Effe turns on her side restlessly and her eyes fall on the bedside clock.
It is 5.00 a.m.
It occurs to her that she needs to leave her parents’ house very soon.
They had been a great help during her ordeal, but she feels it is now time to cope on her own.
Already the crippling pain Steve had given her is almost a dull ache now. She can choose to live in the furnished apartment she owns, or the house she has along the Labadi Beach.
Her phone rings suddenly and her heart skips a beat. Who is calling her that early? It is not Chris, because he has a special tone, and for a moment she looks at the phone crossly.
How she wishes he will call, just call. She sighs, picks up the phone, and glances at the screen.
Steve’s smiling face is filling her screen.
It is strange, but she can’t remember when she changed the special ring tone she had for Steve and replaced it with the default ring tone.
Why is he calling her this early?
She drops the phone on the table and wonders how his call would have made her jump with elation only a few days ago.
But not now! A lot has happened the last days.
The phone continues to ring, and she continues to ignore it.
Finally he stops calling.
Effe turns on her back and picks the phone. She opens up her call log and dials Chris’ number.
His phone is switched off.
Suddenly an uneasy fear grips her heart.
Has she driven him away? Is that it? Is she not going to see him again?
The thought of that possibility fills her heart with sudden pain. She sighs miserably.
(in a whisper)
Chris. Please. Don’t do this!
There is a knock on her door.
She never locks her bedroom door when she is home, and so she waits. The door opens, and her mother pokes her head in.
Steve is here, Sweetheart. In the hall.
Effe bolts upright, scowling, her face confused.
Steve? Here? This early? Why?
Her mother shakes her head and raises her eyebrows.
I don’t know, love. The security man opened the gates for him. And he kept ringing the doorbell till your sister opened the door. You better come and see him.
Effe gets out of bed, still confused. She marvels at how she is feeling a little bit irritated. Just a few days ago she would have jumped at the news that the love of her life is in her home, looking for her.
Not now, though. This dawn, she is not happy about that news.
She gets up from bed and takes off her sexy negligée.
She steps into jeans and blouse, brushes her teeth and combs her hair.
She slips her delicate feet into a pair of feather-topped slippers and goes downstairs.
Steve is dressed in a most excellently-cut blue-black suit, with a sparkling white shirt and sky dark blue tie.
He is standing at the foot of the steps looking up at Effe.
The moment she sees him she is reminded of the day of their wedding. He had been in the same attire.
She stops three steps up and looks at him with her hand on the balustrade.
He looks up at her, and he smiles sadly and holds out a hand to her.
You look more beautiful every day, Honey.
You came here dressed like you’ve just won a presidential election just to tell me I’m beautiful, Steve Hollison?
A very painful expression crosses his face, so profound that for one terrible moment she is scared he is going to cry.
He shakes his head numbly.
You have forgotten, haven’t you?
Forgotten what, Steve?
Jesus! I can’t believe this! Did you ever love me, Effe?
Effe leans against the balustrade and crosses her arms under her breasts and regards him with very confused eyes.
What’s wrong, Steve? Are you alright? Why don’t you just tell me whatever you so evidently want me to remember?
I’m not bloody okay! Today is our damn eleventh anniversary! You always got mad when I forgot it! You even set a damn alarm for me so that I’ll always remember! And you’re telling me you’ve forgotten the day we got married? Just like that?
Effe laughs softly because she is sure she will go mad if she doesn’t laugh.
She brushes her hair angrily from her face and looks at him with eyes suddenly hard with unbridled anger.
Who do you think you are, Steve? You still want me to remember our wedding anniversary after you impregnated my sister, divorced me and married her? Who do you think you are, Mr. Steve Hollison? You must think you’re Superman, the best man God ever created, too handsome for this world, too special for women! You must feel you have to be worshipped, a Steve God whose fart is perfumed! You must be very special indeed, and I must bow and kneel in your divine presence!
Steve climbs the steps and stands before her. His face is screwed up with pain, and she notices that he is trembling with emotion.
I’m so sorry, Honey! I’ve hurt you beyond human comprehension. The stress of childlessness, the pressure of impatient parents, the taunts of friends… I’m not making excuses, Effe, but those things does get to a man. I messed up big time, and I killed your soul in the process! But I never meant things to go this far! Elaine threatened to take the baby away if I didn’t marry her! I just wanted this to be a mere formality. As soon as she gives birth and the child is legally recognized as mine I’m gonna leave her!
Effe feels her fury mounting uncontrollably. For one horrible moment she almost reaches for his eyes with her nails.
Leave her? Are you saying you’re gonna leave Elaine for me after she gives birth? Is that what you’re saying?
Yes, yes! I love you, honey! I’ve never stopped loving you! I’ll never stop loving you!
Hm, I see. I’ve heard of a game called Musical Chairs. Seems to me you want to redefine it and rename it Changing Sisters! You’re pathetic, Steve!
Steve grabs her arms tightly, his face suddenly filled with emotion and engorged with the crippling love he still feels for her.
(speaking through clenched teeth, absolutely emotional)
I love you, Effe! I’m sorry, Effe! This day is our special day! It’ll always be our special day! Our anniversary, and I don’t want us to fight. I came to take you to hill, our love hill, and watch the sunrise together like we used to! I went through an awful lot to get here this morning. I had to even leave my car because Elaine took it because she remembers what day today is. I don’t wanna be alone today. I wanna spend it with you, my love! Please don’t push me away!
Effe tries unsuccessfully to disengage her arms from his. She is feeling suffocated all of a sudden and just wants to be away from him.
Let me go, Steve! You’re hurting me! I’m not going anywhere with you!
Steve transfers his arms to her waist, holds her tightly, and clamps his lips to hers. For a moment she is shocked and lost.
His lips rove hers, and brings back memories of fonder days, of loving days, of sweeter days!
For a moment she relaxes in his arms, feeling his anguish as his tears suddenly flood her face.
He is kissing her with deep emotion and crying at the same time.
But there is one thing missing!
The spark is gone! Her heart is not fluttering, the fire is not burning in her heart anymore. There is no bomb, no explosion.
It is just a whisper, not a roar, not a boom like she had felt in a certain suite in a certain magical place called WaterWorld.
The hands roving her body do not have fire in their tips, or ice in their depths… fire and ice, hot and cold, fire and water, mixed into delicious echelons of unbearable pleasure that made her crave for more again and again and again.
She sees his face, the face of that violent stubborn taxi driver, and suddenly she begins to fight.
She pushes her face away from his, and pulls back violently.
Effe! Effe! Please, honey, don’t fight me! Please! I love you, I need you! I want you!
She pushes hard, and he falls down to his knees. He raises his hands to her, begging and imploring as tears course down his cheek.
She is crying too as she looks down at him. Oh how glad she would’ve been just a few days ago, before she ever set foot at a place called WaterWorld.
She shakes her head. She is missing a man quite badly, yes, but that man is not called Steve.
(with tears in her eyes)
Go back to Elaine, Steve, please! We’re done here!
She turns from him and flees into her room. Her tears are still falling, and she can feel his hot lips on hers.
She smells him all around her. That won’t do at all. She needs to shower, to be fresh, to feel new.
She strips off her clothes and runs to the bathroom naked. Anguished tears fall down her cheeks as she draws a warm bath and slips into it.
She is shaking, and afraid, as it dawns on her that in a moment of craziness she has unconsciously made a choice… and it is not Steve she has chosen.
Steve falls to his knees on the stairs, and his tears fall silently, agonisingly.
Madam Ivy emerges silently from the recesses of the living-room where she had been standing and listening and watching.
She is in a belted robe, and has a scarf around her grey hair. She is middle-aged, but she is a strikingly beautiful woman.
Are you going to sit there and behave like a weasel or you’re going to go up there and fight for her?
Steve looks round, notices her and quickly gets up. He looks at her, puzzled.
Pardon? What did you just say?
You heard me.
Steve comes towards her slowly, haltingly. His desperate eyes search her face.
He runs a dry tongue over his drier lips and wipes tears from his eyes.
You don’t hate me?
Oh, I detest you with every fibre of my soul. I think you’re scum, and I’ll never forgive you for the pain you gave my baby!
Steve stares at her, puzzled.
Then why? Why’re you encouraging me go after Effe?
Because I believe she’s making a fool of herself. She’s still hurting from what you did to her, and she’s vulnerable… so vulnerable that she’s making a stupid mistake without realizing it.
Steve nods, and his jaw sets hard.
That damn taxi driver, right?
Yes, that damn taxi driver. I’d rather have her back with you, no matter how much I hate you, than with that leech who is way below her, and who only want to use her as a fulfilment of his perverse fantasies. I think he might’ve made love to her already.
Steve reacts as if he has received a physical blow in his belly.
The air whooshes out of him and his knees wobble. He reaches out in a daze and grasp the balustrade for support.
He can barely breathe, and his face is screwed up tightly with pure unadulterated pain and high grade agony.
(in a whisper)
What? Effe? No, no! She wouldn’t do that! She barely knows him! She’s not that kind of woman! I can’t believe that!
Madam Ivy looks at him without pity.
Then you’re a fool, and it serves you right, of course. If you have any sense in your head you’ll go up there and make her see that you two can still have a future together. If you allow that boy to be with her, from now, you’ll lose her forever.
Steve, filled with furious jealousy, waits no more.
He bounds up the stairs three at a time, makes the landing, and enters Effe’s room.
He looks around and sees she’s not inside. He hears the splashing from the bathroom and tiptoes forward to peep into the crack of the slightly open door.
He sees her lying in the bath, her head resting on a raised upright, her chest bare, her lovely breasts standing proud, her nipples taut.
Her amazing skin is glowing, and she is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen.
Desire rips through him like an earthquake, and in a flash he rips off his clothes.
Naked now, he reaches for the handle of the bathroom door…
Meanwhile, down in the living-room, Mr. Ken Kedem emerges from his room.
It is now 6 a.m.
He is dressed in a beautiful African top and crisp black trousers.
He is going to meet some business partners at eight in the morning.
Thought I heard voices.
Oh, nothing, dear. I was watching television. Are you sure you don’t want any breakfast?
Will take breakfast with Mr. Duncan and Crankson, darling. Have to rush. Will meet you at the office.
She puts her arms around his neck and kisses him briefly.
She accompanies him outside to his car.
He opens the back door and tosses in his little attache case, closes the door and approaches the driver’s door.
The gate man has just opened the main gates for him, and that is when a man emerges through the gates.
Ken Kedem’s face lights up with surprise and delight, and he waves to the man.
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Chris! My boy! Come here!
Chris is wearing black jeans, white Nike sneakers and a white Lacoste polo shirt and he looks incredibly handsome.
He greets them and takes Ken Kedem’s outstretched hand.
Madam Ivy does not respond to him.
Good to see you again, Mr. Kedem.
I haven’t been able to express my thanks and gratitude to you, boy! How have you been?
I’ve been better, sir. Had a little misunderstanding with your daughter, and I’ve been feeling very blue.
Ken Kedem laughs and slaps Chris’ back.
The women in my pen have that kind of effect on men, boy! Drop by for a dinner this week, and let me thank you properly!
No thanks needed, sir. It was a pleasure.
Thanks again, son. I have to run now. Effe is in. Go and see her.
They watch as he gets into the car, waves, and drives out of the gates.
Chris turns to Madam Ivy, whose poisonous eyes drive into him, and her jaw line is set in an angry thin line.
You damn, sleazy bastard!
Wow. That’s descriptive, I think. I’m going to see Effe.
Madam Ivy smiles mirthlessly.
She’s sick, and in her room. You can go right up. Come, let me show you her room.
Chris scowls at her. He is surprised she is not stopping him from going inside.
They enter the house and he follows her up the stairs to Effe’s door. She indicates it to him, turns, and heads back down to the living-room with a cold, satisfied smile on her face.
He knocks on the door, and calls Effe’s name softly.
Steve hears the door, and hears his voice just as he opens the bathroom door wide.
Effe sees Steve naked, and she gasps with a mixture of surprise and anger, and quickly stands up in the bath.
Water cascades down her beautiful body.
Blindly she reaches for a huge towel, and just then Chris opens the door and steps inside the room.
He sees Steve naked, still with an erection, and he sees Effe standing naked in the bath.
Effe’s face breaks down with total pain when she sees the sudden agony on Chris’ face.
Their eyes lock, and she shakes her head numbly.
(in a pained whisper)
She sees Chris shaking, and feels his agony, his pain, his tortured spirit plainly on his face.
At least you should’ve locked the damn door!
He turns quickly and leaves the room.
Effe snatches the towel and drapes it around her body, and comes out of the bath.
CHRIS! WAIT! OH LORD, OH NO! WAIT, CHRIS!!!!
She tries to go past Steve, but he holds her tight.
I’m here, honey! Let him go! I’m here, and I love you!
Let me go! Let me go, Steve! Damn you! CHRISSSS! OH PLEASE WAIT!!!
She pushes Steve away, but he is still holding her towel, and it comes off Effe.
She does not stop.
Still naked, she opens the door and races down the stairs.
Eyram’s door slams open and she emerges, still in her nightdress and with Junior clamped to her shoulder.
Effe! What’s wrong, Ef?
Effe reaches the front door and tries to open it. Madam Ivy comes out of the kitchen and pushes Effe back, blocking the doorway.
MAMA! LET ME OUT!
You’re naked, dear. The house staff are outside, you sure you wanna go out naked?
Let me out, Mama! Let me out!
Madam Ivy holds her as she begins to cry. Eyram enters Effe’s room and sees Steve putting on his trousers.
What the hell are you doing here, Steve? What have you done to Effe? I swear to you if you’ve hurt her I’ll personally castrate you!
She picks up the huge towel from the floor and descends to the living-room where Effe is being held in her mother’s arms.
Effe is crying bitterly as if her heart is being torn out of her chest.
Eyram hands her baby to Madam Ivy, and then she covers her sister with the towel and hold her close.
The agony on Effe’s face sears Eyram to the core.
I lost him, Rammy! I lost him!
Eyram, who doesn’t know exactly what is going on, smiles reassuringly at her tortured sister and holds her tight.
Steve appears on the landing.
He and Madam Ivy look at each other, and both nod in victory.
To be continued
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