After Lucas had finished his college work he decided to take a year off and learn from his father in the research wing of Bert’s company. His knowledge was still rudimentary so he’d not be paid by the company or assigned specific responsibilities but Bert gave him a very generous allowance from family funds so he could feel independent. Lucas was very intelligent and used this year profitably. He watched and learned at the feet of some of the best minds in research and without his father’s knowledge team members gave him simple responsibilities at first mentoring him as he learned. Slowly seeing his rapid progress, they gave him harder problems to solve which he did well. Where he made mistakes, they corrected him. They were always in control though. Stakes were too high to hand over projects to someone who still didn’t possess the fundamental university tools or experience. What he learned helped Lucas decide to follow in his Father’s footsteps. He’d been tossing up in his mind whether to study business or engineering but his year in company research had made it an easy decision.
Amir on finishing his pre-university decided to study medicine. He’d been influenced in that decision by cousins back East and Bashir had supported his son’s career choice. This meant he’d be moving back to join his relatives where he’d stay while pursuing studies. Since the Khoury’s had arrived in the community Amir and Lucas had worked out in local gyms together and each had developed an impressive physique. The Sheffield and Khoury kids loved to hang out at Sheffield’s giant swimming pool when not studying, sometimes with Sheffield and Khoury parents watching on from deck chairs while they enjoyed an evening meal together on the deck. They’d developed a very close friendship in fact Baraa had once confided in Tess she felt closer to her than her own siblings. Tess had given Baraa a hug and thanked her. Sheffield’s hosted a farewell party for Amir and all the teenagers from the neighbourhood turned up for the party. This showed how the family had won over even those who’d treated the family with such disrespect when they moved in.
As word was now out among students Bashir Khoury was a dynamic and interesting professor Lucas signed up for the first-year course taught by his neighbour. He was careful not to take advantage of the family’s friendship. Bashir watched this with appreciation. It so happened his daughter Angela was now attending university having chosen to follow a career in education. He’d discussed with Baraa whether they should buy their daughter a car to get her safely too and from classes. She’d developed into a beautiful young woman and they worried about her being able to take care of herself. Protective cultural roots were still alive and well. Angela respected her parents and their decisions and put no pressure on them even when she noted Sheffield’s had purchased a car for their daughter Emma. Emma was aiming for a nursing degree so would not be there to ferry Angela around as in the past now Amir had departed. Kaci had developed friends within her own age group. With Bashir’s work he could not always be available to ferry his daughter around during the day.
As Lucas was packing his carry bag at class in preparation for the following class Bashir motioned for him to come to the lecture podium. This had been a difficult decision, but he’d decided to do it anyway.
“Lucas Amir’s not around to look after Angela’s interests now and our families are close. I think you know we have ways in our culture that differ from yours. Some day we’ll have to arrange a marriage for her and there should be no spot or blemish on her record when those arrangements are being considered. You probably don’t understand this, but its important to my community. Can I trust you to become Angela’s big brother and look after her needs as she goes through university? I’d like to trust you and I know you are honest. Can I trust you to act the part of her guardian brother?” Bashir shifted uncomfortably as he waited for the answer. Maybe this young man would laugh at their customs?
Lucas was shocked at this direct approach. His interest in Angela was not as a big brother, but if he said yes to Bashir he’d be honour bound to keep the relationship as a brother sister one and not the one he fancied. His heart sank.
He straightened up and looked Professor Khoury in the eye. “You can trust me to protect her and her reputation Sir!”
Bashir smiled. “Good, here’s a note I just scribbled out which you can give to her when you see her on campus. Find out what her program is and how you two can work out a schedule that will fit both programs. I really appreciate your willingness Lucas son.”
Lucas had tears in his eyes as he headed for his next class.
Later when classwork was finished he did a quick circuit of the campus before going to the library. Angela was nowhere to be found on campus, so he decided to try again at lunch time and headed for the library instead. He scanned the first storey of the building to see if she was there, then on impulse climbed steps to the second level. There in a far corner he spied her with a couple of male students attempting to engage her in conversation. She looked quite uncomfortable at what was being said so he went over to check. He slid in beside her and handed her the letter from her father. Angela quickly scanned the note then slid her arm through his and nodded her head.
One of the students cut in. “Hey, butt out Sheffield this is our discovery!”
Lucas recognized them at last. They’d been at college with him so they must have known Angela from those days too. “OK guys, this one was already taken long before you came on the scene. Go try another table.” He laughed and the guys bowed mockingly and departed.
Angela looked at him with her mouth wide open. “You really have claimed me from long ago? Oh, I’m so glad! Have you asked my father?”
Lucas realized his words chosen in jest had been misinterpreted. He began to cry silently trying to hide his tears from Angela and anyone else who may be watching. He was Lucas Sheffield the body builder. No one should see him in tears.
Angela increased her pressure on his arm. “My Lucas, why are you crying?” She stroked his arm soothingly.
“Angie I’ve wanted you for a long time now, but I’ve just given your father an assurance I’d protect you as a brother when he asked if I could give him assurance he could trust me. I cannot break my word even though you are the most important one I want in my life.” He shook with emotion as Angela released his arm and spun around to face him.
“If you love me why did you give my father that assurance? I will not marry anyone but you now. I’ve yearned for you to tell me that for a long time and now you have said it you’ve already ruined my hopes. I will accept no other. If I leave home will you marry and support me? By law in this country I can make up my own mind.”
Lucas didn’t know what to do now. Breaking his word would destroy he and his family. The relationship between the Sheffield and Khoury families would be destroyed. He’d no longer be able to face Bashir and would have to seek another university to study in. His life was in shambles! He turned to Angela.
Angie, I would never be party to breaking the strong bond between you and the rest of your family even though heart of hearts it is so tempting. How could I face my own parents either as they love your family? I know they’d be overjoyed if we got married some-day, but it would need to have your parents blessing.
“Then get it! Go back and talk with my father! I’ll never marry anyone else and will hurt myself if they try to force me. Do you hear?” Her fists pounded on his chest as she vented.
Seconds later a monitor was in front of the table. “Is this man troubling you miss? Shall I call security?”
Angela looked around and students at tables around them were looking disapprovingly in their direction. She pulled herself together quickly.
“I’m sorry, Lucas just delivered some sad news about my family and I guess I over reacted. I’m sorry for causing this disturbance. This man was attempting to console me, but I guess I took it out on him. He is a close friend of the family.”
She stood unsteadily to her feet and Lucas helped stabilize her as they left the library holding their carry bags full of books.
“Where’s your car! We need to talk and settle this or I’m going to die!” Angela was distraught.
Lucas steered her toward the car supporting her as they went. This was getting out of hand and he didn’t know what to do.
They were just nearing the car when a familiar voice called out. “Angela are you OK, what happened have you had an accident. I’m glad you found her Lucas, what happened?”
Bashir Khoury came running when he saw his daughter stumbling toward the car held up by Lucas.
To be continued.
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