Shades of Love

For the first time in his life, Maxwell was in love. The problem was–his family wouldn’t approve.  Why?  The object of his affection was a very dark skinned Nigerian woman.  He was a light skinned black man with blue eyes whose parents were light skinned blacks from Barbados.  He always had a weakness for dark women although to please his parents, he dated the light skinned ones.  This woman was absolutely stunning but he knew that his family wouldn’t see past her color.  Even his friends when they saw him checking her out at the party where they met, they told him, “Man, she’s way too dark.  There are so many gorgeous black women here to choose from and you had to pick out the darkest one.”

Of course, he ignored them and walked up to her, his heart racing with nervousness and excitement.  She turned and it seemed like his heart stopped.  This close she was even more breathtaking.  Her beautiful eyes mesmerized him and her skin looked smooth and flawless.  The black cocktail dress hugged her perfect body and the strappy black sandals she wore accentuated her long and shapely legs.  She wore a jeweled choker around her slender neck.

“Maxwell,” he said, holding out his hand.

She put her hand in his.  “Adaolisa.”  They shook hands.

“That’s a pretty name.  What does it mean?”

“God’s daughter.”

“Adaolisa, you’re a very beautiful woman.”  I think you’re the most beautiful woman here.

She smiled.  “Thank you.  And you’re a very handsome man with the most amazing eyes I’ve ever seen.”

He blushed.  “Thank you.  I detect an accent.  Where are you from?”

“Nigeria. I moved from Lagos to London when I was seventeen to attend university.  I stayed with my aunt until I graduated and found a job.”

“You speak English very well.”

“Actually, English is my first language and the official language of Nigeria.”

“Have you been back since you left?”

“Yes.  I visit my family every Christmas.”

“Are you here alone?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  You came with your friends.”

So, she had noticed him long before he approached her.  That pleased him.  “Why don’t we get something to eat and then find somewhere to sit?” he suggested.

“All right.” They went over to the elaborate buffet table and helped themselves to the spread.  They went out on the terrace, found a corner where there were a couple of chairs and sat down.

“Which university did you go to?”

“Cambridge.”

“Now I wish that I went there instead of Oxford and then we would have met sooner. Why did you study at Cambridge?”

“Education.”

“How you like living in England?”

“I don’t mind it because I love my job and I have a lot of friends.  What really bothers me, though, is the prejudice that exists among blacks.  The lighter skinned women, especially, turn up their noses at me and they get upset when their men look at me.  I think too, that they don’t like me because I’m African.”

Maxwell shook his head.  “It’s a shameful thing when prejudice exists within the black community,” he said.  “Growing up in Barbados, I was exposed to bigotry.  My sister was bullied because she wasn’t dark enough and I watched light skinned children ridicule the dark skinned ones.  Many times I got into fights standing up for myself, my sister and my friends.  There was a girl who lived next door to my grandparents whom I liked and I used to hang around her.  My grandfather who was much lighter than me didn’t approve and used to say to me, ‘She’s too dark.’  He told me that all the men in our family married light skinned women so that the next generation would be lighter.  I loved my grandfather but I was ashamed of his ways.  Unfortunately, my parents are the same way.  When I was a teenager I used to date light skinned girls to please them but that changed when I went to university.”

“So, your parents wouldn’t be pleased to see you talking to me,” she commented.

“No, they wouldn’t be.  But it doesn’t matter.  I’m a grown man.  I like you Adaolisa and I want to get to know you better.”

“It’s sad to see blacks discriminate against each other.  It only polarizes the communities.”

“It does.  And it polarizes families too.  My younger brother married a German woman whom our parents welcomed with open arms and they dote on their Caucasian looking grandchildren.   My sister, however, is somewhat of a disappointment to them because she fell in love with and got engaged to Omar, a Senegalese man.  It doesn’t matter that he’s a great guy, loves her and treats her like a queen, all my parents see are his color and his nationality.”

“There are many shades of love.  Your brother chose one shade and your sister another.  All that matters is that they’re happy with their choices.”

He stared at her, admiration glinting in his eyes.  Not only was she beautiful but she was wise.  He knew he had found a treasure tonight.

They changed the topic and talked about other things until it was time to leave.  “May I give you a lift home?” he asked, hopefully.

She nodded.  “Yes, thank you.  I’ll be right back.”

After she left, he rejoined his friends.  “Where have you been, Man,” Trevor asked.

“He’s been with the Nubian,” Colin chimed in.

“So, are we still heading over to the Road House to catch the game?” Nigel asked.

“I’ll pass,” Maxwell told them.  “I’ll see you guys at the game on Friday.”

“He’s brushing us off because of black beauty.”

“Her name is Adaolisa.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I don’t like to keep a lady waiting.”  He turned and walked away, his heart and steps quickening when he saw her standing there, waiting for him.

That was two years ago and now, here they were on their way to see his parents before they went to their favorite restaurant where he was going to propose to her.  It didn’t matter to him what his parents thought.  He was madly in love with this woman and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.  She looked exquisite in the dark red dress with the spaghetti straps.  Unable to resist, he reached over and caressed her shoulder with his knuckles.  “Are you nervous?” he asked when she looked at him.

“A little,” she admitted.

“Don’t worry, I will be there.   As soon as I see that things are getting uncomfortable for you, we will leave, okay?”

“Okay.”  She seemed to relax and a slight smile tugged at her mouth.  She turned to look out of the window.

Five minutes later, they were pulling up in front of a very charming cottage nestled among climbing rose bushes.  He held her hand as they walked up the driveway.  When they were standing on the step in front of the door, he turned to her and asked, “Ready?”

She nodded.  Her grip on his hand tightened imperceptibly.

He rang the doorbell and waited.  It opened and his father stood there.  “Hello, Son,” he said, shaking Maxwell’s hand.  Then, his eyes shifted to Adaolisa.  “Good evening,” he said, extending his hand.

Adaolisa shook his hand.  “Good evening.”

“Please come in,” he said, stepping aside.  His manner toward her was polite but there was no warmth.  “Your mother is in the living-room.”

After they removed their shoes, they went to the living-room.  His mother was sitting by the fireplace.  She stood and went over to hug him.  “It’s good to see you, Maxwell,” she said.  “It has been a while.” When they drew apart, she looked at Adaolisa.  “How do you do?” she sounded a bit stiff although she shook her hand.

“I’m fine, thank you,” Adaolisa replied.  “What a lovely home you have.”

“Thank you.  Won’t you sit down?”

“Mom, we could only stay for a little while,” Maxwell told her as he sat down on the sofa next to Adaolisa.  “We’re going out for dinner.”

“Maxwell mentioned that you’re from Nigeria.”

“Yes, I’m from Lagos.”

“Do you have any family here?”

“Yes, an aunt.  The rest of my family is in Lagos.”

So, far so good, Maxwell thought, beginning to relax when his mother said abruptly, “Maxwell, may I have a word with you?  Excuse us,” she said to Adaolisa before standing up and leaving the room.

Maxwell looked at Adaolisa.  “I’ll be right back,” he promised.  He got up and left.

His mother was standing in the hallway.  “Let’s go into the kitchen,” she suggested and led the way.

When they were alone in the kitchen, she asked, “Are you serious about this girl?”

“First of all, she’s a woman not a girl and yes, I’m very serious about her.  I’m head over heels in love with her.”

“But what do you really know about her?”

“I know enough about her to want to marry her—”

His mother looked aghast.  “Marry her?”

“Yes.  I’m going to propose to her tonight over dinner.”

“But, she’s African.”

“So?”

“Why couldn’t you find yourself a nice Bajan woman or even an English woman?”

“So you object to Adaolisa because she’s African?”

“Yes and she’s too dark.”

Maxwell tried to remain calm.  “Do you have any idea how damaging it is to a child when they are treated differently because they are dark?  I knew someone at university who told me that when she was a child, the teacher gave her a black crayon instead of a brown one to color a drawing of herself.  She transferred to a different school because of the bullying but she still had to deal with verbal abuse from other black students.  How could you stand there and look down at Adaolisa because she’s not your idea of what is beautiful?  It’s not the color of her skin that makes a woman beautiful, it’s her character.  I brought her here to meet you because I hoped that once you got to know her, you would set your prejudices aside but clearly I was wrong.  I’m going to marry her regardless of what you say or think.  You’re welcome to come to the wedding if you like.  Now, it’s time for us to go.  Goodbye, Mother.”  He turned and walked away from her.

He was quiet on the ride over to the restaurant.   Then, turning to her, he said regretfully, “I’m sorry about the way things turned out.  I foolishly hoped that my parents would come around and accept you.  I know my mother is set in her ways but I thought that my father would be more forthcoming but aside from greeting you at the door, he said nothing to you all the time we were there.  And when I came into the living-room after talking to my mother, he wasn’t there.  You were sitting there all by yourself.  I was so upset that I had to get out of there”

She reached out and placed her hand on his thigh.  “Let’s not dwell on what happened.  We have the rest of the evening ahead of us.  Let’s enjoy it.”

“All right,” he said.  “Let’s enjoy the rest of our evening together.”

They ended up enjoying dinner.  The conversation flowed and there was a lot of laughter.  Just before they ordered dessert, he reached out and covered her hand, his eyes intent on her face.  Swallowing hard, he began the speech he had rehearsed over and over since the moment he knew that he was going to marry her.   “Adaolisa, words alone can’t express how I feel about you.  From the moment I first saw you, I knew that you were the one for me.  You took my heart and my breath away.  When I look at you, I see the woman I love, the woman I need and the woman I’m meant to be with.”  He reached into his breast pocket and took out a box.  Releasing her hand, he opened it and removed the ring.  It was an exquisite Rose Gold Leaf diamond engagement ring.

She stared at it in wonder and when her eyes lifted to his face, they were moist.  “It’s beautiful,” she murmured.

“It will look even more beautiful on your hand,” he replied huskily.  “Will you marry me, Adaolisa?”

She nodded.  “Yes, Maxwell.” The tears were rolling down her cheeks now as she watched him slide it onto her finger before he raised her hand to his lips and kissed it.

“I love you, Adaolisa.”

“I love you too, Maxwell.”

They raised their glasses in a toast and over dessert, they made wedding plans.  In May of the following year, they got married in an elegant but simple ceremony.  Her family was there.  His brother and his family were in attendance as well as his sister and her husband, Omar.  Noticeably absent were his parents.  Fortunately, that didn’t put a damper on the nuptials.

After a two week honeymoon in the Maldives, they moved into their new home, a half-hour drive outside of London.  Nine months later, they welcomed their first child—a girl with beautiful olive skin and her father’s eyes.  As Maxwell held her in his arms, he remarked, “She’s beautiful like her mother.”

“She’s another shade of love—our love for each other.”

 

Source:  Dazed Digital; Felix Online; Nation News; Barbados Free Press; Fluid London; University of Cambridge; Global News; Pinterest; Ben Garelick; Harper’s Bazaar

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Mirembe

photo-20180618154624172

Two years ago, handsome businessman, Akio Hitoshi met Mirembe, an African woman who fled her country to seek refugee status in Japan.  When he learned that she wasn’t allowed to work and had no money, he hired her to be his housekeeper.  It was a very good arrangement for both of them.  He spent more time at his apartment in Tokyo, enjoying her cooking and her company.  Soon feelings began to develop between them and they became romantically involved.

Mirembe turned off the faucet when she heard the doorbell.  A beautiful and mature Japanese woman stood there.  “You are Mirembe?” she asked in English.

“Yes, and you’re…?”

“Mrs. Hitoshi, Akio’s wife.”

When Akio let himself into the apartment she was waiting for him.  He froze when he saw her. “Meiko.”

“Your lover is gone.”

“Where?” he asked, frantic.

“That’s not your concern.”

“How did you–?”

“Find out about her?  I have my sources.”

“Mirembe…”

“…is out of your life permanently.”

He slumped against the wall.

Mirembe stood outside the apartment.  I’m still here, Akio.

 

 

175 words

This was written as part of Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers and is based on the above photo prompt.  For more information visit Here.

If you would like to read other stories based on this week’s prompt, please visit Here.

A Love Meant to Be

Serena stood there on the Staten Island Ferry, watching the choppy, frigid waters, her emotions churning inside her.  She leaned against the rail and wrapped her arms about her.  I’m pregnant.  She found out that morning when she went to a walk-in clinic.  After leaving there, she decided to come on the ferry ride to get away for a bit so that she could process the news that she was five weeks pregnant.

Robin was the father.  Robin.  She closed her eyes as she thought about him and the night they spent together.  They hadn’t meant for it to happen.  He was still dating her friend, Connie at the time.  It was on a Saturday afternoon and she was on her way home from the movies when she bumped into him.  He was just coming out of the barbershop where he had gone and to get a haircut.

His face broke into a big smile.  He looked handsome as usual dressed in a blue jersey, jeans and a leather jacket with a fur trimmed collar.  The haircut suited him.  “Hello, Serena.”

She smiled up at him, thinking what beautiful eyes he had.  “It’s good to see you, Robin.”

“Do you live around here?” he asked.

“Yes, I live over there,” she said, pointing to a set of buildings behind him.  “So, what are you doing around these parts?”

“I was visiting my brother.  He lives around here too.  Then, I decided to get a haircut.  What about you?  Are you going somewhere?”

“Actually, I just came from the movies and am heading home.”

“Did you go to the movies alone?”

“Yes.”

“What did you go to see?”

“The Black Panther.”

He raised his eyebrows.  “The Black Panther?”

She laughed.  “I know.  I’m not into those kinds of movies but I heard such great reviews about this one that I finally decided that I would go and see it.”

“And what did you think?”

“I actually liked it.”

“Listen, are you in a hurry to get home?”

She shook her head.  “I’m just going home to a leftover dinner and Masterpiece Theater,” she replied.

“What do you say we grab a bite to eat at the bistro across the street?”

“Sure.”

They crossed over the street and went into the bistro which was filled with the sounds of laughter, glasses tinkling and mouthwatering aromas.  They sat at the back in the corner.  She had never been in there before.  The atmosphere was very cozy and relaxed.  He ordered the Fillet Mignon and she ordered the Wild Salmon.

Over dinner they did a lot of catching up because it had been a while since they last saw each other.  He was dating her friend, Connie.  They met at the gym but interestingly enough, Serena knew him much longer than Connie because they used to go to the same university.  Since then she had been attracted to him but nothing had come of it.  He was always in a relationship with someone she knew.  She couldn’t help wondering why he never asked her out and reluctantly came to the conclusion that he just wasn’t interested in being more than friends with her.

“Are things getting serious between Connie and you?”

“Not for me,” he replied quietly.  “Are you seeing anyone?”

She shook her head.  “No.”  It was hard sitting across from him and not stare at him.  Nothing had changed.  She was still madly in love with him.  “How come you never asked me out?” She had to ask.  Her heart began to beat faster as she waited for his answer.

He looked straight at her as he replied, “I was attracted to you the very first time I saw you on campus and I wanted to ask you out but I wasn’t sure you’d want to go out with me.”

She gaped at him.  “Why would you think that?”

“Well, I wasn’t sure you’d want to go out with me because—well, because I’m white.”

“And that’s why you dated other women instead.”

“Yes.”

The check came then and after paying it, he pulled on his jacket.  She put her coat on and they left the bistro.  It was dark outside now.  The temperature seemed to have dropped slightly.  He walked her home and when they were standing outside of her unit, she said, “Thanks for dinner.”

He smiled.  “It was my pleasure,” he said.

“Would you like to come in for a while?” she asked hopefully.

He nodded.  “I’d like that.”

She unlocked the door and they went inside.  After they removed their coats, she led him into the living-room.  “I’ll fix us some hot chocolate,” she said and went into the kitchen.

When she joined him, he was standing at the window, looking out.  She put the two mugs on the coffee table and went over to him.  He turned to face her.  “You have a spectacular view,” he remarked.

“Yes, I do.”

He was staring at her and then the next thing she knew she was in his arms and he was kissing her.  She wound her arms around his neck and clung to him as she kissed him back.  They exchanged wild kisses for several minutes and then he picked her up and carried her over to the sofa.

After he put her down, he drew back to remove his sweater, his eyes stormy as they met hers and he was breathing heavily.  She pulled her top over her head and then reached for him, her fingernails digging into his flesh as they kissed feverishly.  They made love and hours later, he left.  She showered and went to bed where she lay staring up at the ceiling for a while, reliving her night with Robin before finally falling asleep.

In the days that followed, she couldn’t stop thinking about him and aching for him but she couldn’t help feeling guilty because of Connie.  When he called her and asked to see her again, she put him off, telling him that it wasn’t a good idea.  It wasn’t long before she started experiencing nausea and other strange symptoms.  She decided to go to a walk-in clinic.

She had to tell Robin.  Taking a deep breath, she dialed his number and when he answered, she said simply, “I need to see you.”  She arranged where they would meet and then she ended the call.

After she got off the ferry, she walked to Battery Park to the spot where she arranged to meet him.  As she waited, she couldn’t help feeling nervous.  How was he going to react to the news that she was pregnant?  Would he be thrilled or feel trapped?  Perhaps he would want to do the honorable thing and marry her or give her financial support to raise the child on her own.  She didn’t want him to feel obligated to her.  And what about his relationship with Connie?

She sighed when she thought about her friend.  She could kiss their friendship goodbye once Connie found out about the baby.  One night of passion had changed three lives forever.  She was determined, however, that no matter what happened, this baby was going to be showered with lots of love and know that he or she is a gift from God.  She placed her hand protectively on her stomach.  Still, it would be so wonderful if Robin and she could be together…She heard her name and turned to see Robin coming towards her.

Her eyes ran eagerly over his tall frame.  It was a little over a month since they last saw each other.  He stood in front of her now.

“I go here as soon as I could,” he said, studying her face.  “Are you all right?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I’m all right.  How are you?”

His eyes darkened.  “Much better now that I’m seeing you.  I haven’t been able to think about anything else but you.  I wanted to see you, Serena.  I wanted to be with you but you told me that it would be best if we didn’t.  So, when you called me today, I was thrilled.”

“I thought it would be best not to see you because of Connie.”

“I broke up with her,” he informed her.

Her eyes widened.  “You did?” she exclaimed.  “Why?”

“After what happened between you and me, I had to end our relationship.”

“Did you tell her about–?”

“No, I didn’t but I told her how I feel about you.”

She swallowed hard, her heart racing.  “How do you feel about me, Robin?” she asked.  She knew he wanted her.  That was obvious the night they made love.  He was like a made man, his hands and lips were all over her, driving her wild.  At one point, he had her hands pinned above her head while he buried his face in her neck, his breath hot and heavy on her skin.  She felt her body respond now to the memories and looking at him now she could tell that he was remembering too.

“I showed you how I feel about you that night,” he told her huskily.  “I’m madly in love with you, Serena.  I have been in love with you since university.”

She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.  Robin loved her.

“I’ve loved you for sixteen years but it seems more like a few days.  It’s like Jacob who served seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage but to him it was like a few days because of his love for her.”

She felt the tears prick her eyes.  “Oh, Robin,” she cried huskily.  “I love you too.  I have loved you since the day you walked into my English class and sat down next to me.”

He smiled and taking her hands, he drew her toward him.  “One look at you and I knew I was in love.”

“I wish we had told each other how we felt back then.”

“Me too.  Serena…”

She glanced down at their hands.  “Robin, I have something to tell you.”

“What is it?”

Raising her head, to look at him, she announced quietly, “I’m going to have a baby–our baby.”

He stared at her for a long moment.  “You’re pregnant?”

“Yes.  Five weeks.  I found out this morning.”

“You’re going to have a baby.”

We’re going to have a baby.”

“How are you feeling?  Are you okay?  Do you want us to sit down on the bench over there?”

She smiled.  “I’m fine,” she assured him.  “I don’t need to sit down.  Are you okay with this?”

His face brightened.  “I’m ecstatic.  Oh, Serena.”  He bent his head and kissed her.

She responded, her heart almost bursting with joy and relief because his reaction to the news was way better than she could have ever hoped for.  “I’m so relieved that you’re happy about this,” she said a few minutes later when she drew back to gaze up at him.

“How could I be otherwise?  We love each other and we’re going to have a baby.  Do you know what that means?”

“No, what?”

“We’ll have to find a bigger place.  After we get married, we can go house hunting.”

“Married?”

“Yes, I want to marry you, Serena.  I’ve waited for over sixteen years for you.”

She put her arms around his neck.  “I can’t wait to marry you and to raise our child in our dream home,” she murmured.

“I told my mother about you.  Before she died, she said that a love meant to be will be, no matter how much time passes or how many obstacles it faces.  I wish—I wish she were here to see this—to see us together and you carrying her grandchild.”  Tears welled up in his eyes as he got choked up.

She reached up and put her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly, blinking back her own tears.  His arms went around her waist, holding her close.  They stood like that for several minutes before she drew back to look up at him.  She brushed the tears away from his cheeks.  “Let’s go to my place where it’s nice and warm.  We can snuggle under the covers as we make plans for our future.”

He nodded and with their arms around each other, they walked to where his car was parked.

Sometimes when it comes to love you may be in for the long haul but in the end, it’s worth the time and effort when it turns out to be the real thing.

 

Trespassing

He sat at the back of the car, gazing out of the window, his mind miles away, when he spotted her walking through the fields.  What on earth was she doing there?  He tapped on the glass partition.  “Please pull over, Rodney.”  The car slowed and then pulled over to the side of the road.  “I’ll be right back,” he promised before he opened the door and stepped out.

Oblivious that she had been spotted and that someone was approaching her, she walked through the field dotted with bright yellow daffodils, her mind elsewhere.  She had a fight with Tyson and after storming out of his flat, she decided to go for a drive in the countryside to let off some steam.  It was quite by accident that she came across this field and on the spur of the moment, decided to stop her car at the side of the winding road and make her way through it.

It was very peaceful out there and it helped her to think clearly.  It was no use remaining in a relationship that wasn’t going anywhere.  She didn’t love Tyson and he didn’t love her.  They were just prolonging the inevitable.  She made up her mind then and there that they should go their separate ways.

“Are you lost?” A voice asked, startling her and she swung around to see to whom it belonged.

She found herself staring at a tall, athletic, extremely good-looking man, well dressed in an expensive dark blue shirt and black trousers.  He had thick, dark hair, a swarthy complexion and classic features.  He looked either Greek or Italian and in his late thirties or early forties.  A quick glance at his hand told her that he wasn’t married.  She realized that she was staring and that he was waiting for an answer to his inquiry.  She shook her head.  “No, I’m not lost.  I was driving by, saw this place and decided to stop.”

“You’re trespassing, you know.”

“Trespassing?”

“Yes, this is private property.  Didn’t you see the sign over there?” he asked, pointing behind her.

She looked back and it was then she noticed a sign saying, Private Property.  No Trespassing.  She turned to face him again.  “No, I didn’t see it.”

He was watching her with a suspicious expression on his face.  “It’s hard to miss.”

Clearly he didn’t believe her and her lips pursed in indignation.  “As I said, I didn’t see it.  If I had, I would have turned around and climb right back in my car.  I don’t want to get in trouble with anyone for trespassing on their property.”

“What’s your name?” he asked, surprising her.

“Do you want it so that you can report me?” she asked.

He smiled.  “No,” he assured her quietly.  “I’m asking out of curiosity.”

“Roberta.”

“Alexis,” he said, holding out his hand.

She shook his hand.  “You’re Greek.”

He nodded.  “Yes.  What brings you all the way out here, Roberta?”

“I needed to get away for a while, to clear my head.”

“Are you in some kind of trouble?”

“No.  I had a fight with my boyfriend, that’s all.”  Why on earth was she telling her business to this perfect stranger?  He was still holding her hand and his eyes were intent on her face.  He was very disarming.  Her pulse was racing and her heart was pounding.

“I’m sorry, Roberta.  I didn’t mean to pry.”  He released her hand.

“Maybe I should go—”

“No, please don’t.  Stay a little while longer.”

“But, I’m trespassing.  What if the owner catches me and—”

“Don’t worry about him.”

“You know him?”

“Yes, I do.  He’s a reasonable man.  Excuse me for a moment.”  He whipped out his phone and walked a little distance from her.  “Rodney, I won’t need the car for the rest of the afternoon.  See you in the morning.  Thank you.”  He flipped his cell closed and slipped it back into the breast pocket of his shirt.  When he joined her, he asked, “I’m going for a walk, would you care to join me?”

She hesitated.

“We won’t go far.  Just up to the hills over there.”

“Okay.”  She fell into step beside him.  The countryside was beautiful with its rolling hills and fields of yellow flowers.  “Do you come here often?”

“Yes, I do, especially on the weekends.”

“I envy the people who live in the countryside.  After working in the city it must be nice to get away and come home to peace and quiet.  And the scenery is breathtaking.”

He was looking at her.  “Do you love him?”

She glanced at him, confused.  “Who?”

“Your boyfriend.”

She lowered her eyes.  “No.  I think we’ve outgrown each other.   We fight a lot and we’re not happy.  It’s time we ended the relationship.”

“Ending a relationship is always tough but sometimes it’s for the best.”

“Tyson and I have known each other since high school.  We dated on and off.  Now that I think about it, when we were just friends, things worked perfectly between us but the moment we decided dating, things went downhill.  Now, things have gotten so bad that I don’t think we can even be friends.   When two people are not meant to be, it’s best they don’t force it.  We should never have gotten involved with each other but remained just friends.”

He studied her, his eyes taking in every detail of her features, thinking that there was no way that he could be just friends with her.  He was deeply attracted to her and the desire to see her again was overpowering.  “Are you busy this Saturday?” he heard himself ask.

“No.”

“The owner of this property is having a costume ball and I would like you to come…as my guest.”

She stared at him.  He was serious.  He really was inviting her to a costume ball.  Immediately, her mind conjured up images of people dressed as kings, queens and fictional characters.  She had never been to a ball before and the idea of dressing up thrilled her.  “I’d like to come,” she said, smiling.

He reached into his pocket and took out a card which he handed to her.  It was an invitation to the ball.  “Do you know who you will come as?” he asked.

She considered for a moment.  “I think I’ll come as Tiana from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog.  I’ve watched the movie with my niece and loved it.  And it’s not every day that you get to dress up as a princess.  What about you?”

“I don’t know as yet.  I guess you’ll have to wait and see”

She glanced at her watch.  “I really must go now.”

“I’ll walk you to your car.”

When they were standing beside her car, she held out her hand.  “It was nice meeting you, Alexis.”  He had the most amazing eyes—they reminded her of rich, dark chocolate.

He grasped her hand.  “It was a pleasure meeting you.  I look forward to seeing you at the ball.”

“Thanks for inviting me.”  It was hard to keep a clear head when he was holding her hand and staring at her.  Her heart was racing and she seemed to have a little trouble breathing.

He released her hand and watched as she climbed into her car, waving as she drove off.  The sun was beginning to set, casting an orange glow on the field.  He cut across it to get to the manor.

All the way home, Roberta thought of nothing else but about Alexis and the ball.  She couldn’t wait to see what costume he would be wearing.  She could see him as a dashing count or a Greek warrior or even a gladiator.  She had just pulled into her parking spot underground when her cell rang.  It was Tyson.  “I’m sorry about today, Roberta.  I said a lot of things I shouldn’t have.  It’s obvious that we don’t work as a couple.”

She sighed.  “I’m sorry about the things I said too.  And you’re right. We don’t work as a couple and it’s time we parted ways for good.  I wish you all the best, Tyson.  There’s a woman somewhere out there for you.”

“I wish you all the best too.  Take care.”

“Goodbye, Tyson.”  She ended the call and slipped her phone back in her bag.  It was finally over between them.  They were both free to move on with their lives.  As she got out of the car, she thought of Alexis and her heart skipped a beat.  Tomorrow after work, she was going to get her costume for the ball.

Saturday came and she was beside herself with excitement.  Every time she thought about seeing Alexis again, her heart somersaulted.  She took her time and put on her costume and then examined her reflection when she was done.  The dress hugged her slim figure and the wig with the few curls cascading about her face while the rest was pulled back suited her.  She smiled as she adjusted the tiara, quite pleased with how she looked and hoped that Alexis would be impressed.  Drawing quite a number of curious looks, she made her way to the garage.

When she drove up the graveled driveway, she couldn’t help marveling at the impressive Victorian mansion that loomed above her.  A parking attendant came to take her car.  Nervously, she climbed the steps to the large doorway where two footmen stood.  They reminded her of Cinderella.  Music, voices and laughter filled the air.  There was a man at the door who asked for her invitation.  She showed it to him.  Heart pounding, eyes wide as they scanned the large room where the guests were, she walked slowly through the doors.  She recognized Queen Elizabeth I, Mata Hari, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill and a host of others but there was one person she was just dying to see.  Where was he?

“Hello there,” a voice said behind her and she swung around, her expression brightening when she saw Alexis.  “You’re not wearing a costume!” she exclaimed.  He looked incredible in the black suit, black shirt and no tie.

He smiled.  “The host isn’t required to wear a costume,” he replied and saw her eyes widen.

“You mean this estate belongs to you?”

He nodded.  “Yes.  All of this was left to me—the only son of Demetrius Yannos.”

“Demetrius Yannos was your father?”  Demetrius Yannos was the media mogul who was listed among the world’s richest people and was featured in TIME Magazine as person of the year.  At the age of three, the self-made millionaire from the town, Galaxidi, migrated to England with his family.  At the age of forty he married a beautiful English model half his age and they had two children—a boy and a girl.  Five years ago, Demetrius died of a heart attack while vacationing in Mykonos with his wife.  The story was all over the news.

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you tell me who you were when we met?”

“I wanted you to be interested in Alexis, not Demetrius Yannos’ son.”

“I would be interested in you regardless of whose son you are,” she assured him.

His expression became serious as he returned her gaze.  “After meeting you on Monday, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you,” he confessed.  “I’ve been looking forward to this evening all week.”

She swallowed hard when he reached for her hand.  “It’s—it’s over between Tyson and me.”

“So, you’re free to date?”

“Yes.”

“Good.  Let me introduce you to some of the guests and then, I’ll get you something to drink.”  Still holding her hand, he took her over to different people and introduced her.  Some of them were people who worked for him, friends and relatives.  She met his younger sister, Diandra and her husband, Thomas.  They were dressed as Cleopatra and Marc Antony.  Diandra was fair like her mother and very pretty.

After making the rounds, meeting new people, Alexis got a non-alcoholic Sangria for her and they went out on the terrace to enjoy the mild evening.  “You look very beautiful tonight,” he told her.  He was leaning against the balustrade watching her as she gazed out at the sprawling grounds below.

She smiled at him, feeling a little self-conscious.  “Thank you.”  Her hands were feeling hot in the long white gloves so she removed them and draped them over the balustrade.  Her heart leapt in her throat when he took her glass from her hand and set it on the ground.  He took her hands in his and drew her closer to him.

“I want to be with you, Roberta,” he told her quietly.  “From the moment I met you and we started talking I knew that I wanted to be with you.  Do you feel the same way about me?”

She nodded, her heart thudding.  “Yes, Alexis,” she murmured breathlessly.

He pulled her into his arms and kissed her.  Freeing her hands from his, she wound them around his neck, kissing him back.  In the back of her mind she thought how true the words that, One day you will meet someone who will make you realize why it never worked out with anyone else.

 

 

Sources: WikipediaPinterest

Starting Over

Christmas was just around the corner and she was back in Seattle.  She was on her way to see Jordan after she found out where he lived.

As she walked down the sidewalk, hands nestled deep in the pockets of her coat and her chin tucked into the scarf wrapped around her neck, her mind wandered back to the past.  Jordan and she both attended Pacific University.  The first time they met was when walking down the hallway on her way to Language class and he was coming from the opposite direction.  He was with a friend.  He was tall and very good looking.  The ribbed green sweater and jeans accentuated his athletic build.  His thick chestnut hair looked soft and silky.  He was talking to his friend but as they drew closer, he turned his head and that was when he saw her.

Their eyes met and held.  And as they approached each other, she wondered who he was and why she hadn’t seen him before.  When they were abreast, he said, “Good morning.”

“Good morning,” she replied and they walked past each other.  She turned round to look at him and saw him turn quickly to glance at her before he turned away.  Soon he was out of sight.  She stood there in the hallway for a moment.  Then, she glanced down at her black turtleneck sweater, denim skirt and black boots.  She hoped she looked okay.  Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail and she was wearing her new glasses.  Would a guy like him really be interested in a girl like her?  He was a hunk while she was–well, a geek.  There were so many pretty girls on campus, why would he notice her?  He probably was probably used to girls staring at him and not wanting to be rude, he didn’t ignore her.  He even said, “Good morning”.  She was kidding herself if she thought that she stood a chance with him.

Sighing, she continued on down the hallway to her class.  The next time she saw him it was in History class.  She was seating at her seat when he walked in.  He paused when he saw her and to her surprise he sat at the desk next to hers.   She could feel him watching her and she turned her head to look at him.  He smiled and held out his hand.  “Jordan,” he said.

She shook his hand, thinking, what incredible eyes he has.   “Whitney.”  Her pulse was racing.  She couldn’t believe that she was talking to him.   Just then, the professor closed the door, signalling that class was about to begin so Jordan released her hand and faced the front.  After class, he lingered while she packed her bag and together they walked out of the class.

“So, where are you heading now?” he asked when they were in the hallway.  He was so tall that she had to tilt her head back to look up at him, even in the low heels she was wearing.

“I have English now.

“I heading off for now.  Can we have lunch together?”

“Y-yes.”  He wants to have lunch with me.

“Okay.  I’ll meet you at the cafeteria.”

“Okay.”

“See you later.”  He smiled and then walked away.

They had lunch together that day and every day after that.  Her friends saw them together and were convinced that he liked her but she still wasn’t sure.  They spent a lot of time together, studying, going for walks, walking to class and after school, they went to a burger place nearby where they hung out, talking about different things.  She invited him to a youth program her church was having on a Friday evening.  Strangely, they never made plans to see each other over the weekends.  They saw each other during the week and always on campus.

By then, Whitney was in love with Jordan and was wondering how he felt about her.  Once when they were out walking, she stumbled and fell against him.  He steadied her.  They were standing very close to each other, their bodies inches apart.  He was looking down at her and there was a tense expression on his face.  She saw his gaze lower to her lips and his part and for one heart-stopping moment she wondered if he was going to kiss her.  Then, he released her and turned away.  Disappointed, she fell into step beside him as they headed back to the campus.   Why didn’t he kiss her?  It was a perfect opportunity.  It wouldn’t have been wrong for them to kiss as long as they didn’t get carried away.

She got her answer the following day.  It was by accident.  She and her friend, Sonia were in the shopping mall one Sunday afternoon, trying to finish their Christmas shopping when they spotted Jordan coming out of one of the stores and he wasn’t alone.  A pretty brunette was walking beside him, with shopping bags in one hand while the other was holding his hand.  Whitney stopped in her tracks and Sonia looked at her, feeling sorry for her.  She reached out and grabbed her hand.  “Let’s cut through here,” she suggested, hustling her down another passageway in the opposite direction.   She led her through the mall and out of the closest exit to the parking lot.

Whitney felt sick but she managed to keep it together until they were in Sonia’s car.  Then, she just burst into tears.  Sonia held her for a long while until she was spent and then she handed her a box of tissues before turning on the ignition.  The rest of the day was a blur for Whitney.  When she got home, she went straight to her room and threw herself on her bed where she stayed until it was dark outside.  Not feeling hungry, she skipped dinner, took a shower and went straight to bed.

The next day, she went through the motions of getting ready for school, dreading when she would see Jordan in History class.  How was she going to face him without breaking down?  Unbidden the image of him with the other girl flashed across her mind and the painful jealousy that it elicited almost suffocated her.  Woodenly, she walked to the bus-stop down the block and waited.

When she reached the university, her footsteps dragged.  She wanted badly to turn around and go back home but she kept going towards the building.  The first class went by and then, it was time for History.  As she walked down the hall toward the classroom, her heart began to pound.  She paused in the doorway, her eyes going straight to his desk.  He wasn’t there as yet.  She hurried over to her desk and sat down.  She took out her textbook and notebook and waited.

About five minutes later, when he walked in, her heart leaped.  He said good morning when he sat down and she mumbled in reply but didn’t look at him.  She avoided looking at him all through class and when it was over, she started to shove her books and pen into her bag, anxious to get out of there.  She could feel him staring at her but she couldn’t look at him.  When she grabbed her bag and was about to walk away, he stood up and blocked her way.

Still, she couldn’t look at him.  Instead, she stared at his sweater.  “What’s the matter, Whitney?” he asked.  “Why are you giving me the cold shoulder?”

“I have to go.  I don’t want to be late for my class.”

“Can I walk with you to your class?”

“No, thank you.”  And without saying another word, she brushed past him, her back rigid.  Instead of going straight to class, she went to the washroom to collect herself.

She didn’t go to the cafeteria for lunch.  Instead she went outside and leaned against the tree where the two of them used to hang out.  She closed her eyes in despair.  How she wished it didn’t hurt so much.  Her heart was aching because she loved him so much.  She could feel the tears welling up in her eyes and she felt in her pocket for a tissue.  When she opened her eyes to dab them, she was startled to find Jordan standing in front of her, a concerned look on his face.  “How long were you standing there?”

“I just got here,” he said, moving closer.  “What’s wrong, Whitney?” He reached out to touch her but she drew away as if he had stung her.

“I saw you yesterday at the shopping mall,” she said.  “Was that your girlfriend you were with?”  She looked at him then and saw his face go pale.

“Whitney, please let me explain–”

“Is she your girlfriend?”

“Yes.  Callie and I have been dating since high-school.  She and I were both attending Northwest University until this year when I transferred to here.   I felt impressed to transfer to Pacific and I have learned that when God wants me to do something, I do it even if it doesn’t make sense.  I never meant to deceive you, Whitney.  When I saw that we were getting close, I should have told you about Callie but I was afraid that you would end our friendship.”

“Is friendship all you want from me?” she demanded in a trembling voice.

His eyes darkened and he moved even closer.  “No,” he admitted thickly.  “I want to be more than friends with you.  I love you, Whitney–”

He had finally said the words she had longed to hear but they gave her no joy now.  It only made things worse.  “I love you too but what good is that?” she cried, her voice tight as she fought to keep the tears back.  “You have a girlfriend.”

“Does this mean that you want us to stop seeing each other?”  There was a pained expression on his face.

“Yes,” the word was a strangled sob.  The tears followed, unabated.  Everything became a blur and she felt his hands on her face, cupping it and his lips on hers.  For a brief, unguarded moment, she kissed him back.   Then, with a groan, she broke off the kiss, pushed hard at his chest until he released her and she was free.  She turned and ran away.

Life on campus after that was torture for her.  And she was thankful when the Christmas break came but the holidays were anything but jolly for her.  All she could think about was Jordan and how much she missed him.  The New Year came and she was back at school.  When she saw Jordan she longed to wish him a happy New Year but didn’t.  She exchanged desks with another girl in the class so that she didn’t have to sit next to him.  Her desk was at the back of the class and every now and then, her eyes drifted over to him.   As soon as class was over, he was gone.  They saw each other around but avoided contact.  It was painful but necessary.

After graduation, she decided to move to New York where she was able to find a job and an apartment, thanks to her uncle.  She kept in touch with her friend, Sonia.  It was through her that she found out that Jordan had broken up with Callie since last year November.  “Why didn’t he let me know?” she asked her.

“You made it clear to him that you didn’t want to see him anymore, remember?  He’s still in love with you, Whitney.  Every time I see him, he asks about you.  Do you still love him?

“Yes.”

“Then, you need to come down here and let him know that.”

“I’ll come for Christmas,” she promised.  And, here she was back in Seattle, hoping to run into Jordan.  They hadn’t seen each other since graduation.  How she longed to see him.  The separation had been unbearable.  Many times she had been tempted to fly to Seattle just to see him but then she was reminded of why they were separated in the first place.

She was so engrossed in her thoughts that she didn’t notice someone standing there her until she heard her name.  Startled, she glanced up and her heart somersaulted when she saw Jordan.  He was wearing a toque, a leather jacket opened to reveal a tee shirt and a pair of jeans.   Seeing him again filled her with such emotion that she felt as if her heart was going to burst.  She stood still watching him when she longed to run up to him and throw her arms around him.

He stood there watching her for a moment and then he slowly approached.  His expression was tense when he gazed down into her face.  “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“I–I was on my way to see you,” she said.  Her heart was pounding and she was very nervous.  “How have you been?”

His eyes darkened.  “How do you think I’ve been?” he asked thickly.  “I’ve been miserable ever since we stopped seeing each other and when you moved to New York, I felt my whole world come crashing down around me.”

“Sonia told me that you broke up with Callie.”

“Yes.  I broke up with her the week after you decided that you wanted to stop seeing me.  It was a terrible time.  She was devastated and I felt like a jerk but I didn’t think it was right to continue seeing her when I was in love with you.  After graduation, she moved to Boston where her father lives.”

She couldn’t help feeling sorry for Callie and hoped that things would work out for her.  She knew first hand what it was like to be without the person you loved and she never wanted to experience that feeling again.  “Jordan, I moved back to Seattle because of you.  I was hoping that we can start over.”

“As friends?”

“No, not as friends but as two people who love each other and want to be together.”

“Are you sure?” he asked as he moved even closer so that they were standing inches apart.

“Yes, I’m absolutely sure.”

He reached up and cupped her face between his hands.  “I love you,” he murmured before he lowered his head and kissed her.

She put her arms around his waist and kissed him back.  They stood there on the sidewalk kissing and then, he drew back.  “Let’s go somewhere warm and have a couple of hot chocolates,” he suggested.  “I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to be alone at my place right now.”

She smiled up at him.  “Good idea.”  He put his arm around her shoulders as they turned and walked in the direction of a cafe.  As she slipped her arm around his waist and nestled against him, she was grateful that they were able to start over.

Sources:   Seattle Pacific University;American Historical Association

The Nutcracker

It was on a Saturday night at the London Coliseum where Alexis and her sister Gwen ran into Mrs. Bannister, Alexis’ music teacher, a wonderful lady who didn’t look as if she had aged very much at all.

She was delighted to see her former pupil, her face beaming and her light blue eyes sparkling.  “Hello My Dear,” she said, “What a lovely surprise and on my birthday too.  How are you?  Are you still practicing on the piano?  You were a very promising student and one of my favorites.”

“It’s so good to see you, Mrs. Bannister,” Alexis said as they hugged.  “Happy birthday.”

Mrs. Bannister turned to the young man who was standing beside her.  “This is my grandson, Jeremy.  He brought me to the ballet this evening for my birthday.  He has always been a very thoughtful young man.  Jeremy, this is Alexis.”

Alexis’ attention shifted to the older woman’s companion.  He was tall and very handsome.  His thick brown hair was a bit long but it suited him.  He was wearing a fine and rather expensive looking dark grey suit, blue shirt and tie.  His light green eyes met hers and she thought she saw admiration shining in them.

He took the hand she proffered and shook it.  “A pleasure,” he said with a cultured English accent.

She smiled.  “It’s nice to meet you.   This is my sister, Gwen,” she said.  He acknowledged Gwen with a smile and shook her hand.  Then, he returned his attention to Alexis.

“Did you enjoy the ballet?” he asked.  “Grandmother has always wanted to see The Nutcracker and I promised her that one year I take her for her birthday.”

“Yes, I enjoyed it very much.  I’ve always wanted to see it too.  It was my good fortune that my brother-in-law is not a fan of ballet or musicals so Gwen asked me to come with her.”

“I should thank your sister for bringing you tonight,” he said quietly.  “I got to meet you.”

She smiled, not sure of how to respond to that remark.  He was staring at her making her feel both nervous and flattered.  She had never had a man this young interested in her before.  He had to be at least ten years younger than her.  “Are you and your grandmother close?” she asked.

“Very,” he said.  “She always says that I’m her favorite.”

“Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

“I have an older brother and a younger sister.  Do you have other siblings?”

“No, Gwen is the only one I have.  We were very close growing up.  Now she is married with two girls and a boy.”

He glanced down at her hand.  “I see that you’re not wearing a ring,” he said.  “I guess you’re not married.”

“No, I’m still single.”  She didn’t mention that she was once engaged but she broke it off when she found out that her fiancé was two-timing her with his new assistant.

Just then, Mrs. Bannister said to her, “Alexis, how would you like to have tea with me tomorrow afternoon, if you have no other plans, of course.”

Alexis smiled.  “I would be delighted,” she said with a big smile.

“Splendid.  So, I shall see you tomorrow afternoon at two.  Gwen, it was a pleasure to meet you.   Come, Jeremy, it is past my bedtime.  Thank you, Dear, for a lovely evening.  I shall never forget it.”

Jeremy said goodnight to Alexis and Gwen, his eyes lingering on the former before he took his grandmother’s arm and led her away.

Gwen looked at her.  “Mrs. Bannister seems like a really nice lady, very gracious and friendly.  I had a rather nice chat with her.  Her grandson is very handsome.  I noticed him paying you a lot of attention.  What did you think of him?”

“He’s very handsome and polished.”

“Were you attracted to him?”

It was no use denying it.  “Yes, very attracted, a lot good it would do me.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, for one thing, he’s younger and another, he’s upper crust.”

“It seemed like neither of those two things mattered to him and if he’s anything like his grandmother, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t at least entertain to idea of dating him.  Don’t allow what happened with Sidney prevent you from having a love life.  I never did like him.  Good riddance to him, I say.  You can do much better.  So, if you happen to see Jeremy again and he asks you out, don’t turn him down.”

Alexis looked unconvinced.  “I don’t know if I will see him again and even if I do, I don’t think he’ll ask me out.  No, I’m not going to get my hopes up.  I’ll go and see his grandmother tomorrow and we will spend a pleasant afternoon together, catching up.  Now, what do you say, we grab a bite to eat before you head home to your brood?”

The next day, Alexis drove over to Mrs. Bannister pretty cottage, nestled among thick foliage and surrounded by immaculate gardens.  She had a live in housekeeper who opened the door and showed Alexis to the drawing-room where the lady of the house was seated.

Mrs. Bannister’s face lit up when she saw her.  “Hello, my Dear.  Come and sit beside me and by the fire.  It must be cold outside and grey too.”

Alexis went over to her and after hugging her warmly, she sat down on a chair close to the one the elder woman was occupying.  “What a lovely home you have,” she remarked.  “I couldn’t help admiring your gardens.  I imagine that your grandchildren must have loved playing in them when they were young.”  She wanted to ask her so many questions about Jeremy and what he was like as a boy but thought better of it.

Mrs. Bannister nodded, smiling.  “Oh yes, they loved playing in the gardens which they were children.  Jeremy’s favorite spot was the lake. He would swim there sometimes.  He was always scampering about the place, vexing his mother who thought he was a bit too wild.  I always told her that he was a boy and boys were supposed to be a little unruly.  When he comes he could take you for a walk on the grounds and show you the lake.”

Alexis’ heart lurched.  “Jeremy’s coming here?” she asked.  The thought of seeing him again thrilled and terrified her at the same time.  She couldn’t believe that she was behaving like this over a younger man.

“Yes, he said that he would stop by around three.  He doesn’t usually come and see me on a Sunday so I was quite surprised when he called me this morning to tell me that he was coming over this afternoon.  I’ll ring for our tea now.”

They had their tea and sandwiches as they talked about old times and other things.  The time went by very quickly and Alexis had just finished drinking her tea when Jeremy walked into the drawing room.  He went over to his grandmother and hugged her.  When he drew back she looked up at him, beaming.  “It’s good to see you, Dear.”

“I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon,” he said, smiling at her.  Then he turned to Alexis.  “Have you had a chance to see the gardens?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “I saw them when I was coming up the driveway.  They look amazing.”

“I told Alexis that you would take her for a walk in the gardens and show her the lake where you used to swim as a child.”

“I’d be happy to,” he said, his gaze still on Alexis.  “Shall we?”

She got up and after excusing herself, she followed him out to the foyer.  She got her coat and scarf from the closet.

“I won’t keep you outside too long,” he promised.  “It’s very nippy.”

They walked through the gardens and to the path which led to the lake.  She looked around her in wonder.  Autumn in Surrey was breathtaking.  The thick foliage on the opposite side of the lake was cloaked in rich, bright colors.  The air was cold but very fresh.  “I can see why you loved coming here,” she commented as they stood there watching two swans gliding through the gold lake.  It was so peaceful out there.   It was a nice change from the city.

“Yes.  I used to come out here all the time and swim or feed the swans.  I loved being here more than at my parents’ estate in Yorkshire.  Yorkshire is even more beautiful in the autumn but I prefer being here in Surrey.  You’re right about it being peaceful here and that’s why this is still my favorite place to relax and think about things.”

“Do you still swim in the lake?”

He smiled and shook his head.  “I stopped doing that when I turned thirteen.  Besides, I don’t want to scare away the swans.”

“This is a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon,” she remarked.  “Your grandmother was surprised that you visited her today.  She said that you don’t usually visit her on a Sunday.”

“She’s right.  I’m usually at home or out with my friends but I came here today because of you.”

She swallowed.  “Me?”

“Yes, I wanted to see you again.”

A slight breeze started blowing and she shivered.  She pulled the hood over her head and shoved her hands in the pockets of her coat, wishing she had worn her gloves.

“You’re cold,” he observed.  “Let’s go back to the cottage.”

He helped her remove her winter gear and then he took off his coat and hanged everything in the closet.

When they went into the drawing-room, Mrs. Bannister was not there.  She went over to the fireplace to warm her hands.  He joined her.  He turned toward her and took her cold hand in his and rubbed it between his.  Her heart was pounding as she watched his long fingers move slowly but vigorously to warm hers.  Then, she raised her head to look up at his face and her breath caught in her throat when she met his smoldering gaze.  “I want to kiss you,” he muttered thickly.

She trembled at the thought.  “Your grandmother could return at any minute,” she said, trying to remain rational in spite of her senses which were screaming at her to let him kiss her.

“You’re right,” he admitted.  “It would be awkward if she were to walk in and find us kissing.  Have dinner with me tonight, Alexis.”

“Yes,” she said simply.  She gave him her address and he made a mental note of it.  “I think she’s coming.”  He released her hand and moved away from the fireplace just as his grandmother entered the room.

“Did you enjoy your walk?” she asked as she went over to the chair she had vacated and sat down.

“Yes, I did.”

“Good.  You must come in the summer.  It’s really nice then.”

“Mrs. Bannister, I must be leaving now.  Thank you for inviting me to tea.  I had a wonderful time.”  She went over and kissed her on the cheek.

“Goodbye, Dear.  Jeremy will see you off.”

He walked with her to her car and held open the door for her to get in.  As she was about to, he leaned down and kissed her on the cheek.  She closed her eyes at the sensation of his warm lips against her skin.  When he drew back, their eyes met and held for a while.  “I’ll pick you up at seven,” he said quietly.  She nodded and got in the car.  He stepped back and watched as she drove off.

When he returned to the drawing-room, he sat down in the chair Alexis had occupied and looking at his grandmother, he said, “Grandmother, I’m in trouble.”

“You are attracted to Alexis, aren’t you?” she asked.  “I noticed the way you looked at her last night.”

“I couldn’t help it.  That’s why I’m here today.  I wanted to see her again and I asked her to have dinner with me tonight.”

“Now, that wasn’t a wise thing to do.”

“I know and I feel like such a fraud,” he muttered, exasperated.  “She has no idea that I am engaged.”

“Well, from where I’m sitting, you have only two options—break off your engagement to Bridget or forget about Alexis.”

“I can’t forget about Alexis.  And I can’t marry Bridget.”

“It seems then, that you have made your decision.  I never did think that Bridget was the right girl for you.  I imagine that the engagement was all your mother’s doing.  Well, it’s time you started making your own decisions.  You’re old enough now.  You should go and deal with Bridget right now.  And when the time is right, you can tell Alexis everything.”

He got up and hugged her.  “Thanks, Grandmother.  I’ll go and see Bridget now.”

“Be gentle, Dear.”

“Yes, Grandmother.”

His meeting with Bridget went better than he expected.  She too had been having second thoughts about their engagement but didn’t know quite how to tell him.  They parted on amicable terms.  They realized that what all this time their feelings for each other had been platonic rather than romantic.  He let her keep the ring.

Over dinner at a trendy and romantic French restaurant, he told Alexis everything.  “I’m so thankful I met you,” he said.  “If I hadn’t, I would have married the wrong woman.”

“So, the two of you never slept together?”

“No.  We had decided that we would wait until we were married but I never wanted her.  Yet, I wanted you from the moment I saw you.  After I took my grandmother home, I went down to the lake to figure out what I was going to do.  I was engaged to one woman but had fallen hard for another.  I didn’t want to hurt Bridget but I couldn’t get you out of my mind.  When I saw you again the next day, I knew that I couldn’t give you up.”

“Where do we go from here?” she asked.

“I want to see you—go out with you,” he said, covering one of her hands with his, his expression earnest.  “I want to be in a relationship with you.”

She covered his hand.  “I want that too,” she admitted.

After dinner that night, they became romantically involved and a year later, they got married.  His father, brother, sister, grandmother and Bridget attended the simple wedding but his mother was conspicuously absent.

 

The Move to Paris

It took a lot of moxie to get her here to Paris

but it is her faith in God that keeps her going.

Leaving Toronto with its familiar

haunts, a job she loved, family and friends

to settle in a city she had only visited once

wasn`t an easy thing to do at all.  She didn`t

think she had it in her.  Her friends rooted for her,

and already made plans to visit her in the

summer but her family was a different

story.

 

Her mother didn`t like the idea of her being in

Europe all by herself and was fearful of terrorist

attacks.  Mia had to remind her that she was old

enough to take herself.  And she assured her that

God would protect her.

 

Her father warned her to be careful of the

French men.  And her sister, well, she was glad

to see her go because it meant that she didn`t

have to share the bath-room with her anymore.

And she could move into Mia`s room which

was much bigger and nicer than hers.

 

Mia paused to look at the Eifle Tower.  She was

here to begin a new life, on her own.  It had

always been a dream of hers to live in Europe.

She had considered London, Rome, Barcelona

and Lisbon but she decided on Paris.  She could

speak French fluently and she loved the food.

And besides, she could always take the train or

the Hovercraft to London any time.

 

Upon her arrival in Paris, she applied for a

job to teach English and was accepted.  Her first

day on the job was tomorrow.  Her heart did

a little somersault.  The thought of standing

in front of a classroom was daunting.  Then she

heard the words, “Fear not: for I am with thee.

Peace filled her heart and she offered a silent

prayer of thanksgiving.

 

She asked one of the people standing nearby to

take a photo of her.  Her first Sunday afternoon in

Paris.  She smiled broadly into the camera.  Paris

is a beautiful city and she had all the time she

needed to enjoy it.  For now she was content to

stay here a little longer and just soak up the

atmosphere and admire the view.

 

Asian woman in Paris