Posts tagged “family dinner

Guiding Light, Chapter 6

Posted on 11/11/2015

“When will you start the training? Phoebe asked Abe from across the dining table as she kneaded whole wheat dough.

Since the incident with Eleazar, she found herself showing up to the house on a frequent basis. In fact, she rarely spent her evenings at her lonely apartment, retreating to the Teka home after school for weeks now.

Clement didn’t seem bothered by her constant presence and she was grateful for his silent acceptance. Darah and Eleazar were ecstatic about her being around every evening, while Bart teased her about taking her job as Clement’s guidance counselor a bit too seriously. She hadn’t yet told him it wasn’t her job that kept her coming back to their home.

“Next week.” Abe sighed, looking up from the papers strewn all over the craftsman dining table. He wore a perturbed expression that creased his brow and made her want to reach over and smoothen it.

Warmth infused her cheeks and she averted her gaze, squeezing the dough. “You ready?”

“Hope so.” He flipped a page. “Don’t know what I would’ve done if you hadn’t been here.”

She bit back a smile. “You would’ve been just fine, Abe.”

Abe grunted. “Didn’t understand half the words in this packet until you showed up.”

Before Phoebe could point out that all she did was look it up in the website glossary, Eleazar and Darah emerged from the living room.

“Can we eat the cookies now?” Eleazar asked with impatience in his voice.

“Homework all done?” Abe asked casually, sifting through the papers.

“Yup, we’re done.” Darah palmed a hand over Eleazar’s unruly curls as Phoebe did whenever the boy was irritable, and as sure enough, his shoulders loosened and he leaned into Darah. “Can we help, Phoebe?” Darah asked, moving her hand to rest on Eleazar’s shoulder.

Phoebe smiled at them both, loving the maternal way Darah cared for her little brother. In fact she loved the dynamics of the Teka family; each caring for each other in their own special way. She was sure their late parents would’ve been proud of the family they’d reared.

She nodded, setting the bowl aside. “Wash your hands first, and then Eli can help you cut the shapes. I’ll start on the lasagna.”

“Ooh yummy!” Darah and Eleazar chorused, making their way to the kitchen sink.

She grinned and lifted her eyes to see Abe staring at her. Again. Her cheeks tinged with warmth but she didn’t look away this time. “What?”

“You don’t have to do that… we still have the leftovers from what you made yesterday.”

Phoebe nodded. “I know I don’t have to, Abe. But I want to.” More often than not, she felt shy under his intense gaze, and wished to know what he was thinking. She wondered if it was what she was thinking.

“Hey Phoebe, should I preset the oven?”

Abe looked past her shoulder to his youngest siblings and frowned. “Eli, come stand by the table. Let Darah and Phoebe work on the oven, okay?”

Eleazar pouted but obediently trudged over to Phoebe’s chair.

Abe watched Phoebe palm a hand over Eleazar’s curls, watched his youngest brother soften against him and wondered what it would like to feel the touch of her hand on him.

His eyes widened at the thought and he looked away when her eyes drifted back to his. He cleared his throat and refocused his attention on the important documents.

Walking up the steps, Bart smiled appreciatively at the smell of lasagna drifting from the front door. Nothing beat the smell of homemade meals to welcome a tired man to his home. He reached for his keys when he heard a door slam behind him.

“She’s here again?” Geraldine groused, her clunky work boots thumping up the driveway.

He turned, only slightly amused by her grumpiness when it wasn’t directed at him. “What’s got your panties in a bunch this time?”

She slanted him a glare on her way up the steps, her tools belt swinging low on her generous hips.

He wondered what she would look like in a dress and scowled at the thought. This surly tomboy wouldn’t be caught in anything but her dusty overalls and old flannel shirt that she barely swapped out except for a slightly-newer one every other day. Besides, it wasn’t his business what she wore. She was annoying and he didn’t like her coming over, grating his nerves with her prickly nature.

He caught a whiff of old leather and something flowery as she breezed past him to the door. Her chestnut-mahogany hair was pulled up in a careless bun, wisps of hair curled about her slender nape. Was her skin as silky as her hair looked? Was that freesia or lavender–

“You gonna open the door or not, Bartimeus?”

Bart scowled darkly. “Don’t call me that.” He nudged past her and inserted the key, pushing the door open.

“Okay, Bartimeus. I won’t call you Bartimeus.” She tilted her chin up and sauntered past him into the house.

He clenched his jaw at her and stepped inside after her. “Immature.”

“Grumpypants.”

“Welcome home, you two!” Phoebe greeted them from the dining table. “C’mon in. We’ve saved you both a plate.”

“It’s yummy!” Eleazar piped in.

Geraldine’s scowl didn’t ease up and Bart smirked, knowing the reason for it.

“And who’s the grumpypants now?” Bart didn’t wait for her answer and breezed past her toward the kitchen. “Smells great, Phoebe. Your cooking’s the best.”

Geraldine had no choice but to follow, dragging her feet.

“Not like Mommy’s,” Darah protested, then gave Phoebe an adoring smile. “But good too.”

Phoebe winked graciously. “I’ll take it.”

Bart watched Geraldine from the corner of his eye when she stalled at the table where Phoebe took the seat beside Abe. He hid a smirk and gestured to the chair beside him. “Seat’s empty here,” he said, earning a glare from her. “Or you can stand up to eat. Your choice.”

“Don’t be rude, Bart.” Darah turned to Geraldine. “Please stay for dinner this time, Geri.”

Phoebe smiled up at Geraldine, unaware of the conflict she was causing with her constant presence in the Teka home. “We’d love to have you for dinner. Please join us.”

Bart held back a smile while Geraldine looked like she was going to be sick.

After dinner, Abe saw Phoebe to her car and stalled to discuss his upcoming training. Geraldine stayed behind to help them clean up. Phoebe offered to stay longer but Abe insisted that she go home since she had work in the morning.

While Clement and Eleazar went upstairs to get ready for bed, Bart stayed with the ladies in the kitchen, browsing the house listings for research. He kept glancing at the two standing at the sink, Geraldine uncharacteristically quiet as she helped Darah wash the dishes.

Darah took notice of her silence and nudged her. “Wanna hear something awesome?”

Geraldine looked down, a wary look on her face. “What?”

Bart paused in his browsing, curious himself.

“I’m 99.9% sure Abe and Phoebe like each other.” Darah grinned.

“… and the 0.1 percent?” Geraldine eked out.

Bart’s brow furrowed at the strain in her voice. Was she really about to be sick?

Darah shrugged, accepting the dish Geraldine held out. “Just in case I’m wrong.”

Geraldine nodded, giving Darah a wan smile. “That’s nice…”

“Isn’t it? What if Phoebe becomes my sister-in-law? Wouldn’t that be awesome?”

“Yeah… awesome.”

Bart couldn’t look away from Geraldine, noting her shoulders were taut. Most likely her pretty face was too. He blinked, realizing his thoughts and shook out of it. It wasn’t his business if Geraldine liked his brother, none of his at all.

“You’ll be just fine,” Phoebe said for the umpteenth time. “And if you ask me again, I’ll clunk you over your head, Abraham.” She laughed at his shocked silence. “I’m kidding.”

“That’s the second time you’ve threatened to clunk me over the head,” he said, mirth in his deep voice.

Phoebe shrugged. “Because I know you’ll be fine. The training and the interview later on will go well. You and your family will be together for a long time, Abe. Trust me.”

“Thanks.”

She smiled up at him. “No problem.”

“Seriously, thank you for everything.” His eyes swept her face. “You being here, it’s brought a sort of happiness and peace to the family that I didn’t think would be possible again. I am forever grateful.”

Warmth flooded her face and she was grateful for both her darker complexion and the darkness, for he would probably see just what his words did to her. She could never mask her feelings quite well, especially the ones growing for him.

“Phoebe?”

She blinked up at him, face on fire. “Sorry, I missed what you said.”

He shook his head. “Just said I owe you dinner sometime.”

Phoebe paused. “Huh?”

Dragging a hand over his cropped curls, he laughed in exasperation. “I’m not saying this right. I meant that I would like to take you out for dinner sometime.”

Her throat was closing up, she could feel it. “W-why?”

Abe took a step back. “Uh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. We don’t have to, it’s okay.”

Phoebe grabbed his wrist to stop him. “No wait, I meant why do you want to take me to dinner? Because you owe me for helping or because you want to?” She felt his pulse jump between her fingers or was that hers?

Then Abe put his other hand over hers. “Both.”

She didn’t know whether to rejoice or feel some kind of disappointment. What if his gratitude trumped what she hoped was interest in her as a woman?

“Mostly the latter.”

Her breath caught in her throat and Phoebe suddenly wished the streetlight was brighter so she could see his face better. “Really?” she croaked out.

Abe squeezed her hand gently. “Really.”

Phoebe smiled like a fool. So he possibly liked her as she did him?

“So yeah?”

Her smile only deepened, for she’d already made her mind about him weeks ago. “Yeah.”

<<Chapter 5 || Chapter 7>>

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 45

Posted on 26/05/2015

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Deidre had one last moment of rebellion as she took in the too-brilliant smile Ezekiel gifted her daughter. He started to pull back Samina’s chair, intent on sitting beside her. Topher was rounding the table to sit by Jeremiah.

“Uh, Zeke,” she spoke up, ignoring the warning in Sheena’s glare. “Why don’t you sit by your father?”

Topher stopped short. Samina’s eyes flew to his.

Jeremiah snorted, pulling his chair out. “No need for that, Dee. The kids are fine where they are.”

“Indeed,” Sheena clipped out with a stiff smile on her lips.

Deidre clenched her jaw and squinted at her friend.

“Actually, Topher,” Gabriel spoke up, gesturing to the chair on his left. “Come sit here so we can get acquainted.” He met Deidre’s gaze and offered her a half-smile.

Deidre blinked at his wary smile and though they had much to settle between them, she answered with one of hers.

Jeremiah raised a brow. “What’s with the musical chairs? He’s fine where he is.”

“Ooh, musical chairs!” Beulah cooed as Ezekiel helped her onto her chair, boosted up by a cushion or two.

The adults shared a chuckle, Topher catching the gentle smile Samina cast on Ezekiel’s little girl before he looked away. Deidre didn’t miss this and lifted her stubborn chin. “I insist. Ezekiel?”

The man noticed her raised brow and his knotted in consternation. “Uh, well…”

Karen sighed and nudged Ezekiel aside. “I’ll switch with him, no problem.”

Obadiah frowned at the now-empty seat by him. He glanced over at Topher. “Let’s sit together. You play basketball?”

Sheena pouted. Deidre preened as Ezekiel trudged to the seat across from Samina. Gabriel and Jeremiah glanced at each other and smirked.

Topher smiled as he moved to take the empty seat. “A little.”

“You look like a basketball player,” Karen said. “You’re tall enough.”

“He’s not that tall…” Adelaide muttered and all eyes turned to her. She shrugged her bony shoulders nonchalantly, although her critical gaze swept over Topher. At the mature age of nine, she could read people very well. She knew when her father was unsure or nervous. Like now, fidgeting in his seat, with his jaw clenching and unclenching. All because the tall stranger made Auntie Sammie stare like he was the only person in the room. Immediately she didn’t like this guy.

Then he turned to look at her. “You’re right, Adelaide. I’m not that tall.” Topher gave her a smile that almost blinded her.

She blinked.

He winked and she felt her cheeks warm.

Adelaide looked down. “Laide…” she mumbled shyly.

Both Ezekiel and Samina gaped as Adelaide furtively glanced at him through lowered lashes. Samina raised both brows. So Topher’s exuberant charm extended to reserved adolescents also?

“Maybe you’ll join me and a couple of guys later for a game or two?” Obadiah asked, taking a sip of his water. “We’d love to have you on our team.”

Gabriel cleared his throat before Topher could answer. “Let’s say a prayer first. Some of us are starved.”

Ezekiel sought Samina’s eyes after the quick prayer but she dutifully kept her head bowed for an extra minute. He smiled. Her devotion for God was incredible. His heart warmed with pride that she could be his one day.

Leaning into Karen, Beulah giggled as Karen wiped a smudge of mashed potatoes from her cheek. Ezekiel smiled but Karen purposely avoided looking his way.

“So, yeah you will?” Obadiah nudged Topher just as he began to eat.

Jeremiah chuckled. “Obad, let the man eat first.” He winked at Topher before cutting into his ribeye steak.

“I thought you were heading back to Canada…” Samina spoke softly, finally lifting her gaze to his.

Ezekiel frowned. Sheena and Deidre both raised brow at her forlorn tone. Gabriel leaned into his seat.

Topher paused at cutting his own steak and looked up. “We will… Any day now.”

Feeling the full attention on them, Samina lowered her eyes. “I see,” she answered stiffly and remained quiet.

Jeremiah frowned. “Nadine, how is she?” His gaze skittered over Gabriel’s face, noting the tension between his eyes.

Topher kicked a shoulder. “She’s on the mend.”

“I should visit her before you two leave.” He gave Topher a smile and returned to eat his food.

“Why Canada?” Gabriel spoke softly.

Topher took his time chewing, mulling over the question. “Nadine said my fath—Maurice worked there.” He shrugged. “I guess he prepared a place for her there.”

Gabriel nodded, his features solemn, thoughtful.

Jeremiah sighed but didn’t say anything else. No doubt the two friends thought of their dead friend and all they’d missed over the years.

Again, Topher’s gaze collided with Samina’s. She offered him a smile, albeit wobbly and unsure. This time, he just stared back instead of looking away, sorrow plain in those striking grays of his.

She swallowed hard as her heart skipped a beat. Oh how lonely he looked, even surrounded by people. How she wished to reach across the table and grab his hand and—

“So Zeke,” Deidre spoke up. “How’s house hunting?”

Samina’s face lit aflame and she broke eye contact instantly, mortified that she’d forgotten where they were.

“We saw a purple house!” Beulah piped up, flashing her toothy smile. “Daddy said we’ll buy it.”

Ezekiel smiled indulgently. “I said we might, Bumblebee…” His warm gaze skittered over Samina before returning to Deidre. “We’re working on it.”

Samina dipped her chin, training her eyes on the steak and potatoes on her plate. Her heart was hammering in her breast and she would’ve held a hand to her chest if not for the hawk-eyes trained on her.

The lunch ended with no incidents and the men stood from the table, grunting their appreciation. Topher quietly stacked his dish over Obadiah’s. Deidre brushed his hands aside. “You’re a guest. We’ll take care of it. Go watch the game with the men.”

“Nadine’ll have my hide if I let you clean up after cooking. I’ll do it.” Topher granted her a smile that warmed all the women’s hearts all over. Even Sheena couldn’t help but grin.

Obadiah wrinkled his nose but followed suit, stacking a few plates and trudging after Topher to the kitchen.

“What a nice young man,” Deidre cooed, openly admiring the broad-shouldered man standing by the kitchen sink. “He’s not afraid to do housework. He’ll make a wonderful husband.”

Sheena snorted at her pointed words and folded her arms.

The rest of the men grunted. “And what are we, chopped liver?” Jeremiah countered good-naturedly, nudging Gabriel on the shoulder.

“Maybe I’ll marry him,” Karen teased as she wiped Beulah’s cheek.

Samina frowned as a pang tingled her insides. She avoided her mother’s eyes.

“You’re too old!” Adelaide protested, the adults chuckling softly.

Sheena laughed a bit too loudly and gathered her oldest granddaughter in a hug. “I think you have competition, Karen dear.”

Karen grinned audaciously at Adelaide’s blazing eyes challenging her. “Is that so?”

“You’re too young.” Ezekiel smoothed a hand over Adelaide’s puffy hair. He glanced once at Topher and Obadiah, his brow drawing a frown that persisted long into the evening.

Hours later, Samina trudged out onto the driveway beside him, smiling as Beulah and Adelaide raced to their car. She drew in a breath as Ezekiel’s fingers sought hers. Glancing once at his shadowed features, she noticed the absent smile on his face and stopped short. “Hmm?”

Ezekiel grabbed her other hand, lacing their fingers together as he came to stand before her. “You alright, Sam?” The pad of his thumbs brushed her palms.

She avoided his perceptive gaze even under the dim light of the half moon. “Uh-hmm…” was all she could muster for even if she wasn’t okay, there was no way she could disclose the reasons for her jumbled thoughts. It wouldn’t be fair to him.

He inclined his head closer, attempting to peer at her face. She held her breath, only releasing it when he leaned away. “I would kiss you if not for the faces pressed against the front window of your house.” He chuckled as Samina jerked her face up. “Oh, who cares?” Ezekiel leaned forward and planted a peck on her lips.

Samina jerked back, more surprised than she should’ve been.

He raised a brow, smile unrepentant. “What?”

She drew in her lips as his eyes focused on them. No doubt her parents, his parents, her siblings and Topher watched them from the window. Her stomach did a somersault, stealing away her breath. Topher. What if he saw? What would he think?

Ezekiel tugged one hand free and brushed back stubborn tendrils of hair that tickled her cheek. “I hope I’m not moving too fast for you… am I?”

Samina just stared as he tucked the hair behind her ears, his fingers brushing the skin of her nape. She stiffened her shoulders. “And if you are?”

He raised a brow, fingers paused. “I am?”

She looked over her shoulder at Beulah bouncing in the backseat, a frowning Adelaide wagging her finger in protest. One corner of her lips lifted in a wry smile. “I don’t know.” Her mother questioning if she was ready to be anyone’s mother plagued her thoughts more today than before. Although she loved Ezekiel’s daughters, Samina wondered now if she really could step into the role of stepmother. Her chest tightened.

“Sam…” Ezekiel’s gentle voice drew her attention. His smile was missing. “You know I won’t force you to do anything you don’t want, right? You know I respect and love you, don’t you?”

Samina searched his face, knowing the lines of his face that she’d memorized over the years. This was the face of the man she’d loved for all her adolescent life. She’d dreamt of being his wife, the mother of his children. Could she give up this chance just because of a passing fancy?

Ezekiel squeezed her hand, a ghost of a smile twitching his lips. “You do, don’t you?”

“What?”

He smirked. “Love me too, right?”

Samina bit the inside of her cheeks. She did, didn’t she? Breaking eye contact, she leaned into him and pressed her forehead against his shoulder. “Yeah…” Topher was just a passing fancy. He’d leave town and she’d never see him again, and her conflicted heart would finally settle on what it really wanted. Ezekiel. Right?

An hour after Topher left the house with Jeremiah and Sheena tailing, Samina sat up in her seat and gaped at her parents. “What did you just say?” There was no way she heard him correctly, yet her heart pounded violently.

“We’re going camping,” Gabriel repeated, not breaking eye-contact.

“With everyone.” Deidre grinned from ear-to-ear, though not as keen on adventure as she was on potential time to set her plans in motion. “Jeremiah and Sheena are fine with it and Ezekiel will take time off since he’s the CEO of his company. The girls will love it too. Finally some summer time fun.”

Karen shrugged. “It might be fun, Sammie.”

Not really. Samina shook her head adamantly, missing the conspiring smile shared between her mother and sister. “Okay, camping with the Dames family is fine… But why is Topher invited?”

“Why not?” Gabriel frowned. “This trip was planned with him in mind.”

Her heart flipped over. If her father came up with the idea, there was no way she could protest now. Samina groaned inwardly.

“Before he and Nadine leave the country,” Gabriel continued. “It’ll be good for us to connect with him. Let him know he’ll always have family here.” His Adam’s apple bobbed, his eyes glistened with unshed tears. “I’d like to do this, Samina. And I want you all to be there too.”

Obadiah smiled approvingly. “I’m with you Dad. Topher’s cool.”

“Isn’t he?” Karen grinned in reply, folding her arms. “It’s a great idea, Dad.”

Deidre rubbed her husband’s back. “I’m sure Nadine will appreciate you making amends this way… His parents would’ve too.” She met his eyes and gave him a smile.

The odd man out, Samina quietly struggled with this charitable act. How could she spend a weekend in the company of two men who made her heart and mind constantly confused and bothered? Pushing out a breath, Samina slumped into the seat.

Ezekiel was just as conflicted, except he openly rejected the idea. “I can’t afford to go camping. We’re in the middle of a negotiation deal.” He scowled, tossing a pair of rolled socks into the duffel bag. “Like whoever came up with this inconvenience?”

James smirked knowingly from where he stood, watching his best friend grow more agitated. “Inconvenient because you’ll have to trust me completely to figure things out on my own, or inconvenient ‘cos you’ll have to date Samina under watchful eyes… or is it something else?” His lips twitched as his friend’s face darkened, fully aware of the new dilemma. Another man in contest for Samina’s heart.

“All of the above.” Ezekiel forcefully shoved a pair of cargo shorts in the bag.

James sputtered in laughter and once Ezekiel hurled him a warning stare, he snuffed it out quickly. Clearing his throat, he schooled his features. “And what makes you think this guy’s worth your concern?”

Ezekiel frowned. “I don’t know… I just… do.” He rolled up a jacket and shoved it into the bag. “It isn’t just the way he looks at her that makes me mad. It’s…”

“You’re worried that your jealously is warranted.”

It was times like this that Ezekiel wished his long-term friendship with James wasn’t so strong. The man could read him too well.

“Samina loves you, Zeke. She always has. Just because some guy passes her fancy doesn’t mean her feelings for you will change.” James smirked. “You gotta give it to her, man. For how many years, she’s only ever loved you.

Ezekiel swallowed hard. He should’ve been warmed all over at the thought of Samina loving him for so long. He should’ve been strengthened with confidence that this Topher fellow wouldn’t make her waver. But he was worried. He really was.

“That’s the problem…” He met James’ concerned gaze. “I don’t think this is just some passing fancy.”

James rolled his eyes. “Then you better step up your game.” He nodded when Ezekiel raised a querying brow. “You never really had to try winning Winsome over. She only had eyes for you, lucky son-of-a-gun.” He shook his head incredulously. “I don’t know why. I’m better looking.”

“Your modesty’s pretty impressive too,” Ezekiel answered dryly.

“Isn’t it?” James flashed him a grin. “In any case. If this guy’s making Samina’s heart waver, you’d better show her why it shouldn’t.”

Ezekiel frowned. “What are you suggesting?”

James snorted. “I can’t spoon-feed you forever. Woo her.” He raised both bushy brows. “The right way, this time.”

The right way… Ezekiel bit the inside of his cheeks, brow drawing a frown in deep thought. Was there a right way to win Samina’s heart completely?

Nadine eyed Topher warily. “So you’ll go then?”

He silently traced lines on her wrinkled palms.

With his head bent, she could only stare at his stubborn curls and imagine him as a boy, asking for permission to play with friends till sundown. Nadine pushed out a sigh. “Is this really what you want?”

Topher nodded.

Even without looking at him, seeing deep into his solemn gray eyes, Nadine knew he wanted this. He was curious about his father and who knew him best were his only friends, Jeremiah and Gabriel.

“And even if you see Samina…” Nadine paused when his fingers stilled. Her heart ached, recalling the solemn way he told her about Samina loving another. “Won’t it hurt being close to her?”

He didn’t lift his head once, didn’t answer with a grunt or a sigh. And Nadine knew then why he said yes.

More than knowing about his father and mother, Topher realized that this would be the only time he’d see Samina before leaving for Canada. He’d resigned in himself, most likely after the lunch at her place, to let her go. It was in his eyes when he came home that evening; that he’d decided to give her up.

Nadine lifted her free hand to his head, the soft curls of his head tickling her palm. She didn’t need to say a word and he didn’t ask for it. This was the only way she knew to comfort him. To comfort a man who had given his heart away.

<<Chapter 44 || Chapter 46>>

  

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