Friends

They started out as friends.

Talked for hours on the phone.

Went out for pizza or to the

movies when they didn’t have

any other plans.  Some

Saturday nights they would

order in spicy Thai food

while watching classic or

foreign movies.

 

They didn’t know exactly

when their feelings for

each other began to

change.  Perhaps it was

the afternoon when they

went to the amusement

park and rode on the

carousel.

 

She held on to the pole

laughing as Tony tried

to take a photo of her.

Then, on the spur of the

moment, he leaned forward

and kissed  her.  It seemed

perfectly natural but she

was no longer laughing.

When the ride stopped

and he helped her

down, their eyes held

for a long moment.  They

were very close to each

other and his hands were

still holding her by the

waist.  Her legs were

a bit wobbly and she

held on to him for a

while longer until she

no longer needed the

support.

 

When they were

standing outside of

the park and away

from the crowd, he

stopped and pulled

her aside.  “I’m sorry

about just now,” he said.

“I shouldn’t have kissed

you.  I hope you’re not

angry with me.”

 

“I kissed you back,” she

said.   “Where do we

go from here, Tony?”

 

He moved closer, his

expression serious

as his eyes searched

her face.  “Where would

you like us to go, Nicole?”

 

She reached up and

kissed him.  “Does this

answer your question?”

she asked minutes

later when she drew

back to look up

at him.

 

“Yes, it does” he said.

“Are you hungry?” she asked.

“Famished,” he replied, rubbing

his stomach.  They laughed.

“I am in the mood for

some Penne arrabiata.”

“So am I,” he agreed, reaching

for her hand and lacing his

fingers through hers

as they walked to

their favorite Italian

bistro.

 

That was two years ago.

Now they were engaged.

Their wedding was in

two months.  Before going

on their honeymoon, they

planned to go back on

the carousel ride–where

for them, the journey from

friendship to romance began.

 

 

black and white couple

 

Illusive Love

Broken heart, broken dreams

Tired of casual relationships.

Walking through life, looking

for that love that seemed so

elusive.  It shimmered in the

distance like a mirage but

disappeared as she got

closer.

 

It was the love she

read about in books.  The love

she longed to experience but

it was beyond her grasp.

Every time she thought she

had found it, it turned out

to be an illusion.

 

She imagined the walks

on the beach, the holding

of hands, gazing into his

eyes, the love emanating

from them and warming

her in its glow.  The sun

casting shadows on their

faces as they stood facing

each other, the gentle breeze

caressing them and their

arms wrapped around each

other.

 

She could almost hear his gentle

laughter, the sound of the

waves rushing onto the

sand which was soft and

squishy between her toes.

And she would look at the

sailboats bobbing in the

water as she and her

love ambled along the

water’s edge, hand in

hand.  Then she would

turn to him but he was

gone.  Instead of

holding his hand, she

was holding her sandals.

She was standing there

alone on the beach.  It had

all been a dream.

 

Tired of the dreams.

She wanted the real

thing.  The temptation

to give up on love was

so powerful and many

times she almost gave

in but…she fought it

with all she had.  She

wanted to find that

one true love that she

would spend the rest

of her life with.  It was

out there somewhere.

 

So, instead of searching

for love, she would let it

find her.

 

young woman pensive

Papa Joe

August 12, 1952.  It was a date she would never forget.  It was the day she buried the man who had been a father to her for over twenty years.  It seemed so surreal.  Papa Joe was gone.  She stood there alone in her grief, shivering although it was a hot and muggy day.

She stared at the ground where Papa Joe lay.  The tears rolled down her cheeks as she cradled his worn Bible, remembering how he used to read it to her when she was a child. When her parents had died he took her in and raised her as his own. She had grown to love the old man as if he were her very own blood.  Many of the townspeople had a problem with the widower raising a black girl and didn’t hide their displeasure but Papa Joe ignored them.  His business began to suffer.  Papa Joe was a tailor.  He knew that business would pick up again if he got rid of Cassandra but he refused to do so.  Even if he went bankrupt, he would never part with her.  He vowed that only death would separate them.

It was Papa Joe whom she shared her dreams with.  It was Papa Joe who comforted her when she went home crying because of the racial slurs and taunts.  Papa Joe was the only one who knew that she loved a man she had no right to love.  She had known Dr. Baker since she was a child.  He used to stop by and see Papa Joe.   He was always kind to her and brought her treats.  As she grew older, the visits became more frequent.  Papa Joe was no fool.  He could see that feelings were developing between them and he warned her, “You and the doctor have to be careful, Cassie.  This town will not take kindly to a relationship between a black girl and a white man.”

One night when Dr. Baker visited, Papa Joe excused himself and went to his room.  As soon as they were alone, the doctor took Cassandra into his arms and kissed her.  “I have wanted to do that all day,” he whispered when he raised his head to gaze down into her face.  “I know that there is a considerable age difference between us but I love you, Cassandra.  I tried to stay away when I realized that I had fallen in love with you but I couldn’t.  I had to see you.”

“I love you too.”

“I’m leaving for Paris in three weeks and I would like you to come with me.”

“Paris?” she exclaimed.  “Why there?”

“I have always wanted to go there and set up a practice.  My mother was French and your family was from Haiti.  So the language won’t be a barrier for us.”

“I can’t go to Paris with you, Robert.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t leave Papa Joe.  He has been so good to me.”

“Joe would want you to be happy and you won’t be as long as you remain in this town.”

“I can’t be happy knowing that he is here all alone.”  She could see the distress on Robert’s face and she reached up and touched his face.  “I love you for wanting to take me away with you, but I can’t.  I hope you understand.”

“I do,” he sighed.  “Well, I better be going.  Please say goodnight to Joe for me.”  They kissed and then she walked with him to the door.

“Goodbye, Cassandra.  Write me and let me know how you are doing.”  He gave her a piece of paper with an address on it.  She took it.  After a lingering look, he was gone–perhaps out of her life for good.

That was three months ago.  They had exchanged letters since and when Papa Joe died, she had written and told Robert.  She stood now at the grave, the tears falling.  Papa Joe had left the house to her and all the money he earned from his tailoring.  She had the money locked away in a box.  She didn’t want to go back to the empty house.

She had no idea of how long she stood there but the biting cold prompted her to start making her way back to the house.  She had just reached the front porch when she saw a car pull up and Robert got out.  He walked over to her and taking her arm he led her up the steps.  “I’m sorry I didn’t make it on time for the funeral,” he apologized as she unlocked the door and they went inside.

Once inside and the door was shut, she threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly.  She sobbed, letting out the pent up grief that had closed around her heart like a fist.  Robert stood there, holding her until the sobs subsided and then ceased.

When she was spent from all that crying, Robert took her over to the sofa and sat her down.  “Joe wrote me this note,” he said, handing it to her.  “I think you should read it.”

She wiped away the tears before she reached for the note.  Frowning, she slowly unfolded the paper and read it.  Dear Robert, I know that you love my Cassie and that you wanted to take her away from this cursed place.  If I know my dear girl she will not want to leave me.  She feels a sense of obligation to stay and take care of me as I have taken care of her all these years.  I don’t want to be a burden to her.  She is young and deserves to live her life.  There’s no future for her here.  I know that she loves you and that it broke her heart to be separated from you.  She thought I wasn’t aware, but I could see the unhappiness in her sweet face and I could hear her crying in the night.  She had sacrificed her chance for happiness for me.  I haven’t told her but I don’t have much longer to live.  When I pass on, which should be any time soon, please come and take Cassie away from here.  Take her to Paris where you and she will be free to love each other.  She can use the money from the sale of the house to pay for her fare.  I am sorry that I won’t be there for your wedding but know that I wish you both all the happiness in the world.  Please take good care of my precious girl.

Yours sincerely,

Joe

Fresh tears fell.  “I had no idea that he was dying.  He was tired more but I just thought that it was to do with age.  I am thankful that I was here for him.”

“Now, you can get on with your life.  We have his blessing.  Let me take you to Paris.”  He reached out and took her hands in his.  “Cassandra, I want to marry you.  Let me take you to Paris.”

She nodded.  “I will go to Paris with you,” she said.  Her life here was over.  There was nothing to keep her here.  Her future was with Robert now.  She would sell this house filled with so many wonderful memories and leave this town which had been the source of her unhappiness.  Yes, she will go to Paris and marry the man she loved.

 

crying african american woman in the 1950s

The Wedding Announcement

She stood there, face pale, heart-broken waiting for the train that would forever part her from the man she loved.  She had to leave.  After she heard the news that he had married, she knew that it was impossible for her to remain there in Yorkshire any longer.  She would go and live in London with her aunt.

Mrs. Clark, to whom she had been a lady’s companion for four years had not been pleased but Eleanor had been very insistent that she leave her position.   She couldn’t run the risk of seeing John and his wife at any social event she and Mrs. Clark might attend.  The sooner she left Yorkshire and its memories the better.  Memories.  They came unbidden to her mind and she released a sound that was a mixture of a sob and a groan.

For a moment she was transported back to the first time she and John met.  It was at a seaside resort.  She and Mrs. Clark were having tea when he walked in.  Mrs. Clark knew him so she invited him to join them.  He seemed pleased to do so.  Eleanor was very shy but he was pleasant and seemed very interested in her opinion on various things.  Mrs. Clark invited him to join them for dinner that evening.  It was a very pleasant affair and Eleanor was sorry when it was over.

The next morning when Mrs. Clark was confined to bed because of a headache, Eleanor went down to have breakfast alone.  John came in and joined her.  Afterwards, they went for a walk along the beach.  They found a quiet stretch of the beach and sat on a rock.  They spent a long time just talking and enjoying the sea air and each other’s company.  She and John saw each other every day during the month at the seaside and then he had to leave and return to Yorkshire.   She was sorry to see him go.  The remaining week at the resort was so dull without him.  She couldn’t wait to return to Yorkshire.

When she returned to Yorkshire he wasn’t there.  He had business in New York.  Several weeks passed and no word from him and then while they were having tea, Mrs. Smith informed Mrs. Clark that “Mr. Anderson was married to a Miss Taylor.”  What a shock it had been.  She had nearly fainted and both women were very alarmed.  “Whatever is the matter, child?” Mrs. Clark asked.  Eleanor got up and rushed out of the room.  She flew up the stairs and into her room, bolting the door before throwing herself on her bed and sobbing.  It took a long time for her to regain her composure and face Mrs. Clark who had by now read the news and was very displeased.

John wrote her a week later but she returned his letter unopened.  When he dropped by the house, she refused to see him.  She didn’t want to go anywhere for fear of running into him.  Life was unbearable.  Desperate, she wrote her aunt in London and asked if she could live with her.  Her aunt was delighted and urged her to come as soon as she could.

Comforted by her aunt’s kindness and eagerness to receive her, she made the arrangements.  She made sure that someone very commendable was secured for her position of Lady companion to Mrs. Clark who didn’t hide her displeasure at the turn of events.  For her, Eleanor’s departure was rather inconvenient as she had gotten quite used to her and now had to get used to another young lady.  Eleanor was sorry to leave because she had grown rather fond of Mrs. Clark.  Mrs. Clark couldn’t accompany her to the station because of a prior engagement and Eleanor was glad.  She wanted to be alone.

And now, here she was, waiting on the train that would take her far away from Yorkshire.  The sun was shining on her face but she couldn’t feel its warmth.  Nothing filled her except sorrow and pain.  In spite of everything, she still loved John.

“Eleanor!” She turned with a start and was shocked to see John at the end of the platform.  What on earth was he doing here?

For a moment he hesitated and then he made a dash toward her.  When he was standing in front of her, he removed his hat.  His eyes were earnest as they met hers.  “I feared that I would not get here in time.”

She tried to appear calm and composed although her legs felt like jelly and her heart was pounding wildly.  “What are you doing here, John?” she asked.

“I went to the house to see you but you weren’t there.  After some difficulty I managed to get the information from Mrs. Clark and I came here straightaway.  Why are you leaving, Eleanor?”

“I have to,” she said evasively.  “I’m going to London to live with my aunt.  You really shouldn’t be here, John.”

“But what about us?” he asked, looking bewildered.  “I thought we had something special between us.  Why were you going to leave without telling me?  I wrote you but you returned my letter.  Why, Eleanor?”

“Why?” she demanded.  The pain was too much for her to bear and it erupted now.  “You stand there before me demanding answers from me when I had to learn about your marriage from Mrs. Smith?”

Now he looked confounded.  “My marriage?  What on earth are you talking about?”

“I was there when Mrs. Smith told Mrs. Clark that you were married.”

“Mrs. Smith was mistaken.  I am not married.”

She said, “Mr. Anderson was married.”

“She meant my brother George.  He got married to Lucy Taylor.”

Eleanor stared at him, hardly able to believe what was happening.  “But, I thought…”

“Let’s find somewhere to sit,” he suggested.  They went over to a bench and sat down.  “It was all a terrible misunderstanding.  Oh, Eleanor, if you had only read my letter or seen me when I came to the house, this all could have been avoided.”

“I hadn’t heard from you for weeks and after what Mrs. Smith said, I thought you were writing about it in your letter and that’s why I returned it unopened.  I couldn’t bear to read it or see you.”

“My business in New York took longer than I had anticipated but I wrote you as soon I returned home.  Is that why you are going to London?”

“Yes, I simply had to get away.  Oh, John, I have been so dreadfully unhappy.  I thought you had married someone else and I couldn’t bear to be here any longer.”

“Eleanor, how could I marry someone else when I am hopelessly in love with you?”

“And I love you dearly.”

“So, now that this misunderstanding has been cleared up, are you still going to London?”

“Well, there doesn’t seem to be any point in doing that now, I suppose.  But, my position with Mrs. Clark has been filled.”

“Well, you have a new position to fill, Miss Philips and it is that of my wife.”

Eleanor smiled through her tears.  “I will be more than happy to fill that position, Mr. Anderson.”

“Good.  It’s effective immediately.”  He took her hands and raised them to his lips before he helped her to her feet.  He picked up her suitcase and they left the platform.

Victorian woman at train station

Source:  Sense and Sensibility

The Deception

“A letter for you, Miss,” Fanny announced as she handed the envelope to Clara.

Clara took it and frowned when she saw the name on it.  Why did he write me?  Why did he not come instead?  “Thank you, Fanny.” As soon as the young maid was gone, she ripped open the envelope and unfolded the letter, her fingers trembling with excitement.

As she read the contents, her face turned ashen.  The sheet shook in her hand and she gripped the chair with her other hand.   The letter read:

Dear Clara,

I hope you are well.  I am still in London taking care of the business matters for which my Aunt asked me to attend to.  I don’t quite know how to say this but my affections have long been engaged elsewhere.  Lady Agatha and I are to be married upon my return to Devonshire.  If I have given you reason to believe that my feelings for you were more than brotherly affection, please forgive me.  I will always remember you with fondness and felicity.

Your friend,

Raymond

She collapsed into the chair as her legs gave way under her.  He never loved her.  That was what he said.  He had been in love with Lady Agatha all this time.  Not once did she ever suspect that his feelings were engaged elsewhere.  He had always been so attentive to her and she could not have imagined the tenderness which she had seen in his features.   Had it all been an illusion?  Had she imagined that he loved her?

She dissolved into tears, her heart breaking.  How could she had been such a fool?  She had given her heart to a man who had given his to another.  How was she going to face her family and friends?  They too were under the impression that Raymond and she were soon to announce their engagement based on the warm and affectionate sentiments they had expressed toward each other.  It had all be a lie–on his part.  She had been deceived.

Pain gave way to seething anger.  She crumbled the letter and getting up, she rushed over to the fireplace and threw it on the fire.  She watched it burn.  Oh, how she hated him.  The love she had once felt for him had now turned to hate.  She never wanted to see him again.

It took Clara several years to get over Raymond.  During that time she was frequently in the company of an older gentleman whose devotion she grew to appreciate.  Eventually, they got married and Clara grew to love him dearly.  She never saw Raymond again.  He and Lady Agatha moved to France.  She no longer bore any ill-feelings toward the man she had once loved.  She wished him well.

 

victorian woman grips chair as she reads letter

The Refusal

“What offense did I commit, Mother?” Catherine demanded.  “All I did was

turn down Mr. Nivens’ proposal of marriage.”

 

They were sitting outside the hotel facing the sea.  The family  was vacationing

at their favorite seaside resort for part of the summer.  It was there that

Mr. Nivens had proposed to Catherine and she politely refused him.  Upset,

he left and her mother, upon hearing the news took her outside where they

could have some privacy.

 

The sun was setting and it was pleasant evening.  Ships sailed

in the distance, people were on the beach, enjoying the last

few moments of sunshine.

 

However, Catherine was not out there to enjoy the view or bask

in the fresh air mingled with the briny smell of the seashore.  She

was there to explain to her mother why she had rejected Mr. Nivens.

She sat down beside her mother who was casting her a censorious look.

 

“What offense did you commit?  You turned down John Nivens.  A fine,

upstanding gentleman.”

 

“Mother, I do not love him.  He’s old enough to be my father and he’s

a bit of a bore–”

 

“A bore?”  Her mother was incredulous.  “Why I find Mr. Nivens to be a

very amiable man.  And to think you turned him down.  With his wealth

you would have been well provided for.  You have thrown a perfectly

good future away.”

 

“Mother, I could not in good conscience consent to marry Mr. Nivens when

I did not love him.  Besides, my heart belongs to someone else.”

 

“What?” her mother was aghast. “Who is he?”

“James Fenmore.”

 

“The solicitor?”  The older woman was beside herself now with indignation.

“You turned down Mr. Nivens for a man who is below your station?”

 

“Even if I were not in love with James, I would still have refused Mr. Nivens.”

 

“Has your Mr. Fenmore proposed?”

 

Catherine lifted her head, her eyes flashed in defiance.  “No, he has not.”

 

Her mother shook her head in disbelief.  “You turned down Mr. Nivens who

chose you when he could have chosen any number of fine young ladies for

a man who has not even proposed to you.  How could you be so foolish,

Catherine.  I always thought you were a sensible girl but you are letting

your feelings rule your good sense.  You have no future with Mr. Fenmore.

You would have been better off with Mr.  Nivens.  Perhaps, it isn’t too late

to appeal to him.  Perhaps he will forgive your reckless behavior and reconsider.

I shall write a telegram to him and—”

 

Catherine jumped to her feet, her face flushed with anger.  “Mother, you shall

do no such thing.  I will not marry Mr. Nivens even if he were the last man

on the earth.  I would rather die an old spinster than subject myself to a life

of unhappiness with a man I do not love.”

 

Her mother took out her handkerchief and dabbed her eyes.  “Very well then,”

she said.  “Suit yourself.  I will say nothing more on the subject.  But I must say

you behaved very badly toward poor Mr. Nivens.  Yes, very badly indeed.”

 

“If putting one’s happiness above another’s constitutes bad behavior in your

estimation, then I am guilty.  As for James.  I cannot determine if he will ask

me to marry but I will admit that I hope he does.  I love him, Mother, and

I would count myself very fortunate to have such a man for a husband.”

 

Her mother got up and stalked over to the chair which faced the beach

and sat down rather heavily.  She sat with her back to Catherine gazing

stonily out at the sea.

 

“Excuse me, Mother.”

 

There was no response.  Shrugging, Catherine turned and walked away.

No matter what happened between James and her, she had stood up to

her mother and secured her own happiness by not settling.  And contrary to

what her mother had said, she had used good judgment and reason to

make her decision.  She was convinced that she would not have made

Mr. Nivens any happier than he would have made her.  She had

spared them both future unhappiness. And that accomplishment alone

was well worth the ire of her mother.

 

Young Victorian girl walking away from mother

The Truth

“What are you doing?” she asked him, agitated.

 

“I am going to turn the pages for you,” he said.

 

She was sitting at the piano about to play something

while her aunt and her visitors were sitting in the drawing-

room having tea.  “I can manage,” she told him.

 

“Please, Helen.  I haven’t been alone with you for

days and you have been avoiding me.”

 

“Have I?” she began to play and for the next

few moments, no words were exchanged

between them.  He turned the pages, his eyes

never leaving her face.  How she managed to

concentrate with him being so near, she had

no idea.

 

The last note she struck was accompanied

by applause and compliments on her playing

and then the conversation resumed.

“You know you have been avoiding me,” he

insisted.  “Why, Helen?”

 

She looked at him in frustration.  “You know

why, Jonathan.”

 

“All I know is that we love each other and

avoiding me isn’t going to change that.”

 

“Please don’t say that.”

“It’s the truth.”

 

“We’re not supposed to love each other.”

“But we do.  Come for a walk with me.  I

need to be alone with you.”

 

“I can’t.  I’m–I’m not feeling well.”  She

did feel a little warm.

 

“Liar” he interjected.  He reached in his

breast pocket and took out a folded

sheet of paper.  He slipped it over to

her.

 

She stared at it, not taking it up.  “What

is it?”

 

“A poem.”

 

“Another one?  Jonathan, you have to

stop writing me poems and letters.”

She had them hidden away in her

drawer and at night before she went

to bed, she read them, even though

it tortured her to do so.

 

“It captures the feelings that I want

so badly to express.  I will leave you

now.  If you change your mind, I will

be in the gazebo.  It promises to be a

beautiful night.”  He walked away.

 

She sat there for a while, staring

at the sheet of paper and then she

picked it up, her fingers trembling.

She slowly unfolded it and read

the bold letters scrawled across

the lines.  Her heart breaking as

she read the words.  She pressed

the page against her chest and

closed her eyes.

 

“Are you all right?” the sound of

her aunt’s voice jolted her and

she got up hastily from the piano,

the sheet of paper slipped from her

fingers and fell on the carpet.

 

“I have a headache,” she said, “Please

excuse me, Aunt Cora.”

 

“Wait,” her aunt called, frowning, but

Helen had left the room.  Aunt Cora stood

there for a moment, pensive and then

she bent down and picked up the paper

which Helen had dropped.  She glanced at

it and then she folded it and slipped it into her pocket.

 

The clock struck eleven.  Helen sat by the window, looking

out of the window.  It was a beautiful night.  The moon cast its

light on the courtyard below.  Was he still out there in the

gazebo or had he retired?  What was he doing?

Should she have gone for the walk?  She knew why

she didn’t dare be alone with him.  The last time they

were alone together, they almost got carried away.

She had to practically run away.  After that she

vowed never to be alone with him again.

 

A knock on the door brought her out of her

reverie.  She turned to see her aunt in the

doorway.  “Aunt Cora.” She moved away from

the window.

 

“I hope I am not disturbing you, Dear.”

Helen shook her head.  “No, you’re not.  I

couldn’t sleep.  I have been sitting at the

window watching the moon.”

 

“I have something that belongs to you.”  She

handed Helen the poem.

 

Helen blushed as she took it, feeling embarrassed.

 

Aunt Cora motioned for them to sit by

the window.  “I think it’s about time that

I told you the truth about your father,”

she said.

 

Helen was startled.  “My father?”

 

“Yes.  My brother John was not your

father, Helen.  Your real father was

a close friend of John’s.  Your mother

died in childbirth and your father

raised you.  When you were three

he died in a riding accident.  When

John learned this unfortunate news

he brought you home as you had no

other living relatives.  He raised you

as his own daughter and he adored

you.  You were his life.”

 

Helen was crying now.  “I adored

him too,” she said.  “I miss him.  There’s so

much I want to talk to him about.”

 

Aunt Cora patted her hands.  “Yes, I imagine there is.”

 

“What were my parents like?”

 

“They were very good people.  I met your

father.  He was a delightful man.  He

doted on you.”

 

There was a pregnant pause as Helen tried

to digest the news she had just received.  “So

this means that Jonathan and I aren’t cousins.”

 

Aunt Cora nodded.  “That’s right.  And that’s why

I had to tell you the truth about your background.

I had noticed the way you and my son behaved

around each other.  And seeing you together

tonight convinced me that you are in love with

each other.  So, my Dear, there’s nothing to stop

you and he from being together.”

 

“Are you going to tell him?”

 

Aunt Cora shook her head.  “I will leave you to it.”

 

“Do I still call you Aunt Cora?”

 

“Oh yes, you do.”  The older woman hugged

her tightly.  “Now, try to get some sleep.”

 

Helen smiled, “Goodnight, Aunt Cora.”

 

“Goodnight, Dear.”

 

Helen turned to look out the window.  The

truth about her parentage turned out

to be her greatest blessing.  Now she and

Jonathan were free to love each other

without feeling guilty and ashamed.  Tomorrow

she would tell him.  Tomorrow couldn’t come

soon enough.

 

Girl on piano