Posts tagged “Mother

Lighthouse, Chapter 1

Posted on 09/04/2016

“Aunty! Aunty!” a squeaky voice beckoned Darah’s attention and she glanced over to six-year-old Karla standing with her cousin and age-mate Augustus. The girl gave her a toothy smile. “Watch me, Aunty.”

Darah smiled patiently. “I’m watching.”

Karla bent at the waist and performed a perfect handstand.

Darah clapped with a cheer when Karla righted herself. “Wonderful, Cabbage!”

The girl grinned and shifted her gaze to Darah’s shoulder. “Daddy, Mommy, you saw me?”

Darah looked over her shoulder to where a bearded Abe stood with an arm draped over Phoebe’s shoulders. The parents smiled with pride and Abe gave his only daughter a thumbs up. “Great job, baby.”

Phoebe winked. “Now come wash your hands. We’re about to eat.”

“What about me?” a diminutive voice beckoned them to turn to a pouting Augustus.

Darah grinned. “Sorry August, your turn. Go.”

The pout morphed into a smile and the little boy performed a handstand as good as Karla’s.

The three adults cheered in cue, earning them Augustus’ beaming smile. Abe gave his nephew two thumbs-up before he started for the stairs to summon the other kids. His deep voice echoed from the ceiling as he instructed the noisy children to tidy the rooms and get ready for dinner.

“Aunty, watch me!” Karla called, bouncing to Phoebe’s side. “I can do a gad-zillion jumps!”

“Me too! I do a gad-zillion and one!” Augustus piped in as he jumped faster than Karla. Then the front door swung open and the little boy turned, squealing as Bart stepped inside. Abandoning the competition with Karla, he sprinted over to Bart’s side. “Papa!”

A tired Bart lit up when his youngest son bum-rushed him and hugged his legs. With a chuckle, Bart swept an elated Augustus off his feet and planted loud kisses over his face.

Darah watched the two with a wistful smile. It seemed not too long ago, her older brothers Abe and Bart were both bachelors, clueless about love. Now they were doting husbands and fathers; Abe a father of three and Bart a father of four. She shook her head incredulously, wondering where the time had gone.

“Darah,” Phoebe’s gentle voice pulled her out of her thoughts. “Are you staying for dinner this time? We’ve set a place for you.”

“Auntie, will you sleep over?” Karla asked from her mother’s side since Phoebe held onto her shoulders. No more playtime for the youngest Teka children.

“I can’t, Cabbage,” Darah said regretfully. “But I’ll stay for dinner.”

“Why not?” Karla asked with wide, innocent eyes.

Darah choked a laugh. “Not tonight, Cabbage. I’ve got exams.”

“Which ones?” Bart asked with August propped on his back, the boy pretending his dad was a standing horse. “How to make pots or do the do-si-do?”

Darah rolled her eyes at his playful dig. “Don’t ask if you don’t care to know.”

“Of course we care,” Phoebe placated, giving Bart a warning glance. “I’ll pack you enough for the week.”

“Thanks,” Darah said as she stood, and glanced at Bart. “Where’s Geri?”

“Yelena’s in with a cold, so she’s nursing her.” Bart stifled a yawn and waved off Phoebe’s concern. “I’ll get a plate or two to go though. How were the kids?”

Phoebe led the way to the kitchen. “As you could imagine.”

“Means if they are anything like their father, they were rascally,” Darah quipped.

“I’m not rascuwwy!” Augustus protested, pouting from Bart’s shoulder.

Darah’s smile faded at her youngest nephew’s protest. “Sorry, August. Aunty was just joshing.”

“What’s jos-josh…?” Karla asked, tugging at her hand. She didn’t like sharing attention, especially not Augustus.

“It’s what you and August do,” Phoebe inserted, giving Darah a kind smile. “Except you and him will stop way before you’re adults.”

Karla made a face, tucking her hand in her mother’s as they entered the kitchen. “I don’t wanna adult.”

“Me too!” Augustus piped in, pouting when Bart set him down on his two feet.

Darah smirked. “Neither do I.”

“Who said you are?” Bart quipped, placing his hands on August’s shoulders.

With the children watching them closely, Darah managed not to stick her tongue out at him. She flashed a sweet smile instead. “Probably the same person who said you were.”

“Daddy!” excited voices interrupted Bart’s retort and everyone turned to the kids hurrying down the stairs toward Bart and Augustus.

“Be careful,” Abe drawled as though he’d said it a million times. He lagged behind, a bemused expression on his face.

Bart grinned as three rushed up to him, talking all at once. “Slow down,” he said chuckling. “One at a time.”

They began talking again; Joselyn at 11 years, the fraternal twins Fallon and Tomas at 8 years.

Smirking, Darah sought out the remaining two who stood close to Abe; 9-year-old Isaac and 7-year-old James. They watched their cousins with placid expressions, their temperament very much like their father. Their only sister Karla was more like Phoebe.

The two boys finally noticed Darah watching them. Isaac’s dark brows lifted in surprise and James grinned.

“Hey boys,” she said and opened her arms to accept their hugs. James reached her first, Isaac strolling behind. She laughed, reaching up to tap his forehead. “What, too big for hugs?”

He grinned in welcome, giving her a side hug. “When d’you come?”

She didn’t get to respond when the rest of Bart’s children rushed her with greetings; their smiles and excited chatter filling her heart with warmth.

“Are you staying?” Joselyn asked, stepping aside so her sister Fallon could give Darah a hug and a noisy kiss.

Darah smiled at Joselyn over their heads. “Hmm, for dinner though.”

Their disappointment was plain to see and Darah felt sorry. No doubt their little minds had anticipated her staying longer this time. If only she could…

“Why?” Isaac asked and all the children stared, awaiting her answer.

“She’s got an exam to study for,” Phoebe answered for her.

“Which one, pottery or dance?” Abe asked, earning a pointed look from Phoebe. He raised his brows. “What?”

Bart nudged his brother. “That’s what I said.”

“And just like I told him, if you don’t care don’t ask.” She then gave her nephews and nieces a smile. “Tell you what? If you promise to help me study, I’ll stay the night.”

She grinned as they all cheered, reminding her why she needed to come in the first place. Then Phoebe whistled, quietening the cheer. “Now that we’ve got that settled, let’s eat!”

Darah allowed the kids to lead her to the dining table, listening to the conversations going on around her. She’d missed her family; every single one of them. And once they seated, Darah noticed that someone else was missing from the group. “Where’s Eli?”

Phoebe busied herself cutting Karla’s chicken fried steak. Abe’s eyes shifted away from her and Bart shoveled rice into his mouth instead of replying.

“He’s with his grandmother,” Phoebe then replied tersely.

“But that’s okay though, right?” Darah arched a brow. Eleazar often spent time with his biological grandmother, Mrs. Sharma Crane who had actively sought out Eleazar for ten years.

“It’s fine,” Abe assured her as he placed a hand on Phoebe’s shoulder. Phoebe’s tight lips said otherwise.

Darah frowned.

“When’s Uncle Junior coming home?” Isaac inquired from his seat, curious about absent Clement away on missionary work overseas.

“Christmas for sure, Thanksgiving maybe,” Abe answered.

Bart cleared his throat. “Okay guys, finish up. Your Mom’s waiting for us.”

The three whined as they often did when it came time to end the nights with their cousins.

“Can’t we sleep over with Aunty? Please, Daddy?” Joselyn batted her long lashes, knowing it worked well with Bart.

Darah smiled. Even though Joselyn was not Bart’s biological daughter; born to Geraldine in her first marriage, he loved her as he did their other three children. She was their firstborn as far as any of them was concerned.

“Your Mimi needs hugs and kisses to get better, so maybe next time.” He turned to Augustus and wiped his mouth. “Now eat up so we can get going.”

“I’ll sleep over at your place next time,” Darah offered when Joselyn sighed heavily. Then she poked pouting Fallon’s cheek which earned her a dimpled smile.

When Bart and his clan eased out of the house, and Abe and the boys cleaned up the kitchen, Darah sought out Phoebe upstairs. She entered her old room that was now Karla’s. Standing in the doorway, she surveyed the decorations; artsy stickers and even her old paintings remained on the walls.

Darah smiled wistfully, crossing her arms over her stomach.

“I’ll lay out the pillows and blankets,” Phoebe spoke through Darah’s thoughts. Her eyes were focused on applying lotion to her daughter’s skinny body. “Don’t worry about studying in here, Karla’s a deep sleeper.”

Darah caught Karla’s eye and winked, earning another heart-stopping smile. She sighed inwardly, wondering what it would be like to have a child…

“Eli’s moving out.”

Darah’s smile faded. “What?”

Phoebe sighed, holding out printed pajama shorts for Karla to put on. “You heard me.”

“But he’s in a local college.”

“So are you.”

Darla’s cheeks warmed at the pointed accusation. “I’m not that local. It takes an hour and a half to my campus. He’s literally down the street from–”

“He says there’s no space here,” Phoebe continued, adjusting Karla’s sleep shirt. “That it’ll be easier living with Sharma. Easier, like we’ve ever complained about space before.”

She heard the bitterness in Phoebe’s voice and grimaced.

Since the day Phoebe met Eleazar, she’d taken to him and treated him like one of her own children. Of course she felt unsettled when Sharma Crane came into Eleazar’s life ten years prior, maybe a little betrayed by Eleazar’s loyalty to a woman who’d barely come to know.

Darah had heard of Eleazar spending time with Sharma Crane, accompanying her on weekend trips to visit her side of the family. Sharma had only one daughter, Eleazar’s deceased mother, so it was understandable that she clung to her only grandchild. Still, Phoebe loved Eleazar like a son and it was obvious she was hurt more than she let on.

As Phoebe quietly combed out Karla’s kinky hair, Darah could only stare in growing regret; for she too had betrayed Phoebe and the family in more ways than one. What comfort could she give when she’d done far worse than Eleazar?

<<Cover Page || Chapter 2>>

Homecoming, Chapter 19

Posted on 23/02/2016

Bart easily relinquished his queen-sized bed to the Pena women, giving Geraldine a faint smile when she insisted he take a pillow at least. He gestured to the blanket under his arm. “This is enough. You guys get some sleep.”

“Thank you,” Yelena whispered from the bed, stroking her sleeping granddaughter’s cheek.

Geraldine nodded, lowering her gaze. “Yes, thank you.”

“Not a problem. Good night.” He exited the room, closing the door gently behind him.

Geraldine heaved a sigh, releasing the breath she’d been holding while he was in the room.

“What a good man,” Yelena mused aloud and Geraldine turned, finding her mother’s pointed stare directed at her. “One would be blessed to have him.”

“Then you marry him,” Geraldine muttered, moving to the empty space beside Joselyn. Then stalled, realizing that this was the bed Bart slept in. She swallowed hard.

“I would if I was twenty years younger.” Yelena chuckled.

Geraldine scowled. “Mama, that’s not funny.”

“Yes it is…” She shushed Geraldine when Joselyn stirred in her arms.

“Why are you shushing me when you’re the one saying weird stuff?” Geraldine perched on the bed, her fingers tracing a line on the plaid-printed sheets. Even after he’d left the room, the heady scent of Bart was ever-present.

“What’s weird about marrying a man you love?”

Geraldine choked on a gasp and jerked her wide-eyed stare to Yelena.

“What? Am I wrong?”

She shook her head. “Mama, please stop with this.”

“You think I don’t see the way you look at him?”

Geraldine gaped, scandalized. “What are you talking about?”

Yelena scoffed. “I’m not blind, Geraldine. I know what I saw.”

“You didn’t see anything.” Geraldine scooted off the bed and moved toward the door. “You sleep first. I need to potty.”

“Run, run, run,” Yelena taunted gently. “When will you stop running, Mija?”

Geraldine rolled her eyes. “I’m not running.”

“Then sit down. Let’s discuss what to do next.”

“Jozy’ll wake up and I really need to pee.” She moved to the door and pulled it open. “We’ll discuss it tomorrow.”

Yelena mumbled something in her other native tongue, one Geraldine didn’t understand but didn’t need to. Clucking her tongue in disapproval was notice that she’d displeased her.

“Goodnight,” Geraldine forced out and fled the room. Except she didn’t hurry to the bathroom, and instead leaned against the wall beside the door.

The door to her right opened and she jerked to stand upright as Bart stepped out, the sound of flushing undercutting the squeaky door. He paused, finding her in his path and frowned over her shoulder at the closed door. “Everything alright?”

Her cheeks warmed under his perusal and she managed a nod. “Hm. Bathroom,” she pointed over his shoulder.

Bart nodded and shifted to the right, giving her space to enter.

Geraldine ducked around him and shut the door. Then she leaned against it and held a hand over her thumping heart. “Get it together,” she mumbled to herself.

Standing in the darkened hallway, Bart stared at the closed bathroom door. He stalled in the bathroom instead of retreating downstairs, hoping for some alone time with Geraldine. Yes, it was way past their bedtime, but he had to apologize for his pushy behavior earlier.

When the door opened and Geraldine froze in her tracks, eyes wide, his chest tightened. “I apologize for my behavior earlier,” he began without preamble. “It won’t happen again.”

She frowned. “What won’t happen again?”

“Being pushy. Sleep well.” He turned to go.

“Wait.” She bit her bottom lip when he turned back to her. “Uh…”

“Let’s talk in the morning. It’s already late,” he said and gave her another faint smile, his dimples hidden. “Goodnight.”

“Right… okay.”

Her hesitance drew a smile on his lips and he quickly turned before she noticed. “I leave for work by six so maybe after I get back. Goodnight.”

“… Goodnight.”

Bart bit back a chuckle as he made his way down the stairs slowly. It took Geraldine a minute before she finally retreated to his bedroom and he muffled a laugh into the blanket. Then he lay back on the leather settee and settled in for the shortest night ever with a smile on his face.

Someone yanked on his ear and Bart snapped his eyes open, imagining his mother tugging him to wake. Two doleful brown eyes stared at him and he blinked the sleep from his own. A small cherub face was inches from his. Bart drew back and a smile twitched his lips. “Hi.”

Jozy flashed a toothy smile that warmed his heart. “Hi.”

His smile widened and scooted to sit up, thankful that she didn’t flinch or edge away. He opened his arms and chuckled when she leaned into his embrace. “Good girl.”

“I good girl,” her voice was muffled against his arm.

“Yes you are.” He lifted her onto his lap and kissed her forehead. “Where’s Ma…” his voice trailed off when his gaze fell on Geraldine curled up on the opposite sofa, sleeping.

Jozy tugged at his ear, pulling his attention. Then she gave him another charming grin.

He shook his head incredulously. “You’re just like your mom, aren’t you?”

She only grinned, playing with his ears.

He kissed her forehead, breathing in the scent of baby lotion and Geraldine. “Did you keep Mommy up?”

“No,” Geraldine’s groggy voice turned his gaze back to the chair. She remained curled up against his bed pillow, eyes open and on him. “I didn’t want to miss you leave for work.”

Something snagged in his chest, stealing his breath away. How easy it would be to reach over and pull her onto his lap too. Clement’s words from earlier that night cautioned him to take things slow and Bart swallowed a groan, giving Geraldine a smile instead. “Why? Think I was running away?”

She didn’t smile and his waned. Then she uncurled her legs and sat up. “Are you hungry? I made pancakes.” She pushed to her feet and came to him, hands out for Joselyn.

“She’s fine. You made breakfast?” He was still in awe with how much she’d changed and wondered what else he was yet to discover about her.

“For you, yes. It’ll be cold by the time everyone else wakes.” She smoothed Joselyn’s curls and turned to the kitchen. “Wanna eat before you get ready for work?”

He refrained from watching her hips sway and lowered his gaze to Joselyn who grinned at him. Bart shook his head inwardly; he didn’t stand a chance with both Pena girls charming his socks off. “Sure. Jozy, want pancakes?”

She nodded emphatically. “Cake.”

Bart chuckled as he stood, perching Joselyn at his hips. “Same thing I guess.” He strolled into the kitchen, watching Geraldine pull out a bottle of syrup from the pantry. He marveled at her easily she moved in the kitchen, as though she belonged there. His chest tightened with the need to make that happen sooner than later.

Once she’d set before him a plate of four thick Buttermilk pancakes and a mug of steaming black coffee, Geraldine rounded the counter and opened her arms. “She won’t let you eat.”

He unwillingly released the child, eyes on both instead of the sweet-smelling food before him.

She arched a brow. “You’re not hungry?”

His heart was full just watching them, wanting them as his own. Bart shook out of his thoughts and nodded. “Thanks.”

“Something smells good,” Clement’s voice sounded behind them. He grinned. “Pancakes!”

Geraldine stepped into his path. “You’ll have to make your own.”

Clement frowned over her shoulder to Bart’s plate, and then the frown eased off. An impish smile replaced it instead. “Oh I see…”

“You see nothing. If it was your bed we ransomed, I would’ve made you pancakes instead.” She glanced over her shoulder at Bart. “Have a good day.”

Throat too tight to utter a word, Bart nodded and watched Geraldine retreat up the stairs with Joselyn in tow. Then he heaved a sigh and nudged the plate toward Clement. “Here you go.”

Clement grunted though he accepted the plate. “Thanks Bro.”

Bart stared at the couch where Geraldine had spent the night, and wondered what went through her mind. Heat flooded his face, imagining her sitting there and watching him sleep. Oh, if only he wasn’t such a deep sleeper.

“Man, she really got better at cooking,” Clement broke through his musing. “You sure you don’t want some?”

“I’m good,” Bart mumbled, taking a sip of the hot coffee and burned his lip.  He muttered an expletive and drew in his bottom lip.

Clement shook his head, chewing slowly. “Give her time. She’s probably fighting herself.”

Bart eyed him warily. “How can you be so sure?”

“It’s a hunch.” His brother took another bite. “Besides if I tell you, you’ll act a fool and ruin everything by your over-eagerness. Remember, the slow and steady wins the race.”

He dropped his hand from his scalded lip. “Tell me what?”

“Well you know how cheese runs through me. I should’ve stopped with one enchilada–”

He scowled. “Junior–”

“Anyway my stomach wouldn’t let me rest so I got up to use the restroom. Then I heard Geri shushing Jozy downstairs so she wouldn’t wake you.”

Bart froze. “What time was that?”

“Don’t sleep with a watch on, sorry.” Clement’s lips twitched. “It was definitely hours ago, long before she needed to prepare you this fine meal. Obviously she’s more comfortable sharing her heart when you’re unconscious.”

“What did she say?” Bart stared at Clement who seemed wiser than his twenty years.  “Tell me.”

Clement shoved a forkful of syrupy pancake into his mouth, taking his time to chew and swallow. “Something about not wanting to cause you trouble or whatever.” He shrugged when Bart scowled. “Don’t shoot the messenger, ask her yourself.”

“I was unconscious, remember? She’ll deny it and I have no basis to stand on otherwise.”

Clement rolled his eyes. “Must I teach you everything?”

Bart sighed and stood. “Nevermind.”

“Take it easy out there.” Clement watched Bart climb the stairs and shook his head. He took a swig of Bart’s coffee and choked in disgust.

<<Chapter 18 || Chapter 20>>

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