I’m sorry it has taken so long to write this sequel. Two Kenikodjo readers called me all the way from the US to demand that I finish the story…so this is me being obedient 🙂 If you missed the first part, here you go! Happy reading!!
Denise squinted at the monitor and made a mental note to go see the optician before the end of the month. Determined to finish working on the proposal before lunch time, she took a swig from her water bottle and got to work. Akwele had been giving her grief lately and she was determined to get it right this time. From the corner of her eye, she could see Jonathan sauntering in her direction, intermittently stopping to flirt with every woman he met on his way.
‘I love the colour red on you, Estelle!’
‘Those shoes though!’
‘When are we going on a date, Akua? You can’t pretend you don’t feel the chemistry too!’
‘Eish, that post-pregnancy glow! Your husband is a lucky man, girl!’
Just like that, he had a line for every single woman on the floor, which probably explains why he chose a desk at the farthest corner of the room. Anytime he had to make a photocopy or get water from the dispenser, he had the perfect excuse to ‘work the room’. Even prim and proper Esaaba got her fair share of Jonathan-love.
‘If our daughters grow up to be half as organized as you are, I will know that I have made it in life!’
Seeing that Jonathan had spotted Grace dozing off after her rather heavy meal of kenkey, ground pepper, corned beef, sardines, fried eggs and avocado pear, Denise smiled to herself in anticipation of the mischief-laden episode ahead.He picked up one of Esaaba’s colour coded folders and dropped it on the floor with a bang. The bang jolted Grace out of her nap. She exclaimed, ‘My Lord and my God!’, loud enough to draw the attention of everyone on the floor. The icing on the cake was when Jonathan soothingly rubbed her back and said, ‘Oh darling, I am so sorry. Did I wake you?’ Unable to control herself any longer, Denise burst into laughter and picked up her documents. There was no way she was going to get any work done if she stayed at her desk.
Making her way to the meeting room down the hall, she heard Kwesi laugh. She could recognize his voice even through a rainstorm and yes, her heart rate quickened every time she did. She followed the sound and turned the corner just in time to see Kwesi plant a kiss on a woman’s cheek. The woman beamed, stroked his cheek and started making her way towards Denise. Thankfully, Kwesi had not seen her yet so she didn’t have to put on a fake smile. Feeling her knees go weak, Denise leaned against the wall as the woman walked past her. She was elegant and very well-dressed. She had the air of a woman who knew what she wanted and also knew just how to get it. For a heavy set woman, she had rather nimble feet and she moved gracefully, almost as though she was dancing.
Denise was almost surprised at the overwhelming feeling of covetousness that swelled up in her. Suddenly she wanted to be that woman, to be able to embrace Kwesi without any judgmental looks. She knew she should have sent that text message to him when she had the chance. That text had mistakenly gone to her cousin, Kwekuma, and she had sworn him to secrecy by promising that she would handle it. It wasn’t easy because Kwekuma was particularly fond of Kojo. But when she got to work the next day, she suddenly didn’t have the courage to send it to Kwesi and she definitely wasn’t ready to tell Kojo. Besides, it wasn’t like there was really anything to tell. Things had gone back to normal, infact she had spent the entire weekend with Kojo and his family, making plans for the wedding. So this feeling was strange…it almost felt like an out of body experience.
She looked up and saw Kwesi walking towards her, with a smile on his face.
‘Just the woman I wanted to see. I wanted us to go over the numbers for the Hillspurn project. And I have just the book for you- And the mountains echoed by Khaled Hosseini! Lunch?
‘Erm, I need to speak to you, Kwesi.’, she said so softly that she was even surprised that he heard her.
‘Ok, sure. Now or over lunch?’
‘Now. It can’t wait’, she replied curtly.
Pulling him into the meeting room, Denise took a deep breath. ‘I know this is crazy and completely unprofessional, but I’d like to know who that woman is. I know I have no right to ask, but I just felt funny when I saw you together. Felt almost like jealousy, and I know that it will eat me up if I keep it bottled up. I don’t even feel like I have a right to be jealous in the first place.’
‘Laura? That’s my ex-wife. She came to talk to me about-‘
‘You don’t need to explain.’
‘But you asked. Denise, listen…I was hoping we would not get to this point any time soon, though I must admit I knew this day would come. I think you are one of the most beautiful women in this office and your laughter is like music to my ears, and no, I am not just saying that. I mean every word! But I like things the way they are- uncomplicated. What we have going on here is what I call ‘ the forbidden fruit syndrome’. It is exhilarating because it is unrealistic and ‘forbidden’, if you like. But that is all it can ever be- the fling that never was.’
“Don’t get me wrong. I get that feeling too when I see you laughing with Jonathan and the other guys, but I know it is not my place to feel that way. You belong to another man and I need to respect that.’
‘Maybe I should just keep my distance then. Keeps things in perspective, wouldn’t you agree? It is better to give each other space so that I don’t have to deal with things like this. Funny, I almost sent you a text proposing this a while ago, but I didn’t because I didn’t have the courage to deal with the repercussions. Goodbye Kwesi.’
She walked to the door and then paused, almost as though she was reconsidering her decision. She turned and looked at him, ‘I will send you the numbers via email. Take care of yourself.’
Months passed. It was hard at first, but she got used to walking past him in the hallway without saying hello. She learnt how to keep her eyes away from his when they were in the same room, and now he was no longer Kwesi, just Mr Arhin. She had lunch alone – at her desk. The smell of his perfume no longer triggered palpitations. At the mid-year party, he offered to get her a drink and she politely declined. Her body brushed against his in the hallway once and she flinched unconsciously. Of course, it was only Jonathan who had the nerve to ask about it.
‘What? You and Lover boy broke up? Lemme be your rebound. I’ll treat you right, I promise!’, he teased before wrapping her in a hug. ‘I can tell you from experience that it is going to hurt for a while, but one day, it will be like nothing ever happened. Trust me, I know.’
‘You had an office thing? With which of the women?’
‘You won’t believe it, but Akwele was the one!’
‘You have got to be kidding me! No wonder she can’t stand me! I half expected you to even say Esaaba!’
‘Esaaba? She won’t even let me hold her hand without reaching for her hand sanitizer. Do you honestly see us working out?’
Denise laughed out loud for the first time in a long time. It felt good.
Later that day, she sat in her chair before she saw it. There was a book lying on her desk- Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains echoed. That wasn’t all- there was a note in it. In spite of herself, she smiled.
‘My dearest Denise, it is painful to walk past you in the hallway or to avoid your eyes when we are in the same room. But this, I can do without ‘breaking protocol’ and still put a smile on your face. At least reading is something we can do together, even if we are not in the same space. I miss you. Yours always, Kwesi.’
She blinked back the tears and began to read.
Thanks for reading! Let’s connect on Twitter @kenikodjo or, even better, leave a comment! 🙂
©Maukeni Padiki Kodjo, 2015.