“Such colorful hair and white skin will not be well hidden by a robe,” Jamal said. “Even with a veil, many will look at her two times.”
“This is truth.” Hamad nodded. “Trying to hide such a look behind a veil and robe would only color more attention to it.”
“Would only draw more attention to it.” Steel’s tone gave away his impatience. “And her looks don’t matter. She’s a woman. Even if she looked as Ugandan as you two do, she wouldn’t be safe on the streets right now.”
“He’s right, Mom,” Marc said. “If you let him hide you for a while, I’ll head back to the compound with Jamal. It’ll be okay.”
“My children are home alone.” Jennifer spoke through clenched teeth. “I can’t possibly—”
“Why are they home alone?” Steel frowned. “Where is Brad, Jennifer?”
“How do you know his name? Who are you?”
Silence filled the room. The distant sound of screams and gunfire indicated the riot was still in full force.
After a moment’s hesitation, Marc cleared his throat. “She doesn’t know,” he said to Steel, his voice low. “I swear to you she doesn’t know anything. Dad never told her.”
“Never told me what?” She stared at her son.
Steel turned a skeptical eye to Marc. “He told you?”
“I know why you’re here. I know his part in helping you. And I know he never told my mother anything. Ever.”
“Marc.” Jennifer swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry. “What are you talking about?” The tone of her voice demanded an answer, but Marc never took his eyes off Steel.
“I guess you didn’t know,” he said, “but my dad is dead.”
No one moved for a long moment.
Finally Steel turned to Jennifer. “There is no way we can get you home right now. No woman is going to be safe on the streets until the rebels have settled down a bit.” He stopped and cocked a questioning eyebrow at Jamal.
The large Ugandan nodded in agreement to the unspoken request.
“Jamal will take Marc home, and will stay at the compound until we get there. No one will get past him to get to the children. Is that acceptable to you?”
She blinked. “I guess we don’t have any other choice.” Jamal would be much better protection against the rebels anyway, and valuable time was being wasted while she argued. “Please be careful.”
Marc looked relieved that she gave in so easily. “I will. Don’t worry. We’ll be okay.”
“We must leave now.” Jamal pulled Marc toward the door. “The rebel activity has moved to the outside of town, but the doorframe of opportunity will not be opened for long.”
“That’s the window of opportunity,” Marc said with a laugh.
Jennifer frowned at his light tone, certain that his thrill of the adventure far outweighed the danger involved. Before she could say anything, he dropped a quick kiss on her cheek. “You can trust Steel, Mom. Stay close to him and he’ll protect you. Remember, ‘What time I am afraid …’ ”
“…I will trust in thee,” she said weakly. Her heart sank as Marc disappeared through the doorway.