Posts tagged “Dinner

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>>

Guiding Light, Chapter 15

Posted on 08/12/2015

Joy; it was something none of them knew could exist after Yonas and Ester were laid to rest, never to be experienced again. Their lives as orphans was to be filled with grief, especially during the holidays, and no one would see cause to blame them for their despair.

However, Abe found himself smiling as he thought of the moment they’d gotten the call from the Department of Family and Protective Services after Mrs. Bessel’s visit. The entire family crowded around him, eyes riveted to his face, ears perked to hear the muffled voices from the phone, awaiting the news.

The minute he nodded, they all cheered. Both Darah and Eleazar couldn’t muffle their squeals of excitement, jumping into their older brothers’ arms. Abe remained seated though a smile was on his face as he listened to the instructions. He barely heard a word though, watching his siblings celebrate. This was joy; something once unattainable after their parents’ death had now become theirs to hold for a lifetime.

Darah jumped into Bart’s arms, her skinny arms circling his neck and squealing for joy as he spun her around. Eleazar was also in high spirits in Clement’s arms. Both Bart and Clement were grinning from ear to ear. Relief and joy filled Abe’s body and he allowed himself to smile finally. They were going to stay together, as a family.

Since they’d been too anxious about the DFPS visit, their Thanksgiving dinner was delayed. Thanksgiving dinner consisted of grilled cheese sandwiches, corn on the cob and apple juice for the main course, and mint chocolate cookies for dessert.

None complained of the lack of festivity, knowing that impressing the visitor from the foster agency was of a greater importance. They’d come together as a family and would now have the opportunity to live life together.

Darah sniffled on the table, breaking Abe’s thoughts. They now sat on the dining table, eating their more festive Thanksgiving dinner a few days later. All eyes turned to Darah, frowning at the tears streaming down her face.

“What’s wrong?” Abe asked, reaching over to put a hand on her shoulder. His eyes skimmed over his brothers, each of them shrugging, their expressions puzzled and wary.

Head down, Darah swiped the tears from her cheeks. “Nothing…”

“You’re crying for nothing—” Clement scowled when Bart nudged his foot under the table.

“You sure it’s nothing?” Abe asked gently, hand cupping her bony shoulder.

Darah nodded, lowering her hand. “I just… I just miss Mom.”

“I miss Daddy,” Eleazar piped in.

Abe’s shoulders sagged. Clement looked away. Bart sighed. This business of grieving would be a long one for the Teka family, that much was certain. And although they had much to celebrate, they also had two reasons to be solemn during the holidays.

“Like who’s gonna show me how to drive?” Darah continued.

“You have three brothers that’ll teach you when it’s time,” Abe answered.

Clement and Bart nodded, wearing identical frowns as they regarded their only sister.

She sniffed. “And who’ll show me how to straighten my hair? Or tell me whether to use pads or tampons?”

The three guys stiffened, Abe grimacing.

“What’s tampons?” Eleazar asked frowning.

Darah sighed heavily at their silence and pained expressions. “See? And when I have my first boyfriend–”

The men scowled. “What boyfriend?” Abe groused.

“You’re too young to even look at boys right now,” Bart added with a frown.

“That’s for sure,” Clement grumbled, his expression stormy. “Keep your head down.”

Darah rolled her eyes. “I didn’t say I was. Calm down.”

“Good we got that cleared up,” Bart said, returning to his sandwich. Clement did the same while Eleazar played with the lumpy mashed potatoes.

Sure she wasn’t done, Abe squinted at her. “What’s your point, Darah?”

She pinned him with her gaze and he felt every muscle in his body tense up.

“Whether you guys admit it or not, you know I need a woman’s influence.” Her lips trembled. “If Mommy was here…”

“Then Abe should get married,” Clement said matter-of-factly as he bit into the fried chicken. “Simple.”

Abe and Bart eyed him warily.

Darah sat up. “Oh yeah, but who?” her voice was entirely too cheery for Abe’s liking.

“Who else?” Clement shrugged nonchalantly. “Ms. Randall.”

“Ooh!” Darah clasped her hands together, face beaming. “That’s awesome!”

“I like Phoebe,” Eleazar said with a grin.

Bart’s shoulders loosened and a bemused smile twitched his lips. He eyed Abe who looked thunderstruck. “Looks like you’re getting married, Bro.”

Bewildered, Abe blinked at his siblings. “Marry… Phoebe? Me?”

“Who else?” Clement repeated, eying him curiously.

“I’ll marry her!” Eleazar said and Bart ruffled his hair.

“Wait your turn, kid.” Then Bart grinned at Abe. “You like her, don’t you?”

“Of course he likes her,” Darah said, beaming at Abe. “After kissing her like that, you better like her.”

Bart chuckled, Eleazar giggled, and Clement smirked. “The madam of the house has spoken. You’re getting married.”

Abe’s frown only deepened. “Now wait a minute. Don’t I get a say on whom and when I get married?”

Whom, shall or whatever,” Bart countered, smile only growing brighter. “Abe, you talk formally only when you’re uncomfortable… which means you’ve clearly considered it for yourself.”

“Oooh!” Darah sing-songed with a laugh. “Abe wants to marry Phoebe.”

“That’s ridiculous.” He shook his head, increasingly weary of this conversation. “No.”

“Uh-huh,” Darah continued, nudging him with her elbow. Everyone laughed at Abe’s exasperated expression. “Admit it, you wanna marry Phoebe. It’s plain as day in your eyes, Abe.”

“That’s enough. I said no!”

The smiles froze and the room grew silent. All eyes gaped at him, stunned by his outburst. Abe stifled a groan.

“Wait… you don’t wanna marry her?” Darah croaked, big eyes luminous with tears unshed. “Why not? She’s perfect.”

Abe sighed in rising aggravation. Her tears were his weakness. “Darah, not that again. Stop it.”

Scowling, Darah shot to her feet and glared down at him. “You suck.”

The brothers watched Darah storm up the stairs to her room, and flinched when she slammed her door. Then exhaling a harsh breath, Abe leaned his elbows on the table and covered his face with his hands.

Quietly, Clement and Eleazar left the table to go after Darah. Bart remained seated, the silence only interrupted by Eleazar’s pleas upstairs for Darah to open her door. Clement then gently instructed Eleazar to leave her alone for now, and both retreated to their shared room.

“What’s got you scared?”

Abe let out a humorless laugh. “You have no idea.”

“I think I do.” Bart waited until Abe looked up before giving his brother a smile. “You’ve just become the legal guardian of three minors… before turning thirty. According to the law, you’re officially a father.”

Abe rubbed his face, the word father resonating in his heart. Could he be the kind of father Yonas was to them? What if he didn’t have a clue?

“The thing is no one’s asking you to be Dad, Abe.”

He met Bart’s eye, his heart stopped.

“Not me, not Junior, not Darah and not Eli. You can’t be him, no one can.”

Abe swallowed hard, his eyes stinging.

“All you can be is yourself, Abe. That’s what counts.”

“What if that’s not enough?” His chest tightened, his fears rising to the surface.

“It is. Abe, it is enough.” Bart gave him a smile. “Stop giving yourself a hard time, stop acting like you’re this perfect son who has to meet everyone’s expectations.”

Chagrined, Abe looked away.

“You’ve been doing that since we were young. Aren’t you tired of it?”

Abe looked up, meeting Bart’s frown. He had no words in his defense. For as long as he could remember, he tried to be a good son and a good student, so Yonas and Ester would never regret their decision to adopt him. Even though they never failed to tell him he was their choice, not an obligation, he couldn’t stop striving to be the best he could be.

“Enough, Abe. Stop living to prove yourself. They’re proud of you. We’re all proud of you.”

Tears brimmed his eyes and Abe blinked them away, bowing his head. He knew those words, heard them a lot from their parents, but somehow hearing it from Bart felt different. Like a balm to heal the wound of their loss. His loss.

“And I’m here,” Bart said softly. “You’re not doing this alone. We’ll do this together, all of us. Not one person will be left with the responsibility of keeping our family together. Got it?”

His throat too tight to form words, Abe merely nodded. The thought of his siblings growing together in this house warmed him and terrified him all at the same time. And Darah’s worries only stirred up more what-ifs and unknowns than he was prepared to consider.

“This thing with Darah,” Bart continued with hesitation in his voice. “It’s foreign.”

His lips twitched. “You can say that again.”

“Going to the store to buy pads and tampons… it’s not something I imagined us doing now. But it’s what we’ve got to deal with.”

“Plus dealing with guys and other female stuff…” Abe trailed off, grimacing.

“Oh, she’ll have her first and only boyfriend at thirty,” Bart said confidently. “Not dealing with that until then.”

Abe smirked. “Not if she has anything to say about it.”

Bart smirked in return. “True, the rascal.” His smile waned. “Anyway about Phoebe… are you sure?”

Abe’s smile froze.

“I mean, are you serious about not wanting to marry her someday? You don’t like her?”

Abe frowned. “I like her. It’s not that. I…”

“Take your time, Abe,” Bart said gently. “No one’s saying you should get married tomorrow or next year. But if you like her and you see her being in this family, we’re in full support. She’s a good woman.”

“I know…”

“Then make your move before some other cat does.”

Abe sagged in his chair. “After the way I treated her that night, I really doubt she wants me.”

Bart chuckled. “That’s not what Junior said.”

Abe looked up in alarm. “What? W-what did he say?”

<<Chapter 14 || Chapter 16>>

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