Rain’s most complex task everyday was working the broken coffee machine for Chief Edozie and his unending stream of girlfriends and business partners. Most of the girls that came looking for him were young, really young. They were rude and snooty to her all the time, something she found befuddling because she knew a good number of them. Some of the girls she recognised from her alma mater, the Federal University Otuoke, and others she bumped into every now and then on streets, at parties and in places she hung out in Yenagoa.
As for the people he did business with, she doubted if the women even knew her name, and they never acknowledged her greeting. With the men however, it was different. The nice ones didn’t look up at her as she poured them coffee. The not-so-nice ones smiled at her. The bad ones ogled whenever she walked into Chief Rowland Edozie’s office with coffee or when she walked out of the office with empty cups. Those that found ingenious ways of slipping their call cards between teacup and saucer were the very bad ones and those she never spoke to David about. He would never admit whenever it came up in an argument, but David had trust issues.
Edozie Express was killing her, but every time she brought it up with Human Resources, they said the same thing – her case was different. What they always couldn’t tell her was why her case was different, and why she was made to carry out the most basic duties in the office of the chief executive officer of the company in spite of her qualification and designation. Another thing she found troubling was that her salary was anything but basic even though her duties and responsibilities around the office were.
What she would consider the most difficult aspect of her uninspiring and often non-challenging job was being asked to bring files from the office to the house on the days her boss chose to work from home. On those occasions, it wasn’t just Chief Edozie sending her on meaningless errands that got to her; his wife and children took the opportunity of her presence on their turf to order her around like she was a common maid. For Rain, the challenge was staying calm because she had been told the unpleasant end of those who dared to complain. She was warned that any eruption on her part, no matter how mild would mean the end of her job – and she needed the job and the money.
“Rain, buckle my shoes, I like the way you do it.”
“Rain, fetch my toys. I don’t know why I didn’t bring them out from the room with me when I was coming out just now.”
“Rain, count how many beads are in my bracelet. I just feel like knowing.”
“Rain, comb out my hair. You combed it five minutes ago and I feel like it’s scattered already.”
“Rain, check that the guest toilet is flushed. I know that it is but you can never tell.”
“Rain, help bring out my fabric from my friend, Adanna’s car outside. She didn’t come with her house help.”
“Rain, can you confirm if this orange juice isn’t too sugary for me before I drink it? I don’t want to get fat.”
“Rain, I need more cream in my coffee.”
The request for more cream was made yesterday in the house. Rain was bringing his wife the cream she had asked for when her phone rang. Her boss’ wife was mad that Rain placed the caller above her coffee. In annoyance, Mrs Edozie did the unthinkable. Her action was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. Rain’s back had long been pushed beyond the wall and it emboldened her to speak up against the tyranny of the family.
“Yesterday I cried when I got home. Sir, I cried because you made me feel small and I haven’t felt that way in a long time.”
Rain looked at her boss straight in the eye. She had requested to speak with him privately after clearing out his lunch and he obliged her. She didn’t know where the courage came from but she knew it was something that had to be said or she might be rude to his wife the next time they met and she didn’t want that to happen.
“I made you feel small?” Chief Rowland Edozie asked, perplexed.
“Well, not you. Your wife,” Rain continued calmly. “She made me feel very small sir, like I was worth nothing and she did it in front of your children.”
“When did this happen?” a baffled Edozie asked Rain, trying not to act perturbed by the sudden show of bravery from his always respectful and docile executive assistant. He knew he was entitled to get angry at her effrontery and scold her, but then he thought against it. He didn’t like the look Rain gave him or the completely broken expression in her eyes as she spoke. She was almost in tears and everyone who knew him knew that he turned totally squidgy whenever a woman watered up in front of him.
“Yesterday. At your house,” an agitated Rain replied.
“Was it the incident with your phone?”
“That call was about my mother, and you know sir, that I wouldn’t have taken that call if it wasn’t of utmost importance. Her condition got worse and she had to be rushed to the hospital.”
“I’m sorry to hear about your mother, but you must know how my wife feels about people not doing exactly what she wants. And to make the matter worse, you were holding the cream for her coffee while talking on the phone. What if spit – ”
“Sir, my mother’s life – ”
“But you know how fastidious madam can be. And about the phone, I thought I gave you money to buy a new one? I even asked you when she left the dining table if you wanted the latest iPhone.”
“It’s not about the money or replacing the phone with a more expensive one sir. You see sir, the way your wife yanked it from me and tossed it against the wall so hard it shattered into pieces; no one has ever done that to me before. And your kids, they just stood there laughing like I was some foolish house girl who never gets anything done right. She humiliated me in front of your children and household staff. I doubt I’d get over it,” Rain said, tearing up for real this time.
They were in the large office Chief Edozie occupied in the pent house of one of the most impressive pieces of real estate in the heart of the sprawling Yenagoa Business District.
“Look, Madam Rain Tamuno, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. My wife broke your phone and I immediately gave you money to replace it. If your mother is sick, go and see her. In fact, take the rest of the day off and tomorrow too if you like.” The way Chief Edozie said it, Rain knew the conversation was over. But she had one more thing to say.
“Sir – ”
“And on your way out, you can stop by the accountant’s office. Tell him I want to see him. I’m sure there will be hospital bills to pay when she gets better and is discharged from the hospital. Let that be my contribution to your family problem.”
“You are still not happy?” Chief Edozie didn’t hide his exasperation. “I expected you to say ‘thank you,’ that is what we were taught to say even as children when someone did something nice for us and we appreciate it.”
“Thank you sir,” Rain mouthed. As always, his gift had bought her silence.
“Young lady, let me tell you what I have noticed about you in these few months you have been here as my executive assistant. You are full of foolish pride and impatience. In your mind, you think that you are smart and that you can run this company if I let you. Let me tell you now that you cannot and you don’t know anything.”
“Sir, I graduated with a second class upper in – ”
“See, young lady, I know what grade you graduated from the university with. I also know what I told you when I asked you to come and work for me here in the head office. I have plans for you, Rain, but you just go and take care of your mother, and when you get back, you and I, we will talk. For now, please leave my office.”