Posts tagged “reconciliation

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 44

Posted on 21/05/2015

southerncharms3

They met under the passageway between the two stairs in the church lobby. Samina couldn’t help but smile at the radiance on Ada’s face, her mocha skin sun-kissed from her honeymoon in Monterrey Bay. The two friends embraced for a brief moment before Ada leaned back to study her friend’s face.

Samina’s smile remained, eyes sweeping over Ada’s warm features. “You look radiant.”

“Thank you kindly.” Ada’s winking smile waned a little. “And you look tired.”

“Thanks…” Samina muttered, dropping her hands from around Ada. She didn’t need a reminder of Topher’s rebuff just hours ago. Avoiding Ada’s probing eyes, she scanned the lobby for sign of Jaxson.

“Don’t bother. He stopped by the hospital to see Nadine.” Ada’s brow furrowed. “I thought they would be back in Edmonton by now. Any idea what happened?”

Samina shrugged. “How will you get home if he took the car?”

Ada arched a brow at Samina’s deflecting. “We drove separate cars.” Her smile was wry. “I’m still getting used to all of it, to be honest. Me, a married woman.”

“Ada, please…” Samina refrained from rolling her eyes. “You’ve been practicing your new last name long before you got engaged.” She smirked when Ada nudged her shoulder.

“Anyway…” Ada smacked her lips. “Now that the wedding is done, I can concentrate on you and Topher.”

Samina scowled. “Don’t bother.”

Ada cocked her head. “What—“

“Aunty Sammie!” a girl’s shriek halted Ada’s words and turned their attention to a young girl tearing across the lobby, puffy pigtails flying as she ran.

Seeing Beulah’s toothy smile invoked Samina’s and she bent at the waist, arms open. “Oof! Hey Beulah.” She planted a kiss on the girl’s temple and lifted her head to see Ada squinting at her. Clearing her throat, she looked down at the adoring eyes of the five-year-old beaming at her.

“Papa and Laide are coming,” Beulah announced, showing off her smile. One front tooth was missing and the sight endeared her to Samina.

Pushing aside every troubling thought of Topher, she caressed Beulah’s soft cheek, then lifted her eyes to Ezekiel and Adelaide headed their way.

Laide greeted both women with a polite hello, though she reserved a shy smile for Samina. Ezekiel winked audaciously at Samina, drawing a querying stare from Ada.

“We’re coming to your house, Aunty Sammie!” Beulah proclaimed, grinning wide.

Samina met Ezekiel’s eyes and he nodded, though his smile was wry. “My parents are already on their way to your place.”

“Oh?” She frowned, anxiety nipping at her. “For what?”

Ada’s gaze bounced between the two of them, brow creased with confusion.

“Lunch.” He kicked a shoulder, his knowing eyes skimming over her. “With the girls there, I’m sure everyone will behave.” Then he smiled. “We’ll stop by the house first though, so you’ll have to hold it down till I get there.” His gaze twinkled with mirth. “Think you can handle it?”

Samina hitched her chin. “We’ll be fine.”

Ada squinted as Ezekiel and his daughters walked away. She folded her arms and turned to Samina. “Explain.”

Picking at her cardigan, Samina sighed. “Our fathers got into a fist fight.”

Ada scoffed incredulously. “First off, I was asking about Ezekiel, but this is even more bizarre. Why were they fighting?”

Samina hesitated replying. No doubt Topher would tell Jaxson about their twisted fate, which he would then relay to Ada. She chose the easier topic. “What about Ezekiel?”

“You two looked a little too cozy right there.”

Samina shrugged. “Sure. We’re dating.” For some reason, acknowledging this felt odd.

Ada’s eyes grew wide as saucers. Her mouth grew slack. “What?” she eked out. Then she shook off the shock, her brow furrowing. “What about Topher?”

“What about him?” Samina knew she sounded surly but Topher’s last words still affected her. She sighed, snuffing out the irritation. “Look, we’re not meant to be. He’s…” she shrugged, at a loss for words.

“He’s what?” Ada eyed her carefully.

Samina adjusted her purse on her shoulder. “As you heard, there’s a crisis I have to avert, so let’s talk later. Greet Jax for me.” She spun on her heel and started for the door.

“This isn’t over, Sammie!” Ada called after her.

Waving over her shoulder, Samina hurried away before she said something regrettable.

Although Deidre and Sheena chatted freely while prepared the lunch, their husbands sat on opposite ends of a sofa, watching the televised basketball game in stony silence. Obadiah sat between them, stoically watching the game, though he was on referee duty.

Samina bit her bottom lip as one of their favorite players scored a three-pointer and neither cheered or high-fived each other as they usually did on game days. She glanced over her shoulder at the two mothers. “Shouldn’t we do something?” she frowned at their indifferent expressions. “Wasn’t this supposed to be a reconciliatory lunch?”

Deidre rolled her eyes. Sheena offered Samina an assured smile. “They’ll loosen up once there’s food in their bellies. Come help me cut the pie.”

Breathing out a sigh of resignation, Samina moved around the counter to unwrap the sweet-potato pie.

Karen swept in behind her. “I’ll do it. Go sit down.”

Samina’s face heated under Karen’s pointed stare. “I’m fine.”

“Go…” she nudged Samina aside and grabbed the knife.

“By the way, Sheena, did you know your son and my daughter were conspiring behind our backs?” Deidre snapped a celery stick in half. Samina cringed at the heated glare directed at her.

Sheena chuckled softly. “You mean with them dating?”

Deidre whipped an accusing glare to Sheena. “After what we talked about, you went behind my back?”

“Really, Deidre?” Sheena sprinkled the cheese into the salad bowl. “Can we stick to what’s important right now?” She pointed her chin at their husbands.

Mumbling an incoherent but unfriendly reply, Deidre snapped a few more celery sticks with gusto. Sheena tossed Samina a wink.

Just then, the doorbell rang. Samina drew in a breath and moved to the door. “I’ll get it,” she announced for everyone’s benefit and pulled it open. Her heart stopped beating. Her eyes widened at the sight of a somber Topher stood in the doorway.

What was he doing here?

“Who is it?”

At her mother’s loud inquiry, Topher’s striking gray eyes bounced off her face to over her shoulder.

Samina’s fingers curled around the doorknob.

“For goodness’ sake, Samina.” Deidre was now by her shoulder and she nudged her aside. Her eyes widened in surprise. “Topher?”

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Wells…” Topher replied, his deep timbre hesitant.

Samina snuck a glance over her shoulder and stifled a groan. Both Gabriel and Jeremiah were now on their feet, eyes riveted to the open door.

“P-please, come in.” Deidre stumbled back, stepping on Samina’s foot. Topher stepped in.

Samina held her breath as his gaze paused in the direction of the two men, his father’s friends, and his face hardened slightly. She clocked Jeremiah’s look of shock and Gabriel’s surly expression.

“Well I’ll be…” Jeremiah breathed incredulously. He took a step forward. Topher’s shoulders stiffened as Jeremiah came to stand before him. “You’re Odetta’s boy.”

Topher swallowed hard. Then he looked Jeremiah in the eye and replied. “And you are Mr. Dames.”

Jeremiah shook his head, gaze glistening with revelation. “Please call me Uncle Jeremiah.”

Surprise flickered on Gabriel’s face before it was snuffed out completely in a scowl. “Uncle? Don’t you mean father?

Sheena inhaled sharply. Deidre glared at her husband.

Both Topher and Jeremiah turned to face him, wariness in Topher’s, confusion in Jeremiah’s.

Samina bit her bottom lip and squeezed her fingers together. It made sense now, her father’s anger. He’d believed all these years that Jeremiah had stolen Odetta and that she’d given birth to his son. That Topher was Jeremiah’s kid.

Then Jeremiah burst into laughter. Gabriel growled and started for his friend’s throat.

Samina shot forward just as Topher placed a hand between the two men, barring Gabriel from reaching for Jeremiah’s collar. She glanced up at Topher’s tense features.

“Dad, please,” Samina beseeched her father as she stood at Topher’s side.

Gabriel halted in step, taken back.

Hysteric laughter waning, Jeremiah shook his head and wiped at his eyes. “You’re a fool, Gabriel. A big fool.” He waved a hand over Topher. “Are you that blind with resentment not to see the resemblance?”

Deidre covered her face, stifling a groan.

Samina quickly moved to her side, perturbed at how Deidre trembled against her. “Just listen…”

Gabriel frowned up at Topher, confusion and wariness etched in his face. Then something eased the tension in his furrowed brow as realization hit. His brown eyes searched Topher’s face. Then he drew in a measured breath. “Maurice.”

Jeremiah nodded, dropping a hand on Topher’s arm. “Odetta and Maurice eloped. The day you saw us, she was asking for my help to tell you because she was too scared to hurt you.”

Deidre stiffened. Samina squeezed her shoulder. When Deidre ventured to look at her, Samina offered her a smile.

Gabriel dropped his head, touching a finger to his temple. “I don’t… understand.”

“Maurice and Odetta were married, Gabriel.” Jeremiah didn’t bother hiding his impatience. “She’d tried telling you for months that she wanted to break up, you were too focused on your thesis to notice she was unhappy.”

Topher finally turned to Samina, eyes narrowed in slits. “Is this why you summoned me here? To make things clear for everyone?”

Samina bristled at his accusing tone. She could feel the weight of everyone’s eyes on her and hitched her chin at him. “I… I didn’t summon you.”

He squinted at her, his jaw tight as stone. “Check your phone.”

She scowled. “What are you insinuating—?”

“Uh, sis…” Karen interjected with a contrite expression as she stepped forward. “I texted him.”

“Why would you–?”

“Wait,” Obadiah cut in. “So he’s not our brother then?”

All eyes bounced to him. Gabriel scowled. “What on earth would give you that idea?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Deidre folded her arms, stepping one foot closer to Gabriel. “Perhaps the fact that you act shady every time Odetta or Abbeville is mentioned.”

“That’s because you always get upset when I mention anything about my past,” Gabriel growled, frustrated.

“What woman wants to hear about her husband’s past loves!?”

“People, please!” Sheena called over the noise. “Enough already. This isn’t about you guys anymore, but about Topher.” Samina held a deeper respect for the older woman as she offered Topher a warm, welcoming smile. “We’re just about to eat. Will you join us?”

Samina held her breath.

Topher breathed a sigh. “If that’s okay with you…”

“Of course it is!” Jeremiah slapped his shoulder, smiling. “Maurice, your father, was our best friend. Isn’t that right, Gabe?” he slanted a pointed glare at Gabriel.

Gabriel blew out a breath and jerked a nod. Samina felt sorry that he’d been blindsided on every turn; back then and even now. “Yeah…” He managed a weak, distracted smile. “Join us.”

All breathed a sigh of relief and started for the kitchen when the doorbell rang. Samina moved around her mother and pulled open the door.

“Aunty Sammie!” Beulah screeched with delight, wrapping her arms around Samina’s waist. Laide snuck around them inside. Then Beulah disengaged and moved around Samina, lunging into her grandfather’s arms.

Ezekiel raised a brow as his father introduced his youngest granddaughter to the stoic, formidable gentleman standing beside him. He turned to Samina with a crooked smile. “What did I miss?”

“Don’t ask.” Samina offered him a weak smile and turned. She stiffened as her gaze collided with Topher’s.

Oblivious, Ezekiel draped an arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer. “We don’t have to hide anymore, do we?” he whispered in her ear.

Her frozen tongue couldn’t form an intelligible response as Topher’s eyes narrowed briefly before he turned away to give Beulah one of his rare smiles. Her stomach did a somersault and not from the light kiss Ezekiel pressed on her forehead.

In silence, Samina watched Ezekiel saunter over to greet Topher, her heart pulsing violently in her throat.

What am I going to do?

<<Chapter 43 || Chapter 45>>

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 37

Posted on 11/05/2015

bouquet

Samina eyed Karen warily as she adjusted the flower brooch over her shoulder. She noted the tightness around her sister’s mouth and the concentrated wrinkle in her brow.

Since that night, Karen hadn’t mentioned the surgery and even Obadiah steered clear from the topic. And although she’d asked for space, she didn’t like the pointed silence or evasion.

At least one of them could’ve asked what would happen next, if the surgery had cured her completely, because she too wondered at every dose of hormone pills. Waiting for the report from her post-op check-in wasn’t the easiest thing to do.

She fidgeted and Karen hissed, causing her to stiffen.

“This brooch is tricky so if you don’t want either of us pricked, stand still.”

Samina nodded and snuck a peek at Karen’s face. “You’re… still mad?”

Karen rolled her eyes and sighed. “What do you think?” She frowned, tugging on the strap of Samina’s gown. “Honestly, what was Ada thinking? Not only is the color of this dress blindly atrocious, it doesn’t fit her theme.”

The corner of Samina’s lips twitched a smile. “Don’t let her hear that.”

Karen grunted, adjusting the brooch pin to secure the strap. Then her brown eyes slanted over Samina’s face. “How is it?”

Samina kicked her other shoulder. “It’ll do.”

“No. I mean…” She pointed her chin at Samina’s face. “Your nasal septum okay?”

Samina blinked. “My what?”

Karen frowned. “I heard they make an incision there… for the, y’know.” She lowered her gaze to the brooch pin. “Did it… hurt?”

Regret choked out her words. She’d been incredibly wrong to keep this from her family. “I…” she croaked out.

Grabbing her shoulders, Karen scowled. “Stop crying. You’ll ruin your makeup.” She thumbed a tear from Samina’s cheeks.

“I’m sorry…” Samina sniffed back the tears.

“Sorry for what?” She dabbed at Samina’s eyes, frown still present on her brow. “Keeping your surgery a secret or ruining the makeup?”

“Both.” Samina choked a soft laugh.

Karen offered her a half-smile, eyes gliding over her face. “I’m mad that you hid away as if you don’t have a family, Sam. I won’t lie and say I’m not.” She squeezed Samina’s shoulder. “But I’m glad that you’re okay.”

Samina nodded, pulling Karen into an embrace. She closed her eyes, resting her chin against Karen’s shoulder. “Thank you…”

Karen patted her back gruffly, before pulling back. “You sure you don’t want to take someone else to the wedding?”

She knew exactly who she referred to, another topic they both avoided. Everything was still so new and confusing with Ezekiel. Bringing him to the wedding seemed unusual. Strange.

“Not that I mind coming since Jaxson has some fine friends.” Karen’s bright smile pulled Samina out of her reverie.

“Well then…” Samina smiled in return. “That settles it.”

Karen’s smile then waned. “Besides, it’s best that I come instead of Ezekiel… Y’know, for Topher’s sake.”

Samina’s smile dropped as did her heart, plummeting to her stomach. Topher. Without her permission, his detached expression and cold words stayed with her ever since that strange night, nagging her every time she responded to Ezekiel’s texts and spoke to him over the phone.

Due to her maid-of-honor duties occupying all her free time, she didn’t get a chance to see Ezekiel… or Topher. The best man who’d assigned himself as her partner-in-crime was notably absent. Jaxson had mentioned he was busy with Nadine, but Samina knew better. He was avoiding her.

A tug at her frilly sleeve pulled Samina’s attention back to the frown on Karen’s face. Her chest tightened, fearing that she’d offended her sister again.

“Let’s go before Ada throws a fit.” She pulled Samina to the door, grabbing both their purses and the car keys.

Surprisingly, Samina breathed a sigh of relief as the bouquet sailed over her head, the crowd erupting in cheers as Myrtle, Ada’s older cousin, caught the bouquet. She caught Karen’s eyes across the room and grinned.

Karen rolled her eyes but smiled anyway.

Though she wanted to be married, for some reason, catching the bouquet in Topher’s presence seemed almost disrespectful. Inadvertently, she scanned the room and immediately caught Topher’s hooded gaze focused on her.

Her face warmed at his open perusal and she quickly looked away, adjusting her sleeve.

“I aimed too high,” Ada bemoaned, draping a bare arm over Samina’s shoulders. “But I’m so glad Myrtle caught it or I’ll never hear the end of that.” She wriggled her brows, face lit with joy and excitement.

A surge of jealously filled Samina’s lungs, arresting her rebuttal. She shook it off quickly and offered Ada the brightest smile she could. This was her best friend’s day and she was going to be happy for her.

Then the song came on. The crowd cheered in recognition at the melody and Ada grabbed Samina’s hand, tugging her closer to the dance floor. “Find your partner, Sam.” She winked audaciously and Samina wished she’d been honest with Ada about Topher.

Jaxson sauntered over just as the singer’s voice crooned out the first word. Grabbing Ada by the waist, he pulled her close just as they’d rehearsed.

Samina’s pulse jumped at the second beat, their cue was next. As Jaxson and Ada circled the room, the crowd roared in cheer and Samina’s cheeks warmed in anticipation for Topher to reach for her.

Just then, a hand slid around her waist and Samina’s heart skipped several beats as Topher pulled her into his arms. She stumbled against him and glanced up quickly at his chiseled features. One corner of his mouth was slanted in a smile.

Heat surged through her veins and she lowered her gaze. The music changed and Topher released her to move to Jaxson’s side, as they rehearsed.

“This is how we do it!” The crowd sang along, feeling the energy of the song.

Though her feet moved with the rhythm and she danced in step with Ada beside her, Samina could only see Topher, his bright smile and svelte form moving as if he had no cares in the world.

Ada hooked an arm under Samina’s, grinning at her. “Smile, girl!”

Samina could only muster a wobbly one, tears stinging the back of her eyes. Was he that unaffected by her? Or was he merely deflecting?

The song changed yet again, a slow melody. Ada released her arm and moved to the center, where Jaxson waited for her.

Samina held her breath, knowing what was next.

“Cos I’m your ladyyyy…” The women shout-sang along with Celine Dion.

Topher shifted his gaze to Samina, his smile waning.

And you are my man…”

Samina swallowed hard and stepped forward, meeting him in the middle of the dance floor. Her heart skipped a beat as he pulled her close. She almost sighed in the strength of his arms.

Then he sighed, grabbing Samina’s attention to his face. He wore a rueful expression that made her start, stepping on his foot.

“Sorry…” they both said together.

She frowned, fingers curling over his shoulder. “Huh?”

His lips curled in a half smile. “I’m sorry.”

Her gaze met his, seeing regret there.

“I didn’t take your news as well as I should have,” Topher continued, his deep timbre and the unexpected apology rocking her off-kilter. “Friends should celebrate each other’s good news and I didn’t. I’m sorry for my appalling behavior.”

Samina couldn’t swallow the hardened lump in her throat.

He tilted his head slightly, beseeching her with his striking gaze. “Forgive me?”

The tears at the back of her eyes tingled at the gentle cadence of his baritone. Samina jerked a nod. “I’m sorry too…”

Topher smirked. “For leading me on?”

Her eyes widened.

Topher laughed softly. “I’m kidding.” His smile remained, gentle, forgiving, warm.

Samina relaxed in his arms for the remainder of the dance.

Karen met her afterwards with a glass of water and a bemused expression. “How curious…”

Samina paused from taking a swallow of the refreshing liquid, parched. “Hmm?”

“For a moment there, one could forget you’d broken his heart.” Karen shook her head. “He must really like you, Sammie…”

Cheeks aflame, Samina gulped down the drink, eyes moving to where Topher congratulated his best friend with a one-arm hug and a pat on the back.

“Well since he’s available, you don’t mind if I dance with him?” Karen wriggled her brows and sauntered across the dance floor toward Topher.

Watching Karen poke Topher’s shoulder and he turn to greet her, Samina felt her stomach clench in protest. She swallowed the water, troubled to silence.

How curious indeed.

Jeremiah heard him before he saw him. His shoulders tensed and he squinted into the distance, marking the spot.

“Funny seeing you here…” Gabriel muttered, coming to stand to his right.

He swung the club, watching the golf ball sail and hit the net kilometers away before landing on the green. Then he glanced over his shoulder.

Gabriel stood with his arms folded, no golf bag in sight. In fact, his friend wore jeans and a dress-shirt, hardly golf-appropriate. His face was hard as stone, all business like. “Let’s talk.”

Jeremiah smirked dryly, lowering his club. “You’re done avoiding me?”

Gabriel narrowed his eyes at him. “Ezekiel turns 33 next month, right?”

He raised a brow, tugging off his gloves. “Since when do you care about that stuff?”

“Answer the question, Jeremiah.”

He scowled, growing increasingly tired of Gabriel’s shifty moods. “Yes, so what? Did you come here to start a fight? I rather your silence that this.” He tossed the gloves on top his golf bag and bent over to unlace his shoes.

Gabriel turned to face him. “That day… in your car.”

Jeremiah’s fingers paused. Cold frisson shot down his spine.

“Why?”

He looked up, stunned to silence at the pain etched in Gabriel’s weathered face. It was as if they were back in college, standing on that grass still wet with dew.

“Why was Odessa in your car?”

Jeremiah scowled darkly, connecting the dots. “You’re crazy.” He left his shoes on and grabbed his bag. Anger surged through him as Gabriel blocked his path. “Move.”

“You didn’t tell me what happened.”

He gritted his teeth, fingers squeezing the bag. “Move!”

Gabriel barely flinched at Jeremiah’s bark. “I didn’t give you a chance to explain yourself but I want to hear it now.”

Jeremiah scoffed. “After thirty-four years, you want to hear my side now?”

Gabriel’s jaw tightened, his patience waning also. “You had thirty-four years to tell me the truth and you didn’t. Sounds like a guilty man, if I ever heard one.”

Knowing the other golfers were now staring their way, Jeremiah checked his anger and shook his head. “Forget it, Gabe. I know you’ll always believe what you want to. Move out of my way before I make you move.”

For a second, Jeremiah wasn’t sure Gabriel would move. Resentment practically oozed out of the man’s core, heat blazing in his eyes. This man was sporting for a fight and if he gave Gabriel one reason, another searing punch would land on his jaw. With the tension between him and Sheena these days, he couldn’t afford to fight with Gabriel… even if he wanted to.

Then Gabriel stepped aside.

Air gushed out of Jeremiah’s lungs and his shoulders relaxed. He pushed past Gabriel, eying the glowing exit sign a few feet away.

“Keep running like you always do,” Gabriel’s taunting voice called in the silence. “Just like you were in high school, you’ll always be a coward.”

Jeremiah’s footsteps halted.

<<Chapter 36 || Chapter 38>>

  

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