BEAUTY AND THE MECHANIC CHAPTER TWENTY SIX
She smoothened the knee-length A-shaped navy blue pleated skirt with her wet palms and adjusted one of the buttons on her suit. She tried not to look at the Personnel Manager, her interviewer for the past three weeks, as he perused the documents in front of him. She was nervous and was trying hard not to show it. She had undergone five levels of interviews and tests in the past week and had been short-listed for instant employment by the multi-national company. Her joy had known no bounds when she got the text message some days ago. Finally, she was going to be able to support her husband financially. She would also be able to take care of herself and stop depending on him for everything. Even though he wasn’t complaining, she wanted to be financially independent.
“You are expected to resume at the Human Resources department next week Monday,” he raised his head and met her excited gaze.
She nodded in delight. “Yes, sir. Thank you sir.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” he leaned against the black leather chair,
“There is one more thing,” his dark eyes sized her up.
She raised an eyebrow, speculating whether there was going to be another test or a final interview.
“Is there going to be another test?” she asked quickly, hoping that wasn’t the case.
The man grinned, “Maybe,” his dark gaze settled on her chest.
Subconsciously, she checked herself. The white blouse she wore beneath the suit covered her up, revealing no ounce of flesh. She looked back at the man and noticed that he was still staring at the upper part of her body.
“Come and sit here,” he tapped his thighs.
She blinked several times, shocked by his request. What was wrong with the man? Why does he want her to come and sit on his laps? Whatever for? What has sitting on his laps got to do with her employment?
“Don’t waste my time,” he tapped his thighs again, his voice was firmer this time around.
“Sir, I am a happily married woman,” she folded her arms across her chest.
“So?” he looked her up and down, as if she was naïve.
“Sir, I cannot sit on your laps,” she eyed him, finding his request ludicrous.
“This is your employment letter,” he picked up a brown envelope and waved it in the air.
She glanced at the envelope, then back at him.
“I can tear the letter and delete your information from our system, then replace you with a willing candidate.”
Her light brown eyes widened in amazement. She could hardly believe that the man would actually tear her letter up. Was he insane?
“This company is offering to pay you eighty thousand naira monthly, with an allowance of about twenty thousand naira every month. Think wisely and come and sit on my laps,” he demanded.
She looked back at him and swallowed hard. Earning about a hundred thousand naira monthly was like a dream come true. It would go a long way. If she saved some money every month, she and her husband would be able to move out of their one- bedroom apartment and into a new place before their rent was due that year. They would also be able to do so many other things with the money.
“Edua Udeme…” The man’s voice brought her out of her reverie.
“Em… Sir, I am a born again Christian,” she emphasized the last word.
He started to laugh. “I am also a Christian. Okay look,” he glanced at his black leather wrist-watch, “It is my lunch time already. We can drive down to a motel down the street, eat, then get down to business. In less than two hours, the deed is done.”
Her brows came together in a frown. The fact that he called himself a Christian annoyed her. She doubted if he was truly saved. No amount of money was capable of persuading her to sleep with another man. She loved her husband and she loved God. She wasn’t going to ruin her marriage and sin against her maker all because of one job that could be taken from her when she least expected it.
“Mrs. Udeme, let’s go,” he got up quickly and shut down his computer system.
Edua cleared her throat and looked up at him. “Sir, this is unfair.”
He grabbed his car keys, the brown envelope and his mobile phones. “My dear, life is unfair to us all.”
“I cannot do this sir.”
“Don’t worry, I will be gentle with you. You are not a virgin. Your husband has been having a filled day with you all this while. All am asking is for a piece of the action,” he smiled at her and headed straight for the door.
She sighed heavily and lifted her weight off the leather chair.
“Sir, please give me my employment letter.”
The Personnel Manager halted at the door and turned to look at her. Her rejection was beginning to annoy him.
“I can see that you are a very unserious person,” his eyes became red.
“Sir, please,” she went on her knees, hoping that he would listen to her.
“Get out of my office!” his voice echoed through the walls.
“I said out!” he shouted at her. He had been daydreaming of how he was going to eat her all up once they got to the motel. The fact that things were not aligning to his plans made him irritable.
“Sir, please,” tears gathered in her eyes.
The man dropped his mobile phones and car keys on the shelf beside the door, opened the brown envelope and tore the content into tiny little pieces.
“Jesus!” she shouted, hardly able to contain her surprise.
“Out! Or else I will call the security men and have them bundle you out of the building,” he glared at her.
She staggered to her feet and made her way out of his office. Blinded by tears, she found her way to the elevator. She kept thinking about what happened in the man’s office. She wondered if there was a better way she could have handled the situation. What was she going to do now? The thought of hitting the streets in search of another job made her groan in pain.
A few weeks ago, her husband made an offer. He wanted her to join him at the Mechanic shop as an administrative staff. She rejected the offer because she wanted to do something useful with her university degree. She didn’t like the idea of working at the shop. Thinking about it now, she might as well go work for her husband. He might not be able to pay her the kind of money she deserved, but, at least, she would be able to foot some of her personal bills. It was also better than sitting at home all day watching Telemundo and Zee World channels. Working with her husband might also attract well-paying customers, coupled with the fact that her husband was good with what he did, his dreams of owning a famous well-recognized automobile shop, patronized by the high and mighty in the society could come true sooner than they planned.
She sighed heavily, dabbed her wet eyes with a handkerchief and exited the elevator when it got to the ground floor. She walked out of the building and headed for the main gate. She checked her hand bag and counted the money she had left. It would be enough to take her home, but not enough for another job-hunting spree. She scratched a spot on her braided hair and thought of when she was going to be able to re-do her hair. The braided hair was three months already and her scalp had begun to itch like hell.
Edua stood by the roadside, looking left then right, watching the commercial buses that drove past and listening to the conductors. If she could get a bus heading to Obalende, she would be able to get another one heading to Anthony bridge from there. The loud honk of a vehicle slowing down beside her got her attention. She stepped backwards and took a good look at the driver of the red coloured Honda Element car. Recognition hit her almost immediately. The lady was one of her old friends.
“Beauty is that you?” the dark skinned lady squinted her eyes.
She nodded in confirmation and smiled.
“My goodness! You have changed! When I saw you, I wasn’t sure that it was you.”
“Change is a constant thing girl.”
“Hop in. Where are you going?”
Edua reached out for the passenger door and climbed into the car.
Bimbo kept staring at her and shaking her head in amazement.
“What?” Edua looked back at her friend.
“You have really changed. Look at you,” her eyes ran all over her. “You are not as fair as I remembered, you have slimmed down, there is little or no make-up on your face, look at your hair. What’s going on girlfriend?”
Edua smiled and turned away. “Long story.”
“Okay, okay. We need to hang out and talk then. Where are you heading to right now?”
“Dolphin Estate, right?”
She shook her head, “No, I stay at Anthony Village now.”
“Since when?” shocked gaze.
“Since I got married eight months ago.”
Edua kept smiling.
“You! Married?” she pointed a doubting finger at her old friend.
She nodded in confirmation.
“Unbelievable,” she sized her up, feeling greatly jealous. She swerved the car back to the road and joined the traffic. She had not been able to find a suitable suitor and every time she tried to force men to marry her by getting pregnant, she ended up aborting it due to their lack of commitment.
“I saw your Unisex Saloon advert on Facebook some years ago,” Edua changed the subject immediately when she saw the envious look in her old friend’s eyes.
“Oh, yes. I have three of those saloons now,” Bimbo beamed with pride.
“Wow! Good for you girlfriend,” she was genuinely happy for her.
“What are you doing around here?” Her friend’s corporate attire ignited her curiousity.
“As in?” she caught a glimpse of her friend then returned her attention to the busy road.
“Searching for a white collar job,” Edua looked out the window.
“I don’t understand. I thought you were in partnership with your mother.”
“I don’t do those kind of runs anymore.”
Bimbo glanced at her, tempted to assume the worst. “Explain.”
“I am now a born again spirit filled Christian. I have given my entire life to God completely.”
Bimbo burst out in laughter. “I remember there was a day you called me. I know you said something along that line, but, I thought you were blabbing or probably, you’ve lost your mind.”
“I am far from losing my mind girl,” she met her concerned gaze.
“This is ridiculous. Why have you decided to suffer and rot away like this? Take a good look at yourself. This is a far cry from the Beauty I used to know. The girl I rocked the town with.”
Edua remained mum.
“Look, I have a kind of get-together tonight at Sheraton Hotel. I want you to come. There are some business men who came into town recently. They are based in the United States and they want to have fun. We will give them a good time and split the cash fifty-fifty. Okay?”
She began to shake her head in disagreement.
“You need to take care of yourself girlfriend, haba.”
“Bimbo, please. I don’t…”
“Don’t be stupid. Let’s meet up at Sheraton by six in the evening. The men will arrive by eight. We will have more than enough time to prepare for them, like old times,” she winked at her.
“Case closed,” she held the steering wheel with one hand and deep the other hand into her bag and brought out a wad of naira notes. She threw it on her friend’s laps and grabbed the wheel with both hands.
Edua stared at the wad of naira notes on her laps. “What’s this for?”
“I want you to make yourself presentable tonight. You must look good, okay?”
“Is it okay if I drop you at Obalende?”
“Yes, yes, thanks.”
“Great,” she looked around for a place to park the car. “See you later then.”
“Later girl,” she kept the money in her bag and got down from the vehicle.
“Bye!” Bimbo waved at her and drove off.
“Bye,” Edua waved back at her.