Omotola Part 4
Tola hit the snooze button as her alarm clock rang and rolled over, pulling the covers over head to sleep a little while longer. She knew she shouldn’t have stayed up so late last night but she and the girls had been having so much fun, she didn’t manage to get into bed till four a.m.
As the alarm clock went off yet again, she turned it off and dragged her tired body out of bed and into the shower. If she didn’t get a move on, she’d get caught in the awful Port Harcourt rush-hour traffic jams and eventually be late to work.
She envied Tomi and Shade who would be catching a late afternoon flight back to Lagos and Abuja respectively so could afford to have a lie-in. They were probably still both fast asleep in her guest room. Unfortunately she couldn’t afford that luxury on a Monday morning.
Phew! The traffic in Port Harcourt is getting even worse than Lagos, Tola thought to herself as she straggled into the office at half past nine a.m. Work started officially at nine. but she liked to be in the office by eight thirty at the latest. Ordinarily she wouldn’t have worked herself up into such a frenzy about being half an hour late. But today wasn’t just any regular day. Today was the day the top executives from ZenOil were coming over for a meeting to discuss a retainer with her company. It wasn’t a day she could afford to be late.
Even though the meeting was billed to start at ten, she’d planned to be there much earlier to go over the company accounts with a fine tooth comb before they were presented to the ZenOil officials at the meeting. If her company won this project, it would keep them in business for many years to come, not to talk of the boost it would give to their reputation.
Sighing as she waited for her computer to boot up, she flicked through the file she’d prepared before the weekend to make sure everything added up. She didn’t have as much time as she’d hoped to do any more.
At five minutes to ten, she made her way to the boardroom where the meeting would take place and sat at the back of the room. A few minutes later, all the concerned parties came in and sat down. The ZenOil team consisted of three men and two ladies, all smartly dressed in business suits. Tola’s eyes were drawn to one man in particular. He was strikingly handsome and much taller than the others, she guessed about 6’3”. He exuded confidence without appearing arrogant. From the way the others deferred to him, she could only guess he was probably in top management.
David Agbasi, her CEO, addressed the group, thanking them for considering Quik IT Solutions Ltd for the project and expressing hope for a mutually beneficial partnership. He went through a few PowerPoint slides and then handed over to the Financial Director, Tola’s boss, Amaebi Fingesi.
Tola tuned out her boss’s voice as all of her senses honed in on the tall man. She found herself inexplicably drawn to him. Her eyes kept straying back to him. His pin-striped suit was certainly not off-the-rack. It looked like it was custom-made. It hung perfectly on the body that might have belonged to an African warrior. She took in his thick dark bushy eyebrows and lashes, as well as the sharp eyes which probably missed nothing. His slightly crooked nose hinted at a youthful brawl for she couldn’t imagine this man would need to resort to his fists now to get his point across.
Once or twice, she caught him looking in her direction but she was sure he wasn’t looking directly at her. A man like him didn’t notice women like her. She observed the easy way, he sat in the chair, relaxed yet not slumped. He appeared to listen intently to what was being said but his expression didn’t give any of his thoughts away. She was curious about him. Who was he? What was his story?
Apart from having to make sure the company accounts were accurately presented, she hadn’t really been involved in pitching for this contract so had no idea who the key players were. Now she wished she had spent a bit more time studying the profile of the ZenOil management. It might have given her an inkling into who this fascinating guy was.
The meeting was over in an hour. Tola was just relieved everything had gone well. As she made her way out of the boardroom, Mr Agbasi called her back, saying he’d like to introduce her to the ZenOil team. She was delighted at the chance to finally put a name to the face which had captivated her for the last hour.
“This is Tola Ayeni, our senior chartered accountant.” Mr Agbasi said and she held out her hand to the man. “Tola, Mr Yemi Cole is the CEO of ZenOil.”
Yemi Cole? The Yemi Cole? Dear God, take me. Now! Tola couldn’t string two words together coherently if she tried. The man she’d been ogling for the duration of the meeting was the same man she’d so rudely dismissed last Friday. Surely her day couldn’t get any worse. She lowered her gaze to hide her embarrassment and was thankful for her blissfully ignorant CEO who carried on introducing the other members of the team.
The introductions were barely over before she made some excuse about work piling up and scuttled out of the boardroom. She rested her elbows on the table and put her head in her hands. Of all the oil companies in Port Harcourt, why did it have to be Yemi Cole’s that they had to deal with?
She wondered what he must think of her. He wouldn’t know she was sorry for the way she’d so abruptly cut him off when they spoke. If she did now attempt to apologise, he would probably think she was doing it just to ensure her company was granted the contract.
How did she always end up in these kinds of predicaments? If only the stubborn man had texted his address, she’d have gone over to see him at the weekend to make her apologies! If only she’d been polite! If only, if only! How on earth was she going to face him in the future if Quik IT got the contract? She consoled herself with the fact that he probably wouldn’t have any future dealings with the project so hopefully they would never have to meet again.
“Tola, are you alright?” She looked up to see a concerned Amaebi. She hadn’t meant to groan out loud. It had just slipped out.
“I’m fine. Sorry I was just thinking out loud but I’m fine, thanks.”
“Oh ok, then. I need you to go back to the boardroom. The ZenOil team had some questions about the accounts.”
Surely the universe was against her! She couldn’t very well argue with her boss but Tola wondered what questions Yemi and his team had and why her boss hadn’t been able to answer them. Her heart thumped in her chest causing her to stop just outside the boardroom door to compose herself before going in.
As she opened the door to the boardroom and stepped in, Yemi was standing at the floor-to-ceiling windows with his back turned to her. She looked around the room but there was no one else. He was alone.
He swung around as she cleared her throat to get his attention. He hadn’t turned around even though he’d probably heard the door open and guessed it was her. His neutral expression didn’t give away anything of his inner feelings, so she had no idea what to expect.
“Tola Ayeni?” he said her name as though he was trying to confirm she was who he thought she was.
Damage control was all Tola could think of.
“Look,” she said, as she clasped her hands together to stop them from trembling so much. “I…we got off on the wrong foot. I was rather—“
“Tell me, are you always that rude or did you make an exception just for me?” Yemi asked. He sat down, leaned back and gestured to her to sit before folding his arms across his chest.
“I – I know what you’re thinking and—“ Tola sat a few chairs away and tried to get the words out.
“Please, don’t presume to know what I’m thinking. You don’t know me at all.” Yemi snapped, leaning forward in the chair as if he was about to spring out of it and do her physical harm.
Instead of being scared, his words riled her. Granted she had reacted to her mother’s past actions and he was bearing the brunt of her anger towards other men but what right had he to come in here trying to bully her? She had come with every intention of apologising but she’d be damned if she let him ride roughshod over her.
“I don’t know you and I don’t care to. I thought I’d already made that crystal clear,” she replied, her eyes flashing.
The tension in the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife. As she glared at Yemi, his casual stance and calm exterior were betrayed by the vein ticking in his neck and his clenched fists.
“Have you any idea that you may be jeopardising your company’s chance for getting this contract?” he said softly.
Tola gasped. For a moment back there, she’d completely forgotten who she was talking to. But he wasn’t just a man her mother was trying to set her up with, he was the CEO of an organisation whose business could make a major difference to her company. She’d done it again. She’d opened her big mouth before her brain engaged in gear.
How on earth was she going to get out of this mess? If only the ground would open up and swallow her right now! Where was an earthquake when you needed one?