Affairs of the Heart

When Bianca went out on to the balcony of her friend Connie’s spacious flat, she was pleasantly surprised to see Chandler sitting there.  He looked so elegant although he was dressed very casually in a tan colored jacket, denim shirt and jeans.  The brown belt he wore matched the spiffy shoes she saw on the mat by the front door.  He was so handsome, she thought, her eyes eagerly drinking in each feature—the thick, silky dark hair, the incredible light grey eyes, olive skin and his lips…She started when she realized that she was staring.

For his part, he was staring at her too.  “It’s good to see you, Bianca,” he said as he got up and went over to her.  He put his arms around her and hugged her.  She hugged him back, closing her eyes and breathing in his fragrance.  He smelled so good.  It felt so wonderful being in his arms and held closely against him.  She put hers around his waist and wished that they could stay like that for a long while.  But just then, Connie’s voice reached them and Chandler drew back, releasing Bianca, his expression tense as he looked at her.  He moved away from her and stood leaning against the rail with his hands shoved in his pockets, a muscle pulsating along his jawline as he watched Connie approach.

Bianca sat down in the chair closest to her, her legs trembling.  She had to pull herself together before Connie saw her.  It was a hug between two friends but there was something else.  She felt it and sensed it.  At one point, she felt his arms tighten around her and his face in her hair.  What would have happened if Connie hadn’t been there?

She joined them now, her gaze going immediately to Chandler, her regard for him very evident on her face.  Then she turned to Bianca, her expression changing.  She doesn’t seem very pleased to see me, Bianca realized in surprise.  Perhaps it is because I didn’t call to tell her that I was coming over.

“Bianca, what are you doing here?” she asked.

Bianca got up from the chair, feeling a little embarrassed now.  “I’m sorry I didn’t call before I popped over but it was when I was on the tube, that I decided I would stop by your flat and ask you if you wanted to go with me to the Jazz concert in Chelsea.  It’s free and it sounds like fun.”

Connie shook her head at once.  “No thank you, Bianca.  I will pass.  Besides, I have already made plans.  Chandler and I will be spending the afternoon together.”

Chandler spoke up, “The Jazz concert sounds like a good idea.”

Connie pursed her lips.  “Jazz gives me a headache.  I prefer to go somewhere less crowded and I know the perfect place.  Well, Bianca, I guess you had better be heading off to your concert.  Call me later and let me know how it was.”

Bianca got up from the chair, wishing now she hadn’t bothered to come but then, she wouldn’t have seen Chandler.  Her eyes sought him and her heart lurched when she found him looking at her.   She went over to him and said, “It was good seeing you as usual, Chandler.”

“I hope we see each other again soon,” he replied.  And he reached out and caught her hand.  From where Connie stood she couldn’t see what he was doing but it was all Bianca could do to keep her composure.  It was hard when his thumb was caressing the back of her hand, stirring up all sorts of sensations.  The expression on his face made her mouth go dry. His light grey eyes were dark and stormy.  It was so obvious that he was attracted to her.  And it must be obvious to him that she was attracted to him too.  What about Connie?  Her gaze shifted to her friend and was mortified when she saw the hostility and jealousy in her countenance.  Yes, Connie had noticed the attraction between Chandler and her.

“I’d better go,” Bianca murmured looking away.  “I don’t want to be late for the concert.”

He released her hand with some reluctance and watched as she hurried past Connie. They heard the door close.  “You were a bit rude to her,” he said with some displeasure.

Connie glared at him.  “I saw the way you were looking at her,” she cried.  “You want her don’t you?  Well, you are wasting your time.”

He frowned.  “What do you mean?”

“She has a boyfriend.”

He grew pale.  “Are you sure?” he asked.

“Of course, I’m sure.  His name is Darnell.”

Chandler ran his fingers agitatedly through his hair.  “I had no idea,” he said in disbelief.

“Well, now you know.”

Chandler turned away and his hands gripped the rail as bitter disappointment filled him.  He closed his eyes but they soon opened when he saw Bianca’s face and remembered the look on her face when he was caressing her hand.  She could not have been in any doubt that I have feelings for her, he thought, and I could tell that she has feelings for me too but how could I pursue a relationship with her when she’s already in one? What a wretched business this thing called love is. He swung round to face Connie.  “I’m afraid I will have to cancel our plans,” he told her.

Connie stared at him in dismay.  “But, why?” she cried.

“I don’t feel up to going anywhere now,” he said simply.  “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“You’re cancelling on me because of Bianca?” she demanded.  “I knew her showing up here unexpectedly today was going to be a problem.   Now what am I going to do for the rest of the afternoon?”

“I’m sorry, Connie.  I’ll take a rain check.”  He walked past her and a few minutes later the door closed behind him.

Her face beet red, Connie marched into the living room, took up a vase of flowers and threw it on the floor.

Bianca sat at the concert, oblivious to the turmoil she was causing elsewhere.  Her mind and attention were not on the smooth sounds she was hearing but on Chandler.  This was the first time Connie and she wanted the same man.   They had been friends since high school but that friendship was in serious jeopardy now.  She would never forget the look on Connie’s face when she saw the attraction between Chandler and her.  Bitter resentment and jealousy marred her features.  She wondered what happened after she left.

She left the concert feeling that it was a waste of an afternoon.  When she got home, she was surprised to hear a message from Connie on her answering machine.  It said, “Well, Bianca, I hope you’re happy.  Chandler canceled our plans.  I can’t imagine why.  I saw the way you were looking at him.  If you want to remain my friend, you will forget about Chandler and set your sights on someone else.  Goodbye.”

Bianca stared at the machine.  All this time she thought Chandler and Connie were spending the afternoon together.  As she removed her jacket, she couldn’t help wondering why the sudden change of plans.  Connie didn’t seem to know or if she did, she wasn’t saying.  Perhaps, something unexpected came up and Chandler had to be somewhere else.  Whatever the reason, she couldn’t deny that she was relieved that they weren’t together now.  I wonder when I will see him again.  Then, she reproached herself for thinking such thoughts.  I must forget about him.  Connie met him first and they are more suitable for each other.  They are from the same pedigree.  I’m way out of my league.  What he feels for me may just be a physical attraction—nothing more.” The thought that his interest in her might just be purely sexual hurt but she had to be sensible about this. 

So that very day, she resolved to stay away from Chandler, not only because Connie requested it but to spare herself any heartbreak.  For the next several weeks, she avoided the usual crowd where she was sure to run into him.  She and Connie met for lunch once and she heard nothing but how much time Chandler and her friend were spending with each other.  She had to sit there and listen to Connie talk about how amazing Chandler looked in his swimming trunks and how wonderful it felt when he put sunscreen on her back.  “His hands felt so good on my skin,” she said, her eyes almost glazed over at the memory.  Bianca smiled but inside she was hurting.  The jealousy stabbed at her like a knife.  After that lunch, whenever Connie wanted them to meet up again, she always found an excuse not to.  She wasn’t going to sit there and listen to Connie talk  incessantly about her relationship with Chandler.

During the day, it was easy to occupy her mind but in the nights, her thoughts were filled with him, wondering if he ever thought about her.  Nothing had changed for her. She still loved and wanted him and it pained her to no end.  She lay awake for hours before drifting off into a fitful sleep.  How she longed to get away—go somewhere far but she knew that it wouldn’t make a difference.  No place existed where she could go and forget about Chandler.

One night, she was lying on the sofa, watching the television but not paying attention.  It was just background noise.  The doorbell rang and she sat up, wondering how it was.  She hoped it wasn’t Connie.  She really wasn’t in the mood for one-sided conversations.  She got up from the sofa and went to the door.  Her eyes widened and her heart somersaulted when she saw Chandler standing there.  How on earth did he find out where she lived?  It couldn’t have been from Connie.  She would never do that.

Taking a deep breath, she opened the door, her heart pounding.  How good he looked in the black shirt and dark blue jeans.  His face looked drawn and it seemed to her that he had lost a little weight.  Alarmed, she asked, “You’re not ill, are you?”

He shook his head.  “No, I’m not ill,” he told her.  “It’s nice to know that you still care.”

She stared at him, looking confused.  “What do you mean?”

“Each time Connie told me she saw you, I asked if you inquired after me and she said no.”

“She never gave me a chance.  All she talked about was your relationship and all the great things you were doing together.”

“We don’t have a relationship.  I admit that I tried to get forget you with her and she was quite willing to help.  One night at her flat after dinner, we started to get undressed—“

Bianca turned away, agitated.  “I don’t want to hear this,” she cried as the pain and jealousy tore through her.

He moved so that he was standing in front of her, his eyes dark and tormented.  “I thought that making love to her would get you out of my system,” he muttered tightly.  “But, I couldn’t go through with it. When I was kissing her, all I could see was your face.  I put my shirt back on and ran out of there as if the devil were chasing me.  I haven’t been in touch with Connie since.  This was about a month ago.  These past few weeks have been hell for me, Bianca.  I can’t stop thinking about you and wanting you.  I tried to stay away out of respect for Darnell but I had to see you one last time.”

She looked at him then, “Darnell?” she repeated.  “What do mean out of respect for him?”

“You have no idea how much the mere sound of his name torments me,” Chandler told her, his eyes were haunted as they met hers.  “Ever since I found out about him, I haven’t stopped thinking about how lucky he is to have an exceptional woman like you.  Many times I have wished that I could trade places with him.”

She was really confused now.  “What are you talking about, Chandler? “

He looked frustrated now.  “I’m talking about Darnell,” he muttered tightly.  “Connie told me about him.”

“What exactly did Connie tell you about my brother?”

He stared at her as if he hadn’t heard correctly.  “Darnell is your brother?”

“Yes.  He’s my older brother who lives in Manchester with his wife, my niece and nephew.  What did Connie tell you about him?”

He muttered something under his breath, his expression thunderous.  “She told me that he was your boyfriend.”

“My boyfriend?” she was aghast.  “Why would she do that?”

“No doubt, she did it out of jealousy.  She knew how I felt about you so she wanted to make sure that nothing would come of it.   It never occurred to me that she was lying.  All this time, I thought you were in a relationship and that drove me mad because I wanted you so much.”

“Chandler, is it just desire you feel for me?” she asked warily.

He shook his head and she could see the sincerity in his eyes as he answered, “No.  I feel a deep and consuming love for you, Bianca.  I have never experienced love before but I know that what I feel for you real.”

She reached up and touched his face, her eyes filled with the love which burned in her heart.  “I love you, Chandler.  I tried to get over you because of my friendship with Connie and because I was afraid of getting hurt.  I wasn’t sure that your feelings for me were more than physical.”

He lowered his head to kiss her.  She closed her eyes when she felt his warm lips on hers and her arms went around his waist, holding him closely against her.  They exchanged hungry kisses and then he raised his head to gaze down in her face.  “I love you, Bianca but as much as I am dying to show you how much, I think we should wait.”

She nodded.  “Why don’t we go for a walk in the park,” she suggested.  “It’s safer and it looks lovely outside.”

He smiled.  “Okay.  And we can stop somewhere and have a bit to eat as well.”

A couple weeks later they got engaged and after six months of trying to abstain from lovemaking, they got married.  Connie was not invited.  Bianca’s friendship with her ended the day when she found out about the lie she told Chandler.

They spent their honeymoon in Sorrento.  On the first night there, they went for a walk after dinner, holding hands and strolling through the little streets lined on both sides with shops.  They walked to a quiet spot where they stood watching the silent and looming Mount Vesuvius in the distance and the setting sun as it hovered over the Bay of Naples.  They sat on the bench for a little while just enjoying the pleasant evening and the view.  Then, they bought two gelati and ate them on the way back to the hotel.

As soon as they got back to their room, Chandler picked Bianca up and carried her over to the bed.  “Now, I finally get to show you how much I love you,” he murmured, his eyes darkening on her face.

She reached up and pulled his head down to hers, thinking no one else in the world could be as blissfully happy as she was at that very moment.

 

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The Studio

“You don’t have to be a genius to see that this relationship will not last,” commented Marie as she and Caitlin sat in the corner of a trendy restaurant in the fashionable district of Chelsea.  It was celebratory dinner party for the opening of Ava’s boutique in the area.  She had invited Marie, her sister-in-law who had in turn invited Rachel.  They were sitting having non-alcoholic drinks after a delicious dinner while the others were on the dance floor.

Marie’s remark was directed at Ava and her boyfriend, Reid, a businessman/artist.  They had been dating for less than a year now.  They were dancing but he seemed a bit uncomfortable.   Clearly, he didn’t like the public display of affection but Ava didn’t seem to care.  This was her way of letting the other women know that he was not available.

As Rachel watched them, she couldn’t deny that they made a very attractive couple.  Ava had thick dark brown hair that tumbled down in unruly waves down her tanned back.  She looked absolutely stunning in the strapless fuchsia dress.  Several male eyes were on her but she only had eyes for Reid.  Rachel’s gaze shifted to Reid.  He was tall and very attractive.  He looked amazing in the navy blue striped suit, navy blue shirt and matching tie.  His thick dark brown hair was neatly combed as usual.

She remembered the first time she met Reid.  It was at a mutual friend’s place.  It was early autumn and as she came out of the cottage to go for a walk in the gardens, she noticed him standing among stalks of wheat which seemed rather out of place to her.  She expected the grounds to be covered in green grass and surrounded by trees with changing colors.  He was wearing a blue sweater over a checkered shirt and dark blue trousers.  He didn’t notice her at first as she stood there just staring at him and thinking that he was drop dead gorgeous.  Then, he turned his head slightly to the right and their eyes met.

Then, he went over to her, his eyes never leaving her face.  She was wearing a black and white striped shirt and black pants.  She hoped her hair looked fine.  He held out his hand.  “Hello, I’m Reid,” he said.

She smiled as he clasped her hand.  “Rachel.”  After he released her hand, she folded her arms.  She saw the way his eyes slipped over her before they settled on her face again.

“Do you have a jacket?” he asked.  “It’s a bit cool today.”

“It’s inside with my handbag,” she said. “I came out to go for a walk and forgot how cool it was.  I’ll go quickly and get it.”  She went back to the house and when she went back, he was standing where she had left him.

“Do you mind if I join you?” he asked.

She shook her head, smiling.  “I would like the company,” she said.

“Did you come alone?”

“Yes,” she turned to look at him as they headed for the gardens.  “Did you?”

“I came with Ava.”

“Ava Parker?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know her?”

“Not very well.  She’s my friend Marie’s sister-in-law.”

“Yes, I have met Marie.  A very pleasant woman.”

As they walked he asked her questions about herself.  She learned that he met Ava at a gallery where his artwork was on display.  She suddenly stopped and stared at him.  “Are you Reid Faulkner?” She asked.

He nodded with a smile.

“I’ve seen some of your paintings and they are amazing.  They are so real.  My favorite so far is of the homeless young girl.  You did it in black and white.  It was beautiful and haunting at the same time.  It’s now hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in London.”

“I like to paint about current issues,” he said.  “I’m more into realism than the other forms of art like impressionism and romanticism.”

“You captured the sadness in her eyes, the dirty fingernails and the hopelessness of her situation.  Whatever became of her?”

“She’s in a homeless shelter for the youth now.  When she learned that her portrait was in the gallery, she was over the moon.”

“That’s great.  How do you do it—your painting, I mean?”

“I sketch and then, I paint.  I don’t have to have the person pose for me.”

They continued walking and then they decided to head back to the cottage.  When they got there, Ava was waiting in front and as soon as she saw them, she hurried over to Reid.  “There you are,” she exclaimed, slipping her arm in his.  “I was wondering where you had gone off to.  Oh, hello, Rachel,” she said, her green eyes shifting to her and pursing her lips.  The displeasure on her face was unmistakable.  She tugged gently on Reid’s arm.  “There’s someone I’d like you to meet.  Excuse us, Rachel.”

Reid barely got to give Rachel a backward glance before he was whisked away.  They hadn’t had a moment alone after that.  Ava saw to that.  However, she couldn’t prevent them from looking at each other every opportunity they got and on her way home, Rachel couldn’t stop thinking about Reid and how much she wanted to see him again.  And couple months later, here they were in a Chelsea restaurant.

She turned now to Marie who was looking at her.  “You were somewhere else for a bit,” she said.

“I was just remembering something,” she said evasively.  “Why don’t you think their relationship will last?”

“She’s too clingy and men don’t like that.  They don’t like to be smothered.  Besides, I don’t think he’s as into her as she’s into him.  It’s all in the body language, my dear.  Look at him.  The dance is over and he looks relieved.  Why don’t we invite them to join us?”  She waved at the couple as they parted and were heading back to their table.

Rachel’s eyes went immediately to Reid and her heart began to beat fast.  She smoothed her hair down and rubbed the palms of her hands on the skirt of her blue elastic waist dress.  Reid’s gaze went first to Marie and then to Rachel where they remained.  Ava noticed and said, “Why don’t we go over to the bar and sit there or outside on the terrace where it’s a lot cooler?”

At that moment, Marie got up from her seat and said to Ava, “Why don’t we go and freshen up?” and she grabbed her arm and escorted her away before she could object.

Alone, Reid sat down beside Rachel.  “It’s good to see you again,” he said quietly.  “I was hoping that we would meet again.  How have you been?”

She smiled and tried to act calm although she was nervous.  He was staring at her, his expression was intense.  “It’s good to see you again, too,” she admitted, sounding a bit breathless.  “I’m happy to see you and I’ve been doing well.”

“Are you busy tomorrow afternoon?” he asked.

“No.”

“I’d like you to come over to my studio,” he said.  He took out his wallet and removed a business card.  He scribbled something at the back of it and handed it to her.  As she read the name and address of the studio, he added, “I’d like to paint you.”

She glanced up in surprise.  “Paint me?” she exclaimed.  “But why should you want to paint me?”

“You’re beautiful,” he said simply.  “I want to capture that beauty.”

“I’m not sure,” she said, suddenly feeling very self-conscious.  “I’ve never had such a proposition before.” He thinks I’m beautiful.

“Think about it.  I will look out for you tomorrow.  If I don’t see you, I’ll know that you decided not to do it and although, I will be disappointed, I will understand.”

“Thank you,” she said and she put the card in her handbag.  She didn’t feel pressured now.

“If you like, you can still come to my studio just to see my work.”

“I’d like that,” she said.

He smiled and just then, Ava and Marie joined them.  Ava’s eyes flashed at Rachel.

Marie said to Rachel, “I think we should leave now,” she said.  “It’s getting late and I have a busy day tomorrow with the hubby and kids.  Ava, congratulations on your new business venture.  I’ve no doubt that it will be a great success.  Reid, as always it is a pleasure to see you.”

Rachel got up and came round the table so that she was standing next to Reid.  She could feel his eyes on her.  She said goodnight first to Ava whose expression was hostile and then she turned to Reid, holding out her hand.  He took it and her pulse raced when she felt him squeeze it gently.  Their eyes held for a brief moment and then she turned and walked away.

On their way to her car, Marie remarked, “There’s something going on between Reid and you.  I sensed it and I know Ava did too, that’s why she didn’t want to leave the two of you alone.  So, what did he say to you?”

“He invited me to go to his studio tomorrow.  He wants to paint me.”

“Wow, that’s a great compliment.  I wish I had an artist ask to paint me.  Well, are you going to do it or not?”

“I’m not sure…”

“I think you should do it.  It might be fun and besides, it gives the two of you a chance to be alone.”

“But, what about Ava?”

“Ava’s history.  I won’t be surprised if he breaks up with her tonight.”

“I don’t want to be the cause for their breakup.”

“It would have happened even if you weren’t in the picture.  Don’t feel bad about it.  Ava’s not the right woman for Reid.  And that’s a fact that’s clear to everyone, except her, unfortunately.”

Rachel sighed.  “She already doesn’t like me and now I’m giving her a good reason to hate me.”

“Don’t worry about Ava,” Marie advised her.  “She’ll get over Reid in time.”

Rachel thought about it as she lay in bed that night and by morning, she had decided that she would go to the studio.  It was on a quiet street and located on the second floor of a warehouse.  The door was open and she went in.  There was an easel with a blank sheet of paper on it.  Framed paintings stacked against the walls.  Bright light effused the spacious room.  She could smell the paints and she smiled as she looked around.  It was such a treat being in an artist’s studio and seeing his work.  There were a couple of floor lamps, chairs, a stool and a table with the paints.

As she was studying and admiring the paintings on the wall adjacent to the windows, Reid came in.  He smiled when he saw her.  “Hello,” he said.  “I’m glad you came.  I hope you didn’t have any trouble finding the place.”

She turned toward him, thinking how sexy he looked in the black shirt and blue jeans.  “No, I didn’t have any trouble finding it.  It’s a really nice with lots of natural light.  I was just admiring your work.  Some of them, I recognized.  Has Ava ever been here?”

“Once.  Would you like something to drink?”

She shook her head.  “Not right now, thanks.”

“So, what have you decided?”

“I’ve decided to let you paint me.”

He grinned, rubbing his hands together.  “Splendid.  Now, all you have to do is sit on the stool over there and try not to move.  You can set your handbag and jacket on the chair over there.  Thanks for agreeing to do this, Rachel.”

She did as he instructed and climbed up on the stool.  As she sat down, she was glad that she had worn jeans instead of the long black skirt with the side slit.  She watched as he mixed the paints and then stood behind the easel and got to work.  After two hours of not moving, she was relieved when he set his brush down and stepped from behind the easel.

“We’re done for today,” he said.

She slid down from the stool and stretched.  “How long will it take to complete?” she asked.

“Two weeks.  You don’t have to sit every time because I know you’re busy.  I have a sketch that I can work from.”

“I can come in the evenings after work,” she offered.

“That would be great.  Are you hungry?”

She nodded.

“There’s a bistro around the corner where we can have something to eat or we can order take out delivery and eat here.  Which would you prefer?”

“Take out.”

They had Thai food delivered to them and they sat cross legged on the floor, eating and talking.  It was dark outside by the time they left the studio.  Before they parted, they arranged to meet again at the studio the following day.  For two weeks, she went to the studio and sat for two hours as he painted her.  Finally, the day came when she would see the finished painting.  Excited, she let herself into the studio and closed the door.

She went over to the chair to put her jacket on it when Reid came into the room.  She turned and her breath caught in her throat when she saw that he was not wearing a shirt.  It was in his hand.  He stopped short when he saw her.  “You’re early,” he commented as he pulled it on but didn’t button it.  He went over to where she stood.  Flustered, she turned away.

She felt his hands on her shoulders turning her around to face him.  Their eyes met and what she saw in his made her mouth go dry.  Desire shone in their depths.  “Rachel,” he muttered huskily.  “You must know by now how I feel about you.”

The feelings churning inside her were on her face.  “What about Ava?” she asked, trying not to look at his chest.

“I ended my relationship with her that night at the restaurant.  She blamed you.  She saw the attraction between us that night.  I told her that I would have ended our relationship even if you and I had not met.  I told her that we were not right for each other.  I felt badly about it but I couldn’t continue pretending that everything was fine when it wasn’t.”

“I feel sorry for her but, I can’t say that I’m sorry that you’re available now…”

“Oh, Rachel…” he moaned before he lowered his head and kissed her.  She kissed him back, her arms going around his neck as she pressed against him.  The sunlight flooded the room, bathing them in its warmth as they exchanged passionate kisses.  “I love you,” he murmured against her lips.

“I love you too,” she whispered.  She had loved him that day when she saw him standing there among the wheat, looking like he just had stepped out of the pages of GQ.

Several hours later, he unveiled the painting and her mouth dropped open when she saw.  Moved to tears, she said, “It’s beautiful.”

His eyes were tender as he looked at her.  “That’s how I see you,” he said quietly. “You’re beautiful within and without.  This painting is going to be for my private viewing.  It’s not going to be placed in any gallery.”

“Good,” she said, putting her arms around his waist.  “I don’t relish the idea of hanging in public for everyone to gawk at me.  Both the painting and I are for your eyes only.” And with that, she reached up and kissed him.

woman and man in standing

Sources:  End Youth HomelessnessReitman’s; Social Lifestyle Magazine; Albert’s Club

The Wedding

Her heart was racing.  She hoped she looked presentable in her V-neck floral knee length summer dress and the pair of wedges which she thought looked better than the pumps she had considered wearing.  To complete the look, she wore the lovely olive leaf pendant which Paolo had given her for her birthday.

“Mama, incontrare Roxane, il mio fidanzato,” Paolo announced as he presented Roxane before his mother who was sitting on an expensive looking sofa backing an antique grandfather clock with two small tables on either side on which sat figurines and decorative vases with flowers in them and oil paintings above them.  It was a beautiful room but she didn’t have time to admire it.  She was standing in front of the woman who was soon to be her mother-in-law and a mighty sense of foreboding came over her.  It was as if her happiness depended upon this meeting.

A pair of dark brown eyes stared up at her.  There was no warmth or welcome in her expression.  She just looked Roxane over and then she turned to Paolo and said, “Voglio parlare con te solo.”

Paolo’s expression was grim when he turned to Roxane.  “Would you excuse us, darling?  My mother wishes to have a word with me.”

She nodded and after glancing at his mother whose eyes were still on Paolo, she turned and quickly left the room.  There was an accent chair where she sat down.  It faced the door of the room she had just left.

She sat there on edge, her heart racing as she heard the voices in the next room.  She knew that they were talking about her.  She was the reason why they were in Milan where his mother and sister lived.  They were there to meet them.  Paolo’s sister Annabella had driven them over to the house.  Annabella was very warm and friendly.  Roxane felt better after having met her, however, when they were alone, Annabella used that as an opportunity to warn her not to get her hopes up about her mother accepting her.

“I’m not sure if Paolo told you this but when he was in his twenties, he was engaged to a girl named Gianna.  He brought her here to meet Mama but Mama refused to approve the match and the engagement was broken off.”

Alarmed, she asked, “Why didn’t your mother approve of her?”

“She was Sicilian.  Mama thinks all Sicilians are involved with the Mafia.  I know it sounds foolish but that was her reason.”

“What if she doesn’t approve of me, will Paolo break off our engagement too?”

Annabella shook her head.  “I don’t think so.  He loves you.”

“But didn’t he love Gianna too?”

“It was more of an infatuation.  It would have fizzled out even if Mama had approved of her.”

“Annabella, I’m so nervous and afraid.”

Annabella smiled and squeezed her hand.  “No matter what happens, Paolo loves you and he will marry you.”

At the time Roxane was grateful for the warning but now she was filled with trepidation.  She loved Paolo and was afraid of losing him.  It was clear from their encounter just now that his mother didn’t approve of her.  She had looked her over and didn’t like what she saw.  There was no smile or greeting–nothing but a critical look.  This was the second time his mother disapproved of the woman he wanted to marry.  Will the outcome be the same?

“è troppo scura!” his mother sounded angry.

Paolo said something which she couldn’t make out.

“Aspettare e sposare una ragazza italiana che non è siciliana,” his mother retorted.

“Mama, Io vado a sposare Roxane perché l’amo e non importa quello che dici.”

Shortly afterwards, the door was flung open and Paolo strode out of the room, his expression thunderous.  He strode over to Roxane and muttered, “Let’s go.  Our business here is over.”

Roxane got to her feet and grabbing her hand he hurried from the room.  He looked so angry that she daren’t say anything at the moment.  Annabella was in the courtyard when they came out of the house.  From the expression on her brother’s face, she could tell that things had not gone well.  Like Roxane, she didn’t ask any questions.  Instead, she said, “I’ll drive you back to the hotel.”

Paolo got into the back of the car with Roxane and he held her hand as they sat there not saying anything.  Annabella turned on the radio breaking the silence with news and music.

When they arrived at the hotel, she got out of the car and hugged them both.  “Roxane, it was really nice meeting you.  I hope to see you again very soon.  Paolo, I’m sorry things didn’t go as you hoped but I hope that it wouldn’t spoil the rest of your trip.  Call me if you need anything.”

He nodded with a smile and then she was gone.  He put his arm around Roxane’s shoulders as they walked through the lobby and headed upstairs to their suite.  Once they were alone, he took her over the sofa and they sat down.  “You must know by now that my mother doesn’t approve of you,” he said.  “Her reason was that you are too dark.”

Roxane lowered her eyes so that he wouldn’t see the hurt in them.  All her life she had been conscious of her dark color even among her own relatives.  They were surprised that a man like Paolo would be attracted to her let alone want to marry her.  “What did you say to that?”

“I told her that when I look at you, I don’t see a woman who is too dark but a beautiful woman with lovely dark skin.  The first time I saw you I couldn’t get over how exquisite you were.”  He bent his head then and kissed her on the side of her neck.

“What else did she say?” she asked, breathless, her skin tingling from where his lips had been.  She looked at him then.

“She said that I should wait and marry an Italian girl who is not Sicilian.”

“Annabella told me about Gianna.  Did you love her?”

He shook his head.  “I was infatuated with her but no, I wasn’t in love with her.”

“So, what did you tell your mother after she told you to wait and marry someone else?”

“I told her that I am going to marry you because I love you and it doesn’t matter what she says.”

“So, you are going against her wishes?”

“Yes.  My mother’s wishes are irrelevant.  I’m a grown man, Roxane.  I know what I want and I want you.  I want to marry you.

Putting her arms around his neck, she kissed him and he responded passionately.  A moment later, he raised his head to gaze at her, his eyes dark and smoldering.  “I love you so much,” he murmured huskily.

“I love you too.”

“Let’s get married here in Milan,” he said.

She drew back slightly to look at him, her eyes wide. “Get married here in Milan?” she exclaimed.

He nodded.  “Yes.  We’ll invite just Annabella and a few friends.”

The thought of getting married here in Milan never once occurred to her but she liked it.  “Yes, let’s do it.”

“I’ll call Annabella later and ask her to make the arrangements.  I’m sure she will be thrilled.”

“Not as thrilled as I am at the moment,” she said before she kissed him.

Three days later their wedding day arrived bright and sunny and without any hitch.  They got married in the same church where Paolo was christened.  Afterwards, they were whisked off to a friend’s villa where the reception was held.  Everything was wonderful—the decorations, the food, the music.  Everyone had a great time.  Noticeably missing was Paolo’s mother but that didn’t dampen his spirits.  He didn’t expect her to come even though he had invited her at Roxane’s suggestion.  In spite of how his mother felt about her, she still felt that she should at least be invited to the wedding and it was up to her to accept or refuse the invitation.

“You look absolutely beautiful,” he told Roxane as he took in his arms for their first dance.

She was wearing an elegant off the shoulder wedding gown which she was fortunate to find and purchase at such short notice.  Annabella had gone to the bridal shop with her one morning and the moment she saw the dress, she knew it was the one.  She tried it on and it was a perfect fit.

She smiled now at Paolo who looked very handsome in his tuxedo.  “You don’t look so bad yourself,” she teased. She turned her head and looked at her hand resting on his chest so that he wouldn’t see the tears in her eyes.  She was so happy.  They had a perfect day for their wedding and tonight was simply magical.  His mother’s absence hadn’t spoiled it for her.  She wished, though, her parents could have been there.

He rested his forehead against hers.  “I’m sorry that your parents couldn’t be here,” he said as if reading her thoughts.

“Me too,” she said.  “But, I’m not sorry that we got married here instead of in London as we had planned.  I loved the church and this villa is amazing.  And we get to have our honeymoon here too.  I couldn’t be happier.”

He smiled.  “I’m relieved to hear that.  I want to make you as happy as you have made me.”

She looked at him then, her eyes shining with tears.  “You have made me extremely happy, Paolo, more than you can ever imagine.”

He lowered his head and kissed her as they swayed to the music.

 

happy new wed interracial couple in wedding mood

Sources:  Glam Radar; eBay

Working Overtime

Never in all the years she worked with Gabriel did she anticipate falling in love with him. She had been so determined to keep their relationship purely professional and then, out of the blue, she developed feelings for him.  She blamed it on all those nights they worked together on different projects.  He was so disarmingly attractive.

Tonight, she was a bit uneasy.  She wished she could come up with an excuse not to be there.  She dreaded being alone with him.  Unfortunately, they had a finite amount of time to work on this project so they had to get started on it now.

Just then, he walked into the boardroom.  “I hope you don’t mind, but I ordered takeout,” he announced.

She busied herself with the files and papers so that she wouldn’t have to look at him.  “I’m not hungry,” she said.

“You can’t work on an empty stomach.” He came and stood in front of her, forcing her to look at him.  “Do you have a problem being alone with me?” He asked suddenly, making her blink.

“Why would I have a problem being alone with you?” she asked, wondering how he could have guessed that.  Was she so transparent?

“You tell me.”

“There’s nothing to tell.”  She pressed against the edge of the table, her eyes wary.

He was standing really close now and her heart and pulse were racing.  She swallowed hard, riveted by the expression on his face and the color of his eyes.  His gaze dropped to her lips.  For an emotionally charged moment they stood there, close to each other and dangerously close to stepping over the line when she broke the spell by turning away abruptly.

“We have lots of work to do,” she muttered. “We need to get started.”

“Okay,” he conceded and moved away.  They sat down at the table and began to work.

The take out arrived about half-hour later and they ate as they worked.  It was after nine when they finally finished the project.  Gabriel got up and stretched while she gathered the papers together.  He looked at her.  “Would you like to grab some coffee?” he asked.

“No, thanks,” she quickly refused. She started when he got up and went over to her.  She held the files in front of her as if to protect herself.

“Are you going to meet him after you leave here?”

“Who?”

“That character I saw you with yesterday.”

She racked her brain, trying to figure out whom he was talking about when she remembered that she had gone out to lunch with David.  Gabriel had seen her leave and he was in the reception area when she returned an hour and half later.  He hadn’t looked at all pleased.  Much like now.  “You mean David.”

“Yes,” he snapped. “Is he the reason why you won’t go for a coffee with me?”

She stared at him in surprise.  He looked and sounded furious.  There was a glint in his eyes.  Was he jealous of David?  “David is my friend from college.  He invited me to lunch to celebrate his engagement.  He and his fiancee are getting married in June.”

He raked his hands through his hair, his eyes troubled as they met hers.  “I’m sorry for my outburst,” he muttered.  “I thought he was the reason for your behavior towards me.  Lately, you have been acting as if you don’t want to be alone with me.  If he isn’t the reason, what is?

She could tell him that he was mistaken or come clean.  Instead, she asked him a question.  “Gabriel, were you jealous just now when you thought that I was in a relationship with David?”

“Yes,” he admitted.  “I was insanely jealous.”

Her heart was thudding now.  “Why?”

His eyes were dark and stormy now as he moved closer to her.  “Why?  Because I’m in love with you.   I’ve been in love with you for a long time now but kept it to myself because  of our work relationship.   You always made it clear that it was strictly business between us.”

She took a step closer.  “Gabriel…”

“Do you have any feelings for me?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said.  “I tried so hard not to fall in love with you because we work together and I never wanted to get involved with someone I worked with but…” the rest of her words were hushed because he was kissing her.   The files she was holding fell on the floor as she wrapped her arms around his neck and surrendered to the feelings that she had bottled up inside.   For several minutes they exchanged frenzied kisses then she drew back, trying to catch her breath.  “It’s getting late,” she gasped.  “We should be going.”

He nodded, releasing her.  His face was flushed and his breathing was labored. “You’re right.”  He bent down and picked up the files after placing the scattered papers in them.  He handed the files to her.  “We have an early day tomorrow.”

As she took the files from him, his fingers caressed hers.  She exhaled her breath shakily.  “Do you think it will be awkward working together now?”

“It doesn’t have to be,” he said.

She smiled.  “Good.”  She grabbed her handbag and they left the boardroom.  He walked her to her car.  She reached up and kissed him.  It felt so good doing that, so liberating.  “See you tomorrow,” she said when she pulled away.  She was about to climb into her car when he stopped her.

“Have dinner with me at my place tomorrow night,” he said softly.  “I will prepare my specialty.”

She laughed.  “Your specialty?”

“Yes.  Greek lemon chicken and potatoes.  Trust me, you will love it.  Come at six.”

“Sounds delicious.  I’ll bring the wine.”

He smiled and kissed her.  “Good night, Olivia.  Call me when you get home.  If there’s no answer, leave a message.”

“Good night, Gabriel.”  She climbed into the car.  She waved as she drove off.

She was tired but she knew that she wouldn’t fall asleep for a while.  Her thoughts would keep her awake for awhile.  She would be thinking about Gabriel, his declaration of love, his kisses and the home-cooked dinner he had planned for her tomorrow night. At work, it will be business as usual between them but outside of the office…she smiled at the thought.  Just then, Jill Scott’s song, “He loves me” played on the radio.

Source:  All Recipes

Summer in Surrey

It was summer and Diane was spending it in Surrey with Maggie, her friend from university.  Maggie’s parents had gone to Florida for their vacation but her brother, Rupert remained at the mansion.  The first time Diane and he met, it was quite by accident.

It was on the morning after she arrived from London.  She was trying to find the drawing-room but found herself in the library.  Forgetting her dilemma at the moment, she walked over to the shelves of books, her eyes traveling over the thick volumes, textbooks, Encyclopedias and literature. Her eyes spotted a collection of writings by Jane Austen. She was about to pull it out when she became aware that someone else was in the room. She turned.

It was Rupert. “I don’t believe I know you,” he said, quickly closing the distance between them.  He stopped a short distance from her, his green eyes searching her face, his expression quizzical.

For a moment she was distracted by his looks. Tall, slender, thick dark hair with a few strands falling across his forehead. He was incredibly handsome. He was dressed casually in a white shirt and grey slacks. “I’m Diane, Maggie’s friend from university.” She held out her hand and it was clasped in a firm grip. “It’s good to meet you, Rupert. Maggie has told me so much about you.”

He released her hand but his eyes stayed on her face. “She did mention that she was bringing a friend to spend the summer holidays here.”

She glanced around the room. “You have a very fine library here,” she commented. “I was on my way to the drawing-room but ended up here instead. I’m glad I did. I was looking at the books when you came in. I saw several that I would like to read. I hope you don’t mind me being here.”

He turned away then. “You are free to come in here whenever you like,” he said. “This is the time when I usually come to catch up on my reading.  To get to the drawing-room, just turn right and it’s at the end of the hallway.”

He went over to one of the book shelves and took down a large book and walking over to the armchair, he sat down. He opened the book, signaling that their conversation was over. She turned and walked out of the room, thinking to herself that he and Maggie were as different as night and day.  That was several weeks ago. Since then, they hadn’t interacted much and when they did it seemed stilted.

On Saturday evening she and Maggie were standing in the circular driveway, waiting for a taxi when the front door opened and Rupert stepped out.  He paused when he saw them.   “Diane and I are going to the theater with Andrew and William,” Maggie informed him.  “We are going for dinner afterwards.”

Rupert stiffened, his gaze shifted to Diane.  “I hope you enjoy your date,” he said coldly.  “I too have an engagement.  Good evening.”  He strode off, his back straight as a rod.  A couple of minutes later, his Rolls-Royce drove past them.

Diane watched the car until it was out of sight, her heart heavy.  She wondered whom he had an engagement with.  Was it Ava?  Ava was the beautiful blonde she had seen at the mansion with Rupert a few times.  Maggie had assured her that they were just friends.  Still, the thought of him going out with Ava now filled her with pain and jealousy.

Of course, she didn’t enjoy the theater or dinner. All she could think about was Rupert and how he looked when Maggie told him about their double date.  On the ride home, Diane hardly said a word.  A couple of times, Maggie asked her what was wrong but she told her that she was tired.  She left Maggie in the drawing-room and headed for her room.  She was at the foot of the stairs when she heard the key turn in the lock.  It was Rupert.  She waited and her heart somersaulted when she saw him.  He opened the door and stepped into the foyer.  He didn’t noticed her until he closed the door and turned.

He stiffened.  She saw his eyes travel over her this time as she stood there in her simple, strapless dress in the becoming shade of cherry.  It accentuated her color and shape.  Her hair was pulled back at the nape with a clasp and several loose strands framed her face.  “Did you enjoy your date?” he asked, his expression darkening.  “Which one was he?”

“William.”

“Did you enjoy William’s company?  Are you going to see him again?”

She wanted to tell him that she didn’t enjoy herself at all and that she had no intention of seeing William or any other man for that matter.  She wanted to tell him that he was the man she wanted to be with.  Taking a step toward him, she began, “Rupert…” but he interrupted her.

“It’s of no concern to me.  Good night.”  And he walked past her.  She turned and ran up the stairs, anxious to get to her room before she dissolved into tears.

This morning, she got up after tossing and turning.  It looked beautiful outside.  After a quick shower and light breakfast, she went outside for a walk.  She headed to her favorite spot, away from the mansion, where it was quiet.  She needed to clear her head.

She came to an abrupt stop when she saw Rupert standing a few feet away from her, staring off into the distance.  The sunlight glinted on his dark hair and the light blue shirt complimented his olive skin.  He looked so regal, so autocratic and so…She started when she realized that he was looking at her.  She had no choice but to continue heading in that direction.  She felt as if she were intruding.

“Good morning, Rupert.”  She attempted a smile but it wavered then disappeared altogether when he remained aloof.

His eyes flickered over her.  “Good morning,” he replied in a clipped voice, turning his head away.

“It’s a beautiful morning,” she commented.  He was wearing a pair of dark blue jeans, something she had never thought she would see.  They looked great on him.

He noticed her looking at him and his eyes darkened.  There was a moment of silence for several minutes as their eyes were locked in a gaze.  “Are you going to see him again?” he asked suddenly, startling her.

“Who?”

“Your date from last night.  Are you going to see him again?”

“No,” she mumbled, confused by his question and the anger she heard in his voice.  “I don’t plan to.”

“Why not?” he asked.  “Maggie’s seeing his friend this evening.  I thought that you and he would be joining them.”

“William’s a nice man but I’m not interested in him.  I’m happy for Maggie, though.  She’s really into Andrew.”

“Why did you go out with William if you weren’t interested in him?”

“It was Maggie’s idea.  She wanted to make it a double date.”

“Last night I asked you if you enjoyed his company and if you planned to see him again.  You were about to answer but I didn’t give you a chance to do so.  I was afraid that you were going to tell me that it was none of my business so I saved you the trouble. What were you going to say?”

“I was going to tell you that I didn’t enjoy myself at all.”

“Why not?”

Her courage was beginning to fade but she couldn’t allow that to stop her.  She had to level with him. It was now or never. “I didn’t because I was thinking about you.”

He looked surprised.  “You were thinking about me?”

“Yes and feeling miserable because I know you don’t like me.”

Now his expression was incredulous.  “Not like you?” he muttered.  “You think I don’t like you?”

“Yes, because you are always so cold towards me.  Even just now, you didn’t seem at all pleased to see me and I felt as though I were intruding.”

He released his breath in an unsteady sigh.  “Oh, Diane,” he cried, his eyes darkening on her face as he raked his fingers through his hair.  “You have no idea of how I really feel about you, do you? Let me give you an idea.  The first time we met, I was blown away.  I couldn’t get over how stunning you were.  I was so besotted with you, it scared me.  So, I reacted by dismissing you on the pretext that I wanted to read.

“After you left, I closed the book and sat there for a long time, just thinking about you.  In spite of myself, my feelings for you grew and that evening when Maggie told me about your date, I was livid.  I acted as if I didn’t care but I was mad with jealousy.  I couldn’t bear the thought of you with someone else.  I mentioned that I had an engagement too.  That wasn’t true.  I didn’t have any plans but pride made me say that I did.  I ended up going to the movies which was a waste of time and money.  I was just sitting there in the dark theater, thinking about you with him.”

“I thought you were with Ava,” she confessed.  “And that’s why I was miserable all evening.”

“Ava is just a friend.  She was there for me when I went through a really tough time after I broke up with my ex.  I will tell you about it some other time but it’s what made me indisposed to having another relationship.   And when I met you and you aroused feelings in me that I thought had died, I got scared.  I didn’t want to fall in love again—not after I got burned the last time I did.  So, I tried to fight my feelings for you but it was no use.  For the second time in my life, I have fallen in love and this time, I have fallen hard.  I think that’s what scared me.  My feelings for my ex pale in comparison to my feelings for you.”

“I’m so sorry that you got hurt,” she said.  “but, I promise you that you don’t have worry about me.  I will never hurt you.  I love you so much, Rupert.”  She reached up and touched his face, her heart in her eyes as they met his.

“Oh, Diane,” he groaned, pulling her into his arms.  His head swooped down and he kissed her.  Then, he buried his face in her hair.  “I love you so very much.”  He held her tightly as if he were afraid to let her go.

She whispered, “I’m not going anywhere, my love.”

 

A Model Moment

She stood there watching as the evening unfurled, a solitary figure in a room filled with people from the fashion and business world.  She was there by invitation from her friend, a fashion photographer.  She felt so out of place.  She wasn’t used to be around such glamorous people.  Several people thought she was a model.  A few photographers snapped her photo, much to her chagrin.  It reminded her of the time when she had to recite a poem in front of her classmates.  She managed to get through it but it was nerve-racking.

She wasn’t one for socializing and at the first opportunity, she slipped out and escaped to the brightly lit garden.  It was a beautiful evening.  A slight breeze blew, gently rustling the trees.  It was early summer when the weather was comfortable.

She had no idea of how long she would stay outside but for now it was where she felt most comfortable.  She slowly walked along the path, her gaze sweeping over the sprawling grounds and in the background, she could hear peals of laughter and the clinking of glasses. She paused at the rose bush.  Unable to resist, she leaned over and breathed in the sweet fragrance.

“Good evening.”

The voice startled her and she swung round.  A tall figure approached her.  As he drew nearer, she recognized him from the photos her friend had taken and which were featured in the Spring issue of GQ.  Her heart began to beat fast and she wondered what she could say to him.  “Good evening,” she replied.

He smiled as he held out his hand.  “Adrian Barlow.”

She shook his hand.  “Simone Jackson.”

“I see you had the same idea,” he remarked.  “Getting away from the crowd, I mean.”

“Yes,” she looked away, feeling self-conscious because of his penetrating stare.

“I hope you don’t mind me joining you, Simone.”

She shook her head.  “No, I don’t mind.”

“Shall we take a walk?”

She nodded.  And they walked along the path.

“Are you a model?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No.  I’m the Assistant Art Director of a children’s publisher.”

“Do you like what you do?”

“Yes.  I like my job very much.  As a child, I loved to read.  I still do.  I know that you are a model.  I have seen your photos in GQ.  Do you like modelling?”

He shrugged.  “It’s something I do when I am not too busy.  I don’t see myself doing it for much longer.  I have my own business which I enjoy running.”

“You know my friend, Erin.  She’s the reason why I am here tonight.”

“I saw when you arrived and watched you all evening, waiting for an opportunity to speak to you.  I saw you slip out and followed.  You really are quite beautiful, you know.”

She didn’t know what to say.  It wasn’t often that she had a gorgeous man tell her that she was beautiful.  They had come upon a fountain.  There was a bench nearby and she went toward it.  She sat down and he sat beside her, turning so that he was facing her.

“I didn’t mean to embarrass you just now,” he said.   “Surely I’m not the first man to pay you such a compliment.”

“No, you aren’t the first but you have been around so many beautiful women.”

“Yes, I have,” he acknowledged.  “But none of them hold a candle to you.  Have dinner with me tomorrow evening, Simone.”

She stared at him and saw that he was very serious.  His amazing eyes were unwavering as they met her startled ones.  “Dinner with you,” she repeated, somewhat dazed.  This moment was almost surreal.

“Yes, unless you have other plans.”

“No, no.  I don’t have any other plans.”

“Then, you will have dinner with me?”

“Yes.”

She gave him her address which he scribbled on the back of a business card and placed in his breast pocket.

They sat there a while longer, talking.  She found herself becoming very relaxed with him and opening up.  Then they heard the sound of cars leaving and realized that it was time to go.  Reluctantly, she got up from the bench.  “Do you have a ride home?” he asked.

“Yes, I will get a ride with Erin.”

They headed back to the mansion and stopped at the foot of the steps where they were to part company.  “I’ll pick you up at seven tomorrow,” he told her before he took her hand and raised it to his lips.  His eyes held hers as he kissed it.  Her heart was pounding and her skin tingled. “Good night, Simone,” he said softly when he raised his head.

“Good night, Adrian.”

He released her hand and walked away.  Just then Erin joined her.  “I was wondering where you had gone off to,” she said, watching Adrian go.  “I see that you were in good company.”

Simone smiled.  “Thanks for inviting me tonight, Erin.  I had a wonderful time.”

“I can see that,” her friend teased before she took her arm and they headed to her car.

Source:  The Guardian Jobs

Papa Joe

August 12, 1952.  It was a date she would never forget.  It was the day she buried the man who had been a father to her for over twenty years.  It seemed so surreal.  Papa Joe was gone.  She stood there alone in her grief, shivering although it was a hot and muggy day.

She stared at the ground where Papa Joe lay.  The tears rolled down her cheeks as she cradled his worn Bible, remembering how he used to read it to her when she was a child. When her parents had died he took her in and raised her as his own. She had grown to love the old man as if he were her very own blood.  Many of the townspeople had a problem with the widower raising a black girl and didn’t hide their displeasure but Papa Joe ignored them.  His business began to suffer.  Papa Joe was a tailor.  He knew that business would pick up again if he got rid of Cassandra but he refused to do so.  Even if he went bankrupt, he would never part with her.  He vowed that only death would separate them.

It was Papa Joe whom she shared her dreams with.  It was Papa Joe who comforted her when she went home crying because of the racial slurs and taunts.  Papa Joe was the only one who knew that she loved a man she had no right to love.  She had known Dr. Baker since she was a child.  He used to stop by and see Papa Joe.   He was always kind to her and brought her treats.  As she grew older, the visits became more frequent.  Papa Joe was no fool.  He could see that feelings were developing between them and he warned her, “You and the doctor have to be careful, Cassie.  This town will not take kindly to a relationship between a black girl and a white man.”

One night when Dr. Baker visited, Papa Joe excused himself and went to his room.  As soon as they were alone, the doctor took Cassandra into his arms and kissed her.  “I have wanted to do that all day,” he whispered when he raised his head to gaze down into her face.  “I know that there is a considerable age difference between us but I love you, Cassandra.  I tried to stay away when I realized that I had fallen in love with you but I couldn’t.  I had to see you.”

“I love you too.”

“I’m leaving for Paris in three weeks and I would like you to come with me.”

“Paris?” she exclaimed.  “Why there?”

“I have always wanted to go there and set up a practice.  My mother was French and your family was from Haiti.  So the language won’t be a barrier for us.”

“I can’t go to Paris with you, Robert.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t leave Papa Joe.  He has been so good to me.”

“Joe would want you to be happy and you won’t be as long as you remain in this town.”

“I can’t be happy knowing that he is here all alone.”  She could see the distress on Robert’s face and she reached up and touched his face.  “I love you for wanting to take me away with you, but I can’t.  I hope you understand.”

“I do,” he sighed.  “Well, I better be going.  Please say goodnight to Joe for me.”  They kissed and then she walked with him to the door.

“Goodbye, Cassandra.  Write me and let me know how you are doing.”  He gave her a piece of paper with an address on it.  She took it.  After a lingering look, he was gone–perhaps out of her life for good.

That was three months ago.  They had exchanged letters since and when Papa Joe died, she had written and told Robert.  She stood now at the grave, the tears falling.  Papa Joe had left the house to her and all the money he earned from his tailoring.  She had the money locked away in a box.  She didn’t want to go back to the empty house.

She had no idea of how long she stood there but the biting cold prompted her to start making her way back to the house.  She had just reached the front porch when she saw a car pull up and Robert got out.  He walked over to her and taking her arm he led her up the steps.  “I’m sorry I didn’t make it on time for the funeral,” he apologized as she unlocked the door and they went inside.

Once inside and the door was shut, she threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly.  She sobbed, letting out the pent up grief that had closed around her heart like a fist.  Robert stood there, holding her until the sobs subsided and then ceased.

When she was spent from all that crying, Robert took her over to the sofa and sat her down.  “Joe wrote me this note,” he said, handing it to her.  “I think you should read it.”

She wiped away the tears before she reached for the note.  Frowning, she slowly unfolded the paper and read it.  Dear Robert, I know that you love my Cassie and that you wanted to take her away from this cursed place.  If I know my dear girl she will not want to leave me.  She feels a sense of obligation to stay and take care of me as I have taken care of her all these years.  I don’t want to be a burden to her.  She is young and deserves to live her life.  There’s no future for her here.  I know that she loves you and that it broke her heart to be separated from you.  She thought I wasn’t aware, but I could see the unhappiness in her sweet face and I could hear her crying in the night.  She had sacrificed her chance for happiness for me.  I haven’t told her but I don’t have much longer to live.  When I pass on, which should be any time soon, please come and take Cassie away from here.  Take her to Paris where you and she will be free to love each other.  She can use the money from the sale of the house to pay for her fare.  I am sorry that I won’t be there for your wedding but know that I wish you both all the happiness in the world.  Please take good care of my precious girl.

Yours sincerely,

Joe

Fresh tears fell.  “I had no idea that he was dying.  He was tired more but I just thought that it was to do with age.  I am thankful that I was here for him.”

“Now, you can get on with your life.  We have his blessing.  Let me take you to Paris.”  He reached out and took her hands in his.  “Cassandra, I want to marry you.  Let me take you to Paris.”

She nodded.  “I will go to Paris with you,” she said.  Her life here was over.  There was nothing to keep her here.  Her future was with Robert now.  She would sell this house filled with so many wonderful memories and leave this town which had been the source of her unhappiness.  Yes, she will go to Paris and marry the man she loved.

 

crying african american woman in the 1950s