Leidy had been attaché at Tech World Company Limited for three weeks now. Every single time he stepped into the confines of the gate of the institution, he felt a spasm of panic ran through his spine. He felt someone of his social status did not belong there: well he never felt he belonged anywhere. Today was no different. He had just used the last shilling he had as bus fare to work.
Although there was no policy on dressing at Tech World, Leidy had barely met the common standards dressing ever since he got there, not even once. It was not by choice or design, but he had to make a choice between feeding himself and making it through each day or buying better clothes to match up with the other attaches. On this particular day, he was shabbily clad and his t-shirt had the writings ‘My money grows like grass.’ Call it the irony of life, given he did not have a single coin on him at the moment. All he could afford was a smile.
He walked past the security guards and waved at them while mumbling greetings that were barely audible. They had grown used to him by then. He went straight to the office they were assigned. The office was considerably large, with a small waiting area with padded folding chairs arranged along the wall, orange-fleeced commercial carpet. The office secretary was busy digging through the pile of stacked documents.
Some of the other attaches had already arrived. Well much to his expectation, they were sharply dressed as usual. If it were that he was good with programme coding, then the other attaches would have had the courage of making fun of his dressing on his face. However, none of them did, because at one point they will need his help, so they had to play nice. What he lacked in regards to dressing, he made up for with fierce determination and hard work.
He had just arrived at the right time: as the supervisor was handing out duties to everyone. He quietly sat on his desk and whipped out his laptop and brought it to life. Then the systematic tapping of keyboards began: everyone engrossed to their laptop screens. Occasionally someone would cross over to Leidy with a laptop in hand, they would mumble a few words, type a few keys and the person would go back and sit.
It took about an hour for the stomach rumblings to start. The hunger had started taking its toll on him. The previous night he only had a plate of rice and beans: which his neighbour was just kind enough to offer him. In the morning he had nothing to eat. For now, he had to find a way of reducing the pangs of hunger.
He reached out for his bag and grabbed the water bottle he had put in his bag and drank a few mouthfuls until he felt his stomach bulge slightly. He was used to a single meal a day by that time. When he got lucky he would eat twice a day. Money had been a troubling subject for as long as he could remember. He soon took his concentration back to his laptop. Time flew by, it was soon lunch break.
He never bothered to look up, all his focus was on his laptop. People started trickling out of the office one at a time. He waited until every single person had left the office then laid his head on the desk and took a nap. It was the only way he could make it past the one-hour lunch break with a rumbling stomach. He soon fell asleep. After about half an hour, a soft voice woke him up.
“Hey,” she said, gently tapping his left shoulder, “I noticed you did not go out for lunch so I brought you something to eat.”
It was a voice dripping with sweetness. Leidy looked up and saw Ashley sweetly smiling down at him. She had packed fries in her hands.
“I never got to thank you for the help you gave me yesterday. Consider this a humble token of appreciation,” Ashley said.
“Well, thank you,” Leidy said as he painfully laboured to conjure a smile on his face.
“I should be the one thanking you,” she said as she gracefully walked away from him and back to her desk.
She was heaven sent, an angel sent to his rescue at his time of need. He started gobbling down the fries. It was when he was almost done that he realised that there were small packets of ketchup and salt. He couldn’t help but laugh. He took the two packets and placed them in his bag. He then took out the bottle of water from his bag and drunk to his fill. Then he went back to the rhythmic keyboard typing. The supervisor walked in occasionally to check on their progress.
Seconds turned to minutes, minutes into hours and soon the working hours were over. Everybody started packing, getting ready to leave. Leidy soon heard the sounds of a pair of stilettos making an abrupt stop next to him. It was Ashley.
“Are you done? I was hoping we leave together since we are both going to Wendani.” She said. He looked up, tensed and nervous. He stared, without breathing, into Ashley’s dark eyes; she looked pleasantly back at him. He ran his hands over his face and silently sighed.
This was good news to him; it was just that the timing was wrong. The unwritten gentleman’s rule states that it is the man who should pay for bus fare when in the company of a lady. He had psychologically prepared himself to walk the seven kilometres back home. He knew just too well he was penniless. He felt it would be unacceptable to ask her to pay bus fare for him, and there was no way Ashley would be humble enough to walk with him; he had to come up with an excuse and fast.
They both walked to the bus station. All this while, Leidy was thinking of ways of escaping the eminent financial embarrassment he was about to face. They stood there for a minute and soon a bus pulled up next to where they were standing with the other waiting passengers.
“There is something urgent I have to attend to in town, I cannot accompany you today. Why don’t we go together some other time?” He asked hoping she would let him off the hook. Luckily for him, she understood. She boarded the bus and soon they disappeared into the vicinity.
He plugged his earphones into his phone and started walking back home..............(to be continued)