Posts tagged “discovery

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 36

Posted on 08/05/2015

sunset

“Ow!” Ezekiel grimaced, looking down at a pair of big brown eyes staring at him. Beulah had his mouth pressed between her chubby fingers, pulling them to a painful stretch. “Bumblebee, that hurts.”

Beulah giggled and released his mouth. She settled on his lap and curled against his chest. Laide sat on his other side, face behind a comic book, ignoring everyone.

From her side of the couch, Sheena clucked disapprovingly. “Serves you right.”

Rubbing his sore lips, Ezekiel frowned. “That’s not very nice.”

“What’s not nice is ignoring your mother and smiling a goof while doing it.” She rolled a pair of pink frilly socks, depositing it into a laundry basket at her feet. “Honestly, Zeke, what’s going on? You’ve been distracted all week. Are you dating perhaps?”

Ezekiel’s eyes widened at the suspicious look on Sheena’s face.

“What’s dating?” Beulah peered up at her father.

Laide lowered the book, eyes on Ezekiel.

“Uh…” Ezekiel cleared his throat and glanced around the room. “Where’s Dad?”

Sheena arched a brow and then her expression darkened. “Out… Stop deflecting. Are you dating?”

Ezekiel frowned in concern. His father was barely at home these days. “Shouldn’t you be with him? He’s probably still grieving over Aunt Neve.”

Sheena rolled her eyes. “Zeke, your father is fine. Are you dating?”

“Papa, are you?” Laide asked.

Both Sheena and Ezekiel turned to look at her. Ezekiel’s heart skipped a beat and any fumbling attempt to deflect fell away at the wariness etched on Laide’s face.

“Is it Aunt Sammie?” Laide’s narrowed gaze swept over his face.

Beulah wriggled in his arms. “Aunty Sammie!”

Heat shot through Ezekiel, thinking back to Samina’s dazed expression when he kissed her and the soft warmth of her body against his. “Uh…”

Sheena gasped, pulling his attention to her face. Disbelief widened her eyes and parted her mouth. “Our Sammie?” She held a hand to her chest. “Really?!”

Ezekiel grimaced at the incredulity resonating. “Is it that hard to imagine?” And as Sheena moved closer and grabbed his hand, Ezekiel blinked at the tears swimming in her eyes. “Mom…”

She gripped his fingers tight. “You’re serious? You’re not pulling my leg?”

Ezekiel smiled, pleased that joy now danced in her tear-filled eyes.

Beulah giggled. “Silly Gramma.” She slid onto Sheena’s lap and wiped at her eyes. “Why are you crying? Don’t you like Aunty Sammy?”

“I do, Bumblebee… Gramma’s just happy.” Laughing softly, Sheena pulled Beulah close. Then her smile waned a little. “Does Deidre know?”

His own smile froze, imagining Samina’s mother. Then he remembered her sage words in the church parking lot, his smile returning full force. “Well, she did encourage me to pursue Sam.”

Sheena’s eyes grew wide as saucers. “She did what?!”

“What did you just say?”

Samina looked down, fingers bunching the silk material of her jacket.

Karen dropped to the couch unceremoniously. “This is a joke, right Sammie?” Disbelief clouded her eyes. “You did go on a vacation right?”

Samina could only swallow at the hardened lump in her throat. This was why she disclose details of her surgery or the tumor in the first place; they couldn’t handle bad news very well. She berated herself for leaving her phone at home, or at least for not protecting it with a password.

Groaning, Karen covered her face.

“Sam,” Obadiah finally spoke up, his hooded gaze scanning her face. “You’re… sick?”

Her heart twisted at the uncharacteristic lilt in his baritone. Samina managed a weak smile. “Not anymore,” she rushed in. “The surgery was success—”

“Surgery!” Karen snapped, eyes flashing. “You had surgery by yourself and didn’t tell anyone! How could you do…” she inhaled a harsh breath and with a groan, she covered her face.

Her lips quirked derisively. “Well, it’s not like you could’ve the surgery with me so—“

“Are you kidding me, Sam?” Obadiah scowled darkly.

Samina winced and looked away, smarting from his sharp reprimand. Her jaw tightened, fingers curled into her palms, forming fists at her side.

Even if she could’ve been more forthcoming about the surgery but what good would their panic and worries do for her? And why did it seem like they were mad about more than just her neglect of disclosure? Was it that they blamed her for having the tumor in the first place?

Choking on a sob, Samina turned and fled to her room, slamming the door behind their silence. Pressed against the door, Samina clutched her mouth to keep from crying aloud.

Instead of reveling in Ezekiel’s amorous pursuit, she felt sorry and increasing guilt over Topher’s disappointment. Instead of receiving understanding and comfort from her siblings, they harshly condemned her for keeping the surgery a secret. Instead of being content and successful at the age of 30, she was a social failure with squashed dreams and a debilitating condition that could rob her of a chance at being a mother.

Samina slid to the floor, too tired to hold herself up or hold it in. The sobs pressed against her palm, the tears wetting her hands and she screamed in her mouth. Nothing, absolutely nothing was going her way and she was tired of it. So tired.

Slumped over the marbled counter surface, Topher watched the amber-colored liquid swirl in his glass, soft jazz playing in the background. He lifted the crystal glass to his lips and threw back the liquid, grimacing as it hit the back of his throat.

A hand fell on his shoulder and he slanted his eyes to find a solemn-faced Jaxson standing at his side. Topher grunted and faced the front. “Nadine told you I was here?”

Jaxson slid into the stool beside him. “She’s worried.” He eyed Topher’s glass and waved the scrawny, blond-haired bartender over. “I’ll have what he’s having.” He pulled out his wallet and placed it on the counter.

The young bartender eyed both men warily. “Just go to a vending machine already.” He sneered in disgust but pulled out a crystal glass and a can of ginger-ale.

Spotting the three empty cans of ginger ale behind the man’s elbow, Jaxson offered him a wry smile and slung an arm around Topher’s hulking shoulder. “Can’t you see his heart’s broken? Have some pity.”

The bartender rolled his eyes but poured Jaxson a glass of the sparkling ginger ale. Jaxson raised a brow as the bartender squirted pure lemon juice inside and nodded in approval.

Topher scoffed, slugging down the rest of his drink. He gargled it deep in his throat before swallowing. Then he nudged the empty cup to the bartender. “Another.”

Jaxson shook his head but watched the bartender fill up Topher’s glass. “Don’t you think you’ve had enough? You’ll feel like crap in the morning.” He sniffed his drink and grimaced. An ulcer two nights before his wedding didn’t seem like a good idea.

“Leave me alone.” Topher rolled off Jaxson’s hand from his shoulder. “Go back to your wonderful life and let me wallow in peace,” he drawled, tossing the drink back.

Jaxson heaved a sigh and took a sip of his drink. He cringed, lowering the glass to the counter. Then he eyed his friend draped over the counter, sobering instantly. Nadine didn’t know all the details but informed him that Topher was in a foul mood after his date with Samina. With a grave tone, she cautioned him to be careful with Topher’s sensitivity, that he was very serious about Samina.

Judging from the scowl darkening Topher’s face, and having only witnessed it one other time in college, Jaxson knew the date hadn’t gone so well.

“Another.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake!” The bartender barked, though he sloshed the liquid into the cup.

“Hey!” Topher slanted the bartender a glowering stare. “Be careful using that name…” He gripped the cup and with his glare unwavering, he tossed the drink back.

The bartender blinked at him, his scrawny shoulders stiffened in alarm.

Jaxson couldn’t help it. He burst out laughing. If Topher didn’t look half drunk in self-pity, it would’ve been a grave matter. His friend had a quick temper; cultivated by Nadine’s upbringing but softened by his relationship with God which he defended as fiercely as he did his aging aunt.

He slapped a hand over Topher’s stiff back and gave the astonished bartender a grin. “Relax, Toph. You’re scaring people.”

Topher grunted, lowering his gaze.

The bartender snuck away and Jaxson turned to his friend. “What happened?”

“What happened?” Topher echoed, his voice void of its usual brilliance and optimism.

Jaxson sobered. It was just like in college again, watching Topher’s face darken with the news of his aunt falling sick for the first time. It’d shook Topher to the core; Nadine was the only family he had. Blessed with four annoying older sisters and doting parents, Jaxson couldn’t imagine the pain and fear that his best friend went through. From his long friendship with Topher, he knew Topher feared being alone and abandoned. Staring at the 34-year-old Topher now, Jaxson felt that same feeling as he had ten years ago.

Topher rubbed at his face, frustration emanating from him. “I don’t know what happened… All I know is I’m too late.” He laughed bitterly, the sound stealing Jaxson’s breath. “Always too late.”

<<Chapter 35 || Chapter 37>>

Her Champion: Chapter 28

Posted on 15/08/2013

street

“I’m not ignoring you. I’m just not in the mood to talk to a jerk.” She pushed at the swing, focusing her attention on the spotted moon.

“I’m a jerk because I said something you didn’t want to hear?”

Tamar scoffed. “If you came out here to continue arguing, you can leave.”

He lifted both hands. “I’m just trying to figure out what makes me a jerk so I don’t make the mistake again.”

She placed one foot on the ground to slow down and turned to him with a frown. “You honestly have no idea what you did? Or are you trying to placate me?” Annoyed that he was just sitting there, Tamar pushed to her feet and walked a few feet away, wrapping her arms around herself.

“I made a guess but you got all snappy. Just trying to figure it out,” he reiterated casually as he pushed off the pole to follow her. “I don’t placate. We have a problem, we fix it. We’re not going to dance around each other and sugarcoat stuff. Say what you mean and mean what you say. So again, what’s the problem?”

Exasperated, Tamar threw a scowl at him over her shoulder. “Fine then.” She turned to face him. “My problem with you. Easy. You take on more than you should. You act like you can save the world and yet you’re drowning. You behave like you have the strength to do everything but you don’t. It pisses me off.” She swallowed hard, pressing her nails into her arms. “What good will all this be when you can no longer be there for Crystal… because you’ve worn yourself out trying to be Superman.” Blinking the tears away, she glared up at him. “How do you expect me to trust you when you can’t trust me?”

“Not more than I should. Maybe more than is comfortable, but not more than I should. She and my mom are my top priority. If making sure they’re taken care of means some extra work on my part then that’s what it’s gonna be. I can do this, Tamar. I’ve been doing it. I can and will be there for them until they don’t need me. There aren’t any other options. None of this is about not trusting you. How many times do I have to tell you that?”

Tamar shifted uncomfortably, wanting desperately to argue with him. His words spilled over, allowing her no room to question or challenge him.

“Do I want to talk about all the details?” Dylan forged on. “No, but it’s not because I don’t trust you. It’s because if I want to focus on the situation at all, I want to spend the time working out some other options not talking about how ‘unfair’ it is that I go head to head with Nick because for now Crystal has to stay there.”

Tamar shook her head. “I can’t and won’t accept that. I’m sorry but I won’t.” She clenched her jaw. “On top of championing your sister and mother, you’d want to add my issues to your plate? And then you get upset when I want to figure it out myself?” She pushed out a shaky breath. “If you’d rather figure out this problem with your father and Crystal on your own, don’t bother standing up for me in school. It’s the same principle, isn’t it?”

“It doesn’t take up every second of every day. I have more than enough time to be there for you.” The more Dylan talked, the more he felt like he was losing his logic. “No, it’s not the same principle. You keep trying to come back to that and I already told you where I stand when it comes to that. It hasn’t changed. I don’t want you exposed to the violence. Nobody’s going to hurt me on campus.”

She eyed his features shrouded in the dark and heaved a deep sigh. “Talking to you is like I’m talking to a brick wall. You’re stubborn and impossible.” She walked around him, starting up the path toward the house. There was nothing she could do to get him to hear her out and the realization alone was enough to break her heart. Tears stung her eyes but she was able to keep it down, walking slowly to regain her composure.

Dylan grabbed her hand to stop her progress. “Stop walking away from me, Tamar. If there’s a problem, we fix it,” he reminded her.

Annoyed, Tamar wrenched her hand from his hold. “Stop saying that like it’s true. What are we fixing? You’re calling the shots and you want me to say ‘yes sir’ because you’re right? No, I won’t do it because you’re not right. Not by a long shot.”

“Then tell me where I’m wrong. Don’t write me off and walk away. That tells me you don’t think it’s worth it, you’re done with me. And if that’s where you’re at with it then say it now.”

Frustration frothed inside her as she spun around and glared at him. “Done with you? Can’t you see me? Can’t you hear me?” Tamar rushed toward him, seizing him by his shirt. “Look at me clearly and say that again. Can’t you see me standing here, begging you to let me help? That I’m not just some girl that giggles at your lame jokes and make your blood boil with my kisses and my touch. That I’m someone who loves you and wants to be there for you in every way? That I’m wanting to ease your pain and really help you?” Tears blocked her vision of him and disgusted with herself more than him, Tamar shoved at his chest and started to turn away. Choking against the sobs that rose in her throat, she glared up at him. “I really don’t like you right now. Seriously, you’re not my favorite person at this moment.”

He was reaching for her, pulling her into him even as most of her words faded until only one phrase began to echo in his head. I’m someone who loves you. Nothing else she said penetrated and honestly, none of the rest of it mattered. Dylan struggled with the pure depth of that word yet embraced hearing it from her. He couldn’t manage more than a rough whisper. “Tell me again, pretty girl.”

Even though she didn’t want to be anywhere near him, Tamar couldn’t stop herself from melting in his arms. She scowled. “Tell you what, you overgrown bully? Didn’t you hear what I just said?”

“That you love me. Say it again.”

Her resolve crumbled and she turned her face into his chest. “Oh Dylan, I do. I really really love you.” Her heart was beating so fast, she could barely catch her breath. “I hurt every time you do this to me but I can’t turn away from you. Even when you do this to me, it only makes me want you more. Love you more.”

He slipped his arms from around her to cup her face and tilt her head back. “It’s not to hurt you. It’s to protect you because I love you more than I ever let myself love anybody. That means something to me.”

Tamar’s face warmed at his confession, her entire body tingling. He loved her. She closed her eyes and leaned against him. “Can’t we compromise or something? Isn’t that what people who love each other do? Why can’t I protect the man I love just like you want to protect me?”

There was only one right answer but that didn’t make it any easier to give it. “I can give a few inches.”

She lifted her narrowed eyes to him. “As many inches as I’ll give you.”

“Don’t give too many inches then,” he teased.

Tamar only rolled her eyes and rested her head against his chest, fully spent.

“Is that an agreement?” He lowered his head to kiss the top of her head.

“I’ll need some convincing.” Her fingers trailed up to rest between her cheek and his chest.

“I think I can manage that but let’s get you back inside first.”

Sighing in protest, Tamar hooked an arm around his waist and let him lead her down the sidewalk toward the house. “We’ll figure it all out later. We don’t need to talk about it tonight.”

“You sure you wanna wait?” he asked wrapping his arm over her shoulders.

“There are other things to do besides talking.” Tamar smirked up at him, her heart skipping a beat at his handsome face under the moonlight. “I have the mind to take care of you and that’s what I’ll do. We’ll talk tomorrow.”

“That so?” He stole a quick kiss. “Guess I’ll just have to go along with it then. I wouldn’t wanna ruin your plans.”

Tamar rolled her eyes as they walked up the stairs to the front door. “In a way, you almost did. It’s a good thing I’m a forgiving person.” She slipped away and scurried ahead of him to her bedroom. Thankfully, Crystal had returned to her room and the bowls were nowhere in sight. Walking to the bathroom, she pulled out a box from under the sink and walked back inside the room. Dylan was standing by the door and she smiled, patting the spot beside her on the bed. “Lie down.”

He sat down on the bed, carefully stretching out but eying the things she’d brought with her. “You said take care of me, not use me as practice for school work.”

She grinned mischievously and gestured to him. “Lie down.” Flipping the top of the case, she pulled out a clear vial. “Peppermint,” she said and pulled out another. “Or Rosemary?”

“Neither.” He caught the look on her face. “Peppermint. How would I explain walking around smelling like a flower?”

Tamar raised a brow, untwisting the bottle cap. “You’ll take a shower later. Besides, you’re sleeping with me, so only I’ll know you smell like a flower.” She eyed his shirt. “Take that off, please.”

“Bossy little thing. I kinda like it,” he admitted with a grin as he sat up and tugged his shirt over his head.

“Of course. . .” she paused to take a deep breath, holding back a cringe as she took in the dark spots marring his chiseled torso. Tamar bit her bottom lip, closing the vial. Her fingers moved to touch the splotched bruises scattered along his breastbone and she clucked her tongue. “Change of plans.” She stood and then hesitated, looking back down at him. Her eyes swept over his face and with a soft sigh, Tamar planted a kiss on his temple before turning away to the door. “I’ll get some ice for that.”

“I don’t need ice,” he argued half-heartedly, knowing she’d get some anyway. He wished he could’ve spared her from having to see the aftermath but all he could do was deal with it now.

Within a minute, she shuffled back into the room with an ice pack. Perching beside him, Tamar eyed his bare chest and shook her head solemnly, biting her tongue against what she really wanted to say. It wouldn’t help matters anyway. “This afternoon, I made pie and even lasagna to feed you. Then I was thinking we’d lay around and watch movies, and I’d give you a massage.” She tentatively pressed the ice pack on one of the bruises, her eyes steady on his face. “I’d planned to confess my feelings for you over ice-cream kisses and all, but this is okay too.” With her free hand, she held one of his up to her lips. “It’s bad timing but I love you, Dylan. And I’ll always be here for you.”

He sucked in a breath as the coldness penetrated his skin. “You gotta admit, this story will be more interesting for the kids.” His smile faded almost immediately once he looked into her eyes. “I love you too, pretty girl. Even if I don’t say it, it means somethin’ knowing I can count on you to be there.”

Her cheeks warmed at his husky confession and she laughed softly, lowering her gaze to his chest. It would take time before she’d get used to someone other than Bekah or her parents loving her. All the same, she was dancing for joy inside that Dylan cared so deeply for her. “In better circumstances, I’d compliment you on your physique. . . Hard work does pay off nicely, Sinatra.” She switched hands, moving the ice pack to another dark bruise.

“Hey, take it easy with that thing will you? And I don’t see why you can’t compliment me now. No need to hold back.”

Tamar laughed, easing the ice pack off his skin. “I already mentioned it. Don’t fish for compliments when you know already how attractive you are.”

“Never hurts to hear it again.” He settled into the bed, watching her through hooded eyes. “You’re really somethin’ else. You know that?”

Her fingers trailed along the length of his long torso, lips lifting in appreciation over his smooth, cool skin. “You like it,” she said, her voice low and teasing. Then her smile waned a little, gaze flickering to his. “Does it hurt a lot?”

“Nothing that won’t ease up in a few days. I’ll probably feel stiff. Need to work that out. You’re worryin’ again.”

<<Chapter 27 || Chapter 29>>

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