The Daydream

It was a glorious day.  The sun was bright, illuminating the field dotted with wild flowers and a soft, gentle breeze wafted caressed the leaves on the trees.  Intermittently, the trill cries of birds broke the silence.  From where she was, she could see the cavity in the tree above her and an adult bird peeking out.  It was the Nuttall Woodpecker.  She stood very still because she didn’t want to disturb it.  What a beautiful bird with its colorful plumage.  She wished she had brought her camera.

She stood there watching it for a while and then, she decided to sit on the grass and lean against the tree.  It was so relaxing out here.  Her eyes began to feel heavy.  She stifled a yawn.  I’d better go before I fall asleep, she thought.  But it was so nice being in the countryside, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  Five more minutes and then, she would leave.

She must have dozed off because the next thing she knew, Julien was standing over her, blocking the sunlight.  Startled, she scrambled to her feet.  “What—what are you doing here?” To her own ears, she sounded breathless and her heart was pounding.  He was dressed casually in a light blue shirt and khaki slacks.  His hair was slightly tousled from the breeze.  And his eyes…she couldn’t get over their unusual color.  They were the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen.  She felt as if she would drown in them.

“I live over there, remember?” he replied, indicating the palatial estate on her right.

She had been when he invited the staff during the summer and Christmas holidays.  It was a magnificent Victorian mansion surrounded by immaculate grounds.  He lived there on his own with a fully functional staff.  His parents died in a boating accident when he was in his twenties and he had no siblings.

She heard co-workers say that the lucky woman whom he married would be the mistress of the estate and living comfortably for the rest of her life.  I wonder who she will be?  There was some speculation that it would be the beautiful Catherine Taylor whom she had seen him with on several occasions.  She had to admit that the thought of him with Catherine or any other woman bothered her tremendously which was very foolish of her because she didn’t stand a chance with him.  The difference in age and background made her an unlikely candidate.

“What are you thinking about?” he asked, startling her.

“How long have you been standing here watching me sleep?” she asked evasively.  You can’t know what I’ve been thinking.

“About five minutes.  I was returning from a walk when I saw you.  I didn’t want to disturb you.”

She felt so embarrassed that her boss had caught her sleeping under a tree not far from where he lived.  “I didn’t mean to fall asleep.  I should be going now.”

He caught her by the arm.  “No, please don’t go,” he said quietly.  “Stay a little while longer.  It’s a beautiful day to be outdoors.”

“Yes, it is.”  She couldn’t think straight with his fingers on her arm.  They felt warm and they were stirring all sorts of feelings in her and when their eyes met, she was mesmerized.

His gaze was riveted to her face and his eyes darkened as he muttered, “Tue es adorable quand tu dors.”

She swallowed hard.  “What-what did you say?”

“I said that you are lovely when you are asleep.” Now he was holding her by the shoulders and drawing her toward him.

By now her heart was pounding wildly as she saw his gaze lower to her mouth before she saw his getting closer and closer…And then, they were kissing wildly, passionately, unleashing feelings which had been pent up for such a long time.  He pulled her down on to the grass which tickled her calves.  She was wearing capris.  They rolled over and over in the grass like tumbleweed, still exchanging kisses.  Her fingers were buried in his hair which was so soft and silky.  She wanted him to take her right there in the field among the flowers with their heady scent pervading her senses.

The sound of ringing jolted her and her eyes flew open.  She started when she realized that she was sitting at her desk with her head propped up.  She had been daydreaming again but this time it seemed so real and the kisses…she touched her lips.  Answer the phone.  She grabbed it.  “Hello?”

“Where are the reports?  The meeting starts in seven minutes.”  It was Julien.  He was calling her from the boardroom.  His French accent was more pronounced when he was annoyed.

“I’m—I’m on my way,” she stammered, flustered.  She wondered what he would say if he knew that she had been daydreaming about him.  Shaking her head, she grabbed the reports which were sitting on her desk and rushed to the boardroom.

He was there with nine other men sitting around the table and she felt self-conscious as she walked into the room, carrying the reports.  She avoided looking at him as she handed them out and then she walked out of the room.

After she was gone, one of the men, Russell Benson, commented, “You have a young and very pretty secretary.”

Julien’s expression darkened.  “She’s my assistant.  Now, let us get down to business.”  He was irked because he noticed the way Imani avoided looking at him and it didn’t help that she smiled with Russell before she left the room.

The meeting lasted for an hour and fifteen minutes and while the other men stayed behind to talk to Julien, Russell excused himself and left the room.  He went straight to Imani’s desk and holding out his hand, he introduced himself.  “Russell Benson.”

“Imani Johnson.”

“Tell me, Imani, how long have you been working with Julien?”

“Four years.”

“Do you like working with him?”

“Yes, I do.”  Russell seemed like a nice guy but she wasn’t interested in him.  All she could think about was Julien and how much she wanted to be with him.

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

She stared at him for a moment.  “No, I don’t.”

“How about having dinner with me, say tomorrow night?”

She shook her head.  “I’m sorry, Russell, but I’m going to have to say no.”

He arched his eyebrows.  “Wow.  Not to sound conceited or anything but this is the first time a woman has turned me down.”

“You seem like a really nice guy but—”

“…but you’re just not interested.”

“Sorry.”

“There’s no need to apologize.   I don’t think Julien would have approved anyway.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, when I mentioned that you were very pretty, he didn’t seem at all pleased.”

“Really?”

“And speaking of the devil…” he said looking past her and getting up from her desk on which he had been sitting.

Imani’s heart was racing but she didn’t turn around.  She didn’t have to.  Julien went and stood right beside her desk.  She looked up and their eyes met briefly before he turned to Russell.  “What are you still doing here?” he asked.  “I would have thought that you would be heading home after your long flight.”

“I arrived from New York this morning,” Russell explained to Imani.  “I remember why I hate flying.  I had to wait a long time for my bag because there was a problem with the conveyor belt.  By the time it was sorted out, I had to come straight here.”

Julien turned to Imani, “I need to see you in my office.”

She nodded and quickly looked away.

Julien held out his hand.  “Goodbye, Russell.”

Russell smiled and shook his hand.  “Goodbye, Julien.”

Julien turned and walked away.  When he was out of earshot, Russell leaned over and whispered almost conspiratorially, “I believe that if a certain Frenchman had asked you out for dinner you would have said yes in a heartbeat.”

She gaped at him.  “How did you–?”

“…figure that out?  Well, I noticed the way you acted around him just now.  It’s obvious to me, maybe not so much to him, that you are in love.”

“I don’t know what to do.  He hasn’t shown any sign that he’s interested?”

Russell stared at her in amazement.  “Are you serious?” he exclaimed.  “Didn’t you see the way he acted just now?  He obviously had a problem with me hanging around you.  I’d better leave before he has me escorted out.  It was really nice meeting you, Imani.  Julien is a very lucky man.”  He held out his hand.

“It was nice meeting you too, Russell,” she said, taking his hand.  “And thank you for being such a good sport.”

He clasped her hand in a warm handshake before he turned and walked away, whistling when Zara, an attractive blonde passed by him.  Imani chuckled, shaking her head.

She got up from her desk and went to Julien’s office.  He was sitting at his desk but got up when she went in.  “Close the door,” he called.

She closed it quietly behind her and walked over to him, her heart thudding.  “You needed to see me,” she sounded a tad breathless.  She was standing in front of the desk now directly opposite him.

“What did Russell want?” he asked abruptly.

“He-he wanted me to have dinner with him.”

His mouth tightened.  “Did you accept?”

She shook her head.  “No, I didn’t.”

“Why not?”

“I-I didn’t want to have dinner with him.”

“Ne le trouvez-vous pas attirant?”  He seemed surprised.

“What?” she asked.  He had a tendency to lapse into his native tongue.

“Don’t you find him attractive?”

“No, I don’t.”

Êtes-vous attiré par quelqu’un?  Pardon.  Are you attracted to anyone?”

“Yes, Julien.  I’m attracted to you.”  She couldn’t believe she said it.

Julien’s eyes darkened and he moved around the desk to stand right in front of her.  “I’ve never been attracted to anyone I worked with until I met you,” he admitted.  “I wanted to ask you out for such a long time but I wasn’t sure if you would want to because I’m your boss and quite a bit older than you.”

She moved closer.  “I was attracted to you the first time I saw you and wanted you to notice me but you were always so businesslike whenever we were together.  And I when I saw you with Catherine, I thought that you were serious about her.”

“Catherine and I are just friends.  I know that there have been rumors to the contrary but I assure you that my feelings for her are strictly platonic.  Imani, will you have dinner with me tonight?”

Yes!”

He reached out and took her hand.  His fingers felt warm against her skin, making her tremble.  Her pulse was racing and she seemed to have difficulty breathing as he reached for her other hand to pull her against him.  “J’ai voulu t’embrasser si longtemps”, he muttered before he bent his head and kissed her.

She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.  This was better than any daydream.  Just in case, though, she pinched her arm and felt the pain.

Worth Fighting For

If love is great, then it is worth fighting for – Cassandra Clare

As we walked down the cobbled streets of Rome,

holding hands, no one looking at our smiling faces

had an inkling of what we have been through to be

together.

 

We felt like Romeo and Juliet although our families’

conflict had to do with race.  My parents didn’t want

me to be with a white man and your parents

didn’t want you to be with a black woman.  They

didn’t understand or believe that love should be

color blind.

 

They made us feel guilty for falling in love.  The people

we have loved and known all of our lives have become

our enemies.  Amidst threats of being ostracized from

the family, we decided to elope.  And here we are in the

eternal city with no regrets.  Love is our cross to bear.

And we bear it with courage and pride.

The Beach

She ran all the way to the beach and didn’t stop until she saw the silhouette of his house but instead of running up the stairs, she collapsed on the sand, the tears almost blinding her.  Why had she come here?  She should be as far from here as possible.  She had promised herself that she would never see or talk to him again–not after what happened this evening at the award ceremony.

She, along with the other volunteers and the staff were there to cheer on Mitchell Ryan, the founder and director as he accepted the award for outstanding community service on behalf on his non-profit organization.  He deserved it because it was he who played a dominant role in creating and implementing several after-school and summer programs geared toward keeping the youth off the streets.

Through his unwavering efforts and the support of staff and volunteers, many lives were transformed.  Youth who were taking or selling drugs, came clean and began talking to others about the effects of drug use.  There counseling services and programs for those who were victims of bullying and those who bullied.  “We’re here to help the victim and the bully,” Mitchell always said.  Many of the youth who were helped by his organization later became volunteers.

Vanessa met Mitchell ten years ago when she was a senior in high-school.  She was going through a tough time at home.  Her parents were always fighting.  To escape she went to the beach where she spent hours just sitting or standing in the sand, depending on the weather and watch the gentle swell of the ocean as it ebbed and flowed, wishing that she could go with it.  Before she left, she walked along the water’s edge, trying to imagine what it would be like to live on the beach with nothing but the sounds of the waves and the tangy salt air to fill her days.  It was better than living in the city with the constant sounds of traffic, sirens and chatter and of course, her parents bickering.  How she longed to escape it all.

One afternoon she walked farther than she normally did and came upon a lone beach house.  It stood tall above the grassy slope which led to the beach.  It was adequate for one or two occupants with a wide deck and a long flight of wooden steps leading down to the sand.  She wondered who lived there and thought how lucky they were to wake up every morning to a sunrise over the ocean.  As she stood there admiring the property, she heard a voice remark behind her, “It’s a beautiful place, isn’t it?”

Startled, she swung round and found herself facing a very attractive man who looked to be in his early to mid-thirties.  He smiled at her.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.  It has been a while since someone has come along this part of the beach.”

“Do you live there?” she asked.

He nodded.  “Yes, I do.”

“It must be nice having this part of the beach to yourself.”

“Yes, it is.”

She glanced at her watch.  “I’d better be heading back home,” she said.

“Where’s home and how did you get here?”

“I live in the city and I drove here.  I come to this beach a lot.  This is the first time I have walked to this part of it.”

“You know, when I was younger and I had a lot on my mind, I used to come to the beach and just sit and stare at the ocean.  Is that why you come here?”

“Are you a psychiatrist?” she asked.

“No,” he chuckled.  “I run a community organization which helps youth.  My name is Mitchell Ryan, by the way.”  He held out his hand.

“Vanessa Rivers,” she told him as she shook his hand.  He seemed like a really nice man.  “I really should be getting back home before my parents begin to wonder where I am–if they even notice that I’m gone.”

“I’m not going to press you but if you need to talk, you can get in touch with me.  Here’s my card.”  He handed her a business card.  “It was nice meeting you, Vanessa. And any time you want to drop by just to say hello, don’t hesitate.  It’s quiet out here but sometimes, a bit too quiet.  I’m always grateful for some company.”

Vanessa smiled.  “It was nice meeting you too.  ‘Bye, Mitchell.”

“‘Bye, Vanessa.” He stood there with his back to the house, watching her.

She waved at him before she retraced her steps until she reached familiar ground and her car.  As she drove home, she thought of how it would be nice to see him again even if she didn’t want to talk to him about her problems.  Perhaps, she could find out more about his organization and see if she could volunteer.  It would be better than being around her bickering parents.  When she got home, the place was quiet.  Her father was in the basement watching TV while she and her mother were in the kitchen.  “Mama, why do you and Dad fight so much.  Don’t you love each other anymore?” she asked as she was having her dinner.

Her mother sighed.  “Baby, we still love each other but it’s just that we seem to get on each other’s nerves.”

“I hate it when the two of you fight.  That’s why I go to the beach so often.  Are you and Dad going to get a divorce?”

“No, Baby.  We’re not going to get a divorce.  Sure, we bicker a lot but we have been married for a long time and only death will separate us.  So, that’s where you were this evening–at the beach?”

“Yes and I met Mitchell–”

Her mother stared at her.  “Who’s Mitchell?”

“A really nice man who lives in the only house on the beach.”

“How old is this Mitchell character?  Does he know that you’re still in high school?”

“He’s in his thirties and I didn’t tell him that I was in high-school but he knows that I live with my parents.  He gave me his card–”

“What for?”

“He runs a community organization and thought that I might be interested in learning more about it.  I think I will drive over there tomorrow after school and see if I would like to volunteer during March break and the summer.”

“Well, I don’t suppose there’s any harm in visiting the place but make sure you don’t spend too much time alone with this Mitchell character.  Remember you’re a very pretty girl and men get ideas.”

Vanessa shrugged and dropped the subject.  In her mind, she thought, I wouldn’t mind if Mitchell noticed me.  He’s very attractive and although, I don’t know anything about him except that he runs an organization and lives on the beach, I like him.  Who am I kidding?  He’s in his thirties.  There’s no way, he would be interested in a high-school girl although I graduate next month.  He probably has a girlfriend anyway.

The next day after school, she dropped by the historic building and was taken to Mitchell’s office.  He was pleased to see her and invited her to have a seat.  “So, how are things with you?” he asked after they exchanged pleasantries.

She told him about her parents and her concerns about their marriage.  “My family has a history of broken marriages.  I’ve seen my cousins going through a tough time because their parents got divorced.  I’m afraid that the same thing will happen with my parents although my mother assured me that she and my Dad will not split up.”

“Well, based on what your mother said, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.  I’ve known couples who are always bickering but they have managed to stay the course.  There will always be conflicts in relationships but it depends on the couple if they will let those conflicts affect their marriage to the point where they want to split up.  I read somewhere that arguments can lead to a greater understanding between the two people.  I have heard people say that learning how to argue strengthened their marriages.  The good thing is that your parents don’t run from fights like some couples who are afraid to address issues because they don’t want any conflicts which can later lead to bigger problems in the relationship.”

“My parents are not afraid to discuss sensitive issues.  They don’t sweep things under the rug.  And I guess that’s a good thing.  Get things out in the open and deal with them.  I guess my fear is that their constant arguing would lead to a split up because I had seen it happen to other family members.  They were always fighting even when they had company.  My parents don’t fight in front of other people, thank goodness.  I’m the only one who hears them.  I love them very much and hope that they will always be together.”

He smiled.  “I hope so too.”

“It felt good talking to you about it,” she told him.  He was wearing a nice shade of blue tee shirt with the top two buttons undone and tan trousers.  His dark brown hair was tousled but it was becoming for him.  She started when she realized that he had noticed her staring at him.  She couldn’t tell what he was thinking, though.  His expression was inscrutable.  Perhaps he was used to the opposite sex staring at him.  “I-I was thinking that it would be nice to volunteer here during March break and the summer but I’ve decided that I could do it before.”

“We always need volunteers,” he told her.  “Do you have a particular area of interest?”

“I’m interested in fundraising.”

“You can join our fundraising and event planning committee.”

“I’d like that.”

“When are you available?”

“During the week after school for four hours.”

“That’s great.  I will have Melanie our Volunteer Coordinator set you up.  How soon could you start?”

She wanted to say now.  “Monday.”  She hoped the weekend would go by quickly so that she could see him again.

“Monday’s fine.  I’ll take you to meet Melanie now and she will take care of you.”  He rose from behind the desk and she preceded him to the door.  Melanie wasn’t at her desk when they got there.  “She’s probably with one of the volunteers.  You can sit over there and wait for her.  On Monday when you arrive and after you see her, come and see me in my office.  I want to give you a personal tour of the place and introduce you to the staff.  Thanks for volunteering with us, Vanessa.  I look forward to seeing more of you and you being a part of the team.”

She smiled.  “I look forward to being here on a regular basis,” she said.  It means that I will get to see you every week.

They shook hands and then he left.  She went and sat down in the chair by the window and waited for Melanie who breezed into the office ten minutes later.  She was a very pleasant young woman who made Vanessa feel very welcome.  She had her fill out a volunteer form and they chatted for a while before Vanessa left there, confident that she was going to like working there.

When she told her parents that she was going to volunteer at the organization, her father thought it was a great idea and her mother wasn’t so enthusiastic.  “Make sure it doesn’t interfere with your school work,” she admonished.

As soon as school ended on Monday, she was heading over to the organization.  After checking in with Melanie, she was taken to Mitchell’s office.  Her heart began to beat fast when she saw him and when he smiled at her.  After they spent a few minutes in his office chatting, he took her on a tour as promised and introduced her to the staff.  Then, he left her with Berta, the chairperson of the fundraising committee.

Berta was a Jamaican woman was in her late fifties.  She was a very affable woman and Vanessa liked her immediately.  Berta took her under her wing.  She was a widow with two grown children, married and with their own families.  Vanessa loved being on the fundraising committee and brainstorming with the other volunteers.  Her first week went very well.

At the end of some evenings before she went home, Mitchell and she would walk over to the café and have cappuccinos.  They talked about the day and other things.  She enjoyed his company and knew that he enjoyed hers too.  One evening when they were standing in the parking lot, he said to her, “If you were ten years older, I would go out with you.”

Her heart began to pound.  “I’m going to be nineteen next month,” she told him.

“That’s too young,” he said.  “I’m thirty-four.”

“What about ten years from now when I’m twenty-eight?” she asked hopefully.  “Will you reconsider then?”

He pondered that for a moment.  “I might,” he said quietly.  “Goodnight, Vanessa.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Goodnight, Mitchell.”  She walked to her car, her heart fluttering with excitement.  There was still hope for her.

Ten years later, she reminded him of their conversation that evening in the parking lot and he admitted that he had thought of nothing else.  They began to see each other discreetly.  No one at the organization knew about it and he was determined to keep it that way.  They went for dinner, to the theatre, the movies and spent a lot of time at his beach house.

They arrived separately to the award ceremony and were careful not to spend any time alone together.  For all appearances, their relationship was the same as it always was, platonic.  She was enjoying the evening until she spotted Mitchell talking to a woman she had never seen before.

“Who’s that with Mitchell?” She asked Caroline, a fellow volunteer. Whoever she was, she was very beautiful.  Tall and striking in the cream pants suit and thick chestnut hair falling about her shoulders.  They seemed to know each other very well and she felt a sharp pang of jealousy.

“Oh, that’s Linda, Mitchell’s wife.  They are separated but from the way things look now, I wouldn’t be surprised if they get back together.”

Vanessa looked at her, shocked and devastated.  “Mitchell’s married?”

“Yes.  I thought you knew.”  Caroline stared at her.  “Are you all right?” she asked, looking concerned.

“I–I have to get out of here–” the words were strangled as a large lump rose in her throat as she fought to keep back the tears.  She ran out of the room and out of the building.  When she got to her car, she fumbled in her bag for the keys, almost dropping them.  She climbed into the car, slammed the door, started the engine and sped off.  Her fingers gripped the steering wheel as waves of pain washed over her.  Mitchell was married.  Why didn’t he tell her?  Since he didn’t wear a ring, she assumed that he wasn’t married.  What about those times when they were together why didn’t he say anything?  If she had known that he was married she wouldn’t have gotten involved with him no matter how much she loved him.  And she loved him so much it hurt.  Anger, hurt warred inside her and she wanted to scream. 

She didn’t know where she was going.  She couldn’t go home and let her parents see her like this.  They would have a fit.  She didn’t want to go to her friend, Nicole.  The beach.  She would go to the beach.  It was the only place where she wanted to be right now…Ten minutes later, she was running like a wild animal down the beach which, thankfully, was deserted, until she reached his house.  She collapsed in a heap on the sand and buried her wet face in her hands.

The sound of her name and a pair of hands lifting her up broke into her reverie.  It was Mitchell.  She struggled vigorously, trying to push him away as he picked her up in his arms and carried her up to the house.  Once they were inside he put her down and immediately she began to pummel him, the tears falling afresh.  He caught her hands by the wrists, his grip firm but gentle and restrained her. “What’s wrong, Vanessa?” he asked.  “Why are you so upset and why did you leave the award ceremony?  I looked for you but you weren’t there.”

She struggled to control her emotions, her chest heaving at the effort.  “Why didn’t you tell me that you’re married?”

He stared at her.  “Married?”

“Yes, I saw the two of you together this evening at the award ceremony and I asked Caroline who she was and she told me that it was your wife.  She said that you were separated.”

“Oh, Vanessa.  I’m so sorry.  I don’t know why Caroline told you that I’m separated when she should know that I’m divorced.  Linda and I got divorced shortly before I met you.  Our problem was lack of intimacy.  We didn’t feel connected to each other anymore.  She was there this evening because she was also going to receive an award for her commitment to volunteering.  When you saw us together we were just congratulating each other and catching up.”

“Caroline said that you might back together with her.”

“She is mistaken.  I will have a talk with her on Monday when I see her.  I have no desire to get back together with Caroline.  Why would I go back to her when I love you, Vanessa?  How could you think that I would have a relationship with you when I was still married to her?  You should know the kind of man I am by now.”

She started to cry.  “I’m sorry,” she sobbed.  “When I saw you with your ex and how friendly you were with her, I got jealous.  And when Caroline told me that she was your wife…”

He cupped her face and used his thumbs to wipe the tears away, his eyes darkening on her face.  “So, that’s why you ran out on me this evening.  I was going to invite you and the other volunteers on to the platform with me.  Don’t cry, my darling.  There’s no need for tears.  I love you and I want to be with you.”  He kissed her tenderly, almost like a caress.

She responded, putting her arms around his neck.  “I love you too,” she whispered.  “And I’m sorry I ran away instead of facing you.  I would have saved myself a lot of heartache.”

“Don’t beat yourself up about it.”

“Based on how I reacted and my hasty exit, Caroline probably put two and two together and figured out that I’m in love with you.”

“It doesn’t matter anymore.  I don’t want us to continue to hide our relationship, especially since I am going to marry you.”

She gaped at him.  “Marry me!” she exclaimed.

“Yes.”  He reached into the back pocket of his jeans and produced a red velvet box.  He flipped it open and took out the sparkling diamond ring.  He raised his eyes to look her straight into her moist ones.  “Will you marry me, Vanessa?”

“Yes!” She kissed him enthusiastically on the mouth before she watched enthralled as he slid the ring on her finger.  It was the most exquisite thing she had ever seen.  She couldn’t wait to show it to her mother—and Caroline.

He pulled her into his arms, his eyes met hers before he bent his head and kissed her.  As she responded, she remembered a quote that she once heard.  Heaven seems a little closer at the beach.

 

Sources:  Eva’s; Marriage.com; Daily Mail; Huffington Post; Next Avenue

From Abuse to Abundance

She sat on the porch, an open book

in her lap but she wasn’t reading it.

Her eyes were on the street.  She was

waiting for her daughter to come home

from school.  Somewhere in the back-

yard, she heard the piercing trill of a bird.

 

It was a beautiful spring afternoon.  Quite

peaceful as there was hardly any traffic or people

in the street.  This was the kind of life she

had always wanted and she thought she

would have had it with Joe…Joe.  She

hadn’t thought about him for years.

 

It seemed like a lifetime ago when she met

and fell in love with the handsome and

charming construction worker.  It was a

whirlwind romance.  Within a few weeks

of meeting they got married.  There were

no red flags–at least she didn’t see them.

Everything seemed to be going so well…

And then, the honeymoon was over.

 

First the insults came and they stung

but she put on a brave face and kept

on loving him, thinking things would

get better.  Then came the blows.

At first they were followed by tearful

apologies and gifts.  And she held him

in her bruised arms and rocked him

like a baby, believing his promises that

he would never hit her again.

 

The blows continued and more frequently.

No more tears.  No more “I’m sorry, Honey.”

Instead, she was blamed for what was

happening to her.  After a while she began to

believe that it was her fault.  Something about

her brought out the worst in him.  When they

first met and even after they got married, he

was so charming and loving.  She didn’t think

he could harm a fly.  But, underneath that boy

next door veneer, lurked an abusive and unstable

monster.

 

After years of being battered and verbally and

mentally abused, she got the courage to leave.

She went to a women’s shelter where she felt safe and

cared for.   She received the counseling and

support she so desperately needed.  No more

of looking out the window for Joe and wondering

what kind of mood he would be in.  Three months

after leaving the shelter, she learned that Joe had

died from a fall at a construction site.  The news

devastated her.  In spite of everything, she still

loved him.

 

She visited his grave and stood there, tears falling

down her cheeks, wishing with all her heart that

their life together had been different.  She never

knew why he became abusive toward her.  All

she had ever done was love him and try to be a

good wife to him.  And all she got for her trouble

were blows, bruises and belittling remarks.

 

Thirteen years have gone by since she left Joe and now

she was married again.  Bill was a terrific husband

and father to their ten year old daughter.  They

met when she started attending church.  It wasn’t a

whirlwind romance this time.  It took a while for her

to open herself and her heart to someone else.  The

physical scars had healed but the emotional scars were

still there.  She marveled at Bill’s patience.  Other men

would have given up.  When she broached this with

him, he said simply, “Love is patient.  I’m not going

anywhere.”

 

It was one rainy afternoon when she was walking home

from the subway and saw him coming toward her with

an umbrella that she realized that she was in love with

him.  She married him a week later in a simple ceremony.

And now, she sat in the shade on the porch of their home,

looking out for their daughter, Annie.

 

Being married to Bill made her face up to the glaring truth

that Joe didn’t really love her.  If he had, he wouldn’t have

hurt her.  Love doesn’t batter, belittle or blame.  She had

forgiven Joe and wanted to believe that if he were still alive,

he would have sought help.

 

She saw a familiar figure coming up the street and

she stood up, smiling.  God had brought her from

a dark and painful past to this moment.  During one

of those moments when she wondered if she ever feel

safe or happy again that He assured her, “There is hope

in your future.”  Yes, from where she stood, that hope

was the life she was now enjoying.  God had brought

her from abuse to abundance.

 

 

Sources: YMCA; Domestic Shelter

Not Goodbye

How long will he tarry?

She waited for him like

the flower waits for the

rain to quench its thirst

or the sun to give it warmth.

 

How long will he tarry?

She looked in all directions

hoping to see the familiar

figure coming towards her.

 

How long will he tarry?

The sun was setting and soon

darkness would unfurl its long, gnarled

fingers around the bench where

she sat, the pale moon her

only source of light.  During the day

the park was like a friend, warm and

welcoming but at night, it was a stranger.

 

How long will he tarry?  As the sun

hovered over the horizon, she felt a

chill.  What if this wasn’t him being

tardy?  What if he doesn’t come?  What

if the last goodbye was really the last

one?

 

The sound of a step behind her, alerted

her that someone was approaching.

Rising to her feet she turned, her heart

racing.  Relief washed over her when

she saw him.  She ran to him and threw

her arms around him.  “I was afraid

that you wouldn’t come.”

 

He held her closely.  “I had to come,” he

said.  “And tell that this is not goodbye or

the end of us.  I wanted to to say that I will

miss you until we meet again.  And we will meet

again, one sunny day much like the day when we

first met.”

 

She felt the tears run down her cheeks but

there was a smile on her face.  This wasn’t a

goodbye–it was just the end of a chapter and

one day, they would start a new one.  Until then,

“Let’s tarry here for a little while,” she suggested.

And they stood there, in the moonlit park hugging.

 

I do but you don’t!

What should you do if you want to get married but your man doesn’t? Well, the first thing you do is to have a candid talk with him and find out why he doesn’t want to get married.  Elite Daily shares the following reasons why some men don’t want to get married or are hesitant to take that giant step:

Have seen too many divorces:  A man I used to be involved said he was never going to get married because he had seen people he knew get divorced.  Something must have changed or it could be that he met the right woman because he is now married with two children.

A bad experience which turned them off the idea of marriage.  I read that one guy had a bad engagement experience where his intended broke up six months after he asked her to marry him, picked and paid for the place for their wedding.  He promised himself that he would never do that again.

The urge or desire to get married isn’t there.  Some men just don’t feel the urge to settle and conclude that marriage isn’t for them.

Selfishness.  Marriage is about taking care of the other person’s needs and some men feel that they are not cut out for that.

Bad marriage.  For some men, one bad marriage is enough.

There’s no benefit.  What’s the point getting into something where the benefits are non-existent and all you have are the costs?

Don’t need marriage to be happy.  Some men are quite happy with the relationship as it is and don’t see the need or point in getting married.

Marriage is a gamble.  It’s a gamble that a lot of men are just not willing to take.  The stakes are too high.

Distrust of the court system.  Men feel that the court system will not deal fairly with them.  My husband has always said that the court system favors the women over the men.

Don’t get upset with your man when he says that he says he doesn’t believe in marriage.  Find out why he feels the way he does.  Is he ruling marriage out completely or just until he grows more comfortable with the idea?

Remember marriage is not for everyone.  It may be for you but not for him.  You will have to decide if you are willing to remain in a relationship which may never end in marriage or walk away.  In the end, both of you will have to do what is best for yourselves.

According to Samantha Daniels, professional matchmaker and founder of The Dating Lounge dating app, “The key thing here is to be true to yourself and what you can truly be happy with.”

Sources:  Elite Daily; Bustle;

Sacred Vows

His strategy for forgetting Justine Samuels was to keep busy with his work as the local parish priest but his efforts failed miserably.  No matter where he was or what he was doing, he couldn’t stop thinking about her and wishing that he could see her again.  He missed her terribly.  Against his better judgment, he had continued to see her even after he realized that he was in love with her.  His excuse was that her grandmother was one of his parishioners and it was his duty to visit her especially since she was unable to attend church.

On several occasions, he visited the elderly woman and prayed for her.  Then he would spend a few minutes in the living-room talking to Justine.  It was during one of those times that she broke down and confessed that she didn’t know how much longer she could continue to care for her grandmother on her own while worrying that she could lose her job because the company might be downsizing.  Her job meant a lot to her because she was able to work from home.  She had moved into her grandmother’s cottage after the elderly woman had fallen ill.

Touched with compassion, he offered to counsel her.  They met once a week in her grandmother’s bright and airy sun room and the sessions lasted for an hour.  Sometimes he would stay afterward and have a cup of tea or he would leave immediately after.

Soon he found himself dropping by even when they didn’t have a counseling session on pretext of checking on her grandmother.  Afterwards, he would feel guilty and go to the chapel and pray for forgiveness.  Try as he did, he couldn’t stay away and during the summer when the weather was pleasant, Justine and he would sit outside in the garden while her grandmother was taking a nap in the living-room.

One afternoon, they were out in the garden, sitting on the bench, talking.  Behind them was a climbing rose bush winding its way up the side of the house to second floor window.  He got up and went over to it.  “Whenever I see a rose, I can’t help but marvel at its beauty and intricacy.  Have you ever heard the quote:  Some people complain because God put thorns on roses, while others praise Him for putting roses among thorns.

She shook her head, getting up and going over to him.  “No, I’ve never heard that quote.  Which of the two categories do you fall into?”

“The second.  I praise Him for putting roses among thorns—beauty among the ugliness that exists in this world.”

“For me, the roses represent God’s grace among the thorns which are the trials in life.”

He reached out to pluck a rose from the bush and winced when its thorn pricked him in the palm.  As he reached into his robe for his handkerchief, she took his hand in hers and gently turned it over to examine the wound.  The touch of her fingers stirred feelings in him and mortified, he pulled his hand away.  She looked startled and when she would have reached for his hand again, he stepped back, putting some distance between them.  He pressed his handkerchief into his palm.  It wasn’t bleeding much.  The wound was the size of a needle prick.  “I must be going,” he said tightly.

“But you only got here ten minutes ago,” she protested.

“Yes.  I have matters I need to attend to.”

“Will I see you again tomorrow?”

“No, Justine.  We can’t see each other anymore.”

“But why not?”

“God help me, but I love you.”

Her eyes widened.  “I love you too,” she confessed.  “I’ve wanted to tell you that for such a long time.”

He dragged his fingers through his hair in agitation.  “There’s no future for us.  I’m a Catholic priest and I adhere to the church’s teachings.  I made a vow of celibacy that celibacy so I could identify with Christ who was celibate.   In an act of sacrificial love I vowed to give myself completely to the service of God and His church.”

“But where in the Bible does it say that priests aren’t allowed to fall in love and get married?” she asked, looking confused.  “Aaron and Caiaphas were high priests and they were married.”

“A Catholic priest follows the example of Christ who is our High Priest and He wasn’t married.  His gave His life completely to serving His Father and shepherding His church.  It was Christ who said in Matthew 22:30, ‘In the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.’”

“But how do you explain what Paul said about some people forbidding others from marrying, teaching human doctrines and putting traditions above God’s Commandments?”

“Paul made it clear that being single allows a person to give his undivided attention in serving our Lord.  He recommended celibacy because he himself was celibate.”

“But wasn’t it Paul who said ‘let them marry for it is better to marry than to burn with passion’?”

“He was talking about those who can’t exercise self-control.”

“Tell me, Father Montgomery, how do I stop myself from burning with passion?”

“Marry Robert.”  Robert was a member of the church she used to attend before her grandmother became an invalid.  On a few occasions he had stopped by the house to see how she and her grandmother were doing.  “He cares for you.”

“Is that what you want?” she demanded.

His face went pale.  “It’s not a matter of what I want but what must be.”

“So, this is goodbye.  I’m never going to see you again.”  Her voice trembled and he could see the beginning of tears in her eyes.   “This is so wrong.  You and I should be together.”

“What would be wrong is for me to turn my back on my faith, my church and God because I love you,” he muttered between clenched teeth.  He reached out and his hand trembled as he touched her face.  She caught his hand and pressed her lips into the palm where the thorn had pricked him.  Groaning, he wrenched his hand away and bolted from her.  That was the last time he saw her.  He stopped visiting her and sent the Vicar in his place.

Now he was faced with a dilemma.  His love for Justine was affecting his life and his work.    He had to do something about it, but what?  He went into the chapel and spent the next few hours in prayer, pouring his heart out as he sought God’s guidance.

Where is he?  Justine wondered as she sat there in the pew, hoping to catch a glimpse of him.  He wouldn’t be pleased to see her, she knew that, but she had to come, if only to see him once more and to tell him that she had employed a live-in caregiver for her grandmother and that she had left her job for a better one.

As soon as the service was over, she went up to the Vicar.  “Excuse me, Vicar” she said.  “Where’s Father Montgomery?”

“He is no longer with the church.”

Her heart sank.  “Did he transfer to another parish?”

The vicar shook his head.  “No, he left the priesthood.”

She stared at him, in shock.  “He left the church?”

“Yes.  Everyone was shocked except me.  He had started to question the teachings of the church and his heart was no longer in what he was doing.  I suspect this had to do with a woman although he never said anything.  He was unhappy and I told him that whatever he decided to do, make sure it’s a decision he can live with.  After much prayer and fasting, he decided that the best thing for him to do is to leave the priesthood and the Church.  I wished him well.  Perhaps God will lead him in another direction where he can serve Him as faithfully as he has served him all these years.”

Justine thanked him for his time and left.  She walked out of the church in a daze.  Father Montgomery had left the Church.  Where was he?  “Oh, Lord, You know where he is.  Please lead me to him.” As she got into her car, she got a strong impression to go to the park opposite where she lived.   After she parked her car in the garage, she crossed the quiet street and went into the park.  About ten minutes later, she spotted him sitting on the bench facing the duck pond.  Heart thudding she approached him.  “Hello,” she called.

He glanced up.  “Hello,” he replied, quietly, rising to his feet.  His expression was serious as he met her gaze.  “I was coming to see you.  Your grandmother’s nurse told me where you lived.  When I got here, I decided to come to the park first.”

“I heard that you left the Church.  What should I call you now?”

“John.  You can call me John.  How have you been, Justine?  I think about you every waking moment.”

“I’ve been miserable,” she told him.  “I missed you so much.  I went to the parish today just to see you but you weren’t there and the Vicar explained what happened.  Why did you leave, John?”

“I left because I had too many questions about the church’s teachings which contradicted what was in the Bible and—because of you.  I couldn’t hide from my feelings.  It’s funny.  I believed that the robe I wore would protect me from feelings I believed that I shouldn’t be having.  I realized that underneath the robe was a man—a man who desperately loved a woman who was right when she said that it was wrong for us not to be together.  Will you forgive me for running away from a love that no sacred vows could quench?”

She nodded, reaching for his hands.  “There’s nothing to forgive.  I know that it must have been hard for you to leave an institution you have known and served for most of your life but I truly believe that God has a great plan for your life.”

He pulled her closer and bent his head so that his forehead was resting against hers.  “Yes, I believe that He does and you are a big part of that plan.”

She closed her eyes as they stood there in the sunshine, silently thanking God for granting her the desires of her heart.

 

 

 

Sources:  American Magazine; Catholic Answers; Vox; EWTN; Catholic.com; Diocese of Trenton