She had expected him to be sorry, to give her a reason, to be stricken with his guilt, but his anger, his bitterness, and the almost infinitesimal note of revulsion in his voice shocks her at first, and then fills her with a blast of confusion.
What do you mean by that, Chris? What are you talking about?
He snatches his arm away from her grip, and glares at her with venom in his eyes.
My God, you deserve an Oscar, Effe! You’re not going to let go, are you? Well, I know all about your grand plans, and I know why you came to that hotel room at that time, so give me a break, would you?
He turns away again and this time his steps are hurried. Confused, shocked and totally flustered, Effe chases him.
She draws him back and stands in front of him, and her eyes search his face desperately, searching for a fake sign on his face, a deceitful look in his eyes.
I don’t know what’s going on here, Chris. I had a fight with you that day. You told me you were not coming home that night so I should lock up. I didn’t know where you were, and Elaine decided to come and look for you, to bring you back home. Evidently Steve and Jonathan, your two best friends then, knew you checked into that hotel, and told Elaine. Elaine came to you, and later she called me from the bathroom that you were very drunk, and you wanted to rape her. You were preventing her from leaving. She gave me the name of the hotel and the room number, and then I heard her scream into the phone. I left Junior with Eyram and drove to the hotel. When I entered the room, which wasn’t locked, you were on top of Elaine, naked, your hand over her mouth to prevent her from screaming, and you were evidently raping her! Her clothes were on the floor, torn! Her panties were torn! You were raping her, Chris! So don’t you stand there and talk to me as if I didn’t know what I saw!
Chris sighs deeply, and for a very fleeting time a look of deep shame spreads across his face. He shakes his head sadly, and then he looks at Effe.
Alright, Effe. If that’s how you want to play it, we’ll play it your way. But I must tell you something I couldn’t tell you when I met you, because I was so much in love with you, and I was scared that if you ever found out about it you would leave me.
He stops. She reaches out and grabs his T-shirt and shakes him.
What is it, Chris? What did you keep from me?
Elaine’s school was close to ours. She used to visit Steve at school very often. Steve told me she was his childhood friend, and also your friend. Steve used to carry your picture around telling everyone he was going to marry you someday. I didn’t know you then, but I knew Elaine very well. She and I connected and began a relationship.
Effe is stunned.
She takes a step back and looks up into Chris’ face with a shock so profound that for a moment she falters. She shakes her head slowly as if warding off invisible blows.
What? Oh no, Chris!
Yes, she was my girlfriend. I dated her for close to a year before I came with Steve that vacation and met you, and fell in love with you. Before I met you, I promised Elaine I would marry her, but I was young, okay, and I would say anything to get between the legs of a girl. I was selfish and stupid, and I didn’t think with my head. When I fell in love with you I told Elaine I could not be with her. So, you see, Elaine and I were intimate before I met you. Now that you know that, juxtapose that with the fact that you saw me raping a woman who was my girlfriend and who had been intimate with me for one year! She used to like being pushed and smacked and roughed up during lovemaking. I hated it, but went along to make her happy.
Effe almost falls. She cannot believe what she is hearing! Chris and Elaine And she had never known? Elaine?
ELAINE?? Suddenly a whole lot of things begin to make sense. She understands now why Elaine hates Chris so much! Oh, dear Lord! What had really happened in that hotel room that day? Dear Lord, what insinuations had Chris been casting just a few minutes ago? She takes stumbling steps forward and falls against him. Her tears are hot on her cheeks and like a dam in her eyes.
Chris, please. What happened that day in the hotel room? Please tell me, please!! What did Elaine tell you?
Chris laughs then. It is a bitter, harsh laugh that makes her flinch with sudden trepidation.
Now she wants to know! After almost six years, she wants me to speak! Wow! Are you not the same one who refused to listen to anything I had to say that day? Are you not the one who said I disgusted you and refused to speak to me ever again, even through my trial and imprisonment? Now, after almost SIX years YOU WANT ME TO TELL YOU MY SIDE OF THE STORY? Well, guess what… I don’t want to talk about it! You have Steve now, you’re making love to him, you’re going to marry him …go right ahead and leave me in peace.
Nothing has happened between Steve and I, Chris. That night, maybe I would’ve made love to him because I was thinking about you, all the time, and I was getting confused. I finally wanted to give way and make love to him, to see if maybe I would forget you, and finally get over the pain of you. But it wouldn’t have worked, would it? You’re so much a part of my soul, Chris.
Stop it, Effe, please. Just go ahead and marry him. It’s okay with me. I’ll try and live through it.
I didn’t make love to him, Chris. I’ve never made love to anybody in the five years you were away. I want you to believe that, Chris. To me, I was still married to you, because you hadn’t signed the divorce papers, and I could never be unfaithful to you.
And you want me to believe that? Well, I don’t believe it, Effe!
He moves past her, but she will not let him pass. She holds tight to him, and they trip, and crash down hard on the beautiful soft woollen rug. He is lying on his back, and she has fallen on top of him. She raises her upper body up, and she looks into his pained eyes. She feels his powerful frame beneath her. She looks at his lips… slightly-parted now, lips that rained fire and ice on her soul, lips that used to kiss every inch of her body and brought shivering delight to her body. Tears dripped off her chin and fell on his lips. She feels his hands on her waist, and she can feel him beneath her.
Slowly Effe lowers her head, and her lips cover his. She half-expects to find his teeth tight together as her tongue probe, but his lips open, and she feels his hunger impaling her lips.
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Oh, Chris! Chris-Love!
His arms go around her, crushing her to his chest, one hand sliding deliciously down her right thigh, another hand travelling up to cup her breast. Time is suspended. Their hunger and desire is more than a craving. It is as important as breathing. Her hands dive under his T-shirt, curling into his skin, revelling in the feel of his chest hair. His tongue blazes a path down her throat. She can feel him beneath her, hard and raging. Her body responds, and she fits herself into his arms.
Effe! My Princess… my love… my breath!
And then the door crashes open, and Steve enters the living-room.
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Steve sees them in that passionate volcanic explosion on the floor, and he screams and throws his briefcase away. He leans down, grabs Effe’s arm, and pulls her off Chris with a savage scream of jealousy! Effe stands, angry, bitter, almost hating the enraged man for interrupting what she is sure would have been a journey of forgiveness between her and Chris, journey that would have healed wounds and united their hearts with the arrow of love from Cupid’s Bow, a bow that has rusted but has never left their hearts.
(screaming into her face)
You filthy whore! You damn bitch How could you do this to me? How on earth could you do a thing like that
Chris gets to his feet slowly. Steve is too enraged to control himself. He draws back his hand to strike the shocked Effe. Chris speaks softly.
Lay a hand on her, and I’ll break every damn bone in your body! Steve turns and fixes Chris with eyes blazing with uncontrolled and absolutely unbridled hatred.
You bastard! You son of a bitch! Get out of here! She’s mine, do you understand? She’s my whore now, so keep the f*** away from here, you motherf***er!
Chris turns, opens the door, and goes out. A moment later the sound of his motorbike leaving the compound come to them. And then Steve turns and slaps Effe hard across the face The blow rocks her head back, and she gasps, not so much with pain but with the shock of the action. She feels a stinging across her right cheek, and she knows the welts of his fingers will be showing red on her cheeks. She glares at him, and her fury is sizzling hot.
You hit me? I can take your anger and your insults, because I admit I caused you pain! But you raise your hand against me? Get out of here, Steve. Get the hell out of my house or I will get you escorted.
He is contrite immediately. His face is filled with remorse as he walks towards her dejectedly.
Darling, I’m extremely sorry. Couldn’t help it. Seeing you like… like that …with him. I couldn’t take it. I’m sorry.
He tries to take her in his arms. She flinches from him.
I warned you once, Steve, when you hit me, that if it happens a third time I’ll kick you out of my life for good. A man that raises his hand against his woman is not the kind of man I’ll spend my life with. This is the second time. Get out, Steve! I want to be alone now.
He holds her hand, and tears shimmer in his eyes.
Forgive me, Effe. The pain was too much. It will never happen again, please.
She pulls her hand away.
I’m going through a lot here, Steve. And I don’t want to say things that I’ll regret later. I’m very angry at you for hitting me. I don’t for one second think that I didn’t deserve some sort of retribution for what I did with Chris. I never wanted to cause you pain. The passions of the moment overtook us both, and I’m sorry for hurting you. That said, I’m very angry at you. Go away, Steve. We’ll talk later.
Just go, Steve!
She turns and flees up the stairs.
Steve contemplates going after her, but he knows it will only aggravate the situation. He picks up his briefcase and, dejectedly, walks out.