The Rise

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Chapter Twenty-Five

“Are you okay?” Samuel asked.

I was sitting on the couch, trying to look calm, but failing. I kept looking out the window, waiting for Valerio and Ayodele to drive up the driveway any moment now. Today we were going to Ashur’s mother’s house for dinner. To say I was freaking out a bit on the inside was an understatement.

It was going to be very weird for me to see them together in the same room as my vision. I didn’t know if I’d be able to think of anything else while they were talking. I’d be picturing Ayodele as Ashur with that little boy grin.

Thoughts of the drainings and killings were also still running through my mind as well as my moment with Valerio. I was anything but calm.

“Yes, I’m fine.”

Samuel sat next to me. “When a woman says she’s fine, she’s not fine.” He placed the batch of cookies he made this morning for the pups down on the coffee table. They were decorated with thick layers of blue, white, and purple icing; each in a different shape. Honestly, it was adorable how much he cared about keeping the pups in his pack happy. He would make a great dad someday.

With a hand on my knee, he looked at me. “What’s wrong?”

I shook my head. He wasn’t going to let this go. “I’m just nervous lately. With everything going on, I don’t know if this is the best time to go have dinner with Ashur’s mother. A few days ago we found another pup dead.”

I was still uncomfortable having a nice dinner with Ashur’s mother, telling her that I was doing my best trying to find this divinity when there were pups still dying, when all pups were still vulnerable.

But, one thing was for sure, this woman didn’t deserve any more heartbreak. We were going there for Ayodele to meet her so one day he can bring her happiness.

A car rolled up the driveway. I took a deep breath. Well, this was it. Ayodele and Valerio, both dressed up in slick dress pants and shirts, stepped out of the car. Ayodele held a container of something in his hands. Samuel scooped up his platter of cookies and we met them outside.

We walked to Ashur’s mother’s house in silence. Unlike me, Ayodele didn’t seem nervous. In fact, he had a bright grin on his face and was walking with a bit more pep than usual.

When we reached the house, the pups answered the door. “Sammy!” The girl jumped into his arms, wrapping her arms around his neck. “Did you bring the cookies?” Samuel smiled. He showed her the container and she grabbed for it. Her eyes widened. “You got purple!” She clapped her hands and looked down at her little boyfriend. “He got purple and blue!”

Samuel put down the girl and handed her the cookies. “No cookies until after dinner.”

The two nodded, little smirks on their faces, and ran into a back room, nearly knocking down Ashur’s mother as she walked through the hallway. “Moon Goddess.” She bowed to me and greeted everyone else.

Ayodele grinned at her. “Hi Ma’am. I’m Ayodele.” He shook her hand. For a split moment, while they touched Ashur’s mother paused, but then she smiled a sweet motherly smile.

Ashur’s older brother Henry sat in the dining room and chatted with us as the food was heating up. He seemed much more mature since the last time I met him and had even grown a bit taller. Samuel had mentioned that he had been training with the warriors ever since Ashur died.

When dinner was ready, Samuel called the pups into the room. We could hear their giggles from all the way down the hall. They walked in, hand in hand, with frosting smeared over their faces. Samuel placed his hands on his hips. “Did you two have a cookie while you were playing?”

The boy shook his head, his lips coated in blue icing. The girl smiled, a single sprinkle in her teeth. Samuel playfully raised a brow at them. “I see.”

The girl giggled some more, climbing onto the chair next to Samuel. “We really didn’t Sammy.”

“Are you lying to me?” he asked. She giggled some more, but Samuel let it pass and I even noticed the girl slide him a cookie from under the table.

“You have three boys, Ma’am?” Ayodele asked once we began eating.

“Had,” Ashur’s mom corrected.

Ayodele apologized. “Is your son still there in your heart?” She nodded. “Well, then he’s very much alive.”

I almost kicked Ayodele under the table. I didn’t want to give her any sort of false hope that we’d be able to bring him back to life. Valerio placed a hand on my knee, calming me.

But, for the rest of the night, it didn’t come up again. Ayodele and Ashur’s mother were talking amongst each other like they had known each other for years. They got together so well, it almost seemed like fate, like this was really going to happen, like it was meant to be.

“Thank you for the wonderful dinner,” Ayodele said once we were finished. We were standing at the door, waiting for Samuel to say goodbye to the pups. “I look forward to seeing you again.”

The woman smiled. “Yes, of course.”

An uneasy feeling gathered in the pit of my stomach. I had a feeling that the next time they would ever meet, Ayodele wouldn’t be himself anymore. He would be something – someone – more important to her.

But she didn’t know that. She wasn’t aware of it one single bit. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? I wasn’t sure.

When we left, Ayodele was smiling again. “I hope I can bring her happiness.”

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