Effe hesitates, and for a moment she wishes he had not asked her that, of all things.
She wishes she didn’t have to answer him.
She wishes there is a way of minimising the pain, because she knows him very much, and she knows her answer is going to hurt him very much.
(looking away from his sad eyes)
I parked them, Chris, everything that belonged to you, and I took them to your new house at Haatso.
He nods, and when she looks up she sees the tears shimmering deep in his eyes, and she sees his jaws working hard.
I see. The new house I built. You took everything of mine out of your home, the moment I was jailed, and you deposited them in my house. You knew I was jailed for ten years and you took my stuff to that unoccupied house? That’s quite a statement, Effe, quite a statement.
She reaches out blindly to touch him again, but he takes a step back away from her hand.
She hesitates for a moment, and slowly drops her hand.
I’m sorry, Chris, but you must understand that I was very angry and very hurt then. I was shattered by your betrayal, Chris, and I reacted with that pain.
Okay. At least you didn’t dump them outside. And the house, you still have the keys?
Effe hangs her head again and takes a deep breath.
Once again she wishes she can spare him the pain, and she resents the sudden feeling she is having.
He is making her feel like a heartless bitter wife, and she hates it so much.
He just cannot absolve himself from blame. He has to understand how it was for her, the bitterness she had to endure.
(harshly, tears in her eyes)
For God’s sake, Chris! Stop judging me! How do you think I felt, dealing with so many of your atrocities at the same time? You raped my best friend, someone I considered a sister! You beat a poor old man almost to the point of death! You sniffed your damn cocaine and almost killed an innocent little girl when you hit her with your car! She lost a leg, Chris! I was at the crest of my career, making a name for myself in a prestigious law firm! And suddenly my name is all over television, the wife of the crazy GojuFist coach! My career suffered, my life suffered, your son suffered! Do you think it was a bed of roses for me, damn you?
Chris stares at her without moving.
He just nods again and runs a hand through his hair.
I just asked for the keys to my house, Effe. I have nowhere else to go.
She wraps her hands around her upper arms and takes a deep shuddering breath.
Yes, the keys to his house, a house he had built with every cedi he had earned as a coach for the professionals of the deadly kick-boxing sport known as GojuFist.
He had built it for them, and just when it was completed life had taken a cruel twist, and he had been arrested.
Out of pain she had taken all his stuff to that house, locked it up, and given the keys to Chris’ father.
Oh, how she has come to regret that single act! Oh, how she wishes she isn’t here now to give him the terrible news.
His words reverberate in her mind over and over again!
I have nowhere else to go, I have nowhere else to go!
How can she tell him about what his father had done when he got the keys and documents to the house?
How can she continue to hurt this boy who is suddenly out of prison and is going to face the hatred of a lot of people?
I gave the keys to your father, Chris.
He just looks at her. He tries to speak, but he says nothing again.
He silently walks out of the door and shuts it behind him.
Effe stares at the closed door.
She puts a hand to her lips and sinks helplessly into a chair.
She makes no sound as her tears fall hard, and her shoulders shake.
It’s okay, Effe, my sweet. It’s okay. It’s over now. He signed the papers. It’s over now.
Allan Davidson shakes his head sadly, and wipes his eyes as if he has tears in them.
Is it really over, Josh? Divorces are always nasty. Remember, matters of the heart are always a b****…sorry for my language, madam.
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SOMEWHERE IN MADINA
The watch he had bought as a birthday gift for his son had cost one hundred and fifty cedis, and he had paid with the part of the two hundred cedis Reverend Jon Fii had given him.
The taxi driver to Effe’s house had taken twenty cedis.
Chris therefore has exactly thirty cedis in his pocket.
Chris is feeling very hungry when he walks out of the police station.
He has not eaten since leaving prison. He crosses the street and walks along with a heavy heart until he sees a ‘hausa koko’ stand.
He sits down and buys three cedis worth of hausa koko porridge and koose.
He eats slowly, and afterwards buys a bottle of water. He joins two tro-tro cars, and by the time he reaches Haatso he has twenty-three cedis on him.
From the roadside to where he had built his house five years ago is quite a distance, but he walks.
He enjoys the walk, and the feel of the free air on his face.
He drinks in the clean air, and enjoys every step he takes.
Life in prison had been a life of death. Chief Inspector Danso Cuger had ensured that his stay had been fraught with danger and pain… and it had really been hard for him.
This is his first free walk in a while, and the air of freedom is his constant companion.
He is alive, and that is what is important.
He remembers a sermon Jon Fii had preached once in prison, titled Dom Spiro, Spero. Jon had told them the Latin phrase meant “Once I breathe, I hope.”
He is breathing now.
Life is upside down, because without Effe and Junior, life is not worth living.
But as long as he is breathing, there is hope for the future.
The house he has built is a thing of beauty. He had wanted his wife and child to have the best, and he has put every cedi in it.
It is a flat house, but it is huge, built with intricate state-of-the-art designs and inputs.
He stands in front of the house and admires its upper terraces which are visible above the walls and the gate.
He frowns suddenly when the gate suddenly rattles, and then it slides back gently on electronic rails.
At the same time a huge dog inside the house lets out a furious bark.
Chris finds himself looking at a fat, short man in an expensively-cut suit.
He is bald and has a great moustache which is completely grey.
The dog is making a lot of noise as a middle-aged woman appears behind the man and heads for a sleek Toyota V8 parked in the yard.
A fat teenage girl also hops excitedly towards the car and opens its back door.
The man is startled to see Chris, and he raises his eyebrows with an unsmiling face.
Hello? Looking for something?
Chris looks at him coldly and with a little incomprehension.
Sorry, I didn’t know it was occupied.
The fat man frowns darkly and with sudden suspicion.
Didn’t know it was occupied? What’s that supposed to mean, young man?
Before Chris can speak the woman, obviously the man’s wife, walks forward and stands beside her husband.
My God! It’s you really!
(turning to his wife)
You know him, sweetheart?
(still looking shocked)
Yes, yes. He’s pastor’s youngest son.
(equally startled now)
His last son? Didn’t I hear he’s in prison?
The woman digs an elbow into her husband’s side gently to shut him up, and she smiles at Chris, but it is a false smile.
It is evident that she is suddenly very scared.
Chris Bawa, right?
Chris nods without speaking.
(giving a shaky laugh)
Well, I’m Sandra Bediako. This is my husband, Fred. We’re members of your father’s church.
Chris nods again, and he feels the pain rising up somewhere deep in his chest again.
He is suddenly a little scared, and he feels the desperation rising up in his stomach.
Glad to make your acquaintance. Are you renting the house?
(with a hard angry chuckle)
Renting? What in the name of hades is that? Look here-
His wife digs an elbow into his side again, this time a little bit harder, and the man gulps with a little pain, looking at his wife with bitter eyes.
Cool down, darling. Actually Chris owned the house, you remember, don’t you?
Mr. Bediako glares at Chris, and then his expression softens a little.
Look, son, I understand your discomfiture. Well, let me elucidate you, and bring you up to scratch, because I can see you’re obviously distraught. I’ve heard about you. I only joined your father’s church two years ago, but my wife has been a member for more than ten years. Yes, I heard you were in prison, quite unfortunate, quite unfortunate, really. But the truth of the matter is that your father, Reverend Brand Bawa, sold this house to me four years ago.
It hits Chris hard.
It hits him so hard that for a moment his legs go weak and he almost crashes to the ground.
His breath comes in short wheezes, and he fights hard for control.
He stares at them with impotent rage and desperate despair.
This is his home, his house, built with his sweat, with every cedi he had earned.
Sold! By his own father!
Mrs. Bediako and her husband exchange little looks of worry.
I’m very sorry, Chris. But yes, that’s what happened. You can pick up the issue with your father, if you want.
Chris fights for control. He looks at them after a while.
I see. You’re right, it’s my father I have to confront over this, not you. But, my things were put in there. At least that’s what my ex-wife told me. Would you happen to know what happened to them?
Once again the couple exchange scared and guilty looks.
The dog in the house lets out a series of deafening barks.
Susan, shut up that mad dog!
The fat girl gets out of the car and races around the house.
Well, yes, Chris, there were stuff in there. Two days before we moved in we came here, and your Dad had brought everything out of the house and dumped them right here, outside!
Gee, sweetheart! Is it necessary to tell him all that?
Yes, honey. He deserves to know. People came for your stuff, Chris, when your father dumped them outside. Maybe he felt you would need new things by the time you came back.
This time Chris hangs his head.
His house is gone. All his possessions are gone.
His wife and son are gone.
He is free of prison, but he has just entered a more terrible prison, a worst kind of hell.
His heart beat with a pain so terrible he feels he is going to faint.
Without a word he turns and walks away, and they watch him go with guilty expressions on their faces.