Posts tagged “Mother

Homecoming, Chapter 18

Posted on 17/02/2016

Turned out Phoebe had a feeling she was pregnant before the dry heaving that lasted deep into the night. She confessed to a dazed Abe that she’d known of her condition weeks ago but was too nervous to mention it, just in case it didn’t work out.

Long after the two youngest had gone to sleep and Clement retreated to his room, Geraldine watched as Abe enveloped his wife in his arms and cradled her against his chest. When Abe pressed a kiss to Phoebe’s forehead, Geraldine tamped a longing sigh and looked away, gaze colliding with Bart’s.

His lips were pursed, eyes squinted in clear suspicion.

She looked down at her phone and grimaced. “Oh man. I better get going…” She stood from the chair propped near the couple’s bed.

Phoebe peeked from around Abe’s arms and gave Geraldine a weary smile. “Thank you Geri…”

“Congratulations. I’ll check on you tomorrow,” she said to the couple and stepped around Bart to the door. Hearing him tell her to wait, Geraldine hurried from the master bedroom and out of the house.

Bart caught up to her before she reached her car. She yelped when he grabbed her by the waist and pulled her into his chest. Face aflame, she nudged at his arms. “Let me go.”

“What’s your rush?” he drawled out, unaffected by her hands shoving at his chest.

“It’s midnight and I have to go to my kid. Let me go!”

The raised inflection in her tone made him release her, though his fingers parked on her hips. Under the flickering streetlamp, she could see his brow was furrowed in consternation. “Now what’s with you?”

She avoided looking at him. “Nothing. I just have to go.”

“I’m not stopping you.”

Heat coursed through her and she stepped back. “Goodnight then.” She turned on her heels to go.

“Let’s get married.”

Her footsteps stalled from rushing off and she spun around. “What?”

He didn’t blink, didn’t move. “You heard me.”

She gaped at him. “What on earth for? My in-laws already think we’re getting married, and once they’re gone, we don’t need to pretend any more.”

“This isn’t pretend for me, Geraldine. I want to marry you.”

His words felt like a sucker punch in her gut, stealing her breath.

Bart moved toward her, frowning when she took a step back. He paused. “What are you doing?”

Geraldine regained her composure. “What are you doing? This isn’t part of the plan.”

He squinted at her. “What plan?”

She gritted her teeth. “Bartimeus–whoa, stop there.” She inched backward until her back was pressed against her car. “I said stop, you stubborn oaf.”

He only smiled wickedly, coming to stand directly in front of her.

She could barely breathe at his proximity–this insufferable man. “What are you doing?”

Bart placed his hands on either side of her shoulders, resting his palms against the car windows. “Stopping you from running away again.”

“A-again?” Her pulse tripped when he lowered his head. She turned her face away. “Bart, stop this.”

“Stop what?”

She glared at his shoulder. “I have to go home.”

“And you’ll go home when I get my answer.”

“I already told you there’s no reason for us to get married, Bart.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

“You didn’t ask. You said–”

“Marry me, Geraldine.”

She squeezed her eyes shut; fighting the warm shivers that traveled down her arms. “No.”

“Stop mumbling. Look at me and give me your answer.”

Geraldine forced her eyes back to his shadowed features. It hurt to look at him. “I said no.”

Bart leaned away and dropped his hands. She didn’t need the streetlight to know what her answer did to his handsome face. “So what, I’m good enough to be your pretend husband but not enough to be the real thing? Is that it, Geraldine?”

Her chest tightened in regret. “That’s not it, Bart.”

“Isn’t it? Then why–”

“I can’t marry you.”

“You can’t or you won’t? Speak plainly because I’m tired of your games.”

She frowned. “This isn’t a game.”

“Right.” Bart snorted in disgust and took a step back. “Goodnight, Geraldine.”

“Bart–”

“You left three years ago because you weren’t sure of my feelings. I’m telling you now that I—”

“Stop!” she shouted, her voice echoing in the quiet neighborhood. A lone dog barked in protest and she dropped her head. “Please don’t.”

Bart heaved a sigh. “Fine. It’s late. Get going.”

At the sound of his footfall retreating, Geraldine looked up. “Please don’t make this more complicated than it already is, Bart. They’ll be gone in a week and we can get back to our lives.”

He paused and turned to look at her. “I hear you. Go home, Geraldine.”

When he didn’t turn away, Geraldine had no choice to leave. She didn’t want to fight with him and it seemed like he didn’t want to either. There was much to say but she couldn’t bring herself to say any of it without sounding like a crazy person. With a nod, she turned away and ducked into her car.

Bart muttered a curse under his breath as she eased the car from the driveway and drove away.

“Nice going, Big Bro,” Clement drawled from the porch.

His face darkened. “Go away.”

His brother’s footfall sounded on the steps. “You pushed too hard, y’know.”

“So you’re the love expert now?” Bart turned to Clement, more annoyed than he expected. Somehow, he’d imagined Geraldine’s pretty eyes welling up with tears and a wobbly smile on her pretty mouth before she flung her arms around him and kissed him with gratitude.

“Sometimes you need an outsider’s perspective to point out your screw-ups.”

“Remind me to do the same with you,” Bart drawled, sweeping past Clement up the stairs.

“Geri’s got a whole lot of hurt, Bart. You have to be careful.”

Bart paused in step and turned to his brother. Before their fake engagement, Geraldine had spoken jadedly of romance, but he was certain she had feelings for him.

“She obviously cares a great deal for you,” Clement continued, kicking a pebble. “No woman would allow you to kiss her like that if she didn’t.”

“What’s with the lack of privacy? We’re not some peep show,” Bart groused, only mildly annoyed.

“It’s expected. Abe and Phoebe barely got alone time before they got married. Even now, they have to ask for permission to get away for a weekend.” Clement shook his head. “Unreal.”

Bart felt a flush at the thought of marrying Geraldine. The more he thought about the idea, the more he liked it. But how could he get her to see it his way?

“Even if you’re the better choice, being forceful like her family was about marrying that jerk isn’t gonna work for your benefit or hers. You’ve gotta be firm about your feelings yet gentle in your approach.”

“Gentle in my approach?” He sought Clement’s gaze.

“Take a lesson from Abe. Remember she did have the hugest crush on him.” Clement chuckled when Bart scowled. “What I’m saying, Big brother, is you gotta learn the art of push and pull.”

“Push and what?”

Clement walked up to his brother and clamped a hand on his shoulder. “The Art of Seduction.”

Bart eyed him warily. “And you want to be a missionary?”

“Missionary, not priest. Now come on.” He nudged Bart toward the door. “Let’s get started if we’re gonna get you married.”

Geraldine sat in the car long after she arrived home from Bart’s house, trying to calm her unsteady breath. She put a hand over her heart and closed her eyes. “Stop it… stop it.”

It scared her how hard her pulse was racing because it only happened whenever Bart gave her that impish dimpled smile of his. She shook her head to clear the image of his grin and leaned forward, pressing her forehead against the steering wheel.

“You can’t or you won’t?” Bart’s question echoed in her ear.

She squeezed her hand against her racing heartbeat. “I can’t…” Even if she wanted to, she couldn’t marry Bart. It was better this way.

A tap on the passenger window made her jump in her seat. She turned and quickly rolled down the window. “Mama? What’s go–?”

“Shh.” Yelena gestured to the sleeping baby in her arms. “Open the back door.”

Dumbly, Geraldine did as her mother said and glanced over at the front door. “Where are they?”

“I don’t know and I don’t care,” Yelena muttered while strapping Joselyn in her seat. “Once I came home, I locked me and Jozy in your room.”

“What?” Geraldine gaped at her mother; she’d gone home hours ago.

Yelena slid in beside her granddaughter and closed the door. “We can’t stay in the house while they’re here. I don’t trust them to leave without trying anything funny.” She and Geraldine peered down at the child whose head lolled back and forth.

A cold chill trickled down Geraldine’s spine and she gripped the steering wheel. “They can’t take my baby. I won’t let them.”

“Good.” Yelena adjusted Joselyn’s head. “Let’s go back to the Teka house–”

“No!”

“Shh!” Yelena put a finger over her mouth and frowned at her daughter. “What? Why?”

Heat infused her cheeks and Geraldine looked at Joselyn sleeping undisturbed. “They don’t have space,” she said lamely, fumbling with her hands.

Yelena snorted. “They have a couch and Joselyn can stay with the youngest girl, Darcy…”

“Darah,” Geraldine sighed heavily. “Mama, that’s not a good idea.”

Yelena smiled. “It is. I already called Barty and he said they’ll make room.”

Her eyes widened in alarm and she gaped at her mother. “You did what? When?”

“Just now. He called to see if you’d made it home yet and when I shared my concern, he invited us to come back. They’re probably making space in the house now. Let’s go, Mija.”

<<Chapter 17 || Chapter 19>>

Homecoming, Chapter 16

Posted on 10/02/2016

With Joselyn in Darah’s arms, Geraldine had no one to shield her from her mother-in-law’s heated glares. And once they’d entered the house, Abe asked Bart for help in the backyard so he wasn’t available either. She looked around the room, where Phoebe and Eleazar sat together, Darah sat beside Yelena, and Clement stood off on the side, watching her.

She blinked in surprise, her cheeks warm at his amused expression. How long had he been watching her? Heat scorched her face in embarrassment, wondering if he’d noticed the long gaze she gave Bart as he strode out with Abe. She certainly hoped not! Things were complicated enough.

Clement cleared his throat and looked to her in-laws. “Pardon me, I didn’t get your names.”

Geraldine gnawed on her bottom lip as her in-laws glanced at each other and back at him.

“Andres,” her father-in-law spoke up and gestured to his sour-faced wife. “Cristina.”

The Teka family nodded in acknowledgment and Geraldine grimaced. “Sorry, my head’s not where it needs to be.”

“Yeah, that kiss must’ve scrambled your brain huh?”

“Junior,” Phoebe sighed in exasperation.

Yelena covered a laugh with a cough. Cristina’s scowl darkened and Andres looked as if he’d swallowed a rock. Darah buried a snicker against Joselyn’s hair. Only Eleazar looked undisturbed.

Geraldine eyed Darah with jealousy, wishing she could hide her hot cheeks behind Joselyn. She turned to Phoebe. “Uh, can I help with dinner–”

“No!” Darah and Clement shouted, alarming Andres and Cristina. Geraldine looked wounded.

“She’s actually better than before,” Yelena spoke up, giving her daughter a smile.

Cristina snorted derisively and Geraldine’s shoulders drooped.

“Uh sure, Geri,” Phoebe spoke up and smiled at Geraldine. “I could definitely use your help.” She stood and gestured for Geraldine to follow. The two women made their way quietly to the kitchen before she turned, concern etched on her features. “Your mother-in-law is horrible!”

Geraldine gave her a dry smile and leaned against the counter. “That’s her being courteous.”

“Courteous, my big toe!” Her eyes swept over Geraldine’s face. “And you look like you’ve aged a decade in just 24 hours!”

Grimacing, Geraldine lifted a hand to her face. “Does it really?”

“I’m exaggerating but seriously, they can’t stay.” She frowned over her shoulder to where Abe and Bart were setting up the grill. “Bart told us they’re planning to stay more than a week.”

Geraldine heaved a sigh. “Seems that way.”

“Not if we can help it.” The determination in her voice made Geraldine look back at her. “If we have anything to say about it, they won’t last a week.”

The door swung open at the tail end of Phoebe’s firm declaration. “Who won’t last a week?” Abe asked, carrying an empty pan. Bart’s brows were furrowed in concern, seeing Geraldine in the kitchen.

“Should you be in here?” he asked Geraldine and arched a brow at Phoebe.

She scowled, affronted. “I can cook, Bartimeus.”

He narrowed his eyes at her. “Do you want me to repeat what happened outside?”

Though a warm shiver rushed down her spine and her lips welcomed a repeat, she steeled her frame and tilted her chin. “Try it and I won’t let you off.”

“Save your lover’s spat for later,” Phoebe cut in and turned to Abe. “I don’t like Geri’s mother-in-law.”

Abe glanced worriedly at Geraldine. “That’s not nice, Babe…”

“It’s okay,” Geraldine assured Abe.

“I don’t like the way she looks at her like she’s the one at fault,” Phoebe continued, her expression tightening. “Who does she think she is?”

Bart glanced over Geraldine’s shoulder at the open door. “I’m pretty sure they can hear you.”

“Let them hear mfff–” she scowled when Abe placed a hand over her mouth. The look he gave her softened her expression and she sighed when he lowered his hand. “Fine… but we have to do something.”

“We are doing something,” Bart answered, draping his arm over Geraldine’s shoulder. “Showing ’em Geraldine and Jozy are doing just fine together, then they’ll leave.”

“Well then, we better get you guys engaged first,” Phoebe muttered, hands at her hips.

The two brothers exchanged glances, knowing Phoebe’s mind sifted through ideas. Abe sighed and draped his arm over his wife’s shoulders. “I have a better idea.”

All three turned to him, surprised and expectant. It wasn’t often Abe formulated ideas; he mostly critiqued and then implemented the ideas Phoebe or Bart or Darah came up with. His nickname aside from Big Bro was the Implementer.

“What you got?” Bart inquired quietly.

Abe glanced once at the opening and then beckoned them closer before sharing his idea.

“Mr. Andres,” Abe began as soon as everyone had settled on the table with their chicken and beef fajita meal. When the man looked up in surprise, Abe smiled. “We’re curious to hear more about Geri’s life in Peru… and her late husband, your son.”

Geraldine fought hard not to squirm and Bart’s tense body beside her echoed her thoughts on Abe’s plan to woo her in-laws. He believed that honoring their son’s memory would assuage Cristina’s resentment toward everyone especially Geraldine.

Finding redeemable qualities of her late husband proved harder than finding a needle in a haystack. Bart wasn’t exactly jumping for joy over having to hear about the man that had abused Geraldine… and even Phoebe was wary, but their options were limited.

In return for their good treatment toward the in-laws, Phoebe insisted that Abe’s plan last only for a week. She too was finding it hard to forgive Andres and Cristina for not interceding in Geraldine’s mistreatment from their bad-tempered son. Currently, she maintained a stiff smile as her husband addressed Andres.

“He was a good man,” Cristina spoke in Spanish, not caring for whoever didn’t understand. Her eyes glistened with unshed tears and Andres placed a hand over her shoulder. “He cared for those who loved him…”

Even though they had the good sense not to look at Geraldine, she felt the words addressed to her alone. Painful words accusing her of not loving her son enough.

“Yeah well, Bart’s a decent fellow.” Clement spoke up; throwing out Abe’s plan before it began. His eyes stayed on Cristina. “Even if my brother didn’t love Geri, which he does, he still wouldn’t lift a hand to her.”

The whole table fell in shocked silence.

Cristina narrowed her eyes at him. Andres looked constipated.

“Love never hurts, love endures and never fails. If your son really loved Geri,” Clement continued, their silence his platform. “He certainly didn’t treat her as you’re describing, did he?”

“Enough!” Andres slammed a hand on the table and Joselyn started to wail.

Eleazar, who had been sitting morosely between Clement and Darah, started to rock in his seat. Abe shot from his seat and pulled Eleazar into his arms.

Andres glared at Geraldine in disgust and turned to his wife, speaking in rapid Spanish.

Heart racing, Geraldine gratefully accepted her wailing child from Darah and started to rise.

“No!” Yelena put a hand to Geraldine’s, stopping her from leaving. She glared at both Andres and Cristina. “I have had enough of this, with you two!”

“Mama, no,” Geraldine pleaded with her mother. “Don’t.”

“Mija, it’s enough.” She looked back at the two. “I won’t take any more of your disrespect and shaming of my daughter. I don’t care if I stay in debt to you forever, go away and leave my children alone.”

Insulted and enraged, Andres’ face was red as was his wife’s. No longer was he the more docile of the two. He shot to his feet and barked for Cristina to stand. Then he spoke to Yelena in heated speech, and when she shot back an answer that sounded rude even to the non-native speakers, Andres’ face only got hotter and angrier.

Eleazar trembled and so did Geraldine even though Bart had pulled her into his side.

Then Yelena gestured for the scowling couple to leave. “Leave the food and get out.”

Phoebe’s eyes were wide in alarm as Andres and Cristina did just that. Then she faced Yelena. “What debt?”

Yelena wore a pained expression at the sight of her daughter and granddaughter’s tears. “My mother, Geraldine’s grandmother… incurred a great debt to Andres’ father. When she got sick, she asked for more money instead of coming to me, all because I despised my childhood with us being poor. She thought I would be ashamed of her and died with that belief, not knowing I would have to deal with it once she left.”

“Mama, please,” Geraldine pleaded, pressing her face against Joselyn’s temple.

Yelena sniffed. “Mija, I refuse to let them to hold you captive because of my mistakes.”

“Hold on a minute,” Clement spoke up, his voice strained as his face. “Don’t tell me Geri married that creep to take care of her grandmother’s debt.”

Bart breathed a curse in both women’s silence and the remorse on Yelena’s face. His hold tightened around Geraldine when she started to squirm like Joselyn.

“That’s slavery!” Darah cried out, hushing up when Joselyn started wailing again.

Phoebe scowled darkly. “I knew I hated that woman for a reason.”

“It’s my fault,” Yelena eked out, tears streaming down her face.

“No Mama…” Geraldine began weakly, attempting to shush Joselyn.

“It is, mija,” Yelena insisted firmly. “I should’ve never succumbed to that weakness of fear for money. Just because I fear debt doesn’t mean I allow them to treat you like a criminal.” She shook her head. “Your father would be so angry with me. Your grandmother too.”

When Geraldine pressed her elbow into his side, Bart relented and let her go. He watched as she stood from her chair and moved to Yelena’s side. The two women and Joselyn cried together, the Teka family left to watch them in shocked silence.

Then Bart sighed. “So that’s it then?”

All eyes looked to him, but his remained on Geraldine.

“If you don’t let them be in Jozy’s life, you owe them your grandmother’s debt?”

“Bart…” Phoebe began.

“No,” Bart said, his voice hard. “Two times, Geraldine, you failed to tell me the whole truth. How can I help you when you don’t trust me completely?”

Tears brimmed her eyes as she looked at the angry man across the table. “I’m sorry, Bart.”

“As you should be, Geraldine.” He stood from the table and stormed away. Abe nudged a quiet Eleazar to the seat beside Phoebe and hurried after his brother.

Darah shook her head, incredulous. “What a mess.”

Yelena nudged Geraldine. “Go to him.”

“Yeah Geri,” Phoebe said softly. “He deserves an explanation.”

Geraldine swallowed hard as Yelena pulled Joselyn into her arms, bouncing her on her knee to quieten her. Arms empty, Geraldine slowly stood. “I’m really sorry,” she said to the remaining siblings.

“Word of advice,” Clement answered. “If you really care about Bart, don’t lie about it.”

She nodded, heart in her throat. He was completely right; she needed to be honest with Bart and herself.

For as long as she could remember, Abe was the big brother she never had. Of course she didn’t know that at the time, but looking back, her feelings for Abe had been that of admiration for his unflinching devotion to his family. In comparison, Bart wasn’t as gentle but no one could deny he was as devoted to his family as Abe. His sarcastic humor, unbelievable charm was as frustrating as it was appealing and she found herself anticipating his crooked grin and unsettling presence.

From the beginning, Geraldine knew her heart didn’t beat the way it did around Abe, but she tried her best to ignore it. After all, he didn’t know her as she knew him.

That day he returned home after Yonas and Ester had been laid to rest, he looked through her as though he’d never heard her name before or seen her face. It pissed her off majorly but she shrugged it off. They’d only known each other in passing and Geraldine told herself she’d mistaken Bart altogether.

The phone call she made to him in the airport before leaving for Peru three years ago, she’d hoped he would say something to change her mind. It was her fault for not being honest, but she blamed him because it was easier that way. Blaming others for her plight was her way to defend herself, or so she thought.

She’d spent her whole life blaming everyone; her grandmother’s foolishness had angered her, her mother’s self-sacrificing nature had frustrated her. Even before they treated her poorly, she despised Andres and Cristina, and their spoiled son. Maybe it had translated into disobedience and disrespect in their marriage, but she knew marrying him had been a terrible idea from the beginning.

Walking out to the porch, her heart skipped a beat at the sight of the two brothers standing in the driveway, their backs facing her. Abe was turned slightly to face Bart, his brow furrowed in consternation as though he tried to get through to Bart. When he sighed and glanced over Bart’s shoulder, his expression changed.

Geraldine managed a smile. “Can I speak to him alone?”

“No you may not,” Bart answered in a cold tone. “Go inside, Geraldine.”

“Bart…” Abe nudged his arm.

“I can’t go inside until we talk,” she answered gently, determined to beat his stubbornness in this.

Now you want to talk to me,” Bart muttered derisively. “If it’s not the whole truth, Geraldine, I’m not interested.”

“It is the whole truth,” Geraldine said gravely and nodded her silent thanks as Abe moved past her to go back inside. She swallowed a breath, strengthening her resolve. Even if nothing changed between them, Bart deserved to know the whole truth. “I swear it, Bartimeus.”

He heaved a sigh and turned around, expression brooding. “Stop calling me that.”

Geraldine only smiled; even when scowling, he was a sight to behold. How long had she told herself she didn’t feel anything for him? Too long. “At least you turned around. At least you notice me when I call you that.”

“Notice you?” He arched a brow. “Geraldine, what–”

“May 9th, 1991, you remember that day?”

“Of course, high school graduation.”

“Mine too.”

He nodded, perturbed. “I know.”

“We went to the same high school, Bartimeus.” Geraldine drew in a breath and let it out slowly. “May 9th, 1991 was the day I got my first kiss. From you.”

<<Chapter 15 || Chapter 17>>

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