I have a little confession to make. I hate flying. There is something about my feet leaving the ground that agitates me greatly. That coupled with the fact that the plane I entered was proudly but quietly stated by one of the staff to be quite old and so couldn’t fly long distances did not do much to ease my already tensed mind. Suffice to say the short flight to Asaba was filled with trepidation on my part although since I didn’t see any manifestation of impending doom I actually ought to have been a little more relaxed.
Asaba is a fast growing town situated along the banks of the great River Niger, just before the bridge to the Eastern part of the country. It is essentially a town for civil service workers although the hustle and bustle business of nearby Onitsha rubs off on it a bit. Added to the fact that it is a state capital and that a lot of the infrastructure looked new and very modern, I was quite impressed.
The airport was located a little bit outside the town. I alighted from the plane by 1pm to a vast and tarred field occupied by taxis for hire looking out for prospective passengers. I took one and called out the name of the hotel I would be staying in during the period. The driver nodded and soon I was being driven into the main town itself. The whole place appeared less calm than Lagos and for a moment I fantasized about coming over to settle down.
The driver took me through a few streets and soon we were at the hotel. I checked in and the hotel manager came to welcome me personally and show me to my room. I checked the number on the door. D19.
“Please feel free to let me know if you need anything,” the manager said politely. I thanked him and he left me alone. I sighed and took off the chequered grey sweater I had put on. The drive down had been a little hot and the room obviously hadn’t been aired in some time. The room itself was a simple one with a single large bed with bedpost lamps, a table and sofa for reading or working, a single wardrobe filled with plastic hangers and a very elaborate restroom. I promptly turned on the air conditioning and ordered for lunch. Then I made a call to Jenny, the representative of Leemen’s Consulting that I had been in contact with.
“Welcome to Asaba, Mr chukudi, I trust you had a pleasant flight.”
I lied the second time that day, “Yes I did, Jenny. Are we seeing today?”
“Sure,” she replied. “My boss has scheduled a meeting for 3pm and we are expecting that you’ll be there. I’ll come over to pick you up.”
“Thanks Jenny.” I said. I could almost feel her smile at the other end of the phone.
“So how are you finding our little town na?” Not as busy as Lagos, I know but we move things when we want to.”
“I believe you.” I said.
“Maybe I can show you around when the meeting is over?” She asked coyly.
I paused. Over the past few weeks our calls had become slightly less than professional. I shamefully admit I had enjoyed the sound of her cool voice as it wafted through the speakers of my phone and Nina had occasionally admonished me for having an online girlfriend albeit playfully, but now I was about to meet her in the flesh I decided it was time to be more formal. I didn’t want to start giving her ideas.
“Erm, jenny…what say we discuss it after the meeting? For all we know it could last for the rest of the day.” I hoped I didn’t sound too condescending.
I heard her sigh. “No problem. You are going to be here for two weeks anyway. There’s no rush. See you by 3pm.” And she hung up.
A knock on my door a few minutes later heralded my lunch; fried rice and chicken with a serving of coleslaw. I ate ravenously after which I had my bath and changed to something more formal, a red shirt and black trousers. I found a suit I had hurriedly packed and pondered whether I should wear it or not. Then I made a quick call to Nina.
“Hey baby,” her cute voice came on almost as soon as the phone began to ring.
“Hey baby.” I replied. “That was fast, you didn’t even let the phone ring.”
“Well, you know I miss you dear” she said. “How was your flight?”
“Horrible,” I said with a groan and she laughed. She knew how I hated to fly. We talked about her parents and how she was enjoying her visit. I was glad to know that she was happy.
“I do miss you, you know,” I said after a while. “And staying in this town for two weeks is going to be kind of lonely.”
“Don’t worry, you have your girlfriend jenny to keep you company don’t you?” She asked mischievously.
“Yeah, she can keep me company since you plan on abandoning me here.” I said laughing. Then, “You are not worried are you? You know I won’t …”
“I trust you Chuks.” She said in an even voice. “I can’t keep hovering over you like a hawk. All I can do is trust that you’ll be the gentleman I know you to be and you won’t do anything to hurt me.”
“Darn it.” I said. “And here I was thinking of all the deliciously sinful things I could do with my online girlfriend.”
She laughed again, that laugh I loved so much. I was so lucky Nina wasn’t the jealous type which was the reason I could joke and discuss freely with her and she knew it.
“I love you babe.” I said.
“I love you too.” She said. “Besides, you haven’t met Jenny before. For all you know she could be an obese, short elderly woman with a face like pa jimoh.”
“Well, I’m about to find out,” I said as I looked out my window and saw a Honda, 2010 model with the imprint ‘Leemen consulting‘ pull up in the parking lot. “Talk to you later babe.”
“Okay dear.” She said and hung up.
I took one last look in the mirror and went outside, coming across the manager again in the lobby.
“Hope you enjoyed your meal sir?” He asked jovially. I nodded and smiled and headed out the hotel door into the warm afternoon sun, just as the occupants of the car came out. There was a man in a suit who had driven the car and a woman behind him. I’m not even going to pretend to describe the man because I honestly don’t remember. I was too busy looking at his exceedingly beautiful partner.
Long braided black hair complemented an almost obscenely beautiful face with piercing light brown eyes and pouting red lips. Her fair skin was so smooth it seemed to have been sculpted from milk. Her smile radiated so much warmth and her teeth were pearly white. She didn’t have a single straight line on her, there were curves everywhere. She had put on a simple body hugging yellow top with frilled collars and sleeves and matched it with an orange pencil skirt. Her long elegant legs were magnificently sculpted and ended in feet articulately encased in matching orange and black high heeled shoes. I gauged that with the shoes off, she would be slightly below my height. When she started walking towards me I actually took a step back to appreciate her movements. I was still looking at this ravishing beauty when she held out her hand in friendship.
“You must be Mr Chukwudi?” She said in that voice I had come to know so well. I thought I had answered but apparently I didn’t because she repeated the question.
“Sir? Are you Mr Chukwudi?”
I smiled at her and wondered what she was talking about. Then my brain started functioning again.
“Yes I am!” I almost shouted. “Please call me Chuks. All my friends do.”
She looked at me for a few seconds and her face registered some puzzlement, like she was realizing something. Then she smiled again and I lost consciousness for a nano-second.
“Pleased to meet you. My name is Jenny. Please join us in the car, let’s take you to our firm.” And she turned and walked elegantly back to the car.
Oh dear, I thought. I definitely wasn’t going to describe her to Nina.