Olanma felt the need to be everywhere at the same time. This was her first big job in Lagos, and she was overwhelmed. She realized she was doing the job of an event planner even though she was just the caterer. She knew that eating good food in a bad environment still leaves an unpleasant experience in the mind of the people, so she found herself doing more than she bargained for. It didn’t take long before she was taken to be the one in charge. She thanked God she had decided to wear flats at the last minute, as she was needed everywhere.
The decorators did a poor job, especially in the seat arrangement, and Olanma hated things being disorganized, so she took it upon herself to help. She was running around, making sure her good food was not the only good thing about the event when she saw him.
She was temporarily flustered, as he was the last person she ever thought of seeing here. His face was drawn, showing sadness. He was the only one not laughing at the jokes of the comedian. Even from a distance, she could see that he was depressed. She said a short, silent prayer for him, asking God to give him strength, and went on with her business.
About an hour later, she felt the need to rest her legs, as people were now eating. She sat down on a high stool at the rear of the hall and without an effort, her gaze went back to him. He was gazing and picking at the food as if eating w the last thing on his mind. Olanma was sure it was.
‘It’s not your business, Olanma’ Olanma said to herself. She knew she had a knack for sharing people’s burdens, even when it shows a tendency of being dangerous. Like this one.
Her attention was needed, and she went to attend to it. She was preoccupied for quite a while until the event was coming to an end. ‘Thank God’ she muttered, as she asked her workers to start packing up.
Chidinma had helped her in hiring the workers. They were good people, and she enjoyed working with them. It was as if God handpicked them for her, as they understood what she was trying to achieve even before she finished explaining to them. They were a sign that God was leading her.
She told them what to do, and was head back to see if anyone needed anything.
‘Excuse me! Ms! Hello!’ Someone called out to her. She turned with her smile in place
‘My name is Lillian. I believe you are the event planner for this event. Right?’
I’m actually the caterer. My name is Olanma. Do you have any complaints?’
‘No I don’t. You could have fooled me. You were everywhere, attending to everything that it looked like you were the event planner. I suggest you look into that being an event planner that is’
Olanma felt relieved. She always tried to make sure her customers were pleased ‘I think I will. Thank you Lillian.’ She made a move to keep walking, but Lillian held her back ‘I was wondering if you could be the event planner for my mother’s 60th birthday. I realize you are busy, do you have a card?’
‘Err… no I don’t. Why…’
‘That’s okay. Just give me your phone number, so I can call you and tell you more about it.’ Olanma quickly called out her number, and collected Lillian’s.
‘I will be looking forward to your call.’ She said to Lillian smiling.
‘Okay. Talk to you soon.’
Olanma walked on, and saw that the guests had started leaving. ‘Thank God for another successful job’ she muttered, her eyes grazing the hall for anything to do. She saw him again, this time it was obvious he was reluctant to go home, still looking dejected.
She suddenly felt very annoyed with him ‘how long does he intend to wallow in self pity?’ She asked herself.
‘Olanma mind your business. Olanma mind your business’ she said to herself, even as she walked towards him. She was going to make him stop carrying his worries on his sleeve for all to see. She didn’t take her eyes off him, not even for a second.
She hated the thought that he had no backbone. She never would have guessed. He was going to get a piece of her mind.
Chidi looked up from the table, where he drew invisible patterns, and saw her walking towards him with something resembling anger in her eyes. He couldn’t think of any reason why she would be angry with him.
He had felt someone’s gaze on him and had just looked up, and there she was coming towards him. What was she even doing here? He wasn’t in the mood for company, he just wanted to be alone. But she had seen him look at her, so he couldn’t escape. He could only hope it would be brief.
As she got close, he forced a smile and stood up ‘Hey Olanma, how are you? What are you doing here?’
Olanma was almost sidetracked by his greeting, but she reminded herself of her intent. ‘Chidi, I’m good. I’m the caterer for today, but I doubt I can ask you how the food was, seeing you have been moping as if your life is over. I don’t think the taste of the food registered in your brain.’
Chidi struggled to retain his smile. ‘I don’t understand what you are talking about. Please seat down’ he sat down.
‘Yes you do, Chidi. I was not born yesterday.’ She took a deep breath. She knew she had to make him know she heard what he told Obinna that night. ‘Look, that night I came to Lagos with my mum, I heard what you said to Obinna.’
‘What did you hear?’ Chidi asked, hoping she didn’t hear the main thing.
At first, Olanma didn’t say anything, she just looked at him. Then she said ‘I heard the main thing.’
Chidi ran his hand over his face, wondering what action to take or what to say.
‘I was coming down the stairs when I heard you spilling out your regrets. I have watched you today, you look like the burden of the world is upon you. And you and I know that that’s Jesus’ work’
‘So I am supposed to go about dancing like I won the lottery?’ Chidi asked, getting angry suddenly. ‘What made you think you have a right to tell me how to feel?’
‘I..I.. I am not telling you how to feel. I’m just saying it’s not the end of the world. Count your losses and blessings and keep living. I don’t think you have achieved your purpose of living yet, so brace up and…’
‘If I stay here, I will get really angry. I want to be alone. Thanks’ He made a moved to stand up.
‘You know I am saying the truth. You can still live a fruitful live. Please stop acting like it’s over.’ Olanma explained.
Chidi couldn’t understand her boldness ‘When did you decide you know everything about me? You know nothing about me. Nothing whatsoever. Please mind your business. Thank you. Can I leave?’
‘I don’t understand. Are you asking for my permission? You can go if you want to keep denying the truth.’
Chidi took a deep breath to calm himself ‘It’s not a gentlemanly thing to do. I can’t stand up till you do.’
‘Really? I’m tempted to keep talking till you listen to me, but it will do us no good.’ She stood up and saw the relief on Chidi’s face when she did. He stood up and was turn away when she held his hand to stop him.
‘Chidi, God is still on the throne, He is still your God, He still loves you and I will be praying for you. Don’t give up living.’
Chidi turned to look into her eyes to see her expression. He saw only earnestness. He nodded and walked away, leaving Olanma worried.
‘Prayer changes things’ she muttered, reminding herself that prayer was the way to go about such things. She went back to work.
The story continues…
By Joy Nwankwo
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