Posts tagged “argument

Lighthouse, Chapter 8

Posted on 03/05/2016

In her self-imposed prison, Darah busied herself on her social media accounts while hiding out in Eleazar’s room. It’d been only a day since she’d told her brothers the news but it felt like weeks. Both Abe and Bart hadn’t spoken to her since, and both Phoebe and Geraldine left her to stew for as long as she needed, dropping off foodwith a light tap on the door.

The kids returned in the morning to get ready for school, and Darah found Phoebe’s shushing them more of a nuisance than the children’s chatter. It was as if they wanted to avoid her as much as she wanted to avoid them.

Annoyed at her family’s behavior, she ignored the lunch tap on the door and focused on the social media to distract herself from falling into utter despondency. Although social media showed how lame her life was by flaunting her peers’ impressive life updates.

Apart from Tess and a few socially-awkward peers, everyone was getting married. And she meant everyone; including cross-eyed Deborah from eight grade. So to avoid the depression of feeling left behind, she quickly skimmed through lengthy blog posts, overly-saturated photographs of someone’s engagement pictures and passive-aggressive memes before opening her inbox.

The unread messages were impersonal; updates from her high-school reunion committee, a summer pool party on campus and peers advertising subleases. Nothing for Jeremy.

She frowned and logged off the account. Of course Jeremy wouldn’t contact her and she wouldn’t want him to since there was nothing to say. The browser automatically switched to her profile, to a picture of her wearing a fitted black dress that accentuated her slim waist and narrow hips. It was only recently, after gaining some weight from late night pizza runs and cheap candy did she start to accept her slim frame, but that didn’t stop her from wishing she possessed the head-turning curves Geraldine had. Sticks for arms and legs made her self-conscious, especially when even Jeremy teased her about them.

She blinked from the thought and heaved a sigh. “Forget about him, idiot.”

But it seemed her mind always returned to the man that betrayed her, the man whose seed she carried. Her stomach churned and she put her hand there, consciously comparing her present self to what she would like in a few months.

A tremor coursed through her. Pregnant and single. She could imagine the rumor mill in social media, with even cross-eyed Deborah weighing in.

Darah closed her eyes and willed the anxious thought away. Having a child had always been her dream, for as long as she could remember. With a house full of nieces and nephews, she couldn’t imagine not being a mother.

“You’re a natural,” Phoebe had gushed once when she rocked a restless Isaac to sleep at the age of sixteen. “You’ll be a great mother one day, Dar…”

But never in her wildest dreams could she imagine being a single mother. Darah shook her head. What’s done is done. She closed the browser with her youthful smile and opened another, searching topics on first-time motherhood.

Clement’s caller-id flashed on her screen and Darah’s heart skipped a beat. No doubt Abe or Bart had tattled to their brother overseas, hoping he could talk some sense into her.

Drawing a breath, she tapped the answer button and put the phone to her ear. “Yeah?”

Static filled the air, typical for Clement’s international calls. Then a chuckle that Darah didn’t expect. “Still hiding out?”

She frowned. “Still? It’s not even been a day yet.”

“Everyone’s worried.”

Darah turned on her side and folded her legs to her chest. “Had to be if they’re calling you.”

“Wanna tell me what happened.”

“Not really.”

Clement was silent, the static deafening the silence.

Darah hesitated at the dilemma; Clement was close to her in age but he seemed wiser, more serious now that he was a pastor. Yet, there was a calm assurance about him now than when he was a teenager. She knew she could talk freely and be minimally reprimanded. Or so she believed. She sighed. “I made a mistake. I thought he would marry me but it seems I was duped.”

“What did he promise you?”

It wasn’t the question but the way Clement asked it that made Darah sit up. “I said he promised me marriage.”

“No need for the tone, Darah.”

Her frown darkened. “Who told you?”

“Who told me what? That my baby sister’s in trouble?”

“I’m not a baby, Junior.” Her heart thudded loud in her chest, anxiety proving her wrong.

“I know.”

Static spoke as the two siblings sat in silence, separated by a thousand miles.

“J.R.”

Darah blinked to attention at the mention of the name. “Pardon?”

“J.R. called me.”

Her heart thudded for a different reason. She licked her lips and shifted in her seat. “Why?”

“Because everyone is worried about you, me included.” Clement sighed. “What is your plan?”

Darah frowned, although she shouldn’t have been. If she’d allowed Bart and Abe a chance to more than reprimand her, that would be the next question. She avoided asking herself that same question because it made her head spin.

She blew out a breath. “What else did he say?”

Clement sighed in response. “We’ll get back to your plan. He updated me on his cases, and the immigration center… and complained about his meddling father.”

She raised a brow, unable to imagine mild-mannered J.R. speaking ill of anyone. “His father?”

“Uh-hmm. Found himself in an arranged marriage scheme.”

Darah sat up in alarm. “Say what?!”

J.R. gaped at the elderly woman sitting across his walnut-oak desk. “But we had a deal, Mrs. Ganesh.”

The woman nodded, her gaze barely meeting his. She’d come into his office unannounced, not with good news but the worst news possible. The eighty-year-old widow was one of his biggest sponsors for the immigration and refugee center, and was now pulling out.

“Isn’t there something we can do to—”

“I’m sorry, beta,” she said gently and J.R.’s shoulders sagged. It hurt more when she called him son, the disappointment of her withdrawal to support him feeling more like betrayal. Her fingers tightened on her alligator-skinned purse on the desk. “Circumstances have changed.”

J.R. refrained from shaking his head; Mrs. Ganesh had once told him that his calm disposition was the reason she supported him. The thought of losing her funding made his head spin. “I…”

“It might be a good idea to hold off on the construction…”

He looked up, his brow furrowed. “What do you mean?”

This time she looked him straight in the eye. “With the threat of policies limiting immigration nationwide, wouldn’t it be difficult if the government fails to recognize your organization?”

His frown deepened, her words sounding entirely too similar to his father’s rhetoric.

“Apart from the funds you’ve received for construction, do you have enough to actually run the center?” Genuine concern was in her voice but all J.R. could hear was his father talking. “Without government backing, will you—“

“Mrs. Ganesh.”

Her brows lifted in question at his interruption. “Yes, beta?”

“Did my father contact you?”

Her brows lowered, and something flickered in her eyes that made J.R. want to groan aloud. Her gaze narrowed, wrinkles deepening around her eyes and pursed lips. “And if he did?”

A wry smile crossed his lips and J.R. lowered his head. Then a laugh tickled his throat.

“What amuses you?”

He dragged a hand over his face and sighed. Then he met her disapproving gaze, knowing he’d lost favor with her. It didn’t matter any way. “Nothing about any of this is funny, Mrs. Ganesh. Nothing at all.”

Long after Mrs. Ganesh left his office in an affronted huff, J.R. stared at the accounting spreadsheet and the blinking cursor once he’d deleted the anticipated funds for the year.

Without the expected thousands from Mrs. Ganesh, there were only two other investors aside from Bart and Geri. Those two investors were also in the same league as his father.

Being a realist kept him grounded and he considered it one of his finer attributes, but along with realism came pessimism. If he was anything like his father, he knew to expect those calls to withdraw their sponsorship by the end of the week.

His phone rang and with a sigh, he answered on the second ring. “Obed Law Associates, J.R. speaking.”

“Raju.”

His blood boiled. “Babuji,” he clipped out.

“Preethi Ganesh just called me.”

J.R. smirked. No doubt she complained about his less-than-respectful attitude to her betrayal. “I see.”

“Keep a hold on your temper. Have you forgotten she’s one of our major sponsors?”

“She was mine too.” Anger swirled in his blood. “H-how could you do that?”

“Oh, so keeping contracts does mean something to you?”

The pointed response made J.R. scowl. “What?”

“You didn’t hesitate one minute before you broke my contract with Dabir—”

Babu, a-are you s-serious?” He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Over a silly matchmaking scheme, his father canceled a major source of funding for his center. “Please t-tell me this isn’t about th-that nonsense wedding plan.”

The silence only confirmed his fears and growing disappointment with his father.

“You only stutter when you’re angry.” His father’s voice was soft, thoughtful. He could picture the deep furrow in his father’s shiny forehead. “I made you angry, son?”

J.R. clenched his jaw and focused on taking a deep breath. Getting angry wasn’t the solution. He had to think rationally. “I am… disappointed, Babuji.”

L.J. chuckled, grating J.R.’s nerves. “Good, now you understand where I stand with your behavior.”

“That center was my dream.”

“And it can still be fulfilled… with my help.”

J.R. frowned, hearing the unspoken “but” in his sentence.

“You must do me one thing however.”

Babu, I am not getting married to Hana. I thought I made myself clear that night.”

L.J. snorted. “You made yourself and myself clear, son. We all know that ship has sailed.”

Unease slithered up his gut when his father didn’t say anything further. “So… what is it?”

“You must get married by the end of this year.”

J.R. scowled. “Babuji.”

“Get married by the end of this year and I’ll support your dream wholeheartedly.”

The finality in his father’s tone wasn’t as striking as the promise if J.R. did get married.

“The sooner the better, actually,” L.J. muttered begrudgingly. “I’m among the last of my peers who isn’t a grandfather.”

“Not so. What about Mr. Dabir?” J.R. smirked, unable to resist.

“Don’t make me change my mind,” L.J. groused. “Come home early tonight.”

J.R. arched a brow, wary of his father’s constant scheming. “Having more visitors?”

L.J. snorted. “Can’t I have dinner with my only son for a change?”

It had been a while since he and his father sat together for a meal. J.R smiled genuinely. “What time?”

“Six. Eating late’s bad for my gut.”

“That’s fine. I’ll cook, you’ll wash?”

“Of course.” And without another word, L.J disconnected the call.

J.R. slowly lowered the phone to his desk and stared at the empty chair Mrs. Ganesh had once occupied. Getting rid of a huge sponsor and then offering full support didn’t make sense as far as his father was concerned. Not to mention his pressing desire to become a grandfather…

Esquire Lalana-Joel Obed was up to something and J.R. planned on finding out what it was sooner than later.

<<Chapter 7 || Chapter 9>>

Homecoming, Chapter 10

Posted on 20/01/2016

“So what’s this about a fake marriage?” Clement ventured in the silence, ignoring the weight of stares around him. He focused his attention on Bart and Geraldine who sat together. “Why fake when you can have something real?”

“Don’t change the subject,” Abe groused in annoyance.

“No one was talking,” Clement said matter-of-factly. “You were just staring at me.”

Abe rolled his eyes. “What do you mean you’re dropping out of college?”

“Did you flunk out?” Darah asked, wide-eyed.

“No.” Clement frowned at his sister. “My GPA’s pretty decent.”

“What’s a GPA?” Eleazar asked, still leaning into Clement’s side.

“Something you don’t need to worry about for now, Squirt.” Clement ruffled Eleazar’s curls, earning him a smile.

“Was it too cold? Were you unhappy there?” Phoebe spoke softly, fading Clement’s smile. She tilted her head to study him. “Were you?”

“He’s homesick,” Bart muttered. “Practically calls every day.”

Clement scoffed. “Not every day.”

“Is that it, Junior?” Abe cut in, his tone equally gentle. “You’re homesick?”

“It’s complicated.” He sighed. “I just don’t like it there.”

“Then transfer. Why dropout?”

“I don’t like school.” Clement looked up at his eldest brother. “It’s just not my thing.”

Abe’s frown deepened. Their parents had saved up for each of their formal education, believing it would be the best investment for each of them. “Then what is your thing?”

Clement shrugged. “I’m working on that.”

Both Abe and Bart grunted in disgust.

“Hey, don’t look down on me just because I’m not cut out for school.”

“But that’s just it,” Phoebe inserted “You are cut out for school. You just said you have a good GPA which means you’re doing well in your classes.”

Clement heaved a sigh. “Guys, my decision has been made. I withdrew two weeks ago.”

“Two weeks ago?!” Abe roared. “Why didn’t you tell us? And what were you doing since then?”

“Backpacking in the mountains, getting inspiration.” Clement replied easily, undeterred by his brother’s rising irritation. Then he turned back to Bart. “Now what’s this about you and Geri not getting married?”

Bart rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Unbelievable.”

Geraldine managed a smile. “It’s complicated…”

Clement shrugged. “Then give me the short, easy version.”

Phoebe put a hand on Abe’s shoulder, shaking her head to deter him from starting an argument with Clement. She’d learned a while ago that Clement was probably the most stubborn out of the four Teka siblings–and if he’d made up his mind, there was no convincing him otherwise.

Abe frowned at her silent charge but blew a breath through his flared nostrils before dropping his shoulders in defeat. For now…

Once Geraldine had given Clement the short version of their plan, Clement sat back in his chair and shook his head. “This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Says the guy who drops out of school for no reason,” Bart grumbled, and the two brothers exchanged glares. “So what will you do now? Loaf around until you come up with inspiration?”

Clement smirked. “Why don’t you worry about your engagement? I’m sure you’ll have little time to worry about me when you’ve just inherited crazy in-laws. No offense, Geri.”

Geraldine shrugged, her expression wry. “None taken.”

“In order to be the voice of reason,” Abe spoke up. “You need to have reason.”

Silence filled the room while Clement and Abe locked eyes. It wasn’t often the two stood against each other, mostly because they often stood together in agreement. But Abe couldn’t sit quietly while his brother made a big mistake with his future.

Clement’s lips quirked upwards. “Since I’m well over the age where you get to tell me what to do, I’ll take your word as a suggestion. Now let’s get back to more pressing issues, shall we?”

“That’s enough.” Phoebe frowned. “What’s with that ugly attitude?”

Abe’s stiff shoulders lost its starch and he put a hand on Phoebe’s shoulder. “Hey, it’s okay–”

“No it’s not okay!” Phoebe’s voice shook. “Who do you think you are talking to him like that?”

Everyone gaped at her. As his former counselor, Phoebe was attuned to Clement’s melancholic personality and advised everyone to be careful of his sensibilities. She avoided arguments in the heat of the moment and usually sought him out once he’d settled down.

“Phoebe.”

“No Abe, I won’t stay quiet.” Her eyes were now glistening with tears. “After what he’s done for you, you treat his concern like it’s nothing. What, a suggestion? Where do you come off?”

Clement stared at her for a few moments and then he burst out laughing.

Shocked gazes swung his way.

Darah nudged him when his chuckles grew to loud guffaws. “Are you insane?” she hissed, eying Phoebe’s scowl. Abe looked ready to blow.

“That’s enough,” Bart growled, face tight with anger.

Perturbed, Eleazer scooted away from Clement and closer to Darah.

Geraldine watched in amazement that none reached out to seize Clement by the collar, the room growing tense as Clement’s laughter continued.

Finally and thankfully, Clement’s laughter abated. He wiped the tears from his eyes. “You guys are entirely too dramatic,” he said amid chuckles. He looked at Phoebe’s face and her trembling lips. “Phoebe, Abe… guys, I meant no disrespect.”

“Sure looks like it,” Abe groused, rubbing Phoebe’s back to soothe her ire.

Clement’s smile faded and he sighed heavily. “I dropped out of school because I want to be a missionary.”

Shocked silence fell on the family and they gaped at him, flabbergasted.

He shrugged. “I just know what I want to do now, and it’s not school.”

“M-missionary?” Phoebe echoed. “You?”

Clement’s smile reappeared. “Yeah, me. God can use anyone and he wants to use me. I’ve accepted the call.” His eyes swept over his family and settled on Abe. “And as my family, I’d like your understanding and your blessing.”

Phoebe and Abe exchanged glances, Darah and Eleazar the same. Bart just stared at his brother in shocked silence.

In an act of support, Geraldine subconsciously reached for Bart’s hand. His eyes remained on Clement, but his fingers covered hers and squeezed gently. She squeezed it back in silent encouragement.

The doorbell rang again and Abe groaned. “What now?” He rose from the couch and made his way to the door. Pulling it open, his scowl faded, leaving behind only curious confusion.

A small woman stood on the welcome mat, dressed in a tweed suit, her curly salt-and-pepper hair arranged in a fancy hairstyle, her weathered face adorned with faint makeup. She lifted familiar uncanny hazel eyes–the same color as Eleazar’s–and Abe gasped inwardly.

She eyed him with curiosity and her thin painted lips twitched a small smile. “Hello. I’m Mrs. Sharma Crane. May I come in?”

Footsteps rushed to the door before Abe could formulate a response. “Who are you?” Clement demanded at Abe’s right shoulder.

“Don’t be rude,” Phoebe berated him, standing between him and Abe. She turned to the woman with a kind smile. “Hello.”

The woman gave Phoebe a smile that was short of warm. “Hello.”

“Who’s this, Abe?” Bart asked, standing on Abe’s left shoulder.

Abe’s lips moved but no words came, panic seizing him as he repeated the name he’d only seen on birth records. Eleazar’s. His stomach did a somersault. How did she find–?

The woman swung her hazel eyes to him. “I’m Eleazar’s grandmother. May I come in?”

<<Chapter 9 || Chapter 11>>

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