Bilkisu was the Head of Public Relations, and Elsie was a mere Assistant Manager. No other department had an Assistant Manager present at those meetings.
The MD was making such a fuss because Elsie had written a few good reports. Bilkisu seethed every time she thought about it…and also felt very uneasy. She did not feel so secure in her position in the firm anymore. She had only gotten the job anyway because Big Dog’s wife, Binta was her elder sister.
Bilkisu therefore went out of her way to play down Elsie’s achievements, even though she secretly coveted her creativity in coming up with pitches for clients and the ease with which she wrote reports.
Much to her annoyance, Elsie seemed unaffected by her schemes, and always had a serene look on her face, which Bilkisu really wanted to scratch off with her long nails. She could feel her resentment for Elsie growing every day inside her, and she did not know how to quell it.
Even the mere sight of her was enough to put Bilkisu in a bad mood.
Bilkisu was a self-proclaimed fashionista, and it irked her that the men in their office seemed drawn to Elsie with her simple outfits, barely-there makeup and unimaginative braided hairstyles.
Now she just sat there, staring at her, even smiling.
‘What could be making her smile?’ Bilkisu wondered.
She found herself fidgeting from the intensity of Elsie’s steady gaze. The power had come back on, and the air conditioners were doing a good job of rapidly cooling the conference room, and yet she still felt sweat dripping down her back.
Just as Bilkisu was thinking of an excuse to leave the conference room, Mr. Bala, the MD bustled in.
‘Sorry I’m late guys, let’s start the meeting!’ he said jovially. ‘Big Dog’ had the cuddly physique of a bear and the harmless features of a puppy, but was very astute and shrewd as a boss. No staff member ever thought to underestimate him.
He took his seat at the head of the table.
Bilkisu and Elsie continued to stare at each other, their mutual dislike simmering in the air.
‘They say that imitation is the best form of flattery’.
‘I knew that you wouldn’t take this seriously’ Elsie chided Tunji. It was 7:43pm, and they were replaying the events of the work day.
‘I really don’t know why she told me the pitch was her idea’ Tunji mused.
Elsie adjusted her phone, cradling it on her right shoulder as she dished left-over jollof rice from the pot on to a small plate. Her sister Ella had prepared the meal and it looked and smelled delicious, but she only had an appetite for a small portion of food.
‘You know that she really likes you’ Elsie said. Tunji remained silent, and Elsie sensed that he was smiling.
Tunji had wanted to date Elsie since her first week at the firm, but dating a colleague just felt wrong to her. They became friends nonetheless and were very professional with each other at work, but he made it a routine to ask her to be his girlfriend once a month, which amused her.
‘So, what do you advise me to do?’ she asked him. ‘Should I start looking for a new job?’
Tunji thought for a moment. ‘Honestly, it wouldn’t be a bad idea. You are a great PR professional, but I know that as long as Bilkisu works at our firm, you will not see considerable growth in your role’.
‘It also helps that she’s Big Dog’s in-law’. Elsie laughed, even though she did not find the situation very funny.
‘Don’t worry about that. Big Dog isn’t stupid. He knows your value, which is why he insisted you attend management meetings’.
‘Well…I will update my CV and begin my job search again’.
‘Be very shrewd about it-you wouldn’t want Bilkisu walking in on you when you browsing for jobs on nigerianjobs.com’ Tunji warned.
‘I’ll keep that in mind’ Elsie answered. They said their goodbyes and ended the call.
Just as she was leaving the kitchen, a text message from Tunji appeared on her screen.
‘The good thing is that you would finally say yes to becoming my girlfriend if you worked somewhere else. T.’
Elsie shook her head and smiled at her phone. She did not send a reply, and she knew that he did not expect her to do so.
She suddenly had no appetite, and she covered the plate of rice and placed it in the fridge.
Elsie walked back to her living room and sat down heavily on the sofa, suddenly feeling very tired. Ella was out on a date with her new boyfriend, so Elsie had the flat to herself. The sultry vocals of Corinne Bailey Rae’s ‘Put your records on’ played on the radio, helping to put her in a meditative state of mind.
‘I need to protect myself’ she thought. Elsie understood that office politics was to be expected at the workplace, but she knew that she would not win a battle of wills against Bilkisu. She rubbed her eyes, and ran her hands over her face.
A sudden thought came into Elsie’s mind, and she stood up abruptly and walked into her bedroom. She opened her jewelry box which was on top of her dressing table. Nestled among her colourful earrings and necklaces lay her silver ‘believe’ bracelet. She slipped in on her left wrist and stretched out her arm to admire it.
Elsie noted wryly that she was long overdue for a manicure-she had started to bite her nails again and they were in an atrocious state.
She closed her eyes and envisioned herself somewhere peaceful, where the copycats could not get to her.
Just as she started to drift off, her phone beeped with the text message alert.
Elsie picked up her phone and read: ‘Please see the MD by 10am tomorrow. Thanks. Mrs Onuorah, PA to the MD’.
‘What have I done now?’ She thought.
Elsie rubbed her eyes, not looking forward to work the next day.
©Ivie M. Eke 2017
(Thanks for reading! Part 3 will be posted soon!).