(Continued from Romanced by a Villager II)
Rose is nearly overwhelmed when she gets to the office. The office building looks very drab from the outside, so she expected the office to be a dark, cluttered room with old desks, ancient desktop computers and aging employees. Not that it would have mattered. When she was not sitting at the teller’s booth at the Sacco, she had a desk at the back office, a nice, mahogany desk with a leather rotating chair. But they still paid her twenty thousand shillings. Ambrose is paying her seventy, so even if he tells her to sit in the toilet she will gladly do so.
The ground floor is a warehouse. A friendly guard shows her the stairs that lead to the first floor, where the reception is. The sudden transformation that unfolds before her very eyes takes her breath away. The reception is a beautifully furnished room. The walls are painted turquoise blue. There is a large window on one side, overlooking the road. The sky blue, velvet curtain is drawn, letting in abundant light from the large window.
Goldfish are happily swimming in a small glass tank in one corner of the room, on the same side as the window. The receptionist’s desk is on the side away from the window, straight ahead from the door. The desk itself is a large, raised, semi-circular platform, and Rose cannot tell immediately if it is inbuilt or movable, or whether it is made of brick, wood or metal. It is painted sky blue with the company logo and the words “Galilee Trading Co. Ltd” engraved in white at the front. A white, leather set of sofas is at the middle, around a glass coffee table.
Behind the receptionist’s desk is a beautiful girl whose name tag, engraved in glass, says ‘Veronica’. She smiles warmly at Rose as the latter enters the reception.
“Good morning madam,” Veronica says, rising up. “You must be Rose.”
“Yes I am.”
“Ambrose is waiting for you. Come on, I will show you the way.”
Veronica leads Rose to a flight of stairs. The second floor consists of locked doors with only one work station out in the open. Rose studies the names on doors. Samuel Gitahi, Unit Manager, Agriculture…George Mutua, Unit Manager, Construction…James Nyongesa, Unit Manager, Transport…Ambrose Ngugi, CEO…the last door, next to the CEO’s stops her cold. Rose Kanyua, Head of Finance.
Yes, her name is on the door, engraved on a gold plate. Head of Finance? Ambrose said he was giving her a job. She expected to start as a junior accountant.
“This is our office administrator, Janet,” Veronica breaks Rose’s trance. “Janet, this is Rose, our new Head of Finance. She is here to see Ambrose.”
“Ambrose is in a meeting on Skype,” Janet says icily. No smile, no ‘welcome to the company’ or even ‘nice to meet you.’ Rose dislikes Janet instantly.
“That is strange. He told me that he is expecting her at this time and that I should bring her in when she arrives.”
Janet shrugs he shoulders and continues focusing on her laptop while nibbling at an apple. Just then, Ambrose’s door opens and he steps out. “Rose, you are here! Welcome. Veronica I told you to bring her straight in.”
“We have just arrived. I was just about to bring her in,” Veronica lies. She knows that antagonizing Janet is a horrible mistake.
Thoughts about Rose have been dominating Ambrose’s mind since Saturday. He wonders how to go about courting her. Should he get to know her first? But isn’t that what dating is all about? How long should he wait before telling her what he feels?
When she enters his office this morning, he knows right away that he will not wait. She looks gorgeous in a yellow dress and a black blazer. Nothing like the beaten girl in faded jeans that he talked to on Saturday. She is walking confidently and with a ready smile. He knows instantly that he will open his heart to her today.
But first things first. He is still the CEO of his company and is not about to start getting distracted. He needs to orient her first and then perhaps they can go out for lunch. The can discuss romance over lunch, after getting work out of the way.
Ambrose may have dropped out of form two, but he has a sharp mind. He understands his company inside out. He starts by giving Rose an overview of the structure of the entire company. She listens keenly and asks a few questions. Ambrose answers her questions but patiently tells her that it will take her days, if not weeks, to know all the properties and operations of the company. Then he goes down to the finances. Each of the business units accounts for its finances separately, and Ambrose receives three sets of reports. Rose’s job is to receive those accounts and consolidate them so that Ambrose receives one report. She will also be supervising the accountants in all the three units.
Rose will also be sitting in the management committee, which currently comprises of Ambrose, Janet and the three unit managers. The management committee meets weekly, every Monday morning.
The morning passes in a blur, and before Rose realizes it, it is lunch time. The company has a staff eatery on the third floor, but Ambrose suggests that they eat out. They walk out of the office together, and Rose can tell that Janet is not too pleased by that. Rose tells herself that she will have to learn quickly how to navigate office politics at her new work place.
There are no restaurants in Ndenderu, so Ambrose drives her to Ruaka.
As they are having lunch, Ambrose tells her that he is falling in love with her and asks her to be his girlfriend. He says it casually, but seriously. She is shocked. For the few days they have interacted, she has began to like him, just not that way. Although he is only seven years older than she is, he is already like a father to her. A mentor. And from today, her boss.
Then there is Dave, the man she has always loved. She cannot get the kiss out of her mind. Dave still loves her. She knows it. Her mind is in a turmoil. What if Ambrose isn’t really interested in helping her? What if he just wants to sleep with her? Rose could tell that Janet was jealous when they walked out together. Is she his mistress?
But Ambrose looks like a good man. What if he is genuine? What if she tells him no and then Dave decides to stick to Faith? And if she tells Ambrose no, will he fire her? She desperately needs this job.
But what if she says yes to Ambrose yes then Dave terminates is relationship with Faith? Or if Faith decides she doesn’t want him? Will she be content to stay with Ambrose knowing that Dave is available? What if she says yes to Ambrose and decides to cut off dealings with Dave then it turns out that Ambrose just wants to use her for his pleasure? Dave cannot forgive her a second time.
Ambrose gives her a way out.
“You don’t have to answer me right now, Rose. I know I have caught you by surprise. Take your time and think about it. But I also want you to know that your job is not at risk. Even if you decide that a relationship with me is not something you want, I will understand. You will keep your job and we can still be friends. But I would be happier if you said yes,” he says with a smile.
Rose smiles back. That assurance will help her to think clearly.
On the way back to the office, Rose’s mind is spinning. Ambrose is not a bad guy. The fact that he is willing to let her stay at her work place even if she says no to him means he is genuine. By the time they get to the office, half of her heart wants to say yes to him. She likes him. Perhaps even loves him. He has a sense of self-assurance, bordering on cockiness, that she finds very appealing. She is also attracted by his rough edges. Unlike Tony, Ambrose is not a refined gentleman, if you consider modern standards of masculine flair. He does not wear perfume, his trousers can be converted into circle skirts with only minor alterations and he does not fuss over social graces. He is a traditional African man, and proud of it.
She loves him for that. However, these very attributes present the problem. What will her friends say if she dates a form two drop out? Ambrose is brilliant and fluent in English, but he does not hide the fact of his limited formal education. Besides, he has a heavy Kimeru accent. She knows there is no way she will present Ambrose to her judgmental friends, however wealthy he may be. Her crew prefers sleek men who speak with western accents and who wear Gucci with expensive cologne.
This crew indirectly influenced her to leave her first love Dave, and introduced her to that player Tony. The one who dumped her after only two months. Dave might fit in. She noticed yesterday that his wardrobe has improved significantly. He is well educated and fits the bill.
Except that he is not rich or reckless enough not to worry about the cost of a plate of food at the Sankara.
Maybe Ambrose is right. She should get rid of these girls from her life. Why does she have to consider what they might say when making decisions that touch on her happiness? They should respect her decisions. And if they are not happy for her, then she should probably get new friends. Whether she chooses Ambrose or Dave, it should be about her, not them.
But why is she still uneasy about all this?
She knows the answer, although her conscious mind is not willing to accept it. Having come from a poor family, and having failed to secure a proper job until now, her esteem suffered. Inferiority complex set in. She goes to her highly successful friends for validation. She desperately needs them to recognize her as their equal.
When they get to the office, Ambrose takes Rose to her office and leaves her there. There are files on her desk as well as a flash drive. Her office is almost as spacious and luxurious as Ambrose’s. Rose pinches herself to make sure she is not dreaming. She doesn’t have to lie to her mother anymore. In fact, this weekend she will go home to Runyenjes, tell her mother the whole truth and ask for her forgiveness.
“There are more files in the flash drive. You can spend the afternoon familiarizing yourself with the documents. We will begin working tomorrow. There will be a staff meeting tomorrow so that I can introduce you to the rest of the team,” Ambrose says before he walks to his office.
Ambrose is barely out of Rose’s office when Dave calls her. Rose locks her door before picking the call. She doesn’t want Janet to eavesdrop.
She almost says babe but holds her tongue. She will have to be patient until he confirms her status in his life.
“Rose. How are you? How is your new job?”
“Exciting but a little intimidating too. I am now the head of finance. Can you believe it?”
Dave laughs. That exciting laughter that she has been in love with for years.
“Of course I can believe it. You are the smartest girl I know.”
“You are exaggerating but thanks anyway.”
An awkward moment passes between them, and Rose instantly knows that all is not well. So she decided to preempt the subject.
“How is Faith?”
“Look Rose, I am sorry for what I am about to tell you…”
Rose’s stomach tightens into a thousand tiny knots.
“…I was with Faith today and she told me that after praying she felt God leading her into a relationship with me. I just could not bring myself to tell her that I had changed my mind. I am the one who led her on. I even asked her out. I couldn’t bring myself to break my word. I am sorry Rose, but I belong to Faith now. I hope you will understand.”
“I understand,” Rose says weakly. After a few awkward seconds, Dave terminates the call.
Rose can feel the emptiness in her stomach. She grabs her bottle of water and takes a sip. The water tastes weird. She glances at the bottle. It is her bottle alright. But why does it look new? She laughs aloud. She is being foolish. Of course the water is fine, she is just shocked at what Dave has said.
She lifts the bottle and gulps down a mouthful of the water. It still tastes weird.
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