It was Halloween. The evening was dark and rainy. Parents and kids, undaunted by the weather, were out tricking and treating. As Charlene walked down the sidewalk she felt uneasy. The atmosphere around her was ghoulish. She hoped that Quentin was at home and worried that he might not open the door, thinking that she was a trick and treater. Like her, he wasn’t into Halloween. Maybe she should have waited until tomorrow to drop by his place but she was anxious to see him. She wanted to thank him for being such a tremendous help to Martin and to invite him to his graduation. Besides, she wanted to see him. Her thoughts drifted back to the first time they met…
It was at a mutual friend’s housewarming party. He was there with a female companion and she was alone. She noticed him the moment he walked in and although she was talking to a friend, her gaze kept straying over to where he was. At one point, when she looked at him, their eyes met and held for several minutes before he turned away because the hostess had joined his companion and him. Curiosity got the better of her and she asked her friend, “Who’s that man over there talking with Wendy?” she asked.
Rose followed her gaze. “Oh, that’s Quentin Moore. He’s an English professor over at Cambridge University. “The woman he’s with is Margaret Evans. She’s an Art professor at the university. There is talk that they are more than colleagues.”
Charlene’s gaze shifted to his companion. She was a petite shapely woman with short curly blonde hair and dressed in a simple but pretty summer dress. She was comely but Charlene didn’t think she was well-matched for Quentin who towered over her. Perhaps the attraction was more intellectual than physical. And they were closer in age. Quentin looked to be in his early forties and Margaret in her late thirties. There’s no way, he would be interested in me, Charlene thought. Not when I’m so much younger than him.
Rose was watching her closely. “You find him attractive, don’t you?” she said. “Most women do. Whenever I see him, I wish that my professors looked like him. He’s sexy in an intellectual sort of way. Nothing is more stimulating than a man who has brains and brawn.”
“It doesn’t do me any good to admire him. He’s attached.”
“We don’t know for sure, that they are officially a couple. It’s just talk. They could be just friends, for all we know.”
“I hope so–”
“He’s coming over,” Rose interrupted her, making her heart lurch. “And he’s alone.”
Charlene stood there, her heart pounding. She turned her head just as he reached them. This close, he was even more attractive. She was so nervous and she couldn’t seem to get her breathing to return to normal. He greeted Rose first and then turned his attention to her.
“Quentin Moore,” he said, holding out his hand. He had the most amazing green eyes which seemed to be studying her face.
“Charlene Bennett,” she said, taking his hand and feeling his long fingers wrap around hers in a warm handshake. He looked to be more in his late thirties even with the beard which tended to make men look older. His thick brown hair was slightly tousled. As if self-conscious, he released her hand to smooth the unruly tresses into some semblance of order, his eyes still riveted to her face.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Charlene,” he said quietly.
They stood there staring at each other, seeming to forget that Rose was there. She watched them, amused. “If you two would excuse me, I think I’ll go over there and see what Eric is up to.” And off she went.
Charlene clasped her hands behind her back so that he wouldn’t see that they were trembling. “Rose mentioned that you teach English at Cambridge,” she said. “How long have you been teaching there?”
“About fifteen years.”
“How do you like teaching?”
“I like it very much. What about you? What do you do?”
“I work at an early intervention organization that supports children who are experiencing emotional and behavioral difficulties. We have a yearlong mentoring programme for them.”
“How do you like it?”
“I love it because I love children.”
“Do you need volunteers?”
“We always do.”
He looked interested. “Tell me more about your mentoring programmes.”
She explained to him how the programmes work. “Are you interested in becoming a mentor?” she asked, hopefully. It would give her a chance to see him on a regular basis.
“Yes, I am.” he said. “I have always wanted to do charitable work but just never got around to doing it.”
She was excited now. Reaching into her handbag, she took out a business card and handed it to him. “You can visit our website for more information and then fill out the application form.”
He tucked the card into the breast pocket of his jacket and smiled. “Thank you.”
They talked for a while longer and then, Margaret joined them. She looked first at him and then at Charlene. Quentin introduced them. They shook hands and were cordial to each other but the older woman’s eyes belied the pleasantness in her voice. Charlene was sure that she detected jealousy in them. Had she been watching them all this time and felt threatened? Was that why she was standing here at his side as if they were joined at the hip?
“Quentin, there’s a fellow I’d like you to meet,” Margaret told him. “Would you excuse us?” she said to Charlene.
Quentin gave Charlene an apologetic smile. It was clear that he didn’t want to go but out of courtesy, he excused himself and followed Margaret across the room to where a short bespectacled man stood.
They didn’t get a chance to speak to each other for the rest of the night. On her way home, she thought about him and hoped that she would see him again. She did when he went to the centre for his training to be a mentor. He was matched with Carson. Carson was acting out at school because life at home was turbulent. His biological father died when he was two and his mother remarried a year and a half later. His step-father was abusive and controlling. And he drank. Carson would hang out with his friends or at the playground instead of going straight home after school. And when he eventually went home, his step-father would beat him. More than once Carson tried to run away from home but he would always go back because he didn’t want to be living on the streets. His step-father got arrested and Carson was glad. However, he still continued to act up and his mother was very concerned that he would get into serious trouble.
Quentin was the perfect match for him because of their similar interests. He discovered that Carson was very good at art and took him to museums and art shows. When Carson found it hard to express his feelings, Carson encouraged him draw. Initially, the pictures were dark, angry but in time they changed. Charlene met with Quentin once a month to discuss how the mentoring and learned from Carson’s school and mother that his behavior had improved. He was a different person.
A year had passed and the mentoring was over. She reached Quentin’s cottage and she stopped outside to call him on her cell to let him know that she was there. Just as she rang off, the door opened and he stood in the doorway. She walked up to him. “Sorry to be dropping by on such short notice,” she said. “I had to see you.”
He smiled. “It’s good to see you,” he said. “Come in.” He stepped aside to allow her to go in.
She stepped into a very pleasant and warm room. “I came to invite you to Carson’s graduation ceremony on Monday.” She handed him the invitation.
“I will definitely be there,” he promised, taking it.
“Quentin, words alone cannot express how grateful I am to you for the remarkable work you have done with Carson. He is such a happy, confident child now. Thank you.”
He placed the invitation down on the table nearby and stared at her, his expression serious. “Is gratitude all you feel toward me?” he asked quietly.
She swallowed hard. “No.”
He moved closer. “What else do you feel?”
Tossing her handbag on the floor, she went up to him and put her arms around his neck. “Does this answer your question?” she asked before reaching up and kissing him.
His arms went around her waist and held her tightly against him as he kissed her back. They stood there kissing for a while and then he raised his head to gaze down at her. “It took us a whole year to get to this point,” he murmured. “Do you suppose it will take another year before we start dating?”
She smiled and said, “Not if I could help it,” before pulling his head down to kiss him.