Read Chapter 21 here.
Staff meeting ended at ten past ten. Jackie got up from her seat as she closed her notepad.
“I’m headed for a business forum and you, Ms. Yankson are coming with me.” Her head shot up. Did she hear right? Julius Ampah returned her puzzled look with a blank expression on his face.
“Did you hear me, young lady? We are leaving in the next five minutes. I expect you to be ready in two.”
“Yes sir,” she said with a shaky voice and rushed out of the conference room.
Jackie sat in the front seat of the Land Cruiser whiles Julius sat at the back. She was freezing from the AC blowing on full blast. She kept rubbing her arms to generate some heat before she passed out. The traffic on the road made her predicament even longer. When they arrived at the Accra International Conference Center and she got out of the car, she uttered a prayer of thanks when the warm air hit her skin. She followed her boss inside the premises.
He made a call announcing their arrival to whoever was on the line. He told her to follow him.
They approached two gentlemen chatting, with one’s back facing them.
“Julius! You’re here.”
“Yes, sir.” They shook hands.
“And this must be…”
“One of my employees I’m trying to mentor.” What did he just say?
“Hello,” Hon. Biney shook her hand.
“Jackie, meet Honorable Biney.”
“Nice to meet you.” The gentleman he was with turned. They both froze.
“Yeah, this is Mr. Mends, my son-in-law and the CEO of Noble Realty,” Hon. Biney introduced, with a frozen smile on his face.
Jackie swallowed. “Hi. Nice to meet you.”
“Honorable! We are about to start.”
“Great. Let’s go inside, shall we?”
Hon. Biney and Julius took the lead as they began chatting privately. Jackie slowed her steps so she wouldn’t walk by Dante’s side. As if he could read her mind, he also slowed his steps such that Jackie had no choice but to walk beside him.
“It’s good to see you. You look good.”
“Thank you, Mr. Mends,” she said and quickened her steps, leaving him behind.
“She’s pretty,” Hon. Biney when they settled in their seats.
“Your so-called friend, Jackie? She’s the one you got the job for, right?”
Dante looked around him and cleared his throat.
“From what my daughter tells me, you two used to be more than friends. Tell me, what made you come for my daughter?”
“With all due respect sir, can we not have this conversation now? I’m about to give a presentation for crying out loud,” Dante replied. He sounded irritated.
Hon. Biney was taken aback by his response. He hadn’t expected this reaction.
Jackie’s phone beeped. She swiped to unlock her screen.
So sorry about the ambush. My father-in-law’s idea of acting smart. He found out about me helping you get the job.
I see. Then I guess my boss is his faithful servant who is giving me a tough time at his command. That’s just great.
I’m really sorry.
When Dante turned to look at his in-law, it looked like he wanted to ask him something but he kept his mouth shut. Dante put his phone in his pocket.
Jackie had her eyes glued to the back of Dante’s head during the first presentation. He looked really good, she observed. No physical sign of any emotional turmoil. She clapped when he was introduced as the next speaker. She began daydreaming of how her life would be as his wife. Having dinner together, he placing an ear on her protruded tummy, they admiring their first baby together… a tear ran down her face. She quickly wiped it off.
Dante noticed it and for a few seconds, went blank. When Jackie looked up at him, he found his words and kept talking. After his presentation, Hon. Biney whispered to Dante that he had to leave as he had a meeting to attend.
“That’s okay; I want to stay a little while.” The Honourable signaled Julius and they both stepped out.
“Follow me, there’s something I want to discuss with you.” They got into their cars with Julius following him out of the premises.
Jackie returned from the washroom. She noticed Julius’ seat was empty and so was the Honourable’s. Maybe they were outside, talking. Hope they weren’t talking about me, she thought.
Few minutes later, she got a text from Julius. Sorry I had to leave for an impromptu meeting. Take an Uber to the office after the programme.
Really? Is that how to tell someone to go back to the office? What if she didn’t have enough money for Uber? Wait, did she? She checked her purse.
Please, let me have promo, she prayed as she opened the app. Thank God, she muttered with a sigh. She made a request. The driver was three minutes away.
Please meet me outside. She groaned. She waited for a minute before stepping outside.
“Great presentation,” she complimented when they stopped in front of each other.
“Thank you. You look great.”
“So do you. Your new life must really be good.”
He smiled modestly. “Making do with what I’ve got. Look, I’m really sorry…”
“Ekow, it’s fine, really. Didn’t want to be part of any more drama but it seems to find me everywhere I go. I’m moving on and it looks like you already have. Seeing on the stage…made me proud. I’m glad that you are becoming whatever you dreamed of. You deserve all the good things in life and if I had to be taken out of the picture for that to happen for you, then let’s accept it. I don’t want you to feel guilty for getting where you are without me. Who knows where you’d be if we ended up together? God knows best. So just love your life with Cece. She can be crazy…”
Dante recalled the ashes of the diary and clenched his jaw.
“…but I know she loves you. So love her back. It doesn’t erase me from history but at least, it releases you into your future with her,” She forced a smile with tears in her eyes. He brushed her arm with his palm.
“Are you happy?”
“Some days are better than others…I’m getting there. So it was nice seeing you but I’ve got to go.”
“I could give you a ride…”
“No, thank you. I’m good.” She opened her arms. He hugged her.
“Take care of yourself, yeah?” She tapped his back. He nodded, too emotional for words. Her phone rang.
“My Uber must be here. Bye, Dante.” He held on to her hands for a moment before letting go. She waved at him and walked away.
Julius’ phone rang.
“Is your lady worker with you?”
“No please, I told her to go to the office.”
“You left her with my son-in-law?”
“Never mind.” He ended the call. Had he just created an opportunity for Dante to cheat on his daughter? Ah well… he might have to find a proper solution to that possible threat.
“As for bloggers of today, all they know how to do is to assume the worst and destroy marriages,” a female colleague sitting next to Kwame said.
“What’s up?” Kwame asked, thankful for a distraction from the exhausting data report he was working on.
“The CEO of Noble Realty is seen hugging a lady after an event and so they are asking if his wife were to see it, would she be worried or not?”
“Well, if it was in public, then I’m sure there’s nothing to assume. They could be old schoolmates,” Kwame said defensively.
“Or they could be hiding in plain sight. Some are daring that way,” another colleague chipped in.
“They even added a photo of him and his wife. She’s pretty. Why would he cheat on her?”
“Just because he can, because you guys are wired that way…should I go on?”
“Whatever but as you said, these bloggers just make up stories that would get them traction to their sites. No substance. But some guys are decent, okay? We are not all…”
“Trash?” The ladies chorused and burst into laughter.
“Yes, we are not. Let me have a look.”
The lady handed her phone to him and he scrolled up. His breath got caught in his throat which he cleared.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” he said casually, clenching his fists. He took his phone and took a photo of the image on his colleague’s phone. He handed it back to her and turned his attention to his computer screen. His breath got heavier. He pulled back and his chair and got up suddenly.
“Are you sure you’re okay, Kwame?”
“Yep.” He walked out. He needed some fresh air.
“Hey, good evening,” Dante greeted when he arrived home. “Got you some of the coconut water you asked for.”
Cece said nothing, her eyes fixed on the TV screen. He turned to look at her.
“Are you alright?”
“How was your conference?”
“Good. My presentation went well, I think.”
“What else happened there?”
“What else can happen there? A lot of talk, questions, answers and it starts all over.”
“Meet any familiar faces?”
“Not that I can think of, why?”
“Dante…you know you’re a public figure now, right? And that you just can’t do anything in public and not expect the media to pick on you, right?”
“I’m not…any way, what are you getting at? I just did my presentation and left.”
“Then why don’t you explain this to me?” Cece asked, showing him an image on her phone. He took it from her.
“What the…? Seriously?”
“Are you telling me that Jackie isn’t a familiar face?”
“You know why I didn’t mention her. Not in the mood for another fight.”
“And what were you doing exactly? Catching up on good old times?”
“Of course not. Just exchanged a few words and hugged it out.”
“Hugged it out?”
“Yeah…like civilized people. We may have history but she’s a decent person who won’t cuss me out in public. Besides, your father was there so there’s no way we could have done anything else even if we wanted to.”
“My dad saw Jackie?”
“Yeah, she came in with her boss. But he doesn’t know her, thank God for that.”
“He kinda does.”
“He mentioned you lobbied for her to get a job at one of the companies he had given you a contact. Why did you do that?”
“Why? She needed a job and I was in a position to help! That’s it. It shouldn’t be more complicated than that, should it?”
“Well, with dear Miss Jackie, nothing is ever not complicated, is it?”
“How long has your father known about Jackie’s job?”
“I don’t know…quite a while, I guess?”
“So he’s the one making life miserable for her at work, huh?”
“I’ve no idea about that. How come you’re so updated about Jackie’s state of affairs?”
“Listen, we are not hanging out, okay? After everything I’ve put her through, peace of mind at work is the least thing she can get, right?”
“Well, considering the fact that she’s an ever present threat in our marriage, I’m not feeling particularly sympathetic to whatever plight she might be facing at work,” Cece said honestly.
“Jackie is not a threat, okay? She’s moving on and she wishes the best for me…for us. So could you please tell your dad to back off her?”
“Excuse me, how can you even assume that my father with all his busy schedules would concern himself with a lowlife like…”
“Hey…watch your mouth, woman! Jackie is much more of a human being than you could ever be.” He started walking away.
“Yeah, yeah… but guess what, I’m the one going to be the mother of your kids, not her.”
That stopped Dante in his tracks. He turned to look at her.
“You’re not…pregnant, are you?”
“Why do you ask as if I’ve been infected with a virus?”
“Don’t even think about it, Cece. You have cancer…”
“I’m on remission for crying out loud! You do know what that means, right, Mr. CEO?”
He shook his head and walked away. She laughed out loud.
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“Jeez, where the hell are you?” Jackie was agitated. She had tried calling Kwame seven times and still hadn’t been able to reach him. Kwame was always punctual. Whenever he was going to be late (which would be less than 20 minutes anyway), he would let her know. Why was she feeling like she was being stood up?
Her phone rang. It was AJ.
“Hey girl… where are you?”
“Um…I’m supposed to be having a date with my boyfriend but every minute that passes by tells me he just stood me up.”
“Ouch. No word from him?”
“Zilch. What’s up?”
“When was the last time you saw Dante?”
“Today actually. My boss dragged me to this conference and I ran into him and his father-in-law. Talk of awkward. Thankfully, he doesn’t know about me so it was okay.”
“And you two decided to be all warm and fuzzy around each other in front of his in-law?”
“What are you talking about?”
“There’s a photo, Naicy.”
“Gosh, what now?”
“It’s a harmless photo, really. Two old friends hugging, maybe? The problem is not with the photo but with the angle the blogger took. If Kwame has seen this, I wouldn’t be surprised why he stood you up.”
“Oh no, if Cece and her father see it too…oh no!”
“Just think about yourself for a minute, okay? Dante will be fine. Will send you the link.”
“So what do I do with Kwame? Wait for him to confront me or go to his place and try and explain?”
“Ugh…ugh…let him finish stewing in his anger and when he has calmed down, he’ll get in touch.”
“Come to think of it, Kwame says he gets mad when people get dishonest with him.”
“Don’t have a definition yet since I haven’t seen him mad before. Gosh, do you remember the Perfect Guy movie? What if he’s like that?”
“Kwame doesn’t look like a psycho.”
“Neither did Michael Ealy. Jeez or worse still…the male version of Melinda in Tyler Perry’s Acrimony?” Jackie whispered, feeling scared.
“Now you’re just being paranoid. Calm down and go home. Everything will be fine. If he can’t deal with Dante still hovering around, then maybe he should find the exit.”
“Why do all people assume exes have to be enemies? We just hugged, that’s all.”
“I believe you. Just go home. We’ll talk later.”
“Okay, thanks for calling. Bye.” Oh gosh, what was Kwame thinking of her?
© Josephine Amoako 2018
Read Chapter 23 here.