When you play with fire, no one needs to tell you that you will get burnt.
7:10 am, 2nd May 2016. Monday Morning,Lagos, Nigeria. I was shivering as I stood outside in the pourin grain, waiting for a bus to arrive so I could get to work. I’d been in the same spot for close to an hour.
This situation could have easily been avoided but did I listen to the weather forecasts yesterday? No. Instead, I thought I could beat the elements. I never really believed in predictions anyway.
I took a few shaky steps to the nearest shelter Icould find. The bus stop provided me with no cover from the rain at all.
Trying as much as possible to shield my phone, I dialled the one person I felt could help me out. Of course I expected an ‘I told you so’ but in this case, I would gladly take that over looking like a drowned cat.“Hey Daniel, it’s me.” I said as soon as he picked up.“Dami, where are you?”“Stranded in the rain.”“Let me guess, you didn’t listen to the forecast and now you need a favour.” He sighed.“Exactly.”“What is it this time? Shall I tell Mr Hassan you’ve come down with a cold like the last time youdidn’t have a cold?” “That wasn’t entirely a lie, okay? Besides, the way things were going, I really might catch a cold thistime” “Right.”“Can you please pick me up? ”“No.”I was silent as I counted down mentally. 3…2…1“Okay, tell me where exactly you are.
I’ll come over.”I couldn’t help but smile. Despite his sour attitude,I knew he would come through for me.
Afterdescribing the area, I tucked my phone away in mypocket and waited.
The street was free from activity, only a few cars drove by occasionally but no one else was out in this rain. I felt the shivers grow more intense as astrange tingling sensation drifted down my neck and I started to worry, the weather wasn’t that cold to make me feel this way.
What on earth is wrong with me?The roar of a familiar engine reached my ears about 10 minutes later and I stepped out of my little shelter.
The rider took off his helmet and gestured for me to hurry up.“You know you owe me, right?” Daniel grumbled as I climbed on his bike. If you’re thinking it’s a power bike… then you’re absolutely wrong. It’s a Suzuki that he saved up for a really long time to buy.
Even if we pooled resources together, neither of us would be able to afford a power bike, let alone a car.
That was how broke we were. “Your favours are always expensive.” I complained. “That’s why they aren’t free.” He stated. I rolled my eyes as I collected the spare helmet from him and braced myself as he started the bike. “Better don’t fall off.” He yelled over the noise of the engine. “I know it would make your day if I did.”He probably didn’t hear my reply because we were already moving. Good thing too, unless he might have dumped me back by the side of the road.
When we got to Exquisite, a popular hotel and restaurant where we worked, I made sure to sneak into my work station quietly.
There were only 15minutes till we officially opened for the day and Istill needed to get changed and sign in.“Well, if it isn’t Beauty and the Beast.”Guess I wasn’t discreet enough.
I sighed and looked up at Kayla, a co-worker. She wasn’t even the one who came up with the nickname for us, that was Kevin who I personally consider to be an irritant, but the name stuck and everyone started using it. What’s even worse is…I’m not Beauty.
I saw Daniel hide a smirk as he walked past me and I eyed him swiftly before focusing on signing in for the day.
I grabbed my work uniform which was a fitted white shirt along with a red waistcoat and matching skirt.
I never understood why our uniforms had to be so tight; we were serving food for crying out loud. “By the way, you’re on serving duty in Section A,tables 1-5.” She announced before walking away.
I groaned silently. That was the section where the most impatient customers were. It was also the closest one to the main entrance and the section everyone tried to avoid.
Around 10am, customers started trickling in. The rush hour wasn’t until about 12 noon till 2pm when most people were on their lunch break so it was relatively calm-“Can I get some service over here or what?” A customer yelled.
As you can see, not always.“Hello, are you ready to order?” I smiled.“What do you think I called you over here for, to chat?” He snapped. “I’m sorry, sir.” I said. It took all the self-will I had to keep that smilefrom melting off. He handed me his menu which was a slate that displayed all the dishes and drinks we served.
There were blank boxes next to each item and customers simply ticked what they wanted with the erasable pen the restaurant provided.
Minutes later, the food was arranged on my serving tray and I headed over to deliver it to the table.
Suddenly, that strange tingling sensation from earlier crept up the back of my neck again, distracting me and almost turning my body numb. I couldn’t even feel my limbs. “Look out!” I wasn’t sure who yelled the warning but the next thing I knew, the serving tray was airborne and food went flying in different directions. As I stood there in the midst of the mess, with several eyes locked on me, all I could think was…Oh God, I am so fired.
The man’s eyes were blazing. I now had first-hand understanding of the saying, ‘If looks could kill.’ A throat cleared to my left and I turned to find another pair of accusing eyes. His eyes weren’t the only thing that stood out though, what really caught my attention was the large oil stain that now adorned the front of his white shirt.
This guy must hate me by now. Everyone knows how tough it is to get oil stains out of white fabric.“I…I…”He raised a single questioning eyebrow, waiting for me to finish. He seemed calm, almost too calm.
Acting on impulse, I grabbed a napkin from a nearby table and started dabbing frantically at his shirt. “I’m so sorry sir. I’m really so-”He held up a palm and I stopped. He gingerly took my hand off the front of his shirt, like it was contaminated or something and took the napkin out of my grip, setting it back on the table. It was only then I realised I was helping to spread the stain instead. He didn’t say a word as he walked past me and out of the restaurant, stained shirt and all.
I fumbled with gathering the scattered dishes,trying to clean up the mess but my hands were failing me. I’d never felt this clumsy in my life. Agentle nudge pushed me to the side as Daniel picked up the dishes. Kayla showed up second slater trying to appease the irritated customer. She tossed me a look to make myself scarce so Iimmediately apologised and headed towards the employees’ room at the back.
Once I shut the door behind me, I collapsed into a seat and rubbed my palms together. Some sense of feeling was coming back into them now. What happened back there, I had no idea.
The doors wung open but I didn’t look up, expecting it to be Daniel or Kayla. “That was a very graceful display back there. ”My heart sank. It was Kevin. “News travels fast.” I said.“No one had to report that Dami, the whole restaurant probably saw it.”