Posts tagged “Daughter

Homecoming, Chapter 19

Posted on 23/02/2016

Bart easily relinquished his queen-sized bed to the Pena women, giving Geraldine a faint smile when she insisted he take a pillow at least. He gestured to the blanket under his arm. “This is enough. You guys get some sleep.”

“Thank you,” Yelena whispered from the bed, stroking her sleeping granddaughter’s cheek.

Geraldine nodded, lowering her gaze. “Yes, thank you.”

“Not a problem. Good night.” He exited the room, closing the door gently behind him.

Geraldine heaved a sigh, releasing the breath she’d been holding while he was in the room.

“What a good man,” Yelena mused aloud and Geraldine turned, finding her mother’s pointed stare directed at her. “One would be blessed to have him.”

“Then you marry him,” Geraldine muttered, moving to the empty space beside Joselyn. Then stalled, realizing that this was the bed Bart slept in. She swallowed hard.

“I would if I was twenty years younger.” Yelena chuckled.

Geraldine scowled. “Mama, that’s not funny.”

“Yes it is…” She shushed Geraldine when Joselyn stirred in her arms.

“Why are you shushing me when you’re the one saying weird stuff?” Geraldine perched on the bed, her fingers tracing a line on the plaid-printed sheets. Even after he’d left the room, the heady scent of Bart was ever-present.

“What’s weird about marrying a man you love?”

Geraldine choked on a gasp and jerked her wide-eyed stare to Yelena.

“What? Am I wrong?”

She shook her head. “Mama, please stop with this.”

“You think I don’t see the way you look at him?”

Geraldine gaped, scandalized. “What are you talking about?”

Yelena scoffed. “I’m not blind, Geraldine. I know what I saw.”

“You didn’t see anything.” Geraldine scooted off the bed and moved toward the door. “You sleep first. I need to potty.”

“Run, run, run,” Yelena taunted gently. “When will you stop running, Mija?”

Geraldine rolled her eyes. “I’m not running.”

“Then sit down. Let’s discuss what to do next.”

“Jozy’ll wake up and I really need to pee.” She moved to the door and pulled it open. “We’ll discuss it tomorrow.”

Yelena mumbled something in her other native tongue, one Geraldine didn’t understand but didn’t need to. Clucking her tongue in disapproval was notice that she’d displeased her.

“Goodnight,” Geraldine forced out and fled the room. Except she didn’t hurry to the bathroom, and instead leaned against the wall beside the door.

The door to her right opened and she jerked to stand upright as Bart stepped out, the sound of flushing undercutting the squeaky door. He paused, finding her in his path and frowned over her shoulder at the closed door. “Everything alright?”

Her cheeks warmed under his perusal and she managed a nod. “Hm. Bathroom,” she pointed over his shoulder.

Bart nodded and shifted to the right, giving her space to enter.

Geraldine ducked around him and shut the door. Then she leaned against it and held a hand over her thumping heart. “Get it together,” she mumbled to herself.

Standing in the darkened hallway, Bart stared at the closed bathroom door. He stalled in the bathroom instead of retreating downstairs, hoping for some alone time with Geraldine. Yes, it was way past their bedtime, but he had to apologize for his pushy behavior earlier.

When the door opened and Geraldine froze in her tracks, eyes wide, his chest tightened. “I apologize for my behavior earlier,” he began without preamble. “It won’t happen again.”

She frowned. “What won’t happen again?”

“Being pushy. Sleep well.” He turned to go.

“Wait.” She bit her bottom lip when he turned back to her. “Uh…”

“Let’s talk in the morning. It’s already late,” he said and gave her another faint smile, his dimples hidden. “Goodnight.”

“Right… okay.”

Her hesitance drew a smile on his lips and he quickly turned before she noticed. “I leave for work by six so maybe after I get back. Goodnight.”

“… Goodnight.”

Bart bit back a chuckle as he made his way down the stairs slowly. It took Geraldine a minute before she finally retreated to his bedroom and he muffled a laugh into the blanket. Then he lay back on the leather settee and settled in for the shortest night ever with a smile on his face.

Someone yanked on his ear and Bart snapped his eyes open, imagining his mother tugging him to wake. Two doleful brown eyes stared at him and he blinked the sleep from his own. A small cherub face was inches from his. Bart drew back and a smile twitched his lips. “Hi.”

Jozy flashed a toothy smile that warmed his heart. “Hi.”

His smile widened and scooted to sit up, thankful that she didn’t flinch or edge away. He opened his arms and chuckled when she leaned into his embrace. “Good girl.”

“I good girl,” her voice was muffled against his arm.

“Yes you are.” He lifted her onto his lap and kissed her forehead. “Where’s Ma…” his voice trailed off when his gaze fell on Geraldine curled up on the opposite sofa, sleeping.

Jozy tugged at his ear, pulling his attention. Then she gave him another charming grin.

He shook his head incredulously. “You’re just like your mom, aren’t you?”

She only grinned, playing with his ears.

He kissed her forehead, breathing in the scent of baby lotion and Geraldine. “Did you keep Mommy up?”

“No,” Geraldine’s groggy voice turned his gaze back to the chair. She remained curled up against his bed pillow, eyes open and on him. “I didn’t want to miss you leave for work.”

Something snagged in his chest, stealing his breath away. How easy it would be to reach over and pull her onto his lap too. Clement’s words from earlier that night cautioned him to take things slow and Bart swallowed a groan, giving Geraldine a smile instead. “Why? Think I was running away?”

She didn’t smile and his waned. Then she uncurled her legs and sat up. “Are you hungry? I made pancakes.” She pushed to her feet and came to him, hands out for Joselyn.

“She’s fine. You made breakfast?” He was still in awe with how much she’d changed and wondered what else he was yet to discover about her.

“For you, yes. It’ll be cold by the time everyone else wakes.” She smoothed Joselyn’s curls and turned to the kitchen. “Wanna eat before you get ready for work?”

He refrained from watching her hips sway and lowered his gaze to Joselyn who grinned at him. Bart shook his head inwardly; he didn’t stand a chance with both Pena girls charming his socks off. “Sure. Jozy, want pancakes?”

She nodded emphatically. “Cake.”

Bart chuckled as he stood, perching Joselyn at his hips. “Same thing I guess.” He strolled into the kitchen, watching Geraldine pull out a bottle of syrup from the pantry. He marveled at her easily she moved in the kitchen, as though she belonged there. His chest tightened with the need to make that happen sooner than later.

Once she’d set before him a plate of four thick Buttermilk pancakes and a mug of steaming black coffee, Geraldine rounded the counter and opened her arms. “She won’t let you eat.”

He unwillingly released the child, eyes on both instead of the sweet-smelling food before him.

She arched a brow. “You’re not hungry?”

His heart was full just watching them, wanting them as his own. Bart shook out of his thoughts and nodded. “Thanks.”

“Something smells good,” Clement’s voice sounded behind them. He grinned. “Pancakes!”

Geraldine stepped into his path. “You’ll have to make your own.”

Clement frowned over her shoulder to Bart’s plate, and then the frown eased off. An impish smile replaced it instead. “Oh I see…”

“You see nothing. If it was your bed we ransomed, I would’ve made you pancakes instead.” She glanced over her shoulder at Bart. “Have a good day.”

Throat too tight to utter a word, Bart nodded and watched Geraldine retreat up the stairs with Joselyn in tow. Then he heaved a sigh and nudged the plate toward Clement. “Here you go.”

Clement grunted though he accepted the plate. “Thanks Bro.”

Bart stared at the couch where Geraldine had spent the night, and wondered what went through her mind. Heat flooded his face, imagining her sitting there and watching him sleep. Oh, if only he wasn’t such a deep sleeper.

“Man, she really got better at cooking,” Clement broke through his musing. “You sure you don’t want some?”

“I’m good,” Bart mumbled, taking a sip of the hot coffee and burned his lip.  He muttered an expletive and drew in his bottom lip.

Clement shook his head, chewing slowly. “Give her time. She’s probably fighting herself.”

Bart eyed him warily. “How can you be so sure?”

“It’s a hunch.” His brother took another bite. “Besides if I tell you, you’ll act a fool and ruin everything by your over-eagerness. Remember, the slow and steady wins the race.”

He dropped his hand from his scalded lip. “Tell me what?”

“Well you know how cheese runs through me. I should’ve stopped with one enchilada–”

He scowled. “Junior–”

“Anyway my stomach wouldn’t let me rest so I got up to use the restroom. Then I heard Geri shushing Jozy downstairs so she wouldn’t wake you.”

Bart froze. “What time was that?”

“Don’t sleep with a watch on, sorry.” Clement’s lips twitched. “It was definitely hours ago, long before she needed to prepare you this fine meal. Obviously she’s more comfortable sharing her heart when you’re unconscious.”

“What did she say?” Bart stared at Clement who seemed wiser than his twenty years.  “Tell me.”

Clement shoved a forkful of syrupy pancake into his mouth, taking his time to chew and swallow. “Something about not wanting to cause you trouble or whatever.” He shrugged when Bart scowled. “Don’t shoot the messenger, ask her yourself.”

“I was unconscious, remember? She’ll deny it and I have no basis to stand on otherwise.”

Clement rolled his eyes. “Must I teach you everything?”

Bart sighed and stood. “Nevermind.”

“Take it easy out there.” Clement watched Bart climb the stairs and shook his head. He took a swig of Bart’s coffee and choked in disgust.

<<Chapter 18 || Chapter 20>>

Homecoming, Chapter 15

Posted on 09/02/2016

Geraldine hesitated stepping out of the comfort of her bedroom. Last night, Joselyn’s night terrors had saved her from spending another awkward moment with her in-laws. She felt bad that her baby still cried through the night, but if it prevented her from watching her mother-in-law’s resentful glares or her father-in-law’s probing stares, she was relieved to retreat to her room to take care of Joselyn all night.

Now, her daughter and mother were on the other side of the door and she could hear stilted conversation in Spanish. She’d stalled as long as she could in her bed, contemplating what to do with her in-laws and Bart for a week! More so than her in-laws, Bart was becoming a challenge for her. He didn’t stick to the script and she needed him to stay focused.

When Joselyn giggled aloud, Geraldine shook out of her reverie, took a deep breath and pulled open the door. “Good morn…” her greeting died down when she spotted Bartimeus holding Joselyn at his hip, playing with her.

Behind him, her mother Yelena watched with gentle amusement while their in-laws looked as perturbed as she felt. Geraldine blinked and turned back to Bart. “What are you doing here?”

Bart looked up at the sound of her voice and grinned. “Good morning, love.”

His grin and the gently-spoken endearment hit her square in her gut. How could he say those words so freely? And why did he look so comfortable holding Joselyn? And why was Joselyn not squirming as she usually did with strangers?

Joselyn whimpered and wriggled in Bart’s arms and Geraldine sagged with relief. Good. She started toward him, hands out to take her daughter from him.

Then Bart made a funny face and her daughter giggled, causing Geraldine to freeze in her tracks.

Her mother moved from around Bart, a knowing twinkle in her eye. “Come help me with breakfast.” She turned to the in-laws, Geraldine having forgotten they were there in those few moments, and asked what they’d like to eat.

The mother-in-law didn’t say a word, her fierce glare directed at Bart’s back. The father-in-law entreated Yelena for coffee only and averted his eyes from Bart and Joselyn, as though unable to watch this strange man charm his dead son’s daughter.

Geraldine cleared her throat and stepped in close. “I should feed her,” she said pointedly, giving Bart a look that would tolerate his protest.

He merely smiled and placed a kiss on Joselyn’s cheek before relinquishing his hold of her. Joselyn came willingly into Geraldine’s arms and snuggled in her bosom. Bart slowly lifted his gentle gaze from Joselyn to Geraldine. “You slept okay?”

Geraldine refrained from rolling her eyes. Although it was a show for her in-laws, even she was getting as unsettled as they were. “Fine. You?”

“Yup, not bad at all.” His lips twitched a smirk. “Just thought I’d stop in and properly introduce myself to your in-laws.”

“We see you already yesterday,” her mother-in-law said in English. She ignored her husband’s nudge and frowned at Bart. “You live close here?”

Bart turned to face Geraldine’s mother-in-law. “Yes, in fact, we live a few blocks from each other. My family and I live in the same neighborhood.”

The older woman’s face darkened as his words dawned on her and she jerked her glare to Geraldine. Bart subtly moved so Geraldine was shielded from her glare.

“Actually, my other reason for coming was to invite you to dinner at my place tonight.”

Geraldine gaped at him. Yelena peered from the kitchen and the in-laws stared in silence.

Bart grinned. “My sister-in-law, Phoebe, loves to entertain. And since Geri and I haven’t yet celebrated our engagement,” he glanced over his shoulder at Geraldine. “They want to combine it into a night affair.”

A-affair?” the mother-in-law eked, eyes wide. The father-in-law frowned at the connotation.

Yelena laughed and quickly translated for the in-laws since Geraldine’s tongue was stuck to the roof of her mouth. Then she turned to Bart with a grateful smile over their heads. “Thank you, Bart. That is a wonderful idea, right?”

Geraldine blinked out of the daze and met Bart’s expectant gaze. She didn’t know whether to throttle him for going ahead of her or hug him for accepting responsibility for her.

He smiled. “Her silence means yes.”

She scowled. Throttling him was a better idea.

Yelena chuckled. “Geraldine, you better stop that before Joselyn picks it up too.”

Geraldine glanced down and saw that Joselyn was in fact mimicking her frown at Bart who mirrored her expression also! She choked a laugh and smoothed her daughter’s brow, her annoyance easing away. “Fine.”

“Not fine!” the mother-in-law barked, standing to her feet. She swung a seething look at Geraldine whose smile faded. Then she glared at Bart before storming off in a huff.

Her husband had the decency to look chagrined as he too stood. “Sorry. I speak to my wife,” he said in his awkward English and hurried after her.

Yelena clucked her tongue in disapproval, muttering something under her breath before she turned back to the kitchen.

Even Bart looked chagrined. “Too soon?”

Though she was annoyed by his presumption, Geraldine was grateful for his presence nonetheless. “She’ll be fine…”

“Your father-in-law seems nice.”

She shrugged. He’d been silent even though he knew about his son’s misgivings, while her mother-in-law directly accused her of making her son unhappy. Whether or not they seemed harmless to the rest of the world, Geraldine had suffered in their household and she was a long way from forgiving them.

“Geraldine…”

She looked up and met his dark eyes. Ignoring the hitch in her pulse, she raised both brows in silent question.

“Phoebe wants to have you guys over tonight. We all need a little cheering up after yesterday.” A flicker of pain crossed his features and Geraldine felt inclined to reach for his hand. He smiled when her fingers closed around his. “You’re not hesitant now, are you?”

She rolled her eyes and tugged his hand. “What happened after you got home?”

He winced. “Eli had an attack…”

Alarm gripped her insides. “Is he okay?” she eked out. Eleazar was prone to panic attacks when he was just a child, but she hadn’t been around in a while to know if it was still prevalent.

Bart dragged a hand over his face. “I would be lying if I said he was. The house feels so stifled, like the day we were altogether and without our parents…”

She swallowed hard, the memory of those days still painful. She’d been close to his parents; Yonas and Ester Teka were like her second parents–Yonas was the father she never had. He’d taken her under his wings, teaching her about interior and exterior design, encouraging her to hone her skills. He and Ester fostered her as their own whenever her mother had to travel overseas to be with her ailing mother. .Just remembering the kind couple brought tears to her eyes. She still missed them.

“Geraldine…”

She blinked the tears away and met his tender gaze. “I’m sorry.”

He smiled gently. “I forgot that you were close to them.”

She shrugged. “What will you do about the woman?”

His smile waned and he heaved a sigh. “No idea. I think for now, we’ve discouraged her from approaching us like that again… but who’s to say she won’t try to approach Eli alone?”

Fear tightened her gut and she gaped at him. “She wouldn’t dare.”

Bart’s expression turned fierce. “She better not.”

Joselyn whined then and both looked down to see the toddler attempting another frown. The two chuckled and Geraldine smoothed her brow once again.

“We better be careful around this one,” Bart said with a boyish smile.

Geraldine nodded and gave him a half smile. “If Phoebe doesn’t mind dealing with my cantankerous mother-in-law–”

“Trust me, with Eli and Phoebe, she has no choice but to loosen up.”

The two chuckled low, aware of the charms of certain members of the Teka family. Then Geraldine tilted her face in curiosity. “Is Junior really going to be a missionary?”

Bart rolled his eyes. “That’s what he said.”

“You don’t believe him?”

He eyed her warily. “I’m pretty sure missionaries get degrees first. Won’t they need to work if they go to another country to serve?”

“Not necessarily. The missionary pastor at my grandmother’s church didn’t have one.”

Bart’s wary expression morphed into disbelief. “Junior, a pastor?”

She smirked. “Wonders never cease.”

He grunted his reply.

“Barty,” Yelena spoke from behind them. “Are you staying for breakfast?”

Geraldine purposely avoided Bartimeus’ narrowed expression and fussed with Joselyn’s tangled curls.

“No but thanks, Mrs. Yelena… I’m late for work.”

“Ah okay, see you tonight then?”

Geraldine peered over her shoulder at her mother, who gave her a pointed look that said they would be going to Bart’s home for dinner.

Bart turned and smiled at Yelena. “Yup. I’ll let Phoebe know so she can prepare.” He then turned to Geraldine, his expression inscrutable.

She felt her heart flutter as he swept past her toward the door, her feet frozen. When he said his farewell and closed the door after him, she lowered herself to the nearby seat.

Yelena studied her daughter from the door and smirked knowingly before speaking. “Call your in-laws. Breakfast is ready.”

The directive jerked Geraldine from her confused thoughts of Bart and she nodded, standing slowly. “Yes Mama….” she dragged her feet toward the guest room where her mother-in-law was undoubtedly fuming and her father-in-law quietly watched.

The day ran so fast that Geraldine was breathless by the time they pulled up the driveway of the Teka home.

Yelena whistled in awe in the back seat. “You did a great job with this place, Geri.”

Geraldine smiled. “I had help…”

And the help opened the door and strode out onto the deck, looking quite handsome in a suit jacket that encased his broad shoulders and slim jeans that accentuated his strong legs. On Bart’s right stood Darah in a blue and pink summer dress.

Suddenly, Geraldine felt under-dressed in her slacks and muslin flower blouse. Feeling the heat from her mother-in-law’s fierce glare, Geraldine didn’t dare look into the rear-view mirror.

Yelena opened the door just as Bart and Darah stepped off the last stair onto the pavement.

Darah grinned at the sight of the toddler in Yelena’s arms. “How cute!” she gushed, opening her arms to receive the child.

To Geraldine’s surprise, Joselyn willingly went to Darah’s arms.

Bart’s gaze barely skimmed Geraldine and moved to greet Yelena and then her in-laws. But once he was done with his greetings, his gaze swung back to Geraldine.

She noticed over his shoulder that the rest of the Teka family had moved onto the porch. Bart moved into her line of vision and she tilted her head back, noting the same inscrutable look from earlier that morning.

“Hey…” she managed to say, not understanding why her tongue was stuck to the roof of her mouth for the second time that day.

He didn’t answer, moving even closer until her vision was filled with only his face.

Her heart slammed against her ribs as he leaned down, knowing he was about to kiss her. Funny thing was she didn’t lift her empty hands to stop him.

Bart’s mouth landed on hers and her eyes closed willingly, her face tilting back as he kissed her.

She barely heard the sharp intake of breath as Bart’s hand cupped the back of her head to guide the kiss, and she did nothing to stop him. Didn’t want to.

Until Bart’s lips lifted from hers and he stepped back. She blinked out of the daze and spotted Darah’s amused expression. Heat surged her face, realizing what they’d done and she jerked her eyes to her in-laws, seared by her mother-in-law’s enraged expression.

Then Clement laughed from the porch and Geraldine looked away. “That’s what I’m talking about. Now come in so the entire neighborhood doesn’t start cheering.”

Bart chuckled and draped an arm around Geraldine’s shoulder. He leaned in, pressing a kiss to her ear. “Warned you,” he muttered against her skin.

Suddenly, Geraldine recalled the warning he gave yesterday about her calling him Barty and fumed inwardly. But because their families were watching them intently, she only smiled and slid an arm around his narrow waist, letting him lead her inside. For now, she’d play along.

<<Chapter 14 || Chapter 16>>

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