BASED ON A TRUE STORY
SERWAA LOST HER job when she was 6 months pregnant. It was a big establishment (plaza) and with her being the cook the manager couldn’t handle her spitting all the time though she did that into a bottle. There was some politics already going on which affected her because the manager’s daughter thought her dad favored her. Serwaa got irritated one day with the girl’s actions and blasted her in front of the other staff. Her boss came and reprimanded her. She felt it unfair and told him that she felt it was best she let the job go for her own peace of mind.
She had then moved to a new place with her husband who was a tractor fitter. Being the indoors type, she was always in her room unless she had to go out to do something. Her family lived within the same district but in different areas. Her big sister had built her house at Madina Estate, her mother at Firestone and she herself was living at Haatso. Her first child, Naomi used to live with her mother until she went for her after giving birth.
When she first moved into the house, she realized the women were many and always quarreling. To avoid issues she always scrubbed the bathroom when it was her turn (5 rooms shared a bathroom and toilet so with 15 rooms, 3 sets of bathrooms and toilets) but kept to herself inside her room. She gave birth and was blessed with a good girl, Benewaa. Her little girl walked in her room and for months nobody knew it because Gloria could leave her to watch TV, go out to wash or buy something and Benewaa wouldn’t make a sound.
In spite of always keeping to herself, she always greeted everyone and that was it but, there were two ladies she was friends with. One of them was, Eno, whose child, Dzibordi, was the same age as Naomi. They became so close that the Dzibordi forced her mother to move her from her school to also attend Naomi’s school. They played together, ate together so it was natural for Gloria and Eno to become friends. Anytime Gloria cooked and Dzibordi was around, she would feed her. When Naomi was at Eno’s end too, she would likewise feed the girl.
Her second friend was Aida, a Senegalese woman who had gotten married to a Ghanaian doctor. Her husband was in the states. She mostly kept to herself too but liked Serwaa mostly because had the same temperament.
The house wasn’t inhabited by just women though. Some were living there with their husbands. One of them was Acheampong. Acheampong moved into the house right after completing national service three years before the landlord decided to rent out any other room. At that time the landlord had needed urgent money so decided to rent out his boy’s quarters. The boy’s quarters weren’t fully finished at that time but because it was closer to the school he taught in, Acheampong gladly paid three years rent advance and moved in a few months after it was completed. The landlord then decided to build extra apartments from the money he had and rent them out. After three years, he had a 4 bedroom house as his residence and a one-storeyed “boy’s quarters” made up 15 studio and single units.
Acheampong got a job at one of the ministries and was soon employed by an MP in the Ashante region as his personal driver. With the pay being far better than he had hoped, he finally got married to his childhood sweetheart Freda, a beautiful Fante, whose mother adored him. Unfortunately, after Freda put to bed to deliver their second born, a girl, she started acting strangely. She could get up and refuse to pick the baby, dress up or eat. Acheampong would have to bath, dress up and feed the baby and Freda will stand there watching anything but them.
One day, Acheampong had an urgent call to pick up his boss from the ministries, Accra to a program in Kumasi. Freda had at that time taken her bath but was refusing to dress up. He got irritated and yelled at her for behaving strangely. “What is wrong with you? Are you the only woman who has given birth in this world? Why do I have to do everything for you? I have to make sure you have taken your bath, help you wear your panties, your clothes, feed you and on top of it all take care of our baby? I now have to go to work and you’re behaving like this, why are you stressing me?”\
Freda took a look at him and said petulantly, “tell sister Gloria to come and wear me my panties otherwise I won’t wear them.” Acheampong just looked at her and shook his head.
GLORIA WAS INSIDE the room when she heard someone calling her mother’s name. “Ma,” she said. “Someone is calling you.”
Serwaa went outside and it was Acheampong.
“Hello, Mr Acheampong. My daughter just told me you’re looking for me. Is anything the matter?”
“I’m sorry for bothering you like this but I need urgent help. It’s my wife, Freda. After she gave birth, she’s been behaving strangely. She doesn’t want to do anything for herself, won’t bath, won’t eat, won’t dress up and the worse of all is she doesn’t even want to see our baby.”
“That’s very strange. I’ve not seen her outside after seeing you bringing her and her baby home so I’m surprised to hear all this has been going on.”
“Hmmm. That’s why I’m even here. I got an urgent call to go to work and Freda is refusing to do anything as usual. Now, she’s insisting I call you for her.”
“Eiii, me?” Serwaa was shocked because she couldn’t remember the number of times she had seen Freda than to talk to her aside the usual greetings. She knew Freda was quite close to Eno and had seen Eno chatting with her through Freda’s window prior to her delivering so to have her call for her really surprised her.
“Yes, please. I know it’s a big favor but she wants you to help her wear her panty.”
Serwaa’s mouth nearly hit the ground. She was that shocked. She quickly told Gloria to keep an eye on Benewaa and followed Acheampong. She didn’t know Eno had heard everything from inside her room.
Serwaa followed Acheampong into his apartment which opened into a kitchen followed by a larger-than-average living room and then the ensuite bedroom. Freda was seated on the bed with her eyes downcast, naked.
“Hello, Freda,” Serwaa said tentatively, unsure what to say or do. There was silence. Freda acted as if she /didn’t hear her.
“Honey, you told me to call Sister Serwaa for you.”
Freda slowly lifted her head and looked at Serwaa for a moment. Then she smiled. “Hello sister Serwaa.”
Serwaa looked over at Acheampong who nodded. She also nodded.
“I’m here to help you as you wanted. Can you show me where your panties are?”
Freda pointed to a colorful lace pantie lying next to her. Her baby was fast asleep on the bed beside her. Serwaa picked up the pantie and stooped to help her wear them. Acheampong picked up a dress from the wardrobe and gave it to Serwaa, who promptly helped his wife. After, Acheampong went to the kitchen for a bowl of warm rice with chicken stew. Freda refused to take the bowl so Serwaa was forced to spoonfeed which she readily ate. After she finished eating, Acheampong told Serwaa how it all started from when he brought her home from the hospital. Within a few minutes, they both realized she was fast asleep.
After that day, anytime Freda sent for her, Serwaa would go and assist. She assisted in bathing the baby, cooking and feeding their first child and kept Freda company whenever Acheampong had to leave for work. She would only return to her apartment after Freda was asleep. There were times she was forced to take their baby to her apartment because she will be crying whiles her mum will be asleep.
Serwaa was fast asleep one afternoon when she heard Eno calling her name. She went to her window and saw the other woman wearing just a cloth wrapped around her. “Hello Eno.”
“Hello Sister Serwaa, how are you doing?”
“I’m good my sister.”
“I thank God for the gift of life. I’ve been seeing you entering my friend Freda’s apartment these days. I’ve been very worried about her but her husband doesn’t tell me much these days.”
“Oh my sister, Freda is fine. He only calls me to assist her with a few things. As we all know, when we give birth fresh like that, we need all the help we can get.”
“I agree with you. You weren’t here when they gave birth to their son but I was the one who helped her through it all. She is a good friend of mine.”
“It’s nice to have friends like you. God bless you.”
“Amen. So have you seen her this morning?”
“Yes. Mr Acheampong came to call me to help him bath the baby.”
“Oh ok. I’m here anytime you need my assistance.”
“Sure thing. Thank you sis.”
Serwaa watched her friend go a second. She wondered why Eno had to have this conversation with her, especially about having helped Freda when she gave birth to her son. Serwaa shrugged and went back to her bed.
The following day, Gloria finished her chores and went to see if Dzibordi was inside because she hadn’t seen her friend all day. Benewaa was fast asleep so her mother had gone to prepare some stews to store in the Acheampongs’ fridge for some days.
Eno was washing dishes on her porch when Gloria got there. She greeted and asked if Dzibordi was in but it was as if she was talking to a wall, Eno ignored her. Thankfully, Dzibordi heard her friend calling her and came out to join her on the compound where they chatted the hour away.
2 weeks later, Serwaa had just finished feeding Benewaa when she heard a knock and Acheampong calling her name. She put Benewaa inside her walker and picking up a rope for such purposes tied one of the legs of the walker to her armchair. After, that she quickly put on her dress and went out.
“Sorry sister for disturbing you as usual but there is something I want to put before,” he said apologetically.
“It’s fine. Does Freda need something?”
“Yes and no. In fact, that’s why I’m here in the first place. I feel it’s best I take her to my mother in law. The woman has agreed with me that it could be something psychological because my wife has never been like this. It’s been a month with no sign of changes.”
“So the favor, I want to ask of you is that, can I bring my kids here to live with you for a few weeks? I will be traveling a lot these days which is why I agreed to take my wife to her mum’s otherwise I would have taken her to the psychiatric hospital for evaluation.”
“No problem at all. I’m ready to help.”
So after taking his wife to the mother, Acheampong traveled to with his boss. When he returned that weekend, he brought Serwaa a lot of food stuff and provisions. They were so many that she had to package some and give to the other tenants. She saw how Eno frowned after receiving the items but decided not to think anything of it until she realized her friend had completely changed towards her.
Serwaa’s husband, Julius was a tractor fitter who worked for a company based in the states. He usually traveled to work on tractors and larger vehicles and could be gone for 90 days at a time. He was very friendly and unlike his wife, made sure he spoke to all the tenants anytime he was around so he was surprised when he returned home one day and Eno refused to return his greetings. He called her but she ignored him and leaving the food she’d been preparing on a coalpot, entered her room.
He went to ask his wife what was going on with her next-door neighbor and Serwaa finally realized how much her friend had changed. It was shocking. She went to knock on her friend’s door but the woman refused to open or respond. When she went back inside, Gloria told her how Eno ignored her when she went to look for Dzibordi. Julius told them not to worry. Maybe, the woman was going through one of “you women things” as he called it. If only he knew.
That weekend, Acheampong came home as usual after one week ferrying his boss from one city to the other. He had in his car not just provisions but gifts for his kids and Serwaa’s. He ate the fufu Serwaa served him and had only slept for 2 hours before his boss called him again so he had to leave again.
Serwaa observed one thing during that time. When she was preparing the fufu, she came onto the porch to pound it with the help of her husband. They both saw Eno seated in the sun in front of her porch. They greeted her but she refused to respond. When Acheampong came to their porch for his meal, she picked up her chair, went back inside and came back outside after he had left to his apartment. Serwaa wondered what was going on but decided not to ask.
After washing the mortar and pestle, she poured the dirty water into a bucket to go and pour it into the gutter outside. None of the tenants except for Acheampong and the landlord had a sink connected to pipes so any dirty water had to be taken outside.
When she was going out to pour the water, she greeted Eno again but the woman still ignored her. She went outside and met Aida on her way back home. She hadn’t seen her friend for 2 weeks and asked where she was. Aida told her she’d gotten a new job which made her leave quite early in the morning and returned quite late except for that day because she had had to go to the hospital. Serwaa got concerned and asked her if she wasn’t feeling well. Aida told her she was but it was just that she was expecting. Serwaa squealed with happiness and congratulated her. They were laughing and enjoying each other’s company as they entered the compound that they didn’t see the strange looks they received from some of the tenants who were outside at that time. Many had never seen Aida smile before.
After a couple of minutes, Serwaa promised Aida that she’ll come inside for more chats and went back to her apartment. Eno was still seated under the sun.
Serwaa had just reached her porch when she felt something grab hold of her hair and pull it. The slap which came from nowhere made her dizzy but she saw clearly it was Eno. This woman grabbed Serwaa by her blouse and with a force pushed her so hard that she fell against a bench some distance away. The tenants who were on the compound ran to them asking why Eno was doing that.
The woman started shouting that Serwaa knew Freda was her friend but because she was greedy and selfish, refused to allow her help her friend. Anytime she went to Acheampong to ask to see her friend, he would tell her Serwaa is inside and doesn’t want anyone to disturb his wife. She even asked Serwaa permission to see her friend but the woman said no. Serwaa painfully got up from the bench and said it wasn’t true but sadly, all the tenants sided with Eno and started raining insults on her.
“How can you, a small girl like you, come and tell me I can’t see my friend? Where were you when I was taking care of her son? Now that she has a girl, wasn’t I the one to also take care of him but you blocked all my chances to help my friend because of what you knew you’ll get from them, you greedy stupid girl.” Eno yelled.
“You know it’s not true, Eno,” Serwaa said painfully.
“It is Sister Eno to you, foolish girl.”
Serwaa just looked at the woman and without a word went inside. She locked her door and burst into tears. Thankfully, Benewaa and Gloria were fast asleep.
She was in her room later that day when Aida came to knock on her door.
“Serwaa, I was inside and heard the usual ruckus but thought it was the woman fighting as usual. I never knew you were part of it.”
“Aida,” Serwaa fought against shedding tears and won for a moment, “after talking to you, I was just entering my apartment when this woman slapped me and threw against the bench in front of the landlord’s apartment. All the time she was hitting me, I didn’t know why she was doing it only for her to blame me for her not being able to help Freda.”
“The lady whose husband took her to her mother’s after she gave birth?” Aida sounded shocked.
Aida was further shocked as she listened to Serwaa’s side of the story. Then she said, “the reason why I got to know it was you was because I overheard Eno telling some of the other women that if you don’t apologize to her for preventing her from helping her friend, she will make your stay here miserable. I’m not a native and so I’m very careful wherever I go and wanted to implore you to talk to her.”
“Hmmm,” was all that Serwaa said.
When Julius returned that night, Serwaa had a hard time calming him down because he became so furious that he wanted to go and tell Eno to beat him rather and not his innocent wife. Even though, she calmed him down, he still went to knock on Eno’s door when he realized that her husband, Sena, a mechanic, had returned home. All that Sena said after Julius told him what his wife said was, “it is a women’s fight. Leave it to them.”
With that said, he went back inside leaving Julius fuming on his porch. That evening, Serwaa went to Firestone to inform her mother of what had happened. Her mother told her, “my daughter, if she says apologize, apologize to her. Yes. You and I know that you’re right because I know you can never do all that she’s saying. I raised you to help others and be generous to them. You’re a mother. Has she asked herself why you would prevent her from helping a mad woman when you have your own baby to take care of?”
“Ma, Freda is not mad,” Serwaa interjected.
“Whether mad or not, that Eno woman isn’t thinking straight because of her jealousy so if she says apologize, kneel before her and apologize. I will willingly kneel down with you. My dear, sorry is just a second’s speech. What if next time she kills you, so if this will bring peace why not?
The next day, Serwaa’s mother came to the house. Acheampong himself had returned after the landlord called him that that is what had happened. Together with Serwaa and her mother, Acheampong carrying his baby went to Eno’s apartment to apologize.
“Eno,” Acheampong began. “I’m the one who should actually apologize for all this confusion. Freda started behaving strangely after she gave birth and it was taking a heavy toll on me. It was she herself who asked for me to call Serwaa for her. Serwaa has been very helpful so you can imagine how I feel knowing you hurt her like that. I was very disturbed when our landlord called me to inform me.”
“Mr. Acheampong, what even hurts me is that Eno came to inform me that she was the one who helped you when you had your son. She never for once asked me that wanted to she wanted to see Freda. I always leave my baby inside the room, most times alone, to come and take care of yours so why would I say no if she wanted to help.” Serwaa said.
Her mother came in, “it’s ok my daughter. Eno, my daughter came to inform me of everything. I am here with her to plead with you to forgive her.” She knelt down and looked expectantly at Serwaa who burst into tears. She knelt down with tears streaming down her cheeks. Eno who was seated with her legs crossed on her sofa refused to look at them. Sena watching them from the door called her before she finally accepted their apologies. Without another word, Serwaa and her mother left the room. Acheampong stayed for a few minutes to tell her not to beat the woman again because if not for her, she would have found it tough handling them and going to work at the same time.
“Freda is my friend. Yes, I agree that I shouldn’t have gotten angry and beat her up like that but she should have allowed me to help. Can I have the baby?”
Acheampong handed over her daughter to her and within a second, she started crying. After 2 terse minutes watching her unsuccessfully try to calm the baby down, Acheampong took his child back and left the room. Sena finally accepted that it was no more a mere “women’s fight.” His wife was being unreasonable. He warned her against what she was doing and went out to join his friends at a nearby blue kiosk.
SERWAA WAS HOPING that after that painful, things would go back to normal but it even became worse. All the female tenants except for Aida chose Eno’s side. Eno glad to have the attention regularly fanned the flames by telling them what Serwaa was doing. Acheampong after seeing she couldn’t handle his daughter for a few minutes refused her help anytime she offered. He would greet her and pass to Serwaa’s door, hand over food items, chat briefly with her and leave. His son had started calling her ma and that made Eno more furious.
Sometimes, she would sit near Serwaa’s porch whenever there was shade and gossip about her loudly. Gloria told her mother that Eno still refused to acknowledge her greetings and even went as far as warning Dzibordi from playing with her. Out of pain, Serwaa warned her never to talk to her daughter. She shouldn’t even greet her because she didn’t want her to make the mistake of going there and being beaten up like the way she was severely trounced for something not her fault.
One day, Eno announced to the house that she would be traveling that weekend. She had a funeral in her hometown and wanted to help her relatives with some food. She enlisted the help of some of the women to prepare shito and fry 3 cartons each of chicken and fish. Serwaa was on her way to buy something not far from the house when she overheard Eno loudly telling one of the women that she wasn’t done with her. “My sister, you can trust me. After returning from the funeral, no one will tell her to leave this house. She herself will run. In fact, she will fear me that day.” She taunted.
Serwaa was shaken because she didn’t know what she was planning. When, Comfort, a woman living not far from where she lived saw her demeanor, she called her.
“Sister Serwaa, come.” She said. Serwaa, hesitated briefly and went to her. “How are you?”
“I’m fine Comfort.”
“Good. You know that I don’t stay with you in your house but I know all that is happening in that house. Do you mind coming with me tonight for prayers? My church hosts prayers at the Children’s Park and I would love it if you could join us.”
Serwaa wasn’t really interested but agreed to go. That evening, Comfort’s son came to call her but she told him to inform her that she was a bit busy but she will try and make it next time. He went and came back that the mother insisted she should join her.
She did and even had to return home pick up her chair because there were no chairs on the park so members had to provide their own chairs to sit on. They’ll be given prayer topics then they can either sit or walk around and pray.
While praying the pastor walked over to Serwaa and said “my sister, this is my first time seeing you here. I don’t you but the Lord says He shall fight for you. Don’t worry. There is something big on its way but don’t worry. You will be all right.”
Serwaa came home that night very disturbed. It was like all the issues over the past days had gotten to her so much that she couldn’t cope with anything. Thinking of what Eno said had filled her with trepidation. To have the pastor tell her something big was on its way had made it work. She didn’t sleep a wink that night because she kept on dwelling over everything.
Eno left to her village the following day and was gone for almost a week. 2 days later Comfort sent her son to call Eno that it was time for evening prayers. This time, she didn’t hesitate because she wanted to ask the pastor why that prophecy. The pastor repeated the same thing but this time he said “the Lord says He shall fight for you and this battle, you shall see how big it is but it shall not affect you.” She asked for further clarification but that was all that he said.
She went to ask Comfort what the pastor meant by this but the woman didn’t understand herself. Serwaa was worried more than when she came but went home, prayed and slept.
The following day, she was washing some clothes in front of my porch. Aida was also washing but left it for some minutes to chat with her friend.
“Serwaa, there is something I have been observing. Haven’t you realized that ever since Eno left, the house has been quiet?”
Serwaa merely smiled. A few moments later, Aida returned to her washing. Some minutes later, two men entered the compound. They greeted her but walked straight to Serwaa. She was surprised when they asked her where Dzibordi’s father was. She told them Sena had gone to the fitting shop and Dzibordi herself wasn’t.
Aida walked over to find out what was going on. She asked them what the matter was but they told her they were looking for Sena. Serwaa told them to take a contact Sena had written on his trap door in case any of his clients came home to meet his absence. She gave them the direction of the fitting shop and told them to go there and still be calling.
An hour later they came back because they had called him but he still wasn’t answering and they weren’t sure of the direction. They asked where Dzibordi was so Serwaa called Gloria and asked for her friend’s contact. They called her and spoke in French to her. Serwaa didn’t understand but knew Aida did. She was however surprised when Aida asked the two men “is she ok?” They didn’t talk and left.
“What did they say?” Serwaa asked.
“It seems they are Eno’s brothers. They were returning from the funeral when they had an accident. Eno is badly hurt. Unfortunately, they spoke a mixture of French and another language so I couldn’t catch most of what they said.”
“The second language is Ewe. I hope she’s ok now.”
“I hope so too.”
LATER THAT NIGHT, Serwaa was inside when I heard waling from outside. She went to the porch and saw some female tenants gathered at the front of the house. She went to ask one of them what was wrong but all of them ignored her as if she was a stick. She was hurt but without a word went back to her room.
Then morning came before she heard the news. Eno had been returning with her brothers and they got involved in an accident. She died on the spot.
“She was killed by that witch,” some of the tenants started yelling and crying at the same.
Nearly all the tenants blamed Serwaa for killing Eno. Whiles some of them said she must have cursed Eno when she was forced to apologize to her, others said she must have done something after Eno traveled. Anytime they saw Serwaa they quickly ran away or hid. Their kids were not allowed to get near her. Serwaa was living in the house but wasn’t happy. They gossiped in whispers when they saw her and always looked scared.
Out of frustration, she told her family what was going on. Her big told her to move to her newly built place at Madina Estates. She was happy for the change of environment and packing a few things moved with hers and Mr Acheampongs’s kids to the place. During the “One Week” after her death, Eno’s family went to inform her landlord and the other tenants of the funeral arrangement.
Julius who had returned from working in the bush decided to join the ceremony on his wife’s behalf. He didn’t take soft drinks so when he was given, turned it down. The whole house erupted. They said that meant indeed his wife was a witch who killed the woman which was why she told him not to take any drink from them. The agitation was so much that the landlord yelled at all of them to stop disgracing him in front of Eno’s people. They were behaving as if he wasn’t the owner of his own house. If they had any issues, he was the one they should have first gone to. Eno should have never touched Serwaa in the first place over something so trivial. Yet, she was now dead.
If there were any answers, he wasn’t going to get them from Eno so he will call Serwaa to talk to her. Then he told Julius to inform his wife to come back to the house and see him. When she arrived, he informed her of all the accusations and expressed his disappointment in neither of them informing him of what was going on. He could have resolved it but nobody informed him.
“Yes, I had traveled at that time but, all anyone had to do was to pick up a phone and call me to tell that this is what is happening in my house. That two women are fighting over someone’s child. Someone who has been admitted at an asylum, her kids have become a bone of contention and now one of them is dead. Serwaa, they are accusing you of killing her.”
“Landlord, I agree with you that it is trivial because I never dreamt that she could get this angry enough over my taking care of Freda’s kids to beat me up the way she did but I would never kill her. I’m not a witch like they are saying. I know the town Eno comes from and they don’t walk just like that. They always have spiritual protection. Her brothers have every right in the world to put a knife in her hand and tell her soul to search for whoever killed her. If it is me, let me die within a week, if it is someone else, let that person die within a week also, if not she should forever hold her peace. I am proudly saying this because I know I am innocent.”
“Yoo,” the landlord said and relayed her response to Eno’s family.
Serwaa decided to stay there for a few days before returning to her sister’s place. Aida who had suddenly developed a love for snooping came to inform her that Eno’s family said she had gone for a special plant to plant on the compound. It was to prevent Serwaa from getting any more favors from Acheampong. One of the woman had asked what if the pot was meant to kill Serwaa but they didn’t respond to it. Serwaa upon hearing all this one evening, packed up all her belongings and left the place.
Over time, the other tenants moved out of the house and upon the death of the landlord, Acheampong bought the house and allowed those who would choose to live there to still do so. Aida finally moved to Senegal with her family and has kept in touch with her Ghanaian friend to this day.
It took Serwaa some years to get over what happened to her. She had wished evil for Eno and cried when she died because she always remembered how friendly Eno had been to her and Gloria. Yet, comparing this friendliness to the sudden fight and subsequent intention to spiritually attack her shocked her. She finally understood all that the pastor told her on the park. God for her.
“God fought me. He fought for me because little does anyone know what this woman was coming to do me.”
This story is to let someone somewhere know that your God shall fight for you. That thing you’re so bothered and worried about won’t last forever. Leave it all to God. In due time it will be dealt with. Just believe in him because if you know how to fight, God won’t fight for you but if you don’t know how to fight, that’s when God comes in. He will fight for you.