Teaser 289: Escape and Advice to Our African Guests

The truce lasted a half-day. Adding me into the mix was like striking a match in a pitch black room filled with gunpowder. I held my position and refused to back down or recant, but Heinz—now that Esperanza, who had served well as a calming influence, had returned back to campus—was holed up in his bedroom, emerging only to eat, and performing the task as quickly and efficiently as possible. “I am having second thoughts about being your driver, Al-Barrak,” Heinz whispered to me when he finished his late lunch and prepared to swiftly re-enter the bedroom wing.

I can't have this. It was times like this I absolutely must have a dependable driver and wheels. “Cumon!” I beckoned him. “I'll make a phone call.”

Knowing her class schedule, I called Esperanza outside those obvious time constraints and she answered sitting in her tiny office. “I have a meeting now, Al. Can it wait?”

“I need but a few moments, Esperanza. I beg you to put up Heinz and me in your sanctuary. When will you return home?”

Esperanza laughed deeply. “By five. Will you survive until then?”

“We will remain in our prone positions deep in the trench until we beat our hasty retreat.”

“Bring something to eat.”

“Pack your bags, Heinz. We shall escape enemy clutches soon.”

Packing up everything scattered everywhere consumed the rest of the time until I blew the trumpet call for retreat. Serena meandered down the bedroom wing to discover what we were up to since I had failed to rejoin the rest after lunch. When she saw our bags packed Serena's expression turned to anger. “Where do you think you're going?”

“Heinz and I will be taking up residence at Esperanza's spacious and peaceful abode. I shall gaze upon your lovely countenance in the cathedral Friday. In the meantime, should any of your family find it impossible to wait and instead discover more important things to do, then wish them well for me, please.”

Serena crossed her arms and the scowl fixed upon her face was possibly the most severe expression I had seen yet. “I can skip this wedding, too, and you are making the decision much easier.”

I stepped to the bed and sat on it slumped. “I don't want to go to war with you, Serena, and I do not want to call off our marriage. I have wanted you by my side as my equal for years. I will always want it.” I paused. “You cannot handle your family, who all want to go to war with me and it is clear. There should be no disagreement between us on this undeniable fact. Stay here and keep them occupied, we will speak frequently by phone, Esperanza will help when necessary and be here, as planned, Friday morning, and we'll get through this to end up side by side, as equals.”
“You're just bailing, Al-Barrak!” Serena complained. Her arms were still crossed but she didn't spit those words at me with complete animosity. “Now that the going gets tough-”

“Heinz wants to quit and go back to Germany,” I interrupted. “Esperanza couldn't wait to drive away this morning. She grabbed breakfast on the way to campus. Those three people of your immediate family, Serena, are the cause of all of it. I will wait them out with Esperanza, keep everything and everyone else together, and if you find it objectionable, then we shouldn't be together. Blood is thicker than water, but love is thicker than blood, and I will know where your love is directed.”

Serena frowned but her demeanor relaxed. She dropped her arms, stepped to the bed and sat beside me. “They are my family, my beloved. I have a long history with all of them and they have supported me during the worst times of my life. They were there to help me, comfort me.” She paused and managed a thin smile. “Yes, we are very opinionated and demanding and I include myself. It is also true they think very little of others. They think very little of you. But I don't.” She turned to engage Heinz, who was sitting in one of the chairs, quiet, trying to appear like he wasn't paying attention. “I'm sorry, Heinz. It does seem like everyone's at war, doesn't it?”

“Senorita Dominguez,” Heinz slowly spoke contritely, “it is not my place to judge in that manner. What I do know is many here think it would be better if I were not here. In that case it's best I leave.”

Serena surrendered. She turned to look in my eyes. “You will wait until Friday and be by my side then? And not be with your wives thinking you have enough and I'm a source of hostility?”

“Our future is certain when you can accept the one path I shall always take. When your family visits our home and are under my roof, they will abide by my demands, or I will send them away forever. I will never visit their homes, for I must abide by their demands, and I will not be treated that way. You, my beloved, have never been a source of hostility when it was only the two of us, but add to the mix your family, and the explosions begin. Remove your family and peace ensues again. It certainly means when you want to see your family, you will be going to them, and without me. If you can live with that very certain future, you will be by my side, but without your family.”

Serena let out a loud sigh, rose from the bed, and drew herself up. Her expression was determined. “I expect you to call me frequently. I am to be your equal in a matter of days. Thus, I should be at the top of your thoughts.”

I smiled warmly and stood before her, putting out my arms. “I will do so but not until I get the hug I remember from the first time I met you, when your whole soft, warm body kind of melted into mine. It did feel good.” Serena warmed up, her smile as radiant as ever, and delivered to me the embrace I cherished.

Leaving Serena's spread was a blessing in disguise. For one, when Heinz and I left and the three family members made note of it with their unhidden expressions of disapproval, Serena stepped to the plate and smashed a home run. “I shouldn't have to tell all of you, when none of you were here, there was no contention. The contention arrived when you arrived. My husband to be is not the source of contention. You are. I should also not have to remind you that you are here to see me marry, that you came here to witness my marriage, not to interrupt it or destroy it, and should you bring your contention to my marriage ceremony, I won't wait for my husband to be to have you removed. I will have you removed myself. Don't you dare ruin my day of loving union or I will have you dispatched so quickly you won't have time to breathe!” Serena also reminded each throughout the week they were in her home now and she could easily send any or all to a hotel at any moment. Since they had all witnessed Serena's behavior firsthand when her firecracker was lit, the contention was reduced.

For two, I had my own invitees to gather. Kitana, Alfred, their baby girl, Madame and Monsieur Farabé arrived Tuesday morning worn and weary from travel as I suspected they would be. Heinz and I arrived at LAX in the limousine with driver I hired for them for the week and the three of us helped gather all their luggage and escorted them to the hotel in Beverly Hills. It was not the same hotel where the wedding party would be staying but it was only a couple blocks away. Once we got them into their rooms and I showed them around the hotel, advising everything was covered and they could indulge themselves at will, Monsieur Farabé suggested it was far more than they expected or deserved.

“Nonsense! You opened up your home and your hearts to me from the moment we first met and Kitana has crushed every impediment to the success of Jardin de la Paix so that many in Africa are studying it as a model for improving the meager conditions all over the continent. I have received a large share of praise for it but I know who's responsible.

“Now that you're in my home country, Monsieur Farabé, I have to advise you about expectations. I encourage you to explore your surroundings, but only during the day and never alone. This is Beverly Hills, traditionally a white enclave, and you are black. Be especially wary and careful with the police and should you experience any issues with them, you must call me immediately, so always have your phone handy. Make liberal use of the limousine for longer trips. Your driver will take you right to the door any place you wish to go. You should have little trouble wherever you appear exiting a limousine here, but again, call me immediately should there be any problem. You would think after centuries of struggle between black and white, many would have figured it out by now, and there is some hope from many of the younger generation, but there are still far too many backwards and ignorant folk here in America, and some of them command legitimate authority, abuse this authority and pay no consequences. These are facts, Monsieur Farabé. Ignore them at your own peril.”

“You yourself, Al-Barrak, married a black woman,” Monsieur Farabé reminded me. “You have no doubt experienced these issues, too, yes?”

“So many I can't count them, but occasionally I have witnessed the humorous side of it when Magdalena is subjected to an act or word of disrespect, and she then fires off some choice words of her own in perfect German. Usually the idiots have no idea how thoroughly they were insulted.” I also advised him not to tip the driver. “He is well compensated and I would be surprised if he even accepted it. I've used this service and this particular driver before. It's why I hired them. He's dependable, respectful and has training and experience to defuse most escalating situations. He does carry a pistol and like most people who understand weapons will only use it when he absolutely must.”

- Just Desserts, Segment Thirty-SixUnquenchable Desire” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

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