And so it went. Justin and Ugochi became a team in the library of the company. They had to read through a lot of documents, follow the market trends and then make enlightened predictions.
At first, Ugochi led by a mile. She read faster, thought quicker and was not afraid to air her views. Everyone in the office took notice of her, and in their weekly meetings, she always enjoyed the praise of their superiors much to Justin’s chagrin.
Then he got the hang of the job. Slowly, but surely, he started writing better briefs. His forecasts were on point and then the staff noticed him too. Even those that had written him off earlier started assigning him more roles. Justin learned quickly that being a superstar at work meant you get buried with work. That was after four months.
Both corpers assigned to the research department loved their work, they reported back to work after their weekly CDS meetings. Both found that they could not stay away from the rush of the job for long. Whilst their colleagues with other departments tended to tardiness, Justin and Ugochi worked as if possessed.
What started with a smile, turned into a competition, then both parties called a truce and learned to work as a team. That was after six months of working in close proximity. Then the unforeseen happened.
Ugochi was a stickler. She got to work earlier than most, and left for home later. Justin found out that whilst he loafed about chatting with other corps members and the junior staff, she was busy studying. She always had something to read, and this irritated him immensely.
That was why, when she suddenly invited herself to lunch with Justin and the others, he stood with his mouth open. Aghast. Throughout lunch, he just kept staring at her in disbelief as she mingled easily with all the others and laughed easily.
‘Okay, who’s this alien?’ He had to ask. In six months, she had just been polite, never friendly. Now all of a sudden, she was entering his world, stealing his friends. He had a dark scowl on his face.
‘Oh, come on, lighten up. Why so serious?’ That was all the answer he got from her as she went back to being the centre of attraction on their table.
He rushed through lunch, bade the others goodbye and went back to the library. At first he was worried about her, then he realised it was probably a personality disorder, so he let it go. She’ll revert to her normal self in a few, he thought.
He was busy studying the results from the previous day’s sales and comparing them to his forecasts when she came in.
‘Did you really have to leave like that? I thought those guys are your friends.’
‘So why did you have to leave abruptly?’
‘Simple. There was an alien on my table, and I wasn’t ready to mingle, get my mind sucked.’ He maintained a straight face.
‘Alien?’ She looked hurt. She slowly walked to another cubicle in the library.
He watched her go, shrugged then went back to his work. Five minutes later, he was done. He stood and went over to her. ‘See, the problem is this, I don’t know how to react to this new person. I’m used to your icy character now. I can’t relate with this, this…’ He was lost for words.
She raised her head and stared at him. Her stricken look thawed his heart. And he softened towards her. He sat on her desk, after brushing away the files she had to review. ‘Talk to me,’ he encouraged.
She spread her hands in a confused manner, rose up and kissed him.
‘Whoa, whoa,’ he pushed her away gently. ‘Not that I don’t like getting kissed, we could get caught and tossed out of here in a minute.’ It was a whisper.
Slowly, her visage changed as she smiled. ‘I’ve been battling this for weeks. Don’t know how to say it.’
They were standing very close, in a compromising manner. He wanted to retreat, move away, but he felt that action may have irreparable implications, so he stood his ground. Waited for her to back down.
She waited until he was comfortable with her presence in his face before opening her mouth to speak. When she did, it was brief and to the point. ‘I love you.’
He backed into the cubicle, tripped and caught himself before falling. ‘Say what?’ He was glad for the distance established between them. He was about saying something when Jocelyn poked her head in the door.
‘Justin, please come.’ She was gone before he even saw her.
He was torn between responding to her and answering the call of duty. He chose the latter. ‘Hold the thought,’ he said as he held up his hand and started walking away. Then he stopped, went back and kissed her. Then he ran out the library like a man possessed.
She touched a finger to her lips. Men, they were all the same.