It wasn't something crass like the way her hips swayed as she walked towards his office. Though sway like a rain dancer, they did. No, it was in her eyes, the way she smiled at him through the glass, like she could see deep into his soul. Bode was entranced, hypnotized, drawn like a moth to a flame. It felt like she knew him, really knew him. Even though he had no idea who she was. It felt like she knew things even Shalewa didn't know. His wife, Shalewa. Like a bucket of cold water, the thought of his wife knocked him to his right senses. He was married! Just then, there was a perfunctory knock on his door before Jacinta opened the door to his office, a frown on her face. “I swear to God, Bode, I am not your secretary. They don’t pay me to walk people over to your office. If you have an appointment with someone, you need to give them directions.” A light bulb went off in his head. Right! The team assistant position. Jacinta looked at the goddess standing next to her, “No offense. It’s not you. The boys in this office are just clueless.” The goddess was still smiling, her lips trembling as if she was holding back a grin. “None taken. Thanks for walking me over, Jacinta.” Jacinta nodded before walking out, “You are welcome, jare.” It was years of polite etiquette that propelled Bode to his feet to properly greet his ten o’ clock appointment. He shook her hand and motioned for her to sit. She smiled, “Thank you.” Doesn’t she ever stop smiling? Could she please stop smiling?! Her smile slipped a little and Bode panicked. Had he said that out loud? “Um, Mr. Olaniyan, is this not a good time?” Bode shook his head. “Uh, what? No - no, no of course it is. I am sorry. It has just been a weird morning. My apologies. You’re here about the temp position, right?” “Yes, Mr. Silva said your team needed a temporary assistant to help with writing copy, editing meeting notes, and some other communication-related tasks. I just graduated from the University of Lagos with a degree in Communication and based on what he has told me so far, it sounds like I have the skills you are looking for. It sounds like this is a good fit.” No. No. Absolutely not. She could not be the assistant, his assistant. “Yes, of course. Of course. You came highly recommended, so I am sure the job is right up your alley. I just wanted to put a face to the name. Abby. Is that short for Abigail?” Her smile returned in full force and Bode stifled a groan. “No, actually. It is short for Abisire.” Of course, it is. Of course, her name is fascinating. Heaven forbid she has a plain name. “Oh, that’s - that’s a nice name.” He felt very out of his depth, like every second he spent in her presence was maing him slowly unravel. He needed her to leave. Like now. “Okay, well, I think I have heard all I need to hear. We will be in touch with you soon to see if we want to move forward.” Her smile dropped. Her lips formed a perfect ‘o.’ Her eyes shuttered. Then widened slightly and Bode hated himself for noticing every single reaction. “Oh, I thought - I thought...that is, Mr. Silva had said, that is, he had made it seem like the position was mine. And all I had to do was come in to start working.” Oh. “Oh, I mean, yeah. Yeah, it is practically yours -” Did I just say that? “- but um, yeah. I need to confer with the rest of the team and then we will get back to you.” “Oh!” Her face lit up, the fluorescent lights reflecting in her beautiful brown eyes. “Then, that’s perfect. Okay! Then, I look forward to hearing from you.” Ten minutes later, Bode walked back into his office after seeing her out and promising to buy Jacinta lunch. He sat heavily into his chair and placed his head on his desk. What the hell am I going to do?
Bode thought about her the whole day, telling himself that he was only thinking of her because he had to. Because he had to make the right decision for his team as the Team Lead. But he knew, as everyone knew, that the position was hers even before he met her. Mr. Silva didn’t really take no for an answer. So, why was he still thinking about her? Every time he remembered her smile, he hated himself a little bit more. Yet every time he realized that he would soon be working in close quarters with her, his heart skipped a beat. It didn’t make sense. No woman, not even Shalewa, had ever made him feel this way. What was it about her that was so compelling? Abby. Abisire. Oh God. As Bode drove through the gates of his condominium, he knew he had to be honest with himself. This was ...scary. It was more than ordinary admiration. As he alighted from his car, he realized that he had barely thought about Shalewa all day. As he opened his front door and saw Shalewa curled up on the couch watching her favorite show, he felt like the most horrible person on the surface of the earth. He had a wife. For goodness sake, he had a wife! Shalewa turned to look at him, flashing him a quick smile, “Hey babe!” What had he been thinking? He loved Shalewa. Like, really loved her. So what if Abby made his blood burn like fire? Shalewa was his person. His safe place. “Hi babe.” Immediately she knew something was amiss. He didn’t know how she was so attuned his moods. “Uh-oh, what happened?” She asked as she paused her television show. “Did Mr. Silva give you trouble again today?” Bode gave a bitter chuckle. If only she knew how accurate she was. Abby was trouble. A red fire-alarm kind of trouble. “Yes. Yeah, you know how he is.” “Aw, my baby.” She moved over on the couch to create space for him and patted the space next to her. Bode hesitated for a microsecond, feeling very undeserving of her comfort, but his legs carried him there, almost unconsciously. He sank into the couch. “Do you want to tell me what happened?” She asked, her voice thick with concern. God forbid, he thought. He dissembled. “Hm… no, he just wanted us to bring his goddaughter onto the team…” “Oh, and is she not qualified to help you guys out?” “I mean...she is, she just graduated from UNILAG with Communications…” Shalewa laughed. “Then, what is the problem, babe?” Bode stopped. What was he supposed to say? Oh, I think I am attracted to her, but don’t worry, nothing will happen? “I guess...I guess, there is no problem.” Shalewa rubbed his arm affectionately, “Babe, I know Mr. Silva is overbearing, but we are in Lagos for at least another nine months. You have to play nice with him until your contract is up. You know that his review will carry a lot of weight with the headquarters in Houston.” Bode paused. She was right. He was only here for less than a year. He only had to work with Abby for a few months, if that. After all, the position was supposed to be temporary. And maybe this whole thing, his reaction to her, it was just a one-time fluke. Maybe he was in heat or something. Whatever it was, surely he could control himself. Surely this thing he felt towards Abby, whatever it was, would die. He would make sure of it.
“Bode, you are not saying anything. I know I am preaching to the choir here, but I just want you to make the best of a bad situation.” In response, Bode leaned over and kissed her temple, “I know, babe. And I appreciate it. I needed to hear that.” Shalewa smiled. “Oh, good. So you’re fine now, abi?” He nodded. “Good, ‘cause I didn’t want you to have any excuse not to cook tonight. Because that’s when you will say that you’re not in the ‘right headspace’ to cook.” “Woooow,” Bode laughed, a full belly laugh that made his shoulders feel lighter and made the whole Abby thing seem like a bad, distant dream. Abby who?
Dear Abisire Alao,
On behalf of VOX Management - Lagos, I would like to officially offer you the Project Communicator position. This position is a temporary contract, with the potential of becoming a full-time position. Attached is an official offer letter with proposed salary and benefits. Please reply to this email within 24 hours with your response to the offer.
Abby squealed and did a little dance on her bed. It wasn’t that she was worried about not getting the position. Uncle Richard had assured her that the position was hers, and what Uncle Richard wanted, Uncle Richard got. Besides, Uncle Richard was the head of personnel management at VOX Management. Although he was not personally involved in the hiring process, he told her that the Project Team Lead was eager to please him, so he wouldn’t refuse his request to bring her onto the team. Although she was not worried about the position, she also did not want the Team Lead to see her as a beneficiary of nepotism. Even though that’s what she was. She had begged Uncle Richard to set up a meeting with the Team Lead so he could see that she was qualified for the position. She had expected the Team Lead to be dismissive, rude, or even patronizing because she was riding on Uncle Richard’s coattails. He hadn’t been any of those things. Instead, he was …so attractive. Based on what Uncle Richard had told her, she expected a mousy guy who wore glasses and suspenders as if it was 1950. She was expecting a guy who looked like a pushover. She was not expecting the six-foot-tall, broad-shouldered Mr. Olaniyan. She had not expected his dimples. Or his enviably long lashes that somehow made him look manlier.
As soon as she had seen him, a smile automatically spread on her face. Uncle Richard had given her a job and a husband. Then she saw the black band on the third finger of his left hand, and she was slapped back to reality. He was married.
Of course, he was married. All the good guys were gone, snatched up by the early birds. Only the Yoruba demons were left.
She found him so attractive and she hadn’t stopped thinking about him for the past two days. From the way he had reacted to her in his office, she knew he found her attractive too. She had worn her professional-yet-shapely blue dress that accentuated her figure. More than once, she had seen an appreciative gleam in his brown eyes.
Abby sighed and shook her head. It didn’t matter because he was very not available. She would never, ever be involved with a married man. Coming from a broken home where her father dangled his revolving door of mistresses before her mother, she had promised herself that she would never be the mistress. She would never be the reason any wife, anywhere, cried herself to sleep like her mother had done on several nights.
Yes, Mr. Olaniyan was cute. But there were cuter guys in the world. Besides, VOX Management was a huge, multinational firm. There were bound to be handsome, single guys who were not sporting a wedding ring. Now for those ones, she would wear all her professional-yet-shapely dresses. After all, she had a closet full.
With that resolve, she hit Reply on the email and accepted the job offer.
On Monday mornings, Bode had a Status Update meeting with his team. So, every Monday, to help shake off the new-week blues, he usually brought in a box of Krispy Kreme donuts. This particular Monday, Bode was running late. He and Shalewa had a Netflix-and-chill date the night before that turned into a late-night Gossip Girl binge. They hadn’t gone to bed until 3am. Unsurprisingly, they both slept through their alarms. It was Shalewa’s horrified gasp that woke him up 30 minutes later than they usually left the house. In ten minutes, they were both out of the house, exchanging hurried hugs and goodbyes. Bode had considered not stopping to get donuts, but he didn’t want to be late and empty-handed, so he got donuts and coffee. At 10:25am, twenty minutes after the meeting was supposed to start, Bode walked into the conference room and hollered, “Anyone in the mood for doughnuts?!” Laughter and greetings were his team’s responses as he placed the boxes on the table. He took his spot at the head of the table and opened his mouth to offer a quick explanation and apology for his lateness. Just as quickly, his mouth fell shut and his eyes widened slightly. At the far end of the table, flanked by Dammy and Rotimi, sat Abby. Abby. Abby. He had barely thought about her this past week. The only time he could even remember thinking about her was when Janet told him she had accepted the offer. That was it. But to see her in the flesh, staring up at him with those beautiful brown eyes that saw deep into his soul, Bode was undone. “Um, Bode, is everything okay?” Jacinta asked. Bode hoped to God that he had not been openly staring at her like a starry-eyed teenager. “Yes, yes. Sorry you guys, I was up late last night. I didn’t get enough sleep.” “Hmm -” Dammy responded, his mouth full, “Kank u for syill ringin the dood.” Next to him, Toyin slapped the back of his head, “Swallow your food first, Dammy. How old are you again? Two?” Dammy swallowed dramatically with a gulp, “Aunty Toyin, who asked you? I said, thank you for still bringing the food.” Bode nodded and smiled fondly. He opened his mouth to talk and was cut off again, this time by Rotimi. “What me, I, want to know is why no one told me that someone new was joining the team. Especially someone as fine as Abby here. I would at least have put more effort into my appearance.” “Shut up, Rotimi,” Rita joined the conversation, “Aren’t you engaged?” “And so? Does that mean I should not be attractive to other ladies?” “I think that is exactly what it means,” Toyin said. Rotimi rolled his eyes, “Who asked you, Aunty Toyin?” Dammy, wanting to get back into the conversation, turned to face Abby and wiggled his eyebrows, “In case you were wondering, I am not engaged. I don’t even have a steady girlfriend.” Toyin opened her mouth and widened her eyes dramatically. “Ah!!! You are such a liar, Dammy! Abby, don’t mind him o. He was just showing us pictures of one girl last week.” Dammy and Rotimi chorused exasperatedly, “Aunty Toyin, who asked you?!” Everyone burst into laughter, including Bode and Abby. Bode cleared his throat, “Okay, guys, let’s get right to it. I already made us start the meeting late -” “Yeah, what happened?” Jacinta cut in. Bode shook his head, “If you had let me finish, I would have said that, Jacinta. Both Shalewa and I slept through our alarms.” Just saying Shalewa’s name helped restore some of Bode’s equanimity. He continued, “We were bingeing a show last night and went to bed late. That’s all I am going to say about that. Why don’t we allow Abby to introduce herself?” Bode sat down as Abby stood up, her smile growing wider. “Thank you, Mr. Olaniyan. I am very excited to join the team. I already feel so welcome -” “I hate to interrupt, but you don’t have to stand up, Abby. You can sit down. We don’t do formality here,” Jacinta offered. “Oh, okay…” Abby looked at Bode for confirmation. Bode agreed with Jacinta, but he was also really enjoying the way Abby’s blue flowery dress swished around her hips as she stood. Bode mentally punched himself when he realized what he was thinking. “Yes, of course, please sit down,” he said out loud. “Thank you, Mr. Olaniyan. So, I was just saying that -” Jacinta cut in again. “You also don’t have to call him Mr. Olaniyan. He hates that. We are very informal here. It helps us to -” “Jacinta, let her talk o!” Rita exclaimed, laughing. Everyone else joined in the laughter. Jacinta was the spitfire of the group, but she was really a sweetheart. However, because of her tendency to always say what she was thinking, she was never the one that was sent out to meet with the clients. “Okay, okay, you guys, we really need to move on. Please continue, Abby,” Bode said in a somewhat stern voice. “Yeah, of course, thank you. So, my full name is Abisire Alao. I just graduated from UNILAG with a degree in Communications. I took several classes in Corporate and Marketing Communication, so I am very excited to help out in any way I can.” “Alright, thank you Abby. You guys, please, go around and introduce yourself and remember to say what you do. In three sentences or less. Jacinta, I am looking at you,” Bode said. Dammy chuckled, “I am the client sales representative. I am the one reaching out to all our clients to see if they would be interested in the HR management software we are building. ” Rita jumped in. “That’s where I come in. I talk to the interested clients to see what features they would like want in the software.” “I do all the hard work. I am the one who has to discuss the cost with clients,” Rotimi said with a dramatic sigh. Jacinta rolled her eyes, “Well, after we discuss the features as a team, Toyin and I work with the developers to make sure they have the client specifications.” Bode concluded the introductions, “Perfect, thank you guys. Where we need you, Abby, is to make sure that all the meeting notes are taken and transcribed. We need to make sure that there is no communication breakdown during each stage of the process. That means you will also be working closely with me to facilitate the high-level stuff. And I think that’s it for the introduction. Now, onto the agenda of the day…”
At 3:25pm, Bode was bone-weary. Maybe it was the little sleep he had overnight or maybe it was the fact that every time Abby left his office, her flowery perfume clung to the air like a long-lost lover. He was tired of smelling the scent, whatever it was. He was tired of his heart skipping a beat every time she popped her head in his doorway to ask a question. He was tired of how his stomach dropped every time she smiled at him gratefully after he had helped her. Eleven times. That’s how many times she had needed him to help her. They had Slack. Why did she need him to walk to her desk? Bode looked at the computer screen. It was just 3:26pm. He needed to leave. He needed to be anywhere else but here. He had only slept for four hours. He was not master of himself and he didn’t want to do anything he would regret. He picked up his car keys and shut off his computer. Perks of being the Team Lead