Afosua called for the house-girl to bring her some new cloths to clean Naa Akweley up with.
“Just set them down there please, Joyce,” she directed.
Joyce lingered in the room, unsure about what she was seeing.
“Ah…Sister Afosua. Is that not -“
Afosua cut her short.
“Never mind who that is! You can go back and continue what you were doing. I’m sure my mother needs you for something.”
Joyce was stung by her tone, and wordlessly left the room. It suddenly dawned on Afosua that it was going to be difficult to keep Naa Akweley’s presence in her home a secret for long. With her husband being so famous and both their pictures plastered on billboards all over Accra, she would be instantly recognizable. For the moment, that wasn’t a concern. Ian had done quite a number on Akweley’s face, so much so that she hardly looked like herself.
“Have some ice-water, Naa,” Afosua offered.
Naa Akweley settled herself slowly into a plush armchair and took a sip. Her pregnant belly did not look quite as large as it had a few weeks ago. Afosua wondered if that was normal, but decided not to pry. One thing at a time. She went to her medicine cabinet and retrieved some antiseptic for Naa Akweley’s bruises and some cocoa butter to soothe her. As Afosua rubbed her tense shoulder’s she was surprised at how willing Naa Akweley was to submit to being touched by someone whom she had just recently combated with. Perhaps it seemed oddly natural, when she had just been pummeled by someone who was supposed to love her. The two sat in silence, with only the smell of cocoa butter and the sounds of their simultaneous breaths filling the air.
When she seemed a little more relaxed, Afosua finally spoke again.
“You can stay as long as you like, and we can figure out what to do for the future,” she said.
“Okay. Thank you,” Naa Akweley replied quietly.
Afosua was unsure about what to do next; so she did what came naturally to her. She prepared to flee.
“I left work suddenly, so I’ll have to get back,” she explained, gathering her keys. “If you need anything, just call for Joyce. She will help you while I’m gone.”
“Afosua…wait,” Naa Akweley begged. “I could really use someone to talk to. I heard about what happened to you all those years ago. Would you talk to me please? Would you tell me how you made it out? I – I need some hope right now.”
Afosua gripped her keys tighter and stood frozen at the door. Naa Akweley was asking her to reopen a box that she had sealed shut ages ago. She wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to revisit the memories it contained…even if it meant saving the life of this woman.
Annette’s car squealed under the pressure that she was putting it under. All she could think of was Sophia, and how quickly she had to get to her house. She had left Mr. Prah sitting at the table with a smirk on his face, after telling her that she had no choice but to go anywhere he demanded.
“You have no family, and no friends except the ones I permit. Where do you think you can go?” he challenged.
Annette could only think of one place.
Little children in their school uniforms milled along the side of the road, impeding her progress. She had to brake abruptly more than once to avoid hitting one who had wondered too close to the edge of the street. When she finally got to Sophia’s gate, there was an unfamiliar car parked in front of the house. Annette paid little attention to it and quickly greeted Idrisu before going up to see her lover.
“Madam! Please she has a visitor!” he called after her.
She ignored him.
A man in dark trousers and a white traditional shirt was sitting on Annette’s favorite chair while Sophia was leaning on the wall. Her arms were folded across her chest, a scowl written across her face. Annette had interrupted their conversation.
“Annette…what are you doing here?” Sophia asked, surprised to see her. They were not supposed to meet until later that evening.
“I had to come and see you,” Annette breathed, “it’s very urgent.”
Sophia moved in a little closer and sat down next to the man on the chair.
“Annette, please meet my husband – John. He just flew in from Nigeria.”
A pit grew in Annette’s stomach and she felt a tingle between her legs. She was about to urinate on herself out of sheer anxiety. Fortunately, she had just enough presence of mind to not embarrass herself so completely.
“I – I see,” she stammered. She reached out to shake his hand, which he took heartedly.
“Nice to meet you Annette,” he said warmly. “You are even more beautiful than Sophia described.”
Annette was confused.
“Sophia…can I speak to you alone please?”
“We can talk in front of my husband,” replied Sophia. “We have no secrets.”
“Please? I really need to talk to you alone.”
John nodded his consent and Sophia led Annette into the back room. Annette began to whisper loudly.
“What do you mean ‘you have no secrets’? And what do you mean ‘your husband’? Since when have you been married? Does he know about us?!”
Annette was beyond consolation, with this news dealing a blow to all of her senses. She thought the room was collapse on her. In fact, she hoped it would so that it would put her out of her misery. Sophia pulled Annette in closer, rubbing the small of her back until she calmed down.
“Of course he doesn’t know about us, you silly girl,” she scolded. “What African man do you know would be okay with his wife sleeping with another woman? He knows you’re a dedicated client, that’s all.”
Annette’s pounding heart finally began to slow down. She hugged Sophia tightly, pressing her body against hers and kissing her hungrily.
“We can’t do that right now,” Sophia said harshly. “He’s in the next room!”
“Sophia, Mr. Prah is taking me away,” Annette wailed desperately. “He’s taking me away from Accra for a whole year…maybe even more! I’m going to leave him.”
“Leave him and go where?”
“I was hoping to come stay with you…”
Sophia scoffed at the idea.
“My dear; That’s impossible.”
Annette was wounded. She was sure Sophia would welcome her unreservedly.
“What do you mean impossible? We love each other. I love YOU. I tell you all the time!”
“And when have you heard me say I love you back?” Sophia challenged. “I know you love me, yes, but I’ve never confessed to loving you.”
“But for the last 3 years…”
“For the last 3 years I’ve been fucking your brains out because you’re a woman whose husband’s dick is about to fall off at any moment,” Sophia spat. “I pitied you, and you mistook pity for love. But I can’t pity you enough to let you stay here and ruin my reputation, however. I have too much at stake”
“So that’s it then?” Annette sobbed. “This is how it ends? It’s alright for you to fuck me in secret, but when it matters you just give up?? ”
“I’m afraid so, my dear,” Sophia said, stepping aside and showing Annette the door. “This is Africa, and we are not living in a fairy tale. Good bye and take care.”
Annette stopped crying promptly and wiped her face vigorously. She would spare no more tears for this callous woman. She left Sophia’s house and went back to face her Mr. Prah and doom. She was right. Her life was not a fairy tale. She cursed the day she had dared to fall in love.
Afosua dropped her keys on the coffee table and sat wearily on a foot stool. She would re-open Pandora’s Box, as painful as it was.
“What have you heard?” she asked Naa Akweley.
“That you left your husband. That he dehumanized you. That you were unfit…there were so many rumors.”
“All that is true,” she confessed. “Except he wasn’t my husband. We never made it down the aisle, although God knows I wanted to.”
Naa Akweley sat silently and waited. Afosua took a deep breath.
“I will tell you what happened, but after this we will never speak of it again. Okay?”