Anna/Rift #writephoto

cracked

Photo by Sue Vincent

“Mama, I’m going for a walk.”

“But, my Dear, Mr. Foster shall be calling on you at precisely three o’ clock.”

Anna stared at her mother.  “Oh, I forgot that he was coming.”

“You would do well not to slight a man of Mr. Foster’s constitution.  I’m sure you’re not impervious to his singular affection for you.”

“No, I cannot say that I am.  I will admit that Mr. Foster is a very amiable man and I have enjoyed our conversations but I’m afraid that my affection for him is of a platonic nature.”

“My Dear, you would do well to remember that you have no beauty or fortune to recommend you to any man.  And so far Mr. Foster is the only gentleman who has shown any solicitude toward you.  Don’t let your fancy notions about love blind you to the fact that if you offend Mr. Foster in any way and he withdraws himself as your suitor, you will end up an old maid like your Aunt May.”

Anna took a deep breath.  She didn’t want to lose her temper.  “Mama, I’m going for a walk now,” she said.  “I can do with some fresh air.”

Her mother looked rather put out and she sniffed indignantly, her expression one of censure as she gazed upon her rebellious daughter.  It was Anna’s fault, really that there was a rift in their relationship.  She had always been a rebellious and unconventional child.  “If you want to go gallivanting about the place, by all means do so,” she said.  “Just make sure that you are here when Mr. Foster calls.  I will not have you embarrass your father and me.”

“I will be back before Mr. Foster comes, Mother.”  And after giving her mother a perfunctory kiss on the cheek, she left the room.

What a relief it was to be out of the house.  The temperature was mild–pleasant, though the sun wasn’t strangely absent.  She headed straight to her favorite spot–the clearing in the wood and the rock with the crack.  When she reached it, her face was flushed but she felt invigorated.  She sat down on the rock and removed her bonnet.  She smoothed her fingers over the golden wisps of her that brushed against her forehead.  She could remain there all afternoon but she had to return to the house before Mr. Foster got there.  Drat.

Why did Mr. Foster have to show such a marked preference for her company when he could easily have shown the same to other young ladies, like her cousin, Charlotte, for example.  Charlotte seemed like a better suited companion for him than she was.  And as her mother liked to remind her, Charlotte was very sweet girl with such an agreeable disposition.

“Why can’t you be more like your cousin?” was her mother’s constant query. As fond as she was of Charlotte, there were times when she found her wanting, not to mention boring.  No, she would never be like dear sweet and irreproachable Charlotte and that suited her well.

After spending a long time there, enjoying the solitude and nature, she reluctantly quit the place and returned home.  Slowly, she entered the foyer, removed her bonnet and made her way to the sitting-room where she would receive her visitor.  Upon entering the room, she was surprised to see a strange gentleman standing there beside her mother who was sitting on the sofa.  “Anna, my Dear, this is Mr. Abbotsford, Mr. Foster’s nephew.”

Mr. Abbotsford bowed and Anna curtsied.  “Miss Fairley.  I’m here on my uncle’s behalf.  Regrettably, he has been called away on urgent business in London and has bestowed upon me the important task of conveying his deepest regret that he’s unable to keep his appointment with you.  I asked me to offer you his profound apologies.”

Before Anna could reply, her mother spoke up.  “Mr. Abbotsford, please inform your uncle that although his absence is of a considerable disappointment for my daughter, that she understands his predicament and that upon his return, she will be more than happy to receive him whenever he is able to facilitate another visit.”

Mr. Abbotsford bowed.  “I shall inform my uncle of your disappointment, understanding and eagerness to see him.”  His gaze shifted back to Anna.

Anna met his stare squarely.  He wasn’t at all like his uncle.  He was tall with very striking features.  His black hair framed a very handsome and tanned face.  It was slightly long and brushed against the crisp white collar of his shirt.  He looked and had the manners of a gentleman.  He looked to be six and twenty.  She wondered what his occupation was and why Mr. Foster never spoke of him.

Mrs. Fairley cleared her throat.  “Mr. Abbotsford, if you have no pressing business to take you away, perhaps you can stay for tea?”

“I would be delighted,” he replied.

“Very well.  I shall ring for tea.  Please be seated, Mr. Abbotsford.  Sit there by the fireplace.  Anna, come and sit beside me.”

Anna dutifully went and sat beside her mother.  After arranging her dress and making herself comfortable, she looked over to where Mr. Abbotsford was.  Again she wondered why Mr. Foster had never spoken of him nor introduced him.  Perhaps, it had to do with the fact that he was young and very handsome.  And perhaps, if Mr. Foster were privy to the thoughts that which occupied her mind as she studied his nephew, he would never have enlisted his help to bring her news of the urgent business which had spirited him away this afternoon, preventing him from being at her side now.

As she sipped her tea and listened attentively to the conversation between her mother and their visitor, she hoped that she would see him again.  Surely, Mr. Foster won’t object to her family getting better acquainted with his nephew.  Perhaps, she could persuade her mother to invite him for dinner.  There was no telling how long Mr. Foster would be in London.

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

Choosing Love Over Fear

man playing piano

He sat at the piano, running his fingers over the keys.  His heart was heavy and his mind muddled.  Music was elusive.  He couldn’t concentrate.  All he could think about was her and how much he missed her.  What a fool he had been to let her walk out of his life.  He had allowed fear to get the better of him.

What was he so afraid of?  Of falling in love?  Too late.  He was already madly in love with her.  It wasn’t lack of trust.  He trusted Odeta implicitly which was more than he could say about other women he had been involved with.  Did it have to do with her last relationship?  After they had been together for two years, the guy suddenly decided that he didn’t want to be tied down to one woman.  She later told him that it hurt like hell and it took a while for her to get over it.  And it was when she was starting to pick up the pieces that he came into her life.

They met at a trendy restaurant in Soho.  The usual piano player couldn’t make it because he was sick so as a favor to his friend, the club’s manager, he filled in.   He would never forget the first time he saw her.  She walked in alone, tall and beautiful, her hair cut short like a boy’s, wearing a red, off the shoulder dress which flattered her slender figure.  No jewelry.  Only a touch of red lipstick.  Her dark skin was flawless.  She looked like a model.  Their eyes met.  He wanted to stop playing and walk over to her but he stayed put.  Besides, she was meeting someone.  She walked past him and to a table where an African man was sitting.

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He kept an eye on her all evening as he played.  Was the man her boyfriend or husband?  Or were they meeting for the first time?  Was this their first date?  He shook his head.  Forget about it, Man.  You’re out of her league.  She looks like she’s used to being with men like the one she was with now–elegantly dressed, used to dining in expensive establishments like this, drove fancy cars and wealthy.

Still, he couldn’t help himself.  She intrigued him.  And when he took a break and went to the bar to have a drink, he passed by her table.  She looked at him.  He smiled and left the room.

As he sat down at the bar and ordered his drink, he saw the man she was with leave.  He didn’t look upset or anything.  A few minutes later, she came out of the dining-room.  When she saw him, she walked over to the empty stool beside him and sat down.  She ordered a virgin cocktail.  Turning to him, she said, “You play the piano very well.”

This close, she was even more stunning.  “Thank you,” he replied.  “Didn’t your date enjoy my playing?  Is that why he left?”

She smiled.  “He left because he flying back to Cape Town tonight.  And he wasn’t my date.  He’s my brother.”

He couldn’t hide the relief on his face.  “Your brother.  I thought he was your boyfriend or husband.”

“I’m single.  And you?”

“Single.  Are you a model?”

She laughed.  “No.  I’m a Marketing Director.”

“When I saw you, I thought you were a model.  I’m sure I’m not the first man to think that.”

“You’re right.  I have been approached by people in the modelling industry and they always are surprised when I tell them that I’m not interested and that I’m perfectly happy with being in the Marketing business.”

“It’s easy to see why they approach you.  You’re a very stunning woman.”

She smiled.  “Thank you…I don’t know your name.”

“It’s Ian.”

“Nice to meet you, Ian,” she said holding out her hand.  “Odetta.”

“Likewise, Odetta.  My break will be over in ten minutes.  Would you be able to stick around for half hour?”

She nodded.  “Sure.  I’ll just sit here at the bar until you’re done.”

“Good.  We can go somewhere else and talk.”

“So, what do you do when you’re not playing the piano?”

“Structural Engineering.”

“Sounds interesting.  Tell me about it.”

The ten minutes went quickly and he reluctantly left her at the bar to finish his session.  Half hour later, they were sitting at a cafe, continuing their conversation.  It was after mid-night when he finally gave her a ride home.  They saw each other the following night.  They began dating and things were going well until he got cold feet and told her that he they should take a break because things were moving too fast.  Hurt and angry, she walked out of the apartment.

That was a month ago.  Many times he wanted to go over to her place and apologize.  His life was empty without her.  What a fool he was to ruin a good thing because he was afraid.  And now, here he was alone and miserable, tinkering with the piano and missing her like crazy.

Finally, he got up from the piano and went over to the window.  He stood there for several minutes and then he quickly left the room.  He went into his study, sat down behind the desk and taking out stationary and a pen, he wrote her a letter, pouring out his heart.  By the time he was done, the letter was three pages long.  He folded them and stuffed into an envelope.   After sealing it and adding postage, he got up and left the house.  He walked to the mailbox and after a slight hesitation, he pushed the letter through the slot.

A week later, he was sitting at the piano again trying to play something–anything when the doorbell rang.  Thankful for the interruption, he got up and went to answer the door.  His heart lurched when he saw Odeta standing there.  She must have gotten his letter.  “Hello,” he said when he opened the door.  His eyes eagerly ran over her.  She looked beautiful in the denim dress.

“Hello, Ian.”

“Please come in.”

She went in and he closed the door.  “I got your letter.”

“I figured that’s why you’re here.”

“Thank you for writing it,” she said quietly.  “It explained a lot.”

“Let’s go into the living-room and talk.”

“I was so hurt and angry when you said that you wanted us to take a break from each other.” she said when they were sitting on the sofa.  “You said that things were moving too fast.”

“I’m sorry, Odeta.  The last thing I wanted to do was to hurt you but I was scared.  I was falling fast and hard for you.  I’ve been hurt before and I was afraid of getting hurt again.  And as I mentioned in my letter, I was afraid that you were on the rebound.”

“I can’t blame you for thinking that since we met just a few months after the breakup.  I wasn’t looking for anything.  Believe me, having another relationship was the last thing on my mind but that night when I walked into the restaurant and saw you I was immediately attracted to you.  That’s why I came over to the bar soon after my brother left.”

“I was immediately attracted to you to and was thrilled when you joined me at the bar.”

“Ian, I know you’re afraid of getting hurt.  So am I.”

“I’m still afraid but it’s nothing compared to the emptiness I feel inside without you in my life.”

“Do you want to give us another chance?”

“Yes, Odeta, I do.”

She touched his face.  “I was hoping that you would say that.”

This time I chose love over fear,” he murmured, his eyes searching hers and what he saw in them made his heart sing.  He had nothing to fear now.

Source:  Paired Life

Stolen Water

Stolen water is sweet, And bread eaten in secret is pleasant – Proverbs 9:17

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We met at a bar one rainy Saturday evening.  It wasn’t the sort of night or place you would expect to meet someone like her.  I was in Chicago on business.  After having dinner at the hotel, I decided to go for a walk in spite of the rain.  I wanted to check out the Navy Pier but the rain was coming down hard now so I ducked into the first bar I spotted.  The atmosphere was cozy and intimate.  A great place to hang out for a while.  I went over to the bar and sat down.  It felt good to be out of the rain.  I looked around.  This place was ideal for a nightcap or a late night rendezvous.  It reminded me of one of my favorite bars in New York.  I smiled and ordered an El Presidente cocktail.

It was after I took my first sip of the cocktail when she walked in.  I froze.  My heart stopped and everything and everyone in the room faded into nothingness.  All I could see was her.  She was wearing a knee length magenta spandex dress which hugged her in all the right places.  Her thick chestnut hair fell in thick waves down her back.  She closed her umbrella and walked over to where I was.  There was an empty stool right beside me.  She sat there.  The bartender turned around and from the way he acted, I could tell that she had been here before.  After exchanging pleasantries, she ordered a Grasshopper.  When he turned away to fix it, she glanced at me.

Our eyes met and held what seemed like a very long time.  My heart was pounding.  I was nervous and excited at the same time.  It’s been a while since I’ve felt this way.  She smiled at me.  “Hello,” she said.

“Hello.”

“I’ve never noticed you here before.”

“This is my first time here.”

“Are you from out of town?”

I nodded.  “Yes.  I’m from New York.”

Her eyebrows arched.  “The Big Apple.  Hmmm.  What brought you here to the Windy City?”

“Business.”

“What sort of business do you do?”

“I’m a Construction Manager.”

“And what exactly does a Construction Manager do?”

“I oversee the process of new commercial and residential buildings, as well as bridges, tunnels and roads; supervise building deadlines, the progress of workers, and managing the budgets for each project.”

“Sounds interesting.”

“What about you? Are you a model?”

She laughed.  “No, but I’m flattered that you think so.  I work at Bluedog Design.”  The bartender placed her drink in front of her.  He glanced at me and then moved away to serve someone else.

“I’m impressed.”

“So, what do you do for fun?”

“I jog, swim, play Squash and do a lot of reading.”

Her cell rang.  “Excuse me,” she said as she fished it out of her handbag.

I turned my head because I didn’t want to seem as if I were eavesdropping.  I took a couple of sips of my cocktail.

“That was my husband,” she said.  “He’s in Vancouver.”

My head swung around sharply.  “You’re married?”

“Yes.”

I glanced pointedly down at her left hand.  There wasn’t any ring.

She followed my gaze.  “I took it to the jewelry store to have it resized.”

“Oh.”  She’s married.  What a bummer.

“What about you?  Girlfriend? Wife? Both?”

“Neither.”

“What’s your name?”

“Andrew.”

“Tina.” She held out her hand.  I grasped it.  It felt soft and warm.

Her being married put a damper on the evening and I could think of nothing else.  “Doesn’t your husband mind you going to bars alone?”

“This is the first time I’ve been in a bar alone.”

“I know if I were him, I would have a problem with you being here alone in a bar talking to another man.”

“He doesn’t know that I’m here talking to another man.”

“And what if he did, wouldn’t he be upset?”

“Let’s not worry or talk about Sam.  I’d rather talk about you.”

I finished my drink and slid off the stool.  “I have to go.”

Her eyes widened.  “But why?  We were just getting to know each other.”

“You’re married, Tina.”

“I know but you and I click.  The evening is still young.  Still a while longer.”

“I can’t.  We both know where this will lead if I don’t leave right now.  It was a pleasure meeting you, Tina.  My advice to you is that you go home and stop going to bars alone.  Goodnight.”  I turned and walked out of the bar.

It had stopped raining.  I could have gone to the Navy Pier but I decided that I had had enough excitement for one evening.  I headed back to the hotel.

Two years have passed since that night in a Chicago bar and I don’t regret my decision.  I was tempted but I was able to walk away and not look back.  Now, I’m happily married to an amazing woman I met right here in New York.  I believe it that it was my faith that saved me from doing something I would have regretted for the rest of my life.

When faced with temptation, you can either run towards it or away from it.  The more you resist it, however, the more fortified you become.

Sources:  Four Seasons Chicago;Yelp; Sparrow Chicago; Global Business Travel; Bluedog Design

Gordon’s Weekend/Onward #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

It was a long, winding road that seemed to stretch endlessly before him, surrounded by mountains and fields.  It was a drive he normally enjoyed, especially after a hectic week at the office but today, he was too tensed up.  Relax, he urged himself.  You’re doing the right thing.  You’re ending a relationship you had no business getting into in the first place.  You’re getting married in a couple of months time to an incredible woman.  Yes, he was marrying Tessa, something he had been looking forward to for a long time.

His family liked her.  They thought she was the best thing that had ever happened to him.  She was different from the other women he used to date.  In fact, she was not the type of woman he was usually attracted to.  And when they met, it wasn’t love at first sight for him and he wasn’t even interested in more than a platonic relationship with her.  But, after his bitter breakup with Christina, Tessa had been there for him.  Her friendship had helped him through those dark moments.  And little by little, as time passed and as they spent more time together, his feelings for her began to change.  They started dating and then last year Spring, he popped the question.

Why on earth did he get involved with Chanise?  Sure, she was a very attractive woman but there were other women at the office who were very attractive too but he never once looked at any of them.  Yet, the moment he met Chanise, he was attracted to her.  And it didn’t help when they were paired up to work on two very important campaigns.  There were a lot of late hours in the office and working closing together.  He was so conscious of her that at times, it was near impossible to concentrate.  He was relieved when the assignments were over and things went back to normal but he couldn’t stop thinking about her and sneaking peeks at her when they were in the office.  Her desk was adjacent to his.  He could hear her talking on the phone and tried not to listen.  When Tessa called him, he spoke low into the mouthpiece so that Chanise couldn’t hear.

Last year at the office Christmas party, they both showed up without dates.  Tessa couldn’t go because she had a bad cold and Chanise had broken up with her boyfriend.  He tried to avoid her for as long as he could but half way through the night, they ended up talking and then they were slow dancing.  By the end of the night, he was ready to take her back to his place because it was closer.  When he mentioned it to her, she was up for it.  That’s when he knew that she was attracted to him too.  That thrilled him and after saying their goodbyes, they left.  No one seem to think anything of it–after all they were co-workers.  As far as they were concerned, he was just giving her a ride home.  No big deal.  Besides, he was engaged, right?

They didn’t say much in the drive over to his place.  At any time, he could have changed his mind and taken her straight home but he didn’t.  He wanted this.  If he were honest with himself, he would admit that he had wanted this since they met.  As soon as they got to his place and after removing their coats, he took her to his room where she spent the night.

Even though he was plagued with guilt after that first tryst, it didn’t stop him for doing it again and again.  Pretty soon, they were having an affair.  When they were at the office, they acted like nothing had changed between them.  The funny thing is that when they were together, he didn’t think about Tessa at all.  It was only afterwards, when he was alone that he did.  He hated what he was doing to her.  She had no clue.  She trusted him.  He felt like a complete jerk but every time he tried to end his affair with Chanise, he chickened out the moment he saw her.

Last night, he couldn’t sleep.  The guilt was weighing heavily on him.  He had to end his relationship with Chanise.  He had to.  And today, he was on his way to do that.  They were supposed to be spending the weekend at his cottage.  It was in an idyllic rural setting.  He bought it a couple of years ago.  It was his escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.  Tessa loved it and thought that it would be a good idea for him to sell his flat and make this their home once they got married.  She loved the countryside.  He loved it too but wasn’t sure that he wanted to move out of the city.  Besides, being in the city made it more convenient for him to see Chanise.  Chanise.  He sighed heavily.  Breaking up with her was going to be very, very hard but he had to do it.

Her car was parked outside of the cottage when he got there.  Heart racing, he turned off the engine and got out of the jeep.  He walked up to the door and opened it.  She was in the living-room.  She got up from the sofa and went over to him, smiling.  “Hello, Gordon,” she murmured as she put her arms around his neck.

Unable to resist, he hugged her tightly against him.  He buried his face in her neck.  “Chanise…” he muttered thickly.  I can’t do this, he thought.  I can’t break up with her.  He raised his head and his mouth sought hers.  As they exchanged kisses, he picked her up and carried her upstairs to the master bedroom.

Tessa smiled as she drove along the winding road, her eyes danced behind the sunglasses as they swept over the mountains looming ahead. Hold on Tight by R3HAB, Conor Maynard was playing on the radio.  It was the same song that was playing the night Gordon went over to her place after breaking up with his ex.  They sat on the sofa not saying anything.  She knew that he didn’t want to be alone at the moment and she was just there for him.

I bet, he’s going to be surprised to see me, she thought.  She was supposed to be spending the weekend with her aunt in Bristol but her aunt had gotten the dates mixed up.  This weekend she was going to be in Manchester so they were on for the following weekend.  Tessa didn’t mind at all.  She was driving up to the cottage to be with Gordon and looking forward to spending a nice, romantic weekend with him.  She couldn’t wait to see the expression on his face when she showed up unexpectedly.  She laughed at thought and pressed her foot a little harder on the accelerator.

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

Property Values

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“I’m going to do something about this,” Winnifred declared angrily as she looked out the window at the construction site.  “How dare they think that they can build a casino here?  This is a respectable neighborhood.  Do you know what kinds of people a casino will draw?  I’m going to the meeting and voice my objections.  Are you coming, Thomas?”

Thomas lowered his newspaper.  He personally didn’t see what the big fuss was.  If a casino brought more business to the community, why get bent out of shape about it?  He wasn’t going to attend any meeting just to hear folks spewing up like volcanoes, talking over each other and not really getting anything.  Besides, he was quiet comfortable relaxing in his easy chair reading his paper.  “No, Dear,” he said.  “I’ll pass.”

Winnifred spun around.  “How would you feel if a bunch of rowdy under-aged crowds came here, bringing down our property values?”

He shrugged.  “The property values went down the day your sister and her family of misfits moved here.”

172 Words

This was written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers hosted by Priceless Joy. For more information visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  NBC New York;

Infatuation

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Photo by Sue Vincent

“With all the money this latest book is raking in, we’ll be able to go on an extended holiday in the South of France,” Roz Taylor remarked to Valentijn Liske after he signed the last copy.  He was book signing and having his picture taken with fans at Waterstones Piccadilly.  It had been a busy but very pleasant afternoon.

Valentijn didn’t reply.  He stood up, stretched and donned his jacket.  He was ready to escape to his home in Yorkshire.  After thanking and having a few words with the organizers of the event, he left the bookshop.

“I think this is your best novel, so far,” Roz said when they were in the car.  She glanced down at a copy that was on her lap.   “I can see it being made into a film like the others.  Can you imagine how much money will roll in?  We can use some of it to buy and develop the land which is featured here on the cover.  You’ve always entertained the idea of owning a home in Queensland.”

Valentijn turned to her, “You keep saying ‘we’,” he muttered.

Her head shot up and snapped to the left, her eyes wide as they met his.   “What do you mean?” she asked.  “This book was a collaboration.”

I wrote it,” he informed her coldly.

“Yes, but the idea for the cover was mine.  You wanted to have a dead body with a smoking gun next to it but I suggested that you have a skull lying in a field to add mystery to it.”

“And for that suggestion you think you’re entitled to everything?  You’re beginning to sound like my greedy ex-wife.”

She swallowed hard.  “I thought we were in this together.  I thought I was more than your agent.  I thought we had something…”

“Well, you thought wrong,” he snapped.  “From now it will be strictly business between us.”

“But, why?”

“I’ve grown bored with you, Roz, it’s that simple.”

Color flooded her pale cheeks and her eyes flashed at him.  “It’s that little tart I’ve  seen hanging around you lately, isn’t it?”

“I presume you’re referring to Alina?”

“Yes!  I notice the way she’s been throwing herself at you and you encourage her.”

“She’s full of spirit which I rather like.”

“Have you and she…?”

“Slept together?  No, not as yet.  But I promise you it wouldn’t be long before we do–” He was interrupted by a hard slap across the face.  He rubbed his smarting skin, his gaze narrowing.

“You disgust me,” Roz cried as hot, angry tears spilled down her cheeks.  They were stopped at a traffic light.  “Find yourself another agent.  I’m through with you!”  She tossed the book at him, grabbed her bag and pushed open the door, slamming it hard behind her.

Valentijn watched her go, shrugged and then, tapping the glass partition, he said to the driver, “Turn right at the next intersection.  I’d like to stop by the florist.”

“Very well, Sir.”

Valentijn settled back in his seat, smiling slightly as he looked out of the window.  He could just picture Alina’s face when she saw the lavender gladioli.  Lavender was her favorite color and the gladioli symbolized his infatuation for her, a girl almost half his age.  And the girl who had cost him the best agent he ever had.  He hoped she was worth the trouble.

Infatuation is the most fragile kind of love – C.S. Lewis

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

His Muse

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Photo by Sue Vincent

The painting was almost complete.  He just had to add a few touches.  Painting landscapes was never his thing but he had been forced to paint them since…He tossed the paintbrush down and got up.  He walked over to the window and stared out into the street below.  It was quiet now.  It was Sunday.  Almost everyone was in church.  He had stopped attending Sunday mass three years ago.  He had stopped doing a lot of things three years ago.  Three years ago she had stood right there by the door, ready to removed her coat when her cell rang.  He had no idea who called her but after she ended the call, she grabbed her knapsack and said, “I have to go but I will be back later,” before she pulled open the door and rushed out.

He waited all day for her to return or to call but neither was forthcoming.  Three years later and she hadn’t returned.  He had no idea where she was.  Maybe she went back to her home in Benin.  She was the reason why he stopped painting people and started painting landscapes.  He had broken his own rule of never mixing business with pleasure.  She was supposed to be his muse–that was all.  He had painted hundreds of women before and not once did any of them stir any passions in him.  He was immune to them.  To him there were just muses.

Then, he met her one day at the gallery where his work was on display.  She was eighteen at the time.  Her youth was so refreshing.   She wasn’t beautiful or even pretty and her eyes seemed too large for her small face but she intrigued him.   He wanted to paint her right then and there.  There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that she was going to be his next muse.  After they left the gallery, he took her for a cappuccino.  She was a bit hesitant at first although she was flattered that he wanted to paint her but he was very persuasive.

She turned out to be the perfect muse, inspiring him to produce his best work.  He churned out painting after painting.   She sat there day after day, still as a statue.  He supposed that it was gradual but one day he realized that he that he had fallen for her–of all he foolhardy things to do.  He was twice her age, for pity’s sake.  He thought of finding another muse to replace her but he couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing her again.  She had brought light and joy into his otherwise dull existence.  Life without her would be intolerable.  He didn’t replace her but it became increasingly hard to paint because he couldn’t concentrate.  Instead of painting her, he wanted to take her in his arms and…

He leaned forward, his palms flat on the window seat, his tortured gaze scanned the horizon.  She was out there somewhere.  His life was empty.  There was a great big chasm and his heart ached every time he remembered how she had literally run out of his life.  He never got another muse.  No one could replace her.  Oh, Johari, my inspiration, my grand passion, my torment.

He heard a sound behind him and turned.  His face became ashen when he saw her standing there.  If she didn’t blink, he would have imagined that she was an illusion.  All sorts of emotions churned inside him.  His hands curled into tight fists as he tried to hold them in check.  Part of him wanted to take her in his arms and lavish her with kisses while the other part wanted to lash out at her for the misery she had put him through.

“I came back, Adriel,” she said, moving closer.

He didn’t budge.  “Yes, three years later.  Where have you been all this time?”

“I’ve been in Benin.  That day when I was here with you, I got a call from an uncle that my father had fallen ill and that I was needed home right away.  I got the first flight out of London.  I helped my mother to look after him until he recovered.  My mother asked me to stay until she could afford to hire a private nurse.  I tried calling you but there wasn’t any answer.  I think your cell was off.  I wrote to you while I was in Benin but you never answered.  Adriel, you must know that only a family emergency would make me leave you.  All the time I was away, I thought about you and missed you.  I wondered why you didn’t write me.  I thought you were out of the country or busy with gallery showings or—that you had met someone.”

He quickly closed the distance between them.  “I’ve been here all this time,” he told her.  “Missing you and wondering where you were.  I had my phone turned off and I never received any of your letters.”

“So, there isn’t another woman…?”

He shook his head vigorously.  “No!” Groaning, he reached for her and pulled her into his arms.  “I couldn’t be with anyone else even if I wanted to.  I love you, Johari.”  He covered her face with kisses, unable to help himself.

She hugged him tightly about his waist and murmured, “I love you too.”

They stood there in the sun-dappled room locked in a passionate embrace.  He stopped painting for a long while and he no longer had any need for a muse.  They got married in a quiet ceremony in SaintPauldeVence, one of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera.  When he returned to painting, he did portraits while Johari worked in a museum which featured his work.

 

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

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