Affairs of the Heart

When Bianca went out on to the balcony of her friend Connie’s spacious flat, she was pleasantly surprised to see Chandler sitting there.  He looked so elegant although he was dressed very casually in a tan colored jacket, denim shirt and jeans.  The brown belt he wore matched the spiffy shoes she saw on the mat by the front door.  He was so handsome, she thought, her eyes eagerly drinking in each feature—the thick, silky dark hair, the incredible light grey eyes, olive skin and his lips…She started when she realized that she was staring.

For his part, he was staring at her too.  “It’s good to see you, Bianca,” he said as he got up and went over to her.  He put his arms around her and hugged her.  She hugged him back, closing her eyes and breathing in his fragrance.  He smelled so good.  It felt so wonderful being in his arms and held closely against him.  She put hers around his waist and wished that they could stay like that for a long while.  But just then, Connie’s voice reached them and Chandler drew back, releasing Bianca, his expression tense as he looked at her.  He moved away from her and stood leaning against the rail with his hands shoved in his pockets, a muscle pulsating along his jawline as he watched Connie approach.

Bianca sat down in the chair closest to her, her legs trembling.  She had to pull herself together before Connie saw her.  It was a hug between two friends but there was something else.  She felt it and sensed it.  At one point, she felt his arms tighten around her and his face in her hair.  What would have happened if Connie hadn’t been there?

She joined them now, her gaze going immediately to Chandler, her regard for him very evident on her face.  Then she turned to Bianca, her expression changing.  She doesn’t seem very pleased to see me, Bianca realized in surprise.  Perhaps it is because I didn’t call to tell her that I was coming over.

“Bianca, what are you doing here?” she asked.

Bianca got up from the chair, feeling a little embarrassed now.  “I’m sorry I didn’t call before I popped over but it was when I was on the tube, that I decided I would stop by your flat and ask you if you wanted to go with me to the Jazz concert in Chelsea.  It’s free and it sounds like fun.”

Connie shook her head at once.  “No thank you, Bianca.  I will pass.  Besides, I have already made plans.  Chandler and I will be spending the afternoon together.”

Chandler spoke up, “The Jazz concert sounds like a good idea.”

Connie pursed her lips.  “Jazz gives me a headache.  I prefer to go somewhere less crowded and I know the perfect place.  Well, Bianca, I guess you had better be heading off to your concert.  Call me later and let me know how it was.”

Bianca got up from the chair, wishing now she hadn’t bothered to come but then, she wouldn’t have seen Chandler.  Her eyes sought him and her heart lurched when she found him looking at her.   She went over to him and said, “It was good seeing you as usual, Chandler.”

“I hope we see each other again soon,” he replied.  And he reached out and caught her hand.  From where Connie stood she couldn’t see what he was doing but it was all Bianca could do to keep her composure.  It was hard when his thumb was caressing the back of her hand, stirring up all sorts of sensations.  The expression on his face made her mouth go dry. His light grey eyes were dark and stormy.  It was so obvious that he was attracted to her.  And it must be obvious to him that she was attracted to him too.  What about Connie?  Her gaze shifted to her friend and was mortified when she saw the hostility and jealousy in her countenance.  Yes, Connie had noticed the attraction between Chandler and her.

“I’d better go,” Bianca murmured looking away.  “I don’t want to be late for the concert.”

He released her hand with some reluctance and watched as she hurried past Connie. They heard the door close.  “You were a bit rude to her,” he said with some displeasure.

Connie glared at him.  “I saw the way you were looking at her,” she cried.  “You want her don’t you?  Well, you are wasting your time.”

He frowned.  “What do you mean?”

“She has a boyfriend.”

He grew pale.  “Are you sure?” he asked.

“Of course, I’m sure.  His name is Darnell.”

Chandler ran his fingers agitatedly through his hair.  “I had no idea,” he said in disbelief.

“Well, now you know.”

Chandler turned away and his hands gripped the rail as bitter disappointment filled him.  He closed his eyes but they soon opened when he saw Bianca’s face and remembered the look on her face when he was caressing her hand.  She could not have been in any doubt that I have feelings for her, he thought, and I could tell that she has feelings for me too but how could I pursue a relationship with her when she’s already in one? What a wretched business this thing called love is. He swung round to face Connie.  “I’m afraid I will have to cancel our plans,” he told her.

Connie stared at him in dismay.  “But, why?” she cried.

“I don’t feel up to going anywhere now,” he said simply.  “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“You’re cancelling on me because of Bianca?” she demanded.  “I knew her showing up here unexpectedly today was going to be a problem.   Now what am I going to do for the rest of the afternoon?”

“I’m sorry, Connie.  I’ll take a rain check.”  He walked past her and a few minutes later the door closed behind him.

Her face beet red, Connie marched into the living room, took up a vase of flowers and threw it on the floor.

Bianca sat at the concert, oblivious to the turmoil she was causing elsewhere.  Her mind and attention were not on the smooth sounds she was hearing but on Chandler.  This was the first time Connie and she wanted the same man.   They had been friends since high school but that friendship was in serious jeopardy now.  She would never forget the look on Connie’s face when she saw the attraction between Chandler and her.  Bitter resentment and jealousy marred her features.  She wondered what happened after she left.

She left the concert feeling that it was a waste of an afternoon.  When she got home, she was surprised to hear a message from Connie on her answering machine.  It said, “Well, Bianca, I hope you’re happy.  Chandler canceled our plans.  I can’t imagine why.  I saw the way you were looking at him.  If you want to remain my friend, you will forget about Chandler and set your sights on someone else.  Goodbye.”

Bianca stared at the machine.  All this time she thought Chandler and Connie were spending the afternoon together.  As she removed her jacket, she couldn’t help wondering why the sudden change of plans.  Connie didn’t seem to know or if she did, she wasn’t saying.  Perhaps, something unexpected came up and Chandler had to be somewhere else.  Whatever the reason, she couldn’t deny that she was relieved that they weren’t together now.  I wonder when I will see him again.  Then, she reproached herself for thinking such thoughts.  I must forget about him.  Connie met him first and they are more suitable for each other.  They are from the same pedigree.  I’m way out of my league.  What he feels for me may just be a physical attraction—nothing more.” The thought that his interest in her might just be purely sexual hurt but she had to be sensible about this. 

So that very day, she resolved to stay away from Chandler, not only because Connie requested it but to spare herself any heartbreak.  For the next several weeks, she avoided the usual crowd where she was sure to run into him.  She and Connie met for lunch once and she heard nothing but how much time Chandler and her friend were spending with each other.  She had to sit there and listen to Connie talk about how amazing Chandler looked in his swimming trunks and how wonderful it felt when he put sunscreen on her back.  “His hands felt so good on my skin,” she said, her eyes almost glazed over at the memory.  Bianca smiled but inside she was hurting.  The jealousy stabbed at her like a knife.  After that lunch, whenever Connie wanted them to meet up again, she always found an excuse not to.  She wasn’t going to sit there and listen to Connie talk  incessantly about her relationship with Chandler.

During the day, it was easy to occupy her mind but in the nights, her thoughts were filled with him, wondering if he ever thought about her.  Nothing had changed for her. She still loved and wanted him and it pained her to no end.  She lay awake for hours before drifting off into a fitful sleep.  How she longed to get away—go somewhere far but she knew that it wouldn’t make a difference.  No place existed where she could go and forget about Chandler.

One night, she was lying on the sofa, watching the television but not paying attention.  It was just background noise.  The doorbell rang and she sat up, wondering how it was.  She hoped it wasn’t Connie.  She really wasn’t in the mood for one-sided conversations.  She got up from the sofa and went to the door.  Her eyes widened and her heart somersaulted when she saw Chandler standing there.  How on earth did he find out where she lived?  It couldn’t have been from Connie.  She would never do that.

Taking a deep breath, she opened the door, her heart pounding.  How good he looked in the black shirt and dark blue jeans.  His face looked drawn and it seemed to her that he had lost a little weight.  Alarmed, she asked, “You’re not ill, are you?”

He shook his head.  “No, I’m not ill,” he told her.  “It’s nice to know that you still care.”

She stared at him, looking confused.  “What do you mean?”

“Each time Connie told me she saw you, I asked if you inquired after me and she said no.”

“She never gave me a chance.  All she talked about was your relationship and all the great things you were doing together.”

“We don’t have a relationship.  I admit that I tried to get forget you with her and she was quite willing to help.  One night at her flat after dinner, we started to get undressed—“

Bianca turned away, agitated.  “I don’t want to hear this,” she cried as the pain and jealousy tore through her.

He moved so that he was standing in front of her, his eyes dark and tormented.  “I thought that making love to her would get you out of my system,” he muttered tightly.  “But, I couldn’t go through with it. When I was kissing her, all I could see was your face.  I put my shirt back on and ran out of there as if the devil were chasing me.  I haven’t been in touch with Connie since.  This was about a month ago.  These past few weeks have been hell for me, Bianca.  I can’t stop thinking about you and wanting you.  I tried to stay away out of respect for Darnell but I had to see you one last time.”

She looked at him then, “Darnell?” she repeated.  “What do mean out of respect for him?”

“You have no idea how much the mere sound of his name torments me,” Chandler told her, his eyes were haunted as they met hers.  “Ever since I found out about him, I haven’t stopped thinking about how lucky he is to have an exceptional woman like you.  Many times I have wished that I could trade places with him.”

She was really confused now.  “What are you talking about, Chandler? “

He looked frustrated now.  “I’m talking about Darnell,” he muttered tightly.  “Connie told me about him.”

“What exactly did Connie tell you about my brother?”

He stared at her as if he hadn’t heard correctly.  “Darnell is your brother?”

“Yes.  He’s my older brother who lives in Manchester with his wife, my niece and nephew.  What did Connie tell you about him?”

He muttered something under his breath, his expression thunderous.  “She told me that he was your boyfriend.”

“My boyfriend?” she was aghast.  “Why would she do that?”

“No doubt, she did it out of jealousy.  She knew how I felt about you so she wanted to make sure that nothing would come of it.   It never occurred to me that she was lying.  All this time, I thought you were in a relationship and that drove me mad because I wanted you so much.”

“Chandler, is it just desire you feel for me?” she asked warily.

He shook his head and she could see the sincerity in his eyes as he answered, “No.  I feel a deep and consuming love for you, Bianca.  I have never experienced love before but I know that what I feel for you real.”

She reached up and touched his face, her eyes filled with the love which burned in her heart.  “I love you, Chandler.  I tried to get over you because of my friendship with Connie and because I was afraid of getting hurt.  I wasn’t sure that your feelings for me were more than physical.”

He lowered his head to kiss her.  She closed her eyes when she felt his warm lips on hers and her arms went around his waist, holding him closely against her.  They exchanged hungry kisses and then he raised his head to gaze down in her face.  “I love you, Bianca but as much as I am dying to show you how much, I think we should wait.”

She nodded.  “Why don’t we go for a walk in the park,” she suggested.  “It’s safer and it looks lovely outside.”

He smiled.  “Okay.  And we can stop somewhere and have a bit to eat as well.”

A couple weeks later they got engaged and after six months of trying to abstain from lovemaking, they got married.  Connie was not invited.  Bianca’s friendship with her ended the day when she found out about the lie she told Chandler.

They spent their honeymoon in Sorrento.  On the first night there, they went for a walk after dinner, holding hands and strolling through the little streets lined on both sides with shops.  They walked to a quiet spot where they stood watching the silent and looming Mount Vesuvius in the distance and the setting sun as it hovered over the Bay of Naples.  They sat on the bench for a little while just enjoying the pleasant evening and the view.  Then, they bought two gelati and ate them on the way back to the hotel.

As soon as they got back to their room, Chandler picked Bianca up and carried her over to the bed.  “Now, I finally get to show you how much I love you,” he murmured, his eyes darkening on her face.

She reached up and pulled his head down to hers, thinking no one else in the world could be as blissfully happy as she was at that very moment.

 

Advertisements

The Engagement Party

It was her friend Zoe’s engagement party and it was being held at Lord’s The Home of Cricket.  It was a beautiful venue.  Dinner was to be held in the elegantly furnished and intimate Writing Room.  On the walls hung paintings of cricketing scenes such as an imaginary game between England and Australia watched by high society ladies and gentlemen.  From there one could see the views of the Ground from the north end of the Pavilion.  However, neither of these things held her interest.  All she could see was him.

She stood against the wall watching him now.  He was talking to a couple.  She had noticed him the moment he walked in.  He was easily the most handsome man in the entire room.  Tall, slender with thick black hair dressed in an expensive looking black suit, white shirt and black tie, he looked very stylish.  He probably wouldn’t even notice me, she thought.

Just then, he looked up and their eyes met.   Her heart skipped a beat.  She wanted to look away but couldn’t.  She saw him say something to the couple and then he was walking toward her.  By now her heart was pounding heavily and her breath quickened.  As he approached she saw his eyes travel over her.  She was wearing a red ankle length dress which flattered her with red strappy low heel sandals and her hair was swept up in a pile of curls on top of her head.

He was standing in front of her now and this close he was even more striking.   He had exquisite brown eyes which were riveted on her face.  “Hello,” he said, holding out his hand.  “I’m Cole.”

She put her hand in his and his fingers enclosed hers in a warm handshake.  “Stephanie.”

“Are you here alone?” he asked.  He was staring at her and she could see the admiration in his eyes.

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“Are you Gary’s friend or Zoe’s?”

“Zoe’s.  She and I have been the best of friends since we attended university together.  I’m her maid of honor.”

“I’m her uncle.”  He smiled when he saw her surprised look.  “I get the same reaction from other people.”

He looked rather young to be Zoe’s uncle.  He was most likely in his late thirties which meant that he was a child himself when she was born.  All of her uncles were old enough to be her father.  She wondered what Zoe would say if she knew that she was attracted to hers.  Right now she was captivated by him.  “Zoe mentioned that you’re giving her away.”

“Yes.  Her father, my older brother died two years ago.”

“It’s a pity that he couldn’t be here.  Zoe has told me so much about him.  They seemed very close.”

“Yes, they were.  You’re very beautiful,” he said suddenly, startling her.  His expression was serious.

She swallowed hard, her eyes wide as they met his.  His thumb was caressing the back of her hand causing all sorts of tingling sensations in her.  “Th-thank you,” she managed to say.

“I see you’ve met my dear Uncle Cole,” Zoe’s voice said over his shoulder and he released Stephanie’s hand.

They turned to the smiling redhead who looked radiant in her gold lace maxi dress.  “I was going to introduce you but I see you have beaten me to it.  Isn’t he handsome?” she asked Stephanie, with a twinkle in my eyes.  “I think all of my girlfriends had a crush on him.”

“You’re exaggerating as usual,” Cole said to her.  “Are you having a good time?”

“I’m having a wonderful time, thanks to you and Mother.  They took care of all the arrangements,” she explained to Stephanie.

“It’s a wonderful venue,” Stephanie agreed.  “After dinner I would like to take a walk in the grounds.”  Cole glanced at her when she said that.

“Well, now it’s time to have dinner,” Zoe said.  “The two of you are sitting at my table.”  She slipped an arm in each of theirs and walked with them to the Writing Room.  Stephanie sat between Cole and Zoe.  Dinner was superb.  Afterwards there was dancing.  Stephanie watched as Zoe and Gary danced, thinking how romantic they looked.  Then, she felt a hand on her shoulder and turned around.  It was Cole.  He bent down and said in her ear, “Do you still want to take a walk on the grounds?” She nodded.  He straightened up and she got up from the table.

It was a warm evening and still bright.  Cole took her first to the cricket ground where the stands were and then to see the W.G Grace Statue.  “Who’s this?” she asked marveling at the sculpture.

“It’s W.G. Grace.  He was an English amateur cricketer who was important in the development of cricket.  He is considered to be one of the sport’s greatest players.  He played first class cricket for a 44 seasons.  He came from a family of cricketers.”

“Does it look like him?”

“Yes, it’s a remarkable likeness.”

“Are you a cricket fan?”

He shook his head.  “No. I’m more partial to soccer and rugby.  My father, however, was a cricket player and was a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club, owner of the Lord’s Ground.”

“It’s really nice out here,” she said.  “Do you mind if we sit for a bit on one of the benches over there?” To be honest, she wanted to rest her feet for a bit.  They were starting to feel sore because of the heels.  She was not used to doing a lot of walking in them and they were still fairly new.

“Not at all,” he said and they went over to one of the benches and sat down.  She was facing forward while he was turned towards her with his arm resting along the back of the bench.  “You know, it feels strange being alone with you like this,” he commented after a moment of silence passed.

She turned to look at him.  “What do you mean?” she asked.  She enjoyed being here alone with him and wished that they could stay there for a long time.

“I’m at least ten years older than you.  I’m deeply attracted to you and you’re my niece’s friend.”

Her pulse began to race.  “I’m twenty-six,” she said.  “How old are you?”

“Thirty-nine.  I will be forty in September.”

“There’s not that much of an age difference between us,” she said.

“It feels strange being attracted to a girl who’s the same age as my niece.”

She got up and looking down at him, she told him, “I’m not a girl.  I’m a woman and I know what I want.”  She saw his expression darken and then, he was up on his feet and pulling her roughly against him.

“And I know what I want,” he muttered before he kissed her passionately, his lips almost devouring hers.  And her arms went up and encircled his neck.  She pressed closer against him as she responded to the onslaught of his kisses.

There they stood for a long while exchanging hungry kisses before he raised his head to gaze down at her, breathing heavily, his eyes dark and stormy and his face flushed.  “We’d better go back before they start to wonder where we are,” he said.

Fighting to catch her breath, she could only nod and he released her.  On trembling legs she walked back to the party with him.  Before they went inside, he paused to look at her.  “When can I see you again?” he asked huskily.

“Any time you want,” she said.  How she longed to kiss him again.

“Good,” he said with a slight smile before he reached out and caressed her cheek with his knuckles.  Before they parted company, she wrote down her phone number and address on the back of his business card and gave it to him.  He thanked her as he put it in his breast pocket.  He joined his mother and other guests while she joined Zoe and their other friends.

It was after mid-night when she left the party.  She got a ride home with a friend.  Before she left, she went over to Cole and said goodnight to him, his mother and the people with them.  She tried to be discreet where he was concerned and so she could only afford to give him a brief glance before walking away.  He watched her go, his expression drawn and a muscle throbbing along his jaw-line.

Weeks passed and she didn’t hear from him.  By the third week she was heartbroken.  Zoe kept asking her what was wrong when they met to fit on the dresses for the wedding but she assured her that she was fine.  She didn’t want to upset her friend.  Why hasn’t he gotten in touch with me?  The wedding was in two weeks.  What was she going to do when she saw him then?  Act as if nothing had happened between them?  Act as if everything was all right when her heart was breaking?  How she ached for him.  She spent sleepless nights, thinking about him and wondering why he hadn’t called or visited her.

It was the night before the wedding and she was feeling terrible.  How she wished she didn’t have to go but how could she not?  Zoe was counting on her being there as her friend and as her maid of honor.  She couldn’t let her down.  But how was she going to face Cole?  What if he showed up with a date?  That would be devastating, to say the least.  She wouldn’t be able to hide her distress and everyone would know that she was in love with him.

She got up from the sofa and went over to the window to look at the flickering lights of London.  He was out there somewhere, she thought.  Was he alone or was he with a woman?  She closed her eyes as fierce jealousy tore through her.  She pressed her head against the cool window pane as the tears ran down her cheeks.

Her eyes flew open when she heard the doorbell.  She moved away from the window, wiping her eyes in her tee shirt.  She looked through the keyhole and her breath caught in her throat.  She quickly pulled back the latch and tugged open the door, her eyes eagerly slipping over Cole’s tall frame.  He was wearing a navy blue suit and a checkered shirt.  Unable to help herself, she reached out and pulled him inside.  She closed the door, locked it and leaned against it, her chest heaving.

He turned to stare at her, his expression drawn.  “I couldn’t stay away,” he muttered thickly.  “I tried to but I just couldn’t stay away from you.”

“But, why did you want to stay away from me?” she asked, bewildered.  “I thought you wanted to see me again.  You said so at the engagement party.”

“Yes, I wanted to see you again so badly but our age difference kept bothering me.”

“I don’t care about the age difference,” she told him angrily.  “I want to be with you, Cole.  And I know that you want to me with me.  That’s why you’re here now.  Have you any idea how miserable I’ve been these past weeks, wondering why I haven’t heard from you?”

“Many times, I wanted to call you or stop by but I managed to convince myself it would be better if I didn’t get in touch.”

“Better for whom?” she was beside herself now.  The emotions were just pouring out now and the hot tears were spilling down her cheeks.  She was angry at him and she began to pummel at his chest.  “How could breaking my heart be better for me?”

His eyes darkened and his eyes were filled with pain.  “I’m sorry,” he said as he caught her fists and held them firmly.  “I’m so sorry.  Please forgive me, Stephanie.  Please forgive me for being such a fool.”

She calmed down and he released her hands which fell at her sides.  He reached up and cupped her face, his thumbs wiping away the tears.  Her eyes met his and the emotion in them made him groan.  He lowered his head and kissed her.  Moaning, she closed her eyes and kissed him back, her arms wrapping themselves tightly about his waist.

After several minutes, he broke off the kiss to look into her eyes.  “I love you,” he muttered huskily.  “I love you so much.”

Fresh tears sprang to her eyes.  “I love you too,” she whispered.

“Will you go to the wedding with me tomorrow?” he asked.

“Yes, I would love to but everyone will know that you and I…”

“I don’t care,” he declared.  “They will find out soon enough.”

“What about Zoe?”

“It may take some time but she’ll get used to her uncle dating her best friend.  Do you have any more objections?”

She shook her head.

“Good,” he murmured before he kissed her again.

 

Source:  Lord’s the Home of Cricket; Wikipedia; MCC;

A New Chapter

Andrea waited until he was alone and then she went over to him.  He stood looking down at the grave, his face pale.  Her heart was heavy and she wanted so much to put her arms around him.  He looked up when she was standing beside him.  She didn’t say anything.  Words were not necessary.  The expression on her face adequately conveyed her sympathy.   He reached for her hand and drew her closer to his side.  “Stay with me for a while,” he said, his eyes filled with pain.  He and his father had been close.  They had been there for each other since his mother died when he was six.  Now, both of them were gone.

Andrea stood there with him, the tears silently rolling down her face and her hand clasped firmly in his. She would stay there with him for as long as he needed her to.  She glanced at him, wondering if he had any idea of how much she love him and wanted to take away the pain he was feeling.  She knew what it was like to lose a parent.  It was devastating.  She still missed her own father.  She wished he had been alive when she met Liam.  They would have gotten along very well.  They were so similar in many ways.

She met Liam at a mutual friend’s barbecue and they hit it off.  They became fast friends and spent a lot of time together.  From the very beginning she had been wildly attracted to him and those feelings evolved into the love that burned in her heart now.  She wasn’t sure how long she would be able to hide her feelings from him but their friendship meant the world to her so she did her best not to jeopardize it.

He turned to her now.  “Thank you for being here,” he said.

She brushed the tears away from her cheeks.  “Where else would I be?” she asked.  “We’re friends for life, remember?”

His eyes were restless on her face.  “Friends,” he repeated softly.  “Andrea, what if–?” he started to say when a few of the other mourners joined them.

She reached up and kissed him on the cheek.  “I’ll come by and see you later,” she promised.

He nodded and released her hand.  A muscle throbbed along his jawline as he watched her walk away.

Andrea went home and after fixing herself a salad, she cleaned her flat.  As she did her laundry, she wondered what he had been about to say before he was interrupted. He looked a bit odd when she said that they were friends for life.  When I see him later, I will ask him, she decided.

Finally, she was done with her chores and it was time to head over to Liam’s place.  She took a quick shower and left the flat.  She stopped at the supermarket and picked up some groceries.  She planned to fix him something to eat.  When she got there, he was not in the house.  She went to the kitchen and quickly unpacked the groceries.   Then she went out of the back door leading to the beach where she knew she would find him.  Her toes sank in the soft sand as she went down the embankment.

Liam was leaning against a tree, dressed in a white, knitted robe.  His hair looked a bit damp.  He had been swimming.  He watched as she approached him, a curious expression on his face.

She went up to him, her eyes searching his face.  How she longed to reach up and brush the hair from his forehead.  Instead, she shoved her hands in the pockets of her capri.  “How are you holding up?” she asked.

He shrugged.  “As best as I can,” he said.  “It will take some time to get used to not having him around, though.”

“I know,” she sighed.  “It took a very long time for me to get over losing my father but time makes all the difference.  And now I have my memories of him to keep me going.  It will be the same for you but it will take some time.  And, you’re not alone. I’m here for you.”

“Thank you, Andrea.  Your being here means a lot to me.”

“I brought over some groceries.  I’ll go and fix you something to eat.”

“No, don’t go,” he said, moving away from the tree.  “Come for a walk along the beach with me.”

“All right,” she said and fell into step with him as he walked along the water’s edge. She gazed out at the swell of the waves, savoring the tangy salt air and the sensation of the wet sand oozing between her toes.  The warmth of the sun felt good on her face.  It was peaceful here.  She felt as if they were the only two people in the world.

Liam stopped suddenly and turned to her, his expression serious.  “Andrea, you and I have been friends for a very long time,” he said.  “We have been through good times and bad.”

She looked up at him, wondering where this was leading.  “Yes, we have.”

He ran his fingers through his hair as he struggled to find the words.  “What if…what if I want us to be more than friends?”

She swallowed hard.  “Is this what you started to say to me at the cemetery?” she asked.

He nodded.  “For the longest while I have wanted to broach the subject but just never got around to it until this morning.  When I looked up and saw you standing next to me, I knew I had to say something.  I want to be more than a friend to you, Andrea.  Right now, I am aching to take you in my arms and kiss you.”

She moved closer, her heart pounding and her eyes betraying her feelings.  With a deep groan, Liam pulled her against him and kissed her.  She clung to him as she surrendered to the emotions that were churning inside her.   The sun bathed them in its golden light while the foamy water swirled around their ankles.  It was a beautiful afternoon–the perfect setting for the two solitary figures who were embarking on a new chapter in their lives.

 

The Age Difference

“I wish you were going with me,” Michelle sighed, looking at Connie as she lay on the sofa with her injured leg elevated on a couple of cushions.

“Even if I weren’t laid up here with a bad leg, I wouldn’t go with you,” she told her.

Michelle’s eyes widened in surprise.  “Why not?”

“You’re running away.”

“Running away from what?”

“You mean, from whom.  You’re running away from Paul.  No matter where you go, you can’t run away from your feelings for him.”

Michelle got up in agitation and went over to the window, looking out at the quiet street outside.  “He’s so young—”

“Michelle, he’s ten years younger than you, not twenty!”

Michelle shook her head.  “I should never have gotten involved with him.  I should have followed my mind and kept our relationship platonic but…”

“…You love him and he loves you.  Don’t let your age difference prevent you from being happy.  Besides, you don’t look your age at all.  You look younger.”

“I’m thirty-five years old and in love with a guy who graduated from university just three years ago.”

“So what?  He’s very mature for his age.”

Connie was right.  Paul was very mature for his age.  Still, she wished he were older. “I wish he were older.”

“So, you are going to throw away your happiness because of his age?  Would you feel better if he were to date a girl his age?”

The thought of him with someone else filled her with jealousy.  “No, I won’t,” she admitted.  “I don’t want him to be with someone else.”

“You can’t have it both ways, Michelle.  Either you hold on to him or you let him go.”

“That’s why I think I need to go away for a while.”

“Have you told him that you’re going away?”

“Not yet.  I’m going to tell him tonight.”

“Well, I hope you know what you’re doing.  He’s a terrific guy and he loves you.”

Michelle went over to the sofa, “I’ve got to go now,” she said.  She reached down and kissed the top of her friend’s head.  “Thanks for everything.”

“Call me and let me know how things turned out.”

“I will,” Michelle promised before she left.

It was around eight that night when Paul went over to her place.  He smiled when she opened the door.  After she closed it, he was about to pull her into his arms and kiss her when she pulled away.  “I need to talk to you,” she said, turning away.  For a brief moment, she closed her eyes as her feelings for him enveloped her.  I must do this, she told herself.   Her back was stiff, her hands were clenched and her heart was pounding as she walked toward the living-room.  He followed her.  She sat down on the sofa and he sat beside her, his expression troubled when he saw her face.

“What’s wrong, Michelle?” he asked.  He reached for her hand and was startled when she moved it away.

“I’m going away,” she said, not looking at him.  She was afraid to.  She knew that if she did, her resolve would weaken.

“Where?” he asked.  “For how long?”

“New York and for two weeks.”

“Are your parents all right?” he asked.  “Did you get bad news?  Is that why you’re going?  Let me come with you, Michelle–”

“No, Paul” she cried, getting up hastily from the sofa then and hurrying over to the window, wanting to put as much distance between them as possible.  “I’m going alone. Paul, I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”  There, she had said the words that had been playing over and over in her mind but the pain they invoked was unbearable.

In a flash he was beside her and turning her round to face him.  Tears were running down her face.  She tried to pull away but he refused to let go.  “Why must we stop seeing each other?” he demanded.  His face was pale and his eyes were filled with anguish and confusion.  “I love you, Michelle and I know that you love me.  Why do you want to end our relationship?”

“I’m much older than you,” she muttered.  “You should be with someone your own age.”

A muscle throbbed along his jawline.  “I don’t want to be with someone my own age,” he retorted.  “I want to be with you.”

Michelle closed her eyes as she felt her resolve crumbling.  “Paul, please…” her voice trailed off when she felt his lips on hers and unable to help herself, she responded wildly and the hands that had been about to push him away were pulling him closer.

When at length, he raised his head to look down into her face, his own flushed, he asked, “Do you still want to end what we have?”

She shook her head at once.  “No, Paul,” she cried.  “I won’t let my age come between us anymore.”

An expression of relief came over Paul’s face.  “So, no trip to New York?”

She shook her head.  “I’ll cancel it first thing in the morning,” she promised.

“Good.”  He swept her up into his arms.  “We belong together, Michelle.”

She wrapped her arms around his neck as he carried her out of the room.

The Good Soil

As she planted the bean seeds in the rich soil, she

thought of the parable Jesus told about the sower.

The sower was sowing seed which was the Word

of God.  The seed fell among different types of places/soil.

Which type of soil was she?  Was she the rocky soil

which represented those who hear the message, receive

it with joy but since they don’t have deep roots, they believe

for a while and then fall away when they face temptation?

 

Or was she the thorns which represented those who hear

the message, but the message is quickly crowded out by

the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they

never grow into maturity?

 

Or was she the good soil which represented honest,

good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to

it, and patiently produce a huge harvest?

 

She did not believe that she was the wayside which

represented those who hear the message, only to have the

devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent

them from believing and being saved.

 

Which soil was she?  There were times when she was

so busy that she didn’t have time to read her Bible

and most of the time she fell asleep while praying.

When things got tough or she was faced with

temptation, she vacillated between going to God

in prayer and trying to handle the problem on

her own.

 

Which soil was she?  She had her moments when

she talked about the Bible with those who cared

to listen.  Was she making a difference, though?

Were the seeds that she planted germinating

in that person’s life?  What about her own

spiritual growth?

 

She knew which soil she wanted to be but, first

she had to let the Word of God take root and

grow in her.  Only then could she bear good fruit.

 

woman planting bean seeds2

 

Source:  Blue Letter Bible

A Second Chance

Natalie stood on the deck watching the Mediterranean Sea. It was a beautiful morning and it was the first day at sea.  She was on her second honeymoon.  For twenty-five years she was married to her first husband, Richard, a truly wonderful man.  They had started out as friends and then their relationship developed into something they hadn’t expected but felt was a blessing.

Together they raised two remarkable kids—Josh and Annie.  Those years with Richard were the happiest for her.  So, it was devastating when he died.  It was so sudden.  He was on his way home from the office when he collided with another vehicle which ran a red light.  The other driver escaped with scrapes and scratches but Richard’s injuries were severe.  He died at  the hospital.  It was her faith and the consolation of family and friends that got Natalie through those horrific years after Richard was gone.

 

In time the pain grew less and she was able to think of Richard without breaking down. She slowly began adjust to life without him.  Her kids now grown encouraged her to go out and enjoy herself.  She attended dinner parties, operas, ballets, concerts and even went on a cruise with a group of single friends.  It was on that cruise where she met Mark.  He was travelling with some friends too.  They shared the same dinner table and while the others went off either to the casino or to watch the live entertainment, she opted to go to the deck where she stood, enjoying the cool night air.  He joined her.  They spoke and she found that she enjoyed his company though she couldn’t get past the fact that he was much younger than her.  Still, he was really nice and she was so relaxed around him.  They spent a lot of time together and when the cruise was over, they exchanged phone numbers, promising to keep in touch.

 

Life returned to its old routine when she returned home but the highlight of her evenings was speaking to Mark on the phone  for hours.  They made plans to see each other over the summer.   She introduced him to her family and they seemed to like him although her mother didn’t seem too pleased.  She didn’t know exactly when it happened but she knew that she had fallen in love with Mark.  One night when they were sitting on the sofa, having tea, Mark confessed that her.  He asked her to marry him and she accepted but after he left, she worried about her family’s reaction.

 

She waited until they were at her mother’s house to make the announcement.  You could have heard a pin drop.  Her news had knocked them all for a loop.  It was some time before someone said something.  Josh spoke up.  “I can’t say that I am happy that you are marrying a man in my age group but I won’t stand in your way.”

 

Annie hugged her and said, “Yes, Mom.  You deserve to be happy again.  And I don’t see why it’s okay for a man to marry a woman much younger than him but a woman can’t marry a younger man.”  She said that for her grand-mother’s benefit.

 

Natalie looked at her mother whose expression was thunderous.  “How could you seriously be thinking of marrying a man half your age?” she demanded.

 

Natalie drew a deep breath.  “I didn’t plan to fall in love with a man younger than me but it happened.  Like you, I had a problem with our age difference in the beginning but I remembered that father was considerably older than you and yet, you were so happy together.  Mother, I am sorry that you don’t approve but God has given me another chance at happiness and I am going to take it.   We haven’t decided on a wedding date as yet but I will let you know as soon as we do.”

 

Her mother pursed her lips.  “Well, don’t expect me to be there,” she said.

 

And true to her word, she didn’t attend the wedding.  Nor did Mark’s parents which came as no surprise to her.  Still, she had hoped they make an appearance for their son’s sake.   She met them once when she was invited to dinner at their home in Long Island but that meeting didn’t go well.  They raised the same objections as her mother.  Mark’s mother had remarked that Natalie was a lot older than she expected.

 

It was a beautiful and simple wedding with some family and friends in attendance.  Her son gave her away and her daughter was the bridesmaid.  It was a day she would always remember.   And here she was now, basking in the joy she didn’t imagine she would experience again.  She had twice been blessed with two great men and she was thankful to God who had been her Anchor during those dark moments.  He had brought Mark into her life.

 

Mark.  He must be awake by now and wondering where she was.  She turned away from the rail and walked back to their cabin with its scenic view of the ocean, her steps quickening in anticipation.

 

woman in hat on deck of ship

GoodWeave

Childhood means simplicity. Look at the world with the child’s eye – it is very beautiful – Kailash Satyarthi

I was doing research on child labor in South Asia and came across a website for an organization called, GoodWeave“GoodWeave aims to stop child labor in the carpet industry and to replicate its market-based approach in other sectors.” The founder, Kailash Satyarthi won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai in 2014.  Read the story here.

Check out Stand with Sanju, a video which demonstrates how consumer buying power could end child slavery in the carpet industry.

Read stories of children who were forced into child labor like Kumar who was pulled out of school to work and sent away with a carpet broker to pay off the family’s loan or young Anjana who was forced to be the breadwinner of her family because her abusive father sank the family deeper and deeper into debt or Tanka who chose to go with a man to Kathmandu rather than remain in an abusive home.  As you read these heartbreaking stories, imagine what it would be like if your own son or daughter was forced into child labor.

Children should be in school learning, not working in factories or other companies that exploit and mistreat them.  They should be allowed to be children.

If you are interested in supporting GoodWeave in their campaign to end child labor, here are ways you can do so:

  • Insist on the GoodWeave label when you’re shopping for a handmade rug, whether online or in a store near you.
  • Donate to the One in a Million campaign—dollar makes a difference.
  • Tell your friends and colleagues to ask for the GoodWeave label through Twitter or Facebook.
  • Give us feedback on the One in a Million campaign and earn a chance to win a GoodWeave certified rug by Company C by filling out a short survey here.Learn more about the lives of the million children who were working on the looms when GoodWeave was founded—and the everyday heroes working to rescue and educate them.
  • Sign up for GoodWeave’s quarterly newsletter to keep up with the news at GoodWeave.
  • Organize a fundraiser at your school, place of worship, home or business. Contact us for more ideas and materials.
  • Blog about GoodWeave or carry GoodWeave’s banner ad on your blog or website.
  • Request a GoodWeave certified rug in your wedding or gift registry (for example, using GoodWeave partner 2modern’s registry service), or ask that guests make a donation in GoodWeave’s name.

A lot of work still remains but I will see the end of child labor in my lifetime – Kailash Satyarthi 

Sources:  GoodWeave; AZ Quotes