By Tomi Adesina
Dora brushed my hair backwards. “So Prince Charming will be here to pick you,” She started. “I would really love to see him when he arrives.”
I nodded as I coolly applied my strawberry flavoured lip-gloss. Something to lick when the going gets tough.My phone buzzed and Jake’s message came up. It read:
“Heard there’s a dinner, need a date? Jake x”
Dora and I exchanged a knowing look. I knew better than to reply Jake’s message. He could go from Amazing to Bad in a split if he knew that I was going with Dare to the dinner. Well, what can a pretty girl do? Moreover, I have already disappointed Dare once on a date, or twice.
“This will be the first time that I will turn Jacob down. I can’t tell him why.”
“Why not?” She asked applying the spray gel to my hair.
I titled my head to the back to allow for ease. “He might get upset.”
Dora rolled her eyes. “Is there anything between Jake and you aside from being best pals?”
“Nope. Why?” I asked, although I could guess why she asked the question.
Dora let out a deep breath. “You can hang out with whosoever you please. Jake does, so why won’t you?”
I sighed. I could not see things in the same light as Dora, Jake and I have come a long way so I see this as turning him down. Dare asked me out first, right? “Just forget it, Dora. You don’t understand.”
“Tada!” Dora said as she turned the Giant Mirror towards me.
Dora had me looking simply gorgeous! I am not one to flatter myself, but on this occasion, I cannot help it. “Omg!”
“You are looking good sis.”
I smiled. “Thank you Dora.”
“You are welcome.” She replied, as she brushed off some hair from my dress. “I am going to have to cut your hair; it makes me think you aren’t Negro.”
“Dad has a short hair. Your mom’s hair must have been really long.”
I smiled faintly. Dora had succeeded in sending memories of my mom into my head, but I had outgrown the part where I always had to cry, especially not tonight. I smiled again, but this time, a tear dropped. Can you really stop those moments?
“D…if you wanna cry, you’ll have to choose your moments. I am not about to have you mess up my hard work.” She said wiping the tears off delicately. “Its okay baby, momma’s here…,” she whispered.
I laughed. Dora could switch moods. Bless you Dora.
The doorbells chimed. My heart skipped a beat. It had to be Dare Ade-Cole. “Smile now.” Dora said, and dashed out. I could hear the trumping on the stairs; Dora did not want the house cleaner to open the door. She had sworn that she must have an encounter with the elegant Dare Ade-Cole.
“Please wait here for here, she will be down in a moment.” Dora said, leading Dare to the hallway.
I took a deep breath, grabbed my purse, and descended the stairs.
“Oh my God,” Dare muttered. “You are beautiful.”
“Thank you.” I replied, with a casual smile.
“May I?” Dare asked as he lifted his arms.
I nodded. “Please do.” I replied. I winked at Dora before we stepped out.
The Grand floor of Ade-Cole firm wore an elegant look. There was a chandelier in the centre. The staffs and attendants moved around with a smile that was rare on a normal working day. So much for a function. I walked round with Dare as we welcomed the guests.
“Immediately the meeting is over. There will be dinner, cannot wait. I am starving.” Dare whispered.
I chuckled softly. “You are the host, remember?”
“So much for being my father’s son.”
About thirty minutes later, the MC mounted and everyone had their seat. He read out my name to take the opening speech. I picked up my purse; it had turned out to be my companion for the night and mounted the podium, with radiant smiles. ‘You mustn’t forget to smile,’ Dora had warned. I went through the formalities, acknowledging the executives and board members, before I went ahead with the speech.
The speech was clear and crisp. I tried my best to avoid stuttering, or ceasing, I also didn’t clear my throat, as I tried to sound vibrant and audible. I occasionally stopped to put a smile on my face. I swallowed while doing that, but not that it was obvious to the audience.
As soon as I stepped down, there was a thunder of applause. I cast a quick glance at the Ade-Cole board just to ensure that I had their nod, and I wasn’t disappointed. They were all smiles. The claps continued until I had taken my seat beside Dare and the MC returned.
Other important details followed, more guests were introduced and statements were read. Just like Dare, I soon started to feel hungry. I glanced at my wristwatch occasionally. The cameras would not permit me to ease my boredom by touching my phone, in addition that will just imply bad manners. There was a flat screen which had the visuals from the camera on. I couldn’t be caught ‘Pinging’ or even dozing. These functions made me weary.
Dinner Time. Now we could have a less formal function. I glanced at my wristwatch; it was “10:45pm”
“You are with me, remember?” Dare said with a smile.
Dare and I walked over to meet his father.
“Darlene, I want you to meet the head of Ade-Cole Law Firm, Mr Ayodeji Ade-Cole, my father.” Dare started. “Dad, meet Darlene Williams.”
I smiled. “Good evening Sir.”
“Beautiful speech from a beautiful lady,” He started, staring at me. “You go for the best, son.” He said, turning to Dare, peering underneath his half mooned spectacles.
Dare frowned slightly. “Thank you Sir.” His response was firm.
Mr Ayodeji Ade-Cole cleared his throat. “You are Sir Williams’s daughter, right?” he asked.
I nodded confidently. “Yes, I am.”
He shot a quick glance at his companion and they exchanged a knowing look.
“Meet my brother, Dare’s uncle, Femi Ade-Cole.” He introduced quickly.
We exchanged greetings.
“Why are you not working for your father?” he asked.
Behold the much awaited question. It just had to be asked, but by Dare’s uncle? Didn’t know Ade-Cole was a family dynasty. I looked at Femi Ade-Cole with a slight grimace, didn’t want to appear rude. His question needed a very intelligent response. I didn’t want my father to appear weak before his biggest rivals. “It won’t hurt gathering a new experience, except if there’s nothing new to learn her Sirs.”
“Ahem!” Dare cleared his throat, standing closer to me. That could only mean one thing, ‘Shut up, D!’
“Of course, there are many things to learn from here.”Mr Ayodeji Ade-Cole replied, grinning.
I frowned slightly. His grin put me off.
“Could you please excuse us Ms. Williams? I would like a word with this gentleman here,” he said patting Dare on the back.
I nodded. “Yes, please…” I walked away briskly.
I could bet my inheritance that Dare was about to hear the Why are you ‘sleeping with the enemy’ sermon? I joined Toni and Bola at their Table.
“Looking good tonight ladies,” I said, as I slid into a chair.
“You are beautiful.” Bola said.
“She’s always been. Tonight is just with a difference.” Toni added.
I blushed. All through the night I had listened to compliments and had some heavy stares on me. Dora had made me ‘Simply Gorgeous’. I owe her a Chicken. ‘Will foil a drumstick for her’ I thought.
“Thanks ladies.” I appreciated.
Bola smiled. “Beautiful speech, can’t say anything less about the giver.”
“Easy Bola, you are passing compliments like a man.” We all laughed.
We joked about the Steaks that were being served and Toni bragged to cook them better.
“I’d make onions cry with a perfect steak.” She started. “You pay huge amount of money and steak still tastes like this.” She said, swallowing another spoon. “Fries, please.” She said to the attendant that passed our table. Bola and I exchanged quick glances.
“Mrs Small, you have complained all night about the food and yet your consumption rate is so high, how is that?” I asked.
She smiled. “I am managing it. I can’t wait for the attendant to return with the Fries, and maybe, I could get some fish pepper soup too.”
“I don’t know who’s going to carry you out of here, but certainly not me.” I replied.
She rolled her eyes. “I don’t get why people with a size 8 frame still want to be size 0. You should eat well. Or, do you have an interest in modelling in the nearest future?”
“Good evening ladies.” Dare said, joining us at the table. He looked elegant in his tux. He shaved clean, and for the first time, I saw how perfectly rounded his lips well. ‘Wasn’t I in the car with him?’ he was also wearing a smart bow tie. Dare, sure knows how to look good. Debonair!
“Excuse us ladies, but Darlene and I will have to meet with the other guests now. We still have them pouring in, seems like they came for the food.” He joked. I smiled at Toni and Bola and left with Dare.
‘They look so cute together, don’t they?’ ‘She’s beautiful, and I think he’s very handsome’ I couldn’t help but pick conversations as they littered around with people talking about Dare and I.
“You had a long talk with your Dad. Hope he’s impressed with the firm?”
Dare smiled. “He couldn’t feel any better. He’s overwhelmed.” He replied, and shook hands with a couple that approached us.
I stared at Mr Ade-Cole and his brother who seemed to have their reservations about me.
“Are they comfortable with me?” I asked.
Dare swallowed. “Obviously.” Who was he trying to convince?
“If you say so,”
He smiled. “I know so.”
“Darlene Williams?” I heard my name. Dare and I turned round.
He widened his eyes. “Reina?”
“Reina, what are you doing here?” Dare asked.
She smiled as she approached us. “Attending the dinner,” She touched my cheeks. “I was wowed by your speech. You speak as though you have been in this firm for years.” I stepped back a little. “Come on honey. Don’t run away from me.”
Dare held my hands and stepped forward. “Why are you here Reina?” he asked.
“You can’t ban me from coming to the firm, can you?” she asked with a smile, and turned back towards me. “I am Reina. Dare still has horrible manners, so he won’t introduce us. Let me.”
I immediately cut her short. “If Dare won’t introduce us, I don’t think I like to meet you.”
She grinned. “I like her attitude, Dare. Was I tougher than this? I think you’ll have a hard time with pretty little Miss here.” She said, addressing Dare.
Dare stared at her and then swallowed. “Darlene, I will like you to meet Reina Martins. She used to work with us here.”
“Don’t forget to tell her that I was your ex-girlfriend.” She added, with a smile.
I swallowed. “Yes, Reina is also my ex.” He cleared his throat nervously. “Reina, meet Darlene Williams.”
“You didn’t add that she is your girlfriend.” She interrupted with a smile.
I cursed softly. “That’s because I am not.” I replied, with a grimace. I couldn’t help but eyeball her coldly.
“That’s good to know.” She laughed. I couldn’t help but wonder what sort of a lady Reina Martins was. She cleared her throat and stared at Dare lovingly. “I have missed you, Dare.”
Dare didn’t reply. “Make yourself comfortable, Reina. I will see you later.” He turned towards me. “Please let meet the other guests.”
“Oh no, we can’t just abandon your guest here,” I replied, looking at Reina. “You stay here, you can find me later.” I added and disappeared. I knew better than to go with Dare.
I watched Dare and Reina leave for the elevator. “Omg! You finally got to meet Reina Martins.” Toni said, nudging me in the waist. “Horrible experience, I know right.”
“Not really.” I replied. “It was weird though.” I added, quickly.
“When I saw her approach yourself and Dare, I got scared. Did Dare go with her?”
I nodded. “I excused him. He was going to abandon her there for me.”
“Wow! That’s not Dare-like. Reina used to be his life; she meant everything to him.”
I picked up a glass of wine from the table. “Could we sit over there? I like to sit for a while.” I said, gesturing to a table.
“Bola already left. She said I should wish you the best of the night.”
I smiled. “I will thank her later.” Toni sighed deeply. “How often does Mr. Ade-Cole come here?” I asked.
“Not very much. However, his brother, Femi does. Expect to see much of him in the coming weeks, there’s a huge case around and I expect the old dogs back in the ring, maybe your Dad too.”
I laughed. “Like getting the Old robbers back for one last bank job?”
“It’s going to be war. When those men battle out, it’s a clash of the best. You don’t want to be the loser.”
I could only imagine Sir Williams losing that case. Dad would bury his head in Dubai for a month. The first time he lost a case, he disappeared to Australia. He said, “I can’t bear to have the press corner me in every street with questions.”
Dad has always been a winner. “Who is going against whom?” I asked.
“Rumour has it that it is Ade-Cole versus Williams”
I smiled. “That will be fun. It will be more like battle of supremacy.”
“Yeah, I am looking forward to it. The ring gets ugly sometimes.” She stared at the elevator door as it opened. “Dare and Reina are back.”
I glanced at them, as they approached us. “What could she want?” Toni swallowed. “Don’t let her shake you.” I said.
“Hi ladies, Is that you Toni? How many pounds have you lost since we last met?” she asked with a smile.
Toni blinked. “How many pounds have you gained since we last met?”
It had turned into a battle of words. “Enough ladies” Dare interrupted, before Reina could say another word. “I’ll say we all go and get a drink.”
“I won’t be on the same table with Reina.” Toni said.
Reina grinned. “Have it your way honey, the floor is ever welcoming.”
Toni clenched her fists. “Bad idea to bring this lady here.” She said, looking at Reina.
“Can you stop this Dare?” I asked.
He wiped some perspiration off his brow. “Reina, please be nice.” Dare was acting like a puppet, I cannot deny that it is quite fun to see him like this. He slid into a chair and Reina took her seat.
“I’ll just leave. It’s getting late anyways, and I have a family.” Toni said and grabbed her purse.
I shot a quick glance at my watch. ‘11:45PM’ “Are you driving?”
“Yes, I am. Want a ride? The bus to Ikoyi leaves by midnight, we’ll get to the station in ten minutes.”
Reina widened her eyes. “Doesn’t Darlene drive?”
“I’ll take you home Darlene,” Dare interrupted.
Reina smiled. “That makes two of us.”
“You?” Dare shot a glance at her.
Toni pulled me aside. “Are you sure you want to share a ride with Reina? She’s a witch!”
“Not so sure.” I replied.
Dare stood up. “I came here with you D, no way am I letting you go with Toni.”
“Let her. She’s not 18.” Reina said
I grabbed my purse. “Let’s leave, Toni.”
“That’s not right.” Dare said, grabbing my hands.
Reina hissed. “You don’t want the press thinking you are holding her against her wish.” She said.
“She’s right, Dare. Let’s not create a scene here. We have made a good impression so far, won’t want it ruined.”
Dare held his forehead. “Why are you doing this Reina?”
“What have I done?” she asked.
He groaned. “Showing up in my life.”
“She’s a menace. Deal with it.” Toni said.
Reina smiled. “Balloon, did you just say something?”
“Let’s leave.” I said, leading Toni to the elevator.
Toni grumbled as we strolled to the Parking space. “She’s a devil. Why did she have to show up and ruin everything for us?”
“I think you are just exaggerating Reina’s presence. She’s not the most interesting person to deal with, but she really doesn’t disgust me.”
Toni hissed. “You think? Wait until you have a proper encounter with her. The fact that she’s shown up can only mean that she’s back to ruin everything here.”
“Toni, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Toni opened the doors and started the engine. “Here we go.”
“Wait!” Dare shouted as he raced into the Parking space.
I peered through the side mirror. “Keep driving Toni.”
“Yeah!” she said and zoomed off. I watched through the mirror as Dare gave up the chase.
We drove out of the building and Toni turned the stereo down. “Why did you say that I keep driving?”
“Why didn’t you stop?”
She smiled. “I was in no mood to listen to Dare.”
“Same here.” I replied.
…to be continued