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.