Posts tagged “hospital

Lighthouse, Chapter 21

Posted on 16/08/2016

“You might want to keep it a secret for now,” Hana’s words echoed in Darah’s head as she sat on the garden bench, staring listlessly at the stagnant pond. She closed her eyes and drew in a breath.

“Like I said, it takes him a while to get used to things. You’re still very much a stranger, and he’ll have to get used to you. Ease into the baby news once you’ve won his heart.”

Darah released the haggard breath. That was easier said than done—not many people understood her much less liked her.

“There you are.”

She snapped her eyes open at the sound of Clement’s voice and shifted as he settled beside her. “What’s going on?”

He eyed her warily. “I should be asking you with all that sighing.”

Darah groaned and looked away. “I don’t think he likes me.”

“Who, J.R.?”

She rolled her eyes. “His dad.”

“Hm,” Clement rubbed his chin. “Well, he’s a bit cranky, but who wouldn’t be after all this? He’s had it tough.”

“Well, he’ll have more reasons besides me taking his son from him.” She dropped her gaze to her stomach.

Clement grunted. “That’s ridiculous. Who said that?”

“Hana.”

He snorted. “The ex-fiancée?”

“They weren’t engaged.”

“Okay… so that’s why your sighing, J.R.’s old man? Since when do people’s opinion about you get you down?”

She wrinkled her nose, her fingers tracing the slight bump on her tummy. “I just…”

He nudged her. “You worry too much. Leave that to J.R. and be your charming self. He’ll like you soon enough.”

Darah wasn’t so convinced, so she asked. “Junior?”

“Hmm?”

“If Eli brought a pregnant girl home… would you let them get married?” His silence made her stomach churn violently and she edged away. “Never mind. Forget I asked.”

“After beating the crap out of him…” Clement said after a moment of tortuous silence. He looked down at his sister’s illuminous eyes. “If he loves her and she loves him, what right do we have to get in the way?”

Tears pooled in her eyes and she bit her bottom lip to keep from crying. “Really?”

“Really,” he answered. “Although we’re very disappointed about what you’ve gotten yourself into, and don’t condone your actions one bit…”

Darah swallowed the lump in her throat, the tears filling her eyes.

He sighed and poked her cheek. “You’ve gotten weak.”

She brushed his hand away and ducked her head to hide the tears that slid down her cheeks. Though his words should’ve brought some relief, Abe’s visceral reaction kept replaying in her head. What if J.R.’s father reacted worse?

He cleared his throat and shifted away. “I’ll let the man tell you himself.”

Darah wiped her eyes as her brother rose from the bench. Her heart was in her throat as she heard J.R.’s low baritone responding to Clement’s bass, and she heard his measured steps approach the bench.

Then he sighed and came to sit beside her. She kept her gaze lowered, staring at his muscled legs clad in slacks. His hand rested on his left knee and her fingers itched to touch him. She curled her fingers into fists.

“What’s wrong?”

The soft inquiry threatened to undo her. She shook her head forcefully, unable to put words to her growing fear.

He scooted close, his knee bumping her thigh and his arm encircled her. When Darah’s cheek pressed against his chest, the tears spilled free. His fingers tightened on her shoulder as he pulled her even closer. He didn’t say anything, which for now was what Darah needed.

Once the sobs subsided, Darah remained in his arms with her eyes closed. His fingers lazily stroked her shoulder as they sat in companionable silence.

“Will you tell me now?”

Her eyes fluttered open and she stared at the starless sky. “I don’t want to.”

His arms tightened, the warm cocoon of his embrace comforting. “I won’t release you until you talk.”

Her lips twitched despite the dread weighing on her mind. “I’m not complaining.”

He clucked his tongue. “Darah.”

Darah closed her eyes again and nestled in his embrace. “I just wish things were simpler.”

J.R. stayed silent, but she knew he agreed with her.

“I wish my parents were still alive, and that your mother was here.” She paused when his fingers paused their stroking. She continued. “I wish your father wasn’t sick, and that he’d like me.” I wish I had waited for you.

“He will.”

Darah smiled wryly, grateful that he didn’t try to pretend his father was fond of her. “I hope so.”

J.R. pressed a kiss to her temple, sending warm shivers down her nape. He squeezed her. “You cold?”

She shook her head. “Just… content.”

“So why the tears?”

Darah slanted her head to peer up at him. “Weren’t you listening?”

His lips quirked in a smirk. “I heard you. But I believe Junior told you to let me handle it.”

She gazed at his handsome face, her heart hurting. “I wish I’d waited for you.” I should’ve waited.

His smirk eased away, his expression sobering. “I shouldn’t have made you wait.”

Darah looked away. “You needed someone mature and understanding. I was impatient… stupid.”

His hand cupped her chin and tipped it so their eyes met. “Don’t say that.”

The light brush of his thumb on her chin made her tremble. His brow furrowed in concern. “Sure you’re not cold?” His other arm slipped off her shoulder.

She grabbed his arm and wrapped it around her, then tipped her face closer. “Kiss me, J.R.”

Even under the streetlight, Darah could’ve sworn there was a gleam in his eyes. She shivered in anticipation for the touch of his lips against hers and closed her eyes.

His low snort made her squint one eye open. His wide grin caused her to snap both eyes open. He chuckled and Darah bristled. “What’s funny?”

“You,” he said, poking her cheek.

Annoyed, Darah elbowed him in his gut. When he grunted and his arms loosened around her, she escaped from his hold to stand. J.R.’s hand caught her wrist and tugged her back into his arms.

Biting back a smile as he enveloped her in his arms, Darah puckered her lips as J.R. dipped his head to kiss her. Except his mouth landed on her cheek and proceeded to pepper butterfly kisses there. “Ooh!” she protested when he raised his head and continued laughing.

A clearing of throat interrupted J.R.’s playful laughter and the couple sprang apart.

A sober Hana and frowning Clement stood near the entrance, and J.R.’s humor fled with alarm. He quickly stepped forward. “Father?”

“Calm down, Bhaiyaa.” Glancing over to where Darah inconspicuously adjusted her clothes, Hana turned back to J.R. “He wants to speak—not you,” she said as J.R. started for the door and pointed her chin at Darah. “Her.”

J.R. blinked. Open-mouthed, Darah gaped at Hana. “Me?”

Hana nodded and folded her arms. “Yes you. I’ll take you down.”

With her heart in her throat, Darah hesitated taking one more step. She glanced once at J.R. and her brother, seeking some sort of intervention.

“Go on ahead,” Clement said and clapped a hand over J.R.’s shoulder. “Seems your guy and I’ve got things to discuss out here.”

J.R. only gave Darah a slight smile meant to comfort her but only made her stomach twist in knots. Her feet remained glued to the floor, not wanting to go. If only he could read the silent plea in her eyes, would he go with her?

Hana stepped in Darah’s line of sight and flashed a smile. “Let’s not keep Uncle waiting.” She hooked an arm under Darah’s and tugged her toward the door leading into the hospital.

As the two girls entered the hospital, Clement loosened his hold on J.R.’s shoulder and grunted. “You sure you know what you’re doing?” He moved to lean against the back of the bench and folded his arms.

J.R. watched the door for a few seconds before turning to his friend. “I’ve wasted enough time as it is.”

“What does that mean exactly?”

Without hesitation, J.R. stared at his friend. “I want to marry her.”

Clement was silent only for a few seconds before letting out a laugh. When J.R. didn’t laugh, his faded. “You’re sure about that?”

“Never been surer than this moment.”

The corner of Clement’s lips twitched. “Even with the baby? And the drama that comes with her?”

J.R. nodded. “Yes.”

Clement released a breath and pushed away from the bench. Without breaking his gaze, J.R. tensed as the man approached him slowly.

Then Clement’s solemn expression broke into a smile. “It’s about time!” He grabbed J.R. by the shoulders and pulled him into a bear hug. “Welcome to the family, officially.”

He smiled when the tension slid off his shoulders, and accepted the warmth that came from Clement’s words. Once he disengaged from the hug, J.R. glanced over his shoulder at the door Hana and Darah exited, and his smile waned.

“Don’t fret,” Clement clapped a hand over his shoulder. “Darah’s a strong one. She’ll hold her own with him. Meanwhile, we’ve got phone calls to make.”

J.R. nodded distractedly, wondering if he could trust in such confidence. The small woman who trembled in his arms and wept silently seemed more fragile than the spitfire he’d fallen for.

Darah and L.J. sat on opposite ends of the bed, embarking on a staring contest. On her end, Darah bit the inside of her cheek to keep from trembling as she focused her eyes on J.R.’s father. On his end, L.J.’s eyes narrowed and his lips pursed tighter by the moment.

The intermittent hiss of the humidifier broke the silence, and the mist caused L.J. to blink. He grunted in annoyance and Darah finally released a sigh.

“How old are you?”

Darah tamped a sigh of irritation. What was everyone’s fascination with her age? She shifted on the cot before answering. “Twenty-five, close to Hana’s age.”

His lips only tightened. “Are you still in school?”

I was. Darah nodded. “Masters in Ceramics.”

L.J. arched a bushy brow. “And what can you do with that? Make plates?”

Oh he’d get along well with her brothers, that much was sure. Darah bit back a retort and gave him a patient smile. “That, or work in the museum.”

He slanted his head, gaze probing. “Is that what you want to do?”

Darah blinked at the unexpected question. “Pardon?”

“It’s a simple question. Is working in a museum your aspiration after graduating?”

At a loss for words, Darah gaped at this man whose eyes gleamed with derision. Compared to Hana, she was just a graduate-school pregnant dropout detracting his son from a bright future. Cold frisson ran down her spine and she shifted in discomfort.

“If you’re uncomfortable, sit on a chair.”

Darah shook her head. “I’m fine here. Thanks.”

L.J. didn’t look convinced but didn’t argue. His dark eyes swept over her face, inspecting her no doubt.

Unable to help herself, she tilted her face. “No moles or warts, just a few freckles along my neck.”

“I beg your pardon?”

She met his glare without flinching. “I know I’m not what you expected for J.R., but I’m healthy as they come.” She didn’t dare mention her pregnancy or he’d chase her out for good.

L.J. pursed his lips and was quiet for a few moments. Then he arched a brow. “You must’ve gotten in trouble for that smart mouth of yours.”

Darah bit back a smile. “I get that a lot.”

“Though not nearly enough trouble since you’re talking back.”

She sobered instantly and clasped her hands together. “Look, Mr. Obed—”

He held up a hand to stop her. “I admit, you’re not at all what I expected for my son’s wife. You’re audacious and uncouth. You’re too short and too skinny, like you’ll break at any moment.”

Darah’s cheeks flamed at his unflattering observation of her. “Actually I’m pretty strong, sir.”

He waved her off. “The thought of him continuing my legacy with someone who doesn’t share his heritage or culture leaves me grieved and unsettled. I’m not sure I can just let that go.”

This time Darah lowered her gaze, feeling defeated. If he was already making a fuss about heritage and culture, there was no telling how he’d react to the child she carried—a child that wasn’t J.R.’s.

“But…”

And with those softly-spoken words, Darah peeked up with a sliver of hope stirring within her.

<<Chapter 20 || Chapter 22>>

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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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