The week after Anita’s party was an awkward one for Jide.First, right from the party, he had to deal with Anita’s petulance when he refused to continue their illicit embrace. He had to practically dislodge her fingers from whereshe had hooked them into his belt. She had watched him go with a displeased pout and spent the rest of the party throwing him baleful looks till he managedto escape from his friends and make his careful way home. The annoyed attitude from Anita had transferred into the new week of work and he had taken great pains to avoid her. so far, he had managedto succeed.Second, he had been plagued by feelings of guilt whenever he was around his wife. When he had gotten in late from Anita’s party, Patricia had not uttered a word in protest, despite the fact that he smelt of alcohol when he stepped into the house. Afraid he might also be covered with Anita’s expensive perfume, Jide had immediately jumped into the shower. And after that night, he had spent hours agonizing over his behaviour. But he seemed to only be wrestling with his conscience. That very morning his wife had been her usual self, but he had been surprised to find the clothes he had worn to Anita’s party neatly folded in his wardrobe. Had she smelled any perfume on it? Did she know he had been with another woman the other night?He stepped out of the elevator on his office floor and strolled briskly towards hisoffice, deep in thought. Did Patricia suspect nothing? Or was she just biding her time? “Good morning, Sir.” He looked up as the soft voice broke his concentration, and his brow furrowed as he faced his third problem- the new secretary called Florence. She was sitting stiffly at her desk, hair tied into a severe bun at the nape of her neck, pretty face free of make-up and her deep green sleeveless gown setting off her cream-coloured skin nicely.Florence had been nothing but polite and respectful since the night after Anita’s party and fro that very reason, he was profoundly disturbed. “Good morning, Florence.” He responded gruffly, slowing his steps down. he glanced at the other table. “I see Nancy is not here.”“Yes, sir. she called in sick, but I’ve prepped your office and will be bringing in your files for today shortly. Also, there is a thermos of hot water ready for you.” Florence responded, her face composed. “I’ll be filling in for her, so please if you need anything done..?”“No, not now anyway.
But…” Jide paused, tapping his fingers lightly on his secretary’s unoccupied desk. Florence sounded like she had everything under control, but it was on the tip of his tongue to bring up the events that had happened at Anita’s party. It might be the only chance he would get, seeing as Nancy wasnot going to show up to work. Jide was only too aware of the things Florence had unfortunately overheard him saying to his friends; he felt an irrational need to explainhimself to this secretary with the long hair and sweet laugh. But his resolve failed as he remembered the scene in the corridor with Anita Bankole. He cringed inwardly ashe relived that moment when Florence hadseen him at his worst.When the pause stretched, Florence half-stood up from her seat, her expressionpleasant as she inquired. “was there something else, sir?” Jide let out a breath as he decided it wouldbe awkward to raise the topic up at that time. with a small shake of his head, he waved her back into her seat and made hisway into his office.He sank into his seat and buried his head in his hands, confused about why his emotions were running riot. His attraction to Anita he could understand; it was a purely physical reaction to her forward flirting. But he could not quite fathom his feelings towards the new secretary. He had only had a few conversations with herand she was very far down on the totem pole of office politics. What did it matter what she thought of him? He was not the only married man who had ever cheated on his wife.But Jide still felt the need to reassure Florence Iheanacho that he had not slept with Anita Bankole.
Somehow her opinion mattered. And he had no idea why.** **Jide decided to go home early, so he couldspend some quality time with his wife. He planned to offer to take her out for a dinner date; it had been too long. He did not examine his reasons too closely, knowing it was motivated by guilt.He made his way out of his office, mind occupied with plans of how to pamper his wife and then his eyes met Florence’s. Shehad been in the middle of combing her hair as Jide stepped out and she froze, a comb caught in the middle of the lush growth that fell to her shoulders. Immediately, Jide’s head emptied of all thought.“Um… goodbye Sir, have a nice day.” Florence said, hastily tying up her hair. “Don’t.” Jide blurted.
“Leave the hair down.It’s nice.” Florence dropped her comb slowly, body stiff with tension. “Thank you, sir.” Jide opened his mouth to tell her she looked better with her hair down and words he had been holding in for days tumbled out of his mouth and startled them both. “I swear I didn’t sleep with her.”
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