That night, I dreamed of Daniel. In the dream, we were in a swanky restaurant, eating oysters and drinking chilled champagne from long stemmed flutes, with a violinist playing a rendition of Celine Dion’s ‘My heart will go on’. I thoroughly enjoyed myself in the dream.
It was when I woke up in the middle of the night that I realized I’ve got it bad for Daniel. The dream was the last nail in the coffin. After tossing and turning for another twenty minutes with more sleep nowhere on the horizon, I got up and wandered to the kitchen.
I got out a bottle of coke from the fridge, opened the cap and took a long, satisfying swallow. I really should give up this soda drink called Coca-Cola, but it’s oh, so addictive.
After that intake of caffeine, I knew I wasn’t going to sleep anymore, so instead of daydreaming about what I couldn’t have, I decided to get some work done. I switched on my laptop and started browsing for some lovely designs I could use on the job.
After about an hour, I had accumulated some I found promising and my eyes were starting to dim. It was a little after 5 a.m. and I could still catch some much needed sleep. I needed to be sharp and on point for the meeting I have with Daniel at 9 a.m.
I dragged myself to my bed and crawled under the covers. Few seconds later, I was out cold. Oh, blissful slumber!
I didn’t feel so blissful when I woke up three hours later. I checked my bedside clock and saw it was a good twenty minutes after eight. I jumped up as if someone lit a fire beneath me. No, no, no, this is not happening again, I groaned.
I ran into the bathroom, almost tore my nightie off me in my hurry, and hopped into the shower. It was the fastest bath of my life.
I quickly dressed up in a flowered free flowing gown, belted it at the waist to give it a bit of definition and style, and I put on a pair of black low-heeled sandals. By then, it was eight thirty. I grabbed my car keys, praying frantically that there won’t be any horrendous traffic to deal with on the way. I barely had enough time to get there as it is. And to say that I had planned this so well; oh, you know what they say about the best laid plans.
Exactly thirty minutes later, I pulled into the car park. I clutched my bag and the folder I needed for the meeting and got out of the car. The car park was some distance from the office complex, so I had to run the rest of the way. I was in great shape, I wasn’t breathing too hard when I got to the receptionist.
“Hi.” I breathed fast. “I’m here for a 9’0 clock meeting with Mr. Daniel Omalu.” I smiled.
The lady just stood there, staring at me with an incredulous look on her face, her mouth wide open. I wondered what her problem was. Was I speaking French?
“Miss Ella Bendel to see Mr. Daniel Omalu, please.” I repeated.
She finally closed her mouth and found her tongue. “Mad….am,” she stammered, “Your hair…your fa…ce…you look a fright.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked. I turned to the glassed wall and checked my reflection. It was then I noticed my hair and face. I had not remembered to apply any make-up on my face, but that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was I still had the hair cap I slept with snugly placed on my head. No make-up, no earrings, and a head full of uncombed hair. I stared at myself in horror. Oh, for the love of God!
Damage control was needed. “Do you have a comb, please?” I asked the receptionist.
She shook her head in the negative.
“Nothing to salvage this?” I indicated the whole of my head.
“I’m sorry.” She said.
“It’s not your fault.” I answered her. “Oh well, I’ll just have to brave it.”
She looked at me with such pity, I almost laughed. I can’t wait to see the look on Daniel’s face. On the other hand, I’d rather be anywhere but here.
I faced the elevator as someone going to the gallows. I pushed the button and entered when it opened. I was the only one in and it felt as if I was facing the firing squad.
A sudden inspiration hit me. The cap I had on was silk, and very presentable, so I pulled it off, hand combed my hair till it cascaded down my back, and replaced the cap. I checked my reflection and saw it was better than before, the cap hid the worst of it. I pinched my cheeks to add some color to my make-up bereft face and licked my lips. By then, the elevator glided to a stop and I stepped out.
I so do not want to do this but I have to. I squared my shoulders and marched into the office with fake confidence. I adopted the saying; if you don’t have it, fake it.
Naturally, Daniel was waiting for me. I had wasted five minutes downstairs at the reception so I was about ten minutes late. At least it was better than the last time.
Daniel was engrossed behind his desk working on his computer. He looked up when his secretary announced me and frowned. At least he could have pretended not to notice.
“Thank you, Udi.” He said.
The secretary nodded and withdrew. She closed the door quietly behind her.
“Good morning, Daniel.” I said. “I’m sorry I’m a bit late, it was due to unavoidable circumstances.”
“An unavoidable circumstance like waking up on the wrong side of the bed?”
I looked down, and looked up; anywhere but at him. The scrape of his chair as he stood up caught my attention and I looked up. He came to stand directly before me. He had that cocky smile on his face again.
“Good morning, Ella. Or isn’t it a good morning for you?” his eyebrows rose. “You look like something the cat dragged in.”
“I didn’t have time to do my normal grooming.”
“I can see that. From the neck down is pretty good, but the other end is not as spick-span. Someone stole your make-up case and hair brush?”
“Ha ha ha, very funny.” I sniggered. “I was too much in a hurry, I forgot to do the necessary. I was here before I discovered it and your receptionist was no help in that regard.”
“Well, that is not part of her job description, is it?”
“I guess not.”
“Hmmm. Shall we get started?” he indicated the ornate chairs I so loved the last time. This time, there was a tea set on the table, and I saw a covered plate. Is there going to be some fine dining here?
I sat down, dropped the folder and bag I was still clutching, and tried to relax.
“You’ve not had any breakfast, have you?”
“I hope you don’t mind that I took the liberty to order you some breakfast? Would you like some tea and toast?”
What do we have here? I thought. “Tea will be fine, thank you.”
He smiled and preceded to prepare the tea for me. “Sugar? Milk?”
I nodded and he added a little bit of both. He handed me the mug and went ahead to prepare his own cup. I just watched him, mesmerized. Nobody had ever prepared tea for me before, and I couldn’t have imagined such a macho guy like Daniel doing so.
He took a slice of toast, bit into it and relaxed into his chair. I was too wound up to eat anything.
“Can we talk shop now?” he asked.
“Yes, sure.” I placed my tea cup carefully into its saucer and took my folder from the floor. I retrieved a pen from my bag.
“What do you have in mind?”
I cleared my throat. “Well, for starters, I’ll like to add some accessories to your offices. Some decorative works of art, lighting, area rugs, potted plants, wall decoration, just something to enhance the beauty of the building.
“Then, for the reception, I am envisioning a total overhaul; repainting, changing of the chairs, the receptionist desk, and then I thought a wall of fame will be very appropriate. A wall of pictures, to show some of the activities the company had involved in over the years, a look into the journey of your business, so to say.”
I laid out the prototype of his office I designed. “This is how the finished work will look. You can see that I included a relaxation spot to the far side.” I pointed at a corner. “A place where you can entertain guests or clients in a semi-relaxed atmosphere, and…” I indicated the window, “…vertical blinds for the windows, so you can easily pull it aside to enjoy your spectacular view.”
“I like that.” He nodded. “Have you picked out the desk you want to replace this with?” he indicated his vast desk.
“Yes. I have just the thing in mind, and I’m sure you’ll love it.”
“I hope so. But I’m choosing to trust you.”
“I won’t disappoint.”
“Good. Get my secretary to draw up the contract and I will append my signature.”
“I’ll like you to start with my office.”
“By the way, how much is this all going to cost me?”
I mentioned something in the neighborhood of six figures and he didn’t even blink. He thought for a while before nodding. “Okay, get Irene to draw up the contract and I’ll sign so you can get on with the job.”
I stood up, gathered my belongings and walked towards the door. My heart was doing the flip and my throat was straining from my effort to hold my excitement in. I just landed a major job that is going to boost my career and I couldn’t wait to express my joy in full. I was grinning from ear to ear as it were.
Daniel’s voice stopped me before I could open the door. “By the way, Ella, you look really beautiful this morning.” He said and winked.
I couldn’t hold it back any longer. My grin was as bright as the glare of the fluorescent in his office. My heart flipped a thousand times, and I practically swooned. I nodded, and quickly rushed out before I could do something really embarrassing, like run to him and hug him.