Posts tagged “sister

Refuge: Chapter 2

Posted on 11/09/2018

“Zozo, my personal person,” greeted the fuzzy image of a young woman on the screen as Zoey settled on her bed. “How far?”

Zoey folded one leg under the other, positioning one foot in front to paint her nails. “What’s with that greeting? You sound very local.”

“Really? Well, I’m practicing for the upcoming festivities. How na?”

“I’m cool.” She snorted when the young woman cocked her head to one side. “I dey kam, Nwababy.”

The young woman cackled. “So you haven’t lost it after all.”

Zoey paused and looked at the screen. “Nwando, abi you forget I lived in Lagos for most of my life?”

“Well, you know what they say about those that move to America.”

“No, what do they say?” Zoey resumed painting her little toe.

“They forget all about their roots.”

“Whatever.”

“Anyway, how far na? Getting ready for your trip back? Spring break, abi?”

“This your local speech is killing my vibe.”

Abeg, answer jare.

Zoey grabbed a cotton swab. “Kinda. Which reminds me of what I wanted to ask you.”

“Ah, so you didn’t call for regular gist?”

“Well, I did…”

“Nonsense girl. What’s up?”

Zoey stared at her friend’s image. “I haven’t been very good about calling you, Nwando. I’m sorry.”

“Ah, don’t get serious on me,” Nwando laughed, waving her off. “We’re good, girl. I know you’ve got your thesis occupying you. Not to talk of that oyinbo boyfriend of yours.”

Zoey scowled. “He’s not oyinbo, Nwando.”

“Looks it to me.”

“He’s half…” Zoey shook her head. “Whatever. Back to my favor.”

“Go on.”

Zoey drew in a breath. “Can your uncle help me get a visa?”

Nwando blinked. “You have a passport, Zo.”

“It’s not for me.”

Nwando frowned. “For your oyin–I mean, your dude? Wait, so you’re bringing him?!”

Zoey nodded. “Yeah, I am.”

Oshe, brave girl.” Nwando shook her head, wonder in her tone. “And he knows he’s coming to your cousin’s grand wedding extravaganza?”

“Yeah. I asked him and he said he’ll come.”

“Wow. So he knows everything then?”

Zoey shifted in her seat. “Not really.”

Nwando laughed, clapping her hands. “This is rich. Your boyfriend of a year has no idea he’s dating the only daughter of Honorable Festus Smith and Your Highness–”

“Cut it out, Nwando. I’ll tell him.”

“Oh really, when? While boarding premium double-decker first class or greeted in Nigeria by an entourage of limos and bodyguards?”

Imagining the shock on Eli’s face, Zoey hesitated. “I haven’t really decided how yet.”

“You’re not serious.” Nwando sighed. “Fine. Let’s settle the visa matter first. If he gets denied, you won’t have to…” she trailed off when Zoey shot her a look. “Just kidding. Look why don’t you ask your dad to hook you up? It’ll go faster.”

“Are you mad?” Zoey scowled. “That’s not how I want to bring up the fact that I have a boyfriend.”

“Wow!” Nwando clapped, amusement displayed on her face. “You mean to tell me no one knows about this guy?”

“You do.”

Nwando choked on a laugh. “Lucky me. Your mom will make suya out of me if she found out I knew.”

“Quietly get me the visa and no one becomes roasted meat.”

“Crazy girl,” Nwando muttered, grabbing her phone.

“Thanks, Nwababy.”

“Yeah whatever. Tell your boyfriend who you are.” Nwando’s expression was stern. “There’s nothing worse than being lied to.”

Zoey averted her gaze. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. It’s not your fault I got played.” Nwando’s smile barely reached her eyes. She lifted the phone to her ear and after a brief pause, she smiled wider. “Good afternoon, sir. It’s Nwando. Yes sir, I’m fine, sir. Amen… Uncle, do you have a few minutes?”

Taking this as her cue to disappear, Zoey waved at her friend and once Nwando winked in reply, she quickly disconnected. Drawing in a breath, she released it slowly and looked down at her toes. Cringing at the sight, she grabbed clean cotton swabs and began cleaning up her mess.

A jingle sounded from the laptop and Zoey tapped the button to accept the video call. “What’s up?”

“He said he’ll get on it.”

Zoey looked up. “That’s quick.”

Nwando shrugged. “Anything for His Royal Highness.”

She sighed deeply. “Will you chill with that please?”

“Okay, sorry. Have you at least told Paula about your plus one? We received her RSVP card and my mom’s still pissed at the insult. Imagine!”

Before Zoey could respond, a blue heart icon flashed in front of Nwando’s pixelated face. “It’s Eli. Gotta go.”

“Alright Zo, but tell that your boyfriend o. Don’t let him come here like a fool and leave like one too. Bye.” The chat window went black, leaving the dancing blue heart on the screen.

Zoey released a breath before connecting to the incoming call. Yet instead of Eli’s usually-scruffy image, that of a young boy and girl filled the screen. She grinned. “Hey guys.”

“Hi!” the girl waved and the boy followed suit albeit with less enthusiasm.

“What’s wrong, August?” Zoey asked, noting his adorable pout. Even though he was twelve, he reminded her of a little boy. Eli warned her never to speak of it or risk the moody adolescent’s wrath.

“He’s sulking,” Karla answered matter-of-factly.

“Cos you took the last one.” He glared at her.

Karla licked a bright-yellow popsicle. “Get over it.”

Zoey fought a smile at the vehemence on August’s face and the nonchalance on Karla’s. “Aw, that’s not nice, Karla. What happened to sharing?”

“He didn’t share the cookies yesterday and I didn’t complain about it,” Karla protested.

“You don’t even like sugar cookies!”

“You could’ve asked me first,” Karla countered. Then she turned to the screen with a smile. “We miss you, Aunt Zo.”

Zoey returned the smile. “I miss y’all too.”

“Then come over. Mama’s making lasagna.”

“Urgh.”

Karla rolled her eyes and Zoey fought yet another laugh. August reminded her too much of her only brother, Law. She’d have to call him too. Her stomach rumbled.

“Yummy. I’ll bring some cookies when I come.” Zoey answered over her unsettling nerves. “I’m guessing your uncle doesn’t know you’re calling me?” She allowed the giggle that tickled her throat as the two glanced at each other. “Alright, get going before he catches you. I’ll see you in a few.”

“Kay, bye!” Karla leaned forward and the screen suddenly went black.

Zoey laughed openly. The fear of facing their uncle’s anger must’ve made the cousins shut down the laptop completely, which would only seal their fate as Eli was probably working on yet another code.

Shaking her head, she unfolded her legs and wiggled her toes to inspect her work. The amused smile eased away as Nwando’s parting words echoed in her thoughts and her shoulders dropped in resignation.

She’d have to tell Eli sooner than later… but maybe she could wait just a little while longer?

It took less than an hour to get to Eli’s childhood home and Zoey smiled as she parked near the sidewalk to their house. Her gaze swept over the place she’d spent a week and a half, harbored from the high waters and turbulent storms of Hurricane Harvey a year prior.

She’d barely met Eli at a Subway restaurant a day before the high waters threatened her apartment complex across town, and he’d invited her to bunker down at his family home. She’d hesitated then, not wanting to impose… but getting to spend time with his brothers and sister, their spouses and many children was a memory she cherished dearly.

Even after the flood was declared over and her apartment deemed safe to return to, Zoey was reluctant leaving the Teka family home. She’d gotten so used to being with them and didn’t hesitate to return when invited.

Grabbing the box of warm cookies and her purse from the front seat, Zoey exited her car and started up the sidewalk to the front door.

It opened before she reached it, and Zoey laughed as August’s expectant stare barely skimmed her face before dropping to the box in her hand. “Hey to you too. Here.”

“Where are your manners, August?” the stern voice of his aunty Phoebe who stepped around her nephew heading upstairs with the cookies. Her smile brightened on Zoey. “Hey girl. Karla said you’d be stopping by.”

“Hope that’s okay?”

Phoebe squinted at her. “Of course it’s okay. This is your home. Come in.”

The warmth of those words spread all over Zoey like a blanket as did Phoebe’s arms wrapping around her in an embrace. Zoey let herself be hugged; Phoebe gave the best hugs.

“Let the girl come in first,” another familiar voice sounded from behind.

Zoey raised her head and smiled. “Hi Geri.”

“Hey you. It’s been a minute.”

“Sorry,” Zoey mumbled, stepping around Phoebe to approach the woman standing by the stairs. Geri, Eli’s second sister-in-law, was not into hugs but she gave them almost as freely as Phoebe. Zoey accepted the embrace but didn’t stay too long.

Geri patted her shoulder. “Totally fine. We know you’re busy.” She winked and glanced over at Phoebe. “The bread’s ready.”

“Good, thanks.” Phoebe breezed past the two. “Get comfortable, Zo. We’ll be eating in a few.”

“If you’re looking for Eli, he’s upstairs trying to fix something.”

Zoey held back a smile. “Where’s Karla?”

“Hiding,” Geri answered with a glint in her eye. Then she chuckled. “I’ll be back. Gotta go get the twins from soccer practice.” She waved her keys and walked past Zoey toward the door. “Feel free to join Eli, although he’s currently Mr. Grouch right now.”

“Kay…” As Geri exited the house, Zoey’s eyes lifted to the stairs and her stomach turned. Maybe tonight wasn’t the right night to let him know; fixing codes were a nightmare. She shook her head and turned toward the kitchen. “Phoebe, do you need any help?”

“Sure!” The matriarch of the Teka home answered as she inspected the fresh loaf. “Wanna prep the garlic bread?”

“Definitely. It smells amazing.”

“Why thank you,” a voice from behind startled Zoey and she whirled around to see Eli’s sister, Darah, cradling her sleeping daughter against her bosom. The woman smiled. “Hey Zoey.”

For some reason, Zoey always tripped around Darah. She managed a smile, trying not to read into Darah’s pointed gaze. “H-Hi Darah…” She dropped hers to the sleeping child and smiled. “She’s so cute.”

“More when she’s sleeping,” Darah murmured, brushing a kiss against her daughter’s temple. Then her gaze returned to Zoey. “So, how are your exciting spring break plans coming along?”

Zoey’s stomach dropped. “Uh…”

“What spring break plans?” Phoebe asked, nudging the loaf pan and a bread knife to Zoey. “You going somewhere fancy?”

Darah’s brow furrowed. “Wait, Eli didn’t tell you guys yet?”

“Tell us what?” Phoebe frowned. Her gaze swung to Zoey. “Is something wrong?”

“Uh…”

Darah clucked her tongue. “That boy is so secretive. Apparently, Zoey invited Eli to go to Lagos with her for spring break.” Her gaze pinned on Zoey. “Your sister’s getting married, right?”

“My cousin,” Zoey mumbled and swallowed hard.

“Wait, Lagos as in Nigeria?”

Both Darah and Zoey turned to look at Phoebe.

“What on earth? Why wouldn’t he tell us something like that?”

“Tell us something like what?” inquired a deep voice and Zoey jumped yet again. She turned around to see a tall bald man stride past them to stand beside Phoebe. He smiled in greeting. “Hey Zo, long time.”

“Hey Abe…” It took everything in her not to add the ‘sir’, especially to a man the age of her youngest maternal uncle. But she had no choice; Abe was Eli’s brother not father. “Yeah, sorry about that.”

“No need to be sorry. Life gets busy…” he trailed off, catching his wife’s expression. His brow furrowed. “What’s going on?”

Phoebe pressed the bridge of her nose. Darah sighed, “Eli’s going to Africa. Again.”

“Why?” Abe frowned. “Junior didn’t mention anything to me.”

“Not Ethiopia, Abe,” Phoebe answered a bit impatiently. “Lagos, Nigeria.”

“Huh?” His frown deepened. “Who’s in Lagos?”

“My family…” Zoey answered, her stomach in knots. As three pairs of eyes pinned on her, Zoey wished for the first time that she hadn’t invited Eli to come with her.
**Note: The friends, Zoey and Nwando, communicated in a form of pidgin English common among Nigerians.

<<Chapter 1 || Chapter 3>>

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Refuge: Chapter 1

Posted on 11/09/2018

Setting down the lipgloss on the dresser, Zoey studied her reflection with a furrowed brow. “Why am I nervous?” she muttered, brushing the baby hairs along her temple. Her fingers trembled against her skin and she lowered them from view. “Keep calm,” she whispered, drawing in a deep breath and releasing it slowly. “This isn’t hard.”

A soft jingle sounded in the silence and she glanced over her shoulder to her bed where her laptop sat open. A glowing blue heart icon flashed on the screen with white text displaying “New message”.

Sighing, she stepped away from the dresser and perched on the bed, staring at the pulsing icon. Her fingers hovered over the keyboard and after a second, she tapped it.

A screen flipped over the flashing blue heart, revealing a live yet fuzzy image of a man. His reddish curly mop drooped over his bespectacled eyes and his fidgeting made Zoey smile. She settled in her seat as did the butterflies in her tummy. “Hi.”

He blinked once and a breathtaking smile spread his lips. “Hey.”

And just like that, the butterflies took flight. Zoey chuckled. “This is awkward so I’ll just start. My name’s Zoey Smith, you can call me Zo or Zoey.” She shrugged. “It doesn’t matter which.”

“Hey Zo.”

She grinned. “Hey stranger.”

“Eleazar,” he replied. “But you can call me Eli.”

“What’s your last name, Eli?”

He paused a little too long.

She frowned. “Hello? Did you freeze or did the camera?”

He shook his head. “Sorry. For some reason, that question caught me off-guard.”

Her lips twitched. “That sounds like a story.”

“A long one. Too long for this first conversation.”

“I see.”

“Anyway yeah, go on. You were still introducing yourself.”

“Right, Eli with a complicated last name story.”

He smirked. “It’s Teka-Crane.”

“Teka-Crane,” she echoed, brows arched. “Sounds like a story.”

He laughed and waved at the screen. “Go on, Zoey.”

Zoey tucked one leg under another. “Well, like I was saying. I’m Zoey Smith aka Zo. I’m a grad student at U of H studying economics and game theory.”

“Sounds like a story.”

“Indeed,” she grinned. “But a longer story than yours.”

“Fair enough. Continue.”

“I’m Nigerian, born and raised in Lagos. Came to Houston when I was eighteen to study medicine but quickly changed my mind upon arrival.”

He burst into laughter and so did she.

“You’re a trip,” Eli replied with a bright smile matching hers.

“So are you. Teka-Crane, since when?”

His smile dimmed and he shrugged. “It is my name.”

“Yeah but the first time we met, you were Eli Teka. What gives? Do your brothers know about this?”

“Zo. Don’t start.”

She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “Fine. I won’t start or we’ll be here all night.”

He was quiet a little too long and his eyes stared without blinking.

She frowned, uncrossing her arms. “Hello? Did it freeze?”

“I’m still here.”

Zoey sighed. “Well, it works. Congrats.”

He looked down for a moment and she heard the feedback of her voice from his end. “Yeah, looks like it. Might need to tweak stuff.”

“Don’t be hard on yourself, Babe. You’ve made a dating app.”

He grimaced. “It’s not a dating app, Zoey.”

“Fine, social app… although it’s basically set for dating activities. It’s like Skype with a romantic twist. And you incorporated my idea of blue and pink hearts for the calls, so yeah… dating app.”

He didn’t respond at first, and Zoey giggled. He glanced up and shook his head. “You’re a lot.”

Zoey grinned. “And you love me for it.”

“Yeah yeah…” The sound of tapping filled the brief silence.

Her smile eased off. “Hey Eli.”

“Hmm?”

“Do you have spring break plans?”

“Not really. Probably working on a few projects. Why?”

When she didn’t respond at first, Eli glanced up. His raised brows set the butterflies in a frenzy and she drew in a breath.

He frowned. “What’s the matter?”

Zoey licked the gloss and cringed. “Would you do me a huge favor?”

Concern gave way to suspicion on his face. “What favor?”

She choked on a laugh despite the nerves. “Dang, Eli… It’s nothing crazy.”

“Then say it already. When you get like this, it’s always something crazy.” He looked down again, busying himself with tweaking the code.

She bristled. “Never mind.”

Eli snorted. “Say it, Zoey.”

Zoey crossed her arms. “I said never mind. You’re not even paying attention anymore.”

He stopped typing and looked her straight in the eye. “You have my undivided attention. Speak.”

She nibbled on her bottom lip and shifted the weight off the leg tucked under. “Well… I wanted to know if you’d come somewhere with me for spring break.”

Eli stared and Zoey rolled her eyes. “Okay, answer already.” When he didn’t answer, she frowned. “Hello?”

Then the screen went black and Zoey’s jaw dropped. “Did he just…”

The blue heart icon flashed as the soft jingle played. Her jaw clenched, Zoey tapped the “accept” button. “Well that was–”

“Sorry about that, it froze. Gonna have to fix that but later.” Eli flashed that bright smile that could easily quell Zoey’s irritation. “Sure I’ll go with you. Where to?”

Now it was Zoey’s turn to stare. “Huh?” she asked after a moment.

He laughed. “I said sure. Where are we going?”

And as he gave her his undivided attention, the frenetic butterflies dissolved into peace.

Zoey smiled. “Home. I want you to come home with me.”

Darah paused mid-peel of her tangerine. “Lagos as in Lagos, Nigeria?”

“Yeah, Nigeria.” Eli popped a piece in his mouth and chewed.

“Well Eli, that’s… crazy.” She looked up at him as if remembering something. “Don’t you need a visa to go there?”

“Yeah,” he frowned. “It’s like going anywhere outside the U.S, Darah.”

“Answer the question, Smart-mouth.” Her scowl darkened over his shoulder. “Anwar, I won’t tell you again. Don’t hit your sister.”

“Yes Mommy,” replied a feeble voice.

“Now hug and make up.”

“Eww!” the young boy cried in protest.

Darah squinted. “Now.”

With a quizzical smile, Eli glanced over his shoulder to where two siblings sat on the floor, surrounded by toys. “If Abe could see you now. I remember when you used to bully me–”

“Because you were a brat, you still are.” Darah handed him another piece and took one for herself. Her expression softened as it did on her two children. It still amazed Eli how much she’d changed once she became a mother. It irked him how penetrating her gaze was on him, even now.

He lowered his gaze. “What?”

“Have you told the guys yet?”

“J.R. knows.”

“You know who I’m referring to.”

Eli heaved a sigh and chewed on the tangerine.

“You’re stalling.”

He shrugged and swallowed before speaking. “How do you tell your brothers you changed your last name?”

Darah frowned. “It won’t be easy but you’ve gotta tell them.”

“Well, if Abe wasn’t so…” Eli shook his head. “Sorry.”

“Yeah, you should be.” Her gaze drifted over his shoulder and she stood. “Anwar. Take your sister upstairs. I’ll be up soon.”

“I want Eli.”

Eli tucked away his concerns about the Lagos trip or the negative reaction to his name change, and turned to his nephew. “Let’s go,” he said with theatrics, swooping down to pick both in his arms.

Darah smiled as her children giggled with delight in her youngest brother’s arms. As she watched them climb the stairs, her smile dimmed. Then she grabbed her phone, immediately dialing. She reached the stairs before the call connected. “Hey Sis, I’ve got news.”

<<Story Page || Chapter 2>>

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