Posts tagged “shock

Lighthouse, Chapter 12

Posted on 20/06/2016

When the door opened and J.R. stepped out of the car, Darah actually took a step back. She hadn’t expected him to respond to her usual goading. His face was unreadable though from the look of his taut jaw, he wasn’t too happy with her choice of words. She took another step back when he walked the length of his car to stop in front of her.

But instead of reaming her for calling him names or being disrespectful, J.R. just stared at her with those piercing dark eyes of his. She shifted the weight from one foot to the other, staring at him, waiting for him to say something.

Then he sighed and shook his head. “You have no idea what you’re doing, Darah.”

She scowled instantly. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Exactly what I said.” His dark gaze swept over her face, studying her and finding her inadequate.

She squeezed her fingers into fists. “What does that mean?”

J.R. blew out a breath, his gaze unwavering. “The minute I decide to treat you like an adult, you prove me wrong.”

Darah stiffened, his words echoing her brothers’ sentiments. Surprisingly, him saying it hurt more than she’d anticipated. It was obvious that her brothers would never see her as an adult, having raised her since she was twelve. But J.R.? She clenched her jaw. “I’d say the same for you since you’re the one running away. Like a coward.”

His eyes narrowed. “I am not running away.”

“Oh really? So you hiding in the pharmacy was what exactly?”

J.R. frowned. “You…”

“Yes, I saw you.” Darah put her hands on her hips and tilted her chin. “Someone might think I was forcing you to make the wisest choice here.”

He arched a brow. “I’m afraid to ask you what that choice might be.”

“Get married, duh.” Darah didn’t miss a beat. “You need to get married to please your dad, and my reason is obvious, of course.”

J.R. nodded without blinking. “Of course.”

Darah relaxed a little. Maybe she’d worn him down enough and he would actually consider—

“The problem is you thinking this is the wisest choice, or only choice for that matter.” J.R.’s gaze swept over her face. “Let’s ignore the fact that I have other sponsors who with the right persuasion could continue to fund the center. Let’s focus on you first.”

Darah frowned, not liking where this was going. J.R. was annoyingly analytical and had probably analyzed her situation even before knowing the full details. The most annoying part would be that he’d be close to the truth.

“Where’s the father?”

She huffed loudly to distract him from the stiffening of her shoulders. “Not this again.”

“Yes this again.” His brow furrowed. “Why you think I’d be a better candidate than the biological father is beyond me.”

“Maybe because you are.” Her cheeks warmed when he blinked at her. “I-I mean anyone besides that jerk would be a good candidate. Don’t get weird.”

“You proposing to get married in the first place is weird.”

Darah eyed him curiously. “Tell me the truth, J.R., what are you scared of?”

He arched a brow. “I’m not scared of anything, Darah.”

“Then why are you so bent on rejecting me?”

J.R. frowned. “I’m not rejecting you.”

Darah nodded, careful to look unfettered. “From day one when I told you how I felt—“

“You were young.”

She scowled. “I was eighteen! And before you start your rubbish talk about me being a minor, there are many eighteen-year-olds who got married right after high school.” Darah studied his indecipherable features, frustrated that even after ten years she couldn’t read what he was thinking. “Just be honest, you can’t handle me.”

Both brows shot up, eyes wide momentarily before J.R. slipped that mask back on. He let out an incredulous laugh. “I can’t handle you…?”

Darah tilted her chin. “You’re scared that I’ll be too much for you.”

J.R. smirked. “You have no idea.”

Her cheeks warmed as he stared with his hooded gaze. The heat traveled down her body and she bit her bottom lip. Her pulse quickened when his gaze dropped to her mouth.

“Does the kid know he’s gonna be a father?”

His words doused the heat from her body and she blew out a breath. “What’s this fascination about the father? I already told you he’s a nonfactor and should therefore not be mentioned.”

J.R. frowned. “That’s now how any of that works, Darah. Whether or not you want to accept it, the child’s biological father has an equal right to custody and could cause—”

Darah held a hand. “If I wanted legal advice, I’d have asked for it. Since I didn’t, keep it to yourself.”

His dark brows furrowed. “You’ve been ignoring me for years but the moment you’ve got the family on your case, I’m the first you thought to call?”

She then closed her mouth and folded her arms across her chest. “You’re insinuating that I need you to rescue me?”

He arched a brow. “Don’t you?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, I can handle my brothers just fine.”

“Still, raising a child on your own’s tougher. So tough you’re actually contemplating getting into a loveless marriage with just about anyone.”

She scowled. “You’re not just anyone! Stop acting like we’re strangers. I’ve known you for years.”

J.R. eyed her warily. “In any case, I won’t marry you.”

Darah stiffened visibly but recovered quickly with a smirk. “Alright.”

“Maybe one day I’ll explain—”

“Dude, it’s fine! I’ll be a fool to ask you again.” She spun on her heel and started for her car.

“Darah, wait—”

Her eyes stung with unshed tears and Darah slammed the car in frustration. After all these years she should’ve been immune to his snobbery towards her. No matter what she did, no matter how many years passed, he’d always look at her through the same lens as her brothers. She would never be anything more than immature, impulsive, quick-tempered and childish.

Sniffing back tears, Darah turned on the engine and reached for her seatbelt. Better to leave before he saw her crying and cement his jaded view of her. She would show him just how mature she was.

Her eyes drifted to his car, to him standing by the open door. He was on the phone, his back facing her.

Looking away, Darah snorted and dragged the seatbelt over her chest. “I’ll show him.” Her eyes drifted back to him. He didn’t enter his car to leave, instead leaning against the car. His back was bowed slightly as if he’d just received bad news.

She put the car in reverse, knowing he couldn’t leave until she did. The sooner she left, the sooner she could be away from such embarrassment. Her foot remained on the brake, eyes watching him.

His free hand moved to his head and remained there.

Darah quietly put the car in park and watched him. She hadn’t witnessed that frazzled pose from J.R. before. Something wasn’t right.

Then J.R. lowered the phone from his ear and rested his head against the car door.

She pressed the car horn. J.R. didn’t turn around. She huffed a breath and unbuckled her seatbelt. She pressed the horn again but J.R. refused to acknowledge her. Pushing the cardoor open, she stuck her head out. “What’s going on?”

He didn’t answer, didn’t lift his head.

Darah frowned, stepping out of the car. Her pulse quickened as she made her way to him. She stopped right behind him and put a hand to his bowed back. His body was taut and not just from his toned physique. She shook him slightly.

He jerked as though just realizing she was beside him, and shifted to face her.

Darah’s eyes widened at his glistening gaze. “A-are you crying?”

J.R. blinked to clear the haze and looked past her. “My father…”

Her pulse jumped and her hand clutched his shoulder. “What happened?”

“He collapsed.”

“My God. Where is he? Why are you still here?”

J.R. shook his head, dazed.

Darah dropped her hand from his shoulder. “What hospital is he? Who’s with him?”

He just stared past her.

Clearly the news was grave or he would’ve said something. She’d never seen J.R. look so lost and it scared her. But the longer they tarried in the parking lot, the less time they’d have to reach his father.

Darah grabbed his wrist and tugged him toward her car. “Come. I’ll drive.”

“I’ll call once we arrive,” Darah said over the speaker in the car.

“J.R., we’re praying for your dad. Don’t lose heart, dear.” Phoebe spoke out, aware that J.R. was seated in the passenger’s seat of Darah’s car.

“Stay strong, brother,” Abe piped in.

J.R. didn’t answer to either and just stared out the window.

Darah glanced once at him and then reached for the phone. “Okay, let’s talk later. Bye.” She disconnected the call and sighed. “Don’t worry. I hear St. Luke’s a good hospital.”

He still didn’t answer and Darah looked his way, noting his taut jaw. “Are you worried?”

“Can we just not talk?” his voice was gravelly as though his throat was tight with holding back tears.

Darah nodded. “We could—“

“Thanks.”

She sighed and faced the road once more. They were only a few miles from the hospital but to Darah, and maybe even J.R., it felt like they were too far. She pressed on the accelerator.

“Don’t speed.”

Her lips twitched and she raised her foot slightly. Even in his frazzled state, he still had a mind to worry about her. She squeezed the steering wheel and said a quiet prayer for J.R. and his father, not knowing what happened except that his father collapsed at home and was rushed to the nearest hospital.

Minutes later, Darah pulled up in front of the hospital’s front. “Go ahead. I’ll park and come find you.”

J.R. grunted his reply as he unbuckled his seatbelt and quickly exited the car.

Darah watched him race for the sliding doors into the hospital lobby. She sighed and drove toward the parking lot. Her phone rang just as she pulled into a parking spot and she groaned, reading Bart’s caller ID. “Yeah?” she answered on the third ring, stepping out of the car.

“What hospital?”

“St. Luke’s. But I don’t think he wants all of us there.”

“We’ll be there in an hour. Gotta put the kids in bed first.”

Darah slung the bag over her shoulder. “Abe and Phoebe coming too?”

“Is that even a question to ask? Stay with him until we get there, then we’ll switch off.”

“I’m not leaving him.” She stepped onto the sidewalk. “Stay with your family.”

Bart was quiet for just a moment. “I’m not going to read into that now. We’ll be there shortly.”

Darah rolled her eyes as she crossed the walkway to the hospital entrance. “Yeah okay. Gotta go.” She disconnected the call before her brother changed his mind and hurried through the sliding doors to find the emergency ward and J.R.

She found him standing beside a doctor dressed in scrubs, a nurse and another woman dressed in street clothes. Eyes on J.R. alone, she meandered over, catching the tail end of the doctor’s words.

“… to monitor his vitals.”

J.R. dragged a hand over his tousled hair and Darah fought reaching out for his hand. “How long?”

The doctor, a white-haired gentleman of Arab descent, raised his bushy brows. “…long?”

“He means how long has it been this way?” the willowy woman dressed in street clothes asked, and for the first time, Darah noticed how close she stood beside J.R. and the hand she placed on his back. “It doesn’t make sense that Uncle L.J. would be in such a poor state.”

Although the woman referred to J.R.’s dad as Uncle, Darah stiffened when J.R. heaved a sigh and the woman rubbed his back. Clearing her throat, she stepped forward, attracting everyone’s attention. She gave them a smile. “Is everything alright?”

The doctor and nurse exchanged curious glances.

J.R glanced once at Darah before nodding at the doctor. “She’s with me. When can I see my father?”

Darah noticed the willowy woman’s hand drop from J.R.’s back and fought back a smile. It wasn’t appropriate in this case. She watched J.R.’s profile and had to hold herself from reaching for his hand.

“Since he’s stable now, I’ll have Nurse Wells get you signed in.” The doctor glanced once at Darah. “Family for now though.”

J.R. nodded and blindly reached for Darah’s hand. “That’s fine. She’s my fiancée.”

Darah wasn’t sure who gasped, her or the woman standing by J.R.’s side or both. All that mattered in that moment was J.R.’s hand gripping hers. She swallowed the gasp and squeezed his hand back.

<<Chapter 11 || Chapter 13>>

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Samina’s Chance: Chapter 39

Posted on 13/05/2015

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Samina wrung her fingers tightly as she forced herself not to look to her left at her father. But with the heavy silence between them as they drove home, she couldn’t help but glance over.

His jaw was clenched so tight, she was afraid he would break his teeth. Her fingers twitched to put over his but the deep furrow in his brow made her rethink it.

The memory of his intense glare directed at Topher loosened her tongue. “Dad…”

He stiffened as if he’d forgotten she was in the car with him. His lips pursed, his hands squeezed the steering wheel.

Samina frowned, nonplussed by his unbridled fury and sharp reaction. His earlier performance didn’t line up with the man she’d admired and trusted for all her life. “Dad, I’m thirty years old.”

He scowled, fingers pressed tightly against the leather. “I know that.”

“Then why did you—”

“It’s complicated.”

Her frown deepened. “What’s complicated about it? Am I not old enough to make my own decisions? You said as long as I was happy with what—”

Gabriel groaned, cutting her off again. “Please, Samina… just stop. Please.”

Samina drew in her lips, staring at the tense lines on his face. He’d always supported her, had just given her a speech about being happy for her in whatever she chose to do, so what was the meaning of this? “Dad…”

“Samina,” he barked out.

She flinched, gaping at him.

His jaw worked a tick, his eyes focused on the road. “Enough. I don’t want to hear another word about this. Understood?”

Frustrated and unnerved, Samina jerked in her seat and faced the window, glaring at the buildings that zoomed past them as Gabriel drove them home.

Nadine’s eyes snapped open to the white tiled ceiling. She knew this place. Wincing at the hollow pain in her chest, she tilted her head sideways on the pillow and stifled a moan. Topher sitting quietly near her bed, face turned to the window.

She cleared her throat and still he didn’t move.

Nadine bit the inside of her sore mouth and coughed a little louder.

Topher turned his head and her heart skipped several beats at the forlorn glint in his gaze. His eyes swept over her, inspecting her no doubt.

Nadine wanted to hold him but feared he would pull away. Instead, she shifted her gaze to the window. They were back in the hospital. In Houston. Her chest tightened and she placed a hand over it, rubbing away the tension. “What… happened?”

“We missed the flight.”

Nadine closed her eyes briefly, told herself to breathe first. “Oh?”

Topher sighed and reached for her other hand, enveloping it between his warm ones. “It’s okay, Nadine.”

Even though he would never admit it out loud, Nadine knew he’d been scared. She heard him right before blacking out; the terror in his voice echoing in her ears. Nadine pursed her lips, holding back from crying. “Sorry.”

“Don’t say that.” He squeezed her hand gently.

She blinked back tears, eyes downcast. “You missed the flight because of me.”

“How could I board the plane without you? When you fainted, I—” he drew in a shaky breath, his eyes shimmering with tears.

Her gaze lifted to his head and she placed her other hand there, her fingers disturbing the shorn curls. “Topher…”

He sniffed, Nadine’s heart breaking a little more. “Hmm?”

Nadine drew in a sustaining breath and released it slowly. She didn’t want to hurt him, never wanted to hurt him. “There’s something I must say. And I hope you will hear me out?”

Topher lifted his head, brow furrowed with concern, uncertainty in his eyes as he stared up at her.

She swallowed hard, the words lodged in her throat. She had to continue, for his sake. For hers. “You know I’ve always wanted you to be happy, right?”

A line appeared between his eyes as his frown deepened.

Tears tingled at the back of her eyes and she blinked to clear them. “You… can’t be with Samina.”

Something akin to hurt flashed in his eyes and Topher sat up. Her hand fell to the mattress and he shoved to his feet, moving to the window. “I know.”

Nadine knew he didn’t but he would. Her chest tightened with pain that she’d have to be the one to show him why. The tears fell unbound, and she shifted in the bed. “Do… you have my Bible?”

Without a word, he trudged to the suitcase leaning against the wall and pulled it open, tugging out her thick Bible.

She quickly brushed away the tears before he turned with the worn Bible sandwiched between his palms.

With a blank look, Topher held it out to her.

Nadine shook her head. “Sit with me.” She waited until he perched tentatively on the bed. “Y’know, that was your Mama’s Bible.”

His eyes lifted to her face.

She managed a wobbly smile. “Open Nahum 3… Please.”

Air grew sparse with every page he flipped over. He’d been taught the word of God pretty early in life, memorizing the books of the Bible at a young age. She knew he would find the passage quickly but wished he would go slower.

His jaw was tight, his fingers deftly thumbing through the dog-eared pages of his mother’s Bible. As he released a breath on the page before the one he sought, Topher paused, feeling the indentation of a squared paper. With a quick glance at Nadine’s tensed features, he flipped the page as his heart flipped over.

A worn photograph was stuck in the bind. Even before he could pick out the faces, Topher knew his mother would be there… and maybe.

He pushed out a breath as his lungs constricted. His fingers trembled as they skimmed over the faded photograph, his eyes scanning the faces there.

Five students stood facing the camera, with the beach at their back.

He squinted at each face, three men and two women. He didn’t recognize anyone but a younger version of Nadine sandwiched between two men. Curiosity prodded him to pull out the photograph from its bind.

Words were few to none as he gazed at his mother, Odetta, a softer version of Nadine. Her eyes were kinder, warmer, and calmer. Something in him wished he’d known her.

Topher drew in a breath and shifted his gaze to the men adjoining her. In fact, all three men towered over both women. He squinted at the man his mother leaned into with her arm tucked underneath his. His breath caught.

Tall and lean, this man wore a confident smile. His gaze, direct and honest, was as if staring at him long enough could reveal much about the man. Without warning, his pulse quickened. He held the photograph closer, eyes honing in the man’s face. Could this be him?

“The year is 1969,” Nadine finally spoke. “This picture was taken two years before you were born.”

Air rushed through his ears. His mind started to race, grappling to piece things together; the picture, her words.

The man who his mother held had to be his father. He drew in his lips, agitated and fascinated all at the same time. Topher couldn’t look away.  His expressive eyes reminded him so much of someone.

Samina’s stunning gaze flashed in his mind. As did Nadine’s solemn words that they could never be.

The turbulent countenance of Samina’s father appeared in his mind’s eye.

Topher jerked his gaze to Nadine who stared at him with tears in her eyes. Pulsing heart lodged in his throat, he dropped his eyes to the picture.

The young man’s features lined up with the older Gabriel’s weathered lines. His heart throbbed violently as he took in the man’s confident smile, matching it to the paternal half-smile of Samina’s father when they were introduced hours earlier.  Even his svelte form was the same, though age bowed his shoulders, making a bit shorter than in the picture.

Words failed him. He suddenly felt lightheaded.

“Christopher…”

Pain slashed across his torso. Topher choked out a breath and leaned forward, thumb and finger pressing the picture as realization hit him like a freight train. He could hear every labored breath in his ears.

“M-My father…” His tongue felt heavy as he formed the words. His vision blurred. “Is he in this picture?”

Nadine’s silence was as if she shouted it from the top of her lungs.

His lungs squeezed out what little air it held in and Topher shot to his feet. The photograph and Bible slid off his lap to the floor. Eyes blinded with tears, he staggered toward the window and gripped the ledge.

Gabriel’s sharp glare and Nadine’s firm but contrite words juxtaposed against Samina’s lovely face. Topher choked on a sob and pressed a hand over his mouth. Tears slid down his cheeks and he bent over the windowpane, knees and shoulders trembling.

<<Chapter 38 || Chapter 40>>

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