Funmilayo and Andre had just returned home from lunch at the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl in Northwest DC. As Andre pulled his black BMW into their three-car garage, the gray grim-faced sky spat on the windshield. Funmilayo got out, picked up Christabelle, their daughter who had dozed off in the back seat, carried the child to her bedroom, and laid her down. Funmilayo entered their master bedroom as Andre unbuttoned his shirt. Outside, the rain pelted the panes of the bedroom windows that flanked their mahogany dresser. She took one glimpse through the right casement at the dark, angry sky, and the agitation in her belly rose to her throat.
“What’s going on?” The pitch of her voice was high, almost shrill. Andre had been utterly silent during lunch. A part of Funmilayo had welcomed it. At least they had been able to get through the meal without arguing, but she knew Andre’s silence meant he had been stewing about something which would eventually boil over into a big argument.
He shrugged. “What do ya mean?”
Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Andre was a self-proclaimed “southern boy with swag.”
“You’ve barely said two words to me since we left the house this morning.”
“Nah, I’m good. A little tired, that’s all.” Then he paused and ran his hand over his bald head. “Actually, I do have somethin’ to ask. Somethin’ I’ve been wonderin’ about for a while.”
She slipped off her dress, and in her black lace panties and bra, leaned her tall, slender frame against the door of her walk-in closet. “What is it?” She folded her arms over her chest.
He approached her. “When your grandmother was alive, I could understand why we had to send money to Sierra Leone.” He kept his voice low. And then he sighed, a deep labored breath, as if exasperated. “But,” he said, his voice rising, “she’s been dead for five years now.” He splayed five fingers. “And we’re still sendin’ three hundred dollars every month. I mean, I’m constantly scratching my head about it.”
Outside, the wind whipped the flowering dogwood tree against the windowpane. Funmilayo’s fury bubbled to her tongue. Memories of Mama, her grandmother, the only mother she had ever known, brought tears to her eyes. What the hell did Andre mean he was constantly scratching his head about it? He knew Mama’s niece, Aunty Yomie, and her four children still lived in the family house. How many times did she have to explain that Aunty Yomie was a single mother who had to pay for school fees, uniforms, books, food, clothes, shoes, medicine, and whatever the hell else her children needed—all on a teacher’s measly salary of less than $125 a month? Of course, Aunty Yomie had to depend on her and Andre for support!
“You bastard!” she said, widening her eyes. “Don’t you ever ask me that again!” She jabbed a finger in his face. “I don’t have to answer to you. I make more money than you. I can do whatever the hell I want with my money!”
Frown lines marred Andre’s face. His gaze darted between her finger, suspended in the air, and the flicker of flames reflected in her pupils. He backed away from her slowly, one step at a time. “Damn, Fumi! What the hell is wrong with you?”
He sat on the edge of their four-poster, king-sized bed, head hung low, fingers massaging his temples as if contemplating his next move.
Her chest tightened; her heartbeat quickened. She stood in front of him and waited until he lifted his head. “Let me tell you something.” She fixed her eyes on him. “I should’ve never married you.” The words came out easily, eerily low. “That’s right, Mama warned me about cultural differences. I should’ve listened to her.”
Andre stared at his wife with wounded eyes. Funmilayo could tell he expected her to take back those words, or at least to look away with some remorse. She did neither. He shook his head but said nothing. That was how he fought, with silence. Instead, he got up, shuffled to his closet, put on a T-shirt and a pair of sweatpants, and retreated to the basement.
Tracy Olabisi Coker is a passionate Sierra Leonean American writer who believes that the written word is an art that can open minds and transform hearts. “An Afternoon Storm” is an excerpt from her forthcoming novel, White Yams.