Neighbors

 

She stood outside of the door to his flat, her heart pounding and her palms sweating.  She could hear Maura’s voice, “You don’t have to wait for him to ask you out.  This is the twenty-first century.  You ask him out.  Based on what you’ve told me, it’s obvious that he’s interested in you.”

“Then, why hasn’t he asked me out?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe he’s shy or isn’t sure about how you feel about him.”

“I hope you’re right.  I hope I don’t make a fool of myself.”

That was yesterday.  Now, here she was, about to do something she had never done before in her life–ask a man out.  What if he had a girlfriend?  What if he wasn’t interested?  What if–?”  She shook her head as if to rid herself of these nagging doubts and taking a deep breath, she rang the doorbell.

A few minutes passed and then she heard the latch drawn back.  The door opened and there he stood.  He looked surprised and pleased to see her.  His gaze was riveted to her face.  “Hello,” he said.  “Would you like to come in?”

“I haven’t come at a bad time, have I?” she asked.  He looked like he was dressed to go out.  He was wearing a red knit sweater over a white shirt and dark grey pants.

He shook his head.  “No, I’ve already been out and was just getting changed when the doorbell rang.  Please, come in.” He opened the door wider and stepped aside so that she could go in.

She couldn’t help but notice how neat, modern and decidedly masculine decor.  This was definitely a bachelor pad.  She slipped off her sandals, feeling very short beside him.  He towered over her and he was staring at her with those sexy hazel eyes.  Working up what courage was left, she said, “I wanted to ask you something.”

“Let’s go into the living-room,” he suggested and led the way.  He invited her to sit on the sofa while he sat on the Ottoman opposite her.   “What is your name?” he asked.

“Pamela.”

“I’m Leonard.  What would you like to ask me, Pamela?”  His French accent added to his charm.

“I–I won two tickets to The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre in a raffle and was wondering if–if you would like to go with me.  The performance is on Friday at 7:30 pm.”

“I would be delighted to go with you,” he said.  “Do you have to go somewhere now or could you stay longer?  I was just about to have dinner.  Would you like to join me?”

She blinked.  He wanted her to have dinner with him.  How could she refuse?  She glanced down at her cream sweater and jeans.  She wasn’t exactly dressed for the occasion but if he didn’t mind, why should she?  “Yes, I’d like that.”

“Make yourself comfortable,” he said rising to his feet.  “Do you like classical music?”

“Yes.”

“I have this marvelous CD which I bought just recently.  I will play it and hope that you enjoy it.”  He went over to the stereo and popped the CD in and soon the flat was filled with Vivaldi.  Then, he excused himself and went to get dinner ready.

She sat there for a moment, hardly able to believe that she was there in his flat.  Maura was going to be thrilled at how things had turned out, especially when she told her about the impromptu invitation to dinner at his flat.  She heard him busy in the kitchen and soon something that smelled very appetizing assailed her nostrils.  She got up and followed the scent and sound of dishes.  Whatever it was it was piping hot.  “Can I help you with anything?” she asked.

He shook his head, smiling.  “Just have a seat at the table and I will join you shortly,” he said.

She went over to the dining-table and sat down in the chair facing the kitchen so that she could wait him.  A few minutes later, he carried two plates of food to the table and set them down.  She looked at the plate he put in front of her, her mouth watering.  “That looks and smells really good,” she commented.

“Thank you.”  He went into the kitchen for the salads, the bottle of non-alcoholic wine and glasses.  He sat down opposite her.  “I hope you enjoy your dinner,” he said.

“I’m sure I will,” she said, placing a napkin in her lap.  “Do you like cooking?”

“Yes.  I learned how to cook from watching my mother.”

“Is your mother here in London?”

He shook his head.  “No, she is in Nice.  I’m the only member of my family living here.”

The Apple Cranberry Walnut salad was delicious.  She thoroughly enjoyed it.  As she reached for the plate with the roasted chicken thighs with zucchini and Feta served over Quinoa, she noticed that he was watching her.  She quickly lowered her eyes, feeling self-conscious.  “Do you miss your family and Nice?”

“I do but I try to visit them every year around the Christmas holidays.”

“Why did you move to London?”

“I always wanted to study here.  And it was the best way for me to learn English.”

“You speak perfect English.”

He smiled.  “Thank you but, enough about me,” he said.  Tell me about you.”

“I was born here but my family is from Haiti.  My father and I were very close.  One of my favorite memories of him is when he took me to the zoo.  I was nine.  Before I started university, I went to Paris for two weeks by myself.  I loved hanging out at the sidewalk cafes, listening to snippets of conversation.  Once I heard a man telling his girlfriend that she had to choose between him and her poodle.  And she chose the poodle.”

He stared at her.  “Es-tu en train de tirer ma jambe?”

She shook her head.  “No, I’m not pulling your leg.  The woman chose the dog over the boyfriend.”

He looked at her.  “Do you have any pets?”

“No,” she cried throwing up her hands.  “As much as I like animals, I don’t have any pets nor do I plan to.”

He looked relieved.  Leaning back in his chair, he said, “It is never a good idea for people in relationships to give one another an ultimatum.  It is best to work something out that would benefit both parties.”

“I agree,” she said before taking a couple sips of the wine.  “Dinner was delicious,” she added, smiling.  “Thank you.”

“I’m delighted that you enjoyed it.  Perhaps we can relax for a while in the living-room.”  He got up and started to clear the table.

She helped him, insisting when he protested.  They stacked the dirty dishes and glasses in the dishwasher.  They went into the living-room and this time he sat next to her on the sofa.  They talked and laughed for a while.  She found it so easy to talk to him.  He helped her to relax and be herself.  The time went so quickly and it was after eleven.  Reluctantly, she stood up.  “I’d better go now,” she said.  “I have an early day tomorrow.”

He looked regretful as he followed her to the door.  “May I see you again tomorrow?” he asked as they stood in the doorway.

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“You’re so beautiful,” he murmured, his eyes riveted to her face.

She smiled shyly up at him.  “Thank you,” she said breathlessly.

“I’ll see you tomorrow evening.  We’ll have burgers and watch a movie.”

“Sounds great,” she said.  “Thank you for a lovely evening.”

“You’re welcome,” he said quietly before he reached for her hand and raised it to his lips.

She felt her skin tingle where his lips touched and her heart was pounding as their eyes met and held for a long time before he released her hand and she turned away.

“Goodnight, Pamela.”

“Goodnight, Leonard.”

She crossed the hall to her flat, feeling his eyes on her as she inserted the key in the lock and opened the door.  She turned and waved at him before going inside and closing the door behind her.  Before she headed to her room to get ready for bed, she called Maura.  She told her everything and her friend was ecstatic.  “Good for you, Pam.  I wish I were neighbors with an eligible bachelor who invited for homemade dinner at his place.  Have fun tomorrow and at the theatre.  I want the juicy details.”

Pamela rang off and headed for bed although she didn’t fall asleep right away.  She lay there thinking about Leonard and how he had told her that she was beautiful.  Her body reacted every time she remembered the way he looked at her when he said that and the kiss on her hand.  She couldn’t wait to be with him again.

The following evening came and they enjoyed his delicious Black Bean Nacho burgers with a salad as they watched a foreign film.  Afterwards they went for a walk.  They saw each other the next evening but this time they spent it at her flat.  She was happy to make dinner for him this time which he seemed to enjoy.  They watched television, talked and played dominoes, something she hadn’t done in ages.  This time when they stood outside of her door, he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  She closed her eyes as her senses reeled at the warmth of his lips.  His eyes were dark when he drew back to look down at her and she couldn’t hide the quick rise and fall of her chest.  They said goodnight and he went across to his place.

Friday evening came and just as she was slipping on her shoes, the doorbell rang.  Excitement filled her.  She hadn’t been to the theatre in a long time and she was looking forward to seeing Phantom of the Opera.  Most of all, she was going to be with Leonard.  She opened the door and smiled at him as he stood there in his long black coat over a black suit and black turtleneck sweater.  Underneath her coat she was wearing a long sleeve red knit ankle length dress with a side slit just above the left knee.  Before she locked the door, she made sure she had the tickets.

There was a bite in the evening air as they walked down the one-way street to the theatre.  She was thankful when they were inside and could feel the warmth.  If she had known that it would have been this nippy she would have worn something else.  Still, she liked the way he looked at her after he helped her remove her coat and drape it over the back of her chair.  The dress hugged her in all the right places and flattered her complexion.  She sat down and saw his eyes lower to the slit which exposed her leg and when they returned to her face, admiration and something else which made her pulse race shone in their depths.  Nervous excitement filled her as she returned his gaze.

“You look beautiful, Pamela,” he said in a low voice and then he reached for her hand, lacing his fingers through hers so that their palms touched.

“Thank you,” she said, her heart pounding hard against her chest.  “You look very handsome.”

“I wanted to look good for you,” he said huskily.

“You always do,” she told him.  Her gaze lowered to his mouth and her lips parted.  How she longed to kiss him.  Just then, the lights dimmed and she dragged her eyes away from him and turned her head to face the front.

All through the performance they were aware of each other.  At one point she felt his knee touching hers and his thumb was rubbing against the back of her hand.   She could hardly concentrate on the show.  All she could think about was how much she wanted to kiss him.  During the intermission, she went to the washroom to cool off.  By the time she rejoined him, it was time for the second half of the show to begin.  As the lights dimmed, she felt his hand reach for hers and she swallowed hard as his warm palm pressed against hers.

When the show was over, he helped her on with her coat and then put his on before he took her by the hand and led her through the crowd and out of the theatre.  They walked briskly to the car.  The temperature seemed to drop.  As soon as they got inside, he turned on the heat. Then, without saying a word, he reached over and his mouth found hers, devouring it hungrily.  Moaning, she kissed him back.  She clutched his head, her fingers burying themselves in his hair as they exchanged frenzied kisses.  The windows were fogged up so no one could see them.  They were oblivious to what was happening around them.

Several minutes passed and then he broke off the kiss and buried his face in her neck, his breathing harsh and unsteady.  “I’ve wanted to do that all evening,” he muttered thickly.

She held him against her, her eyes still closed as she breathed in the scent of his cologne mingled with his aftershave, savoring the feel of him in her arms.  “I thought of nothing else,” she murmured.

He raised his head to look at her.  “Je t’aime.”

“Je t’aime aussi.”

“Your place or mine? ”

“Mine because I want to make you breakfast in the morning.”

He smiled and after kissing her hard on the mouth, he moved away and started the engine.  They drove off, anxiously looking forward to the rest of the night and the future.

 

Source:  Really Useful Theatres;

The Breakup

She stood there watching Philip and his date.  They were at his sister’s Julia’s engagement party.  Julia and she were friends since high school and it was during the summer holidays at a beach resort where she first met Philip.  The attraction was immediate and they wasted no time getting to know each other.  After dinner, they would go for strolls along the beach or to a nightclub.  One night they enjoyed the percussive guitar playing of a Cuban artist.  Afterwards, they went back to his bungalow and made love.  No one suspected that anything was going on between them.  She slipped out after dinner and he followed some time later.

They began a torrid romance which lasted for little over a year.  She should have known what was coming, especially since Philip was adamant that they kept their relationship a secret.  They always met at his flat because she roomed with Julia.  He would take her home but never see her to the door.

She closed her eyes as she recalled that evening when he broke her heart.  They were sitting in his car outside of the apartment building where she lived.  They had just come from his flat.  As she turned toward him, he said, “I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”

She swallowed hard, her heart thudding.  Dread filled her.  “Why?” she asked in a trembling voice.  She loved him so much.  The thought of not being with him anymore was unbearable.

“I’m so much older than you,” he said.  “You’re twenty-one and I’m thirty-nine.  I’m going to forty in December.”

“Our age difference doesn’t matter to me,” she cried.

He turned to look at her then.  “But, it does to me,” he said quietly.  “You should be with someone closer to your age–”

“I don’t want to be with someone closer to my age,” she cried.  Tears sprang to her eyes.  “I want to be with you, Philip.”

He closed his eyes.  “Please don’t make this harder than it already is.”

She stared at him for a long time and grabbing her handbag, she turned and pushed open the door.  “Goodbye, Philip,” she said before jumping out of the car and slamming the door.  Blinded by tears, she ran towards the entrance to the building and ran all the way to the lift.  Thankfully, no one was in the lift but still she tried to hold it in.  After fumbling with the key in the lock, she let herself in and headed straight for her room.  Fortunately, Julia wasn’t there.  She closed the door, flung her bag on the floor and threw herself on the bed, her body racked with the sobs she had held back.

That was three months ago.  Now, here she was watching the man she still loved with someone else.  She turned away, blinking back the tears that threatened to fall.  He didn’t waste any time, she thought.  Here she was pining over him and he was with a tall, statuesque redhead.  How could he?  He knew that she was going to be there tonight.  How could he flaunt his new love interest in her face like that?  How she wished she could hate him but try as she did, she couldn’t stop loving him.

She wanted to get out of there but what would Julia think?  As she stood there, wondering what to do, David, Julia’s other brother joined her.  David was a nice guy and wanted to go out with her but she wasn’t interested in him.  “What’s the matter, Daniela?” he asked, looking a bit concerned.

“I–I’m not feeling very well,” she said.  “Maybe a bit of fresh air will help.”

“You seem upset about something.  Is it Philip?”

She looked at him, startled.  How on earth did he guess that Philip was the source of her distress?  “Philip?” she repeated, feigning ignorance.

“Yes.  I saw when the two of you went to his bungalow in the Bahamas.  I had gone for a walk and was on my way back to mine when I saw you.”

She was speechless.  David had seen them.  David knew about them.  Yet, he hadn’t said anything until now.  “How come you didn’t say anything?”

“I wanted to confront you about it but decided that it would be wise to hold my tongue.  I was upset, though, for again I was the underdog because another girl I had a high regard for had fallen for my big brother.  I regret to say that I was hoping that things wouldn’t work out between you and him. ”

“Well, you got your wish,” she said in a choked voice.  “He dumped me.”

David looked contrite.  “Daniela, I’m sorry.”  He reached out and put his arm around her shoulder.

She felt the tears coming and was desperate to get out of there.  “Excuse me,” she said and quickly walked away.  The terrace was empty and she leaned against the rail, her fingers gripping it as she let the tears run unabatedly down her cheeks.  The pain in her chest was almost suffocating.  How on earth was she going to go back in there and face everyone when she was in such a state?

She heard footsteps behind her and after quickly wiping away the tears she turned, stiffening when she saw that it was Philip.  He stopped a few feet away from her, observing her closely.  “You’ve been crying,” he said.  He made a move to touch her face but she turned away.  “You don’t want me to touch you yet, you didn’t seem to mind David touching you.”

“David didn’t touch me.”

“I saw him put his arm around your shoulder.  Are you in a relationship with him?”

“I don’t see how that is any of your business,” she said.

“It is,” he muttered tightly.  “Are you and he seeing each other?”

She swung round then to face him, her chest rising and falling swiftly as all sorts of conflicting emotions surged through her.  She wanted to slap him and then kiss him.  “What does it matter to you?  You dumped me, remember?”

“If you and David are in a relationship, I want you to end it.”

You don’t get to tell me what to do,” she retorted.  “You lost that right when you ended our relationship.  Besides, David cares for me—”

His expression darkened and his fingers clenched into tight fists at his sides.  “What about you?” he asked tensely.  “Do you care for him too?”

His question upset her.  Did he really think that she had gotten over him as easily as he had her? “Why don’t you leave me alone, Philip?  Go back to your date.  She’s probably wondering where you are.”

He stared at her.  “My date?”

“Yes!  The beautiful redhead I saw you with.  You didn’t waste any time jumping into bed with someone else, did you?”

“That redhead happens to be my cousin,” was his terse reply.  “She flew in from Paris alone.  Her husband is away on business.  That’s why I brought her to the party.”

“She’s your cousin.”

“Yes.  I want you to stop seeing David.”

“I see.  So, that’s how it’s going to be.  You don’t want me but you don’t want anyone else to have me.”

He moved closer, his eyes darkening on her face.  “You think I don’t want you?” he asked.

“Yes,” the word came out as a sob.

Muttering under his breath, he reached out and pulled her roughly against him.  “Does this feel as if I don’t want you?” he demanded thickly.

Her breath caught in her throat and her eyes were wide as they met his stormy ones.  Then, he was kissing her and in spite of herself she responded.  Her arms went around his neck and she felt his hands pressed her even tightly against him.  They exchanged frenzied kisses as if to make up for the time they had been apart.  The hurt and anger she had felt just a few moments ago dissolved and in their place was the satisfaction of knowing that Philip still wanted her.

It was a long time before they broke off the kiss and stared at each other.  “I was fool to let you go,” he said huskily.  “I allowed our age difference to come between us.  Seeing you tonight made me realize how I had allowed fear to jeopardize my happiness.”

She crinkled her forehead.  “Fear?” she repeated.  “What were you afraid of?”

“I fell hard for you—a girl so much younger than me and I was afraid that after a while your feelings for me would change.  I feared that you would wind up falling in love with another guy—one closer to your age.  So, to save myself the trouble of waiting until that happened I decided to end the relationship when I did.  Believe me, it wasn’t easy but I felt I had no other choice.  I was so afraid of getting hurt that I didn’t consider that you were getting hurt in the process.  I thought that in time you would get over me.”

“That night when you broke up with me was the worst night in my life.  I felt as if my heart had been ripped out.  I wasn’t infatuated with you, Philip.  I loved you.  I still love you and will never stop loving you.  I have seen many guys on campus and off campus and some of them have asked me out but I turned all of them down.  David asked me out and I turned him down.  I couldn’t go out with any of them because of you.  I didn’t want to be with anyone else.  And tonight when I saw you with the woman I thought was your date, I was hurt and angry.  It seemed as if you had gotten over me very easily.”

“I haven’t been with anyone else,” he told her.  “I could have dated several women but I didn’t because I couldn’t stop thinking about you and longing for you.  Many times I was tempted to stop by your flat on the pretext of visiting Julia.  I often wondered how you were and if you were dating anyone.  Whenever I saw Julia, I wanted to inquire about you but was afraid that I would give my feelings away.  I knew that I was going to see you tonight and braced myself for the possibility that you would show up with someone.  And when I saw you with David, I assumed that you were involved.  When I saw him put his arm around you, I was out of my mind with jealousy.  I wanted to come over there and separate you but I saw you leave.  I followed you.   I had no idea what I was going to say to you because it has been months since we last saw each other but I just knew that I had to be alone with you.”

“I was angry with you just now when you asked me about David.  You seemed to think that I was so fickle that I would go from one brother to the next, sort of on a rebound.”

“I was speaking out of jealousy,” he said.  “I thought what I had feared had come true—that you had gotten over me with David.  When I saw that you had been crying, I thought it was because of him and when I tried to comfort you, you recoiled from me.”

“I was crying because of you.  David saw that I was upset and guessed that you were the reason.  He told me that he saw us going into your bungalow.  He knows about us.  I told him that you ended our relationship and then I left and came out here.  I didn’t want you to touch me because I knew that if you did, I wouldn’t be able to help myself.”

“I’m sorry I hurt you,” he muttered thickly.  “That night when you said goodbye and left my car, it took superhuman strength for me not to get out and run after you and tell that I had made a terrible mistake.  During the months we have been apart, I have been kicking myself for letting you walk out of my life.”

“So, where do we go from here?” she asked.

“I want us to get married,” he said.  “I don’t want to waste anymore time.”

Tears of joy came to her eyes.  “Are you sure?” she asked.

“Yes, I’ve never been surer of anything in my life.  I love you, Daniela.”

She smiled through the tears.  “I love you too, Philip,” she said huskily.

He lowered his head and kissed her.  Her arms around his neck tightened as she kissed him back.

 

 

The Orphan

“What’s the matter, Honey?” Ralph Forrester asked six year old Janet as she lay there in bed, crying.  He was there to read to read her a bedtime story as usual and was surprised to find her in her present state.  When he sat down on the bed, she sat up and hugged him.  He gently patted her on the back, trying to soothe her until the sobs subsided.  “Now tell me what’s the matter,” he coaxed when she drew back to look up at him.

“Aunt Agnes called me a Gremlin,” she wailed.  “Gremlins are ugly, horrid creatures.”

“They are also very mischievous,” he told her, relieved that it wasn’t anything serious although to her it was.  “Did you get yourself into trouble again?”

She hung her head.  “Yes,” she admitted reluctantly.  “It was my idea to bathe the dog in the bathtub because he was so dirty.  Matthew helped me to put him in the bath.  While I was washing the dog, he went to get a towel to dry him off and that’s when Aunt Agnes walked in.  She was really mad and that’s when she called me a Gremlin.”

“Honey, she was understandably angry because you were bathing a dirty animal in her nice, clean bathtub.  And you must have made quite a mess.”

“She said that I was a bad influence on Matthew.  What does influence mean?”

“It means you make Matthew do things that he wouldn’t usually do.”

She looked contrite.  “I don’t mean to make Matthew do bad things,” she said, “or to get him into trouble.  He’s my best friend.”

Ralph patted her hand.  “I know.  We never mean to get others in trouble but sometimes we do.  I think it would be best for now if you didn’t visit Matthew at the manor.  He could come here instead.  Beth and I will make sure you don’t get into any mischief.”

“I don’t think Aunt Agnes likes me very much,” she said, surprising him.  “Is it because I’m adopted?”

He stared at her.  “Who told you that you’re adopted?” he asked.

“Aunt Agnes.  She told me that you and Beth adopted me when I was a baby.  What happened to my real parents?”

“They died and you were placed in an orphanage.  Beth and I always wanted to adopt a child from Africa. We chose South Africa because we were there once on a mission trip and loved it.  As soon as our application was approved, we went the orphanage where you were.  We loved you the very first moment we saw you.  I remember you staring up at me with those big, beautiful brown eyes of yours and I promised God and myself that I would take very good care of you.  We named you Janet which means ‘God’s gracious gift’ because you were a gift from God.”

She smiled.  “I’m happy that you and Beth adopted me,” she said, hugging him.  Then, she settled back on the pillows and waited for him to read to her.  When he was done, he kissed her goodnight, switched off the bedside lamp and left the room.

Beth was in the kitchen fixing them a pot of tea when he went downstairs.  He went over to the table and sat down.  Beth turned and looked at him.  “What’s the matter, Honey?” she asked.

He grimaced.  “Agnes told Janet that she’s adopted. What right did she have to do so?”

Beth brought over the two cups of steaming tea and after setting one in front of him, she sat down.  “While I agree that it should have been left to us to tell Janet that she’s adopted, it must be obvious to her by now that she’s different.  You remember the other day when she came home from school, very upset because some children had asked her how she could have white parents when she was black.”

“I wish people would mind their own business,” he muttered crossly.  “Janet doesn’t think that Agnes likes her because she’s adopted.”

“There are very few people whom Agnes likes,” Beth said dryly.  “She didn’t approve of you marrying me.  I was a bad influence on you.  It was on account of me that you gave up your rather cushy job to become a missionary.”

“For as long as I live, I will never regret marrying you, becoming a missionary and adopting Janet.  Agnes has always been a controlling woman but she has never been able to manipulate me, though she tried to.  She objected to my marriage, change in career and decision to adopt but her objections fell on deaf ears.  I’m happy with the life I have made for myself and will not tolerate any interference from her.  She’s my sister not my mother.”

“Sometimes, she acts like she has two sons instead of one.”

“Poor Matthew.  She’s always doting on him.  I pity the girl he ends up marrying.  Unless, Matthew and his bride moved far away from Yorkshire and his mother’s influence, they will never get a moment’s peace.”

“I’m very fond of Matthew.  He’s such a loving and considerate child.  No doubt he takes after his father, God rest his soul.”

“Yes, if I had a son, I would have wanted him to be like Matthew.”

Beth looked at him.  “Do you still regret not having children of you own?” she asked. They had tried to conceive but couldn’t.  It turned out that he had an undescended testicle when he was a baby.  He was devastated because he was looking forward to raising a family with Beth.  Beth had pushed aside her own disappointment and sought only to console him.  Several years went by before they considered adopting and six years ago, they welcomed Janet into their lives.

“Yes, sometimes,” he admitted.  “But I have since realized that things happen for a reason.  If we had been able to have our children, that precious little girl upstairs would not be here.  She has brought so much joy in our lives.  I can’t imagine not having her around.  I thank God every day for her.  She is truly a blessing.”

Tears pricked Beth’s eyes and she reached out and covered his hand with hers.  “Yes, she is.”

Twelve years later, they were gathered in the living-room watching and smiling as Janet blew out the nineteen candles on her cake.  Ralph and Beth watched her.  It was hard to believe that it was same girl they had brought home from the orphanage.  She had grown into a lovely young lady.  They watched as she put a piece of the cake in Matthew’s mouth, laughing as he got some of the icing on his nose. “Do you suppose that those two will end up falling in love?” Beth asked in a low voice so that the others couldn’t overhear.

Ralph glanced at her.  “I wouldn’t object if that were to happen but you know Agnes…”

“Yes,” she sighed.  “She will do her best to sever any romantic attachment that may develop between them.”

Just then the doorbell rang.  “I wonder who that could be,” Ralph said.

“I’ll and see who it is.”  Beth hurried from the room and down the corridor to the front door.  She peered through the keyhole and her eyes widened in surprise and delight.  She opened the door.  “Blaine,” she exclaimed, hugging him.  “It’s so good to see you.”

He smiled.  “It’s good to see you too, Beth.”

“When did you get back?”

“Yesterday.”

“Come in.”

He went in and glanced toward the living-room where he heard voices and laughter.  “It sounds like you’re having a party.”

“Yes.  We are celebrating Janet’s birthday.”

“How old is she now?”

“Nineteen.”

“The last time I saw her, she was ten.”

“Yes, well, she’s all grown up now.  Wait till you see her.  Come and let me introduce you to everyone.”

He removed his shoes and followed her to the living-room.  Beth introduced him to Janet’s friends, some of the girls cast admiring glances at him.  He shook hands with Matthew.  “You’ve gotten tall,” he said, grinning.  Matthew smiled.

Blaine’s attention shifted to the girl standing next to Matthew.  “Janet?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

He stared at her. “I can’t believe how much you have changed since the last time I saw you,” he said.

She smiled.  “I’m not a child anymore.  I’m a woman.”

“A young lady,” Beth interjected.  “Are you hungry?” She asked Blaine.

He shook his head.  “I had a late lunch.”

“Would you like a slice of cake?” Janet asked.

“Yes, thank you.”  He knew he was staring but he couldn’t help it.  She had changed so much.  Gone was the little girl with the pigtails who used to follow him around, chatting incessantly about school, beg him to push on her on the swing and give her a piggyback ride.  Standing before him was a very attractive young lady in a pretty blue dress with a smile that melted his heart.

She cut a slice of cake and gave it to him.  “How long will you be staying?”

“Two weeks.”

“Only two weeks?”  She couldn’t hide the bitter disappointment she was feeling.  In the past his visits had been sporadic but she never had to wait for more than a year to see him.  This last time, nine years had passed before she saw him again and it would be for only two weeks.  He was a Management Consultant.  How she wished that he had a different job—one that would not take him out of the country and away from her.  She missed him terribly.  “Will you come again tomorrow?” she asked, hopefully.

He nodded.  “Yes,” he said quietly.  “We have a lot of catching up to do.”

Just then one of her friends pulled her away to take photos and Matthew joined him.  For the rest of the evening, they were apart, mingling with other people and at the end of the evening as things were winding down, he went over to her.  “I’ll be leaving now,” he said.

“You promise you will come tomorrow?”

He nodded.  “Yes.”  He reached down and hugged her.  “Happy birthday, Janet.”

She saw him to the door and stood there watching his tall, slender figure stride briskly to his parked Aston Martin car and climb in.  She waved and waited until the car disappeared before going back into the house.  She couldn’t wait to see him the next day.

He showed up the following afternoon as promised and subsequently every day for the two weeks he was in London.  She would sit there and listen to Ralph and Beth ask him countless questions about his travels, patiently waiting for her time alone with him.  As soon as that time came, she would take him outside where they would spend most of the afternoon.  Once, when they were standing by the swing, he said, “You’re too grown up now for me to give you a piggyback ride, but I can still push you on the swing.  She sat down and laughed as he pushed her.  It brought back memories.  Other times they sat on the deck talking for hours or go for walks.

Then, it was his final evening and they were out in the backyard.  The sun was setting.  It cast an orange glow on them as they stood there facing each other.

He studied her face.  “I must be leaving now,” he said quietly.  “Are you sorry to see me go?”

She glanced up at him.  “Yes,” she answered, surprised that he would ask such a question.  I don’t know when I will see you again.

“May I kiss you goodbye?” he asked, moving closer to her.

She looked up at him, her heart racing.  “Yes,” she said breathlessly.  She lowered her head so that he could kiss her on the forehead like he used to when she was a child.  Instead, she felt his hand under her chin raising her face up so that she was staring up into his.  She watched, mesmerized as he bent his head slowly towards hers and his lips get closer.  Her breathing was quick and unsteady now.  She felt his mouth on hers and readily responded. Blaine’s hands cupped her face as the kiss became more intense.

She clutched his arms, her fingers digging into the fabric of his jacket as she felt herself going weak in the knees.  Eyes squeezed shut as if to blot out the world, she savored her first kiss, wishing that it would last.  It lasted for several minutes and then Blaine drew back, his face flushed.  She reluctantly opened her eyes and looked up at him.  They were both breathing heavily.

“I have to leave now,” he muttered thickly.

“Why?” she asked.  “Why can’t you stay a little longer?”

“If I stay, I will kiss you again.”

“I want you to kiss me again—”

“No,” he groaned, pushing his fingers through his hair, his eyes darkening.  “I can’t.”

She looked bewildered.  “But why?”

“I’m too old for you, Janet.  You need to be with a guy your own age like Matthew.”

“But, I don’t want to be with Matthew or anyone else,” she cried.  “Why can’t I be with you?  You’re only ten years older than me.  You’re not like Maxim DeWinter who was forty-two and married a girl my age.”

“You’re right, I’m not Maxim DeWinter.  I can’t be with a girl so much younger than me.  In September, you will be attending university.  That means you will around people your age.  Sooner or later, you will meet someone, fall in love with him and forget about me.”

She shook her head.  “No, I won’t,” she cried.  “I love you,”

A muscle throbbed along his jaw line.  “You’re infatuated not in love.”

“Do you think because I’m young, I don’t know what love is?”

“I shouldn’t have kissed you,” he said.  “I don’t know what I was thinking.  It was an utterly foolish thing to do–” he broke off when she started to cry.  He pulled her into his arms and held her closely.  “Don’t cry,” he begged, as she buried her face in his chest.

The feel of her body against his was his undoing.  Unable to help himself, he gripped the hair at the nape of her neck and pulled her head back so that he stare down into her wet face before his lips closed feverishly over hers.  Her impassioned response to his kisses inflamed him.  It was no use.  He couldn’t walk away from her now.  She was in his blood and in his heart.

Slide1

Sources:  Gov.UK; International Adoption Guide; Evening Standard;  The Guardian; London City Mission

The Cottage

As she stood there, looking around at the countryside, she wondered if Ryan would be happy to see her.  It had been ten years since they last saw each other.  Ten years was a long time–too long.  She gazed wistfully at the hills they used to run up and down when they were children, wallowing in the sludge much to his mother’s chagrin.   Once they climbed the oak tree behind his grandmother’s cottage to see a Robin’s nest.  In it were three blue eggs lying closely next to each other.  How she used to look forward to the holidays when she would see Ryan.  They were thick as thieves and got into plenty of mischief.

Then, things changed between them as they got older.  They developed feelings for each other but were careful to hide them when other people were around.  She remembered the first time they kissed.  It was the same day she arrived at Northampton to spend the summer holidays before Ryan started university.  She had climbed up the oak tree again to see if there was anything in the bird’s nest.  It was empty.  Disappointed, she started to climb back down the tree.  He reached up and helped her down.  They were standing very close to each other, his hands were on her waist and their bodies were inches apart.  She looked up at him and found him staring at her with a curious expression on his face.

She watched as his lips drew closer until they were on hers, tentative at first but deepened when he felt her response.  She felt him pull her closer against him and she put her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly as they kissed passionately.  This lasted for several minutes, and then he drew back, his face flushed.  He grabbed her hand and pulled her behind him as he ran across the lawn.

“Where are we going?” she asked, breathless from the kisses and trying to keep up with him.

“To the cottage.”

“But, your grandmother–”

“She won’t be back for a while.  We’ve got the place all to ourselves.”

He let them into the cottage through the back door.  They ran up the stairs to one of the bedrooms and as soon as they were inside, he pulled her into his arms and began to kiss her as he backed her over to the bed, dragging off his shirt as he did so.  In no time, their clothes were in a heap on the floor and they were under the covers making love.  They made love several times after that whenever his grandmother was away.

The one afternoon when they were in the throes of passion, the door opened.  The audible gasp and the slamming of the door jolted them and they broke apart.  Ryan’s face went pale when he saw his mother standing there and Tamara pulled the sheets up to her chin, feeling ashamed.

“I came over here to check on your grandmother and this is what I find,” Mrs. Bellamy muttered between clenched teeth, her face beet red.  She marched over to the strewn clothes on the floor and threw them at them.  “Get dressed now!”  She marched out of the room, slamming the door behind her.

As soon as she was gone, they jumped out of the bed and quickly got dressed.  Wordlessly, they straightened the sheets and then left the room.  She was waiting for them downstairs in the living-room.  “Ryan, go back to the manor and wait for me in the study.  Tamara and I need to talk.”

Ryan looked like he was about to say something but thought better of it.  He reached out and squeezed Tamara’s hand before leaving the room.  Left alone with Mrs. Bellamy, Tamara was petrified.  She stared at the floor.

“Tamara, I want you to go back to the house and pack your bags.  The car will take you to the train station.  You’re not welcome here anymore.”

Tamara raised her head, her eyes wide with shock and distress.  “You mean I won’t see Ryan ever again?” The thought was unbearable.  “But, we love each other…”

“What do you know about love?” Mrs. Bellamy demanded.  “He’s eighteen and you’re just sixteen.  You’re too young to know anything about love.  I can’t let you remain here—not after what has been going between you.  I have to be the responsible one in this and as long as the two of you are under the same roof, I can’t trust you.  So, you will leave Twin Oaks Manor now.”

“Will I get to say goodbye to Ryan?” She was crying now, her heart breaking.  Mrs. Bellamy watched her, her face devoid of any mercy.  Tamara’s tears didn’t move her.  In fact, they seemed to have the opposite effect.

“I’m afraid not,” she said coldly.  “I don’t want him to make a scene.  Now, when we get back to the manor, I will keep him busy in the study while you go and pack.  Please be quick about it.  The sooner you leave the better.”

Tears came to Tamara’s eyes now as she remembered walking back to the manor, head held down, tears streaming down her face, the ache in her heart at the prospect of not even getting to say goodbye to Ryan.  She and Mrs. Bellamy parted in the foyer.  She ran upstairs to her room and packed her suitcase as quickly as she could.  Before leaving, she wrote a note and hid it in the top drawer of Ryan’s dresser, under some vests.   She had thought of leaving it on his pillow but couldn’t risk his mother or anyone else seeing it.  Then, she walked out of the doors for the last time and got into the waiting car.  As it pulled away, she looked up at the window of the study, hoping for a glimpse of Ryan but none was forthcoming.  That was ten years ago.

She had written Ryan over the years but all of her letters were returned unopened.  She never received any from him.  She went to university and buried herself in her studies but always, she thought about him and longed to see him.  Finally, she couldn’t stay away any longer and decided that after she graduated from university, she would come to Northampton at the first opportunity.  She and Ryan were adults now and Mrs. Bellamy couldn’t prevent them from resuming their relationship even if she wanted to.

Would Ryan want to pick up where they left off, though?  Did he still love her?  She had never stopped loving him.  He was her first and only love.   She had the opportunity to date other guys but she wasn’t interested in any of them.

She turned and walked along the path to the cottage and made her way to that oak tree.  Gingerly, she climbed up and looked into the nest.  This time there were two baby robins in the nest.  She smiled and was tempted to touch them but decided not to.  She watched them for a while and then carefully made her way down the tree.  As she touched the ground, she heard a dog barking.  Curious, she went around the front of the cottage and stopped short when she saw Ryan at the fence, a bag carrying what looked like a hunting rifle slung over his shoulder and holding the leash of the barking dog.  Her heart began to pound.  Classic_Beaufort_-_Olive_3_grandeHe was standing there, watching her, his expression unreadable.  He was ten years older and gone were the boyish features.  He was a man now.  And he was even more handsome.  His thick dark hair looked slightly tousled.  Her fingers itched to bury themselves in it like she used to when they made love.

“Hush Rover,” he said to the dog.  The animal stopped barking, sat down and simply stared at her.   Ryan turned to look at her.  “What are you doing here?”

She moved closer.  “I came to see you,” she said.  She wanted so much to throw her arms around him.  Seeing him again brought back memories of the happy times they spent together and the love they shared before they were separated.  “It has been a long time.”

“Ten years to be exact.  Why did you leave without saying goodbye?”

“I wanted to but your mother won’t let me.  I wrote you a note.”

“I saw it.  I still have it.  It was all I had from you.”

She frowned.  “But, I wrote to you.”

“I never received any letters from you.”

“They were all returned to me, saying on them ‘return to sender’.”

“Every day I checked the mail to see if you had written but I didn’t see any letters.  I wanted to write you but I didn’t have an address.”

“I tried emailing you but my emails came back undelivered.”

“I changed my email address but had no way of letting you know that because yours didn’t work either.”

“That’s because my mother restricted my access to the Internet when she caught me once trying to email you.  I was only allowed to use the Internet for school assignments.  As soon as I finished university, got a job and found a flat, I moved out.  I searched the telephone directory for your number and when I called, your mother answered.  She told me never to call again and hung up.”

“Even before she caught us together, she had been complaining about how much time we were spending together.  She felt that I should have had more friends and show an interest in girls.  She had a particular girl in mind.  Emily Rosen.  Mother kept trying to throw us together but I wasn’t interested.  How could I be when my heart belonged to someone else?  Mother eventually gave up.  However, she became even more determined to keep us apart.  She made sure that while I was at university, I wasn’t allowed any calls or visits from anyone outside of the immediate family.”

Tamara sighed, her expression one of deep regret.  “I had hoped that she wasn’t still holding a grudge against me.  I haven’t been to the main house because I didn’t want to run into her.”

“Mother’s not here.  She’s visiting my grandmother in the nursing home.  Grandmother has Parkinson’s.”

“I’m really sorry to hear that.  I like your grandmother.  She has always been very kind to me.”

“Yes, she was rather fond of you.  After you left, I spent most of my time at the cottage with her.  I couldn’t stand being at the house.  I would go to the guest room, lie on the bed, close my eyes and think about you.  Grandmother knew that I was unhappy and although I said nothing to her about it, she knew that it was on account of you.  That is why she gave me the cottage.  She believed that you would come back. ”

She swallowed hard.  “I had to come back,” she said huskily.

His eyes darkened and he made a move toward her but then changed his mind and turned instead towards the cottage.  “Let’s go inside.”

She followed and when they were inside, he put the bag with the rifle away and then unleashed the dog.  The animal bounded over to his favorite spot on the rug and lay down.  “How long have you had him?” she asked as Ryan removed his jacket and took hers when she took it off.

“I’ve had him for about four years.  We go for long walks.  He loves the countryside as much as you did.”  He went to hang the coats in the closet.  “Why did you come back, Tamara?” he asked when he rejoined her.  His expression was taut.

She walked over to him.  “You know why,” she said, her eyes wide as they met his stormy ones.

A muscle began to throb along his jawline.  “I want you to tell me,” he muttered thickly.

“I came back because I still love you,” she admitted.  “I never stopped loving you.”

He groaned and reaching for her, he pulled her roughly against him.  “And I still love you,” he cried.  “I couldn’t stop loving you even if I tried.  You fill my thoughts, my senses and my heart. The ten years we’ve been apart have been torture for me.”

She reached up and cupped his face between her hands.  “For me too,” she murmured.  “That’s why I had to come back to Northampton and you.”

“I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t come back.”

“Hush,” she whispered before she began kissing him.  His arms tightened around her and he responded hungrily to her kisses.

For several minutes they exchanged passionate kisses as years of pent up desires and long denied feelings swept through them like a tidal wave.  Then, he broke off the kiss and picked her up.  He carried her up the stairs and to the guest room.  He kicked the door shut and strode over to the bed where he laid her down.  He was breathing heavily as he watched her lying there on the coverlet.  He hastily removed his clothes and then climbed in next to her.  His mouth found hers and as he ravaged her lips, he dragged her top over her head.  Soon they were making passionate love and her fingers gripped his hair, reveling at the feel of the soft, silky locks.

Sometime later, Ryan got up and went over to the dresser.  He took something out of it and closed the drawer.  He walked over to the bed and went on the side where she was.  She stared up at him.  He got down on his knees beside her.  Curious, she raised herself up on her elbows.  He showed her the box.  “I bought this in January,” he said.  He opened the box and took out the sparkling ring.  “I wanted to believe what Grandmother told me.  I wanted to believe that you would come back to me.”

Tamara stared at the ring and then at him, tears glistened in her eyes.  “It’s beautiful,” she whispered.

He took her hand and looking up into her face, he asked huskily, “Will you marry me?”

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak and he slipped it on.

He rose from his knees and went back to his side of the bed.  After he climbed in he turned on his side and propping his head on his hand, he gazed at her.  “When you find true love, you hold on to it,” he said quietly.  “You are my one and true love.  I lost you once and I don’t want to lose you again.”

“You never lost me,” she said, settling down again.  “I came back because I’m yours forever.”  She reached up and pulled his head down to hers.  As they kissed, she thought of Mrs. Bellamy and how her plan to sever their attachment had failed.  The separation had only proven that in spite of their youth, they had known all along what true love was.

Love in the Office

When she went to the kitchenette to fill her bottle with water, Anton was there telling a couple of people about his camping trip with his friends.  She couldn’t help but smile.  He was such a droll when it came to telling stories.  She filled her bottle and turned so that she was facing the group.

“Sounds like you had a lot of fun on your camping trip,” she said a few minutes later, when they were alone.

He went over to where she was.  “I did,” he said, his eyes riveted to her face.

She wondered if he knew how much his closeness affected her.  “Good,” she said, sounding a little breathless.  “Where did you go camping?”

“Wild Boar Wood in West Sussex.”

“So, were there any women on your camping trip?” She had to ask.

He shook his head.  “No, just the guys.”

She couldn’t hide her relief and she saw his expression change.

“Even if women were there, I wouldn’t have been interested in any of them,” he said quietly.  “You must know by now, Tina, that I’m deeply attracted to you.”

Her chest began to rise and fall quickly and she seemed to have trouble breathing.  “I’m your supervisor,” she reminded him.

“Yes, I know that we have a working relationship but we can’t deny how we feel about each other.  I know that you’re attracted to me.  I saw the look on your face when I told you that there weren’t any women on the camping trip.  You don’t want me to be with another woman any more than I want you to be with another man.  You can’t deny that you have feelings for me, Tina.  I can see it on your face.”

Her resolve was beginning to weaken.  “I’m older than you,” she said.

“Age is just a number,” he said dismissively.  “Have dinner with me tomorrow night.”

“All right,” she acquiesced.  “You win.” She was no match for the emotions that raged within her or his power of persuasion.

He smiled.  “Good.  I’ll pick you at seven-thirty.”

“I think we should get back to work now,” she said.

“Right,” he agreed.  “I’ll get started on the report you asked me for.”  He excused himself and quickly walked away.

For several minutes, she stood there, wondering if she had acted wisely.  She couldn’t get past the fact that she was his supervisor and that there was a considerable age difference between them.   Yet, try as she did, she couldn’t deny her feelings for Anton.

From the moment she first saw him, she knew that she was in trouble.  His good looks, charm and friendly disposition made him irresistible.  Working with him was a challenge.  Many times, she found herself watching him and wondering if he had a girlfriend.  She couldn’t imagine that someone like him would be unattached.  It bothered her to see him talking to other women in the department, especially the younger ones.

Just yesterday, she had walked by the photocopier on her way to the boardroom for a meeting when she saw him standing there talking to Wendy, a pretty redhead.  He had his back turned to her so he didn’t notice her.  Her steps faltered and as she watched them talking, red, hot jealousy raged inside her.  She was tempted to go over there and interrupt them but she came to her senses and hurried away before he saw her.  When she was in the meeting, she had to literally force herself to focus on the business at hand and put the sight of Anton and Wendy out of her mind.  Later when they were alone in her office going over some files, she said, “Wendy’s pretty, isn’t she?”

He glanced up at her.  “I suppose so,” he said.

“I saw the two of you at the photocopier earlier today.  I think she likes you.”

“Are you trying to set me up with her?” he asked, startling her.

“No,” she protested.  “I—I was just making an observation.”

“Wendy’s a very nice girl but I’m not attracted to her.”  He was staring at her now and the expression on his face made her heart palpitate.  That was the first time she became aware of his attraction for her.

“Tina, Mr. Foster is waiting for you in your office.”  Annette’s voice brought her back to the present.

“Thanks, Annette,” she said and followed her out of the kitchenette.

Several hours later when it was time to leave, Anton stopped by her office.  She was straightening her desk.  He went over to her.  “Normally, I would tell you to have a good weekend,” he said.  “But, I’ll be seeing you tomorrow.”

“Yes,” she said.  She handed him a slip of paper with her address on it.  When he took it, their fingers touched and her breath caught in her throat.  Her skin seemed to burn.  Their eyes met and held for a long time before she turned away to remove her jacket from the back of her chair.   “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Tina.”  She heard him leave and turned round when he closed the door behind him.

Her skin still tingled where his fingers had touched it.  She traced the area, her heart pounding when she remembered the expression on his face as they stared at each other.  The desire she saw there was unmistakable.  She wondered what would have happened if she hadn’t turned away.  On the drive home, she mulled over it and nervous excitement rose in her whenever she thought of seeing Anton the following evening.  What on earth am I going to wear? She wondered, racking her brains to see if there was an outfit that would be suitable.  It had been ages since she had been on a date and it felt very strange going on one with someone she worked closely with.

As soon as she got home, she searched for something to wear and settled on a dress she had bought a month ago and had worn only once.  It was a black slash neck dress with a flare skirt.  On Saturday evening, she put it on and was satisfied with how it looked.  She wore her hair in a chignon, allowing a few tendrils to frame her face.  The strappy black and silver heels completed the outfit.  The doorbell rang just as she took one last look at herself in the mirror.  When she opened the door and saw Anton standing there, her heart leapt.  He looked gorgeous in the charcoal grey suit with the black dress shirt and black tie.  His eyes slid over her and when they returned to her face, admiration and desire shone in their depths.   “You look amazing,” he said quietly.

“So do you.”  As they walked to the lift, she could feel him watching her and she smiled, flattered.

The restaurant, set in a snug 18th century townhouse, was atmospheric in that the tables candle lit.   Over dinner, he told her about himself.  His father was British and his mother French.  He had an older brother and a younger sister.  He asked many questions about her and her family.

When they were having dessert, he said with a serious expression on his face, “I want to have a relationship with you, Tina.  I know that you are hesitant because we work together and the age difference but we can’t deny how we feel about each other.  It’s so hard for me to be around you and not want to touch you or kiss you.  Quite a few people in our department are dating each other.  At least, let’s give it a try and see what happens.   What do you say?”

She toyed with her Black Currant Sorbet for a moment and then, looking up at him, she nodded.  “Yes, let’s give it a try.”  He was right.  There was nothing to prevent them from having a relationship except her own misgivings which she knew had to do with her fear of getting hurt.  She still couldn’t believe that he was attracted to her instead of someone closer to his age.

He smiled and reaching over, he caressed her hand, making her pulse race.  They spent the rest of the night talking about all sorts of things and made plans to see each other the following day.  When he took her home, he leaned down and was about to kiss her on the cheek when, heart thudding, she turned her head so that their lips touched.

Groaning, he deepened the kiss while backing her into the flat.  Once they were inside, he kicked the door shut, his mouth moving feverishly over hers.  She clung to him, kissing him back while her hands removed his jacket.  His tie and shirt soon followed and then, she broke off the kiss, panting and grabbing him by the hand, she took him to her room.

The following day at the office, they smiled and kept exchanging knowing looks.  She felt like a lovesick schoolgirl.   When other people were around, they acted professionally around each other as before. They spent every evening together, either at her flat or his.  Over the weekends, they went for drives, to the cinema, dinner, the theatre, concerts and nightclubs or for walks along the Quay.  Tina knew that she was falling in love with him and hoped that he was with her.  Once when he was taking a shower, she joined him and as he gazed down into her face, the water beating on his back, she saw the look in his eyes before he kissed her.  There was no doubt in her mind that he cared for her.

One afternoon, she was on her way home to visit her sister, Vivien when she spotted Anton in front of a café.  He was not alone.   There was a traffic signal right there and she stopped as the light turned to red, craning her neck to see him and the girl he was with.  She watched as he leaned over and said something to the pretty brunette, making her throw back her head and laugh.  Then, she saw the girl reach up and put her arms around his neck, hugging him closely.  Her fingers gripped the steering wheel as jealousy ripped through her.

The honk of a car horn behind her startled her.  Dragging her eyes from the two figures on the sidewalk, she glanced up and saw that the light had changed to green.  She pressed her foot on the gas and drove off.  All sorts of thoughts were running through her mind.  Who was the girl and what was he doing with her?  And what about me?  Is he getting bored of me?  But he couldn’t be—not after the way he made love to me last night.  She trembled at the memory.  Is he seeing the both of us at the same time?  Is he sleeping with her too? The pain and jealousy almost suffocated her.

How she managed to get to Vivien’s home without getting into an accident, she had no idea.  As soon as her sister opened the door, she broke down.  Concerned, Vivien hugged her for a moment until she had calmed down, then she put her arm around her shoulder and led her over to the sofa.  “Tell me what’s got you so upset,” she encouraged her gently.  She handed her the box of tissues that was on the coffee table and waited patiently while she dried her eyes and wiped her nose.  “I’ve never seen you like this before.”

Taking her time, Tina told her everything.  “I love him, Vivien.  It really hurt to see him with her.”

“Does he love you?”

She shrugged her shoulders.  “I don’t know.  He hasn’t said so as yet.”

“Based on what you have told me, it’s obvious that he has feelings for you.  There might not be anything going on between him and the girl.  It may all turn out to be innocent.  When you see him tomorrow, ask him about her.”

“And what if he’s seeing her?”

“Then, you must end your relationship with him.” She reached out and covered her hands.  “I hope it all works out for you, Tina.”

Tina didn’t answer.  At that moment, her world was in an upheaval and she didn’t know what she was going to do if it turned out that Anton was two-timing her.

She drove to work the next day, feeling awful.  She hadn’t slept a wink at all last night.  Anton wasn’t at his desk when she got in and she went into her office and closed the door.  She knew she couldn’t avoid him but she dreaded the moment when she would have to talk to him.  Once when he knocked on the door and poked his head in, she pretended that she was on the phone.  He didn’t disturb her after that.

It was after twelve when she came out of her office and stopped short when she saw the same girl she had seen Anton with sitting in a chair next to his desk.  What is she doing here, she wondered, resentfully.  The girl didn’t see her.  She was sitting with her back turned to her and was on her cell phone texting.

She was tempted to walk over to her and find out who she was.  As she stood there, trying to figure out what to do, Anton came up behind her.   She felt him caress her arm and she swung round to face him.

“What’s the matter?” he asked when he saw the expression on her face.

“Who’s the girl over there at your desk?” she demanded in a low, angry voice.  She couldn’t hide her jealousy.

He looked over her shoulder and then back at her.  “You mean my sister?” he asked, raising his eyebrows quizzically.

She gaped at him.  “Your sister?” she repeated, wondering if she had heard correctly.

“Yes, my sister.  Come, let me introduce you.”  He took her by the arm and led her over to the brunette who glanced up at them.  “This is my sister, Louise.  Louise, this is Tina.”

Louise smiled and held out her hand.  “It’s nice to meet you, Tina.  Anton has told me so much about you.”

Tina shook her hand, dazed and feeling like a complete fool.  “It’s nice to meet you too,” she murmured.

Anton turned to her, “Louise and I are going to have lunch.  Would you like to join us?”

She shook her head.  “Thank you, but I already had my lunch and I have a meeting in about fifteen minutes.”

Anton grabbed his jacket and pulled it on.  “I’ll see you when I get back.”

Louise stood up.  She was a tall girl.  “I hope to see you again, Tina,” she said.

Tina managed a smile.  “Me too.”  She watched them as they walked away and then went back into her office.  She sat down at her desk and leaned her head against the leather upholstery, her mind whirling.  The heaviness which had been on her heart was gone.  She went to her meeting in better spirits.  When it was over, she went back to her office and waited for Anton to return from lunch.

When he did, she called him on his extension, asking him to go in and see her.  He went in right away and walked over to her desk.  “You’ve been avoiding me all morning,” he said, “and I’d like to know why.”

She got up from the desk and went up to him.  “I have a confession to make,” she said quietly, wringing her hands nervously.  “Yesterday I saw you with Louise, only I didn’t know at the time that she was your sister and I thought…”

“And you thought that I was seeing another woman behind your back.  Oh, Tina,” he groaned, raking his fingers through his hair in frustration.  “How could you think such a thing?  Can’t you tell by now that I love you?”

Her heart stopped.  “You love me?”

“Yes! I love you so much that I ache inside.”

“I love you too.  I’m sorry for being such a jealous fool.  When I saw you with her, I was so hurt, so jealous.  I—I was going to talk to you about it today but I couldn’t seem to work up the courage to do so.”

He reached for her and pulled her into his arms.  “There’s no reason for you to be jealous of other women,” he told her huskily.  “I love you.  I want to be with you.  I want to marry you.”

She stared at him.  “Marry me?”

“Yes.  That’s why you saw me with Louise yesterday.  She went with me to De Beers to help me to choose a ring for you.  I was planning to propose to you tonight over dinner at my place.  Afterwards, we went to a cafe.  You must have seen us just before we parted company.”

She began to cry and he hugged her tightly.  “I’m so sorry,” she sobbed.

He drew back to look down at her.  “What are you sorry about?” he asked.

“I’m sorry for ruining your surprise and for doubting you…”

“Don’t  cry,” he said.  “You haven’t ruined anything and I would have reacted the same way if I had seen you hugging a strange man.

She smiled at him through her tears.  “I’m so lucky to have you,” she cried.

He cupped her face between his hands and rubbed the tears away with his thumbs.  “I’m the lucky one,” he muttered thickly before he lowered his head and kissed her.  Wrapping her arms tightly around his waist, she kissed him back.

Slide1

 

Sources:  Time Out;Ali Express; Andrew Edmunds; De Beers

 

The Christian Faith

Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” – Mark 1:17

The Christian faith has mushroomed into what it is today thanks to men and women who were willing to let the Holy Spirit work in and through them to share the Gospel with others.  It all started with two men–one was Andrew and the other was Philip.  After each man encountered Jesus, they went and told others about him.  When Andrew found his brother, Peter he said to him, “We have found the Messiah.” And Philip declared to his friend, Nathanael,“We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:41, 45).

Then, Peter and Nathanael were taken to meet Jesus.  How do we follow the example of what Andrew and Philip?  We tell our families, friends and co-workers about Jesus and share the Bible with them.  It is through reading the Bible that they meet Jesus.  We introduce them to Him but they have to get to know Him for themselves.

One of my favorite stories is the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  She went to the well to draw water at a time of the day when she wouldn’t run into other people.  Married five times and living with a man who wasn’t her husband, she wasn’t exactly the pillar of society.   She didn’t expect to see Jesus there.  She could tell that He was a Jew and was surprised when He asked her for a drink of water as Jews didn’t have any dealings with Samaritans.  And she was a woman.

Jesus spoke to her, telling her what true worship was and salvation.  When He told her things about herself that a stranger could not have possibly known, she thought He was Prophet.  Jesus revealed that He was the Messiah and excited, she left her water-pot and ran into the city to tell the people there, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”  Like Andrew and Philip, the woman met Jesus, went and told others about Him before bringing them to Him.  Many of the people believed in Jesus because of her testimony.   The woman discovered that despite the fact that Jesus knew everything about her, He loved her.

Does your neighbor know that there is a Savior who loves him or her and wants to reach out in love and forgiveness to him or her?  This encounter between Jesus and the woman was an example of how the Gospel should transcend racial and gender barriers.  The Gospel is for everyone.  Salvation is for everyone.  We must not allow our prejudices to get in the way of spreading the love of Christ to those who need it.

So, we see a progression here.  The mission field begins at home, with our relatives and then spreads to our friends and then our neighbors.  It follows what Jesus said to His disciples when He sent them out to preach and minister to others.  “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.  But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5, 6).  The Jews were to receive the Gospel first and then the Gentiles and Samaritans.  It makes sense that we witness to those closest to us first and then to others.

Once we are willing and open to His leading, God will find opportunities for us to share the Gospel.  He did so with Peter on the Day of Pentecost and Paul when he was in Athens.  After the Holy Spirit filled the disciples, they began to speak in tongues.  The crowd marveled when they heard them speak in their own language.  Some, however, mocked them, accusing them of being drunk.  Peter used their remarks as an opportunity to give a sermon.  He spoke of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.  The people were convicted and they asked Peter and the other disciples what they should do and Peter’s answer was, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Many were baptized and about three thousand people became Christians on that day.

We may encounter skeptics but, instead of becoming discouraged, we can do what Peter did and use their unbelief as an opportunity to share our faith.  As Paul said, we are to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).  When Paul was in Athens, he saw that the city was given over to idols.  Provoked, he reasoned with the Jews in the synagogue and the Gentiles in the marketplace.  He spoke to them about the resurrection of Jesus.  They took him to the Areopagus, curious to hear his doctrine.

Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and addressed the people, acknowledging that they were religious because of the objects of worship and the altar they had built to the Unknown God.  He revealed to them who the true God was.  He was the “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.  Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.  And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,  so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;  for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’  

Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.  Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

When some of them heard the word “resurrection”, they began to mock him while others wanted to hear him speak further on the matter.  And others believed in what he said and joined him, among them a woman named Damaris (Acts 17:23-34).

Paul was prepared to share the truth about the God he worshipped and he used what he saw around him to do so.  He wanted the people to turn from their idols and worship the true God who wanted them to seek Him while He could still be found.  We can use whatever is at our disposal to share the truth about God with others.  Many people still have a negative opinion of God but we can change that by reaching out to them in love, compassion and sharing our testimonies of His goodness.

As in Jesus’ day, the Christian faith is growing and will continue to grow.  Although it is under attack and many believers are facing persecution, imprisonment and even death, it will continue to spread and transform lives until Jesus returns.  We can do our part by reaching out to those around us.  Each one can reach one.  We can do it through handing out literature, through social media, blogging, websites or witnessing in person.  God will give us the means and the opportunities to further His ministry.  All we have to do is to be ready and willing like Andrew, Philip, the Samaritan woman and Paul.

friends-conversation-1200.1200w.tn

Sources:  Biblegateway; Blue Letter Bible

Sexual Harassment

It wasn’t until Ashley Judd heroically shared her story a few days ago that I felt ashamed.  If I had spoken up a decade ago, would I have saved countless women from the same experience I had or worse? While I still do feel guilty for not speaking up all those years ago, I’m glad for this moment of reckoning. To the countless other women who have experienced the gray areas: I believe you – Heather Graham

Sexual harassment has been around since biblical times.  Joseph, a handsome young Hebrew slave was sexually harassed and then accused of attempted rape by his master’s wife.   Yes, men as well as women are victims of sexual assault and harassment.  Celebrities such as Kevin Spacey, George Takei, Richard Dreyfuss, Dustin Hoffman and recently, comedian Louis C.K. have had charges of sexual misconduct leveled against them.  This comes on the heels of the allegations launched against Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein.  Stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie and more have spoken out against the producer who has been described as “a predator”, “vindictive”.

Celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Matt Damon, Quentin Tarantino, George  Clooney and Ewan McGregor knew of Weinstein’s behavior but didn’t say anything.  Other celebrities are appalled such as Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Gosling.

Sexual harassment is not limited to Hollywood, it’s everywhere.  It’s in workplaces, the military, colleges and other public places.  It’s a form of sex discrimination.  Weinstein’s victims were intimidated because of he had to power to make or break them.  Actress Asia Argento said that she stayed silent for years out of fear and feelings of responsibility and later had consensual sex with him multiple times because she felt he would ruin her career if she didn’t.   Actress Cara Delevingne said that she was hesitant about speaking out because she didn’t want to hurt his family.  “I felt guilty as if I did something wrong. I was also terrified that this sort of thing had happened to so many women I know but no one had said anything because of fear.” 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (ECCOC) defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

  • The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
  • The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

How should sexual harassment be handled?  For Gwyneth Paltrow, it was coming forward so that other women to feel less alone and to send a clear message that “this is over.  This way of treating women ends now.”  Angelina Jolie chose not to work with Weinstein again and warned other women who were going to work with him.

Here are tips on how to handle sexual harassment:

  • Be clear and firm. If the person harassing you is told when it happens the first time that you don’t approve and don’t find it funny, they might back off. Be polite, but firm, and don’t giggle. This might be interpreted as a tacit type of consent.
  • Tell others. Don’t keep quiet; this will only make you more vulnerable. Harassers like isolating their victims – physically and socially. If you tell others what’s going on you might also find out that you’re not the only one experiencing such situations. If more than one person lays a complaint, it significantly strengthens the case against the harasser.
  • Don’t doubt yourself. Harassers often try and pass something off as a joke, however if it’s continuously at your expense, or attacks your sense of dignity, you’re being harassed. Don’t allow harassers to make you doubt your observation, how their actions make you feel or that you’re overreacting.
  • Safety in numbers. Make sure that you’re not alone with this person behind closed doors. Take a colleague with you if you feel threatened, and insist that doors be left open if you have to be in a meeting. Make sure that somebody knows where you are at all times.
  • Report the matter. Follow procedures to lay a complaint – and keep records of all correspondence in this regard. If a complaint has been laid and your employers continue to ignore the situation and take no action, they could be liable for damage claims.
  • Keep records. If you want to lay charges, it’s much more convincing if you can give names, dates, places and the names of possible witnesses, than when your charges are unproven. Anyone who has witnessed any of these events can be called to testify if there’s a disciplinary hearing.

It’s a good thing that the victims of sexual harassment are coming forward as in the case of Bill Cosby.  It remains to be seen, though what will happen to the perpetrators.   It took courage for the victims to come forward.  Let’s hope that they will receive justice that they deserve.  It’s time for those who use their power and influence to intimidate and violate others to be penalized.

Victims should never feel responsible for the actions of the perpetrators.

sexual harassment

 

Sources:  National Post; People; ECCOC; Western Cape Government