The calm ended swiftly and the storm rushed in with great force, knocking both Tunde and Anaya from the steady ground they’d been standing on from the past glorious weeks together. It hit Tunde first with a fateful phone call while he was at work.

Tunde frowned at Chen across the desk as he ranted off the next objective for their project. He watched the man’s mouth move with lightning speed and even though the man’s accented speech wasn’t normally an issue, in nervousness Chen tended to spill over his words.

He shook his head, raising a hand. “Slow down,” he said calmly. “I can’t pick out everything you’re saying.” He couldn’t blame the man for his frantic state. Their clients and the upper management were demanding more than requested initially. “Calm down. We can handle this.”

Chen threw his hands in the air. “This has gotten bigger than you and me, Halliday—“ He paused as the door flung open and a woman stepped inside, holding up a box in front of her face. Chen shifted from the desk as she plopped the white boxes full of documents on Tunde’s desk. “See…?”

Tunde nodded, standing to his feet. He eyed the documents warily and rubbed the back of his neck. It was going to be a long day.

A vibration from the table on which his thigh leaned against pulled his attention to the phone beside the documents. He frowned. Who would call him?

Chen picked up the phone from its cradle and placed it to his ear. Tunde watched the man’s scowl ease off his face and noticed as alarm filled his eyes. A cold shiver trickled down his spine as he waited until Chen nodded and said. “I’ll tell him right away.”

“What is it?”

Chen lowered the phone, looking back at Tunde with concern in his eyes. “Your brother said you should come to his garage now. That there is trouble for you there.”

Tunde frowned. Something was lost in translation somewhere. What did Silas mean?

“What about the meeting?” Gina Davis said as Tunde pulled his eyes from Chen to look at her. She bit her bottom lip in worry. Their jobs were at stake. “Do you have to leave now?”

Chen nudged her. “We can handle it for right now.” He gestured to Tunde, forcing his eyes back on him. “Go. Take an early lunch.” He managed a smile. “Go find out what happened.”

Tunde didn’t have to ask twice. It had to be serious if Silas called his phone. They both knew he never used it. He stepped around the desk and patted Gina’s shoulder. “I’ll be back soon. Just go through the documents and make a list of what’s important.” He glanced up at Chen who nodded silently. Then heaving a sigh, he turned for the door.

Heart racing with trepidation as he strode quickly across the street toward Silas’ garage, Tunde wondered what could be waiting for him on the other side of the sooty brick walls. Chen’s worried face had him picking up his feet, hands swinging forcefully beside him as he hurried to meet his younger brother.

Pushing open the door, Tunde immediately halted with his hand on the doorknob. Just inside the waiting area, the parents of the late Femi and two elders from their church sat in the sole leather sofa while Silas leaned against the wall with his arms crossed. No other customers or Silas’ part-time workers could be found loitering around. The unexpected visitors must have driven them out. He pursed his lips, already feeling the annoyance brewing in him.

His younger brother watched the four visitors guardedly, his jaw in a taut line. When the little bell over the door signaled a customer, he lifted his eyes to Tunde.

Tunde shifted his eyes back to the four now standing to their feet. He pushed himself into the lobby, already dreading to hear the reason for their visit.

Silas stepped around the sofa to stand in front of Tunde. “Remain calm and quiet,” he mouthed, concern showing plainly in his eyes.

Tunde peered over Silas’ shoulder at the four. Femi’s parents wore grave expressions while the elders bore identical scowls. “Good afternoon,” he said politely, stepping around Silas to face them. “Is there a reason why you are meeting here at my brother’s place of work?”

Elder Thomas Akindele, a stout man in his early sixties lifted his disapproving glare to Tunde. “We couldn’t come to your office. It would disturb the oyinbo.”

“My brother’s workplace is just as important,” Tunde said evenly. “If this is an issue with me, why involve him?” He ignored Silas’ hand on his shoulder. “In any case, Uncle Akindele, what is the matter?”

The older man’s gray eyebrows squeezed in. “It was brought to my attention that you have begun a relationship.”

Tunde frowned at the disdain in the man’s voice when  he said relationship. “Yes. I am about to be married.” He raised a brow. “Is there a problem?”

The other elder scoffed, gesturing to Tunde. “Look at how he is speaking already.” He paused when Elder Akindele lifted a hand to still his mouth. He sagged his shoulders but maintained a snarl in Tunde’s direction.

“You are courting a family member of the young man that killed Femi.”

The accusation hit Tunde like a freight train. “What?” His eyes flew to Femi’s parents who huddled together, Femi’s mother lifting a trembling hand to her mouth. He shifted his eyes back to the scowling man.

“It seems you were not aware. Sanusi, he is a relative of the girl you are dating.” The older man’s jaw tightened in anger, eyes flashing with fury. “How could you be so careless?”

Tunde shook his head. “I don’t understand…” Then he recalled the uproar caused when Anaya’s father stepped into the funeral.

“Don’t you understand the consequences of your choices? Your family and theirs,” he gestured to Femi’s grieving parents. “They will suffer more because you have opened our community to them.”

“How do you know they are not just looking for a way to hurt our people and used one of their females to get to us?!” the other elder shot out.

Silas scowled from behind Tunde. “That is ridiculous, Elder Amoeba. This girl and her family are Christians. Like ours!”

Tunde scowled openly, fed up with their baseless accusations. “You came all the way here to accuse me of what? Spit it out and take your leave.”

All four of them gaped up at him. The normally polite and gracious Tunde Halliday wouldn’t have spoken to them in this manner. Elder Amoeba was besides himself. He stood to his feet. “Forget reason with this fool. He is blind with love and has caused havoc for his family. We will not sit here and be insulted. Let’s go.” He gestured for Femi’s parents to rise to their feet.

Elder Akindele remained seated, glaring at Tunde. “You don’t know what you’re doing…” He then rose.

“I am completely aware of what I’m doing, Elder Akindele,” Tunde said evenly, annoyed that they would accuse Anaya and her kind faced father of doing anything to harm him and his family. Or Femi’s for that matter. “Thank you for your concern, but it is not needed.”

“Or wanted,” Silas finished, glaring at the visitors.

Elder Amoeba scoffed, leading the grieving parents toward the door. “You will regret not heeding our advice. You will suffer at the hand of those barbaric people and we won’t be there to help you.”

The two brothers merely watched the fiery elder step out of the building.

“Is she worth it?” Elder Akindele asked once Tunde turned his attention back to the man in the room. His scowl had eased off his face, replaced with evident concern. He searched the young man’s face. “Is she worth losing the support, acceptance and protection of this community?”

Tunde didn’t hesitate a moment. “Yes.” His family loved her as much as he did. He knew they would have many trials but if he caved in like this, how would the rest of their lives together play out? He straightened his back and stiffened his jaw. “She is worth more than a baseless suspicion and prejudice, Elder Akindele. Again, thank you for your concern.” He stepped away from the man’s path. “Have a good afternoon.”

Elder Akindele took one last look at Tunde and heaved a sigh. “I did what I could for you, son…” he said sincerely and Tunde knew he spoke for the people. It was obvious that this had become bigger than just them now. The whole community had heard of his intention to marry a Fulani girl and begged the elders to step in to intervene. He watched with a grave expression as the older man trudged out of the garage before he turned to face Silas.

“You’re prepared to fight, aren’t you?” his brother asked with a wry but proud smile. He’d never seen Tunde fight for something or someone this hard.

Tunde unclenched his jaw. “Next time, come get me yourself… I’m going back to work.” He started for the door when Silas grabbed his arm to stop him. He reluctantly looked back at his brother.

Silas grinned. “I’ll support your decision. She’s the right choice.”

Tunde gave him a weary smile. He believed he’d too, that he’d just won the greatest battle he’d ever faced… but why did he feel like this was just the beginning?

The sharp pounding at the front door pulled Anaya’s head from her books. She gaped at the door from where she sat. Who could be visiting so late an hour? Cold wrapped tightly around her spine, holding her at her seat.

With a puzzled frown, Leeza rose from her seat and shuffled to the door. She peered out from the window and gasped sharply. Anaya quickly stood to her feet at the sound of Leeza’s alarm. “Who is it?” she whispered loudly, walking to meet her sister.

Leeza turned to her sister, dread in her eyes. “It’s Uncle Abdul.”

Anaya halted with the cold squeezing so tightly around her. She could barely breathe as she pictured the perma-scowl of Ibrahim’s father. What was he doing here?

The sound of shuffling feet behind them alarmed the two sisters. They turned to see their sleepy-eyed mother adjusting her veil over her head. Hadiza frowned at the two of them, tucking one braid inside the veil. “It’s Brother Abdul. Open the door.”

The two sisters shifted their gazes back to each other and Anaya swallowed hard. For some reason, she knew this wasn’t a warm visit from their mother’s cousin. His unannounced visits never were.

<<Part 12 || Part 14>>