Posts tagged “city

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 25

Posted on 23/04/2015

street2

“Well hello humidity and smog,” James drawled, leaning back into the cushioned passenger’s seat of Ezekiel’s car. His mouth twisted in plain discontent over the slow-moving cars. “And of course, horrible traffic.”

Ezekiel smirked, switching on the signal to make a right turn. “Like D.C. is any better.”

James scoffed, peering out the window at the cloudy sky. “Well at least our weather isn’t as temperamental.”

“Our?” Ezekiel chuckled, giving his friend a cursory glance. “Do I need to remind you this was once your home?”

James threw Ezekiel a scowl. “Don’t tell me you’re already used to it.”

“It’s not that bad.” Ezekiel shrugged, turning the car onto Louisiana Street. “It’s home.” He slammed on the brakes as a Metro bus swerved into his lane.

“Sure it is…” James snorted derisively, clocking his friend’s tight jaw. Shaking his head, he scanned the bustling lunch-hour crowd strolling down the street. He surveyed the eclectic mix of historic brick buildings jammed between modern-styled steel-framed lofts.

“You’ll be surprised how many people migrate to Houston on a daily,” Ezekiel remarked, slowing to a stop at the intersection. “Especially when places like Downtown are evolving to look like places in downtown D.C. and even some places in Chicago.”

James threw him an exasperated glance. “So you took a part-time job as a tour guide on your free time. Save the speech, will you? I’ve lived in Houston long enough to know not to return here.”

Ezekiel laughed, draping his hands over the steering wheel. “Never say never… Besides, D.C.’s summers can get as hot as Houston’s.”

“Bite your tongue. No summers are worse than Hou—” He trailed off, eyes focused on the pedestrians crossing the street in front of their car. “Well, I’ll be…” he breathed, a smile lifting his lips.

“Changing your mind already?” Ezekiel muttered dryly, adjusting the collar of his polo shirt.

“Yeah right.” James choked out an incredulous laugh. “You won’t believe who I just saw.”

“Who, an old girlfriend from high school?” Ezekiel eased off the brakes and continued on Louisiana Street, breathing a sigh of relief when the Metro bus turned on the next street. He sped up a little.

James chuckled. “Samina.”

Ezekiel jerked on the brakes. A drawn-out car horn screeched behind him. Ignoring it for a moment, he snuck a look at his rear view mirror and would’ve turned fully around if it wasn’t for the weight of James’ astute gaze on his face.

“You okay, man?” James’ voice hinted restrained mirth at his reaction.

Clearing his throat, he eased off the brakes and continued on. “Sure it was her?” he managed to ask as nonchalantly as he could.

“Positive.” James folded his arms. “I’ll spare you the suspense. She looks good.”

“I guess…” His teeth clenched at James’ delight on his expense, Ezekiel couldn’t help picturing her in her surprise birthday party. The yellow sheath dress that accentuated the coffee tones of her skin.

“You guess?” James mocked, snorting a laugh. “Well, it looks like she’s out on a lunch date with someone.”

“Date?” he echoed softly. Samina out on a date? Ezekiel scowled as a biker swung onto the astonishingly-narrow lane beside him. Nothing was going his way today.

James smirked at the hitch in Ezekiel’s baritone voice. “Looked like it. She was walking with a tall dude.”

A frown marred his brow. “Maybe it was her dad. Uncle Gabe’s a tall guy.”

“Uh, hate to break it to you, compadre… that wasn’t her dad. Except if by some groundbreaking new technology, he’s become thirty years younger, taller, more toned and lighter in complexion.”

Ezekiel’s scowl darkened, imagining the faceless man James just described as Samina’s companion. He didn’t like what he saw. “I see…” he managed, not knowing what else to say.

“Indeed,” James replied, amusement clear in his voice. And without another word, James returned to people-watching, openly listing the differences between Houston and D.C.

Tuning out his friend, Ezekiel scowled as yet another cyclist swerved around him. He sat up in his seat and shoved aside the nagging thoughts of Samina in the company of a younger man, knowing all the while that he couldn’t delay any longer.

Samina sighed as Topher closed her door and hurried around the front to enter the car. “Really, you didn’t need to pick me up,” she said, tugging the seat-belt across her lap. “I could’ve driven myself there. It wasn’t far from my work.”

Joy surged through her at the thought of working again. Yes, “work” at the House of Hope was more of a volunteer job but it still felt good leaving the house, driving with other Houstonians heading to work. She had her own cubicle and her business cards were on order!

Topher smiled at the serene look on her face. “I wanted to surprise you. Is that a crime?” He turned on the engine and put the car in reverse.

She shrugged. “Not a crime but unnecessary. You didn’t need to waste time coming to pick me up.”

“Oh it’s worth it.” He reversed onto the cross street, tossing her a bright smile. “Definitely worth it.”

Samina’s face fired at the knowing twinkle in his eye and looked away, watching the buildings blur as Topher entered the main street.

“So, Ms. Wells…” Topher spoke up in the silence. “How’s work so far?”

His question coaxed a smile and she turned to face him. “I like it,” she answered honestly.

“It fits you,” Topher answered, tossing her a glance.

Samina raised a brow, surprised at his confident tone. “You think so?”

He dipped his head, a slight dimple appearing at the corner of his mouth. “Oh definitely.” He smiled to punctuate his words. “You’re kind, conscientious, generous, talented, determined. And you have an uncanny protective quality that I’m sure they’ll appreciate there.”

She lifted her head. “Uncanny?”

“Mother Hen-esque quality.”

Samina scoffed out an incredulous laugh. “Mother Hen-esque?”

He grinned, eyes dancing playfully. “It’s one thing I like about you.”

Her face heated as he flashed his straight pearly whites at her before facing the road. “Thanks?”

“Oh, you’re most welcome, Ms. Wells.”

The hum of traffic filled the silence as they took the circuitous route in Downtown Houston. Then Samina frowned, turning to face him. “Those things you said earlier…”

“Compliments?” he offered, eyes on the road. “I meant them.”

Her cheeks tingled. “It seemed too easily said…” She wouldn’t readily admit that it wasn’t often anyone complimented her on anything.

He tossed her a look before smiling. “Can I be honest with you?”

Samina’s shoulders stiffened and she braced herself. “Sure…”

“When I meet someone, I make a list.”

Her brow furrowed. “A list.”

“Hmm,” he bobbed his head. “A list of qualities I like and dislike about a person.” He turned to look at her. “After five years, I’ve developed a list for you too.”

She raised a brow, curious what bad things were on the list. “Go on.”

Topher chuckled softly. “Let’s just say your good outweighs the bad, by far.” He slowed the car at a traffic light. “You know, it’s a strange coincidence that our families are from the same town. Abbeville.”

She smirked, noting his deflection. “It is strange.”

“I’m inclined to say it’s more like fate. Destiny…” He flashed her a crooked grin.

Samina rolled her eyes at the suggestion. “Actually only my dad’s from Abbeville. And besides, you’ve never mentioned anything about your parents.”

“You never asked,” he countered, pulling the car onto another street. “Actually, I never met either of them. Nadine’s the only one I’ve known all my life. All I know is that my folks met when they were kids, got together in college and had me. At least that’s all Nadine says. I know nothing about my father.”

Her heart squeezed tight, her eyes roaming over his striking profile. “What was your mother’s name?” her voice was soft, hesitant.

His lips curved in a half smile. “Odetta Chance…”

“Odetta Chance.” Samina smiled. “Very pretty name.”

Topher winked. “Not as beautiful as Samina. Your name is exotic yet homely.” He chuckled when she rolled his eyes at him. He faced the road again just as a cyclist swerved around him. “So… after the wedding, I’ll be heading back to Montreal.”

Samina frowned at a fleeting twinge in her chest. “When will you return?”

Topher smirked, glancing her way. “That question means you’ll miss me then?”

She pressed her lips together and quickly faced the window.

“I’m teasing,” he cajoled, nudging her hand with his.

At his unexpected touch, a warm shiver zinged up her arm. Swallowing a gasp, she quickly shifted her hand away.

He merely smiled, pulling into an open parking spot in front of a Mediterranean grille café. Without unbuckling his seatbelt, he turned to face her. “Samina…”

The solemnity in his voice coaxed her to look his way. When she did, Samina blinked at the intensity in his gaze. “Y-yes?”

His eyes swept over her face, a corner of his lips lifted. “I hope you’re aware how serious I am about you.”

Samina couldn’t breathe or move a muscle. She could only stare, overwhelmed by the intensity of his gaze burning into her.

Then his fingers grazed her wrist and the warmth from his touch traveled up her arm and along her shoulders. Involuntarily, her fingers curled into her palms and his eyes darted up to hers.

Samina swallowed hard, unable to look away.  “I…” she began, her throat clogged with emotion.

His fingers curled around her slight wrist, Topher offered her an encouraging smile to continue.

“Nadine…” she choked out. “H-How is she?” And before she did something crazy like lean into him again, Samina tugged her hand from his.

Topher smiled. “Doing a lot better. Hopefully, she’ll be at the wedding and would like to see you before we leave.” Then he unbuckled his seat-belt. “Let’s get some food in you so I can take you back to work. Don’t want you getting in trouble on your first week there.”

Samina nodded, bewildered by her wanton response to his touch.

As they settled in a booth at the corner of the restaurant and ordered their meals, Topher adjusted his long legs, his knees brushing against Samina’s. “Sorry…” he muttered, shifting his legs.

She shrugged silently and turned away to scan the restaurant hall, aware of his gaze on her. Unable to stand it, she tossed him an exasperated look. “What is it?”

He merely shook his head, a contented smile playing on his lips. He leaned back and draped one arm casually on the top of the chair.

Uncomfortable under his open perusal, Samina dropped her gaze to the unlit candle before them.

“Can I ask you a question?”

She slanted him a glare. “Do I have a choice?”

His lips twitched in amusement. “You always have a choice, Samina. But could I ask anyway?”

She kicked a shoulder, looking down. “Go ahead.”

“What do you see yourself doing for the rest of your life?”

Samina frowned up at him. “Pardon?”

Topher tilted his head, studying her with those gray-green eyes. “What are your aspirations and dreams?”

She scoffed incredulously. “What, are you a counselor?”

He smiled, gesturing her to answer.

Samina blew out a sigh. “Aspirations…” She smiled wistfully as if recalling a thought from a long time ago. “To be a world-renown artist.”

Topher’s brows lifted in surprise. “Really?”

Just then, a waiter returned with two plates of pesto grilled chicken and steamed vegetables. Once he thanked the waiter and watched him leave, Topher turned back to Samina. “Artist as in drawing and painting?”

She reached for her frosted glass of water. “Yeah.”

“Like Picasso or Michelangelo?” he lifted the glass to his lips.

Samina paused to sip the cold water before responding. “Not quite, but yeah.”

“I bet you’re as good as them.” He then reached across the table, hands open to her. “Let’s pray.”

At his softly-spoken mandate, Samina felt her cheeks warm and she placed her hands in his. The strange sensation returned, skittering along her skin like electricity as his fingers wrapped around her palm.

Squeezing her eyes shut, she listened in silent reverence as he said a soft prayer, blessing their food and their families. Her eyes teared up as he prayed for their health and her chest squeezed tight, recalling Dr. Halliday’s urging to prepare for next week’s surgery.

Once they whispered their shared amen, Samina quickly slipped her hands from his before losing all composure.

Topher made no mention of her discomfort and lifted his fork. “So did you ever fulfill any of your aspirations, Ms. Artiste?”

Samina smirked, cutting a piece of grilled chicken. “I wouldn’t be sitting here, if I did.” She grimaced at the bitter undertone. “Sorry, that didn’t sound very nice.”

“It’s alright,” Topher chewed on a steamed stem of broccoli. “So what made it impossible to fulfill? I thought you were an art teacher in college?” He grinned unapologetic at her raised brow. “Jaxson has a big mouth.”

She kicked a shoulder. “There was no opportunity. Hard to break into that kind of business.”

“How come? Art fairs, flea markets…”

Samina inclined her head. “Flea markets?”

“What, don’t like them?”

“Never really thought about them.”

“You think it’s only for weird people?”

Her eyes widened, cheeks blazing at the amusement dancing in his gray-green eyes.

Topher chuckled. “You’ll be surprised the talent in a typical flea market.”

Samina hesitated replying, envisioning a pen of clucking chickens and a mystical tent.

Topher chuckled. “How about you come with me once next week?”

She frowned. Her plans for next week consisted of a week-long escape to a hotel to recuperate from the surgery. She couldn’t afford traipsing through a flea market with anyone. “I don’t know…”

“C’mon, Samina. What d’you got to lose?”

Sighing, Samina warily eyed his boyish grin. Maybe the surgery wouldn’t be as bad. Maybe Topher had something worth checking out. “What day?” she heard herself ask.

<<Chapter 24 || Chapter 26>>

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Her Champion: Chapter 22

Posted on 25/07/2013

rowhouse

A set of brick and slate row houses lined the Scott street a mile from the campus and the two girls sighed collectively as their new residence came into view. Bekah parked directly at the curb just outside their apartment and she glanced in the rear view mirror where the truck pulled in behind them. “I can’t believe it. We’re here.”

Tamar smiled quietly, her eyes scanning the painted yellow shutters and matching door. They hadn’t searched for too long before finding this prospective paradise and escape from the ‘hellhole’ Bekah aptly named the campus dormitory. It was close enough to campus that they could easily take the nearest bus but far enough that they could escape the daily drama of dorm living.

Bekah pushed open her door once she’d parked the car and stepped out. Wordlessly, she pointed to their apartment with a proud smile directed at the two young men in the truck. Tamar stepped out as well, pausing to reverently relish the quiet scene before her.

Dylan sat half in the truck watching Tamar as she stood on the sidewalk, Tonio’s words running through his head. He’d assumed things didn’t need an explanation or formal definition between them but he was realizing that he was probably wrong in that assumption. Tamar would need that security.

Tonio dropped a box in his lap, interrupting his thoughts. “Get to work, Sinatra.”

Tamar shook from her reverie when Bekah bounded up the stairs and called out to her. Answering her cousin’s quizzical stare with a reassuring smile, she reached for the backpack by her feet and slung it over her shoulder, walking toward the truck where Dylan and Tonio stood. “What do you think?” she asked Dylan once reaching his side.

“It looks good. Quiet and I think you like that,” he said looking over at her. “If you like it, that’s all that matters.”

“I love it,” Tamar said shyly, wrinkling her nose at her reaction. She laughed it off and poked him in the chest. “Bekah spotted it first and brought me to check it out. Fell in love at first sight.” She sighed, turning to gaze at their new home. “Yellow door and all.”

He captured her hand and pressed a quick kiss there before smiling at her. “Why are you abusing me? You’re really happy about this move, huh?”

Tamar grinned at him. “I told you. Sleepovers and all are perks for me moving.” She cocked a brow. “Don’t you think so?”

“Yo!” Bekah hollered from the front door. “Lovebirds, kindly bring your butts inside with our stuff!” She clucked impatiently at Tonio as she moved back into the apartment, placing her hands on her hips. “Is he as starry-eyed as she is? I swear, I often catch her smiling and gazing off in space.”

“Guys don’t get starry-eyed…but he gets close,” he added laughing. “You ever been that gone over a man?” he asked curiously as he set two boxes down.

Bekah blinked her brown eyes at him. “Pardon?”

“Have you ever gotten starry-eyed over a man, Bekah?” he asked carefully.

She laughed breathlessly, shaking her head incredulously. “When did this become about me, Tonio?” Bekah lowered her head to peer into the box by her feet. “Not everyone gets that chance anyway, but I’m glad she does. She deserves it.”

“Just askin’ a question. Seems like everybody could have the chance if they pay enough attention,” he said over his shoulder on his way out the door.

“I don’t mind taking my payments in sleepovers,” Dylan told Tamar with a smile as he grabbed some boxes from the truck.

“That wouldn’t be considered a payment if I’d want you to,” Tamar mumbled, walking ahead of him to the front door. She paused as Tonio stepped out and gave him a smile. “Thanks again, Tonio. I’ll get your sandwich ready once I get this bag in.”

Dylan chuckled at Tamar’s comment unable to keep his eyes off of her as they headed inside the house.

“Nah, don’t worry about it Tamar. Let the supervisor get the paychecks ready.”

Tamar only smiled, catching Bekah’s narrowed eyes directed at Tonio’s back. She raised a brow at her cousin who quickly glanced away, her expression quizzical. “Everything alright, Bekah?”

“Hmm,” Bekah grunted, pushing a box with her foot to the nearby sofa.

Shrugging, Tamar turned to Dylan. “Wanna see my room?”

“What man is gonna turn down an invitation like that?” Dylan asked with a grin as he followed Tamar down the hallway.

She laughed over her shoulder and gestured to the second door to the right. “That’s it. Not much except a bed and a dresser but I’m still working on it.” She pushed the door open, smiling as sunlight and warmth greeted them inside. The bay window across the room was bare of curtains and blinds but offered a grand view of the park across the lake. She’d had to bargain for the room even though it was the smaller of the two but unsurprisingly, Bekah didn’t put up much of a fight in the end.

“What do you think?” she asked, realizing she probably sounded like a broken record. For some strange reason, Tamar wanted his approval of the house, and her room. It made up for the guilt that she wasn’t telling him the real reason they’d moved out in the first place.

“I like the view,” he said genuinely as he stepped farther into the room and looked around. “It’s nice. Comfortable. I’m not HGTV but I like it.”

Tamar smiled. “I’m glad you approve, dear…” she teased, placing her bag on the bed. “It’s got potential to becoming a great room, an escape of sorts.”

“Is that what I am?” he asked drawing her into his arms.

Tamar smiled shyly as his arms wrapped around her back. “Dear?”

“Yeah…”

“Umm, maybe,” Tamar mumbled, peeking up at him. She held her breath, trying to gauge his expression.

“I like the sound of that. Can it be an official dear?”

She tilted her head curiously. “Official? As in what?” Tamar laughed, shaking her head. It couldn’t be that. She pushed at his chest. “We should get back to helping or Bekah’ll tease you again.”

He didn’t loosen his hold around her. “I can take the teasing. Official as in I get to tell everybody I’m off the market.”

Tamar paused, blinking up at him. Her smile waned. “Off… the market?” her voice sounded squeaky and uncertain. Her heart skipped several beats. “What are you–” Her brow furrowed. “Are you asking?”

“I want you to be my girlfriend, pretty girl. That’s what I’m sayin’.”

Tamar inhaled sharply, her blue eyes widening at his request. “Really?” Her fingers curled in against his chest. “Me, your girlfriend?”

“I can’t figure out why you sound surprised. Most people already figure that’s the case anyway. That’s how I treat you.”

She laughed softly, cheeks flushing. “That’s true. I just never wanted to assume anything more than the obvious.” Her eyes glinted in teasing.

“I thought that might be the case. I don’t want you running around thinking it’s okay to flirt with the guys that are gonna start hangin’ around.” It surprised him to realize he was very much a jealous man when it came to Tamar.

“Hmm, I wouldn’t want to flirt with anyone but you… It’s much fun that way.” Tamar reached up to ruffle his hair. “Besides, I’m sure you’ll find a way to ward them off, if they don’t mind me being Muffet Malek and all.” She smiled, realizing that the nickname didn’t hurt as much as it used to. All because of Dylan’s acceptance. Her heart fluttered with gratitude.

“That’s good to know.” His pleasure melted into a frown. “And don’t call yourself that. Irritates me.”

She raised a brow. “What? Muffet Malek?” Tamar laughed gently, now tugging at his earlobe. “Relax. It’s not a big deal anymore.”

“I’m glad it doesn’t bother you anymore but I still don’t like it. Anybody stupid enough to use it around me is gonna get corrected. I don’t want you using it either.”

Tamar rolled her eyes and wriggled from his grasp. “Is this what you’re gonna do now? Beat up anyone who dares to make fun of me?” An image of him squaring off his entire football team came to mind and she frowned. “Don’t do that. It will only makes things more difficult.”

He shrugged off the concern. “More difficult than what? There’s nothing difficult about making people mind their manners.”

Tamar threw an exasperated sigh over her shoulder. “Dylan. I know this might be hard for you to understand, but please try to see it from my point of view. Okay?” She placed her hands to her hips. “All around good guy starts dating crazy, weird new girl. Suddenly he becomes a bad guy, terrorizing anyone that talks bad about new girl. Who will they possibly blame? Not all-around good guy.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “Do you understand?” Her face softened. “Please don’t make it harder than it already is. Just let it go. I’m a big girl. I can handle the name calling. The other stuff, if it gets hard, I’ll deal with that too.”

“Terrorizing is a little strong. An all around good guy doesn’t just stand around and let people talk about his girl. You shouldn’t have to deal with or handle any of this.”

Heaving another sigh, Tamar walked back into his arms and pressed her cheek against his chest. “Why are we arguing about this, anyway? You just asked me to be your girlfriend, we should celebrate.” Her fingers snaked around his waist and held on tight. “Thank you.”

“You do realize you’re thanking me for being selfish,” he pointed out with a soft laugh, glad she’d given up trying to convince him not to defend her.

She didn’t respond at first but just tightened her hold on him. No one besides Bekah had ever stood up for her as fiercely as he did and it took her by surprise. Scared her a little, but mostly made her feel loved. Her cheeks warmed at the thought of Dylan caring for her that much and she smiled to herself. “We’ll talk about it later.”

He didn’t argue. He’d already made up his mind and he would let her talk about it for as long as she needed to in order to understand that.

Bekah eyed the hallway from where she sat on the couch and frowned slightly,  wondering what was taking them so long. “Are they taking a nap or something? Work’s not done.” She slowly stood to her feet.

“I don’t think they’re taking a nap.” Tonio laughed as he stretched out comfortably on the couch and patted the seat next to him. “Relax, Boss Lady. The work’s not going anywhere. We’ll get it done.”

Bekah eyed him suspiciously but shrugged, stomping over to perch beside him. She quietly studied his easygoing smile before pulling her gaze to the bare walls of their living room. “Well, what do you think of the place so far?” she asked casually to mask the silence between them.

His smile widened at her question. It was cute how uncertain she got with him at times. Different, but cute. “It’s comfortable, a little out the way so it’s private. Seems like a good deal. Ramsey never did say why you moved.”

“It is a good deal.” She bobbed her head slowly. “Ramsey didn’t say why because we didn’t tell him why…” Bekah glanced his way, a smile tickling her lips. She knew she couldn’t tell him the real reasons but it was tempting. There was just something about his hooded gaze that probed and compelled her to want to spill the truth. “You have honest eyebrows,” she blurted out and laughed openly at her own admission. “Makes a girl want to tell you her deepest, darkest secrets.” Bekah shook her head, surveying the living room closely. “Maybe that’s probably your appeal.”

He lazily arched a brow as a smile tugged at his lips. “Honest eyebrows? Can’t say I’ve heard that one before.” He turned the full force of his smile at her then. “So I’m appealing? Good to know. I wasn’t sure if you noticed,” he teased. His smile dimmed but he didn’t lose it completely. “I’m a good secret keeper, especially the deepest darkest ones.”

Again she eyed him early before snorting out a laugh, moving her gaze to the empty hallway. “When someone says they can keep secrets, most likely they don’t do a very good job at it.” Bekah sighed. “What all do you know about Neecy Pierson?”

<<Chapter 21 || Chapter 23>>

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