LA

woman wearing white cap and pink crew neck shirt

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She was coming out of the washroom when she saw him.  It was hot but he looked nice and cool in his suit.  Come to think of it, she didn’t recall ever seeing him perspire.  She hoped he wouldn’t see her because she wasn’t looking her best, dressed in the pink tee shirt, faded jeans, white cap and denim jacket draped around her shoulders.  Her face was shiny and she wasn’t wearing any makeup.  Perhaps, she should slip out the back way.  Too late.  Her heart sank.  He’d seen her.

Trying to appear composed, she watched as he approached her.  He was so gorgeous.  Just the sight of him made her heart race and her knees weak.   Her palms felt sweaty and she rubbed them against the seat of her jeans.

He smiled when he reached her, those incredibly sexy eyes of his intent on her face which felt hot.  “Hello, Yvette,” he said.

“Hello, Zach.”

“So, you’re back from LA.”

“Yes.  I came back on Thursday.”

“That was two days ago.  Why haven’t you called me?”

“I thought you’d be busy and–”

“I’m never too busy for you, Yvette.”

“How-how have you been?”

“Busy but that comes with the job.”  He was the Chief Executive Officer at . So, how did you like LA?”

“It was fun.  Lots to see.”

“I got your postcard.”

“Good.  I’m glad it got here before I did.”

“I missed you.”

She swallowed hard.  “I–I missed you too.”

“Did you meet anyone interesting?”

“Well, I met some celebrities and got their autographs.”

“I meant, did you meet any interesting men?” He looked a bit tense.

She shook her head.  “We went to a nightclub one evening and there were a few who approached me but I wasn’t interested in any of them.”

He relaxed.  “You have no idea how relieved I’m to hear that.  I kept imagining you with some guy and getting jealous.”

Her breath caught in her throat.  “Jealous?”

“Yes.  Yvette, you must know by now that I’m crazy about you.  For the longest time I’ve wanted to tell you but got cold feet every time.  When you went to LA, I promised myself that when I saw you I would tell you how I feel.”

She reached out and took his hand, lacing her fingers through his.  “I had no idea that you felt this way,” she said, her eyes wide as they met his.  “I’ve been into you since the first time we met but I never dreamed that you felt the same way.  And all the time I was in LA, I thought about you, wishing that you were there.”

“Do you have plans for this evening?” he asked.

“No.”  And even if I had, I would cancel them for you.

“Have dinner with me tonight.”

“Where?  What time?”

“David’s Bistro at seven.  I’ll pick you up at six-thirty.”

“All right.  I’ll see you at six-thirty.”

He smiled, his eyes caressing her upturned face as he raised her their intertwined fingers and pressed his lips against hers, making her tremble.  “See you later.”  And then, he walked away.

She stood there for several minutes, her mind spinning and her heart racing.  That trip to LA proved to be a turning point in her relationship with Zachary.  It was what had driven him to finally declare his feelings for her.  All this time, he cared for her and she had no clue.  Either he was very good at hiding his feelings or she was really bad at reading the signs.  And now that she thought about it, there had been signs.  Shaking her head, she walked out the cafe and into the sunshine.

One of the best feelings in the world is knowing your presence and absence will mean something to someone – Brain Quotes

 

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Shades of Love

For the first time in his life, Maxwell was in love. The problem was–his family wouldn’t approve.  Why?  The object of his affection was a very dark skinned Nigerian woman.  He was a light skinned black man with blue eyes whose parents were light skinned blacks from Barbados.  He always had a weakness for dark women although to please his parents, he dated the light skinned ones.  This woman was absolutely stunning but he knew that his family wouldn’t see past her color.  Even his friends when they saw him checking her out at the party where they met, they told him, “Man, she’s way too dark.  There are so many gorgeous black women here to choose from and you had to pick out the darkest one.”

Of course, he ignored them and walked up to her, his heart racing with nervousness and excitement.  She turned and it seemed like his heart stopped.  This close she was even more breathtaking.  Her beautiful eyes mesmerized him and her skin looked smooth and flawless.  The black cocktail dress hugged her perfect body and the strappy black sandals she wore accentuated her long and shapely legs.  She wore a jeweled choker around her slender neck.

“Maxwell,” he said, holding out his hand.

She put her hand in his.  “Adaolisa.”  They shook hands.

“That’s a pretty name.  What does it mean?”

“God’s daughter.”

“Adaolisa, you’re a very beautiful woman.”  I think you’re the most beautiful woman here.

She smiled.  “Thank you.  And you’re a very handsome man with the most amazing eyes I’ve ever seen.”

He blushed.  “Thank you.  I detect an accent.  Where are you from?”

“Nigeria. I moved from Lagos to London when I was seventeen to attend university.  I stayed with my aunt until I graduated and found a job.”

“You speak English very well.”

“Actually, English is my first language and the official language of Nigeria.”

“Have you been back since you left?”

“Yes.  I visit my family every Christmas.”

“Are you here alone?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  You came with your friends.”

So, she had noticed him long before he approached her.  That pleased him.  “Why don’t we get something to eat and then find somewhere to sit?” he suggested.

“All right.” They went over to the elaborate buffet table and helped themselves to the spread.  They went out on the terrace, found a corner where there were a couple of chairs and sat down.

“Which university did you go to?”

“Cambridge.”

“Now I wish that I went there instead of Oxford and then we would have met sooner. Why did you study at Cambridge?”

“Education.”

“How you like living in England?”

“I don’t mind it because I love my job and I have a lot of friends.  What really bothers me, though, is the prejudice that exists among blacks.  The lighter skinned women, especially, turn up their noses at me and they get upset when their men look at me.  I think too, that they don’t like me because I’m African.”

Maxwell shook his head.  “It’s a shameful thing when prejudice exists within the black community,” he said.  “Growing up in Barbados, I was exposed to bigotry.  My sister was bullied because she wasn’t dark enough and I watched light skinned children ridicule the dark skinned ones.  Many times I got into fights standing up for myself, my sister and my friends.  There was a girl who lived next door to my grandparents whom I liked and I used to hang around her.  My grandfather who was much lighter than me didn’t approve and used to say to me, ‘She’s too dark.’  He told me that all the men in our family married light skinned women so that the next generation would be lighter.  I loved my grandfather but I was ashamed of his ways.  Unfortunately, my parents are the same way.  When I was a teenager I used to date light skinned girls to please them but that changed when I went to university.”

“So, your parents wouldn’t be pleased to see you talking to me,” she commented.

“No, they wouldn’t be.  But it doesn’t matter.  I’m a grown man.  I like you Adaolisa and I want to get to know you better.”

“It’s sad to see blacks discriminate against each other.  It only polarizes the communities.”

“It does.  And it polarizes families too.  My younger brother married a German woman whom our parents welcomed with open arms and they dote on their Caucasian looking grandchildren.   My sister, however, is somewhat of a disappointment to them because she fell in love with and got engaged to Omar, a Senegalese man.  It doesn’t matter that he’s a great guy, loves her and treats her like a queen, all my parents see are his color and his nationality.”

“There are many shades of love.  Your brother chose one shade and your sister another.  All that matters is that they’re happy with their choices.”

He stared at her, admiration glinting in his eyes.  Not only was she beautiful but she was wise.  He knew he had found a treasure tonight.

They changed the topic and talked about other things until it was time to leave.  “May I give you a lift home?” he asked, hopefully.

She nodded.  “Yes, thank you.  I’ll be right back.”

After she left, he rejoined his friends.  “Where have you been, Man,” Trevor asked.

“He’s been with the Nubian,” Colin chimed in.

“So, are we still heading over to the Road House to catch the game?” Nigel asked.

“I’ll pass,” Maxwell told them.  “I’ll see you guys at the game on Friday.”

“He’s brushing us off because of black beauty.”

“Her name is Adaolisa.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I don’t like to keep a lady waiting.”  He turned and walked away, his heart and steps quickening when he saw her standing there, waiting for him.

That was two years ago and now, here they were on their way to see his parents before they went to their favorite restaurant where he was going to propose to her.  It didn’t matter to him what his parents thought.  He was madly in love with this woman and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.  She looked exquisite in the dark red dress with the spaghetti straps.  Unable to resist, he reached over and caressed her shoulder with his knuckles.  “Are you nervous?” he asked when she looked at him.

“A little,” she admitted.

“Don’t worry, I will be there.   As soon as I see that things are getting uncomfortable for you, we will leave, okay?”

“Okay.”  She seemed to relax and a slight smile tugged at her mouth.  She turned to look out of the window.

Five minutes later, they were pulling up in front of a very charming cottage nestled among climbing rose bushes.  He held her hand as they walked up the driveway.  When they were standing on the step in front of the door, he turned to her and asked, “Ready?”

She nodded.  Her grip on his hand tightened imperceptibly.

He rang the doorbell and waited.  It opened and his father stood there.  “Hello, Son,” he said, shaking Maxwell’s hand.  Then, his eyes shifted to Adaolisa.  “Good evening,” he said, extending his hand.

Adaolisa shook his hand.  “Good evening.”

“Please come in,” he said, stepping aside.  His manner toward her was polite but there was no warmth.  “Your mother is in the living-room.”

After they removed their shoes, they went to the living-room.  His mother was sitting by the fireplace.  She stood and went over to hug him.  “It’s good to see you, Maxwell,” she said.  “It has been a while.” When they drew apart, she looked at Adaolisa.  “How do you do?” she sounded a bit stiff although she shook her hand.

“I’m fine, thank you,” Adaolisa replied.  “What a lovely home you have.”

“Thank you.  Won’t you sit down?”

“Mom, we could only stay for a little while,” Maxwell told her as he sat down on the sofa next to Adaolisa.  “We’re going out for dinner.”

“Maxwell mentioned that you’re from Nigeria.”

“Yes, I’m from Lagos.”

“Do you have any family here?”

“Yes, an aunt.  The rest of my family is in Lagos.”

So, far so good, Maxwell thought, beginning to relax when his mother said abruptly, “Maxwell, may I have a word with you?  Excuse us,” she said to Adaolisa before standing up and leaving the room.

Maxwell looked at Adaolisa.  “I’ll be right back,” he promised.  He got up and left.

His mother was standing in the hallway.  “Let’s go into the kitchen,” she suggested and led the way.

When they were alone in the kitchen, she asked, “Are you serious about this girl?”

“First of all, she’s a woman not a girl and yes, I’m very serious about her.  I’m head over heels in love with her.”

“But what do you really know about her?”

“I know enough about her to want to marry her—”

His mother looked aghast.  “Marry her?”

“Yes.  I’m going to propose to her tonight over dinner.”

“But, she’s African.”

“So?”

“Why couldn’t you find yourself a nice Bajan woman or even an English woman?”

“So you object to Adaolisa because she’s African?”

“Yes and she’s too dark.”

Maxwell tried to remain calm.  “Do you have any idea how damaging it is to a child when they are treated differently because they are dark?  I knew someone at university who told me that when she was a child, the teacher gave her a black crayon instead of a brown one to color a drawing of herself.  She transferred to a different school because of the bullying but she still had to deal with verbal abuse from other black students.  How could you stand there and look down at Adaolisa because she’s not your idea of what is beautiful?  It’s not the color of her skin that makes a woman beautiful, it’s her character.  I brought her here to meet you because I hoped that once you got to know her, you would set your prejudices aside but clearly I was wrong.  I’m going to marry her regardless of what you say or think.  You’re welcome to come to the wedding if you like.  Now, it’s time for us to go.  Goodbye, Mother.”  He turned and walked away from her.

He was quiet on the ride over to the restaurant.   Then, turning to her, he said regretfully, “I’m sorry about the way things turned out.  I foolishly hoped that my parents would come around and accept you.  I know my mother is set in her ways but I thought that my father would be more forthcoming but aside from greeting you at the door, he said nothing to you all the time we were there.  And when I came into the living-room after talking to my mother, he wasn’t there.  You were sitting there all by yourself.  I was so upset that I had to get out of there”

She reached out and placed her hand on his thigh.  “Let’s not dwell on what happened.  We have the rest of the evening ahead of us.  Let’s enjoy it.”

“All right,” he said.  “Let’s enjoy the rest of our evening together.”

They ended up enjoying dinner.  The conversation flowed and there was a lot of laughter.  Just before they ordered dessert, he reached out and covered her hand, his eyes intent on her face.  Swallowing hard, he began the speech he had rehearsed over and over since the moment he knew that he was going to marry her.   “Adaolisa, words alone can’t express how I feel about you.  From the moment I first saw you, I knew that you were the one for me.  You took my heart and my breath away.  When I look at you, I see the woman I love, the woman I need and the woman I’m meant to be with.”  He reached into his breast pocket and took out a box.  Releasing her hand, he opened it and removed the ring.  It was an exquisite Rose Gold Leaf diamond engagement ring.

She stared at it in wonder and when her eyes lifted to his face, they were moist.  “It’s beautiful,” she murmured.

“It will look even more beautiful on your hand,” he replied huskily.  “Will you marry me, Adaolisa?”

She nodded.  “Yes, Maxwell.” The tears were rolling down her cheeks now as she watched him slide it onto her finger before he raised her hand to his lips and kissed it.

“I love you, Adaolisa.”

“I love you too, Maxwell.”

They raised their glasses in a toast and over dessert, they made wedding plans.  In May of the following year, they got married in an elegant but simple ceremony.  Her family was there.  His brother and his family were in attendance as well as his sister and her husband, Omar.  Noticeably absent were his parents.  Fortunately, that didn’t put a damper on the nuptials.

After a two week honeymoon in the Maldives, they moved into their new home, a half-hour drive outside of London.  Nine months later, they welcomed their first child—a girl with beautiful olive skin and her father’s eyes.  As Maxwell held her in his arms, he remarked, “She’s beautiful like her mother.”

“She’s another shade of love—our love for each other.”

 

Source:  Dazed Digital; Felix Online; Nation News; Barbados Free Press; Fluid London; University of Cambridge; Global News; Pinterest; Ben Garelick; Harper’s Bazaar

Walking Away

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? – 2 Corinthians 6:14

There signs were there but either she was blind to them or she didn’t want to see them.  They spoke at odd hours.  She never met his family or any of his friends and he didn’t seem keen on meeting hers.  She had no idea where he lived. He never invited her to his place and always ended up at hers. They never spent the holidays together or attended special events.  Once when she got tickets to a play she had always wanted to see, he told her that something had come up and he couldn’t go. She had to ask a friend to go with her.

He never used his credit card.  He paid everything in cash.  He took her to lonely and secluded places.  And whenever they were in public, he was different, not showing any display of affection.  To the casual observer, they were just friends, nothing more but behind closed doors, it was a different story.  He couldn’t seem to get enough of her. And then there was the wedding band line although he hadn’t mentioned anything about being married.  And on more than one occasion she had invited him to go to church with her but he always had an excuse why he couldn’t go.

Her gut told her that something was not right.  It kept nagging her driving her to pray about it.  God led her to two passages:  The first was: 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 which said, For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;  that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,  not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.”

And the second was Hebrews 13:4:  Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

God was telling her plainly that her boyfriend was a married man and that she needed to end their relationship.  After she closed the Bible, she collapsed on the carpet and began to cry.  The pain was unbearable.  She loved him and he had been lying to her all this time.

Hours later when she was composed, she called him on his cell.  It rang a long time and just as she was about to end the call, he answered.  “Sorry,” he apologized.  “I was in the middle of something.”

“I need to see you,” she said simply.  “Can you meet me this afternoon?”

“I can’t this afternoon.  How about tomorrow afternoon around 4?”

“Fine.  I’ll meet you tomorrow afternoon at the entrance of Craigleigh Gardens Park.”  They had been to the park before because there was an air of secrecy about it and not many people were around.  Whenever they were there, they felt as if they had the place all to themselves.

“Why I see you at your place?”

“I prefer to meet you in the park.”

“All right.  I’ll see you then.  I love you.”

She didn’t say “I love you” as usual but, instead mumbled, “Bye” and ended the call.  She went out onto the terrace where she sat for a long time, dreading the inevitable.

As she stood at the entrance to the park waiting for him, she prayed and asked God to give her the strength to do what she must do.  And she had this assurance, fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Knowing that God was with her gave her comfort but it was going to be hard and very painful to say goodbye to the man she loved.  How she wished he weren’t married or lied to her about it.  What else did he lie about?

Five minutes to four, he showed up.  Her heart leapt in her throat and she had to fight the impulse to throw her arms around him.  He wouldn’t have minded there wasn’t anyone around.  He looked handsome in the expensive looking striped navy blue suit, snow white shirt and no tie.  His thick, silky bronze colored hair was neatly combed as usual.  He exuded sophistication and virility.  As he approached her, she felt her resolve weakening and she frantically said a silent prayer.

She saw his eyes travel over her in the yellow top and black skirt and the desire in his eyes.  She tried to ignore her body’s reaction.  Not seeming to notice that something was amiss, he said, “Hello, Erika” and was about to take her in his arms when she stepped back.   Frowning, he asked, “Is something wrong?”

“Let’s go inside and find a bench,” she suggested and turned away.  She went through the entrance and he followed her.  Nothing was said until they found a bench.  He waited until she was seated and then he sat down.  After taking a deep breath, she said, “It’s over between you and me.”

He looked startled and for a few minutes, he was at a loss for words and then he finally asked, “Why?”

“You’re married, Cyrus.”

“How did you find out?”

“The signs were there but I didn’t want to see them.  When I see you it’s usually at your convenience.  I have never met your family or your friends or been to your place and we only go to certain places.  Things haven’t been adding up and my gut kept telling me that something was wrong.  And your finger,” she said looking down at his left hand.  “has the mark of a ring.  When you’re with me you don’t wear it.  How long have you been married?”

He sighed.  “Ten years.”

“Do you have any children?”  She fought to keep the tears back.

“Yes.  Two.  A six year old boy and a four year old girl.”

She buried her face in her hands and groaned.  He was married with children.  All those times when they couldn’t spend Christmas or New Year’s together, it was because of his family.

He reached out to pull her towards him as he muttered, “Erika, I’m sorry.”

She pushed his hand away, the tears rolling down her face.  “You’re sorry,” she cried angrily.  “Sorry that you lied to me or sorry that I found out?  All this time you and I were seeing each other, you were really cheating on your wife.  If I had known that you were married I never would have gotten involved with you.”

“That’s why I didn’t tell you.  I didn’t want to lose you.”

“Am I your first affair or have you had others before me?”

“No.  I’ve never cheated on my wife before.  The thought never occurred to me but that changed when I met you.  I knew it was wrong to get involved with you but I couldn’t help myself.  I wanted you so much…”

“I fell in love with you, Cyrus, not knowing that you had a family.  When you were with me, did you think about them and how this would hurt them?”

He ran his fingers through his hair, his face pale.  “No, I wasn’t thinking,” he admitted tightly.  “All I could think about was you and how much I loved you–”

“Please, don’t tell me that you love me.”

“But, I do.  I love you more than I love my children.”

“What about your wife?  Do you love her?”

“No.  I stopped loving her after our daughter was born.”

“Why are you still married?”

“Two reasons are preventing me from getting a divorce–my religion and my children.  So, I’m stuck in a marriage to a woman I don’t love while I’m in love with a woman who doesn’t want me anymore.”

For a brief, maddening moment, she wanted to put her arms around him and tell him that she still wanted him, desperately.  But, as a Christian, she couldn’t stay in a relationship that wasn’t right for her.  She loved him so much that it hurt but she had to obey God’s Word.  Sometimes, you had to walk away from love.  She stood up, her heart breaking and the tears streaming down her face.  “Cyrus, I’m sorry that you are stuck in an unhappy marriage.  I hope and pray that things work out for you and that you find happiness but it won’t be with me.  I have to find my own happiness.”

He stood up, anguish marring his features.  “What are you saying, Erika?”

“I’m saying goodbye.  I’m saying that it’s over between us.”

“But, I love you.”

“And I love you but you’re a married man.”

“So, it’s really over?”

“Yes.” The word was choked sob.

“Could I at least kiss you goodbye?” he asked thickly.  “Please?”

Against her better judgment, she allowed him to take her in his arms and kiss her.  When she felt his lips on hers, she put her arms around his neck and eagerly kissed him back.  They exchanged passionate kisses for several minutes and then she pulled away from him.  She turned away, gulping for air.

“Erika…”

“Please go,” she begged, still with her back turned to him.

There was a brief pause and then he was walking away–out of her life for good.

To truly love is to have the courage to walk away and let the other person who wishes to be free go no matter how much it hurts – Taylor Swift

Photo by: blogTO

Source:  Belief Net; BlogTO; Bible Gateway; Culture Hook;

Love in Tokyo

Kaito Takashi paused outside of the jewelry store before he went inside to look at the different displays of engagement rings.  He was convinced that Tamiko was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.  They met two years ago at a mutual friend’s house party and immediately hit it off.  She was stunning and he enjoyed getting to know her better.  He asked her to have dinner with him and they went to his favorite restaurant the following evening.

After that first date, they began dating.  She was the first girl he had taken home to meet his family.  Yes, things were serious between them and he was going to ask her to marry.  All he had to do was find the ring.  He glanced at his watch.  It was a quarter to six.  He had until half-past six to browse before meeting Hana and her friend, Sally for dinner.

Sally Johnson was in Tokyo for the weekend.  She was staying with her friend and former university classmate, Hana.  On Sunday evening she would take the 47 minute train ride back to Yokohama and to her position as Early Years teacher at Horizon Japan International School.

After graduating from University, she decided to spend the summer in Japan.  She stayed with Hana in Tokyo.  They took day trips to other parts of Japan.  They spent the weekend in Kamakura where Hana’s parents lived.  Sally met Hana’s younger brother and sister.  They all spoke very good English and it was Hana’s father who suggested that she took a job teaching English in Japan for a year.  They taught her basic Japanese.  When she returned to New York, she enrolled in a Japanese language program.  At the end of the year, she applied for a teaching position in Yokohama and got it.

She has been here in Yokohama for two months and was still getting used to the people, the place and the culture.  On the weekends, she visited Hana and they hung out in the city.  Tonight, they were going to meet Kaito, her older brother for dinner.  Sally was looking forward to meeting him.  Hana had recently posted photos of the two of them on her Facebook page and Sally couldn’t get over how good-looking he was.  She realized that it was foolish of her to be into a guy she hadn’t even met and who had a girlfriend.

“Earth to Sally.”  Hana’s voice broke into her thoughts, startling her.  The taxi had stopped and she realized that they had reached the restaurant where they were meeting Kaito.

“Sorry,” she mumbled before getting out of the taxi and stepping onto the sidewalk.  It was a beautiful, balmy evening.  The sun had set but the area where they were was ablaze with lights.  She could see the faces of the people walking by very clearly.  It was then she spotted him.

Hana saw him too and she waved.  “There’s Kaito,” she announced unnecessarily.  And started to head toward him.  Sally followed her.

As they approached, she saw him look first at Hana and then at her.  By the time she was they reached him, she was very nervous and her heart was beating really fast.  He was even more attractive in person.  He looked first at Hana who hugged him and then at her.  Over Hana’s head, their eyes locked.  It was as if time stood still and there were just the two of them.  Everyone and everything faded into obscurity.

And then, Hana was pulling her forward until she was standing right in front of him.  “Kaito, this is my very good friend, Sally.  Sally, this is my brother, Kaito.”

Kaito held out his hand first, his eyes riveted to her upturned face.  “Hello, Sally,” he said in English.

She took his hand and felt a jolt of electricity pass through her, rendering her breathless.  “Hello, Kaito,” she managed to say.  “It’s good to finally meet you.”

His eyebrows arched.  “You speak Japanese?”  He sounded surprised and impressed.

Before she could answer, Hana chimed in.  “Yes, she does.  She took classes in New York and we’ve been teaching her while she was here last summer.  She’s teaching English in Yokohama.”

Kaito hadn’t taken his eyes off her.  “How do you like teaching in Yokohama?” he asked in Japanese.

“I like it very much.  Yokohama is amazing.”

“Did you get a chance to see the Sparkling Fireworks Show?”

“Yes, I did and it was—”

“Guys, can we continue this conversation inside?” Hana interrupted in English.  “I’m starving.”

They went into the restaurant and as they walked to their table, Sally was aware of the attention she in particular drew.  She was used to the locals staring at her, an African American woman.  Kaito sat opposite her and Hana beside him.  It was a nice, cozy place giving one the impression that they were dining in someone’s home.   She liked that their server described each dish as he prepared it right in front of them at the counter.

Over mouthwatering Kobe Beef and Chateaubriand steak and sushi chased down with Sake drinks, they talked.  Sally learned that Kaito was a Risk Analyst at an investment firm.  He helped businesses to determine the amount of financial risks that involved concerning investments and operational costs.  She could tell from the way he spoke that he loved his job and Hana mentioned that it was one of the top ten highest paying jobs.

Throughout dinner, they exchanged glances.  There was no doubt that they were attracted to each other but she kept reminding herself that he had a girlfriend.  Hana didn’t seem to notice anything but Sally couldn’t be sure.  She had to be careful not to give herself away.  After tonight, there was no guarantee that she would see Kaito again.  And in less than a year they would be worlds apart.

“You mentioned that your teaching assignment is a year long.  After it is finished, I guess you will be returning to America?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“She can always come to Japan for the summer or maybe I will go to New York instead.  I haven’t been there since I moved back to Toyko.  Maybe you can come with me, Kaito and you can bring Tamiko.  How is she, by the way?”

Kaito lowered his eyes.  “Tamiko is fine.”

Hana was about to say something when her cell rang.  She flipped it out.  “Hello?” A big smile spread on her face and she announced, “It’s Riku.”  Riku was her boyfriend.  Excuse me.”  She left the table, talking animatedly in Japanese.

Silence settled over the table following her departure. Sally could feel Kaito’s eyes on her and she raised hers.  For several minutes they just sat there, trying not to stare at each other and then he spoke in that low, cultured voice of his. “You did not seem surprised when Hana mentioned Tamiko.”

“Hana had already told me about her.”

“Tamiko has always wanted to go to America.  I too would like to see it.”

“You’ll like it.  New York especially.”

“Yes, I would like to see New York, especially.” His eyes held hers captive when he said that.

She swallowed hard, her heart pounding. “There’s a lot to see,” she muttered breathlessly.

“Is there a man in your life?” he asked quietly.  He held his breath as he waited for her answer.

She shook her head.  “No, there isn’t.”  Did she detect a look of relief on his face?

Kaito expelled his breath.  “Good, because I want to see you again,” he admitted.

“You can’t,” she protested.  “What about Tamiko?”

Before he could reply, Hana returned to the table and sat down.  “Riku wants to take me out,” she said.  “He’s going to be here in ten minutes.  Kaito, do you mind taking Sally back to my place?”

He shook his head.  “No, I don’t mind.”  He looked at Sally who was looking at Hana and thinking, I’m afraid to be alone with your brother because of what can happen between us…

“Thanks, Kaiko.  Don’t wait up for me, Sally.  I’ll be coming in very late.”

Kaiko paid for dinner, brushing aside their objections and they left the restaurant.  After waiting with Hana until Riku arrived, Sally and he walked to his sleek black Jaguar which was parked a little way from the restaurant.  After holding the door for her to get in, he walked around to the driver’s side and climbed in behind the wheel.  She strapped herself in as the engine roared to life and they pulled away from the curb.

“I have a confession to make,” he said.  “Before I met Hana and you for dinner, I was in a jewelry shop looking at engagement rings.”

Sally turned so that he couldn’t see the disappointed expression on her face.  “So, you’re going to marry Tamiko.”

“I was seriously considering it and that’s why I went to shop for a ring but I didn’t see any that I liked.  I was going to continue looking next week but after meeting you, I’m not sure about a lot of things anymore.”

“Do-do you love Tamiko?”

“I thought I did but after meeting you, I’m not sure.”

“Kaito, I don’t want to get involved with a man who’s already in a relationship with someone else and isn’t sure how he feels about her.”

“You’re right, Sally.  I got carried away by my attraction for you.  I put you in a very awkward position and I am sorry.”

“I–I just don’t want to get hurt.”

“The last thing I want to do is to hurt you or Tamiko.”

“I hope you figure out what you want.”

“Me too.”

For the rest of the ride, they spoke about other things and then he was walking her to the door.  Using Hana’s spare key, she opened it.   She turned to face him.  “I would invite you in but I’m afraid of what would happen if I did,” she said.

His eyes darkened.  “Then, I had better leave now.  Goodnight, Sally.”

“Goodnight, Kaito.”  She turned and went inside, closing the door quietly behind her.

Kaito walked away, his mind spinning, his heart racing and his body aching.  I’m attracted to her in ways I can’t explain.  The feelings she stirs in me are the kind you read about in novels.  What am I going to do about her and Tamiko?  All the way back to his place, he tried to figure out what he was going to do.  He cared for Tamiko but he never felt that spark with her.  When he met Sally, there were fireworks.  Even now, he got butterflies in his stomach just thinking about her.  He wanted to see her again so badly he could almost taste it but she wouldn’t have anything to do with him, and rightly so, until he figured out what he wanted.  Somebody was going to wind up getting hurt and he hated himself for that.

He decided that he needed to get away and go to some place where he could think clearly.   He booked a flight to Okinawa where he spent two weeks at a luxury beach hotel.   Early in the mornings, just before the sun rose, he went swimming and then for long walks along the beach afterwards.  He thought about how surprised and disappointed Tamiko sounded when he told her about this trip.  Most likely she wanted to come with him but he explained that he had a lot on his mind and needed to be alone for a while.  They spoke on the phone every other day.

In the evenings he ate dinner and then went up to his room afterwards.  He sat on the terrace with a panoramic view of the sea thinking about Sally.  He wondered what she was doing at that moment.  Was she thinking about him?  Did she want to see him as much as he wanted to see her?  He remembered what she said before they parted company.  “I would invite you in but I’m afraid of what would happen if I did.”  He knew only too well that if he had stayed, he would have lost his head…

He closed his eyes as he tried to imagine what it would be like to make love to her and he sucked in his breath sharply when desire like a raging fire surged through his body.  Agitated, he sprang to his feet and walked over to the rail, gripping it until his knuckles gleamed whitely in the twilight.  He had a decision to make and soon.

Sally was in her room trying to read but she was distracted.  She couldn’t stop thinking about Kaito.  Every time she closed her eyes, she saw his face, his eyes, his lips…Frustrated, she closed the novel and got up.  She walked over to the window and leaned against it, looking out.  Several weeks had passed since the night they met.  She wondered where he was and what he was doing.  Was he thinking about her?

She would never forget the look in his eyes when she told him why she couldn’t invite him in when he dropped her off at Hana’s apartment.  They were ablaze with the same passion that stirred inside her.  She knew that if he had stayed they would have ended up making love and she wouldn’t have forgiven herself afterwards.  He had a girlfriend and until he sorted out whether or not he still wanted to be with her, she had to stay away from him.  It was hard, though.  She wanted so much to see him again.  It was all she could think about.  It was a good thing that she didn’t have his number or she would have been tempted to call him.

Sighing heavily, she turned away from the window just as she heard a knock on the door.  Wondering who it could be, she quickly went to find out.  When she opened the door and saw Kaito standing there, her heart leapt.  For several minutes they just stared at each other.  His eyes were restless on her face and hers eagerly drank in the sight of him.  “Hello,” she finally said in Japanese.

“Hello,” he replied.  And then in English he said, “I had to see you.”

“Come in,” she said, stepping aside so that he could enter.  After closing the door, she turned to face him, her heart racing.  “How are you?”

“Much better now that I’m here with you,” he said quietly.  He couldn’t stop staring at her and he ached to touch her.  “Sally, ever since we met, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you.

“What about Tamiko?”

“That’s why I’m here.  It’s over between us.  After I returned from Okinawa, I went to see her.  I felt awful, especially when she began to cry.  The last thing I wanted to do was to hurt her but I couldn’t help the way I felt about you.  Before I went away, she sensed that there was a change in my behavior towards her but she didn’t suspect that there was another woman until I told her.  I’m glad that nothing happened between you and me before I ended my relationship with her.  It would have been unforgivable.”

“Yes, it would have been.”  She felt sorry for Tamiko because she knew that if she were in her shoes, it would take a very long time for her to get over Kaito.  “Are you hungry?  We can grab something to eat and then go to Yamashita Park.”

He shook his head.  “No, I would rather stay here.” He reached out and pulled her into his arms, his eyes smoldering as they met hers briefly before dropping to her lips which parted invitingly.  Groaning, he bent his head and kissed her.  She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.  The kisses became very passionate, their breathing harsh and heavy and soon they were tearing at each other’s clothes, anxious to be rid of them and to feel flesh against flesh.  In a matter of minutes, they were under the sheets, making love as the bed creaked in protest.

Hours later, they got dressed and had dinner at a restaurant near Yamashita Park, the seaside park with its long walkway which connected Yokohama’s best attractions.  Afterwards, they went for a walk in the park, holding hands.  It was late when he walked her back to her place and before they parted company, they made plans to see each other the following evening.

Sally stood on the Osanbashi Pier watching the Kanagawa Shimbun Fireworks. They were spectacular.  Kaito joined her and she smiled as he handed her the ice-cream.  It had been ages since she had one.  Her engagement ring glinted in the lights that blazed in the sky.  She laughed when she saw that the pink ice-cream was in the shape of an elephant.  Kaito put his arm around her waist and she leaned against him as they watched the fireworks.  It was August.  In late November they were going to get married in Tokyo in the presence of their families, friends and her students.  Hana, of course, was going to be her bridesmaid.

A smile spread on her face as she thanked God for blessing her beyond her wildest dreams.

The smile on my face doesn’t mean my life is perfect, it just means I appreciate what I have and what God has blessed me withLookup Quotes

 

 

Sources:  Teach Away; Rome2Rio; Hills Learning; Zooming Japan; Yokohama Japan; Culture Trip; Japan Talk; Whisper; Study.com; Career Addict; Boldomatic; The Ritz-Carlton

The Gazebo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you lost?” he asked.

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

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

She blinked at him.  “Publication?”

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

“Your sister?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Would you like me to show you around?”

“Yes, thank you.”

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

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

“How awful.”

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

“Do you know why he broke it off?”

“I think he got cold feet.”

“Does Olivia have other children?”

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m twenty-four.”

“You look much younger.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t have a boyfriend.”

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

She blinked.  “Dinner with you tonight?”

“Yes.  That unless you have another engagement.”

She shook her head.  “I don’t.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is he seeing anyone now?” Susannah asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His expression remained unchanged.  “Thank you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:  Carrocel; Archadeck of Central GA; Pinterest

The Flat Tire

Broken dreams.  Broken promises.

Disappointments.  Heartache.

Death.  Violence.  Lost friends.

Struggles.  Racism.  Broken

families.  Dead-end relationships.

Two different worlds.  Two different

people.  One day their worlds collided.

 

A flat tire in the middle of nowhere.

Frantic, she tried to figure out what

to do.  Had never changed a tire in

her life.  She called for her brother

but there was no answer.  Her father

was out of town.  Her uncle’s phone

was busy.  What was she going to do now?

 

Then, a sleek silver grey Cherokee jeep

slowed down and then stopped.  A

very attractive man dressed in a grey

pinstriped suit stepped out.  He walked

over to her and asked what the problem

was.  After she told him, He removed his

jacket, and placed it on the hood of her

car.

 

Grateful, she watched as he got

down beside the car and fixed the tire.

When he stood, up she thanked him

profusely.  He smiled an incredible

smile and assured her that it was no

problem.

 

“What’s your name?” she asked.

 

“Trevor.”

 

“I’m Kelly.  Thanks again Trevor.”

 

“You’re welcome, Kelly.  Have a good

evening.”

 

“Thanks, you too.”  She watched him

as he took up his jacket and stepped

back so that she could get into her

car.  He waited until she drove off

before he walked back to his jeep.

As she sped away, she hoped that she

would see him again.

 

An she did and it was quite unexpected.

She decided that it was time to join a

gym and signed up to go three times a

week.  After work, she drove there and

after she changed, she went to the area

where the exercise equipment.  And that’s

where she saw him.  At first, she just stood

there staring at him as he sat on the bench

lifting a weight.  He was wearing a black

vest and navy blue shorts.  It was him.

 

Heart racing, she went over to him.  It

had been three weeks since they last

saw each other.  She wasn’t sure that he

would remember her.  Well, there was

only one way to find out.  As she

approached him, he glanced up and

a smile tugged at his lips.  “Hello, Kelly,”

he said, getting up from the bench.

 

“Hello, Trevor,” she said, looking up at

him.  He had to be over six feet tall.

“I wasn’t sure that you would remember

me.”

 

“I never forget a beautiful woman,” he

remarked, making her blush.  “I’ve

never seen you here before.”

 

“I just joined.  Have you been a member

here long?”

 

“For about five years.”

 

“What a stroke of luck that I should find

you here.”

 

“Perhaps luck had nothing to do with

it.  I believe in Providence.  So, what

kind of workout are you going to do?

 

“I think I’ll start off with the leg press

over there, then the lat pull down and

finish with the chest press.”

 

“Well, I’ll be over here if you need any

help.”

 

She smiled, said, “Thanks” and walked

away.  As she worked out, she watched

him doing the weights, thinking how

nice and fit he looked.  A couple of times

he looked over at her and smiled.  After

he was done lifting weights, he got up

and went on the machine curl.

 

After they were finished working out, he

invited her to grab a bite to eat with him.

She readily accepted and hurried off to

shower and get changed.  He was waiting

in the reception area for her.  They walked

to a nearby bistro.  It was a pleasant evening.

Over delicious vegetarian dishes, they chatted.

 

Then, he raised his glass and said, “Here’s to

life sometimes taking us where we never

expected to be.”  She raised her glass, realizing

that he was speaking retrospectively and not

just about the present.

 

As she touched her glass to his, she silently thanked

God for the flat tire.  If it weren’t for that little in-

convenience, she wouldn’t have met Trevor.

 

That evening was the beginning of a relationship

which ended in marriage.  Two lives collided one

evening on the side of a rural road.  They were

two people destined to meet and the seemingly

chance meeting happened precisely at the right moment.

 

 

Sources: Greatest; Elite Men’s Guide; Quote Fancy

Two Brothers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Flexible hours.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Théo grinned.  “Something like that.”

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

“The usual.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She smiled.  “Thank you.”

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

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

“Sounds good.  I’ll have that.”

“I’ll be right back.”

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

“I get off at nine.”

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

“I usually take the train.”

“May I give you a ride home?”

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

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

“Do you live alone?” he asked.

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

“Do you have other family here in Paris?”

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

“Do you visit them?”

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

“Do you have any siblings?”

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

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

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

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

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

“It would be double trouble, for sure.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

She smiled.  “Thank you, Emile.”

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

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

“And spend time with Théo.”

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s all right,” he said quietly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Goodnight, Emile.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Exactly!” Ines chimed in.

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

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

“Her name begins with a C.”

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

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

“I have to leave, Mother.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The one to St. Barts with Théo.

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

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

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

“Celeste?”

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

“But you and he went dancing last night.”

“Yes.  Celeste was there too.”

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

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

“I thought you were his girlfriend, Celine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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