It was the perfect evening for Christmas songs and piping hot Ovaltine. It was freezing; it had rained solidly for hours on end. Earlier, Adomaa had been searching for Kaakyire Kwame Appiah’s 24th, her husband’s favourite Christmas song to add to their playlist but hadn’t found it. He had this unwavering love for old songs; and had an offbeat dance for each of them. It had not been an easy year, but it had ended quite perfectly. Christmas just excited her. Adomaa was all smiles as she watched her husband, Kwame, and her two little girls sip gratefully. Adomaa added a dollop of ice cream to each girl’s drink; Ovaltine with ice cream was one of her favourite guilty pleasures. She now had ample time to finish up dinner. She was eager to show off her new culinary skills as she’d taken some cooking lessons from a matron to spice up her cooking. The kids were on vacation; her husband on a leave, and there was time for them to actually sit together and eat.
The jollof had been dished out on a big platter, with coleslaw on the side. Then there was coconut rice, deliciously spiced suya with diced green pepper and onions, gravy, egg salad and then grilled tilapia. (Which very nearly got burnt, but by some divine miracle was saved off the grill right on time). Adomaa called them to their newly created dinette to eat. Adomaa was going to the kitchen and back, and then hovered over her two girls so that they would eat. Sentuo, the eldest who had turned eight just a couple of days ago ate hungrily, while Awo, six and a half, absently picked at her food. Awo would always eat as if it was a punishment she had to endure. She kept gazing adoringly at her new Christmas present, a doll. The wide-eyed, dramatically mascaraed beautiful black doll with pale pink lips and a scarlet dress comfortably sat on Awo’s laps, and it was so obvious the little girl wished nothing more than to breathe life into her latest lifeless obsession. Awo had already given it a name-Aku-and had fallen in love with it instantly. Adomaa narrowed her eyes at Awo, who was picking up only the deboned tilapia with her little pink plastic fork.
The girls had it easy, she thought. Back when she was young, the only thing that made Christmas enjoyable for her was those unforgettable tinned Danish butter cookies. Her Ma would scrape and save for those and Adomaa, being the only child, would sneak to the kitchen every few minutes to help herself to a cookie. Adomaa, of course, would be scolded for never leaving enough for her father. She smiled at the memory.
“Awo honey, please eat your food, so that you’ll grow to be a healthy, beautiful princess, okay?” Adomaa said now, winking at her little girl.
This trick rarely worked but it seemed to convince the little girl obviously uninterested in finishing her meal. Awo nodded and dug her fork into her chicken and egg salad. It picked up a sliced egg disguised with mayonnaise, and the adorable girl grinned at her mother, showing a missing tooth, and ate it. They all laughed.
“Now mommy can I go play with Aku?” Awo asked and Adomaa firmly shook her head.
“Finish your dinner first, okay?”
Kwame looked amused. His wife looked tired, but she still looked amazing in that teal dress. Her hair had been done in a tousled top knot and she seemed to have no makeup on. Pretty, petite, doe-eyed Adomaa with the Fante roots and a dash of Abrofosem. She came in a little package, but oh God what a package. She had been bacon-thin when he’d married her but childbirth had generously blessed her with curves, all in the right places. She’d changed from that small, mousy wife with soulful eyes into a bubbly woman. Watching her step out of her comfort zone as the years went by had been amazing. She treated their girls like dolls, watching them with their mother was just fascinating. Sentuo was a doppelgänger of her mother, and Awo was a surreal mix of features of himself, Adomaa, his mother and his favourite aunt. He looked at his wife now, she could really use a massage and some sleep. “Relax, honey. Just eat and don’t stress yourself”, Kwame said with a smile, as he got up and put a plate in front of her. She was too resigned to argue but then she didn’t add that while cooking she’d found time to eat some of the suya with some leftover banku.
She just sat there, amused as she watched him dish out some jollof and tilapia for her. He gave her a generous helping of coleslaw, so she could show the girls just how delicious it was.
Adomaa sighed. “Okay.”
Adomaa was knackered. She had spent hours slaving over the hot stove, even though her help had assisted her. The lessons from the amazing Mrs. Monney had made a huge difference. Christmas had been the perfect excuse to make a smörgåsbord of goodies. What had been displayed on the ornate glass dining table was enough for an army. As she was already full she just nibbled on this, and that, she was more interested in her husband and her girls eating her food; she always was. Adomaa looked up at him and he was staring at her, a smile playing on his lips. She beamed.
It had been eleven years of a beautiful marriage to Kwame Adjaye but it still felt like yesterday when she said yes, I do in an a white flowing vintage gown. They had had their ups and downs, like that time when some actress had been all over Kwame, or when Adomaa became too close to her new boss, or when Kwame became broke because of some bad investment they had had to live on Adomaa’ pay for more than a year, or when she had an irresistible urge to pack and begin a new life somewhere else (she hadn’t told him that). Thankfully they had overcome all that and they were still quite smitten with each other.
“Done!” Awo said out of the blue. Indeed, she had finished most of what was on her plate. Adomaa brought desert next, freshly fried pancakes with honey on the side. They mostly didn’t encourage the girls eating too much sugary stuff, but occasions like Christmas called for some sinful indulgence in ambrosia. Besides school would start in two weeks for the girls and there would hardly be time for treats like these till their birthdays or the next Christmas.
After dinner, they all sat in the living room and made small talk.
Kwame whispered, “I have a surprise for you”. Adomaa winked at him. She loved loved, loved surprises, especially when it came from Kwame. His last surprise had been a second honeymoon to Zanzibar. They’d spent two unforgettable weeks after in Takoradi, and Adomaa had been reluctant to come home, though she’d missed the girls. “Now you’ve made me all tingly inside”, she whispered back, and he chuckled. “Let me sack these two and we’ll talk”. They laughed. After their dessert, Kwame grinned at the girls. “Race you to the bathroom!”
It took about an hour to get the girls to bath and to get them to bed. When the girls finally fell asleep, Adomaa turned to smile at him. “Now tell me the surprise; I’m dying to hear it!”
Kwame chuckled and held her hands. “You impatient elf. Come on; let’s go sit down.”
He poured them some Merlot, before finally telling her the news. They were relaxing on the seat, and she lay enfolded in his arms. They could hear the help taking the dishes from the dinette to the kitchen.
“No, it’s not a fourth honeymoon; I can see that gleam in your eye, you horny little woman. Coleman Pharmaceuticals has finally decided to merge. Dad said if I could get them to merge with us, he’ll transfer to me half of the shares of the company.”
Adomaa’ eyes widened as she took in the unexpected and yet exciting news. “Oh my God! Wow. That’s great.”
“Yes darling. This merger is going to be the best that ever happened to the Pharmaceutical Industry. The best manufacturer of antibiotics meets the best manufacturer of over-the-counter drugs.”
“Congratulations! I’m proud of you”, Adomaa hugged him fondly, planting kisses all over his face. She smiled. “Initially it was another company right? Samuel and Sons.”
He nodded, smiling. He always loved that Adomaa took interest in his work. “Samuel and Sons Pharm are going bankrupt. If we merge with them, we’ll end up using our money to fund both companies.
They made a drug which was pretty effective for hypertensive patients. But the side effects were crazy, especially for the elderly. A lot of people slipped into coma after a month of taking it, a number of people died and they’re now trying to pull it off the market. People don’t trust them anymore, and we can’t work with people who have lost credibility.”
Adomaa was shaking her head. “That’s too bad. But, congratulations, honey. This is the best Christmas present Ezra could have ever given to you”.
“I know right.”
His father, Ezra Adjaye had started the company a score ago, and as it seemed, he was gradually leaving it to Kwame. Kwame had four sisters, and he had taken interest in drugs at a tender age. Even though Ezra wasn’t one to praise, Kwame knew his father was proud of him.
“But uh…Adomaa, there’s something else too, I don’t know if that’s good or bad news.”
Adomaa was looking at him in concern. “Tell me then. Whatever it is, we’ll try to cope with It.”, she coaxed him gently. She was used to this. If it was very bad they would try and work around it.
“We’ll have to move to Accra. If I’m going to work at the main branch, I have to be closer. We need to draw up plans.”
“Oh”, Adomaa breathed. “Oh.”
“I know. I’m so sorry. I know you prefer we are stable, but with this new position comes with a rather huge responsibility, and you know Father usually doesn’t give those kinds of opportunities.”
She nodded. She knew that, and she knew she had to be considerate.
Kwame was looking at her expectantly. “Adomaa? Will it be okay?”
She nodded. “Yes. I mean I wasn’t expecting this, but we’ll figure it out.”
They were quiet for a moment, and then Adomaa changed the subject.
“Is it going to be a full merger?” she asked.
He nodded, grateful she hadn’t flared up about the part about moving.
“As of now, we’re settling on merging parts of the company. We have to decide the CEO, the country managers. We have to set up meetings on our drugs especially on cancer, respiratory, inflammation and then osteoporosis, hypertension, malaria, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, fungal infections. We want to start rebranding. We might eliminate oral healthcare and add energy drinks. We’re going to brainstorm and focus on what works for us and our market. It’s like building the company from scratch again, and I would hate to be away when we’re drawing plans.”
“There are some decisions you just can’t make over the phone and via emails.”
Adomaa was now thinking about the move. They would have to move!
“We’ve secured an office which will be the main branch at Opeibea Square, just a stone throw from Labone, and they’ve found a decent place for us over there. I can’t be taking flights from Kumasi to Accra and back almost every day, it’s not safe to be travelling that often.”
Adomaa was nodding in agreement. She hated the thought of him always hovering in the air just because of work. But her husband had just been sort-of promoted, and she had to support him. That meant-
Now she smiled. “Yeah, we just have to make a couple of changes. New schools for the girls, I heard there is this wonderful restaurant overlooking the sea….”
“Are you sure you’re alright with this?” I know you totally love this place. And your job…”
Adomaa squeezed his hand affectionately. Of course she was not okay, but this was not the time to be selfish, and so she smiled thinly. “Come on, this is a huge deal. If you have to be closer, we will go. And my job, we’ll figure that out. You need all the support now; you know Ezra expects a lot from you.”
He was touched, and he hugged her, planting a kiss on her forehead.
“You are very understanding, you know.’
She winked at him, chuckling. “Stop being so corny…you knew I would say yes anyway. Are we supposed to move anytime soon?”
“Erm, in a month or two we should have settled down. The meetings will begin in February, paperwork and stuff will be sorted out in March.”
A month or two to move? Yet, she kept her cool. “Okay. I hope the new place is alright. Maybe instead of selling our place, we could just rent it out, you know. We’ll come back, won’t we?”
“Of course we won’t sell this place, but I honestly don’t know when we’re coming back. Thank you Adomaa, you are a blessing to me.”
She grinned. “Same here”. She yawned.
“How about you shower, and after that I give you a massage as a thank you for all that wonderful food?”
“Good idea!” she smiled and cupped his face in her hands. Her lips slid over his and he caught on quickly. He captured her bottom lips with his; he could taste her strawberry flavoured chapstick.
“I love you, Kwame.” she told him, meaning it.
“And I love you more.”
She was beaming.
“Race you to the bathroom!” he said, chuckling.
“I’m not one of the little girls, Kwame”. And yet she found herself rushing through the familiar hallways to the bathroom with him, to see who would get there first.
Effia Coleman could hardly sit still. Of all the holidays, she loved Christmas the most. Family, presents, lots of love to go around. It also helped that it was her birthday. That called for a double celebration.
“Open mine, open mine!” she said gleefully to her son Kwamena. She had the spirit of a little girl, or maybe it was just because of Christmas. He grinned. “Okay mommy”. They were all in the living room, and after a lovely dinner out, they back home and sharing presents over their Effia’s birthday cake. It had become a tradition. Every Christmas the helps would line the living room with scented candles, turn off all the lights and the room would be glowing.
Kwamena Coleman opened his present in earnest. It turned out to be two white shirts. Well, his mother had tried…but he had really been hoping for that PlayStation 3…
“Now open mine, Kwamena”, Duke was smiling at his son. He just knew what his boys wanted. Kwamena got delirious when he opened his father’s present. “Shit!! Shit!” he was running around, and didn’t hear his mother saying “Language, Kwamena!” Kwamena giggled when he came to sit on his father’s laps, breathing heavily. “Thanks so much, both of you. You are the coolest dad ever!” Duke grinned back. He winked at Effia. “I am the cool dad.” and she stuck her tongue out at him.
“And now, Paapa.” Their second son got the same present from Duke and a shirt from his mom. They both went to their game room to try their new games. Now Effia turned and smiled at her husband. There were two more presents. “At the same time”, Duke said, and they both grabbed their presents, which were both small. They both squealed at the same time. Effia stared at the beautiful earrings, while Duke smiled at his present, posh rose gold cufflinks.
“Thank you thank you thank you thank you!!” she hugged him, unable to take her eyes of her beautiful and glittering earrings. “Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday, love” he told her and she reached in for a hug. Then he told her the good news.
“Effia, the merger has been finalized. Cheers to the future Coleman-Adjaye Pharmaceuticals!’ he said.
“Duke! That is good news. So you’ll paid more?” her eyes shone. Then they could take that vacation to Zimbabwe, or she could decide to change her wardrobe, and she could finally get the new Touareg she had been hinting at for months.
“Yes, my dear. The CEO of Adjaye Pharmaceuticals and his family will move to Accra next year. Get ready for a couple of double dinner dates.”
Effia nodded, and added in a mocking tone. “I hope his wife is a polished woman, not someone I have to teach the simple art of etiquette”. She never really got along with a lot of his friends’ wives because of this claim.
Duke chuckled. “I’m doing business with the man, not his wife. I’m sure she’ll be just okay.”
“If you say so, honey. Merry Christmas, Duke.”
“Merry Christmas Effia, and Happy Birthday.” She leaned against him, and they sat there, inhaling the sweet incense, and enveloped by the exciting aura of Christmas.
Adomaa sat at the dinette, busily typing on her laptop. She was making plans for the move already. It had been a week since Kwame had told her. She hadn’t broken the news to her girls yet, she would do that by the end of January. She and Kwame had gone to Accra to check their place at Labone, and she’d been quite impressed. The new house wasn’t as huge as theirs back home, but it was lovely. And it was squeaky clean! She loved clean houses. It was painted all white, with huge French windows and an outhouse. There were three bedrooms, two bathrooms, an office, a spacious living room, a garage, a kitchen, and another empty room which she was contemplating whether to turn it into a store room, or some sort of playroom for the girls. She was excited; she had so many ideas for the place. Her job was going to be another problem. She did several jobs; she owned a small lingerie shop mostly for new brides, and also worked a part time job at a car company. Adomaa remembered the first time she told her parents she owned a lingerie shop. “You’ve opened a full shop for selling pant? Ebei.” her mother had exclaimed. Adomaa had been amused. “You’ll be surprised at the number of people who love beautiful underwear and bras”, she’d told her mother who shook her head unbelievingly. Now she smiled at the memory.
She would have to resign from Corral Motors, and find another shop in her new neighbourhood to transport her stuff. Everything was falling into place. She would miss a few friends but then again family was always the most important. She would probably have to offer some discounts to clear her existing stock. Suddenly there was so much to do and so little time left.
She called several schools in the area, contemplating between Ave Maria International School and St. Benedict’s School for the girls, they’d been recommended by one of her friends. She’d checked both schools online and was quite impressed. When they got there she’d know where to choose, maybe she’d go on a tour with the girls and they would choose where they wanted. She could see Kwame was happy she was being supportive. The thing was she had not been very enthusiastic about the move, but now she was warming up to the idea.
Kwame had done so much for her, and she’d never forget that. No man had been as patient as Kwame. The time she’d met him, more than a decade ago, she’d been dumped by Egya, the man she’d always thought she’d end up with.
She’d been so naïve then, and had gotten pregnant, way before she met Kwame. Her parents had been devastated, and thinking Egya would marry her she’d stopped school. How foolish and how ignorant she’d been. It was a clichéd story, they were from old money, and she was from a family that had always scraped a living and his parents didn’t approve of their relationship. She thought she would make the difference, she would be able to wow his family, and they would accept her. But it had worked out the exact opposite way.
His father told her she was an easy girl who had intentionally gotten pregnant so as to coerce his son into marriage. Then his aunt (who she’d never met till then) had convinced her and taken her to a small village, telling her when she finally delivered they’d go back to the city, and Egya would marry her. She lost the baby, even though she never understood why. She’d been in perfect health the whole time she was pregnant. She sank into oblivion during labour, and had woken up to the sad news that her baby had died. She never forgave herself. When she went back to the city Egya had left for abroad, with a letter that she’d killed his baby and he would never forgive her. She never saw him again. Her anger pushed her to continue her schooling, but she had to stay two years back, because she had spent a long time at home. She would work and have her own money, no one would ever discriminate her because of what she had again. She studied hard and had such good grades that her church funded half of her university fees. She graduated with a high GPA and got a decent job at a bank. All that while she had failed relationships as she always had a feeling her boyfriends would leave her, just like Egya did and so she would always leave them first. After a while she stayed a quirkyalone.
Then Kwame Adjaye had walked into Merchant Bank and her life had changed forever. He asked her out for a date and said he wouldn’t take no for an answer (and they ended up buying roasted plantain and groundnuts because she felt that would be cheaper). She would never forget the time they’d had an argument (which had been her fault), and she’d woken up the next morning and gone outside to sweep and had seen his car. He was asleep in the car, the man had not gone back home because he had wanted to apologise! Once she got to know him, she realized he was quite an amazing person. His father owned a pharmaceutical company, and his mother, Asantewaa, had owned a pharmacy shop where she sold drugs in bulk and retail. When Kwame invited her for dinner with his family for the first time, Adomaa had not wanted to go at first. She’d been through that before. That you-are-too-poor-for-my-son attitude some mothers showed when their son brought a woman from a mediocre home.
Adomaa was shocked at the response she got. Asantewaa was a lovely person. They got along like a house on fire. Ezra wasn’t bad either. Asantewaa took her out, to society dinners and weddings, to galas, and to games. Adomaa did not even realize the woman was grooming her to become a proper lady. Asantewaa herself had been from a poor home. She had helped Ezra to build the pharmaceutical empire.
“I know how it is like to have nothing”, Asantewaa admitted, and that was what bonded the two of them.
Once Adomaa visited Kwame, and had changed from her dress into one of Asantewaa’s caftans. They were watching a movie in Kwame’s room. She didn’t know what came over him, but suddenly he was smiling sheepishly at her and started to take off his shirt as she gaped at him in surprise. “What are you doing?” she shrieked, laughing. Jesus. He was so silly.
He slipped on her dress with much difficulty, and began prancing around and walking like a girl. She was giggling so hard she didn’t hear his mother knock on the door. “Kwame? Adomaa? I’m bringing you two some fresh fruit.”
“Get it off me! Get it off me!” he was struggling to remove the dress, and she was laughing so hard she couldn’t even help him. She finally helped him take it off, still laughing, and he slipped on his shirt and opened the door. His mother smiled at them knowingly, like two mischievous kids. Kwame all disheveled, and she still giggling like a loony. He collected the fruit and when she left, she started laughing all over again. For the first time she was happy it had not worked out with Egya.
They got married about a year and a half later, and Asantewaa had been there for her throughout. Her own mother and father visited sparingly, Adomaa didn’t mind. She sent them money every month, so that they wouldn’t have to suffer ever again. And now, here I am with a wonderful family. She smiled.
They moved to Accra in the first week of February. Sentuo and Awo had mixed feelings about their new environment. Adomaa tried to make them feel as comfortable as possible; she drove them around, she took them to the mall and finally to their school. They went on an all-girls weekend getaway at Aburi and then came back home refreshed.
Adomaa settled on Ave Maria school and the girls made friends even on their first visit. Adomaa made the necessary registrations and got their books and the like. They would start school the next week; Adomaa had already gotten a private tutor to help them fill in what they had missed. The Colemans had also invited them for dinner on February 14th, and Adomaa was relieved, because she still hadn’t finished unpacking, and she was too tired to make any fancy dinner. Luckily for them, the children of their neighbours attended the same school with the girls and had already befriended Sentuo and Awo in school. Their parents did not mind the girls spending a couple of hours there and so Kwame and Adomaa dropped the girls off there, and then went back home to dress up. Adomaa wore a Vlisco dress which accentuated her curves. Kwame kept winking at her and she giggled.
“How am I looking, Mr.?” she asked, striking a pose.
“Lookin’ like money”, he drawled, and they burst out into laughter. Adomaa was shaking her head. “You’re too silly”, she told him.
They were led to their table once they got to the restaurant. It seemed the Colemans had just gotten there. Kwame went to sit down first; Adomaa had met an old work colleague and wanted to say hi. When she turned, Kwame was waving from the table where he sat with the Colemans. She smiled, walked over to the table and sat down before greeting the other couple. She smiled politely.
“Hi, I’m Adomaa Adjaye…” she stretched her hand to greet them.
Her smile froze. No.
Sitting right across her, was Duke Egya Coleman.