A New Start

I’m sitting at the airport, waiting for my flight to London where the next chapter of my life takes me.  It was a job that was too good to pass up but now I’m having second thoughts.  It’s taking me away from you.  We’ve been friends since childhood.  We’ve never been apart.  I feel as if I’m leaving a big chunk of myself behind.  I will miss our walks and talks.  I will miss the way you laugh hard because I said or did something silly, until, tears are running down your cheeks.  I will miss grabbing your hand and pulling you behind me like I used to when we were kids.

I wonder if you have read my letter as yet.  It took a lot of courage for me to write it.  It’s a scary thing for a guy to tell his best friend that he’s in love with her and ask her to give up her life to start a new one with him in a new city thousands of miles from the one she calls home.   Is what I’m asking you to do, selfish, foolish?  I know that if you were to ask me to do the same thing, I would do it in a heartbeat.  But, I must remember that you’re not me.  You might not want to disrupt your life for me.

Still, I’m hoping that you will at least consider it because I really can’t imagine my life without you in it.  I know that we promised we would be friends for life, but I want to be more than friends with you.  I want you to be my partner in life.  Your beautiful face is the first thing I want to see when I wake up in the mornings and the last thing I see each night before I go to sleep.

I glance at my watch.  Soon, I will be boarding the plane.  My heart is heavy.  I don’t want to leave.  I reach for my cell.  Should I call you?  I want to hear your voice.  I hesitate.  Then, I hear you call my name.  At first, I think I’m imagining it.  Then, I hear my name again and I turn around.  There you are, coming towards me.  I stare at you incredulously, my breath catching in my throat.  I rise quickly to my feet.  It is then that  I notice you are pulling a piece of carry-on luggage behind you.  My eyes widen.  Does this mean…?

“I read your note,” she said when she was standing right in front of me.  “The answer is yes!  I called the airline and luckily there was a cancellation.  And here I am.”

My heart is pounding.  “Are you sure?” I ask.  I want to be sure that this is what she really wants.

She nodded.  “Yes.  My life is with you.”  She reached up and touched my face.  Her fingers felt soft against my skin.

I turn my head and press my lips into her palm.  When I look at her, she is staring at me and I her love for me shining in her beautiful eyes.  I draw her to me, not caring about the people around us and I whispered, “I love you,” before I kiss her.

We kiss for several minutes, just relishing the moment before we were interrupted by the PA system announcing that it was time for us to board the plane.  I reluctantly let her go and gather my carry on bag and jacket.  Then, I remind myself that I will enjoy a lifetime of holding her in my arms.  I smile as we joined the other passengers.  London and an exciting future together awaited us.

 

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The Missionary/Calm #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

 

“When you went off on a missionary trip to Africa, we certainly didn’t expect you to come back with a wife,” Mrs. Cartland exclaimed, her expression one of disdain as she looked at her son.

Rolf sighed.  “Naija isn’t my wife, Mother.  I’m not sure why you think she is.  I’m sure I was clear in my letter that if I didn’t do something, she was going to be taken out of school and married off to a man old enough to be her grandfather.  In Nigeria, girls like Naija and younger are given in marriage without their consent.”

“And so you decide to bring her to England.  What about her parents?  I can’t imagine that they would let you just whisk their daughter away like that.”

“Her parents and I came up with an arrangement which will benefit all parties.  They were going to give her away in marriage because they are poor and need the money.  The man they were going to marry her to, has money but I offered them more money in exchange for marriage that Naija come to England instead.  I will put her through university.  After, she graduates, it is up to her if she wants to remain here or return to Nigeria.  Her parents agreed that if she should return, she is not expected to be married off but can get a job so she could continue to support them.  While she is here, I will send money to them on a regular basis to keep them.”

“You’re going to send them money?” Mrs. Cartland was aghast.  “And how long do you propose to do that?”

“Until Naija can afford to support them herself.”

“And when exactly will that be?”

“When she finds steady employment after graduating from university.”

“I fear, my Dear, that she’s going to take advantage of your generosity and you will find yourself supporting her for longer than is necessary.  You’re far too indulgent and gullible when it comes to the dregs of society.”

Rolf’s lips tightened but he held his temper in check.  “Mother, I appreciate your concern, but Naija isn’t like that at all.”

Mrs. Cartland didn’t look at all convinced and was about to say something else when her daughter, Rosalind spoke up.  “Rolf, let’s go for a walk.  It looks absolutely gorgeous outside.  Mother, please excuse us.”

Grateful for the interruption, he rose to his feet and after excusing himself, he followed her out of the room.  “Thank you for that,” he said to Rosalind as they walked down the hallway.

She glanced at him.  “No problem.  I could see that you were trying very hard not to blow your top.  And Mother can be very irritating at times.”

“At times?”

Rosalind laughed.  “All right.  Most of the time.”

Rolf’s lips twitched.  They were outside now and it was a gorgeous day.  “Let’s take a walk by the stream.”

“What a splendid idea!”

The stream was about a ten minute walk from the family’s mansion.  “Do you remember when Dad used to bring us here on a Sunday morning?  While he and I fished, you fed the ducks pieces of bread from the egg and cheese sandwiches Mrs. Hogwarth made?”

“Yes and I remember getting pecked by one of them and Dad had to bandage my hand with his handkerchief.  I was scared of the ducks after that.”

“Yes, that’s how Mrs. Hogwarth found out that you fed her sandwiches to them and she clobbered you.”

“Yes, I was scared of her after then too.  Oh, Rolf, what a riotous childhood we had.  I miss Dad.”

“I miss him too.”

“He would be so proud of you, being a missionary and all.  It was something he himself loved.  He always regretted leaving the field when he married Mother.  She never understood his love for it.  She preferred being the wife of a government minister rather a missionary’s.”

“I love being in full-time ministry, helping communities in London and overseas.  It’s how I met Naija.”

“You’re in love with Naija, aren’t you?” Rosalind commented, looking at him closely.

He blushed.  Nothing ever escaped her.  “Yes,” he admitted quietly.

“I see the way you look and act around her.”

“Can you imagine how Mother would react if she knew?”

Rosalind waved her hand dismissively.  “It doesn’t matter what Mother or anyone else thinks, Rolf.  You have to follow your heart.  It’s your life, your future and your happiness that are at stake here.  Remember, Mother wanted me to marry Reginald but I married Maxwell instead?  Reginald was a good man but I didn’t love him.  I was mad about Maxwell and we have been happily married for twenty-six years now.”

“I think you made an excellent choice.  Maxwell is an exceptional man.”

“Thank you and yes, he is.  Does Naija know how you feel about her?”

He shook his head.  “No.”

“Don’t you think that perhaps it’s time you told her?”

His heart lurched.  “I don’t know,” he said in alarm.

“Come on, Rolf, don’t be such a coward.  Sometimes, happiness comes by taking chances.  I took a chance with Maxwell and looked how that turned out.”

What she said made a lot of sense but the thought of revealing his feelings to Naija was daunting.  He would have to think about it some more.  “I’ll think about it,” he said after a while.

Rosalind slipped her arm through his and smiled.  “All right,” she said.  “Sleep on it, then.”  They continued walking alongside the river, enjoying the sunshine and the quietness.

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Naija was already at the park, waiting when Rolf got there the following afternoon.  He had just come from a staff meeting.  She smiled when she saw him and the large brown paper bag in his hand.  He smiled as he sat down beside her.  “Have you been waiting long?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No.  I got here about five minutes ago.  Thanks for getting this.  I’m starving.”

He opened the bag and took out a box of Fish and Chips and handed it to her along with a plastic knife and fork.  He took out the other box.  On the bench between them, he put the cups of flavored milk tea and the straws.   After he said Grace, they tucked into the food.  It tasted as good as it looked and smelled.  As they ate, they talked about different things.   And all the while, he was thinking about what Rosalind had said.  He wanted to tell Naija how he felt but he was terrified.

“What’s wrong?” Naija’s question startled him.

“Nothing,” was his quick response.  A pause and then, wanting to shift the attention away from himself, he asked, “What are you plans after you graduate from university?  Will you stay here in England or return home to your family?”

She thought about it.  “I’ll stay here,” she said.  “I’ll find a job or I can become a missionary and work for you.”

“Being a missionary is an admirable vocation but what are your dreams?  What would you really like to do with your life, Naija?”

“I like writing.  I like to write about what I see around me.”

“Sounds like you’re thinking of becoming a journalist.  That’s very good. Perhaps, you’ll let me see some of your writings.”

“I will,” she promised.  “I keep a journal.  It’s almost full.  I write about university, what I observe on the campus, what I hear on the News and the conversations I have had with my host family.  I’ve written a lot of things about you as well.”

His eyebrows arched.  “Really?  And what exactly have you written about me?”

“How you’ve been so good to me and how blessed I am that you came into my life.  I will always be indebted to you, Rolf.”

A muscle began to throb along his jawline.  “I’m the one who’s blessed,” he replied.  Their eyes were locked.  His heart was racing.  This is foolish, he thought.  I’m behaving like a lovesick fool over a girl almost half my age.  She just sees me as her benefactor, nothing more.  All she feels towards me is gratitude. 

“That isn’t all I wrote about you,” she said shyly.

He swallowed hard.  “What else did you write about me?”

She looked nervous now.  “Rolf, I know that I’m only eighteen years old but, I–I was hoping that our age difference wouldn’t matter to you.”

“What are you saying, Naija?”

“What-what I’m saying, is-is that I want us to-to be more than friends.”

He expelled his breath in an unsteady sigh.  “Are you sure this is what you want?” he asked, his expression tense.

She nodded at once.  “Yes,” she replied.  “It’s what I’ve wanted since we met.”

“Oh, Naija,” he cried, his cheeks suffusing with color.  He set the empty boxes aside and rose to his feet.  He reached down and pulled her up.  “It’s what I want too.”  He pulled her against him and his eager lips found hers.  Overhead the setting sun cast its crimson glow on them.

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

Sources: Erika and Eva Toh TravelsLondon City Mission

Mr. Thornber’s Distress/Fall #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

After he washed and dried his face, Mr. Thornber walked to the window and looked out.  His room afforded him one of the most pleasant views of the grounds.  It was another rather agreeable afternoon.  The first signs of spring were visible.  He could see the buds on the trees and the emergence of the water in the pond which had been covered in ice not so long ago.  Earlier this morning on his ride back here, he’d stopped at the waterfall where he used to while away many happy childhood hours.   Presently, the quietness was broken by the twittering of birds.  He smiled.  He couldn’t wait to go back outside.  His eyes swept across the grounds when they were arrested by something.

The smile vanished from his face when he saw the two figures standing beneath the oak tree.  He recognized one as belonging to Miss Roth and the other belonging to a gentleman he had never seen before.  He leaned out as if to get a closer look which wasn’t possible from that point.  Who was this stranger?  Jealousy burned in him like a wild fire as he watched them stroll over to the bench and sit down, facing each other.  What was he doing here?  When did Miss Roth meet him?

His face pale now, he watched them, wondering what they were talking about.  And feeling like an utter fool.  He had cut his business short today just so he could rush home to be with her.  All morning she had occupied his thoughts, making it impossible for him to concentrate.   He enjoyed their walks and talks and had planned to take a turn in the garden with her as they had been doing for the past several weeks.  He was under the impression that she enjoyed his company too.  Perhaps he was mistaken.  She seemed to enjoy this fellow’s company a great deal.  They were having a rather animated conversation.  He appeared younger too.  Why shouldn’t she prefer a man closer to her age?

His hands curled into tight fists as he struggled to keep his feelings in check.  It was propriety and pride which kept him from going to there and demanding to know who this interloper was.  How would it look a man eight and thirty behaving like a jealous fool over a girl of nineteen?

What was he going to do now?  He couldn’t remain here watching them and torturing himself.  He had to leave Cedar Manor at once for he feared that running into Miss Roth would be his undoing.  He had no idea where he was going but he had to get out of there now.  He turned away from the window and strode over to where his jacket laid and swept it up, pulling it on as he left the room.

He ran down the steps two at a time and passed the housekeeper, Mrs. Westcott in the foyer.  She glanced at him in surprise, wondering what in the world could make him take off without so much a word to her.   Perhaps, he had urgent business to attend to, she reasoned.  Shrugging her shoulders, she continued down the foyer and went up to her room to have a nap.

Outside as Mr. Thornber was hurrying to the stables to get his horse, he saw his niece Emily returning from her walk with her nurse Ada in tow.  She broke into a run when she saw him. “Uncle Edward,” she cried.  She stopped short when she saw his face.  “What’s wrong?”

His distress clearly didn’t escape her notice.  “Who is the gentleman with Miss Roth?” he asked before he could stop himself.

“Oh, you mean Julian?” her face brightened.  “I like him.  He’s very nice.”

Mr. Thornber’s expression darkened.  “I didn’t ask if you liked him, Emily,” he snapped.  “I asked who he was.”

“He’s Miss Roth’s childhood friend.”

“How long has he been here?”

“He came this morning.  He was in the school room with Miss Roth and me and then he had lunch with us.  After we finished my lessons, he and Miss Roth came with Ada and me for a walk but they came back before we did.  Do you want to meet him, Uncle?”

“No, I do not want to meet him.  Tell Mrs. Westcott that I won’t be back until late.”  And with that, he turned and strode away, his steps quick and furious.  Both Emily and Ada gazed after him in bewilderment.  Moments later he was racing out of the stables and away from Cedar Manor.

Emily turned to Ada.  “Why was Uncle Edward so angry?” she asked.  “And why didn’t he want to meet Julian?”

Ada put her arm around Emily’s shoulders.  “Emily, perhaps you are too young for me to be telling you this but I think your uncle is jealous.”

“Jealous?” Emily exclaimed, looking even more bewildered.  “But why?”

“Never mind, little one,” Ada told her.  “And please, I beg you, don’t tell your uncle what I said.”

Emily shook her head, thinking adults could be so strange sometimes as she and Ada walked to the house.

 

This was written for to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Fall at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Love on Campus

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Joslyn was walking across the university’s campus lawn heading for the library when she saw her Language professor walking towards her.  She stopped and waited for him, her heart pounding.  He looked so handsome in the navy blue suit, light blue shirt and navy blue tie.  His thick black hair was slicked back, giving him a polished look.  No one knew that they were in a relationship.  On campus, he was professor Alvarez but off campus, he was Joaquín.

She trembled when she remembered how he had urged her to say his name and the way he said hers when they were making love last night.  Her name sounded very sexy when he said it.  They had dinner at his place.  He was such a terrific cook.  Afterwards, they relaxed in the living-room, talking and sipping non-alcoholic wine.

Then, he reached over, took her glass and put it on the table with his.  He turned and cupping her face between his hands, he lowered his head and kissed her.  She placed her hand on his thigh, feeling the muscles contract and kissed him back.  Things got heated and in a matter of minutes, they were naked.  He scooped her up and carried her to his bedroom where they made love for the first time.

All morning she had flashbacks.  It was hard sitting in his class and trying to concentrate.   She kept remembering how good their merged bodies looked in the mirror and the passionate kisses they exchanged.  At one point, she dragged her nails across his smooth back, eliciting a moan and the confession, “Me vuelves loco.  You drive me wild.”

After their tryst, they showered and dressed in his robes, they went into the living-room and watched a movie on Netflix before he took her home.  She couldn’t sleep.  All she kept thinking about was him and how she couldn’t wait to see him today.  Excited, she walked into the classroom.  He wasn’t there as yet.  She went to her desk and waited.

Jamal walked in, saw her, grinned and sat down at the desk beside her.  “Hi,” he said, his eyes flickering over her slim figure in the red shirt and jeans.

“Hi,” she said with a slight smile.  He was a nice guy and she didn’t mind talking to him but he didn’t stand a chance.  She was madly in love with Joaquín.

They were talking and Jamal said something to make her laugh just when Joaquín walked in.  He looked at them for a brief moment before saying good-morning.  Other students started to file in.  Jamal got up and went to his regular seat.  After he was gone, Joslyn sneaked a glance at Joaquín.  He was preparing for class.

As class got on the way, she noticed that he seemed a bit off.  And when he called on her, she noticed that he looked very serious.  He was frowning.  Usually, he would smile.

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He reached her now.  Her smile faded when she saw the expression on his face.  Something was definitely up.  She wanted so badly to reach up and run her fingers through his hair like she did last night.  “Hi,” she said, instead.

“Hi.  Where are you heading?”

“To the library.”

“Are you meeting someone there?”

“As a matter of fact I am.”

His mouth tightened.  “Jamal?”

She frowned at him.  “Jamal?”

“Are you meeting him in the library?”

She shook her head.  “No, I’m meeting Rhonda.  She needs help with a research paper.”

He moved closer, his expression tense and a muscle throbbed alongside his jawline.  “When I walked into the classroom this morning, I saw Jamal and you together.”

“Yes, he came and sat down next to me.  We started talking and then you walked in.”

“You were laughing.”

“Yes, he said something funny.  He’s a funny guy.”

“Do you like him?”

“As a friend.”

“What about him?  Does he like you as a friend?”

“I think he wants to be more than friends but I’m not interested.”

“Why not?  He’s your age and he’s good-looking.”

She shrugged.  “So?  I’m not attracted to him or any other guy, Joaquín.   I have eyes only for you.”

He ran his fingers through his hair.  “When I saw the two of you together, I saw red,” he confessed tightly.   “I was so jealous.”

“I was right.  You weren’t yourself this morning.  Oh, Joaquín, there’s no reason for you to be jealous.  I love you.”

His eyes darkened on her upturned face.  “Say it to me in Spanish.”

“Te amo, Joaquín”

“Yo también te amo, Joslyn,” he muttered thickly.  “I want to kiss you so badly.”

The expression on his face made her mouth go dry.  “Later,” she said breathlessly.

“Later, I’m taking you to dinner and the theatre.”

She smiled.  “That sounds great.”

“I have something else to tell you.  My sister Julieta is getting married next week.  How would you like to go to Seville for the wedding?  It falls right around Spring break.  So, we’ll be able to spend at least twelve days in Seville.”

Her eyes widened.  “Seville, for twelve days?” she exclaimed.  She had never been to Europe before.

He smiled.  “Yes.  I want to show you where I grew up and introduce you to my family.  I’ve told them about you.”

“I’d love to see where you spent your childhood and meet your family.”

“Good.  We can leave on the Saturday after we break for Easter.  I can’t wait to take you sightseeing and Flamenco dancing.  You’ll love Seville, I promise.”

She stared up at him, her heart in her eyes when she murmured, “I love it already because of you.”

He glanced around to make sure no one could see them before he reached for her hand.   “I’d better be heading back,” he said, reluctantly.  “My next class starts in ten minutes.”

She could hardly think with him holding her hand.   “And I have to go.  Rhonda’s probably wondering where I am.  I’ll see you later.”

“Yes, I’ll pick you up at six.”  He released her hand, winked at her and then turned and walked away.

She watched his tall frame until he disappeared from her view before she headed for the library, her mind spinning.  The rest of the day was a blur.

They said; when you’re in love, you are in a cloud nine…Well, I guess they are wrong…cos’ the feeling is actually like in cloud 999 – – Ishe Tayco

The Dinner Party

It was after five on a Friday and everyone had gone.  Just Lydia and her boss, Maksim were there.  She was clearing her desk when he stuck his head out of his office.  “Are you doing anything tomorrow evening?” he asked.

She shook her head, wondering if he wanted her to come and work tomorrow.  It had happened before.

“A good friend of mine is having a dinner party tomorrow evening and I was wondering if you would like to go with me.”

Lydia stared at him for several minutes, wondering if she had heard correctly.  This was the first time since they had been working together that he had ever asked her to go anywhere with him.  She was both nervous and excited at the same time.  This seemed too good to be true.  Had his date cancelled on him?

“No one cancelled on me,” he said, startling her.  She hadn’t realized that she had voiced her thoughts.  “You’re the only one I’ve asked.  If you don’t want to go, it’s fine.  I’ll go by myself.”

“No, I want to go,” she said.  “It’s been a while since I’ve been anywhere interesting.”

“I’ll pick you up at six-thirty.  Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” she replied and watched as he went back into his office.  Then, she finished clearing her desk, took out her handbag and locked her drawer.  He was on the phone when she walked past.  As she walked to the lift, she wondered what she was going to wear to the dinner party.  Maksim was such a stylish man her outfit would have to be classy.

As soon as she got home, she went straight to her wardrobe and scanned the clothes hanging there.  Her eyes settled on the soft blossom, strapless ruffle hem dress which she had recently bought and had never worn before.  It would go well with her sliver sandals and matching clutch purse.  As for her hair, she would just pin it up.  Satisfied that she had something to wear tomorrow evening, she drew the doors shut and undressed. After taking a quick shower, she had something light to eat before settling down on the sofa to watch the News.

At eleven-thirty, she turned in but didn’t go to sleep right away.  She lay there thinking about tomorrow, thrilled that she didn’t have to wait until Monday to see Maksim.  Maksim.  He was easily the most attractive man she had ever known and she was drawn to him from the very first time they met.

Her thoughts went to this morning and the way he had looked at her as she walked over to his desk to leave some papers there for to look over.  He was on his cell phone but he was watching her.  She wondered if he had any idea of how sexy he looked at that moment or the effect he always had on her.  When she turned and headed to the door, she could feel his eyes on her.  There were times when they would exchange looks and other times when she found excuses to go to his office.  However, it seemed like nothing would come of it and she wondered if it had to do with the fact that he was her boss.

She was really looking forward to seeing him tomorrow.  Hugging her pillow, she tried to imagine the expression on his face when he saw her in her dress.  She hoped he would be impressed.  It was near one when she finally drifted off to sleep.

The following day, she busied herself with housekeeping and cooking.  The day seemed to drag.  Finally, it was time to get ready for her date.  Excitement filled her as she got dressed and she checked herself in the mirror to make sure everything was fine before she left her room.  As she put her shawl around her shoulders, the doorbell rang.  Her heart skipped a beat.  She hurried to the door and opened it.  Her mouth went dry when she saw Maksim standing there looking drop dead gorgeous in the navy Mohair dinner suit with black silk.  She saw his gaze travel slowly over her and the admiration shining in their depths.  “You look amazing,” he said quietly.

She smiled, feeling very pleased.  “Thank you,” she said as she closed and locked the door behind her.  As they walked to the lift, a group of women passed them and cast admiring glances at Maksim but he appeared not to notice them.  Lydia looked over her shoulder.  Eat your hearts out, ladies.

On the ride down the lift, he leaned against the panel and looked at her. “The friend whose dinner party I’m taking you born in Vladivostok like me.  We were neighbors until my parents migrated to England when I was three.  After his father died, his mother brought him and his sister here.  My parents helped them to settle and he and I went to the same school and university.”

“You don’t have a Russian accent,” she commented.  “I guess it’s because you came here as a small child.”

“Yes, but when I speak with my parents you can hear it.  Vasily has a strong accent because he came here as an older child.  His wife Anna is from the Ukraine.  They have two children—a boy and a girl.  You’ll like them.”

“Have you been back to Vladivostok since you left?” The doors to the lift opened then and he allowed her to precede him before he followed her.  He placed his hand on her elbow, making her skin tingle.  His fingers felt warm and firm.  They walked to his car—a sleek black jaguar.  He held open the door and she climbed in.  Briefly, his gaze dropped to her legs before he closed the door.

He got in beside her and turned on the key in the ignition.  The engine purred to life and he drove out of the parking space.  “I went back a few years ago when I visited Moscow.  I took the train from there to Vladivostok and spent a week.  It felt strange being there.  The city centre is decaying and badly in need of a scrub and the building where my family and I lived looks rundown.  I was happy to leave although there are some attractions that I couldn’t miss like the Arsenyev Regional History Museum where there’s a battle scene between a Siberian tiger and a bear.  I have a photo of it.  Remind me to show you sometime.  You have to see it to believe it. I also visited the Triumphal Gates of Nikolai, reputed to be one of the most beautiful and magnificent buildings in Vladivostok. They were built in 1891 to commemorate the heir’s to the Tsar’s throne Nicholas Alexandrovich’s  who later became Russian Imperator Nicholas II.  I visited other places of interest then I returned to Moscow.”

“What about your parents?  Would they go for a visit?”

He shook his head.  “No.  They don’t want to travel anywhere now because they are old.”

“I like your parents.”  He had brought them to the office a couple of years ago to meet his co-workers and because he was taking them out for lunch to celebrate his mother’s eightieth birthday.  They hardly spoke any English but were very warm and friendly.

He smiled.  “Yes, they are good people.”

“What about your sister, did she ever go back home for a visit?” He had an older sister whom she heard him talk about on several occasions but never met.  She lived in Manchester.

“Yes, a few years ago with her family.  She had a better experience.  She didn’t bother to visit our old neighborhood.  Instead, she and her family did a lot of sightseeing.  The kids loved it, especially the dolphin show at the oceanarium.”

They talked some more about his childhood home and then they arrived at his friend’s house.  It was an attractive, stately home with a winding driveway.  Several cars were parked and as they walked up the stairs, they could hear voices and peals of laughter.  She felt butterflies in her stomach and she glanced at him.  “Don’t be nervous,” he said.  He reached for her hand and held it the rest of the way.

As she looked around her in wonder at the décor and the different people there in their fine outfits, he escorted her to their hosts.  They were an attractive couple.  Vasily was tall, blonde and regal in his white dinner jacket and Anna was medium height with dark brown hair swept back in a chignon.  She was wearing a beautiful maroon sequenced ankle length dress with cap sleeves.  Her eyes twinkled when Maksim introduced Lydia. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lydia,” she said.  “What a lovely dress.”

Lydia smiled.  “Thank you.”  She turned to Vasily who smiled and shook her hand warmly. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Likewise,” he said.  “Maksim, where have you been hiding her?” He teased his friend.

Maksim replied first in Russian, “v moyem serdtse” and then in English, “We work together.” Vasily looked at him for a few minutes and then said, “Well, it’s good to have you both here tonight.” Maksim took Lydia’s arm and led her over to meet some of the other people in the room.

There was one particular woman there who seemed especially pleased to see him and she completely ignored Lydia who looked her over.  She was petite, curvy and had thick, unruly black hair that tumbled around her bare shoulders in tight curls.  The red strapless dress hugged her and flattered her olive complexion.   She put her red lacquered nails on Maksim’s arm as she reached up and planted a kiss on his cheek.  “Maksim, what a pleasure it is to see you,” she said in what sounded like a Spanish accent.  “It has been a while.  How have you been?”

Maksim smiled.  “Hello, Camila.  Allow me to introduce you to Lydia.”

It was then she seemed to notice that someone was standing beside him.  Her dark brown eyes swept over Lydia and the expression on her face had changed dramatically.  There was hostility and disdain written all over it.  She didn’t smile or offer her hand.  Instead, she said grudgingly, “Hello, Linda.”

Lydia bristled but she maintained a calm composure.  “Lydia,” she corrected her.  “My name’s Lydia.”

Camila didn’t say anything.  Instead, she turned her attention once again to Maksim who was watching Lydia.  “Well, Maksim, I expect to have a least one dance with you tonight,” she said, touching his arm again.  “That’s if your date doesn’t object.”  She said the word “date” as if it were a dirty word.  Before he could answer, she excused herself, then turned and sauntered away.

Lydia shook her head.  She didn’t know that women like her actually existed.  “Are you going to dance with her?” she asked Maksim who looked amused.  Did he find Camila attractive?  She noticed he hadn’t seem at all put out by her obvious flirtation with him.

“I don’t think so,” he said emphatically.  “Don’t let her upset you or spoil your evening.” “I’ll try not to.”

Just then, dinner was announced and they were ushered into an enormous dining-room with a long table covered in a white cloth, elegant dinnerware and vases with red flowers.  She sat between Maksim and a very nice lady whom he had introduced her to earlier.  Thankfully, Camila was seated several chairs away.  The dinner consisted of three scrumptious options—the Sole Meuniere with Rice Pilaf, Grilled Flatiron steak with tomatoes and spiced vinaignette for the meat lovers and Cider Braised Chicken with apples and Kale.  For the vegetarians, the choices were the Rigatoni with peas and porchini mushrooms in a creamy asparagus sauce and the Papardelle with shallots wild mushrooms and tarragon.  Lydia opted for the Sole while Maksim had the steak.  And following dinner the Mini Lanoffee Pie was served.  It was the best dessert she had ever had and promised herself that she would make it one of these days.

After dinner, they filed into the large room where there would be dancing for those who wanted to dance and comfortable chairs for those who just wanted to sit and chat.  Lydia excused herself and went to freshen up.

When she returned, Maksim reached for her hand.  “Let’s dance,” he suggested quietly, his expression serious.  Pulse racing, she put her handbag on a seat nearby and followed him to the dance floor.  She followed his lead and their bodies moved in unison to the music.  The feel of his hand pressing into the small of her back and his firm body against his made her senses swim.  He smelled really good and her arm tightened slightly around his neck as they moved around the dance-floor.  The hand holding hers felt so warm and pleasant.

At one point he drew back to gaze down at her.  She raised her head to look up at him.  Their eyes locked for several minutes as they continued to move as one to the music.  His eyes were darker and she saw something in them which made her heart pound wildly against her ribs and swallow hard.  Her chest began to heave when she saw his gaze drop to her lips which parted. Color flooded his cheeks and she felt his grip on her back tighten even more until she was pressing into his body.  She couldn’t be certain if the heavy breathing she heard was his or hers.

The music ended and several minutes passed before he released her.  He was still holding her hand and instead of going back to where the others were sitting, he took her in the opposite direction.   He took her out on to the terrace where it was dark except for the light coming from inside. No one was out there.  They were alone.

Without saying a word, he stopped abruptly, pulled her against him and began to kiss her hungrily, feverishly.  She hugged him tightly around the neck and kissed him back.   They stood there for a long time, just kissing while inside people were chatting, laughing, dancing and enjoying themselves.

At length, Maksim raised his head to look down into her upturned face, his breathing harsh and unsteady.  “I have wanted to do that for a very long time,” he confessed huskily.   She reached up and kissed him.

“Me too,” she said.

“Remember when Vasily asked me where I have been hiding you?” he asked.  “I said something to him in Russian.”

“Yes, you did but I thought you said it in English afterward.  You told him that we work together.”

“I said that afterwards but when he asked me where I have been hiding you, I said, in my heart.”

She stared at him.  “In your heart?” she repeated.

“Yes, that was my way of telling him that I love you.”

Her breath caught in her throat.  “I love you too, Maksim,” she said.  “I fell in love with you the first time I saw you.”

“It was love at first sight for me too but I kept it to myself because I didn’t know how you felt about me or if you would feel comfortable being in a relationship with me.”

“It doesn’t matter to me that you’re my boss,” she said.  “I love you and I want to be with you.”

He groaned.  “I want to be with you too,” he muttered thickly.  “Tonight changes everything between us.”

“Yes, it does,” she agreed.  She closed her eyes in sweet anticipation as he lowered his head again to kiss her.

 

 

Sources:  J Crew; Pinterest; Wikitravel; Panoramio; Vladivostok; Tripadvisor; Epicurious; Pinterest; Red

The Barbecue

“You’re not his type.” If that smile were meant to take the sting out of her words it didn’t work.  Kay was smarting from it.  “I don’t mean to upset you, Kay, but I thought I would warn you because I have seen the way you look at Quinn every time you see him.  I don’t want you to fool yourself into thinking that a man like him would notice someone like you.”

Kay tried to remain calm.  They were riding down in the lift to the indoor parking lot of their office building.  “What do you mean someone like me?” she asked.  “What is wrong with me?”  She knew that this had nothing to do with race because Joanna’s son was married to a Somalian girl whom she adored.

“I have seen the women Quinn has been involved with and you’re nothing like them.  For one thing, they are stunning, sophisticated and move in high circles.  You are out of your league.”

“I may not be stunning, sophisticated and move in high society but I have a lot going for me.”  She wondered what Joanna would say if she knew that for the past several weeks she and Quinn had been seeing each other.

“When I invited you to my home and you were introduced to him, I didn’t expect you to get any fanciful ideas about him.  He’s a bachelor and enjoys being one but if he decides to settle down one day, I can say with great certainty that it won’t be with someone like you.”

They had reached the parking lot and the doors of the lift opened.

“You have made your point, Joanna.  Now, if you will excuse me, I need to be getting home.”  She left the lift and walked briskly to her car, fuming.  What a great way to start the weekend.  She unlocked her car, climbed in and slammed the door.  As she turned the key in the ignition, she saw that her hand was trembling.  How she hated scenes like that.  She and Joanna had never really gotten along.  They tolerated each other because they worked together.  She found the older woman to be infuriating and condescending.  Granted, Quinn was her brother but he was a grown man who didn’t need her interference in his love life.

Quinn.  The memories of their first meeting flooded her mind.  It was on a Sunday and Joanna had invited her co-workers to her country cottage for a barbecue.  She went with another co-worker and as they were walking up to the area where the chairs and tables were set up, she noticed a tall, handsome and sexy man sitting on a wooden bar. Hmmmm, she thought.  He looked incredible in the white shirt and tan colored pants.  His premature gray hair was very flattering; it actually suited him, although she could see that he was in his late thirties.  She turned to her friend, “Who’s that?” she asked.

Jenny smiled.  “He is gorgeous, isn’t he?” she agreed.  “That’s Quinn, Joanna’s brother. He’s looking this way.  Let’s go over and I’ll introduce you to him.”

Kay’s heart lurched.  “Do I look all right?” she asked nervously.  She was wearing a dark green scarf over her head and loosely wrapped around her neck because she wanted to look chic and a light green dress which complimented her slim figure.

Jenny touched her arm reassuringly.  “You look great.”

They went over to Quinn who slid down from where he was perched; his eyes went first to Kay, then Jenny and back to Kay where they stayed.  By now Kay’s heart was beating wildly and her feet felt wobbly but she resolved to appear calm even though she was far from feeling so.  This close, he was even more devastatingly handsome and his light brown eyes framed by long, dark eyelashes captivated her.  She felt as if she would drown in them.

Jenny looked at one and then the other, amused.  “Hello, Quinn,” she said, greeting him and he had to drag his gaze away from Kay to look at her.

“Hello Jenny,” he said with a smile.  Then, as if unable to resist, his gaze shifted to Kay.  “Who’s your friend?” he asked.

“This is Kay.”

He held out his hand.  “Hello, Kay.”  He smiled at her and she felt her heart stop.

She took his hand and felt his fingers clasp hers in a firm handshake.  “Hello,” she mumbled.  She felt a bolt of electricity surge through her at feel of his warm palm against hers.  Those eyes were so mesmerizing.  Did he have any idea of the effect he was having on her?

“Where’s Joanna?” Jenny asked.

“She’s probably in the kitchen,” he told her.  He was still holding Kay’s hand.

“I’ll go and see what I can help her with,” Jenny said.  “Excuse me.”  She winked at Kay before she walked away.

Now they were alone and Kay felt extremely shy and nervous.  She didn’t know what to do.  She was not used to having a man like Quinn staring at her, making it obvious that he was attracted to her.  She was sure that Jenny was going to tease her about it.  “What-what a lovely place Joanna has,” she stammered, looking away.  “It seems quiet and peaceful.”

“Am I making you nervous?” he asked, releasing her hand.  “I don’t mean to.”

“It’s all right,” she said turning her head towards him again.  “Did you come by yourself?”

“Yes.  I am alone or was alone until you came. I want to enjoy more of your company.  Would you like to take a walk in the English countryside?  We won’t go far or Joanna will be miffed.”

She nodded and fell into step with him.  As they walked, she began to relax and open up, admiring the lush, rolling hills and the sheep grazing peacefully.  It was truly a glorious experience being there in the countryside with its magnificent views–a welcome change from the city.

They talked about all sorts of things and she laughed at his childhood stories.  When they returned to the cottage, everyone was gathering around the tables where the food was laid out and helping themselves.  Everything looked appetizing. They ended up sitting at separate tables, much to her disappointment.  He was at Joanna’s table while she was at the same one as Jenny. After they finished eating, Quinn took her to the little river and bridge where they spent the rest of the afternoon until it was time to go.

Before they parted company, he asked for her phone number.  “I enjoyed our time together,” he told her as they stood under the tree.

She smiled.  “Me too.”

“I will call you,” he promised before he took her hand and raised it to his lips.  “Goodnight, Kay.”  Her skin tingled.

“Goodnight, Quinn.”  He released her hand, albeit reluctantly and she could feel him watching her as she headed to the cottage to say goodbye to Joanna and the remaining guests and get a ride home with Jenny.

True to his word, Quinn called her the following evening and they spoke for hours on the phone, making plans to see each other and have been seeing each other since.

Stirring from her reverie now, she decided that she would go over to his place instead of going home.   She needed to be with him now even though they had made plans for tomorrow.  She went straight up as the man in the concierge recognized her.  She rang the doorbell and a few minutes later the door opened and Quinn was standing there.  He was dressed in a black tee shirt and jeans.  “Hello,” he said.  He pulled her inside and closed the door.  “What a pleasant surprise.”

“I was on my way home but decided to come here instead because I really needed to be with you tonight.  I couldn’t wait until tomorrow to see you.”

His eyes darkened and as he removed her jacket, he began to kiss her.  She kissed him back, struggling to free her arms from the sleeves so that she could put them around his neck.  Finally, they were free and she clung to him as she was pressed against the door.   The jacket was discarded on the floor at their feet and his arms went around her waist as they exchanged fiery kisses until he raised his head to gaze down into her face, his own flushed.  “I love you, Kay,” he muttered huskily. “Do you love me?”

“Yes,” she said in a raspy voice, “I do, Quinn.”

“Stay with me tonight, then.  Now that you are here now, I don’t want you to leave.  I want to wake up in the morning with you next to me.  Say you will stay.”

“Yes, I’ll stay…” Her voice trailed off as his lips sought hers again.

 

 

 

The Declaration

Friends since they were children,

Eliza never once imagined that

their relationship would blossom

into a romantic one.  Franklin

was so handsome and he had

his pick of very beautiful and

accomplished young women.

 

Eliza had always dreaded the

day when he would marry.

Her feelings for him had

changed when she turned

sixteen.  It was hard being

around him and pretending

that he was like a brother to

her.  It was even harder seeing

him with other girls.

 

When she and Franklin went

for their walks, always accompanied by

a relative, she would ask him

questions about a particular girl

to gage his feelings but he always

changed the subject.  She thought

perhaps he had developed an

attachment to the girl but

didn’t want to say anything until

he was sure that his affection

was reciprocated.

 

Then the moment she always dreaded

came.  They were sitting in their favorite

spot under her aunt’s supervision.  It was

a beautiful, sunny day.  Eliza breathed in the air,

smiling as the sun hit her face.  She held a rose in

her hand which Franklin had picked for her.

That was very sweet of him, she thought.

He was always doing thoughtful things.

How she adored him.  Sighing, she turned

to her friend who was watching her.

 

There was curious expression on his face

and she grew concerned.  “Is something the

matter?” she asked.

 

“Over the years I have developed feelings

for someone close to me and I haven’t had

the courage to tell her.  I am not sure of how

she feels about me.  What do you think I should

do?”

 

Eliza blinked, trying hard not to show the pain

that had gripped her heart.  She quickly turned

her head away from him so that he could not

see the tears in her eyes.  She blinked them back.

The last thing she wanted was to break down in

front of him.  He must never know how she felt

about him.  Never.  “I-I think you should tell her,”

she said quietly.  “You won’t know her feelings

unless you declare yours.”

 

There was a moment’s silence and then she

felt Franklin reach for her hand and his

fingers closed round hers.  His hand felt so

warm and strong.  She wanted to pull her hand

away, get up and run from there.  She wanted to

go to her room and lock herself in and cry until

she couldn’t cry anymore.

 

“Eliza, you and I have been friends since child-

hood.  The happiest moments of my life have

been with you.  I can’t imagine being with

anyone else.  Eliza, I love you.”

 

Her head spun round, her eyes wide with

shock.  “What?” she exclaimed.

 

“You’re crying,” he said, brushing the tears

from her cheeks.

 

“You love me?” She couldn’t believe it.

 

“Yes.  I have loved you for a long time

now but dared not declare my feelings

because I didn’t want to run the risk of

ruining our friendship.  You never showed

particular favour to any of the young men

so I hoped that perhaps you might be

more inclined to develop a romantic interest

in a man whom you consider to be your friend.”

 

Eliza beamed through her tears, her heart

bursting with joy.  “Oh Franklin,” she cried.  “I

love you.  I loved you since I was sixteen.  I wanted

so much to tell you but was afraid that you won’t

be pleased.”

 

His eyes were tender as they searched her face.  “Oh

my dear Eliza,” he murmured.  ” We would have

spared each other undue anguish if we had

declared our love before.  Well, the matter has been

resolved.  We love each other and it means now that

I can ask you to marry me without fear of rejection.”

He got down on his knee, his eyes held hers and both

of his hands held hers.  “Eliza, will you do me the honor

of becoming my wife?”

 

Eliza nodded, the tears falling.  “Yes,” she sobbed.

“Oh, Franklin.”

 

He smiled and stood up.  He pulled her to her feet.

“Now, I will go and ask your father for his permission.”

 

“I don’t suspect that you will meet with any resistance,”

Eliza told him.  “My father is rather fond of you.”

 

They walked back to Eliza’s house where Franklin was

warmly received.  Her aunt followed them, dabbing

at her eyes and smiling broadly.

 

the-lovers-by-william-powell-frith-18551

Sources:  Angelpig.net; Victorian Era