BOOKHOUSE PRIZE-SHOTS FIRED
SHOTS FIRED BY EMEM BASSEY
RITA UKARA is a single woman/problem solver among her two other married friends; having helped them in their marital woes, she decided to help herself by ‘shooting her shot’ at BENJAMIN INYANG.
The initial plan entailed befriending a staff of Global Press Limited to get close to the owner, ZACH INYANG, who’d raped her younger sister, leading to her suicide. Rita wanted revenge. She also wanted a baby with Benjamin, Zach’s nephew, because, no one would love/marry a chubby woman in her late thirties; it was supposed to be business not love.
Benjamin relocated from Lagos to avoid being prosecuted for office rape. He didn’t know he’d been drugged and set up by colleagues. Yet his uncle/boss, instead of chastising him, promoted him to Branch manager at the Akwa Ibom state branch of the company.
He just wanted to work and forget Lagos but Rita Ukara became the new nuisance who flirted without shame and proposed a night of sex as payment for a graphic design that got them a huge contract.
After falling in love with her, he discovers that she was with him to avenge her sister. Zach is arrested; Benjamin and Rita fall in love/marry.
“We are talking about this later.” Nene announced on the phone.
“I have no doubt about that,” Rita replied humorously.
She was just about to drop her phone on the middle console of her car when it buzzed again, this time Eka was calling her.
“I feel loved with all these early morning calls.”
“Hey, Rita. So, was I dreaming or did you actually chat in the group last night about having a baby with a certain hunk named Benjamin Inyang, working next door with the enemy and possibly related to said enemy as they share surnames?”
The way she coined the question made Rita want to laugh but she bit her lip to hold back her humour. Her decision wasn’t funny to them, her friends were being concerned. If she were to be on the other side, she would be concerned for herself too.
“You weren’t dreaming, Eka.”
“I wish I was. What are you thinking?”
“That he’s freaking handsome and intelligent.”
“You know what I mean. Rita, he works with the...”
“Can we talk about this later, please?” she injected a full dose of plea into her tone.
“Why, what are you doing now? It’s a few minutes to seven am.”
She hadn’t wanted them to know what she was up to, but Eka had always been more perceptive than Nene, and her tone held suspicion.
She groaned, “I’m at work.”
“This early? And I know Kate practically runs that place because...” she paused and gasped, obviously realizing why she was at work. “Oh my God, Rita!”
She cringed at her shout, “Yep, you guessed right, I’m making contact with the victim today.” Her tone remained light.
“We need to talk about this before you do it!” Eka’s mother hen tendencies had reared.
Parked inside the huge compound that housed two companies; hers occupied the top floor while the printing press, Global Press Limited, took the first floor for offices and the ground floor, a ware house type, for the printing press. She waited in her car for when Benjamin would show up. She planned to block the heart stopping, melanin gorgeous, pant meltingly handsome man and proposition him. Yep, she was crazy indeed.
Rita had been looking for a ticket into the printing press. Recently, it’d come to her notice that she needed to get close to the owner to get information that would give her peace. And so, she’d begun showing up at her office whenever her workers alerted her to the presence of the owner of Global Press.
As though the man suspected her intent, he never remained there for more than twenty minutes. She always got to the office to hear he’d just left and the receptionist of his company hadn’t bulged in giving her the man’s number. So, she’d opted for another way in, she’d decided she needed to befriend a senior member of staff.
Kate Usoro, her company manager, had informed her of a new addition, a branch manager, as Global Press had numerous branches in and out of the state. She’d pointed Benjamin Inyang out through her barely used office window and her heart had stopped beating.
She’d promised her mom she’d get her a grandchild even if she couldn’t find a husband. It had been a joke at the time and when her mother died, she’d forgotten about it. But now, after watching Benjamin for weeks, her ovaries were weeping in need.
At thirty-seven, Rita was realistic enough to accept that no man was going to fall head over heels in love with her, marry her and live happily ever after. So, she wanted a child of her own; and what better specimen of man perfection to use than Benjamin Inyang.
“I’m sorry, babe, I have to go. We’ll talk later,” she ended the call and switched off her phone.
As far as Kate, her company manager knew, she was looking to befriend a senior staff at Global Press to be able to reach the owner who had connections to government officials who might need the services of her company.
On the other hand, her friends believed she wanted revenge and now, a sperm donor.
It had gone beyond all of what they thought when she’d began having sensual dreams featuring a pleasantly naked Benjamin. She didn’t care about ovaries, business or revenge. She just wanted one night with this man that had turned her conscious and unconscious world topsy-turvy.
Rita watched from her rear-view mirror as his car slowed into the parking spot beside hers. She swallowed hard as she contemplated what she was about to do. There was no time to go back now, she was here.
She opened her car the same time he did and stepped out. She flashed a friendly smile at him over the top of her salon car. “Good morning, handsome.”
Ben Inyang locked his car as calmly as possible before turning to the...urchin. It was the only description that came to mind as he glanced at the short, fat woman dressed in a T-shirt covered in artsy sprinkle of colours.
In his forty-one years of existence, he still couldn’t get how or where strangers got off addressing people they didn’t know with long time familiarity. It baffled him when some of his friends did it to strange girls, in reality and online. It baffled him when strange girls did it to him, mostly online. And it still baffled him now, that this strange woman did it to him.
The only form of action, the one he usually took, was to ignore the strangers. And this urchin, this woman was getting just that.
“Morning,” he replied with no returning smile and walked away. He hung his laptop bag on his right shoulder, held his suit from the collar to avoid rumpling it and flipped his key ring to get the one that unlocked the main entrance into the building.
“Wow, your smile almost blinded me there for a minute. I could have sworn the sun just flashed before my eyes. Such a nice fellow,” she said behind him, having followed him to the iron door.
Was she seriously being sarcastic because he’d ignored her unwanted familiarity? Ben was more than baffled at this creature’s temerity. He wished he’d not decided to come to work this early. But then he thought of the silence of his house, one he’d created, and decided that coming to work early, hearing the warm-ups of the press machines, was a good start to the day. Except of course, there was this pest.
What he wished for was for some of his workers to have showed up as early as him to deal with this woman, so that he could brood in peace. It had just occurred to him that she could be a customer and ignoring her wasn’t right, especially, when his main job here, apart from being shipped from the Lagos branch to avoid arrest, was to increase profit.
Ben cringed at the yawning noise the iron door made as he pushed it open to reveal the staircase. He imagined the freedom climbing the stairs and leaving this woman behind would provide, but then he recalled she could be a customer. Right, he sighed and turned.
Her car had obviously been covering the rest of her get-up. The colourful T-shirt was over a black baggy short, finished off with luxurious flip-flops. The flip-flops, he admired, because they were clearly male and expensive; something he knew about since he owned a good number of them, unlike his ignorance of the accusation he’d been labelled at the Lagos branch of the company.
His eyes finally focused on her face and he had the urge to immediately look away from her piercing brown eyes; it felt as though she was looking into his soul, those eyes were too sharp and...
“You could take a picture, I won’t mind,” she grinned at him, batting her lashes in the eternal sign of female coy. She had caught him staring and she’d assumed he was, what, attracted to her? It would be a laughable notion if he was one to laugh.
“How can I help you this morning – madam?”
“The name’s Rita Ukara.”
She extended her hand for a handshake but his gaze remained on her face, pointedly ignoring her outstretched hand. Her eyebrows flew up, almost reaching her hairline. She had long hair; could it be artificial? These days women strived to make artificial look natural. And with her hair bunched up in an untidy bun, he couldn’t tell.
Again, why was he thinking about her hair?
“Okay? How can I help you?” the question came out sharper than he meant it but he didn’t care. He just needed this woman gone.
“Really, you’re not even going to acknowledge my name by, perhaps, introducing yourself?”
Ben loved order in his life and it reflected in everything he did. It was weird that coming in contact with this strange woman was making him feel quite disorderly. He felt like he must have left a sink full of dirty plates at home or dirty clothes scattered on the floor of his room, and sure enough, the resulting anxiety tapped at the walls of his stomach at the terrible consequences that could occur for being disorderly. Like the one time he’d gotten drunk, bad things had happened.
He hardened his jaw to curb the tick of anxiety. He was sure he’d left nothing untidy at home, so it must be staring at the most untidy person he’d ever met that was causing the flips in the pit of his stomach.
Tendrils of her hair wavered over her face, she was wearing flip-flops and shorts on a Tuesday morning, the T-shirt wasn’t helping either; it definitely was her. And he needed her gone to get back his peace. He opened his mouth to tell her off but she finally sighed, obviously getting tired of his silence and frown.
“I have business with the company upstairs.”
There were two companies upstairs, he’s and the event management company, his heart leaped; please let it be the event management company.
“Which one?” he asked in obvious exasperation.
“Err...the one at the top floor.” She pointed to the last floor.
She looked clueless. Figured she wouldn’t know the name of the company she was going to do business with, thank God it wasn’t his company.
“Yes, that one.” She nodded, smoothing her hair from her face, she seemed nervous, probably realizing how dumb she appeared.
“You’re a little early for them. They open at nine.” Against his better judgement or maybe out of selfishness, as he really wanted to have his peace, he decided to sic this possibly mad woman on Kate. Tall, beautiful, willowy and well dressed Kate, his kind of woman if he decided he wanted one. She was orderly and it reflected in the few communications he’d had with her.
“I can give you the number of the manager, Kate Usoro. She’s conscientious in her job and would definitely make an exception for an early customer.”
Ben thought he saw suspicion in her gaze but he couldn’t be sure because she cleared her throat and nodded, “Yes, sure. That’ll be nice.”
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