Frank sat in the dark, lost in thought. He absentmindedly ran his fingers along the rim of the glass of cranberry juice he was holding in his right hand. Cranberry juice was his new favourite thing, in Vanessa’s opinion. She and her brothers had already gone to bed, and he was grateful for that. He didn’t want them to hear his conversation with their mother. For some reason, he didn’t hear the gate swing open when Korkor got home. He only realized that she was home when the lights flickered on.
‘You startled me. I didn’t expect you to be awake at this time.’
‘I was waiting for you to get home.’
‘Sorry it took me so long. We were on a conference call with one of our clients in Tokyo. The day went by rather quickly today. I am sorry I forgot to call.’
‘Were you able to sort them out?’
Korkor kicked off her Christian Louboutin shoes and started making her way towards the bedroom.
‘I stayed up because I wanted to discuss something with you.’
‘Can’t it wait? Been a really long day. I could use some rest.’
‘No, actually it can’t. Do you know what your kids ate for dinner tonight?’
‘Seriously? Frank, I am really exhausted. Why are we discussing the children’s diet?’
‘Because your kids are growing up without their mother, that’s why. You are out of this place as early as 6am, before they wake up. You get home at 11pm, when they are already asleep. On the weekends that we are fortunate enough to have you here, you are constantly on the phone or responding to emails. Today Junior asked me why you never pick them up from school. I told him it was because you were very busy at work, and he asked when you were going to stop going to work so you could pick him up from school. It broke my heart. He is only 3 years old.’
‘Frank, there is no need to guilt trip me into spending more time with my children. God knows I love them. I just became Senior Associate at the firm. That comes with more work, longer hours, more responsibility. I need to show the partners that they did not make a mistake promoting me. And the kids are not alone. When you close from work, you pick them up every day without fail. Aku makes sure that they are fed, clean and loved. That is more than I got when I was a child. My mother was away all day everyday selling goods in the market. We had to fend for ourselves. We survived. I’m pretty sure they will be just fine.’
‘Oh, great. When it suits you, we refer to the background of the great Korkor Tachie-Menson. I know your mother worked hard to cater for you but that was only because your household could not survive on the remnants of the salary that your father brought home, after drinking away a great chunk of it. You do not have that problem- you can choose to retire today and we will still be OK for the rest of our lives. Your mother didn’t have a choice-you do! And don’t get me started on the Aku subject. Aku does a fantastic job when it comes to taking care of these kids but a house help cannot replace their mother! Junior is struggling with wetting his bed but you don’t know that. You probably won’t even notice it when Vanessa starts menstruating. She is not as important as your clients in Hong Kong, is she?’
‘Frank, enough! I don’t have the energy for this tonight.’ She picked up her shoes and whirled out of the living room. Frank sat still for a long time. This had not gone the way he had planned for it to. He had allowed his emotions to get into the way, but then again, how could he broach the matter of his absentee wife without getting emotional? Life hadn’t quite turned out the way he planned it. He loved his wife, without question. She was the strongest woman he knew. She had grown up with her parents and her seven siblings, in the one room they were entitled to in the barracks. Mr Azu had one weakness- the bottle. It was hard to tell when he was sober because he reeked of liquor all the time. Korkor was the second and last daughter and she was determined not to end up like her mother, who slaved day and night to be able to take care of her children. Her journey from a single room in the barracks to Senior Associate of Adutwum and Koomson Chambers was marked with many roadblocks and disappointments but they didn’t stop her from fighting her way to the top. He knew that sometimes she forgot that she didn’t need to fight this hard any longer, but it was no excuse for abandoning her home. Besides, there was another reason why he desperately needed her to stay at home- he was beginning to develop feelings for Aku.
Aku sat at the edge of her bed, waiting for the quarrel to end. Her heart started racing,especially when she heard her name. She closed her eyes and silently prayed that the children would not hear their parents arguing, particularly Junior. He was the sensitive one and he didn’t like conflict at all, especially when it involved his family. Anytime Vanessa and Gregory got into a squabble, he would burst into tears and insist that they hug and make up because ‘brother and sister don’t fight’. Aku loved her job. Not only was the Tachie-Menson home a big step up from the mud hut she grew up in all the way in Atiavi, she had also grown very fond of the Tachie-Mensons. Dr Frank, as she called him, was the only man she knew who could cook an entire meal unaided. Where she came from, all the men did was to bark for their food if it was five minutes late. Not only did he dash from the children’s hospital to pick his children up from school, he also had time to help with their homework. If she ever got married, she wanted a husband like him. Auntie Korkor was also nothing like a regular wife. She was rarely ever home and she hardly ever came to the kitchen- not even to fix a cup of tea. Aku knew her mother would not have approved of her, but she liked Auntie Korkor. She was very kind to her and she allowed her to draw up her own menu for the children. She had also picked up little things about each of the children. Vanessa was observant and opinionated, Gregory was calm and indifferent- Mr Anything Goes, Junior was the sensitive one who could sense it anytime someone was sad. He was the one most affected by his mother’s absence. On some days, she liked to pretend that this house and the children were hers. She listened again- it was quiet. ‘Thank you’, she mumbled to nobody in particular. If the Tachie-Mensons split up, she would have to go back to Atiavi, where there were no paper napkins, hot water showers or slightly salted butter. She honestly hoped that would never happen.
He had never actually planned to fall for Aku. She wasn’t his type- she was scrawny and fair. He preferred his women dark and bountifully endowed like Korkor. Aku was uneducated but she was eager to learn. She had grasped how to poach an egg with just one tutorial. That girl could cook, no doubt about that. Korkor’s palmnut soup used to be the best soup in West Africa until he tasted Aku’s soup. Aku loved his children as though they were her own, and for some reason, he found that sexually stimulating. It had been at least a year since he and Korkor had been intimate. She was either busy, too tired or simply not at home. She had even stopped wearing the waist beads he liked so much. He cradled his head in his hands, suddenly overwhelmed by a tide of sadness.
‘God please help me. I am trying so hard but I am tired of holding it together by myself. You know I love my wife. Please help me.’
He got up and made his way to the library. He needed to read on urinary tract infections before he met his new patient the next day.
Korkor was uncharacteristically distracted at the team meeting that morning. Her mind kept drifting back to the conversation that she had had with Frank the night before. He was rarely this forceful- she was the stubborn, opinionated one. He wasn’t happy, she knew that. When they were on campus, they spent a lot of time talking about raising kids and at the time, she was definitely looking forward to it. However, she soon realized that being an excellent lawyer was far more exhilarating than cleaning runny noses and changing diapers. She enjoyed going to work, overcoming challenges and solving problems- it made her feel like she was doing something worthwhile with her life. It wasn’t that she didn’t love Frank and the kids, but if she was going to be brutally honest, she loved being good at her job more. She was always finding an excuse to spend more time at work- one last email, one more case review, yet another phone call. It was selfish, but it made her happy.
At breakfast, Frank tried to be as cheerful as possible to avoid questions from either Vanessa or Junior. He watched as Aku served them eggs and toasted bread with Milo. Gregory of course quaffed down the drink while Junior fussed about how yellow the yolk was. Vanessa’s head was buried in a book about vampires. Aku was bent beside Junior, explaining to him why the yolk was yellow and how eating it would make him a big strong boy. Ignoring the growing bulge in his trousers, he headed outside and shouted, ‘Kids, we are going to be late. First person in the car gets ice cream today!’ Once outside, he chided himself, ‘This craziness had to end. I cannot be entertaining feelings for the help!’
That night, Frank waited for Korkor to get home once again. As soon as she entered, he spoke.
‘I think we should get counselling. I am tired of fighting.’
‘Frank, I have also been doing some thinking and I want a divorce.’
P.S: Whose side of the story can you identify with and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts😊😊 Story continues here