A Memorable Birthday

Todd had finally provoked her into ending their relationship.  She refused to continue to tolerate his wandering eye and embarrassing behavior in public.  He tried to sweet talk her into taking him back but it didn’t work this time.  She was fed up with him and wanted a break from relationships.  She was just going to concentrate on her career.  Right now she was at her beach house in Devon, enjoying the solitude and the sound of the waves was very soothing.

One afternoon she was walking on the beach when she saw a stranger sitting on sandy mound, watching her.  She stopped and stared at him, wondering who he was and why he was there.  Curious, she approached him.  He stood up, his six feet plus frame making her feel small.  Well dressed in a dark blue suit over a purple shirt, he was extremely handsome and was most likely in his mid to late twenties.  “What are you doing here?  This is a private beach.”

“Miss Flanning, I’m sorry to be trespassing but I had to see you,” he explained.  “You see, my mother is a big fan of yours and she’s celebrating her fiftieth birthday this Saturday.  I was hoping that if you weren’t otherwise engaged, you would come and sing for her as a surprise.  It would be a real treat for her and most likely the best gift she has ever had.”

Lola was touched by his request.  “I don’t have any engagements this weekend so I will be more than happy to do this for your mother.”

He looked very relieved and smiled.  “Thank you, Miss Flanning,” he said.

She smiled.  “Please call me Lola,” holding out her hand.  “What’s your name?”

“Julian Mortimer.”  They shook hands.

“What time is the party?” she asked.

“At seven.  Here are the particulars,” he added, reaching into the breast pocket of his jacket and taking out an invitation which he gave her.   “I’d like you to come at eight.  By then everyone will be there.”

She took the invitation.  “I’ll be there at eight,” she promised.  “This is a very thoughtful thing you’re doing for your mother.”

“Thank you.  Every year I give her flowers or take her to the opera or ballet but this year I wanted to do something different for her fiftieth birthday.  I surfing the Internet for ideas when I came across a recent interview you had on the BBC.  And the thought occurred to me what a wonderful treat it would be for my mother to have you sing at her birthday party.  The only problem was I didn’t know how to get close to you.  Then, I remembered that one of my friends knows your publicist and he spoke to her on my behalf and here I am.  I hope you don’t mind and that your publicist doesn’t get into trouble because of me.”

“Don’t worry.  No one’s going to get fired or anything like that.  Besides,  I trust my publicist’s judgment and obviously, she believed that this was a worthy cause.  And I must admit that singing at a private venue is a welcome change.”

“Well, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you doing this.  My mother will be thrilled.”

“Are you and she close?”

He nodded.  “Yes, we are.  I’m an only child and after my father died, we became closer because I was all she had.  She doted on and still does.  I love her dearly and would do anything for her.”

“She’s a very lucky woman to have a son like you,” she remarked.

“I believe that I’m the lucky one.”  He glanced at his watch.  “I must be going,” he said apologetically.  He held out his hand.  “It was a pleasure meeting you, Lola.”

She shook his hand.  “It was a pleasure meeting you too, Julian.”

“I look forward to seeing you on Saturday.”

“I look forward to being there.  Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.”  He smiled, making her heart skip a beat before turning and walking away.

She stood there watching his retreating back until he was no longer visible before she turned and walked along the water’s edge.  Truthfully, she was looking forward to seeing him again too.

Saturday came.  She opted to wear a black pant suit with a white sequin top.  Her only jewelry were a pair of pearl earrings.  After examining herself in the mirror and satisfied with the results, she grabbed her handbag and left the house.

Twenty minutes later she was driving up a long, winding driveway flanked by imposing trees until the mansion suddenly came into view.  Her mouth dropped open.  It was was magnificent and it reminded her of one of those mansions she saw in the show, Hidden Mansions or something out of a Jane Austen novel.  The stately home made her beach house look like a doll’s house in comparison.  She parked her car where she saw other cars parked and got out.

Heart racing, she went up the short flight of stairs to the enormous door and stared at the antique lion door knocker before lifting it to alert someone inside that she was there.  A few minutes later, the door opened an gentleman stood there.  She presumed that he was the butler.  “Good evening,” he said.  “You must be Miss Flanning.”

“Yes, I am.”

“Master Julian informed me that you would be coming at this time.  Please come in and I will take you directly to the drawing-room where they are.”

“Thank you,” she said, stepping inside and followed him through an impressive entrance hall with two side by side winding staircases to an exquisitely beautiful drawing room with antique furniture, rug, decorative walls, paintings, high ceiling, gigantic hanging chandelier and enormous windows through which light streamed and afforded one an unobstructed view of lush and immaculate green lawns.  She didn’t have time to really appreciate her surroundings as she was aware that there were over thirty people in the room watching her.  To her relief, Julian was one of them and he immediately came over to her, looking extremely pleased to see her.  “Hello,” he said.  “It’s good to see you again.”

“Hello,” she said, feeling a bit nervous.

“Don’t be nervous,” he said.  “You look very beautiful.”

“Thank you.  And you don’t look bad yourself.”  He looked amazing and very elegant in the black suit and black tie and with his hair slicked back.

He smiled.  “Thank you.  Come let me introduce you to my mother.”  Taking her arm, he escorted her over to the group.

“Which one is she?” she asked.

“The one in the wheelchair,” he answered, startling her.  “My mother has Multiple sclerosis.”

She glanced up at him.  “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want you to feel obligated to come tonight.”

“I would have come regardless.  How is she doing?”

“Her symptoms come and go in phases.  There are times when she suffers from fatigue and other times when she seems fine.  Right now, she seems fine.”

“Does she live here on her own?”

“No, I live here too and she has a live-in nurse.  Between the two of us, we take care of her.  I can’t wait to see the look on her face when she sees you.”

Lola blinked back the tears that sprang to her eyes and put on a bright smile as she stood behind him.

“Mother, I have a big birthday surprise for you.”

She glanced up at him.  “What is it?” she asked.

“Here she is.” He stepped aside while she stepped forward.

“Happy birthday, Mrs. Mortimer.”

She saw the woman’s eyes widened in shock.  “Lola Flanning?” she exclaimed, turning to look up at Julian.  “You brought Lola Flanning to my party?”

Julian beamed.  “Yes, Mother.  I wanted to surprise you.”

Mrs. Mortimer’s returned to Lola who held out her hand.  The older woman grasped it, her eyes welling with tears.  “I can’t believe that you’re here,” she said.  “Thank you.”

Lola covered her hand with her other one and leaned over to kiss her on the cheek.  “It was my pleasure,” she said when she drew back, her own eyes moist.

“Yes, Mother, Lola graciously agreed to come and sing for you on your birthday.”

“I look forward to hearing you sing,” Mrs. Mortimer said, “but first, sit beside me.  Have you had anything to eat?”

“Actually, no, but–”

“Julian, please have Sophie fix a plate for Miss Flanning.”

“Please call me Lola and I really don’t want to put you to any trouble–”

“It’s no trouble at all,” Mrs. Mortimer insisted.

Julian excused himself and quickly left the room.  After he was gone, Mrs. Mortimer introduced Lola to the rest of the guests, some of whom were also fans and asked for her autograph.  They were excited that she was going to sing.  One of the women, remarked, “I was so relieved when I read that you had broken up with that womanizer, Todd Collins.  You deserve better.”

Lola smiled but didn’t answer.  Just then, Julian returned with a plate of a variety of delicious looking and mouth-watering smelling food.  Feeling a bit self-conscious, she began to eat it while the conversation kept going, touching on all sorts of topics ranging from her career to hot vacation spots and favorite charitable organizations.

After she finished eating and was ready, Julian sat behind the piano while she stood beside it and began to sing, her voice smooth and soulful as she belted out her popular ballads while the others watched rapt.  Mrs. Mortimer relaxed in her chair with a smile on her face.  Julian’s eyes were on her the whole time as his fingers ran over the keys.  An hour later, the room was filled with thunderous applause and after bowing graciously, Lola resumed her seat next to Mrs. Mortimer who thanked her, her expression one of deep gratitude.

“You’re more than welcome, Mrs. Mortimer.”

“Please call me, Olivia.  You’ve made this birthday the happiest I have ever had.”

“You owe it all to Julian.”

“Yes,” she agree, looking over to where he stood talking to a couple.  “He’s my pride and joy.  Besides God, he has been my rock through the rough moments of this terrible disease.  I don’t know how much longer I have but I hope and pray that before I go, I will see him settle down with a good woman.”

“Whoever she is, she’d be very lucky to have him,” Lola commented, her eyes wandering over to where Julian was.  Too bad I’m not ten years younger, she thought regretfully.

Just then Julian turned and their eyes met.  Mrs. Mortimer observed them and a smile tugged at her lips.  “It seems like I don’t have to wait long to get my wish,” she remarked and Lola turned to look at her inquiringly.

“I beg your pardon?”

Mrs. Mortimer.  “I was just saying that it has been a long time since I’ve had so much fun.”  That was true.  Tonight was a wonderful evening—one that she would never forget.  And she wished it would last longer but she suddenly felt very tired and she couldn’t prevent the yawn she had been trying to stifle.  In a flash, Julian was at her side.

“Mother, you’re tired.”

“No, I’m not,” she protested.  “Stop fussing.”

“You’re tired,” he insisted.  “I can see it on your face.  It’s after ten.  You should be going to bed now.  I will take you up to your room and Margaret will take care of you.  Please don’t argue with me, Mother.  Say goodnight to Lola and your other guests.”

Mrs. Mortimer sighed.  “Sometimes I wonder who is the parent and who is the child.  Very well, Son, I will say goodnight to these good people and then retire.”  Everyone in the room took turns wishing her all the best and made plans to visit when she was ready.  After they said goodnight to Lola, they left.

Lola took the older woman’s hands in hers.  “Olivia, it was a real treat for me to be here tonight.  You’re one of the most gracious and strong women I have ever met.  And it is my hope that we will see each other again.”

Olivia squeezed her hands.  “Have tea with me one afternoon,” she said.  “I will have Julian get in touch with you.  Thank you for making this birthday a memorable one.  God bless you.  Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” Lola released her hands and straightened up.  She looked at Julian who was watching her, his expression inscrutable.

“Don’t leave,” he said.  “I will be back shortly.”

“I’ll wait here,” she promised.  After watching him wheel his mother out of the room, she turned and walked over to the windows.  It was dark outside but the lights from the house illuminated the grounds.  She had once considered buying a stately home not far from here but decided to get the beach house instead because it required less maintenance and she liked being close to the ocean.   She wondered what it was like for Julian to grow up in this house and if it was ever lonely for him.  As a child, she had lots of friends and family to play and spend time with so she never experienced loneliness.

She turned when she heard Julian come into the room.  He joined her at the window.  “How is she?” she asked.

“She seems fine.  I left Margaret reading the Bible to her.”

“Your mother is a remarkable woman.  I admire her.”

He smiled.  “Yes, I’m a great admirer of her too.  Her inner strength is all due to her faith and it was one of the qualities that my father loved about her.  Would you like to take a short walk around the grounds before you leave?”

“Sure.  I was admiring them earlier when I first walked into this room.”

They went outside.  It was a balmy night.   He took her around the grounds, showing her the tennis court, the swimming pool and the Garden fountain where they paused for a little while as she admired its details.

As they made their way back to the front of the mansion, she asked,  “Was living here ever lonely for you?”

“Sometimes,” he admitted.  “But, I tried not to show it because I didn’t want Mother to know because she tried so hard to make my life here as content as possible.  As I got older, life got better and attending university helped because I made lots of friends whom my mother invited to spend the summer and Christmas holidays.  I could tell that she loved having a house filled with young people but after I left university, we decided that we wanted it to be like it used to be.  So, we spend quiet summers and Christmases.  And that’s fine for me.  We enjoy each other’s company.”

“I can tell that the two of you have a special bond which I don’t think it will change when you get married—”

He stopped abruptly and turned to face her.  “So, she has been talking to you about my future.”

She nodded.  “Yes, she expressed her wish to see you settle down with a good woman while she’s still around.”

“Do you wish to see me marry a good woman?”

She lowered her eyes.  “It doesn’t matter what I wish.”  The thought of him getting married bothered her more than she cared to admit.  How was it possible for her to care so much about a man she’d only met once before now?

“It matters to me, Lola.  Do you know that all during the week, I have thought of nothing else but seeing you again?  I couldn’t concentrate on my work.  I kept seeing your lovely face.  And tonight, I couldn’t take my eyes off you.  You take my breath away, Lola…”

Her head shot up there, her eyes wide as they met his and her heartbeat accelerating at an alarming rate when she saw the expression on his face.  “We-we shouldn’t be having this conversation,” she stammered.

“Why not?” he asked.

“Well, because…How old are you?”


“I’m thirty-nine.  Next year May, I’ll turn forty.”

He seemed unfazed.  “It doesn’t matter that you’re older than me.”

“Wouldn’t you prefer to be with a woman closer to your age?”

“I’ve dated women my age but I was never attracted to any of them the way I’m attracted to you.  So, the answer to your question is no.  I would rather be with you.”

“Well, you can’t be with me,” she told him in frustration because for one maddening moment, she wanted to grab the lapels of his jacket, pull him against her and plant one on him.  She was so attracted to him that it drove her crazy and scared her at the same time.  “I–I need to go now.”  She started to walk away when he caught her by the shoulders.

“Why?” he demanded, his eyes searching her averted face, his grip tightening as she struggled to break free.  “Are you afraid of what would happen between us if you stayed, Lola?  Are you afraid that if I were to kiss you, you wouldn’t want to leave?”  He was breathing heavily now and she could feel his body against her, awakening a desire in her that was so strong it made her gasp and then, his mouth was on hers, devouring it feverishly.  And for one unguarded moment, she responded wildly as she tried desperately to assuage the hunger that was raging inside her.

Then, she came to her senses and with supreme effort she pushed him away and ran to her car, panting.  She got in, slammed the door and after fumbling for the key, she put it in the ignition and the engine roared to life.  When she saw him coming towards her, she frantically put the car in reverse and then sped off.  As soon as she got home, she took a cold shower before she went to bed.  Sleep evaded her.  Her mind was spinning.  All she could think about was the kiss and how much she wanted him.  She closed her eyes in despair.   Julian Mortimer had breached the fortress she had built around her heart.

Three weeks passed since that night.  She was restless.  Her thoughts were filled with Julian.  Every time she closed her eyes, she saw his face and her longing for him clawed at her relentlessly, driving her crazy.  Sleep was fitful and it was hard to concentrate on anything because her mind was constantly on him.  She gave up trying to write the new lyrics and went out on the balcony.  The water was calm and she envied it.  The sun was high, bathing the sea and sand in its golden light.  Seagulls soared in the sky.  What a glorious day.  Too bad she couldn’t enjoy it.

Something caught her eye and she started when she realized that it was Julian.  Heart thudding, she ran down the steps and down the grassy slope to the water’s edge where he stood, hands in pockets, facing the ocean.  He was less formally dressed this time, clad in a white shirt and tan slacks.  There wasn’t a wrinkle of crease anywhere on his clothes.  As usual, they looked like they had just come straight off the rack.

“Julian, what are you doing here?” she called out just before she reached him.

He turned at once to face her, his gaze traveling slowly over her figure in the light green top and denim shorts, his gaze lingering on her bare legs.  “Mother wants you to have tea with her tomorrow afternoon at two–that if you aren’t busy.”

“You could have called or emailed me,” she told him.  “You didn’t have to come in person.”  Although I’m thrilled to see you. 

“All right,” he sighed.  “I came because I can’t stay away any longer.  I had to see you, LolaI can’t stop thinking about the last time we saw each other.  When we kissed…”  His eyes dropped to her mouth, his darkening at the memory.

“Julian, we can’t do this,” she protested.  “I’m much older than you.”  The truth was he scared her because the feelings he aroused in her were so powerful and unlike anything she had ever experienced.  What she once felt for Todd paled in comparison.  Her heart urged her to throw caution to the wind and give into her feelings but her mind resisted.

“Lola, please don’t let our age difference prevent us from being together.  Ever since we met, I haven’t stopped thinking about you and longing to be with you.”

“Julian, please…” She felt her resolve weakening fast, especially as he pulling her against him.  The expression on his face mirrored the emotions that were raging inside her, making so hard for her to resist him.  She wanted him with every fiber of her being but…Her hands came up to push him away.

“I know you feel the same way,” he persisted, his eyes darkening on her face.  “I felt it when we kissed and I can see it in your eyes right now.  Oh, Lola…” he moaned thickly before he bent his head and kissed her.

Powerless against her feelings and him, the hands that had tried to push him away gripped the back of his shirt as she kissed him back feverishly, blindly and with total abandon.

They entered into a relationship.  In April of the following year, they got married, much to the delight of Mrs. Mortimer.  Nine months later, she held Olivia, her first grandchild in her arms and as she smiled down into the red, crinkly face, she silently thanked God for granting her far more than she had expected.


Source:  NHS Choices;


The Autograph

He was walking down a busy street in downtown Manhattan, heading back to his hotel room when he saw her.  She was coming toward him–a very pretty girl in a white jacket over a black top and blue jeans.  He wasn’t looking for anything because he was already in a relationship which he was having serious misgivings about, especially now that Claudia was pressuring him to get married.  The last thing he wanted was to be distracted by another woman.

Yet, as they approached each other, he couldn’t look away.  She was staring at him too and that thrilled him.  Since Claudia and he began dating four years ago, he had never once looked at another woman until now…His heart thudded as they got closer to each other and as they passed each other, she looked right up at him.  He was tempted to look back but continued walking.

“Excuse me,” she called and he stopped.  When he turned around, she went closer, her eyes searching his face.  “Aren’t you Bernard Forbes, the British stage and independent film actor?”

He nodded.  “Yes, I am.”

She smiled broadly, her eyes bright with excitement.  “I’m a big fan of yours,” she told him.  “I have seen all of your films.  And last month when I was in London, I went to see you in the latest stage production of Macbeth.  It was the only reason I visited England.  I wanted to go backstage and get your autograph but my aunt was in a hurry to leave.”

“I’m flattered that you went all the way to London just to see me in a play.  The least I can do is to give you my autograph for your trouble.”

“It just so happens, I have the program with me.  This is the handbag I had with me when I went to see the play.  I just never got around to taking it out and I’m happy I didn’t.”  She took it out along with a pen and handed them to him, her heart racing.  He was even more handsome in person and gracious too.  She couldn’t wait to call her aunt in London and tell her.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Kimani Jones.”

“Kimani.  What an unusual name,” he commented.  “What does it mean?”

“’Beautiful’ and ‘sweet’”, she replied.  “My mother saw it somewhere and decided that she would call me that.”

“It suits you,” he said, his eyes meeting hers in a steady gaze before he turned his attention to signing his autograph.  He wrote:  To: Kimani, my warmest regards and my very best to you always.  Bernard Forbes.  He handed the program back to her.

She read what he wrote.  “Thank you,” she gushed, beaming at him.  “I really appreciate this.

“It was my pleasure,” he said quietly.  “How come you’re not in school?”

“I’m on March break,” she said.  “And I’m in my third year at New York University.”

“Are you in a hurry to get somewhere?”

She shook her head.  “I was just window shopping.  Spring is around the corner so I was thinking of buying some new clothes.”

They were standing close to a café.  “Let’s move our conversation from the sidewalk to in there,” he suggested.  There wasn’t any harm in talking to one of his fans, was there?  She was a welcome change from the movie and theatre crowd and the people he usually associated with.  Besides, this was better than going back to his hotel room to brood over his relationship with Claudia.

She readily acquiesced and they went into the café.  He found a table at the back and by the window.  It was after ten o’clock so the place was almost empty save for a few people and aside from curious stares in his direction, no one bothered them.  After they ordered two hot chocolates, he leaned forward in his chair, arms on table and studied her.  “You mentioned that you’re in your third year in university.  What is your area of study?”

I can’t believe I’m sitting here having a conversation with Bernard Forbes.  “I’m studying Psychology.”

“Why Psychology?”

“I want to help people.”

“That’s commendable,” he said.  “I have a feeling that you will do very well in the field.”

“Thank you.”

“Have you always lived in New York?”

“Yes.  And I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

He asked her all sorts of questions about herself and in no time an hour had passed.  “Spend the rest of the day with me, Kimani,” he heard himself say.

“All right,” she said, thrilled.  And after he paid for the hot chocolates, they left the cafe and walked up the road where he hailed a cab.

They went to Central Park where they spent a fun afternoon.  They went up to the Belevdere Castle to check the temperature and to enjoy the panoramic view around them.  Afterwards, they visited the Conservatory Garden and watched people sail their boats at Conservatory Water before they grabbed lunch.  After lunch they went to see a puppet show at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre.  They ended the day at Bethesda Fountain where they each made a wish.

The sun was setting as they walked to the exit of the park.  He hailed a cab and she gave the driver her address.

“Thank you for an incredible day,” he told her when they were outside of her apartment building.  “I haven’t enjoyed myself so much in a very long time.”

She smiled.  “I had a wonderful time too.  I never knew there were so many fun things to do in Central Park.”  I hope we can see each other again.

“Kimani, I want to see you again.” This was madness but he couldn’t seem to get enough of her.  He had to see her again.   “Have dinner with me tomorrow night.”

“I’d like that,” she said.

“Good.  I’ll pick you up at seven.”  He took her hand and raised it to his lips, making her tremble.   “Have a good evening.”  He reluctantly released her hand and climbed back into the back of the cab.

Her flesh tingled.  “You too,” she replied breathlessly.  She wave at him before she turned and walked to the entrance of her building on rather shaky legs, her mind spinning.  She hoped this wasn’t all a dream.

Dinner was at the Empire State Building.  As soon as they walked in they were greeted with a smile before being shown to a table with a magnificent view.  Over Burrata and Shave Kale salads, Scottish Salmon and Roasted Farm Chicken and non-alcoholic wine, they talked about many different things.  She learned that Bernard began acting on stage when he was eleven at the encouragement of his father who used to be renown theatre actor himself.  His mother was an opera singer.  Both parents were still alive and living in the South of France.  They recently celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary.  He flew out for the occasion.  He was an only child like her.

“Do you ever wish that you had brothers or sisters?” she asked.

“Sometimes.  It would have been nice to have an older brother whom I could go to for relationship advice and the one I’d call instead of one of my parents when I got into trouble.  And of course, be each other’s best man at our weddings.”

“Yes, I wish I had an older sister that I could share secrets with whose closet I could raid when I didn’t have anything to wear and someone to hang out with whenever we are forced to attend a family get together and go shopping with.”

He smiled.  “And what would happen if you both ended up liking the same guy?” he teased.

“I would like to think that if the guy liked her instead of me, I would bow out gracefully.”

His expression grew serious.  “If I were that guy you would be the sister I liked.”

She smiled shyly at him.  “And if you had a brother, I would like you instead of him.”

“Kimani, I’m here in New York for a week.  Can I see you everyday until it’s time for me to fly back to London?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  I just have to figure where we can go that you haven’t already been.  I read on line that you have been to New York many times because it’s one of your favorite cities in the world after London and Paris.”

He looked intrigued.  “What else have you read about me?”

“That you like going to museums, for long walks, traveling, cooking, volunteering, you prefer theatre acting to film acting and prefer dating actresses.”

“I’m guilty of all of those things except the bit about my preference for actresses.  You’re not an actress, are you?”

She laughed.  “I was in drama class once in high school and I managed to get through it but I knew then and there that acting was not for me.”

“I love it,” he said simply.  “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

“What about when the opposite sex throw themselves at you?”

“Yes, that ‘s the part of my career which I truly dislike,” he agreed.  “but it has brought us together.”

“I never imagined that I would bump into you in the street or that when I asked you for your autograph we would end up spending the day together or having dinner.  I still can’t believe that this is really happening.  I’m afraid that this is all a very long and wonderful dream.”

He reached over and grasped her hand.  “This is no dream, Kimani,” he assured her, gently squeezing her fingers to make his point.  “I’m real, you’re real and what is happening between us is very real.”

She blinked, finding it hard to think with him holding her hand.  Just then, a couple approached their table.  They smiled apologetically before the woman said hesitantly, “I’m so sorry to disturb your dinner but know that my husband nor I wouldn’t be able to forgive me if I passed up this opportunity to get your autograph.  We saw you in Macbeth, Hamlet, Absent Night and Secrets in the Dream, your latest independent film.  We are huge fans.  Do you mind signing the front of this photo of my husband and me?” she handed it to him with a pen.   She smiled at Kimani.  “Sorry for the interruption.”

Kimani smiled.  “Don’t worry about it,” she said.  One of the things she had to get used to when being with him was having interruptions like this.

“What are your names?” Bernard asked the woman who was pretty and looked to be in her late thirties.

“Kevin and Angela.”

He scribbled something on the photo and gave it back to her with the pen.  “Have a good evening,” he said with a smile.

“Thank you so much,” she said, looking at the signed photo in appreciation before she put it in her bag.  “Enjoy the rest of your evening.”  She turned and walked away.

“Do you ever get used to people coming up to you wherever you go for your autograph?” she asked.

“Actually, I have gotten used to it but not tired of it.  I will always be happy to sign autographs long after I’ve retired from acting which wouldn’t be for a very long while.   I hope you didn’t mind.”

She shook her head.  “I didn’t.  She’s a fan just like me.  I can relate.”

He glanced at his watch.  “The night is still young.  Would you like to go for a carriage ride in Central Park?”

Her eyes brightened.  “Yes!”

His lips twitched and he signaled to the waitress.  Ten minutes later, they were on their way to Central Park.

The carriage ride was a remarkable and romantic experience.  The Park was transformed at night, a perfect escape from the bustle and noise of the city, making it easy for them to enjoy the spectacular views of the city skyline.  It was the perfect end to a perfect evening.  He took her home and they saw each other for the rest of the week going to the museum, the theatre, the movies, a gondola ride in Central Park, Atlantic City and Coney Island.

On Sunday afternoon, she went with him to the airport, sorry to see him go.  They faced each other general area before he went to the terminal where he would catch his plane.  He took her hands in his.  “I will be back in a week,” he promised.

She nodded and then reached up and hugged him tightly.  “I’ll see you in a week.”

He bent his head and kissed her.  It lasted for a few minutes and when they broke apart, his face was flushed.  “I’ll be back before you know it,” he said before he turned and walked away.  She watched him until he was out of sight before she left the airport, her heart heavy.

The day after he returned from New York, Bernard went to see Claudia.  She was expecting him.  She opened the door, dressed in a long black negligee leaning and her mouth raised for a kiss but after a light brush of his lips against her cheek, he walked past her and into the living-room.  There was a time, not so long ago, when he would have dragged that negligee off.  It was amazing how a man could look at the same woman who used to drive him wild with desire and feel nothing.

Frowning, she closed the door.  “Is something wrong?” she asked when she joined him and noted the expression on his face.

“Please sit down,” he said.  When she did, he sat beside her.  He took a deep breath.  “Claudia, I can’t marry you.”

She stared at him, her face going pale.  “Why not?” she asked.

He hesitated for a moment and then he confessed, “I don’t love you.”

“So, for the four years we have been together you never once loved me?”

He nodded, feeling awful.  “I cared about you, but I wasn’t in love with you.”

“Is that why every time I broached the subject of marriage you shut down?”

He nodded again.  “Yes.  When it comes to marriage, a person has to be very sure before taking that step.  And since I wasn’t sure about us, I couldn’t take that risk.  I went to New York to sort things out and I realized that what was troubling me from the very beginning were my feelings for you.  You loved me but I had to admit to myself that I didn’t love you.  Claudia, you deserve to be with a man who will love you back.  I’m not that man.  I’m sorry…”

She got up from the sofa and began to pace, her arms folded tightly as the enormity of what he was saying hit her.  Tears sprang in her eyes but she blinked them back.  “You came to this conclusion when you were in New York?”


“Did you meet someone else while you were there, Bernard?”

He sighed, “Yes, but—”

“Is she the reason why you have now decided that you don’t want to be in a relationship with me anymore?”

“Before I met her, I was filled with so many doubts about you and me which I couldn’t shake off.  And being with her helped me to realize that it wouldn’t be fair to either you or me to continue our relationship when it would not lead to what you want—marriage.”

“So, who is she? Another actress or one of your adoring fans?”

He didn’t answer.  “Claudia, the last thing I wanted to do was hurt you but I have to be true to myself and I cannot in all honesty and good conscience, continue to be with you when I can’t give you what you want.  Marriage between us will not work.  I’m sorry.  I hope that in time you will see that I’m right.”  He got up from the sofa and would have gone over to her but the expression on her face deterred him.  “I’m sorry,” he said again.

“So, what are you going to do now that you’re no longer tied to me?” she demanded.  “Go back to New York to be with her?  Well, I hope for your sake that it works out but if it doesn’t don’t think you can come crawling back to me.  I won’t take you back even if you begged me—” her voice broke into a sob.

Contrite, he took a step toward her, “Claudia—”

She held up her hand, glaring at him.  “Bastardo.  Don’t come near me,” she cried.  “I want you to leave.”

He hesitated for a moment and then he turned and walked out of the room.  The last sound he heard was her crying before he closed the door behind him.

Kimani was relaxing on the sofa, reading a book when the doorbell rang.  Putting down her book, she quickly got up and went to answer the door.  Her heart somersaulted when she saw who it was.  Eagerly, she unlocked the door and flung it open, a big smile on her face.

“Do you have room for a weary traveler?”

“Yes, one in particular,” she said as she reached out and grasped by the hand to pull him inside before locking the door. After he set his luggage down on the floor, she hugged him tightly, closing her eyes as she felt his arms go about her waist, holding her close against him.  “I’ve missed you like crazy. One week seemed like a year.”

“I’ve missed you too,” he muttered thickly.  “I couldn’t wait to come back to you.” As soon as she drew back to look up at him, he kissed her.  They stood there for several minutes kissing passionately, happy to be together again and determined never to be apart again.  At length, he drew back to gaze down into her face.  “I have to talk to you about something,” he said quietly.

Frowning, she took his hand and led him over to the sofa.  She curled up on the cushion beside him, with one arm resting along the back of the chair and the other on his thigh.  “What’s on your mind?”

“When you and I met, I was already in a relationship.  When I came to New York, my only intention was to clear my head—figure out what I was going to do about my relationship because I was having so many doubts about it.  And then, I met you.  I tried so hard to fight my attraction for you but it was hopeless.  I had to get to know you better and that’s why I suggested we talk more in the café.  And that time we spent together wasn’t enough so I suggested that we spend the rest of the day together.  By the time we left Central Park, I knew that I was hooked.  I had to see you again.  Being with you made what could have been a complicated situation worse made it bearable.  Those hours I spent with you were the happiest and most relaxed I’ve ever had and it helped me to make up my mind about what I was going to do about my relationship.”

“I knew that you were dating someone,” she said.  “Remember, I’m a fan so I have read every article there is about you.  She’s Claudia Riaz, the beautiful Venezuelan actress who co-starred with you in The Stone of the Predator.  Everyone kept going on about what an attractive couple you made but I didn’t think so–for obvious reasons.  You dated her the longest–four years but there was no news about any engagement which I dreaded because I had developed such a crush on you.  No woman would have been suitable for you.”

“Is it still just a crush that you have on me?”

She shook her head.  “No, by the time I saw you in Macbeth, I had fallen madly in love with you.”

“I never believed in love at first sight until that morning when you stopped me on the sidewalk.”

“I’m glad I asked you for it.”

He reached out and caressed her cheek with his knuckles.  “And do you still think no woman would be suitable for me?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“What about you?”

“I’m the exception,” she said huskily.  “I think I’m very suitable for you.”

“Yes, you are,” he groaned and cupping her face between his hands, he kissed her.  As she kissed him back, she thought of what Walt Disney said, all our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.



Sources:  City Parks FoundationNYC Carriages; Ruggenberg; Very Well Mind


Love Stands No Doubts

Alisha stood at the window, looking out, her mind on what happened or almost happened between Fabian and her this afternoon in his office.  It was like any regular day or so she thought until she walked into his office.

She went over to his desk to leave some papers for him to check over before signing them when he glanced up from the laptop screen to stare at her.  The expression on his face was grim and she frowned, puzzled.  “I brought the documents for you to review in case there any changes you want to make before you sign them,” she explained.  It was hard to think straight with him staring at her like that.  She was transfixed by the most captivating feature in his handsome face–his eyes.  They were an usual shade of green.  They were almost transparent.  It was hard to describe them but they were stunning.

“When were you going to tell me?” he demanded, startling her.

“Tell you what?” So, she was the reason why he was in a foul mood.  She watched as he pushed back his chair and sprang to his feet, leaning over the desk with his palms flat against the hard surface.

“That you had lunch with Bob Ford last week.”

“But how did—?”

“Did I find out?  It doesn’t matter.  The fact is I found out…from someone else.  Why didn’t you tell me?”

She shifted from one foot to the other, feeling much like a child who was in trouble being scolded by a parent.  “Well, Bob called me and asked me to have lunch with him and–”

“Why did he want to have lunch with you?”

She fumbled for words, still not understanding why he seemed to have a problem with her having lunch with Bob.  “He wanted to catch up.  We haven’t seen each other since I left the company to come and work here.”

“Is that all he wanted to do?  Catch up?”

“What are you implying?” she asked.  She was beginning to resent his interrogation.  Whom she had lunch with shouldn’t concern him.  He was her boss not her boyfriend, although she wouldn’t object to him being the latter.  She wondered what he would say if he knew how she felt about him.  At lunch, she had confided in Bob who advised her not to act until she was absolutely sure that Fabien felt the same way.  And to be quite honest she wasn’t sure.  She had seen the way he looked at her sometimes but she always chalked it up to wishful thinking.  And now, she wasn’t sure why he was acting this way over her and Bob.

“You and he were once in a relationship.”

“I know but–”

“What would you do if he wanted to resume your relationship?” he moved around the desk so that he was standing close to her.  His eyes were dark as they stared down into her upturned face.  “Would you take him back?”

She swallowed hard, her heart racing now.  Suddenly the atmosphere in the office had changed.  It was palpable with raw sexual tension.  Was that her breathing or his that she was hearing?  Her eyes were trapped in a steady, penetrating stare with his.  She shook her head and her voice was barely above a whisper when she answered, “No, I–I wouldn’t.”

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because–because I don’t want to be with him.”  It had gotten so difficult to breath.  Her heart was pounding wildly against her ribs and her legs felt weak.  Her eyes dropped to his mouth and her lips parted with intense longing.

He made a move toward her, his eyes darkening with desire when the phone rang.  The shrill peal jarred their ears and senses, ruining the moment.  Dragging his fingers through his hair, he turned and walked back around the back of the desk to answer the phone.  She turned and walk unsteadily out of the room.  Instead of going straight back to her desk, she went to the bathroom where she tried to compose herself.

If the phone hadn’t rung when it did…she closed her eyes, trembling as she remembered the look on his face.  He wanted her.  The realization thrilled her.  The desire that raged inside her was on his face.  And it explained why he was so bent out of shape about her lunch with Bob.  For some reason he thought that Bob wanted to get back together with her and that she would take him back.

While it was true that soon after they broke up that Bob wanted to reconcile, she had refused.  She cared for him but she didn’t love him.  All she wanted from him was friendship, nothing more.   Besides, she was in love with Fabian.  She fell in love with him the very moment when she first met him.  When she confided this to Bob at lunch today, he seemed a bit wistful but her happiness, even if it were with someone, was all that mattered to him.  When they parted, he wished her all the best and hoped that things worked out between Fabian and her.

Ten minutes later, she went back to her desk and had just sat down behind the computer when Fabian came out his office, closed the door behind him and went over to her.  She noticed that he had his briefcase with him which told her that he was leaving.  “I have a meeting at the head office and won’t be back to the office.  Call me on my cell if there is an emergency.”  He was all business again.

She nodded.  “See you tomorrow.”

“See you in the morning,” he replied before he turned and walked briskly away.

She watched him go until he disappeared around the corridor before turning her attention to the computer screen.  For the remainder of the afternoon, she buried herself in her work, trying not to think about what almost happened between.  She would have plenty of time to do so later when she was alone in her flat.

And here she was, hours later, at home, looking out of the window, reliving the moment in Fabian’s office and wishing that they hadn’t been interrupted.  In the distance, she heard Big Ben strike the hour of eight.  It was still very bright.  The sun wouldn’t set until around nine.  Was he at home now? she wondered.  Suddenly, the idea of stopping by his place occurred to her and her heart began to thud with nervous excitement.  Moving away from the window, she rushed into the bathroom, stripped and took a quick, hot shower, got dressed in a yellow top and denim skirt.  Since she would be walking in sand to get to his house which overlooked the beach, she donned a pair of canvas shoes, grabbed her handbag and left.

As she drove, she wondered if he would be pleased to see her.  She hoped so.  She hoped that what almost happened between them today was the beginning of what could be an exciting relationship.  Twenty minutes later, she was walking up the beach, gazing at the sea as it shimmered in the sunlight and the waves rolled onto the sand.  Unable to resist, she removed her shoes and smiled as her toes sank into the soft, wet sand.

Fabian was on the deck, looking out when he spotted her.  He stood there watching her for several minutes, his heart racing.  All afternoon and evening he couldn’t stop thinking about her and how close he had come to kissing her.  If the confounded phone hadn’t rung, he would have taken her in his arms and shown her just how much he wanted her.  His body reacted now to the thought and pulling on the hoodie, he ran down the steps leading to the beach, anxious to reach her.

Alisha saw him coming and her heart began to beat faster and her footsteps quickened.  Soon they were facing each other at the water’s edge, standing inches apart, their eyes locked in a gaze.  “I had to come,” she told him.

“Why?” he asked, running his fingers through his hair when what he really wanted to do was take her in his arms.

“We have some unfinished business,” she told him huskily, dropping her shoes in the sand.

Groaning, he reached for her and pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp.  Her arms went round his neck as his mouth sought hers, ravishing it and she responded feverishly.   As they stood there, the water swirling about their feet, the sun began to set, casting a red and orange glow on them while a flock of birds flew against the backdrop.  Oblivious to the beauty of their surroundings, they continued to exchange passionate kisses.

When she broke off their kiss to bury her face in his bare chest, he hugged her tightly against him, breathing harshly, his eyes still closed.  “I love you, Alisha,” he muttered thickly.  “I’m sorry that I drilled you about Bob but I was so jealous.”

She raised her head to look up at him.  “There’s no reason for you to be jealous of him or anyone else,” she assured him.  “I love you.”

“I didn’t know how you felt about me until today in my office.  I saw what I was feeling inside written all over your face and that encouraged me.”

“Yes, for the first time since we have been working together, today was the first time I didn’t have any doubts about your feelings for me.”

“I once read a quote which says, Love stands no doubts.  Whatever doubts we had about each other, they were swept away today.”

“Then it was a good thing that I had lunch with Bob, after all,” she concluded.  “If I didn’t how much more time would have passed before you and I admitted how we feel about each other?”

“I would like to think that I would have worked up the courage to tell you without Bob’s help.”

She smiled and then cried out when he suddenly scooped her up in his arms.  He started toward the steps leading to his beach house.  “My shoes,” she protested, trying to struggle free so that she could go and get them.  But his grip tightened and she gave up after a while, putting both arms around his neck.

“They’ll be there in the morning,” he promised her.  “Besides, you won’t be needing them where we’re going.”



The Verdict

Raul gripped the steering wheel as an image of Candace hugging another man flashed across his mind.  Jealousy ripped through him like a tornado.  It was quite by chance that he saw them.

It was just after two in the afternoon when he was meandering through the shopping mall that he got a call that the verdict was in.   He was defending the Chief Financial Officer of a large corporation, accused of embezzlement.  He quickly made his way to the parking lot.  It was when he was getting into his car that he spotted Candace with an older man.  They were standing beside a grey sedan talking.  He froze.  His expression darkening as he watched them.

Candace was wearing a yellow summer dress and low heel sandals.  The man was dressed in a white shirt and grey pants.  He appeared to be in his late thirties.  He’s my age, Raul thought.  Who is he and what is she doing with him? As he stood there, staring at them, his heart racing, he saw them embrace for a long time.  Color suffused his cheeks and he was tempted to march over them and break it up.

His hands curled into tight fists as he longed to punch the man but it wouldn’t be good publicity for the defense attorney in a high profile case to get into a fight in a parking lot because he had caught his girlfriend hugging another man.  Besides, if he didn’t head back to the courthouse that very instant, he would be late and that too would look really bad.  Muttering under his breath, he climbed into the car and slammed the door.  He left the parking lot and drove to the courthouse which was about ten minutes away.

He got there just before the jury filed in.  His client looked a bit nervous.  He tried to read the faces of the jurors but their expressions were inscrutable.  The judge came in and everyone stood up until he was seated.  The courtroom was silent as His Honor spoke before calling on the foreman to read the verdict.  It was not guilty.  There was an enthusiastic response from the defendant’s family and the judge banged his gavel calling for silence in the courtroom.  After he told the defendant that the court has found him not guilty and that he was free to go, Raul turned to his client who looked very emotional.  “You’re a free man, Mr. Cartwright,” he told him.

Mr. Cartwright, shook his hand warmly.  “Thank you, Mr. Davies.  You have given me back my life.  My family and I will always be indebted to you.”

Raul forced a smile.  “You’re welcome, Sir and I did this with the help of a terrific team.” They shook hands and then Mr. Cartwright went over to his family, hugging them before they left the courtroom.

Raul sat there for a few minutes.  He had won the case but the victory was hallow because all he could think about was Candace and how much it hurt to see her with someone else.  “Congratulations, Raul,” a voice said beside him.  He glanced up into the face of Marsha Williams, his secretary and Candace’s mother.  She was smiling but the smile faded when she saw the expression on his face.  “What’s the matter?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “Nothing,” he denied.  “I’m just a bit tired, that’s all.  This case took a lot out of me but I’m thrilled that it turned out the way that I had hoped.”

She looked unconvinced but didn’t press him.  “Well, there’s no need for you to go back to the office.” she said.  “Why don’t you go home and relax?  Or better yet, have Candace come over and cook you a nice dinner.  You deserve it.”

The mere mention of her daughter’s name cut him to the quick but he masked it behind a fake smile.  He stood up and grabbed his briefcase.  “Thanks, Marsha.  I’ll take you up on your suggestion.  See you in the morning.”  He touched her on the arm before turning and walking away.

Candace and her brother parted in the parking lot.  It was great having Avery back in London even if it were just for a week before he headed back to Paris where he lived with Viola and the kids.  She knew their mother was planning to take him out for dinner tonight and had invited her to go with them but she declined.  She told her that she and Raul were going to spend the evening together at his place.

As she went back into the mall, she wondered how the case went.  She knew that the verdict would be in today.  Just then, her phone rang.  It was her mother.  “Raul won the case,” she told her.  “You should be very proud of him.  It was a tough case but he poured his time, resources and heart into it and got the right verdict.”

Candace beamed.  “Yes, Mom, I’m very proud of him and I would have been even if he didn’t win.  He’s an remarkable lawyer.  I won’t be surprised if one day he becomes a judge.”

“He wasn’t as enthusiastic as I expected him to be, though.  He chalked it up to tiredness but I think something else is troubling him.  Perhaps he will tell you when you see him later.”

“I will have him relax while I make dinner.  Speaking of dinner, enjoy yours with Avery.  He and I spent a really nice afternoon together.”

“I’m sorry that Viola and the grand kids couldn’t come with him this time but he promised that they will for Christmas.”

They chatted for a little longer and then Candace rang off, anxious to go home, take a shower and then head over to Raul’s place which overlooked the Thames River.

Raul was lying on the sofa, staring at the television but not paying attention to what was on when the doorbell rang.  Slowly, he got up and went to answer the door.  His heart lurched when he saw Candace standing there.  Muscle throbbing along his jawline, he opened the door and stared at her, his eyes dark with the turmoil raging inside him.  He ached to pull her in his arms and kiss her but he couldn’t forget what he had seen that afternoon.  She reached up to hug him but he stepped away, opening the door wider so that she could go in.

Candace frowned, thinking about what her mother had said.  Something was wrong.  Raul wasn’t himself.  After he closed and locked the door, she touched his arm and felt him stiffen.  “What’s wrong, Raul?” she asked, concern etched her features as she gazed up at him.  He looked so handsome in the black tee shirt and blue jeans.

He moved away again, muttering, “Nothing.”

Something was wrong.  He was acting as if he didn’t want her to touch him.  Usually, they hugged and kissed when they saw each other but this time they didn’t and she had no idea why.  His behavior toward her was strange and hurtful.  She tried to hide her feelings behind a smile.  “Mom called and told me that you won the case,” she said.  “Congratulations.  We should celebrate–”

His expression darkened.  “I’m not in the mood to celebrate,” he replied curtly.

Her face fell.  “Raul, I know something is wrong,” she insisted.  “Why won’t you tell me what it is?”

“All right, Candace,” he said, turning to face her.  “Who was the man I saw you with in the parking lot at the shopping mall this afternoon?” he demanded.

She stared at him.  “You were at the shopping mall?” she exclaimed.  “But, I thought you were in court–”

“I left court while the jury was out and went to the mall to kill some time and then I got the call that the verdict was in.  It was when I was about to get into my car that I saw you with him.  Who is he, Candace?  What were you doing with him?”

“Avery?” she wondered, puzzled.  Then it suddenly dawned on her why he was acting the way he was.  He was jealous.  “Avery is my brother, Raul.  He’s visiting from Paris where he lives with his family.  He and I spent the day together, catching up.  This evening he is having dinner with Mom.  She invited me to join them but I turned her down because I wanted to be with you.  I came over here to celebrate your victory by cooking you dinner.”

He stared at her.  “The man I saw you hugging in the parking lot is your brother?”

She nodded.  “Yes!  Oh, Raul, how could you think that I would be cheating on you when I’m mad about you?  I have a good mind to throttle you for that.”

He ran his fingers through his hair, looking contrite now.  “I’m sorry, Candace,” he mumbled.  “When I saw you with him, I was out of my mind with jealousy.  And when I saw you hug, I wanted to come over there and punch him but sanity prevailed and I drove away instead.”

She put her arms around his neck.  “I think I should punish you a little for thinking that I would two time you.”

He put his arms around her waist, pressing her against him.  “I’m guilty of jumping to the wrong conclusion,” he admitted.  “I hope you will forgive me.”

“Let me think about it…” she murmured before she reached up and kissed him.

Groaning, he kissed her back, hungrily, feverishly.   All the torment that he had endured for the last several hours dissipated.

They exchanged wild, passionate kisses for several minutes and then he drew back to gaze down into her face, his flushed and his breathing heavy.  “So, what’s the verdict?” he asked huskily.

“Not guilty, due to reasonable cause,” she said.  “I might have reacted the same way if I saw you with another woman.”

“I love you,” he muttered thickly before he picked her up and carried her over to the fireplace where they made love.   Three hours later, they were having dinner outside on the terrace.

The Park

It was such a beautiful, sunny day that after visiting her aunt, Jessie decided that she would go to the park and spend an hour or so before heading home.  She loved this old park.  As a child she used to come here with her aunt and her cousins.  She went to her favorite area where there were three benches facing the pond.  As she approached them, she noticed a very attractive man sitting on the one in the middle.  Their eyes met when she walked past him to get to the third bench.  She sat down, placed her handbag beside her and leaned back, crossing her legs.

She was acutely aware of him and wondered if he was there alone or waiting for someone.  Unable to resist, she turned her head and her heart skipped a beat when she saw him watching her.  His arm rested along the back of the bench.  Although he was dressed casually in a pink tee shirt and jeans there was an air of elegance about him.  He looked like he was in his mid to late thirties.  They stared at each other for what seemed like a very long time and then, he smiled.

Heart racing, she smiled back.  This was so exciting.  Here she was making eyes with a perfect stranger in a park she visited frequently.  Does he live around here?  She wondered.  That seemed very unlikely.  He looked out of place in this modest neighborhood.

Her heart leapt when he got up from his bench and went over to her.  “May I join you?” he asked.

She nodded.  “Yes,” she replied, sounding a little breathless.  This close he was even more attractive.  He had the most amazing green eyes and smile.  She pulled her handbag closer to her to make more room on the bench.

He sat down beside her and held out his hand.  “Paul Bentley.”

She shook his hand.  “Jessie Moore.”

“I don’t usually approach a woman I don’t know in a park but I had to meet you.”

She smiled shyly at him.  “Do-do you live around here?” she asked.

“I used to,” he said, surprising her.  “I grew up here and then my family moved when my father started his own business.  I still come back here sometimes, though.  Life was tough at times but we got by.  What about you?  Do you live here?”

She shook her head.  “No, my aunt lives here.  I used to spend weekends with her and my cousins and we used to come to this park. It has changed a lot since then but I still love coming here.”

“Do you live with your parents?”

“No, I live on my own.”

“Do you live far from here?”

“Not really.  I take the tube and it’s about a twenty minute ride.”

“What about you?”

“I live in Canary Wharf.”

“That’s a really nice, upscale area,” she exclaimed.  “I went there a couple of times and loved it.”

“I like living there.  I especially enjoy going to the park or walking along the docks to unwind after a long and tedious day.”

“What kind of work do you do?”

“I’m a High Court judge.”

“You’re a judge?” She stared at him.  “But, you look so young.  Most of the judges I see are older men.”

He smiled.  “I’m thirty-eight,” he informed.  “I was appointed to the judgeship two years ago.”

“What sorts of cases do you preside over?”

“I sit in the Family Division which deals with personal human matters such as divorce, children, probate and medical treatment.  The Division exercises jurisdiction to hear all cases relating to children’s welfare, and has an exclusive jurisdiction in ward-ship cases.”

“Do you like what you do?”

“For the most part.  Although sometimes the decisions we make are seen as controversial as in the case where  the hospital was given permission to separate conjoined twins without the parents’ consent and the woman who was allowed to have her life support machines turned off but a husband wasn’t allowed to give his severely disabled wife a lethal injection with her consent.  We have faced a lot of criticism but ultimately, we practice law and equity. ”

She tried to envision him in a robe and wearing a white wig, seated on the bench with a gavel in his hand.  “I’ve never met a judge before.”

And I’ve never met a woman who makes me want to lose myself in her eyes and her smile.  He couldn’t get enough of her.  He wanted to know everything about her.  “Tell me about yourself.  What do you do when you’re not sitting in the park talking to a judge?  Do you have brothers and sisters?”  Never once did he imagine that he would be attracted to someone who looked much younger than him but from the moment he saw her, he knew he had to talk to her.

She looked at him, feeling shy again.  His eyes were intent on her face.  She began to tell him a little about herself.  “I graduated from university last year.  Got a job at Trends as a Digital Copywriter.  I have two older brothers and a younger sister.  My parents are retired and my mother volunteers at a women’s shelter.  On the weekends, I go vintage shopping or the cinema or pop into the library or hang out with friends or stay in and read a book or watch television.”

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-three.”  She hoped that her age wouldn’t matter.  It would be a shame if it did because she really liked him.

“I’m not married,” he said, startling her.  “Do you have a boyfriend?”  He could tell that she was attracted to him too but he wanted to make sure that she wasn’t already in a relationship because that would only complicate things.

She shook her head.  “No, I don’t have a boyfriend.”

Relieved, he said, “I would like to continue our conversation over dinner.”  He glanced at his watch.  It was six o’ clock.  They had been talking for an hour.  “I know a nice family run trattoria where we can go.”

“That sounds good,” she murmured as she took up her handbag and stood up, excited that they were going to spend more time together.

He got to his feet and she felt small beside him.  For a moment they stared at each other, their bodies close together.  She was really quite beautiful.  “Jessie, I know that there is a considerable age difference between us but I would really like to see you again after we have dinner tonight.”

Her heart was racing.  “I–I would like that too.”

He smiled.  “Good.”  Unable to resist, he raised his hand and brushed his knuckles gently against her cheek before they headed to the entrance of the park.

Over Penne Arrabiata and non alcoholic wine, they made plans to see each other again.   Two years later, when they went back to the park where they met, they were married and expecting their first child.


Source:  Court and Tribunals Judiciary; Wikipedia; Wikipedia; The Culture Trip

The Dance

Melody looked over to where she knew Fernando was and her heart skipped a beat when she caught him watching her.  She couldn’t look away and as their eyes locked in a steady gaze, her hips began to move more to the pulsating Latin music.  His younger brother, Jose, oblivious to what was going on, continued to talk to her as they danced.

She knew that Jose liked her but she didn’t feel the same way.  She was head over heels in love with Fernando.  Jose knew that but still he continued to hope that things would change between them.  Melody didn’t want to hurt him but she couldn’t help the way she felt about Fernando and even if he weren’t in the picture, she knew that she still wouldn’t have romantic feelings for Jose even though he was a really nice guy.  She hoped that he would get over her soon.

Just then, Jose twirled her around and when he caught her to him, she smiled up at him and then turned to where…her mouth tightened when she saw Fernando get up from the table to make his way over to Gina, a stunning woman who made no secret that she was attracted to him.  Melody watched as she flirted with him and jealousy surged through her when she saw him take her hand and lead her to the dance floor.

The song which played was salsa and she watched their bodies move slowly to the sensual beat.  Gina’s thick black hair tumbled down her bare back.  How she was able to breath, let alone move in that tight red dress, Melody had no idea.  Fernando was looking down at her and smiling.  He looked sexy in the black dress shirt unbuttoned at the neck and the black pants.  His hair was slightly tousled and Gina reached up and brushed the strands of hair from his forehead before putting her hand on his shoulder again.  It was too much for Melody.  She dragged her eyes away and glanced up at Jose who was looking at her because she had stopped moving.  “I need a breath of fresh air,” she explained and he released her.

“Do you want me to come with you?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No, I’d like to be alone.”  She forced a smile.  “Don’t worry about me, Jose.  I’m fine.”  She excused herself and quickly walked away.  He watched her go in the direction of the terrace before he turned and joined a group of friends at a table.

Melody stepped out on to terrace, the fresh air and scent of hibiscuses assailed her nostrils.  It was a balmy evening.  A slight cool breeze blew, caressing her skin.  She had her hair in an up-do instead of her usual side plait.  She had followed her sister’s advice.

“You need to do something different with your hair if you want Fernando to notice you,” she told her.  “Put it up.  You want to look like a woman not a little girl.”

The new hairdo flattered her and showed up her long, slender neck.  The black mini halterneck dress with the plunging neckline turned quite a few heads when she walked into the party.  The high black strappy sandals made her legs look longer than they were.  She danced with several of the men before Jose stepped in but the one man whom she wanted to dance with hadn’t asked her.  So, it was like a slap in the face when he asked Gina to dance.  She grimaced now and she gripped the balustrade in anger and bitter jealousy.  To hell with Fernando Alfaro.  He could dance with all of the women in the room for all she cared.

“Tired from all that dancing?” a voice inquired behind her and she swung round, her heart skipping a beat when she saw Fernando.  She leaned against the balustrade, her eyes wary as they met his.  She caught whiff of his aftershave.  Why did he have to be so irresistible?  Even as she was upset with him, she wanted to throw herself into his arms and tell him how much she loved him.

“Shouldn’t you be in there dancing with Gina?” she tried to sound nonchalant but there was an edge in her voice and her expression betrayed her.  Why does it have to be so bright out here? 

“Should I? What if I want to take a break before I dance with her again?  It was getting pretty hot in there.”

“I bet it was,” she retorted jealously.   “She was all over you and you liked it.”

He studied her, his expression quizzical.  “Which man in his right mind wouldn’t welcome the attentions of such a beautiful and desirable woman?” he inquired, raising his eyebrows and was rewarded with a nasty look.

“Yes, I noticed how you couldn’t take your eyes off her.  It was as if rest of us didn’t exist.”  She was almost beside herself now with jealousy.  She wanted to slap that smirk off his face and then…kiss him.

“That’s not true,” he countered, moving closer to her.  It’s you I couldn’t take my eyes off, he thought, aching to take her in his arms and show her how much he wanted her.  It drove him mad watching her dance with other men, especially Jose and in frustration, he danced and flirted with Gina.  He knew it was a childish thing to do but he was blinded by jealousy.

“I know what I saw,” she declared.  That’s why I left and came out here.  I couldn’t bear to watch you with her anymore.

He saw that she was very upset and decided that it would best to drop the subject.  He held out his hand.  “Let’s not fight any more,” he suggested.  “Let’s just enjoy the rest of the night.”

She knew he was extending an olive branch but she stubbornly refused to take it, folding her arms instead, still stewing over his remark about Gina.  He thinks she’s beautiful and desirable. “Why don’t you go back to your precious Gina and enjoy the rest of the night with her?”

He withdrew his hand. “It’s not so much fun when the shoe’s on the other foot, is it?” he asked.

She raised her chin.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You know very well that the only reason you were dancing with Jose was to make me jealous.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she retorted.  “Why would I want to make you jealous?”

“For the same reason I wanted to make you jealous of Gina.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she insisted and was about to walk past him when he caught her arm and pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp.

“You owe me this dance,” he muttered tightly. When she would have pulled away, his grip tightened.  He held her gaze as they began to move to the music, his eyes darkening with desire and his breathing becoming unsteady.  Being this close to her and holding her in his arms was his undoing.  His gaze dropped to her lips which parted.  Unable to resist, he bent his head and kissed her.  When he felt her respond, it drove him wild and he ravaged her lips.  Melody clung to him, her head tilted far as she returned his kisses.

They stopped dancing and just stood there, clinging to each other and exchanging hot kisses, expressing feelings they had harbored for such a long time.  Then, an image of Gina and him dancing flashed in her mind and groaning, she pushed him away.  She stepped back, trying to catch her breath.  “I—I think we’d better go back inside.”

He stared at her, nonplussed.  “Why did you pull away?” he asked and was about to reach for her when she pushed his hands away.  “Melody…”

“I can’t get what you said about Gina out of my mind,” she told him.  “You as much as admitted that you are attracted to her.”

“I did? When?”

“A little while ago you said that no man in his right mind could resist a beautiful and desirable woman like her.”

Fernando sighed.  “I said that because I wanted to make you jealous the way you made me jealous when you were dancing with other men.”

She gaped at him.  “You were jealous?”

“Yes,” he muttered thickly and this time when he reached for her, she didn’t resist.  “I get jealous whenever I see you with another man, especially Jose.”

“Jose?  He and I are just friends.”

“He wants to be more, Melody.  I can tell just from the way he looks at you and I can’t say that I blame him.”

“He knows how I feel about you.”

He swallowed, a muscle throbbing along his jawline.  “And how do you feel about me?” he asked, cupping her face and looking deep into her eyes, his darkening when he saw the longing in hers.

She released her breath shakily, her heart pounding wildly against her ribs.  “I love you, Fernando,” she confessed huskily.

“I love you too,” he moaned.  “Every time I look at you my heart stops.”

“And my heart beats only for you,” she murmured, closing her eyes when she felt his lips on hers.  In the background the music played and she thought of the quote, If you dance with your heart, your body will follow.

Two years later on their wedding night, they danced in that very same spot.


Dating Again

Dionne was having lunch with her friend, Mavis when Fenton Hardy walked into the cafe.  He looked disturbingly handsome in the grey jacket, pale blue shirt and jeans.  This was the first time she had ever seen him dress casual and it suited him.  His dark hair with streaks of grey added to his attraction.  And like clockwork, her heart began to pound and she placed her hands in her lap so that Mavis couldn’t see that they were trembling.  He always had this effect on her.  She would never forget the first time his son, Joe introduced them.

He was dressed in an expensive pinstriped grey suit and black shirt, no tie and had just walked into the library where she were searching the internet for information for a research paper Joe was doing.  They both glanced up when they heard him and Joe got to his feet.  “Hello, Dad,” he greeted him, getting up and extending his hand.

“Hello, Joe.”  They shook hands and then Joe’s father’s gaze shifted to Dionne who was staring at him and thinking what a handsome man he was.  Their eyes met and held for what seemed like eternity.

“Oh, Dad, this Dionne.  Dionne, this is my father.”

She got up and held out her hand.  “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Hardy.  Joe has told me so much about you.”  What piercing blue eyes he had.

His hand clasped hers in a firm grip, his gaze riveted to her face.  “A pleasure to meet you, Dionne.”

“I-I was just helping Joe with a research paper he’s doing,” she stammered.  His palm felt warm against hers and she was acutely aware of him.  His cologne and nearness titillated her senses, making it hard for her to think straight.  She was relieved when he released her hand and stepped back.  She sank heavily back into the chair and gripped the edge of the desk.  Her legs felt like jelly.

“Well, don’t let me interrupt you,” he said to Joe, although his eyes were on Dionne.  “Will you be joining us for dinner?”

She looked at Joe.  “Well, I–”

“Yes, she’ll be joining us.”

“All right.  I’ll let Mildred know.  Excuse me.”  He turned and walked out of the room.

After he left, Joe returned to the desk and sat down beside Dionne who was still trying to recover from meeting his father.  She had heard so much about him but never once did she ever imagine that she would be attracted to him.  He looked young for his age which was somewhere in the mid-forties.  He was a widower.  His wife died eight years ago in a skiing accident.  Joe was their only child.  He lived there at the manor with his father and was currently in university.  He and Dionne met through a mutual friend and they hit it off.  They have been friends for two and a half years now.

“Are you okay?” Joe asked her, looking at her with a frown on his face.

“Yes, I’m okay.  I finally got to meet your father.”

He studied her closely and then groaned, “Oh, no, not you too!”

She stared at him.  “What do you mean?” she asked warily.

“I’ve seen that look before.  You find him attractive, don’t you?”

“Well, he is very handsome,” she replied defensively, turning her head away.

“And what am I?  Chopped liver?”

“You’re very cute but–”

“Cute?” he exclaimed, shaking his head.  “A baby is cute but I’m a grown man.”

She laughed.  “Okay.  You’re drop dead gorgeous.”  He had his mother’s Scandinavian looks.

His mouth twitched and his eyes twinkled.  “That’s much better.”

“Let’s finish up here,” she suggested.

“Yes, we should.  I’m glad you’re staying for dinner.”

“What time is dinner?”

“It’s at seven.”

She glanced at her watch.  It was six forty.  In twenty minutes she was going to see Fenton Hardy again. Her heart lurched at the mere thought.

Dinner was served in a fine dining room with a crystal chandelier hanging low over a long antique dining-table covered in a lovely snow white lace table cloth, massive oil paintings adorned the walls and a decorative arched ceiling above their heads.  Her surroundings reminded her of Downton Abbey.  I feel I should be wearing a gown, she thought, glancing down at her white blouse and navy blue skirt.  I’m being ridiculous.  Joe was dressed in a shirt and jeans and his father…she started when she glanced at him and caught his watching her.  He had changed into a brown shirt and tan colored pants.  His hair looked damp as if he had just taken a shower.  Her fingers itched to run themselves through the thick strands to see if they felt as soft and silky as they looked…

A tap on her arm brought her back to the present and she looked blankly at Mavis.  “Wow, you were gone for a while.”

Dionne shook her head.  “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.  “My mind wandered for a moment.”

“It seemed more than a moment.”

“I saw someone I know and it brought back memories.” She wanted to get up and go over to him as he stood in the line but courage failed her.

“I was thinking of going to Walthamstow Market after I leave here to pick up some fabric.  Did I tell you that I bought a sewing machine and have decided that I’m going to make my own clothes?”

Dionne found it difficult to concentrate on what her friend was saying because her mind was on Fenton Hardy.  “Yes, I think you did.”  What if he leaves without seeing me?  

Suddenly, Mavis leaned over and whispered conspiratorially, “I meant to tell you that a very handsome man has been staring at you since he came into the cafe and now he’s coming over.”

Dionne’s heartbeat accelerated at once and her breath quickened.  She fought to stay calm as she waited for Fenton to come over.  When he did, she smiled nervously as she glanced up at him.  He towered over her.  His eyes held hers in a steady gaze.  “Hello,” she greeted him, thinking she sounded a little breathless.

“Hello,” he replied quietly.  He had cappuccino in his hand.

She turned to Mavis.  “This is my friend, Mavis.  Mavis, this is Fenton Hardy, Tom’s Dad.”  She watched they shook hands.

“I saw you when I came in but I wanted to grab this first before coming over and saying hello.”

Mavis suddenly got up.  “I’ll be right back,” she said and hustled off before Dionne could say anything.

Alone with him made her even more nervous.  She didn’t know what to say, except invite him to sit down in the seat Mavis just vacated.

He leaned forward, his eyes meeting hers directly.  “I want to ask you something,” he said.  “I has been on my mind since we met.”

“What-what do you want to know?”

“Are Joe and you more than friends?”

His question startled her and a few minutes passed before she answered.  “No, we’re just friends.  Why-why do you ask?”

“I wanted to make sure before-before I asked you to have dinner with me.”

“Dinner?” she repeated, swallowing hard, her mind reeling.  He’s asking me to have dinner with him. 

His expression was serious.  “Yes, I would like you to have dinner with me, Dionne.”

“Yes,” she replied simply.

“Tomorrow evening at seven?”


He smiled.  “I’ll pick you up at six.”

She gave him her address.

He got up just as Mavis returned.  “I’ll see you tomorrow,” he told Dionne before saying, “It was nice meeting you, Mavis.”  And then, he turned and walked away, leaving the two friends and other women in the cafe staring after him.

After he was gone, Dionne turned to her friend, her eyes shining with excitement.  “He asked me to have dinner with him,” she gushed.  “This means that he’s interested, right?”

Mavis sat down, grinning at her friend who was beside herself.  “Yes, he’s interested.  I saw the way he was looking at you and it’s obvious that he’s got a thing for you.”

“What am I going to wear?” She racked her brains, trying to figure what was in her wardrobe.

Mavis patted her hand.  “Don’t worry,” she told her.  “I’m sure you will find something to wear.  I hate to cut this short, Honey, but I really have to go.”

They split the bill and left the cafe.  When they were in the parking lot, they hugged and promised to meet up again.

She had just finished getting dressed when the phone rang.  As she hurried to answer it, she prayed that it wasn’t Fenton calling to cancel their date.  “Hello?”

“Hello, Dee.”  It was Joe.  Relief washed over her.

“Hi, Joe.  I’m just on my way out.”

“I know.  That’s why I’m calling.  I know that you’re having dinner with Dad and I just wanted to say that I—approve.”

“You do?”

“Believe it or not, I do.  You’re the first woman my father has shown any interest in since my mother died.  Until he met you, he was living like a recluse, only leaving the house to go to work.  He didn’t socialize nor have friends come over.  He spent most of his time in the study or going for walks on the grounds.  It was as if he stopped living after my mother died.  That afternoon in the study, I saw the way he was looking at you and at first, I was miffed because as you know, I’m smitten with you but when it became very clear to me that you were attracted to him, I decided that I would do the honorable thing and step out of the way.  My father is a terrific person and he deserves to be happy again and if you’re the woman who could make that possible, then you have my blessing.  He’s going to show up looking very dapper and that’s thanks to yours truly.  I told him he had to dress to impress.  He’s really nervous, so go easy on him and have fun.”

This was so typical of Joe, always saying something that either made her laugh or cry and that was why she loved him dearly and cherished their friendship.  Blinking back tears, she muttered, “Thank you, Joe.  Having your blessing means a lot to me.”

“Now, do go getting all sentimental on me.  I’ll call you during the week.  Take care, Dee.”

“Bye, Joe.”  She hung up and finished getting ready, her heart skipping a beat when she saw that it was five minutes to six.  Fenton would soon be there.

As he rode up in the lift to her flat, Fenton leaned against the wall, his heart thudding.  He felt as nervous as a young man going on his first date.  It had been a very long time since he had asked a woman out.  After Caryn died, he hadn’t been interested in dating until now.  When he met Dionne, he was taken aback at how deeply attracted to her he was.  It blindsided him.  And when he shook her hand, feelings he had never experienced before surged through him like a flood.  When Joe’s other friends were over at the house, he never asked any them if they were staying for dinner but it was different with Dionne.  He wanted her to stay and, besides, it felt good having another woman besides Mildred, in the house again.

All during dinner, he could hardly keep his eyes off her and after she left, he couldn’t stop thinking about her or wondering when he would see her again.  It was a purely by chance that he saw her today.  He was on his way home when he decided to stop in the cafe and grab a cappuccino.  When he saw the long lineup, he decided that he would go somewhere else when he spotted her.  He couldn’t pass up an opportunity to talk to her so he went in.

He watched her as he stood in the line, wishing she were alone.  After he bought the cappuccino, he went over to her table.  When she looked up at him and smiled, his heart stopped.  He couldn’t stop staring at her and he was so nervous.  He was relieved when her friend left them and he seized the opportunity to ask her the question which had been plaguing him since they met.  He wanted badly to ask her out but he had to make sure that there was nothing between Joe and her.  He never imagined that he and his son would be attracted to the same woman but it thrilled him to know that Dionne was attracted to him too.

And now here he was, on his way up to her flat to take her out for dinner.  The lift stopped and the doors slid open.  He walked through them, his heart accelerating with each step closer to her flat.  After taking a deep breath, he raised his hand which trembled slightly to ring the doorbell.  The door opened and Dionne stood in its aperture, smiling up at him.  His eyes darkened on her face.  He wanted to kiss her so badly.  “Good evening,” he said.

His eyes slid irresistibly over her slender figure in the flattering black long sleeve knot dress which hugged her in all the right places and revealing a pair of long, shapely legs.  She looked amazing.  How he was going to get through dinner without wanting to touch her, he had no idea.

She couldn’t get over how gorgeous he looked in the black jacket, black silk shirt unbuttoned at the neck and black pants.  His silky dark hair was slicked back with a few strands falling across his forehead giving him a rakish look.  She wanted to brush them back.  Realizing that she was staring, she lowered her eyes as she replied, “Good evening.”

She stepped out into the hallway, pulling the door in behind her before she turned and locked it, her hand trembling slightly.  When she turned to face him, he was staring at her and the expression on his face made her knees go weak. For several minutes, they stood there, their eyes locked and the attraction between them palpable.  Then, the sound of voices reached their ears and they moved away from each other and walked to the lift.

On the ride over to the restaurant, they were intensely aware of each other and many times, their eyes met, the air between them charged.  By the time they got to the restaurant, they could hardly think about anything except how much they wanted each other.  Dinner was at a French restaurant, the dim lights and décor added to its warm and romantic ambiance.

Over non-alcoholic wine and a sumptuous meal, they got to know each other.  She learned that he was the second of eight children and that his parents met in high-school and got married after they graduated.  All of his siblings were married with families.  His parents died before he got married so they never met Caryn or Joe.  He and Caryn met at a mutual friend’s wedding.  He was the best man and she was one of the bridesmaids.  They hit it off immediately.  They began dating and two years later they got married.  Joe came along in the third year of their marriage.

“Caryn’s family was from Norway.  After her parents died, she moved to London.  She shared a flat with another girl until she got a job and was able to afford one of her own.  Every winter, she loved to go up to the ski lodge and always got me to go along although I’m not a fan of skiing.  The year she had the accident, I wasn’t with her.  I was out of town on business and Joe was spending the weekend at a friend.”

Instinctively, she reached out and covered the hand which was resting on the table.  He looked down at their hands and then up at her, his expression inscrutable.  “I’m sorry,” she mumbled, withdrawing her hand.

He was sorry that she removed her hand.  It felt so soft on his.  “I’ve told you about me and now I want to hear about you.”  He asked her many questions about herself, eager to learn everything he could about her.  He sat there, listening to her talk, thinking how lovely she looked, especially when she talked about her father to whom she was very close, her eyes sparkling as she shared childhood memories of him.  She had an older married brother who lived in New York and her mother had moved to Fort Lauderdale to live with her sister and her family.

“So, I’m the only member of my family still living here in London,” she said, concluding her life story.

“I’m happy that you didn’t leave London or we wouldn’t have met.” His expression became intense now as he returned her stare.  “Dionne, you’re the first woman I’ve looked at since Caryn died.  I’m deeply attracted to you and I would like to be in a relationship with you.” He reached for her hand.

Her pulse was racing and she could hardly think with him holding her hand.  “I—I would like that too,” she replied breathlessly.

He smiled then.  “Good.”  At that moment, dessert arrived and they talked more as they savored the French Lemon Tart.  Then, it was time to go.

Thirty minutes later they were standing outside of her flat.  She invited him inside for a nightcap.

“Thank—thank you for a lovely evening,” she said, her heart pounding.  “I—I had a wonderful time and—” Her words were cut off when he pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp and his head swooped down.  His mouth closed hungrily over hers and she responded wildly, eagerly, putting her arms around his neck.

Desire coursed through Fenton like a wild fire, consuming him and making him reckless.  All evening he had yearned to take her in his arms, feel her body against his and kiss her.  No woman had ever made him feel this way, not even Caryn.

A door closed, jolting them and he raised his head, his breath harsh and unsteady.  “I’d better go,” he muttered.

She shook her head.  “Let’s go inside,” she gasped.  She pulled away from him and fumbled in her handbag for the key.  She opened the door and they went inside.  After she closed and locked the door she turned to face him.  Then, she was in his arms again and they were exchanging passionate kisses.

After several minutes passed, Fenton broke off their kiss, his face flushed as he met her gaze.  “I want this, I want us, I want you…forever,” he muttered thickly.

“You have this, you have us and you have all of me…forever,” she murmured before reaching up to pull his head down to hers, her fingers gripping his hair as their lips locked.

Sources:  Pinterest; Brainy Quote