About six months after the unique show, Ronke went out on her weekly Saturday shopping with Modele.
The sun was up but not scorching. It was a perfect day for an outing. She always did her shopping in the morning since she had to be at work in the afternoon and the day looked promising and lively.
On this fateful day, she had just finished with Modele tagging along, and about to cross the road when the little girl bumped into a bread hawker. The hawker, who was just as carried away, and caught unawares tried to balance up, but two loaves of bread fell into the gutter behind her. The girl went hysterical.
“Give me my money o!” she screamed, and grabbed Ronke’s clothes. Poor Modele clung to her mother behind and sobbed as Ronke tried to calm the hawker.
“It’s alright, I’ll pay you your money.” She sighed. “How much is it anyway?”
“Two big loafs is N140,” the girl said.
Ronke ransacked her bag. She realized she had only N50. Money she planned to pay for the taxi back home.
“Please, I have only N50 here but—”
“No o, you better give me my money now.” The girl clutched her dress.
By now, viewers had gathered all around them watching the show.
“I will give you. Please let me go back into the market and see one of my customers to loan me the—” Ronke tried to explain, close to tears.
Modele sobbed aloud, as she clung to her mother’s clothes. But despite the pitiful scene Ronke and her daughter presented, the bread hawker refused to budge, screaming and calling them names.
From nowhere, a black Mercedes Benz CE 300 came to a halt by the roadside, close to them and KE got out of it. Ronke’s whole system came to a halt as she saw her big boss approach the scene. She knew he did not know her personally, and she just prayed he would pass and go his way, but he headed directly toward her, his gaze transfixed on her.
She knew she was in trouble. From her knowledge of him, KE hated undue publicity, and could even sack an employee if the publicity could in anyway mar the image of his business. She quickly thought of a way to save the situation and started pleading tearfully with the bread hawker as KE pushed his way through the small crowd.
He fixed his gaze on Ronke. “What is the problem here?”
“Ur, sir I—I am—”
“Hey, see just give me my money o!” the hawker screeched, tightening her hold on Ronke’s blouse.
KE turned to her. “How much is your money?”
KE opened his wallet and brought out a crisp N200 note and handed it over to the girl who collected it, hissed, picked up her bread tray, and tottered away.
The crowd also dispersed, murmuring. Ronke stood there, right in from of him, Modele clung to her, the two of them sobbed. Teju had told her KE was good with faces but that he could recognize her face, puzzled her. He had seen her only once before, or so she thought.
She wiped the tears, and looked down at her fingers, too ashamed to face him, too afraid to hear his verdict. With only the two of them left alone, she thought the ground should open up and swallow her.
“Where are you going?” His voice was electrifying.
“Home, sir,” Ronke whispered.
“I’ll drop you off,” he said and turned around, heading back toward his car. Ronke followed him like a zombie.
“I don’t usually take this road but I guess you were just fortunate today,” he said as he smoothly swerved back on to the road.
Ronke did not know what to make of him. He was so relaxed with her. To think that she was sitting right beside him in his car was beyond her wildest imaginations. She had never seen him so close and wasn’t too surprised about what she saw now.
Casually clad in beige Bermuda shorts and a cool olive-green T-shirt, he looked even younger than she thought.
“What’s your name?” He interrupted her thoughts.
“Ronke Gade, sir.”
“Shy Ronke, will you describe your house to me?”
“Yes sir.” She nodded and quickly gave him a brief description of her house.
“Do you work on weekends?”
“Yes sir, but only on Saturdays.”
“Why don’t you work on Sundays?”
“Sir?” She was puzzled. The man was a workaholic. Teju had told her the truth about him.
“Why don’t you work on Sundays?”
“I spend the day with my daughter sir, after church.”
“I see, so you have a daughter?”
She shot him a glance. “Yes sir.” Anyway, she wasn’t too surprised at his question. Modele did not resemble her, and she looked too young anyway. “She’s the one with me, sir.”
“Really?” He gasped. “What’s your name, young lady?”
“Modele,” she said with a small voice.
“Hmn, as shy as her mother. At least, she resembles you at that.” He looked at her and for the first time, their eyes met. Ronke immediately looked away.
“What are you doing tonight? I mean after work.”
His question was unexpected. She fumbled in her thought and came out with a stammer. “Sir—nothing, sir.”
“Have dinner with me?” he said casually.
“Where do you keep Modele when you’re at work?”
“With my parents, sir.”
“So it’s alright if we drop her with them while we go out?”
The coolness within the car seemed warm. “Well, yes sir.”
“So, will you have dinner with me tonight?”
“Alright, sir,” she whispered.
He half-smiled. “I’ll pick you up by 7pm and you know I’m very strict on time.”
The rest of the day was history as Ronke desperately tried to concentrate on her work.
She couldn’t stop thinking about what to wear, and what the dinner really meant. She told her parents she would pick Modele late, and after work, rushed home to get ready. After much searching and choosing, she finally decided to wear a blue voile caftan she had sewn for herself. It was the best in her wardrobe.
KE arrived at her place at exactly 7pm, and she was only glad she was ready. He had changed from his day-wear but looked just as casual in denims and white polo-neck t-shirt. From the way he looked at her, he didn’t seem to agree with her outfit but said nothing about it.
“I was just trying to figure out what I would do to you if you were not ready,” he said with a smile.
“Sir, I know you are very time-conscious,” she said.
They had dinner in one corner of town she had never been before in a small, cozy restaurant. The night air was fresh and cool and so relaxing. Inside, Ronke was almost sure they were the only ones in the restaurant throughout the outing. The food was good, and there was slow music in the background. The atmosphere was conducive.
“I want to commend your work, the eagle-maid. It is very unique and creative,” he said over dessert.
She smiled shyly. “Thank you, sir.”
“I get drawn irresistibly to gifted, talented people. I guess you’re one of them.” he continued.
“Actually sir, that design was Modele’s invention. I just simply modified it,” Ronke said.
He leaned back. “So she’s also as gifted as you are? That’s good. It’s strange though that a child would resemble her mother in everything else apart from looks.”
“I agree with you, sir.”
“So you are married.” It sounded like a statement of fact.
“No, sir,” she whispered.
“You know, I also have a son, an eight-year-old, who is highly intelligent.” He switched the topic to himself, and she let out a silent sigh of relief.
“You don’t look like a married man, sir.”
“Huh, but I wear my ring always,” he said and her gaze fell to his left hand.
His wedding band was right there on his fourth finger. But why was he taking her out, instead of his wife.
“I never noticed sir, maybe because I felt you look too young to be a father,” she said and he laughed.
He took a sip from his glass of water. “See who’s talking. Has anybody ever told you, you are too young to be a mother?”
“Several people, sir.”
“So here we go! How old is Modele?”
“She’s five, sir!”
“Five! You had her in secondary school?”
“And her father? Where is he?”
“You don’t want to talk about it?”
“No sir.” She looked down at her fingers as ugly memories flashed across her mind.
“I understand. Things do happen beyond our control, at times, like what happened earlier today to you,” he said, his voice laced with laughter.
Ronke giggled. “Ooh sir, I feel ashamed. I want to really thank you for rescuing me. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t come along.”
“It’s alright, I’m glad I came along. I know you weren’t expecting that I would know you.”
“Yes sir. I was really surprised.”
“You won’t believe this but I can recognize most of my staff if I have met them once or twice, especially if they impressed me at the first meeting.”
“I thought you were going to sack me immediately.”
“Huh, I’m not that bad. And things were not serious. Actually, I had been on the lookout for you. You are very attractive to me in the sense that you are new, and yet your design could still win something,” he said.
“I feel flattered, sir.”
“That’s not flattery, it’s the truth. Anyway, what do you do in your spare time?”
“Well, I sometimes play Ludo, sir. Or—”
He laughed. “Ludo? With who? Modele?”
Ronke smiled. “Yes, sir.”
“Okay then, what would you say if I come over to your place to play Ludo, tomorrow night? Or do you play with Modele only?”
“No sir, but…play Ludo with you, sir?”
He arched his eyebrow. “Well, why not?”
She blinked several times, and took a large gulp of the water in her glass.
He was at her house the following evening and after a couple of rounds of Ludo game, of which she won all, she served him dinner.
“I’ll be going to Ghana tomorrow evening. I don’t know when I’ll be back,” he told her afterwards.
“Do you also have business there, sir?”
“Yes, and my son is also schooling there.”
She took courage to ask. “Your son? But why Ghana sir?”
“Well, his mother is half-Ghanaian and you know women, they usually have their way with you.”
“Okay.” Ronke sighed. “Is he there with his mother?”
“I didn’t say that! He’s in a boarding school. Anyway, what does it matter whether he is at home or not. The important thing is that he is learning.”
Ronke was confused about the way he addressed his marital life. She didn’t have any interest in him but something kept her glued. He looked familiar, and somehow, she felt she had known him all her life, and yet she was so sure she had not seen him anywhere before. And anyway, why was he relaxed with her? She didn’t want any relationship with any man, even KE. She had lost her youthful pride to the worst of them and could trust one no longer.
“How old are you?”
His abrupt question jolted her out of her wandering thoughts. “Twenty-two.”
She normally wouldn’t disclose her age to anyone, but this was her boss. She feared him anyhow, and her mind kept her informed he was the Big Boss! She didn’t dare mess with him, because she wasn’t too sure of what his interest was all about. She had to remind herself she needed the job to maintain herself and her daughter. As the boss, he had access to any information he wanted about her anyhow. All he had to do was request for her file.
“You had Modele when you were seventeen?!” he said. “Hmm, what happened exactly?”
She frowned. “Sir, I don’t want to—”
“Tell me” he said, gently but firmly. He had such a command about him it was almost impossible not to answer his questions.
“I was raped.” Her throat worked up, and tears burned the back of her eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “You must hate that guy and men generally.” She nodded, too confused to speak.
“I wonder what you’ll do, if the guy walks in now, and declares himself.”
What kind of statement was that? Why would he care?
“I’ll spit in his face, and run out of here, away from him.”
He sighed. “It’s a pity that you’ve been so badly treated.”