“Done,” Ebong declared and straightened in his seat as he rearranged the documents, placing them neatly in the file. He pushed the file back across the table to her and stood.
“I wish you well in the position,” he said officiously and extended his hand for a shake with a tight smile on his face.
Cecil felt like she was loosing out for the second time. She had always been a go getter and that character had elevated her over the years in her career as an agent and had finally brought her here.
But instead of being elated, looking at Usen treat her like a random stranger made her feel empty. Like all the accolades she’d amassed over the years became useless in that moment.
Usen obviously wanted nothing to do with her, he had always been like that; when he washed his hands off a thing, he strived to keep it that way.
And he had certainly washed his hands off her despite their shared past. She was guilty of rejecting him first though, so she didn’t really fault his present attitude, but again, she didn’t want to leave it that way either.
“Usen…” she called, her usually controlled voice, the one she’d perfected over the years as a DSS field agent, wavered with emotions as she faced Ebong.
The pleading note in her voice made him close his eyes, valiantly trying to keep his fury at bay. He dropped his hand and stood there quietly, breathing deeply.
Cecil got to her feet, not really knowing what she wanted to say, because apologizing for her decision after several years seemed really lame.
“You could have taken the DS position at Bayelsa, you know,” she said, striving to sound casual and friendly.
“I didn’t want to,” he replied, hardening his jaw, because he didn’t want to have this conversation, he wanted to get out of there.
“But you could have. You would have only spent a year or two there, I heard you were being considered for a national position in the agency,” she smiled, even though she was trembling inside.
If her colleagues could see her now, they would be appalled at her very feminine reaction to a man. That had never happened after she’d chose to pursue a career rather than be tied to him; and she’d been the best at her career, apparently as he’d also been, but as a woman, she’d had to almost be mean to be respected and get to her current position.
“I know, but not everything is about the job, Cecil. I’ve done my part, now I just want to relax and enjoy retirement with my family.”
The thrill of hearing him say her name, even in a snipe was overwhelmed by the shock that he had a family. Not that she’d been hoping he would have gone through the years not marrying and waiting for her, but, it just…knocked the breath out of her.
Maybe she’d been hoping that he was as career driven as she recalled, and that he was as single as she presently was, and that they could…
“You have a family?” she asked, her shock, regrettably spilling through her tone.
“What did you expect, Cecil; that I would wait for you?”
Cecil looked away from his cold eyes, she didn’t want to see the derision for her there.
Usen’s eyes had always been warm towards her when they’d been young, upstarts in the agency, he’d always looked out for her, protected her, was proud of all her accomplishments. But at that moment, she felt flayed by the derision in his eyes and tone.
“Not really,” she murmured, looking away and trying to clear her face of all emotion, but it just seemed really difficult in his presence.
Ebong scoffed, “Your eyes still express what you’re really thinking, Cecil. I can’t believe you would expect me to wait around for you, after rejecting me and then a year later you married that…him!” after choking on the insult he’d desperately wanted to give her husband, he decided to use the ordinary male identifier to refer to the man that had taken his spot in Cecil’s life.
“His name was Uforo,” she said quietly and then regretted it instantly when she saw the fury on Usen’s face.
“Goddamn his name!” Ebong exploded, the corded veins in his neck, standing out prominently. Then he pushed off from the table and walked out of the office, annoyed with himself for even losing his temper.
Eddy had just been about to knock the door when Ebong barged out of it, his fury was palpable as he brushed past his daughter in law, barely seeing her.
She wanted to call out his title, but then recalled it belonged to a new person. Eddy wanted to chase down the dear man and ask what could have made him so blindingly furious, but that would make her late for her appointment with the new DS, and she didn’t want to start out bad with a bad impression.
Reports reaching them from her immediate former station, was that she was a ball-buster, and wasn’t lenient on mess ups. Eddy wanted to impress the woman and just maybe, she’d be given a field assignment after so long.
Taking a deep breath and trying not to worry about Ebong who had been a father to Slay and Morgan when they’d been orphaned at tender ages, she knocked and pushed into the familiar office with the recent unfamiliar owner.
Eddy had a bulky file in the crook of an arm and a disposable plate with a slice of cake on it, in the other, but she managed to straighten in a semi salute, “Good afternoon, Ma,” she said and moved towards the large desk.
She had expected that the beautiful and classy DS would lift her head at her greeting, but Eddy was shocked to hear a sniffle when she got closer. The impressive woman, which garnered reports of equally impressive feats as an agent, was crying…and immediately after Uncle Ebong had left!
What in God’s name was going on?!
Eddy floundered for second and even considered stepping out to give the lady a moment, but she recalled that the woman had given her this appointment and other agents…male agents were currently on their way to the office at that moment.
She instantly recalled how she’d suffered the ridicule of male colleagues when she’d been at the NPF, just because she’d been a woman in a male dominated field.
The combined influence of her husband, an extremely respected field agent and his uncle, turned father, the former DS, had kept such ridicule from occurring when she’d joined the DSS.
Imagining the snide side remarks that would follow this woman, even if she was a superior, Eddy dropped the file and plate on the table, and cleared her throat hesitantly.
“Please, give me a moment,” the woman heaved.
“Of course, madam,” Eddy replied respectfully. But then she heard the approach of the other agents and immediately retraced her steps to the door, and was in time to open it before they knocked.
“DS asked that our appointment be rescheduled in two hours,” she reported, making her expression that of regret and exasperation.
The male agents saw her look and mirrored it, but then they seemed to shrug and walk away.
“Aren’t you coming?” one of the three guys asked when he noticed Eddy still at the door.
“I’m going through report with her,” she replied wearily, and the guy grinned and hurried on. Of course she knew why she’d said that, most field agents abhorred sitting with their superior to go over reports, it was tedious and it made them feel like children, so they avoided it as much as they could.
When she returned to the office, the new DS had comported herself though Eddy could still see the red rims in her eyes, obvious evidence of her cry.
The woman, in a bid to probably get her influence back, spoke first, “You’re Edidiong Ubong Ebong,” she stated but Eddy nodded in confirmation anyway.
Cecil smiled, “I’ve read your file, especially your contribution in the arrest of King Edem…”
“That was…that was an unofficial operation, done without permission,” Eddy stammered, feeling fear crawl into her chest. She hadn’t known her stunt with her three friends had been put in the report. Will the woman suspend her for it?
“Don’t look so threatened, that report is classified and what you women did was…it took courage, especially as you were the only experienced field agent among them; I was impressed,” she added softly.
And Eddy sighed in relief, her heart still hammering from the dread she’d felt a second earlier.
“Sit down, please,” Cecil said, clearing her throat and reaching for the file Eddy had brought.
Eddy did as the older woman asked and then her eyes caught the cake, so she pushed it close to the lady’s reach, “And I thought to get you a piece of cake from the former DS’s farewell party.”
Cecil looked at the cake, it signified how much Usen had been liked here and she wondered if she’d ever be able to fill his shoes, after all, he’d taught her most of what made her excellent at her job. She should have rejected the appointment when she’d heard that she would be taking over from him.
It had felt wrong, just as it had when she’d rejected him in favor of a transfer and promotion. But over the years, from the moment she’d been able to reject him, she learnt to overcome sentiments and stick to the job, and so she’d accepted.
It was the height of her hard work over the years, which is why she was flummoxed that she wasn’t feeling excited or revved to be at that desk. She sat there wondering if she would get a cake and a surprise party when she left.
Usen had mentioned a family and she envied him. She envied his courage of leaving the addicting work behind and sticking to family, which she now realized was important. And she realized it decades too late, since she was now alone.
The new appointment had come with a house, a family house that will be empty because she had no one. And the thought made her heart heavy and her eyes smarted.
Eddy watched in consternation as the older woman’s expression morphed from sad to lonely and then she was choking on her sobs.
If there ever was a woman who needed comforting and acceptance by friends at that moment, it was the new DS, Cecil Ebe.
‘I’m sorry, I’m usually not this emotional,” she heaved while dabbing her eyes with a white handkerchief.
Eddy had heard of the woman’s character and no nonsense attitude. And it was at the tip of her tongue to tell her that she was probably experiencing previous pile ups of emotions all at once, but she didn’t think her superior would appreciate that, so she sat quietly.
She knew it had so much to do with Uncle Ebong. And over the years, when she’d had girls’ night out with her friends, they’d always wondered why he’d never married, despite his obvious handsomeness and brilliance.
They had tried, at least, Wana had tried to match make him with some older women in church, but Uncle Ebong had never taken the bait, he’d become a professional at dodging Wana’s efforts at match making.
They had countlessly bugged Slay and Morgan, mostly Slay, because Morgan wasn’t much of a talker, about their uncle and they seriously couldn’t recall him ever being partial to any woman in the years growing up in his house.
Eddy was looking at a bank of information as to why Uncle Ebong never married. This woman held the key to knowledge and secondly, she did look extremely lonely for a moment, just before she started sobbing.
Suddenly, the urge to invite her superior into her circle of crazy friends took hold of her. But Eddy instantly discarded the idea, shaking her head but not able to dislodge the thought from her mind.
This was more of Wana’s forte, she was the overly, exuberant one who made new friends easily and made them feel accepted. That Eddy was thinking about it was testament that Wana had indeed rubbed off her over the years.
“What are you doing for Christmas?” it was a stupid question, seeing as the celebration was still almost four weeks away.
But it served to curb the woman’s tears and made her look up in confused shock at the very non-sequitur question.
“I…I’ve made no plans,” she replied and dabbed at her eyes with some sort of embarrassment. “And thank you for redirecting the other agents.”
“It was no hardship. I know how men can be when they perceive weakness in a woman of high authority…we women have to stick together,” she said and was surprised to see the older woman laugh.
Wana had really rubbed off on her, because the last part of her sentence was exactly what her mischievous friend would have said.
“Thank you for making me feel better, I appreciate it. And,” Cecil took a deep breath and garnered courage to lay bare her vulnerability at the feet of her subordinate who might choose to turn it against her at a later date, but she really didn’t want to survive Christmas alone.
“…I have nothing planned for Christmas, what did you have in mind?”
Eddy grinned, quite widely at the woman’s question. “Well, I don’t know the extent of the plans, because, my friend, Wana, is in-charge, and she’s very able to come up with more plans at a blink of an eye, but generally, it’s more of a get together.”
“You’ll get to see all the women you read about in the report,” she concluded excitedly, very much like Wana, it was appalling.
“I look forward to it, Edidiong…”
“It’s Eddy…I prefer, Eddy.”
“Of course, Eddy,” the woman corrected herself, and in that second, she was back to being a superior. She had her emotions in rigid control and Eddy could glimpse why she’d been nicknamed ‘dragon lady’ at her former station.
“Keep me posted on the plans and date, I shall not miss it,” she promised.
There was no trace of the weeping woman, in place of her was a comported woman of authority, her eyes shone with fairness and Eddy knew she would definitely enjoy working with this woman.
It wasn’t that she wouldn’t miss former or retired Director Ebong, of course she would, but she had him at home. This woman though, just seemed like the door way to possibilities. And she couldn’t wait to tell the ladies what she’d seen here today; a possible match for uncle Ebong after so long.
DUCT SEASON 4 continues
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