Josee and Ariel

african american teenage girl

She was relaxing on the sofa, waiting for him to come home.  As as soon as her class ended, she left the university campus. She took  the bus to the condo building where they lived.  She did her homework and or studied for exams in the study for about two hours.  By the time she was done, it was time to fix dinner.

She loved preparing dinner for him.  He enjoyed her cooking.  Her mother taught her when she was 12.  “One of these days you’re going to be a wife.  The sooner you learn how to cook and keep a home, the better it will be for you.”

And here she was waiting for her husband after preparing one of his favorite meals.  Being married to him was beyond what she could have ever imagined.  Every night, she thanked God for blessing her with a wonderful guy whom she was madly in love with and who was madly in love with her.

They got engaged just months after she had introduced him to her mother and sister.  She still hadn’t met his family as yet.  Only his grandmother who was her piano teacher.  Three years ago, it was at her house where they met one afternoon during one of her lessons.  It was on a Thursday afternoon and she was playing the piano when he walked into the living-room.

He sat in the chair by the window and listened to her play.  She was acutely aware of him but remained focused on her playing.  When she was finished, his grandmother, Mrs. Eidelman introduced them.  “Josee, this is my grandson, Ariel.  He’s a lawyer.”

Ariel smiled and held out his hand.  He had the most incredible eyes she had ever seen.  He was tall and very handsome.  “It’s nice to meet you, Josee,” he said shaking her hand.

She smiled shyly.  “It’s nice to meet you too.”

“While you two become acquainted, I’ll go and make us some tea.”

Josee sat down on the sofa and Ariel sat beside her.  “You play the piano very well,” he remarked.

“Thank you.”

“My grandmother is an excellent teacher.  She taught my brother and me how to play the piano as well.”

“Maybe you could play something.”

“Sure.”  He got up and went over to the piano.  He sat down and played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.  When he was done, he rejoined her.

“That was amazing,” Josee said.  “Is your brother as good as you?”

“He’s way better than me and that’s why he’s the musician in the family and I’m the lawyer.”

“How do you like being a lawyer?”

“Actually, I love being a lawyer because I get to make a difference in someone’s life.  I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer after I watched the movie, To Kill A Mockingbird.”

“That’s one of my favorite books.  I always said that if I were living in those times and my father was in trouble, I would want Atticus Finch to be his lawyer.”

Ariel smiled.  “It’s one of my favorite books too and Atticus Finch is the kind of lawyer whom most of us in the profession aspire to be like.”

Just then, his grandmother rejoined them and as they had their tea and Apple cake, they spoke about other things.  Then, it was time for Josee to leave.  Ariel offered to give her a ride home.

“So, you know that I’m a lawyer and that I have a brother but I don’t know anything about you except that you’re learning to play the piano.  Which school do you go to?”

She told him.  “It’s a very good school.  I’m going to miss going there.  I’m graduating this summer.”

“Have you decided what you want to study when you go to university?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  I’ve decided that I want to study biomedical engineering.”

“That’s great!” he exclaimed.  “Engineering has been a male dominated field for a long time but I don’t think it will be for much longer.  More and more women are becoming engineers.”

“My father was an engineer so I want to be like him.”

“Were you and he close?”

She nodded.  “Yes, very.  I was devastated when he died.”

“How old were you when he died?”

“Eight.”

“How old are you now?”

“Seventeen.  I’m going to be eighteen in April.”

“Are you dating?”

“No.”  She wanted to ask him the same question but was too shy to do so.

“I’m not dating either.  I’m ten years older than you so, would you have a problem dating me?”

She stared at him.  He wanted to date her.  “No, I wouldn’t have a problem,” she replied.  “What about your family?  Wouldn’t they have a problem with you dating me?”

He shrugged.  “They might.  My mother has always wanted me to marry a nice Jewish girl.  She even has one lined up for me but I’m not interested.”

“I’m a Christian.”

“So?  I won’t be the first Jewish guy to date a girl outside of my faith and I won’t be the last.”

“I don’t think my mother wouldn’t have a problem because, Jews and Blacks have a lot in common.”

“Yes.  We were once enslaved and have always been targeted by hate groups.”

“It’s a sad world we live in.  I can’t wait for Jesus to return.”

“So, are you busy on Saturday?”

“I’m free after sunset.  Like you, Saturday is my Sabbath.”

“So, you’re an Adventist.  I have several friends who are.  We have a lot in common, except Jesus.  You believe that He’s the Messiah and we don’t.  There are many Jews who no longer hold to a personal Messiah, but hope for a messianic age of justice and truth.  For many of us, the coming of the Messiah or the messianic age still lies in the future.”

“Did you know that the first Christians were actually Jews?”

“Really?”

“Yes.  All of the writers of the New Testament were Jewish Christians except Luke who wrote one of the Gospels.  He was a non-Jewish doctor.”

“That’s another thing we don’t have in common.  We don’t accept the inspiration of the New Testament or its account of the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.”

“In Hebrews, the writer explains how the sacrifices for sin and the Day of Atonement in great detail.  Maybe one of these days, we can read it together.”

“Maybe.  So, may I take you out for dinner on Saturday evening?”

She nodded with a smile.  “Yes.”

When he took her home and he followed her to the front door, she invited him in to meet her mother and younger sister, Deidre.  “It’s nice to meet you, Ariel,” her mother said as she shook hands with him.  “I’ve heard so much about you from your grandmother.”

Ariel smiled.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you too,” Mrs. Carter.  “You have a very nice home.”

“Thank you.  And thanks for bringing Josee home.  I hope we will see more of you.”

“You will,” he promised.  He smiled and shook Deidre’s hand before he announced that he had to leave.

Josee walked him out to the porch.  “Thanks for the ride home.”

“It was my pleasure.  I’m looking forward to seeing you on Saturday evening.  I’ll pick you up at 7.”

“Ok.”

“‘Bye, Josee.”

“‘Bye, Ariel.”  She watched him walk to and get into his car and drive away before she went back into the house.

“He seems very nice,” Deidre said.

“And very handsome,” her mother remarked.

That night Josee told her that Ariel wanted to take her out for dinner on Saturday.  “He wants to date me.”

“Well, I don’t have a problem with you dating him.  Just make sure that you don’t go to his place or do anything you know you shouldn’t.”

“So, you don’t mind that he’s in his late twenties?”

“I was your age when I met your father.  He was in his twenties too.”  She smiled.  “I don’t have any objections.”

Josee smiled.  “Thanks, Mom.”

After their first date, Josee and Ariel began dating.  On her eighteenth birthday, he proposed and she readily accepted.  She told her mother who said, “I think that the two of you should wait for at least three years before you get married.”

“You mean when I’m 21.”

“Yes.  You will be a young adult then.”

“All right,” Josee agreed.  “We’ll wait.”

“Make sure that the two of you go for premarital counseling.  It’s very important that you do.”

Three years later, soon after her 21st birthday, they got married by a rabbi and a priest at a non-denominational chapel.  It was a beautiful ceremony which included both Christian and Jewish rituals.  Her family, high-school and university friends were there.  Ariel’s parents didn’t attend but his brother and grandmother along with his friends and colleagues were present.  The reception was held at a banquet hall.  Josee looked lovely in her simple but elegant dress with her hair in an french knot.  Her face was devoid of any makeup and the only jewelry she wore was her wedding ring.  Ariel looked very handsome in his wedding suit.  As they faced each other and exchanged rings, there were tears in their eyes.  The love they felt for each other was evident on their faces.  Her mother was moved to tears.  In her heart, she knew that her daughter was going to be all right because God was in this.

For their honeymoon, they went to Montego Bay.  They spent eight glorious days on the island.  She smiled now as she remembered their first night in the suite after they had a mouth watering dinner and went for a walk along the beach.  They were both very nervous and excited.  For several moments they stood there staring at each other and then he was holding her in his arms and kissing her.  Since it was her first time, he took it slow.  However, the other nights, he was like a ravenous wolf.  She trembled at the memories.

“What are you smiling about?” the inquiry brought her back to the present and she looked up as Ariel walked into living-room.  She immediately got up from the sofa and hurried over to him.  He lifted her up in a hug.  She put her arms around his neck and lowered her head to kiss him.

“I was just remembering our honeymoon in Montego Bay,” she said after she drew back to gaze down at him.Image-4_4

He smiled.  “I think about it a lot too.”

“Dinner is ready.  While you go and change, I’ll set the table and share out.”

His eyes darkened on her face.  “I’m hungry but not for food,” he murmured before he carried her into the bedroom.  After closing the door behind them, he set her down by the bed so that he could get undressed.  Soon they were under the sheets making passionate love.

Dinner was still very warm when they finally had it.  As they ate, they told each other how their day went.  “I told my friend, Allison that we’re going to Florida next week for three weeks and she suggested that we visit Beth Tehillah Vetikva in Hollywood, Florida.”

“Is that a synagogue?” he asked.

“It’s an Adventist Messianic Congregation made up of both Jews and non-Jews who believe that Yeshua is the Messiah.”

“Josee…”

“I Googled them and it says on their website that they worship God in the context of their Hebraic heritage and they believe that we should live our lives by the word of God.  They also observe the Torah.  Please, let’s just go and see what it’s like.  Allison said that if you don’t like it, there’s a Jewish synagogue not far from there where you can go to instead.”

“All right, I’ll go but I’m only doing it because of you.”

She smiled.  “Thank you.”

They went to Beth Tehillah Vetikva and they both loved it so much that they decided to spend the entire three weeks in Hollywood instead of heading to Tampa as originally planned.  Several months after Josee graduated from university, they moved to Hollywood.  They joined the congregation of Beth Tehillah Vetikva after Ariel was baptized following a series of Bible Studies.

Ariel joined one of the top law firms in Hollywood while Josee got a Biomedical Engineer job at the University of Miami.  Eight years later, they were expecting their first child.  Josee’s friend, Allison was invited to the baby’s dedication because it was on account of her that they went to the House of Praise and Hope where Ariel finally accepted Jesus as the Messiah.

Many Jews now recognize that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel. The World Jewish Adventist Friendship Center therefore provides a place within the Seventh-day Adventist denomination for every Jew who is waiting for the second coming of Jesus our Messiah to worship God in the context of their faith without denying their own culture – Richard Elofer, World Jewish Adventist Friendship Center Director

Sources:  BBC; Shiksha; My Tea Planner; Inl India; IEEE Spectrum; The International Bible Society; Waiting for Your Boaz; Chicago Tribune; Linkedin; Beth Tehillah Vetikva; World Jewish Adventist Friendship Center;

Sewing for a Better Future

Seven Wells is “a faith-based development organization raising up a generation who will transform Africa.”

In 2005, they started a sewing school for mothers.  The women attend Monday to Friday for 9 months with the goal that at the end they have a trade.  About 300 of them have graduated and are now self-sufficient and able to afford the basic necessities of life.  This helps them to feel good about themselves because they can take care of their families.  They have a purpose in life now.

This December 10 to 12 women are graduating and Seven Wells is hoping to provide each one with her own sewing machine so she can start her own business.  This is where you come.  The cost of a sewing machine is approximately $150, but you can donate any amount you would like to empower these women, making it possible for them to have a better future.  Not only will you have the satisfaction of knowing that you have helped a woman take care of her family but if you donate $50 or more you will receive a special gift sewn by these women mailed to you.

Help to make a difference in a woman’s life in Rwanda by making it possible for her to have her own sewing machine.  If you would like to make a donation visit here or if you would like to learn more about Seven Wells and the work they do, visit here.  These women are sewing for a better future.  Let’s do what we can to help them.

The Artist

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He’s a brilliant man and artist whose mercurial temperament has left him with very few friends.  I’m the only one who puts up with his moods.  Call it love or call it madness.  I can’t tell the difference.

38 Words

This is for the Weekend Writing Prompt by Sammi Cox. For instructions, click Here.

The Queen of Soul

“When God loves you, what can be better than that?” ~ Aretha Franklin

There is so much I could write about Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul but I decided to concentrate on the highlights of her music career and her “social and civic contributions”.

Aretha Louise Franklin was  born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee.  Her father, Clarence LaVaughn “C. L.” Franklin was a Baptist minister and a circuit preacher while her mother, Barbara was an accomplished piano player and vocalist.  Theirs was a troubled marriage because of her father’s philandering.  The couple separated in 1948.  Before her tenth birthday, Aretha’s mother died from a heart attack.  Several women, including her grandmother and Mahalia Jackson alternated helping the children at the Franklin home and it was during this time that Aretha learned to play the piano by ear.

Following her mother’s death, Aretha began singing solos at New Bethel, debuting with the hymn, “Jesus, Be a Fence Around Me.”  When she was twelve, her father became her manager, bringing her on the road with him during his “gospel caravan” tours for her to perform in various churches.

Her music career found Aretha signing on with big recording giants such as Columbia, Atlantic, Arista and RCA.  She belted out many hits such as You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, I Say A Little Prayer, Hold On, I’m Comin’.  And she thrilled the younger generation with Who’s Zoomin’ Who and Freeway of Love.  Hearing Freeway of Love transported me back to the ’80s which were a great time for me when I was living in New York.  And who could forget I Knew You Were Waiting For Me, her number one duet with George Michael?

In 1980, she gave a command performance before the Queen at Prince Albert’s Hall, in 2009 she sang at the 2009 inauguration of President Barak Obama.  In the following year, she received an honorary degree from Yale University.  In 2014, she received honorary degrees from Harvard University and New York University as well as honorary doctorates in music from Princeton, Yale, Brown, Pennsylvania, Berkeley, New England Conservatory of Music and University of Michigan.  She was the recipient of other honors such as Doctor of Humane Letters and Doctor of Law degree.

Aretha was dubbed “one of the giants of soul music, and indeed of American pop as a whole.  More than any other performer, she epitomized soul at its most gospel-charged.”  Her voice was described as being a “powerful mezzo-soprano voice” and she was praised for her arrangements and interpretations of other artists’ hit songs.  At the age of 14 when she recorded her first album, Songs of Faith, Jerry Wexler declared that her voice “was not that of a child but rather of an ecstatic hierophant.”  A hierophant is a person who brings religious congregants into the presence of that which is deemed holy.  Aretha’s explanation for that would have likely been, “Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I’m using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I’m happy with that.”

Singing and music weren’t her only passions.  Aretha was a civil rights activist.  Throughout her life, she was involved in the struggle for civil rights and women’s rights.  When Angela Davis was jailed in 1970, Aretha told Jet Magazine that, “Angela Davis must go free… Black people will be free. I’ve been locked up (for disturbing the peace in Detroit) and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace. Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a Black woman and she wants freedom for Black people.”  Not surprisingly, her songs “Respect” and “Natural Woman” became anthems of these movements for social change.  She was also a staunch supporter of Native American rights, supporting their struggles worldwide and movements which fostered their cultural rights.

“We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It’s our basic human right” ~ Aretha Franklin

It was a sad day when it was announced that the great Aretha Franklin passed away after losing her battle with pancreatic cancer.  She leaves behind a world touched by her music, her incomparable voice and her effortless work in championing human, civil and women’s rights.  She was the first woman to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.  In 2013, she was again ranked first in Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Singers” list.

“American history wells up when Aretha sings.  Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock and roll—the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope” – President Obama in response to her performance of “A Natural Woman” at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors.

Notes to Women salutes the woman with “the voice of the civil rights movement, the voice of black America” and a “symbol of black equality”  She was an inspiration not only for those in the music world but for all of us.  Although she is no longer with us, her music, her legacy will live on.

“It really is an honor if I can be inspirational to a younger singer or person. It means I’ve done my job” ~ Aretha Franklin

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Sources:  Wikipedia; Brainy Quote

Encounter on the Beach

Tanya was rubbing sunscreen on her arms when she felt someone watching her.  Looking up, she saw Benjamin.  He was lying on his stomach in the sand, close to the water’s edge, his head propped up by his hand.  His glistening body was covered in sand.  She couldn’t deny that she was extremely attracted to him but he was younger than her.  She never went out with men younger than her.  They were either her in age group or older.

He didn’t hide the fact that he was attracted to her.  Whenever they saw each other, he would ask her to go out with him and she would turn him down.  He was very persistent.  Right now he look so good lying in the sand.  Shaking her head and ignoring her body’s response, she dragged her eyes away from him and continued applying the sunscreen.

Several minutes later, he was standing next to her.  “Hi, Tanya.”

She had no other choice but to look up and when she did, she couldn’t prevent her eyes from traveling over his dripping body.  He had washed the sand off.  She swallowed hard when her eyes met his.  “Hi, Ben.”

“It’s always a pleasure to see you.  Are you here alone?”  He began to dry his skin, his eyes never leaving her face.  His lips twitched slightly when he saw her gaze follow the movements of the towel.

“Yes, I’m–I’m alone.  What about you?”  What did she have to sound so breathless?  And she wished her heart would stop racing.

“Yes, I’m alone too.  Do you mind if I join you?”

She shook her head.  “No, I don’t.”

He finished drying himself, spread the towel beside her and sat on it.  His eyes left her face to slowly travel down her bikini clad body.  “You look amazing,” he remarked, his expression serious as he met her gaze.  “You’re easily the most beautiful woman I know.”

“Thank you.”  His eyes were caressing her and she sucked in her breath sharply when he reached out and ran his fingers down her arm.  A jolt of electricity coursed through her body and there were curious sensations in the pit of her stomach.  It was becoming impossible to breath normally.

“Why won’t you go out with me?” he asked.  “I know you’re attracted to me.”

“You’re younger than me,” she mumbled.  He had taken the sunscreen from her hand and gotten on his knees.  She jumped when she felt him smearing it across her back.  His fingers felt nice and firm against her skin.  She closed her eyes.  How was it possible for something as simple as putting on sunscreen to become so sensuous?

“There’s only a seven years age difference between us,” he pointed out.  “Don’t let something like that prevent us from having what we both want.”  He moved closer so that his body was touching hers.  His breath was unsteady now and unable to help himself he lowered his head and pressed his lips against her shoulder.  He felt her tremble against him.  He raised his head, his heart pounding.  “Tanya, please have dinner with me tonight.”

She was incapable of doing anything else except nod her head in assent and whisper, “Yes.”

“Thank you,” he murmured.  He set the bottle down.  “I think we should go and cool off in the water.”  He stood up and helped her to her feet.

Her legs felt wobbly.  After she regained her senses and composure, she followed him to the water’s edge.  Holding her hand, he led her into the cool water where they spent a good chunk of the afternoon.

Following that encounter on the beach and a night of dinner and dancing, they began dating and a year later they tied the knot.

Jennie Kidd Trout

What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make – Jane Goodall

Today would have been Jennie Trout’s 117th birthday.  I never heard of her until a few minutes ago when I saw an image of her on Google’s logo.  Of course, I had to find out who Jennie Trout was.  She was the first woman in Canada to become a licensed medical doctor in March 1875. Jennie was the only woman in Canada licensed to practice medicine until July 1880, when Emily Stowe completed the official qualifications.

Jennie Kidd Trout was born in Kelso, Scotland.  In 1847, she moved with her parents to Canada.  They settled in Stratford, Ontario.  After graduating, Jennie became a teacher after taking a teaching course and continued teaching until her marriage to Edward Trout in 1865.  The couple moved to Toronto where Edward ran a newspaper.

It was her own battle with “nervous disorders” shortly after her marriage, which made Jennie decide to practice medicine.  In 1871, she passed her matriculation exam and studied the University of Toronto.  Jennie Trout and Emily Jennings Stowe were the first women admitted to the Toronto School of Medicine, by special arrangement.  However, Emily refused to sit her exams in protest of the university’s demeaning treatment of the two women.  In the following video is the reenactment of how Jennie stood up to the prejudices of her male counterparts in the classroom.

Jennie ended up transferring to the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, where she earned her M.D. on March 11, 1875 and became the first licensed female physician in Canada.

Jennie opened the Therapeutic and Electrical Institute in Toronto where there were specialized treatments for women involving “galvanic baths or electricity.” A galvanic bath uses the components of water and gentle electrical current. You lie in a 34 degree Celsius Bath, electricity is then passed through your body. Galvanic bath’s are mostly used in the treatment of degenerative diseases such as inflammatory arthritis and problems with the joints. The treatment lasts about 15 minutes (SMOKH)

For six years, she ran a free dispensary for the poor at the same location as the Institute which became so successful that branches in Brantford and Hamilton were later opened.

In 1882, due to poor health, Jennie moved to Palma Sola, Florida.  She was instrumental in the establishment of a medical school for women at Queen’s University in Kingston. Her family travelled extensively between Florida and Ontario and later moved to Los Angeles, California, where she died in 1921.

In 1991, Canada Post issued a postage stamp in her honour to commemorate her as the first woman licensed to practice medicine in Canada.

Notes to Women celebrates this phenomenal woman who made history and left an indelible mark in the medical profession.  She is an inspiration for us all.

Sources: Wikipedia; Susanna McLeod ; Goodreads

The Age Difference

He traced his fingers over the heart with the initials TB + CH.  Eight years ago, he had carved them there.  Toby Barrington and Celeste Holmes.  Celeste.  Sighing heavily, he leaned against the tree as he recalled the first time they met.  It was eight years ago, just before the summer holidays began.

instead of going straight home, after leaving the college campus, he went to his mother’s office but she wasn’t there.  Instead, a woman he didn’t recognize was at the desk, sorting papers with her back to the door.  He stood there for a moment watching her.  Her hair was cropped short like a boy’s but when she turned around, her figure in the white blouse and pencil skirt was anything but boyish.  She smiled and walked over to him.  “You must be Toby,” she said, extending her hand.

He stared at her.  She had the most exquisite face he had ever seen.  She looked to be in her mid to late twenties.  Swallowing hard, he took her hand which felt small and soft in his.  “Yes,” he managed to say.

“I’m Celeste, your mother’s new assistant.  She told me that she was expecting you.  Please come in and have a seat over there by her desk.  She’s in a meeting right now but should be here shortly.”

He went over to the desk and put his knapsack on the floor beside the chair.  He didn’t sit but remained standing, watching her.  She finished the task she was doing before he interrupted and when she was done, she turned to face him.  “Would you like me to get you anything?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No, thank you.”

“All right.  If you change you need anything, just stop by my desk.  It’s nice meeting you.  I have heard so much about you.”

“It’s nice meeting you too.”  He wondered if his face was red.  It felt hot.  He knew he was staring but he couldn’t help it.

“Excuse me,” she said with a smile and quickly walked away.  He watched her until she disappeared.

He sat down on the chair and as he waited for his mother, he thought about Celeste.  When his mother finally joined him, apologizing profusely for keeping him waiting he nodded abstractedly, wondering when he was going to see Celeste again.  “Mother, do you mind if I were to pop by here again tomorrow?” he asked.

“Not at all, Dear.”

After the following day, he found excuses to stop by the office just so he could see Celeste until one day, his mother said to him, “Since you seem to like coming by the office so often, how would you like to work here for the summer?”

His face brightened.  “I would like that very much,” he assured her.  What a stroke of luck.  He was going to see Celeste all summer.  He was to start on the following week.   When he arrived bright and early on his first day on the job, it was Celeste who walked him through what his responsibilities were.  She was to be his supervisor which pleased him tremendously.

For the first couple of days, she sat with him and then, he was faring well on his own but it thrilled him whenever she stopped by to check his progress.  As she leaned over him to check something on his computer screen, he caught a whiff of her perfume and he turned his head slightly so that he could look at her.  After a while it was becoming increasingly hard being around her because his feelings for her were growing stronger.   He knew she didn’t have a boyfriend because his mother had divulged that information in passing.

One afternoon they were alone in the kitchenette.  She was rinsing her coffee mug and he was refilling his water bottle.  She looked incredible in the blue top with the V neck, revealing her long, slender neck and the tan skirt.  His gaze lingered on her shapely calves before returning to her face.  He blushed when he caught her looking at him.  It was not the first time that she had espied him staring at her.  She didn’t seem to mind, though.  He was sure that she must be used to men admiring her.

She leaned against the counter, studying him and making him very nervous.  “How old are you?” she asked.

“Eighteen.”

“Do you have a girlfriend?”

He shook his head.  “No.”

“What about the girls at college?”

“I’m not interested in any of them,” he said.  I am interested in you.

She seemed to be pondering something for a moment and then, she said, “I have a cousin about your age and—”

His expression darkened.  “I don’t want to go out with your cousin,” he told her curtly.  “I—I want to go out with you.”

That startled her and for a few minutes, she seemed at a loss for words.  “You’re too young for me,” she said finally.

That stung.  “I may be young but I’m very mature for my age,” he said.

“Yes, you are very mature for your age, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re eighteen and I’m—I’m nine years older than you.  Besides, your mother would not approve.”

“She doesn’t have to know.  We can see each other on the quiet until—until I’m at least twenty-one.”

She shook her head.  “No.  I can’t do it, Toby.  You should be with a girl your age.”

He opened his mouth to protest but she excused herself and walked away, leaving him feeling like he had been kicked in the stomach.  After that painful rejection, she avoided being alone with him.  And when his summer job was over, they hardly saw each other, except on occasions when his mother invited her over for tea or to work on some project.  And they didn’t say much to each other, except exchange pleasantries.  For eight years, he pined for her, longing for the day when she would give him a chance.

He roused himself from his reverie and moved away from the tree.  He didn’t come out here to dwell on the past or wish for something that may never happen.  It was a beautiful day but very hot.  When it was this hot, he always went for a swim in the lake.  He turned to look at the water as it shimmered in the sun, seeming to beckon to him.

Without any hesitation, he stripped down to his underwear and ran down to the water, wading in until it was up to his waist.  It felt nice and cool on his skin.   He swam to the other side of the lake and climbed on to the embankment.  He lay on his back in the shade with his arms folded behind his head.  He could stay out here all afternoon.

Unaware that he was being observed so when he turned to swim back to the grassy slope opposite, he started when he emerged and saw Celeste standing by the tree where his clothes lay.  His face grew crimson at the thought of climbing out, dripping wet, clad only in his underwear in front of her.  He wouldn’t be able to hide his attraction for her.

Her eyes travelled over his bare shoulders and torso before she turned away, her heart racing.  He went over to where his jeans lay and quickly pulled them on.  His shirt soon followed and after he buttoned it, he went and stood in front of her, his eyes riveted on her averted face.  “Why are you here, Celeste?” he asked.

“Your mother invited me to tea and to update me on all that happened while I was away,” she said, avoiding his searching gaze.  She couldn’t stop thinking about the way he looked when he came out of the water, dripping and the passions it evoked in her.

“I meant out here.”

“I-I wanted to give you this,” she said, showing him a beautiful wooden carved giraffe.  “I brought it back from Kenya for you.  Your mother told me that you were out here.  I—I didn’t know that you would be swimming.”

He took the souvenir from her, his fingers brushing against hers, sending a jolt of electricity through his body.  His eyes flew up to her face and found her watching him.  The expression on her face made his heart somersault.  What he saw in her eyes made him drop the giraffe and pull her roughly into his arms, making her gasp.  He kissed her hungrily, feverishly as the years of pent up emotions were released and groaned when he felt her cling to him as she responded wildly to his kisses.

She felt the rough bark of the tree pressing into her back and her head was tilted far back under the onslaught of his lips as he relentlessly plundered hers.  Her fingers gripped his hair, digging into the scalp as the emotions she had denied for so long raged in her like a fire.

This continued for a while and then, he raised his head, his breathing harsh and unsteady.  He gazed down into her face, his eyes dark and stormy.  “I love you,” he muttered thickly.  “I have loved you for eight long and agonizing years.”

She tried to catch her breath.  “I love you too,” she gasped.  “All the time I was in Kenya, I thought about you and wished that you were there with me.  I missed you so much, Toby.  I had to come by today and see you.  When I asked your mother where you were I was afraid that she would tell me that you were out with some girl.  She knows that I love you.  I couldn’t hide it from her and she wasn’t upset or anything.  Instead she told me where to find you and I ran down here to see you.”

He reached up and cupped her face between his hands.  “Does this mean that you will go out with me?” he asked huskily.

“Yes,” she whispered.  “As they say, when you truly love someone, age doesn’t matter whether it’s a difference of two years, fifteen years or in our case, nine years. Love is love…” her voice trailed off as she felt his lips against hers.