Ready to Propose

Kay was on her way back to the office when she spotted Quinn sitting outside of the museum with a young woman.  She stopped in her tracks, her heart thudding as she feared that the premonition which had dogged her all week had come true.  It all started when Joanna kept insinuating that Quinn was having second thoughts about their relationship.

When the older woman found out that Kay and her younger brother were seeing each other, she was livid and she stopped talking to Quinn for weeks.  During that time, she made life miserable for Kay and there wasn’t much she could do because Joanna was now her boss.  She became manager after Rachel left the company for a more lucrative job in New York.  Joanna used her position to make things tough for Kay and several times she came very close to quitting but she needed the income.  Things eased up a little when Joanna and Quinn were back on speaking terms but every opportunity she got, Joanna would make remarks like, “You’ve been seeing each other for almost three years now and he still hasn’t proposed.” Or, “I see you’re still not wearing a ring.”

Yesterday when she made one of her snide remarks, Kay replied, “He loves me.”

“Apparently he doesn’t love you enough to propose.”

“He will propose when he’s ready.”

“And what if he doesn’t?  What are you going to do if he never proposes?  Continue to see him, hoping that he will change his mind?  You’re a smart woman, Kay.  Why don’t you stop fooling yourself and face facts?  Quinn hasn’t proposed to you as yet because he probably doesn’t intend to marry you.  It would be better for you if you ended things now before you get hurt.”

“You would like that, wouldn’t you?  You would like me to end our relationship but I won’t, Joanna.  I love Quinn and he loves me.  And he will propose when he’s good and ready.” And she walked away, fuming and shaking at the same time.  Joanna was like a thorn in her side, constantly tormenting her but she couldn’t allow her to get to her.

This morning she heard Joanna say to Jenny, her secretary, “I ran into Wendy, an old friend on Monday.  She was with her younger sister, Lizette.  Wendy and I hadn’t seen each other for a very long time so I invited them over for dinner just to catch up.  I was hoping that Quinn would join us but he had other plans.  I’m thinking of inviting him over lunch on Sunday and have him meet Lizette.  They would make such a nice couple.”

“But, Quinn and Kay are dating,” Jenny objected.

“Oh, that relationship isn’t going anywhere,” Joanna replied, dismissively.  “They have been dating for a while now and he hasn’t asked her to marry him as yet.  I think he will get tired of her and dump her.  And when he does, Lizette will take her place.”

Kay didn’t wait to hear any more.  She headed for the washroom which was empty at the time and after locking herself in one of the stalls, she burst into tears.  She was crying not only because the words hurt—cutting into her like a knife but they brought to the surface the fears that she herself had been harboring lately.  As co-workers, friends and relatives got married after dating for a shorter period than Quinn and her, she began to wonder when it would be her turn.  He had not broached the subject of marriage and she didn’t want to bring it up.  It didn’t help when friends and family asked her, “When are you and Quinn getting married?”  And she would always reply, “When we’re ready.”  Sometimes that answer was enough but other times, the follow-up question was, “And when do you think that’s going to be?”

Joanna’s remarks and the questions only fed her own doubts and insecurities about her relationship with Quinn.  He said he loved her but was it enough for him to want to marry her?  The physical side of their relationship was healthy and robust but she wanted more.  She wanted to be his wife, not just his lover.

She didn’t know how long she was in the bathroom stall but it was time to leave.  After wiping her eyes, she unlocked the door and stepped out.  Thankfully, no one was there. She washed her face and dried it.  She glanced at her watch.  It was noon.  She would take her lunch break now.

As soon as she got back to her desk, she donned her sunglasses to hide her red, swollen eyes and grabbed her handbag.  “I’ll be back in an hour,” she said to Jenny as she passed her desk.  Five minutes later, she was walking down the sidewalk to the café at the corner where they served amazing cappuccinos and delicious sandwiches.  She chose a table at the back in the corner.  Although she wasn’t really hungry, she ordered a spicy chicken sandwich, a salad and a hot chocolate.

As she sat there, hardly tasting the food, her mind went back to the day when she met Quinn at Joanna’s barbecue.  It was love at first sight for her and when he told her that he loved her on the night when she went over to his place after exchanging words with Joanna, she was thrilled.   Now she was beginning to wonder if his love for her was waning even if his desire wasn’t.  Was it possible to fall out of love with someone but still be physically attracted?  Then, she remembered watching a steamy love scene in a soap opera between two people who disliked each other intensely.  So, it was possible that Quinn could fall out of love with her but still want her—until that changed too…

Agitated, she pushed the plate away.   She left the café and stood outside the entrance for a moment before heading back to the office.  She wished she could go home instead.  It was a beautiful and mild winter day but she hardly noticed.  Preoccupied with thoughts that refused to go away, she crossed the courtyard leading to the museum.  And then, she spotted them…

Quinn looked very handsome in the blue turtleneck sweater which she had given him for his birthday last year.  And the woman was dressed in a chunky pullover sweater.  Her chestnut hair fell in thick waves about her shoulders.  Quinn was looking very intently at her as she talked animatedly to him.  She looked to be in her early twenties.  Kay stood there, unobserved, watching them, her fingers tightening around the strap of her handbag as jealousy coursed through her.  Who was the redhead and what was Quinn doing with her?

She ought to go over there and find out but she didn’t want to make a scene.   Instead, she stood there, letting her imagination run wild. The ringing of her cell jolted her and she quickly fished it out of her handbag.  “Hello?”

It was Jenny.  “Where are you?” she asked.  “We have a meeting in ten minutes.”

Darn.  She had completely forgotten about the meeting.  “I’m on my way.” She ended the call and dropped the phone back in her handbag.  After looking over at the two figures at the table, she turned and walked away.

She barely got back to the office in time for the meeting and she sat there, finding it hard to concentrate.  All she could think about was Quinn and the woman.  Fortunately, she didn’t have to say anything. Joanna did most of the talking.  As soon as the meeting was over, Kay went to her desk and after a slight hesitation, she picked up the phone and called Quinn.  His cell rang for a long time.  She hung up, crestfallen.

Quinn glanced at his watch.  “Louisa, I really must be going.  Do you need a lift anywhere?”

She shook her head.  “No, Uncle Quinn, I drove.  Thanks for meeting me and listening to me go on and on about Dave.”

“I hope things work out between you two.”  He reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell to check for messages.  He flipped it open and saw that there was a missed call from Kay.  He would call her when he was alone.  He closed his phone and reached for his jacket.

“Thanks, Uncle Quinn.  I was so busy talking about my life and my problems that I didn’t even ask you how you’re doing,” she added.  “Have you met that special woman as yet?”

He nodded.  “Yes, I have.  We met three years ago at your Aunt Joanna’s barbecue.  The moment I saw her, I knew that she was the one.  Tonight, I’m going to ask her to marry me.”

“That’s wonderful.”

“I have a photo of her.”  He reached into the breast pocket of his jacket and took out his wallet.  He flipped it open and took out a photo which he handed to her.  She took it and stared at it.  It was a nice photo of Kay sitting at a table of an outdoor restaurant, holding a glass of what looked like Cranberry juice in her right hand and her left hand propping up her face.  She was laughing at something.

“What a lovely photo.”

“We were on our first date.  I asked the waiter to take it and I told her to pretend that he wasn’t there.  I said something which made her laugh and that was when he took it.”

“I can’t wait to meet her,” she said as she handed the photo back to him.

“You’ll meet her before the wedding.”

“Does she have any idea that you’re going to propose tonight?”

“None.  We’ve never talked about marriage.  She probably thinks that I don’t want to marry her.”

“Why would she think that?”

“I’m sure your Aunt Joanna has something to do with it.  For some incomprehensible reason, she dislikes Kay.”

“She never liked Mom either.”

“Your aunt wanted your Dad to marry a woman she felt was more suitable for him but he was adamant about marrying your mother just as I am adamant about marrying Kay.”

“My Dad adored my mother just as you obviously adore Kay.”  When they stood up, she hugged him tightly.  “I wish you all the best, Uncle Quinn.”

“Thank, Louisa.  Call me anytime you need to talk.” He watched her walk away before he went in the opposite direction.  When he got into his car, he took out his phone and called Kay.

She answered on the third ring.  “Hello, Quinn.”

“Hello, Darling.  I’m sorry I missed your call.”

“I just called to say hi.”

“Are you all right?  You sound a bit subdued.”

“I’m all right, just a bit tired.”

“Are we still on for tonight?

“Yes.”

“Good, I’ll see you at seven.  I love you. ”

“I love you too.”

He rang off and turned the key in the ignition.  As he drove off, he thought how strange she sounded on the phone.  No doubt Joanna was the cause.  He was looking forward to this evening and the expression on Kay’s face when he proposed.  His heart leapt at the thought.  He was on his way now to pick up the ring he had custom made especially for her.  It took several trips to the jewelry store, different designs before he settled on the one that he knew was perfect for her and it cost a lot but she was worth it.

It was six-thirty.  After taking a long and unenthusiastic look at herself in the mirror, she grabbed her coat and left her flat.  Half-hour later, she was standing in front of Quinn’s door.  She rang the bell and her heart leapt in her throat when the door opened and he stood there, looking gorgeous in the ribbed grey sweater and dark blue jeans.  His hair was slightly damp.  He smiled and stepped aside to let her in.  As soon as he closed and locked the door behind her, he pulled her into his arms and began to kiss her.  Groaning and unable to help herself, she pressed against him and eagerly kissed him back.

Quinn unbuttoned her coat and dragged it off as he continued to plunder her lips.  It was tossed on the floor and his arms went around her waist, holding her close as they exchanged feverish kisses.  This continued for several minutes and then, he drew back to gaze down at her, his face flushed, breathing heavily.  “I wish we could continue this in the bedroom,” he muttered thickly, his eyes dark with desire, “but I think we should have dinner now before it gets cold.” He released her to pick up her coat and hang it in the closet.

She stood there, trembling, trying to catch her breath and her legs felt like jelly.  If he hadn’t pulled back, she would have let him make love to her right there in the foyer or wherever he wanted.  He made her lose her head when she wanted to keep it clear as she confronted him about that afternoon.  “Quinn, we need to talk.”

He closed the closet door and went over to her, his expression serious.  “What’s on your mind?” he asked.

“Who’s the young woman I saw you with this afternoon?”

He frowned.  “You saw us?”

“Yes.  I was on my way back to work after having lunch and—”

“Did you have lunch alone?”

“Yes.”

“I wish I had known that you were going to be in the area.”

She looked at his warily.  “Why?”

“Then, I would have taken you to lunch myself or asked you to join Louisa and me.”

“Louisa?”

“Yes, Louisa, my niece.”

“Your niece?” She repeated.  “The young woman I saw you with was your niece?”

“Yes, she’s Arthur’s daughter.  I’ve mentioned him to you before.  He’s my half-brother from a previous marriage.”

“When I saw you with her, I thought…” her voice trailed off and she lowered her head, feeling awful.

He hooked his finger under her chin and raised her face until their eyes met.  “Kay, I love you,” he told her quietly.  “I would never do anything to hurt you.  Since I met you, I haven’t looked at another woman.  The first time I saw you, I knew that you were the woman for me.  I loved you from that moment and haven’t stopped loving you since.  Soon after we started seeing each other, all I could think about was how much I wanted to be with you, marry you, have kids with you and grow old with you.  I know that Joanna has been feeding you a lot of lies but she can’t hurt you if you don’t let her.  Promise me, Kay, that from now on, you won’t let her or anyone else come between us.”

Tears sprang to her eyes.  “I promise.”  Her voice was barely above a whisper.  He said he wanted to marry me.

He lowered his head and kissed her tenderly on the lips before he led her over to the dining-room.  After he pulled out the chair for her to sit, he went into the kitchen and got dinner ready.  The table was beautifully set with two burning candles, glasses, a bottle of wine, napkins and dinnerware.  It reminded her of the elegant and romantic French restaurant they went to a couple of times.  He served dinner and after they lifted their glasses in a toast, they enjoyed a scrumptious meal, followed by a light, airy, and refreshing dessert.  While he stacked the dishwasher, she relaxed on the sofa.

A few minutes, he put on a CD before joining her on the sofa.  The mellow sounds of smooth jazz filled the room and he leaned back, putting his arm around her shoulder.  She rested her head against him.  They sat like that for a while, the only sound was the music and then he got up, excusing himself.  He left the room for a moment and returned a few minutes later.

Instead of resuming his seat next to her, he got down on one knee instead, making her gasp.  Her hand flew up to her mouth when she saw the small red box which he opened to reveal the most exquisite ring she had ever seen in her life.  He took it out and then he looked up at her, his expression very serious.  “Kay, I searched high and low for a ring for you but nothing I saw captured your beauty and your spirit.  So, I had a ring made especially for you.  This ring is one of a kind, just like you and it  symbolizes my love, devotion, passion and fidelity to you.  My life began the day I met you and it won’t be complete without you there to share it.  Will you marry me, Kay?”

She nodded, the tears rolling down her cheeks.  “Yes,” she gulped.  He took her hand and slipped the ring onto her finger.  It was a perfect fit.  He rose to his feet and pulling her to hers, he took her in his arms and kissed her.  She wrapped her arms around his neck and responded, her heart almost bursting with joy.  And the thought that went through her mind was…he was always ready to propose to me but, first he had to find the perfect ring to give me.

A Father’s Wish

The arias which always helped him to relax and enjoy his evenings did nothing to quell the uneasiness plaguing him.  He switched off the radio and the silence which followed was a painful reminder that he was alone.  It was near mid-night and she wasn’t home as yet.  Where on earth could she be?  He had tried calling her cell many times but it was turned off.  When he came home that afternoon, she wasn’t there but he thought nothing of it.  She was probably with her friends or at the library.  However, as it got late and she hadn’t come home or called, he began to get worried.  A couple of hours earlier, he looked across the street and saw a group of young people congregate outside of his neighbor’s home but she wasn’t among them.

He put off calling her friends because he didn’t want to come across as overprotective but eventually, he had no choice.  None of them knew where she was but promised to call him if they heard anything.  He closed his eyes in despair.  Tonight was supposed to be a special one.  He was going to tell her that he loved her but first they were going to enjoy the dinner he had prepared for them.  It was probably cold by now.  Oh, Rebecca, where are you?  Why don’t you call me?  It was not like her to do this.  He was out of his mind with worry.

The last time he felt like this was nine years ago when they were in the shopping mall and somehow they got separated.  One minute she was right there beside him and the next she was gone.  Frantic, he went through the mall, looking for her until finally, he went to the courtesy desk and asked them to make an announcement.

Ten minutes later, the embarrassed and distressed twelve year old showed up.  After hugging her tightly, they left the mall with him holding her hand in a firm grip.  He didn’t lecture her right away because she was visibly upset.  Suffice to say, they never got separated again whenever they went out together.

He would never forget the first time he met Rebecca.  She was eight at the time and it was at the company’s annual summer picnic.  Her father brought her with him that year.  It was two years after her mother died.  She and her father have moved out of the house and to a flat in the old neighborhood where he grew up.  He and her father worked together and over the years, they had become very good friends.  He always used to tell him, “I hope that Becky ends up marrying a good man like you, Noel.”

Rebecca stared up at him with those huge brown eyes and stole his heart.  So, three years later on that fateful day in the hospital when Clyde asked him to become her guardian he said yes.  Clyde died two days later and was buried next to his beloved wife.  Noel took Rebecca home and raised her as if she were his own daughter.  He was thirty at the time.

They had a very close and loving relationship. He took her to museums, concerts, operas, on day trips and the movies.  His life was never the same and he was thankful for that.  She filled his heart and home with such joy.  Whenever they visited her parents’ graves, he would silently thank Clyde for bestowing such an awesome responsibility on him and promised him that he would make sure that Rebecca married a good man.

He knew that she still missed her father, especially when it was his birthday or Father’s Day and she always talked about how conversant he was with movie classics and that it was from him that she developed her love for them.  So, whenever it was her father’s birthday or Father’s Day, they would watch old movies on TCM in his memory.

Things continued in much the same vein until Rebecca turned eighteen.  That’s when his feelings toward her began to change.  It became increasingly hard for him to be around her and not want her.  He continued to kiss her on the forehead as they bid each other goodnight every evening but how he ached to kiss her on the lips.  He considered sending her away to college in Washington, but quickly squashed the idea because their separation would be unbearable for him.  They still spent a lot of time together but he encouraged her to hang out more with people her own age.  At first, she protested, preferring to be with him like old times but he insisted so, she acquiesced.

He remembered one night when she came home from a friend’s birthday party and was aghast at the dress she was wearing.  Her hair was pulled up in a ponytail, she wore makeup, the gold earrings he had given her as a birthday present and the dress–if you could call it that, was short, hugged her figure and had fine straps.  Her cleavage was there for the entire world to see.

His face suffused with color and he took a deep breath before he muttered, “Please go and take off that dress.”

She went and ten minutes later, she was wearing a pair of pajamas, her face was scrubbed clean and her hair fell about her shoulders.  She watched him warily.  “You’re angry with me,” she said.

He dragged his fingers through his hair as he struggled to remain calm.  His heart was racing.  He wasn’t upset with her only but with himself because of his body’s response to seeing her in that dress.  He was relieved to see her in the pajamas because they were a bit loose on her.  “Rebecca, what were you thinking wearing a dress like that?”

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled.  “I wanted to look good.”

“Wanting to look good doesn’t mean you should expose yourself like that.  That dress was tacky.  You’re a beautiful young woman, Rebecca.  You don’t need to flaunt yourself in order to fit in.  I don’t care if your friends are wearing those kinds of dresses, I only care about you and so, I don’t ever want to see you in a dress like that ever again.”

She nodded.  “All right, Noel.  I won’t dress like that again, I promise.”

“Do you still have the receipt?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.  Tomorrow, I would like you to return it.  I’m surprised they sold it to you.”

“I’ll return it right after school.”  She went over to him, her eyes wide as they met his.  She put her arms around his neck and hugged him, burying her face in his chest.

At first he stood there, stiff as a board, unresponsive and then he put his arms around her waist and hugged her tightly, closing his eyes as strong emotions washed over him like a tidal wave.  After several tortuous minutes, he extricated himself and put a little distance between them, his eyes dark and stormy as they returned her gaze.  “Goodnight, Rebecca,” he said quietly.

“Goodnight, Noel.” She hesitated for a moment and then turned and walked out of the room.  He watched her go.  He had dared not give her the usual kiss on the forehead because he might have ended up devouring her lips instead.

The loud peal of the phone jolted him back to the present and he grabbed the receiver, his heart thudding.  “Hello?”

It was Chloe, one of Rebecca’s friends.  “Hello, Mr. Harding.  I’m sorry to be calling at such a late hour but I thought you might want to know that one of our friends saw Becky talking to a woman right outside of the university campus.  She said they looked like they were having words and then Becky ran off, very upset.”

“Did you friend describe what this woman looked like?”

“She said that she was blonde, stunning and drove a red Porsche.”

His fingers tightened around the phone.  Emma.  “Thank you, Chloe, for calling and letting me know.”

“Has Becky come home as yet?” She sounded very concerned.

“No, I’m afraid not.  When she does, I will have her call you in the morning.  Goodnight, Chloe.”

“Goodnight, Mr. Harding.”

As soon as he rang off from Chloe, he dialed Emma’s number, fuming.

“Hello, Noel.  Why are you calling me instead of coming over?”

He ignored her question.  “Why were you here this afternoon?”

“I stopped by to see you, of course.  Where were you?”

“What do you say to Rebecca?”

“Why what did she tell you?”

“I haven’t seen her since this morning and I’m out of my mind with worry.”

“Well, she’s probably doing this to spite you.  When I came by, she looked at me as if I were trespassing and when I told her that we were seeing each other, she as much as called me a liar.  So, I showed her a photo of the two of us together–you know the one I asked the waitress to take of us when were having dinner at that Italian restaurant? You should have seen her face.  I told her that she was only there because of the promise you made to her father–”

“How dare you tell her that?” he demanded furiously.  “I agreed to be her guardian because I loved her.   She means the world to me.  Damn you, Emma.  Don’t ever show your face around here again.”  He slammed the phone, shaking.  He could kick himself for ever getting involved with her.

He went to the window and looked out, his forehead pressing against the glass.  It was then in a moment of sheer desperation, that he mouthed a silent prayer, his eyes squeezed shut.

“Noel?” a timid voice called behind him.

Swinging around, he found himself staring at Rebecca.  For a moment, he thought it was a figment of his imagination.  Had God answered his prayer that quickly?  In a flash, he was across the room and pulling her roughly in his arms.  “Oh, Rebecca,” he moaned.  “Where have you been?  Have you any idea of the torment you’ve put me through?”  He drew back to stare down into her face.  She had been crying.  Her eyes were red and swollen.  Even now, tears were glistening in them.

“I’m-I’m sorry,” she cried.  “I didn’t mean to worry you but I was so upset this afternoon.  I had just come home from the library when I heard the doorbell.  It was a woman I’d never seen before.  She asked for you and when I asked her who she was, she told me that the two of you had been seeing each other.  I didn’t want to believe her and told her that she was lying.  She showed me a photo of the two of you and I realized that she was telling the truth.  I got so jealous and upset that after she left, I left too.  I couldn’t stay here.  I had to get out and go somewhere–anywhere.

“I went to Daddy’s grave and stayed for a long time, telling him about you and how much it hurt that you were with someone else.  On the day after my eighteenth birthday, I told him that I was in love with you and that I’d loved you since I was eight.  That day when I first saw you, I thought that you were the tallest and handsomest man I’d ever seen.   And you were so kind to me.  Next to my father, you were the only other person I really and truly loved.   I love my mother but I didn’t know her.

“Anyway, I told my father things that I never told another soul.  I know he can’t hear me but it helps to talk about things whenever I visit his grave.  I imagine that he’s listening.  This afternoon being at his grave didn’t help so I left there and went to the park you used to take me to when I was a child.  I sat in the same bench we used to sit on and I wished that you were there so that I could yell at you, let you see how much I was hurting inside.

“After I left the park, I just wandered all over the place, trying to forget about you and her but I couldn’t get the photo out of my mind.  You had your arm around her shoulders and you were smiling.  You looked happy…” her voice broke and a sob rose from her throat.  Tears fell afresh down her cheeks and she tried to push him away.

He caught her hands and held her immobile, his own emotions evident on his face.  “She doesn’t make me happy,” he told her thickly.  “You do.  My life wasn’t complete until you came into it, Rebecca.  You filled it with so much joy.  The moment I met you, my heart belonged to you.  I loved you as a father loves his beloved child but when you grew up, that love changed.  It turned into the love a man has for a woman.  What I’m trying to say, Rebecca, is that I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you–not as your guardian but as your husband.”

She blinked at him.  “You want to marry me?” she asked.

He nodded.  “Yes.”

“Oh, Noel,” she cried, her heart in her eyes which were sparkling now.  She reached up and kissed him on the mouth.

Groaning, he released her hands and cupped her face between his hands as he kissed her passionately, letting go of all the pent up feelings he had kept bottled up inside for so long.  For several minutes, they exchanged hungry kisses and then, he raised his head to gaze down at her, his face flushed and his eyes dark with desire.  “I won’t make love to you now although I want to very badly,” he muttered, breathing heavily.  “I want us to wait until we are married.”

Disappointment clouded her face.  She was on fire and ached for him.  “I don’t know if I can wait,” she admitted, trying to catch her breath.

“We’ve waited for four years, so six months wouldn’t hurt–”

Six months,” she exclaimed.  “That’s too long.”

“That’s when you turn twenty-two,” he reminded her.

“I can’t wait until then.”

“What about three months?”

“Two weeks.”

“A month.”

“What about three weeks?”

He smiled.  “All right, three weeks, it is.”

She smiled because they had reached a compromise.  In three weeks, she was going to marry the man she had loved for most of her life.  “I love you, Noel,” she whispered.

“I love you too, Rebecca,” he replied before he lowered his head and kissed her.

Three weeks later, as they faced each other at the altar in front of their friends and his family, he smiled as he imagined Clyde saying to him, “I got my wish, Noel.  My girl is marrying a good man.”

The Ring

“Keisha, is this a real word?” Spencer asked, glancing up from the board.

They were playing Scrabble but Keisha’s mind wasn’t on the game.  She was thinking about Johann and rehearsing in her mind how she was going to tell him that their relationship was over.  All of last night she wrestled with the decision, her heart breaking at the thought but she couldn’t continue seeing a man who was still hung up on his deceased wife.  The gold and diamond encrusted wedding band was a constant reminder of the woman who used to be her English professor.

“KEISHA!” Spencer’s shrill cry jolted her.

She glared at him, “You don’t have to yell,” she scolded him.

“Well, you didn’t answer my question.”

“Which was?”

“Is this a real word?”

She glanced at the board where the word ASSAY was spelled out.  “Yes, it is and I think it’s worth seven points.”

Spencer looked quite pleased.  “What does it mean?”

“It has several meanings such as to try out or test, to analyze or examine in order to judge, to evaluate and to try or attempt.”  She sighed.  “Spencer, I don’t feel like playing anymore.”

His lips pursed.  “Is it because I’m winning?”

“Of course not,” she retorted as she got up from the floor.  “I’m going out for a while.”  She walked out of the room.

Johann was in his study, sitting at his desk, with papers spread out in front of him but he couldn’t concentrate.  All he could think about was Keisha and how she had seemed a bit distracted last night when they were together.   He couldn’t shake the fear that she might be losing interest in him although last night their lovemaking had been as passionate as usual.  Was she seeing someone else?  The thought filled with him with dread and jealousy.

He leaned back in his chair, dragging his fingers through his hair.  He couldn’t bear the thought of losing her.  After losing Abby, he didn’t think he could fall in love again but fall he did and hard.  Agitated, he got up from the desk and began to pace restlessly about the room.  The first time he met Keisha was four years ago when he went to the university to meet Abby for lunch.  Keisha was with her in the classroom.

He remembered how Keisha stood in front of the congregation and recited Abby’s favorite poem Hope is the Thing with Features by Emily Dickinson before she gave a short and moving tribute.  When it was his turn to give his eulogy, he kept his eyes trained on her and it helped him to get through the though moments.  After the service, he went up to her and thanked her for being there.  He invited her to drive over to the cemetery with him.  It was comforting having her stand there beside him as they lowered the coffin and covered it.  When the funeral service was over, he asked her to go to the house with him.  He didn’t want to be alone.  They didn’t speak on the ride over or even when he let them into the bungalow.  He helped Keisha remove her coat and hung the coats in the closet.  “Where’s the kitchen?” she asked.  After he pointed it out, she went and put the kettle on.  She fixed them some hot chocolate.

They sat on the sofa for several minutes, not saying anything.  Having her there made a tremendous difference and he was grateful that she stayed with him for as long as she did.  Before she left, she fixed him something to eat and promised that she would drop by the next day.  Not surprisingly, he didn’t sleep well that night and was exhausted when he got up.  Keisha stopped by in the afternoon and he was happy to see her.  She brought over dinner she had prepared and after some coaxing, she got him to eat.  After they finished eating she stacked the dishes in the dishwasher and then joined him in the living-room.

She found him standing by the fireplace, looking at the frame photos.  He picked one up and took it over to the sofa, showing it to her when she sat down next to him.  It was a photo of Abby and him in what looked like an orphanage with beautiful children.  “That was taken on the day Abby found out that she was pregnant.  She looked so radiant.  We had been trying for a while and it finally happened.  She was over the moon because she wanted so much to be a mother.  And she would have been a terrific one too…” his voice broke.

“What happened?” Keisha asked gently.

“The baby was stillborn.  It was a boy.”

“I’m so sorry,” Keisha whispered.  She reached out and covered his hand with his.   “I can’t imagine how devastated the two of you must have been.”

“All Abby wanted to know what why did our son die and she was afraid to try again in case the same thing happened again.   The doctor explained that it was placental insufficiency.  She advised us to take time to grieve and to consult her before trying to conceive again.  It took a long time for us to get over the loss of our son but before she died, Abby told me that she wanted to get pregnant again.  It was great seeing the sparkle back in her eyes and then one afternoon that sparkle is gone for good…” His voice trailed off as he remembered the awful moment when he learned that Abby had been struck down by a car which ran a red light as she was crossing the street on her way to the drugstore.

Without saying a word, Keisha put her arms around him and held him as he sobbed.  They sat like that for a long time.  It soon became a regular thing for her to stop by and check up on him.   When he was ready, she helped him to sort through Abby’s clothes, trinkets, books, etc and pack them in boxes to donate to her favorite charities and the library.  And when he decided that it was time to sell the house and move to a flat, she went with him to find a new place and helped him to move in.  The first night he was there, she prepared something for them to eat and they sat on the balcony facing the Thames.  Getting through the first year was though, especially when it was Abby’s birthday and Christmas but having Keisha around helped tremendously.  They saw each other several times a week and by the following year he was beginning to live again.

He remembered the night when things between them changed.  It was after dinner and he was getting the movie that they were going to watch ready.  She joined him as usual on the sofa.  They watched the movie and then it was time for her to go because it was a Sunday night and it was work the next day.

At the door, she wished him a goodnight but this time, she reached up and kissed him on the cheek.  When she drew back, he was staring at her and she swallowed when she saw the expression on his face.  Wordlessly, he caught her by the shoulders and pulled her against him.  She watched mesmerized as his lips got closer until they were moving on hers.  Closing her eyes, she put her arms around his neck as she kissed him back.  The kisses became passionate and they were clawing at each other as feelings that had been held in check leapt to the surface.

He closed his eyes now as he remembered how they had made wild love on the rug in front of the fireplace.  She aroused passions in him he never even knew existed and that night was the first of many such trysts.   Suddenly the desire to see her overwhelmed him and he went over to the desk about to call her when the doorbell rang.  Frowning, he hurried from the study and went to answer the door.  His heart leapt when he peered through the keyhole and saw Keisha standing there.  Eagerly, he opened the door, his eyes running over her small frame.  “I was just about to call you,” he said as he stepped aside to let her in.  After closing and locking the door, he turned to face her.  “I’ve been thinking about you all day.”

“I wanted to talk to you about—you’re not wearing your ring,” she exclaimed, staring at his left hand which looked conspicuously bare.

He glanced down at his hand and then back at her.  “I took it off last night when I came home.  It’s in a box in my bureau.”

“Why did you take it off?” She asked.

“I’m ready to move on—with you,” he told her.  “I love you, Keisha.  I didn’t think I could be lucky to find love a second time but I did.”

Tears sprang to Keisha’s eyes.  “I love you too, Johann.  And, to be honest, I came here this afternoon to break up with you because I thought you weren’t ready to move on.  I felt that you were still hung up on Abby and that there was no room for me.  Now that I am saying this, I feel so ashamed.  I sound selfish and insensitive.  I’m so sorry.  You loved her for fifteen years.  I can’t expect you to let go of the memories and the love you have for her because of me and insecurities.  I think you should wear the ring.”

He took her hands and pulled her toward him.  “You’re not being selfish or insensitive.  If I were in your shoes I would probably feel the same way.  Abby will always have a place in my heart.  The memories will always be there and I will keep the ring but I’m fine with not wearing it anymore.  This bare finger is my way of letting you know that I’m ready to move on.”

She smiled through her tears.  “I hope that I can make you as happy as Abby did.”

“You make me happy in a way no one else can,” he assured her huskily, cupping her face between his hands before lowering his head to kiss her.

Two years later, they got married and after returning from their honeymoon in the Bahamas, they got the news that Keisha was pregnant–with twin girls whom they named Abby and Alyssa.  And to date, Johann still hasn’t worn the old ring.  It is still in the box in the bureau in their new home.

Sources:  Baby Centre; Baby Med

A Little Bit Brave

Charmaine was waiting at the bus stop on her way home when a sleek black Rolls Royce drew up.  As she stared curiously at it, the window rolled down and Dorian Breckenridge stuck his head out.  Immediately, her heart began to pound wildly.  He had that effect on her.  He was her best friend, Ella’s uncle.  They met last year at Ella’s brother’s wedding.

For Charmaine the attraction was immediate.  All evening she watched him, thinking how foolish she was to set her sights on a man who was out of her league.  He was very handsome, sophisticated and much older than her. He was seen in the company of beautiful and elegant women.  She was just a university student still living at home with her parents.  There was no way that a man like him would be attracted to her.  To him, she was just a girl, the same age as his niece.

She walked over to the car now and stared down at him, her heart melting when he smiled up at her.  “Where are you heading?” he asked.

“I’m on my way home.”

“Hop in,” he said, “I’ll give you a lift.”  He quickly got out of the car and held open the door for her to climb in.  He slid in beside her and closed the door.  As the car merged into the traffic, he tapped on the glass partition.  “Henry, we’re going to be making a stop.”  He turned to her, “What’s your address?”  After she gave it to him, he relayed it to Henry who nodded before closing the partition.

She glanced shyly at him, wondering if her heart would fall out of her chest because it was beating so hard and fast.  Her hands were clasped tightly together in her lap because she was afraid that he would notice that they were trembling.  “Thank you for the lift,” she said.

He smiled.  “It’s my pleasure,” he assured her.  His eyes flickered over her small frame, thinking how lovely she was.  Straight, long hair framed a beautiful face with the most amazing eyes he had ever seen.  His fingers itched to caress her face, curious to see if the skin felt as soft and smooth as it looked.  Forget it, he chided himself, she’s too young for you.  He quickly turned his head and gazed out of the window, a muscle throbbing along his jaw-line.  “How have you been?”

“I’ve been busy with my studies,” she said, looking at him, unable to help herself.  He had thick dark auburn hair with grey at the sides, making him even more attractive.

“What are you studying?” he asked.  He turned to look at her.

“Journalism.”

“Which area of journalism are you interested in?”

“Print.  I’m like writing.  Ella was encouraging me to do Broadcast but I’m way too shy to be in front of a camera.”

He smiled.  “When do you graduate?”

“Next year June.”

“So, what do you like to do when you’re not studying?”

“I read a lot.  I just finished reading a book about Rube Goldberg.  One of the things that struck me about him was how badly he wanted to go to New York City because it was the perfect place for cartoonists.   It took a lot of courage for him to leave the West Coast where his cartoons were growing in popularity to go to New York City although he hadn’t received an offer from a publisher there.  I don’t think I could just leave my family and friends and move to another city without any job offers.”

“I personally believe that if you want something badly enough, you must be willing to take a chance for it.  Are you free Saturday evening?” he heard himself ask.  He had to see her again.  It wasn’t enough seeing her occasionally at parties, dinners and barbecues.  He wanted to see much more of her.  In fact, in spite of their age difference, he was seriously considering having a relationship with her.

She nodded, her eyes questioning as they met his.

“Would you like to go with me to see Carmen?”

Pulse racing, she nodded again, unable to hide the excitement in her eyes.  “Yes.”

“Good.  I’ll pick you up at five.”

They had reached her house and he got out of the car to hold the door open for her.  As she climbed out, their eyes met and held for several minutes.  “Th-thank you for the ride,” she stammered, her heart racing.

His eyes darkened on her face.  “Don’t mention it,” he said quietly.  “I’ll see you on Saturday.”

“Yes.”  She turned and walked quickly to the front door, pausing to watch the Rolls Royce as it drove away.  A big smile broke out on her face.  Dorian Breckenridge had asked her to go to the opera with him.  He had asked her out on a date.  She couldn’t believe it.  When she let herself in, she had to turn on the light beside the door.  Her parents were on vacation in Miami so she had the house all to herself.  As she climbed the stairs to her room, she kept replaying in her mind, the words, would you like to go with me to see Carmen?  Then her thoughts turned to what she was going to wear.

As soon as she got to her room, she made a beeline for the wardrobe and looked through the clothes hanging there until she came across a burgundy lace dress with long sleeves.  This would do nicely, she thought.  It reached her just above the knees.

She wanted to call Ella and tell her about the date but decided that it would be best to keep it to herself.   Besides, she didn’t know if anything would come of it.  For all she knew he had intended to take someone else but she couldn’t make it so he asked her instead because he didn’t want the tickets to go to waste.  She brushed aside the negative thoughts and after taking a quick shower, she went downstairs and fixed herself dinner.  Afterwards, she relaxed on the sofa, the television on but her mind elsewhere.  She willed Saturday to come quickly so that she could see Dorian again.  She didn’t know how she would be able to concentrate on her studies.  At eleven, she went to bed but lay awake for a while before finally falling asleep.

The following day at university, she went through the motions and was relieved when it was over and she went home.  She washed her hair and set her dress out and the shoes she was going to wear with it.  That night she was too excited to sleep and it was after one in the morning when she drifted off.  She got up early and busied herself with cleaning the house and laundry.  The day seemed to drag but soon it was time to get ready.  Excited, she showered and put on her dress.  It fitted her snugly and she pulled her hair back in a French twist with a few strands across her forehead.  No makeup, only lip-gloss.  Tiny gold earrings studs in her ears were the only pieces of jewelry she wore.

Satisfied with how she looked, she grabbed her handbag and went downstairs.  She opened the coat closet and was just buttoning her coat when the doorbell rang.  Heart racing, she went into the foyer and opened the door.  Dorian stood there, smiling at her.  “Good evening,” he said.

“Good evening.”  She turned and locked the front door before she preceded him down the steps.  As she got closer to the parked car, she realized that it wasn’t the Rolls Royce.  It was a different car.

“It’s just the two of us this time,” he remarked as he held the door open for her.  “And I thought it would be nice to drive my own car for a change.”

She smiled as she climbed into the car, delighted that they were going to be alone.  As she settled in the seat and fastened her seat-belt, she was tempted to pinch herself.  She still couldn’t believe that she was going out with him.

Carmen is over three hours long so I made reservations for dinner first at a nearby restaurant,” he said when he got in the car.  “I hope you don’t mind.”

She shook her head at once.  “No, I don’t mind at all.”   It thrilled her to no end that she was going to have dinner with him. He took her to a classic French brasserie in the heart of Covent Garden’s opera quarter.  Its true Parisian style décor and warm welcoming atmosphere made the restaurant an instant favorite for her.

She smiled when she saw his eyes travel over her after he helped her off with her coat.  As they followed the waiter to a table near the window, she felt his hand on her elbow and when he held her chair out for her, he murmured quietly, “You look very lovely.”

“Thank you.”  His compliment stirred all sorts of feelings in her and she fit a curious sensation at the pit of her stomach and she was thankful to sit down because her knees felt weak.  When he sat down, she couldn’t help admiring how he looked in the charcoal grey suit and a black turtleneck sweater.  He oozed class and sophistication.

“I’m afraid we have only an hour to have our dinner,” he said apologetically after the waitress brought the menus.  “Fortunately, it’s less than a five minute walk to the theatre.”

They had only the main course from the theater menu and skipped dessert.  It was a quarter to seven when they reached the theater.  Charmaine had never been to the theater before so she was very excited when she walked into the auditorium and saw the red curtains of the stage, the stunning ceiling, the glittering gold of the proscenium arch and the red and gold lights.  Dorian smiled when he saw her gazing around her in wonderment.  “This is the first time I’ve ever been in a theater,” she told him as she saw down.

He settled his tall frame beside her.  It pleased him that her first experience at the theatre was with him.  There were so many wonderful things he wanted her to experience with him but for the present, he wanted her to enjoy this moment.  The lights began to dim and he settled back in his seat.  The curtains rose and the show began.

During the intermission, he leaned over and inquired, “So, are you enjoying it?”

She turned to him, her eyes shining.  “Yes,” she said.  “I love the singing, the story, the costumes—everything.”

He smiled.  “Good.”

They talked a little about the show and then it was time for it resume.  At the end, there was thunderous applause and a standing ovation.  Charmaine blinked back the tears as she clapped.  As Dorian helped her with her coat, she remarked, “Although it ended in tragedy, next to Romeo and Juliet, Carmen has become one of my favorite love stories.  I felt sorry for Micaëla who loved Don Joséand I felt sorry for him because of how Carmen treated him.”

“Yes, it would have been best for the three of them if Don José and Carmen had never met.”

They walked to the car which, thankfully, was not parked far from the theater.  The temperature seemed to have dropped and she was grateful for the warmth of the car.  When they were standing outside of her parents’ home, she turned to face him after unlocking the door and turning on the porch light so that they could see each other clearly.  “Thank you for a lovely evening,” she said huskily.

He looked her, “It was my pleasure,” he told her quietly.  “Charmaine, how do you feel about being in a relationship with a man who is much older than you?”

She swallowed hard, her heart pounding.  “On top of the world,” she informed him.

He reached for her hands and drew her closer to him, his eyes gazing into hers.  “I’ve wanted to be in a relationship with you ever since we met but our age difference prevented me but this evening I made up my mind that I was going to follow my heart.”

“I’m happy you did,” she confessed.  “For the longest time, I’ve wanted you to notice me but didn’t think I stood a chance—not when you were used to be around older and more glamorous women.”

“The first time I saw you, my heart skipped a beat and whispered to me, ‘she’s the one’.  When I was with those other women, my mind was filled with thoughts about you and my heart ached to see you again.  And every time we saw each other, we never had a chance to be alone.  It was quite by chance that I saw you on Tuesday.  Usually, I would have my face buried in a newspaper or papers but I didn’t feel like doing anything except to relax and enjoy the ride.  When I spotted you at the bus-stop, I couldn’t believe my luck and seized the opportunity to be with you.  And as for the tickets to Carmen, I ordered those after we dropped you home.  Fortunately, the seats hadn’t filled up as yet.  Carmen was my excuse to see you again.”

“It was by pure chance that I was waiting at the bus-stop.  Usually, I would take the tube because it was faster but I decided to take the bus instead because it was a nice, mild day.  When I saw you, I was so thrilled because I didn’t know how long I would have to wait before I saw you again.”

“Well, we don’t have to wait to see each other,” he said huskily.  “If you’re free tomorrow, I would like to take you to the British Museum and then for lunch afterwards.”

“I’m free tomorrow and every afternoon during the week,” she told him. “I’ve never been to the British Museum.”

“Then, it’s settled.  I’ll pick you up at eight.  Goodnight, Charmaine.”

“Goodnight, Dorian.”  He was holding her hands and staring into her eyes.  Was he going to kiss her?  With all her heart, she hoped so.  It would be the perfect end to a perfect evening.

As if he had read her mind, he lowered his head and kissed her.  It was tentative at first but when he felt her eager response, it deepened.  He released her hands to cup her face as his lips moved passionately on hers.  She put her arms around his waist and pressed against him, her senses spinning.  How true the words, “No one ever fell in love without being a little bit brave.”  She concluded that she must be very brave because when she fell in love with Dorian she had no clue that he felt the same way.

 

Sources:  Rube Goldberg: Inventions; Royal Opera House

Trespassing

He sat at the back of the car, gazing out of the window, his mind miles away, when he spotted her walking through the fields.  What on earth was she doing there?  He tapped on the glass partition.  “Please pull over, Rodney.”  The car slowed and then pulled over to the side of the road.  “I’ll be right back,” he promised before he opened the door and stepped out.

Oblivious that she had been spotted and that someone was approaching her, she walked through the field dotted with bright yellow daffodils, her mind elsewhere.  She had a fight with Tyson and after storming out of his flat, she decided to go for a drive in the countryside to let off some steam.  It was quite by accident that she came across this field and on the spur of the moment, decided to stop her car at the side of the winding road and make her way through it.

It was very peaceful out there and it helped her to think clearly.  It was no use remaining in a relationship that wasn’t going anywhere.  She didn’t love Tyson and he didn’t love her.  They were just prolonging the inevitable.  She made up her mind then and there that they should go their separate ways.

“Are you lost?” A voice asked, startling her and she swung around to see to whom it belonged.

She found herself staring at a tall, athletic, extremely good-looking man, well dressed in an expensive dark blue shirt and black trousers.  He had thick, dark hair, a swarthy complexion and classic features.  He looked either Greek or Italian and in his late thirties or early forties.  A quick glance at his hand told her that he wasn’t married.  She realized that she was staring and that he was waiting for an answer to his inquiry.  She shook her head.  “No, I’m not lost.  I was driving by, saw this place and decided to stop.”

“You’re trespassing, you know.”

“Trespassing?”

“Yes, this is private property.  Didn’t you see the sign over there?” he asked, pointing behind her.

She looked back and it was then she noticed a sign saying, Private Property.  No Trespassing.  She turned to face him again.  “No, I didn’t see it.”

He was watching her with a suspicious expression on his face.  “It’s hard to miss.”

Clearly he didn’t believe her and her lips pursed in indignation.  “As I said, I didn’t see it.  If I had, I would have turned around and climb right back in my car.  I don’t want to get in trouble with anyone for trespassing on their property.”

“What’s your name?” he asked, surprising her.

“Do you want it so that you can report me?” she asked.

He smiled.  “No,” he assured her quietly.  “I’m asking out of curiosity.”

“Roberta.”

“Alexis,” he said, holding out his hand.

She shook his hand.  “You’re Greek.”

He nodded.  “Yes.  What brings you all the way out here, Roberta?”

“I needed to get away for a while, to clear my head.”

“Are you in some kind of trouble?”

“No.  I had a fight with my boyfriend, that’s all.”  Why on earth was she telling her business to this perfect stranger?  He was still holding her hand and his eyes were intent on her face.  He was very disarming.  Her pulse was racing and her heart was pounding.

“I’m sorry, Roberta.  I didn’t mean to pry.”  He released her hand.

“Maybe I should go—”

“No, please don’t.  Stay a little while longer.”

“But, I’m trespassing.  What if the owner catches me and—”

“Don’t worry about him.”

“You know him?”

“Yes, I do.  He’s a reasonable man.  Excuse me for a moment.”  He whipped out his phone and walked a little distance from her.  “Rodney, I won’t need the car for the rest of the afternoon.  See you in the morning.  Thank you.”  He flipped his cell closed and slipped it back into the breast pocket of his shirt.  When he joined her, he asked, “I’m going for a walk, would you care to join me?”

She hesitated.

“We won’t go far.  Just up to the hills over there.”

“Okay.”  She fell into step beside him.  The countryside was beautiful with its rolling hills and fields of yellow flowers.  “Do you come here often?”

“Yes, I do, especially on the weekends.”

“I envy the people who live in the countryside.  After working in the city it must be nice to get away and come home to peace and quiet.  And the scenery is breathtaking.”

He was looking at her.  “Do you love him?”

She glanced at him, confused.  “Who?”

“Your boyfriend.”

She lowered her eyes.  “No.  I think we’ve outgrown each other.   We fight a lot and we’re not happy.  It’s time we ended the relationship.”

“Ending a relationship is always tough but sometimes it’s for the best.”

“Tyson and I have known each other since high school.  We dated on and off.  Now that I think about it, when we were just friends, things worked perfectly between us but the moment we decided dating, things went downhill.  Now, things have gotten so bad that I don’t think we can even be friends.   When two people are not meant to be, it’s best they don’t force it.  We should never have gotten involved with each other but remained just friends.”

He studied her, his eyes taking in every detail of her features, thinking that there was no way that he could be just friends with her.  He was deeply attracted to her and the desire to see her again was overpowering.  “Are you busy this Saturday?” he heard himself ask.

“No.”

“The owner of this property is having a costume ball and I would like you to come…as my guest.”

She stared at him.  He was serious.  He really was inviting her to a costume ball.  Immediately, her mind conjured up images of people dressed as kings, queens and fictional characters.  She had never been to a ball before and the idea of dressing up thrilled her.  “I’d like to come,” she said, smiling.

He reached into his pocket and took out a card which he handed to her.  It was an invitation to the ball.  “Do you know who you will come as?” he asked.

She considered for a moment.  “I think I’ll come as Tiana from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog.  I’ve watched the movie with my niece and loved it.  And it’s not every day that you get to dress up as a princess.  What about you?”

“I don’t know as yet.  I guess you’ll have to wait and see”

She glanced at her watch.  “I really must go now.”

“I’ll walk you to your car.”

When they were standing beside her car, she held out her hand.  “It was nice meeting you, Alexis.”  He had the most amazing eyes—they reminded her of rich, dark chocolate.

He grasped her hand.  “It was a pleasure meeting you.  I look forward to seeing you at the ball.”

“Thanks for inviting me.”  It was hard to keep a clear head when he was holding her hand and staring at her.  Her heart was racing and she seemed to have a little trouble breathing.

He released her hand and watched as she climbed into her car, waving as she drove off.  The sun was beginning to set, casting an orange glow on the field.  He cut across it to get to the manor.

All the way home, Roberta thought of nothing else but about Alexis and the ball.  She couldn’t wait to see what costume he would be wearing.  She could see him as a dashing count or a Greek warrior or even a gladiator.  She had just pulled into her parking spot underground when her cell rang.  It was Tyson.  “I’m sorry about today, Roberta.  I said a lot of things I shouldn’t have.  It’s obvious that we don’t work as a couple.”

She sighed.  “I’m sorry about the things I said too.  And you’re right. We don’t work as a couple and it’s time we parted ways for good.  I wish you all the best, Tyson.  There’s a woman somewhere out there for you.”

“I wish you all the best too.  Take care.”

“Goodbye, Tyson.”  She ended the call and slipped her phone back in her bag.  It was finally over between them.  They were both free to move on with their lives.  As she got out of the car, she thought of Alexis and her heart skipped a beat.  Tomorrow after work, she was going to get her costume for the ball.

Saturday came and she was beside herself with excitement.  Every time she thought about seeing Alexis again, her heart somersaulted.  She took her time and put on her costume and then examined her reflection when she was done.  The dress hugged her slim figure and the wig with the few curls cascading about her face while the rest was pulled back suited her.  She smiled as she adjusted the tiara, quite pleased with how she looked and hoped that Alexis would be impressed.  Drawing quite a number of curious looks, she made her way to the garage.

When she drove up the graveled driveway, she couldn’t help marveling at the impressive Victorian mansion that loomed above her.  A parking attendant came to take her car.  Nervously, she climbed the steps to the large doorway where two footmen stood.  They reminded her of Cinderella.  Music, voices and laughter filled the air.  There was a man at the door who asked for her invitation.  She showed it to him.  Heart pounding, eyes wide as they scanned the large room where the guests were, she walked slowly through the doors.  She recognized Queen Elizabeth I, Mata Hari, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill and a host of others but there was one person she was just dying to see.  Where was he?

“Hello there,” a voice said behind her and she swung around, her expression brightening when she saw Alexis.  “You’re not wearing a costume!” she exclaimed.  He looked incredible in the black suit, black shirt and no tie.

He smiled.  “The host isn’t required to wear a costume,” he replied and saw her eyes widen.

“You mean this estate belongs to you?”

He nodded.  “Yes.  All of this was left to me—the only son of Demetrius Yannos.”

“Demetrius Yannos was your father?”  Demetrius Yannos was the media mogul who was listed among the world’s richest people and was featured in TIME Magazine as person of the year.  At the age of three, the self-made millionaire from the town, Galaxidi, migrated to England with his family.  At the age of forty he married a beautiful English model half his age and they had two children—a boy and a girl.  Five years ago, Demetrius died of a heart attack while vacationing in Mykonos with his wife.  The story was all over the news.

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you tell me who you were when we met?”

“I wanted you to be interested in Alexis, not Demetrius Yannos’ son.”

“I would be interested in you regardless of whose son you are,” she assured him.

His expression became serious as he returned her gaze.  “After meeting you on Monday, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you,” he confessed.  “I’ve been looking forward to this evening all week.”

She swallowed hard when he reached for her hand.  “It’s—it’s over between Tyson and me.”

“So, you’re free to date?”

“Yes.”

“Good.  Let me introduce you to some of the guests and then, I’ll get you something to drink.”  Still holding her hand, he took her over to different people and introduced her.  Some of them were people who worked for him, friends and relatives.  She met his younger sister, Diandra and her husband, Thomas.  They were dressed as Cleopatra and Marc Antony.  Diandra was fair like her mother and very pretty.

After making the rounds, meeting new people, Alexis got a non-alcoholic Sangria for her and they went out on the terrace to enjoy the mild evening.  “You look very beautiful tonight,” he told her.  He was leaning against the balustrade watching her as she gazed out at the sprawling grounds below.

She smiled at him, feeling a little self-conscious.  “Thank you.”  Her hands were feeling hot in the long white gloves so she removed them and draped them over the balustrade.  Her heart leapt in her throat when he took her glass from her hand and set it on the ground.  He took her hands in his and drew her closer to him.

“I want to be with you, Roberta,” he told her quietly.  “From the moment I met you and we started talking I knew that I wanted to be with you.  Do you feel the same way about me?”

She nodded, her heart thudding.  “Yes, Alexis,” she murmured breathlessly.

He pulled her into his arms and kissed her.  Freeing her hands from his, she wound them around his neck, kissing him back.  In the back of her mind she thought how true the words that, One day you will meet someone who will make you realize why it never worked out with anyone else.

 

 

Sources: WikipediaPinterest

Denying Love

Chase just finished having dinner with his girlfriend, Mia at her flat when his cell rang.  He plucked it out of his breast pocket and flipped it open, grimacing when he saw the number displayed.  “Hello, Alexa.”

“Hi, Chase, I’m sorry to be bothering you but I’m stuck here.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m outside of nightclub.  Chase, I hate to do this but could you come and pick me up?”

“What about Shawn?” Shawn was his brother who was married to Alexa’s sister, Karyn.

“They are in Florida for March break.”

“Did you go to the club alone?”

“No, I came with my friends.”

“So, why can’t one of them take you home?”

“They met some guys they really like and they don’t want to leave.”

“What about taking a cab?”

“I don’t have enough money for a taxi.  Chase, I’m really sorry to be putting you out like this but I have no other choice.”

He sighed.  “All right, I will come and get you.”

“Thanks, Chase.  I really appreciate this.  I’ll be waiting out front.”

“Where’s this club located?”  There was a pause as he listened.  “I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”  He rang off and snapped his phone shut before shoving it in his pocket, his eyes apologetic as they met Mia’s.  “I’m sorry,” he said to her.

“When are you going to stop letting Alexa take advantage of you?” she demanded.  “All she has to do is call you and you drop everything and go to her.”

Chase got up from the table.  “No one takes advantage of me,” he muttered tightly.  “She’s stranded and I’m just helping her out.”

She watched him suspiciously.  “Are you sure there’s nothing going on between you two?” she asked.  “It’s no secret that she has a thing for you but what about you? Do you have feelings for her?”

“Alexa is family,” he replied evasively.  “I really hate to eat and run but I have to go.  I will call you tomorrow.”  He walked over to her and kissed her on the lips before he let himself out of the flat.

On the ride down in the elevator, he thought about what she said.  If he were honest with himself, he would admit that he would do anything for Alexa and it wasn’t because she was family.  From the moment they first met ten years ago at Shawn’s wedding, he wanted her.  He tried to deny it because she was seventeen at the time and he was engaged.  Like Mia, Janet suspected that his feelings for Alexa were not platonic and she broke off the engagement.  She refused to marry a man who had feelings for someone else.  He had no idea how she could have suspected anything when he had tried so hard to hide his feelings, especially from Alexa herself.

Then he remembered that one unguarded moment when he thought that Alexa and he were alone.  As he started the engine, his thoughts went back to that evening two years ago.  It was at the family’s annual summer dinner and dance held at the family estate.  They had just finished having dinner and some of the guests were enjoying cocktails while others were dancing.  He wasn’t in the mood for dancing but Janet wanted to.  He accommodated her for a while and then excused himself.

He went out on to the terrace, thankful to be out in the fresh air—it was beginning to get a bit stuffy inside.   He leaned over the balustrade, gazing down at the courtyard which was illuminated in the bright sunshine.  It would be another hour or so before the sun set.  He didn’t hear her come up behind him until she was standing next to him.  “It’s a beautiful night, isn’t it?” she remarked, leaning against the balustrade, facing the direction she had just come from.

He straightened up at once, his expression guarded as he turned his head toward her.  “Is that why you’re out here instead of in there with what’s his name?”

“You mean Nigel.  I left him talking to Shawn.”

“Is it serious between him and you?” It was foolish of him to ask her that but he couldn’t help it.

“No,” she said, sounding surprised that he would ask such a question.  “We’re just friends.”

“I’ve seen the way he acts around you, Alexa.  He wants to be more than friends.” And who could blame him?  Unable to resist, his gaze traveled over her.  She looked stunning in the ankle length, black dress with the spaghetti straps and slit on the right side.  Her hair was in an up do, giving her an elegant look.  She looked older than nineteen.

“I’ll have to have a talk with him, then.”

“I’d better head back in,” he said.

“Why?” she asked, her head cocked to one side as she stared at him.  “Will Janet come looking for you if you’re not by her side in five minutes?”

He pursed his lips.  “I won’t stand here and listen to you make fun of Janet.”

“I’m not making fun of her.  She doesn’t like me.”

“And why should she dislike you?”

“Maybe she thinks that there’s something going on between us.”

“That’s ridiculous,” he exclaimed.

“What’s so ridiculous about it?” she demanded.

“I’m engaged.”

“So?  That doesn’t prevent me from being attracted to you and I’ve noticed the way you look at me sometimes.  Chase…”

“I’d better go back inside.”

“What are you afraid of?” she asked, moving so that she was standing in front of him.

His expression was tense.  “I’m not afraid of anything,” he muttered tightly.  His heart was pounding heavily.

“Why are you leaving, then?  Stay out here with me for a while longer, please, Chase.  It has been a while since we spent any time together.  I’ve been waiting all evening to be alone with you.  I saw you come out here and I followed you.” She moved closer.

“Alexa,” her name was a strangled whisper now and his hands, as if of their own volition, caught her by the shoulders and instead of moving her out of the way so that he could walk past her, he was pulling her toward him.  He saw her eyes drop to his lips, her own parting as he lowered his head to kiss her…

“There you are,” Janet’s voice was a bucket of cold water doused on them and they broke apart.  When she reached them, she looked from one to the other.  Then, putting her hand on his arm, she said, “I would like to leave now.  I’m feeling a bit under the weather.  I’ve already said our goodbyes to everyone so we can leave this way.”

He looked at Alexa, reluctant to leave her.  “Goodnight, Alexa,” he said quietly.

“Goodnight, Chase.”

Janet didn’t say anything to her and as soon as they got into the car, she said to him, “When I came out on the terrace, I interrupted something that was going on between Alexa and you, didn’t I?”

He looked at her but didn’t answer.  What could he say?  He couldn’t lie and say that she was imagining things.  They didn’t speak until they were parked outside of her building.

She turned to him.  “I don’t know what’s going on between the two of you but I want it to stop,” she said.

He stared at her.  “What do you mean?”

“I want you to stop seeing Alexa, Chase.”

“But, she’s family—”

“She’s Shawn’s family not yours.  He’s the one who married into her family.”

“Janet, you’re being unreasonable—”

I’m being unreasonable?” she exclaimed, incensed.  “What about you?  Every time I turn around you are with her.  She throws herself at you and you encourage her.  Chase, she’s nineteen years old.  She’s not even in university.  And what about us?  We are supposed to be planning our future together.  You’ve let Alexa come between us and I won’t stand for it anymore.  You have a choice to make.  It’s either her or me.”

He raked his fingers through his hair, his mind racing.  Finally, he muttered, “Janet, I’m sorry…”

She met his gaze for a moment, her eyes shining and then she slipped the ring off her finger.  She took his hand and pressed it into his palm before closing it.  “Goodbye, Chase.”  She turned, pushed open the door and walked out of his life.

For several minutes, he sat there, feeling awful because he hurt her.  He slipped the ring in the breast pocket of his jacket and fired up the engine.  After the break-up, he tried to stay away from Alexa but he couldn’t for very long.  He avoided being alone with her, though, because he was afraid that almost happened on the terrace would happen again.  He dated several women but nothing serious came of it.  Then, a year ago he met Mia, a Software Developer, whom he hoped would help him to get Alexa out of his system but it was no use.  He was in love with her and there was nothing he could do about it.

And here he was driving to a nightclub to pick up Alexa instead of relaxing with Mia after a romantic dinner.  Admit it, you would rather be with Alexa than with Mia or any other woman.  She was waiting outside on the building for him and when she saw him get out, she hurried over.  “I’m so glad to see you,” she said as he opened the door for her.  She saw his eyes travel over her figure in the black off the shoulder dress before she got in and he closed the door.  “I’m sorry you had to come and get me,” she added when he climbed in behind the wheel.  Her eyes flickered over him, thinking how sexy he looked in the white shirt which accentuated his swarthy complexion and how she would like to run her fingers through his thick dark hair.

“When you called I had just finished having dinner with Mia.  We were going to relax and watch a movie or something.”

Jealousy consumed her at the thought of the two them having a romantic, candlelight dinner at Mia’s place.  “I bet she wasn’t at all happy about you coming for me.  She doesn’t like me.”

“You said the same thing about Janet.”

“I’m happy you didn’t marry her.  She was all wrong for you.”

“What about Mia?”

“She’s not right for you, Chase.”

“And I suppose you know who’s right for me?”

“Yes.  I’ve known it for a very long time.”

His hands gripped the steering wheel.  “And who might this woman be?”

She looked at him.  “Me,” she said huskily.  “I’m right for you, Chase.  I’ve loved you for ten years.  It hurt seeing you with other women but I refused to give up.  I know that you have feelings for me.  I’ve seen the way you look at me and in spite of what you say, I know that you want to me with me as much as I want to be with you.  You didn’t love Janet and you don’t love Mia.”

They were at a stop light and he turned to her.  “You’re right,” he admitted.  “When I met you I realized that I didn’t love Janet and marrying her would have been a terrible mistake.  I care for Mia but I don’t love her.”

She reached out and touched his face.  “I love you, Chase.”

“I love you too, Alexa,” he muttered thickly before he leaned over and kissed her.  Her hands held his face as she responded wildly to his kisses.  This lasted until a horn blared behind them, forcing them to break apart.  “I loved you the moment I first saw you,” he admitted as he drove through the intersection that would take them to her apartment building.

She leaned her head back against the car seat, her senses swimming.  What she had hoped for and dreamed of had finally come true.  Chase loved her.  When they pulled into the parking lot and left the car, she slipped her hand in his, lacing her fingers through his.  After she let them into her flat and locked the door, she turned to him.

Wordlessly, they fell into each other’s arms and as they exchanged passionate kisses, he thought how true the words, “True love cannot be found where it does not exist, nor can it be denied where it does.” 

 

 

Source:  Brainy Quote

Sunrise on the Beach

A creature of habit, he went for a walk on the beach very early in the morning before the sun rose.  It was quiet and peaceful at that time and he could clear his thoughts.  This morning was different, though.  His mind was in turmoil.  He couldn’t stop thinking about her and what almost happened between them last night.  He wanted her but he couldn’t have her because she was his brother’s girlfriend.

Last night he watched them together when they were all in the drawing-room following a sumptuous dinner, jealousy eating him up.  When he saw Laurence put his arm around her waist, he wanted to go over there and pull them apart.  Instead, he rose abruptly to his feet and stalked out of the dining-room.  He went into the library where he planned to spend the rest of the evening.

He was sitting in the armchair, deep in thought when the door opened and Laila walked in.  He stiffened at once and a muscle began to pulsate along his jaw-line.  Involuntarily, his gaze swept over her slender frame in the short coral reef shade strapless mesh dress with the sweetheart neckline.  It reached just above her knees revealing a pair of long, shapely legs in impossibly high strappy sandals.  Her neck was long and graceful and her shoulders smooth.  Her skin was flawless.  Her hair cut short like a boy’s suited her.  She was an extremely beautiful woman and she took his breath away.  He tried to ignore the feelings she was stirring inside him and exuded a calm demeanor he was far from feeling.

“I hope I’m not disturbing you,” she said, going over to stand beside him.  “I saw when you left the room.  Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” he replied in a tight voice.  You disturb me more than you know.  “Laurence is probably wondering where you went off to.”  He wanted to insist that she leave him because he was afraid of what he might do if she stayed.

She shrugged.  “Laurence can do without me for a little while,” she said.  “I’d like to stay here and keep you company.”

He caught a whiff of her perfume which tantalized his senses with its blended scents of hyacinth and primrose. She was standing too close for comfort and he couldn’t hide the desire that was raging inside him. For one betraying moment, his gaze lowered to her mouth which he longed to ravish, especially when he saw it part invitingly.  He stood up.  Their bodies were inches apart and their heads were moving closer together.  In a few seconds, their lips would touch and he would taste the sweetness within…

Then sound of footsteps in the hall reached their ears and they broke apart.  He sank heavily back down in the chair, his face flushed and his heart racing while she moved closer to the bookcase.  Laurence went into the room, his eyes shifting first to her and then to his brother, his expression quizzical.  “So, this is where you two dashed off to,” he said.  “Father and Mother are about to cut the cake.  I’m sure you wouldn’t want to miss that.”  He took Laila’s arm.  “Aidan, are you coming?”

“Yes.” He stood up, his eyes avoiding her as he walked past them and out of the room, his back rod straight.  He would have preferred to stay in the library but it was his parents’ sixtieth wedding anniversary and it would look rather amiss if he were absent when they cut the cake.  He stood by the window, his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his jacket, watching as his parents beamed at each other as they got ready to cut the three tier cake.  Just then Laurence and Laila entered the room.  Unable to resist, his eyes lingered on her.  She seemed to be looking around the room.  Was she looking for him?  There wasn’t any doubt in his mind that Laila was attracted to him and if Laurence hadn’t walked in when he had…

The thunderous applause jolted him and he dragged his eyes away from Laila to see his parents kiss before they cut the cake.  He went over and congratulated them.  He stayed and mingled with the guests until they left and then, he escaped to his room.  He lay there for a long time, staring up at the ceiling and trying to put what almost happened between Laila and him out of his mind.  It was almost one in the morning when he finally dozed off.

He woke up at his usual time which was just before sunrise and made his way down to the beach.  It promised to be a beautiful morning but it did nothing to lift his spirits.  He removed his loafers and left them in the sand while he walked to the water’s edge.  He stood gazing at the calm ocean, wishing that was how he felt inside.  Of all the women in England, why did he have to fall in love with her?

Sighing heavily, he dragged his fingers through his hair.  Right now he felt guilty because of Laurence but bitter disappointment because of what could have happened if only they hadn’t been interrupted.

Just then the sun appeared as a bright yellow ball above the ocean, illuminating its calm waters.  It was one of the most magnificent sunrises he had ever seen and he found himself wishing that Laila was there to enjoy it with him.  Frustrated with himself, he quickly removed his clothes and ran stark naked into the water to cool off.  It felt great against his skin and he floated on his back for several minutes, closing his eyes.

Laila sat there watching him.  She had followed him after she saw him leave the house.  She knew that he was heading for the beach.  It felt a bit cool at first when she came out into the early morning air and was glad that she was wearing a light jacket.  She made sure he didn’t see her and kept close to the rocks, watching him as he walked along the sandy shore.  He was bare feet.  His shoes were in his hands.  He was dressed in a long sleeve tee shirt and a pair of jeans.  He stopped and turned toward the ocean, standing there for a few minutes.  Then, she gasped when she saw him strip and walk naked into the ocean.  Her heart began to pound as she watched him wade out into the water before he disappeared under its surface.

Suddenly, she was feeling hot and she pulled off her jacket.  She wanted to get from where she was perched on the sandy slope and join him but there was the possibility of the water being a bit too cool for her liking.  She decided to stay put and just watch him.

Last night she hadn’t been able to sleep.  All she could think about was how much she wanted him to kiss her and he would have if Laurence hadn’t interrupted them.  Laurence knew that she was in love with Aiden and he teased her about it.  Last night, much to her chagrin, he put his arm around her waist and pulled her closer to whisper in her ear, “I know that my little brother is besotted with you but he wouldn’t do anything about it because he thinks that you and I are in a relationship.”

She turned to stare at him.  “Why does he think that?” she asked.

“I may have alluded to it.”

“Why would you do that?”

“To get a rise out of him.”

“Is that why you’ve been flirting with me all night?”

“He’s leaving.  I thought he would have come over here and punch me or something.”

She turned to see Aidan hurrying out of the room.  Grimacing, she removed Larry’s arm from around her.  “Well, you’ve succeeded in getting a rise out of me too.”

Laurence looked contrite.  “I’m sorry.  I was just trying to help things along.  You’ll find him in the library.  It’s where he always goes when he’s upset.”

“Thank you.”  She excused herself and quickly walked away.  Her heart thudded with each step as she headed for the library.  She found him sitting in the armchair  by the windows overlooking the courtyard.  He didn’t look pleased to see her but she didn’t mind.  Her desire to be with him trumped his desire to be alone.  She trembled now as she remembered when he stood in front of her and they were about to kiss.  How she longed to feel his lips on hers.  Darn Larry for spoiling the moment.

Aidan was coming ashore and she rose to her feet, her eyes riveted as she saw him walk over to where his clothes lay on, spread his shirt out and sit on it with his knees drawn, gazing out at the sea.  She sat there for the longest time watching him and debating whether or not to go down to him.

A gentle breeze was blowing and it was becoming warm.  He felt invigorated after the swim and now he sat there allowing the air to dry his hair and skin.  He glanced at his watch.  It was eight o’clock.  The others were probably awake by now.  He would head back in ten minutes.  Right now, he just wanted to enjoy his solitude…Something, he didn’t quite know what, alerted him that he wasn’t alone anymore and he swung round, his face going beet red when he saw Laila coming down the slope toward him.

Muttering under his breath, he scrambled to his feet, snatched up his jeans and dragged them on, his fingers trembling as he fumbled with the zipper.  He fastened the button and was about to pick up his shirt when she reached him.  He felt self-conscious standing there half-naked in front of her and he felt his body react when he saw her eyes travel over his torso.

His expression was tense as he looked at her and his heart was pounding wildly against his ribs.  “What are you doing here?” he demanded tightly as he scooped up his shirt and pulled it on.

“I saw you leave and followed you.”

“Laila, you can’t stay here.”

“Why not?” she asked.  “Is it because of what nearly happened between us last night?”

“Yes!” he hissed.  He was trying really hard to control his emotions but she was making it impossible.  “You need to go back to the house right now.”

“I don’t want to go back to the house, Aidan.  I want to stay here.”

“All right.  Then, I’ll leave.”  He was about to walk past her when she caught his arm.

“Leaving me here wouldn’t change anything,” she told him huskily.  “It wouldn’t change what we feel for each other.  Last night I couldn’t sleep.  All I could think about was how much I wanted you to kiss me…”  She was standing very close to him now and her gaze had dropped to his lips, her own parting eagerly.

Groaning, he turned away from her as every fiber of his body screamed for him to take her in his arms and unleash the hunger that was consuming him.  “No, as much as I want you, I can’t do this to my brother.”

“Aidan, I’m not Larry’s girlfriend.

Aidan turned back to stare at her.  “What are you talking about?” he asked.

“Larry and I are not romantically involved.  We’re just really good friends.”

“If that’s true, why is he always fawning all over you?  Last night, he couldn’t seem to keep his eyes and hands off you.”  Jealousy flashed in his eyes at the memory.

“That was for your benefit,” she informed him.

His eyes widened.  “My benefit?” he exclaimed.

“Yes.  He was trying to get a rise out of you.”  She moved closer.  “He seems to think that you’re in love with me.  Is he right?”

His eyes darkened on her face and reaching out, he pulled her against him.  “Yes,” he moaned before he lowered his head and kissed her.  His lips plundered hers hungrily, feverishly and she pressed against him, her fingers gripping his hair as she responded passionately to his kisses.  They stood there for a long time, kissing while the sunlight bathed them.  Then, he broke off the kiss to bury his face in her neck.  “I love you,” he whispered.

She smiled.  “I love you too,” she murmured.  Then, they were kissing again.  She tugged at his shirt and he released her to pull it over his head.  His jeans followed.  Her fingers moved eagerly over his bare skin and she felt him ease her gently down on to the sand which felt soft and cushiony against her back.  They made love right there on the beach and in the following Spring they got married.  Laurence was the best man.

The first thing, Aiden and Laila did the following morning after they returned from their honeymoon in Bermuda was to go to the beach to watch the sunrise.  They stood there at the water’s edge, the water swirling about their ankles, arms around each other watching the sun as it rose slowly in the sky.  He turned to her and murmured huskily, “This is why I bought a house on the beach.  I want to stand here and watch the sunrise with you every morning for the rest of our lives.”

She smiled at him, her heart in her eyes.  “What a beautiful thing to say,” she said.  “It reminds me of a quote I once read.  It went something like this, ‘Someday, you will find the one who will watch every sunrise with you until the sunset of your life.’

“Yes, we found each other.”  He reached down and kissed her.

Source:  Pure Love Quotes

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