Just thirty minutes, I told myself, as I succumbed to the temptation to doze off in my office. Just thirty tiny minutes. It had been a long day and I was tired, and even if I were caught, there was no one to tell me off. I was my own boss, after all.
There are a few things I love more than the fact that I am a successful, self-employed young woman who does what she likes doing, writing. It’s still hard to think of myself as the publisher and Editor-In-Chief of Living Lagos, a weekly lifestyle magazine that presents the highlights and highpoints of Lagos life in an entertaining and engaging format, but I am. I own Living Lagos, or at least I own a part of it. I have an investor, my close friend Eddie Bakare, but he’s more of a silent partner.
After years of publishing a campus newspaper together, I got the idea for Living Lagos during our National Youth Service year and Eddie bought into it, literally. He invested over seventy per cent of the capital. (He does have a lot of money. His grandfather was a well-known politician/public funds looter, who made a lot of money ruining the country in the seventies. Eddie suffers the ill-gotten wealth very gracefully and generously.)
We worked very hard in the first year of running the magazine and by the time the service year was over, Living Lagos had become a hit. In the second year we started an online edition. By then we were getting very good returns on our initial investments and Eddie was ready to leave me totally in charge, and take the job in his father’s oil marketing firm that had been waiting for him all his life.
So here I was, two years after completing my service year, practically my own boss and boss of four others. We rented this really tiny office space on Lagos Island from where we pursued stories on fashion, lifestyle, arts, social events and so on, within the city.
It was Friday afternoon, and the latest edition of Living Lagos had just hit the stands. After a week of intense work all I wanted to do was rest. Even the thought of driving to my tiny apartment, close by in Victoria Island, was too much for my exhausted limbs. I leaned back in my chair and tried to ignore the sounds of Lagos Island coming from outside my window. I was already well on my way to dreamland when Ada, our resident photographer and graphic designer burst into my office.
“Hey! Wake up sleepyhead!” She practically shouted, jolting me out of my doze.
I groaned and opened my eyes “What, what, what?” I said wearily. “Can’t you see I’m trying to work?”
“Yeah right!” She scoffed, impatiently brushing her braids away from her face and planting her rear on my desk. “Working with your eyes closed?”
“I’m working on catching up on my sleep, duh” I said with an unrepentant smile. “I had a meeting with Morpheus.”
She pursed her lips. “You will never change, Sophie.”
I sniggered. “I hope not.” I replied. It was comfortable to have Ada around. We had been casual friends back in university, and even though we hadn’t been very close, I’d always liked her a lot. When the guy Eddie and I hired to do the graphic design had messed up the work, she stepped in as a favor to me. Now she was an integral part of our organization and apart from the other gigs she took as a wedding/event photographer and portraitist, she seemed to be satisfied with her work at Living Lagos.
“I have some pictures I want you to look at.” She told me, cutting into my thoughts. She placed a large folder on my desk. The pictures were neatly grouped into categories. There were the ‘Candid Nollywood’ pictures, which showed Nollywood stars in various situations around the city – Stuck in traffic, riding in commercial motorcycles, looking bored on a public movie set etcetera. There were also the fashion pass and fail pictures, which included several pictures of socialites and actresses in varying degrees of embarrassing fashion failures or very well put together outfits.
Some of them made me laugh out loud as I looked through, but I made sure to remove some of them from the folder, ignoring Ada’s disapproving look. I wasn’t interested in being mean, or feeding other people’s meanness, so I took out pictures that I felt would be too unfair to publish. Ada was of a different persuasion in that respect, she was of the opinion that most, if not all pictures, deserved to be published. It was the photographer in her.
As I removed one of the last pictures, one of a young girl I recognized instantly, attending one of the award shows, and wearing a particularly hideous orange gown, Ada couldn’t help herself.
“Not that one!” She complained. “I think it’s a really good one.”
I gave her an uncompromising look. “If she were older than eighteen, maybe I would think about it.” I told her, ignoring the sulky face she was making. “Besides, she is Eddie’s little cousin.”
That got her quiet, sometimes I imagined she had a crush on Eddie, she was always quieter and more reserved whenever his name was mentioned and worse when he came around.
“Okay, forget the picture.” She said with a dismissive shrug. “There’s this benefit at the MUSON Centre tonight.”
The Music Society of Nigeria Centre was a very popular venue for highbrow occasions. One of the good things about working at Living Lagos was that we always got invites to the best events and nicest parties.
“And?” I asked.
“We have an invite.” She continued. “Actually, we have two, one for me, since I’m covering the event,” She paused, “and an extra guest ticket.”
“Get Oliver to go.” I suggested. “He can take notes while you take pictures, or take Fadeke, she needs to cut her teeth on events like these.”
“I would ask them,” Ada said. “But I think you would like to go.”
“Moi?” I laughed. “After the week I’ve had? Er… Nope. I am going to the Galleria to see a movie, get a facial, a foot massage and a pedicure, and then I am going home to sleep till Monday.”
“It’s a benefit for children with heart disease.” Ada said.
“Oh!” I said guiltily. “That is sad.” I thought for a minute. “I’ll send a check on behalf of all of us.” I told her.
She ignored me. “It’s organized by CareLife Foundation.” She continued, with a challenging expression on her face.
I paused. My heart had started hammering like a gong, and my mouth was suddenly very dry.
“CareLife.” Ada continued sweetly. “You know CareLife, don’t you? It is run by Cecilia Fernandez, who used to be Cecilia Ade-Cole.”
Of course I knew CareLife, and she knew I did. Why she was torturing me though, I didn’t know. I swallowed, hard. My heart was beating too fast, much too fast.
“You know her brother just returned from the states?” Ada continued, trying and not succeeding to keep the smirk from her voice “What’s that his name again?”
“Michael” I said. It came out as a whisper “Michael Ade-Cole”
“Yes that one.” She nodded, obviously pleased with herself. “I heard that he will be there.” She paused and gave me a mischievous look. “Confirmed.”
“Yes.” She replied.
“You’re evil.” I said, when I could breathe.
“I know.” She grinned. “So what should I do about the ticket?” She said innocently. “Should I give it to Oliver or Fadeke?” I glared at her “Not on your life.”