Emem absentmindedly picked one of the crumpled pieces of paper from the tray. Her hand flew to her face to keep her wide rimmed glasses from falling off the bridge of her nose as she looked at the name scribbled on it in poor handwriting.
Her heart sank.
What even gave Oga this stupid idea?
She frowned and cast a dirty look at him where he was, hopping excitedly from one foot to the other, grinning from ear to ear like a Chesire cat…
She looked at the piece of paper again, wishing that by some miracle, the name there would change. She looked out of the window, seeking escape.
Segun! Of all the names to pick, Emem! See bad luck, abeg!
She pictured him in the adjoining office, bragging as usual to the other guys with his endless tales of his conquests of women, while they waited to hear the results of the Lucky Dip.
And then, there was that incident from last December she had tried hard to forget but it still remained fresh in her head.
Oga and his inexplicable love for all these holidays and “special” days, sef!
The boss had sent her to Storage to fetch the decorations for the Christmas tree that was to be put up in the reception. For some reason, Segun had chosen that particular moment to come in and fetch some old files. She was bent over cleaning the ornaments and putting them in a carton, when he sneaked up behind her and tickled her. She had jumped up in surprise as she was very ticklish. He grabbed her and kissed right on her lips. And, for some reason she hadn’t yet figured out, she had kissed him back, her palms resting on his broad shoulders. He let go of her waist, picked up the rag that had fallen from her hand and handed it to her, before sauntering off, whistling happily. She hadn’t spoken to him since then. She could swear she saw triumph in his eyes each time he looked at her from that day on. So far, she had successfully avoided him.
Her feet felt like lead weights as she dragged herself out of the conference room to the outer office. She spotted him at the far end of the office leaning over Dolapo’s desk and whatever it was he was saying to her was making her giggle like a teenager being “toasted” behind the Home Economics lab.
He winked as he caught her eye.
The look she shot him would have burned two holes in his forehead if they had been lasers.
She slipped behind her desk and silently swore to make that evening hell for him. This was going to be the Valentine he’d never forget.
Minutes after she had settled down at her desk, Segun sidled over.
“So…you picked me. Interesting. So where and when am I picking you up tomorrow night, my darling Emem?”
She didn’t miss the sarcasm in his words. She had always been the butt of his jokes, so it wasn’t new. But then, that was the first time he’d ever addressed her by her name.
“We’ll go right after work.” She spat, her face taut and expressionless.
He eyed her plaid long sleeved shirt and distressed jeans and shook his head. He couldn’t imagine she’d go out with him dressed in that!
“Na wa for you! Why are you so…I don’t know, jare! ”
She ignored him and tapped away on her computer.
The next day, he left the office half an hour early to freshen up, he said. He told her he would come back to pick her up for their date. She smelled him before she saw him. The blue jeans, t-shirt and black blazer he wore looked like they had been made with him alone in mind. Truth be told, Segun was actually quite an attractive man.
And the way his moustache and beard highlight his heart-shaped lips…makes him so….
She looked away quickly and continued tapping away at her computer.
“Can we roll?” He said, eyeing her clothes once more. If not that the boss was paying for this date, he surely didn’t think Emem was worth wasting an evening for.
What kind of girl would go on a date dressed like this?
“Okay.“ She hit the Shut Down tab and headed for the restroom.
“Let me, em, wash my face.” She said over her shoulder, as she walked away, duffel bag in hand.
Fifteen minutes later, Emem ran her hands over the curve of her hips in the knee length, tangerine colored halter neck dress. The plunging neckline was guaranteed to keep any guy’s eyes off her face. Her long, shapely legs ended in a pair of black suede peep-toe wedges. She hadn’t worn this dress since her cousin gave it to her for her last birthday. She twisted her braids into a bun at the back of her head and fastened it with a black scrunchie. An amber colored stone shone on each ear lobe. Looking at herself in the full length mirror, she smiled, satisfied.
“Segun, dear Segun…” She chuckled as she took of her glasses and inserted her contact lenses. With another spritz of perfume, she headed out of the door.
Segun had his back to her, so it was Tonye that saw her first. He let out a low whistle followed by an expletive. Segun turned on his heel and nearly tripped over himself when he saw her.
“Mogbe!” He exclaimed, his two hands on his head.
His lower jaw still hung unhinged as she stopped at her desk to shove the duffel bag under it. Emem had done that deliberately. Segun gasped. Right in front of him was the definition of the word ‘bootylicious’.
Oversized plaid shirts. Scruffy jeans. Brown converse shoes. All gone.
Where did all this come from? Surely this isn’t Emem! This must be her body double or….
She straightened up, put her phone in a matching black clutch purse, and headed straight to where Segun stood, still in a daze. She put her right palm flat on his chest and reached up, brushing his lips lightly with hers.
“Let’s go have ourselves some fun now, shall we?”
Tonye mouthed the words “Guy, you’re toast.”, over her shoulder. Segun willed his neck muscles to move in the semblance of a nod. He had lost his voice.
Outside, he opened the door for her to get into the car. Emem was waiting for him. As soon as he got in, she pulled him to herself, kissing him fiercely on the lips. Then, stopping as abruptly as she began, she leaned back into her seat and smiled.
For the first time in his life, Segun was afraid….afraid of a woman