Posts tagged “father and daughter

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 48

Posted on 03/06/2015

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They hadn’t held hands in ages. At thirty-years old, it didn’t seem all that necessary as it was when she was ten years old. But when Gabriel grabbed hold of her hand and led her down the winding path, Samina felt a peace she hadn’t felt in years. In introspective silence, they listened to the crickets providing an evening melody, the croaking bullfrogs complementing the tone. Gabriel whistled a tune.

 “Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling Clementine.”

Her nose wrinkled before he whistled the next stanza. “Dad, that’s a terrible song …” She raised a brow at him. “It’s about a man losing his daughter to drowning.”

Gabriel choked a laugh. “Oh wow.”

She shrugged, leaning into him as they walked the woven path. “I looked up the lyrics when I was fifteen. It changed my life forever.”

He nudged her shoulder. “Drama queen.”

Samina sighed and propped her head against his shoulder. “You heard everything?”

“Not if you didn’t want me to.”

She twisted her mouth. “Do you… think she’s right?”

Gabriel didn’t answer at first, mulling over his daughter’s words. The silence stretched for a few moments before he released a sigh. “I always used to think you were like your mother; headstrong and frustratingly independent.” He chuckled lowly. “In a way, you are… but I see a lot of myself in you too.”

Samina managed a smile. For so long, she always felt closer to him because they were so much alike. “I’m your mini-me.”

He peered down at her. “You’re my mirror.” He squeezed her hand. “Even when you were just a baby, your eyes always watched me, doing as you saw me do. Funny thing was you took your cues from me.”

She remained quiet, knowing he was right. A memory of a trip to the beach, walking in her father’s large footsteps, came to mind.

“I’m grateful that you are our firstborn, Samina,” he continued. “You set the temperature for the house based on how your mother and I were feeling. Your uncanny ability to moderate and set the mood of the family, it amazes me.”

Samina bit her bottom lip as he stopped walking. He turned to face her, his face shrouded and unreadable under the half-cast moonlight.

“But I’m seeing now, that you took on more than a child should have to. Because I got too comfortable with you and your mom being assertive and strong women, you took on a role you shouldn’t have.”

She blinked, wary of his grave tone. “Dad…”

“It is not your job to be your mother’s husband or your siblings’ father. That’s my job. You’re not supposed to be my mirror, or the family’s thermostat.” His thumbs brushed the back of her hands. “You don’t have to be strong or invincible. Even I can’t. Only God can.”

Tears welled up in her eyes. “Dad…”

“Embrace your weaknesses as well as your strengths, Samina. They are what make you special, what make you beautiful.” He lifted a hand and cupped her cheek. “It’s okay to say that you don’t have all the answers, or that you’re confused with your life’s journey, or that you’re not perfect. No one is perfect.”

Samina drew in her bottom lip, gnawing at it.

“You’re not me, your mom, Karen or Obadiah. God made you special, unique, beautiful in your own way. There’s no need for you to be someone He hasn’t created you to be.”

She nodded, looking down. “I know that…”

“If you know that, why are you confused?”

Samina looked up, her brow furrowed. “I’m not… confused.

“Ok… what is it then?”

She stiffened. He wouldn’t understand; no one ever did. Her eyes tingled. Don’t you dare cry again.

Gabriel’s hands let go of hers and moved to cup her shoulders. “Samina… Everything you’ll ever need in life, God has provided it for you.”

She refrained from rolling her eyes. “Dad…”

“Delay isn’t denial, you know that, don’t you?”

Samina held her tongue. It sure felt like everything in her life was a loud and firm denial, but arguing with him and God didn’t seem appropriate.

He squeezed her shoulders. “In due time, everything you need, will be met. Stop stressing about what will happen and live for today.”

She smiled wryly. “You sound like a fortune cookie, Dad.”

Gabriel chuckled softly. “Don’t think for a moment that I don’t know about you collecting notes from fortune cookies…”

Her cheeks warmed, recalling the box of rolled-up fortune cookies slips under her childhood bed, representing dashed hopes and dreams. ‘Your future is looking bright’; ‘Love is waiting at the next corner’; ‘Keep on believing.’ She’d been a fool to believe in it all.

He sighed, draping an arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer. “My mini-me…”

Samina leaned into him, warmed by the endearment. “Yes, Daddy?”

“Enjoy your life. Don’t dwell on the past, on things you can’t change. Live for today because you can.”

There was a soft wistful lilt to his tone that had Samina peeking up at his shadowed face.

He sighed. “For more than thirty-something years, I lived with regret and wished I could turn back time. I wished I could’ve told Odetta that I feared failing her, or not being the man she thought I was. That’s why I worked hard, knowing that if I didn’t, I might lose her to Jeremiah.”

She frowned. “Uncle?”

Gabriel grunted. “I knew he loved her too, maybe even more than I ever could… and it ate at me every time she talked about what a great and smart guy he was. In a way, I’d made him my yard stick on how to be a man. And even long after Odetta, I still found myself doing that. Seeing how he treated Sheena like she was his precious gift and finding myself wanting.”

Samina bit the inside of her cheek.

“And because I had my eyes on what he was doing, I hurt your mother with neglect.”

Samina had a sneaky suspicion that this was beyond fatherly advice and more so overdue contemplation over his past failings. She slipped an arm around his waist. “Daddy…?”

“Hmm?”

She hesitated. “You… love Mom, don’t you?”

“Of course I do.” His voice shook a little. “It’s a matured love that endures in spite of frustrations and insecurities because she’s my precious gift. No matter what, we’ll face every circumstance and struggle together.”

Samina swallowed hard.

“I wish I could say it was love at first sight or that I was head over heels in love with your mother… But I wasn’t. I was still hurt from Odetta’s betrayal and didn’t trust women. But your mother was enduring, patient and stubborn.” He chuckled dryly. “It’s funny; the very thing that attracts you to someone is often the very thing that drives you nuts.”

Samina paused, wondering what about Ezekiel attracted her and drove her nuts at the same time. Gabriel’s hand on her cheek caught her at mid-frown.

“Your sister is right, Samina.” Gabriel brushed her cheek with his thumb. “I rather you wait until you’re sure before you jump into anything in life. Career and in love. Even if you have to wait a while, wait and decide what you really want. When times get tough, and you’ve taken that much-needed time, you won’t regret waiting.”

The peace that had settled in her at the beginning of their walk was long gone, an unsettling feeling resting on her as they made their quiet walk back to the camp. She watched as Gabriel crossed the camp fire to where Deidre sat with Sheena and Jeremiah. With a wistful smile, she watched Gabriel reach for Deidre’s hand and tug her to her feet.

Deidre cocked her head curiously as Gabriel took the seat and patted his lap. Jeremiah and Sheena chuckled, Deidre smacking Gabriel’s shoulder before perching on his lap.

Tamping down a sigh, Samina turned away once the elder couples continued their murmuring and turned to where Karen and Ezekiel’s girls sat together, Beulah leaning into Karen as she re-braided her plaits while Adelaide nibbled on a graham cracker.

Samina snuck away to the tent she shared with Karen, intent on sleeping the cramps and fatigue away. A twig snapped to her left and she hurried into the tent, snapping the flap close. It could be Ezekiel, seeking her response. Or Topher…

She couldn’t face either one right now; not when her thoughts were a discombobulated mess.

Wiggling into the sleeping bag, Samina turned her back and squeezed her eyes tight. The last thought on her mind before drifting off to sleep was what Odetta must’ve felt making her decision.

Topher stood at the bank of the river, his brow furrowed slightly as he took in the orange and pink hues in the sky. The night passed too slowly and with Samina on his brain, he couldn’t sleep. It didn’t help that Obadiah’s guttural snoring was way worse than Nadine’s wheezing. By three in the morning, he’d given up trying and took a long jog around the river, trying to organize his thoughts and his feelings.

He wished to forget what he’d seen earlier that evening; the picture of Ezekiel kneeling before Samina.

“I thought I was the only one who couldn’t sleep past five.”

Topher’s jaw hardened. Though he didn’t know the man long enough, he found himself recognizing the voice of Samina’s boyfriend Ezekiel.

The man stifled a yawn as he came to stand at Topher’s side.

In the wake of their silence, bullfrogs hiding in the reeds along the bank croaked out their melodious beat.

“There’s nothing quite like the great outdoors,” Ezekiel continued, his voice light and cheery.

Topher grunted. It was too early in the morning for merriment.

After a brief pause, Ezekiel spoke again. “I heard about your parents. I’m sorry for your loss.”

He kicked a shoulder, not wanting this man’s sympathy.

“The older I get,” Ezekiel mused aloud. “The more I realize what a small world we live in. It seems everyone is connected somehow.”

He rolled his eyes. What did Samina see in this talkative, annoying fellow?

“That we’re all related in some way, it’s bizarre.” Ezekiel chuckled. “To think that Samina’s friendship with you allowed you to meet our fathers who were your parents’ friends… It’s definitely God.”

Topher bristled inwardly, wishing the man to leave.

Ezekiel then turned to face him. “I’d like us to be friends.”

Topher arched a brow. Did this guy think they were in kindergarten?

“I can see Samina cares for you. A friend of hers is a friend of mine.”

He wanted to laugh. Even with Ezekiel’s warm expression, Topher knew better than to take this man’s words at face value. Just as he stood at Samina’s side, occupying every moment of her time since they arrived at the camp, he was now verbally staking a claim over Samina. Topher felt his lips curl upwards. He did always like a challenge. “And if I don’t agree?”

Ezekiel’s smile froze. “Agree to what, Samina’s feelings for you?”

Topher grinned wider. “The latter. Do we really need to be friends to co-exist in her heart?”

Ezekiel’s smile changed. “I’m not good at sharing.”

“Neither am I,” Topher answered easily, shoving both hands in his pockets. “But this isn’t about sharing a cookie or a toy. Samina’s heart isn’t a toy.”

Ezekiel’s face hardened. “Samina loves me. Always have, always will.”

Topher smiled effortlessly. “Good for you.”

“I plan to marry her.”

He nodded. The image of Ezekiel kneeling was clear as day in his mind. “I know.”

“She will be my wife.”

Topher cocked a brow at Ezekiel’s face now taut with increasing irritation. The self-assuredness he’d assumed earlier was now absent in his expression. “Is that merely an assumption or a known fact?”

Ezekiel narrowed his eyes then, lips pursed tight. “Don’t confuse her.”

“What, you’re scared she’ll refuse?” Topher raised both brows. “That she has a better option than the one you’re proposing?”

Ezekiel scoffed. “You’re joking. Do you know her at all?”

“Do you?” Topher smirked as Ezekiel’s smile waned. “So what she had a crush on you? Does that give you full reins of her heart?”

Without warning, Ezekiel grabbed hold of Topher’s collar, face darkening with a scowl. “Who are you to say that? What do you know?”

Unaffected, Topher just stared down at him. “And who are you to decide what she wants?”

Ezekiel’s fists tightened on Topher’s t-shirt. “Shut your mouth.”

Topher breathed a laugh. “I’m not in the mood to repeat history here. Let go or I’ll make you.”

A round of claps alerted both men, the raging fires within sizzling as they turned to see Samina standing in the clearing. Ezekiel’s hands loosened around Topher’s shirt and he quickly stepped away. Topher didn’t blink as Samina walked forward, clapping her hands slowly.

“A round of applause,” Samina drawled out, stepping fully out of the shadows. “What an awesome performance, gentlemen.”

“Sam, I can explain…” Ezekiel stepped forward.

“Explain what exactly?” Samina glared at both men. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you two were kids fighting over a toy.”

Topher swallowed a curse. Ezekiel inhaled sharply. She’d heard everything.

She folded both arms across her chest, her brow furrowed. “So what were you going to do, fight knowing your daughters could walk in on you two?”

“No one was going to fight,” Ezekiel insisted, his tone growing agitated. “I was just…”

“Warning him off? Making veiled threats?” Samina turned to Topher before Ezekiel could explain but could only shake her head. “I don’t recognize either of you.”  She turned away, hand to her head.

Ezekiel stepped closer but Topher grabbed his shoulder to stop him. He scowled when Ezekiel shrugged him off and closed the distance. He glared at Ezekiel as the man draped an arm around Samina’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry, baby,” Ezekiel murmured, loud enough for Topher to hear but soft enough to sound contrite.

Topher wanted nothing more than to grab Ezekiel by the collar and push him away from Samina. Instead he stood and waited in silence. It wasn’t his place to interfere, even if he desperately wanted to.

Samina elbowed Ezekiel to keep her distance. “Stop.” She glared up at him. “Even now, you’re still doing it. Stop it, for goodness’ sake.”

Dumbfounded, Ezekiel gaped at her. “Sam…”

“I’m not a toy, Ezekiel.” Samina snapped, indignant. “I decide what and who I want, not you.”

Ezekiel’s mouth opened and closed, eyes blinking.

“What do you want then?” Topher heard himself speak.

Samina turned to him, eyes sizzling. “I thought I knew but now… I don’t know.”

Ezekiel frowned. “But—”

“And until I’m sure, I don’t want to talk to either of you about it.” Samina hitched her chin. “And don’t you dare follow me or try to change my mind. Punch your stupid heads in for all I care. Good day!” She spun on her heels and stormed off.

Ezekiel puffed out an exasperated breath in her wake and dragged a hand over his face.

Topher slowly released a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding all this time.

Grunting, Ezekiel turned to him with a ‘now what’ expression and Topher did everything he could to keep from laughing. He was not in the mood to fight anyone, especially not now.

With a sigh, Topher turned to face the lake just as the sun rose above the trees.

<<Chapter 47 || Chapter 49>>

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Samina’s Chance: Chapter 39

Posted on 13/05/2015

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Samina wrung her fingers tightly as she forced herself not to look to her left at her father. But with the heavy silence between them as they drove home, she couldn’t help but glance over.

His jaw was clenched so tight, she was afraid he would break his teeth. Her fingers twitched to put over his but the deep furrow in his brow made her rethink it.

The memory of his intense glare directed at Topher loosened her tongue. “Dad…”

He stiffened as if he’d forgotten she was in the car with him. His lips pursed, his hands squeezed the steering wheel.

Samina frowned, nonplussed by his unbridled fury and sharp reaction. His earlier performance didn’t line up with the man she’d admired and trusted for all her life. “Dad, I’m thirty years old.”

He scowled, fingers pressed tightly against the leather. “I know that.”

“Then why did you—”

“It’s complicated.”

Her frown deepened. “What’s complicated about it? Am I not old enough to make my own decisions? You said as long as I was happy with what—”

Gabriel groaned, cutting her off again. “Please, Samina… just stop. Please.”

Samina drew in her lips, staring at the tense lines on his face. He’d always supported her, had just given her a speech about being happy for her in whatever she chose to do, so what was the meaning of this? “Dad…”

“Samina,” he barked out.

She flinched, gaping at him.

His jaw worked a tick, his eyes focused on the road. “Enough. I don’t want to hear another word about this. Understood?”

Frustrated and unnerved, Samina jerked in her seat and faced the window, glaring at the buildings that zoomed past them as Gabriel drove them home.

Nadine’s eyes snapped open to the white tiled ceiling. She knew this place. Wincing at the hollow pain in her chest, she tilted her head sideways on the pillow and stifled a moan. Topher sitting quietly near her bed, face turned to the window.

She cleared her throat and still he didn’t move.

Nadine bit the inside of her sore mouth and coughed a little louder.

Topher turned his head and her heart skipped several beats at the forlorn glint in his gaze. His eyes swept over her, inspecting her no doubt.

Nadine wanted to hold him but feared he would pull away. Instead, she shifted her gaze to the window. They were back in the hospital. In Houston. Her chest tightened and she placed a hand over it, rubbing away the tension. “What… happened?”

“We missed the flight.”

Nadine closed her eyes briefly, told herself to breathe first. “Oh?”

Topher sighed and reached for her other hand, enveloping it between his warm ones. “It’s okay, Nadine.”

Even though he would never admit it out loud, Nadine knew he’d been scared. She heard him right before blacking out; the terror in his voice echoing in her ears. Nadine pursed her lips, holding back from crying. “Sorry.”

“Don’t say that.” He squeezed her hand gently.

She blinked back tears, eyes downcast. “You missed the flight because of me.”

“How could I board the plane without you? When you fainted, I—” he drew in a shaky breath, his eyes shimmering with tears.

Her gaze lifted to his head and she placed her other hand there, her fingers disturbing the shorn curls. “Topher…”

He sniffed, Nadine’s heart breaking a little more. “Hmm?”

Nadine drew in a sustaining breath and released it slowly. She didn’t want to hurt him, never wanted to hurt him. “There’s something I must say. And I hope you will hear me out?”

Topher lifted his head, brow furrowed with concern, uncertainty in his eyes as he stared up at her.

She swallowed hard, the words lodged in her throat. She had to continue, for his sake. For hers. “You know I’ve always wanted you to be happy, right?”

A line appeared between his eyes as his frown deepened.

Tears tingled at the back of her eyes and she blinked to clear them. “You… can’t be with Samina.”

Something akin to hurt flashed in his eyes and Topher sat up. Her hand fell to the mattress and he shoved to his feet, moving to the window. “I know.”

Nadine knew he didn’t but he would. Her chest tightened with pain that she’d have to be the one to show him why. The tears fell unbound, and she shifted in the bed. “Do… you have my Bible?”

Without a word, he trudged to the suitcase leaning against the wall and pulled it open, tugging out her thick Bible.

She quickly brushed away the tears before he turned with the worn Bible sandwiched between his palms.

With a blank look, Topher held it out to her.

Nadine shook her head. “Sit with me.” She waited until he perched tentatively on the bed. “Y’know, that was your Mama’s Bible.”

His eyes lifted to her face.

She managed a wobbly smile. “Open Nahum 3… Please.”

Air grew sparse with every page he flipped over. He’d been taught the word of God pretty early in life, memorizing the books of the Bible at a young age. She knew he would find the passage quickly but wished he would go slower.

His jaw was tight, his fingers deftly thumbing through the dog-eared pages of his mother’s Bible. As he released a breath on the page before the one he sought, Topher paused, feeling the indentation of a squared paper. With a quick glance at Nadine’s tensed features, he flipped the page as his heart flipped over.

A worn photograph was stuck in the bind. Even before he could pick out the faces, Topher knew his mother would be there… and maybe.

He pushed out a breath as his lungs constricted. His fingers trembled as they skimmed over the faded photograph, his eyes scanning the faces there.

Five students stood facing the camera, with the beach at their back.

He squinted at each face, three men and two women. He didn’t recognize anyone but a younger version of Nadine sandwiched between two men. Curiosity prodded him to pull out the photograph from its bind.

Words were few to none as he gazed at his mother, Odetta, a softer version of Nadine. Her eyes were kinder, warmer, and calmer. Something in him wished he’d known her.

Topher drew in a breath and shifted his gaze to the men adjoining her. In fact, all three men towered over both women. He squinted at the man his mother leaned into with her arm tucked underneath his. His breath caught.

Tall and lean, this man wore a confident smile. His gaze, direct and honest, was as if staring at him long enough could reveal much about the man. Without warning, his pulse quickened. He held the photograph closer, eyes honing in the man’s face. Could this be him?

“The year is 1969,” Nadine finally spoke. “This picture was taken two years before you were born.”

Air rushed through his ears. His mind started to race, grappling to piece things together; the picture, her words.

The man who his mother held had to be his father. He drew in his lips, agitated and fascinated all at the same time. Topher couldn’t look away.  His expressive eyes reminded him so much of someone.

Samina’s stunning gaze flashed in his mind. As did Nadine’s solemn words that they could never be.

The turbulent countenance of Samina’s father appeared in his mind’s eye.

Topher jerked his gaze to Nadine who stared at him with tears in her eyes. Pulsing heart lodged in his throat, he dropped his eyes to the picture.

The young man’s features lined up with the older Gabriel’s weathered lines. His heart throbbed violently as he took in the man’s confident smile, matching it to the paternal half-smile of Samina’s father when they were introduced hours earlier.  Even his svelte form was the same, though age bowed his shoulders, making a bit shorter than in the picture.

Words failed him. He suddenly felt lightheaded.

“Christopher…”

Pain slashed across his torso. Topher choked out a breath and leaned forward, thumb and finger pressing the picture as realization hit him like a freight train. He could hear every labored breath in his ears.

“M-My father…” His tongue felt heavy as he formed the words. His vision blurred. “Is he in this picture?”

Nadine’s silence was as if she shouted it from the top of her lungs.

His lungs squeezed out what little air it held in and Topher shot to his feet. The photograph and Bible slid off his lap to the floor. Eyes blinded with tears, he staggered toward the window and gripped the ledge.

Gabriel’s sharp glare and Nadine’s firm but contrite words juxtaposed against Samina’s lovely face. Topher choked on a sob and pressed a hand over his mouth. Tears slid down his cheeks and he bent over the windowpane, knees and shoulders trembling.

<<Chapter 38 || Chapter 40>>

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