Led by God

Roman was in the park, tying the laces on his running shoes when Janice walked up to him.  He glanced up.  “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“I’m here to see you, of course,” she replied.  “I missed you yesterday.  We all did, especially the kids.  The annual church picnic just wasn’t the same without you there.   As usual it was a fun-filled day of food, games and fellowship.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there but I didn’t feel up to it.”

“Is everything okay with you, Roman?”

He finished tying his laces and stood up, stretching.  “Yes, everything is okay with me.  Is that why you’re here, Janice?  To check up on me?”

“I’m not checking up on you.  I just wanted to come by and see how you’re doing.”

“Well, I’m doing fine.”

“Frances is a bit worried about you…”

“Did Frances send you?”

“No, she didn’t but she called me last night because she was concerned about you and I promised her that I would pop by to see you.”

“Sometimes Frances acts more like my mother than my sister.  She has her own family to take care of.”

“You are family.  And if there is something that is troubling you, you really don’t have to deal with it alone–”

His mouth tightened.  “I don’t need a therapist.”

“I’m not here professionally, Roman, but as a friend.  Please, can we find a bench somewhere and talk?”

“I’d rather not talk about my personal life right now,” he said.

“All right.  We won’t talk about you.”

“What will we talk about?”

“Anything that doesn’t make you uncomfortable.”

“Okay.  There’s a bench over there.”

She followed him to the bench which faced the lake and they sat down.  “This is the second time in five years I have been to Hyde Park.  I had forgotten how beautiful it is.  Do you come here often?”

“Yes.  It’s where I come to relax and unwind and it’s close to where I live.  But, you already know that.  Did you go to my flat first before coming here?”

“Yes.  Frances told me that if you weren’t there, chances were that you were here.”

“What did you hope to accomplish by coming here?”

“Well, I hoped to see you and spend some time with you.”

“What about your boyfriend?  Wouldn’t he have a problem with you being here with me?”

She looked down at her hands.  “Roger and I aren’t seeing each other anymore.”

“How come, if you don’t mind me asking.”

“He’s a non-believer.  I knew that before we started dating but foolishly I believed that I was his best chance for knowing Jesus.  I knew what I should do but wrestled with it for a while because I cared for Roger.  I prayed about it and spoke to my pastor.  He said that any emotional attachment a person had toward another person who is not on the same spiritual page or vice versa, is an unhealthy attachment.  He told me to heed God’s Word about being unequally yoked and end the relationship and move on.  Which I did.”

“When did you break up with Roger?”

“Last month.”

“That’s very recent.”

“Yes.  Sometimes it feels like it happened just yesterday.  I know that it’s for the best, though.  I had no idea that I was doing what Pastor Brown called, missionary dating.”

“What would he call being in a relationship with someone you have doubts about?”

“What sorts of doubts do you have about Jenny?”

“I have doubts that she’s the woman I’m meant to be with.”

“How long have the two of you been dating?”

“Four years.”

“And you still have doubts about whether or not she’s the one you want to spend the rest of your life with?”

“Yes.”  He ran his fingers through his hair.  “I just can’t shake the feeling that this relationship is all wrong for me and that I should get out of it.”

“Any time you have doubts, you need to take notice and deal with them right away.  I once read something that James T. Draper wrote which said, ‘Doubt never means yes and always means no or wait a while: God does not lead through doubt. If you can’t get peace, that is an answer.’   Don’t ignore the signs that are there.  Have you shared your concerns with Jenny?”

“Yes, I have but the doubts are still there.”

“Pray about it.”

He sighed.  “I will.”

She glanced at her watch.  “I’m afraid I have to go now,” she said, getting up.  “If you need to talk some more, call me.”

“All right.  Thanks.”  He watched her as she walked away and then he leaned back against the bench and closed his eyes.  Lord, what should I do about Jenny?  I don’t want to hurt her but I can’t ignore all of these doubts.

He waited for several minutes and then he got his answer.  “Jenny is not the one for you.  It is time to end your relationship with her”.  He opened his eyes and reaching into his pants pocket, he took out his cell phone.  He paused for a moment before punching in the numbers.  It rang a couple of times and then she answered.

“Hi, Roman, I’ve been calling you all morning.  Where are you?”

“Hi, Jenny.  I’m in the park.”  His fingers gripped the phone as he added, “May I come over?  I need to see you.”

“Sure.  You sound a bit funny.  Are you all right?”

“Yes.  I just have a lot of things on my mind.  I will be there in half-hour.”

“All right.  I’ll see you then.”

He ended the call.  He put the cell back into his pocket and stood up.  As he walked out of the park and headed home, he thought about what he was going to say.

That evening, Janice had just finished watching In Touch with Charles Stanley when her phone rang.  She got up and went to answer it.  It was Roman.

“I ended my relationship with Jenny this morning.”

“How did she take it?”

“Not good, I’m afraid.”

“That’s as expected.  How are you doing?”

“Not well.  I feel rotten.”

“It’s never easy to break up with someone you love.”

“Did you love Roger?”

“No.  I cared for him but I wasn’t in love with him.”

“This experience has taught me that loving someone isn’t enough to make the relationship work.  I love Jenny but I can’t be with her because I know that we wouldn’t be happy.”

“My grandmother once said that just because two people love each other it doesn’t mean that they are meant for each other.  The nagging doubts you had about Jenny was evidence that you aren’t right for each other.  I’m sorry that things didn’t work out for you, though.”

“Me too.”

“So, what are you going to do now?”

“Do you remember Lisa Williams?”

Janice knitted her brow.  “Vaguely.”

“She’s one of the mission trip organizers and she invited me to go on a mission trip to Ireland for ten days.”

“Are you going to go?”

“Yes.  I believe that a mission trip is what I need right now.”

“When do you leave?”

“Next week Monday.”

“Well, I hope you have a good trip.  One of the best ways to recover from breaking up with someone you love is to do something entirely new.  Going on this trip is probably what you need to do.  You’ll see new places and meet new people.  Think of it this way, God has called you to partake in His work of transforming hearts and lives in Ireland.”

“Yes, I believe He has.” A pause then, “Thank you, Janice, for being there for me.”

“What are friends for?”

“I’ll call you when I get back.”

“All right.  Take care.”

“Goodbye.”

She hung up and stood there for several minutes then she went back over to the sofa and sat down.

The trip to Ireland provided just the catalyst Roman needed.  God used the experience to take him out of his comfort zone through street ministry and to bring him closer to Him.  His eyes were opened to the love of God spreading to a community of people who knew of Him but didn’t know Him personally.  Ireland was a beautiful place but the highlight for him was sharing the simplicity and beauty of the Gospel message with people.  He hoped and prayed that their hearts would be transformed.

On the flight back to London, he thought about the trip and how thankful he was to have been a part of it.  He remembered the different areas they had traveled to but Cobh stood out for him.  It was a beautiful and colorful town.  He learned that it was the Titanic’s last port of call and visited the Titanic Memorial Garden there in Cobh.  It was also where the survivors and the dead from the torpedoed RMS Lusitania were brought.  A monument was erected to commemorate the tragedy.

As he stood at the Cobh harbor looking at the colorful buildings huddling together facing the water and the boats and St Colman’s Cathedral, one of the tallest buildings in Ireland, looming over the town, he thought about Janice.  He was sure that she would love the place and on the spur of the moment, he bought her a postcard.  He wrote something on it and then dropped it in the mailbox.  He had a feeling that he would be back in London before the postcard arrived.

He glanced at his watch now.  In about an hour they would be arriving at London’s Heathrow Airport.  He was looking forward to being home.  As soon as he got in he was going to relax on the sofa and watch some television.  Although he still thought about her, there were no reminders of Jenny in his flat.  Before leaving on the trip, he had cleaned house, removing photos of her alone, of them together, souvenirs they had brought back from trips and things she had given him.  It was tough doing that but not as tough as severing all contact with her.

He deleted her from his email account, blocked her from Facebook, blocked her cell, home and work numbers.  It had to be a clean and complete break.  Thankfully, they didn’t attend the same church or it would be really awkward and difficult running into her.  He decided that it would be best to phase out her friends from his life as well.  No ties with them or her family or anyone in her circle.  Another clean break.  He would make new friends and reconnect with old ones–have his own social circle.   And as far as dating again was concerned, he wasn’t ready.  He was going to be single for a while.  He believed that “being single is definitely better than being with the wrong person (Hassan Choughari).

Being single felt a bit strange at first after having been in a four year relationship but he got used to it after a while.  He traveled more, got involved church ministry and community service.  His life was busy and fulfilling.  Two years had passed and Jenny was a faint memory.  The last he heard of her, she had gotten married to a guy she met at a Singles’ Retreat.  He was happy for her but it only proved to him that the doubts he had about her were God’s way of alerting him to the fact that she was not the right woman for him and he was not the right man for her.  She was with the person she was meant to be with and he was going to trust God now to show him who the right woman was for him.

Lately, he and Janice were spending more time together.  He enjoyed her company.  They went hiking across dramatic cliff-tops and river valleys with breathtaking views of the white cliffs of Seven Sisters, Beachy Head and the Cuckmere Haven river valley.  They had lunch at The Cuckmere Inn.  Last Saturday they went bowling with Frances and her husband, Ken.

Tonight they were having dinner at a family run Italian restaurant.  “I got your postcard from Budapest yesterday,” Janice told him.  “It must have been nice seeing those grand palaces, cathedrals and art.”

“Yes, it was.  It seems like all of my postcards got home after I did, though.”

She smiled.  “Well, except for the one from Montreal.”

Roman reached over and covered her hand with his, his expression serious.  “Janice, I’ve known you for a very long time and you’ve always been a good friend to me.  When I was going through my struggles with doubts about Jenny, you were there to counsel me.  Lately, we have been spending a lot of time together and during this time, I have developed romantic feelings for you.  I feel such peace when I’m with you.

“There are no doubts or concerns.  Our schedules don’t conflict.  We both have time to go to church, serve God, and enjoy spending time together.  I enjoy being with you.  Thinking of you excites me spiritually and emotionally.  Talking to you is so easy.  I feel so comfortable sharing very intimate thoughts with you.  I feel that I have your undivided attention.  And everyone thinks you’re terrific.  Janice, I want to be in a relationship with you.”

Janice stared at him, her heart was pounding.  She could hardly believe it.  Her prayers had been answered!  “I want to be in a relationship with you too, Roman,” she admitted huskily.

He smiled and squeezed her hand.  “Are you up for dessert?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  I keep thinking about that Chocolate fudge cake.”

They began dating from that night and six months later, he proposed.  The wedding took place the following summer.  Frances was her matron of honor and Ken was the best man.  It was a small and intimate wedding.  They honeymooned in the Grenadines.

After a walk on the beach following dinner, they went back to their room with its stunning view of the sea.  They stood facing each other, both nervous and excited at the same time. “I love you,” Roman muttered thickly.  “I waited for more than two years for the right woman and God led me straight to you.”

“I love you too,” she murmured.  “A wise woman once said, wait for the man who waited on the Lord to lead him straight to you.  I waited for you and God led you to me.”

Roman reached out and taking her by the hands, he drew her to him, his eyes dark and stormy with desire.  He bent his head and kissed her.  When he felt her response, his hands released hers to cup her face as he deepened the kiss.  She put her arms around his waist and pressed against him.   The kisses became more passionate and soon, they were tugging at each other’s clothes, wanting to be free and to feel skin against skin.

Picking her up, he carried her over to the bed where in the moon dappled light, they made love for the first time.

Sources:  CBN; Heather Lindsey; Facts and Trends; Huffington Post; Bustle; World’s Missions Alliance; She Knows; Huffington Post; RFWMA; Irish Central; Wikipedia; Self Growth; Pinterest; Walking Club; Belief Net; Nina Andres; Cotton House

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Sing to the Lord

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises – Psalm 98:4

Praising God is something that should be as natural as breathing.  It’s hard to do so, however, when facing trials, problems or challenges, but that is the time when we really need to do it.  I have had an experience when I was feeling down about something and it came to me, no doubt it was the Holy Spirit’s prompting, that instead of focusing on what I was going through, to focus on God instead.  So, I began to praise Him.  I began to sing songs of praise to Him and after a while, I felt so light and upbeat.  The problem which had seemed like a mountain became minuscule until with God’s help, I was able to resolve it.

The apostle Paul is a good example of someone who praised God regardless of what the circumstances were.  Who could forget when Silas and he were in jail and instead of suffering in silence, they began to sing?  Acts 16:25 says But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  God used that moment as an opportunity to reveal Himself.

Suddenly, there was an earthquake, shaking the foundations of the prison and the doors to the jail cells were opened and the chains broken, the prisoners could have escaped but no one moved.  The jailer thought that they had broken out and was about to take his life out of fear of reprisal but Paul assured him that all of the prisoners were there.  And that led the jailer to ask the question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Verse 30).  God used Paul’s and Silas’ attitude toward their circumstances to bring about the salvation of the jailer and his family.  And who knows if any of the other prisoners didn’t change too as a result of what they heard and witnessed.

How we deal with adversity will not only affect us but those around us.  Instead of looking down or around, we look up and whatever song the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, puts in our hearts, we lift our voices and sing to our God, Who is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).  It will lift our burdens up to Him and bring His comfort down to us.

New York City

The phone rang and Nahla rolled over, groggily reaching for it.  “Hello?”

A recording came on reminding her that she had requested a wake-up call.  She hung up and rolled on to her back.  She closed her eyes and said a prayer.  She lay there for a few minutes before climbing out of bed and heading for the bathroom.  After brushing her teeth, she took a long, hot shower before getting dressed.  She put on her new black and white skirt suit, checked herself in the mirror.

Glancing at her watch, she noted that it was seven.  She went over to the window and looked out.  The street was far below.  She was in New York City, the Big Apple which was pulsating with life even this early in the morning.  Excitement filled her.  This was her first visit to the city although it was purely on business.  She hoped that she would have time for sightseeing.  Perhaps she could persuade Simon. Simon.  A smile came over her face when she thought about him.

Nahla loved working with Simon.  He was very professional but also very easygoing.  She heard horror stories from friends and family about bosses who micromanaged everything they did.  She counted herself to be very blessed to have a boss like Simon.  She wondered if he was awake.  Most likely he was.  He was an early bird.  Every morning, no matter how early she went into the office, he was always there.  Sometimes, it was just the two of them.  He was the reason why she went to work early.  They would sit and talk in his office for half-hour or a little longer until nine o’clock then she would go to her desk.  She enjoyed his company tremendously and looked forward to spending that time with him.

Last night on the flight from London to New York, as they sat next to each other, she couldn’t help remembering how sexy he looked in the brown leather jacket and jeans as he walked over to her in the departure lounge at the airport.  He had an errand to run so they arranged to meet there.  It was the first time she had seen him in anything but a suit and it was refreshing.  His usually slicked back hair was slightly tousled.  She longed to run her fingers through the silky strands.  On more than one occasion when they were sitting in the lounge, he caught her staring at him and she quickly looked away, feeling embarrassed.

When they got on board the plane, he removed his jacket and put it in the overhead compartment.  The navy blue ribbed turtleneck sweater looked really good on him, accentuating his broad shoulders, arms and chest.  Sitting that close to him was unnerving.  Her heart skipped a beat now as she recalled the moment when the magazine slid off her lap as she tried to adjust her seat.  They both reached for it and their hands touched.

Immediately, their eyes met and held as they both straightened up and settled back into their seats.  He handed her the magazine.  She swallowed hard before she thanked him.  For the rest of the flight, she couldn’t stop thinking about the strong feelings that stirred in her when their hands touched.  The moment, although brief, was charged with the attraction that they obviously felt toward each other.  It had always been there, lurking, but in that instance, it was palpable.

The phone rang, making her almost jump out of her skin.  She hurried to answer it.  It was Simon.  “Good morning, Nahla.”

“Good morning, Simon.”  The sound of his voice was doing crazy things to her.

“I know we got in late last night,” he said.  “Was checking to make sure you were able to get up.”

They had got in to LaGuardia after ten and by the time they got to the hotel, it was time to turn in.  They had had dinner on the plane.  He had accompanied her to her suite, stayed to make sure she was settled in before going to his.  The suit was big and unlike anything she had ever seen.  She enjoyed a good night’s rest.  “I probably would still be asleep if it hadn’t been for the wake-up call,” she said.

“I was up before I got the call.  Have you had breakfast as yet?”

“No.”  Just then, she felt pangs of hunger.

“Join me in my suite. We can have breakfast together.”

“All right.  I’m on my way.”

Five minutes later, Nahla stood outside of Simon’s suite.  She took a deep breath before raising her hand to knock on the door.

“Come in,” she heard him call.

She opened the door and walked in, stopping short when she saw him standing there half-naked, his shirt was in his hand.  Flustered, she looked away, her heart pounding.

A faint smile played on his lips as he observed her reaction and how she deliberately avoided looking at him.  He could tell that she was attracted to him and that thrilled him because he was extremely attracted to her.

She was his new secretary because the last one he had was very inefficient. The moment Nahla walked in the boardroom, he knew that he going to hire her but as a formality, he interviewed her.  When it was over, he told her right then and there that she got the job.  That was two years ago.  It turned out that hiring her was the best thing he did. They worked very well together.  But, he wanted to have more than a professional relationship with her.  He was hoping to change things between them while they were here in New York.

“Room service will be here shortly,” he informed her as he pulled on his shirt and started to button it.  “While we eat we can go over the day’s schedule.”

She didn’t answer.  How on earth was she going to concentrate on anything now when all she could think about was seeing him shirtless?  It was hard standing there and trying not to stare at him.  She wished he would hurry up and button his shirt.

“Is something the matter, Nahla?” he asked. “You seem bothered about something.”

“What—what if it had been room service instead of me just now?” she wondered.  “The person would have walked in and seen you…”

“I knew it couldn’t be room service,” he assured her quietly.  “As soon as I got off the phone with you I called them and they said they would be here in about ten minutes.  Five minutes later I heard the knock.  I figured it had to be you because you’re just a couple doors down the hall.  And somehow, I don’t think seeing me half-naked would have bothered the person as much as it obviously bothers you.”

“It doesn’t bother me,” she replied quickly, too quickly and her heart leapt in her throat when he moved closer, his eyebrows raised.

“Doesn’t it?” he asked, his eyes intent on her face.  “Is that why you avoid looking at me now?”

He was standing so close now that she could feel his warm breath on her forehead.  The heady smell of his aftershave assailed her nostrils making her lightheaded.  She was finding it really hard to breathe normally.  Her eyes darted to his face and she trembled when she saw the expression on it.  “Simon…” his name was a whisper.

His eyes darkened and he pulled her roughly against him.  “Nahla,” he muttered thickly before he kissed her.   His hands pressed into the small of her back while his mouth hungrily devoured hers making her senses spin.  He groaned when she kissed him back.  Her hands went under his shirt which wasn’t tucked in his trousers and her nails dug into the smooth skin on his back as they exchanged fiery kisses.

The loud knock on the door startled them and he raised his head, his face flushed.  “It’s room service,” he panted.  He released her and gave her a moment to collect herself before he called out, “Come in.”

A young man came into the suite pushing a room service table.  He pushed it over by the window and after spending a few minutes explaining what he had brought for them, “Enjoy your breakfast and please don’t hesitate to call us if you need anything else” with a courteous smile before quickly leaving the room.  After he was gone, Simon went and locked the door.

Nahla looked at the spread but she couldn’t think about food at the moment.  Her mind was on what happened before the waiter showed up.  She glanced up as Simon came over to her. Their eyes met.  “Are you hungry?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Neither am I,” he replied.  He reached for her and pulled her toward him, swallowing hard when he saw the desire in her eyes.  “Let’s finish what we started.”

“But what about the meeting at nine-thirty?” she protested weakly.

“Don’t worry, we’ll make it,” he promised.

She opened her mouth to say something else but he smothered it with a kiss.  Closing her eyes, she put her arms around his neck and responded wildly to his kisses.  An hour later they quickly got dressed, had breakfast and left the hotel.  They arrived at the meeting five minutes before it started.

On the way back to the hotel in the afternoon, Simon turned to her, “Do you regret what happened between us this morning?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No.  Do you?”

He shook his head.  “No.  It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.”

“It’s something I’ve always fantasized about.  I didn’t think it would happen here in New York, though.”

“Nahla, I know that we work together but after this morning, I can’t go back to how things were between us.  I don’t want to dream of being with you with any more, I want it to be real.”

Nahla reached for his hand, her eyes shining.  “I want to be with you, Simon.  It’s as simple and complicated as that.”

He leaned over and kissed her.  And as she kissed him back, she thought, I got my fairy-tale ending here in New York City.

 

Sources: HBR Webinar ;Good Reads

 

Soho

Lord Nelson Hadley always prided himself in being a man in control of his faculties. He was more analytical than emotional when it came to the affairs of the heart.  And being ultra conservative, he was staunch in his stance against abortion, premarital sex, same sex marriage, drug use and other practices that were contrary to his religious and moral beliefs.  He was never married.  Marriage was something which he held in very high regard and he wanted to get it right because he didn’t want to end up divorced like some of his friends.  He wanted to take his time and make sure that he married the right woman.

Over the years, he dated several high society women. Currently, he was dating Agatha Sullivan, the youngest daughter of Ted Sullivan, retired Supreme Court Judge.  Agatha was a beautiful, accomplished woman and a philanthropist.  They met at a charity ball two years ago.  She shared his faith and his political views.  He enjoyed her company and cared deeply for her.  His family and close friends highly regarded her and thought she would make him a very suitable wife.  He began to seriously and prayerfully consider marrying her.  And then, he met Regina Davis…

Their meeting reminded him of David’s and Bathsheba.  Like David, he was where he shouldn’t have been.  It was around noon and he was hungry.  He was in the mood for spicy food so he decided that he would go to a familiar Caribbean restaurant in Soho.  Besides, it was a nice change from the upscale establishments he frequently went to where the food was sometimes bland.

He didn’t notice her until after he had given his order to the waitress.  After closing the menu, he glanced up and his gaze fell on her.  She was sitting two tables away, alone and she looking at him.  She wasn’t the sort of woman he would be attracted to although, she was attractive.  Perhaps it was the excess makeup or the fact that she was wearing too much jewelry.  Yet, he couldn’t tear his eyes away.  He was like a moth drawn to a flame.

They stared at each other for a long time and when the waitress came and placed the plate in front of him, he barely glanced up at her.  He didn’t touch his food right away.  He found himself wondering who the woman at the table was and for a maddening moment was tempted to invite her to join him.  Then, she smiled at him and his heart skipped a beat.  Without thinking, he smiled back.

His response seemed to be all the encouragement she needed and his heart began to pound when he saw her get up from her table and walk over to him.  She was wearing a blue long sleeved sweater which hugged her and a pair of faded jeans which fitted her snugly.  She was medium height and looked to be in her late thirties.  She stood behind the chair opposite him, her manicured hands resting on the back.  She seemed a bit nervous and cleared her throat.

“Lord Hadley, I’m sorry that I was staring at you,” she said.  “It’s just that I went to a fundraising event last week with a friend and saw you there with Agatha Sullivan.  I wanted to come over and thank you both for your generous donations to the Olive Davis Community Center but something came up and I had to leave.”

This close, she was even more arresting and he found it hard to stop staring.  “Do you work at the Olive Davis Community Center?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I’m the Director.  The center was founded by my grandmother Olive Davis who wanted to help the youth to stay off the streets.”

“What’s your name?”

“Regina Davis.”

He saw that she wasn’t married.  “It’s nice to meet you, Regina,” he said, holding out his hand.  She moved around the chair and closer to him so that she could shake his hand.  Her hand felt so soft and very small in his.  “The Olive Davis Community Center is doing excellent work in the community and we wanted to show our support.”  Am I sounding like a politician?

“Please thank Miss Sullivan for me.”

“I will,” he promised.

She hesitated and then said, “Well, let me not take up any more of your time.”

“I would like to stop by your center some time,” he heard himself say and he knew that the reason for deciding to drop by had nothing to do with the center itself.  He was just using it as an excuse to see her again.

She smiled.  “That would be great,” she said and reaching into her handbag, she took out a business card which she handed to him.   “Here’s my card.  Call me when you plan to stop by.”

He took it and put it in the breast pocket of his jacket.  “Thank you,” he said, his eyes meeting hers.  He wanted to ask her to stay but decided that it would be unwise to do so.

“Goodbye, Lord Hadley,” she said.  After a lingering glance, she turned and walked out of the restaurant.

He sat there for a long time, watching the door through which she had left and feeling like a heel because all he could think about was how badly he wanted to see her again.  By the time he left the restaurant he had made up his mind that he would stop by the community center the following week.

On Monday morning, when he called her to let her know that he was going to stop by on Wednesday afternoon, she sounded very pleased to hear from him.  The sound of her voice did things to him and he wondered if he sounded as breathless as he felt.  His heart was racing and his hand gripped the phone tightly to stop it from trembling.  What on earth is the matter with me? he asked himself after he hung up.  He was acting like this over a woman he met just last week when he was contemplating marrying another.  Perhaps, he should call her back and tell her that he couldn’t go but the desire to see her again was too strong.

Wednesday came and he was both nervous and excited.  He keep looking at his watch.  When it was time to leave, he quickly shut down his laptop, got up, pulled on his jacket and left the office.  On the drive over, he kept asking himself why he hadn’t mentioned to Agatha that he was going there today.  He had conveyed Regina’s message to her but left out the part about stopping by the center.

Regina was waiting in the reception area when he got there and a bright smile came over her face as she quickly closed the distance between them to greet and shake his hand.  She looked lovely in a cream pantsuit which flattered her figure and he noticed that she wasn’t wearing that much makeup or jewelry.  “It’s so good of you to come,” she said, after introducing him to Jasmine, the receptionist and they were walking down the hallway to begin the tour which she had promised him over the phone.

“I’m sorry that I didn’t think of it before.”  That was true.  He remembered how Agatha had mentioned visiting the center to get a better perspective of how it was operated and to meet the staff and maybe some of the youth whom they were helping but they never got around to it due to conflicting schedules.  Again, he felt guilty about not arranging for a convenient day and time for them to come together.  Pushing these feelings aside, he concentrated on what Regina was telling him about the center and the different programs.

“We offer services to women, children, youth, immigrants and the homeless.  We have programs for teenage mothers, at risk youth, parenting workshops, health and cooking programs.  Last year we launched a food bank which helps people from all ethnic and educational backgrounds and low in-come families.  My grandmother, Olive, believed strongly in helping people from all walks of life, especially the vulnerable, needy and faceless in our communities.  She was a God-fearing woman who was determined to show God’s love to everyone, no matter who they were.  She always said, ‘Love is not about feeling, it is about doing.  Jesus was always doing’.  I thought that was a great saying to put as part of our mission statement.”

“I think your grandmother would be proud of the work you are doing,” he said, genuinely impressed by what he saw and it made him want to do more.

She smiled.  “Thank you.  This center means a great deal to me because not only is it here to help many people and to make a difference in their lives but it keeps my grandmother’s dream alive.”

When the tour was over, they went to her office where they spent a little while longer talking about the center.  “I was wondering if you would be willing to come and make a presentation to my church one Saturday.  It may encourage members to get involved.”

“I’d love to,” she said.  “Just let me know when.”

“Thank you.”  He stood up.  “I must be going.”

She followed him to the entrance.  “Thank you again for coming, Lord Hadley.”

They were alone.  The receptionist had left for the day.  “Please call me Nelson,” he said quietly.  Heart thudding, he asked, “Will you have dinner with me tomorrow evening at that restaurant where we met?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  I could meet you there, if you like, because I live about ten minutes away.”

“All right,” he agreed.  “I will be there for seven.  Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

The next evening when she got there five minutes before seven, he was there sitting at the same table as the last time.  He rose to his feet and held out the chair for her to sit.  His eyes traveled over her, admiration shimmering in their depths.  She was wearing a red long sleeved dress and heavy makeup.  Big, gold earrings dangled from her ears and this time, her nails were painted bright red.  He was wearing a charcoal grey suit, matching tie and black shirt.  After they ordered dinner, she asked, “Are you a Seventh-day Adventist?”

“Yes.”

“I asked because you mentioned that your church service was on a Saturday.  My grandmother, Olive was a Seventh-day Adventist.  As you can tell, I’m not one.”

“You are referring to the makeup and the jewelry.”

“Yes.  If I were to show up at your church like this, they would probably run me out.  With the exception of my grandmother, I always thought that Adventists were intolerant and judgmental.”

“Most of us may come across that way because we are passionate about the Bible and its application in our lives.” Right now if one of the members were to see me with you they would have a conniption.  Agatha had gone to church with him on a couple of occasions and they welcomed her but he suspected that it was because of her Adventist background.

“When I come to your church I will be makeup and jewelry free, I promise.”

“Thank you.” He turned the topic on to other things.  Dinner turned out to be a very pleasant experience and he was sorry when it was over.  He took her home and walked her to her door.  Outside, they faced each other.  His heart was pounding wildly against his ribs.

“Wouldn’t you like to come in?” she asked.

“I shouldn’t,” he said weakly.  His mind yelled, Run but his body was screaming, Stay.

She turned and unlocked the door and pushed it open.  “Just for a nightcap,” she said.

Temptation cast itself like a net over him and drew him into the flat.  When the door closed, he knew he was in deep trouble.  Desire seized him in an iron grip and blindly, he reached for her and pulled her roughly against him.  His mouth found hers and devoured it like a ravenous lion, pressing her up against the door, groaning when he felt her eager response.  Hands tugged at clothes until they were discarded on the ground by their feet, nails clawed at bare skin as they moved like two drunken people toward the hearth where a cream shaggy rug was spread.  There, in front of the electric fireplace, they made wild and passionate love, beginning what was to be a torrid love affair.

They saw each other as often as it was possible and spent most of their time at Regina’s flat.  They went out occasionally and were careful to avoid the places where they might run into familiar faces.  The only place they frequented was the Caribbean restaurant in Soho.  It became their favorite haunt because it was where they met.

On the Saturday when she was invited to speak at his church, they were careful not to give themselves away, always acting circumspect around each other, especially since Agatha was there.  After the service, as Nelson watched the two women chatting over potluck in the church basement, he couldn’t help comparing them.  As usual, Agatha looked regal in her lime green suit with matching hat, shoes and purse.  She was a very beautiful woman with thick chestnut hair and bright blue eyes yet it wasn’t she who make his heart skip a beat whenever he was around her.  His gaze shifted to Regina.

She was wearing a below the knee black and white dress with long sleeves.  Her face was devoid of any makeup and she was not wearing any jewelry.  She had kept her promise.  She looked incredible.  He had to be careful not to be caught staring at her.  After the afternoon program, she left.  That evening, he went to her flat and didn’t go back home until the following afternoon.

It wasn’t long before his affair with Regina began to affect other areas in his life.  He found it difficult to concentrate on his work and when he was in sessions, he found himself thinking about her.  When he was with Agatha, he was distracted and when she inquired about it, he was evasive and said that he had a lot of things on his mind but assured her that it was nothing for her to be concerned about.  Whenever he read his Bible and came across passages talking about fornication, he was filled with conviction.

Finally, it was yesterday when he had resolved, I must end my relationship with Regina.  With a set expression on his face, he had closed the Bible and gotten up from behind the desk in his study and left the room, determined to push all feelings aside and do what his faith and conscience dictated.

He had gone over to her flat, with every intention of ending their affair but when she opened the door, pulled him inside and pushed him up against the door, after slamming it shut, his resolve weakened.  He blushed now as he remembered how she had dragged off his jacket, tossed it on the floor before ripping open his expensive white shirt, sending the buttons flying.  His body reacted when he remembered how she had buried her face in his heaving chest even as her fingers loosened his belt.

They had ended up making passionate love right there on the rug in front of the door. All the reasons he had come up with for ending things between them went straight out of the window.  His mind and senses were dulled by the desires which consumed him. The guilt of his hypocrisy and his duplicity which had plagued him all the way to Regina’s flat that evening had taken flight in the face of his insatiable hunger for her.  He spent the night with her.

He came home a couple of hours ago after another one of their explosive trysts.  Now that he was alone, all the guilt and self-recrimination came flooding back and he sank down on the bed, burying his face in his hands.  And to make matters worse, he didn’t even remember that Agatha and he were supposed to attend the opera that evening.  If she hadn’t called an hour ago, he would have stood her up.  He spent all day, trying to figure out what to do.  Regina was like a drug that he was addicted to.  He wanted more and more of her.  The carnal feelings she aroused in him were terrifying and foreign to him.  In all of his forty-two years, he had never felt like this about any woman.

That evening as he got dressed, he couldn’t stop thinking about Regina and as he buttoned his shirt, he thought of the shirt he had to discard because she had ripped off the buttons.  He closed his eyes briefly as an intense longing filled him, making him whisper her name as he remembered the rapt expression on her face as he made love to her that morning.  Frustrated, his eyes flew open.  Get a hold of yourself, Nelson, he chided himself.  Dragging on his jacket, he left the bedroom.  He had no idea how he was going to get through the night being in the company of one woman while thinking of the other.

Regina sat on the sofa, an opened book on her lap but she wasn’t reading it.  She couldn’t concentrate.  All she could think about was Nelson.  They were worlds apart and moved within different circles.  He was a Lord and in a relationship with a cultured woman.  There was no question that one of these days they were probably going to get married.

Regina closed her eyes at the thought and painful jealousy filled her.  She had no doubt that Nelson wanted her.  It was evident whenever they were together but she wished that he felt more than desire for her.  I wish he were in love with me like I’m in love with him.

She opened her eyes and tossed the book aside, rising to her feet.  She had to face facts.  There was no future for her with Nelson.  The only option was end their affair.  She couldn’t continue sharing him with Agatha, dreading the day when he would announce their engagement.  Still, the thought of never seeing him again was just too unbearable for her.

Tears sprang to her eyes.  She felt helpless–trapped.  Why did I have to be in the restaurant that day when he came in?  Why did I have to fall in love with him?  Why? Why? Why?  A sob escaped her lips and the tears fell.  Dear God, please help me, she begged silently.  Just then, the phone rang.  Brushing the tears away, she hurried to answer it.  “Hello?”

It was Andrew, her nephew.  He was in the area and wondered if she would like to go to the movies and then grab a bite afterwards.  She readily accepted his invitation.  It would take her mind off her problems and it would be nice to catch up since it had been a while since they saw each other.  After she hung up, she showered, got dressed and left to meet him in the lobby.

It was while they were sitting at a traffic stop when Nelson spotted Regina coming out of the cinema with a tall, athletic young man.  He watched as she looked up at him and laughed when he said something before she slipped her arm through his as they started down the sidewalk.  Nelson’s face suffused with color.  Red, hot jealousy surged through him and he knew that if Agatha weren’t in the car with him, he would have jumped out and gone after them.  He wouldn’t have cared who saw him.  He sank back against the seat, his head spinning.

“What’s the matter?” Agatha asked, touching his arm, making him start.  When he turned to look at her, there was concerned expression on her face.  “All you all right?”

He stared at her for a long moment, trying to figure out what to do.  Should he be honest with her and tell her that he was upset because he had just seen Regina with someone else?  And what would he say if she asked him why seeing the Director of Olive Community Center with another man should matter to him?  Or should he just tell her that he wasn’t feeling well?  How could he do that when he knew that for weeks she had been looking forward to seeing Verdi’s opera, Un Ballo in Maschera?  He didn’t want to ruin her plans.  “I’ll be okay,” he finally said, with a forced smile before he turned away to stare out of the window.

It was after eight by the time Regina let herself into the flat.  She put her keys on the table in the foyer before heading straight for the sofa where she plopped herself down.  She reached for the remote and switched on the television.  It was nice going to the movies with Andrew, grabbing pizza afterwards but she couldn’t stop thinking about Nelson.  I wonder what he’s doing right now.  The flat seemed lonely without him.  She hugged the cushion tightly, wishing he were there with her.

Finally, the opera was over and it was time to leave.  He had no idea how he sat through it when all he wanted to do was leave and head over to Regina’s flat.  During intermission, he had excused himself and gone toward the bathroom but instead of going inside, he went somewhere quiet to call her.  There was no answer and when he tried her cell, it was turned off.  Frustrated, he dragged his fingers through his hair, wondering where she was.  He returned to the balcony and sat down just as the lights dimmed.

Now as he sat in the car as it merged into traffic, heading to the Sullivan estate, he thought, she should be home by now.  Is she alone or is he there with her?  Unable to stand it any longer, he turned to Agatha, “Agatha, I have a confession to make…”

Regina woke up with a start.  Somehow, she must have dozed off.  Sitting up, she was about to turn off the television when she heard the doorbell.  Scrambling off the sofa, she rushed to answer it.  It was after ten.  Peering through the keyhole, her heart skipped a beat when she saw who it was.  Eagerly, she unlocked the door and flung it open.  The smile that lit up her face faded when she saw the expression on his.

Stepping aside, she let him go in before locking the door and turning to face him.  “Don’t I get a hug or a kiss?” she asked, longing to put her arms around him and kiss him.  He looked very handsome in the black silk suit, matching tie and white shirt.

“I called you earlier but there wasn’t any answer.  I tried your cell phone but it was turned off.”

She frowned.  “What time did you call?”

“I called during the intermission which was around five minutes past seven.”

“Intermission?” she inquired.

“Yes, I was at the opera.”  He was a walking contradiction of emotions.  Jealousy, anger and desire churned inside him.

She pursed her lips.  So that was where he was tonight and it explained why he was all dressed up.  “You went to the opera with Agatha.”

“Yes.  Regina–”

“Did she enjoy it?”

“I’m sure she did.”

“What about you?”

He almost lost it.  “No, I didn’t enjoy it,” he muttered tightly, his eyes dark and stormy.  “And do you want to know why I didn’t enjoy it?”

She looked wary now.  “Why?” she asked in a small voice.

“Because of you.  Are you seeing someone else?” he demanded thickly, almost beside himself with jealousy.

She stared at him, her eyes wide.  “Of course not,” she said, shaking her head.

“Then who was the young man I saw you leaving the cinema with this afternoon?  I saw the two of you when Agatha and I were on our way to the opera.”

“That was Andrew.  He’s my nephew.”

“Your nephew?” he repeated.  “That young man I saw you walking down the sidewalk arm in arm was your nephew?”

“Yes!”  She turned and abruptly walked away, returning a few minutes later with a framed photograph.  She showed it to him.  It was of her, another woman and the young man.  “That’s his mother, Beryl, my older sister when we were at our parents’ home in Florida last year Christmas.”

He closed his eyes, slumping against the door as relief washed over him.  “I was out of my mind with jealousy when I saw you with him,” he told her.  “If Agatha weren’t with me, I would have jumped out of the car and come after you.”

Regina put the photo on the table besides her keys and then she reached up and slowly unbuttoned his jacket.  “It seems like we both had a miserable night,” she said quietly.   “I was over there on the sofa wondering what you were doing and missing you like crazy and you were at the opera with Agatha thinking that I was cheating on you.”  His jacket was off and on the floor.  Next, she started on the buttons on his shirt.  He opened his eyes then and what was in them matched what she was feeling.

“I told Agatha about us,” he admitted, staring at her bent head.  “I couldn’t continue lying to her and to myself.  I ended our relationship tonight and then I came straight here.  I love you, Regina.  Seeing you with Andrew today only made me realize that I can’t be with anyone else.”

Her hands paused as she raised her eyes to his face.  “I love you too but what about your family and friends and your church?  What will they think about you being in love with a sinner?”

“We’re all sinners, Regina but the good news is that we have a Savior who loves us.”

“You know, when I was at your church, the members made me feel very welcome.  Do you think they would mind if I started going regularly?”

He shook his head.  “No, they wouldn’t mind at all.”

“Good.” She bent her head and resumed unfastening the buttons.  The shirt soon joined the jacket on the floor.  When he was standing half-naked before her, she reached up and pulled his head down to hers.  His arms went about her waist, holding her tightly against him as he kissed her back.

A year and a half later after she was baptized and became a member of his church,  they got married.  The service was held there and the reception at the Park Plaza County Hall and among the guests was the staff from the Caribbean restaurant where this all began.

“[Soho] is all things to all men, catering comprehensively for those needs which money can buy. You see it as you wish. An agreeable place to dine; a cosmopolitan village tucked away behind Piccadilly with its own mysterious village life, one of the best shopping centres for food in London, the nastiest and most sordid nursery of crime in Europe. Even the travel journalists, obsessed by its ambiguities, can’t make up their minds.” ― P.D. James, Unnatural Causes

For Nelson and Regina, Soho was everything to them because it was the place where they met and fell in love.

 

Sources:  Agincourt Community Services Association

Raisin Cake

So they brought the ark of God, and set it in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it. Then they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God.  And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Then he distributed to everyone of Israel, both man and woman, to everyone a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins – 1 Chronicles 16:1-3

The other day, my son and I read this scripture, which is almost identical to 2 Samuel 6:18, 19,  and when I came to the part about the raisin cakes, my culinary interest was peaked.  My family and I love raisins.  Everything (well, almost everything) we bake has raisins in them.  So, a raisin cake would definitely be a treat.

The raisin cake is typically prepared using standard cake ingredients and raisins as a primary ingredient. Whole or chopped raisins can be used. Additional various ingredients are also sometimes used, such as rum, chocolate, and others. The use of rum can serve to plump-up the raisins via the added moisture, and the raisins can be marinated in rum before the cake is prepared.  Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and pumpkin spice are sometimes used – Wikipedia

This reminds me of the fruit cake we bake at Christmas time.  The different fruits are soaked in non-alcoholic Jewish wine to marinate them for weeks, sometimes longer.  It gives the cake a nice flavor.  We are more partial to nutmeg because we think that  cinnamon is too strong.  Cloves and pumpkin spice would definitely give bit to the cake.  The jury is out on that one, though, because I’m not sure if my husband and son would like those ingredients to be included.  And I have always associated cloves with meat.  In the past when I used to eat ham, we used to put cloves in it, to give it a nice flavor.

By the sound of it, the raisin cakes were used to celebrate the bringing of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and placing it in the Tabernacle.  The people went home and enjoyed the cakes with thanksgiving.   The city of Jerusalem had much to celebrate.  The Ark of the Covenant which had been captured by the Philistines after defeating the Israelites.  Besieged by tumors or hemorrhoids and plagues, the Philistines were desperate to get rid of the Ark.  They put it on a cart drawn by two milch cows, who headed straight and without wavering for Israel.  The cart stopped at Beth Shemesh before finding a more permanent home at Kiriath-Jearim.  The Philistines were happy to be rid of the Ark which had been with them for seven months but the Israelites were rejoicing because it was in their midst again.

From the looks of the image below, the cake can be baked in a loaf pan and cut into slices.  I wonder how a slice would taste with a bit of margarine or a slice or two of cheese.  My mouth is watering just a the mere thought.  It it’s anything like raisin bread, then adding margarine or cheese would taste just as tasty.

Interested in baking a raisin cake?  Here’s a simple recipe from All Recipes.  One of these days I will try to make it and do a follow up post.

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease one 10 x 10 inch baking pan.
  2. In a large saucepan boil the raising with the water for 10 minutes. Add the butter or margarine and let cool.
  3. In the same pan add the flour, soda, salt, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chopped nuts (optional), mix well and pour batter into a lightly greased 10×10 inch baking pan
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 35 minutes. Serves 8 to 12.

 

Sources:  WikipediaBible Gateway;  Wikipedia

Women’ s History Month

I learned today that March is Women’s History Month and it is a celebration of women’s contributions to society.  Before Women’s History Month, there was Women’s History Week, the birth child of the school district of Sonoma, California which participated in Women’s History Week, an event designed around the week of March 8 (International Women’s Day).  From 1978 to 1979, the idea to secure a National Women’s History Week lay incubated until February 1980 when it was born, thanks to President Jimmy Carter who issued a presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980, as National Women’s History Week.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the law which was passed making March Women’s History Month in the United States.  This year’s theme is “Nevertheless, She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination against Women.”  What a great theme.  Like warriors facing bitter battles with ferocious armies, women face societies, communities, institutions and governments that would deny them their rights.  Nevertheless, like phoenix rising from the ashes, women all around world are rising up, joining together and fighting for what they believe in.  Their voices are raised in unison, refusing to be silenced, in spite of the draw backs they face.  Silence is not golden.  Using one’s voice to be heard is golden.

Throughout history, women have had dreams, hopes, plans and visions which they had to fight hard to realize.  No amount of discouragement, obstacles, nay-saying, discrimination or opposition could quell those dreams, hopes, plans, visions which had taken shape.  Women clung to their faith that one day they would be able to vote, own businesses, own homes, land, get an education, work in jobs and play in sports that were predominantly male oriented.  They had to have the courage and the faith to step out, speak up and conquer a world that had long denied them and still does in some cultures, equality, recognition for their accomplishments and basic human rights.

However, despite the strides women have made in their fight for human rights, they still face mountains like human trafficking, modern slavery which target young girls, child marriage, FGM, access to safe water, realizing their self worth and potential in societies which favor boys over girls, pay equity, access to safe water and quality education.  Just this month, the organization, Freedom United is calling for action for the following campaigns:

Show solidarity and tell Uzbekistan to drop all charges against Malokhat.

Malokhat is being targeted because of her determination to expose human rights violations and forced labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry.

JOIN THE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM FOR GIRLS

The fight to end modern slavery today in order to help girls like Phoebe, forced into the commercial sex trade at just 15 years old.  Women and girls make up 71% of all modern slavery victims. 

These girls should be in school getting quality education so that they would have a bright future.  Sex should not something that they engage in until they are adults and married.  Sex came from God was never meant to be exploited or forced on anyone.  It was meant to be a physical and emotional expression of a husband’s and wife’s love for each other.

Help End Forced Marriage in Lebanon

Momentum is growing to repeal laws that enable convicted rapists to marry their victims to avoid punishment. As well as the horrors endured by victims, this law means many women and girls where these laws exist are then forced into marriage against their will

Marriage was meant to be between a man and a woman not a man and a child.  And any law which allows a rapist to marry his victim to escape justice, should be done away with.  It is a disgrace to human decency and dignity and it violates the victim’s rights.  Marriage is a holy institution and is meant to be entered into with the consent of both the man and the woman.

Call on Niger’s President to outlaw child marriage.

Three-quarters of girls in Niger are married before they are adults. Child marriage often amounts to slavery, for example, when girls have not given their free and full consent, are subjected to control, exploited and unable to leave, so outlawing it is an important step towards protecting Niger children.

Imagine you have a young daughter and that a Nigerian girl her age is being married off to an older man.  At the age of twenty, Fati Yahaya has been married twice, divorced once, suffered a postpartum hemorrhage after giving birth to her first child.  I didn’t have a child until I was 41 years old!  It’s so hard to fathom a young girl going through two marriages, one divorce and suffering excessive blessing following the birth of her first child.  I don’t know how many children she had afterwards or if she suffered any more hemorrhages.  And I can’t imagine giving my consent to have my daughter marry at the age of consent which is 15 or even younger when she should be in school.  I can’t imagine subjecting her to a life of “abuse and unrealized potential”.

End sexual exploitation of children in Kenya

The last place you should expect to find a child is in a brothel; yet for 17-year-old Phoebe from Kenya, this is her life.

Phoebe comes from a poor family. When she dropped out of school, she went in search of a better life – instead she has been forced to have group sex with tourists for no money.

Reports indicate that more than 50,000 children are involved in different forms of commercial sexual exploitation.  It is most common along the Kenyan Coast where the majority of tourism activities take place – in fact sex offenders travel to Kenya for this very reason: to prey on these vulnerable victims.

It’s sad that Phoebe had to dropped out of school and instead of finding a better life, she found herself plunged into a world of sexual exploitation.  A brothel is no place for anyone, especially children.  Sex offenders who travel to prey on young girls should be prosecuted and the brothels should be put out of business.  Basically, the Kenyan government needs to do something.  They need to protect the vulnerable.

Help end domestic slavery

Women and girls leave their homes every day to find jobs as domestic workers in the cities of your country.

But when they show up for their first day of work, some find out they’ve been deceived. Locked inside the homes of strangers — no contact with their families, and often beaten and sexually abused — they are caught in the nightmare of modern slavery.

What a nightmare it must be for women and children to go to what they believe is a job which will help their families only to be faced with brutality and sexual abuse.  They are cut off from their families and forced into a modern slavery.  People are not property and slavery should not have any place in our society.  There need to be tougher rules for domestic workers and anyone caught exploiting their rights should be imprisoned.  It’s time to get tough on those who exploit others.

Women’s History month is not only a celebration of the difference women have made in their communities but it is also a reminder that we still have a long way to go and that raising awareness is key.  When I shared these stories with my husband, he commented that there is a whole different world out there that we are not aware of.  And he’s right.  If it weren’t for organizations like Freedom United, Equality Now and many others we would have no idea of the realities that many women and girls are facing.

Sources:  Wikipedia; AJC.com; Freedom United

The Verdict

Raul gripped the steering wheel as an image of Candace hugging another man flashed across his mind.  Jealousy ripped through him like a tornado.  It was quite by chance that he saw them.

It was just after two in the afternoon when he was meandering through the shopping mall that he got a call that the verdict was in.   He was defending the Chief Financial Officer of a large corporation, accused of embezzlement.  He quickly made his way to the parking lot.  It was when he was getting into his car that he spotted Candace with an older man.  They were standing beside a grey sedan talking.  He froze.  His expression darkening as he watched them.

Candace was wearing a yellow summer dress and low heel sandals.  The man was dressed in a white shirt and grey pants.  He appeared to be in his late thirties.  He’s my age, Raul thought.  Who is he and what is she doing with him? As he stood there, staring at them, his heart racing, he saw them embrace for a long time.  Color suffused his cheeks and he was tempted to march over them and break it up.

His hands curled into tight fists as he longed to punch the man but it wouldn’t be good publicity for the defense attorney in a high profile case to get into a fight in a parking lot because he had caught his girlfriend hugging another man.  Besides, if he didn’t head back to the courthouse that very instant, he would be late and that too would look really bad.  Muttering under his breath, he climbed into the car and slammed the door.  He left the parking lot and drove to the courthouse which was about ten minutes away.

He got there just before the jury filed in.  His client looked a bit nervous.  He tried to read the faces of the jurors but their expressions were inscrutable.  The judge came in and everyone stood up until he was seated.  The courtroom was silent as His Honor spoke before calling on the foreman to read the verdict.  It was not guilty.  There was an enthusiastic response from the defendant’s family and the judge banged his gavel calling for silence in the courtroom.  After he told the defendant that the court has found him not guilty and that he was free to go, Raul turned to his client who looked very emotional.  “You’re a free man, Mr. Cartwright,” he told him.

Mr. Cartwright, shook his hand warmly.  “Thank you, Mr. Davies.  You have given me back my life.  My family and I will always be indebted to you.”

Raul forced a smile.  “You’re welcome, Sir and I did this with the help of a terrific team.” They shook hands and then Mr. Cartwright went over to his family, hugging them before they left the courtroom.

Raul sat there for a few minutes.  He had won the case but the victory was hallow because all he could think about was Candace and how much it hurt to see her with someone else.  “Congratulations, Raul,” a voice said beside him.  He glanced up into the face of Marsha Williams, his secretary and Candace’s mother.  She was smiling but the smile faded when she saw the expression on his face.  “What’s the matter?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “Nothing,” he denied.  “I’m just a bit tired, that’s all.  This case took a lot out of me but I’m thrilled that it turned out the way that I had hoped.”

She looked unconvinced but didn’t press him.  “Well, there’s no need for you to go back to the office.” she said.  “Why don’t you go home and relax?  Or better yet, have Candace come over and cook you a nice dinner.  You deserve it.”

The mere mention of her daughter’s name cut him to the quick but he masked it behind a fake smile.  He stood up and grabbed his briefcase.  “Thanks, Marsha.  I’ll take you up on your suggestion.  See you in the morning.”  He touched her on the arm before turning and walking away.

Candace and her brother parted in the parking lot.  It was great having Avery back in London even if it were just for a week before he headed back to Paris where he lived with Viola and the kids.  She knew their mother was planning to take him out for dinner tonight and had invited her to go with them but she declined.  She told her that she and Raul were going to spend the evening together at his place.

As she went back into the mall, she wondered how the case went.  She knew that the verdict would be in today.  Just then, her phone rang.  It was her mother.  “Raul won the case,” she told her.  “You should be very proud of him.  It was a tough case but he poured his time, resources and heart into it and got the right verdict.”

Candace beamed.  “Yes, Mom, I’m very proud of him and I would have been even if he didn’t win.  He’s an remarkable lawyer.  I won’t be surprised if one day he becomes a judge.”

“He wasn’t as enthusiastic as I expected him to be, though.  He chalked it up to tiredness but I think something else is troubling him.  Perhaps he will tell you when you see him later.”

“I will have him relax while I make dinner.  Speaking of dinner, enjoy yours with Avery.  He and I spent a really nice afternoon together.”

“I’m sorry that Viola and the grand kids couldn’t come with him this time but he promised that they will for Christmas.”

They chatted for a little longer and then Candace rang off, anxious to go home, take a shower and then head over to Raul’s place which overlooked the Thames River.

Raul was lying on the sofa, staring at the television but not paying attention to what was on when the doorbell rang.  Slowly, he got up and went to answer the door.  His heart lurched when he saw Candace standing there.  Muscle throbbing along his jawline, he opened the door and stared at her, his eyes dark with the turmoil raging inside him.  He ached to pull her in his arms and kiss her but he couldn’t forget what he had seen that afternoon.  She reached up to hug him but he stepped away, opening the door wider so that she could go in.

Candace frowned, thinking about what her mother had said.  Something was wrong.  Raul wasn’t himself.  After he closed and locked the door, she touched his arm and felt him stiffen.  “What’s wrong, Raul?” she asked, concern etched her features as she gazed up at him.  He looked so handsome in the black tee shirt and blue jeans.

He moved away again, muttering, “Nothing.”

Something was wrong.  He was acting as if he didn’t want her to touch him.  Usually, they hugged and kissed when they saw each other but this time they didn’t and she had no idea why.  His behavior toward her was strange and hurtful.  She tried to hide her feelings behind a smile.  “Mom called and told me that you won the case,” she said.  “Congratulations.  We should celebrate–”

His expression darkened.  “I’m not in the mood to celebrate,” he replied curtly.

Her face fell.  “Raul, I know something is wrong,” she insisted.  “Why won’t you tell me what it is?”

“All right, Candace,” he said, turning to face her.  “Who was the man I saw you with in the parking lot at the shopping mall this afternoon?” he demanded.

She stared at him.  “You were at the shopping mall?” she exclaimed.  “But, I thought you were in court–”

“I left court while the jury was out and went to the mall to kill some time and then I got the call that the verdict was in.  It was when I was about to get into my car that I saw you with him.  Who is he, Candace?  What were you doing with him?”

“Avery?” she wondered, puzzled.  Then it suddenly dawned on her why he was acting the way he was.  He was jealous.  “Avery is my brother, Raul.  He’s visiting from Paris where he lives with his family.  He and I spent the day together, catching up.  This evening he is having dinner with Mom.  She invited me to join them but I turned her down because I wanted to be with you.  I came over here to celebrate your victory by cooking you dinner.”

He stared at her.  “The man I saw you hugging in the parking lot is your brother?”

She nodded.  “Yes!  Oh, Raul, how could you think that I would be cheating on you when I’m mad about you?  I have a good mind to throttle you for that.”

He ran his fingers through his hair, looking contrite now.  “I’m sorry, Candace,” he mumbled.  “When I saw you with him, I was out of my mind with jealousy.  And when I saw you hug, I wanted to come over there and punch him but sanity prevailed and I drove away instead.”

She put her arms around his neck.  “I think I should punish you a little for thinking that I would two time you.”

He put his arms around her waist, pressing her against him.  “I’m guilty of jumping to the wrong conclusion,” he admitted.  “I hope you will forgive me.”

“Let me think about it…” she murmured before she reached up and kissed him.

Groaning, he kissed her back, hungrily, feverishly.   All the torment that he had endured for the last several hours dissipated.

They exchanged wild, passionate kisses for several minutes and then he drew back to gaze down into her face, his flushed and his breathing heavy.  “So, what’s the verdict?” he asked huskily.

“Not guilty, due to reasonable cause,” she said.  “I might have reacted the same way if I saw you with another woman.”

“I love you,” he muttered thickly before he picked her up and carried her over to the fireplace where they made love.   Three hours later, they were having dinner outside on the terrace.