Chris opens the door for her. She sits down and he closes the door. He drives out of the house and both of them are silent.
He drives along the abandoned residential streets, and then he stops the car.
She turns to him, and there is great pain on her face. He gets out of the car and walks around it.
He opens her door and holds out his hand. Effe takes his hand and he gently pulls her out of the car. He closes the door. She looks up at him.
He takes her by the waist and pulls her into his arms.
She holds him tightly around the waist. Her resolve breaks, and she begins to weep bitterly. He holds her as she cries, smoothing her hair gently.
After a long time she cannot cry anymore. She exhales and looks at him with a tear-streaked face.
He smiles down at her gently.
She smiles at him shyly.
Yes. I ruined your suit.
Glad to be your handkerchief, beautiful lady.
She giggles and hides her face in his chest again.
She laughs then and looks up at him. She sees the mischievous look in his eyes, and shakes her head.
Yes. Food. Nothing else.
Okay. Sit down. Let’s get some waakye to eat.
He drives out of the Airport Residential Area. They end up inside Legon Area where he buys waakye from a seller by the roadside.
He beckons to Effe.
She approaches him reluctantly. The waakye is in green leaves, and he motions for her to sit down on a chair.
Other people are inside the wooden enclosure behind the woman, eating. They look at them. Obviously, Chris is well-known because some of those eating and the others standing continue to greet him and call him Darling Boy.
(speaking to him softly)
Here? You want us to eat here, in public, inside this enclosure?
Please sit down, Effe.
She looks around and sits down. This is something she never would have done in a million years just two weeks ago.
He spreads the waakye in front of her. She picks a spoon and looks at it skeptically.
He laughs and takes the spoon from her, and puts a bowl of water and liquid soap in front of her.
She washes her hand shyly, rinse it, and then begins to eat.
It is sweet, and slowly she begins to laugh and eat the waakye with gusto.
He picks up a particularly juicy-looking cowhide delicacy and she reaches out, takes it, and stuffs it in her mouth.
She hears people laughing, and when she looks up she sees they’re laughing at what she has just done to him.
She looks into his eyes.
I’m happy you’re with me, at this time in my life.
I’m happy you’re happy.
Effe lies in bed and yawns.
It is morning, and she is surprised she had slept till morning. She has not cried during the night as usual.
She hears her parents raised voices downstairs and wonders lazily what is going on. She gets out of bed and stretches.
She makes her bed, shirks her nightie, and pads naked into the bathroom.
She takes a long bath, revelling in the water. She smiles when she thinks that it is her first day as a divorced woman. She is surprised she does not feel so sad about that anymore. She feels relieved somehow. She promises herself she is going to get over Steve and move on with her life. She is still young and still believe in love. This morning, she even feels she will have children of her own in the near future. She steps out of the bath and looks at herself in the mirror. She admits she is still a knockout. She places her hand on her tummy and smiles. She knows she is not barren. No test had said that she could not have children. It still baffles her why she never conceived in her ten years of marriage. She wipes herself and wraps the towel around her still standing in front of the mirror.
Her thoughts shift to Chris for no apparent reason. She kind of like the guy. She likes being around him. She feels safe when he is with her. He gives her the strength to do practically anything. She finds herself looking forward to seeing him every day.
When she comes back into the bedroom she can still hear raised voices, and she frowns. She had rarely heard her parents fighting, and so she is a little bit disturbed by the harsh voices.
Whilst she is dressing she decides to pass through the hospital to reschedule time-based appointments and attend to those that cannot be rescheduled. Later she will go to the Ameyaw-Eden Clinic to attend to the urgent cases.
Dressed in a smashing black skirt suit, she descends to the hall to find that Aunt Ruth is present, and she is with her mother. Aunt Ruth stands up immediately and moves towards Effe. She falls to her knees and holds Effe’s ankles.
Oh, Afi! Afi, Afi, Afi! Forgive me o! Forgive me o! How I wish I had died before this evil day ever befell me!
She is crying. Both Effe and her mother reach down and pull the distressed woman to her feet.
She looks dishevelled, and she is dressed in the same attire she had been in the last time Effe had seen her.
Come on, Ruth! I’ve already told you we know your heart! We know you’re not a part of what your daughter has done!
Yes, Auntie. Stop stressing yourself so much. I’m not blaming you. I’m not even blaming Elaine, Auntie. Steve allowed me to be exposed like this. He bears the blame! He allowed this to happen. It’s a bitter experience but at least it teaches you a lot. I doubt he ever loved me. Maybe he felt attracted to me but real love, I think he never did. It’s unfortunate Elaine allowed herself to be caught up in something like this. It could have been anyone. I’m sure Steve had been lying to me all this while. I have been so inexperienced to notice.
(wiping her tears with a corner of her cloth)
But you don’t understand! You don’t understand! They’re getting married now as we speak.
Effe goes still. The shock almost knocks her down. She has been expecting it, but to be told that Steve, her Steve, is marrying her cousin just a day after divorcing her is more than she can bear.
(in a pain-filled whisper)
They’re getting married?
Yes, dear. Ruth came to inform me. She wants us to go and stop that marriage. They’re at the court house, where we went yesterday. Evidently the same Judge who annulled your marriage is officiating their marriage. And they have planned a reception at your former house. That was why I was arguing with Ruthie. I told her it wasn’t necessary to try and stop the marriage, but she just will not accept it.
Effe is thunderstruck. Her haunted gaze and wounded look are too terrible to behold, and her mother takes her into her arms.
Elly is a devil o! Elly is a devil o! Ahhhhhh, my daughter is a devil!
Effe turns towards the door. Her mother tries to stop her. She holds unto her arm.
Afi! Are you okay? Oh, dear! Please take heart, okay? You will be fine!
Effe nods and hugs her mother.
Mama, I’ll be fine. I just need a few moments to myself.
Effe quickly gets out of the house. She takes her phone to call Chris, and then she stops.
She flags down a passing taxi instead and gives the driver the address to the court.
She sits in the back of the car and shuts her eyes tightly. For a long time she remains like that, eyes closed and as rigid as a piece of carved granite.
But finally, unbidden, the tears creep beneath her eyelids and trace silent paths of pain down her cheeks. She knew they would eventually marry but she never expected it so soon. She can’t believe Steve is allowing all these things to happen. It’s as if he is not in charge anymore. It was one of the things she loved about him. He was his own man. He was always in charge. He knew exactly what to do and when to do it. He was very caring and considerate with her. Now she has faded completely from his life. He had moved on as if she never mattered and that hurts.
INSIDE THE COURT PREMISES
Steve is seen in the corridor outside the Gents. He is dressed impeccably in a white suit and gold shirt, colours Elaine had chosen.
His forehead is leaning against the wall, and his eyes are tightly shut.
Suddenly the door at the end of the corridor opens and Jonathan Afful emerges. He is dressed in a white flowing African wear, complete with a white headgear.
His face is worried. He grabs Steve by the shoulder and shakes him.
Goddamnit, man! What the dilly ooo! What’s with you? They’re all waiting!
Steve’s face is tortured. He looks blankly at his friend for some time, and then he leans back against the wall.
Things are moving too fast, Bro! Only a week ago I was with Effe, very happy! Now, I’m divorced for less twenty-four hours and about to marry her sister! Damn! This is driving me crazy, man! This doesn’t make any sense. Things are moving too fast. Yesterday Effe took off the rings I gave her on our wedding day and gave them back to me! Can you believe that?
What did you expect her to do? Lean over and ask you to give it to her doggy-style? Come on, you made your bed and it’s time to lie in it! You chose to give your unborn son a home and a mother, not a step-mother! It is bitter, guaranteed, but you got to gird your loins and ride with the storm! What’s done is done. You should have thought of all that when you were sneaking under the sheets with your wife’s cousin.
(his voice tortured)
Damn you, Jon! I think Elaine is using this pregnancy to strangle me! I could still be married to Effe, and I could take my son! I can go to court and fight for custody if she proves difficult!
Stop the whining, man! She told you she would give the pregnancy to somebody else and make sure you never see the baby! What the hell, if you felt so much for Effe why did you go through with the divorce? If you want her back, go and apologize to her. If you want your son, and his mother, then get the fuck out of this stinking place and let’s go and get your marriage registered!
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(his eyes looking haunted)
I taught I had it sewn up, y’know! Like I’ll just get married, and when Elaine gives birth, which can be any day from now, I’ll have legal access to my son, and then I would go back for Effe because Elaine wouldn’t dare manipulate me after that.
And why can’t you still do that?
Steve shakes his head wearily and grabs Afful’s arms tightly.
Because I could be too late, man! You remember that night Effe caught me in bed with Elaine, and how she ended up in a taxi?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. The damn taxi driver gave you a licking, so what?
(his voice a hiss)
She’s still with the damn taxi driver, man! Came with him to my house yesterday to get her things. I didn’t like the body language between them, man! Not one bit!
Jonathan laughs with genuine mirth and shakes his head.
What the hell, man. You think Effe is screwing a damn taxi driver now? Give her some credit, will you?
Stop mocking me, man! Damn! Maybe not yet. The dude had dreadlocks that night, I remember. Yesterday the locks were gone, shaved off. He was dressed decently, and he is a very handsome son-of-a-bitch! Effe is hurt bad, and I saw that in her eyes when she gave me the ring. That guy… that damn guy, he almost hit Elaine yesterday, and I saw the way Effe looked at him! She’s clinging to him through the pain, and anything can happen, man! The guy is trying so hard to impress her and I’m positive he is making headway. You should have seen how Effe looked at him? She’s falling for him because she’s hurting.
Jeez! Really? He tried to hit Elaine? And you did nothing?
Elaine slapped Effe! Very regrettable. I should’ve done something, maybe insulted Elaine, y’know, or defended Effe a bit. I couldn’t, but when the guy came in he was all furious and shit. I saw the way Effe looked at him, man! When she was with me she wouldn’t have looked at another man like that. She’s hurting, she’s vulnerable. She could easily give in to the man, bro! The thought of her loving someone else, kissing him, getting naked, making love to another man… damn, bro, just the thought kills me! Been thinking about it the whole night! Maybe I’m fucking up bigtime by marrying Elaine. I’m not sure Effe would get back with me if I go through with this, man!
Afful shakes his head, and his face is incredulous.
You’re amazing, man! You fucked the girl’s sister, impregnated her, divorced her, and now you’re trying to marry her sister, and you still expect Effe to be faithful to you, or maybe become a nun, or maybe commit suicide, or crawl into her room and mourn you for ten years? Stop the nonsense! Who the hell do you think you are? Barack Obama? Get it out of your system! Effe is a beautiful woman. There are probably men queueing up for her affections already, and yes, someone is going to fuck her. Lord, she’s even far sexier than Eyram and has this air of unavailability that has always irked me. Maybe I’ll even try to screw her too!
(pushing Afful violently)
Don’t dare, you bastard!
Just joking, man! But you gotta pull your head outta your fucking butt and take a stand. If you want out, say it right now. I’ll go and end the damn marriage, but remember, Effe is barren. She can’t give you children. If you want your son, then let’s get out of here and go and sign the damn marriage certificate, and remember, Elaine loves you. She is also relatively sexy, and can give you some more sons and daughters. Your call, man. Make your decision fast, or I’ll get outta here and go and screw some Chinese whores. I’m fed up with your bullshit! What’s it gonna be?
Steve stares helplessly at his friend. His face is very confused indeed. He takes several deep breaths, and then he takes out his handkerchief and cleans his face of stressed sweat.
Afful gently takes his friend’s arm and guides him to the main court room where Elaine and some witnesses are waiting anxiously.
OUTSIDE THE COURT
Effe gets out of the taxi and tells the driver to wait.
She walks up the wide steps of the court and enters the large court yard.
She sees the decorated white cars immediately.
She sees that the ceremony is over. There is a lot of noise. She sees Steve and Elaine taking pictures with some of Elaine’s friends whilst the guests scream and shout.
She recognizes Afful and Steve’s parents, and some of Steve’s friends, but she sees that none of the hospital staff is present.
Effe’s vision blurs. Her heart is in so much pain that for a moment she feels like she is getting a cardiac arrest. Her steps falter, and she almost falls.
Elaine looks across the yard and notices Effe standing at the entrance. Elaine smiles to herself, turns into Steve’s arms and offer her face up for a kiss.
Steve kisses Elaine with a broad smile. Elaine winds her arms around his neck and kiss him deeply as the crowd laugh and cheer.
Elaine steps back and looks across the space at Effe who is now clamping her chest with her right hand and crying pitifully.
Elaine lifts her ring finger and shows her diamond-encrusted wedding ring. It glitters in the early morning sun, and she smiles cruelly.
Steve is laughing, but his gaze follows Elaine’s mocking glance, and he sees Effe standing forlornly at the entrance, broken.
Steve turns a furious gaze on Elaine, and he shakes his head with disgust.
(whispering with much anger)
My God! Why are you so damn cruel? Do you really have to do that?
Jonathan, who has been watching Steve very critically, also turns and sees Effe. Quickly he turns and sees that Steve is trying to walk towards Effe and Elaine is holding his arm desperately.
Steve! Don’t you go to her! Don’t humiliate me in the presence of my friends!
Afful moves forward and plants himself in front of Steve, and his hand lands on Steve’s chest, restraining him.
Stop it, Bro. Stop it. Don’t make a damn scene. Talk to Effe later, but concentrate on Elaine now. Don’t make an ass of yourself!
Steve’s face is tortured. He looks at his friend and his new wife, and when he looks at the entrance again, Effe is gone.
(whispering in anguish to himself)
Oh, Lord, Effe, Honey! I’m terribly sorry! Please forgive me!
Effe pays off the taxi driver. She does not sit in it again.
There are some trees a little farther from the court, and there are people sitting under them on benches.
She walks to the shade, finds a secluded bench, sits on it, and cries silently.
Her handkerchief is very wet by the time the fleet of white cars carrying the newly-weds leave the court in a horn-blasting cacophonous procession.
She wipes the tears from her eyes and bites her lower lip tightly. She stuffs the handkerchief in her bag and stands up. She tells herself that was the last time she was going to cry for Steve. He was history now. She knows it will not be easy
She takes a shuddering breath, and then she pulls out her sunglasses and puts it on, to hide her swollen face.
Goodbye, Steve! Never again will I let you hurt me
To be continued
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