The Sunshine Comes

Do not lose hope, please believe that there are thousands of beautiful things waiting for you. Sunshine comes to all who feel rain. -R.M. Drake

After staring at her painted toenails, she finally raised her head to look up at him.  They were standing by the lake on a cloudy Sunday afternoon.  They had just gone for a bite to eat at their favorite Greek restaurant.  All during the meal, she wrestled with herself.  Should I tell him today or wait a while longer?  They had been dating for a while now and things were becoming serious between them.  He had a right to know.  If there was to be any future together, there could be no secrets between them.

“Ishmael, I have something to tell you.”

He looked a bit concerned.  “What is it?” he asked gently.

She took a deep breath.  “I suffer from bi-polar disorder.”  There, she said it.  Her heart pounded as she waited for his response.  Would he act all strange or come up with some excuse and walk away and out of her life?  It had happened before with other guys.  She hoped that he would be different.

An expression of relief came over his face.  “Is that all?” he exclaimed.  “I thought you were going to tell me that it’s over between us.”

She stared at him.  “You mean you don’t mind…?”

He shook his head.  “No.  Mental illness isn’t something to be ashamed of.  And it doesn’t define you.  I look at you and still see the amazing woman I fell in love with a year ago.”

Tears welled in her eyes.  “I was afraid to tell you but you had a right to know.”

He reached out and drew her closer, his thumb caressed her cheek as he rested his forehead against hers.  “You have nothing to be afraid of where I’m concerned, okay?” he assured her.

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak just then.

“I have something I need to ask you,” he said, raising his head.

She looked at him, curious.  “What is it?” she asked.

He didn’t answer right away.  Instead, he got down on one knee, fished out a little black box from his jeans pocket and holding it out for her to see as he opened it to reveal an exquisite diamond and gold ring.  “Nadya, will you marry me?”

Nadya began to cry and in between the sobs, she managed to say, “Yes!”

Grinning broadly, Ishmael slipped it on her finger, kissed it and then got to his feet.  Cupping her face between his hands, he kissed her.

She put her arms around his waist and kissed him back, her heart almost bursting.  At that moment the sun began to shine.

couple-touching-with-heads-before-kissing

January 30th is Bell Let’s Talk Day when Canadians and people around the globe join the world’s largest conversation about mental health.  The impact has been great. Overall, 87% of Canadians say they are more aware of mental health issues than they were a few years ago. Additionally, 85% think attitudes about mental health have changed for the better and 75% believe the stigma around mental illness has been reduced. The numbers are even more impressive among young people aged 18-24: 88% think attitudes are better and 77% believe stigma has been reduced – BCE

Mental illness is something that affects everyone in some fashion and there always needs to be a conversation.  I have been personally affected by it.  My sister has bipolar disorder as did two deceased cousins.  I knew two co-workers who had it as well.  Those who have it need to know that they have support.

It isn’t something to be ashamed or embarrassed about.  There is awareness and an ongoing conversation.  And most importantly, there is help.

There isn’t anybody out there who doesn’t have a mental health issue, whether it’s depression, anxiety, or how to cope with relationships. Having OCD is not an embarrassment anymore – for me. Just know that there is help and your life could be better if you go out and seek the help.” – Howie Mandel

“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.” – Glenn Close

“It doesn’t have to take over your life, it doesn’t have to define you as a person, it’s just important that you ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness.” — Demi Lovato

Sources:  WikipediaEveryday Power

Stick With Your Own Water

Drink from your own well, my son—be faithful and true to your wife. Be happy, yes, rejoice in the wife of your youth.  Let her breasts and tender embrace satisfy you. Let her love alone fill you with delight. – Proverbs 5:15, 18, 19

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It was a Sunday afternoon.  Sunlight streamed through the window.  I could hear the muffled sounds of the traffic below.  We were lying on the couch.  The television was on.  Angie was sleeping.  I stared at the screen but my thoughts were elsewhere.  I was thinking about Nikki.  She’s the woman I’m having an affair with.

I know this may sound lame but I never intended to cheat on Angie.   And definitely not with one of her co-workers.  I was blindsided.  It all began last year when Angie and I went to her company’s Christmas party.  It was the first time she actually succeeded in getting me to go.  She had tried in the past but I always turned her down, preferring to either hang out with my friends or go on a Football binge while enjoying spicy chicken wings.  This time, I decided to go because she laid a guilt trip on me and apparently there was a new guy who seemed a little too interested in her.  I wanted to sort him out.

As soon as we got there, I said to her, “So, where’s the new guy?”

Angie looked at me.  She looked amazing in the red ankle length strapless dress which flattered her figure.  Her hair was swept back in a French knot.  “Promise me you wouldn’t embarrass him or me,” she said.

“I promise.”

“He’s over there talking to Nikki.”

“Nikki?” My eyes followed hers and spotted a man and woman having an animated conversation across the room.  Nikki had her back to us.

“Yes, I’ve told you about her.  Come let me introduce you.”  She held my hand as we navigated our way through the group, past the dance floor to where the guy and Nikki were.  The guy said something to Nikki and she turned around.

I never imagined that I would react to her the way I did.  I felt as if my heart had stopped for a second before it began to pound.  She was stunning.  The faux fur trim knee length black dress showed off her lovely figure and her hair was pulled back with a clasp with a few curls escaping.  Her shapely legs looked long in the black high heeled shoes.  The room suddenly felt very warm.  I needed a drink.

“Dex.” Angie’s gentle nudge on my arm jolted me and I turned to her.  “This is Nikki.”

Nikki smiled up at me and held out her hand.  “Dex, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you,” she said as we shook hands.  “I’ve heard so much about you.”

I didn’t know what to say except, “It’s a pleasure to meet you too.”

“Honey, this is Erik.”

It was funny that I wasn’t bothered by Erik anymore.  I think it had something to do with the fact that I was distracted by Nikki.  I could feel her eyes on me as Erik and I shook hands.  I don’t remember what I said to him but from Angie’s expression, it wasn’t anything bad or insulting.

“How about Dex and I go and get you ladies drinks?” Erik suggested.

Angie smiled.  “That sounds good.  Nikki and I will wait here.”

I excused myself and followed Erik to the bar.  I ordered drinks for Angie and me while he ordered for Nikki and himself.  While we waited for them, he turned to me and said, “You’re a very lucky man.”

“I am?”

“Yes!  You’re married to an incredible woman.”

“Yes, you’re right.  I’m very lucky.  Angie’s terrific.  So, you recently joined the company.”

“Yes, I started in May.”

“So, how do you like it so far?”

“It’s great.  The people I work with are amazing, especially Angie and Nikki.”

I had to ask.  “So, is Nikki married?”  I couldn’t remember if Angie had mentioned if she was or not.  Until tonight, I hadn’t paid much attention to what she told me about her co-workers.

Erik shook his head.  “No, she’s single.  It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?  A lot of guys at the office are always asking her out but she turns them down.”

The drinks came and we rejoined the women.  I tried not to look at Nikki more than I needed to but it was really hard.  The four of us hung out together for most of the night.  After we had something to eat from the buffet, the dance floor was opened and people headed for it.  Angie wanted to dance and I reluctantly obliged her.  Then, Erik showed up and I honestly didn’t mind him dancing with her.  I joined Nikki at the bar.

“You’re not much of a dancer, are you?” she asked.

I laughed.  “Was it that obvious?”

“Well, you can dance but you’re just not into it.”

“You’re right.  It’s not my thing.  That’s one of the reasons why I haven’t been coming to the Christmas parties.”

“Well, I think it was sweet of you to dance with Angie even though it’s not your thing.”

“Thank you.  What about you?  I haven’t seen you on the dance floor.”

She shrugged.  “I guess I’m not in the mood for dancing.  Besides, these shoes are killing my feet.  They’re new.”

I didn’t dare look down at her feet.  I kept my eyes trained on her face.  “Erik told me that you’re single.  I find that hard to believe.”

She smiled.  “Really?  Why?”

“You’re a stunning woman, Nikki.  Most of the men here haven’t been able to take their eyes off you.”

“And what about you?” she asked, her expression serious now.

I swallowed hard.  “I’ve tried not to stare at you,” I admitted.  “It’s not easy, though, especially now when we’re alone like this.”

“I know what you mean.  I’ve tried not to stare at you too.  I’ve seen photos of you but none of them do you any justice.  Angie’s a very lucky woman.”

I found myself wondering what would have happened if I had met Nikki first.  Would Angie and I be married?  I felt guilty having such thoughts.  I glanced away, my heart racing.  I should walk away now.  I should go and find Angie.  Yet, I couldn’t seem to move.  I turned to face her.  She was staring at me.  “Nikki, can I come and see you tomorrow night?” I heard myself ask.

“Yes,” she said simply.  She told me where she lived.  Then, she slid off the stool.  “Let’s go back to the party.”

I followed her.  For the rest of the night, I stayed with Angie but I was thinking about tomorrow night.

Tomorrow night came and after telling Angie that I was hanging out with the guys, I left.  My fingers gripped the steering wheel.  I shouldn’t be doing this.  I should be home with Angie or really hanging out with the guys.  Instead, I’m heading over to Nikki’s place.  Nikki.  Every time I thought about her, my stomach would flip flop and my heart would somersault.  No woman, not even Angie, has ever had such an effect on me.  This is crazy.  I should turn this car around and head back home.  I could tell Angie that I changed my mind and that I wanted to spend the night at home with her instead.  She would love that.  I’m sure Nikki would understand if I didn’t show up.

Twenty minutes later, I was standing in front of her door and ringing the bell.  The door opened and she stood there.  “Come in,” she said, stepping aside.

I went in and she closed the door behind me.  I turned and faced her.  My heart is pounding and my face felt hot even though I had just come in from the cold.  I removed my coat and scarf.  She took them and carried them to the closet.  When she returned, she didn’t say anything but reached out, grabbed hold of my sweater and dragged it over my head.  My bare chest was heaving now as I fought for air.  I pulled her roughly against me and my head swooped down.  My mouth closed eagerly and hungrily over hers, groaning when she put her arms around my waist and kissed me back.  We didn’t make it to her room.  We ended up making love right there in the foyer.  Afterwards, we showered, had dinner and made plans to see each other again.  Then, I left.

We’ve been seeing each other for months now.  So far, Angie doesn’t suspect anything, not even when Nikki decided to leave the company.  As I lay here now on a quiet Sunday afternoon, I know in my heart that I can’t continue doing this.  I can’t continue lying to Angie.  I know what the Lord wants me to do but I can’t do it.  I can’t let go of Nikki.  I can’t.  I won’t…

Adultery isn’t something that is unplanned or unintended or an accident.  It occurs in the mind and heart long before it becomes an action.  You have a choice to say no and walk away but oftentimes, you say yes and walk right into it, not thinking about the heartache and the consequences that will affect you and the person to whom you promised to be faithful until death parted you.  Adultery is a selfish act.

Praise the Lord

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Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord! – Psalm 150:6

 

Thank You, Lord for putting a smile on my face this morning.  It was wonderful to see those seagulls and the squirrels eating the food You provided for them

Lord, I love You because You care not only for my loved ones, friends, co-workers, neighbors, people in general and me but You care for all creatures and nature.

Praise the Lord for His goodness and mercy which endures forever.  Let everything that has breath praise Him.

Lord, even the animals, birds, fish, insects, the trees, the flowers, the sun, moon, stars and everything that Your hands have made praise You.  You and You alone are worthy to be praised, O Lord, my God and my Creator.

The Christmas Present

It was Christmas Day and she was sitting by the tree, going through the presents.  There were several–from family, friends, co-workers and…Kevin.  Kevin.  He was her brother in-law’s youngest brother and eleven years younger than her yet she felt like a lovesick schoolgirl whenever she was around him.  Every year they exchanged Christmas presents.  His were always so creative and unique.  She loved them.  Last year he had given her a box of chocolate soaps which she truly enjoyed.  She couldn’t wait to see what he got for her this year.

She reached for the neatly wrapped present, read the card which said, “Having you in my life has given me a reason to celebrate every day.  Merry Christmas.”  What a lovely sentiment.  Setting the card aside, she eagerly unwrapped the present, anxious to see what was inside.  There was a little box inside and she opened it.  Her eyes widened when she saw the sterling silver heart necklace.  She examined the heart closely.  On it were written the words, “Be Mine”.

Her heart was pounding now.  There was no mistaking what this meant.  She had seen those words on dozens of Valentine’s cards.  It was something a person would say to the one they loved.   Was Kevin telling her that he loved her and wanted to be with her?  She sincerely hoped so because she felt the same way.  Yes, in spite of their age difference, she was in love with Kevin.  She held the heart in her hand and stared at it, thinking it was the most precious present she had ever received.  Putting it carefully back in the box, she got up and went over to the phone to call.  She picked up the receiver and was about to dial his number when the doorbell rang.

Hanging up the phone, she went to answer the door.  It was Kevin.  She opened the door, her heart racing as she met his gaze.  He looked a bit nervous as he stood there in the hallway.  “Good morning,” she greeted him and stood aside for him to go in.  After she closed the door behind him, she turned to face him.  “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas,” he answered quietly.

She showed him the box and opening it, she took out the necklace.  “Thank you for your beautiful present,” she said.  She handed it to him and turned around, lifting her hair so that her neck was exposed.  “Would you mind putting it on for me?”

She felt him put it around her neck, his knuckles brushing against her skin, making her shiver.  When he was done, she turned to face him.  He was staring at her, his expression no longer tense.  She returned his gaze.  “I’ve been yours since the first time we met,” she told him huskily, reaching up to brush his hair back from his forehead.

His eyes darkened and he caught her hand.  He pressed his lips into the palm, making her tremble.  “I’ve wanted to tell you for such a long time how I feel about you but never worked up the courage until now.  I decided that the necklace would say what I couldn’t say.  I couldn’t sleep last night because I was so nervous.  I wasn’t sure how you felt about me and worried that you might not accept this present. That’s why I came over as soon as I could to find out if you like the necklace.  Then, when you asked me to put it on, it gave me hope.”

“All those times when we were together, I wanted to tell you how I felt but I kept thinking that you should be with someone younger.”

“Do you still think that?” he asked thickly as he pulled her against him.

“No,” she groaned and reaching up she pulled his head down to hers.  They exchanged passionate kisses for a while then, she drew back to look up at him, her breath unsteady.  “There’s a communal service at my church today at eleven.  We can go to that first and then go and celebrate Christmas with the family.  What do you say?”

He nodded, his face flushed.  “I say it’s a good idea.”

“Have you had breakfast?”

He shook his head.  “As soon as I got up, I showered, dressed and came straight over here.  Breakfast was the last thing on my mind.”

She took his hand and led him over to the table.  “Let’s have breakfast and then head over to the church.”  While he sat at the table, she shared out the breakfast and he smiled as she set a plate in front of him.  It was the Egg Croissant Casserole, his favorite.  His mother used to make it at Christmas time too.  His mouth watered just at the sight of it and he was ready to dig into it.  But first, she said a prayer.  Afterwards, she raised her glass of orange juice.  “Here’s to a wonderful Christmas.”

He raised his.  “Here’s to joy, peace and…love.”  They touched their glasses.  “Thank you for making this Christmas the best one ever.”

She reached over and covered his hand with hers.  “And thank you for the Christmas present which has changed my life forever.”  He smiled and gently squeezed her hand before they began to enjoy their first Christmas breakfast together.

Source:  Uncommon Goods

The Christian Faith

Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” – Mark 1:17

The Christian faith has mushroomed into what it is today thanks to men and women who were willing to let the Holy Spirit work in and through them to share the Gospel with others.  It all started with two men–one was Andrew and the other was Philip.  After each man encountered Jesus, they went and told others about him.  When Andrew found his brother, Peter he said to him, “We have found the Messiah.” And Philip declared to his friend, Nathanael,“We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:41, 45).

Then, Peter and Nathanael were taken to meet Jesus.  How do we follow the example of what Andrew and Philip?  We tell our families, friends and co-workers about Jesus and share the Bible with them.  It is through reading the Bible that they meet Jesus.  We introduce them to Him but they have to get to know Him for themselves.

One of my favorite stories is the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  She went to the well to draw water at a time of the day when she wouldn’t run into other people.  Married five times and living with a man who wasn’t her husband, she wasn’t exactly the pillar of society.   She didn’t expect to see Jesus there.  She could tell that He was a Jew and was surprised when He asked her for a drink of water as Jews didn’t have any dealings with Samaritans.  And she was a woman.

Jesus spoke to her, telling her what true worship was and salvation.  When He told her things about herself that a stranger could not have possibly known, she thought He was Prophet.  Jesus revealed that He was the Messiah and excited, she left her water-pot and ran into the city to tell the people there, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”  Like Andrew and Philip, the woman met Jesus, went and told others about Him before bringing them to Him.  Many of the people believed in Jesus because of her testimony.   The woman discovered that despite the fact that Jesus knew everything about her, He loved her.

Does your neighbor know that there is a Savior who loves him or her and wants to reach out in love and forgiveness to him or her?  This encounter between Jesus and the woman was an example of how the Gospel should transcend racial and gender barriers.  The Gospel is for everyone.  Salvation is for everyone.  We must not allow our prejudices to get in the way of spreading the love of Christ to those who need it.

So, we see a progression here.  The mission field begins at home, with our relatives and then spreads to our friends and then our neighbors.  It follows what Jesus said to His disciples when He sent them out to preach and minister to others.  “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.  But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5, 6).  The Jews were to receive the Gospel first and then the Gentiles and Samaritans.  It makes sense that we witness to those closest to us first and then to others.

Once we are willing and open to His leading, God will find opportunities for us to share the Gospel.  He did so with Peter on the Day of Pentecost and Paul when he was in Athens.  After the Holy Spirit filled the disciples, they began to speak in tongues.  The crowd marveled when they heard them speak in their own language.  Some, however, mocked them, accusing them of being drunk.  Peter used their remarks as an opportunity to give a sermon.  He spoke of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.  The people were convicted and they asked Peter and the other disciples what they should do and Peter’s answer was, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Many were baptized and about three thousand people became Christians on that day.

We may encounter skeptics but, instead of becoming discouraged, we can do what Peter did and use their unbelief as an opportunity to share our faith.  As Paul said, we are to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).  When Paul was in Athens, he saw that the city was given over to idols.  Provoked, he reasoned with the Jews in the synagogue and the Gentiles in the marketplace.  He spoke to them about the resurrection of Jesus.  They took him to the Areopagus, curious to hear his doctrine.

Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and addressed the people, acknowledging that they were religious because of the objects of worship and the altar they had built to the Unknown God.  He revealed to them who the true God was.  He was the “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.  Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.  And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,  so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;  for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’  

Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.  Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

When some of them heard the word “resurrection”, they began to mock him while others wanted to hear him speak further on the matter.  And others believed in what he said and joined him, among them a woman named Damaris (Acts 17:23-34).

Paul was prepared to share the truth about the God he worshipped and he used what he saw around him to do so.  He wanted the people to turn from their idols and worship the true God who wanted them to seek Him while He could still be found.  We can use whatever is at our disposal to share the truth about God with others.  Many people still have a negative opinion of God but we can change that by reaching out to them in love, compassion and sharing our testimonies of His goodness.

As in Jesus’ day, the Christian faith is growing and will continue to grow.  Although it is under attack and many believers are facing persecution, imprisonment and even death, it will continue to spread and transform lives until Jesus returns.  We can do our part by reaching out to those around us.  Each one can reach one.  We can do it through handing out literature, through social media, blogging, websites or witnessing in person.  God will give us the means and the opportunities to further His ministry.  All we have to do is to be ready and willing like Andrew, Philip, the Samaritan woman and Paul.

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Sources:  Biblegateway; Blue Letter Bible

The Dinner Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Me too,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Friends and Co-Workers

Alain and Andrea were co-workers who became fast friends because they got along very well and enjoyed each other’s company.  Sometimes they went out for lunch at a bistro just around the corner from the office.  It became their favorite place.

Soon their time together wasn’t limited to lunch at the bistro.  Alain invited her to a concert and then treated her to dinner afterwards.  At the office she won two tickets in a draw to the exclusive screening of the first episode of season three of Outlander UK and asked him to go with her.  Over dinner, they talked animatedly about the show and how they got to see some of the cast.

They saw each other practically every day and on the odd day when they couldn’t see each other, they would talk for hours on the phone.  Andrea cherished the five years of friendship she was enjoying with Alain.

It was a late Saturday afternoon and she was just about to ring the doorbell to Alain’s flat when the door opened and a man she had never seen before but who looked a bit familiar stepped out into the hallway.  Alain was standing behind him. The stranger smiled at Andrea.  “Hello,” he said, pleasantly, looking her over and clearly liking what he saw.  He held out his hand.  “I’m Henri, Alain’s baby brother.”

She smiled and shook his hand.  “It’s nice to meet you, Henri.  I’m Andrea.”

Alain pursed his lips.  “Henri was just leaving,” he said, looking at his brother.

Henri rolled his eyes.  “That’s my cue,” he said.  “And just when things are starting to get interesting.”

Andrea laughed.  “Well, I hope we meet again,” she said before she walked past him and into the flat.

“I thought you said you didn’t have a girlfriend,” Henri said in a low voice.

“Andrea’s not my girlfriend.  She’s a very close friend.”

Henri’s face brightened.  “She’s cute and hot,” he commented.  “Do you think she would go out with me?”

Alain’s expression darkened.  “She has a boyfriend,” he told him abruptly.

Henri looked surprised.  “If she has a boyfriend, what is she doing here alone with you in your flat?”

“Her boyfriend trusts me.  Goodbye, Henri.”  He went back inside the flat and closed the door quietly behind him.

Henri stood there for a moment, looking puzzled, and then he shrugged his shoulders and walked away.

Andrea was standing at the window looking out when Alain joined her.  She turned and smiled at him, thinking how good he looked in the black shirt and light blue jeans.  “So, that’s your brother.  There is a slight resemblance.  Which one of you was the troublemaker?  Let me guess, you?”

Alain laughed.  “I was a bit of a rebel growing up but I wised up when I turned fifteen.  Henri was the quiet one who didn’t get into any trouble.  Now, it seems like we have switched personalities.  Now, I’m the quiet one and he’s the outgoing one.”

Andrea shook her head.  “I never would have pegged you for a bad boy,” she said.  “I bet all the girls were into you.  I know I would have been.”

“You were into bad boys?”

“Yes, because they were more exciting.  It was true that the nice guys finished last.”

“What about now?” he asked.  “Is there a particular type of man you are attracted to?”

She wanted to say you.  “I’m attracted to the introverted man—he’s easy to be around, intellectually stimulating, has a sense of humor and self-assured.

He turned away so that she couldn’t see the expression on his face.  “Sounds interesting.  Have you met anyone like that as yet?”

Yes…you.  “I’m not looking.” That was the truth.  “So, what would you like to do now?”

“Let’s go to the cinema and then afterwards have dinner at one of those riverside restaurants.”

“Sounds great.”

The weather was so pleasant that they went for a walk before going into the cinema.  A couple of hours later, they sat enjoying a tasty meal on the riverside terrace of a restaurant with an unobstructed view of the Tower Bridge.  It was while they were walking back to the car that she asked him, “What type of woman are you looking for?”

He glanced at her but she was facing straight ahead.  “I’m not looking,” he said quietly.  I have already found her.

“If you were looking, what would you look for?”

“I would look for a woman who is outgoing, intelligent, assertive and resourceful.”

“Sounds interesting.” And they walked on in silence until they got into a discussion about the foreign film they went to see.

It was Monday and Andrea was in high spirits.  She was still thinking of yesterday when Alain and she took a full day trip to Windsor, Stonehenge and Oxford.  It was while they were having dinner on Saturday night that he told her about the trip.  He remembered that she had always wanted to visit Windsor Castle and Stonehenge.  Touched, she got up, went round to where he sat and leaning over she hugged him.

She wanted to thank him again so she left her desk and was heading toward his office when she overheard someone ask for Sophie.  Sophie was a pretty blonde who recently started working there.  She heard the other person say, “She mentioned something about lunch and then I saw her leave with Alain.”

Andrea froze in her tracks.  Alain went for lunch with Sophie?  She had seen them talking a couple of times but had thought nothing of it.  Yet, the thought of them having lunch together made her jealous.  She went back to her office and sank heavily down into the chair behind her desk.  She was staring out the window but not seeing anything when there was a knock on her door.  She swung her chair around to see who it was.  It was Henri.

“Henri,” she greeted him and getting up from the behind the desk, she went over to where he stood in the doorway.  “Come in.  It’s good to see you.  Come and have a seat.”

“I hope I’m not disturbing you,” he said as he followed her over to the desk.  He waited until she was seated before he took the chair in front of her desk.

“Not at all.  What brings you here?”

“I’m here to meet Alain.” He glanced at his watch.  “I made sure I got here at least ten minutes early.  I didn’t want to keep him waiting.”

“I’m sorry but Alain is not here.  He’s gone out for lunch with Sophie.”

Henri looked surprised and a little put out.  “Well, how do you like that?  He and I were supposed to grab lunch.  I guess he forgot, although it’s not like him to do so.”  He glanced at her.  “I would ask you to have lunch with me in his place but I doubt that your boyfriend would like that.”

She stared at him.  “I don’t have a boyfriend.  Who told you that I did?”

“Alain.”

She looked puzzled. “Why would he say that?” she wondered.  “He knows that I’m not seeing anyone.”

“That’s what he told me when I asked him if you would go out with me.  Maybe he doesn’t want me to take you out because he likes you himself.”

She shook her head.  “I don’t think so.  He sees me as a very good friend, nothing more.  Besides, he went out for lunch with Sophie.”

“You’re in love with him, aren’t you? I can see it on your face and when you mentioned Sophie.”

“Yes, I am,” she admitted, sighing heavily.  “A lot of good it’s doing me.”

“Why don’t I take you out for lunch and we can talk more about this?” he suggested.  “I’m a great listener.”

At first she hesitated but he was so persuasive that she gave in.  They walked to the nearby bistro and over tasty pasta dishes they talked about Alain.

“It’s possible that you’re wrong about Alain and Sophie.  They may not even be together now.”

“Someone said she saw them leave together.”

“They may have left together but that doesn’t mean that they are together.  Don’t jump to conclusions before talking to Alain first.  I still think he lied about you having a boyfriend because he has feelings for you.”

“Well, I hope you’re right.”  She glanced at her watch.  “I should be heading back to the office now.  Thanks for lunch and for being such a good listener.  I’ll let Alain know that you came by the office.”

After a warm hug, they parted company.  When she got back to the office, she went directly to Alain’s office to see if he was there.  He was.  She went in and closed the door behind her.  He looked up from what he was doing as she crossed the carpet to stand in front of his desk.  He smiled and gave her his trademark wink.  Usually, she would respond with a wink and smile but this time she didn’t.  She was miffed with him.

“Did you have a good lunch with Sophie?” she demanded.

He frowned.  “Sophie?” he repeated.  “Why do you think I had lunch with her?”

“One of the women, I think it was Sharon, said that she saw the two of you leave together and seemed to think that you were going out for lunch together.”

“Well, Sharon or whoever said that was mistaken.  Sophie and I left at the same time, yes.  We rode the lift together but then she went off with Tony from Accounting and I went in the opposite direction.  I had an errand to run.”

Relief washed over her.  Henri was right.  “Henri came by,” she told him.  “You two were supposed to have lunch together.”

“The errand took longer than I anticipated.  I didn’t get back here until around twelve-forty-five.  We were supposed to meet at twelve-thirty.  I thought he would have waited.  Was he terribly upset?”

“He was surprised and a little put out.”

“I’ll call him later and apologize.  So, what did you do for lunch?”

She hesitated, suddenly feeling guilty.  “I went for lunch with Henri…” Her voice trailed off when she saw the expression on his face.

He got up from the desk and came round to where she was standing, his face glowering.  There was anger and something else in his eyes.  “You went out for lunch with Henri?”

She involuntarily stepped back, her eyes wary as they met his.  “I didn’t have any plans so when he asked me, I—I accepted.”

“Where did you go?”

“To the bistro around the corner—”

“You took him to our place?”

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t want to go too far.”

“Instead of having lunch with him, why didn’t you have him wait here in my office until I got back?”

“I thought you went for lunch with Sophie, remember?”

“Then, you should have let him leave instead of going for lunch with him.”

“Why are you so upset?” she asked.  “And why did you tell him that I have a boyfriend?”

“I don’t want you to see my brother.”

“Why not?” she asked.  “He’s nice and very good-looking.” She knew she was goading him now but she wanted to find out if Henri was right about his brother’s feelings for her.

Alain’s eyes darkened.  “Are you trying to get a rise out of me?” he demanded, the jealousy eating up his insides.

“I’m sorry,” she said, contrite.  “I just want to know why you’re so upset.”

“Do you want me to tell you or show you?”

She swallowed.  “Show me?”

“Yes, show you,” he muttered thickly and then, he reached out and pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp.  His mouth found hers and hungrily devoured it while his hands held her tightly against him.

Andrea closed her eyes and kissed him back, savoring the moment she had dreamed of for so long.  It made her heart sing to know that Alain returned her feelings.

After several minutes, Alain raised his head to look at her, his face flushed and his breathing labored.  “I’m in love with you,” he confessed.  “I have been for quite a long time.”

She gazed up at him, her eyes misty.  “I have been in love with you for a long time too,” she told him.

“Dinner at my place tonight?”

She nodded and then reached up and pulled his head down to hers.

 

 

Sources:  Telegraph; Good Men Project; Trip Advisor;

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