Posts tagged “arguments

Refuge: Chapter 5

Posted on 26/09/2018

Over an unhealthy lunch of chocolate-filled donuts and overpriced coffee, Zoey and Eli sat near the window overlooking the planes docked at Heathrow Airport, awaiting their next flight in an hour. Zoey watched Eli lick the chocolate from his index fingers and rehearsed her next line.

The corner of his lips twitched a smile and he lifted his gaze. Zoey averted hers, occupying herself with stirring the coffee. “Chocolate tastes so different overseas.”

Zoey smirked. “Probably.”

“What’s Nigeria like? I mean, the food and stuff?”

She laughed, lifting her gaze. “You’re such a foodie.”

He shrugged. “I like food.”

“Well, since you love spicy, you’ll like Nigerian food.” Zoey shook her head. “We should’ve tried some while in Houston. Can’t believe I never took you to one.”

“You said they weren’t that good,” Eli reminded her, grabbing another donut. “Something about fake meat.”

Zoey choked. “Man, that was harsh…”

“That’s what you said.”

“Yeah well, you’ll have plenty opportunities to try it at home.”

“What’s your favorite food?” his eyes skimmed her face while he bit into the donut. “I’m curious about the jello rice.”

“Jello…” Zoey heaved a sigh, mildly frustrated. Just when she was ready to spill, he was distracted by food. “It’s jollof rice, babe.”

“Ah Jollof. It’s like Mexican rice, right?”

“Not even close.” She frowned. “Eli, I need to talk to you about something.”

A plane whooshed over their heads and Eli peered out, watching the plane ascend into the clouds.

“Eli.”

“Hmm?”

“Eli.”

Her sharp tone had him glance her way. He frowned. “What?”

Zoey tamped another sigh and stared him straight in the eye. “I haven’t been completely honest with you–”

A child behind them squealed with delight and Eli’s gaze shifted over her head. Zoey grabbed his hand, smearing hers with chocolate. She grimaced. “E, I’m not a poor international student.”

Eli smirked at her. “I know that already.”

She rolled her eyes. “I’m being serious.”

“Okay.” He released the donut and reached for a napkin. Taking her soiled hand in his, he wiped it clean.

Zoey drew in a breath and released it. “E.”

“I know you’re not poor, Zo. I know international tuition is high, and yet you have your own place, your own car, and you’re paying off your degree.” He looked up at her. “But what does that have to do with anything?”

“It has everything to do with everything.”

Eli chuckled, cleaning chocolate from her fingers.

Zoey frowned.

He paused to look up. “Okay, talk to me.”

There was no other way to say it so she began with “My parents have money.”

Eli arched a brow. “Okay…?”

Zoey rolled her eyes. “Let me rephrase that. My family comes from crazy money.”

“Still isn’t that much clearer, Zo.”

“You know that show Rich Housewives Chicago* and the lady with the real-estate investments?”

“Yeah?”

“One of my dad’s side investments is twice that.”

“In Naira?”

“Dollars, Eli.”

Eli’s hand loosened and slid from hers.

Zoey swallowed hard. “I know I should’ve told you but–”

“Why tell me now?”

The quietness in his voice stilled her. She stared at him.

His features were taut but his eyes resembled a confused little boy. “Why tell me when we’re halfway there that you come from money? Why now and not before?” His gaze skimmed her face.

Zoey searched his and didn’t like what she saw there. “I didn’t mean to keep it from you, not purposefully. I just didn’t know how to say it. Didn’t think it mattered.”

“Then why mention it now? What for?”

“Because you’re coming home with me and I…” Zoey swallowed hard.

“You want me to be prepared.”

Zoey nodded, surprised yet grateful that he’d taken the words from her mouth. “Yeah.”

“You think I’m gonna embarrass you?”

Her eyes widened. “What–? No, heck no.” She frowned. “Eli, I don’t care about that. I just wanted you to know that my folks are a lot…”

“Attention travelers,” the voice on the intercom interrupted. “This is an announcement for Flight Z345A to Lagos via British Airways. Boarding will begin in twenty minutes. Please report to Gate 40B.”

“That’s us,” Eli mumbled, grabbing his bag.

“Whoa, wait a sec.” Zoey grabbed his wrist, stilling him for just a moment. She searched his expression and scowled. “Sit first.”

Eli didn’t. “You had a year and a half to tell me about your family and you didn’t. Give me at least an hour to process what you just told me. I have nowhere else to go but with you, so give me that. Fair enough?”

Zoey hesitated. Eli’s brooding took way longer than an hour, and she couldn’t afford his silence for another six hours. “I meant no harm, Eli.”

“I know, Zoey, but it still stings.” Eli tugged his wrist free and gestured for her to stand. “Let’s go.”

At least he waited for her to stand before walking in front. Zoey heaved a sigh as she watched his lonely frame and wondered yet again if she’d made the right decision bringing him along.

Another plane whooshed above as Zoey grabbed her bag and rushed after him.

He wanted to stay mad; she deserved more than just his silence. But they were 11,000 feet off the ground with only a boring selection of movies for entertainment and ignoring the person beside him didn’t make much sense. Especially since Zoey kept sighing and fidgeting in her seat.

Eli dropped the headphones to hang on the back of his neck and leaned in his seat, arching a brow at her.

She squinted at the screen and sighed before glancing once at him. “What?”

“What happened to giving me an hour?”

Zoey frowned. “I did–I am.”

Eli squinted at her attempt to look innocent. “Nah, you’re not giving me space and time to think.”

“Space?”  She scoffed. “Eli, we’re in a cramped plane. How much space can I give you? You want me to switch places with a stranger? Should I tape my mouth and my body so I don’t bother you?”

Eli shook his head. Zoey could be so dramatic, just like his sisters. He sighed as a thought crossed his mind. “D’you know that all my siblings’ and their spouses have something in common?”

“What is it?”

“Lies.”

Her mouth tightened in a hard line. “I already said it was unintentional. It’s more of an omission, honestly.”

“Lie of omission is still a lie, Zoey.” Eli held up a hand before she could protest. “Hear me out. Phoebe lied to Abe about who she was and almost jeopardized Junior, Darah and I remaining with our family. Geri lied to Bart about her ex-husband.”

Zoey’s eyes widened. “Geri was married before?”

“She was. He was a mean jerk to her, and died for his crimes–”

“Good Lord!” Zoey slapped a hand over her mouth, eyes wide.

“But she was able to escape and come back home. Anyway, she didn’t tell him everything and they even tried to lie to her ex in-laws about having a relationship…” he paused and shook his head. “It was a mess and J.R. had to step in to fix it.”

Zoey lowered her hand and stared intently with no interruption.

“Then there’s Darah, trying to hide her pregnancy from everyone.” He frowned. “Hers isn’t much of lying as it is omission of fact but then she was being stupid throughout.”

“That’s harsh, Eli.”

“It is but it’s true. Actually, both were actually lying to each other about their feelings, and they spent so much time dancing around before coming together.” Eli shrugged. “And then there’s Junior.”

“What about him?”

Eli scoffed lightly. “Pretty sure he and Karen are keeping some crazy secret there in Ethiopia. When I stayed with them for a summer, it was weird.” He scratched the side of his head. “Can’t put my finger on it but they were sneaky.”

Zoey sighed. “What’s your point, Eli?”

“Lies only complicate a matter that didn’t need to be complicated.” Eli stared intently at her. “You didn’t need to hide the fact that your family is loaded. I don’t care if your mom’s the queen of Nigeria or your dad owns every building in the country. You’re you and that’s the reason why we’re together, not because of the money your family has.”

Zoey nodded, regret plain on her face. “I’m sorry, Eli.”

“It’s okay.” Eli frowned. “I do want to know now. Can’t go there looking like a fool.”

“So you want me to tell you now?”

“We’ve got five more hours,” Eli answered with a shrug.

Zoey glanced around first, caution clear in her tense shoulders. She dragged her gaze back to him. “Can I write it down?” she asked in hushed tones.

Eli fought a laugh. “They must be really loaded.” She looked tortured and Eli tamped down the laugh from spilling out. “Alright, write it down.”

Zoey readily grabbed her bag and pulled out her notebook. Eli leaned in as she started to scribble, him reading as she wrote.

Half an hour later, Eli sat back, reeling.

Zoey closed the notebook and looked up at him, expression penitent. “I’m sorry.”

He couldn’t respond; not yet. The chart Zoey scribbled out proved that his mind couldn’t fully fathom the implications of Zoey’s background compared to his. Her father, a retired bank commissioner with real-estate and political connections and her mother, a princess of an affluent tribe that he couldn’t pronounce. He was an orphan with a questionable background and only $10,000 in both his bank accounts. She had legacy in her family while he knew nothing about his birth father.

So deep in thought Eli was that he didn’t hear Zoey and jumped when her hand dropped on his shoulder. He blinked at her. “Hmm?”

“Say something.”

Eli stared at the woman he called girlfriend so casually, someone who was practically royalty. He’d always thought she was out of his league but now… The truth was a sucker punch to his gut, rendering him speechless.

Her eyes watered. “E, please say something.” Her fingers tightened on his shoulder.

He swallowed the truth down and tucked away his wounded pride. Zoey’s tears were more painful than whatever feeling he couldn’t fully identify. “I…”

Zoey sat up, eyes wide in anticipation.

Eli shook his head and laughed it off. “We should’ve taken the first class seats then.”

She blinked in surprise, obviously not expecting that reply. Then she giggled softly and shoved his shoulder lightly. “You gold digger.”

His half-smile dropped. Zoey’s laughter dissipated instantly and regret dressed her features. “Too soon, huh?”

“Yeah.”

Zoey sighed deeply and scooted close, tucking her arm under his. “Forgive me,” she pleaded, resting her cheek on his shoulder.

“Sure.” He stared listlessly at the movie Oceans 8 playing on the screen while sifting through his mind for a plan of action.

Four more hours till they touched down in Lagos, and he had no idea what to do.

“Everything will be fine,” Zoey said softly, tightening her hold on his arm. “My parents are more laid back than it seems. My cousin, Paula, she’s marrying a regular guy she met in London from university and everyone was cool with it. My mom was actually an advocate for their relationship.”

The need for an advocate meant there was initial pushback but Eli didn’t have the heart to interrupt her, partly because he wanted to believe that her parents would be accepting of his lack of qualifications too.

“And one of my aunties on my mom’s side is like the coolest aunty ever. Aunty Sophie, she’s picking us up from the airport.”

“What, no entourage?”

Zoey peered up at him, one brow arched. “Do you want one?”

Eli almost laughed. That she thought to ask was ridiculous. “No,” he answered simply.

She looked away. “Aunt Sophie’s like the rebel. She never got married and traveled all around the world. She reminds me of your brother Junior. You’ll like her.”

Eli could only nod. Any ally was welcome. “Ok.”

“I thought long and hard before inviting you, and I wouldn’t have done that if I thought you’d be treated badly. My family will love you. I promise.”

He nodded again, not wanting to weaken her confidence in him or his in her. “I hear you,” was all he said and allowed her to embrace him with all her might. He needed all the strength he could get for the journey ahead.

<<Chapter 4|| Chapter 6>>

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Samina’s Chance: Chapter 17

Posted on 01/04/2015

farmersmarket

Gabriel didn’t know what angered him more; that Jeremiah had gone back to find Odetta or the fact that the woman in the blue dress wasn’t Odetta. The feeling of falling one step behind Jeremiah choked his pride as it always did ever since their younger days.

Pushing aside the troubled feelings, Gabriel sat up as Deidre sauntered into the study. She held out a glass of fresh beet juice for him to drink. Ignoring her stern gaze, he quietly accepted the drink and gulped it down.

“I just don’t see why you couldn’t at least offer to take them to the airport.” Deidre snatched back the empty glass. “And you didn’t bother calling. Honestly Gabriel, what is the matter with you? This isn’t like you.”

Without a word in his defense, Gabriel returned his attention to his miniature S.S. ocean liner ship.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d think you two didn’t like each other anymore.”

Gabriel rolled his eyes. “Don’t be so dramatic, Deidre. I’ve just been busy.”

“Too busy to comfort your friend mourning his dying aunt?” She gestured to the pile of unfinished models on his desk. “Is this what you call being busy?”

“Deidre, enough,” he growled, adjusting a stubborn piece on the tiny reel.

Deidre hissed with disdain. “You’re wrong for this, Gabriel, and you know it.” Muttering under her breath about his stubborn pride, she stormed out of the study.

Gabriel lowered his hands, staring blankly at the model ship in front of him. His wife’s nagging words, poking at his pride and guilt for the growing resentment toward Jeremiah.

Suddenly, a faded image of a morose Jeremiah standing beside him in front of an open grave, flashed in his mind’s eye. After their college graduation more than three decades ago, Jeremiah accompanied him to a mutual friend’s funeral. Though they were still not on speaking terms after a full-blown brawl between them, they still came together, both sporting identical bruises on their faces. A willowy female stood between them, her head bowed in deep sorrow.

Gabriel frowned at the image of the willowy woman who wept bitterly. This woman was Odetta Chance, his college sweetheart and the cause for the fist-fight with Jeremiah.

The doorbell rang loudly and he blinked out of the daze. Deidre’s voice filled the silence as she greeted their daughter Samina and ushered her in.

“Hey dad.”

A gentle smile crossed his lips as Samina peeked into the study. Gabriel stood and walked around the desk to welcome his first daughter.

“What a fine surprise,” he said, gathering Samina into his arms. He placed a kiss on her forehead and led her back to the desk, ignoring Deidre’s pointed stare.

“Everything okay?” he asked as she took the seat on the other side of his desk.

Samina hesitated answering until she settled in the chair across his desk. “Yeah…”

His brow furrowed at the fatigue plain in her voice. “You sure?”

“Hmm, I’m fine.” Samina flashed him a smile. “See?”

He merely arched his brow, unconvinced.

With a sigh, Samina lowered her gaze to the model on his desk. “Started another one already?” Her long fingers traced the smooth line of a pond sail boat.

Gabriel smiled as she gently lifted the boat in her hands. “Remember that one? Took us the entire night to complete.”

“I remember. Mom was annoyed.”

“She’s always annoyed.”

Her smile turned wistful and she placed the miniature boat on its stand.

His heart sunk at the forlorn expression on her face. “Nothing yet?”

She merely shook her head solemnly, eyes riveted to the unfinished boat before them.

“Don’t worry.” He reached over the desk and took her hand in his. “These things take time. Remember that God’s timing will never match ours. And his ways are not our ways.”

“Sometimes I wish it was…” Samina’s voice hitched as a sob caught in her throat.

Gabriel looked at her face that seemed unreadable at first glance. She was trying so hard to act unaffected by her sudden unemployment. Ever since she was a child, he found Samina quite hard to read unlike her siblings, her reserved nature resembling his own. But this father knew when she held back tears. Like now.

“Sam,” Gabriel began tenderly, coaxing Samina to look up. The telltale glimmer in her eyes made his heart ache. “It’s okay to be disappointed about the way things are happening… but don’t doubt God’s love for you. Believe that he has only the best for you.”

Samina sniffed back tears, staring at the patient love in her father’s eyes.

Gabriel smiled, squeezing her hand gently. “Whether it’s your job… or your future spouse, it’ll work out for your good.” He nudged her hand when she rolled her eyes. “Trust me, I know.”

Samina pulled her hand from his, tucking it under her armpit. She lowered her gaze. “Dad, please. I’m not even thinking about marriage.”

“For now or forever?” He didn’t like the resignation in her voice.

She leaned forward to study the boat, tracing the miniature rudder. “Haven’t seen this one before. Is this new?”

Gabriel tamped a sigh and looked down at the boat. “Not really. Just haven’t had much time to work on it.” He watched with bemusement as Samina fished through the pile of loose pieces. “Wanna give your old man a hand?”

Samina smiled gently. “You don’t have to ask.”

In the quiet secluded corner of the hospital stood a gazebo overlooking a fish pond and a small garden. Nadine had spotted the miniature paradise from her window one morning. Upon Topher’s arrival at her room during his lunch break, she asked for his company to investigate the grounds.

As Topher wheeled her down to the garden, Nadine surveyed the bright flowers lining the path. Her wheelchair was parked by the iron-wrought bench under the gazebo and once Topher helped her to stand, Nadine touched the cherry blossoms draped at the opening. “They overdid it a little…”

“Hmm?” Topher mumbled, watching a dragonfly hover a cluster of flowers planted on the ledge.

“Everything. The gazebo’s a nice touch though…” she paused to breathe in deep.

Topher eyed her warily. “Be careful.”

Nadine rolled her eyes. “Relax. The air out here isn’t as bad as back home.” For measure, she inhaled in deeper, exhaling with a blissful sigh.

“Still…” He watched the serene expression on her face and swallowed the rest of his words. If she was happy and comfortable, maybe he could rest easier.

“I’m fine.” Nadine cleared her throat and Topher leaned closer. She held up a hand to him and peered down into the fish pond. “I wonder if anyone’s gone fishing in there.”

Topher smirked, staring into the murky water. “Hope not.” He stretched his limbs, grunting as the tension eased off his taut muscles.

“How are the lovebirds? When’s the wedding again?”

“Sooner than you think. In the next few weeks.”

“Good. I should be right as rain by then.” She watched the dragonfly flit from one flower bed to another. “Wedding preparations going well?” she asked casually.

Topher shrugged. “Besides the stress of trying to get things done on time, yeah.” He didn’t bother bringing up Ada’s agitated nerves or Samina’s troubling absence.

Nadine scoffed lightly. “I can imagine. That Ada girl seems high-strung. Downright neurotic.”

“She was only nervous because you were giving her the third degree.” He squinted at her. “You promised to be nice.”

“I was nice,” Nadine countered, flicking at the dragonfly. “Is it a crime that I want to make sure my boys are taken care of?” At Topher’s pointed silence, she peered up at him. “By the way, when do you plan on making me a grandmother?”

Topher gave her a sideways glance. “Impatient, aren’t we?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Nadine tilted her stubborn chin. “I’m not getting any younger waiting on you.”

Reminded by her debilitating condition, he quickly averted his gaze before she noticed. The thought of Nadine’s time slipping away made him reconsider his priorities. Presently, marriage was becoming a higher priority than building his career. It didn’t help that Jaxson’s upcoming nuptials spoke of the thrills of finding one’s mate.

Aside the stress of wedding plans, Jaxson was content and excited to spend the rest of his life with Ada. Topher caught himself wondering if there was someone that would make him feel just as content.

Suddenly, Samina with her striking features and shy smile flickered in his thoughts. Topher sat up, his heart doing a little back-flip. His lips curled in a smile. “Might be sooner than you think…”

Nadine chuckled low, pulling Topher’s attention to her. She had a knowing smile on her face. “She seems nice.”

Topher arched a brow. “What?”

“I like her.” Her eyes danced with mirth. “Maybe she’s a little aloof and shy. But it’s good that she can cook a mean Cajun dish. Means I won’t have to worry you’ll be taken care of.” She wriggled her brows and poked a bony finger in his side.

He frowned, wrapping a hand around her thin wrist. “Nadine… No one said anything about Samina.”

Nadine gave him a pointed stare. “You just did.” She laughed at his strangled groan.

<<Chapter 16 || Chapter 18>>

  

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