Catherine turned on her laptop to check her mails for the day. There was a thank you mail from Mandy Quaye, the host of the “Cook Away” show. She smiled after reading it. Her attention was then drawn to a mail from her mum. ‘How are you doing, dear? It’s been a while. Do stay in touch.’
She rolled her eyes and slammed her laptop shut out of exasperation and raised her head to find the cleaner approaching her desk. She quickly sprung to her feet.
“Ma-madam, good morning. Owusu told me you were looking for me.” he said in a shaky voice.
“Oh, so you now feel like greeting me eh? You didn’t respond when I greeted you earlier. Why?”
The cleaner looked at her with a confused expression on his face and quickly apologized. Catherine led him outside to question him.
“What time did you come to work today?”
He hesitated before answering.
“Around 5.30 am, madam”
“Alright. Did you meet anyone here? Especially in my office.”
“No, madam” he answered almost immediately. “There was no one here.”
“Alright then. But where did you go? Because I looked everywhere for you.” she asked.
“Eerrmm, I had to rush to attend to an emergency. I’m sorry, madam.”
“It’s alright. You can leave.” she dismissed him and headed towards the washroom.
The cleaner made the sign of the cross as he turned away, thankful that he didn’t run into any trouble.
Catherine was about to step out of the washroom when she heard two voices arguing outside. She recognized one of the voices to be that of Agyeiwaa. After listening intently, she recognized the other voice to be Nii Teiko’s.
“See, you better return every single thing I’ve bought for you so far. You can’t continue making a fool out of me.” she heard him say.
“Excuse me, I didn’t force you to buy me anything so stop demanding things from me. Besides, it’s not my fault that you can’t move to her. You simply cannot use me to get to her. Man up and go talk to her. Isn’t it obvious that she’s not interested in you?” Agyeiwaa shot back at him.
Catherine blinked after hearing Agyeiwaa’s comment, as it dawned on her that she was the reason behind the argument.
“Oh really? So why did you collect the items when you knew you weren’t going to help me? Do you think I was giving them out for free?”
“Did you expect me to return them to you when you kept forcing them on me? Listen to me, as long as you keep bringing them, I’ll keep taking them until you wise up and go and talk to her or stop bringing them altogether. That even reminds me, last Friday’s rice has been the best so far.”
Catherine giggled. “Agyeiwaa is so silly.” she muttered to herself.
“You’re so shameless.” Nii Teiko charged at her.
“And you’re such a coward.” Agyeiwaa retorted.
Before they could continue with the argument, Catherine stepped out of the washroom and stood with her arms folded between them, sizing them up. Agyeiwaa’s face fell. Nii Teiko scratched his head and looked away. Agyeiwaa hung her head.
“I see! You guys have been busy playing middle woman and sponsor. Well done!” she remarked.
Agyeiwaa looked at her uneasily and tried to open her mouth.
“Oh don’t bother explaining anything to me. Everything’s quite clear.” Catherine told her and turned to face Nii Teiko.
“You’re wasting your time, Nii Teiko. You didn’t have to resort to this to get me to date you. Leave me alone while I’m still being nice.” she said and walked away.
“And oh, I forgot to tell you.” she stopped in her tracks. “The world would be a better place if sponsors like you were found everywhere.” she said and left.
After a few minutes, Agyeiwaa entered the office, quite unsure about what to do. Impulsively, she walked up to Catherine to offer an apology. Surprisingly, Catherine burst out laughing.
“Agyeiwaa, if someone else had told me you did that to Nii Teiko, I’d never have believed the person. I never knew you had a sly side to your cool self. You did him dirty.” Catherine said amidst giggles.
“Wait, are you not mad at me?” Agyeiwaa asked.
“Mad? Why should I be? He deserves what you did to him, although I think you should have told me about it.” Catherine chided.
“Yeah, I’m sorry.”
“It’s alright. You know you can be silly sometimes, right? What did you mean by last Friday’s rice has been the best so far?”
“Oh that? I was trying hard to annoy him. I just wanted to get him off my back and I couldn’t think of any better way. But boy! That rice tasted super good. It’s the best so far, actually.”
Catherine giggled more.
“I even saved the phone number of the restaurant where he got the food from. We have to visit the place. It’s new and I know you’ll love their food. Trust me.”
Catherine stopped giggling and stared at her with interest.
“You even had time to save their contact. Wow, you and food. We have to visit the place as you suggest. I’m really curious about the taste of their food.”
“We really should.” Agyeiwaa smiled.
“So tell me, what items has he been buying for you to get you to convince me?”
Agyeiwaa started listing the items which sent Catherine into fits of laughter. Jacinta joined in the conversation and after being briefed on what ensued between Agyeiwaa and Nii Teiko earlier, she also started laughing. Lariba entered the office a few minutes later with Mark behind her and inquired from them why they were laughing. Jacinta quickly walked away when she saw Lariba and Mark together.
“Is anything the problem?” Agyeiwaa asked when Jacinta walked away.
There was no response from her. Agyeiwaa cast a what’s-going-on look at Catherine but she only sighed and shrugged. Lariba sighed and handed a wrapped item to Mark and sat down after he left. The office immediately calmed down.
Elsewhere in the boardroom, Vitalis was addressing the various heads of departments. On the right side of the table sat the management of the firm and on the left side a group of experts.
“Good day, ladies and gentlemen. I plan to keep this meeting as brief as possible because I have some important persons here who need to go back to attend to their businesses. I’ll call for a proper meeting next Friday. This is only an introduction.” Vitalis addressed them.
The boardroom grew quiet as everyone paid rapt attention to him.
“So I want to start by congratulating you all for a good job done.” He addressed the heads of departments. “You’ve worked hard to make Bliss Ghana Limited a success and as it stands now, Bliss Natural Drinking Water is the number one preferred brand on the market.”
Everyone in the room smiled warmly.
“In view of this, I want to expand our reach to the three Northern Regions. I also planning on extending our exports to the other parts of West Africa and not only the neighboring countries.” he said and paused to let that sink in.
There were discussions in hushed tones and then an applause. The group of experts looked on and smiled, some nodding in admiration.
“I know you might have questions and doubts but as I said, we will hold a proper meeting next week and all these issues will be addressed.”
They kept quiet and listened to him.
“To achieve all these, there’s going to be a restructuring. I plan on listing this company on the stock market and issuing shares to the general public. There’s going to be reshuffling of staff across the numerous branches, employment of extra staff and some possible promotions and layoffs.”
Comfort Aning shifted in her seat at the mention of layoffs.
“Before listing on the stock market, I have called these experts to help in valuing this firm. I have here financial analysts, brokerage firms and investment bankers. I also have here, partners from Kingsford Audit and Accounting Services, who will audit the financial statements to determine their truth and fairness. The other experts will then proceed with the valuation of this company.”
Silence fell in the boardroom as they took in whatever had been said.
“I understand the financial statements are almost ready.” Vitalis cast a glance at Comfort Aning and Mr Inkoom.
They both nodded.
“How soon should we expect them?”
“We’ll present them during the week.” Comfort Aning said.
Vitalis smiled after noticing how stunned Comfort Aning looked. “You haven’t seen anything yet.” he thought to himself and turned to face the experts.
Catherine dashed out to receive a call but the phone stopped ringing the moment she got out. After trying several times to call back with no answer, she turned around to go back to her office and bumped into Curtis. She startled and dropped her phone.
“Oops, sorry!” Curtis exclaimed.
They both bent down to pick the phone up and bumped their heads. The situation felt really awkward and Catherine stepped back to let him get her phone. After he handed it over to her, she realized her phone was refusing to turn on. Her face fell.
“What’s wrong?” Curtis asked.
“My phone won’t turn on.” Catherine replied with a worried look on her face.
He reached out for it she and handed it over. His hand brushed against hers in the process and she felt butterflies in her tummy. She watched him examine it and thought he looked handsome when he was focused.
“Uhm, Catherine, right?” he asked to confirm her name.
“I’m so sorry about this but I promise to get it back in shape. Will it be okay if I took it to my office to work on it? I’ll get it back to you when I’m done.” he asked.
“That’s okay.” she answered.
They parted ways with Catherine excited about her encounter with him. A few minutes later, the doors of the office burst open and Comfort Aning entered, followed closely by Mr Inkoom. They both had worried expressions on their faces and quickly entered Comfort Aning’s office. One look at them and Catherine knew the bombshell had been dropped. She smiled, while her colleagues wondered what could have happened during the meeting.
“I can’t believe this. Vitalis is planning to list the company on the stock market? Amazing!” Mr Inkoom remarked when they both took their seats.
“That’s even less of my worries. The sudden audit of this company he’s planning to undertake is quite unexpected and disturbing, you know what I mean. He also plans to lay off some staff, clearly a move to kick me out.” Comfort Aning said.
Mr Inkoom sighed and shook his head. Trouble was looming and he could sense it. It was just about a matter of time and everything would come tumbling down. He cast another look at Comfort Aning. She looked troubled and visibly shaken.
“So what’s your next move?” he asked her.
She was absent-minded and didn’t respond. He quickly took his leave to allow her process her thoughts. He opened the door of her office to find several pairs of eyes peering at him inquisitively. He ignored them and entered his office. Comfort Aning stepped out of her office a few minutes later and paid a visit to the HR manager. He also looked disturbed and they started a discussion under hushed tones.
“That was a smart move by Vitalis. I honestly didn’t see that coming.” he said.
“He’s really bent on kicking me out. The Vitalis I know would have consulted me before making a move. This doesn’t look good at all.” she said and placed her hand on his.
Mr Hammond pulled her in for a quick hug, quite scared that someone could barge into the office and catch them red-handed. He was still on the lookout for whoever was lurking around the previous Friday.
“So what’s the plan? Are you going to use that secret against him now?” he asked.
“Not yet. There’s no need for that now, until he makes a move to kick me out.” she said and whispered something into his ears.
He smiled and nodded and after one last hug, they parted ways to set to work.
Catherine was busily typing on her computer when Curtis walked over to her desk. She smiled when she saw him and stopped typing.
“It’s working now.” he said and handed her phone over to her.
“Aww, thank you so much, Curtis. I owe you a favour.” she said.
“Never mind about that. It’s alright.”
Lariba cast a glance at Catherine behind Curtis and signaled her to urge him on.
“I insist.” Catherine said and flashed him her sweetest smile. “How about I treat you to a good meal on Friday after work?” she asked, quite surprised at herself.
Curtis smiled and finally gave in. Lariba gave Catherine a thumbs up and did a happy dance. Catherine examined her phone and thanked Curtis once again.
“How did you do it?” she asked him.
“Let’s just say, I’m good at such stuff.” he answered.
Catherine smiled. “So it’s a date. Friday!”
“That’s an interesting lock screen you have there.” he said as he turned to leave. “I like it.”
Catherine blushed as she looked down at her lock screen to view the picture of her pouting with the flower crown Snapchat filter on her head. She smiled and when she raised her head, he was gone and Lariba stood in front of her instead.
“Care to share?” she asked and smiled sheepishly.
Catherine beckoned her to come closer.
On Friday, there was a publication in the newspapers about Bliss Ghana Limited, recruiting new staff to join the company. Mr Inkoom rushed to Comfort Aning’s office after seeing the advertisement.
“Yaa Anima, look at this. A senior Accountant needed with over 7 years of experience in a similar role. What does this mean?” he asked her.
“That he’s planning on kicking me out.” she answered and tapped her well manicured nails on the table.
“Wait! Since we’re expanding, what if that person will be posted to the new branches in the Northern Regions?” Mr Inkoom asked.
“You do know that this is the head office and I’m the head of all the accountants, right? But don’t worry. There’s only one way to find out.” she answered and reached for her car keys.
She grabbed her bag and walked out of her office, leaving Mr Inkoom behind. When she left, Jacinta walked over to Catherine’s desk. “What is wrong with that woman? Why barge out of the office like that?” she asked.
“She’s probably having hot flushes this morning. You know, those menopausal symptoms.” Catherine said nonchalantly and went back to reading the book she was holding.
Jacinta giggled. Just then Mr Inkoom walked out of her office and went into his.
“Or perhaps, the office gossip said something to upset her.” Catherine said after Mr Inkoom walked out into his office.
They both burst out laughing. Just then Curtis walked into the office with a worried expression on his face. He approached Catherine and took her outside the office.
“Catherine, I’m so sorry but I’ll have to cancel our date. I have an emergency to attend to.” he explained to her.
“Oh, it’s alright. I understand.” Catherine said quite disappointed.
“I’ll make it up to you, I promise.” he said as he swiped his phone to answer an incoming call.
“Yeah, Osei. I’m coming. I’m on my way.” he spoke into the phone and impulsively squeezed Catherine’s hand before leaving.
Catherine’s heart skipped when he did that and after watching him go, went back into the office.
Comfort Aning’s car pulled up in the Boa-Amponsem compound and she stepped out of her car to meet up with Vitalis who was relaxed in his summer hut, reading a newspaper.
“What a pleasant surprise!” he exclaimed when he heard the sound of heels approaching the summer hut and sat up to see Comfort Aning.
She walked up to him and took a seat across him.
“Looking smart as always. Welcome. Care for a drink?” he asked.
“I’m not here for that.” she said sternly and cast a stony look at him.