Posts tagged “panic

Lighthouse, Chapter 23

Posted on 24/08/2016

J.R. gritted his teeth as Darah’s monotonous voice message played for the fifth time, this time he didn’t wait and disconnected the call. Then he blew out a breath.

“What, she’s not answering?”

Glancing once at Hana beside him, J.R. shook his head and started re-dialing.

Bhaiyaa, I really don’t think harassing—”

“I’ll be back,” he answered curtly and stood. Putting the phone to his ear, J.R. exited the room without hearing her response.

Though acutely aware of his brusque attitude with Hana, his growing frustration with Darah’s evasiveness left no room for patience. Three days had passed since he’d last seen Darah; terrified and trembling in front of his father’s hospital room. And since not even Clement was gracious enough to tell him what happened, he had to play phone tag until someone picked up—

“Teka House, may I know who’s speaking?”

J.R.’s face lit up at the sound of Abe and Phoebe’s eldest child. “Isaac, hey. It’s Uncle J.R.”

When there was a pause on the other line, J.R.’s brow furrowed. “Hello?”

“Uh, yeah… Uncle J.R., hello.”

Pausing, J.R. imagined what or who could cause awkwardness in his reply. “She’s there, isn’t she?”

Isaac peeked once at Darah gesturing wildly for him to keep her presence unknown. His eleven-year-old mind didn’t understand why telling a lie was right, no matter how many times his aunty reassured him. More troubling was why she didn’t want to talk to Uncle J.R. “Um….”

J.R. would’ve laughed if he wasn’t ridden with anxiety. This woman would be the death of him; that much was for sure. Dragging a hand over his face, he exhaled a breath. “Okay, don’t say anything but yes or no. Is your aunt sitting next to you right now?”

Again, Isaac peered over at his aunt who shook her head as though reading his mind. He worried his bottom lip, very much like his mother did when unsure. “Yes.”

“Is she okay?”

The pre-teen arched a brow when his aunty kept gesticulating wildly, as if he contemplated whether or not she was in her right mind. He sighed again and nodded. “Yes.”

J.R. breathed out a sigh of relief. “Okay, good… That’s good.”

“What’s he saying?” she mouthed to her nephew who merely shrugged, his brow knotted in confusion.

Deciding it was much easier hiding out in the room than making the kids lie on her behalf, she headed for the stairs. Upon descent, her legs were like jelly and tingled with every step. She had to hold the banister to guide her. Topping the last step, she heard Phoebe clucking her tongue in disapproval by Eli’s bedroom door.

“When will you stop playing phone tag with this poor man?” Phoebe came to stand before her, arms folded. “And it’s not cool to have the kids do your dirty work, Darah.”

“If he’d stop calling, I won’t need to do that.” She moved around her to enter the room. “I don’t have anything to say to him.”

“Yeah right. Weren’t you the one just begging Clement to take you to him? I don’t buy it.” Phoebe perched beside her. “What happened at the hospital?”

“I don’t have anything to say about that either.” She quickly turned away so her sister-in-law couldn’t read her face. The tingling sensation still remained, traveling up her legs to her hips. Instinctively, she wrapped a hand over her stomach and closed her eyes.

“In any case,” Phoebe spoke after a moment of silence. “The next time he calls my phone I’ll answer. If you won’t give me a reason for why we have to avoid him, I’ll have to do what is necessary.”

“Please don’t meddle.” Darah winced as the tingle morphed into a piercing pain across her stomach. She pressed fingers against her lower abdomen.

Phoebe scoffed. “When you’ve got the kids involved, how could I not?”

Darah didn’t respond at first, her body taut until the wave of pain eased off. She drew in a breath and released it, grateful for the reprieve. The painful pangs only came once in a while, and could easily be solved by eating. Realizing both breakfast and lunch had been forgotten today, she pushed herself up on her elbow. “Hey, is there any food?”

“So now you’re ready to eat without me begging?”

She ignored the derisive tone, well aware of the fact that Phoebe almost force-fed her for three straight days. She rolled her eyes. “My appetite is back. Look if there’s nothing, I’ll go get it myself.”

Phoebe smirked. “Okay then. What are you craving?”

As another twinge of pain squeezed her stomach, she stifled a grimace. The urgency to eat something couldn’t wait for Phoebe’s meticulous cooking. “Actually, never mind. I need some fresh air, so I’ll get something from the store.”

“Hope not fast food,” Phoebe said, following her out the door. “You’ve got to be careful about greasy stuff now, okay?”

“Got it,” Darah answered without exasperation, slightly distracted by the tingling in her stomach. Reaching the bottom of the step, she passed Isaac still on the phone. “Hang up the phone, Isaac!” she called over her shoulder, grabbing the car keys from the console table on her way to the door.

“Where’s she going?” Isaac asked his mother who placed a hand over his shoulder. He gladly relinquished the phone to her when she held out a hand and hurried back upstairs to play video games before it was time for homework.

“Hey J.R.,” Phoebe spoke into the phone, watching from the window as Darah climbed down the porch steps to the driveway. “How are you?”

Grimacing fully now, she rubbed her belly and walked up to the minivan. “What’s wrong, baby? I’m about to feed you so—”


At the familiar voice, her face darkened and she turned to see Tess standing in the driveway.

With a sheepish expression, Tess waved. “Hey.”

Darah’s scowl darkened and she folded her arms across her chest. “What do you want? I’m busy.”

Her smile slipped off her face and Tess lowered her hand, tucking it behind her. “Can we talk?”

With the tingling in her legs resuming, Darah readied herself to reject the request. She didn’t have time for unpleasant chats with traitor ex-best friends.

“Maybe a café somewhere near. It’s on me.” Her expression turned plaintive. “Please?”

On cue, Darah’s stomach growled and Tess’s eyes dropped to it. Darah pursed her lips in thought. As much as she didn’t want to talk with Tess, it would be foolish of her to pass up free food. She cleared her throat and tilted her chin as haughtily as she could. “Where to?”

A ghost of a smile twitched Tess’s lips but faded quickly. “Uh, how about the Thai café you like, the one across the library?”

Apparently the baby wanted Thai food as much as she did, her stomach twisting and turning violently and loudly too. She cleared her throat to mask the gurgling sounds and shrugged. “I guess.”

“Uh, okay…” Tess paused, noting Darah’s legs trembled visibly. “Are you okay?”

“Yup.” Darah placed hands on her hips, adopting a casual air in spite of her wobbly legs. “Go ahead, I’ll meet you there.”

“You sure? We could drive together if—”

“That won’t be happening.” She threw Tess a withering look that brooked no argument. “Go on ahead.”

Tess nodded, her eyes volleying between Darah’s flat stomach and face. “Guess I’ll see you there then.”

“Right,” Darah answered curtly, keeping her face void of emotion until Tess finally turned away. Leaning back against the car door, she glared at the car blocking her passage. “Annoying wench.”

Her suspicion was confirmed moments later when Darah glanced at the rearview mirror and spotted Tess’ car trailing hers. In a moment of pettiness that would disapprove Phoebe, Darah suddenly braked hard and despite the niggling ache in her stomach, she grinned when brakes screeched loud behind her.

Then a car bleated impatiently behind Tess’s car and Darah’s smile disappeared. She immediately stepped off the brakes, deciding to hear Tess once she’d filled her restless belly.

Minutes later with an unsettled stomach, Darah wished she’d ignored Tess altogether. Even with an appealing plate of pad Thai before her, the smell of curry and peanut made her mouth water for a different reason. She pushed the nausea down and nudged the plate away.

“Don’t you have anything to ask me?” Tess took a sip of her water before reaching for her spoon. “I mean, I’m sure you have plenty questions about Jeremy and I.”

Darah dragged her eyes to the middle of Tess’s forehead. “I actually don’t.”

Tess didn’t look convinced. “You seriously don’t want to know how it happened?”

“Not really. Look, I’m not in the mood for small talk if that’s why you lured me here.”

Tess frowned at Darah’s untouched plate. “Isn’t Pad Thai your favorite, or do you want something else?” She turned her head and signaled for the waiter.

“Don’t bother with the fake courtesy either,” Darah replied, rubbing the tension in her stomach. “And don’t look at me like that. We have no reason to sit together and eat like we’re friends or something.”

One brow arched, Tess snorted. Then she lowered her gaze to her green curry dish and giggled.

Darah scowled. “And what’s so funny?”

“Everything…” Tess placed her fork down and folded her arms across her chest. She looked up at Darah, eyes dancing with mocking laughter. “It still boggles my mind how we ended up here, like this.”

If they weren’t in a public place, Darah would’ve tossed her cold water in her face. Instead, she bunched her free hand into a fist under the table.

“All these years I thought we’d be friends forever,” Tess continued, leaning back in her chair. “That we’d each get married to the loves of our lives, have children who’d be friends and we’d grow old together, sharing memories…”

“What nonsense. How could you even dream that up when you’d so easily betray my trust in you?” Just the mention of the betrayal made her stomach turn.

The wistful smile on Tess’s face disappeared. “I was only relevant when you needed to vent to someone, or needed advice that you didn’t want your family knowing about. Admit it Darah, you used me.”

Darah rolled her eyes. “How typical of you, acting like the victim.”

Tess gaped at her. “I’m the victim when you’re the one always mentioning your hard-knock life with meddlesome brothers and no parents—?”

“Shut your mouth!” she snapped angrily. “Shut your dirty mouth, you backstabber.”

“Oh, calm down…” Tess paused when the waiter suddenly appeared at their table, refilling their water glasses. She sighed in exasperation. “Could you come back later?”

“No actually, please pack this up for me,” Darah said, nudging the plate aside.

“Sure thing,” the waiter answered, reaching for the plate. “Will this be on the same order or—”

“Separate checks please!” Tess answered.

Darah laughed incredulously, unfazed. “Someone’s petty.”

“… I’ll be right back,” the waiter said awkwardly and hurried away.

“How funny, I thought you agreed to foot the bill.”

“I changed my mind.” The gleam in Tess’s eyes made Darah bristle. “Since I only pay for my friends.”

“Of course you—” Darah gasped inwardly as a sharper pain sluiced through her stomach, down to the spot between her legs. The hand on her belly clenched her shirt, and she pressed the heels of her feet against the chair legs. It took longer than a second to catch her breath.

“Well, I’ll just tell you that it was an honest mistake,” Tess sniffed, picking at invisible dust on her shoulder. “I certainly wasn’t expecting to fall for anyone while in grad school, but it happened. We saw each other and hit it off. I only found out he was with you after I saw a picture of you together. It would’ve been good if you’d told me about him beforehand.”

Darah ignored her, the sudden urge to use the toilet compelling her to leave the table. Plus, she wasn’t in the mood to hear any lame excuses for Tess’s betrayal. Except that her feet tingled, and she imagined herself falling on her face in front of Tess.

Then the waiter returned with the takeout box, and Tess turned to ask him about ordering another dish for her fiancé.

Using this chance to escape, Darah pressed her palms against the arms of the chair and pushed to stand. Suddenly, warm liquid gushed down her leg. Freezing to a stop, Darah’s eyes widened in astonishment. Then dread. Her heart started to race in panic as she looked down at her light-colored joggers.

Tess looked at Darah suspended between standing and sitting, noting her wide-eyed expression. “What’s the matter with you?”

Petrified, Darah dropped to her seat, her tingling legs and the spinning room knocking her off balance.

“Oh my God, is she bleeding?” someone behind her whispered, confirming what she’d seen.

“Is she okay?” another called out to their table.

“Darah!” Tess’ voice rang loud in echoes. She quickly pushed away from the table to reach for Darah whose body drooped forward.

The sounds of panicked voices drowned the violent thumping of her pulse. Once the waiter caught her head from landing in the plate of warm pad Thai, everything faded to black.

<<Chapter 22 || Chapter 24>>

Homecoming, Chapter 17

Posted on 16/02/2016

Bart blinked. “Huh?”

Geraldine smiled, expecting his blank stare. “I sat in the row behind you, two chairs to your right. The principal congratulated us graduating and everyone tossed their hats in the air. I tapped your shoulder and when you turned around, I kissed you.”

His eyes grew wide. “Huh?!”

She couldn’t help the snicker, his expression priceless. “That’s exactly what you said afterwards. Huh.”

Bart shook his head. “Did I know you? Why would I kiss you–I mean, not that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. We kiss pretty well–” he paused when she put up a hand.

“From the scowl on your face, you didn’t like it. And it looked like you were getting ready to let me have it when your friend grabbed your attention. So I escaped.” Her expression turned wry. “Good thing you didn’t remember, although it stung a little when you acted like you didn’t know me.”

“I don’t remember any of this…” Bart shook his head in disbelief. He could hardly forget her once she left three years ago.

“Well I didn’t look like this back then,” she said in chagrin. “I looked a hot mess.”

He stared at her quizzically.

“You really don’t remember me, do you?” Geraldine rolled her eyes. “Coke-bottle glasses, a bit on the thick-side, frizzy-haired.”

He shook his head. “Sorry. I can’t…”

“It’s fine,” she said, waving it aside. “I did it as a dare anyway so–”


Geraldine eyed him warily. “So what? It’s not like you remember it.”

He scowled. “You kissed me as a dare? What kind of foolishness–”

“Bartimeus!” Geraldine grabbed his hands. “Let me finish?”

Bart frowned but nodded begrudgingly, wary of any more secrets she’d kept from him.

She sighed. “When I called you from the airport three years ago, I had one thing in mind…”

He snorted. “Yeah, to find out about Abe’s relationship status.”

“Well, that too.” She squeezed his hands when he scowled. “But mostly because I wanted to know if you’d miss me as much as I would miss you.”

Bart blinked again, a furrow in his brow. “Huh?”

“Now who sounds like Darah?”

“You missed me?”

“So much…” She turned their joined hands and laced their fingers. She wasn’t sure if the sharp intake of breath was hers or his.


The adorable squeak in his voice made her smile. “The more we spent together, the more I realized that I couldn’t deny how attracted I was to you–physically, emotionally…”

Bart nudged her hand, making her look up at him. “Give me the real reason you moved to Peru, Geraldine. You didn’t know about your grandmother’s debt then, but you chose to put your house for rent and move away. Why?”

A shiver rolled down her spine, shame tightening her throat. “I didn’t think there was anything else left for me here… and I thought you didn’t care enough for me to stay.”

“Of course I cared,” Bart barked impatiently. “It drove me crazy how you looked at Abe like you were in love with him. I… what’s so funny?” He frowned, tugging at her hands.

“We are.” She leaned forward, resting her forehead on his shoulder. “You thought I was in love with Abe, and I thought you could care less about me.”

Bart shook his head, annoyed that he’d wasted enough time. If he’d been honest from the start, Geraldine would have never traveled so far away and gotten into this mess. He tugged his hand free and pulled her into his arms.

Geraldine sighed against his chest and stayed there. Until he heard her sniff.

He tightened his hold on her, refusing to let go. Not anymore. “We’ll figure it out, Geraldine.”

She started to lean back to look at him but he kept her close. Sighing, she rested her cheek against his chest. “I don’t want to burden you.”

“Shush. The moment you first called me Bartimeus, you already burdened me.”

She choked a laugh. “Why does it bother you so much?”

He sighed, stroking her back. “Because the only other person that called me that was my mom, when I was in trouble. Hearing it from a stranger–”

“Gee, thanks.”

Bart chuckled and pressed a kiss on her temple, ignoring the shiver of her body against his. “I meant hearing you use it that first time made me notice you. That much is certain.”

She didn’t say a word but Bart had a feeling she was pleased with his reasoning. Good. He didn’t want her crying ever again. He kissed her temple again. “We’ll figure it out, Geraldine.”

Her hands wrapped around his waist and held on tight. “I trust you.”

And those three words, more than her touch, stirred him alive. He leaned away and lifted a hand to cup her chin. Her brown eyes searched his, and he could see that she truly did trust him. Strengthened and encouraged by her confidence in him, Bart lowered his head to kiss her.

“You better get inside before the neighbors start cheering,” Clement called out from the front porch. The couple broke apart and met Clement’s pointed expression. He smirked. “Abe’s got an idea.”

Bart rolled his eyes, letting Geraldine tug him toward the steps. “Better than the last one?”

“Which one?” Clement inquired, unaware he’d foiled Abe’s first plan earlier that day, and led the way into the Teka home to brainstorm their next move.

But first, it was dinner. Geraldine sat; a bundle of nerves and holding her breath as everyone took a bite of the meal she’d insisted preparing for the family. Their disbelief in her newly-acquired ability to cook chafed more than she cared to admit and spurred her on to prove them wrong. Ignoring Phoebe’s amused smile and everyone else’s wary stares, she made them sit in the living room until she was done cooking.

Now she watched Bart’s face as he chewed; like Darah, his expressions often spoke louder than words.

“This is good, Geri,” Clement said with transparent surprise in his voice.

The others nodded their approval, choosing to eat instead of speak.

She didn’t notice either way, waiting for Bart to look at her. Then he looked up and winked with a dimpled smile. Heat flooded her cheeks and she sat back in the chair, satisfied with his silent praise.

“Yummy,” Eleazar piped in, taking another bite of the enchilada.

Geraldine’s smile widened. “Told you I could cook.”

“Maybe once you and Bart get together, you can live here and take over my kitchen duty,” Darah answered, licking her fingers. Unlike her sister-in-law, she didn’t like being assigned to cook.

Bart and Geraldine eyed each other furtively and quickly looked away. Observant as ever, Clement smirked. “You are getting married, aren’t you?”

“Lay off, Junior,” Bart mumbled as he took a bite of the barbecued beef.

“Wait, you’re not?” Darah glanced from Bart to Geraldine and back to Bart. “But you guys were kissing–”

“Okay,” Phoebe intervened with a shaky laugh. “Let’s leave them alone and eat.”

Clement snorted derisively but returned his attention to the food. So did everyone else, much to Geraldine’s relief. She snuck a look at Phoebe and mouthed a thank-you.

Phoebe gave her an encouraging smile and lifted another forkful of gooey cheese to her mouth. Her hand froze and her eyes widened. The fork clattered onto her plate and everyone sat up in alarm.

Abe frowned and scooted close to his wife. “You okay?”

Phoebe turned her widened stare to him. “I think I’m pregnant.”

All of them stiffened visibly. Abe’s frown deepened. “Why do you think that?”

“Because I’m about to be sick–!” She dry-heaved on that last word, doubling over.

Everyone, including Geraldine, pushed back their chairs. Abe grabbed Phoebe by her shoulders and ushered her away from the dinner table before she ruined their dinner.

“Oh my gosh!” Darah exclaimed when Phoebe emptied her dinner on the wooden floor just outside the guest bathroom. She moved toward her brother and sister-in-law. Geraldine snatched the roll of paper towels from the table and hurried to Abe and Phoebe.

Clement sidled up to a dazed Bart and nudged his shoulder. They could hear Geraldine from the other side of the closed door, instructing Abe and reassuring a groaning Phoebe. He nudged Bart again.

“What?” Bart groused at the distraction, anxious about Phoebe’s condition.

“Aren’t you glad she’s back home?”

Bart peeled his eyes from the closed bathroom door and frowned at the glint in Clement’s eye. “What are you on about now?”

Abe burst through the door, eyes lit with panic. “Guys, I…” He looked lost.

Geraldine peered from behind him. “She needs Emetrol and I’m sure you don’t have it in the house. Darah, check in your pantry for Pepcid.”

Darah rushed past her brothers without hesitation.


Geraldine grabbed Abe’s arm to stop him. “Not you. Barty, go buy the Emetrol and Vitamin B6. Junior, go open the windows. Eli, get me more paper towels.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Clement gave her a mock-salute and stepped away. Eli scurried off in the opposite direction.

Sighing, Geraldine turned to Abe. “Go prepare the bed and get me some clean clothes for her.”

Abe nodded mutely, still dazed. She watched him hurry up the stairs and then her eyes swung back to Bart who was now gaping at her. She cocked a brow. “Stop wasting time, get on it.”

Clement’s pointed words came back to his mind and his lips twitched a smile. “Yes, love.”

Caught off-guard, Geraldine blinked at him in surprise.

Phoebe’s groan and another round of dry heaving interrupted the moment and Geraldine broke her gaze. She ducked back into the bathroom and shut the door.

Bart grinned from ear to ear as he strolled past the door, collecting the car keys on the console table. He heard Geraldine’s voice encouraging Phoebe and stepped out of the house.

On his way to the nearby pharmacy, Bart made up in his mind to show Geraldine just why he needed her just as much as she needed him. Show her why he wanted to marry her, for real this time.

<<Chapter 16 || Chapter 18>>


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