Toshiro Returns to Kampala

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It was time to go to work but Ife didn’t feel like it.  Since Toshiro left she hadn’t felt like going to the hotel.  It was hard not seeing not going to his suite and being with him.  She missed him so much it hurt.  After she met his sister, Miko and learning that he was in love with her, she had hoped that she would hear from him or see him but so far nothing was forthcoming.  It was now mid April.  Christmas had come and gone and she had gone through the motions of celebrating for Miremba’s sake.  The New Year had come with the hope that Toshiro would return to Kampala.

All the way to the hotel, she thought about him and wondered if she would see him soon.  Her life was so empty without him.  She wondered if he would return to Kampala even if he didn’t have any business there.  Would he travel all that way just to see her?  She wasn’t sure.  When she went to the hotel last week Friday, she was told to get suite 406 ready because it was going to be occupied over the weekend.  Could it be him, she wondered but if it were, surely he would have left a note for her letting her know that he was there.   Yesterday was Monday and still nothing.  So, she concluded that he wasn’t the person staying in the suite.  It was someone else.

Today was Tuesday.  She went to suite 406, her heart heavy.  She let herself in and got busy.  It looked like no one had been there.   She started with the bathroom first, then the sitting room and the bedroom last.  She walked into the room where they had spent so much time together.  The bed looked like it had hardly been slept in.  Memories flooded her mind as she replaced the sheets.  When she was finished, she stepped back and it was then that she noticed the box on the work desk.

Curious, she went over to inspect it.  It was neatly wrapped in red and gold paper and there was a card with her name written on it.  She frowned.  It wasn’t her birthday.  Carefully, she unwrapped it and set the paper aside.  She looked at the white box before she opened it.  She removed the tissue paper and her eyes widened when she saw the beautiful kimono.  She took it out and examined it.  It was soft and expensive looking.  She walked over to the mirror and held it against her.  It looked really good.  It was the most beautiful and expensive thing she had ever had received.

She admired it for a few minutes longer and then put it back in the box and closed it.  She opened the card and read it.   Dear Ife, Do you remember that I once promised you that I would buy a kimono for you?  I hope you like the one I got you.  I will see you at 5:30 this afternoon.  Toshiro.  Smiling and heart pounding, she slipped the note back into the envelope and placed it on top of the box.  She wished she could try on the kimono now but she had work to do.  Besides, she was going to see him later.  She gathered up the wrapping paper and the old sheets and left the room.  She finished tidying the bedroom and the rest of the suite before she let herself out.  She was in better spirits now.  He was back and she couldn’t wait to see him.

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At exactly five-thirty, he let himself into the suite, his heart racing.  He was nervous.  She must have seen the box and card by now.  Did she like the kimono?  He hoped so.  It was more than just a gift to him.  She came into the living-room when she heard him.   They stood there, staring at each other for several minutes and then she approached him.

“I-I wanted to thank you for the beautiful kimono,” she said.

“Do you like it?”

“Yes, I like it very much.”

He smiled.  “Good.  The moment I saw it, I had to get it for you.”

“Thank you.  It-it was very kind of you.”

His expression changed.  “I didn’t do it out of kindness, Ife.” He moved closer to her, his breathing quickening.  He’d never been so nervous in his life.  “I did it because I love you.”

Ife swallowed hard, her heart was pounding and her head was spinning.  He loved her.

He continued.  “I don’t know if you feel the same way about me.  I know you want me.”  His eyes darkened at the thought.  He wanted more, though.  He wanted her love too but realized that he wasn’t entitled to it.  To be quite honest, he didn’t deserve it, not after the way he took advantage of her in the beginning.  “In two weeks, I will be leaving Kampala and returning to Tokyo.”

“You’re leaving in two weeks?”  He had just come back and he was leaving again in such a short time.  She couldn’t hide her distress.

He saw the expression on her face and hope flickered in his eyes.  It gave him the courage he needed to say, “Yes and I would like you to come with me.”

She stared at him, incredulous.  “You want me to go with you to Tokyo?”

“Yes.”

“But what about my daughter, Miremba?”

“I want her to come too.”

Ife’s mind was spinning.  He loved her and he wanted her and to go to Tokyo with him.  The thought of living in a strange country was daunting.  She had never traveled outside of Kampala.  What would life in Tokyo be like?  Would Miremba and she live with him?  What kind of work would she be able to do?  She wasn’t going to miss Kampala even though it was her home.  Life here was a constant struggle and she was tired of it.

He watched the play of emotions on her face and reached for her hand.  “I know that moving to a strange country is scary,” he said.  “But, don’t worry, Ife.  I’ll take care of Miremba and you.”  He drew her closer to him, his eyes meeting hers in a steady gaze.  “I love you and I want to marry you.”

Her eyes widened.  “You want to marry me?” she exclaimed.

He nodded.  “Yes, I do. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

“I’m a divorced woman.”

“That doesn’t matter.”

“You would take care of another man’s daughter?”

“When I marry you, she becomes my daughter too.”

Tears glistened in her eyes.  “I don’t know what to say,” she murmured.

He reached into the breast pocket of his jacket and took out a small black box.  “I hope you say yes,” he replied as he got down on one knee.  He opened the box and took out the ring.  He couldn’t wait to put it on her finger.  He held her hand and glanced up at her.  “Ife, will you marry me?”

“Yes.”  The word came out as a sob.

He rose to his feet and pulled her against him.  “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

He bent his head and kissed her.  She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.

A couple of days later, Ife introduced Toshiro to her brother, Irumba and his family and he was warmly received.  They were thrilled for Ife that she was embarking on a new life and they wished her all the best.  They promised to visit her in Tokyo.  They were going to miss her and Miremba but they were happy for them.  Mrs. Sato was happy for them too and vowed that she was going to make the special trip for their wedding.   It was tough saying goodbye to them but Ife knew that she was making the right decision.  Her life was with Toshiro.

Two weeks later, they were on their way to Tokyo.  Miremba was going to join them when the school term ended in the summer.   She was beside herself with excitement and had already exchanged several text messages, emails and What’sApp calls with Kento who was looking forward to hanging out with her.

Ife wore the kimono which looked really nice on her.  She was happy and as she settled into the middle seat on the plane, she couldn’t help smiling.  No more cleaning hotel suites, no more sanitation issues and her daughter would be able to go to a school which had toilets.  Most of all, she was happy because she had found love.

Some gifts are big. Other are small. But the ones that come from the heart is the best gift at all – Tinku Razoria

Zendaya Returns

MarisStella_MIt was after the midday mass and the sanctuary was empty.  Father O’Reilly lingered in front of the beautiful wooden bust of the Madonna and Child.  He said a prayer and then blessed himself.  He stood there for several minutes.

He had contacted Aileen to tell her that he couldn’t officiate at her wedding in May and the reason why.  She was shocked but supportive.  She wished him all the best and expressed hope that he would still attend the wedding.  He informed her that he had arranged for Father Murphy to perform the wedding ceremony.   He was the priest who took over from him at the parish when he left Inistioge for Cape Town.

In two weeks he was going to be gone from this Parish and Cape Town.  Returning to Inistioge was bittersweet.  It would be nice to see the folks again and spend time on the hill overlooking River Nore but his heart would always remain in South Africa where Zendaya was.  Zendaya…He closed his eyes in despair.

“Good afternoon, Father O’Reilly.”

At first he thought he was imagining things but then he heard footsteps.  His eyes opened and he swung around.  His heart leaped in his chest, his expression becoming tense as he watched Zendaya slowly approach him.  All sorts of conflicting emotions raged inside him.  He ached to take her in his arms but it would be wrong, irreverent to do so there in the sanctuary.  He wanted to lash out at her for leaving.  His hands tightened into fists at his sides.  “Did you come to take your pound of flesh?” he muttered tightly when she reached him.

She looked up at him, confused.  “What do you mean?”

“Why are you here, Zendaya?”

“I heard that you were leaving.”

“I suppose I ought to be grateful that you came to say goodbye to me in person this time.”

“I didn’t come to say goodbye.”

“Why did you come then?”

“I wanted to see you, Cian.”

His eyes darkened when she called him by his first name and he took a step towards her.  “Zendaya…”  He froze when they heard voices outside.  “We should go somewhere else and talk.”

0a1f7e8df4d7c310e48df547dfda2143“Let’s go to the river,” she suggested.  How she longed to touch his face.

“All right,” he agreed and preceded her out of the sanctuary.  There was no one outside.  The coast was clear.  They left the church through the side entrance and made their way to the river.  It was a beautiful, sunny day.

When they got there, they stopped and faced each other.  Zendaya’s heart was racing as she met his penetrating gaze.  “Did you get my Christmas card?”

“Yes.  I would have sent you one but I didn’t know where you were.  Where did you go after you left the parish?”

“I went to Soweto and stayed with a family I met through Father Botha.  I spent Christmas with them.  How was your Christmas?”

“How do you think it was?  Do you have any idea of what you’ve put me through these past few months?”

“I’m sorry.  I explained in my letter why I had to leave.”

“You did what you thought was best for you.  You didn’t care about me or my feelings.”

“That’s not true,” she protested.  “I was thinking about you when I decided to leave.  You were a priest.  I didn’t want you to get into trouble on account of me.”

“You and I had been lovers for over two years and no one found out about it.  We were careful.”

“I felt guilty about what we were doing and I knew that there wasn’t any future for us so I had to do what I believed was sensible and right.”

“Do you still feel that way?”

She shook her head.  “No.  I went to Johannesburg and saw Father Botha.  It was he who told me that you were leaving the parish and the priesthood and the reason why.”

“I didn’t tell him whom I was in love with.”

“I think he knows that it’s me and that’s why he asked me if my reason for leaving was the same as yours.”

A muscle began to pulsate in Father O’Reilly’s cheek.  “Is it?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  I left because I had fallen in love with you.  You were the reason why I couldn’t marry Anesu but since there wasn’t any chance of a future with you,  I resigned myself to becoming a spinster.”

“Oh, Zendaya…” he moaned thickly and reaching for her, he pulled her against him, making her gasp.  And then his lips were on hers feverishly, urgently as all the pent up feelings gushed out.  She put her arms around his neck, her own response fierce.  In between frenzied kisses, he muttered, “I love you.”

They spent the rest of the afternoon up there on the hill just talking and making plans for the future.  That night, he went to  her room and stayed there until the next morning.  Several weeks later, they flew to Ireland.  He took her to his home in Inistioge where they stayed for a month before heading to Dublin.  There they got married.  Father O’Reilly left the Catholic Church to become an Anglican parish minister.  He happily adjusted to his new life.  As wife, homemaker and expectant mother, Zendaya’s life was now complete.

Source:  The Journal

Toshiro Returns to Tokyo

Z8VeQHoI_oToshiro was back in Tokyo.  He returned two weeks ago.  It was hard being away from Kampala.  All he could think about was Ife and how much he missed being with her.  All along he knew that what he had been doing was wrong but he couldn’t help himself.  He wanted Ife so much.  She filled him with a desire that was so potent and raw that it scared him.

He could tell from the way she responded when they made love that she wanted him too.  And that realization was what he used to rationalize his actions.  But his conscience continued to trouble him.

And he felt badly about Asuka.  They had been going steady for some time now and still he hadn’t broached the subject of marriage with her.  His family expected him to pop the question soon and he imagined that her family might expect the same thing.  He knew that Asuka was in love with him but he realized that he didn’t feel the same way and that was before he met Ife.

Speaking of Asuka, he was supposed to meet her for a coffee at the cafe where they usually went.  It was within walking distance from his apartment.  No doubt she was already there waiting for him.  She was always very punctual.

They hadn’t seen each other for months and when he was in Tokyo, he made sure that they spent time together.  This year, however, it was different for him.  He didn’t look forward to coming home anymore.  For him, Kampala was home.  It was where Ife was.  He closed his eyes briefly.  Oh, Ife, I wish I could be with you right now.  Was she thinking about him?  Did she miss him?  She’s probably glad to be rid of you for a while because of what you’re doing to her, an accusing voice retorted and he flinched.

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As soon as he walked into the cafe, he spotted Asuka.  He went over to her and she stood up, her expression one of delight.  She was obviously very happy to see him.  She put her arms around his neck and kissed him on the lips.  Then, she sat down.  “I ordered you Hot Tea.”  She put it in front of him.

“You’re welcome,” she said.  “You must be happy to be able to speak Japanese again.  How are things in Kampala?”He attempted a smile.  “Thank you.”

“The usual,” he said.  “Well, while I was there, journalists were protesting alleged abuse by the police.  They saw what was happening as an attack on press freedom in Uganda.   Then, there’s growing concern among some Ugandans about Chinese funding because of the debts they see other countries struggling with.  And then there’s the charcoal trade which is decimating forests.”

“Last week Tuesday was World Toilet Day so I was reading up about it online and came across an article which said that there’s a toilet crisis in Kampala.  It said that there aren’t public toilets for about 1,200 people, I think and that mud tinged with feces washes into homes during heavy rains.  How disgusting!”  She made a face and shuddered.  “How could people live like that and why isn’t the government doing something about it?”

“Yes, the sanitation crisis is growing worse.  It’s not only happening in Kampala but in South Africa, India and other places.”

“We’re so lucky, Toshiro.  We have access to clean toilets at home and in public.  I think that sometimes we take these things for granted.  I wanted to help so I sent a donation to one of the charities which is helping to provide clean toilets for the people in Africa.  Using public toilets isn’t safe for the women.  They could catch diseases or even get raped.  Can you imagine that?  And children aren’t safe either.  I read about four children who drown in pit toilets.  I still get choked up just thinking about them, especially, the three year old. ”

“Let’s not talk about this anymore because it’s upsetting you.”  He couldn’t bear to hear it anymore.  It made him think of Ife and how she could have lost her job if it had been discovered that she had used the toilet in his suite that day when he caught her.  He wondered if she was one of those people who didn’t have toilets in their homes.

“You’re right.  Let’s talk about something else.  The hotel where you stay, is it nice?”

“Yes, it is.  It’s a 5 star hotel.”

“What do you do when you’re not on business?”

“I go sightseeing or I stay in my room and catch up on the News.”  That wasn’t true.  He hardly went sightseeing and in the evenings, he was in his suite with Ife.

“Maybe one of these days, I will visit you there.   I read that it’s a relatively safe place for tourists.  Besides, I won’t be alone.  You will be there to protect me.”  She reached over and squeezed his hand.  “It’s so good to see you.  I always miss you so much every time you go away and I count the days when you’ll be back.  When do you go again?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe next month.”

“But not during Christmas and New Year’s I hope.”

“I don’t know.”

“Why do you go there so often?”

“Business.”  That wasn’t true anymore.  Ife was his reason for going to Kampala now.

“Well, I hope you plan to spend Christmas here.”

He didn’t answer.  Instead, he sipped his tea.  I wonder what Christmas is like in Kampala. 

“My parents are wondering what your intentions are.”

He stared at her blankly.  “What do you mean?”

“Well…we’ve been dating for five years now and they are wondering if we are going to settle down anytime soon.  We’re both in our thirties now.”

Toshiro sighed.  “Asuka, I have something to tell you.”

She looked wary now.  And she set the cup of coffee down on the table.  “What is it?” she asked.

“I haven’t been completely honest with you.  You asked why I go to Kampala so often and I told that it had to do with business.  Well, it doesn’t–not entirely.  This year I have been involved with a woman I met there.”

Asuka stared at him.  “What do you mean by involved?”

Toshiro could feel his face getting warm.  “I’m in a relationship with her.”

“But you’re in a relationship with me.”

“I know–”

“Does she know about me?”

“No.”

“Are you sleeping with her?”

“Yes.”

Asuka’s face was pale now.  Hurt and pain etched her features.  “Are you in love with her?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t believe this.  I have kept myself pure for you because I believed that we were going to get married.”

“You told me that you couldn’t sleep with me because you’re a Christian.”

“Is that why you’re sleeping with her?”

No.”

“Well, I guess this is it for us.”  She got up and pulled on her coat and scarf.   Grabbing her handbag, she muttered, “Goodbye, Toshiro” before she turned and walked away.

He sat there for a long time, feeling terrible.  The last thing he wanted to do was to hurt Asuka.  If he hadn’t met and fallen in love with Ife, he would have married her.  In time, he would have grown to love her the way she loved him.

He finished his tea which had gotten lukewarm and then got up and left the cafe.  He didn’t go straight home.  Instead, he walked for a while, thinking.  He had to sort out what he was going to do about Ife.  He hadn’t banked on falling in love with her.  Initially, it had been an extremely strong sexual attraction which he thought that he would get over after a while.

He knew what he ought to do but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it.  This whole thing had turned into a great mess.  He needed to talk to someone.  Miko.  He called her immediately on his cell.  Her voice mail came on.  He left a message asking her to call him.

She returned his call a couple of hours later.  He asked her if he could stop by her place the following day because he really needed to talk to her.

Next up is Toshiro’s Exploitation.

Source:  AP News

Home For Christmas

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“What do we really know about this girl, except that he met her in Namibia?” Margaret Whitmore asked her husband, Charles as she stood at the window of the drawing-room looking out at the snow covered grounds of the estate.  Winter had come early, promising a white Christmas which was a couple of days away.  her step-son, Clive had come home for the holidays and had brought a friend with him.

Charles glanced up from his newspaper, removed his pipe and replied,  “Clive wrote to me about her.  They met last year at a mutual friend’s engagement party.”

Margaret turned to face him.  “He wrote to you about her?”

“Yes.  As a matter of fact, I feel as if I know her very well.  I think it’s serious.”

“Why do you say that?”

He looked surprised.  “Haven’t you noticed the way he looks at her?”

Margaret turned and walked over to the fireplace.  She stood with her back turned towards him.  “No, I hadn’t noticed.  I’m not sure I approve, Charles.”

“Why on earth not?” he asked.

“I just don’t think she’s suitable for him.”

“Is it because she’s African?”

Margaret swung around.  “Of course not!” she replied, irritably.  “I’m not prejudiced, you know.”

“Then, what is your objection?”

“I’m sure she’s a nice girl but–”

“You don’t think she’s right for Clive.”

“No.”

“I seem to recall us having this same conversation before.  Do you remember when he brought home Emma Fennimore a couple of years ago?  You didn’t approve of her either although she was a lovely girl.  And then, there was Charlotte–”

“Oh, don’t mock me, Charles.”

“I’m not mocking you.”

“I just want what’s best for Clive.”

“So do I but Clive is an adult, capable of making his own decisions and choosing whom he want to be with.  And if you don’t want to get in his bad books, don’t interfere in his love life.”  He put the pipe back in his mouth and resumed reading his paper.

Margaret looked at him, was about to say something but changed her mind.  She turned back to stare at the flames as they licked the logs.  She heard voices and then Clive walked in.  The girl was behind him.  She glanced at her first and then at him.  His face was flushed from being outdoors.  He acknowledged her and his father, “It’s cold out there,” he announced as he warmed his hands.  “but, it’s beautiful with the fresh snow on the ground.  Come and warm your hands, Ndeshi.”

Ndeshi joined him and held her hands over the fire.  She was thankful to be in the nice, warm room again.  “I’m not used to the cold,” she said.

Clive smiled and took her hands.  “Here, let me warm them for you.”

Charles gave Margaret a knowing look.  Margaret turned away.  Just then, Reginald went in to inform him that he had a call.  Charles set his paper aside and stood up.  “Thanks, Reginald.  I’ll take it in the study.  Excuse me, everyone.”  He left the room.

Reginald said to Margaret, “Lunch is ready.”

“Thank you, Reginald.”  After he was gone, she said to Ndeshi, “Why don’t you go ahead?  Clive and I will join you shortly.”

Ndeshi smiled.  “All right.”

567423Clive released her hands and watched her go.  He turned to Margaret.  “You wanted to talk to me about something?”

She wrung her hands. “You haven’t said much to me since you arrived.”

“What is there to say?”

“Why did you have to bring her?”

“I didn’t want to spend the holidays without her.”

“But, it’s the first time you’ve come home for Christmas since…”

“I know.  And I’m only here because of Dad.”

“Why do you always bring a girl with you when you visit?  Are you doing it to hurt me?”

“My life world doesn’t revolve around you anymore, Margaret.”

“Your father thinks it’s serious between you and that girl.  Is he right?” she asked, her eyes filled with pain and jealousy.

“Yes,” he replied.  “Is that all?  May I go now?”

Color suffused her face.  “Why are you being like this?”

“How am I being?”

“Cold and distant.  I remember there was a time when you were so passionate.”

“That was a long time ago.”

“Does she know about us?”

“There is no us.  What we had ended the day I came home after graduating from Oxford and found out that you married my father.”

“Is that why you packed up and moved to Namibia?”

“Yes.  I was hurt and angry.”

She reached out to touch his arm and he flinched.  “Clive…”

“Lunch is ready and I’m hungry.  Excuse me.”  He turned and abruptly walked away.

She watched him leave, her heart aching.  It was his first Christmas home and she had hoped that it would be just the three of them.  Why did he have to bring that girl?  Was it to spite her?  Seeing them together was like a knife turning in her stomach.  How on earth was she going to get through the holidays?

The Separation

c6bee777101682306e328b71dcc2d553Father O’Reilly had just returned from his visit to the orphanage when Sister Hughes rushed  over to him.  She looked very distressed. “Oh, Father O’Reilly, thank Heaven’s you’re back.”

He looked at her, concerned.  “What is the matter, Sister Hughes?”

“It’s Zendaya.”

He stiffened at once.  “What about her?”

“She’s gone.”

His face went pale.  “What do you mean she’s gone?”

“She left this afternoon.”

“Did she say where she was going?”

“No, Father.  I don’t know if it had to do with that young man–”

“What young man?”

“You know, the young man who visited the parish a couple of months ago.”

“He was here?”

“Yes, he was here today.  He wanted to see you but you were at the orphanage.”

“Did he see Zendaya?”

“Yes.  I told him to wait for her because she would be back from the market fairly soon and he said the strangest thing–”

“Did Zendaya leave with him?” he asked tightly.

Sister Hughes shook her head.  “No.  I saw him leave alone and he looked very upset.”

“Didn’t Zendaya say anything to you about where she was going or why she was leaving?”

“No, Father, but she did mention that she left a note for you in your office.  She was pretty upset.  This place will never be the same without her.”  Sister Hughes sniffed.  “Excuse me, Father,” she mumbled before she quickly walked away.

Father O’Reilly hurried to his office, closed the door behind him and went over to the desk.  He searched for the note but couldn’t find it.  Frustrated, he dragged his fingers through his hair while he tried to figure out where it could be.  Then, his eyes fell on his Bible.  Something white was sticking out of it.  He opened it and saw an envelope with his name written neatly on it.  He snatched it and sat down.  He used the letter opener to slit it open and then, with trembling fingers, he unfolded the sheet of paper.  His heart pounded heavily as he read the words on the page.

Dear Cian,

Before I explain why I left, I should tell you that Anesu came to the parish again today.  This time I spoke to him.  I lied and told him that I had left and then returned.  He wanted me to leave with him.  His plan was for us to go to his uncle’s house house in Cape St. Francis where we would stay until we got married.  I told him that I couldn’t marry him because I didn’t love him.  He asked if there was someone else.  I lied and said no.  How could I tell him about you–about us?

I gave him back his ring and he left.  He was really hurt and I’ll never forgive myself for that .  He’s a wonderful guy and deserves much better.  Marrying Anesu would have been a terrible mistake.  I would have been living a lie.  How could I be married to one man and thinking about another?  I know that I made the right decision where he’s concerned just as I know that I made the right decision leaving the parish and you.

I had to leave before you came back.  I couldn’t say goodbye to you face to face or I would have lost my nerve and stayed.  It’s no use.  There’s no future for us.  Your life is wrapped up in the church.  Leaving was the best thing for both of us.  I hope that in time you will see that I’m right.  Please take care of yourself.  

My deepest regards,

Zendaya

He crumpled the note and dropped it on the desk.  Leaning back in the chair, he closed his eyes.  How could she possibly think that leaving him was the best thing?  Did she have any idea of how not having her around, not seeing her or being with her was going to be torture for him?  Of all the foolish, selfish things to do…His eyes flew open and he sprang up from the chair.  He paced restlessly about the room, agitated and furious.  Granted, she hadn’t left with Anesu and had broken off her engagement to him but any satisfaction he might have gotten from that was squelched.  She was gone and he had no idea where she was.

He strode over to the desk and picked up the telephone.  He quickly dialed a number.  “Hello, Father Botha.  I hope I’m not calling at a bad time.  Has Zendaya been in touch with you?”

“No, she hasn’t.  Why?”

“She has left the Parish.”

“You mean she has left the parish for a while?”

“No.  She packed up and left.”

“That’s strange.  Didn’t she give you any notice at all?”

“No.”

“That’s not like her at all.  Well, if I hear from her, I will get in touch with you.”

“Thank you, Father Botha.  Goodbye.”

“Goodbye, Father O’Reilly.”

Father O’Reilly hung up and walked over to the window where he spent the next several minutes staring out of the window, his expression tense.  Where was she?

“What’s the matter, Zendaya?  Don’t you like the hat I made for you?”  Agetha asked, a concerned expression on her small face.

large-dd84c1eac5a3ce566f5fc6f5ae1a6763Fighting back tears, Zendaya hugged her and said, “Of course, I like the hat.  It’s very pretty.”  When she released her, she put the hat on.  “How does it look?”

“It looks really nice on you.”

“Thank you for making it for me.  It’s the best Christmas gift I ever got.”

“Why are you sad, Zendaya?”

Her question startled Zendaya.  “Sad?” she repeated.  “Do I look sad?”

Agetha nodded.  “Yes.  Are you sad because you’re not spending Christmas with your family?”

“I don’t have any family,” Zendaya explained.  “My father died when I was your age and my mother died two years ago.  I don’t have any brothers or sisters.”

“You can be a part of our family, if you like.  You can be my and Elsabe’s big sister.  I heard Mama once say that you were like a daughter to her.”

“I do feel like a part of your family and I always wanted to have sisters.”

Agetha smiled.  “Can I brush your hair?”

“Sure.  Go and get Elsabe.  While you brush my hair, I can tell you a bedtime story.”

Agetha ran off to get her sister.  Zendaya removed the hat and set it on top of the dresser.  She wiped her eyes on her pajama shirt sleeve.  Agetha was right.  She was sad.  By now he would have read the note.  Was he wondering where she was?  Was he furious with her for leaving?  She had no choice.  Still, it hurt to be separated from him and the thought of never seeing him again…The two girls bounded into the room and she turned to face them.  I mustn’t let them see that I am still sad.

 

Next is, Zendaya’s Visit to Johannesburg.

Christmas in Tampa

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Sami finished his conference call and when it was finished, he stood up and stretched.  Sometimes, those calls could be so tedious.  He was hungry.  Perhaps he should have Thai food delivered.  He picked up his phone and called his secretary.  “Hannah, could you call Mengrai Thai, order my usual and have it delivered at reception here instead of at security?  And please tell Shanika that I need to see her.  Thanks.”

He stood at the window looking out when minutes later, there was a knock on the door.  “Come in.”

The door opened and Shanika walked in.  He turned to face her, hands in pockets, leaning against the wall as he watched her close the door before she joined him at the window.  “Have you had lunch as yet?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Have lunch with me.”

“Okay.”

“I hope you like Thai.”

“I do.”

“So, do you have any plans for the weekend?”

“Well, aside from going to church tomorrow as usual, I don’t have any other plans.”

“Are you a Seventh-day Adventist?”

“Yes.  I’m a Seventh-day Adventist.  What gave me away?  Is it because I said I was going to church tomorrow which is a Saturday?”

“That plus the fact that you’re not wearing any makeup or jewelry.”

She smiled.  “So, you are a bit familiar with our ways.”

“I have friends who are Adventists.  Very nice people.  Are you a Vegetarian too?”
She shook her head.  “No.  Not all of us are.”
“One of my aunts is a Vegetarian but she isn’t an Adventist.”
“Do you go to church?”

“Only at Easter and Christmas, I’m afraid.  When I was a child, I went to church every Sunday because my parents insisted.”

“Which church did you go to?”

“I went to Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan.”

“You lived in New York?”

“Yes.  In Soho.  Before that I lived in Washington, DC with my parents after we left Algiers.  I went to St. Anselm’s Abbey School an all-boys preparatory school for grades six through twelve.  After I graduated from there, I left Washington and headed for Massachusetts to study at MIT.  After I graduated, I moved to New York where I lived for ten years.”

“And now you’re here in Tampa.”

“Yes.  I didn’t want to go through any more New York winters.”

“Have you been back to Algeria since you left?”

“No.  I don’t plan on ever going back.”

“Why did you leave?”

“Religious persecution.”

“I read just last month that your country’s blasphemy laws are making it difficult for Christians to share their faith because they are afraid that their conversation may be considered blasphemous and used against them.”

“Yes.  While we were there, they closed our church.  My relatives who are still there have to meet in homes to worship.”

“It’s really sad what they are going through.  Maybe we should say a special prayer for them on Saturday.  You are still coming to my church on Saturday right?”

“Yes.  And to the Christmas concert afterwards.”

“Good.”

Just then Hannah called his extension to let him know that his take-out order had arrived.  He excused himself and went to get it.  When he returned, he removed the containers from the bag and put everything out on the table beside the windows.  Shanika said a prayer before they tucked into the mouthwatering food.

“It’s good to know that you celebrate Christmas,” Sami commented.

“Yes, we celebrate it even though we know that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th.”

“Since you will be celebrating Christmas with your family, I was wondering if you would celebrate New Year’s with me?  I was thinking that we could have dinner first and then go to Busch Gardens and watch the fireworks.”

“I would like that very much.”

“Great.  This will be the first time I have gone anywhere on New Year’s Eve.  Usually I would stay home and watch the ball drop at Times Square and ring in the New Year alone.”

“Usually, I would be at my parents’ house.  What about Christmas?  Are you spending it with your family?”

“Not this year.  I wanted to have a warm Christmas.”

“So, this is your first Christmas in Tampa?”

“Yes.”

“Why don’t you spend it with my family and me?  My parents would love to have you.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.  They are dying to meet you.”

His eyebrows arched.  “They are?” he exclaimed.  “How come?”

“I’ve told them so much about you that they feel like they know you.”

He laughed.  “Wow.  Well, I hope they wouldn’t be disappointed when they actually meet me.”

“Not if you work that charm of yours.”

“My charm?”

“Yes.  Your charm and your smile and not to mention your eyes…”

“You’re making me blush.”

Shanika laughed.  “You are blushing.”

“Would your parents have a problem with you dating your boss?”

“No.”

“What about the fact that I’m a Catholic?”

“They may have some reservations about it although they acknowledge that there are sincere Christians in other denominations, including Roman Catholicism.”

“I know that my parents wouldn’t approve of my dating a non Catholic but it doesn’t matter.”

“Let’s talk about something else,” Shanika suggested.  “What languages do they speak in Algeria?”

Arabic and Berber are the native languages.  Algerians can read and write in French and English is taught in schools.” 

“You speak English with a French accent.”

“French is my first language and English my second.”

“Do you speak Arabic?”

“A little.  And I don’t speak Berber at all.”

Interesting.  I learned French in high-school and university and I really liked it.  I would like to be fluent in it.”

“I can teach you.”

“That would be nice.  So, what do you in your spare time?”

“Working out, reading, cycling, hiking and photography.”

“Wow.  I enjoy long walks, reading, cooking and baking, blogging and playing tennis.”

“I play tennis sometimes.  Maybe we can have a friendly match one of these days.”

She smiled.  “You’re on,” she said.  She rose to her feet.  “Thanks for lunch.  It was really tasty.”

He stood up.  “You’re welcome.

They cleared the table and then stood facing each other.  “I’d better be getting back to work.”

“You have a little sauce at the corner of your mouth here.”  He reached up and rubbed his thumb against the corner of her mouth.

“Oh,” she said, feeling a bit self-conscious.

He smiled.  “It’s gone.”  Then, his expression became serious.  His eyes darkened as they studied her upturned face.  “Tu es si belle,” he murmured.

She blinked.  Her heart was racing.  “Pardon?” she asked, sounding a bit breathless.

“I said that you are lovely.”

“Th–thank you.”  Her breath caught in her throat when he lowered his head and kissed her.  She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.  They kissed for several minutes and then his phone rang.

Reluctantly, he broke off the kiss and released her.  He went and answered it.  Putting his hand over the mouthpiece, he said, “I’m sorry but I need to take this call.  Stick around after work.  I’ll give you a ride home.”

“All right,” she said.  “I’ll see you later.”  She turned and walked on rather wobbly legs out of his office.  Yes, Christmas in Tampa this year was going to be a very special one.  She smiled at the thought as she closed the door behind her.

 

Sources:  Gatestone InstituteSeventh-day Adventist Church; Success; Live Bold & Bloom; Times Higher Education; Investopedia; Wikipedia;

 

 

The Christmas Sweater

il_1588xN.1617920774_tfc8.jpgMarva stood there at the cash register, wishing she could take off the sweater.  She had gotten some dirty looks.  One man grumbled, “Another feminist.” Another asked her, “Are you saying that Santa should be a woman?”  “Are you pushing that gender equality stuff?” Parents glared at her.  One mother shook her head and hustled her kids to another cashier.  Others didn’t seem bothered about it at all while others thought it was silly.  “Everyone knows that Santa is based on St. Nicholas.  If you want to wear such a sweater, go for it.  I don’t see what the big deal is.”

“It’s a bit silly, if you ask me,” a woman standing in the other line remarked.  “Everyone knows that Santa is a white bearded man in a red suit and there’s Mrs. Claus.” Another woman said, “She’s just trying to get attention.  Just ignore her.”

All day she was subjected to unkind remarks and unsavory looks although there were a few smiles and  chuckles.  She couldn’t wait for her shift to be over.  And when it was, she rushed to get her coat and put it on.  Her supervisor, Anne looked apologetically at her.  “I’m sorry you had to go through that,” she said.  “If you weren’t married, I would have let you wear one of the other sweaters.”

“You mean nobody else wanted to wear it.”

“That too.  Well, at least we know now that the sweater’s not popular with most shoppers which means that the sales, if any, will be very low.  I will have to get in touch with the account manager and let her know that the product isn’t selling and to discontinue it.  Thanks again for helping with the promotion.”

“I think I made some enemies.”

“Don’t worry.  Tomorrow, our busiest day before Christmas will be featured on the local news at noon and Wendy will let them know that this was a promotion of our latest Christmas wear and she will talk about them at length.  Everyone will see that you were wearing it not by personal but for professional reasons.  You did well today.  Go home and rest up for tomorrow which will be like a zoo.  And you wear what you want–as long as it’s red or green–to get people into the Christmas spirit.”

Marva smiled.  “I can do with a nice warm bath,” she said.  “I’ll see you tomorrow, bright and early.  Have a good evening.”  She turned and walked away.  As she was heading towards the doors leading into the shopping mall, a young woman intercepted her.

“I just wanted to say, it’s your sweater, it’s your thoughts…so, it’s your business.  Ignore the haters.”

Marva smiled.  “Thank you.”  She didn’t bother to say that it wasn’t her sweater and those weren’t her thoughts.  And her reason for wearing it was strictly business.  “Have a Merry Christmas.”  She popped into Moore’s to get a couple of shirts for Adrien and then headed to their luxury condo facing the CN Tower and within walking distance from the waterfront.  He should be home by now.

_MG_9919-Recovered.jpgWhen she let herself into the spacious unit, a tantalizingly delicious smell wafted into the foyer and she quickly removed her boots and coat.  She scurried to the bedroom to hide the bag with his shirts in her side of the closet and then, hurried into the kitchen. Adrien was standing in front of the stove and turned when he heard her.  He froze when he saw her sweater.  He placed his hands on top of his head.  “You wore that to work?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  It was part of a promotional event.  You have no idea how badly I wanted to take it off.  I got nasty looks and people made all sorts of remarks.”

“I’m not surprised.  People love Santa.  They act as if he’s real.  Sometimes, it seems like Christmas is more about him than about Jesus.”  He went over to her and kissed her on the lips before hugging her.  “By the sounds of it, you had a really rough day.”

“Yes, I did.”

“Why don’t you go and get undressed while I draw you a warm bath.  By the time you’re done, dinner will be ready.”

She smiled and rumpled his hair.  “You read my mind,” she said.  “Thank you, Baby.”

“Anything for you.”  He released her and taking her by the hand, he led her to the master bedroom and while she got undressed, he got the bath ready for her.  It felt so good being submerged in the warm, sudsy water and so relaxing too.  She rested her head against the side of the tub and closed her eyes.

Twenty minutes, dressed in red silk pajamas, she emerged from the bedroom and went into the dining-room where a candlelit dinner awaited her.  Adrien held the chair for her to sit down.  He leaned over and kissed her on the nape of her neck before he went to the head of the table and sat down.  “Did you enjoy your bath?” he asked as he unfolded his napkin.

Marva nodded.  “Yes, I did.  Thank you.  Dinner looks and smells amazing.”

He smiled then they bowed their heads as he said a prayer.  “Bon appetit.”

She eagerly tucked into the Sole Meunière with perfectly golden roast potatoes and salad.  He was a much better cook than she which was why he did most of the cooking.  “This is delicious,” she said.  “You should have been a chef.”  He was a

“I love cooking, yes but I love my job as a Construction Manager even more.  Besides, you are a fantastic cook too.  It’s one of the reasons why I married you.”

She laughed.  “What are the other reasons?”

“You’re beautiful, sexy and I’m crazy about you.”

“I like those reasons.”

“When we met five years ago, I didn’t think you would be interested in me.”

“Why because you’re Jewish and I’m Christian?”

“Yes.  And I’m not Jamaican.”

“I’m a couple of years older than you but none of these things matter when two people love each other.  I admit that when you took me to meet your family, I was very nervous because I wasn’t sure if they would approve of you marrying a black Christian woman but they welcomed me and treated me like I was a part of the family.”

“My family knows what it’s like to be discriminated against and that’s why they make it a policy to love Jews and non-Jews alike.”

“That’s how it should be.  In both religions, we are taught to love our neighbor as ourselves.”

“Yes.  My parents arrived in Toronto yesterday.  They will be staying with Anouk and Michel.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing them and celebrating Hanukkah with them.”

“And I look forward to celebrating Christmas with you, especially the part where we get to kiss under the mistletoe.”

Marva laughed.  “Is that why you hang one in every room?”

He smiled.  “Yes.  Would you like dessert?”

“Sure.  What’s the dessert this time?”

“Your favorite.”

Ten minutes later, they were lounging in the living room having Rugelach while watching a couple of their favorite Christmas movie classics.  It was after mid-night when they finally decided to turn in.  When they were snuggled under the covers, he turned on his side to face her.  “I hope our evening together made up for your rotten day at work.”

Marva was lying on her back.  She turned her head towards him as she placed her hand on his thigh.  “It did, Honey.  Thank you.”

He smiled.  “I’m happy to hear that and you’re welcome.”

“I learned a very valuable lesson wearing that Christmas sweater.  People judged me unfairly because of what I was wearing.  They made all sorts of assumptions about me.  It was no different from how I’m treated because of my color and my accent.  I had a choice not to wear the sweater but I wore it because my manager asked me to.  It reminds me of the times when God asked me to do something I didn’t want to do or wanted to get out of like Moses did when He asked him to go to Pharaoh and ask him to let His people go.  During those times, I had to lay aside my feelings and doubts and misgivings and just trust God.  Wearing that sweater has given me an idea for my own line of clothing.  You know I’ve always wanted to get into designing my own clothes but was too afraid to go for it.  Now, I think that I will do it.”

Adrien leaned over and kissed her on the mouth.  “I think that’s a fantastic idea.”

“You do?”

“Yes.  I’ve seen your sketches, remember?  Maybe now’s the time for you to do this.”

“Maybe.  It would be nice to start my own business.”

“Speaking of business, how about you and I getting down to our own business right now…”

Marva giggled as he disappeared under the covers.

Sources:  Trade Schools; Bon Appetit;