Posts tagged “despair

Lighthouse, Chapter 19

Posted on 12/08/2016

J.R. and Hana stood on the other side of the window, silently watching the doctor check the IV while the patient slept. Hands bunched in his pockets, J.R. gazed down at the frail man trying to breathe through the oxygen mask fitted onto his face. Though minutes had passed since the doctor and his team stabilized his father from his struggle to breathe, panic still thrummed through J.R.’s veins.

His father had been against radiation therapy, not wanting to be stuck in the hospital any longer… but J.R. insisted and the doctor hesitantly allowed it, reading the desperation in a son’s voice to save his father.

Except this decision just might have made his father’s condition a lot worse. Edema in the lungs.

“Don’t worry,” Hana’s voice pervaded through his thoughts and J.R. closed his eyes, wishing it was that simple. She sighed deeply. “He’s a strong man.”

His eyes fluttered open once more, and he pinned his gaze on his father’s sleeping form. “Maybe we should’ve…”

“No,” Hana interjected softly. “Radiation is his best bet.” She shifted her attention to J.R.’s profile. “Don’t waver, Bhaiyaa… you have to be strong for him.”

I can’t. Unwittingly, a faded memory emerged from a dark deep corner in his mind.

A scared kid sat in the waiting room of the emergency center, his small heart beating fast and hard against his ribs as his father rushed after the paramedics wheeling a bleeding woman away. His eyes had lowered to the trail of blood leading down the hallway. He’d pushed off the plastic chair and followed the bloody trail. Nurses and patients bustled around him, ignoring the scrawny boy still clad in his yellow pajamas and bare feet. Air rushed through his ears as he came to the end of the hallway and slowly turned. His disheveled father was on his knees at the end of the bloody trail, body shaking as he wept bitterly. A nurse and paramedic stood at his side, helpless to comfort the desolate man. The woman they’d brought with him was nowhere to be found. Paralyzed with fear at the sight of his strong and brave father weeping, the little boy just watched with tears pooling his eyes as his ten-year-old mind realized the truth. She was gone. His mother was gone.

“Bhaiyaa,” a voice echoed in his head.

J.R. squeezed his eyes tight, the tears sliding down his cheeks.

A hand closed over his shoulder and jostled him from the memory. He blinked and looked down to the sympathetic eyes of Hana at his side.

“You okay?”

He couldn’t even nod and just stared at her.

Hana sighed and released his shoulder. “Your phone’s ringing.”

J.R. looked away and reached for his phone that was indeed vibrating against his hip. Unlatching it from his belt hook, he stared at the caller-id of the Teka house phone. Sniffing back the tears, he accepted the call and put the phone to his ear.

“Hello?” His brows furrowed slightly and he glanced once at the window where the doctor surveyed his sleeping father. “You’re back,” he drawled monotonously, unable to muster any affability in his tone. He was far too tired to perform.

Darah watched the furrow deepen on Clement’s brow and bit her bottom lip. Something was wrong, she could tell when Clement’s gaze shifted away from hers. She shuffled to stand in front of him, wanting to read every emotion as he spoke with J.R.

“Hmm,” Clement muttered in a noncommittal tone that only frustrated his only sister. “What of you?”

She leaned in, her ears perked up to hear J.R.’s low tenor.

“Hmm.” Clement stepped around her. “Do you want me to come?”

Darah hurried to stand in his path and gestured for him to take her with him.

He arched a brow and then rolled his eyes. “Darah wants to come.”

She held her breath, gaze fixed on her brother’s face.

Then Clement’s lips twitched a smile. “Yeah, she’s here.”

Her heart skipped several beats and she slowly released the breath, silently apologizing to the child for being foolish. She kept her eyes on Clement, waiting.

Then he nodded. “We’re on our way.”

Her shoulders sagged in relief only to stiffen when he lowered the phone. “What happened?”

He looked down at her with a somber expression. “This isn’t a just a visit, Darah. I need you to behave.”

“I’m not a kid, Junior.” She swallowed against the dread rising up her throat, and followed him up the stairs. “Is it his father? Did something happen?”

A door opened once they reached the top of the stairs, and Phoebe stepped out of her bedroom, eyes bleary from sleep. She eyed them with concern. “It’s past midnight… what’s going on?”

“We’re going down to the hospital,” Clement said and entered Eleazar’s bedroom where he’d put up his duffel bag and shoes.

The sleep left Phoebe’s eyes and she quickly turned to Darah. “Is it about J.R.’s father?”

“He won’t say but I think so.” Darah wrung her hands together.

“Oh no,” Phoebe breathed. “Maybe we should get the guys out tonight. They’ll go with you.”

“I don’t think we need the whole gang out there tonight.” Clement emerged from the room a moment later, his eyes falling on Darah. “Don’t get in the way.”

Instead of pouting, she nodded. “I won’t. Can we go now?”

Alone in the chapel, J.R. sat in silence, his listless gaze on the shadow of the cross splayed across the altar. The soft hum of the music overhead meant to calm him, to assure him of a miracle, but it only brought tears to pool in his eyes. Blinking them back, he squared his shoulders and drew in a haggard breath. Then he closed his eyes, releasing tears down his cheeks and the breath he’d held.

“Please…”

His voice was barely a whisper amid the hymnal. His eyes fluttered open, meeting the cross and the carved statue hanging on it. “Please,” he began again, voice stronger this time. “Don’t let me lose him.”

His clasped fingers tightened and he closed his eyes again. His shoulders trembled at the thought of losing the only family he had. “I know I’ve been angry at you for too long… but please, just this once.”

His pulse jumped in his throat. “Just this once…”

Another tear trailed his cheek and he sniffed another back. “Please, just… save my dad.” His body began to shake as he couldn’t hold back the tears and he bowed over his waist, his forehead dropping against the back of the pew in front of him.

He knew it wouldn’t help, the thoughts racing through his mind, but he had to say it… just in case. He lifted his head again and gazed up at the shadow. “I’ll do anything. Anything, just save him first. Please.”

The door swung open noisily and J.R. swiveled in his seat, heart in his throat as he expected a grim-faced Hana to bring him the dreaded news.

Two shadows darkened the door of the chapel. He remained seated and watched as they stepped inside and into the spotlight above the door. His heart flipped at the sight of Darah standing by a bearded man. Tears pooled in his eyes as he watched her break away from the man and hurry toward him. He could nothing as she stepped into his pew and flung her arms around his neck. He closed his eyes and lowered his head to the crook of her neck, the tears flowing free as she tightened her hold around him.

Darah felt his shoulders quake under her arms and she tightened her arms around him even more, not wanting to let go despite the fact that her heart pounded hard and fast against his… She closed her eyes and breathed him in, wishing she could take away his pain and fear.

Clement sighed heavily beside them and lowered to the pew behind them. He watched the couple with a somber expression, his brow furrowing at the sight of J.R.’s trembling shoulders. There weren’t many times he’d seen the self-composed attorney lose his cool. But this wasn’t a normal situation.

As though realizing where he was, J.R. disengaged and shifted away from Darah, only for her to grab his shoulders to keep him close. He sighed, not making a move to step away from her. Instead he shifted his attention to the bearded man and his brows lifted in silent question.

Clement nodded. “Any word yet?”

J.R. shook his head, looking past Clement’s shoulder at the closed chapel door.

Darah heaved a sigh and squeezed J.R.’s shoulder. “He’ll be fine.”

J.R. spared her a dubious glance.

“You’re in here so keep your hope alive.” She gave him a gentle smile that made him wish for another hug.

Instead, he looked back at Clement. “When did you come?”

Clement leaned back in the seat, draping one arm over the pew. “A few hours…” he paused to let out a big yawn. “…ago.”

Darah sighed. “How long has he been out for?”

J.R. noticed the warning look Clement gave his sister but ignored it. He dragged a hand over his face. “Too long.”

Clement shifted forward. “Should I meet with him?”

J.R. straightened, alarm heightening at the somberness in his friend’s tone. “I…”

“Relax, I’m just going to sit with him for a while. Let Darah take care of you.” Clement didn’t wait to hear J.R.’s protest and stood. “Behave,” he warned his sister before stepping out of the pew.

Darah gripped J.R.’s shoulder to keep him seated. When he twisted to look at her with questions in his eyes, she squeezed his shoulder and gave him a slight smile. “Stay for a while. Please.”

He swallowed a sigh and the nerves that Clement’s words invoked before settling back in the pew. Darah released his shoulder and moved her hand to clasp his, entwining their fingers together. She could feel his gaze on hers and sighed. “Stop looking at me like that.”

His fingers remained lax in hers but that didn’t stop her from tightening her hold.

Her gaze focused on the shadow of the cross. “Why did you come here?”

J.R.’s eyes lowered to their joined hands, to the chipped polish on her tiny nails. He sighed and curled his fingers around the back of her hand. Then he turned to face the cross. “I don’t know.”

“Of course you know,” she insisted gently. “You could’ve gone outside to the garden like last time. Or sat in the toilet stall.”

“What do you want to say?”

“Let me talk.”

“I am.”

Darah sighed gently, her thumb caressing his. “You haven’t given up.”

He remained silent, holding his breath at her words.

“You haven’t given up on your dad. Even with the death sentence his doctors gave him, you have the hope to believe he can live.”

J.R. closed his eyes. How he wanted to believe her words so badly when in truth, he was trembling from the inside out of living alone.

“You’re not alone, J.R.”

His eyes snapped open and for a moment, J.R. believed he’d spoke those words aloud. His heart thumped hard and fast against his throat.

Darah leaned forward, resting her elbow on his knee. Her face barely inches from his, her eyes met his. “You’re not alone, J.R. We’re not giving up on him either.”

He released the breath he didn’t know he’d been holding, only to catch it again when her eyes twinkled with what he believed were tears. Paralyzed in awe, he gazed down at this impish girl who captured his heart ten years ago.

With her free hand, she lifted it to his face and cupped his cheek. “You’re not alone, J.R.”

Every time she said those words, it was like a brand on his heart; claiming him as hers. Then her lips twitched in that shy smile of hers, her thick lashes drooping in a curtain over her eyes.

“Why?” he croaked out.

Her lashes fluttered, revealing those brilliant eyes that shimmered with tears. For him. “Hmm?”

“Why…?”

He didn’t make sense, but it didn’t matter since she seemed to know what he was asking. Darah’s thumb caressed his cheek, rousing his pulse. “Because, Raju-Joel Obed,” her lashes lowered just once before lifting again, imprisoning him with her gaze. “I love y—”

J.R. didn’t need to hear the rest of it—the words were clear in her voice. He dipped his head and pressed his mouth against hers. The touch of her lips quickened his pulse, but not as it did when the hand she’d cupped his cheek now slid around his neck and clung to him. He too slid his free hand around her waist and pulled her close, clinging to her as though she was his anchor.

A moment too soon, the door swung open noisily and the two broke apart, believing it was Clement catching them in the act.

“Bhaiyaa! He’s awake! Come!” Hana called from the chapel entrance before hurrying back out, the doors swinging back in place.

For a moment, the two sat there in stunned silence—swept away by their unexpected kiss. They stared at each other as if seeing themselves for the first time. Then J.R. broke eye contact and stood.

Darah lowered her gaze and started to shift away from him when he grabbed her arm and tugged her to her feet. She gasped when he wrapped his arms around her, burying his face in the crook of her neck. She bit her bottom lip to keep from letting out a giggle, ticklish at the heat of his breath against her skin.

Then he released her, and took her breath away twice—the sounding kiss he placed on her mouth before gifting her with the most brilliant smile she’d seen in a long time.

“Thank you.” He then looked over her head at the cross, his smile beaming and blinding her at the same time. “Thank you…”

Her heart skipped a beat when his eyes swung back to hers and she held her breath, anticipating another kiss—wanting another. Instead, he released her waist and grabbed her hand. “Come.”

Stunned, Darah nodded mutely and let him lead her out of the chapel to meet his father but not without a glance behind her at the shadowed cross. “Thank you,” she mouthed, releasing a smile of her own.

<<Chapter 18 || Chapter 20>>

Lighthouse, Chapter 12

Posted on 20/06/2016

When the door opened and J.R. stepped out of the car, Darah actually took a step back. She hadn’t expected him to respond to her usual goading. His face was unreadable though from the look of his taut jaw, he wasn’t too happy with her choice of words. She took another step back when he walked the length of his car to stop in front of her.

But instead of reaming her for calling him names or being disrespectful, J.R. just stared at her with those piercing dark eyes of his. She shifted the weight from one foot to the other, staring at him, waiting for him to say something.

Then he sighed and shook his head. “You have no idea what you’re doing, Darah.”

She scowled instantly. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Exactly what I said.” His dark gaze swept over her face, studying her and finding her inadequate.

She squeezed her fingers into fists. “What does that mean?”

J.R. blew out a breath, his gaze unwavering. “The minute I decide to treat you like an adult, you prove me wrong.”

Darah stiffened, his words echoing her brothers’ sentiments. Surprisingly, him saying it hurt more than she’d anticipated. It was obvious that her brothers would never see her as an adult, having raised her since she was twelve. But J.R.? She clenched her jaw. “I’d say the same for you since you’re the one running away. Like a coward.”

His eyes narrowed. “I am not running away.”

“Oh really? So you hiding in the pharmacy was what exactly?”

J.R. frowned. “You…”

“Yes, I saw you.” Darah put her hands on her hips and tilted her chin. “Someone might think I was forcing you to make the wisest choice here.”

He arched a brow. “I’m afraid to ask you what that choice might be.”

“Get married, duh.” Darah didn’t miss a beat. “You need to get married to please your dad, and my reason is obvious, of course.”

J.R. nodded without blinking. “Of course.”

Darah relaxed a little. Maybe she’d worn him down enough and he would actually consider—

“The problem is you thinking this is the wisest choice, or only choice for that matter.” J.R.’s gaze swept over her face. “Let’s ignore the fact that I have other sponsors who with the right persuasion could continue to fund the center. Let’s focus on you first.”

Darah frowned, not liking where this was going. J.R. was annoyingly analytical and had probably analyzed her situation even before knowing the full details. The most annoying part would be that he’d be close to the truth.

“Where’s the father?”

She huffed loudly to distract him from the stiffening of her shoulders. “Not this again.”

“Yes this again.” His brow furrowed. “Why you think I’d be a better candidate than the biological father is beyond me.”

“Maybe because you are.” Her cheeks warmed when he blinked at her. “I-I mean anyone besides that jerk would be a good candidate. Don’t get weird.”

“You proposing to get married in the first place is weird.”

Darah eyed him curiously. “Tell me the truth, J.R., what are you scared of?”

He arched a brow. “I’m not scared of anything, Darah.”

“Then why are you so bent on rejecting me?”

J.R. frowned. “I’m not rejecting you.”

Darah nodded, careful to look unfettered. “From day one when I told you how I felt—“

“You were young.”

She scowled. “I was eighteen! And before you start your rubbish talk about me being a minor, there are many eighteen-year-olds who got married right after high school.” Darah studied his indecipherable features, frustrated that even after ten years she couldn’t read what he was thinking. “Just be honest, you can’t handle me.”

Both brows shot up, eyes wide momentarily before J.R. slipped that mask back on. He let out an incredulous laugh. “I can’t handle you…?”

Darah tilted her chin. “You’re scared that I’ll be too much for you.”

J.R. smirked. “You have no idea.”

Her cheeks warmed as he stared with his hooded gaze. The heat traveled down her body and she bit her bottom lip. Her pulse quickened when his gaze dropped to her mouth.

“Does the kid know he’s gonna be a father?”

His words doused the heat from her body and she blew out a breath. “What’s this fascination about the father? I already told you he’s a nonfactor and should therefore not be mentioned.”

J.R. frowned. “That’s now how any of that works, Darah. Whether or not you want to accept it, the child’s biological father has an equal right to custody and could cause—”

Darah held a hand. “If I wanted legal advice, I’d have asked for it. Since I didn’t, keep it to yourself.”

His dark brows furrowed. “You’ve been ignoring me for years but the moment you’ve got the family on your case, I’m the first you thought to call?”

She then closed her mouth and folded her arms across her chest. “You’re insinuating that I need you to rescue me?”

He arched a brow. “Don’t you?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, I can handle my brothers just fine.”

“Still, raising a child on your own’s tougher. So tough you’re actually contemplating getting into a loveless marriage with just about anyone.”

She scowled. “You’re not just anyone! Stop acting like we’re strangers. I’ve known you for years.”

J.R. eyed her warily. “In any case, I won’t marry you.”

Darah stiffened visibly but recovered quickly with a smirk. “Alright.”

“Maybe one day I’ll explain—”

“Dude, it’s fine! I’ll be a fool to ask you again.” She spun on her heel and started for her car.

“Darah, wait—”

Her eyes stung with unshed tears and Darah slammed the car in frustration. After all these years she should’ve been immune to his snobbery towards her. No matter what she did, no matter how many years passed, he’d always look at her through the same lens as her brothers. She would never be anything more than immature, impulsive, quick-tempered and childish.

Sniffing back tears, Darah turned on the engine and reached for her seatbelt. Better to leave before he saw her crying and cement his jaded view of her. She would show him just how mature she was.

Her eyes drifted to his car, to him standing by the open door. He was on the phone, his back facing her.

Looking away, Darah snorted and dragged the seatbelt over her chest. “I’ll show him.” Her eyes drifted back to him. He didn’t enter his car to leave, instead leaning against the car. His back was bowed slightly as if he’d just received bad news.

She put the car in reverse, knowing he couldn’t leave until she did. The sooner she left, the sooner she could be away from such embarrassment. Her foot remained on the brake, eyes watching him.

His free hand moved to his head and remained there.

Darah quietly put the car in park and watched him. She hadn’t witnessed that frazzled pose from J.R. before. Something wasn’t right.

Then J.R. lowered the phone from his ear and rested his head against the car door.

She pressed the car horn. J.R. didn’t turn around. She huffed a breath and unbuckled her seatbelt. She pressed the horn again but J.R. refused to acknowledge her. Pushing the cardoor open, she stuck her head out. “What’s going on?”

He didn’t answer, didn’t lift his head.

Darah frowned, stepping out of the car. Her pulse quickened as she made her way to him. She stopped right behind him and put a hand to his bowed back. His body was taut and not just from his toned physique. She shook him slightly.

He jerked as though just realizing she was beside him, and shifted to face her.

Darah’s eyes widened at his glistening gaze. “A-are you crying?”

J.R. blinked to clear the haze and looked past her. “My father…”

Her pulse jumped and her hand clutched his shoulder. “What happened?”

“He collapsed.”

“My God. Where is he? Why are you still here?”

J.R. shook his head, dazed.

Darah dropped her hand from his shoulder. “What hospital is he? Who’s with him?”

He just stared past her.

Clearly the news was grave or he would’ve said something. She’d never seen J.R. look so lost and it scared her. But the longer they tarried in the parking lot, the less time they’d have to reach his father.

Darah grabbed his wrist and tugged him toward her car. “Come. I’ll drive.”

“I’ll call once we arrive,” Darah said over the speaker in the car.

“J.R., we’re praying for your dad. Don’t lose heart, dear.” Phoebe spoke out, aware that J.R. was seated in the passenger’s seat of Darah’s car.

“Stay strong, brother,” Abe piped in.

J.R. didn’t answer to either and just stared out the window.

Darah glanced once at him and then reached for the phone. “Okay, let’s talk later. Bye.” She disconnected the call and sighed. “Don’t worry. I hear St. Luke’s a good hospital.”

He still didn’t answer and Darah looked his way, noting his taut jaw. “Are you worried?”

“Can we just not talk?” his voice was gravelly as though his throat was tight with holding back tears.

Darah nodded. “We could—“

“Thanks.”

She sighed and faced the road once more. They were only a few miles from the hospital but to Darah, and maybe even J.R., it felt like they were too far. She pressed on the accelerator.

“Don’t speed.”

Her lips twitched and she raised her foot slightly. Even in his frazzled state, he still had a mind to worry about her. She squeezed the steering wheel and said a quiet prayer for J.R. and his father, not knowing what happened except that his father collapsed at home and was rushed to the nearest hospital.

Minutes later, Darah pulled up in front of the hospital’s front. “Go ahead. I’ll park and come find you.”

J.R. grunted his reply as he unbuckled his seatbelt and quickly exited the car.

Darah watched him race for the sliding doors into the hospital lobby. She sighed and drove toward the parking lot. Her phone rang just as she pulled into a parking spot and she groaned, reading Bart’s caller ID. “Yeah?” she answered on the third ring, stepping out of the car.

“What hospital?”

“St. Luke’s. But I don’t think he wants all of us there.”

“We’ll be there in an hour. Gotta put the kids in bed first.”

Darah slung the bag over her shoulder. “Abe and Phoebe coming too?”

“Is that even a question to ask? Stay with him until we get there, then we’ll switch off.”

“I’m not leaving him.” She stepped onto the sidewalk. “Stay with your family.”

Bart was quiet for just a moment. “I’m not going to read into that now. We’ll be there shortly.”

Darah rolled her eyes as she crossed the walkway to the hospital entrance. “Yeah okay. Gotta go.” She disconnected the call before her brother changed his mind and hurried through the sliding doors to find the emergency ward and J.R.

She found him standing beside a doctor dressed in scrubs, a nurse and another woman dressed in street clothes. Eyes on J.R. alone, she meandered over, catching the tail end of the doctor’s words.

“… to monitor his vitals.”

J.R. dragged a hand over his tousled hair and Darah fought reaching out for his hand. “How long?”

The doctor, a white-haired gentleman of Arab descent, raised his bushy brows. “…long?”

“He means how long has it been this way?” the willowy woman dressed in street clothes asked, and for the first time, Darah noticed how close she stood beside J.R. and the hand she placed on his back. “It doesn’t make sense that Uncle L.J. would be in such a poor state.”

Although the woman referred to J.R.’s dad as Uncle, Darah stiffened when J.R. heaved a sigh and the woman rubbed his back. Clearing her throat, she stepped forward, attracting everyone’s attention. She gave them a smile. “Is everything alright?”

The doctor and nurse exchanged curious glances.

J.R glanced once at Darah before nodding at the doctor. “She’s with me. When can I see my father?”

Darah noticed the willowy woman’s hand drop from J.R.’s back and fought back a smile. It wasn’t appropriate in this case. She watched J.R.’s profile and had to hold herself from reaching for his hand.

“Since he’s stable now, I’ll have Nurse Wells get you signed in.” The doctor glanced once at Darah. “Family for now though.”

J.R. nodded and blindly reached for Darah’s hand. “That’s fine. She’s my fiancée.”

Darah wasn’t sure who gasped, her or the woman standing by J.R.’s side or both. All that mattered in that moment was J.R.’s hand gripping hers. She swallowed the gasp and squeezed his hand back.

<<Chapter 11 || Chapter 13>>

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