Elaine, unaware of what is going on, links her arm through Chris’ and drags him towards the high table.
Chris’ eyes seek out Effe, but she seems to have melted into the crowd. And then, quite suddenly, Mr. Boateng approaches Chris with Mr. Ken Opoku at his side.
Chris, my boy, meet one of my best friends from school…
I know Chris. He’s been like a son to me all these years.
Really? How did you two get acquainted?
Mrs. Opoku’s shop is near the supermarket. I buy from her a lot, and I became their friend.
Small world indeed. Jonas, later I’ll tell you the miracle that this young man brought to my house. By the way Effe came with me, Chris. Have you seen her?
Yes, I’ve seen her.
(directing them to the table.)
Let’s sit down. Seems Elaine is going to propose a toast.
Looking groggy, Chris goes to the High Table. Elaine gestures to him to come and stand beside her. Chris reluctantly walks to her side, and she hands him a glass of white wine and links her free hand through his. She smiles into his face, and then she turns to face the excited crowd.
Chris sees Effe. She is standing between Steve and her father, and her eyes are very bright with unshed tears, and she looks so shattered and frail. Chris looks away hurriedly because her pain is tearing his heart apart.
…and through the years of strife and pain, they took solace in only the strength of their love. My father always tells me the shortest distance between my problems and their solutions is the distance between my knees and the floor, and that’s how I came to appreciate the love and power of God. They have been excellent parents, and today I pray for health and more love for them. Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s toast a wonderful couple!
The crowd cheers and shouts. Glasses are raised, and as they drink applause follows. Chris tries to disengage his arm from Elaine’s, but she holds on tight. She shakes her head at him and makes mischievous gestures at him.
Chris’ narrows his eyes at her.
Elly, no don’t. I don’t like that look at all. You’re not going to spring one of your surprises on me, are you?
Elaine sticks her tongue out at him and faces the crowd once more.
Listen now, folks. Most of you know, I mean it is no secret, that Chris here is my fiancée. We are bound by the same love that…
No, Elly, please stop. Don’t.
Well, those of you assembled here are our best friends. Since I was a child I’ve always dreamed about getting married on Christmas day. Why? 25th December is my birthday. One month ago…
Oh, no, Elaine. Not that!
(turns to him, and her eyes are hard. She speaks softly to him.)
You told me a month ago that on 25th December, my birthday, we shall get married. That’s four months away, and you proposed to me! I’ve already told my parents, and they are all happy! Don’t back down now.
ELLY, DON’T! Not now, please!
(turning to the crowd once more.)
Well, Chris and I are getting married on Christmas Day!
The crowd roars. Mr. and Mrs. Boateng get to their feet.
Madam Lois also gets up.
The applause is loud and deafening.
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Chris looks at Effe and sees that her legs cannot support her anymore.
She drops dejectedly into a chair. Her shoulders are low, and her head is bent.
Oh, my dear son, you’ve made me so happy! Let me be the first to congratulate you!
Chris backs away from her.
His face looks frantic.
His mother stops, hands still outstretched, and she looks as if he has slapped her.
Chris? What’s the meaning of this?
The music has stopped. The whole place is dead quiet. Everybody is staring at Chris.
He turns and looks at Elaine.
Her face is like death.
Yes, Chris? No? What do you mean by no? Didn’t you propose to me?
Chris reaches for her hand, but she draws back. Chris speaks frantically.
Elly, honey. I did propose. But we really need to talk. All this is a bit too fast for me!
Too fast for you? What do you mean by that? What’s going on, Chris Bawa? What’s this nonsense about?
Come on, darling. We’ll talk about this later. It seems Chris boy is getting a dose of the cold-feet bachelor. We all get it at this time. Sit down now…
(hissing angrily at Chris)
No, Daddy! Chris is embarrassing me in front of everybody. The harm is already done. If he’s getting cold feet let him tell everyone right here and now!
She turns towards Chris, uncontrollably furious.
Are we getting married on my birthday or not?
Elly, honey, we don’t have to do this here. Let’s talk in private please. Let’s avoid this…
Don’t give me that crap! What’s going on, Chris? Why this attitude? Are we getting married or not? Just answer the question.
Tears flow down Elaine’s cheeks.
I still insist we talk in private. Can’t you at least give me that? Can we go somewhere and talk about this right now?
No, Chris. We do this now, right here! Are we getting married?
No, Elly. I’m terribly sorry but I don’t think I’m ready for that big step just yet. Please find it in your heart to forgive me. I’m truly sorry.
The silence is broken by Chris’ mother’s scream.
Chris, son, what’s this? Are you drunk? Have you lost your mind?
I’m sorry, Mama.
Mrs. Boateing flies towards Chris like a lioness.
She grabs the front of his jacket, and her face is harsh and ugly with sudden anger.
Chris, are you mad? How can you do this? Why are you embarrassing us this way?
Let him go, Ruth! Leave his coat!
Elaine is weeping now. She brushes her mother aside and glares at Chris.
She is devastated.
Why, Chris? Why are you doing this to me? Do you hate me this much? What have I done to you?
I don’t hate you, Elly. You’ve shown me nothing but real love, and I appreciate it. You are an angel. I’m the problem. I’m the monster here. I’m the ungrateful one. Please forgive me.
Chris, get out of my house right now! I won’t let you disrespect my daughter like this.
Chris nods and turns to leave, but his mother holds him. She glares at him, and then she slaps him on his right cheek.
Chris looks at her, and suddenly tears come to his eyes.
What kind of witch has brought this curse on you, son? What kind of cursed evil has turned your heart like this?
(speaking bitterly as a single tear runs down his cheek.)
Blame me, mother! But please don’t put this on any witch! The fact that you and Mrs. Boateng have always been good friends doesn’t give you the right to force us to marry each other. I thought I loved Elaine, yes, but right now I love somebody else!
(stunned and bitter)
Another woman, Chris? You’ve been cheating on me with another woman?
It is funny, Elaine, but the only physical contact I’ve had with that girl is to hold her hand. I haven’t kissed her, or held her close, except when I danced with her, of course. I haven’t even told her I love her. Hell, I’ve been fighting it till now. I was scared to admit it. Maybe, if you hadn’t put me on the spot right now, you and I might have ended up married. But what’s the point, Elaine? Will it be fair to marry you knowing I love someone else?
Elaine”s eyes are wild.
Suddenly she looks around her at the hushed crowd.
She hisses dangerously.
Lord, she’s here, isn’t she? That explains it! If you haven’t told her you loved her, and if you behave this way, when you could have lied that you would marry me and later broken it, only means one thing! That slut is here! Where’s she, huh, Chris? Where’s the whore?
Chris turns away from her and begins to walk away.
She’s the fair girl, isn’t she, Chris? The one with Steve? Now I understand why you were staring at her like that when I kissed you, you bastard!
Alarmed, Chris turns round, and finds Elaine rushing furiously towards Effe.
Chris screams with real fear.