Carmelo Finds Love

Ettore6

Carmelo Pagliani, a Neapolitan shipping magnate and billionaire owned palatial homes in Tuscany, Monaco and Beverly Hills.  He was never married but he enjoyed the company of beautiful, young and exotic women.  He didn’t have any children.  Life was as he wanted it.  No long-term commitments and no worries about alimony or child support.  He was a free agent who enjoyed the fruits of his hard work.

He came from a large family.  He was the fifth of five brothers and four sisters.  His parents owned a pizza shop which became popular because Sophia Loren visited it once.  The photo of her and his parents hung in a prominent place on the wall.  As a boy, he worshipped the actress and always went with his father to see her movies.  Many years later, he met her at a Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda show in Mexico City.  She was beautiful and charming.  A frame photo of them stood on the mantelpiece in his Tuscan home.

Carmelo was used to getting what he wanted, whether it was to do with business or women.  A couple years ago, he expanded his business to South America.  Last week, he met Dondrea, a stunning African American woman in St. Barts.  He was there alone and she was there with some friends.

The first time he saw her, he wanted to meet her immediately.  One evening before dinner, he approached her as she was stepping off the elevator on her way to the dining-room.  She was alone.  Her friends must have gone ahead.

“Good evening,” he said, holding out his hand.  “Carmelo Pagliani.”

She smiled and shook his hand.  “Dondrea Williams.”

“Is this your first time in St. Barts?”

“Yes, it is.”

“And how do you find it?”

“It has beautiful beaches.”

“Did you come here to celebrate New Year’s?”

“Yes.  It’s strange not being in New York on New Year’s Eve.”

“So, that’s where you’re from, New York?”

“Yes.  What about you?  Where are you from?”

“Naples but I live in Tuscany.  I too am here to celebrate New Year’s, something I’ve never done alone.”

“You didn’t bring a wife or a girlfriend?”

“I don’t have a wife or a girlfriend.”

She stared at him.  “I find that hard to believe.”

He smiled.  “It’s true.  I’m single.  What about you?”

“I’m single too.”

“Do you think your friends would mind if you had dinner with me instead?” older black woman

She shook her head.  “No, they wouldn’t.  I’ll just let them know.  Do you mind if I introduced you to them?”

“Not at all.”  He followed her into the dining-room and over to a table where five people were sitting.  They glanced up as they approached.

“Guys, I won’t be joining you for dinner this evening,” she informed them.  “This is Carmelo.  He invited me to have dinner with him.”

Her friends introduced themselves and shook his hand.  They exchanged in a lively conversation with him for several minutes before he and Dondrea excused themselves.

“You have very nice friends,” he commented as they sat at a table for two.

“Yes, I do,” she agreed.  “We’ve known each other for years.  They are like family.”

Dinner with her was a wonderful experience.  He enjoyed her company and their conversations.  He didn’t want the evening to end so he invited her to join him for an after dinner drink in the bar.  Afterwards, they went for a walk on the beach.  He escorted her back to her room.  Outside the door, he said, “Thank you for a lovely evening.”

She smiled.  “I enjoyed it too.”

“Will you have breakfast with me in the morning?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I will.”

“I’ll meet you in the lobby at seven-thirty.”

“Goodnight, Carmelo.”

“Goodnight, Dondrea.”

They had breakfast and then they went to the beach where they spent most of the day.  That evening and every evening after that they had dinner together.  And they had breakfast every morning.  During the day, they went on excursions, to other beaches and had lunch at the Shellona Restaurant which overlooked Shell Beach.  On her last evening, he took her for dinner at Casa Club.

When they returned hours later to her room, she invited him in.  He spent the night.  The following morning, they ordered breakfast and had it on her terrace.  Then, he went to his suite while she got ready to leave for the airport.   He was in the lobby waiting for her and he went with to the entrance.  An airport limo was waiting and so were her friends.  He said goodbye to them and while they got into the limo, she and he faced each other.  He took her hands in his.

“Thank you for seven incredible days,” he said quietly.  “I’ve been to St. Barts before but I’ve never enjoyed myself this much.”

“I enjoyed myself very much too.”

“We have each other’s number so we will be in touch.”

“Yes.  Goodbye, Carmelo.”

“Goodbye, Dondrea.”  He raised her hands to his lips.

Then, she was getting into the limo and he stood there watching as it pulled away.  After she left, the rest of his stay at the hotel was dull and he missed her terribly.  He was relieved to get back to Tuscany.

He sat in his study now, staring at the page of his address where her number was written.  Several weeks had passed and he hadn’t called her as yet.  His business had kept him busy and fear prevented him picking up the phone.  Fear of what?  Fear of commitment.  Marriage was something he had never seriously considered but now he was and it was because of Dondrea.

Dondrea was different from the other women he had been with.  Those had been mere dalliances. No feelings had been involved.  When he got bored with them, he ended the relationship.  It hadn’t been casual with Dondrea.  From the very beginning it had been serious for him.  And that’s what scared him.  He knew that he could easily fall in love with her and by the third time they were together, he knew he had.  He wondered if she felt the same way.  With all of his heart, he hoped so.

He picked up the receiver and dialed her number.  His heart skipped a beat when she answered.  “Hello, Dondrea.”

“Carmelo.”  She sounded happy to hear from him.  “How have you been?”

“Busy.  That’s why I didn’t call you before.  How are you?”

“I’m well, thanks.  I’m been reminiscing about St. Barts.”

“Me too.  Dondrea, how do you feel about spending the month of June in Tuscany with me?”

“I’d love to!” she exclaimed.

He smiled.  “Good.  You’ll love it, I promise.”

They talked for hours and then, they ended the call.  They telephoned each other every week.  Then, one day, he decided he would fly to New York and surprise her.  She was beside herself with excitement when he showed up at her apartment.  He spent three weeks with her and on the night before he left, when they were relaxing on the sofa after dinner, he reached for her hand.  “Ti amo,” he said quietly.  “I love you.”

“I love you too,” she replied.

“Enough to move to Tuscany?”

Her eyes widened.  “You want me to move to Tuscany?” she exclaimed.

“Yes.  I have a villa in San Gimignano.”

She thought about it for a moment.  “Yes.  I’ll move to San Gimignano.”

He smiled.  “Molto bene,” he murmured before he kissed her.

The following year, Dondrea left New York and moved into Carmelo’s villa in San Gimignano.  In May, with friends and family present, they tied the knot.

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for today’s prompt, Surprise.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Sources:  St. Bart’s Restaurants; Destination Saint-Barths; St. Barts Travel Guide; Date Billionaire;

 

Love Lives On/Tranquil #writephoto

tranquil

Photo by Sue Vincent

I stood there in the secluded spot and tranquil place where we used to meet.  It was our secret place where we could love each other freely.  Back there it was against the law for a white man and a black woman to have relations.  Race mixing as they called it was banned.  The punishment for interracial marriage to be a year in jail and the white person was fined $100 fine.  The person who officiated an interracial wedding was fined $200.  How I hated those laws.  They were passed by ignorant and racist people who couldn’t accept that people of different races could fall in love with each other.

My parents were just as intolerant.  They believed that people should stick to their own kind–you know, to keep the races pure.  They even used the Bible to validate their racist views.  I read the Bible myself and nowhere did it prohibit interracial love.  In fact, there were examples of mixed marriages.  I hated going to a school where blacks weren’t allowed and even church which was to be the temple of the God who created all races, blacks weren’t allowed to worship with us.  I hated living in a state that was so intolerant.  I promised myself that I would leave it as soon as I was old enough.

My parents made sure that I went to the best schools and associated only with those whom they deemed to be socially acceptable–the filthy rich.  They even had it in their heads that one day I would marry Governor Brown’s daughter, Virginia (I can’t believe her parents named her after the state).  Granted, she was a nice girl, very pretty and I could tell that she liked me very much.  We went on dates and such and then, I went away to university.  It was an understanding that we were going steady and that in due time, I would propose.

When I returned from university one summer vacation, my mother told me that we had a new maid, Flora.  The previous one, Berta had been fired.  My parents never told me what happened but I was sore because I really liked Berta.  Well, when I met Flora, I quickly forgot about Berta.  She was much younger than Berta but about ten years older than me.  Flora wasn’t pretty like Virginia but she was very attractive.  She had big brown eyes that didn’t seem to miss a thing, smooth dark skin and a lovely voice.  Sometimes she would sing as she worked.

Once I asked her why didn’t she become a professional singer.  She scoffed and said, “The only thing white folks want colored people like me to do is cook, clean, do the laundry and keep my place.”

Flora had a room built at the back of the house where she would change into her uniform and use the bathroom.  She had special plates and forks to use for her meals.  She was paid $10 a week which in that time was considered good money.

Flora was a bit cynical and who could blame her?  Although she is well paid, she is treated with disrespect and condescension by my parents, relatives and family friends.  There are times when I sit at the dining table and seethe with rage.  The final straw came when Flora accidentally spilled a glass of wine and some of it got on Mrs. Miller, an insufferable and vain woman.  She rose to her feet and struck Flora hard across the face.  “You clumsy n—–,” she cried.  “You’ve ruined my dress.  It’s too bad you can’t be whipped for this.”

My mother didn’t bat an eye.  I couldn’t believe that she wasn’t livid that one of her guests had slapped Flora.  I guess I was foolish to expect her to say something in Flora’s defense.  Instead, she said to her crossly, “Clean that mess up.”

Flora quickly left the room and was back in a seconds to clean the spill.  I wanted to go after her but propriety made me stay put.  I promised myself that I would speak to her before she left this evening.”

“You should fire her, Rosemary,” Mrs. Miller said as she resumed her seat.

“It was an accident!” I said as calmly as I could although, what I really wanted to do was throw the rest of the wine in her sanctimonious face.

“You mind your manners, Boy,” my father scolded.

“You’re excused,” was my mother’s rejoinder.

“Excuse me,” I said as I rose to my feet.  I was happy to leave the table.

I headed straight for the kitchen where Flora was busy washing up the dishes.   I wanted to help but I knew that she wouldn’t let me.  Besides, it would get her into trouble.  I went and stood beside her.  I could see that she had been crying.  I wanted to hug her.  “I’m sorry about what happened just now, Flora,” I said quietly.  “Mrs. Miller had no right to hit you.  You’re a grown woman, not a child.”

“You heard what she called me.  That gives her the right to hit me.”

“Flora, sometimes, I wish I could take you away from all of this.”

“You shouldn’t be saying such things, Master Oliver.”

“But, it’s true, Flora.”

“And where would we go?”

“I don’t know yet but some place where you’re treated better.”

“Right now I can’t think of any place like that except Heaven.”

“Flora, after I graduate from university, I’m going to leave Richmond.  I want you to come with me.”

“Master Oliver, stop talking foolish.”

“Stop calling me Master Oliver,” I retorted.  “I’m just plain Oliver and I’m not talking foolish.  I’m very serious, Flora.”

“I’ll think about it now, go before your mother comes in here and finds us together.”

“All right. I’ll go.  Goodnight, Flora.”

“Goodnight, Mas–Oliver.”

The next morning, she was gone.  My mother had taken Mrs. Miller advice and fired Flora.  I was so upset that I didn’t speak to my mother for weeks.  I found out where Flora lived and the first opportunity, I had, I went to see her.  She was alone.  After I letting her know how upset and furious I was that she had lost her job, I made her promise to meet me that afternoon at the pond where no one ever goes.

I got there first and waited.  As I waited, I picked a bunch of wildflowers I saw there.  Flora would like them.  I bet she never got flowers from anyone before.  I would be the first.  I smiled at the thought.  She showed up five minutes later.  I gave her the flowers and she took them, smiling.  She smelled them.  “Thank you,” she said.  She reached up and kissed me on the cheek.

I felt my face get hot.  I also felt strange sensations in my body.  “You’re welcome, Flora,” I said.

We sat down on the grass and talked and talked.  I loved being with her and I could tell she felt the same way.  We promised to meet there again tomorrow.  She left first and then I left several minutes after.  When I went home, my mother told me that Virginia and her parents were having dinner with us that evening.  It would be the first time I would be seeing Virginia since I’ve been home for the summer.  I was more excited about seeing Flora tomorrow than seeing Virginia that evening.

The evening went well, I suppose.  Virginia didn’t seem to notice that I was preoccupied with my thoughts.  She talked mostly about herself and what she had been up to while I was away at university.  I didn’t make any plans to see her again.  After we parted company, I went up to my room where I remained until the following morning.  As soon as the afternoon came, I was racing down to the pond.  This time Flora was waiting for me.  And she brought two huge slices of an apple pie she had baked.  After we ate them, we went for a swim.

Afterwards, we lay in the sun.  We talked about different things and then, I rolled onto my side and looked down at her.  She had her eyes closed.  The strange sensations stir inside me again and this time, I lowered my head and kissed her.  She didn’t push me away or slap me in the face.  Instead, she reached up and put her arms around my neck.  We ended up making love for the first time.

Day after day we met there in our secluded spot until one day we were discovered by Virginia’s brother and his friends.  I was promptly sent back to Atlanta where I spent the rest of the summer until it was time to return to university.  I don’t know what happened to Flora.  No one would tell me anything.  I was devastated because I was madly in love with her.  I wanted to marry her.

When I returned to Virginia, I went to her house.  At that point I didn’t care what people said or did or thought.  All I wanted was to see Flora.  However, when I went to her house, the neighbors said that she was gone.  They had no idea where she had gone.

Dejected, I returned to Atlanta where I tried to forget about her.  I even got married to a nice girl named Amy and we had a boy.  Time passed but the memories of my summer with Flora never faded.  I still yearned to see her.  I still loved her and no amount of time would make me forget about her.

After Amy died, I tried to see if I could find out any information about Flora.  I wish I had a photo of her that I could have put on Facebook but I didn’t.  In spite of these setbacks and disappointments, I haven’t stopped hoping that one day I will see her again.

It’s 2018 and summer again here in Richmond.  I’m here by the pond, allowing myself to relive the happiest memories of my entire life.  I look at the wild flowers and smile.  I will never forget the spark in Flora’s beautiful eyes when I gave them to her.  If she were here now, I would give her another bunch.

“Mr. Jones?” a voice called out and startled, I turned.

It was a young African American girl.  “Yes,” I replied.  “I’m Mr. Jones.  Who are you?”

She came closer.  “I’m Regina.  I was told that I might find you here.  Someone asked me to give this to you.”  She held out a letter sized brown envelope.”

I took it.  It didn’t have any address.  It only had my name written neatly at the front.  “Who asked you to give this to me?”

“My grandmother, Flora.”

My heart caught in my throat.  Flora.  I sat down on the tuft of grass and eagerly opened the envelope.  I pulled out a letter and some photos.  I looked at the photos first.  They were of Flora and a lovely little girl.  She looked so much like Flora but much fairer in complexion.

With trembling fingers, I unfolded the letter and read it.  Halfway through, I started to cry.  Flora was pregnant when she left Richmond.  She wanted me to know about Olivia and wrote to me at the university several times but all of her letters were returned.  She never got married, she said because there was only one man whose wife she wanted to be.

I looked up at Regina who was standing beside me.  “Where’s Flora?” I asked.  I longed to see her.

“I’m sorry, grandfather, but she died this morning.”

I broke down at that point.  Regina dropped to her knees and put her arms around me.  The only thing that gave me any comfort was the knowledge that Flora and I have a daughter and a granddaughter.  Our love will live on through them and generations to come.

Those we love are never really lost to us–for everywhere their special love lives on – Amanda Bradley

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Tranquil at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

 

Sources: The Washington Post; The Post and Courier

 

 

 

 

Rebecca Lee Crumpler

She changed the face of medicine

Rebecca Lee Crumpler

It was being raised by a kind aunt who spent much of her time caring for sick neighbors and her desire to relieve the suffering of others which led Rebecca Lee Crumpler down the a career path that would earn her the distinction of being the first African American woman physician in the United States.   In doing so, she rose to and overcame the challenge which prevented African Americans from pursuing careers in medicine.

Rebecca, a bright girl, attended the West-Newton English and Classical School in Massachusetts, a prestigious private school as a “special student”.  In 1852 she moved to Charleston, Massachusetts where she worked as a nurse.  In 1860, she took a leap of faith and applied to medical school and was accepted into the New England Female Medical College.

The college was founded by Drs. Israel Tisdale Talbot and Samuel Gregory in 1848 and in 1852,  accepted its first class of women, 12 in number.  However, Rebecca proved that their assertions were false when, in 1864, she earned the distinction being the first African American woman to earn an M.D. degree and  the college’s only African American graduate.  The college closed in 1873.

In 1864, a year after her first husband, Wyatt Lee died, Rebecca married her second husband, Arthur Crumpler.   She began a medical practice in Boston.   In 1865, after the Civil War ended, the couple moved to Richmond, Virginia, where she found “the proper field for real missionary work, and one that would present ample opportunities to become acquainted with the diseases of women and children.”  She joined other black physicians caring for freed slaves who would otherwise would not have access to medical care.  She worked with the Freedmen’s Bureau, missionary and community groups in the face of intense racism which many black physicians experienced while working in the postwar South.

Racism, rude behavior and sexism didn’t diminish Rebecca’s zeal and valiant efforts to treat a “very large number of the indigent and others of different classes in a population of over 30,000 colored”.  She declared that “at the close of my services in that city, I returned to my former home, Boston where I entered into the work with renewed vigor, practicing outside, and receiving children in the house for treatment, regardless, in measure, of remuneration.”

The couple lived in a predominantly African American neighborhood in Beacon Hill where she practiced medicine.  In 1880, she and her husband moved to Hyde Park.  It was believed that at that time she was no longer in active practice but she did write a “A Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts”,  the first medical publication by an African American.  The book consisted of two parts.  The first part focused on “treating the cause, prevention, and cure of infantile bowel complaints, from birth to the close of the teething period, or after the fifth year.” The second section contained “miscellaneous information concerning the life and growth of beings; the beginning of womanhood; also, the cause, prevention, and cure of many of the most distressing complaints of women, and youth of both sexes.”

Rebecca Lee Crumpler died in Hyde Park on March 9, 1895.  Notes to Women wishes to celebrate this brave woman who had the tenacity to pursue a career in medicine, proving that women can change the face of a field which many wanted to bar her from because of color and gender.  Her passion to help alleviate the suffering of others was what led her to take this path.  Her courage and perseverance in the face of racism, sexism paved the way for many, not only African Americans and women but for those who like her, will seek every opportunity to relieve the sufferings of others.

Rebecca Lee Crumpler’s story is a reminder to all of us that we should never let anything or anyone prevent us from pursuing our dreams.

Selfish prudence is too often allowed to come between duty and human life – Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Sources:  Changing the Face of Medicine; PBS

An Old Crush

He had just finished making a business call when he noticed Cyiarra.  She was sitting alone at a table having a glass of wine.  It had been a year since the last time he saw her.  He walked over at once and her face broke out into a big smile.   When he reached her, she got up and exclaimed, “Ajay, fancy running into you here,” before she hugged him.

He hugged her back, thinking she felt really good.  “You look great,” he remarked when they separated.  She did in that black dress which hugged her figure and she had taken out the braids.  Her natural hair looked better.

“Thanks.  I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how gorgeous you look.”

He felt his face get hot.  “Are you waiting for someone?”

She nodded.  “Yes, but you can sit and chat with me until he gets here.”

He sat down.  “So, who’s the guy you’re waiting for?”

“Someone a co-worker set me up with.”

“So, this is a blind date.”

“Yes.  What about you, what are you doing here?”

“I’m having dinner with a client.”

“Man or woman?”

“Woman.”

“Is she single?”

“Yes.”

“Beautiful?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure it’s just a business?”

He smiled.  “It is, I swear.”

She didn’t look very convinced.  “I always thought that you were a bit of a flirt when we were at high school and it got worse when we were in university.  I used to watch you.  You were always surrounded the cheer leading type of girls.”

“Were you jealous?”

“Yes.  You must have known that I had a huge crush on you.”

“I didn’t.  You had a funny way of showing it.  Every time I saw you you were talking to that guy, what’s his name.  The one who won the ugly sweater contest two years in a row.”

She laughed.  “Oh, that was Malcolm.  He was a really sweet guy.”

“He was always hanging around you.  It was obvious that he had a crush on you.”

“I guess he did.  I’m surprised you noticed, though.”

“I noticed everything about you.”

Her heart skipped a beat when she saw the expression on his face.  “So, why didn’t you ask me out?”

“I don’t know.  I guess I was nervous and afraid that you’d turn me down.”

“Turn you down?” she exclaimed.  “Are you serious?  I would have jumped at the chance to go out with you.”

“What about now?” he asked.  “Would you jump at the chance to go out with me?”

“Are you asking?”

He was about to answer when his date walked in.  “She’s here.”

Cyiarra followed his gaze.  The woman making her way over to the table by the window was stunning.  The elegant red slim pants suit flattered her slim figure and accentuated her olive skin.  Her black hair fell in thick waves past her shoulders.

Cyiarra looked at Ajay.  “She’s stunning.”  She couldn’t help being jealous.

“Yes, she is but I’m not attracted to her or anyone else.”  His eyes were riveted to her face.  “I’ve eyes only for you, Cyiarra.”

Cyiarra’s pulse quickened.  She took a sip of the wine.

He reached into his pocket for his wallet.  He opened it and took out a business card.  He jotted down his number on the back and gave it to her.  “This is in case things don’t work out between you and this guy.”

She looked at him.  “Are you hoping that they won’t?”

“Yes,” he admitted before standing up.  “It’s good to see you, Cyiarra.”

“It’s good to see you too.”  She didn’t tell him to enjoy his dinner.

He walked away.

Cyiarra watched him, wishing that she was having dinner with him instead of this other guy.  She glanced at her watch.  He was five minutes late.  Not good.  It would be embarrassing if he didn’t show up.  She was about to take another sip of wine but decided that it would be a good idea having too much on an empty stomach.  She was hungry.  Where was he?

Just then, a tall and very attractive African American man suddenly materialized in front of her.  “Good evening,” he said.  “I apologize for being late.  The traffic was bad.  I hope you haven’t been waiting too long.”

She waved his apology aside.  “No, I haven’t been.”

He stretched out his hand.  “Cyiarra, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you too, Keenan.”

He sat down.  “Brie didn’t mention how beautiful you were.”

Cyiarra smiled.  He seemed like a nice guy but every now and then, her eyes drifted over to the table by the window.  A couple of times she noticed that Ajay was looking in her direction.

Dinner was pleasant but by the end of it she knew without a doubt that it wouldn’t be a second date.  She smiled at Keenan.  “Keenan, thanks for a lovely dinner.  I enjoyed it very much.  You’re a really nice guy but…”

“…but, you’re not interested.”

“Sorry.”

“Well, it was nice meeting you any way.  I wish you all the best.”

“Thank you, Keenan.  It was nice meeting you too.”

“Do you need a ride?”

“To the subway would be fine, thank you.”

While he paid the bill, she pulled on her jacket and grabbed her handbag.  As she stood up, she looked across the room at Ajay.  He was watching her.  She wanted to go over and say goodnight but decided not to.

She called him in the morning.  That evening they went for dinner and dancing.  A year and a half later, they got married.

The Charity Case/Glimmer #writephoto

distant-lights

Photo by Sue Vincent

 

Shanice sat on the summit overlooking the city.  This was her place.  It was where she could be alone with God and her thoughts.  She drew her knees up and wrapped her arms around them.  Her life had been a tough one.  She grew up in a rough neighborhood.  When she was seven, her father was killed in a drive by shooting.  Ten years later, her mother overdosed on crack.  She went to live with her uncle but ran away after he started sexually abusing her.  For several months she lived on the streets, rummaging through garbage bins for food because she refused to turn to prostitution.  She believed in God and that her body was a temple.

It was one Autumn morning when she met Neil Patterson, the city’s councilor.  He was a very popular man who had been doing a great job cleaning up the city.  She was standing outside of a café, watching the people inside having their hot coffees and chocolates along with donuts or bagels, her mouth watering when she sensed that someone was standing behind her.  She turned around at once and found herself looking up at a very tall and distinguished man dressed in an expensive black coat.  His sandy colored hair was neatly combed and she could tell that he didn’t belong in these parts.  He looked familiar too.  Then, she remembered where she had seen him.  He was on the cover of yesterday’s newspaper.  He was even more attractive in person and looked to be in his early forties.  He smiled now.  His eyes were an unusual shade of blue.  “Are you hungry?” he asked.

She nodded and wondered if he was going to give her money to buy something to eat.  To her surprise, he said, “Come, let’s go inside where it’s nice and warm.”  He opened the door and after a slight hesitation, she went inside.  He led her over to a table by the window as several gazes followed them.  People recognized him and greeted him.  They didn’t look at all surprised to see him with an African American teenager who looked like she hadn’t had a bath in years.  They were used to seeing him rubbing elbows with the dregs of society.  It was part of his appeal.

He seemed nice enough and she let him buy her a meal.  Hunger overpowered pride.  Besides, she didn’t know when again she would be treated to a free meal.  While she wolfed down the food, he talked.  He was a good talker and she could see why he was where he was.  He was charismatic and she found herself warming up to him.  And he was very attractive.  She always did have a thing for older men.  The guys her age were full of themselves and so immature.

He wasn’t married.  She didn’t see any ring on his finger but then, again, he might be one of those men who didn’t bother to wear one.  It was foolish sitting there thinking these things when she wasn’t going to see him again.  He was being kind to her and she was thankful for that.  After they left this café, they would go their separate ways and he would forget all about her.  She knew that she would never forget him.

He didn’t have anything to eat.  All he had was some hot chocolate.  He asked a lot of questions about her life which she was unwilling to answer but did anyway.  She left out the part about her uncle, though.  He asked her about going into a foster home and a homeless shelter but she made it clear that she didn’t want to be in either.  She had heard horror stories about those places and she wanted nothing to do with them.  She would rather take her changes on the streets until circumstances changed for her—until God intervened.  She didn’t mention God to him.  Most people were put off by religion.

She liked being in the café.  It was warm and friendly.  She wished she could stay there longer but she knew he was a busy man and had places to go and people to see so she didn’t want to keep him.  After she finished her hot chocolate and he paid the bill, she stood up.  Holding out her hand, she thanked him for his kindness and was about to walk away when, he said, “Instead of going back to the streets, why don’t you come and live with me?  I have large estate, with lots of room and staff.  You will have your own room.  You can come and go as you please.  I won’t put any restrictions on you.”

She stared at him.  “Why are you doing this?” she asked.

“I just want to help you.  I have a sister your age.  What do you say?”

“Well, I don’t want to be a freeloader,” she said.  “Is there a job I can do to pay for my keep?”

“What about college or university?” he asked.  “Aren’t you interested in furthering your education?”

“Of course, I am but my mother couldn’t afford to send me to college.  What little money we had she wasted on drugs.”

“Instead of working for me, you’ll go to the college or university of your choice.  What do you say?”

She stood there for a moment, considering all of this.  This was better than being homeless—living in the streets and struggling to survive.  Besides, the weather was getting colder and all she had was this beat up jacket which wasn’t keeping her warm at all.  She studied him.  He looked like someone she could trust.  And she didn’t hear any alarm bells going off in her head.  Shrugging, she said, “Sure.  Thanks again.  As soon as I graduate from university, I’ll be gone.”

He smiled.  “Whatever works for you, Shanice.”

They left the café and her life on the streets behind.  That was four years ago.  She was in university now, studying Sociology.  Their relationship had started out platonic and then, this morning, when she went back to the estate after a night of partying at a friend’s house, he was waiting up for her.  She sneaked into the living room and paused until her eyes adjusted to the darkness when the room was flooded with light.  Blinking, she went over to the sofa and sat down, tugging off her strappy sandals.  Her black dress was short and hugged her body.  The skirt rode high, revealing her legs.  She watched as his gaze traveled over her and the color flood his cheeks before he demanded, “Where have you been?”

“I was at a friend’s birthday bash,” she explained.  “I tried to be very quiet so that I wouldn’t disturb you—“

“Do you have any idea what time it is?”

She glanced at her watch.  It was five minutes to three.  “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.  “I didn’t mean to stay out so late.”

He went further into the drawing-room, his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his silk robe.  His hair which was always neatly in place was slightly disheveled.  “I knew that I had told you that you were free to come and go as you please but, I still expect you to act responsibly.  For this infraction, you are forbidden to leave these premises unless accompanied by me for the rest of the summer.”

She jumped to her feet, aghast.  “That’s not fair,” she cried.  “This is the only time I’ve stayed out late.  You can’t hold this one time against me.”

“And another thing, I don’t want to see you dressed like that again.”  Anger flared in her at that moment.  “You’re not my father,” she retorted.

“No, but I am responsible for you and as long as you live under my roof, you have to abide by my rules.”

“Fine!” she said, grabbing her shoes and handbag.  “If that’s all, I’d like to go to bed.  I’m tired.” She was about to walk past him when he caught her by the arm.  She turned her head and looked up at him, the anger in her eyes dissipating when she saw the expression on his face.

“I care about you, Shanice,” he muttered urgently.  “I was out of my mind with worry when it was midnight and you hadn’t come home.  I had no idea where you were.  I tried calling you but your cell was turned off.  In future, you need to tell me where you are so that I don’t worry or in case I need to get in touch with you.”

“You’re right,” she acknowledged.  “I should have let you know where I was last night.  I’m sorry.”

“And I’ll do the same,” he said.  “I’ll let you know where I’ll be at all times, in case you need to reach me.”

The grip of his fingers on her arm was very distracting and he was staring directly into her eyes.  She suddenly had trouble breathing properly and her heart was pounding.  “Am-am I still forbidden to leave the premises?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No, you’re not,” he said softly.  “You’re not a prisoner.”

“So, I can leave whenever I want?”

He nodded.  “Yes.”  He moved closer.  “You’re free to leave here as agreed four years ago but I hope you decide to stay.  This place and my life would not be the same without you.  They would be empty.”

That was the most beautiful thing anyone had ever said to her.  She was touched to the very depths of her being and she could feel her eyes water.  She loved it here.  It was the home and life she had always dreamed of.  And she loved being with him.  She realized that she had loved him since the first time they met but had convinced herself that she could never be more to him than a charity case.  But, the way he was looking at her and what he had just said proved her wrong.  Without thinking, she reached up and touched his face.  He turned his head and pressed his lips into the palm before he pulled her into his arms.

She smiled now as she remembered that first kiss.  It was out of this world.  It sent tingles all over her body and she could swear that she heard fireworks.  Scrambling to her feet, she watched as the sun finally disappeared over the horizon.  Tomorrow was the first day of her last year at university.

It was getting late.  It was time to head back.  She wanted to be there, waiting for him.

This is a response to the #writephoto Prompt – Glimmer curated over at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

The Queen of Soul

“When God loves you, what can be better than that?” ~ Aretha Franklin

There is so much I could write about Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul but I decided to concentrate on the highlights of her music career and her “social and civic contributions”.

Aretha Louise Franklin was  born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee.  Her father, Clarence LaVaughn “C. L.” Franklin was a Baptist minister and a circuit preacher while her mother, Barbara was an accomplished piano player and vocalist.  Theirs was a troubled marriage because of her father’s philandering.  The couple separated in 1948.  Before her tenth birthday, Aretha’s mother died from a heart attack.  Several women, including her grandmother and Mahalia Jackson alternated helping the children at the Franklin home and it was during this time that Aretha learned to play the piano by ear.

Following her mother’s death, Aretha began singing solos at New Bethel, debuting with the hymn, “Jesus, Be a Fence Around Me.”  When she was twelve, her father became her manager, bringing her on the road with him during his “gospel caravan” tours for her to perform in various churches.

Her music career found Aretha signing on with big recording giants such as Columbia, Atlantic, Arista and RCA.  She belted out many hits such as You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, I Say A Little Prayer, Hold On, I’m Comin’.  And she thrilled the younger generation with Who’s Zoomin’ Who and Freeway of Love.  Hearing Freeway of Love transported me back to the ’80s which were a great time for me when I was living in New York.  And who could forget I Knew You Were Waiting For Me, her number one duet with George Michael?

In 1980, she gave a command performance before the Queen at Prince Albert’s Hall, in 2009 she sang at the 2009 inauguration of President Barak Obama.  In the following year, she received an honorary degree from Yale University.  In 2014, she received honorary degrees from Harvard University and New York University as well as honorary doctorates in music from Princeton, Yale, Brown, Pennsylvania, Berkeley, New England Conservatory of Music and University of Michigan.  She was the recipient of other honors such as Doctor of Humane Letters and Doctor of Law degree.

Aretha was dubbed “one of the giants of soul music, and indeed of American pop as a whole.  More than any other performer, she epitomized soul at its most gospel-charged.”  Her voice was described as being a “powerful mezzo-soprano voice” and she was praised for her arrangements and interpretations of other artists’ hit songs.  At the age of 14 when she recorded her first album, Songs of Faith, Jerry Wexler declared that her voice “was not that of a child but rather of an ecstatic hierophant.”  A hierophant is a person who brings religious congregants into the presence of that which is deemed holy.  Aretha’s explanation for that would have likely been, “Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I’m using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I’m happy with that.”

Singing and music weren’t her only passions.  Aretha was a civil rights activist.  Throughout her life, she was involved in the struggle for civil rights and women’s rights.  When Angela Davis was jailed in 1970, Aretha told Jet Magazine that, “Angela Davis must go free… Black people will be free. I’ve been locked up (for disturbing the peace in Detroit) and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace. Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a Black woman and she wants freedom for Black people.”  Not surprisingly, her songs “Respect” and “Natural Woman” became anthems of these movements for social change.  She was also a staunch supporter of Native American rights, supporting their struggles worldwide and movements which fostered their cultural rights.

“We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It’s our basic human right” ~ Aretha Franklin

It was a sad day when it was announced that the great Aretha Franklin passed away after losing her battle with pancreatic cancer.  She leaves behind a world touched by her music, her incomparable voice and her effortless work in championing human, civil and women’s rights.  She was the first woman to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.  In 2013, she was again ranked first in Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Singers” list.

“American history wells up when Aretha sings.  Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock and roll—the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope” – President Obama in response to her performance of “A Natural Woman” at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors.

Notes to Women salutes the woman with “the voice of the civil rights movement, the voice of black America” and a “symbol of black equality”  She was an inspiration not only for those in the music world but for all of us.  Although she is no longer with us, her music, her legacy will live on.

“It really is an honor if I can be inspirational to a younger singer or person. It means I’ve done my job” ~ Aretha Franklin

aretha-franklin.png

Sources:  Wikipedia; Brainy Quote

The Nightmare

spf-july-8-2018-2-of-1

Copyright Susan Spaulding

She stood at the window.  Radio City Music Hall was on her left.  Below, people carried on with their lives, oblivious to her plight.

She had left one prison only to end up in another type—without bars but more confining.  She was trapped inside the world of sex trafficking.  In exchange for being released from prison she was forced to become a sex worker.  If she didn’t comply, her bond would be rescinded and she would be thrown back into jail.  Prison life for an African American woman would be intolerable.

She had been arrested on prostitution charges, which were false.  She had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and when the others were rounded up, she was too.  Her protests fell on deaf ears and found herself in a cell, looking through the bars, terrified.  She had no one to help her.

When she heard that her bail was posted and that she was going to be released, she was surprised but relieved.  And then her nightmare really began…

She turned away from the window and began to undress.  The senator lay there watching her, waiting, like all predators with their victims.

197 words

This story was inspired by an article on US Sex Trafficking where sex traffickers target incarcerated women, forcing them to become sex workers after posting their bail and having them released from prison.  The women had to do what they were told or risk going back to prison.  Sex trafficking is a heinous practice that needs to be banned.

This post was written as part of Sunday Photo Fiction. For more details visit Here.  To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  Freedom United

%d bloggers like this: