Quickly scrawling down notes from her textbook, Anaya tapped her pencil against her forehead as she struggled to keep her concentration on her pharmacology assignment. Glancing down at her watch, she groaned. It was almost six and she’d been sitting in her room, cooped up in silence, fought to keep her eyes on studying for her test that was in a week.

Ever since one o’clock since Tunde dropped her off at home and Leza had finally stopped teasing her about the “look in the man’s eyes as he looked at her.”

“This is crazy,” she murmured, sighing deeply as she shifted her books to another side of her desk and bent her head deeper into the book, hoping the words would penetrate into her brain. After some hopeless minutes, she groaned, pushed her books aside and quickly stood to her feet, suddenly gasping at the pain that tore at her right ankle. “Ergh…” she grumbled, immediately lifting her foot from the floor and collapsed back on the bed. She sucked in her breath as she took hold of her ankle and cradled it gently. Stupid ankle… she muttered under her breath as tears rushed down her eyes, frustrated with her weak bones and her fragile heart. Slowly she opened her eyes and stared up at the ceiling.

Just then, a knock interrupted her thoughts and quickly readjusting her throbbing ankle, Anaya kept a straight face and cleared her throat, “Come in.”

Her mother stood on the other side of the door, holding a cordless set in one hand and a glass of coconut milk and steaming millet porridge with chunks of goat meat in a small bowl, on a tray. She smiled kindly beneath her thick-framed glasses and shuffled towards her eldest daughter’s bed. “Hello, Ana daughter… How are you feeling?”

Anaya managed a weak smile as she made room for her mother on the rumpled bed. “I’m okay. Did you just come back from the hospital?”

Her mother nodded, placing the tray on the bed and adjusted her colorful, flower-printed hospital scrubs. “Yes, it was a long day… Not a lot of nurses came in today, the Ramadan holiday and all…” She trailed off, staring at the tray listlessly.

Anaya held back a sigh, looking down at her mother’s slim fingers, only imagining the struggle for her mother, a once devout Muslim to release her childhood faith for her children and husband.

“Plenty patients filed in today,” her mother continued, reaching out a hand to touch her daughter’s cool forehead and then glanced down at her daughter’s leg. “How’s the ankle?”

Anaya shrugged despite her face burning. “It’s okay. Tunde wrapped it earlier…” she trailed off as her mother raised a brow at her.

“I heard a man brought you home?” her mother asked softly, her eyes studying Anaya’s face.

The younger woman cleared her throat and shifted her eyes away from her mother’s. She should’ve known Leeza wouldn’t keep her mouth shut for long but had hoped she would have time to formulate an excuse, a reason for Tunde’s presence in their home.

It was hard enough explaining to her parents why she hadn’t brought a man home yet at the ripe age of twenty-five, especially with all her girl cousins bearing their second and third children. It was the way of their people to bear children young and be settled in their new homes, but Anaya didn’t want her life to be that way… especially not with a Fulani man. No man was like her father, patient and kind and loving as he was with their mother. Once his father, a Woodabe man embarked on a newfound path in Christianity, his behavior toward his wife and children had changed dramatically. Even her mother Hadiza could not deny the difference in her husband. He was more attentive and patient, gentle and caring toward her. Even if he didn’t profess to Allah as he had in their youth, she could see that something was different about this man and his newfound faith.

Anaya had hoped to find someone like her father in the men she’d seen and dated previously. Her parents were open to her meeting men, had even suggested a few of their own choices. Still, she was not satisfied to settle with any… Tunde’s face appeared in the front of her mind and she blinked rapidly, jerking her gaze from her mother’s. There was no way her mother would agree to Tunde. She didn’t know much about Tunde herself but something in her knew that her soft-spoken but traditional mother would not agree to Tunde as a prospective match. She fought the forlorn feeling that rose up in her, forcing Tunde from her thoughts and lifted her eyes to her mother once again. “It was nothing… He just offered me a ride. I was running in the park and a Frisbee knocked me off my feet—”

“He hit you with a Frisbee!” her mother gasped.

Anaya frowned, “No,” she shook her head incredulously. “I guess he was in the neighborhood and helped me get home. Nothing else.” She ignored the guilty feeling for keeping the rest from her mother. It was better this way. The less speculating, the better for both of them.

“Oh,” Hadiza replied hesitantly, a furrow in her brow. She then glanced down at her daughter’s foot and then shrugged, “Did he dress your wound also? I’ll need to check the dressing…”

Anaya bit the inside of her cheek, cheeks flaming. Nothing got past her mother. She should’ve realized that already. “It’s okay. I checked it once I got home.”

Hadiza nodded, rising to her feet. “By the way, your friend from class called about ten minutes ago. She said you should call her as soon as possible. Apparently, there’s some emergency test review tonight.”

Anaya shifted in bed.

Hadiza headed towards the door. “I’ll go get my kit. Eat your porridge and milk. I will return later.” And without another word, she exited the room and Anaya let out a sigh of relief. What does it matter anyway, it’s not like I’ll ever get a chance to go on a date with him… she said despondently and reached for her glass of cool milk.

Wiping her mouth once she’d finished her snack, she pulled herself off the bed and hopped out of the room to retrieve the phone. Unhooking the phone off its hanging cradle, she punched in her friend’s number.

“Hello,” a deep voice said from the other end just after less than two rings.

Anaya frowned, “Um–Is this Giselle’s house?”

“I’ll get her,” the man said and before she could respond, he placed her on hold.

After a few moments, there was laughter in the background and her bubbly friend answered the phone. “Hey I called twice and it was your sister and then your mom. What are you up to?”

“Hm, nothing much. I hear we have a review tonight.”

Giselle sighed exasperatedly, “Yeah, it sucks. I had a date tonight with the hottie we saw in the cafeteria last week—remember? That was him who answered… We’re watching a movie.”

Anaya refrained from rolling her at Giselle’s bubbling laugh to what the man’s muffled voice muttered on the other end. “Yeah. Look, could you give me a ride to the review tonight—what time is it, by the way?”

“It’s at eight—but wait, what happened to your car?”

She sighed, “Nothing, just don’t think I can’t get to it right now…”

“Oh no, I wish I could but even I’ll be late to the review. Probably by thirty minutes to one hour. Andy and I will be stopping by the department store at six.”

Anaya clucked her tongue in aggravation, leaning against the wall. “No problem. I guess I’ll see you there.”

“Why don’t you ask that cute guy you were talking to at the library last time—Tony?”

“Tunde,” Anaya instinctively corrected her, frowning, “And why would he take me?” Her heart jumped at the thought and she gripped the phone as a fleeting image of his face popped up in her mind.

“Hmm, I don’t know. He seemed like a nice guy, is all… Looked like he’d want to do anything for you,” Giselle suggested and giggled softly.

“Please stop,” Anaya grumbled. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll find a ride somewhere.”

Giselle sighed, “Alright, then. I’ll talk to you later then. Take care.”

“Uh-huh, you too,” Anaya answered and just as she clicked off the phone, her mother reached the top of the stairs. Biting her bottom lip, Anaya hobbled back into the room, perching on the bed as Hadiza entered the room and took her place back on the bed.

“Okay, lift…” she instructed, very much the nurse she was. She placed a similar first aid kit on her lap.

Anaya obeyed, resting her injured ankle on her mother’s knee. She watched her mother’s bent head as she gently dressed the ankle. “Ma…”

“Hmm?” her mother said softly, her head still bent.

She opened her mouth to ask something but instead cleared her throat, “Do you think you could drop me off at the review tonight for my exam?”

Hadiza raised her head, her brows lifted skeptically as if knowing that was not the question that echoed in her daughter’s heart. Instead she frowned, “Are you sure you can handle it?” she gestured towards her foot.

Anaya lifted her shoulders, “This is the only review being offered by the teaching assistant. It’s an emergency review, implying it might be the only one before the test next week… Ma, please?”

Hadiza sighed, twisting her mouth, “Why don’t you ask your friend to scribe notes for you?”

Anaya frowned in thought. Giselle hardly even paid attention in class, whenever she could make it. Although she had always wanted to be a pharmacist, Giselle was slowly debating whether being a stay-at-home mother of a prestigious doctor wouldn’t be better, and dated the medical students with classes adjacent to theirs. Anaya shook her head, “No, I should really go there tonight.”

“When is it?” her mother said turning her attention back to tending the ankle.

“Eight o’clock tonight…” her eyes searched her mother’s.

Hadiza shrugged, “I could drop you off but there’s no way to bring you back, honey… Another shift tonight.”

“Oh, that’s okay. I’m sure one of my classmates can drop me off home.” She smiled to reassure her mother, “Thanks, Mama.”

Hadiza nodded and patted the dressed ankle gently. “Okay… I’ll let you rest for a while and we’ll leave around 7:15pm to avoid the traffic.”

“Thanks Mom,” Anaya breathed with relief and smiled as her mother kissed her forehead.

<<Part 3 || Part 5>>