By Design (6)

Damaged Pearls

Silence rang in his ear, as it was quite deafening. Taiwo called for a cab, not wanting to face the situation she’d created. She’d freaked out for no reason! Or perhaps it was a misunderstanding on his behalf. He knew she was a prideful woman who wanted things a certain way, but for the life of him, he just could not comprehend the uproar she had made. Pulling into the garage, he stalked towards the building, ready to settle this mishap between them. The elevator doors opened, welcoming him. Reaching the fifth floor, he greeted the small staff then headed to his office. Upon entry, he saw her door closed and blinds drawn. Breathing out a sign, he marched over to her door and knocked.

“It’s me. Can I come in?”

“It’s your office.” Opening, he noticed the scowl over her downturned lips.

“Tai, I don’t know what happened.”

“I thought I made myself very clear.”

“You’re so flighty, always ready for a fight.”

“I have to be! I’m supposed to fight against wrong.”

“What exactly is wrong?”

“I’ll tell you what’s wrong. Everything my people has ever had has been taken from us! Stolen. Other people profit off what’s ours. We don’t even get the chance to share what we have before someone claims it as their own! My culture is not appreciated, nor our people or our ways.”

“I appreciate you.”

“Don’t do that.”

“Don’t do what? Tell you how I feel? Let’s get something straight, I haven’t taken anything from you. I’ve given you credit for your designs. You created this problem but you want me to fix it? You really need to check yourself Tai because really do have a problem.”

“Yeah, because people like you created them.”

“People like me?” he retorted insulted. “You know what, I’m going to walk away.”

“You do that. Run.” Spinning, facing her, he pointed a finger in her direction.

“Run? You’re the one whose been running. You’re the one who picks needless fights. You’re the one who’s afraid, and you won’t even admit it!’

“I’m not afraid.”

“Bull. Everything with you is one-sided. You don’t listen, only react. What more do you want me to do?”

“Nothing. I’ll have my things out of here tomorrow morning.”

“There you go again, Tai. You’re running.”

“Obviously we’re not going to get an understanding of one another so I may as well leave.”

“We will get an understanding and you’re not going anywhere.” Slamming the door, he strode over, pushing her up on the desk and possessed her mouth. Quieted and drowsy, she learned into his kiss, exploring the valley of his tongue. Her back arched as he ran his fingers down the length of her spine. Weaving fingers through her wild cocoon of curls, he seared kisses down her neck, settling at the opening of her white blouse. Suddenly a knock tapped at the door.

“Connor, are you in there?” Taiwo’s heart slammed erratically against her chest, her mind struggled with hanging on to Connor and crawling under her desk in embarrassment. Sensing her rising panic, he scooped her from the desk and set her in her chair. She hadn’t had the strength to do it herself nor had she found the time to recover before he opened the door.

“What is it Tolbert?” Tolbert leaned over Connor’s shoulder looking at the distressed lines etched in Taiwo’s face.

“Is everything alright?”

“It is. Ms. Yona and I were ironing out some of our issues. What can I help you with?” Tolbert waved a hand for Connor to follow. Looking back he saw Taiwo’s head resting against the back of the chair with her eyes shut. He closed the door without another word and thought he wouldn’t hear any complaints from her for the rest of the day.

Staring out at the tawny horizon, Taiwo’s thoughts were in turmoil, contemplating what it was about Connor that made her doubt herself. She was pushing against the very thing she wanted-love. What was in her that wouldn’t let her accept it? A light tap called her attention towards the door. It was ajar with Connor’s head peeking through. “I meant to mention this earlier, pack some bags, I’m taking you to Belfast with me.”

“Why?”

“I always go home around this time of the year. We’ll be heading out in the morning. I’ll be by at six.” As quickly as he appeared, he disappeared, shutting the door after him making his exit.

Dragging through the door, she kicked her shoes off, tossed her purse on the couch and slugged to the back of the house. Falling into bed, she rested face first on her plush oversized white pillows and breathed slowly. Her life seemed to be falling apart before her very eyes. Never would she have conducted herself improperly in the workplace. Control was steadily being sucked from her, her will diminishing. At this rate, there would be nothing left of her dignity! Too tired to care, she dozed off until she was soothed awake by Christina England Hale’s rendition of Ave Maria via her ringtone.

“Hello?”

“Are you dressed yet?”

Rubbing her eyes free of debris  and the bright light of her phone, her eyes fell on the time. It was only four in the morning.

“No I’m not dressed.”

“Get dressed.”

“Don’t you think it’s too early in the morning to be bossy?”

“It’s never too early.” he chuckled. “And good morning. I’ll be over soon.”

Rolling out of the bed, she padded toward her closet and stubbed her big toe against the base of nightstand. Silent curses kissed the tip of her tongue as she hissed in pain. Snatching up the lamp, she twisted the knob until it brightened the room. Taiwo opened the closet door and fished out a travel bag then tossed it on her bed. Scratching her head, she blew out a breath rolling her head from side to side. Grabbing dress after dress, skirt after skirt, she lined her travel bag, stuffing in the essentials. Satisfied, she drug the bag from her bed and rested it at the bedroom door. Returning to her closet, she pulled out a deep long royal blue linen skirt and a light weight white knit sweater and Mary Jane flats.

Shimmying out of last nights clothes, she bathed, dressed and scrounged for breakfast. Plopping on the couch, she leaned over the arm to rest her head and drifted off to sleep. The door bell brought her from her dream and at the door standing, looking at Connor.

“Morning.”

“Morning.”

“Are you packed?”

“You could say that.”

“Where’s your bags?”

“My room, I’ll get it.”

“I’ll get it just point the way.” That familiar wall of protest built brick by brick in her throat as she ruffled her hair in agitation. Pointing the way, he disappeared to claim her bag and returned.

“I have my passport in the small zipper of the bag.”

“Good. How about we get going?”

Flying had never really been her thing, yet the view was spectacular. Flying from Benin had been the most terrifying adventure she’d experienced to date. The turbulence was just plain awful and she repented of every sin she’d committed against God in that thirteen hour flight. She prayed that she’d land safely in one piece.

“Are you alright?”

“I’m fine. Why?”

“You’re gripping the hand rest for dear life.” Glancing down at her knuckles, she warily loosened her grip and relaxed her hands in her lap.

“We’re going to be just fine.”

“Humans shouldn’t be up here.”

Chuckling, he caressed her face and pressed a kiss against her temple.

“Relax, it’s only going to be a nine hour flight.”

“I’ll try. I’m impressed by the way.”

“With what?”

“I’d originally thought we’d be sitting in first-class.”

“Really?”

“Mm hmm.”

“I don’t care where I sit on a plane, we’re all going to arrive at the same time anyway. However, there have been times when Tolbert and I have been upgrades to better seats for business matters.”

“It’s good you don’t use your money for frivolous gain.”

“If I’m going to spend my hard earned money, the event or person has to be worth it.”

“I’m a lot like my mother, simple things make me the happiest. Once, I witnessed my mother lose her mind over a basket of gourds our neighbor presented to her!” Reminiscing, she snorted over her mother’s actions. What a simple yet complicated woman she was. Taiwo inherited her mother’s stubborn but proud nature and it’d gotten her through some of the roughest times in her life. With her eyes closed, Connor maximized every opportunity to steal glances thinking he’d have to patiently wait her out. There was bound to be a moment when he could finally get across exactly what he felt for her. He was serious about her and he wanted to make sure she without a doubt understood that. Closing his eyes, he tucked in for their long flight.

Watching Connor sleep proved far more pleasurable than she’d imagined. Intently sweeping over his features, his jaw line was sharp, nose, a straight slope and lips fuller than she had previously realized. Thick, deep chestnut brown hair waved and curled at the nape of his neck making him appear more boyish than he was. Passengers gawked at her as she trailed her finger down the bridge of his nose and affectionately poked at his cheeks. Silently staring back she mouthed for them to turn their attention elsewhere. Kids mimed kisses, taunting her and giggled. Kids…They can be monsters if left unattended. Resting her head against his firm shoulder, she shut out the mockery of those kids and slowly drifted back too sleep.

A hand and a male voice cut into her euphoric dreams dragging her to the surface of reality. Blinking against the light, she stretched and yawned stared cloudy eyed into slate grey eyes. It took her seconds to realize Connor was smirking at her.

“What’s funny?”

“Nothing. We’ve landed.” She stood stiffly careful not to bang her head over the overhead compartments and filed out into the aisle behind Connor. Grabbing his small bag from the compartment, he checked its contents and started for the exit. They walked into Belfast International Airport to the baggage claim and waited for there things. Snatching their bags, they marched outside, waiting for a cab to appear. Though the sun was shining, there hung a threat of rain, one that could dump water on them at anytime. Luckily the sky confined its shower until they entered a cab. “What do you think so far?”

“I think I’m deliriously tired.”

“Rest. I’ll wake you up when we arrive at our destination.” Curling up, she laid her head in his lap leaving him in stunned silence. For the first time she inadvertently made him nervous; he didn’t move so much as a muscle as not to disturb her. Anytime the cab hit a bump, he inhaled sharply. Taiwo’s head inched closer and closer to the spot he’d rather not have her at, at least for the time being. It’d become increasingly difficult to keep his composure due to the nearness of this woman, and he wanted to shout at the driver to watch where he was driving! He guessed this was payback for all the times he obliterated her will to match his own need. It wasn’t any fun if one wasn’t expecting to be seduced. The torturous ride concluded as Connor handed the driver his fare. Shaking her shoulder, she slowly came to turning on her back fixating on his lips. She was doing it again making his heart trip slamming into the walls of his chest. Taiwo had more power over him than he’d originally thought.

“Are we there yet?” she mumbled crossing her arms under her breasts.

“We are.” Pushing herself up, she glanced out the window to a white cottage home. There sat two stone semi pillars with pathways on either side. The windows were wide open, she could see into this cottage and make out some of its contents.

“Whose cottage is this?”

“My parents’. Come on.” Climbing out, the driver handed them their bags and wished them a good evening.

“You didn’t say we were going to your parent’s”

“I told you I was coming home. Did you think I wouldn’t stop by to check in with my parents?”

“Well, did you tell them you were bringing me?”

“No. It’ll be a surprise.”

“Connor!”

“You’re worrying too much.” He took her by the hand and walked them up the cobble path to the front door. “Relax.” Knocking, they waited until they heard steps settle behind the door. Blasting from the house, Stacey flitting about her son, checking to see if he’d been eating well. Not long after Connor’s likeness passed through the door, cheeks flushed and grin wide. They doted on how good he looked and was surprised that he’d shown up from the blue.

“Mom, dad, I want you to meet Taiwo.” Stacey and Reuben turned their attention to her and their faces froze.

“Who is she Connor?”

“Taiwo and I are dating.”

“Oh..oh! I see.”

“It’s nice to meet you Taiwo, is it?” Reuben held out his hand and encased hers.

“I’m not who you’d expect your son to bring home. I get it. It’s a shock.”

“Oh, no, no, no! Connor didn’t tell us he was in a relationship!” she cooed.

“It’s okay.”

“How about we go inside?” Reuben stated.

Connor placed a reassuring hand on the small of her back and urged her inside. Sitting in the living room, eyes fell on Taiwo and then Connor. The silence was deafening and she was starting to get agitated.

“I apologize, but this is awkward. I’d rather you say what you’re thinking.” Reuben looked over at his son in question.

“Taiwo is rather forward. It’s something even I’m getting used to.”

“I see.” Reuben chimed in. “I like it.”

“Would anyone care for some tea?” Stacey clucked nervously. Smoothing out her sunflower dress, she headed toward the kitchen without hearing anyone’s replies.

“Don’t mind my wife, when something unexpected happens, she flits around to keep herself busy.”

“Reuben!”

“I’m sorry dear.” he chuckled. “She’s easily embarrassed too.”

“It’s no problem. My family would be wary of Connor as well.”

“Is that so?” Reuben sat up in his seat, interested. “How so?”

“Honestly?”

“Honestly.”

“To put it bluntly, our people aren’t very trusting of white people.”

“But we’re not white, we’re Irish.” he joked.

“White, Irish, Scottish, what’s the difference?”

“Now you’re stepping in hot water little lady.” he grinned.

“Don’t egg on my father, he can tell you stories of how the Irish came to be and how the Scots are miles apart from us, to the detail.”

“I can even tell you about the Great Famine as it was told to me by my elders. We had family who lived through such an ordeal.”

“Dear, let’s not get into that.” Stacey returned with teacups and biscuits. After pouring the tea, Stacey settle next to her husband and inquired more about her new guest.

“I’m from Nigeria. My mother and I moved to America about nineteen years ago to remedy our financial situation.”

“Do you plan on moving back there?”

“At one time I thought I would. I miss my family. I have three brothers and a sister there. I haven’t seem them in many years.”

“Do you have children of your own?”

“No.”

“Do you want children?”

“Not at the expense of my freedom.”

“Excuse me?” Stacey was truly shocked. She’d never once thought of her children as a burden.

“There’s no guarantee the father would stay if I were ever to marry.”

“Honestly, you don’t have to sacrifice your freedom because you have a child. Babies are a gift from God. They should be enjoyed.” she huffed.

“No, they become a burden and burdened when things go wrong. It isn’t fair for them to suffer when there’s no food to eat. When father’s leave or die, women are forced to scrape on the roadside or fields for grains of rice or kernels of corn to feed their children. There is no time to enjoy anything when they’re trying to survive from day-to-day.”

“Not everyone lives that way, dear.”

“I’m the oldest of my siblings. I became a second mother to them when my mother fell into depression. In my culture, we don’t speak of depression in the open. We just deal with what’s in front of us the best way we can. My mother’s life stopped when my father left her for another woman. I raised my brothers and sister while working and going to school. I didn’t have a choice! I can’t remember what it feels like to not be in charge, taking care of something. So no, what freedom I have, I’m not willing to sacrifice it for someone who isn’t solid and dependable.”

“I think you’re looking at things all wrong. You can’t base your current life on past experiences.”

“With all due respect Mrs. Fletcher, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I raised five children, I do have some knowledge on life and parenting!”

“You obviously didn’t raise them under the circumstances I was shackled to, so you don’t understand my point.” Both women stood fuming, neither giving an inch on their beliefs.

“Now ladies, let’s not turn this into a boxing match.” Reuben interjected.

“Connor, I know it’s always been a concern for you to start a family of your own but it’s looking like she isn’t the person who’s going to make that happen.”

“Mother-”

“Your mother’s right, you really should find someone else who wants what you want.”

“Wait!” Shooting up from the couch he stood between the two women he loved and made them stand down. “Mother, I love you, I really do, but I won’t allow you to make decisions for me. And Tai, I’m not giving you up either. Right now the both of you are emotional and it’s best if we leave letting things cool off.”

“Fine.” Taiwo snapped back.

“Dad-”

“I know. The keys are where they’ve always been.”

“Thanks.”

After recovering the keys, Reuben walked them out looking at a glaring Taiwo in the distance. He’d been able to handle his wife’s anger over the many decades of marriage, but he felt his son had bit off more than he could chew. This woman had a fire that not even he had seen before. He just hoped his son wouldn’t get hurt.

“I suppose I’ll see the two of you later then?”

“You will. I promise.”

“Alright.”

“Where are we going?”

“I have a cottage of my own further away.”

“How do you plan on getting us there?”

“A cab.”

He held up the cell phone and dialed for a cab. They waited in silence until a car pulled up to receive them.

*The next chapter can be found here, By Design (7)

©privatethoughtsmadepublic

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