Posts tagged “resolution

Lighthouse, Chapter 24

Posted on 30/08/2016

In the two-room suite of Bart and Geraldine’s office, the first three Teka siblings sat in companionable silence. Bart sat behind the executive desk, Abe on the opposite chair, and Clement perched on the window sill; all three wearing pensive expressions. Although they were not biological brothers, these three reacted quite similarly in perplexing situations—initially, at least. Astonishment… and then the rest depended on their different temperaments.

“Maybe I didn’t pay that much attention during that guardianship class,” Bart finally spoke up. “But what the Sam’s hill is emancipation?”

Using profanity was one of Bart’s vices, especially when things bothered him greatly. Being a dad of four impressionable children meant he had to employ milder terms in expressing his irritation.

Abe remained silent. Though his slow-to-anger attitude made him the more approachable brother, he bottled too much inside. The only way any of his family members could tell was by the pain in his eyes. Though this time, he kept his head bent, still reeling from the letter he’d found in Eleazar’s room hours ago.

“Well, it doesn’t matter now,” Clement spoke up, crossing one ankle over the other. “The letter was dated three years ago and since we knew nothing about it, he probably changed his mind. Although I don’t see why he couldn’t wait two more years to be legally independent and leave. This emancipation nonsense, who taught him that?”

“Not even Darah, with all her teenage dramatics, mentioned such rubbish.” Bart’s brows bent in a deep V. “But seriously, was that really in the orientation because I never learned about it. Back when Mom and Dad used to really drive us insane, did any of you consider it?”

Clement shook his head and scratched his chin. “Did we have a choice? Heck, their discipline and nagging sure beat living in a different hellhole every other six months.”

Out of the three, Clement had been through the horrible foster system and bore deep scars from it. His deeply-rooted bitterness stemmed from being moved from one bad foster home to another, and though it had shaped his life mission as an overseas orphanage chaplain, it had also hardened him. Even though he’d “found God” through his job, he was still battling demons from the past.

“Maybe that’s why…”

Bart and Clement looked up at the sound of Abe’s voice. He kept his head bent.

“Maybe he thought the alternative was better.” He put a shaky hand to his forehead, missing the worried look his brothers exchanged. “Even now, he thinks we’re… stifling him too much.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Bart groused. “We’re not nearly as stern as Mom and Dad were with us.”

“Yeah well I told you we shouldn’t have let him meet that woman,” Clement pushed off the sill and walked over to Abe, placing a hand on his shoulder. He frowned at Bart. “The minute I saw her, I knew she was bad news. I bet she was the one that put that silly idea in his head. Emancipation, my foot.”

Bart arched a brow. “Mrs. Crane? Pshaw! The kid’s old enough to know better. Since he turned eighteen, he’s acting like a punk but wants to be treated like a man.”

“Weren’t we all like that once?” Abe countered gently.

“Not if Mr. and Mrs. Teka had anything to say about it,” Bart quipped, irritation forgotten for a brief moment as he thought of their late parents. “Dad didn’t hesitate putting us in check, and don’t let Mom get a hold of your ear…”

All three brothers grimaced, Clement rubbing his ear absentmindedly.

Then Abe shrugged off Bart’s hand and reached in his pocket. His brothers curiously eyed the device he pulled out.

“What’s that funny looking thing?” Clement asked, watching Abe strap it on. “A watch?”

“A fitness something-or-other,” Bart answered, leaning back in his chair. “Darah persuaded Phoebe to buy Abe one, and now Geraldine keeps threatening to get me one.”

Clement chuckled and peered over Abe’s shoulder as he fiddled with it. “Looks like a prison bracelet. What is it, a tracking device?”

“Maybe so.” Bart crossed his arms over his head. “All Abe needs to know is it monitors his blood press…” he paused at the frown wrinkling Abe’s forehead. “Is it high? Bro, we’ll figure Eli’s situation out. Stop stressing yourself—“

“No, Phoebe called a gazillion times,” Clement said. “You’re in trouble?”

“Or maybe she saw the letter. Where did you leave it—?”

The front door of the suite flung open, startling the three men. A wild-eyed Geraldine stormed in, holding a wailing Augustus on her hip. “Where in Sam’s hill are your phones?! We’ve been calling you clowns and you were just here chilling?!”

The three men shot to their feet, Bart coming around the desk. When Augustus whined for him, he plucked his last born from Geraldine and kissed the tears away. “What happened? Why is he crying?”

Clement smoothed Augustus’ ruffled curls. “Poor guy.”

A now-docile Augustus propped his tear-stained cheek against Bart’s shoulder and Geraldine ran fingers through her disheveled mane. “He saw me crying, and started… been crying since we left daycare.”

Alarmed, Bart turned to his wife. “You were crying? Why?”

“What happened?” Abe asked gently, concern etched in his features.

“Especially you, with the call feature on your tracker, should’ve known we called a million times.”

“So it is a tracker,” Clement muttered, shaking his head.

Abe frowned. “I just turned it on, what happened?”

Geraldine rolled her eyes. “You’re supposed to wear it at all times, Abe. Look, if Phoebe finds out—”

“What happened?!”

She and Augustus flinched when the three Teka men snapped in irritation. Then she sighed. “You three need to get down to the hospital, ASAP.”

Their eyes widened. “What for now?” Clement asked, articulating their unease.

Geraldine’s face fell and her lips started to quiver. Bart shifted his son out of view. “Babe, what is it?”

“Darah was taken to the emergency. It’s the baby. Phoebe’s with her…”

Clement muttered an expletive and no one had time to call him out for it. They all remembered the times Phoebe had been rushed to emergency, only to miscarry the babies she’d carried. The thought of Darah facing the same fate, propelled Abe and Clement for the door, almost tripping over each other to exit the office suite.

Bart stalled, watching Geraldine wipe stray tears from her cheeks. He didn’t dare ask what happened, the look in her eyes revealed all and chilled him to the bone.

She then nodded, confirming his fears, and opened her arms to carry Augustus. “You head down first.”

“No, let’s go together,” Bart grabbed her hand instead, knowing Geraldine needed to be there as much as any of them. As far as he was concerned, she and Phoebe had become Darah’s sisters the moment they married into the family.

Geraldine let her husband lead her down to where Abe and Clement had pulled up in front of the building. Clement rolled down the window, his grave expression matching Abe’s. “You coming?”

Bart nodded. “We’ll drop off August with Mama first.”

“No,” Geraldine protested with a shaky voice. “Go with them, I’ll meet you—”

“C’mon, let’s go!” Abe barked from the driver’s seat.

Geraldine plucked Augustus from her husband. “I’ll meet you. Go.”

Bart nodded and kissed his family before climbing in the seat behind Clement. As Abe drove away, Augustus started to whine and Geraldine jostled him against her hip. “You have to be a big brave boy for Mommy and Daddy, okay?” Her eyes watered, walking across the lot to the minivan. “No crying, okay?”

—-

L.J. stirred awake, the sound of the beeping EKG greeting him in an empty room. He groaned and closed his eyes, groggy but without the searing pain. Thank God. Now if someone could do something about the cumbersome mask around his mouth. He reached for it just as the door swung open.

“Don’t think about it, Uncle,” Hana berated in a stern tone, carrying in a flask and a book. She nudged the door to close with her hip and continued her trip to his bedside. “You need to keep it on for now.”

He frowned in disapproval, watching her pour out a cup of coffee. Although it wasn’t his favorite kind, his mouth watered for a taste.

“I promise I’ll brew you your favorite once we get out of here…” she took a sip and faked a grimace, though a telltale dimple in her right cheek gave her away.

L.J. sighed forlornly. What a nice girl… if only J.R. would change his mind. The mention of his son had him scanning the room. He frowned and swung his gaze to Hana enjoying her coffee.

“J.R. stepped out for a bit.” She lowered the cup and folded her hands on the bed railing. “Uncle… there’s something you should know.”

The wrinkle between her brow and the conflict in her eyes made the hair on his forearms stand up. L.J. had a sinking feeling he wouldn’t like what she was about to tell him.

J.R. couldn’t keep his eyes off her. He gazed at the curtain of thick lashes laid flat, her parched lips parted in sleep, tendrils of dark curly hair laying against her pixyish face. His fingers itched to touch her, to hover over the rounded tip of her nose and feel her breathing. He needed reassuring that she’d be fine, that she wouldn’t suffer like his mother had in her last moments. Cold frisson rushed through him, sending tremors along his back as it had when Phoebe finally called him back with the dreadful news.

He drew in a breath and it caught in his throat. He choked on it and immediately felt a hand on his back. Phoebe, the only other person in the room. He’d been allowed entry to the room only because the staff believed he was her fiancé. J.R. closed his eyes tight, scolding himself. He should’ve proposed sooner and made her happy with his love. Why did he waste so much time until it was too late.

Phoebe squeezed his shoulder. “It’s a blessing they could save the baby… It’s a relief.”

He just stared at Darah’s peaceful face. For now, she could rest in peace but the blood-chilling fear when Phoebe first informed him of Darah’s condition made him shiver once more. He could’ve lost them both. The thought made his eyes water. His foolish reaction of Darah’s first child not being his and his begrudging the baby’s father for causing a lifetime of drama had caused this fiasco. If she’d lost the baby, Darah would’ve been crushed and he wouldn’t be able to forgive himself.

“Maybe this is a second chance,” Phoebe spoke through J.R.’s musing and she wore a pained expression. “Not many get that chance… Darah is a lucky woman. I pray she knows that and accepts her place as a mother now.” Her eyes glistened with tears as she gazed down at Darah. “My silly, lucky sister…”

The door opened and Darah’s three older brothers stumbled into the room. Phoebe quickly wiped her eyes, but not before Abe saw her. “It’s about time—” the rest of her words were muffled in Abe’s chest as he pulled her to him and held her tight.

“Is she alright?” Bart asked, standing by J.R.’s shoulder. He and Clement frowned at Darah’s still form.

“She’s asleep,” J.R. answered listlessly, returning his eyes to her. How he wished she would open those pretty eyes of hers and melt away the fear that gripped his heart.

“What happened?” Clement muttered. “She was fine when we left her at home.”

Phoebe sniffed back tears invoked by Abe’s touch. “I should’ve insisted she eat and rest. All that running around, the sleepless nights, the stress… it was too much.”

Guilt pricked J.R., as he recalled the night Darah slept on the stiff-backed sofa in his father’s room.

“And why wasn’t she at home?”

“She insisted on going out,” Phoebe mumbled against Abe’s shoulder. “She must’ve met up with her friend, Tess. Thank God the girl was with her or else she would’ve… w-would’ve lost…”

“Friend, my foot.” Bart snorted. “No telling if she wasn’t the one that caused it.”

“No one caused anything,” Abe countered firmly. “Like Phoebe said, thank God she was there… and Darah is fine.” He stroked his wife’s hair while staring at his sister’s sleeping face. “She’ll be fine.”

Clement took the seat Phoebe abandoned for her husband’s arms, and reached for Darah’s hand. Bending his head, he began to pray silently and the family followed suit.

“What’s with the moment of silence?” a feeble voice drew them out of their musing. As they lifted their heads and opened their eyes to Darah laying there staring at them, she gave them a weak smile. “I’m not dead… yet.”

“Oh dear!” Phoebe stepped away from Abe and hurried to Darah’s side, embracing her.

Darah closed her eyes and let herself be hugged tightly. Once Phoebe released her to perch on the bed beside her, she gave her sister-in-law a more convincing smile. “I’m fine.”

“You better be fine,” Bart groused, folding arms across his chest. “You almost gave Abe a heart attack.”

“Sorry about that.” Her gaze skimmed over her brothers, then settled on J.R, smile dimming. “It won’t happen again.”

“It better not,” Clement muttered, squeezing her hand before releasing it.

J.R. swallowed hard as relief swept over him like a rushing wave, stealing his breath and his words. He’d almost lost her, all because of his foolhardiness.

Her eyes searched his face and her features tensed visibly. “Guys, can you leave us alone for a minute?”

The brothers didn’t say a word, didn’t move a step. Phoebe glanced from Darah to J.R. whose gazes were locked with such intensity, and stood to her feet. “Sure, we can do that. C’mon, boys.” She patted Clement’s shoulder, hooked an arm under Bart’s and Abe’s, and tugged them towards the door.

Clement quietly stood and followed after them, closing the door behind him.

With only the hiss of the humidifier and the faint sounds of her siblings talking outside, Darah and J.R. just stared at each other for what seemed like forever. Then Darah released a sigh and lowered her gaze. “I want you to do me a favor, J.R.”

Her gently-spoken words unlocked something in him and he reached for her hand, cradling it between his. “Anything.” In fact, he was willing to die for her if the need presented itself–his love for her was that strong, that overwhelming.

Her lashes fluttered against her cheek. “I want you to forget me. I want you to move on.”

These words pierced him like a sharp dagger. His jaw slackened and he gaped at her. What on earth was she saying?

At his stunned silence, Darah raised her head and pinned her tear-filled eyes on him. “I want you to leave me alone and go away.”

<<Chapter 23 || Chapter 25>>

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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