Guardian of the Rented well – short story (complete)

 
The man behind the desk was bent over sheets of paper spread all over the desk. He was seriously working, oblivious of the rhythmic humming of the air conditioner, the soft music being played on the radio, and the continuous knocking on his door. The secretary, who was not unaware of this occasional eccentric behaviour of her boss, opened the door and entered the office after knocking for well over three minutes. The man still went on writing, his handsome face contorted in concentration.
Miss Ocansey smiled at the bent form of her boss. She really loved working with him; she had been with him for about three years as his personal assistant, and she had loved every minute of it. What a boss to serve! Committed, dedicated – and handsome too.
Mr. Benson Stephen was a man of about thirty two years. Slim and tall, he had a body which spelt inner strength and a face bright with intelligence and vision. A graduate of Oxford University, he was the head of the publishing firm, Alonte & Associates, based in Ghana. A leading firm, it was noted for bestsellers in Africa and the plans for the future were to launch into the Caribbeans. Best known by the abbreviation AAA or 3A, Alonte & Associates’ strength lay in unearthing new authors, and making them stars. Some of the titles churned out in the six years of 3A’s existence included House Matters, Turn Not a Blind Eye, Haunted Hunters and A Comedy of Saints.
Stephen was unmarried, and flirtatious bachelor of the highest degree. He held the enviable title of the most eligible bachelor in Accra.
********
“Akos, aren’t you leaving for home?”
“I will, soon. Just want to finish this plot I am working on for the second novel. I told you I finished the first novel and presently looking for a publisher, right?”
“No, you didn’t! You kept that from me! Congrats, my girl. Soon, I will be bragging that I know the best romantic writer in Sikaman.”
“Haha, you are always building up grandiose images! Well, let’s say amen to that!”
“Bye, my dear, do leave soon, OK?”
Akosua tried hard to balance her day job as an engineer with what she called her real job – writing. From an early age, she had dabbled in literary pursuits and her passion for that had never waned. At the end of each day, after rounding up her work as the production shift manager at Bombay Industries, where she oversaw the soaps production lines, she sat behind her desk, thinking, jotting, drafting and writing. It was her way of de-stressing, she just loved writing. Her friend Jemima was her biggest support. After seeing Jemi off hardway to the main gate, Akos returned to her desk and read, again, the last chapter of the manuscript of her first novel “The Showdown”.
*******
“Sir, a visitor to see you, please.”
He still went on writing. Miss Ocansey hesitated for sometime, and tried again. This time, Mr. Benson looked up and realised for the first time that it was past mid-day and that he was very hungry. He had been working for about five continuous hours on the novel “A day to remember”, written by one of his best clients, Nii Noi Narh Snr. A great writer, and a great novel. He wanted to finish it within the month and take a well-deserved rest for a period of time.
“Yes, what can I do for you, Miss?”
“A lady visitor to see you, sir. Can I show her in?”
“Yes, yes. Please do. And a cup of coffee for me, please.” And with that, he resumed his work, with the same serious concentration.
He looked up soon to meet the stare of a lovely lady, standing a short distance away from his desk. She was about twenty-five, he reasoned, and by God, beautiful. For a moment he absent-mindedly stared at her before he came to himself and showed her to a chair in front of him.
The lady sat down gracefully, and with the same grace placed her handbag on her lap. A split moment of silence as their eyes met…
“Mr. Benson Stephen at your service, ma’am.”
He had said this a million and two times in his career and he always felt refreshingly confident each time. Today was no exception. It assured him always of his competence.
“Akosua Nketia is my name. I am an author. I have a novel I want published and a friend recommended you to me at a party. She said you were the best this side of the world; so I decided to rush down to see you. I have the manuscript here. Can you take a look, sir? Here, thank you.”
A knock on the door, and the secretary entered with the steaming cup of coffee. Miss Nketia politely refused Mr. Benson’s offer to have a cup made for her. He took the manuscript and skimmed it, taking sips of the coffee intermittently. Having finished with the script, he placed it on the desk and smiled at the lady.
“Can I call you Akos? Good. The work is perfect, the plot is excellent, I am just in love with the suspense, and your climax is just splendid. I think you’ve got a deal. Anyway, everyone will like to deal with a … beautiful lady like you.”
Adroit at fending off the attentions of men, Akosua answered: “I am glad to hear that, Mr. Stephen…”
“No, no, no, you gave me permission to call you Akos; please call me Ben.”
“…does that mean you will publish it?” She wanted to be sure she heard well, trying very hard to contain her excitement.
“My dear Akos, I said you got a deal. Well… let’s see…can you meet me on Friday at eh…Sadisco Hotel so we can discuss this in more detail? At 4.00 pm? Good. See you then.”
******** 
His major challenge when he heard that he was to spend six months in Kigali was how his sweetheart would fare in his absence. They had been together for close to six years, and their childlessness had even made brought them closer – a couple united against their two families, who in their earnestness and anxiety pestered them each day with questions and suggestions – to see one odifuo or medicine man or the other.
His closest pal, Kofi Adaboh, was excited, however, to be away from his wife. Kofi was the most adventurous person he had ever known, and his expectation was that Kigali would offer both danger and exploration, exploration amongst the natural delights of a foreign land.
******** 
“Akos, tell me, what do you do with your beauty?”
Benson hated beat the side of the drum when the top was available.
“Is that how you flatter all your female clients?”
“No, only the special and pretty ones.”
“I see….”
She smiled shyly and sipped her beer.
Across from Sadisco, the traffic was beginning to build into the evening rush hour, time for workers to drive home, for trotro mates to bluff the passengers they would have begged for during mid-day, for the sun to begin setting. Akos remembered the days she spent during her childhood with her grandmother; in the village, the setting of the sun was glorious. In Accra, no one paid attention to it, traffic made nonsense of every other consideration.
Benson watched her pensive face, her countenance reflecting the glow he felt sitting with her; a new fish in his pond. He couldn’t wait to start fishing.
*****
A man thinks he chases a woman, to win her; but a careful observer of the oldest game in life knows that a man chases a woman until she catches him. Benson’s wooing of Akosua was relentless, focused and determined. Akosua’s evasiveness made her more desirable.
When after two months of fast-track work on her novel, Benson called Akosua on a Friday to tell her “The Showdown” could hit the press in a matter of weeks, she couldn’t refuse his offer of a celebratory dinner at Sadisco. This time, she couldn’t suppress the exhilaration in her voice.
The night turned out to be a long one, with a lot of dancing together. At midnight when they parted, both had no doubt in their minds that they were in for a something more than a business relationship.
“Friday nite” turned out to be a favourite time for the two of them. They went out together to many places, and were hardly apart. Akosua ended up partly giving up her house, and staying with Stephen. This, of course, had a great effect on Stephen’s commitment to his work, failing to publish Nii Noi Narh’s novel, and even that of Akosua; actually, she didn’t care for it any longer. They continued this relationship with an intensity akin to madness.
***** 
Lt. Atiemo had returned from Rwanda to find his marital home empty, his wife nowhere to be found. He wanted to surprise her, so he didn’t send any notice of his arrival date. After waiting a couple of days without her return from wherever he presumed she had travelled to, he called on a good friend of his to enquire about Akos, as he was getting worried. What his friend told him shook him to his very bones. His wife going out with someone and, not just that, sleeping in his house as well. He just couldn’t take it.
What Akosua didn’t tell Benson was that she was married to Lieutenant Patrick Atiemo, and that her husband was on a peace-keeping mission in Rwanda.
Back home, Patrick thought about the whole situation. He wasn’t one given to wine but he drank that day, tears streaming down his face like a waterfall. All these years he had lived for his wife alone, toiled to make her life comfortable, been faithful to her. In Rwanday, whilst his colleagues sampled the native women, he had remained faithful to his vows, to love Akos and only her. And what does she offer in return? God, he surely had to end it all. End it, blast it, shoot the bastards in their stomachs for sure.
He took out his pistol and loaded it. His military mind was set in motion. They were the enemy. He knew what he had in mind, the enemy didn’t. He knew they existed, they didn’t. His next move was to find them.
Benson and Akosua had had a wonderful day. Akos had finally agreed, after a lot of persuasion, to take him to see her home. In high spirits, they entered the sitting room. Stephen instantly felt Akos freeze beside him at the sight of the man sitting behind the dining table with the pistol in his hand. Akos just couldn’t believe her eyes. She never expected her husband to be back so soon; at least, he should have written to inform her he was coming home.
Before she could recover from her shock, two shots rang out – a bullet each finding its mark in Akos and Stephen. As they fell, Atiemo shot his head off.
Benson was shocked the most about the whole incident. As he went down in pain, he cried “Oh God, save me…” but all he could perceive was darkness, deep darkness enveloping him…
He was almost certain he was in heaven, and an angel was looking down at him. All around him was bright light. This must be the light that, he learnt ages ago in Sunday school, was supposed to shine forth from the throne of God.
The angels moved about. All he could whisper was “Have mercy, Lord, and give me another chance, another chance.”
Slowly, his gaze focused and the haziness cleared. He was looking up at a nurse, and he realised that he was not in heaven but in a hospital, and the nurse holding his hand was speaking to him.
“Yes, He will give you a chance again, sir. Thank God you are alive and recovering. Been in a coma for the past three days. Shot in the shoulder, you were, and the only one alive of the three of you. You must occupy a special place in God’s heart.”
****
He mounted the pulpit and as he sang “He holds my life” with the congregation, he bowed his head to say a prayer. Today, he was going to preach to the youth fellowship and young couples, to keep faith with the wives of their youth, to drink from their own cistern. He felt moved to make it a personal sermon, to share his experience as a guardian of a rented well, and how he nearly lost his life at the hands of the owner of the well.

One Response to Guardian of the Rented well – short story (complete)

  1. kofi ntiamoah says:

    IT IS INTERESTING HOW YOU WRITE YOUR STORY IN PIECES AND EVENTUALLY BRING THEM ALL TOGETHER LIKE FIXING A PUZZLE.

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