Mia’s Story

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Ours isn’t your typical love story.  I was a victim of human sex trafficking and he’s an FBI agent.  My name is Mia and I’m 28 years old.  I was 18 when I ran away from home.  I was having problems with my mother who always made me feel like I was no good and that she was sorry that she had me.  And my father who was hardly around and when he was, he fought with my mother and ignored me.

Life at home was hell and sometimes I just wished it was a nightmare and that I would wake up in a different house and with different parents–people who loved and cared about me.  It got to the point that I knew that if I didn’t leave, I would kill myself.  One night after my parents had gone to bed, I grabbed my knapsack and sneaked out of the house.  I had some money which I took from my mother’s purse and my father’s wallet.  I didn’t have time to count the amount but it looked like it would last me for a while.

It lasted for a couple of weeks and then I was broke.  I had no idea of what to do.  I had no where to go.  I refused to go back home.  I called other family members but they hung up when they knew that it was me.  I was too ashamed to call my friends.  So, I decided that may be I should find a job at McDonald’s or some other fast food place.  It was better than staying on the streets or going to a homeless shelter.

I stood there trying to figure out where the nearest MacDonald’s was when a really cute guy came up to me.  He had the most incredible blue eyes and an amazing smile.  “Hi,” he said.  “Are you lost?”

“I’m trying to find a McDonald’s,” I explained.  “I’m looking for a job.”

“I see.  It just so happens that I work at a restaurant just around the corner and the manager is looking to hire a cashier.  Are you interested?”

My expression brightened.  “Of course!  I’ve worked as a cashier before.”

“Good.  I’m heading there now so I can introduce you to the manager.”

“Okay.”

“What’s your name?”

“Mia.”

“I’m Joe.”  He held out his hand.

She smiled and shook it.  “Nice to meet you, Joe.”

We headed in the direction of the Space Needle.  I promised myself that one day I would visit it.  As we walked we talked.  He was so charming and easygoing.  I found myself hoping that he didn’t have a girlfriend.  About ten minutes later, we stopped in front of a restaurant.  It was packed.  He pushed the door open for me to enter.  The smell of fried food assailed me and reminded me that I was hungry.

As if he read my mind, he asked, “Are you hungry?”

I nodded.  “I haven’t eaten all day.”

He took me by the elbow and led me down a long corridor and into a room.  “Sit here while I go and get something for you to eat.”

I sat down, grateful for his kindness and to be able to sit down after being on my feet for so long.  Fading light streamed through the windows.  The sun would be setting soon.  I hoped that Joe was right about his manager and that he would hire me.  It would be so cool working there with Joe.  I was feeling a little hot so I removed my jacket.  I pulled my hair back into a ponytail.  I was about to get up and walk over to the window and look out when Joe came in carrying a tray with a burger, fries and a soft drink.  He set them down on the table.  My mouth was watering.  “Thanks, Joe.”

He smiled.  “No problem.  When you’re finished just come to the front where the cashier is and I’ll be there.”

“Thanks.”  I waited until he left before I wolfed down the burger and fries.  They were sooo good.  I drank the Ginger-ale.  It was nice and cold.  I was half-way through it when I started to feel dizzy.  The room started to spin and I squeezed my eyes shut.  When I opened them again, I was in another room and there was a strange man standing over me.  Was this the manager?  Had I passed out or something?  Did I eat too fast?  All sorts of questions whirled around in my mind.  My head was pounding but at least the room wasn’t spinning and the dizziness was gone.  I tried to sit up but the man pushed me down.  Panicking, I cried out but he put something over my nose and mouth and everything went black.res

When I regained consciousness I was alone and I realized that I was lying on a bed.  I managed to sit up and I screamed when I saw that I was wearing red lingerie.  How did I end up here?  Who removed my clothes?  Where are my clothes?  I looked wildly about the room for my clothes.  I tried to get out of the bed but the door opened and Joe came in.  He grabbed me and tried to force me to lie back down.  I struggled wildly and he struck me.  I was so shocked that I fell back against the pillows.  Joe looked like a different person.  His eyes were cold and his expression impassive.  “You’re not going anywhere,” he muttered.  “You’re going to be here for a long time.”

“Where am I?” I asked, tears streaming down my face.  “Who are you and why are you doing this to me?”

“I don’t have time to answer your questions.”

“What is this place?  Why have you brought me here?”

“You wanted a job, remember?  Well, here you are.”

I struggled to get up.  “You told me that it was a cashier’s job at your restaurant.”

“You’re far too pretty to be a cashier.  You will make more money on your back.”

Then, it hit me.  He was forcing me into prostitution.  I felt sick.  I clawed at him until he clamped his hand over my nose and mouth.  Everything went black again.  I don’t know how long I was out but when I came to, I heard Joe say to someone, “She’s all yours.  I broke her in for you and she’s nicely cleaned up.  Remember to wear a rubber.  We practice safe sex here.  She’s no use to me if she gets pregnant and I’m not to spend my hard earned money on an abortion.”

I heard the door open and close.  Then silence.  I opened my eyes and I saw a man leaning over me.  I felt his hot breath on my face.  I struggled to get up but I couldn’t move.  Then, I realize that he was on top of me.  I pushed at him but it was no use.  I lay there helpless while he raped me.

When it was over, he got off me and I heard him moving about the room as he got dressed.  Then, I heard the door open and close.  I lay there for a long time, too terrified to move or make a sound.  Then, I pushed myself up and got up from the bed.  I put on the lingerie bottom which was lying on the floor and stumbled towards the closed door.  It was a washroom.  I felt for the switch and flicked it on.  I went over to the mirror and stared at my reflection.  I didn’t recognize myself.  My eyes were puffy, my jaw was bruised from where Joe struck me and my left shoulder had a bruise as well.  I turned on the tap and splashed water on my face.  I had to get out of there.  I went to the window and opened it.  I pushed my head out.  Outside was a fire escape.  I raised the window higher and climbed onto the ledge.  I reached out and pulled myself onto the fire escape.  I made my way down to the street below and ran as fast as I could.

When I was as far away from that place as possible, I flagged a cab down and when it stopped, I begged the driver to take me to the nearest hospital.  When I got there I went straight to Emergency and told the triage person what happened to me.  I was ushered into a room where I was told to wait.  Minutes later a nurse came in and asked me “Did anyone you worked for or lived with trick or force you into doing anything you did not want to do?” and other questions.  Then, she left and returned.  She asked me to get undressed so that I could be examined and left.  After the examination, I was given a gown.  I sat at the edge of the bed and waited.

The nurse who examined me came in and told me that I was a victim of sex trafficking.  There was evidence of forced penetration and bruising on my wrists as if I were restrained.  She asked if there was anyone I needed to call or somewhere to stay.  I shook my head.  I was in a daze.  I still couldn’t believe what had happened to me.  I had fallen for a pair of blue eyes and a charming smile.  The nurse told me that the hospital would help me with housing, transportation and any necessities I may need.  That was a real load off my shoulders.  I spent the night in the hospital.  I had trouble falling asleep because every time I closed my eyes I saw either Joe’s or that strange man’s face.  And I was afraid that I would wake up and find myself back in that room.

The next day, I was visited by two FBI agents who wanted to question me.  One was an older man with sandy colored hair, sharp eyes and a portly gait.  The other was tall, dark and very handsome.  The older one asked most of the questions and was very quick and direct.  Then, the other one said, “You were lucky to get out of there alive.  You did the right thing coming here.”

“I hope you catch Joe,” I said.  “I wish I knew the other man’s name.”

“It would be very helpful if you can give their descriptions to our artist,” he replied.

“I can,” I assured them tightly.  “I will never forget their faces.”

“Thank you, Miss Bautista,” the older one said.  “We will be in touch.  Good-day.”  He left the room.

The other one lingered for a moment.  “Good-day, Miss Bautista.”

“Good-day, Agent Fowler.”  I watched him leave.

I left the hospital that afternoon and was placed in Catalyst at Straley House where I can stay for 18 months while I work with my case manager to get connected to school and employment, and transition into permanent housing.   It turned out to be a really nice place.  I met a lot of great people.  My case manager, Rita was a tremendous help and support for me.  Before leaving home, I had graduated from high-school with honors but I hadn’t applied to any university.  After my ordeal in Seattle, I decided that I would move to another city in Washington.  I googled the best cities there and chose Spokane.  I applied to Gonzaga University and was accepted.

Before I left to go to live on campus, I received a visit from Agent Fowler who informed me that thanks to my descriptions Joe Cartwright and his cohorts were arrested.   The man who raped me was a prominent businessman who was a regular client.  Joe was a pimp and his victims included under-aged girls.  It turned out that Mr. Murphy had no clue about Joe’s nefarious business dealings.  Joe had used Mr. Murphy’s job posting to gain my trust.  I was very grateful to Agents Fowler and Benson for investigating and catching those monsters.  I hope that they will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.  I told Agent Fowler that I was moving to Spokane.  He smiled and shook my hand.  “I wish you all the best, Miss Bautista.”

As I watched him leave, I found myself hoping that I would see him again.  Years later, I did.  I had graduated from Gonzaga University and was working as a Youth Program Assistant which I loved.  I was on my way to lunch when I saw someone walking in front of me.  From the back he looked very familiar and then I realized who it was.  I quickened my pace until I was right behind him and I called out, “Agent Fowler.”

He stopped and turned to face me.  I could see that he recognized me.  Smiling, he held out his hand.  “Miss Bautista.  It’s good to see you.”

“I didn’t think I would run into you.  What are you doing in Spokane?”

“I’m here for my nephew’s wedding which is tomorrow.”

“Did you fly or drive?”

“I flew.  I didn’t feel like spending over four hours behind the wheel. Are you heading somewhere?”

“I was on my way to lunch.”

“Do you mind if I tag along?”

“I could do with the company.  There’s a bistro right up the road.  They serve the best comfort food.”

“Sounds good.”

We walked to the bistro.  Over local beef and regional fresh fish, we talked.  When it was time for me to head back to the office, he came with me.  As we stood outside the building, he asked me to have dinner with him.  I gladly accepted.  After that first dinner, we made arrangements to see each other again.  He spent the week in Spokane before he flew back.  We had a long distance relationship and saw each other in the summer, at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.  Then, one day when we were Riverfront Park, he told me that he was moving to the FBI office in Spokane.

I stared up at him.  “Why?” I asked.  I was thrilled, of course but taken aback.

He reached for my hands, his expression serious as his eyes met mine.  “I want to be where you are, Mia,” he said quietly.

I swallowed hard, my heart was racing now.  “Why?”

“Simple, I love you.”

“I love you too, Nathan.  And I’m happy that you’re moving to Spokane.”

He leaned over and kissed me.  I felt my head explode.  We drew apart several minutes later and holding hands, we continued our walk.  The following spring, he moved to Spokane and following a very short engagement, we got married in September.  The attendees were Rita, my case manager, my friends from Catalyst, my co-workers and his FBI friends and family.  My parents weren’t there because I didn’t invite them.  They are a painful part of my past which I want to forget.

Ten years have passed since my ordeal and what thing that I have learned from it is that “Our pain can be turned into purpose”  This March, I started a support group for former sex and human trafficking victims.

While Mia’s story is fiction, it is real for many.  Trafficking of any kind is an evil that must be wiped out and those responsible for it must be brought to justice.  Check out this video for a grim glimpse into the world of child sex trafficking and what is being done to save victims.

Here is a list of non-profit organizations fighting against Human Trafficking:

Let’s work together to stop trafficking and exploitation.  Let’s fight for freedom.

Sources:  FBI Video; Nurse.com; Nurse.org; FBI; YouthCare; Yelp

Life’s Surprises and Unspeakable Joy

It’s lunch break at school and as I was walking down the hallway heading towards the cafeteria, Colton texted me.  He wanted me to have dinner at his place tonight.  Excited, I texted him back.   Things were really heating up between us.

Last night after we left the ice rink, we went back to his place and as soon as we went inside, we were all over each other, kissing and pulling off each other’s clothes.  We ended up making love on the rug in front of the fireplace.  Afterwards, we ordered take in Thai food and ate it while watching a movie.  Then, he took me home.

I guess it was inevitable that I should fall madly in love with Colton.  Actually, I think I fell for him since the first time we met which was at a party celebrating Lance’s 18th birthday.  Colton was there with Heather, his then girlfriend, a very pretty blonde.  The moment I saw him, I couldn’t take my eyes off him.  Several times, he caught me staring at him and smiled.  Then, just before the cutting of the cake, when I was coming out of the bathroom, he was coming down the hallway.  He walked over and stood right in front of me, towering over me.  I looked up at him, thinking that he was the most gorgeous man I had ever seen in my life.  My heart was beating like crazy.  We were totally alone.  Everyone was in the dining-room, gathered around the table.

“So, are you Lance’s girlfriend?” he asked.

I shook my head at once.  “No, we’re just friends.”

He smiled. “Good. I’m glad to hear that. If you’re not busy tomorrow afternoon, I’d like to take you bowling and then for a bite to eat afterwards.”

I was so blown away by the fact that he was asking me out that I didn’t even think of asking him about his girlfriend.  I found out a couple days after that he had broken up with her.

“I’m not busy tomorrow,” I assured him breathlessly.  “And I’d love to go bowling.”  Actually, I have never been bowling but have heard lots of positive things about it.  And it’s on several lists of perfect first date ideas.

“Where do you live?”

I told him.

“I’ll pick you up at five-thirty.”

“Okay.”

“See you tomorrow.”  And then he was gone.  I stayed there for several minutes, leaning against the door, trying to settle my nerves.  I couldn’t believe that Lance’s brother had just asked me out.  The rest of the evening was a blur for me.  I couldn’t sleep that night because I was too excited.  Colton showed up at exactly five-thirty, looking sexy in his white shirt and jeans.  I saw the way he looked at me and I felt tingly all over.  I had my hair pulled back in a ponytail and was wearing a red top with jeans.  We talked a lot on the way to the bowling alley and had so much fun.

Afterwards, we went to an Italian eatery and enjoyed mouth watering pasta dishes.  He didn’t take me home right after.  We went for a drive along the coast, stopped to admire the view of the Bay for a little while and then he took me home.  Outside on the porch, he asked me out on another date which I promptly accepted.

On Monday when I saw Lance at school, I was bursting with excitement.  We were standing by the lockers when I told him about Colton.  He didn’t seem to mind at all, although I couldn’t see why he should.  That was what we were talking about when those girls saw us and went berserk.

After Lance and I parted company, they ascended on me like a swarm of bees and made all sorts of crude and racist remarks which I ignored.  I didn’t get into anything with them.  I was above that.  Instead, I walked away with my head held high.  One of them said that there was no way that Lance would be into me because I was an ugly girl with glasses.  Hmmph.  Well, there was no way that he would be into her because she was hateful.

I didn’t let their remarks ruin my day.  I had a date with Colton that evening and was looking forward to it.  It was on our fourth date that we made love for the first time.  After we went to a concert in the park, we went back to his place.  He made hamburgers which we ate on the terrace while we watched the sun set.  Then, after finishing our Red and Blue Berry Lemonade Slushes, we went inside.

Without saying anything, he took my hand and led me to his bedroom. After closing the door, he began to kiss me.  I put my arms around his neck and kissed him back.  The kisses soon became very intense and the next thing I knew, we were naked, our clothes strewn on the floor.  He backed me over to the bed, pushed me down gently and then got on top of me.  His mouth covered mine the same instant he took me.  I cried out because of the pain but it soon went away and all I could feel then was intense and mind-blowing pleasure.  I will never forget my first experience.

Last week Saturday my parents went out of town to spend the weekend with my sister and her family.  I called Colton and invited him to come over.  He came over in the evening.  We had the dinner which my mother made earlier that day.  There was enough to feed an army.  We went for a drive, stopped for some ice-cream and then went back to the house.  We spent the evening watching television.  It was after mid-night when we went to bed.  We were in my room.  After we brushed, we slipped under the sheets and made love.  We fell asleep in each other’s arms.

The next morning, he was still sleeping when I woke up.  I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek but he didn’t stir.  He was a deep sleeper.  I got up and drew back the curtains for the sunlight to stream in.  I turned to look at him.  He looked so adorable and sexy, laying there on his left side with his hand resting on my side of the bed.  Unable to resist, I bent over and kissed him on his shoulder before   I went into the bathroom and took a quick shower.  I left a clean, folded towel for him to use on top of the wash basin before getting dressed and heading down to the kitchen to make breakfast.  We spent the day together and then he left late afternoon, a couple of hours before my parents got home.  It was the best weekend I had ever had.

As I sit down now at the table to have my lunch, I can’t help but reflect on our relationship.  We have been dating for half a year now.  For me it’s very serious because I’m so in love with him but I’m not sure if he feels the same way.  I know that he wants me.  I can see it on his face when he looks at me.  Just thinking about how much he wants me makes me tremble and feel warm all over.  I wish we were together right this very minute but I will just have to wait until later.

Thankfully, the day went by quickly and at a quarter to six, I was standing outside of his apartment and ringing the bell.  When he opened the door, my eyes eagerly drank every inch of him.  He looked incredible in the black shirt and jeans.  His hair was slightly damp as if he had just taken a shower.  One of my fantasies is to make love with him in the shower.  It was feeling a bit hot in the hallway all of a sudden.

“Hello,” he said with a smile before he reached down and kissed me hard on the mouth.  When he drew back, his face was slightly flushed.  “Come in.”

I stepped inside, my head spinning from that kiss.   A tantalizing smell assailed my nostrils.  “Something smells really great,” I exclaimed as I followed him through the foyer and into the living-room.

“It’s Crispy Lemon Pepper Chicken.  It’s one of my favorite dishes.”

“Do you need any help?”

“No, thanks.  Just relax in the living-room until everything is ready.”

While he was busy in the kitchen, I turned on the stereo and found a station where they played R&B.  Five minutes later, he was setting things down on the table in the dining-room.  He lit two candles.  He called me to have a seat at the table while he went and got our drinks which were Sparkling Pear Punch.  He sat down and smiling, he said, “Dig in.”

“This is delicious!  How did you learn how to cook like this? Did your mother teach you?  My mother taught me—is still teaching me.”

“No, I learned after I moved out and was living on my own.”

“Lance wasn’t kidding when he said that you’re a phenomenal cook.  He even said that you’re as good as or maybe even better than your mother.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“Did you ever make dinner for your ex-girlfriend?”

“No.”

That made me feel really special and I smiled as I raised the glass to take a sip of the punch.

“Have you told your parents about me?”

“Yes, they’re dying to meet you.”

“I bet they are.  Do they know that there’s a considerable age difference between us?”

“Well, they know that you’re not a student.”

“Do they know that I’m white?”

“Yes and they don’t have a problem with that.”

“I’m relieved to hear that.  Jaleesa, there’s something I need to ask you after we finish having our dinner.”

“Okay.”  I wondered what it could be.  I didn’t have to wait very long to find out.  As soon as dinner was over and we were relaxing in the living-room, he turned to me, his expression very serious.

“We’ve been dating for a while now.  In a few months, it will be a year.”

I nodded, my heart beginning to beat faster as I had no idea where this was leading.  I hoped that it wasn’t a preamble for a breakup speech.

“I think it’s time for a change, Jaleesa.”  He reached into his back pocket and took out a small box.  I watched as he got down on his knee beside me.  My eyes popped open and my hand flew up to my mouth as he opened the box and revealed an exquisite diamond ring.  “I’m a bit nervous,” he admitted as he looked up at me.  “I-I’ve never done this before.”

I was almost beside myself with shock and excitement.  Tears were making him a big blur.  And the fact that he was nervous about proposing for the first time was very endearing.

“I love you, Jaleesa.  I fell in love with you the first time we met.  I noticed you the moment you walked into the living-room on the day we were celebrating Lance’s birthday.  Even though I was there with Heather, I couldn’t take my eyes off you.  And the first opportunity I got, I had to ask you out but before I did, I had to make sure that you weren’t Lance’s girlfriend.  Soon after you and I got together, I broke up with Heather.  I bought this ring weeks ago and have been dying to propose to you but couldn’t find the courage until now.  And even now, I’m nervous as hell.  Jaleesa, what I’m trying to say—to ask is, will you marry me?”

“Yes!” I was blubbering now and after he slid the finger on my finger, I held his face between my hands and kissed him.  He fell back on the carpet, pulling me down on top of him.  We ended up making love in front of the sofa and celebrated our engagement with non-alcoholic wine afterwards.

Yes, life was full of surprises and unspeakable joy.

Love and Forgiveness

She sat there at the bottom of the steps leading up to the flat she shared with her older sister, her arms wrapped tightly about her as the tears ran down her face. He was engaged! Why didn’t he tell her last night when they were together?

Rose-Born-pin-stripe-grey-suit-blog-fashion

“What’s the matter?”  Caspian asked Denny, his younger brother when he walked into the drawing room and he noticed the troubled expression on his face.

“I just spoke to Pearl and she sounded like she was upset about something.”

Caspian stiffened.  “You two are still in touch?” he asked tautly.

“Yes.”

“I didn’t think you would still be in touch after the breakup.”

“We decided that we could still be friends.”

“So, there’s no chance of the two of you getting back together, is there?”

Denny shook his head.  He studied his older brother.  “You sound like you don’t fancy the idea of us getting back together,” he remarked.  “Do you dislike Pearl that much?”

“Where did you get the idea that I dislike her?”

Denny shrugged.  “It’s just how you react whenever I mention her.”

“You mentioned that she sounded upset,” Caspian said, changing the subject.

“Yes, she sounded very upset and told me she had to go and then hung up.”

“And you have no idea of what has upset her?”

Denny shook her head.  “I can’t imagine what I said that would have upset her.  We were talking and she sounded fine.  She mentioned that her cousin Sharon was getting married next week Sunday and that she would be flying to Tampa on Sunday evening.  She was all excited about being a bridesmaid for the first time.  I teased her about meeting a guy at the wedding and she laughed.  Then, I mentioned that you were engaged and it was shortly after that she told me to hang on.  She went off the phone for a few minutes and when she came on again, she sounded upset.  I hope she didn’t get bad news or the wedding didn’t get called off.  I will call or stop by and see her later.”

Caspian rose abruptly from the chair and walked over to the fireplace.  His back was turned to Denny.  He knew exactly why Pearl was upset.  Last night when they were together he should have told her that he was engaged but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it.  She looked so happy.  He didn’t want to ruin that or their evening.  They were at his flat.  He had invited her for dinner.  Unknown to Denny, they had been seeing each other since the breakup.  He hadn’t intended to get involved with his brother’s ex-girlfriend, a girl half his age, but his attraction for her was so strong that he couldn’t resist.

On the evening of the break-up, he went to see Pearl at the flat she shared with her sister.  Her sister wasn’t there.  She was in Tampa with her fiancé.  So, Pearl and he were alone.

As soon as he went inside the flat and she closed the door, he asked, “Why did you break up with Denny?”

“I like him but as a friend.”

“So, it wasn’t because of another boy?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

He ran his fingers through his hair as he expelled his breath.  “You have no idea how relieved I am to hear that.”

She looked surprised.  “You are?” she exclaimed.  “Why?”

Muttering under his breath, he reached for her and pulled her against him, making her gasp.  Her eyes widened when she stared up into his face and her lips parted not in protest but in acquiescence as he lowered his head to kiss her.  The feel of her soft lips drove him mad and his moved hungrily, ravenously against them while his fingers dug into the small of her back, pressing her tightly against him so that she could feel how much he wanted her.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back.  For a long time, they stood there kissing wildly and then, she broke off the kiss and grabbing his hand, she took him to her room.  As soon as they got there, they stripped and got under the sheets.  She cried out in pain but it soon passed and she was clinging to him as he made love to her.  When they were done, he made it clear that he wanted to be in a relationship with her.  They had been seeing each other since then.  And now, his relationship with her was in jeopardy because she knew about his engagement.  He had to sort this out.

“Caspian!”  Denny’s voice jolted him.  When he turned to face him, he demanded, “Didn’t you hear me calling you?”

“Sorry, Denny.  I was thinking about something.”  He brushed past him.

“Where are you going?”

“I have some business to take care of.  Tell Mother that I won’t be back for dinner.”  And he was gone.

Pearl was curled up on the sofa with a box of tissues next to her while the television played.  She was dressed in a pair of pajamas and her hair was pulled back in a ponytail.  She had been crying all day.  Her eyes were red and her nose was sore from the constant blowing.  She must look like a mess but she didn’t care.  Nothing mattered anymore.  Caspian was getting married to someone else.  She closed her eyes as fresh tears fell.  They opened again when the doorbell rang.

At first, she didn’t move.  Perhaps whoever it was would think no one was home and go away.  But, when the bell rang insistently, she quickly wiped her face, got up and went to answer it.  Her heart ached when she saw that it was Caspian.

Slowly she opened the door.  He looked so handsome.  She wanted to throw herself into his arms but then she remembered his fiancee.  “What are you doing here?” she asked.  “Shouldn’t you be with your fiancee?”

His expression grew pale.  “May I come in?”

She was tempted to slam the door in his face but she moved aside for him to go in and then she closed the door.  After locking it, she turned toward him.  “What are you doing here?”

“I had to see you.  Pearl, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you that I was engaged.”

“Didn’t you think I deserved the right to know that the man I’ve been sleeping with is engaged to someone else?”

“I wanted to tell you but I was afraid that you would end our relationship.”

“You’re right.  I would have ended it.  I can’t be with someone else’s fiance.”

“I’m sorry.  I should have told you.”

“Well, you’ve said what you had to say.  Now, I’d like you to go.”

“You’ve been crying.  Pearl…”  he reached out to touch her but she recoiled.

“Please go…”

“I’ll go now but I’ll come again.”

“Go to your fiancee.”  Her voice broke when she said the word, “fiancee”.  She leaned against the door as the tears trickled down her cheeks.

He pulled her to him, his grip tightening as she tried to push him away.  “I don’t have a fiancee, Pearl,” he muttered tightly.  “That’s what I came to tell you.  I broke off my engagement.”

“Why?”

“Because I love you.  I want to be with you.”

“You’re not engaged anymore?”

“No!  I’m not engaged anymore.  I know that right now you’re angry and upset with me. I’ll understand if you don’t want to have anything more to do with me but I hope that you will find it in your heart to forgive me and give me a second chance.”

Blindly, she reached up and touched his face.  “I love you, Caspian,” she whispered.  “And I forgive you.”

Groaning, he turned his head and pressed his lips into her palm before lowering his head to kiss her.

I believe forgiveness is the best form of love in any relationship. It takes a strong person to say they’re sorry and an even stronger person to forgive – Yolanda Hadid

Heartstrings

“I love the way you play,” he said.

I smiled, flattered.  “Thank you.”

We were standing backstage at Carnegie Hall.  I had invited him to the performance and was thrilled that he actually came.

“The way you played that piece it was as if you were telling a story.  You had me hooked.”

“Joshua Bell, the celebrated violinist once said that when you play a violin piece, you are a storyteller and you’re telling a story.”

“I would like to hear your story.  How about going for a cappuccino with me?”

“Yes,” I said without any hesitation.  I wanted to be with him.  Since we started working at the same company, I have wanted to get to closer to him.  This was my opportunity.  I quickly put my violin away and followed him to the parking lot.  The café where we went was about a twenty minute drive.  It was a nice and cozy place.  I have never been there before.  We managed to get a seat beside the window.

After ordering two Lattes, he asked, “So, how old were you when you first started playing the violin?”

“I was five when I started learning how to play it.  My father loved classical music and he used to play it all of the time.  I would sit and listen it, especially the music featuring the violin.  I told him that I liked the violin and wanted to learn how to play it.  He took me seriously and got a friend to teach me.”

“Five.  Wow. That’s very young.”

I smiled.  “I’ve heard of children starting as young as three.”

“My sister started playing the piano when she was nine.”

“What about you?  Wasn’t there any musical instrument that you wanted to learn how to play?”

“I liked the saxophone but never got around to learning how to play it.”

“Most people like the saxophone because of its cool image.”

“And most women think it’s sexy.”

“That’s true.  When my sister met her husband he was playing the sax at a Jazz club.”

“So, if he hadn’t been playing the sax, she wouldn’t have been interested?”

“Well, it turned out that it was how he looked as he played was what really attracted her to him.”

He laughed, revealing even white teeth.  “Whatever works.”

“Yes.  Twenty years later and they are still happily married.”

“What about you?” he asked.

“I’m single.”

“That’s good to know.”

I was surprised to hear him say that.  Did he want to have a non-professional relationship with me?  Was I reading more into this than there was?  Did he just want to be friends?  All these and other questions swirled around my head.  I didn’t know what to say.  I just smiled.

He continued, leaning over, his hands clasped in front of him, his eyes meeting mine directly.  “I have wanted to ask you out for a long time now but wasn’t sure if you would want to date someone you worked with.”

It’s a good thing I wasn’t drinking my Latte at that moment or I would have choked on it.

“You look surprised,” he commented.

“I am,” I quickly admitted.

“Why?” he asked.

“Well, there are other women at the company, especially in our department whom I thought you would be more interested in.”

“Yes, there are but I’m not interested in any of them,” he reached over then and covered my hand.  The skin tingled and my stomach did a cartwheel.  “I’m interested in you.”

I felt warm all over.  “I don’t know what to say.”

“Say you’ll have dinner with me tomorrow night.”

I felt like a giddy schoolgirl.  “Yes.”

He smiled again and I felt my knees go weak.  We ordered sandwiches and sat there for another couple of hours, talking.  The following night he took me to an upscale restaurant in Soho where in the background Jazz music was playing.  I smiled when I heard the saxophone.  We had a very pleasant and enjoyable evening together.  I laughed a lot and felt totally relaxed with him.  After dinner, we went to Club Shelter where we had a blast.  I don’t recall ever having such a great time with anyone, not even my sister who used to be a real party animal.

It was after mid-night when he took me home.  We stood outside of my place, facing each other.  I didn’t want him to leave.  I didn’t want our time together to end.  “Would you like to come in?” I asked.  I waited, hoping that he would say yes.

Instead, he said, “If I do, I might not want to leave.”

Heart pounding wildly against my ribs, I stepped the foyer as I replied, “What if I don’t want you to leave?”

His response was to come in and close the door behind him.   The expression on his face thrilled me and I gasped when he pulled me roughly against him, his eyes smoldering as they met mine.  Then, we were kissing like two crazy people.  We barely made it to my room where we had an explosive session.  Afterwards, we fell asleep, wrapped in each other’s arms.

He left the following morning after a shower and breakfast.  We made plans to see each other that evening.  No one in our department knew about us until the day we announced our engagement.

She tugged at his heartstrings with her violin playing but by the cords of love he was drawn to her.

 

A Shocking Discovery

cafc3a9-terrasse-dale-r

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

It was pouring outside.  Vera sat at the bar.  Although she felt out of place, it was better than being at home, crying over Dave.  What a shock it had been when she discovered that he’d been paying other women for sex.  I thought we had a happy marriage and a healthy sex life.

 “Vera? What are you doing here?” It was Dave.

I should ask you the same question.

“You shouldn’t be here. I’ll call a taxi.”

“Why can’t you take me home?”

“I have an engagement.”

She slid off the stool.  “Yes, I think she just showed up.”

 

100 Words

 

This story was inspired by an article about wives and girlfriends who discovered that their men were paying for sex.  We often hear stories about the women in the sex industry, but we don’t hear much about the women whose men pay for these services.

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

Source:  The Telegraph

 

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.

The Gazebo

When Aubrey got the job of photographer at Harper Magazine, she didn’t expect to meet Olivia Cromwell, the famous mystery writer or fall in love with her brother, Brent.  The way Brent and she met was quite unexpected.  It happened one afternoon when she had accompanied Susannah, her employer to the Cromwell estate in Yorkshire.

It was Aubrey’s job to take the photos while Susannah did the interview.  So, after meeting Olivia and taking photos of her, Aubrey left the Victorian style drawing-room to explore the rest of the manor.  She wanted to take pictures of the study where the writer spent most of her time, working on her novels.  And of course, she had to explore the sprawling and immaculate grounds and see the gazebo where the wedding ceremony scene from Olivia’s latest book was filmed.

She went into different rooms, admiring them and taking pictures.  It felt really good having the freedom to do this and was grateful to Olivia for being so accommodating.  Not everyone liked having a perfect stranger roaming about unsupervised in their homes.  As she wandered down the hallway, she hoped that she would find her way back to the front foyer from where she could access the grounds.  She would just have to rely on her memory and sense of direction.

There was a door straight ahead.  It wasn’t open like the others but slightly ajar.  Was someone in there?  She approached it cautiously.  When she reached it, she nudged it open a little wider and looked in.  It appeared to be empty.  She went inside what turned out to be a fairly large sun-room.  Antique and modern furniture were juxtaposed with very impressive results.  Bright sunshine streamed through the large French windows.

She crossed the carpet to look out and was greeted with an obstructed view of the grounds and the looming mountains in the distance.  How pleasant it must be to see this every day.  Life in the countryside must be very peaceful and stress free.  What a welcome break it was from the hustle and bustle of the city.  It was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop…

She heard a sound behind her and swung around, startled.  A tall figure had stepped into the room from an adjoining room.  He was wearing a white vest and held a blue shirt in his hand.  Heart thudding she watched him warily, wondering who he was and why Olivia hadn’t mentioned that he was here.  Suddenly, she felt like an intruder and her gaze shifted to the door she had come through, desiring to leave.  But, she stood there, rooted to the spot, transfixed as their eyes met and held for what seemed like eternity.

He was very attractive and looked to be in his mid to late thirties.  There was something very familiar about him.  Where had she seen him before?  She wished he would put on his shirt.  The wide shoulders, broad chest and bare chiseled arms were very distracting, not to mention the narrow hips and long, muscular legs in the faded jeans.  His hair was slightly damp as if he had just taken a shower.  When he pulled on his shirt and began to button it, she couldn’t prevent the sigh of relief which escaped from her lips and she saw his mouth twitch.

“Are you lost?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No, I’m not lost but I feel as if I’m intruding so, I’ll leave—”

He moved closer.  “No, please don’t leave on my account.” A pause and then, “Which publication are you with?”

She blinked at him.  “Publication?”

“I assume that you belong to some publication and that the reason you’re here has to do with my sister.  She mentioned that someone was coming over today to interview her.”

“Your sister?”

“Yes.  I’m Brent Montague.”  He finished tucking his shirt in his jeans.  “Now you have me at a disadvantage.  You know who I am but I don’t know who you are.”

“I-I’m Aubrey Williams and I work as a photographer for Harper Magazine.”

His gaze dropped to the camera in her hand before they returned to her face.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Aubrey,” he said, extending his hand.

They shook hands.  “I didn’t think that anyone was here or I wouldn’t have come inside,” she said.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said quietly.  “It’s not every day that I walk into this room and find a beautiful girl with a camera.”

He was still holding her hand as he staring down into her face.  She wondered if he could hear how fast her heart was beating.   “Do you live here?”

He shook his head.  “No, I’m just visiting.”

“I-I really must go now,” she said, looking down at their hands, hers buried in his.

“Why are you in such a hurry to leave?” he asked.

“I’m not in a hurry,” she protested.  “I just wanted to take a walk on the grounds before Susannah is ready to leave.  I was hoping to see the gazebo where the scene of the wedding in Olivia’s book took place.”

“Would you like me to show you around?”

“Yes, thank you.”

He released her hand and she preceded him out of the room.  They walked down the hallway, through the foyer and out of the house.  There was so much to see.  The immaculate landscape seemed to stretch endlessly, dotted with colorful flowers and she paused at the fountain.  It was truly a work of art, reminding her of the ones she saw in Rome.  She felt as if she had stepped into a Jane Austen movie.  He took her to the gazebo and stood on the small, arched footpath, watching as she snapped pictures from different angles.  “It’s a perfect place for a wedding,” she remarked as she walked over to him.  “Has anyone ever gotten married here?

He shook his head.  “No, but my niece Marianne would have been the first if her fiancé hadn’t broken off their engagement a month before the wedding.”

“How awful.”

“Yes, it was a terrible shock for everyone.  It will take some time for Marianne to recover.  Right now, she’s in Barcelona.”

“Do you know why he broke it off?”

“I think he got cold feet.”

“Does Olivia have other children?”

“Yes, two sons.  One lives in Paris and the other in Barcelona.”

She wondered if he was married or had a girlfriend.  She couldn’t imagine that a man like him would be unattached.  After casting a furtive glance at his hand and not seeing a ring, she asked him, “Have you read any of Olivia’s books?”

He nodded.  “Yes.  She dedicated the first one to me.  When we were children, she used to read bedtime stories to me.  One night, she decided that instead of reading from a storybook, she would make up a story.  Her stories were so exciting that I didn’t want to go to sleep so our mother ended up reading to me but whenever we were alone, Olivia would tell me her stories.  I encouraged her to become a writer because she had such a master at it.”

“And now she’s a very successful one.  I’m a big fan.”

“If you don’t mind my asking, how old are you?”

“I’m twenty-four.”

“You look much younger.”

“Is that why you called me a girl when we were in the sun-room?”

He smiled slightly.  “I believe I called you a beautiful girl.”

Suddenly feeling very self-conscious she looked away, her pulse quickening.

“I’m sorry, Aubrey.  I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”

“I’m not embarrassed,” she replied.  “I’m very flattered.”

“I can see that you’re not used to compliments.  Don’t you receive any from your boyfriend?”

“I don’t have a boyfriend.”

“Good.  Then, there’s no one to object to my inviting you to have dinner with me tonight.”

She blinked.  “Dinner with you tonight?”

“Yes.  That unless you have another engagement.”

She shook her head.  “I don’t.”

“Then, it’s settled.  I shall see you this evening at seven.  Where do you live?”

She gave him her address.  “I’d better join the others now.”

“I will escort you back.”  He started back to the manor, walking at a leisurely pace so that she could keep up with him.  In the foyer, he bade her goodbye, adding, “I’m looking forward to seeing you later,” before he headed off in the opposite direction.

When she joined them in the drawing-room, Susannah and Olivia were waiting for her.  “Ah, the wandering photographer has returned,” Olivia remarked.

“We were beginning to wonder why you were,” Susannah said.  “You must have gotten quite a lot of photos in the time you were gone.”

Aubrey nodded.  “I did and I met your brother,” she said to Olivia.

“Ah, yes.  Brent.  He’s very charming, isn’t he?”

“Yes.” And very exciting.  Just talking and thinking about him made her stomach do somersaults.

“Is he still dating that French model?” Susannah asked.

Aubrey held her breath as she waited for Olivia’s reply.

“Heaven’s no,” Olivia said, waving her hand dismissively.  “He ended that relationship ages ago.  Don’t know why he got involved with her in the first place.  I never did like the girl.  She was vain, possessive and not very bright.”

“Is he seeing anyone now?” Susannah asked.

“No.  He’s put relationships on hold, I think.  Now, I shall ring for some tea and scones which we can have on the patio.  It’s such a lovely day. Too lovely to be cooped up inside.  Oh, Aubrey, dear, do you know where Brent is?”

Aubrey shook her head.  “We parted company in the foyer.”

“What a pity.  I was hoping that he would join us.  Oh, well.  I suppose he had some errands to run or something.”

Tea arrived about five minutes later and as they chatted over mouth watering scones, Aubrey wished that the rest of the afternoon would pass quickly.  She couldn’t wait to see Brent again.

It was five minutes to seven and she was ready.  She stood in front of the full length mirror to make sure she looked all right.  He called her a beautiful “girl” but tonight she wanted him to see a beautiful “woman”.  The knee length navy blue, wrap dress with the V neckline and spaghetti straps hugged the contours of her body and the nude strappy sandals flattered her shapely calves.  Her hair was slicked down, giving her a classy, twenties look.  No makeup, only lip gloss and simple but elegant jewelry adorned her ears and neck.

The doorbell rang.  She glanced at her watch.  It was exactly seven.  He was very punctual.  After another quick glance over her reflection, she went to answer the door, her heart racing.  When she opened it, her eyes ran involuntarily over Brent’s tall frame.  He was dressed in a black paisley dinner jacket, black silk shirt, no tie and black trousers.  His hair was slicked back, giving him a polished look.  Her heart was in her throat and she seem to have trouble breathing when she saw the way his eyes traveled slowly over her and then alighted on her face.  She saw admiration and something else shimmering in their depths.  “Hello,” she managed to say.

“You look ravishing,” he muttered, his expression tense.

“Thank you.  And–and you look very handsome.”

His expression remained unchanged.  “Thank you.”

She excused herself and went for her handbag.  After closing and locking the door, she preceded him to the lift, aware of his eyes on her.  She was so nervous.  This was her first date ever.  She hoped he wouldn’t find her company boring or tiresome or regret asking her to dinner.

Thankfully, the evening went much better than she anticipated.  Over a sumptuous meal, he helped her to relax by telling her funny and entertaining stories.

When they were having dessert, he said to her, his expression serious, “I want to see you again, Aubrey.”

She looked at him.  “I want to see you again too.”

“Do you know that after we parted company this afternoon, I couldn’t stop thinking about you?  I kept wishing the hours would go by quickly so that I could see you again.”

She laughed.  “I was wishing the same thing too,” she confessed.

“I don’t know what it is about you, Aubrey Williams, but you got to me in a way no other woman has ever done before.  I felt it this afternoon when I first saw you.”  He reached over and took her hand in his, his eyes intent on her face.  “I hope I’m not moving too fast for you.”

She could hardly think straight with him caressing her fingers with his thumb.  It was having a curious effect on her stomach.  “You’re–you’re not,” she managed to say breathlessly.

“It’s just that I’ve never felt this way about anyone before.” And it scares me.  “I want more of this. More of you, more of us. Together.”

“I want this too,” she said, her heart racing.

He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it.  The feel of his lips on her skin made her tremble and she felt that strange sensation at the pit of her stomach again.

After dinner he took her dancing.  That night marked the beginning of the rest of their lives together. Visitors to their home couldn’t miss the beautiful framed wedding photo of them kissing in the “perfect place for a wedding”— the Gazebo which was decorated with flower garland.  At the bottom of the photo on the right side were the words, Happily Ever After.

Sources:  Carrocel; Archadeck of Central GA; Pinterest