southerncharms3

As expected, Josephine Halliday was a crying mess when her first son and daughter-in-law came by the house

after she’d just returned from Nigeria on a short visit. She couldn’t even catch a breath as she bumbled throughout her congratulations, eyes flickering from Tunde to Anaya and back again. She could barely sit still, wanting to embrace them both. At last, she was to be a grandmother!

Composing herself for just a moment before the tears started up again, Josephine thanked Anaya for being a part of the family. Then her smile faded quickly as she switched modes without missing a beat. Tightening her lips then, she sternly instructed Tunde to give Anaya whatever she wanted, even if it meant him driving miles to get it. “And you’ll do it without complaining because she’s carrying your child. The first of many.” Her lips trembled and she lifted a hand to her mouth to hold back the tears.

Tunde gathered a teary-eyed Anaya in his arms and smiled good-naturedly. “Yes Mother…” He paused to kiss Anaya’s forehead. “I’ll do my best to take care of her.”

“Oh my dear.” Josephine released a haggard breath to regain her composure. “You’ve made me such a happy mother. I’m very proud of you both.” Her eyes caressed the quiet woman beside her son and stood from her chair, moving over to Anaya. “Darling, thank you…”

Anaya bit back a sob as Josephine bent to wipe the stray tears that slid down her face. She was more than relieved that they’d gone to his mother first instead of hers, knowing this encouragement would be a staff to lean on when breaking the news to Hadiza. No doubt her mother would not be too happy. Her heart clenched as Josephine pulled her from the chair to embrace her tightly. If only her mother could be this proud of her and excited to be a grandmother.

Thankfully Aman and Leeza made up in pleased surprise what Hadiza didn’t as she sat coldly in her chair, glaring at her folded hands on her lap. Anaya reluctantly pulled her eyes to her father whose eyes were already glistening with tears. She felt a pang of guilt for momentarily ignoring his joy just to see a smile on her mother’s face and stood to embrace her father.

“You’ve made me a happy man,” Aman whispered in her ear and patted her back. Then he lifted his eyes to Tunde. “Thank you.”

Leeza clapped Tunde on the back with great gusto. “I knew it! I definitely called that one, right Sister?”

Tunde raised an inquisitive brow at his sister-in-law. “You called things into existence?”

“No silly!” Leeza giggled as Tunde nudged her playfully. “I just had a good feeling she was already pregnant.” She ducked under his arm to embrace her sister. “I’m gonna be an aunt.” She kissed Anaya’s cheek.

Anaya smiled and hugged her sister back, her eyes lifting to Tunde’s proud expression. From the corner of her eye, she noticed Hadiza slowly rise from the couch and retreat back to her room. Swallowing the feeling of rejection once again, she made herself dwell in the love and acceptance of those surrounding her. Telling herself that this was enough, Anaya settled in her sister’s arms.

“You beat me again, Brother,” Silas said in half-pout, leaning back against the couch.

“Naturally,” Tunde said proudly, still buzzed from the news. He was going to be a father. Creating a miracle of a life with the love of his life couldn’t compare to any other feeling. Ever.

Silas snorted, folding his arms. “Well, I think it’s time for me to catch up.”

Tunde raised a brow before smirking. “You bought the ring.”

“Hmm,” Silas smirked back. “I can’t have you stealing my thunder all the time.”

Tunde grinned wider. “When will you do it?” He could already imagine the surprised look on Felicia’s face.

“Maybe tomorrow night. I’d do it right away but she has an exam today.” Silas heaved a sigh. “I get the feeling she’s avoiding me these days.” He frowned. “In fact, I know she is.”

Tunde’s smile waned. “You two had another fight?”

Silas shook his head. “At least I don’t think so… I just miss that woman like crazy. I’ve gotten tired of saying goodbye to her.” He eyed his brother furtively. “To be honest, I want that look you have.”

His older brother blinked at his begrudging tone. “What look?”

“That I’m a satisfied man, blessed man look.” Silas laughed softly. “Frankly, it’s annoying.”

Tunde’s grin returned fully. “I am a blessed man.”

“Yeah well, let’s hope I’ll be one soon.”

Anaya’s tummy tingled as if a thousand butterflies fluttered their wings against her stomach lining. Shaking her head in wonder, she stepped out of her car and pulled her bag over her shoulder. To think that in a few months, it would be evident that a baby grew in her. Placing her free hand over her stomach, Anaya allowed herself to smile. In between feeling terrible that she could not share this joy with Hadiza and pure elation whenever Tunde placed a kiss on her abdomen, Anaya had to admit she was a bit terrified. What if she couldn’t be a good mother? What if she got too busy and forgot to take care of both her husband and her child?

Shaking away the unsettling thoughts, Anaya closed the door of her car and started toward the building. Until she noticed a familiar figure standing at the bottom of the stairs with her arms folded across her chest and her head bent, her hair and white coat moving with the wind. Felicia.

Tucking back a smile, Anaya quickened her steps to meet her friend. “It’s too early for lunch,” she said, approaching the older woman.

Felicia glanced up and Anaya’s steps halted as she noticed the woman’s gloomy expression. “Can we talk?”

Anxious, Anaya nodded and followed Felicia to their regular lunch spot.

“I can’t marry Silas.”

Anaya’s eyes widened and she gaped at her sullen friend. “What are you saying?” She felt her heart beating hard. Did Silas and Tunde know about this?

Felicia lowered her eyes to the cup of coffee in front of her. “I just can’t.”

“I don’t understand. You’ve been asking him to ask you…” Anaya’s brow furrowed, recalling how excited Tunde was when he came home last night, announcing proudly that Silas would be proposing soon. Had Silas done it already and Felicia had declined his request? “You don’t love him…?”

Felicia’s eyes shot back up to Anaya’s face and she shook her head. “It’s not that I don’t love him. I love him with all of my heart. That’s why I can’t marry him.” Her lips trembled and Anaya gaped at her friend. She’d never seen Felicia cry, the ever-composed socialite that she was. Now the girl looked on the verge of tears.

“I don’t understand,” Anaya admitted in a soft voice. “Why can’t you marry him?”

Felicia bit her bottom lip to stop from crying. She lowered her eyes to the table once more. “I can’t give him what he wants… I can’t make Josephine happy like you and Tunde have.”

Anaya’s heart clenched painfully, dreading Felicia’s next words.

“I can’t have children.” She squeezed her eyes shut at her strained words. “I can’t make Silas a father or Josephine a grandmother.” Admitting this aloud, Felicia finally lost control of her tears and succumbed under it, sobbing aloud.

Ignoring the curious looks around them, Anaya gazed down at her friend, feeling completely helpless to comfort her. “Oh, Felicia…”

Leaning back in the crook of Tunde’s arms later that night, Anaya was a bundle of bunched nerves. Her entire body was stiff and she kept peeking a look at Tunde’s face as he smiled at the black and white television screen. He was watching a silent movie and on most days, she would be enjoying the antics of the Three Stooges… but not tonight. Felicia’s desolate expression and stilted words kept replaying like a broken record in her head. She heaved a sigh. What could she do?

Tunde peeked at her from the corner of his eye. “What’s the matter?”

Anaya blinked, stiffening in his arms. “Hmm?”

He pulled his eyes from the screen to her face. “You’ve sighed for the fourth time in thirty minutes… Is something wrong?”

Anaya bit her bottom lip. Felicia had begged her not to tell Tunde, at least until she’d spoken with Silas. Still, the words were caught in her throat, threatening to spill out.

“Cat caught your tongue?” His eyes moved from her mouth, to her eyes and back to her mouth. Then his lips twitched and mischief glinted in his gaze. “Want me to remedy that?”

Anaya gasped, her cheeks warming under his probing eyes. She wriggled in his arms as he swooped in. Then the bell rang and rang incessantly as if the person on the other side was antsy to get in. She nudged Tunde when he nipped at her bottom lip, unmoved by the interruption and when he looked up at her, she wordlessly pointed to the door.

His brows lifted for a brief second and then he grinned, leaning down to plant a fleeting peck on her mouth before shifting from the couch. “That was fast though.” His grin stirred the guilt in her heart.

She blinked up at her, pushing to her feet. “Who is it?”

“It’s Silas,” he said and reached over to straighten the collar of her tunic. He winked at her. “The guy couldn’t wait to propose. I can’t wait to hear what Felicia said…”

Her heart fell to her stomach and she gaped at her husband. “Wait, what?”

Tunde nodded, unfazed by her expression. “Silas said he’d stop by to give the details. He proposed tonight.”

“Oh God…” her eyes flew to the door, hearing the doorbell buzz over and over.

He frowned at the alarm on her face and tilted his head to study her. “What?”

Anaya swallowed hard and turned back to Tunde. “Open the door first, Tunde…” She squeezed her fingers together, biting her bottom lip.

Reluctant to leave her even for a minute, Tunde trudged slowly to open the door. The look on Silas’ face made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. “Silas…”

Silas evaded his eyes as he pushed past Tunde into the house.

Anaya gulped at the stormy look on her brother-in-law’s face and already knew Felicia had told him. She bit the inside of her cheeks and stayed in the background, watching everything unfold between the two brothers. If anything, Tunde could at least calm Silas down.

“What’s going on?” Tunde asked, still standing by the door and watched Silas pace in front of the television.

Silas shook his head. “This doesn’t make sense…” he mumbled and Anaya swallowed hard. “This doesn’t make any sense!” He bunched his fists and threw a glare in Tunde’s direction. “She denied my proposal.”

Tunde blinked. “What?”

“She said she can’t marry me, Tunde!” Silas shot back, scowling.

<<Part 20 || Part 22>>

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