Posts tagged “tears

Lighthouse, Chapter 19

Posted on 12/08/2016

J.R. and Hana stood on the other side of the window, silently watching the doctor check the IV while the patient slept. Hands bunched in his pockets, J.R. gazed down at the frail man trying to breathe through the oxygen mask fitted onto his face. Though minutes had passed since the doctor and his team stabilized his father from his struggle to breathe, panic still thrummed through J.R.’s veins.

His father had been against radiation therapy, not wanting to be stuck in the hospital any longer… but J.R. insisted and the doctor hesitantly allowed it, reading the desperation in a son’s voice to save his father.

Except this decision just might have made his father’s condition a lot worse. Edema in the lungs.

“Don’t worry,” Hana’s voice pervaded through his thoughts and J.R. closed his eyes, wishing it was that simple. She sighed deeply. “He’s a strong man.”

His eyes fluttered open once more, and he pinned his gaze on his father’s sleeping form. “Maybe we should’ve…”

“No,” Hana interjected softly. “Radiation is his best bet.” She shifted her attention to J.R.’s profile. “Don’t waver, Bhaiyaa… you have to be strong for him.”

I can’t. Unwittingly, a faded memory emerged from a dark deep corner in his mind.

A scared kid sat in the waiting room of the emergency center, his small heart beating fast and hard against his ribs as his father rushed after the paramedics wheeling a bleeding woman away. His eyes had lowered to the trail of blood leading down the hallway. He’d pushed off the plastic chair and followed the bloody trail. Nurses and patients bustled around him, ignoring the scrawny boy still clad in his yellow pajamas and bare feet. Air rushed through his ears as he came to the end of the hallway and slowly turned. His disheveled father was on his knees at the end of the bloody trail, body shaking as he wept bitterly. A nurse and paramedic stood at his side, helpless to comfort the desolate man. The woman they’d brought with him was nowhere to be found. Paralyzed with fear at the sight of his strong and brave father weeping, the little boy just watched with tears pooling his eyes as his ten-year-old mind realized the truth. She was gone. His mother was gone.

“Bhaiyaa,” a voice echoed in his head.

J.R. squeezed his eyes tight, the tears sliding down his cheeks.

A hand closed over his shoulder and jostled him from the memory. He blinked and looked down to the sympathetic eyes of Hana at his side.

“You okay?”

He couldn’t even nod and just stared at her.

Hana sighed and released his shoulder. “Your phone’s ringing.”

J.R. looked away and reached for his phone that was indeed vibrating against his hip. Unlatching it from his belt hook, he stared at the caller-id of the Teka house phone. Sniffing back the tears, he accepted the call and put the phone to his ear.

“Hello?” His brows furrowed slightly and he glanced once at the window where the doctor surveyed his sleeping father. “You’re back,” he drawled monotonously, unable to muster any affability in his tone. He was far too tired to perform.

Darah watched the furrow deepen on Clement’s brow and bit her bottom lip. Something was wrong, she could tell when Clement’s gaze shifted away from hers. She shuffled to stand in front of him, wanting to read every emotion as he spoke with J.R.

“Hmm,” Clement muttered in a noncommittal tone that only frustrated his only sister. “What of you?”

She leaned in, her ears perked up to hear J.R.’s low tenor.

“Hmm.” Clement stepped around her. “Do you want me to come?”

Darah hurried to stand in his path and gestured for him to take her with him.

He arched a brow and then rolled his eyes. “Darah wants to come.”

She held her breath, gaze fixed on her brother’s face.

Then Clement’s lips twitched a smile. “Yeah, she’s here.”

Her heart skipped several beats and she slowly released the breath, silently apologizing to the child for being foolish. She kept her eyes on Clement, waiting.

Then he nodded. “We’re on our way.”

Her shoulders sagged in relief only to stiffen when he lowered the phone. “What happened?”

He looked down at her with a somber expression. “This isn’t a just a visit, Darah. I need you to behave.”

“I’m not a kid, Junior.” She swallowed against the dread rising up her throat, and followed him up the stairs. “Is it his father? Did something happen?”

A door opened once they reached the top of the stairs, and Phoebe stepped out of her bedroom, eyes bleary from sleep. She eyed them with concern. “It’s past midnight… what’s going on?”

“We’re going down to the hospital,” Clement said and entered Eleazar’s bedroom where he’d put up his duffel bag and shoes.

The sleep left Phoebe’s eyes and she quickly turned to Darah. “Is it about J.R.’s father?”

“He won’t say but I think so.” Darah wrung her hands together.

“Oh no,” Phoebe breathed. “Maybe we should get the guys out tonight. They’ll go with you.”

“I don’t think we need the whole gang out there tonight.” Clement emerged from the room a moment later, his eyes falling on Darah. “Don’t get in the way.”

Instead of pouting, she nodded. “I won’t. Can we go now?”

Alone in the chapel, J.R. sat in silence, his listless gaze on the shadow of the cross splayed across the altar. The soft hum of the music overhead meant to calm him, to assure him of a miracle, but it only brought tears to pool in his eyes. Blinking them back, he squared his shoulders and drew in a haggard breath. Then he closed his eyes, releasing tears down his cheeks and the breath he’d held.

“Please…”

His voice was barely a whisper amid the hymnal. His eyes fluttered open, meeting the cross and the carved statue hanging on it. “Please,” he began again, voice stronger this time. “Don’t let me lose him.”

His clasped fingers tightened and he closed his eyes again. His shoulders trembled at the thought of losing the only family he had. “I know I’ve been angry at you for too long… but please, just this once.”

His pulse jumped in his throat. “Just this once…”

Another tear trailed his cheek and he sniffed another back. “Please, just… save my dad.” His body began to shake as he couldn’t hold back the tears and he bowed over his waist, his forehead dropping against the back of the pew in front of him.

He knew it wouldn’t help, the thoughts racing through his mind, but he had to say it… just in case. He lifted his head again and gazed up at the shadow. “I’ll do anything. Anything, just save him first. Please.”

The door swung open noisily and J.R. swiveled in his seat, heart in his throat as he expected a grim-faced Hana to bring him the dreaded news.

Two shadows darkened the door of the chapel. He remained seated and watched as they stepped inside and into the spotlight above the door. His heart flipped at the sight of Darah standing by a bearded man. Tears pooled in his eyes as he watched her break away from the man and hurry toward him. He could nothing as she stepped into his pew and flung her arms around his neck. He closed his eyes and lowered his head to the crook of her neck, the tears flowing free as she tightened her hold around him.

Darah felt his shoulders quake under her arms and she tightened her arms around him even more, not wanting to let go despite the fact that her heart pounded hard and fast against his… She closed her eyes and breathed him in, wishing she could take away his pain and fear.

Clement sighed heavily beside them and lowered to the pew behind them. He watched the couple with a somber expression, his brow furrowing at the sight of J.R.’s trembling shoulders. There weren’t many times he’d seen the self-composed attorney lose his cool. But this wasn’t a normal situation.

As though realizing where he was, J.R. disengaged and shifted away from Darah, only for her to grab his shoulders to keep him close. He sighed, not making a move to step away from her. Instead he shifted his attention to the bearded man and his brows lifted in silent question.

Clement nodded. “Any word yet?”

J.R. shook his head, looking past Clement’s shoulder at the closed chapel door.

Darah heaved a sigh and squeezed J.R.’s shoulder. “He’ll be fine.”

J.R. spared her a dubious glance.

“You’re in here so keep your hope alive.” She gave him a gentle smile that made him wish for another hug.

Instead, he looked back at Clement. “When did you come?”

Clement leaned back in the seat, draping one arm over the pew. “A few hours…” he paused to let out a big yawn. “…ago.”

Darah sighed. “How long has he been out for?”

J.R. noticed the warning look Clement gave his sister but ignored it. He dragged a hand over his face. “Too long.”

Clement shifted forward. “Should I meet with him?”

J.R. straightened, alarm heightening at the somberness in his friend’s tone. “I…”

“Relax, I’m just going to sit with him for a while. Let Darah take care of you.” Clement didn’t wait to hear J.R.’s protest and stood. “Behave,” he warned his sister before stepping out of the pew.

Darah gripped J.R.’s shoulder to keep him seated. When he twisted to look at her with questions in his eyes, she squeezed his shoulder and gave him a slight smile. “Stay for a while. Please.”

He swallowed a sigh and the nerves that Clement’s words invoked before settling back in the pew. Darah released his shoulder and moved her hand to clasp his, entwining their fingers together. She could feel his gaze on hers and sighed. “Stop looking at me like that.”

His fingers remained lax in hers but that didn’t stop her from tightening her hold.

Her gaze focused on the shadow of the cross. “Why did you come here?”

J.R.’s eyes lowered to their joined hands, to the chipped polish on her tiny nails. He sighed and curled his fingers around the back of her hand. Then he turned to face the cross. “I don’t know.”

“Of course you know,” she insisted gently. “You could’ve gone outside to the garden like last time. Or sat in the toilet stall.”

“What do you want to say?”

“Let me talk.”

“I am.”

Darah sighed gently, her thumb caressing his. “You haven’t given up.”

He remained silent, holding his breath at her words.

“You haven’t given up on your dad. Even with the death sentence his doctors gave him, you have the hope to believe he can live.”

J.R. closed his eyes. How he wanted to believe her words so badly when in truth, he was trembling from the inside out of living alone.

“You’re not alone, J.R.”

His eyes snapped open and for a moment, J.R. believed he’d spoke those words aloud. His heart thumped hard and fast against his throat.

Darah leaned forward, resting her elbow on his knee. Her face barely inches from his, her eyes met his. “You’re not alone, J.R. We’re not giving up on him either.”

He released the breath he didn’t know he’d been holding, only to catch it again when her eyes twinkled with what he believed were tears. Paralyzed in awe, he gazed down at this impish girl who captured his heart ten years ago.

With her free hand, she lifted it to his face and cupped his cheek. “You’re not alone, J.R.”

Every time she said those words, it was like a brand on his heart; claiming him as hers. Then her lips twitched in that shy smile of hers, her thick lashes drooping in a curtain over her eyes.

“Why?” he croaked out.

Her lashes fluttered, revealing those brilliant eyes that shimmered with tears. For him. “Hmm?”

“Why…?”

He didn’t make sense, but it didn’t matter since she seemed to know what he was asking. Darah’s thumb caressed his cheek, rousing his pulse. “Because, Raju-Joel Obed,” her lashes lowered just once before lifting again, imprisoning him with her gaze. “I love y—”

J.R. didn’t need to hear the rest of it—the words were clear in her voice. He dipped his head and pressed his mouth against hers. The touch of her lips quickened his pulse, but not as it did when the hand she’d cupped his cheek now slid around his neck and clung to him. He too slid his free hand around her waist and pulled her close, clinging to her as though she was his anchor.

A moment too soon, the door swung open noisily and the two broke apart, believing it was Clement catching them in the act.

“Bhaiyaa! He’s awake! Come!” Hana called from the chapel entrance before hurrying back out, the doors swinging back in place.

For a moment, the two sat there in stunned silence—swept away by their unexpected kiss. They stared at each other as if seeing themselves for the first time. Then J.R. broke eye contact and stood.

Darah lowered her gaze and started to shift away from him when he grabbed her arm and tugged her to her feet. She gasped when he wrapped his arms around her, burying his face in the crook of her neck. She bit her bottom lip to keep from letting out a giggle, ticklish at the heat of his breath against her skin.

Then he released her, and took her breath away twice—the sounding kiss he placed on her mouth before gifting her with the most brilliant smile she’d seen in a long time.

“Thank you.” He then looked over her head at the cross, his smile beaming and blinding her at the same time. “Thank you…”

Her heart skipped a beat when his eyes swung back to hers and she held her breath, anticipating another kiss—wanting another. Instead, he released her waist and grabbed her hand. “Come.”

Stunned, Darah nodded mutely and let him lead her out of the chapel to meet his father but not without a glance behind her at the shadowed cross. “Thank you,” she mouthed, releasing a smile of her own.

<<Chapter 18 || Chapter 20>>

SSP 4: Finding Tevin

Posted on 10/08/2013

darkroom

The sound of erratic breathing, the rush of air pushing through parted lips and the stunted sprinting of feet down the pavement. Howling sirens echoed along the empty brick walls. He could hear his name being called, resounding in his heart and his ears in the midst of sirens blasting around him. His body trembled with the impending fear that he would be caught.

The evidence was clutched in his hands, a can of juice. Why did he have to touch it? It was obvious that he did not have enough change to purchase his favorite drink and meant to replace it back on the shelf when the cashier barked at him to stay still. The next minute, he heard the man speaking furiously on the phone for Officer Lee to come by the corner store and pick up a delinquent. Who was the delinquent? Him?

Before he could even think about being caught, the young boy whooshed out the door, shoving between two customers and with his long lanky legs, began sprinting down the streets of Cullen Ave like a mad man. He didn’t know why he ran instead of explaining himself but the vindictive glare of the cashier was enough to make even the most naive child flee, not that he wasn’t innocent.

So the young boy lifted his head to the sky and whispered a quick prayer that he would not have to be caught, his feet flying behind him and gasping for air. Tears streamed down his face with relief once he spotted the tall steeple of the faded yellow siding of the bungalow he once thought as a prison but now proved to be a temporary haven. Then he noticed a couple of flashing lights from a few cop cars parked in the driveway and blocking the streets, and staggered to a stop.

Shivering in trepidation at his awaited punishment from both the police officers and Mrs. Yancey, the boy stalled on the other side of the street, watching other cars drive past. He couldn’t return to the corner store, knowing that more police officers waited there.

“Hey boy!” a commanding voice barked from the other side of the street.

He jerked his widened eyes to see two police officers, their legs poised for the chase and the tips of their hats glaring with imminent authority. He was in trouble. The young boy gulped, still contemplating whether he should run. His feet shifted, a grating sound on the pavement to match the incessant and irregular beat of his heart. What should he do?

“Tevin! Yeh Officer, das him ova there.” a woman’s shrilling voice echoed down the street from the bungalow, causing a cold shiver down his scrawny bones. He didn’t have to look to know the woman was glaring threats on him, probably throwing expletives in her mind to him. “Boi, git ova here afor I smack yo behind all the way back to Tuesday!”

Her threats were the ignition he needed to spin on his heels and start running again. Except it was no good as the small boy crashed into the barreled-chest of another police officer who had crept behind him once distracted by his colleagues and the boy’s furious foster mother. It was over before he knew it.

 —

The resounding slam of metal sliding along metal defined his fate. Poor kid stared bleakly between the metal rods at the empty corridor, fingers trembling. This wasn’t where he should be at 11:57 at night. He missed his bed, missed the arguing on the other side of the paper-thin walls, the shoving and poking from his siblings.

He didn’t want this empty cell, his feet shivering inside his faded and worn slip-on shoes. There was no way he would sit on the cold stone floor while waiting for the police officers to condemn him to juvenile. He was too young, for goodness’ sake!

Barely celebrating nine years of life without seeing his real parents and forced to share even a sole banana-nut muffin purchased by Mrs. Yancey that same day, the young boy wanted to cry that everything in life was unfair.

Casting his eyes to the top stone ceiling of the claustrophobic cell, the young boy wrapped his long and slender fingers around the two thick rods. God, if you’re really up there like Mrs. Yancey says every night…. Do you hate me? Why won’t you help me? It was not a pleading prayer but rather one to see if the man upstairs even knew he existed. If he did, what kind of life was this?

Once the sound of another jail gate slammed close, the boy lowered his head desolately at the silence suffocating the entire jail despite the racking cough from another cellmate next door. Forcing his scrawny shoulders to remain still, the boy shifted away from the door and walked to the back wall of the jail, sliding to the floor. He masked his discomfort once the cold seeped through his thin hand-me-down faded jeans and leaned his head forward to catch some sleep. It seemed, from the quiet outside the corridor, that no one would come for him tonight.

 —

She kept coming everyday, sitting by the wall with her pale wrists crossed over the brown leather bag she propped on her lap. Her eyes were downcast, her brow furrowed in deep thought but she managed to lift her head whenever the metal doors slid open. Her hazel eyes would light up momentarily but once she noticed it was just another police officer, dragging an older man in and out from the corridor, she would sigh heavily and look down again.

Some of the police officers had their theories of who she was. The woman, probably in her early-thirties, always showed up nine in the morning, trudging into the police station and leaning on her wooden-carved cane with a gnarled hook. She didn’t say anything to any of the police officers, merely glancing at the empty corridor with sad, resigned eyes before perching on a seat by the wall. Watching her move around was painful for some of the discrete onlookers. Most knew that under that long, printed skirt she wore was a twisted leg from the knee down. No one understood why she came and no one dared to ask. They simply just watched her warily and quietly, waiting.

Another temporary resident of the South East Patrol on Mykawa St was also waiting and losing sleep while doing so. A week and a half had already passed and no shadow of Mrs. Yancey or anyone from his house had graced the step of the jail cell. Every time he heard shuffling feet or the sound of rustling keys, he would look up with hopeful eyes and slowly lower them down when it was only another cellmate or a police officer bringing him something to snack on. The piteous looks they gave him only made him more sure that no one was coming for him, no matter how many times he lifted a whisper to the ceiling or wished upon a star he could only imagine was gracing the darkened sky outside.

So on another dark cold night, just after he’d finished another packet of Austin Peanut and Wheat crackers, the boy lifted his knees to his chest and propped his forehead on them to sleep. This time, when the rustling keys and shuffling feet sounded off, he didn’t lift his head to see who was moving in. Still, his heart stirred when the footsteps paused in front of his cell and he held his breath. The keys clinked against the rods of his jail cell and too curious, he shifted his head sideways and peeked from one narrowed eye. Both widened instantly when he saw the same officer, Officer Menjivar, who gave him the snack staring at him with a gentle smile. The boy blinked silently, not knowing what to think or how to react. Was it time to have his bathroom break?

“Time to go home, kid,” the middle-aged Hispanic officer with narrow shoulders and a pouch said kindly, turning the key into the gate port and pushed open the door.

Flabbergasted, the boy remained seated and gaped up at the man, his body frozen.

Officer Menjivar chuckled and stepped into the jail cell. “Your legs not any good, mijo?” he extended a hand to him.

Meekly, the boy lifted his hand and placed it in the officer’s rough one. Holding his breath, he found himself being tugged up like a sack of sand and he staggered to his feet.

Chortling still, the police officer patted the boy on his back but jerked his hand back when he felt the boy’s icy and thin shoulders. His brow furrowed and he averted his eyes immediately. He cleared his throat and walked back to the exit. But when he didn’t hear footsteps behind him, the man glanced over his shoulder and cocked an inquisitive brow at the hesitating fellow still standing in the middle of the cell. “Well, what are you waiting for? C’mon.”

Unsure if this was the same reoccurring dream he’d had since he was first placed in the empty jail, the boy shifted back inside. “W-where am I going?” he’d heard the taunting from his neighbors that the local juvenile center was much scary and daunting than this lonely cell. If that was true, he’d rather stay here since the officers treated him pretty well, considering.

Officer Menjivar blinked at him, not sure why he shivered involuntarily at the anxiety coating the boy’s hazel eyes. He managed a smile because he had no other way to comfort the kid. “Hey listen, there’s someone here to take you home.”

The boy swallowed hard, his eyes still widened in trepidation. Was it Mrs. Yancey? He shook his head slowly without thinking and stepped back toward the cell again, already imagining the torturous punishment that awaited him at the house.

“Kid, relax… You’ll be fine.” Officer Menjivar stepped forward and extended a hand again. “I promise.” He masked a wince when the adolescent blinked again at him. It seemed these kind of kids who were shoved like sardines in foster homes heard that cursed word for many years and grown immune to the consequences of trusting someone who used it freely. “Just come out and see. If you don’t want, we’ll take care of it, entiendes?”

Eyes pleading with the officer to not fail him, the boy finally walked toward him without looking to his left or right. Again Menjivar held back a shiver with the urgent plea echoed in the boy’s eyes but kept his gaze on the boy for as long as he could before the boy himself looked down. It was enough for the seasoned officer and he cleared his throat, shifting around to open the door.

The boy blinked rapidly at the change of lighting and the sounds of chattering and phones ringing on the other side of the door. His cheeks warmed with gratitude and utter relief. He was leaving this prison. But he stiffened again, realizing that this next step would determine his future. What was awaiting on the other side of this door and would he be able to handle it?

“C’mon,” Officer Menjivar probed his thoughts and the boy glanced up at the gentle-eyed man. He stepped aside, the security of his narrow shoulders absent for a moment as the boy shuffled out of the corridor. Amid the chaotic noise of phones and voices outside, there was a moment of silence in the office once the other enforcement agents paused to greet their newcomer silently. One woman sitting on the corner of the office, now stood slowly and leaned on her gnarled cane, her eyes affixed on the young slender light-skinned boy standing by the stout officer. She blinked back the tears that ensued, the corner of her lips twitching to hold back a grateful smile. He was here.

The boy’s keen eyes scanned the room warily, already expecting a disappointment. He noticed the amused expressions of some of the officers who had wrestled him to the cold and rough pavement outside his foster home. Shifting his gaze to the other side of the room, he blinked in confusion at the strange look on the woman’s face. She was slender and small yet her frumpy clothes hid her bowed shoulders. Her reddish-brown hair curled and swept over her forehead, almost hiding the heavy stare that was directed on his face. The way she stared at him was what left him speechless and confused. Was that who was here for him? Why?

As if hearing his thoughts, Officer Menjivar turned slowly to the boy and smiled gently. “Mijo, I want you to meet someone…” He glanced over at the woman and nodded, then he placed a hand on the boy’s shoulders and gently pushed him toward the woman who tried to shuffle forward despite her discomfort. “Madam, this is Tevin Gosley.”

Without permission, his heart stirred again and the boy held his breath. This woman’s gaze seemed familiar, almost like Officer Menjivar’s except that her eyes were filling up with tears at the corners. Why was she crying? His fingers curled inward into fists, anticipating a scorn or twisting of her lips to blame him for something he wasn’t aware he did.

Then the woman sniffed, pausing his rampant thoughts and forcing him to peer up at her. She blinked and two lone tears slid slowly down her plump, heart-shaped face. Leaning one hand on her cane, she extended a small, frail and pale hand out to him. “Hello…” she said, her lips trembling to form a sound. Another sniff from her pert freckled nose. “My name is Mrs. Ida Warren.”

  

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