“Your services are no longer required”, Ife said and pouted her lips. Now, her accent was no longer silky to Kiki’s ears like she once praised, now it sounded just like Miriam described it — very fake and silly.
“ Ehen, what did you say”, Kiki said and gave her a very stern look that said : you go collect! She walked closer to the counter.“ Abeg check this thing well”
“Aunty Kiki, your name has the red tag”, She said and zoomed the description under Kiki’s picture. “Come and see now, it’s true”
Kiki raised the small slab that separated the counter from the rest of the office over her head and carefully, she returned it to the latch. She stared at her picture on the screen and the Red cone that sat on the space where her ID number ought to be.
“What did I do now?” she said and pushed a wisp of her braid from her face. Ife smiled again and muttered something while she punched some keys on the keyboard. Kiki had disliked Ife from the first day she joined the Agency, though she tried to move closer to her and hold her disdain with a firm grip to the ground, her constant toady remarks when their boss was around and outright hate talks gave Kiki more reasons to release the grip.
“Why are you smiling?” Kiki said and dropped the slab.
The wan faded into shock, dropped her mouse and plugged a printer close by.
“Why are you so evil—”
“Good morning Kiki, I could hear your voice when I was outside, what happened?” Mercy, her Co-sales rep asked and searched her bag for her ID card.
“I just scanned my card and it was blocked, I was still thinking of what to and this Idiot started—”
“Aunty Kiki please leave me alone he sacked you not me, haha, Go and — “
“Hey, that’s okay o. Take my card. Kiki don’t be angry joor, did you scan the BAR code properly?” Mercy said and dropped her card close to the scanner.
“It’s not the scanner, let me go and meet Danjuma. And you, don’ worry na” Kiki said and raised the slab. She could hear the beeping of the scanner drown out mumbles of the brat, as she made her way up the stairs.
The Alley was quiet and the plants in the brown pot swayed as the breeze danced with them. The walls had boxes of different products stacked against them, among them was Ultra Strength Bitters— the product that broke the camel’s back. She pulled the knob of the door that had a sign that said: Manager.
“Good afternoon sir”, Kiki said.
“Ehen, what are you doing here?” Danjuma said and dropped the Gmail draft he was dictating to his Secretary who was typing furiously. The Secretary turned her head and gawked at Kiki.
“Sir, I just scanned my—”
“So what is my business with that? Just leave, please ” Danjuma said and picked his draft. “ You can’t do it again, then leave. We have someone already”
“Sir, I don’t understand what you are saying sir, is it about the guy from J&Sons? ”
“Don’t ask me foolish questions, Flora see where did we stop” Danjuma asked his secretary.
“Sir, it wasn’t my fault, he was—”
“Just spare me that trash, didn’t Miriam put you through on how we work here. Two months, two full months you were working with teams now that I trust you with a team you messed up. ”
Kiki stood still, her heart throbbing. She knew this moment would come, but she never thought it would come so fast. Miriam had warned her when she came to her shop after she quit the Agency. “ The Agency is not what it looks like o, hmm, plenty insult dey inside wella. You must win customer and sometimes na Craze person you go meet”
And that happened exactly yesterday when she took her team to Odigbo. They had divided the Branches of potential firms they would be visiting to present the new products they now have stocked up at the Agency’s warehouse. They had Seven targets to meet and she took two.
A tall ebony man was the firm’s manager. He wore a black suit that had flowers embroidered with yellow threads on the edges of the square pockets. His had a full beard and a low hair cut.
“Good day sir, I’m Kikiola Williams from —”
“Don’t worry, I know your agency very well, how can I help you?”
“We have this new product, Ultra strength bitters” Kiki said and searched her bag for a sample. While she was searching, she could feel his stares climb all over her. She thought of the stories her fellow Sales rep told her and how they ‘handled’ it. Who wants to lose a job that paid so well, University graduates embraced it despite the tag it bore?
“Here, take sir” Kiki said and gave him the bottle. The bottle had the picture of a muscular man holding the hands of a petite lady, both smiling.
“Hmm, l like the product, but you how tight the country is now, adding another product to the ones we have already is kind of risky.” He opened a cabinet and picked a green bottle from it. “ See this one, some body brought it yesterday and I told her that she should come back today. We have so many, I don’t think I can stock this your product o ”
Kiki scratched her chin. This was the second place she was visiting, the first firm she went to rejected he offer and now this. Her school fees and the website would be locked the next day. She pictured her mother dropping the ladle she used in stirring the bean cakes and muttering curses at the families of the people that killed her husband. Since her father’s death three years ago, the tired shoulders of her mother shouldered her needs, now that it was old and frayed, she carried the whole family on her young shoulders. Losing a target meant, she wouldn’t get any commission.
“Sir, please help me. The product is very good, at least the last team sold three units, you can check—”
“I know, “ the man said and stood from her his chair and walked toward her. He leaned closer. Kiki’s heart skipped a beat, and the voices of her fellow sales rep describing how they ‘handled’ their clients rang in her ears.
“Stop pretending now Kiki, abi what is that your name? “ He said and dug his hand into her shirt.
She was too stunned to move a finger and her body went limp, then his fingers crawled to her navel and she jolted from the trance-like state and she watched her hand descend on its arc against his face. She was surprised at her strength and stood from the chair, ready to defend herself.
“Yeh!” He shouted and rubbed his cheek. “ What was that for?”
“You are a very foolish man, ” Kiki said and smoothened the neck of the blouse.
“What are you waiting for?” Danjuma asked. “ Okay, you want me to call security on you?”
Then it poured, all her rage.
“Why are you so wicked, I went to a client and he harassed me, then you sack me because of —”
“Leave this place!”
“I won’t leave, you imbecile!” Kiki shouted.
Flora cringed and her hand pushed a glass mug to the ground.
“Don’t worry God will punish you—”
“Get out! What am I even saying, Flora dial Haruna”
Kiki cleaned the tears that trickled down her eyes and opened the door.
“So where is your file” Mr. James, the head consultant for the Foundation asked. He was in his fifties, his goatee had sprinkles of grey in it.
Kiki reached for her transparent folder from her bag. “ Take sir,” She said, raising her voice when she got to ‘ sir’, her Uncle had warned her to end all statements she made with sir: If you like look him in the face and talk to him like your mate, I have no money to give you again o.
The Foundation offered scholarships for students of their retired workers and her Uncle bought the slot from his friend, defending her certificate and answering questions correctly we’re the only part left. She stared at the man, waiting patiently for the next question.
“Your result is good o, but we can’t process all the forms. The branch at Akure and Aye brought their forms yesterday and we’ve uploaded their forms.
Kiki dropped her head, sagged her shoulders. “ When is the next batch?”
Mr. James dropped her file. “ Next year August”
“Ha, please sir, help me”
Mr. James dipped his hand into the square pocket of his suit and brought a Card.
“My address is on it, come to my house let us discuss”
Kiki’s stare darted from the man’s face to the card in his outstretched hand. She couldn’t find her voice, her heart was throbbing, beads of sweat gathered on her forehead.
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