He slumped into the couch in the centre of the living room. He was numb, eyes glued to the piece of paper he had in his hands. This time unlike him, He was oblivious to his surroundings; didn’t seem to note that the centre table wasn’t exactly at the centre of the living room or that the T.V remote wasn’t at its usual position in the cabinet. All of a sudden, all that didn’t seem to make sense anymore.
20 minutes after, Frank still sat eyes fixed into space as he tried to digest the content of the letter.
“No. This is not happening. It is my entire fault”, he said aloud. His mind went through the events that took place earlier on that day. Tired and devastated, he dozed off.
“Gring…gring”, the sound of the phone ringing startled the sleeping Frank. He searched for the phone and found it lying on the floor.
“What does George want this time?” he muttered to himself.
He looked at his watch, the time read 9.00PM. He just wasn’t in the mood for business this night. George is a friend and a colleague at work. George calling by that time of the night definitely meant there was still some more work from office to do, probably some account left unbalanced.
Frank and George both worked as senior accountants in one of the most prestigious firms in town. The Max Ltd. was known both within the state and outside for their expertise in importation, exportation, sea and air freight. Whilst George was the easy going type and an extrovert, Frank was the opposite. Frank’s rule was, “Get it right otherwise don’t even attempt”. For most part of his life, Frank always thrived to get it right in the ‘perfect kind of way’. To him, failing is not accepted; he just wouldn’t have it ‘the other way’. His mentality almost made it seem like he was seceded from other people as he never tolerates any form of “irresponsible acts” as he calls it. People saw him as pompous and conceited individual who cared enough to ‘get it all only for himself’. After all, who would want anything to do with a fellow who never sees anything good in them, only focusing on their flaws? Of course, everyone wants to be appreciated.
His jnr. Colleagues at work were already used with the phrase; “you never get anything right”, whenever they submit a completed assignment to him.
“Hey Frank” George’s voice boomed from the other end of the line. “I am sending something to your email. You need to check that out. One of the goods supposedly delivered to…”
“That has to wait. Am not in the mood to check emails or whatever this night”, Frank cut in.
“This is really important. The logistic unit even had to call me up to check this…”
“I said am not working this night”
George then sensed something was wrong. “Hey man what’s up? You don’t sound good at all”.
“Can we go have a drink somewhere?” Surprised, George replied, “Sure, Cosy spots would do”
Dropping the phone, he checked the time. It was 9.05PM. “What could be wrong?” George thought. Frank never went out late not to talking of calling him up for a drink. The last time he did, it almost cost him his life. It was a party thrown by one of George’s friend when he was promoted as the chief advertising agent.
Frank too was invited. He took lots of alcohol and by the time he left for home, he was already drunk. A few distances from his house, driving in his car, he went off the road and hit a pole by the side of the road. He sustained serious injuries but luckily he survived. Since then he vowed never to stay out late again.
“I just hope he is fine”, George muttered under his breath as he wore a casual top. He placed a cap on his head, picked up his car key and left the house.
“Thank you sweetheart”, Frank replied as he sat on the couch to take off his shoes.
Jennifer collected his briefcase, dropped it in the room and came back. It was a Friday and she came over to spend the weekend at her Fiancé’s place. Since he usually gets home around 6.30PM, She had to get his food ready before he gets home. Unfortunately, she was caught up in the heavy traffic. When a car honked at the gate, she knew it was him and she was barely half-way in her cooking.
“As usual, he would be disappointed”, she sighed to herself. “How was your day?” he asked
“A bit busy. I hope yours was good”
“You tell me about it later. Mine was fine. We succeeded in sealing the deal with The Zennons”
“That is great news. Let me run your bath. You must be tired”.
“I am tired but don’t bother. I will do that myself or better still use a shower”
“He must be in a real good mood today”, she thought to herself as she went back to the kitchen. She heard the shower stop running and Frank enter the living room. She prepared for what nothing was forthcoming, surprised that he hasn’t asked for his food, Jennifer went to check on him. She was surprised to see him relaxing in the living room, a cup of water by his side and watching a soap opera.
“Are you okay?” she asked
“Of course darling. Any problem?”
“Nothing. I just came to check on you. Em…” She stuttered
“You are sounding like you are hiding something from me, anything I need to know about?”
“I am sorry; I just started cooking not long ago. Your food won’t be ready in a while”. With an amused look on his face, he turned and faced her. “That food is not ready is not a reason for you to be tensed up. It is not a big deal. We both had a busy day so, it is you want me to”.
Jennifer was taken aback by his response. She was expecting an opposite reaction. It would not be unusual if he had flared up and told her something like; “You can’t make good use of your time. If you do, you will always get things done at the right time”.
“Oh no. Don’t bother. I’ve got this”. “Where is the sudden change coming from?” she wondered to herself as she went back to the kitchen. He was being overly nice this evening. Does this still have to do with the deal at office or was there something else he wasn’t telling her. Wait o, his socks and shoes were still left in the living room and he hasn’t taken them in or reminded her that it was her duty to keep things around the house in place.
“Anyways, whatever it is with him I would still find out. For now let me enjoy this changed man”
the porch chatting and discussing, 2 glasses of juice before them. They switched topics and ended up with Frank telling her a story. This was a part of Frank she rarely saw; the funny Frank. He looked so cute and humorous sitting on the other side of the table as he laughed at a joke he cracked. At this point she felt the game was up and decided to ask him what he was hiding from her.
“Frank I need to ask you something. Please give me a sincere answer. What are you hiding from me? You are not telling me something. You just came back from work a changed man. I don’t even remember the last time you told me stories” As she talked she tried reading his facial expression but saw nothing.
“Honey it is nothing, just that I realized that all this while i….” “Jenny! Jenny!!”
over her as she stood at the edge of the bed. She yawned, still feeling sleepy.
“Sleepy head wake up”, Adetola called to her as she wanted to recoil and continue with her sleep. Jennifer sighed as she clambered out of the bed.
“Tola you are just good at disturbing someone”, she said aloud to her friend’s hearing. “If I don’t disturb you I wonder who else would”, Adetola said laughing. Jennifer went into the bathroom, relieved herself and washed her face. She came out to see Adetola almost dressed up in her tracksuit. Jogging was a norm for them, particularly on Saturdays like this. This particular morning, her mind was preoccupied with the dream she had. At this point, the least she needed was to dream about Frank. She already resolved to get everything off her mind. “But the dream Frank’s reply had Tola not woken her up.
“Jennifer!” Adetola shouted again from the front door. “How many hours is it taking you to get your booths?”
“Am coming!” she shouted back as she came back to herself. “Chill girl. The way you are going with this whole jogging thing, someone would think you are a pro when it comes to athletics”, she said jokingly as she came out.
“Say whatever you like”, Adetola said laughing. “At least am better than you”
“Go on deceiving yourself. You beat me to nothing”.
That was how their friendship went even 4 years after their university. They loved each other as sisters irrespective of their tribal differences; Jennifer being from Igbo tribe of Nigeria and Adetola from the Yoruba tribe.
“Good morning Sam” “Hello Joe. Good morning”
“What do we have for today?”
“Am not sure for now”, Sam replied. “I am just coming from Mr Frank’s office.
“Oh. So which fault did Mr no mistake find with the file?”
“You won’t believe it. He said nothing. On the contrary, he thanked me and just asked me to drop the file on his desk.
“You mean he didn’t even go through it?”
“I tell you. I too was surprised. It seemed something in him was different. I sensed it even in the way he responded to my greetings”.
worked off to his desk.
“You can never tell”, Sam replied moving towards the exit.
George reclined in his seat in his well-polished office. It was lunch time; he wasn’t feeling too hungry so he ordered that a cup of cake be brought to his office as he helped himself to a glass of juice. The ladies in his unit normally said that he has a weird taste in selecting his food claiming he prefers ‘girly foods’. They always teased him about his choice of food and snacks, just like todays chocolate cake.
He smiled to himself as he munched down the snacks, “funny people. Whoever told them that some foods are made for males and some for females? I don’t know when they stopped being accountants to become nutritionists. He scanned his table tie. “Oh.”, he groaned. “I almost forgot to return this tie”. The tie belonged to Frank. He forgot them in his car on Friday night so he had to bring it to the office this Monday morning so as to return it to him; but as it looked, it was obvious Frank didn’t even notice the absence of his tie.
“Why would he notice when he has dozens of blue ties? Sure enough he has many options”, George said to himself.
Blue was Frank’s favourite colour, explains why he has almost everything in blue colour. George recalled the events of the last Friday night, “poor boy, I understand his situation”. George had been Frank’s friend for a long time and knew him very well. He knew that beyond that tough exterior he portrayed, there was a tender being. When he picked him up that night, Frank was in a sour mood. On getting to Cosy spot his favourite restaurant in stating she had left him. He never blamed her but put all the blame on Frank. She was a good woman with a humble heart only that Frank can be foolish at times in his actions. That night Frank had confessed to loving her. Why won’t he? Good women these days are hard to find. “So have you tried calling her?” he had asked him.
“I haven’t. She clearly stated in the letter that I shouldn’t try calling”.
“Come on man, surely you are not falling for that. You should forget what she wrote there. When a woman says something like that, she actually doesn’t mean it. In fact, I will take it that she wants to see if you have enough guts to dare calling her. I have always told you to take it easy on yourself. You want to be so perfect that you end up taking out your desperation on others.
and when you find her, you do the right thing”.
“I think I have learnt my lessons. I will go find my love, am not letting her go. Thanks for your advice. It might take some time but i promise to turn a new leaf.”
“Better for you”. They stayed on discussing some other things before they retired back home.
George got to Frank’s office only to discover that he wasn’t on desk. “But he came to work today”, he thought to himself. He asked Tunde whose office was adjacent to Frank’s about his where about.
“He left about an hour ago, said he had something urgent to attend to”. George put the puzzle together and needed no one to tell him that Frank went after Jennifer. He nodded as he thanked Tunde and went back to his office.
Frank drove through the busy traffic. With the hot weather, he was sweating profusely but didn’t seem to notice. He was deep in thought; trying to think of the right words and the right things to tell Jennifer.
He tried calling her several times but each time she had rejected his calls. He knew she was on leave and so wouldn’t be at work. He already checked her apartment but she wasn’t there. There was just one person that would know about her where about- Adetola. Stirring the car to the right, he turned to her street and drove slowly till he located her apartment.
Jennifer’s phone rang for the umpteenth time but she rejected the calls each time. “You know you should at least pick his calls and know why he is calling”, Adetola said.
to think of it Tola, you never really liked him; so why the sudden change in attitude?”
“And who said I ever hated him. I just didn’t like the way he treats you, even though something tells me he truly loves you”.
“Well that’s all in the past”, Jennifer muttered to herself. Was she really sure it was over between them? Was she willing to put it all behind her?
Jennifer and Frank met about a year ago in a friend’s child naming ceremony. They started off as friends and went out a few times on a date. During that period she found out that Frank wasn’t the talking type but she found some of the things he did and said amusing. She liked the fact that he was hardworking, a disciplined man, loved his work and was really good at it. When he formally asked to date her, she gave an affirmative. She loved with; he never appreciates her, he only seems to focus on her mistakes, in situations where she needs encouragement he ends up making her feel discouraged. She recalled the scenario that took place that Friday morning that broke the Carmel’s back. She couldn’t take it anymore. She had 2 weeks leave and decided to spend a few days at his place. He searched for his watch and asked her about it. She couldn’t remember exactly where she kept it. He had flared up and used many unkind words on her, telling her how she was always misplacing things. As the words flew from his mouth, she replied none of them. She just resolved what to do in her mind and so when he finally left for work, she wrote him a letter stating that she was out of his life. Since he alone could do things right, he should go on alone or otherwise find some other ‘lamb without flaw’ to fit in to his dreams. She couldn’t keep up with his high expectancy anymore. To her it was she had made. She left the letter on the centre table in the living room, packed up her things and left the house.
A knock on the front door brought her out of her thoughts. She called out to Adetola who just went in to take her bath. “Someone is at the door. Are you expecting someone?”.
“No. But you get the door if you don’t mind”.
She opened the door and came face to face with a sweat- drenched Frank. They both stared at each other for some time, none of them speaking. Jennifer then broke the silence.
“What are you doing here?” “Can i at least come in?”
“Of course, after all this isn’t my apartment”, she said as she left open the door and stepped aside. “Let me get Adetola for you, am sure she is the one you are looking for”.
to walk past him. She pulled her hands out of his grasp. “What for?” she retorted.
“Please we need to talk. You need to hear me out”. Jennifer hesitated.
“Please”. She reluctantly sat down. Frank followed suit, sitting on the couch beside the one she sat on.
“Darling am sorry about everything. I have been such a terrible person. I have realized I had been hurting people with my attitude. I am not supposed to be this way. Thinking about it I know it came a long way from when I was small boy, from my family. My father….”
“Here we go again. You know I think it’s high time you stop pushing blames on other people and take responsibility for your actions”, Jennifer interrupted rolling her eyes.
you would understand. My dad used to be a very rich man. He with his brother, my uncle inherited so many things from my grandfather who was very influential. During my parents’ early marriage, life was blissful. We were happy as family and there was love. We were living in abundance and I with my 2 siblings went to one of the best schools in the state. Along the line, when I was about 9 years old, things started to change, things became difficult for us. I was still very young then but I felt the change in everything; we were withdrawn from our prestigious schools and enrolled into one with fewer teachers and less facility, the quality and quantity of food changed, we came back one day to find out that our parent’s cars have been sold. It then dawned on me that we were now poor. I didn’t know then the cause. Before long, we found ourselves in the village. The atmosphere in the house changed; my mum nagged more during those days, my dad even arguing. I could only make out my uncle’s last statements to my dad, “Here you are asking for my help when you haven’t fully paid up the debts u still owe me. You had it all, you only chose not to make good use of the opportunity you had. You never kept account of your money or how you spent it. All you did was to spend excessively forgetting that you can’t eat your cake and have it back. In life you keep account of everything else you become a failure. I picked up the last statement. I didn’t know the meaning or what he meant by ‘keeping account’ but I just knew I didn’t want to end up the way my father did. As I grew older, I searched the meaning of that; I came to see it as ‘a reckoning, to answer for something’. I stuck to it, choosing to answer for everything in life, never giving room for excuses or failure. It was as if those words from my uncle inspired me, they were like driving force. With time I was turning to a perfectionist finally came across the word ‘accountancy’ as a course, I knew I had to study it. It became my passion. When my dad could not sponsor my education in tertiary institution and I had to go begging from my uncle and doing odd jobs to sustain myself in school, it made me see my dad like a failure and reinforced my will not to end up as a him.
By this time Jennifer felt pity for him
“My love i am sorry I hurt you with my selfish ambitions. I just wish you forgive me. I don’t want to lose you. You have been good and patient enough with me”.
“I have forgiven you”, she blurted out not even knowing when it fell out of her lips.
“Really?” he asked, surprised.
inspired you, at least you found your passion in accountancy.”
Frank sprang out of the sit and hugged her. To her surprise, he knelt before her.
“Please Jenny marry me”
Jennifer was speechless as she watched him bring out a small shinny box and inside it was a dazzling golden ring. She looked at him smiles on her face as he looked into her eyes.
“Yes. I will marry you”
Just then someone started clapping from behind. “Adetola, silly girl. So she had been in hiding somewhere all this while”, she thought to herself as she hugged Frank face lit up with smiles.
By Emeh Joy from Nigeria