Jennifer was tapping at her steering wheel,wondering how she could dodge the traffic she saw ahead of her. It was a slow-moving traffic. She was two hours late; A third time this week. She was dreading a complaint from Theo’s school soon. Making excuses at work to pick her son early from school was becoming a routine, she truly did not know how she would keep up any more.
Especially if you have a lady boss with a neck like a trunk,monitoring you like a hawk with a serious case of indigestion, she thought to herself.
She had to laugh in-spite of the pressure that was building up in her head. “Where do you come up with these images”,she asked herself, chuckling. Jennifer knew she had a mouth on her. It came from a rather wild imagination. In her mind, everything and anything, if put together right could birth endless laughter. That is how she got by. How she survived. Her wry sense of humour and adventure.
It had got her in so much… trouble in the past. So many memories
“Jennifer Opare” she smirked at herself, “mother extraordinaire ..” Who would have thought?
It wasn’t that she was not a nurturing mum, it was that nobody expected her to have children so soon. Neither did she.
Jennifer was the life of the party. She was loud, fierce, a shameless and helpless flirt. She loved to chase and be chased. Coming from money,Jenny, Ms Jay or whatever she decided to call herself at the time,had the best parties,the most elite of friends,more than enough money to share. Most people who knew her years ago believed it was an ego trip for her to spend so much on friends. The truth was that Jennifer never learnt that money was supposed to be valuable; that money was supposed to mean something.
No. She was glad to have all those friends back in college, the chatter, the noise, the music. Knowing she was responsible for the pleasant raucous gave her all the satisfaction she needed.
It was a sure paradise. It replaced the hollowness she felt back home. A ten-bedroom mansion for three people; Three people who only saw each-other on Sunday mornings because it was mandatory in the Opare household to represent a solid front in the house of God.
Jenny shook her head at the memories that arisen in the most unexpected way. She remembered how her father would wait for Jenny’s mother at the entrance of the church, lock arms with her and march into the building as though he was walking a new bride down the aisle. it was a most peculiar thing or Jennifer. Years later she realized that it was the only time Mr. Opare had shown affection.
As a teenager,Jennifer always wondered what would happen if Jesus happened to swing by for brunch on Saturday. Who would he meet? No one,for sure… That cold,empty atmosphere was what she came from and all she had ever known.
Jennifer finally found a use for all the money that was made accessible to her in college. She didn’t even have to do much. It wasn’t everybody that showed up to school with two tinted four-wheel drives on the first day of school. What a time that was. She had made new friends before she could find her room. It didn’t matter if they were genuine or not. She had always been a loner, Jennifer could tell that would not change. The attention did much to boost her confidence however and oh how she basked in it.
The boys came too. Her public hook-ups back in school had several other men laying claim to her just because – I am Jennifer Opare. I am rich and I have no morals. She always had to remind herself that dating with so many men wasn’t a mistake.
She never considered herself loose, although in her early twenties, many,her friends included thought her ballsy attitude towards men needed to be checked.
it was an adventure. i had a good adventure, She told herself. The way she saw it, it was better than falling in love.
Meeting Jordan was living proof of this.
Jordan. Red flag should have been when he told me his name was Jordan,she thought giving a wry smile. What kind of Ghanaian parent names his child Jordan anyway. Jordan was not only the love of her life, he was the father of her son.
When Jennifer walked into the school building ,She could see her son sitting at the end of long school hallway. Theo,covered in sand, was sitting on the visitors’ bench at the school’s administration entrance. He was looking down at his swinging feet. He had a scowl on his face as if he was trying to understand why he had to stay behind while his friends got on the school bus.
The frown on his face changed into dread and anxiety when he saw this mother . Jennifer could already tell he had got himself in some kind of trouble.
Jennifer wasn’t ready for this. Picking him up late was bad enough.
“Ah.. Ms Opare, good to see you, ” Miss Thompson, the headmistress said as she came to meet Jennifer at the door. She grimaced, looking down at Theo, was seated at the bench outside the entrance. He was looking hard at the floor.
“Although I wish could say it were under better circumstances. Come in please”. She remarked
“So it appears that our Theo here has run into some kind of trouble with one of the boys in the class,” Miss Thompson . The headmistress paused for the uncomfortable effect she was looking for .
Jennifer signed and looked at Theo, who somehow managed to keep his head down in all of the ten minutes they had been in the administration office
“is this true Theo?” Jennifer inquired softly. It was more for her own control than Theo. She didn’t need this now. Work stress was compounding.
The ten year old didn’t respond.
“The damage isn’t so bad, the poor boy got a cut up his eye brow, but he’ll live. As long as his parents are able to calm down about the situation”, Miss Thompson continued.” The truth, Miss Opare, is that we do not condone violence.. No matter what stirred it. Your boy here responded in the most bizarre manner. Theo’s teacher said he hardly speaks in class, doesn’t participate unless compelled to do so, yet does remarkably well. It’s been this way for a a few months now. Have you noticed this Miss Opare?
Why is she talking down at me like I’m the student here?
“How does being at work stop you from checking how the kid is doing? He lives with you for crying out loud!”, Jordan yelled over the phone, as was custom for him to do whenever the conversation was about Theo.
Jennifer sighed and said calmly, “Hi Jordan, how are you doing? Have you had a week? How is your new girlfriend?. You know normally that’s how regular conversations go Jordan, We should try it sometime. We used to, remember.”
She was standing by the fridge, figuring out what to cook for dinner after the long uncomfortable session at the school. Theo would be suspended for a week.
“Don’t patronize me Jennifer, I don’t have the time for it. Why am i now getting this call from the school about Theo fighting in school?” Jordan said tersely.
“I love it when you are all hot and angry about Theo, that’s the only time you show you are his father,” Jennifer retorted. She knew it was a cheap shot. The regret came soon after the words left her lips.
Jordan was an amazing father but after being grilled two hours about the high standards of St. Mary’s day Primary school, by Miss Thompson, she was not about to have it. Especially not from Jordan.
Jordan went quiet on the phone. Jenny knew the conversation could only get worse. She had to reign it in.
“He’s fine Jordan, really. He got into some kind of fight with a class mate. But I got it handled. We just need to have a conversation with him, that’s all”
“OK”, He responded. His voice was clipped and cold.
“How IS your girlfriend though?”, Jennifer quickly added. It was supposed to sound casual, it just came out strained. She silently cringed. “ Why do I do that?. “You know, we should-“
“We are getting married”, Jordan cut in, “I will send you the details if you are interested. Tell Theo I will see him by the weekend”. The phone went dead.
Jennifer stood by the phone. She wasn’t sure how long she had been there for. She slowly put her cell phone on the kitchen table. She gave a sad smile and shook her head.
Ten years…ten years and this man still knows how to hurt me, she thought.
SHE is a collection of short fictional narratives that represent different (love) experiences of Ghanaian women