The judge who was going to preside over the case was Justice Ivy Asante Darteh.
They were to meet her at ten in the morning at the Divorce Court private chambers with their lawyers. Tony Siaw arrived at exactly half past nine dressed in black slacks, black shoes, and a beautiful hand-woven smock.
The forecourt of the court was jammed with spectators, journalists and celebrities who had come mostly to support Liz Baidoo. Tony received insults, hoots, jeers and boos as he made his way into the corridors of the huge building. He was even pelted with objects, and a few rotten veggies were hurled at him.
He was directed to the office where the Justice would be meeting them, and told by a polite middle-aged secretary to wait in the huge ante-room.
Liz Baidoo, looking tearful, was already present with her parents, grand-mother, aunt and siblings. Beside her was her lawyer, dressed in strict black suit and white shirt.
Sitting on her other side was a smiling Frank Nsiah wearing a designer shirt over dark-brown slacks, looking every inch the handsome, understanding partner.
Liz looked indescribably beautiful in her dark-green dress that flowed elegantly around her amazing figure. All conversation died when Tony walked in, and the scalding and poisonous looks aimed at him could have fried even the heart of the devil.
He said nothing as he took a seat on the long bench opposite them. He leaned back nonchalantly and as was characteristic of him, he carefully opened a book he was holding and began to read.
Liz stared at her husband with absolute shock.
Above all, she had not expected him to ignore her so totally!
Dear Lord, what kind of monster had she married?
How could she have thought, even fleetingly, that Tony loved her? Obviously, she had just been a trophy wife to him! What had that prostitute got, or done, that had been beyond her?
The pain was threatening to drive her crazy, and so after ten minutes of trying to be calm, she finally stood up and approached him, ignoring the calls from family and friends to stay put.
She faced Tony with tears in her eyes.
“Why, Tony?” she asked in a trembling voice, the torture deep in her soul. “Why would you do such a thing? A prostitute in our marriage bed? How could you be so ugly, Tony? How could you do this to me?”
Tony Siaw carefully folded the top edge of the page inward to bookmark the book, and then he closed it and looked at his wife with calm eyes.
“You ask me here, now?” he asked softly.
“Where else, you disgusting bastard?” she threw at him. “You make me sick, Tony!”
“It happens,” he said and began to open the book again.
Liz slapped the book from his hands, and as it clattered to the ground, she raised her hand, unable to take his flippant attitude any longer, and she slapped him hard across the face.
The sound of her hand was quite loud in the enclosed office, and effectively rendered everybody else still. The slap moved Tony Siaw’s head sharply to the side.
He clenched his jaw hard and remained like that for a long time.
And then Liz saw – to her horror – that the imprint of her fingers was drawn quite graphically on his tender skin.
Her tears increased suddenly as a feeling of sheer helplessness engulfed her; this was the first time she had ever hit out at this man she had loved so much.
Grandmother Cecilia approached her, took her hand, and gently turned her towards the group. The old lady looked over her shoulder at Tony and gave him a scalding look.
“I wish that slap had torn off your head, you despicable bastard!” she hissed furiously. “You will receive your just punishment, you filthy man!”
Tony remained still and leaned back calmly again without making any effort to retrieve the book that Liz had slapped out of his hands.
It was Grace who stood up from her seat and walked towards the book.
“What do you think you’re doing, Grace?” Sandra Baidoo hissed furiously. “Sit back down, Grace, this moment!”
Grace looked at her sister without replying. She picked up the book from the floor and approached Tony. She stood in front of him with a sad smile on her face.
“You traitor!” Cecilia grated angrily at Grace. “Oh, sometimes how I wish this womb had not birthed a child as bad as you!”
Grace did not say anything to them, but smiled again when she proffered the book and Tony took it from her.
“You disappoint me, Tony,” she said softly. “Why a prostitute?”
Tony looked at her and smiled.
This woman had always been kind to him, and she remained his friend from that family who hated him so much.
“Could have given you a call, don’t you see?” he asked softly. “You would have taken care of me.”
She chuckled and shook her head.
“How are you doing?” she asked, the concern clear in her voice. “Want me to come over and prepare some food for you afterwards?”
“Don’t worry, Gracie,” Tony said softly. “Cooking has never been a problem for me. I am well.”
Just then the door to the chambers of Justice Darteh opened, and a smartly-dressed secretary came out.
“The judge will receive the parties and their lawyers now,” she announced. “Only these four people, please. Parties and their lawyers.”
Grace looked at Tony and raised her eyebrows.
“Your lawyer not in yet?” she asked quickly.
“Representing myself, Gracie,” Tony said as he got to his feet. “This wouldn’t be a long case. We have our prenup agreement to fall on, and then I’ll take custody of the children and move on.”
She looked at him with disapproving eyes.
“Tony!” she whispered. “What is this? This part of you is cruel! Why does it seem to me that you’re looking forward to getting divorced?”
“Because your niece is divorcing me, Gracie,” he said calmly. “Better get accustomed to that fact.”
Liz and her lawyer, Hassan Moshi, had already entered the office.
As Tony made his way to the office, he saw the enraged look on his father-in-law’s face.
“You bastard!” Jake Baidoo hissed.
“May you die slowly and in great agony, Tony!” Sandra said.
“Typical,” Tony said to them as he sauntered into the office with a calm disposition.
It was huge, a tinge darker than he would have expected.
There was a huge mahogany desk, chairs in front of it, some office equipment including a small refrigerator, a filing cabinet, and a three-tier shelf against the wall at the far end. The curtains were heavy and dark, floor to ceiling.
In the middle was an oval heavy conference table, and around it were six chairs, two on each longer side, and one each at the head and tail.
Tony’s ingrained idea of female judges were fixed: thin, old, witchy, ugly, and mean.
Ivy Asante Darteh turned out to be just the opposite. Dressed in a pleasant blue-black suit and a pinkish inner, she was quite younger than he had imagined, middle-aged, curvy, rounded, and grandly beautiful. She was bespectacled, though, and had a hardness around the eyes that warned him that her looks could be deceptive; this woman was no pushover.
She welcomed them warmly enough, though, and whilst Liz and her lawyer sat on one side, Tony lowered himself into a chair on the other side. He had expected the judge to sit at the head of the table, but she sat beside him to balance the equation, sort of, and enquired if they needed water.
When they all politely declined, she asked if any one had an objection to beginning the meeting with a prayer, and when no objections were raised, she offered a short prayer and waited for their ‘amens’ before drawing the case file towards her, adjusting her glasses, and then linking her hands with a smile on her face.
She cleared her throat gently.
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