A Father’s Wish

The arias which always helped him to relax and enjoy his evenings did nothing to quell the uneasiness plaguing him.  He switched off the radio and the silence which followed was a painful reminder that he was alone.  It was near mid-night and she wasn’t home as yet.  Where on earth could she be?  He had tried calling her cell many times but it was turned off.  When he came home that afternoon, she wasn’t there but he thought nothing of it.  She was probably with her friends or at the library.  However, as it got late and she hadn’t come home or called, he began to get worried.  A couple of hours earlier, he looked across the street and saw a group of young people congregate outside of his neighbor’s home but she wasn’t among them.

He put off calling her friends because he didn’t want to come across as overprotective but eventually, he had no choice.  None of them knew where she was but promised to call him if they heard anything.  He closed his eyes in despair.  Tonight was supposed to be a special one.  He was going to tell her that he loved her but first they were going to enjoy the dinner he had prepared for them.  It was probably cold by now.  Oh, Rebecca, where are you?  Why don’t you call me?  It was not like her to do this.  He was out of his mind with worry.

The last time he felt like this was nine years ago when they were in the shopping mall and somehow they got separated.  One minute she was right there beside him and the next she was gone.  Frantic, he went through the mall, looking for her until finally, he went to the courtesy desk and asked them to make an announcement.

Ten minutes later, the embarrassed and distressed twelve year old showed up.  After hugging her tightly, they left the mall with him holding her hand in a firm grip.  He didn’t lecture her right away because she was visibly upset.  Suffice to say, they never got separated again whenever they went out together.

He would never forget the first time he met Rebecca.  She was eight at the time and it was at the company’s annual summer picnic.  Her father brought her with him that year.  It was two years after her mother died.  She and her father have moved out of the house and to a flat in the old neighborhood where he grew up.  He and her father worked together and over the years, they had become very good friends.  He always used to tell him, “I hope that Becky ends up marrying a good man like you, Noel.”

Rebecca stared up at him with those huge brown eyes and stole his heart.  So, three years later on that fateful day in the hospital when Clyde asked him to become her guardian he said yes.  Clyde died two days later and was buried next to his beloved wife.  Noel took Rebecca home and raised her as if she were his own daughter.  He was thirty at the time.

They had a very close and loving relationship. He took her to museums, concerts, operas, on day trips and the movies.  His life was never the same and he was thankful for that.  She filled his heart and home with such joy.  Whenever they visited her parents’ graves, he would silently thank Clyde for bestowing such an awesome responsibility on him and promised him that he would make sure that Rebecca married a good man.

He knew that she still missed her father, especially when it was his birthday or Father’s Day and she always talked about how conversant he was with movie classics and that it was from him that she developed her love for them.  So, whenever it was her father’s birthday or Father’s Day, they would watch old movies on TCM in his memory.

Things continued in much the same vein until Rebecca turned eighteen.  That’s when his feelings toward her began to change.  It became increasingly hard for him to be around her and not want her.  He continued to kiss her on the forehead as they bid each other goodnight every evening but how he ached to kiss her on the lips.  He considered sending her away to college in Washington, but quickly squashed the idea because their separation would be unbearable for him.  They still spent a lot of time together but he encouraged her to hang out more with people her own age.  At first, she protested, preferring to be with him like old times but he insisted so, she acquiesced.

He remembered one night when she came home from a friend’s birthday party and was aghast at the dress she was wearing.  Her hair was pulled up in a ponytail, she wore makeup, the gold earrings he had given her as a birthday present and the dress–if you could call it that, was short, hugged her figure and had fine straps.  Her cleavage was there for the entire world to see.

His face suffused with color and he took a deep breath before he muttered, “Please go and take off that dress.”

She went and ten minutes later, she was wearing a pair of pajamas, her face was scrubbed clean and her hair fell about her shoulders.  She watched him warily.  “You’re angry with me,” she said.

He dragged his fingers through his hair as he struggled to remain calm.  His heart was racing.  He wasn’t upset with her only but with himself because of his body’s response to seeing her in that dress.  He was relieved to see her in the pajamas because they were a bit loose on her.  “Rebecca, what were you thinking wearing a dress like that?”

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled.  “I wanted to look good.”

“Wanting to look good doesn’t mean you should expose yourself like that.  That dress was tacky.  You’re a beautiful young woman, Rebecca.  You don’t need to flaunt yourself in order to fit in.  I don’t care if your friends are wearing those kinds of dresses, I only care about you and so, I don’t ever want to see you in a dress like that ever again.”

She nodded.  “All right, Noel.  I won’t dress like that again, I promise.”

“Do you still have the receipt?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.  Tomorrow, I would like you to return it.  I’m surprised they sold it to you.”

“I’ll return it right after school.”  She went over to him, her eyes wide as they met his.  She put her arms around his neck and hugged him, burying her face in his chest.

At first he stood there, stiff as a board, unresponsive and then he put his arms around her waist and hugged her tightly, closing his eyes as strong emotions washed over him like a tidal wave.  After several tortuous minutes, he extricated himself and put a little distance between them, his eyes dark and stormy as they returned her gaze.  “Goodnight, Rebecca,” he said quietly.

“Goodnight, Noel.” She hesitated for a moment and then turned and walked out of the room.  He watched her go.  He had dared not give her the usual kiss on the forehead because he might have ended up devouring her lips instead.

The loud peal of the phone jolted him back to the present and he grabbed the receiver, his heart thudding.  “Hello?”

It was Chloe, one of Rebecca’s friends.  “Hello, Mr. Harding.  I’m sorry to be calling at such a late hour but I thought you might want to know that one of our friends saw Becky talking to a woman right outside of the university campus.  She said they looked like they were having words and then Becky ran off, very upset.”

“Did you friend describe what this woman looked like?”

“She said that she was blonde, stunning and drove a red Porsche.”

His fingers tightened around the phone.  Emma.  “Thank you, Chloe, for calling and letting me know.”

“Has Becky come home as yet?” She sounded very concerned.

“No, I’m afraid not.  When she does, I will have her call you in the morning.  Goodnight, Chloe.”

“Goodnight, Mr. Harding.”

As soon as he rang off from Chloe, he dialed Emma’s number, fuming.

“Hello, Noel.  Why are you calling me instead of coming over?”

He ignored her question.  “Why were you here this afternoon?”

“I stopped by to see you, of course.  Where were you?”

“What do you say to Rebecca?”

“Why what did she tell you?”

“I haven’t seen her since this morning and I’m out of my mind with worry.”

“Well, she’s probably doing this to spite you.  When I came by, she looked at me as if I were trespassing and when I told her that we were seeing each other, she as much as called me a liar.  So, I showed her a photo of the two of us together–you know the one I asked the waitress to take of us when were having dinner at that Italian restaurant? You should have seen her face.  I told her that she was only there because of the promise you made to her father–”

“How dare you tell her that?” he demanded furiously.  “I agreed to be her guardian because I loved her.   She means the world to me.  Damn you, Emma.  Don’t ever show your face around here again.”  He slammed the phone, shaking.  He could kick himself for ever getting involved with her.

He went to the window and looked out, his forehead pressing against the glass.  It was then in a moment of sheer desperation, that he mouthed a silent prayer, his eyes squeezed shut.

“Noel?” a timid voice called behind him.

Swinging around, he found himself staring at Rebecca.  For a moment, he thought it was a figment of his imagination.  Had God answered his prayer that quickly?  In a flash, he was across the room and pulling her roughly in his arms.  “Oh, Rebecca,” he moaned.  “Where have you been?  Have you any idea of the torment you’ve put me through?”  He drew back to stare down into her face.  She had been crying.  Her eyes were red and swollen.  Even now, tears were glistening in them.

“I’m-I’m sorry,” she cried.  “I didn’t mean to worry you but I was so upset this afternoon.  I had just come home from the library when I heard the doorbell.  It was a woman I’d never seen before.  She asked for you and when I asked her who she was, she told me that the two of you had been seeing each other.  I didn’t want to believe her and told her that she was lying.  She showed me a photo of the two of you and I realized that she was telling the truth.  I got so jealous and upset that after she left, I left too.  I couldn’t stay here.  I had to get out and go somewhere–anywhere.

“I went to Daddy’s grave and stayed for a long time, telling him about you and how much it hurt that you were with someone else.  On the day after my eighteenth birthday, I told him that I was in love with you and that I’d loved you since I was eight.  That day when I first saw you, I thought that you were the tallest and handsomest man I’d ever seen.   And you were so kind to me.  Next to my father, you were the only other person I really and truly loved.   I love my mother but I didn’t know her.

“Anyway, I told my father things that I never told another soul.  I know he can’t hear me but it helps to talk about things whenever I visit his grave.  I imagine that he’s listening.  This afternoon being at his grave didn’t help so I left there and went to the park you used to take me to when I was a child.  I sat in the same bench we used to sit on and I wished that you were there so that I could yell at you, let you see how much I was hurting inside.

“After I left the park, I just wandered all over the place, trying to forget about you and her but I couldn’t get the photo out of my mind.  You had your arm around her shoulders and you were smiling.  You looked happy…” her voice broke and a sob rose from her throat.  Tears fell afresh down her cheeks and she tried to push him away.

He caught her hands and held her immobile, his own emotions evident on his face.  “She doesn’t make me happy,” he told her thickly.  “You do.  My life wasn’t complete until you came into it, Rebecca.  You filled it with so much joy.  The moment I met you, my heart belonged to you.  I loved you as a father loves his beloved child but when you grew up, that love changed.  It turned into the love a man has for a woman.  What I’m trying to say, Rebecca, is that I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you–not as your guardian but as your husband.”

She blinked at him.  “You want to marry me?” she asked.

He nodded.  “Yes.”

“Oh, Noel,” she cried, her heart in her eyes which were sparkling now.  She reached up and kissed him on the mouth.

Groaning, he released her hands and cupped her face between his hands as he kissed her passionately, letting go of all the pent up feelings he had kept bottled up inside for so long.  For several minutes, they exchanged hungry kisses and then, he raised his head to gaze down at her, his face flushed and his eyes dark with desire.  “I won’t make love to you now although I want to very badly,” he muttered, breathing heavily.  “I want us to wait until we are married.”

Disappointment clouded her face.  She was on fire and ached for him.  “I don’t know if I can wait,” she admitted, trying to catch her breath.

“We’ve waited for four years, so six months wouldn’t hurt–”

Six months,” she exclaimed.  “That’s too long.”

“That’s when you turn twenty-two,” he reminded her.

“I can’t wait until then.”

“What about three months?”

“Two weeks.”

“A month.”

“What about three weeks?”

He smiled.  “All right, three weeks, it is.”

She smiled because they had reached a compromise.  In three weeks, she was going to marry the man she had loved for most of her life.  “I love you, Noel,” she whispered.

“I love you too, Rebecca,” he replied before he lowered his head and kissed her.

Three weeks later, as they faced each other at the altar in front of their friends and his family, he smiled as he imagined Clyde saying to him, “I got my wish, Noel.  My girl is marrying a good man.”

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The Room in Venice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They spent their first day in Venice at Piazza San Marco, reputed to be one of the most beautiful squares in the world.   They visited the Basilica of San Marco.  Before going inside, they took photos of its architecture which was a mixture of Byzantine, Roman and Venetian, the impressive work of artists and craftsmen who came from all over.  Monica was enthralled by the dome and could have stood there all day just staring up at it.

When they came out of the basilica, Russell pointed to the one of the arches above the entrance where there was a marble statue of an old man biting his hand.  “The legend says that he was relieved of his duties when he said that he would be able to build it even more beautiful.” They had lunch at a restaurant in the square, enjoying the sunshine and watching other tourists.  They finished their sightseeing for the day climbing the Campanile for the breathtaking view of the city and the lagoon.   They stayed there for a while.

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

She smiled.  “That sounds great.”  Venice was beautiful at night so it was nice walking to the square.  How she longed to hold Russell’s hand, especially when they passed other couples who were holding hands.  They had dinner at an elegant restaurant.  As they enjoyed the Chicken and Mushrooms and Pasta & Oca respectively, they talked about the places they had visited that day and where they planned on going the next day.  For dessert, they had Rosada cream with orange.  Afterwards, they walked to the church where they spent the next hour or so listening to uplifting music in a lovely atmosphere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He didn’t turn around.  “I thought you were asleep.  I can’t sleep so, I’m going out for a bit.”

After he pulled on his shirt and tucked it in his pants, he turned to face her, his eyes wary.  “I’ll try not to disturb you when I come back.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“I don’t know,” he replied shortly.

“Where will you go?”

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

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

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

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

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

She looked nonplussed.  “What do you mean?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I couldn’t sleep either because I kept thinking about how sexy you look without a shirt…”

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

“I love you too.”

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

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

“Yes, they are.”

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

“Why this room?” he asked.

“It’s where you and I first made love and declared our feelings for each other.  I will always remember this room for those two reasons.”

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

Depression

Depression: Let’s talk

depression-lets-talk

This month, WHO launched a one-year campaign Depression: let’s talk. The goal of the campaign is that more people with depression, in all countries, seek and get help.

Depression is an illness that can happen to anybody. It causes mental anguish and affects people’s ability to carry out everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences for relationships with family and friends. At worst, depression can lead to suicide. Fortunately depression can be prevented and treated. A better understanding of what depression is, and how it can be prevented and treated, will help reduce the stigma associated with the condition, and lead to more people seeking help.

Depression is a common mental disorder that affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries.

Overcoming the stigma often associated with depression will lead to more people getting help.

Talking with people you trust can be a first step towards recovery from depression.

Perhaps you are suffering from depression or know someone who is.  Here are ways you can get involved:

Posters – WHO has developed a set of posters and handouts to get the campaign started.  The posters can be downloaded here

Handouts – WHO has handouts which provide information on depression to increase our understanding of the condition and how it can be prevented and treated.  The handouts can be downloaded here

Organize an activity – According to WHO, organizing an activity or event is a great way to raise awareness about depression and stimulate action, both among individuals, and on a wider scale. The organization recommends that if you decide to organize an event, to keep the following in mind:

  • What are you trying to achieve?
  • Who are you targeting?
  • What would make your target audiences want to participate?
  • When and where will your activity be held?
  • Should you join up with other organizations?
  • Who will you invite? Are there any well-known figures who could help you achieve your goals?
  • Do you have the resources to achieve your goals? If not, how can you mobilize them?
  • How will you promote your event?
  • Can the media help you achieve your goals? If so, which media should you target?
  • How will you share information about your activities after the event?
  • How will you measure success?

WHO offers other examples of activities that you may want to consider such as: discussion forums, sporting events, workshops for journalists, art competitions, coffee mornings, concerts, sponsored activities ̶ anything that contributes to a better understanding of depression and how it can be prevented and treated.

Share information and materials on social media – Throughout the campaign WHO will be communicating via our social media channels Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WHO/, Twitter https://twitter.com/who @WHO, YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/who and Instagram @worldhealthorganization

The primary hashtag that /WHO is using for the campaign is #LetsTalk but look out for posts using #depression and #mentalhealth as well.

You are encouraged to share WHO’s posts with your own networks, share your own materials and join discussions on issues related to the campaign.

Information about depression

If you are organizing an activity, or developing your own campaign materials, here are some facts and figures that you might want to use:

  • Common mental disorders are increasing worldwide. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people suffering from depression and/or anxiety increased by nearly 50%. Close to 10% of the world’s population is affected by one or both of these conditions. Depression alone accounts for 10% of years lived with disability globally.
  • In humanitarian emergencies and ongoing conflict, as many as 1 in 5 people are affected by depression and anxiety.
  • Depression increases the risk of other noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In addition, diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease increase the risk of depression.
  • Depression in women following childbirth can affect the development of new-borns.
  • In many countries of the world, there is no, or very little, support available for people with mental health disorders. Even in high-income countries, nearly 50% of people with depression do not get treatment.
  • Lack of treatment for common mental disorders has a high economic cost: new evidence from a study led by WHO shows that depression and anxiety disorders alone cost more than a trillion dollars’ worth of economic loss every year.
  • The most common mental health disorders can be prevented and treated, at relatively low cost (WHO).

It’s hard to imagine that there are people out there who are suffering with depression but are hiding it.  They are putting up a brave front while they are hurting inside.  No one can see the sadness behind their smiles.  We must provide the atmosphere where people suffering from depression will feel safe and comfortable talking about their struggles.  Depression should be talked about and often.  Talking and just letting it all out can be therapeutic and can lead to early recovery.