Gertrude sat at her dining room table admiring her newly procured passport. She cradled it in her hands so that it would not make contact with the linoleum table cloth, as though it might sully it. She was giddy with the thought of leaving the country for the first time.
Her mother brought her a plate of food. The chicken breast was cut into slender rectangles and lay delicately on top of the piping hot jollof rice. Her mother sat opposite her, watching her daughter eat with admiration.
“I’m so proud of you, davi,” said her mother. “I never dreamed that my child would grow up to be so important.”
“I’m just a secretary, Ma,” Gertrude said sullenly.
Her mother rebuked her gently.
“Never say that. You are much more than that. You hear?”
Gertrude wanted to broach the subject of her father, and thought this was the perfect time to do it. Her mother always got so defensive when she brought him up, but surely now she would understand?
“Ma,” she began shakily, “I’m going to Germany…as you know…so maybe don’t you think we should talk about my father?”
Cecelia chuckled under her breath.
“Ho. Why? Do you think you will go and meet him there?”
“No…of course not,” bristled Gertrude.
“Then why should we talk about him because you are going to Germany?”
“No reason, Ma,” said Gertrude, abandoning the conversation altogether. “I’m going to go and read over our files now. Thank you for lunch.”
Cecelia watched her daughter, now a young professional walk despondently to the bedroom that they shared in the small efficiency house. There had been no secrets between them, except this one. She could have spared Gertrude’s feelings by telling her everything about her father, but that would mean exposing her own; and she had never been brave enough to face them.
Abdul came back to pick them up on Sunday morning as promised. Afosua was eager to get back to Accra so that she could get to the bottom of this mystery. She was so preoccupied by Mr. Boakye’s presence in Dumbai that she barely heard a word Naa Akewley was saying.
“Afosua, did you catch that?”
“I asked you if you’ve done a cost estimate for building the site,” repeated Naa Akweley. “I think we should get as much on paper as early as possible. I want to get as much finished as I can before the baby comes.”
Afosua watched Naa Akweley rub her belly lovingly. She was happy that the woman had found a new focus other than her misery. She wanted to share her exuberance, but she couldn’t focus on the health spa right now.
“I have done some preliminary work, but I’ll get you something more substantial when I get back from Germany,” she promised.
Naa Akweley smiled and nodded. She spoke, suddenly remembering something.
“What happened when you went to see those people on the other side of the river bank yesterday?”
Afosua furrowed her forehead.
“My boss was there.”
“Really? He has business in Dumbai?”
“I don’t know. I have to tread carefully with this until I have all my facts,” she replied. “It’s probably better if I don’t speak about it until I know anything for sure.”
Naa Akweley nodded and turned her attention to the ground beneath them. They would be landing back in Accra in a few minutes, and she wanted to enjoy what remained of the view for as long as she could. She reveled in the hope of what her future was about to bring and said a silent prayer of thanks to God for it.
When they landed at Kotoka, Abdul had already arranged for a car to take them back to Afosua’s house.
“I hope to see you again soon?” he said, reaching out to shake her hand gently.
Afosua wondered how he could manage to be so professional and utterly seductive at the same time. She smiled up at him and promised that they would need his business soon and often. He smiled with satisfaction when the two ladies had driven off.
Now that they were on the ground, Afosua was finally able to check her cell phone for messages. There was a text from an unknown number.
Annette has been arrested. Plz call back
“Oh my God!”
“What? What is it?” asked Naa Akweley
“It’s Annette. She’s been arrested!”
“That poor girl,” said Naa Akweley somberly. “She’ll definitely need our prayers.”
“They hell you say! She needs a lawyer. And I know just the one. I’m sure Mr. Prah is behind this, that old warty bastard.”
Annette was beginning to feel ill. She had only been in jail for 2 days, and she felt certain she wasn’t going to survive much longer here. The jail food was maggoty and the bread was moldy. The conditions were hardly sanitary, and she refused to bathe outside under the watchful and lascivious eyes of the guards. She was dirty, hungry and miserable. But she was not completely broken just yet. She stared at the slate grey wall and fixed her eyes on a set of claw marks that were etched into the flat surface. Someone had gone mad in here and tried to scratch their way out. Would she be driven to that point?
“Heh! You! The half-caste thief. You have a visitor.”
Annette rolled her eyes and prepared to face off with Mr. Prah again. She felt bile and venom rise up in her throat as she whipped around. Suddenly, the world stopped.
“Sophia? What are you doing here?”
Sophia rushed over to hug her through the rusty jail bars. Annette leaned against them, weeping with relief.
“No touching the prisoners!” the guard barked, forcing the two women to back away.
“How did you know I was here?”
“It’s all over the news,” replied Sophia. “You’ve been accused of embezzling from Mr. Prah.”
“Then whatever reputation I have is ruined,” mourned Annette. She laughed ruefully. “Nothing sells more newspapers than a detested socialite locked up in a local prison, does it?”
Sophia was at a loss for words. Now hardly seemed the time to try to make a joke about it.
“I brought you something to eat,” she said, passing the food to the guard to inspect it. After he fished out a huge cube of beef and smacked greedily at it, he passed it to Annette who devoured it with gratitude.
“Have you come to bail me out?” asked Annette hopefully.
Sophia shook her head.
“I asked, and they said you had a bail hearing set for Monday when the courts reopen. Has anyone said anything to you?”
“No,” whispered Annette. “I don’t have a lawyer, and I have been falsely accused. I – I don’t know what to do.”
“We’ll figure it out,” said Sophia softly.
“Time’s up!” ordered the guard. “You have to go!”
“My friend you don’t have to be so rude, eh?” snapped Sophia.
Her angry Nigerian accent seemed to make the guard back down, but only slightly. He stepped in to usher her out. Annette reached her hand through the jail bars.”
“Wait! Sophia…what you said the last time I saw you…was it –“
Sophia reached back and gripped her hand.
“None of it was true,” she assured her. “None of it.”
“Let’s go!” said the guard impatiently.
“Look here, joh, if you continue to speak to me this way I will have you fired!” growled Sophia.
Annette strained to hear the fading sounds of Sophia’s thunderous rebuke as she left the premises. She sank to the ground and allowed tears of relief to wash her face. Sophia loved her, and in that moment it was all she cared about.