Florence Iheanacho felt like she was looking at a new man when Jide Babalola walked out of the elevator and into the secretarial lounge the next morning.
He looked his usual spiffy self, each tuck and crease perfect and in place, shirt gleaming in the morning light that streamed in through the windows of the secretarial lounge, tie knotted more expertly than a hangman’s noose.
Yet, Florence felt he looked different. His wide shoulders seemed to droop a bit lower than usual and the expression on his face was the most sombre she had ever seen on him. “Good morning sir.” she greeted, injecting a note of cheer into her voice. The sentiment seemed to bounce off him, but he nodded and then gestured for her to follow him into his office.
Inside the chilly office, Jide remained quiet and the secretary waited for him to settle into his chair before she launched into the full explanation she felt he had summoned her for. “About yesterday, sir, I have no idea how that error happened. That bag of food was actually being sent to Barrister Ayomide; he has his office on this floor. Apparently, it was evidence sent in by a panicked client of his, who believed his life was being threatened as he had received the package of adulterated food but had noticed the shards of glass on time.
They were planning to meet up and plan their statement before heading to a police station, but someone got the office numbers mixed up, came up here and when he didn’t see Nancy or myself, walked right in and dropped it on your table. I tried to call you to tell you but you weren’t picking my calls, sir.” Florence paused to take a breath, but Jide still said nothing, and she continued. “There is still some investigation going on about who made that error.
But on my part, I apologize for not being there when someone entered your office, sir…”“You’re not my secretary. Nancy is.” Jide said. His first words of the day sounded hoarse and he cleared his throat loudly. “She is the one who should have been there or at least locked up my office before she wandered off. Just look at the time… she isn’t even here yet. Her inefficiency is troubling.” Florence shuffled uneasily. She knew Jide was right and Nancy was squarely to blame for the fact that the adulterated food had found itself on Jide’s desk, but she was hesitant to agree.Jide noticed her reserve. “It’s fine. Let’s just be glad I didn’t eat it. She’ll get an official query, nothing more. I don’t have the energy to deal with her incessant pleading if I try to sack her. But one more slip, and she’s out.” Florence exhaled in relief.
She would give Nancy a stern warning, cross her fingers and hope the other secretary would change her lackadaisical attitude. “Thank you, sir.” she was about to leave when something prompted her to keep talking. “Are you alright, sir?” Jide sighed and laughed lightly.
There was no amusement in the sound.
“Alright?No, Florence. I’m far from alright.” Florence hesitated, unsure of how far she should pry. “Do you want to talk about it?” At Jide’s assenting nod, she slipped into the chair opposite him and leaned forward, face wreathed with concern. “Where do I start?” Jide sighed again. “Do I start with the realisation that I am a selfish, weak-willed man who abused the trust of a faithful woman? Do I start with the fact that I let my paranoia get the best of me? Or the fact that I am no different from all the leg-humping men I always turn my nose up at?
Or how about the factthat my wife has left me and is on her wayto Canada- a brief separation, she calls it-and I won’t see her until my child is born?”Florence’s eyes widened.
She floundered for what to say and settled on the easiest. “Wow, I didn’t know your wife was pregnant.” Jide chuckled again, a bit more genuinely. “Neither did I, dear Florence.” Florence tactfully inched into what she really wanted to ask. “Did your wife get angry because you asked about the adulterated food yesterday? Did you bring up the brake failure that led to your accident a few weeks ago?”“I wish that was all. I did accuse her, but trust me, hurting me was the last thing on her mind. The brakes were probably just old and overlooked and the food thing was, well, you know the rest of that story.” Jide snorted. “But no, she left because of more than that. She left because of my infidelity.” Florence leaned back as she felt a stab of guilt go through her when she remembered the two occasions when she had kissed Jide. He seemed to read the look in her eyes and grabbed her hands asshe moved back. “Don’t blame yourself, Florence. It’s not about you. It was Anita she found out about. Still, it’s squarely my fault. It’s not even Anita’s fault. No one held a gun to my head. I don’t know if I can become the man I once was, that man who loved only one woman and stuck to her no matter thetemptation he faced. I hope I can do it. My wife deserves a loyal husband and my child deserves a father he or she can always be proud of.” He said pensively.Florence focused on where Jide was holding her. His touch felt good; the warm strong hands enveloping hers sent a thrill up her spine. For a moment her imagination ran wild.
His wife has left him girl,a small voice said slyly in her head.This may be your Cinderella story- boss divorces wife and falls in love with secretary. Why not go for it? He won’t resist. He already has a soft spot for you.She felt her pulse quicken underneath his long fingers. Absently, Jide ran his thumb over the pulsing vein and the jolt of feelingbrought Florence back to her senses.She pulled her hands away gently with a small smile. She had already tasted her own forbidden fruit once; and once was enough. Married men were a no-go area for her. She could see the sadness in Jide Babalola’s eyes and her heart softened with empathy. He wasn’t a bad man. He was simply a man who had lost his way, but second chances were made for a reason. All he needed was a listening ear and some good advice as he found his way back to an honest place. Florence was determined that she would not get in the way of his second chance at love and when she looked into his eyes, she had no doubt he would win his wife back. “You’ll do just fine, Mr Babalola.” Florence assured her friend and boss with a smile. “You’ll do just fine.”
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