Posts tagged “animosity

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 16

Posted on 30/03/2015


“So, Mr. Dames, what will it be?” drawled the sandy-haired gentleman from Goodwin International from across the conference room.

All eyes turned to Ezekiel standing on the other end of the polished oak table.

Ezekiel could hear his own pounding heart and glanced up at the timer above the gentleman’s head. He had a plane to catch. Tamping a sigh of frustration, he replied. “Can you ensure that if we accept, you’d be keeping your own end of the deal?”

The gentleman inclined his head. “Naturally.” His gray eyes scrutinized Ezekiel openly, searching for signs of hesitation or weakness. “Have we given you reason to doubt our word?”

“Not yet,” Ezekiel quipped just as easily. He bristled inwardly when the gentlemen chuckled as if he was wearing a clown hat and juggling on a unicycle instead of his crisp suit. They didn’t think he was up for the challenge. Their steady gazes taunted him to back down and prove to them he and James were incapable of handling such a project. He squared his shoulders. “Alright then. Deal.”

Their chuckles faded and they blinked in stunned silence.

Ezekiel tamped down a smug grin.

“Pardon?” stuttered the sandy-haired gentleman and project manager for Goodwin.

“I said you have a deal, gentlemen.” Ezekiel placed the pointer to the table. “My partner and I will read through the contract and get back to you within the week.”

“No,” the manager countered firmly. His eyes glistened with challenge. “We want your decision in two days. Can you get it to us by the end of that business day?”

With all eyes riveted to his face, Ezekiel couldn’t afford to hesitate. “I’ll have it to you by 5pm.”

“You serious?” James bellowed in excitement through the phone speaker. Ezekiel had just relayed the details of the Goodwin meeting on his way to the airport. “Can we get everything settled by then?”

“Absolutely. We can.” Ezekiel tapped the steering wheel, glowering at the endless line of cars packed bumper to bumper. “When do you get in tomorrow?”

“Hmm, let’s see… From London to D.C., give-or-take eight hours. This two-hour layover in Amsterdam’s pretty sweet, though I’d rather be in my bed.” James sighed. “Anyway, count me in by early evening tomorrow.”

Ezekiel rolled his eyes. “Great.”

“What about you? What does this mean for us?”

“Heading to Houston now. I’ll be there indefinitely and you’ll probably have to travel back and forth until we get this deal settled.”


Ezekiel smirked. “Don’t sound so excited.”

“And you?” James asked pointedly. “I imagine the girls will be excited to have you there… indefinitely.”

Ezekiel snorted derisively. “Depends on which of them you’re speaking of. Laide’s moods leave me more confused than ever before.”

“You know how preteens are.” James chuckled. “Anyway, including a special someone, I count three that’ll be glad to see you.”

“Cut it out.”

James laughed louder. “How is our brown-eyed shy beauty doing these days? You haven’t spoken about her recently.”

“That was intentional,” Ezekiel maneuvered in front of a six-wheel trailer, grateful for the approaching exit. “Dude, leave the subject of Sam alone.”

“Dude?! Ha, you never use that word except when you’re embarrassed and want me to leave you alone.” James scoffed. “I’m fine with leaving the subject alone but it’ll probably be hard for you, y’know, since you’re the one thinking about her.”

Ezekiel quelled a sigh. Debating with James was futile. “Anyway, how’s the Paleri venture?”

At James’ telling snort, Ezekiel knew his attempt at changing the subject hadn’t gone unnoticed.

“Associates came by today, we drafted and finalized the plans.” James cleared his throat. “The CFO and CEO were both present in the meeting, and they accepted the proposal within minutes of negotiations.”

“Hmm,” Ezekiel nodded approvingly as he signaled to exit the highway. “Good to hear you’re actually doing work in my absence.” He grinned when James snorted. “I better not jinx it and let you do what you need to do.”

“Just like you should,” James said. “Well, go catch your flight and greet my girls for me. Say hello to your folks and Sam too, that is when you talk to her.”

“Later.” Ezekiel disconnected the call, cutting short James’ laughter. There was no sense thinking too much about Samina now. He’d have to see for herself if there was any truth to James’ words once he got to Houston. For now, he needed to hurry around this rush hour traffic before he missed his flight.

Telling herself two hours wasn’t far off before she could take a nap, Samina turned a smile in Beulah’s direction. “That’s nice, sweetheart…” she paused, blinking away the dizziness. “Wanna  jump on another couch… y’know to even it out a bit?”

Adelaide snorted derisively across the room and Samina caught the mocking smile on the young girl’s face. She smiled at the preteen. “Got any better ideas?”

Rolling her eyes, Adelaide shifted in her chair. “Bee. Get off the couch or the boogie monster will eat your toes when you’re sleeping.”

As if lightning struck in the room, the smile on Beulah’s face disappeared and she plopped on her backside. Samina held her breath as Beulah swung her wide brown eyes to her, wanting to verify Adelaide’s threat.

Samina mimicked her wide-eyed expression. “Hmm?”

“Is it true?” Beulah’s voice was barely above a whisper, her right thumb slowly lifting to her mouth.

“Put your hand down, Beulah,” Adelaide snapped impatiently.

Samina frowned at Adelaide and turned back to Beulah. “What’s true, sweetheart?”

With her hand pressed against her chubby cheek, Beulah blinked up at Samina, eyes brimming with tears. “B-boogie m-monster will eat my t-toes?”

Her heart in her chest, Samina managed a smile at Beulah. “Sweetheart, that’s…”

The sound of rustling metal by the front door forced Samina to stop. Beulah squeaked and scooted close to Samina’s side, burying her face under Samina’s arm. Even Adelaide leaned into her seat, pulling her knees to her chest.

More worried that the girls believed there was a boogie monster than the unexpected visitor at the door, Samina hesitated stepping away to investigate. But the sound of the door rustling made Beulah whimper. Samina had to put a stop to this.

“Wait here,” she said softly to Beulah, disengaging herself from Beulah’s hold. Adelaide moved to cuddle beside Beulah and Samina slowly made her way toward the door. It couldn’t be Aunty Sheena; she would’ve informed them of their return journey. At this time of the night, there was only one other option.

Samina stalled in front of the door and swallowed hard.

“Aunty Sammy…” she heard Beulah whimper at Adelaide’s side.

“Hush!” Adelaide snapped, pressing a hand over Beulah’s mouth.

“Stay calm,” Samina said, squeezing her hands into fists as she moved to one side of the door. In the corner of her eye, she spotted a large umbrella leaning against the wall. She moved slowly to the umbrella just as the burglar persisted on the stubborn lock. Although the top slide lock was in place, they weren’t safe yet.

Then the unthinkable happened. The knob turned and jerked under the rough hand that manipulated it on the other side.

Samina snatched up the umbrella and held it in front of her with a tight grip, the pointed tip extended in front of her just as the door swung open.

“God, help me!” Samina whispered as she raised the umbrella over her head and swung it at the intruder’s head.

The girls shrieked in surprise as Samina’s weapon knocked the shadowed figure to his knees.

“Stay there, girls!” Samina bellowed over the man’s audible groans. Feeling empowered that she’d at least slowed him down, she raised the umbrella and pummeled him in the back and shoulders. How dare he scare these girls and attempt to steal from them?

The man’s garbled moans ricocheted across the room as he staggered against into the door.

“Stop!” Adelaide then screamed, running up to Samina’s side.

Blinded with righteous anger, Samina threw a scowl over her shoulder. “I said stay back!”

“No!” The girl scowled right back. “Stop hitting him, stupid. It’s Dad.”

“Daddy?!” Beulah gasped, scrambled across the room and past Adelaide toward the man crouched by the door. She fell to her knees beside the man and threw her arms around his neck. “Daddy!” she wailed against his chest.

Samina dropped the weapon yielding hand and gaped at Adelaide.

“Be careful… bumble bee,” Ezekiel groaned, bracing one hand around Beulah as he squinted up at Samina.

At the familiar voice, Samina jerked her gaze over to Beulah and the intruder who was actually Ezekiel. Her jaw dropped, realizing what she’d done.

Ezekiel gave her a rueful smile. “Hey, Sam…”

Flabbergasted, Samina dropped the umbrella.

Adelaide snorted in disgust and spun on her heels, stomping away.

Both Ezekiel and Samina winced at the sound of the bedroom door slamming hard. Beulah continued wailing into his chest.

If his head wasn’t pounding violently, Ezekiel would’ve burst into hysterical laughter. But the chagrin marring Samina’s lovely face kept him from acting out. This was a very solemn moment and he dared not laugh.

Beulah curled in his lap, her thumb in her mouth. Adelaide sat with her arms folded across her chest, glaring at the floor.

Ezekiel squinted at Adelaide, his jaw clenched tight. “I’ve yet to hear your apology, young lady. Don’t waste my time.”

Spying Adelaide’s mulish scowl, Samina shifted to Ezekiel. “Really, it’s okay… It was my fault for not checking first.”

“It’s not okay,” Ezekiel cut in firmly, eyes riveted to Adelaide’s tense features. “She knows when she’s done wrong and she’ll apologize. Now, young lady.”

Instead of yielding to her father’s no-nonsense tone, Adelaide drew in her slender shoulders and clenched her teeth tighter.

Ezekiel’s glare intensified and Samina cringed. She had to do something. “Ezekiel, please.”

“Adelaide, don’t make me repeat myself. Hurry up before I get angry.” He could feel that stubborn headache creeping in. “We don’t have all night.”

Beulah burrowed deeper in her father’s arms, sucking voraciously at her thumb as she peeked at her sister.

“Adelaide!” All three girls stiffened but Ezekiel didn’t falter. “Now, I said.”

Her smooth brow wrinkled in a deep frown. Risking a glare at her father, Adelaide slowly turned her seething expression on Samina. She bared her teeth to force out the word. “Sorry.”

“Say it with sincerity or you’ll be sitting here all night.”

Samina bit the inside of her cheeks to insist the apology was accepted. They were all exhausted.

“I’m sorry, Aunty Samina.” Adelaide’s dark eyes boring holes into Samina’s face.

Samina dipped her head silently, praying it was over. She couldn’t breathe until Ezekiel let it go.

“Good,” Ezekiel mumbled, shifting a drowsy Beulah in his arms. “Now come escort your sister upstairs and get ready for bed. I’ll be up shortly.”

In silence, Adelaide helped her sister to stand and they both trudged up the stairs without a glance in Samina’s direction.

Ezekiel released a heavy sigh and covered his face with his hands. He pressed his thumbs to both sides of his temples, kneading the pain away.

Guilt surged in as Samina watched him massage his temple. Her palms still tingled from gripping the umbrella tightly.

Ezekiel peered up at her, his inquisitive gaze sweeping over her face. Then a soft smile lifted his lips. He lowered his hand, leaning back into the sofa. “Sam… it’s fine.” He chuckled but grimaced slightly at the twinge at his temple. “I’m glad you were here with them.”

Samina warily eyed the umbrella resting at her feet. “I’m so sorry,” she blurted out.

“Sam,” Ezekiel leaned forward to grab her hand but stopped himself. He pulled his hand away.

Samina bit her bottom lip, eyes tingling with unshed tears.

“Sam…” He waited until she looked up at him.  “I feel much better that my girls were under your care.” His crooked smile appeared once more. “Umbrella or not, you’re a force to be reckoned with. That’s good to know.”

She lowered her eyes, unable to form a sentence. Somehow that didn’t sound like a compliment even if he insisted it was. Adelaide’s sharp words still stung.

He sighed and he leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “Sorry about Laide.”

Samina managed a smile and shrugged her shoulders. “It’s fine.”

“No, Samina. It’s not. She was rude and disrespectful.” He frowned, troubled by his daughter’s unpleasant temper. “I never realized how spoiled she’s gotten but I aim to fix that. She had no right to call you stupid—”

“I said it’s fine, Ezekiel,” Samina cut him off firmly. “Hearing it once was more than enough. You don’t need to repeat it.”

He grimaced, rubbing the back of his neck. “Yeah, you’re right. Sorry.”

Samina shook her head, exhausted beyond reason. Stopping herself from insisting all was fine, she rose to her feet and moved around the couch toward the guest bedroom.

Ezekiel shot to his feet and moved to stand in her path. “Where are you going?”

She blinked, confused. “To get my stuff. Since you’re here now, I can go home.”

He frowned. “Aren’t you going to sleep over?”

She inhaled sharply, eyes as wide as saucers.

He grimaced and quickly lifted a hand. “That didn’t come out right… What I meant was you already planned to stay and I just came unannounced so I thought that—”

Samina snorted as laughter bubbled up her throat. Ezekiel smiled as she held a hand to her lips. He chuckled and soon they were both laughing at the absurdity of the night, from the moment Samina punished Ezekiel for being the boogie monster and burglar.

In the shadows near the stairs, Adelaide stewed in silent anger as she took in the cozy scene of the two adults laughing. Tears streaming down her face, she watched as her father escorted Aunty Samina to the door. Her fists bunched at her sides as she noted the goofy grin on her father’s face, a look she’d never seen before.

<<Chapter 15 || Chapter 17>>

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 15

Posted on 27/03/2015


“What insolence! How dare she hang up on me, her best friend!”

Topher and Jaxson exchanged wary glances as Ada paced the floor of Jaxson’s apartment, relaying Samina’s outrageous behavior.

“Do you know how many times I left her a message?” Ada seethed and the two men cringed at the fury blazing in her eyes. “How I worried if she was okay, only for her to say I’m full of nonsense!”

The two men quietly sat back, hoping for the end of her whining. The entire evening, she remained indignant and enraged by Samina’s insolence.

“I just don’t understand how she could do this…” Ada whined, turning to Jaxson for comfort.

“Maybe she’s really swamped…” Jaxson pulled her closer, letting her perch on his lap. He looked to Topher for help.

Topher frowned, recalling the distracted expression in Samina’s eyes that day in the hospital. “Or maybe she’s not well…” He caught both Jaxson and Ada staring at him, concern marring their features.

“Or busy,” he added quickly, not sure if Samina wanted anyone to know she’d been at the hospital. With a sigh, he stood. “Just be patient with her. I’m sure she’ll come around soon.”

Both Jaxson and Ada stood also, following Topher to the door. Ada lagged behind while the two friends stepped outside.

“Goodnight,” Topher said to Ada over his shoulder and led the way to the stairwell.

“How’s she doing?” Jaxson asked softly, falling in step with Topher.

“Doing better.” Topher shoved his hands in his pockets. “They’ll discharge her early next week, under the care of an in-house nurse’s. And you know how she’s taking it.”

“I can imagine,” Jaxson smirked. “You need to keep her busy so she doesn’t make both you and the nurse crazy.”

“Trust me, I’m thinking.” He paused at the top of the stairs. “Maybe she can keep Ada company so she won’t miss Sammie much.” He turned to Jaxson. “Has Ada even stopped by to check on her?”

“They’re not on speaking terms since the infamous phone call.” Jaxson shook his head, taking the steps slowly as he pondered Ada’s frequent outbursts. “I know Ada can be demanding and impossible to deal with but I’d assumed Sammie could handle it. She’s always been so patient with Ada for all these years.”

Topher nodded solemnly. “Maybe Ada’s gone too far…” He pulled out his keys. “Hang in there,” he mumbled as they reached the landing.

“Two more weeks,” Jaxson said smiling, watching Topher round the front of his car and duck inside. He whistled, surveying the smooth leather interior. “I see you changed the car. Nadine okay with that?”

“Too busy to notice,” Topher countered, starting the engine. “Later, man.”

Jaxson lifted a hand to wave as Topher reversed out the parking spot and out onto the street.

As she leaned in to press the doorbell, Samina summoned a sustaining breath. “Calm down…”

She didn’t have much time to think on it when the door swung open. Uncle Jeremiah and a young girl sporting puffy pigtails stood on the other side, both grinning at her.

Her cheeks warm from Uncle Jeremiah’s gentle smile, Samina shyly shifted her gaze to the beaming young girl clutching his hand. From the family photographs, Samina knew this was Ezekiel’s second daughter, Beulah. Her stomach flipped violently. “Hello…”

The girl flashed a bright smile, revealing small, evenly-spaced teeth. “Hi!” Beulah stepped over the threshold and flung her arms around Samina’s waist.

Her heart in her throat, Samina tentatively lifted a hand to the girl’s small shoulders. She peeked up at Uncle Jeremiah who watched her, gratitude warming his gaze.

Within moments, she sat on the family couch and listened as Beulah babbled about her exciting day. “And then the bear shouted ‘rarr’ and all the kitties ran away from the wolf.”

Samina smiled. “Both the bear and the wolf?”

Beulah paused momentarily from bouncing in her seat, her brow wrinkled. “No silly. The wolf. The bear is the kitties’ friend.” She grinned and continued bouncing.

“Ah… I see.”

“Beulah dear,” Jeremiah interjected softly. “Why don’t you sit still? You’re making Aunty Sammy dizzy.”

Beulah paused again, her brow furrowed as she peered up at Samina with wide brown eyes that stole Samina’s breath. “Aunt Sammy?”

Samina managed a smile. “Yes, Beulah?”

“Why do you have a boy’s name?”

Jeremiah chuckled when Samina paused. “She’s very inquisitive, isn’t she?”


His brows lifted. “Yes, Beulah?”

“What’s iniqu—?”

“Inquisitive?” he offered patiently. “It means you ask lots of questions.” He poked her chubby cheek and grinned when she wrinkled her nose.

When Beulah’s eyes swung back to study Samina’s face, Samina felt her spine stiffen. It was as if Ezekiel was staring right at her. She shifted in her seat.

Just as Beulah looked ready to ask another question, her gaze flitted to a spot over Samina’s shoulder. Her face brightened with a toothy grin. “Gramma’s here!” she scooted off the couch and skipped around the couch.

Samina turned, watching as Sheena lifted Beulah in her arms, while Ezekiel’s other daughter stood at her side.

“Aunty Sammy’s here!” Beulah announced.

“Right you are, Bumblebee.” Sheena kissed Beulah’s cheek, placing her back on her feet. She smiled at Samina. “You’re early.”

Samina managed a sheepish smile. “I didn’t know when you’d be leaving…” She took note of Ezekiel’s older daughter sitting quietly beside Jeremiah. Whatever else she wanted to say disappeared as she noted the suspicion in her eyes.

Catching Samina’s attention, Samina smiled. “I see you’ve already met Beulah. This one is Adelaide.” She gestured to the brooding girl. “Laide, say hi to Aunty Sammy. She’ll be staying with you girls while we’re away.”

Adelaide regarded her skeptically before responding. “Hello.” Her greeting was as stiff as her form perched beside Jeremiah.

Sheena chuckled. “She’s a bit upset that we’re leaving tonight.”

Beulah leaned over Sheena’s lap and smiled at her sister. “Don’t worry, Sissi. We’ll have fun with Aunty Sammy. Right, Gramma?”

Sheena rubbed Beulah’s cheek. “That’s right, Bumblebee…” She gave Samina a warm smile. “Aunty Sammy is family, so you don’t need to worry.”

Samina offered the bravest, most confident smile she could muster, all the while wondering if she’d made a mistake.

Within the hour, Samina fought back trepidation as she watched the taillights of Uncle Jeremiah and Aunty Sheena’s dark sedan disappear around the corner of the street. Fighting a sigh, she slowly turned to the girls standing on the porch step.

They quietly stared back at her in silence; Beulah with her thumb in her mouth, Adelaide stood stiff and sullen.

Tossing a silent prayer to the evening sky, Samina walked up the driveway to meet them. “Have you eaten dinner?”

“I’m not hungry.” Adelaide spun on her heels, stepping into the house.

Samina lowered her gaze to Beulah. “What about you?”

Popping her thumb from her mouth, Beulah’s gaze brightened. “Can I have mac n’ cheese?”

“Sure.” Samina smiled wistfully as Beulah grabbed her hand and tugged her inside.

Adelaide stubbornly refused to come downstairs for the rest of the evening. After a creamy and filling mac n’ cheese dinner, Samina cuddled up to Beulah who dozed off during the Cinderella movie.

Samina watched the cartoon heroine prance around the ballroom in her glittery baby-blue gown and sparkling diamond tiara, looking completely content in the arms of her Prince Charming. Samina tamped down a sigh at the dreamy looks on the cartoon faces. She’d been so silly to believe in happy endings that only existed in fairy tales.

She gazed down at Beulah’s innocent features, wondering to herself if Beulah dreamt of princesses and Prince Charming? And of love ever afters? Tears welled up in her eyes as she thought back to Dr. Halliday’s prognosis of her condition. From what she read on the internet about the disease, there was no possible happy ever after. She bit her bottom lip, blinking away the tears.

Her fingers tracing the lines of Beulah’s furrowed brow, Samina smiled wistfully. It was as if she stared at a picture of Ezekiel when he was a little boy.

“What a dumb movie…” Adelaide muttered from the staircase.

Heart skipping several beats, Samina lifted her fingers from Beulah’s face.

Adelaide strolled over to the empty chair beside the sofa and settled into it, folding her arms across her chest. She glared at the screen.

“You don’t like fairy tales?” Samina hesitated, troubled by the girl’s petulant expression.

“There’s no such thing as happy endings,” Adelaide muttered bitterly. “No one lives happily ever after.”

Stunned to silence, Samina solemnly turned to the TV screen just as the cartoon Cinderella rushed down the grand staircase, Prince Charming trailing after her.

<<Chapter 14 || Chapter 16>>

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