Afosua was not a beautiful woman, but she was difficult to ignore. At 5’8’’ she stood taller than most women and eye to eye to most men. Her skin was mahogany brown with red undertones, and her eyes were the color of coal. They were cool and piercing, taking in everything she surveyed. There was an enigma about her that made people either want to get to know more about her, or shy away completely. That is the way it was with her: all or nothing.
When she walked into the office, the receptionist greeted her warmly.
“Good morning, Ms. Gyemfi!” she chirped.
“Good morning, Gertrude,” she returned. “Where are the big guys?”
Afosua looked towards Mark Phillips and Harold Boakye’s office doors. Both were shut, indicating that they were either not in or not to be disturbed.
“They’ve met with the Swedes this morning,” Gertrude replied uneasily.
Afosua was miffed. She had been excluded again. When she joined Phillips & Boakye 6 months before, she was hired as a manager and had been wooed by the promise of being a part of big decisions with important clients. So far, she had been left out of every major conference with the company’s clients, and she knew exactly why. While Mark Phillips was the brains behind the company, Harold Boakye held the purse strings. The only son and heir of a gold baron, his financial support is what kept the company in the black while they sought to build their base. Both men had been friends since secondary school days at Achimota, and were in their late 40s. They were young enough to be hip, but one of them was old enough to have archaic views about the role of women. That person was Harold Boakye. While Mark welcomed Afosua as a valued addition to the team, Harold resented her very presence at the conference table. Whatever their positions, neither man could deny that she was a brilliant analyst. This is why they presented all their findings and data to Afosua after every meeting with a client.
“Alright then. I’ll wait till they get back. Thank you Gertrude.”
“You’re welcome, Ms. Gyemfi.”
Things were not always so cozy between Gertrude and Afosua. When she joined the company, Gertrude was the only female employee with the firm, and was used to the undivided attention of all the men in the office. She saw Afosua’s arrival as direct competition for that attention. Gertrude made every effort to let Afosua know how she felt about her encroachment on her territory, doing everything from turning in her reports late to serving her cold coffee. Being an older woman, Afosua saw quickly past these childish antics and addressed Gertrude’s insecurity by taking her to lunch one day.
“Let’s be friends, okay? I can be a wonderful friend, but an even more formidable enemy,” she advised the recent university graduate. “Your best bet is to make me your friend.”
Things got better soon after that.
Afosua threw her purse onto the red leather guest seat in her office and let out a loud breath. She picked up a pair of digital dice that a friend had given her for her birthday and blew on them before rolling them on the table. If you asked them any question, they were supposed to predict the outcome accurately.
“Will I have a good day at work today?” she asked the dice.
“No,” came the mechanical reply.
“Oh. Will I have a better day than yesterday?”
She rolled the dice again.
“Well fuck me.”
“I’d be happy to!”
Afosua whipped around and saw Robert Acquah’s broad frame filling out the door to her office. She was overpowered by the scent of cinnamon and all spice, the undertones of the cologne that he had applied much too liberally this early in the morning.
“Good morning, Robert.”
“Good morning, Afosua,” he purred, moving in a little closer.
Afosua stepped away from him and sat behind her desk, powering up her desktop. 2 weeks ago she would have welcomed his advances, just as she had done the first week she began working for Phillips & Boakye. Robert was an attractive man, and reeked of sex. Hooking up with him was just the kind of welcome Afosua needed when she joined the firm. Even the discovery that he was engaged with a baby on the way did not deter her interest in him. The discovery that he was hooking up with Gertrude (in the supply closet) at the same time however, was. She abruptly ended their tryst and he been enduring his attempts to reconnect ever since.
“I hear the bosses are out meeting with the Swedes this morning,” she said in measured tones.
“Yes,” confirmed Robert. “I met them walking out for a breakfast meeting as I came in.”
“I should have been in on it,” she mused.
“I’d like to get in or on you,” Robert quipped wickedly, trailing his hand on the cuff of her suit.
Afosua was in no mood for this foolishness. She snatched her hand away.
“Look, I’ve got some work to do,” she said dismissively. “When you’ve had a chance to take a look at that video, can you let me know what your observations are?”
Robert had sense enough to know when he wasn’t wanted around, and went in search of easier prey. Afosua heard Gertrude giggling soon after Robert had left her office.
“Sooner rather than later, Robert,” she called through her open door.
She heard his footsteps retreating on the terrazzo floor and into the video room.
No one knew it, but one of the reasons Phillips & Boakye were such a successful actuary service was because of the technology they used: hidden camera. Ghana’s voyeurism laws were so lax that they may as well not exist. Whenever there was a sales call, the entire meeting was recorded and analyzed later. Robert was an oversexed chauvinistic maniac, but no one was better at reading non-verbal cues than he was. Just by observing a client’s body language, he could assess what their mouth might not be saying. He could asses sincerity, deception and fear. His findings were paired with the results of all the empirical data collected for any deal, and a benefit/risk analysis was provided for a proposed project. Phillip & Boakye understood what too few other actuaries in Ghana wanted to: Numbers don’t lie, but people do.
Afosua used the next four hours to answer emails and re-read the massive behavior analysis report for the Swedes. Something didn’t add up, far beyond the typical foreign firm swooping in to consume the lion’s share of a project and leave the country with a shredded carcass. She just couldn’t put her finger on it. The chime of her Blackberry shook her from her thoughts. It was Naa Akweley.
Afosua grabbed her purse and shuffled towards the door, her heels impeding her speed.
“Gertrude, take any messages that come in for me will you please?”
“Yes, of course,” said Gertrude, barely looking up.
Afosua ducked her head into the office.
“And stay out of the broom closet!”