When Afosua woke up the next morning she was startled to find herself on the sofa of her living room. She dragged her aching body to the bathroom and prepared to brush her teeth. When she looked in the mirror, her reflection shocked her. Blood red eyes stared back at her and white tracks lined her cheeks. She had been crying in her sleep.
She blew out a loud breath and prepared to go to work. There were no emotions attached to numbers, only facts. She was happy to have her job to save her from her feelings. She couldn’t deal with them today.
When she walked into the office she flung her bag and her briefcase onto the floor next to Gertrude’s desk.
“Good morning, Ms. Gyemfi!’ Gertrude greeted her cheerfully.
“Good morning Gertrude. Do we have any coffee?”
“I’ve just brewed some for the office,” answered Gertrude. “And someone brought in danishes for everyone in the office as well,” she added with a wink. “They’re in the meeting room.”
Afosua didn’t understand why the girl was so cheerful and didn’t care. She just wanted to get something sweet into her mouth and drown herself in her work. She swung the meeting room door open and made a beeline for the pastry tray. The scent of a familiar cologne made her freeze in her tracks. In the corner by the window, Tony sat watching her unfeelingly.
“What are you doing here?” she hissed. “I thought I made myself very clear last night!”
Tony raised his eyebrows in surprise.
“I’m not here to see you,” he said simply.
“Oh please! Then who ARE you here to see? Gertrude perhaps?” she spat.
“Gertrude was –and has always – been nice enough to greet me with kindness in the morning, particularly in a professional setting. I’m not here on a romantic call, Ms. Gyemfi.”
His formal tone corralled her to her right mind. He was right. This was the office, and there was a time and place for everything.
“Tony! You’ve brought danishes, I see.”
“Just like I do every year,” Tony smiled. He reached out to shake the hand of Mark Phillips, the firm’s co-owner.
“Afosua, have you met Tony Coffie? Let me introduce you,” Mark offered.
“We’re…acquainted. Yes. I know Mr. Coffie,” Afosua mumbled.
“Oh good! At some point I expect you’ll be working closely with him. Tony has been handling our accounts for years. We contracted him because he’s honest and probably the best in the business,” Mark informed her.
Afosua nodded and managed a polite smile. Inside she thought she might die.
“Yes…well if you’ll excuse me, I have some catching up on some reports to do.”
“Very good, Ms. Gyemfi,” said Mark. “Would you shut the door behind you? As soon as Boakye comes in, we can begin.”
Afosua closed the door to the sound of the two men laughing loudly in salutation. Were they laughing at her? She didn’t care. She went back to her office to create work for herself. She had lied to get out of that room. She had nothing else to work on because she was caught up on everything – everything except the mysterious and forbidden Swedish account. As she settled into her chair, she saw that Gertrude had brought in her purse and other belongings. She was grateful for the girl’s thoughtfulness, which had saved her from going out into the hallway and being confronted with the muffled sounds of Tony’s voice.
Afosua fished her phone out of her purse and was surprised to see a missed call from the night before. Why was Naa Akweley calling her? Baffled, she shut her door and redialed the woman’s number.
“Hello?” said a hollow female voice.
“Naa Akweley?” said Afosua with hesitation. This woman didn’t sound like the confident bulldog that was First Lady Blankson.
“Yes. Who is this? Is this…”
“It’s Afosua. You called me last night. I never heard the phone ring.”
“It must have been an accident,” Naa Akweley lied. “I must have called you by mistake.”
Afosua saw right through the fib.
“I don’t know you well, but I know you well enough to know that you don’t make ‘mistakes’.”
The mention of a mistake pushed Naa Akweley into hysterics. She began to sob uncontrollably on the other end of the line.
“Naa Akweley? Naa! Stop crying and tell me where you are,” demanded Afosua.
“I’m – I’m at the beach…near the crags.”
“I’ll be right there.”
Afosua was at the beach within 10 minutes. One of the perks of working in Labone was that it was central to everything, including the ocean.
When Afosua pulled up to the entrance of La Pleasure Beach, she didn’t see Naa Akweley’s car anywhere.
“She must have come by taxi.”
She paid the ridiculous fee to enter the beach and walked to the far end. The crags was a largely deserted part of the beach where combers dared not go because of the threat of being robbed by hooligans. Still, if Naa Akweley had taken that chance, Afosua would as well. The sand was cold beneath the soles of her feet, and the ocean air sent a chill through her bones. It was still early morning and the beach had not warmed up yet. The walk was made even more difficult because of the contrition of her suit skirt. After she passed the miniscule tributary that led into a small lagoon, she spotted a dark female figure in the distance.
Afosua picked up her pace and jogged to her target. Naa Akweley did not turn around to acknowledge her when she stood beside her. The sound of her shallow breath was drowned by the sound of the ocean and its salty spray mingled with her tears. Her gaze was unwavering at something on the horizon.
“He only beats me on Monday’s,” she finally whispered. “Never on the weekends. It’s too risky on the weekends. There’s church on Sunday, after all.”
“Who beats you?”
Naa Akweley finally turned to look at Afosua, who covered her mouth in shock. Naa Akweley’s entire face was battered and her left eye was swollen shut. The pattern of Ian’s ring was imprinted all over her face.
“Normally it’s a slap here, a shove there. But this time he went too far,” whispered Naa Akweley.
Afosua was furious.
“No, Naa!” she raged. “The FIRST time he hit you he went too far.”
Naa Akweley managed a weak smile.
“I knew you would understand.”
Afosua took her former enemy by the hand.
“Come on. You’re coming home with me.”
The two women trudged away from the beach, their footprints melding together in the sand as the stronger woman helped bear the burdens of the weaker.