Posts tagged “lawyer

Lighthouse, Chapter 8

Posted on 03/05/2016

In her self-imposed prison, Darah busied herself on her social media accounts while hiding out in Eleazar’s room. It’d been only a day since she’d told her brothers the news but it felt like weeks. Both Abe and Bart hadn’t spoken to her since, and both Phoebe and Geraldine left her to stew for as long as she needed, dropping off foodwith a light tap on the door.

The kids returned in the morning to get ready for school, and Darah found Phoebe’s shushing them more of a nuisance than the children’s chatter. It was as if they wanted to avoid her as much as she wanted to avoid them.

Annoyed at her family’s behavior, she ignored the lunch tap on the door and focused on the social media to distract herself from falling into utter despondency. Although social media showed how lame her life was by flaunting her peers’ impressive life updates.

Apart from Tess and a few socially-awkward peers, everyone was getting married. And she meant everyone; including cross-eyed Deborah from eight grade. So to avoid the depression of feeling left behind, she quickly skimmed through lengthy blog posts, overly-saturated photographs of someone’s engagement pictures and passive-aggressive memes before opening her inbox.

The unread messages were impersonal; updates from her high-school reunion committee, a summer pool party on campus and peers advertising subleases. Nothing for Jeremy.

She frowned and logged off the account. Of course Jeremy wouldn’t contact her and she wouldn’t want him to since there was nothing to say. The browser automatically switched to her profile, to a picture of her wearing a fitted black dress that accentuated her slim waist and narrow hips. It was only recently, after gaining some weight from late night pizza runs and cheap candy did she start to accept her slim frame, but that didn’t stop her from wishing she possessed the head-turning curves Geraldine had. Sticks for arms and legs made her self-conscious, especially when even Jeremy teased her about them.

She blinked from the thought and heaved a sigh. “Forget about him, idiot.”

But it seemed her mind always returned to the man that betrayed her, the man whose seed she carried. Her stomach churned and she put her hand there, consciously comparing her present self to what she would like in a few months.

A tremor coursed through her. Pregnant and single. She could imagine the rumor mill in social media, with even cross-eyed Deborah weighing in.

Darah closed her eyes and willed the anxious thought away. Having a child had always been her dream, for as long as she could remember. With a house full of nieces and nephews, she couldn’t imagine not being a mother.

“You’re a natural,” Phoebe had gushed once when she rocked a restless Isaac to sleep at the age of sixteen. “You’ll be a great mother one day, Dar…”

But never in her wildest dreams could she imagine being a single mother. Darah shook her head. What’s done is done. She closed the browser with her youthful smile and opened another, searching topics on first-time motherhood.

Clement’s caller-id flashed on her screen and Darah’s heart skipped a beat. No doubt Abe or Bart had tattled to their brother overseas, hoping he could talk some sense into her.

Drawing a breath, she tapped the answer button and put the phone to her ear. “Yeah?”

Static filled the air, typical for Clement’s international calls. Then a chuckle that Darah didn’t expect. “Still hiding out?”

She frowned. “Still? It’s not even been a day yet.”

“Everyone’s worried.”

Darah turned on her side and folded her legs to her chest. “Had to be if they’re calling you.”

“Wanna tell me what happened.”

“Not really.”

Clement was silent, the static deafening the silence.

Darah hesitated at the dilemma; Clement was close to her in age but he seemed wiser, more serious now that he was a pastor. Yet, there was a calm assurance about him now than when he was a teenager. She knew she could talk freely and be minimally reprimanded. Or so she believed. She sighed. “I made a mistake. I thought he would marry me but it seems I was duped.”

“What did he promise you?”

It wasn’t the question but the way Clement asked it that made Darah sit up. “I said he promised me marriage.”

“No need for the tone, Darah.”

Her frown darkened. “Who told you?”

“Who told me what? That my baby sister’s in trouble?”

“I’m not a baby, Junior.” Her heart thudded loud in her chest, anxiety proving her wrong.

“I know.”

Static spoke as the two siblings sat in silence, separated by a thousand miles.

“J.R.”

Darah blinked to attention at the mention of the name. “Pardon?”

“J.R. called me.”

Her heart thudded for a different reason. She licked her lips and shifted in her seat. “Why?”

“Because everyone is worried about you, me included.” Clement sighed. “What is your plan?”

Darah frowned, although she shouldn’t have been. If she’d allowed Bart and Abe a chance to more than reprimand her, that would be the next question. She avoided asking herself that same question because it made her head spin.

She blew out a breath. “What else did he say?”

Clement sighed in response. “We’ll get back to your plan. He updated me on his cases, and the immigration center… and complained about his meddling father.”

She raised a brow, unable to imagine mild-mannered J.R. speaking ill of anyone. “His father?”

“Uh-hmm. Found himself in an arranged marriage scheme.”

Darah sat up in alarm. “Say what?!”

J.R. gaped at the elderly woman sitting across his walnut-oak desk. “But we had a deal, Mrs. Ganesh.”

The woman nodded, her gaze barely meeting his. She’d come into his office unannounced, not with good news but the worst news possible. The eighty-year-old widow was one of his biggest sponsors for the immigration and refugee center, and was now pulling out.

“Isn’t there something we can do to—”

“I’m sorry, beta,” she said gently and J.R.’s shoulders sagged. It hurt more when she called him son, the disappointment of her withdrawal to support him feeling more like betrayal. Her fingers tightened on her alligator-skinned purse on the desk. “Circumstances have changed.”

J.R. refrained from shaking his head; Mrs. Ganesh had once told him that his calm disposition was the reason she supported him. The thought of losing her funding made his head spin. “I…”

“It might be a good idea to hold off on the construction…”

He looked up, his brow furrowed. “What do you mean?”

This time she looked him straight in the eye. “With the threat of policies limiting immigration nationwide, wouldn’t it be difficult if the government fails to recognize your organization?”

His frown deepened, her words sounding entirely too similar to his father’s rhetoric.

“Apart from the funds you’ve received for construction, do you have enough to actually run the center?” Genuine concern was in her voice but all J.R. could hear was his father talking. “Without government backing, will you—“

“Mrs. Ganesh.”

Her brows lifted in question at his interruption. “Yes, beta?”

“Did my father contact you?”

Her brows lowered, and something flickered in her eyes that made J.R. want to groan aloud. Her gaze narrowed, wrinkles deepening around her eyes and pursed lips. “And if he did?”

A wry smile crossed his lips and J.R. lowered his head. Then a laugh tickled his throat.

“What amuses you?”

He dragged a hand over his face and sighed. Then he met her disapproving gaze, knowing he’d lost favor with her. It didn’t matter any way. “Nothing about any of this is funny, Mrs. Ganesh. Nothing at all.”

Long after Mrs. Ganesh left his office in an affronted huff, J.R. stared at the accounting spreadsheet and the blinking cursor once he’d deleted the anticipated funds for the year.

Without the expected thousands from Mrs. Ganesh, there were only two other investors aside from Bart and Geri. Those two investors were also in the same league as his father.

Being a realist kept him grounded and he considered it one of his finer attributes, but along with realism came pessimism. If he was anything like his father, he knew to expect those calls to withdraw their sponsorship by the end of the week.

His phone rang and with a sigh, he answered on the second ring. “Obed Law Associates, J.R. speaking.”

“Raju.”

His blood boiled. “Babuji,” he clipped out.

“Preethi Ganesh just called me.”

J.R. smirked. No doubt she complained about his less-than-respectful attitude to her betrayal. “I see.”

“Keep a hold on your temper. Have you forgotten she’s one of our major sponsors?”

“She was mine too.” Anger swirled in his blood. “H-how could you do that?”

“Oh, so keeping contracts does mean something to you?”

The pointed response made J.R. scowl. “What?”

“You didn’t hesitate one minute before you broke my contract with Dabir—”

Babu, a-are you s-serious?” He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Over a silly matchmaking scheme, his father canceled a major source of funding for his center. “Please t-tell me this isn’t about th-that nonsense wedding plan.”

The silence only confirmed his fears and growing disappointment with his father.

“You only stutter when you’re angry.” His father’s voice was soft, thoughtful. He could picture the deep furrow in his father’s shiny forehead. “I made you angry, son?”

J.R. clenched his jaw and focused on taking a deep breath. Getting angry wasn’t the solution. He had to think rationally. “I am… disappointed, Babuji.”

L.J. chuckled, grating J.R.’s nerves. “Good, now you understand where I stand with your behavior.”

“That center was my dream.”

“And it can still be fulfilled… with my help.”

J.R. frowned, hearing the unspoken “but” in his sentence.

“You must do me one thing however.”

Babu, I am not getting married to Hana. I thought I made myself clear that night.”

L.J. snorted. “You made yourself and myself clear, son. We all know that ship has sailed.”

Unease slithered up his gut when his father didn’t say anything further. “So… what is it?”

“You must get married by the end of this year.”

J.R. scowled. “Babuji.”

“Get married by the end of this year and I’ll support your dream wholeheartedly.”

The finality in his father’s tone wasn’t as striking as the promise if J.R. did get married.

“The sooner the better, actually,” L.J. muttered begrudgingly. “I’m among the last of my peers who isn’t a grandfather.”

“Not so. What about Mr. Dabir?” J.R. smirked, unable to resist.

“Don’t make me change my mind,” L.J. groused. “Come home early tonight.”

J.R. arched a brow, wary of his father’s constant scheming. “Having more visitors?”

L.J. snorted. “Can’t I have dinner with my only son for a change?”

It had been a while since he and his father sat together for a meal. J.R smiled genuinely. “What time?”

“Six. Eating late’s bad for my gut.”

“That’s fine. I’ll cook, you’ll wash?”

“Of course.” And without another word, L.J disconnected the call.

J.R. slowly lowered the phone to his desk and stared at the empty chair Mrs. Ganesh had once occupied. Getting rid of a huge sponsor and then offering full support didn’t make sense as far as his father was concerned. Not to mention his pressing desire to become a grandfather…

Esquire Lalana-Joel Obed was up to something and J.R. planned on finding out what it was sooner than later.

<<Chapter 7 || Chapter 9>>

Homecoming, Chapter 24

Posted on 09/03/2016

Though she enjoyed the extra attention, Joselyn was beginning to miss her mother. The Teka women and Yelena had done all they could to keep her occupied through the night and half the morning but Joselyn had noticed her mother’s absence and began crying.

Yelena kissed the wet cheek of her inconsolable granddaughter and bounced her on her hip. “Just a little longer, cariño.”

Darah stifled a yawn. “He’s been in there a long time.”

“They’ve got a lot to talk about,” Phoebe answered, giving the teenager a smile. “If you’re tired and ready to leave, take Abe home with you.”

Darah snorted. “Like he’ll leave without you. I’ll stay and come back with Bart and Geri.”

Phoebe shook her head but didn’t have time to protest when Abe strolled back to the bench, phone in hand. “J.R. dropped off your in-laws back at the house, said they were reasonably subdued.”

“It’s an act,” Yelena muttered begrudgingly. “Those two have been deceiving people for years.”

Phoebe clucked her tongue in disapproval. “I just cannot believe that isn’t illegal.”

“No one had the guts to rat them out,” Yelena answered, bouncing Joselyn when she whimpered for her mother. “Our parents didn’t understand the danger of get-rich-quick schemes, and by the time we discovered, it was too late.”

“But if they planned to receive governmental money illegally, shouldn’t the government get involved?” Darah asked Abe, earning quizzical looks from everyone. She frowned. “What? I’m not a child anymore.”

Abe snorted. “Didn’t think you heard a thing we said while you were busy staring a hole into J.R.’s face.”

“I was not!” Stained cheeks against her light complexion betrayed embarrassment. “Don’t lie!”

“But am I lying though?”

“You are, big liar!”

Phoebe bit a laugh and averted her attention to Joselyn who was now staring from brother to sister. She smiled wistfully and looked up to Yelena watching her. “They’re always like this.”

Yelena merely nodded and watched the exchange between the siblings.

“Well, you’re too young to like anyone,” Abe grumbled, pocketing his phone.

Darah sputtered. “Like who? That old man?”

Phoebe’s giggle escaped. “Darah, he’s only twenty-five.”

“Like I said, he’s old.” Darah scowled and crossed her arms.

“But that’s just a few years between Bart and Junior, Darah.”

Abe scowled at his wife. “Don’t encourage her, Phoebe.”

Phoebe gave her husband a dimpled smile. “She’s old enough to like anyone she wants, darling.”

Darah scoffed. “I said I don’t like him.”

“Good,” Abe replied. “Because you’re not allowed to like anyone until you’re thirty.”

“Thirty?!” Yelena, Phoebe and Darah exclaimed, gaping at Abe.

The door of Geraldine’s room opened and everyone turned to see Bart stepping out. A pensive expression tightened his features as he closed the door.

Abe walked over. “What did she say?”

Bart looked up at his brother and then glanced over his shoulder to the three standing there. He frowned. “Where’s J.R.?”

“He dropped off Geri’s in-laws at home.  Left early because of a court case tomorrow. What did she say?”

He exhaled a harsh breath. “It’s bad.”

Abe put a hand over his brother’s shoulder. “Breathe.”

“I am breathing.” Bart’s voice shook.

“Breathe again.”

Bart closed his eyes briefly and drew in a breath, releasing it slowly.

“Barty?” Yelena spoke at Abe’s shoulder. When the brothers looked her way, she gestured to the door. “May we go in?”

“Please do,” Abe said, steering Bart to the side so the mother and child could enter the room. Once the door was shut, he returned his attention to Bart. “You okay?”

“No.” Bart sighed heavily and his eyes swung back to Abe. “I’m angry.”

“What did she say, Bart?”

Bart swallowed hard. “Their business isn’t just a family business. It’s got investors, local and federal. Even high officials are benefitting from slave labor. Geraldine mentioned a meeting the day he… pushed her down the stairs.”

Phoebe gasped inwardly, attracting her husband’s alarmed gaze. She waved him off. “I’m fine. What kind of meeting, Bart?”

“Investors coming to collect.” Bart shrugged. “He didn’t have enough money to give them, so they threatened to oust him for his fraud. Maybe the fool thought to siphon from the government and they got rid of him.”

This time it was Darah who gasped. Phoebe pulled her close, though her attention remained on the two men. “You’re saying his death might have not been an accident?”

“Greed killed him,” Bart grumbled, a scowl forming. “A business like that should be done away with. Slavery in this day and age? Unbelievable.”

“Then don’t we still have slavery since lots of people are in debt here too?” Darah piped in, earning a solemn look from her sister-in-law. “What can we do for Geraldine? Her evil in-laws won’t leave her alone.”

“We’ve gotta expose them for what they are,” Bart answered without hesitation. “One word about reporting them and the government might cut ties with them too.”

“I don’t think it’s that simple, Bart.” Abe sighed heavily. “If their son wasn’t reason enough to cut ties, what could one woman’s testimony do?”

“Not just one,” Bart muttered, holding up a beat up phone. “Twenty.”

Abe frowned. “What?”

“Before asking for a divorce, Geraldine had received support from families who like hers had been subjected to slavery by debt. After the husband died mysteriously, the families suddenly wanted to rescind their testimonies.”

“They were afraid of the government coming after them?”

“No doubt.” Bart sighed heavily. “She and Yelena sought out the widows and disabled war veterans to get their support. Her in-laws caught wind of her ideas and threatened to take her unborn child…”

“Those demons,” Phoebe hissed. “They should pay for their crimes.”

“They will,” Bart vowed. “Which is why I must speak with J.R. now.”

“He won’t be able to do much from American soil,” Abe cautioned, handing his phone to Bart.

“But he’ll point me in the right direction.” Bart collected the phone and strolled back into the room, closing the door.

Phoebe shook her head in awe. “Doesn’t he remind you of someone?”

Darah frowned. “Who?”

“Abe.” She smiled at her husband who turned at the sound of his wife’s voice. “When your parents died, he took full responsibility of you all without hesitation, just like Bart is doing now for Geri.”

“For one who vehemently avoids dramatic situations, he’s doing pretty well,” Abe added, walking up to them. “Even if he had a slow start.”

“He’s in love,” Darah said with a grin.

Abe arched a brow at his sister. “And what do you know about love? Don’t even consider any of that until you’re old enough.”

Darah rolled her eyes and Phoebe giggled, nudging her husband to relax.

Geraldine was released early the next morning and since her in-laws still resided in her home, she didn’t hesitate accepting Phoebe’s offer to recover fully at their house.

J.R. rushed to the Teka home after his case the next day. He wore a blinding smile that encouraged everyone once he entered the house. “We’re in luck.”

Everyone sat up, waiting with baited breaths.

He carelessly took the empty spot beside Darah but none of them noticed, too distracted with the news he brought. “A friend of mine from law school has an uncle whose cousin’s wife’s brother is a civil lawyer in Peru.”

The entire house sat in silence, mulling through the complicated triangle.

“I spoke with him yesterday, the lawyer, and he said he can help us.”

“Oh good,” Phoebe breathed out, everyone’s shoulders sagging.

“I’ll be flying over during the weekend to meet with him.” His eyes moved over Geraldine. “He wants to meet with you and your mom. He thinks we can go to court once he’s heard the full story and gathered the evidence needed.”

Geraldine looked to Bart who placed a hand over hers and turned to face J.R. “Can I come with them?”

J.R. hesitated, having not planned for more than three to accompany him on this short trip overseas.

“Maybe you should stay,” Geraldine spoke up, attracting everyone’s attention. She had eyes only for Bart. “I want to do this and come back to you free.”

Bart didn’t look thrilled. “We can come back with you free even if I go.”

Geraldine shook her head. “You’ve got things to prepare for.”

“Things…?” Bart frowned.

Geraldine looked over his shoulder at Darah, giving her a pointed stare. “Important things.”

“Oh right!” Darah shot to her feet. “I forgot. We’ve got a wedding to plan.”

Bart blinked at Geraldine who smiled. “Wait, what?”

Geraldine smiled. “When I come back, Bartimeus, let’s get married.”

“Wait, are you proposing to him?” Clement asked with a smile in his voice.

Phoebe and Darah grinned from ear to ear. Abe sat watching Bart with a perturbed expression.

Bart’s eyes widened. Geraldine squeezed his hand. “Well, Mr. Bartimeus Teka, is that a yes?”

“No.” Then he tugged his hand from hers, expression unreadable.

Phoebe and Darah gasped. Clement groaned as Bart stood and stormed off.

Abe and Clement exchanged glances, then stood and went after their brother.

Phoebe moved to take Bart’s seat beside Geraldine who looked like she’d been punched in the gut. She placed her hand over the woman’s shoulder, not knowing what to say.

Hands at her hips, Darah scowled. “That overgrown fool.”

“It’s okay,” Geraldine managed to say. “It’s fine.”

Phoebe heaved a sigh.

Geraldine sighed also. “We’ll be ready to leave.”

“Geri, no!” Darah protested with a shout.

Ignoring both Darah and Phoebe, she stared at J.R. who looked uncomfortable in his seat. “When can we leave?”

<<Chapter 23 || Chapter 25>>

  

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