“Mr Francis Gameli has been dropped of all charges that led to his unfortunate arrest on June 8, 1989. The applicant was convicted on a charge of murder of one Mr Akatugba. He has served thirty one years of his jail term. However, Mr Gameli has been found not guilty and he is therefore being offered a cash amount of GH ₵ 75,000.00 and an additional GH ₵ 10,000.00 as compensation for all damages that may have been caused as a result of…”
A sudden stillness befell the courtroom, one of utter surprise and shock. Soon, it was accompanied by murmuring and a loud pitch of women wailing. He turned and looked around, in search of a familiar face. Mrs Gameli saw him. He had changed quite a lot, but not beyond recognition. His black curly hair had become noticeably grey and those once bright eyes that beckoned her during cold nights, looked sullen. It was unlikely of her husband, the man she got married to years back, to keep his beard. Today, there he was with a long dirty goatee, yearning to be trimmed. His clothes were scruffy and oversized. Wrinkle folds became the art on his face. Each wrinkle on his face bore witness to his innocence. They told the story of a once young man, who wasted over three decades of his prime years behind the closed doors of prison cells. He simply looked unattractive to her. She wasn’t looking any younger anyway. Time has an interesting way of altering one’s appearance in a rather astounding wording called aging.
When he finally caught sight of her, a mirthless smile found its way across his cheeks. She too couldn’t hide the chemistry of emotions that stirred within her. It had been so many years, too many years. She reminisced those days she shared with her husband during their first year and the plans they both had.
“Let’s start having babies during our third year,” he had insisted, “the first is going to be a girl, and I’m going to love her so much you’d burn with jealousy.” He had teased.
She had protested and emphasized that their first child was going to be a baby boy. Although they had different suggestions of what gender they wanted their first child to be, they both agreed to start reproduction during their third year of marriage. Then a knock on their door one Saturday morning changed their lives completely. Looking at him now brought back cherished memories from the past. Tears trickled down her cheeks. Then she began to run towards him, as fast as those old bones could carry her.
He left Mr Akatugba’s apartment at exactly thirty minutes after eight in the evening. He drove off in a black Toyota Corona and went straight to meet the squad at their usual pub. He knew he was far behind time so he apologized upon arrival, to avoid harsh criticisms from Akoto, for he knew how he was. Akoto gave him a quizzical look. It was unusual of their friend to show up late for events. The fact that he was drenched in sweat also got him wondering. Yet, he brushed it off.
“Barman, add two more bottles of the beer!” Akoto shouted, looking in the direction of the bartender.
It was their routine—meeting every Friday night after work to “release stress.” It’s a habit they had cultivated back during their college days. Now, even though they were married, they still met and continued the custom. The night was cold, so it called for cold bottles of beer to create the balance. Gradually, glasses were emptied and refilled amidst hearty laughters and loud jokes; disrupting the calm of the evening. Late into the evening, the three friends departed to their various homes. Mr Gameli left too.
Soon, he arrived at his flat. His wife was at the entrance waiting for him with a rather stern look. Then, suddenly, it dawned on him. How did he forget? He had no tangible excuse nor reason to make for why he had forgotten that they were supposed to celebrate their first anniversary that evening. He just had to do something. He stepped out slowly. Mr Gameli has always been a smooth talker; toppled up with the fact that he had great looks, he easily swept any woman off her feet. But that was not the case with his current wife. When he chanced upon her at the conference, something about her drew his attention. However, he couldn’t figure it out immediately. She was definitely a black beauty, maybe that would be an understatement. She was as dark as the steel cooking pot his own mother used to cook back in the village. That cooking pot, his mother had said, was older than he. The cooking pot hadn’t always been black. Due to continuous use of log in the preparation of food, the flames had formed a very dark coat on the pot.
So when he, Gameli saw her that day, it was that pot that came in mind. Nonetheless, he was more interested in her decency and the way she carried herself. She had held her chemically processed hair in a ponytail. Although it wasn’t as lengthy as he would have wished for, the fact that she held it neatly gained his admiration. Her skirt was long, but beautiful. Also, because she showed no extra skin, she earned his respect effortlessly. Later in the day, he observed her share her opinions on current issues confidently, with an in-depth analysis. When she shared her business proposal with the board during the meeting, he knew there and then that she was worthy of his attention and he was going to get her by hook or crook. It wasn’t easy; his smooth talks and great looks didn’t save him. But that was a story for another day. When he got to the entrance, he looked at his wife coyly. Before Mrs Gameli could utter a word, he planted a kiss on her lips and carried her to the chamber; dawn smiling behind them.
The day would have been close to perfect with the sun already peeping through the windows of the Gamelis, until a knock sounded. Mrs Gameli woke up first, unsure of whether or not she heard a knock, she sat still on her bed. Then there was a second and third knock that consequently woke Mr Gameli up from his slumber. Mrs Gameli went to the entrance, opened the door and to her amazement, there were two police officers looking for her husband. She went and fetched him.
“Mr Gameli, you’re under arrest for the murder of Mr Akatugba. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law.”
That was how Mr Gameli was dragged from his home that early Saturday morning to begin a life of restrictions.