The new working week saw everything back to normal. Or at least it began with an outward appearance of normalcy.Florence arrived early to work to find that Nancy, Jide Babalola’s secretary, had returned to work, mostly recovered from the bout of malaria that had incapacitatedher. “Welcome back o. We missed you a bit.”“Thanks, dear.”
Nancy smiled back, her usual exuberance still muted from the lingering effects of her illness. Her eyes were dull and she continually sniffled into a handkerchief clutched in her palm, but she looked strong enough to carry out her duties. “And thank you for taking over my work. God bless you.”“It was nothing. You’re welcome.”
Florenceresponded, a bit distracted by the emotions surging through her. She settled behind her desk, trying to puzzle out what was bothering her. On the one hand, Florence was glad that Nancy had returned and the doubled workload would now be taken off her shoulders. But she was concerned that she also felt a bit disappointed at the intrusion of the other secretary into what had temporarily become a personal space for Jide Babalola and herself.The thought shook Florence. Was she feeling proprietary towards the other secretary’s boss, who happened to be a married man? She remembered her roommate’s observation and shuddered.No, she thought.
Jide Babalola cannot have gotten under my skin so easily and quickly. We’re only friends, nothing more.Florence’s conscience pricked her. If that was the extent of it, why had she taken extra pains with how good she looked thatmorning? She had put on a flattering cream-colored dress that showed off her curves demurely and complimented her caramel complexion; and most telling, whyhad she decided to leave her hair down, asagainst her usual efficient French bun? Could she be sure it had nothing to do withlooking more sophisticated for Jide’s benefit?Her theory was put to the test when the man in question arrived a few minutes after she and Nancy had. Jide strode in dressed in his trademark blazer and sleek trousers, the strong scent of his masculinecologne announcing his presence before the tap of his gleaming shoes did. His impeccably knotted checkered tie stood out stylishly from the rest of his dark blue ensemble as he turned and smiled in the general direction where Florence was sitting.
The smile set off a buzz in her head and when she noticed his eyes linger over the fall of her dark hair, she had to clear her throat before she could croak out a greeting. Before his voice boomed out in answer to her greeting, Florence knew she was wrong and her roommate was right.She did like Jide Babalola.** **Jide Babalola had been on auto-pilot sincehis date with Anita Bankole. He had arrived home numb, woken up with the feeling unchanged and made his way to his office in the same state.He knew it was better that way, so he would not have to face the consequences of the recent decisions he had made. Outwardly, he seemed his usual self- friendly and smiling, but his mind was in turmoil as he tried to come to terms with the sort of man he really was.When he stopped to greet his secretary, he was momentarily aroused from his thoughts by Florence.
Her hair flowed over her shoulders, gleaming and dark. For a moment, he was taken in by the beauty of it. On the heels of that thought came a memory of his wife, just after they had married, when her hair was a long and full as Florence’s.Yes, that’s probably why I’m so taken with her hair, Jide mused.It reminds me of Patricia and the good times, before things went wrong between us.He looked away from the secretary’s hair and noticed how pretty she looked in the flattering dress she had on. Her make-up free face and bright eyes made his lips twitch with his first real smile of the day. Florence Iheanacho was truly a breath of fresh air. “Looking good, Florence.” Jide quipped, flipping through a file Nancy handed to him.Florence found herself unable to respond, but before the silence grew too awkward, someone else walked into the office floor lobby. “Good morning, everyone! Lovely day isn’t it?” Jide’s heart plummeted and then began to race wildly as he turned round to the owner of the voice. Her white body-hugging dress showed off her curvesto perfection and her trademark red-blood lipstick decorated her wide smile and stripped away the haze of numbness he had been trapped in since the evening before. “Hello, Jide love, you’re just the man I was looking for.” Anita grinned. “If I could have a minute of your time..?”“Of course.” Jide said gruffly, clearing his throat. With one final nod at both Florence and Nancy, he opened his office door, letting Anita sq££ze past him, her perfume filling his nostrils, before he entered after her and shut the door. “What are you doing?” he demanded in a whisper. “Why are you calling me ‘love’ in the presence of my secretary?” Anita giggled and sashayed towards him, wrapping her arms around his neck before he could stop her. “Oh c’mon, lighten up sweetie! I didn’t hear you complaining yesterday when I called you ‘love’ o.” Her voice dipped to a whisper. “Or is it only okay when I’m sittingon you?” Jide felt his stomach lurch with guilt as she pressed her mouth to his, thrusting hertongue into his mouth, just as she had the day before.She was right. He had not complained at all.
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