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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Tomorrow Never Ends (Excerpts) 2- Valentine Special


"He said that for real? What does he take you for?" Emily asked angrily. Oma had just narrated to her what had transpired between her and the CEO of GMK Holdings.

"I wonder," Oma said peevishly. She was still angry at him, at his words and attitude...

"I've this invitation to attend a conference in Port-Harcourt in three days. It's one of these industry get-togethers, usually boring stuff that I hate," he had said. 

"Anyway, I can't avoid this one; a friend is one of the organisers. This is where you come in. I need someone to pass the time with, to keep boredom at bay. I want you to attend the conference with me," he said, looking at her.

"I don't understand what you mean, sir? You want me to go to Port-Harcourt with you? As what?" She was no fool. She knew where he was going but she pretended ignorance.

"As a date, kind of. We'll stay together in the same hotel room, you keep me company and once we return, the company account is all yours.” 

He looked at her in an assessing way. “You are a big girl. You should get my drift by now. Scratch my back, I scratch yours, you know! That kind of thing!"

She did alright. And what he meant, his indecent proposal got her so angry, she rose to her feet furiously. 

She glared at him, looking at him in the same disdainful way she had done earlier in the day in the traffic. 

"God knows I need this job," she said clearly. "But I would rather starve than do what you want! I thought you were different from all these horny men around who always demand favours from ladies before they can get a job or contract or anything at all. Well, Mr Daniel, you can take your stupid account and go jump in the Atlantic ocean for all I care. Bastard!" She hissed at him.

And with that, she marched out of his office, her head held high, her high heeled shoes clicking on the tiled floor in tune with her fast beating heart flooded with anger and resentment.

"Hey, Oma! I was just... My God, what a temper!" he said, his hand rubbing his chin thoughtfully, a little smile curving his mouth. But she had gone before he finished speaking.


He sat back in his chair, staring at the computer screen in front of him. But he could not really focus. All his thoughts were concentrated on the woman that had just marched angrily out of his office like an enraged tigress.

He could not deny it, he was intrigued by her, by the manner she turned down his offer. He was no innocent- at 33 he had been around, dated various women and he knew a thing or two about the female folk. Majority he had met were sadly out 'on the take', 'hustlers' ready to do anything to get what they want including sleeping around for favours.

 It did not matter what they did as long as they got their desire usually money, gifts or contracts. Or money for their endless shopping sprees.

Most times, women threw themselves at him perhaps because of his position, status and money.

 But this lady, Oma had been unimpressed with all that, turning down a great offer that many in her shoes would have jumped at.
 Who was she? And most importantly, where had she been all this while?

He sighed. 'Maybe I've been moving in the wrong circles, meeting the wrong types of women,' he thought wryly.

Most of his socializing when he had the time, were spent with his good friend and school mate, Nosa, usually at night clubs, bars and parties of friends and associates.

He had never met a lady who piqued his interest like Oma did. "Hope we'll meet again," he muttered to himself as he reached for the phone on his desk. "Kadiri, see me in my office. Now!" he said peremptorily.

***

By the time she left Lagos Island and was driving along the Third Mainland Bridge towards her office at Ikeja, Oma had calmed down a bit.

She still felt pissed and bitter about the incident in the CEO's office but had decided to shrug it off and move on.

It was painful losing such a lucrative account- for surely there was no way the company would want to do business with someone who had been so rude to its CEO- she reasoned.

"But he caused it!" she mumbled under her breath. Everything was going well and the job was almost in her grasp before he came up with his stupid proposal.

Now, everything was ruined. No account. No money. The job with GMK would have made such a huge impact on her fledgling company, boosted their image as well as finances.

Though, they were not in the red yet, the company needed a big account to stay afloat, keep the business running smoothly and for expansion purposes...

"The randy bastard messed things up," she said loudly as she switched on the car radio, tuning it to Cool FM.

Winding down the window to allow the cool air from the lagoon to breeze in, she nodded her head slowly to the music coming from the speakers, making her momentarily forget her troubles...

***

Emily laughed at the last part of Oma's angry invective.

 "He really is a bastard. Imagine asking you to go with him to Port-Harcourt as his sex toy just to get the account. These men! Randy beings," she said, hissing.

"You can say that again," said Oma.

Though she knew she had definitely lost that account, she did not care.

She would do what she did again without regrets. The industry was a highly competitive, cutthroat one especially for a woman, but she still tried to keep up to certain standards.

She had her integrity and image to protect. No big name account would make her compromise that, she thought grimly.

She would work even harder from now on and try to get accounts that were much bigger than the one she just lost.

She was determined to succeed, with the necessary drive and passion for her work to make it happen. Nothing would stop her now.

Emily patted her on the shoulder, giving her a reassuring smile.

"Don't worry, Oma. Everything will be fine. Trust me." Oma smiled at her optimism.

Emily was an eternal optimist who never lost hope no matter how tough the situation was. Unlike her boss who tended to worry and fret about things, whether they will work, if things will go wrong...

They had a close relationship despite their boss/employer status. Emily was the first person Oma had recruited when setting up the agency, one of the few people who believed in her dream.

While others had laughed at her, stating she would fold up within a year, Emily had encouraged her to forge on and never give up.

Four years after, they were still there. They had faced so many challenges, weathered so many storms that could have brought the company down. But with Emily by her side, she had survived.

 Oma gave her a quick hug.
"Thanks, Emily. You're the proverbial rock that has kept me going all these years!"

***
About a week later, Oma had gone to Ogba to confer with a client on a promo campaign for a new product they were planning to launch in the market.

It was a washing detergent, just like numerous types already in the market. She had conceived an idea for the ad with a catchy punch line/ slogan that would make the product stand out from its numerous competitors and catch consumers attention.

And hopefully their pockets, she thought wryly, for that was the essence of a good campaign: driving sales.

Her client had been impressed with her work and given the go ahead for the campaign to begin.

She was in high spirits when she got back to her office just before 4 pm. Besides Emily, she had two other staff members.

There was Lucy, her secretary and John, an account executive. It was a small, close knit team that had been there right from the beginning when she started the company.

Her desire was to see it grow to a stage where she could employ more staff and move to a bigger, plushier office.

Lucy was alone in the office when she entered. She looked a bit flustered on seeing Oma which was strange as she was a usually organised and composed girl.

She stopped to enquire if she had any messages when Lucy said in a lowered voice, her thumb pointing in the direction of her office. "There's a visitor waiting in your office!"

Oma stared at her, frowning a little. She was not expecting anyone. Besides, why would the person be in her office instead of the small waiting room for visitors?

"Who's it?" she asked curiously.

"He says he's a friend. I insisted he wait in the reception but he refused, stating he was no visitor. I'm sorry, Ma, I really tried..." she said helplessly.

Oma walked quickly towards her office, wondering who would dare take over her office in her absence.
What kind of... She stood still at the door, simply stunned at the sight that met her eyes.

He looked a bit different maybe because of the glasses he was wearing. But he had the same overbearing attitude about him she found really annoying.

"You!" she nearly shouted. "What're you doing in my office? And in my chair?" Daniel looked up from a file on the table he had been reading.

"Oh, you're here. Sit down." He waved her to the chair at the other side of the table.

Oma closed her eyes, took a deep breath before stating curtly: "Mister, whatever tricks you're up to this time to get me into your bed won't work! Just get up and out of my office before I call security!" Imagine his nerve, offering her a seat in her own office!

He was looking at her, a look of fascination on his face. "Do you know how stunning you look when you're angry?"

Then without waiting for an answer, he threw the file to her side of the table and said: "Here, go through this. See if there's anything you are not satisfied with and we can change it before you sign the contract," he said.

 Oma looked at the file then back at him, with suspicion as well curiosity.

"What's this?" she wondered, picking up the file. What she saw there made her reach for the chair to sit down.

He watched her keenly as she quickly perused the document, noting the look of amazement in her eyes.

 They were large, lustrous, lovely eyes fringed with thick, dark lashes; her lips were full and ripe like a cherry which gave her a sultry look.

Those beautiful eyes now stared at him in wonder...

"So? What do you think? You ok with it?" he inquired eagerly.

On the surface, she looked cool but inside Oma's mind was in turmoil; she was wondering if what she was reading in the file was real.

 That she had not only won the account but two more of the company's lucrative accounts had been given to her.

Why would Daniel do that especially after their last encounter in his office? After she had been so rude to him? What did he want this time? As if reading her mind, he said:

"You won this fair and square. You got it through your hard work, nothing else. And I don't want anything from you, if that's what you're thinking!"

"Then what about the proposal in your office about the Port-Harcourt trip?" she asked, warily.

"Oh, that? It was a test. I wanted to find out the type of person you are, whether you're the desperate kind who would cut corners just to get what they want. I don't want to hand over my company's image-making to that kind of person."

Then standing up from the chair, he extended his hand in a handshake: "So, do we have a deal or what?"

Oma stood up and shook the proffered hand.
"Yes. And thanks, Mr Daniel for your consideration."

"The name's Daniel. Since we're going to be working closely together from now on, there should be no need for all these formalities," he said, smiling.

He left her seat and came to stand in front of her, gazing down at her. "There'll be a little contract signing ceremony in a few days time at the office. Call Kadiri to work out the details. See you then!" And with that, he was gone.

Oma stood still for a while, her mind still trying to assimilate what had just happened in her office a few moments ago, the big accounts she had just won worth nearly N250 million. At a point, she had to pinch herself to ensure she was awake and not in a delicious dream.

Then she jumped up, let out a big shout and began to dance round the office, singing loudly the first song that entered her head.

The noise drew the attention of Lucy, who rushed into the office and with the intuition of most secretaries, knew that something big had happened in the office that would change all their fortunes in a way they never envisaged.

 ***
Oma stared blearily at her reflection in the mirror in the small bathroom of her office. With her red rimmed eyes, dark circles and disheveled looking hair, she looked like crap.

 And she felt like crap too.

She had spent the past three days in her office, working nonstop. That was except for a few hours of sleep she snatched on the couch in her office and short naps in between.

As for food, she could not remember the last time she had a home cooked meal.

Her diet of takeaways and junk food was beginning to tell on her skin which looked dull and blotchy with acne break out on her chin and forehead.

She sighed and splashed cold water on her face, feeling soothed by the cool touch of the water.

She needed a change of clothes but there was no time for that now, as there was still so much work to do.

So many decisions to make before the deadline for the launch of GMK Holdings' new image/advert campaign, which was a few weeks away.

 Just thinking of how close the date was made her feel panicky, wondering if everything would be ready.

She took a deep breath and gazed at her image once more, a determined look appearing in her eyes. "You can do it girl. No shaking!" she said aloud, trying to bolster her flagging spirits.

 After brushing her teeth, she took a quick shower in the tiny shower stall then dressed and returned to her desk.

By then, it was nearly seven a.m. She had about an hour before her staff would start reporting for work.

She felt her stomach rumble with hunger but there was no time to search for food then. Maybe, later, she would send Osas, her new assistant for some takeaway at the eatery close to the office.

Some minutes later, her door opened and Emily's head poked round. She came in fully on seeing Oma at her desk.

"My God! Don't tell me you slept in the office again, Oma! You'll fall ill at this rate," she said a bit crossly.
Oma raised her head and gazed at her, noting how nice and well-dressed she looked in her floral top and navy trousers.

 Compared to her, Oma felt and looked like a returnee from a refugee camp.

"What do you expect me to do? The launch's just a few weeks away and there's still so much work to do!"

Then, she sniffed as a delicious smell assailed her nostrils. It was from a small cooler and plastic bag that Emily had placed on the side table in the office. They contained breakfast: fried eggs, sausages, margarine, bread, boiled yam and vegetable stew, tea, coffee etc.

Oma was out of her desk and by the table in a breath and was soon stuffing her mouth with some of the eggs.

"Hmm. Delicious. Can't remember when I had a nice meal like this," she enthused as she buttered a slice of bread.

"How can you when you spend all your days in the office!" Emily scoffed.

"Noted. Will take a break once the campaign has been launched," Oma said, munching hungrily on an egg and sausage sandwich.

"You know what? You're a real life saver, Emily. I was almost starving when you came in with all these.”

“I'm not doing it for you but for me. I want you alive and healthy so you can fulfil your promise of a salary raise after the launch," Emily said crisply.

She poured some tea into a mug and handed it to Oma. Oma liked her tea plain- no sugar or milk.

"I should have known," Oma rejoined, a wry note in her voice. "That you can't do something without a motive!"

Emily laughed. "What do you expect, girl! We live in a selfish world!"

Oma made a face at her. Taking her mug of tea and plate of sandwiches, she moved over to her desk to continue her interrupted work...

The Launch

The launch had gone well, much beyond Oma's expectations. It was a two- pronged event- the unveiling of the company's new logo as well as new advert to the public.

In a week or so, it would start running on TV and radio stations, newspapers, magazines and billboards and other media outlets including websites.

As the last of the guests including members of the media that attended the launch left the hall, Oma sighed with relief.

And a sense of accomplishment. They had pulled it off! Something that a few months before had seemed impossible.

At least according to her rivals in the industry who had been piqued that a small firm like KM & P Media had got such a big client as GMK Holdings.

'She must have used 'bottom power' to win the account.'

'What else does she have except that? And her beauty!' sniggered some in the industry.

Oma ignored them all, focusing on creating a good ad campaign for her client. From the response of the guests, media and others that witnessed the launch- a standing ovation- it had been a success.

Oma saw some of her invitees off and went towards the poolside of the Eko Hotel where the event took place.

Cool breeze from the Kuramo Waters nearby rustled through the leaves of the potted plants by the pool.

She kicked off her shoes and wriggled her toes, to remove some of the strain in them from standing so much during the programme.

A waiter came over, poised to take her order.
"A chapman please," she said. She relaxed in the seat, feeling as if a big weight had been lifted from her shoulder with the launch.

Emily, Lucy and the other team members including the three new staff she had employed to help with the new workload, had all worked extremely hard, sometimes spending nights in the office just to meet the deadline.

And the high demands of her client.

Daniel had turned out to be a really demanding taskmaster, sometimes driving her really mad with his demands.

He had been unsatisfied with nearly everything she did on the campaign including the punch line for the ad.

"Not punchy enough. The slogan should be something that'll grab one's attention and remain there for a long time..." he said on the day she had shown him drafts of her ideas for the ad.

And what do you know about slogans, Mr 'I too Know', she wanted to retort but restrained herself.

She was working on a dream account a lot of PR/ Ad agencies would kill for. She could not afford to mess up because of her temper.

So she smiled sweetly at him, even though she felt like punching him, and returned to work on the ideas he had suggested.

The same thing happened during the shoot of the video for the ad. He insisted on being on set
when it was not necessary as one of Kadiri's assistants was there representing the company.

"Interfering bastard," Oma muttered harshly under her breath as she stood by the side of the set, watching the action, her eyes straying regularly to Daniel, on the other side.

"He can interfere with me any time," Osas said dreamily. "He's so hot!"

"Hot, my foot! More like a pain in my butt!" Oma hissed, before moving over to the video director to confer with him concerning the models for the next shot...

It had all been worth it in the end, she now thought, taking a sip of her chilled drink.

"I thought something stronger would be more appropriate for the occasion," said Daniel close to her. She looked up to see him standing by her chair, gazing with amusement at her drink.

"I was thirsty and needed something cold," she explained.

"That's kids' stuff," he said dismissively. Then he signaled a waiter, asking for the wine list.

Shortly after, a bottle of chilled wine arrived which the waiter poured into some glasses.

"Now, that looks better," said Daniel, picking up his glass.
At his prompting, she followed suit and had a sip of the wine. It had a tangy taste that she found oddly refreshing at the same time. "Nice."

"Much better than that I bet," he said, nodding towards her former drink.

She smiled then picked up her phone that had begun to ring. She spoke briefly into it then stood up.

"I've to leave now. My attention is needed inside the hall," she said. But he held her hand, stopping her.
"What's so urgent that can't wait?" he queried. Then to her surprise he took her phone and dialing a number spoke into it.

"Now, that's settled. Your girl, Emily will take care of the problem. So, just chill and enjoy the rest of the evening."
She stared at him for a moment then sat down again...



 Preview of next episode of 'Tomorrow Never Ends'

 ***
Besides, against her will, her mouth opened up to him, accepting his kiss, the feel of him. His tongue slipped inside her mouth, in a deeper kiss that left her wanting more of him.

 He drew her closer to him, his arms holding her by the waist in a tight clinch, while her arms moved to the back of his head, drawing him close.

They stood that way for a while, engrossed in each other, their desire to get even closer, their bodies tighter together, increasing by the minute...

 Then a buzzing sound in his trouser pocket, broke the intense moment. It was his mobile phone. The sound brought Oma to her senses and she withdrew from his embrace.

She stood for a while, trying to gather herself together, to still her heart that had been beating erratically. Then she left him, walking quickly away...


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