Rhoda turned and her heart skipped a beat when she saw Darius. What was he doing there? Her eyes shifted to the woman next to him. That must be Vanessa, she thought. She was beautiful. She watched them, her heart breaking.
“Let me take your coat,” Michael said. “It looks new. Where did you get it?”
“I bought it,” she lied. Darius had given it to her for her twentieth birthday. She remembered how she had modeled it for him and when he opened it, she was naked underneath. That drove him crazy and in no time, they were in bed, making love. She closed her eyes at the memory and at the curious sensation in the pit of her stomach.
Michael stared at her, frowning. “Are you okay?” he asked.
“I’m–I’m fine.” She gave him her coat and waited for him to return. She wished she could leave. The last thing she wanted was to see Darius and his wife. If she had known that they were going to be there, she wouldn’t have come. But, how could she have known?
Michael rejoined her. “I’ll get us something to drink but first, let me introduce you to some of the guests.” He held her hand as they made their way around the room. She plastered a smile on her face as she shook hands. Then, he was taking her over to Darius and his wife. Her heart began to pound wildly against her ribs. She wanted to make up so excuse and run from the room but it was too late. The couple turned to face them.
Michael smiled at them and after hugging them, he introduced Rhoda. “Rhoda, this is my Aunt Vanessa and Uncle Darius. Guys, this is my girlfriend, Rhoda.”
Rhoda felt as if someone had punched her in the stomach. She suddenly had trouble breathing. The shock she was feeling was on Darius’ face. Darius was Michael’s uncle? How could that be? She was at a loss for words. She gripped Michael’s arm as her legs felt like they were going to buckle under her.
“Are you all right?” Vanessa asked her. She turned to Michael. “Miguel, quick, get her a glass of water while I take her somewhere quiet where she could sit down. Come.” She took Rhoda’s arm and led her away. She took her out on to the terrace which overlooked the immaculate grounds and had her sit down in one of the chairs. “I’ll let Miguel know that you’re out here. Are you going to be all right?”
Rhoda managed to nod and then she was alone with her thoughts. Darius was Michael’s uncle. Vanessa had called Michael by his Spanish name, Miguel which was why it never occurred to her that Darius and he were related. What irony. The man she had been cheating on Michael with was his uncle! If Michael only knew…She jumped when he suddenly sat down next to her. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled. “I guess I’m a little lightheaded because I haven’t had anything to eat.” That was true. She hadn’t had anything to eat since yesterday afternoon and she hadn’t had an appetite.
“Here sip this,” he said, giving her the glass of water. “I’ll go and get you an appetizer or something to keep you until they serve dinner.”
“All right, Michael. Thanks.” She wanted to be alone. When he left, she put the glass on the coffee table and rested her head on the back of the chair. She closed her eyes.
“So, you’re Miguel’s girlfriend?” Darius demanded, startling her. Her eyes flew open and found him standing above her, his expression darkening as he stared down at her. He dragged his fingers through his hair. “If I had known…”
“Would it have made a difference?” she retorted.
“No,” he admitted with a sigh. “It wouldn’t have.”
“You should leave before he comes back.”
“It’s good to see you, Rhoda. I miss you…us.”
“I need to see you.”
“Please leave before he comes back.”
Michael walked on to the terrace just then. He handed Rhoda a turkey pepper jack roll up in a napkin. “Take your time and eat it,” he suggested as he sat down next to her.
“Thank you.” She took it from him but didn’t eat it right away. She wished that Darius would leave. It was painful having him there. It brought back memories and made her ache for him.
Darius’ heated gaze lingered on her for a moment before he excused himself and left.
Rhoda got up and went over to the rail. She clutched it tightly as she tried to compose herself. She wanted so badly to leave but how would that look? No, she had to pull herself together, for Michael’s sake. She felt him put his arm around her shoulder. “Are you going to be all right?” he asked. “Do you want to stay out here for a little while longer?”
She shook her head. “No. Let’s go and join the others. I’ll be fine.”
He kept his arm around her shoulder as they went back to the reception area where everyone was waiting before they made their way into the banquet hall. Darius saw them and his expression darkened. Jealousy clawed at his insides when he saw that Michael had his arm around her. He wanted to go over there and pull them apart. Why did she have to be there with him? Didn’t she realize how much it pained him to see them together? Granted, she couldn’t have known that Michael was his nephew by marriage but still, did she have to throw their relationship in his face?
“What’s the matter?” Vanessa asked him.
“Nothing,” he muttered as he dragged his eyes away from the young couple. How he wished he could find an excuse to leave but how would that look? He had to stay for Vanessa’s sake. How He he was going to get through the rest of the evening was anyone’s guess.
Dinner was a lively affair but it was torture for both Rhoda and Darius. She tried her best to avoid looking at him but it was futile. Every time her gaze drifted over to where he was, he was already looking at her. She was afraid to leave the room because she didn’t want to end up being alone with him but soon she had to go to the washroom. She excused herself and left. After using the washroom, she stayed in there for a little while, trying to regain her composure. As she came out and turned to her right to head back to the banquet hall, she almost bumped into Darius. Flustered, she tried to walk past him but he caught her arm. “We need to talk.”
She tugged at her arm but his grip was too strong. “No,” she protested. She couldn’t risk being alone with him. He looked drop dead gorgeous in his dinner suit. She closed her eyes as an image of him standing naked in front of her flashed across her mind. “Please, let me go.”
A muscle was throbbing along his jawline and his expression was tense. “Are you afraid to be alone with me?” he asked. “Are you afraid of what would happen between us?”
“I’m–I’m not afraid of anything,” she denied. “And–and nothing’s going to happen between us. I–I won’t let it.”
He suddenly released her arm. “Don’t worry, I won’t force myself on you,” he muttered tightly before he turned and walked away, leaving her standing there, trembling and very close to tears.
It took several minutes for her to be able to return to the hall. She said to Michael, “I’m–I’m not feeling well. I’m going to take a taxi home.”
“Let me take you home,” he said.
“I–I don’t want to drag you away from your family. I’ll be fine. I’ll call you when I get home.”
“No, I insist. Wait here while I go and get our coats.” He returned a few minutes later. He helped her on with hers and then put his on. “Let’s go. I’ve already said our goodbyes to everyone.” He took her hand and they left the hall.
Darius watched them go. It was probably his fault why she was leaving. He had pushed her too hard but he couldn’t help it. He wanted so badly to be with her. For the rest of the evening, he tried his best to hide his distress but was relieved when it was time to leave. On the way drive home, he hardly say anything. Vanessa did most of the talking. She was pleased at how the evening had turned out and said that everyone, especially her parents, had a great time. “It’s too bad that Miguel had to leave. I guess his girlfriend wasn’t feeling well. It was nice to finally meet her. He had told me so much about her.”
Darius glanced at her. “You knew about her?”
“Well, I knew that he was dating a girl from university.”
“Did he ever mention her name?”
“He always called her Ro but, I assumed that Ro was short for Rose or Rosalind not Rhoda. Why do you ask?”
“No reason. I didn’t even know he had a girlfriend. He never mentioned her to me.”
“He may not have mentioned her to you but I’m sure I did.”
Darius didn’t answer. It wouldn’t have made a difference even if he had known. He still have wanted to be in a relationship with Rhoda.
Vanessa watched him. “Did you have a good time tonight?” she asked. She wanted to believe that he did although, she had a nagging suspicion that he didn’t.
“Darius, you seem a bit distant. Is something troubling you?”
“Nothing’s troubling me,” he denied. “I’m just tired, that’s all.”
She dropped it. When they got in, they changed and went straight to bed.
The next morning when she woke up, he was gone. He left a note saying that he went to the beach and would be back by ten. She wondered why he didn’t wait until later when they could both go to the beach. Perhaps he wanted to be alone, but why? She couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. What was it and why wouldn’t he tell her?
Darius parked the car and headed down to the beach. He went to the spot where Rhoda and he had made love for the first time and he sat down on the dry sand. The memories came and he pushed his fingers through his hair, frustrated. He shifted his thoughts to last night when he accosted Rhoda outside of the washroom. He knew that she was afraid to be alone with him and she had very good reason to be. He wanted so badly to take her in his arms and kiss her but it was too risky. Someone could have come out and seen them.
After Rhoda left, the night seemed to drag and he wanted desperately to leave but stayed for Vanessa’s sake. It was so hard trying act like he was having a good time when he wasn’t. And he knew he hadn’t fooled Vanessa. Since yesterday morning, she had suspected that something was troubling him but how could he tell her what it was? Eventually he would have to tell her the truth and he was dreading that. Vanessa was such a remarkable woman and for eight years she had been a very good wife and companion to him. And now, he was going to break her heart. He knew that if he had met Rhoda first, Vanessa and he wouldn’t be married. And he knew that if Rhoda were to give him another chance, he would leave his eight year marriage for her in a heartbeat.
He stayed at the beach for a long time. By the time he got home it was almost noon. Vanessa was in the living-room but went into the foyer when she heard him. “You said that you would have been back by ten.”
“I’m sorry. I lost track of the time.”
“Why don’t you wash up while I get lunch ready.”
He shook his head. “I’m not hungry.”
“But you haven’t had anything to eat all morning.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Darius, we need to talk.”
“All right,” he said. “I need to take a shower first.”
She watched him go. Why did he need to take a shower? Was it because he went to the beach and had a swim or did he go somewhere else? She prayed that he hadn’t been with another woman which would explain his behavior.
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate’” – Matthew 19:5, 6. Marriage was meant to be a lifelong commitment between a man and his wife.
This story is the sequel to Pining For Her.