“Is it possible for home to be a person and not a place? For the two of us, home isn’t a place. It is a person. And we are finally home.”― Stephanie Perkins, (Anna and the French Kiss)
MORE TO IT
“Start talking!” she yelled from the makeshift sitting room, the minute he closed the metal door behind him. Chloe was lazily ironing all the laundry she did during the weekend.
“38.6% of Ghanaians are below 15 years old and 33.8% are within the ages of 15 and 54 years. You can’t do profitable business in Ghana without considering facts like these. Fascinatingly, 47.5% of Ghanaians are Akans, which is less than all the other minor ethnic groups put together. Isn’t it interesting that when entrepreneurs design their businesses to suit the majority they’re actually concentrating on the minority?” he started rattling as he walked briskly to his sister with folded newspapers in his right hand. Whenever Malcolm was in good spirits after his Monday morning outings, it meant merely one thing – turnover of his sales girls the previous week, was more than he anticipated.
“Nice try, but that won’t wash. I’m glad to know that business is good, however, talk to me about this morning!” she asked again as she hanged the ironed dress on a wooden hanger.
“An article I read at the Palm-net internet café this morning painted a sad picture of the irony of life which has the upper-middle-class producing far more emotionally disturbed children than the lower class. The story was that, poverty and the struggle to survive pushed poor kids into all sorts of vices, but that’s not the case now. With time, the affluent have also caught up on vices like stealing mostly from peers and parents, binge drinking and doing hard drugs.”
“You know what I’m referring to, so stop pretending and beating about the bush; who is she, Malcolm?” She switched off the electric iron and sent the ironed clothes to her room. He noted the rancor in his sister’s voice and wondered what had made her sister grumpy within some few hours. She was very active and cheerful when he left with Sabrina in the morning.
“You didn’t go to campus today, Chloe,” he said as she walked to her room. He threw the newspapers on the chair and tuned the radio to country music, from the midday news Chloe was listening to. He was too much in a good mood to listen to the news.
“No, I didn’t. My boss is out of town but she will be back tonight. Who is she?” she responded with a sullen stare when she came back from her room, clutching all her bed sheets to her chest to iron. He knew the results she wanted when she spoke to him with a fierce glare.
“Did she travel for God or mankind?” Malcolm tried to deftly dodge her question and to ease the glum look on her face. He went for the last bottle of evaporated milk in the fridge, shook it and started drinking, knowing Chloe will pass a comment about it. However, the question didn’t brighten his sister’s countenance as he expected.
“She went for her son’s graduation. Do you know that amongst all creatures, human beings are the only species that still drink milk when they grow old? Who is she, Mal?” Predictably the comments he was expecting. She was not relenting on getting an answer neither did she want Malcolm to kid his way out of it.
“It could be the reason human beings are superior to animals. Three glasses of milk a day keep the body strong. Chloe, why didn’t you go with her if she was attending Fred’s graduation?”
“I didn’t go because I had a grudge against him and secondly, I didn’t want to boost his pride or confidence in his rude false convictions. Who is she, Timothy Oppong Yeboah? Can we talk about one subject at a time?” she asked indignantly because she was not having her way. She removed the iron from the iron rest and starting pressing the sheets.
“Of course we can. How does attending Fred’s graduation boost his pride or confidence in his rude false convictions? What did he do wrong, really? When I came to meet both of you just a week ago here heartedly debating on the definition of good and wrong, it didn’t look like there was any friction between you.” he tried harder to get Chloe to smile but the attempt was futile.
“Don’t act dumb, Malcolm. Who is she?”
“Lieutenant Sabrina Fosu Ottoppah,” he gave up his puns and followed her lead.
“Lieutenant, I thought I heard wrong,” Chloe said shaking her head in despair.
“No, you didn’t. She is in the armed forces or something similar. I thought you liked her.”
“I like her, that’s the cause of my concern. I can easily predict how things are going to end up with both of you and my chest tightens with pity for her.”
“It’s so amazing how you quickly choose strangers over me.”
“Edit this story for me: you get close to her, she gets to meet that well-read, resourceful, honest, calm but strong gentleman she hardly encounters in person. You pick the perfect time to show her your vulnerability so she inevitably trusts you, and before she realizes her whole world is revolving around you. If she has a boyfriend, she starts demanding absurd attention from him. If she is single, she so much wants you to love her but your business heart can’t love, it only knows profit and loss. Whichever way, you mess her up.”
“That’s a twisted side of the story. ‘Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.’ I like making good friends and I’ve never set out to hurt any girl,” Malcolm replied chivalrously, taking his sister’s comments on the chin.
He loosened his tie, rolled up his sleeves, picked a huge novel from the table and sat to read waiting for lunch from Nana Akua. He wasn’t sure if her sister was moody because of Fred or Sabrina, but he knew there was no sense in trying to figure her out. He had resolved long ago that Chloe could be very complicated if she wanted to.
“Don’t move the bookmark!” she cautioned.
“This wasn’t the book you were holding in the morning. When did you go to the bookshop?” he asked politely.
“I’m through with that one. I’ve not been to the bookshop. I picked a couple of books from Mrs Boatengmaa’s shelve.”
“As usual, you used the entire morning to read. I wonder if all teaching assistants read more than their students like you do,” he said that knowing such comments made her feel good about herself.
“So that’s where the train has stopped now, military women. That’s a bold step up. How did this one happen?”
“She’s yet to happen but let’s say she was my Messiah last night,” he lightened the bantering tone in his voice when she brought up Sabrina again.
“I hope you’re not messing about with my head. What did she save you from last night?”
“Oh no messing, not at all; I met her at the Brofo Customs Barrier last night when I was attending to a truck which was held up by the police. She was of enormous help – Sabrina was God sent actually,” he saved the details for an opportune time.
“You’re interested in her merely because she helped you last night.” She didn’t find his answers amusing.
“Why do you assume I’m interested in her?
“If you didn’t have a thing for her, you wouldn’t have brought her home just after your first meeting.”
“I brought her home because of the circumstance surrounding our ‘meeting’. But believe me; Sabrina is nothing like any girl I’ve met.”
“How I wish that’s the first time I’m hearing this from you.”
“Definitely, Sabrina is different.”
“Mal, they’ve all never been the same,” she quipped.
“She’s incomparably bold and proactive.”
“So those are your main reasons – bold and proactive. You don’t know what you want.”
“You say I don’t know what I want but I say as time passes by and as they come and go, I keep discovering who I am and what I don’t want as I look for what I want. If I see what I want I will know. Thomas Edison is my inspiration.”
“You don’t play with a woman’s heart like that. It’s very deadly, and I mean literally deadly.”
“I’m not playing with anybody’s heart. Hey, don’t scare me!”
“You are. Does it mean you will leave Marisa alone?”
“This has nothing to do with Marisa; and for the zillionth time, Marisa is only a business friend.”
Just as they were chatting, Nana Akua knocked and entered in her waitress attire with lunch.
“Good afternoon, I like country music in the afternoon. When will these girls ever learn? This one looks too good to fall for your con.” Nana Akua greeted and started setting up the meal.
“Good afternoon, we like country music all day long. And what in the world are you also talking about?” he asked.
“That has been my worry since morning. I imagine the fate of this lady with my brother, and I can only feel sorry for her,” Chloe responded gazing at his face.
“There’s something about her that makes me think she’s no pushover. I pray he meets his match in her. Sorry Chloe, I couldn’t come here again in the morning but had to send someone to bring breakfast to you,” Nana Akua said.
“No need to apologise, I understand,” Chloe responded as she switched off, unplugged the iron and removed the piece of aluminum foil she put under the ironing board cover. She managed a faint smile, but broad and long enough to convince Nana Akua that it wasn’t a subject to worry about. She folded the ironed sheets neatly, put a lavender sachet between them before taking them to her room.
“You brought food for three; will you be joining us?” he asked seeking Nana Akua’s attention. It was left with only the two of them and Nana Akua intentionally busied herself with setting up lunch.
“No, I’ll not be joining you. My lunch hour is for reading not eating,” Nana Akua snapped.
“What have I done to you ladies?” he asked on the top of his voice to Chloe’s hearing.
“You’ll never know what you’ve done wrong. It’s so convenient for you not to know,” Chloe said when she walked out of her room. She went to clean the soleplate of the electric iron and removed the residue from the vent using a cotton swab.
“I saw your guest in the neighbourhood and from what I’ve heard, she’s been around for an hour or more asking about Papa Oteng. My guess is she will be passing by for lunch after her interrogations.”
“Her name is Sabrina,” Chloe mentioned the name in a tone that said she had a surge of pity for Sabrina.
“What do you think of her, Nana Akua?” Malcolm asked beaming, hopeful she will say something to support him.
“She is different from all the girls I’ve seen you with,” she started to answer.
“I said it! Great minds think alike,” Malcolm cut in.
“A typical Nana Akua having Malcolm’s wellbeing in mind. I also like her infectious and bubbly personality, her soft mellifluous voice, but what do you think of her together with my brother?” Chloe asked.
“She looks no minnow, but since two sea captains can’t sail one ship, I suggest you don’t go beyond business partners and platonic friends.”
“Mal, those are the timeless words from your beloved Nana Akua, will you heed to her advice?” Chloe said and went to wash her hands for her lunch.
“What makes you girls talk of being together with her? I bring a friend home just once and you’ve started planning the outcome for me already. Why don’t you wait for me to commit the crime before you persecute me?” he tried to put up a defense but both girls wouldn’t listen.
“I’ll be in the reading room, call me if you need me. Please enjoy your meal, and you’re having chocolate drink instead of evaporated milk,” Nana Akua said sternly to Malcolm in particular. She took the newspapers from the chair and turned to the reading room to spend the rest of her lunch there. But whilst she was yet to enter the room, the anticipated knock came.
“Who could this be?” Chloe jested envisaging it could be Sabrina.
“Sabrina!” Nana Akua whispered, but loud enough for Malcolm to hear, mocking him as she went to get the door.
“You’re welcome, Sabrina,” she let her in.
“Thank you. You know my name,” Sabrina responded and walked to Malcolm and Chloe.
“Lo and behold, my soon-to-be partner in crime,” Chloe said letting out laughter. Nana Akua joined and Malcolm could not help himself but also join.
“Now, what am I missing?” Sabrina asked, tempted to join the amusement but didn’t know what to be happy about.
“It’s nothing for you to worry your head about,” Malcolm stood up to welcome her.
“Oh, lunch is ready. Now I’m ashamed,” Sabrina said as she sat by Chloe.
“No! Not that!” Nana Akua and Chloe said in unison.
“Then what is it? You guys are embarrassing me, especially when I’m not going to say no to this food. Nobody really says no to an afternoon Banku and Tilapia.”
Nana Akua left them to enjoy their lunch.
“You can take any of them. It’s how interesting Banku and Tilapia is glorified just because some class of people has started enjoying it, but you don’t have to worry, we’ve got you covered,” Malcolm said to Sabrina.
“The last time you told me something similar to this, I ended up eating Chloe’s food,” Sabrina said as she waited for her washed hands to dry before eating.
“Let’s wait to see what you end up doing this time round.” Malcolm got his cutlery ready to eat.
“That’s not funny. Just so you know, the feel of the texture of the food on your fingertips make it more scrumptious. Your sister can attest to this,” Sabrina mumbled something which was supposed to be a prayer and started eating.
“You won’t stun me again; go ahead and use your hands, Sabrina. The word on the street is that you’ve been asking about Papa Oteng,” he told her as they ate.
“And there I was thinking I’ve been discreet in my quest,” Sabrina answered.
“The intel was so good that it was able to predict you’ll be coming here for lunch,” he said.
“Papa Oteng is hallowed here, so you don’t want to go after him without a just cause. Especially when for ancient reasons this community doesn’t welcome anybody from the government or security forces, going around asking about Papa Oteng is abominable,” Chloe added her voice.
“I told you of Papa Oteng’s reputation in Old Freeville. Almost everybody you spoke to this morning saw you as an intruder or most likely, as an enemy. You can comb through the nooks and crannies of the town and I can assure you that they’ll all tell you what you want to hear. In this town, loyalty is everything.”
“That doesn’t come as a surprise at all. But then know that, there is an interesting way people subconsciously give away certain facts even when they’re lying. I was trained by the best; I know what I’m doing.”
“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” ― A.A. Milne, (Winnie-the-Pooh)