Effe wakes up with a little moan and sits up in bed. She had had a nightmare! She had seen Chris lying in a pool of blood! She looks at the bedside lamp. It reads 5.00 a.m.
She picks up her phone. There is no missed call, and her heart sinks. She calls his number. The phone is still switched off. Her fear begins to mount. She has never given much thoughts to dreams and nightmares in the past, but somehow, she can’t shake off the feeling that Chris is in danger. She gets up quickly and takes a quick bath. Dressed in a hugging black jean and a beautiful pink and white top with a beaded strand hem, she quickly descends to the living-room to find her mother sitting in front of the television in her nightdress. Her Mom looks at her from a face that is cold. MADAM IVY You’re not dressed for the office, and you’re up early. I’m convinced it is about that Chris boy. Effe stills her sudden flaring anger, and goes and kneels by her mother’s side. She strives to remain calm as she looks at her mother. EFFE Mama, I love you very much. You’re everything to me. You’ve always been the backbone of this family. I have always done my best to please you. I must tell you, however, that this collision course we’re embarking on is really beginning to hurt me. Madam Ivy leans forward, her face earnest, almost pained. MADAM IVY My love, but whatever I do, it’s out of love! I’ve never stood in your way, ever, have I? I just feel this is wrong! He’s the wrong type of man for you! Effe shakes her head, confused. EFFE But why, Mama? Because he’s poor? I have enough money for both of us! Because he’s not highly educated? He can further his studies because he’s still quite young and smart! Because he drives a cab? I can make him stop and help Daddy at the Company! But you know I don’t really care about all these things! MADAM IVY (sighing, still earnest) Do you love him, Afi? Effe looks at her mother and shakes her head slowly. EFFE I care about him, yes. But love… I don’t think so. I just met him two weeks ago, and since then so many things have happened. My divorce, Steve’s betrayal, his marriage to Elaine. Time has passed in a blur, but I can tell you that I didn’t go mad over all that Steve did to me simply because I met Chris. He saved my sanity, and I like him a lot, but I don’t think I’m in love with him. Yet. MADAM IVY Has he tried to seduce you, make love to you? EFFE (shocked, outraged) Mama! Give me a little respect! MADAM IVY (remorseful, contrite) I’m sorry, baby girl. I’m terribly sorry. But I just want to make sure you don’t make a mistake. Handsome guys like Chris have the propensity of breaking a lot of hearts. Just be careful. EFFE (icily) I will, Mama. Thanks. Can I borrow your car this morning? MADAM IVY (looking concerned) But your arm? Is that not why Chris is driving you? EFFE Oh, it’s better. I won’t strain it. Madam Ivy picks up her car keys from the coffee table and hands it to her. MADAM IVY Be careful, baby. EFFE I will. Thanks, Mama. She drives on the lonely streets of Dzorwulu and soon reaches Madina. When she gets to Elm’s Bar she sees that a lot of sleek cars are parked around the premises. There are lights inside and she is surprised to see that there are four huge men guarding the entrance. She parks and walks rapidly to the entrance where the four men block her path. ONE BOUNCER (voice cold) Where are you going to, Madam? EFFE Inside, of course. ONE BOUNCER We’re sorry. It’s closed. Public entrance opens at ten in the morning. EFFE (exasperated) But there’re people inside! ONE BOUNCER They’re Gold Members, please. Effe opens her bag and brings out two hundred cedis in fifty-cedi notes. EFFE Please, I have to go in. I’m looking for Chris, please. The bouncers look at each other uneasily, and Effe adds a hundred cedis more. The bouncer takes the money reluctantly, and he takes a tag from one of his friends and hands it to Effe. ONE BOUNCER You’re really putting us in trouble, madam. It’s because you mentioned the Darling Boy’s name that’s why we’re helping you. Put the tag around your neck, please. Effe puts the gold-plated tag around her neck. EFFE Thank you very much. Chris is here, isn’t he? ONE BOUNCER Yes, madam. Upstairs. Effe shakes her head with disappointment. EFFE Arm-wrestling, isn’t he? ONE BOUNCER No. Knuckle fighting. He won the last time, but his friend Abdul Adams owes Mrs. Simpson a lot of money, and so she arranged the fight for Abdul to pay off, but he lost. They threatened to send him to prison if he didn’t pay. So, he begged Darling Boy to fight for him to pay off the debt. But madam, I’m afraid for the boy paa o! The man they brought is a Chinese man who can fight Kung Fu. He beat Abdul papa! Effe stares at the men with a fear so great that she feels her legs shaking. She shakes her head numbly. EFFE Wait, let me get this straight. Chris has a friend called Abdul, who owes a Mrs. Simpson a lot of money. This Mrs. Simpson arranges a fight for Abdul to pay off the debt if he wins, and Abdul loses the fight, so he owes Mrs. Simpson more money. And so, Abdul now asks Chris to fight for him, against a Chinese skilled in martial arts? The bouncer nods. ONE BOUNCER Ten rounds. They’re upstairs. It seems Darling Boy is losing. Please don’t tell them I told you this o! If you’re his friend please go up and save him, I beg, because we love Chris paa! Effe does not wait for more. She enters the bar. There are tables and chairs, as usual, but there is nobody around. She hears commotion coming from upstairs, and she quickly begins to climb the stairs leading up where Chris had emerged from the first time she came to the Elm’s Bar. She can’t believe such things happened in Ghana. With her heart beating with fear she finds herself on a beautiful corridor. There are two other men at the end of the corridor guarding a door. She approaches them. When they see the tag around her neck they open the door for her. When she enters she is shocked at what she sees. There are a lot of beautiful cushioned chairs around a boxing ring. The place is filled with expensively-dressed men and women. She recognizes some of the faces; they are very important people in society. Some of them are drinking. Some are screaming. Effe’s attention goes to the ring, and what she sees almost makes her faint. EFFE Oh, dear Lord! Oh, Chris!! Chris is wearing only black boxing shorts. In front of the shorts are the words DARLING BOY. He has black gloves on his hands. He is in one corner, and a muscular Chinese in red shorts is hitting Chris over and over with his white gloves. The Chinese is not as tall as Chris, but he is very squat and very broad. There is blood on Chris’ face, and he is holding his arms across his chest to stop the blows from the Chinese man. The Chinese fighter steps back and delivers a terrible right hook to the side of Chris’ head. The blow flings Chris hard to the canvas. The crowd cheers and screams. A referee in black trousers and white shirt and bowtie begins to count. Chris is lying on his back, blood around his face… just like she had seen in her dream, her nightmare… and the tears flow down Effe’s beautiful cheeks unchecked. Chris tries to get to his feet, and he crashes heavily to the canvas again. The referee is still counting. Chris screams and pushes first to a sitting position, and then he stands up and trembles unsteadily on his feet. Suddenly a bell rings, and the Chinese man turns and holds up his arms in victory. The people scream and cheer. The Chinese man heads for one corner and sits down. Chris begins to walk slowly to another corner. His legs are unsteady. There is a bad cut over his right eye and it is bleeding profusely. His hands hang limply by his sides, and his head is bowed. He seems to be in a lot of pain. He sits down on a chair which a tall muscular man with a huge beard puts down in the corner. Chris hangs his head. The tears fall down Effe’s cheeks as she runs through the rows and climbs the stairs leading up to Chris’ corner. The huge man with the beard is towelling Chris, and then trying to stem the flow of blood on Chris’ face with a towel unsuccessfully. People scream at Effe, but she does not mind them. She pushes the hands that try to stop her aside, and then she climbs through the ropes and falls to her knees in front of Chris. The man towelling Chris looks at her with sudden shock. EFFE Are you Abdul? ABDUL Yes, madam. But who’re you? You’re not supposed to be in the ring, please. Effe wipes tears from her face and looks at the bearded man severely. EFFE You should be ashamed of yourself! Why should you let your friend take such a beating for you? Chris looks up slowly, and Effe gasps at what she sees. His face is very swollen, and his right eye is almost shut because of the deep cut above it. His lips are also swollen badly. CHRIS (his speech slurred) Effe? My God, Precious! What’re you doing here? EFFE You shut the hell up, Chris Bawa. You’re stopping this nonsense right now! You’re coming with me! Suddenly there are two huge men in coats in the ring. They take hold of Effe’s arms and drag her to her feet. CHRIS (getting up and screaming) Hey! Leave her alone, bastards! He tries to move forward but Abdul holds him tightly to prevent him. ABDUL Come on, Chris! She’s in the ring, against the regulations. Just one more round, boy! You survive this round and we’re home dry! The men forcibly drag Effe out of the ring. She screams and struggles, but to no avail. She is crying now, calling Chris’ name over and over. CHRIS (his voice tortured, pained) EFFE! EFFE! Hey, leave her alone, you damn bastards! He tries to get out of the ring, but a grey-haired man in a black suit suddenly pulls out a gun and aims it at Chris, his eyes filled with hatred. GREY-HAIRED MAN (harshly) Get back in there, Chris! You flout the rules and I’ll put a bullet through your knee! The two men roughly shove Effe into an empty seat beside a woman dressed in a smashing white dress. The woman looks distinguished, but she is a bit old and her expensive make-up can’t hide the crow’s feet around her eyes. MRS. SIMPSON Hello, I’m Vivica Simpson. Sorry, but you can’t rescue your darling boy until my Chinese fighter cuts him to ribbons! She laughs and blows cigarette smoke into Effe’s face. Effe stares at her with tears streaming down her face. EFFE Jesus, who’re you people? You’re very terrible people! The woman laughs. Just then the bell rings again. Chris is still standing inside the ring, looking across at where Effe is sitting, guarded by the two men. The Chinese is on his feet, taking a Kung Fu stance and screaming. Effe sees that Chris’ face is suddenly filled with a terrible rage. He turns and faces the Chinese man. He begins to walk towards the Chinese man who runs towards Chris and leaps into the air, still screaming, his knee crooked to smash into Chris’ face. Chris turns to one side in a flash, catches the flailing leg of the Chinese man, swivels and slams the man into a corner of the ring with such brute force that the Chinese man gives a terrible scream of pain. The whole auditorium goes as quiet as a cemetery. The Chinese gains his feet, but he is hurt, and stands tottering. Chris crashes a fist into the man’s face, again with beastly force, and the man falls flat on his back, and blood erupts from his mouth in sprays. The Chinese struggles to his knees as the referee begins to count. He drags himself up, sways a bit, and then he screams and aims a blow at Chris’ neck, but Chris steps gently to one side and kicks the Chinese man’s right knee. This time the Chinese yowls in a blood-curdling manner, and falls down with both hands grabbing his shattered knee. He remains down, and the referee counts him out. The woman beside Effe screams with sudden fury. MRS. SIMPSON No, no, no, noooo! Fuck you to hell, Chris! Fuck you! Abdul is screaming with joy as Chris emerges from the ring. He hugs Chris tightly. ABDUL Oh, God, you did it, Bro. Thank you, and thank you! People are on their feet, applauding. Effe gets up slowly. She watches as Chris limps towards her, his face puffy and bloody, but a strange look on his face. She is crying, and as she watches him coming towards her she knows, without any doubt, that somehow, incredible as it seems, in just two weeks, the reckless, violent, undisciplined man approaching her has done to her heart what no man has ever really succeeded in doing. She has been exposed to a world she never knew existed, to excitement, to danger, and to emotions she has never experienced and never believed possible. He stops in front of her. There are a lot of emotions playing on his bruised face. She tries to stop crying because seeing him so bruised makes her heart pain her. He does not speak. He grabs her waist and pulls her into a fierce embrace. She hugs him back, fiercely, tightly, desperately, as tears still course down her cheeks. She does not mind the blood and sweat that stains her blouse. She does not want to let go, she just wants to be in his arms, within his embrace, forever. EFFE (whispering against his ear) Damn you, Chris Bawa! Damn you to hell! Why do you put me through this? You promised me! He steps back. He’s still wearing the gloves, and he holds her face with his gloved hands. His face is remorseful, filled with love. CHRIS Sorry, Precious. I promised you. I did this for a friend, a promise I couldn’t break. It’ll not happen again. And that’s a promise, and I won’t break it. Effe rests her head against his chest for a while. EFFE Let’s get out of here, Chris, so that I can take a look at your wounds. CHRIS Yes, Precious. Whatever you say! Abdul unlaces the knots of the gloves and pulls them off. Chris puts his arm around Effe’s shoulders, and she supports him with an arm around his waist. As they begin to leave the auditorium the people applaud again, and some touch Chris’ shoulders admiringly. Once outside, Effe gives back the tag, thanks the bouncers, and puts him in the back seat of the car. She drives to the Ameyaw-Eden Clinic, cleans his cuts and stitches the cut above his eyebrow. She stands back and looks at him. He is sitting on the edge of a ward bed. He stands up, and without a word he takes her into his arms. She stops breathing as she looks up at him. The look on his face is that of adoration, of love, of something precious… and she is convinced it is mirrored on her own face. EFFE (in a whisper) Chris. His head bends, and when his lips touch hers she opens up to receive him. It is gentle, but it sears their souls with the force of a volcano. She puts her hand on his chest, tracing the luxurious hair, and the other arm winds around his neck. CHRIS (in a whisper) Effe. His lips burn a searing path down her throat. She trembles, alien primal feelings making her tremble, to want more, to go beyond the borders. With the strongest of willpower, she pulls from him and puts a hand on his lips. She stares deeply into his eyes. Reluctantly she steps back from the circle of his arms and moves to the door. Without a word she goes out, and after a while he follows her. As they walk towards the car she reaches out and takes his hand. EFFE (in a very soft voice) You know I can’t go all the way. CHRIS I know, Precious. She does not look at him. But she smiles to herself. She realises that she is happy.