The routine continued every day. Working with Femi Omari was hectic. Most times, she stayed with him until 10 p.m when everyone would have gone.
One day morning as he got to the office, he dropped some dollars on his table, right before Idara.
“I hate to see people who do corporate jobs like this one in cheap shoes. Take that money and buy yourself some quality heels,” he said, moving his face to his laptop.
Idara’s cheeks flushed bright pink, with humiliation. She wasn’t quite sure he was referring to her.
“Mr. Femi, I am not comfortable wearing very high-heeled shoes.”
“Miss Idara,” he said, calling her name for the first time, “there are high-heeled shoes that are comfortable like block heels. They are comfortable. My mom who is 50 years old wears them to work. I don’t like the kind of cheap stilettos you wear to work. They are shaky heels. Take that money and ask the driver to take you to Tanna’s place to shop for shoes.”
“Thank you, Mr. Femi,” she said.
“Learn how to drive. The driver won’t be working with us anymore next month. He will be going back to the HCT department where he belongs.”
“Okay, Mr. Femi. Thank you,” she said calmly. She took the money from the table and walked away. Femi stared at her as she slammed the door.
He wondered how long it would take before he could get used to seeing her without trembling. But whatever happened, he was never going to ask a staff of his company out.
Tanna’s place was one of the luxury fashion houses in Lagos. When the driver arrived at the store, Idara gasped. The luxury shop was clearly out of her league.
As she stepped into the store slowly, a young woman rose to meet her.
“Hello, how may we help you?”
“Good day Ma’am. Mr. Femi sent me here…”
“Oh, Femi Omari? Oh great,” she smiled excitedly. “Do you have anything in mind?” she asked.
“Yeah. Block heels, wedges and a few high-heeled shoes that are not as high as yours,” Idara said, pointing at the lady’s feet.
The lady laughed. “You see my height? You can’t catch me wearing something lower than this. By the way, I’m Tanna.” She giggled and walked away while showing Idara around the shoe collections area and allowing her to pick the designs she wanted.
When Idara saw the prices on the shoes, she was flabbergasted. She had never owned a shoe worth 15,000 naira before now.
“These shoes are expensive,” she said with a frown on her face.
“Yes, they are expensive shoes. Did Femi not tell you they are designers? He comes here to shop for his mom,” Tanna said.
Idara shrugged. “I can find these shoes in Eket for 7,000 Naira or less.”
Tanna laughed, rolling her eyes. “Hey, you’re too pretty to be patronizing some local market for designer shoes. Those are fake.”
Idara swallowed hard.
“If anything happens to these shoes, we have warranty cards in their boxes. It’s a 1-year warranty, and it’s exclusive to designer items like these ones.”
“Okay. It’s just that this isn’t my money. Normally, I wouldn’t buy these shoes…”
“It’s fine,” Tanna smiled. “It seems you are Femi’s new babe?” She winked at Idara, her long lashes touching her face.
“I am his assistant,” Idara replied boldly, looking into Tanna’s face to see if she could find disappointment written there.
“Oh. New assistant? There was this guy that used to work with him.”
“I am 2 months old. I started working with him in September.”
“Oh, great! We will be having Black Friday sales by the end of November, so our shoe prices will be slashed by half,” Tanna said as she put the 8 beautiful shoes into different paper boxes.
“I hope you will come to the shop?” Tanna said hopefully.
Idara smiled. “I hope that one day, I will be able to afford these shoes on my own.”
“Look at this fine girl? Don’t you have a Sugar Daddy eh?” Tanna asked, giggling and winking at Idara at the same time.
“Sugar Daddy for what?”
“For good money to shop Tanna’s shoes,” she said.
Idara gave a mean stare but decided not to respond. She thought to tell her to use all the money realized from the sales of designers’ shoes to buy herself a good cream for light-skinned women.
She brought out the money for the shoes and handed them to her quietly. “He gave me dollars,” she said.
“Wow, this Femi eh,” Tanna laughed, counting the money. “I owe you some balance.”
“Over 3,000 Naira.”
“Okay. Do you have anything worth that amount?”
“Emm…” Tanna said, looking around the shop, “Yes! I have Victoria Secrets panties.”
“Hell no. Let me have my change,” Idara said hastily as she piled up the boxes of shoes in her arms. Tanna shook her head and handed her her balance in Naira.
“Bye!” she waved at her excitedly.
The driver helped Idara place the boxes in the boot of the car.
The first thing Idara did as she got back to the office was to call Toke. While shopping, she had picked up a pair of shoes for her tomboy best friend.
“Hello? Toke, I got a pair of shoes for you at a shoe shop today,” Idara said over the phone.
“Ah, have you received your salary for the month of November? Because we have not been paid o.”
“No. Oga gave me money to shop for shoes.”
“Are you for real? Oga Femi?”
“What did you do for him please?”
“Hmm. I don’t know o. He said I should stop wearing my cheap stiletto heels to the office. Then he gave me some money to shop.”
“Hmm. I hope the shoes you got for me are masculine shoes? You know I don’t like all those feminine shoes.”
“Ah Toke, you have to learn how to feel and look like a woman. Before I forget, I hope you will teach me how to drive? Oga says my driver is returning to the HCT department next week. So I have to learn how to drive.”
“I’m leaving for offshore the day after tomorrow.”
“Oh God! Toke! And I was planning to come for the weekend at your house so that we can go to the club. I miss clubbing really.”
“I am sorry. Before I forget, your sister, Ini, called. She has been worried that you don’t pick your calls.”
“She failed the aptitude test again. She got me angry. Does she know how much I spent to make sure she writes JAMB every year? I am tired of that girl abeg. If I had money, I would have sent her to a private university. But let her keep staying at home.”
Toke laughed. “Ore mi, calm down. No kill yourself for these people abeg.”
“They are my family, my blood,” Idara said calmly.
The two women talked over the phone for a long time.
When the last meeting for the day was over, Femi ordered Idara to go buy him food at Monalisa’s place.
“The driver has gone back to HCT, Mr. Femi.”
“Nobody is available now to drive me to the restaurant.”
“You have an official car, why must someone drive you?”
“I don’t know how to drive,” she said flatly.
Femi walked to his seat and stood for a while.
“So, I should drive myself to Ikoyi and leave my paperwork undone because you decided not to learn how to drive? Why did I employ you?”
“I asked my friend to teach me how to drive, but she is….”
“A friend? Mr. Ibrahim was your driver for over a month. Why didn’t you ask him to teach you?”
“Because you were daft. Get the fuck out of my office!” he yelled at her.
Before she could break down and indulge in the tears that were threatening, Mr. Fayose walked in with a few Chinese men who smelt of garlic.
“You look worried Miss, everything okay?” He whispered to her.
“Just a frustrating morning Mr. Fayose,” Idara said and walked away. She was really angry and bitter about the way her boss yelled at her.
That evening, when Femi was done working, he told Mr. Fayose to give Idara a driver that would teach her how to drive.
A few days later and the “L” sign was perfectly fixed behind her car. She drove gently from her house to the office every day until she got accustomed to it.