Posts tagged “pain

Homecoming, Chapter 14

Posted on 04/02/2016

One glance at the rear-view mirror and Bart smirked. Pulling up to a stop in front of a traffic light, Bart leaned to the right. “So that’s where you get your bad habit of staring–” he grunted as Geraldine jabbed his side with her elbow. Righting in his seat, he glanced back at the couple staring at them openly. “So how was your trip?” he asked in the best Spanish he could.

The couple didn’t answer at first and Bart glanced once at Geraldine who merely shrugged at him. Then the man cleared his throat. “It was fine,” he said stiffly.

Bart nodded, easing off the brake as the traffic light changed. “You picked a good time to come to Houston.” He thanked himself for sticking out Spanish in college. “The weather is agreeable for you?”

Geraldine then turned and quickly translated; apparently he’d slept through an important Spanish lesson.

The man grunted his reply and nodded. “Yes.”

Bart watched then as the man shifted his attention to the window, closing all conversation. His wife though continued staring. Holding back a smile, Bart reached with his right hand and took Geraldine’s in his. He didn’t miss the intake of breath from Geraldine and squeezed her hand, silently encouraging her to relax.

Except when her other hand slid over his arm, Bart had to tell himself the same words and gripped the steering wheel with his other hand. He glanced her way and caught the impish smile on her face.

Was Geraldine merely cooperating with his plan or was she playing around?

He smirked and glanced once at the rear-view mirror. “My fiancée would not stop talking about you. She’s happy to see you both.”

Geraldine pinched his arm and he fought a laugh.

“Yes,” grunted Geraldine’s father in law.

Then the woman started speaking in rapid Spanish, most of it Bart didn’t understand.

Bart glanced at the mirror, the look of disdain on her shadowed face unmistakable. His smile faded and he noticed that Geraldine’s hold on his arm loosened. He had to grab her hand before she pulled away. “What did she say?” he inquired firmly.

Geraldine looked down at their joined hands and sighed. “That I didn’t need to bring you since you’re a stranger to them,” she mumbled this like a timid child and not a grown woman with a child of her own.

Bart clenched his teeth; it was clear to him how belittled Geraldine felt in her in-laws’ presence. He wouldn’t stand for it any longer. “Why wouldn’t I come?” he spoke in his awkward Spanish. “I would like to meet and thank the people who made my fiancée’s stay in Peru a memorable one.”

The car was silent, his words clear enough for everyone to understand what Bart was saying. The man nudged his furious wife and she looked away, facing the window.

Geraldine squeezed his hand as though in silent gratitude and he relented to release her hand. The trip to Geraldine’s place was driven in total silence, Bart contemplating how to handle his fiancée’s impossible in-laws and Geraldine struggling to calm her racing heart.

Once he pulled into the driveway, Geraldine turned to tell him to go on ahead but Bart switched off the engine and stepped out of the car. She bit her bottom lip as he closed the door and walked around to the back of the car.

She felt the weight of her mother-in-law’s glare and forced a smile before facing her.

Bart pulled the big suitcases, frowning. He’d assumed the in-laws would be staying just a week or so, but the weight of each box said differently. He handed one of the suitcases to Geraldine’s father-in-law, the man wiry and gray-haired.

The man nodded and reached for the other. “Thank you.”

“You can speak comfortably with me,” Bart assured him in the man’s native tongue.

“Your Spanish no best,” he answered in English.

Neither is your English, Bart wanted to say but smiled anyway. “Geraldine’s teaching me.”

The man’s smirk eased away, his expression now thoughtful. Then the doors slammed shut and he turned to his stern-faced wife and a contrite-looking Geraldine strolling to his side.

Bart’s brow furrowed at Geraldine, wondering what had caused her to look so–his eyes skittered to the older woman and his jaw clenched. No doubt the woman must’ve reprimanded Geraldine in his absence. He cleared his throat. “I’ll be over for dinner tomorrow, Geri…”

She looked up. “W-why?”

He refrained from rolling his eyes. “Why what, love?”

Her eyes widened and she blinked out of it. “Uh yes, dinner.” She turned to her in-laws who frowned in confusion at the awkward exchange. “Barty eats dinner with us sometimes.”

“Doesn’t he have his own house?” the scowling woman asked, not bothering to hide her disdain.

Bart cleared his throat to keep from laughing. “I eat dinner with my family every night, but since you are visiting my love, I should spend as much time with you while you’re here.”

He didn’t miss the stiffening of the woman’s shoulders and smiled at her husband instead. “Let me help you take—”

“It’s okay,” Geraldine spoke up. “We can handle it.”

Her tone brooked no argument and Bart decided not to push it. Her father-in-law grabbed the suitcase before he could say a word, and then led his wife up the trail to the front door.

“I’ll come to you in a minute,” she said over her shoulder, eyes on Bart. “What are you doing?” she muttered for his ears only.

Bart looked over her shoulder, watching as they stalled by the door, making no attempt to ring the doorbell. He swung his gaze back to Geraldine. “What do you mean?”

“What happened to no overkill? What’s with you?”

He sighed and reached for her arm. “I know you don’t want me to leave but I gotta go now.”

Geraldine’s scowl darkened. “Bartimeus.”

He smiled, tugging her close. “I’m gonna kiss you.”

“Bart–” the rest of her protests died in her throat when Bart leaned down and placed a feather-light kiss on her cheekbone. The soft touch of his lips against her skin invoked heat on her face and she forgot herself for a moment, breathing in his musky cologne.

Then he lifted his head and snuck a glance over her shoulder. He chuckled. “Perfect.”

She blinked out of the trance, heart racing a mile a minute. “Huh?”

Bart lifted a hand to rub her cheek. “Your mother-in-law clearly resents you for moving on from her son. She expected you to remain in mourning and sadness forever, didn’t she?”

Her cheeks tingled, realizing he’d done it to invoke a reaction from her in-laws and not because he was sincere. She shook out of the daze and nodded, taking a step back. “Seems that way,” she answered, voice unsteady.

“What are you doing?”

Geraldine tugged her arm free and placed it behind her back. “I’m saying goodnight.”

His lips curved in a smile. “I’d rather a different sort of goodbye, love.”

She scowled. “Stop that.”

“Don’t call me Barty again.”

Her brows lifted. “That’s why you’re acting out? Fine, I won’t call you Barty again.”

Bart smirked. “Think what you want, Geraldine. Goodnight.” He then turned away.

Geraldine wrapped her arms around her, watching his car ease out of the driveway and down the street. Whether it was play or not, she missed him already.

“Geraldine!” her mother-in-law barked behind her.

She snapped to attention and hurried to usher her in-laws into the house.

Bart didn’t have much time to dwell on what had taken place in Geraldine’s driveway when he got back to the house and heard the unmistakable sounds of Eleazar wailing.

He pushed open the front door and found his siblings crowded around Abe holding a writhing and screaming Eleazar.

“That wicked woman,” Clement growled, eyes flashing with rage.

Darah stood watching her youngest brother, tears streaming down her face. Phoebe stood with her arms wrapped around Darah, her eyes on her husband trying to cradle Eleazar.

For the first time in years, Eleazar was fighting demons of the past, a past he had no responsibility over; all because of his mother and grandmother’s selfishness. Bart muttered a curse and dragged his hands over his face. It was going to be a long night.

<<Chapter 13 || Chapter 15>>

Homecoming, Chapter 8

Posted on 05/01/2016

Bart frowned after Geraldine had paused to take a breath. “Let me get this straight… you told your in-laws that I’d asked to marry you?”

Geraldine didn’t say a word, wringing her hands in her lap.

He scoffed at her silence. “So what you told me was a lie?”

“It wasn’t a lie,” Phoebe inserted. “She just didn’t tell you the whole story.”

He spared Phoebe an exasperated look. “Omission is still lying. You say that all the time.”

She rolled her eyes. “Since when do you listen to me?”

Bart turned back to Geraldine. “Did it ever cross your mind that I’d want a say in all of this? That I’d want to pick the woman I want to marry? Who are you to decide that for me?”

Geraldine bit her lip. Phoebe sighed heavily. “Okay, enough. You can see she’s regretting it all but that’s not what is important. Are you gonna help us or not?”

“Us?” Bart echoed. “Since when did this become your problem?” At her pointed silence, he exhaled a harsh breath and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“You’re missing the point, Bart,” Phoebe spoke again. “It’s not like you’ll be getting married for real. All you have to do is pretend for a few weeks while her in-laws are visiting.”

Bart glanced once at Geraldine before looking to his sister-in-law. “Are you serious?”

Phoebe didn’t blink. “Yes.”

He shook his head incredulously. “This isn’t a game or some dumb romance movie, Phoebe. I refuse to lie about a relationship.”

“Even if you could save a family from being separated?” She arched a pointed brow, reminding him of the battle they’d faced through years ago to keep their family together.

His gaze drifted to Geraldine, struck by the tears that now streamed her face. His chest tightened at the sight and he wanted to go to her, wrap his arms around her.

“If her in-laws find any reasonable cause why Geri’s an unfit mother—”

“She’s a good mother. No one should doubt that,” Bart inserted firmly, his pulse jumping when Geri lifted tearful eyes to his face. He could hear his heartbeat pounding in his ears.

“We know that,” Phoebe continued, her voice soft. “But it’s their dead son’s word against Geri’s.”

His jaw clenched tight, overwhelmed with anger and frustration. “Why didn’t you just tell me that from the beginning?” he demanded of Geraldine, annoyed that she didn’t trust him in the first place. “Why lie in the first place?”

“Now Bart—” Phoebe paused when Geraldine raised a hand to stop her.

Geraldine sniffed back the tears. “Would it have made your decision easier or harder to make?”

His expression darkened. “That was my decision to make, not yours.”

“Did you come over to accept my proposal?” she asked, voice strangely clear.

Convicted, Bart swallowed.

“Didn’t think so.” Geraldine heaved a deep sigh. “This is my fault. I should’ve known better than to ask you.”

He frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

She regarded him warily. “You never liked dealing with hard stuff. It’s not your style.”

He scowled. “Excuse me?”

“Three years ago, you wanted nothing more than to sell your parents’ house and go back to your easy, convenient existence in California. If Abe hadn’t insisted on you staying—”

“Stop it Geri,” Phoebe said firmly. “That’s uncalled for.”

“Isn’t it true?!” Geraldine demanded, eyes blazing.  “Tell me, if Abe hadn’t asked him to stay and help, would he be here?”

“Shut your mouth.” Bart stood, his teeth clenched, anger and indignation stirring within him. “You don’t know a thing about me.”

Fear flickered in her gaze but Geraldine averted her gaze and pushed herself to stand. “You’re right, I don’t know you. It seems I made a mistake getting you two involved in my problems.” She turned to Phoebe. “I should do this on my own.”

Standing, Phoebe frowned in concern. “Geri…”

“Thanks for offering to help, but this is something I need to do on my own.” Geraldine braved a smile. “She’s my daughter, and this is my fight. I have to face them on my own.”

Bart snorted in derision. “If you were gonna come to that conclusion, why make a fuss in the first place?”

“Okay, that’s it,” Phoebe grabbed Bart’s arm. She pushed him around the sofa and toward the front door. “Let’s go.”

Geraldine bit the inside of her cheeks, struggling to maintain a facade of bravery. On cue, the sound of a baby crying behind closed doors filled the silence. Grateful for the sound, Geraldine turned her back just as a lone tear slid down her cheeks.

Bart glared at Geraldine’s back as Phoebe shoved him out the door. He scowled when Phoebe smacked his arm. “What was that for?”

She glowered up at him. “Must you be such a jerk?!”

He squinted. “I’m the jerk when she’s the one—”

“She’s desperate, Bart!” Phoebe’s eyes were blazing with indignation. “She’ll lose the only person that matters to her. Can’t you see that?” She turned away in disgust and stormed down the driveway to her car, leaving Bart behind.

By the time he made it to work, Bart could barely concentrate on anything but Geraldine. Now that he knew the whole story, he kept replaying it in his head, growing all the more angry.

Barely coming to terms with her new status as a widow and soon-to-be mother, Geraldine received a divorce notice filed by her husband two months before his death, him claiming that Geraldine was lazy, disrespectful and could not properly fulfill her duties as a wife. Consequently, his parents demanded that she surrender her rights as Jozy’s guardian.

He clenched his jaw. The sorry excuse of a man dragged her name through the mud while abusing her in secret.

Bart frowned. But was it really in secret or did his parents choose to ignore their son’s monstrous behavior toward another human being?

A knock on his door removed him from his thoughts. He turned towards the door that swung open and frowned at the receptionist popped her head in.

With her managing five other real-estate agents in the office, the receptionist rarely stepped away from her desk except if… He glanced once at his desk phone and grimaced at the flashing light of missed calls.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, contrite.

She gave him a patient smile. “Your fiancée is here.”

Automatically he imagined Geraldine’s face and sat up. “What?”

“Kasey?” she raised both brows at him.

The name drew a frown on his face. “She’s here?”

“Yup. Should I let her in?”

The word ‘no’ was on the tip of his tongue but Bart nodded instead.

Summoned by the receptionist, Kasey sauntered into the office with a bright smile, dressed to the nines and fumigating his office with her expensive perfume. When he silently gestured for her to be seated, her smile dimmed slightly.

“You wanted to see me?” Bart asked nonchalantly, arms folded over his chest.

She pouted her rouge lips. “I was under the impression you would’ve missed me.”

He arched a brow. “Is that so?”

She tilted her head, confused. “You… don’t?”

Bart glanced down at the papers on his desk and frowned. Most of the day was spent thinking about Geraldine; he didn’t get any work done.

“Barty?”

“It’s Bart.”

“Pardon?”

He looked up. “It’s Bart. Not Barty.”

A scowl wrinkled her features. “You certainly didn’t have a problem before.”

“What are you doing here, Kasey?”

Her features softened as she stuck out her bottom lip. “Against my better judgment, I waited thinking you just needed time.”

“Needed time for what?”

She paused, taken aback. He’d always deferred to her, apologized first, and appeased her when she was upset. Why wasn’t he trying to appease her now? “What’s going on here?”

“You tell me.”

She blinked rapidly, summoning tears on cue.

Bart rolled his eyes. “Kasey, I have work to finish, so if–”

She sniffed, eyes swimming with unscheduled tears. Crocodile tears. “Why are you doing this?”

“Doing what? We broke up, didn’t we?”

Her eyes widened. “I didn’t think you were serious. You—”

“I meant it, Kasey. This,” Bart waved his hands between them. “It won’t work.”

“B-But…”

“Besides,” He bent to gather the papers on his desk. “I’m engaged.”

“… you’re what?”

Bart met her gaze and read the disbelief plain in her tear-filled eyes. Then her doll-like features hardened and he braced himself.

“You’re kidding me,” she gritted through clenched white teeth. “This is some sick joke, right?”

He sighed, awaiting the barrage of insults that were sure to follow.

“You certainly didn’t waste any time, did you?” Kasey continued, eyes flashing with rage. “Or was she some side chick you fell back on after I broke up with you?”

He should’ve stayed quiet, accepted the blame for being a cad. Instead, Bart gave vocals to the petty words in his mind. “Don’t misunderstand. I broke it off, Kasey. Not you.”

The storm raged in her eyes.”You self-righteous scumbag! How dare you do this to me?!” She grabbed the first heavy object on his desk and hurled it at him.

Geraldine squinted at the document on the computer; frantically searching for loopholes or anything else that could offer some hope. Now resolved to fight alone for custody with her vengeful in-laws, Geraldine desperately needed a solution. There wasn’t much time left.

“Found anything yet?” her mother inquired over her shoulder.

Geraldine shook her head and blinked quickly to focus. Pages of online documents about custody of children held little information relevant to her circumstance. Her in-laws chose to believe the lies of a dead man all because he was their son. She was the villain even though she had suffered under their son’s relentless abuse.

Her mother placed a hand on her shoulder. “I’m praying. There will be an answer soon.”

Geraldine sighed. “Let’s just hope it’s an answer we want this time.”

Silence responded to her bitter tone but Geraldine refused to apologize. If God really cared, she wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.

“I’ll go check on Jozy.” Her mother squeezed her shoulder before stepping away.

Grunting her response, Geraldine closed yet another document. The throbbing in her temple intensified as the day turned to night and she groaned inwardly.

The doorbell rang, and rang again in quick succession.

Worried the obnoxious sound would wake Joselyn, Geraldine stood quickly rushed to the door. Seeing Bart’s profile in the peephole, Geraldine scowled.

He rang the bell again and she yanked the door open.

“Stop that—!” she hissed sharply when he turned his full face, revealing a bandaid above his left brow. Alarm chased away resentment. She grabbed his arm and pulled him inside. “What happened to you?”

“Accident,” he answered, his hand covering hers on his arm.

His touch gave her pause and she looked up at him. There was no trace of annoyance in his stare.

Then he smiled gently. “Alright Geraldine, let’s get married.”

<<Chapter 7 || Chapter 9>>

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