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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Extended Family - Chapter 2

Chapter two

Sadiya was surprised that all three of her clients showed up considering that it was Monday, and normally at least one client canceled due to things coming up at work. Not this Monday, however. The good thing about massage was that it was impossible to give one without relaxing too.
By the time her last client left, Sadiya felt almost at peace with her parents' deaths. She'd even managed to get the business accounts balanced, the payroll calculated, and the checks printed up. They technically printed with her father's signature on them, but she knew she'd have to sign them too so that the bank couldn't claim they were invalid due to his death.
Shawn – the only male therapist working here now that her father was dead – swept Sadiya off her feet and carried her into an empty therapy room. He had prepared it just for her.
There's no use walking around all tense!” He stated. “You deserve a massage just as much as anyone else does.”
She smiled at him as he stepped out a moment to give her privacy while she stripped.
Ready,” she called out.
Shawn entered the room, and then laughed. “You're supposed to get under the top sheet!”
Meh!” Sadiya grumbled, completely unconcerned. “But don't think this means you can get naughty!”
I know,” Shawn confirmed seriously, then got busy removing all the stress from her body. When he was done, he helped her to her feet.
Ah!” Sadiya sighed happily. “I feel like a new person!”
Glad I could help!” Shawn grinned, and then frowned. “I miss them so much...”
Sadiya placed a hand on his shoulder. “I know, I do too...”
As Sadiya left the shop a couple minutes later, she realized that she was ahead of schedule. She grinned at the other two shops in the strip mall.
When her parents had first decided to start their own businesses. They'd rented nearly half a small strip mall. It would have comfortably fit 4 shops in it, but since they felt they needed twice as much space for their little Organic Grocery Store, they'd thrilled the owner of the mall by renting the two middle spaces and then combining them into one.
Sacred Earth Foods had surprised even them by growing into a proper grocery store with a pretty sizable customer based in just a few short years. This gave them the ability to let Candice take over Sacred Earth Foods permanently, and gave John the chance to start his massage therapy shop, Healing Hands, right next to his wife's shop.
A lot of their customers became his clients, and soon word of mouth had plenty of other people coming to him until he'd needed to hire helpers and offer a variety of services. His business went pretty well. Well enough that he could simply manage it if he wanted, but he liked working directly with the clients.
A couple of years ago, the owner of the strip mall decided he wanted to sell it, and John and Candice happily bought it outright! This saved them money on rent, but not much since they now had to pay a mortgage payment on the building instead.
The best part came shortly thereafter when the business in the last space decided to move some place bigger. Now that they could decide on what business to let rent the space, they were choosy, finally settling on a small time butcher that wanted his own shop, but needed help.
Now, the entire strip mall was dedicated to holistic living! Sadiya waved to Dave as she spotted him walking from his car to his shop; Dave's All-Natural Meats.
He returned her wave, but was obviously in a hurry. She shrugged and continued the short walk to into Sacred Earth Foods.
Sadiya!” Scotty, the assistant manager, exclaimed in surprise. “I didn't think I'd see you today!”
Yeah well, I was in the neighborhood,” Sadiya replied with a small grin.
I'll bet! You look like you just had a massage. Your skin is all shiny and fabulous!” He teased her, flapping his hand and pretending to speak with a lisp for a moment.
Sadiya laughed. “You always know how to cheer me up!”
Did you come by to grab a bite to eat before heading home?” Scotty asked curiously.
That and I figured that I'd work on the payroll while I was here and had time. Remind me to thank my parents for picking the same frickin' payday!”
Scotty laughed. “It's been quiet today – it is Monday after all – so I had some time to check on that for you. You're right in that your mom had it all ready to go. Just need to add your signature...”
Love you mom!” Sadiya shouted to the heavens. Candice had always been slightly more organized about this kind of thing than John was.
Of course, then – if you have time – you'll need to make sure all the bills and the vendors have been paid...” Scotty reminded her.
Sadiya groaned as she realized that she'd completely forgotten to make sure that all her dad's business bills were paid. “I even worked on the accounts specifically for that reason!”
She let her head thunk onto the desk in her mom's office, having utterly blanked on the fact that she meant to grab some food. Scotty solved her problem a moment later by bring her a bowl full of freshly made chicken and wild rice soup from the deli area. They were out of Kombucha at the moment, so her brought her a bottle of water instead.
Problem?” He asked, half amused half concerned by her forehead resting on the desk.
I think I need to forget about replacing Gina and hire a manager for Healing Hands instead,” Sadiya groaned.
Scotty shook his head. “Nah... Promote Shawn or Heather to manager and then let them hire a newbie therapist fresh out of school and eager to work someplace decent!”
Sadiya rolled her head to look up at Scotty. “You are brilliant! I don't suppose you want to manage a certain grocery store full time, do you?”
He laughed. “Love to, but still in college, remember?”
Damn!” She sighed.
Dana, a bold and sassy redhead, snorted from the doorway, startling them both. “Harrumph! Well if you're going to promote just anybody,” she practically sneered. “Then I would love to be an assistant manager! I can take over ordering, dealing with the vendors, and handling all the accounts. All you'd need to do is come in every other week to print up and sign the checks!”
Sadiya bit her lip and gave this suggestion some serious thought. With Scotty already in charge of scheduling, employee relations, and stocking, this was almost perfect! Dana was also energetic and passionate about organic foods.
Sadiya and Scotty started nodding at the same time – though Scotty was reluctant to admit that it was a good idea.
Deal!” Sadiya exclaimed in excitement. “But you only get a dollar an hour raise.”
Dana sighed, but nodded. “I can live with that.”
Sadiya was so satisfied by this turn of events that she quickly finished her soup – enjoying every bite. “Later!” She called out on her way out the door. She ran back into Healing Hands, and grinned at Shawn.
Heather was between clients, as evidenced by the fact that she was drying her hands off, having just dried them.
Didn't you already leave?” Heather asked. She was the one who had called to wail in Sadiya's ear that morning. Sadiya smiled at her, and then turned to face Shawn once more.
Shawn, you're now manager! Give yourself an appropriate raise – but don't you dare try to rob me blind or I'll kick your ass! - and then go troll the school until you find a newbie just eager to work at a great place like this.”
Hey!” Heather whined. “Why does he get to be manager?!”
Because he's been working here with my dad since day one and actually knows a thing or two about running this place,” Sadiya answered without a moment's hesitation.
Heather still pouted. “I've worked here almost that long, and I have a business degree in addition to my Massage Therapy degree!”
And you frickin' whine like a baby! Sadiya thought, but simply smiled. “Put it to good use by keeping this place running as smoothly as ever and I'll promote you to assistant manager. In the meantime, We're actually down two therapists, and I can only cover Gina's clients for a couple of weeks at the most.”
Heather nodded in acceptance. “I'll do whatever it takes to keep this place going. It's my home away from home...”
Shawn finally processed the news of his promotion enough to stop gaping and grin at Sadiya. “I'd never rob you blind! Just a tad myopic, maybe...”
Sadiya laughed, and then waved goodbye to them. She got in her car, and then sat there in indecision for a few moments. She'd had a good day so far when all was said and done. She really didn't relish the idea of going to her now empty house, but decided that she had to at least clean all the food out of the kitchen so that it didn't attract pests.
Ten minutes later, she opened her door, and stepped inside her sad and lonely house. It felt as if her home was literally crying now that everyone had abandoned it. She ran her hands along the wall soothingly.
In the kitchen, she pulled out every reusable grocery bag they had, and started filling them with all the food; saving the fridge for last. For convenience, she uncovered a couple of cardboard grocery boxes that they rarely used anymore, and set bags in them to make it easier to pack in the trunk of her car.
Her mother – having constant access to fresh food – was almost fanatical about throwing out anything that had sat around too long, which meant that even her spices were fresh. Sadiya laughed as she stared at them. Candice was ever an enigma! She insisted on fresh everything, but then never bothered to transfer her spices – bought in bulk from an excellent organic supplier to her shop – from the small cellulose baggies to the glass jars that she had waiting for them.
Sadiya actually preferred to use them from their baggies too because then they all fit into one larger bag for easy storage in the cupboard. She tossed the spices into one of the reusable bags, and then turned her attention to the stack of canned tuna, the stack of sardines, and the stack of kippers – which were her favorite!
A short time later, she was staring into a bunch of empty cupboards – well empty except for pots, pans, and other kitchen conveniences...
Time for the fridge,” she muttered to herself, and then decided to lug all this out to the car first.
When she finally had the fridge empty, and its contents packed and in her car, she stood staring at the open fridge. She'd turned it off by unplugging it, and was letting it defrost.
Mom... Dad...” She mumbled, feeling the tears come bubbling to the surface. There was no answer. “Are you there?”
Still no answer.
I guess they crossed over...” She murmured, and then shouted. “You promised I could talk to you whenever I wanted!”
The voice was much fainter now, but she still heard her father say, “And you can. We just won't be able to respond unless it's absolutely necessary...”
Can I work on some spiritual enlightenment thing to make it so I can hear you better? Will that make it easier to communicate with you?!” She demanded.
Her mother whispered so very faintly. “No honey... that's not one of your gifts... Focus on the ones you already have...”
Sadiya sighed, all out crying now. “But I don't want to let you go!”
There was nothing. Not a whisper; not a sigh. Sadiya cried all the harder for a minute in an attempt to make them pity her or maybe even yell at her to grow up, but they didn't. The moment she realized that they weren't coming back for her, she squared her shoulders and forced herself to stop acting like a baby.
I need to drive... home... and then I can take a shower or maybe even a bath and cry to my heart's content,” she told herself firmly, and then headed to her bathroom to pick up the few supplies that she'd need to take a proper bath.
Lastly, she grabbed a suitcase and packed her favorite and most used possessions.
This time when she walked out the door, it truly felt like it was for the last time – though she knew that it wasn't. She'd be back for more packing and cleaning. She'd have to come by from time to time to dust.
Eventually, she'd even be old enough to live on her own and reclaim her dogs from the family friend that had agreed to take them for as long as necessary. In all the heartache of missing her parents, she hadn't had time to miss them. She knelt in the spot where their beds usually were, and stroked the carpet.
It's not forever, my babies,” she promised them.

*****

I'm surprised you're home!” Jeremy exclaimed just after he'd walked through the door and found her sitting at the table in front of her laptop.
I had an amazingly productive day,” Sadiya replied with a shrug.
What is that mouthwatering smell?!” Jeremy asked. He didn't bother to ask where his wife was because she had already called him a couple hours ago – before Sadiya had returned – to let him know that she was out with a friend for a few hours.
Stock,” Sadiya explained. “I decided that I needed some comfort food, so I'm simmering some bones so that I can make chicken soup tomorrow.”
Bones?” Jeremy inquired incredulously, and then migrated to the large crockpot to see it for himself. “This divine smell is nothing more than bones?”
Sadiya laughed. “That and some herbs and spices.”
Mmmhmm...” he murmured in disbelief, though he could clearly see that she wasn't lying.
Joss and Hunter walked through the door just then, which made Sadiya wonder what they had been doing until almost 6 PM. Don't they have homework and stuff like that to do at home?
Did you make dinner too?” Hunter asked eagerly, sniffing the air.
Well, yes, but it's not what you're smelling,” Sadiya warned him. “At least not like you think.”
Joss frowned at her since dinner was previously a duty he had shared with his dad. “Um... my father has to eat a very strict diet because of his heart attack.”
I know, you mentioned that this morning, so I made this,” Sadiya announced as she pulled a glass baking dish of chicken pieces out of the oven. They weren't breaded, but still retained their skin to keep them as moist as possible. The dish also had a little bit of water in the bottom so that all the seasoning she'd sprinkled over the pieces – going very easy on the salt – would sort of steam back up into the chicken as it baked.
Determining that they were actually done – she used a pot holder to pull a potato out of the oven and then squeezed to see if it was done.
Perfect!” She passed judgment on it with a grin. “It's self serve, sorry! I may be willing to cook, but I'm not a maid!”
She served herself as she said this, and then moved out of their way as they mobbed the oven. She moaned in anticipation as she loaded her – now sliced open and slightly roughed up – potato with butter, and then lightly sprinkled it with pink sea salt.
I don't often get to eat potatoes!” Sadiya informed them with a grin as she carried her plate to the table. “But they're among my very favorite foods!”
Why not?” Hunter wondered.
If I eat too many carbs, I gain weight. These carbs especially really pack it on me!”
Me too!” Hayleigh agreed as she walked into the house, and then tossed the door shut behind her. “But I don't let that stop me!”
Sadiya laughed. “Well it stops me!” She ate slowly until everyone else was settled around the table so that it didn't look like she was devouring her food in an attempt to abandon them as soon as she could. Her cellphone rang, but she set it to vibrate only and then ignored it.
How was your day, son?” Jeremy asked, obviously following long habit.
Joss shrugged. “Same as always. We are rehearsing our butts off!”
The competition is next week,” Hunter reminded them.
What competition?” Sadiya wondered with genuine interest.
You might find this... odd...” Hunter began hesitantly. “But Joss and I are both in choir... and we have a major national competition coming up.”
Joss nodded and then clarified. “It's not actually choir in that it's a smaller group of students who chose to sing and dance together after school. It's extracurricular like football or fencing.”
You have a fencing club in your school?” Sadiya asked in astonishment. “I thought that was only for private schools and community ed...”
Joss shrugged. “Our school is good about letting the students have any clubs they want to so long as they can find an appropriate adviser.”
Cool!” Sadiya praised with an appreciative grin.
You like fencing?” Hunter asked.
Sadiya shrugged and tilted her head side to side. “I've tried it, but it's too... fussy for me. Too many rules!”
She cast Hunter a confused look. “I would have pegged you for a football player.”
He nodded, smiling. “Yep, but that's in the fall. It's just weeks before the end of school, and I'm grateful to be able to focus on our upcoming competition.”
Do I get to be there to cheer you on?” Sadiya asked excitedly.
Joss shook his head sadly. “No... it's in New York...”
Why should that matter?” Sadiya wondered.
Hunter scoffed as if saying well duh! “You'd have to come up with airfare and then manage to book a hotel room. It's a huge competition, and all the hotels have been booked already!”
Hmm...” Sadiya looked to the ceiling as she stroked her chin in thought. “I think I have a friend in New York... City, right?”
Jeremy stopped her before she could go any farther. “If you went, you'd only be distracting them when they needed to concentrate completely on their performance.”
Sadiya nodded in understanding. “I guess you're right. I get like that before my competition too.”
Hayleigh set her fork down so that she could pay attention. “What do you compete in? Cooking? Are you on America's Next Top Chef?”
Sadiya blushed as she realized that this was a roundabout but sincere appraisal of her cooking. “No!”
Oh! I know!” Hayleigh gushed as if she'd just solved the world's toughest dilemma. “You mentioned limiting your carbs; I bet you're a model!”
Sadiya laughed. “No! ...Do you really think I could be a model?”
Why not? You're pretty enough!” Hayleigh assured her. Hunter and Jeremy nodded in agreement, but Joss shrugged, and made a sound that was a slightly better judge of her beauty.
Sadiya squeezed his hand, understanding that he wasn't trying to insult her. She pulled out her cellphone to check the time.
Do you mind if I wash my plate later?” Sadiya asked “My friend should be here in a minute.”
Don't worry about it!” Hayleigh assured her. “We have a rule in our house that whoever cooks doesn't have to wash dishes!”
Sadiya cackled almost malevolently in response to that. “I bet you are going to change that rule once you realize that I almost always have something cooking! Oh, and by the way, don't get used to me cooking for everyone,” She warned them. “I do tend to make a lot, and I don't mind sharing, but since I am always cooking something, you should totally make whatever you want to eat too.”
She turned to smile at Joss. “That way I'm not intruding on your habits and special diets.”
She glanced at her phone as a text came in, then grinned. Jeremy frowned.
This friend isn't your boyfriend, by any chance?”
Sadiya flapped her hand at him airily. “Oh no! My boyfriend is married and lives with his wife and kids. This is just a friend from college who comes over to train with me almost every day.”
Wait, What?!” Jeremy spluttered in concern. “Tell me you're joking!”
Sadiya tilted her head curiously. “Why?”
You tell me your boyfriend is married, and you wonder why I'm upset?!” Jeremy roared.
Sadiya stared at him silently for a moment. “Ian is 32, has two kids, and has been married to his wife for almost 8 years. He's come to dinner with my parents at least once a month, and they thought we was a good match. Why are you so upset?”
My sister thought it was a good idea to let her 16 year old daughter date a 32 year old married man?!” Jeremy roared.
Why would you want to have such a boyfriend?” Hayleigh asked, also shocked by the idea.
In a totally girly manner, Sadiya gestured as she explained the situation to them. “Well, it all started when I took my IQ test and scored just barely high enough to get into Mensa. I thought to myself that if I was just barely a genius, then what would my kids be like if they had a bigger genius for a father!
It's an unproven theory that a child's IQ will be an average of his or her parents. I know that mine certainly is! So, I attended all the Mensa get-togethers until I found a man who I just clicked with. I introduced him to my parents and told them about my plan to one day have kids with him. They thought it was a great idea, and gave us their blessings.”
You can't be serious!” Hayleigh protested.
Why not?” Sadiya wondered. Her parents almost always let her do whatever she wanted, especially if she could clearly and logically state why she wanted to do it. In this case, she'd shown them a five year projected goals plan, and they'd simply given her a look of affection mixed with you're-a-weirdo! and then gave her permission to do whatever made her happy.
He's married!”
So?” Sadiya was honestly having a hard time understanding why this mattered so much to them.
The door bell rang just then, and Sadiya jumped up happily. She rushed to the door and flung it open. Her friend lifted her into a tightly squeezing hug.
Topher, this is my Uncle Jeremy, my aunt Hayleigh, and my cousins Joss and Hunter,” Sadiya introduced, and then tapped on her friend's chest. “This is my friend and classmate Topher.”
Joss pressed the back of his hand to his mouth to cover his natural tendency to drool over the sight of the gorgeous 21 year old, extremely in shape college student.
Nice to meet you,” Topher greeted with a friendly smile. He looked around. “So... where should we do it?”
I was thinking the back yard,” Sadiya replied.
Do what?!” Jeremy demanded, his mind still dwelling on the fact that she had a 32 year old boyfriend for the sole purpose of procreating with!
Spar,” Topher answered with a tone that made it clear he was holding back a snicker at the implication.
Come on,” Sadiya beckoned as she walked to the backyard. She was still wearing the yoga pants and tank top from that morning. She waited for Topher to toss his jacket and bag on one of the chairs on the patio before kicking off his shoes.
As soon as they were both ready – she wasn't wearing shoes either – they bowed to each other, and then Topher started attacking. They started with basic punches and blocks to warm up, then progressed to flashier moves. This was martial arts fighting, and involved plenty of kicking too!
They sparred for a good hour, exercising more than anything. Topher could sense that Sadiya was not in the mood to give the fight her all at the moment, but at least sparring helped take her mind off her parents for a little while. They bowed to each other, and then Topher pulled her into a hug.
I'm so sorry about your parents,” he murmured. She nodded, and then pushed him away.
They walked back into the house – where her uncle had been watching them through the patio door. He stroked his chin as if wondering why this niece he hadn't know he had was only half as girly as his son. Which ultimately didn't matter because he loved his son no matter what.
Sadiya smacked Topher on the rear, and then laughed. “Go on back to your boyfriend before he starts calling me up wondering what is taking you so long!”
Yeah yeah!” Topher sighed from fake aggravation. “Hey, are you going to be online later?”
Maybe, why?” Sadiya wondered.
Eric wants to know if you'll help him with his calculus homework,” Topher informed her.
Can do!” Sadiya promised. “If I'm online.”
Thank you!” Topher gushed. “Calc is way over my head!”
He waved to everyone – Hayleigh was just finishing up the dishes while the boys were working on their homework, and Jeremy was pretending to read a newspaper.
Nice meeting you!”
They all returned his phrase, and then waved to him as his left.
Did you say that he has a boyfriend?” Joss demanded with interest. Sadiya nodded, which made him look torn between hope and disappointment.
Hunter snorted. “Why do you care? You have a boyfriend too!”
Joss nodded with a blush and muttered, “I know...”
Sadiya snagged the last of the macaroons she'd made that morning, grateful that they'd only left her one so that she didn't chow down on the entire batch. She shoved it in her mouth and noisily chewed on it as she grabbed her laptop from where she'd set it earlier, and then got online to finish reviewing the report she'd been working on when her uncle had come home earlier. Satisfied, she submitted it to her teacher via the school website.
One mini novel on the life of Artemesia Gentileschi done!” Sadiya sighed happily, relieved to have one less demand on her time. She was only mildly joking about the length of her report.
Suddenly, her day caught up with her, especially considering that it started at 4 AM. She yawned loudly, and then stumbled as she carried her laptop upstairs. The moment she was gone, Jeremy turned to his wife.
Do you think I'm being overprotective by not liking the fact that she's dating an older married man?”
Hayleigh shook her head. “I don't like it either, but I don't really see how we can forbid it if she had her parents' blessing.”
You know...” Hunter remarked pensively. “I think she might be putting you on after all so that when she finally does introduce you to her boyfriend, you'll think he's so much better that you won't object.”
That would be pretty clever,” Joss admitted.
What makes you think that?” Hayleigh asked her son curiously.
Hunter shrugged. “Since when does a girl just tell her parents – or other relatives – that she's honestly dating an older man?”
That would be strangely honest...” Hayleigh agreed.
Jeremy hummed in thought. “I don't know... The way she acted... like she seriously couldn't understand why we'd object... I think she may have actually been telling the truth!”
Hayleigh opened her fridge to grab a drink. “Holy Hannah! We have a ton of food in here!”
Joss went to investigate. “I guess she didn't want everything at her house to go to waste...”
Jeremy nodded, impressed.
Joss bounced almost giddily. “It's almost all organic! Finally!” By this, he referred to the fact that he had been begging his dad to go completely organic ever since his heart attack.
Well she did say that my sister owned a health nut store,” Jeremy muttered.
Dad!” Joss half whined. “You shouldn't be so judgmental! After all, this is how you should be eating!”
But it's all tofu and... Prime rib! What the???” Jeremy sorted through the fridge, trying to find the tofu he was so sure must be in there somewhere. The closest thing he could find was a jar of something called Miso.
What kind of health nut eats prime rib?” He muttered to himself.
The kind that apparently also eats tongue,” Joss informed him with a tone of barely concealed ew...
I'm not eating that!” Jeremy insisted firmly.
Me either!” Joss agreed.
Hayleigh laughed, pushing them both aside so that she could finally grab a bottle of the flavored water she loved.
Joss decided to head upstairs. He had a beauty routine that he performed every night – skipping only last night because he was comforting his cousin.
Good night!” He called out on his way upstairs.
Yeah, I'm going to bed too,” Hunter stated, which was his way of saying that he was going to call his girlfriend and chat with her for an hour or so before going to sleep.
At the top of the stairs, Hunter wondered why Joss was still standing in his doorway. Joss sensed his question and turned to smirk at him.
She looks so tiny when she's sleeping!”
Hunter looked over Joss' shoulder to find that Sadiya was passed out face down and fully clothed on Joss' bed. Her arms and legs were spread carelessly, as if she had literally just flung herself on the bed and fallen straight to sleep. Her head was tilted to the side just enough to let her breathe easily through her nose.
You want help moving her?” Hunter asked.
Nah,” Joss shook his head. “I'll be okay.”
Okay,” Hunter replied with a shrug, and then continued on to his room.
Joss shut his door and then started on his nightly routine. When he was completely ready for bed, he contemplated her once more.
Maybe I should have had him help me...”
He started by rolling her onto his side of the bed, and then moving the blanket out of the way. Next, he rolled her onto “her” side of the bed and covered her up. Finally, he climbed in to his side of the bed, turning the lamp next to his bed off before getting comfortable.
She immediately snuggled up to him, mumbling, “Mama...”
He purred in sympathy, stroking her hair to sooth her. He closed his eyes and was asleep a moment later.

Go To Chapter 3 

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