The Church office was almost quiet except the Te Deum that was playing in the background through a pair of cute Altec Lansing desktop speakers attached to the rather antiquated white colour brandless Desktop computer. Mother Genevieve flipped through the Holy Scriptures from page to page looking for only she knew what.
Her illegitimate Granddaughter sat quietly in the sofa across from where Pattie was sitting, playing with her doll that looked more like something from a horror movie. The doll had no eyes and no left leg; yet Grace caringly played with the doll with an edge of sympathy towards it, trying her best with her feeble hands to plait its tangled hair.
She looked so lean and sad that without prior knowledge of how she entered this world, your first impression would be that her entrance was a tough one. Yes she was illegitimate, having been born two and half months earlier than this cold world was ready for her, to an unwedded mother who was then 19 year old and happened to be the only biological daughter of Rev. and Mrs Ofori.
But of course, no one was there to talk about someone’s legitimacy or otherwise. Pattie shuddered at the thought of what could have happened if George had not been in London with her when she got pregnant. In their current situation, her own daughter would have been seen as a product of adultery regardless of what DNA test might have revealed.
She felt sorry for her sorry self. Yet she wondered in a self-assessing way if that feeling was legitimate or it was one of the many remorseful feelings that suddenly pop up anytime you are confronted with your indiscretion and folly. She knew no matter how sorry she felt now; she would probably not have felt that way if the events of the past few days had not unfolded.
She had been in Ghana for six months now and though it hadn’t been the best moment of her marriage, she had managed to keep a good facade and locked the past in the pitch black vault of her mind. George had made love to her on few occasions; something she was sure he did out of respect for her and his desire to keep their marital vows intact, not out of love and passion.
Yes nothing had changed. There was no label or tag or expression which said, ‘this place has been visited by another man’. Yet as spiritual as humans are, his spirit had felt a pinch the first time he visited her sexually and something died in him from that day.
That question has never come up. Pattie did you ever sleep with Sam? Never. And how she wished he would ask so she would lie about it; give him assurances so plausible he will not ask her again. The drama she had planned on giving him the day that question comes up; the tears and the swearing on her grandma’s grave and all that. But that question is yet to come. Yet every time he looked at her, she knew the question was dancing in his watery eyes...Pattie, did he do you... did he go to my sacred shrine?
And the more he kept quiet about it the more it tormented her. Going weeks without sex was unbearable especially if it was George the Sex Maniac they were talking about. Yet anytime he held her, no matter how distance he was emotionally, he tried to make the moment worthwhile.
Suddenly she believed in his saying that people are spiritual and anyone who harnesses his spirit well can discern the thought of others. What if he knew she would lie about Sam if he asked her? Well that could be a reason why he is not asking… ‘save your lies you bloody lying cheat.’
His silence was killing her.
George your silence is killing me. She felt like yelling right there and then. She kept her gaze on little Grace still struggling to plait the tangled hair of the eyeless-left-legless-Chucky the Doll. Grace raised up her head to see Pattie looking at her; she gave a shy smile typical of four year old girls. Pattie returned one and waved at her.
Mrs Ofori caught the interaction and looked up. Pattie smiled at her with a countenance that told of sadness and regret and an urgent desire to confess; it was the same urgency that attaches to someone looking for a place to throw up. She was red on her face and around her neck
“Are you ok?” She asked her adopted daughter looking a bit alarmed. She reflexively looked at the newly installed Chinese version of the Whirlpool air conditioner just to confirm it was at the right temperature.18 degrees Celsius.
“Yea I am fine.” Pattie said quietly and nodded synchronously adding a weak sad smile to it.
“Hmm.” Mrs Ofori exhaled closing the Bible. “Maame Serwaa, go out and play with Adutwumwaa; and no one should come in here until you see me out, ok?”
The look on her face as she spoke was self-explanatory. Tall lanky Grace, also known as Maame Serwaa, hurriedly disappeared through the thick teak doors.
“Shall we pray” Mrs Ofori said and closed her eyes praying a brief prayer with words carefully chosen and pregnant with spiritual meanings.
“Mrs Annan, if I may call you that, and I insist on calling you that, what brought you here?” She said with a tint of warmth in her smile. Pattie laughed trying to appear as calm and collected as possible.
“Oh Maa, Pattie will just be ok.”
“Oh come on, don’t be silly my child; you are married and I have to see you as the woman you are, not the wild little Pattie.” Mrs Ofori said insisting and paused. “You have really changed though.” she went on. “You are now a beautiful woman. I always thank God for your life in all things. Maadwoa has messed up, yes, but as a mother, I still need to keep her as close to my bosom as possible. This is not a time to cast her away; to whom and for who to take care of her? She is my daughter and I love her even if she has a child with three different men all refusing to accept responsibility. I am done crying over it. What can I do? My tears won’t wipe away the shame she has brought upon herself and the family, can they?” Mrs. Ofori spoke trying her best to conceal the pain in her heart.
Pattie only sat nodding her head in affirmation. Her heartbeat picked up, quickly dawning on her the purpose of her visit will not be an easy task to accomplish looking at the angle Mrs. Ofori was meeting her from. She had a lot of disappointments in her own daughter and now she will be shattered by what she was about to tell her.
“I have never stopped praying for you children and I am happy you’re doing so well. Your husband is a very lucky person. But the truth is you are luckier to have had him.” Mrs. Ofori added; a sentence that hit Pattie with a blistering heat.
“Yes so I am all ears.” Mrs Ofori went on. “And I still cannot understand why you did not bring Carol. That is a sin you know; you cannot keep my granddaughter away from me!” She laughed before composing herself when she realised Pattie was waiting to tell her why she was there.
“Maa my marriage is over” Pattie said quietly; so detached you might not trace the words to her. My Marriage is over. There was no other way she could say it. Then it occurred to her she did not cry, she did not wince, she did not miss a heartbeat. But moments ago, she knew she would breakdown if she even said it in any milder way. My Marriage is over. So simple you could liken it to a boss meeting a subordinate in a lobby and saying hello; simple, straight and with no attachment.
“Jesus! Don’t be silly Pat!” Mrs. Ofori said, slamming her palm on her thigh. “How could you think like that? Whatever the problem you may have, the last resort, if it is, is a divorce. What is wrong with you kids of today? You open your mouth and it is all about divorce. My husband did not compliment me for my effort, I am getting a divorce; I saw him talking to some lady, I am getting a divorce; this, I am getting a divorce; that, I am getting a divorce.
Well I’ve got news for you, divorce is not some ice cream they sell at Frankie’s; you don't get it as and when you feel like. I bet you have forgotten your wedding vows. If I insist you recite it here and now for me, we might as well sleep here. But that was a vow you took; a vow everyone expects you to abide by for as long as it’s relevant to you - and it will always be relevant so long as the institution, whose establishment made you pronounce those vows is intact. And by that institution I mean marriage!” Mother Genny spat the words mildly outraged by Pattie’s accession.
“Is your husband dead?” She asked with eyes so bulging they seem to want to pop out of their sockets.
“No.” Pattie responded suddenly realised again, the response she was anticipating was not going to come. This woman has changed. She would not be pampered and her folly belittled. She decided she was going to keep an open mind during this session.
“Good. Then it is till death do you two part.” Mrs. Ofori said, very much gratified with herself.
“Why would you even think that there is anything that will make your beautiful marriage end so soon? You have been married for just about five years Pat.” Then she added more soberly. “You are a beautiful responsible and God fearing woman, married to a man of similar breed. What it is that could be more than what the two of you could handle? My child, divorce is out.”
“Now let’s pray again. Dear Lord Jesus...”
Before she could proceed any further with the prayer, Pattie burst into torrential tears leaving Mrs Ofori sitting there petrified. The prayer she started truncated, not knowing what to think, not wanting to think; not knowing what to say, not wanting to say anything. She got out of her seat and joined Pattie in hers, wrapping her motherly arms around her broken shoulders, absorbing the heaves and chokes from the broken girl. All she could do was to hold Pattie tightly; so tight she could simply swallow her pain.
She quietly prayed as Pattie wailed out all her pent up fears, anger, disappointment and despair. Tears she had never been able to shed since that infamous rainy night; the night she had cut her husband off the line and slept with another man – The night she slept with Sam.
“It’s alright my child calm down.” Mrs. Ofori consoled her. “Whatever it is, we will go through it together. Just calm down and tell me all about it.”
But Pattie could not calm down. The pain was too much, the trouble too heavy for her to bear; but even heavier was it for her to bring out. She was caught up in the maze of the desperation of a pregnant woman. She wished everything was out; the joy of knowing she was not carrying it again and that she had moved on. But then she lacked the courage to push or probably the pain of pushing was just too much that she was lost in between; wondering which one was harder? Do I keep it or I push it out?
“There is nothing too difficult for God to deal with my dear; you knew God can and will help you that was why you came here and that is exactly what you’ll get – Help! So wipe your tears and talk to me. I don’t want anyone walking in through that door to meet you in this condition; not too good.”
Pattie looked up for the first time with white watery eyes beautifully set in her sweet fair face. At least her eyes were not bloodshot; not that Mrs. Ofori was looking out for it though. She produced a tissue paper from a pack that sat on the coffee table next to the sofa and gave it to Pattie.
Pattie took it and involuntarily crumpled it like it was used already. She held on tightly to it in a clinched fist. Mrs. Ofori brought a second one, and dabbed Pattie’s tears herself, going beyond it to clean up the watery mucous streaming gleefully out of her beautifully crafted nose.
Pattie took the tissue and blew her nose, ridding it of the last bit of the mucous.
“Maa, my diary is lost. And George is lost; he has been gone for two days without a call.”
Mrs. Ofori allowed a mild frown on her face. “Your diary is missing and your husband is missing for two days.” She repeated what she had just heard. “And you think the two are connected?”
“I can’t say so, but I strongly suspect that. George won’t just disappear and decide not to pick my calls. I spoke with two of his friends the same day I noticed he had stayed out late, and they told me he was taking a business trip.”
“But why would his phone be off and why would he not tell you?” Mrs. Ofori asked.
“Exactly what I was thinking; so I called a third friend of his, Kwame; I don’t know if you have seen them together. Tall, well-built and light skinned.”
“Yea I think I have seen them a couple of times. He drives a big SUV?”
“Yea that is him. A Range Rover. I called him and he did not sound too excited. He told me not to call the police because George was Ok. Apparently he had told all his friends not to reveal his whereabouts to me because he needed some time to think things through. But he, Kwame, told me whatever it was, might be something that had to do with when I was in London and looks like he, George, was not in a good shape right now.” Pattie said recalling the conversation she had with Kwame the Friday night George stayed out past 11pm and was not answering his cell phone.
“Aah? So what if his life is in danger? Give me Kwame’s number. Please we need to speak with him. We cannot just sit here and wait for your husband to finally show up. What if he decides to do something silly?” Mrs. Ofori spoke with a measure of urgency in her voice and looking visibly alarmed.
“Hmm. Maa, there is nothing I have not said nor done. Am I am sure whatever it is, they all know; they are just not telling me because of what he might have told them. His other friends are now not picking my calls. One of them picked anyway and said George is not picking his calls and the others are not picking his calls as well. Justin.” Pattie said; her voice laden with desperation.
“Well I still need to speak with his friend. Give me his number.” Mrs. Ofori insisted.
“I have not slept since Friday night when I realised he was not coming home.” Pattie said wearily.
“So where is Carol?”
“I sent her to Abi.”
Abi is Pattie’s stepsister. Pattie’s mother had married Abi’s father when Pattie’s father died. Abi’s father also died 5 years later when Pattie was only 10 years old. The two-times widow could not take it any longer and joined her first husband, Pattie’s father, whom she loved most in the afterlife; two months after her second husband, Abi’s father, whom she loved less had died.
After that, Rev. Canon and Mrs Ofori took them into the church mission house and catered for them as their own. In all five children went into the care of the good old pastor, Pattie herself included. There were, however, three children from two of Mother Genny’s sisters who were not in Ghana in addition to the Reverend’s own four children.
Twelve children was more than a huge number for an Anglican Priest who was paid a pittance to cater for. But through the grace of God and the benevolence of the church and well-wishers, most of the children had grown up to be very responsible and well placed.
Maadwoa is now the family’s actic story. 23 years with an illegitimate child, and a struggling Ghana-China-Dubai-Ghana business woman.
“Eh heh, what is in the diary? Was it something you wrote in it?” The elderly woman asked realising she was sympathising with a girl who was talking about something she had no idea what the complete details were.
Pattie responded with blunt silence.
“What is in the diary?” She repeated herself.
“It was a note in it; a card. A note written in the card.” She answered mechanically.
“Just a card?” She probed further
“From a Man?”
“Maa I slept with another man” Pattie blurted out and burst into another round of tears. She fell from the sofa and buried her face in between Mrs. Ofori’s thighs.
“Yesu!!!! Pat!? You what?” The elderly woman screamed in utter horror. She felt a big bang in her mind; an explosion and tiny bits of shrapnel all flying in different directions in slow, almost imperceptible motion; the seconds felt like days the colours a bit too bright, the wails from Pattie too loud. Everything was scrambled. She felt she was going to pass out.
“Oh no my dear, this cannot be true. Another man saw your husband’s honour? Jesus! Tell me it is a lie Pat! What? Another man?” Mrs. Ofori was beside herself with inexpressible emotions.
“Ok Pat, hold yourself together. I am sorry, but you have to calm down and tell me what I need to know.”
Mother Genny calmed down and calmed Pattie down when she realized her own responses might make it difficult for the already broken girl to come any cleaner.
“Maa I am done. I am totally done; completely finished.” Pat could not hold it again. “George was all I had; he meant the world to me. I messed it up. I lost a good person. Oh God. Why me? What have I done? Maa. Help me. Oh Jesus; Maa help me, please.” She wept so pitifully it completely shattered Mrs. Ofori.
You slept with another man? That was all Mrs. Ofori could hear herself saying silently. She did not even realised tears were crawling down her face. Pattie’s pain was too heart wrenching to stay aloft. She picked her cell phone and without permission, called her husband and requested his presence immediately.
“My dear I have called your dad, I know this is the last thing you want to hear and the last person you want to see, but I know this situation is bigger than me; and as the head of the family and the church, I need to let him handle this. That is his honour.”
Mrs Ofori was not certain if Pattie heard what she said; she was beside herself with remorse. Then it fleetingly crossed her mind Pattie could be staging it; all the remorse and all that. As a mother of the parish she has seen it all. But she quickly dismissed the thought before it could build up apathy towards the poor girl. She knew there must have been something more than just a normal incidence that could make a good girl do such a terrible thing.... End of Part One
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