They are having a family dinner. Madam Ivy has whipped up a most sumptuous palava sauce with goat meat and boiled yam. Ken Kedem says the prayer, and when they begin to eat it is just like old times.
Eyram, relieved and obviously happy, is perhaps enjoying dinner more than anybody else. Effe is moody and avoids eye contact with her mother. Afterwards the sisters clear the table and wash up whilst their parents sit in the hall and watch a Telenovela with Mr. Kedem holding his grandson. With the utensils cleaned and stashed Eyram goes to the hall to breast-feed and Effe begins to climb the stairs to her room. KEN KEDEM My Princess, a moment, please. Effe looks uncertain for a moment, and then she goes and sits beside her father. Junior stops breast-feeding and stretches his tiny arms out to Effe and kicks his little legs hard in apparent agitation. EYRAM (laughing) I hate it when he does that. Almost like his fool of a father! Effe smiles and takes the baby and kisses his cheeks tenderly, and the tot giggles. KEN KEDEM I think we need to talk, people. It’s not every day that sisters’ marriages break down at the same time. EYRAM For very different reasons, Daddy. Two men, two friends, both assholes! KEN KEDEM (sharply) I’m still not tolerating that kind of language in my house, lady! EYRAM (making a zipping gesture on her lips) Sorry, Daddy. KEN KEDEM Right. I must first apologize to you, Eyram. I didn’t know you were going through so much pain in your marriage, and putting up with the cruelty of your husband because of your fear of what he might do to me and my Company. I am very sorry. Please, accept my apologies and gratitude. I don’t subscribe to divorces. This dawn Jonathan called me. He’s contrite, and he’s sorry, and he wants you back. I think what that boy Chris did to him has brought his mind home. Now- EYRAM (cutting in firmly) Daddy, no. He CAN’T change. And moreover, I don’t love him anymore. KEN KEDEM (holding up a finger) I know, but nobody has a perfect marriage. He was a beast, yes, and acted irresponsibly because he thought he had you on a leash. Now his power has been taken away, and maybe he would turn a new leaf. You have to give him a second chance. EYRAM (grimacing) He can’t change, Daddy. His evil is not restricted to beating me up alone. There are… other things, other bad things. I don’t trust him, and I’m not going to ever feel safe with him again. KEN KEDEM (sighing) I can’t force you, dear. You’re always welcome home. But take some days off to think this through. Take a week, maybe two, and if at the end of that you still feel this way, we would all support you, okay? Eyram nods, stands up and kisses her father’s cheek. EYRAM Fair enough, Dad. KEN KEDEM Now. Ivy, I think you really surprised us yesterday over your reaction to Chris. Surprising because it’s the first time you’ve shown open hostility to the friends of your daughters. I didn’t want us to discuss it yesterday because tensions were running high. What happened, dear? Effe has been very hurt since then. She’s going through a very bad time, but it seems this boy gives her the right kind of shoulder to lay her head. What happened, Ivy? Madam Ivy looks at Effe as she speaks. MADAM IVY I’m sorry, baby girl. I was out of line speaking so directly to Chris that way. I should’ve waited and had a motherly chat with you. You have to forgive me. But I was overwhelmed, dear. Maybe it is my failure to control your affairs, especially your love lives, as you girls were growing up, that has resulted in such bad marriages for you. I just saw that boy and he looked like a player to me. The kind of man that would sleep with you and leave you. My motherly instincts came to the fore, and all I could think of was to protect you. Effe looks at her mother with a bit of confusion on her face. EFFE (voice hurt) Surely, Mama, you must know me by now. I usually don’t do rash things. I know I’m hurting, but that wouldn’t push me to lick the feet of the first man available. Your reaction to Chris really hurt me yesterday. I like him, Mama. MADAM IVY (her voice earnest) Dear Princess, that’s my fear! You’ve had your Degree, your Masters, your Doctorate, and how many other certificates? Uncountable! You’re brilliant, and you have a wonderful future ahead of you, time to meet more people, more suitors. That boy is a taxi driver! KEN KEDEM Good grief, Ivy! I can’t believe you! When I met you, I was unemployed! MADAM IVY But you had a certificate, dearest. You were educated! EYRAM Mama! Look at what our educated husbands are doing to us! I’ll marry an illiterate who would make me happy and who would be committed to me, as long as we can earn enough to live on, and to care for our children! Chris is so handsome, and I don’t believe he’s illiterate. And even if he is, Effe makes enough money. He could go back to school! EFFE (still sounding hurt) I don’t even know why you are behaving like this, Mama. I never said Chris and I are headed anywhere. He’s a friend. I can choose my friends, can’t I, Mama? Madam Ivy stands up and sits beside Effe. She takes her daughter’s hands and speaks tenderly and earnestly. MADAM IVY Don’t say just friends, Effe. Why do you think I was scared? I saw the way you two looked at each other, and I was so scared. That boy is in love with you. EFFE (softly) Wow, Mama! You saw all that? We’re just friends. KEN KEDEM (smiling broadly) Naaah, Princess. That boy loves you. I don’t have any complaints about him. He did for me in ten minutes what none of your husbands could do in ten years! Effe looks at her father, exasperated. She looks at Eyram, who smiles mischievously at her. EYRAM He looks at you as if he wants to devour you. Love and lust were just drooling out of his face. MADAM IVY That’s what I saw. Forgive me, baby girl, for being so direct and gross. I was just worried for you. EFFE Trust me, Mama. I’ll be fine. She gets up, and hands Junior back to Eyram. They all look at her, at the warm glow on her cheeks and the dancing lights in her eyes. She climbs the stairs with quick steps. EYRAM (softly) Oh-ohh! I think some lady is feeling love bugs! Madam Ivy’s jaw sets hard and angrily. Back in her room Effe undresses slowly. She runs a warm bath, puts fragrances and liquid soaps in and slips in. She lets the sweet scent assail her, leans back in the soapy water, and closes her eyes. She sighs deeply. From time to time she looks at the phone lying on a special clipper on a side table beside the bath. She feels the happy bubble lying somewhere deep in her. She hears her family… HE LOVES YOU, HE LOVES YOU! She feels like a teenager all over again. That special feeling of love, the secret looks, the sweet letters, the gentle touches. She has felt them only with Steve, but this has a bit more rush, a strange power that both exhilarates and scares her. The phone rings, and even with her eyes closed she smiles and sighs with happiness. She has given him a special tone just that afternoon. She gets up, leans over the bath and picks the phone. She dries her hands and picks the call, and puts it on speaker. EFFE (softly, mischievously) Darling Boy. Chris laughs. It is a slow, deep laugh, and she imagines the dimples creasing his cheeks. CHRIS You said you would never use my nickname, Precious. EFFE (laughing gently) Just teasing you, Mr. Jackie Chan. He laughs again. CHRIS I can’t sleep. I miss you. She is quiet for a very long time. When she speaks her voice is very soft and sentimental. EFFE My Mama is right about you, Mr. Chris Bawa. You’re a very dangerous boy. Can’t sleep too. I miss you too, Taxi Driver. CHRIS (chuckling) Your Mama still hates me? EFFE I think she’s okay now. CHRIS I’m glad. What are you doing now? Sleeping? EFFE (a demure look on her face) No. Taking a bath. CHRIS Ah. EFFE (smiling) What do you mean ‘ah’? CHRIS (very softly) Don’t do that, Effe. Please. She understands. She imagines him looking serious. She knows it is a serious moment. EFFE Will I see you tomorrow? He is quiet for a long time. CHRIS There’s something I gotta do, Effe. In the morning. When I finish, I’ll call you. Good night, Precious. Sleep well. Effe’s heart beats fast with sudden fear. She suddenly knows, deep down, that something bad is going on, that Chris might be in danger. She calls his number, but it is switched off. Suddenly it dawns on her that she has not bothered to find out where he lives. She knows deep down, with the instincts of love, that whatever Chris is going to do in the morning could be dangerous, and she has to be there. But where is he going to? What is he going to do? Why does she feel this great sense of danger? There is only one place she knows of where he has been in danger. Elm’s Bar. She baths quickly and puts on her nightie. She cannot sleep. She feels her fear escalating with each passing minute. She tries to tell herself that she is overreacting. Maybe he has to go and see Mrs. Ayeh. There are a thousand things he could be doing. She does not know that much about him. Maybe he has other commitments. But she still cannot rid herself of the fear, of the panic that has gripped her heart for him, the feeling that he is in danger. EFFE Damn you, Chris! You promised me no more gambling!