Posts tagged “marriage

Sanctuary, Chapter 31

Posted on 16/08/2017

With three years between Clement and Karen, the mature one in the relationship should’ve been obvious. In truth, neither were mature with love and all that came with it. After spending only a day or two before Karen was shuttled back to the States, the new couple embarked on a crash course in communicating. This was tough with more than a thousand miles between them and two hard-headed people involved.

Long-distance relationships were tough for Clement; he’d barely managed keeping in touch with his family. Karen wasn’t going to let him off so easily; hence the majority of their many arguments.

“I just don’t understand how you can go a whole week without talking to me,” Karen bemoaned over the video call. With her face covered in some green slimy mask, Clement couldn’t read her expression clearly. “I’m starting to see why you sent me home so quickly. It’s like you don’t miss me at all.”

“Karen, for goodness’ sake.” Clement refrained from rolling his eyes. “We’ve been through this already. I sent you home to get ready to come back here. You’re making this diffi… if you keep calling me with some weird mask on your face, maybe we should just text.”

“What did you just say?!”

He barely flinched at the shriek in her voice, grateful this time she was miles away. Clement straightened on his bed and rested his back against the headboard. “I’m just saying… why can’t you call me when you’re done with grooming. And what’s with the mask? It freaks me out.”

Karen scoffed. “If this is freaking you out, you’re not ready to be in a relationship.”

Clement squinted at her. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Exactly what I said. Did you expect me to doll up for you every single time? Well that’s not happening.”

“Okay, I didn’t even say that so I don’t know why you’re putting words in my mouth right now.”

“Whatever, I’m done with this conversation. Bye.”

Clement frowned as the screen went black and he shook his head. It was hard enough not having her with him and whenever he called, she was either in pajamas with her head wrapped or wearing some mask. He missed seeing her face… missed her. He pinched the bridge of his nose, debating whether to give her time to cool off. He rubbed his face, scolding himself for giving her time to decide whether to come back.

The familiar tone of an incoming call alerted him and he glanced down, sighing heavily when it wasn’t Karen but his eldest brother, Abe. Reluctantly, he answered the call and held the phone to his ear. “Hey.”

“Wow, you picked up!” Abe chuckled softly. “How are you?”

“Fine,” Clement muttered, glancing once at the clock above his door. Soon he’d have to get up and start his day, which meant he wouldn’t be able to call Karen until late at night. He sighed deeply.

“Uh-oh. What’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing. What’s up?” Clement shifted his feet to the edge of the bed and stood.

Abe sighed also. “Well for starters, Eli won’t quit. I don’t know how much longer I can hold out.”

Clement frowned. “I need more time.”

“How much longer? He’ll soon figure out I’m stalling with his birth certificate.”

“Tell him it got burnt or something.”

Abe scoffed incredulously. “I mean, I understand why I don’t want him leaving the country right now but what’s your excuse?”

“I won’t have time to look after him.” Clement rubbed his chin. “Besides, I’ve been here for ten years and he’s just now wanting to come over for the holidays. Why the rush?”

“I have no idea, but he’s not giving up. Moody and persistent isn’t a good mix for Eli, y’know this.”

Clement shook his head. “Well I can’t deal with him right now. Stall him until I can make proper plans.” A beep at his ear had him peering at the phone screen. A video call from Karen. His eyes widened. “Hey, I’ll call you right back.” He quickly switched calls before Abe could respond and watched with a smile as Karen’s face appeared. His smile brightened. The mask was gone.

She didn’t smile back, eying him with a hairy stare. “Happy now?”

“Very,” Clement said without hesitation.

Karen snorted derisively. “Of course. If I begin calling you out on your masochistic behavior, we’ll be here all day.”

“Then don’t,” he countered. “I love you.”

Her frown eased away and she drew her bottom lip in, attempting to hold back a smile.

“I miss you.” He gave her an innocent smile, having learned from the best; Bart was a pro at groveling.

It did the trick. Karen’s expression softened instantly. “Aww, I miss you too, Babe.”

He suddenly wished they didn’t have a screen or thousand miles between them, wanting to envelop her in his arms. “I didn’t mean to complain about your masks so much… I just miss seeing your pretty face.”

Her lips twitched. “Then you should’ve just said that, you silly.”

“I’ll do better next time.” Conceding was strangely easier with her than it’d ever been with anyone else. His smile widened. “You look pretty.”

Karen rolled her eyes, smoothing a hand over her cheeks. “It’s because of the masks you hate on so much.”

“Let me clarify. I have nothing against you showing that you’re free with me. In fact, I like that you’re far from pretentious. I like that you don’t wear makeup often, and I have no problem seeing you in your truest form. I’m cool with you talking about your period sucking and you shaving your mustache…”

“I didn’t say anything about a mustache, Clement.”

“Well, anyway I’m used to it, dealing with Darah and my sisters-in-law. That’s part of being in a relationship and heck, it’s to be expected if we’re gonna…” he paused, stopping himself from revealing too much.

Inspector Karen Wells didn’t miss a thing. She arched a brow. “If we’re gonna what, Clement?”

He mirrored her expression. “Hmm?”

Karen shook her head. “You’re not even slick… but whatever.”

Clement smiled, grateful she didn’t press him further. He needed time. His eyes swept over her pretty features. “Ready for bed?”

“Uh-hmm. Ready to start your day? No secret mission?”

He smirked. “Not today. We’re taking the kids back to their village.”

“Awesome!” Karen’s smile stretched from ear to ear, and warmed his heart. “Is Ejigu healing nicely? How are the others? Ashon, Wubit and Dula? Please give them my love… and Priscilla too.”

Fighting back a laugh, Clement nodded. “I will.” He paused briefly, then asked. “What’s your dad’s number?”

Both brows lifted. “… Why do you need my dad’s number, Clement?”

Clement rolled his eyes. “Babe…”

Karen giggled; the sound melody to his ears. “I’ll text it to you. Wanna tell me what this is about?”

“I think you and I both know what this is about…”

“Hm, but just tell me anyway.” She moved to her bed and lay back, batting her long lashes at him.

Butterflies fluttered in his belly and Clement shook his head. He was a fool for letting her stay away so long. “So when d’you think you’ll be back… if all goes well with my phone call to your dad?”

Her smile was sweet. Too sweet. “Well for starters, I need to break my lease, get my stuff moved back home, spending time with the parents. I might go visit Obadiah for a bit and then of course, chill with the Sis and her family. Then I gotta change my banking stuff…” she paused, frowning.

He could tell she was starting to get overwhelmed with just how much she had to do. He remembered how he’d struggled the first few days. “Relax. We’ll figure this out together.”

“Man, it’s great to have a capable boyfriend!” Karen then sighed. “I wish the days would go by faster.”

“Me and you both, Babe.” Clement perched against his dresser, wishing he could stop time for now.

The companionable silence stretched only for a minute before Karen squinted, stifling a yawn.

Clement chuckled. She was so adorable, his Karen. “Go to sleep. We’ll talk tomorrow.”

“Uh-hmm. Tell me.”

He arched a brow. “Tell you what?”

“What you’re gonna tell my Dad.”

Clement shook his head. “That his daughter’s a handful and I’m scared for my future.”

Karen mock-frowned at him. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight. Love you.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Karen muttered and promptly disconnected the call.

Clement chuckled and pocketed the phone. It dinged a second before he exited the room. He pulled it out and smiled at Karen’s text with her father’s number and ‘I love you too.’ His smile was bright and his steps light as he strolled down the hallway to get breakfast before starting his day.

“I better get a gift for my awesome matchmaking skills,” Darah warned over the phone cam. She and Clement’s sisters-in-law filled the screen, their smiles matching. “I’d even say I’m better at this than Phoebe.”

“That’s because I had no idea anything was happening!” Phoebe protested with a laugh. “Junior, I’m impressed. How’d you get into a relationship without anyone’s help?”

Clement didn’t bother telling them about Priscilla. It was all in the past, and Karen was his present and future. “Lucky, I guess…” He looked up at the sunset. It was soon time to call Mr. Wells.

“’Cos he’s not a dunce like his big brothers,” Geri answered, a gleam in her eye. “Well done, Junior.”

“Thanks,” he squinted at the distance, spotting Ashon carrying his grandson Meko while strolling alongside his daughter Wubit. The former cab driver had chosen to stay in Kenya indefinitely, wanting to reconnect with his long-lost daughter and family. Clement was grateful on behalf of his friend and brother Dula. Wubit hadn’t stopped smiling since and neither did Karen.

“So what are your plans?” Phoebe asked, drawing back his attention. “Is it just dating or something more…?”

Darah started humming the wedding march song and the other two women giggled. “Marriage of course!”

Clement nodded. “That’s the plan.” He smirked as the women squealed with delight.

“This is the one time I’d say your impulsiveness comes to great use,” Phoebe said with a grin. “Congrats!”

“Hold off for a while. I have to ask her father’s permission first.”

Darah gasped. “So you’ll be coming home soon then? I heard they live close to the house.”

“No, I can’t. I’ll have to call him on the phone.”

Their smiles eased away. Darah looked stunned. Phoebe covered her face and groaned. “Junior.”

“What?”

Geri shook her head. “You’re an idiot. Who asks a man for her daughter’s hand in marriage over the phone? That’s disrespectful.”

“It’s not disrespectful,” Darah countered; the family lawyer in her husband’s absence. “It’s unconventional but at least he’s asking for permission. They could’ve easily eloped without anyone knowing about it.”

Phoebe snorted. “I’d kill you if you married without us knowing.”

Clement chuckled. “I’d never dream of it.”

“Good… So when will you ask him? The sooner the better, honestly. Karen doesn’t look the kind to wait”

He smirked, agreeing with Phoebe. Karen was arguably as impulsive as he was. “Tonight. Once I hang up the phone with you.” He arched a brow when their groans sounded again. “It’s gonna be alright. I’m ready.”

“I don’t think anyone’s ever ready to ask that… but we wish you luck,” Geri said with a smile.

Darah gave him a thumbs-up and Phoebe nodded, her grin gentle and encouraging.

He smiled, grateful that his brothers had married such great women. There was no doubt in his mind that Karen would fit right in with them. He just had to get through this first conversation with her father and hope for the best.

He rubbed his sweaty palms on his jeans as he waited for the dial tone to stop ringing. It did a bit too soon and Clement swallowed hard, hearing the background noise first.

“Hello?” a deep baritone filled the air. “Who is this?”

Clement sat up, incredibly nervous. “Good evening sir. My name is Clement Teka, Karen’s…boyfriend.”

No response and if not for the muffled voices in the background, Clement feared he’d hung up. Then the man sighed. “I know. Was expecting your call later though.”

“Did I catch you at a bad time?”

Gabriel Wells grunted. A laugh or a snort, Clement wasn’t sure. “Not really. My girl tells me you have something very important to ask me, but let me ask you something first.”

“Sure,” Clement said readily, his spine straighter than never before.

“Are you the reason she’s been smiling like a goof since she came back?”

“Dad!”

Clement’s brows lifted at the clear sound of Karen’s voice in the background. He relaxed only a little. “I think she’s smiling because she’s missed you all.”

Gabriel grunted again. “After thirty-three years, I can’t say I agree with you. She’s… different.”

“It’s called love, Daddy.”

That sassy retort from Karen made Clement smile. He missed that spunky girl beside him.

“Then are you also the reason she wants to move her entire life to Ethiopia?”

Clement’s smile eased away. “I…”

“Karen, step out for a minute. I need a heart-to-heart talk with your young man.”

Clement swallowed hard at the sound of shuffling feet and the squeaky sounds of a closing door, realizing then he was in the hot seat. He squared his shoulders and prepared himself for Mr. Wells’ hard questions.

Karen called the minute he ended the call with her father. She looked nervous and worried as her face came into view. “Are you okay?”

Clement granted her a smile, though his mind was still on her father’s last words. “I’m fine. Don’t be worried.”

Unconvinced, she squinted at him. “He gave you a hard time, didn’t he?”

“Nothing unexpected.” Clement lay on his stomach and propped the phone against his pillow. “We didn’t get to grill J.R. since we’d known him a long time, but the plan was to torture Darah’s guy.” He smiled. “I’d say your dad, in comparison, was pretty reasonable.”

Karen shook her head, propping the phone against her dresser. “I told him to go easy on you.”

“There’s no need for that. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth it.”

Mr. Wells had been clear about needing time to get used to his baby girl falling in love, and to a man he couldn’t easily get access to. His questions about education, past relationships and life overseas were fair and expected, and Clement answered each honestly and with deep conviction. He’d spent time in Karen’s absence thinking about their courtship, growing all the more convinced that he wanted forever with Karen. The “how” could be figured out in time, and Mr. Wells readily agreed. Clement was relieved, deciding to wait till a later conversation to ask for Karen’s hand in marriage. It was only the right thing to do.

“Gee thanks.” She rolled her eyes and took a brush to her curls.

Clement reminisced on the soft thickness of her hair against his fingers. “Where you going? You look nice.”

“Thanks love. I’m hanging out with your sisters and mine. Girls’ day out. The men are watching the kids.”

He arched a brow. “No one mentioned that to me.”

“Yeah, Darah called me while you were speaking with my dad. Invited me over to the house. Not sure what we’re gonna be doing but Sammy’s free, so I’m taking her with me in case I need backup.”

Clement shook his head, guessing what exactly his sisters had planned for Karen. “Just be careful.”

She flashed an assuring smile. “I can handle myself. Don’t worry.”

“Try not to mention anything about our… adventures. They’ll freak out.”

“Undoubtedly freak out.” Karen bit her bottom lip, messing up the lip gloss. “Even though that’s part of our story, I’ll have to be creative about how we met without lying.”

“No worries.” Clement propped his chin on his hand. “I already told them we met at a charity event.”

Karen laughed outright, doubling over in mirth. “You’re such a cad,” she said upon recovery, eyes glistening. Then her smile eased a bit, remembering something. “Just a heads up, my mom’s gonna call you. Beware, she’s a lot feistier than my dad. She doesn’t play, and her questions will be a bit… strange.”

Clement nodded, with a smile. “Yeah, your dad told me already. I’m to expect her call tomorrow.”

Karen tossed an exasperated glance. “Next thing you know, everyone’s gonna want a piece of you. I don’t remember everyone bugging Topher when it was Sammy’s turn. It’s annoying being the middle child.”

“I’m ready for it,” Clement assured her gently. “Don’t worry. Trust me.”

“I trust you. It’s my family I don’t trust. If they had their way, I’d be here a year before coming to you.”

His smile eased instantly. A whole year without Karen?

<<Chapter 30 || Chapter 32 (Epilogue)

Advertisements

Lighthouse, Chapter 27 (Final)

Posted on 02/09/2016

Darah and J.R.’s wedding day came on a muggy Saturday with scattered clouds blocking the sun. Bart and Geraldine’s twins stood at the bay window of the Teka family house, argued back and forth about the different types of clouds.

“It’s a cumulus!” Fallon shouted, jabbing a finger at the window.

“Nu-unh!” Tomas argued. “It’s a nimbus!”

“No,” Fallon said in a haughty tone, poking her twin brother’s forehead with her finger. “It’s a cumulus.”

“Oww!” Tomas whined, shoving Fallon with a force that had her tumbling over a decorative pillow with her dress billowing over her face. When she started whining, he glanced guiltily over his shoulder and bent to help her, hushing her as he did.

The youngest Karla and Augustus chased each other around the center table, dressed in their wedding clothes. Standing off to the side the older of the cousins, brothers Isaac and James, occupied themselves with a handheld game.

Across the hall, the oldest of the Teka children Joselyn fidgeted with her floor-length gown as her mother secured flowers in her plaited hair. “Be still,” Geraldine berated her firstborn and clucked her tongue. “This is the third time, already.”

“It itches,” Joselyn complained, reaching up to touch her hair only to have her hand smacked. “Ow!”

“Shush.”

Phoebe sauntered by at that moment and Joselyn grabbed her hand. “Please save me.”

The two women exchanged amused glances, then Phoebe winked at Joselyn. “You look like the bride.”

That seemed to appease Joselyn, who flashed her a dimpled smile. “Can we see her?”

“Well your Nana is putting last-minute touches on her hair. Should we go check?” Phoebe winked at Geraldine who rolled her eyes but released Joselyn.

Then the three of them headed upstairs, both Geraldine and Phoebe careful not to step on Joselyn’s elegant gown that trailed the stairs. At age thirteen, she was almost as tall as her father and appeared older than her age. No doubt Bart would be stunned when he saw her.

In front of the master bedroom, Phoebe knocked. “May we come in?”

“As long as no males are with you!”

All three grinned at Darah’s voice and slowly entered the room. Joselyn gasped audibly and hurried to the window where Darah stood bathed in white and light. Stunned, Geraldine and Phoebe hung back.

“You’re so beautiful, Aunty!” Joselyn gushed, clasping her aunt’s hands.

Darah dipped her head to hide a demure smile. “Thank you.”

“You look like a princess!” Joselyn continued, circling her aunt to admire the wedding gown. At almost six months, her protruding stomach was visible in the lace masterpiece yet she was a vision to behold. “Doesn’t she?” Joselyn asked her mother and aunt still standing the doorframe.

Phoebe sniffed and all watched wryly as she wiped tears from her cheeks. “Aww, don’t,” Darah started, her lips trembling. “I’ll start again…”

“Again?” Geraldine echoed, walking up to her sister-in-law. She adjusted the sleeve of Darah’s dress draped over her arm; the dress revealing her bare, slender shoulders. “You’ll ruin your makeup.”

“Nope,” Darah sniffed back tears. “Nana got me covered.”

“Waterproof,” Yelena added with a twinkle in her eye, then nudged Darah to sit. “Let’s add more curls.”

“There’s no point,” Darah mumbled. “With this weather, it’ll just turn puffy again.”

Joselyn giggled, playing with one of the big fat curls atop her aunt’s head.

“Stop that,” Geraldine berated softly and peered out the window. “Ooh, someone’s here.”

Joselyn quickly joined her mother at the window and Phoebe took her place. Peering down at her sister-in-law’s reflection in the mirror, she gave her a smile. “You’re gorgeous.”

Darah gave her a shy smile. “Really?”

Phoebe winked. “J.R. won’t know what to do with himself when he sees you.”

“Hopefully he’ll say I do,” Geraldine piped up from the window and everyone laughed at that. Then a knock came on the door and they quieted down. “Who is it?” Geraldine called out.

The doorknob twisted, causing alarm. Geraldine grabbed Joselyn’s arm and tugged her toward Darah, quietly instructing her to shield her aunt. Phoebe rushed to the door just as it opened. They sighed with relief when Abe stuck his head in, curiosity in his face. “Are we ready?”

Phoebe poked his shoulder. “You could’ve said something…” she trailed off when his eyes fell on his sister and watched his expression change. Her lips twitched a smile. “Isn’t she beautiful?”

Transfixed, Abe entered the room and closed the door behind him. Geraldine tugged Joselyn to her side and even Yelena inched back as brother and sister stared at each other.

Then Darah broke contact first and ducked her head shyly. “Do I look weird?”

Abe shook his head and Phoebe could’ve sworn there was a glimmer in his eyes. He walked to his sister’s side. “You look beautiful, Darah, like a…”

“A princess?” Joselyn offered when her uncle faltered a little too long.

Abe nodded, a smile forming. Then he held out a hand when Darah looked up, her eyes glistening with tears. “Ready to get married, Princess?”

Darah gave him a shy smile and put her hand in his. As he embraced her, careful of her delicate gown, there was no dry eye in the room—except Joselyn’s watching them curiously.

The ceremony was held in the Teka family backyard; three rows of white painted chairs adorned with flowers. Sand-filled candle jars lined the flower-laden aisle to the altar where Clement stood by J.R., with Bart and Eli acting as groomsmen. As the officiating pastor, Clement faced the small group of people invited to the wedding; the father of the groom, L.J., sat in the front row with Hana and his nurse Karen Wells. On the opposite row sat the Teka children, Isaac and James sandwiched the twins suspending their arguing under their father’s stern eye. On the next row sat Phoebe, Geraldine and her mother Yelena, waving delicate fans to cool themselves in the humid air.

Walking down the aisle now where cousins Karla and Augustus, the flower girl and page boy. Soft music played in the background and at the end of the aisle, both Clement and Bart winked at the youngest Teka children. They flashed similar grins and hurried to the seats Isaac and James prepared for them.

Joselyn was next and just as predicted, Bart stood mouth agape as he watched his firstborn daughter walk elegantly down the aisle. Once he recovered, Bart mouthed ‘beautiful’ and with a shy smile, she took her position on Clement’s right. Then the music changed and the audience stood, L.J. with the help of both Hana and Nurse Karen.

J.R. straightened his shoulders as the back door opened. He drew in a breath that caught as the couple emerged from the house. Even Clement, Bart and Eli gasped audibly at the sight of their sister being led down the aisle by Abe.

Unable to take his eyes of Darah, J.R. barely noticed when Bart nudged his arm. He blinked up at Clement who gestured for him to step forward. He promptly closed the distance between him and Darah. Without a veil, he could see the amusement shining in her eyes and wanted to reach for her hand. How was it possible that she looked more beautiful every day?

“Who gives this woman to this man?” Clement asked, his voice firm and clear.

“We do,” all four brothers said at once and the guests clapped, the younger kids joining in with gusto. Then after their mothers hushed them, Clement gave Darah a smile. Abe pressed a kiss to her forehead and then turned to J.R.

Quietly accepted Darah’s hand, J.R. squeezed gently. She squeezed back and they shared a smile before turning to face Clement. Abe quietly took his seat beside Phoebe who rubbed his back and drew him close.

The ceremony began and everyone watched in rapt attention, witnessing the union between J.R and Darah. In the middle of the ceremony, as Clement gave his exhortation to the couple, tears welled up in Phoebe’s eyes and even Geraldine ducked her head to surreptitiously wipe her cheeks. The Teka brothers were solemn, listening intently as J.R. and Darah professed their undying commitment to one another for life, in health, in sickness and in death.

At the exchange of the rings, Joselyn assisting Augustus with passing over the white-gold bands to the couple, J.R. and Darah married before their family. They also honored the memory of family members long since passed; Yonas and Ester Teka, Darah’s late parents and Madhu Obed, J.R.’s late mother.

“By the state of Texas,” Clement said, a grin widening his lips. “I now pronounce you husband and wife. J.R., you may now kiss your bride.”

Darah held her breath as she turned from her brother to face the man now her husband. Her eyes swept over his handsome face, still in shock that he was finally hers after ten years of pining after him. Tears pooled in her eyes and she blinked them away as he drew closer—as far as the baby would allow.

J.R. took in the soft beauty of his bride and marveled at his fortune. Her enduring love for him still took his breath away, almost as much as her beautiful eyes. He was a blessed man to call her his wife. He cupped her cheeks, his thumbs caressing her soft skin. “I love you.”

Her lips twitched a wobbly smile. “I love you too.”

“Kiss her already!” Geraldine called out, earning her laughs from the small group.

J.R. dipped his head and Darah tilted hers upwards, their lips meeting as their eyes drifted shut. The small crowd erupted in cheers and applause as J.R. embraced his wife for the first time.

Eleazar gave Darah a cautious smile during the reception held inside the house. “Congratulations,” he said as she flung her arms around him and held on tight. He gripped her shoulders, lingering in the embrace longer than she’d expected.

“Thanks.” Darah squeezed his arm as she drew back. “You okay?”

His smile was faint, his expression vague. “Yeah.”

Though she wanted to push him for clues, this was supposed to be a happy day—her day. Her heart fluttered as she heard her husband laugh across the dining room. She smiled, deciding to leave Eleazar for now. “You’ll tell me when you’re ready, won’t you?”

Her younger brother nodded and accepted another hug before she hurried to her husband’s side. Watching her walk away, he tamped a sigh and retreated into the background and away from the group.

From his corner of the room next to his first son, Abe noticed and left his place to go after his youngest brother. At the foot of the stairs, he called to Eleazar. “Eli, let’s talk.”

Karen stifled a great yawn while dishing a plate of pasta for herself. She swallowed another as Clement came to her right side balancing two plates and a can of soda. Peering up at him, she greeted him with a faint smile. “You’re a pretty good officiator… if that’s a word.”

“We’ll say it is. Thanks” He reached for a chicken drumstick. “You must’ve had a long weekend, with everything going on around here.”

She shrugged. “I’ve seen my share of weddings… and birthday parties, and funerals.” When sadness flickered in his face, Karen averted her gaze. “I don’t mind attending. It’s fun to celebrate with others.”

“I can understand that.” He placed a roll atop her plate and then put another on his.

“Thank you,” Karen said and returning the favor by dishing rice onto his plate, she laughed when he flashed her a wink. “I see you’re a charmer.”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about.” With a dimple in his cheek, he nudged her shoulder to move her up the buffet line. “So what’s next for you after this?”

Karen’s smile waned then disappeared, much to Clement’s chagrin. “Mr. Obed is my last patient, actually.”

“Oh?” he paused at biting into his bread roll, eyes fixed on her face. His brow furrowed with concern. “I didn’t realize things were bad with Mr. Obed.”

“Oh heavens no.” Karen let out a nervous laugh. “On the contrary, he’s doing quite well.” She bit her bottom lip when the furrow in his brow didn’t ease up. “Actually… I’m taking a sabbatical from the hospital and thinking of traveling.”

His brows lifted, tension loosened. “Oh yeah? Where to?” He leaned his hip against the table, waiting.

She shrugged. “Not sure yet. Somewhere in Africa.”

One corner of his lips lifted in a smirk. “That’s a bit vague.”

Cheeks warm, Karen nodded. “Still in the planning stage.”

Nodding, he lowered one plate on the table and fished into his back pocket. “Here,” he said, holding out a rumpled card. “If you’re ever in the neighborhood, give me a call.”

Karen eyed the card, then his face, and back to the card. Accepting the card, she read it aloud. “Trans-Amharic Missions, Ethiopia…”

Across the room, Phoebe watched the scene unfold with a smile playing on her lips. Handing over an empty plate, Geraldine looked up when Phoebe didn’t accept it. She followed the direction of her gaze, spotting Clement and the nurse conversing with smiles. Then she snorted and nudged Phoebe’s shoulder. “Mind your business, Phoebe.”

Darah sauntered over to them. “Two pieces of cake, please. What are you staring at?”

Phoebe giggled and dutifully cut out two sizable pieces of the wedding cake. “And who is this for?”

The shy smile resurfaced, a becoming flush coloring her cheeks. “My husband and father-in-law.” Darah giggled as they teased her and escaped with the plates.

With a sigh, Phoebe watched Clement and Karen sharing a laugh. “Three Teka marriages down, two to go.” She grinned unashamedly as Geraldine groaned in protest.

“Mommy! Mommy!” Augustus and Karla said in unison as they hurried over with empty plates, demanding more cake. With long-suffering smiles, the mothers attended to their youngest children.

At the end of the long day and parting ways with family and friends, J.R. and Darah retreated to their hotel room across town. Dressed in matching pajamas, they lounged in the suite and snacked on wedding cake—mostly Darah. Nibbling on yet another piece, Darah perched her swollen feet on J.R.’s lap and sighed blissfully as he kneaded tension from her feet.

“Happy?” he asked, amusement coating his voice.

“You have no idea…” She dropped her head back, her once-perfect curls now a frizzled mess. “I think I must be the happiest girl in the world.”

J.R. chuckled, releasing her feet and crawled up the bed to hover above her. Darah paused at nibbling the cake, enraptured by the look in her husband’s eyes.

“That’s good ‘cos I plan on making you the happiest woman for the rest of our lives.” J.R.’s eyes twinkled as he took the cake from her hand. “What do you say to that, sweetheart?”

On another occasion, she would’ve whined at him for taking away her snack. Instead, she slid her hands up his chest and draped them around his neck. “I say I’d like that very much.” She closed her eyes and angled her face as he dipped his head.

His mouth brushed along her jawline and Darah snuggled closer. Then she frowned as a thought came to her. “Hon, what do you know of Nurse Karen?”

When J.R. mumbled incoherently against her chin, she mused aloud. “’Cos Phoebe’s back to schemi—” the rest of her words muffled when J.R. planted a kiss on her mouth.

“Let’s talk about them later, alright Mrs. Obed?”

Darah paused as though realizing for the first time that her last name had changed, but instead of sadness, she felt gratitude to belong to two; the Teka and Obed families. With a grin, she nodded and flashed him a grin that he mirrored. “Carry on, Mr. Obed.”

.

.

Please stay tuned for the next installment of the Heart of a Home Series…

<<Chapter 26 || Series Page>>

%d bloggers like this: