Afosua and Naa Akweley pulled up to Hanger 3 at Kotoka International Airport at 10 am. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and Abdul Sayed promised that this was as good a day as any to fly.
“Did you have any luck reaching Annette?” asked Naa.
“No. Her phone just kept giving me an error message,” replied Afosua. “It’s very peculiar.”
“Yes…it is. I’m sure she would have loved to join us on this trip. She seemed so keen on it before.”
Afosua nodded. Her broad rimmed sunglasses concealed her feelings. She was squinting hard – not because of the brilliant sun the filtered through her darkened lenses, but because she was worried. She wondered if they should cancel the trip to go look for Annette. But where would they begin?
“Are you ladies ready?” asked their pilot.
“Yes!” replied Naa Akweley brightly. “Let’s get going!”
Abdul Sayed was a third generation Pakistani living in Ghana. He was tall, with wavy brown hair that lay just above his broad shoulders. His skin was the color of Caribbean beach sand, with little flecks of brown dotted all over. He was essentially a Ghanaian, and with his good looks and a sizeable inheritance, he started a small charter flight operation in Ghana carrying tourists all around the country. Phillips & Boakye often contracted him to fly clients out to survey sights, but he had made it very clear to Afosua that he was available for private hire “anytime she wished.”
“I’ll be taking you in the turbo prop today,” said Abdul, leading them past a yellow amphibian helicopter. “It’s a much more “rustic” ride. You’ll feel like you’re on safari.”
“Living in Accra IS a safari,” she countered. “It’s a concrete jungle out here…or didn’t you know?”
“True!” Abdul conceded, chuckling as well.
When everyone was strapped in, he taxied onto the runway and took off. Naa Akweley felt her belly do flip flops and let out a gasp. Afosua noticed her reaction.
“Are you okay?”
Naa Akweley was overcome by how beautiful her country looked from an aerial view. Within minutes they had flown past Accra’s borders and were heading northeast. Dumbai was in the Volta Region, and it would take them a little over an hour to fly there. Naa Akweley was sad that the flight was so short. She drank in the shimmering waters of Lake Volta and the expanse of virgin emerald green land. The view was a happy departure from the “concrete jungle” that she was so accustomed to.
They landed at Akpaka Airport, which was just large enough to avoid the label of “air strip”. The workers greeted the trio with enthusiasm and led them through a small terminal. Abdul ordered a beer at the chop bar once they were outside.
“You know it’s odd, this is my second trip to Dumbai this week,” he said through gulps of his lager. “I brought a group of Europeans up here about 3 days ago.”
“Really?” asked Afosua. “Were they the usuals? Backpacks and Birkenstocks?”
Abdul shook his no.
“No. These were different. Suits and briefcases. Not the type that usually come up here.”
Afosua thoughtfully sipped on her Coke but soon the thoughts of the strangers out of her mind. She was suddenly entranced by the soft breeze filtering through the low-lying brush. A hush came over the table. No one wanted to force conversation in the face of such perfection.
“Madam, we have your car waiting for you,” said a man in a dark blue worker’s suit in interruption.
“Thank you,” said Afosua. She motioned for Naa Akweley to join her, who didn’t hide her reluctance to do so. Afosua snickered.
“Don’t worry. It gets even better!” she promised.
They said their good byes to Abdul who said he’d be back on Sunday to pick them up.
The rented car took them to a three bedroom bungalow near the lake. It belonged to one of Afosua’s many “aunties”, who were not related by blood, but longtime acquaintances of her mother’s. Auntie Grace, a jovial woman with a bobbed wig and lips pressed in perpetual smile greeted them as they came through the gate.
“Ei! Afos! Woezo!” she shouted lifting her arms to embrace her guests. Unlike most Ghanaian women, Auntie Grace never refrained from displaying her affections in public. She kissed each of the women loudly on the cheek in welcome.
“Auntie, this is my friend Naa Akweley,” smiled Afosua. Auntie Grace always put her in the best mood. “She’s the one I told you would be joining me for the weekend.”
The matriarch pulled Naa Akweley by the hand, never relaxing her grin.
“Then my dear you are most welcome!” she gushed. She glanced at Naa’s protruding belly. “And you are pregnant! Come, let’s go and feed the baby.”
She ushered both the women into the house, instructing the house boy to bring their bags and put them in their rooms. As the three sauntered toward the back veranda, Afosua was reminded why Auntie Grace was always in such a pleasant mood. With spacious walkways and vibrant colors on every wall of the house, you couldn’t help but be cheered by the atmosphere. Very few people knew it anymore, but Auntie Grace had built her dream home with money she had acquired as a go go dancer in the 60’s and 70’s. She would travel to Akosombo and dance in the clubs for expatriates working on the newly built damn. It was frowned upon by her male peers, who called her nothing but an “ashawo who got her money through sexy dancing”, but she had been smart with her money, saved it, and built herself a small empire. Underneath all that exuberant glee, Afosua suspected that there might lay a hint of smuggery. She loved it. She didn’t tell Naa Akweley about Auntie Grace’s past, however. She didn’t want her judging her.
Auntie Grace instructed the pair of them to sit and called for the food to be brought out.
“I didn’t know what you would take, so I have a bit of everything,” she said sweetly.
Trays of grilled tilapia, banku, three kinds of savory stew and rice suddenly appeared at the table.
“Auntie Grace, we can’t eat all this,” laughed Afosua.
“Yes you can. You are too thin, and we have to feed Naa’s baby, isn’t it?” admonished the older woman, pouring herself some wine. “And after we’ve rested, we can have a look at our project.”
Naa Akweley nodded enthusiastically, unable to speak because her mouth was full of food. She had not eaten properly in days. Auntie Grace must have known Afosua well. All she had in her cupboards was rice and Cornflakes. For the first time in a long while, Naa Akweley felt like she was home.
Annette had hardly left the room since she fled Mr. Prah’s house. Late in the evening she left to buy kenkey and fish and ran back to her room to eat so that she could go unnoticed. She had to share a bathroom with the rest of the building, so she woke early in the morning before the rest of the tenants. Three days had gone by and she was beginning to settle into her new rhythm.
She picked up her towel and pail and tiptoed to the washroom. A voice in the pre-dawn darkness startled her.
She stiffened and turned around, her eyes slowly adjusting to the dimness of the corridor.
“We’ve got her,” said a deep male voice.
Suddenly two rough hands grabbed her from behind. She screamed in terror.
“Let me go! Let me go!” Annette cried as she was roughly pulled down the hall to a waiting car.
“What are you doing! Where are you taking me!”
“Annette Prah, you are under arrest,” said a sinewy police officer as he shoved into the vehicle.
“Arrest? Arrest for what?” she wailed incredulously.
“For theft…to the sum of 50,000 cedis.”
Annette’s heart threatened to stop beating. Damn that Mr. Prah. Damn him to hell. She stopped fighting and curled up helplessly in the corner of the police truck. There was no more fight left in her.