Posts tagged “prejudice

Tunde & Anaya: Part 14

Posted on 16/04/2013

kent

Ten minutes since they opened the door and Anaya couldn’t wait for Uncle Abdul to leave. He wouldn’t stop staring at her. Rather he silently seethed through every pore of his body, boring holes in hers. It was worse than him just scolding her with that thunderous voice of his.

She sat on the sofa with her sister who peeked through lowered lashes at the brooding man before them. Hadiza sat in the chair beside them with her head bowed solemnly, hands folded in her lap.

The insistent clock ticked loudly in the quiet room and Anaya looked up to watch the pendulum underneath its face.

“Where is Aman?” his gravelly voice erupted through the stifling darkness. “Is he working again tonight?”

Anaya stiffened at the disdain in his voice and clenched her teeth tightly. It was clear that Uncle Abdul did not approve of her father’s security duties; he made mention of it every night he came to visit. She cut him a look and almost gasped sharply when she caught him glaring at her. Her spine stiffened and Anaya jerked her eyes to her fingers gripping her knee.

“When will that unwise husband of yours learn how to handle his girls?”

All warmth left her body.

“Brother…” Hadiza started to say, her head still lowered dutifully.

“That husband of yours has done everything to break our traditions and look what has happened…” the man’s voice shook with forceful anger. “You have brought up two daughters with no sense of fidelity.”

Anaya’s jaw tightened as her face warmed under each biting, accusing word from Uncle Abdul.

“The younger one can’t even sit still to do well in school and cannot even keep house while the other…” Anaya didn’t need to lift her head to see the disgust in his eyes. It was clear his disdainful stare was on her alone. “Does everything to dishonor the family and shame us all.”

“Brother…” Hadiza pleaded, her voice trembling against her pent-up tears.

Anaya noticed Leeza’s fingers curling tightly beside her, veins straining under her palm.

“I don’t blame you, Cousin,” Uncle Abdul continued, undeterred by Hadiza’s weak protests. It is that foolish, harebrained husband of yours. He turns from Allah and this is what it has caused—“

“That is enough…”

Hadiza’s eyes jerked up and so did Leeza’s, all gaping in Anaya’s direction.

She didn’t look at them. Instead, her narrowed glare was on Uncle Abdul’s stunned expression.  “You will not come to my father’s house and mar his name like this.” She could hear her racing heart in her ears and her eyes stung with tears at bay. “He has done no wrong and you will not insult him like that again.”

Uncle’s thick lips pursed in a firm line, his eyes narrowed into menacing slits. “Who are you talking to?”

Leeza nudged Anaya gently but she didn’t budge.

“If you have a problem with me, blame me, Uncle Abdul. My parents and my sister have nothing to do with my decisions. And neither do you.” She knew her mother was probably about to swoon in dismay but she couldn’t stop.

The man slowly stood to his feet and so did Anaya as if they were to face off. She wasn’t scared, the adrenaline from her anger pushing her forward. And then it happened. Uncle took one step toward her and before she could do anything to brace herself, his bear-like hand swooped down hard on her face.

The stinging came later as her head reared back from the unexpected blow. Blinking rapidly at the tears that now clouded her vision, Anaya forced her glare up at him.

“Lower your eyes now!” Uncle barked, seething all the more when she didn’t even flinch.

Hadiza had now moved in between her daughter and her second cousin, weeping openly. “Brother,” she pleaded in their native tongue with her hands shuffling before her. “Spare her. She is just a child.”

“A foolish child who has caused more pain than she should,” Uncle Abdul spat, frowning at Anaya over Hadiza’s shoulder. “This is what happens when you spare someone like her for too long.”

The door squeaked open and Anaya’s shoulders sagged as Leeza rushed over to greet their father. She couldn’t look up, her face still throbbing with pain.

Aman Balewa stepped into the house, taking in the scene before him with his brow furrowed in concern. His eyes shifted from his weeping wife standing beside her second cousin to Anaya before them, her head bowed. “What is the meaning of this?” he asked softly, walking into the parlor.

Uncle Abdul turned his eyes to Aman and pointed accusingly at him. “You! Do you know what you’ve done?”

Anaya closed her eyes, the tears sliding down her cheeks.

“Because you have abandoned the laws of our people and the traditions of the family, you have not only brought dishonor to yourself and your family, but shame and betrayal to us all!”

His accusation rang loud and clear through the house, punctuated by Hadiza’s choked sobs.

Aman watched warily as Hadiza fell on her knees and folded her hands before her, peering up at her cousin. “Please, Brother, please forgive us. Forgive our foolishness. Please…”

“Are you blind to not see that your daughters have no sense and are running around like headless chickens?”

“What is this about? My faith or your nonsense prejudice…” Aman’s calm voice sounded amid the chaos.

Hadiza moaned, covering her face with her hands. Uncle Abdul gaped at Aman.

“What exactly are you accusing me of, Abdul? Is it not your son who died because of his foolishness?”

“How dare you?!” Uncle Abdul roared, his eyes bulging with fury.

“I’m tired of you blaming others for why Ibrahim lived the way he did. It’s not anyone’s fault that he lived as an angry man and died as one too.”

“Shut up!”

Aman nodded, releasing a heavy sigh. He could feel his daughters now gaping at him. How wrong he was for voicing his thoughts aloud. “I am sorry that I had to tell you that…” he said quietly, his jaw still taut. “It is late and I wish to speak to my family alone.”

Anaya couldn’t breathe. Her soft-spoken, polite father was kicking out the respected elder from her mother’s side, someone who had practically given her mother permission to marry. No doubt Uncle Abdul would not forget their insolence. Her cheeks still stung.

Uncle Abdul hissed through his clenched teeth and started for the door.

Hadiza reached up to clutch his pant leg, her sobs returning with full force. “Brother, please!”

He shook her off and stormed past Aman, shoving his shoulder on his way out of the house.

Aman clenched her jaw tighter as the door slammed hard behind Uncle Abdul.

“Papa…” Leeza whispered from where she stood, staring at her father’s tight face.

Anaya could only stare at her mother’s hands splayed on the carpet, fingers trembling to hold herself up.

“Help your mother up,” Aman said softly, his eyes lowering to where his wife knelt on the floor, her veil sagging over her head. His brow furrowed with deep concern and pain, and regret. He shouldn’t have insulted her family the way Abdul had insulted him; especially not in front of her.

When his daughters remained where they were, Aman sighed and walked toward his wife. Hesitating for just one moment when Hadiza refused to halt her tears, he knelt and reached for her shoulder.

Hadiza bit out a tortured scream and recoiled away from his hand. Anaya and Leeza blinked at their mother’s strange response.

Aman only sighed and removed his arm from her. “I’m going to sleep…” he muttered sullenly and trudged toward his room.

Heaving a deep sigh, Leeza cast one annoyed glare in their mother’s direction before turning for the stairs.

Anaya could only stand there, listening to Hadiza sob inconsolably as regret settled in her heavy heart.

“Penny for your thoughts…” Tunde’s gentle voice broke through her muddled mind.

Anaya peered up at his handsome face, managing a gentle smile as though to convince him she was alright although her heart was in pain.

His dark eyes searched hers and Anaya lowered hers. She sighed when he nudged her chin up. “I’m okay.”

“You’re not a very good liar, Ana…” The corner of his lips curved in a wry smile. He caressed her cheek. “What’s the matter?”

The gentleness in his voice almost undid her; his warm touch a stark difference from the heavy blow last night. The stinging had only stopped just before she headed out to school earlier that day.

“Something has happened… I can tell,” Tunde muttered, searching her watery eyes. His brow furrowed. “You’re crying.”

Anaya pulled her chin from his hold and lowered her eyes. “I’m not…” Anaya attempted to sniff discreetly.

“Right…” Tunde leaned back in his seat, watching her with deep concern. He could feel the weight on her shoulders as if it was on his too, but felt too helpless to release her from the burden she carried. He reached over and covered her hand with his. “You can tell me whatever it is that troubles you–”

“Tunde…”

He raised a brow. “Hmm?”

“Just hold me… Just for a while, please…” Anaya bit her trembling lip, feeling the tears slide down her cheeks. She closed her eyes as Tunde’s arms reached for her and pulled her into his embrace. All restraint fell away and she cried, pressing her face in the crook of his arms until there were no more tears left.

<<Part 13 || Part 15 >>

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Tunde & Anaya: Part 13

Posted on 15/04/2013

street

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>>

  

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