In A Jam/Beneath #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

 

Where was the brooch?  She hadn’t seen it since…her face turned pale when it hit her that she hadn’t seen it since the night she was at the cottage with…Ron.  She got up from the desk and began to pace the room, trying to figure out what to do.  She couldn’t go back there and look for it.  What if she ran into someone?  No, it was too risky.  But what if someone found it?  It was one of a kind.  It was a 1948 gold and silver squirrel broach with a pearl which her grandmother had given her when she graduated with honors from university.  People had seen her wear it in public.  There were photos of her online wearing it.  In a couple of interviews she had been asked about it.  And now she would be appearing on television later today without it.  What was she going to do?

She ran wrung her hands, feeling sick at heart.  If only she had ended the affair when she planned to.  If only she hadn’t gone to the cottage.  If only…

“Ma’am, there’s someone here to see you.”

“Juanita, I can’t see anyone right now.  I have to leaving soon for the office where I need to go over some notes before heading to NBC.”

“She said that she has something that belongs to you.”

The Mayor considered it for a moment and then, said, “Show her in.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”  Juanita left and returned shortly with a petite and flashy dressed woman. She looked around her like she wasn’t used to such opulence.  She looked out of place.

The Mayor observed her carefully.  When they were alone, she asked, “Who are you?”

Instead of answering that question, the woman held out her clasped hand.  “I believe this belongs to you.”  She opened her hand to reveal the brooch.

The Mayor stared at it.  She reached for it but the woman closed her hand and withdrew it.  “Where did you find it?”

“I’ll answer your first question, Madam Mayor.  My name is Helen Burns.  I’m Ron’s wife.  I suspected that he was two-timing me but I never imagined that it was with you, Madam Mayor.  I found your brooch on the floor beside the sofa.  I picked up and put it away for safe keeping.  I guess it was lucky for me that you didn’t drop it in the lake and unlucky for you that I found it.  I watched you as you called the police before you ran out of the cottage like a bat out of hell.”

The Mayor swallowed.  “What do you want?”

“I want a hundred thousand dollars.”

The Mayor gasped.  “For returning my brooch?”

“No, for my silence.  You pay me the money and no one has to know that you were with my husband when he died.”

“A hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money.”

“You can afford it.  It will cost you a lot more if you don’t pay up, Madam Mayor.  I will be in touch.”

“My brooch…?”

For the first time since they met, Helen Burns smiled.  “I’ll hold on to it, if you don’t mind.  You have a beautiful home, Madam Mayor.  It would be a shame to lose it and all that you’ve worked so hard for.  I’ll see my own way out.  Good-day.”  She walked out of the room, whistling and with a bounce in her step.

The Mayor went over to the sofa and collapsed.  Her head was spinning.  How she longed for a drink but she had the interview.  Where was she going to get a hundred thousand on such short notice?  Anthony Spinelli.

She got up from the sofa and took her cell out of her handbag.  She quickly punched in a number.  “Spinelli.  It’s me.  Remember that favor you owe me?  Now’s your chance to make good on it.  Meet me this evening in the parking lot.”  She ended the call, put her cell away and grabbed her keys.  “Juanita, I’m leaving now.”  She stepped out into the sunshine.  If anyone could get her out of this jam, it was Spinelli.  She smiled.  Things were looking up again.

 

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

Flight

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Photo by:  Jodi McKinney

She had to get out of there before someone showed up.  It would be disastrous for her reelection bid.  After making sure nothing was there to implicate her in any way, she ran out of the cottage and to her car.  After fumbling in her handbag for the keys, she started the engine and sped away.

Behind her the sun was setting.  It would be completely dark by the time she got to the office.  She’d go through the private entrance to avoid the security guard at the front. As far as anyone was concerned, she’d been at her desk all this time preparing her speech for tomorrow.

Hours later, the police responding to a tip, went to the cottage and found a naked man lying on the sofa.  It appeared that he’d suffered from a heart attack.

She was in her office, when the phone rang.  “Hello?”

“Madam Mayor?”

“Yes?”

“It’s Kelsey Bryant from NBC calling to confirm that we’re still on for tomorrow.”

“Yes, Kelsey.”

“Great.  Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”  I need a drink.

174 Words

This was written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers hosted by Priceless Joy and Joe. For more information visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Gordon’s Weekend/Onward #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

It was a long, winding road that seemed to stretch endlessly before him, surrounded by mountains and fields.  It was a drive he normally enjoyed, especially after a hectic week at the office but today, he was too tensed up.  Relax, he urged himself.  You’re doing the right thing.  You’re ending a relationship you had no business getting into in the first place.  You’re getting married in a couple of months time to an incredible woman.  Yes, he was marrying Tessa, something he had been looking forward to for a long time.

His family liked her.  They thought she was the best thing that had ever happened to him.  She was different from the other women he used to date.  In fact, she was not the type of woman he was usually attracted to.  And when they met, it wasn’t love at first sight for him and he wasn’t even interested in more than a platonic relationship with her.  But, after his bitter breakup with Christina, Tessa had been there for him.  Her friendship had helped him through those dark moments.  And little by little, as time passed and as they spent more time together, his feelings for her began to change.  They started dating and then last year Spring, he popped the question.

Why on earth did he get involved with Chanise?  Sure, she was a very attractive woman but there were other women at the office who were very attractive too but he never once looked at any of them.  Yet, the moment he met Chanise, he was attracted to her.  And it didn’t help when they were paired up to work on two very important campaigns.  There were a lot of late hours in the office and working closing together.  He was so conscious of her that at times, it was near impossible to concentrate.  He was relieved when the assignments were over and things went back to normal but he couldn’t stop thinking about her and sneaking peeks at her when they were in the office.  Her desk was adjacent to his.  He could hear her talking on the phone and tried not to listen.  When Tessa called him, he spoke low into the mouthpiece so that Chanise couldn’t hear.

Last year at the office Christmas party, they both showed up without dates.  Tessa couldn’t go because she had a bad cold and Chanise had broken up with her boyfriend.  He tried to avoid her for as long as he could but half way through the night, they ended up talking and then they were slow dancing.  By the end of the night, he was ready to take her back to his place because it was closer.  When he mentioned it to her, she was up for it.  That’s when he knew that she was attracted to him too.  That thrilled him and after saying their goodbyes, they left.  No one seem to think anything of it–after all they were co-workers.  As far as they were concerned, he was just giving her a ride home.  No big deal.  Besides, he was engaged, right?

They didn’t say much in the drive over to his place.  At any time, he could have changed his mind and taken her straight home but he didn’t.  He wanted this.  If he were honest with himself, he would admit that he had wanted this since they met.  As soon as they got to his place and after removing their coats, he took her to his room where she spent the night.

Even though he was plagued with guilt after that first tryst, it didn’t stop him for doing it again and again.  Pretty soon, they were having an affair.  When they were at the office, they acted like nothing had changed between them.  The funny thing is that when they were together, he didn’t think about Tessa at all.  It was only afterwards, when he was alone that he did.  He hated what he was doing to her.  She had no clue.  She trusted him.  He felt like a complete jerk but every time he tried to end his affair with Chanise, he chickened out the moment he saw her.

Last night, he couldn’t sleep.  The guilt was weighing heavily on him.  He had to end his relationship with Chanise.  He had to.  And today, he was on his way to do that.  They were supposed to be spending the weekend at his cottage.  It was in an idyllic rural setting.  He bought it a couple of years ago.  It was his escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.  Tessa loved it and thought that it would be a good idea for him to sell his flat and make this their home once they got married.  She loved the countryside.  He loved it too but wasn’t sure that he wanted to move out of the city.  Besides, being in the city made it more convenient for him to see Chanise.  Chanise.  He sighed heavily.  Breaking up with her was going to be very, very hard but he had to do it.

Her car was parked outside of the cottage when he got there.  Heart racing, he turned off the engine and got out of the jeep.  He walked up to the door and opened it.  She was in the living-room.  She got up from the sofa and went over to him, smiling.  “Hello, Gordon,” she murmured as she put her arms around his neck.

Unable to resist, he hugged her tightly against him.  He buried his face in her neck.  “Chanise…” he muttered thickly.  I can’t do this, he thought.  I can’t break up with her.  He raised his head and his mouth sought hers.  As they exchanged kisses, he picked her up and carried her upstairs to the master bedroom.

Tessa smiled as she drove along the winding road, her eyes danced behind the sunglasses as they swept over the mountains looming ahead. Hold on Tight by R3HAB, Conor Maynard was playing on the radio.  It was the same song that was playing the night Gordon went over to her place after breaking up with his ex.  They sat on the sofa not saying anything.  She knew that he didn’t want to be alone at the moment and she was just there for him.

I bet, he’s going to be surprised to see me, she thought.  She was supposed to be spending the weekend with her aunt in Bristol but her aunt had gotten the dates mixed up.  This weekend she was going to be in Manchester so they were on for the following weekend.  Tessa didn’t mind at all.  She was driving up to the cottage to be with Gordon and looking forward to spending a nice, romantic weekend with him.  She couldn’t wait to see the expression on his face when she showed up unexpectedly.  She laughed at thought and pressed her foot a little harder on the accelerator.

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

The Cottage

As she stood there, looking around at the countryside, she wondered if Ryan would be happy to see her.  It had been ten years since they last saw each other.  Ten years was a long time–too long.  She gazed wistfully at the hills they used to run up and down when they were children, wallowing in the sludge much to his mother’s chagrin.   Once they climbed the oak tree behind his grandmother’s cottage to see a Robin’s nest.  In it were three blue eggs lying closely next to each other.  How she used to look forward to the holidays when she would see Ryan.  They were thick as thieves and got into plenty of mischief.

Then, things changed between them as they got older.  They developed feelings for each other but were careful to hide them when other people were around.  She remembered the first time they kissed.  It was the same day she arrived at Northampton to spend the summer holidays before Ryan started university.  She had climbed up the oak tree again to see if there was anything in the bird’s nest.  It was empty.  Disappointed, she started to climb back down the tree.  He reached up and helped her down.  They were standing very close to each other, his hands were on her waist and their bodies were inches apart.  She looked up at him and found him staring at her with a curious expression on his face.

She watched as his lips drew closer until they were on hers, tentative at first but deepened when he felt her response.  She felt him pull her closer against him and she put her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly as they kissed passionately.  This lasted for several minutes, and then he drew back, his face flushed.  He grabbed her hand and pulled her behind him as he ran across the lawn.

“Where are we going?” she asked, breathless from the kisses and trying to keep up with him.

“To the cottage.”

“But, your grandmother–”

“She won’t be back for a while.  We’ve got the place all to ourselves.”

He let them into the cottage through the back door.  They ran up the stairs to one of the bedrooms and as soon as they were inside, he pulled her into his arms and began to kiss her as he backed her over to the bed, dragging off his shirt as he did so.  In no time, their clothes were in a heap on the floor and they were under the covers making love.  They made love several times after that whenever his grandmother was away.

The one afternoon when they were in the throes of passion, the door opened.  The audible gasp and the slamming of the door jolted them and they broke apart.  Ryan’s face went pale when he saw his mother standing there and Tamara pulled the sheets up to her chin, feeling ashamed.

“I came over here to check on your grandmother and this is what I find,” Mrs. Bellamy muttered between clenched teeth, her face beet red.  She marched over to the strewn clothes on the floor and threw them at them.  “Get dressed now!”  She marched out of the room, slamming the door behind her.

As soon as she was gone, they jumped out of the bed and quickly got dressed.  Wordlessly, they straightened the sheets and then left the room.  She was waiting for them downstairs in the living-room.  “Ryan, go back to the manor and wait for me in the study.  Tamara and I need to talk.”

Ryan looked like he was about to say something but thought better of it.  He reached out and squeezed Tamara’s hand before leaving the room.  Left alone with Mrs. Bellamy, Tamara was petrified.  She stared at the floor.

“Tamara, I want you to go back to the house and pack your bags.  The car will take you to the train station.  You’re not welcome here anymore.”

Tamara raised her head, her eyes wide with shock and distress.  “You mean I won’t see Ryan ever again?” The thought was unbearable.  “But, we love each other…”

“What do you know about love?” Mrs. Bellamy demanded.  “He’s eighteen and you’re just sixteen.  You’re too young to know anything about love.  I can’t let you remain here—not after what has been going between you.  I have to be the responsible one in this and as long as the two of you are under the same roof, I can’t trust you.  So, you will leave Twin Oaks Manor now.”

“Will I get to say goodbye to Ryan?” She was crying now, her heart breaking.  Mrs. Bellamy watched her, her face devoid of any mercy.  Tamara’s tears didn’t move her.  In fact, they seemed to have the opposite effect.

“I’m afraid not,” she said coldly.  “I don’t want him to make a scene.  Now, when we get back to the manor, I will keep him busy in the study while you go and pack.  Please be quick about it.  The sooner you leave the better.”

Tears came to Tamara’s eyes now as she remembered walking back to the manor, head held down, tears streaming down her face, the ache in her heart at the prospect of not even getting to say goodbye to Ryan.  She and Mrs. Bellamy parted in the foyer.  She ran upstairs to her room and packed her suitcase as quickly as she could.  Before leaving, she wrote a note and hid it in the top drawer of Ryan’s dresser, under some vests.   She had thought of leaving it on his pillow but couldn’t risk his mother or anyone else seeing it.  Then, she walked out of the doors for the last time and got into the waiting car.  As it pulled away, she looked up at the window of the study, hoping for a glimpse of Ryan but none was forthcoming.  That was ten years ago.

She had written Ryan over the years but all of her letters were returned unopened.  She never received any from him.  She went to university and buried herself in her studies but always, she thought about him and longed to see him.  Finally, she couldn’t stay away any longer and decided that after she graduated from university, she would come to Northampton at the first opportunity.  She and Ryan were adults now and Mrs. Bellamy couldn’t prevent them from resuming their relationship even if she wanted to.

Would Ryan want to pick up where they left off, though?  Did he still love her?  She had never stopped loving him.  He was her first and only love.   She had the opportunity to date other guys but she wasn’t interested in any of them.

She turned and walked along the path to the cottage and made her way to that oak tree.  Gingerly, she climbed up and looked into the nest.  This time there were two baby robins in the nest.  She smiled and was tempted to touch them but decided not to.  She watched them for a while and then carefully made her way down the tree.  As she touched the ground, she heard a dog barking.  Curious, she went around the front of the cottage and stopped short when she saw Ryan at the fence, a bag carrying what looked like a hunting rifle slung over his shoulder and holding the leash of the barking dog.  Her heart began to pound.  Classic_Beaufort_-_Olive_3_grandeHe was standing there, watching her, his expression unreadable.  He was ten years older and gone were the boyish features.  He was a man now.  And he was even more handsome.  His thick dark hair looked slightly tousled.  Her fingers itched to bury themselves in it like she used to when they made love.

“Hush Rover,” he said to the dog.  The animal stopped barking, sat down and simply stared at her.   Ryan turned to look at her.  “What are you doing here?”

She moved closer.  “I came to see you,” she said.  She wanted so much to throw her arms around him.  Seeing him again brought back memories of the happy times they spent together and the love they shared before they were separated.  “It has been a long time.”

“Ten years to be exact.  Why did you leave without saying goodbye?”

“I wanted to but your mother won’t let me.  I wrote you a note.”

“I saw it.  I still have it.  It was all I had from you.”

She frowned.  “But, I wrote to you.”

“I never received any letters from you.”

“They were all returned to me, saying on them ‘return to sender’.”

“Every day I checked the mail to see if you had written but I didn’t see any letters.  I wanted to write you but I didn’t have an address.”

“I tried emailing you but my emails came back undelivered.”

“I changed my email address but had no way of letting you know that because yours didn’t work either.”

“That’s because my mother restricted my access to the Internet when she caught me once trying to email you.  I was only allowed to use the Internet for school assignments.  As soon as I finished university, got a job and found a flat, I moved out.  I searched the telephone directory for your number and when I called, your mother answered.  She told me never to call again and hung up.”

“Even before she caught us together, she had been complaining about how much time we were spending together.  She felt that I should have had more friends and show an interest in girls.  She had a particular girl in mind.  Emily Rosen.  Mother kept trying to throw us together but I wasn’t interested.  How could I be when my heart belonged to someone else?  Mother eventually gave up.  However, she became even more determined to keep us apart.  She made sure that while I was at university, I wasn’t allowed any calls or visits from anyone outside of the immediate family.”

Tamara sighed, her expression one of deep regret.  “I had hoped that she wasn’t still holding a grudge against me.  I haven’t been to the main house because I didn’t want to run into her.”

“Mother’s not here.  She’s visiting my grandmother in the nursing home.  Grandmother has Parkinson’s.”

“I’m really sorry to hear that.  I like your grandmother.  She has always been very kind to me.”

“Yes, she was rather fond of you.  After you left, I spent most of my time at the cottage with her.  I couldn’t stand being at the house.  I would go to the guest room, lie on the bed, close my eyes and think about you.  Grandmother knew that I was unhappy and although I said nothing to her about it, she knew that it was on account of you.  That is why she gave me the cottage.  She believed that you would come back. ”

She swallowed hard.  “I had to come back,” she said huskily.

His eyes darkened and he made a move toward her but then changed his mind and turned instead towards the cottage.  “Let’s go inside.”

She followed and when they were inside, he put the bag with the rifle away and then unleashed the dog.  The animal bounded over to his favorite spot on the rug and lay down.  “How long have you had him?” she asked as Ryan removed his jacket and took hers when she took it off.

“I’ve had him for about four years.  We go for long walks.  He loves the countryside as much as you did.”  He went to hang the coats in the closet.  “Why did you come back, Tamara?” he asked when he rejoined her.  His expression was taut.

She walked over to him.  “You know why,” she said, her eyes wide as they met his stormy ones.

A muscle began to throb along his jawline.  “I want you to tell me,” he muttered thickly.

“I came back because I still love you,” she admitted.  “I never stopped loving you.”

He groaned and reaching for her, he pulled her roughly against him.  “And I still love you,” he cried.  “I couldn’t stop loving you even if I tried.  You fill my thoughts, my senses and my heart. The ten years we’ve been apart have been torture for me.”

She reached up and cupped his face between her hands.  “For me too,” she murmured.  “That’s why I had to come back to Northampton and you.”

“I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t come back.”

“Hush,” she whispered before she began kissing him.  His arms tightened around her and he responded hungrily to her kisses.

For several minutes they exchanged passionate kisses as years of pent up desires and long denied feelings swept through them like a tidal wave.  Then, he broke off the kiss and picked her up.  He carried her up the stairs and to the guest room.  He kicked the door shut and strode over to the bed where he laid her down.  He was breathing heavily as he watched her lying there on the coverlet.  He hastily removed his clothes and then climbed in next to her.  His mouth found hers and as he ravaged her lips, he dragged her top over her head.  Soon they were making passionate love and her fingers gripped his hair, reveling at the feel of the soft, silky locks.

Sometime later, Ryan got up and went over to the dresser.  He took something out of it and closed the drawer.  He walked over to the bed and went on the side where she was.  She stared up at him.  He got down on his knees beside her.  Curious, she raised herself up on her elbows.  He showed her the box.  “I bought this in January,” he said.  He opened the box and took out the sparkling ring.  “I wanted to believe what Grandmother told me.  I wanted to believe that you would come back to me.”

Tamara stared at the ring and then at him, tears glistened in her eyes.  “It’s beautiful,” she whispered.

He took her hand and looking up into her face, he asked huskily, “Will you marry me?”

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak and he slipped it on.

He rose from his knees and went back to his side of the bed.  After he climbed in he turned on his side and propping his head on his hand, he gazed at her.  “When you find true love, you hold on to it,” he said quietly.  “You are my one and true love.  I lost you once and I don’t want to lose you again.”

“You never lost me,” she said, settling down again.  “I came back because I’m yours forever.”  She reached up and pulled his head down to hers.  As they kissed, she thought of Mrs. Bellamy and how her plan to sever their attachment had failed.  The separation had only proven that in spite of their youth, they had known all along what true love was.

The Studio

“You don’t have to be a genius to see that this relationship will not last,” commented Marie as she and Caitlin sat in the corner of a trendy restaurant in the fashionable district of Chelsea.  It was celebratory dinner party for the opening of Ava’s boutique in the area.  She had invited Marie, her sister-in-law who had in turn invited Rachel.  They were sitting having non-alcoholic drinks after a delicious dinner while the others were on the dance floor.

Marie’s remark was directed at Ava and her boyfriend, Reid, a businessman/artist.  They had been dating for less than a year now.  They were dancing but he seemed a bit uncomfortable.   Clearly, he didn’t like the public display of affection but Ava didn’t seem to care.  This was her way of letting the other women know that he was not available.

As Rachel watched them, she couldn’t deny that they made a very attractive couple.  Ava had thick dark brown hair that tumbled down in unruly waves down her tanned back.  She looked absolutely stunning in the strapless fuchsia dress.  Several male eyes were on her but she only had eyes for Reid.  Rachel’s gaze shifted to Reid.  He was tall and very attractive.  He looked amazing in the navy blue striped suit, navy blue shirt and matching tie.  His thick dark brown hair was neatly combed as usual.

She remembered the first time she met Reid.  It was at a mutual friend’s place.  It was early autumn and as she came out of the cottage to go for a walk in the gardens, she noticed him standing among stalks of wheat which seemed rather out of place to her.  She expected the grounds to be covered in green grass and surrounded by trees with changing colors.  He was wearing a blue sweater over a checkered shirt and dark blue trousers.  He didn’t notice her at first as she stood there just staring at him and thinking that he was drop dead gorgeous.  Then, he turned his head slightly to the right and their eyes met.

Shortly after, he went over to her, his eyes never leaving her face.  She was wearing a black and white striped shirt and black pants.  She hoped her hair looked fine.  He held out his hand.  “Hello, I’m Reid,” he said.

She smiled as he clasped her hand.  “Rachel.”  After he released her hand, she folded her arms.  She saw the way his eyes slipped over her before they settled on her face again.

“Do you have a jacket?” he asked.  “It’s a bit cool today.”

“It’s inside with my handbag,” she said. “I came out to go for a walk and forgot how cool it was.  I’ll go quickly and get it.”  She went back to the house and when she went back, he was standing where she had left him.

“Do you mind if I join you?” he asked.

She shook her head, smiling.  “I would like the company,” she said.

“Did you come alone?”

“Yes,” she turned to look at him as they headed for the gardens.  “Did you?”

“I came with Ava.”

“Ava Parker?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know her?”

“Not very well.  She’s my friend Marie’s sister-in-law.”

“Yes, I have met Marie.  A very pleasant woman.”

As they walked he asked her questions about herself.  She learned that he met Ava at a gallery where his artwork was on display.  She suddenly stopped and stared at him.  “Are you Reid Faulkner?” She asked.

He nodded with a smile.

“I’ve seen some of your paintings and they are amazing.  They are so real.  My favorite so far is of the homeless young girl.  You did it in black and white.  It was beautiful and haunting at the same time.  It’s now hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in London.”

“I like to paint about current issues,” he said.  “I’m more into realism than the other forms of art like impressionism and romanticism.”

“You captured the sadness in her eyes, the dirty fingernails and the hopelessness of her situation.  Whatever became of her?”

“She’s in a homeless shelter for the youth now.  When she learned that her portrait was in the gallery, she was over the moon.”

“That’s great.  How do you do it—your painting, I mean?”

“I sketch and then, I paint.  I don’t have to have the person pose for me.”

They continued walking and then they decided to head back to the cottage.  When they got there, Ava was waiting in front and as soon as she saw them, she hurried over to Reid.  “There you are,” she exclaimed, slipping her arm in his.  “I was wondering where you had gone off to.  Oh, hello, Rachel,” she said, her green eyes shifting to her and pursing her lips.  The displeasure on her face was unmistakable.  She tugged gently on Reid’s arm.  “There’s someone I’d like you to meet.  Excuse us, Rachel.”

Reid barely got to give Rachel a backward glance before he was whisked away.  They hadn’t had a moment alone after that.  Ava saw to that.  However, she couldn’t prevent them from looking at each other every opportunity they got and on her way home, Rachel couldn’t stop thinking about Reid and how much she wanted to see him again.  And couple months later, here they were in a Chelsea restaurant.

She turned now to Marie who was looking at her.  “You were somewhere else for a bit,” she said.

“I was just remembering something,” she said evasively.  “Why don’t you think their relationship will last?”

“She’s too clingy and men don’t like that.  They don’t like to be smothered.  Besides, I don’t think he’s as into her as she’s into him.  It’s all in the body language, my dear.  Look at him.  The dance is over and he looks relieved.  Why don’t we invite them to join us?”  She waved at the couple as they parted and were heading back to their table.

Rachel’s eyes went immediately to Reid and her heart began to beat fast.  She smoothed her hair down and rubbed the palms of her hands on the skirt of her blue elastic waist dress.  Reid’s gaze went first to Marie and then to Rachel where they remained.  Ava noticed and said, “Why don’t we go over to the bar and sit there or outside on the terrace where it’s a lot cooler?”

At that moment, Marie got up from her seat and said to Ava, “Why don’t we go and freshen up?” and she grabbed her arm and escorted her away before she could object.

Alone, Reid sat down beside Rachel.  “It’s good to see you again,” he said quietly.  “I was hoping that we would meet again.  How have you been?”

She smiled and tried to act calm although she was nervous.  He was staring at her, his expression was intense.  “It’s good to see you again, too,” she admitted, sounding a bit breathless.  “I’m happy to see you and I’ve been doing well.”

“Are you busy tomorrow afternoon?” he asked.

“No.”

“I’d like you to come over to my studio,” he said.  He took out his wallet and removed a business card.  He scribbled something at the back of it and handed it to her.  As she read the name and address of the studio, he added, “I’d like to paint you.”

She glanced up in surprise.  “Paint me?” she exclaimed.  “But why would you want to paint me?”

“You’re beautiful,” he said simply.  “I want to capture that beauty.”

“I’m not sure,” she said, suddenly feeling very self-conscious.  “I’ve never had such a proposition before.” He thinks I’m beautiful.

“Think about it.  I will look out for you tomorrow.  If I don’t see you, I’ll know that you decided not to do it and although, I will be disappointed, I will understand.”

“Thank you,” she said and she put the card in her handbag.  She didn’t feel pressured now.

“If you like, you can still come to my studio just to see my work.”

“I’d like that,” she said.

He smiled and just then, Ava and Marie joined them.  Ava’s eyes flashed at Rachel.

Marie said to Rachel, “I think we should leave now,” she said.  “It’s getting late and I have a busy day tomorrow with the hubby and kids.  Ava, congratulations on your new business venture.  I’ve no doubt that it will be a great success.  Reid, as always it is a pleasure to see you.”

Rachel got up and came round the table so that she was standing next to Reid.  She could feel his eyes on her.  She said goodnight first to Ava whose expression was hostile and then she turned to Reid, holding out her hand.  He took it and her pulse raced when she felt him squeeze it gently.  Their eyes held for a brief moment and then she turned and walked away.

On their way to her car, Marie remarked, “There’s something going on between Reid and you.  I sensed it and I know Ava did too, that’s why she didn’t want to leave the two of you alone.  So, what did he say to you?”

“He invited me to go to his studio tomorrow.  He wants to paint me.”

“Wow, that’s a great compliment.  I wish I had an artist ask to paint me.  Well, are you going to do it or not?”

“I’m not sure…”

“I think you should do it.  It might be fun and besides, it gives the two of you a chance to be alone.”

“But, what about Ava?”

“Ava’s history.  I won’t be surprised if he breaks up with her tonight.”

“I don’t want to be the cause for their breakup.”

“It would have happened even if you weren’t in the picture.  Don’t feel bad about it.  Ava’s not the right woman for Reid.  And that’s a fact that’s clear to everyone, except her, unfortunately.”

Rachel sighed.  “She already doesn’t like me and now I’m giving her a good reason to hate me.”

“Don’t worry about Ava,” Marie advised her.  “She’ll get over Reid in time.”

Rachel thought about it as she lay in bed that night and by morning, she had decided that she would go to the studio.  It was on a quiet street and located on the second floor of a warehouse.  The door was open and she went in.  There was an easel with a blank sheet of paper on it.  Framed paintings stacked against the walls.  Bright light effused the spacious room.  She could smell the paints and she smiled as she looked around.  It was such a treat being in an artist’s studio and seeing his work.  There were a couple of floor lamps, chairs, a stool and a table with the paints.

As she was studying and admiring the paintings on the wall adjacent to the windows, Reid came in.  He smiled when he saw her.  “Hello,” he said.  “I’m glad you came.  I hope you didn’t have any trouble finding the place.”

She turned toward him, thinking how sexy he looked in the black shirt and blue jeans.  “No, I didn’t have any trouble finding it.  It’s a really nice with lots of natural light.  I was just admiring your work.  Some of them, I recognized.  Has Ava ever been here?”

“Once.  Would you like something to drink?”

She shook her head.  “Not right now, thanks.”

“So, what have you decided?”

“I’ve decided to let you paint me.”

He grinned, rubbing his hands together.  “Splendid.  Now, all you have to do is sit on the stool over there and try not to move.  You can set your handbag and jacket on the chair over there.  Thanks for agreeing to do this, Rachel.”

She did as he instructed and climbed up on the stool.  As she sat down, she was glad that she had worn jeans instead of the long black skirt with the side slit.  She watched as he mixed the paints and then stood behind the easel and got to work.  After two hours of not moving, she was relieved when he set his brush down and stepped from behind the easel.

“We’re done for today,” he said.

She slid down from the stool and stretched.  “How long will it take to complete?” she asked.

“Two weeks.  You don’t have to sit every time because I know you’re busy.  I have a sketch that I can work from.”

“I can come in the evenings after work,” she offered.

“That would be great.  Are you hungry?”

She nodded.

“There’s a bistro around the corner where we can have something to eat or we can order take out delivery and eat here.  Which would you prefer?”

“Take out.”

They had Thai food delivered to them and they sat cross legged on the floor, eating and talking.  It was dark outside by the time they left the studio.  Before they parted, they arranged to meet again at the studio the following day.  For two weeks, she went to the studio and sat for two hours as he painted her.  Finally, the day came when she would see the finished painting.  Excited, she let herself into the studio and closed the door.

She went over to the chair to put her jacket on it when Reid came into the room.  She turned and her breath caught in her throat when she saw that he was not wearing a shirt.  It was in his hand.  He stopped short when he saw her.  “You’re early,” he commented as he pulled it on but didn’t button it.  He went over to where she stood.  Flustered, she turned away.

She felt his hands on her shoulders turning her around to face him.  Their eyes met and what she saw in his made her mouth go dry.  Desire shone in their depths.  “Rachel,” he muttered huskily.  “You must know by now how I feel about you.”

The feelings churning inside her were on her face.  “What about Ava?” she asked, trying not to look at his chest.

“I ended my relationship with her that night at the restaurant.  She blamed you.  She saw the attraction between us.  I told her that I would have ended our relationship even if you and I had not met.  I told her that we were not right for each other.  I felt badly about it but I couldn’t continue pretending that everything was fine when it wasn’t.”

“I feel sorry for her but, I can’t say that I’m sorry that you’re available now…”

“Oh, Rachel…” he moaned before he lowered his head and kissed her.  She kissed him back, her arms going around his neck as she pressed against him.  The sunlight flooded the room, bathing them in its warmth as they exchanged passionate kisses.  “I love you,” he murmured against her lips.

“I love you too,” she whispered.  She had loved him that day when she saw him standing there among the wheat, looking like he just had stepped out of the pages of GQ.

Several hours later, he unveiled the painting and her mouth dropped open when she saw.  Moved to tears, she said, “It’s beautiful.”

His eyes were tender as he looked at her.  “That’s how I see you,” he said quietly. “You’re beautiful within and without.  This painting is going to be for my private viewing.  It’s not going to be placed in any gallery.”

“Good,” she said, putting her arms around his waist.  “I don’t relish the idea of hanging in public for everyone to gawk at me.  Both the painting and I are for your eyes only.” And with that, she reached up and kissed him.

Sources:  End Youth HomelessnessReitman’s; Social Lifestyle Magazine; Albert’s Club

Grimwood Mansion

It was as if she were in a trance.  Everything around her faded into nothingness.  Her eyes were riveted on Grimwood Manor.  She walked towards the imposing, Gothic facade of the house.  It loomed like a foreboding giant watching her come closer like a spider watching a fly lured to its web.

She paused and looked up at the top three windows.  A light went on and the curtain moved in the middle one.  The spell was broken.  Her heart lurched in palpable fear.  The house was supposed to be deserted.  She thought she saw a figure.  Terrified, she turned and ran as fast as she could, falling a couple of times as she tumbled across the field.

She didn’t stop running until she was safely back at the cottage.  She darted inside, closed the door behind her and leaned against it to catch her breath.  Her aunt was in the kitchen and she bustled into the foyer when she heard her come in.  “Good heavens,” she exclaimed.  “What happened to you?  You look like you have seen a ghost.”

She stumbled over to the sofa and sank heavily on to the cushions.  “I just came from Grimwood Manor,” she said.  “I thought it was supposed to be deserted.”

“It’s deserted but not abandoned.  Now and then someone, perhaps the caretaker goes there and tends to the place.  They have to keep it in good condition in case they wish to sell it one of these days.”

“Who would want to buy it?  It looks creepy.  I saw a light at one of the windows, the curtain move and a figure standing there.”

“Granted it’s not one of the best looking mansions but it’s not haunted as some like to say.  I there-say, it use to be full of life back in the 1800s.  The family was always throwing balls.  It was deserted in the early 1900s but cared for.  It’s not so bad during the day.  Why did you go there tonight?”

“I hadn’t planned to but on my way back here, I had to pass it.  I was drawn to it.  I had never seen a Gothic mansion before.  I read so much about them.  Do you suppose the caretaker would show me around?”

“I don’t know.  You will have to ask him.  When you go take someone with you.  Don’t go alone.”

“Would you like to go with me, Aunt?”

“No, thank you.  I don’t fancy traipsing about in a rundown old mansion.  Such things don’t interest me.”

“Very well, Aunt.  I will ask Joe to go with me.”  Joe was her Aunt’s neighbor’s son.  This was her way of asking Joe out on a date without really asking him.  She liked Joe but was still not sure how he felt about her. Hopefully, while exploring the mansion, she would find out.

“Good idea.  Joe’s a upstanding young man,” her aunt said.  “Are you hungry?  You should be after your gallivanting.  Your supper is on the table.”

She smiled and got up from the sofa.  “Thank you, Aunt.”

She went to the kitchen where a large plate of piping hot, mouth-watering beef stew and dumplings awaited her.  As she tucked into them, she thought about Grimwood Manor.

It was hard to believe that it was once filled with life and laughter.  Now it looked like a dead, empty husk.  Yet, in spite of its lacklustre appearance, she had been irresistibly drawn to it.  If she hadn’t seen movement in the upstairs window, she would have gone inside if the doors were unlocked. And who knows what she would have found lurking in any of those rooms.  She shuddered at the thought.

 

Sources:  Fantasy Name Generators; The Spruce

The Attention

Rose could feel the townspeople watching her and Victor Ashdown as they left the local church.  It was raining and Victor was holding the umbrella over her.

The tongues had been wagging since they showed up for the Sunday morning service.   No doubt they were wondering why Victor Ashdown was there with Rose instead of his grandmother, Lady Ashdown.

Rose was the elder woman’s companion.  She had placed to an ad in the newspaper and received a reply.  After providing references which were satisfactory, she was accepted to the post and a week later she was on her way to Langley Hall.  It was the first time she had left the society of London and her friends to come to the countryside.  She fell in love with Langley Hall the moment she saw it.  The stunning, historic home surrounded by lush and idyllic countryside with its romantic interior of wood paneling and ornate chandeliers took her breath away.   Her family cottage seemed dull compared to this splendid home.  And the room she occupied was very charming.

Lady Ashdown was very amiable and Rose soon developed a deep affection for her.  Life at Langley Hall was pleasant.   Then she met Victor whom she found to be very agreeable, engaging and irresistible.  When she was not engaged by his grandmother, they spent time together in the garden where they had stimulating conversations.  It was only a matter of time before they fell in love.  Of course, it was no surprise to Lady Ashdown who raised no objections.  Victor went to London to see her father who gave his consent.  Rose had written several letters, telling her family about him.

“Good morning, Miss Haversham,” the greeting brought her back to the present and she met the curious gaze of Mrs. Lambton.  The older woman’s eyes were sharp with curiosity as she looked first at Rose and then at Victor.

Rose feigned a smile.  Busybody.  She thought.  “Good morning, Mrs. Lambton.”  And she continued walking, giving the woman no opportunity to engage her in any further dialogue.  “Horrible woman,” she muttered under her breath.

Victor seemed amused rather than annoyed at the attention they were getting.  “They will have plenty to talk about when you and I get married,” he said.

“Yes, indeed.  It will be quite the story–Victor Ashdown marries a city girl when he should have married a girl from Darbyshire.”

“I am marrying the girl I love and that’s that.  Let’s not talk about this anymore.  We have more important matters to talk about.”

“Such as?”

“Such as where would you like to go for your honeymoon?”

Rose smiled, her eyes sparkled as she met his gaze.  “You’re right, where we honeymoon is of great importance.”

victorian couple walking in the rain

Source:  Victorian Contexts; Country Living