Posts tagged “return

Lighthouse, Chapter 18

Posted on 27/07/2016

The alarm beeped twice as a weary J.R. stepped into the dark and empty lobby of his family home. Tossing the keys on the side-table near the door, he traipsed across the polished wood with only the moon lighting his way up the stairs to his room. Nudging the door with his foot, he flipped on the switch and walked up to his closet door.

Unbuttoning the day-old shirt with one hand, the other flipped on the light switch in the walk-in closet. Ignoring the rack of starched shirts, J.R. pushed open a sliding door that revealed folded t-shirts and polos. Sweeping the shirts aside, he pulled out a box from the shadows; an engraved jewelry box.

Blowing off the dust, he traced the etched lines. His lips quirked a wan smile at the engraved initials on by the lock. His mother’s name marking the box, a gift he’d inherited in her death and hid from his father. Drawing a breath, his thumb unhooked the delicate lock and opened the lid.

At one time, the music was a painful reminder of what he’d lost—a mother and a friend. As an adult, J.R. wished the music could play now more than ever. Letting the lid rest against his folded shirts, he quietly stared at the contents within; a plastic watch he’d received at age 10, faded rupee bounded with old rubber bands, and a letter folded under the watch.

Releasing the breath, he fished out the letter and opened it. His eyes skimmed the flowery penmanship, his heart fluttering as he read the note he’d hidden away for so long.

Dear J.R., you might not know this but I like you.

Pausing briefly over the words that rocked his world seven years ago, J.R. sighed and continued.

Yeah, I finally said it. I like you. It’s a little more than like, but I know you’ll freak out if I say that.

His lips twitched a wary smile, knowing he’d done exactly that. What could an eighteen-year-old know about love? His smile faded, realizing he’d been wrong about her all this time.

The moment I saw you, I knew I wanted you, and needed you like you needed me. Something about your sad dark eyes and face devoid of smile told me so… beckoned me to you.

J.R. paused, his face heating up as it had when he first read the letter. Neck-deep studying for her college entrance exams while kicking butt in her Advanced English class, her use of ‘big’ vocabulary words irked her brothers but amused him to no end. He’d known she would be a force to be reckoned with…

In that moment, I wanted to be the only one taking up space in your lonely heart. To chase away the demons of your past, sweep away the cobwebs left behind, and build a fire that warmed you from the inside out. Are you creeped out yet?

He simply stared at the words, imagining her write with that impish smile that always made his heart flutter as it did now. He blinked and continued on.

You might say I’m too young to understand what I’m saying, but love respects all and none. It freely gives to all, regardless of age or qualification… I welcome it. I welcome you to invade my heart as I desire to invade yours. So, will you let me, J.R? Can I love you?

Heart thumping as it did that night seven years ago, J.R. lowered the letter and stared at the wall of folded shirts.

He’d been a coward, not knowing how to process Darah’s letter of love to him. For years, he’d hidden it away although the words were engraved on a heart that longed to invite her in, and let her stay. She’d been too young he reasoned despite her protests, and therefore chose not to mention it to her, not realizing it would deeply wound the young, impressionable woman for ages.

For playing a part in her growing distrust of males other than her brothers, he felt deep shame. If only he’d revealed a legacy that could someday turn Darah into his mother; dull and lonely.

Though he’d believed his parents loved each other; his father’s idea of love was vastly different from his mother’s. Where his father was reserved in his affection, his mother gave it freely until she couldn’t anymore. Spent and resentful, she drew within—keeping her sickness hidden until it was too late. Regretful, his father became a different man to make up for what he hadn’t done earlier… but she was deep in her sickness and died months later, wishing her husband had reciprocated sooner.

Dragging a hand over his face, he sighed out in frustration. Once he’d snubbed her letter, Darah persistently avoided him whenever she could, reserving polite small talk whenever he was around her. Even her sudden proposal could be considered a business transaction, shielding her heart from him.

What a mess he’d made of it. If only he’d accepted her then…

He stared down at the letter and reread her candid affections. Did he dare believe she still felt this way toward him, or was it too late for them now?

Like the first time he read the letter, and every time Darah’s hazel eyes swept over him or he caught a glimpse of her impish smile, his heart skipped several beats. With a smile forming on his face, he folded the letter and tucked it into his pants pocket before shrugging off the unbuttoned shirt. He would have to make sure not a moment too soon.

As he reached for a polo shirt, his cellphone rang. He picked it up on the second ring. “Hello?”

Bhaiyaa,” Hana’s voice filled the air. “On your way yet?”

He frowned at the hesitance in her voice. “Yeah, stopped by the house for a bit… what’s wrong?”

Hana sighed deeply, heightening the alarm strumming through J.R.’s veins. “You should hurry back.”

Tugging the shirt over his head, J.R. started for the door. “What happened?”

“I’ll explain once you get here,” Hana replied. “Need you to concentrate on driving.”

Stomach in knots, he scowled. How could he concentrate on anything else when her tone warned him of terrible news about his father?

He hurried down the stairs and grabbed his keys. “I’m on my way.” He slammed the door behind him, leaving the dark and empty house with the alarm beeping twice upon his exit.

“How long are you gonna keep them in there?” Darah asked, a knot forming in her brow.

“For as long as possible,” Phoebe growled, surprising Darah with her darkened expression. “How could they act like complete hooligans?”

“Did you expect them to stand back and watch their sister getting mauled?” Geraldine drawled from the dining table where her blueprints and stationary were strewn everywhere.

Darah rolled her eyes. “I was not getting mauled, and I could’ve handled it.”

“Yeah, that’s definitely what you were doing…”

“I was until Eli jumped in like some ninja.” Darah rubbed the back of her neck. “Thankfully he didn’t sue or we’ll have trouble on our hands.”

“What kind of example are they to the boys? Or the girls for that matter?” Phoebe raged on. “Having to tell the kids that their fathers went to jail because they were fighting a bad man is—”

“He is a bad man,” Darah interjected, her expression darkening as she relived his betrayal.

Geraldine chuckled low. “So why did you move in with him?”

Darah stiffened, and Phoebe cut Geraldine a warning look. “Chill, Geri.”

“No I won’t,” Geraldine answered breezily, pinning Darah with a stern expression. “Your brothers are in jail all because you weren’t honest about what happened between you and that boy. On your own, you decided to make a choice that will affect not only you but your entire family. Congratulations.”

Shoulders shaking, Darah stood.

“Yeah girl, go ahead and run,” Geraldine drawled, eyes narrowing. “That’s all you do, run from your problems.”

Phoebe frowned deeper. “Geri, that’s enough.”

“No I’m not finished.” Geraldine looked to Phoebe. “Far too long, you’ve been allowed to do and say what you want without facing much consequences. But I’m gonna tell you now that you can’t do that anymore. You hear me, Darah, it’s enough.”

Darah clenched her fists at her side, and though she wanted to run, her feet remained rooted to the ground. Tears pooling in her eyes, she glared at her sister-in-law.

“You’re about to be a mother, and hiding away in your room, avoiding your responsibilities is not what a mother does.” Geraldine’s right brow hooked. “Ignoring what you’ve got to do, is not how a grown woman behaves. You’re not a child anymore, Darah, you haven’t been one for a while.”

Phoebe looked at her with sympathy and started for her.

“Stop right there,” Geraldine said, halting Phoebe’s steps. She gave her a withering glare. “Will you keep babying her even after she’s got a baby to take care of?”

Darah tightened her jaw. Heat traveled from her head to her toes as she stood convicted.

Geraldine returned her attention on Darah, her expression softening at the sight of fat tears streaming down the young woman’s face. “You know I love you, right?”

A hiccup coursed through her, and Darah jerked a nod.

A small smile tipped Geraldine’s lips. “You’ve got to grow up now. You hear me, baby girl?”

Darah regarded her warily. “You should probably stop calling me that…”

“Never,” Geraldine replied as she stood from the chair. En route, she grabbed Phoebe’s hand and pulled her toward Darah.

As her sisters wrapped her in a hug, she finally let it all out as the tears flowing freely; confessing her regret and shame over what she’d done with Jeremy, and growing fear for the future.

Minutes after the women had settled down in their seats, hands still locked together, Phoebe gave Darah a smile and smoothed the damp curls from her cheek. “You’ll be alright.”

Darah snorted. “I’m already screwing it up.”

“She’s right,” Geraldine said, squeezing Darah’s hand before releasing it. “No one’s an expert as a first-time mother. I was a total mess with Jozy, but look how I turned out…”

The women shared weary smiles. Then Darah shifted her attention to Phoebe. “Can we get my brothers released now?”

Geraldine snorted in laughter. “Let ‘em stay there for one night. They need to learn.”

“Exactly,” Phoebe piped in. “Maybe the boys’ll learn that fighting is not the way.”

“There are appropriate times for it,” Darah mumbled, grateful for her brothers’ intervention. The fierce look in Jeremy’s eyes terrified her.

“Wish they could be calm like J.R….”

Darah’s cheeks warmed, recalling the way J.R. stood in front of her, shielding her from Jeremy’s piercing and accusing stare. He’d spoken with a calm assurance that weakened Jeremy’s protests, calmly informing Jeremy he was trespassing and had attacked Darah first, and would be at a loss if Darah decided to press charges against him. That made him rescind his threat to sue her brothers, and the man stomped away in a fury.

“Honestly though,” Geraldine’s voice pervaded through Darah’s thoughts. “What on earth was he looking for? What did you take from him?”

Darah blinked in confusion. “I didn’t take anything…”

“Don’t give me that. You definitely looked guilty. What was it?”

She looked away and her sisters-in-law groaned.

“Darah,” Phoebe beseeched gently. “If you took something, you’ve got to give it back.”

“It’s mine.” Darah looked up. “So why should I give it to him?”

Flabbergasted, both older women gaped.

“You’re kidding me right?” Geraldine asked, brow knotted.

Indignation fled and Darah looked away, shamefaced.

Geraldine growled. “You’re incredibly silly, Darah.”

Darah frowned. “He kicked me out and said I should leave with all my stuff, so I did.”

“He kicked you out?” Phoebe echoed with a furrowed brow. “You didn’t leave on your own?”

Geraldine scowled. “What a jerk.”

“See? He’s trash.” Darah started to relax, grateful her sisters were beginning to understand.

“But still,” Phoebe countered. “What you did was sneaky and unethical. Even if you helped him—”

“I did more than helped him,” Darah insisted. “I practically authored his entire research.”

“Yeah well, you shouldn’t have.”

Darah lowered her head in regret. “He promised me we’d get married. I did it thinking he’d be my husband. That it was all for the family.”

Geraldine grunted. “And he’s a low-down-dirty scoundrel for tricking you, but you’re still responsible for your actions.”

Phoebe nodded. “And even if you had a right to be angry, taking something with his name on it, something that belonged to him is wrong.”

Exasperated, Darah threw a glare at the ceiling. “So what do you want me to do?”

“Return it,” they said in unison.

Darah scowled. “I can’t. I erased it.”

Geraldine slapped a hand over her face. Phoebe closed her eyes.

Just then, the doorbell rang and all three turned to the door. Rushing feet sounded on the stairs as children, both Geraldine’s and Phoebe’s, hurried down to the landing. Tripping over each other, they reached the door just as it opened. A heavily-bearded man shouldered a duffel bag inside, greeting the squealing children with his signature smile. “Hey squirts.”

“Uncle Junior!” the kids said in unison, tackling him with hugs.

After ruffling the boys’ heads and kissing the girls’ foreheads, he peered over their heads at the empty family room. “Where’s everyone else?”

“Daddy’s in jail!” Fallon, one of the twins declared, still holding onto her uncle’s waist.

“Uncle too!” Her twin, Tomas, piped in.

“Say what?” Clement looked up as the three women emerged from the dining room. “What’s going on?”

“You’re home?” Darah gaped at her immediate older brother, scruffy and worn from travel.

He nodded, still distracted over the children’s troubling announcement. “Who’s in jail?”

<<Chapter 17 || Chapter 19>>

Lighthouse, Chapter 4

Posted on 19/04/2016

Mornings at Phoebe’s house proved to be a challenge; especially when dealing with a precocious six-year-old who tried every outfit in her closet before deciding on the same outfit from yesterday. Phoebe tugged on the purple tank-top over Karla’s head. “Don’t you wanna wear something else today? Your other clothes are sad because you’re picking favorites…”

“Nuh-unh,” Karla shook her head, mimicking her mother’s expression. She held out one arm so her mother could put on her shirt. “I like this one better.”

And although Karla didn’t need help putting on her clothes, Phoebe enjoyed this quality time with her daughter who was growing up too fast. She smiled sweetly at her little girl. “Of course you do. Aunty Darah bought it for you.”

Karla flashed her mom a smile that melted Phoebe’s heart, and distracting her from the disconcerting talk she and Abe had with Eleazar yesterday.

Then the sounds of footsteps outside the bedroom door brought Phoebe back to the present. She allowed Karla to put on the rest of her clothes and stood from the bed, moving to the door. “Looks like your brothers are ready to go. Go downstairs and eat breakfast with them while I get Daddy.”

“I wanna wake Daddy,” Karla said, hurrying out of the room before Phoebe could stop her.

Phoebe looked around at the mess of Karla’s clothes strewn all over the room and shook her head. No doubt she’d spent the first few hours of her day cleaning up. With a sigh, she stepped out of the room to the sound of excited chatter downstairs. Instead of joining Abe and Karla in the master bedroom, Phoebe headed down the stairs.

“Are you really staying?” James, her second son, asked as she reached the bottom of the stairs.

Phoebe’s eyes widened at Darah and the suitcases before her. She came to a stop. “What’s all this?”

“Aunty’s staying this time,” James answered excitedly as he turned to his mother, his big brown eyes dancing with delight behind his coke-bottle glasses.

Darah gave her sister-in-law a wry smile. “At least I hope so… I know there’s no room.”

Phoebe smiled back. “You can have Eli’s room.” Then her smile waned. “He’s moving out.”

Isaac frowned. “But you said I could have Uncle’s room.”

Her expression quizzical, Darah reached up to rub Isaac’s head. “Sorry kiddo.”

Though pouting, Isaac gave his aunt a shrug.

Phoebe eyed Darah. “What happened?”

“Semester’s over and since my load is lighter next term, I thought I’d just move in. Y’know, help out with the kiddos.” She frowned. “Why’s Eli moving out? How’s Abe taking it?”

“Long story,” Phoebe managed without sighing. Her eyes then shifted to her sons who wore conflicted expressions. “Right now, these guys will be late for school and Abe’s… preoccupied.”

“I can take ‘em.”

Phoebe looked back at her sister-in-law and smiled. “That’d be a great help, Darah. Thank you.”

“Not a problem.” She turned to her nephews. “We can grab chicken biscuits on the way.”

Phoebe watched Isaac’s pout melt into a grin that matched James’ and she shook her head. “Barely here for a minute and you’re already spoiling them.”

“That’s because I’m their favorite aunt,” Darah said unapologetically. She slung an arm on the boys’ shoulders. “Get your stuff so we’ll be going. Morning drive-thru is brutal.”

Five minutes after Darah and the boys left the house, Abe walked downstairs with Karla on his back. He frowned at the suitcases leaning against the wall. “He’s serious, isn’t he?”

Phoebe’s heart wrenched at the disappointment on her husband’s face. “You know he is, but those are Darah’s bags. End of semester.”

Brow furrowed in confusion, Abe set Karla on her feet and adjusted his collar. “She’s moving back?”

“That’s what she said.” Phoebe handed Karla a cup of milk. “Don’t drink too fast.”

“Yes Mommy.” Karla guzzled down the liquid.

Abe accepted the cup of dark coffee and took a sip before asking. “Is she okay?”

“Darah?” Phoebe mumbled, packing a sandwich for both husband and daughter. “I’m sure we’ll hear all about it when she comes back.”

He nodded when she nudged the lunch bag to him. “I suppose so. Eli say anything yet?”

“Didn’t hear him leave.” She risked a glance at Karla obliviously chomping away at her egg sandwich. Then she turned back to her husband. “What was it this time?”

His expression was wry as he sipped his coffee, hesitating to answer. “125 over 85…”

“Abe…”

He lowered the coffee and reached for her hand. “It’s fine. I’m monitoring it.”

Phoebe eyed him warily. “You really need to take it easy.”

“I will, Babe.”

“I’m serious,” Phoebe insisted. “We’re getting older and I have no intentions of becoming a widow.”

His expression darkened. “You won’t.”

“I better not, Abe. You need to calm down.”

“I’m trying.” Abe gave her a look very much like their two sons when caught doing something naughty.

Phoebe shook her head and abandoned her daughter’s intricate lunch to give Abe a hug. Her hands rubbed his broad shoulders, holding him tight. “I know it’s tough, with Eli and everything else going on… but we have to stay healthy and alive for our family. Alright?”

Abe rested his cheek atop her head. “You’re right.”

“Promise me even if something else happens, you’ll stay calm.”

He snorted. “Nothing else better happen.”

“I’m afraid that’s impossible, Mr. Teka.” She tilted her head slightly to watch Karla dipping her sandwich into the cup of milk. “You’ve got a daughter very much like Darah…”

Abe stifled a groan, his arms tightening around Phoebe. Raising Darah had been tough on them both.

Phoebe chuckled. “Look on the bright side, at least Darah has finally calmed down. We’ve got at least two decades before Karla is settled.”

Karla looked up at her parents and flashed them an impish smile. Abe groaned again and Phoebe laughed before disengaging from her husband’s arms. “You ready for preschool?”

“Is Daddy taking me?” She raised her big brown eyes to Abe.

“If you eat your breakfast like the princess I know you are,” Abe answered, bending down to kiss Karla’s forehead. “But didn’t you wear this yesterday?”

“Don’t bother,” Phoebe answered, amusement in her tone. “I already have a mess to clean upstairs.”

“Darah can help you.” Abe grabbed an egg sandwich and chowed down, Karla mimicking his move.

Phoebe shook her head as she watched the duo. “Nature is so cruel. None of our kids are like me.”

Abe chuckled, leaning in to give Phoebe a kiss only for her to lean away.

“Your breath smells like eggs.” Phoebe squeaked when Abe reached for her.

Karla giggled as Abe chased Phoebe around the counter. “Lemme play too!”

“When you finish your food,” Abe said, easily grabbing Phoebe by the waist and pulling her to him.

Phoebe didn’t have a chance to escape and didn’t want to. She rested her palms against his chest, feeling his heartbeat and raised her gaze to his handsome face. Her heart still fluttered as the first time he smiled at her thirteen years ago. “You’ll be late.”

“When you’re the boss, it doesn’t matter.” He flashed an impish smile like Karla’s and bent to kiss her.

“Abusing power I see,” Phoebe muttered just before their lips met. She slid her arms around his neck and responded to Abe’s morning kiss, egg breath and all.

“What d’you end up telling them?” Tess asked over the phone.

“Didn’t get a chance to,” Darah answered, pulling into the driveway. “You still mad at me?”

“How could I not be? This by far is the dumbest thing you’ve ever done, considering all the things—”

“Alright, alright I get it. I’m stupid.” Darah put the car in park and stared at the house she’d grown up in with her brothers. She leaned into the seat and sighed. “It feels so weird being back here. I mean I love my family, but I’m certain they’ll bug me to no end. Forget privacy or my freedom.”

Tess was silent for a while and Darah pulled back the phone to see if she’d hung up. She would’ve deserved it and more from Tess after she’d confessed the truth about Jeremy.

“Don’t be mad, okay?” Darah beseeched her best friend. “I should’ve told you earlier but I thought we would get married, and he told me we would. That stupid promise ring had my brain all backwards. That jerk had me really believing he wanted—”

“You okay?”

“Not really. I’m still very angry.”

“I meant health-wise… are you okay?”

Darah stared at the front door, imagining Phoebe was busy cleaning the house or preparing another sumptuous meal for dinner. Her stomach growled in response. “Actually I’m kinda hungry. That chicken sandwich only lasted for—”

Tess heaved a sigh. “I wish you wouldn’t joke about this.”

“I’m fine,” Darah insisted, unbuckling her seatbelt. “What are you worried about, anyway?”

The silence on the other end made Darah squirm.

“What are you thinking?” she asked when Tess still didn’t respond after a long moment.

Tess then sighed. “Just let me know if anything happens. And I mean anything, or else our friendship is over.”

Darah smirked. “Yeah, I promise. Sorry for worrying you.”

“Yeah whatever… Bad girl,” Tess muttered and disconnected the phone.

Exhaling a breath, Darah fortified herself for the short trek up the deck steps to the front door.

It swung open and Geraldine grabbed her hand, pulling her inside. “Talk.”

Darah choked on a laugh and nudged the door close. “I should’ve known word would get out.” She eyed Phoebe standing nearby and sighed. “I missed you guys, that’s all.”

“Oh please.” Geraldine folded her arms. “You got kicked out of your place?”

Her stomach did a somersault and Darah managed a smile. There was no way Geraldine knew about her living arrangements. “No. Just ended my lease is all.”

“Let the girl sit down first, Geri,” Phoebe sighed. “I made egg sandwiches.”

“Yum.” Spying Geraldine’s narrowed stare, Darah walked around her to the countertop and smiled. “Thanks, Phoebe.” She grabbed the sandwich and lifted it to her mouth.

“First explain why the change of heart,” Phoebe said, pouring Darah a cup of coffee. “Thought you hated the long commute. Will it be okay next semester?”

“I’ll figure it out,” Darah answered around a mouth full of egg and bread. Her eyes swung to Geraldine, eying her work boots and jeans. “Aren’t you late for work?”

Geraldine smirked. “You deflecting means something happened. And you will answer when I get back.”

Phoebe glanced over her shoulder as Geraldine ambled to the door. “I thought Bart said to wait a while before heading down.”

“He said J.R. was already at the site. Traffic shouldn’t be bad around this time.” Geraldine glanced once at Darah. “I’ll tell both you’re back in town.”

“Ooh, yeah!” Phoebe answered excitedly. “Maybe J.R. can come down with you two for dinner.”

Geraldine smiled. “I’ll let him know. See you.”

As Geraldine stepped out, Phoebe turned a pointed look in Darah’s direction. “Maybe you two can finally talk now that you’re back home.”

“Nothing to talk about.” Darah brushed off the flutter in her stomach as hunger pangs. She chomped down on the egg sandwich while eying another Phoebe prepared. “Are you gonna eat that?”

Phoebe nudged the sandwich to her. “You, your brother and niece are the same person. Eat slowly.”

“Hmm,” Darah mumbled with her mouth full. There was no point mentioning that her stress over Jeremy’s selfishness made her a voracious eater. Phoebe didn’t need to know Darah had gained a couple of pounds since the break-up or that she’d packed snacks to last her a week in her suitcase.

“Well since J.R. will be here for dinner, I guess we won’t have to worry about Eli’s empty spot…”

Darah’s chewing slowed as she eyed her sister-in-law’s forlorn expression. “Why’s he moving–?” She choked on the sandwich and pounded her chest to dislodge the piece of bread.

Phoebe nudged the coffee closer. “We had an argument.”

That wasn’t news; Eleazar had gotten rather moody over the years, much to his siblings’ chagrin. They didn’t understand the change but didn’t fault him for it, since he’d had a tough childhood with poor health despite their care and support. Maybe that was why Phoebe was hurt by the change.

“About what?” Darah hedged softly, watching the lines on Phoebe’s face.

Her sister-in-law had the best skin among the Teka family; Geraldine and Darah suffered from stress pimples, Darah currently sporting a painful one near her right ear. But age and the stress of being the matriarch of their family drew wrinkles around Phoebe’s eyes and her forehead.

Phoebe exhaled a harsh breath. “He spent a few nights outside.”

Again, not a surprise. Eleazar was like Bart in that regard, slightly rebellious and overly curious. She recalled a story from her brothers about their father dragging a rebellious teenaged Bart by his ear home one day after he’d snuck out with friends. Darah nodded, taking another bite of her sandwich.

“With some girl from his class.”

Darah choked on the bread and egg, her eyes wide at the fury brewing in Phoebe’s eyes. She swallowed hard and prayed that Phoebe would never have to find out about her own rebellion.

<<Chapter 3 || Chapter 5>>

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