Posts tagged “surprise

Lighthouse, Chapter 26

Posted on 01/09/2016

Hana remained mum as she led the way, refusing to give J.R. a clue on why his father summoned him. Anxious about his father’s condition, he had no choice but to follow. Then she came to stop in front of the room and gestured for him to go ahead. Unlike before, her face was now expressionless, her lips pursed and gaze blank as she waited for him to enter the room.

J.R. grabbed the handle and pushed open the door. The four, including his father looked his way as he entered. He quietly assessed his father’s visitors; Mrs. Ganesh, Mr. Peters and his father’s former secretary Mrs. Adebo. Then frowned. “What’s going on?”

“Close the door and come here,” L.J. answered, closing the portfolio and placing it back on the hospital tray propped on his bed.

Hesitating at his father’s firm tone, J.R. slowly closed the door and made his way over to the bed. He nodded a silent greeting at the three who watched him and then faced his father. “You asked for me?”

“That I did.” L.J. folded his arms across his chest and regarded his son in silence.

J.R. frowned at the weight of their stares on him. “What’s going on?”

“We were discussing your venture and my will.”

His stomach tightened and J.R. swallowed the hardened lump in his throat. “My venture?”

L.J.’s lips twitched wryly, noting that his son chose to ignore the part about his will. “Yes, your venture with the center. Earl and Preethi are in agreement that it’s needed in our community.”

J.R. snuck a glance at the two elders who had readily rescinded their support of him. He didn’t know why they’d change their minds now but didn’t articulate his skepticism. Instead he returned his attention to his father. “And what do you think?”

The smile on L.J.’s face widened. “I have to agree with them.”

The knot in his gut loosened, but his shoulders remained tense. Something was fishy about this gathering, and the portfolio on the table. “Okay…”

“It won’t be easy,” L.J. continued, his smile waning. “Our people are not the easiest to reach, and some will take advantage of you.”

“I’ve planned for it.” He pictured the contingency procedures he’d drafted in his laptop computer.

Mrs. Ganesh snorted derisively. “You can’t plan for rain, beta. It comes when it wills.”

J.R. fixed his stare on his father. “What is your decision? Do I have your support?”

L.J. stared right back. “If I don’t give it, will you still go ahead with your plans?”

“I will.”

Mr. Peters chortled. “Gutsy, this one.”

L.J.’s smile was faint but there was warmth in his eyes. Pride lit up his face. “That he is.” Then he nodded and looked down at the portfolio, opening it to the only printed page.

“What is this?” J.R. asked, peering down at the signatures already printed on it.

L.J. peered up at Mrs. Adebo and gestured for her to speak.

“On behalf of Obed and Associates,” she said in her most-official voice. “Esquire Lalana-Joel Obed graciously awards the Obed Immigration Center a grant amounting to 1.5 million dollars after taxes.”

J.R.’s mouth dropped open and he gaped at his father.

“Congratulations, beta,” Mrs. Ganesh said, hands clasped together.

“That should be enough money to cover the rest of construction and the permits you need,” L.J. answered, nudging the portfolio to his son.

“More than enough!” Mr. Peters exclaimed, clapping excitedly. “You’re one lucky man, son.”

J.R. stared at the print, at the signatures of his father and law associates agreeing to support his venture. His heart thudded violently in his chest as he skimmed over the words written there, at his father’s spidery signature marking his complete and generous support. It seemed like a dream.

“It just needs your signature,” Mrs. Adebo instructed, holding out a pen.

When J.R. looked up at his father, L.J. smiled warmly. “Go ahead, son.”

And when he still hesitated to take the pen, Mrs. Adebo frowned. “Is there a problem?”

J.R. sniffed back tears. “Just one.”

All brows furrowed. “What is it, son?” L.J. asked, confusion etched in his face.

“It’s not the Obed Immigration Center…” J.R.’s lips trembled, tears pooling and blurring his vision. “It’s the Lalana Hope Center.”

Mrs. Ganesh gasped. “Oh my…”

Mr. Peters dropped a hand over L.J.’s shoulder who looked as though he’d been hit by a freight train.

“We’ll step out for a bit,” Mrs. Adebo spoke in the stunned silence and the other two followed her out of the room, leaving the two Obed men alone.

“Since when?” L.J. eked out. His eyes now glistened with tears forming.

J.R. shrugged. “I hadn’t really given it a name yet, but I knew I’d want to make it in honor of what you and Mom sacrificed to come here. You gave up everything, all that you knew back home, so that you could take care of Mom and me. There are many other families with similar stories living in this foreign country, and I wanted them to know that they weren’t alone. To tell them your story; that my dad understood their plight. I want them to find hope in your journey, your success.”

L.J. lost it. A garbled moan escaped his throat and he bent his head as he came undone. J.R. hastened to his side and gathered his father in an embrace. Then they wept together for times lost, and for the future that was most uncertain.

Once the sobs subsided, the two men remained in each other’s arms, L.J.’s head propped against his son’s shoulder. J.R. marveled at how small his father seemed, how fragile. His heart ached at the thought of losing him to this disease, to be without him.

“I’m sorry,” L.J. croaked softly. “I’m so sorry, my dearest Raju.”

J.R. tightened his hold around him. “I’m sorry too… We wasted so much time.”

L.J. sniffed. “I should’ve let you be who you wanted to be, trusted in your dreams and ambition.”

“I didn’t believe in myself, I was too uncertain.”

L.J. sighed. “That was my fault too. I planned everything about your life, you had no choice but to feel unsure of yourself. I should’ve let you grow on your own.”

“It’s fine now,” J.R. reassured his father, not wanting to dwell in regrets. “We’re fine.”

“Son… I promise to support whatever you decide.”

“I know, Babuji, thank you.” He squeezed L.J.’s shoulder to assure him.

“I’m sorry about pushing Hana on you. My guilt about her father made me blind to what you wanted.”

“It’s okay,” J.R. muttered, loosening his hold when L.J. squirmed. “Babuji, there’s something I need to say about that.”

“I heard already.” L.J. peered up at him, sadness in his eyes. “Your girl is pregnant.”

He frowned, figuring Hana beat him to it. Deciding to deal with her later, he sighed. “It wasn’t planned and the situation isn’t ideal, but I love her. And I want to marry her.”

L.J. nodded. “Okay.”

J.R. paused, having not expected that response one bit. “Okay? What, no protest?”

His father’s smile was wry. “I knew you didn’t understand when I said I’ll support whatever you decide. I meant it, Raju. If you want to marry her, marry her.” His gaze warmed J.R.’s face. “As a grown man, you make decisions about your future. Just like the immigration center, trials and tribulations might make you question if you made the right one, but you must work through and live with the choices you made.”

L.J. chuckled softly at the stunned look on his son’s face. “I know it’s hard to believe, but I too wondered if I’d made the right decision stealing your mother’s heart and running away to America the way I did. At times I felt like a selfish coward, but there was no turning back. We were raising a child and trying to make a life in a foreign land. I knew I had to make a better life for my family, no matter what.” L.J. squeezed his son’s hand. “I trust that same stubborn gene is in you to see things through no matter how hard it’ll get. And I trust you’ll do far better than I ever did. So marry the woman you love, Raju, and build a life for you and your family. I will support and honor your decisions.”

All J.R. could do was drop his head against his father’s shoulder, and let L.J. wrap his arms around him. The emotions were raw as J.R. wept again in his father’s embrace; relief, gratitude, regret and joy all mixed up. He wrapped his arms around L.J.’s skinny shoulders and wished his father would live long enough to see him live out his legacy.  He just had to make it work, in honor of the father that sacrificed it all for him.

Darah glared at Jeremy sitting across the room, she refused to let him take the stool by her bed. It was a wonder that her brothers even allowed him inside the room, them standing just outside ready to pounce in the sign of trouble. “What did you say to him?”

Jeremy frowned. “To who? The guy who claims to be your fiancé?”

“He is my fiancé,” Darah answered curtly. “What did you say to him?”

“That was quick.” Jeremy arched a brow. “You certainly didn’t waste time getting over me.”

Darah didn’t bite the bait; much too mature for goading. “What did you say to him?”

He shrugged. “I didn’t get to say anything. Someone came to get him, something about his dad.”

Her eyes widened in alarm. “What else did they say?”

Jeremy arched a brow. “Like I care. Wanna tell me what’s going on here? Tess said you had to tell me something.”

Darah scowled. “Of course she did.” She would’ve preferred he leave so she could ask about J.R., but from the way he sat with his arms folded and gaze expectant, he had no intentions of leaving soon.

“Is the baby mine?”

Her eyes flitted to his face, noted the deep furrow in his brow. She sighed. “Yes.” Unfortunately.

His eyes widened and he gaped at her. “And you weren’t gonna tell me?”

“As far as I was concerned, we were done.” She shrugged. “Didn’t see any reason to tell you—that was my bad,” she barreled on when he started to speak. “Regardless of how I feel about the situation, we made a child together.”

Jeremy looked like he swallowed a golf ball and Darah sighed, dragging a hand over her hair. “Look, I’m not asking you to take responsibility. That’s why I didn’t tell you, I’d prefer you don’t.”

“Why, because you’re getting married?” Jeremy croaked out, disbelief and something indecipherable in his face. “Do you really think I’m that bad to suggest I wouldn’t want to?”

Darah frowned. “You want to?”

He looked away, features tense. “… I don’t know what I want.”

She nodded, understanding his conflicted feelings. “Take your time.”

“Don’t patronize me.”

“I’m not—”

“And that guy doesn’t care that you’re carrying someone else’s baby?” Jeremy shifted to face her, brows furrowed in confusion. “He’s not mad about it?”

She bit the inside of her cheek. “I’m sure he’s disappointed, I am too. I had loved him for most of my teenage life and beyond, and yet in my moments of weakness, I settled. No offense.”

“None… taken,” Jeremy muttered begrudgingly.

Darah sighed. “I still love him and it’s a wonder he wants me regardless of the fact that I’ll be a single mother.”

“But does he want the responsibility of raising another man’s child? Because if he doesn’t…”

“What you’ll ask for custody?” At the shocked look on his face, Darah couldn’t help but laugh. “Look Jeremy, it’s fine. We don’t have to discuss this now. It’s new to you, you’ll need time to think about it. It’s a messy situation, and we’ll be dealing with two families… so take your time. I mean that, no pressure.”

His expression turned skeptical. “You’ve… changed somehow.”

Darah’s lips twitched a smile. “No Jeremy, I’ve just grown up a bit.”

“Maybe…” Jeremy stood slowly, his eyes drifting to her stomach, then back at her face. “I’ll call you.”

“Let’s plan for the four of us to talk when you’re ready. I’d want both J.R. and Tess to be there.”

He nodded haltingly and edged toward the door. “Hope you feel better soon.”

“Thanks. Goodbye, Jeremy.”

When Jeremy opened the door, J.R. was standing in the doorway. Darah held back a laugh when Jeremy edged around J.R. and her scowling brothers to leave the room. She flashed them a grin and waved for J.R. to enter. “How’d it go?” she asked as he settled in the seat beside her. Immediately she noted his reddened eyes and sat up in alarm. “Is he okay? What happened? What did they say?”

J.R. pulled her into a hug and rested his cheek against her ruffled mane. “He’s fine.”

Unconvinced by the sound of his voice, she leaned back and looked up at him. “Then why were you crying? You almost never cry.”

He gave her a gentle smile, gaze warm as he searched her face. “You told me I could.”

“Yeah but…” she paused when he embraced her tightly. Then she sighed and rubbed his back. “You okay?”

“Better than okay.” He planted a kiss on her forehead and then loosened his hold. “My dad wants to see you. When you’re ready, of course.”

Anxiety rolled in her stomach as she looked up at him, unable to reconcile the gentle smile on his face with the dreadful announcement of his father summoning her. “He does? Why?”

“He wants to meet his daughter-in-law, of course.” J.R. laughed at the shocked look on her face and stole a kiss. “We must not keep him waiting long though. He gets cranky when he’s impatient.”

“Are you serious? Seriously?” Darah smacked his arm when he kept laughing. “J.R.!”

The door opened, the whole family curiously peeking in when her protests grew louder. “You guys okay?” Phoebe said bemused, stepping in with Darah’s brothers and Geraldine who recently arrived.

“Better than okay,” J.R. said amid laughter and enveloped a grumpy Darah in his arms.

<<Chapter 25 || Chapter 27 (Final)

Advertisements

Lighthouse, Chapter 10

Posted on 12/05/2016

An hour after he left the house for the Obed Law Associates office downtown, J.R. had no viable solution for keeping his center. Begging Mrs. Ganesh was next to impossible after he’d laughed her out of his office, and the other two wouldn’t budge without his father’s consent. Getting married by the year’s end was ridiculous; who would marry him?

“Good morning, Mr. Obed.”

J.R. glanced up at the greeting and offered a half smile as he approached the young clerk standing on the opposite side of the front desk. “Good morning Devlin. Didn’t I tell you to call me J.R though?”

The freckle-faced intern beamed. “I tried to but Mrs. Edith said first-name basis was off-limits.”

J.R. shook his head, picturing his father’s secretary of twenty-odd years and recalled her lectures when he worked as an intern while in college. He glanced over his shoulder once before leaning in. “She’s a bit of a stickler, isn’t she?”

Devlin covered her mouth to hold a giggle.

“And this stickler has been waiting for an hour,” an accented voice drawled behind him.

Devlin’s face dropped and she ducked behind the computer. With nowhere to hide, J.R. turned with a sheepish smile and met Mrs. Edith Adebo’s stern expression. “Good morning, Mrs. Edith.”

Her hawkish black eyes swept over him in the same critical manner she used every morning. “You are late for your morning meeting, Mr. Obed.”

It felt weird that she addressed him so formally even though she’d known him since he was in grade school and her first son, Segun, was one of his childhood friends. He remembered her dragging both he and Segun by the ears when they were caught doing something naughty, recalled her sharp reprimands as she treated him equally as her sons.

When his mother passed, she’d been the one to hold him as he wept, mostly because he’d been playing Nintendo upstairs the afternoon his mother succumbed to her pain. Seeing Segun’s mother regard him through the lenses of professionalism, all because he was now her boss, made him squirm.

“Hello?”

He blinked from his reverie. “Pardon?”

“Morning meeting. Late.”

J.R. nodded, heat filling his face. “Right, of course. Lead the way.”

Mrs. Edith sniffed and strode past him. “Don’t get distracted, Devlin,” she said on her way.

“Yes Ma’am,” Devlin answered sheepishly.

J.R. met Devlin’s eye and mouthed ‘she’s a ninja’ which earned the girl’s giggle. He chuckled.

“Mr. Obed!”

“Coming,” he called back to Mrs. Edith and with a quick thumbs-up to Devlin, hurried to catch up with his father’s secretary. “How is your morning going, Mrs. Edith?”

“Back on schedule now that you’re here,” she responded, her sensible heels clicking as they walked in unison down the hallway. A junior attorney greeted them both as he strolled past, to which Mrs. Edith merely nodded her greeting.

J.R. wondered if she’d always been this unfriendly, or merely putting up a front because his father didn’t want J.R. making alliances at work. He thought of her stern expressions as she reprimanded Segun and his lips twitched a smirk. Nope, she’d always been stern—

“After your morning meeting, I have a few files I need you to review before I pass them along.”

He looked back at her. At six-feet-two, he was accustomed to peering down at his female colleagues but Mrs. Edith Adebo was only a few inches shorter and her heels put her at eye-level. He raised a quizzical brow. “Files?”

She rolled her dark eyes. “If you would pay attention to the happenings of the office, Mr. Obed, you would understand that our civic cases are piling up.”

He wondered if she’d spoken to his father this way, but nodded. “I apologize for the distraction.”

“Distraction is correct.” She gestured to the conference room where a few attorneys were present, discussing amongst themselves as they awaited his attendance. “After you, Mr. Obed.”

J.R. swallowed the anxiety that always crept in whenever he had to sit with his father’s executives, all older than him. Their aged gazes sized him up and found him inadequate, but what could they do but accept Lalana-Joel’s decision to hand the reins over to his son. Not that they trusted him, and J.R. was sure his father preferred it that way. It would keep him grounded, or rather apprehensive and watchful.

“Mr. Obed?” Mrs. Edith spoke through his thoughts and she arched a brow at him.

He squared his shoulders and nodded. “Yes, coming.”

Drawing in a breath, he released it slowly before entering the room. All eyes turned to the door and the conversations ceased as the older attorneys regarded him with open disapproval for his lateness. Donning a smile, J.R. took his seat at the head of the table. “Good morning, gentlemen. I apologize for my tardiness; had an important meeting with Obed Sr. that ran a little long. You know how he gets…”

He expected a chuckle or two, but only one snorted and another coughed while the others merely squinted at him. Humor was lost on these old coots.

“Bad joke,” J.R. muttered and turned to Mrs. Edith at his right. “Let us proceed.”

She dipped her head and began reading the minutes of the last meeting.

J.R. tamped a sigh and sat back in the chair; but not to relax. He quietly regarded each attorney and executive, taking note of their furrowed brows and pursed lips. They didn’t approve of his father’s decision but this was their livelihood, so biting back their protests was all they could do. Not that they made leading them easy for J.R.

His phone buzzed loud on the desk and all eyes turned to him. Face on fire, J.R. snatched the phone and lowered it to his lap.

The men sniffed and resumed their debate on the cases at hand. Since none cared to ask for his input, J.R. furtively turned to his phone. Two messages awaited his attention; the earliest from Darah and another from Geraldine. He opened Darah’s first.

“I need to talk to you. Let’s have dinner tonight, my treat.”

J.R.’s brow furrowed. After ignoring his calls for weeks, she suddenly wanted to have dinner with him? He tamped a sigh and opened Geraldine’s text.

“Be warned. Darah’s up to something.”

His heart skipped a beat as he reopened Darah’s text, looking for a hidden message. Finding none, he shrugged it off and quickly typed out a reply. “Okay.”

“Mr. Obed,” Mrs. Edith’s voice stopped him from sending it. Her brow was furrowed in disapproval.

He lowered the phone. “Yes…?”

An executive snorted, another chuckled. “You’ve got something more important to attend to?”

J.R. shook his head and turned the phone face down. “Nope, I’m all yours.”

She’d been so sure of herself after sending J.R. that message in the morning, but hours later and no response from him, she started to sweat. It didn’t help that neither Phoebe nor Geraldine took to her line of thinking.

“This is the craziest thing you’ve ever done,” Geraldine shouted. “And that’s saying a lot considering…” she gestured to Darah’s midsection.

Darah put a hand over her stomach. “How is it crazy? Did you and Bart almost get married that way? And besides, you’ve been trying to hook me up with J.R. for years. ”

“Not like this,” Phoebe insisted. “This doesn’t make any sense, Darah.”

“He needs to get married to get his dad off his back, and to support his center. What’s the issue?”

Geraldine snorted. “The issue, Joan of Arc, is if your brothers hear about this—”

Darah sniffed and looked away. “Trust me, my brothers will be relieved. They won’t have to bear the shame of having a single mother as a sister.”

Silence filled the room and Darah instantly regretted her words.

“So that’s what this is about?” Phoebe asked in disbelief.

Darah snuck a look and found her sisters-in-law gaping at her. She sighed and looked down at her silent phone. “Isn’t it true? They haven’t spoken to me since then.”

“How can anyone speak to you when you lock yourself up in Eli’s room?” Geraldine countered.

Phoebe sighed. “Not gonna lie, Abe’s pissed. But the reason he’s avoiding you is because I said he should.”

Darah frowned, more hurt by Phoebe’s admission than Geraldine’s sharp tongue. “Why would you do that?”

“Abe has hypertension, Darah.”

She sat up. “What?!”

Phoebe  exhaled a breath and rubbed the side of her face. “We’ve had it under control for years but—”

“Years?!” Darah’s head and heart began pounding. Abe, healthy and ever-present big brother, sick? Her chest tightened as fear gripped her. Would she lose another person she loved?

“Calm down, he’s fine,” Geraldine muttered, reading the look in Darah’s eyes. “We just have to stop causing trouble… starting with you and Eli.”

Darah scowled. “How can I calm down? For years, my brother was suffering from high blood pressure and no one told me. Does everyone but me know?”

The silence and lowered eyes made Darah’s stomach turn.

“I see,” she managed to say and stood to her feet. She had no one to blame but herself for choosing to stay on campus and avoid coming home so she wouldn’t feel left out as her siblings got on with their lives and built their families. But was it worth not knowing about her own brother’s condition?

“Where are you going?” Phoebe asked, trailing Darah to the staircase.

“I need to get ready for my dinner with J.R.” Darah’s tone was cold, detached; a sure sign she was angry, which she was. Well, more hurt than angry. More afraid than hurt. She hurried up the stairs to put distance between her and Phoebe, and reached Eli’s bedroom door before Phoebe could catch up with her.

“Darah–!” the door slammed behind Phoebe’s protest.

Tears started to fall as Darah fell facedown onto the mattress and she allowed herself to weep, blaming the pregnancy for her uncontrollable emotions.

A knock sounded on her door hours later. Darah stirred from sleep and peered up at the darkened window. She groaned and turned onto her stomach. Another day wasted.

Then she sat up. Her dinner with J.R.! Snatching up her phone, she peered down at it. Her frown deepened at the blank screen. No messages from J.R.

Another knock sounded on the door.

Darah sighed. “I’m sleeping!” she answered, settling back in bed and poising to call J.R. about their dinner.

“It’s me,” J.R.’s voice sounded on the other side.

She sat up again and stared at the door. Then down at her phone and back at the door again.

“Hello?”

Darah pushed to her feet and walked to the door, creaking it slightly open. She squinted at the man standing there. “Your phone doesn’t work?”

His dark eyes never wavered from hers, sensible enough not to dip his gaze to her nightshirt. “Better to talk face to face. Can I come in?”

His shoulders were too broad to see if Phoebe stood behind him. Giving in, Darah pulled open the door and light from the hallway spilled into the dark room. She folded her arms, making no move to welcome him in just yet. “Are we going out to dinner?”

“Not when there’s plenty of food here,” J.R. quipped, making no move to enter. “Can I come in or is this a conversation you want your siblings to be a part of?”

Darah rolled her eyes and stepped out of his path. Then she flicked on the light switch and moved to perch on the bed. She patted the spot beside her, knowing him well enough to decline but offering anyway. “Sit.”

True to form, J.R. ignored her offer and perching on the desk. “What’s up?”

His stubbornness knew no bounds. She wanted to stamp her feet. “I said we’d talk over dinner.”

“I already ate downstairs. We can ask Phoebe to bring you a plate—”

“Nevermind,” she snapped, gritting her teeth. “Can’t you just cooperate with me for once?”

J.R. eyed her warily, the same look he gave her when he thought she was being dramatic.

Darah blew out a breath and folded her arms. She hitched her chin and met his gaze. “I have a proposition to make, and I want you to think about it before you say no.”

His dark brows lifted in silent question.

She drew in another breath, calming her nerves. He always made her nervous, reminding her of that incident years ago when he stared at her like this before rejecting her. Nausea rolled in her stomach and she frowned. “I mean it, J.R. This is a serious proposition and I’m laying it all on the line here, so I want you to consider it seriously.”

J.R. frowned. “What is it, Darah?”

The gentle plea had her seeking his dark, kind eyes. This was a man that cared for her—maybe not loved her as she’d once loved him—but he liked her. Their friendship spanned a decade and could tolerate a few more. They knew each other fairly well, her family adored him; and most importantly, J.R. was kind and gentle and caring. He would be a good father to her child, and she would be the key to getting his father’s approval. Yes, he’d disappointed her in the past and he was stubborn as a he-goat, but he was a dependable man. They could have a good partnership.

“Darah.”

Gazing at his face, she smiled. This could really work. “Let’s get married, J.R.”

His eyes widened and like Geraldine and Phoebe before him, his mouth dropped open.

<<Chapter 9 || Chapter 11>>

%d bloggers like this: