Effe opens her eyes slowly. Her head hurts really badly. She is in a very comfortable bed. She moves her eyes and sees she is in a hospital ward. The room is amazingly beautiful.
The curtains are pristine sky blue. There is a little fridge, a small cabinet and even a miniature wardrobe. There are flowers in a vase by the window. There is a television mounted on one wall, and an air-conditioner is whirring the room cool silently.
It looks like a private ward. She can feel the bandage wound around her head and around her right elbow. She stares at the pretty angel murals in the ceiling and slowly she remembers the previous evening, and a look of sheer pain crosses her face, and although she tries hard to still her tears, they began to trail down the sides of her eyes and soak the pillow.
Oh, Steve! Oh, Steve!
The door opens suddenly and a buxom nurse enters. She approaches the bed and smiles at Effe.
Oh, you’re awake. Thank goodness. I’ll let the doctor know immediately.
She turns and heads towards a telephone mounted on the wall.
Wait, nurse, please! Where am I?
The nurse turns with the receiver held to her ear.
In the Ameyaw-Eden Clinic, Madam. You were brought in last evening. You had been in an accident …hello, Doc. The patient in Ward Twelve has come to.
She replaces the receiver and comes to the bed.
Oh. Okay. One of the Eden hospitals.
Yes, under the care of Doctor Michael Ameyaw.
Effe’s eyes widen with surprise.
Mike Ameyaw. Sounds familiar.
The door opens and a young man in a white doctor’s overcoat enters. His black hair is speckled with grey. He is a little plump and has a small pot-belly, but he is quite handsome.
He is wearing round gold-rimmed glasses, and his eyes reflects warmth as he comes to the bed and smiles down at her. He looks very familiar to Effe, but she can’t quite recollect where she made his acquaintance.
We meet again, Mrs. Hollison. After the seminar in Takoradi you promised to visit me here. I never imagined it would be this soon, and with blood all over your head.
Effe tries to smile.
Oh, yes, so that’s where we met. You told me about this lovely hospital which is being funded by Eden Inc. They wanted to take over your hospital, right?
The doctor sits beside her and mops the tears from the sides of her eyes.
Oh, we’ve resolved that issue now. Had the privilege of meeting the President of the Eden Board himself, and they’ve agreed to change the takeover clause. So it’s now a loan. I’ve to work hard to repay the loan, and then ownership of the clinic will revert to my family.
Effe smiles wanly.
That is good news.
Very good news. How’re you feeling now? Scary and rough day yesterday?
Very rough, Dr. Ameyaw.
Thought we agreed in Takoradi that I’ll be Mike to you and you’ll be Effe to me. Loved your presentation at the seminar, Effe. Now, let’s see. You were brought in yesterday with a concussion, a cut in your scalp and a sprained elbow.
Luckily, no bones were broken, though you’re going to have a headache for a couple of days, and there’s not going to be any driving for you for a few days yet, until that elbow sprain heals completely. Otherwise you’re fit to go.
Effe’s eyes turn warm.
Thank you so much, Mike. I don’t know how I got here. I don’t have my bag here, or my phone. I’ll call my father and sort out the bill. They might be worried by now.
The bill is on the house, my dear. A young taxi driver brought you here yesterday, and from what I hear he brought your bag too, but he kept it, wouldn’t give it to anyone. He’s been to the police station where your damaged car was towed to, and he’s been here since dawn waiting for you to wake up. Quite stubborn man. He’s been on my neck to attend to you although I told him time and again you were doing fine. Chris Bawa he calls himself. Has an annoying habit of smoking and speaking in pidgin English.
Effe chuckles and shakes her head, amazed.
He found me? Chris? The Darling Boy?
Doctor Ameyaw raises his eyebrows with curiosity.
Darling boy? Well now!
Effe laughs and shakes her head gently.
Oh, no, not like that. That’s what he’s written at the back of his taxi. A nickname, I guess. I met him a week ago, and I guess I still owe him for his fare that time. Maybe that’s why he’s sticking around. Obviously, he wants his money back.
The doctor smiles and stands up.
Alright, dear. I’ll send him in with your bag. Your dress was badly soiled with blood when you came in yesterday, so I asked the Laundry Department to work their magic. Nurse, are her clothes ready?
Yes, Doctor. They’re in the wardrobe.
Effe looks at Doctor Ameyaw with a mock frowned face. The doctor notices her discomfort and chuckles good-naturedly.
Don’t be naughty, Effe. Nurse Evelyn undressed and put you in the hospital gown. Considering your elbow is still in a cast, maybe she can help you get dressed up again. And do well to take your medication. You’ll have a mighty splitting headache later in the day.
I’m very grateful, Mike. God bless you.
They all laugh. The doctor leaves after a few more pleasantries, and the nurse helps Effe to get dressed. The nurse leaves after fetching a glass of water for Effe.
Effe is sitting on the bed, wincing from the gentle throbbing pain in her elbow when the door opens and Chris Bawa enters.
He is wearing black jeans and beautiful sneakers. His white Lacoste fits him very well. She notices for the first time how extremely good-looking he is, even with his mane of dreadlocks.
She has not noticed that the first night. His eyebrows are dark and full, almost feminine, and his lips are sensual. His eyes are heavy and veiled, giving him a most exotic look, and he looks so handsome that for a moment she just stares at him in surprise.
He is holding her bag in one hand and a tall white rectangular box in the other, with the words LOIS BIT NIPS written on its side. He comes and stands in front of her.
(in a slow voice)
How be you? You fine?
She smiles in spite of herself and looks up at him.
Thank you, Chris. Seems you saved me again. Strange coincidence, don’t you think?
(his voice deadpan)
Co nothing. I dey traffic inside then I see you zoom pass, so I turn and follow you. Abi you no pay me the last time, so na I dey come for my dough. Then I see sey you swerve and hit the electricity pole. Wetin dey wrong you la? You wan kill yourself or wetin?
She is quite taken aback by his abrupt manner, and she scowls at him, her defences up immediately.
You think I make it a habit of intentionally running my car into pillars?
Chris sits down beside her and offers her the bag.
Sorry. I no talk well. But na I make scared. Like you fit die sef.
I know. And once again thank you. I was in a very bad situation. I lost control totally and couldn’t concentrate.
He nods and hands her the tall LOIS BIT NIPS box.
You for be careful, Madam. Your life be precious.
(gesturing at the box)
What’s this, Chris?
Oh. Na food. I was thinking maybe you go be hungry.
The box is still warm. She opens it and peers inside. She sees noodles and meat bits and other greasy stuff. She wrinkles her nose with distaste, although she is suddenly feeling ravenously hungry.
I can’t eat this, please. Too greasy. I don’t think it’s healthy.
Chris looks at her with sudden pained eyes.
You know where I drive go before I get the food buy? I almost reach Akuapim. That be Mama Lois Special. Please try am. E sweet pass gogome!
Effe laughs, and reluctantly removes the wrapper around the plastic fork he proffers. She dips into the box, scoops a forkful into her mouth, chews slowly, and then her eyes widen with both surprise and delight.
Oh, gracious me! This is sweet.
Wetin. I know. Then you wan make too know for my top.
Effe eats everything, and still isn’t full. She is surprised the food tasted so good. He stands up, digs into his pocket and hands her a little slip of paper on which is written a list of misspelled words.
It is an account of how much she owes him, including the charter fare she has not paid the first time she boarded his car. She shakes her head with a smile.
Alright. This is even less than what I envisaged. You’ve indeed been very kind to me. Is it possible for you to drive me to the place you dropped me off the other time? I’ll stop at any Visa ATM and take money to pay you, okay?
No P. I go tap you at the reception.
He gets up to leave and walks to the door. He stops and turns, and looks at her for a long time.
(in a very calm voice)
You be the finest woman I ever see, Madam.
She tries to keep calm, but she feels a certain inner glow at his compliment, and she smiles sadly.
Thank you, Darling Boy.
He smiles at that. His smile is broad and creates dimples in his cheeks and is so full of both life and beauty that she marvels.
When he closes the door behind him she shakes her head again, and wonders at life’s injustices which has denied such a kind-hearted handsome man the benefits of a good education.
She leaves the ward shortly afterwards. Walking through the premises of the Clinic, she is impressed with how well-designed and how beautiful it is.
The Eden Hospital, where she works, is one of the biggest and best hospitals in the world, but it lacks the homely atmosphere she is seeing in Dr. Ameyaw’s clinic.
She is shown upstairs into Dr. Ameyaw’s office. He hands her a little packet in a medium-sized white envelope.
Your medication for two days. I’ll take off that cast three days from now.
I’m indebted to you, Mike.
He throws a hand in the air in a gesture of dismissal. He walks round his desk and takes her hand.
Come with me, dear. I want to show you something.
He takes her outside, walks along the beautiful corridor and stops in front of a brown door.
He opens it with a key and ushers Effe in. She sees that it is a new office. It is huge and comfortable, beautifully furnished for a doctor.
She is particularly fascinated with the amazing aquarium that is to the right of the desk.
You really do things in style, Mike.
(his voice serious)
This Clinic was built by my father, Effe. It was his life’s work, his blood, his vision. He left it to us to run, but after his death two of my brothers and my senior sister wanted to sell it. I couldn’t let that happen, and so I bought it from them.
Effe nods, and there is a gentle look in her eyes.
With help from Eden Inc.
Yes, my dear. Eden almost took the hospital away from me, but thanks to God, they changed their eighty-percent ownership into a loan. I’m a good Doctor, Effe, but not a very good surgeon. That is where the big money is, nowadays. Recently I’ve started freaking out when I go to the theatre to operate. I’ve developed stage fright, my dear, and you know how dangerous it is if you don’t cut a patient open with confidence.
His face is haunted and sad. Effe lays a gentle hand on his arm.
Surely it is not that bad. We all have our bad days now and then. You can pull through this.
It is bad, Effe. It is very bad. Last month I cut someone open for a gallstone op, but he had nothing in him. To make matters worse, I left a pair of forceps in his stomach. Now tell me that’s not bad.
That is very bad, Mike.
Yes, it is. Lucky he was my friend from the University. I could have lost my licence and the Clinic. Bottom line is, I need help here, Effe. I meant to ask you this in Takoradi, but the right opportunity never cropped up. I know I’ll get myself in order, but before then would you consider helping out here on a contract basis? This office is for you, and I’ll pay you a fair wage. I know you barely get spare time at the hospital, but please, would you help me?
It is perfect, Mike. My life is now a nightmare, and I need a place to lie low for a while, you know, to settle down and see the storm through. This will work perfectly for me. I accept.
The Doctor gives a whoop of joy and hugs Effe. His relief is evident when he walks her out some few minutes later, and waves as she sits in Chris’ taxi and it begins to move.
Chris drives her through North Legon towards Dzorwulu. They are both silent for a long time. Effe is still reminiscing about how she could have gotten it all wrong. She is still wondering how Steve and Elaine have been able to sustain their affair in her presence for so long! How has she missed it all?
She remembers his words again and again, and each time pain suffuses her. Chris sees a Barclays ATM and swings the car over and stops for her. She gets out, withdraws money, pays him, and then they resume driving.
She notices that the taxi is new and nice. He has even wound up the windows and turned on the air-conditioning. She fishes out her phone and sees a lot of missed calls from her parents, Eyram and colleagues. She calls her parents first and assures them that she is okay.
Next she calls her sister and lies to her that everything is fine. She is in the process of calling Dr. Anaman at the hospital when Chris speaks. She looks at him blankly.
E no be your husbie dey there?
They are stuck in traffic and he is pointing out of the window. She looks in the direction he is pointing, and her heart skips a very painful beat when she sees that is indeed Steve.
He has emerged from a Mother Care. He is holding a bulging package which he is putting inside his car. Behind him is Elaine and a smiling Jonathan Afful.
Elaine is laughing at something Jonathan has said. Jonathan tries to touch Elaine’s belly, but she pulls away and runs to a smiling Steve.
Steve holds her and puts a reverential hand on her big belly, and then he bends and kisses her belly.
Effe looks away as her eyes go blind with tears again. The pain is unbearable for her. Luckily the traffic moves and Chris drives on. She looks at him, and wordlessly he picks up the box of tissues on the dashboard and gives it to her.
She weeps silently and cleans her face with the tissue.
Your husbie be crack paa oo! E dey run naked on the street and now e dey smooch pregnant-
(sharply, painfully, angrily)
Just shut the hell up, would you?
He says nothing. After a while she turns to him and looks at his cold profile.
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I’m sorry, Chris. I’m hurting. I’m really hurting.
He nods but says nothing. Just then her phone rings, and she takes it.
It is from MR. JOSHUA DARKWA, their family lawyer. Her heart begins to beat extremely fast now. She hasn’t heard from the lawyer in a little while, and she knows without being told that it is about the divorce Steve had threatened her with. Her heart beating with trepidation, she picks the call.
(sounding really disturbed)
What’s this, Effe, my dear? Just received a letter from Steve’s lawyer. He’s seeking a divorce?
Effe grips the phone so tightly that her fingers hurt her. Suddenly everything goes black for a moment as she almost passes out.
The phone drops from her hand and falls. When she looks at Chris he sees a pain so great that his anger vanishes immediately.
Hey. Wetin dey wrong you? You be okay, lady?
(her voice trembling horribly, her tears falling in torrents)
Don’t take me home again! Please take me somewhere, somewhere I can lie down, please.
I no dey understand, madam!
Take me somewhere, please! A hotel, any hotel, please! I want to be alone! Oh Steve, oh Steve!
He nods and drives. She cries bitterly besides him. Her phone rings again. She cuts the call and switches off the phone. She is in great anguish and he watches her silently.
He switches on the radio and begins to play reggae Mellow Melodies on the CD player. A little while later he realizes that amazingly, she is asleep. He shakes his head.
Ei Charlie! E hard o!
To be continued..