The Heart Speaks

“I sympathize with your situation but I’m afraid you don’t fit what we are looking for.  You have the qualifications but you just don’t fit what we are looking for.  I’m sorry.  I hope things work out for you.”

These words played over and over in Shannon’s mind as she walked down the sidewalk, tired from job hunting and interviews that ended the same–rejection.  What was wrong with her?  Was it her appearance, her color?  Was it her hair which was very short and natural?  She had the qualifications and when they called her for an interview, they sounded enthusiastic but when they saw her in person, the reception was lukewarm.  And the interview didn’t last long at all.  She was in and out of there in less than half-hour.

What on earth was she going to do now?  If she didn’t get a job soon, she would be evicted from her flat.  That meant she would have to move back in with her parents until she could find a job.  She didn’t relish the idea of moving back with her parents after being on her own for a while.  Sighing heavily, she decided to go to the park and sit there and try to figure out what to do.  First, she would grab a cappuccino.  Maybe she could try an employment agency.  A temporary job was better than nothing.

It was after twelve and the cafe was filling up.  As she joined the line to place her order, she felt a tap on her shoulder and turned around.  Her heart skipped a beat when she found herself staring up into the handsome face of Arran Carter, her ex-boyfriend’s uncle.

His hazel eyes were riveted to her face which he thought was exquisitely beautiful. “Hello, Shannon,” he said quietly.  Since the first time they met, he hadn’t been able to get her out of his mind.

“Hello, Mr. Carter,” she said trying to sound calm when her heart was pounding and her pulse was racing.  He had this effect on her.  After meeting him, she knew she couldn’t continue to see Hugh.  It wouldn’t have been fair to him continue their relationship when she had fallen for his uncle.

“Please call me Arran.  It’s so good to see you.  How have you been?”

“Well, I haven’t been so good,” she told him.  “I have been out of a job for about a year now and haven’t found anything as yet and time is running out.  I could lose my flat if I don’t find something soon.”

“Have you had lunch?”

She shook her head.  “No.  I just came from an interview and was going to get a cappuccino.”

“Let me buy you lunch and we can talk more.”

She smiled, grateful.  “Thank you.”  He put a hand under her elbow and led her to a table in the corner by the window.  She removed her coat to reveal a navy blue skirt suit and a white shirt.  As she sat down, she couldn’t help thinking about how she used to dress when she first attended university.

During the summer, she wore top with spaghetti straps, bulky and cheap chains and necklaces and too much makeup.  And in the winter, she wore mostly black and leather, torn jeans and impossibly high pointed toe boots.  In her senior year, she underwent a complete make-over.  Her style went from edgy to elegant so that her friends and parents were shocked and pleased at the transformation.  She wondered what Arran would have thought if he had known her then.

She studied him as his six foot two inches frame settled in the seat opposite her.  He was wearing a tan colored jacket which he removed, a black shirt and pants.  His dark hair was thick and spiky, giving him a rugged look which she found very attractive.  She wanted to reach over and ruffle it.  Realizing that she was staring, she turned and looked out of the window.

The waitress brought menus and after they browsed through them and placed their orders, he said, “You mentioned that you had an interview earlier.  I don’t imagine that it went as you’d hoped.”

She shook her head as she played with the folded napkin on the table.  “No.  They said I didn’t fit what they were looking for even I had the qualifications.”

He pursed his lips.  “That was an unethical thing to say,” he remarked tersely.  “If you have  the qualifications, they should have hired you.”

She glanced up at him.  “Perhaps, they had a problem with the way I look.”

“What ‘s wrong with the way you look?” he wondered in surprise.  You look amazing. 

“Nothing as far as I’m concerned.”

“Do you have a copy of your resume with you?”

“Yes, I do.”  She reached for her handbag and produced a copy which she gave to him.  She watched anxiously as he read it.

“May I hold on to this?” he asked.

She nodded.  Just then, the waitress brought their orders.  She toyed with her salad, wondering if he was going to give her resume to someone he knew.

“You have all the qualifications I’m looking for,” he said.  “My assistant Loretta is going on maternity leave in two weeks so I’ll be needing someone to fill her position.  How would you feel about working for me?”

She stared at him for several minutes.  “I would like that very much,” she managed to say.  “Thank you, Arran.”

“You’re welcome.”  He had done it for himself as much as he had done it for her.  Hiring her as his assistant meant that he would get to see her on a regular basis.  “I’d like you to start on Monday.”  He took out his wallet and pulled out a card which he handed to her.  It was a business card.  “When you get there, have the receptionist call me and I will come and get you.”

She put the card in her wallet, grateful to him for his kindness.  Her appetite was back and she tucked into the salad.  “I haven’t asked you how you’ve been,” she said, sounding a bit apologetic.

“I’ve been fine, thanks,” he said, studying her.  Her eyes captivated him.  “Work keeps me busy.”

She wanted to find out if he was seeing anyone but instead she asked, “Do you go out on the weekends?”

“Sometimes.  What about you?”

“Sometimes I go out but most times I stay in.”

“I ran into Hugh the other day.”

“How is he?”  She hadn’t seen him since the break-up.

“He seemed fine.  He mentioned that you broke up with him.”

“That’s true,” she acknowledged.

“Are you seeing anyone now?” he asked.  His expression was inscrutable as he watched her.

“No, I’m not seeing anyone now,” she said, looking at him.  “What about you?”

“I’m not in a relationship,” he said.  Their eyes met and held for several minutes, then he asked, “Will you have dinner with me tomorrow evening?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”  Nervousness and excitement filled her at the prospect of having dinner with him.  “My address and number are on my resume.”

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

They spoke about other things and then it was time for him to head back to the office.  “Thank you so much for lunch and the job,” she said putting on her coat while he paid the bill.  “I really appreciate it.”

“It was my pleasure,” he replied.  “May I give you a ride somewhere?”

“You can give me a ride to the tube if it’s not out of your way.”

“It isn’t.”  He pulled on his jacket and they walked out of the cafe.  They walked a short distance to where his BMV was parked.  He held the door open for her and their eyes met briefly before she got in.

As she strapped herself in, she couldn’t help but marvel at how her day was turning out.  She promised herself that she would get down on her knees as soon as she got home and thank God for turning things around for her.  Arran got in beside her and soon the engine purred to life and they pulled into traffic.  It was twenty minute ride to the train station and after she climbed out of the car, she turned to him.  “Thanks again for everything.”  She held out her hand and her senses swam when she felt his fingers wrap around hers.

“Don’t mention it,” he said quietly.  “I look forward to seeing you tomorrow evening.”

“Me too.”  She was sorry when he released her hand.  She waved at him before she turned and quickly walked away.

He stood there and watched her until she disappeared into the underground before he got back into his car and drove off.

It was five minutes to seven and she was ready.  She stood in front of the full length mirror looking at herself.  The V Neck Jersey Long Sleeve Red Mini Dress accentuated her figure and complimented her coloring.  The pearl necklace and tiny pearl earrings added a touch of elegance.  Satisfied, she walked out of the room and was just getting her coat of the closet when the doorbell rang.  She glanced at the clock.  Exactly seven.  Arran was punctual.

She pulled on her coat, quickly buttoned it and grabbed her the nude handbag which perfectly matched her nude pointed toe pumps as she walked to the door.  Her heart pounding with excitement, she eagerly opened and her face broke into a big smile when she saw Arran standing there.  His hair was slicked back, giving him a polished look.  “Good evening,” she said, holding out her hand.

“Good evening,” he replied, taking her hand, his gaze never leaving her face as he raised it to his lips.

The smile faded as she felt all sorts of sensations run through her body at the feel of his warm lips against the back of her hand.  Her chest began to rise and fall quickly and her heart was beating wildly.  She found herself wondering what it would be like to feel those lips on hers.  When he released her hand, she turned and locked the door, her hand trembling slightly.  She almost dropped the key on the floor instead on in her handbag.  Her legs felt a bit wobbly as they walked to the lift.

He took her to a French restaurant where the view of the city was breathtaking and ambience was warm and cozy.  She felt shy when she saw the way he looked at her when she removed her coat.  And he looked gorgeous in the charcoal grey dress suit, matching tie and light blue shirt.

Over white non-alcoholic wine  and amazing dishes, they talked and laughed.  She learned that his father was British and his mother was French.  He had one sibling–an older sister who was Hugh’s mother.  His father died five years ago from a stroke and his mother lived with her widowed sister in Manchester.  Arran told her that he had dated on and off over the years, but nothing serious ever came of those relationships.  He loved his job and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.  When he wasn’t working, he enjoyed watching sports or for long drives in the countryside.

“Perhaps you would like to come with me for a ride in the countryside tomorrow,” he said.  “We can go to Richmond Park and walk along the trails.  It’s beautiful at this time of the year.  You’ll see the deer that live there and we can have lunch afterwards at the lodge.”

“That sounds great,” she said, her eyes sparkling.  She was going to see him again tomorrow.

They spent a very pleasant evening together and when they got to her flat two hours later, they lingered outside the door, reluctant to part even though they were going to see each other the next day.

“I had a wonderful time this evening,” he said quietly, his eyes restless on her face.

“Me too.”  A pause.  “Would you like to come in and we can talk some more?”

He nodded.  “Yes, I’d like that very much.”

She unlocked the door and held it open for him to go inside and then she locked it.  After sliding of her shoes, she took his coat and went to the closet where she hung it along with hers.  “Would you like something to drink?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No thank you.  You have nice place.”

“Thank you.”  She sat down on the sofa beside him.

“I guess Hugh has been here.”

“Yes.”  There was a long pause and then, she said, “You know he and I never—”

He stared at her.  “You mean you and he never–?”

“We kissed but that was as far as it went.  I told him that I didn’t want to have sex outside of marriage anymore.  I didn’t always feel that way.  When I was in university I was a bit wild and my first and only time was with a senior at the back of his bright yellow pick-up truck when we went on a camping trip.  I was curious and most of my friends were sleeping with their boyfriends.  I was a little tipsy and we were alone.  The others had gone skinny dipping.  I couldn’t swim so I didn’t go and he stayed with me.  We started kissing and one thing led to the other.  I felt awful the next morning and I avoided him.  We never hooked up again after that.  After that night, I promised myself that I will never sleep with a man unless I loved him.  Every time I think of that night I feel ashamed and wish it had never happened.”

Arran reached for her hand.  “We’ve all done things that we regret,” he said.  “When I was sixteen I slept with my best friend’s mother.  I met her when I went over to my friend’s house for a barbecue.  She and his father were separated at the time.  I thought she was hot and she made it clear that she liked me.  One afternoon I dropped by my friend’s house to hang out but he wasn’t there.  He went to the library to return some books.  She was alone at home and she invited me to go in.  She offered me a glass of lemonade because it was hot outside.  We sat on the sofa and talked about all sorts of things and then she leaned over and kissed me.  I was shocked and excited at the same time.  Well, one thing led to another and we ended up doing it right there on the sofa.  Afterwards, I felt awful and I left before my friend got home.  I never went back to his house.  He never found out about his mother and me.  His parents got divorced the year after and he and his mother moved to Liverpool.”

Shannon stared at his long fingers as they played with hers, hardly able to concentrate.  “I have a confession to make,” she said.  “I broke up with Hugh because of you.  When I met you I knew that I couldn’t continue to see him.  It wouldn’t have been right to be with him when you were the one I wanted to be with.”

His eyes darkened.  “This may sound corny but the moment I laid eyes on you, my heart belonged to you.”

“You know the heart speaks,” she said huskily.  “That night at the campsite it spoke to me.  It told me to get away from that campsite before I did something I would regret but I didn’t listen to it.  It told me not to date Hugh but I didn’t listen.  I listened to it when it told me to break up with Hugh because I knew I was in love with you.”

“Is your heart speaking to you now?” He asked.  She nodded. “What is it saying?”

“It’s telling me to let go of the past and all of the regrets and hold on to the love that is right here in front of me.”  She moved closer to him and groaning, he cupped her face between his hands and kissed her.  Her hands were on his thighs, her fingers digging into the material as she kissed him back.  They exchanged passionate kisses and then he was lying on his back and she was stretched out on top of him.  That night marked the beginning of the rest of their lives together.

Nothing speaks louder than your heart.  Listen to what it’s telling you – Georgia Cates

 

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The Daydream

It was a glorious day.  The sun was bright, illuminating the field dotted with wild flowers and a soft, gentle breeze wafted caressed the leaves on the trees.  Intermittently, the trill cries of birds broke the silence.  From where she was, she could see the cavity in the tree above her and an adult bird peeking out.  It was the Nuttall Woodpecker.  She stood very still because she didn’t want to disturb it.  What a beautiful bird with its colorful plumage.  She wished she had brought her camera.

She stood there watching it for a while and then, she decided to sit on the grass and lean against the tree.  It was so relaxing out here.  Her eyes began to feel heavy.  She stifled a yawn.  I’d better go before I fall asleep, she thought.  But it was so nice being in the countryside, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  Five more minutes and then, she would leave.

She must have dozed off because the next thing she knew, Julien was standing over her, blocking the sunlight.  Startled, she scrambled to her feet.  “What—what are you doing here?” To her own ears, she sounded breathless and her heart was pounding.  He was dressed casually in a light blue shirt and khaki slacks.  His hair was slightly tousled from the breeze.  And his eyes…she couldn’t get over their unusual color.  They were the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen.  She felt as if she would drown in them.

“I live over there, remember?” he replied, indicating the palatial estate on her right.

She had been when he invited the staff during the summer and Christmas holidays.  It was a magnificent Victorian mansion surrounded by immaculate grounds.  He lived there on his own with a fully functional staff.  His parents died in a boating accident when he was in his twenties and he had no siblings.

She heard co-workers say that the lucky woman whom he married would be the mistress of the estate and living comfortably for the rest of her life.  I wonder who she will be?  There was some speculation that it would be the beautiful Catherine Taylor whom she had seen him with on several occasions.  She had to admit that the thought of him with Catherine or any other woman bothered her tremendously which was very foolish of her because she didn’t stand a chance with him.  The difference in age and background made her an unlikely candidate.

“What are you thinking about?” he asked, startling her.

“How long have you been standing here watching me sleep?” she asked evasively.  You can’t know what I’ve been thinking.

“About five minutes.  I was returning from a walk when I saw you.  I didn’t want to disturb you.”

She felt so embarrassed that her boss had caught her sleeping under a tree not far from where he lived.  “I didn’t mean to fall asleep.  I should be going now.”

He caught her by the arm.  “No, please don’t go,” he said quietly.  “Stay a little while longer.  It’s a beautiful day to be outdoors.”

“Yes, it is.”  She couldn’t think straight with his fingers on her arm.  They felt warm and they were stirring all sorts of feelings in her and when their eyes met, she was mesmerized.

His gaze was riveted to her face and his eyes darkened as he muttered, “Tue es adorable quand tu dors.”

She swallowed hard.  “What-what did you say?”

“I said that you are lovely when you are asleep.” Now he was holding her by the shoulders and drawing her toward him.

By now her heart was pounding wildly as she saw his gaze lower to her mouth before she saw his getting closer and closer…And then, they were kissing wildly, passionately, unleashing feelings which had been pent up for such a long time.  He pulled her down on to the grass which tickled her calves.  She was wearing capris.  They rolled over and over in the grass like tumbleweed, still exchanging kisses.  Her fingers were buried in his hair which was so soft and silky.  She wanted him to take her right there in the field among the flowers with their heady scent pervading her senses.

The sound of ringing jolted her and her eyes flew open.  She started when she realized that she was sitting at her desk with her head propped up.  She had been daydreaming again but this time it seemed so real and the kisses…she touched her lips.  Answer the phone.  She grabbed it.  “Hello?”

“Where are the reports?  The meeting starts in seven minutes.”  It was Julien.  He was calling her from the boardroom.  His French accent was more pronounced when he was annoyed.

“I’m—I’m on my way,” she stammered, flustered.  She wondered what he would say if he knew that she had been daydreaming about him.  Shaking her head, she grabbed the reports which were sitting on her desk and rushed to the boardroom.

He was there with nine other men sitting around the table and she felt self-conscious as she walked into the room, carrying the reports.  She avoided looking at him as she handed them out and then she walked out of the room.

After she was gone, one of the men, Russell Benson, commented, “You have a young and very pretty secretary.”

Julien’s expression darkened.  “She’s my assistant.  Now, let us get down to business.”  He was irked because he noticed the way Imani avoided looking at him and it didn’t help that she smiled with Russell before she left the room.

The meeting lasted for an hour and fifteen minutes and while the other men stayed behind to talk to Julien, Russell excused himself and left the room.  He went straight to Imani’s desk and holding out his hand, he introduced himself.  “Russell Benson.”

“Imani Johnson.”

“Tell me, Imani, how long have you been working with Julien?”

“Four years.”

“Do you like working with him?”

“Yes, I do.”  Russell seemed like a nice guy but she wasn’t interested in him.  All she could think about was Julien and how much she wanted to be with him.

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

She stared at him for a moment.  “No, I don’t.”

“How about having dinner with me, say tomorrow night?”

She shook her head.  “I’m sorry, Russell, but I’m going to have to say no.”

He arched his eyebrows.  “Wow.  Not to sound conceited or anything but this is the first time a woman has turned me down.”

“You seem like a really nice guy but—”

“…but you’re just not interested.”

“Sorry.”

“There’s no need to apologize.   I don’t think Julien would have approved anyway.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, when I mentioned that you were very pretty, he didn’t seem at all pleased.”

“Really?”

“And speaking of the devil…” he said looking past her and getting up from her desk on which he had been sitting.

Imani’s heart was racing but she didn’t turn around.  She didn’t have to.  Julien went and stood right beside her desk.  She looked up and their eyes met briefly before he turned to Russell.  “What are you still doing here?” he asked.  “I would have thought that you would be heading home after your long flight.”

“I arrived from New York this morning,” Russell explained to Imani.  “I remember why I hate flying.  I had to wait a long time for my bag because there was a problem with the conveyor belt.  By the time it was sorted out, I had to come straight here.”

Julien turned to Imani, “I need to see you in my office.”

She nodded and quickly looked away.

Julien held out his hand.  “Goodbye, Russell.”

Russell smiled and shook his hand.  “Goodbye, Julien.”

Julien turned and walked away.  When he was out of earshot, Russell leaned over and whispered almost conspiratorially, “I believe that if a certain Frenchman had asked you out for dinner you would have said yes in a heartbeat.”

She gaped at him.  “How did you–?”

“…figure that out?  Well, I noticed the way you acted around him just now.  It’s obvious to me, maybe not so much to him, that you are in love.”

“I don’t know what to do.  He hasn’t shown any sign that he’s interested?”

Russell stared at her in amazement.  “Are you serious?” he exclaimed.  “Didn’t you see the way he acted just now?  He obviously had a problem with me hanging around you.  I’d better leave before he has me escorted out.  It was really nice meeting you, Imani.  Julien is a very lucky man.”  He held out his hand.

“It was nice meeting you too, Russell,” she said, taking his hand.  “And thank you for being such a good sport.”

He clasped her hand in a warm handshake before he turned and walked away, whistling when Zara, an attractive blonde passed by him.  Imani chuckled, shaking her head.

She got up from her desk and went to Julien’s office.  He was sitting at his desk but got up when she went in.  “Close the door,” he called.

She closed it quietly behind her and walked over to him, her heart thudding.  “You needed to see me,” she sounded a tad breathless.  She was standing in front of the desk now directly opposite him.

“What did Russell want?” he asked abruptly.

“He-he wanted me to have dinner with him.”

His mouth tightened.  “Did you accept?”

She shook her head.  “No, I didn’t.”

“Why not?”

“I-I didn’t want to have dinner with him.”

“Ne le trouvez-vous pas attirant?”  He seemed surprised.

“What?” she asked.  He had a tendency to lapse into his native tongue.

“Don’t you find him attractive?”

“No, I don’t.”

Êtes-vous attiré par quelqu’un?  Pardon.  Are you attracted to anyone?”

“Yes, Julien.  I’m attracted to you.”  She couldn’t believe she said it.

Julien’s eyes darkened and he moved around the desk to stand right in front of her.  “I’ve never been attracted to anyone I worked with until I met you,” he admitted.  “I wanted to ask you out for such a long time but I wasn’t sure if you would want to because I’m your boss and quite a bit older than you.”

She moved closer.  “I was attracted to you the first time I saw you and wanted you to notice me but you were always so businesslike whenever we were together.  And I when I saw you with Catherine, I thought that you were serious about her.”

“Catherine and I are just friends.  I know that there have been rumors to the contrary but I assure you that my feelings for her are strictly platonic.  Imani, will you have dinner with me tonight?”

Yes!”

He reached out and took her hand.  His fingers felt warm against her skin, making her tremble.  Her pulse was racing and she seemed to have difficulty breathing as he reached for her other hand to pull her against him.  “J’ai voulu t’embrasser si longtemps”, he muttered before he bent his head and kissed her.

She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.  This was better than any daydream.  Just in case, though, she pinched her arm and felt the pain.

The Age Difference

He traced his fingers over the heart with the initials TB + CH.  Eight years ago, he had carved them there.  Toby Barrington and Celeste Holmes.  Celeste.  Sighing heavily, he leaned against the tree as he recalled the first time they met.  It was eight years ago, just before the summer holidays began.

instead of going straight home, after leaving the college campus, he went to his mother’s office but she wasn’t there.  Instead, a woman he didn’t recognize was at the desk, sorting papers with her back to the door.  He stood there for a moment watching her.  Her hair was cropped short like a boy’s but when she turned around, her figure in the white blouse and pencil skirt was anything but boyish.  She smiled and walked over to him.  “You must be Toby,” she said, extending her hand.

He stared at her.  She had the most exquisite face he had ever seen.  She looked to be in her mid to late twenties.  Swallowing hard, he took her hand which felt small and soft in his.  “Yes,” he managed to say.

“I’m Celeste, your mother’s new assistant.  She told me that she was expecting you.  Please come in and have a seat over there by her desk.  She’s in a meeting right now but should be here shortly.”

He went over to the desk and put his knapsack on the floor beside the chair.  He didn’t sit but remained standing, watching her.  She finished the task she was doing before he interrupted and when she was done, she turned to face him.  “Would you like me to get you anything?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No, thank you.”

“All right.  If you change you need anything, just stop by my desk.  It’s nice meeting you.  I have heard so much about you.”

“It’s nice meeting you too.”  He wondered if his face was red.  It felt hot.  He knew he was staring but he couldn’t help it.

“Excuse me,” she said with a smile and quickly walked away.  He watched her until she disappeared.

He sat down on the chair and as he waited for his mother, he thought about Celeste.  When his mother finally joined him, apologizing profusely for keeping him waiting he nodded abstractedly, wondering when he was going to see Celeste again.  “Mother, do you mind if I were to pop by here again tomorrow?” he asked.

“Not at all, Dear.”

After the following day, he found excuses to stop by the office just so he could see Celeste until one day, his mother said to him, “Since you seem to like coming by the office so often, how would you like to work here for the summer?”

His face brightened.  “I would like that very much,” he assured her.  What a stroke of luck.  He was going to see Celeste all summer.  He was to start on the following week.   When he arrived bright and early on his first day on the job, it was Celeste who walked him through what his responsibilities were.  She was to be his supervisor which pleased him tremendously.

For the first couple of days, she sat with him and then, he was faring well on his own but it thrilled him whenever she stopped by to check his progress.  As she leaned over him to check something on his computer screen, he caught a whiff of her perfume and he turned his head slightly so that he could look at her.  After a while it was becoming increasingly hard being around her because his feelings for her were growing stronger.   He knew she didn’t have a boyfriend because his mother had divulged that information in passing.

One afternoon they were alone in the kitchenette.  She was rinsing her coffee mug and he was refilling his water bottle.  She looked incredible in the blue top with the V neck, revealing her long, slender neck and the tan skirt.  His gaze lingered on her shapely calves before returning to her face.  He blushed when he caught her looking at him.  It was not the first time that she had espied him staring at her.  She didn’t seem to mind, though.  He was sure that she must be used to men admiring her.

She leaned against the counter, studying him and making him very nervous.  “How old are you?” she asked.

“Eighteen.”

“Do you have a girlfriend?”

He shook his head.  “No.”

“What about the girls at college?”

“I’m not interested in any of them,” he said.  I am interested in you.

She seemed to be pondering something for a moment and then, she said, “I have a cousin about your age and—”

His expression darkened.  “I don’t want to go out with your cousin,” he told her curtly.  “I—I want to go out with you.”

That startled her and for a few minutes, she seemed at a loss for words.  “You’re too young for me,” she said finally.

That stung.  “I may be young but I’m very mature for my age,” he said.

“Yes, you are very mature for your age, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re eighteen and I’m—I’m nine years older than you.  Besides, your mother would not approve.”

“She doesn’t have to know.  We can see each other on the quiet until—until I’m at least twenty-one.”

She shook her head.  “No.  I can’t do it, Toby.  You should be with a girl your age.”

He opened his mouth to protest but she excused herself and walked away, leaving him feeling like he had been kicked in the stomach.  After that painful rejection, she avoided being alone with him.  And when his summer job was over, they hardly saw each other, except on occasions when his mother invited her over for tea or to work on some project.  And they didn’t say much to each other, except exchange pleasantries.  For eight years, he pined for her, longing for the day when she would give him a chance.

He roused himself from his reverie and moved away from the tree.  He didn’t come out here to dwell on the past or wish for something that may never happen.  It was a beautiful day but very hot.  When it was this hot, he always went for a swim in the lake.  He turned to look at the water as it shimmered in the sun, seeming to beckon to him.

Without any hesitation, he stripped down to his underwear and ran down to the water, wading in until it was up to his waist.  It felt nice and cool on his skin.   He swam to the other side of the lake and climbed on to the embankment.  He lay on his back in the shade with his arms folded behind his head.  He could stay out here all afternoon.

Unaware that he was being observed so when he turned to swim back to the grassy slope opposite, he started when he emerged and saw Celeste standing by the tree where his clothes lay.  His face grew crimson at the thought of climbing out, dripping wet, clad only in his underwear in front of her.  He wouldn’t be able to hide his attraction for her.

Her eyes travelled over his bare shoulders and torso before she turned away, her heart racing.  He went over to where his jeans lay and quickly pulled them on.  His shirt soon followed and after he buttoned it, he went and stood in front of her, his eyes riveted on her averted face.  “Why are you here, Celeste?” he asked.

“Your mother invited me to tea and to update me on all that happened while I was away,” she said, avoiding his searching gaze.  She couldn’t stop thinking about the way he looked when he came out of the water, dripping and the passions it evoked in her.

“I meant out here.”

“I-I wanted to give you this,” she said, showing him a beautiful wooden carved giraffe.  “I brought it back from Kenya for you.  Your mother told me that you were out here.  I—I didn’t know that you would be swimming.”

He took the souvenir from her, his fingers brushing against hers, sending a jolt of electricity through his body.  His eyes flew up to her face and found her watching him.  The expression on her face made his heart somersault.  What he saw in her eyes made him drop the giraffe and pull her roughly into his arms, making her gasp.  He kissed her hungrily, feverishly as the years of pent up emotions were released and groaned when he felt her cling to him as she responded wildly to his kisses.

She felt the rough bark of the tree pressing into her back and her head was tilted far back under the onslaught of his lips as he relentlessly plundered hers.  Her fingers gripped his hair, digging into the scalp as the emotions she had denied for so long raged in her like a fire.

This continued for a while and then, he raised his head, his breathing harsh and unsteady.  He gazed down into her face, his eyes dark and stormy.  “I love you,” he muttered thickly.  “I have loved you for eight long and agonizing years.”

She tried to catch her breath.  “I love you too,” she gasped.  “All the time I was in Kenya, I thought about you and wished that you were there with me.  I missed you so much, Toby.  I had to come by today and see you.  When I asked your mother where you were I was afraid that she would tell me that you were out with some girl.  She knows that I love you.  I couldn’t hide it from her and she wasn’t upset or anything.  Instead she told me where to find you and I ran down here to see you.”

He reached up and cupped her face between his hands.  “Does this mean that you will go out with me?” he asked huskily.

“Yes,” she whispered.  “As they say, when you truly love someone, age doesn’t matter whether it’s a difference of two years, fifteen years or in our case, nine years. Love is love…” her voice trailed off as she felt his lips against hers.

 

Tired

“Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet? – Amos 3:3

“Wendy, you can’t leave now!” Sarah cried. They were standing outside in the church’s parking lot.  The service had just ended and Wendy was heading home.  She was tired and just wanted to be by herself.

“I am leaving,” she said firmly.

Sarah looked confounded.  “But what about the potluck?  Everyone is heading downstairs to the room we set up.”

That’s when Wendy almost lost it.  “We?” she snapped.  “We didn’t set the room up. I set the room up with some help from the deacons.  You were no where around.  I don’t know where you were.  And when you finally showed up, the tables were already set up and the food put out and ready for serving.”

Sarah gaze faltered as Wendy glared at her.  “Well, I was making sure that the singles we invited to our special program today were going to stay for the potluck.”

Wendy shook her head.  “The invitation is there in the bulletin and I reminded them again during Sabbath school.  You should have been downstairs helping me, Sarah.  Not because I am the leader, it means that I am supposed to do everything.  There should be collaboration between you and me.  I’m tired of doing all of the planning, the preparations and the arrangements.  When I signed up to be Singles’ Ministry leader, I was really excited.  I asked you to be my assistant because you shared the same vision I had for reaching the single adults in our church.  I don’t know what has changed but I’m left doing most of the work and I am tired.  I’m going home.  You take care of the visitors and the potluck.  Now you will see how it feels to be left holding the bag.”

She started to walk away and Sarah frantically grabbed her arm.  “Wendy, I’m sorry,” she said.  “You’re right, I haven’t been pulling my weight lately.  It’s just that I have been so busy.  Mom was sick and I’ve had problems at the office.” Wendy stopped, the anger fading away.  “I’m sorry to hear that, Sarah,” she Said.  “How is your Mom?”

“She is better, thanks to God and the prayers of family and friends.”

“I’m happy to hear that.  What about your problems at work?”

“If you give me a lift home after the potluck, I can talk to you about my problems.”

Wendy smiled.  “All right,” she said.  “Let’s go and join the others.”  She reached out and gently squeezed Sarah’s hand as they walked back inside the church.

 

1

Alice Ball

Alice Ball was the pharmaceutical chemist who developed a medical treatment for Leprosy, giving hope to millions.  Leprosy is a dreaded disease.  It has been around since biblical times.  It is disfiguring and it filled its sufferers with hopelessness.  In the US people with Leprosy were forcibly removed from their homes and detained indefinitely in remote colonies.  Thanks to Alice’s treatment, many of them were released from the detention centres and allowed to go home to their families.

Alice was born in 1892 in Seattle, Washington to Laura and James P. Ball Jr.  She was the grand-daughter of J.P. Ball, the famous daguerreotype photographer.  Alice attended the University of Washington and graduated with two degrees in pharmaceutical chemistry in 1912 and pharmacy in 1914.  In the fall of 1914 she attended the College (later the University) of Hawaii as a graduate student in chemistry.  On June 1, 1915, she became the first African American and the first woman to graduate with a Master of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Hawaii.  She was also the first woman to teach chemistry at the institution.

Impressed with her chemistry work, US Public Health Officer, Dr. Harry Hollmann, an assistant surgeon at Kalihi Hospital in Hawaii asked Alice to help him to develop a method to isolate the active chemical compounds in chaulmoogra oil.   For centuries, Indian and Chinese health practitioners had limited success in using the oil to treat Leprosy.  The oil could be applied topically but it wouldn’t be able to penetrate deep enough into the body and as a result, people with the disease had some relief but the injections were difficult and patients described them as “burning like fire through the skin”.  Through her research, Alice found a successful treatment for those suffering from the disease.   She created the first water soluble injectable treatment, something that researchers had been unable to do.

Sadly, she didn’t live to see her treatment being used.  During her research, Alice had become ill.  When she returned to Seattle, she died at the age of 24.  The cause of her death is unknown although it is speculated that she inhaled chlorine gas during her teaching lab work.

Dr. Arthur L. Dean, the chairman of the Chemistry Department at the University of Hawaii continued the research, refining it and using it to successfully treat many patients at Kalaupapa, a special hospital for Hansen disease patients.  Dean published the findings without giving any credit to Ball, and renamed the technique the Dean Method, until Hollmann spoke out about this.  He went on record saying, “After a great amount of experimental work, Miss Ball solved the problem for me…(this preparation is known as)….the Ball Method.”

The “Ball Method” continued to be the most effective method of treatment for Leprosy until the 1940s when a cure for the disease was found.  Yet, as recent as 1999, a medical journal noted that the “Ball Method” was still being used to treat patients in remote areas.  In 2000, the University of Hawaii acknowledged Alice as one of its most distinguished graduates after researchers, notably Stanley Ali and Kathryn Takara.  They discovered in the archives the critical contribution Alice had made.   Alice was honoured with a Chaulmoogra tree planted on the campus and the Governor of Hawaii declaring February 29th Alice Ball Day.  She also received the University’s Medal of distinction.

Notes to Women is proud to celebrate and recognize Alice Ball whose research and ground-breaking scientific achievements went unnoticed by the University of Hawaii for almost a decade.  We honour this remarkable young woman who departed from the world too soon.  She left behind a legacy of hope for those who suffered from Leprosy by starting the fight against the disease and inspiring others to relentlessly hunt for more treatments until they found a cure.

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Alice Ball2

Sources:  Women Rock Science; Black Past; Wikipedia; Clutch Mag Online

Working From Home

There are times when I actually consider working from home but then I dismiss the idea.  Today out of curiosity I checked out the Internet to see what the benefits are working from home.  I came across Freelance Mom.

The founder of FreelanceMom gives her testimony

I was first inspired to create FreelanceMom back when I was searching for work from home myself. I understand the frustration of coming upon website after website with either a clearly bogus home business opportunity, or just a page filled with advertisements for other work at home websites and no real content, or a website that did claim to have the answers but you had to purchase them!

Let’s face it, women looking for work from home often don’t have the money to take a chance on memberships, or purchase materials for start up business opportunities, etc.

I wanted to provide a resource free to the Work at Home Mom (WAHM) community. I provide all the information you need here to help you find your own work from home niche’.

The site offers women who are interested in working from home-business ideas and tips on how to recognize and avoid work at home scams.  They also give a list of home business ideas.  Apparently the most successful home businesses are born from what women truly enjoy and are talented at.  Here’s the list:

Affiliate Programs
Answering Service
Baby Hair Clips
Bookkeeping/Accountant
Cake Baking and Decorating
Candy Wrappers
Child Care
Cloth Diapers
Consultant
Data Entry
Dog Bakery
Doggie Daycare
Ebay
Editor
Errand Service
Forum Moderator
Ghost Writer

Graphic Design
Gift Basket Service
Internet Marketing
Medical Transcription
Midwifery
Music Instructor
Mystery Shopping
Personal Chef
Personal Fitness Trainer
Professional Organizer
Santa Letters
Scrapbook Business
Search Engine Optimization
Telemarketing
Transcription
Tutoring Service
Virtual Assistant
Website Design
Website Content Writer

(http://www.freelancemom.com/balance_SD.htm)

If you are interested in working from home, check out the Freelance Mom website for more ideas, tips and job opportunities but be aware that the jobs on the site are not jobs offered by FreelanceMom and they are not researched, so you have to investigate them on your own to make sure that they are legitimate.

Perhaps one of these days I might come up with a brilliant idea that could turn into a home business.  In the meantime, I will continue to get up in the mornings and drive to work with my fiance and our son.

Pregnancy At 40 and Older – The Risks

I got pregnant when I was forty and had our son when I was forty-one.  It was a textbook pregnancy.  There were no complications.  I didn’t have to have an epidural and the actual delivery took under fifteen minutes.  The contractions although they were bad, they didn’t last long.  I have heard some horror stories of women being in labor for more than 24 hours.  I couldn’t imagine going through that.

In a couple of months our son will be celebrating his third birthday.  Wow.  Where did the time go?  It seemed like only the other day I was holding him in my arms for the first time.  The pregnancy was an experience I feel truly blessed to have had.  At the time, though, I didn’t want to go through another one.  I didn’t feel mentally or physically or even emotionally up to it.  Before I had my son, I had always planned that when I got married, I would love to have twins–a boy and a girl.  That of course didn’t happen.  God blessed us with a son.  And we have decided that we wouldn’t have more children because of my age.  I am heading toward my mid-forties.  We worry about the risks and are not willing to take them.

I have been adamant about not having a second child but I would have a couple women push me to consider it.  There is one in particular who works in the office cafeteria.  Every time I see her, she manages to bring the conversation around to me having another baby.  I try to change the topic but she is persistent.  I try to tell her that at my age I should not even be considering this but she brushes that excuse aside.  She seems to believe that age is not a factor.  Once when she broached the subject, I had a moment of insanity when I actually wanted to get pregnant again.  Of course when I spoke to my fiance, he snapped me right back to reality.

There are times when I entertain the thought and imagine what the baby would look like.  I like the idea of having a little girl who will look like her Daddy.  But then, I think about the risks.

What are the risks?  Are they worth taking?  I decided to find out via the Internet. 

With today’s medical technology, prenatal care, and well educated doctors women have the best chances ever to become pregnant and have successful pregnancies after age 40. However, the risks are there and women in this age range should be aware of them.

One risk many women over the age of 40 are most concerned with is genetic disorders. As a woman ages her entire body does as well, including her eggs. Many times Down Syndrome results from an older woman’s egg simply not dividing like it might have when the woman was younger. Of course, if you are age 40 or more and you want to have a child you should not let the slightly higher risk of genetic disorders or birth defects scare you. A woman who becomes pregnant at age 35 has a risk of 1 in 365 of having a baby with Down’s Syndrome. That risk increases to 1 in 100 with a woman 40 years of age and approximately to 1 in 40 for women 45 years of age. Any woman who becomes pregnant has a risk of about 3% to have a child with a birth defect. This percentage more than doubles for women over 40, but still the 6-8% risk is still relatively low.

These statistics seem pretty scary to women who are 40 years old or older but want to have a baby. However, the statistics are just that and while one out of ever 100 babies has Down’s Syndrome there are 99 other babies that are perfect. The best thing to do is visit your doctor before you become pregnant. Your doctor will advise you of your risks and give you a plan to help reduce risks. This includes eating healthy, exercising, treating any current diseases or disorders, and simply being as healthy as possible before pregnancy begins. At that point you will be better prepared to have a baby, your pregnancy will go smoother, and you will more than likely have a perfectly healthy baby.

There are tests that can be performed early in the pregnancy to see if your baby has a higher chance of having a genetic disorder or birth defect as well. As long as you work with your doctor and have prenatal care you will more than likely have a healthy baby at age 40 or older (http://www.amazingpregnancy.com/pregnancy-articles/543.html). 

I had these tests done and everything was perfect.  There were no concerns.  For the first five months of my pregnancy I was mindful of having a miscarriage.  I learned that not only is it more difficult to conceive after 40, but that the miscarriage rate increases with both maternal and paternal age, says Michelle Collins, a certified nurse midwife and an assistant professor of nursing at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, Nashville. One woman said that she had her first child at 39 but at 43 she was having problems conceiving and had three miscarriages in one year.   (http://www.pregnancytoday.com/articles/healthy-safe-pregnancy/pregnancy-after-40-6175/). 

If you are forty or older and are considering having a baby, talk to your doctor first.  Learn what your risks are and if you are willing to take them.  If after talking to your doctor, you decide you want to go through with it, then start taking the prenatal vitamins, Folic Acid supplements and doing the necessary things.  One person commented, if it is God’s will for you to have a child, it will happen.  He let it happen with two women who were pushing way past 40–Sarah and Elizabeth and they both had healthy baby boys and back  then they didn’t have the medical technology we have today.  If I believed that God wanted to bless us with another child, I would go through with another pregnancy, trusting that everything will turn out just fine. 

If you are a 40 or 40+ year old woman and are serious about getting pregnant again, don’t wait any longer.  Consult your doctor and do what you need to do.  I wish that all goes well for you and your baby.