When Pesh appeared at the door, she noticed that the loud excited chitter-chatter from her colleagues suddenly shushed. They behaved like a class of rogue students who banter around and only pretend to be serious in their studies when a teacher comes to class.
Pesh scanned through and noticed that most of her colleagues were now pretentiously flipping through files or typing on their computers , avoiding to meet her gaze. It was an unsettling feeling. This was how they would behave when the company director would come in.
“Hi Vernon,” She said with a beaming smile to one of her colleagues . Vernon’s reaction bothered Pesh. He looked shocked, more like embarrassed. He looked around and then managed to say a dismissive hi. He then buried his head in his pile of papers.
Pesh walked to her office cubicle as the rest bent their heads waiting for her to pass to her corner in the office. She took her phone and walked back out again and the big room of fifteen was in a state of tumult again. Pesh frowned at the way her colleagues were behaving towards her.
She decided to stop and try and eavesdrop.
“Vernon!” A colleague screamt out and the whole room fell into an uproar of laughter.
“No, No, Listen guys,” It was Vernon, “I have no business with that woman!”
“Well, things don’t look that way. Looks like you should start buying antiretrovirals early enough!” Pesh recognised that voice, it was Duncan. She felt a stab of a bitter emotion. Then she heard some footsteps nearing towards her and quickly put her phone next to her ear pretending to have a serious conversation.
Lucia stopped on her tracks when she saw her and ran back to the room, obviously to alert the rest that Pesh was around. Then the room went dead silent and Lucia came back and passed Pesh as fast as she could do. Pesh followed her and when Lucia was almost at the rest rooms , Pesh called out to her. Lucia started to walk faster, Pesh hurried her steps too and called out louder. Lucia stopped.
“Lucia, what is going on?” Pesh inquired desperately.
Pesh had never seen Lucia so angry. The veins in her head were bulging, threatening menacingly to explode anytime, her eyes had warped into a terrifying red, her nostrils flaring and her mouth had started to form foam at the sides of it.
“Pesh, I know you now, we know you for who you really are. Behind that innocent looking facade is a snitch, a whore and a woman willing to go to any lengths to get what she wants. You disgust me!” Lucia snapped and left to the cloakroom.
Pesh was stuck on the ground like an electric pole. Shock and pain were emotions that when they mix, cause a very terrible feeling in one’s guts. How could Lucia be so angry, so abusive and so abhorrent towards her like that! Lucia, who had accompanied her to church meetings every Friday evening, Lucia who had borrowed Kshs 15000 just last month and had not paid the full amount yet, Lucia who, Pesh thought had been a friend!
Pesh wanted to go and talk to Mr Kato, The Director and ask for that day’s leave but she remembered that she needed the money to cater for her husband’s medical problems. She walked back to the office and as expected, they all fell into a suspicious quietude.Then Mr Kato came in behind her.
“Ladies and gentlemen, good morning!” He said as Pesh hurried to her seat quickly but did not fail to notice a few workmates watching her and shaking their heads disapprovingly.
“I have a major announcement. Following Mr Manu’s exit who was the company’s supervisor for five years, I have decided that one of you should fill the position he left vacant. After thorough consultation, I have concluded that the position will be taken by this very hardworking worker, whose increasing marginal returns in the last six months has impressed me greatly.”
As the Director spoke, one could feel the anxiety in the air. The Supervisor’s position was the most coveted chair especially now that Mr Manu had left. It called for a better salary, better terms and quite a number of privileges.
Pesh did not pay much attention. She had heard that Vernon would take the seat. Her mind was now at home, with her sick husband. She wondered how he was coping with the new nurse. She wanted to be with him but she needed the income.
Pesh suddenly heard her name being mentioned. Then the colleague next to her clicked.
“C’mon guys, let us congratulate Madam Pesh for the promotion.” Mr Kato said as he clapped proudly. Her colleagues clapped too albeit with forced enthusiasm. Then the boss left the room. The office members formed small groups and whispered agitatedly.
“Madam Pesh, congratulations!” This came from Davina. She was the loud-mouth of the office. “The late night workshifts have come through finally, huh?” She said winking and left. Pesh could not shake off the feeling that the woman had suggested something sexual. Her temper rose. She stood and called out Davina who seemed irritated at the public address.
“Follow me.” Pesh ordered. They walked to a vacant office.
“What did you mean by saying the late night workshifts have finally come through?” She inquired. For someone like Davina, one did not need much coercing. She loved to utilise her gab.
“Well, Madam, we all know why you have been promoted.” Davina said.
“Why have I been promoted? Tell me because I think Mr Kato was clear about why I qualify for the Supervisor’s position.” Pesh retorted.
“Madam, we know who has been feeding Mr Kato with the ongoings of the office here. He seems to know everything we discuss. Besides, Madam Fridah told us of your latenight meetings with Mr Kato in hs office. She saw you two, romping on his desk!” Davina said almost triumphantly to a very bewildered Pesh.
“Wait, do you think I am the office snitch? You actually think I am sleeping with Mr Kato?” Pesh asked. “I swear I have never met Mr Kato in his office past five o’clock! Gosh!” Davina clicked and left. Evidently, she thought Pesh was lying.
Pesh could not believe that such a rumour about her was being peddled around. She wondered why Fridah would be so malicious to lie about her. Of all people, Fridah she had trusted the most. She thought she was her closest friend. But lately, she had become too distant, almost ice cold towards her.
Mr Kato was said to have HIV. She remembered Duncan’s comment to Vernon about buying ARVs and felt an unnnerving ache in her at the wrong accusations. They thought she had caught the virus. No wonder Lucia was that angry towards her.
It hurt so much but Pesh was not the type to mope over things she had no control over. Trying to argue her case would even convince them more that the rumour was true. She decided to focus on what was important. And if no one would celebrate for her, she was still The Supervisor. God knew that she truly deserved the promotion.
She lifted her chin up and walked back to the large room. She walked to the special desk on the far right corner with the name plate ‘Supervisor’ imprinted on it. She dusted the desk off as the colleagues watched her enviously. She almost burst out laughing as they watched her every move as she transferred her items from her former desk to the new one. Then she eyed them all one by one and cleared her throat.
“Fellow colleagues. I want to thank the Almighty God for this opportunity for only him knows how hard I have worked for it. To you, I promise to work with you without favour or discrimination. I therefore ask that we all settle and focus on our work. We all know the rules and right now we are supposed to be hitting our targets instead of engaging in cheap prattle. ”
She said and watched as they walked back to their desks. “Thank you.” She said, sat down then got busy on her desk. No one dared to start small talk. The only noise was the clicking of the computer keyboards. The room remained silent until a brave colleague announced that it was already lunch time.
Being Supervisor meant working very closely with the Director. She frequented his office to update him on the work progress. Albeit the rumours about them two, Mr Kato always addressed Pesh with utmost professionalism. They had a mutual respect for each other. She was content that way because she loved her job.
The weird behaviour by her colleagues did not change. They were icy to her efforts of trying to be cordial. It was a challenge to be supervisor with a team that thought so lowly of her.
But truth has a way of unearthing itself. For Pesh, it revealed itself on a Monday morning right in front of everyone in the office, through the wife of the boss!
Mrs Kato burst in, mad as hell. “Fridah!” She roared. Her strong voice equaling her strong big frame.
“Who is Fridah?” Everyone stared at Fridah. Mrs Kato took the cue and started long fearsome strides to Fridah. But Mr Kato came just in time to save Fridah to what would have been a bad smashing. His wife swore expletives, warning Frida to leave her man alone, to stop sending him nude pictures of her shapeless body, and to stop ingratiating herself to Mr Kato by feeding him the office gossip.
“Such a desperate fool, trying everything to get my husband’s favour! I have read all your texts woman! You are a disgrace to all women. I pity anyone who calls you a friend here. You could easily sell their souls!”
Mr Kato managed to get his wife out of the office but did a bad job in trying to silence her. She exposed Fridah in the worst way possible. Fridah was ashen with shame.
She looked at Duncan, who was seated next to her , glaring disbelievingly at her. The two had something going on.
“Duncan, I can explain…” She tried to say but he clicked his mouth and walked away in annoyance. Lucia,who had of late become very close to her also walked out too.
Pesh took a deep breath and thanked God. The truth was out in the open.
The following day, Fridah did not come to work. She could not stand the shame. The day of reckoning had come for her.
Colleagues apologized for their earlier conduct towards Pesh. They confessed to believing Fridah’s lies. She had orchestrated the whole hate plan against Pesh and they had fallen hook, line and sinker.
“We have a surprise for you Madam Supervisor.” Vernon announced, “We know that however long we extend our olive branch, you will never forget how we treated you, but we will do our best to make it up to you boss, here is a envelope with our contributions, to help you in buying medication for your husband. We know he is suffering from Multiple Sclerosis.” He said offering her the fat envelope.
“When we expressed our wish to Mr Kato to raise some money for you, he too made an enormous contribution. He expressed his deep respect for you and your loyalty to your husband.”
Pesh was overwhelmed with emotion. Her husband badly needed an acupuncture and she had no money for that. Now here was an answered prayer. She was very grateful to her peers.
Lucia came forward and held Pesh.
“An office is like a second home. Colleagues are like family members. We spend more time with each other than we even do with our own blood relatives. We should be a family, caring about each other . That is what teamwork really means.”
Pesh thanked her colleagues for their profound care. She was about to make a speech when they heard Mr Kato on the phone, approaching. They all ran to their desks and got busy. He came to announce the resignation of Fridah and left. Pesh knew her work as Supervisor would be less demanding. The rotten potato in the full sack had been found and cast away.