THE BAWA RESIDENCE – EVENING
Chris stands just inside his living-room.
He looks around slowly, his face anxious. He takes a few steps further into the room.
He racks his memory, dredging up that painful moment when he had seen a mean-looking Effe standing over the sprawled body of his mother, holding a side-table in her hand as blood dripped from his mother’s scalp. He hears Dr. Anaman’s voice talking about glass particles … and then, suddenly, Chris remembers!
There had been a fancy flower pot, shaped like an octagon, near the door!
It had held artificial seaweeds with lights in them! Yes, he remembers now! It had shattered that day! He is so engrossed that he does not notice that his mother has appeared on the landing, and that she is staring at him with a slight frown of worry on her beautiful face. He gives a startled jerk when she speaks suddenly, breaking into his reveries, her voice in a happy.
Chris, my darling Prince! You’re here!
His mother is coming down the stairs with outstretched arms. She looks extremely happy.
She throws herself into Chris’ arms and hugs him tightly. She steps back with a look of sudden anxiety on her face.
Chris-love? What’s it? You don’t look too cheerful. Sick? Where’s my daughter-in-law? I thought you were coming here together.
Mom, Effe didn’t hit you that night with the side-table. You fell down on the glass flowerpot accidentally, didn’t you? And you lied that Effe hit you, didn’t you?
His mother’s face collapses instantly.
The happiness drains from her face, and she looks haggard and old suddenly. Her shoulders drop, and she looks at Chris with abject misery.
She looks scared.
I’ve been dreading this day, son.
Her words make Chris’ own face contort with shock.
He feels so weak that he almost falls down. He shakes his head numbly at his mother.
Oh, my God, Mom! How could you? Oh, dear Lord, you lied to me? You accused Effe falsely? Why, oh why, Mama?
Madam Lois turns away.
Shakily she sits down and clamps her hands in her laps. Her head is down because she cannot bear to look into her son’s hurt eyes. Her voice is contrite.
I won’t bother to deny it, Chris. It has haunted me ever since. I don’t know why I did it, son. I felt so ashamed afterwards and wanted to tell you, but I couldn’t. I was overcome by the moment, son, and acted shamefully without thinking!
Oh, my God! Oh, God! Oh, dear sweet Jesus! How could you, Mama?
Oh, son! Please forgive me! I think I was still angry with you for breaking off with Elaine. When Dr. Anaman told me you were hurt and I came here to check on you that night, Effe was very moody. She was weeping and told me you were angry because you saw Steve kissing her, much against her will. I was convinced you had finally seen her for what she was, and on the spur of the moment I lied to you.
Did Effe push you, Mom?
Madam Lois remains silent.
Chris’ voice explodes like a whiplash.
(trembling, wringing her hands)
No, she did no such thing. She didn’t push me, son. I tripped when I tried to hit her and fell down hard on the flowerpot. The flowerpot cut me on the head. The side table got dislocated and trapped my hand. Effe picked up the side-table and she was trying to help me get up, and that was when you came in…oh, Chris-love, I’m so sorry! Please forgive me!
Chris wordlessly begins to walk away from her. She gets up and blocks his way, and her face is acutely distressed.
Oh, son, I’m so sorry! Please, forgive me! I would’ve told you, but I was scared. Later, I thought whatever caused the breakup between you two had nothing to do with my lie! If you broke off with her because of what I accused her of, then I’m very sorry, Chris-love! I have been feeling so ashamed for four years now. Please, son, forgive me!
Chris looks at his mother with so much pain on his face that she drops her gaze, and tears come into her eyes.
Yes, it is true that I was going to break up with Effe anyway before that incident, but because you lied, our breakup was nastier, and very painful. I would’ve spoken to her and broken off with her with mutual understanding, because although I was very angry and disappointed in her, I didn’t hate her. However, because you made me believe that she dared raise a hand against you, my mother, my treasured Mother, I hated her that night! That was something I couldn’t tolerate. I hated her for that single act. That hatred has lived with me all these years and I have suffered considerably because of a lie. Why would you compromise me in such a way? What in God’s name were you thinking, Mama?
Chris stops and looks at his mother with his tormented soul on his face.
What you did was wrong, Mama, so damn wrong!
Madam Lois doesn’t speak.
She keeps her head bowed as Chris steps past her and climbs the stairs.
She speaks behind him.
Chris? Did you speak to Effe? Is she the one who told you?
Does it really matter where I learnt the truth that my own mother could betray me like this? For your information, Dr. Anaman made me see the light of day. He told me you had glass particles in the wound. Obviously, the side-table didn’t have any glass.
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He enters his bedroom and falls on the bed. He shuts his eyes tightly as he recalls how he had screamed at Effe that night, and would not allow her to speak. His phone rings; it is Elaine.
Darling, is everything alright? We are very worried! I expected you back here ages ago.
I’m okay, darling. Doc told me … no, ordered me, actually, to rest after he gave me a barrel of medications. I didn’t want to spoil your mood so I came home. Was about to call you when your call came through.
Oh, I see. You had me worried. Alright, I will see you in a little while, so get some rest. I’ll come and caress your body, Tiger.
Hurry up then, honey. I could use some TLC.
He ends the call but keep on looking at his mobile phone. He sighs deeply, and stands up, but almost immediately he inputs a number manually, and then he puts the phone to his ear. Chris hears loud music in the background, and a lot of excited voices.
And then, he hears a sweet voice in his ears.
Chris sits down slowly. He cannot speak for a while.
Hello? Who’s this, please? Hello? Can you please speak up a bit? I can barely hear you.
It is me, Effe.
He hears her sudden intake of breath.
She is silent for a long time.
Effe? Are you there?
Chris. Please. Stay away from me. I beg of you.
She cuts the line.
Chris dials again, it rings with no answer. He redials. She cuts the call.
He redials. Her phone is switched off.
He sits down, navigates to MESSAGES on his phone, and begins to compose a text message:
I JUST FOUND OUT U DIDN’T HIT MA MOM. SHE JUST CONFESSED. I JUST WANTED TO APOLOGIZE FOR NOT GIVING YOU THE CHANCE TO EXPLAIN YOURSELF. I’M VERY SORRY 4 NOT BELIEVING YOU ON THAT THAT.
He sends the message. He strips and enters the bathroom.
He is getting into the bath when his phone begins to ring. In a rush he runs into the bedroom and snatches up his phone, thinking only about Effe.
Chris, my darling. Are you in Tadi now?
Yeah. Landed a couple of hours ago.
Wonderful. The wedding is at ten tomorrow morning. Rupert has managed to arrange a meeting between you, John Tamakloe and the South African Team led by their Minister of Trade and the CEO of Black House Creations. We’ve just shown them your FURY collection and it has completely blown them away! Chris, darling, you’ve just put your stamp on world fashion!
I see. Time of meeting tomorrow?
You okay, Chris? You don’t sound overly joyous about the news! Expecting you to jump through the roof and break one leg, at least. Hahahaha!
I’m okay, really. Just stunned, I think. Can’t believe what began as a pursuit of a hobby can end up in such a fulfilling way.
Now you’re chirping the love song I want to hear! Okay, the meeting’s scheduled for seven o’clock, venue First Floor Conference Center of the Slash House. Wouldn’t take more than an hour; they just want to meet you and brief you about the South African Lounge. Can you make it?
Of course I’ll make it. It is the reason why Tamakloe dragged me to this wedding, isn’t it? This is good news for me in more ways than one. Way I see it, after the meeting, I may decide not to grace the wedding. Thanks, Boss.
No, I thank you! You’ve vindicated me, love. Some of the Directors almost had my head four years ago when I took you on and made you a section head. Now they can’t look me in the eye because you’ve put our name on the international map. But don’t start that absentee show now, please. Be at the wedding; John and Rupert would want to see you there. Bye
Could it be that Effe is innocent of all the charges?