Posts tagged “fear

Lighthouse, Chapter 19

Posted on 12/08/2016

J.R. and Hana stood on the other side of the window, silently watching the doctor check the IV while the patient slept. Hands bunched in his pockets, J.R. gazed down at the frail man trying to breathe through the oxygen mask fitted onto his face. Though minutes had passed since the doctor and his team stabilized his father from his struggle to breathe, panic still thrummed through J.R.’s veins.

His father had been against radiation therapy, not wanting to be stuck in the hospital any longer… but J.R. insisted and the doctor hesitantly allowed it, reading the desperation in a son’s voice to save his father.

Except this decision just might have made his father’s condition a lot worse. Edema in the lungs.

“Don’t worry,” Hana’s voice pervaded through his thoughts and J.R. closed his eyes, wishing it was that simple. She sighed deeply. “He’s a strong man.”

His eyes fluttered open once more, and he pinned his gaze on his father’s sleeping form. “Maybe we should’ve…”

“No,” Hana interjected softly. “Radiation is his best bet.” She shifted her attention to J.R.’s profile. “Don’t waver, Bhaiyaa… you have to be strong for him.”

I can’t. Unwittingly, a faded memory emerged from a dark deep corner in his mind.

A scared kid sat in the waiting room of the emergency center, his small heart beating fast and hard against his ribs as his father rushed after the paramedics wheeling a bleeding woman away. His eyes had lowered to the trail of blood leading down the hallway. He’d pushed off the plastic chair and followed the bloody trail. Nurses and patients bustled around him, ignoring the scrawny boy still clad in his yellow pajamas and bare feet. Air rushed through his ears as he came to the end of the hallway and slowly turned. His disheveled father was on his knees at the end of the bloody trail, body shaking as he wept bitterly. A nurse and paramedic stood at his side, helpless to comfort the desolate man. The woman they’d brought with him was nowhere to be found. Paralyzed with fear at the sight of his strong and brave father weeping, the little boy just watched with tears pooling his eyes as his ten-year-old mind realized the truth. She was gone. His mother was gone.

“Bhaiyaa,” a voice echoed in his head.

J.R. squeezed his eyes tight, the tears sliding down his cheeks.

A hand closed over his shoulder and jostled him from the memory. He blinked and looked down to the sympathetic eyes of Hana at his side.

“You okay?”

He couldn’t even nod and just stared at her.

Hana sighed and released his shoulder. “Your phone’s ringing.”

J.R. looked away and reached for his phone that was indeed vibrating against his hip. Unlatching it from his belt hook, he stared at the caller-id of the Teka house phone. Sniffing back the tears, he accepted the call and put the phone to his ear.

“Hello?” His brows furrowed slightly and he glanced once at the window where the doctor surveyed his sleeping father. “You’re back,” he drawled monotonously, unable to muster any affability in his tone. He was far too tired to perform.

Darah watched the furrow deepen on Clement’s brow and bit her bottom lip. Something was wrong, she could tell when Clement’s gaze shifted away from hers. She shuffled to stand in front of him, wanting to read every emotion as he spoke with J.R.

“Hmm,” Clement muttered in a noncommittal tone that only frustrated his only sister. “What of you?”

She leaned in, her ears perked up to hear J.R.’s low tenor.

“Hmm.” Clement stepped around her. “Do you want me to come?”

Darah hurried to stand in his path and gestured for him to take her with him.

He arched a brow and then rolled his eyes. “Darah wants to come.”

She held her breath, gaze fixed on her brother’s face.

Then Clement’s lips twitched a smile. “Yeah, she’s here.”

Her heart skipped several beats and she slowly released the breath, silently apologizing to the child for being foolish. She kept her eyes on Clement, waiting.

Then he nodded. “We’re on our way.”

Her shoulders sagged in relief only to stiffen when he lowered the phone. “What happened?”

He looked down at her with a somber expression. “This isn’t a just a visit, Darah. I need you to behave.”

“I’m not a kid, Junior.” She swallowed against the dread rising up her throat, and followed him up the stairs. “Is it his father? Did something happen?”

A door opened once they reached the top of the stairs, and Phoebe stepped out of her bedroom, eyes bleary from sleep. She eyed them with concern. “It’s past midnight… what’s going on?”

“We’re going down to the hospital,” Clement said and entered Eleazar’s bedroom where he’d put up his duffel bag and shoes.

The sleep left Phoebe’s eyes and she quickly turned to Darah. “Is it about J.R.’s father?”

“He won’t say but I think so.” Darah wrung her hands together.

“Oh no,” Phoebe breathed. “Maybe we should get the guys out tonight. They’ll go with you.”

“I don’t think we need the whole gang out there tonight.” Clement emerged from the room a moment later, his eyes falling on Darah. “Don’t get in the way.”

Instead of pouting, she nodded. “I won’t. Can we go now?”

Alone in the chapel, J.R. sat in silence, his listless gaze on the shadow of the cross splayed across the altar. The soft hum of the music overhead meant to calm him, to assure him of a miracle, but it only brought tears to pool in his eyes. Blinking them back, he squared his shoulders and drew in a haggard breath. Then he closed his eyes, releasing tears down his cheeks and the breath he’d held.

“Please…”

His voice was barely a whisper amid the hymnal. His eyes fluttered open, meeting the cross and the carved statue hanging on it. “Please,” he began again, voice stronger this time. “Don’t let me lose him.”

His clasped fingers tightened and he closed his eyes again. His shoulders trembled at the thought of losing the only family he had. “I know I’ve been angry at you for too long… but please, just this once.”

His pulse jumped in his throat. “Just this once…”

Another tear trailed his cheek and he sniffed another back. “Please, just… save my dad.” His body began to shake as he couldn’t hold back the tears and he bowed over his waist, his forehead dropping against the back of the pew in front of him.

He knew it wouldn’t help, the thoughts racing through his mind, but he had to say it… just in case. He lifted his head again and gazed up at the shadow. “I’ll do anything. Anything, just save him first. Please.”

The door swung open noisily and J.R. swiveled in his seat, heart in his throat as he expected a grim-faced Hana to bring him the dreaded news.

Two shadows darkened the door of the chapel. He remained seated and watched as they stepped inside and into the spotlight above the door. His heart flipped at the sight of Darah standing by a bearded man. Tears pooled in his eyes as he watched her break away from the man and hurry toward him. He could nothing as she stepped into his pew and flung her arms around his neck. He closed his eyes and lowered his head to the crook of her neck, the tears flowing free as she tightened her hold around him.

Darah felt his shoulders quake under her arms and she tightened her arms around him even more, not wanting to let go despite the fact that her heart pounded hard and fast against his… She closed her eyes and breathed him in, wishing she could take away his pain and fear.

Clement sighed heavily beside them and lowered to the pew behind them. He watched the couple with a somber expression, his brow furrowing at the sight of J.R.’s trembling shoulders. There weren’t many times he’d seen the self-composed attorney lose his cool. But this wasn’t a normal situation.

As though realizing where he was, J.R. disengaged and shifted away from Darah, only for her to grab his shoulders to keep him close. He sighed, not making a move to step away from her. Instead he shifted his attention to the bearded man and his brows lifted in silent question.

Clement nodded. “Any word yet?”

J.R. shook his head, looking past Clement’s shoulder at the closed chapel door.

Darah heaved a sigh and squeezed J.R.’s shoulder. “He’ll be fine.”

J.R. spared her a dubious glance.

“You’re in here so keep your hope alive.” She gave him a gentle smile that made him wish for another hug.

Instead, he looked back at Clement. “When did you come?”

Clement leaned back in the seat, draping one arm over the pew. “A few hours…” he paused to let out a big yawn. “…ago.”

Darah sighed. “How long has he been out for?”

J.R. noticed the warning look Clement gave his sister but ignored it. He dragged a hand over his face. “Too long.”

Clement shifted forward. “Should I meet with him?”

J.R. straightened, alarm heightening at the somberness in his friend’s tone. “I…”

“Relax, I’m just going to sit with him for a while. Let Darah take care of you.” Clement didn’t wait to hear J.R.’s protest and stood. “Behave,” he warned his sister before stepping out of the pew.

Darah gripped J.R.’s shoulder to keep him seated. When he twisted to look at her with questions in his eyes, she squeezed his shoulder and gave him a slight smile. “Stay for a while. Please.”

He swallowed a sigh and the nerves that Clement’s words invoked before settling back in the pew. Darah released his shoulder and moved her hand to clasp his, entwining their fingers together. She could feel his gaze on hers and sighed. “Stop looking at me like that.”

His fingers remained lax in hers but that didn’t stop her from tightening her hold.

Her gaze focused on the shadow of the cross. “Why did you come here?”

J.R.’s eyes lowered to their joined hands, to the chipped polish on her tiny nails. He sighed and curled his fingers around the back of her hand. Then he turned to face the cross. “I don’t know.”

“Of course you know,” she insisted gently. “You could’ve gone outside to the garden like last time. Or sat in the toilet stall.”

“What do you want to say?”

“Let me talk.”

“I am.”

Darah sighed gently, her thumb caressing his. “You haven’t given up.”

He remained silent, holding his breath at her words.

“You haven’t given up on your dad. Even with the death sentence his doctors gave him, you have the hope to believe he can live.”

J.R. closed his eyes. How he wanted to believe her words so badly when in truth, he was trembling from the inside out of living alone.

“You’re not alone, J.R.”

His eyes snapped open and for a moment, J.R. believed he’d spoke those words aloud. His heart thumped hard and fast against his throat.

Darah leaned forward, resting her elbow on his knee. Her face barely inches from his, her eyes met his. “You’re not alone, J.R. We’re not giving up on him either.”

He released the breath he didn’t know he’d been holding, only to catch it again when her eyes twinkled with what he believed were tears. Paralyzed in awe, he gazed down at this impish girl who captured his heart ten years ago.

With her free hand, she lifted it to his face and cupped his cheek. “You’re not alone, J.R.”

Every time she said those words, it was like a brand on his heart; claiming him as hers. Then her lips twitched in that shy smile of hers, her thick lashes drooping in a curtain over her eyes.

“Why?” he croaked out.

Her lashes fluttered, revealing those brilliant eyes that shimmered with tears. For him. “Hmm?”

“Why…?”

He didn’t make sense, but it didn’t matter since she seemed to know what he was asking. Darah’s thumb caressed his cheek, rousing his pulse. “Because, Raju-Joel Obed,” her lashes lowered just once before lifting again, imprisoning him with her gaze. “I love y—”

J.R. didn’t need to hear the rest of it—the words were clear in her voice. He dipped his head and pressed his mouth against hers. The touch of her lips quickened his pulse, but not as it did when the hand she’d cupped his cheek now slid around his neck and clung to him. He too slid his free hand around her waist and pulled her close, clinging to her as though she was his anchor.

A moment too soon, the door swung open noisily and the two broke apart, believing it was Clement catching them in the act.

“Bhaiyaa! He’s awake! Come!” Hana called from the chapel entrance before hurrying back out, the doors swinging back in place.

For a moment, the two sat there in stunned silence—swept away by their unexpected kiss. They stared at each other as if seeing themselves for the first time. Then J.R. broke eye contact and stood.

Darah lowered her gaze and started to shift away from him when he grabbed her arm and tugged her to her feet. She gasped when he wrapped his arms around her, burying his face in the crook of her neck. She bit her bottom lip to keep from letting out a giggle, ticklish at the heat of his breath against her skin.

Then he released her, and took her breath away twice—the sounding kiss he placed on her mouth before gifting her with the most brilliant smile she’d seen in a long time.

“Thank you.” He then looked over her head at the cross, his smile beaming and blinding her at the same time. “Thank you…”

Her heart skipped a beat when his eyes swung back to hers and she held her breath, anticipating another kiss—wanting another. Instead, he released her waist and grabbed her hand. “Come.”

Stunned, Darah nodded mutely and let him lead her out of the chapel to meet his father but not without a glance behind her at the shadowed cross. “Thank you,” she mouthed, releasing a smile of her own.

<<Chapter 18 || Chapter 20>>

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Lighthouse, Chapter 7

Posted on 27/04/2016

Darah fought a shiver as her older brothers, Abe and Bart, studied her in the wake of announcing her unexpected pregnancy. For the last hour, Abe remained silent with a stony expression while Bart continued his display of unabashed anger.

“I just don’t get it.” Bart glared at her. “What possessed you to do this?”

Abe’s jaw tightened, his unreadable expression more frightening than Bart’s.

“Bart…” Phoebe cautioned softly, her eyes volleying between Abe and Darah.

“So not only did you completely disregarded our rules about not dating till thirty, but you got pregnant also?” Bart scoffed incredulously.

“You know that rule didn’t make any sense,” Darah mumbled, careful not to look at Abe.

“Darah,” Geraldine said through clenched teeth. “I’d stop talking, if I were you.”

“Who is he?”

All eyes turned to Abe, for this was the only thing he’d said since the announcement.

Darah trembled at her brother’s unreadable expression and unable to hold eye contact, she dropped her gaze. “I don’t know…”

Someone gasped, probably Phoebe. Geraldine groaned into her hands.

“One night stand?”

Darah squeezed her eyes shut, feeling nauseated all over again. “No.”

“Don’t lie to me. Who is he, Darah?”

She peered up at Abe’s face and swallowed at his expression darkening in impatience. “I…”

“Did you have a boyfriend?” Phoebe asked gently, her eyes pleading with Darah to cooperate.

“Don’t know which is worse. Having a boyfriend she’s not allowed to have or a one-night stand.” Bart muttered an expletive and dragged a hand over his face.

Phoebe sighed in exasperation. “Bart, please…”

“I’m twenty-five,” Darah groused, angry that her brothers’ stupid rule had caused her this problem. “If I had the freedom to date like normal people, this wouldn’t have happened.”

The room went silent, all eyes on her. Phoebe looked disappointed, Geraldine exasperated, Bart furious, and Abe… Abe stood slowly.

“Unbelievable.”

Phoebe jerked her attention back to her husband. “Abe…”

Abe’s eyes never left his sister’s face. “Twenty-five years old and you still refuse to own up to your mistakes. This is disappointing, Darah. Very disappointing.”

Darah watched her eldest brother stalk around the coffee table and toward the stairs. He ignored Phoebe’s entreaty, his heavy footsteps on the stairs making Darah’s heart pound faster. Those words hurt more than Bart’s fury.

“Is Abe okay?” Geraldine asked, tugging at Bart’s arm.

“Besides his baby sister breaking his heart?” Phoebe exhaled a breath. “Just give him time.”

“Who is he, Darah?” Bart demanded, losing what little restraint he had on his anger.

Geraldine clutched his shoulder. “You need to calm down… Getting angry won’t change what’s happened. Calm down.”

His stare remained fixed on Darah. “I asked who the low-life is that made you this way.”

“No.” She tightened her jaw. Telling any of them about Jeremy would be a bigger mistake; she couldn’t have any of her brothers go to jail for killing the fool. “He doesn’t matter.”

Bart’s scowl darkened. “Don’t make me angry, Darah.”

“You’re already angry, Bart.”

The doorbell rang before Bart could answer in kind and all three women relaxed visibly.

Geraldine shot to her feet and hurried to the door. “That better be J.R. He’s the only one that can talk some sense into you.” She pulled open the door with her free hand. “Good, you’re here.”

Bart let out a bitter laugh as he stood. “I have half the mind to punch you.”

The stoic J.R. blinked. “And why would you do that?”

If this wasn’t a dire situation with her life on the line, Darah would’ve laughed at J.R.’s stiff formality. His stoic personality could be off-putting at times but reassuring when it counted. She hadn’t realized how calming his presence was until now.

“If you’d married this girl when we asked you to,” Bart groused. “We wouldn’t be having this problem.”

Darah stood scowling. “Stop with that foolishness. J.R. has nothing to do with this.”

“Then why did you text him?” Geraldine asked, giving Darah a pointed look.

“Because…” Darah floundered, eying J.R.’s quizzical expression. “Because…”

J.R.’s frown deepened. “What’s going on?”

Bart glared at his sister. “You want to act like you’re so independent and don’t need anyone’s input, yet call for backup instead of taking responsibility for your mess. Real mature, Darah.” He shrugged off Geraldine’s hand and pushed past J.R. out the front door.

All three women flinched when Bart slammed the door and J.R. started after his friend.

“Wait a minute,” Darah’s voice made him pause.

He turned back around, brows raised quizzically.

“Why are you going after him when I called you?”

Geraldine scoffed in disgust. Phoebe rolled her eyes. “Seriously, Darah…”

“Never mind. Goodnight.” Darah walked around the sofa and up the stairs to her temporary bedroom.

Both Phoebe and Geraldine shook their heads when Darah slammed the bedroom door behind her.

“What a mess.” Geraldine clucked her tongue in disapproval and folded her arms over her chest.

“You think your mom can keep the kids for the night?” Phoebe asked, gnawing at her bottom lip. “We’re not done with this conversation and I don’t want them to worry.”

Geraldine sighed. “They probably just think it’s one big sleepover and could care less where we are. I’ll call her after Bart calms down… God knows how long that’ll take.”

J.R. frowned. “Where’s Abe? What’s going on?”

“Darah’s pregnant and the whole family is in a state of emergency. Abe’s fighting to keep his blood pressure down, Bart could face death row if he doesn’t calm down and I’m about to lose it myself.” She blew out a shaky breath. “Not sure why Darah thought getting you involved would do her any good, but now you know. Got any suggestions?”

Flabbergasted, J.R. merely stared at the two women; for he had nothing to say.

“So what did they say?” Tess asked over the phone a few minutes after Darah locked herself in Eleazar’s bedroom. She’d called her best friend shortly after changing to her pajamas and was curled up in bed, coloring in one of Karla’s paint-by-number sets. “Did Bart flip out?”

Darah snorted, picking up another coloring pencil. “Obviously.”

“What about Abe?”

Her fingers stilled over the pencil as she recalled Abe’s stormy expression and the only words he’d said all night. No doubt he was as furious as Bart, but for some reason, his anger hurt Darah more.

“He was pissed?”

“Hmm.” Darah swallowed the lump in her throat. She nudged the coloring set aside and rolled onto her back. Her eyes stung with unshed tears and she blinked them away.

“Well they have a right to, I guess,” Tess continued. “You’re their baby sister.”

Darah sighed heavily and turned on her side, facing Eleazar’s desk. She replayed Abe’s words of disappointment and felt a tear slide down her cheek.

“Ugh, not this chick again.”

Darah blinked out of her reverie. “What?”

“This girl only ever hits me up when she wants something.”

She frowned, sitting up. “Who?”

“Some girl in my creative writing class.” Tess snorted. “Like she won’t hit me up until she’s bored or has nothing better to do. Never once does she call to find out how I’m doing or just chat because. Anyway, I’m done with her fake friendship. Hold on, let me text her back real quick.”

Darah’s frown deepened as she listened to the telltale taps of Tess typing a message to her ‘fake friend’, all the while feeling sad. Aside from Tess’ texts, her phone lay silent. What was more disconcerting was she didn’t even know her best friend was in a creative writing class.

“Okay back,” Tess spoke after a long pause. “Chick wants me to read her stuff, like I don’t have anything better to do.”

“Do you?”

“Yeah, I’m talking to you.”

Darah managed a smile and rested her cheek against the pillow. “Thanks…”

“Of course.” Then Tess sighed heavily. “But let me go read this girl’s stuff before she blows up my phone all night. Sorry babe.”

“It’s okay,” Darah answered half-heartedly. “I shouldn’t be on the phone anyway…”

“Why?”

“Because the walls are thin and my family thinks I’m too distraught to have a conversation, much less use the phone.” She stared at the ceiling, watching the fan blades turn.

“… Darah?”

Tears filled her eyes, blurring the whirling fan blades. Getting pregnant as a single woman wasn’t part of the plan. After her parents’ passing, twelve-year-old Darah had planned out her life, avowing never to be surprised by life again. Getting married and then having children was the plan and Jeremy ascribed to it perfectly. He charmed her with promises of marriage and a family with him. And like an immature fool, she’d surrendered to what she believed was love but what turned out to be a lie.

“Darah?”

“Hmm?” Her hand moved to her flat stomach, feeling nauseous all over again. Even though she’d watched both Phoebe and Geraldine have children of her own, she didn’t know the first thing of being a mother. And her family would most likely disown her after this. Dread choked her lungs, forcing her to draw in a shaky breath.

“Are you scared?”

Darah willed away the tears and her disturbing thoughts. At least until Tess got off the phone. “Go read your fake friend’s writing. We’ll talk later.”

Tess sighed. “You’ll figure it out, Darah. You’re a smart girl.”

She managed a smile and after wishing her best friend a good night, disconnected the call. “Being smart is not going to fix this…”

Tears dropped onto the phone screen and Darah began to weep openly.

Dazed, J.R. stepped into his house an hour later with Bart’s words replaying in his head.

“If you’d stopped being a coward,” Bart shouted. “We wouldn’t be in this mess!”

Throat clogged with words unspoken, J.R. walked past the three adults sitting in the family room without a word of greeting and started for his room.

“Raju,” L.J. spoke up just as J.R. reached the stairs.

J.R. turned, gaze listless. “Yes Father?”

L.J. frowned from where he sat. “Don’t you see we have guests you’ve kept waiting all night?”

Not taking another step forward, J.R. sighed. “Look, it’s been a long day and I’m not in the mood.”

L.J. squinted at his son. “Not in the mood…?”

“Lalana,” Dabir said quietly, putting a hand over his friend’s shoulder. “It’s okay.”

J.R. could care less that his father felt embarrassed in front of his company. All he wanted to do was go to his room and punch whatever he could get his hands on. “If you’ll excuse me…”

“Stop right there.”

J.R. held back a groan and turned to face his father that now stood akimbo. “What is it?”

The exasperated response made Dabir exchange wary glances with his wife, and irritated L.J. “Where have you been all night? I called you several times.”

Choosing not to point out it wasn’t even eleven p.m., J.R. sighed. “I was busy.”

“Busy,” L.J. echoed incredulously, his dark eyes narrowed at his son. “Did you forget we had an appointment with your uncle and aunty?”

J.R. bit back the response that he barely knew this couple. Instead, he arched a brow at his father. “No Father, I didn’t forget you had an appointment.”

L.J.’s jaw tightened. “What?”

Sighing, J.R. turned to the wide-eyed couple. “I’m sorry Mr. and Mrs. Sharma, but I am not interested in having a conversation about marriage with either of you.”

<<Chapter 6 || Chapter 8>>

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