Onome slipped into the office trying to avoid the prying eyes of his colleagues. He was two hours late and knowing the kind of boss he had; he knew he was done for. His boss; Mr. Jekagbadun, the Managing Director of DEF Limited was having a meeting with the board of directors in his office and was unaware that Onome had quietly slipped into his work space. Onome’s heartbeat increased incessantly. It was common knowledge in his office that Mr. Jekagbadun was a difficult boss. Issues which could be waved aside were an opportunity for him to shout down the whole office. Everyone cringed whenever he stepped into the office. He always had his way of making everyone look silly and everyone knew he never suffered fools gladly.
The DEF office was an open office plan and as Onome sat down, he bent his head a little so that whenever Mr. Jekagbadun came out of his office, he would not be easily seen. “What happened to you?” Denrele, his colleague who sat closest to him asked. As Onome opened his mouth to speak, Mr. Jekagbadun’s door opened with the Directors walking out. Everyone who had stretched their necks trying to hear what excuse Onome was to give for his lateness immediately ducked and faced their computers squarely. Mr. Jekagbadun looked round and frowned while walking the Directors towards the main reception.
As Mr. Jekagbadun’s shoes hit the tiled floor as he walked back into the open office, Onome felt like he was going to pass out. He struggled to catch a breath of air when he heard Mr. Jekagbadun’s voice boom. “Where is he? You think you can slip into the office two hours behind time and go scot-free?” Mr. Jekagbadun yelled as he walked towards Onome’s space.
“I’m…I’m sorry, sir. It wasn’t intentional, sir. I wanted to…..” Onome struggled. “You wanted to do what? Tell me….wanted to do what? Mr. Jekagbadun interrupted. Tears filled Onome’s eyes as he struggled to compose himself. His other colleagues refused to raise their heads from their desks just in case Mr. Jekagbadun decided to have two scapegoats.
“I wanted to call you at 3a.m this morning but I felt it was too early”. Onome replied as tears spilled down his cheeks. “And why would you call me at 3a.m? Do I look like one suffering from insomnia to you?” He spat. “I’m sorry, sir. I did not mean it that way. My wife fell into labour this morning at 3a.m, sir. That was what I meant to say”. Onome said looking down and expecting the worst from Mr. Jekagbadun.
“Your wife was pregnant?” Mr. Jekagbadun whispered. “Yes…yes, sir. She was delivered of a boy and a girl this morning”. Onome replied. Everyone in the office raised their heads from their desks as if on cue while the ladies amongst them gasped. Mr. Jekagbadun suddenly felt like the devil himself. Everyone in the office knew Onome’s story. He had been married for 18 years without a child. No one knew his wife was pregnant as Onome had thought it wise to keep it a secret.
“Congratulations Onome. I’m sorry I yelled at you”. Mr. Jekagbadun apologized. Why don’t you take the day off? I’m sure your wife needs you by her side more than we do”. He continued. Onome, who had his head hung all the while looked up; shock written on his face. “You mean I should go back home, sir?” Onome asked wondering if he had heard his boss right. “Yes, please do. See me in my office before you go. I have something for your new arrivals”. Mr. Jekagbadun answered as he walked back into his office, his head hung.
As the door to Mr. Jekagbadun’s office closed, there was a sudden flurry of activities. Everyone wanted to congratulate the new dad. Tears filled Onome’s eyes once more as his colleagues hugged and patted his back.
A few minutes later, he settled down in the cab which was to take him back to the hospital; eager to go back to his wife and twin babies. As he opened the envelope he had been given by Mr. Jekagbadun, he gasped. A cheque of two hundred thousand naira written in his name stared back at him. Joy filled his heart as he prayed for his boss; who was in the meantime still hurting from the loss of his wife and still-born child; a secret no one else in the office knew.