Posts tagged “secret

Lighthouse, Chapter 3

Posted on 15/04/2016

Pulling up the curved driveway, J.R. spied up at the darkened windows of the family house and breathed a sigh of relief. Grabbing his suit jacket from behind the chair, J.R. stepped out of the car and used the manual lock instead of the automatic which would make a distinct sound. Even if his father was fast asleep in the master bedroom, J.R. was taking no chances.

Slipping into the house, he turned off the alarm before it made a sound and without taking a look at his surroundings, he started for the grand staircase.

“Raju?”

J.R. paused in mid-step and spun about, seeking the gravelly voice in the dark. Then he saw the shadowed form in the family room, the one they hardly used until countrymen folk came in from out of town. It was a room solely meant for entertaining guests but not family. He frowned. “Babuji?”

The shadowed form stirred and light flooded the room. A white-haired man with dark weathered skin and deep-set eyes sat in silk pajamas, with his hands perchef on the cushioned arms of the leather chair. “What time is it?”

J.R. tamped a sigh, knowing full well what his father was up to.  He stepped away from the stairs and dragged his feet toward his father. Paying homage by bending at the waist to touch his father’s feet in greeting, J.R. perched on the chair adjacent to his father’s. “Close to midnight. What are you doing awake?”

Lalana Joel Obed, better known as L.J., eyed his son warily before speaking. “Waiting for you.”

Ignoring the niggling sensation at the pit of his stomach, J.R. frowned. “Is… everything okay?” He could count on one hand the times his father had waited up for him; all not good.

L.J. bobbed his head, wisps of snow-white hair gliding his forehead. “Tell me about your work.”

J.R. stifled a groan. Though his father had retired from the thriving law firm and officially named him as his successor, he’d felt more pressured than when his father was in charge. He knew some of the lawyers and his father’s secretary remained on staff mostly to keep an eye on him. He wondered what they’d shared to his father about how he was running the firm.

“I heard you took on yet another pro-bono.”

J.R. fought a wince at the disdain in his father’s voice.

“We are not running a charity, Raju,” L.J. said firmly. “Maybe here or there for our special clients, but not every time pro-bono.”

At the sound of his father’s accent thickening, J.R. knew he’d heard about the recent case. He sighed and met his father’s stern expression. “I couldn’t turn them away, Babu. If you knew what nightmare they were facing, you would–”

“You are not an immigration lawyer. Civil cases only, Raju. That is what I assigned you to do.”

J.R. clenched his jaw and for a charged moment, he and his father stared each other down. They didn’t have J.R.’s mother, Tayla, to stand as mediator whenever they argued. Her twenty-fifth anniversary had barely passed and the two had grown accustomed to resolving their differences on their own, or at least pushing it aside until the next disagreement.

L.J. broke eye contact first and sighed. “A word is enough for the wise.” He started to rise.

J.R. rose too, ready to end the night.

“One more thing.”

He paused and looked down at his father whose body bent slightly from age. “Yes, Babu?”

“You remember my old friend from home, Dabir?”

J.R. merely blinked; his father had too many old friends from home. He couldn’t even begin to place this one among the many he’d met through his childhood.

L.J. grunted. “Anyway, he and his family are moving to Houston next month. I want you to take care of them.”

Alarm bells started to ring in his ears at his father’s words. He frowned. “Take care of them?”

“Yes, especially their daughter, Hana. You probably don’t remember her.”

JR shook his head, unable to form a word. Even from the dim lighting, J.R. noted the glint in his father’s eyes and didn’t like it one bit.

“It’s late, we’ll talk more about it later.” L.J. moved around the table and started for his bedroom. “Goodnight, son.”

“G-goodnight, Babuji…” J.R. waited until his father’s lanky frame disappeared into the shadows before he blew out a shaky breath.

He should’ve known he wouldn’t go scot-free for much longer even without a mother to nag as others’ mothers did. His childhood friends got married and although he experienced the occasional side-eye or weighted suggestion about his singlehood, he’d truly believed his father didn’t worry himself over such trivial matters. His father was much too preoccupied with growing his firm in his absence to care about only son’s marriage or producing the next generation of Obed.

But J.R. was wrong. So very wrong. And in true tradition of arranged marriages with little input from either the groom or bride, J.R. Obed’s marriage planning had just begun.

Disturbed by the looming arrival of a Mr. Dabir and his family, J.R. turned off the lamp and trudged upstairs.

Darah gaped at her boyfriend Jeremy who avoided looking at her. Feeling light-headed, she perched on the arm of the sofa. “What did you just say?”

“I don’t know.” He rubbed the back of his head.

“What do you mean you don’t know?! You said something so simply repeat it!”

“Stop yelling at me!” he shouted defensively, retreating to his desk. “I told you this wasn’t permanent.”

She scowled at his back. “What about marriage isn’t permanent?”

He mumbled something under his breath as he pulled up a browser.

Darah shot to her feet and stomped over to his desk, grabbing his shoulder. “You lied to me!”

Jeremy yanked his arm from hers. “Oh come on! I just said I’m not ready for marriage right now.”

“So you gave me a line? Is that it?” Darah bunched her fingers to keep them from trembling. Her whole body was hot with rage.

He pushed away from the desk, walking around her to enter the bedroom they shared. “Start packing, I gotta leave soon.”

“First answer my questions, you coward!” she called after him, scowling when he slammed the bedroom door behind him. She grabbed the first thing she could find, a textbook and flung it at the door.

The door opened and Jeremy bent to pick it up before tossing a glare her way. “For goodness’ sake, Darah. I borrowed this!”

Darah folded her arms. “Answer my question first. Are you kicking me out or is this a breakup?”

Jeremy dusted off the pages. “What part of ‘I broke the lease’ don’t you get, Darah?”

It took everything in her not to throw another book his way. She clenched her jaw. “And where am I supposed to go, Jeremy? You made me mov—“

“Now wait a minute,” he held out a hand. “I didn’t make you do anything. You wanted a place to stay, I offered my place and you moved in.”

Darah scoffed incredulously. “You offered? Not groveled? Like you didn’t benefit from me moving here!”

Jeremy rolled his eyes and focused his attention on the gnarled pages. “The binding is broken and this was my professor’s. You really need to work on your temper.”

“Yeah sure, right after I throw this book at your face.” A perverse satisfaction filled her when he jerked his head up in alarm. She clenched her jaw. “Are you breaking up with me?”

“Would you stay with you if you were me?” His tone was cold, his expression detached.

Darah held the tears at bay. It was better to stay unaffected even if she wanted to cry. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. “So in the end, you’re just as bad as the other guy, huh?”

His expression darkened. “That’s not fair. I protected you.”

“No Jeremy, you didn’t.” She felt such shame, knowing she’d compromised herself all because a guy promised to protect her but in the end caused her more pain. “You used me.”

He scowled. “Now wait—“

“Pretending to be a knight-in-shining-armor when you’re really a snake, a low-life.” Darah nodded, bending to pick up her purse. “It sucks that I only had to find out now. But it’s cool. I’ll gladly leave.”

Tears pushed at her eyelids and she willed them away. Darah forced herself to look at Jeremy who glared at her with his handsome features twisted in rage. She wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. This wasn’t the guy who swooped in to save her from the stalker a semester ago, the guy who comforted her with confident flowery words and blood-stirring kisses. No, this was definitely not the guy who gave her pleasure and promised her forever once they graduated.

As she started for the door, anger made her turn to face him. “You’re scum, Jeremy, and I wish you nothing but a life full of pain and regret.”

Not the most mature thing to say as a third-year master student but Darah had devoted her life to making this relationship work. For him to care very little about tossing her aside made her hot with rage. “In fact, you dying a lonely and bitter crag would be the best you can do for mankind.”

He just stared, accustomed to her sharp tongue and harsh words. “Just make sure you get your stuff out by tomorrow. I need my security deposit back.”

Darah looked him down from head to toe, her lips curled in distaste. “I have no idea how I fell for a nut-job like you.”

“Same here.”

His words were like a punch to her stomach and Darah choked on a laugh. She turned away and yanked the door open. Pausing at the door, her lips twisted in a sardonic smile. “Actually you know what? Just throw it away. I’m done with you.”

She stepped out and slammed the door as hard as she could. Her smile widened at the sound of glass crashing to the floor, most likely that ostentatious picture he hung by the door. Ignoring the stream of expletives from the other side of the door, Darah headed down the sidewalk to her car.

Jeremy Landsing was a green-eyed, devilishly-handsome post-doctorate fellow studying geology when she met him a year ago. She and a couple of friends had just finished off a class project and were celebrating with pints of Haagen-Daas at a café when he and his friends stepped in for coffee. Their eyes met across the divider and he flashed her his signature grin. She’d rolled her eyes and focused on her ice-cream.

Back then, she lived by her ‘I don’t date’ mantra and had no qualms about snubbing men interested in her. Jeremy wasn’t discouraged though and walked up to her table to introduce himself. Of course, Darah brushed him off and went on with her life, ignoring him whenever he sought her out. Until she had no choice but to turn to him after a messy incident involving a scorned date where Jeremy saved her. Then she quickly fell for him soon after and they became inseparable to the point of moving in together.

Smile faded, Darah yanked the car door and ducked inside. She slammed the door and propped her forehead on the steering wheel, tears streaming down her face. Her body shook with the sobs she’d held in when he announced he would be moving away, with no plans for her in mind.

Early in their relationship, he’d teased her mercurial temper but said it with that signature grin and then comforted her with his touch. She’d believed him when he said he loved her and would marry her once he’d finished his research. She was so hungry for romantic affection; to have what her sisters-in-law had with her brothers. She’d wanted it for such a long time and after being rejected by the only other person she ever liked, Jeremy’s pursuit made her feel wanted and loved.

Darah wept long and hard until she couldn’t anymore. Then she straightened in her seat and wiped her eyes. Ignoring the stares she got from students strolling in front of her car, Darah turned on the ignition key of her car and reversed out of the parking lot. This would be the very last time she would cry for a man; the second and absolute last time.

< || Chapter 4>>

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 27

Posted on 27/04/2015

ehredt

Deidre had no idea how to phrase her concerns to Sheena but she had just a few seconds to figure it out before the dial-tone stopped ringing.

“Dee?” Sheena’s weary voice droned on the other end, jerking Deidre from her jumbled thoughts. “Is everything alright?”

Guilt seized her windpipe, nerves dancing. “How are you?”

“As well as we can be…” Sheena sighed. “Please talk about something cheerful. How is the fam?”

“We’re fine.” Deidre bit her bottom lip. “Sheena, let me ask you something. I’ll need your honest answer.”

“As if there was any other kind.” Sheena stifled a yawn. “Go ahead.”

Deidre shifted in her chair. “It’s about Ezekiel… And Samina.”

Sheena inhaled sharply.

Deidre gripped the phone, nerve slipping. “Y’know what, never mind. This was a mistake. I should’ve waited until—”

“Wait!” Sheena protested. “Dee, wait a minute. What do you mean?”

Deidre cringed, trying to figure out the best way to backpedal out of the mess she’d put herself in. “It’s nothing… Really, it was just a silly thought.”

“It can’t be if I’m thinking of it too.”

Deidre froze. “Huh?”

Sheena laughed softly. “Dee, that’s why you’re my best friend. Girl, we think too much alike.”

“Wait what? I…” Deidre swallowed. “What do you mean?”

Sheena giggled, her uninhibited joy prickling Deidre’s jumpy nerves. “Isn’t this great? It’s what I’ve been praying about for a long time. Dee, isn’t it wonderful? Your daughter and my son, in love. Finally!”

A strangled noise escaped Deidre’s throat and she bit it back, not wanting to alarm Sheena. “Finally…?” she breathed, incredulous.

“Of course he’s denying it but it’s so obvious,” Sheena gushed openly. “The moony stares and the forlorn sighs when he thinks we’re not looking.”

“We?” Deidre raised a brow, imagining the twinkle in Sheena’s eyes.

“Let’s just say I caught them being cute together.” Sheena giggled. “Oh gosh, Dee. Can you believe it? My son is in love with your daughter. It’s about time!”

Once they bid their goodnight, Deidre lowered the phone back on its cradle, Sheena’s words ringing in her ears. Ezekiel in love with Samina? After all this time?

At the chapel that following Sunday, Deidre struggled against rising indignation as she caught Ezekiel’s eyes travel down the aisle. Looking for Samina, no doubt.

Her lips pursed as Ezekiel’s gaze connected with hers. When he flashed her a smile of greeting, she forced one of her own and looked away.

At her side, Gabriel raised a brow at her. Deidre rolled her eyes. It was none of his business; especially if he didn’t divulge the reasons for why he fought with Jeremiah.

Shrugging Gabriel shifted to face the front stage. She wrinkled her nose in displeasure and turned her attention forward.

“We must put off any sign of judgment for our Christian brother and sister,” the senior pastor spoke on. “We might not have gone through the same set of troubles or tribulations, but in God’s eyes, we’re the same. Wretched, poor and lost.”

The crowd murmured their collective agreement. Deidre squinted her eyes at him.

“At the end of the day, the person you sit next to deserves your respect and love. Love thy neighbor as you love thyself, that’s what the Word says right?”

Squelching any reaction caused by the pastor’s words was difficult and she fidgeted with her Bible. Then the image of Samina weeping for her unrequited feelings stirred up indignation greater than any remorse or guilt.

She knew more than anyone what damage could be caused when someone pined over a lost love. Sneaking a glance at her husband’s profile, her jaw tightened.

Steeling her spine, Deidre made her decision. She would not sit back and watch her daughter waste years pining for a man who didn’t notice her until now. It hurt too much.

“What’s wrong with you?” Gabriel’s hushed voice tugged her to the present. “You’re daydreaming during the sermon?”

“No. Everything’s fine.” Deidre bit her bottom lip, her mind working out a plan.

“Hold on a minute, Laide.” Ezekiel tamped down aggravation as Adelaide pulled him toward the exit doors. He peered over his shoulder, eyes darting across the lobby for any sign of Samina. No luck.

“Papa,” Beulah whined, tugging at his other hand. “I’m hungry.”

Her voice like frigid water over his senses, doused his feverish search for Samina. Ezekiel jerked his eyes to her cherubim face. “Didn’t they feed you in Sunday school?”

She looked away guiltily. “I don’t like ham.”

Ezekiel snorted in disbelief. “Since when?”

Adelaide sniffed, mouth pursed in distaste. “Ham sandwiches are disgusting.”

“Apparently.” He rolled his eyes. His daughters were becoming too picky for his liking. “Alright then. Let’s stop at the pancake house before going home.”

“Awesome!” Adelaide grinned wide. Beulah danced beside him as they walked down the church steps toward the parking lot.

He grinned, leading them down the crosswalk. “You’re too spoiled for your own good—Aunty Dee,” he said in the same breath, spotting Deidre Wells walking up to him. “Good afternoon.”

Deidre nodded, eyes sweeping past him to gaze down at his daughters. Her warm smile was reserved for them.  “Hello girls. How are you?”

Adelaide and Beulah merely blinked at her.

Ezekiel laughed nervously. “Girls, this is Grandma’s best friend, Gramma Dee.”

“She’s our grandma too?” Beulah asked innocently.

Deidre breathed out a laugh. “Oh heavens, no!”

Ezekiel’s smile waned at her fierce reply.

She bent, meeting Beulah’s eye-level, and smiled gently. “Why don’t you call me Aunty Dee?” She turned a pointed look at Ezekiel. “Lord knows I’m not quite ready to be anyone’s grandmother.”

He was rendered speechless at her unwavering gaze; as though she’d caught him doing something very wrong.

“Are you Aunty Sammy’s mom?” Adelaide asked, nudging their attention to her.

Deidre’s gaze bounced to Adelaide. “Yes I am.”

Beulah bounced on her heels. “I like Aunty Sammy. She’s nice.”

“Indeed she is and so are you.” Deidre tapped Beulah on the tip of her nose, earning her a giggle.  Then she straightened, regarding Ezekiel solemnly. “Zeke, we should have a talk.”

“Yes, of course,” he forced through dry lips. “Girls, get in the car and strap up. I’ll be just a moment.” He released their hands and watched them walk to the car before turning back to Deidre’s unwavering stare. For some reason, he felt like she’d inspected him through and through, finding him wanting. He summoned a breath. “Is… everything alright?”

Deidre managed a smile. “It will be, Ezekiel.” She tilted her head slightly, eyes studying his face. “How long has it been?”

“How long?” his brow knotted in confusion though his mind had a clue what she was inferring. His shoulders tensed.

“Since Winsome.”

His gaze darted to the girls fidgeting in the car. “Five years…”

Deidre clicked her tongue piteously. “What a pity. She would’ve been proud to see you and the girls.”

He couldn’t answer, couldn’t look at her.

“I know how much you loved her.”

This time, her gentle voice nudged him to look at her. Ezekiel blinked at the warmth belied in her brown eyes and his Adam’s apple bobbed uncomfortably. “I…”

Then suddenly, her fingers reached for his. Gripping it tight, stealing his breath at her beseeching gaze. “But it’s time to move on, Zeke… Don’t you think?”

Ezekiel couldn’t speak. He just stared dumbly.

Deidre smiled warmly. “You could love again, find happiness again; not only for your daughters but for you.” Her gentle gaze caressed his face like a mother’s would.

He swallowed hard, realizing that she was as encouraging as his had been about moving on. Finding love again. His heart flipped over. Was she giving her permission to court Samina? Did he dare hope?

Then Deidre released his hand, though the warmth of her smile remained with him. “You never know who your heart might be open to.”

Ezekiel smiled. Yep, she was hinting as his mother did. “Yes Ma’am.”

Deidre’s lips curved. “Do you have any… prospects?”

His face heated under her astute gaze but he dared not look away. “Maybe.”

Surprisingly, her smile waned slightly. Her brows lifted. “Really?”

“Yes Ma’am.” Ezekiel nodded. He wanted to ease her nerves, convince her that she didn’t need to worry but only once he’d settled things with her daughter first. “Is… Sam around?”

She stiffened; the movement was hard to miss.

Ezekiel frowned. “I-Is she okay?”

Deidre’s smile was forced this time. “She’s fine. On a vacation right now.”

He raised his brows. “A vacation?”

She kicked a shoulder and crossed her arms. “Yes, vacation. She took off last night and she’ll be back in a week. Why?”

“Oh, it’s nothing.” He tamped down the pangs of disappointment that he’d have to wait a week. As Deidre bid him a good day and walked away, Ezekiel let out a whoosh of breath.

What was a week to wait if he could have the rest of his life to love Samina?

Time to love again… his heart fluttered in his chest as he made his way to the car.

The cool air skittered along her arms and she clenched her fingers together. In the thin hospital gown, she shivered.

It felt strange sitting in this empty room, waiting to be led into the surgery room. Around her, she could hear families encouraging their loved ones and felt a pang of sadness that she was alone.

If she’d told her family, Deidre would be weeping uncontrollably and her father would be pacing behind the curtain, tension etched on his face.

Samina shook her head, clearing the image. It was better this way, she told herself, squeezing her fingers together. The surgery would be a quick one and she’d be home before anyone could question her absence.

“I’m doing the right thing,” she muttered softly.

“Are you?” her doctor pulled back the curtain and came to stand by her bed.

Samina managed a smile, her nerves jittery and unsettled. She pressed her clenched hands to her midsection. “Is it… my turn?”

Dr. Halliday’s gaze was gentle, sympathetic. “Are you ready?”

Apprehension gripped her throat, rendering her speechless. For a moment, Samina wished she could’ve asked one person to come. Tears filled her eyes and she blinked them away, hitching her chin. “I’m ready.”

<<Chapter 27 || Chapter 28>>

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