Posts tagged “comfort

Lighthouse, Chapter 14

Posted on 27/06/2016

Darah and J.R. stood in front of the hospital bed while Hana perched beside a cranky L.J. Obed who glared at the couple before him. A tick jumped in his tight jaw as he eyed their joined hands before lifting his gaze to J.R. “Raju, what is the meaning of this?”

“Meaning of what?” J.R. drawled softly.

The elder Obed shifted his gaze to the girl and his lips thinned in disapproval. “Who is this… child?”

J.R. sighed. “She’s not a child, and her name is Darah.”

L.J. arched a gray brow. “She looks like she barely just graduated high school.”

Darah choked on a laugh. “Oh wow…”

L.J. squinted at her. “Is something funny here?”

“I get that a lot but really sir,” Darah ignored J.R. squeezing her hand a bit too tight and met the older man’s disapproving eyes. “I’m twenty-five years old, twenty-six come September.”

He sniffed and turned his attention back to J.R. “And what is she doing here?”

“We were together when we heard the news,” J.R. answered dutifully, loosening his grip on Darah’s hand. “We need to talk, Father.” He glanced pointedly at Hana.

Hana nodded and stood, only to be stopped by L.J.’s hand on her arm.

“You stay.” L.J. instructed Hana and then looked to Darah with his brow arched. “Since this is a family discussion, please leave.”

“Babu—”

“Not a problem,” Darah said breezily and slipped her hand from J.R.’s. She flashed the older man a grin and spun on her heels, exiting the room.

“Cheeky little…” L.J. muttered, and Hana fought a smile.

“Did you really have to do that just now?” J.R. scowled. “That was completely unnecessary.”

L.J. snorted. “I won’t stand to be disrespected in my own hospital room.”

Hana cleared her throat and rose. Her eyes volleyed between the two glaring at each other, both forgetting she was still there. “You two should talk. I’ll be just outside.”

She maneuvered her way out of the room and immediately spotted Darah leaning against the opposite wall, her arms folded across her chest. She managed a smile that easily slipped when Darah turned away. “Hey, hold on.”

Darah paused in step and turned to face her, brows raised expectantly. “Yes?”

Hana strolled up to her. “Sorry about Uncle L.J., he’s naturally grouchy.”

Darah shrugged. “It’s whatever.”

Her eyes swept over this young woman, J.R.’s fiancée, and was curious about their relationship. They seemed polar opposites, especially after witnessing Darah’s impetuous behavior with J.R.’s father just now. But maybe the ‘opposites attract’ theory applied to—she shook out of the thought, not wanting to entertain such foolishness.

“I was on my way to the restroom,” Darah spoke up. “Can I go now or you’ve got something to say?”

Hana swallowed a laugh. This girl was cheeky indeed. She nodded. “Yeah, I need a potty break too.”

Darah didn’t reply and just turned around. Hana fought a smirk and followed her down the hall toward the bathroom.

L.J.’s scowl darkened the minute Hana left the room. “Where did you find such an outrageous girl?”

“I would rather discuss why I’m just now finding out you’re in this hospital bed.” J.R. folded his arms across his chest.

“You tell me. I was unconscious this whole time,” L.J. replied brusquely. “Imagine my surprise waking up in a foreign place and seeing that insolent chit—“

“Father!”

L.J.’s scowl slipped in surprise at J.R.’s raised tone. He studied his son’s brooding expression and then sighed, his narrow shoulders drooping. “I know you have questions.”

“And I want answers.”

L.J. nodded, now somber. “I’ll try to answer as much as I know.”

“How long have you known about the cancer?”

L.J. blinked in surprise. “They told you?”

J.R.’s lips thinned. “How long?”

His father lowered his head. “A year and a half… almost two now.”

The silence prompted L.J. to lift his head and read his son’s expression. Anger marked J.R.’s furrowed brow and tightened his facial muscles. “Son, I…”

“And when did you plan on telling me?” J.R. asked, his tone low and uncharacteristically steady. His brow furrowed deeper. “When you had one more day to live? Or maybe when I’d receive another call from the hospital?”

L.J. lowered his head so he wouldn’t read the pain displayed in his son’s dark eyes. Regret and shame gripped his throat from answering.

“Th-that’s why you retired early, isn’t it?”

L.J. closed his eyes.

J.R. choked on a dry laugh. “Th-that’s why y-you’re so hell-bent on g-getting me settled, i-isn’t it? Y-you’d kn-nown all that time y-you wouldn’t live for much longer.”

The stutter had returned, indicating J.R. was quickly losing control of his emotions. All because of him.

L.J. sought his son’s face and his stomach dropped at the sight of tears swimming in J.R.’s angry eyes. He sighed and reached out a hand to his boy. “Beta…”

J.R. took a step back, glaring at his father. “H-how could you do this?”

The accusation in J.R’s eyes was worse than the words themselves. L.J. frowned. “If I could’ve prevented myself from getting cancer I would’ve, Raju.”

“You should’ve told me!” J.R. roared, eyes flashing with rage.

L.J. inadvertently flinched. J.R. cringed and L.J. instantly regretted it.

“I-I can’t do this.” J.R. took a step back and another, ready to run. He spun toward the door.

“Raj–!” L.J. groaned when J.R. slammed the door behind him and he covered his face.

Not a moment later, the door opened and he looked up, stifling another groan when an alarmed Hana hurried in.

“Uncle,” she rushed to his side and reached for his hand. “Are you okay?”

L.J. looked past her at the door. “Raju, please go to him…”

Hana paused in counting his pulse. “He’s with Darah, don’t worry.” She ignored his growl and squeezed his hand. “For now, you need to calm down or the nurse will come in—”

Nurse Karen Wells stepped in and gave both a smile. “Good, you’re awake. Just in time for your checkup with Doctor Yancey.”

L.J. dropped his forehead against Hana’s shoulder and groaned, unaware that Hana and Nurse Karen exchanged a cautious smile.

The two sat in silence, facing the brick wall that separated the hospital garden from the bayou. Bullfrogs and crickets croaked in unison, deafening the silence.

Then Darah sighed and peeked from the corner at J.R.’s profile. “Did you two fight?”

J.R. merely snorted and looked down, the sole of his loafer scraping the cement.

She arched a brow. “You two resemble each other. He’s practically an older version of you with the thick hair, tanned skin, dark eyes.”

“It’s the only thing similar between us.”

Her lips twitched in a wry grin. “Unfortunately.”

J.R. jerked his head to gape at her. “What does that mean?”

Darah shrugged. “Just that he’s more expressive than you. It’s refreshing to know not all Obed men are the same.”

He raised a brow. “I don’t see what—“

“I wish you’d be more expressive about your feelings, J.R.”

J.R. sighed and looked away. Darah sighed also and turned her eyes back to the fence.

“It’s not that easy…”

Darah rolled her eyes. “Actually it is. When you’re angry, you show anger. When you’re happy, you show joy or laugh or at least smile. You have a great smile when caught off-guard.”

J.R. didn’t respond and Darah scoffed aloud but didn’t say anything else. She needed to pee again. Pushing to her feet, she started for the door.

“I’m angry.”

Pausing in step, Darah turned around to his lonely figure. His broad shoulders were bowed in defeat, his thick hair streaked with moonlight. Her fingers itched to thread through the strands.

He heaved a sigh and she quickly refocused her attention on him. Her feet shuffled back to the bench they’d once shared and she lowered herself beside him. Peeing could wait.

“I’m scared too.”

Her gut clenched tight. Her eyes traveled up his profile and rested on his furrowed brow. She could only imagine the pain he faced at the thought of his father facing a terminal illness.

“But mostly angry.” J.R. leaned forward, rested his elbows on his knees and buried his face in his hands. “And scared and confused. I don’t know what to do.”

The catch in his voice made her scoot closer until their hips touched. When J.R. didn’t scoot over, Darah released the breath she’d been holding and placed a hand on his back. “What scares you the most?” she asked softly, not knowing what else to ask.

“I-I don’t…know.”

Darah ran her palm over his back in a soothing motion. “I think you do, J.R.”

He was silent for a long while that Darah was afraid she’d pushed him too hard. He wasn’t very good at expressing his feelings, so of course expressing fear for his father’s health wouldn’t be easy to share.

Then she heard a sniffle and her hand paused in motion. Darah willed the bullfrogs to quit their pesky croaking so she could hear it clearly. Then she saw J.R.’s hand swipe under his nose, and she gaped.

The muscles in his back twitched under her hand and Darah bent forward. “Wait, are you crying?”

J.R. cupped a hand over the visible part of his face. “No.”

She frowned. “You are crying.”

“No, I’m not.” He shifted away then, causing her hand to fall.

“J.R—!” Darah pouted when he stood abruptly and started for the door. She quickly jumped to her feet and hurried to him, wrapping her arms around his waist. He froze. She laced her fingers together and rested her cheek against his back, listening to the rapid beat of his heart. He was agitated with worry or fear for his father, and she only made it worse by goading him. “Oh Jay…”

His muscles twitched against him; and Darah knew from nights she’d held Eli after a terrible nightmare that J.R. was holding back tears.

“Let it out, J.R.,” she said gently. Unlacing her fingers, she moved her open palm to his left breast, to where she could feel his racing heart. “Stop giving yourself a hard time and let it out.”

A garbled moan escaped his throat and Darah felt his body bow slightly.

Darah cringed as he choked on a held-back sob. Her other hand wrapped around his narrow waist and the other patted his chest, silently encouraging him to release the tension from his chest.

J.R. choked on a sob and it wasn’t long before he began to weep bitter tears.

Exhaling a breath, Darah pressed her face against his back, allowing his sobs echo against her body also. If only she could take away his pain, she would. For now though, she’d be his rock and his comfort. Closing her eyes, she held him tight while he cried like a baby.

<<Chapter 13 || Chapter 15>>

Guiding Light, Chapter 11

Posted on 30/11/2015

Nights at her lonely studio apartment were the toughest because she remembered the exciting activity going on at the Teka house. There would always be someone talking; whether Darah debating over things preteens cared about, or Eleazar telling her all about his day at school. Clement would be reading one of his father’s thick books, Bart would be sending emails on his laptop while Abe stressed over the guardianship papers.

She lifted her feet from the floor and propped it on the coffee table. Then resting her elbows on her knees, she stared listlessly at the lonely beta fish that swam in a circle, its tentacle-like indigo fins fluttering in the clean water.

While she ate dinner, the fish gobbled up the fish food she’d sprinkled into the tank. While she brushed her teeth and washed her face, the fish just swam.

Phoebe sighed. “Should I get you a lady friend, Festus? Maybe one with pretty pink fins?”

The beta fish didn’t break his swim.

She groaned and lowered her forehead to her knees. “Even my fish won’t talk to me.”

The doorbell rang and Phoebe’s head shot up. When it rang again, she put down her feet and pushed to stand. As it rang the third time, Phoebe knew exactly who it was. Only one person would be that impatient.

She hurried to the door and opened it. Her parents stood on the doorstep, her father in front.

Tears fell as her father opened his arms and she walked into them, sobbing openly. Her mother moved around them and wrapped her arms around Phoebe’s back. As a unit, they walked back into her apartment and closed the door.

With her mother rubbing her back, Phoebe rested her head against her father’s chest. It was a tight squeeze on the couch with the three of them but Phoebe felt safe, comforted by their presence. She released a tremulous sigh. “I think you were right…”

Her mother’s hand didn’t pause at the soothing stroking. “Right about what, dove?”

She sniffed. “That I’m a busybody.”

There was a brief moment of silence and she knew her parents looked at each other over her shoulder. She shrugged. “At least that’s what Uncle Harry said.”

Her mother sighed. “He was shocked to see you there. I’m sure he didn’t mean any harm by it.”

“But you said it too, and it’s true. I get into trouble because I don’t know when to stop trying to help.” A lone tear slid down her cheeks as she recalled the stern lecture Uncle Harry gave her in front of the Teka family. Then Abe’s response came to mind and she sighed. “Anyway, I understand why he was mad…”

“Do you?” her father asked gently.

Phoebe nodded. “I should’ve just stayed away, shouldn’t have gotten involved.”

“No, you should’ve told him the truth from the beginning.” Her father’s voice was firm but she didn’t mind it, not now at least. “But hindsight is 20/20. You have a choice to sit here and sulk or move ahead and make things right.”

She frowned, peering up at him. “How?”

He gave her a gentle smile, smoothing a hand over her hair. “You’ll apologize to him for not being honest. But first, you’ll apologize to your mom.”

Phoebe felt her mother lean away from her and sniffed. “Apologize?”

“For not heeding her advice.” He winked. “Although I’m sure she knows you’re sorry.”

“Clint…” her mother warned behind her.

Phoebe lowered her head. Admitting one’s wrong was still very hard for her to do, even though it was clear she’d been completely wrong to get too involved with the Teka siblings. Still, she didn’t want to apologize for her strong feelings for them. It would be insincere. Phoebe groaned and sat up. “I thought you guys came because you were worried that I didn’t answer your calls.”

“Oh I’m still mad at you for that.” Her father draped an arm around her shoulders. “But you know how your mother is. A worrywart. She begged us to come down instead of letting you come on your own.”

“I’m right here, y’know.”

Phoebe shifted to look at her mother’s perturbed expression. Her heart ached that even now her aging parents still worried about her as though she was still a teenager. She should’ve been more careful, more diligent about her life.

“And who said you could date without my permission?” her father groused, drawing back her attention to his frowning face.

Phoebe choked an incredulous laugh. “Dad, I’m twenty-eight.”

“You’re still my baby girl.” He pulled her close and kissed her temple.

“Thank you Daddy. Mommy. I needed that.” She reached out a hand and her mother clasped it, squeezing it gently. Her heart warmed despite the hollow ache for disappointing Abe and his family.

“So for Thanksgiving, I was thinking we deep-fry the turkey. What say you?”

Her mother scoffed. “What’s wrong with the regular roast?”

“I want to try something different this year.”

“Clint, that’s incredibly dangerous.”

“Marsha, relax. It’s not that dangerous.”

“Do you even have the instructions?”

“What instructions do I need to fry a bird?”

Phoebe smiled at her parents’ bickering and leaned into her father’s chest. For now, she would be fine. Just as long as she didn’t think about Abe and his family, she would be just fine.

“Deep fry the turkey?” Darah looked dubious as she stared up at Bart. “You?”

“What’s deep fry?” Eleazar asked, leaning into Abe’s leg.

Bart scoffed incredulously. “Have a little faith, will you? I got this.”

“Uh gee, Bart,” Darah replied sarcastically. “You’ve never offered to help make dinner before and we’re supposed to trust you with the turkey dinner?”

“A turkey dinner we need to impress the social worker,” Clement added.

Bart scowled. “I’ve helped with dinner before! Countless times.”

“Yeah when there’s not internet connection,” Abe muttered loud enough for Eleazar to snort in laughter. He ruffled his youngest brother’s hair. “Let’s save the experimenting for another day.”

“It’s not that hard,” Bart insisted. “I’ll look up the instructions easily.”

“Yeah, maybe not for others but since we’re prone to burning down the house, we’ll keep it safe with regular turkey roast.”

“I hate turkey.”

All eyes looked down at Eleazar who pouted up at his siblings. Darah frowned. “Who hates turkey?”

“I do,” Eleazar declared more firmly.

“Okay why?”

“I want chicken.”

“Chicken is better,” Clement agreed, hands in pocket.

“No way, Mom made the best turkey!” Darah protested, hands jammed to her hips.

“Not sure we can replicate it. Which is why crispy-fried turkey works. It’ll taste just like chicken, Eli,” Bart replied, still advocating his new technique.

“No turkey!”

Abe frowned, sensing there was more to Eleazar’s protest. He bent to his brother’s level and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Why not turkey, Eli?”

Eleazar’s cherub face scrunched in a scowl like Bart’s. “Because turkeys are animals, like puppies. We don’t eat puppies so we shouldn’t eat turkeys,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Uh Eli, chickens are–” Darah paused when Clement put a hand over her mouth. She slanted him a glare but didn’t push his hand away.

Bart and Abe exchanged a look, neither looking forward to explaining the difference to their six-year-old brother.

Abe squeezed Eleazar’s shoulder. “Okay, no turkey.” He watched Eleazar’s face brighten.

“Then it’s fried chicken for dinner,” Bart pronounced, ruffling Eleazar’s hair. “We’ve got to save the animals, don’t we?”

“Yay!” the six-year-old cheered in victory, missing the conspiratorial smiles all around him.

Darah finally pushed Clement’s hand from her mouth and shook her head. “You guys are so wrong.”

<<Chapter 10 || Chapter 12>>

  

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