Posts tagged “discovery

Homecoming, Chapter 12

Posted on 27/01/2016

Sandwiched between Clement and Darah, Eleazar studied the woman sitting opposite him while everyone else watched them in silence.

Phoebe curled her hand around Abe’s and Geraldine spied Bart’s expression before placing her hand over his. Her pulse tripped when he took her hand and held it at his lap. Her cheeks warmed and she snuck him another look but he kept his attention on the woman, Eleazar’s grandmother.

Mrs. Sharma Crane pulled an embroidered handkerchief from her clutch purse and dabbed her weathered cheek. When her hazel eyes met Eleazar’s, the boy looked away and leaned into Clement. She sighed and turned to Abe. “I know this isn’t protocol showing up like this, but I couldn’t not come. I didn’t mean to alarm anyone and…”

Clement grunted under his breath, receiving a quelling look from Phoebe.

“It’s alright,” Abe reassured her. “I know this must’ve been hard for you also.”

“You have no idea.” Her gaze sought Eleazar once more and a lone tear slid down her cheek. “For nine years, I’ve been looking for him. I had no idea he was still in the city… still alive.”

Phoebe hesitated–Eleazar hearing about the demise of his mother in this way wasn’t right. She looked over to where Eleazar sat hunched over, his way of shielding himself during uncomfortable situations.

“Hey guys,” Clement interrupted Phoebe’s thoughts. He draped one arm around Eleazar and the other around Darah. “It’s been a long day and I’ve got tons to unpack. Eli, Darah, give me a hand, yeah?”

The anxiety rolled off her shoulders as Clement stood and the younger siblings rose from their seats without a word of protest. It seemed this was one conversation they were willing to miss and Phoebe was grateful for that.

Mrs. Sharma Crane couldn’t say a word but her longing gaze followed Eli around the sofa and disappeared behind the wall. Sighing, she turned to the remaining adults in the room, chagrin etched on her features. “I really am sorry.”

Gone was the enraged woman who demanded her rights as grandmother. She’d witnessed Eleazar’s frightened eyes and the quiet terror in his stance as he leaned away from her.

“I know the agency suggested I wait, but I just couldn’t stand missing a chance to see him. He’s my grandson…”

Phoebe gave the older woman a kind smile. “It’s okay, Mrs. Crane. Losing both your daughter and grandson must’ve been hard for you.” When Abe quietly slipped his arm around her shoulders, tears rushed to her eyes and she blinked them away quickly. Her loss was nothing compared to Mrs. Crane’s, for she hadn’t developed a long-term relationship with her unborn daughter as the older woman had with hers.

Mrs. Crane dabbed her eyes and looked down at her gnarled hands. “After all these years, I just never thought I could hope again.”

“What happened?” Abe asked quietly.

“My daughter was in real bad shape. I did the best I could for her when she was young but there’s only so much you can do when they get older. She got into poor company, started drinking heavily.” Pain deepened the grooves on her face. “God knows what else she got involved in. It got to the point that I couldn’t do anything else for her. She wanted to leave so I let her go.”

Everyone sat in tense silence. Phoebe prayed Clement had kept Eleazar and Darah from hearing distance.

“She was my only child,” Mrs. Crane continued, her voice trembling. “I was devastated at how she’d changed. But I’d always believed one day she’d forgive me for giving up on her and just come home.” Tears streaked down her face. “Then one day, she came home. Heavily pregnant. It didn’t matter, I was hopeful she was ready to get better.”

Phoebe gripped Abe’s hand, giving him a silent warning to brace himself.

“And she was! We were doing well. She was determined to get clean and fix her life.” Mrs. Crane wiped her cheeks. “She started coming to church with me frequently and we spent quality time preparing for the baby.” She wore a wistful smile that wobbled. “I thought for sure all would be fine.”

Abe and Bart stiffened visibly when Mrs. Crane choked on a deeply-wrought cry.

“Then she just disappeared the day before she was to deliver.” Mrs. Crane’s eyes flashed wild as though reliving the day. “I thought for sure the father of her baby had come to get her. I was like a crazy person looking for her everywhere. The police said there was no sign of struggle and that she’d left on her own.” Mrs. Crane shook her head violently. “I refused to believe it; not after all the changes she’d made, all the plans we’d made for her and my Caleb.”

Phoebe felt the jump of Abe’s pulse against her hand and snuck a look at him. He looked as visibly pained as she felt inside. Oh how she wished to shield him from hearing the rest of the story.

Mrs. Crane swallowed hard. “Then she showed up in the hospital with clothes bloodied, refusing to talk, and looking like she’d lost her mind. They said she willingly came without the child.”

Geraldine inhaled sharply, her free hand moving to her mouth. Bart looked as though he was about to be sick. Phoebe fought the nausea rolling in her stomach. Abe sat deathly still and Phoebe just couldn’t bring herself to look at him.

“They said she abandoned him somewhere after birth,” Mrs. Crane shook her head. “It’s a lie. She did want Caleb–”

“No she didn’t,” Bart finally spoke, his tone callous. He stared hard at Mrs. Crane, no sign of empathy in his angular features. “Your daughter didn’t want Eleazar. She never wanted him.”

“That’s not true!” Mrs. Crane protested. “You weren’t there, what do you know?”

“Your daughter played you,” Bart continued, face tightening with rage. “She knew you’d take her back if she agreed to sober up, but never had any intentions of keeping him.”

“Shut up!” Mrs. Crane shouted, her voice carrying in the room.

Phoebe glanced at the empty hallway for signs of an eavesdropping Eleazar or Darah. Or worse Clement, for he wouldn’t sit as quiet as Abe was.

“Mrs. Crane,” Abe spoke up. “I’m afraid I have to ask you to leave.”

The righteous indignation in his tone made Phoebe shiver.

Mrs. Crane’s eyes were wide as saucers. “But–”

“We’ve heard what you’ve had to say,” Abe continued. “As you said earlier, this is against protocol and you’re acting inappropriately by showing up here. I’ll have to report it to the agency if it continues.” He stood and Bart stood also.

Both Geraldine and Phoebe gaped at the two men who resembled stern bodyguards ready to escort the older woman out of their home.

Mrs. Crane stood stiffly, eyes glistening with tears. “You’re wrong. I did not abandon Caleb.”

“No one said you did,” Abe said in a placating tone although his expression was stern as Bart’s. “Yet the fact remains that your daughter did just that, and she lost her right and yours the day she gave him up.”

“He’s no longer your concern,” Bart added, his jaw clenched so tight Phoebe was sure it hurt.

Mrs. Crane flinched at his words. She turned pleading eyes to Phoebe.

“You should’ve really called first, Mrs. Crane,” Phoebe said gently, her heart hurting for everyone involved. “Eli shouldn’t be hearing this from a stranger, which is unfortunately what you are to him.”

Seeing she had no allies in the Teka clan, Mrs. Crane’s face hardened. “If I didn’t take drastic measures, you wouldn’t have let me see him.”

“Again,” Bart inserted. “Eleazar is no longer your concern.”

“That’s not for you to say. He’s my grandson.”

“Was,” Bart muttered. “He sat in a foster home for two years before our parents adopted him.”

“I-I didn’t know he was alive!”

“I’m sure you didn’t. Still doesn’t change the fact that he’s our brother and he’s staying here.”

Phoebe’s chest tightened when Mrs. Crane winced at Bart’s callous words. No telling how she would’ve reacted if Clement had been the one to deliver the blow.

Abe then stepped forward. “Mrs. Crane…”

The woman flinched and took a step back, visibly overcome.

He sighed. “If you’d like to communicate with any of us, please do so through the agency. Don’t show up unannounced like this again.”

“I–”

“Goodnight, Mrs. Crane.”

The four adults heaved a collective sigh once Abe closed the front door behind Mrs. Crane. Phoebe lowered to her seat. Bart dragged a hand over his face. Geraldine sat in pensive silence.

“Unbelievable,” Bart muttered, perching on the couch beside Geraldine.

Abe stared over their heads at the stairwell, a frown forming. “How much did you hear?”

All of them whirled about to find a scowling Clement and a teary-eyed Darah. Clement had an arm around Darah. Eleazar was notably absent.

“More than enough,” Clement growled.

Bart breathed a curse when Darah dissolved into sobs.

“Oh dear…” Phoebe stood quickly and hurried to Darah’s side. The girl turned her face to Phoebe, the wails muffled against her shoulder.

Abe scowled. “Where’s Eleazar?”

“Pretending to sleep,” Clement grumbled. His eyes moved to both Bart and Geraldine. “I told you guys to soundproof the walls.”

Geraldine grimaced. Bart muttered another curse word and dragged a hand over his face.

“H-how can people be so-so horrible?” Darah railed against Phoebe’s shoulder.

Abe moved past Clement, taking the stairs two at a time.

“He locked the door, Abe,” Clement called after him. “Leave him alone for now.”

Phoebe shook her head when Abe didn’t listen and kept going. Clement grunted and followed him up.

Then Bart’s cellphone rang obnoxiously in the tense mood and he snatched it from his belt loop. “Hello?” he barked, entirely out of sorts. The scowl on his face morphed into alarm and his gaze slid to Geraldine. “Hold on.” He extended it to her. “It’s your mom.”

With a quizzical look, Geraldine accepted the phone and put it to her ear. “Mama, what’s wrong?” she asked in Spanish, her expression changing as her mother rattled in rapid speech. Her eyes widened and she looked to Bart. “They’re here!”

Darah’s sobs paused and Phoebe frowned, both looking to Geraldine. “Who’s here?”

“Your in-laws?” Bart’s frown deepened.

Geraldine nodded vigorously. “They’re at the airport.”

He scowled. “But they’re a week early!”

“But your engagement party!” Darah protested, glistening eyes wide with alarm.

Both Bart and Geraldine groaned. Abe and Clement trudged down to the living room without Eleazar. Abe frowned. “What’s going on?”

“Geri’s in-laws are here a week early,” Phoebe mumbled, watching displeasure shadow his features.

Clement whistled in disbelief. “And this day just went from bad to worse…”

<<Chapter 11 || Chapter 13>>

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>>

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