Annette woke to the sounds of the gardener chopping down the hibiscus plant with his machete. She loved the vibrant color and the cheer that the plant brought to the garden, but Mr. Prah was allergic to its pollen and had it cut down every time the plant was in bloom. She wondered why he didn’t uproot the bush altogether, and she suspected that he only kept destroying it year after year to add further to her torment.
She pulled her aching body out of her bed and threw on a morning coat and chaley wote. It was now past noon and she expected that Mr. Prah would be out of the house. Sleep abandoned her for a good part of the night. Her thoughts were consumed by the consequences of what this move away from Accra would mean for her…and Sophia.
To her distress, Mr. Prah was seated at the dining room table having lunch. Damn.
“You look exhausted my dear,” he said, peering at Annette over the brim of his newspaper with amusement.
“I didn’t sleep that well.”
“Something troubling you?”
“You know damned well what’s troubling me!” she blurted. “If you had plans for us to travel you could have at least talked to me first!”
Mr. Prah sucked his teeth.
“You’re my wife – and I OWN you. I don’t have to tell you anything about my decisions,” he spat.
Annette cast her eyes downward and crumpled into a dining room chair. Mr. Prah hardly took any notice. He spoke again when she had composed herself and was pouring a cup of tea.
“My sources tell me you have been spending a lot of time with your seamstress.”
Annette’s heart threatened to leap out of her chest. She struggled to keep her breath steady and not to allow her face to betray the fear she was feeling.
“Now I ask myself…why would Annette be spending so much time with this woman?” Mr. Prah queried to no one in particular. “And the only answer I could come to is that you must be contemplating an affair.”
Annette breathed for the first time since he spoke. He suspected something, but he didn’t know anything.
“Whatever do you mean darling?” she asked feeling bolder. She sipped her tea nonchalantly.
“You know exactly what I mean! Why else would you be spending so much time with the seamstress unless you were building a wardrobe to attract the attentions of another man! I’ve never seen you in anything she’s made.”
Annette suddenly pitied Mr. Prah. The old man could not conceive of the idea that two women could be together intimately, let alone how well Sophia had been fucking her.
“I told you before, Mr. Prah – there is no other man that I am interested in. I’m not seeing another man, and…” She paused before she spoke her next words, hoping that they wouldn’t lead to her doom. “And I’m not going abroad with you.”
Kwame Prah chuckled as though someone had told him a joke in poor taste.
“We’ll see about that my dear. We’ll see about that.”
Naa Akweley was quiet for the majority of the car ride to Afosua’s house, and Afosua didn’t press her for conversation. She could only imagine what emotions the other woman might be suffering through, and she knew that at the moment all she could do was be a good a friend as possible – which she assumed would be hard, given their tumultuous history.
When Akweley finally did speak, her voice was pained and thin.
“It wasn’t always like this you know.”
Afosua glanced at her as she dodged a pothole in the road. She resisted the urge to curse, not wanting to offend or upset her passenger.
“Ian used to be sweet, and kind…and so romantic,” she whispered wistfully. “I remember the day I fell in love with him.”
She closed her eyes and lost herself in a happier memory of her husband.
Naa Akweley was her father’s favorite daughter and had been an unabashed dadaba when she was growing up. She had never understood her classmates obsession with proving how difficult their lives were. She liked that she was much loved and appreciated by her parents, and reveled in their spoiling of her. When her classmates teased her by calling her a daddy’s girl, she surmised that they were just jealous and made it a point of telling them so.
As Ian pointed out a few weeks ago, Naa Akweley had never had to work a day in her life – but that was not something for which he could claim sole responsibility. Her father had seen to it that she’d always had the best of everything, and Ian knew that she expected a certain standard of living. It was with this knowledge in mind that he pursued her.
Naa Akweley had met Ian at a student led church revival on campus when she was studying at Legon University. He was asked to come up and give a work of encouragement to the student body, and she was not the only woman to notice that he was both attractive in verse and physique. Out of all the women who thronged that meeting, his eyes locked on hers and he chose her.
For the next few months they were inseparable. When she was away from him in class she thought her world would end, and order would only be restored when she saw him again. Eventually she stopped going to classes altogether, choosing to sit in on the lectures he had to attend or waiting for him outside of his classes when his professors would not let her in. It was only a matter of time before she submitted herself to him fully.
The first night they lay together, Ian seemed shocked by the resistance to his penetration.
“You’re a virgin?”
Naa Akweley nodded in confirmation, wondering if this was all wrong and if this was all her fault. Had she seduced this man whose heart harkened after God? Everything they had been taught spoke against pre-marital sex, and yet there they were in the bed of his dorm room. Seeing the doubt in her eyes, he stroked her head assuredly and promised to go slow. She was amazed at how alive she felt when he was in her, filling her up. She wanted this feeling always.
8 months after they’d met, Ian approached Naa Akweley’s father to seek his approval for their marriage. Her father flatly refused, calling Ian a charlatan whom he could see right through. When Naa Akweley begged her father to reconsider, he wouldn’t hear of it.
“Naa, sweetheart. This boy will ruin you,” her father cautioned. “You love him far more than he loves you, and that’s a bad place for a girl to be. I’m a man, and I know.”
Naa Akweley could not accept her father’s words, and when he saw he was making no headway he forced her to make a heavy choice.
“You will have to choose Ian or choose your family. If you go with him, no one from this house will ever speak to you again!”
The next morning she packed her bags a set off to start her new life. Her father refused to come outside to see her off and her mother wept as though Naa’s taxi was carrying her to her own funeral. That was the last she ever saw of her family. Those were the last days of the happiness she had known. She tried not to live with regret with the choices she had made, but it was so hard.
“We’re here,” said Afosua.
She got out of the car and helped Naa Akweley out. The woman looked like a frightened lamb, and it scared her. She had never seen a woman so broken, not even when she had looked at her own reflection in the mirror a few years before when her own world had come crashing down around her ears.