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There is a loud pounding on Effe’s door.
She wakes up and looks at the time sleepily.
It is just past four in the morning.
She groans and reluctantly gets out of bed.
She is very tired and sleepy.
She walks to the door in her negligee and opens it.
Her mother is standing there, already dressed, and she is holding her phone. Her face is very agitated indeed.
Effe is instantly scared.
Mama!! What is it? Is Daddy okay?
It’s your mother-in-law, Princess.
Effe looks puzzled.
Iris, Steve’s mother. Seems Steve took some pills. Iris says he was drunk last night, and was weeping, and calling for you. And then just a few minutes ago she went to check on him and found him lying on the floor, with some pills all around him. He’s not responding to any of her attempts to revive him. She called an ambulance, and then she called me.
Effe’s heart gives a lurch of fear.
Oh, no! Dear Lord. I’ve to go over!
Madam Ivy watches as Effe flies into her clothes and then snatch up a satchel that contains emergency first aid medications and equipment.
Madam Ivy walks into the room and sits on the bed, and then she removes Effe’s phone from its charger.
Madam Ivy quickly walks into the bathroom and removes the battery from the phone.
When she returns to the room she sees Effe feverishly lifting her bedsheets.
Anything wrong, baby?
My phone. It was right here, charging. Now I can’t find it. Please call my line and help me locate it.
Madam Ivy takes out her own phone from her pocket, dials Effe’s number and puts it to her ear. She shrugs innocently.
Switched off, dear. You can take mine, if you want. I’ll look for it later, because I’m sure every second you waste here puts Steve in more danger, my love.
Effe lifts her pillows, and then she sighs heavily.
Alright! I’ll go. Can I use your car?
Of course, Princess. It’s out of the garage already.
They leave the room together.
When Effe is seated in the car she looks at her mother warily.
I wanted to call Chris, Mama. He’s coming to pick me up. Please let him wait for me when he comes in case I’m not back by that time.
Sure, darling. I’ll do that.
Effe looks at her mother for a long time, and then she speaks softly.
Mama, I know you don’t like Chris. I know you don’t want me dating him. But he means the world to me, Mama. I care for him a lot. Please let him wait for me no matter what.
Madam Ivy raises her eyebrows.
Lord, Sweetheart. Steve is in danger and all you care about is that boy? I thought we spoke about that and laid that issue to rest.
We did, Mama, but I still don’t understand why you made him come into my room when you knew Steve was also there. That could’ve ended whatever we had if Chris hadn’t trusted me. Please, don’t let me lose faith in you, Mama.
Madam Ivy nods and speaks in a placating voice.
I’ll make him wait, my love.
Effe speeds out of the house.
Madam Ivy returns to Effe’s room and puts the battery back into Effe’s phone and puts it on charge, but she does not turn it on.
She hears her name being called from downstairs and goes down to see her husband already dressed.
She serves him breakfast and sits with him whilst he eats.
He gets up to leave and then hands a large bag to her.
That’s the money from Alhaji Bimbilla, honey. Kindly deposit it in the account for me this morning. I’ll go first to the Tema Port to see about the clearing of his shipment.
One hundred thousand Ghana Cedis, you said?
Her husband nods.
I was uncomfortable with it, as you know. Told him next time he should make a bank transfer. I don’t know why that man wants to deal so much with currency.
Don’t worry, dear. I’ll go with Eyram to deposit it.
When her husband leaves, she puts the large bag on the couch and goes into the kitchen to wash the plates her husband had used.
Much later the doorbell rings, and she goes to the door.
Chris, looking incredibly handsome, is standing there. He looks at her warily.
Good morning, Mrs. Kedem. I came to pick up Effe. The security man said you have some information for me, from Effe, so I should see you.
Madam Ivy looks into Chris’ eyes for a long time, and there is no disguising the fact that there is much hatred in her.
Do come in. Come and have a seat.
Chris shakes his head.
If Effe is not here, I’d rather not come in, Madam.
Why? Am I going to eat you up? You can leave then.
She closes the door.
After a moment of hesitation Chris takes out his phone and calls Effe again, but her phone is still off.
He sighs deeply, opens the door and goes in.
Madam Ivy is sitting at one end of the couch. She looks at him coldly.
Sit down, Chris. I want a word with you.
I’d rather stand, Madam, if you don’t mind.
Suit yourself. Tell me this, you have slept with my daughter, haven’t you?
Chris looks levelly at her, and then he sits down slowly next to her. He takes one of her hands in his and speaks gently.
I’m not going to answer that, Madam. However, let me say this for the very last time. You love your daughter very much, as I can see. Somehow, I’ve fallen in love with her so hard. She’s the only woman I’ve ever loved, and I’ll always love her. You can’t stop that. You can try to be civil with me, and I’ll give you every little respect and adoration you deserve as the mother of the woman I love. I’m begging of you, Madam, don’t let us pull Effe in two different directions. I love Effe. With all my heart. Please let me love her!
Madam Ivy snatches her hand from his and stands up. She looks at him with fury and rage, and her hands curl into cruel fists.
Well, she doesn’t love you. Love is no longer that sentimental crap you young people want it to be. That kind of love only exists in books and in movies. Nowadays you must have a certain level of social standing of affluence, charisma and financial clout, to date women in a certain category of sophistication. For starters, you’re way below her – socially, financially and educationally. You were just a distraction for her, at a time of need. Now her husband is free, and they’ve decided to try again to make it work. She spent the night with Steve, and hasn’t come back yet. That’s something, isn’t it?
The look of raw pain and terrible torture on his face almost make her balk, and quickly she leaves him in the hall, climbs upstairs, and stands at an upstairs window.
Moments later she sees him in the courtyard, walking fast, his shoulders drooped.
He is a picture of abject misery.
She turns from the window and goes to her room, and there she sits on her bed and holds herself tightly as she remembers Effe’s warning to her.
THE HOLLISON RESIDENCE
Effe picks her bag and races up the stairs to the front door of the luxurious house that used to be her home.
The door flies open before she can get to it, and she is faced by the contrite face of her former in-laws.
Oh, dearest me! Do come in, come in!
Where’s he? Where’s Steve now?
We’re so sorry, Effe. He’s in the bedroom.
The Captain is speaking again, but Effe dashes past him and goes straight to the bedroom where Steve is sitting on the edge of the bed, dressed in a flowing white gown.
Effe comes to a crushing halt, and her face screws up with sudden anger.
Please, honey, not that look. It’s all my fault. I went on a drinking spree with Jon last night, and I had a splitting headache. I got up in the night to get some medicine and I’m afraid I was too drunk and fell down on the floor, and the bottle fell, and the pills spread all over me. My parents found me and were concerned. The ambulance from the hospital came, and revived me. We tried to call you that I’m okay but your phone was off.
So sorry, my dear. We called your mother, but she said you left without a phone. We’re terribly sorry, dear.
Effe looks from one to the other, and she tries very hard to fight down the strong anger that is trying to overcome her.
Maybe it is just coincidence but she is getting a funny feeling that she has been manipulated by these people with the connivance of her own mother.
But she trusts her mother explicitly, and is convinced that she has been an innocent victim.
She knows the Captain well, and is aware he will never agree to any such scam, and so she decides to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Well, since you’re so fine, save for a possible hangover, I think I must go now.
Iris Hollison steps forward and suddenly she falls on her knees in front of Effe.
(in a contrite voice)
Maybe God brought you here, Effe. So that I can render an apology to you. I’ve been a most horrible mother-in-law to you. Please, please, Effe, forgive me. Forgive me for ruining this wonderful love you had for my son! I’m so sorry, dear!
Effe is shocked and knocked for six.
She had not expected that from Iris. She is a hard woman who had indeed been the cause of most of Effe’s heartaches in her marriage.
To see the woman so remorseful affects Effe very much. And to compound it, the Captain also begins to kneel down.
Effe shouts and holds him up.
No, no, no! Please don’t knee before me! I beg of you!
But we have done you wrong, my daughter. We have done you so wrong! We ruined a wonderful marriage! Please forgive us and forgive our son and take him back. We will never worry you again.
For a while they apologize to Effe despite all her efforts to stop them.
Steve even kneels and begs her. In spite of her resolve Effe is affected, and she also finds herself crying again.
But she realizes that her tears are not tears of pain. They are tears of freedom, tears of vindication.
It’s okay! I spent more than ten years with you all. I can’t hate you, and I can’t hate Steve. Whatever happened was for a reason. I’ve forgiven you. I’m not holding anything against you.
Steve holds her hands in his, and looks at her with love on his face.
Come back to me, Effe, please! I beg you! I’ve always loved you! I’ll love you forever! I’ve learnt a great lesson! Please, my honey, my love, let’s give this love a second chance!
Effe snatches her hands away and steps back from him, appalled.
Steve! Elaine is out there, suffering from postpartum psychosis! You don’t even know where your son is, do you?
A look of terrible rage crosses Steve’s face.
He’s not my son! He’s Rupert’s son! Dammit it, Effe, don’t bring pain to my heart!
I will! Because it seems to me you have no heart! No matter how badly Elaine behaved, she still believed she was pregnant with your child! You brought foreign material into her, and now she is insane, a condition that could become permanent if we don’t show her love and understanding! Please don’t you dare speak about love now, not when she’s suffering so much! Have a heart, Steve!
I never loved her, Effe! It’s unfortunate things turned out this way, but it’s you I love, you I’ll always love! I’ll be there for her, of course, but please, please, please, it’s you I want, need and love!
No, Steve. No. I can’t take this. Not now, please.
Is it because of that d--n taxi driver? You don’t know him! You don’t know anything about him! You know me, you know my strengths, my weaknesses, and my soul! I betrayed you, and I messed up! But you can decide to forgive me, give me a second chance! We can adopt a baby, some babies, as many as you want. But what about him? He may profess love now, but what happens in the future when he also decides he wants children? He may leave you! I’m going to be faithful and dedicated to you. I’m going to adore you, from now on! Please, Effe, give us a chance!
The Captain holds Effe’s hands.
He’s right, you know. Men who go out and gain the pain of being scalded stick forever. Believe me, my dear, I know.
Effe, dear! We’ve all learnt a bitter lesson. From now on I’ll leave you alone! I’ll become the loving mother-in-law you’ve always wanted. Things can go back to normal, for a better happier family! Please, consider it!
Effe walks aimlessly to the huge wardrobe and leans against it. Her eyes are haunted.
She is confused momentarily.
Steve has learnt a great lesson. He has changed! His parents have also learnt their lesson. If she accepts Steve now, she can have a better future, and count on his adoration just as he promised.
Her fear is that Chris is a new entity. She hasn’t known him for a month and yet he has swept her principles clean into the waters, and has made her feel things she has never ever dreamt of.
He has been a child gigolo. He has known women, even if he had been blackmailed by a vicious prostitute.
She is not certain of a future with him. She is not even certain if what she feels for him is love.
She is not certain of anything. She is so confused.
She wants to leave, but they persuade her to stay and have breakfast first.
She helps Iris prepare the breakfast, and lays the table.
They enjoy a super breakfast, the best she has ever had with Steve and his parents.
Iris is full of fun, exhibiting a great show of love and remorse, so much so that Effe marvels if she is the same woman who had been so cruel to her.
Steve sits next to her and fawns over her. He is so loving, so caring, so much the Steve she fell in love with.
Soon it begins to dawn on her that Chris will be waiting for her at home.
It dampens her spirits immediately.
She clears the table fast, washes up, and inform them she is leaving.
Alright, dear, but do think over what we asked of you. We need you back.
Let us begin on a clean slate. There is no marriage without bitter battles, my dear.
I will think about it.
They go out with her. She descends the steps with Steve at her side. When she gets to her car, her back is turned to the main gates.
Steve looks across Effe’s shoulder, and then hep takes her into his arms.
Suddenly the small gate swings open, and Chris enters. His jealous eyes picks up Steve’s parents on the landing, laughing and happy.
He sees Steve in his morning white gown taking Effe into his arms.
Of course Steve has seen Chris, and he knows Effe hasn’t seen him enter.
He takes Effe in his arms intending to kiss her cheeks, but then he kisses her on the lips.
Effe, confused and totally not able to take in all that is happening, allows him to kiss her.
She even opens her lips to receive him, but the moment his lips touch hers she knows!
She knows that she is no longer his. She knows that he will never bring back the spark, the passion, the fierce love and the excitement she feels for another man, a semi-literate taxi driver.
She knows, beyond all doubts, that she will not be able to hate Steve, but he will become just a friend.
She knows that she is no longer confused. She knows that she is no longer afraid of the man Chris Bawa. She reasons that at one point in time Steve was also a total stranger too. She took a chance with him and they we’re happy together until the Elaine saga.
If Steve thought his kiss will enslave her, it rather did the opposite… it set her free forever.
Suddenly she knows this is the very last time Steve will ever hold her, or touch her.
Suddenly all she wants to do is rush home and throw herself into Chris’ arms and tell him she is no longer afraid, that she has accepted his proposal, that she wants to marry him, and make love with him forever.
She steps away from Steve and shakes her head gently as tears fall down her cheeks.
I’m sorry, Steve. It’s over. I love that taxi driver! He is a stranger just like you when we first met. I love him with my whole being. Sorry, but you and I are done. We are history.
Steve’s face screws up with both pain, rage and jealousy, and as his eyes move across her shoulders she knows, even before turning, that something horrible has just happened.
She whirls round, and sees Chris for the first time.
His whole body is trembling, and he can barely stand. The pain on his face cuts into her heart like a hot knife through butter.
It strikes her with such agony to see him in so much pain.
She takes stumbling steps towards him. Chris starts backing out wearing his pain on his face.
Chris! Darling! No, it’s not what you think! Please, Chris!
He turns away, but not before she has seen his tears falling.
She runs after him, but when she goes out his taxi is already speeding away.
She screams out his name. She races after the taxi, crying in agony, calling him, pleading, her voice going hoarse…
He does not stop.
He is gone.
To be continued.