Valley of Decisions
I once had the biggest crush on Laila.
Since the day I saw her 8 years ago, she has never left my mind. I
met her in the Student Union and stared at her intensely. She was
beautiful and carried herself with such dignity. I was young but I
knew a mature lady when I saw one.
/> I walked up to her and introduced myself. She was new in town to
attend law school. I asked for her number, which I didn’t get, but she
insisted that I gave her mine. I never heard from her or saw her
again until that day!
That fateful day!
Ben was so excited and wanted me to meet a law student whom he
was so in love with even though he had met her just 3 weeks before.
He brought her to meet a group of us at a restaurant uptown. As
soon as they walked in, my heart stopped beating. There she was
looking more beautiful than ever. She remembered me and gave me
all the excuses in the world why she hadn’t called. It didn’t matter
then; she was with my best friend and to me, that meant it was a
I was a little angry that Ben caught her attention but I was
convinced that she’d see through him and the relationship would
end as fast as it started. My mind changed with each passing year,
and I concluded that she was drawn to the bad boy, heartbreaker
type of guy. I knew she had made a mistake but it wasn’t my place to
get involved. Besides, my relationship with Ben was quite important
to me back then. I knew all the things he was doing behind the
scenes and I tried as much as possible never to be around her when
they were together.
“Why do women always sell themselves short?” I asked no one in
particular. I was in my office staring out of my window.
“Would you like me to answer that, sir?”
I turned around to see Donna, my secretary. She’s worked for me
since I joined OXTEN. She is effective but can be quite intrusive.
“Donna, I didn’t realize you were there. Why didn’t you call or
knock?” I asked.
“I’m sorry,” she said as I stood up and walked around my table.
“I called your phone several times but it had the Do Not Disturb sign
on so it rang engaged. I actually have been knocking for a few
minutes, sir,” she said.
“That’s alright,” I said, stopping inches in front of her. “Is the
boardroom set for my meeting?”
“Not quite sir,” she said. “Mr Donjo will be late. He sends his
“Fine. Let me know when
he gets here.” I motioned for her to leave
my office. “You may go Donna.”
“Will do sir. Can I get you anything?” she asked as she made her way
to the door.
“Some iced tea will be perfect. And please shut the door behind you,”
I answered. Once my door was shut, I began pacing around my
office. “Matthew, get yourself together!” I said a little too loudly.
The sound of my cell phone vibrating on my table distracted me. It
was Naomi, a lady my brother introduced me to. He thought we’d be
perfect together so I took
her out a few times but we never seemed to
connect well. I’ll return her call later, I thought.
Just about everyone, from my mother to my Pastor has the perfect
lady for me. The pressure can be overwhelming! I sighed heavily and
walked over to my window, staring blankly. “Holy Spirit, I need Your
help. I’m trusting you to lead me,” I said.
“Sir, the meeting is ready to begin.” I turned around abruptly at the
sound of Donna’s voice. “Donna! Please learn to knock before you
come in,” I said frustratingly.
She sighed. “I did sir. Again, there was no response. I’m sorry to
“Fine. Please learn to wait for an answer before you come in,” I said
as I reached for a folder and a pen. Let them know I’ll be with them
shortly. Place the iced tea on my table,” I said as I adjusted my tie and
suit jacket in front of my full-length mirror. She placed an oval tray
on the edge of my table and hurried out of my office, almost
slamming the door shut. As I watched her leave, I couldn’t help but
laugh out loud.
I took a sip of my drink and made a beeline towards the door.
Note to self: I’ve really got to stop daydreaming in the office!
“Laila. How are you? I’ve been calling you all day.”
“I’m alright Ben,” I answered dryly. “I’ve been busy preparing for the
meeting I told you about.” I snickered. “As usual, I’m sure you forgot.
I’m on my way to the office right now.”
“Please don’t start, Laila,” Ben said. “Are we still on for dinner
tonight?” He sounded frustrated.
“Sure,” I said.
“Good. I’ll pick you up at 8. See you later. I love you.”
/> “Yeah, you too,” I said offhandedly and hung up.
Lord knows Ben is starting to irk me! My parents will be here next
month and he’s still not assured me that he would meet them as my
I’ll deal with that later. I was already late for my meeting and my
boss was very unhappy with me.
I was led down the hall and into a boardroom; the meeting was in
“I’m sorry I’m late,” I said as I stepped in. “The traffic was incredible
and I was sp…”
Mr Donjo, my boss interrupted me. “No explanation necessary right
now, Miss Ocheng. Just sit.”
I did as I was told and just sat.
I hurriedly removed some folders from my briefcase and placed
them on the table.
While the presentation carried on, I felt someone staring at me and I
glanced back. That looked like Matthew Smith, I thought.
He smiled at me and I smiled back.
That caught the attention of Mr Donjo, who looked at me
I sat up but I couldn’t help but wonder why in the world Matthew
was here. He looked F-I-N-E too, I thought.
When the presentation was over, Matthew made some comments,
which made me realise he was the Vice President of OXTEN. I was
I couldn’t tell what the conclusion of the meeting was because I
stopped paying attention and watched his every move. I was not
focused. I had not seen this man in years and he looked more
handsome than I remember.
I wondered what happened to him. Each time I asked Ben, he just
told me that Matthew found God and lost his way. If this is what
losing your way after finding God looks like, count me in!
I remember him getting a job here but you don’t become VP of
OXTEN just like that. Good for you Matthew, I thought.
“Miss Ocheng, we are waiting for your thoughts. Hello.” Mr Donjo
was staring at me… again.
I cleared my throat. “Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. What did you
My boss let out a frustrated sigh. “I said this presentation has been
thorough and robust. However, I need to know what you think about
the section on dealing with employee grievances.”
Okay! I really should have listened. If I heard a single word, that
would have helped but I don’t even know what is under that section.
I will have to wing it.
I smiled. “I thought… Sir… it was thorough and robust.”
Mr Donjo stood up. “Yes, Mr Smith just said that. Even I just said
that. Any additional thoughts, Miss Ocheng?”
If my skin was lighter, I would have turned red. I stood up. “Oh. I
agree with all remarks and I have nothing further to recommend,
sir.” I knew I was going to get an earful back at the office.
“Okay, Mr Smith. Without further ado, it looks like we are ready to
do business with your company. We will take the entire docvment
back and read through one more time and then come back to you
with our final feedback.” Mr Donjo said this while staring at me
I am in big trouble, I thought.
I didn’t miss the opportunity to smile at Matthew as I followed my
boss out of the office and out of the building, sheepishly.
As we walked out of the OXTEN building, Mr Donjo turned around
abruptly causing me to almost bump into him. “Miss Ocheng, I don’t
need to know what you were thinking about in that meeting but let
me remind you that daydreaming was not in your contract.”
I felt like a little schoolgirl who was being told off. “Sir, my sincere
He cut me off. “Like I said in there, no apologies necessary. It must
not happen again. I expect you to go through the docvments
thoroughly for the rest of the day and give me your contributions by
9 am tomorrow morning. No excuses, Laila.”
When Mr Donjo addresses me by my first name, warning signs go
off in my head. Careful Laila, I thought.
He motioned for his Personal Assistant to give me the folders, which
I reluctantly collected. “Will do, sir. No excuses. Have a good day.”
Without a word, Mr Donjo entered the back seat of his car and his
chauffeur sped off.
I stood there looking like a lost sheep. Where do I even begin? How
in the world am I supposed to finish reading a 500-page docvment
before tomorrow morning? The thought of it made me groan. “This is
going to be a very long night, Laila. This is what you get,” I said to
As I began to walk towards my car, I heard Matthew call out to me.
“Laila Ocheng! Talk about a pleasant surprise,” He said.
Talk about wrong timing, I thought. I felt dishevelled.
“Hi, Matthew Smith.” I tried to smile widely. “I didn’t expect to see
you here today. I had no idea you still worked here. And look at you,
VP. Good for you!”
He reached out for the folders. “You mean you didn’t know?” he
asked. “I thought Ben might have told you.”
I rolled my eyes as I handed the folders over. “Ben?” I asked as we
walked towards my car. “Ben is… never mind.” I didn’t want to start
anything I couldn’t finish.
Matthew got the hint. “I’ll walk you to your car,” he said. “You never
checked on me anyway so how would you have known?”
“No comment,” I said as I chuckled. I pointed to the OXTEN building
and said, “You have done really well for yourself though.”
We stopped by my car and I opened the door. “Yes. I’m grateful for
the life I have,” he said. “I should say the same about you,” he said as
I took the folders from him and placed them on the backseat. “I didn’t
know you were at Donjo & Mitchell law firm. The cream of the crop
in this country is connected to your firm, you know. You’re a boss
lady,” he said.
I waved him off and laughed. “I’ve been with them for a while now…
Looking to become senior partner someday hopefully.”
Matthew leaned on the car and smirked. “Well, that’s if you still
have a job.”
I shoved him.“What does that mean?”
“Mr Donjo didn’t seem too pleased with you today,” he said as he
I shrugged my shoulders. “Oh don’t worry about him. We have this
special love-hate relationship. He always comes around.”
He laughed again and his laughter sounded like sweet music to my
ears. I found myself staring at him intensely until he cleared his
throat, which brought me back to the moment. “Well,” he said. “If
you do lose your job, just remember you know a VP in this city who
can get you a job in a hurry.”
I air punched him and said, “Good joke. That’s my cue to leave. It’s
been nice catching up. I have a pile of work waiting for me.”
His smile vanished as I hurriedly hopped into the driver’s seat.
“Wait, how can I get in touch with you?” he asked.
I looked at him and said, “You know where to find me.”
He nodded his head and took a step back as I shut my car door.
Without another word, I drove off but I didn’t take my eyes off
Matthew Smith in the rear-view mirror!