Posts tagged “mothers

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 45

Posted on 26/05/2015


Deidre had one last moment of rebellion as she took in the too-brilliant smile Ezekiel gifted her daughter. He started to pull back Samina’s chair, intent on sitting beside her. Topher was rounding the table to sit by Jeremiah.

“Uh, Zeke,” she spoke up, ignoring the warning in Sheena’s glare. “Why don’t you sit by your father?”

Topher stopped short. Samina’s eyes flew to his.

Jeremiah snorted, pulling his chair out. “No need for that, Dee. The kids are fine where they are.”

“Indeed,” Sheena clipped out with a stiff smile on her lips.

Deidre clenched her jaw and squinted at her friend.

“Actually, Topher,” Gabriel spoke up, gesturing to the chair on his left. “Come sit here so we can get acquainted.” He met Deidre’s gaze and offered her a half-smile.

Deidre blinked at his wary smile and though they had much to settle between them, she answered with one of hers.

Jeremiah raised a brow. “What’s with the musical chairs? He’s fine where he is.”

“Ooh, musical chairs!” Beulah cooed as Ezekiel helped her onto her chair, boosted up by a cushion or two.

The adults shared a chuckle, Topher catching the gentle smile Samina cast on Ezekiel’s little girl before he looked away. Deidre didn’t miss this and lifted her stubborn chin. “I insist. Ezekiel?”

The man noticed her raised brow and his knotted in consternation. “Uh, well…”

Karen sighed and nudged Ezekiel aside. “I’ll switch with him, no problem.”

Obadiah frowned at the now-empty seat by him. He glanced over at Topher. “Let’s sit together. You play basketball?”

Sheena pouted. Deidre preened as Ezekiel trudged to the seat across from Samina. Gabriel and Jeremiah glanced at each other and smirked.

Topher smiled as he moved to take the empty seat. “A little.”

“You look like a basketball player,” Karen said. “You’re tall enough.”

“He’s not that tall…” Adelaide muttered and all eyes turned to her. She shrugged her bony shoulders nonchalantly, although her critical gaze swept over Topher. At the mature age of nine, she could read people very well. She knew when her father was unsure or nervous. Like now, fidgeting in his seat, with his jaw clenching and unclenching. All because the tall stranger made Auntie Sammie stare like he was the only person in the room. Immediately she didn’t like this guy.

Then he turned to look at her. “You’re right, Adelaide. I’m not that tall.” Topher gave her a smile that almost blinded her.

She blinked.

He winked and she felt her cheeks warm.

Adelaide looked down. “Laide…” she mumbled shyly.

Both Ezekiel and Samina gaped as Adelaide furtively glanced at him through lowered lashes. Samina raised both brows. So Topher’s exuberant charm extended to reserved adolescents also?

“Maybe you’ll join me and a couple of guys later for a game or two?” Obadiah asked, taking a sip of his water. “We’d love to have you on our team.”

Gabriel cleared his throat before Topher could answer. “Let’s say a prayer first. Some of us are starved.”

Ezekiel sought Samina’s eyes after the quick prayer but she dutifully kept her head bowed for an extra minute. He smiled. Her devotion for God was incredible. His heart warmed with pride that she could be his one day.

Leaning into Karen, Beulah giggled as Karen wiped a smudge of mashed potatoes from her cheek. Ezekiel smiled but Karen purposely avoided looking his way.

“So, yeah you will?” Obadiah nudged Topher just as he began to eat.

Jeremiah chuckled. “Obad, let the man eat first.” He winked at Topher before cutting into his ribeye steak.

“I thought you were heading back to Canada…” Samina spoke softly, finally lifting her gaze to his.

Ezekiel frowned. Sheena and Deidre both raised brow at her forlorn tone. Gabriel leaned into his seat.

Topher paused at cutting his own steak and looked up. “We will… Any day now.”

Feeling the full attention on them, Samina lowered her eyes. “I see,” she answered stiffly and remained quiet.

Jeremiah frowned. “Nadine, how is she?” His gaze skittered over Gabriel’s face, noting the tension between his eyes.

Topher kicked a shoulder. “She’s on the mend.”

“I should visit her before you two leave.” He gave Topher a smile and returned to eat his food.

“Why Canada?” Gabriel spoke softly.

Topher took his time chewing, mulling over the question. “Nadine said my fath—Maurice worked there.” He shrugged. “I guess he prepared a place for her there.”

Gabriel nodded, his features solemn, thoughtful.

Jeremiah sighed but didn’t say anything else. No doubt the two friends thought of their dead friend and all they’d missed over the years.

Again, Topher’s gaze collided with Samina’s. She offered him a smile, albeit wobbly and unsure. This time, he just stared back instead of looking away, sorrow plain in those striking grays of his.

She swallowed hard as her heart skipped a beat. Oh how lonely he looked, even surrounded by people. How she wished to reach across the table and grab his hand and—

“So Zeke,” Deidre spoke up. “How’s house hunting?”

Samina’s face lit aflame and she broke eye contact instantly, mortified that she’d forgotten where they were.

“We saw a purple house!” Beulah piped up, flashing her toothy smile. “Daddy said we’ll buy it.”

Ezekiel smiled indulgently. “I said we might, Bumblebee…” His warm gaze skittered over Samina before returning to Deidre. “We’re working on it.”

Samina dipped her chin, training her eyes on the steak and potatoes on her plate. Her heart was hammering in her breast and she would’ve held a hand to her chest if not for the hawk-eyes trained on her.

The lunch ended with no incidents and the men stood from the table, grunting their appreciation. Topher quietly stacked his dish over Obadiah’s. Deidre brushed his hands aside. “You’re a guest. We’ll take care of it. Go watch the game with the men.”

“Nadine’ll have my hide if I let you clean up after cooking. I’ll do it.” Topher granted her a smile that warmed all the women’s hearts all over. Even Sheena couldn’t help but grin.

Obadiah wrinkled his nose but followed suit, stacking a few plates and trudging after Topher to the kitchen.

“What a nice young man,” Deidre cooed, openly admiring the broad-shouldered man standing by the kitchen sink. “He’s not afraid to do housework. He’ll make a wonderful husband.”

Sheena snorted at her pointed words and folded her arms.

The rest of the men grunted. “And what are we, chopped liver?” Jeremiah countered good-naturedly, nudging Gabriel on the shoulder.

“Maybe I’ll marry him,” Karen teased as she wiped Beulah’s cheek.

Samina frowned as a pang tingled her insides. She avoided her mother’s eyes.

“You’re too old!” Adelaide protested, the adults chuckling softly.

Sheena laughed a bit too loudly and gathered her oldest granddaughter in a hug. “I think you have competition, Karen dear.”

Karen grinned audaciously at Adelaide’s blazing eyes challenging her. “Is that so?”

“You’re too young.” Ezekiel smoothed a hand over Adelaide’s puffy hair. He glanced once at Topher and Obadiah, his brow drawing a frown that persisted long into the evening.

Hours later, Samina trudged out onto the driveway beside him, smiling as Beulah and Adelaide raced to their car. She drew in a breath as Ezekiel’s fingers sought hers. Glancing once at his shadowed features, she noticed the absent smile on his face and stopped short. “Hmm?”

Ezekiel grabbed her other hand, lacing their fingers together as he came to stand before her. “You alright, Sam?” The pad of his thumbs brushed her palms.

She avoided his perceptive gaze even under the dim light of the half moon. “Uh-hmm…” was all she could muster for even if she wasn’t okay, there was no way she could disclose the reasons for her jumbled thoughts. It wouldn’t be fair to him.

He inclined his head closer, attempting to peer at her face. She held her breath, only releasing it when he leaned away. “I would kiss you if not for the faces pressed against the front window of your house.” He chuckled as Samina jerked her face up. “Oh, who cares?” Ezekiel leaned forward and planted a peck on her lips.

Samina jerked back, more surprised than she should’ve been.

He raised a brow, smile unrepentant. “What?”

She drew in her lips as his eyes focused on them. No doubt her parents, his parents, her siblings and Topher watched them from the window. Her stomach did a somersault, stealing away her breath. Topher. What if he saw? What would he think?

Ezekiel tugged one hand free and brushed back stubborn tendrils of hair that tickled her cheek. “I hope I’m not moving too fast for you… am I?”

Samina just stared as he tucked the hair behind her ears, his fingers brushing the skin of her nape. She stiffened her shoulders. “And if you are?”

He raised a brow, fingers paused. “I am?”

She looked over her shoulder at Beulah bouncing in the backseat, a frowning Adelaide wagging her finger in protest. One corner of her lips lifted in a wry smile. “I don’t know.” Her mother questioning if she was ready to be anyone’s mother plagued her thoughts more today than before. Although she loved Ezekiel’s daughters, Samina wondered now if she really could step into the role of stepmother. Her chest tightened.

“Sam…” Ezekiel’s gentle voice drew her attention. His smile was missing. “You know I won’t force you to do anything you don’t want, right? You know I respect and love you, don’t you?”

Samina searched his face, knowing the lines of his face that she’d memorized over the years. This was the face of the man she’d loved for all her adolescent life. She’d dreamt of being his wife, the mother of his children. Could she give up this chance just because of a passing fancy?

Ezekiel squeezed her hand, a ghost of a smile twitching his lips. “You do, don’t you?”


He smirked. “Love me too, right?”

Samina bit the inside of her cheeks. She did, didn’t she? Breaking eye contact, she leaned into him and pressed her forehead against his shoulder. “Yeah…” Topher was just a passing fancy. He’d leave town and she’d never see him again, and her conflicted heart would finally settle on what it really wanted. Ezekiel. Right?

An hour after Topher left the house with Jeremiah and Sheena tailing, Samina sat up in her seat and gaped at her parents. “What did you just say?” There was no way she heard him correctly, yet her heart pounded violently.

“We’re going camping,” Gabriel repeated, not breaking eye-contact.

“With everyone.” Deidre grinned from ear-to-ear, though not as keen on adventure as she was on potential time to set her plans in motion. “Jeremiah and Sheena are fine with it and Ezekiel will take time off since he’s the CEO of his company. The girls will love it too. Finally some summer time fun.”

Karen shrugged. “It might be fun, Sammie.”

Not really. Samina shook her head adamantly, missing the conspiring smile shared between her mother and sister. “Okay, camping with the Dames family is fine… But why is Topher invited?”

“Why not?” Gabriel frowned. “This trip was planned with him in mind.”

Her heart flipped over. If her father came up with the idea, there was no way she could protest now. Samina groaned inwardly.

“Before he and Nadine leave the country,” Gabriel continued. “It’ll be good for us to connect with him. Let him know he’ll always have family here.” His Adam’s apple bobbed, his eyes glistened with unshed tears. “I’d like to do this, Samina. And I want you all to be there too.”

Obadiah smiled approvingly. “I’m with you Dad. Topher’s cool.”

“Isn’t he?” Karen grinned in reply, folding her arms. “It’s a great idea, Dad.”

Deidre rubbed her husband’s back. “I’m sure Nadine will appreciate you making amends this way… His parents would’ve too.” She met his eyes and gave him a smile.

The odd man out, Samina quietly struggled with this charitable act. How could she spend a weekend in the company of two men who made her heart and mind constantly confused and bothered? Pushing out a breath, Samina slumped into the seat.

Ezekiel was just as conflicted, except he openly rejected the idea. “I can’t afford to go camping. We’re in the middle of a negotiation deal.” He scowled, tossing a pair of rolled socks into the duffel bag. “Like whoever came up with this inconvenience?”

James smirked knowingly from where he stood, watching his best friend grow more agitated. “Inconvenient because you’ll have to trust me completely to figure things out on my own, or inconvenient ‘cos you’ll have to date Samina under watchful eyes… or is it something else?” His lips twitched as his friend’s face darkened, fully aware of the new dilemma. Another man in contest for Samina’s heart.

“All of the above.” Ezekiel forcefully shoved a pair of cargo shorts in the bag.

James sputtered in laughter and once Ezekiel hurled him a warning stare, he snuffed it out quickly. Clearing his throat, he schooled his features. “And what makes you think this guy’s worth your concern?”

Ezekiel frowned. “I don’t know… I just… do.” He rolled up a jacket and shoved it into the bag. “It isn’t just the way he looks at her that makes me mad. It’s…”

“You’re worried that your jealously is warranted.”

It was times like this that Ezekiel wished his long-term friendship with James wasn’t so strong. The man could read him too well.

“Samina loves you, Zeke. She always has. Just because some guy passes her fancy doesn’t mean her feelings for you will change.” James smirked. “You gotta give it to her, man. For how many years, she’s only ever loved you.

Ezekiel swallowed hard. He should’ve been warmed all over at the thought of Samina loving him for so long. He should’ve been strengthened with confidence that this Topher fellow wouldn’t make her waver. But he was worried. He really was.

“That’s the problem…” He met James’ concerned gaze. “I don’t think this is just some passing fancy.”

James rolled his eyes. “Then you better step up your game.” He nodded when Ezekiel raised a querying brow. “You never really had to try winning Winsome over. She only had eyes for you, lucky son-of-a-gun.” He shook his head incredulously. “I don’t know why. I’m better looking.”

“Your modesty’s pretty impressive too,” Ezekiel answered dryly.

“Isn’t it?” James flashed him a grin. “In any case. If this guy’s making Samina’s heart waver, you’d better show her why it shouldn’t.”

Ezekiel frowned. “What are you suggesting?”

James snorted. “I can’t spoon-feed you forever. Woo her.” He raised both bushy brows. “The right way, this time.”

The right way… Ezekiel bit the inside of his cheeks, brow drawing a frown in deep thought. Was there a right way to win Samina’s heart completely?

Nadine eyed Topher warily. “So you’ll go then?”

He silently traced lines on her wrinkled palms.

With his head bent, she could only stare at his stubborn curls and imagine him as a boy, asking for permission to play with friends till sundown. Nadine pushed out a sigh. “Is this really what you want?”

Topher nodded.

Even without looking at him, seeing deep into his solemn gray eyes, Nadine knew he wanted this. He was curious about his father and who knew him best were his only friends, Jeremiah and Gabriel.

“And even if you see Samina…” Nadine paused when his fingers stilled. Her heart ached, recalling the solemn way he told her about Samina loving another. “Won’t it hurt being close to her?”

He didn’t lift his head once, didn’t answer with a grunt or a sigh. And Nadine knew then why he said yes.

More than knowing about his father and mother, Topher realized that this would be the only time he’d see Samina before leaving for Canada. He’d resigned in himself, most likely after the lunch at her place, to let her go. It was in his eyes when he came home that evening; that he’d decided to give her up.

Nadine lifted her free hand to his head, the soft curls of his head tickling her palm. She didn’t need to say a word and he didn’t ask for it. This was the only way she knew to comfort him. To comfort a man who had given his heart away.

<<Chapter 44 || Chapter 46>>

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 6

Posted on 02/03/2015


Ezekiel gripped the pencil before it slid out of his fingers and looked up at his youngest daughter jumping on the mattress. “Bumble bee, stop for a moment. Papa is working.”

“Papa, it’s playtime,” Beulah gave him a toothy grin, easing off the bed. She peered over his arm at the open sketchbook on his lap. “Whatchu doing?”

Ezekiel reached down to smooth her frizzy curls. “Drawing.” He slid the charcoal pencil along the edge of the carbon paper.

“Ooh, can I help?” her pudgy fingers reached for his pencil.

“Nu-unh…” He held it away from her reach. “Where’s yours?”

Beulah wrinkled her nose and looked away, pouting in silence.

She was just like her older sister. Ezekiel smirked. “If you don’t know where it is, I can’t give you mine.”

“I lost it…” she mumbled her tone penitent. His artistic, hyperactive four-year old went through more than ten sketchbooks in the last two years, either lost or scribbled over.

With a sigh, Ezekiel flipped a page of his drafting notebook. “Last time, you hear?” he said sternly, tearing one out for her. His cellular phone rang as beaming Beulah grabbed the paper. “Go ask Laide for some colored pencils…” He lifted the phone and pulled it to his ear. “This is Zeke.”

“Hey Partner,” James replied, a little too cheerfully. “Got a minute?”

“Yeah,” He replied, distracted by Beulah folding the draft paper before scurrying out the door to find her big sister. “What’s up?”

“Yeah well…” James heaved a sigh. “Remember when I said I could handle everything while you were gone and you said you didn’t believe me?”

Ezekiel rolled his eyes, pushing the draft book off his lap to stand. “Yeah…” He braced himself for the worst as he always did when leaving James in charge of their architecture/construction firm.

“Well, you were right… There’s a problem.”

He scowled, jamming a hand to his hips. “What is it?” And at James’ hesitation, he clenched his jaw. “Spit it out, Jim.”

“Just to let you know I did all I could do to stop them. Man, they’re pulling out.”

Ezekiel frowned. “Who is?” His mind scanned the short list of clients, zeroing in on one important one and his heart sank. “Goodwin?”

“Yeah man… Look, they’re insistent. Even after I gave them the feasibility study and laid down the possilibities, they believe there’s no longer a market.”

Swallowing a groan, Ezekiel pinched the bridge of his nose. This wasn’t at all what he needed. Not now. He forced out a breath, tamping his growing frustration. “When?”

James paused again and Ezekiel’s patience withered.

“When, Jim. When did they make this decision?” Ezekiel forced through gritted teeth.

James sighed. “It was a week after you left.”

Ezekiel closed his eyes. That was over two weeks ago. “James, man. What are you doing?”

“I tried to fix it.”

“This isn’t high school where you get to procrastinate and it still works out. This is a business!”

“C’mon Zeke, it isn’t my fault they’re going back and forth about this.”

Ezekiel swallowed hard, glancing at the suitcases by the door. “You should’ve called me.”

“Yeah, I should’ve but I thought I could handle it… and you are on vacation.”

“Not anymore,” Ezekiel mumbled, moving to the closet door. “What are they doing now? How much time do we have?” he asked, pulling open the door and tugging out his clothes.

“I requested they wait until you return—Zeke, man… I know you need time with the family.”

Ezekiel heaved a sigh, tossing the clothes onto the bed by his open draft book. “I’ll take the first flight out…” He grabbed his suitcase by the door. “Tell them to expect me by tomorrow evening.”

“Sorry about this, Zeke….”

Ezekiel didn’t know what to say. Goodwin International, a green-energy firm, was one of their biggest clients, and to let them slip from his fingers without a fight wasn’t an option he could consider. “See you then,” he grunted, disconnecting the call.

“Dad…?” Adelaide’s hesitant voice interrupted the rampant thoughts building up in his head.

Ezekiel turned to the door, spotting his daughters and his mother staring at him with wide-eyed disappointment. His mouth went dry.

“Are you leaving?” Beulah asked quietly, eyes glistening with pending tears. She clutched her grandmother’s hand tightly.

He summoned a sustaining breath and managed a smile as he gestured for them to come in.

“I can’t believe this,” Sheena complained softly as she and her friend, Deidre Wells, strode down the aisle of baskets in Hobby Lobby that weekend. “He just came and now has to go back.”

Deidre grabbed a small basket and turned it in her hands. “Well, won’t they lose the opportunity if he didn’t go? It’s their biggest client, isn’t it?” She extended the box to Sheena. “What do you think?”

Sheena sighed, accepting the basket. “I know that much… but seeing the looks on those precious faces, my heart broke a little. It’s hard enough as it is missing one parent.” She turned the basket in her hand and nodded. “This will look good in the room, right?”

“I think so,” Deidre smiled as Sheena placed the basket into the pile of knick-knacks in the cart. They continued their slow stroll to the next aisle.

Sheena lifted her eyes to the display. “If only they could just transfer their office to Houston. It only makes sense for him to move down here instead of shuttling cross-country.”

“Hmm,” Deidre mumbled, scanning the boxes of pink stickers. “Have you decided on what you’ll do?”

Sheena raised a brow. “Decided about what?”

“What to do with the girls all summer. You and Jerry can’t take care of them.”

“Why in heavens not?” Sheena’s thin brows slammed together. “We raised Ezekiel on our own without any trouble.”

Deidre chuckled at Sheena’s aggravated scowl. “I’m not debating about your parenting skills, woman… I’m just saying you might need some help. You’re not as springy and young as you used to be. Beulah and Adelaide can be quite a handful.”

Sheena frowned as Deidre strolled on ahead, knowing she was right. She had to be honest that being in her mid sixties, trying to catch up with hyperactive Beulah and the mercurial Adelaide would be quite the challenge they never experienced with Ezekiel. It didn’t help that both she and Jeremiah were now forced out of retirement because of the economic struggle. Working and taking care of the two girls wouldn’t be a cake walk.

Heaving a sigh, she trudged after Deidre. “Okay then, Oprah. What should I do?”

Deidre raised a brow, maneuvering the cart toward the next aisle. “Easy. Hire a nanny.”

“A nanny.” Sheena scoffed in laughter. “Dee, you forgot the reason why I left retirement in the first place?” She folded her arms, watching Deidre peruse the colorful bed covers. “No money… remember?”

“Of course I know…” Deidre rolled her eyes. “I’m sure there are some college or high-school kids on break that can volunteer to help. Didn’t one of the Halliday girls hand out flyers for babysitting?”

“Yeah for a price…” Sheena scoffed lightly, touching a zebra-printed bedsheet. “I need someone who’ll be okay taking care of the girls for a very low price, if nothing at all.”

Deidre chuckled. “That’s… not happening, my dear.”

“I know,” Sheena sighed, tugging out the zebra print to study it carefully. “Wishful thinking though.”

“Deidre Wells?” a shrieking voice from across the store called out. Cringing, both Sheena and Deidre turned to see a woman clad in a pristine tea-green suit, shuffling towards them.

The two friends smothered their groans and plastered forced smiles on their faces as the woman with matching tea-green heels and a perfect manicure sauntered over. She flashed a bright grin at Deidre, only for it to dim at the sight of Sheena. “Oh and Sheena, how are you?”

“Fine…” Sheena forced out. “How are you, Mrs. Cassidy?”

The woman grinned openly. “Oh, it’s such a marvelous afternoon and I’m so blessed.” She clasped her hands together for good measure. “The movie night was a success. Deidre, you did a great job with the chili, dear. Spectacular taste.”

“Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it,” Deidre answered dryly.

“And you two?” Her gaze scanned the cart before them. “I see you’re doing some light shopping?”

“Hmm,” Deidre nodded with a smile. “For Sheena’s granddaughters.”

Ebony Cassidy’s smile was less genuine, eyes flickering once over Sheena before turning back to Deidre. “Oh right, of course. I hear they’re moving back home. That must make you happy.”

Sheena fought not to roll her eyes at the woman’s banal tone. “Yes, by the end of the summer.” She ignored the haughty lift of Ebony’s thin brow.

“Oh…” Then Ebony’s brow furrowed slightly. “Deidre dear, I’m so sorry about poor Samina getting laid off. How is she holding up?”

Both friends exchanged surprised looks, Deidre jerking her stare to Ebony. “What are you talking about?” she managed calmly,though her whole body trembled at the thought of her eldest daughter’s face keeping secrets from her. She felt Sheena’s hand on her shoulder, silently calming her.

“Oh my!” Ebony blinked in surprise and placed a manicured hand to her bosom. “I can’t believe you had no idea… Wasn’t poor Samina an art teacher at the school there?”

“And so?” Deidre clenched her jaw at the haughty way she articulated the word ‘art’.

“Oh dear!” Ebony lifted her hand to her lips pursed in a perfect O. “Maybe it’s not my place to tell you but poor Samina was laid off from the school. About two weeks ago. My daughter’s best friend Gail, who is a secretary in administration there, mentioned it…”

Intentionally or not, Deidre tuned out the woman’s growing chatter. Her gaze glancing past Ebony’s head at the exit, suddenly wanting to hightail out of there. She pictured Samina’s face, analyzing those drawn-out smiles, nervous laughter, and evasive glances whenever she asked about work. Her heart twisted painfully. Samina, how could you?!”

A warm hand on her arm tugged her out of her reverie. Deidre glanced over to Sheena’s worried stare. Heaving a sigh, she glanced around, noticing now that Ebony was gone. She licked her dry lips. “Where is that hateful woman?”

“I chased her off,” Sheena answered quietly, eyes steady on her face. “Are you okay?”

Deidre shook her head. “No, I’m not. I can’t believe…”

“I know the feeling, girl… Hang in there.” Sheena led the way to the cashier station, their shopping trip cut short. There was lots to be done, with both their children surprising them so unexpectedly.

<<Chapter 5 || Chapter 7>>


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