He found Ema in the garden. She was sitting on the bench, facing the fountain. He stood there, watching her, his heart pounding heavily in his chest and his expression tense. As if she sensed him standing there, she turned suddenly and their eyes met. Rising quickly to her feet she turned to face him. She smiled at him. His heart skipped a beat. It took him back to the first time he laid eyes on her which was three years ago when his mother hired her to be his father’s nurse.
She was from Nigeria but came to England when she was in her twenties and became a nurse. She had excellent references and it was a friend who recommended her to his mother. After a lengthy interview, she was hired. She took great care of his father who doted on her.
Wade remembered the first time they met. His mother was having a quiet family dinner to celebrate his father’s eightieth birthday. He showed up early and went into the drawing-room to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail with his mother, his brother Patrick and his wife, Penelope and their sister, Judith when his father joined them. He was in a wheelchair because he had suffered a stroke.
Wade was standing at the window looking out at the rolling hills in the distance when he heard his father’s greeting. He turned and saw him being wheeled into the room, dressed in a dinner suit. Wade’s eyes left his father and moved up to the person pushing him. She was dressed in a white uniform and her hair was pulled back in a bun. Their eyes met and held for what seemed like eternity and then his mother addressed her and she looked away.
His mother said, “Oh, my Dear, I don’t believe you have met Wade, our eldest. Wade, this is Ema. She’s your father’s nurse. She’s an absolute Godsend. She’s from Nigeria, you know.”
Wade inclined his head. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said quietly.
She smiled. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Mr. Huxley,” she said. Her voice was pleasant and with a slight accent. “I feel as if I know you. Your father often speaks about you.”
I would like to get to know you, he thought. She looked really good in that uniform. He tried hard not to imagine how she would look out of it. His face suffused with color and he finished the rest of his cocktail in one big gulp. He put the glass on top of the window seat and shoved his hands into the pockets of his trousers. He had been attracted to many women before but not like this. This time it was different. This unnerved him. This, whatever it was, was raw and if unchecked, he could lose his head. He had to make sure that he was never alone with her. She was his father’s nurse, for Pete’ sake and then, there was Celia…
“Penny for your thoughts.” Judith’s voice startled him.
Fortunately for him, dinner was announced and they all made their way to the opulent dining-room. After they took their seats and she made sure that his father was comfortably settled in, Ema excused herself and left them. Wade felt his body relax the moment she was gone. As a hired help, she wasn’t going to join them for dinner. A tray was to be taken up to her room instead.
All through dinner and for the rest of the night, he tried not to think about her or how badly he wanted to see her again. He found himself visiting his parents more often, his father especially. They would sit outside in the garden and talk while Ema sat on the bench and read or went for a walk. Wade tried not to let his eyes wander over to where she was but it was impossible not to. His eyes traveled over her neat figure and settled on her shapely calves before returning to her face which was turned slightly away. A part of him wanted to be alone with her and the other part was afraid to be.
“She’s a very attractive woman, isn’t she?” his father said, startling him. “She isn’t married, you know.”
He wasn’t sure why his father was letting him know that Ema didn’t have a husband but he was relieved to hear it. “What about a boyfriend?” he asked, his eyes straying over to where she was standing by the rose bush.
“She doesn’t have one of those either. She’s single like you, Wade.”
“I’m not single, Dad. I’m dating Celia, remember?”
“Oh, yes. I’d forgotten. How is she? Still writing books?”
“Dad, that was Isadora. Celia teaches English at Oxford.”
“I remember now that you had so many women in your life. Your mother and I couldn’t keep track. Your mother stopped praying that you would settle down. She said it was no use praying for the impossible.” He chuckled. “I believe that when you’re good and ready, you’ll settle down.”
Wade changed the subject. Then, it was time for his father to have his nap. Ema went over and took the handles of his wheelchair. Her eyes met Wade’s over his father’s head. He felt his heart begin to pound wildly and his pulse quicken. He wondered if what he was feeling inside was evident on his face which felt hot. The way she looked at him before she turned and pushed the chair towards the mansion made him catch his breath.
He was invited to spend the following weekend which he readily accepted and one night after everyone had retired, he went for a walk to cool his head. It was a balmy night. There was a slight breeze and he could hear the leaves rustling. He went by the fountain and stood there watching the water cascade. Try as he did, he couldn’t stop thinking about her and he went to the side of the house where her room was and looked up. The light was still on which meant she was awake. Was she unable to sleep too or was she reading in bed?
As he continued staring up at her window she suddenly appeared. She drew the curtains aside and stood there watching him. They stared at each other for several minutes and then, he was hurrying, almost running towards the back entrance where he had slipped out.
Taking the winding staircase two steps at a time, he headed upstairs to her room. The door was slightly ajar and he pushed it open. She was still standing at the window but turned when she heard him. He closed the door behind him and locked it. Without saying a word, he strode over to her, his scotching gaze raked her upturned face before he pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp. Then, his mouth was on hers, devouring it like a madman as the feelings he had held in check gushed out like a tidal wave. She responded wildly, her fingers gripping his hair. In a matter of minutes, they were naked and under the sheets.
He slipped out of her room in the wee hours of the morning. That night was the first of many such trysts until three weeks before his father passed away in his sleep one night. It was a very well attended funeral. Even, the media was present. He stood at the grave between his mother and his brother, Patrick while Ema stood beside Judith who was quietly weeping.
Ema threw a rose on the casket, tears in her eyes. She had loved the old man who had treated her with such kindness. She stole a glance at Wade who stood there, looking very solemn with his head bowed as if he were reflecting on something. She remembered that last night when he had gone to her room after everyone else had retired to bed. It had rained very hard that night. Over the clap of thunder and the steady downpour, no one could have heard the sounds they were making. He didn’t go back to his room but the next morning when she went downstairs to take his father to breakfast, she learned that he had left. He was gone for over two weeks and then when his father died, he flew back the day before the funeral.
She had fallen in love with him and hoped that he was in love with her too but then she found out about Celia from his father. What would become of that relationship? Would he end it or would he end theirs? The thought distressed her and she turned away, fresh tears running down her cheeks. She watched as they threw the dirt on top of the casket.
Wade and she hadn’t said much to each other at the funeral. And they never got a chance to be alone with each other. After they returned to the mansion, she went straight up to her room where she spent most of her time. He stayed with his mother for a while and then he returned to his flat in London. Last night, she lay awake, thinking about him and wondering when she would see him again. There were moments when she wondered if he was with Celia and was filled with pain and jealousy.
The next morning, she got up, packed her suitcase. She had informed Mrs. Huxley the night before that she was leaving. The older woman was sorry to see her go but she understood. Before calling a taxi to take her to the airport, she decided to go for a walk in the garden and that was where Wade found her. They stood there now, facing each other.
She smiled to hide the hurt she was feeling. He looked so handsome. She longed to reach up and touch his face. “Good morning, Wade,” she said.
“Judith said that you’re leaving.”
“Yes, I’m going back to Nigeria.” She hadn’t planned on going back home but it would be better than remaining there in England where he was and reading about his marriage to Celia in the newspaper.
“There’s no reason for me to stay here.”
“Isn’t there?” he asked tightly, his eyes restless on her face. He ached to take her in his arms. “What about us?”
She swallowed hard. “I didn’t think there was any us after you left that morning and I didn’t hear or see you for over two weeks.”
He ran his fingers through his hair. “I’m sorry I left like that but I got called away on urgent business. I did call the mansion a couple of times to check on everyone. Each time I called you were busy with my father. Once I asked my mother if I could speak to you on the pretext of finding out how he was doing but a call came through at that moment and I had to end our call. Didn’t she mention that to you?”
Ema shook her head. “No. I guess it must have slipped her mind. I thought–I thought that it was over between us and that you were probably with Celia. Your father told me about her.”
“It’s over between Celia and me, Ema. I ended it the day after you and I made love for the first time.”
“Oh.” She was very relieved to hear that.
He moved closer. “Is that why you’re leaving?” he asked. “You thought I was with Celia?”
She nodded. “Yes for that reason and because I don’t have a patient anymore.”
“Would it make a difference if I told you that I don’t want you to leave.”
“The reason why you don’t want me to leave.”
“What if I told you that I love you?”
Her heart skipped a beat. “Do you?” she asked breathlessly.
He moved closer. “Yes.” And reaching for her hand, he pulled her against him. He lowered his head and kissed her long and hard before raising his head to gaze down into her face, his own flushed. They were both breathing heavily. “I love you, Ema,” he murmured huskily. “I fell in love with you the moment I first saw you.”
Her eyes welled up. “I love you too, Wade and it was love at first sight for me.”
“I tried really hard to fight my feelings for you because you were my father’s nurse and because of Celia but I soon realized that you can’t fight love when it’s with the right person.”
As they kissed again, she knew in her heart that if his father were still alive, they would have his blessing.