Cade/Untrodden #writephoto

snowy-landscape

Photo by Sue Vincent

Cade lived on his own in a condo in the heart of downtown Toronto.  This wasn’t always the case, though.  He was married once and had a daughter but one day tragedy struck.  While he was out trapping lines, his wife and their eleven month old daughter had just returned from a walk when they were attacked by a bear.  Neither survived the attack. He returned home to find the animal still there and when it charged at him, he shot it.  He found their lifeless bodies and was overcome with grief.  The community reeled from this tragic incident and rallied around him.

He sold the cabin and moved to Toronto.  He wanted to be as far away as possible from where the tragedy occurred.  He never returned to the Yukon or the cabin again.  Too many painful memories and he was bombarded with self-recrimination.  It had been his idea for Joan to spend part of her maternity leave at the secluded cabin.  They would have been safer at their house in Whitehorse.  He blamed himself for what happened.  Joan and Chrissy would still be alive if it weren’t for him.

Moving to Ontario was the best decision he had made.  He stayed with family until he found a job and was able to afford his own place.  He worked for a construction company and became fast friends with the men who worked there.  They were always inviting him to something or the other so he didn’t have time to be lonely.

Ten years had passed since he lost Joan and Chrissy but he still thought about them.  He no longer blamed himself for what happened, however, he still couldn’t bring himself to return to Whitehorse.  There was nothing there for him, anyway.  His life was here now.  His friends were always setting him up with their female friends and relatives and occasionally he would go out on dates but nothing serious ever developed.  He wasn’t ready for a serious relationship, anyway.

He was walking in the park now.  It was a cold morning.  The snow was like a thick white blanket covering the path.  It was quiet.  Hardly anyone was around.  Not many people would venture out on a cold day like today but he loved it.  The air was fresh and crisp.  The coat he was wearing was nice and warm.  His head was covered and the scarf covered his nose and mouth.  He was dressed for this.

After he finished his walk, he decided to go to Tim Horton’s for a hot chocolate.  As he pushed open the door to go inside, he heard someone call his name.  He turned.  It was Roshawna.  She smiled.  “Hi, there.  Didn’t expect to run into you.”

He smiled.  “I could say the same about you,” he replied.  “I would have thought that you would be indoors on a day like today.”

“Yes, it’s pretty cold but I had errands to run.  Before heading home, I thought I’d stop in here and grab a hot chocolate to take the chill off.  What’s your excuse?”

“I didn’t want to be cooped up all day so I decided to go for a walk in the park.”

“You’re a Canadian through and through.  I’ll never get used to this cold and I’ve been living here for years now.”

“Why would you leave sunny and hot Jamaica to come here, then?”

“Better opportunities.”

“Are you in a hurry to get home?”

She shook her head.

“Let’s have our hot chocolates over there by the window.”

“Okay.”

“So, how’s life?” he asked when they were sitting at the table, steaming hot chocolates in front of them.  He liked Roshawna.  She was a live wire.  She was the younger sister of one of his friends.  They met at her brother’s barbecue last year.

“Life’s been busy.  I got a new job at a publishing company.  How about you?  I haven’t seen you in a while.  Been staying out of trouble?”

He laughed.  “What kind of trouble could I get into?”

She smiled.  “With your looks, you can get into all sorts of trouble.  Are you dating anyone?”

“No, not at the moment.”

“Good.  I’m not dating anyone either.”

“Good.”

“Are you busy later?”

“No.”

“How would you like some good home cooked Jamaican food?”

“My mouth’s watering at the thought.”

“Good.  My place tonight at seven.”

“I’ll be there.”

That settled, they talked about other things while having their hot chocolates.

This story was inspired by the tragic true story of a mother and her ten month old infant who were recently attacked and killed by a bear just outside of Whitehorse in the Yukon.  The father wasn’t there at the time of the attack but when he returned, the bear was still there and attacked him.  He managed to shoot and kill it.

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

Source:  AOL

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Why He Married Her

Lindsey was leaving the drugstore when she ran into Alicia, a former university classmate and Alton’s ex-girlfriend.  The stunning blonde gave her a nasty look.

“Well, if it isn’t the expectant mother.” she said.  Her eyes dropped to Lindsey’s midriff.

Lindsey didn’t answer.  Of all the people she could have run into, why did it have to be her?

Alicia’s gaze returned to Lindsey’s face.  Jealousy and resentment flashed in her green eyes.  “You know why he married you, don’t you?” she asked.  “It isn’t because he loves you.  You got pregnant and he wanted to do the honorable thing.”

“I really don’t have to stand here and listen to this,” Lindsey said and brushed past her, seething.  On the drive home, she fumed.  She turned on the radio and to a Christian station.  Gospel music filled the car.  It helped to calm her down.

When she got in, she went straight to the kitchen to fix herself something to eat.  She was hungry.  She carried the large plate of wild rice, stew Chicken, veggies and potatoes, with salad on the side into the living-room.  She settled comfortably in the sofa and ate as she watched reruns of Downton Abbey.  When she was finished eating, she got up and put the dirty dishes into the Dish washer, had a tall glass of milk and then went back to the living-room.  She relaxed on the sofa with her feet on the coffee table.

A couple of hours later, she read her Bible, made dinner and then took a nap.  When she woke up, it was six o’clock.  Alton would be home at any minute.  She got up, took a shower, fixed her hair and went downstairs.  She heated dinner and then laid it out on the table in the dining-room.  Just as she put the glasses of Cranberry Juice on the table, she heard the key turn in the lock.  She left the dining-room and went into the foyer.  The door opened and Alton went in.  He smiled when he saw her.  After he closed and locked the door, he greeted her, “Hello, Sweetheart.”  He hugged and kissed her, thankful to be home.  “How was your day?”

“The usual,” she replied, helping him to remove his jacket.  “I went to the drugstore to pick up the Materna.”

“How are you feeling?”

“I feel fine.  The morning sickness isn’t as so bad anymore.  How was your day?”

“Busy as usual.  It’s great to be home.  Something smells really good.”

She took his hand and led him to the dining-room.  “I thought we’d eat in here for a change,” she said.  Usually, they ate in the kitchen.  “I’ll be right back.”  She went and got a pair of candles and placed them on the table.  After she lit them, they sat down.  He said Grace and then they tucked into the Beef and Parmesan Pasta. 

Over dinner, they talked about his day, the plans his company had that would bring in even more revenue which meant that they would be able to buy a house outside of the city.  As she listened to him talk, her mind alighted on her run in with Alicia.  She wondered if she should mention it.  No, she decided that then wasn’t the right time.  She didn’t want to spoil their evening.  She would tell him later.  The nagging doubts rose to the surface but she pushed them away.

After he helped her to clear the table, he went to take a shower while she loaded the dishwasher.  She was in the living-room when he joined her.  He was wearing just a pajama pants.  It was during the summer.  He sat next to her and rested his arm along the back of the sofa.  They watched a couple of movies and then called it a night.

He was in and out of the bathroom quickly while she stayed a while longer.  After she wiped the top of the sink she switched off the light and went into the bedroom.  He was lying under the covers.  He rolled over unto his side when he heard her but when she stood there watching him, he asked, “Aren’t you coming to bed.”

“In a minute,” she answered.

He sat up, frowning.  “What’s the matter, Lin?”

“I ran into Alicia this morning.”

He grimaced.  “What happened?”

Lindsey told him.  “Is this why you married me?” she asked, placing her hand on her swollen abdomen.

Alton threw back the covers and climbed out of the bed.  He went over to her, towering over her as she stood there, in the black vest and silk pajama shorts.  He hooked his finger under her chin and raised her face until she was looking up at him, her eyes wide as they met his.  “You should know by now why I married you,” he said quietly.

She swallowed.  “Maybe I need for you to tell me,” she replied.

“I love you, Lin,” he confessed.  “I would have married you even if you hadn’t gotten pregnant.  Alicia’s bitter because I broke up with her long before I met you.  She wants to ruin our relationship.  Don’t let her.  She knows I married you because I love you.”

“I’m sorry,” Lindsey mumbled.  “I had my doubts and she just played on them.  I guess I never could get over the fact that a guy like you would be interested in me.”

His eyes darkened on her face.  “You’re the most beautiful and desirable woman I know.  The first time I saw you, I knew that I was in trouble.  As you recall, I didn’t waste anytime introducing myself to you and asking you out.  I fell hard for you and was planning to ask you to marry me when you told me that you were pregnant.  I was on top of the world, Lin.  Didn’t you ever wonder how was able to put a ring on your finger the same night as your announcement?”

She nodded.  And at that moment, she felt like a complete fool.  “I’m sorry,” she apologized again, lowering her eyes.

“Oh, Lindsey,” Alton muttered thickly before he lowered his head and kissed her.

She put her arms around his waist and pressed against him as she kissed him back.  As they exchanged passionate kisses, he picked her up and carried her over to the bed.

He laid her gently down and stretched out beside her.  Lying on his side, he gazed down into her face, his face flushed.  “You wanted me to say that I love you,” he murmured huskily.  “Now, I’m going to show you how much.”  He lowered his head and she reached up and clutched his head.

“I love you,” she whispered just before their lips touched.

 

Mirembe

photo-20180618154624172

Two years ago, handsome businessman, Akio Hitoshi met Mirembe, an African woman who fled her country to seek refugee status in Japan.  When he learned that she wasn’t allowed to work and had no money, he hired her to be his housekeeper.  It was a very good arrangement for both of them.  He spent more time at his apartment in Tokyo, enjoying her cooking and her company.  Soon feelings began to develop between them and they became romantically involved.

Mirembe turned off the faucet when she heard the doorbell.  A beautiful and mature Japanese woman stood there.  “You are Mirembe?” she asked in English.

“Yes, and you’re…?”

“Mrs. Hitoshi, Akio’s wife.”

When Akio let himself into the apartment she was waiting for him.  He froze when he saw her. “Meiko.”

“Your lover is gone.”

“Where?” he asked, frantic.

“That’s not your concern.”

“How did you–?”

“Find out about her?  I have my sources.”

“Mirembe…”

“…is out of your life permanently.”

He slumped against the wall.

Mirembe stood outside the apartment.  I’m still here, Akio.

 

 

175 words

This was written as part of Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers and is based on the above photo prompt.  For more information visit Here.

If you would like to read other stories based on this week’s prompt, please visit Here.

The Betrayal

Althea closed her Bible and placed it back on the coffee table.  She felt like Judas because she had betrayed Tyson.  Guilt racked her but if she were brutally honest with herself she would admit that what happened between Greg and her was something she had wanted for a very long time–even before she started dating Tyson.

Last night when Greg took her home after working together over time on a pending project, she invited him in to have a hot chocolate.  After he went in and she closed the door, she unbuttoned her coat, with her back to him.  She felt him pull it off her shoulders, discard it then, he pulled her back against him, so that she could feel his hard body pressing into hers while he buried his face in her hair.  She closed her eyes as desire raged through her.  Then, she turned to him, her eyes meeting his in a steady stare.  She reached out and unbuttoned his coat.

His coat was soon disposed of, his tie followed and then, with trembling fingers, she loosened the buttons on his shirt, her heart pounding with anticipation.  She could feel his warm breath on her temple and soon he was shirtless.  Eagerly she ran her hands over his chest and before reaching up and pulling his head down to hers, her fingers gripping his hair as their lips fastened.  His arms went about her waist, pressing her into him as they exchanged passionate kisses.

Several minutes later, Althea drew back, gasping for breath as she dragged off her jacket and everything from the waist up, longing to feel his skin against her.  Greg groaned as she pressed against him, her eyes feverish as they met his smoldering ones and he swept her up into his arms and carried her into the living-room.  They made love on the sofa.  He ended up spending the night and the following morning, they made love again before he left after having breakfast.

Running her hand over the cushion where his head was, she trembled as she recalled how explosive the lovemaking was and it was something she had never experienced with anyone–not even Tyson.  Greg excited her like no man ever did and she wanted to be with him again.  She wasn’t satisfied with having just a working relationship with him.  She wanted more…but what about Tyson?

How could she face Tyson after what she did but how could she stay with him when she wanted Greg?  And what about Greg’s girlfriend, Audrey?  She had completely forgotten about her.  She remembered the first time she met the willowy blonde and her jealous reaction.  It was at one of the company’s picnics.  She was there with Tyson and Greg was there with Audrey.  They were sitting at the table with the director of the company and his wife.  Tyson and she joined them.  She was sitting between Tyson and Greg who introduced them to Audrey.  He and Tyson had met before.

Audrey was what most people would consider to be classically beautiful with her fine features. She was regal and elegant.  When she was introduced to Tyson, she smiled and was very gracious to him but when she was introduced to Althea, she was a bit aloof and the smile on her lips didn’t reach her light blue eyes.  The two women barely said anything to each other and Greg commented on that when they were in the office.  “I couldn’t help but notice that you and Audrey didn’t hit it off.  You’re usually get along with everyone and Audrey too but somehow, you two didn’t warm up to each other.  How come?”

Althea had shrugged and offered him an offhand explanation.  “I guess we can’t always get along with people.”  She couldn’t let him know that she was jealous of Audrey and for some reason Audrey didn’t like her.  Perhaps she sensed that Althea was attracted to her boyfriend.  Women were more intuitive when it came to those things.

“Tyson and I get along even though he’s your boyfriend,” Greg had remarked and she looked at him, quizzically.  His expression was inscrutable.  What does he mean by that? Before she could ask him, his cell rang and he excused himself.  Ever since then, she had been meaning to ask him about the remark but just hadn’t gotten around to it.

The ringing of her phone brought her back to the present and she got up from the sofa to answer it.  It was Tyson.  Heart thudding and hand gripping the phone, she said, “Hello, Tyson.”

“Hi Baby, I tried to get you last night but your machine came on and your cell was turned off.  I thought about coming over but I didn’t want to drop by just like that.”

Well, it’s a good thing you didn’t, she thought.  Or you would have caught me with Greg.  “Tyson, I’m fine.  I was wiped so I must have been sleeping and that’s why I didn’t hear the phone or the cell ring.”  Lying came so easily to her that it startled her.

“Okay.  I called to remind you that we’re going to the Blue Note tonight to see the John Scofield Quartet.  I’ll pick you up at seven.”

She had totally forgotten about tonight.  The last thing she wanted was to be at a jazz club but what excuse could she give?  “All right.”

“Great!  Oh, I invited Greg and Audrey to join us.  I hope you don’t mind.”

Her heart was racing now.  She was going to see Greg.  And Audrey was going to be there.  How was she going to be able to hide her feelings or stop the images of Greg and her making love from popping into her head?  “I wish Audrey weren’t coming,” she said.  “The woman doesn’t like me.”

“Maybe she’s jealous of you,” Tyson remarked.

Althea stiffened.  “Why should she be?” she asked warily.

“You are a gorgeous woman, Althea and you work closely with Greg.  I would be jealous too if I didn’t trust you.”

She closed her eyes as the guilt consumed her.  He trusts me.  I feel like a traitor.  What am I going to do?  I never meant to cheat on him but my feelings for Greg got the better of me.  I was a fool to have a relationship with Tyson when I really wanted to be with Greg but at the time Greg was already seeing Audrey.  Oh, what a mess I have gotten myself into…

“Althea?  Are you still there?”

“Yes–yes.  I–I have to go now.”

“All right.  I’ll see you at seven.”

“See you then,” she replied and hung up, her head throbbing.  She went back over to the sofa and sank heavily down, her brow knitted, frantic about how the evening was going to pan out and that she might do or say something to give herself away.  “Dear Lord, please help me to keep it together tonight,” she begged.

Several hours later when Tyson picked her up, she was composed or appeared to be.  The closer they got to the Blue Note Jazz club, the more nervous she became and by the time they walked into the place, her palms were sweaty and her legs felt like jelly.  Thankfully, Greg and Audrey weren’t there as yet.  It gave her time to collect herself.

It was a nice club.  The atmosphere was casual and intimate.  Their table was situated in such a way that all four of them would be able to get to see the band.   The band had already set up and in ten minutes they were going to play.  She looked up just then and her heart somersaulted when she saw Greg and Audrey approaching their table.  Audrey was wearing a red top with a black pants.  Her hair was pulled back in a chignon giving her an elegant look.  She gave Althea a frosty smile and greeting before she sat down opposite her.

Althea’s eyes shifted to Greg as he sat down beside Audrey and opposite Tyson.  He was dressed in a black dress shirt with black jeans.  He looked so sexy that it was hard for her not to stare.  Their eyes met and she smiled nervously as she greeted him, acting as if they hadn’t seen each other since yesterday at the office.

They ordered drinks, appetizers and dinner and settled down to enjoy the band which was starting up.  As the sounds of jazz filled the air, Althea sneaked a peek at Greg whose head was turned toward the stage and her heart skipped a beat when she caught him looking at her.  She quickly turned away and tried to concentrate on the music and enjoy the dinner but she could feel his eyes on her.

After dinner and during a break, Audrey excused herself and went to the washroom while Tyson went to the bar to order a Club Soda.  Althea had passed on having anything else to drink and was nursing her Cranberry Juice.  Alone with Greg, she couldn’t resist looking at him and her mouth went dry when she saw him looking at her intently.  “You look amazing,” he told her.  “I can’t keep my eyes off you.”

She was wearing a black dress with spaghetti straps and her hair was pulled back at the nape.  “Thank you,” she replied, feeling shy and thrilled at the same time.  “You look incredibly sexy.”

“Althea, I can’t stop thinking about last night and this morning.”

“Me neither,” she confessed.  “What are we going to do?  I feel like such a traitor because Tyson trusts me but I can’t help how I feel about you, Greg.  What happened between us last night and this morning happened because I wanted it to.”

“We have to tell them,” he told her.  “We can’t continue hiding our feelings and pretending that we are happy in our relationships when we’re not.  I want to be with you, Althea.  I’ve wanted it ever since we started working together.”

She stared at him.  “Why didn’t you tell me this before I started dating Tyson?” she demanded.  “I only went out with him because you were with Audrey.”

“I thought you loved Tyson and that’s why I didn’t do anything.  You have no idea how hard it is for me to see you with him.  I like him and we get along but I’m jealous of him because he’s your boyfriend.”

“And I’m jealous of Audrey because she’s your girlfriend.”

“I think she suspects that I have feelings for you.  She didn’t want to come tonight because of you but I managed to talk her into it.  I came because I wanted to see you.  Can I come over later?”

“Yes,” she said.  “We’ll talk more later.” Just then, both Tyson and Audrey joined them.

The band came back and played for another hour.  It was time to leave.  The four of them walked out of the club and to the parking lot.  They said their goodnight and parted.  As Althea walked to Tyson’s Land Rover, she watched Greg and Audrey walk to his Jaguar.  Seeing them together made her decide that she was going to end her relationship with Tyson.  She wouldn’t do it tonight, though.  Tomorrow was Sunday.  On her way to church, she would call him and suggest that they meet in the afternoon at Bryant Park.

It was after ten when she got home and she quickly undressed and took a shower.  She changed into floral print Chemise which flattered her figure and complexion.  Her hair was loose about her shoulders and after dabbing a little of her favorite Ralph Lauren perfume behind her ears, she went into the kitchen.  She just finished pouring hot toddies into two glass cups when the doorbell rang.  Her heart racing, she hurried to answer the door, smiling when she saw Greg’s eyes travel over her.

As soon as she closed the door and locked it, he pulled her into his arms.  “I’ve wanted to do this all night,” he murmured, his eyes restless on her upturned face.  He was wearing a navy blue shirt and blue jeans.  His hair was slightly damp and he smelled really good.

She put her arms around his neck.  “I fixed us some hot toddies.  Let’s sit on the sofa and drink them before they get cold and then…”

He smiled and released her.  “You’re right.  If I kiss you now, I wouldn’t be able to stop.”

They walked into the living-room and while he relaxed on the sofa, she went and got the hot toddies.  She handed him his before she settled down next to him.  She reached for the remote for the stereo and turned it on.  Smooth jazz played in the background.  “I am going to break up with Tyson tomorrow,” she announced quietly.  “I’m going to do it in the park.  I read that a lot of couples call it quits in a park because it’s a public place so not much drama there and it’s quiet and relaxing.  I will call him in the morning to arrange a time when we will meet.  I’m not looking forward to it at all.”

Greg sighed.  “I know what you mean,” he said.  “I broke up with Audrey tonight and it was terrible.  She was hurt and angry.  After she screamed at me and slapped me in the face, she stormed out of the car, slamming the door so hard, I thought the window would break.  I felt like a jerk.  I never meant to hurt her but I should never have gotten involved with her when it was you I wanted to be with.  That was unfair to her.”

“Does she know about us?”

He nodded.  “I didn’t have to tell her.  She figured it out and I couldn’t deny it.”

Althea pursed her lips.  “She must really hate me now.”

“I feel really badly about Tyson.  He’s a really nice guy.  Under other circumstances, we could have been good friends.”

“When he asked me to go out with him I should have turned him down.  It would have been the decent thing to do.  And now, what I have to say to him tomorrow will break his heart and completely destroy his trust in me…” Her voice trembled and tears came to her eyes.

Greg took her toddy and put it and his down on the coffee table.  He put his arm around her shoulder and she rested her head against him.  “I know that you feel badly about Tyson.  Breaking up with someone is never easy.  It can be very painful.  All I can say is that Tyson and Audrey deserve to be with people who will love them in return.”

“You’re right,” she said and brushing the tears away she drew back to look at him. “You and I never meant to hurt them but we can’t help the way we feel about each other.”

His eyes darkened on her face.  “I love you, Althea,” he murmured huskily.  “I have loved you since the first time we met.  I tried to fight it because of Audrey but it was no use.  And those nights when we worked overtime, were torture.  It was hard not to touch you.  Last night my feelings were too strong to ignore.  I wanted you so much.”

“I love you too, Greg.  I fell in love with you the first time I saw you but I didn’t do anything about it because I found out from Krystal that you had a girlfriend.  Seeing you everyday and working late with you was bittersweet.  It wasn’t easy hiding my feelings for you or coming home to this apartment which felt empty and thinking about you, wishing you were here.  You have no idea how often I have fantasized about you and…” her words were smothered against his lips.

The next afternoon, she met Tyson in the park.  Dread filled her as they walked to a bench in a quiet area and sat down.  Taking a deep breath, she repeated the words she had rehearsed on the drive over.  By the time she was finished, he was livid.  “So, when I called you on Friday night and yesterday morning, Greg was there with you?”

“Yes.”

“So, he spent the night.”

“Yes.”

“I don’t believe this.  When I asked you why you didn’t answer my calls you lied to me.  You told me that you were sleeping but the truth is you and he were doing it on the sofa.  Oh, hell, Althea, I trusted you and you betrayed me.” He jumped to his feet.

“Tyson, I’m so sorry–” she said, rising from the bench.

“I don’t want to hear you say you’re sorry.  You know I had many opportunities to cheat on you too but I couldn’t because I cared about you and besides, when I’m in a relationship I don’t cheat. Last night when we were at the Blue Note having a good time, not once did I suspect that there was anything going on between Greg and you.  But Audrey knew something and that’s why she didn’t like you.  She saw you for the liar and cheat you are.  I’m going to leave now before I say something I will regret.” He looked her over with an expression of disgust on his face before he turned and walked away.

She watched him go and then sat back down on the bench. She sat there for a long time, feeling awful that she had hurt someone so badly. Tyson was a terrific guy who didn’t deserve what she had done to him. She couldn’t blame him if he never forgave her.

After leaving the park, she went straight to Greg’s place.  As soon as he closed the door behind her and turned to face her, she went straight into his arms and clung to him.  “It’s over between Tyson and me.”

He held her tightly.  “It’s better to end the relationship than to continue cheating,” he said.  “We don’t have to sneak around.  We can love each other in the open.”

She drew back to look up at him.  “You’re right,” she agreed.

He bent his head and kissed her, thinking of Bill Russell’s quote: “To love someone is nothing, to be loved by someone is something, but to be loved by the one you love is everything”

 

Sources:  Timeout; Pinterest

The Admission

She turned on the radio and tried to listen to a talk show her friend had told her about but there was so much static, that after five minutes of endless crackling, she changed it to another station.  As the smooth sounds of R&B filled the car, she tried to relax but she couldn’t.  All she could think about was Mac and the redhead she saw him with last night at the café.  Red, hot jealousy had burned in her as she watched them.  Thankfully, he didn’t see her and she managed to slip out unnoticed.

After leaving the café, she had fumed all the way home, chiding herself for feeling the way she did.  Never once did she entertain the thought that she would fall for the very same guy she had pegged as conceited.  All the women at the office fawned over him but she had remained aloof, or so it appeared.  She treated him professionally but kept him at a distance, making it crystal clear that she wasn’t interested.  Yet, deep down, she couldn’t deny that she was strongly attracted to him and seeing him with another woman last night, forced her to acknowledge that she was in love with him.

Gripping the steering wheel, she fought back the angry tears and tried to figure out what she was going to do.  How was she going to continue to act indifferently toward him when she was in love with him?  Of all the men at the company, why did she have to fall for him?  Everyone kept raving about what a nice guy he was but to her he came across as cocky.  It was probably a bruise to his ego that she didn’t go for him.  Well, the joke was on her now because she wanted him too and it was driving her crazy.

Two days ago they were in the last two to leave the office and as she was clearing off her desk, he went over to her.  She didn’t look up but was painfully aware of him and the whiff of his cologne was tantalizing.  He looked incredible in the striped navy blue suit, black shirt and tie.  His spiky hair gave him an edgy look which she found very attractive.  He was sexy and he knew it and that irritated her.  She tried to ignore her pounding heart and busied herself with putting away papers and signing off the computer.  She could feel him watching her and she resisted the urge to look up.

“It’s been a very hectic week,” he commented.

“Yes.”

“Any plans for tonight?”

“No.”

There a brief pause and then, “Have dinner with me, then.”

Her head shot up then and she stared at him.  He couldn’t possibly be serious.  Why would he think that she would have dinner with him?  Of all the conceited—“No, thank you,” she said curtly.  “Perhaps you should ask Joan or Nancy or one of the other women.  I’m sure they would love to have dinner with you.”

“I don’t want to have dinner with any of them, Brianna.  I want to have dinner with you.”

“I’m sorry but I can’t—”

“Why not?”

“I—I just can’t.”

“That’s not a good enough reason.”

“It’s the only one I can give you,” she retorted.

“What are you afraid of?” He asked, startling her.

“I’m not afraid of anything,” she said quickly, too quickly.

“I think you’re afraid of being alone with me.”

“Why should I be afraid to be alone with you?” she demanded, wishing she didn’t want to kiss him so badly.

“You’re afraid because you want me as much as I want you.  I wanted you from the moment I first met you—”

“This is exactly why I can’t stand you,” she cried, her voice sounding a little high-pitched.  She wanted so desperately to get out of there now.  It was becoming increasingly hard to stand there so close to him and not want to tear off his clothes.

“What do you mean?” he asked, frowning.

“I think you’re conceited and that you think you’re God’s gift to women.”

“You mistake self-confidence for conceit and you’re wrong about how I see myself when it comes to women.  I don’t think that I’m God’s gift to them.  Women find me attractive just as men find you attractive.  That is something neither of us can prevent.”

She quickly lowered her gaze, feeling chastised.  He certainly put her in her place and in a very gracious way too.  “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.

He reached out and touched her arm, making her jump.  Her eyes were wide as she stared up at him and her heart was beating at an alarming rate.  Somehow she found herself trapped between him and the desk.  And she stood there, helpless, watching mesmerized as his face got closer.  Her eyes dropped to his lips and hers parted in anticipation.

Then, he was kissing her and she was kissing him back ravenously, her arms going around his neck, clinging to him as she was leaning back over the desk under the onslaught of his kisses.  At one point he lifted her on top of the desk and continued to kiss her and then his cell phone rang.  He ignored it.  It stopped ringing.  They continued kissing and then, it rang again.

Groaning in frustration, he pulled away from her, fumbled for the cell and answered it.  “Hello?” he panted.  He listened for a moment.  And then, he said to her, “I have to take this call.”

Well, when he turned walked away a little distance to talk, she used that as an opportunity to leave.  She slid off the desk, grabbed her handbag and ran out of there.  She knew that if she had stayed there, she would have made love to him right there in the office.  She still had reservations about him and was afraid of getting hurt.  That night, she couldn’t sleep.  All she could think about was how his lips felt and how it thrilled her to know that he wanted her as much as she wanted him.

The next day, she avoided him as much as she could and when he managed to ask her why she had run out on him, she replied, “It was getting late and I had errands to run,” before she walked away.  At the end of the day, she made sure she left before he did.  After picking up her winter coat and some suits from the laundry, she decided to treat herself to a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream and sandwiches.  She had just finished her second sandwich when Mac walked in.

The blare of a car horn jolted her back to the present and she saw that the light had changed to green.  As she drove off, she was sorely tempted to go over to Mac’s flat and confront him.  No, I won’t give him the satisfaction, she decided, her mouth tightening.  I won’t give him the satisfaction of knowing how much it hurt to see him with her.  No, I’m going home and take a nice, hot bath.  I’m not going to let Mac ruin my weekend.

She turned down the street that would take her home.  Ten minutes later, she let herself in her flat.  After hanging her coat in the closet and putting her handbag away, she got undressed.  The hot water felt good against her skin but it couldn’t erase him from her mind.  She donned a pair of pajamas and went over to the sofa to watch some TV.  She stared at the screen but nothing registered.  All she could think about was Mac.  Closing her eyes in despair she leaned her head against the back of the sofa.  They soon opened again when she heard the doorbell.

Glancing at the clock above the mantelpiece, she wondered who would be stopping by to see her at nine-thirty.  She got up from the sofa and went to answer the door.  Her eyes widened when she peered through the keyhole and saw Mac standing there.  Immediately, her heart began to race. What is he doing here?  She opened the door.  He looked so good in the white shirt and jeans.

His expression was serious as he met her gaze. “I’m sorry to be dropping by at this time but you and I need to talk.”

“Okay.”  She moved aside to let him in and closed the door behind him.  After he removed his shoes, she preceded him to the living-room.  They sat down on the sofa and he turned so that he was facing her.

“Why did you run off that afternoon when we were together?” he asked.

“I told you—”

“Yes, I know what you told me but I want to hear the real reason, Brianna.”

She looked down at her hands.  “I was afraid that if I stayed, I would have let you make love to me.”

His eyes darkened.  “Why would something so incredible make you afraid?”

“I just didn’t want to get hurt.  You could have any woman you want and you say you want me but that could change…”

“Since I met you, I haven’t looked at another woman—”

“Then, who was the redhead I saw you with at the café?” she demanded, rising to her feet.

He looked up at her, startled.  “Redhead?” he repeated, knitting his brow.  “Oh, you mean Amber.”

“Yes.” She couldn’t hide the jealousy that was raging inside her.  “I was in the café and I saw when you came in.  I sat there and watched the two of you.”

“Why didn’t you come over and say hello?” he asked, looking perplexed.

She turned away.  “I didn’t want you to see me.”

He got up and taking her by the shoulders, he turned her around to face him.  She kept her eyes downcast, not wanting him to see what was in them.  “You’re jealous,” he realized.  “There’s no reason for you to be.  Amber is my cousin.  She was having boyfriend problems and needed my advice.  We decided that we would go to the café and talk there over cappuccinos and sandwiches.”

Brianna raised her eyes then.  “When I saw you with her, I thought…”

He released her shoulders and slipped his arms around her waist, pulling her against him.  “You thought I was seeing someone.  Oh, Brianna, after what happened between us at the office, how could you think that?  I told you how I feel about you that evening.”

“You said you wanted me—”

“Yes, and I do very, very much but desire isn’t all I feel for you, Brianna.  What I’m trying to say is that I love you.”

“You love me?” she could hardly believe it.

“Yes!”

She reached up and cupped his face.  “I love you too,” she confessed.  “Admitting to myself that I was in love with you was the hardest thing for me to do because of the man I thought you were.  Perhaps, I painted that unflattering picture of you because I was afraid to let myself fall in love with a man who could have any woman he wanted.”

“You’re the only woman I want and love,” he declared huskily before he lowered his head and kissed her.

As she responded to his kisses, she thought how true these words were: You can’t stop the feelings you have for someone.  You can’t lie to yourself either.  Your heart knows the truth all too well.

 

A New Relationship

Paulette walked into Antonio’s office to place some files on his desk.  He wasn’t there.  It was half-past eight.  He usually got in around eight forty-five.  She went over to the windows and looked out at the bustling city below.  Five years ago, fresh out of university, she had stood there on the sidewalk staring up at this very building, nervous and excited about starting her first day here.  It was hard to believe that so much time had passed.  She loved working at the company but she knew that the main reason was Antonio why she looked forward to going into the office every weekday.

She didn’t kid herself that he would show any interest in her other than professional because of their age difference.  At the age of thirty-nine, he was twelve years older than her.  She wanted him to see her as a woman—a woman who loved him so much it ached.  Until she met him, she had no clue of what it meant to be in love.

When her friends talked about falling in love, she couldn’t relate because it hadn’t happened for her.  She envied them, though, wondering what it would be like to experience what they were experiencing.  And then, she met Antonio and it was then that she realized that love at first sight wasn’t a myth.  She knew that she loved him the first time she saw him.  It was a surreal experience. Everything seemed to be at a standstill and it felt as if they were the only two people in the world.  Everything else faded in the background and all she could see was him, coming toward her, his hand extended and an incredible smile on his face.

And that deep, sexy voice of his and the way he said her name still made her shiver.  She could almost hear it now and then she started when she realized that he had walked into his office and was standing beside her at the window.  Feeling embarrassed, she turned toward him, hugging the files which she was supposed to have left on his desk.  “I’m sorry,” she apologized.  “I-I didn’t hear you come in.”

He looked so good in his navy blue suit, black shirt and matching tie.  His thick dark hair glistened damply in the light and she caught a whiff of his aftershave.  Yes, he looked and smelled good…She realized she was staring and looked away.

“Something out there really got your attention,” he said as he walked over to his desk.  “I was calling you but you didn’t hear me.”

“I was just watching the people below and thinking about when I first joined this company.  I can’t believe it has been five years.”

“Yes, you’ve been with us for that length of time.  I hope you still like working here.”

“I do, very much.”  I can’t imagine being anywhere else.  Working with you is sheer bliss. She realized that she was staring again and that she really ought to be getting back to her desk.

Walking over to his desk, she set the files down.  She could feel him watching her and raised her head to look at him.  Her heart skipped a beat when she saw his gaze leave her face and travel over her before returning to her face.  She hoped she looked fine in the light grey long sleeved top, black pencil skirt and black knee high boots.  “I’d-I’d better get to back to my desk.”

“Are you going to Rita’s Christmas dinner?” he asked as she was about to turn away.

Rita was a retiree who used to at the firm.  She retired two years after Paulette starting working there.  Paulette was sorry to see her go but they kept in touch.  She was like a mother to her.  This year she was having a dinner and dance party at a banquet hall in London.  Paulette had received her invitation in the mail a week ago and had started shopping around for a dress to wear.  She wanted to wow Antonio, if he was going. “Yes, I’m going.  Are you?”

“Yes, I am.”

She wondered if he was taking anyone.  It would ruin her night to see him with another woman.

“Are you going with anyone?” he asked, glancing up from the papers he had been going through.

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Why don’t we go together?” he suggested much to her surprise.

“Together?” she repeated.  The thought of going with him thrilled and made her nervous at the same time.  It would be the first time that they would be seeing each other outside of the office.  What were they going to talk about on the ride over to Rita’s place?  Would there be an awkward silence?  She heard herself say, “Sure.  That’s a great idea.”  No chance of him showing up with someone else.  Tomorrow evening she was going to dazzle him.

“Good.  I’ll pick you up at seven.”  He returned to sorting through the papers which was her cue that she should get to work.  She turned and walked quickly out of his office, her heart pounding with excitement.  She couldn’t wait for tomorrow to come.

The day went by very quickly and it was like a blur for her.  All she could think about was seeing Antonio tomorrow.  She imagined them staring at each other across the table and slow-dancing afterwards.  Oh, stop daydreaming and concentrate on your work, she chided herself.  It was hard concentrating but she forced herself to do it and in no time it was the end of the work day.  She cleared her desk, turned off her computer, locked her drawers and stood up to pull on her scarf and coat.  After turning off the lamp on her desk, she grabbed her handbag and walked over to Antonio’s office to say goodbye.

He was typing something and stopped when she poked her head in.  “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.  See you tomorrow.”

She smiled as she walked to the lift.  Yes, I don’t have to wait until Monday to see you.  When she got home, she took out the dress she was going to wear.  It was perfect.  When she tried it on and examined herself in the mirror, it looked great on her.  The champagne color suited her complexion and the style of the dress flattered her figure.  She didn’t bother trying on any other dresses.  This was the one.  She hung it carefully back in her wardrobe and slid the doors shut.

After fixing herself a sandwich and salad, she sat down and ate while watching the news on TV.  She decided to turn in early although she knew that it would be a while before she fell asleep because she was so excited about tomorrow.  It was around mid-night when she finally drifted off, a smile on her face.

Saturday came and she spent the day, cleaning the flat, doing laundry and grocery shopping.  Then, it was time to get ready for the dinner/dance.  Excitement filled her as she got dressed.  For a few minutes she looked at herself in the mirror before she left her room.  She had just put on her coat and grabbed her clutch purse when the doorbell rang promptly at seven.  Immediately, her heart began to beat fast and she felt a little nervous as she opened the door.

Antonio smiled.  “Good evening,” he said.  His eyes lingered on her face before shifting to her hair which was in an updo with a few tendrils framing her face.  She saw what looked like admiration flicker in them.  She couldn’t wait to see his reaction when he saw her dress.

“Good evening.”  She stepped out into the passageway, closing the door behind and turned to lock it.  She turned and saw that he was still watching her and she smiled.  This was going to be a very exciting evening.  They walked to the lift and as they rode down in the lift, they exchanged glances but didn’t say anything.  It was a bit cold when they got outside but she soon felt warm in his car as they drove off.  Smooth jazz filled the car.

“How come you don’t have a boyfriend?” he asked suddenly, startling her.

“I don’t know.  My mother has asked me the same thing.”

“Speaking of family, are you an only child or do you have siblings?”

“I’m the younger of two daughters.  My older sister, Pam is married and has three children.  She was with my mother when she took in ill.  I was away on a trip at the time and had to fly back immediately.”

“What happened?”

“This was a few years ago—during my senior year at university.  My mother suddenly collapsed and had to be rushed to the hospital.  We weren’t sure that she was going to make it but her pastor encouraged us to pray for her and she made what could only be called a miraculous recovery.”

He glanced at her.  “I’m happy to hear that your mother recovered.  Are the two of you close?”

“Growing up, I was closer to my father but after he died, my mother and I became close.  Almost losing her has made me cherish every moment I have with her now.”

“Yes, family is very important.  Both of my parents are dead but I have two brothers and a sister.  They are all back in Italy.  I try to visit them when I can.”

They talked more about his family and why he left Naples to come to London, especially since he had many fond memories of growing up there.  She laughed as he imitated his father who was very strict and his mother who was always complaining about something or the other.  He still missed them although they had died over ten years ago.  His father died of a heart attack and his mother was devastated.  She couldn’t survive without him and died the following year.  “I have a photo of them in my wallet,” he told her.  “It was taken the year before Dad died.”

Paulette stared at him, touched that he carried a photo of his parents in his wallet.  She didn’t say anything.  She didn’t know what to say and they had reached the banquet hall.  He parked the car, got out and walked around to open the door for her.  As they walked to the entrance, she felt the nervous excitement rising in her.  They went to the coat room to check in their coats.  With trembling fingers, she unbuttoned hers and removed it.  After she handed it to the girl there, she turned and looked at Antonio who was staring at her.  She saw his gaze travel slowly over her– the beaded bodice, the plain long skirt with the side slit which reveal her leg as she stood there.  He looked amazing in the black dinner suit and as he walked over to her, she felt her mouth go dry when she saw the expression on his face.

“You look amazing,” he said quietly, his eyes meeting hers.

“So do you,” she said, sounding a little breathless.

They stood there staring at each other and then he extended his arm.  She took it and they walked to the hall where they heard voices and laughter.  Rita was at the entrance greeting everyone.  She was delighted to see them.  “You look handsome as usual,” she said to Antonio before hugging him.  Then, she turned to Paulette, her eyes widening.  “And you, my Dear, you look absolutely stunning.  That dress was made for you.”  They hugged.  “I think Antonio agrees with me,” she said in a low voice so that he couldn’t hear.  “He can’t stop staring at you.” She drew back and addressed them both.  “It’s great to see you both.  You’re both sitting at my table but not next to each other.  I hope you don’t mind.”

They both assured her that they didn’t mind although Paulette was disappointed but it turned out that he was sitting directly opposite her.  She was seated next to Rita’s grandson while Antonio was sitting next to Marissa, a co-worker.

Every now and then, when Paulette looked over at Antonio she found him staring at her.  She wished it were just the two of them having a romantic, candlelight dinner with soft R&B music playing in the background.  Rita’s grandson, Mark was talking to her and she tried to be attentive but she couldn’t help being distracted.  When dinner was over, she excused herself and went to the bathroom to freshen up.  When she returned, people were dancing and Mark asked her to dance.  She was about to open her mouth to turn him down when, she felt a hand on her arm and turned to find herself staring up at Antonio.  “I believe you owe me this dance?” he said.

Heart thudding, she allowed him to escort her to the dancefloor.  He turned after finding a spot and his hand found the small of her back as they moved to the music.  It was a slow number, one of her favorite songs.  She couldn’t imagine dancing it with anyone else.  She put her arm round his shoulder and just allowed her body to follow his lead.  It felt so good being in his arms.  She felt like Eliza Doolittle, wishing she could dance with him all night.

They danced until the slow music ended and faster music replaced it.  The rest of the night was spent at the table talking and having non-alcoholic drinks.  When it was time to go, she had mixed feelings.  She was beginning to feel a little tired and wanted to go home but it meant that her evening out with Antonio was over.  Rita hugged them and wished them a Merry Christmas.  She hoped to see them again soon.

It had gotten colder so Paulette was huddled in her coat as she followed Antonio across the parking lot to where his car was parked.  She was thankful when she climbed in and sank down against the soft leather.  The car was soon suffused with warm air.  On the drive home, they talked about the dinner party and both agreed that they it was a success.  She planned on calling Rita tomorrow to thank her for a wonderful evening.

Twenty minutes later, they were standing outside of her flat.  She had unlocked the door and stood on the threshold, facing him.  The place was quiet because it was near one in the morning.

“Goodnight,” he said softly.

“Goodnight,” she replied, wishing he would stay.  They stared at each other and then she was in his arms and he was kissing her.

She threw her arms around his neck and they tightened as she kissed him back passionately for several minutes.  Then, she broke off the kiss, grabbed his hand and pulled him inside the flat, closing the door behind them.  She fumbled with the lock before turning to face him, her eyes feverish as they met his.  She reached for him and felt his arms encompass her waist, pressing her into him as she pulled his head down to hers, her fingers gripping his hair.  He was kissing her like a mad man, unable to contain himself.  They stood there kissing for a long time and then they released each other long enough to remove their coats and discard them on the floor.  She kicked off her shoes while he removed his.

“I want us to start seeing each other outside of the office,” he muttered thickly as he removed his dinner jacket and tossed it on the floor.  His tie soon followed.

She nodded.  “Yes,” she gasped when he scooped her up and strode through the living-room.  “Third door on the left.”

That was the beginning of their new relationship.

 

The Retreat

She stood there admiring the bright yellow mixed in with flaming orange and red leaves on the trees as they dotted the green landscape and stood proudly over the still water of the lake, seeming to admire their reflections.  It reminded her of a giant water color painting.  It was so peaceful there.  Coming to this retreat for a week was a blessing.

It was her friend Maura who suggested it.  She and her husband were there last year and absolutely loved it.  She had watched videos on the website, the acres of land with its natural beauty and the promise of refuge and renewal and peace and presence sold her.  And here she was, away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoying quiet time with the Lord and nature.

She got up early and came down here just before sunset.  After she finished praying, she glanced up and saw the sun rise.  It was the first time she had ever seen a sunrise.  For several moments, the sun appeared to be sitting on the water before it rose higher in the sky.  What a breathtaking scene and display of God’s power.  She lingered there for a while longer and then headed back to the lodge to have breakfast.

When she was leaving the dining room, a tall and very handsome man walked in.  He was alone.  He was wearing a blue sweater and jeans.  As she approached him, he turned and looked at her.  Their eyes met and held for several moments.  He smiled at her and she smiled back.  This close she saw that he had beautiful brown eyes.  “Good morning,” he said.

“Good morning,” she replied and then she walked past him and out of the dining-room.  She could feel him watching her.  He really was quite good-looking and seemed very nice.  Then, she chided herself.  You’re here to commune with God. Don’t get distracted.  She went to her room to freshen up and then to the bench facing the stream where she planned to spend the rest of the morning.

This time she took her Bible and a notebook.  The warm sunshine on her face felt good and a sigh of satisfaction, she sat down.    After she finished reading the first two chapters of the Gospel of Mark and taking notes, she set her Bible and notebook aside.  As she sat there, gazing at the lake, her thoughts drifted to the guy she saw in the dining-room.  Who was he?  Was he single?  Was he here alone?

He was the first man she was attracted to since Reuben.  It was strange but when she thought about Reuben, she didn’t feel anything.  He was like a distant memory now.  She could hardly remember what he looked like and when she tried, she saw the other guy’s face instead.  It was five years since Reuben broke up with her.  They had been dating and everyone thought they would have gotten married.  She did too and then, he shocked her by telling her that he was in love with someone else.

It turned out that while they had been dating, he had been giving Bible studies to a woman who lived in his building.  Feelings developed between them and he realized that she was the one he wanted to be with.  She was devastated but with the love and support of her church family, she was able to pick up the pieces and get on with her life.  Reuben transferred to another church and the last she heard of him, he and the woman were married and had two children.  She wished them well.   It was clear to her now that Reuben and she were not right for each other.  He was with the person he was meant to be with and one day, she would be with the person she was meant to be with.

“Do you mind if I join you?” a voice broke into her reverie and she looked around, her heart skipping a beat when she saw that it was the guy from the dining-room.

She shook her head.  “No, not at all.”  She moved her Bible and notebook closer to her, leaving enough room on the bench for him to sit down.  When he lowered his tall frame on to the seat beside her, she caught a whiff of his aftershave.  Her heart was pounding and her pulse was racing.  She realized then that Reuben never had such an effect on her.  Her hands were clasped tightly in her lap to stop them from trembling.  She could feel him watching her and she turned her head.  Their eyes met and held.  She wondered if she looked as nervous as she felt.

He held out his hand, “Brandon Lee.”

She took his hand and felt his firm clasp.  “Esther Richards.”

“Nice to meet you, Esther.  Is this your first time to the retreat?”

“Yes.  A friend of mine was here last year with her husband and she encouraged me to come.   I’m very happy I did.  It’s a beautiful place and it’s nice to get away from the city.  What about you?” She knew she sounded a little breathless but she couldn’t help it.  His closeness had that effect on her.  She couldn’t decide as yet if he was a Godsend or if he was a distraction.  She truly hoped that it was the former.

“I was here once with a group of people from my church.  It is a great place–so much to see and enjoy.  This is actually my favorite spot.  I could sit here for hours.”

“What church do you go to?” she asked.  He told her and she told him the name of her church.  “Are you involved in any ministries?”

“Yes, I am the leader of our Youth Ministry. ”

“I am involved in the Women’s Ministry and I sometimes lead out in our weekly Bible Study group meetings.  For our next Women’s Ministry retreat, I will recommend that we have it here.”

“Are you here alone?”

“Yes.  And you?”  Do you have a girlfriend?

“Yes.”  I hope she doesn’t have a boyfriend.  “Do you have family here?”

“Yes, I have lots of aunts and uncles and cousins here but my parents live in Florida.  They moved there after I graduated from university.   I usually spend Christmas with them.”  I’m glad I didn’t move to Florida too or I wouldn’t have met you.

“No siblings?”  Thank You, God for keeping her here in London or I wouldn’t have met her.

“No, I’m an only child.  What about your family?”

“My parents live in Yorkshire and I visit them on the weekends.  I live in London and my sister and her family live in Manchester.  We spend the Christmas holidays in Yorkshire.  Speaking of Christmas, have you finished your shopping as yet?”

She laughed.  “I haven’t even started.   I have no clue what I will get everyone.”

“I’m done.  My advice to you is to get gift cards.  Once you know what people like, you just get gift cards instead of trying to figure out what they would like.  For my nieces and nephew, though, I don’t mind spending hours browsing toy stores.”

“Gift card?  I never thought of that.  Thanks for the suggestion.”

Talking to him had relaxed her to some degree.  He was easy to talk to.  She enjoyed his company.  They sat there, chatting about other things and then it was time to go for lunch.  They sat next each other at a table and continued talking to each other and some of the people around them.  After lunch, he invited her to go for a walk with him.

From that day on, they spent time together, going for walks, praying, worshipping, studying the Bible and joining in fun activities with other singles such as Finish the Sentence, Bible Pictionary, True or False, Bible Telephone, Bible Hangman, Name Game, Who Am I, Bible Bingo, Bible Scavenger Hunt, Name That Hymn and Bible Scene.  Her favorite was Finish the Sentence and when it was her turn to finish the sentence, I am blessed, she said, “I am blessed because God has shown me favor.” and she looked at Brandon when she said this.  I’m blessed because God has brought us together.  His answer was, “I am blessed because God has brought new joy into my life.”  His eyes were on her when he said that.

They spent the evenings alone together–talking or going for walks.  On the last evening before they were to leave the retreat and return to London, Brandon stopped and turned to her as they strolled the grounds.  It was beautiful night.  The full moon cast a ghostly light on them and the still water of the lake.  He reached out and took her hands in his.

“Esther, these past few days with you have been the happiest of my life.  I had planned to come to the retreat next week but I felt a very strong impression to come this week and I am thankful that I did because I met you.  I don’t want to say goodbye to you.  I want to continue to see you.  I’m not in a relationship.  Am I safe to assume that you’re not in one either?”

She shook her head.  “I’m not in a relationship,” she confirmed.

“I want to be in a relationship with you, that is if, it’s what you want too.”

“I-I want to be in a relationship with you too.”

“Good.  Tomorrow, we drive back to London together.”  He raised her hands to his lips and kissed them before they continued their stroll.

She raised her head to the starry sky and silently mouthed a prayer of thanks.  Coming to he retreat had changed both of their lives.

 

Sources: Ashburnham Place; Christian Camp Pro