She noticed him during her second year at Harvard. He was standing outside the entrance talking to a pretty brunette. She was probably his girlfriend. Daphne had to pass them to go inside.
As she went up the steps, she saw him turn his head and their eyes met. She expected him to look away soon after because she knew she wasn’t the type of girl who would attract someone like him. She didn’t kid herself about her looks. She knew she wasn’t pretty but she had a lot going for her intellectually. To her surprise, he didn’t look away but his gaze locked with hers. Her heart began to pound at the realization that he was taking notice of her.
For a long moment everything and everyone around them faded into the background. It was as if only the two of them existed. Then, the spell was broken when she almost walked straight into another student who was coming down the steps. Embarrassed, she turned and mumbled an apology and then quickly let herself into the building.
As soon as she was out of earshot, Nora looked at Hayden. “Did you see the way that girl was staring at you?” she asked disdainfully. “She almost walked straight into that poor girl. You would think she’s never seen a good-looking guy before.”
Hayden was hardly paying attention to what she was saying. He was thinking about the girl. She was obviously attracted to him and he was attracted to her. He wanted to find out who she was but knew it would be better not to ask any of his friends. They would make fun of him and chastise him for being interested in this girl when there were so many pretty girls on campus, including Nora who made no secret of the fact that she liked him. Yet, as lovely as she was, he was not attracted to her and was quite content with being just friends with her. “You say that about all of the girls who look at me,” he said to Nora. “You can’t stop them from looking.”
“Well, you don’t usually take any notice of them but this time, you did. Don’t tell me you find her attractive.”
He glanced at his watch. “We should be heading to our classes now,” he said as he took up his satchel and slung it over his shoulder.
Nora’s mouth tightened. She walked up the stairs with him and as he held open the door for her, she glanced up at him. “She’s not your type,” she told him emphatically. “She’s plain and dull looking.”
Hayden didn’t answer. She may be plain and dull to you but not to me. He and Nora parted ways and he walked to his class. He tried to focus on what the professor was saying but his thoughts were elsewhere. The next time I see her, I will talk to her.
All morning Daphne thought about him. She saw him again and this time her friend, Susan was with her. “Who’s that very handsome guy over there wearing the very expensive looking blue sweater?”
“That’s Hayden Marsden. He transferred to Harvard from Oxford this semester, that’s why you never saw him on campus before. He lives with his mother and step-father in Berkshires. I once saw photos of the estate featured in The Boston Living Magazine. It is absolutely beautiful and huge. Forget about him, Daphne. He’s way out of your league. Besides, his mother is very particular about the kind of girls he associates with.”
Daphne told her about the time she saw Hayden and ended her account with a sigh. “I guess it was wishful thinking on my part.”
“Ah, not necessarily,” Susan said, looking over her shoulder. “Brace yourself. We’re about to have company.”
Alarmed, Daphne glanced around to see what she was talking about and her heart lurched when she saw Hayden approaching them. She glanced down at her white top and knee length denim skirt and ankle boots, thinking how unsophisticated she must look compared to the brunette she had seen him with the last time. Her heart was pounding like crazy. Hayden looked first at Susan and then he turned to her, his tawny eyes riveted to her face. “Hello, Daphne,” he said, holding out his hand.
She stared at him. He knows my name. She put her hand in his large one, feeling his fingers clasp hers in a firm handshake. “Hello, Hayden.”
It pleased him that she knew his name. This close, she was stunning. His heart was beating so fast that it felt as if it was going to fall out of his chest. He was very nervous. No girl ever had such an effect on him before and it scared him. Her hand felt soft and small in his and he wanted to continue holding it but had to release it in order to shake her friend’s hand when she introduced them. He smiled at Susan as he shook her hand. “Nice to meet you,” he said.
She smiled. “Likewise.” Turning to Daphne, she said, “I am going to the library. See you later.” She excused herself and walked away.
Alone now, Daphne and Hayden stood there, looking at each other, feeling shy and nervous. “Do you have a boyfriend?” he asked. He had to know.
She shook her head. “Do you have a girlfriend?” she asked. She was thinking about the girl she had seen him with.
“No, I don’t have a girlfriend and the girl you saw me with is just a friend.”
“She’s very pretty.”
“Yes, she is,” he agreed, “but, she’s not the one I’m interested in. Are you busy later?”
She shook her head.
“How would you like to go for dinner and a movie with me?”
“I’d like that very much,” she replied, sounding a little breathless. He’s asking me out.
He smiled and looked relieved. “I’ll meet you right here after class this evening.”
They talked for a while longer and then he walked her to her class. For the rest of the day, she was on cloud nine. And as soon as her last class was over, she hurriedly packed her bag and almost fled from the room. He was waiting for her. How he longed to hold her hand but he decided it was too soon. He didn’t want to overwhelm her. He was so excited that they were going out on their first date. As they walked across the campus grounds to the parking lot where his car was, he told her where they were going to have dinner and which movie they were going to see. It was a Friday night so they didn’t have to worry about staying out late on a school night.
They had dinner at Amelia’s Trattoria before they headed over to Kendall Square Cinema to watch The Man Who Invented Christmas. It was a very pleasant evening and first date. She was sorry when it was over and it was time for him to take her home. He walked her to the door of her parents’ home. “I’d like to see you again tomorrow,” he said. “We can spend the day together, doing different things.”
She nodded at once. “Yes, we can do that.”
“I’ll pick you up around nine, if you think that’s too early for a Saturday.”
“Nine is fine.” She wished it were already nine.
“See you tomorrow.” I want to kiss her so badly.
“See you tomorrow.” I guess he thinks it’s too soon for us to kiss. She watched him as he walked to his car and waved as he drove off. Suffice to say, she hardly slept a wink that night because she was thinking about their first date and excited about seeing him the next day. The next morning, she got up early and had breakfast. It was about eight-fifteen when she went upstairs and had her bath. She wasn’t sure what to wear at first but then decided that a sweater and a pair of jeans and dressy but comfortable ankle boots would work. Her mother was in the living-room when she walked in, surprised to see her up and about when usually on a Saturday morning she was still in bed. When she noticed that she was dressed, she asked, “Where are you off this early?”
“I have a date,” Daphne told her gleefully. “Hayden and I are going to spend the day together. This is our second date.”
Her mother’s eyes widened. “Is this is the same guy you told me about?”
“Yes. It is. He will be here any minute. Would you like to meet him?”
“Yes, I’d like to meet the young man who has achieved something I have been trying to for years—get you out of bed on a Saturday before noon.”
Daphne pursed her lips. Just then, the doorbell rang. Her heart skipped a beat. “He’s here. How do I look?”
“You look fine. Now, you’d better go and answer the door before he changes his mind.”
Daphne hurried to the door and opened it. Her face brightened when she looked up into Hayden’s. He looked amazing in a striped shirt with a green pullover and a pair of jeans. Even when he was dressed casual, he looked elegant. “Good morning,” he said with a smile.
“Good morning,” she beamed at him. “Come in and meet my mother. You don’t have to take off your shoes,” she added when he started to. She took him to the living-room where her mother was. “Mama, this is Hayden. Hayden, this is my mother.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Williams,” Hayden said holding out his hand which was clasped in a warm handshake.
Mrs. Williams smiled at him. “The pleasure’s all mine,” she said. “I’ve heard so much about you.”
“So, what do you have planned for today?” Daphne asked him, her eyes sparkling.
“We are going to spend the day exploring Boston.”
“That sounds like fun.” Daphne grabbed her handbag and kissed her mother. “See you later,” she said.
“Goodbye, Mrs. Williams.”
“Goodbye, Hayden. I hope you will stop by again for a longer visit.” She watched them as they almost ran to the car. She had never seen Daphne so happy. Hayden seemed like a decent young man and it was obvious that he liked Daphne. She wasn’t sure how his family would feel about him dating her. She couldn’t speak for the rest of her family, but personally, she had no objections. Daphne’s happiness was all that mattered to her and she seemed to have found it with this young man.
“I like your mother,” Hayden commented as they drove off.
“She likes you too.”
“Is it just the two of you living in such a big house?”
“No. I have a brother and a sister but they are spending the weekend with my grandmother.”
“What about your father?”
“He died of a heart attack when I was twelve.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. So, your mother’s the breadwinner.”
“Yes. She has worked very hard to raise us and make sure that we have a good education. I’m in Harvard because of her. She’s a phenomenal woman. I hope to be like her one day.”
He glanced at her. “I think you’re already there,” he said quietly.
She turned her head and smiled at him. “Thank you.”
It was a beautiful, sunny and mild day, perfect day for a walk on the Freedom Trail which is where they began their day tour of the Boston. With so much to see and do, the time seemed to go very quickly and before she knew it, it was evening and they were having dinner at an Italian restaurant. They lingered over their pasta, recapping the places they had seen. When she told him that she was going to download the photos they had taken and post them on her Facebook page, he didn’t object.
As they walked along the bridge, admiring the scenery, he reached for her hand and she felt her heart begin to race when his laced his fingers through hers. She glanced up at him and he stopped, leaned over and kissed her. She closed her eyes and kissed him back. When he felt her response, he deepened the kiss and his arms went around her waist, holding her tightly against him. They were oblivious to the passersby who watched them in amusement, annoyance, displeasure or indifference.
At length, he raised his head. “I want to see you again tomorrow and every day after that,” he said huskily. “I want to be your boyfriend, Daphne.”
“And I want to be your girlfriend,” she replied.
He kissed her again and then he put his arm around her shoulder as they continued walking down the bridge. She slipped her arm around his waist, her face upturned to the setting sun.
They began to date exclusively from that day but their relationship met with some opposition from his friends and he almost punched one of them for his remarks about Daphne. Nora refused to have anything more to do with him. He was relieved when the Christmas break rolled around. His step-father and mother were out of town, preferring to spend their holidays in Florida. He declined to go with them. The weekend before Christmas, he invited Daphne up to the house. She couldn’t get over how huge it was and she enjoyed the tour he took her on, marveling at the number of rooms. One could easily get lost in a place like this, she thought, as she followed him along endless corridors, up winding staircases and in and out of countless rooms.
After having dinner, they went into the drawing-room where they sat cross-legged on the hearth, the glow of the fire illuminating their faces. They had the place all to themselves. “You are invited to have Christmas dinner with us,” she told him.
“I gladly accept,” he said, smiling. “I’m looking forward to enjoying more of your mother’s cooking.” He had been over to her house several times for dinner. “Watching Transformers’ Prime with Terrence and seeing Rhea’s photos of the Jingle Ball.” He and her nine year old brother got along famously and her fifteen year old sister thought he was the bomb for getting her those Jingle Ball tickets. It was nice to see how easily he fitted in with her family.
“What about me?” she asked, punching him playfully.
He got serious and the expression on his face made her swallow hard. “Right now, I want to take you upstairs to my room and make mad, passionate love to you but I won’t until you’re ready.”
She reached out and touched his face. “I’m ready.”
His eyes darkened. “Are you sure?”
She nodded. “Yes.” And to leave him in no doubt that she meant what she said, she got to her feet and stood looking down at him. He scrambled to his feet and scooping her up, he carried her out of the drawing-room and in the direction of the staircase leading up to the bedroom.
Sometime later, they lay wrapped in each other’s arms, spent. Daphne raised herself up on her side and gazed down at him. “Is attraction all you feel for me?” she asked. Nora’s remarks still plagued her. The encounter happened a week ago when she was waiting for Susan and Nora approached her. She had a nasty expression on her face. After she looked her up and down in disgust, she said, “Don’t kid yourself that Hayden Marsden is serious about you. All he wants is sex from you and once he’s had his fill, he will dump you just like. She snapped her fingers and then she walked off, leaving Daphne staring after her. She told Susan about it. “She’s just jealous,” her friend said dismissively. “Paid no attention to her.”
Hayden looked at her, frowning. “Why do you ask?” he wondered.
“Well, it’s just something Nora said to me last week.”
“What did she say?”
She told him. “I shouldn’t let her get to me,” she added with a sigh.
Hayden reached up and caressed her cheek with his knuckles. “What I feel for you is much more than physical attraction, although you drive me wild with desire,” he added, his eyes darkening. “I’m madly in love with you, Daphne Williams.”
She stared at him, hardly able to believe what she was hearing but she could see the sincerity in his eyes and her heart melted. “I’m mad about you too,” she said huskily. “I have been since the first time I saw you.”
“I have so many plans for us. How would you like to relocate to Seattle after we graduate?”
“Seattle? I never thought of moving there but I’ll go wherever you want to go.”
“We’ll get married first and then move to Seattle.”
“Yes. You want to marry me, don’t you?”
“Of course, I do, but what about your family?”
“I’m now estranged from all of them except my father. It was his idea to move to Seattle. He offered me a job at his company at least until I could find something more in line with my major. I told him about you and emailed him a photo.”
“And he doesn’t object to our relationship?”
“No, he doesn’t. My father is nothing like the rest of my family. He’s excited about seeing me and is looking forward to meeting you.”
“Your friends will definitely have a problem with you marrying me.”
“They are not my friends any more. I broke all ties with them when they started making derogatory remarks about you. When it comes to choosing between you and my family or my friends, I will always choose you. I knew from the moment I first saw you that you were the girl for me and I have promised myself that I would never let anyone come between us.”
She smiled and put her arms around his neck. “I can’t wait to marry you and move to Seattle where we can begin a new life together.”
His arms went around her waist, pressing her close against him. “I can’t wait to put a ring on your finger,” he murmured softly. “I love you so much.”
“I love you very much too.” She closed her eyes when he bent his head and kissed her. Her heart was filled with so much joy that it felt as if it would burst. She was about to embark on an exciting future with the man she loved and it all began that day on the steps of Harvard.