Posts tagged “siblings

Homecoming, Chapter 25

Posted on 15/03/2016

As predicted, Bart was impossible to be around once Geraldine left with Yelena, Joselyn and J.R. for Peru. The week was longer and more unbearable for the rest of the Teka family because Bart acted like a rabid dog, barking at whoever provoked him. Clement was merciless, poking fun at him whenever he had the chance.

Phoebe, normally lenient toward Clement, took him to task. “Pastor Clement Teka, will you please behave? Stop provoking him, for goodness’ sake.”

He frowned, dropping his hand from Bart’s shoulder. “How many times do I have to say it? I’m not a pastor. I’m a missionary–”

“Same thing,” she returned impatiently. “Just leave him alone.”

Bart snorted in disgust and started to walk off when the doorbell rang. He ignored it and headed for the kitchen instead.

“Get that, Bart–” Phoebe halted as Eleazar breezed past her to answer the door.

Clement groaned at the woman standing on the doorstep. “What is she doing here? Eli, get away from the door.”

“It’s alright,” Abe said from behind them. He moved past them to meet Eleazar and the elderly woman gazing longingly at him. “Mrs. Crane, please come in.”

Eleazar gave the woman a smile and beckoned her to enter. Phoebe frowned at her husband. “Abe, what’s going on?”

Abe turned to his wife with a sheepish smile. “I thought that this would be a good time as any to invite her over. Besides, Eli begged me to let him meet her.”

Dumbfounded, Clement and Phoebe watched as Eleazar and his grandmother exchanged a smile. Then Mrs. Crane turned to Phoebe and Clement, her smile waning. “Please call me Sharma, and I want to apologize for the trouble I caused earlier. I didn’t mean to alarm you or Eleazar.”

Phoebe raised a brow, noting that the woman had surrendered the name she’d once insisted was Eleazar’s. The fact that she’d chosen to accept his adopted name was a good sign.

She glanced once at her husband who silently pleaded with his eyes. Relenting, Phoebe offered the older woman a kind smile. “Please come in and have a seat. Eli, why don’t you bring something for your grandma to drink?”

They waited until he’d hurried to the kitchen before turning back to Sharma Crane perched on a chair with her hands resting primly on her lap. She looked out of place with her coiffed salt-and-pepper hair and a tweed suit that was too inappropriate for the humid weather.

For a few moments, they sat in silence, watching her fidget with her hands. They recalled the last time she’d sat in their living room, livid and inconsolable. The difference was striking.

“What genius allowed Eli in the kit–” Bart mumbled as he reentered the living room and halted. His scowl darkened. “What is she doing here?”

Sharma flinched. Phoebe placed a hand on her knee. “Don’t be alarmed. He’s currently sulking over his fiancée’s absence.”

“I am not sulking,” Bart grumbled, squinted eyes on the woman. “Is someone gonna answer me?”

“Eli and I invited her,” Abe spoke up. “Where’s Darah?”

“Helping Eli clean up the mess in the kitchen.”

Sharma started to stand. “Oh, I didn’t mean for you to make a fuss.”

“Too late,” Clement muttered, earning him glares from Abe and Phoebe.

“Why don’t you go see about them?” Phoebe told him pointedly before flashing Sharma another smile. “I’m sure he’s just trying to make a good impression on you. Please, sit down.”

Clement rose from the chair after one steely look from Abe and strode into the kitchen.

Hesitating, Sharma peered over their heads in the direction of the kitchen, as if debating whether to follow Clement.

“Mrs. Crane,” Abe said, grabbing her attention. “I was hoping we could come to an agreement. Eli’s curious about you and we don’t want to deny him something he wants except if it’ll cause him mental and emotional harm–”

“I promise it won’t happen again,” Sharma interrupted quickly, eyes wide as tea saucers as she sat back down and faced Abe. “I’ve been looking for Cale…Eleazar since she lost him.”

Bart snorted derisively at her poor choice of words but didn’t say a word, not when Phoebe gave him a warning glare. He leaned back and folded his arms over his chest.

“When I was informed he was alive and healthy, I-I just had to see him.” Big fat tears escaped her eyes and slid down her plump cheeks. “I acted foolishly, but you have to understand what finding him again means to me.”

Abe and Bart grimaced at the sight, but Phoebe grabbed a tissue box from under the glass coffee table and held it out to her.

Sharma accepted it with a shaky laugh. “Thank you for giving me a chance to see him. To talk with him.” She dabbed her cheeks. “I promise not to mess this up.”

Eleazar picked that very moment to step into the living room, with Darah and Clement holding the refreshments instead of him. The nine-year-old halted at the sight of his grandmother sniffling back tears and his brow furrowed in concern. Then with pursed lips, he turned to Bart with an accusing glare.

Bart sat up and held both hands. “Whoa, I didn’t do anything.”

“Then why are you looking at her like that?” Darah mumbled, earning her a scowl from Bart. She rolled her eyes and set the jug of lemonade on the table.

Sharma smiled gently. “I’m fine, Eleazar. Thank you.”

Eleazar’s frown eased off and he turned back to Sharma, a shy smile lifting his countenance. To his siblings’ surprise, when Sharma gestured for him to sit beside her, he went willingly.

Clement and Bart glanced at each other curiously while Abe and Phoebe eyed him with concern. They hadn’t planned for Eleazar to want to meet his grandmother; in fact, they’d expected him to avoid all talk of her after she’d spooked him the first time. But it seemed their little man was growing up after all.

They watched and listened in awe as Sharma and Eleazar strike a conversation over favorite foods; the tie between grandmother and grandson forming before their very eyes.

Darah busied herself pouring the drinks. She held out a cup of juice to Sharma. “So does that mean you’ll be hanging around here?”

Sharma paused in mid-laughter and accepted the drink. Her gaze skimmed the pensive expressions from Eleazar’s siblings and managed a smile. “I would like to know more about Eleazar and for him to know me more. Maybe introduce him to his heritage and his family.”

Darah frowned. “But we’re his family.”

“So am I,” Sharma said firmly, softening her words with a smile. Then she glanced up at the older siblings. “I’m willing to compromise in whatever way you see fit.”

Eleazar who wore a thoughtful expression, one that preceded a panic episode. Though he hadn’t suffered one recently, his siblings worried about Sharma’s presence in his life. Having his past constantly show up couldn’t be good for him.

“Mrs. Crane, it’s like this,” Phoebe spoke up. “Eleazar suffers panic attacks ever since he was a baby.”

Sharma’s eyes widened and she glanced down at Eleazar. “Oh no.”

“It’s not her fault!” Eleazar shouted, glaring at Abe and Phoebe. “Don’t listen to them.”

Sharma shook her head. “My poor baby. I’m so sorry.”

Eleazar’s lips trembled as he spied the tears forming in his grandmother’s eyes.

“I’m so sorry for hurting you,” She placed her hands on his shoulders and pulled him close.

The Teka siblings held their breath and awaited Eleazar’s reaction, for he didn’t allow just anyone to touch him. But Eleazar didn’t shove her aside, instead resting his cheek on her shoulder. Sharma rocked him as she wept openly and Eleazar wrapped his skinny arms around her, his fingers clutching the tweed of her suit.

Phoebe leaned into her husband and he draped his arm about her, pulling her close. Darah sat back on her heels, watching Eleazar fight tears while comforting his grandmother. Bart’s scowl eased away and Clement watched with a wistful smile.

Hours later, Bart, Darah and Clement watched from the window as Eleazar, Abe and Phoebe stood in the driveway with Mrs. Sharma Crane. The solemn-faced woman smoothed Eleazar’s hair and gave him a gentle smile before looking up to Abe and Phoebe.

From where they stood, they couldn’t hear what Sharma said to either, but had a feeling she was thanking them for loving Eleazar.

Stepping away from the window, Clement walked back to the coffee table and downed a glass of lemonade. “I wonder how Geri’s doing.”

Bart grumbled something incoherently under his breath, acting nonchalant over Clement’s musings. Darah and Clement exchanged knowing glances, amused by his sulky mood.

“When do they get back anyway?” Darah asked casually.

“Two days–” Bart caught Clement’s pointed smirk and scowled deeper. “Oh, whatever.”

Darah scoffed. “You’re a hot mess. All because she hasn’t called you.”

“Like you’re any better,” he tossed back. “Sighing over J.R.”

She mirrored his scowl. “That’s a lie! When have I ever–”

“Junior said you wrote his name in hearts all over your notebook, Mrs. Darah Obed.”

Clement’s smirk faded when Darah whipped around to glare at him. “Now wait a minute…” He lowered the empty glass and dashed for the stairs, Darah racing after him.

Bart snickered as Clement yelled his innocence from the top stairs. Then he turned as the front door opened; his siblings and Phoebe stepping inside.

Abe frowned at the ruckus ensuing upstairs. “What is going on?”

Phoebe shook her head. “We can’t even leave those two for one minute.” She placed a hand over Eleazar’s shoulder. “You okay?”

“Yeah. I’m fine.” The nine-year-old turned and gave them a smile. “Thanks guys.”

Even Bart gave him a smile. “You sure about this, Eli?”

Eleazar sighed. “You guys always taught us not to abandon our family, even if they suck.” He shrugged his thin shoulders. “Besides, she wasn’t the one who abandoned me, so I gotta take care of her.”

The three adults watched as the lanky kid ambled up the stairs. Then Abe shook his head in awe. “From the mouth of babes…”

“He’s not a baby anymore,” Phoebe reminded him and tucked her arm around his.

Bart rolled his eyes when they shared an adoring glance at each other. He stepped away from them before they started kissing. “For goodness’ sake, get a room.”

Phoebe poked his leg with her foot. “Come back here, you grump. How long are you gonna sulk over Geri leaving? She’s not gone forever, although I don’t blame her after what you did.”

“Let him be, Phoebe.” Abe patted her shoulder.

“Not this time. Why would she call a man who rejected her proposal? Just call her and accept already.”

Bart heaved a sigh. “It’s not like that at all.”

“Then what–oh.” Phoebe’s lips made an o-shape, her eyes wide. “You wanted to be the one to propose? Is that it?”

Bart pocketed his hands. “She already proposed once, I wanted to do it right this time around.”

“Ah,” Phoebe breathed, nodding her head. “I see.”

Abe smirked at his younger brother. “It seems you’ve got a method to your madness after all.”

“Of course,” Bart sounded and looked smug. “Can’t have her making all the decisions in our relationship. I plan on asking her when she comes back.”

“Oh, I see,” Phoebe said slowly. “That’s… the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Confused, Abe frowned down at her. Bart gaped in shock. “Huh?”

“You’re a hot mess, Bart. And I hope for your sake Geri doesn’t hold it against you.” She snorted in disgust and stepped away from the two of them, muttering under her breath about chauvinistic males and their inflated egos.

Bart scratched his head and glanced up at Abe. “What just happened?”

Abe looked equally confused and shrugged. “Beats me.”

<<Chapter 24 || Chapter 26>>

Homecoming, Chapter 24

Posted on 09/03/2016

Though she enjoyed the extra attention, Joselyn was beginning to miss her mother. The Teka women and Yelena had done all they could to keep her occupied through the night and half the morning but Joselyn had noticed her mother’s absence and began crying.

Yelena kissed the wet cheek of her inconsolable granddaughter and bounced her on her hip. “Just a little longer, cariño.”

Darah stifled a yawn. “He’s been in there a long time.”

“They’ve got a lot to talk about,” Phoebe answered, giving the teenager a smile. “If you’re tired and ready to leave, take Abe home with you.”

Darah snorted. “Like he’ll leave without you. I’ll stay and come back with Bart and Geri.”

Phoebe shook her head but didn’t have time to protest when Abe strolled back to the bench, phone in hand. “J.R. dropped off your in-laws back at the house, said they were reasonably subdued.”

“It’s an act,” Yelena muttered begrudgingly. “Those two have been deceiving people for years.”

Phoebe clucked her tongue in disapproval. “I just cannot believe that isn’t illegal.”

“No one had the guts to rat them out,” Yelena answered, bouncing Joselyn when she whimpered for her mother. “Our parents didn’t understand the danger of get-rich-quick schemes, and by the time we discovered, it was too late.”

“But if they planned to receive governmental money illegally, shouldn’t the government get involved?” Darah asked Abe, earning quizzical looks from everyone. She frowned. “What? I’m not a child anymore.”

Abe snorted. “Didn’t think you heard a thing we said while you were busy staring a hole into J.R.’s face.”

“I was not!” Stained cheeks against her light complexion betrayed embarrassment. “Don’t lie!”

“But am I lying though?”

“You are, big liar!”

Phoebe bit a laugh and averted her attention to Joselyn who was now staring from brother to sister. She smiled wistfully and looked up to Yelena watching her. “They’re always like this.”

Yelena merely nodded and watched the exchange between the siblings.

“Well, you’re too young to like anyone,” Abe grumbled, pocketing his phone.

Darah sputtered. “Like who? That old man?”

Phoebe’s giggle escaped. “Darah, he’s only twenty-five.”

“Like I said, he’s old.” Darah scowled and crossed her arms.

“But that’s just a few years between Bart and Junior, Darah.”

Abe scowled at his wife. “Don’t encourage her, Phoebe.”

Phoebe gave her husband a dimpled smile. “She’s old enough to like anyone she wants, darling.”

Darah scoffed. “I said I don’t like him.”

“Good,” Abe replied. “Because you’re not allowed to like anyone until you’re thirty.”

“Thirty?!” Yelena, Phoebe and Darah exclaimed, gaping at Abe.

The door of Geraldine’s room opened and everyone turned to see Bart stepping out. A pensive expression tightened his features as he closed the door.

Abe walked over. “What did she say?”

Bart looked up at his brother and then glanced over his shoulder to the three standing there. He frowned. “Where’s J.R.?”

“He dropped off Geri’s in-laws at home.  Left early because of a court case tomorrow. What did she say?”

He exhaled a harsh breath. “It’s bad.”

Abe put a hand over his brother’s shoulder. “Breathe.”

“I am breathing.” Bart’s voice shook.

“Breathe again.”

Bart closed his eyes briefly and drew in a breath, releasing it slowly.

“Barty?” Yelena spoke at Abe’s shoulder. When the brothers looked her way, she gestured to the door. “May we go in?”

“Please do,” Abe said, steering Bart to the side so the mother and child could enter the room. Once the door was shut, he returned his attention to Bart. “You okay?”

“No.” Bart sighed heavily and his eyes swung back to Abe. “I’m angry.”

“What did she say, Bart?”

Bart swallowed hard. “Their business isn’t just a family business. It’s got investors, local and federal. Even high officials are benefitting from slave labor. Geraldine mentioned a meeting the day he… pushed her down the stairs.”

Phoebe gasped inwardly, attracting her husband’s alarmed gaze. She waved him off. “I’m fine. What kind of meeting, Bart?”

“Investors coming to collect.” Bart shrugged. “He didn’t have enough money to give them, so they threatened to oust him for his fraud. Maybe the fool thought to siphon from the government and they got rid of him.”

This time it was Darah who gasped. Phoebe pulled her close, though her attention remained on the two men. “You’re saying his death might have not been an accident?”

“Greed killed him,” Bart grumbled, a scowl forming. “A business like that should be done away with. Slavery in this day and age? Unbelievable.”

“Then don’t we still have slavery since lots of people are in debt here too?” Darah piped in, earning a solemn look from her sister-in-law. “What can we do for Geraldine? Her evil in-laws won’t leave her alone.”

“We’ve gotta expose them for what they are,” Bart answered without hesitation. “One word about reporting them and the government might cut ties with them too.”

“I don’t think it’s that simple, Bart.” Abe sighed heavily. “If their son wasn’t reason enough to cut ties, what could one woman’s testimony do?”

“Not just one,” Bart muttered, holding up a beat up phone. “Twenty.”

Abe frowned. “What?”

“Before asking for a divorce, Geraldine had received support from families who like hers had been subjected to slavery by debt. After the husband died mysteriously, the families suddenly wanted to rescind their testimonies.”

“They were afraid of the government coming after them?”

“No doubt.” Bart sighed heavily. “She and Yelena sought out the widows and disabled war veterans to get their support. Her in-laws caught wind of her ideas and threatened to take her unborn child…”

“Those demons,” Phoebe hissed. “They should pay for their crimes.”

“They will,” Bart vowed. “Which is why I must speak with J.R. now.”

“He won’t be able to do much from American soil,” Abe cautioned, handing his phone to Bart.

“But he’ll point me in the right direction.” Bart collected the phone and strolled back into the room, closing the door.

Phoebe shook her head in awe. “Doesn’t he remind you of someone?”

Darah frowned. “Who?”

“Abe.” She smiled at her husband who turned at the sound of his wife’s voice. “When your parents died, he took full responsibility of you all without hesitation, just like Bart is doing now for Geri.”

“For one who vehemently avoids dramatic situations, he’s doing pretty well,” Abe added, walking up to them. “Even if he had a slow start.”

“He’s in love,” Darah said with a grin.

Abe arched a brow at his sister. “And what do you know about love? Don’t even consider any of that until you’re old enough.”

Darah rolled her eyes and Phoebe giggled, nudging her husband to relax.

Geraldine was released early the next morning and since her in-laws still resided in her home, she didn’t hesitate accepting Phoebe’s offer to recover fully at their house.

J.R. rushed to the Teka home after his case the next day. He wore a blinding smile that encouraged everyone once he entered the house. “We’re in luck.”

Everyone sat up, waiting with baited breaths.

He carelessly took the empty spot beside Darah but none of them noticed, too distracted with the news he brought. “A friend of mine from law school has an uncle whose cousin’s wife’s brother is a civil lawyer in Peru.”

The entire house sat in silence, mulling through the complicated triangle.

“I spoke with him yesterday, the lawyer, and he said he can help us.”

“Oh good,” Phoebe breathed out, everyone’s shoulders sagging.

“I’ll be flying over during the weekend to meet with him.” His eyes moved over Geraldine. “He wants to meet with you and your mom. He thinks we can go to court once he’s heard the full story and gathered the evidence needed.”

Geraldine looked to Bart who placed a hand over hers and turned to face J.R. “Can I come with them?”

J.R. hesitated, having not planned for more than three to accompany him on this short trip overseas.

“Maybe you should stay,” Geraldine spoke up, attracting everyone’s attention. She had eyes only for Bart. “I want to do this and come back to you free.”

Bart didn’t look thrilled. “We can come back with you free even if I go.”

Geraldine shook her head. “You’ve got things to prepare for.”

“Things…?” Bart frowned.

Geraldine looked over his shoulder at Darah, giving her a pointed stare. “Important things.”

“Oh right!” Darah shot to her feet. “I forgot. We’ve got a wedding to plan.”

Bart blinked at Geraldine who smiled. “Wait, what?”

Geraldine smiled. “When I come back, Bartimeus, let’s get married.”

“Wait, are you proposing to him?” Clement asked with a smile in his voice.

Phoebe and Darah grinned from ear to ear. Abe sat watching Bart with a perturbed expression.

Bart’s eyes widened. Geraldine squeezed his hand. “Well, Mr. Bartimeus Teka, is that a yes?”

“No.” Then he tugged his hand from hers, expression unreadable.

Phoebe and Darah gasped. Clement groaned as Bart stood and stormed off.

Abe and Clement exchanged glances, then stood and went after their brother.

Phoebe moved to take Bart’s seat beside Geraldine who looked like she’d been punched in the gut. She placed her hand over the woman’s shoulder, not knowing what to say.

Hands at her hips, Darah scowled. “That overgrown fool.”

“It’s okay,” Geraldine managed to say. “It’s fine.”

Phoebe heaved a sigh.

Geraldine sighed also. “We’ll be ready to leave.”

“Geri, no!” Darah protested with a shout.

Ignoring both Darah and Phoebe, she stared at J.R. who looked uncomfortable in his seat. “When can we leave?”

<<Chapter 23 || Chapter 25>>

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