Catherine opened her eyes slowly as the rays of sun shone on her face through her window. She stretched lazily, yawned and rubbed her eyes and wondered why she was so tired. Memories of the previous night suddenly came rushing through her mind and she immediately sat up. She remembered how close the HR manager got to her hiding place until Owusu showed up suddenly, swinging a bunch of keys which distracted him. Owusu! God bless his soul! How she managed to sneak out and bolt away before being found out, was another story to be told. All in all, last night was an adventure and she was glad she wasn’t found out. However, she was still bothered by the information she gathered and what she witnessed.
“I need to act fast and tread carefully” she muttered to herself and got out of bed.
A few minutes later, she entered the kitchen and found Auntie Abena, her nanny, cooking.
“What’s cooking?” she asked and reached for a bag of flour.
“Your father has requested for my special breakfast and so I’m getting right at it.” Auntie Abena winked and lifted a pan of oats off of the fire.
“What are you doing with the flour?” she asked.
“I feel for pancakes this morning.” Catherine smiled and took some eggs and milk from the refrigerator.
“Do we have nutmegs?”
“Oh yes.” Auntie Abena took some from the cabinet and handed it over to her.
The two women got to work and hummed along to some hymns which was playing from the radio. When she was done, Catherine joined her father at the dining table for breakfast. He dropped the magazine he was reading when Catherine sat down. He smiled at her. Catherine picked the magazine up and realized it was the famous ‘PRESTIGE’ magazine. He was on the cover page holding a plaque with the caption “Entrepreneur of the Year”
“Amazing. Ever since we attended the event, I’ve been waiting for this edition of the Prestige magazine. I want to catch a glimpse of my gown from the lens of a professional camera. Congrats, daddy. I’m so proud of you.” Catherine flipped through the pages to the center pages, where she found pictures of herself in her shimmering gown.
“That gown of yours is so beautiful.” Auntie Abena who was setting the table and happened to see the pictures commented.
“Thank you.” Catherine said.
“Thanks for this special breakfast, Abena. I’m sure to have a great day after this meal.” Vitalis praised Auntie Abena as he set his eyes on the dried fruits which she had used to garnish the oats and the omelettes.
“Anything for you, sir!” Auntie Abena said and left for the kitchen.
They began to eat and caught up with what was happening in each other’s lives. Catherine spoke at length about how she was faring at work and the happenings over the week.
“Dad, can you believe someone’s been leaving cookies in my desk anonymously?”
“Amazing!” Vitalis chuckled.
“Dad!” Catherine exclaimed.
“Don’t you find that creepy?”
“Creepy? Not at all. Someone obviously has an interest in you. Find out who it is and bring him to me. I’d like to evaluate him to see if he’s worth it.”
Catherine frowned. “Lariba thinks the same way too. I don’t know why I find that creepy.”
“That even reminds me. I got you some cookies from my trip to France. You’ll love them.”
“You see, what makes the whole issue creepy to me is the fact that the person somehow managed to find out that I love cookies. How did he or she know? Thanks anyway, dad. I’m sure I’ll love them.”
“Just don’t over think things. Enjoy it while it lasts.”
Catherine sighed and poured some syrup on her pancake and ate it.
“And dad, about Comfort Aning, she’s been up to really sinister things of late. I overheard her saying she was not going to retire….” Catherine narrated her encounter the previous night to her dad, trying hard not to reveal the part where she caught her red-handed with the HR manager.
Vitalis listened with rapt attention and spoke when Catherine was done with her narration. “I’m not surprised at all. That’s very typical of Comfort and I’ve heard a lot of complaints. Just hold on, I’ve laid down plans and will start acting on them soon. I just have to make a few calls and meetings and set everything in motion.”
“You keep assuring me but it seems this time, you mean business. Comfort Aning is a very terrible person and her refusal to resign seems suspicious to me.” Catherine said.
“Comfort used to be very good and she helped the company a lot in its formative years. She was disciplined and morally upright. Familiarity and greed have amounted to this change in her attitude, after all she has spent over 15 years in the company.”
“Morally upright indeed.” Catherine scoffed, attracting a suspicious stare from her father.
“Judging from her comment, I’ll not be surprised if she resorts to blackmail or something of that sort. Just be careful and I pray she has nothing on you.”
“She’s that terrible?”
“You have no idea. She’s capable of doing anything. It’s funny how she thinks no one sees the kind of things she does.”
Vitalis shot his daughter another suspicious look. Catherine realized and changed the topic.
“Dad, any news about Auntie Petra? You still don’t know her whereabouts?”
Auntie Petra was her father’s very close friend and confidante.
“I’ve still not heard from her. It’s pretty strange because she has never been away for this long. I can’t seem to reach her and I’m in dire need of some supplies.”
“This is really unusual of her. Perhaps she’s on a vacation somewhere.”
“She could have informed me about it, right?”
“Well, yeah! Let’s just hope she’s fine and that she’ll contact you soon.”
They continued with their meal and after a while, her father cleared his throat. He was about to touch on a sensitive topic.
“So how far with your mother. Do you still hear from her?”
“It’s been a while now since I heard from her.” Catherine answered, her eyes fixated on the pancake she was slicing.
“You’ve stopped communicating with her completely?”
“Dad, I have no business with her. She abandoned me, a little old me, and refused to stay in touch till I was of age. I don’t get why she’s trying to come back into my life.”
He grew quiet for a while.
“But you told me some time back that she invited you over to her place.” he said.
“I refused the invitation. It seems to me that she has given up after realizing there was no way I was going to change my mind.
“You’re so stubborn sometimes. She’s your mother after all.”
“You never cease to amaze me, dad! This is a woman who divorced you and walked out of your life at a time when your career was forming. Not only that, she left a six-year-old me with you and never looked back. Why are you so quick to jump to her defense?”
He said nothing and continued with his food. Catherine glanced at the clock and got up to leave.
“I’m being featured on the ‘Cook Away’ show today and I have to start preparing.”
“Oh I see, you’re really going far with your cooking. Why don’t you start a food chain?”
“It’s actually in my plans but first, let’s rescue the company. All others will follow” Catherine said and made her way to the kitchen.
Her father smiled and picked up the magazine. “Just like her mother.” he muttered to himself.
Catherine checked her time. It was exactly eight past six in the morning. It was Monday. She stepped out of her car and headed for the office. She met Owusu just when she was about to enter into the elevator. Owusu looked at her with a surprised expression on his face. Catherine remembered what had happened on Friday and although she was grateful, she didn’t risk mentioning it. After all, he didn’t realize she was hiding there.
“Madam, you’re early today oo.” he greeted.
“Yeah, I need to get some work done. It’s quite a lot so the earlier I start, the better it’ll be for me.” she lied.
“Alright” he said.
“Did you just open the doors?”
“Has anyone in my office arrived?”
“You’re the first.”
Catherine smiled. “Oh great! Anyway, I hope your cellphone is functioning. I’ll call you in a while to get me some koko.”
“Oh madam, do you always have to remind me about my phone? It’s working perfectly fine now.” Owusu giggled.
“Haha, I didn’t mean to make you feel bad. It’s just that you always seem to have a problem with your phone.” Catherine laughed.
“Not to worry. I’ll be expecting your call.” Owusu told her.
She entered the elevator and quickly hopped out when she arrived at her floor. There was no one in sight, except the cleaner who had his back turned to her, wiping the floor.
“Good morning.” she greeted and smelt a familiar flowery scent in the air.
There was no response. Her phone which was in her palm, buzzed. She unlocked it to read a message from her bankers. It was an alert from a transaction she engaged in on Saturday. She sighed and raised her head to enquire from the cleaner why he didn’t respond. He was gone.
“Amazing.” she said and opened the door. She made for her desk.
She dropped her bag and sat down to open her desk and lo and behold, there were cookies waiting for her.
“Someone definitely put this here before I arrived.” she said and dashed outside to find the cleaner.
She took the staircase and bumped into Lariba on her way down. She stopped to catch her breath.
“Catherine, what are you doing here at this time?” Lariba asked, surprised.
“Still on my search for the cookie guy.” Catherine responded.
“Are you serious? You came to work this early because of that?”
“Lariba, you won’t believe it. I was the first person to get here but the cookies are comfortably lying in my desk. Someone must have gotten here before I did. I need to ask the cleaner. Did you meet him on your way here?”
“Aren’t you taking this too far? I saw him taking a bend in the corner downstairs. He seemed to be in a hurry.”
“Shoot!” Catherine exclaimed and kept descending the stairs.
Lariba followed her. After combing the whole premises for the cleaner, they gave up. He wasn’t in sight and Owusu couldn’t tell his whereabout as well.
“Cathy, just give up on this. It’s starting to get irritating.” Lariba said.
“Very irritating. Whoever it is should go on. I won’t bother about it again, neither will I let it steal my joy.” Catherine said. “I’m going to throw those cookies away until whoever it is owns up.”
“You can ask the cleaner later when he comes around, although I doubt he could have any idea who dropped them in your desk. I’m sure he’s doing some rounds somewhere.” Lariba suggested.
Catherine nodded and saw Comfort Aning’s car pull up in the driveway a few meters away. She suddenly remembered what occurred on the night of the previous Friday and nudged Lariba moments after Comfort Aning had bypassed them to the office, after throwing an unfriendly good morning their way. It was obvious she wasn’t in a good mood.
“What?” Lariba, who was trying to take a selfie on her phone asked after Catherine nudged her.
In a hushed tone, Catherine narrated that night’s happenings to her.
“Are you serious?” Lariba exclaimed.
“Keep your voice down, hoh!” Catherine said.
“Comfort Aning? The prim and proper woman?” Lariba asked in a hushed tone, still in shock.
“Yes, yours truly.”
“So she has feelings after all.” Lariba giggled.
“You’re so silly.”
“But isn’t she an elder in her church?” Lariba asked.
“She is oo. Hmm.”
“And the HR manager too, Mr Hammond. I can’t believe he stooped that low. I really admired and respected him.”
“I keep remembering how exceptionally nice his wife is to Comfort Aning. She always supplies her with extra food and pastries anytime the company orders food from her restaurant during an event.”
“Imagine how affected she would be if she were to find out.”
“Anyway, Lariba, make sure neither Agyeiwaa nor Jacinta hears about this. I’ve always trusted you with my secrets.”
“I’m not telling anyone, there’s no need. Jacinta has been acting really funny towards me these days, especially when she sees me with Mark, so I hardly interact with her.”
“Really? Do I smell a love triangle?”
“See, let’s not discuss that now. I don’t want to get worked up. What about the fact that Comfort Aning is refusing to resign?”
“Oh that? My dad has it covered. He has some big plans coming up. Just wait and see.”
“I hope whatever it is will be enough to shake her and make her leave because once she has declared that she’s not leaving, she’s going to put up a fight. She’s too predictable.”
They went inside and gradually, the others arrived, quite surprised to see Catherine in the office that early. At half past eight, an urgent meeting was called for all heads of the various departments. Comfort Aning and Mr Inkoom left the office in a haste to attend, wondering what could have gone wrong to attract an emergency meeting. Catherine span around in her chair while a happy smile played in the corner of her lips. The drama had just began.