Love and Friendship

Russell Wong and Vonetta Willimans attended the same high school and the same university.  And now they were working at the same company.  Her friends teased her, “It seems like the two of you are destined to be together.  Why don’t you go out with him?”

“He hasn’t asked me,” Vonetta informed them curtly.  Was it that obvious that she had a thing for Russell.

“We’re living in the twenty-first century, gurl.  Why don’t you ask him out?”

Vonetta’s heart skipped a beat at the thought.  “I-I can’t,” she stammered.

“Why not?” Gwen asked, rolling her eyes.  “It’s obvious to me that he likes you.  I’ve seen the way he looks at you.   Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed.”

“If that’s true, why hasn’t he asked me out?”

“Maybe he’s shy,” Sharon suggested.

“Or maybe he’s not sure that you would want to go out with him.”

“Why, because he’s Asian?”

“Maybe.”

“Have you and he ever spoken to each other?”

“Yes.  We’ve talked to each other many times.  You can say we’re friends.  He’s from Hong Kong.  He moved here with his family when he was three.  He has three sisters and one brother.”

“He’s very good-looking.”

“Yes, he is,” Vonetta agreed.  “And very reserved.”

“If that’s the case, how on earth did you two get to talking?”

“Well, we had a friend in common–Michelle Forbes and she introduced us.  I think she liked him but it never got further than friendship.  The three of us hung out for a bit and then it was just him and me.  We sat next to each other in class and had lunch together.”

“And was it the same in university?”

“Yes.”

“And neither of you dated other people?”

“No.”

“Then, why on earth didn’t you two go out with each other since then?” Gwen sounded exasperated.

“What about now?” Sharon asked.  “Does your workplace have a policy against co-workers dating?”

Vonetta shook her head.

“And even if they did, what they do outside of the office is their business,” Gwen said.

“Gwen’s right,” Sharon told Vonetta.  “I think you should ask him out.”

Vonetta swallowed hard.  “I’ve never asked a guy out before,” she protested.

“Well, there’s a first time for everything,” Gwen quipped.  “Do it over the phone if it’s too much trouble for you to do it face to face or better yet, text him.”

“Yes, text him.”

“Do it now,” Gwen urged.  “You might not have the courage to do it when you’re alone.”

“Yes, do it now.”  Sharon was beginning to sound like a parrot.

“All right,” Vonetta acquiesced.  Heart pounding, she took out her cell and flipped it open.  Taking a deep breath, she texted a short message.  “Hi Russell, it’s Vonetta.  Are you interested in going out with me?” She quickly pressed the button to send it before she chickened out.

“And now we wait for his reply.”

“What if he doesn’t reply right away?” Vonetta asked.

“Don’t start panicking if you don’t hear from him.  Maybe he’s busy or he doesn’t have his phone with him.  If you don’t hear from him today, text him again tomorrow.”

Vonetta’s brow creased and she sighed.  “I probably shouldn’t have texted him,” she said.  Just then her phone rang.  She looked at the display.  Her heart skipped a beat.  “It’s him,” she announced.

“Wow, he didn’t waste any time,” Gwen remarked, impressed.

Vonetta answered the call.  “Hi, Russell.”

“Hi, Vonetta.  I got your text.  I would love to go out with you.  I wanted to ask you out for a very long time but wasn’t sure that you would be interested.”

“I’m so relieved to hear that,” she admitted.  “I was thinking that we could go to this tapas restaurant that recently opened and has gotten very good reviews.”

“Sure.  When would you like to go?”

“Is tomorrow evening at seven good for you?”

“Yes, it is.  Vonetta, are you free later?”

“Yes, I am.”

“How would you like to go to the Starlight and watch the latest Mission Impossible movie?”

“That sounds great.”

“We’ll grab some take-out before we go the the drive-in.”

“All right.”

“I’ll see you at six.”

“See you at six.”  She rang off.  “We’re going to the drive-in later and to dinner tomorrow,” she announced excitedly.

“Wow, two dates in a row.”  Gwen was thrilled.  “Well, have fun and give us all the juicy details the next time we get together.”

Vonetta laughed.  “I will,” she promised.

That evening when Russell went to pick her up, she was waiting on the steps in front of the entrance to her flat.  Her heart leapt when he stepped out of the car, looking really good in a black tee shirt and a pair of faded jeans.  He smiled and held the door open for her, his gaze traveling over her small frame clad in a red tee shirt and denim capris.  “Are you in the mood for Thai?” he asked as they drove off.

She smiled.  “It’s funny you should mention Thai.  I’ve had a craving for Mango Chicken all week.”

He picked up a Mango Chicken for her and a Ginger Chicken for himself.  The food smelled so good in the backseat that her mouth was watering.  As soon as they were inside the drive-in, he reached for the bag and they took out their containers.  After saying Grace, they dug into the food.  It was every bit as delicious as she remembered.  Afterwards they had Lychee Cheesecake.

“That was really good,” she remarked leaning back in the seat.  The trailers were showing now.  It had been ages since she came to the drive-in.  The last time was with her family and when she was in primary school.  They were chewing gum to get rid of the taste of the rich food.

He turned to her.  “Yes, it was.  That’s the great thing about a drive-in.  You can bring your own food.”

“I used to come to the drive-in with my family when I was a child.  It was a treat for my sister and me.  My favorite snacks were Chocolate Chip-Pretzel Bars, Pimento cheese sandwiches and Sweet Potato Hummus.   What about you?  Did you and your family come to the drive-in?”

“They came only when there was a Jackie Chan movie.”

She laughed.  “I’m a big fan of his too and Jet Li’s.  Actually, I think Jet Li is kind of cute.”

Russell stared at her, his expression serious now.  “And what do you think of me?” he asked quietly.

Vonetta’s heart skipped a beat when she saw the expression on his face.  “I think you’re gorgeous,” she said, sounding a tad breathless now.

“And I think you’re beautiful,” he muttered before leaning over and kissing her, his going about her waist.

Vonetta closed her eyes and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck. 

The way you feel when you kiss him for the first time. Like fire within … Like every part of you that came from a dead star is alive again – Nikita Gill

The kiss lasted for several minutes but when the movie started, they forced themselves to stop and watched it.  But, their minds were on other things and she felt her body react when he held her hand, rubbing his thumb against the back, making her skin tingle.   She could hardly concentrate on the movie.  When, it was over and they were on their way to her flat, she turned to him. “Thanks for an incredible first date,” she said.

“You’re welcome,” he replied.

“Would you like to come up for a while?” she asked.

He looked at her.  “Yes,” he said simply.

When they got to her place, he parked his car underground in her space–she didn’t have a car and they held hands as they walked to the elevators.  Her heart was racing as she unlocked the door and as soon as they were inside and the door was locked, they reached eagerly for each other, aching to continue what they started at the drive-in.

Russell ended up spending the night.  The next morning they had breakfast on the terrace before he went home.  Dinner at the Tapas restaurant was romantic and they went dancing afterwards.   They became a couple and they met each other’s families, a nerve racking experience for both of them initially but in time both families accepted the relationship.   The following year they got married in a lavish ceremony thanks to their parents’ extravagance.

And now they were on their honeymoon in Algave, Portugal.  As they stood on the balcony of their room overlooking the beach and the royal blue waters, Russell put his arms around her waist and drew her against him.  “This is paradise,” he murmured.

“Yes,” she agreed and she owed it all to Gwen and Sharon, her bridesmaids and the best friends a girl could ever have.  Thanks to their persistence and encouragement, she was here in “paradise” with the guy she had been madly in love with since high-school.  She raised her glass.  “To Gwen and Sharon, the best friends a girl could ever ask for.”

Good Friends don’t come easy…Friends come and go..but Good Friends are Treasures you find..Treasures you keep! – Midge Gonzaga

 

Sources:  Wikihow; The Knot

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Zhen’s Dream

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Face pressed against the window, Zhen stared at the woman trying on the red shoes while her husband, in the expensive suit sat there.  One of these days, I’ll be like her, trying on fancy shoes in a fancy store and married to a man in a fancy suit.

“Daydreaming again?” an impatient voice asked.  It was Ming.  “When are you going to get it into your head that you won’t have the kind of life you’re dreaming about?  Which decent man’s going to marry you?”

“Do you know who that is?”

Ming stared at the woman in the store and shook her head.  “No.”

“That’s Shu.  She was one of us and now look at her.”

Ming gawked at Shu.  “Really?”

“Yes.  So, if she can do it, so can I.”

Just then, the door of the store opened and a voice yelled, “Go away.  We don’t want your kind of business here.”

“I’m going to have Shu’s kind of life one of these days,” Zhen vowed as they hustled away.

172 Words

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

Unfinished Business

When Irina, the managing editor of Eye on You, decided that it would be a great idea to dedicate a big chunk of the summer Issue to eligible bachelors, everyone jumped on the bandwagon.  The magazine was female skewed so they knew that their readers and subscribers would get a kick out of these, especially as they received many letters asking if they could feature stories on men who were looking for love.

After wading through scores of submissions from all over the world, they narrowed the entries down to twenty-five.  Sheree got the enviable job of interviewing the lucky ones that would be featured in Eye on You. Irina’s daughter, Carly, the magazine’s Photographer was to accompany her.

The interviews were to be done over a period of five days on the beautiful island of Jamaica.  In such an inviting and scenic backdrop, the men would be completely relaxed and open up to her.  She had no reason to believe that anything would go wrong.  The weather was pleasant—sunny every day and blue, cloudless skies.  She hadn’t been to the island since she moved to the United States with her parents when she was six years old.  She was looking forward to going although it was a working vacation.

Carly and she were to arrive a day before the bachelors whose expenses were paid by the magazine.  They were to scout the place to see where the interviews could be conducted without any interruptions or distractions and the locations where their photo shoots would be taken.  As they boarded the plane, they began to feel both Nervous and excited.  It wasn’t every day that they were going to interact with twenty-five gorgeous single men.

The men would have leisure time when they were not being interviewed or photographed but they were not allowed to fraternize with any of the female guests staying at the hotel.  It went without saying that Sheree and Carly could not get involved with any of them.  On the last evening there, they would have a celebratory dinner before parting ways. They were to each receive a complimentary copy of the summer issue of the magazine and other gifts, courtesy of Made for Men.

The hotel where they were staying was amazing and the staff was really quite friendly and helpful.  Sheree found quiet spots on the beach and around the hotel where she would do the Interviews and Carly was excited about the locales for her photo shoots.  After they finished getting ready for what would be a busy tomorrow, they spent a couple of hours on the beach before heading back to the hotel for dinner.

After dinner, they both decided that they would turn in early.  The next morning, Sheree got up bright and early and headed down to the café to have breakfast.  Carly joined her a few minutes later.  Over coffee, fruit, scrambled eggs and toast, they went over the day’s itinerary. There were going to be five interviews and five photo shoots–two in the morning and three in the afternoon.  While she interviewed the first Bachelor, Carly got busy taking photos of the other bachelor before his interview. The morning went very well and quickly.

Over lunch Sheree and Carly compared notes.  They both agreed that the two guys from Sweden and Brazil were really, really nice.  “I’m looking forward to meeting the guy from Australia,” Carly said.  “He’s absolutely gorgeous.  I can’t believe that he’s single.”

Sheree’s heart leapt at the mention of the one guy she couldn’t stop thinking about. “I’m looking forward to meeting him too.”

After Lunch, it was time to meet the bachelors from France, Argentina and Australia. The French guy was charming, the Argentinean was a little flirtatious and then it was the Australian’s turn.  Her heart thudded when she walked into the lobby where he was waiting for her.  He was tall and athletic and a sharp dresser in a white linen suit with a Royal blue silk shirt underneath.

The first thought that came to her mind when she saw him was that his picture didn’t do him justice.  She remembered how she had stared at it, unable to look away from those incredible eyes and face.  He was the one she had looked forward to meeting and interviewing but now that they were face to face, it was going to be a problem.  It was going to be hard to act professional with him when she found him so extremely attractive.

Taking a deep breath, she smiled and held out her hand.  “Hi, I’m Sheree Wilson.  I will be interviewing you, Mr. Jones.”

“Please call me Ryder.”  He shook her hand, his eyes meeting hers in a steady gaze.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sheree.”

The feel of his warm palm against hers sent all sorts of shivers up her spine.  And it took a moment before she could say, “We’ll be doing the interview in the gazebo”

He smiled, releasing her hand.  “Sounds good.”

She could feel him watching her as they made their way to the gazebo and it made her nervous and excited at the same time.  He waited until she was seated before he sat down.  When she crossed her legs, she noticed that his eyes dropped to them momentarily before returning to her face.  Clearing her throat, she began the interview.  “Why you’re still single?”

“I think it’s because I have a tendency to put my career before relationships.  I spend so much time and energy building up the marketing company that I haven’t had time to look.  My sister and some of my friends think I’m picky and they have tried to set me up on dates but I just couldn’t seem to find the time so they gave up until my sister saw your magazine’s search for eligible bachelors and she managed to convince me to send in a bio and photo and was thrilled when I got the call saying that I was one of the twenty-five chosen.  She took me out to celebrate.”

“What about you?  Were you thrilled that you were chosen out of more than one hundred entries?”

He shrugged.  “I guess I was.  It helped to put things in perspective.  Although I like being single, it would be nice to get back into the dating game and meet different types of women.”

“What are you looking for in a woman?”

“Well, I like a woman with character, someone who is genuine and real, who’s not afraid to be herself around me and doesn’t take herself or life too seriously.  She must be affectionate, intelligent, confident, ambitious and humble.  As you can see it’s not about looks for me.  For me true beauty is what’s on the inside.  What matters to me is who a woman is not how she looks.”

She tried not to show how impressed she was with his answer.  The other men she interviewed placed more emphasis on the woman’s looks.  “What is your dream date?”

“I would say, having dinner on the beach, watching the sun set over the ocean and then going for a walk, barefoot in the sand, holding hands.  And at the water’s edge, I take her in my arms and kiss her”

Was it getting a little hot in the gazebo?  She asked him more questions and then she got to the trivial ones.  “Which do you prefer?  Sports or Arts?”

“Both.  I love working out at the gym and playing soccer.  I enjoy going to museums and the opera—when I have time.”

“Boxers or briefs?”

“Boxers.”

“Are you kid or pet person?”

“Both.  I love kids.  I enjoy spoiling my nieces and nephew.  Rover, the family dog and I were thick as thieves.  I was devastated when he died.”

“One last question.  What is the one thing that you think women should know about men but don’t?”

“We like to snuggle too.”

“And that wraps up our interview.  Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.  It was a pleasure getting to know more about you.” She switched off the recorder, sorry that the interview had come to an end.  “I must admit that I enjoyed that very much.  And now, it’s time for you to go and see Carly for your photo shoot.”

“Do I have to go right now or could I take a five minute break?”

She glanced at her watch.  “I guess five minutes wouldn’t hurt.”

“How long have you been working at Eye on You?”

“About two and a half years.”

“Are you married?  Single?”

“I was married but my husband died in 2014.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.  If you don’t mind me asking, how did he die?”

“He was a surgeon in Sierra Leone where he was infected with the Ebola Virus.  When I got the call that he was being flown from Freetown in a specially equipped air ambulance for treatment at the Nebraska Medical Center, I made arrangements to take go there.  By the time he arrived in the United States his kidneys weren’t functioning and he was unresponsive.  The doctors worked really hard to save him but it was too late.  The disease was already in its advanced stages.  By the time I got there, he was dead so I never got a chance to say goodbye or tell him that I loved him.  A couple of weeks after the funeral, I sold our house in Maryland and moved to New York.”

“I’m so sorry for your loss.  Do you have any children?”

She shook her head.  “No.  He couldn’t because of an injury.  We talked about adopting, though.  He would have been a terrific father.”

“He died just four years ago which is still fairly recent.  I guess you still haven’t gotten over losing him.”

“I still miss him but my job keeps me busy and I have Friends who are always inviting me out somewhere.  I don’t think I would have fared well if I had remained in Maryland.  I couldn’t stay in the house because it seemed so empty without him.  I think moving to New York was the wisest thing to do.  It made the grief a little more bearable and each year it gets better.  He will always have a special place in my heart.”

“I wish we could stay here a while longer but I think my five minutes are up,” he said regretfully.

She glanced at her watch.  “You’re right.  I’d better take you to Carly now before she begins to wonder where you are.”

After putting her notes and recorder away in her bag, she stood up.  He got up too and for several minutes they stood there, just staring at each other before she walked past him.  He fell into step beside her.

“What are you going to do now?” he asked.

“I am going to interview the Italian guy and after him, the guy from Indonesia.”

“And afterwards?”

“I’ll probably relax by the pool or go up to my room and take a nap.”

He wanted to ask her to meet him for mock-tails after dinner but decided that it would be premature.  They had just met and she was still carrying a torch for her dead husband.  “I guess I won’t see you until tonight at dinner,” he said.

“I guess so,” she said.  She was looking forward to seeing him again.   They were in the lobby now and her next interview was waiting for her.  Turning to Ryder, she held out her hand.  “Thanks for an enjoyable interview.”

He clasped her hand, his eyes riveted to her face.  “It was my pleasure, Sheree,” he said quietly.

She swallowed hard, her heart racing.  “Enjoy the rest of the afternoon,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Thanks.  You too.”  He released her hand and after a lingering gaze, he turned and walked away.

She stood there until he disappeared from view before she went over to the Italian guy.  After introducing herself, she took him to the meeting room where they were to have their interview.  As they walked down the corridor, she couldn’t help thinking about Ryder and how much she was looking forward to seeing him again.

That night at dinner, she couldn’t help glancing surreptitiously over at the table where Ryder was and each time, she found him already looking at her.  There was an attraction there but nothing could come of it.  He was one of the bachelors which meant that under no circumstances could she become involved with him.

All through dinner, she tried to focus on what Carly was saying but she was aware of Ryder at the next table and found herself wishing that she could be alone with him.  Is it wrong for me to feel like this?  Am I betraying Alan and our life together by having feelings for another man—a man I just met today?

“A penny for your thoughts.”  Carly’s voice intruded upon her thoughts, startling her.  “You look like you were miles away.”

“I was just thinking about something.  It’s not important.”

“All right.  I won’t pry.  Do you feel up to going to the beach and watch some limbo dancing?”

Sheree shook her head.  “No, I think I will have an early night.”

“I’ll see you in the morning, then.  Have a good night.”

After dinner, she went up to her room and after spending several minutes on the patio, gazing out at the ocean, she went to bed.  It took a long time for her to fall asleep because all she could think about was Ryder.  She kept reliving the moment when they had stared at each other in the gazebo.  The look on his face…she closed her eyes, trembling at the memory.

She didn’t want to admit it but when she met Alan, she wasn’t attracted to him at first.  It wasn’t until she got to know him that she began to have feelings for him.  With Ryder it was different.  From the time she saw his photo, she was attracted to him and it got very intense when she met him face to face.  He stirred emotions in her that she had never experienced before and that terrified her.  She didn’t want to lose her head over a man she hardly knew or would never see again after this was over.  The best thing for me to do, she decided, is to stay clear of Ryder.  Easier said than done because the next morning, when she was got up early and went down to the beach, she bumped into him…

He was coming out of the ocean, dripping wet when she saw him and immediately, her heart began to pound and her mouth felt dry.  Unable to help herself, her gaze swept over his magnificent body clad in red swimming trunks.  His hair was glistening wetly in the light and rivulets of water were running down his broad chest and flat stomach.  “Good morning,” he called, startling her and her eyes flew up to his face.  “What a pleasant surprise.”

She tried to act nonchalant which required a lot of effort.  “Good morning.  Do-do you usually go for a swim this early?”

He was standing in front of her now and she saw the way his eyes traveled over her.  “Yes.  I like to come to the beach before it gets crowded.  It’s nice and quiet at this time.  How come you’re out here at this hour?”

She shrugged.  “I-I just wanted to take a walk before breakfast.”  She tried to keep her eyes fixed on his face.

He walked over to where his clothes lay in the sand and picked up his towel.  As he dried his skin, he walked back to where she was.  “I’ve never been to Jamaica before but I can see why a lot of my friends come.  It’s a beautiful island.”

“Yes, it is.  I was born here in Montego Bay before I moved to US with my parents when I was six years old.  This is the first time since I left that I have come back here.”

“How come you haven’t been back before now?”

“I have been so busy but I guess I wanted to see other places first.  Alan and I had planned to go on a cruise the following year after he returned from Sierra Leone.”

“I’m sorry that your husband’s untimely death left so many of your plans unfulfilled.”

“Me too.”

“Do you mind if I accompany you on your walk?”

She shook her head.  “No, I don’t mind at all.”  Surely, there was no harm in them going for a walk together.

He finished drying his skin and tossed the towel on the sand next to his clothes before they walked along the water’s edge.  “How did you meet your husband?”

“We met at a mutual friend’s wedding.  We sat at the same table at the reception and when we were the only two people left there because everyone had gone dancing, we struck up a conversation.  He was a nice man and when he asked me for my number I didn’t hesitate to give it to him.  We started going out and then a year and a half later, we got married.”

“Were you happy?”

“Yes.  We were happy.  He was a good man and husband.”

“Do you think you will find happiness with someone else?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Before you settled down, did you date a lot?”

She shook her head.  “No, I dated only five men.  They were all nice but I couldn’t see myself being married to any of them.  Over the years, I’ve met all sorts of men.  Some of them were great but I wasn’t attracted to them and others were only interested in one thing.  So, after my relationship with the fifth guy ended, I stopped looking and then I met Alan.”

“My sister has given up trying to find someone.  She told me that she broke up with the last guy because she couldn’t deal with his narcissism.   She felt like she was competing with his ego.”

Sheree laughed.  “Yes, I’ve met guys like that.  Tell her not to despair.  Somewhere out there is the man for her.”

They walked and talked some more and then it was time for her to head back to the hotel, have breakfast and get ready for the first interview of the morning.  When they were standing where his clothes were, he turned to her and asked, “Can we do this again tomorrow morning?”

She knitted her brow.  “Ryder, I don’t think—”

“Please,” he insisted.  “We will just walk and talk like we did today.  I enjoy your company, Sheree.”

“I enjoy yours too,” she admitted.  “All right.  I’ll meet you here tomorrow morning.  Have a good day.”

He smiled.  “Thank you.  You have yourself a good day too.”  He reached for his shirt and pulled it on.

After a lingering glance, she turned and walked away, feeling his eyes on her.  She couldn’t resist turning around to wave at him.  She was looking forward to being alone with him tomorrow morning.

They met the next morning and every morning after that.  Each time, he would be coming out of the ocean after a swim, dry himself off and then they would set off down the familiar stretch of beach where they usually went for their walks.  They talked about all sorts of things and she laughed at some of his stories about his family, friends and dates gone wrong.  She enjoyed being with him and looked forward to their morning meetings.

On the last morning before they were to leave the island, they went for their usual walk.  This time the mood was heavy.  After today, she was never going to see him again.  The reality of this thought filled her with despair and her feet dragged in the sand.  When he stopped and they stood there at the water’s edge, the water lapping at their feet, he turned to her, his expression tense.  “I’m going to miss this,” he said tightly.  “I’m going to miss our walks on the beach and our conversations.”

She swallowed hard, thankful that she was wearing sunglasses so that he couldn’t see her shiny eyes.  “I’m going to miss them too.”

“Sheree, you must know by now that I’m extremely attracted to you.”

She nodded.  It was no use pretending that she didn’t.  She could tell by the way he looked at and acted around her.  She was sure that her feelings for him were obvious to him too.  “Yes, I—I do.”

“And I know that you are attracted to me too.  I can tell from the way you look at me and I can feel it.  Oh, Sheree,” he moaned and reaching for her, he pulled her against him, his eyes darkening on her face.

Panicking, she struggled against him, her eyes wide as they met his.  “Ryder, please let go of me.”

His grip tightened as he tried to hold her still.  “Stop fighting something that is stronger than both of us.”

“Ryder, we can’t get involved with each other,” she protested weakly, her heart pounding heavily in her chest but the hands that were supposed to be pushing him away were gripping his shirt.  She watched, mesmerized as his face got closer to hers and her eyes fell shut when she felt his lips on hers, teasing them and tormenting her.

Desire surged through her like a wild fire and she was kissing him back like a mad woman.  They stood there exchanging hot, searing kisses for a long time before he broke it off to bury his face in her neck, breathing heavily.  She clung to him, trembling like a leaf and gasping for air.

After a few moments passed, he raised his head to gaze down at her.  “When this is all over, I want us to finish what we started,” he muttered thickly.

“But you’ll be in Sydney and I’ll be in New York.”

“As soon as I sort out my business back home, I’m taking the first available flight to New York.”

“You would fly all that way just-just to see me?”

“Yes!  I would fly to the end of the world if I had to.  Now that I’ve met you, I can’t let distance keep me from you.  I will come to you.”

“And I will be waiting.”

He bent his head and kissed her again before they continued walking along the beach, his arm around her shoulders and hers around his waist.  They parted ways on the beach and she was in her room when he left for the airport.  On the flight back to New York, she told Carly everything and she was thrilled.  “I suspected that there was something between you two,” she said.  “Don’t worry about Mom.  I will sort it out with her.  It won’t be the end of the world if we end up with twenty-four bachelors instead of twenty-five.”

Sheree squeezed her hand.  “Thanks, Carly.”

Carly smiled.  “I’m a romantic at heart.”

As soon as Sheree got home, she sent an email to Ryder letting him know that she had arrived safely and waited eagerly to receive a reply which came the following day.  Over the next several weeks, she busied herself putting together the feature in the magazine.  Initially, Irina wasn’t thrilled that they were minus a bachelor, especially, the hottest one, in her opinion but, she didn’t want to stand in the way of Sheree’s happiness.  Sheree learned that once Ryder had been notified that he wouldn’t be featured in the magazine, he reimbursed them for the travel and hotel expenses.

Ryder and she exchanged emails every day and occasionally spoke on the telephone.  It had been several weeks since they last saw each other and she kept wondering when he would eventually come to New York.  Weeks turned into months and still no sign of him although they kept in touch via email.

It was Christmas Eve and she was about to fix herself some lunch when the doorbell rang.  She dried her hands in the towel hanging on the oven handle and went to see who it was.  Her heart somersaulted when she peered out of the keyhole, bursting with excitement and joy, she unlocked the door and tugged it open.  Her eyes slipped eagerly over his tall frame in the black winter coat with the fur trimmed collar and hood.  “Hello,” she greeted him.

He smiled that smile which made her knees go weak, pulled her into his arms and kissed her.  “Sorry it took so long for me to come,” he said after a while.

“You’re here just in time to celebrate Christmas,” she said.  “Come in and warm yourself.”  She opened the door wider so that he could go in.  She took his coat and hung it up while he removed his shoes.

“Where’s your luggage?” she asked.

“I dropped it off at the corporate apartment where I will be staying before coming over here to see you.”

Taking his hand, she led him into the living-room and invited him to sit on the sofa.  “I was just about to have lunch.  Are you hungry?”

He nodded. “A little.  Do you know what time it is now in Sydney?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“It’s two in the morning.  We’re 14 hours ahead.  It’s one of the things I had to factor in my decision to move here.”

She gaped at him.  “Move here?”

“Yes.  I’m going to be living in New York now that I am the new Director of our office here.”

“When did you decide to move to New York?”

“On the morning we said goodbye on the beach.  I knew then that I couldn’t go back to my life in Sydney when the woman I wanted to be with was in New York.  So, I made all the necessary arrangements and here I am to finish what we started in Montego Bay.”

Her response was to put her arms around his neck and kiss him.  Two years later, their unfinished business ended in marriage and their honeymoon was in Montego Bay where it all began.

Sources:  The Guardian; Just Mommies; Prokerala; The Washington Post; The 416 Magazine; Elite Daily; Thought CatalogHalf Moon;

Convinced

When Tiffany walked into her flat and saw Sebastian standing by the window, to say that she was astonished to see him would have been a gross understatement.  He turned when he heard her, his gaze traveling over her slim figure in the short sleeve turquoise blouse and navy blue pencil skirt.

Ignoring the accelerated beating of her heart, she tossed her handbag on the sofa and going over to him, she demanded, “How did you get in?”

“Your room-mate let me in before she left.”

“I’m going to have a talk with her about whom she lets into the flat when I’m not here.”

His mouth tightened then.  “I will ignore that remark,” he muttered tightly.

“Why are you here?”

“I had to talk to you.”

“Let me guess.  You’re here to warn me to stay away from Elliot again.”

“That’s one of the reasons.”

“And what’s the other?”

“My mother asked me to give you this.”  He handed her a white envelope.

Curious, she took it and opened it.  It was an invitation to a dinner party next week Saturday.  She put it back in the envelope.  “Please thank her for me.”

“Are you going to come?”

“Would you prefer if I didn’t?”

“Whether you come or not doesn’t matter to me,” he retorted.

That stung and she turned away.  “Yes, you can tell your mother that I will be there.”

“Now about Elliot…”

“Why are you so bent out of shape about our relationship?”

“I’m not bent out of shape as you so eloquently put it.  I just don’t think that you’re suitable for each other.”

“And what makes you an authority on who is compatible and who is not?”

“Experience.”

“So, you’re basing your misgivings about Elliot and me on your failed relationships?”

“My past relationships are not the issue here, your relationship with my brother is.”

“Well, my relationship with your brother is none of your business.”

He glanced around.  “It feels like a sauna in here,” he said, removing his jacket and placing it on the window seat so that he could loosen the top button of his shirt.  “Don’t you have air conditioning?”

He was right.  It was hot in there.  She tried not to notice how snug the rather expensive looking light blue shirt was snug against his broad chest as she walked past him to the wall where the panel for the air-conditioner was and turned it on.  “Are you satisfied now?” she quipped when she rejoined him by the window.

He glowered at her.  “Very.  Now, back to the main reason why I came here today—”

“You’re wasting your time,” she informed him crossly.  “I will not end my relationship with Elliot because of you.  Now, if you don’t mind, I would like to unwind after a very busy day at the office.”

“Do you love him?” He asked abruptly, startling her.

“Yes, I love him.”

“I’m not convinced,” he said, much to her chagrin.

Raising her chin, her eyes flashing, she retorted, “I don’t care if you’re convinced or not.” When she would have turned away, he caught her by the arm, forcing her to look up at him.  Their eyes met and held for several tense minutes during which she hear herself breathing heavily or was that him?  Her heart was racing and panicking, she tried to pull her arm away but his grip was firm.  “Let go of me.”

“Not until you convince me that you love my brother,” he muttered tightly, his eyes stormy as they met her wide ones.

“Let go of me or I will scream,” she threatened.

Instead of letting her go, he pulled her closer.  His eyes dropped to her lips where they lingered for a tantalizing moment before returning to her face.  “Go ahead and scream,” he dared her.

Stumped, she could only stare at him.  Just then, the doorbell rang.  He released her arm and she practically ran past him to answer the door.  She fumbled with the latch and jerked the door open.  Elliot stood there grinning but he frowned when he saw her face.  “What’s the matter?” he asked.

“Your brother’s here,” she explained as she grabbed his arm and pulled him inside.

“Sebastian’s here?” he exclaimed.  “How come?”

“He–he dropped by to give me an invitation to your mother’s dinner party on Saturday.”

“Oh.  That was nice of him, I guess.  Well, I’m here to take you out to dinner and a movie—if you’re up to it.”

“Actually, I just got in from work and was planning to spend a quiet evening.”

“Would you like me to leave then?”

“No!” she cried, panicking.  “Please stay.  We can order in pizza or Thai while we watch a movie.”

“What about Sebastian?”

“He was just about to leave.  Why don’t call one of the take out numbers beside the phone while I get rid of him?”

Shrugging, Elliot did as she asked while she hurried into the living room.  Sebastian was standing where she left him.  She went over to him but not too close.  “Elliot is here,” she informed him tightly.  “He and I are going to have take-out and watch a movie.”

His expression darkened.  “I thought you said that you were going to unwind.”

“I do—”

“I got the impression that you wanted to unwind alone.”

“I changed my mind.  Now, if you don’t mind—”

“Don’t worry, I’m leaving.  I wouldn’t want to ruin your plans with Elliot.”  He strode over to grab his jacket from the window seat and then he left the living-room.  She followed him.

Elliot was on the phone but he covered the mouthpiece to say hello to his brother who acknowledged him with a withering look before he turned to Tiffany and bidding her a rather curt, “Good evening.”  He tugged open the door and stepped out, closing it firmly behind him.  After locking it, she leaned against it, trying to get catch her breath.

Elliot hung up the phone and went over to her.  “The food will be here in about twenty minutes,” he told her.  “What’s the matter?  Did I miss something?  Why did Sebastian leave in such a hurry?”

“I’ll tell you after I get changed,” she muttered before moving away from the door and hurrying off to the bedroom.

It was while they were having the Thai food that she told him everything that had happened between Sebastian and her.  Elliot whistled.  “No wonder he stormed out of here.  Tiff, why did you let him think that you’re in love with me when he’s the one you’re in love with?”

“I don’t know.  I guess I was upset with him because of some of the things he said.

“Well, my advice to you is that you tell him how you really feel.”

She shook her head.  “No way,” she protested.  “I can’t do that when I don’t know how he feels about me.”

Elliot stared at her.  “You’re kidding, right?”

She looked bewildered.

“Tiff, Sebastian’s in love with you, that’s why he’s so bent out of shape over our relationship.”

“But he said he wasn’t bent out of shape.”

“He said a lot of things but his actions said differently.  And you and I both know that if I didn’t show up when I did, things would have gotten hot and steamy between you.  Now, my advice to you is to go and see him.  Tell him how you feel.”

“No, I’m not going to do that.  After the way I treated him tonight he’s not going to want to see me and I’m not going over there and embarrass myself.”

“All right,” he said.  “I won’t press you anymore on this.  Let’s watch the movie.”

Two hours later, Elliot stood outside of Sebastian’s flat.  He rang the doorbell.  Shortly after, the door opened and his brother stood there, scowling at him.  “What do you want?” he asked.

“I know it’s late but I need to talk to you and I’d rather not do it out here.”

Sebastian opened the door wider for him to go in.  After he closed it and locked it, he turned around to face him.  “What do you have to say to me that couldn’t wait until tomorrow?”

“It’s about Tiffany.”

Sebastian stiffened at once.  “What about her?” he asked tautly.

“You’re in love with her, aren’t you?”

“Is that why you’re here, Elliot, to gloat?”

“Gloat?”

“Yes.  You came here to gloat because I love Tiffany and she loves you.”

“You’re mistaken about two things.  I didn’t come here to gloat and Tiffany isn’t in love with me.”

“I asked her if she loved you and she said yes.”

“She loves me, yes, but as a friend–nothing more.  She made you believe otherwise because she was upset with you.  Besides, she said that you weren’t convinced that she was telling the truth.”

“I didn’t want to believe that she was.  I didn’t want to believe that she loved you.”

“Well, you can rest assured that she doesn’t love me in a romantic way.   Besides, if one of us has something to gloat about it would be you.”

Sebastian looked confused and then it dawned on him.  “You mean…?”

Elliot nodded with a grin.  “Yes, Brother, Tiffany’s in love with you.”

Sebastian ran his fingers through is hair, a stunned expression on his face.  “I had no idea,” he said.  “Earlier when she and I were alone together, I suspected that she might be attracted to me but I never imagined that she was in love with me.”

“Well, now that you know, what are you going to do about it?”

“I’ll go and see her tomorrow evening.”

“Good.  I’ll be taking off now.  Have a good night, Sebastian.”  He patted his arm before turning to unlock and open the door.

“Goodnight, Elliot,” Sebastian said with a smile.  “Thanks for stopping by.”  After he closed the door, he went straight to bed, although he knew that sleep would elude him.  His mind was racing.  Tomorrow, he was going to see Tiffany and confront her about their feelings for each other.  His heart skipped a beat at the thought.

Tiffany had just finished taking a shower and changed into a tee shirt and slacks when the doorbell rang.  Frowning, she went to answer it and like clockwork, her heart began to race when she saw who it was.  She opened the door.  Her gaze slipped over his tall frame, thinking how amazing he looked in the black silk shirt and black trousers.

“Hello,” he said quietly.

“Hello,” she replied as she stepped aside for him to enter the foyer.  When he walked past her, she caught a whiff of his aftershave.  Her hands trembled slightly as she closed the door and locked it.  When she turned to face him, their eyes met and held for a long time.  She could tell that he was nervous too.  “Before you say anything, I want to apologize for my behavior yesterday.”

“I owe you an apology too.  It was very presumptuous of me to interfere in your life.”

“When you asked me if I loved Elliot and I said yes, I panicked when you said that you weren’t convinced.  I thought you had seen right through my little white lie.”

“I said that because I didn’t want to believe that you were in love with him.”

“You-you refused to let go of my arm unless I convinced you that I didn’t love Elliot.  How were you going to get me to do that?”

“By doing this,” he muttered and reaching out, he pulled her against him and his mouth found hers.

Unable to help herself, Tiffany put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.  They stood there, kissing each other wildly, consumed with desire.  Then, she broke off their kiss to ask rather breathlessly, “Are you convinced now that I don’t love Elliot?”

“Yes,” he muttered thickly.  “No woman would kiss a man the way you just did if she were in love with someone else.”

“You’re right about that,” she managed to say before he kissed her again.

 

 

 

Love Stands No Doubts

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

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

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

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

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

“But how did—?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You and he were once in a relationship.”

“I know but–”

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

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

“Why not?” he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

She nodded.  “See you tomorrow.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

She shook his hand.  “Jessie Moore.”

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

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

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

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

“Do you live with your parents?”

“No, I live on my own.”

“Do you live far from here?”

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

“What about you?”

“I live in Canary Wharf.”

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

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

“What kind of work do you do?”

“I’m a High Court judge.”

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

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

“What sorts of cases do you preside over?”

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

“Do you like what you do?”

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

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

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

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

“How old are you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Getting Away

He had just walked out of the synagogue when he saw them.  Arrested, he stood there watching Brittney with her ex-boyfriend, Andre, his heart breaking.  Burning jealousy swept through him.  They were standing a few yards away but she didn’t see him.

His sister, Anna joined him, saw his face and followed his gaze to where the couple stood talking.  Then, she looked back at him, concerned.  “Who is she?” she asked.

It took a moment for him to speak because he was so upset.  “Brittney.”

“Is she a friend of yours?”

“Yes.”  He turned away, unable to watch them any longer.  He started walk away and Anna followed him.

“Are you in love with her?”

“Yes.”

“Does she know how you feel?”

“No.”

“Are you going to tell her?”

“What’s the point?” he snapped.  “She doesn’t feel the same way.”

“How do you know that?”

“We just saw her with Andre, her ex.  It’s clear that she hasn’t gotten over him and I was a fool to believe that she had.”

“Oh, Paul, I’m so sorry.  What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know.  I need time to think.”

“Why don’t you go to Paris for a few days?  You haven’t taken a vacation in ages.  You’re long overdue for one.”

He glanced down at her.  “You’re right,” he said.  “I need to get away and try to figure out what I’m going to do.  If I stay here in London, I will be tempted to go to her and I can’t bear to see her right now.  It hurts too much.”  A muscle began to throb along his jawline and he quickly turned away.

Anna reached for his hand and held it tightly.  It hurt to see her brother like this.  He was a brilliant businessman but when it came to matters of the heart, he lacked good judgment.  This wasn’t the first time a woman broke his heart but it seemed that he fell really hard for this one.  Hopefully, he would get over her as soon as possible.  He deserved better.  The trip to Paris would do him good.  She went back to his flat with him and while he changed, she got his lunch ready.  She had just put a plate of food she had prepared yesterday and brought on the table for him when the phone rang.

“Do you mind answering that for me?” he called from the bedroom.

“Hello?” she listened for a moment.  “No, you have the right number.  This is Anna speaking.  Hold one moment, please.”  She placed her hand over the mouthpiece.  “It’s Brittney,” she said when he came into the living-room.

He shook his head, indicating that he didn’t want to talk to her.

“I’m afraid he’s not available at the moment.  Perhaps he will call you back later.  Goodbye.”  She replaced the receiver into the cradle and turned to look at him.  “Are you sure you don’t want to talk to her?”

He shook his head.  “I can’t right now.  I need to clear my head first.  I’ll call her when I come back from Paris.”

“All right.  Do you need me for anything?”

He smiled.  “No, Anna.  I’ll be fine.  You should go home to Peter and the kids.  I will call you tomorrow when I check into the hotel.”

She hugged him tightly.  “I love you,” she said drawing back to look up at him.

“I love you too.  And thanks for the food.”  He followed her to the door and they said goodbye.  He shut the door and leaned against it for a moment.  Why did Brittney call him? Was it to tell him that she was back with Andre.  He closed his eyes in despair.  It would kill him if she was.

Brittney stared at the phone, her mind swirling with all sorts of thoughts and questions.  A woman named Anna had answered Paul’s phone.  Who was she?  Red, hot jealousy surged through her and she was tempted to go over to his place right now and find out.  Then, she remembered that he had a sister and her name was Anna.  Relief washed over her.  Paul wasn’t seeing another woman.  But why hadn’t he come to the phone?  She looked at the clock above the mantelpiece, debating whether she should call again or wait for him to call.  It was after seven.  She decided that she would let him call her.  In the meantime, she fixed herself a light dinner and ate it in front of the television.

When ten o’clock came and she still hadn’t heard from him, she began to worry.  It wasn’t like him not to call.  It was too late for her to call him.  She would have to wait until the morning to do so.  Disappointed, she turned off the television and went to bed.

The next morning, she got up, showered, dressed and had breakfast.  After she was done, she hurried to the phone and called Paul but there was no answer.  When the machine came on, she left a message.  She went to church and as soon as she got home, she called but still no answer.  She tried his cell but it was turned off.  She tried all day calling both his home number and his cell until finally, in the evening, she decided to go over to his flat.  She rang the bell and knocked but it was clear that Paul wasn’t there.  Where could he be?  After standing there for a while, she left.  She was worried and had a restless night.

The next morning, she called him but got the same results.  She got ready for work.  On her way to the office, she called his cell but it was still turned off.  Intermittently, throughout the day, she tried to reach him but to no avail and by the time the workday was over, she was very anxious.  Why wasn’t he answering his phone and why hadn’t he called her back? When she got home, she decided that she would call his sister.  She took out the phone directory and searched for her name. She remembered that Paul said that she lived in South Kensington, twenty minutes from where he lived and that she was married to Peter Goldstein, the reporter from the Times.  She searched under Goldstein and found the number.

A woman answered and she recognized her voice.  “Hello, Anna, this is Brittney.  I spoke to you yesterday evening when I called for Paul.  Do you know where he is?  I have been trying since Saturday to reach him.  I’m out of my mind with worry.”

“Hello Brittney.  Paul is in Paris.”

“Paris?” Brittney exclaimed.  “What is he doing there?  Is he there on business?”

“No.  He needed to get away.”

“What did he need to get away from?” she asked, bewildered.  “It’s not like him to go away and not tell me.  And he didn’t return my call on Saturday.  Is-is he seeing someone?”

“No.  He went to Paris alone.  Brittney, I was with him on Saturday when he came out of the synagogue and saw you with Andre.  It upset him so much that I suggested that he should take a break and go to Paris.”

“Oh no,” Brittney groaned.  “He saw me with Andre and thought—”

“That you were back with him.  He was devastated.  I probably shouldn’t even be telling you this but Paul is in love with you.”

“And I’m in love with him.  I have been for a long time.”

“He thinks that you’re still in love with Andre.”

“I’m over Andre.  I have been for a long time now and it’s because of Paul.  Meeting Paul and his friendship has changed my life.  And seeing Andre again made me realize that the feelings I had for him are nothing compared to my feelings for Paul.  Andre wanted us to pick up where we left off but I told him that I was in love with someone else.  I wished him well and then, I walked away.  My past with Andre is over and done with.  My future is with Paul.  Anna, please tell me where he’s staying.  I want to go to him.”  Her life felt so empty without him.  She missed him so much it ached.  How she longed to be with him.

There was a brief moment of silence and then, Anna told her the name of the hotel where he was staying.  After Brittney thanked her profusely, she said, “I’m very relieved to know that you love my brother and I wish you two all the happiness in the world.”

Brittney thanked her again and rang off.  She quickly called the office and informed her assistant that she was taking the rest of the week off.  Then, she dialed the number to book the first available flight for the following day to Paris.  She packed a bag, her heart thudding with excitement.  She was going to see Paul in a matter of hours.  I can’t wait to see him.

Paul stood on the terrace looking at the city bathed in the crimson glow of the setting sun, wishing she was there with him.  “Oh, Brittney,” he whispered brokenly, dragging his fingers through his hair as he ached for her.  Paris was a city for lovers.  If only Brittney and he were lovers instead of just friends.  If only she were with him instead of Andre…

Frustrated, he went back into the room and was going over to the bed to lie down when he heard a knock on the door.  Frowning, he went to answer it.  Opening it he was startled to see Brittney standing there, luggage in tow.   He blinked, thinking he was imagining things.  She couldn’t possibly be here in Paris.  Then, she said, “Hello Paul.” She reached up and touched his face, her gaze almost a caress.

He eyes darkened and he caught her hand to draw her into the room.  “What are you doing here?” he asked when he had closed the door and was facing her.

“I had to come.  I called your sister and she told me where you were.  I had been calling for you since Saturday but when I couldn’t reach you, I got really worried.  I went by your flat but you weren’t there so when I got home.  I called your sister on Monday and we spoke for a while.  She told me that you were here in Paris and explained why.  You saw me with Andre.”

His expression became drawn at the memory.  “When I saw you with him, I felt as if someone had pushed their hand into my chest and ripped out my heart.”

She moved closer to him.  “I’m so sorry that you saw us,” said, wringing her hands.  “It wasn’t at all what you thought.  Andre wanted to resume our relationship but I told him that I was in love with someone else.”

“And what did he say?” he asked as he moved closer, his heart pounding.

“Nothing but I wished him well and walked away.”

“So, it’s over between him and you.”

“Yes and it has been over for a long time now.”

He was standing right in front of her now, their bodies inches apart.  Wordlessly, he pulled her against him and his head lowered towards hers.

She watched transfixed as his face drew closer to hers, her gaze dropped to his mouth.  Her eyes closed as waves of indescribable pleasure undulated through her body when she felt his lips brush against her.  Putting her arms around his neck, she responded passionately to his kisses.  They stood there in the room in the dappled shade of the setting sun as it streaked through the windows, exchanging feverish kisses.

“I love you,” he muttered when at length, he raised his head to gaze down into her upturned face.  “I love you so very much.”

She smiled at him.  “I love you too,” she told him.  “That’s what I came to Paris to tell you.”

“It’s funny but just a few minutes ago, I was wishing that you were here with me in the City of lovers and then you show up.”

“Yes.  You came to Paris to get away from me and here I am.”

“Yes, here you are.  I never want us to be apart again.  It was foolish of me to think that coming here would help in some way.  I missed you so much even when I thought you had gone back to him.”

“Let’s not think about when we were apart but enjoy being together now,” she suggested huskily.  “We are in the city of love so let’s do what lovers do.”

“Yes,” he whispered and picked her up in his arms.