It is two o’clock in the morning. Effe is in her old room in her parents’ house. She has not slept the whole night. Her pain is very great indeed.
The television is still on, showing a serial on Telenovela channel. On the floor is an empty wine bottle and a slim tumbler with a residue of wine inside, a clear indication that she had drank a full bottle of wine during the night. She gets up from the floor and enters the bathroom. She surveys her face in the mirror. Her eyes are puffy from all the crying. She brushes her teeth and takes a cold shower. She swallows two Panadol tablets to ease her acute headache. She slips into her warm bathrobe, wraps a towel around her hair and returns to her room. She stops dead in her tracks when she sees Steve sitting on her bed. He is dressed in crumpled black trousers, stained white shirt and black shoes. His tie is around his neck, untied, and his eyes look bloodshot. It is evident that he has not slept too. Effe leans against the doorjamb. Steve gets up from the bed and approaches her. His face is pained, and tears glisten on his lashes. He holds out his arms to hold her. EFFE (softly) Don’t, Steve, please! STEVE (his voice trembling) Oh, Honey! I’m so sorry! I never meant this to happen! I never meant to hurt you this way! Please, please forgive me, Honey! Steve’s legs suddenly collapses and he falls on his knees. He wraps his arms around Effe’s legs and begins to cry hard. STEVE Oh Honey! Please, please, please! I’m so sorry, honey! Please forgive me! Silent tears fall down Fffe’s cheeks. She disengages herself from Steve’s embrace and walks slowly to the center of the room. She wipes tears from her eyes and turns to face him as he gets to his feet. EFFE I guess you haven’t been home yet. STEVE I went home, expecting you to be there, but you didn’t show up, Honey. Called you all night long but you never picked my calls. EFFE My phone is in my bag in my car. I left my car at the parking lot at the hospital. STEVE (his voice dropping into a sob) Oh, my love! I’ve really hurt you. I went all the way to Tema, to your sister’s place in case you went there. I didn’t expect you to come to your parents. Your sister called your father, and he said you were here, so I came. Your father told me you were in your room. His expression told me you have told them everything. EFFE Yes, I did. I needed to tell somebody, otherwise I would’ve gone mad by now, Steve, from the shock and pain you gave me. He comes toward, his face more pained than ever, his arms wide to take her in his arms. STEVE (in a hurt voice) Oh Ef, Ef, Ef! Never meant to make you go through this. Never meant to hurt you like this, Honey! Please forgive me! Effe steps away from him. She walks to stand beside the television. He turns and see tears streaming down her face, and the pain on her face is more than he can bear. EFFE (her voice soft and full of pain) Ten years of marriage, Steve. I never had any reason to doubt you. You have been the epitome of a good husband. The kind of man any woman would wish for a husband. I go for a seminar and came back early to give you a sweet surprise, and see you making love to my own cousin, a woman who is closer to me even than my own sister! Are you the father of the baby she’s carrying? STEVE (looking ashamed) Honey- EFFE (shouting and tossing her head) DON’T YOU HONEY ME! ARE YOU THE FATHER OF ELAINE’S BABY??? Steve bites his lower lip and sits down wearily on the bed. He runs his left hand across his face and through his hair, and then bows his head and begins to weep uncontrollably. STEVE (speaking through his tears) Yes, Honey! Elaine’s baby is mine. Effe shakes as if she has received a physical blow. Her legs shake and she sinks to the floor. She moans as her own tears flow again. EFFE Oh, Steve! How could you hurt me like this? I know you wanted kids! I’ve been trying to get pregnant for you, Steve! I’ve done everything! I came to your bed a virgin, and I’ve known no other man! Is this how you repay me? Impregnating my own sister? Ahhh Steve! Steve shoots off the bed and rushes at her. He falls down on his knees in front of her and clasps his hands in front of her. STEVE Honey, I’ve wronged you, I’ve hurt you. You’ve been an angel, and you don’t deserve this. I’ve messed up, I’ve been a fool, a demon! Oh, Effe, please forgive me! Please, please, please, honey! EFFE You deserve an Oscar, Steve! When Elaine completed nursing school and I wanted her to come and stay with us and begged you to give her a job at Eden Hospital because you are the CEO, you were set against it! I’ve always felt guilty about pushing her on you, because you barely looked at her! Even at home you never even speak to her. To all intents and purposes you practically hated her! What a fool I’ve been! It was all an act! You seduced and slept with her! She’s in her ninth month, isn’t she? Have you been sleeping with her for all these two years she’s been with us? STEVE (slamming his fist repeatedly on the carpeted floor) No, no, no! Effe, don’t make me into some sort of monster! I’m not a monster! I adore you, and I love you more than I’d ever love any other woman! I’ll always love you! You don’t understand what happened! EFFE (shouting) THEN MAKE ME UNDERSTAND, STEVE!!! I’M DYING HERE! MAKE ME UNDERSTAND!!! Steve suddenly grabs Effe by the shoulders. His grip is hard, and his pained face is earnest. STEVE Yes, I’ll tell you the truth! It would make you hate me even more, but at least there would be no more lies in my heart, no more skeletons in my closest! Because, above all things, I want you to forgive me, and take me back into your heart on a clean sheet, my precious darling! Effe knocks Steve’s hands off her shoulders and stands up. She rips off the towel around her hair and wipes her face. She leans against the wall. EFFE (in a tiny lost voice ) Thrill me, Steve, my DEAR husband! Steve stands up and faces her. His face is haggard and puffy too. STEVE (gives a long forlorn sigh) I had a reason for not being happy when you asked me to let Elaine come and stay with us, and to give her a job after her graduation from nursing school. You know why? I’ll tell you why…I knew she was trouble! Ten years ago, on our wedding day, you remember we spent a long time at the reception. We got to the hotel quite late, and you fell asleep almost immediately when you fell on the bed. Elaine was the one who manned the Gift Table, remember? EFFE (so shocked she could barely speak) Are you telling me you slept with her on OUR wedding night? Jeez, Steve, she was what… only fifteen, sixteen years then??? STEVE (almost weeping again) No, damn it, give me some damn credit, Honey! She came to our room with the cash and cheques donated. You were asleep in your wedding gown. I was in the bathroom urinating when she entered behind me. She slipped her arms around my waist and took hold of my manhood! I swear I thought it was you! Then she giggled and said she was horny seeing me in my suit, and asked if I wanted a boost…that was exactly what she said, a BOOST! I was so shocked I couldn’t move for a moment, but when she began to caress my damn dick, I pushed her away and came back to the room, really shaken up because all along I had thought she was just a kid, an innocent child. Damn it, she was just sixteen years old then! She came back to the room, winked at me, and left. Sincerely, I didn’t like her after that, because I knew she was trouble! EFFE (putting trembling fingers to her lips) Trouble that you couldn’t stay away from! Trouble that you had to follow through! Why the hell didn’t you tell me about that, Steve? STEVE I didn’t want any family feuds, no family splits! That girl was more of a sister to you than even Eyram! You trusted her, and I didn’t wanna mess that up, quite stupid of me, I should add. Almost a year ago you went to Australia, remember? Effe shuts her eyes, and nods, and pain crosses her face instantly. EFFE (in a whisper) Yes, the Sydney Conference, for Surgeons. I was gone for a week. That was when it happened, wasn’t it? Steve turns away from her and walks aimlessly to the center of the room. Once again he rubs his hand across his face and sighs heavily. STEVE Yes, I went out one night, to Harold’s bachelor bash. Got quite drunk. Elaine and I were alone in the house. Your monthlies had not shown for a week before you left, way past the expected time, and I guess you and I were both hoping that you could be pregnant, finally, and we were so excited. You called me that night, when I was still at Harold’s place, and you were quite distraught, because your menses was flowing. I guess I was disappointed and very sad that night. EFFE (sadly) You didn’t sound disappointed. You consoled me on the phone! You gave me the strength to carry on. STEVE (in great distress) What else could I do, my love, as a loving husband? I got drunk, and when I got home Elaine opened the gates for me, I parked in the garage, and when I entered the living-room she was standing there, quite naked. I was drunk, I was sad, I was stupid! There’s no excuse for what happened, Honey! Effe closes her eyes tightly, but still the tears of hurt drip down her cheeks. EFFE Oh, my God! Oh, my God! I can’t take this! And it began from then? STEVE (his voice really sad and full of remorse) No, Precious! I was sorry for what happened, for allowing her to seduce me that night, for soiling my marriage bed! I told her not to come near me ever again. The following day I had to chair the conference at Akosombo, and so I left. When I came back a week later you were back, and I pretended that everything was okay. A month later she entered my office, said she missed her period. She was pregnant! EFFE (sobbing heartbreakingly now) And you were elated, weren’t you? Finally you had an heir, something I couldn’t give you because, to all intents and purposes, I’m barren! Your mother had been giving us hell because you were an only child, and she needed a grandchild! Your father had been giving me hell because he needed a male grandchild to carry on your name! And so you were so happy Elaine told you she was pregnant that you decided to keep it a secret, even if it would hurt me! Steve comes to her and falls to his knees. He reaches up and takes her hands. STEVE My love, no! I wanted her to get an abortion! I was so disgusted with myself! I couldn’t look in the mirror because I hated myself! I never wanted to hurt you! I told her no! But she went to my parents and confessed! My Mom called me saying she had something important to discuss with me. When I went there Elaine was sitting with them. They were so delighted. The arrangement was that you would not know. Elaine would give birth and the child would stay with my folks! EFFE (sobbing and wrenching her hands from his grip) HOW ON EARTH WOULDN’T I KNOW? DID YOU THINK YOU COULD KEEP SUCH A DASTARDLY ACT A SECRET FOREVER?? STEVE (quite anxious and scared) Forgive me, Honey! Oh, please forgive me! I never meant to hurt you, Effe! EFFE And ever since your Mom spoke to you, the two of you have been sleeping together, haven’t you, Steve? He remains on his knees. He can’t asnwer. He begins to sob. EFFE Answer me, Steve, DEAREST husband!! You have been sleeping together, haven’t you? Constantly??? Just like I saw you in the office, making love to her? He still remains silent. Effe walks to him, and speaks sofltly. EFFE Haveyou been making love to her in our bed, Steve? I want you to answer that please, honestly! Steve turns to her, and his anguished face is awash with tears. STEVE Please, Ef, my Precious! Let’s walk past this darkness! We can resolve this, Precious! I don’t want to lose you! EFFE (wiping tears from her eyes) Have you been making love to her on our bed? Steve hangs his head in shame and gives a small nod. STEVE Sometimes, yes, my love. Effe gasps. Her heart is tearing apart. She finds it difficult breathing. EFFE Look at your finger, Steve, dear husband! You are not wearing the ring I put on your finger at our wedding, after we exchanged vows. You have taken it off! Where is your wedding ring, Steve? WHERE’S YOUR DAMN WEDDING RING??? Steve holds up his hands. Tears drop on his ring finger which shows a white outline where his wedding ring has been. STEVE (trembling with the depths of his tears) Elaine, my dear! She doesn’t want to see me wearing my wedding ring whenever we’re together. EFFE (in a choked voice) You mean when you’re making love to her! You damn hypocrite, Steve! Get out! GET OUT NOW! I DON’T EVER WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN!!! Steve gets to his feet, and tries desperately to hold her. She screams and pummels his chest with her fists. Tears drown her as she shouts and frees herself from his embrace. She throws the door open and flees down the staircase. Her parents are in the living-room. They stand up as Steve stumbles down the stairs after her. STEVE Effe! Please don’t do this! I don’t wanna lose you!!! Mrs. Ivy Kedem reaches out for Effe. Effe holds her mother tightly and begins to cry. Mr. Ken Kedem meets Steve at the foot of the staircase and blocks his path as he tries to reach Effe. EFFE (her face buried in her Mom’s chest) Let him go, Daddy! Get him out of here! I don’t want to see him! Oh Lord! This pain is too much! I’m dying, Mommy!! Ivy brushes her daughter’s hair with her hands and holds her tightly. MADAM IVY It’s okay, my dear girl, my darling! You’re going to be fine! Steve tries to move past Mr. Kedem, but the man blocks him again. KEN KEDEM That’s enough, boy! Let her be for now. She’s distraught. She needs her mother. You should come back when she’s a bit calm. STEVE (in a plaintive voice) Please, Daddy, please! Let us… EFFE (screaming) GET THE HELL OUT!!! STEVE My Princess… MADAM IVY (harshly) Just go, Steve, just go! Give her space to breathe! Steve hesitates a moment. His face is tortured. He sighs deeply and his tears blind him. STEVE I’m sorry, Effe, darling. Please find it in your heart to forgive me! I wish you would come back home, honey, and let me show you how really sorry I am. Mr. Kedem takes Steve’s arm and leads him out of the room. Slowly Madam Ivy guides Effe to a settee and helps her sit down, but still holds her as Effe cries her heart out.