Mrs. Ivy Kedem closes the door and leans back against it.
She closes her eyes tightly, sighs deeply, and then walks forward slowly into the luxurious living-room.
She drops her handbag in a chair and sits down warily.
She hears footsteps from the stairs and looks up slowly.
Her husband, dressed in a long white gown, is descending the stairs.
Ivy’s eyebrows raise as she looks at her watch.
Honey, you couldn’t make it to the office today?
Ken Kedem leans down and brushes his lips across hers, and then he sits down beside her.
No, dear. I couldn’t go. Went in to see Effe in the morning, and the poor girl was so heartbroken, crying her heart out. I couldn’t leave her, since you were also not here. Decided to stay with her.
Worse. She really loves that boy. She was telling me Chris is innocent, that he didn’t steal the money, and that the stories about him and all these other women are false. Blaming herself for not believing in him.
Ivy Kedem’s heart beat with sudden fear and dread.
What’s wrong with her? She was there herself! She saw the drugs, the money, and his accomplice, that Janet girl! Why on earth is she saying he was framed?
I don’t know, dear. I don’t know. But for her sake I wish it’s true that boy is innocent. She’s hurting too much!
Is Eyram here?
Nope. Took Junior to see Dr. Henderson. Junior is acting irritable. Not taking his food. Seems to be coming down with a cold.
(getting to her feet)
I think I better check on Effe.
Effe appears on the landing then, and she pauses, and looks at her mother.
Madam Ivy looks up, and her eyes meets Effe’s.
The look of sheer pain, anger, accusation and disgust on her daughter’s face suddenly hit Ivy with the force of an earthquake.
Her face crumbles with great fear and distress because she knows instantly that Effe knows!
Has Chris Bawa told Effe everything? Dear Lord, no! Madam Ivy begins to tremble, and her husband looks at her with sudden concern.
He gets to his feet, and notices his daughter for the first time, and sees the look of sheer loathing on her face as she stares at her mother, and Ken also becomes scared immediately.
He puts an arm across his wife’s shoulders as Effe descends the stairs slowly, her eyes still fixed on her mother.
I want a word with you.
The coldness of her voice shocks them, and they look at each other anxiously.
Right, dear. Go ahead, I’m listening.
Effe shakes her head, and teardrops fly off her puffy face.
With you! Alone! Dad, please excuse us a moment!
(sadly, with a choke in her voice)
Go ahead, dear. There’s nothing your father doesn’t know about me. We share everything!
(in a very hurt voice)
Really? Everything? Are you sure he knows EVERYTHING about you? Believe, he doesn’t know what I’m going to talk to you about!
Ken Kedem sighs deeply and drops his arm from across his wife’s shoulders.
Are you going to talk about Sweet Ama Baby, my dear?
Effe’s mouth fall open with shock. She looks at her father with desperate trepidation.
You know? You know about Sweet Ama Baby, about Mom’s past?
Ken Kedem suddenly looks very old and haggard. He shakes his head numbly and walks to a sofa and sits down.
(in a tired voice)
This is a day I’ve dreaded my whole life!
(looking at her husband with tortured eyes)
She goes and sits beside her husband.
He looks at his wife and smiles wanly. He takes her hands in his and kisses her fingers. He speaks without looking at Effe.
I don’t know how you found out, Effe, my dear, but yes, I know all about your Mom’s past. When I met her I was a struggling Bank Clerk. My girlfriend had just jilted me, left me for a wealthy old man. I was hurting, and my friends took me to a brothel, thinking if I spent some time with another woman I would get over my girl. I met your Mom there. I spent a night with her, and another night, and another night. I spent my whole month’s salary with her. I fell in love with her, and after three months I asked her to marry me.
Effe sinks weakly into a chair.
She is shocked to her very bones. She sees just how painful the memories are for her parents, and for a moment she cannot speak, and tears fall down her cheeks again.
(silent anguished tears spilling down her cheeks)
Eventually I stopped the prostitution, and married your father, but we had great debts to clear. You see, he took a loan from the bank he worked at, to set up a transportation business, and his girlfriend took the money and ran away. We needed to pay off that money, and so although I stopped prostitution, I set up a business, making some girls work for me.
Effe nods silently, bitterly.
Not only young girls, Mama. Young boys too, isn’t it?
Ken Kedem springs to his feet, and he looks at his daughter with fierce eyes.
Don’t you dare judge your Mama, dear! Yes, she did some bad things, but she sacrificed for this family! I didn’t know she had a brothel going until much, much later, when she confessed to me! By that time you girls were growing up. I made your Mama promise to put an end to it, and she did, and we’ve been happy ever since!
I’m sorry, Dad! I’m really sorry!
Ken Kedem takes a deep breath and exhales slowly.
Sorry for shouting at you, sweet cake, but I don’t want this family to fall apart! We’ve dreaded this moment, about you girls finding out about this. Every family has its dark secrets, baby, but we should learn to stick together, and be strengthened in our weaknesses. But how did you find out, baby? Who told you?
Wordlessly Effe takes out the photo she has taken from Janet’s album, and hands it to her father.
The girl in that picture knew Mom. She told me all about her!
Ken Kedem takes a look at the photo, and his face breaks down so completely that he almost falls down.
He turns a thunderstruck face towards his wife, and Madam Ivy gets up with a cry of concern.
What is it, honey? Please, what’s it?
What in the name of Jesus is this, Ivy? You knew Chris? You knew him all along? And Cuger? You knew the Chief Inspector too? Oh, come on, Ivy! Did you lie? Did you frame Chris with the missing money?
Madam Ivy looks at the incriminating photo, and she drops slowly into a chair. Her face is devastated. She begins to tremble with sudden fear and panic.
Madam Ivy raises a face filled with remorse and humiliation and holds her husband’s legs.
I knew them, honey. You remember my friend Ida? She was the Governess of the orphanage. I used to visit her. Cuger was her brother. I took that picture several years ago, and when I saw Chris again I recognized him as the boy from the orphanage. That was why I didn’t want our daughter to have anything to do with him! Forgive me, dearest, please!
Effe stares at her mother with absolute consternation.
Her mother is lying! She has never told her father about the things she did with young children, especially with Chris!
Tears spring to Effe’s eyes, tears of shame, of betrayal, of bitterness, and of hurt.
But if he grew up in an orphanage so what? My Lord, dearest, she loves him, and he loves her! We have money! Effe has money! We thought Steve was a good match, but look what he did to the poor girl? Did you frame Chris, you and this Cuger fella?
Madam Ivy is weeping miserably now. She holds her husband tightly around the waist.
Forgive me, darling! Please forgive me! I was wrong! I was so wrong!
(in a devastated voice)
I’m so shocked, dear! To go to that extent is unpardonable! You know I worship you, and of course I forgive you, and I’ll stand by you through death! It’s your daughter you have hurt! Make it up to her!
He holds his wife tightly, comforting her, patting her.
Effe turns away and quietly walks up the stairs to her room.
Trembling with the effects of her shock, she picks up a suitcase and begins to pack some of her stuff into it.
A few minutes later the door opens, and her mother comes in.
She closes the door behind her and turns the key in the lock.
She looks haggard and beaten.
She sits down gently on the bed and looks at Effe.
(her voice small)
Please. If your father finds out about Chris and me, it’ll kill him. Please, Effe.
Effe looks at her with absolute shock and disgust.
Don’t worry, Mom, I won’t tell him, or Eyram, for that matter. You have to promise me, Mama, that you wouldn’t do anything to harm Janet or her marriage.
Rage suddenly fills Madam Ivy’s face, and she explodes.
Janet. She dared to do this to me?
Leave Janet alone, Mom, otherwise Dad will find out all that you did with Chris.
I don’t want to lose you, my dear!
Effe turns on her mother, and her face is bitter.
Lose me? After all that you did to me? You drove the man of my life away from me!
But you can’t be with him, dear? Don’t you understand? I did it for you! The relationship between you two was a taboo! I couldn’t let that happen!!
Why, Mama, why? Do you still want him? Do you still want to sleep with him? He ran from you! He spurned you, and God has brought us together. I love him, Mama! I just want to be with him! Surely, whatever you felt for him, all those years ago, is over now! We can move on from here, can’t we?
Madam Ivy stands up and approaches her daughter.
She takes her hands in hers, and bitter tears wets her cheeks.
I don’t know what that boy did to me, Ef, my darling! I wanted him so bad! I couldn’t keep off him! I fought it, heaven knows I fought it, but to no avail. When he continued to say no to me, to spurn me, I adopted a new ploy. I disguised myself as a deaf-mute woman, and Ida brought him to me, at night, in darkness!
Effe snatches her hands out of her mother’s own, and walks backwards, shaking her head with horror as fresh tears drown her!
Her face is so horrified that Madam Ivy can hardly watch it.
No, no, no! Mama! Don’t tell me you seduced him! Please don’t tell me you cheated on Dad with Chris! Please, no! Please, please, please, no!!
I’m sorry, baby! You don’t know how sorry I am, how much I’ve regretted this! But that is what happened! I cheated on your father, and yes, I slept with Chris, although he didn’t know it then! When I saw him with you, I almost died! I was sure it was a sign from Heaven, a punishment for my evil days! I couldn’t let you be with him, dear! Not him, not the boy I slept with!! Not the only man I cheated on your father with!! Aside from reminding me of my greatest sin, it also is a taboo!
(in a horrified whisper)
MAMA! LORD, NO! OH NO, MAMA!!!!
Chris didn’t know about it, but I told him yesterday. It hurt him very much!
Mama! Where’s Chris? WHERE’S CHRIS, MAMA???
He left, Ef. He couldn’t take it. He said he’s dirty, and that he’s going away. And he wouldn’t ever see you again. Much as I regret this, much as it’s unfortunate, it has to be this way, Ef. Please, find it in your heart to forgive me!
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It was no fault of his, Mama! You took advantage of a poor orphan, and you destroyed his life! If he had known it was you, posing as this deaf-mute woman, he wouldn’t have had sex with you! But that is all past now, Mama. It’s all past. He didn’t know, and so there’s nothing to forgive him for. He isn’t the one at fault here. You are. You will have to forgive yourself and move on. I love him, Mama, and I’m going to be with him! It doesn’t really matter what he did in the past. What matters now is what we feel for each other. I’m going to look for him and make him feel like he’s never been loved before. I’m going to heal his heart with all the love I feel for him.
He’s gone, baby, forever!
I don’t care how long it takes, or how hard it will be, or even how much he hates himself, but whatever it takes, I’m going to find him, Mama, and I’m going to love him, and drive the pain in his heart away! I’m going to right all the wrongs you have caused in the life of that poor boy, Mama!
You can’t, Effe! He saw my nakedness! We were intimate! True, I seduced him, and he didn’t know it was me, but he was like a drug, something I couldn’t keep away from! He’s the only man I ever cheated on your father with, and he’s been my shame for so many years! Seeing him again, with you, was so terrible for me, bringing back painful memories! I can’t stand him with you, Effe! Please, it would be better to give Steve a second chance, than to be with Chris! Please, don’t imprison me with this, don’t crucify me! Please!
(with tears in her eyes)
I love him, Mama. And I’m going to have him, and love him! It doesn’t really matter if he slept with you willingly or forcibly. It’s a past act, something I can never hold him with. He hadn’t met me yet so I can’t hold it against him. You hurt him, Mama! He was a poor child, and you introduced him to child prostitution! It hurt him, and made him feel worthless all his life! Perhaps, it is poetic justice that he should fall in love with me, so that I can love him, and heal the wounds my own mother opened in his soul! You stole his childhood from him, Mama. Nobody should grow up like that!
Madam Ivy shakes her head sadly, and her eyes are haunted with horror.
Please, my dearest! He’s gone! When he learnt about what happened between us, he was willing to sacrifice the love he had for you! You can’t find him, Ef! You can’t waste the rest of your life looking for him!
First, I’m leaving this house, Mama. I’ll go to my estate house! And then I’m going to find him. I’ll find him, Mama! I won’t stop until I find him.
To be continued..