About forty-five minutes later Effe drives through the gates, gets down, locks her car and hurries inside.
Her mother is ready to leave.
Effe hugs her mother.
Thank you very much, Mama. Been a hectic day.
I want you to send Chris out, Effe. Your father is hungry, so I have to run, but make sure Chris goes. Now!
Okay, Mama. Be on your way already, Dad must be hungry.
Junior appears on top of the stairs, looking unusually radiant in his jeans and sleeveless vest.
He races down and embraces his mother, and then he immediately turns and runs to the kitchen.
Well, do it then. I have to run.
Junior emerges from the kitchen, his face glum.
What’s it, honey? You hungry?
Oh! Are you hungry, Junior? I thought you were okay, so I took the rest of the jollof. I wanted to give it to your grandpa.
But you ate two plates already, grandma. I wanted to eat the rest!
Oh, sorry. Here it is! Take it. I’ll buy something for grandpa. So sorry. I thought you were done.
Jollof? What are you talking about? What jollof?
Oh, the one you cooked, dear. It’s the best jollof I ever tasted! You must show me the recipe! It was so fantastic!
Mommy didn’t cook it! Daddy did! Didn’t you see us in the kitchen in the afternoon cooking?
Junior said he wanted some French fries, so I grilled chicken and left the fries in the refrigerator for you to fry for him when he got hungry. I told him to ask you to fry them in the afternoon for him.
I asked Daddy if he knows how to make really really really sweet jollof, and he said yes. We came to the kitchen and prepared the jollof. Grandma was asleep in the chair. I thought she saw us.
Chris? He prepared the jollof? No, no, I can’t believe that!
Effe smiles too.
Chris learned to cook in prison, Mama. He was taught by an Egyptian cell mate.
My God! He really cooked that jollof? I’m… I don’t …wow!
Oh, Mommy! Guess what! Daddy is going to call his new restaurant JUNIOR’S! Can you believe that? He’s naming it after me, his only begotten son whom he loved so much that he names his restaurant after… just like the Sunday school story about God and Jesus, right, Mommy?
Effe chuckles, and just then the doorbell sounds. She and her mother look at each other sharply. Effe heads for the door with trepidation.
Steve has informed her he would be tying a business deal in Koforidua that day and wouldn’t be in till late in the evening, probably. Has he finished early? Or he hasn’t gone at all? One thing is for sure, though. She does not wish Steve to be present now. Not that she is scared of him, but somehow she feels there is a sudden opportunity for her and Chris to talk, and she does not want anything interrupting that.
It is not Steve at the door, though. It is her father. She almost breathes with relief as she hugs him briefly and precedes him to the living-room.
(with a mock growl)
C’mon, honey pie. I came over myself. Got tired of waiting for your mother. I’m too hungry. Can you fix me something in a jiffy?
Oh, dear. I was bringing you some jollof, but Junior says he wants it.
Junior steps forward and snatches the polythene bag from his grandmother’s hand which contains the rest of the jollof packed neatly in a disposable pack.
Junior! What’s with you? Hand it back this instant!
But I want the jollof! Grandpa doesn’t even like jollof!
Hand it back this instant, Junior!
That’s okay, Ef. I’ll fix your father some food.
Grandpa likes noodles. I’ll tell Daddy to fix him some noodles.
Ken Kedem looks from one to the other, obviously confused.
What’s going on here? And what father are you talking about?
Chris, of course. He came to visit them, and apparently he cooked jollof.
Oh, don’t kill me! Chris? Cooking? Dear Lord, guy can’t even boil hot water!
Ha! You don’t know! Just wait! Daddy will fix you the best noodles you ever tasted, Grandpa. For you, he will fix it, but he wouldn’t fix it for Grandma because she hates Daddy and wants him in prison again and again and again and forever and ever and eveeer!!!
True, true, true, true!
He flees up the stairs. Ken Kedem shakes his head and sits down heavily.
Please, who’s fixing me some chow? My wife or my daughter?
Let’s see if Chris will cook for you, Daddy.
Now would you stop that nonsense??
(sitting beside him)
It’s true, honey, if it’s really true he cooked the jollof. It was real tasty!
I’m not eating any man’s concoction! Ef, please go and get me something to eat, and stop this buffoonery!
Okay, Daddy. Just let me change first.
She climbs up the stairs, and a moment later Junior appears on the landing holding his father’s left middle finger and bringing him down. They meet halfway on the stairs, and Chris stands aside to let Effe pass. Their eyes make contact, and hold, and at the point where she is just passing him she stops, and they are pushed very close to each other because Junior is pushing his way past her.
It is a split second when they are chest to chest, face to face, thigh to thigh. His eyes drop to her sensual lips. She can see the top of his chest, where the hairs are showing, hairs that she had loved tweaking and running her hands through. Their eyes meet, and for a fraction of a second she feels his hand brush gently over the swell of her hip up to her waist, as if he means to take her into his arms. She makes a little gasping noise, her knees going weak with sudden emotion.
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The magic is broken, and her eyes looks down painfully at her mother’s upturned face. Chris walks past her, and she looks after him furiously, desperately, before her angry eyes focus on her mother with sudden and alien dislike. She turns and hurries to her room, closing the door and leaning against it, her eyes closed, her breathing fast and uneasy.
Oh, Chris! Oh, Chris! Why did you do this to us? Why in the name of God did you have to rape my best friend?
Chris enters the kitchen, and his huge hands ball up into tight fists. He breathing is unsteady. His face is screwed up into lines of longing and torture. Junior touches his wrist, and he looks down and fights the pain in his heart.
You have started loving Mommy again, haven’t you, Daddy?
He smiles tightly at his son, and then he tries to smile.
I never stopped loving her, Champ.
He moves away and begins to cook.
Junior leaves him and goes for his jollof. A few moments later he returns with his jollof, sets up his table, and begins to eat. Mr. Ken Kedem pokes his head into the kitchen, and then he slowly enters. He walks forward, drawn by the delicious aroma, and stands gaping with shock as Chris works with the dexterity of a master five-star chef.
I’ll be damned! You really can cook. Darn it!
Chris does not speak. Effe and her mother enter the kitchen, and they stand at vantage points watching him.
Finally, he steps back and looks warily at his former father-in-law.
He has cooked Italian noodles with lamb and cattle chops, and sizzled them in a blend of herbs and sauce.
Go on, Chris, serve me, darn it. I’m famished.
I’m not serving you. I’m not your wife.
Junior giggles with his mouth full of jollof. He chokes, and Chris rushes to his side with a glass of water.
Hey. Don’t laugh when you’re eating.
Junior takes a sip of the water. Ken Kedem looks after Chris with angry eyes as he picks up a plate and a ladle, but Effe takes them from him.
(suppressing a smile)
Let me, Dad.
(looking at Chris)
Look at your big head!
Chris, standing beside his son, looks up, and he giggles, and Junior laughs, and Ken Kedem also laughs, and Effe smiles as she serves her father. Ivy Kedem looks on, and she is deeply disturbed, because suddenly the scene looks just like it used to be. The easy camaraderie between Chris and her husband is back, something Steve has never been able to achieve with Ken. And Ivy is not happy at all.
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chef Chris…. ???
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