Love is a Storm

Jasper was walking down the street, heading to the cafe where he was supposed to meet his girlfriend, Shannon when he heard someone call his name.  He turned and saw that it was Raina, Shannon’s friend from university.  She stood there, dressed in an odd white top, denim capri pants with a smile on her face.  Around her arm was a gold band and several handcraft chains around her neck.  In his mind he juxtaposed her image with Shannon’s.  They were different as night and day.  Shannon was glamorous and Raina was not.  Yet, it was Raina who made his heart race and his stomach do somersaults.  He walked over to her.

“Hi Raina,” he said, nervous and excited at the same time.  She had that effect on him.

“Hi, yourself.  Where’re you off to in such a hurry?” she asked.

“I’m meeting Shannon for lunch at Kennington Lane Cafe.”

She had a way of tilting her head to the side as she looked up at him.  “It’s been a while since I last saw you.  Are you avoiding me?”

He blinked.  “Why would I be avoiding you?” he asked.  Was she on to him?  Did she somehow guess that he had been avoiding her?

“Maybe because of what almost happened the last time we saw each other.”

He felt his face grow hot when he recalled the incident she was talking about.  He had invited some friends over to celebrate Shannon’s birthday.  Raina got there early so that she could set things up.  She was busying stringing the decorations when he went into the living-room.  He stood beside the mantelpiece and watched her.  As if sensing that he was there, she turned, a smile on her face.   And then, to his surprise, the smile disappeared and she gaped at him for a few minutes before turning abruptly away.  Frowning, he walked over to her and stood in front of her.

“What’s the matter, Raina?” he asked, still clueless.

She avoided looking at him.  “Your–your shirt is open,” she mumbled.

He glanced down.  Sure enough.  It was unbuttoned.  Blushing profusely, he quickly buttoned it and tucked it in his pants.  “Sorry about that,” he apologized.  “You can look now.”

She did and for a long moment their eyes locked.  Then, she turned and went over to the step ladder to finish stringing the Happy Birthday, Shannon sign.  “Could you hand me those balloons, please?”

He picked up the balloons stringed together and gave them to her.  She put them below the sign.  After checking to make sure her handiwork was fine, she started to come down the ladder when she stumbled.  He reached up and caught her.  Winded, she leaned against him for a few minutes, trying to catch her breath.  This was the closest he had ever been to her and it excited him.  His heart began to pound and his breath quickened.  They stared at each other, the air around them pulsating.  She felt so soft against him and he couldn’t hide his reaction.  His smoldering gaze lowered to her lips which parted.  Inflamed, he leaned over to devour them when the doorbell rang.  They draw apart immediately and raking his fingers through his hair, he went to answer the door.

For the rest of the evening, he avoided her but he hadn’t been able to think of anything else but how badly he wanted to kiss her.  For weeks, he tried to stay away, afraid to face her.  And now here she was.  He swallowed hard, his expression tense as he returned her searching gaze.  “I would have kissed you if the others hadn’t shown up then,” he said.

“I know,” she said, sounding a little breathless.

“I haven’t been able to think about anything else.”

“Me neither,” she admitted.

“Why did my open shirt bother you so much?”

“You know why,” she said.

“I want you to tell me.”

“Seeing your bare chest turned me on.”

His eyes darkened.  “You turn me on and right at this moment, I want to take you back to my place and show you how much.”

“Jasper…”

“This is why I’ve been avoiding you.  I’m afraid of what I would do and say when we’re alone together.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t be alone now,” she said.  “Maybe I should go…”

He caught her by the hand.  “Don’t go,” he said.

“I should,” she insisted.  “Besides, you have a lunch date, remember?”

“When can I see you again?” he asked, still holding her hand.

She blinked, trying to think but found it hard with him rubbing his thumb against the inside of her palm.  “I-I don’t know.”

“How about later?”

She shook her head.  “I can’t.  I have a date–”

His expression darkened at once.  “A date?” he repeated.  Jealousy ripped through him.  “Who’s the guy?  Do I know him?”

“I don’t think so.”

“How long have you been dating him?”

“I haven’t been.  This is our first date.”

“How did you meet him?”

Before she could answer, his cell rang.  Muttering under his breath, he released her arm and whipped his cell out. “Yes?”  A pause then:  “I’m on my way now.  I should be there in five minutes.”  He listened and then rang off.

“You’d better go now or she’ll go ballistic.”

“Raina…”

“I’ve to go,” she said and quickly walked away.

 

“What’s the matter with you?” Shannon asked him as they sat by the window having veggie burgers, salad and shakes.  “You’re acting a bit odd.”

“Nothing’s the matter with me.”

Shannon looked at his unfinished burger and then at him.  “You’ve hardly touched your lunch.”

“I’m not very hungry.”

“Aren’t you feeling well?  You look a bit piqued.”

“I’m fine,” he insisted.  “Let’s drop it.”  He picked up the burger and forced himself to eat it.

She wasn’t convinced but she dropped the matter.  After lunch, they went a Jazz concert and then he took her home.  She wanted him to stay but he made an excuse and left.

 

“I had a terrific time and you’re a really nice guy, Joel but…”

“But you’re not interested,” he finished.  They were standing outside of her flat.  “It’s another guy, isn’t it?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“Well, whoever he is, he’s a lucky guy.”

“Goodbye, Joel,” she said, holding out her hand.

“Goodbye, Raina.”  He took her hand and raised it to his lips.  And then, he was gone.

She turned and unlocked her door.  Once inside, she thankfully removed her shoes and wriggled her toes.  They were gorgeous but they hurt her feet.  She was about to head for the bedroom to change when the doorbell rang.  Frowning, she turned and peered through the keyhole.  Her heart lurched when she saw Jasper standing there.  She opened the door.  “What are you doing here?” she asked.  He looked amazing in the black shirt and black pants.  She saw the way his gaze traveled over her body clad in the black cocktail dress with cap sleeves and a side slit.  Her curly hair framed her face which was devoid of makeup.

“You look beautiful,” he added, his expression tense.

“Thank you.”

“May I come in?”

She stepped aside for him to go inside and closed the door behind him.  Afterwards, she turned to face him.  “What are you doing here?” she asked again.

“I had to see you, Raina.”

“You shouldn’t be here, Jasper.”

“Why?  Do you have company?” he asked, looking over his shoulder.

“No.  I’m alone.”

“Where’s your date?”

“He left.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing.  We had a terrific time, he brought me home, we said goodbye and he left.”

“Are you going to see him again?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“You know why.” She watched as he moved closer.  The air was charged between them.

“I want you to tell me.”

“I’m stuck on you.”

In a flash, he was standing in front of her, his body trapping her against the door.  “And I’m stuck on you,” he muttered thickly.

Her hands went up to push at his chest.  “We shouldn’t,” she protested weakly, her heavy breathing mingling with his.

He took her hands and pinned them above her head.  His scorching gaze met hers before he lowered his head and kissed her, his lips almost devouring hers.  Raina kissed him back wildly.  Outside, dark clouds had gathered and minutes later, it was pouring rain.  Lightning flashed across the sky and the loud clap of thunder followed.  Inside the flat a different storm was raging.  It moved from the foyer and into the bedroom.  Minutes later, they were under the sheets, their bodies undulating to the tempo of  lovemaking which increased as their feelings for each other engulfed them.  Outside the storm continued to rage.

The following day, Jasper ended his relationship with Shannon.

Love is a storm that engulfs the senses – Lee Hiller

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Venice

Friends since they were children, Monica and Russell were inseparable.  They went to the same schools and university and moved from Manchester to London after they graduated from university.  Whenever people saw them together, they always assumed that they were a couple and they would quickly inform them, “We’re just friends.”

They dated other people but the relationships never worked out and their respective exes always blamed their friendship.  Once, Monica’s ex-boyfriend accused her of sabotaging their relationship because she was secretly in love with Russell.  She had a run in once with Samantha, a model he was dating who informed her that she didn’t believe that they were just friends.  “A person would have to be blind not to see that there is something going on between you two,” she said.  “And which woman in her right mind could be just friends with a guy like Russell?”

Russell and Monica laughed about it but as time passed, they realized that there was some truth to what others were saying.  They stopped dating other people because they didn’t feel any connection with them and it was beginning to affect their friendship.  Russell found himself getting jealous of the men Monica dated and she hated seeing him with other women.  So, to safeguard their friendship, they remained unattached.   Instead of going to dinner with other people they went each other.  They went to the theatre, concerts and now, here they were in Italy for a three week vacation.

Monica stood now on the Spanish Steps as Russell snapped photos of her.  He looked so handsome in the white shirt and light blue jeans.  She noticed women walking by and casting admiring glances his way.  Jealousy gnawed at her although he seemed oblivious to them.  She knew she was being ridiculous but she couldn’t help it.  She always worried that one day he would meet someone else and fall in love with her.  Not wanting to spoil the moment, she smiled and posed for the photos.

The day went pleasantly as they visited the Pantheon and had lunch at a trattoria near the Piazza Navona.  After sharing a pizza, she went to the washroom.  On her way back to the table, a local looked up at her and said, “Ciao Bella ragazza.”  She glanced at him and then continued to where Russell was.

He stood up when she reached him.  “What did that man say to you?” he asked.  His expression was guarded.

“It sounded like, ‘Ciao bella ragazza,’” she told him.

Russell didn’t answer.  Instead, he put on his sunglasses and preceded her out of the trattoria.  They went for a walk along Castel Sant’Angelo before they went back to the hotel.  They went to their respective rooms until it was time for dinner.  The following day, they left Rome and went to Florence where they spent their second week.  The following day, they took a trip to Milan and after visiting the Santa Maria delle Grazie where Da Vinci’s Last Supper hung, they stopped by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Russell took a photo of Monica outside of Prada.  From Florence, they went on a day tour to Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano.  They had dinner in Siena in a trattoria in Piazza del Campo.

The week went by very quickly and Monica was sorry when they left Florence but looked forward to seeing Venice.  They took the train early in the morning and while Russell read a magazine, she took a nap.  When they arrived in Venice, they found out that they had to share a room because the hotel was fully booked.  That made Monica very nervous but she was relieved when she saw that there were two separate beds.

They spent their first day in Venice at Piazza San Marco, reputed to be one of the most beautiful squares in the world.   They visited the Basilica of San Marco.  Monica was enthralled by the dome and could have stood there all day just staring up at it.  When they came out of the basilica, Russell pointed to the one of the arches above the entrance where there was a marble statue of an old man biting his hand.  “The legend says that he was relieved of his duties when he said that he would be able to build it even more beautiful.”

They had lunch at a restaurant in the square, enjoying the sunshine and watching other tourists.  They finished their sightseeing for the day climbing the Campanile for the breathtaking view of the city and the lagoon.   They stayed there for a while.

It was late afternoon when they returned to the hotel.  They relaxed on the terrace and then it was time to get ready for dinner.  It felt strange getting dressed in the bathroom while Russell got dressed in the bedroom.  She had to make sure it was safe to come out once she was finished.  He looked handsome as usual.  And she saw his gaze travel over her.  “You look great,” he remarked before turning away.  “I was thinking that after dinner, we can go to a church concert.”

She smiled.  “That sounds great.”  Venice was beautiful at night so it was nice walking to the square.  How she longed to hold Russell’s hand, especially when they passed other couples who were holding hands.  They had dinner at an elegant restaurant.  Afterwards, they walked to the church where they spent the next hour or so listening to uplifting music in a lovely atmosphere.

It was late when they got back to the hotel and she was tired.  On the way up to their room, she kept yawning and as soon as they got in she took out a nightgown from her suitcase and headed straight for the bathroom.  She quickly changed out of her dress and into her nightgown and brushed her teeth.

She walked into the room and stopped short when she saw Russell standing there half-naked, holding his pajama shirt.  She turned away, flustered but not before her gaze swept irresistibly over the broad shoulders and wide chest.  He watched her, his expression tense and a muscle throbbed alongside his jaw line.  It took every ounce of willpower on his part not to go over there and take her in his arms.  Instead, he went into the bathroom and closed the door quietly behind him.

As soon as he was gone, Monica hurried over to her bed and climbed in, pulling the cover up to her throat.

A few moments later, the door to the bathroom opened and Russell stepped into the room.  She watched as he walked past her bed to his.

“Goodnight, Russell,” she said, looking over at him as he pulled back the cover and got in.  His back was turned to her.

“Goodnight.”  He closed his eyes as his body reacted to the memory of her in the champagne colored silk nightgown.  He didn’t know how much longer he could continue being just friends with her when he wanted her.

She lay there on her back, staring up at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep.  She couldn’t get the image of him out of her mind.  When she saw his bare torso, her mouth went dry and what felt like a bolt of electricity surged through her.  She had turned away because she was afraid that her feelings would betray her.  She wished she had the courage to tell him how she really felt about him but she didn’t want to jeopardize their friendship.

Sometime later, she heard him stir and then get up.  In the faint light, she watched him tiptoe over to the chair where his shirt and pants were draped.   As he started to get dressed, she sat up, alarmed.  “Where’re you going?” she asked, turning on the lamp beside her.

He didn’t turn around.  “I thought you were asleep.  I can’t sleep so, I’m going out for a bit.”  After he pulled on his shirt and tucked it in his pants, he turned to face her, his eyes wary.  “I’ll try not to disturb you when I come back.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“I don’t know,” he replied shortly.

“Where will you go?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe I’ll go to Piazzale Roma or the Rialto or San Marco.”  He was about to walk past her when she quickly climbed out of the bed and stood in front of him.

“What’s wrong, Russell?” she asked.  “You seem upset.”

He kept his eyes on her face, not daring to let them go lower.  “I’m not upset.”

“I think you are, “she insisted.   “Please tell me what’s wrong.  We’re supposed to be friends—”

His expression darkened.   “I know we’re supposed to be friends,” he snapped.  “But right now, I don’t feel like a friend.”

She looked nonplussed.  “What do you mean?”

This is what I mean,” he muttered before he grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp.  His head swooped down and his mouth closed hungrily over hers.

Monica clung to him, kissing him back eagerly, feverishly.  As they exchanged kisses, he picked her up and carried her over to her bed.  He put her gently down on it and then drew back to remove his shirt.  She reached for him, pulling him down to her, her fingers digging into his back as he pressed his lips hotly against her neck.

They made mad, passionate love and the next morning when she woke up, she was alone in the bed.  She lay there for a moment thinking it had all been a dream.  Then she sat up and realized that she wasn’t wearing anything under the cover.  She looked over and saw Russell standing by the window.  He was wearing a robe.   He turned when he heard her.

He left the window and came and sat down on the bed beside her.  His expression was serious when he met her gaze.  “Do you regret what happened between us?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No,” she murmured huskily, reaching out and brushing the hair back from his forehead.

He leaned over and kissed her on the shoulder, making her shiver.  “Me neither,” he said.  “I’ve wanted to make love to you for a very, very long time but you insisted on us being just friends—”

“I thought that was what you wanted,” she said.  “You never came out and said otherwise.”

“Do you have any idea how hard it is to be a friend to you when I want to be more?  That’s why I couldn’t sleep last night.  When I saw you in that nightgown, I wanted you so much.  I had to get out of here before I lost my mind.”

“I couldn’t sleep either because I couldn’t stop thinking about how you looked shirtless…”

His eyes darkened and cupping her face between his hands he lowered his head and kissed her.  “I love you, Monica,” he whispered, raising his head to look into her face.  “I wanted to tell you that so many times but my courage failed me.”

“I love you too.”

“I just wish we hadn’t wasted so much time dating other people when we should have been dating each other.”

“Let’s not waste any more time having regrets.  Things are different between us now.”

“Yes, they are.”

“You know, if anyone were to ask me what the most memorable part of my vacation is, I would tell them that it was Venice.”

“Why Venice?” he asked.

“It’s where we finally declared our true feelings for each other.”

His eyes darkened.  “Let’s have a late breakfast,” he suggested as he removed his robe.

“Or we can order room service,” she said, settling back against the pillows.

“Room service, then,” he agreed before his mouth found hers.

A year later, they returned to Venice for their honeymoon.

 

Sources:  Cabragadin Hotel; Ciao Florence; Italy Guides; Veneto Inside; Bistrot de Venise; Classic Tic; Rick Steves

 

After the Wedding Surprise

It was the morning of his wedding day and Quinn was walking along the beach Kay and he had stumbled across quite by accident.  He decided to come here before heading over to Arthur’s home where he was to get dressed and then head over to the church.  It was a beautiful, sunny day in early April.  The temperature was mild but a light jacket was still needed.

As he walked along the water’s edge, he remembered the last time he was here.  He smiled as he recalled how he had chased Kay after she suddenly took off and caught her.  And they rolled on the sand, laughing and then, they ended up making love.  His eyes darkened at the memory. When she looked up at him with those big brown eyes of hers, it made his heart stop and he lost his head.  Today, he was going to marry her and he couldn’t wait.

Shoving his hands deep in his pockets, he turned toward the ocean.  Oh Kay, I hope that I will make you as happy as you have made me.  

This couldn’t be happening–not today of all days.  It was her wedding day and in a couple of hours she was going to be walking down the aisle.  She tried not to panic and closed her eyes as she waited for the nausea to pass.  Her mother was coming over in a little while to help her to get ready.

A couple of minutes later, she sat up first to make sure she was all right and then she climbed out of the bed.  She went into the bathroom and before she brushed her teeth, she looked at herself in the mirror. Today, you are going to marry the man you adore.  Excitement filled her and she began to hum as she brushed her teeth.  She couldn’t wait to see him and exchange vows or to fly off to Turks and Caicos for their honeymoon.

As she stepped into the shower, she hoped and prayed that nothing would ruin today.   Joanna, her soon to be sister-in-law was going to be at the wedding but she was determined that she wasn’t going to let her spoil her day. Since she found out about her relationship with Quinn, the older woman had made it no secret that she didn’t approve.  Out of courtesy, though, Kay invited her to the wedding.  Arthur, Quinn’s older brother promised to keep her in check.  Quinn’s niece, Louisa, was one of her bridesmaids.  It was going to be a glorious occasion, in spite of Joanna.

She had just finished taking her shower and put on her dressing-gown when the doorbell rang.  It was her mother.  “Hello Mom,” she said, hugging her.  “You look great.”  Her mother was wearing a salmon color skirt suit and her new haircut gave her an elegant look.

“Thanks, Honey.  What about you?  Today’s your big day.  How are you feeling?”

“Mom, I’m been feeling nauseous lately,” she said to her when they went into the living-room and sat down on the sofa.

Her mother asked, “Have you noticed anything else?”

“Yes, I’ve been going to the bathroom more often, I feel more tired than usual and bloated.  I usually feel this way when I have my period but the nausea is new.”

“Have you had your period?”

She shook her head.  “It hasn’t come at all.” And then it dawned on her.  “Oh, Mom, do you think I’m pregnant?”

“Well, there’s only one way to find out.”  She went to the phone and dialed her other daughter’s number.  “Joyce, this might sound like a strange request but could you stop by the drugstore and pick up a pregnancy test for Kay?  I’ll explain when you get here.  Thanks.”

Kay sighed.  “I’m already nervous as it is,” she said.  “What if I’m pregnant?”

“Then, you put off your honeymoon for a day or two and go and see the doctor.  In the meantime, you need to snack often and drink lots of fluids.  I will fix you something and you should take a couple of ginger sweets with you in case you feel the nausea coming on while you’re at the church or at the reception.  Kay, you should have gone to see the doctor when these symptoms began.”

“I thought it was PMS and when I didn’t see any signs of my period, I thought it was late or that the cycle was changing.  You’re right, though, I should have gone to a walk-in clinic.  There’s one close to where I work.”

“Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  Joyce will bring the test and if you will soon find out whether or not you’re pregnant.  Have you had anything to eat?”

She shook her head.  “I’ve been too nervous and excited to eat anything.”

“Would you like me to scramble some eggs and–?”

She shook her head. “No, thanks, Mom.  I don’t want to eat anything heavy right now.  Maybe just two slices of toast with jam and some Ginger tea.”

“All right.  I’ll be right back.”

Kay leaned back against the cushions, smiling as she heard her mother moving about in the kitchen.  It took her back to when she was living at home and her mother was always busy in the kitchen while sat in the living-room watching TV or doing her homework.  A few minutes later, she brought out a plate with two slices of whole wheat toast, spread with jam and a steaming cup of Ginger tea.  She placed the cup on the coffee table and the plate on Kay’s lap.  Kay wasn’t hungry but she forced herself to eat, taking her time.  When she was done, she leaned over and put the plate on the coffee table and picked up the Ginger tea which she sipped.  It was still hot and it hit the right spot.

“If it turns out that you’re pregnant, you need to keep hydrated and eat small frequent meals to help with the morning sickness.”

“Did you have morning sickness?”

“I did with Joyce but not with you.”

“I wonder if the same thing will happen with me.  I have morning sickness with the first child but not with the others?”

“How many children do you and Quinn plan to have?”

“I think four is a nice even number.”

“Well, I suppose that’s all right.  My mother had six and your Aunt Lynette had eight.  I had two.  If your father hadn’t passed away, it’s possible that we might have had more children.  Anyway, when it comes to pregnancy, every woman’s experience is different.   Joyce didn’t experience morning sickness in either pregnancy.”

“Lucky girl.”

Just then, the doorbell rang and her mother got up.  “It’s Joyce.”

Kay’s heart leapt in her chest.  She drained the cup and set it down on the table.  I am about to find out if I’m pregnant or not.  She rose to her feet just as her mother and sister joined her.  Joyce went over and they hugged.  “Thanks for picking this up for me,” she said to her when she handed her the box.

“Don’t mention it.  This is the one that the pharmacist recommended.”

Kay looked at it.  Clearblue.  One line meant not pregnant and two meant pregnant.  “Well, it’s time to find out if I’m going to have a baby or not.”  She went into the bathroom, closed the door and followed the instructions on the box.  When she was finished, she put back on her dressing-gown and waited.

When the time was up, she checked the display and her heart did a somersault.  The word, pregnant seemed to jump out at her.  As she stood there staring at it, she tried to figure out when it could have happened.  Quinn and she had always be careful.  Every time they made love, he wore protection.  So when could they have had unprotected sex?  Then, she remembered the afternoon on a secluded beach…

It was late in the afternoon and they decided to go there before heading back to his flat.  They held hands as they walked along the water’s edge and then, she suddenly broke away from him and ran towards the rocks, laughing.  He ran after her and caught her by the waist.  They fell to the ground and rolled around in the sand, laughing and then he was looking down at her as she lay there with her arms pinned above her head.  The laughter died away and their expressions became serious as they stared at each other.  Then, he lowered his head and kissed her.  She eagerly responded, her hands aching to be free so that she could bury her fingers in his hair.

For several minutes they exchanged passionate kisses and then, her hands were free as he drew back to drag his tee shirt over his head.  She reached up and pulled him back down, her fingers gripping his hair as they kissed.  They ended up making love behind the rock in the shade.  Afterwards, they laid there for a while, wrapped in each other’s arms, the gentle breeze caressing them and by the time they left the beach, the sun was setting.

The knock on the door jolted her back to the present and she opened it.  Her mother and Joyce went in.  “Well?”

Without saying a word, Kay showed them the result.

“Are you going to tell Quinn in the limo on the ride over to the reception?”

Kay shook her head.  “No, Mom.  I want to see a doctor first to confirm that I am pregnant before I tell him.”

“What about your doctor?” Joyce asked.

“Unfortunately, she’s on vacation.  I’ll have to go to the walk-in clinic.”

“I can take you to Oxford Walk-in Clinic tomorrow morning,” Joyce offered.

“What do I say to Quinn?”

“Just tell him that I’m taking you shopping for clothes for your honeymoon.”

“I don’t want to lie to him–”

“You won’t be lying.  After we’re through with the clinic, we’ll really go to the mall and pick up some things for your trip.”

“All right.  Thanks, Joyce.  Fortunately, Quinn and I are going on our honeymoon in a couple of days.  So, I will know for sure by then and if it is confirmed that I’m pregnant, I will make sure to take whatever prenatal information I need with me.”

“Most doctors will recommend prenatal vitamins with Folic Acid which is very important because it has been shown to dramatically decrease the risk of neural tube defects like Spina Bifida.  For both of my pregnancies, I used the Spring Valley Prenatal Multivitamin/Multimineral with Folic Acic.”

“I’ll make a note of that.”

“How are you feeling?” Her mother asked.

“Much better since I had the toast with jam and Ginger tea.  I had better start getting ready.”  She went into her bedroom and soon came back out wearing her wedding dress.  It was a gorgeous off the shoulder full lace ballgown in soft apricot with ivory lace overlay, a sweetheart bust-line and long lace sleeves with a deep V back and a satin bow to finish the look.  It was beautiful in its simplicity and it flattered her figure and complexion.  Her dark curls looked stark against the veil which her mother now placed on her head and her makeup was subtle.  Neutral eye shadow,  little blush on the cheeks and peach/pink gloss lip gloss.  The tear drop earrings added a touch of elegance and went perfectly with the lace.

“You look stunning,” Joyce remarked, giving her the look over before whipping out her iPhone to take pictures.

Kay’s mother looked at her, her face beaming.  “You look picture perfect,” she said.

Kay smiled.  “Thank you, both for making me feel beautiful.”

“Well, it’s time we head over to the church,” Joyce said, putting away her phone.  “The car should be here any minute.”

Ten minutes later, they were heading down the lift to the lobby.  The car was waiting outside and they got in the back.  Kay and her mother sat next to each other while Joyce sat opposite them.  And then, they were off to the church.

“Mom, do you have any last minute advice for me before I walk down the aisle?” Kay asked, her heart pounding as they approached front of the church.

“Yes.  Take very good care of Quinn.  That man worships the ground you walk on.  Don’t let anything or anyone come between you.”

The limo stopped and the driver came around to hold the door open for them.  Kay got out first and then her mother and sister.  They went into the church and ten minutes later, Kay was walking down the aisle with her favorite uncle.

Kay’s face was radiant as she gazed up at Quinn, her heart almost bursting with the love she had for him.

Quinn looked at her, never imagining that it was possible to love her more than he already did.

They read the vows they had written for each other, bringing tears to a lot of eyes in the church.  When they were pronounced husband and wife and kissed, everyone cheered, even Joanna.  Before Kay walked down the aisle, she had gone to see her.  Understandably, Kay stiffened when she saw her.  “May I speak to you alone for a moment?” she asked and Kay nodded.

After her mother and sister left the room, Joanna cleared her throat.  “Kay, I want to apologize for the way I’ve treated you and the things I’ve said.  I guess I was being overprotective of Quinn.  He and I had always been very close and after our parents died, I took care of him.  I still think of him as my baby brother and sometimes treat him as such.  All I want is for him to be happy and I can see clearly now that you make him happy.  I guess I was jealous of you–jealous because you had done what other women failed to do–come between him and me.

“When I had expressed my disapproval of your relationship he told me that as much as he loved me he would never give you up.  He said that you were the love of his life–a part of him that he couldn’t live without.  I knew everything if I didn’t wise up and accept you, I would lose my brother.  As I watched the two of you exchange your vows, I realized that I was watching two people who truly love each other and would do anything to make the other happy.  I couldn’t ask for anything better than that for my brother.  Kay, I don’t deserve it but I hope that you will find it in your heart to forgive an ignorant woman.”

Tears sprang to Kay’s eyes.  “You have my forgiveness and my gratitude for being a part of the happiest day of our lives.”  She held out her arms and they hugged.

When Joanna drew back, there were tears in her eyes.  “Thank you,” she whispered before she turned and quickly left the room.  And now, she was throwing rice at the happy couple as they came down the stairs, laughing and holding hands before driving away in the limo to the reception.  The wedding was a festive and joyous occasion.  Everyone had a great time.  Quinn and Kay were exhausted by the time it was over.  They spent the night at her flat.  He went home the following morning to pack for the honeymoon and get other things in order.  He was going to return later to take her out for dinner and to spend the night.  Their flight was in the morning.

Joyce came by later that morning to take Kay to the walk-in clinic.  Kay tried to relax as she was examined and was thankful that she wasn’t experiencing any morning sickness.  After she had taken the necessary tests, she got dressed and waited.  Her heart skipped a beat when the doctor came into the room.  “Congratulations,” he said, smiling.  “You’re pregnant.”

After that everything was a blur.  She vaguely remember walking into the waiting room to where Joyce was.  One look at her face and Joyce was hugging her, excited.  “I’m going to be an aunt,” she exclaimed as they walked out of the clinic.  She took Kay to the mall as promised and afterwards, they had a bite to eat before they went back to Kay’s flat where they spent the rest of the afternoon.

Soon it was time to get ready for her dinner with Quinn.  Kay went and showered while Joyce checked in at home to make sure hubby and the kids were okay.  After she hung up she went into the room to check to check on Kay.  She needed help with the zipper at the back of her dress and the necklace fastened.

Kay took up the mirror and help it up as she examined the necklace.  It matched the dress perfectly and her makeup looked flawless.  She turned to Joyce.  “How do I look?”

Joyce smiled.  “Radiant.”  It was true.  She had the glow of a newlywed and expectant mother.

Kay beamed.  “Thanks to you.”  She put the mirror down.  “Quinn will be here any minute.”

Joyce hugged her.  “Enjoy your first dinner as a married couple tonight and have a wonderful time in Turks and Caicos.  I wish I could be there to see Quinn’s face when you tell him the news.”

“I can’t wait to see his face.  He’ll be such a wonderful father.  I will tell you all about it when we come back in two weeks.”  She hugged her sister again and went back inside the living-room to wait for Quinn.  After making sure she had her passport and candy just in case she felt nauseous on the flight she walked over to the window and looked out.  She had lived in this flat for over ten years now and had been relatively happy there but she was looking forward to moving in with Quinn.

She smiled as she imagined getting up every morning and making breakfast for him.  He was a great cook, much better than her but she looked forward to cooking for him.  And when the baby came, she would have another mouth to feed.  Nervousness and excitement filled her at the prospect of being a mother.  If she was anything like her own mother who raised two daughters on her own after their father died when Kay was only six, then she had nothing to worry about.  Besides, she had had lots of practice with her niece and nephew.  She smiled as she imagined Quinn changing dirty diapers.

The doorbell startled her out of her reverie and she went quickly to answer the door.  Quinn stood there, a broad smile on his face.  His eyes traveled over her and admiration shone in them.  “You look gorgeous,” he remarked before taking her in his arms and kissing her.

“You look gorgeous yourself,” she said when she drew back to gaze up at him.  He was dressed in a charcoal grey suit with a black silk shirt and matching black tie.

He smiled.  “Ready?”

“Yes.  I just have to put on my jacket.”

On the ride over to the restaurant, they talked about the wedding and how smoothly everything went.  She told him about Joanna and he was thrilled.  “It’s about time she came around,” he remarked.

When they got to the restaurant, Kay excused herself and went to the washroom.  “I didn’t remember to go before we left,” she said when she sat down.  Quinn smiled but didn’t say anything.   I wonder if I should tell him now or wait until we’re having dessert?

She decided to wait although all through the meal, she was just bursting to tell him.

His eyes widened when he saw her chowing down on the Ginger Chicken. “Wow, you must really be hungry.”

“I’m eating for two,” she blurted out.  Darn.  So much for waiting until dessert.

He stared at her as if he wasn’t sure he had heard her correctly.  “I beg your pardon?”

She reached over and covered the hand closer to her.  “I wanted to wait until we were having dessert before telling you that we’re going to have a baby.”  A smile tugged at her lips when she saw the expression on his face.

“A baby?” he sounded and looked dazed.  “You’re pregnant?”

“Yes.  Five weeks to be exact.”

His eyes were moist now.  “Are you all right?”

She nodded, misting up herself.  “I’m all right.  I hope it’s a boy and that he’ll be just like you.”

His eyes darkened.  “And I hope it’s a girl who will be beautiful just like her mother.”  He squeezed her hand gently.  “I love you.”

“And I love you.  And now, I’m going to have some more of this delicious chicken and another helping of bread and of course, dessert.”

Quinn swallowed the lump in his throat and picked up his fork.  He was going to be a father.

 

Sources:  Wiki How; Parents; The Bump; House of Mooshki;

The Gazebo

When Aubrey got the job of photographer at Harper Magazine, she didn’t expect to meet Olivia Cromwell, the famous mystery writer or fall in love with her brother, Brent.  The way Brent and she met was quite unexpected.  It happened one afternoon when she had accompanied Susannah, her employer to the Cromwell estate in Yorkshire.

It was Aubrey’s job to take the photos while Susannah did the interview.  So, after meeting Olivia and taking photos of her, Aubrey left the Victorian style drawing-room to explore the rest of the manor.  She wanted to take pictures of the study where the writer spent most of her time, working on her novels.  And of course, she had to explore the sprawling and immaculate grounds and see the gazebo where the wedding ceremony scene from Olivia’s latest book was filmed.

She went into different rooms, admiring them and taking pictures.  It felt really good having the freedom to do this and was grateful to Olivia for being so accommodating.  Not everyone liked having a perfect stranger roaming about unsupervised in their homes.  As she wandered down the hallway, she hoped that she would find her way back to the front foyer from where she could access the grounds.  She would just have to rely on her memory and sense of direction.

There was a door straight ahead.  It wasn’t open like the others but slightly ajar.  Was someone in there?  She approached it cautiously.  When she reached it, she nudged it open a little wider and looked in.  It appeared to be empty.  She went inside what turned out to be a fairly large sun-room.  Antique and modern furniture were juxtaposed with very impressive results.  Bright sunshine streamed through the large French windows.

She crossed the carpet to look out and was greeted with an obstructed view of the grounds and the looming mountains in the distance.  How pleasant it must be to see this every day.  Life in the countryside must be very peaceful and stress free.  What a welcome break it was from the hustle and bustle of the city.  It was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop…

She heard a sound behind her and swung around, startled.  A tall figure had stepped into the room from an adjoining room.  He was wearing a white vest and held a blue shirt in his hand.  Heart thudding she watched him warily, wondering who he was and why Olivia hadn’t mentioned that he was here.  Suddenly, she felt like an intruder and her gaze shifted to the door she had come through, desiring to leave.  But, she stood there, rooted to the spot, transfixed as their eyes met and held for what seemed like eternity.

He was very attractive and looked to be in his mid to late thirties.  There was something very familiar about him.  Where had she seen him before?  She wished he would put on his shirt.  The wide shoulders, broad chest and bare chiseled arms were very distracting, not to mention the narrow hips and long, muscular legs in the faded jeans.  His hair was slightly damp as if he had just taken a shower.  When he pulled on his shirt and began to button it, she couldn’t prevent the sigh of relief which escaped from her lips and she saw his mouth twitch.

“Are you lost?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No, I’m not lost but I feel as if I’m intruding so, I’ll leave—”

He moved closer.  “No, please don’t leave on my account.” A pause and then, “Which publication are you with?”

She blinked at him.  “Publication?”

“I assume that you belong to some publication and that the reason you’re here has to do with my sister.  She mentioned that someone was coming over today to interview her.”

“Your sister?”

“Yes.  I’m Brent Montague.”  He finished tucking his shirt in his jeans.  “Now you have me at a disadvantage.  You know who I am but I don’t know who you are.”

“I-I’m Aubrey Williams and I work as a photographer for Harper Magazine.”

His gaze dropped to the camera in her hand before they returned to her face.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Aubrey,” he said, extending his hand.

They shook hands.  “I didn’t think that anyone was here or I wouldn’t have come inside,” she said.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said quietly.  “It’s not every day that I walk into this room and find a beautiful girl with a camera.”

He was still holding her hand as he staring down into her face.  She wondered if he could hear how fast her heart was beating.   “Do you live here?”

He shook his head.  “No, I’m just visiting.”

“I-I really must go now,” she said, looking down at their hands, hers buried in his.

“Why are you in such a hurry to leave?” he asked.

“I’m not in a hurry,” she protested.  “I just wanted to take a walk on the grounds before Susannah is ready to leave.  I was hoping to see the gazebo where the scene of the wedding in Olivia’s book took place.”

“Would you like me to show you around?”

“Yes, thank you.”

He released her hand and she preceded him out of the room.  They walked down the hallway, through the foyer and out of the house.  There was so much to see.  The immaculate landscape seemed to stretch endlessly, dotted with colorful flowers and she paused at the fountain.  It was truly a work of art, reminding her of the ones she saw in Rome.  She felt as if she had stepped into a Jane Austen movie.  He took her to the gazebo and stood on the small, arched footpath, watching as she snapped pictures from different angles.  “It’s a perfect place for a wedding,” she remarked as she walked over to him.  “Has anyone ever gotten married here?

He shook his head.  “No, but my niece Marianne would have been the first if her fiancé hadn’t broken off their engagement a month before the wedding.”

“How awful.”

“Yes, it was a terrible shock for everyone.  It will take some time for Marianne to recover.  Right now, she’s in Barcelona.”

“Do you know why he broke it off?”

“I think he got cold feet.”

“Does Olivia have other children?”

“Yes, two sons.  One lives in Paris and the other in Barcelona.”

She wondered if he was married or had a girlfriend.  She couldn’t imagine that a man like him would be unattached.  After casting a furtive glance at his hand and not seeing a ring, she asked him, “Have you read any of Olivia’s books?”

He nodded.  “Yes.  She dedicated the first one to me.  When we were children, she used to read bedtime stories to me.  One night, she decided that instead of reading from a storybook, she would make up a story.  Her stories were so exciting that I didn’t want to go to sleep so our mother ended up reading to me but whenever we were alone, Olivia would tell me her stories.  I encouraged her to become a writer because she had such a master at it.”

“And now she’s a very successful one.  I’m a big fan.”

“If you don’t mind my asking, how old are you?”

“I’m twenty-four.”

“You look much younger.”

“Is that why you called me a girl when we were in the sun-room?”

He smiled slightly.  “I believe I called you a beautiful girl.”

Suddenly feeling very self-conscious she looked away, her pulse quickening.

“I’m sorry, Aubrey.  I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”

“I’m not embarrassed,” she replied.  “I’m very flattered.”

“I can see that you’re not used to compliments.  Don’t you receive any from your boyfriend?”

“I don’t have a boyfriend.”

“Good.  Then, there’s no one to object to my inviting you to have dinner with me tonight.”

She blinked.  “Dinner with you tonight?”

“Yes.  That unless you have another engagement.”

She shook her head.  “I don’t.”

“Then, it’s settled.  I shall see you this evening at seven.  Where do you live?”

She gave him her address.  “I’d better join the others now.”

“I will escort you back.”  He started back to the manor, walking at a leisurely pace so that she could keep up with him.  In the foyer, he bade her goodbye, adding, “I’m looking forward to seeing you later,” before he headed off in the opposite direction.

When she joined them in the drawing-room, Susannah and Olivia were waiting for her.  “Ah, the wandering photographer has returned,” Olivia remarked.

“We were beginning to wonder why you were,” Susannah said.  “You must have gotten quite a lot of photos in the time you were gone.”

Aubrey nodded.  “I did and I met your brother,” she said to Olivia.

“Ah, yes.  Brent.  He’s very charming, isn’t he?”

“Yes.” And very exciting.  Just talking and thinking about him made her stomach do somersaults.

“Is he still dating that French model?” Susannah asked.

Aubrey held her breath as she waited for Olivia’s reply.

“Heaven’s no,” Olivia said, waving her hand dismissively.  “He ended that relationship ages ago.  Don’t know why he got involved with her in the first place.  I never did like the girl.  She was vain, possessive and not very bright.”

“Is he seeing anyone now?” Susannah asked.

“No.  He’s put relationships on hold, I think.  Now, I shall ring for some tea and scones which we can have on the patio.  It’s such a lovely day. Too lovely to be cooped up inside.  Oh, Aubrey, dear, do you know where Brent is?”

Aubrey shook her head.  “We parted company in the foyer.”

“What a pity.  I was hoping that he would join us.  Oh, well.  I suppose he had some errands to run or something.”

Tea arrived about five minutes later and as they chatted over mouth watering scones, Aubrey wished that the rest of the afternoon would pass quickly.  She couldn’t wait to see Brent again.

It was five minutes to seven and she was ready.  She stood in front of the full length mirror to make sure she looked all right.  He called her a beautiful “girl” but tonight she wanted him to see a beautiful “woman”.  The knee length navy blue, wrap dress with the V neckline and spaghetti straps hugged the contours of her body and the nude strappy sandals flattered her shapely calves.  Her hair was slicked down, giving her a classy, twenties look.  No makeup, only lip gloss and simple but elegant jewelry adorned her ears and neck.

The doorbell rang.  She glanced at her watch.  It was exactly seven.  He was very punctual.  After another quick glance over her reflection, she went to answer the door, her heart racing.  When she opened it, her eyes ran involuntarily over Brent’s tall frame.  He was dressed in a black paisley dinner jacket, black silk shirt, no tie and black trousers.  His hair was slicked back, giving him a polished look.  Her heart was in her throat and she seem to have trouble breathing when she saw the way his eyes traveled slowly over her and then alighted on her face.  She saw admiration and something else shimmering in their depths.  “Hello,” she managed to say.

“You look ravishing,” he muttered, his expression tense.

“Thank you.  And–and you look very handsome.”

His expression remained unchanged.  “Thank you.”

She excused herself and went for her handbag.  After closing and locking the door, she preceded him to the lift, aware of his eyes on her.  She was so nervous.  This was her first date ever.  She hoped he wouldn’t find her company boring or tiresome or regret asking her to dinner.

Thankfully, the evening went much better than she anticipated.  Over a sumptuous meal, he helped her to relax by telling her funny and entertaining stories.

When they were having dessert, he said to her, his expression serious, “I want to see you again, Aubrey.”

She looked at him.  “I want to see you again too.”

“Do you know that after we parted company this afternoon, I couldn’t stop thinking about you?  I kept wishing the hours would go by quickly so that I could see you again.”

She laughed.  “I was wishing the same thing too,” she confessed.

“I don’t know what it is about you, Aubrey Williams, but you got to me in a way no other woman has ever done before.  I felt it this afternoon when I first saw you.”  He reached over and took her hand in his, his eyes intent on her face.  “I hope I’m not moving too fast for you.”

She could hardly think straight with him caressing her fingers with his thumb.  It was having a curious effect on her stomach.  “You’re–you’re not,” she managed to say breathlessly.

“It’s just that I’ve never felt this way about anyone before.” And it scares me.  “I want more of this. More of you, more of us. Together.”

“I want this too,” she said, her heart racing.

He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it.  The feel of his lips on her skin made her tremble and she felt that strange sensation at the pit of her stomach again.

After dinner he took her dancing.  That night marked the beginning of the rest of their lives together. Visitors to their home couldn’t miss the beautiful framed wedding photo of them kissing in the “perfect place for a wedding”— the Gazebo which was decorated with flower garland.  At the bottom of the photo on the right side were the words, Happily Ever After.

Sources:  Carrocel; Archadeck of Central GA; Pinterest

God, the Restorer

adult blur bouquet boy

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

He remembered the day he proposed to her as if it happened just yesterday.  She was waiting for him on the train tracks where they met one fine summer day.  As he approached, holding the wild flowers behind his back, she turned and smiled that smile that melted his heart.  She looked beautiful in the sundress and her hair fell in thick, dark tresses down her back.

Slowly, his heart racing, he walked over to her.  Still holding the flowers behind his back, he leaned down and kissed her.  Then, he held out the flowers. “Happy birthday, Emily Rose.”

Her eyes lit up and she took them.  “Thank you,” she exclaimed, reaching up to kiss him in delight.  She breathed in the sweet, fresh fragrance of the flowers.  “They are beautiful.”

“I have something else for you,” he said.  He reached into his back pants pocket and kneeling down on the dry leaves in between the tracks, he produced a red, velvet box and opened it.  He saw her eyes widen.  “Emily Rose, I have loved you since we were children but that love changed to what it is now.  You are the love of my life–my soulmate.  You are my heaven on earth.  When I look at you, I am amazed not only because you are the most beautiful girl I know but because everything I have ever wanted or dreamed is right in front of me.  When I look at you, I believe that God really loves me because He blessed me with you.  I want to spend the rest of my life loving and taking care of you.  Emily Rose Carter, will you make me the happiest man on the planet by saying that you will marry me?”

Emily was crying now.  In between sobs, she managed to gasp, “Yes, I will marry you.”

After he slipped the ring on her finger, he stood up and picking her up, he swung her around, making her laugh before setting her back down on her feet.  He cupped her face and kissed her for several minutes.  “Let’s celebrate over dinner,” he murmured after raising his head to gaze down into her radiant, tear streaked face.  She nodded and they walked, arms wrapped around each other to their favorite eatery.  It was a balmy afternoon.

Over dinner, they planned the wedding which they wanted to take place as soon as possible.  They didn’t want a long engagement.  They decided to have a fall wedding which was about three months away.  Arrangements were made for a vintage country wedding in a church hall.  The weeks went by quickly and the day which seemed a long way off was nigh.  Then, the unthinkable happened…

Emily and her roommate, Rita were driving home from Emily’s bridal shower when a car ran a red light and slammed into the passenger-side of the car.  Emily died at the scene but Rose was taken to the hospital in critical condition.  When he heard the news, he was devastated, inconsolable and he lashed out at God.  Emily was only twenty-five–in the prime of her life and looking forward to their future together.  How could God have allowed this tragedy to happen?

It was the first day of Fall, just a couple of days before what would have been their wedding ceremony, was Emily’s funeral instead.  He sat there, stone faced still bitter but no longer angry with God.  He had reached the place where he could seek God in prayer and ask him to help him with his anger.

After the funeral, he went home where he remained until the next day when he forced himself to get up and go to work.  He went through the day like an automaton, trying to keep it together but a couple of times, he had to go to the washroom and pull himself together as waves of emotions swept over him.  He missed her so much.  How was he going to function without her?  Her beautiful, expressive face filled his thoughts and her winsome smile tugged at his heart strings, making him ache for her.

It was during one of these meltdown moments that he decided that he had to leave New York and move to another state where he wouldn’t be reminded everyday of his loss.  It took months for him to get everything sorted out and before he left for Seattle, he visited Emily’s grave where he left fresh wild flowers.

Moving to Seattle was the best decision he made, although, it still took five years for him to recover from his grief.  Teaching at the university, going to church and making new friends helped tremendously.  His friends invited him out to different venues and he went.  It was better than being cooped up in his apartment.  However, he made it clear to them that he didn’t want to get fixed up with anyone.  The idea of dating didn’t appeal to him.  He was quite content to be single.

They say love finds you when you’re not looking.  And it did one afternoon when he was walking in the park.   It was a pleasant day.  The sun was high in the cloudless sky and there was a slight breeze.  He went to the lawn flanked by trees and sat on the bench.  There was a group of young people playing Frisbee and he watched them.  They seemed to be having a great time.

The Frisbee landed close to where he was sitting and one of the young women ran over to get it.  She looked to be about twenty or twenty-one–attractive with long chestnut hair which streamed behind her as she ran towards him.  She was dressed in a white tee shirt and denim shorts, exposing long defined legs.  It was obvious that she worked out.

She stooped down and picked up the Frisbee.  When she straightened up, she paused.  For several minutes she just stood there, staring at him, making him uncomfortable and then, she approached him, an inquiring look on her face.  When she stood in front of him, she asked, “Daniel Miller?”

He nodded.  “Yes.  Have we met before?” This close, she looked vaguely familiar now.

She nodded.  “Yes.  We met at my brother’s barbecue.”

“What’s your brother’s name?”

“Mark Brown.  I’m his sister, Cheryl.”  Just then her friends started yelling and waving.

“Oh, yes.  I remember now.  You were in charge of the bean darts.”

She laughed.  “Yes, I was.  And you got the highest score.”

“I got lots of practice from throwing darts.  Um, I think your friends are trying to get your attention.”  They were yelling and waving.

She looked over at them and then back at him.  “I’ll be right back,” she said before bounding off.

He watched as she gave the Frisbee to one of the guys, say something to the group before walking away.  It seemed that Cheryl would rather talk to him than continue playing Frisbee with her friends and for some reason which he couldn’t quite understand, that pleased him immensely.  When she sat down, he asked, “Are you attending university?”

“Yes, Seattle Pacific University.”

“How long have you been attending there?”

“This coming semester will be my second year.”

“What are you studying?”

“Applied Human Biology.  I’ve always wanted to find out how the human body works and why it works the way it does.  Plus, I’m thinking of doing a therapy doctoral degree program after I graduate.”

“It sounds like you have your future well planned.”

“Yes, as far as my academic future is concerned.  When it comes to my personal life, well, that’s a different story.   What about you?  What line of work are you in?”

“I’m a director of Communications and Marketing at Companier.”

“You’re from New York,” she remarked suddenly, startling him.  “Sorry, don’t mean to be nosy.  It’s just that I recognize the accent.”

“You’re right.  I’m from New York.  I moved here to Seattle almost six years ago.”

“How do you like it here?”

“I like its natural beauty, mild winters and the people.  I have more friends here than I know what to do with.”

She smiled.  “All very good reasons,” she said.  “And I heard that it’s cheaper living here than in New York and other cities.”

He smiled.  “That’s true.”

“Are you doing anything later?” she asked.

He shook his head.

“My friends and I are going to the Amusement Center to play their Ultimate Real Life Escape Games.   This is my first time.  It’s supposed to be a lot of fun.  You get to solve real puzzles.  Afterwards, we’ll grab a bite to eat.  Why don’t you come with us?”

The idea of hanging out with a group of university students, most of them probably ten years his junior, didn’t appeal to him but he wanted to see her again.  He enjoyed talking with her.  She was so easygoing and he felt completely relaxed with her.   “All right,” he said.

She looked pleased.  “Great.  We’ll be there for seven.  I’ll wait outside for you.”

“I’ll be there.”

They talked for a while longer and then she returned to her friends.  Shortly afterwards, they left the park.  As he watched them go, he felt a flutter of excitement in his stomach when he thought about seeing her again that evening.

True to her word she was waiting for him and he couldn’t prevent the smile from spreading across his face as he quickly closed the distance between them.  She looked great in a floral top and jeans complete with low heel sandals.  Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, making her look even younger.  Her face lit up when she saw him and grabbing his hand, she took him inside to meet her friends.  They turned out to be a rather nice bunch and he enjoyed interacting with them.

There were two games and they chose the Bourne Mission.  The object of the game was to recover the documents and get out of the abandoned bunker undetected. No one should know you were ever here and if you got caught, there was no rescue mission.  They had a blast even though they fell short of completing the mission.  They made plans to try the Bio-Hazard Room the next time.  They went to a family run Greek restaurant nearby where they enjoyed generous portions of delicious food.  Lively conversation and laughter flowed late into the night.

Daniel offered to take Cheryl home and she readily accepted.  On the way over to her apartment building, they talked animatedly about different things and by the time he walked her to her door, they had arranged to see each other the following day.  It was a beautiful sunny day so they decided to go to Woodland Park Zoo where they spent the entire day.  They bought food from the food truck and then went for a walk in the Rose Garden.  They lingered at the Reflecting Pool and Sculptural Fountain.  It was sunset by the time they left.

As they stood outside of her apartment, he knew that he was ready to be in a relationship again.  “Have dinner with me tomorrow,” he said and she nodded.  He gently brushed her cheek with his knuckles before he walked away.  They began dating.

One evening, they took the ferry to Whidbey Island where they planned to have dinner.  As they stood on the Deception Pass Bridge as it ran suspended over the swirling water, Daniel turned to Cheryl.  He cupped her face between his hands and gazed down into her face.  “Before meeting you, I never thought that I could ever fall in love again,” he said huskily.  “We may not be each other’s first love but I want to be your last and forever love.”

Tears sprang to her eyes.  “You are my first love,” she told him.  “And my last and forever.”

“I love you, Cheryl,” he whispered.

“I love you too, Daniel.”

He smiled slightly before he lowered his head and kissed her. When their lips touched, he felt a fire stir deep inside him.  He felt alive again.  He had heard about people feeling fireworks when they kissed that special someone but when he kissed Cheryl, her lips set his whole heart on fire.

That night over dinner, he asked her to marry him.  Five months later, they got married in the Woodland Rose Garden witnessed by family and friends.  As he gazed into her shining eyes as they danced their first dance, thinking how true the words, God wants to restore everything that’s been stolen from your life. He wants to heal every hurt and every pain.  It took five years but God had restored his life and now he was experiencing love and inexpressible joy once again.  Very few people could say that they were twice blessed but he was–first with Emily Rose and now with Cheryl.

 

Image by © Jamie Grill/Corbis

 

Sources:  Seattle Pacific University; The University of Western Australia; Lake Union Movers; City-Data; Livestrong; NameLix; Trip Advisor; Flee Escape; Woodland Rose Park; The Culture Trip; CBS Seattle; Feels Like Home

Sought After Again

She was once a famous actress.

Sought by everyone.  Accolades

of awards adorned her lavish

home.  Photos of her with other

A list stars lined the walls.   She

was voted People’s Most Beautiful

and graced the covers of TIME

Magazine as person of the year.

 

And it seemed almost overnight…

the roles became few and far in

between and smaller.  She had

heard of Hollywood’s problem

with women over 40 but she

never imagined it would happen to

her.  She believed that they would

always want someone with her talent

and looks.  Writers and producers no

longer saw her as appealing because

she was pushing fifty.

 

Ageism had become her enemy.

The roles she wanted were going

to younger actresses and there

was nothing she could do about

it, except speak about it every

opportunity she got.  Acting was

in her blood.  She loved it and

the thought of retiring terrified

her.  She found herself settling

for roles she would never have

considered in the past.  But,

desperate times called for

desperate measures.

 

Yet, there was a glimmer of hope.

She saw it when she saw Octavia

Spencer catapult to fame at the age

of 41 in The Help and 50 year old

Melissa Leo win an Oscar.  Perhaps

one day, she would again become a

sought after star.  Perhaps she would

have her Hollywood ending.

 

Source:  Huff Post

 

 

Two Brothers

“Young people these days, gallivanting all over the place.  In my day, unmarried people didn’t go on holidays alone.  They got married first.”

“Oh Mother, you have such an archaic view of relationships.  Nowadays lots of unmarried couples go away together and society doesn’t see anything wrong with it.”

“Well, society definitely isn’t the way it used to be in my day.  Nowadays people are living how they please with no thought of the consequences or how it could reflect badly on them and their poor families.”

Emile sat in the armchair beside the window, catching snippets of the conversation between his mother and sister.   They didn’t draw him into it because they could see that he was preoccupied.  He was thinking about Celine.  This morning, he finally faced the truth.  He was in love with her.  It wasn’t something he wanted to happen.  After all, she was Théo’s girlfriend.

He never imagined that his life would change forever because of the afternoon he went with Théo to the restaurant where Celine worked.  He had heard so much about her that he was curious to meet her.

“I told her that we were coming,” Théo told him when they were sitting at a table.  The place was busy as usual for a Saturday.

“I hope she doesn’t mind you bringing me here to meet her.”

“Not at all.  In fact, she’s looking forward to meeting you.”

Emile looked around.  “I notice that the staff is mostly students,” he remarked.

“Yes, that’s because the university is close by which is one of the reasons why Celine is working here.”

“How does she manage working here while going to school?”

“Flexible hours.”

“This is the first time I’ve been here but I’ve heard about it.  They serve Italian food.”

“Yes.  Oh, there she is.”  He waved and a few minutes later Celine was standing at the table.   He smiled up at her before turning to Emile who stood up.  “Emile, this is Celine.  Celine, my brother, Emile.”

Emile felt his breath catch in his throat when he looked down into those big and beautiful brown eyes framed by long lashes.  She was young and beautiful.  Her skin was smooth and flawless.  He wondered if it felt as soft as it looked.  Her neck was long and slender.  And her lips, he saw them part to reveal even white teeth.  She was smiling at him and holding out her hand.  He took it, marveling at how small and slight it felt in his.  Clearing his throat, he muttered, “I’m pleased to meet you, Celine.”

“I’m pleased to meet you too, Emile,” she said.  “Théo promised me that he would bring you around today.  I’m happy he kept his promise.  I hope you will like it here and will come again.”

“I’m sure I will,” he replied.  He tried not to stare and after he released her hand, he sat down.

She turned to Théo.  “You didn’t mention that he was this handsome,” she said, teasingly.  “Is that why you didn’t bring him around to meet me before today?  Were you afraid that I might like him better than you?”

Théo grinned.  “Something like that.”

She smiled.  “It would serve you right if I did.  Anyway, what would you like to drink?”

“The usual.”

“All right.”  She looked at Emile who hadn’t been able to take his eyes off her.  “What about you, Emile?”  Just the way she said his name made his heart skip a beat.

“I’ll have a French limonade, thank you.”

“I’ll get your drinks while you take a look at the menu.”  She excused herself and went away.

As soon as she was gone, Théo remarked, “She’s a lovely girl, isn’t she?”

Emile kept his eyes on the menu.  “Yes, she is.”  He wondered if his brother had noticed the way he kept staring at her.

A few minutes later she returned with their drinks and took their orders.  Before she moved off, her eyes lingered on Emile who felt his face grow hot.  He knew then that he had to go back to the restaurant—just to see her again.  And he did the following night.  He was alone and he sat at the same table.  She looked surprised but very pleased to see him.

“Back so soon?” she said as she stood at the table.  “I guess you enjoyed your dining experience yesterday.”

He nodded.  “Yes, I did.  I enjoyed the food and really liked the service.”

She smiled.  “Thank you.”

“What do you recommend that I try this time?”

“Try the Penne with basil and Home Provencal tomato sauce.”

“Sounds good.  I’ll have that.”

“I’ll be right back.”

When she returned, he asked, “What time do you get off of work?”

“I get off at nine.”

“That’s an hour from now.  Do you have a ride home?”

“I usually take the train.”

“May I give you a ride home?”

“Sure.  Thank you.” She excused herself to go and wait on the other tables.

He watched her as he ate, thinking that she looked even more beautiful than yesterday.  He glanced at his watch.  He couldn’t wait for nine o’ clock to come so that he could be completely alone with her.  For dessert he had a fruit salad and then paid the bill.  He gave her a generous tip which she was very appreciative of.  He waited for her at the door and together they stepped out into the warm night.  They walked to where his car was parked.  He held the door for her and their eyes met briefly before she got in.  He lowered his tall frame behind the wheel and soon they were merging into traffic.

“Do you live alone?” he asked.

“No, I live with my aunt on my mother’s side.”

“Do you have other family here in Paris?”

“No.  The rest of my family is back in Guadeloupe.”

“Do you visit them?”

“Yes, but only at Christmas time.  It’s the only time I can get away.  I stay here during the summer to work full-time at the restaurant.”

“Do you have any siblings?”

“I had a younger sister but she died from pneumonia when she was eight.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.  It must have been a great tragedy for your family.”

“Yes it was a great loss for us.  I know my mother wished she had let Louise come to Paris with me.  She believes that Louise would still be alive.  About a year ago something really weird happened to me.  I was on my way to church when I saw a woman and her daughter.  The little girl was my sister’s doppelganger.  I stood there staring at her because her resemblance to Louise was uncanny.  If I believed in ghosts, I would have sworn that I was looking at my dead sister.  It still gives me the chills.”

“I have heard of such things.  They say that everyone has a twin somewhere out there.   My sister said she saw someone who looked exactly like her sister-in-law one day in the shopping mall and she called out to her but the woman didn’t look around.  When she spoke to Marie the next day, she learned that she was in London at the time.  I hope I don’t have a double.”

She laughed.  “What about Théo?  Can you imagine two of him?”

“It would be double trouble, for sure.”

“Growing up with him must have been fun, though.”

“Yes, it was.   He mentioned that you are in your second year of university.  What are you studying?”

“Hospitality and Leisure Management.  There are two areas which I’m interested in–hotels and restaurants.”

“Is that why you’re working at the restaurant?”

“Yes.  Next year, I’ll work at a hotel.”

“I have no doubt that you would be exceptional in both of these areas.”

She smiled.  “Thank you, Emile.”

She was such a refreshing change from the women he used to date, most of whom were all airs and graces.  He liked that she was down to earth and modest.  She was easy-going, charming and self-assured.  Théo was a very lucky man.  “So, what do you do when you’re not studying or working?”

“I read, go for walks, shop and watch television.”

“And spend time with Théo.”

“Yes.  What about you?  What do you like to do in your spare time?”

“I like to read, hike, play tennis, swimming, cycling, going to motor and art shows and eating out.”

“Sounds like you have a very active life of leisure.  Do you have a girlfriend?”

Her question caught him by surprise and it took a few moments for him to answer.  “No, I don’t have a girlfriend.”  And I wish you didn’t have a boyfriend.

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to be so nosy.”

“It’s all right,” he said quietly.

“Here we are,” she said, pointing to the apartment building on the right.  He slowed down and pulled up alongside the curb.  She turned to him.  “Thanks for the lift, Emile.”

He looked at her, his expression tense.  “When can I see you again?”

“I’m not busy tomorrow,” she informed him.  Tomorrow was Saturday.

“How would you like to visit the Chateau de Saint-Germain-en-Laye?

“I would like that very much.  I’ve always wanted to visit the musée d’Archéologie nationale. ”

“I will pick you up at nine.”  He turned away to open the door and get out.  He walked around to open hers.  After she stepped out he said,  “Goodnight, Celine.”

“Goodnight, Emile.” She smiled up at him before she walked away. He watched her until she went inside and then he got back in the car and drove off. As he headed back to his apartment, he tried convince himself that there was no harm in going on an excursion to Saint-Germain-en-Laye.  It was all perfectly innocent.  She always wanted to visit the museum and he merely giving her what she wanted.  Surely Théo wouldn’t have a problem with that. Besides, he wasn’t interested in this sort of thing.

They ended up spending the entire day in Saint-Germain-en-Laye.  They visited the chateau and the museum before having lunch at a nearby restaurant.  After lunch, they stopped by composer Debussy’s childhood home and museum where many of his personal possessions were kept.  They visited the Eglise Saint Germain and the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, one of the oldest churches in Paris.

Before heading back to the car, they strolled through Place des Marchés, having ice-cream, soaking up the atmosphere.  On the drive home, they talked about all they had seen and how much they enjoyed the excursion.  Outside of her flat, they faced each other.  He wanted so badly to lean over and kiss her but it wouldn’t be right.  Instead he reached for her hand and raised it to his lips.

“Thank you for a lovely day,” she said, her eyes wide as they met his.  She sounded a little breathless.

“It was my pleasure,” was his quiet reply.  He was still holding her hand which he was reluctant to let go of.  “Is it serious between Théo and you?”  He had to ask.

The expression on her face could only be described as baffled but why should she be?  It took a moment for her to say something.  “Why do you ask?”

He released her hand then.  “You’re right.  I shouldn’t have asked the question.  Goodnight, Celine.”

“Goodnight, Emile.”

He turned and walked away.  In the lift, he leaned against the wall as he dragged his fingers through his hair.  He promised himself that he would stay away from Celine.  He had to.

Several weeks passed and he kept busy so that he wouldn’t think about her and miss her but at nights it was torture.  He had sleepless nights.  When he saw Théo, he resisted the temptation to ask about her but one afternoon while they were having lunch at a bistro close to where he worked, his brother said to him, “Celine has been acting very strange lately.  She isn’t her usual upbeat self.  Something’s troubling her but she won’t tell me what it is.”

Emile tried to appear calm but his heart was racing at the mere mention of her name.  Perhaps she was feeling guilty about going to Saint-Germain-en-Laye with him.  “Maybe she has a lot on her mind.”

“Well, I’m taking her dancing at Le Bal Swing tonight.  Hopefully that will cheer her up.”

Emile didn’t answer and he hid his face behind the menu so that Théo couldn’t see the downcast expression on his face.  That night he stayed home, wondering if Celine was having a good time dancing the night away with his brother.  The following day, he drove over to the family chateau to visit his mother.  His sister, Ines was there and now they were having a very heated debate over something or the other.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.  Their raised voices had intruded upon his thoughts.

His mother looked at him, exasperated.  “Well, it’s nice of you to finally join us,” she said crossly.  “Perhaps you can talk your brother out of flying off to St. Barts.”

A surprised expression crossed Emile’s face.  “Théo is going to St. Barts?” He wondered why he hadn’t mentioned that to him.

“Yes, he decided this morning that he was going to take a trip.”

“What’s wrong with him going to St. Barts?”

“Exactly!” Ines chimed in.

Her mother humphed at her before saying to Emile, “I wouldn’t object if he were going alone or with his friends but he’s going with some girl–”

Emile stiffened at once.  “Do you know who she is?”

“Her name begins with a C.”

“Celine?” he asked tightly, his expression taut as he met his mother’s gaze.

“Yes, that’s it.  I told him that I didn’t approve of him going on vacation with a girl he wasn’t married to and–”  She broke off when Emile got abruptly to his feet and stared up at him in surprise.  “What’s the matter?” she asked.

“I have to leave, Mother.”

“Where are you going?” she demanded.  “We haven’t even had dinner as yet.”

“I’m sorry but I can’t stay.  Goodnight.”

“Are you all right?” Ines asked as he walked past her.

Without turning around, he bid her a terse “Goodnight.”

She stared after him, bewildered.  “What do you suppose is the matter with him?”

Her mother shrugged her shoulders.  “He seemed fine until I mentioned the girl.”

Ines looked at her.  “Mother, you got her name wrong.  It’s Celeste, not Celine.”

“Well, the names are so similar, it’s easy to get them confused.  I wish Emile hadn’t run off like that.  What could be more important than having dinner with us?”

Emile hurried to his car and got in.  For a few minutes, he sat there, trying to process what he had just learned.  Théo and Celine were flying off to St. Barts together.  It seemed as if his brother had succeeded in cheering her up last night.  His fingers gripped the steering wheel as jealousy ripped through him.  He had no right to be feeling like this but he couldn’t help it.  He was in love with her and the thought of her with his brother on a beautiful island was unbearable but what could he do about it?  The best thing for him to do was to get over her.  Perhaps, I should fly off somewhere too just to get her out of my system.

He gunned the engine and raced away.  Instead of heading home, he found himself going in the direction of Théo’s flat.  What was he going to say to him when he got there?  He had no clue.  All he knew was that he had to see him.  When he got there and stood outside of the door, he hesitated.  This was not a good idea.  He should turn around and go home.  Just as he made up his mind to do just that, the door opened and Théo stood there.  He was surprised to see him.  “I was just on my way out,” he said.  “Celine is here, though.  I’m sure she would be happy to see you.”

Hearing that Celine was there got his heart racing.  “Where are you going?  Will you be gone long?” he asked his brother.  He was afraid of being alone with her.  There was no telling what he might be tempted to do.

“I have to run an errand.  I should be back in about forty-five minutes or so.  Oh, did I tell you that about the trip to St. Barts?”

Emile shook his head.  “No, you didn’t.”

“I meant to when we had lunch yesterday but it slipped my mind.  The flight is tomorrow night.  Anyway, go on in and make yourself at home.”  He held the door open for Emile to step in and then he closed and locked it behind him.

Emile stood in the foyer for a few minutes before he removed his shoes and went into the living-room where Celine was.  She turned when she heard him.  He closed the distance between and they stood there staring at each other.  The air was palpable between them.  She was wearing a black top and a denim skirt which revealed shapely legs.  His felt his body respond and he released a shaky breath.

“I didn’t expect to see you,” she said.

“I didn’t expect to see you either,” he replied.  “I thought you might be home packing for your trip.”

She stared at him.  “Trip?” she repeated.  “What trip?”

“The one to St. Barts with Théo.

“I’m not going to St. Barts with Théo.”

He looked at her, confused now.  “But Théo said…”

“Théo couldn’t have said that I was going with him. He’s going with Celeste.”

“Celeste?”

“Yes!  She’s the girl he’s been dating for some time now.”

“But you and he went dancing last night.”

“Yes.  Celeste was there too.”

He ran his fingers through his hair, trying to make sense of this.  “When my mother mentioned that Théo was going to St. Barts with someone, I–”

“You made the assumption that it was me.  Why?”

“I thought you were his girlfriend, Celine.”

“No, Théo and I are just good friends.  Is that why you haven’t been in touch with me?  After we spent such a lovely day at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, I thought that we would see more of each other.  I thought you liked me, Emile.”

He stared down into her face, incredulous.  “Like you?” he exclaimed.  “Celine, I’m in love with you.  I wanted to see you again but I couldn’t because of your relationship with Théo.  I truly believed that you and he were romantically involved.”

“All this time you thought I was in love with your brother when it was you all along.  I fell in love with you when he showed me your photo.  I wanted to ask him if I could keep it but I decided that would seem a bit weird.  I kept hounding him to introduce us and he finally did.  When I saw you in person, I fell harder for you.  Your photo didn’t do you justice.   You were reserved but very charming.  I couldn’t keep my eyes off you that night and I was so happy when you came by the following night.  And when you offered to give me a ride home, I was ecstatic.  I got a chance to know you better and I was on cloud nine when you asked me to go to Saint-Germain-en-Laye with you.”

He took her hands in his and drew her towards him, his eyes darkening on her upturned face.  “I’m thankful that I came over here tonight because we cleared up some misunderstandings.  I would have continued to believe that you were Théo’s girlfriend and that you went away with him to St. Barts.”

“Yes.  I would have continued feeling miserable because I thought you were no longer interested in me.   Théo suspected that my troubles had to do with a man but I didn’t tell him who it was.   He tried to cheer me up by taking me dancing but I couldn’t stop thinking about you and missing you.  I left him and Celeste there and took a taxi home.”

He released her hands and cupped her face between his, his eyes searching hers.  “I feel as if I have been waiting for you all of my life.” he murmured huskily.  “I want to court you for a while and then I want to marry you.”

She smiled up at him as she put her arms around his waist.  “When I asked God to give me someone that I could love with all my heart and who would love me in return, someone I can grow old with, to spend the rest of my imperfect life with,  He gave me you.  I will be eternally grateful to Him.”

“Yes, I too am eternally grateful to Him because He blessed me with you.”  He lowered his head and kissed her then.  As their lips locked, he knew that if he were to ever lose his memory, he would never forget their first kiss.

 

Sources:  My University Money; Bistrot 77; École normale supérieure; Top Universities; Solo Sophie; Hostel Geeks; Wikipedia; Culture Trip; Poem Hunter; Simply Love Quotes