Clearing the Fog

It was foggy. She stood there, frustrated with herself. She had no idea where she was. She must have taken a wrong turn somewhere back there because she thought she was heading back to the house but it seemed to be eluding her. The fog was so dense, she couldn’t see much around her. Alone and getting lost in a thick blanket of fog was not her idea of how to spend a pleasant Sunday morning. What was she going to do? Well, there wasn’t much she could do except wait until the fog dissipated. How long that would take, she had no clue. It seemed so strange to see such thick fog in the middle of summer. This is England, she reminded herself. Anything is possible when it came to the weather. Sighing, she leaned against the tree and waited.

 

Earlier this morning when she had looked out of the window there wasn’t any sign of fog or she wouldn’t have ventured outside. Instead, she would have slept in a little longer or gone to the library to read one of those interesting books she found there. Everything about Pemberton Place was interesting. This was her second week at the magnificent, Gothic mansion rising above the beautiful, sprawling grounds that seemed to stretch for miles and miles. She was here at her friend’s invitation.

 

Maggie grew up and lived here most of her life before she moved to London where she attended university. It was at university that they met and became fast friends. She usually spent the summer in London with family but this time Maggie insisted that she accompany her to Pemberton. Excited and nervous at the same time, she agreed to go. It was a nice change to spend the summer with her friend and her family.

 

Pemberton was everything she had imagined and more. Maggie had told her so much about it that she felt as if she knew the place. It was massive and it reminded her of somewhere like Pemberley, Thorncliff or Manderly. She couldn’t imagine living there–it struck her more as a tourist attraction than a private home. And there were lots of servants. She didn’t know how Maggie could remember all of their names. And so many rooms. One could easily get lost. And she did a couple of times.

 

She smiled as she remembered going into the library when she had meant to go to the drawing-room. Instead of facing a huge fireplace with crackling fire licking the logs she faced an enormous bookcase filled with books. Forgetting her dilemma at the moment, she walked over to the shelves of books, her eyes traveling over the thick volumes, textbooks, Encyclopedias and literature. Her eyes spotted a collection of writings by Jane Austen. She was about to pull it out when she became aware that someone else was in the room. She turned.

 

It was Rupert, Maggie’s brother. She had heard a lot about him but nothing prepared her for their first meeting.

 

First of all, he didn’t look too pleased to see her there in the library. She had been about to go over to him, extend her hand in greeting but the scowl on his face kept her immobile. “I don’t believe I know you,” he said, quickly closing the distance between them. He stopped a short distance from her, his green eyes searching her face, his expression quizzical.

 

For a moment she was distracted by his looks. Tall, swarthy, raven dark hair with a few strands falling across his forehead. He was incredibly handsome. He was dressed casually in a white shirt and grey slacks. “I’m Darcy, Maggie’s friend from university.” She held out her hand and it was clasped in a firm grip. “It’s good to meet you, Rupert. Maggie has told me so much about you.”
He released her hand but his eyes stayed on her face. “She did mention that she was bringing a friend to spend the summer holidays here at Pemberton.”
She glanced around the room. “You have a very fine library here,” she commented. “I was on my way to the drawing-room but ended up here instead. I’m glad I did. I was looking at the books when you came in. I saw several that I would like to read. I hope you don’t mind me being here.”
He turned away then. “You are free to come in here whenever you want,” he said. “However, this is the time when I usually come here to catch up on my reading and I like to be alone. To get to the drawing-room, just turn right and it’s at the end of the hallway.” He went over to one of the book shelves and took down a large book and walking over to the armchair, he sat down. He opened the book, signalling that their conversation was over. She turned and walked out of the room, thinking to herself that he and Maggie were as different as night and day.
That was several weeks ago. Since then, they hadn’t interacted much and when they did it seemed stilted.   She remembered one afternoon on the grounds when she was taking photos.   As she stood among the shrubs,  Maggie took a photo of her friend.   When they walking back to the house, they ran into Rupert who was on his way out.   Maggie showed him the photo she had just taken of Darcy.   “Lovely photo, isn’t it?” she remarked.   Darcy was wearing the pale green lace top and a navy blue capri.

 

He looked at it and then he looked at Darcy.   “Yes, it is.”  He agreed.  He gave the camera back to Maggie and abruptly excused himself.  Darcy felt embarrassed about the whole thing.  It was obvious that Maggie was trying to set her up with her brother but it was obvious to Darcy that he wasn’t interested.   It seemed like his admission that she looked lovely in the photo was rather forced.

 

“I don’t think your brother likes me,” she remarked to Maggie one day when they were strolling in the garden.

 

Maggie looked at her, surprised. “Really?” she exclaimed. “I rather thought he did. Why do you think otherwise?”
She was sorry she mentioned it. Shrugging, she said, “It’s just the feeling I get. I could be wrong.”

She changed the topic. And no more was said about it.  She hoped that Maggie wouldn’t say anything to Rupert.   She had tried not to let his animosity toward her get the better of her but it really bothered her. Why didn’t he like her? What had she done to make him resent her so? Even now as she thought about it, sadness filled her.
As a Christian, she always tried to get along with people, no matter how difficult. It wasn’t always possible. Yet, it never troubled her as much as this did. If she were honest with herself, she would admit that the thought of Rupert not liking her crushed her because she liked him. She liked him very much–in fact, she loved him. Unrequited love. She never imagined it would happen to her.

 

The sound of a twig snapping startled her and she turned in the direction of the sound. The fog was clearing and she saw Rupert approaching her. She moved away from the tree and turned to face him. In a few quick strides he was standing in front her. His face was flushed and his eyes stormy as they searched her face. “You have been gone so long that you have everyone in the house worried about you,” he informed her in a cold, clipped voice. “Maggie begged me to come and look for you. Why didn’t you come back to the house once you saw how foggy it was?”

 

With him standing so close, it was hard to concentrate. She took a step back. “It wasn’t that bad when I came outside and I thought it would clear up,” she said. “I walked to stretch my legs. I went farther than I planned to and I got lost. I decided that I would wait here until the fog cleared up. I’m sorry you had to come and look for me.”

 

He ran his fingers through his hair. “Well, I’m relieved that you are all right,” he conceded, somewhat reluctantly. “Shall we go back to the house now? I’m tired. I was in bed when Maggie came and asked me to come and look for you.” He turned away.
“Why don’t you like me?” she had to know. It was eating her up inside.
That stopped him in his tracks and he swung back to face her. “You think I don’t like you?” he looked incredulous.
“Yes. You are cold towards me and you barely say anything to me or acknowledge me when we are in the same room.”
He was staring at her now, his expression one she had never seen before. “You have no idea,” he muttered. “Do you know that I didn’t enjoy the London Symphony Orchestra last night because I couldn’t stop thinking about you? You filled my mind. Driving back here from London was worst. I had the radio on but I didn’t hear it. Thoughts of you drown out the music. When I got in it was late and even then, I couldn’t sleep because it was hot and muggy. I went for a walk and when I got back it was after one. It took a while to fall asleep.  So, I’m tired now because of lack of sleep and from fighting my feelings for you.”

 

She stared at him, aghast. “You have feelings for me?” She felt as if this were a strange dream and that at any minute she would wake up and find herself either in bed or in the library in one chairs where she had fallen asleep over a book she was reading. Rupert couldn’t be here, standing in front of her and telling her that he had feelings for her.

 

He moved closer to where she was standing. “Darcy, I have been pushing you away and avoiding you because of the feelings you stirred in me. Feelings I have never experienced before and that scared me. I didn’t want to deal with them or with you. Coming out here just now and finding you when I was worried that you had somehow wandered off the grounds and gotten lost, brought those feelings to the surface. I wanted to take you in my arms and hold you tightly, because I was relieved to find you here still on the premises.”

 

Her heart thudding, she moved closer. “I can do with a hug,” she said.
In a matter of seconds he had closed the distance between them and she was wrapped in a tight embrace. “I’ve been such a fool,” he murmured. “Can you ever forgive me?”
“Yes, Rupert, yes.” She closed her eyes, basking in his embrace and thankful that she had been wrong about his feelings for her.
He drew back and their eyes locked for a moment before he lowered his head and kissed her.
“Let’s go back before they send a search party out for us,” he suggested softly when he drew back moments later.
She nodded and smiled when he reached out and took her hand, his fingers closing around hers.  They walked back to the house, the fog had lifted. Everything was clear now.

Black woman standing among trees smiling

 

The Temporary Assignment

He had gone through a bitter divorce and custody battle.  His wife had their two daughters.  He didn’t hear from them not even on Father’s Day, his birthday or Christmas.  To them, it seemed as if he didn’t exist.  At first, it hurt but then he learned to cope and he had one more year to pay child support.

His marriage had left a very bitter taste in his mouth and as a result he had sworn off relationships.  He buried himself in his work.  He had friends and a church family who cared about him.  Life was pleasant for him.  Some might say his life was mundane but for him it was how he wanted it–relationship free.  And then she walked into his life and wham!

Amelia Johnson 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.  The unruly curls cascaded past her shoulders, some of the tendrils managed to escape the clasp that was holding it together and brushed against her face.  She wore a white top and black skirt.  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 attached 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.  He could tell nothing from her interaction with him if there was something there on her part.  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 that 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.  The mere thought of never seeing her again agitated him so much that he jumped to his feet and paced about the room restlessly.  He had prayed about the situation and he knew that the answer was to talk to Amelia.  He swallowed hard and tried to suppress the rising fear that threatened to overwhelm him and deter him from doing what he knew he must do.

He went back to his desk and his hand trembled as he reached for the receiver.  He hesitated for a brief moment before he dialled her extension.  His heart was thudding heavily against his ribs.  When she answered, he kept it short, “I need to see you.”  He sank heavily into the chair after hanging up the phone and waited.  His tortured gaze was on the door which will open any minute now and Amelia will 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 hear 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 travelled 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 tried to fight my feelings for you but it was no use.”

Her eyes grew wide.  “Your feelings?”

“Yes.  I love 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 love you too.  I tried so hard not to show it because it never dawned on me that you felt the same way.”

Mark took her in his arms and kissed her.  “You and I did a really good job of hiding our feelings from each other ,” he said when he raised his head, his eyes tender as he gazed  into her upturned face.  “I’m just very thankful that your assignment here is ending this week.  It was the possibility of never seeing your beautiful face again and encouragement from God that pushed me to declare mine.”

She smiled.  “When I took this assignment, I never imagined that I would find love too.”

two professional people in an office2