Posts tagged “mixed feelings

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 48

Posted on 03/06/2015

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They hadn’t held hands in ages. At thirty-years old, it didn’t seem all that necessary as it was when she was ten years old. But when Gabriel grabbed hold of her hand and led her down the winding path, Samina felt a peace she hadn’t felt in years. In introspective silence, they listened to the crickets providing an evening melody, the croaking bullfrogs complementing the tone. Gabriel whistled a tune.

 “Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling Clementine.”

Her nose wrinkled before he whistled the next stanza. “Dad, that’s a terrible song …” She raised a brow at him. “It’s about a man losing his daughter to drowning.”

Gabriel choked a laugh. “Oh wow.”

She shrugged, leaning into him as they walked the woven path. “I looked up the lyrics when I was fifteen. It changed my life forever.”

He nudged her shoulder. “Drama queen.”

Samina sighed and propped her head against his shoulder. “You heard everything?”

“Not if you didn’t want me to.”

She twisted her mouth. “Do you… think she’s right?”

Gabriel didn’t answer at first, mulling over his daughter’s words. The silence stretched for a few moments before he released a sigh. “I always used to think you were like your mother; headstrong and frustratingly independent.” He chuckled lowly. “In a way, you are… but I see a lot of myself in you too.”

Samina managed a smile. For so long, she always felt closer to him because they were so much alike. “I’m your mini-me.”

He peered down at her. “You’re my mirror.” He squeezed her hand. “Even when you were just a baby, your eyes always watched me, doing as you saw me do. Funny thing was you took your cues from me.”

She remained quiet, knowing he was right. A memory of a trip to the beach, walking in her father’s large footsteps, came to mind.

“I’m grateful that you are our firstborn, Samina,” he continued. “You set the temperature for the house based on how your mother and I were feeling. Your uncanny ability to moderate and set the mood of the family, it amazes me.”

Samina bit her bottom lip as he stopped walking. He turned to face her, his face shrouded and unreadable under the half-cast moonlight.

“But I’m seeing now, that you took on more than a child should have to. Because I got too comfortable with you and your mom being assertive and strong women, you took on a role you shouldn’t have.”

She blinked, wary of his grave tone. “Dad…”

“It is not your job to be your mother’s husband or your siblings’ father. That’s my job. You’re not supposed to be my mirror, or the family’s thermostat.” His thumbs brushed the back of her hands. “You don’t have to be strong or invincible. Even I can’t. Only God can.”

Tears welled up in her eyes. “Dad…”

“Embrace your weaknesses as well as your strengths, Samina. They are what make you special, what make you beautiful.” He lifted a hand and cupped her cheek. “It’s okay to say that you don’t have all the answers, or that you’re confused with your life’s journey, or that you’re not perfect. No one is perfect.”

Samina drew in her bottom lip, gnawing at it.

“You’re not me, your mom, Karen or Obadiah. God made you special, unique, beautiful in your own way. There’s no need for you to be someone He hasn’t created you to be.”

She nodded, looking down. “I know that…”

“If you know that, why are you confused?”

Samina looked up, her brow furrowed. “I’m not… confused.

“Ok… what is it then?”

She stiffened. He wouldn’t understand; no one ever did. Her eyes tingled. Don’t you dare cry again.

Gabriel’s hands let go of hers and moved to cup her shoulders. “Samina… Everything you’ll ever need in life, God has provided it for you.”

She refrained from rolling her eyes. “Dad…”

“Delay isn’t denial, you know that, don’t you?”

Samina held her tongue. It sure felt like everything in her life was a loud and firm denial, but arguing with him and God didn’t seem appropriate.

He squeezed her shoulders. “In due time, everything you need, will be met. Stop stressing about what will happen and live for today.”

She smiled wryly. “You sound like a fortune cookie, Dad.”

Gabriel chuckled softly. “Don’t think for a moment that I don’t know about you collecting notes from fortune cookies…”

Her cheeks warmed, recalling the box of rolled-up fortune cookies slips under her childhood bed, representing dashed hopes and dreams. ‘Your future is looking bright’; ‘Love is waiting at the next corner’; ‘Keep on believing.’ She’d been a fool to believe in it all.

He sighed, draping an arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer. “My mini-me…”

Samina leaned into him, warmed by the endearment. “Yes, Daddy?”

“Enjoy your life. Don’t dwell on the past, on things you can’t change. Live for today because you can.”

There was a soft wistful lilt to his tone that had Samina peeking up at his shadowed face.

He sighed. “For more than thirty-something years, I lived with regret and wished I could turn back time. I wished I could’ve told Odetta that I feared failing her, or not being the man she thought I was. That’s why I worked hard, knowing that if I didn’t, I might lose her to Jeremiah.”

She frowned. “Uncle?”

Gabriel grunted. “I knew he loved her too, maybe even more than I ever could… and it ate at me every time she talked about what a great and smart guy he was. In a way, I’d made him my yard stick on how to be a man. And even long after Odetta, I still found myself doing that. Seeing how he treated Sheena like she was his precious gift and finding myself wanting.”

Samina bit the inside of her cheek.

“And because I had my eyes on what he was doing, I hurt your mother with neglect.”

Samina had a sneaky suspicion that this was beyond fatherly advice and more so overdue contemplation over his past failings. She slipped an arm around his waist. “Daddy…?”

“Hmm?”

She hesitated. “You… love Mom, don’t you?”

“Of course I do.” His voice shook a little. “It’s a matured love that endures in spite of frustrations and insecurities because she’s my precious gift. No matter what, we’ll face every circumstance and struggle together.”

Samina swallowed hard.

“I wish I could say it was love at first sight or that I was head over heels in love with your mother… But I wasn’t. I was still hurt from Odetta’s betrayal and didn’t trust women. But your mother was enduring, patient and stubborn.” He chuckled dryly. “It’s funny; the very thing that attracts you to someone is often the very thing that drives you nuts.”

Samina paused, wondering what about Ezekiel attracted her and drove her nuts at the same time. Gabriel’s hand on her cheek caught her at mid-frown.

“Your sister is right, Samina.” Gabriel brushed her cheek with his thumb. “I rather you wait until you’re sure before you jump into anything in life. Career and in love. Even if you have to wait a while, wait and decide what you really want. When times get tough, and you’ve taken that much-needed time, you won’t regret waiting.”

The peace that had settled in her at the beginning of their walk was long gone, an unsettling feeling resting on her as they made their quiet walk back to the camp. She watched as Gabriel crossed the camp fire to where Deidre sat with Sheena and Jeremiah. With a wistful smile, she watched Gabriel reach for Deidre’s hand and tug her to her feet.

Deidre cocked her head curiously as Gabriel took the seat and patted his lap. Jeremiah and Sheena chuckled, Deidre smacking Gabriel’s shoulder before perching on his lap.

Tamping down a sigh, Samina turned away once the elder couples continued their murmuring and turned to where Karen and Ezekiel’s girls sat together, Beulah leaning into Karen as she re-braided her plaits while Adelaide nibbled on a graham cracker.

Samina snuck away to the tent she shared with Karen, intent on sleeping the cramps and fatigue away. A twig snapped to her left and she hurried into the tent, snapping the flap close. It could be Ezekiel, seeking her response. Or Topher…

She couldn’t face either one right now; not when her thoughts were a discombobulated mess.

Wiggling into the sleeping bag, Samina turned her back and squeezed her eyes tight. The last thought on her mind before drifting off to sleep was what Odetta must’ve felt making her decision.

Topher stood at the bank of the river, his brow furrowed slightly as he took in the orange and pink hues in the sky. The night passed too slowly and with Samina on his brain, he couldn’t sleep. It didn’t help that Obadiah’s guttural snoring was way worse than Nadine’s wheezing. By three in the morning, he’d given up trying and took a long jog around the river, trying to organize his thoughts and his feelings.

He wished to forget what he’d seen earlier that evening; the picture of Ezekiel kneeling before Samina.

“I thought I was the only one who couldn’t sleep past five.”

Topher’s jaw hardened. Though he didn’t know the man long enough, he found himself recognizing the voice of Samina’s boyfriend Ezekiel.

The man stifled a yawn as he came to stand at Topher’s side.

In the wake of their silence, bullfrogs hiding in the reeds along the bank croaked out their melodious beat.

“There’s nothing quite like the great outdoors,” Ezekiel continued, his voice light and cheery.

Topher grunted. It was too early in the morning for merriment.

After a brief pause, Ezekiel spoke again. “I heard about your parents. I’m sorry for your loss.”

He kicked a shoulder, not wanting this man’s sympathy.

“The older I get,” Ezekiel mused aloud. “The more I realize what a small world we live in. It seems everyone is connected somehow.”

He rolled his eyes. What did Samina see in this talkative, annoying fellow?

“That we’re all related in some way, it’s bizarre.” Ezekiel chuckled. “To think that Samina’s friendship with you allowed you to meet our fathers who were your parents’ friends… It’s definitely God.”

Topher bristled inwardly, wishing the man to leave.

Ezekiel then turned to face him. “I’d like us to be friends.”

Topher arched a brow. Did this guy think they were in kindergarten?

“I can see Samina cares for you. A friend of hers is a friend of mine.”

He wanted to laugh. Even with Ezekiel’s warm expression, Topher knew better than to take this man’s words at face value. Just as he stood at Samina’s side, occupying every moment of her time since they arrived at the camp, he was now verbally staking a claim over Samina. Topher felt his lips curl upwards. He did always like a challenge. “And if I don’t agree?”

Ezekiel’s smile froze. “Agree to what, Samina’s feelings for you?”

Topher grinned wider. “The latter. Do we really need to be friends to co-exist in her heart?”

Ezekiel’s smile changed. “I’m not good at sharing.”

“Neither am I,” Topher answered easily, shoving both hands in his pockets. “But this isn’t about sharing a cookie or a toy. Samina’s heart isn’t a toy.”

Ezekiel’s face hardened. “Samina loves me. Always have, always will.”

Topher smiled effortlessly. “Good for you.”

“I plan to marry her.”

He nodded. The image of Ezekiel kneeling was clear as day in his mind. “I know.”

“She will be my wife.”

Topher cocked a brow at Ezekiel’s face now taut with increasing irritation. The self-assuredness he’d assumed earlier was now absent in his expression. “Is that merely an assumption or a known fact?”

Ezekiel narrowed his eyes then, lips pursed tight. “Don’t confuse her.”

“What, you’re scared she’ll refuse?” Topher raised both brows. “That she has a better option than the one you’re proposing?”

Ezekiel scoffed. “You’re joking. Do you know her at all?”

“Do you?” Topher smirked as Ezekiel’s smile waned. “So what she had a crush on you? Does that give you full reins of her heart?”

Without warning, Ezekiel grabbed hold of Topher’s collar, face darkening with a scowl. “Who are you to say that? What do you know?”

Unaffected, Topher just stared down at him. “And who are you to decide what she wants?”

Ezekiel’s fists tightened on Topher’s t-shirt. “Shut your mouth.”

Topher breathed a laugh. “I’m not in the mood to repeat history here. Let go or I’ll make you.”

A round of claps alerted both men, the raging fires within sizzling as they turned to see Samina standing in the clearing. Ezekiel’s hands loosened around Topher’s shirt and he quickly stepped away. Topher didn’t blink as Samina walked forward, clapping her hands slowly.

“A round of applause,” Samina drawled out, stepping fully out of the shadows. “What an awesome performance, gentlemen.”

“Sam, I can explain…” Ezekiel stepped forward.

“Explain what exactly?” Samina glared at both men. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you two were kids fighting over a toy.”

Topher swallowed a curse. Ezekiel inhaled sharply. She’d heard everything.

She folded both arms across her chest, her brow furrowed. “So what were you going to do, fight knowing your daughters could walk in on you two?”

“No one was going to fight,” Ezekiel insisted, his tone growing agitated. “I was just…”

“Warning him off? Making veiled threats?” Samina turned to Topher before Ezekiel could explain but could only shake her head. “I don’t recognize either of you.”  She turned away, hand to her head.

Ezekiel stepped closer but Topher grabbed his shoulder to stop him. He scowled when Ezekiel shrugged him off and closed the distance. He glared at Ezekiel as the man draped an arm around Samina’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry, baby,” Ezekiel murmured, loud enough for Topher to hear but soft enough to sound contrite.

Topher wanted nothing more than to grab Ezekiel by the collar and push him away from Samina. Instead he stood and waited in silence. It wasn’t his place to interfere, even if he desperately wanted to.

Samina elbowed Ezekiel to keep her distance. “Stop.” She glared up at him. “Even now, you’re still doing it. Stop it, for goodness’ sake.”

Dumbfounded, Ezekiel gaped at her. “Sam…”

“I’m not a toy, Ezekiel.” Samina snapped, indignant. “I decide what and who I want, not you.”

Ezekiel’s mouth opened and closed, eyes blinking.

“What do you want then?” Topher heard himself speak.

Samina turned to him, eyes sizzling. “I thought I knew but now… I don’t know.”

Ezekiel frowned. “But—”

“And until I’m sure, I don’t want to talk to either of you about it.” Samina hitched her chin. “And don’t you dare follow me or try to change my mind. Punch your stupid heads in for all I care. Good day!” She spun on her heels and stormed off.

Ezekiel puffed out an exasperated breath in her wake and dragged a hand over his face.

Topher slowly released a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding all this time.

Grunting, Ezekiel turned to him with a ‘now what’ expression and Topher did everything he could to keep from laughing. He was not in the mood to fight anyone, especially not now.

With a sigh, Topher turned to face the lake just as the sun rose above the trees.

<<Chapter 47 || Chapter 49>>

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 47

Posted on 28/05/2015

forestor

Topher’s first love was a spindly blond girl with violet-blue eyes and a pouty pink mouth named Cindy Feltwether. She was eight years old and had a mean right arm. He was six years old at the time, short and spotty with freckles everywhere.

His eight-year old neighbor Cindy tugged at his curls and poked his freckles, calling them his leopard spots. It didn’t matter to him because he loved her. Nadine scoffed then and still did to this day, reminding him that his first love had shaved her head and tattooed most parts of her body. She was also in a Canadian jail for multiple counts of grand theft auto and trespassing.

He’d liked many other girls since Cindy. Even dated a few but the result was the same. Nadine didn’t trust his judgment and antagonized every single woman he introduced. Most were turned off by her sharp tongue and prickling personality. Except Samina.

His heart fluttered every time her gaze warmed at the mention of his aunt. Nadine too was intrigued by the shy beautiful Samina, even though she acted nonchalant. He’d believed Samina was the one because she’d charmed Nadine so easily.

Staring at her as she trudged around the front of the car, brow pensive, Topher still believed she was the one. He couldn’t tell his heart otherwise.

He watched as Samina suddenly looked up, her face brightening into a smile that warmed him all over. Topher frowned as she embraced the girls. He squinted as she offered a shy smile to the girls’ father; Ezekiel Dames.

He didn’t set out to memorize his name; he could’ve cared less about the man except that he was actively championing Samina’s heart. In fact, since they arrived at the campgrounds, the widowed man refused to leave her side. Topher could see right through his hovering act. He was staking his claim, and making sure Topher knew it.

Then the girls hurried off to chase butterflies, waving colorful nets in their hands as they ran. Topher watched in growing agitation as Ezekiel pulled Samina into a hug, his hand pressed at the small of his back. His head bent close to hers, whispering something in her ear.

It better not be sweet nothings or I’ll…

“Toph?”

Swallowing a growl, Topher forced himself to look away. And met Karen’s eyes dancing in curiosity. He quickly straightened his face. “What’s up?”

“We’re about to start the chili and Dad says he wants your help with something. Come.” She curled an arm under his and pulled him toward her. “I have a proposition for you…”

Topher swallowed hard as she led him over the uneven terrain. He forced himself not to look back and see the cozy scene with Samina and another man. As if hearing her words for the first time, he dug his heels to stop her. The gleam in her eye made him nervous. “Look, Karen… I—”

“Relax Toph,” Karen replied, turning her eyes forward. “I’m not flirting with you.” She then stopped and faced him. “I know something you don’t know yet.” Her lips tugged upwards. “And you’ll have to trust and listen to me if you want things to change.”

He frowned. “Change…?”

She arched a brow. “With Samina.”

His heart did a somersault as it always did when her name crossed his mind. “…Okay?”

She smiled. “You should know that we’re all Team T here.”

“We?” Topher cocked his head. “Team T?”

“Team Toph as opposed to Team Z, for Zeke.” She wrinkled her nose. “Ezekiel.”

His lips twitched a smile. He straightened his face, assuming an air of nonchalance. “Is that so?”

“You should know that Zeke is Samina’s first love. This… relationship is only because she wants to give her past feelings a chance, closure.” Karen paused when she heard Obadiah calling for her to hurry. “Anyway, we better hurry. Get good seats.” She gave him a conspiring smile and wriggled her brows.

Though unsure sure Samina’s relationship with Ezekiel had little to do with closure, he let himself consider Karen’s words. Ezekiel was Samina’s first love, like Cindy was his. Fantasy was Cindy all grown-up with flowing platinum-blond hair and a killer smile, not the series of mugshots sporting a snarling face covered with badly-picked tattoos and a pointy head that was her reality. He paused, wondering about Ezekiel’s reality. Hidden warts, a bad temper, bad breath…

Having witnessed the kiss Samina shared with the man outside her parents’ driveway last night, Topher’s mood darkened as the sky above. There was no way it could’ve been bad breath.

“Toph?” Karen repeated when he didn’t hear her the first time.

Pushing aside the disturbing thought, Topher offered her a smile. As they walked together, he glanced over at her, curiosity trumping restraint. “So what’s your proposition?”

She threw him a grin, eyes gleaming with secrets. “You’ll see. Just trust and leave it to me.”

Topher had no choice but to. Samina wasn’t exactly speaking to him.

Samina was not in the mood for this. She’d been cramping since they arrived on the campgrounds and Karen was currently leaning into Topher’s arm across the makeshift pot of chili. It wasn’t as if she cared that it was Topher who Karen flirted with, really it wasn’t. But she couldn’t concentrate, not even to the story Beulah and Adelaide told of a cowardly he-bear and a mean she-goat. Especially with her sister probably whispering some secret about her.

Then Karen placed a hand over Topher’s arm, fingers cupping his firm muscle.

Samina plunked her spoon into the bowl noisily. She glared at Karen who looked straight at her. “If you’re not going to eat, why don’t you go set up our tent?”

Karen smiled like a Cheshire cat, her eyes gleaming, reflecting the light from the stove fire. “Is there a problem, Sammie?”

Of course there is, you shameless flirt! “If you’re done eating, our tent needs setup.”

“Oh right.” Karen shifted her gaze to Topher. “Mind lending me a hand?”

Samina clenched her jaw but stayed quiet. Nothing she would say now would be appropriate.

Topher hesitated but didn’t look at Samina before answering. “Sure.” He put his bowl aside and stood.

Ezekiel nudged her knee. “I didn’t know you hadn’t pitched it. I could’ve helped you set it up.”

She shook her head, watching them walk around the other pitched tents. “It’s okay.”

“Will Aunty Karen marry him?” Adelaide asked aloud, her lips tight, her eyes narrowed. Samina wanted to hug her.

“No!” Beulah said adamantly and leaned into Samina’s side. “Aunty Sammy will marry Daddy.”

Samina inhaled sharply. Deidre’s bowl dropped to the floor. Sheena squeaked.

Ezekiel laughed nervously and reached around Samina’s waist to tug gently on one of Beulah’s plaits. But he said nothing to correct her.

Rendered speechless, Samina gaped open-mouthed.

Ezekiel shrugged with a whatyagonnado look on his face.

She stifled a groan.

“You okay, Sam?” Gabriel spoke up.

Suddenly feeling dizzy, Samina forced out the breath she’d been holding. “Uh…” Lowering the bowl by her feet, she stood. Brushing Ezekiel’s helping hand aside, she moved around the fallen log. “I-I need to use the restroom.” She hurried away before he or anyone could stop her. She had no real answers to give them. Marry Zeke?!

Stumbling around the wall of trees to the restroom area, Samina dropped onto a bench. She drew in a breath.

“Sam.”

Samina choked on the breath and started to cough. Ezekiel rubbed at her back, in the soothing way he did with his girls. Without warning, tears gathered in her eyes and she sniffed loud.

Alarmed, Ezekiel stopped rubbing her back and tilted his head to look at her face. “You okay?”

“I’m just…” she inhaled a breath and pushed it out.

“Is it… Aunt Flo?”

Samina whipped her head back and glared at him. “What?”

His expression was rueful, realizing his faux-pas, but concern etched on his face. “You seem a bit off since we arrived.”

She didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or moved. Instead, Samina looked away and sighed.

His hand moved over her knee, squeezing it gently. “I understand…”

No, you don’t but it’s sweet.

“I wonder how it’ll be when Adelaide gets that age. It’s coming closer by the day.”

Samina peeked at him just in time to see the trouble furrowing his brow. When he looked her way, he managed a feeble smile which she reciprocated.

“I wouldn’t know what to do and freaking out is not an option.”

She shook her head. “Never is.”

His smile waned, his countenance thoughtful. “I wish she had someone to be there for her. Someone who understood what she was going through.”

Samina swallowed, a shiver trickling down her spine as Ezekiel tilted his pointed gaze. She squinted at him. “About Aunt Flo? C’mon Zeke, your mother knows about that—”

“Not just that,” Ezekiel answered gruffly. A bit too gruffly as though impatient. He cleared his throat. “I want the girls to have someone who would love them like her own.” His dark eyes skimmed her face. “I want her to be someone that they’ll love. That I love.”

Her breath caught at the intensity in his eyes.

Ezekiel gave her a gentle smile. “I love you Sam. And I want you to be that woman.”

Samina blinked, unable to find the words. For years, she’d imagined this but didn’t think Ezekiel would ever notice her, want her as much as she wanted him. Past tense. Her gaze skittered over his features, her heart beating a dull tattoo. “Zeke, I…”

He pressed a finger over her mouth. “I know it hasn’t been long since we started dating.” His half-smile was sheepish. “I haven’t exactly asked you to be my girlfriend, but it’s because I’m not just about dating you. Because I want more. I want forever with you.”

Forever with Ezekiel. Samina bit her bottom lip as he shifted even closer and cradled her hand in his. She’d fantasized about this moment; him bent on one knee before her, them surrounded by her favorite flowers, cream tulips, lit tea candles and the sweetest jazz music playing. Except the man she envisioned wasn’t Ezekiel. Her heart stopped as he suddenly knelt before her.

“Samina Miriam Wells…”

Samina blinked, lost for words but knowing she had to do something. Fast. Her heart was racing, her palms were sweaty. Everywhere was hot.

Ezekiel took her hand in his, brushed her fingers with his thumb. He looked up, warmth and adoration glowing in his dark eyes. “I want you to be—”

“Sammie!” Karen pitched forward, scattering a pile of dead maple leaves in her wake. She sounded breathless, alarm lighting her face. Her eyes darted from Samina to kneeling Ezekiel and then back to Samina again. “M-mom wants you…” She swallowed in mid-panting.

All day, Samina wanted nothing more than to shake Karen for her meddling. Now she wanted nothing more than to hug her tightly. Looking once at the confusion on Ezekiel’s face, she offered him a pathetic smile. “Please can we talk later?” She didn’t give him time to think about it and hauled to her feet, hurrying past Karen into the woods.

Karen was at her side in seconds. “Are you gonna do it?”

“Do what?” Samina asked breathlessly as they cleared the thicket of trees.

“Marry Zeke.”

Samina halted in step and whirled around. She scowled. “First the shameless flirting and now you eavesdrop?”

Karen scoffed, placing her hands to her hips. “I plan to do more than that if it would help you see.”

“Help me see what?” Samina clipped out, her jaw clenched tightly. She didn’t like the accusation in Karen’s glaring eyes.

“That you love Topher, not Zeke.”

Samina’s eyes shot over Karen’s shoulder at the wall of trees before glaring at her. “Be quiet,” she hissed, grabbing Karen’s arm and pulling her in the other direction of thicker trees.

“Why are we hiding?” Karen wrenched back, scowling as she rubbed her arm. “You’re in some horrible mood and it doesn’t have anything to do with Aunt Flo.”

“Then stop pissing me off.”

Karen pushed out a short, harsh laugh. “What’s really pissing you off? That I’m flirting with the very available Topher or that you can’t have him?”

Samina scowled, her face twitching. “That’s enough.”

“No Sis. I just got started.” Arms crossed, Karen walked around Samina. “I’ve noticed something very interesting about you. You desire things you can’t have and ignore the good things available to you. Your dream career, your dream life.” She paused in front of her, both brows raised. “… your dream man.”

Samina bunched her fists. “Shut. Up.”

“Your dream career was to be a well-known, talented painter. Everyone has told you what a great artist you are, we tell you this all the time but you refuse to listen.” Karen shook her head. “When you lost that fellowship, when they rejected you because you didn’t qualify, you stopped painting. You didn’t even consider the other good schools that offered you scholarships. Because you kept pining over a fellowship you couldn’t have.”

Samina pushed past Karen. “I’m not listening to this.”

“And your dream man?” Karen hurried to block her path. “You started liking Ezekiel, what, when you were fifteen?” Karen cocked her head to one side. “He was your best friend for years before that and you never had feelings for him. You felt nothing for him until he got a girlfriend and became unavailable.”

“Shut up, Karen.”

“For years, good guys have asked you out. But because it wasn’t Ezekiel, you didn’t give them a chance. You don’t give anyone a chance. And now that he’s available, you falter.”

Her face was so hot, she felt sweat trickling down her cheeks. It had to be sweat. “Shut up!”

“This is real life, Samina,” Karen said firmly, grabbing Samina by the shoulder. “Stop dreaming. Wake up and see what’s there for you. Topher—”

Samina jerked away, causing Karen’s hands to slide off. “For your information, Ezekiel was just about to propose to me.”

Karen stared through hooded eyes. “Oh, yeah? Then why did you run away before he finished?”

Her face heated violently. She jutted her chin. “You said Mom wanted me for something!”

“Give me a break.” Karen scoffed derisively. “Since when do you hurry to answer Mom? Admit it, Samina. You don’t really know what you want and because of it, you’re confusing everyone including yourself. I’ll tell her you’re busy.” She brushed past Samina and stomped back to the family camp.

Speechless and reeling from Karen’s jarring words, Samina closed her eyes and told herself to breathe first.

“Samina.”

She stiffened at the sound of her father’s voice and groaned aloud. Dad, please not right now. Wiping her face, Samina turned to Gabriel standing where Karen had departed from. “Yes Daddy?” But her face twitched as the tears continued to fall, her shoulders shaking.

Gabriel closed the distance and pulled her into his arms as she wept aloud.

When her sobs subsided, Samina felt embarrassed, even before her father. He’d never really given her advice about men, because she’d never mentioned Ezekiel, because he wouldn’t know what to say. Him starting now would only feel awkward and forced. She started to pull away. “I’m fine now…”

His hand closed around her wrist, holding her close to him. “Let’s take a walk.”

Samina bit her bottom lip, looking at him through swollen eyes. Walking with Daddy meant talking with him too. She tamped down a sigh and forced herself to nod. “Okay…”

<<Chapter 46 || Chapter 48>>

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