Take the Fall

“This is madness,” he thought to himself but yet here he was parked outside of the university, waiting for her.  Sometimes she would be with a friend or in a group and other times she was alone.  And each time, when she saw him, she would look at him without making it obvious.

He had no business being here.  “I should be heading back to the office and finish marking the stack of term papers sitting on my desk.”  Yet, he remained, his eyes scanning the drove of students for her.  Would she be alone today?  He hoped so.  And if she were, what was he going to do?  He hoped she didn’t think that he was stalking her.  He was no stranger to this campus.  In fact, it was at one of his lectures where he first laid eyes on her.  She was sitting in the second row.   He could still remember what she was wearing that day.   And he remembered thinking that her lipstick was way too bright.  How he managed to get through the lecture, he had no idea.

At the end, while other students were crowding him and asking questions, she stood beside the chair where she had been sitting and watched him.  Their eyes met and held for what seemed like eternity before she turned and walked away.  He watched her go, wondering if he would see her again.  For the rest of the afternoon, he could think of nothing else but her.  What was her name?  What was she studying?  Did she have a boyfriend?

Driven by a compulsion he couldn’t explain, he found himself outside of the university the following day, hoping that he would see her.  And he did.  His heart pounded wildly against his ribs when he saw her walking towards his car with a friend.  She was laughing at something the other girl said when she spotted him.  Without missing a beat, she met his gaze directly, making him blush before she walked past the car.

He broke out of his reverie when she appeared now.  She was alone today and when she saw him, she stopped and stood there, staring at him.  Today, she was wearing a black hat, black jacket over a white tee shirt and jeans.  Her hair was pulled together in a side plait, making her look much younger and her lips were bright red.  And then, she moved.  She’s coming towards me, he realized.  Nervousness and excitement filled him.  He ran his hands over his hair, straightened his clothes before getting out of the car.  He leaned nonchalantly against the car and waited.

When she reached him, she smiled and held out her hand.  “Hello, Professor Remington,” she said.

She remembers my name.  He cleared his throat, smiled and shook her hand which felt very small in his.  “Hello, Miss–?”

“Sydney Bradshaw”

“Pleased to meet you, Sydney.”

“I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your lecture.”

“I’m happy to hear that,” he said.  “I have another one coming up next month.”

“Where?” she asked.

“The University of Roehampton.”

“What’s the lecture about?”

“Self-victimization or victim playing.  I will explain what it is, the reasons why people engage in it and the signs.”

“That sounds very interesting.  I’d definitely like to come.”

“I hope you do,” he said.  “You don’t have a boyfriend, do you?”

She shook her head at once.  “No, I don’t.”

“Good.  And I don’t have a wife or a girlfriend.  I’d like to continue our conversation more over cappuccinos.”

She smiled.  “I’d like that too.”

He walked around to the passenger-side of the car and opened the door for her.   They went to a nearby cafe where they the rest of the afternoon, talking over cappuccinos and the following evening, they had dinner at a charming French restaurant.   By the end of the year, they were engaged.

…ignore the risk and take the fall. And if it’s meant to be it’ll be worth it all – Daniel Seavey

Sources:  Genius; Wikipedia; The Daily EvergreenRate Speeches

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Three Years

“Where are you going this time?” Tami asked Justin as he was packing his bag.  She hated when he went away.  She missed him like crazy.  They kept in touch by phone, email and text messaging but that wasn’t enough.  She missed seeing and being with him.

“Milan.”

“For how long?”

“A week.”  He stopped what he was doing to look at her.  “Are you going to miss me”

“Of course I am.  I always do.  What about you?  Are you going to miss me, especially as you will be around beautiful models.”

He went over to her and reached for her hand, lacing his fingers through hers, his eyes intent on her upturned face.  “I’ll miss you very much as I always do,” he told her.  “I wish I could take you with me but you have to be at school and your parents won’t approve.  They already don’t because of our age difference.  Before you introduced me to them, they thought you were dating a boy from school, not a twenty-seven year old international model.”

“They like you but don’t know what your intentions toward me are and they fear that I’d get hurt.  You’re my first serious boyfriend.”

“I never imagined that I would be in a relationship with a high-school senior but when I first laid eyes on you, I was hooked.  I told myself that it was crazy to have feelings for a girl so much younger than me but it was no use.  I fell for you and I fell hard.”

She reached up and brushed his hair back from his forehead.  “I fell for you the moment I first saw you but I didn’t think that you would be interested in me.  I wasn’t beautiful or glamorous like the women you’re used to being around.”

“You’re beautiful to me, Tami,” he murmured huskily.  “You take my breath away.”  He raised her hand and pressed his lips into the palm, making her tremble.

“Call me as soon as you check into the hotel,” she told him, breathlessly.

He released her hand to cup her face.  “I will,” he promised before he lowered his head and kissed her.  They exchanged passionate kisses for several minutes before he raised his head and said, “It’s getting late.  I’d better take you home now.”

Reluctantly, she removed her arms from about his waist and stepped back.  Whenever things got hot and heavy between them, he put the brakes on.  She knew he was doing it because he respected her decision to wait until she was married to have sex.  He didn’t react like other guys did.  Instead of calling her a prude, he said, “I think it’s wonderful that you want to stay pure until marriage, especially in this day and age.”

It was frustrating, though when in the heat of the moment, he pulled away like just now.  It was like a someone threw a bucket of cold water on her.  Still, she ought to be grateful that he acted responsibly.  On the drive over to her house, she had the window cracked so that the cold air would cool her down.

Twenty minutes later they stood outside her home, holding hands.  They hugged and kissed.  He waited until she let herself inside before he went to his car.  She was standing at the window looking out.  He waved before getting into his car and driving away.

All week in Milan he thought about her and on the last day before heading to the airport, he went to Tiffany & Co to buy an engagement ring.  When he returned to London, he arranged to stop by Tami’s house to see her father.  After a long, heart to heart conversation, Mr. Miller gave his consent but was adamant that the wedding not take place until after Tami graduated from university.  So, Justin agreed to a three year long engagement.

That evening, he invited Tami over to his place for a home cooked dinner.  It was when they were relaxing on the sofa, that he got down on one knee and proposed.  She gaped at him and then teared up when she saw the ring.  He took her hand.  “Tami, this afternoon, I took the liberty of asking your father’s permission to marry you.  He gave us his blessing on the condition that we wait until after you graduate from university.  Do you mind being engaged for three years?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

He smiled.  “Good.  Will you marry me?”

“Yes!”  Her response sounded like a laugh and sob at the same time.

He slipped the ring onto her finger before rising to his feet.  He reached down and pulled her up.  “I love you,” he murmured as he held her against him.

She put her arms around his neck.  “I love you too.”  As his lips descended on hers, she wished that the three years would go very quickly.

When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possibleNora Ephron

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dinner

professional-african-american-woman-working-on-her-computer

It was Monday morning and Lillian was still feeling tired from a very busy weekend.  Before going to the office, she stopped at Tim Horton’s for a coffee.  She grabbed one for Kabir as well.  He was on a conference call so she quietly popped into his office, set the coffee down on his desk and left.

As usual, he looked really good in his suit.  Easy girl.  He’s your boss, remember?  That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate what a fine looking man he is.

She sat down at her desk, switched on her laptop and took a couple of sips of the hot coffee.  It hit the right spot.  She logged on to and began to check her emails.  Just then her cell rang.  She quickly answered it.  It was Neil.

“So you make it into work okay.”

“Yes.  I was dozing on the train, though and almost missed my stop.  How about you?”

“I’m off this week.”

“Lucky you.”

“Say, if you’re not doing anything later, maybe we can hook up and take in a movie or something.”

“Sorry, Neil but I’m not in the mood to go anywhere.  It’s going to be an early night for me.”

“Some other time then.”

I doubt it.  You’re a nice guy but I’m just not into you.  “Gotta go, Neil.  Have  good day.”

“Thanks.  You too, Lil.”

She ended the call just as Kabir stepped out of his office.  He stood by her desk, coffee in hand, watching her.  “Sorry, I’ll turn it off,”  she said.

He waved her apology aside.  “Don’t worry about it,” he said.  “Thanks for the coffee.”

She smiled.  “You’re welcome.”

“Did you have a good weekend?”

She nodded.  “I did but it was a crazy busy one.  I had to drag myself out of bed this morning.  This coffee is a lifesaver.  How about you?”

“Well, my weekend wasn’t as exciting as yours.  My parents are visiting from Florida.  They’re staying with my sister and her family.”

“Oh yes, you mentioned on Friday that they were coming.  When did they arrive?”

“On Friday evening.”

“How long are they going to be here for?”

“Two weeks.”

“Is this their first visit to Toronto?”

“No, they’ve been here before.  Although they like Toronto, they prefer Miami where it’s always warm.”

“I know the winters here could be brutal sometimes.”

“Are you busy tomorrow evening?” he asked suddenly, startling her.

She shook her head.  “No.”  Did he want her to work late?

“I’m taking my parents out for dinner and was wondering if you would like to join us?”

It took a moment before she said, “Sure.”

He smiled.  “Good.  Well, I’d better get back to work.  Thanks again for the coffee.”

After he walked away, she sat there, daydreaming.  He had asked her to have dinner with him–well, with his parents and him but that was still something, wasn’t it?

Dinner turned out to be a very enjoyable affair.  She liked his parents, especially his father who made her laugh so much that tears were coming out of her eyes.  His mother was more serious and very direct.  Several times Lillian caught her looking at her as if trying to size her up.  It was clear that Kabir was the apple of her eye and like most mothers with their sons, she was protective.  Any woman who wanted to be with him had to win her approval.  Was it obvious to her that Lillian was in love with her son?  It seemed like women picked up on these things easily.

“So, Kabir mentioned that you’ve been working with him for five years.  Is he a good boss?”

Lillian nodded.  “Yes, he is.”

“He isn’t working you too hard, is he?”

Lillian shook her head.  “No.  He’s a very fair boss.  I enjoy working with him.”

“Good.  And what about your family?  Are they here in Toronto?”

“My parents live in Kingston, Jamaica while my brother lives in Vancouver with his family.”

“Are you close to your family?”

“Yes, we’re very close.  We keep in touch every day and see each other in the summer and for Christmas.”

“Good.  Family is very important.  We’re a close family too.”

Just then Kabir’s Dad needed to go to the washroom and Kabir went with him.  Alone with his mother, Lillian felt a bit nervous, wondering what else she was going to ask her.  “Kabir mentioned that you’ve been to Toronto once before.”

“Yes.  We visited six years ago.  It’s a very nice city but the winters are too cold.  That’s why everyone comes to Miami for Christmas.  The cold is bad for the husband’s knees, you know.”

“It’s the same with my mother.  That’s why she doesn’t want to live here.”

“Kabir has told us so much about you.”

Lillian looked at her in surprise.  “He has?”

“Yes.  Every time we talk to him, he mentions you.  He wanted us to meet you the next time we came to Toronto.

Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No.”

“Good, because Kabir doesn’t have a girlfriend.  He probably won’t appreciate me telling you this but he likes you.  What about you, do you like him?”

“Yes, I like him too.”

“Then, I think it’s time that the two of you started dating.”

Before Lillian could answer, the men were back.  Kabir looked at his mother first and then at her.  And the way he looked at her made her pulse quicken.  For the remainder of the evening they stole glances at each other and after he dropped his parents off, he asked her as they were driving to her place, “Did my mother say something to you?”

“Well, she said that you like me.”

“She’s right, Lillian.  I do.  I like you very much.”

“And I–I like you very much too.”

He looked at her as they waited at a traffic light.  “So, you wouldn’t have a problem going out with me, then?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

He smiled.  “Good.”

For their first date, they did something unconventional but fun–they played board games at board games at Snakes and Lattes.  For the second date they enjoyed a twilight picnic at Casa Loma.  The next time Lillian saw Kabir’s parents it was in December when they flew to Miami for the Christmas holidays.  They were engaged.

Misinformed/Summit #writephoto

summit

Copyright Sue Vincent

 

Emily’s face turned ashen.  “That cannot be true,” she exclaimed.  “You must be mistaken, Charlotte.”

Charlotte’s expression was one of great concern when she saw her cousin’s reaction to the news.  She took her hand and led her over to the sofa. After, she gently pushed her onto the seat, she sat beside her.  Holding her hands in hers, she said to Emily, her gaze unwavering, “I assure you, dear cousin, that I am not mistaken.  I received the news from a very reliable source.”

“May I inquire as to whom this source was?”

“His sister, Anne.  I was on my way to the drugstore when a fine carriage pulled up alongside me.  It was Anne.  She called me over and inquired after my family and my own health. And then, she announced that Edward was to be engaged to Mabel Turner.”

“Mable Turner?”  Emily looked aghast.  “That nasty little creature?”  Mabel Turner was the last person on the planet she would have expected Edward to have any romantic attachment to.  She was the most insufferable person she had ever had the misfortune of knowing.  They met when Emily’s older sister Viola was employed as Lady’s Maid for Mrs. Turner.

They instantly disliked each other.  Mabel disliked her because she was smart and clever and Emily disliked her because she was vain and pretentious.  She hated when Mabel called her “Mole face” because of the moles on her face and referred to the birthmark on her neck as “hideous”.  This discord between them continued into their teenage years and presently.

“Emily, I know about your history with Mabel, but you must put all of that aside.  She is Edward’s intended.  There must be something commendable about her character to stir the affections of a man such as Edward.”

Emily’s eyes flashed at her.  “I don’t know how she managed to get her claws in Edward but it had nothing to do with her character, I can assure you.”

Charlotte sighed.  “Whatever you might think of her she is to marry Edward.  The wedding ceremony is in a fortnight.”

Emily sucked in her breath sharply and tugging her hands from her cousin’s, she rose unsteadily to her feet.  She wrung her hands, the tears threatening to fall.  “How could he do this?” she cried, her voice a broken whisper.  “Oh, Edward.”

She threw herself onto the ottoman and broke down.

Alarmed, Charlotte rushed over to her and tried to put her arms around her but she pushed her away.  “Please leave.”

Charlotte drew back, her own face pale.  “Very well, dear.  I will leave you be but I shall call upon you in the morning.”

She turned and left the room, her skirts making a swishing sound.

After she was gone, Emily stayed there on the ottoman, weeping as the pain of Edward’s treachery ripped through her.  She thought he loved her.  The way he looked at her whenever they were together spoke volumes of his unprofessed love. So, why was he marrying someone else?  What made it unbearable and highly reprehensible was that it was Mabel, her mortal enemy.

Anger filled her and the sobs subsided.  Brushing her wet cheeks, she got up from the Ottoman and hurried from the room.  She was going to change and go for a long walk in the moors.   As she climbed the stairs to her room, Hilda, the housekeeper called out to her, “Miss Emily, Mr. Edward is here to see you.  He’s in the drawing-room.”

Emily’s heart lurched and her grip tightened on the handrail.  “Please inform Mr. Taylor that I’m not receiving any visitors today.”

“Mr. Edward said that he is here on a very important matter, Miss Emily.”

Fresh tears pricked her eyes.  He’s here to tell me about his engagement.  “Hilda, I don’t care why he’s here.  I don’t want to see him.  Send him away.”

“But, Miss Emily–”

“Send him away, Hilda.”

“Very well, Miss Emily.”  Hilda turned and scurried off.

Emily turned and ran back down the stairs, through the foyer and out of the door.  She headed for the summit, and didn’t stop running until she was at the top.  She leaned against the fortress, her cheeks flushed from the exercise.  Her chest heaved as she tried to catch her breath.  Below the sea continued on its unhurried pace and the sun hide behind the clouds.  A gentle breeze stirred the strawberry blond ringlets which framed her face.  Usually her place of solace and contentment, today it offered her neither.

She started when she heard a sound behind her and turned.  Her body stiffened when she saw Edward’s tall figure rapidly approaching her.   When he was standing in front of her, she glared at him, her green eyes hostile as they met his tawny ones.  “What are you doing here?” she demanded.  “I told Hilda to send you away.”

“I had to see you, Emily.”

“Why, what could you possibly have to say to me?”

“I came to clear up a misunderstanding.”

“What misunderstanding?”

“You are under the impression that I am to marry Mabel Turner.”

“Yes.  Your sister Anne had informed my cousin, Charlotte of your engagement.”  She looked away so that he couldn’t see the tears in her eyes.  “The wedding is in a fortnight.”

“Emily, your cousin has been misinformed.  There is no nor will there ever be such an occasion between Miss Turner and me.”

She looked at him.  “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that Miss Turner and I are not engaged nor are we ever likely to be.”

“But why would your sister say otherwise?”

“Anne and Miss Turner are dear friends and it has always been my sister’s wish that I would form a romantic attachment to her friend.  Even after she saw that my affections were engaged elsewhere, it did nothing to divert her intention to secure what she believe to be a very agreeable match.”

“So, you have no feelings for Mabel?”

He shook his head.  “No.  How could I have feelings for her or anyone else when my heart belongs to you?”  He moved closer, his expression earnest now.  “I need to know if my feelings are returned.”

She gazed up at him, squinting as the sun emerged from behind the clouds.  “They are,” she assured him.

He moved so that he was blocking her from the sun.  His eyes met hers in a steady gaze.  “Emily, will you make me the happiest man in the world by becoming my wife?”

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.  The tears ran down her cheeks.

He took her hands in his.  “And now, that I have secured your consent, I must see your father and secure his as well.”

She smiled.  “I’m quite certain that he would not withhold it.”

 

 

This was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Summit for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Click on the link to read other stories inspired by the image.

Nils

She stood there, smiling and trying to act like she was interested in what the guy in the green shirt was saying when he walked by.  Their eyes met and she caught the tantalizing scent of his aftershave.  She had noticed him the moment he entered the room.  His spiky blond hair, strong, square jawline, piercing blue eyes, flaring nostrils and amazing looking lips made her head spin.  Underneath the navy blue silk shirt she could see his bulging muscles and body.  He looked away and her eyes followed him to see where he was going.  She saw him head over to the bar and sit down on one of the stools, leaning over and resting those massive arms on the counter.

She turned to the guy in the green shirt who hadn’t missed a beat  and was still talking about the latest in technology and smiling sweetly, she said, “Excuse me, I just spotted someone I know.”  She walked away.

She headed straight for the bar, her heart beating faster with each step.  She went and stood right next to him.  When she turned her head, he was looking at her and she could see from the expression on his face that he liked what he saw.  She knew she looked good in the off the shoulder black dress.  This close, he was even more devastating and she couldn’t seem to catch her breath.  Her stomach was doing bizarre things.  “Where’s the guy I saw you with?” he asked.

“I ditched him,” she admitted and saw his eyebrows arch.  “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.  He seemed like a nice guy but I just wasn’t interested and rather than stringing him along, I excused myself and here I am.”

“His loss,” he remarked.  “May I buy you a drink?”

“Sure.  What are you having?”

“A Blood Orange Punch.”

“Hmmm.  Sounds interesting.  Does it have alcohol in it, though?”

He shook his head.  “No.”

She slid onto the stool beside him.  “I’ll have one, then.  Thank you.”

After he ordered the drinks, he held out his hand.  “Nils.”

“Corinne.”  When their fingers touched, she felt a spark that rendered her a little breathless.  She was happy to note that he wasn’t wearing a wedding band.  “Nils.  That’s a Swedish name, isn’t it?”

He nodded with a smile.  “Yes.  I was born in Sweden but moved here with my parents when I was five.  What about you?”

“My parents are from Nigeria but I was born here.”

“You know you’re easily the most beautiful woman I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting?”

She lowered her eyes, feeling self-conscious.  “And you’re the hottest guy I’ve ever seen.”

His eyes darkened.  “After we’re done here, I’d like to take you back to my place and…”

She laughed, her pulse racing as their eyes met.  “Do you usually work this fast?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No, not usually but then I never met a woman like you before.  While I’m sitting here talking to you, all I can think about is how good you would look in my bed.”

“All right. Let’s finish our drinks and then leave.” She had never done this before and it was both terrifying and thrilling.

They talked some more as they drank the Blood Orange Punch.  As soon as both glasses were empty, they bade Michelle, their hostess, goodnight and left.  Michelle watched them go, a smile on her face.  Good for you, Corinne, she thought to herself.

A short ride in his Ferrari brought them to his flat which overlooked the Thames River.  As soon as he closed the door and locked it, she was in his arms and his lips were ravaging hers.  Her arms wrapped themselves around his neck as she responded wildly to his kisses.  And then, he swept her off her feet and carried her to his bedroom.

The next morning when she came out of the bathroom, he was lying on his stomach, completely uncovered and she felt her body respond.  “I should go,” she said, although she didn’t want to.

“Stay and have breakfast with me,” he suggested.

“All right.”  Her heart lurched when he climbed out of the bed and walked over to her.

“Let’s make it a late breakfast,” he murmured as he pulled her into his arms.

They ended up having a very late breakfast and many more breakfasts after that.  In a couple of months, they were engaged and then in the following Spring they got married.  Michelle was her maid of honor.

Corinne never imagined that when she went to Michelle’s launch party, she would meet her soulmate.  A smile touched her lips as she remembered the quote,When your eyes met mine, my soul pointed at you and whispered to my heart, “Him..”  Yes, Nils was definitely her soulmate.  She squealed now as he picked her up and ran towards the foamy waters as they licked the white sandy beach of Bora Bora.

 

Sources:  BBC Good Food; Best Image Quotes; Quotes ‘nd Notes

The Handkerchief/Crossing #write photo

crossing

Photo by Sue Vincent

Two years had passed since her sister died here.  She found her in the river, among the rocks under the bridge, barely alive.  Her words still haunted her.  As she held her in her arms, Rosemary gasped, “Dangerous…he…pushed…me…”

“Who’s dangerous?  Who pushed you? Rosemary?  Rosemary?”  There was no answer.  Only silence.  Her beloved sister was dead.  A stranger passing by found them and went to summon the police.  She was questioned and then released.  She told them what her sister had told her and they assured her that they would investigate but so far they hadn’t turned up any leads.

As Agatha sat there in the grass, the breeze gently stirring the fiery red curls which framed her oval face, she wondered who could have murdered Rosemary.  She was such a sweet person with a very amiable disposition.  She had always been very kind and loving toward her even though there was a considerable age difference between them.

After their parents died, unmarried Rosemary, devoted all of her attention on raising her younger sister, making sure that she continued to enjoy the finer things in life.  When it was time for Agatha’s coming out, Rosemary took her dinner parties, charity events and balls which Agatha liked best because she got to wear beautiful gowns, dance and meet possible suitors.  It was at one of these balls where she met Franklin.

Franklin was tall, stately and very handsome, the sort of man, a girl could only dream of or read about in romance novels.  He was charming, engaging and very intelligent.  He captivated her heart the very first time they met.  She had eyes for no other man at the ball although Rosemary advised her not to slight the others who had asked her to dance.  To please her, Agatha danced with them but on their way home in the afterwards, she made it very clear to her sister that Franklin had won her affections.  Rosemary agreed to invite Franklin to tea and after that he became Agatha’s suitor.  Months later, he asked for permission to marry her and they became engaged.

It was last summer on her twentieth birthday that they got married.  After they returned from their honeymoon in Venice, Rosemary announced that she was going to move out.  Agatha protested but her sister was adamant.  “You have Franklin to take care of you now,” she said.  “I won’t be far away, my Darling,” she promised.  “You can come and visit me as often as you like.”

“Only if you promise me that you will visit me as often as you like.”

Rosemary smiled.  “I promise.”

She moved out a couple of weeks later and Agatha watched her carriage drive away.  The house was not going to be the same without her.  Behind her, Franklin entered the room.  She felt his arms encircle her waist and she leaned against him.  “You have me now,” she heard him say and she closed her eyes.  Yes, she had the man she loved who could help her to get over the sadness she felt at seeing her beloved sister go.

They saw each other as often as was possible.  And at first Rosemary seemed well but gradually, she noticed a change in her.  And one afternoon, when she went home, she learned from Prescott that her sister had called for her.  In her note she had asked her to meet her at the river where they used to go sometimes.  When she got there, she found her sister laying there, a crumpled heap.  Minutes later, she died in her arms.

Rosemary was gone forever and not even Franklin could ease the heartache she felt.  Tears rolled down her freckled cheeks and brushing them away, she vowed, Rosemary, I will find out who took you away from me and he shall pay dearly. She got up and hustled to the waiting carriage, her skirt with its bustle sweeping the overgrown grass.

“Are you all right, Missus?” Fritt asked as he opened the door.

“I’m quite all right, Fritt.  Please take me home,” she said without glancing at him and she raising her skirt, she climbed into the carriage.

Franklin was at home when she arrived.  “What’s the matter?” he asked, looking alarmed when he saw that she had been crying.  He put his arms around her and hugged her.

“I went to the river,” she told him when they drew apart.

“You shouldn’t go there, Darling,” he said.  “You know how much it upsets you.”

She nodded.  “I know but I had to go.  Oh, Franklin, I miss her terribly, terribly.  She wasn’t just my sister, she was my best friend.”  Fresh tears fell.

“I know.  It was a tragic loss for both of us.  Here, dry your tears.”  He handed her a handkerchief.

She took it and was about to dry her eyes when she noticed something at the bottom right corner.  It was a gold R.  This is Rosemary’s handkerchief.  What was he doing with it?

Before she could ask him, Prescott the butler came into the room to announce that Mr. Willoughby the solicitor was waiting for him in the study.  “Thank you, Prescott.  Tell him that I will be with him shortly.”

After Prescott left, Franklin turned to her.  “You look about ready to collapse. It must be the heat.  Come, rest for a while.”  Putting his arms around her shoulders, he led her over to the sofa and after making sure she was comfortable, he went over to the decanter and poured her a glass of Brandy, his back turned to her.  “Here, drink this,” he suggested.  “It will help you to feel better.  I wish I could stay but I have business to attend to.”  He reached down and kissed her on the forehead before leaving the room.

Alone, she stood there for a few minutes and then went over to the sofa.  She sat down, her mind muddled as she fingered the initial on the handkerchief.  Why did Franklin have it?  There had to be a perfectly good explanation.  As soon as he was done with Mr. Willoughby, she would ask him.  What business did he have with the solicitor?  She sipped the Brandy.  It tasted bitter as did everything she had been eating and drinking lately.

 

This was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.  For more details click here.

Source:  Kate Tattersall;

A Memorable Birthday

Todd had finally provoked her into ending their relationship.  She refused to continue to tolerate his wandering eye and embarrassing behavior in public.  He tried to sweet talk her into taking him back but it didn’t work this time.  She was fed up with him and wanted a break from relationships.  She was just going to concentrate on her career.  Right now she was at her beach house in Devon, enjoying the solitude and the sound of the waves was very soothing.

One afternoon she was walking on the beach when she saw a stranger sitting on sandy mound, watching her.  She stopped and stared at him, wondering who he was and why he was there.  Curious, she approached him.  He stood up, his six feet plus frame making her feel small.  Well dressed in a dark blue suit over a purple shirt, he was extremely handsome and was most likely in his mid to late twenties.  “What are you doing here?  This is a private beach.”

“Miss Flanning, I’m sorry to be trespassing but I had to see you,” he explained.  “You see, my mother is a big fan of yours and she’s celebrating her fiftieth birthday this Saturday.  I was hoping that if you weren’t otherwise engaged, you would come and sing for her as a surprise.  It would be a real treat for her and most likely the best gift she has ever had.”

Lola was touched by his request.  “I don’t have any engagements this weekend so I will be more than happy to do this for your mother.”

He looked very relieved and smiled.  “Thank you, Miss Flanning,” he said.

She smiled.  “Please call me Lola,” holding out her hand.  “What’s your name?”

“Julian Mortimer.”  They shook hands.

“What time is the party?” she asked.

“At seven.  Here are the particulars,” he added, reaching into the breast pocket of his jacket and taking out an invitation which he gave her.   “I’d like you to come at eight.  By then everyone will be there.”

She took the invitation.  “I’ll be there at eight,” she promised.  “This is a very thoughtful thing you’re doing for your mother.”

“Thank you.  Every year I give her flowers or take her to the opera or ballet but this year I wanted to do something different for her fiftieth birthday.  I surfing the Internet for ideas when I came across a recent interview you had on the BBC.  And the thought occurred to me what a wonderful treat it would be for my mother to have you sing at her birthday party.  The only problem was I didn’t know how to get close to you.  Then, I remembered that one of my friends knows your publicist and he spoke to her on my behalf and here I am.  I hope you don’t mind and that your publicist doesn’t get into trouble because of me.”

“Don’t worry.  No one’s going to get fired or anything like that.  Besides,  I trust my publicist’s judgment and obviously, she believed that this was a worthy cause.  And I must admit that singing at a private venue is a welcome change.”

“Well, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you doing this.  My mother will be thrilled.”

“Are you and she close?”

He nodded.  “Yes, we are.  I’m an only child and after my father died, we became closer because I was all she had.  She doted on and still does.  I love her dearly and would do anything for her.”

“She’s a very lucky woman to have a son like you,” she remarked.

“I believe that I’m the lucky one.”  He glanced at his watch.  “I must be going,” he said apologetically.  He held out his hand.  “It was a pleasure meeting you, Lola.”

She shook his hand.  “It was a pleasure meeting you too, Julian.”

“I look forward to seeing you on Saturday.”

“I look forward to being there.  Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.”  He smiled, making her heart skip a beat before turning and walking away.

She stood there watching his retreating back until he was no longer visible before she turned and walked along the water’s edge.  Truthfully, she was looking forward to seeing him again too.

Saturday came.  She opted to wear a black pant suit with a white sequin top.  Her only jewelry were a pair of pearl earrings.  After examining herself in the mirror and satisfied with the results, she grabbed her handbag and left the house.

Twenty minutes later she was driving up a long, winding driveway flanked by imposing trees until the mansion suddenly came into view.  Her mouth dropped open.  It was was magnificent and it reminded her of one of those mansions she saw in the show, Hidden Mansions or something out of a Jane Austen novel.  The stately home made her beach house look like a doll’s house in comparison.  She parked her car where she saw other cars parked and got out.

Heart racing, she went up the short flight of stairs to the enormous door and stared at the antique lion door knocker before lifting it to alert someone inside that she was there.  A few minutes later, the door opened an gentleman stood there.  She presumed that he was the butler.  “Good evening,” he said.  “You must be Miss Flanning.”

“Yes, I am.”

“Master Julian informed me that you would be coming at this time.  Please come in and I will take you directly to the drawing-room where they are.”

“Thank you,” she said, stepping inside and followed him through an impressive entrance hall with two side by side winding staircases to an exquisitely beautiful drawing room with antique furniture, rug, decorative walls, paintings, high ceiling, gigantic hanging chandelier and enormous windows through which light streamed and afforded one an unobstructed view of lush and immaculate green lawns.  She didn’t have time to really appreciate her surroundings as she was aware that there were over thirty people in the room watching her.  To her relief, Julian was one of them and he immediately came over to her, looking extremely pleased to see her.  “Hello,” he said.  “It’s good to see you again.”

“Hello,” she said, feeling a bit nervous.

“Don’t be nervous,” he said.  “You look very beautiful.”

“Thank you.  And you don’t look bad yourself.”  He looked amazing and very elegant in the black suit and black tie and with his hair slicked back.

He smiled.  “Thank you.  Come let me introduce you to my mother.”  Taking her arm, he escorted her over to the group.

“Which one is she?” she asked.

“The one in the wheelchair,” he answered, startling her.  “My mother has Multiple sclerosis.”

She glanced up at him.  “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want you to feel obligated to come tonight.”

“I would have come regardless.  How is she doing?”

“Her symptoms come and go in phases.  There are times when she suffers from fatigue and other times when she seems fine.  Right now, she seems fine.”

“Does she live here on her own?”

“No, I live here too and she has a live-in nurse.  Between the two of us, we take care of her.  I can’t wait to see the look on her face when she sees you.”

Lola blinked back the tears that sprang to her eyes and put on a bright smile as she stood behind him.

“Mother, I have a big birthday surprise for you.”

She glanced up at him.  “What is it?” she asked.

“Here she is.” He stepped aside while she stepped forward.

“Happy birthday, Mrs. Mortimer.”

She saw the woman’s eyes widened in shock.  “Lola Flanning?” she exclaimed, turning to look up at Julian.  “You brought Lola Flanning to my party?”

Julian beamed.  “Yes, Mother.  I wanted to surprise you.”

Mrs. Mortimer’s returned to Lola who held out her hand.  The older woman grasped it, her eyes welling with tears.  “I can’t believe that you’re here,” she said.  “Thank you.”

Lola covered her hand with her other one and leaned over to kiss her on the cheek.  “It was my pleasure,” she said when she drew back, her own eyes moist.

“Yes, Mother, Lola graciously agreed to come and sing for you on your birthday.”

“I look forward to hearing you sing,” Mrs. Mortimer said, “but first, sit beside me.  Have you had anything to eat?”

“Actually, no, but–”

“Julian, please have Sophie fix a plate for Miss Flanning.”

“Please call me Lola and I really don’t want to put you to any trouble–”

“It’s no trouble at all,” Mrs. Mortimer insisted.

Julian excused himself and quickly left the room.  After he was gone, Mrs. Mortimer introduced Lola to the rest of the guests, some of whom were also fans and asked for her autograph.  They were excited that she was going to sing.  One of the women, remarked, “I was so relieved when I read that you had broken up with that womanizer, Todd Collins.  You deserve better.”

Lola smiled but didn’t answer.  Just then, Julian returned with a plate of a variety of delicious looking and mouth-watering smelling food.  Feeling a bit self-conscious, she began to eat it while the conversation kept going, touching on all sorts of topics ranging from her career to hot vacation spots and favorite charitable organizations.

After she finished eating and was ready, Julian sat behind the piano while she stood beside it and began to sing, her voice smooth and soulful as she belted out her popular ballads while the others watched rapt.  Mrs. Mortimer relaxed in her chair with a smile on her face.  Julian’s eyes were on her the whole time as his fingers ran over the keys.  An hour later, the room was filled with thunderous applause and after bowing graciously, Lola resumed her seat next to Mrs. Mortimer who thanked her, her expression one of deep gratitude.

“You’re more than welcome, Mrs. Mortimer.”

“Please call me, Olivia.  You’ve made this birthday the happiest I have ever had.”

“You owe it all to Julian.”

“Yes,” she agree, looking over to where he stood talking to a couple.  “He’s my pride and joy.  Besides God, he has been my rock through the rough moments of this terrible disease.  I don’t know how much longer I have but I hope and pray that before I go, I will see him settle down with a good woman.”

“Whoever she is, she’d be very lucky to have him,” Lola commented, her eyes wandering over to where Julian was.  Too bad I’m not ten years younger, she thought regretfully.

Just then Julian turned and their eyes met.  Mrs. Mortimer observed them and a smile tugged at her lips.  “It seems like I don’t have to wait long to get my wish,” she remarked and Lola turned to look at her inquiringly.

“I beg your pardon?”

Mrs. Mortimer.  “I was just saying that it has been a long time since I’ve had so much fun.”  That was true.  Tonight was a wonderful evening—one that she would never forget.  And she wished it would last longer but she suddenly felt very tired and she couldn’t prevent the yawn she had been trying to stifle.  In a flash, Julian was at her side.

“Mother, you’re tired.”

“No, I’m not,” she protested.  “Stop fussing.”

“You’re tired,” he insisted.  “I can see it on your face.  It’s after ten.  You should be going to bed now.  I will take you up to your room and Margaret will take care of you.  Please don’t argue with me, Mother.  Say goodnight to Lola and your other guests.”

Mrs. Mortimer sighed.  “Sometimes I wonder who is the parent and who is the child.  Very well, Son, I will say goodnight to these good people and then retire.”  Everyone in the room took turns wishing her all the best and made plans to visit when she was ready.  After they said goodnight to Lola, they left.

Lola took the older woman’s hands in hers.  “Olivia, it was a real treat for me to be here tonight.  You’re one of the most gracious and strong women I have ever met.  And it is my hope that we will see each other again.”

Olivia squeezed her hands.  “Have tea with me one afternoon,” she said.  “I will have Julian get in touch with you.  Thank you for making this birthday a memorable one.  God bless you.  Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” Lola released her hands and straightened up.  She looked at Julian who was watching her, his expression inscrutable.

“Don’t leave,” he said.  “I will be back shortly.”

“I’ll wait here,” she promised.  After watching him wheel his mother out of the room, she turned and walked over to the windows.  It was dark outside but the lights from the house illuminated the grounds.  She had once considered buying a stately home not far from here but decided to get the beach house instead because it required less maintenance and she liked being close to the ocean.   She wondered what it was like for Julian to grow up in this house and if it was ever lonely for him.  As a child, she had lots of friends and family to play and spend time with so she never experienced loneliness.

She turned when she heard Julian come into the room.  He joined her at the window.  “How is she?” she asked.

“She seems fine.  I left Margaret reading the Bible to her.”

“Your mother is a remarkable woman.  I admire her.”

He smiled.  “Yes, I’m a great admirer of her too.  Her inner strength is all due to her faith and it was one of the qualities that my father loved about her.  Would you like to take a short walk around the grounds before you leave?”

“Sure.  I was admiring them earlier when I first walked into this room.”

They went outside.  It was a balmy night.   He took her around the grounds, showing her the tennis court, the swimming pool and the Garden fountain where they paused for a little while as she admired its details.

As they made their way back to the front of the mansion, she asked,  “Was living here ever lonely for you?”

“Sometimes,” he admitted.  “But, I tried not to show it because I didn’t want Mother to know because she tried so hard to make my life here as content as possible.  As I got older, life got better and attending university helped because I made lots of friends whom my mother invited to spend the summer and Christmas holidays.  I could tell that she loved having a house filled with young people but after I left university, we decided that we wanted it to be like it used to be.  So, we spend quiet summers and Christmases.  And that’s fine for me.  We enjoy each other’s company.”

“I can tell that the two of you have a special bond which I don’t think it will change when you get married—”

He stopped abruptly and turned to face her.  “So, she has been talking to you about my future.”

She nodded.  “Yes, she expressed her wish to see you settle down with a good woman while she’s still around.”

“Do you wish to see me marry a good woman?”

She lowered her eyes.  “It doesn’t matter what I wish.”  The thought of him getting married bothered her more than she cared to admit.  How was it possible for her to care so much about a man she’d only met once before now?

“It matters to me, Lola.  Do you know that all during the week, I have thought of nothing else but seeing you again?  I couldn’t concentrate on my work.  I kept seeing your lovely face.  And tonight, I couldn’t take my eyes off you.  You take my breath away, Lola…”

Her head shot up then, her eyes wide as they met his and her heartbeat accelerating at an alarming rate when she saw the expression on his face.  “We-we shouldn’t be having this conversation,” she stammered.

“Why not?” he asked.

“Well, because…How old are you?”

“Twenty-eight.”

“I’m thirty-nine.  Next year May, I’ll turn forty.”

He seemed unfazed.  “It doesn’t matter that you’re older than me.”

“Wouldn’t you prefer to be with a woman closer to your age?”

“I’ve dated women my age but I was never attracted to any of them the way I’m attracted to you.  So, the answer to your question is no.  I would rather be with you.”

“Well, you can’t be with me,” she told him in frustration because for one maddening moment, she wanted to grab the lapels of his jacket, pull him against her and plant one on him.  She was so attracted to him that it drove her crazy and scared her at the same time.  “I–I need to go now.”  She started to walk away when he caught her by the shoulders.

“Why?” he demanded, his eyes searching her averted face, his grip tightening as she struggled to break free.  “Are you afraid of what would happen between us if you stayed, Lola?  Are you afraid that if I were to kiss you, you wouldn’t want to leave?”  He was breathing heavily now and she could feel his body against her, awakening a desire in her that was so strong it made her gasp and then, his mouth was on hers, devouring it feverishly.  And for one unguarded moment, she responded wildly as she tried desperately to assuage the hunger that was raging inside her.

Then, she came to her senses and with supreme effort she pushed him away and ran to her car, panting.  She got in, slammed the door and after fumbling for the key, she put it in the ignition and the engine roared to life.  When she saw him coming towards her, she frantically put the car in reverse and then sped off.  As soon as she got home, she took a cold shower before she went to bed.  Sleep evaded her.  Her mind was spinning.  All she could think about was the kiss and how much she wanted him.  She closed her eyes in despair.   Julian Mortimer had breached the fortress she had built around her heart.

Three weeks passed since that night.  She was restless.  Her thoughts were filled with Julian.  Every time she closed her eyes, she saw his face and her longing for him clawed at her relentlessly, driving her crazy.  Sleep was fitful and it was hard to concentrate on anything because her mind was constantly on him.  She gave up trying to write the new lyrics and went out on the balcony.  The water was calm and she envied it.  The sun was high, bathing the sea and sand in its golden light.  Seagulls soared in the sky.  What a glorious day.  Too bad she couldn’t enjoy it.

Something caught her eye and she started when she realized that it was Julian.  Heart thudding, she ran down the steps and down the grassy slope to the water’s edge where he stood, hands in pockets, facing the ocean.  He was less formally dressed this time, clad in a white shirt and tan slacks.  There wasn’t a wrinkle of crease anywhere on his clothes.  As usual, they looked like they had just come straight off the rack.

“Julian, what are you doing here?” she called out just before she reached him.

He turned at once to face her, his gaze traveling slowly over her figure in the light green top and denim shorts, his gaze lingering on her bare legs.  “Mother wants you to have tea with her tomorrow afternoon at two–that if you aren’t busy.”

“You could have called or emailed me,” she told him.  “You didn’t have to come in person.”  Although I’m thrilled to see you. 

“All right,” he sighed.  “I came because I can’t stay away any longer.  I had to see you, LolaI can’t stop thinking about the last time we saw each other.  When we kissed…”  His eyes dropped to her mouth, his darkening at the memory.

“Julian, we can’t do this,” she protested.  “I’m much older than you.”  The truth was he scared her because the feelings he aroused in her were so powerful and unlike anything she had ever experienced.  What she once felt for Todd paled in comparison.  Her heart urged her to throw caution to the wind and give into her feelings but her mind resisted.

“Lola, please don’t let our age difference prevent us from being together.  Ever since we met, I haven’t stopped thinking about you and longing to be with you.”

“Julian, please…” She felt her resolve weakening fast, especially as he pulling her against him.  The expression on his face mirrored the emotions that were raging inside her, making so hard for her to resist him.  She wanted him with every fiber of her being but…Her hands came up to push him away.

“I know you feel the same way,” he persisted, his eyes darkening on her face.  “I felt it when we kissed and I can see it in your eyes right now.  Oh, Lola…” he moaned thickly before he bent his head and kissed her.

Powerless against her feelings and him, the hands that had tried to push him away gripped the back of his shirt as she kissed him back feverishly, blindly and with total abandon.

They entered into a relationship.  In April of the following year, they got married, much to the delight of Mrs. Mortimer.  Nine months later, she held Olivia, her first grandchild in her arms and as she smiled down into the red, crinkly face, she silently thanked God for granting her far more than she had expected.

 

Source:  NHS Choices;