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That first sip could change everything
A jobless university graduate inadvertently inherits a coffee shop when its owner dies, but just when she’s grown into the job, a spoilt, rich girl shows up with the intent of owning it. And when she says no, she loses it all as the area where the coffee shop is situated gets taken up by the latterShare Tweet LinkedIn Embed pszr.co/FxaHY 652 views
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Themes highlighted in the story: Youth unemployment, entrepreneurship, fame, social service, mental health awareness, family, and death
Martha is 21 years old and unemployed, although she has a university Degree. She lives with her mother and retired father who are keenly concerned over her unemployment. She has a sister and brother who live elsewhere. Her first job while at school was as a salesperson in a large convenience store, but she quit after a robbery that occurred on a day she didn’t show for work due to an ailment. Her second job takes her to an electronics shop, again as a sales person, but her boss’s subtle harassments makes her quit. She ends up with a job as a dish washer at a coffee house and later upgrades into a waiter and then becomes the manager of the coffee house, after its owner dies.
Bettie is the owner of the coffee house and she has a daughter named Lamle who works as a nurse overseas. One day she receives a call that Lamle has died, and subsequently suffers a heart attack and also dies. According to the hospital that Lamle worked for in Canada, she came to work alright and started complaining about headache, became dizzy and then fell into a coma and didn’t wake up. Autopsy showed she had internal bleeding in the head and it’s suggested that she may have suffered a fall at home before coming to work.
Bettie had three friends she ran the coffee house with; Selassie, Belinda, and Anne. They arrange her burial and then ask Martha to help them bring Lamle’s body home. Martha contacts Madeleine Boison, a lawyer and friend of Lamle, who visits the hospital to find out what happened to her friend. On hearing the cause of her death, she’s sceptical, and then asks a male lawyer friend to help her uncover the truth. The lawyer sends a female detective to interrogate the hospital administrator. The story of her death is repeated to the detective and she questions a few nurses to get more information, but everyone tells the same story. She tries to get information from Lamle’s friends but no one identifies as a close friend of hers. However, one nurse tells her about another female nurse who could know something more about Lamle, since she began to work at the hospital, around the same time as Lamle. Her name was Selma Rashid.
The detective visits Lamle’s house to find out if something happened there to cause the head injury but doesn’t find anything. Meanwhile, Selma Rashid, skipped town after Lamle’s death, due to sorrow. Subsequently, she visited her sister’s nursery school to ease her pain and while there, the detective tracks her down and pays her a visit. Selma confirms the story about Lamle’s cause of death, but when prompted to think of a plausible reason, she recalls that an accident victim, Claire Didier, and her 7 year old son, had come to the hospital earlier on in the day. The woman wasn’t seriously injured, but she was in shock due to the near crash. The motorist who brought her in said she was driving on the wrong lane, appearing to not be in her proper mind. She was admitted into a solitary ward and given some drug to calm her down.
Lamle visited the woman in her ward, just a few moments after she had woken up. Then the woman began to ask for her son and Lamle told her that he was alright, however, she could not take him home since she did not appear to be in the right state of mind. The woman became a little agitated by that and then asked her what she meant by it, and Lamle said that they run a blood test on her and found some residue of anti-depressant drugs. Subsequently, the woman gets out of the bed and runs to the door to get out of there but Lamle prevents her from leaving, stating that she needed to be checked by the doctor first. The woman gets irritated by this and then begins to fight her, hitting her head against the wall in the process. Subsequently, she flees the room. Lamle walked out of there but after some minutes, she collapsed and a group of nurses came to her aid.
However, she did not recover from the concussion that sent her into a coma, and later she died. The police detective tracked down Claire Didier and then asked her if she had met Lamle anywhere in the hospital or elsewhere. She replied that she didn’t know her. However, she seeks the help of a lawyer to get the police off her back, and confesses to him that she had been in a casual struggle with a nurse at the hospital, but did not hurt her in any way to cause her death. Consequently, the lawyer approaches the prosecution team to argue Claire’s innocence, providing evidence of her mental condition at the time of the incident involving Lamle. At court, Claire Didier is found not guilty by reason of her mental condition, but she later loses custody of her son. The court orders the hospital that employed Lamle to pay compensation for her death, owning to the fact that they did not do much to protect their staff from attacks of such sort, perpetrated by patients who were not in their right mind.
Martha is left to run the coffee house alone, since Bettie’s friends are still in mourning. She is anxious to take over the position of a manager, since she has no experience. However, she recalls something that Bettie said while she was alive; that one day she would run the place. Subsequently, she decides to take up the challenge and then invites a few former high school classmates to help her. They are quite successful in running the place. One rainy day, a local male TV star, runs into the coffee house to seek shelter and they are all amazed to see him. They serve him nicely and he tells the world about their warm service the next day, on social media. Soon the coffee house becomes the ideal place for the higher-ups in the society to hang out. However, being timid, Martha is unhappy to be in the limelight, and her mother opposes the popularity which has caused journalists to haunt the family for interviews. Subsequently, she quits as the manager of the place and leaves the position for a friend. Sometime later, a popular female entrepreneur and celebrity, offers to buy the coffee house but Martha doesn’t accept this. In order to protect her business, she partially converts the coffee house into a charity kitchen for the homeless and needy. She redesigns the place, giving it a homely feel, and then makes an announcement through an advertisement van, for everyone in the low-to-middle-income neighbourhood to get some coffee for half the price.
Consequently, the place is filled up with lots of laymen, and keeps the celebrities away for good. Later, the female entrepreneur announces plans to acquire a large section of the community where the coffee house is situated, in order to construct high-end apartments. Soon, a demolition exercise begins in the area after she’s paid off the land owners. Martha is angered by this and tries to rally the remaining land owners against giving up their lands. She calls for a meeting in the coffee house to dissuade them from collaborating with the celebrity entrepreneur; however, they all agree to give up their lands, stating that they liked the entrepreneur’s monetary compensation. Unfortunately, Martha loses her coffee shop, since the owner of the house accepted the entrepreneur’s offer. Martha voices her disdain for the lost of her coffee shop-cum-charity-kitchen, and subsequently, an NGO comes to her aid and offers to build her a new kitchen and a shelter for the homeless. The female entrepreneur is unhappy about the condemnation she faced for taking down the coffee house, thus, she announces that she is going to construct an ultra-modern home for the homeless. She begins the project immediately, wanting to complete it before Martha’s own. However, the two buildings are completed around the same time. At the end of the story the two women unite to provide more relief for the community.
This story will be loved by female readers who identify as black or of a non-white origin, and aged 13 years and over
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100 copies • Completed manuscript.
Children Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mind & Body, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Business & Money, Career & Success, Cookbooks, Food & Wine, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Journalism, Personal Growth & Self-Improvement, Politics & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Science, Society & Culture, Sports & Outdoors, Technology & the Future, Travel
Education is the key to a better life, it’s said. But if that were true then I won’t be without a job now, since I’m well educated to have that life already. I’ve been to university, where I studied the Arts, with the hope of getting a job anywhere proper, not as a sales person in some shop, be it big or small. I spent hundreds of dollars, wearing my mind out, just to end it all with a Degree that no one cares about, not even me. I need a job, but I think I may never get one that truly suits me. The corporate world is not what I seek, since I don’t want to look like an executive, put on some suit, walk in heels, talk in a certain way, or attend meetings whenever summoned to. No, that isn’t the job I want per se. I want to be free, to work like doing some hobby, to close at the right time, not late, after 5. I need a job but it has to be on my own terms, else... else I might just die.
I’m the last child of my retired father and homemaker mother. My older sister lives alone, and so does my brother, the eldest of us all. My sister read accounting and that might be the reason why she’s living that better life that only education could give. May be if I had walked that path, I would also have it. But mathematics has not and would never be friends with my free mind. I would never subject my brain to such toil all in the name of having a better life. My brother is his own boss when he gets into his world of fashion designing. You could simply call him a tailor but these days, the preferred term is fashion designer. With both siblings being well-off, I’m the only one that everyone focuses on. My mother, she wouldn’t let me be, always asking me to fast and pray so I get a good job. My father is quite liberal on this, he only says that God will open a way when the time is right so I should just keep on, keep on sending the emails asking about vacancies, keep on attending interviews, keep on wearing myself out, until I go crazy, or God saves me before that. I like my father, he doesn’t pressurize people, so I would just keep on until something happens.
After Senior High School, I found a job, my first job, working in a large convenience store. I was one of several sales persons. It was a nice job where I sold everything from diapers to cosmetics. I was making about 10 dollars per month, which is a lot of money in this part of earth. I spent it on sanitary towels, underwear, clothes, shoes, and all things feminine and I saved some for sweets, for when I was overly tired. I loved the job, my co-workers, and the boss, who was a middle age, stout woman who always spoke kindly to us and never overreacted when someone inadvertently messed up. I loved Sophia, her name. But when I heard of the robbery that occurred one late afternoon, on a day that I was supposed to work but didn’t, because of a stomach bug that sent me home some hours earlier, I realized how close God and the devil were to me. I never went back there but I missed it so much, so much that I sometimes took a bus all the way there just to stand a stone throw away and stare inside the place. It was business as usual. All the sales people hard at work and Sophia, the manager and owner, seated at the register overseeing things. I realized that they had beefed up security, placing a total of about seven guards around the building; two at the entrance and two at the exit, and the remaining three patrolling the place. I felt the urge, many times, to go in there and ask for my job, but I couldn’t. So I lost that job for good. It was bad since I suffered headaches and heartaches for days whenever I thought of what I had lost.
However, God gave me another job, a sales position once again, this time in an electronics shop. I found a job advertisement online, on Facebook, the social media platform, and immediately I called, although it was past working hours, 7pm. The call was immediately answered and a free-spirited voiced replied, “Hello.” I couldn’t tell if it was male or female. I just began, “Hello, my name is Martha, I just saw your ad on Facebook, you’re looking for sales people, right?”
“Sure, but let’s talk tomorrow, shall we?” It was clear then that it was a man on the other side.
“Sure, thank you, bye.”
That’s me for you. When I’m desperate, I’m desperate. I can’t wait for tomorrow to let them know that I’m available so I called today. But 7pm is fine, 8 would have been a bit late. So, there’s a possible job for me, thank God. That made my day, that day. I was in high spirits, singing as I went about my little housekeeping and errand-running activities. My mother noticed it and asked me if I had got a job and I said not yet, however, I have an interview tomorrow. She praised God for it and asked me to inform my father so we went through some possible interview questions. But I didn’t, because I didn’t think that a sales position would require anything bigger than a university Degree. At 8am, the next day, I called that number and the same voice answered. We talked about my highest education attained, my work experience in the convenience store and my confidence on the phone. He liked it and asked that I send my certificate by email along with my curriculum vitae. A day later, I walked into a large room full of electronic devices; television sets, sound systems, refrigerators and all. It looked like a warehouse but it wasn’t. The man on the phone took me on a tour of the place and then introduced me to a number of young people dressed in branded T-shirts and jeans trousers. I saw five women and four men, initially. Tony, the man on the phone and on tour with me, said that I was the newest addition to the sales department. I shook hands and smiled with all of them but one young woman stood out as my future good friend. She was tall, slender, with twisted hair and slightly-dark skinned. What made her stand out? Well, first, I liked her name, Gaby. And I liked how much she smiled at me, it looked and felt genuine. And when I told her about my last school, the University I had been to, she said she was a graduate of it too, about three years before me. So, there you have it. She was the one chosen for me, my would-be good friend and mentor. After the tour, I asked Tony if I could substitute the jeans trousers with any other material and he replied, “Sure.” I smiled in relief and then thanked him for his understanding. He reiterated that I could put on anything, so long as I had the branded T-shirt on for advertisement sake. Now I had to go and prepare for work the next day but Tony offered to send me all the way home since he was going home himself to rest, he claimed. I objected, immediately, naturally. As a shy and conservative person, I could never ride in a car with anyone other than my father, and other passengers. He seemed a little taken aback by it, asked me why since it was quite a hot day.
“Alright, how about I take you to the bus station, is that okay?”
“No. Thanks, but I would go myself. I want to buy something on the way so...” I said after some moments, and in a meek tone.
“Hmm, you don’t want to ride with me, okay. Cool. But, perhaps, I could give you something little for taxi or the bus whatever you prefer –
“Um, no, thanks. I’m ok. I have enough money on me.” I interrupted, smiling throughout. And then quickly added, “Um, I need to go now, bye.” Those were my final words to him that day. I walked in a running-style, not to be called back by any chance. When I had distanced myself a considerable length away, I began to run because a bus was heading my way and calling for passengers. Fortunately, I got on, and exhaled. It was such a relief to escape the sun and the heat and the sight of that man. Realizing his attitude made me ponder over returning to work the next day. But I thought since he wasn’t part of the sales team, I could move about freely and just escape home after work without running into him in anyway. Yet, I was wrong, partly, because he showed up on my first day at work, asking me if I needed any assistance with doing my job. I said I was okay because I had some experience from my previous position at Sophia’s place. He asked Gaby to show me the robes if I faced any challenges and that’s how we became like sisters. Not that I had any challenges. She was one of three girls who fronted the register. I was the fourth, and probably the youngest. The others had no time for chit chatting. They seemed too engrossed in the work, always counting the cash, taking orders over the phone, hurrying to welcome some ‘big customer’. It was as though they lived and breathed the job. I hardly ever saw them eating, like taking a break to eat. Or maybe they were just not open to chatting with a new comer. Gaby was different, we lunched together, we talked about our favourite programmes on TV, and then we branched into our families. She had four siblings all based outside, her parents were divorced but she kept in touch with them. She lived alone in a rented apartment, a two-bed room self-contained in a good part of town. It was expensive, about 30 dollars a month, but it wasn’t her money. It came from outside, in droves. She had easy money for everything, but she saved up a lot too. The apartment was hers because her sister usually came down to spend the holidays with her. So it was permanently booked. Wow, I wish I had a life like that. But, I’m glad I have a home with good elders who care about me. Money from outside is good, but better is love from one’s own family. Gaby and me walked to the bus station every day from work, but when that bothersome ‘boss’, Tony, asked to take us there, she gladly hopped into the car, so I had to join. But even after we got there, he half-insisted that he took me all the way home, because he was going that way. Gaby thought it was a nice offer and encouraged me to accept it.
“Martha, go with him. That queue is quite long, it would take a while before you get a car.”
“No, I will wait.” I said, and got down. But after that day, I never sat in that car. It was the second time I had accepted the ride because of Gaby. Since I won’t sit, Gaby wouldn’t too, and so he stopped asking to take us to the station. But that was just one of his infinite series of offers. After my first week of working there, he threw a little ‘new comers party,’ just for me. We had some soft drinks, cookies and music after work. I was asked to make a speech at his request, to tell the world what I liked and didn’t like about working in the shop. I said all the nice things and then he said I had to be truthful, so had to say one thing that I didn’t like. You know there was one thing I didn’t like, but how could I say it? So I said, “Well, the only thing I don’t like is... hmm, I just wish I started working here earlier.” That was a nice answer and they all applauded me for it. Tony seemed impressed, so much that he even gave me a hug, a very unfortunate turn of event. I was quick in getting out of it and then quickly walked towards Gaby. I was smiling like everyone, but fuming within. That man was now going overboard. The final straw came after about a month or two later. Since I wouldn’t get into his car, wouldn’t accept his money, wouldn’t get as close as being unexpectedly embraced, he made one last move. He showed up at the store, dressed in a suit, looking good, and serious. He said he needed to see my father because he had a building project he needed his expertise on. How did he know about my father? I never told him about him, so who could have? Gaby. She was the only one I had told about my family. He saw that I was surprised he knew about my father’s profession as a housing engineer. Consequently, he said, “I make it a point to learn about my employees. I hope I’m not overstepping any boundaries?” I didn’t answer that. I only smiled and then before he opened that mouth to speak again I said, “My father is not well now. He’s a bit tired. So, he won’t be able to help you.”
“Oh, sorry. So sorry.” He immediately said, looking like he cared. Yet it did sound genuine.
“Excuse me, I need to go now. Get back to work.” I said, with a smile that lasted for just a second.
“Oh, let’s talk. The others will do the job.” He said, but I insisted, saying that I wanted to use the washroom. And then he backed off and I left. I actually went into the washroom and used it because I was already there. When I came back to my post, my mind was made up. This job was good, I loved it. But that man... I couldn’t stay around him any longer. That last conversation we had was the cue for me to walk away. It was the final straw, and I couldn’t ignore it because it wasn’t something to be ignored. When I walked with Gaby that day to the bus station, I told her that there was a family emergency, a relative had passed and we were going to the funeral the following week. She expressed condolences which I accepted with a genuine smile. Then the following day, I met Tony in his office, dressed in a black full length dress and a black head gear. I narrated a well-scripted story of a family demise which he took for the truth. I told him I didn’t know when I’ll be returning to work because there were certain issues that needed to be ironed out in the family. He said, “That’s okay. Don’t worry about work, just go and finish everything before you come back.” I smiled and then replied, “Thank you sir. I will let you know how things go. May be I would have to relocate to the family home for a while, so I may not return here.”
“Oh.” His response came along with a little nodding of the head. I was smiling, grinning within because I knew that I had won. After a minute, he spoke, finally giving up on his chase. “Okay, I wish you good luck. If you happen to come back, do let me know, alright.”
“Certainly, thank you. I will like to go now.”
“Bye.” I walked out of hell that day. It was such a relief that I was full of smiles all the way through the sun to the bus station, and finally home at last, “uhhh...” I never told my parents about quitting the job but when my mother asked why I wasn’t going to work, I said that I was on leave.
“Leave? Ei, they gave you leave already?”
“Yes, two weeks.” I promptly replied.
“Ei, that’s nice. You can rest well then, you look a bit pale. And you need to eat some more.”
“Yes,” I calmly said. That was all. Within those two weeks, I was out every day, seeking a job anywhere within the neighbourhood. I visited restaurants and asked about waiting positions but they said they had enough hands on deck. It was saddening for me because I thought I could easily get a job as a waitress. I didn’t give up and on one such expeditions, I came across a medium-size building about an hour away from home. It was a nice brick house which appeared like a bakery because there was a sign board that said, Fresh Fresh Bread, Cake, Tea and Coffee. I went inside and there were quite a number of people in there at 9 in the morning. It wasn’t crowded but it stood out as good business for that time of the day. As I stood in the centre, looking around for someone to speak to, a woman approached me smiling. She was elderly, like my mother, about 60 years old. She greeted me, the usual way, and asked me to take a seat but then I said that I was looking for the manager because I wanted to find out if there was any vacancy for waiters. She smiled broadly, as if acknowledging that I was needed there.
“Well, at the moment we don’t need a waiter because we are quite capable of managing with what we have, however, there’s something we might need help with.”
“Okay, I could help with anything,” I said, smiling but wondering what it was, and if it was something that I would like to do.
“Good. Have you ever worked in a restaurant or a simple diner before?”
“No, no please. But I could. Anything at all, I would appreciate it.”
“Alright, come with me please.” She said, and then I followed. We arrived at the kitchen of the coffee house and immediately, I knew what my new position was going to be. I began to nod before she even mentioned it.
“This is it. We need someone to take care of the dishes here, can you do it?”
“Yes, yes, of course. I can do it.” I smiled, happy that it wasn’t going to be a big deal of a job, and also happy that I now had something to do.
“Good. I like your enthusiasm. So, when would you like to start?”
“Today, now, if it’s okay.” She chuckled at that response and then said, “Alright, there’s everything you need here; soap, water, and a napkin to wipe them dry afterward. You put them all in the basket after you’re done, okay?”
“Okay, thank you.” I said and she smiled at me, seeming touched by my openness to work. She left me to the job and said that she would be passing by later to check on me. That woman’s name was Bettie, and she was just like a mother to me. I did the dishes, washing up the cups and plates used in serving the coffee and tea and pastries, dried them all up and touched up the kitchen too, though it wasn’t so much in need of a clean-up. At around midday there were only a handful of customers. I had some lunch in a nearby canteen and afterward, I met the waitresses of the coffee house. They were all older women, aged from at least 40 to 60. They were all friends too, as Bettie had told me. Selassie, Anne, and Belinda were old friends of hers from Senior High School. They had been together for about 5 years, running the coffee house that Bettie set up 5 years ago. The four of them used to be traders at the market place, until a fire swept through the place and left them penniless. But it didn’t stop them from going back there. They resumed trading and then another fire broke out, again leaving them with nothing. It was really bad for Selassie, who had gotten a loan after the first fire to restart her trading business. She nearly died, drinking a concoction of washing powder. Fortunately, someone found her, a neighbour, and got her to the hospital in time. After that scare, Bettie met with Anne and Belinda to discuss the way forward. Bettie suggested that they start a business together but the two weren’t interested in doing any more business. Instead, they decided to return to their hometowns and this they did, leaving Bettie alone with Selassie. After spending about 2 months in the hospital, she was released home. However, her husband wasn’t very happy with what she did and chastised her for wanting to end her life when she had children to take care of. Moreover, the loan she had taken for reviving her trading business was still outstanding and this is what bothered him the most. Who was going to pay that money? He had asked her after all the chastisement. Not long after, he disappeared, never to be heard of again. Selassie was distraught when she shared this with Bettie, who was also going through her own pain. At the time she was 60 years old and had a daughter who was based overseas, working as a nurse. Beside her, there was no one to rely on and her savings were just enough to see her through for a bit. Bettie had suggested to Selassie to send her three children to her relatives to look after until she got back on her feet. But Selassie only shook her head many times at this proposition. It wasn’t a good idea because no one could be more concerned for their needs than her. The only one who could, was her aged mother, an 80 year old who lived in the village. So this was her situation; her husband was gone, she was indebted, and she had no one to turn to.
After days of pondering over possible ways to revive themselves financially, Bettie decided to sell tea on the street. It was a lucrative business by all standards. People queued for tea everywhere in the city. Tables with sachets of coffee, powdered chocolate, bread and eggs were abound, and people were cashing in on it. Bettie set up her table at a strategic part of the neighbourhood, after paying a fee to use the place. It was by the roadside, open to all pedestrians and drivers of all kinds of vehicles. She had crates of eggs and fresh bread ready for every sale. She had no assistant, so she asked Selassie to give her a hand and that’s how they shot off. Within a week, they had made about 20 dollars in sales. And in a month’s time, they were full of smiles. So from the tea table, came the tea house and when the others, Anne and Belinda came to visit one day, they realized that this was some history they wanted to be a part of. Now, I felt so good about being there with these great women. I was smiling the entire time, as Bettie narrated the story to me. It was the best feeling I have had in a while, the feeling of being at the right place, like where I was destined to be. At 7 o’clock, the shop was closed. I did the dishes and then left with a pack of coffee and some pastries. There were six cups and a mixture of cake, bread, tarts and some spring rolls that Bettie had reserved for me. In fact, she mentioned that this was going to be a regular thing, that I always go home with some of the goodies from the shop. It was a complimentary offer to the little salary I would be receiving at the end of the month, 13 dollars, which was going to shoot up when business got better. I arrived home beaming, but when my mother saw me at the door, she flatly greeted me and asked how work was. I replied that I had a great day and then showed her the goodies I had brought from work. She wasn’t pleased. She began to ask me about the job since I had earlier told her over the phone that I was working as a waiter in a coffee shop. She asked me why so, since she knew that I had a place in the electronics shop. I told her it wasn’t a good job for me because I had to start running shifts, some at night. Then she cooled down a bit, nodding in agreement with my decision to avoid the night shifts.
“So, how is the coffee, is it nice?” She asked, approaching me and then got hold of the bag in my hand.
“Yes, it’s very nice. There are some pastries too, it’s all in the bag.”
“Oh, okay, that’s nice. Ei, how many cups did they give you, 6?”
“Yes, six.” I said, and then quickly walked away to the washroom. I let out a ton of warm water from inside and then spent some moments, reflecting on the day’s success. I had a job that I loved, a job that was forever going to be mine. I was indeed lucky. I had a long shower and then took some of the coffee with the pastries before settling down on a nice meal from mama. I drank two cups of the coffee, enjoying it with the pieces of cake and tart and stayed up until midnight before going to bed. It wasn’t because of the coffee, it was because I was too happy to sleep right away. I was selecting what to wear the next day, wiping my shoes for the next day, and then spent the rest of the time watching some minutes of a movie. But I wasn’t interested in that, because my mind was elsewhere. I was told by Bettie that business began at 7 o’clock; however, I could get there by 8. Nonetheless, I was up by 6 and getting ready to leave. Mother asked me to tell father about my new post even though she had briefed him earlier. However, I had to wait for him to wake up. I stayed until he did around 7 o’clock and then went into his room and narrated the full story behind the establishment of the coffee house. He was so impressed that he asked to see the place ‘one of these days.’ When I finally set out of the house, it was 7.30 and I couldn’t wait for the bus so I took a taxi which cost me about 3 dollars.
Wow, it was as if the whole town had been waiting for the shop to open at the first light of dawn. It was already full by 8. Selassie, and Anne were moving about in top gear, serving table after table. There were mostly men; ordinary labourers, construction workers, students, and then those who seemed to work in the corporate world. They were the ones in nicely-pressed shirts and trousers. I didn’t see anyone in a suit until one man got up and left after about 10 minutes of my arrival. He was dressed to the nines, in a black suit and dark trousers. I didn’t see him getting into his car because I was waiting the tables, but I could imagine it would be a nice one. Belinda had been in the kitchen making the coffee because Bettie was absent. When I got there, she was too busy to look at me. She just said I should hurry and go and serve the guests. When it was around 11 o’clock, most of the customers had already left, the room was sparse, with only about twelve people, twelve young people who seemed to have nowhere to rush of to as they sat chatting and laughing audibly. I enjoyed waiting the tables so much that I told Selassie, Anne and Belinda about it. They all laughed and said that I could do it if I wanted to switch from the dishes.
“Really?” I said, and Belinda nodded and asked me to switch with Selassie. I was too happy to comply but then I thought of my salary and asked what would become of it since I was changing positions. They all laughed once again and Belinda explained that it was going to remain the same until business got better and I had a raise. So on my second day at work, I had a new position, waiting tables. At lunch time, I went out to the same canteen but this time around, with Selassie and Anne who paid for the meal. It was a big one, some cooked yam with cabbage stew, an egg and some chicken. My eyes glowed at its sight but I was a little shy to eat with them so I took my time and they noticed it and said that I had tables to wait so had to hurry up. In fact, around midday to 1pm, there isn’t much traffic at the house. People start to fill up the place from 3 pm. Bettie didn’t come at all that day. And naturally I wanted to know why. She was resting, I was told. I missed her and wanted to thank her for the package yesterday. By 7pm, we were closed and once again I left home with some coffee, two cups this time and some pieces of cake.
My new work life was fun, more so was my latest friend, Bettie. I found out where she lived, per directions from the three, and paid her a surprise visit. She was full of smiles to see me and then asked how I came to know her place. But before I answered, she began to nod on realizing it. Bettie was alone in that small but welcoming house. She told me about her daughter who was working overseas as a nurse. She often came home during the holidays and that’s when she had company. It was a standalone building which she was renting. But there were neighbours, not next door, but close enough for her to seek help from in case of anything. It was a quiet place according to her, with no cause for alarm; no robberies, no wild parties, no funeral ceremonies stretching late into the night and disturbing everyone. However, she sometimes had some little scares from reptiles that seemed to have lost their way as they dragged themselves across her yard. She told me how she found one such goblin right outside the doorstep one evening. It was a thin, shiny, silver snake that lay on the steps, pondering over something. The moment she saw it and screamed, it immediately rushed off towards the end of the yard. She threw some stones at it but none was skilled enough to hit it. It disappeared, but that wasn’t a good sign. Snakes had to be killed, not driven away, else they would just go into hiding somewhere on the compound. Bettie knew this so she went into the neighbourhood and got some boys to search the entire yard for it. Yet after two hours of thoroughly combing the place, they found nothing. So that was some of the adventures she faced at home. I thanked her for the coffee and pastries last time and told her about my new position as a waitress, adding that I took over from Selassie. She nodded that it was okay. Now, I wanted to help her out before leaving, so I asked if there was anything that she needed help with; doing some laundry, washing plates, cooking, or running an errand. She smiled and said there was nothing but I knew that wasn’t true. So I went to the kitchen but found the place in order. It was clean, there were no standing dishes. The stove was clear, and the sink was shining, even the floor felt smooth. This was the sign of a woman in charge. She met me at the entrance as I was exiting the place, smiling to which I responded likewise. Then out of the blue, some courage entered me and I spoke like I did to my mother, “Ma, I want to help you before I go. Please is there anything I can do?” She looked at me, a bit surprised that I said it that way, perhaps, that I called her Ma. And then she opened up. Indeed, there was something I could help with. It was her laundry, which was normally done by a washing lady but she had recently travelled out of town and thus, she had to do it herself. I was so happy when she mentioned it, that I immediately hurried away towards where I believed it would be. She followed me and then we stopped at a corner of the corridor that led to her room. There at the corner was a large laundry basket that contained some clothing. It didn’t seem much but she asked that I do only the five clothes that she had selected for me. I objected, politely, saying that I couldn’t leave any behind else my coming would be unfulfilling. Consequently, she let me take the entire basket. I got three buckets of water from the cemented water tank on the compound, two buckets for the first and second washing, and the third for rinsing them out. Washing twice was the norm for those who knew how to hand wash properly. The first water was the initial baptism of the clothes, which by the way had to be categorised into coloured and non-coloured. The coloured clothes are normally washed after the non-coloured ones. That first baptism was to rid them of the dirt in a quick way. However, they had to remain in the water for at least 30 minutes before washing. Subsequently, they are transferred into the second bucket of water where they could remain for about 20 minutes before the final wash. This ensured that the clothes smelled good after rinsing, no more sweat in the armpits or elsewhere. It took me about an hour and a bit to complete the washing and I must confess, I was a little tired, partly because of the sun which was still high even at 2pm. Bettie was at the door waiting for me to hand over some notes of appreciation. But I knew she would and I had planned on what to do after she gave the money. I thanked her and then said I needed to drink some water so went into the kitchen. I got a glass of water and then looked around for her, she was absent. Good. I slipped the money under a cooking pot on the kitchen table and then hurried away. I met her on the way out of the kitchen, just about 10 steps away. But I was sure she didn’t see what I did. She asked me if I was alright with just water since there was some left over in the fridge that I could eat. I thanked her for her concern but claimed that I wasn’t hungry, and then left. I didn’t want to tell her that I would be coming around often, afraid that she might refuse another favour from me. However, I included it in my weekly routines, visiting her once in two Saturdays, because Saturdays was everyone’s day off. When I got home that day, I told mother about her; how she lived alone because her only companion was a daughter overseas. Mother was so proud that I washed her clothes and sang the news to dad. Then he asked where she lived, claiming that he wanted to pay a visit. I smiled and glanced at mother and she echoed an equal interest in meeting with Bettie. So, they did meet, on a Sunday. I had called her up on the Saturday, that Saturday that I didn’t visit, and told her about my parents desire to meet with her. She sounded happy to know that they wanted to come over and said “Oh, you already told your parents about me?”
“Yes,” I meekly said, smiling, not knowing what else to say.
“Okay, you know this place so you could direct them, right?”
“Yes, I can. Um...they would be coming around 3 o’clock, is that okay by you, please?”
“Yeah, 3 o’clock is fine. Tell them 3 is okay. I will be home by then, 3 is fine.”
“Alright, 3 o’clock then. Thank you, bye.”
Dad drove us there, following my directions which weren’t so smooth. Fortunately, he knew the place so took over from me before we got lost. Bettie was outside waiting for us when we arrived at 10 minutes to time. She welcomed them in with handshakes and I followed. At the living room were some three glasses of water along with three plates of sliced cakes. None of us sipped the water since we weren’t tasty but mother took some cake, just like me. Dad isn’t a fun of sweets so he didn’t touch his until mother told him it was fine, with less sugar. So Dad had a bite of the slice and he liked it and commended her for such fine baking.
“Oh, it’s from a friend of mine, she’s been baking it.” Bettie said, clarifying things.
“Oh, she’s really good. I don’t remember taking anything so wholesome,” dad remarked, and mother echoed something along those lines. Then dad glanced about and commended the beauty and serenity of the place; the smooth, painted walls of the room, the airiness and the light that streamed through the curtains, it was a refreshing sight. Subsequently, mum chirped in, telling her how much they had learnt about her thanks to me. She mentioned the first day of receiving the coffee from the shop, how good it tasted and how nice it was of her to give me six good cups of it with all those bites of pastries. Bettie chuckled and said it was an honour to have such a person as myself serving in the coffee house. Then she mentioned the clothes I had washed for her in addition to a few other things I did around the house. Dad interrupted with the story of how she set up the coffee house and that set her in top gear, narrating the journey with all its ups and downs. To end the day, we had some coffee and more cake, several slices each, specially ordered for us. My parents invited her to church the next Sunday and she agreed to come, however, politely declined that they drove her there. That Baptist church was well known so they didn’t need to come all the way to get her, she had explained. We left Bettie on her own around 6pm. She came outside to bid us bye and expressed profound appreciation for the visit by thanking the elders several times and also me for bringing them over. That was the start of our alliance with Bettie, Bettie Okai as she made it known to my parents.
Three weeks had passed since I began working at Fresh Fresh Bread, Cake, Tea and Coffee, well that was the name of the coffee house. On the last week of that month of July, Bettie showed up as I was cleaning the tables and tidying up the place at 7. She had a white envelope in hand but it wasn’t visible until she handed it to me. She claimed it was my salary for that month which had nearly ended, in addition to a little bonus. Of course, I was happy but I needed to know of this special thing I did to deserve that bonus.
“You’ve been more than a help to us, that’s why we decided to give you this,” Bettie said. The envelope was heavy, a bit too much for a regular salary and bonus. I began to wonder if it was payment for my routines in her house on some weekends. So I asked her and she shook her head and replied in the negative. I was happy but at the same not so comfortable receiving it. Nonetheless, I expressed profound appreciation by thanking her sincerely for it. Subsequently, she turned to leave but then stopped and asked me if I was okay to go home on my own. I promptly replied in the affirmative and then she smiled and said that she’s been considering hiring a cleaner for the restaurant, someone who would clean up after the day’s work. It had to be someone who lived nearby so the person wouldn’t have to go home late afterward. I smiled and said that it was a great idea but I was alright to continue tidying up the place until that person took over. Bettie nodded and then bade me good night and left. But I wasn’t alone because Selassie and Anne were still around, doing the dishes. They lived nearby so had no problem staying until everything was over. In about 45 minutes, I had cleaned the tables and swept or wiped the floor, depending on how much dirt there was. I bade good night to my older sisters at the kitchen and then went home, about 20 minutes later, for that was how long it took for a bus to stop by.
I got home at 9.10 and the first thing I did was to open the envelope I had kept in my hand bag. I tore it apart and found what I thought was a mistake, an amount totalling about 30 dollars. This was so much, more than twice my salary. I chuckled and began to count it over and over. Suddenly, mother was standing inside and gently smiling looking at me. I instantly threw a bed sheet over the papers and then got up to greet her. She responded likewise and asked what I had been doing. I found something to tell her and then she left, saying that I come down to eat quickly since it was late. So it seemed she didn’t see it. I placed the money in a drawer on the closet and then left for the kitchen. While I ate, I thought of what to buy. For mother I thought it right to get her some of that special cake she had at Bettie’s place. I thought of buying a shirt for dad, a blue shirt, blue being his preferred colour. I slept some minutes to midnight after taking a shower at 11 but by 5am, I was already awake and dressing up for work. I planned to go in early and help with setting up the place before operations began at 7am. Mother saw me off, walking some distance with me to the bus station at 5.30. She thought it was too early and wanted to make sure it was safe. She waited till I got in the bus, checked out the driver’s face and that of the conductor, a young man who looked not older than 18, as well as the faces of the five women and two men in the bus. The men were young and dressed in old clothes like labourers, while the women, per their shopping baskets and wares seemed like traders.
I got there a little after 6 thanks to the absence of traffic on the road, and met a young woman arranging the place. She seemed a little startled when I suddenly walked in and then smiled when our eyes met. I didn’t know her but she called out my name, “Oh Martha.”
“Yes,” I replied meekly, wondering how she knew. She kept dusting up the tables as she revealed that Belinda had sent her there. She was a friend of hers.
“Oh, okay,” that’s all I said, and then put down my hand bag and looked around for something to help her dust up the furniture. I left for the kitchen and came back with a rug but she wouldn’t let me do it. She said it was her job and so I should leave it to her, spoken in a nice way. Fine, that was okay with me, since I had just had a bath. So I went to the kitchen and began to clean up the cups and plates, rinsing them out with fresh water, until Agnes, the cleaner began to call me. I responded, “Yes,” and then hurried away. There was a man standing in the room, dressed in a nice stripped shirt which was tucked into black trousers. He was tall, about your regular height for tall, hair neatly cropped, and holding a transparent blue file in hand. He seemed to have some keys on him too because of the jingling sounds around him. He smiled pleasantly on seeing me and I responded likewise and asked him what he wanted. But Agnes answered me, saying that he had come for breakfast. I smiled and then glanced at the clock in the room. It was 6.15 now, and not the time for opening.
“Um...sir, we are not open now, so could you come back at 7? We’ll be open by then.” I meekly said. He looked at me, surprised, and then gently shook his head, smiling.
“You want me to come back at 7, before I can have breakfast? Is that a joke?” I didn’t respond, just stood looking elsewhere. Agnes had paused from her work and was watching us from a distance, as I had seen her face, which had some lines of amusement.
“Hey, I asked you a question.” He said, looking directly at me.
“I’m sorry sir, but that’s the rule. We don’t serve until it’s 7.” I flatly said, not sounding so meek this time. He kept his gaze on me and then broke off about 2 minutes later and promptly walked away. Agnes ran to me after he had disappeared and we chuckled and chatted about it for some moments before I returned to my duties at the kitchen. She stayed on and helped me with rinsing out the cups and plates until Belinda and Anne came in. We didn’t tell them about the man because it wasn’t what anyone needed to start the day with, yet, that may have been a wrong move on our part since that man came back, and with trouble. It was around 10am, when I saw him entering the dining room as I came in with some chocolate drink and bread for a group of customers at a table. I was a little surprised at his presence but I thought it was okay since I had asked him to come back when we were open. He was looking around, as if for someone, and then he saw me and began to approach in a serious manner. I quickly placed down the order and then walked to him, smiling, and then asked what he wanted to take. He smiled wryly and asked me to lead him to an empty table. I scanned the place for a table and found one at the far end of the room and then pointed it out to him.
“Sir, there’s a table over there at the corner, can you see it?”
“Where?” He sounded casual.
“There, where my hand is, can you see it now?”
“No,” he flatly replied. So I had to walk him to it but as we walked towards it, it felt as though he was right behind me, too close. I turned and found him, just inches away and then I lost my cool. I stopped, and told him in a serious tone that the table was where my hand was pointing to, and then walked away without another word.
“Hey! You!” He barked, but I wasn’t going to turn around. I continued out of there and when I got to the kitchen, I told everyone there about him. Anne was waiting the tables, so Belinda and Selassie heard me. They came out to see who he was and that’s what motivated him to create a scene. He began with how disrespectable I was, to how he had been turned down for breakfast some hours ago. He was on top of his lungs and obviously on top of his game of deception. No one was eating anymore; all eyes were on us, Belinda, Selassie, me and that creature. Then Bettie entered and immediately he shut up and turned to see who it was. He asked if she was the manager and she asked him what the problem was. He then repeated the question but yet again, she replied with the same question, “What’s the matter, please?” That infuriated him and he turned his attention on her. He complained about the service, my rudeness, and then, the last straw that made Bettie bark back at him, he claimed that he could shut us down if he wanted to. Bettie smiled and gently shook her head and then asked him to get out else she would drag him out herself. The man looked at her, fuming, and then shook his head and walked out in haste. The customers began to laugh and then some applauded her for taking action. Now everyone was talking about the little TV show that went down minutes ago. We all left for the kitchen, Bettie, my older sisters and me. I explained the entire thing to her and also about his sexual misconduct. She commended me for what I did, walking away from him, and then said she was going to make sure that he never stepped in there again.
The rest of the day was uneventful. We had lunch at noon, this time, Bettie joined us but it was within the coffee house. We chatted while eating, brushing over the show in the morning. Then, out of the blue, we heard footsteps and then a call out for whoever was available. With everyone’s hands in the eating bowl, it was Anne who managed to respond quickly to the call. She got up and rinsed her hands in the sink and hurried out of there, thinking it was a customer. Three men stood at the dining room, all dressed the same way, in neat-looking shirts and trousers. Anne scanned their faces for the disturber but he wasn’t amongst them. One of them, the one with a slight bulge in the belly stood forward and introduced himself and that of the others as being from the FDA, the Food and Drugs Authority. He claimed that they had received reports of some contamination in the food that was served here. Anne just stared at them, speechless, until moments later when the others followed. I was washing the cups and plates at the kitchen but came out to see the men briefly before returning to the job. However, I could hear everything that was being said. Anne relayed the news of their visit to the rest of the team and Bettie was the one to respond to the man’s claim. She recounted the incident from the morning and said that it was the man’s way of getting back at them, nonetheless, they were free to sample the products for testing. The man sounded pleased and then the three men proceeded to walk towards the kitchen. They all came in, looking around the place and then Bettie laid out the ingredients we used in the coffee and tea. The tea wasn’t tea bags, rather powered chocolate, that’s what we called tea. They took some samples into tiny, transparent, plastic bags and then took some bits of the pastries too and then left on a friendly note, even chuckling with her. The leader of the team apologized for the inconvenience caused and said that we would have to shut down temporarily until the results of the tests. That was hard to hear but I think Bettie expected it since she didn’t react. She simply nodded and then asked how long it took for the testing to be done. The man replied that it varied according to the kind of product being tested and what was being tested for. He added that it could take weeks. Notwithstanding, he was going to prioritize our case so it concluded early, this he assured, and then left. So that was it, that was the end of a working day for us. A day that had began with such bad luck, couldn’t have ended any better, right? Bettie was moved by this but kept a clear countenance, saying such was the challenges that came with the job.
“On a brighter note, we would have the FDA’s approval at the end of it all,” she said, in a casual but confident tone. I smiled and nodded to myself. Selassie and the others however, couldn’t pretend to be okay. They sat talking in low tones about that curse of a man. We didn’t have a ‘CLOSED’ sign, so people began trickling in about an hour later, around 1pm. Fortunately, they weren’t coming for tea, just wanted some pastries. They were young, a handful of males and females, some were teenagers while others were young mothers with babies. Bettie met them and told them that there wasn’t anything available, unfortunately. She also mentioned that the house would be undergoing some renovation so wouldn’t be opening anytime soon. They all left in sombreness. That was hard on Bettie because there were a lot of pastries available, that she couldn’t sell. I saw her touching her eyes with her finger tips. To end the day, we all got some pastries to take home, and though that was amazing, I couldn’t even show my appreciation.
After five continuous years of hard work, taking a break may have been ideal for some people, yet in our case, it wasn’t. The four women had given everything; Bettie, her money and dedication, Selassie had to forget all about her pain and debt and fight to create a new life for herself and three children. And by God she triumphed, getting all three into school. Two were now boarders in Senior High School while the last born, a boy, was a primary school pupil. She paid off her debt in instalments, all within a year. Anne who like Belinda, had left for her hometown in the country side where she began some petty trading at home. She had two grown-up kids who lived by themselves, so she didn’t have to bother with childcare. However, it wasn’t all easy living in the village. Life wasn’t cheap as many thought it to be because of the farming lands that were aplenty. Food may have been in excess, but the cost of medication was the same everywhere. Anne had taken ill with some stomach infection and may not have survived if not for the Catholic relief services that operated in the village. A good neighbour had found her suffering inside her mud-house and alerted some men to carry her to the Catholic Relief Clinic. There she lay for a month before feeling strong enough to return home. Yet, there was nothing to return to. Her table top grocery business wasn’t as thriving as she would have wanted, and since her admission to the clinic, it got halted for good. So she had nothing, not even money to return to the city if she wanted to. However, she knew that the city was the only place she could find her footing again, so she did some menial work, made some money and then got on a bus back to the Capital. That’s when she visited Bettie at home and learnt of the coffee business she had started. As for Belinda, returning to her hometown was a good idea since her husband had been living and working there. It was great for their marriage but not good enough for her mother-in-law. When Belinda had told her about the fires at the market place and how she had lost everything twice in a row, she first sympathized but later, began to criticize her for being lax on her security. She made her feel guilty for returning home with nothing and after several weeks of subtle and open attacks on her inability to assist her husband financially, Belinda decided to move out of the house. She left to live with a relative, an aunt of some sort who lived elsewhere. She ran a drinking and eating bar and was quite popular with the town folks. Belinda sought for a job with her but the woman wasn’t so welcoming. She flatly said there was no vacancy. And when Belinda tried to make her understand her plight, she stopped serving the customers and then looked at her and remarked, “How bad is it in the Capital that you have come all the way here to beg?”
That was her cue to go away, get onto the last bus that was leaving the town that evening. She couldn’t think of what she may have done to be treated that way, since her mind was on her next step. Driven out of her husband’s home and shunned by her own relative, who else was left to seek refuge with? Bettie was the only name that settled in her mind while she waited for the bus to arrive. Then she recalled her only child, a daughter, who was now 13 years old. She had been living with her father and grandmother since her birth and fortunately, was well-cared for. That set her mind at ease. The bus took about 2 hours before arriving at the grass-roofed shelter where she had been waiting with others. She got into it and sat at the rear. Her luggage was a large, black, polythene sack that contained some of her clothing and slippers. She stuck it in the small space between her and the seat in front and then munched on some roasted maize and pieces of coconut. This was her second meal for the day, the first taken about 5 hours ago. Yet, it was all snacks, nothing much to fill the stomach with, since there wasn’t much to spare. The trip to the Capital cost about 10 dollars and fortunately, she had it all, including her subsequent ride to Bettie’s place. It was about 10pm when she arrived and it took her another hour before making it to Bettie’s. But Bettie knew of her coming because she had rung her on the public phone around 10.30 after locating the phone. Bettie was surprised to hear her but not about her intention of coming over to spend the night. She was waiting outside, behind her door, completely wrapped up in a cloth and wearing a headgear because of the chill of the night. Then Belinda showed up, walking slowly towards the compound, and dragging her luggage. When Bettie ran to her aid, she threw herself at her, falling in an embrace, and moments later, she began to sob. Two days later, she recounted her story and then Bettie gave her the good news. So that’s how the women came to work together and now it seemed like everything was falling apart once again.
I didn’t tell my parents about the thing with the FDA because I couldn’t. But the following day, I had to think of an excuse, a credible one, along the lines of going on leave. However, this time around, mother didn’t believe me. So she called Bettie on the phone and I stayed to hear what she was going to say. There was no response after the first call, so she called again but it still went unanswered. Then the idea popped into my head, say that Bettie isn’t well. I smiled and was ready to speak when her phone began to ring. She hurriedly picked it up and sang some pleasantries to the woman on the other end before listening attentively to what I couldn’t hear.
“Oh... so sorry... alright... bye.” That was all I heard after about 2 minutes on the phone. Then she turned and looked at me and remarked, “What happened there today? She said you had a quarrel with some customer.”
“It wasn’t a quarrel.” I simply replied, and then dished up some food and then sat down to eat.
“What happened? Tell me.” She said, and sat down at the table looking at me. I continued to eat, concentrating on the food although I knew she wasn’t going to leave unless I said something.
“A certain man came there today at 6, I told him we were yet to open so he should return later. And then when he came back he was angry that we didn’t serve him at 6. He made so much noise and Bettie kicked him out. Then he reported us to the FDA, that’s all.”
“Hmm.” She remarked after some moments, and then asked what I was going to do now that we were shut down. I said it wasn’t a permanent shut down and that we were soon going to resume work, thus, I was going to wait. Subsequently, she nodded and then left. When dad heard of it he was full of concern for Bettie and spoke with her on the phone, offering condolences. I visited Bettie that week on a Saturday. I knocked on the front door and waited for her to come open it but she didn’t. I attempted to knock a second time but changed my mind and walked away. I was going to return home when I thought of my older sisters, Anne, Selassie, and Belinda. After a month of working together, I knew where to find them, but since I wasn’t good at following directions, I thought of focusing on Belinda as she was closer to the coffee house. I entered the compound she shared with other tenants, and found her washing some clothes. As I drew closer, she instinctively lifted her torso and immediately smiled.
“Ei,” she remarked. I smiled, and then thought of what to say but she interrupted by referring me to a stool. I thanked her and sat down and began to think again of what to say. This was my first time of striking up a conversation with an older person, other than my mother.
“So, what brings you here?” Belinda said, pausing from her washing and staring at me. I smiled, a little nervous, and then looked at her, not directly, just around her face, since I wasn’t comfortable looking people in the face.
“I went to visit Madam Bettie but she wasn’t there,” I softly said, and then she gently nodded. I wanted to ask her if it she knew where she was but I didn’t and she said nothing. A minute passed before I could say something on my own.
“How are you, please?” She looked up at me, still washing and smiled and replied that she was alright before throwing the question back at me. I responded like she did and then she got up and carried one of the buckets away. She walked towards some bushes nearby and spilled the water in it. It seemed she had completed her washing. I had nothing left to say, though I would have loved to chat a bit more. When she came back, she began to rinse out the clothes and as she did, she glanced at me and said, “Do you know how to hang up clothes?” I chuckled. Of course, I did. Who couldn’t? That was what I thought, but my response was polite, “Yes, I can.”
“Alright, help me then.” So I got to stay a bit longer, hanging up the clothes with her and when I finished, I asked if there was anything she needed help with. She said yes, and then chuckled and said, “Can you cook, because I haven’t eaten anything proper since morning.”
“Hmm,” that was my response and then we both chuckled. I left her place around 3pm, after having some very tasty lunch. I was in high spirits until the thought of Bettie flashed through my head. Was she really okay? I got there in less than an hour, because I took a taxi, instead of waiting for the bus. I planned to wait for as long as it took for her to open the door and if she didn’t open, I was going to call the neighbours. There was no one outside, the door was still shut. But there was someone in there other than Bettie, I guess. Because I recognized that this voice was different. It was unfamiliar to my ears and so I thought it was a neighbour. That was okay, great, because she had company now. I stood behind the door, ready to knock but momentarily it opened and the person behind it seemed a little startled on seeing me. She held her chest and breathed in, and then I apologized for stirring her up. She smiled, and then asked if I was here to see her mother. Her mother? So, this was Bettie’s daughter? The nurse who worked overseas? I nodded before speaking up, “Yes, please.” The young, attractive woman called out to Bettie that she had a visitor and moments later, she was outside, smiling at me.
“Martha,” Bettie said in a lively tone and then continued, “This is Lamle, my daughter the nurse.” Lamle smiled at me and I grinned back. Subsequently, I went in with Bettie while Lamle continued on her way out. She wanted some food that Bettie didn’t have, cooked balls of corn dough served with fried fish and pepper sauce, which was everyone’s favourite. I managed to ask Bettie, having built confidence with speaking with Belinda, how she was. I told her that I had been there before and she apologized for not opening up, claiming that she may not have heard the knocks. The tall, smooth and brown-skinned Lamle returned after 20 minutes, carrying a small, black, plastic bag with a huge bulge at the base. The room instantly came alive with the aroma of its contents. She dashed to the kitchen, dished up in a large plate and returned to the living room with the food of the gods, four big, cooked balls of corn dough with several little fishes and the black and red pepper sauce. Mother and daughter rinsed their hands and began to eat, inviting me of course, but I confessed that I had been to Belinda’s place and had my fair share. Bettie chuckled when she heard that and then remarked, “Who else have you seen today, aside from Belinda and me?” Implying that I may have gone on an eating spree. I smiled, and then she explained her question and Lamle burst out laughing infectiously. After the meal, I talked about myself, stating my educational background, work experience, desperations and aspirations, and then how I came by the coffee house. I did mention my family too, naming my siblings and what they did and then how everyone focused on me when I didn’t have a job. Lamle assured me that there was no greater thing than entrepreneurship, what her mother had began, and then stated that someday I too could open up my own coffee house or something better. Bettie predicted that I could run the coffee house when she retired. I chuckled and then Lamle took a mean look at her and asked what kind of inheritance she was going to leave for her if I got the coffee house. Her mother chuckled and then she stated that she wasn’t joking, and needed an answer now. I glanced at her, she was serious, and sheepishly I believed her and then remarked, “Um, Madam I don’t need the coffee house. I’m happy with my work, that’s all.” There was some silence, more than a minute, before Lamle looked at me and then at her mother and broke into thunderous laughter. Bettie opened up too, starting with some chuckling until it turned into a roar. I was left in the middle, embarrassed beyond the word. I could only smile, feeling like an idiot. They stopped laughing when they had had enough and then Lamle took my hand and said, “Martha, sorry for stirring you up. I was only joking.”
“It’s okay.” I said, feeling less pressure now since the laughing was over. Bettie shook her head, not looking at me, and then suddenly said, “Hmm, I don’t remember the last time I laughed this much.”
“Me too,” Lamle said, sounding a little pensive.
“Why? Don’t you go out? There are stand-up comedians everywhere overseas.” Bettie said. I glanced at Lamle, waiting for an answer.
“Hmmm, there are. But I don’t have much time for these things. I would rather sleep.” She casually said and then yawned, opening up the mouth 360 degrees, though she covered up with her hand.
“You’re tired, go to sleep.” Bettie said. All was silent for some moments until I spoke, “Um, Madam I have to go.”
“Okay,” Bettie replied, and then I got up to leave but Lamle stopped me.
“Hey, would you mind coming over tomorrow, I have some present for me.” She cheerfully said, and I nodded and replied, “Okay. Thank you.”
“Oh, thank you too, mum told me about your weekly visits, that’s so nice of you. But, you don’t need to bother anymore, I’ll get her someone.” Lamle concluded and then I was able to go.
Hmmm, what present did she have for me? I imagined many things; clothes...sweets...or was it money? I felt happy because I was going to receive something from overseas. Yet it wouldn’t be the first time since we regularly had gifts whenever dad travelled outside for conferences. He had been in the States, first as a student and later on business. He also studied in Australia, meeting kangaroos on his free days. Then when he came back from Italy, he mentioned how swift they could be with their hands.
I didn’t think I would reach home by 7pm, I thought the time on my phone was wrong. Mother was nearby when I came through the back door. She smiled, and took a look at me to deduce that I was coming from Bettie’s place.
“Yes, I just came from there. I met her daughter, Lamle, and we had some lunch.” I recounted.
“I see, what did you eat?”
“Cooked balls of corn dough, some fish and pepper sauce,” I freely said, recollecting the meal that would take weeks to forget.
“Hmm, it must have been nice. That means you are not hungry, right?”
“Yes, not now,” I calmly said, not wanting to miss out on anything worth stuffing up with. But I didn’t eat anymore because I couldn’t. After the lunch I took at Belinda’s place, and what I took at Bettie’s, I would have thrown up if I ate anything more.
The next day, after my rise at 10am, I told mum about Lamle’s request that I came by for a present. She asked what present it was and I said that it could be anything. She asked me not to accept it if it was money and I remarked, “Okay,” and then began to walk away. But then I thought of it, how could I tell if it was money, unless she placed it in an envelope, right? Fine, I wasn’t going to accept it if it was money, I pledged to myself and then left home. I got there within an hour, but couldn’t step in because it sounded as though they had visitors. There was much laughter coming out of the living room and I waited behind the door for about twenty minutes before Lamle suddenly came out, as if to check something and then saw me seated on a bench on the veranda. This time, she wasn’t startled, since she had been expecting me. She took me in and there I met four women, all about her age, 30 to 35. They all focused their gaze at me and I felt so bad to be there. I was a shy person and this was too much, like an intrusion of privacy.
“Good afternoon,” I humbly said, and they all responded likewise in similar tones, smiling at me. Lamle introduced me as her mother’s best friend, Martha, best friend because I had been taking care of her in her absence. Consequently, I learnt of their names and their relationship with Lamle. All four were friends of course; work mates, roommates, course mates, and class mates. She actually stated their relationship in their order. I chuckled, so did the girls and Lamle. It seemed they had been there much earlier so after about twenty minutes, they all bade her bye and left us alone. Bettie wasn’t available, I was told. She had gone shopping at the market. Lamle sat me down on the sofa and excused herself for a second and after a minute was back with a small, dashing black handbag. I grinned and got off the sofa and then she handed it to me.
“Thank you, it’s beautiful.” I said admiring it.
“You’re most welcome, open it. There’s something else.” I obeyed and then found an envelope, a white one. Immediately, I smiled and then looked up at her and said, “Um, sorry but I can’t accept it. My mother told me not to accept it if it’s money.” Lamle laughed, just like yesterday. Was I embarrassing myself again? I gently smiled and then opened the envelope and immediately, I giggled. It wasn’t what I thought it was.
“Earrings, not money, I thought you’ll like them. It comes with matching bracelets and a necklace,” she casually said and then I apologized for rushing to conclusion.
“That’s fine, it’s good to listen to your mother,” she remarked, and then I chuckled and she laughed a bit more. I asked to leave but she requested that I wait for Bettie since she knew I would be coming over. She excused herself and returned with some soft drinks and cookies. My eyes lit up but I was meek. As I munched on, along with her, she confessed it had been a while since she visited the coffee house. The last time had been a year ago and she wanted to see how it looked like, if it needed some freshening up. At that moment, I swallowed some saliva and then nodded.
“So, when do we go?” She said.
“Um, I don’t know. May be tomorrow.”
“You mean Monday?”
“Yes, Monday, tomorrow.” I remarked. Momentarily, a car pulled up at the compound and that was the cue that Bettie was back. I hurried outside while Lamle followed. There was a taxi and the driver was already out and picking up the shopping bags from the boot of the car. Bettie welcomed me with a hug and I carried two sacks inside, while Lamle took in the last one. After taking a glass of water, changing her clothes and freshening up briefly in the bath, Bettie joined us at the kitchen as we took out the items. Then Lamle reiterated her desire to see the coffee house, stating that she was going to, the next day, with me. Then Bettie chirped in with a casual tone, revealing that we were shut down. Lamle was struck, left mute for some moments and then bounced back with questions. Bettie said she was going to tell her later but she demanded to know it all now. Then I began, since it all started with me.
“What? So just because someone reported that something was wrong, they just shut you down?”
“This is wrong, absolutely wrong,” she said in her foreign acquired accent.
“I’m sorry,” I remarked.
“No, no, how is this your fault? You stood up to some rubbish of a man – rubbish of a boy actually. Mum, you should have told me. I’m going there tomorrow. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be there.” She concluded.
I went home feeling excited, first about the present, which I showed to mother right away. The second thing was Lamle. She was as fierce as a lioness, and this amplified my belief that we would soon be resuming work. Mum asked me if I was given some money in addition and I said yes. She smiled, and then asked where it was and then I told her it was a lie.
The following day, Lamle and Bettie were at the office of the Food and Drugs Authority. I wasn’t there, I just learnt about it from them after I visited some days later. Lamle went with some of the cookies and playfully offered it to the staff at the place; the receptionist, the gate men or security, and even some clients of the institution. No one accepted it though, but that was just the way she chose to begin her attack. After a warm good morning to the receptionist, she asked to speak with the person in charge and was directed to an open room where a group of men sat chatting in high tones. They all turned mute the moment the two arrived. Lamle glanced at the faces of all five men and then smiled and began to address them.
“Gentlemen, good morning, I’m Lamle, and this is my mother, Bettie,” she said, in the foreign accent and one of the men responded by rising up and saying, “Good morning, my name is Mr. Gyane, I’m the head here. How may I help you?”
“Three days ago, a team from the FDA was at my mum’s coffee house in Dansoman, can you confirm that?” Lamle said and the man who had stood up to speak replied, “That’s right. But like we said, it’s going to take some time before investigations are over.”
“Right. But how do you choose whom to investigate? Is it solely based on flimsy accusations?” Lamle continued. The man was quiet for a moment and then he spoke, “Madam, we take every report very seriously, whether it’s backed by evidence or not. I’m sorry for the inconvenience caused but that is how things are done here.”
“Alright, but we need to know who that man is. As I told the team that came there, the man was just a customer who got furious because we refused to serve him earlier than the time we normally open. And because of this he chose to discredit us, which is totally unacceptable.” Bettie chirped in and then the man remarked, “Madam, I’m sorry about that, but like I said, we take every report seriously –
“Fine, take it seriously. Investigate, but tell us who he is, it’s our right to know who is accusing us so we can better defend ourselves in court.” Lamle interrupted in a strong tone. The atmosphere seemed to be tensing up now as the four men at the table were beginning to shift in their chairs. The man looked composed but sounded serious in his response, “Madam, I’m sorry but we can’t disclose such information to you, per our policy. If there’s nothing else, then I suggest you wait for the result of the tests. Excuse me,” he said, and then walked towards the door, opened it up, and stood waiting. Lamle glanced at him and gently shook her head and then exited with her mother. Some minutes later, the two sat in the back of a moving taxi, Bettie sipped on a bottle of water while Lamle munched on some of the cookies she had brought along. After some moments, she paused to drink some water and then interrupted the silence.
“Mum,” she called in a soft tone and then Bettie glanced at her, “Yes.”
“You’re not worried, are you?” She said, looking at her.
“No,” Bettie casually said.
“You shouldn’t be. We’ll resolve this, she’s going to help us,” Lamle remarked, referring to a friend of hers who worked in the judicial system. Madeleine Boison had been practising as an attorney for nearly a decade now. She began as a University student with Lamle, who met her through friends. After University, she read law in the UK and then came back to practise on her own after gaining some experience. Lamle had initially lost touch with her but thanks to a get-together with her course mates, work mates, roommates, and class mates, they found each other and kept in touch ever since, via email, and social media. The last time Lamle had ‘virtually’ spoken with her was six months ago, through Whatsapp, but she was certain to find her since a friend had confirmed that she was around. Madeleine lived and worked in a lone building in a busy part of town and that took them a while to reach, about 2 hours. The taxi stopped at a fairly large house, big enough for a family of four, behind a black gate, that had a security post with about two men in a booth. There was a sleek signboard that read, Welcome to The Law Office of Attorney Madeleine Boison. Lamle got down leaving her mother in the cab. She went up to the booth, greeted the men and asked about Madeleine, showing them a complimentary card. One of the men received it and then followed up with a call on a service phone within the booth. Five minutes later, the gate opened and a security guard dressed in a blue uniform emerged from it and walked towards the visitors. Lamle introduced herself, handing him the same card she gave to the man in the booth. The guard examined it, looking at both sides and then glanced at the taxi. Then Lamle stated that she came along with her mother. The guard approached the taxi and looked inside it, assessing its occupants. Five minutes later, the women were beside him, walking towards the house. A tall, built, young man dressed in a black suit, welcomed them into the reception hall, which had other clients waiting. There were five of them, a man and woman who sat by each other, apparently a couple, aged between 35 and 40. Then, there was a man who sat alone, reading a paper. He looked at most 60. The last were two young women in their mid to late twenties sitting beside each other and chatting in low tones. Bettie and her daughter took a seat near the door that might lead to Madeleine’s office. Ten minutes later, it opened and a young man and an older woman stepped out. They looked like mother and son from their interaction but they didn’t look happy. The woman wore a long black dress with a black head gear, while the son was in a black shirt and trousers. The couple were next to go and after about 30 minutes, they were out. They promptly walked away, speaking quietly to each other. They looked serious and in a hurry. Lamle had been observing all these people while Bettie was by herself, occasionally sipping some water from a bottle. She didn’t look worried, just a little tired. Lamle glanced at the 60 year old man who still had the newspaper in hand. She expected him to be next so called out to him, “Excuse me sir.” He immediately raised his head and replied, “Hello.”
“Well, aren’t you going in, I mean the last person just came out.”
“Oh, okay. Thank you.” He said and dropped the paper on the chair and then walked briskly towards the door. Lamle shook her head and glanced at Bettie who smiled.
“Next time I won’t ask,” Lamle said, and then glanced at her watch. It was already 2 o’clock. She yawned into her palms, quite audibly, causing the girls to glance in her direction. She looked back at them and they immediately looked away. It took an hour and some minutes before her chance came to see Madeleine. But she wasn’t there when they got in. They took a seat behind her consulting table. The room was cool, the air conditioner finely tuned to give off an optimum feel. There was a water dispenser with some disposable cups in a basket. The table was bare except for a name plaque, Attorney Madeleine Boison, a small, standing clock, and a single, large, white file, that lay beside a penholder. Lamle stood up for some water and as she drank, Madeleine stepped in. She looked like he had just come out of the shower, not that her hair was wet. She appeared refreshed, happy even. And then when Lamle had exposed her face by turning to see who it was that entered the room, she cried out, “Oh my God! Lamle!” Bettie smiled and then got up and looked on as Lamle hurried to her and the two began behaving like teenagers who had just found each other at a stadium full of strangers.
“Why didn’t you just call me, huh? Why?” Madeleine said, sounding like a Brit.
“I don’t know, maybe I lost your number.” Lamle casually said, and then proceeded to introduce her mother.
“This is my mother, Bettie.”
“Oh, nice to meet you ma’am,” Madeleine said, and took her hand.
“It’s lovely to see you Madeleine,” Bettie remarked.
“Alright, straight to business. We have a problem. Mum’s coffee shop was shut down three days ago by the FDA because some stupid customer who couldn’t wait for his tea reported them for bad service. He said their cookies were contaminated. But I can assure you that’s not true. Here, I have some to testify to that.” Lamle said, and brought out the bowl of cookies from her bag. She took off the lid, revealing a few survivors and placed it before Madeleine who was already chuckling.
“Lamle,” Bettie softly called out smiling. Madeleine took a dip with the fingers and began nodding her head as she munched on. Subsequently, she took in some more and when it was over in the mouth, she sipped some water and then began, “So, what do you need?”
“We need the bastard’s identity to bring him to court.” Lamle replied, and then Bettie added, “I don’t remember much about his face, except he was dark and eh...dark, tall -
“No problem, we’ll find him.” Madeleine said.
“Good, ‘cause I can’t wait to sue him,” Lamle remarked.
“Okay, first of all I need to know the full story, where this man came from, and what happened before he called the FDA.”
“Yes,” Bettie replied, and began narrating the incidence. Subsequently, they left Madeleine to her job. She called up someone on the phone and asked about Bettie’s case at the FDA; if indeed, there was an ongoing investigation on a coffee house. The person who sounded like a man, confirmed that there was, and then gave the name of the one who had lodged the complaint; Alfred Kujo, 35 years of age, and a contractor at the Ministry of Works and Housing. He was tall, dark, and of average weight. He seemed friendly, based on the headshot affixed to his employee form. Madeleine had sent the document by email to Lamle who checked it out on her smart phone, along with her mother. Madeleine was to see him the next day, alone, to convince him to confess to making up the story about the coffee house. However, on meeting with him the following day, somewhere around lunch break, Alfred claimed that he had no knowledge of what she was talking about. He had never been to any coffee shop, not argued with any waitress, never reported anyone to the FDA. But Madeleine was calm, because she had experience dealing with people like him. She smiled and then continued with her conversation, “So, you don’t have anything to do with the FDA, is that right?”
“Yes, that’s right.” Alfred confidently said.
“Okay, so, what if someone at the FDA were to say otherwise?” The man looked at her, appearing a little angry now. He took in some deep breath and then replied, “Madam, I haven’t done anything wrong, so please let me be, okay. I need to get back to work.” He began to walk away when Madeleine blurted, “Mr Kujo, we’ll be taking this case to court because it’s a serious thing to tarnish the image of a business without proof of any wrongdoing. It’s called Slander, S-L-A-N-D-E-R, she spelt it out to him. The test results will be in tomorrow, and it won’t be negative, as you already know. So I suggest you get your lawyer ready, because we’ll be suing you for Slander, that’s all I came to say. Have a good day.” She walked away while he stared at her, rooted where he stood. He was anxious. It seemed it had now dawned on him what trouble he could be in. Then, unexpectedly, he began to run towards her, as she was still within the compound, casually walking away.
“Madam! Madam!” He cried, clapping his hands and then she turned and saw him, and then stopped. He ran up to her and then began with an apology, “Madam I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were a lawyer.”
“You didn’t? But I introduced myself, I even showed you my card.”
“I’m sorry...I’m just so busy...I wasn’t thinking,” he remarked, looking distressed.
“I see, so have you changed your mind? Are you ready to confess to making up the story?” He was quiet, and in thought. Then after a minute he replied, “Madam, can we discuss this... let’s say...during the weekend, I’m a bit busy now.”
“Are you going to retract your testimony at the FDA, because you know you lied, so, either you tell the truth, or we take you to court.” Madeleine said, without an iota of friendliness. Alfred began to nod and then replied, “Okay, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have reported them-
“No, tell that to the FDA, let them know that you lied, then we can reconsider this lawsuit.”
“Fine, tomorrow... no... Friday, yes, Friday will be good.” Alfred promptly replied.
“So Friday, we’re going to the FDA, right?” Madeleine said in a casual tone.
“Alright, see you then.” She concluded and then walked away. Alfred stared at her with a frown. Then he deeply inhaled and then briskly walked away. When Madeleine got into her car, she called up Lamle and told her about her time with Alfred. He did confess, but not fully, and since it wasn’t complete, they couldn’t really use it against him in court. However, he had agreed to meet with the FDA on Friday to make a full confession, though Madeleine doubted this. Nonetheless, she had some good news; the results of the FDA investigation on the coffee house were coming out the next day.
Wednesday morning at 9 o’clock, a call came through from the FDA and Lamle officially got the news that the results were in. Mr Gyane, the man whom they had met at the office of the FDA had made the call, asking that they come over for it. But Bettie didn’t go because she wasn’t in the mood to. After all, she knew what the results would be. When Lamle got there, Mr. Gyane was waiting at the reception hall, seated near the entrance. He got up on seeing her and then walked over and said, in a calm, but serious tone, “Madam Okai, can I please have a word with you.”
“Sure,” she replied, and subsequently, they were alone in his office. It was a large room with shutters which were down since the air conditioner was on. Mr. Gyane sat down while Lamle remained standing, ignoring his request to sit.
“You said the results were ready, that’s why I’m here. Can I have them?” She snapped, and he looked up at her and then gently shook his head and remarked, “You lived overseas, right? That’s why you have influence...hmm...” Lamle looked at him, and then shook her head. Then he resumed, “You know... it’s good to have friends in high places. They can get things done quickly, but sometimes...you need to think of the people...because that job might be all they have.” Lamle stared at him and wanted to speak but she didn’t because now she understood what he was on about. Someone got chastised because he didn’t do his job well; shutting down a business just because someone asked you to, isn’t the right way. He should have known better, and for that she couldn’t feel sorry. He handed her the results in a large brown envelope, and then asked to be excused since he had work to do. Lamle smiled and then walked away, leaving the door ajar. Mr Gyane looked up and stared at the open door, in thought. Lamle called up Madeleine, informing her about the man’s utterances and asked whom she had contacted to get him feeling that way. But she didn’t say, except that no one was going to mess with the business again.
“So what do we do about Alfred? Are we gonna wait till Friday?” Lamle said afterward.
“Well, I don’t think so, because someone called, his lawyer apparently.”
“Ha, ha, ha, ha, lawyer? He’s got a lawyer?” Lamle remarked, laughing the way she did with Martha.
“Yes, a lawyer, and a pastor, two in one,” Madeleine said, amused.
“Oh, who is that? Do I know him?”
“Perhaps you do. He’s one of the big ones, and he’s coming over to the office tomorrow, so you’ll get to meet him.” Madeleine remarked, and that got Lamle laughing again, in a more gentle way. She couldn’t wait to tell Bettie about it, and called her up just moments after ending the call with Madeleine. Bettie was awake now, and preparing some food at the kitchen when her phone rang. She picked it up at the living room and soon began to laugh. She also wanted to know who this big Man of God was, that they were to meet tomorrow. The news of the test results reached Martha as she washed some clothes at home. Lamle had called her up right after leaving Mr. Gyane’s office. She was surprised to hear that they were already in and gave thanks to God. Then Lamle told her about their intent to sue the man who had shut down the place. She was quiet for a moment, a little stirred up. Was that necessary? She thought and then said, “Okay, I hope it goes well,” to which Lamle replied, “Oh, it’s going to go better than well, darling, believe me, this will be the end for him.”
Friday morning at 8 o’clock, at the Law office of attorney Madeleine Boison, Alfred and his lawyer-cum-pastor showed up. The Man of God whom everyone wanted to know about was finally here and ready to fight his case as he looked serious in his speckles blue-black suit and dark glasses. He led the way into Madeleine’s office while Alfred humbly followed, draped in a plain, light-blue shirt, tucked into dark trousers. He didn’t seem worried but wasn’t smiling either. When he finally arrived, Lamle smiled and got up from her seat, ready to address him. Bettie stared at him, trying to decipher who he was. Madeleine on the other hand was already smiling, looking amused as she seemed to know him well. He was of medium height, of dark complexion, normal dark, not too much, and with a nearly round head. He liked to dress in suits, as seen in his sermons on TV. But the feature that gave him away was his voice and choice of language. It was deep, like bass, and he always chose to speak in the local dialect, the most common one that everyone used, Twi.
“Good morning, ladies.” He announced, speaking in vernacular.
“Welcome, Pastor,” Lamle replied, before anyone could, sounding amused. The man stared at her and then remarked in a casual yet cheeky tone. “So, you are the white lady suing my client.” Lamle went quiet for a moment and then glanced at Madeleine and smiled. “Yes, I’m the one,” she said, smiling at him.
“Hmm,” the man remarked, and then sat down.
“Alright, Pastor... may I have your full name please?” Madeleine began.
“Hmm,” he commented again and followed up with a light laughter.
“Don’t you know me?” He said.
“Well, even if I did, I still need your name for reference.” Madeleine said, and then he replied, “Reverend, Pastor Kojo Nimoh, General Overseer of No Weapon Dares International Church.”
“Right, so, Pastor Nimoh, I believe you know why we are here, right?” Madeleine continued.
“You want to sue my client because... because of what? He reported something to the Food and Drugs Authority, is that it?” Pastor Nimoh said, with faint agitation.
“Hmm, is that what he told you, Pastor?” Lamle interrupted, amused. Pastor Nimoh stared at her, longer than normal, about a minute and a bit and then said, “White woman, are you the one I should be speaking to? If so, just tell me so I don’t end up making a deal with the wrong person.” Lamle didn’t look happy. She swallowed some saliva and then quietly breathed in.
“Pastor Nimoh, your client, Alfred Kujo, made a false report about a coffee shop owned by my client, Madam Bettie Okai, who is seated here now. Mrs Bettie could you introduce yourself,” Madeleine said, and then Bettie stood up and then replied, “I’m Bettie Okai, the owner of the coffee shop, Fresh Bread, Cakes
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