[STORY] Heartstrings(episode 1-12)
Damilare Peters arranged the pay-slips on the desk. The end of every month felt like a jackpot for him. He had a lot of debts to settle and a few things to purchase. He hoped he would have enough left to get him by before he received another paycheck. He considered himself lucky to have gotten employment in Hopewell Dental Clinic as an Accountant. His paycheck was the double of what his peers earned. The nurses strode into his office without knocking, followed by the receptionist.
“Don’t you girls ever knock?”
“The Accountant,” Adanne sat on his desk.
“Accountant, accountant, how you dey now?” Ibinabo settled on a chair in front of the table while Sikemi took the other seat.
“Where is our pay slip?”
He searched her face. The receptionist never wasted time. She was always direct and straight to the point. He liked her, but his height might be a problem. She was at least three inches taller. He knew several girls who didn’t like dating men shorter than they were. He had seen her ogle at the CEO on more than one occasion. He was shorter than her too. If she liked their boss, maybe she might give him a chance.
Sikemi stared back at him puzzled. His intent gaze made her uneasy. Was he interested in her? He wasn’t that bad. He had a good physique, but too short for her liking. He was from her tribe and that was a plus. She was interested in their boss. If only he would notice her. The man had been acting beside himself lately. She had a feeling that he was sort of depressed. She wished he would confide in her. Who was she anyway? His employee, she wasn’t even his friend.
“Have you noticed Oga’s mood swings?” Adanne tapped her on the shoulder.
She looked up at her and nodded.
“That’s true. He is being kind of cold and unapproachable lately,” Ibinabo chimed in.
“May be he is stressed up,” Adanne reasoned.
“Abeg, abeg, take your pay-slips. Don’t turn my office into a gossip center,” he distributed their slips. The nurses chuckled, collected their slips and headed out.
“Oga has turned to stone cold Steve Austin,” Damilare said casually.
Her confused look made him to laugh, “Who is Steve Austin?”
“Steve Austin now, Wrestle Mania…”
Her clueless gaze remained on his face, “I don’t watch wrestling matches.”
She eyed him and got to her feet.
“Steve Austin is mean, cold, powerful, six feet, broad shouldered, fair, six pack, steel-like stance, emotionless and strong.”
“So, our boss is Stone cold Bassey Etim?”
“Exactly, without the height, muscles and you know.”
She started to laugh.
“I was there when he lashed out at Doctor Sylvester.”
“What happened?” she sat back on the chair, eager for news.
“If words were swords, Dr. Slyvester would have had severe cuts all over him.”
“Ouch!” She placed a hand on her chest.
“A broken heart does nasty things to a man’s mind.”
“But, I thought he was over his ex-girlfriend,” she raised an eye-brow.
He shrugged, “Maybe something or someone re-opened his old wounds.”
“I guess we are in for a repeat episode of what happened when they just broke up a year ago.”
“God help us,” she leaned against the chair and folded her arms across her chest.
He drove homewards, despite the storm; he navigated his way into the Government Residential Area. He thought of eating catfish pepper soup for dinner after taking a hot bath. A hot milky beverage would make him to relax and send him off to Slumber land. He had not been sleeping well and it was affecting him physically and mentally. Two houses away from his place, he saw a group of people gathered at a corner and shouting at a man, a woman and a young lady. They stayed closed together, drenched and shivering. What was going on? Should he find out or head home? He didn’t like getting wet in the rain. He drove off and stopped in front of the white house. He changed his mind and got out of the car. He approached the crowd and recognized many of them. Most of them lived on that particular street.
“Uncle Bassey,” she tapped him on the shoulder.
“What are you doing out here? Don’t you know you can catch a cold?” he eyed his neighbour’s daughter.
She pouted her lips.
“What is going on here?”
She moved closer to him, “This man, his wife and daughter, have been living in that uncompleted building down the street. The people in the area want them to live.”
His brows creased in a frown. What was their business? “Nobody has a say in this matter except the owner of the building.”
“The sister of the land owner is the one leading the protest.”
“Witchcraft,” he said under his breath.
“They said they don’t have anywhere else to go, but, no one is listening.”
He sighed and approached the stranded family.
“Doctor Bassey…” someone called him from the crowd, “Please tell them to leave or else I will call the police.”
He ignored the person and addressed the family, “Good evening.”
They stared back at him blankly and cringed.
“I live in that house over there,” he pointed at the white house, they followed his gaze, “It is raining, let’s go in… least you catch a cold or something worse, then, we can talk.”
They exchanged glances and looked back at him.
“Please come with me,” he beckoned at them.
They followed him immediately, but, with caution. The crowd watched them and dispersed, but, Chinyere followed the doctor and the strange family. He led them into the building and returned to get his car. He parked the car inside the compound and hurried into the building. He met Chinyere by the stairway.
“Not now, not now,” he dashed off.
She stamped her feet on the ground and watched him leave. She wanted to know why he took the family home. What he did was very risky. He didn’t know them from Adam and they were inside his house. She decided to confront him in the morning. She dragged her feet and returned to her flat.
Bassey led the family into one of the guest rooms.
“Do you have anything to change into?”
They shook their heads.
“Okay, I will be right back,” he hurried away and returned with a pile of clothes. He dumped them on the large bed, “This…” he picked up a
tee-shirt and a pair of black trousers, “It belongs to me…” he sized up the man who looked like he was in his fifties, “I think this will suit you,” he gave it to the man, “The blouses and skirts are for my younger sister, she spends her weekends here sometimes,” he looked at the woman in her forties and the young lady in her mid-twenties.
“Thank you,” they chorused.
“When you have all taken a hot bath, please join me at the dining,” he retreated and found his way out.
The man held hands with his wife and daughter. They were grateful to God for rescuing them from the angry crowd. They had been terrified because they had nowhere else to go that night. The uncompleted building had been their abode for several months. God had sent them an angel and they were grateful.
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