Posts tagged “Boyfriend

Chasing Truth: Chapter 26

Posted on 13/12/2019

Gage’s gaze flicked over Tyler’s head when Blake and Mari walked closer. Tyler spun around. His glare softened and he left the porch to join her, ignoring Blake and Gage both. He came straight to her, his hands cupping her cheeks as he pressed his forehead to hers.

“How are you holding up?” he asked gently.

Her eyes closed against her will. He had an agenda. His focus was Blake. Except right now it wasn’t. Right now, it was her and in that moment she found it hard to keep reminding herself he was using her.

“Not bad,” she answered just as softly. “It went better than I thought it would.”

“That’s good, sweetheart. Really good.”

She opened her eyes to look into his. 

“I didn’t know you were coming,” she murmured for his ears alone.

“I wasn’t sure how you’d feel after you spent some time with him. I wanted to be here in case you needed me,” he returned.

She wanted to believe that and a part of her did. The other part whispered he was only playing the role he’d chosen before he ever met her. He lifted his head to press a kiss to her forehead before his hands dropped from her face. A second later he caught one of her hands in his.

“You want to introduce me to your father?”

In all honesty, Mari’s answer to the question would have been no, but it wasn’t a true question. Squeezing Tyler’s hand, she turned to Blake. 

“Blake, this is my boyfriend, Tyler. Tyler…this is my father, Blake.”

The warm man she’d started getting to know over the course of the morning had disappeared. In his place was a cool distant one. Tyler offered his hand with a faint smile.

“It’s good we’re getting to meet you.”

Blake took the offered hand and shook it briefly before letting go. 

“Tyler,” he returned noncommittally.

Mari bit the inside of her cheek and looked at the ground as awkward silence fell.

“Gage? Let everyone in, why don’t you?” Allison suggested from inside the house. “We can be civilized and have lunch.”

Gage snorted, but he stepped out of the doorway and back into the house. Blake followed him inside, leaving Mari and Tyler alone for a moment.

“Well. That went great,” Mari muttered.

“Most dads don’t like their daughter’s boyfriend,” Tyler said without a hint of discomfort. “Hey, it’s going to be fine. Let’s have lunch and get to know him.”

“I’m not so sure about him and Raoul sitting down together either,” Mari admitted in a mumble while she shuffled obediently behind him. 

Tyler didn’t let go of her hand as they went in. Everyone had found a seat around the table, including the man from earlier that morning, Reese. Tyler pulled out her chair for her before claiming the one beside her. 

There was more silence as Allison and Raoul brought salad and fish to the table. 

“I don’t think we were introduced,” Tyler said to Reese as he reached over the table to offer his hand. “I’m Tyler, Mari’s boyfriend.”

“Reese,” he said simply with a short handshake before his attention returned to the food at the center of the table. 

“Are you her brother?”

Mari bobbledd the salad bowl, dropping it back down on the table. Her eyes shot to Reese and bounced to Blake. She hadn’t even considered that. 

“No, I’m not Mari’s brother.” 

The calm matter of fact way he said it left no doubt in Mari’s mind he was telling the truth. She relaxed and picked up the bowl to add salad to her plate. 

“Sorry, Sweetheart,” Tyler said with a smile at her. “I didn’t mean to catch anyone off guard, but can you blame a man for being curious?” He looked back at Reese. “You and Blake must be pretty close for you to come with him to meet his daughter for the first time.”

“We are,” was Reese’s simple answer.

Neither he or Blake elaborated.

“I didn’t mean any offense, just trying to understand everything that’s happening here,” Tyler assured as he prepared his own plate. “This is a lot for Mari and I might think of some things that she doesn’t.” He shrugged his shoulder and accepted the bowl from Mari. 

Reese’s focus slid to her then. “Somehow I think Mari has it under control.”

A smile tugged at her lips and she ducked her head to hide it.

“Mari manages to get a lot of things under control,” Gage echoed and there was enough of a smile in his voice that Mari’s head jerked back up.

She stabbed her fork in his direction. “Whatever it is you’re thinking of saying, don’t you dare.”

“What’s a reunion without some stories? You didn’t tell Blake about the time you and Jules staged your mutiny?”

“I was only eleven! And I never said I started it!”

Raoul was all too happy to pick up the tale. “Mari was grounded, you see,” he told Blake after he swallowed a bite of fish. “No playtime with the girls, no guide trips. School and home. Looking back, I’m not sure if her punishments were worse for me or for her,” he murmured with a smile. 

“I had a tour late one afternoon so she stayed after school until I could come pick her up. There was a little clubhouse some of us had built for the kids. By the time I got to the school to get Mari, the three musketeers had about six of their classmates and they were all barricaded inside.”

“What?” Blake asked laughing and forking more salad. 

“We called for them to come out. They had something pushed up against the door. What was it?” Raoul asked looking at Mari.

“It may or may not have been an old log,” Mari muttered to her plate. “We all sat on it and leaned on the door.”

Reese choked on his food, unable to hold in his laugh.

“Oh, it gets better,” Gage promised.

 “They’d all brought snacks and water bottles. They were prepared to wait us out, you understand. Because they weren’t coming out until I agreed to take Mari off punishment and let her go to the dance that Friday.”

Blake threw his head back as laughter shook his body. 

“It was the last dance of the year!” Mari exclaimed in her defense.

Her words only drew more laughter from the table. 

“What happened?” Reese prompted Raoul.

“Oh, they were serious. Other parents started arriving to pick up their kids and they were still inside.”

“I can still hear Yuri now. ‘Raoul, that girl of yours is a bad influence. Get her under control’,” Mari mimicked with a laugh.

“Eventually I had to give in. I told them if they came out I’d see about letting Mari go to the dance. Of course that wasn’t good enough. The little rascal yelled through the door I had to promise I’d let her go before anybody came out.”

“So did you get to go to the dance?” Tyler asked her.

“Yes,” Mari grinned. “But guess who was a chaperone?”

The entire table burst into laughter. Even Reese chuckled. Tyler rested his arm on the back of her chair and leaned in.

“Wow, I always knew you were a tough one, but you’re a little manipulator too?” He teased.

“Hey! You’re supposed to be on my side.”

“Ellie could sell a shell to a crab,” Gage said fondly. 

“Did she tell you about the festival?” Allison asked as she poured a glass of water.

Blake glanced at Mari. “No, she didn’t.”

“We had other things to talk about,” Mari mumbled.

Allison launched right in over Mari’s words. “We have a festival here each year that’s a celebration of all the unique talents here on the island.”

“I heard of it,” Tyler said. “It’s a pretty big deal around here. Different arts, food, music, you name it.” 

“She started it when she was 16,” Allison said proudly.

Tyler’s head whipped around. “What? You?”

“We were bored.” She shrugged and took a drink. “I said something to one of our teachers about how there was never much for us to do and she told me if I was that bored I should plan something myself. She definitely didn’t think I would or that it would turn into what it did. It was mostly meant to shut me up.”

“Though why she thought she’d ever accomplish that, the world will never know,” Allison teased.

Mari smiled back at her. “Clearly it was a lost cause. Keon and his friends had a decent band back then. Joe could be talked into providing food in exchange for our labor on a busy night. A lot of people around here have talent they like to show when they have a chance. The first year it was really nothing more than a high school hangout night. Janey let us use her patio seating and we set some stuff up on the beach too.”

She cut up her fish with a smile. “We started doing it every few months or so, but then Mateo asked if his son could come play. Then Cheyenne insisted she wasn’t too old to come out and sing. More people started saying they wanted to come do something. So we just picked a day and said that’s when everyone could come. That next year somebody reminded us we’d done it and asked if we were going to do it again. So we did. Every year it just kept getting bigger.”

“She still plans it,” Raoul added. “Even when she was away in school, she got the logistics down for it.”

“It’s always a good time and these days pretty much the whole island comes out so it’s a good opportunity to spend time with everyone.”

“Modest,” Reese noted with a smile. “If that’s what you could do as a bored teen, I’m worried about what you can manage as a grown woman.”

“Ahh, see what you started Gage? You’re going to scare them off.”

“Come on now, there were plenty of other stories we could have told. I could have told Keon’s favorite story.”

“Okay! Okay!” Mari laughed and shook her head as she stuffed her mouth with her last bit of food.

“Well now I have to know who Keon is and his favorite story,” Blake said as if it were law.

“Gage, you are a menace,” Mari groaned.

“Keon Greco,” Raoul filled him in. “Mari’s honorary older brother. Mari was always convinced there wasn’t anything she couldn’t do. One of the island boys was teasing the girls, saying none of them could swim to the sandbar.”

“Oh boy,” Blake murmured with a knowing smile. 

“Exactly. So ten-year-old Mari gets it in her head that she’s the girl that’s going to make him eat his words. She gets, oh I don’t know, about maybe halfway out by the time somebody comes to get me. By the time I get down to the beach, Keon’s got an arm around her and is bringing her back to shore.”

It was amusing now, but at the time Raoul had been filled with fear. 

“I just got a little tired,” she said defensively. “I was catching my breath. Nobody told Keon to come play lifeguard.”

Blake’s laugh shook his body. “Just a little tired?”

“That’s what I said.” She couldn’t fight her smile though. “And if you meet Keon he will tell you that story at least five times. It’s his claim to fame around here.”

“I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear I had to go down to the school a couple of days later because she and the same boy got into it,” Raoul finished off.

“Not surprised at all.” Blake’s gaze was warm on her. “Fierce about your pride?”

“No,” she denied at the same time Raoul, Gage, and Allison all agreed.

More laughter spread around the table. 

“She kept an old man young. I never knew what each day would bring, but I knew she’d manage to make me laugh somehow.”

“We certainly had our hands full with her,” Allison agreed affectionately. “Even by the time I came around, she was still a little firecracker. Never a dull moment.”

“I appreciate the two of you gave her an environment where she felt safe to be that way,” Blake said. There were still traces of amusement on his face, but his eyes were serious as he spoke to Raoul and Allison. 

Mari’s breath caught. She couldn’t deny she’d been worried about how Blake and Raoul would get along. To hear Blake thank him…something in her melted. The silence that fell around the table this time was a comfortable one. 

“I heard you do a lot of the tours here on the island,” Reese said to Mari a few moments later.

Her face lit up. “Yeah, it keeps me active and busy. I’ve been doing it since I was young. This place is gorgeous and there’s nothing like getting paid to show it off. The boss isn’t too bad either,” she said with a grin at Raoul.

“Maybe you could take Blake and I out tomorrow and show us around?”

“I’d like that,” Blake chimed in. “A chance to see you doing what you enjoy.”

She beamed at them. “That would be fun. Let’s do it.”

Blake’s expression softened as he watched her. “Good. Now let’s hear some more stories.”

<< Chapter 25 Chapter 27>>

Lighthouse, Chapter 3

Posted on 15/04/2016

Pulling up the curved driveway, J.R. spied up at the darkened windows of the family house and breathed a sigh of relief. Grabbing his suit jacket from behind the chair, J.R. stepped out of the car and used the manual lock instead of the automatic which would make a distinct sound. Even if his father was fast asleep in the master bedroom, J.R. was taking no chances.

Slipping into the house, he turned off the alarm before it made a sound and without taking a look at his surroundings, he started for the grand staircase.

“Raju?”

J.R. paused in mid-step and spun about, seeking the gravelly voice in the dark. Then he saw the shadowed form in the family room, the one they hardly used until countrymen folk came in from out of town. It was a room solely meant for entertaining guests but not family. He frowned. “Babuji?”

The shadowed form stirred and light flooded the room. A white-haired man with dark weathered skin and deep-set eyes sat in silk pajamas, with his hands perchef on the cushioned arms of the leather chair. “What time is it?”

J.R. tamped a sigh, knowing full well what his father was up to.  He stepped away from the stairs and dragged his feet toward his father. Paying homage by bending at the waist to touch his father’s feet in greeting, J.R. perched on the chair adjacent to his father’s. “Close to midnight. What are you doing awake?”

Lalana Joel Obed, better known as L.J., eyed his son warily before speaking. “Waiting for you.”

Ignoring the niggling sensation at the pit of his stomach, J.R. frowned. “Is… everything okay?” He could count on one hand the times his father had waited up for him; all not good.

L.J. bobbed his head, wisps of snow-white hair gliding his forehead. “Tell me about your work.”

J.R. stifled a groan. Though his father had retired from the thriving law firm and officially named him as his successor, he’d felt more pressured than when his father was in charge. He knew some of the lawyers and his father’s secretary remained on staff mostly to keep an eye on him. He wondered what they’d shared to his father about how he was running the firm.

“I heard you took on yet another pro-bono.”

J.R. fought a wince at the disdain in his father’s voice.

“We are not running a charity, Raju,” L.J. said firmly. “Maybe here or there for our special clients, but not every time pro-bono.”

At the sound of his father’s accent thickening, J.R. knew he’d heard about the recent case. He sighed and met his father’s stern expression. “I couldn’t turn them away, Babu. If you knew what nightmare they were facing, you would–”

“You are not an immigration lawyer. Civil cases only, Raju. That is what I assigned you to do.”

J.R. clenched his jaw and for a charged moment, he and his father stared each other down. They didn’t have J.R.’s mother, Tayla, to stand as mediator whenever they argued. Her twenty-fifth anniversary had barely passed and the two had grown accustomed to resolving their differences on their own, or at least pushing it aside until the next disagreement.

L.J. broke eye contact first and sighed. “A word is enough for the wise.” He started to rise.

J.R. rose too, ready to end the night.

“One more thing.”

He paused and looked down at his father whose body bent slightly from age. “Yes, Babu?”

“You remember my old friend from home, Dabir?”

J.R. merely blinked; his father had too many old friends from home. He couldn’t even begin to place this one among the many he’d met through his childhood.

L.J. grunted. “Anyway, he and his family are moving to Houston next month. I want you to take care of them.”

Alarm bells started to ring in his ears at his father’s words. He frowned. “Take care of them?”

“Yes, especially their daughter, Hana. You probably don’t remember her.”

JR shook his head, unable to form a word. Even from the dim lighting, J.R. noted the glint in his father’s eyes and didn’t like it one bit.

“It’s late, we’ll talk more about it later.” L.J. moved around the table and started for his bedroom. “Goodnight, son.”

“G-goodnight, Babuji…” J.R. waited until his father’s lanky frame disappeared into the shadows before he blew out a shaky breath.

He should’ve known he wouldn’t go scot-free for much longer even without a mother to nag as others’ mothers did. His childhood friends got married and although he experienced the occasional side-eye or weighted suggestion about his singlehood, he’d truly believed his father didn’t worry himself over such trivial matters. His father was much too preoccupied with growing his firm in his absence to care about only son’s marriage or producing the next generation of Obed.

But J.R. was wrong. So very wrong. And in true tradition of arranged marriages with little input from either the groom or bride, J.R. Obed’s marriage planning had just begun.

Disturbed by the looming arrival of a Mr. Dabir and his family, J.R. turned off the lamp and trudged upstairs.

Darah gaped at her boyfriend Jeremy who avoided looking at her. Feeling light-headed, she perched on the arm of the sofa. “What did you just say?”

“I don’t know.” He rubbed the back of his head.

“What do you mean you don’t know?! You said something so simply repeat it!”

“Stop yelling at me!” he shouted defensively, retreating to his desk. “I told you this wasn’t permanent.”

She scowled at his back. “What about marriage isn’t permanent?”

He mumbled something under his breath as he pulled up a browser.

Darah shot to her feet and stomped over to his desk, grabbing his shoulder. “You lied to me!”

Jeremy yanked his arm from hers. “Oh come on! I just said I’m not ready for marriage right now.”

“So you gave me a line? Is that it?” Darah bunched her fingers to keep them from trembling. Her whole body was hot with rage.

He pushed away from the desk, walking around her to enter the bedroom they shared. “Start packing, I gotta leave soon.”

“First answer my questions, you coward!” she called after him, scowling when he slammed the bedroom door behind him. She grabbed the first thing she could find, a textbook and flung it at the door.

The door opened and Jeremy bent to pick it up before tossing a glare her way. “For goodness’ sake, Darah. I borrowed this!”

Darah folded her arms. “Answer my question first. Are you kicking me out or is this a breakup?”

Jeremy dusted off the pages. “What part of ‘I broke the lease’ don’t you get, Darah?”

It took everything in her not to throw another book his way. She clenched her jaw. “And where am I supposed to go, Jeremy? You made me mov—“

“Now wait a minute,” he held out a hand. “I didn’t make you do anything. You wanted a place to stay, I offered my place and you moved in.”

Darah scoffed incredulously. “You offered? Not groveled? Like you didn’t benefit from me moving here!”

Jeremy rolled his eyes and focused his attention on the gnarled pages. “The binding is broken and this was my professor’s. You really need to work on your temper.”

“Yeah sure, right after I throw this book at your face.” A perverse satisfaction filled her when he jerked his head up in alarm. She clenched her jaw. “Are you breaking up with me?”

“Would you stay with you if you were me?” His tone was cold, his expression detached.

Darah held the tears at bay. It was better to stay unaffected even if she wanted to cry. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. “So in the end, you’re just as bad as the other guy, huh?”

His expression darkened. “That’s not fair. I protected you.”

“No Jeremy, you didn’t.” She felt such shame, knowing she’d compromised herself all because a guy promised to protect her but in the end caused her more pain. “You used me.”

He scowled. “Now wait—“

“Pretending to be a knight-in-shining-armor when you’re really a snake, a low-life.” Darah nodded, bending to pick up her purse. “It sucks that I only had to find out now. But it’s cool. I’ll gladly leave.”

Tears pushed at her eyelids and she willed them away. Darah forced herself to look at Jeremy who glared at her with his handsome features twisted in rage. She wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. This wasn’t the guy who swooped in to save her from the stalker a semester ago, the guy who comforted her with confident flowery words and blood-stirring kisses. No, this was definitely not the guy who gave her pleasure and promised her forever once they graduated.

As she started for the door, anger made her turn to face him. “You’re scum, Jeremy, and I wish you nothing but a life full of pain and regret.”

Not the most mature thing to say as a third-year master student but Darah had devoted her life to making this relationship work. For him to care very little about tossing her aside made her hot with rage. “In fact, you dying a lonely and bitter crag would be the best you can do for mankind.”

He just stared, accustomed to her sharp tongue and harsh words. “Just make sure you get your stuff out by tomorrow. I need my security deposit back.”

Darah looked him down from head to toe, her lips curled in distaste. “I have no idea how I fell for a nut-job like you.”

“Same here.”

His words were like a punch to her stomach and Darah choked on a laugh. She turned away and yanked the door open. Pausing at the door, her lips twisted in a sardonic smile. “Actually you know what? Just throw it away. I’m done with you.”

She stepped out and slammed the door as hard as she could. Her smile widened at the sound of glass crashing to the floor, most likely that ostentatious picture he hung by the door. Ignoring the stream of expletives from the other side of the door, Darah headed down the sidewalk to her car.

Jeremy Landsing was a green-eyed, devilishly-handsome post-doctorate fellow studying geology when she met him a year ago. She and a couple of friends had just finished off a class project and were celebrating with pints of Haagen-Daas at a café when he and his friends stepped in for coffee. Their eyes met across the divider and he flashed her his signature grin. She’d rolled her eyes and focused on her ice-cream.

Back then, she lived by her ‘I don’t date’ mantra and had no qualms about snubbing men interested in her. Jeremy wasn’t discouraged though and walked up to her table to introduce himself. Of course, Darah brushed him off and went on with her life, ignoring him whenever he sought her out. Until she had no choice but to turn to him after a messy incident involving a scorned date where Jeremy saved her. Then she quickly fell for him soon after and they became inseparable to the point of moving in together.

Smile faded, Darah yanked the car door and ducked inside. She slammed the door and propped her forehead on the steering wheel, tears streaming down her face. Her body shook with the sobs she’d held in when he announced he would be moving away, with no plans for her in mind.

Early in their relationship, he’d teased her mercurial temper but said it with that signature grin and then comforted her with his touch. She’d believed him when he said he loved her and would marry her once he’d finished his research. She was so hungry for romantic affection; to have what her sisters-in-law had with her brothers. She’d wanted it for such a long time and after being rejected by the only other person she ever liked, Jeremy’s pursuit made her feel wanted and loved.

Darah wept long and hard until she couldn’t anymore. Then she straightened in her seat and wiped her eyes. Ignoring the stares she got from students strolling in front of her car, Darah turned on the ignition key of her car and reversed out of the parking lot. This would be the very last time she would cry for a man; the second and absolute last time.

< || Chapter 4>>

%d bloggers like this: