Posts tagged “in-laws

Homecoming, Chapter 16

Posted on 10/02/2016

With Joselyn in Darah’s arms, Geraldine had no one to shield her from her mother-in-law’s heated glares. And once they’d entered the house, Abe asked Bart for help in the backyard so he wasn’t available either. She looked around the room, where Phoebe and Eleazar sat together, Darah sat beside Yelena, and Clement stood off on the side, watching her.

She blinked in surprise, her cheeks warm at his amused expression. How long had he been watching her? Heat scorched her face in embarrassment, wondering if he’d noticed the long gaze she gave Bart as he strode out with Abe. She certainly hoped not! Things were complicated enough.

Clement cleared his throat and looked to her in-laws. “Pardon me, I didn’t get your names.”

Geraldine gnawed on her bottom lip as her in-laws glanced at each other and back at him.

“Andres,” her father-in-law spoke up and gestured to his sour-faced wife. “Cristina.”

The Teka family nodded in acknowledgment and Geraldine grimaced. “Sorry, my head’s not where it needs to be.”

“Yeah, that kiss must’ve scrambled your brain huh?”

“Junior,” Phoebe sighed in exasperation.

Yelena covered a laugh with a cough. Cristina’s scowl darkened and Andres looked as if he’d swallowed a rock. Darah buried a snicker against Joselyn’s hair. Only Eleazar looked undisturbed.

Geraldine eyed Darah with jealousy, wishing she could hide her hot cheeks behind Joselyn. She turned to Phoebe. “Uh, can I help with dinner–”

“No!” Darah and Clement shouted, alarming Andres and Cristina. Geraldine looked wounded.

“She’s actually better than before,” Yelena spoke up, giving her daughter a smile.

Cristina snorted derisively and Geraldine’s shoulders drooped.

“Uh sure, Geri,” Phoebe spoke up and smiled at Geraldine. “I could definitely use your help.” She stood and gestured for Geraldine to follow. The two women made their way quietly to the kitchen before she turned, concern etched on her features. “Your mother-in-law is horrible!”

Geraldine gave her a dry smile and leaned against the counter. “That’s her being courteous.”

“Courteous, my big toe!” Her eyes swept over Geraldine’s face. “And you look like you’ve aged a decade in just 24 hours!”

Grimacing, Geraldine lifted a hand to her face. “Does it really?”

“I’m exaggerating but seriously, they can’t stay.” She frowned over her shoulder to where Abe and Bart were setting up the grill. “Bart told us they’re planning to stay more than a week.”

Geraldine heaved a sigh. “Seems that way.”

“Not if we can help it.” The determination in her voice made Geraldine look back at her. “If we have anything to say about it, they won’t last a week.”

The door swung open at the tail end of Phoebe’s firm declaration. “Who won’t last a week?” Abe asked, carrying an empty pan. Bart’s brows were furrowed in concern, seeing Geraldine in the kitchen.

“Should you be in here?” he asked Geraldine and arched a brow at Phoebe.

She scowled, affronted. “I can cook, Bartimeus.”

He narrowed his eyes at her. “Do you want me to repeat what happened outside?”

Though a warm shiver rushed down her spine and her lips welcomed a repeat, she steeled her frame and tilted her chin. “Try it and I won’t let you off.”

“Save your lover’s spat for later,” Phoebe cut in and turned to Abe. “I don’t like Geri’s mother-in-law.”

Abe glanced worriedly at Geraldine. “That’s not nice, Babe…”

“It’s okay,” Geraldine assured Abe.

“I don’t like the way she looks at her like she’s the one at fault,” Phoebe continued, her expression tightening. “Who does she think she is?”

Bart glanced over Geraldine’s shoulder at the open door. “I’m pretty sure they can hear you.”

“Let them hear mfff–” she scowled when Abe placed a hand over her mouth. The look he gave her softened her expression and she sighed when he lowered his hand. “Fine… but we have to do something.”

“We are doing something,” Bart answered, draping his arm over Geraldine’s shoulder. “Showing ’em Geraldine and Jozy are doing just fine together, then they’ll leave.”

“Well then, we better get you guys engaged first,” Phoebe muttered, hands at her hips.

The two brothers exchanged glances, knowing Phoebe’s mind sifted through ideas. Abe sighed and draped his arm over his wife’s shoulders. “I have a better idea.”

All three turned to him, surprised and expectant. It wasn’t often Abe formulated ideas; he mostly critiqued and then implemented the ideas Phoebe or Bart or Darah came up with. His nickname aside from Big Bro was the Implementer.

“What you got?” Bart inquired quietly.

Abe glanced once at the opening and then beckoned them closer before sharing his idea.

“Mr. Andres,” Abe began as soon as everyone had settled on the table with their chicken and beef fajita meal. When the man looked up in surprise, Abe smiled. “We’re curious to hear more about Geri’s life in Peru… and her late husband, your son.”

Geraldine fought hard not to squirm and Bart’s tense body beside her echoed her thoughts on Abe’s plan to woo her in-laws. He believed that honoring their son’s memory would assuage Cristina’s resentment toward everyone especially Geraldine.

Finding redeemable qualities of her late husband proved harder than finding a needle in a haystack. Bart wasn’t exactly jumping for joy over having to hear about the man that had abused Geraldine… and even Phoebe was wary, but their options were limited.

In return for their good treatment toward the in-laws, Phoebe insisted that Abe’s plan last only for a week. She too was finding it hard to forgive Andres and Cristina for not interceding in Geraldine’s mistreatment from their bad-tempered son. Currently, she maintained a stiff smile as her husband addressed Andres.

“He was a good man,” Cristina spoke in Spanish, not caring for whoever didn’t understand. Her eyes glistened with unshed tears and Andres placed a hand over her shoulder. “He cared for those who loved him…”

Even though they had the good sense not to look at Geraldine, she felt the words addressed to her alone. Painful words accusing her of not loving her son enough.

“Yeah well, Bart’s a decent fellow.” Clement spoke up; throwing out Abe’s plan before it began. His eyes stayed on Cristina. “Even if my brother didn’t love Geri, which he does, he still wouldn’t lift a hand to her.”

The whole table fell in shocked silence.

Cristina narrowed her eyes at him. Andres looked constipated.

“Love never hurts, love endures and never fails. If your son really loved Geri,” Clement continued, their silence his platform. “He certainly didn’t treat her as you’re describing, did he?”

“Enough!” Andres slammed a hand on the table and Joselyn started to wail.

Eleazar, who had been sitting morosely between Clement and Darah, started to rock in his seat. Abe shot from his seat and pulled Eleazar into his arms.

Andres glared at Geraldine in disgust and turned to his wife, speaking in rapid Spanish.

Heart racing, Geraldine gratefully accepted her wailing child from Darah and started to rise.

“No!” Yelena put a hand to Geraldine’s, stopping her from leaving. She glared at both Andres and Cristina. “I have had enough of this, with you two!”

“Mama, no,” Geraldine pleaded with her mother. “Don’t.”

“Mija, it’s enough.” She looked back at the two. “I won’t take any more of your disrespect and shaming of my daughter. I don’t care if I stay in debt to you forever, go away and leave my children alone.”

Insulted and enraged, Andres’ face was red as was his wife’s. No longer was he the more docile of the two. He shot to his feet and barked for Cristina to stand. Then he spoke to Yelena in heated speech, and when she shot back an answer that sounded rude even to the non-native speakers, Andres’ face only got hotter and angrier.

Eleazar trembled and so did Geraldine even though Bart had pulled her into his side.

Then Yelena gestured for the scowling couple to leave. “Leave the food and get out.”

Phoebe’s eyes were wide in alarm as Andres and Cristina did just that. Then she faced Yelena. “What debt?”

Yelena wore a pained expression at the sight of her daughter and granddaughter’s tears. “My mother, Geraldine’s grandmother… incurred a great debt to Andres’ father. When she got sick, she asked for more money instead of coming to me, all because I despised my childhood with us being poor. She thought I would be ashamed of her and died with that belief, not knowing I would have to deal with it once she left.”

“Mama, please,” Geraldine pleaded, pressing her face against Joselyn’s temple.

Yelena sniffed. “Mija, I refuse to let them to hold you captive because of my mistakes.”

“Hold on a minute,” Clement spoke up, his voice strained as his face. “Don’t tell me Geri married that creep to take care of her grandmother’s debt.”

Bart breathed a curse in both women’s silence and the remorse on Yelena’s face. His hold tightened around Geraldine when she started to squirm like Joselyn.

“That’s slavery!” Darah cried out, hushing up when Joselyn started wailing again.

Phoebe scowled darkly. “I knew I hated that woman for a reason.”

“It’s my fault,” Yelena eked out, tears streaming down her face.

“No Mama…” Geraldine began weakly, attempting to shush Joselyn.

“It is, mija,” Yelena insisted firmly. “I should’ve never succumbed to that weakness of fear for money. Just because I fear debt doesn’t mean I allow them to treat you like a criminal.” She shook her head. “Your father would be so angry with me. Your grandmother too.”

When Geraldine pressed her elbow into his side, Bart relented and let her go. He watched as she stood from her chair and moved to Yelena’s side. The two women and Joselyn cried together, the Teka family left to watch them in shocked silence.

Then Bart sighed. “So that’s it then?”

All eyes looked to him, but his remained on Geraldine.

“If you don’t let them be in Jozy’s life, you owe them your grandmother’s debt?”

“Bart…” Phoebe began.

“No,” Bart said, his voice hard. “Two times, Geraldine, you failed to tell me the whole truth. How can I help you when you don’t trust me completely?”

Tears brimmed her eyes as she looked at the angry man across the table. “I’m sorry, Bart.”

“As you should be, Geraldine.” He stood from the table and stormed away. Abe nudged a quiet Eleazar to the seat beside Phoebe and hurried after his brother.

Darah shook her head, incredulous. “What a mess.”

Yelena nudged Geraldine. “Go to him.”

“Yeah Geri,” Phoebe said softly. “He deserves an explanation.”

Geraldine swallowed hard as Yelena pulled Joselyn into her arms, bouncing her on her knee to quieten her. Arms empty, Geraldine slowly stood. “I’m really sorry,” she said to the remaining siblings.

“Word of advice,” Clement answered. “If you really care about Bart, don’t lie about it.”

She nodded, heart in her throat. He was completely right; she needed to be honest with Bart and herself.

For as long as she could remember, Abe was the big brother she never had. Of course she didn’t know that at the time, but looking back, her feelings for Abe had been that of admiration for his unflinching devotion to his family. In comparison, Bart wasn’t as gentle but no one could deny he was as devoted to his family as Abe. His sarcastic humor, unbelievable charm was as frustrating as it was appealing and she found herself anticipating his crooked grin and unsettling presence.

From the beginning, Geraldine knew her heart didn’t beat the way it did around Abe, but she tried her best to ignore it. After all, he didn’t know her as she knew him.

That day he returned home after Yonas and Ester had been laid to rest, he looked through her as though he’d never heard her name before or seen her face. It pissed her off majorly but she shrugged it off. They’d only known each other in passing and Geraldine told herself she’d mistaken Bart altogether.

The phone call she made to him in the airport before leaving for Peru three years ago, she’d hoped he would say something to change her mind. It was her fault for not being honest, but she blamed him because it was easier that way. Blaming others for her plight was her way to defend herself, or so she thought.

She’d spent her whole life blaming everyone; her grandmother’s foolishness had angered her, her mother’s self-sacrificing nature had frustrated her. Even before they treated her poorly, she despised Andres and Cristina, and their spoiled son. Maybe it had translated into disobedience and disrespect in their marriage, but she knew marrying him had been a terrible idea from the beginning.

Walking out to the porch, her heart skipped a beat at the sight of the two brothers standing in the driveway, their backs facing her. Abe was turned slightly to face Bart, his brow furrowed in consternation as though he tried to get through to Bart. When he sighed and glanced over Bart’s shoulder, his expression changed.

Geraldine managed a smile. “Can I speak to him alone?”

“No you may not,” Bart answered in a cold tone. “Go inside, Geraldine.”

“Bart…” Abe nudged his arm.

“I can’t go inside until we talk,” she answered gently, determined to beat his stubbornness in this.

Now you want to talk to me,” Bart muttered derisively. “If it’s not the whole truth, Geraldine, I’m not interested.”

“It is the whole truth,” Geraldine said gravely and nodded her silent thanks as Abe moved past her to go back inside. She swallowed a breath, strengthening her resolve. Even if nothing changed between them, Bart deserved to know the whole truth. “I swear it, Bartimeus.”

He heaved a sigh and turned around, expression brooding. “Stop calling me that.”

Geraldine only smiled; even when scowling, he was a sight to behold. How long had she told herself she didn’t feel anything for him? Too long. “At least you turned around. At least you notice me when I call you that.”

“Notice you?” He arched a brow. “Geraldine, what–”

“May 9th, 1991, you remember that day?”

“Of course, high school graduation.”

“Mine too.”

He nodded, perturbed. “I know.”

“We went to the same high school, Bartimeus.” Geraldine drew in a breath and let it out slowly. “May 9th, 1991 was the day I got my first kiss. From you.”

<<Chapter 15 || Chapter 17>>

Homecoming, Chapter 15

Posted on 09/02/2016

Geraldine hesitated stepping out of the comfort of her bedroom. Last night, Joselyn’s night terrors had saved her from spending another awkward moment with her in-laws. She felt bad that her baby still cried through the night, but if it prevented her from watching her mother-in-law’s resentful glares or her father-in-law’s probing stares, she was relieved to retreat to her room to take care of Joselyn all night.

Now, her daughter and mother were on the other side of the door and she could hear stilted conversation in Spanish. She’d stalled as long as she could in her bed, contemplating what to do with her in-laws and Bart for a week! More so than her in-laws, Bart was becoming a challenge for her. He didn’t stick to the script and she needed him to stay focused.

When Joselyn giggled aloud, Geraldine shook out of her reverie, took a deep breath and pulled open the door. “Good morn…” her greeting died down when she spotted Bartimeus holding Joselyn at his hip, playing with her.

Behind him, her mother Yelena watched with gentle amusement while their in-laws looked as perturbed as she felt. Geraldine blinked and turned back to Bart. “What are you doing here?”

Bart looked up at the sound of her voice and grinned. “Good morning, love.”

His grin and the gently-spoken endearment hit her square in her gut. How could he say those words so freely? And why did he look so comfortable holding Joselyn? And why was Joselyn not squirming as she usually did with strangers?

Joselyn whimpered and wriggled in Bart’s arms and Geraldine sagged with relief. Good. She started toward him, hands out to take her daughter from him.

Then Bart made a funny face and her daughter giggled, causing Geraldine to freeze in her tracks.

Her mother moved from around Bart, a knowing twinkle in her eye. “Come help me with breakfast.” She turned to the in-laws, Geraldine having forgotten they were there in those few moments, and asked what they’d like to eat.

The mother-in-law didn’t say a word, her fierce glare directed at Bart’s back. The father-in-law entreated Yelena for coffee only and averted his eyes from Bart and Joselyn, as though unable to watch this strange man charm his dead son’s daughter.

Geraldine cleared her throat and stepped in close. “I should feed her,” she said pointedly, giving Bart a look that would tolerate his protest.

He merely smiled and placed a kiss on Joselyn’s cheek before relinquishing his hold of her. Joselyn came willingly into Geraldine’s arms and snuggled in her bosom. Bart slowly lifted his gentle gaze from Joselyn to Geraldine. “You slept okay?”

Geraldine refrained from rolling her eyes. Although it was a show for her in-laws, even she was getting as unsettled as they were. “Fine. You?”

“Yup, not bad at all.” His lips twitched a smirk. “Just thought I’d stop in and properly introduce myself to your in-laws.”

“We see you already yesterday,” her mother-in-law said in English. She ignored her husband’s nudge and frowned at Bart. “You live close here?”

Bart turned to face Geraldine’s mother-in-law. “Yes, in fact, we live a few blocks from each other. My family and I live in the same neighborhood.”

The older woman’s face darkened as his words dawned on her and she jerked her glare to Geraldine. Bart subtly moved so Geraldine was shielded from her glare.

“Actually, my other reason for coming was to invite you to dinner at my place tonight.”

Geraldine gaped at him. Yelena peered from the kitchen and the in-laws stared in silence.

Bart grinned. “My sister-in-law, Phoebe, loves to entertain. And since Geri and I haven’t yet celebrated our engagement,” he glanced over his shoulder at Geraldine. “They want to combine it into a night affair.”

A-affair?” the mother-in-law eked, eyes wide. The father-in-law frowned at the connotation.

Yelena laughed and quickly translated for the in-laws since Geraldine’s tongue was stuck to the roof of her mouth. Then she turned to Bart with a grateful smile over their heads. “Thank you, Bart. That is a wonderful idea, right?”

Geraldine blinked out of the daze and met Bart’s expectant gaze. She didn’t know whether to throttle him for going ahead of her or hug him for accepting responsibility for her.

He smiled. “Her silence means yes.”

She scowled. Throttling him was a better idea.

Yelena chuckled. “Geraldine, you better stop that before Joselyn picks it up too.”

Geraldine glanced down and saw that Joselyn was in fact mimicking her frown at Bart who mirrored her expression also! She choked a laugh and smoothed her daughter’s brow, her annoyance easing away. “Fine.”

“Not fine!” the mother-in-law barked, standing to her feet. She swung a seething look at Geraldine whose smile faded. Then she glared at Bart before storming off in a huff.

Her husband had the decency to look chagrined as he too stood. “Sorry. I speak to my wife,” he said in his awkward English and hurried after her.

Yelena clucked her tongue in disapproval, muttering something under her breath before she turned back to the kitchen.

Even Bart looked chagrined. “Too soon?”

Though she was annoyed by his presumption, Geraldine was grateful for his presence nonetheless. “She’ll be fine…”

“Your father-in-law seems nice.”

She shrugged. He’d been silent even though he knew about his son’s misgivings, while her mother-in-law directly accused her of making her son unhappy. Whether or not they seemed harmless to the rest of the world, Geraldine had suffered in their household and she was a long way from forgiving them.

“Geraldine…”

She looked up and met his dark eyes. Ignoring the hitch in her pulse, she raised both brows in silent question.

“Phoebe wants to have you guys over tonight. We all need a little cheering up after yesterday.” A flicker of pain crossed his features and Geraldine felt inclined to reach for his hand. He smiled when her fingers closed around his. “You’re not hesitant now, are you?”

She rolled her eyes and tugged his hand. “What happened after you got home?”

He winced. “Eli had an attack…”

Alarm gripped her insides. “Is he okay?” she eked out. Eleazar was prone to panic attacks when he was just a child, but she hadn’t been around in a while to know if it was still prevalent.

Bart dragged a hand over his face. “I would be lying if I said he was. The house feels so stifled, like the day we were altogether and without our parents…”

She swallowed hard, the memory of those days still painful. She’d been close to his parents; Yonas and Ester Teka were like her second parents–Yonas was the father she never had. He’d taken her under his wings, teaching her about interior and exterior design, encouraging her to hone her skills. He and Ester fostered her as their own whenever her mother had to travel overseas to be with her ailing mother. .Just remembering the kind couple brought tears to her eyes. She still missed them.

“Geraldine…”

She blinked the tears away and met his tender gaze. “I’m sorry.”

He smiled gently. “I forgot that you were close to them.”

She shrugged. “What will you do about the woman?”

His smile waned and he heaved a sigh. “No idea. I think for now, we’ve discouraged her from approaching us like that again… but who’s to say she won’t try to approach Eli alone?”

Fear tightened her gut and she gaped at him. “She wouldn’t dare.”

Bart’s expression turned fierce. “She better not.”

Joselyn whined then and both looked down to see the toddler attempting another frown. The two chuckled and Geraldine smoothed her brow once again.

“We better be careful around this one,” Bart said with a boyish smile.

Geraldine nodded and gave him a half smile. “If Phoebe doesn’t mind dealing with my cantankerous mother-in-law–”

“Trust me, with Eli and Phoebe, she has no choice but to loosen up.”

The two chuckled low, aware of the charms of certain members of the Teka family. Then Geraldine tilted her face in curiosity. “Is Junior really going to be a missionary?”

Bart rolled his eyes. “That’s what he said.”

“You don’t believe him?”

He eyed her warily. “I’m pretty sure missionaries get degrees first. Won’t they need to work if they go to another country to serve?”

“Not necessarily. The missionary pastor at my grandmother’s church didn’t have one.”

Bart’s wary expression morphed into disbelief. “Junior, a pastor?”

She smirked. “Wonders never cease.”

He grunted his reply.

“Barty,” Yelena spoke from behind them. “Are you staying for breakfast?”

Geraldine purposely avoided Bartimeus’ narrowed expression and fussed with Joselyn’s tangled curls.

“No but thanks, Mrs. Yelena… I’m late for work.”

“Ah okay, see you tonight then?”

Geraldine peered over her shoulder at her mother, who gave her a pointed look that said they would be going to Bart’s home for dinner.

Bart turned and smiled at Yelena. “Yup. I’ll let Phoebe know so she can prepare.” He then turned to Geraldine, his expression inscrutable.

She felt her heart flutter as he swept past her toward the door, her feet frozen. When he said his farewell and closed the door after him, she lowered herself to the nearby seat.

Yelena studied her daughter from the door and smirked knowingly before speaking. “Call your in-laws. Breakfast is ready.”

The directive jerked Geraldine from her confused thoughts of Bart and she nodded, standing slowly. “Yes Mama….” she dragged her feet toward the guest room where her mother-in-law was undoubtedly fuming and her father-in-law quietly watched.

The day ran so fast that Geraldine was breathless by the time they pulled up the driveway of the Teka home.

Yelena whistled in awe in the back seat. “You did a great job with this place, Geri.”

Geraldine smiled. “I had help…”

And the help opened the door and strode out onto the deck, looking quite handsome in a suit jacket that encased his broad shoulders and slim jeans that accentuated his strong legs. On Bart’s right stood Darah in a blue and pink summer dress.

Suddenly, Geraldine felt under-dressed in her slacks and muslin flower blouse. Feeling the heat from her mother-in-law’s fierce glare, Geraldine didn’t dare look into the rear-view mirror.

Yelena opened the door just as Bart and Darah stepped off the last stair onto the pavement.

Darah grinned at the sight of the toddler in Yelena’s arms. “How cute!” she gushed, opening her arms to receive the child.

To Geraldine’s surprise, Joselyn willingly went to Darah’s arms.

Bart’s gaze barely skimmed Geraldine and moved to greet Yelena and then her in-laws. But once he was done with his greetings, his gaze swung back to Geraldine.

She noticed over his shoulder that the rest of the Teka family had moved onto the porch. Bart moved into her line of vision and she tilted her head back, noting the same inscrutable look from earlier that morning.

“Hey…” she managed to say, not understanding why her tongue was stuck to the roof of her mouth for the second time that day.

He didn’t answer, moving even closer until her vision was filled with only his face.

Her heart slammed against her ribs as he leaned down, knowing he was about to kiss her. Funny thing was she didn’t lift her empty hands to stop him.

Bart’s mouth landed on hers and her eyes closed willingly, her face tilting back as he kissed her.

She barely heard the sharp intake of breath as Bart’s hand cupped the back of her head to guide the kiss, and she did nothing to stop him. Didn’t want to.

Until Bart’s lips lifted from hers and he stepped back. She blinked out of the daze and spotted Darah’s amused expression. Heat surged her face, realizing what they’d done and she jerked her eyes to her in-laws, seared by her mother-in-law’s enraged expression.

Then Clement laughed from the porch and Geraldine looked away. “That’s what I’m talking about. Now come in so the entire neighborhood doesn’t start cheering.”

Bart chuckled and draped an arm around Geraldine’s shoulder. He leaned in, pressing a kiss to her ear. “Warned you,” he muttered against her skin.

Suddenly, Geraldine recalled the warning he gave yesterday about her calling him Barty and fumed inwardly. But because their families were watching them intently, she only smiled and slid an arm around his narrow waist, letting him lead her inside. For now, she’d play along.

<<Chapter 14 || Chapter 16>>

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