Posts tagged “interview

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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Guiding Light, Chapter 9

Posted on 16/11/2015

The three younger Teka siblings with Geraldine crowded near the kitchen door, peeking out to the living room where Abe, Bart and Phoebe stood with the scowling Mr. Harry from the Department of Family and Protective Services. Phoebe and Bart stood with their backs to the kitchen while Abe and Mr. Harry faced them. Abe wore a disconcerted expression while Mr. Harry spoke in low tones to his niece.

Darah shook her head. “I hope Phoebe doesn’t get in trouble…”

“Probably will,” Clement muttered, leaning against the doorframe. “Conflict of interest.”

Eleazar turned his head to Geraldine. “What’s confl…” his brow furrowed, unable to comprehend the words.

Geraldine managed a smile to comfort the little boy, her hand squeezing his shoulder. “Don’t worry. Abe will handle everything.”

Clement heaved a sigh and pushed away from the door. “I’m hungry.”

Darah frowned at him as he grabbed a slice of garlic bread. “How can you eat at a time like this?” She ignored the hand Geraldine placed on her shoulder in an attempt to calm her. “What if we fail and have to sep–” she choked, tears brimming her eyes.

Geraldine turned Darah around to face her. “Nothing like that is going to happen,” she said firmly. “Everything will be fine. This interview will go well. Now clean your eyes.” She wiped the tears streaming Darah’s face.

Darah choked on a sob and buried her face in Geraldine’s chest.

Wide-eyed Eleazar stared at his sister and then turned to Clement who watched them with a perturbed frown on his face, half-eaten bread in his hand. “Junior…?”

Clement jerked his gaze to his youngest brother and gestured him over. The boy came over and Clement pulled him close, patting his back. Geraldine met his eyes and gave him a small smile. He swallowed the rest of the toast.

Phoebe would’ve preferred not having an audience for Uncle Harry’s scolding; especially not Abe and Bart. Now she couldn’t lift her head, didn’t want to see Abe’s disappointment. She felt responsible for sabotaging his interview and wanted to leave. If only her uncle had taken her out of the house.

“I thought I’d made it clear the day you left the department, Phoebe,” Uncle Harry said in that tight voice of his when he was trying hard not to yell. Most likely because of the children standing in the kitchen doorway. “You promised me you wouldn’t do this kind of thing.”

“Pardon me,” Abe spoke in his low baritone. “What kind of thing are you referring to?”

Phoebe jerked her head up and immediately regretted it. There was question and suspicion in his dark eyes, as if he couldn’t trust her. She rubbed her lips together, wishing she’d had a moment with him first.

“Phoebe is my niece and a former social worker for the Department of Family and Protective Services.”

Shame lowered Phoebe’s gaze. She couldn’t bear to look at Abe once Uncle Harry revealed it all.

“Not because she wasn’t a good social worker. My niece is gifted with a caring nature, overly gifted to be honest.”

“Overly gifted?” Bart echoed.

Phoebe squeezed her fingers tight.

“She has a knack for getting too involved in cases. Going beyond what is necessary as a social worker and a counselor,” Uncle Harry groused. “Getting herself into dangerous and avoidable situations that she can’t control but could’ve if she followed procedures correctly.”

She looked up then and met her uncle’s gaze, silently pleading with him to stop here.

“I have only one question,” Abe said quietly, drawing their attention. “Her being here, will it affect the decision for my siblings?”

Her pulse jumped in her throat. His expression was unreadable, as though he’d closed the shutters in his mind. His gaze stayed on her uncle’s face, dismissing her. Phoebe swallowed hard and looked back down.

Uncle Harry sighed heavily. “Considering the circumstance I found you both in… yes it could.”

She could feel the two older brothers stiffen and cringed. This was all her fault. After the struggle Abe had faced to prepare himself as a legal guardian for his siblings, she would ruin it all because she didn’t listen. From the look on his face, he probably blamed her too.

“If she leaves now,” Bart spoke up. “Would it still be a problem?”

Uncle Harry sighed again. “Being that I’m her biological relative, it’s not ethical for me to continue the interview… I’m sorry.”

Phoebe looked up. “Oh Uncle Harry, can’t you send someone else to continue the interview?” Her heart was racing fast, her face warm from the brothers’ eyes on her. “Please?”

He looked conflicted; weighing her words and the situation before them. Yes, she had nothing to do with the department anymore but she was still a counselor. She still shouldn’t be here.

“I’ll leave.” She pleaded with her eyes.

Uncle Harry then sighed. “I’ll see what I can do.” He fished out his phone from the inner lining of his jacket pocket. His eyes silently warned her that this conversation wasn’t over.

Relief drooped her shoulders. Phoebe nodded and she quickly moved around Bart to grab her purse. She didn’t dare seek out Abe’s gaze or that of the children standing in the kitchen doorway, her chest tight with tears she tried to hold in. “Thank you, Uncle Harry.”

“Phoebe?” Darah was suddenly at her side, holding her sleeve. “Don’t leave.”

She froze, keeping her head down.

“Let her go, Darah,” Abe said in a stern voice.

Both Darah and Phoebe flinched.

Geraldine moved in, putting her hands on Darah’s shoulders and drawing her away.

Phoebe’s heart broke a little more as she parked her purse over her shoulder and moved to the door, feeling like a weight was clamped to her ankles. It would most likely be the last time she’d step into this house.  Abe had every right to be angry with her, to never want to see her again. She’d jeopardized the future of his family and she only had herself to blame.

Closing the door behind her, the tears welled up in her eyes. Phoebe put a hand over her quivering mouth and hurried down the stairs to her car. Putting the car in reverse, she quickly escaped the subdivision and pulled up the side of the road before weeping aloud.

Abe and Bart exchanged glances as Mr. Harry spoke in hushed tones on his phone. Bart eyed Abe’s terse expression, him attempting to mask his reaction to Phoebe’s departure. But Bart could see anger plainly on Abe’s face.

For most of their childhood, Abe was the least expressive when frustrated or angry. Bart didn’t know whether it was because as firstborn, Abe felt responsible for setting the mood of the house, or if it was something else entirely.

Darah and Eleazar were trying to hold back their tears, sniffling noisily at the kitchen door with Geraldine holding them both. Clement stood with a frown directed at Abe. All three of the younger siblings were clearly blaming their eldest brother for Phoebe’s departure.

Then Mr. Harry sighed as he lowered his phone. “So I have good and bad news… which would you prefer first?”

“Good news,” Bart said.

“Bad news,” Abe said simultaneously.

Mr. Harry’s lips twitched. “I’ll just go ahead and say it. The interview is still scheduled. The thing is it’ll have to be in a week or two since the person is out of town.”

“A week or two?” Abe echoed, brow furrowed.

“As in Thanksgiving week?” Bart asked, exchanging a glance with Abe.

Mr. Harry nodded. “Maybe the day before or the day after. Will that be okay?”

The two older brothers looked at each other and then Abe sighed. “Do we have a choice?”

Mr. Harry smiled. “Of course you do. Thanksgiving Eve or Black Friday?”

Abe heaved a sigh, frustrated with the delay.

Bart nodded at Mr. Harry. “Let’s go with Black Friday. No one’s going shopping around here. We’ll be ready.”

“Good.” Mr. Harry pocketed his phone. “I’ll let them know.”

“Will you be staying for dinner?” Geraldine asked from the doorway.

Mr. Harry shook his head. “I better get going… Got someone I should see.”

The room was quiet, all thinking of the woman that had just left.

“Are you gonna punish Phoebe?” Eleazar asked in a feeble voice.

All attention turned to the boy with tears glistening in his eyes. Darah smoothed a hand over his head and he leaned into her, peeking up at the elderly gentleman.

Mr. Harry managed a smile. “It’ll be alright, Eleazar. Phoebe will be okay.” He then turned to Abe and extended a hand which Abe shook in farewell. He did the same with Bart and then gave them a warmer smile. “Good luck with everything.”

The Teka family watched as Abe walked Mr. Harry to the door before all released a collective sigh. Geraldine shook her head. “Poor girl…”

Bart rubbed the back of his neck. “She’s a grown woman. He won’t give her too much of a hard time. Let’s eat, I’m starved.”

“Bart!” Darah scowled, ready to scold him for thinking about food at a time like this.

When Abe returned to the house, resignation was plain on his face. He closed the door and stared at his family. “Let’s eat.”

Darah rolled her eyes but moved to the kitchen. “Might as well or we won’t hear the end of it…”

Clement smirked wryly, joining her.

Bart waited until Abe came to his side before asking. “You okay?”

Abe nodded. “Yeah… I’m okay.”

“She isn’t to blame, you know.”

Abe didn’t respond for a second and then he sighed. “Yeah, I know.” He moved to Eleazar who edged away from him and closer to Darah’s side.

Geraldine gave Abe a sympathetic look and passed him a plate.

Bart watched the exchange and stepped forward, hand out.

She eyed his open hand, grabbed a plate and swiftly turned away.

He scowled at her back. Why was she showing everyone but him how kind she could be?

<<Chapter 8 || Chapter 10>>

  

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