“What about the other lady – Barrister Ogochukwu?” Ihechi asked Comfort, feeling comfortable enough to ask about another person, since she had more or less secured her own job.
“Hmm! That babe is something else!” Comfort launched into the gist. “She was the one who would have gotten this job now! It happened that our boss wanted only one person. So, she was called in the following week after you guys’ interview.”
“Seriously?” Ihechi choked out, suddenly feeling cold and clammy. The very idea that she would have waited in vain, if whatever happened to disqualify Ogochukwu did not happen, sent chills up her spine. “So, what happened now?” she asked, trying to sound flippant.
“Well, she said that 50k per month is too small, even though she’ll be paid appearance fee and transport allowance anytime she goes to court, or to any other place for the office. So, we had to let her go. She’s too greedy joor!”
For reals? Ihechi thought. Well, my luck. Aloud, she said, “Oh? Eiyaa… I hope she finds what she’s looking for.”
“Good luck with getting a place where she’ll be paid 100k plus appearance fee,” Comfort said, rolling her eyes and cackling.
“I have to be going,” Ihechi announced then, making to rise from the chair.
“Barrister Kingsley said you shouldn’t leave without seeing him o!” Comfort said, causing Ihechi to hesitate a moment, before settling back down on her seat.
“Why?” she asked warily.
“I don’t know. That was the instruction he gave me before leaving for court this morning.”
Ihechi couldn’t help but notice how Comfort’s lips curled in distaste around the word ‘instruction’.
“Did he say why he wanted to see me?” Ihechi asked again, feeling slightly trapped.
“Uhm… No,” Comfort replies thoughtfully.
“Well then, I’m sure he won’t mind if I blow him off for today, since I’ll be starting on Monday,” Ihechi said, standing and adjusting the strap of her bag.
“Alright. See you on Monday!” Comfort said cheerily.
Ihechi left quickly, praying that she wouldn’t run into Kingsley on her way out. She would have to deal with working with him every day. So, this was her, begging off from his obnoxiousness until Monday.
Mercifully, she did not meet him on her way out.
Ihechi found it hard to sleep on Sunday night because of her barely-restrained excitement. By twilight, she’d already laid out her clothes for the five days of the week, and wiped her shoes. (There was no need for polish, as the only surviving black shoes she possessed were made of patent leather).
Sleep simply refused to come to her.
She knew what to do. Smiling, she stood before her book rack, and after fingering through the spines of the books in her ‘micro mini’ library, she selected Civil Litigation by Ojukwu. If nothing could send her to sleep, this would. She went back into bed with the book, and turned open the pages, trying to focus on the civil law text book page, where Mr. Ojukwu described the types of courts and their jurisdictions.
And yet, sleep wouldn’t come.
She studied courts and their jurisdictions, noting the changes, which she marked with a pencil by the sides of the prints, all the while, wondering why she’d found this particular topic difficult when she was preparing for her bar finals. She moved from there to the next topic, Parties To A Suit, reading with some gusto and realizing that her aim for picking out the book had been rendered futile.
Finally, she gave up around 3:00am. She was simply too wired to sleep. Instead, she went to bathe and prepare for her first day at work.
Seven-fifteen a.m. found Ihechi seated at the reception of Mama Gold Solicitors. It was just the cleaner who was at the office at that time.
Moments after remaining seated, she yawned, feeling the enervation she hadn’t felt all night creep up on her.
Oh no, she wailed inwardly. I cannot sleep now! She hastily dug into her bag for her novel.
“Excuse me please,” a voice intruded on her preoccupation.
The cleaner was standing before her, mop-stick in hand and a curious expression on her face. “Can you go over there, so that I can clean this side?” she said, gesturing with a nod to the bank of seats on the adjacent wall to where Ihechi was seated.
“Oh! Sorry!” Ihechi said, scrambling up from her seated position. The book she was reading fell off her lap. Bending to pick it up, one of the straps of her handbag slipped off her shoulder, and the file where she stashed photocopies of her credentials came tumbling out of the bag. Papers flew everywhere.
“Oh God! Sorry!” she blurted, trying her best to be graceful as she picked up her papers. Silently, she prayed that this flustered beginning wouldn’t define the rest of this day – her first day at work.
She took a look at the wall clock, to see that it was just 7:30am. “Time just knows how to crawl when you need it to run fast,” she muttered under her breath.
Rising, she decided to take a walk around the area and clear her eyes of sleep. She would also kill a little bit of time in the process. She attached her earpiece to her phone, and tuning to Wazobia FM, she set out.
Listening to the anchor for OLX Daily Giveaway was entertaining, as she walked around, observing the banks and the fast-food joints around Dabino Plaza. She also saw where Lugbe cabs were loading and off-loading passengers, right across the road behind the plaza. She smiled, upon realizing that she’d just discovered an easier and cheaper way to commute.
She came back to the office a little out of breath, and definitely not sleepy. Comfort was already behind her desk, putting on her makeup.
“Hi!” came her cheery greeting. The woman seemed to really like her. “Good morning.”
“Hello, how was your weekend?” Ihechi greeted back, plonking down blessedly on the chair, and relieving her shoulder of her hand bag, made weighty by the laptop which she’d put in it.
Before Comfort could reply, a shadow darkened the doorway as someone walked into the room.
“Good day, sir,” both women said in unison, standing to greet the Head of Chambers as he walked into the office.
“Good morning, counsel,” the Head of Chambers said brusquely. “Come on into my office,” he continued as he walked past.
He waved Ihechi to the seat across from him immediately she came in.
Ihechi sat, and watched as Comfort bustled about in one corner of the office, getting tea ready for the boss.
“So,” his voice drew her attention back to him. “I thought I should brush you up on some things. In this office, we are somewhat autonomous. Meaning, you will be given files to handle. You are not expected to take permission from anybody when you have a matter, or you need to prepare a process.”
He spoke really fast. Ihechi’s brain had to work overtime to keep up with him.
“At the end of every day, you will type your daily reckoner, and send to my e-mail. It should include what you did in the office for the day, if you went to court, what case you went for, the status of the case and the next adjournment date.”
He paused to receive the saucer with the cup of tea on it, which Comfort had been about to place on his desk. The aroma of the rich tea wafted to Ihechi’s nose, stirring her senses and causing her stomach to growl in muted protest. She hadn’t had breakfast.
“We do not go home with files,” the Head of Chambers continued after taking a sip of his tea. “You will come to the office to pick it up in the morning before you go to court, and then, return it before going home. If you need money for anything like filing or transport, you make application to the secretary to have a voucher raised for you.”
There was a slight pause in which he stopped to check his phone, which had been beeping intermittently.
“Your office is right opposite this one. You can go check it out now, and get yourself settled in. We have a lot of work on our hands right now. So, get ready to work. Any questions?”
“Okay. You can go now.” He dismissed Ihechi, turning his attention to the steaming cup before him. Whatever was in that cup truly smelled heavenly.
Ihechi rose from her seat and left the office.
Once outside the door, she noticed the closed door just before her. She gingerly walked toward it and opened it. She looked around in amazement.
This space is way better than what I had at Barrister Agbo’s chambers o! She whistled in her mind as she closed the door behind her, so she could explore without being observed.
There were two tables in the office. The one closer to the door was bare, in comparison with the other, which had books and files on it. She assumed that would be her table. It had a computer on it, and a swivel chair behind it.
She went around it and sat on the chair, and started swiveling herself round and round.
Thank you, Jesus, she praised silently, feeling flushed with her gratitude.
So, assuming I go to court four times in a week, she began thinking. That would be 6k. In a month, I’ll be counting like… What is six times four again? She scrambled for her phone and checked for the answer with the calculator. 24k, and that’s not even my salary oh!
“Wheee! This. Is. IT!” She made to swivel the chair again, but stopped in her tracks. “I shouldn’t count my chickens before they are hatched,” she reprimanded herself.
Then, she turned her attention to the second table, walking toward it to see what was on it. Several case files, a diary… She opened the diary, turning to the first page.
“Oh my God!” she gasped, closing the diary immediately and pulling her hand away from the table, as if she’d being bitten by something. “Oh no! How will I survive sharing an office with that religious perv?” she wailed.
“Be calm, Ihechiluru, be calm,” she muttered to herself after taking a few short inhalations. “It’s one battle at a time.”
And taking another deep breath, she set about making the first table hers. And every time her eyes strayed to the other table, with its books and the diary, she felt increasingly trapped.
Written by The Counsel