Posts tagged “Revelation

Lighthouse, Chapter 20

Posted on 15/08/2016

At the sight of his son stepping into the room, Lalana-Joel’s smile only widened at the wake of Clement Teka’s anecdote of chasing wild pigs on the outskirts of Addis Adaba. His eyes swept over his only child’s handsome face, grateful he was alive to see it again.

He started to speak when J.R. stepped close and then he spotted the petite girl right behind his shoulder. Her eyes lit with joy when their gazes met and his smile waned. He quickly swung his gaze back to his son whose eyes danced with an identical expression, and L.J.’s brow furrowed slightly. What was it?

Babu,” J.R.’s voice trembled as he leaned in.

L.J. accepted the kiss to his forehead, warmed by the tenderness of his son’s greeting. When J.R. leaned back, he lifted his eyes back to his son. “Where were you?” he dared not look at the girl who had kept his son from being in the room when he opened his eyes.

Chagrin dimmed the light in his son’s eyes and he looked down, his hand seeking L.J.’s. “The chapel.”

The gentle whisper of his son’s words pierced him, and instantly a memory rushed into his heart. He remembered years ago—too long ago—scouring the hospital for his ten-year-old child, only to find him weeping at the foot of a cross over a mother who died in the emergency hall. He watched in silence as J.R.’s fingers curled around his and he dared not look at his son’s face, ashamed that he’d once again invoked a fear in his son.

Bhaiyaa,” Hana addressed J.R. over the tense silence. “You just missed the doctor earlier.”

J.R. sniffed back tears. “Oh yeah? What did he say?”

Unable to help himself, L.J. raised his head. His son faced Hana as she divested what the doctor shared already, but all L.J. noticed was Darah standing at his side with her arm around J.R’s waist. He arched a brow when her eyes met his and narrowed his eyes when she winked.

What a minx!

He sniffed and looked away, only to meet Clement’s amused expression. He frowned, wondering if these two were in cahoots. Perhaps this bearded missionary man had purposefully entertained with stories of his adventures while his little sister sedu–

Babu,” J.R.’s low baritone pulled L.J.’s attention back to him. His brow was furrowed. “Are you sure?”

For a moment, L.J. had no idea what he meant. His eyes bounced between J.R. and the minx behind him and wanted to shake his head, ready to deny whatever their relationship was. Instead he sought Hana’s guidance with a lift of a brow.

Her lips twitched a smile. “We’re discussing your request to return home.”

“Ah yes.” L.J. nodded and swung his gaze back to J.R. Then he sighed as his son’s brow furrowed deeper. “Don’t look at me like that. I will not spend the rest of my life in this hospital bed.”

“Babu,” J.R. shook his head. “Our only hope is the radiation.”

“And what good help that’s been so far.” L.J. grimaced when his son visibly flinched. “Beta, I know you mean well but this isn’t what I want. The time I have left, I want it to be with you.” His eyes cut to Darah who had the decency to keep her gaze lowered and he faced J.R. once more. “Let me spend the rest of my life preparing you.”

J.R. frowned. “Preparing me for what?”

L.J. hesitated answering, sensing his son was going to argue with the many plans he’d set in place once he was gone. Yet his throat tightened at the thought of leaving his son, and he swallowed hard.

Clement cleared his throat. “Ladies, why don’t we leave the two to talk?”

Thankfully, the two women agreed without protest and followed Clement out of the room. Once the door closed behind them, J.R. sagged into the chair by the bed with his hand still clutching L.J.’s.

“I’m not going anywhere, Beta.”

“Not yet,” J.R. muttered, tightening his hold on L.J.’s hand. When his father grimaced, J.R. quickly loosened his hold. “Does it hurt?”

“Raju…” The pain in his son’s face made him ache and L.J. put his other hand over his. When he spied a glimmer of tears in J.R.’s eyes, L.J. groaned. “None of this, please.”

J.R. sniffed back the tears and lowered his face. “Sorry…”

Chagrined, L.J. lifted his hand and rested it on J.R.’s ruffled mane. The touch broke the dam, and L.J. watched and listened helplessly as his grown-up son wept as though he was ten years old again.

Outside, Clement accepted a call from the house—Phoebe wanted updates, leaving Hana and Darah seated on the wall across L.J.’s hospital room. The women sat in silence, Clement’s voice echoing down the hall. Darah clasped her hands together, replaying the look on Lalana-Joel’s face when she caught his eye. She grimaced and scolded herself for winking at him. It was certainly not in good taste.

Hana chuckled softly. “He wears his emotions easily, doesn’t he?”

Darah peered up at the young woman beside her, not sure she was speaking to her. When she met Hana’s eye, she raised a brow. “Who, my brother?”

Hana shook her head and pointed her chin at the closed door. “Uncle L.J.”

Darah grimaced, causing Hana’s smile to widen. “I don’t think he likes me.” It took a lot for her to admit that; she rarely cared what people thought about her—but for some reason, the opinion of J.R’s father mattered. Her cheeks warmed as she replayed the tender kiss J.R. had given her earlier. Of course his father’s opinion of her mattered. If they got married, he’d—

“He’s really stingy with his heart.”

Frowning, Darah looked back at her. “What do you mean?”

Hana’s smile held secrets Darah needed to know. Leaning back, Hana crossed her arms. “J.R. is his everything, has been ever since he was born. I’m not sure he wants to share him.”

Well he’ll have to, was at the tip of Darah’s tongue but she curbed the remark, deciding to listen first.

“It’s a wonder that he agreed to let Bhaiyaa get married.”

Darah’s heart skipped a beat. “T-to you?”

Hana arched a brow when Darah’s voice squeaked. “Well, not anymore.” Her pointed gaze pierced Darah.

This time Darah didn’t look away. “I ruined his plans. No wonder he doesn’t like me…”

Hana chuckled dryly. “It’s not that he doesn’t like you. He just doesn’t know you.”

Darah shrugged. “Then he should get to know me. I’m a nice person.” It sounded quite silly in her ears but she meant every word. “And I… I love J.R.”

The smile on Hana’s lips faded, and her pointed gaze swept over Darah’s face. “How old are you?”

“Twenty-five,” Darah frowned. “I thought you knew.”

“Oh right… we’re almost age-mates.” Her smile was strained, as though that wasn’t a good thing.

Darah didn’t smile back. “So why does his father like you?”

Hana’s smile eased away, her expression turning cold. She was silent for a moment before answering monotonously. “He owes my father.”

The words were colder than her expression and Darah wrapped her arms around herself. “How?”

Hana’s gaze lifted to the closed door. “He stole my father’s first love and ruined her.”

Breath caught in her throat, Darah’s eyes widened.

When J.R.’s sobs eased away and only the hiss of the humidifier filled the silence, he let out a sigh. The hand that stroked his hair stilled and raised from his head.

“You okay now?”

J.R. smiled grimly. His father was always the worst at comforting, from his earlier years. Nodding, he wiped the stray tears from his cheeks before lifting his eyes to L.J.’s.

L.J. sighed with relief though concern etched lines in his brow. Leaning back against the propped pillow, he closed his eyes and sighed again. “I hate this.”

His strong and capable father looked frail in the flimsy hospital gown, his tanned skin a sharp contrast to all that white. The image of his pale mother encased in the cushioned coffin-bed crossed his mind and he shook it away, along with the cold shiver trickling down his spine. “Me too,” he croaked out, the tears pooling.

“I wish to go home,” L.J. confessed after a few moments of silence. “I hate hospitals.”

J.R.’s lips twitched a wry smirk. “Me too.”

L.J. opened his eyes to meet his son’s wary stare. “So sign the papers and let’s spend the rest of my life at home, Beta. I beg you.”

The desperation in his father’s eyes broke him. His father had never begged him for anything before, and the reality of his father’s frailty sobered him. J.R. swallowed the lump in his throat. “I don’t want to lose you, Babu.”

His father reached for his hand and squeezed it. “And I don’t want to leave you.”

The tremble in his father’s voice pulled J.R. from his chair. He reached for his father, gathering him in a tight hug.

“I’m sorry,” L.J.’s voice was muffled in J.R.’s shoulder, his hand rubbing J.R.’s back as the tears fell silently. “I’m so sorry.”

J.R. squeezed his eyes tight. They’d wasted too many years hiding their shared hurts and their affection toward each other. He’d been a fool for not forgiving his father, for silently fighting his father’s will for him. He sniffed back tears and tightened his hold around L.J. “I’m sorry too.”

Darah splashed water on her face, still jarring from Hana’s earlier revelation. J.R.’s mother had been the betrothed of Hana’s father. But then she met J.R.’s father in university and the two decided to elope without their families’ consent, causing an uproar. With Hana’s father swearing to avenge his family’s fragmented honor and for fear that he and his now-pregnant wife were in danger of being killed, L.J. relocated his new family to the United States as listed refugees.

Years after Hana’s father married another woman from their village and J.R. was born, the families at home reconciled without their children. Because of their refugee status, J.R.’s mother couldn’t return to her family and became increasingly homesick to the point of depression. Letters home weren’t enough to ease her growing anxiety and even her husband’s devoted love and attention wasn’t enough to heal her sickness. Then she sent letters to Hana’s father, seeking for ways to be connected with her family. At first, Hana’s father wished to forget his painful past and left the letters unanswered, but he read every note–each from J.R.’s mother more desperate and hopeless than the previous one.

Cold frisson skittered down Darah’s spine. The last letter revealed that J.R.’s mother hated her husband for taking her away from the home she longed for day and night. She admitted resenting her son whose impending birth had caused her husband to seek asylum in the United States. Tears pooled in her eyes, imagining a very young J.R. wishing for a mother’s love and aching from her abandonment.

Eyes on her reflection, Darah’s hand moved over her stomach as she wondered if she’d be a better mother to this unborn child than J.R.’s mother had been to him.

The toilet flushed and Darah quickly brushed away the thought as Hana stepped out of the stall. They exchanged strained smiles and Hana came to the sink beside her, turning on the faucet.

Darah lowered her hand from her stomach and turned off the faucet she’d left running.

“Can I ask you a personal question?” Hana asked, lathering her hands with soap.

Peering at the young woman’s bent head, Darah nodded though hesitant. “Sure.”

Hana peeked up at her reflection. “Is J.R. the father of your baby?”

Darah swallowed a gasp and maintained a straight face though her pulse was hammering in her throat. “What are you talking about?”

Hana stared at her dead-on. “I noticed how protective J.R. is with you, and how you sleep with your hand curved over your stomach.”

“Y-you were watching me sleep?”

“You were just touching your belly earlier.” The slow smile spread on Hana’s lips but didn’t reach her eyes. “I’m a doctor. It’s natural for me to be observant. You’re pregnant, aren’t you?”

Darah gaped at this woman who was L.J.’s choice for J.R.’s future, and knew she was in deep trouble.

J.R. gaped at his father. “What did you just say?”

Their hands still joined, L.J. sighed. “I said you have my blessing.”

He swallowed hard. “A-about what exactly?”

L.J. threw an exasperated glance to the ceiling. “You’re gonna make me say it?”

“I think you should.”

“You can have your refugee center.” He lowered his gaze to his son’s. “I won’t fight you any longer.”

J.R.’s shoulders sagged with relief at his father’s confirmation, though grieved that his father was giving in. “Why are you—”

“Raju, come on,” L.J. grumbled. “What good will my fighting you on your dream do? It’ll only drive us further apart when we need to be closer than ever. There isn’t much time.”

At J.R.’s silence, L.J. squeezed his hands. “I will have Preethi and the others support you once more.”

J.R.’s stomach turned, knowing his father’s friends would readily support him due to their friend’s impending departure. He squeezed his eyes tight, not looking forward to their piteous stares. “Babu…”

“And I’ll have a meeting with the partners. We’ll need to reorganize the—“

Babu, please… later.” J.R. felt sick to his stomach, afraid of the void his father would leave behind.

“Fine, later.” L.J. pinned his son with his pointed gaze. “Is this thing with that girl serious?”

J.R. blinked at the change of subject. “Who, Darah?”

L.J. nodded, his brow furrowing deeper with concern.

J.R. drew in a breath and squeezed his father’s hand. “Yes it is.” His lips twitched when his father narrowed his eyes at him. “I love her, Babuji.”

<<Chapter 19 || Chapter 21>>

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>>

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