Posts tagged “bickering

Guiding Light, Chapter 12

Posted on 01/12/2015

Mashing sweet potatoes was all Phoebe’s mother allowed her to work on, she was much too distracted for anything else. Sentenced to the breakfast nook with a bowl, a pound of boiled sweet potatoes and her Aunt Belinda’s potato masher, Phoebe got to work. In the kitchen, her mother and aunt bickered over the main menu while out in the backyard, Uncle Harry and her father attempted to put the deep-fryer to work.

She had a perfect view of the two men, standing around the funny-looking equipment. If she wasn’t sulking over her menial task, Phoebe would’ve laughed at their puzzled expressions or at least offered to help.

Then she thought of the brothers in the Teka home, wondering what they were doing for Thanksgiving. Phoebe frowned at the thought of either Darah or Geraldine cooking. Her fingers stilled on the masher.

“Now now,” Aunt Belinda spoke up. “That is certainly not the way Mama used to do it.”

Phoebe turned to see the sisters standing over the stove, arguing over a silly pot of greens. She rolled her eyes and turned away.

“I’m not trying to do it like Mama. Give me the spoon, Bel.”

“Marsha, I’ll be darned if I let you taint Mama’s greens.”

“For goodness’ sake! It’s my kitchen, my stove! I can do whatever I want with my greens.”

Phoebe sighed heavily. So much for some peace and quiet. She mashed the last potato and set it aside before standing. “I’m gonna help Dad and Uncle.”

The women paid her no attention, now criticizing each other’s cooking. Shaking her head, Phoebe put the bowl on the counter and moved to the back door.

“You sure we should use Crisco?” Uncle Harry muttered, assessing the bottle of oil. “Bel’s on a strict diet.”

“Then she’ll eat greens,” her father answered.

Phoebe held back a smile, closing the door. “Need some help, fellas?”

Both men looked up and her father gave her a distracted smile before looking away.

Uncle Harry studied her carefully. “And how will you help?”

Phoebe arched a brow, coming to stand beside them. “Looks like you need all the help you can get, Uncle. It’s been almost an hour and you’ve still not put it together.”

Uncle Harry tugged on her puffy ponytail and flashed her a grin. “That’s all on your dad.”

“Like you’re doing anything but staring at me.”

“I said we should print out the instructions.”

Phoebe smirked. “Daddy seems to think frying a bird requires no instructions.”

“It doesn’t,” Clint replied, setting down the container on its stand. “Our forefathers deep-fried turkeys and chickens long ago. Don’t think anyone sat down to write some dumb instructions. Harry, hand me that screwdriver.”

Harry shook his head but reached down to collect the tool. “Hope you guys have an extra bird in the oven, just in case.”

Phoebe winked conspiratorially. “It’s covered.”

“O ye of little faith.” Clint squatted. “Just watch. When I’m through pulverizing this bird, you’re not having any of it.”

“Pulverized doesn’t sound tasty.” Harry regarded his niece. “You okay?”

Phoebe nodded with a smile. “Mashed potatoes ready for your favorite pie.”

His lips twitched, though his expression remained serious. “I meant about your guy.”

Cheeks on fire, Phoebe glanced once at her father before looking back at her uncle. “Err…”

“She’s got no guy until he meets my approval,” Clint groused.

Harry chortled. “The girl’s twenty-eight, Clint. Too old for show and tell.”

“Thank you!” Phoebe scooted close to her ally and wrapped an arm around him. She rested her chin on his shoulder and smiled.

He winked at her. “Besides, I got a good look at him. He’s a decent fellow.”

Phoebe gave him a weak smile. Though relieved that he liked Abe’s character, it didn’t change the fact that Abe didn’t want anything to do with her.

“I’d be the judge of that,” Clint grumbled from his squatting position. “Where’s the gas?”

Harry sighed and dislodged himself from Phoebe to retrieve the gas cylinder. “You sure about this, Clint?”

“Yup. Got it covered.” Clint accepted the cylinder.

Harry took Phoebe’s hand in his. “When he lights it, you and I run for the door.”

“Ha-ha, very funny.”

Phoebe stifled a giggle and rested her cheek against Uncle Harry’s shoulder. They turned to watch her father hook the gas cylinder and she held her breath. But only for a moment. There was a distinct hissing sound and then flames under the open container that would hold the thawing bird sitting on the open grill. No explosions, not spontaneous combustion. She relaxed against her uncle.

“Well I’ll be,” Harry breathed in awe. “I think you’ve got something here, Clint.”

Clint flashed a smug grin. “Told you.” He stood and walked around them to the grill.

The door opened behind them and a frowning Aunt Belinda stepped out. Her frown eased at the sight of blue flames under the open cylinder. “It worked?”

“Of course it did,” Clint answered, stepping around the container retrieve the turkey. “Now we just wait for the Crisco to warm up and–”

Crisco oil?” Belinda’s frown returned. “Clinton, I can’t eat with that!”

Clint snorted and Harry shook his head. “I told you so.”

Phoebe held back a smile and started to step aside, intending on returning inside to assist her mother. Uncle Harry squeezed her hand, pulling her attention back to him.

“Let’s talk.”

Her heart skipped a beat. Those words, even at the age of twenty-eight, didn’t bode well for her.

So when they came to stand on the side of the house, Phoebe acted quickly. “I’m sorry, Uncle Harry!” she burst out. “I should’ve stayed away, should’ve told him and you–”

Harry shook his head. “Enough of that. It was an honest mistake, and sheer coincidence that I would be there.”

She blinked. “You’re not upset?”

He sighed. “I was upset because you jeopardized their chance…”

Phoebe hung her head. “I know.”

“But they’ve got someone scheduled for their place tomorrow, so it’s fine.”

She looked up, smiling. “That’s great!”

He regarded her with a puzzled smile on his face. “I can see why you’d find it hard to stay away. They’re a good family.”

Phoebe looked down again, sighing. “Yeah… they are.”

“And they seem to like you as much as you like them.”

She closed her eyes, trying to ignore the aching feeling in her gut.

“Why don’t you go to them? It’s the holidays.” He reached for her hand, willing her to look up. His expression was kind, understanding.

Her eyes watered. “I wish I could, Uncle Harry. You have no idea just how much.” The tears fell free when Uncle Harry pulled her close.

<<Chapter 11 || Chapter 13>>

Guiding Light, Chapter 3

Posted on 06/11/2015

Phoebe stifled a yawn as she stepped around a group of cheerleaders tittering in the middle of the hallway. Her gaze skimmed over them and her lips twitched, recalling the not-so-warm memories of high school. Thankfully that was all they were; memories.

“Ms. Randall!”

She turned to the voice and her smile brightened as her aide hurried over. Her brow arched as the young woman wheezed for air, bending at the waist to catch her breath. “Take it easy. What’s the hurry?”

The girl looked up, face flushed. “You have an important call.”

Phoebe eyed her carefully. “From who?”

“Department of Family and Protective Services. They didn’t say anything except that you call back as soon as possible. I know you were on your break but–”

“It’s okay, thank you.” She turned back quickly toward her office, her aide in tow. Perched on her desk, she hit redial, nodding her thanks as the aide closed the door for privacy. Then with baited breath, she listened as the dial-tone rang.

Once the operator spoke a greeting, Phoebe sat up. “Uh hello, I’m returning a call. My name’s Phoebe Randall–oh okay, I’ll wait.” She bit her bottom lip, heels tapping the floor.

“Okay but see, no one cares what you have to say about this.” Geraldine folded her arms across her chest. “It’s not going, you are.”

Bart squinted at her. “If anyone’s leaving this place, it’s you.”

Exhaling a deep sigh, Darah dropped on the bench beside Abe. “Do they ever stop?”

Abe watched the two adults argue about removing or refurbishing the claw foot tub in their parents’ bathroom. He grunted and then spoke over their bickering. “Keep it down. Eli’s taking a nap.”

Geraldine kissed her teeth. “Abe, reason with this insufferable man.”

Bart scoffed. “You’re the one’s that insufferable and obtuse. The tub needs to be replaced. Everything in here needs to be replaced.”

“What do you know about anything?” Geraldine cast Abe a beseeching look.

“Don’t look at me; you’re on your own.” Abe shook his head, annoyed with the two of them arguing every time they got in the same room. Maybe he should’ve never asked Bart to stay longer than he wanted to; the man was increasingly grumpy with each passing day.

Darah nodded in solidarity, her mouth pursed tight in disapproval as she glared at Bart.

“And what did I do this time, Lil’ Miss Attitude?” Bart asked his sister, folding his arms across his chest.

Geraldine snorted, eyeing him with disgust. “When you talk to her like that, no wonder she doesn’t like you.”

“Was anyone talking to you?” Bart arched a brow at her.

The doorbell rang and Abe shot to his feet. “Try to keep it down,” he reminded them, stepping out of the bathroom, Darah in tow. He paused, glancing down at her. “Hoped you’d play referee for me.”

“Not a chance.” She moved past him down the stairs.

Abe sighed as Bart and Geraldine picked up on their bickering. Shaking his head, he followed Darah down the stairs to the front door.

Darah pulled it open and Abe stopped at the last step, recognizing his brother’s guidance counselor standing in the doorway. Save for tendrils of loose black curls framing her heart-shaped face, she wore her hair in a tight ponytail that stretched her face taut, accentuating her high cheekbones and almond-shaped eyes.

“Who are you?” Darah’s direct question pulled him back to the matter at hand.

He stepped forward, putting a hand to her shoulder. “Ms. Randall…” his brow arched silently as his mind began to race; was Clement in trouble, did he cause a scene at school?

The woman gave him a smile and looked down to Darah. “Hi, you must be Darah, Clement’s sister.”

Darah snorted. “No one calls him Clement, but yeah that’s me. Who are you?”

Abe met the woman’s eyes, offering her a smile of apology before he addressed his sister. “Darah, why don’t you check on Eli? Make sure they haven’t woken him up yet.”

She rolled her eyes. “I got it, ‘Adult’ business. Fine, I’ll go.” She turned to the woman attempting to hold back an amused smile. “Bye, Lady I don’t know.” Then she circled behind Abe and wandered back up the stairs to the master bedroom where their youngest brother napped.

Breathing a laugh, Abe turned back to the woman and raised both brows. “Is something wrong, Ms. Randall?”

She gave him a slight smile. “Phoebe. May I come in, Mr. Teka?”

He hesitated, dreading the reason for her strained smile. His pulse jumped in his throat and he swallowed hard. “Abe,” he croaked out and stepped aside. “Come in.”

His eyes widened in surprise and Phoebe tried not to think about the length of his thick lashes or the intriguing shade of deep chocolate in his eyes. She looked down momentarily, fiddling with the strap of her purse. “I-I know this sounds very strange—”

“What’s your reason for doing this?” he asked, causing her to look up. His thick brows were furrowed, obviously perturbed by her announcement. “You’re Junior’s guidance counselor, not a social worker assigned to my case.”

She hesitated for a moment before responding. “I used to work for the Department of Family and Protective Services. Started counseling after many years of doing social work. My ex boss’ boss got your request and called to investigate about Clement–uh, Junior’s condition. I’m sure they’ve done the same for Darah and Eleazar.” She drew in her bottom lip, gnawing on it. “I just thought that I–”

“With all due respect, Ms. Randall–”


He sighed and jerked a nod. “Phoebe, there’s nothing you can do. With Junior not talking to you or anyone, not since our parents…” He swallowed hard, Adam’s apple bobbing uncomfortably against his throat.

Compassion warmed her from the inside out, watching the conflicting emotions wage for control on his striking face.

“Give me a few weeks with him. Your parents… they died suddenly. It’s understandable that he’s still in shock that you all are in shock.” She folded her hands on her lap, assuming a supplicating gesture. “Let me help. I want to help, Abe.”

His eyes searched her face for any duplicity before meeting her gaze.

She could tell he had a lot to think about, and judging from the raised voices bickering upstairs, he shouldered the burdens alone. Her heart ached for him, wishing she could do something to help.

His expression grew skeptical but Phoebe could feel him loosening his resolve, giving her a chance. Her shoulders lowered in relief, though he was yet to say a word.

“How can you help?”

It took everything in her to keep from smiling. “Well I–”

Just then, footsteps thudded loudly down the stairs and Phoebe looked up to see a woman dressed in dusty overalls, face tight in a dark scowl. She came to a stop at the foot of the stairs, as if just registering the newcomer. Her hazel eyes volleyed between Abe and Phoebe and back again at Abe.

“I’m not doing another thing in this house until that stubborn goat you call brother is back in California,” she announced with a tilt of her square jaw. Then with a huff, she stormed past the living room and slammed the front door behind her.

Stunned, Phoebe turned to Abe who gave her yet another rueful smile.

“Sorry, what were you saying?” he asked, unaffected.

<<Chapter 2 || Chapter 4>>

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