Posts tagged “suspicions

Guiding Light, Chapter 2

Posted on 03/11/2015

Two weeks later,

Abraham rubbed the tension from the back of his neck, his brow furrowed in thought.

Beside him, Bart grunted and set the letter aside. He then leaned back in his seat and regarded his older brother. “What do we do now?”

“I’m thinking.”

Bart sighed heavily. “Think faster, Abe. You read what it says; one week. That’s like tomorrow.”

The tension climbed up the back of his head. Abe rubbed a hand over his face, frustration mounting.

A day remained before a social worker would come to collect the younger ones, Darah and Eleazar. At seventeen, Clement was old enough to decide if he wanted to stay with his brothers, but with him refusing to talk, there was no telling if he’d stay or go. Things were falling apart more quickly than Abe expected. And Bart certainly wasn’t helping matters.

“Can’t they see we’re still in grieving mode?” Bart carried on, standing from the chair. He began pacing their father’s cramped study, stepping over stacks of books not yet filed on the shelves. “Between the funeral and selling the house—“

Abe looked up. “Selling the house?”

Bart paused his pacing and faced his brother with his brow furrowed. “Houses on this block are selling like hotcakes. We need to put it on the market while we still can. Delaying it won’t be for our benefit.”

Abe scowled. “Leave that real-estate nonsense for your workplace. This is our parents’ house, Bartimeus.”

Bart’s lips pursed. “Don’t you think I know that?”

“Good ‘cos we’ve got more important issues to worry about, Bartimeus.” He snatched up the letter, re-reading the bolded words that could seal the future for Darah and Eleazar, and possibly Clement. He and Bart were into their twenties and wouldn’t be affected by this decision, but the thought of not seeing their younger siblings felt too cruel so soon after their parents’ death. He had to do something and fast.

A grunt was all Bart gave as a response; mostly annoyed with Abe’s use of his full name, a right reserved for both their parents and not his brother only two years his senior.

“And just for your information, we are not selling this house.”

Bart scowled. “And what’s the point of keeping it if no one’s gonna live here? You want to rent it out?”

“No.” Abe looked up, the conviction of his thoughts strengthened by Bart’s exasperation. “We’ll be living here. Me, our siblings, and you.”

Bart’s eyes widened and his mouth parted. “What?”

Nodding, Abe reached for the phone sitting on his father’s walnut desk.

Bart rounded the desk and grabbed the phone from Abe’s hand before he could make a call. “Are you insane? What about your career? What about mine?”

Abe looked his brother in the eye, feeling only compassion for him. He’d had time to come to terms with this decision; Bart was yet to process it all on top of everything else. He retrieved the phone from Bart’s loose grip. “It’s okay if you can’t, Bart, but I’ve made up my mind. I’m moving back home.”

Bart gave him a hairy stare, unable to believe what his older brother was spouting.

“Wanna order pizza for the kids while I take care of this?” Abe asked, dialing the number on the letter. “Junior should be home soon. You know how cranky he gets…”

In silence, Bart backtracked out of their father’s study and shut the door behind him.

Abe lowered to the chair as though realizing for the first time what he’d just agreed to. At the peak of his life with no real cares except going to work, paying off loans and bills, he was signing up for the greatest responsibility he could fathom; becoming a foster father to his younger siblings.

“Department of Family and Protective Services, how may I help you?” a woman’s voice pervaded through his thoughts.

He sat up in his chair, resolution strengthening his spine. If his father could’ve made this life-changing decision at the same age, nineteen years ago, so could he. “Hello. My name is Abraham Teka. May I please speak to someone about becoming a foster parent?”

Bart shook his head as he stepped away from the door after hearing Abe’s request for information on foster care. He told himself that Abe just needed time to grief and if that was the case, Bart was willing to give him at least that much. In the event that Abe decided to sacrifice the rewards of his hard work and move back home, that didn’t mean he had to.

Exhaling a breath, Bart rounded the steps and jerked to a stop.

A glaring Darah stood in his path, Eleazar at her side with one hand in hers and the other at his mouth.

He managed a smile at his twelve-year-old sister who refused to return his smile. His faded. With a sigh, he skirted around her to the living room, hearing their footfall behind him. “What’s up, Darah?”

“Who said you can sell our house, you traitor!”

He turned at the accusing tone and arched a brow at her scowling face. “Excuse me?”

She hitched up her stubborn chin, her hazel eyes blazing with indignation. “No one told you to come here. Just go away if you want to leave too. We don’t need you.”

Eleazar inserted his thumb in his mouth, peeking up at Bart.

Bart paused briefly, stunned at his sister’s vehemence. She had no idea what she was saying, he told himself. This had to be the grief talking. “Now, wait a minute—“

The front door behind Darah swung open and a voice spoke before the owner stepped inside. “What’s the noise? Can hear you from down the street.”

A woman stepped inside, clad in red flannel and overalls. Her work boots scuffed the wooden floor and Bart frowned as Eleazar tugged his hand from Darah and scurried toward her.

“What’s with all the shouting?” she drawled out, lifting six-year-old Eleazar to her hip as if he was a baby. Her eyes barely skimmed over Bart, finding Darah instead. “What’s wrong, niña?”

Her softly-spoken words caused the fury to fade from Darah’s eyes, though she didn’t turn to address the woman now jostling Eleazar at her hip. “He wants to sell our house.”

Bart glanced back at the woman, seeing her eyes narrowed in suspicion at him.

“Why would he do a thing like that?” the woman’s voice sounded pleasant enough though there was conviction in her tone as though she had the right.

Bart snorted a laugh, drawing both their frowns. He shook his head. They were trying to make him a villain in his own house. “Now, wait a minute.”

“No, you wait a minute.” The woman nudged the door close with one hand and the other securing Eleazer close. Her expression hardened on him. “We get that you’re a big shot real estate guy, but no one’s selling this house. Not now, not ever.”

Bart scowled at her audacity to assume authority over a decision that was his and Abe’s to make. But more so, that she acted like she knew him. He stared at this woman with a round freckled face and pouting lips, her brown eyes piercing into him. Then he squinted. “Do I know you?”

Her plump mouth twisted in a derisive smirk. “You should.”

Abe emerged from the shadows before Bart could probe further. His older brother strode over and smiled at the woman. “Hey.”

“Hey.” She smiled shyly, edging closer when Eleazar started reaching for his brother.

Bart arched a brow as this fierce woman became a meek kitten in front of his brother, passing Eleazar into Abe’s arms. Squelching the momentary irritation at the warm look shared between the two, Bart eyed her suspiciously. “And who are you?”

“She’s Aunt Geri,” Darah said coldly, glaring at him again.

Bart arched a brow. “Aunt… Geri?”

“Geraldine Peña,” the woman said with that duplicitous smile on her face and extended a hand to him. “Pleased to meet you again, Bart.”

Again? Bart looked down at her hand and up at Abe, seeking answers.

“Don’t be rude,” Darah admonished like a mother rather than a little sister.

He clenched his jaw and looked back at Geraldine whose eyes shone with scornful humor. As though weights anchored his wrists to his side, he dragged his hand up to hers. As her short, stubby fingers closed over his palm, Bart realized that her hands were as rough as her manners.

“She’s helped Mom and Dad with house repairs for years now,” Abe supplied once the two disengaged hands and Bart shoved his in his pocket. There was pride in Abe’s voice that drew a shy smile on Geraldine’s face and a frown on Bart. “Maybe she’ll be of great use to you, y’know, helping us get the house back in working order.”

Geraldine smiled coyly. “I’d love to.”

Abe then turned his smile to Eleazar. “Ready for pizza?”

The boy perked up and nodded.

Chuckling low, Abe moved toward the kitchen. “Darah, come help order the right one this time.”

Darah didn’t budge, watching her second oldest brother like a hawk.

When Abe called for her again, she heaved a great sigh. “Don’t cause trouble,” she said to Bart in a stern tone before stomping off to the kitchen.

Geraldine smirked. “She’s funny.”

“A real comedienne,” Bart muttered, eyes stayed on her.

She broke eye contact and tucked tendrils of silky brown hair behind her ears. “Well, love to stay and chat but I’ve got work to do.” She started to turn away but stopped, glancing over her shoulder at him. “Save all that real-estate for Cali. Your family’s staying here if I can help it.”

Bart scowled, watching her move to the stairs. “Who are you?!”

“Try to remember, Bartimeus!” she called back, stomping up the stairs in her work boots.

The front door opened and Clement entered, shouldering the door close. Bart turned to him, waiting for acknowledgment or something. Instead, Clement just breezed past him to the kitchen as though he didn’t exist. Voices from the kitchen filled the silence and he stayed in the living room, feeling like the odd-one out.

Bart chuckled in self-derision. “Well isn’t this fantastic?” He turned to the mantle, seeing the family photos resting there from baby pictures of Eleazar to graduation pictures of both him and Abe.

There was no corner of this house that didn’t invoke a memory of Yonas and Ester Teka. His eyes stung and Bart blinked it away. He was clearly the only one thinking practically; this house needed to be sold and the sooner the better.

<<Chapter 1 || Chapter 3>>

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 21

Posted on 14/04/2015

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At the sound of a telltale beep, Nadine lifted her head from the faded photograph in her hand. As the hotel door opened, she promptly shoved the photograph between the pages of her Bible and pushed the Bible to her side.

Topher stifled a yawn as he entered the room. “Hey Nadine…”

She smiled in greeting and leaned back against her pillow, taking in his haggard appearance. “You look dead.”

“Nice to see you too, Nadine,” Topher drawled, draping his jacket over a dining chair. As he walked to her bedside, he scanned the room with a furrowed brow. “Where’s Nurse Kirsten?”

She wrinkled her nose. “I let her go.”

He smirked, perching on the side of the bed. “For the night or for good?”

She sniffed disinterestedly. “We’ll see if her behavior improves in the morning.” Then she eyed him carefully. “How was it?”

His smile waned and he looked down, tugging at the thin bed covers. “Not bad.”

“I assume your Samina was there?”

Topher glanced up, a wry smile lifting one corner of his mouth. “Yeah…” He rubbed the back of his head and heaved a sigh. “Not sure what I’m doing though.”

Nadine frowned, watching as he kicked off his black leather shoes and moved to the empty spot beside her. He had his own bed but when he got like this, Nadine knew something was wrong. She remained silent as his bulky body jostled the bed, trying to find a comfortable position.

Leaning his head against the padded headboard, Topher stared up at the ceiling. “I was sincere and forthright about my feelings. And still…”

She raised a brow. “She said no?”

Topher shook his head. “She said nothing…”

Nadine hid a smirk. Topher wasn’t quite the paragon of patience. “Did you tell her you’d wait?”

He threw her a glance askance. “We have less than a month before the wedding.”

Nadine scoffed. “You wanted her to say yes and move in with you?”

Topher rolled his eyes. “That’s not what I mean… I just feel she’s holding back for some reason. Like she’s not sure she can trust me.”

She nodded understandably. Samina seemed withdrawn and a bit unsure of herself. It was no wonder that the self-assured Topher made her uncomfortable. “Well, Christopher, have you given her reason to trust you?”

He frowned into her eyes, quietly considering her words.

“If a woman is guarding her heart, it takes longer to be sure about her feelings.” Nadine rubbed his hand at her side. “It takes more than just pretty words to get us to accept a man’s heart–” She hitched a breath and pressed a hand to her chest.

Eyes wide with alarm, Topher hovered over Nadine. “What’s wrong?”

Finding her breath, Nadine waved his concern away. “I’m fine.” Still, she drew in a deep breath and released it slowly. “What was I saying?”

Skeptical, Topher frowned. “It takes more than pretty words…”

“Right.” Nadine gave him an assured smile. “You’ve got to do more than say cute words or flash that charming smile when you see her. She’s got to know through your sincerity that you’re serious.”

“I am serious about her,” Topher insisted, his gaze softening at the realization.

Nadine propped her head against his shoulder. “Like I said before, she’s a tough one.”

“Tougher than you?”

She poked his side as he chuckled. “You’ll need patience and dogged persistence with her.”

“That I have plenty of,” her nephew said confidently.

Nadine smiled and closed her eyes. “We’ll see…”

Topher recalled Samina’s iridescent eyes glimmering with tears when he handed her the cupcake. He could still feel the soft skin of her palm as he held her hand briefly.

As Nadine’s labored breathing eased into soft puffs of sighing, he shook off his reverie and peered down at his aunt’s sleeping face. Adjusting the bed-covers over her shoulders, Topher leaned into the headboard and mulled over his next steps with Samina.

Driving down the quiet street of her neighborhood, Samina kept replaying Topher’s words before they parted from the tea bar.

“I think very highly of you, Samina,” Topher had said with his striking gaze riveted to hers. She had to look away, her face burning under his intense gaze.

Samina bit her bottom lip, unsure what had changed between them. Their first meeting hadn’t been the ideal first encounter and she was to blame. Cranky from the long ride to Jaxson’s graduation five years ago, she was not in the mood to exchange pleasantries with Jaxson’s friend.

He must’ve thought her a snobbish, quick-tempered recluse and she labeled him a loose-lipped goof. Now she knew better. Topher was just a sociable, confident man with a kind heart for those he loved.

Her cheeks warmed and Samina squeezed the steering wheel. Parking in her empty driveway, Samina eyed the darkened house and stepped out of the car. Even though Karen wasn’t home, Topher’s warm surprise kept her from despairing. Grabbing her purse, she trudged up the sidewalk to her front door while replaying Topher’s words.

“I feel like we’ve known each other for as long as you’ve known Ada.”

She could still feel the jolt of electricity shoot through her skin when he touched her fingers.

“I know it’s a lot for you to take in,” Topher had continued, his voice low and solemn. “But I want to be your friend…” He tossed a wry smile that made his features boyish. “Well, maybe more than your friend but I’ll take this slow. For us.”

Samina slowed her steps, imagining the way his eyes twinkled at her and his slow, assured grin.

Topher had chuckled then and squeezed her hand in encouragement as he continued. “I want you to consider me as a possible candidate to capture your heart.” He bit his bottom lip as if to reconsider his words. “What I mean is I want you to consider me as someone who can make you a happy woman. Just like you make me happy at the mere thought of you.”

Her heart was beating fast now as it did then. Samina shook off the memory and stepped over the low brush to the front door. Pushing the door open, she stepped inside the dark house.

A twinge of sadness pricked her at the empty house. With a sigh, Samina found the light switch and flipped it open. As the bulbs flickered on and flooded the room with light, she gaped at the scene before her.

The living room was filled with people she recognized, her family and friends.

“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you,” Karen sang, holding a round cake lit with many candles.

The small group sang along; party hats sat atop their heads. Some held colorful balloons that bobbed in rhythm with their song.

Hand pressed to her lips that trembled, Samina’s blurry gaze swept over the room. She could see her parents and siblings standing before her, their faces beaming. Her heart skipped a beat, recognizing Sheena and her family. Even Ada and Jaxson stood among the group, smug grins on their faces for keeping a secret from her.

She choked a laugh as her brother Obadiah waved his hands like a conductor.

Looking up, she noticed the birthday steamers and a custom banner draped above the archway leading to the kitchen. Then her heart stopped at the sight of Ezekiel standing underneath it, his gentle smile warming her all over.

As the song interrupted into soft laughter and the group rushed forward, Samina braced herself for the onslaught of hugs and kisses.

Samina smiled kindly as Sheena stepped forward with Adelaide by her side. “Aunty, thank you for coming over.”

Adelaide’s dark eyes swept candidly over her face. “Happy Birthday, Aunty Sammie.”

Taken aback, Samina nodded. “Thank you Laide.”

Adelaide grinned and leaned into Sheena’s side.

Sheena pulled Samina into a hug. Ezekiel stepped behind his mother, holding a sleepy Beulah on his hip. Samina forced her eyes on Sheena’s shoulder instead of his intent gaze.

“I wish for you a life full of joy and love,” Sheena whispered, patting Samina’s back.

“Thank you.” She held back a sigh when Sheena disengaged from the embrace, forcing her to look Ezekiel’s way.

“Happy birthday, Sam,” he said, voice gentle and tender.

Cheeks on fire, Samina managed a smile. “Thanks.”

From across the room, Karen bit the end of her straw as she watched the two by the door.

“Trying to burn a hole through his head or is that your normal way of watching people?” Ada drawled, stepping beside her.

Karen scowled, gnawing the straw. “I just don’t understand why he won’t leave her alone…”

Ada raised a brow. “Leave her alone? I thought he barely noticed her.”

“Does that look like someone not noticing her?” Karen threw her a quelling stare. “He’s been staring at her since she came in.”

“Odd…” Ada peeked at Ezekiel. “What’s his deal?”

“It doesn’t matter.” Karen’s lips curled in disdain. “I want her to move on and forget about him.”

Ada smirked then and crossed her arms. “Well I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that much longer, my dear.”

Karen eyed Ada’s smug grin with open skepticism. “What are you talking about?”

“Sammie was escorted from my house by a man.”

Karen’s eyes widened slightly and Ada grinned. “What man?” Karen demanded, glancing once at her sister who walked Sheena and her family to the door.  “Was it a date? Who is he?”.

The corner of Ada’s lips twitched upward. “Let’s just say our days of worrying about Samina’s love life are almost over, my dear Karen.”

“Girls,” Deidre called from the kitchen. “Instead of standing there gossiping, come give us a hand with the dishes? It’s getting late.”

Ada and Karen glanced over their shoulder to where Deidre and Jaxson stood.

Jaxson tossed his fiance a pleading look and Ada rolled her eyes. Walking over to him, she snatched the dishrag from his hand. “Bye.”

He kissed her cheek, winked at Karen and hurried off to Obadiah’s side.

Karen snuck a peek at Samina’s face as she accepted a hug from their father. Could Ada’s predictions be true? Her lips curled in a smile, watching Samina laugh softly.

“Karen,” Deidre snapped impatiently and Karen turned to her mother. “Tonight please.”

“Yes Mom,” Karen mumbled, shuffling to her mother’s side to wash the dishes.

<<Chapter 20 || Chapter 22>>

  

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