BERNADINE WAS READING a storybook when she heard a knock on the door

‘Who is it?

She called out as she got up to answer the door. She opened it to see Kaakyire standing there smiling at her.

She had to admit that he’d grown up to become a very handsome guy.

When she was 10 years she’d had a major crush on him but he’d never spoken to her directly. He’d preferred bouncing a ball around than to bother with her or any other girl for that matter. She’d always made sure she was at the park to play with the guys just to get a chance to talk to him. However, she’d left with her family to Nigeria and had hardly given him a thought. Yet, years later, here she was wondering if the feelings she had for him were returning or they’d never left her. She gave an inner sigh. She knew better than to think along those lines.

She’d come to Ghana with a mission and Emeka was waiting for her back home. She sighed internally. Emeka.

‘I hope I’m not disturbing you or anything,’ Kaakyire finally asked when he saw her staring at him without saying anything.  She mentally shook herself out of her musings. “Not at all. What are you doing here?” she finally asked.

She moved onto the porch closing the door behind her. Kaakyire was disappointed she hadn’t invited him in but was thankful that at least she hadn’t given him an excuse to make him leave. He lowered the volume of his phone before answering her.

‘Well one, it’s been years since we met?’

‘We met yesterday, remember?’ She teased.

‘I do but we didn’t have much of a conversation because…well let’s not go into that. Being the good neighbor I am and knowing you have just a few friends on this block, I see it as my duty no, call it pleasure, to keep you entertained so you don’t get bored. If you do get bored, you might decide to leave sooner than later and I wouldn’t want that.’ He said.

Bernadine laughed out loud. ‘oh really?

“Yes really. Which is why I’m now presenting myself to you as your personal DJ. Just tell me the song you want to listen to, if I have it, then your wish will be my command.’

‘Okay, do you have Obianuju by Efya?”

‘Your wish is my command.’ Kaakyire tapped the phone a few times and soon Efya’s melodious voice resounded on the small porch. He turned to stare at her. ‘I’ve been wondering about something. You left for Naija years ago but have returned alone. Are you coming to school here?”

Bernadine looked at him for a moment before answering.

‘No. I just had some time on my hands and decided to return to the country of my birth for a visit. I’ll be going to college in Kaduna in about a month’s time.”

Kaakyire’s heart tightened in sadness. Here was the girl it seemed he’d been waiting for all his life and she didn’t have long to stay. Since SHS he’d asked himself why he wasn’t interested in any girl. His friends had teased and insulted him whenever he refused to go out on double or triple dates with them.

At the University he knew a lot of his female mates had been interested in him but he hadn’t even seen them as dateable. Now that he was working, he’d wondered what was wrong him. He now knew that he’d been waiting for this lady, her.

But he put those thoughts aside and rather concentrated on telling her some of the events which had happened in their neighborhood within the years she’d been away.  He soon had her laughing with tales such as the goat that was arrested by the police for causing havoc in people’s farms and how the young guys convinced the police to release it only to prepare delicious pepper soup with it. The police of course were given their share.

He was so intent on this story that he did not realize Dentaa was approaching.

Bernadine however did and noticed something really interesting. Her friend was staring at Kaakyire the way a cat eyes succulent sardines.

Dentaa greeted them when she got closer but Kaakyire only said ‘hi’ and turned to his phone to change the song.

“Have you been here long?” Dentaa asked Kaakyire.

“Not long enough and as Bernadine’s personal DJ I hope she’ll let me stay a while longer.”

Bernadine laughed, “you want to stay and listen to gossip?”

“Hey, we don’t gossip,” Dentaa laughingly interjected, “we women just discuss things a bit much deeper than men.” They all laughed at that.

“If you say so,” said Kaakyire, “but I think it’ll be safer I left before I hear anything about guys that will freak me out.”

“Oh, you don’t have to go…” Dentaa protested but Kaakyire told Bernadine that he’d see her soon and left.

 

AS HE WALKED away, Kaakyire wondered why Dentaa had to come around. He’d been there for just a few minutes. He sighed.

The two were friends so it was a matter of course that Dentaa will go and visit her friend. But he also wanted to be Bernadine’s friend. He didn’t know why her, why now but he wanted to. He had to take her out, get her to know him. She’d be there for only a month but a lot could happen within that short time; like making her fall in love with him.

He smiled at that and with a jaunty step walked towards his house.

 

BERNADINE WATCHED AS her friend stared at Kaakyire’s retreating back.

“You like him don’t you?”

“A lot.” She flopped onto a plastic chair on the porch. “He doesn’t even know I exist and I always thank God that he hasn’t been snatched by any girl at the school he teaches in.”

“He’s working?” Bernadine was surprised at this information as she knew that she was the same year as he was.

“Kaakyire is more of a sharp brain. He was jumped from class 6 to JHS 2 because he was teaching JHS 3 students. Can you believe that!”

Bernadine was stunned. “I see.” She didn’t know he was a genius. Her admiration for him grew. She hoped that was all it was and nothing more. She had wanted to explore her feelings for him but couldn’t now that she knew her best friend wanted him too.

Dentaa stared at her friend for a minute twisting her hands. Bernadine saw this and knew what was coming.

“Bernadine I’m really glad you’re here. Listen as they say in Mfantse, ‘nsa kor guar ne ny3nko’ (one good turn deserves another). I want you to help me catch Kaakyire as I help you with your family issue. I know we haven’t discussed such things but I really need your help.”

Dentaa looked tense and Bernadine hesitated because she knew she might have feelings for him too. But still she’ll be in Ghana for only a month and it was obvious Dentaa had had feelings for him for a long time. There was no way she was going to poach on chartered waters.

So putting aside all feelings for Kaakyire, she took in a deep breath and said, “of course I will.”

“Oh thank you, thanks a lot,” Dentaa hugged her. “You’ve made me so happy.”

“What are friends for?” Bernadine asked with a rueful smile.

“But enough of me. You told me on the phone that we should leave at 5, are you ready to go?”

“Yes, let me grab my purse.”

Bernadine entered her room leaving Dentaa to daydream about how her friend could help her catch her dream man, Kaakyire. She gave a happy smile at that thought.

 

CECI HAD STAYED in the same house for 60 years. Her husband had wanted them to move away after they got married but she’d changed his mind due to the unique location of her house. It was easy to locate it from the market and also her church.

It was where she’d been born and raised and they had lived here until his death 2 years ago. It was where she’d raised their 5 children and the youngest of whom had finished the university the previous year.

She had been selling tomatoes to mostly women for the past 40 years and knew how to read her fellow woman’s actions but one person she’d never been able to understand was her friend, Lydia.

As she sat in front of her house cleaning the pan and basket she sold her tomatoes in, she couldn’t help watching her friend of so many years.

“If you don’t want to help your own daughter, why should I help you?”

“Cecilia, Bernadine is my daughter, yes, and I love her. I’ve missed her so much and there’s nothing in the world I wouldn’t want than to give her a big hug and never let go but, I can’t tell her the truth about me,” Lydia said emphatically.

Ceci was getting exasperated “Why, Lydia, tell me the reason why”

Lydia was about to speak but stopped when she saw two young ladies approaching from the junction.  The one wearing the pink and white attire could be no other than her daughter. Ceci saw them too. Thankfully they were too far away to see who was with her.

“Leave now before your daughter sees you.”

“No, I’ll hide in your sitting room so I can hear what she has to say. But please don’t tell her about my whereabouts.”

“It will be hard not if you are going to be hiding right here in my house,” Ceci shook her head as Lydia ran into the house.

After a few minutes, the two girls reached her. They greeted her warmly and she responded.

Bernadine looked towards the house, “was that your daughter who just entered?”

Oh, that question flustered Ceci, “no, um, that was one of my tenants. Sit down.” She pointed them to some kitchen stools which they brought closer to her and sat on.

“So Naana tell me, how has your father been?”

Bernadine sighed and looked down at her hands. “He’s not doing well especially after my mum’s disappearance. He’s had two mild strokes this year alone. He keeps going on and on about how he’s not sure he has long to live even though he’s only in his 50s.” Bernadine had to blink away the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes.

“Kwame is especially worried about him but he’s in the Secondary school and doesn’t see how my father seems to wish for death to claim him. You see Ceci I’m afraid that I’ll lose my father. My mum leaving him gave him a broken heart which he never recovered from,” she paused. “I’m scared of what will happen to us if he dies which is why I need to find out about my mum. The sooner, the better.”

LYDIA STEPPED AWAY from the window where she’d been staring at the beautiful young lady her daughter had grown up to become. She sat down on a chair as tears filled her eyes. She tried to imagine what her two babies had been through but she’d made a promise so many years ago and knew that the truth will only hurt Bernadine more.

 

CECI STARED at Bernadine, “I didn’t know that was what you were going through.”

“Me too, Bernadine.” Dentaa hugged her friend.

Ceci took a deep breath, knowing someone wasn’t going to like what she was about to say, “Listen I know someone who can help you find your mother.”

Lydia stood up so fast that the chair toppled onto the floor. Ceci turned to look at the window facing outside.  She hoped Lydia will not make another sound.

“The cat must be at it again. As I was saying, I know someone who can be of help. But she’s travelled and I don’t know when she’ll return. But when she does I’m sure she’ll have the information you want.”

“I’m so happy. So when can I come and find out if he’s returned?”

“You can come back next month,” Ceci informed her.

In the room overlooking Ceci’s courtyard, Lydia breathed a sigh of relief and smiled at how cunning her friend was. She moved closer to the window to hear what else her friend and her daughter had to say to each other.

“Oh no. I’ll be here for only a month,” Bernadine said a disappointed look on her face.

“I see. Don’t worry. I’ll find out when she’ll be returning. Who knows it might be next week.”

Lydia nearly gasped out loud. What sort of game was Ceci playing?

“I’m so glad I came to you.” Then Bernadine sighed. “But it all depends on the information your friend can give me. But thank you so much. You don’t know how much this means to me. I’ll come by next week then.”

Soon after that, she and Dentaa took their leave and left.

 

Lydia made sure they’d left completely before she came out.

“Cecilia why did you tell her to come next week?” she quizzed her friend.

“You’re lucky I didn’t show her where your house is.” She saw something in the distance and turned to her friend with a smile. “Speaking of that, isn’t that your husband?”

Lydia turned with a smile to see her handsome Inkoom approaching in his 2019 registered Mercedes.

 

SOME METERS DOWN the road, Bernadine realized that she hadn’t taken Ceci’s phone number.

“I should have taken her number.” She told Dentaa when the latter turned a quizzing eye after she stopped walking.

“Yeah, I wondered why you didn’t ask for it. Let’s go back.”

As the two neared Ceci’s house, Bernadine saw the woman she’d seen entering the house climb into an expensive 4 wheel drive parked a few meters from Ceci’s house. There was something familiar about the woman and she wished she could see her face.

Ceci saw where Bernadine’s attention was and wondered what to do. She decided that a question thrown at her could divert Bernadine’s attention.

“Did you leave something my daughter?”

“Oh not really. It’s just that I should have taken your phone number. I want to call and find out if your friend is back before I come around.”

“So if not that, you won’t come again eh?” Ceci teased glad for this chance to divert the young lady’s attention. Bernadine forgot about the woman she’d been curious about as she laughingly told Ceci, “no.”

 

BUT THE WOMAN hadn’t forgotten about her especially when Inkoom wanted to get down from the car to go and greet Ceci.

“Listen darling, you can always greet her another day.” She tried to change her husband’s mind. “Can’t you see she has guests?”

“What has her having guests got to do with my greeting her? Won’t it seem strange that I picked you up without saying anything to her?” Inkoom frowned at her as she’d never protested over this before.

“Well, the first thing I did when I saw her was to give her your regards. So you let’s go home. I want to prepare your favorite Jollof Rice before we leave for church tonight.”

“Mmm yummy.” he finally put the car into drive and drove off. But as he was driving away, he saw Bernadine through the rearview mirror pressing some keys on her smartphone. There was something about her that was very familiar. He stopped the car. Lydia was getting desperate as she saw Bernadine turn to look at them curiously.

“What is it now?” Lydia tried to keep the desperation out of her voice but just barely.

“That girl. The one wearing the white and pink. I’ve never seen her before but she looks like someone I know.”

Lydia gave a fake laugh and he turned to her. “Listen there’s no way you might know her. Even I who’s been Cecilia’s friend for so many years do not know that girl. But we’ve barely enough time to cook and get ready for church so we better get going.”

She sighed in relief as without another word her husband drove away but that relief was shortlived.

“I just realized who that girl reminds me of. She looks exactly like you and could easily pass off as your daughter but, that’s impossible as the only children you have are our four-year-old twins.” He smiled as he said this, his eyes on the road so didn’t see the horrified look on his wife’s face.

 

CECI HAD realized that Inkoom wanted to get down from the car but Lydia obviously changed his mind and he drove off. If only Bernadine had returned a few minutes sooner, she would have caught her mum.

“So now that you have my number, you can call so we talk.”

“Alright, Auntie Ceci.”

Waving goodbye to the older woman, she and Dentaa finally left.

As they walked away, Ceci couldn’t help watching Bernadine. Her heart felt weighted down with sadness. She knew how much the girl’s life would change the minute she got to find out the truth.

She wished she could tell the poor girl the truth. But that was something she could never talk about. She’d made a promise to Lydia and had never been a gossip.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

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