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Bleary-eyed, the young couple sat opposite each other on their small dining table. By three o’clock in the morning, they both stirred awake to a silent house and Silas still hadn’t called or come by the house with any updates. Tunde remained in bed a little longer than Anaya did, staring up at the ceiling until it was his turn to take a shower.

Anaya sighed heavily, feeling like a heel for keeping her husband in the dark. Thankfully he didn’t try to coax her into say a word since she didn’t think she could take it any longer. She was practically busting at the seams as his forlorn expression prodded her with guilt.

Now propping his chin on his hand, Tunde stared at the phone in the middle of the table. “Still nothing?” His black eyes lifted to hers.

Anaya shook her head, worry twisting her insides. What if Silas couldn’t take the news and did something rash? Her heart skipped a beat and she bit her bottom lip.

“My dear wife…” Tunde began in a low voice. “Stop gnawing at your mouth like that. It’ll make me want you to tell me everything and this time I won’t listen to your excuses.”

She blew out a breath of resignation. “Ask me.”

Tunde frowned, lifting his head. He eyed her skeptically. “Why now?”

“Your brother is taking too long.”

A wry smile twitched at his mouth and he heaved a sigh. “Yeah… I wonder what happened.” He raised a hand when Anaya opened hers to speak. “Don’t. You’re right. I’d rather hear it from him at this point.”

Anaya bit her bottom lip, hating the weariness in his voice. She’d made him like this. “Tunde…”

The doorbell rang and Anaya’s head jerked in the direction of the living room. It didn’t take Tunde but a split second to jump from his chair and stride quickly across the room to open the door. Anaya stood to her feet as a stiff, brooding and weary-looking Silas trudged into the room, looking very much like a defeated soldier after losing a long battle.

“What happened?” Tunde asked, closing the door behind his brother.

Silas barely gave Anaya a nod of greeting as he moved to the nearest couch and plopped into it. He groaned and covered his face.

The silence in the room was so thick, Anaya could barely breathe in it. She squeezed her fingers together and remained where she was, watching Tunde watch Silas. The poor man looked so conflicted, not knowing what to do or say. And it was all her fault.

“She said it’s over,” Silas finally spoke, his voice as cold as ice. Anaya shivered as he released a shuddering breath. “… It’s over.”

With his face covered, Tunde couldn’t comprehend anything and he glared down at his brother. Still he didn’t utter a sound and just stood there, waiting for Silas to look at him.

Anaya bit the inside of her cheek. How could this happen? They were supposed to be happy. All four of them. She remembered how joyful it’d been when she sat across the table with Tunde, Silas and Felicia with Josephine. They’d all been so happy that day. Why had things changed to this?

Tunde finally moved over to sit beside his brother, nudging Silas’ knee. “What did she say?” he asked in a patient, even tone.

A strangled sound from Silas sent shivers down Anaya’s spine. Was Silas crying? She jerked her eyes back to Tunde whose brows were furrowed so deep.

“S-she said…” He paused, gathering a breath. “She said she won’t marry me. That I deser—that blasted woman!” Silas fiercely whispered an expletive. “I can’t believe this.”

“What did she say, Silas?” Tunde asked firmly.

“For God’s sake, Tunde, let me gather myself alright?!” Silas screamed in his brother’s face. Then groaning, he covered his eyes. “Why don’t you ask her what the woman said, anyway? Felicia said she talked to her.”

Anaya stiffened as Tunde pulled his gaze over Silas’ head to hers. She swallowed hard at the imploring look on her husband’s face and took a deep breath before speaking. “Felicia can’t have children.” She paused when Tunde’s eyes widened visibly. “She doesn’t think it’s fair that—“

“Is it fair that she’s just throwing me away without asking me?” Silas interjected in a cold tone. He lowered his hand and threw a glare over his shoulder at her. “And you knew this and couldn’t tell me before I went over there to make a fool out of myself?”

“Lower your voice when you talk to my wife, Silas,” Tunde said firmly, still staring at Anaya. “This is the news you couldn’t tell me?”

Anaya pressed her fingers together, keeping her gaze on Tunde, fearing what he was thinking. No doubt he was disappointed as Silas was and probably very angry with her. She nodded wordlessly.

Tunde sighed heavily. “Could you give me and Silas a minute?”

She didn’t even waste a second, retreating down the hallway to their bedroom. Tears filled her eyes and she held herself up until she was safely behind the door before releasing the tears. Stifling her sobs against the hand over her mouth, Anaya pressed against the wall, already hearing the muffled yet audible noises on the other side of the door. She should’ve just let them talk privately, allowed Tunde and Silas to grieve and mull over the news and come up with a plan, but she couldn’t stop herself from pulling the door slightly open to catch the rest of the conversation between the two brothers.

“How could she just do that?” Silas seethed, his voice thick from holding back his tears. “How could she just make that type of decision without consulting me?”

“It’s her body, Silas…” Tunde mumbled quietly. “We don’t know all the facts.”

“All I know is that the woman said she doesn’t want me anymore. That I deserve someone whole. What the heck does that even mean, for Christ’s sake?”

Anaya bit the inside of her cheek, picturing the resigned look on Felicia’s drawn face when she said those words to her at lunch. Even though she’d tried to encourage the woman that Silas wanted only her, Felicia was adamant on letting the man go.

Rolling her eyes as a niggling sensation pushed her toward the bathroom to relieve herself, Anaya thought back to Felicia. Both were equally strong-willed, meaning this situation couldn’t be solved easily just because Silas was being stubborn about proposing. Still, she was on Silas’ side this time, Anaya decided as she tiptoed back to her station by the door.

“I mean so what if she can’t have children?” Silas continued, his voice strengthening with indignation. “Will I die if she can’t give me a son? Will she?”

Anaya’s lips lifted in a wry smile at her brother-in-law’s words. Maybe he didn’t plan on giving up on Felicia.

“She has a point though…”

Anaya stiffened at her husband’s mellow voice.

“She’s just thinking about your future,” Tunde continued. “Thinking about the kids you’ll have… or might not have if you stay with her.”

Anaya’s smile faded instantly, a cold sensation settling on her back.

“So what do you want me to do?” Silas mumbled.

Tunde sighed. “You have to consider what is best for your future. And for hers.”

Anaya’s brow furrowed.

“I am thinking about hers,” Silas protested weakly.

“Think harder. Is being without her the end of your world?” Tunde sighed. “You know I love Felicia, I see her as a younger sister… but you have to do what you have to do. For you.”

Silas heaved a sigh. “I see what you’re saying.”

Anaya shook her head, disbelieving her husband’s words. It didn’t sound at all like the caring, understanding, dependable man she’d married and loved with her entire heart. Why was he convincing Silas to leave Felicia instead of fighting to keep her?

She reached for the doorknob, ready to set both men straight when Silas released a shaky laugh. “You’re right. I do have some thinking to do. I think you’re right.”

Anaya propelled herself forward, her protest ready to spill from her mouth as she stepped into the parlor.

Both brothers looked up at her and Silas managed a penitent smile. “Anaya, I’m sorry for what I said earlier… I shouldn’t have blamed you for that.”

Anaya shook her head, the protest hanging off her tongue at his weary expression.

“Just don’t lose your mind like that next time,” Tunde said half-jokingly, smacking his brother on his back.

Silas laughed good-naturedly as the two stood to their feet. He then clasped his brother’s hand and pulled Tunde into a brief hug. “Love you Bro. Thanks for the advice.”

Anaya held back a scowl at her husband’s serene expression, wanting desperately to stop Silas from leaving with misguided council. “Silas…”

Her brother-in-law peered at her from Tunde’s shoulder. “Hmm?”

“Don’t regret your decision…” Anaya managed to say, knowing the real words wouldn’t form coherently.

Silas gave her a gentle but weary smile. “I won’t. Thanks Sis.”

Anaya watched as Tunde led Silas to the door and immediately as he closed it behind Silas, her brow fell into a scowl. She waited for him to slowly turn around before shaking her head. “How could you do that?”

Tunde frowned at her. “What now? Shouldn’t I be the one to say that to you?” He shook his head. “How could you keep something that serious from me?”

Anaya rolled her eyes and spun on her heels, too disgusted to look at him. She started for the room.

“Woman—“” Tunde growled as he stormed into the room after her. He grabbed her hand to stop her and scowled when she jerked her hand from his grasp. “Stop doing that!”

“Stop doing what?” she shot back at him, matching his stormy glare with hers.

Tunde blinked, taken aback by the fury in her chocolate-brown eyes. She’d never looked so furious like this before. His mind started to spin, rewinding through the day for any sign of his misgivings. “What’s going on?”

“How could you tell your brother something like that, knowing full well he listens to everything you say?” Anaya gritted her teeth at him.

“I had every right to tell him that, considering I know him very well.”

Anaya narrowed her eyes at him. “You’re ruining his life.”

“Excuse me?!” Tunde sputtered, rearing back at her blunt accusation.

“You’re ruining both their lives by doing this. By advising him that way!” Her eyes flashed with indignation.

Tunde held up both hands. “Ruining their lives by telling the truth? By giving good counsel?”

Her lips parted in astonishment. “You call that good counsel?” She folded her arms across her chest. “Telling him to forget about the woman he loves because of his future as a father is good counsel?”

Her words hit him like a freight train, literally knocking the wind out of him. He was speechless.

“Have you ever thought what Felicia was thinking when she made her decision?” Anaya railed on, fury strengthening her resolve. “She loves Silas so much and the thought of being without him is killing her. I could see it in her eyes when she came to see me. And you gave no cares when you made such a foolish, no, selfish comment—“

“Wow.”

Anaya halted at the simple word and finally noticed the look on Tunde’s face. Hurt. Disappointment. All because of her. Immediately, she realized she’d said too much and thought too quickly.

“So that’s why you’re raging and snorting like a bull…”

Her brow furrowed but she clamped her retorts down, knowing full well she’d made a huge mistake.

“Is that what you think of me, Ana?” His voice was soft, hesitant. Hurt. His hooded eyes scanned her face openly as if searching for the answer rather than hear it from her mouth, as though he couldn’t trust her.

She opened her mouth to protest his way of thinking. “I…”

“Let me clear things up before you think you married some selfish monster.” He frowned, “My dear wife, I simply told my brother to rethink his decision to let Felicia go. I didn’t encourage him to leave her.” A ghost of a smile crossed his lips. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you’re the one with the hearing problem.”

Anaya felt the air push out of her lungs and her shoulders sagged, defeated and relieved all at the same time. The guilt snuck in quickly, settling on her shoulders as she realized the error of her thoughts. “Tunde—“

“Let me finish…”

Anaya clamped her tongue down and kept an attentive stare on his rigid face.

“Either you didn’t hear everything or you need to check your ears, my love,” Tunde mumbled. “I told Silas to think of her view, to consider her side before he took offense to her decision. She was thinking of his future and it’s only fair that he thinks of hers.”

She wanted to hug him, to apologize and reassure him that she didn’t think him a monster. How could she think this caring, dependable and understanding man could be anything less than what he was? Tears filled her eyes.

“Silas’ joy is Felicia and same for her. They won’t live without each other for long, so there’s no use for them to try and live apart like this. Besides, they can adopt or try that fertility treatment deal, or…” he paused, searching for the word.

“Surrogate…“

“Right, have a surrogate mother carry their child, if they have to.” He frowned. “There are many options and it’s not the end of the world if they can’t have children.”

“Tunde, I’m sorry.” The tears spilled down her cheeks.

He eyed her warily. “I’m sure you are.” He then reached over and pinched the tip of her nose. “Silly girl.”

Anaya choked a sob and shifted into his arms. “Forgive me.”

“No.”

She inhaled sharply and peered up at him, her heart skipping a few beats when he flashed that devastating smile at her. How could she have doubted this man and how could she make it up to him?

“There’s nothing to forgive,” he amended, gathering her up in his arms. “Though I won’t let you off if you do that again…”

Anaya tamped down a relieved sigh, pressing her ear against his beating heart. “I promise I won’t.” The guilt fell off her shoulders immediately as his arms enveloped her into his warmth.

“I think you owe me something else though, dear wife…” Tunde said in a low voice and swooped down to lift Anaya in his arms.

She bit her bottom lip to hold back a laugh, her heart slamming against her ribs when his gaze lowered to her mouth.

“Told you to stop that,” he said, already moving to the bed. “You’re just racking up your debt, aren’t you?”

Anaya merely grinned and buried her face against his shoulder.

<<Part 22 || Part 24>>

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