window of opportunity elapsed, Joy was almost ready to enact out the nuclear option to convince the man to sell immediately when she noticed a smartly-dressed man waving from outside, out of sight of her client. Yao Adjetey was a 38 year-old tall, light chocolate complexioned man with a full grin of pearly whites that threatened to upstage the well-concerted effect of his tailored suits every time he smiled. His wave took her quite by surprise since they had never really interacted in any of their previous ‘drive-bys’ at work so far and at that point, she would later confess to her best friends – Monique and Rose –, her heartbeat did skip a few beats just then. She, however, masterfully hid this by raising a quizzical eyebrow at him as Mr Afriyie chose that very moment to take a phone call, turning away.
He pointed at the shelf behind her, miming drinking followed by a thumbs-up gesture, and then another killer smile. She caught the draft, turning to see a distinctive decanter and a set of glasses by its side on a silver tray in the recess of the shelf. She got up and walked over to it, pouring a shot each into two glasses before carrying them back to the conference table.
Mr Afriyie ended his call with a smile on his face as he swivelled his seat back to face her.
“Madam, it never struck me that one so young as you could appreciate some of the finer things in life. What do you know about that liquor?”
“That there is an £8,000 bottle of Hardy Le Printemps cognac, isn’t it?”
The expression on the older man’s face was somewhere between abject surprise and pleasure. He was visibly impressed.
“I collect exclusive drinks from my travels around the world so I have a good excuse. What’s yours for being so knowledgeable about spirits, Ms. Barnes?”
She smiled. “Let’s just say I’ve done a bit of travelling too, sir.” Thank God for those temp shifts serving at all those grand parties trying to make up tuition fees, she silently mused to herself.
“Okay then,” he sat up straight now, waving her to seat after taking one of the glasses from her proffered hand and raising it in a toast. “To the surprisingly old-souled young woman and René Lalique’s finest carafe.”
I wonder what my pastor would think if he strode in here right now, she mused before saying a silent prayer for forgiveness. They clinked glasses before savouring the rich drink together in silence.
“So. About this deal…” In half an hour flat, Joy had finished beating out the broader provisions in the contract and handed over to the Trendsetter Inc. crew. She smiled and waved back at Yao before stepping unto the elevator.
“Hello there. My name is Yao Adjetey. I know you’re Joy Barnes. I’ve been admiring your work from afar. What I didn’t expect was the manner in which you’d down that cognac like a pro back there!”
Joy laughed aloud. “You don’t know me, Mr. Adjetey.”
It was not an affair. It was more of an extended flirtation. For the first time in a long time Joy felt that this was probably the kind of man she could let her hair down around. He was charming and not in the least overbearing in his attitude – especially for a high-powered executive in such a prestigious company.
She’d just begun to relax in his company and didn’t want to jinx it by thinking of anything more than a fun friendship – until this text message came through.
Wouldn’t it be rather nice though to be done with this rat race of meeting new people?
And that was the thought that had her seating at the Exclusive Lounge with Yao on Friday evening.
The rooftop breeze after a long day at work was welcome, interspersed with a creatively crafted jazz rendition of Kiss Daniel’s ‘Woju’. Joy smiled upon finally recognising the tune.
“That’s Frankie on the microphone there. We were roommates in Secondary School aeons ago. He has quite the talent, don’t you think?”
Yao looked so relaxed in the comfy seat, the top button of his white Pierre Cardin shirt casually unbuttoned with the long sleeves folded up to his forearms as he nursed a glass of red wine. He never touched any other alcohol apart from wines of the red or white persuasion. Joy, however, was content with her Schweppes on ice and could feel the tensions of the day evaporating away even then.
They’d ordered a few racks of ribs and had managed to pick almost all of them clean as they talked. Their chat had ranged far and wide – politics, the country’s Budget, the latest season of ‘The Last Ship’, and even the pros and cons of contouring in current makeup trends! The man was truly something else!
He did say something that happened to resound with her own philosophy on relationships at some point though.
“So why is a beautiful, smart, well-off, and personable young woman like you still free of any romantic engagements in her life?” He’d sprung the question up out of nowhere and she decided to answer him as candidly as she could.
“It’s not easy finding an honest, real, and truly loving Someone nowadays. Everybody either only wants something from you or wants to change you to meet some personal ideal. It’s just too much unneeded stress.”
He cocked his head to one side, smiling before he replied. “Well, I think I understand what you mean. I personally believe that a person should find someone they love to be with. There really should be no boundaries to fulfilling one’s heart desire – not even older ties and associations. Love is really all that matters and you should do all that you can to attain it…you know?”
She would later acknowledge that it was at that moment that she fuly bought into the Yao Adjetey franchise. The rest of the evening passed by in a sort of pink haze of bliss. Cocktails dragged on into the late hours of the night and 2:30am saw her finally curled up in her favourite window seat at home, staring out over the city’s illuminated night sky. A contented sigh escaped her shortly before she fell asleep.
The flurry of outings, dinners and lunches in each other’s company over the next two weeks was worthy of a Bellanaija montage for a socialite’s pre-wedding photoshoot. Aqua Safari by the third weekend wasn’t so out of place at the time.
The first indication of something wrong, however, was the uncharacteristic level of upset Yao expressed when he dropped his phone into the water that weekend. He was so angry with the driver of the speedboat initially and even after being calmed down by Joy, practically took off at a run for the telephone the moment they got back to the Lodge there. “I need to make an important phone call,” he explained as he made a beeline for his room. She understood the needs of their jobs in relation to keeping a close eye on some developments periodically, but this seemed a bit more than just that. Coupled with the fact that he declined the offer to use her phone…well…Joy was a bit unsettled.
She quelled the niggling voice at the back of her mind after a while though and put the thought away. Besides, by dinnertime that evening, he was back to the usual charming Yao indistinguishable from old.
She was to received no gradual exposure to the truth about the whole situation, however.
Tuesday was one stressful day and she’d hardly had time to field her personal calls but Monique’s had seemed quite persistent – 6 Missed Calls since morning.
It was when she had gotten into her car and was just about turning into traffic that she remembered to return the call. She tried calling her back twice but Monique never answered. This girl koraa, what’s the point in blowing up my phone only to ignore my calls later on? She mused to herself, slightly miffed at her friend now.
She turned up the volume on her iphone’s playlist – MAJOR. was featuring heavily on it now – and connected it via the aux cable at a traffic light stop.
Her mind drifted to Yao whom she was meeting up for another late supper and she couldn’t have been more pleased with the way things were turning out. The sort of gentleman who could respect a self-made lady without feeling a need to make her somewhat lesser seemed to not have been driven into extinction after all.
It was about a minute out from the restaurant when she got 2 pings in quick succession, alerting her of received messages. I bet that’s Monique now, finally.
She put the car out of gear in the parking lot and reached for her phone. She could see Yao sitting out front on the terrace from that spot, leafing through a newspaper. He looked calm, every inch the type of man any woman would be proud to be holding on to. The familiar emotions welling up didn’t scare her as much now.
Monique appeared to still be online. Joy had a mind to call her and circumvent the whole roundabout texting game, but decided to read through the messages first on second thought.
The first message from Monique was text: “Sit down and breathe first, Joy” it read. Silly girl, so dramatic.
The second was an image file which she tapped to download. In the next 5 seconds it was finally rendered fully on her screen.
It was a picture of her handsome Yao in a casual plaid shirt. He looked to be about a few years younger, but what caused her heart to skip a beat just then was the way his arms wrapped around a beautiful woman in what appeared to be a pre-wedding photoshoot as he looked deeply into her eyes…
Just then a third message came through from Monique.
“IdoGh Facebook page, 2012”
…to be concluded…really…
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