Posts tagged “COUPLE

Sanctuary, Chapter 2

Posted on 13/05/2017

“Now boarding business class and club members onto Flight 3485 to Abu Dhabi,” the flight hostess spoke over the noise in the terminal. Karen crosschecked her ticket although she knew very well she hadn’t the funds for a club pass. Still, she was still thrumming on anxious energy to remain seated. So she stood, grabbed her carry-on backpack and slung it over her back.

Moving her way to the back of the line, Karen peered out the window at the parked airplanes. Her stomach somersaulted, knocking the wind out of her. She drew in a breath and released it slowly.

“First time flying?”

Karen peered behind her at the willowy older woman with kind grey eyes and bottle-red hair. The woman’s thin brows raised in question and Karen blinked from her long stare. “Uh yeah—I mean, not first time flying… just overseas.”

The woman’s smile was gentle. “You’ll love it. Nothing better than the feeling of weightlessness.”

Except that was part of the reason for her stomach-turning dread. The longest she’d stayed on a plane was a college trip to Seattle from Houston, and motion sickness almost did her in. The thought of sitting in one position for more than four hours made her want to lose the burrito she’d eaten an hour ago.

“And they’ve got the best meals on these type of flights!” the woman continued her gushing, eyes dancing with delight. “Not to talk of the free movies!”

Karen blinked, wondering if this woman wasn’t a teenager in disguise. No elderly person she knew was that excited about movies… or anything for that matter.

“Now boarding all other passengers.”

The woman, Red as Karen dubbed her, snorted. “All other passengers—what, are we chopped liver? Did we pay nothing for our tickets?”

Karen noticed the bemused stares and the smirks from those around her. She gave Red a strained smile and turned around, clutching her ticket. Movies and airplane food were the least of her concerns. She was about to embark on a cross-country trip in East Africa starting with Kenya, and the thought of how much awaited her in each of the six countries she’d planned to visit made her nervous and tired at the same time. The first thing she’d do was get some sleep on the plane.

Once she’d reached the door of the plane, Karen accepted the welcome from the uniformed hostess with a bright smile. She merely nodded her thanks and inched her way inside, eyes darting between her ticket and the numbers above the seats.

“Wait, wasn’t that Karen? Karen!” a voice called out behind her. “Hey Karen! Look back!”

Karen looked up from her ticket and behind her to see who called for her or another Karen. Except she knew exactly who it was calling her; the young bride waving at her.

Joy surged through her and Karen grinned openly. “Darah!”

“What a coincidence!” Darah exclaimed, glee in her voice.

“Sit down, Darah,” J.R. whispered fiercely, tugging at his wife’s arm as she knelt on the seat and spoke over rows of seats to where Karen’s assigned position. He managed an apologetic look at the bemused woman at his side. “Sorry about this, Ma’am.”

The woman looked up from her electronic reader and flashed J.R. an unaffected smile. “It’s alright.” Her eyes moved over his head to where Darah still attempted a conversation across the plane. “Would you like for me to trade places?”

J.R.’s brows raised in surprise. “Oh we couldn’t…”

“Would you really?” Darah who had pretended not to hear her husband’s firm words had miraculously heard the suggestion. She beamed at the woman. “That would be so lov—“

“Stop Darah,” J.R. said firmly and looked to the woman, chagrin clear on his handsome features. “You don’t need to switch seats. Besides, we’re about to take off.”

“Babe, she said it was fine,” Darah said in a sweet tone that promised him getting an earful once they were alone. Still, her smile brightened on the woman. “She’s my soon-to-be sister-in-law…”

“Oh brother,” J.R. muttered, dropping his head back against the chair.

The woman looked amused and curious. “Oh really? That’s wonderful.” And while saying that, she unbuckled her seatbelt. “Call her over and we’ll switch.”

“Oh thank you so much, Ma’am!” Darah straightened on her seat and waved at Karen. “Come over. A kind lady just offered to switch seats!”

J.R. rubbed his face; not because his young wife was currently making a scene but that this long plane ride to Abu Dhabi would not be a quiet one. “Since we’re playing musical chairs, let me have the window seat…” he grunted when she lightly smacked his shoulder.

The woman chuckled as she gathered her purse from under the chair in front of her. “Take heart, young man.” There was a twinkle in her eye as he looked up at her from the seat. “Have a safe and fun vacation, you two…” She waited until another passenger walked down the narrow aisle toward the back of the plane.

“Thank you!” Darah called out to the woman who winked at her, then turned a frown at J.R. “What’s the matter? She’s being a good Samaritan.”

J.R. snorted. “Probably wanted to save herself and the rest of the passengers from listening to your conversation.”

“Be grateful, Mr. Obed. We’ll get the chance to properly thank Nurse Karen for taking care of your dad.” She glanced up and smiled at Karen who now stood beside the woman, confusion clear on her face as the woman gestured back to Darah.

“You sure it’s not to put your plan in place?” he drawled, flipping through one of the magazines. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you and Phoebe were blood sisters. Meddlers through and through.”

Darah snorted. “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.” She waved at Karen. “I’ll let you have the window seat so stop scowling.”

“I am not scowling, Darah.”

“I’ve known you for ten years, my love, and that face is a pure unadulterated scowl.” She flashed a smile as Karen approached them slowly. “Hey girlie! What a lovely coincidence!”

Just as Karen was about to respond in kind, a host walked up to them. “Excuse me ladies,” the man began in a dry banal tone. “Could we please take our seats? We’re about to take off in a few minutes.”

Still confused as to what was transpiring, Karen looked from one expectant face to the other. “Uh…”

“Take your seat, Karen,” Darah said, gesturing to the aisle seat.

The kind-faced woman had mentioned that she’d volunteered to give up her assigned seat so she could sit with her family, so Karen nodded and sat beside J.R. Obed. Then the host gave all three a smile and hurried down the aisle to grab his seat before the plane took off.

“So how are things going for you?” Darah asked, leaning over her husband to talk with Karen over the loud engine. “Are you excited about your trip?”

J.R. fought a groan and gave up reading. Instead, he dropped his head against the chair and closed his eyes. Thankfully, he could sleep fast and deeply.

Karen fought a chuckle when Darah stuck her tongue out at her husband and nodded. “I am. Was a bit nervous but not anymore.” Her smile warmed at the thought of Clement Teka holding her hands while he said a prayer over her journey and her frazzled nerves. Her cheeks even tingled with warmth as she remembered his solid arms around her and the touch of her lips to his cheek. She hadn’t planned on doing that, but was so overcome with emotion that he would pray for her. He was truly a good man.

“So what countries are you going to?” Darah’s voice broke through Karen’s thoughts.

Tucking away the memory of Clement for later, Karen smiled at his only sister. “My first country is Kenya. I take a bus from Nairobi for a few days and then head over to Kampala, then uh…” She paused, racking her brain for the other places on her itinerary. Then she shrugged. “Well, I know it’s in Burundi, and then I get on a plane to Addis Ababa.” She smiled as J.R. lifted his head and looked at her, curiosity in his eyes as was Darah’s. “I’ll visit some of the cities there before heading back.”

Darah whistled in awe. “That’s some trip. No wonder you took a sabbatical. How long will you be gone for?”

“A few months.”

“And Addis Ababa is your last stop,” J.R. said plainly, eyes on her face.

Karen nodded. “I fly out from there back to the U.S.”

“Junior should be there by then,” Darah interjected, glancing once at her husband’s furrowed brow.

“Yeah, he told me,” Karen answered, allowing herself a smile as she thought of their last conversation and the way he squeezed her hand while praying. She drew a breath and released it. “I’m excited.”

“I can tell,” Darah mused aloud, eyes moving over Karen’s face.

“This doesn’t sound like a tourist vacation,” J.R. answered quietly. “Am I wrong?”

Karen nodded. “You’d be right. I’m actually working with a few organizations in those cities, working with children there.”

“Oh really?” Darah piped up, curiosity brightening at the mention of children. “Which ones?”

“All Saints Foundation in Kenya, Green Acres Council in Burundi and Uganda…” She frowned, wracking her brain. Then she shook her head, chagrined. “Sorry, I can’t remember the last two.”

J.R. merely nodded and Darah smiled. “It’s alright. I’m sure Junior’ll know about them since he works with a few organizations like that for the whole of East Africa.”

Karen arched a brow, recalling the business card he’d given her at Darah’s wedding reception dinner. “I thought he was just a missionary pastor…”

“He is.” Darah grinned, clearly proud of her big brother. “But he’s been serving in that region for such a long time that he’s got contacts in some many places, including the neighboring countries. When you’re serving the community, you’re bound to work with so many different organizations.”

Karen nodded, growing more curious about the handsome and charming Clement Teka.

Fifteen hours later, J.R. stood and watched as the two women embraced one last time. Once they drew back, Darah smiled up at Karen. “It was really great seeing you. Enjoy your travels and be safe.”

Karen nodded with a warm smile and her gaze skimmed over to J.R. “Have a wonderful time together.”

J.R. slipped an arm around his wife’s shoulders. “We will. Take care of yourself.”

“Will do.” She sighed softly as the couple turned and headed for baggage claim. Sitting by them had really helped ease her anxiety and taken her mind off the uncertainty of her trip. Although she’d done her research on the organizations and made sure to read the testimonials, it was still nerve-wracking as it was driving blind… not that she would know a thing about that.

In any case, the sassy Darah and her level-headed husband were a perfect foil and great companions for the otherwise grueling 14-hour and 55-minutes flight from Houston. The food was delicious but the company was much more memorable. It was clear that J.R. adored Darah as she adored him in return, and Karen found herself inspired and wistful for such a partnership one day.

With a sigh, she grabbed her roll-on duffel bag and turned toward the terminal for her second flight. She barely ran into a woman in her path and side-stepped her with a soft apology.

“I thought you were going with them,” the woman called and Karen turned toward the voice.

“Oh hey!” Karen exclaimed, recognizing the Good Samaritan who gave up her assigned seat so Karen could sit with her friends. “Thanks for giving up your seat. That was sweet.”

“It’s no problem,” the woman said, waving off her gratitude. Then she glanced over her shoulder before looking back at Karen, a furrow in her brow. “You’re not going with them?”

“No ma’am.” Karen arched a brow. “Why?”

The woman laughed softly. “I thought since you were family, that you were traveling together.”

“Oh no,” Karen smiled. “They’re on their honeymoon. Wouldn’t want to interrupt all that.”

The woman’s face tightened and confusion etched her brow. “Honeymoon? As in second?” When Karen merely blinked at her, she let out a short incredulous laugh. “But they’re… she’s pregnant.

A frown wrinkled Karen’s brow. “So? What does that have to do with anything?”

The frost in Karen’s tone had the lady lift both hands. “Nothing, just curious.” Then her eyes moved over Karen’s taut expression and flashed a smile less sincere than the first. “Have a safe flight to wherever you’re going.” And before Karen could return the wish for her, she hightailed in the opposite direction.

Snorting at the woman scurrying away, she shook her head. “Nosy…” Tugging her bag after her, Karen headed down the hall toward her assigned gate for the flight to Nairobi.

“Wait a minute!” Darah called to her husband as she waddled to the ringing phone near the bed. “Can’t believe I almost forgot it.” She laughed, blaming it on her pregnancy brain and snatched the phone from underneath her pile of clothes. “Hello?” she answered before it went to voicemail.

“Just barely got here, Sis,” Darah answered, tugging off her kimono and tossing it on the bed. “About to head out for dinner.”

J.R. peeked inside the room and shook his head as Darah pulled off another layer of clothing before grabbing another. Deciding to wait inside, he stepped into the suite and shut the door.

“I’m sure he is,” Darah quipped with a laugh that Phoebe returned. She glanced over her shoulder to give her husband a smile. “Phoebe says hi.”

“Hey Feebs.” He smiled. “Report yourself or I will.”

Darah choked a laugh. “He said I should report myself. So dramatic, my dear husband. Oh, by the way, we bumped into Karen—you know, Babu’s former nurse.” She chuckled low. “Uh-hmm, Junior’s Karen.”

J.R. groaned and slapped a hand over his face. “You two are impossible.” He moved to the edge of the bed and tugged the phone from her hand. “Hey Feebs, I gotta feed my ravenous wife before she gets cranky, so let’s walk and talk.” He smirked at Phoebe’s answer. “Even better. We’ll call the minute we get back to the room. Okay, great. Bye.”

“You straight-laced fellow,” Darah said, tugging at his collar. “Remember, Mr. Obed, this is a vacation. No timetables here, no rules.” She pulled him closer and presented her lips for a kiss.

J.R. rolled his eyes but obliged her with a quick one. “You’re saying that now but you’ll be the one waking me up begging for food—” he chuckled when she smacked his thigh. He placed a kiss on her brow and then stood from the bed. “Now come on. I’m starved.”

“If you’re starved, I’m ravenous!” Darah frowned as J.R. picked up her discarded kimono. “Do I have to wear this? It’s a million degrees outside.”

“Who told you to pick Dubai? We could’ve gone to Europe,” he held out the kimono and settled it on her slender shoulders. “Don’t worry,” he said close to her ear. “There’ll be AC inside. Let’s go.”

Darah sighed as he took her hand and led her out the door. “I hope Karen got to her destination safely.”

“I’m sure she did,” J.R. said as they walked down the hallway toward the elevator. “Give meddling a break. We’re on vacation, remember?”

She stuck out her tongue at him. Then sighed. “But in all seriousness, something felt weird about Karen’s itinerary.” Nestling against him, she propped her chin against his arm.

J.R. was quiet for a moment and Darah peeked up to see the wrinkle in his brow and distance in his gaze. She straightened. “What are you thinking?”

He met her worried stare and gave her a gentle smile. “It’s nothing… We’ll ask Junior once we get back. Right now, I need to feed my two babies.” One hand dropped to her stomach, cupping its roundness.

Darah’s adoring smile brightened her face and she leaned into him. “You’re so good to me.”

A kiss to her temple was his only reply and Darah was more than satisfied with that, convinced of his unconditional and unflinching love for her.

<<Chapter 1 || Chapter 3>>

Lighthouse, Chapter 27 (Final)

Posted on 02/09/2016

Darah and J.R.’s wedding day came on a muggy Saturday with scattered clouds blocking the sun. Bart and Geraldine’s twins stood at the bay window of the Teka family house, argued back and forth about the different types of clouds.

“It’s a cumulus!” Fallon shouted, jabbing a finger at the window.

“Nu-unh!” Tomas argued. “It’s a nimbus!”

“No,” Fallon said in a haughty tone, poking her twin brother’s forehead with her finger. “It’s a cumulus.”

“Oww!” Tomas whined, shoving Fallon with a force that had her tumbling over a decorative pillow with her dress billowing over her face. When she started whining, he glanced guiltily over his shoulder and bent to help her, hushing her as he did.

The youngest Karla and Augustus chased each other around the center table, dressed in their wedding clothes. Standing off to the side the older of the cousins, brothers Isaac and James, occupied themselves with a handheld game.

Across the hall, the oldest of the Teka children Joselyn fidgeted with her floor-length gown as her mother secured flowers in her plaited hair. “Be still,” Geraldine berated her firstborn and clucked her tongue. “This is the third time, already.”

“It itches,” Joselyn complained, reaching up to touch her hair only to have her hand smacked. “Ow!”

“Shush.”

Phoebe sauntered by at that moment and Joselyn grabbed her hand. “Please save me.”

The two women exchanged amused glances, then Phoebe winked at Joselyn. “You look like the bride.”

That seemed to appease Joselyn, who flashed her a dimpled smile. “Can we see her?”

“Well your Nana is putting last-minute touches on her hair. Should we go check?” Phoebe winked at Geraldine who rolled her eyes but released Joselyn.

Then the three of them headed upstairs, both Geraldine and Phoebe careful not to step on Joselyn’s elegant gown that trailed the stairs. At age thirteen, she was almost as tall as her father and appeared older than her age. No doubt Bart would be stunned when he saw her.

In front of the master bedroom, Phoebe knocked. “May we come in?”

“As long as no males are with you!”

All three grinned at Darah’s voice and slowly entered the room. Joselyn gasped audibly and hurried to the window where Darah stood bathed in white and light. Stunned, Geraldine and Phoebe hung back.

“You’re so beautiful, Aunty!” Joselyn gushed, clasping her aunt’s hands.

Darah dipped her head to hide a demure smile. “Thank you.”

“You look like a princess!” Joselyn continued, circling her aunt to admire the wedding gown. At almost six months, her protruding stomach was visible in the lace masterpiece yet she was a vision to behold. “Doesn’t she?” Joselyn asked her mother and aunt still standing the doorframe.

Phoebe sniffed and all watched wryly as she wiped tears from her cheeks. “Aww, don’t,” Darah started, her lips trembling. “I’ll start again…”

“Again?” Geraldine echoed, walking up to her sister-in-law. She adjusted the sleeve of Darah’s dress draped over her arm; the dress revealing her bare, slender shoulders. “You’ll ruin your makeup.”

“Nope,” Darah sniffed back tears. “Nana got me covered.”

“Waterproof,” Yelena added with a twinkle in her eye, then nudged Darah to sit. “Let’s add more curls.”

“There’s no point,” Darah mumbled. “With this weather, it’ll just turn puffy again.”

Joselyn giggled, playing with one of the big fat curls atop her aunt’s head.

“Stop that,” Geraldine berated softly and peered out the window. “Ooh, someone’s here.”

Joselyn quickly joined her mother at the window and Phoebe took her place. Peering down at her sister-in-law’s reflection in the mirror, she gave her a smile. “You’re gorgeous.”

Darah gave her a shy smile. “Really?”

Phoebe winked. “J.R. won’t know what to do with himself when he sees you.”

“Hopefully he’ll say I do,” Geraldine piped up from the window and everyone laughed at that. Then a knock came on the door and they quieted down. “Who is it?” Geraldine called out.

The doorknob twisted, causing alarm. Geraldine grabbed Joselyn’s arm and tugged her toward Darah, quietly instructing her to shield her aunt. Phoebe rushed to the door just as it opened. They sighed with relief when Abe stuck his head in, curiosity in his face. “Are we ready?”

Phoebe poked his shoulder. “You could’ve said something…” she trailed off when his eyes fell on his sister and watched his expression change. Her lips twitched a smile. “Isn’t she beautiful?”

Transfixed, Abe entered the room and closed the door behind him. Geraldine tugged Joselyn to her side and even Yelena inched back as brother and sister stared at each other.

Then Darah broke contact first and ducked her head shyly. “Do I look weird?”

Abe shook his head and Phoebe could’ve sworn there was a glimmer in his eyes. He walked to his sister’s side. “You look beautiful, Darah, like a…”

“A princess?” Joselyn offered when her uncle faltered a little too long.

Abe nodded, a smile forming. Then he held out a hand when Darah looked up, her eyes glistening with tears. “Ready to get married, Princess?”

Darah gave him a shy smile and put her hand in his. As he embraced her, careful of her delicate gown, there was no dry eye in the room—except Joselyn’s watching them curiously.

The ceremony was held in the Teka family backyard; three rows of white painted chairs adorned with flowers. Sand-filled candle jars lined the flower-laden aisle to the altar where Clement stood by J.R., with Bart and Eli acting as groomsmen. As the officiating pastor, Clement faced the small group of people invited to the wedding; the father of the groom, L.J., sat in the front row with Hana and his nurse Karen Wells. On the opposite row sat the Teka children, Isaac and James sandwiched the twins suspending their arguing under their father’s stern eye. On the next row sat Phoebe, Geraldine and her mother Yelena, waving delicate fans to cool themselves in the humid air.

Walking down the aisle now where cousins Karla and Augustus, the flower girl and page boy. Soft music played in the background and at the end of the aisle, both Clement and Bart winked at the youngest Teka children. They flashed similar grins and hurried to the seats Isaac and James prepared for them.

Joselyn was next and just as predicted, Bart stood mouth agape as he watched his firstborn daughter walk elegantly down the aisle. Once he recovered, Bart mouthed ‘beautiful’ and with a shy smile, she took her position on Clement’s right. Then the music changed and the audience stood, L.J. with the help of both Hana and Nurse Karen.

J.R. straightened his shoulders as the back door opened. He drew in a breath that caught as the couple emerged from the house. Even Clement, Bart and Eli gasped audibly at the sight of their sister being led down the aisle by Abe.

Unable to take his eyes of Darah, J.R. barely noticed when Bart nudged his arm. He blinked up at Clement who gestured for him to step forward. He promptly closed the distance between him and Darah. Without a veil, he could see the amusement shining in her eyes and wanted to reach for her hand. How was it possible that she looked more beautiful every day?

“Who gives this woman to this man?” Clement asked, his voice firm and clear.

“We do,” all four brothers said at once and the guests clapped, the younger kids joining in with gusto. Then after their mothers hushed them, Clement gave Darah a smile. Abe pressed a kiss to her forehead and then turned to J.R.

Quietly accepted Darah’s hand, J.R. squeezed gently. She squeezed back and they shared a smile before turning to face Clement. Abe quietly took his seat beside Phoebe who rubbed his back and drew him close.

The ceremony began and everyone watched in rapt attention, witnessing the union between J.R and Darah. In the middle of the ceremony, as Clement gave his exhortation to the couple, tears welled up in Phoebe’s eyes and even Geraldine ducked her head to surreptitiously wipe her cheeks. The Teka brothers were solemn, listening intently as J.R. and Darah professed their undying commitment to one another for life, in health, in sickness and in death.

At the exchange of the rings, Joselyn assisting Augustus with passing over the white-gold bands to the couple, J.R. and Darah married before their family. They also honored the memory of family members long since passed; Yonas and Ester Teka, Darah’s late parents and Madhu Obed, J.R.’s late mother.

“By the state of Texas,” Clement said, a grin widening his lips. “I now pronounce you husband and wife. J.R., you may now kiss your bride.”

Darah held her breath as she turned from her brother to face the man now her husband. Her eyes swept over his handsome face, still in shock that he was finally hers after ten years of pining after him. Tears pooled in her eyes and she blinked them away as he drew closer—as far as the baby would allow.

J.R. took in the soft beauty of his bride and marveled at his fortune. Her enduring love for him still took his breath away, almost as much as her beautiful eyes. He was a blessed man to call her his wife. He cupped her cheeks, his thumbs caressing her soft skin. “I love you.”

Her lips twitched a wobbly smile. “I love you too.”

“Kiss her already!” Geraldine called out, earning her laughs from the small group.

J.R. dipped his head and Darah tilted hers upwards, their lips meeting as their eyes drifted shut. The small crowd erupted in cheers and applause as J.R. embraced his wife for the first time.

Eleazar gave Darah a cautious smile during the reception held inside the house. “Congratulations,” he said as she flung her arms around him and held on tight. He gripped her shoulders, lingering in the embrace longer than she’d expected.

“Thanks.” Darah squeezed his arm as she drew back. “You okay?”

His smile was faint, his expression vague. “Yeah.”

Though she wanted to push him for clues, this was supposed to be a happy day—her day. Her heart fluttered as she heard her husband laugh across the dining room. She smiled, deciding to leave Eleazar for now. “You’ll tell me when you’re ready, won’t you?”

Her younger brother nodded and accepted another hug before she hurried to her husband’s side. Watching her walk away, he tamped a sigh and retreated into the background and away from the group.

From his corner of the room next to his first son, Abe noticed and left his place to go after his youngest brother. At the foot of the stairs, he called to Eleazar. “Eli, let’s talk.”

Karen stifled a great yawn while dishing a plate of pasta for herself. She swallowed another as Clement came to her right side balancing two plates and a can of soda. Peering up at him, she greeted him with a faint smile. “You’re a pretty good officiator… if that’s a word.”

“We’ll say it is. Thanks” He reached for a chicken drumstick. “You must’ve had a long weekend, with everything going on around here.”

She shrugged. “I’ve seen my share of weddings… and birthday parties, and funerals.” When sadness flickered in his face, Karen averted her gaze. “I don’t mind attending. It’s fun to celebrate with others.”

“I can understand that.” He placed a roll atop her plate and then put another on his.

“Thank you,” Karen said and returning the favor by dishing rice onto his plate, she laughed when he flashed her a wink. “I see you’re a charmer.”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about.” With a dimple in his cheek, he nudged her shoulder to move her up the buffet line. “So what’s next for you after this?”

Karen’s smile waned then disappeared, much to Clement’s chagrin. “Mr. Obed is my last patient, actually.”

“Oh?” he paused at biting into his bread roll, eyes fixed on her face. His brow furrowed with concern. “I didn’t realize things were bad with Mr. Obed.”

“Oh heavens no.” Karen let out a nervous laugh. “On the contrary, he’s doing quite well.” She bit her bottom lip when the furrow in his brow didn’t ease up. “Actually… I’m taking a sabbatical from the hospital and thinking of traveling.”

His brows lifted, tension loosened. “Oh yeah? Where to?” He leaned his hip against the table, waiting.

She shrugged. “Not sure yet. Somewhere in Africa.”

One corner of his lips lifted in a smirk. “That’s a bit vague.”

Cheeks warm, Karen nodded. “Still in the planning stage.”

Nodding, he lowered one plate on the table and fished into his back pocket. “Here,” he said, holding out a rumpled card. “If you’re ever in the neighborhood, give me a call.”

Karen eyed the card, then his face, and back to the card. Accepting the card, she read it aloud. “Trans-Amharic Missions, Ethiopia…”

Across the room, Phoebe watched the scene unfold with a smile playing on her lips. Handing over an empty plate, Geraldine looked up when Phoebe didn’t accept it. She followed the direction of her gaze, spotting Clement and the nurse conversing with smiles. Then she snorted and nudged Phoebe’s shoulder. “Mind your business, Phoebe.”

Darah sauntered over to them. “Two pieces of cake, please. What are you staring at?”

Phoebe giggled and dutifully cut out two sizable pieces of the wedding cake. “And who is this for?”

The shy smile resurfaced, a becoming flush coloring her cheeks. “My husband and father-in-law.” Darah giggled as they teased her and escaped with the plates.

With a sigh, Phoebe watched Clement and Karen sharing a laugh. “Three Teka marriages down, two to go.” She grinned unashamedly as Geraldine groaned in protest.

“Mommy! Mommy!” Augustus and Karla said in unison as they hurried over with empty plates, demanding more cake. With long-suffering smiles, the mothers attended to their youngest children.

At the end of the long day and parting ways with family and friends, J.R. and Darah retreated to their hotel room across town. Dressed in matching pajamas, they lounged in the suite and snacked on wedding cake—mostly Darah. Nibbling on yet another piece, Darah perched her swollen feet on J.R.’s lap and sighed blissfully as he kneaded tension from her feet.

“Happy?” he asked, amusement coating his voice.

“You have no idea…” She dropped her head back, her once-perfect curls now a frizzled mess. “I think I must be the happiest girl in the world.”

J.R. chuckled, releasing her feet and crawled up the bed to hover above her. Darah paused at nibbling the cake, enraptured by the look in her husband’s eyes.

“That’s good ‘cos I plan on making you the happiest woman for the rest of our lives.” J.R.’s eyes twinkled as he took the cake from her hand. “What do you say to that, sweetheart?”

On another occasion, she would’ve whined at him for taking away her snack. Instead, she slid her hands up his chest and draped them around his neck. “I say I’d like that very much.” She closed her eyes and angled her face as he dipped his head.

His mouth brushed along her jawline and Darah snuggled closer. Then she frowned as a thought came to her. “Hon, what do you know of Nurse Karen?”

When J.R. mumbled incoherently against her chin, she mused aloud. “’Cos Phoebe’s back to schemi—” the rest of her words muffled when J.R. planted a kiss on her mouth.

“Let’s talk about them later, alright Mrs. Obed?”

Darah paused as though realizing for the first time that her last name had changed, but instead of sadness, she felt gratitude to belong to two; the Teka and Obed families. With a grin, she nodded and flashed him a grin that he mirrored. “Carry on, Mr. Obed.”

.

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Please stay tuned for the next installment of the Heart of a Home Series…

<<Chapter 26 || Series Page>>

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