The drive to the hospital was mostly quiet, interrupted intermittently by the baby’s sniffing noises. Doctor Amankwaa drove Abena in his car while the baby, carried in my gloved hands, rode with Ebo and me in his car. The silence between Ebo and I stretched on for several minutes, but in my head, the questions wouldn’t stop screaming… questions about Abena and the baby having AIDS.
“She was raped, you know.”
Startled, I turned my head sideways to find Ebo studying me. He had briefly stopped the car as we were at a stop light. All I could do was shift uncomfortably in my seat, with his brown eyes as intense as they were.
His tone was cautious when he spoke next. “He…I mean, the man who raped her, raped seven other women. He had AIDS too.”
“Was he ever brought to the courts here in Kumasi?”
He shook his head, a bitter smile curving his lips. “It happened in Koforidua, on her way to school. The perpetrator was cleared of all charges.”
His statement had me too flabbergasted to make a coherent reply.
“They are saying the women, including Abena consented to the act, since they didn’t immediately report the incident. Abena was the youngest among the victims. She was 16 when it happened.”
My hand flew to my mouth in stunned silence.
“You know how it is – a girl gets raped and everybody says she dressed too provocatively and caused the man to rape her,” he said, shaking his head. ”I thought the same thing too of my sister. It’s a sad but true fact that our people will first blame the rape victim before they blame the rapist,” he continued. “As for Abena, by the time she reported the case, she was already pregnant. So I did what every other moralistic fool would do. I kicked her out of my house.”
As he spoke, I remembered a time and place in my past when I too had been 16 and pregnant for a man old enough to be my father. A man my mother trusted. In my case however, I hadn’t been violated. I had consented to the act. Also, my mom and my sister who were both still mourning the loss of Daniel had not disowned me. They had remained accepting all through my ordeal. And how had I repaid them? By turning my back on them, cutting them off entirely from my life and giving pain to innocent people who barely knew me, both in the courtroom and outside it.
“It wasn’t until other women began to accuse the same man of rape that I knew my sister had been telling the truth,” Ebo said as he parked the car in the hospital’s moderately sized parking lot. “When he and all the women tested positive for AIDS, I knew I had made a major mistake. But by then, it was too late. Abena was gone….as if she had disappeared into thin air or something. None of her friends from school could tell where she was. The fact that she could very well have died from the disease wasn’t lost on me. Eight months went by with me trying to correct the mistake I made. Every day, I prayed for a miracle that she would return. Today, the miracle happened. On your doorstep,” he added in a wistful tone, his brown eyes losing its weariness long enough to look interestingly unfathomable as it rested on my face.
And something puzzling happened to me right then. I felt my heart do this rocketing dance that short of left me breathless even as I felt the hard shell that I had encased it in for the last 17 years of my life splinter
“In retrospect,” Ebo continued, clearly not knowing the effect his unreadable eyes had had on my soul, “I ought to be saying thank you. So, thank you.”
I nodded, the need to hurry out of his car pressing hard on me. As I stepped out of the car with the baby in my arms, I distinctly remember thinking to myself that my 33rd birthday had taken a whole new life of its own…like a play lacking a likeable script. And if it did have a script, then I was simply yet to meet its elusive writer.
It was the strangest feeling to experience.
To be continued……..
Lara Daniels is the author of African romance suspense novels –Love in Paradise and Love at Dawn. She makes her home in Texas with her Best friend Husband and three precious children. Read more about her works at www.laradanielswrites.com or follow her on Twitter @ LDparables.