Junior, his mouth smeared with sauce and a long trail of a noodle disappearing fast into his mouth, is holding out a plate to his father.
Oh, please, Daddy, Daddy! Just one tiny weeny little small scoop, pleeeeeeease!!
Chris is laughing down at his son, his cheeks dimpled by that smile.
Champ, you’re going to burst! You’ve taken too much! I heard say you hate noodles!
Whatever it is, I want a plate!
He begins to apologize effusively for what happened the previous day.
That’s okay. You did what you had to do.
Rupert offers his hand and Chris takes it. They shake hands.
Now, please, can I have some of that noodles?
The noodles was still sizzling in a saucepan. Chris picks up a clean plate and scoops noodles into it, and hands it to Rupert. He takes Junior’s plate and gives him more noodles. Eyram stares into the saucepan, at the noodles and sauce and bits of meat.
Effe leans against the door-frame and stares at Chris. It is a Chris she has not seen before. Surely this cannot be the same man who hated the kitchen!
The food smells really great, and to see Junior asking for more noodles really throws Effe off-guard.
Eyram has filled a plate, and she walks forward and places it on a plastic table in the middle of the room. Rupert, Eyram and Junior are eating the noodles with much relish.
Eyram suddenly stops and looks up at Chris, who is leaning against the cabinet with his arms crossed.
CB! Surely this is the best noodles I’ve ever tasted. Wow! How did this happen?
You mean he cooked it? My goodness, no!
Effe walks forward and stands in front of Chris. She puts her head to one side and regards him. Without a word she reaches for a plate, scoops the last bits of noodles into it, and picks up a fork. She stands next to him, forks the noodles into her mouth, and as she eats another forkful she is stunned, like the rest of them. She looks at him with questioning eyes.
I had a cell mate in prison. A chef from Egypt. He was extradited a few months before I was released. He used to cook at the prison kitchen. I was bored most of the time, and we became friends. He taught me how to cook, and I had such a great time learning.
But you hated cooking. You didn’t want to have anything to do with a kitchen.
Chris looks at her, and she sees quite suddenly that his eyes are once more wary, and absolutely unfriendly, and once again she is staggered by his obvious mistrust of her.
I was all alone in prison. I had no visitors. It was fun learning how to cook. The time I spent in the kitchen helped me to take my mind off some painful things.
There is a note in his voice that makes them all stop eating and look at him.
His words pierce Effe’s heart. The sadness, the agony, the incredible hurt in his voice suddenly reminds her of the anger she had felt towards him. This anger had ensured that she never visited him, and he never saw his son.
Chris moves out of the kitchen into the living-room, and sits down in an armchair. Silently they continue to eat, but Junior leaves his plate and, licking his lips, follows his father into the living-room area. When Effe takes her plate and goes to stand in the doorway, she sees her son pushing his father’s hands aside and climbing unto his laps. He sits sideways, slips his arms around his father, and puts his head on his chest.
Chris closes his eyes and leans back, putting his arms around his son. Effe sees the pain etched deeply on Chris’ face, even when he smiles lovingly at his son. She gives a shuddering breath, and suddenly she does not taste the sweetness of the food anymore. Her heartbeats increase, and she wishes she can go to him and soothe the bitterness from his soul.
I should have visited him, at least for the sake of his son…oh dear Lord!
Junior reaches up and touches his father’s face lovingly.
You look sad, Daddy! Please don’t be sad, okay? Everything is going to be alright. I pray for you everyday. God is going to make everything alright, Daddy.
Chris wipes the sudden tears from his son’s face.
Thank you. Thank you, my boy.
Father and son smile tearfully into each other’s eyes.
I love you, Daddy.
Oh, Junior. I love you too. You won’t believe just how much I love you, boy!
Effe cannot take it anymore. She turns and rushes into the kitchen. Rupert and Eyram look at her, startled. She says nothing as she puts her plate down, and then she brushes tears from her eyes quite savagely, and takes deep breaths in abject misery.
Rupert stands up and approaches her. She looks at him through eyes half-blinded with tears.
Rupert points to her plate of noodles.
Oh, you can cry. But can I finish your noodles?
Effe and Eyram both laugh then, and the pain slowly leaves Effe’s eyes.
She picks up her plate and smiles at Rupert.
No, Rupert. I think I want to finish this.
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Two days later, Eyram drives into her yard and parks the car near the Boys Quarters. Behind her car is a white U-Haul. She gets down and looks across at Chris, and her face closes in a look of extreme displeasure. Chris is at the far end of the compound holding a cutlass. He is wearing black jeans and black Chinese sneakers. It is evident that he has been weeding the whole compound. He has packed the weeds neatly into huge black polythene bags and stacked them at the entrance of the house for the waste disposal company. He has lifted the last bag and is carrying it outside when her car turned in. He deposits the full bag of weeds on top of the others, and then he walks slowly towards her.
He is bare-chested, and his body tapers from a broad masculine chest to a lean waist. The hair on his chest is rich and beautiful, covering even his stomach. She waits for him, still scowling, and finally he stops and presses his back against the railing of the veranda and crosses his arms.
You’re home early today, Eyram. Not expecting you now.
She walks up to him and stands very close to him. Her anger is apparent.
CB, let this be the last time you weed this compound! We have labourers who weed the compound every two weeks. They have power mowers. It is their job, and you should let them do it!
(with a sad smile)
Relax, Eyram. I’ve been weeding for the last five years. Actually I like weeding now. Great exercise.
Chris Bawa, you will promise me that this will never happen again. Believe me, I would rather throw you out of this place than watch you weed. I don’t want you to weed this compound again.
Eyram, come on. It gave me something to do, something to clear my head. I don’t have a-
He sees that her hands are balled up into angry fists by her side, and that her eyes are flashing, and for an incredible moment it takes him back, and for a moment he feels like he is with Effe, because she behaves in the same way when she is angry.
Chris. Please. No!
Alright, alright. I promise.
She looks at him with impotent rage for a moment more, and then slowly she begins to relax. Her hands uncurl, and she gives a shuddering breath.
Thank you. I brought you a gift. Come have a look.
He moves beside her and helps her to open the U-Haul.
Inside, glistening in brand new metal, is a huge Yamaha motorbike. He stands back and looks at her warily.
Come on, Eyram. Don’t tell me you bought that for me. You didn’t have to do it. Can’t accept it, please.
She comes closer to him, very closer, and looks into his eyes, and her eyes flash with impatience.
Chris Bawa, don’t think because I kissed you once, inappropriately, it connotes to a final conclusion that everything I do for you means I want some sort of sexual favour from you!
Didn’t mean it like that, Eyram. I-
She holds up a stern right forefinger, cutting him off, her eyes still angry.
Every senior doctor is supposed to have one motorbike at home for houseboys. I don’t have a houseboy, so I didn’t take mine. Now you’re here, largely to begin your life again. I know you would need to go around on personal errands. This is hospital premises, and taxis rarely frequent here. So I went for the motorbike, to help you move around. If you don’t want it, just leave it inside. I’ll send it back.
She turns away from him and begins to walk away.
Eyram, please. Wait!
He tries to take her hand, but she moves away from him, and quickly walks towards the main house.
He stays rooted, staring after her with mixed feelings, and then he sighs and climbs into the U-haul.
He brings out the motorbike, stands it up, and moves towards the car to drive it to the main house.
Just then two cars turn into the driveway from the main road, and he stops and turns from the car slowly.
He walks towards the veranda of the Boys Quarters and leans against the wall, folding his arms across his chest.
The first car is Effe’s sleek BMW X6.
The second car is a shiny ash Toyota Sequoia, and they both come towards the Boys Quarters. Chris watches warily as Effe gets down first, and then the doors of the Toyota open, and Stan gets down from the driver’s seat. The Reverend Brand Bawa gets down from the passenger seat.
Diana and his mother get down from the back seats. They look at him, and then they begin to walk towards him.