Posts tagged “family

Chasing Truth: Chapter 29

Posted on 10/01/2020

“When is he leaving?”

Mari sprawled out on her bed with the phone tucked against her shoulder. The day had been fun, but it had also been long. Exhaustion made her eyes heavy.

“In a day or two,” she told Tyler absently.

 “I didn’t expect him to leave so soon. Then again I didn’t expect him to come out here at all. Have you made any plans to stay in touch? Visit?”

She lifted her shoulders in a small shrug even though he couldn’t see it.

“Not really. Nothing solid anyway. I mean, I guess I assume we’ll talk on the phone at some point. This whole thing was just…a lot.”

There was silence from Tyler’s end for a moment. “I get that. Confirm with me once you know when he’s leaving for sure.”

Mari opened her eyes to stare at the ceiling. “Have you been doing…whatever it is you were planning on doing?”

“I thought we agreed you were going to let me worry about that?” he prodded gently.

“It was a simple question.”

“Then yes. Now will you let me know when he’s leaving for sure?”

Mari pinched the bridge of her nose and let her eyes close again. “Yeah.”

Before she could get comfortable and wrap up the call with Tyler, a knock sounded on the door. She sat up with a groan.

“I’ve gotta go. Somebody’s at the door.”

“Who is it?”

She pushed up from the bed and padded over to the door to look through the peephole. A smile tugged at her lips when she saw her father standing there.

“It’s Blake. I’ll talk to you later.”

Ending the call without waiting for a response, she opened the door. 

“I’m surprised you aren’t passed out,” she greeted with a tired smile.

“I was close,” he admitted. “I had something I wanted to discuss with you though.”

Curiosity raised her brow as she stepped back to let him inside. He sat down on the couch and she curled up on the opposite end with her elbow propped against the back. 

“What’s on your mind?” 

“I want Reese to stay here with you for a little while.”

Mari straightened immediately. “Why? He’s your bodyguard.”

“I would feel more comfortable if someone was here to keep an eye on things for a little while.”

She didn’t dig too deeply into that, instead choosing to focus on him. “If Reese is here with me, then who’s with you?”

“I have other people I can count on if I need to.”

“But Reese is the one you brought here, which means he’s the one you trust the most.”

Blake paused with his lips parted before he gathered himself. “I can see you’re planning to be difficult about this.”

“I’m bringing up valid points. If you want to call that difficult, then fine.”

He heaved a heavy sigh. “Yes, Reese is the one I trust the most, which is why I want him here with you for a few days. Just in case. I don’t expect any trouble, but I don’t want to take unnecessary chances with you either.”

She paused thoughtfully, turning over his words. He wasn’t expecting any problems. That was good and she couldn’t deny the relief filling her knowing that. This was just another part of him being careful.

“Okay, I’m not saying no to that. I’m saying I’m not sure Reese is the one who should be the one staying with me. And you said a few days. How long exactly are you planning for someone to stay here?”

“A week or so.”

“That’s a long time to be without your guy. Gage could just stay. People know him here, are used to him so there wouldn’t be anything to explain. If Reese stays, we have to explain who he is somehow.”

“Calling him a family friend should be enough. Gage has already been here for a while. He has some things he needs to see to.”

“Does Reese know this is your plan?” she asked curiously. “What does he think about it?”

“You know, when I pictured this conversation, I saw you bowing out to my expertise and accepting my already-made plans.”

“How on Earth did you come up with that scenario?” she asked, laughing in disbelief.

“I still can’t figure it out myself,” he admitted with a chuckle.

“I want to talk to him about it myself. Alone.” Because she had a feeling Reese wasn’t keen on the idea of letting Blake head back without him either. 

Blake considered her and she wondered what he was thinking, what he would say.

“I don’t want you any closer to this mess than you already are. I considered when I brought Reese that it might bring you in more than I wanted. It would be better if you let me keep as much distance between you and my life as I can.”

“It’s too late for that. At least with Reese. He’s been here this whole time. I know who he is. We’ve talked. Trying to go back now doesn’t make any sense and if he’s going to be staying here for another week, it’s definitely not avoidable. I want to talk to him.”

“You’re a very hard woman to argue with.”

“So don’t,” she suggested with a grin.

Shaking his head, he pushed to his feet. “I’d like to settle this tonight if possible. I’ll send Reese to you now if that works.”

“That’s fine.”

He turned for the door then hesitated. He turned back a moment later.

“May I have a hug?”

The quietness of the question, almost as if he feared her rejection, melted Mari. She unfolded from the couch and wordlessly wrapped her arms around him. He pulled her close. She thought she felt the gentle press of his lips to her thick curls. A soft sigh escaped him and he squeezed her before letting go.

“Thank you. I’ll send Reese over now.”

“You may want to give him a fair warning in case his expectations are anything like yours were,” she teased.

His laughter shook his body and widened her smile.

“I think I’ll do that.”

He walked out the door then, leaving Mari still smiling. She settled back down on the couch. Meeting her father and spending time with him hadn’t gone anything like she imagined. She hadn’t expected to like him, to joke and laugh with him. She wanted a chance to build a real relationship with him and yet Tyler’s accusations sat in the back of her mind. If Blake were the criminal Tyler suspected he was, that would change everything. There was an inch of worry, of doubt that maybe it wouldn’t, though. She wasn’t sure what to do with that. 

There was a rhythmic knock on the door before Reese let himself inside and pulled her from her thoughts.

“I’d prefer you keep this locked,” he said closing the door and tapping it.

She bit back a smile. “I’ll remember that.”

“Good. Blake said you wanted to talk.”

“Yeah. Has he run this little babysitting plan of his by you?”

Reese’s gaze went carefully blank as he came farther inside. “We’ve discussed me remaining here for a few days after he leaves. Precautions are smart.”

“I won’t deny that and I’m definitely not saying I’m able to handle anything that might come up, but I think I’d feel more comfortable if he didn’t break pattern by leaving his right hand guy behind.”

Reese blinked and she continued on.

“I suggested Gage stay on for a few days if he’s truly worried or he can send someone else to stay with me although I understand the less people who know about me, the better.”

He continued watching her with that steady gaze. “Do you have a problem with me staying?”

She waved the question away. “It’s not about you. It’s about who you are to him. You’re not just a bodyguard. I don’t have to know everything to see that much. To me, it just seems like maybe someone would want to take advantage if he was running around without his usual guy.”

He tipped his head to the side as he studied her.

“It would be nice to get to know him before something happened to him,” she mumbled looking down at her hands as she locked her fingers together.

“You care,” he acknowledged. “And that’s good. Blake knows how to be smart and careful. Gage will travel back with him most of the way to make sure there aren’t any issues.”

Mari frowned thoughtfully. She couldn’t find fault with that plan. There was no doubt that Gage could be trusted with his own brother’s safety.

“Well.”

He laughed. “Any other objections or concerns you want to share while I’m here?”

“This isn’t going to be a lockdown situation or anything like that, right? I still go to work, hang out with my friends, do all the stuff I normally do with no problems?”

“Right.  You just do all of those things with me.”

“And when my very nosy, super-in-my-business best friends ask me who you are? Or anyone else for that matter?”

“I’m a friend of the family visiting for a while. Stick to the truth.”

He was clearly a friend of Blake’s who was indeed her family so he was right. 

“We keep it simple then.”

“Simple’s best.”

She nodded and rubbed the palms of her hands over her thighs.

“Mari.” Reese waited until she looked at him. “There shouldn’t be any issues. If there are, I’ll be here to handle them.”

She blew out a breath. “Yeah, I’ll be counting on that.”

<< Chapter 28 Chapter 30 >>

Family Ties

Posted on 18/08/2017

Abe grinned from ear to ear as his younger brother Clement cuddled his new bride, all the while marveling over the years gone by.

He and Bart were high-schoolers when Clement joined the family. The sullen preteen kept his distance. Bart thought him a snob but Abe believed something kept Clement from trusting anyone. Although Dad loved each of his children, he was extremely patient with Clement’s mood swings. Abe remembered asking his father about the special treatment and his father’s response changed his attitude towards Clement. Unlike he and Bart who lost their parents, Clement’s parents were still alive–they just didn’t want him. He readily told Bart, and the two made it their summer project to love Clement regardless of his attitude.

Years later, their patience paid off. The once surly Clement became a responsible and loving brother who made both he and Bart proud. Abe was sure their parents in heaven felt the same way.

Clement pressed a kiss to Karen’s cheek and then turned toward his brother, one brow raised. “Ready?”

“Ready.” Abe gave his new sister-in-law a smile. “Sorry that I’m taking time away from your honeymoon.”

Karen slung an arm around Clement’s shoulders and laughed when her husband bent to accommodate her. “It’s alright. We’ve got the rest of our lives together. You’re just visiting for a week…” Her smile softened. “I’ll allow you some quality time together.”

Clement kissed her cheek before ducking out from under her arm. “Besides, she and the others are going on their own special tour.” He gestured for Abe to come with him and the two walked to the jeep.

“Be safe. Don’t do anything stupid!” Karen called behind them.

Abe smirked when Clement grunted and waved a hand over his head. “It’s already begun, huh?”

“She’s been nagging even before now,” Clement mumbled as he entered the driver’s side. “It’s coming too easily. Like she’s been practicing all her life for it.”

Chuckling, Abe folded his long legs into the jeep and strapped on his seatbelt. “So where to?”

Clement started the ignition and looked to his brother. “I want to show you what I do.”

Abe smiled at his brother. “We’re visiting a village?”

“Yes. A very special village.”

“Sounds good.” Abe patted his brother’s shoulder. “So, are you guys ready to host Eli?”

Clement sighed deeply. “Not yet. Stall for another few months. I just got married.”

“I get that but I doubt Eli will be as understanding. We’ve been stalling for months now.”

“I’ll help him understand….” Clement maneuvered the car off the bumpy terrain and onto the tarred road. Then he sighed, a blissful sound accompanied with a smile. “I like being married.”

“I bet. You haven’t stopped smiling since yesterday.” Abe chuckled. “Took you long enough to listen.”

“Trust me, if it wasn’t with Karen, it wasn’t gonna happen.”

Abe grunted and looked out the window. “Well I’m glad I could come, although I wish Phoebe was here.”

“Next time, you two should take a trip out. Maybe a second honeymoon.”

“Yeah, that’ll be good. She’ll welcome the break.”

“And see where you’re from.”

A furrow in his brow, Abe glanced over at Clement’s profile. “I remember nothing about this place.”

“Nothing at all?” Clement looked his way. “Really?”

Abe shook his head. “It was such a long time ago. All I remember was being Darah’s age when…” he trailed off, his gaze traveling to the mountains in the distance. In truth, his childhood memories were a blur.

“You know the toughest thing about being a pastor of that church?” Clement spoke through Abe’s reverie. “It’s having to balance the church affairs while working to reunite lost children with their families.”

“That can’t be easy.”

“It’s not. Especially when the children don’t remember where they’re from.”

Abe clucked his tongue. “Well, did they wander off on their own?”

“They didn’t. They were stolen.”

Frisson ran down Abe’s spine. He fixed his stare at Clement’s face. “What?”

“They were stolen from their parents’ homes and villages to be sold.”

Abe swallowed and looked away. He didn’t need Clement to elaborate; the mere thought sickened him.

“When I first heard about that, I reacted the same way you did. I was filled with disgust and disbelief. Then it turned to outrage. Then… I had to act.”

Abe’s lips twitched wryly. Clement and Darah were the most impulsive of all the Teka children; Clement more than Darah.

“With the help of Dula and later on, Ejigu, we began searching within our communities for these stolen children. Some were easier to find than others. The task was great, and we were just few. But slowly, surely, we were able to reunite families and villages with their lost children.”

Abe’s smile returned fully, pride surging through him. “Junior, that’s awesome. Man, I had no idea.”

Clement nodded. “I didn’t want to bother y’all with the details. It’s part of the job.”

“Still! It must take a toll on you.” His eyes moved over his younger brother’s features, realizing now why Clement often seemed bedraggled whenever he visited home.

His brother shrugged. “It’s a burden I’ll willingly bear.”

Abe placed a hand on Clement’s shoulder. “Mom and Dad will be proud. I certainly am.”

“… I do have a confession. I’m afraid I haven’t been fully honest about all I do here.”

“As long as it’s not putting you in harm’s way, it’s alright.” When his brother didn’t reply, Abe frowned. “Are you in danger?”

“No. Not now.”

Abe scowled. “Not now? What does that mean?”

Clement sighed. “Listen. There’s another reason why I’m bringing you out with me.”

“What?”

“On one of my trips to bring a bus full of children back to their village, I had this crazy thought.”

Abe frowned, not sure any of Clement’s crazy ideas was worth mentioning aloud. They’d gotten into trouble with their parents due to some of Clement’s crazy schemes. “What…?” he asked reluctantly.

“Your parents.”

Abe’s heart skipped a beat. “What… parents?” The only other parents he knew of had abandoned him in Wisconsin, and he preferred not talking about them ever again. The only parents he acknowledged had given him a name, a home and a family.

“The ones you were stolen from.”

Abe’s pulse jumped and his hand slipped from Clement’s shoulder.

Clement pulled up the side of the road and put the car in park. He shifted to face Abe. “I remember Dad telling me about how you and Bart came to the family. This was one of the days I was in one of my surly moods and Dad came to my room, telling me that you two had it bad as well. That I was acting like I was the only special case in the house, and that Bart didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to his parents who died tragically. And that you were stolen and abandoned by two set of parents before coming here.”

Abe only stared in silence.

“I remembered that story when I tried to get the children to remember their homes. They were so traumatized by the kidnapping and imprisonment that it took weeks to get them to remember anything. And when they did, it was a skewed image of their parents abandoning them.”

Not wanting to hear anymore, Abe turned and reached for the door handle.

Clement grabbed Abe’s wrist, stilling his movement. “Abe, listen.”

“No. Let go.”

“Just hear me out.” Clement sighed, loosening his hold on Abe’s wrist. “I did some research when I came home. Remember how I showed up randomly when Bart and Geri were in that fake marriage nonsense?”

Abe couldn’t nod, couldn’t respond.

“Well it wasn’t random. It wasn’t easy getting answers but having a meddling sister-in-law came in handy.”

Abe jerked his attention to Clement. “Phoebe knew…?”

Clement shook his head. “Not fully. I couldn’t give her much detail and I’m thankful she didn’t ask too much. She just knew I was up to something and I promised I’d tell her once I found out everything.”

Abe only stared, feeling like he’d taken a sucker punch to his gut.

“I found out about your parents, the ones who left for Australia–“

“New Zealand.”

“Right, New Zealand.” Clement warily eyed his eldest brother. “I know this is hard for you, Abe…”

Abe swallowed hard and looked down. “We’ve all had it tough.” He heaved a sigh. Even though the pain in his past was something he would rather leave alone, Abe knew Clement wouldn’t just stop there. Couldn’t stop there. He lifted his gaze to his brother’s face. “What else did you find?”

Clement nodded. “I did some attic hunting and you know how meticulous Dad is, keeping records of everything. From Bart’s broken collar to Darah’s missing tooth.”

Abe smirked wryly. “He always kept journals.”

“Exactly. So I started looking for a journal from when you were adopted.”

Abe’s smile eased away. “Did you find anything?”

“A few things. He talked about the first time he and Mom met you, made a few notes about his first impression on you.” His lips twitched. “Scrawny beautiful kid who needs to eat more.”

His eyes stung with tears that fell freely. He missed his father like crazy.

“He said Mom cried all night when they came back home, begging him to let her bring you home immediately. It took a week and a half to bring you home.”

Abe pressed his lips together. He missed Mama also. To think they’d lived a decade without them.

“Well, Dad wouldn’t let it go that you’d been abandoned by irresponsible adults and wanted answers. He made notes about finding out their background and that of the organization that gave you to them. All he wrote though was the name and their location.”

“Ethiopia,” Abe drawled, knowing at least that much. Dad had always been open about their mixed family, answering any questions he had about his origin. But at some point, Abe stopped asking and Dad let him. Perhaps he knew Abe didn’t want to dig up any painful stories about his past and left him alone. Clement was a different case. He heaved a sigh. “Why bring this up now, Junior? I’m well into my forties and I’m satisfied with the family I chose. I don’t need–“

“I found your birth parents, Abe.”

Abe jerked his stare up. “What…?”

“I found ’em.” Clement wore a smile that Abe couldn’t reciprocate.

“What do you mean you found them?” Abe couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

Clement nodded. “I know it sounds crazy but it’s true. And I feel like it’s God’s doing.”

All Abe felt like doing was throwing up. His brother’s hand to his shoulder did nothing to quell the unsettling feeling. He dragged his eyes to Clement’s face and the sympathy displayed in his eyes.

“They’re alive, Abe. And they want to see you.”

Abe’s eyes welled with tears and he shut his eyes tightly.

“I know it’s hard. I know what you’re going through.”

“No you don’t.” Abe shrugged off Clement’s hand and glared at him. “Why d’you go do a thing like that? Why did you have to meddle in something even Dad couldn’t? Did I ask you to find them? Did I?!”

Clement barely flinched when Abe raised his voice. “Calm down. Your blood pressure.”

Abe bristled, his glare hardening. “Like you cared before meddling. You had no right, Junior. No right.”

Clement nodded, calmly taking the brunt of Abe’s frustration. “I’m sorry for adding to your pain. But if Kayla or Isaac or Jacob had been stolen from you… Not only would you have searched all over for them, your life wouldn’t be the same without them. Wouldn’t you want them to know you’re still alive and holding onto hope that you’re waiting for them?”

Abe scowled. “That’s not the same thing.”

“What’s not the same, Abe? You’re their son, a son they never wanted to give up. Some wicked person came to steal you from them. Stole you right from under their nose–“

“Alright, alright!” Abe snapped, holding a hand to his temple. He noticed the tremor in his hand and curled his fingers into his palm. It then dawned on him why Clement insisted that he visit this time around. Not just to stand as witness at his impromptu wedding ceremony but to reunite him with the family he’d forgotten. He squeezed his eyes closed. “This isn’t fair, Junior…”

“I know. It’s rocked your world, it certainly rocked mine seeing them that first time. Abe, your father looks exactly like you and your mother’s got your eyes…” he paused when Abe held out a hand and waited patiently. His brother would need time and Clement was willing to wait a little.

Abe drew in a calming breath and released it on a shudder. “Are they… healthy?”

Clement smiled. Interest was a start. “Very. They’re farmers in the Southeast. A few hours from the capital. Your father grows all sorts of crops. Your mom sells them in the marketplace with her granddaughters.”

Abe raised both brows. “I have siblings?”

“Several.” Clement grinned. “Thankfully your parents consoled themselves and have a few more. All girls. So they never forgot about their first and only son. Your sisters are excited to meet you too.”

Overwhelmed, Abe eyed Clement dubiously. “Is this why you planned this fake tour?”

Clement’s grin brightened. “It’s not fake. Their village just happens to be the one I’m visiting.”

“Right…” Abe sighed. “You’re just like Mama. Won’t stop until you get your way.”

“And just like Mama says, it’s for your own good.” He chuckled when Abe rolled his eyes. “You up for it?”

“I can’t lie and say I’m ever gonna be ready.” Abe frowned. “I had buried that part of my life long ago. I don’t even remember what they look like or feel like. I don’t know what I’d say or how to react when I meet them.” His stomach turned in anxiety and remorse filled his heart. If what Clement said was true, meeting his birth parents for the first time would be like meeting strangers. In a way, they were strangers and he didn’t know how to prepare for this.

Clement squeezed his shoulder. “Like you always tell me when I’m fretting about something. You’ll know what to do when you get there. You’ve been prepared all your life for this. As a father, husband, father to both your children and to us, you’re ready for this. You’ve got this.”

Abe eyed him dubiously. “That’s not helping. It’s like ripping open a wound and then giving me a Band-Aid.” He sighed and rested his head back against the chair. “Let’s go before I change my mind.”

Clement managed a smile. “You’re doing the right thing, Bro. I’m proud of you.”

Abe only grunted.

With one more look at his eldest brother, Clement maneuvered the jeep back onto the road. “Don’t worry. It’ll be as short or as long as you want it. And if you just want to see them and then leave, that’s fine too. They’re prepared to give you time also.”

Abe closed his eyes. “Just shut up and drive. I need to think.”

“Yes sir!” Clement stepped on the accelerator, heading for Abe’s childhood home.

<<Story Page>>

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