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Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Old Flame (4) making amends



'Feelings that come back are feelings that never left' - (anonymous)

***
  The retrenchment letters began to arrive two weeks after the new management took over the company. It was a tense period for the staff, many of whom were unsure of their fate. When over ten workers in her department got fired, Oluchi, began to worry like her colleague Lola who was having sleepless nights about the situation.

 One Monday morning at the office, Oluchi saw her clearing her desk and drawers of her personal and work items which she placed in a large shopping bag.

 "What are you doing?" she asked, looking at her friend curiously.

 "What does it look like?" Lola retorted. She continued with her task in a determined manner, as if her sack letter was already in her bag and she was ready to leave. "I have a feeling my letter will arrive today so I'm getting ready so it doesn't take me by surprise. Truth is, I've started looking for another job and I'll advise you to do the same," she said.

 Grace, another colleague of theirs came in then. There was a gloomy look on her face that dampened the others' spirits further. She walked slowly to her seat, sat down and with her hand on her chin, announced:

 "A fresh batch of letters have just left HR."


 "Hmm. So, ours are finally here," said Lola, giving Oluchi a look that seemed to say- 'I told you so!'

 They all waited anxiously for the next hour or so, their eyes on the door for the entrance of the delivery boy that would signal the end of their stay in the company.

 After a while, Oluchi, who could not bear the tensed atmosphere anymore, escaped to her little spot on the balcony.

 She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, trying to calm her nerves. After a few minutes, she felt better and was turning to return to the office when she saw Eric leaning on the railing, his eyes fixed on her.

 She wondered how long he had been standing there, observing her. This was her little haven and hated anyone intruding on her space.

 "What are you doing here?" she asked. She had seen him a couple of times round the office building and he had wanted to linger and chat. But her attitude and 'body language' had shown she was not interested in talking with him. So, why couldn't he leave her alone? 

 He straightened and walked towards her. "I knew I would find you here." He paused. "You were so engrossed in your thoughts, I didn't want to butt in. What were you thinking about so deeply? If it's about the..."

 "Whatever it is, is none of your business," she said. She began to walk past him but he held her hand to stop her.
 "Why are you doing this, Oluchi?" he asked, gazing down at her.

 "What?" 
 "Avoiding me. Since we reconnected, you hardly talk to me. The other day, I wanted to take you and your friend Lola out for lunch but you bluntly turned me down. I..."

 Her short laugh interrupted him.

 "So, what were you expecting? A grand reception for meeting you again? Ha! In case you've forgotten, we didn't exactly part on the best of terms!" she said hotly.
 "You are right. But that was long ago. It's been nine years, Oluchi."

 "Not too long to make me forget what you did to me, the pain you caused..."

 He sighed.

 "I know. And it's something I regret to this day, something I want to make amends for."

 "You know how you can do that?" she said, taking a step backwards. "Just stay out of my face!" Then turning round, she walked quickly away.

 "I wanted to tell you not to worry about the retrenchment letters. You won't get any!" he said at her retreating back, but she was too far gone to hear him...
   

   ***

  A week later
Oluchi stood gazing curiously at the large gift box, delivered to her by courier some minutes before.

 "Open it or you want to stand there admiring it all day?" Lola, who was standing by her, stated.

 She tore the first wrapping, saw the card and smiled. 

 Bernard remembered after all. It was her birthday and while she had been getting gifts and phone calls from friends and family, all she had received from her fiancé was a text message!

 "I thought he forgot my gift," she muttered as she opened the box to reveal a large cake decorated in cream and blue colours.

 "So fine," Grace said, admiring the cake. "Is it from Bernard?"

 Oluchi was smiling as she opened the large, hand crafted birthday card. The day was turning out to be a wonderful one. First, the sack letters had stopped and their jobs were safe. 

 And then, such nice presents from her fiancé.

 Then, the smile froze on her face on seeing the name.

 Eric!

 So, he remembered her birthday! But why was he sending her gifts and such expensive ones at that, she thought as she checked the contents of a separate box. Inside was her favourite perfume, a handbag and a gold necklace with a beautiful pendant with a rose motif.

 "Wow! Check out this bag! It must have cost a lot," said Lola, examining the logo embossed on the bag.

 Oluchi snatched the bag from her and replaced it in the box. She was about to do the same with the cake when Grace, wielding a kitchen knife she had got from the staff canteen, neatly cut a slice which she proceeded to eat with relish.

 "Hmm. Yummy," she said.
 Oluchi turned on her angrily. "Why did you cut it? I wanted to return it," she said.

 They both stared at her in amazement. 

 Lola, who was about to cut a large chunk of the cake, stopped midway.

 "Return? Why? Why would you do that? You should be happy your fiancé sent you such beautiful gifts on your birthday! My boyfriend doesn't even send me cards much less a designer handbag like this," she said, her eyes gazing longingly at the chocolate brown leather bag.

 "Bernard didn't send them," she said quietly.

 Lola and Grace exchanged glances.

 "Then who did?" asked Grace. "A secret admirer?"

 She showed them the card.

 "Eric? The new guy you said was your ex?" Lola exclaimed.

 "What does he want now?" put in Grace. 

 "Maybe he wants you back," said Lola. "No Nigerian guy gives such expensive gifts without wanting something in return."

 "Whatever it is he wants, he's not getting it," she said firmly. She gathered the presents except for the cake which was rapidly reducing in size as the other staff members in the office helped themselves to it.

 "Where are you going?" Lola asked on seeing Oluchi heading for the door with the gifts.

 "Taking them back to the sender," she said, as she left the room.

 "Wait, Oluchi! You can't take the bag. You can return the others but leave that bag! It's too beautiful to be rejected. In fact, it's a crime against fashion to do so! If you don't want it, I'll gladly accept it. It will go really well with that my cream blouse with the floral design..."

 What next? Don't miss the rest of Oluchi's story! Details coming soon! Hope you all have a swell, funfilled weekend!



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