He drives her to the Ameyaw-Eden Clinic first and waits whilst the cast is removed from her elbow.
Later he takes her to her parents’ house. She hands him a white envelope containing his rental charges, and then she smiles at him.
He looks at her for a while, and then he takes a packet of cigarettes from his shirt pocket. The cellophane wrapper is not broken yet, and so she knows it is full and he has not smoked any.
Unconsciously he uses his fingernail to break the wrapper, opens the flap, and extracts one cigarette. He puts it in his mouth and begins to search for his lighter. She just sits still and watches him.
He suddenly pauses, and without looking at her he removes the cigarette from his lips and puts it back into its packet.
He closes the flap of the pack, and then takes his lighter and places it on the cigarette box. Still without looking at her he extends them towards her. She takes them and puts them in her handbag.
So, you’re making me quit smoking. You already made me stop speaking in Pidgin English. What’re you going to do to me next, Effe Kedem?
Maybe make you take off your dreadlocks, Chris. I want to see the real you.
Chris chuckles and shake his head.
Actually, the dreadlock is just a wig. I keep it on to make women stay away from me.
He reaches up, holds the edge of his hairline, and peels off the heavy dreadlocks wig. He tosses it into the backseat, and then he turns his head and looks at her.
His haircut is quite nice, but that isn’t what makes her temporarily speechless.
Without the dreadlocks, he looks incredibly handsome, and she can’t help marvelling at the transformation.
Well. That’s definitely better. Tell me, are you married? Or in a relationship?
No. There have been a couple of very important relationships, and some short-lived affairs, but they all fell through. I just couldn’t commit, you know. Always blamed myself for Janet’s death, and I’ve never been able to get over that.
I see. Maybe you just never met the right woman. Maybe you never really fell in love. I pray that it happens for you, Chris.
She gets out of the car quickly and heads for the gates of the house. When she looks back he is still there, looking at her. She smiles and waves, and goes inside.
She finds her parents in the living-room, and Joshua Darkwa is also present. They all look at her when she enters.
Her father comes towards her. He is obviously distraught. He takes her into his arms.
My dearest Princess. I’m so terribly sorry! Can’t believe this is happening to you!
Effe searches her father’s face with very sad eyes, and then she looks at the lawyer. Joshua comes towards her. His face is grim.
Steve filed a petition for divorce, Effe. He cited incompatibility and irreconcilable differences. Got himself a case and a judge. A very crooked judge, I must add. Wouldn’t be surprised if he’s taken some money from Steve. Hearing is tomorrow. I couldn’t reach you on the phone to inform you.
I turned my phone off. I couldn’t take the pain. I wanted a day of silence.
Her mother comes to her and touches her face tenderly.
Joshua told us you don’t want to fight this divorce, darling.
It’s not worth it, is it, Mama?
But it’s so wrong, Princess. So very wrong!!
Ruth was here. She’s as distraught as we all are. Elaine, my God! What devil got into that girl?
I know some important people, Princess. Good people. We can take Steve on. We can make that bastard pay!
Yes, Effe. If you give me the go ahead, I’ll make that damn oaf sweat so bad he would regret the day he treated you like this!
Effe leaves the embrace of her father. She walks forward on trembling legs and stands by the window. When she turns to face them, her face is wet with a few trickled tears.
I thank you all for your caring hearts. I love Steve. I want him back, but if he doesn’t want me back, there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve cried, yes, and I’m hurting really badly. But do you know something funny? A week ago my tears flowed like a waterfall, but today my tears are as gentle as a river. You know what that tells me? It means that there will come a day when my tears from this pain will be as dry as the Sahara Desert.
She turns and runs blindly up the stairs into her room. She slams the door and leans against it. For a moment she can’t breathe. Her heart is so much in pain. She gasps, and the tears threaten to burst free, but she fights against it.
She squeezes her eyes tightly shut, fighting the pain and the tears. She flees into the bathroom and slams the door, and then she falls on her hands and knees and begins to wail. The pain is so unbearable that she feels her heart will explode.
An hour later she comes out, and puts on a stretchy black spandex and a beautiful cream top.
She picks her phone and dials. It is picked up. There is a lot of noise in the background. The voice that answers is the voice of a woman, and Effe scowls.
Hello. Can I please speak to Chris?
(shouting a bit)
Chris, the owner of the phone!
He’s on the table!
What? On what table? Too noisy! Can’t hear you well.
He can’t speak right now. He’s on the table! Arm-wrestling!
Madina! Elm’s Bar!
The line goes dead. Stares at the phone blankly. She can’t really understand what has just happened? Chris? Arm-wrestling?
She gets up quickly, picks up her bag and heads for the door. She finds them still in the living-room. Joshua Darkwa looks at her.
I’m stepping out for a moment.
We need to reply to the petition for divorce, dear.
You said the hearing is tomorrow, right, Uncle Josh?
Well, yes. Nine o’clock.
Well, kindly tender in any response, but I’m not fighting it. Would you pick me up?
Well, if you really don’t want to fight-
Okay, fine. Then there’ll be no need to go over strategy. I’ll pick you up at eight o’clock.
Fine with me, Uncle Josh.
She heads for the door. Her father speaks.
Effe turns and looks at her father.
Are you alright, baby?
Yeah, Princess. Are you gonna be alright?
Effe sighs, and her face is suddenly agonized.
I’m trying to live, Daddy, Mom. A second at a time, a minute at a time. Hours and a day at a time. I’m just hoping that I pull through.
Her parents hug her and her father kisses her on both cheeks.
She goes out with Joshua and sits in his car. Her parents watch from the window as they drive off.
Ken Kedem puts his arm around his wife’s shoulders.
That bastard hurt my baby. I can kill him.
She’ll be fine, honey. She’s a fighter, always has been. She’ll pull through.
That’s my prayer, honey. That’s my prayer. Dear Lord, help my baby.
Joshua drives in silence for a while, and then he clears his throat and turns to Effe.
(cutting him off gently)
Uncle Josh. I don’t think I can stand another second of pain anymore, not today, if you don’t mind. I don’t want to speak about Steve. It will drive me crazy.
Joshua stares at her for a while, and then he returns his attention to the road.
Okay, dear, if you say so. I’ve to go to the office to prepare for tomorrow. Where do you want me to drop you off?
You wouldn’t happen to know an Elm’s Bar in Madina, would you?
Joshua looks at her sharply.
Actually I do.
Could you please drop me off there, if it’s not too far out of your way?
Wow, Effe. You don’t wanna go there!
Why, Uncle Josh?
It’s a den for cutthroats! Very bad place. Been having cases from that area of town all the time. Theft, rape, gambling, high-calibre violent cases, all emanating from that Elm’s Bar and its locality.
Really? Well, I’m just looking for somebody. Won’t keep long.
Joshua tries to dissuade her, but she is stubborn, although she is showing a little bit of unease.
Joshua manoeuvres through a narrow untarred road in the Madina vicinity, through some hostile surroundings and finally stops in front of a glass-fronted bar. Above it is a large sign which reads ELM’S BAR. She thanks Joshua and gets out.
(sounding really worried)
C’mon, Effe! This is no place for you! What’re you doing here anyway, truthfully?
I’ll be fine, Uncle Josh.
She quickly walks towards the glass doors and enters. Joshua stares after her for a while, and then he shakes his head.
It is a little bit hot inside the bar. There is some hiplife music playing loudly. People are eating, and she can see a flight of stairs leading upwards to another floor.
People stare at her, especially the waitresses. She approaches the bar where a large woman wearing a pink dress is standing.
Hello, Sweetie. May I help you?
Effe tries to smile.
I’m looking for a man. Chris Bawa. Drives a taxi.
The woman’s face goes unfriendly immediately.
He expecting you?
Yes. He’s a friend.
Well. He was here, but he left. He would probably come back later. You can leave a message and I’ll make sure he gets it.
Effe hesitates. She doesn’t know what to do. She is sure the woman is lying. She starts to speak, but just then her waist is grabbed from behind, and she whirls suddenly and finds herself staring into the face of a huge, shirtless man.
He is bald and has a huge scar down the right side of his face. He is wearing only a pair of khaki shorts and boots, and holding a bottle of gin in his free hand whilst his right hand rests on Effe’s waist.
She tries to knock his hand off but he holds her tightly and smiles nastily. He drinks from the bottle and his face takes on a sexual leer, and then he pulls her towards him with an ugly and wicked look on his face.
Effe is suddenly terrified. She looks around for help and sees only fear on the faces around.
The man tries to grab her right breast and she knocks his hand off.
He growls and takes hold of her hair, and as she screams with pain and fear he brings his foul-smelling lips down, trying to kiss her forcibly.
Effe struggles struggles wildly with terror.
Now why are you asking of that bastard taxi boy, little lady? Is he boning you too? He took some money from me, dear. Maybe I’m gonna use his lady as a little payback, right?
Effe struggles fiercely, but the huge man is too strong, and drags her towards him effortlessly. She is panicking now, remembering Uncle Josh’s warning.
Leave her alone, Wailer!
The big man called Wailer slaps the lady in the pink dress, cutting her lip.
Shut the fuck up, cunt!
Totally scared now, Effe pushes Wailer away violently and pulls her hair from his grasp. Blindly she turns to flee, but Wailer grabs her arm.
Suddenly she hears a voice… his voice, his deep, calm, furious voice, filled with anger, filled with rage… Chris!
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She has never heard such fury, such venom, in a voice before. She turns and sees Chris. He’s also wearing khaki shorts and boots, and he has a black elbow guard around his left elbow.
Effe sees Chris walk past her, and she remembers the night he had hit Steve, but this time she sees real cruelty in his eyes.
The huge bully called Wailer lets Effe go, and then he turns towards Chris and gives a most terrible roar.
He reaches into his back pocket and suddenly a long knife glistens in his hand. Effe screams and tries to move forward, to stop Chris.
Wailer shouts again and rushes at Chris with the knife extended. Effe stops cold, and she moans with fear. She is sure Chris is going to be cut open right in front of her eyes.
Incredibly Chris steps to one side like a matador, grabs Wailer’s hand, spins his arm, and then he slams a blow so violently and so hard into Wailer’s jaw that the big man drops to the floor unconscious.
Effe stares at him. He stands over Wailer, huge and forbidding, that terrible angry look still in his eyes, and then he looks up and approaches Effe.
He holds her shoulders gently and stares down at her.
Did he hurt you?
She cannot speak. She just shakes her head. An elderly man in a well-dressed suit approaches and hands Chris a white envelope stuffed with money.
Your winnings, Mr. Bawa. Sorry for this scene. Management apologizes for the behaviour of Wailer, the Dragon. He’ll be banned from competing for a year.
Chris takes the money and stuffs it into his back pocket, and then he takes Effe’s arm.
He puts an arm around Effe to support her, and they leave the bar. They walk around the building and she sees his taxi parked at the Parking Lot.
He opens the door for her, and she slumps into the seat, still trembling with terror.
He goes round to the driver’s side, picks up a black T-Shirt and slips it on, and then he sits down.
She turns to him. She is horrified, and she shakes her head.
What was that, Chris? Why do you live your life so recklessly? Why?
He sighs deeply, and when he looks at her his face is sad and remorseful.
Sorry, Effe. We have Arm-Wrestling Competitions up there in the bar occasionally. It involves a great deal of money. I beat Wailer today in the finals, and he’s a sore loser. But what are you doing here? How did you know I was here?
I called! You couldn’t answer. A lady answered and told me you were on the table, arm-wrestling!!! Jesus, Chris! Competition for what?
(his voice remorseful)
For the money, Effe, for the money. I need money to pay off this taxi quickly, and then I can move on with my life as soon as I finish paying.
And you have to risk your life with dangerous men like that… that Wailer? Jesus! What’s the matter with you? Promise me you won’t do it again!
He turns to her, his face earnest.
Hey, relax! I’m sorry he was nasty to you, but I can take care of myself.
Promise me, damn it!
Effe, come on, I-
(cuting him off angrily)
Promise me, or I swear I’ll never have anything to do with you again. I mean it, Chris!
He holds up his hands and looks at her with confused eyes.
Okay, okay, okay! I promise!
I mean it, Chris Bawa.
I know you do. I promise, Effe.
She leans back and closes her eyes. She is still trembling. She has never ever been through such a harrowing experience, ever.
Her life had been sheltered, but suddenly she is feeling things she has never felt before. And she is scared, because when she remembers how he had moved, how he had dealt so ruthlessly with Wailer for manhandling her, she feels quite dizzy.
Take me out of here, Chris.
He drives out and into the main street.
You haven’t told me why you wanted me, Effe. I dropped you off and never thought I would see you again today.
Just shut up and drive, Chris.
He chuckles, and even though her eyes are closed she smiles. After a while she feels his hand seeking hers, which is lying on her laps and then he holds her hand tightly.
She puts her other hand over their intertwined hands, and exhales. She can feel his hand on her thighs through the spandex she is wearing.
She thinks of how nice it is to hold hands. His touch makes her feel things she has not felt in a very long time. Just holding hands with him feels strange, and nice, and she feels like she doesn’t want to let go of his hand. But she still keeps her eyes closed.
He stares at her profile, and marvels at how incredibly beautiful she is, and how clear and smooth she is, and how her hands on his is making his heart quicken and do cartwheels…
To be continued
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