THE CAR PULLED over at her father's house and she couldn't help but stare at the building she'd grown up in.
Everything was exactly as she had left it; the colour splash on the wall, the flower pots beside two huge pillars, the neat compound-It was as neat as her father.
The woman at the back seat of the car, sighed mentally and she rubbed her temples with her left hand, trying to soothe and rid herself of the anger that seemed to be brewing fast.
"Madam, we have arrived,” The voice of her driver tore through her thoughts like a hot blade.
"I'm not blind,” She sneered, not even batting an eye at him. Rather, her gaze were transfixed at the cars parked in the compound.
One was familiar; the plate numbers to be precise. The other was not.
Are there important guests in the house or did her siblings manage to find their way back here? She scowled her face in disappointment at her thoughts. Neither seemed like a good reason for her father to call her from work.
Tearing her eyes from the scene, she directed her attention to her driver and immediately furrowed her brows at his height.
While she remembered firing her previous driver, she couldn't remember hiring this one. He had made her wait an extra 3 minutes after a long day at work.
"When did you start working for me?" She mumbled and started arranging her already organized handbag.
She paused. Ma? Who did he think she was? His grandmother?
She rolled her eyes and caught his gaze in the rearview mirror. His brown eyes met hers and for a while there, she felt disgusted.
"Did Patricia fill you in on the things I expect from you?" she looked away and fished out her phone.
She whipped her her head up and held his gaze in the mirror. "I don't want you to call me that. I'm your boss, not your mother.” He averted his gaze, lowering his head. "Ms. Ivonne is your only option. If not, you're fired,” He turned back immediately. Surprise and disbelief fully settled on his brows. He openhis mouth to speak but she beat him to it.
"You will not speak unless spoken too. Whatever I discuss in the car-on the phone or with someone in here- is purely confidential, I must not hear it outside. You will turn a blind eye to my work and my private life…” She paused and he nodded, turning back to the steering wheel.
"I can see that you're elderly," she announced. "...maybe in your late 40's or 50's or whatever. Old people like to think they’re ‘experienced’ and try to give ‘advice’ and all that bullocks!" she rolled her eyes dramatically.
"When you're with me, you will swallow all that. I don't need advice from anyone, much less a driver,” There was no way one could miss the tone of disgust in her last words.
"Your job is simple: drive,” The irony of this was that she couldn't drive. It just wasn't her thing.
She had yet to find a teacher who would not flirt with, annoy, frustrate, or bore her. She even tried females and discovered that was a no-go too.They had terrible mood swings and would even raise their voices at her. Big mistake. One call to the agency and they would end up crying at her gate.
Then there were the ones that were calm. Too calm for her liking. They either tried to start a conversation with her or tried to cheer her up by telling horrible jokes and making goofy faces.
Then her best friend intervened by getting a 'hot' guy to teach her how to drive. He wasn't Ivonne's kind of hot, he was her best friend’s kind of guy; Fair, spotless skin, average height,
huge-and she meant huge-biceps, rock-hard abs, and a huge tattoo covering his back down to the band of his pants.
How did she know this? Because he was topless, like, the entire time.
When Ivonne eventually got the police to get him off her property, her bestie did it again.
This time she hired a brown-skinned man. High cheekbones, brown eyes, small lips. He had wide shoulders and chiseled a torso that women don't just notice, but grab.
But not her. Not Ivonne Johnson who would rather spend 24 hours in her office than have a man flirt with her.
He didn't flirt though. Thankfully, he had a ring on his finger, but his fiancé was a total pain in the ass. She called every five seconds asking ‘where are you?’
It was so much that they couldn’t make it to two days before he quit. Apparently, she thought he was getting down with some other girl.
Shaking the memories out of her head, she continued, “Punctuality is also necessary when you work for me. If you're even a minute late, you're fired, no two ways about that." she sighed "However, you do get days off every Saturday and Sunday. If you're having health issues, I'll let my doctor see you and no it's not coming out of your paycheck" she finished with snake-like shake of her head.
Her father's words rang in her head "I need to see you now. We have something very important to discuss.” And here she was wasting her time with a driver.
Taking out her phone, she proceeded to open the door of her car "Wait here,” He gave a nod but didn't say anything.
Good. Too much talking pissed her off anyways.
The sun beamed down hard on her back and she winced as she walked quickly. Her heels hitting the floor, announcing her arrival with every step.
Out of habit, she ran her hands down her tight black skirt paired with a pink-white striped top. She was already regretting her clothing choice and was about to lose her mind if she didn’t get from under the sun!
Not bothering to slow down to knock, she barged in and her nose caught the sweet aroma that lingered in the air. Her stomach rumbled, wanting a piece of what the nose had perceived.
One of the joys of living in her Father's house was that they had toe curling food that could rip an orgasm out of you. The chef was skilled and knew just the right amount of things.
Her Mother didn't enter the kitchen much, so Ivonne never learnt how to cook from her, but from Chef Elvis.
A man in his 50's by now. He had actually threatened to never make a sponge cake ever again unless she let him teach her the ways around a kitchen and looking back at it now, it was worth it.
She turned her attention to the noise coming from the dining table and headed there. The voices are all too familiar.
She might as well turn back now knowing that there were people she didn't want to see, but her feet didn't stop.
She emerged from the side and stopped just in front of the dining section. Her siblings were obviously enjoying their mother's company as neither seemed to notice her.
Not wanting to intrude- plus she was in a hurry to see her father-she turned to leave.
"Amaka?" Came a voice she knew too well. She turned to face her elder brother David and tried not to glare at him for using her native name.
"Well well well, look what the cat dragged in,” Now this one, this voice, belonged to someone she loathed.
Her face void of emotions, she faced her elder sister who wore one of her fake smilesas usual.
"Well,i always knew the bird never flew far away from the nest.” Her smile fell and Ivonne heard her brother chuckle.
Growing up around their old man was like living and dining with parables.
"Good one," David commended, earning him a killer look from Daniella.
Ivonne smirked. Turning her attention to where their mother sat comfortably turning a blind eye to their little…exchange, she placed her lips in a straight line.
Her mother stared at her with unknown intent, eyes scanning her from head to toe and she fought the urge to shudder.
"Good afternoon, Ma,” Ivonne greeted and watched her mother’s face birth a smile.
"Afternoon my dear,” Ivonne mentally scoffed. "I’m glad you’re here, hope all is well.” She spoke so calm and gentle like she was afraid of being heard.
"Yes. No worries. I'm just here to see Dad, I'll be on my way as soon as possible.” She meant that.
If her mother was concerned, it didn't show. "Ok, you look good. What have you been eating lately?"
Ivonne paused for a while as she stared at her mother with her brows drawn together in confusion. "Food,” she and David said in unison.
Daniella scoffed and waved her hand in the air.
Her mother threw her head back in laughter and Ivonne had to admit, the woman was beautiful.
"I don't have time to stay and chat," she glanced down at the glittering watch on her wrist "I'll catch up with you later, Dave." She said and hurried up the stairs.
For what she had in mind, was to speak to her father and maybe get back to the office real quick. But from the look of things, her mother had other plans as she was on her tail.
It couldn't be Daniella. Her sister knew better than to walk with her. There could be blood, a broken leg, and of course a ruined face. None of which would belong to Ivonne.
"What do you want now Mom?" She said with exasperation, not caring to slow down
"You will tell me where you're rushing to," Mrs. Johnson hissed, causing Ivonne to have a bit of mercy. Her mother caught up and they began to walk at a slower pace.
"You can’t just walk in here and out of here anytime you like. Like you own the place," her mother broke the silence.
Ivonne furrowed her brows, "Since when do I need permission to come back here?".
"You say it like you come here on your own accord. When do you ever show up without being summoned?"
"When I'm free," she answered truthfully.
"And when are you ever free from work?" It was a pretty obvious question.
‘Free' didn't just mean free from work, it meant free from staying home, shopping, and doing other important things rather than going back to her father's house.
What would she even be doing there anyway?
"You already know that answer," she replied nonchalantly.
"Anyway, how has work been?".
Ha! If she could, she would have run down the hallway laughing till her throat became dry.
Ivonne scoffed, "Oh please Mom, get to the point."
"You see, this is why I don't talk to you as often as I do with your elder sister!"
"Why? Because I see through your pretense and lies?" She snapped.
"Shut up!" Mrs. Johnson yelled. "You will not talk to me that way, I am your mother whether you like it or not,"
I don’t. Ivonne said mentally.
"Whatever you say Ma," she rolled her eyes.
"Apologize to me this instant!" Mrs. Johnson demanded and stopped walking.
Ivonne turned to face her, holding her gaze and arching her brow. "You know me better than that Mom. So why don't we drop the act, I haven't had the time for this and I never will. There's no else around so you might as well be real when talking to me."
One would hear her and say she was being extremely rude to her own Mother but this was a common thing between them. There wasn't any peaceful feelings between the two. At least not anymore.
A smile tugged at her mother's lips and she folded her arms. Leaning on one hip, she eyed her and Ivonne just rolled her eyes. It was a good thing she didn't look like this woman, she’d rather look like a monkey.
Her mother was short, curvy, and beautiful, but always had this cold attitude that encouraged Ivonne to search for her adoption papers when she was little. Sadly, she didn't
"Your father also called for Daniella, I think it's time he hands over his company to one of you."
She should be surprised that her Mother was telling her this, but she knew it was just to rub it in her face that the company won't be hers. Like that could ever happen.
"Thanks for the info," she said sarcastically and turned to leave.
"When she eventually gets that company, you should know that I’ll make her give you a part of it."
Ivonne arched a brow and turned to face her Mother who looked just about ready to eat her up.
She's not worth it.
She turned and made her way to her Father's room "Good luck with that,"
Staring into space, Mr. Johnson lost track of time. He could hear his children's laughter from downstairs. Even though he didn’t know why they were laughing, he couldn't stop himself from smiling.
He would be lying if he said he didn't miss them staying home. But, sooner or later, they were bound to leave the nest and soar. Though they were more than 20 years of age, in his eyes they were still children.
His wife was having a good time downstairs as her laughter seemed to increase. He should almost feel guilty for not making her laugh this hard whenever they weren’t around. But he refused. He shut down every thought and feeling of guilt. He didn't have time to spend with her, his career was on the line. He needed to work to cater to her needs anyway. She turned out to be a very materialistic woman.
But the time has come for him to step down, to hand over the company to someone. He needed someone to take his company to the top. Someone who was honest, selfless, and of good
Mr. Johnson paced slowly around his room, revelling in his glory and success. Who would have thought a man like him, the son of a poor driver, would become a multi-millionaire one day?
He smiled and walked towards the huge glass window, enjoying the view below. A good example of his status in the county. He wasn’t seen as an equal, but now he could boast on top
of his success.
If only his father lived long enough to enjoy it with him. With the rate at which his company was progressing, coupled with his net worth, his father would have been proud.
At least he wasn't completely alone as his mother was around, though kept in some home for the elderly. Her
At last, he had cut the tie of poverty to his family name. Anyone who heard of Mr. Daniel Okoro Johnson, would tremble. He let out a laug
h. If anyone could hear his thoughts, they would
probably say he was a narcissist. But to him, this wasn't pride. He liked to call it self-respect. He couldn't deny the fact that he was very rich and of course very famous.
Turning a bit, he saw a small table holding wine and two glasses. Mr. Johnson poured himself a glass, paused, then began to fill the other glass.
"I was beginning to think you weren't going to come," he turned to face his daughter. It looked as though he was staring at the female version of himself. She stood with her back to the door.
"You know, courtesy demands that you knock before entering someone's domain." He sipped his wine while holding her gaze, reveling in the taste of it. He made a mental note to order more of this.
Ivonne gave a small smile. She opened her mouth to speak but her Father beat her to it.
"An apology would be nice. You see, saying sorry goes a long way.”
She calmed herself, "I-".
"But know this, you can't retake the step that leads to a thousand mile". He smiled.
She hated when he did this to her, cutting her short sentences with proverbs she was sure he made up himself.
As she gazed upon her father, it seemed like she hadn't seen him in forever; he seemed to have recovered fully as he was not with his walking stick.
He was still the same: a bald head that shone as if he rubbed ororo on it, a strong, hard, clean-shaven face- he wasn't one to keep beards unlike her brother- and dark skin that none of her siblings inherited.
She was the only one amongst her siblings who looked like him... maybe
that was why her mother didn't treat her like the others. Who knows?
Ivonne stood for a while, and only moved when he offered a glass of wine. She rushed to grab it and once she did, he turned to face the big window in front of him.
She broke the silence, "Should you be drinking?". Her father just shrugged.
She stood beside him in silence, enjoying the view. Her house didn't have this great view, but she still liked it there. Sipping her wine, she told herself to check the bottle later so she could bring it home.
"The view was actually one of the reasons I chose to live here. Well that and because I wanted to flaunt my money."
She knitted her brows and looked at him. She didn't quite understand what he said.
" I can see you're confused." Only then did she realize he was looking back at her. He looked away after a while. "Living Gold Estate is one of the most expensive, luxurious, and sophisticated estates in Nigeria."
"Mmm, true." Ivonne said, turning back to enjoy the view. " But I'm guessing that's not why I'm here, correct?".
Mr. Johnson chuckled at his daughter's impatience and walked towards a couch that was a few steps away from where he was standing.
"Have a seat Amaka," he sank down into the chair.
Why won’t they just call her Ivonne!
"How was your day?" The question made her roll her eyes.
"My day was going great at the office." She wouldn't lie.
"And now? How is it?".
"Oh God! I don't really know. Daddy please just tell me why I'm here so I can get back to the office and do some work," She urged, rushing the words as if she had hot yam in her mouth.
"That's one of the reasons I called you here. You see Amaka, even when you were a child, I would always tell you, ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’,"
Well Ivonne was sure of one thing, she wasn't Jack. The thought made her lips curve into a smile and she quickly looked away.
"I know you've put in your best for the company and I appreciate it... I want to retire from my position as C.E.O. That means one of you will be my successor,"
Finally! Could this be it? The moment she'd been waiting for? Her stomach churned in joy and anxiety.
"It would have been a lot easier if Emeka was interested. I would have passed it down to him as he is my only son. But he has other plans already."
Ivonne kept nodding her head, waiting patiently for her Father to get to the freakin' point!
The sound of the door closing made Ivonne turn towards it. There, Daniella stood in her deep blue sundress and black heels.
"Did I miss anything?" She asked in her annoying sultry voice. She sashayed to a chair beside their father and sat.
"No, I was just about to get to the good part," Mr. Johnson said, his gaze elsewhere. "I was telling your sister here that I want to step down and hand over the company to one of you. But I fear I might hand it over to the wrong person and my business will suffer and disappear from the surface of the earth.” He moped.
"What exactly is your point?" Ivonne asked, there was no time to waste. Time is money. His words.
"Patience little... "
"Don't even start. I was not talking to you," Ivonne snapped.
"But I was talking to you. What are you going to do about it?" Daniella asked. Obviously looking for trouble.
"Shut up and mentally shove dirt in your face." Was Ivonne's reply.
"See, this is what I’m talking about. If this were the office, you’d destroy everything with your bickering." He shook his head at both his daughters’ constant disagreements.
"I'm sure if you both had a little bit more love in your life, you would actually care for one another." That caught their attention.
"Say what now?" Ivonne was shocked.
"Love for her?" Daniella pointed to Ivonne, her face twisted in disgust.
"Yes," their father replied. "In fact, if you had partners who loved and cared about you, I'm sure they would help you open up with your family more!"
Ivonne scoffed at her father's words and Daniella laughed.
"Whatever you say Daddy. Let’s get back to why we are here." She changed the topic.
"No," Mr. Johnson said and furrowed his brows. "You just want my company. If it wasn't for that, neither of you would be here. God! I've been sick for over a month and none of you could even take the time to stop by!"
"I sent cards, gifts, and called on the best doctors in Lagos to attend to you!" Ivonne proclaimed, raising her hand.
"I told Mom to check up on you for me and I bought you a car for quick recovery!" Daniella quipped.
Mr. Johnson stood angrily and began to pace. "Cards, gifts, best doctor? Did it ever cross your mind that just your presence could go a long way?"
He didn't like scolding Ivonne, especially after all the mess that he'd put her through while she was growing up and even up till now.
She was his favorite daughter and though she did try to show care by sending him a really good doctor, that was not enough.
When she didn't answer, he turned to Daniella. "And you. You bought me a car? How were you expecting a bed-ridden man to hop in a car and drive?"
The mannerless brat that was spoiled by his wife shrugged, "I don't know. It was meant to be a quick-recovery gift. You see it and it makes you want to recover quickly"
"Typical," Ivonne hissed.
"Enough! Both of you!" He rubbed his hands down his face and settled them on his hips. The silence stretched for a long time as he thought of what to do.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ivonne checking the time on her wrist and Daniella texting on her phone. He closed his eyes and sighed.
One was impatient while the other was indifferent. One was his favorite while the other was just his child. One was considerate and caring to him but had a hard time dealing with feelings and affection- while the other? The other was a complete fake.
At least they had one thing in common? Both were greedy!
But Ivonne… he knew she was the right one for the company. She was so good that their goal for 3 months was met in 1; but the pace made the employees burn out. She and all of her workers are going to burn out!
In fact, if you had partners who loved and cared about you, I'm sure they would help you open up with your family more!
He turned to face them and cleared his throat. That got their attention and they waited for him to speak.
"The only way any of you will get me to talk about the company is... by bringing a boy home."
"What?!" They choursed in unison. Well that's a first. They finally agreed on something.
Only when they saw he was serious did they believe what he was saying.
"Can you explain?" Ivonne asked, maybe she was having a hard time hearing.
He rolled his eyes, "You heard me right." He sat on the couch, not batting an eye at them. "I don't see what's so hard to understand. I want son-in-laws, I'm not getting any younger and you both know it. So bring someone home and we’ll get back to this conversation. But for now, this matter is on hold."
"So we should just bring anyone?" Daniella asked, earning a look of disgust from both father and sister. "What?"
"No, not anyone. Don’t you have a boyfriend? Bring him home and let him know that you're serious. I mean, look at yourselves, very soon you’ll be off the market. Beauty fades my dear, so use your charm, and fast if you want to talk to me about the company."
"Wow! I can't believe you're doing this to me," Daniella said and that caught Ivonne's attention. She was acting like the spoiled brat their mother trained her to be, her eyes were already
tearing up, trying to gain sympathy from their father.
"I always thought that the company would be passed down to me- I am the oldest after David. I don't understand why you're doing this to me!" The tears rolled down her cheeks and Ivonne almost marveled at her acting.
Mr. Johnson turned to Daniella, "I can't give you the company because you have no manners, you're a vixen, and too materialistic! Just like your mother. You'll either squander my money on cars, cosmetics, parties, or vacations to different countries every 2 days."
Her father's words made Daniella shut up and lower her head in shame. Obviously she was too embarrassed by the truth.
Ivonne bit her lips to contain her smile. She cleared her throat and her father turned to her.
"Amaka, you... you have a better chance of inheriting my company, believe me, but one of the reasons I set the condition was so you two can bond. I don't know how but I believe it'll help."
Ivonne could feel her head swelling at the praises of her father. She glanced at her sister who glared at her, but she didn't back down, she glared right back.
"Another reason for that condition is that you need to loosen up. You're too strict with the staff, you over work yourself, you hardly go on vacations or take a break... And that is why, come Monday, I'm relieving you of your position..."
"What?" Her eyes widened in horror.
"I'm just giving you a month off. Go and take care of yourself. Get some rest, have fun with your... boyfriend... I'm sure he doesn't like that you're working so much."
Boyfriend? What boyfriend?
She barely had time for herself, let alone a guy. When was the last time she had even been in a relationship? That was years ago and she was never even into the guy…
"Hmm?" She heard the door close and realized her father had dismissed them. Sighing heavily, she stood up, straightened her skirt and quickly reached for her handbag.
"Is there something on your mind?". Her father asked and she could hear the worry in his voice.
"There are lots of things on my mind right now," she proceeded towards the door and stopped. "But you know what?" She turned to face him, "Maybe a vacation could help my relationship with... Nelson."
Her father's face lit up at the name. "Oh! Nelson? That's a nice name. When do I get to meet this Nelson?"
"Very soon. I'll be on my way now. Bye, Daddy." And with that, she hurried out of her father's room.
She didn't even bother to say goodbye to her Mother as she didn't see a reason why. She hurried outside and rushed into the car.
"Where to Ma?" Her driver asked as he started the engine.
Where to? Her schedule was with Patricia and she never thought of duplicating it as she believed that she would always be with her P. A.. But now that her dear father had insisted she take a month off... a whole Month off. 31 days off, that is she would sit at home doing nothing.
"Ms. Ivonne?" He called again.
"What? What is it? Leave me alone. I heard you the first time. I'm thinking ok? Just sit there, shut up, and let me think!" Ivonne yelled, calming her down a little.
"I'm sorry, Ms. Ivonne,".
"Just shut up!".
"Ok, Ms. Ivonne,".
Ivonne groaned, "I said shut up!".
"Ok, Ms. Ivonne," he replied again.
"Ah! Do you think I'm joking?".
"No, Ms. Ivonne,"
She opened her mouth to speak but knew that he would respond, so she brought out her IPad and sent a quick message to Patricia, telling her to send the schedule.
Almost immediately, her phone beeped.
‘Ms. Ivonne, your father called a few hours ago and said that you were taking a month off, so I'll be handling your schedule. He said you would be unavailable from Monday onward, so the competition you’re hosting would still be run by you. But for now, you have nothing on your schedule.’
A few hours ago? He just told her a few minutes ago.
Seems like he had decided it even before she got here.
Shaking her head, she knew she was supposed to go somewhere, but where? It was 7pm and a bit dark already. Plus, her head was still ringing with her Father's words. Bring home a man?
Sure! You'll just go down the road and buy one!
Inside her bag, her other phone rang and she knew she received a message. Taking out her smartphone, she couldn't recognize the number but she opened the message anyway.
'I'd like to believe you haven't forgotten about my engagement party, Ivonne! You better get out of that office before I come over there and pounce on you.
Uh oh, angry bestie ready to strike.