Posts tagged “decision

Lighthouse, Chapter 9

Posted on 10/05/2016

Another bites the dust, J.R. thought to himself as he stormed up the sidewalk to his father’s home hours later. True to his pessimistic prediction, another sponsor called just before closing to rescind his support of the immigration center. Mr. Earl Peters from Baton Rouge was not a part of the Southeast Coalition as Mrs. Ganesh or his father, but benefited from business connections with both in the past.

The battle between the older and younger Obed men must’ve made Mr. Peters squeamish about continuing his support of J.R.’s project.

“Family misunderstandings should be settled sooner than later. If family’s not in your corner, young buck, you’ve got no one,” Mr. Peters advised J.R. before ending the call.

But how could J.R. back down when he wasn’t the one at fault? How could he settle a matter that his father refused to let settle in the first place?

He heard laughter as he entered the house, the sound prickling his already-agitated nerves. He rounded the corner and came to a complete stop. In the family room where they hardly ever entertained sat his father beaming from ear to ear, and beside him a smiling Hana. A basket containing sparkling grape juice and fruit sat in the middle of the coffee table.

J.R’s brow furrowed darkly as he swung his glare to L.J. “What’s this?”

Hana’s smile waned at the sound of his voice and L.J.’s chuckling eased away.

“You’re late.” L.J. leaned into his chair; the leather squeaking under him, deafening the awkward silence.

“Had things to do,” J.R. replied offhandedly, catching the widening of Hana’s brown eyes. He couldn’t help but frown at the sight of her. What was she doing here?

She dipped her head slightly to acknowledge him. “Good to see you again, Bhaiyaa…”

Under normal circumstances, he would’ve been polite and said ‘likewise’ or something to that effect. However, his father’s smug expression and the pesky sight of the fruit had him return his accusing glare to L.J. “What happened to dinner?”

L.J.’s salt-and-pepper brows raised pointedly. “I couldn’t very starve while you finished the things you were doing. So Hana made me dinner. Butter chicken. Delicious, I might add.”

Hana dipped her head shyly. “Thank you, Babuji.”

He winked and patted her hand. To the normal eye, it was a harmless and kind gesture between the two, but all J.R. saw was the conspiring smile marking his father’s lips and he stood. “Good for you. I’ll take my leave then since you’ve got it covered.”

He heard the leather squeak behind him as he turned away.

Bhaiyaa, won’t you eat?”

He stiffened at the entreaty in Hana’s voice. She was a kind, innocent soul and didn’t deserve his anger but at that moment, she was siding with his enemy. “I’m not hungry.”

Hana’s silence made him hesitate. L.J. snorted. “Don’t mind him, he’s just sulking.”

J.R. started up the stairs, wise not to respond to his father’s goading as he used to as an adolescent.

“Did something happen?” Hana asked just before he closed his bedroom door.

There was no time to stew over his father’s underhanded methods to get him to yield. Bringing Hana over was the last straw and he would fight fire with fire. He just wasn’t sure what weapon to use. Flipping through an old rolodex on his desk, J.R. summoned memories of his father’s former business partners and acquaintances, all who either separated from L.J. because of his ruthless tactics or abrasive personality. Though L.J. had softened a lot from when J.R. was just a boy and had just lost his mother, J.R. had a feeling there were many who had yet to forgive L.J. for his harsh treatment of them while he was grieving.

Ignoring the niggling sense that this was dishonorable, J.R. flipped the pages while fueled on frustration and revenge. His phone rang in his pocket but he ignored it, intent on finding ammunition in whatever way possible to fight back against his father’s undermining tactics.

Then a knock sounded on his door. He paused and glanced once at the door, frowning that he didn’t lock it behind him. When the knock sounded again before the knob twisted, he pushed the rolodex behind him just as the door squeaked open. His brow furrowed as Hana stepped in, hesitation making her steps awkward. “Yes?” he asked, struggling to keep his voice even.

Hana gave him a faint smile, having the decency not to inspect his room as others would’ve done on first sight. Or maybe his father had already given her the grand tour without his permission. He fumed inwardly, knowing his father all too well. ‘That old—’

“You had a long day?”

J.R. stepped out of his rising irritation and met her eyes. “Pardon?”

Her smile widened and softened at the same time. She had this calm disposition that only troubled him, as though she knew something he didn’t.

“How old are you?”

Her brow arched in question. “Isn’t that rude to ask?”

“Is it?”

Her lips twitched. “You’re an odd one, Bhaiyaa…”

“So are you.”

She blinked but recovered quickly. “Oh?”

He folded his arms across his chest. “You seem old enough to hold your own, yet you allow my father to play games with—”

“It seems you’re the one that is odd…”

It was J.R.’s turn to raise his brows. “Oh?”

She dipped her head and her smile returned. “You think your father immature to play games and me foolish enough to let him lead me on.”

J.R. smirked. So she had a backbone. Good. He could speak more freely then. “I have no intentions of marrying you, Hana.”

Hana tilted her head slightly. “What makes you think I want you to, Raju?”

He paused, not expecting that response or the personal use of his name. His brow furrowed. “Then…”

She chuckled, her laugh soft and breathy. “You are certainly the odd one.” She started for the door.

“Wait,” he heard himself speak and grimaced when she turned expectantly. He had nothing to say.

Hana smirked knowingly. “Not many people can make butter chicken as good as me. I graciously brought you a plate before you had any regrets.”

J.R. choked a laugh. Her boldness was reminiscent of someone he knew. His smile waned as Darah’s face came to his mind’s eye, recalling the disappointment in her clear hazel eyes that night. He hadn’t spoken with her since that day, and he wondered when he ever would. Was she okay? Did she finally step out of her room to speak with her brothers? Did Abe and Bart make things worse–?

“So will you eat?”

He blinked from his thoughts and met Hana’s expectant gaze. Then he sighed, relenting. Butter chicken was his favorite meal and L.J. knew that all too well.

She didn’t wait for him to give a word, turning to the door. Within seconds, she returned with a tray of the scrumptious meal and J.R.’s traitorous stomach growled on cue.

He sheepishly accepted the tray, practically salivating. Only a few people knew how to make butter chicken the way he liked it, and L.J knew that too. He set the tray on his lap and forced his gaze back to her face. “Thanks for coming to make it.”

Hana shrugged a shoulder. “Not a problem. Goodnight.”

J.R. watched her exit the room and took a minute to ponder why he still felt unsettled even after she’d gone. Something seemed off about her being there, cooking in his house, and his father’s annoying smug smile. But his stomach growled and ached to taste his favorite meal, so he shoved the pesky feeling aside and dove in.

The next morning his stomach turned with vengeance, sending him out of his room and down the hall to the bathroom. The door was locked under his insistent nudging, and J.R. groaned. His father’s room was downstairs, which meant J.R. must’ve locked it by mistake. His stomach burned to expel the contents from last night, the guilty pleasure of a meal he should’ve been careful to eat. Reaching up the ledge of the doorframe to grab the key placed there, his hand stilled at the sound of flushing on the other side.

He frowned as the faucet ran and stopped. Then the door opened and J.R. stood frozen, mouth agape.

A bare-faced Hana with a towel turban over her dark locks stood on the other side of the door. His hand dropped and he took a step back. What was still she doing here? It hadn’t occurred to him until that moment that even though her parents had returned home, she would still be here.

Then she gave him a kind smile that only made his stomach clench tight. “Good morning, Raju.”

J.R.’s hand dropped to his side, too stunned for words.

A soft giggle escaped her throat as she edged around him. “The bathroom is all yours.” She peered over her shoulder at him before turning away.

J.R. didn’t enter the bathroom, instead storming down the stairs for his father’s room. The door was unlocked and his father stood in front of his closet, sorting a slew of ties he had long since retired. J.R.  plowed forward, not bothering to knock. “Father!”

L.J. dragged his eye to J.R.’s stormy expression in the mirror. “So you’re awake?”

“W-what is she doing h-here?”

“Who?”

“Hana!” he didn’t bother lowering his voice. “W-why d-did she come b-back?”

“Lower your voice.” L.J. hung another tie. “And I said we’d be hosting her for the duration of her stay.”

“H-how long i-is she s-staying?” J.R.’s brows slammed in a deep V, silently praying it wasn’t long.

“As long as she likes.”

J.R scowled. “Why?!”

L.J. huffed a sigh. “If you’d waited to hear the reason we were celebrating, you’d have known why—“

Babuji, please…” J.R. breathed in exasperation, weary of the back and forth.

“Hana matched her chosen residency for internal medicine.”

L.J.’s expression was akin to a cat that just swallowed a canary. The fire that burned J.R.’s stomach rose up his esophagus and he swallowed it down. “Let me guess… it’s in Houston.”

“Indeed.” L.J’s smile widened. “So be a good boy and congratulate her properly. You two should get along since she’ll be staying with us until she finds a place.”

Not sure whether to rant or just run of the house, J.R. stared at his father’s reflection. “Don’t you think you’re taking this a bit too far, Babu?” he marveled at his calm tone.

L.J. must’ve been surprised at his tame reaction because his dark eyes skittered over his, hands stilled over his ties. “Taking what too far, Beta? Can’t a father assist his son with his future?”

The gentle lilt of his father’s tone and the endearment almost caught him off guard. Almost.

J.R. shook his head. “Not if you’re taking the reins of my life completely.”

“I’m merely pushing you in the right direction.”

“That’s unnecessary since I know what I’m doing.”

L.J.’s brows lifted. “Do you?”

“Yes. Let go, Babu.”

“You remember what I said, don’t you?” L.J.’s gaze was unrelenting, hardening. “You have a year to fulfill my request or that center won’t happen.”

Ignoring the wave of panic, J.R. nodded. “Yes. Let go, Babu.”

L.J. smirked. “You won’t find someone by then. Just marry Hana and save yourself the trouble.”

J.R. smirked in return. “I will figure it out. Let go, Babu.”

L.J.’s smile waned and his brow furrowed slightly. “You have someone?”

“I might.” He didn’t. Not yet. But if he wouldn’t allow L.J. to win. Not this time. “Let go, Babu.”

L.J. squinted. “Who is she?”

“You’ll see in due time. Let go, Babu.”

“We’ll see.” L.J. rolled his eyes. “Fine. I’m letting go.”

J.R. watched his father step away from the closet, heard him murmur something under his breath as he disappeared into his bathroom. Although L.J. agreed begrudgingly to stop meddling, J.R. wasn’t taking any chances. He had to come up with something and fast. And he knew just where to start.

“That’s insane!” Phoebe protested, her voice carrying up the stairs. Darah could hear her and Geraldine talking, about her no doubt. The children were at school when Darah woke hours later, having ignored the breakfast and lunch taps at her door. Now her stomach turned with a fury that worried her and had Darah leaving her refuge to seek food downstairs.

At eight weeks, her breasts felt sore and the curves she’d coveted for years were starting to fill in. Instead of rejoicing, she panicked at the implications of becoming a single mother. Closing her eyes tight, she told herself to breathe. Being a mother was what she’d always wanted. Her hands moved to her stomach. Sure it didn’t come in the right order or in the right circumstance, but she was still going to be a mother. Preparing for it wouldn’t be easy but–

“Can his father really do that?” Phoebe continued, jerking Darah from her thoughts. “And I thought I was a meddler…”

“You are,” Geraldine answered. “But looks like Mr. Obed is a lot worse. Giving J.R. an ultimatum to get married or he won’t be able to build and operate his center is ridiculous.”

Darah paused at the stairs, recalling Clement’s words about J.R.’s father. She’d laughed it off earlier; J.R. was much too stubborn for matchmaking. But an ultimatum was different and no laughing matter.

“And J.R.’s desperate isn’t he?” Phoebe asked.

Darah frowned. Could J.R. be considered desperate? That man was the most composed, well-put-together person she’d ever known. Annoyingly sensible and could never do wrong by her except when he rejected her eighteen-year-old confession of love–

“This is his life’s dream, Phoebe. He’s always wanted this center and put his whole life’s saving into establishing it. If his father blocks every source of support, poor guy’s without a center.”

“Oh no.”

Her gut tightened, imagining J.R. stalwartly supporting her siblings during every trial they faced, supporting them in whatever way he could. He was family and the thought of him facing something troublesome troubled her.

“So he has no choice but to consider the girl his father picked?”

She shook her head as she took another step down and another. There was no way J.R. would agree to something so undermining. He was much too principled.

But then again, desperate times called for desperate measures. Could J.R. be convinced? Her heart fluttered as an idea sprang forth in her mind.

“I don’t see what other choice he has,” Geraldine answered.

“Of course he has a choice,” Darah spoke up as she got to the landing. Her sisters-in-law turned in their seats, brows raised as though surprised to see her standing there. She placed her hands on her hips. “And I’m gonna help him make it.”

Geraldine arched a brow. Phoebe blinked. “What choice is that?”

“The obvious choice. Me.”

Phoebe’s mouth dropped open in shock. Geraldine frowned. “Huh?”

Darah’s lips twitched. “J.R. and I will get married. Problem solved.”

Geraldine’s jaw slackened.

<<Chapter 8 || Chapter 10>>

Homecoming, Chapter 8

Posted on 05/01/2016

Bart frowned after Geraldine had paused to take a breath. “Let me get this straight… you told your in-laws that I’d asked to marry you?”

Geraldine didn’t say a word, wringing her hands in her lap.

He scoffed at her silence. “So what you told me was a lie?”

“It wasn’t a lie,” Phoebe inserted. “She just didn’t tell you the whole story.”

He spared Phoebe an exasperated look. “Omission is still lying. You say that all the time.”

She rolled her eyes. “Since when do you listen to me?”

Bart turned back to Geraldine. “Did it ever cross your mind that I’d want a say in all of this? That I’d want to pick the woman I want to marry? Who are you to decide that for me?”

Geraldine bit her lip. Phoebe sighed heavily. “Okay, enough. You can see she’s regretting it all but that’s not what is important. Are you gonna help us or not?”

“Us?” Bart echoed. “Since when did this become your problem?” At her pointed silence, he exhaled a harsh breath and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“You’re missing the point, Bart,” Phoebe spoke again. “It’s not like you’ll be getting married for real. All you have to do is pretend for a few weeks while her in-laws are visiting.”

Bart glanced once at Geraldine before looking to his sister-in-law. “Are you serious?”

Phoebe didn’t blink. “Yes.”

He shook his head incredulously. “This isn’t a game or some dumb romance movie, Phoebe. I refuse to lie about a relationship.”

“Even if you could save a family from being separated?” She arched a pointed brow, reminding him of the battle they’d faced through years ago to keep their family together.

His gaze drifted to Geraldine, struck by the tears that now streamed her face. His chest tightened at the sight and he wanted to go to her, wrap his arms around her.

“If her in-laws find any reasonable cause why Geri’s an unfit mother—”

“She’s a good mother. No one should doubt that,” Bart inserted firmly, his pulse jumping when Geri lifted tearful eyes to his face. He could hear his heartbeat pounding in his ears.

“We know that,” Phoebe continued, her voice soft. “But it’s their dead son’s word against Geri’s.”

His jaw clenched tight, overwhelmed with anger and frustration. “Why didn’t you just tell me that from the beginning?” he demanded of Geraldine, annoyed that she didn’t trust him in the first place. “Why lie in the first place?”

“Now Bart—” Phoebe paused when Geraldine raised a hand to stop her.

Geraldine sniffed back the tears. “Would it have made your decision easier or harder to make?”

His expression darkened. “That was my decision to make, not yours.”

“Did you come over to accept my proposal?” she asked, voice strangely clear.

Convicted, Bart swallowed.

“Didn’t think so.” Geraldine heaved a deep sigh. “This is my fault. I should’ve known better than to ask you.”

He frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

She regarded him warily. “You never liked dealing with hard stuff. It’s not your style.”

He scowled. “Excuse me?”

“Three years ago, you wanted nothing more than to sell your parents’ house and go back to your easy, convenient existence in California. If Abe hadn’t insisted on you staying—”

“Stop it Geri,” Phoebe said firmly. “That’s uncalled for.”

“Isn’t it true?!” Geraldine demanded, eyes blazing.  “Tell me, if Abe hadn’t asked him to stay and help, would he be here?”

“Shut your mouth.” Bart stood, his teeth clenched, anger and indignation stirring within him. “You don’t know a thing about me.”

Fear flickered in her gaze but Geraldine averted her gaze and pushed herself to stand. “You’re right, I don’t know you. It seems I made a mistake getting you two involved in my problems.” She turned to Phoebe. “I should do this on my own.”

Standing, Phoebe frowned in concern. “Geri…”

“Thanks for offering to help, but this is something I need to do on my own.” Geraldine braved a smile. “She’s my daughter, and this is my fight. I have to face them on my own.”

Bart snorted in derision. “If you were gonna come to that conclusion, why make a fuss in the first place?”

“Okay, that’s it,” Phoebe grabbed Bart’s arm. She pushed him around the sofa and toward the front door. “Let’s go.”

Geraldine bit the inside of her cheeks, struggling to maintain a facade of bravery. On cue, the sound of a baby crying behind closed doors filled the silence. Grateful for the sound, Geraldine turned her back just as a lone tear slid down her cheeks.

Bart glared at Geraldine’s back as Phoebe shoved him out the door. He scowled when Phoebe smacked his arm. “What was that for?”

She glowered up at him. “Must you be such a jerk?!”

He squinted. “I’m the jerk when she’s the one—”

“She’s desperate, Bart!” Phoebe’s eyes were blazing with indignation. “She’ll lose the only person that matters to her. Can’t you see that?” She turned away in disgust and stormed down the driveway to her car, leaving Bart behind.

By the time he made it to work, Bart could barely concentrate on anything but Geraldine. Now that he knew the whole story, he kept replaying it in his head, growing all the more angry.

Barely coming to terms with her new status as a widow and soon-to-be mother, Geraldine received a divorce notice filed by her husband two months before his death, him claiming that Geraldine was lazy, disrespectful and could not properly fulfill her duties as a wife. Consequently, his parents demanded that she surrender her rights as Jozy’s guardian.

He clenched his jaw. The sorry excuse of a man dragged her name through the mud while abusing her in secret.

Bart frowned. But was it really in secret or did his parents choose to ignore their son’s monstrous behavior toward another human being?

A knock on his door removed him from his thoughts. He turned towards the door that swung open and frowned at the receptionist popped her head in.

With her managing five other real-estate agents in the office, the receptionist rarely stepped away from her desk except if… He glanced once at his desk phone and grimaced at the flashing light of missed calls.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, contrite.

She gave him a patient smile. “Your fiancée is here.”

Automatically he imagined Geraldine’s face and sat up. “What?”

“Kasey?” she raised both brows at him.

The name drew a frown on his face. “She’s here?”

“Yup. Should I let her in?”

The word ‘no’ was on the tip of his tongue but Bart nodded instead.

Summoned by the receptionist, Kasey sauntered into the office with a bright smile, dressed to the nines and fumigating his office with her expensive perfume. When he silently gestured for her to be seated, her smile dimmed slightly.

“You wanted to see me?” Bart asked nonchalantly, arms folded over his chest.

She pouted her rouge lips. “I was under the impression you would’ve missed me.”

He arched a brow. “Is that so?”

She tilted her head, confused. “You… don’t?”

Bart glanced down at the papers on his desk and frowned. Most of the day was spent thinking about Geraldine; he didn’t get any work done.

“Barty?”

“It’s Bart.”

“Pardon?”

He looked up. “It’s Bart. Not Barty.”

A scowl wrinkled her features. “You certainly didn’t have a problem before.”

“What are you doing here, Kasey?”

Her features softened as she stuck out her bottom lip. “Against my better judgment, I waited thinking you just needed time.”

“Needed time for what?”

She paused, taken aback. He’d always deferred to her, apologized first, and appeased her when she was upset. Why wasn’t he trying to appease her now? “What’s going on here?”

“You tell me.”

She blinked rapidly, summoning tears on cue.

Bart rolled his eyes. “Kasey, I have work to finish, so if–”

She sniffed, eyes swimming with unscheduled tears. Crocodile tears. “Why are you doing this?”

“Doing what? We broke up, didn’t we?”

Her eyes widened. “I didn’t think you were serious. You—”

“I meant it, Kasey. This,” Bart waved his hands between them. “It won’t work.”

“B-But…”

“Besides,” He bent to gather the papers on his desk. “I’m engaged.”

“… you’re what?”

Bart met her gaze and read the disbelief plain in her tear-filled eyes. Then her doll-like features hardened and he braced himself.

“You’re kidding me,” she gritted through clenched white teeth. “This is some sick joke, right?”

He sighed, awaiting the barrage of insults that were sure to follow.

“You certainly didn’t waste any time, did you?” Kasey continued, eyes flashing with rage. “Or was she some side chick you fell back on after I broke up with you?”

He should’ve stayed quiet, accepted the blame for being a cad. Instead, Bart gave vocals to the petty words in his mind. “Don’t misunderstand. I broke it off, Kasey. Not you.”

The storm raged in her eyes.”You self-righteous scumbag! How dare you do this to me?!” She grabbed the first heavy object on his desk and hurled it at him.

Geraldine squinted at the document on the computer; frantically searching for loopholes or anything else that could offer some hope. Now resolved to fight alone for custody with her vengeful in-laws, Geraldine desperately needed a solution. There wasn’t much time left.

“Found anything yet?” her mother inquired over her shoulder.

Geraldine shook her head and blinked quickly to focus. Pages of online documents about custody of children held little information relevant to her circumstance. Her in-laws chose to believe the lies of a dead man all because he was their son. She was the villain even though she had suffered under their son’s relentless abuse.

Her mother placed a hand on her shoulder. “I’m praying. There will be an answer soon.”

Geraldine sighed. “Let’s just hope it’s an answer we want this time.”

Silence responded to her bitter tone but Geraldine refused to apologize. If God really cared, she wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.

“I’ll go check on Jozy.” Her mother squeezed her shoulder before stepping away.

Grunting her response, Geraldine closed yet another document. The throbbing in her temple intensified as the day turned to night and she groaned inwardly.

The doorbell rang, and rang again in quick succession.

Worried the obnoxious sound would wake Joselyn, Geraldine stood quickly rushed to the door. Seeing Bart’s profile in the peephole, Geraldine scowled.

He rang the bell again and she yanked the door open.

“Stop that—!” she hissed sharply when he turned his full face, revealing a bandaid above his left brow. Alarm chased away resentment. She grabbed his arm and pulled him inside. “What happened to you?”

“Accident,” he answered, his hand covering hers on his arm.

His touch gave her pause and she looked up at him. There was no trace of annoyance in his stare.

Then he smiled gently. “Alright Geraldine, let’s get married.”

<<Chapter 7 || Chapter 9>>

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