Chris is driving down the fast lane of the 37 Military Road heading towards Airport junction.
He is listening to music from the CD player, and nodding his head in time with the tune. His phone rings and he glances over to his right.
His phone is lying on the wedding card, which has now slid further out of its envelope.
The picture on the card depicts a beautiful girl holding hands with an elderly man, framed in a heart. Chris picks the call.
What the dilly dilly dilly yoo, Steve. I am driving, okay? Let me call you back, bro. Yeah, yeah. Safe, rasta!
He cuts the call, still smiling, and leans over to put the phone back on the wedding card.
He sees the picture on the card and he groans hoarsely, passionately, his face absolutely shocked.
JESUS H. CHRIST!
He draws a shuddering breath and rubs his forehead. He looks really disturbed. His face filled with incredulity, he looks at the card again. He is close to a bus stop. He swings in past the waiting passengers and parks at the extreme end of the bus stop. Trembling, he reaches up and turns on the twin inside lights. He reaches for the card and pulls it out of the envelope. Chris looks at the woman on the card. She is a fair woman, oval-faced, slim, and extremely beautiful.
EFFE KEDEM! OH, DEAR SWEET JESUS! IT IS EFFE!
His body begins to tremble, and his breathing is laboured. Slowly his eyes fall on the card again. He sees the words:
RUPERT AND EFFE, A CELEBRATION OF LOVE.
YOU DAMN BITCH! EFFE
He leans his head back and closes his eyes. He bites his lower lip, and a deep groan that sounds almost like a sob blasts through his throat. He remembers that first time he met Effe Kedem…It had been on the Winneba-Accra road.
Chris is driving a dark-coloured Toyota Camry. He has just left Winneba junction. He is approaching the next town. He sees a lot of people along the road. Some are frantically waving to him to slow down. Chris is in a bend, and he slows down considerably. First he sees the green branches lying along the road, and shortly afterwards he comes across a motor accident. The people are staring down a deep ravine, and Chris sees a badly mangled bus lying half across the street, and the burning remains of another car down in the ravine along the road. Chris pulls over, stopping several metres ahead of the parked cars. He gets out and trots to the edge of the ravine.
The car, tyres pointing upwards, is burning now. Chris listens to a young man narrating how a bus belonging to the ORPHANAGE OF HOPE has collided with another bus. No one is dead, and the wounded have already been conveyed to the Winneba Government Hospital.
Chris then gets into his car, starts up and drives away. Suddenly he senses a movement behind him and looks into his driving mirror and finds himself looking at the blackened face of somebody sitting in his backseat.
Chris shouts with shock. He drives off the road unto the shoulder, his eyes still fixed on the driving mirror.
He brakes hard and swivels in his seat. It is a girl. She is wearing a badly stained designed dress of some sort, and after a moment he sees that it is printed with the round logo of the ORPHANAGE OF HOPE.
Her face is grimy, just like her skin. She stares at him with fear on her face, continually wringing her hands.
Who the hell are you? And how did you get into my car? She holds up her hands towards him, and tears suddenly forms in her eyes. Her voice is soft and plaintive.
Please, please sir, don’t let him take me back, please!
Were you in the Orphanage bus?
Yes, yes, please! When the cars collided I fell out. I was lying in the bushes when you parked your car, and climbed in when you got out!
What’s your name?
Effe. Effe Kedem. Please, please, I beg of you, don’t let me go back to that awful place…to that bad man…please!
Listen, girl, I don’t want to get involved with you, okay? I am sending you to the first police station I see, okay?
Her whole body shakes with violent panic, and her huge eyes look very terrified.
Nooooo! Please don’t send me back to him…don’t send me back to him!
Okay, okay, belt it down, lady. Hey, shut up!
She stops screaming.
Who are you talking about? Who don’t you want to go back to?
Chris waits, but she says nothing more.
This Mr. Afful, is he at the Orphanage?
Yes, He is the Manager. He does bad things to me…very bad things!
Listen, Effe. I’m going to Accra. I can’t take you with me. That will be kidnapping and can get me into serious trouble with the law. Is there somebody you know who I can call for you?
I have Auntie Joyce’s number. Please if you’re going to Accra take me with you. I’ll get down at Accra.
Is Auntie Joyce in Accra?
No. She’s in Winneba. She also works at our orphanage. She is good.
Aren’t you a bit too big to be in an orphanage? Do you work there?
No. I grew up there. i was left in a basket in front of the orphanage when I was a baby. It seems my mother, whoever she is, didn’t want me.
(His expression melting to one of sympathy.) I see. Mr. Afful, the Manager, he rapes you?
Auntie Joyce has not allowed him to…yet! But he does bad things to me…with his fingers…
Chris sits silently for a while; lips pursed, and regards her with troubled eyes.
Listen, Effe. Because of what you have told me, I will take you to Accra…
Oh, thank you, thank you!
When we get to Accra, I will contact Auntie Joyce, and I’ll let her come for you. That’s all I can do for you now, ok?
Effe lies down in the seat. He drives on. After a time he looks back at her. She is sleeping now, both hands clasped under her head, legs bent innocently.
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When they get to Kasoa he stops and buys a T-Shirt and jeans for her. He also buys some Waakye and bottled water too. She wakes up suddenly and starts screaming, her hands slapping at unseen attackers.
It is alright, Effe. It is alright. You’re safe!
She looks at him, and for a moment she does not recognize him. After a moment she calms down and then she nods once. He parks off the road again and turns to her.
There’s a police barrier ahead, Effe. They might be aware of the accident, and seeing you in my car, dressed in the Orphanage’s clothes, will make them suspicious and bring problems. You understand?
She looks terrified again, but he holds up a hand to reassure her.
It is okay, alright? I bought you some clothes. I will get out and allow you to change. There’s a towel too. Clean up your face a bit, and then eat. Hopefully, we can get through.
She nods, and he gets out. He stands at the back of the car, leaning against the boot.
What the hell am I doing? What am I getting myself into?
He passes through the police barrier safely, and they get to Accra. He enters a boutique and buys her some dresses.
He finds a small hotel and pays for a night, and he sends Effe in. Her face is beginning to get terrified again when they enter the room, but he smiles at her reassuringly.
Don’t worry, girl. I will not do anything to you.
You are my guardian angel. Auntie Joyce told me that someday I will find a guardian angel who is willing to help me out.
I’m no angel, girl. I will call Auntie Joyce, she will come for you…and that’s that, okay?
He orders some more food and asks her to take a bath first. He gives her the three dresses he has bought for her.
Her face lights up with pure innocent joy, and he smiles. She selects one of the dresses, a knee-length white thing, simple but nice, and she disappears into the bathroom.
He is sitting at the desk, making a list of the things he will do the next day, when the bathroom door opens and she comes in.
She is wearing the white dress. Her hair is tied back in a ponytail. She stops and looks at him shyly.
Chris stares. The change from dirty grimy girl to the stunning beauty he is looking at is so great that for a moment he is lost for words. Her beauty is quite extraordinary.
She blushes furiously. A waiter wheels in their food and they have a meal.
Later she falls asleep in the far corner against the wall, curled up on one side, covering herself completely except for her head. She does not use the pillows, but her hands are folded under her head. Chris stands beside the bed, hands in his pockets, and stare at her.
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