THE CHRONICLES OF THE STRANGER
He stands up, tall and foreboding, and then he begins to walk purposefully towards the podium.
All eyes are fixed on him.
There is something about him that arrests attention, a strange magnetic charisma that has a most powerful allure.
It is not the unreal aura around him, nor the unveiled sense of confidence and sureness.
It is something deep, something divine that brooks no argument.
He mounts the steps to the podium and stands looking at the pugnacious face of Tutu Dompreh.
The old man glares at him with sudden disdain and anger.
And who the hell are you? And what are you doing here? Who invited you? And who gave you the audacity to come up here?
The stranger smiles at him.
I take no authority from any mortal, and certainly not from foolish mortals as yourself.
The insult carries through the microphone, and Tutu Dompreh jumps to his feet, his face almost exploding with the depths of his fury.
How dare you! You stupid infidel! Do you think you can come into my house and insult me? You fool! Who invited this bastard anyway? Is he one of your stupid friends, Kobby?
Kwabena shakes his head numbly as he stares with unease at this stranger who seems to exude such danger.
No, Daddy. I don’t know him.
He was sitting with Akua, Grandpa. I think she brought him here.
Of course she would, the witch! I’ll deal with her myself! She’s moving out of that damn house! Guards, come and take this bastard away! Akua, wait for me, you’re dead!!
Four security men holding batons emerge quickly.
They climb the podium, and two approach the stranger on each side.
SECURITY GUARD 1
Sir, please come with me. We don’t want to hurt you.
The stranger doesn’t even look at them.
His eyes are fixed on a fuming Tutu.
Hurt me! Hurt me? Believe me, my dear fellow, the likes of you aren’t empowered to hurt me! On the contrary, I’ll advise you to keep your distance if you want to avoid getting hurt!
Get this madman out of my sight! TAKE HIM AWAY NOW!!
The guard on the left touches the stranger.
Immediately he is hurled back with a hidden force, as if he has touched an electrical feed.
He is thrown violently into the air, and he smashes into one of the metallic poles of the tent, falling down hard.
The security man on the right tries to stop himself when he sees what has happened to his friend, but he is too late.
He touches the stranger’s right arm, and then he screams shrilly as he is spun round and round violently, and then he slams down on top of one of the tables below the podium, and remains still.
The other two security guards are trembling, and with fear on their faces they slowly take steps back away from the stranger and get down from the podium.
Akua, sitting far away from the podium, suddenly giggles as she sees the look of sheer terror on Tutu’s face.
It gives her such great satisfaction.
An air of fear has gripped everybody present.
They don’t know what is happening.
The stranger turns his cold eyes on Kwabena now, and a look of sheer fury crosses his face, making him so menacing that Kwabena swallows with sudden apprehension.
And you. Such a nerveless man you’ve become, always living in the shadow of your bully of a father! You let him call your wife a whore! Fool! Is your wife a slut? Has she ever committed an abortion? HAS SHE?
His last words were uttered with cold, terrifying harshness, causing Kwabena to flinch as he looks miserably at the stranger.
No, no, sir!
Don’t tell me, moron! Tell your father! Tell the spectators here!!
Akua came to me as a virgin, Daddy.
Because there is absolute silence, his words are picked by the microphone and amplified by the giant speakers, and these humble words make eyes turn to Akua again.
Eyes that had held disdain, and disrespect, now look at her in awe.
The stranger leans forward and picks up a piece of chicken wing.
He pops it into his mouth and chews appreciatively.
Mmm. Sweet. Chicken has always been my weakness. And now, listen to this, old man Tutu Dompreh, you fool. That boy Baaba is holding is not your grandchild.
Even Akua gasps with horror.
Tutu Dompreh’s face becomes sallow and sags.
He shakes his head as if warding off an invisible blow, and his face looks tortured.
What are you talking about? That’s Kobby’s son!
The stranger picks up another chicken, a thigh this time, and waves it at the petrified Tutu.
Uh-uh! Nope! Your son’s fertility has been locked by God. He can’t father a child until God releases him. It is not Akua who can’t give birth. It is your son! There’s a curse on him. Let’s say… a divine curse! Many years ago a woman with the spirit of the Lord on her prayed that God should make Kwabena infertile, and God listened, and your Kobby has been a useless man since then. Don’t you dare call Akua a useless woman!
Kwabena jumps to his feet, his face ashen, his body trembling, his eyes wild.
NO! OH, NO! NO! HE’S MY SON! THEY’RE COMING TO LIVE WITH ME! DON’T YOU DARE COME AND CAUSE CONFUSION WHOEVER YOU ARE! HE’S MY OWN SON!
The stranger looks at him with pity, and then he turns to Baaba and raises his eyebrows.
I’ll ask you, once, woman. If you lie, you will be shocked at the consequences. Tell this fool who the real father of your son is!
Baaba licks her lips as she stands up, holding the boy.
Her eyes are wild as they dart in all angles, seeking for a way out.
Babs! Speak! Please speak! Am I not the father of your son?
(banging the table with his fist)
Baaba! Tell me Kobby is the father of Junior!
Yes, yes! Kwabena, darling, you’re the father of Junior! Don’t pay attention to this evil magician Akua has brought! She wants to disgrace us because she’s a desperate witch! You’re my only love, the father of Junior!
The silence is absolute.
The stranger leans forward and dips the chicken thigh into a delicious sauce, and pops it into his mouth.
He licks his fingers and smiles.
Well, fair enough then!
Without turning he extends his right hand behind him and points a finger.
A little handsome man who is sitting with two other ladies in the front row suddenly gets to his feet, his hands clutching his neck, gasping for air, his tongue suddenly lolling out!
His name is ATOBAM KANKAN.
He is Kwabena Dompreh’s childhood friend, and had been his best man at the wedding.
They are very good friends!
He grabs his neck with both hands and jerk with pain, and then suddenly he falls down, jerking horribly as if he is dying!
Baaba screams and suddenly comes down the podium.
She gives her son to another guest and kneels besides Atobam, and then she takes him in her arms.
She is screaming and crying.
Tutu and Kwabena look on with horror and the grandfather of all shocks!
ATO, ATO, ATO!!!
She shakes him, but Ato is dying, his eyes popping out!
Baaba gets to her feet and rushes back to the podium, and she falls down on all fours in front of the stranger, weeping inconsolably.
She reaches out to hold the stranger’s legs.
Believe me, woman, you don’t want to touch me!
Baaba withdraws her hands and holds them together in front of her in utter supplication.
Alright, okay, PLEASE SIR! DON’T KILL ATOBAM! PLEASE I LOVE HIM! YES, YES, ATOBAM KANKAM IS THE FATHER OF MY SON! WHEN I GOT PREGNANT HE HAD NO MONEY, AND HE TOLD ME TO SEDUCE KWABENA AND LIE THAT HE IS THE FATHER. I DID IT, AND WE RECEIVED A LOT OF MONEY FROM TUTU DOMPREH! ATO WANTED ME TO MOVE INTO KWABENA’S HOUSE THEN WE WILL CON HIM OUT OF MILLIONS OF CEDIS AND THEN ELOPE TO THE UNITED STATES! IT HAS ALL BEEN A PLAN, THAT’S ALL, TO GET AS MUCH MONEY AS WE CAN FROM KWABENA’S FATHER!! I’VE TOLD THE TRUTH, PLEASE, PLEASE, RELEASE ATOBAM!
The stranger looks down at her and smiles sadly.
Kwabena is shaking as he leans forward with his hands laced under his chin, his face a picture of amplified horror.
And the truth, of course, shall always, always set you free!
And suddenly Atobam stops struggling on the ground.
He stands up groggily.
Baaba screams as she runs from the podium and embraces Atobam.
They hold each other tightly, showering endearments on each other without caring about the scene they are causing.
Baaba takes her son from the guest and together she and Atobam walks towards the entrance.
Oh, no! Dear Lord, no, no, no!!
Kwabena jumps to his feet.
Baaba! Jesus, Baaba! How could you do this to me? No, please, please… don’t kill my soul like this!
Baaba turns an agonized face to Kwabena as tears course down her cheeks.
I’m terribly sorry, Kobby! I deceived you! I lied to you for your money! Junior is not your son, I beg of you! He’s Ato’s son! Please find it in your heart to forgive us!
She turns and quickly flees from the premises.
A shattered Kwabena sits down slowly, his eyes seeking Akua, filled with sudden pain, shame and remorse!
He is trembling so badly that he fears he might have a heart attack.
Tutu Dompreh is trembling as he slowly sinks back in his seat.
The stranger goes round the table and sits down on the seat Baaba has vacated.
The stranger looks down at the great number of people sitting down who are now looking at him.
He leans forward and looks at Tutu Dompreh.
Pass me the microphone, please.
Tutu’s jaw is set pugnaciously, but fear lurks in the depths of his eyes.
He has seen things he cannot explain, and it is scaring him.
He does not know what the stranger has up his sleeve, and not knowing is sending terror through Tutu’s heart, and he is trying to control that fear.
The microphone is passed across, until it comes to Kwabena, and he hands it to the stranger.
The bearded man then looks at the crowd again, and begins to speak in a pleasant, deep bass voice.
You heard Tutu saying that young women should take a cue from the lies he was spewing out. Well, I want you young bachelors to listen to this short tale I’m going to tell you, and take a cue from it. This man, Kwabena Dompreh, is forty-five years old. Now, let us go back to something that happened twenty-five years ago. At that time, Mr. Kwabena Dompreh was twenty years old, and his father, Mr. Tutu Dompreh, was not as rich as you see him now.
His eyes drive through Dompreh with such cold hardness that Mr. Dompreh drops his gaze and looks on the ground.
Mr. Tutu Dompreh was in fact serving a prison sentence on a fraud charge. He was not guilty, mind you. He had a government contract, and there was a change in Government, and he was accused of serious fraud by the new Government and thrown into jail. Kwabena was in school, and his mother was sick. Kwabena had to work just to support his mother and himself. At that time, he had a girlfriend called Dede, whose mother was a poor widow in the village. Dede came to the city and was selling waakye around the school Kwabena was attending. That was how they came to know each other. Kwabena was a handsome young man, and when he told Dede that he loved her, the poor girl didn’t hesitate in giving her love to him.
Kwabena Dompreh’s face is suddenly filled with terror.
He shakes his head weakly and tears come to his eyes.
Oh, no! Oh, please, no, no, no!
Oh, yes, yes, yes! You’ve terrorized your wife to the point where she was contemplating suicide! You allowed your father to make life a living hell for Akua, forgetting all about Dede, that innocent seventeen-year-old girl! Now, let me tell you about Dede, my dear friends…
DEDE NAAR enters the room cautiously.
It is a small room in a dirty environment; a private hostel for students who didn’t get hostel accommodation at the University.
It is located in a secluded vicinity.
About six boys are crammed in the room which is meant for only two.
The room is hot, and the boys are screaming and shouting.
Some are playing cards and others are watching an action movie on the small television.
A boy called DAUDA MOSHIE suddenly screams when he sees Dede.
Yooooooooooooo!!! Hey, Kobby, aboa kwasea, your chick land o, e land!
The other boys scream and greet Dede, some of them embracing her.
Dede puts the basket she is holding down on a table.
Kwabena Dompreh sits up in bed sleepily and smiles at Dede.
Hello, my Heartbeat, my darling pie! Welcome, Dede, my love!
A look of pure love spreads across Dede’s face.
Kwabena motions to her, and she goes and sits on the bed beside him.
How have you been?
Kwabena drapes an arm around her shoulders and kisses her lightly.
She giggles and tries to hide her lips under his neck.
Dauda uncovers the basket, takes off the lid of the huge bowl inside, and then lets out a yell of delight.
Yoooooooooooo!! Waakye pai ooooooo!
All the boys stop what they are doing and go in search of spoons.
Kwabena gets to his feet and glares at them.
You bastards! Me wey e bring the chow give me I no taste am, den you orphans wan chop am!
Abi lovi lovi dey sweet you! Go chop lovi lovi, massa. We too dey chop waakye for here!
Dede watches from the bed as Kwabena also takes a spoon and they begin to eat the food.
Afterwards the boys leave the room on one pretext or the other, and soon Dede and Kwabena are alone.
Dede opens her bag and gives a stuffed envelope to Kwabena.
That’s all the money I have. I closed my account with the Susu Man, Kobby! I don’t have any money again. You know I took the first instalment for your mother’s medicine and her hospital bill. My own mother is sick in the village and I needed to send her some money, but your exams is more important, so I withdrew my savings so that you can settle your exams fee.
Tears come to Kwabena’s eyes as he drops on his knees beside the bed and takes Dede into his arms.
You’re such an angel, Dede! My own guardian angel! Sent from God to come and take care of me! What would I have been without you? I’m so grateful, my love. This is my final exams. When I pass out, I’ll get a job, and we’ll be married immediately, my darling!
She smiles and runs a finger down the side of his face.
Everything I do for you is out of love, Kobby. Just don’t betray my love, or you’ll kill me!
Kwabena sits on the bed and kisses her hard, jamming his tongue into her mouth.
You’re the only woman for me, Dede! I can’t live without you, never! I love you more than you can ever love me!
That cannot be true, Kobby! No heart can love more than I love you!
Your love is like one percent of what I feel for you!
He kisses her throat, her lips, and puts a hand on her right breast, feeling her taut nipple.
She is panting now, and his hand steals under the hem of her skirt and creeps up her inner thighs.
Suddenly she clamps her thighs together, trapping his hand, and gets up quickly.
He lies on the bed, suffused with desire, looking at her through the slits of his eyes.
I can’t, Kobby, please. Not now, not here!
Come on, my love! Let me make you mine, in the real sense of the word! You and I are going to spend eternity together!
I know, my love. But not in this room, okay? You share the bed with your friends, and they might even now be outside trying to see us making love! My mother is a Christian, my love, as you know. I’ve promised her to lose my virginity only on my wedding bed. My father died when I was young. I’m her only child, and she didn’t have money to help me further my education. She loves me, and she wants only that from me. You’re still in school, and we don’t want any pregnancy now!
I’ll use a condom, my love! Even if you get pregnant I’ll marry you! Can’t you see I can’t wait anymore?
She smiles and sits on a chair near the door.
Yes, I can see, my love! The feeling is mutual, but sorry, we can’t do it now. Very soon you will pass out successfully, and I’ll be your wife. You can have it as many times as you want then, my love! Now drink some water to cool down, and come and take a walk with me!
Kwabena takes a deep breath, smiles, and then they laugh together.
Their love for each other is strong!
The stranger pauses and sits very still.
Everybody in the garden is silent, listening with bated breaths.
Akua is sitting straight, her face registering her shock.
This is the very first time she is hearing about Dede Naar.
In all the ten years that she has been married to Kwabena, he has never once mentioned her.
She looks at her husband, and sees that Kwabena’s eyes are downcast, and his shoulders seem very heavy.
For two years Dede Naar used the little profit she earned from selling waakye to take care of the man she loved so much! She had to work extra hard, you know, just to make ends meet. It wasn’t Kwabena alone. His mother also had diabetes, and needed insulin all the time. Kwabena couldn’t afford it. But Dede always bought the medicine for her and took care of her medical needs.
He pauses, and his eyes roam over them coldly.
Dede’s own mother was in the village, also weak, but she didn’t take care of her mother as much as she did Kwabena’s mother. Dede managed to rent a single-room self-contained house. When Kwabena couldn’t pay the rent for his mother and they were ejected, Dede conveniently allowed them to stay with her. She used a partition to separate the room so that Kwabena’s mother, OBAAPA TAKYIWAA, could occupy half. And then, one afternoon, when Dede was out of the house selling waakye to make enough to feed them, they had a visitor. It was Tutu Dompreh!
Kwabena is outside, morose and unhappy.
In his hand is another letter informing him that he has been, yet again, unsuccessful in the job interview he had attended a few weeks ago.
Suddenly one of his friends appears in the yard.
His name is MINTAH KWAO.
Hey, Kobby, you have a visitor!
Kobby looks up, and then he gasps with absolute shock, the paper dropping from his hand, his eyes bulging.
Daddy? Is that you, Daddy?
Tutu Dompreh is running forward as tears fall down his face.
Kobby, Kobby, my son!
Father and son embrace tightly, and begin to weep with emotions.
The door opens, and Obaapa Takyiwaa, looking weak and frail, stands in the doorway.
Tutu? Oh, dear God! I must be going mad! Is that you, dearest husband!
Tutu Dompreh approaches his wife and holds out his arms.
Yes, yes, my darling! How you must have suffered! I’ve been released, dear! They found out the truth, and the Government is now convinced I did no wrong! My properties have been unfrozen! My contract is renewed! Oh, how you must have suffered these past ten years! Come, let’s go home!
Dede Naar, tired and totally weary, comes home later in the afternoon.
She has passed through the market to buy some ingredients for the next day’s waakye, and she is in a hurry to prepare some food for her darling Kobby and his mother.
But there is no one home!
She is scared, dreading that something bad might have happened to Kobby’s mother!
She is going round, asking neighbours if they have seen them, when she meets Mintah Kwao.
Dede, are you sure of what you’re asking me? You don’t know where Kobby is?
Mintah, please don’t draw my ire this afternoon, I beg of you! I can’t find them! Do you know where they’ve gone to?
Kobby is indeed wicked, heerh! I just can’t believe this! Don’t worry, my dear. It seems his father was released from prison and he came looking for them. He brought a huge car and parked it in on the football field because it couldn’t come through here. I led him here and showed him where Kobby and his mom were. They left. He took them away!
Oh, that’s very good news! I understand now! Oh, I’m so excited! Finally, I’m going to see my father-in-law! Yes, Kobby will come for me, and we’ll be a family!
She heads back to her room, all excited, and Mintah looks after her with mixed feelings.
Kwabena does not come back that day, nor the next, nor the next.
The light slowly dies from Dede’s eyes.
She becomes like an automaton, going through the process of living!
Her heart is broken, and she cries herself to sleep each day.
She doesn’t have a phone, and does not know where to find him.
Finally, three weeks later, she is busily packing up the utensils after selling her waakye, when a sleek car pulls up in front of the tree under which she sells her waakye.
The driver’s door opens, and Kwabena steps out.
For a moment Dede cannot recognize him.
He is looking really dapper in a white T-shirt, black jeans, white Jordan sneakers, glasses and ornaments.
It is only when he begins to walk towards her, that Dede finally recognizes him.
She runs to him and embraces him fiercely.
Kobby, Kobby, Kobby! My love! Don’t ever do this to me! You almost killed me, my love!
Kobby squeezes her and kisses her hard.
I’m so sorry, my love! Please forgive me! Things have been very hectic! My father came back and I had to do a lot of things, but I’m okay now. Please forgive me! I’ve come to take you home to meet my father!
Dede is in a dreamland!
She simply cannot believe it!
Quickly, she packs her stuff into the boot of the car, and Kwabena takes her home.
She takes a long bath, changes into a simple but lovely dress, and then Kwabena takes her to his house.
She is sitting in the gigantic living-room when Obaapa enters.
The woman draws Dede into a warm embrace.
My dearest! Dede, God has finally shown us mercy! Welcome to your new home, my daughter!
They are laughing happily when Tutu enters.
Daddy, meet Dede, the lady I’ve been telling you about.
Tutu hesitates with a slight frown on his face, and then he speaks in English to Dede.
Dede simply stands there with fear in her eyes.
She replies in the Akan dialect.
Please, sir, I don’t understand. I lost my father very early in life, and my mother couldn’t afford my school fees, so I couldn’t continue with my education. However, I have a big heart, and it is filled with only love for your son.
Tutu looks at his son, incredulous, and speaks in English rapidly.
Goodness me, Kobby! Have you lost your senses? Of all the women in the university, you chose to bypass all of them and chose this utter moron? You truly want this illiterate garbage to be your wife?
To be Continued….
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