His Muse

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Photo by Sue Vincent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So, there isn’t another woman…?”

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

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

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

 

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

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Venice

Friends since they were children, Monica and Russell were inseparable.  They went to the same schools and university and moved from Manchester to London after they graduated from university.  Whenever people saw them together, they always assumed that they were a couple and they would quickly inform them, “We’re just friends.”

They dated other people but the relationships never worked out and their respective exes always blamed their friendship.  Once, Monica’s ex-boyfriend accused her of sabotaging their relationship because she was secretly in love with Russell.  She had a run in once with Samantha, a model he was dating who informed her that she didn’t believe that they were just friends.  “A person would have to be blind not to see that there is something going on between you two,” she said.  “And which woman in her right mind could be just friends with a guy like Russell?”

Russell and Monica laughed about it but as time passed, they realized that there was some truth to what others were saying.  They stopped dating other people because they didn’t feel any connection with them and it was beginning to affect their friendship.  Russell found himself getting jealous of the men Monica dated and she hated seeing him with other women.  So, to safeguard their friendship, they remained unattached.   Instead of going to dinner with other people they went each other.  They went to the theatre, concerts and now, here they were in Italy for a three week vacation.

Monica stood now on the Spanish Steps as Russell snapped photos of her.  He looked so handsome in the white shirt and light blue jeans.  She noticed women walking by and casting admiring glances his way.  Jealousy gnawed at her although he seemed oblivious to them.  She knew she was being ridiculous but she couldn’t help it.  She always worried that one day he would meet someone else and fall in love with her.  Not wanting to spoil the moment, she smiled and posed for the photos.

The day went pleasantly as they visited the Pantheon and had lunch at a trattoria near the Piazza Navona.  After sharing a pizza, she went to the washroom.  On her way back to the table, a local looked up at her and said, “Ciao Bella ragazza.”  She glanced at him and then continued to where Russell was.

He stood up when she reached him.  “What did that man say to you?” he asked.  His expression was guarded.

“It sounded like, ‘Ciao bella ragazza,’” she told him.

Russell didn’t answer.  Instead, he put on his sunglasses and preceded her out of the trattoria.  They went for a walk along Castel Sant’Angelo before they went back to the hotel.  They went to their respective rooms until it was time for dinner.  The following day, they left Rome and went to Florence where they spent their second week.  The following day, they took a trip to Milan and after visiting the Santa Maria delle Grazie where Da Vinci’s Last Supper hung, they stopped by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Russell took a photo of Monica outside of Prada.  From Florence, they went on a day tour to Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano.  They had dinner in Siena in a trattoria in Piazza del Campo.

The week went by very quickly and Monica was sorry when they left Florence but looked forward to seeing Venice.  They took the train early in the morning and while Russell read a magazine, she took a nap.  When they arrived in Venice, they found out that they had to share a room because the hotel was fully booked.  That made Monica very nervous but she was relieved when she saw that there were two separate beds.

They spent their first day in Venice at Piazza San Marco, reputed to be one of the most beautiful squares in the world.   They visited the Basilica of San Marco.  Monica was enthralled by the dome and could have stood there all day just staring up at it.  When they came out of the basilica, Russell pointed to the one of the arches above the entrance where there was a marble statue of an old man biting his hand.  “The legend says that he was relieved of his duties when he said that he would be able to build it even more beautiful.”

They had lunch at a restaurant in the square, enjoying the sunshine and watching other tourists.  They finished their sightseeing for the day climbing the Campanile for the breathtaking view of the city and the lagoon.   They stayed there for a while.

It was late afternoon when they returned to the hotel.  They relaxed on the terrace and then it was time to get ready for dinner.  It felt strange getting dressed in the bathroom while Russell got dressed in the bedroom.  She had to make sure it was safe to come out once she was finished.  He looked handsome as usual.  And she saw his gaze travel over her.  “You look great,” he remarked before turning away.  “I was thinking that after dinner, we can go to a church concert.”

She smiled.  “That sounds great.”  Venice was beautiful at night so it was nice walking to the square.  How she longed to hold Russell’s hand, especially when they passed other couples who were holding hands.  They had dinner at an elegant restaurant.  Afterwards, they walked to the church where they spent the next hour or so listening to uplifting music in a lovely atmosphere.

It was late when they got back to the hotel and she was tired.  On the way up to their room, she kept yawning and as soon as they got in she took out a nightgown from her suitcase and headed straight for the bathroom.  She quickly changed out of her dress and into her nightgown and brushed her teeth.

She walked into the room and stopped short when she saw Russell standing there half-naked, holding his pajama shirt.  She turned away, flustered but not before her gaze swept irresistibly over the broad shoulders and wide chest.  He watched her, his expression tense and a muscle throbbed alongside his jaw line.  It took every ounce of willpower on his part not to go over there and take her in his arms.  Instead, he went into the bathroom and closed the door quietly behind him.

As soon as he was gone, Monica hurried over to her bed and climbed in, pulling the cover up to her throat.

A few moments later, the door to the bathroom opened and Russell stepped into the room.  She watched as he walked past her bed to his.

“Goodnight, Russell,” she said, looking over at him as he pulled back the cover and got in.  His back was turned to her.

“Goodnight.”  He closed his eyes as his body reacted to the memory of her in the champagne colored silk nightgown.  He didn’t know how much longer he could continue being just friends with her when he wanted her.

She lay there on her back, staring up at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep.  She couldn’t get the image of him out of her mind.  When she saw his bare torso, her mouth went dry and what felt like a bolt of electricity surged through her.  She had turned away because she was afraid that her feelings would betray her.  She wished she had the courage to tell him how she really felt about him but she didn’t want to jeopardize their friendship.

Sometime later, she heard him stir and then get up.  In the faint light, she watched him tiptoe over to the chair where his shirt and pants were draped.   As he started to get dressed, she sat up, alarmed.  “Where’re you going?” she asked, turning on the lamp beside her.

He didn’t turn around.  “I thought you were asleep.  I can’t sleep so, I’m going out for a bit.”  After he pulled on his shirt and tucked it in his pants, he turned to face her, his eyes wary.  “I’ll try not to disturb you when I come back.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“I don’t know,” he replied shortly.

“Where will you go?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe I’ll go to Piazzale Roma or the Rialto or San Marco.”  He was about to walk past her when she quickly climbed out of the bed and stood in front of him.

“What’s wrong, Russell?” she asked.  “You seem upset.”

He kept his eyes on her face, not daring to let them go lower.  “I’m not upset.”

“I think you are, “she insisted.   “Please tell me what’s wrong.  We’re supposed to be friends—”

His expression darkened.   “I know we’re supposed to be friends,” he snapped.  “But right now, I don’t feel like a friend.”

She looked nonplussed.  “What do you mean?”

This is what I mean,” he muttered before he grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp.  His head swooped down and his mouth closed hungrily over hers.

Monica clung to him, kissing him back eagerly, feverishly.  As they exchanged kisses, he picked her up and carried her over to her bed.  He put her gently down on it and then drew back to remove his shirt.  She reached for him, pulling him down to her, her fingers digging into his back as he pressed his lips hotly against her neck.

They made mad, passionate love and the next morning when she woke up, she was alone in the bed.  She lay there for a moment thinking it had all been a dream.  Then she sat up and realized that she wasn’t wearing anything under the cover.  She looked over and saw Russell standing by the window.  He was wearing a robe.   He turned when he heard her.

He left the window and came and sat down on the bed beside her.  His expression was serious when he met her gaze.  “Do you regret what happened between us?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No,” she murmured huskily, reaching out and brushing the hair back from his forehead.

He leaned over and kissed her on the shoulder, making her shiver.  “Me neither,” he said.  “I’ve wanted to make love to you for a very, very long time but you insisted on us being just friends—”

“I thought that was what you wanted,” she said.  “You never came out and said otherwise.”

“Do you have any idea how hard it is to be a friend to you when I want to be more?  That’s why I couldn’t sleep last night.  When I saw you in that nightgown, I wanted you so much.  I had to get out of here before I lost my mind.”

“I couldn’t sleep either because I couldn’t stop thinking about how you looked shirtless…”

His eyes darkened and cupping her face between his hands he lowered his head and kissed her.  “I love you, Monica,” he whispered, raising his head to look into her face.  “I wanted to tell you that so many times but my courage failed me.”

“I love you too.”

“I just wish we hadn’t wasted so much time dating other people when we should have been dating each other.”

“Let’s not waste any more time having regrets.  Things are different between us now.”

“Yes, they are.”

“You know, if anyone were to ask me what the most memorable part of my vacation is, I would tell them that it was Venice.”

“Why Venice?” he asked.

“It’s where we finally declared our true feelings for each other.”

His eyes darkened.  “Let’s have a late breakfast,” he suggested as he removed his robe.

“Or we can order room service,” she said, settling back against the pillows.

“Room service, then,” he agreed before his mouth found hers.

A year later, they returned to Venice for their honeymoon.

 

Sources:  Cabragadin Hotel; Ciao Florence; Italy Guides; Veneto Inside; Bistrot de Venise; Classic Tic; Rick Steves

 

The Temp

He had gone through a bitter divorce and custody battle.  His ex-wife had their two daughters.  He saw them over the summer and Christmas holidays.  They always had fun when they were together.  He took them wherever they wanted.  The time they spent together always seemed to pass really quickly and it was hard parting from them.  They called him over the weekend and talked to him about school, their friends, etc.  Ava was eight and Olivia was six.  They meant the world to him.  It was too bad that things had ended up the way they did between their mother and him.

His happy marriage gone bad had left a very bitter taste in his mouth and as a result he had sworn off relationships.  He buried himself in his work.  Occasionally, he would take trips, hang out with friends and attend family functions.  He worked out at the gym, played tennis, jogged, read and went for walks on the beach.  And he has his faith to sustain him.  His church family had helped him during those rough moments following the divorce.  His life was as he wanted it–simple, that is until Amelia Johnson walked into it.

Amelia was hired to fill Susanna’s position.  Susanna was on maternity leave.  Amelia came from Alpha North Group Ltd with excellent qualifications and references from previous assignments.  He remembered the first time he saw her as if it were yesterday.   When they were introduced, he tried not to stare but her fresh beauty took his breath away.  Her braids which framed her face, tumbled down past her shoulders.  The red top she wore over the black skirt accentuated her complexion.  She was petite and slender.  He towered over her.  When she looked up at him with those big brown eyes and smiled at him, he felt his heart melt.  He knew he was in trouble then.  Their handshake was brief but long after he had released her hand, he could still feel its warmth and softness.

During the 18 months she was with them he tried to keep his growing attraction hidden under the veneer of professionalism.  No one had a clue that every morning he would look out of his office window overlooking the street below to watch her walking up the sidewalk.  He was tied up in knots.  He didn’t want to become emotionally involved again because of the pain he had experienced with his ex but the more he fought against his feelings for Amelia, the stronger they seemed to grow.  It was a battle that he was losing.

He had no idea of how she felt about him.  She was as pleasant to him as she was with the rest of the staff.  There was no indication that his attraction for her was reciprocated.  And for all he knew, she might already be in a relationship.  The thought stung but he had to be prepared for that possibility.  How was he going to find out whether or not she had a boyfriend?

He sat at his desk now in deep thought, wondering what to do.  This was Amelia’s last week with the company.  Susanna was back on Monday.  He had to do something before Amelia went out of his life forever.  He’d prayed about it all of last week and had gotten his answer last night.  He reached for the phone, hesitating for a brief moment before he dialed her extension.  His heart was thudding heavily against his ribs.  When she answered, he kept it short, “I need to see you.”  He leaned back in the chair after hanging up the phone and waited.  His anxious gaze was on the door which would open any minute now and Amelia would walk in.  There was no turning back now.

After she hung up the phone, Amelia stared at it for a moment.  Mark wanted to see her.  Why?  She was nervous about being alone with him.  What if she couldn’t hide her feelings for him?  It was one thing to act professional around him when others were around but quite another when they were alone.  Slowly, she pushed her chair back and got up, her legs feeling like jelly.  She smoothed her trembling and sweaty palms over her skirt and headed for his office.

She knocked on the door and heard him say, “Come in.”  Her heart was beating so fast and she couldn’t seem to control her breathing.  I must remain calm, she told herself as she opened the door and went inside.  He was standing behind his desk.  Her eyes traveled over his tall figure as she closed the door behind her.   She walked over to him and stopped in front of the desk.   She clasped her hands tightly in front of her so that he wouldn’t notice that they were trembling.  “You needed to see me,” she said.

He cleared his throat.  “Yes.  This is your last week with us.”

She lowered her eyes so that he wouldn’t see the sadness in them.  “Yes, it is.”  She had dreaded this moment.  She liked working here and the people but most of all, she hated the thought of leaving him.  He was the reason why she enjoyed coming in to work.

“I hope you have been happy here, Amelia. We were very fortunate to have you.”

She looked up.  “Yes, I have been very happy here.  Everyone has been so great.”

“We are sorry to lose you.  You will be missed.”

“I am going to miss all of you.”

There was a pregnant pause during which they stared at each other, each not knowing what to say next or how to act.  “Do you have a boyfriend?” he asked suddenly.

She blinked in surprise.  She hadn’t expected that.  She shook her head at once.  “No.”

He looked relieved.  “Good to hear,” he said, coming around the desk to stand close to her.  “Amelia, I’m divorced and have two daughters.  I had sworn off relationships until I met you.  You walked into my life and turned it upside down.  For the longest time I have tried really hard to fight my feelings for you but it’s no use.”

Her eyes grew wide.  “Your feelings?”

“Yes.  I’m in love with you, Amelia and I wanted to tell you that before you walk out of my life for good.  Do you have any feelings for me?”  He braced himself for her answer, his face pale.

She nodded, her heart was in her eyes.  “Yes, Mark,” she cried.  “I’m in love with you too.  I tried so hard not to show it because it never dawned on me that you felt the same way.”

Mark pulled her into his arms and kissed her.  When he drew back, they were both breathing hard.  “I’m thankful that your assignment here is ending this week.  It was the thought of never seeing you again and encouragement from God which compelled me to tell you how I feel.”

She smiled.  “I’m very thankful that what I believed to be the saddest day of my life has turned into the happiest.”

Do as to the Lord

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Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church.  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…” (Ephesians 5:22, 23, NKJV).

For some, the word, “submit” which has negative connotations.  The word used for “submit” is hypotassō which was a Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader”.  In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”.  The wives’ submission is to be voluntary not forced or demanded.  And when they submit to their husbands, they are doing as if they are doing it to the Lord.  The husband is the head of family just as the Lord is the Head of the church.

The husband is in the leadership role and the wife is in the supportive role.  Eve was Adam’s helper.  Sarah obeyed her husband and even called him, lord (1 Peter 3:6).  However, submission doesn’t mean that the wife is to be totally subservient to her husband.  For example, Sarah told Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away.  Abraham was displeased about this because of his son but God said to him, “Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called.  Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed” (Genesis 21:12, 13). 

If something is bothering the wife, she can share her concerns with her husband instead of trying to resolve whatever it is on her own.  Husbands should feel comfortable talking to their wives about anything.  Being the leader of his home, doesn’t mean that he has to bear the burden alone.  No man is an island.  God created Eve to be Adam’s companion and his second in command. 

Wives are there to help to ease the burden.  They offer advice, counsel, support, etc but ultimately, the husband is the one who makes the decisions, provided that they are in harmony with God’s will and word.  The wife doesn’t submit blindly any more than the husband loves foolishly.  Adam loved foolishly when he listened to Eve and ate the fruit (Genesis 3:17). 

How husbands and wives relate to each is other is how Jesus relates to us, the church.  The wife doesn’t usurp or undermine the husband’s authority but recognizes that he is fulfilling God’s role for him.  To oppose, undermine and usurp him would to oppose God Himself.  Likewise, if the husband does not love the wife as he is called to do, He is disobeying the Word of God.

Husbands are encouraged to love their wives with the same unconditional, sacrificial love that Jesus has for us.  The word used for love is agapaō which is a divine, self-sacrificial love.  It is this love that God manifested toward us when He sacrificed His Son for us.  A husband is to  love his wife with kind of love while she is to submit to his authority.  Both are acting Christlike when they relate to each other this way.  Their roles do not make one superior and the other inferior.  There is mutual love and respect.

The husband doesn’t abuse his authority but he treats his wife as he would like to be treated.  “Husbands love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.”  Likewise, wives ought to treat husbands as they themselves want to be treated.  Respect your husbands, don’t undermine them.  They need your support.  Husbands and wives, do unto each other as to the Lord.

Sources:  Biblical Hermeneutics; Living Faith

Riya’s Rescue Plan

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Photo Credit: Fandango

It was a lazy Saturday for Riya.  When she finally got up to take a shower it was midday.  She was in such a good and relaxed mood that she didn’t get upset when the soap slipped out of her hand and fell on the ground.

After a hearty breakfast, she sat down in front of her laptop, switched it on.  She opened her sister, Vidya’s email.  Her face fell.  It was bad news.

Villagers in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra state warned Christians that every week a church will be closed.  Their uncle’s home was among the dozens of homes which have been attacked since June.  Believers were told that unless they renounced their faith, water supply would be cut off and food subsidies stopped.  Their cousin, Vihaan was badly beaten by locals demanding that he abandon his faith.  Others received death threats.  The police have done nothing to protect them.

Heartbroken, Riya wondered what she could do to help.  Then the thought occurred to her to sponsor them.  She called Vidya and told her what she was planning.  Vidya was onboard.  They decided to meet later that day to figure things out.

194 Words

This story was inspired by true events in India where there are plans for weekly church closures.  Christians have had their homes attacked, received threats of death or expulsion if they do not renounce their faith.

This post was written as part of Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  VOM Canada

 

After the Wedding Surprise

It was the morning of his wedding day and Quinn was walking along the beach Kay and he had stumbled across quite by accident.  He decided to come here before heading over to Arthur’s home where he was to get dressed and then head over to the church.  It was a beautiful, sunny day in early April.  The temperature was mild but a light jacket was still needed.

As he walked along the water’s edge, he remembered the last time he was here.  He smiled as he recalled how he had chased Kay after she suddenly took off and caught her.  And they rolled on the sand, laughing and then, they ended up making love.  His eyes darkened at the memory. When she looked up at him with those big brown eyes of hers, it made his heart stop and he lost his head.  Today, he was going to marry her and he couldn’t wait.

Shoving his hands deep in his pockets, he turned toward the ocean.  Oh Kay, I hope that I will make you as happy as you have made me.  

This couldn’t be happening–not today of all days.  It was her wedding day and in a couple of hours she was going to be walking down the aisle.  She tried not to panic and closed her eyes as she waited for the nausea to pass.  Her mother was coming over in a little while to help her to get ready.

A couple of minutes later, she sat up first to make sure she was all right and then she climbed out of the bed.  She went into the bathroom and before she brushed her teeth, she looked at herself in the mirror. Today, you are going to marry the man you adore.  Excitement filled her and she began to hum as she brushed her teeth.  She couldn’t wait to see him and exchange vows or to fly off to Turks and Caicos for their honeymoon.

As she stepped into the shower, she hoped and prayed that nothing would ruin today.   Joanna, her soon to be sister-in-law was going to be at the wedding but she was determined that she wasn’t going to let her spoil her day. Since she found out about her relationship with Quinn, the older woman had made it no secret that she didn’t approve.  Out of courtesy, though, Kay invited her to the wedding.  Arthur, Quinn’s older brother promised to keep her in check.  Quinn’s niece, Louisa, was one of her bridesmaids.  It was going to be a glorious occasion, in spite of Joanna.

She had just finished taking her shower and put on her dressing-gown when the doorbell rang.  It was her mother.  “Hello Mom,” she said, hugging her.  “You look great.”  Her mother was wearing a salmon color skirt suit and her new haircut gave her an elegant look.

“Thanks, Honey.  What about you?  Today’s your big day.  How are you feeling?”

“Mom, I’m been feeling nauseous lately,” she said to her when they went into the living-room and sat down on the sofa.

Her mother asked, “Have you noticed anything else?”

“Yes, I’ve been going to the bathroom more often, I feel more tired than usual and bloated.  I usually feel this way when I have my period but the nausea is new.”

“Have you had your period?”

She shook her head.  “It hasn’t come at all.” And then it dawned on her.  “Oh, Mom, do you think I’m pregnant?”

“Well, there’s only one way to find out.”  She went to the phone and dialed her other daughter’s number.  “Joyce, this might sound like a strange request but could you stop by the drugstore and pick up a pregnancy test for Kay?  I’ll explain when you get here.  Thanks.”

Kay sighed.  “I’m already nervous as it is,” she said.  “What if I’m pregnant?”

“Then, you put off your honeymoon for a day or two and go and see the doctor.  In the meantime, you need to snack often and drink lots of fluids.  I will fix you something and you should take a couple of ginger sweets with you in case you feel the nausea coming on while you’re at the church or at the reception.  Kay, you should have gone to see the doctor when these symptoms began.”

“I thought it was PMS and when I didn’t see any signs of my period, I thought it was late or that the cycle was changing.  You’re right, though, I should have gone to a walk-in clinic.  There’s one close to where I work.”

“Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  Joyce will bring the test and if you will soon find out whether or not you’re pregnant.  Have you had anything to eat?”

She shook her head.  “I’ve been too nervous and excited to eat anything.”

“Would you like me to scramble some eggs and–?”

She shook her head. “No, thanks, Mom.  I don’t want to eat anything heavy right now.  Maybe just two slices of toast with jam and some Ginger tea.”

“All right.  I’ll be right back.”

Kay leaned back against the cushions, smiling as she heard her mother moving about in the kitchen.  It took her back to when she was living at home and her mother was always busy in the kitchen while sat in the living-room watching TV or doing her homework.  A few minutes later, she brought out a plate with two slices of whole wheat toast, spread with jam and a steaming cup of Ginger tea.  She placed the cup on the coffee table and the plate on Kay’s lap.  Kay wasn’t hungry but she forced herself to eat, taking her time.  When she was done, she leaned over and put the plate on the coffee table and picked up the Ginger tea which she sipped.  It was still hot and it hit the right spot.

“If it turns out that you’re pregnant, you need to keep hydrated and eat small frequent meals to help with the morning sickness.”

“Did you have morning sickness?”

“I did with Joyce but not with you.”

“I wonder if the same thing will happen with me.  I have morning sickness with the first child but not with the others?”

“How many children do you and Quinn plan to have?”

“I think four is a nice even number.”

“Well, I suppose that’s all right.  My mother had six and your Aunt Lynette had eight.  I had two.  If your father hadn’t passed away, it’s possible that we might have had more children.  Anyway, when it comes to pregnancy, every woman’s experience is different.   Joyce didn’t experience morning sickness in either pregnancy.”

“Lucky girl.”

Just then, the doorbell rang and her mother got up.  “It’s Joyce.”

Kay’s heart leapt in her chest.  She drained the cup and set it down on the table.  I am about to find out if I’m pregnant or not.  She rose to her feet just as her mother and sister joined her.  Joyce went over and they hugged.  “Thanks for picking this up for me,” she said to her when she handed her the box.

“Don’t mention it.  This is the one that the pharmacist recommended.”

Kay looked at it.  Clearblue.  One line meant not pregnant and two meant pregnant.  “Well, it’s time to find out if I’m going to have a baby or not.”  She went into the bathroom, closed the door and followed the instructions on the box.  When she was finished, she put back on her dressing-gown and waited.

When the time was up, she checked the display and her heart did a somersault.  The word, pregnant seemed to jump out at her.  As she stood there staring at it, she tried to figure out when it could have happened.  Quinn and she had always be careful.  Every time they made love, he wore protection.  So when could they have had unprotected sex?  Then, she remembered the afternoon on a secluded beach…

It was late in the afternoon and they decided to go there before heading back to his flat.  They held hands as they walked along the water’s edge and then, she suddenly broke away from him and ran towards the rocks, laughing.  He ran after her and caught her by the waist.  They fell to the ground and rolled around in the sand, laughing and then he was looking down at her as she lay there with her arms pinned above her head.  The laughter died away and their expressions became serious as they stared at each other.  Then, he lowered his head and kissed her.  She eagerly responded, her hands aching to be free so that she could bury her fingers in his hair.

For several minutes they exchanged passionate kisses and then, her hands were free as he drew back to drag his tee shirt over his head.  She reached up and pulled him back down, her fingers gripping his hair as they kissed.  They ended up making love behind the rock in the shade.  Afterwards, they laid there for a while, wrapped in each other’s arms, the gentle breeze caressing them and by the time they left the beach, the sun was setting.

The knock on the door jolted her back to the present and she opened it.  Her mother and Joyce went in.  “Well?”

Without saying a word, Kay showed them the result.

“Are you going to tell Quinn in the limo on the ride over to the reception?”

Kay shook her head.  “No, Mom.  I want to see a doctor first to confirm that I am pregnant before I tell him.”

“What about your doctor?” Joyce asked.

“Unfortunately, she’s on vacation.  I’ll have to go to the walk-in clinic.”

“I can take you to Oxford Walk-in Clinic tomorrow morning,” Joyce offered.

“What do I say to Quinn?”

“Just tell him that I’m taking you shopping for clothes for your honeymoon.”

“I don’t want to lie to him–”

“You won’t be lying.  After we’re through with the clinic, we’ll really go to the mall and pick up some things for your trip.”

“All right.  Thanks, Joyce.  Fortunately, Quinn and I are going on our honeymoon in a couple of days.  So, I will know for sure by then and if it is confirmed that I’m pregnant, I will make sure to take whatever prenatal information I need with me.”

“Most doctors will recommend prenatal vitamins with Folic Acid which is very important because it has been shown to dramatically decrease the risk of neural tube defects like Spina Bifida.  For both of my pregnancies, I used the Spring Valley Prenatal Multivitamin/Multimineral with Folic Acic.”

“I’ll make a note of that.”

“How are you feeling?” Her mother asked.

“Much better since I had the toast with jam and Ginger tea.  I had better start getting ready.”  She went into her bedroom and soon came back out wearing her wedding dress.  It was a gorgeous off the shoulder full lace ballgown in soft apricot with ivory lace overlay, a sweetheart bust-line and long lace sleeves with a deep V back and a satin bow to finish the look.  It was beautiful in its simplicity and it flattered her figure and complexion.  Her dark curls looked stark against the veil which her mother now placed on her head and her makeup was subtle.  Neutral eye shadow,  little blush on the cheeks and peach/pink gloss lip gloss.  The tear drop earrings added a touch of elegance and went perfectly with the lace.

“You look stunning,” Joyce remarked, giving her the look over before whipping out her iPhone to take pictures.

Kay’s mother looked at her, her face beaming.  “You look picture perfect,” she said.

Kay smiled.  “Thank you, both for making me feel beautiful.”

“Well, it’s time we head over to the church,” Joyce said, putting away her phone.  “The car should be here any minute.”

Ten minutes later, they were heading down the lift to the lobby.  The car was waiting outside and they got in the back.  Kay and her mother sat next to each other while Joyce sat opposite them.  And then, they were off to the church.

“Mom, do you have any last minute advice for me before I walk down the aisle?” Kay asked, her heart pounding as they approached front of the church.

“Yes.  Take very good care of Quinn.  That man worships the ground you walk on.  Don’t let anything or anyone come between you.”

The limo stopped and the driver came around to hold the door open for them.  Kay got out first and then her mother and sister.  They went into the church and ten minutes later, Kay was walking down the aisle with her favorite uncle.

Kay’s face was radiant as she gazed up at Quinn, her heart almost bursting with the love she had for him.

Quinn looked at her, never imagining that it was possible to love her more than he already did.

They read the vows they had written for each other, bringing tears to a lot of eyes in the church.  When they were pronounced husband and wife and kissed, everyone cheered, even Joanna.  Before Kay walked down the aisle, she had gone to see her.  Understandably, Kay stiffened when she saw her.  “May I speak to you alone for a moment?” she asked and Kay nodded.

After her mother and sister left the room, Joanna cleared her throat.  “Kay, I want to apologize for the way I’ve treated you and the things I’ve said.  I guess I was being overprotective of Quinn.  He and I had always been very close and after our parents died, I took care of him.  I still think of him as my baby brother and sometimes treat him as such.  All I want is for him to be happy and I can see clearly now that you make him happy.  I guess I was jealous of you–jealous because you had done what other women failed to do–come between him and me.

“When I had expressed my disapproval of your relationship he told me that as much as he loved me he would never give you up.  He said that you were the love of his life–a part of him that he couldn’t live without.  I knew everything if I didn’t wise up and accept you, I would lose my brother.  As I watched the two of you exchange your vows, I realized that I was watching two people who truly love each other and would do anything to make the other happy.  I couldn’t ask for anything better than that for my brother.  Kay, I don’t deserve it but I hope that you will find it in your heart to forgive an ignorant woman.”

Tears sprang to Kay’s eyes.  “You have my forgiveness and my gratitude for being a part of the happiest day of our lives.”  She held out her arms and they hugged.

When Joanna drew back, there were tears in her eyes.  “Thank you,” she whispered before she turned and quickly left the room.  And now, she was throwing rice at the happy couple as they came down the stairs, laughing and holding hands before driving away in the limo to the reception.  The wedding was a festive and joyous occasion.  Everyone had a great time.  Quinn and Kay were exhausted by the time it was over.  They spent the night at her flat.  He went home the following morning to pack for the honeymoon and get other things in order.  He was going to return later to take her out for dinner and to spend the night.  Their flight was in the morning.

Joyce came by later that morning to take Kay to the walk-in clinic.  Kay tried to relax as she was examined and was thankful that she wasn’t experiencing any morning sickness.  After she had taken the necessary tests, she got dressed and waited.  Her heart skipped a beat when the doctor came into the room.  “Congratulations,” he said, smiling.  “You’re pregnant.”

After that everything was a blur.  She vaguely remember walking into the waiting room to where Joyce was.  One look at her face and Joyce was hugging her, excited.  “I’m going to be an aunt,” she exclaimed as they walked out of the clinic.  She took Kay to the mall as promised and afterwards, they had a bite to eat before they went back to Kay’s flat where they spent the rest of the afternoon.

Soon it was time to get ready for her dinner with Quinn.  Kay went and showered while Joyce checked in at home to make sure hubby and the kids were okay.  After she hung up she went into the room to check to check on Kay.  She needed help with the zipper at the back of her dress and the necklace fastened.

Kay took up the mirror and help it up as she examined the necklace.  It matched the dress perfectly and her makeup looked flawless.  She turned to Joyce.  “How do I look?”

Joyce smiled.  “Radiant.”  It was true.  She had the glow of a newlywed and expectant mother.

Kay beamed.  “Thanks to you.”  She put the mirror down.  “Quinn will be here any minute.”

Joyce hugged her.  “Enjoy your first dinner as a married couple tonight and have a wonderful time in Turks and Caicos.  I wish I could be there to see Quinn’s face when you tell him the news.”

“I can’t wait to see his face.  He’ll be such a wonderful father.  I will tell you all about it when we come back in two weeks.”  She hugged her sister again and went back inside the living-room to wait for Quinn.  After making sure she had her passport and candy just in case she felt nauseous on the flight she walked over to the window and looked out.  She had lived in this flat for over ten years now and had been relatively happy there but she was looking forward to moving in with Quinn.

She smiled as she imagined getting up every morning and making breakfast for him.  He was a great cook, much better than her but she looked forward to cooking for him.  And when the baby came, she would have another mouth to feed.  Nervousness and excitement filled her at the prospect of being a mother.  If she was anything like her own mother who raised two daughters on her own after their father died when Kay was only six, then she had nothing to worry about.  Besides, she had had lots of practice with her niece and nephew.  She smiled as she imagined Quinn changing dirty diapers.

The doorbell startled her out of her reverie and she went quickly to answer the door.  Quinn stood there, a broad smile on his face.  His eyes traveled over her and admiration shone in them.  “You look gorgeous,” he remarked before taking her in his arms and kissing her.

“You look gorgeous yourself,” she said when she drew back to gaze up at him.  He was dressed in a charcoal grey suit with a black silk shirt and matching black tie.

He smiled.  “Ready?”

“Yes.  I just have to put on my jacket.”

On the ride over to the restaurant, they talked about the wedding and how smoothly everything went.  She told him about Joanna and he was thrilled.  “It’s about time she came around,” he remarked.

When they got to the restaurant, Kay excused herself and went to the washroom.  “I didn’t remember to go before we left,” she said when she sat down.  Quinn smiled but didn’t say anything.   I wonder if I should tell him now or wait until we’re having dessert?

She decided to wait although all through the meal, she was just bursting to tell him.

His eyes widened when he saw her chowing down on the Ginger Chicken. “Wow, you must really be hungry.”

“I’m eating for two,” she blurted out.  Darn.  So much for waiting until dessert.

He stared at her as if he wasn’t sure he had heard her correctly.  “I beg your pardon?”

She reached over and covered the hand closer to her.  “I wanted to wait until we were having dessert before telling you that we’re going to have a baby.”  A smile tugged at her lips when she saw the expression on his face.

“A baby?” he sounded and looked dazed.  “You’re pregnant?”

“Yes.  Five weeks to be exact.”

His eyes were moist now.  “Are you all right?”

She nodded, misting up herself.  “I’m all right.  I hope it’s a boy and that he’ll be just like you.”

His eyes darkened.  “And I hope it’s a girl who will be beautiful just like her mother.”  He squeezed her hand gently.  “I love you.”

“And I love you.  And now, I’m going to have some more of this delicious chicken and another helping of bread and of course, dessert.”

Quinn swallowed the lump in his throat and picked up his fork.  He was going to be a father.

 

Sources:  Wiki How; Parents; The Bump; House of Mooshki;

The Plants

ronda-del-boccio

PHOTO PROMPT © Ronda Del Boccio

 

“Where did you get these strange plants from?” Wei asked.

Sue tried not to panic.  “They are gifts.”  Why does Wei have to be so nosy?  And why is she here instead of at the market?

“Who gave them to you?”

“A friend, I think.  I don’t remember.”

“You don’t remember who gave you these ugly plants?” Wei sounded skeptical.

“Wei, aren’t you going to the market?”

“Oh, yes.  I’d better leave now.”  She scurried off.

Once the coast was clear, Sue went over to the plants and removed the Bibles.  It was time to find new hiding places.

99 Words

This story was inspired by an article I read about China shutting down churches and seizing Bibles in an “ambitious new effort to lessen or even eradicate the influence of Christianity and religion from the country”.  So far, the government has shut down hundreds of Christian house churches.

According to Willy Lam of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, “Xi is a closet Maoist—he is very anxious about thought control.  He definitely does not want people to be faithful members of the church because then people would profess their allegiance to the church rather than to the party, or more exactly to Xi himself.”  Faithful Christians would rather obey God than men and will do so even if it costs them their lives.

This was written for the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.  For more details, visit Here.  To read stories of 100 words based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.