The courtroom is quiet now.
It had been quite emotional at first when Effe arrived with Joshua Darkwa.
Steve, looking quite miserable, had met her in the corridor. He wanted to speak to her, but Effe had been too distraught to speak to him.
She had been convinced that if she spoke to him she would begin to cry again, and she did not want that to happen.
Steve is accompanied by his parents and Jonathan Afful and some of his friends.
Effe’s parents, Eyram, Dr. Henderson, Dr Anaman and some of her friends are also in court to give her some support.
The Presiding Judge is a severe-looking man called John T. Tamakloe.
The process had been smooth and fast because Effe has refused to contest any of the terms Steve has set out with his lawyer, an obese man called Gabriel Blankson.
Effe sits beside Joshua. Behind her are her family and friends. Her fingers are interlaced tightly. She refuses to glance to her left where Steve is sitting with his lawyer.
She is quite startled when the Judge bangs his gavel lightly on the podium and looks up. Her heart almost stops beating. She quite can’t believe that her happy years of marriage to a man she loves with all her heart is coming to an end, just like that.
Try as much as she can, she can’t stop the sudden wetness that creeps down her cheeks.
It is indeed a sad occasion to me personally when I have to grant a divorce. It is even more difficult when I see couples go through such pain. Perhaps I am a bit relieved that today I’ve not had the unpleasant task of issuing any restraining orders, contempt of court, child or spousal supports and other little nasty bits of divorces. And so, based on mutual consent of incompatibility and irreconcilable difference, I hereby grant Mr. Steve Hollison’s petition for annulment of marriage between him and Dr. Effe Kedem. Barring any last appeals to the contrary, both parties are kindly requested to sign the final decree of divorce, and that will be it. This court further grants Dr. Kedem the right to remove personal effects from their previously shared residence, in the presence or otherwise of Mr. Hollison. I wish both of you well, and may God be with you.
What follows is a blur to Effe. She is aware of signing spaces where Joshua indicates, and then turns and heads out of the court.
She steels herself against the terrible pain. She feels faint. She can barely place one foot in front of the other.
(running after her sister)
Good God, Ef! Hold up!
Effe pauses in the corridor and turns. Eyram hugs her sister tightly. Eyram is crying. Soon her parents approach, and they hug their children.
Effe chokes down her tears. She wants to be alone somewhere, to sit somewhere, to grieve somewhere.
Effe. Dear lord! Come, let’s go home now!
Effe brushes a tear angrily from her cheek.
No, Mom. I’ve to pick up a few things first from… from Steve’s place.
Oh, no! Princess! Surely not today! Wait till tomorrow, next week…
No, Dad. It has to be today, or I can’t make it. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.
Suddenly a voice breaks in. It is Jonathan Afful. He has come to stand behind them. His face is cold as he looks at Eyram.
Come with me now, Eyram. We need to go home. I’m hungry.
Eyram swings on her husband, her face aghast, shocked.
Jesus, Jon! Really? My sister needs me!
Afful’s voice is a whiplash.
Dammit, woman! I also need you! You coming or I gotta drag you out of here?
Ken Kedem looks darkly at Afful.
Don’t you have any heart, Jonathan? What’s the matter-
Afful cuts in angrily.
Belt it, Ken! This is between me and my wife! Effe is not a kid. She can hold her own. I’m hungry, didn’t take any breakfast this morning. It’s her duty to make sure I am satisfied, isn’t it?
Madam Ivy approaches Afful and glares at him.
You think my daughter is your damn slave, Jonathan? What are you going to do, beat her here too?
Afful pushes her aside so roughly that she almost falls.
Grow up, woman! Remember who you’re talking to. I can pull the rug from under your husband’s business in a jiffy, so stop pushing all the damn wrong buttons! Your Mom is making me angry, Eyram, and believe me, you don’t want me angry!
Effe hugs Eyram.
Go, Rammy. I’m gonna be fine. Really. I’ll call you.
With tears in her eyes Eyram descends the steps angrily and moves to her husband’s car. Effe also goes and sits in Joshua’s car.
No. To Steve’s place. My former house.
Joshua nods and starts to drive. Effe bites her lower lip tightly to keep the tears away. She grips her upper arms to stop trembling.
Joshua glances at her often, but he says nothing. His fury against Steve Hollison is so great and he takes his anger out on the steering-wheel, gripping it as if he wants to strangle it.
There is total silence as he drives on. Each one is absorbed in his or her own thoughts.
Effe can’t believe her marriage to Steve was over just like that. She is sad that Steve did not stand up for them. She is very surprised he chose a child over what they shared. She knows now that her supposedly perfect marriage was not as perfect as she thought. She reckons she has taken a lot of things for granted. She knew there were times she had had her suspicions about Steve’s fidelity but she has always brushed them aside. She understands now why Elaine suddenly became too cheeky even to her. She saw the writings on the wall but ignored them.
Joshua on the other hand is angry at Effe for being so modest about the whole thing. He desired so much to give Steve a run for his money but Effe has prevented him from doing that. He believes Steve should be taught a lesson not to mess with people’s feelings the way he is doing with Effe.
After a while she takes her phone out, dials, and puts it to her ear.
Chris? Are you free?
Yep. Took some customers to a seminar but I’m free now. Heading home. Around Shangri La now.
Can you please meet me around Shiashie? I’m going to my husba… to Steve’s place to pick up a few things.
She cuts the line. Joshua looks at her, his face intrigued.
Chris. The Elm’s Bar boy?
She glances at him sharply, and scowls.
How did you know I met him there?
Oh. I stayed around yesterday after I dropped you off. Told you I wasn’t comfortable. I waited until you came out with that naked boy, then I drove off.
(smiling wanly and feeling touched)
He wasn’t naked, Uncle Josh.
He was. Unless you call the hairy chest a vest.
She chuckles now, and smiles at him warmly.
He makes me smile. And laugh. And not think too much.
That is the first essential element, I guess.
Chris is already waiting when Joshua parks his car at the bus station at Shiashie.
He gets out of the taxi when Effe steps out of the car. She pauses and stares at him. He is dressed in a smartly-cut black suit, white shirt and black tie. He is wearing sunglasses, and he looks absolutely incredible.
Looking at him, she tells herself he looks more like a Hollywood star.
She walks slowly towards him, and as he stares at her he thinks he has never seen a more beautiful woman in his life. Wearing a simple knee-length grey dress that nevertheless shows off her sleek lines, curves, wonderful legs and ethereal face, he pauses and drinks in her exquisite beauty.
You okay? You look a bit sad.
I am more than a bit sad.
Joshua approaches and looks from one to the other.
You must be Chris.
Oh. Chris, this is Mr. Joshua Darkwa, a family friend and a family member and the greatest lawyer in the world. Uncle Josh, meet Chris Bawa, a new friend.
The two men shake hands. Darkwa is quite taken aback by the sheer masculinity, charisma and handsomeness of the driver. Suddenly he feels a bit uneasy about Effe being with this boy. He can easily turn Effe’s head because she is hurting.
Pleased to meet you, Chris. Be a genuine friend to Effe, otherwise you’ll find me a very unpleasant man.
Chris does not smile.
I will be genuine friend, Mr. Darkwa.
Joshua hugs Effe, and then he turns and leaves. Chris opens the car door for Effe, and they drive into the traffic. He says nothing, and she is grateful. She will tell him in her own good time, but she needs the silence now, and that is why she has called him.
She directs him inside the house she has shared with Steve for ten years. Steve’s car is parked.
She gets out, takes a deep breath, speaks to the sad-looking security man, and mounts the stairs. The door is locked, and she rings the doorbell.
The door is opened by Elaine. The two women stare at each other. Elaine looks defiant, but Effe can see a little uneasiness in the depths of her eyes.
I came to pick up a few personal things, Elaine, and then you can have everything for yourself.
(sudden anger flashing in her eyes)
You don’t have to be nasty about this, Effe. I didn’t rape your husband, or should I say ex-husband? He came to me, and made me pregnant. Surely you don’t begrudge me fighting for what’s best for my baby, do you? I don’t want my son to come into the world without a father, and neither do I want him to be born outside marriage. Surely you understand that, don’t you?
I understand that, Elaine. I wish you well. Could I please go and take my things?
Elaine looks confused. She tries to speak, but nothing comes out. She steps to one side, and Effe enters.
She feels weak but she forces herself to walk forward.
This is her home. She had decorated it, planned it, and lived in it for ten years. This could be the last time she walks through its walls.
The pain is fierce, and for a moment her tears threaten to burst through, but she steels herself and moves from the hall through the corridors and opens the master bedroom.
Steve emerges from the bathroom and when he sees her tears suddenly come to his eyes. His eyes are swollen, and she knows that he has been crying. He walks towards her and his arms are held out.
Oh, honey! I’m so sorry! I’m terribly sorry. I don’t know how we came to this point! It’s like a dream to me! Never meant to hurt you this much, please.
You did it for your son, Steve. I couldn’t get you one, and when I suggested adoption you rejected it because you wanted your own blood. Don’t worry, I understand now. I wish you all the best.
Effe hears voices in the hall, and recognizes the voice of her former in-laws.
You can have anything you want, Effe. You can have the house if you want. I made it clear. I’ll move out. This is just temporary, darling. As soon as Elaine gives birth and I make the child legally mine I’m gonna leave her and come back for you.
She stares at him, shocked first, and then suddenly furious.
What? Did I hear you right, Stephen Hollison? Come back for me? Don’t you dare, Steve, don’t you dare tread that path!
Damn it, honey, I love you! I’ll always love you. It is you I love! I’m doing this just because of the baby! He’s my son, Effe. I can’t leave him to Elaine! You know that!
Effe walks past Steve.
She opens her wardrobe and takes her jewellery box. She takes an empty suitcase and begins to stuff her dresses in. The voices in the hall grow louder, and Steve leaves to check it out.
Effe packs four suitcases and drags the first one to the hall. She finds her former in-laws in the hall. Captain Hollison comes forward slowly.
Effe, my dear. Can you ever forgive us? I’m not a man who easily says sorry, you know that, but on this occasion, I feel like my family has really wronged you.
Effe looks at him. He is a hard man, but he has always welcomed and treated her with a modicum of affection.
Some things can’t be helped, Sir. At least, your wife is happy now.
Her former mother-in-law, as usual, takes it the wrong way and walks fast towards Effe, her face furious.
Watch that arrogant tongue, Effe! What have I done? Am I the cause of your barrenness? Don’t you blame me for any of this! We need grandchildren, and my son needs children. It is not our fault this has happened!
Be quiet, Iris!
Why are you shouting at her? At least she’s on my side! Why’re you all behaving like this? When Steve was always sad because Effe couldn’t give him an heir who comforted him? I did! He fell in love with me! If you feel I’m no longer needed tell me! I’ll leave right now so that Effe can have Steve, but believe me you‘ll never see this baby anywhere near you!
Effe walks forward slowly and stands in front of Elaine.
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I still don’t understand, Elaine. I loved you, just like my own sister! Now you have taken my husband, my life, my happiness, my everything. I don’t blame you. I wish you well, for yourself, and for your son. It’s pathetic the way you are using him as bait to get what you want. If I were you, I would really examine myself and read the signs on the wall. I would ask myself if Steve would be with me if I were not pregnant? He was with me for ten years, child or no child and that should tell you something. I honestly wish you well. I wonder what your son will think, when he grows up and learns of his history! That his mother seduced her sister’s husband and he came to be. What a way to come into this world.
Elaine slaps Effe hard, the sound so sharp that it shocks all of them and makes everybody immobile.
Keeps your damn evil mouth away from my baby, you witch!
Elaine! Jesus! How could you hit her!
Well, can you blame her, after what Effe said?
Effe says nothing. She just looks at Elaine through a film of tears. She cannot help it now. Her tears fall down her cheeks freely. Her pain is unbearable.
She feels as if she is dying. She can’t move, she can’t function. Her legs are trembling; her whole body is vibrating.
And then his voice breaks the silence. He is standing in the doorway, and his voice reaches her from a long way off, but it breaks the pain, and makes her look up at him.
Are you okay, Effe? I heard angry voices.
They all turn and look at him.
Chris is leaning against the wall by the door. Effe looks at him, unable to speak as tears course down her face. She sees how Chris’ jaw harden, and when he slowly takes off his sunglasses she sees his anger even through her tears.
Chris walks forward slowly, deliberately. Steve frowns, suddenly recognizing him as the man, the taxi driver who had struck him down that night Effe had found him with Elaine.
He walks angrily towards Chris.
Get out of here! You bastard! Get the hell out of my house!
Chris does not stop, but he speaks slowly, and the fury spills from his voice, menacing and deadly.
If you don’t get out of my face I’m gonna break every bone in your damn body!
Steve stops. He sees the murderous look in the man’s eyes, and feels the danger. Chris walks past him. Steve’s father, always a hothead, moves forward and raises his hand to stop Chris.
Who the hell are you and how dare you speak to my son like that?
Chris looks at him, and the Captain, who had been a fierce soldier and dealt with many different types of men, sees immediately that he is looking at a very dangerous man indeed.
Your son is a damn fool.
Infuriated, the captain draws back his fist to hit Chris.
Chris smiles but does not stop walking. He looks the old soldier straight in the face and speaks softly.
Go on, make my day.
The old soldier hears the warning in the handsome man’s voice. He sees how coiled up Chris is, and he slowly drops his fist. Chris walks past him and stops in front of Effe. He looks at her, and then he notices the ugly welts on Effe’s cheeks and pain flashes across his face, followed by a terrible rage.
He reaches out and touch her cheek where Elaine has slapped her.
Chris. It’s okay.
Who hit you?
Effe is suddenly alarmed by the savagery she sees in his eyes. She remembers how he had floored Steve, and the ferocity with which he had floored Wailer in the Elm’s Bar.
She reaches out to hold his hand, but he draws his hand back.
Chris. Please. I’m fine.
(in a dangerous hiss)
Who hit you?
He turns and his angry eyes sweeps over the four other people in the room, and they settle on Steve whose face suddenly reflects fear.
Effe holds Chris’ arm.
Chris. You’re not listening to me.
Chris indeed is not listening. His eyes settle on Elaine, when she yells that she did and taunted him. He starts to walk towards her. Steve, alarmed, rushes forward and stands between Chris and Elaine.
Elaine sees the uncontrollable rage on Chris’ face, and her eyes widen with horror. She begins to shake as she cowers behind Steve.
She’s pregnant, man. She’s damn pregnant.
Pregnant? You bastard! And you let her hit Effe, your wife?
He sounds so furious that even Iris becomes frightened. She moves hurriedly to stand beside a trembling Elaine.
Effe knowing how unpredictably violent Chris can be, and fearing for him should he hit a pregnant woman, pushes her way in front of him, and holds his upper arms.
We’re no longer married, Chris.
He stares at her, and then he scowls.
Did he divorce you?
Yes. Today. It’s over.
Chris looks darkly at Elaine for moment, and then he turns back to Effe.
Are you done here?
Three more suitcases in the bedroom.
Please bring them out.
Effe nods. She turns and goes back the bedroom and brings another suitcase.
She sees that the four people are now sitting docilely in the chairs. Chris takes two suitcases out.
He returns for the other two. Effe walks towards the door, pauses, turns and returns to the hall to stand in front of Steve.
Effe looks at the two rings on her finger, and slowly she takes them off and drops them on the seat besides Steve.
Goodbye, Steve. I really wish you well.
She turns and walks quickly out.
To be continued
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