Naa Akweley woke to find Afosua had already left for work and that she was all alone and idle. She hated being idle. This was not her home so she could not redecorate, and since she had fled her tormentor and husband she had no one to cater too. But there was one person whom she had neglected in the last few weeks that still desperately needed her: her unborn baby.
She called her gynecologist’s office and was able to get a last minute appointment. One of the benefits of being the wife of an influential man was that people went out of their way to make life comfortable for her. She laughed inwardly at the irony of it all. Her husband on the other hand had done everything in his power to make her life the very antithesis of comfort.
She left a note for Afosua and hired a taxi to drive her into Tema, where Silas Ofori’s medical practice was. Ian had never been with her to an ob/gyn visit, and he had no clue where or how she received her prenatal care. His absence would not be out of the ordinary or missed.
“Dr. Ofori will see you now,” said the nurse cordially soon after Naa Akweley was seated in the waiting room.
“How are you today?” asked Naa Akweley politely.
“I’m very fine, thank you,” replied the nurse. “Please remove your clothes and put on this robe. He should be in in a moment.”
Naa Akweley wondered if the nurse was this pleasant with all her patients. Ghanaian nurses had a reputation for being cruel and harsh, but that had never been her experience. She hoped that everyone received the same level of care; but then it dawned on her that this was a private practice and her money was purchasing that professionalism. She decided that the nurse was insincere and prided herself on figuring out the other woman’s character so quickly. Judging people was one of her strongest suits.
“Mrs. Blankson! I’m so happy to see you,” said Dr. Ofori interrupting her thoughts.
“Hello doctor. Yes, I know I’ve missed a few appointments.”
“With your history of miscarriage, it is not a good thing that you do not see us regularly,” he scolded directly.
Naa Akweley winced and nodded her head sheepishly. Her doctor had no idea what kind of hell she was facing at home.
“Let’s begin your examination and see how everything is progressing,” he said a little more kindly.
After measuring her belly and drilling her with several questions, he frowned.
“Your baby is measuring much smaller than he should,” he said with concern. “How is your diet?”
“Fine, I suppose,” she responded noncommittally.
“And what about alcohol consumption?”
“What do you mean?” she asked in sincere shock. How did he know?
“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to offend you! I know your ministry’s stand on consuming alcohol, but I have to weed out all the possibilities and at least ask,” Dr. Ofori said in explanation.
Naa Akweley hesitated before answering.
“No,” she lied. “I have not been drinking.”
He misread her curt replied as indignance, when in fact she was actually frightened. What if she had harmed her baby?
“And what about stress?”
“What about it?” she asked cautiously.
“Well, I know that you probably spend a lot of your time doing charity work and praying for people, but that can take a toll on you at this stage,” he explained. “You are in your third trimester, and it’s important to get rest if you can.”
Naa Akweley nodded obediently, saying that she would begin to take more time for herself. She wished desperately that she could talk to her doctor and tell him everything – about the abuse, about the drinking, about the bouts of depression she faced almost daily. But she was so ashamed and feared what that revelation might do to her reputation. She kept mum and got dressed.
“Thank you Dr. Ofori,” she said as she left the examination room. “I will take all your advice into consideration.”
“You’re welcome,” he smiled. “We’ll look forward to the birth of a healthy baby boy in a few weeks, eh?”
She smiled and left for the waiting taxi outside. She would do all she could to keep her unborn baby healthy, but what about after he was born? Was she going to raise him alone or try to work things out with Ian? Would he grow up to resent her if he didn’t have a father? The gravity of her future was more than she could bear for the moment. She abandoned those thoughts and decided to focus on her present challenges. They were difficult enough.
Sophia stared stonily at the ceiling, waiting for her husband to climax so that he could get on a plane and go back to Nigeria. He usually showed up once a year to extort money from her, and his visits always ended with his penis inside her. It was not welcomed there.
John Ike muscular buttocks swayed up and down rhythmically as he dove deeper and deeper into Sophia. He thumbed her clitoris, he sucked her nipples, he bit her neck…anything to force her to respond to him. She stoically refused to give in. He had so much power over her, but in this area – the will to climax – she had total control and it bruised his ego to no end. He couldn’t force her, no matter how hard he tried. He wanted total control over Sophia, but like many Nigerian women she was not so easily handled. He gave up for the afternoon and pulled out of her, angrily cumming all over her trim thighs. Sophia looked down at her wet legs and then back at the ceiling. Whatever emotions she was feeling, she did not betray them. She never gave him the satisfaction of evoking any sort of feeling. John stood up and put on his trousers. Sophia grabbed a towel and wiped herself before she spoke.
“Your money has been wired to your account,” she said tersely. “It should hold you until next year.”
“It should, but you never know,” he said impishly.
“Look. That’s over one million Naira!” she said with irritation. “How can that not hold you?”
“Well, given that I harbored your smuggling and murderous father, I’d say that I decide how much is enough for how long.”
Sophia looked at John with utter contempt. How she had gotten entangled with John was beyond her understanding. She didn’t even like men, at least not in that way. Somehow he had managed to convince her to marry him and carry on this charade that they had been playing for years. As John rightly said, her father was a smuggler and a wanted man, which was why she was estranged from him. She hadn’t seen him since she was 16 and she had worked very hard to distance herself from any association with him. In Africa, your reputation is as valuable as any currency and his reputation threatened to ruin all that she had worked for. So when she discovered that John and her father had been working together for years in illegal trade, she was sick to her stomach. She cursed herself time and again for being so naïve. Now she was trapped in John’s web of blackmail and deceit.
“It’s not going to always be this way, John,” she said with more bravery than she felt. “I can promise you that.”
John stopped buttoning his shirt and strode over to where Sophia was standing. He grabbed her by the throat.
“If you ever breathe a word of my affairs, I can promise that you’ll have more to worry about than your little seamstress shop,” he said darkly.
Sophia glared at him defiantly, but soon relented and lowered her gaze. She knew what John was capable of.
“That’s a good girl. Now go and bring me something to eat like a good woman. I have a flight to catch.”
Sophia did as she was told and brought him a plate of food, watching him gobble it down like the swine that he was. She looked away and thought of Annette. She missed her so much.
When Afosua got home, she found Naa Akweley perched in front of the television. She felt awful about leaving her alone all day, but there was nothing she could do. Now she was leaving for Germany and she’d be alone for even longer.
“Hi!” Naa said unusually brightly.
“Hi,” Afosua said skeptically. “How was your day?”
“Not bad. I went to the doctor and he suggested I get some R and R.”
“I guess you’re getting a lot of that here all alone. Sorry if I haven’t been much company.”
Naa Akweley shook her head.
“No. You have to work. You don’t have time to entertain me.”
Afosua felt relieved.
“Anyway, the doctor recommended that I take some time to myself,” Naa continued. “I wondered if we might still make that trip to Dumba? The one you told us about a few weeks ago?”
Afosua brightened immediately and then felt a wave of shame wash over her. It was time to confess her plan to her friend.
“Naa Akweley, I wasn’t entirely honest with you. Yes, I wanted you to come to Dumba with me because it is an amazing place, but the truth is I was planning using you,” she admitted. “I wanted to get access to your members to get them to buy in on a project I have in the village. I’m so sorry.”
Naa Akweley laughed at Afosua’s naivety. Of course she knew what she was up to when Afosua first made the suggestion. Ian Blankson’s wife had become accustomed to being a presumed pawn in many an entrepreneur’s scheme. In the end, they discovered that she was a knight.
“I know,” she replied. “Many people try to use me to get to my husband or something in our ministry. But I don’t think that’s the case with you anymore. Or am I wrong?”
“No. You’re not wrong,” said Afosua genuinely. “Besides, something much bigger has come up with work, so I may have to table the project or forgo it altogether.”
“Great! Tell me about it over dinner. When do you leave?”
“In a week,” said Afosua. “But I can still make arrangements for us to fly out there. Did your doctor say it was okay?”
“He didn’t say it wasn’t,” Naa Akweley mused. “Do you think Annette would still want to join us?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen her in days, which is odd. She’s always good about calling me.”
Naa Akweley nodded in agreement. Annette couldn’t go a day without talking to someone. She always seemed to have her phone glued to her ear.
“I wonder what she’s up to?” Afosua puzzled.
“Let’s try calling her in the morning. I’m sure she’s okay.”