Nina (15)

By eight o’ clock the next morning I had taken my bath, eaten
breakfast and was out of the house. Dad kept mum in the
bedroom, said he wanted to discuss something with her. As
soon as they were in I sneaked out and boarded a taxi.
I still hadn’t heard a word from Nina and frankly I was worried
about her. At least she should have sent a text message to
find out how I was doing…then again if she thought I was still
insane she would have thought there was no point calling as I
wouldn’t be coherent enough to answer. I urged the taxi-man
to go faster and he replied that I should come down if I was in
a hurry. I hissed and that was the cue for him to enter a
sermon on safe driving. I turned away towards the window
and mentally blocked out his voice as I watched other vehicles
passing by. We eventually arrived at her estate 45minutes
later. I jumped out of the car and paid the driver, who zoomed
off immediately. I entered the estate, greeting the security
guards in their dark blue uniforms sitting in their cubicle and
listening to the radio. They answered politely and I walked
inside. I checked from afar to see if there was any car outside
but Nina’s frontage was completely empty. I approached
cautiously and peeked in through the window. There didn’t
appear to be anybody at home. I went round the house and
saw that all the windows were locked and the surroundings
quiet. It was only then it occurred to me that she would be at
work. I had forgotten that today was a working day. She would
probably have left early, locking up her place. This also meant
that her fiancée’s visit had been over since Monday. I made up
my mind and brought out my phone to call her. An
emotionless electronic voice answered me:
The number you have dialed is switched off. Please try again later.
Maybe she was in a meeting, I thought. It occurred to me for
the first time that I ought to be at work as well. It seemed a bit
odd that nobody had called me to ask how I was doing or even
come to visit me during my stay in the hospital. I had my share
of friends there besides Nina and started to feel a bit hurt that
none of them had deemed it fit to check on me. Maybe they
were embarrassed but they would have at least come to see if
I was being well taken care of. The fact that my strict boss
hadn’t called even once, whether I was reported to be sane or
not, was baffling. I decided I would go straight to the firm and
find out what was going on.
I left the estate and boarded another taxi to my place of work.
On getting there I was greeting jovially by the gate-man. I
acknowledged his greeting and was happy to note that the
spirit of alcoholism which usually perched on his shoulder was
nowhere to be seen. I walked inside the building and took the
elevator to the second floor. On coming out of the elevator I
was greeted by familiar faces in a very friendly manner, which
I found to be quite relieving as I didn’t want anybody treating
me awkwardly after my “incident”
“Guy how far na, how village? Hope your parents are all right?”
the head cleaner asked as he passed by. I was momentarily
stunned but recovered quickly and answered in the affirmative.
He gave me a thumbs up signal and continued down the
corridor. I heard similar comments as I made my way to my
boss’s office.
“Chuks, well done o, you jus miss comot abi?”
“happy to know things are going well, did you get my
“Well come back sir!”
“Thank god say you no kill ya papa.”
I stopped in my tracks and yanked the last speaker back by his
shoulder. His name was Jackson. Jackson was an assistant
manager like me and was a bit of a social misfit. He was a
head shorter than I was; light complexioned with a round face
that bordered on mongolism. He had the irritating habit of
pressing his phone while talking to you that made him look like
he was not paying attention. However I gave him a little
respect because anytime I looked at him I literally saw him
standing in a pool of mud. His feet always appeared made of
iron and seemed to push him through the muddy pool but try
as he might the pool followed him everywhere. Pachios had
explained then that he had low self esteem issues and it was
this low esteem that was his main driving force in life. He
would excel in his field but would never feel happy with his
accomplishments. It was a sad thing for me to behold so I
always cut him some slack when dealing with him. Today
however, I wasn’t feeling so generous.
“What do you mean by that?” I asked, still holding on to his
shoulder. He brushed my hand off rudely and stood as erect as
“Don’t get sore on me,” he said trying very hard to maintain
eye contact, “I heard about your dad that’s all. For a moment
there, the way you sounded, we didn’t think he was going to
make it. I am glad to know he is doing all right.”
“What? What are you talking about?” I demanded.
“Is that chukwudi?” I heard my boss yell from his office. “Get
in here!”
I reluctantly let Jackson go. He scampered away from me,
leaving mud trails in his wake that only my eyes could see. I
took a deep breath then walked into my boss’s office.
“Hey, Hey!” he shouted from behind his enormous leather
desk. “Is this how we dress to work now?”
I looked down at my checkered grey and black short sleeved t-
shirt and black chinos. It was true, I hadn’t planned on coming
to work today so I had dressed casually.
“I’m sorry sir.” I said, “I just came to report that I was…”
“Yes I know,” he replied, standing up. “I’m not a dunce. We
are all happy to hear your father is doing well, although I still
have half a mind to
write a query for you. Next time, you’ll let us know you want to
travel before going to a remote place where there is no
network. I don’t care how urgent the situation is, I want to be
given proper prior notice, understood?!”
“Yes sir!” I said, not understanding at all.
“Good!” he said. He took a pile of paperwork from his desk
and tossed them towards me. “I want these completed on y
desk tomorrow morning. No excuses!”
I nodded and was about walking out of his office then turned
back. “Sorry sir, who told you my father was sick?”
He stared at me for a while as if I had gone mad and said “Are
you alright at all? Wasn’t it you that called this office three
days ago to say that your father was seriously ill and that you
were already on your way to the village?”
“I, er…” I stammered.
“You said network would be poor there that we shouldn’t
bother calling because it would be difficult to reach you, and
really I tried your line severally but it kept saying not
reachable, then you sent me a text yesterday saying your
father was better and you were on your way back. I tried
calling last night and again this morning but it was still saying
not reachable! And the client has been disturbing me since
Monday! If not that you are the only one that has information
on our major clients deals I would have sacked you by now!
Now get out of my office!”
I walked out and shut the door behind me. I still couldn’t
understand what was going on and matters were made worse
when I got to my desk. Nina’s table was empty, completely
cleared. I dropped the files and went back to my bosses’
“What are you doing back here?!” he shouted.
“Where’s Nina?”
“Who gives a d–n where she is? She can be dead for all I
care! I told you to finis-“
“Mr Folake, I’m going to ask you again,” I said in a deadpan
voice, “if you do not answer me correctly I will go back to my
desk and tear up every file I see there, after which I will resign.
I’m sure you’ll be very pleased to collect my resignation letter,
seeing that I have cost you three days of work after working
here without a single day missed for five years! Where is she? ”
He opened his mouth angrily but nothing came out. I could
see the greed demon on his head becoming agitated. He was
considering what I had said and was thinking if it would
actually be more beneficial for him to take e up on my threat.
Finally he made a decision.
“She resigned herself yesterday. Just came to the office and
packed her things, saying she wouldn’t be working here
anymore. I told her it was too sudden, that if she left now in
the middle of the month there was no way I was going to pay
her salary. She said that was okay, I could keep the salary. So
I kept quiet and she left.”
What was going on? Why would Nina leave without even trying
to contact me, crazy or not? I turned to go.
“Eh…chukwudi,” my boss called and I turned back.
“Maybe you should take some time off? After doing the files
eh? You still look a little stressed.” He sighed and relaxed back
in his chair. “People around here think I’m an a*hole but I
need to appear harsh to keep this firm on its feet. It doesn’t
mean I am a bad person.”
“Oh I know sir,” I said. “If you were a bad person, you would
have more things than a greed demon attached to you.”
I walked out before he could ask me what I meant.
I went back to my desk and sat down, trying to make sense of
it all. How did Mr A*** get access to my phone to call or send
text? I mean, he could have done anything when I was in the
hospital since he had access to me, but yesterday? I was at
home throughout and my phone had been in my pocket. And
why hadn’t any of my boss’s calls reached me? Or anybody’s
texts for that matter? I brought out the phone again and looked
at it. It didn’t see tampered with. On impulse I called home and
my dad picked the call. I could hear my mum shouting in the
“Hello, who is this?” my dad said in a weary voice.
“Dad, it’s me chuks”
“Chuks?” he replied in a puzzled tone. “Why are you calling
with a strange number?”
“Tell him to come back home!” my mum said in the
“Tell mum I’m fine dad, I’m at the office.” I replied.
“Something weird is going on, everybody thinks I travelled to
see you in the village, they said
they have been trying to contact me but that my number was
not reachable.”
“Really it’s not o, your mum even tried calling you after you
were gone for like an hour. She couldn’t get across to you. I’ve
been having it hot here since.”
“But how?” I said, “my phone has been on since and I’m
calling you guys now…”
And then it hit me.
“Sorry dad, let me call you back” I said and dropped the phone.
I looked around the corridor and saw Jackson wading by.
“Jackson my man,” I called out. He approached me warily.
“Can you call my number please? I want to check something.”
He looked at me for a while then brought out his phone and
“Not reachable,” he said.
“Okay, one moment.” I said and scrolled through my contacts
list until I saw his name. I called and his phone rang almost
immediately. He quickly
picked it and said “Hello?”
“It’s me, Chuks,” I replied, then cut the call.
“Oh, you changed your number?”
“No I didn’t. Thanks anyway.” I left him standing outside
looking confused and went back to sit at my desk. I opened
my phone, it was an android, and brought out the SIM card.
I had bought my SIM card five years ago, and over time with
change of phone and one or two accidents, it had acquired the
smudges and scratches of old age.
The SIM card I brought out of my phone however couldn’t have
been mine. It was brand new.