At Clairsmont College a quiet black-African woman, Nanama, crosses paths with two affluent men. One is unapologetically misogynistic and racist. The other is less so and has no problem setting his sights on a certain svelte beauty. Sweet and patient, will Nanama's presence in their lives change the old order of things?


Alston Rothschild sat on his futon, his legs propped up luxuriously and his eyes closed. Cleland Windsor, his best friend of all time, sat beside him, absently staring at the wall.

"Another year, Cleland. I feel too old for this mess," Alston sighed as he sat up and placed his feet on the ground.

"Chin up champ. You're only a sophomore. We still have two years and law school to boot."

Alston sighed even more heavily. "Can I just get my inheritance, marry some blonde, size-2 and call it a day?" He ran his hand through his dark hair and set his blue-eyed gaze on his friend.

"Alston, I know you have problems with your dad, but really?" Alston rolled his eyes. "Anyways, you never know what might happen this year. You might meet that blonde, size-2."

"Yea, yea, you and your 'positivity' and 'looking on the bright side.' Let's take a walk. How am I supposed to find my blonde wifey if I'm trapped inside my hell-hole of a room?"

In truth, his single room was posh, with a sizable flat screen, comfy futon and all other sorts of objects that attested to his family's considerable affluence. He came from old money, made new. When Alston's grandfather had passed away, Alston's father had decided to invest his sizable inheritance in the stock market and in setting up a law firm. Needless to say, he became even wealthier than his recent predecessors and had insisted that his son Alston follow in his footsteps. The weight of this calling bore heavily on the dark haired man's broad shoulders.

Cleland also came from a wealthy family, but could hardly be considered a member of the ranks of old money. His dorm room, mannerisms and outlook on life were more modest than his friend's. He carried himself almost apologetically, shoulders slightly forward, an affable sweetness ever pulling at the corners of his lips. He and Alston were considerably opposite in appearance and even temperament, but generally clicked in every other way. Alston was an alpha male by no large leap of the imagination, and Cleland often took his lead from him. They complemented each other nicely, and no few people wondered if they were more than just friends.

Taking a stroll around campus, the pair spotted a slim figure coming their way. Head raised and eyes trained forward, the woman passed them along the path. The small breeze succeeding her smelled faintly warm and floral. As she had passed, Alston and Cleland alike took in her appearance. Svelte and short, she would barely clear Alston's chest if she stood in front of him. Her hair was done in long thin braids and for a moment, Alston marveled at their length. Cleland, however, a bit more knowledgeable of these things, suspected her hair was partly real and partly extension. In the humid, summer heat, her strikingly dark complexion gave her the appearance of being cool and airy. Cleland knew, without a doubt, that his cheeks, though tanned, were steadily coming to resemble the hue of a Pink Lady apple.

"She was kind of pretty, wasn't she?" Cleland asserted, glancing up at his friend for confirmation once she passed. Alston twisted his lips derisively and said nothing.

"W-well, for a black girl, you know?" the flustered blond amended.

"All I saw when she passed was 'affirmative action' and 'internationals grabbing spots' on her forehead. Being black and from Africa must make it a cinch getting into college here."

"Well, how do you know she's from Africa?"

"I heard her talking in passing once. She has an unmistakable accent from some part of that God-forsaken continent. But yea, being international, she basically pays full price, so the colleges want her. Being black, she fills up their quotas. It's a win-win for the institutions."

They walked on in silence for a bit longer. Glancing down at his wrist watch, Alston quickened his pace.

"We're meeting the rest of the guys pretty soon to play frisbee. I hate being late."

Cleland also picked up his pace, making sure to keep abreast with his long-legged friend. All the while, his mind filled up with various thoughts and prospects concerning a certain svelte, African lady.


Nanama didn't like how the dark-haired one had looked at her, with a ghost of a sneer hovering on the edges of his lips. She didn't like the look on the other's face either. It was piercing, but not necessarily ill-meaning.

With a sigh of relief, she entered the air-conditioned dorm and swiftly made her way to her room. It was a single room, already well-decorated and neat, despite her just having moved in a couple days ago. She felt less isolated in her room – there were no couples or groups of people to contrast with her decided loneliness. She was a sophomore at this college and had yet to make more than a couple solid friends. Back home – home home, not home with her aunt and uncle, - she had plenty of friends. Living with her aunt and uncle, she did have friends as well, but certainly not as many as back in Ghana. None of her companions, from Massachusetts or Ghana, had enrolled in Clairsmont Private College; she had been the only one from her school – from her region, in fact.

She found sweet solace in literature. Tolkien, Steinbeck and Achebe were among her closest companions. They interacted out of doors, on sunny days on the stretch of green in front of the dormitories. Nanama acquainted herself with them also in the far reaches of the college's library and late at night in her bed, when her lonesomeness would not allow her to sleep. That's all not to say that Nanama had no tangible, human friends.

"Ama, will you help me with the boxes?"

Ama, sprawled on her bed, rose up to nod affirmation to her next-door neighbor. Sunny was one of the Ghanaian's dearest friends. She hailed from China, from a southeastern town, the name of which Ama could never recall, try as she might. The two got along well. They were both naturally quiet, not just made shy by the language and cultural barriers they sometimes encountered. Besides this, they were yielding, empathetic personalities that sometimes found it hard to keep up with more assertive, abrasive individuals inexorably encountered throughout life. They coddled and uplifted each other, applying a loving salve to the burns and wounds inevitably inflicted on such tender spirits.

The two chatted amiably as they unpacked Sunny's belongings. Ama couldn't imagine what a hassle it would be to move in from Ghana, let alone China. After helping her unpack for a while, Nanama took her leave. The day was pleasant, if a bit on the sultry side, and she had a hankering for rereading something of Tolkien. She selected a book off her shelf in her room, hugged Sunny goodbye, and made her way to the green in front of the dormitories. On this substantial stretch of well-kept lawn resided one tree, tall and shady. Here Nanama settled in, disregarding the group of guys playing with a frisbee a little ways away. She lost herself, then, in the land of MiddleEarth. She was too engrossed to hear the shout directed at her. A bright red frisbee moving at an alarming velocity connected forcefully with the side of her face. The spell was broken. Her book slipped from her hands as she clutched her throbbing cheek. Tears escaped the corners of her eyes involuntary as she, too stunned to speak, stared in the direction the Frisbee came from. Two men came jogging over, and as they came closer, Nanama realized they were the same two guys she had seen on her walk back to the residence hall.

The blond one, concern etched unmistakably on his face, knelt beside her. "Are you all right? We should have been more careful!"

The dark-haired one came over in less of a hurry. "I'm sorry, that was completely my fault." He remained standing, not seeming completely sympathetic. Alston felt himself bouncing between two thoughts. Dinner, or no? He had been raised as a self- and family-proclaimed gentleman. A gentleman would ask the lady he hurt out to dinner. On the other hand, he held a special contempt in his heart for minorities and international students. He sighed inwardly.

"I was raised to know that when I do something rude and hurtful, I take the person out to dinner to make up for it in some small way. Hopefully you're free this Friday. Meet by this tree at seven."

Nanama, hand still on her cheek, said nothing as she processed everything he just said. Alston smiled one of his wry, contemptuous smiles, retrieved the frisbee and walked back to the group of guys who had halted their game to watch the trio.

Cleland lingered. "Are you all right?"

"Yes. Thank you."

Cleland smiled charmingly. "I'm Cleland. That was Alston. He can be a bit abrupt at times, but he means well."

Nanama smiled wanly. "Is he truly offering to buy me dinner?"

Cleland's smile broadened. "Yea, he's being serious. You should go, and make sure to dress up. He's no cheapskate."

Cleland stood up and started jogging back to his friends, before coming back, slightly ruffled. "What did you say your name was?"

"Nanama, or Ama, if you prefer."

Cleland smiled widely again, and Nanama began to wonder if there wasn't something slightly wrong with him.

"Ok, don't forget, Friday at 7. Nice to meet you!"

Cleland left for good this time and the game resumed. Not wanting to receive any more frisbees in the face, Nanama collected her book and situated herself a further distance away on a bench. However, she could not re-immerse herself in the land Tolkien. She was too busy pondering how she would choose to spend her Friday evening.