Martin glanced at his friend, Albert and was amused when he saw him staring at Brenda who was strutting down the runway, hands on hips and big smile on her face as she modeled the black and white 50’s looking dress. The fashion show was actually a charitable event and sponsored by Martin’s company. After much cajoling, he managed got his friend to come. Until now, Albert had seemed unimpressed and rather bored with the fashion show. None of the beautiful women who walked past him got his notice. And then, Brenda walked out. Albert glanced up with the same bored expression on his face which immediately changed when he saw her. His eyes followed her up and down the runway.
Martin leaned over and said in a low voice. “She’s a stunner, isn’t she?”
Albert didn’t answer. He watched as she paused at the end of the runway before heading back in his direction. As she drew nearer, he sat forward, anxious to see her. She stopped right in front of him. After acknowledging Martin, she shifted her attention to Albert. Their eyes met and he felt his heart stop when she smiled at him. Then, she was gone.
“Would you like to meet her?” Martin asked him.
Albert watched her retreating figure until she disappeared from view before he turned to his friend. “Yes.”
Martin grinned. “Good,” he said. “You’ll meet her after the show.”
“Is she going to come out again?”
“I don’t believe so.”
Albert looked disappointed. He sat back in his seat, anxious for the show to be over so that he could meet the model who had captivated him.
She was standing on the terrace, looking down at the gardens when they joined her half hour later. She was wearing a simple orange pant suit which complimented her complexion and flattered her figure. As she watched them approach, her gaze went to the tall and attractive man with the thick dark brown hair, dressed in the dark grey sweater over a white shirt and dark grey trousers. The glasses he wore suited him. She didn’t usually go for the preppy, nerdy type but something about his guy made her pulse race and heart do somersaults. He looked shy. She liked that. He would be a welcome change to the obnoxious and overbearing men who usually hit on her.
“Brenda, thank you for being a part of a very worthy cause,” Martin said when they joined her. “You looked really great out there. Have you ever considered modelling for a new career?”
She laughed. “No, the thought never occurred to me. Besides, I’m too short. Thank you for giving me the opportunity. I had fun.” Unable to resist, her gaze shifted to his friend who was watching her. Behind the eyeglasses, she could see that he had beautiful, expressive eyes.
Martin observed them, smiling. “Brenda, this is my good friend, Albert.”
Albert was nervous. He tried not to stare but he couldn’t help himself. His gaze was riveted to her face. “Hello,” he said when what he really wanted to say was, I’m so very pleased to meet you. He took the hand she offered and clasped it in a firm handshake. Her fingers felt small and delicate in his, yet they had the power to stir feelings in him which he never experienced before. His heart was pounding and he began to worry that he might make an utter fool of himself. In all of his forty years, not once had he had ever been tongue-tied or nervous around a woman.
She smiled at him. “I’m very pleased to meet you, Albert,” she told him. “Did you enjoy the fashion show?”
He realized that he was still holding her hand and he released it. He put his hands behind his back in an attempt to appear relaxed. “The last bit of it,” he said. He didn’t want to admit that until she walked out, he was bored out of his mind.
“I’m not into fashion shows but I don’t mind doing them if it’s for charity.”
Martin chimed in. “If you two will excuse me, I have to go and find Margot.” He left them and headed off to find the fashion photographer whom he was currently dating. Margot used to be a model until she decided that she liked being behind the lens better.
Alone together, Albert and Brenda became intensely aware of each other. They couldn’t hide their attraction for each other even if they tried. “You really are very beautiful,” Albert said to her, his expression tense.
She had been paid many compliments before but she was never affected by them as she was by his. Albert made her feel beautiful just by the way he said it and the way he looked at her as he said it. “Thank you,” she replied.
“I’m not usually this bold,” he sounded apologetic, “but I was wondering if perhaps, we can go for a walk in the gardens?”
“Yes, I’d like that.”
“What do you do when you’re not modeling for charity?” he asked as they strolled across the well manicured lawn.
“I work at a law firm. When I’m not working, I like to curl up with a good book. What about you?”
“I’m a Financial Director at Shadoworks Company. I like to write essays in my spare time. Just recently, I wrote how the words of Christ, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, would be the panacea for the social ills plaguing our society such as abuse, bullying, racism, violence, oppression, sexual harassment.”
“And gender inequality, rape and human trafficking. This world would be such a different place if we all were to follow the teachings of Christ. I’d like to read your essay.”
He smiled, flattered that she wanted to read something he had written. “It’s in the Opinion section of the April 4 issue of the Daily Observer.”
“I like the Daily Observer. It has great articles and it’s not afraid to address sensitive issues. Yesterday I read a very frank and informative article on sexual harassment in the workplace. At my firm, we deal with hundreds of cases of sexual discrimination and harassment and bullying in the workplace.”
“I would imagine that it becomes overwhelming sometimes, having to deal with such cases.”
“It does. I still remember the case of a lawyer whose was being sexually harassed by one of the partners at the law firm where she used to work. She sued him and the firm and won. Now she has her own practice helping women who are victims of sexual harassment, discrimination in the workplace, including law firms.”
“It’s unfortunate but sometimes people have to go through terrible experiences so that they could turn around and help others. But, you like what you do.”
“Yes. I like being a part of the solution. Although I have been working there for four years, compared to the others, I am still the neophyte of the firm but every day I am learning and growing.”
They found somewhere to sit and talked for a long while about different things, learning more about each other and finding that they have a lot in common. Then, he glanced at his watch and an expression of deep regret came over his face as he looked at her. “I’m afraid that I must go,” he said apologetically. “I have a pressing engagement. It’s my niece’s piano recital,” he added quickly when he saw the look on her face.
She smiled, relieved and stood up. “How old is your niece?” she asked as they started back to the building where the crowd was starting to disperse.
“What is she playing?”
“I believe it’s a piece by Mozart.”
“I wish I learned how to play the piano. It’s my favorite musical instrument. I am a big fan of Chopin.”
“I’m more partial to the violin and Bach.” They were standing at the foot of the steps now. “Do you need a lift to anywhere?” he asked.
She shook her head. “Thank you, but my sister, June is meeting me here in about fifteen minutes. I’m spending the rest of the day with her and her family.”
“I really enjoyed our time together,” he said quietly, his eyes serious on her face.
There was a pause as he seemed to be contemplating something. “Will you have dinner with me tomorrow evening?” he asked, his expression hopeful and apprehensive at the same time.
“Yes, I will,” she said. She opened her handbag and after tearing out a sheet of paper from the back of her address book, she wrote her address and phone number. She folded it and gave it to him.
“I’ll pick you up at seven” he said as he took the paper and tucked it in his wallet. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
“See you tomorrow.” She watched him ascend the steps and waved when he stopped to glance back at her. When he disappeared from her sight, she stood there for a moment, thinking about him and how much she had enjoyed his company. Then, she went to meet her sister at the front entrance of the building. As soon as she got into the car, she said to her, “I met him today.”
June stared at her. “Who’re you talking about?” she asked, pulling away from the curb.
“The man I’m going to marry.”
June laughed. “Really?” she exclaimed, sounding very skeptical. “And what made you come to that conclusion?”
“I used to think that love at first sight was a foolish romantic notion but today it happened to me.”
June glanced at her and realized, “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I am. We spent about an hour just talking and getting to know each other. I loved being with him. He’s so different from the men I usually go for. We had the most stimulating conversation and I could have sat there all day just talking to him but he had to go to his niece’s recital. He asked me to have dinner with him tomorrow evening.”
“Wow. I wish I’d come earlier to meet him.”
“Don’t worry. You’ll meet him.”
“Does he know that he’s going to marry you?” June teased her.
“Maybe not as yet”
She thought about him for the rest of the day, wondering how his niece’s recital went and if he was thinking about the time they spent together. She looked forward to seeing him the following evening and was thankful when it arrived.
He showed up at promptly seven wearing a black suit over a white shirt and no tie. His hair was slightly damp, a few tresses falling across his forehead and he was not wearing his glasses. He looked so handsome that she couldn’t stop staring. “I’m wearing contacts,” he said unnecessarily. Perhaps he was as nervous as she.
Her heart was pounded wildly, especially when she saw his eyes travel over her and the expression in them when they returned to her face. She was wearing a Burgundy Long Sleeve Shift Dress with rounded neckline and long sleeves with lightly puffed shoulders. Long, shapely legs clad in sheer hosiery, peeped out from under the hem and black dress pumps completed the outfit. “I didn’t think it was possible for you to be even more beautiful than you already are.”
“Thank you,” she said, sounding a little breathless. He offered her his arm which she took and they walked to the lift. Fortunately, for her it was a balmy evening but she had brought her shawl just in case. On the way to the restaurant she asked him about his niece’s recital and as he talked about it, she could tell that he was very proud of her.
They went to a modern French restaurant in Covent Garden. It was reputed to be the world’s most romantic restaurant. They started with the Crispy Parmesan Polenta & Saint Marcellin Cheese and for the main course, she had the Oven Roasted Free Range Chicken Leg Stuffed with Duck Liver & Truffle while he had the Pan Roasted Organic Irish Sea Trout as they each enjoyed a glass of white wine. They had a lively conversation and made plans to see each other again. For dessert, they had both had the Greek Yogurt & Lemon Zest Mousse, Yuzu Curd & Honey Comb.
After dinner, they drove to Canary Wharf. He parked the car and took her on a little tour of the office district, showing her the building where he worked. The place looked beautiful at night and the tall office buildings reminded her a little of Manhattan. “How long does it take you to drive to work?” she asked as they walked back to the car about half-hour later.
“Approximately 35 minutes, depending on the traffic. Longer during the winter.”
“I like it here. Very busy, upscale and lots to see.”
“I will bring you here again another time and we can spend a longer time, walking around and perhaps go to a concert, if you like that sort of thing. We can grab dinner afterwards.”
“That sounds wonderful,” she said smiling as she got into the car. “Thank you for dinner.”
“It was my pleasure. Do you have any plans for tomorrow?”
“I was thinking that we can go on the Little Venice to Camden Walk. Someone at work mentioned it to me a while ago and I have been meaning to look into it. Afterwards, we can visit the Waterside Café before the walk.
“I didn’t know that there was a Little Venice in London. Sounds very interesting. I would love to go.”
“I read online that it was named such by the poet Robert Browning who lived overlooking the canal in the 1800s. I’ve never been to Venice but hope to one of these days.”
On the drive to her flat, they talked more about their plans for the following day. Outside of her door, he said goodnight and then leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. They held each other’s gaze for several minutes before he turned and walked away. She watched him go, touching the side of her face where his lips had been before she went inside her flat.
They went for the Little Venice to Camden Walk and had a wonderful time. After that, they started seeing each other on a regular basis and by the end of the year, they were dating each other exclusively. Spring of the following year came and it was when they were in walking in St. James’ Park that he turned to her and said, “I have been meaning to say something to you all morning.” They were standing at the western end of the park from where they had a clear view of Buckingham Palace.
She stared up at him, wondering what was on his mind. He looked very serious, nervous. He took her hands in his and clasped them.
“I love you, Brenda,” he confessed. “I fell in love with you the first time I saw you. You came into my life and changed it completely. The times you and I have spent together have been the happiest for me. I can’t imagine my life without you in it. So, if you have no objection and I hope and pray that you don’t, I am asking you to marry me.”
Tears sprang to her eyes. She raised their entwined hands to her lips and kissed his. Her heart was in her eyes when she raised them to his face. “I love you too, Albert,” she admitted huskily. “Until I met you, I didn’t believe in love at first sight. Of course, I will marry you. You’re the man for me.”
Albert released an unsteady breath and letting go of her hands, he hugged her around her waist and pulled her against him. He bent his head and kissed her. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back. For several minutes they stood there, kissing while the ducks waddled about the grass before some of them headed for the pond.
At length, he drew back and said, “I have something for you.” He reached into his pants pocket and took out the box with the ring. He opened it and her eyes widened when she saw the exquisite diamond. He took it out and taking her hand, he gently slid it down her finger. It was a perfect fit. When he raised his eyes to look at her, they were filled with emotions. “I love you.”
She swallowed. “I love you,” she managed to say and then he kissed her again. They left that spot a few minutes later, his arm was around her shoulder and hers was around his waist.
They had a summer wedding. June was her matron of honor. When they had a chance to speak, Brenda said to her with a smile and a wink, “I told you that I was going to marry him.”
June laughed. “Yes, you did. And after meeting him and getting to know him, I can see why he’s the one you ended up with.” She hugged her younger sister tightly. “I wish you both the very best and God’s many blessings.”
It was a lovely reception and afterwards, they left for their honeymoon in Venice. They did return to Canary Wharf and it was when they were sitting on a bench, having sandwiches that she told him they were going to have their first child. She laughed when he almost choked on his. He quickly put it back in the paper and put it down on the seat beside him before turning to hug her tightly, burying his face in her neck. She hugged him back as she felt his tears wet her neck. They sat like that for a long time.