Stifling a yawn, Sheena peered down at Jeremiah’s golf bag by the door. He was home earlier than she thought. Most times, Jeremiah and Gabriel could spend a whole day at the golf course. With a shrug, she crept slowly into the den and slowed to a stop, a smile tugging her lips at the sight of her husband flanked in the middle with his granddaughters sprawled on either side, all three fast asleep.

Tamping a sigh, Sheena folded her arms across her chest and gazed down at the loves of her life. Her gaze skimmed over her husband’s face and quickly placed a hand over her mouth to smother a giggle.

Jeremiah’s parted lips were glossy with a rosy tint. A glittery pink dusted his dark skin and his eyelids were painted with sheer blue powder. The growing fascination of her granddaughters with makeup was equally amusing as it was heart-wrenching. If only their mother was alive, the girls wouldn’t have to subject both their father and grandfather to this humbling exercise. She sighed, making note to spend more time with the girls and volunteer herself for makeup sessions.

As Sheena crept over to the edge of the couch, Jeremiah stirred. His eyes fluttered open and Sheena’s cheeks warmed under his darkened yet unfocused gaze. Even covered with the girls’ overzealous makeup job and fatigue in his glossy smile, he still stole her breath.

Recovering quickly as his glossy lips parted, she lifted a finger to her mouth to shush him.

Smiling sleepily, he peered down at the girls cuddled against him.

Sheena grinned widely and crouched beside him to watch their granddaughters sleep.

Later, once they’d tucked the girls into the bed upstairs, Sheena and Jeremiah crept out of the room with their hands entwined. Once he closed the door and Sheena leaned against him, Jeremiah chuckled. “Long day?”

“Hmm,” Sheena nodded and peeked up at him, her lips twisted in a smirk. “You look very pretty,” she teased, rubbing the gloss from his mouth.

Jeremiah rolled his eyes. “It’ll be your turn next.” He tugged her toward their bedroom down the hallway.

“Gladly,” she replied, hand squeezing his. As they entered the room and closed the door, Sheena sighed and turned in his arms, leaning her cheek against his chest. “Thank you, Jere…”

Her husband frowned, placing his free hand against her back. “What’s up?”

Sheena shook her head. “Nothing… why?”

Jeremiah chuckled, kissing her temple. “That sweet voice of yours wants something.”

Sheena sighed and pulled away from him. She rounded their king-sized bed to the bay window looking out to the street. “Nothing…”

He made his way over and stood beside her, draping his arm about her shoulders. They were quiet together, watching a woman walk her dog in front of their house. Then he sighed. “What’s on your mind?”

She sighed heavily and leaned her head against his chest. “I think we need to get a nanny.”

Jeremiah’s brow furrowed.

Sheena held her breath. It was something they hadn’t considered, something they couldn’t quite afford. With little retirement money saved, they both returned to work and with two extra mouths to feed, the idea of paying someone didn’t seem appealing.

“Good idea…”

Sheena blinked at her husband. “What?”

Jeremiah gave her a wary smile. “It’s a good idea, Sheena.”

Her smile was tentative. She dared not breathe. “Are you sure?”

He raised a brow, the corner of his lips twitching. “You suggested it and I agreed it’s a good idea.” He nudged her shoulder. “Don’t look so surprised. I’m not pulling your leg. The girls will need someone to watch them while we’re away…” Jeremiah leaned in to kiss her forehead. “Any ideas yet?”

Sheena could only shake her head, still incredulous that he agreed so quickly.

“Of course not any of those posh, pricey old biddies,” he continued, stroking her shoulder absentmindedly. “We may need to ask around the community, maybe a college student on break.” Jeremiah nudged her when she stayed quiet, gaping at him. “Are you even listening?”

With a squeal, Sheena threw her arms around her husband’s neck and squeezed him until he grunted. Laughing, she eased up her grip and kissed his cheek. “Have I told you lately how wonderful you are?”

He wrapped his arms around her and half-carried, half-dragged her toward the bed. Sitting on the edge, he settled her on his lap. “Not today, but I know…” He nuzzled her cheek.

Sighing blissfully, Sheena closed her eyes and leaned her forehead against his. The worry and anxiety eased off her shoulders whenever she was in his arms. It was as if only he could calm her mind.

Then her eyes snapped open. “Jere!” she pushed at his chest and scooted from his lap to stand. “Oh my goodness! I have a great idea!”

“What?” Jeremiah rubbed his abdomen.

She giggled, shuffling around the bed to the door. “I have to talk with Deidre right away.”

Jeremiah sank into the wall of pillows on their bed. He frowned, pushing off a few onto the floor. “Can’t it wait till tomorrow?” he called out as she pulled open the door and hurried out into the hallway. “It’s late!”

“This can’t wait, dear,” Sheena said with a grin, rooting her phone from her bag.

Samina propped her chin on her hand and stared listlessly at the numerous windows on her computer screen. Two weeks of job searching and still nothing. Leaning forward, she rested her forehead against the screen and breathed a sigh. She couldn’t keep this up from much longer. Her parents were getting suspicious and she was getting restless.

The doorbell rang loudly in the background and Samina groaned. “Not again…”

Heaving a deep sigh, Samina scooted out of the stool and trudged toward the door. “Probably forgot her keys again…” she mumbled begrudgingly.

“Why do you keep forgetting your keys?” Samina quickly flipped the latch and pulled it open. “You’re worse than me…” she trailed off as her gaze met her mother’s disapproving glare.

Her frozen fingers gripped the doorknob and her mind frantically searched for a memory or reminder that her mother intended to come over. Samina swallowed hard, finding none. “Mom, what are you…?”

Her mother’s cold stare skimmed past her head and Deidre pushed Samina aside and entered the condo, her heels clicking loud and unrelentingly.

Tamping a sigh, Samina slowly closed the door and turned to face her mother. “Is… everything alright?” Her voice wavered as it did in grade school, expecting a reprimand for misbehaving.

Deidre folded her arms and narrowed her eyes at her eldest child. “You tell me, Samina.”

Samina’s tongue froze at her mother’s pointed tone, the glare she directed at her could burn off the skin on her face.

Deidre narrowed her eyes at Samina’s silence. “When were you going to tell us about your job situation?”

Her breath hitched but she managed to compose herself. Samina struggled to meet her mother’s leveling stare.

Deidre clenched her jaw. “Samina, since when do you keep secrets from me?”

“Because I knew you’d react like this,” Samina wanted to respond, her eyes stinging with tears she held back. She averted her gaze, knowing her mother would surely berate her for crying ‘unnecessarily.’

Deidre blew out a frustrated breath, Ebony’s fake surprise egging her on. “it’s been more than two weeks… Who else knew about this? Do your siblings know?” She scowled. “Tell me why I had to find out from the church gossip queen before you?!”

Despite her mother’s growing indignation, Samina’s shoulders sagged in relief. At least Karen hadn’t divulged her secret to their mother. Drawing a sustaining breath, Samina managed to meet her mother’s flashing eyes. “I… just wanted to figure things out first.”

“Figure what out, Samina?” Deidre narrowed her eyes. “Are you even applying for any jobs?”

Feeling more defeated than when she packed her things from Yates, Samina could only nod.

Deidre shook her head. “This… is very disappointing, Samina.” She turned away from her daughter and stalked to the living room.

Rooted where she stood, Samina swallowed hard as the heavy silence draped over her bowed shoulders. It seemed that her mother may never come to understand her.

Then suddenly, a soft chanting song engulfed the silence.

Deidre huffed in annoyance and reached into her purse to answer the call. “Sheena, let me call you… what?” she asked as the voice on the other end rattled on.

Samina sniffed and wrapped her arms around herself. She desperately wanted to sneak into her room and wait for her mother to just leave her alone for tonight.

Deidre glanced over her shoulder as Sheena chattered on, her troubled expression morphing to confusion and uncertainty. “Are you serious about this?”

Looking up, Samina warily eyed her mother’s befuddled expression.

“Hold on, I’ll ask…” Deidre lowered the phone for a brief moment. “Have you found any job opportunities yet?”

Samina glanced up, her cheeks warming at the thought of Ezekiel’s mother knowing of her current plight. “No…” she croaked out.

Deidre sighed and extended the phone to her. “Aunty Sheena wants to speak with you…”

Samina dragged her feet to accept the phone in her mother’s hand. Swallowing hard, she lifted the phone to her ear. “H-hello?”

“Sammie dear,” Sheena cooed, her gentle and kind voice a stark contrast to her mother’s berating and cold tone. “I’m so sorry to hear about your job.”

Samina blinked at the tears gathering at her eyes. “Thank you…” she breathed softly, lowering her blurry gaze to her bare feet.

“I have a proposition for you,” Sheena continued. “Please feel free to take as much time as you need to think about it, okay dear?”

Samina hesitated, face tingling under her mother’s attentive gaze. “Okay.” She squeezed the phone.

“Good.” Samina could hear the patient smile in Sheena’s voice. “As you know, our granddaughters are here with us for the summer…” Sheena paused as Jeremiah’s muffled voice interrupted her words. Then she huffed and continued. “Well, I’ll get straight to the point. Could you consider watching the girls for us, Samina? It would mean the world to us, and to their father, if you’d consider it.”

Samina lifted her eyes to Deidre’s expectant expression. Did her mother wish this for her?

“T-to their father…” Samina mumbled as her heart skipped a beat. Her face heated at the thought of Ezekiel becoming aware of her current state of unemployment. She licked her dry lips. “Thank you, Aunty Sheena, for the offer…”

“But…?” Sheena replied, having heard Samina’s soft words.

‘But, I can’t?’ her head screamed in response. Samina gripped the phone. Deidre raised a brow at her.

“Is there a problem?” Sheena asked.

She lowered her gaze. “W-what does Ezekiel say about it?”

Deidre scoffed in disgust and turned away from her.

Sheena didn’t answer and Samina knew then that Ezekiel had no idea of his mother’s request. Her shoulders sagged in relief.

“I plan on discussing it with him tomorrow…”

Samina’s heart picked up speed. “I…”

Sheena sighed. “Tell you what, Sammie, why don’t you think about it for a while. After we talk with Ezekiel, then we can make a decision?”

Samina gnawed on her bottom lip before responding. “Okay…” she said, gaping as Deidre then offered her smile that could seem encouraging. And in the moment, Samina realized that even at the age of twenty-nine she still desperately craved her mother’s approval.

<<Chapter 7 || Chapter 9>>