Thursday, June 01, 2023

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 25

Obi took a moment to compare the sisters. Frankie had dark brown hair, and blue eyes. Though their coloring was different, they clearly were sisters.

"I didn't know you were coming!" Wynter said. "Are you hungry? We made a huge meal."

"I'm starving. Oh, hello!" she beamed at Clive. "Hi there," she smiled at Eagle.

"Hi, I'm Clive." He shook her hand. "Where do you want these?" he asked Wynter.

"Leave them there, for the moment. We'll get Frankie some dinner, then we'll have dessert and coffee."

"Might as well do that now," Frankie said, smiling at Clive. "I'll show you. I need a bathroom break, and a chance to wash my face." Tipping her head, she led them toward the stairs.

The men followed, bags and suitcases clutched in their hands. Once they'd deposited them in a guest bedroom, at the top of the stairs, they went back to the table. Frankie came down a few minutes later. Her food was warming in the microwave, so she sat down to wait. Clive poured her some wine, which she accepted with a smile.

"And who's this?" she asked when she saw Obi.

"My brother, Father Obadiah," Clive said. "This is Eric—Eagle," he hurried to correct himself when his brother frowned. "This is Sarah, his girlfriend."

"So nice to meet you all. I had no idea you'd have company. You don't know anyone here, but Mom."

"Obi has been kind enough to help me out. His brothers, too. And Sarah has been a godsend. Why didn't you tell me you were coming?"

"I didn't know how you'd react," Frankie said quietly. "It's not like we parted on the best of terms, last time we met."

"Don't be silly, you're my sister, and we make each other crazy. That doesn't mean I don't love you! You goof!" Wynter hugged her sister. "Eat. Drink. We'll talk."

And they did. More wine was poured. Obi had a little, though he was careful, because he'd had a pain pill. Since it had been several hours ago, and he'd just had a huge meal, Sarah allowed it.

"You act like you've known one another forever," Frankie said, smiling at the group. "And I feel the same way. How's that possible?"

"I think we were all friends, or family, in another life," Wynter said. "I can't explain it any other way."

"It does feel that way," Frankie admitted. "I feel like I know you," she said to Clive. "But I can't think of a way we could have met."

"Neither can I. Did you grow up here?"

"Nope. We're all from New York."

"I've never been there. Have you visited here?"

"A few times, yes. Came out to see Mom a couple years ago." She tilted her head. "Did you always have a beard?"

"No, it's fairly new. Why?" His turn to tilt his head, squinting a little. "Oh! I know! You all came to the yacht club for dinner. Has to be about two years ago, close to three."

"The hot waiter! Wynter, it's the hot waiter!" Frankie clapped her hands, bouncing in her chair.

"The hot waiter?" Eagle said. "I hear a story."

"I worked there part time," Clive said. "I was lucky enough to serve these lovely ladies lunch."

"He was so hot, we went back for dinner," Frankie said. "And breakfast. And lunch again."

"The food isn't that good," Eagle said, looking puzzled.

"Hot man," Frankie said, pointing to his middle brother. "Duh!"

They burst out laughing. Even the men could agree that they would have done the same, under the circumstances.

"I never got a chance to ask for your number," Clive said quietly. "The boss frowned on us using the dining room as a dating service."

"You work there anymore?"


"Nine-one-seven," she began, waiting for him to get his phone out of his pocket. "Five-five-five, seven-eight-two-three."

Laughing loudly, he added her number and sent her a text. Beaming, she added him to her contact list.

"Easiest number I ever got," he said with a grin.

"Serendipity," Sarah said with a happy sigh. "It was meant to be. All of us."

That started an interesting conversation, which continued through dessert and after dinner coffee. Soon, they moved to the living room. Obi took the recliner once more. The others scattered about on the furniture, which was cozily grouped around the coffee table.

"We need to get Big Brother home," Eagle said after about fifteen minutes. "He's gonna crash."

"I wanted to get over to see Mom," Frankie said. "Can you drive us up?" she asked Wynter.

"She doesn't like the traffic," Clive said. "I imagine you don't, either. And you don't know your way. I'd be happy to run you up there."

"We'll take Obi home," Eagle said. "I need to get a couple of Grandpa's tools anyway."

"I think I'll stay home," Wynter said. "Mom would love to see you alone, I'm sure. I need a night in my own bed."

"I can stay with her," Frankie said.

"If she wants company."

"Obviously. Not gonna force myself on her," Frankie laughed. "How about this. I'll go up for an hour or so, and come back. We'll get caught up. Sound good?"

"Very. Thanks."

"You're welcome."

"Let's get going," Sarah said, leaning into Eagle's embrace. "We need to get Obi home, he's about gone."

"I need a pit stop before we leave," Frankie told Clive.

©Dellani Oakes 2023

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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 24

"I can't wear that and sleep," Obi complained.

"Take it off to sleep, but put it on before you get out of the bed," the doctor commanded. "I won't take no," he added firmly.

"Not arguing with the man with a medical degree," Obi said, holding up his hands in acquiescence. "Thank you both. I appreciate your help."

"That's what we do," Sarah said. "Like you, we help people. We heal bodies, you heal souls."

"What you do is far more difficult," he said as he walked to the waiting room once more.

"I beg to differ," Sir said. "It takes more than medicine to heal a body. It takes the mind, soul and spirit. If any of those are out of whack, the body suffers. I've seen people die, who shouldn't have. But they were discouraged, afraid...." He shrugged. "It's a terrible shame, but it happens.

"Yes, it does."

"Sling," Sir said, reaching for something in a cupboard.

"I hoped you'd forget," Obi chuckled.

"Trust me, you'll want it."

Once Obi had been fitted with a sling, he had to admit to himself that it did feel better.

Back at Wynter's again, he was fussed over by the women so much, he wanted to scream. Finally, taking a deep, cleansing breath, he calmly asked them to stop.

"I'll take a nap until dinner, okay?"

"Okay. If you're sure," the women chorused, as if they'd practiced.

"I'm sure. The pain pill is kicking in, so I'm just gonna...." he closed his eyes and was asleep before he finished speaking.

The women tiptoed from the room, not realizing that a bomb could have gone off next to him, and he wouldn't have noticed.

Dinner prep went quickly with so many skilled hands. The four of them had a good time putting the meal together. It was simple – spaghetti, garlic bread and salad. Soon, the mouthwatering scents of sauce and garlic bread filled the air.

When the meal was ready, the brothers went to help Obi to the table. He asked for a bathroom visit first, then made his way slowly to the table.

"How am I going to eat?" he fussed.

"He might be a righty for everything else," Clive explained. "But he eats like a lefty."

"I cut it up," Wynter said. "You can manage with a spoon in your right, can't you?"

"Can't I just take this thing off?" He pointed to the sling.

"No," Sarah stated. "You aren't sleeping, so you can wear it until you get ready for bed."

"You're not the boss of me," he grumbled, but sat quietly, doing his best to eat with his right hand. "I feel like a child," he muttered.

"You'd feel more like one, if I fed you," Wynter replied. "So stop your whingeing and eat."

Dropping his spoon with a clatter, Obi frowned. "I'm not a kid," he stated as calmly as he could—which wasn't much. "But I'm in pain, and more than a little ticked off at life right now, so cut me some slack."

The others stared at him, particularly Wynter and Sarah.

"He has a point," Eagle said softly, watching the women to make sure they didn't intend to hit him. He was seated between them, and they'd have easy access, if they wanted it. "It's not easy to eat with the wrong hand. Not only that, he's had kind of a lot on his plate, the last couple days. I broke both arms one summer. I couldn't do anything but lie around the house. Obi kept me company, took me for road trips, and even wiped my butt a few times. If he hadn't helped me figure out how to eat with my feet, I'd probably have starved. The idea of having someone spoon feed me was too much. You'd probably do better with your feet," he commented.

"I didn't want to offend anyone, but you're probably right. However, not this meal."

"I don't blame ya, man. I wouldn't want to do it, either. It was a suggestion, for later, when you're alone."

"Thank you." Obi smiled at his youngest brother.

"I called my boss at the boat place," Clive said. "I told him not to bother looking for me tomorrow. I'm taking one of the personal days I never got. I'll take you to and from work, and help you run errands. Mrs. B. has a list of things for me to do at the church, so I'll be around all day."

"You and she got along all right?"

"She's a trip. We had a great time talking while we compiled our list. I'm surprised the place wasn't falling down around your ears. There's a lot of things wrong. You need to hire a roofer," he added suddenly. "The Sunday School wing has a significant leak. Fortunately, it's over the janitor's closet, or you'd have a mess. There's a floor drain, which keeps the water out of the hallway. Unfortunately, it's built up some mold. You'll need someone in to treat that, too."

Obi sighed, rubbing his face. "Thank you. Anything else I need to know?"

"Not at the moment. We'll go over it tomorrow. Ms. B. is keeping your schedule light."

"She's a blessing," Obi said softly.

"Yes, she is."

"I'm glad to have you working with us," Obi said.

There was a knock at the door. Wynter stood, puzzled frown on her face.

"Expecting anyone?" Obi asked.


Clive followed her to the door. She peeped out the window on the side. Smiling, she flung the door back. "Frankie!" she squealed.

The sisters hugged in the foyer. Clive went around them, grabbing bags and suitcases off the porch. He saw a cab pulling away and waved. The driver waved back. Eagle came to help with the luggage, closing the door behind them.

©Dellani Oakes 2023

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Thursday, May 25, 2023

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 23

"You got it. Sit still, Brother Mine."

"Yeah...." Obi sighed as he lowered himself into a leather recliner. Fumbling a moment with the buttons, he found the switch to raise the foot rest.

Wynter came back with something wrapped in a tea towel. Handing it to him, she sat on a nearby hassock. "Are you sure you're all right?"

"Yes." He put the bundle on his shoulder.

"Mom hasn't got an ice pack. That's frozen peas."

He chuckled. "I keep a bag of peas in my freezer, just for bumps and bruises. I think I've had it for five years now."

She giggled. "I hope you don't get hit that much."

"I teach a martial arts class at the church, during the summer. Mostly kids, but I also do an adult class."

"He always manages to overdo," Clive told her.

"Yeah. I do," Obi chuckled.

There was a knock at the door. Clive went to answer it. Eagle and Sarah stood on the porch. Laden with bags, Eagle came in.

"More in the back," he told his brother. "What happened to the old man?"

"Funny," Obi said.

"Sarah, if you could have a look?" Wynter's face showed her concern.

"Sure. What did that monster do to you?"

"No clue."

"He broke his collar bone when he was seven," Eagle said as he walked back in. "Mom went into labor with me, because it came through the skin."

"I can see that happening," Wynter said. "Broken bones. Blood." She shuddered.

"I guess if your kids get hurt, Obi has to deal with it," Eagle said as he carried bags to the kitchen.

"Who said anything about kids?" Obi called after him, gasping when Sarah moved his arm.

"Take off your shirt, Obadiah," Sarah commanded in a tone which could not be argued with.

"Let me help you," Wynter said.

"I can get it," he leaned forward to undo the collar, gasping.

"That's it. I've got it," Wynter said. Her hands reached for his shirt front.

Obi grabbed her hand, gently but firmly. His face held reprimand.

"I'll help him," Eagle said, rushing forward. "Nothing personal, ladies, but maybe—don't help." He could see that Obi was barely holding it together. If Wynter undid his shirt—he didn't want to speculate.

Nodding his thanks, Obi got up. Eagle undid the collar and unbuttoned the black priest's shirt. Slipping it off, he bit his lip. Obi's right shoulder was blue, black and purple. A livid bruise went around the base of his neck, where the stiff collar had dug in.

"Why didn't the paramedics notice this?" Wynter gasped, wanting to touch it. Only the fact that Eagle was standing in her way, kept her back.

"Some bruising doesn't show up right away." Sarah went and washed her hands. Drying them on a paper towel, she stepped closer. "This is going to hurt, so try to relax," she announced.

"Go for it," Obi said. Taking a deep breath, he exhaled slowly as she pressed. Hissing, he flinched.

"Again," Sarah commanded.

He did the same again, yelping when she hit another spot.

"I don't think it's broken, but it creaks. Is that the shoulder you broke before?"

"Yeah," he said through gritted teeth.

"It's entirely possible you simply bruised it badly. I think you need x-rays, but I'm calling Dad to be sure."

"Oh, come on!" Obi protested.

"You're doing it," she stated calmly. "If it's bleeding inside, it could be very dangerous. Dad has an x-ray machine at the clinic. You wouldn't need to go to the hospital." She dialed her phone. When her father answered, she told him the situation.

"Bring him over. I'll meet you."

"Thanks, Dad. On our way." She glared at Obi. "No protests, Mister."

"None," he sighed in defeat. "You all stay here," he told his brothers and Wynter. "Get some dinner going. This won't take long."

"I've got this," Sarah assured them. She helped Obi put his shirt on, minus the collar.

Her father met them in the clinic. Obi hadn't realized that he lived upstairs, and owned the building where it was housed.

"Handy arrangement," he said quietly as Sarah unlocked the door.

"Yes, it is. Until I got my own place, I lived upstairs, too. There are several apartments, which he loans to people who work here, until they get on their feet."

"What a great thing to do."

Sir met them in the waiting room. "This way, Father."

"Just Obi, Dad. He's off the clock." She winked at Obi.

"Yeah. I get kind of Fathered out," Obi said. "By the end of the day, the collar comes off, and it's just Obi."

"Come on through, Just Obi," Sir said. "I've got this, honey."

"I'll help."

Together, the father and daughter got the machine set up, positioning Obi in front of it. A few minutes later, they were done. Sir helped him put his shirt back on.

"We'll have images in a second or two. Have a seat. Want some water?"

"Yes, thanks."

Sarah already had one in her hands. She held out a bottle of pills. "Dad prescribed these. Very mild pain relievers. Take one now, and follow every four to six hours, as needed."

"Thank you." He took the one she'd handed him.

"Got them," Sir called from the control booth. The screen near Obi flickered on. He was looking at an x-ray of his chest and shoulder. "You can see the old, remodeled break here," Sir pointed to an area of the image which was denser. "No new break, thank God. It's strained and hurts like a bitch, but it's not broken. I'll fit you with a sling."

©Dellani Oakes 2023

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Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 22

"Oh." Her voice sounded small and tight. Her lips trembled.

"I didn't mean to make you cry!" He felt helpless, because he was deep in traffic, and couldn't stop to grab tissues.

Fumbling with the glove compartment, she got them herself, dabbing at her eyes.

"I'm so sorry I made you cry."

"Not in a bad way," she sniffled, trying to smile. "That was so incredibly sweet. I don't think I properly thanked you for coming to get me. For keeping me safe, and finding Karen for me to talk to. She was such a wonderful help. She told me to call her anytime."

"She's good like that."

"And so are you. What's wrong?" She touched his cheek when they'd stopped for a light.

Pressing his lips in a firm line, he shook his head. "Not while I'm driving."

"Pull over," she gestured to a fast food restaurant parking lot. "I'll drive."

He snorted, shaking his head. "Sorry. I don't let anyone drive my car, except Clive or my dad."

"I see...." she said in a silly accent. "Zo....'e dozen't let a girrrrlll drife his kyare."

Unable to help himself, he started laughing. "What kind of accent was that supposed to be?"

"No idea," she giggled. "But it made you laugh."

"You'll notice, I did not include Eagle in that lineup, so it's not a boy/girl issue."

"You taught him to drive!" she protested.

"I did my best, but he still scares the crap outta me."

"And you don't trust me, huh?" Raising an unfriendly eyebrow, she looked askance.

"Be fair, by your own admission, driving in the city scares you silly."

Nodding, she smiled. "True. But I'd do it, if it meant you could relax a little."

"I'd be worried about you."

"I won't wreck your car, Obadiah," she snapped.

He touched her arm as he rolled to yet another stop. "I wasn't implying that. I know it makes you nervous." His hand drifted to hers. "I'm not him, Wynter. I won't make fun of you, belittle you...."

"Thank you. I promise the same."

"Good." His lips twitched as the light changed. "I still don't want you driving my car."

Laughing, she tapped him on the arm with her knuckles. A look of surprise crossed his face as he risked a glance at her.

"That all you got?" He made a rude noise.

"You're driving. I guarantee, I can hit better than that."

"You can prove it sometime. I have one of those contraptions which measures how hard you hit."

"Why on earth do you have that?"

"For the youth group fund raiser. It's one of the top attractions. I hit it first, and everyone lines up to try to beat my score."

"And do they?"

He flashed a smug expression as he pulled into her driveway. "Nope."

"You're full of surprises, Father Randolph."

He turned to her, face solemn. "I want you to agree to something."

"What's that?"

"Don't call me Father, when we're alone? When we're together, it's Wynter and Obi. Okay?"

Her fingers brushed his cheek, her thumb lingering by his lips. "Okay. I promise."

Unable to stop himself, he leaned across the console, intent on giving her a kiss. Someone thumped on the rear of his car, making him swear.

"What was that?"

"Move off the sidewalk, dummy!" a man bellowed.

"Who's that?"

"No clue. I think you're far enough into the driveway. I don't know what his problem is."

"It's tempting to run the prick over."

Her laugh was loud inside the car. "Obadiah! Shocking behavior from a priest!"

"I'm off the clock." He did, however, move the car up a little more. He didn't want to end up with a scratch or dent. He had a fairly good idea that would be the jerk's next move.

Hopping out of the car, he opened her door. She lost her balance getting out, tipping toward him as she fell. Obi grabbed her, holding her close. The desire to kiss her was even stronger, when she was in his arms. His right hand tangled briefly in her hair, his mouth hovering over hers....

Another car pulled up beside them and Clive got out. If he noticed how close they were standing, he didn't let on. Then again, Obi thought, he might have seen, and done it on purpose. He hadn't missed the way that Clive looked at Wynter. He needed his own woman, and Obi dearly wished he would find one. Not that Wynter was his—but the bond was there, forged by equal parts of misery and attraction. He couldn't put it aside.

"Eagle called me," Clive said rather sharply. "Thanks for the invite, Bro."

"I was going to call from here," Obi said. "I had it on my mind, just hadn't done it yet. Traffic on Twelfth was—exciting."

"I keep telling him I'll show him my back ways," Clive remarked to Wynter as he toted mysterious cloth bags to her porch. "But will he listen? Stubborn Scorpio."

Obi ruffled his brother's hair. Clive retaliated with a shoulder punch.

"Ow!" Obi yelped, grabbing his shoulder.

"What? What did I do?" Clive asked, suddenly worried.

"I guess Eddie got me more than I thought," Obi said. "I'm okay. Just hurt for a second."

"You have Sarah look at that when she gets here," Clive said. "Or I'll sit on you, and make you."

"No need for violence," Wynter said as she unlocked her door. "Obi will do it, won't you." She didn't ask a question, that was a command.

"As the lady wishes," he bowed, wincing.

"That's it. Sit." She pointed to the living room. "Kitchen is through there," she told Clive, pointing to the back of the living room, where a white wooden door hung. "You can drop whatever in there. I'll help you put it up, as soon as I get him an ice pack."

©Dellani Oakes 2023

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Thursday, May 18, 2023

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 21

"It's going to be all right," Sarah said, putting her arms around Wynter. "You have to believe. Why don't we get you home, and let you pull yourself together. We can fix a nice dinner."

"I don't know if we have groceries. I've hardly been home."

"Then we order out, or go to the store," Eagle said. "How about this. Obi can take you home. Sarah and I can plan a meal and go to the store."

"What do you want me to do?" Sir asked with a smirk.

"Whatever you want. We're easy," Eagle replied.

"I think I'll head home. It's been a long day. I'll put the Spooky on for Wanda, and do a Reiki healing for her."

"You can do that, even from a distance?" Wynter asked. "I thought you had to be right with them."

"When you're as good as Dad, you can do a healing from around the globe."

"I want to know what a Spooky is," Obi said with a frown.

"It's a machine you can run with a computer. It can apply Royal Rife's frequencies," Sir explained.

Obi and Wynter shook their heads, not understanding.

"It uses frequencies to help heal. All I need is a few fingernail clippings, or hairs, and I can run the program for that person. I use it on patients in the office, but I also can run it for people like Wanda."

Wynter flung her arms around him, giving him a huge hug. "Thank you so much!" She hugged the others, too. "You've all been so helpful—to a total stranger. I just—I never met anyone like you!"

"You're not a stranger," Sarah assured her. "You're a sister, daughter. We've been family before, all of us. I feel it very strongly."

"So do I," Sir said.

Eagle nodded. Obi didn't say anything, but he had felt that way since he met her—as if he'd known her forever. He couldn't remember feeling that way about anyone else he'd just met. Instead, he gave her a hug, kissing her on the cheek.

"Let's get you home so you can have a shower and relax. We'll take care of everything."

"I can't keep asking for rides," Wynter said softly. "But I'm terrified to drive!"

"Obi can give you driving lessons," Eagle volunteered. "He's very patient, even with his goober of a younger brother. He taught me to drive."

"Did he really? Why?"

"Dad took me out once, but swore I'd kill us both, so he never took me again. I begged Obi to teach me."

"That was really kind of you."

"It was self-defense!" Obi stated with a smirk. "I knew if he was on the road, I wanted him to know what he was doing!"

Eagle socked him in the shoulder, just as Josiah rolled up.

"He giving you a hard time?" he asked Obi.

"He's my kid brother. We're bonding."

"Gotcha. You folks want a ride?"

"Love one," Wynter said. "I'm suddenly exhausted."

"Hop on!"

They all found spots to sit on the large cart, and he took off in his usual cavalier style. Squealing a little, the women clutched the mens' arms. Laughing, they trundled down the hill to their cars. Josiah dropped Sarah and Eagle first. Obi had parked further away than his brother.

Once they were settled in the car, Obi wended his way out of the parking lot. The far north driveway was blocked by cones, but he didn't realize it until he got to them. Backing and filling, he cursed under his breath.

Pressing her lips together, Wynter laughed at him. "Why, Father Randolph! Such language!"

"This is nothing," he muttered, frowning when he came up to more cones. "What the hell are they doing here? Signs would be nice!" he honked his horn sharply.

"Do you want me to do it?"

"No. I've got this." Pausing, he closed his eyes, foot on the brake. "It's the little things."

"Yeah." She understood without him explaining. The little things could mean so much, or irritate like nothing else. "I believe in you, Obi. You'll get us out of here."

"I wonder when they put this up. We came in this way less than two hours ago."

Wandering back to the front lot, he stopped by the valet desk, scrolling down his window as he slowed by one of the men.

"Hello, Father. What can I help you with?"

"I know it's not your fault," he began, taking a deep breath. "But what's with all the traffic cones?" He gestured behind them, explaining what they'd found.

The young man's eyes flew open in alarm. "Oh, crap! Are they out again?" Taking a step back, he ran a hand through his hair. "I'm sorry about that. Someone's been pranking us all day. We can't see over there from the desk, so we don't notice unless we're getting a car for someone. We take them down, they go back up."

"Why are there cones there to begin with?" Wynter asked.

"Honestly, I have no idea. They were sitting there one day, stacked. We thought it was hospital related."

"You should pick them up and move them over here, or hide them. I bet they won't come back as quickly."

His face broke into a wide smile. "Good idea! You all have a good day. I'll go fetch those now." Saluting, he trotted off to a small golf cart nearby. With a wave, he headed over to get the cones.

"That was a good idea," Obi said with a smirk. "What made you think of that?"

"If they were put there for a legitimate reason, someone will come looking for them. If, as I suspect, they were put there by someone who's pranking them, they won't."

"Where do you suppose they came from?"

"There's construction around the back. Didn't you notice it when you came looking for me?"

"I was concentrating on you – your safety. I didn't notice."

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Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 20

Wanda sniffed it appreciatively. "Lovely!"

"I also have a special THC cream to help with pain and swelling. A friend of mine got some weird reactions to the shot you get after chemo. I came up with this for him. He swore by it." He handed her a small jar. "I've got plenty, so you holler when you're out."

"I will do so. Thank you so much. You're all so kind." Tears rolled down her cheeks.

Wynter took one hand, Sarah the other.

"I think we need some girl time," Sarah said. "I wondered if you'd like a shower, so you can wash your hair? I can get people in to help you."

"Please. That would be lovely. Thank you."

"We'll head down to the chapel," Obi said. "Unless you guys want to go outside?" he directed at Eagle and Sir.

"I think the chapel sounds great," Sir replied.

"Call when you're done," Obi said, giving Wanda a tender kiss on the cheek. Squeezing Wynter's hand, he smiled at Sarah. "Thank you," he told the younger woman.

"You're welcome. I'm happy to."

The men headed to the chapel, a floor down, and half the hospital away. It was located in the oldest part of the building, secluded and nearly impossible to find.

"Dude, I had no idea where this was," Eagle said with a chuckle. "Doesn't look like people come here often."

"It's the least used room in the hospital," Obi said as they walked in. "Which is a shame. I've suggested moving it to a different location, where it's more accessible, but they won't do it."

"That's too bad," Sir said, crossing himself as he knelt.

"Are you Episcopalian too?" Eagle asked.

"I was raised Roman Catholic, but I've taken aspects of many religions. Whatever speaks truth to me, I believe."

Obi chuckled, nodding. "I got in the wrong business for that, but I think it's great that you can."

"You can, too," Sir said quietly. "It's a matter of faith, and what's important. If your vocation is true, and you firmly believe all you're taught, then you're in the right place. If not...."

A hot shaft of doubt pierced Obi's chest. Gasping, he dropped to a kneeler. Head resting on his folded hands, he felt hot tears on his cheeks.

"Oh, son, I'm sorry!" Sir crossed the aisle, sitting on the bench beside him. Enfolding Obi in his arms, he held him.

Eagle wasn't sure what to do. He'd never seen his brother so distressed.

"I never thought—I didn't want—!" Obi gasped. Shaking his head, he sobbed, hands pressing his chest.

"He didn't really want to be a priest," Eagle said. "As the eldest son, first grandchild, it's traditional. Expected."

"That's so hard," Sir said quietly, putting a comforting hand on Obi's shoulder. "I do hear good things about you. Even if you doubt, your parishioners don't. They admire and love Father Obadiah." He smiled, hugging Obi's shoulders. "My parents wanted me to be a doctor. Like you, my vocation was decided before I was born, and I got a family legacy handed to me."

"But you are a doctor," Eagle said.

"Yes, but they wanted a surgeon—preferably cardio-thoracic. I tried, but being a surgeon wasn't for me. It seemed wrong to cut into people, even if it helped them. Instead, I started looking into alternative, less invasive ways to do the same thing. I've been ostracized by my family, laughed at, belittled." Sighing, he shook his head. "I know the shame and guilt you feel, I truly do. You don't want to let your family down, worry you're not the right man for the job. But you're a good man, Obadiah Randolph. You need to find someone to talk to, in whom you can confide. You carry so many secrets from others, your spirit needs cleansing. Do you have a confessor of your own?"

Obi shook his head.

"If you don't want to talk to a fellow priest, I have a therapist in my office, who is very good and caring."

"We have a good friend who's a social worker," Eagle said.

"It might be good to talk to someone who's not known me my whole life," Obi said. "Karen is great, but I'd like an outside perspective."

"I'll make a call in a bit, and arrange it. He's very good."

"Thank you." He sighed, rubbing his face.

Eagle's phone buzzed. "It's Sarah. They're ready for us to come back."

"We'll keep it short, just say goodbye," Obi said as they stood. "Wanda's going to need her rest."

Taking a few minutes to say goodbye, they left. Wynter joined them, because Wanda wanted to sleep some more.

"Go home, have dinner. You don't have to stay every minute," her mother assured her.

"Are you sure?"

"I'm in good hands here. You need a chance to regroup and rest. I insist."

"If you're sure?"

"Positive." She gave Wynter a hug and kiss.

"We'll see her home," Sarah promised, giving Wanda a hug.

"Thank you, darling."

"You think Mama will be all right?" Wynter asked as they rode down in the elevator.

"Yes, she'll be fine," Sir assured her. "They have excellent staff here. She's in very good hands."

"I feel guilty—"

"No, don't," Obi said gently, taking her hand. "What are you going to do there while she's sleeping? You can go up and visit, but you don't have to stay every night. She'll need you more when she gets home."

"But is she going home?" Wynter gasped. "When? They're doing all this intensive therapy! Tests, maybe more surgery. I'm so scared!"

©Dellani Oakes 2023

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