There were about 20 guests at the rehearsal dinner. All of Ahmed’s brothers had come, but his father was unable to make it. Afosua didn’t bother to ask why, and Ahmed never gave an explanation. He was not particularly close with his family, but in time Afosua wanted them all to come together. She had never had a big family of her own, and she was about to marry into one. She wished Ahmed would make a better effort to reconnect.
“You look amazing,” Ahmed whispered as soon as they were seated.
“Thank you,” she smiled.
The strapless jewel toned dress she was wearing was a last minute find, and it complimented her brown skin so perfectly that she couldn’t let it go. Afosua felt confident, beautiful and loved. It was one of the happiest nights of her life.
She took a break from chatting with her friends who had come down for the wedding to speak to Asma.
“I hope you’re having a nice time,” she said warmly.
Asma stared at her icily.
“A good a time as one could have at such a cheap event,” she hissed. “This is not the way we are married in our culture.”
“I know,” Afosua admitted, trying to remain calm. “But this is the way Ahmed wanted it. If it were left to him, we would have eloped.”
The revelation seemed to shock Asma, and a strange look came over her face. Afosua didn’t have time to figure out what the matter was, because she and Ahmed were being called to the stage to be given a toast.
Everyone from their class in university where they had met had come to give their congratulations.
“Maybe this marriage will finally be the beginning of African unity,” quipped a friend, eliciting chuckles from the crowd.
When everyone had had their say, Ahmed’s elder brother took the mic, though he did not need did. Rafiq Laiche was an enormous man with a booming voice. You could see and hear him coming from 10 miles away.
“I don’t think anyone was more shocked at this union than I was,” he began. “When I heard that Ahmed was getting married, I wondered ‘Who would marry such a scrawny awkward kid?’ Then I heard he was engaged to a Black girl from West Africa and it all made sense. She must be used to people looking as though they are starving.”
The room grew deathly silent, and it seemed as though someone had sucked all of the air out of it.
Rafiq turned and looked at Ahmed.
“You can do so much better than this little black cunt. Why do you think father is not here today? He would not see you willingly mix our blood with this monkey. They are okay for sex, but certainly not for marriage, Ahmed.”
Afosua stared at Ahmed, waiting for him to throttle his brother, or at the very least come to her defense. He just stood there, stood there silently like a made trapped a stockade. Maybe he was ashamed of her. Maybe that’s why he never took her around his family. Maybe this was all wrong.
Afosua burst into tears and ran from the packed room that was filled with so much warmth just a few minutes ago. She couldn’t shake the chill that was taking over her body. Ahmed raced after her and caught up with her in the tree lined courtyard outside of the cottage they had rented for the dinner.
“Why didn’t you say something?” she wailed. “Why didn’t you defend me?!”
“Afosua…I’m sorry!” he said panicking.
“Am I so cheap that you don’t even think I’m worth protecting?”
“Sweetheart – you know that’s not true!”
Something occurred to her. Something Ahmed had never mentioned to her before.
“You might have warned me that your family was a pack of roving racists. Here I was thinking that your mother didn’t like me because I was taking one of her sons or something Freudian or simple as that.” She laughed when she said her next words. “Turns out she’s just got a problem with my blackness!”
Ahmed was silent.
“So it’s true then? And you’ve known all along!”
“Baby,” Ahmed said pleadingly, “my family is a bunch of idiots. There, I said it. But why do you think I’ve stayed away from them all these years? It’s because I don’t think like that. I love you!”
Afosua felt her throat tighten.
“No you don’t, Ahmed,” she croaked. “Love doesn’t behave this way. Love wouldn’t run away from a fight. If this is the way we’re going to start our lives…I think it’s safe to assume that you don’t love me – and maybe I can’t love you.”
She turned to leave the venue but Ahmed caught her by the arm.
“Don’t leave like this. Don’t leave me.”
His hazel eyes were pouring out tears. She had never seen him so broken. She almost relented, but the sting of what had just transpired stopped her from giving in to heart’s desire.
“Good bye, Ahmed.”
Afosua began the quick walk back to the hotel room, leaving her lover and the setting sun behind her.
Just before Afosua got to the hotel, a car screeched up beside her.
“Want a lift?” said an unfamiliar voice.
Before she could reply, a hand went over her mouth and a man’s strong arm pushed into the car.
“Not a word,” he breathed into her ear.
Someone put a piece of duct tape over her mouth and a bag over her head. The last thing she saw before the abduction was the lobby of the hotel room. The car sped off and the sounds of the city grew fainter and fainter with every mile. She feared for what might happen next.
When the car stopped, she was pushed out onto the ground. Rafiq whipped the bag off of her head, laughing manically at her bewildered expression.
“You almost got away with it, huh?” he sneered. “A little African bastard like you thought she was going to weasel her way into our family? I don’t think so.”
He kicked her twice in the stomach as she lay helplessly on the ground.
“Oh yes, we did our research,” he continued, pummeling her with his heavy fist on every other word. “I know that you’re an illegitimate child, that your mother was a whore, that you are NOTHING. My parents deserve better than to allow dirt into our family.
Afosua was an able to speak, but she hoped her eyes told how hatred she had for this man. Someone was holding her arms behind her, and she was unable to fight back either. Seeing that her will was not broken, Rafid continued to kick and punch her for what seemed like an eternity. After taking the only beating Afosua she had received in her life, she finally stopped moving. Her head slumped into her chest and Rafiq stepped away from her.
He walked towards the car as though he might leave, but then turned around. He signaled to the stranger who had come with him.
“Lift her up and spread her open,” he commanded.
Rafiq tore off her gown and pushed three of his fingers into her vagina and raped her savagely. Afosua writhed and twisted her body in pain. Her muffled screams were barely audible through the duct tape barrier. Rafiq snorted.
“So this is the magical pussy that took my brother out of his senses.” He laughed maliciously and ripped her engagement ring off her hand. “Drop her.”
Afosua hit the ground with a thud and except for her ragged breath, didn’t move again. Rafiq knealt beside her and whispered a warning into her ear.
“If you contact the police, I will kill you. And if you try to contact Ahmed, I will kill him.”
The world instantly went black.
When she awoke, she was in the hospital and a nurse was bringing in medication. She was surprised to see Afosua awake.
“You’ve been asleep a long time,” she said. The nurse was a pretty brunette with a crooked tooth. It was the first thing Afosua noticed when she smiled.
“Where am I?” she whispered.
“You’re safe my dear,” the nurse replied. “A farmer found you early this morning and brought you in. Good thing too. You were lucky that you weren’t exposed to the elements for longer, seeing as how you were brought in…”
Afosua looked at her quizzically. A flood of memories hit her suddenly. She had been brought in naked and abused. She was so ashamed.
Realizing her mistake, the nurse spoke quickly and tried to sound cheerful.
“The doctor will be in soon to see you though! He can talk to you about everything. It looks like you’re going to recover just nicely.”
The nurse was young, in her 20s and hadn’t gained enough experience to be an adept liar.
“What aren’t you telling me?” Afosua demanded.
“I think we should wait for –“
“Tell me!” she shouted.
The nurse stalled, but finally revealed the truth. It might be easier to swallow if it came from another woman.
“My dear…I’m so sorry for your loss. There was a baby. You were about three months along – but because of the trauma to your abdomen…”
Her voice trailed off and Afosua deduced the rest. Rafiq had killed her baby. Ahmed’s baby.
As she mourned the child she never knew she was going to have, two police officers walked in to question her.
“Do you know who did this to you, Ms. Gyemfi?”
She shook her head ‘no’ and looked out the window.
“Is there anyone we can call?” said the other officer. He gestured at her left hand, which still bore the tan line of the ring she had been wearing for months.
Who could she call? Her parents were in Ghana and to call Ahmed would be their doom.
“No,” she said. “There is no one you can call. I am all alone.”
It was true.
Naa Akweley had no words to console Afosua, who tried to tell her story with as much candor as she could muster. Even to that day, the thought of losing Ahmed was so hard for her to bear.
“I’m so sorry, Afosua,” she murmured softly. “Whatever happened next?”
“A year later I left Croydon when I felt braver and went back to London. And I did see Ahmed again, by chance on the tube. He was with somebody else; and she was wearing my ring.” She smiled ruefully. “I left for Ghana soon after that.”
Naa Akweley felt a deep sense of shame wash over her.
“I have treated you so unfairly,” she confessed. “That’s not what I heard at all. I heard that –“
Afosua held up her hand to stop her.
“Please spare the details from the gossip mill,” she interjected. “I can only imagine what people have come up with. The truth is hard enough to deal with.”
Naa Akweley nodded. She understood.
Afosua got up to leave. It was late and the office would be closing soon, but she didn’t want to stay in the room with so much pity lingering in the space. There were many things she could handle, but pity was not one of them.
“Remember. Call for Joyce if you need anything.”
Naa Akweley nodded again and watched Afosua’s car squeal out of the driveway, carrying her away from the harm of the jagged memories of her past.