Posts tagged “Truth

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J.R. snuck a glance at the two elders who had readily rescinded their support of him.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)


Lighthouse, Chapter 18

Posted on 27/07/2016

The alarm beeped twice as a weary J.R. stepped into the dark and empty lobby of his family home. Tossing the keys on the side-table near the door, he traipsed across the polished wood with only the moon lighting his way up the stairs to his room. Nudging the door with his foot, he flipped on the switch and walked up to his closet door.

Unbuttoning the day-old shirt with one hand, the other flipped on the light switch in the walk-in closet. Ignoring the rack of starched shirts, J.R. pushed open a sliding door that revealed folded t-shirts and polos. Sweeping the shirts aside, he pulled out a box from the shadows; an engraved jewelry box.

Blowing off the dust, he traced the etched lines. His lips quirked a wan smile at the engraved initials on by the lock. His mother’s name marking the box, a gift he’d inherited in her death and hid from his father. Drawing a breath, his thumb unhooked the delicate lock and opened the lid.

At one time, the music was a painful reminder of what he’d lost—a mother and a friend. As an adult, J.R. wished the music could play now more than ever. Letting the lid rest against his folded shirts, he quietly stared at the contents within; a plastic watch he’d received at age 10, faded rupee bounded with old rubber bands, and a letter folded under the watch.

Releasing the breath, he fished out the letter and opened it. His eyes skimmed the flowery penmanship, his heart fluttering as he read the note he’d hidden away for so long.

Dear J.R., you might not know this but I like you.

Pausing briefly over the words that rocked his world seven years ago, J.R. sighed and continued.

Yeah, I finally said it. I like you. It’s a little more than like, but I know you’ll freak out if I say that.

His lips twitched a wary smile, knowing he’d done exactly that. What could an eighteen-year-old know about love? His smile faded, realizing he’d been wrong about her all this time.

The moment I saw you, I knew I wanted you, and needed you like you needed me. Something about your sad dark eyes and face devoid of smile told me so… beckoned me to you.

J.R. paused, his face heating up as it had when he first read the letter. Neck-deep studying for her college entrance exams while kicking butt in her Advanced English class, her use of ‘big’ vocabulary words irked her brothers but amused him to no end. He’d known she would be a force to be reckoned with…

In that moment, I wanted to be the only one taking up space in your lonely heart. To chase away the demons of your past, sweep away the cobwebs left behind, and build a fire that warmed you from the inside out. Are you creeped out yet?

He simply stared at the words, imagining her write with that impish smile that always made his heart flutter as it did now. He blinked and continued on.

You might say I’m too young to understand what I’m saying, but love respects all and none. It freely gives to all, regardless of age or qualification… I welcome it. I welcome you to invade my heart as I desire to invade yours. So, will you let me, J.R? Can I love you?

Heart thumping as it did that night seven years ago, J.R. lowered the letter and stared at the wall of folded shirts.

He’d been a coward, not knowing how to process Darah’s letter of love to him. For years, he’d hidden it away although the words were engraved on a heart that longed to invite her in, and let her stay. She’d been too young he reasoned despite her protests, and therefore chose not to mention it to her, not realizing it would deeply wound the young, impressionable woman for ages.

For playing a part in her growing distrust of males other than her brothers, he felt deep shame. If only he’d revealed a legacy that could someday turn Darah into his mother; dull and lonely.

Though he’d believed his parents loved each other; his father’s idea of love was vastly different from his mother’s. Where his father was reserved in his affection, his mother gave it freely until she couldn’t anymore. Spent and resentful, she drew within—keeping her sickness hidden until it was too late. Regretful, his father became a different man to make up for what he hadn’t done earlier… but she was deep in her sickness and died months later, wishing her husband had reciprocated sooner.

Dragging a hand over his face, he sighed out in frustration. Once he’d snubbed her letter, Darah persistently avoided him whenever she could, reserving polite small talk whenever he was around her. Even her sudden proposal could be considered a business transaction, shielding her heart from him.

What a mess he’d made of it. If only he’d accepted her then…

He stared down at the letter and reread her candid affections. Did he dare believe she still felt this way toward him, or was it too late for them now?

Like the first time he read the letter, and every time Darah’s hazel eyes swept over him or he caught a glimpse of her impish smile, his heart skipped several beats. With a smile forming on his face, he folded the letter and tucked it into his pants pocket before shrugging off the unbuttoned shirt. He would have to make sure not a moment too soon.

As he reached for a polo shirt, his cellphone rang. He picked it up on the second ring. “Hello?”

Bhaiyaa,” Hana’s voice filled the air. “On your way yet?”

He frowned at the hesitance in her voice. “Yeah, stopped by the house for a bit… what’s wrong?”

Hana sighed deeply, heightening the alarm strumming through J.R.’s veins. “You should hurry back.”

Tugging the shirt over his head, J.R. started for the door. “What happened?”

“I’ll explain once you get here,” Hana replied. “Need you to concentrate on driving.”

Stomach in knots, he scowled. How could he concentrate on anything else when her tone warned him of terrible news about his father?

He hurried down the stairs and grabbed his keys. “I’m on my way.” He slammed the door behind him, leaving the dark and empty house with the alarm beeping twice upon his exit.

“How long are you gonna keep them in there?” Darah asked, a knot forming in her brow.

“For as long as possible,” Phoebe growled, surprising Darah with her darkened expression. “How could they act like complete hooligans?”

“Did you expect them to stand back and watch their sister getting mauled?” Geraldine drawled from the dining table where her blueprints and stationary were strewn everywhere.

Darah rolled her eyes. “I was not getting mauled, and I could’ve handled it.”

“Yeah, that’s definitely what you were doing…”

“I was until Eli jumped in like some ninja.” Darah rubbed the back of her neck. “Thankfully he didn’t sue or we’ll have trouble on our hands.”

“What kind of example are they to the boys? Or the girls for that matter?” Phoebe raged on. “Having to tell the kids that their fathers went to jail because they were fighting a bad man is—”

“He is a bad man,” Darah interjected, her expression darkening as she relived his betrayal.

Geraldine chuckled low. “So why did you move in with him?”

Darah stiffened, and Phoebe cut Geraldine a warning look. “Chill, Geri.”

“No I won’t,” Geraldine answered breezily, pinning Darah with a stern expression. “Your brothers are in jail all because you weren’t honest about what happened between you and that boy. On your own, you decided to make a choice that will affect not only you but your entire family. Congratulations.”

Shoulders shaking, Darah stood.

“Yeah girl, go ahead and run,” Geraldine drawled, eyes narrowing. “That’s all you do, run from your problems.”

Phoebe frowned deeper. “Geri, that’s enough.”

“No I’m not finished.” Geraldine looked to Phoebe. “Far too long, you’ve been allowed to do and say what you want without facing much consequences. But I’m gonna tell you now that you can’t do that anymore. You hear me, Darah, it’s enough.”

Darah clenched her fists at her side, and though she wanted to run, her feet remained rooted to the ground. Tears pooling in her eyes, she glared at her sister-in-law.

“You’re about to be a mother, and hiding away in your room, avoiding your responsibilities is not what a mother does.” Geraldine’s right brow hooked. “Ignoring what you’ve got to do, is not how a grown woman behaves. You’re not a child anymore, Darah, you haven’t been one for a while.”

Phoebe looked at her with sympathy and started for her.

“Stop right there,” Geraldine said, halting Phoebe’s steps. She gave her a withering glare. “Will you keep babying her even after she’s got a baby to take care of?”

Darah tightened her jaw. Heat traveled from her head to her toes as she stood convicted.

Geraldine returned her attention on Darah, her expression softening at the sight of fat tears streaming down the young woman’s face. “You know I love you, right?”

A hiccup coursed through her, and Darah jerked a nod.

A small smile tipped Geraldine’s lips. “You’ve got to grow up now. You hear me, baby girl?”

Darah regarded her warily. “You should probably stop calling me that…”

“Never,” Geraldine replied as she stood from the chair. En route, she grabbed Phoebe’s hand and pulled her toward Darah.

As her sisters wrapped her in a hug, she finally let it all out as the tears flowing freely; confessing her regret and shame over what she’d done with Jeremy, and growing fear for the future.

Minutes after the women had settled down in their seats, hands still locked together, Phoebe gave Darah a smile and smoothed the damp curls from her cheek. “You’ll be alright.”

Darah snorted. “I’m already screwing it up.”

“She’s right,” Geraldine said, squeezing Darah’s hand before releasing it. “No one’s an expert as a first-time mother. I was a total mess with Jozy, but look how I turned out…”

The women shared weary smiles. Then Darah shifted her attention to Phoebe. “Can we get my brothers released now?”

Geraldine snorted in laughter. “Let ‘em stay there for one night. They need to learn.”

“Exactly,” Phoebe piped in. “Maybe the boys’ll learn that fighting is not the way.”

“There are appropriate times for it,” Darah mumbled, grateful for her brothers’ intervention. The fierce look in Jeremy’s eyes terrified her.

“Wish they could be calm like J.R….”

Darah’s cheeks warmed, recalling the way J.R. stood in front of her, shielding her from Jeremy’s piercing and accusing stare. He’d spoken with a calm assurance that weakened Jeremy’s protests, calmly informing Jeremy he was trespassing and had attacked Darah first, and would be at a loss if Darah decided to press charges against him. That made him rescind his threat to sue her brothers, and the man stomped away in a fury.

“Honestly though,” Geraldine’s voice pervaded through Darah’s thoughts. “What on earth was he looking for? What did you take from him?”

Darah blinked in confusion. “I didn’t take anything…”

“Don’t give me that. You definitely looked guilty. What was it?”

She looked away and her sisters-in-law groaned.

“Darah,” Phoebe beseeched gently. “If you took something, you’ve got to give it back.”

“It’s mine.” Darah looked up. “So why should I give it to him?”

Flabbergasted, both older women gaped.

“You’re kidding me right?” Geraldine asked, brow knotted.

Indignation fled and Darah looked away, shamefaced.

Geraldine growled. “You’re incredibly silly, Darah.”

Darah frowned. “He kicked me out and said I should leave with all my stuff, so I did.”

“He kicked you out?” Phoebe echoed with a furrowed brow. “You didn’t leave on your own?”

Geraldine scowled. “What a jerk.”

“See? He’s trash.” Darah started to relax, grateful her sisters were beginning to understand.

“But still,” Phoebe countered. “What you did was sneaky and unethical. Even if you helped him—”

“I did more than helped him,” Darah insisted. “I practically authored his entire research.”

“Yeah well, you shouldn’t have.”

Darah lowered her head in regret. “He promised me we’d get married. I did it thinking he’d be my husband. That it was all for the family.”

Geraldine grunted. “And he’s a low-down-dirty scoundrel for tricking you, but you’re still responsible for your actions.”

Phoebe nodded. “And even if you had a right to be angry, taking something with his name on it, something that belonged to him is wrong.”

Exasperated, Darah threw a glare at the ceiling. “So what do you want me to do?”

“Return it,” they said in unison.

Darah scowled. “I can’t. I erased it.”

Geraldine slapped a hand over her face. Phoebe closed her eyes.

Just then, the doorbell rang and all three turned to the door. Rushing feet sounded on the stairs as children, both Geraldine’s and Phoebe’s, hurried down to the landing. Tripping over each other, they reached the door just as it opened. A heavily-bearded man shouldered a duffel bag inside, greeting the squealing children with his signature smile. “Hey squirts.”

“Uncle Junior!” the kids said in unison, tackling him with hugs.

After ruffling the boys’ heads and kissing the girls’ foreheads, he peered over their heads at the empty family room. “Where’s everyone else?”

“Daddy’s in jail!” Fallon, one of the twins declared, still holding onto her uncle’s waist.

“Uncle too!” Her twin, Tomas, piped in.

“Say what?” Clement looked up as the three women emerged from the dining room. “What’s going on?”

“You’re home?” Darah gaped at her immediate older brother, scruffy and worn from travel.

He nodded, still distracted over the children’s troubling announcement. “Who’s in jail?”

<<Chapter 17 || Chapter 19>>

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