Posts tagged “hurt

Lighthouse, Chapter 22

Posted on 19/08/2016

“But…” L.J.’s eyes skimmed her face when Darah looked up. “He loves you.”

Her breath caught at the words. “He does?”

His expression turned quizzical. “You didn’t know?”

Dazed, Darah shook her head.

“You’re certainly are an odd one.” L.J. coughed and drew in a raspy breath, his brow furrowed in pain.

Alarmed, she reached out. “My God, are you okay?”

He held out a hand to ward her off. “Calm down before they hear you.”

Settling back in her seat, she warily eyed the prongs in his nose and the mask resting on his chin. “Are you sure you should be discharged?”

“Not you too,” he groaned as he lay back against the pillow. Then he sighed. “I hate hospitals.”

“Not many like ‘em.” She eyed his taut features. He wasn’t good at hiding much of anything, including pain. She motioned to the oxygen mask he wasn’t utilizing. “Maybe you should wear that.”

He didn’t even blink. “And maybe you should hush…”

Darah drew a hand over her mouth like a zipper. Relief loosened her shoulders when his lips twitched a smile. Maybe J.R.’s father could be charmed after all.

“Anyway, I’m sure you already know about J.R.’s mother.”

She sobered. “Hana told me about her.”

His brows raised, then shrugged. “Yeah, well it’s been a while since we had a woman in the house.”

“Except Hana.”

“Not counting Hana… she’s family.”

Ignoring the painful twist in her gut, Darah managed a smile. “I know she’s your pick for J.R.”

“Marrying Hana or anyone else…” he grimaced, unable to mask his discomfort. “… is his choice to make. I only make suggestions based on my experiences. It’s what parents do.”

She wrung her hands together. “Well, he values your opinion.”

“A bit too much, but that’s my fault.” L.J. muttered, fidgeting gingerly. “Ugh… I really hate this bed.”

Darah hurried to his side and ignoring the weight of his suspicious stare on her face, she fluffed his pillow before returning it behind his head.

“Thank you,” he mumbled as she took her place at the foot of his bed. “Where was I?”

“You’re welcome. And J.R.’s valuing your opinion being your fault…”

“Right,” he played with the rubber of the oxygen mask. “Well, it’s been a struggle for me to let him make choices for himself… and now I wonder if I haven’t held on too long.”

Darah nodded, knowing the gist of it all.

“I’d always assumed I’d live to see him get married and have kids.” His cursory gaze swept over her. “To live and bounce my grandchildren on my knee, and tell them stories of their heritage.”

Her shoulders tensed under his probing stare and she tightened her clasped hands.

“I guess I’d forgotten life can be unjust at time—” L.J. drew in an uneven breath that caught in his throat. His brows furrowed and alarm flitted in his features as he choked on the breath. The sound of the cough that left his mouth was violent and harsh, the sheer pain of it deepened the lines in his brow. He gasped for air, hand moving to his throat.

Frightened, Darah jumped to her feet. “I-I’ll get the nurse.” She hurried out the door before he could stop her, not that she noticed as she barreled down the hallway.

Nurse Karen turned the corner just as Darah hurried toward it. She grabbed Darah’s shoulders, chuckling. “Whoa, you okay?”

Heart racing, she gestured over her shoulder. “Please help. He can’t breathe.”

The woman’s amusement fled as her eyes drifted over Darah’s head. She brushed past Darah toward the room, and Darah didn’t follow, hurrying around the corner in search of J.R. and Hana.

She found them standing just inside the conservatory windows that overlooked the garden. Clement was nowhere in sight and from their identical stances, Hana and J.R. were in deep conversation. She bit her bottom lip, hesitating to interrupt them. Then the alarm in L.J.’s eyes propelled her forward. “E—“

“What will he say once he finds out?” Hana stifled Darah’s words.

“I don’t know,” J.R. answered in a strained voice. He was clearly exhausted.

“I know,” Hana countered. “He’ll be against it, especially since it’s not even your child.”

Darah’s stomach turned violently and she shifted from view when Hana turned her head to glare at J.R.

“What are you thinking, Bhaiyaa?”

Curiosity of J.R.’s thoughts temporarily outweighed Darah’s urgency to inform him of his father. So she stalled, waiting and dreading his response.

J.R. sighed heavily. “I don’t know.”

Darah’s brow furrowed. What didn’t he know?

“Are you really thinking of marrying her?”

J.R. was silent a little too long and Darah bit the inside of her cheek a little too hard, drawing blood. Her pulse thumped violently in her throat as she stared at his back and broad shoulders.

Hana sighed heavily. “Maybe I shouldn’t say this—”

“Then don’t.”

Darah glared at Hana. The woman was meddling more now than before she knew Darah’s little secret.

J.R. sighed, dragging a hand through his hair. “Look, it’s complicated.”

Darah frowned at the back of J.R.’s head.

Hana snorted. “Well it’s about to get more complicated, Bhaiyaa. Are you really going to let Uncle think the baby’s yours? And what if the father wants to be part of the baby’s life, can you handle the drama?”

With each second J.R. remained silent, Darah grew more troubled. Blood pooled in her mouth as she gnawed the inside of her cheek, eyes stinging with tears that threatened to spill, her stomach in gnarled knots. His hesitance condemned her for putting him in such an awful predicament; having to tell his dying father that the woman he’d chosen was having another man’s baby. She could imagine the horror and disappointment in L.J.’s eyes, and the hurt and shame in J.R.’s.

Darah took a step back, losing courage to announce herself. She was the bad guy in the story—the villain dashing L.J.’s dreams of beholding his grandchildren and seeing his bloodline through his only son. And every time J.R. would gaze at her son, he’d feel cheated and resentful. The thought of J.R. resenting her hurt more than the pesky ache in her stomach.

Taking another step back, Darah decided against revealing herself to the couple. They didn’t need to know she’d come for them, and Nurse Karen was more than capable of stabilizing J.R.’s father.

Suddenly Clement opened the door leading to the garden and stepped inside, greeting the couple with a smile. When he spotted Darah standing by the column, he started to call out to her.

Putting one finger to her mouth, she shook her head adamantly, pleading with him not to call her out.

Noticing Clement’s furrowed brow, J.R. turned in the direction of his gaze.

Darah ducked behind the column, heart pounding violently in her chest. If he knew she’d been standing there and overheard their conversation, he’d feel even more shame. She didn’t want that for him.

“What is it?” J.R. inquired gently.

“Uh, it’s nothing.”

Darah released the breath she didn’t know she’d been holding, and a solid tear slid down her cheek.

“What are you still doing out here? Thought you’d be heading back.” Clement asked.

“Darah’s still with Uncle,” Hana answered. “So we’re giving them privacy.”

Wiping the tears with the back of her hand, Darah slunk away before Clement’s could respond. She’d make her decision now. J.R. didn’t deserve to bear the shame and pain of what she’d done.

“I see…” Clement spotted Darah trudging away and frowned. He’d noticed the sadness in Darah’s face, as if she’d been gutted. Something was wrong. He returned his attention to J.R. “Well, I better go see about her before I head back. The family’s wondering if she stay with you or come with me.”

Deciding to keep his opinion about that decision unspoken, J.R. simply nodded.

Hana placed her hands to her hips. “It’s not advisable that she stay here in her condition. Expectant mothers need as much rest as possible, don’t you agree Reverend?”

At the look of alarm on Clement’s face, J.R. nodded. “It’s okay, we already discussed it.”

Clement frowned. Was the discussion the cause of Darah’s shell-shocked expression? He turned to J.R., gaze wary. “You told her?”

“Actually,” Hana spoke up before J.R. could. “I figured it out on my own and confirmed with your sister.”

His frown only deepened as she confirmed his concern for Darah. He tamped a weary sigh. “Yeah, you’re right, Doc. I better get my pregnant sister home then.” Cutting J.R. a withering glance, Clement brushed past them to go after Darah.

The three found Darah standing outside the door to L.J.’s room. Clement scowled as Darah kept her head bent, hiding her face. No doubt she was crying.

Concerned that she was outside and not with his father, J.R. stepped forward. “What’s wrong?” He glanced toward the door and then back at her. “Did something happen?”

Clement frowned as J.R. placed his hands on Darah’s shoulders. “Why don’t you go find out about your old man first? I’ll handle my sister.”

J.R. hesitated, looking at Darah’s bent head. Her silence was unsettling, more so than her taut shoulders that drew in defensively when he touched her. His heart skipped a beat, afraid of what his father might have said to her? “What happened?”

Hana stepped around him to open the door, and gasped at the sight of the doctor and nurse by L.J.’s bed. “Bhaiyaa, come quick.”

At the panic in Hana’s voice, he looked up and spotting the somber expressions awaiting him inside, he released Darah’s shoulders.

Clement came to stand by Darah as J.R. stepped inside and closed the door. Then he placed a hand on her shoulder, feeling it tremble against his palm. “What happened?”

This time, Darah let out a whimper and leaned her forehead against his chest. Clement swallowed a sigh and wrapped his arms around her.

“Can we go home now?” her voice was faint, reminding him of the nights when she had terrible nightmares as a kid. “Please?”

The soft plaintiff made him tighten his hold around her. “Alright, let’s go.”

J.R. frowned at his sleeping father’s form, wondering what went wrong. The niggling thought of a morose Darah standing outside the door crossed his mind. “I thought you said he was stable. What happened?”

The doctor nodded, expression somber. “It seems the edema is taking its time to clear up. The oxygen levels are gradually increasing, which is good, but we’ll have to monitor him a bit more closely.”

His shoulders sagged. “So his discharge date…”

“We’ll have to postpone that for now.” The doctor glanced down at his patient. “His immune system is a bit compromised, so we’ll have to watch for infection also…”

The calmer of the two, Hana nodded and placed her hand on J.R.’s shoulder. “Thank you Doctor.”

Nurse Karen stalled after the doctor left the room, then she turned to the couple with a wan smile. “He’ll be fine, he’s in good hands. I’ll be praying for you.”

J.R. nodded listlessly and lowered to the chair beside his father’s bed, staring at his mask-covered face. Just when he thought his father was getting better, bad news re-surfaced. He dragged a hand over his face and let out a weary sigh.

“Thank you for catching it on time,” Hana said, her hand still resting on J.R.’s shoulder.

“Oh, it wasn’t me. The fiancée Darah found me first,” Nurse Karen responded. “She was a bit shook up, so I immediately knew something was wrong.”

J.R. looked up, surmising why Darah trembled in his arms. He was instantly reminded by the Teka siblings’ deeply-rooted aversion to hospitals. Just like him, they’d had their fair share of traumatic events and didn’t need another to remind them of their painful past. Maybe it was best for Darah to return with Clement than staying here with him. As much as he needed her now, she was better off at home with her family. Resolved, he turned to Hana.

She nodded with a half-smile. “I’ll check on her.”

He sighed as Hana stepped out, then arched a brow when she returned with a frown on her face.

“She’s gone,” Hana answered, hand on the doorknob. “She and her brother.”

His phone then dinged and vibrated at his hip. Fishing it out, he answered Clement’s call. “Hello?”

“Don’t worry about Darah. I’ll take her home.”

J.R. swallowed the lump in his throat. “Alright.”

Without another word, Clement disconnected the call and J.R. lowered the phone to his thigh. Part of him was relieved, part of him disappointed with the news. Deciding to worry about Darah later, he shook out of it to ask Nurse Karen the next steps in his father’s recovery.

In the car, Clement lowered the phone to the cup-holder and exhaled deeply. “You alright?”

In the passenger’s seat, Darah had her face to the window and kept silent.

When she sniffed back tears, Clement reached up and patted her head. “It’s okay. You’re okay.”

Unfortunately, his words offering no balm to Darah’s aching heart. The decision that awaited her would be the hardest one she would have to make, probably harder than her decision to keep the baby. More than anything, she dreaded and resented the resolution altogether.

Darah closed her eyes tightly shut, pushing one last tear down her cheek.

<<Chapter 21 || Chapter 23>>

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Lighthouse, Chapter 15

Posted on 06/07/2016

Once his sobs subsided, J.R.’s body tensed up. Darah slowly opened her eyes though she made no move to release him. She liked holding him like this, feeling the unsteady beat of his heart against her palm. Matching the rhythm of her breathing to his, she closed her eyes again. This was where she’d always wanted to be. When he exhaled a deep breath, she did too with a smile twitching her lips. If he would only see they fit perfectly.

“Darah…”

His timbre of his low tone reverberated through her, and she fluttered her eyes open. “Hmm?”

He didn’t say anything but she noted the mood had shifted. Her body tensed instantly, her fingers loosening its grip on the cotton of his shirt. Then his hand cupped hers, pausing the movement. Warmth pooled in her belly at the intimate touch and she raised her head, staring at the wide breadth of his shoulders, wishing she could see his face.

Then his fingers curled around her palm and lifted her hand from his chest. She held her breath, waiting to be pulled to his front and… then J.R. applied pressure on her hand, lowering it away and letting go. Pain pierced her chest as her abandoned hand fell empty from him. Robbed of speech, she watched him take a step from her, his broad back barring her from stepping close.

He then turned around slowly, shadows sharpening his angular features. Darah felt her heartbeat pounding hard and painfully in her chest as she waited for his words but wishing he wouldn’t say a word. His actions spoke loud enough.

When he sighed, Darah closed her eyes briefly and exhaled harshly. “I’ll go.”

“I’ll take you.”

She opened her eyes again, meeting the shadowed face of the man who would never accept her. The pain was more unbearable now that she’d had a taste of what he would feel like in her arms. She needed to go home now.

“No thanks,” she said as casually as possible and shoved empty hands behind her back to clutch her trembling fingers. “I’ll take a cab.”

J.R. was silent as Darah started around him. Then he started to follow her.

Darah grimaced at the sound of his even footsteps behind her. “You need to be with your father. I’ll take a cab.” She swallowed a growl when he grabbed her arm but maintained a straight face. “Let go, J.R.”

“You’re my responsibility,” J.R. answered whilst holding her arm.

“Responsibility?” Darah angled her face to his, wishing they stood near the streetlamp so she could read him. He was infuriating. “Is that all it is, your responsibility?”

J.R. stared at her in silence, grip loosening.

Darah tightened her lips. “Are you only tolerating me because of your ties to my brothers?”

When he didn’t answer, she yanked her arm from his loosened hold and plowed forward. “Don’t follow me!” she barked at the sound of his footfall, and quickened her steps toward the crosswalk.

Then she stopped hearing it and slowed her steps against her will. Unbelievable—he’d listened and stopped following. She dared not look over her shoulder or she would do a lot worse than curse him out. Body trembling with rising rage, she plowed on, crossing the street toward the parking lot.

The hot tears pooled in her eyes, blurring her vision. Frustrated and angry at herself, Darah swiped a forceful palm over her face and quickened her pace. Blinded by the insistent tears, she stumbled forward when her right foot caught the median. Darah put her palms out to break her fall, her knees scraping the cement.

Then she heard pounding feet approaching her. “Don’t!” she screamed at him sightlessly.

J.R. reached her within seconds and grabbed her elbow. “Be careful,” he said evenly, helping her to stand.

Darah yanked her arm from his and glared through tear-filled eyes. “Leave me alone!”

He clucked his tongue, moving the unwelcomed hand to her back and bending to sweep her off her feet.

She inhaled a sharp breath as he upended her balance and lifted her from the ground. Lightheaded wasn’t descriptive enough as she found herself cradled against his chest. Even though anger coursed through her body, Darah remained stiff and frozen in his arms. Her heart was the only thing unfrozen, pounding rebelliously against her chest. She stared ahead, mouth parted in shock.

J.R. grunted. “Your stubbornness knows no bounds.” He shifted his feet in the direction of his parked car near the front of the hospital, his hand tightened around her legs. Once reaching his car, he lowered Darah to her feet but kept the hand bracing her back. Opening the door, he angled his head to the passenger seat and waited for Darah to sit down.

She stiffly moved her legs inside and flinched when he swooped down and over her. Darah held her breath and kept her gaze lowered as J.R. secured the seatbelt across her lap and into its lock. She only released the breath when he ducked out and closed the door.

“Jerk,” she muttered as her rebellious heart tripped over his proximity and she gripped her fingers tight to keep from fanning away the heat of her frustration.

He opened his door and ducked inside. Darah shifted to face the window, not baring to be any inch closer than he already was, all the while trying to calm her racing heart.

Every movement of his arm, him shifting gears, brought him too close for her liking and she edged further away. Her blurry gaze remained on the scenes zipping past them, her throat tight with words unspoken.

“How far along are you?”

Darah stiffened at the unexpected question. “I don’t see how that’s any of your business.” And when he didn’t counter, she frowned. “First answer my question and I’ll answer yours.”

He exhaled loudly. “I’ll just ask Phoebe.”

She gritted her teeth and glared out the window. “Why do you treat me like this?”

“Like what?”

Scowling, she scooted to face him with eyes flashing from tears unshed. His casual disregard unleashed pent-up frustration and hurt. “That letter I gave you at graduation…”

Her eyes clocked the tightening of his knuckles around the steering wheel and realized he’d read it. There was no way he hadn’t… although the knowledge hurt more than the possibility of him never reading it. He’d cleanly rejected her.

Staring at his striking profile, her lips twitched a wry smirk. “It must’ve been really burdensome for you… so burdensome that you couldn’t bring yourself to tell me you read it.” Tears fell without her permission, sliding down her cheeks. She drew in a breath and averted her face to scrub away the evidence. “Embarrassing,” she mumbled, scolding herself.

“Are you hurt?” J.R. spoke up, concern plain in his voice.

Darah opened her mouth to curse him for taunting her when his hand touched hers. Ire sparked as the forbidden reaction to his touch, and Darah flung his hand aside. “Don’t touch me.” Her words were even harsh in her ears and the tears spilled freely down her face.

“Have you eaten?”

Darah sniffed noisily. “Stop it.”

“You’re my respo—”

“Say that rubbish one more time and I’ll walk home.” She jerked around. “Why? Why bother caring about me if you’re gonna disregard me the next second.” Her facial muscles twitched, betraying she was quickly losing control of her emotions. “Why not just hold me at arm’s length all the time and not when it’s convenient, you jerk.” She choked on a sob as she remembered him holding her hand firmly and introducing her as his fiancée.

“Darah…”

“Shut up!” Darah snapped and spun away. “Just shut up and take me home. I don’t want to hear any of your useless excuses. You’ve said more than enough.”

J.R. tamped a sigh as Darah turned away from him. He glanced her way, catching the telltale shake of her shoulders as she fought a cry. Gritting his teeth, he deciding to respect her decision to stay quiet and faced the road once more. Nothing he could say would change a thing.

They arrived at her family home and before J.R. could put the car in park, Darah was yanking the seatbelt off. In a desperate attempt he didn’t know was in him, J.R. pressed the lock button to keep her inside the car.

Darah growled when the door handle wouldn’t budge and jerked around to glare at him. He stared right back, unintimidated by her fierce eyes trained on him.

“Hear me out,” he said simply, hand hovering the lock just in case she tried to manually unlock the door.

She narrowed her eyes at him. “So now you want to talk. Well, tough because I’m done with you.”

“And what of the father? You’re done with him too?” J.R. grimaced as soon as the words left his mouth and reached his ears. He sighed in frustration. “Wait, I didn’t mean—”

“Yes you did.” Darah’s fingers lowered from the door handle. “You meant every word.”

J.R. stared in silence at her profile, suddenly at a loss for words.

“I get it,” she said, her voice sounding strange. “I must seem like a loose woman, throwing myself over you when I’m…” her voice shook and she swallowed hard, the sound clear in the silence of his car. “When I’m pregnant… and I’m sorry.”

His throat tightening as a lone tear slid down Darah’s cheek, and his fingers curled into his palm to keep from reaching up to wipe it away.

“Maybe I’ll only ever be an immature, ill-tempered, impulsive kid in your eyes…” Darah slowly turned to face him and he caught his breath as her dark eyes glistened with tears pooled there. “But I’ve always been sincere toward you, then and now.”

He sat frozen, watching her open the door and step out of the car. His eyes followed her as she rounded the front of the car and head for the stairs of her family home. She stumbled up the stairs and it took everything in him to keep from going after her.

Darah caught a sob when August crashed into her legs as soon as she stepped into the house. She quickly blinked away the tears before Karla reached her. Bending at the knees, she caught them in a bear hug and buried her face against their joined shoulders. “My babies,” she said, her voice shaky.

“You’re back?” Phoebe drawled, walking up to meet them.

Composing herself, Darah rubbed her cheek against August’s shoulder before raising her eyes to Phoebe’s face. “Hmm.” She managed a wobbly smile that didn’t go unnoticed.

Phoebe arched a questioning brow and peered over her head at the closed door.

“He’s gone,” Darah mumbled, pressing a kiss on both August and Karla before releasing them. They giggled and hurried around Phoebe to return to their TV program. Darah slowly stood to her feet, though she didn’t meet Phoebe’s searching gaze. “Sleepover?” she asked casually.

“Nope. Family emergency.”

Darah jerked her attention to Phoebe, just now realizing the tension around her sister-in-law’s eyes and pursed lips. Her heart skipped a beat, thoughts of J.R. pushed to the side. “I-Is it Junior? Eli?”

Phoebe heaved a sigh and put her hands to her hips. “Worse.”

Darah’s heart went into overdrive, remembering the moment news of her parents’ fatal accident reached her while she and Eleazar were in school. Her eyes widened. “Abe?!”

Phoebe cringed visibly. “I think it’s time you start talking, Darah… Who is Jeremy?”

Her eyes widened even further, heartbeat picking speed. Her head started to spin, the sensation from earlier in the hospital returning with full-force. Her breathing quickened. “H-How?”

“Geri spotted a guy lurking around the house. When he asked to speak to you, we knew something was fishy.” Phoebe’s features tightened. “We didn’t get a chance to field him since your brothers came home at the same time. The minute they saw him—”

“Where are they?” Darah peered around Phoebe’s shoulders for her brothers, her racing heart in her throat. She started for the kitchen when Phoebe grabbed her hand to stop her.

“They’re at Bart’s place while everyone’s here. Darah, is this Jeremy guy—”

Darah’s knees gave way under her just as the front door swung open.

Flat on her back, Darah’s haggard breathing deafened the frantic sounds of her niece, nephew and Phoebe calling out in alarm.

One hand reaching for Darah, Phoebe jerked her gaze to the door, to an alarmed J.R. standing in the doorway. “Quick, help me!”

J.R. rushed forward, gently nudging the frantic nephew and niece aside so he could reach Darah. Her eyes were open but unfocused as she lay there shell-shocked. He gritted his teeth and lifted her into his arms, hedging around the young children while he carted Darah to the couch. “What happened?” he called over his shoulder.

“Aunty fell down!” August and Karla said in unison.

Grateful the older kids were upstairs doing homework under Nana Yelena’s firm tutelage, Phoebe quietly hushed the youngest Teka kids and gently herded them to the living room where J.R. lowered Darah onto the sofa. “Abe and Bart are playing big scary brothers right now.”

Concerned, J.R. looked down at Darah’s frozen features. “Where are they?” he asked, his hands still around her tense body.

“The other house,” Phoebe answered stiffly. “I think you should go to them, J.R.”

J.R. nodded and started to stand when Darah grabbed his sleeve. He looked down at her, the sight of unbridled terror in her eyes a sucker punch to his midsection. He quickly put a hand over hers and squeezed it gently. “Everything will be fine.”

Darah shook her head adamantly, tears pooling in her fear-filled eyes. “Help me. Please.”

The break in her voice was his undoing, J.R. realizing in that very moment what a big fool he’d been.

<<Chapter 14 || Chapter 16>>

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