The compound was quieter than Sule knows it. Or he thought it was, overcome with the guilt from his conversation with his mum last night. He packed at his usual spot in the garage. The spot was his usual not because of choice. The garage has room for two cars; his dad’s and his. He hurried and got the gate locked and took giant forward steps into the kitchen as if should he walk any slower, he’d never make it to talk to his mum. He found her sitting by herself, waiting on the simmering soup. He knew the smell of her Groundnut Soup by heart.
He stood by her. Suzie lifted her face up to his.
“For tomorrow. We ate TZ today. Yours is in the warmer. How was work?
She set aside the earthenware bowl that sat by her feet and pulled a stool for Sule.
“Work was fine. I didn’t do much. Tara didn’t show up.”
“I see. She called in sick?”
“No. She called but I’ll be told the reason tomorrow.”
“That’s ok.” Suzie put off the fire under the soup, dumped the earthenware bowl along with the many dishes unwashed in the sink. She washed her hands from habit and dried, watching Sule fidget with his phone. “Aha.” Her eyes lit up and staring into them excited Sule. Dialoguing with her was easier than he has imagined it. “Fatima tells me you met those crazy girls she keeps company with.”
Suzie spoke to Sule’s amusement. Her mum never lost her formal talk. The words run out her mouth as if she’s doing a presentation before a vetting committee for a ministerial appointment.
“She told you erh.” Sule shook his head. “I’m thinking of investigating those girls. They are too wild.”
“Mm…” Suzie laughed. “I’ve met the mothers of two of them. They seem decent.” She took her seat. “So you have closed early.”
“There wasn’t much work. I’ve got a new home-sessions client I need to prepare for. And I wanted to talk to you.”
“About yesterday. It’s fine. You just should know your dad heard us and he wasn’t pleased.”
Wasn’t pleased? Does he have any right to not be pleased?
The questions raged on in Sule’s thoughts.
“I’m sorry Maa. I was wrong the way I spoke to you.”
“Adults have squabbles son.”
“You’re my mother.”
Suzie patted her son’s shoulders. Sule wished she’ll cram him in a hug like old days – when he was smaller and home was full with both parents. When his father left, his mum stayed but not the woman who was his cradle. He misses her every day but he’s grateful, she stayed.
“I’ll go up and change and come down and eat.”
Sule met his father at the door.
“Daa good evening.”
He didn’t look into the old man’s face. His father didn’t respond. Sule jogged off. His dad stepped in the kitchen, dragging his left leg along in an almost mechanized limp.
“Koo.” Suzie met him by the door and gave him a hand to the stool Sule previously occupied. “Hassan. I told you to call me every time rather.” She said and hurried to the fridge. “I kept the leftover Moringa.”
“I came because I didn’t want the tea tasting like the last cup I had to take. I see. You’ve been giving me leftovers.”
“I’ve been reheating leftovers, Hassan. Why boil fresh Moringa tea twice on a day when there is leftover to just reheat.”
Her protest came out stronger than she planned in her head. She stormed at the jug and poured out the leftover into the sink. She watched as the green liquid meandered down into the sink’s only hole. She poured fresh water onto the already washed leaves she grabbed from the fridge and set fire under the saucepan.
“Forgive me for the way I spoke to you.”
She told her husband, avoiding his pained eyes. She sat, wondering how much better life would have been if he had never jumped ship and come back so burdened. That American lottery destroyed everything. She was too bent on making it here in Ghana she didn’t see the sense in leaving the good life they were now building to toil in weather conditions she just knows from TV in hope of becoming billionaires overnight. She still doesn’t get the reason even up till now. So she didn’t go. Hassan found someone else’s wife and run off and came back. Even to her, he’s never told what really went on out there. But she suspects the woman got another rich man and dumped him in the cold somewhere. A woman who’ll leave her husband and daughter for you isn’t worth trusting. She repeated that same sentence a billion times and he still left.
“Woman” Hassan tapped his wife “My tea will be finished from the saucepan.”
“Hassan.” Suzie firmed her grips on the plastic handle and with an eagle’s eye. She poured the tea into the waiting mug. “You don’t call me woman. You know your wife’s name. You don’t call me woman as if I am any other female waiting for your orders on the streets.” She set the tea by him.
“I won’t apologize. You’re my wife.”
“I am only pretending to be.”
She said and smiled charmingly at Sule. He was in shorts and a singlet. He smiled at his mum and made for the warmer. His eyes told Suzie he heard nothing. She was relieved.
“I’ll eat in the workout room.”
He shot just one glance towards his dad and looked at his mum. He got to the door, his food in the warmer lowered to his knee. And then he remembered.
“Maa.” He turned to both parents. “Maa, do you remember a certain man who used to come around when I was much younger. You’d meet him at the door. He stopped coming after dad left.”
He saw the disapproval greeting his face from his mum and the indifference from his dad’s but he was too curious to care about saying the obvious – years ago, he, his dad wasn’t a part of the family.
“I don’t remember any such man.” Suzie came across too bold. She prayed Sule won’t notice. She was lying to her son again. She had to do that throughout his young years till he was old enough to understand his daddy went off to the states with another woman.
“But Sule you were a dreamer back then. You must have seen a thousand people come to our doorstep in a minute.”
She chuckled and glanced Hassan’s way, working too hard so Sule believes her and forgets about Sefa. Sule shook his head, laughing. He didn’t believe his mother. He knew her look when she’s outsmarting you.
“A dreamer of all the names.”
He laughed again – out of unbelief and sheer excitement. Suzie joined in. The laughter of the two echoed gently through the room, each one’s filled with its own doubts. He left, stood by the kitchen door and stamped his feet till he was certain he would have gotten into the workout room by then.
“He was talking about Sefa, Hassan.”
“Sefa isn’t our problem.”
Hassan’s nonchalant manners threw Suzie into full frenzy.
“No one is your problem, Hassan. And that’s precisely the problem. You go away for how many years, I’ve lost count off and show up again as though you just went to the loo for a few minutes and got back. You’ve not explained where that man’s wife is, what did or didn’t happen. Oh, I’ve been foolish to have taken you back for the sake of the kids and your bad health. And that’s why I took you back. Not for mushy love. Not for sex. I grew out of both the day you packed your bags and left my son broken hearted. So Sefa is our problem. Should he show up at my doorstep again, you’ll leave with him.”
Sule sprinted down the stairs in time as Suzie stormed out of the kitchen. He grabbed onto the wall and steadied himself. The man is Sefa, Dzidzor’s godfather and the husband of the woman his dad went off with. He exhaled. What soap opera is this? He set the warmer down as Sefa’s face played before him. He looked just like Freda. He missed the wedding, he’s never met Sefa but pondering now, the resemblance was stark. Too stark. Freda was a modified version of Sefa, no doubt. He remembered his hefty laughter and chatty nature when he was with Dzidzor.
He found his legs and walked into his makeshift gym by the garage. Sefa is Freda’s father means the woman his father went away with is Freda’s mother which doesn’t make sense. Last week on his call with Kwaku, he told him about Freda’s dad’s heart ailment and the fact that she’s already lost her mother. Sule sunk into his worn leather sofa and cupped his face in slow and mortifying realization. Could it be his father who…? No. It can’t. He felt his hands trembling. His father for the few years he’s been back has been a juggernaut, true. A killer, he won’t be convinced. He sat back, the night drawing him in. He dropped to his knees and buried his face into the settee. His schedule can wait, his food can, he is going to ask for God to take the lead wherever this truth may lead to.
Should Sefa come back into their family, he wanted his father to stay, for Fatima.
TZ: Tuozafi, a native Ghanaian food originating from the northern part of Ghana and popular enjoyed across all regions of the country. It is made from different grains and eaten with a mixture of specially made stews and soups.
©M’afua Awo Twumwaah 2017.