Introducing Lethal Games
*When you play with fire, no one needs to tell you that you will get burnt.*
7:10 am, 2nd May 2016.
I was shivering as I stood outside in the pouring rain, 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 I could 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.
“What is it this time? Shall I tell Mr Hassan you’ve come down with a cold like the last time you didn’t have a cold?”
“That wasn’t entirely a lie, okay? Besides, the way things were going, I really might catch a cold this time”
“Can you please pick me up?”
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. After describing the area, I tucked my phone away in my pocket 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 a strange 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 15 minutes till we officially opened for the day and I still 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 12noon 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 smile from 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.
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.
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. A gentle nudge pushed me to the side as Daniel picked up the dishes. Kayla showed up seconds later trying to appease the irritated customer. She tossed me a look to make myself scarce so I immediately 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 door swung 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.”
“Get out Kevin.”
He shrugged and made to leave before turning back sharply.
“Oh, and the manager wants to see you.” He said before shutting the door.
He just had to have the last word. Now I felt myself turning cold, dreading what was to come.
A few minutes later, I knocked on Mr Hassan’s door and waited for his reply before walking in. He was a stern man who had built his business up from scratch to what it is today. The famous story is that the great restaurant, Exquisite, started out with only N10,000 and a lot of determination.
“What happened out there? I heard the commotion all the way from my office.” His piercing eyes stared at me, waiting for an answer.
“I had a small accident while serving a customer.”
“I trust you’ve cleared that up and apologised immediately?”
“Good. This should never repeat itself, do you understand me?”
I nodded and waited for him to dismiss me.
“Which section did you serve today?” He asked suddenly.
He was silent for a moment and his eyes seemed to flicker.
“Starting from next week, you will serve in the Reserved Area. There’s been a shortage of staff ever since Bukky resigned. Besides, excluding today’s mishap, you’ve been one of my loyal workers so far. Talk to Kayla after work today, she’ll tell you what to do. Now, you can leave.”
As I walked out of his office, I was beyond confused. The Reserved Area wasn’t just for anybody. The customers who went there weren’t your average Lagosian. They were secluded in a private wing of the restaurant and they even had a different menu altogether. Getting moved to a higher section was considered a promotion amongst the staff but what really amazed me was that Mr Hassan promoted me after I had clearly just made a blunder. Talk about irony.
“How did it go?” Daniel asked when I came out.
“Don’t tell me everyone knows I was called into the manager’s office.”
“News travels fast around here Dami.”
He was practically repeating the words I’d said to Kevin earlier.
“I realise that. Anyway,” I smiled. “I’m going to be working in the Reserved Area from next week.”
“No way. VIP?”
“Why would I lie about that?”
“Wow, that’s huge. Good luck.” He nodded with an impressed look.
“Thanks, I almost can’t believe it myself.”
“Make sure you tell me what goes on in there, you can be my informant.”
I laughed as we went back to our workstation. Not up to 5 minutes later, another impatient customer yelled for service. I glanced at Daniel and he gestured for me to stay put. Neither of us wanted a repeat of the scenario earlier. I set about arranging the cutlery instead.
Thank God I’ll be out of here soon.
But little did I know that my unexpected promotion came with its side effects.
When I got to my dorm room after work, I juggled the task of finding my room keys along with holding my phone tucked between my shoulder and ear. I was on the phone with Toyin, my elder sister who could talk a mile per minute when she was excited and she had every right to be. After all, she’ll be getting married in a couple of months.
”Ah Dami, I’m finished!”
I nearly dropped my phone in shock. Quickly, I pushed the door open and dropped my keys on the reading table.
“What happened? Are you alright?”
“Can you imagine? The caterer just called a few minutes ago to tell me that instead of the Red Velvet cake with Chocolate Mousse filling and Vanilla Buttercream frosting I ordered, he made a plain Vanilla cake! Who the heck wants plain Vanilla on their wedding day? Is he deaf or he’s trying to jinx my wedding?”
I removed the phone from my ear, stared at it in disbelief and held it up again.
“Pardon?” I asked.
“Oh, abi you too you’re deaf?”
“I thought you had a crisis.” I said.
“Of course this is a crisis. It’s my wedding we’re talking about here.”
“Toyin, the wedding is just one day. What about the actual marriage?”
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. The wedding day is the first step Dami, and it has to start out on the right foot.”
I sighed. She had me there.
“Anyway, what do you plan on doing about this?”
“I simply said I won’t pay a dime until it’s fixed. It’s Red Velvet cake or nothing.”
“We both know you won’t bypass a wedding cake, Toyin.”
“Exactly, so my cake has to be ready.”
After that, I managed to divert her attention towards other issues that didn’t have to do with flour and eggs. When we ended the call, I yawned and looked around. My roommate obviously hadn’t been in the room today. Sometimes, the girl disappeared for days at a stretch before suddenly showing up again. We didn’t even talk much, how could you be friends with someone you rarely even see and who ignores you half the time?
After getting dinner ready, I set about preparing for the new semester which was to start in a few days. I was one of those students who was always early to arrive on campus. Call me overambitious, I don’t mind. I’d just finished arranging my clothes for each day of the week when I heard a knock on the door. I frowned and turned in its direction. I rarely have visitors and if it was my roommate Chioma, she wouldn’t knock because she has her own key.
I looked through the peephole but didn’t see anyone. I’ve never been a paranoid person, but something about this seemed odd. Gently, I opened the door and searched the hallway. No one was outside and all the other dorm rooms were locked. I took a step forward and my foot hit an object on the floor. I glanced down to find a plain package wrapped in brown paper.
It was like a scene out of a horror movie, except there was no creepy music.
I picked up the package, praying I wouldn’t turn into a tuber of yam. After all, these are hard times of recession and everyone wants free food. After checking to see that all my limbs were still intact, I went back into the room and opened the package.
My brows wrinkled in confusion when a white shirt fell out, it was a masculine design. Was this someone’s idea of a joke? A secret admirer who couldn’t even pick out the right style of clothes?
That was when I saw it; the huge oil stain on the front of the shirt and there was only one place where I’d seen a shirt in this exact same style. My heart raced in my chest as I hurriedly jerked the door open to see if he was still hanging around, but the hallway was empty and I stood alone.
It was then I realised that I had been followed.
A soiled shirt? I know I would start locking all the windows, What would you have done if it were you? Tell us in the comment section below.
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