An International Disgrace

Image result for the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial

I couldn’t believe it when I heard that President Donald Trump cancelled his trip to a cemetery for “Americans killed in World War I, the White House citing bad weather that grounded his helicopter.”  He had been scheduled to lay a wreath and observe a moment of silence at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial, located adjacent to Belleau Wood and about 100 kilometres northeast of Paris.  It is a site of great importance to the US military.

The cancelled trip drew sharp criticisms from those who felt that the president should have found a way to get to Aisne-Marne, regardless of the weather.  Ben Rhodes, the former deputy national security adviser for President Barack Obama, accused Trump of “blowing off honouring American servicemen who died for us”

I agree with Mr. Rhodes.  Those soldiers braved snow, heat, rain and all sorts of conditions while they were fighting for freedom and serving their country.  Weren’t they worth the trip?

President Justin Trudeau visited the Vimy Ridge War Memorial in France and laid a wreath in honour for those who have served.  According to Global News, “Young, fresh-faced Canada sent 424,000 men overseas to fight in the First World War and nearly 61,000 of them were killed on foreign soil, far, far, far away from their homes in their 50-year-old country.  Those Canadians rest now in cemeteries all over Europe and their sacrifice helped forge a nation.”

This Remembrance Day marks the 100th anniversary of World War I and leaders like Trudeau, British Prime Minister Teresa May, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, and U.S. President Donald Trump were invited by French President Emmanuel Macron to join him and more than 70 other world leaders in Paris for a special Armistice Day service Sunday, followed by a Peace Forum, where the leaders will discuss issues of international security.

For Trump not to go to the cemetery because of the weather is not only international embarrassment but a disgrace to the men who sacrificed their lives.  They deserve better.  They deserve a leader who would not allow anything to prevent him from visiting their memorial and laying down a wreath in their honor.  This was an international disgrace that may not soon be forgotten.

Sources:   The GuardianCTV News; Global News

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His Muse

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Photo by Sue Vincent

The painting was almost complete.  He just had to add a few touches.  Painting landscapes was never his thing but he had been forced to paint them since…He tossed the paintbrush down and got up.  He walked over to the window and stared out into the street below.  It was quiet now.  It was Sunday.  Almost everyone was in church.  He had stopped attending Sunday mass three years ago.  He had stopped doing a lot of things three years ago.  Three years ago she had stood right there by the door, ready to removed her coat when her cell rang.  He had no idea who called her but after she ended the call, she grabbed her knapsack and said, “I have to go but I will be back later,” before she pulled open the door and rushed out.

He waited all day for her to return or to call but neither was forthcoming.  Three years later and she hadn’t returned.  He had no idea where she was.  Maybe she went back to her home in Benin.  She was the reason why he stopped painting people and started painting landscapes.  He had broken his own rule of never mixing business with pleasure.  She was supposed to be his muse–that was all.  He had painted hundreds of women before and not once did any of them stir any passions in him.  He was immune to them.  To him there were just muses.

Then, he met her one day at the gallery where his work was on display.  She was eighteen at the time.  Her youth was so refreshing.   She wasn’t beautiful or even pretty and her eyes seemed too large for her small face but she intrigued him.   He wanted to paint her right then and there.  There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that she was going to be his next muse.  After they left the gallery, he took her for a cappuccino.  She was a bit hesitant at first although she was flattered that he wanted to paint her but he was very persuasive.

She turned out to be the perfect muse, inspiring him to produce his best work.  He churned out painting after painting.   She sat there day after day, still as a statue.  He supposed that it was gradual but one day he realized that he that he had fallen for her–of all he foolhardy things to do.  He was twice her age, for pity’s sake.  He thought of finding another muse to replace her but he couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing her again.  She had brought light and joy into his otherwise dull existence.  Life without her would be intolerable.  He didn’t replace her but it became increasingly hard to paint because he couldn’t concentrate.  Instead of painting her, he wanted to take her in his arms and…

He leaned forward, his palms flat on the window seat, his tortured gaze scanned the horizon.  She was out there somewhere.  His life was empty.  There was a great big chasm and his heart ached every time he remembered how she had literally run out of his life.  He never got another muse.  No one could replace her.  Oh, Johari, my inspiration, my grand passion, my torment.

He heard a sound behind him and turned.  His face became ashen when he saw her standing there.  If she didn’t blink, he would have imagined that she was an illusion.  All sorts of emotions churned inside him.  His hands curled into tight fists as he tried to hold them in check.  Part of him wanted to take her in his arms and lavish her with kisses while the other part wanted to lash out at her for the misery she had put him through.

“I came back, Adriel,” she said, moving closer.

He didn’t budge.  “Yes, three years later.  Where have you been all this time?”

“I’ve been in Benin.  That day when I was here with you, I got a call from an uncle that my father had fallen ill and that I was needed home right away.  I got the first flight out of London.  I helped my mother to look after him until he recovered.  My mother asked me to stay until she could afford to hire a private nurse.  I tried calling you but there wasn’t any answer.  I think your cell was off.  I wrote to you while I was in Benin but you never answered.  Adriel, you must know that only a family emergency would make me leave you.  All the time I was away, I thought about you and missed you.  I wondered why you didn’t write me.  I thought you were out of the country or busy with gallery showings or—that you had met someone.”

He quickly closed the distance between them.  “I’ve been here all this time,” he told her.  “Missing you and wondering where you were.  I had my phone turned off and I never received any of your letters.”

“So, there isn’t another woman…?”

He shook his head vigorously.  “No!” Groaning, he reached for her and pulled her into his arms.  “I couldn’t be with anyone else even if I wanted to.  I love you, Johari.”  He covered her face with kisses, unable to help himself.

She hugged him tightly about his waist and murmured, “I love you too.”

They stood there in the sun-dappled room locked in a passionate embrace.  He stopped painting for a long while and he no longer had any need for a muse.  They got married in a quiet ceremony in SaintPauldeVence, one of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera.  When he returned to painting, he did portraits while Johari worked in a museum which featured his work.

 

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

Asya Speaks Out

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Photo by Sue Vincent

The magnificent view of the snow-capped mountains and surrounding beautiful landscape which usually filled Asya with peace failed to do so this morning.   There was political uncertainty in Sweden as the anti-immigrant party made historic gains in Sunday’s election.  There was talk of refugees and immigrants being sent back to their countries by those who had no regard for what awaited them.   She knew firsthand what it was like to be torn from the country of refuge and returned to your country of origin.

At the age of 15, her parents took her back to Turkey after she finished ninth grade to marry a man 20 years her senior.  They had three children.  Those were the worst years of her life and she dreamed of returning to Sweden.  Fifteen years later, after her husband died in a work related accident, she returned to Stockholm with the children.

It was a shock for her when she recently saw the brochure offering tips to those who were married to children.  Enraged, she wrote an article on the horrors of child marriage, her own experience and why Sweden needed to be very clear that it wouldn’t tolerate such a practice.  It needed to protect the welfare of its immigrant population and stop worrying about being culturally insensitive.

It was a two page article in which she concluded, “I urge you to think about Beeta, the teenage girl who was murdered by her husband after they arrived here from Iran.  If we hadn’t been so concerned with offending a culture which fosters a practice which, in my opinion, is criminal, she may still be alive.  Instead of being concerned with the culture, protect the individual.  We need to be more responsible for the immigrants whom we let into the country and afford them the same rights and protection regardless of whether or not they are ethically Swedish.”  Her article was published in Stockholm News and was very well received.  Many shared her views and Twitter went viral, calling for the government to do something to end child marriage in a country known for its commitment to child welfare.

Asya turned now to look at the shelter she ran for victims of honor-based violence and oppression.  Most of them were the same ages as her daughters.  She determined that she would continue to fight for them and those who weren’t in her care.  Unlike the politicians and the government, she was going to be morally sensitive to the victims of forced marriages and speak out because as long as child marriage exists it will stand in the way of gender equality.  She had to do this for Beeta and others like her.

Marriage is for adults, not for children.  Children have the right to be children.

This story is based on true events.  Sweden struggles over child marriage and many are calling for the rights of children of foreign backgrounds to be protected.

This story is in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Turning for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Sources:  The Guardian; PsychologyPolitico; Express

The Plants

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PHOTO PROMPT © Ronda Del Boccio

 

“Where did you get these strange plants from?” Wei asked.

Sue tried not to panic.  “They are gifts.”  Why does Wei have to be so nosy?  And why is she here instead of at the market?

“Who gave them to you?”

“A friend, I think.  I don’t remember.”

“You don’t remember who gave you these ugly plants?” Wei sounded skeptical.

“Wei, aren’t you going to the market?”

“Oh, yes.  I’d better leave now.”  She scurried off.

Once the coast was clear, Sue went over to the plants and removed the Bibles.  It was time to find new hiding places.

99 Words

This story was inspired by an article I read about China shutting down churches and seizing Bibles in an “ambitious new effort to lessen or even eradicate the influence of Christianity and religion from the country”.  So far, the government has shut down hundreds of Christian house churches.

According to Willy Lam of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, “Xi is a closet Maoist—he is very anxious about thought control.  He definitely does not want people to be faithful members of the church because then people would profess their allegiance to the church rather than to the party, or more exactly to Xi himself.”  Faithful Christians would rather obey God than men and will do so even if it costs them their lives.

This was written for the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.  For more details, visit Here.  To read stories of 100 words based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Mirembe

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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 Plane Ride

He sat there on the plane, the open magazine on his lap, his head resting against the back of the seat and his face turned towards the window, watching the clouds and knowing that the distance between Natalie and him was getting wider.  He closed his eyes in despair.  Walking away from her was the most painful and hardest thing he had ever done in his life but things couldn’t continue as they were.  He had to end their relationship.

After a night of torrid lovemaking, he woke up very early the next day and quickly got dressed while she was still sleeping.  He wrote a note for her and left it propped up against the lamp on the bedside table next to her.  He stood for several minutes staring down at her, longing to bend down and kiss her bare shoulder but was afraid that he would wake her.

He tiptoed to the door and slowly opened it.  He stepped into the hall and closed the door behind him.  The place was silent except for the clock ticking and the sound of his heavy breathing as he fought the temptation to turn around and climb back into bed with her.  Once he was outside of the flat, he released a shaky breath and hastily headed for the lift.  In his car, he told himself that he was doing the right thing even though his heart felt heavy.  He went home, packed his bags and booked the next available flight out of Detroit and heading to London.  It was an impromptu vacation.  He couldn’t be in Detroit right then or his resolve would crumble.  He hoped that the distance would somehow ease the pain and that being with his family would help as well.

So, here he was on the plane heading for London.  He wondered if she had read the note and how she was taking the news.  He remembered every word he had written.

Dear Natalie,

I never imagined that I would fall in love again but I have.  I knew that I loved you the first time we met.  I tried to fight it not because I found out that you’re Darnell’s sister.  I forgave Darnell for being responsible for Jody’s death.  It wasn’t easy because it was his reckless driving which resulted in her death but God helped me to get over the bitterness I was feeling toward your brother and to come to the place where I could not only find it in my heart to forgive him but to share His love with him.  

My healing came from talking to Darnell about God and sharing the Bible with him and as I watched him accept God’s love and forgiveness, it brought a peace to my heart which I hadn’t felt in a long time.  Visiting Darnell was a much of a blessing for me as it was for him.  Then, I met you. 

When you walked into the room, my heart stopped.  I couldn’t believe that another woman could have such an effect on me.  I felt as if I was being unfaithful to Jody’s memory.  Jody was my best friend before she became my wife.  We had known each other since college but didn’t start dating until years later when we were in our thirties.  Two years after we started dating, we got married.  We were married for two and a half years when she died.   I had lost my wife and my best friend.  We had planned to have children but that dream died with Jody.

Falling in love again was not something I imagined would happen and when it did, I tried to fight it.  You stirred in me feelings and passions that I have never experienced in my life–not even with Jody and that scared me.  I wanted you so much that it was all I could think about.  And when I realized that you were attracted to me too, it was only a matter of time before we became lovers.  

Loving you has consumed me to the point where I have turned my back on what I know to be right and acceptable in God’s sight.  As a man of faith, I can’t continue to be in a relationship with a woman I am not married to.  It goes against what I believe.  I have to choose between my love for you and my faith.  It pains me to do this but I must choose my faith.  By the time you read this letter, I will be out of the country.  

We cannot attempt to see each other anymore.  Please believe me when I say that I love you and will always love you.   Sometimes doing the right thing hurts but in the end, we have to be able to live with ourselves.

Andrew

“Oh, Natalie,” he moaned under his breath, aching for her.   Life without her was going to be unbearable.

Natalie read the note again, the tears streaming down her face.   She hadn’t seen this coming.  She thought they were happy but when she read the note, she realized that how hard it was for him to go against his religious convictions.  She herself came from a Christian family and had been taught that sex outside of marriage was wrong.  She had drifted from her faith, not going to church as often as she should.  Her makeup and choice in clothes were evidence that she was not as devout when it came to religion as the rest of her family but after meeting Andrew, those things had changed.  She had stopped wearing the makeup and had opted for the more natural look and her wardrobe had changed too.  And she had begun to read her Bible more lately.  She even began going back to church and then this morning she found this note.

Thankfully, it was a Sunday morning and she didn’t have to worry about going to work.  There was no way that she would have been able to function.  Heartbroken and depressed she didn’t even feel like getting out of bed.

When Andrew got to Heathrow, his brother was waiting for him.  He went up to him and after hugging him, said to him, “I know that this is going to sound crazy, but I must return to Detroit.  There’s a woman there whom I am going to ask to marry me.”

Stuart stared at him.  “Are you serious?  You just got here and now you’re going to leave?”

“Yes!  I’m been an utter fool.  I can’t believe that I didn’t think of this before.  I walked out of her life when I could have asked her to marry me.”

“Does she love you?”

“Yes and I love her.”

“Then, go to her.  I’ll explain everything to the folks.  I’m happy that you have found someone after losing Jody.  I wish you all the best, Andy.”

“Thanks, Stuart.”  They hugged again and then Stuart left.

Andrew found his way to the departure terminal where he booked the next available flight to Detroit.

The following evening, Natalie was sitting on the sofa, despondent when the doorbell rang.  She was not in the mood for seeing anyone but she got and went to answer the door.  Her eyes widened when she saw Andrew standing there.  Opening the door at once, she exclaimed, “What are you doing here?”

“Where’s the note I wrote you?” he asked as he stepped inside the foyer.

She closed and locked the door behind him before she reached into the pocket of her dressing-gown and handed the note to him.  He tore it up.  “Why did you do that?” she asked, bewildered.

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” he told her.  “I was a fool to write it in the first place and I was a bigger fool for walking out of your life.  I love you, Natalie and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.  Marry me.”

She gaped at him.  “Marry you?” she repeated, her heart thudding.  He looked dead serious.

“Yes.  Let’s get married on Saturday.  We’ll go and get the ring today.”

Her mind was spinning at this turn of events.  Just a few moments ago, she felt as if her world had been pulled out from under her and here, she was on the verge of being blissfully happy.  “Are you sure?” she asked.

“Yes, I’ve never been surer of anything in my life.  Today we get engaged and on Saturday we get married.  In between that time, you and I have to abstain.  We will not make love until we are on our honeymoon.”

Her heart bursting, she put her arms around his neck.  “I love you, Andrew Clarke and I will marry you.”

His arms slipped around her waist and he held her tightly against him, his eyes darkening on her upturned face.  “I’m sorry it had to take a plane ride to London to make me realize that marrying you is the right and best thing to do.”

She smiled.  “And this is a decision that we can both live with.”

 

 

The Orphan

“What’s the matter, Honey?” Ralph Forrester asked six year old Janet as she lay there in bed, crying.  He was there to read to read her a bedtime story as usual and was surprised to find her in her present state.  When he sat down on the bed, she sat up and hugged him.  He gently patted her on the back, trying to soothe her until the sobs subsided.  “Now tell me what’s the matter,” he coaxed when she drew back to look up at him.

“Aunt Agnes called me a Gremlin,” she wailed.  “Gremlins are ugly, horrid creatures.”

“They are also very mischievous,” he told her, relieved that it wasn’t anything serious although to her it was.  “Did you get yourself into trouble again?”

She hung her head.  “Yes,” she admitted reluctantly.  “It was my idea to bathe the dog in the bathtub because he was so dirty.  Matthew helped me to put him in the bath.  While I was washing the dog, he went to get a towel to dry him off and that’s when Aunt Agnes walked in.  She was really mad and that’s when she called me a Gremlin.”

“Honey, she was understandably angry because you were bathing a dirty animal in her nice, clean bathtub.  And you must have made quite a mess.”

“She said that I was a bad influence on Matthew.  What does influence mean?”

“It means you make Matthew do things that he wouldn’t usually do.”

She looked contrite.  “I don’t mean to make Matthew do bad things,” she said, “or to get him into trouble.  He’s my best friend.”

Ralph patted her hand.  “I know.  We never mean to get others in trouble but sometimes we do.  I think it would be best for now if you didn’t visit Matthew at the manor.  He could come here instead.  Beth and I will make sure you don’t get into any mischief.”

“I don’t think Aunt Agnes likes me very much,” she said, surprising him.  “Is it because I’m adopted?”

He stared at her.  “Who told you that you’re adopted?” he asked.

“Aunt Agnes.  She told me that you and Beth adopted me when I was a baby.  What happened to my real parents?”

“They died and you were placed in an orphanage.  Beth and I always wanted to adopt a child from Africa. We chose South Africa because we were there once on a mission trip and loved it.  As soon as our application was approved, we went the orphanage where you were.  We loved you the very first moment we saw you.  I remember you staring up at me with those big, beautiful brown eyes of yours and I promised God and myself that I would take very good care of you.  We named you Janet which means ‘God’s gracious gift’ because you were a gift from God.”

She smiled.  “I’m happy that you and Beth adopted me,” she said, hugging him.  Then, she settled back on the pillows and waited for him to read to her.  When he was done, he kissed her goodnight, switched off the bedside lamp and left the room.

Beth was in the kitchen fixing them a pot of tea when he went downstairs.  He went over to the table and sat down.  Beth turned and looked at him.  “What’s the matter, Honey?” she asked.

He grimaced.  “Agnes told Janet that she’s adopted. What right did she have to do so?”

Beth brought over the two cups of steaming tea and after setting one in front of him, she sat down.  “While I agree that it should have been left to us to tell Janet that she’s adopted, it must be obvious to her by now that she’s different.  You remember the other day when she came home from school, very upset because some children had asked her how she could have white parents when she was black.”

“I wish people would mind their own business,” he muttered crossly.  “Janet doesn’t think that Agnes likes her because she’s adopted.”

“There are very few people whom Agnes likes,” Beth said dryly.  “She didn’t approve of you marrying me.  I was a bad influence on you.  It was on account of me that you gave up your rather cushy job to become a missionary.”

“For as long as I live, I will never regret marrying you, becoming a missionary and adopting Janet.  Agnes has always been a controlling woman but she has never been able to manipulate me, though she tried to.  She objected to my marriage, change in career and decision to adopt but her objections fell on deaf ears.  I’m happy with the life I have made for myself and will not tolerate any interference from her.  She’s my sister not my mother.”

“Sometimes, she acts like she has two sons instead of one.”

“Poor Matthew.  She’s always doting on him.  I pity the girl he ends up marrying.  Unless, Matthew and his bride moved far away from Yorkshire and his mother’s influence, they will never get a moment’s peace.”

“I’m very fond of Matthew.  He’s such a loving and considerate child.  No doubt he takes after his father, God rest his soul.”

“Yes, if I had a son, I would have wanted him to be like Matthew.”

Beth looked at him.  “Do you still regret not having children of you own?” she asked. They had tried to conceive but couldn’t.  It turned out that he had an undescended testicle when he was a baby.  He was devastated because he was looking forward to raising a family with Beth.  Beth had pushed aside her own disappointment and sought only to console him.  Several years went by before they considered adopting and six years ago, they welcomed Janet into their lives.

“Yes, sometimes,” he admitted.  “But I have since realized that things happen for a reason.  If we had been able to have our children, that precious little girl upstairs would not be here.  She has brought so much joy in our lives.  I can’t imagine not having her around.  I thank God every day for her.  She is truly a blessing.”

Tears pricked Beth’s eyes and she reached out and covered his hand with hers.  “Yes, she is.”

Twelve years later, they were gathered in the living-room watching and smiling as Janet blew out the nineteen candles on her cake.  Ralph and Beth watched her.  It was hard to believe that it was same girl they had brought home from the orphanage.  She had grown into a lovely young lady.  They watched as she put a piece of the cake in Matthew’s mouth, laughing as he got some of the icing on his nose. “Do you suppose that those two will end up falling in love?” Beth asked in a low voice so that the others couldn’t overhear.

Ralph glanced at her.  “I wouldn’t object if that were to happen but you know Agnes…”

“Yes,” she sighed.  “She will do her best to sever any romantic attachment that may develop between them.”

Just then the doorbell rang.  “I wonder who that could be,” Ralph said.

“I’ll and see who it is.”  Beth hurried from the room and down the corridor to the front door.  She peered through the keyhole and her eyes widened in surprise and delight.  She opened the door.  “Blaine,” she exclaimed, hugging him.  “It’s so good to see you.”

He smiled.  “It’s good to see you too, Beth.”

“When did you get back?”

“Yesterday.”

“Come in.”

He went in and glanced toward the living-room where he heard voices and laughter.  “It sounds like you’re having a party.”

“Yes.  We are celebrating Janet’s birthday.”

“How old is she now?”

“Nineteen.”

“The last time I saw her, she was ten.”

“Yes, well, she’s all grown up now.  Wait till you see her.  Come and let me introduce you to everyone.”

He removed his shoes and followed her to the living-room.  Beth introduced him to Janet’s friends, some of the girls cast admiring glances at him.  He shook hands with Matthew.  “You’ve gotten tall,” he said, grinning.  Matthew smiled.

Blaine’s attention shifted to the girl standing next to Matthew.  “Janet?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

He stared at her. “I can’t believe how much you have changed since the last time I saw you,” he said.

She smiled.  “I’m not a child anymore.  I’m a woman.”

“A young lady,” Beth interjected.  “Are you hungry?” She asked Blaine.

He shook his head.  “I had a late lunch.”

“Would you like a slice of cake?” Janet asked.

“Yes, thank you.”  He knew he was staring but he couldn’t help it.  She had changed so much.  Gone was the little girl with the pigtails who used to follow him around, chatting incessantly about school, beg him to push on her on the swing and give her a piggyback ride.  Standing before him was a very attractive young lady in a pretty blue dress with a smile that melted his heart.

She cut a slice of cake and gave it to him.  “How long will you be staying?”

“Two weeks.”

“Only two weeks?”  She couldn’t hide the bitter disappointment she was feeling.  In the past his visits had been sporadic but she never had to wait for more than a year to see him.  This last time, nine years had passed before she saw him again and it would be for only two weeks.  He was a Management Consultant.  How she wished that he had a different job—one that would not take him out of the country and away from her.  She missed him terribly.  “Will you come again tomorrow?” she asked, hopefully.

He nodded.  “Yes,” he said quietly.  “We have a lot of catching up to do.”

Just then one of her friends pulled her away to take photos and Matthew joined him.  For the rest of the evening, they were apart, mingling with other people and at the end of the evening as things were winding down, he went over to her.  “I’ll be leaving now,” he said.

“You promise you will come tomorrow?”

He nodded.  “Yes.”  He reached down and hugged her.  “Happy birthday, Janet.”

She saw him to the door and stood there watching his tall, slender figure stride briskly to his parked Aston Martin car and climb in.  She waved and waited until the car disappeared before going back into the house.  She couldn’t wait to see him the next day.

He showed up the following afternoon as promised and subsequently every day for the two weeks he was in London.  She would sit there and listen to Ralph and Beth ask him countless questions about his travels, patiently waiting for her time alone with him.  As soon as that time came, she would take him outside where they would spend most of the afternoon.  Once, when they were standing by the swing, he said, “You’re too grown up now for me to give you a piggyback ride, but I can still push you on the swing.  She sat down and laughed as he pushed her.  It brought back memories.  Other times they sat on the deck talking for hours or go for walks.

Then, it was his final evening and they were out in the backyard.  The sun was setting.  It cast an orange glow on them as they stood there facing each other.

He studied her face.  “I must be leaving now,” he said quietly.  “Are you sorry to see me go?”

She glanced up at him.  “Yes,” she answered, surprised that he would ask such a question.  I don’t know when I will see you again.

“May I kiss you goodbye?” he asked, moving closer to her.

She looked up at him, her heart racing.  “Yes,” she said breathlessly.  She lowered her head so that he could kiss her on the forehead like he used to when she was a child.  Instead, she felt his hand under her chin raising her face up so that she was staring up into his.  She watched, mesmerized as he bent his head slowly towards hers and his lips get closer.  Her breathing was quick and unsteady now.  She felt his mouth on hers and readily responded. Blaine’s hands cupped her face as the kiss became more intense.

She clutched his arms, her fingers digging into the fabric of his jacket as she felt herself going weak in the knees.  Eyes squeezed shut as if to blot out the world, she savored her first kiss, wishing that it would last.  It lasted for several minutes and then Blaine drew back, his face flushed.  She reluctantly opened her eyes and looked up at him.  They were both breathing heavily.

“I have to leave now,” he muttered thickly.

“Why?” she asked.  “Why can’t you stay a little longer?”

“If I stay, I will kiss you again.”

“I want you to kiss me again—”

“No,” he groaned, pushing his fingers through his hair, his eyes darkening.  “I can’t.”

She looked bewildered.  “But why?”

“I’m too old for you, Janet.  You need to be with a guy your own age like Matthew.”

“But, I don’t want to be with Matthew or anyone else,” she cried.  “Why can’t I be with you?  You’re only ten years older than me.  You’re not like Maxim DeWinter who was forty-two and married a girl my age.”

“You’re right, I’m not Maxim DeWinter.  I can’t be with a girl so much younger than me.  In September, you will be attending university.  That means you will around people your age.  Sooner or later, you will meet someone, fall in love with him and forget about me.”

She shook her head.  “No, I won’t,” she cried.  “I love you,”

A muscle throbbed along his jaw line.  “You’re infatuated not in love.”

“Do you think because I’m young, I don’t know what love is?”

“I shouldn’t have kissed you,” he said.  “I don’t know what I was thinking.  It was an utterly foolish thing to do–” he broke off when she started to cry.  He pulled her into his arms and held her closely.  “Don’t cry,” he begged, as she buried her face in his chest.

The feel of her body against his was his undoing.  Unable to help himself, he gripped the hair at the nape of her neck and pulled her head back so that he stare down into her wet face before his lips closed feverishly over hers.  Her impassioned response to his kisses inflamed him.  It was no use.  He couldn’t walk away from her now.  She was in his blood and in his heart.

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Sources:  Gov.UK; International Adoption Guide; Evening Standard;  The Guardian; London City Mission