It was a Saturday afternoon and he had just returned from the playground with Emily. Emily, exhausted fell asleep as soon as her head touched the pillow. He left her and went downstairs. He was about to go into the living-room to read when the doorbell rang.
He went to answer it and was pleased to see Shiloh standing there. “Hello, Shiloh.”
She smiled up at him. “Hello, Mr. Gladstone.”
“Emily’s here today but she’s upstairs sleeping,” he informed her as she went inside and he took her jacket. “We went to the playground so she’s exhausted.”
“I’m glad she’s here and I’m looking forward to seeing her when she wakes up.”
He preceded her into the living-room and invited her to sit on the sofa but as usual, she opted to sit on the floor. He sat down on the sofa. “So, how are things with you?” he inquired. “The last time we saw each other, you were waiting to hear from St. Thomas.”
Shiloh’s eyes traveled over him. He looked amazing in the turtleneck sweater and jeans. She wondered what he would do if he knew that she was falling in love with him. Best not to let on or he’d probably not want her coming around there anymore. “I heard from the university and got accepted.”
“Congratulations. So, have you decided which university you will attend or are you still undecided?”
“I’ve decided to go to the University of Miami.”
“Really? That’s great!”
She smiled. “Yes, the financial aid is substantial.”
“I’m truly happy for you, Shiloh.”
“Thanks, Mr. Gladstone.”
“Have you written to the university letting them know that you have decided to attend there?
“Yes. And I’ve written to the others letting them know of my decision as well.”
“Good. This calls for a celebration. How does Fruit Loops sound to you?”
“Never heard of it? What is it?”
“It’s a non-alcoholic tropical drink with a twist. It has pineapple, cranberry, orange juice, and sweet grenadine syrup.”
“Wow. That sounds good. Sure, I’d like to have one.”
He winked at her, got up from the stool and went into the kitchen. While he was gone, she got up and walked over to the window to look out. It was a lovely afternoon. She stood there for a few minutes and was heading back to her spot on the floor. She passed the sofa and noticed a book lying on one of the cushions. She picked it up and read the back cover. She heard him coming and put the book down.
He was carrying two glasses and handed one to her. “Here’s to four incredible years at the University of Miami,” he said, touching his glass to hers.
She beamed. “Thank you.” She took a sip of the drink and her eyes widened. “This is so good,” she exclaimed. “Wow!”
He grinned. “I’m delighted that you like it. It’s one of my favorite drinks. I never touch alcohol.”
“Is this what you would call a mocktail?”
“I really like it. The great thing about this is that you can drink more than one and not get drunk.”
“That’s the idea.”
She went back over to her spot and sat down on the floor. “The book you’re reading, A Smattering of Smoke, it looks like it’s a really good one. Is it?”
“Yes, it is. It’s amazing how one puff on a cigarette destroyed so many lives.”
“My parents and I don’t smoke nor do any of my friends. It’s a nasty and additive habit.”
“Yes, it is.”
“May I borrow the book when you’re finished with it?”
“Sure. You’ve probably noticed that I have lots of shelves with books in the study. You’re welcome to take a look and borrow any of them if you like.”
“I’d like that very much,” she said. “I love to read.”
He got up from the stool and went and sat down on the floor next to her. “The only time I do this is when I’m playing some game with Emily.”
She smiled. “I don’t know why but I love sitting on the floor. Apparently, I’ve been doing it since I was a toddler.”
“What do your parents think?”
She shrugged. “They don’t mind.”
“So, you don’t sit in a chair at all?”
“Only when we have company.”
“I see. What about when you visit other people’s homes?”
“I sit in a chair.”
“But you don’t when you come here.”
“That’s because I feel comfortable sitting on the floor.”
“I guess I should be flattered.”
She laughed. “Yes, you should be,” she teased. “It means that I really like being here because you make me feel so comfortable.”
“Well, I’m glad about that. Would you like another glass of Fruit Loops?”
“No, thanks but I’ll definitely have another one the next time I come.”
“When do you think you’ll be coming by again?”
“I don’t know.”
“How about next week Saturday? You, Emily and I can go to the park or something.”
Her face fell. “I’m sorry but I can’t.”
“Why not?” he asked, disappointed.
“Next week Saturday is my birthday. I’m going to be nineteen. My parents are taking me out for dinner.”
“Sounds nice. I’m sure you’ll have a great time.”
“I can come by during the week.”
“How about Sunday afternoon around 2?”
Her face brightened. “Sure.”
“Since I won’t be seeing you on your birthday, I want to take the time now to wish you all the best. May your day be a special one filled with many blessings.”
“Thank you, Mr. Gladstone.” Impulsively, she hugged him. When she drew back, their eyes met and held for what seemed like eternity. Then, he reached out and caressed her cheek with his right index finger, making her heart skip a beat.
His expression was sober. “You’re welcome, Shiloh,” he told her quietly. Then, he got abruptly to his feet. “I’d better check on Emily.” He picked up the two empty glasses and carried them into the kitchen before heading upstairs.
Shiloh sat there, her heart pounding and her breath quick and shallow. When he caressed her cheek, her body reacted. She wondered if Emily weren’t there, if he would have kissed her. She trembled at the thought. Kissing him was something she had fantasized about for a long, long time. Then, she remembered that he had a girlfriend. Her friend, Carla told her so. That was probably why nothing happened between them just now.
The sound of footsteps interrupted her thoughts and a few minutes later, Mr. Gladstone entered the living-room with Emily in tow. When the little girl saw Shiloh, her face lit up and she ran over to her. “Hi,” she said.
“Play with me?” the little girl asked hopefully.
“Sure, I’ll play with you.”
“I turned one of the spare rooms into a play-area for her. You two can play in there,” Mr. Gladstone said to Shiloh. “Emily, take Shiloh to the playroom.”
Shiloh stood up and Emily grabbed her hand. As they left the living-room, her eyes met Mr. Gladstone’s. “See you later,” she said. And then they were gone.
He went over to the sofa and sat down. The book he was reading lay on the cushion beside him. His mind was on Shiloh and how dangerously close he had come to kissing her. If Emily weren’t there, he would have.
His body reacted when he remembered how soft her cheek felt and the way she was looking at him. He dragged his fingers through his hair. It took supreme will power to get up from the floor and walk away. He couldn’t deny that he was developing feelings for Shiloh but he couldn’t give into them because of their age difference and Alanis.
Alanis. He just remembered that she and he had made plans for Sunday which meant that Shiloh couldn’t visit. Drat. Perhaps, it was for the best, he told himself, although he was extremely disappointed.
Source: Know to How