The Moors

Dana walked into the study and went over to the massive bookcase.  She placed the book she had borrowed back on the shelf and stood there looking at the names of the other books.  She was about to reach for the volume containing all of Jane Austen’s writings when she heard what sounded like a dog growling.

Startled, she swung around and her eyes widened when she saw a big and beautiful black, copper and whitish dog sitting at the feet of…her eyes traveled up long knees covered in tan colored and trousers, a white shirt until she found herself staring into the face of a very attractive man with dark brown hair with touches of grey.  He was watching her.

“I-I didn’t know that anyone was in here,” she stammered.

He smiled.  “I’m sorry,” he apologized.  “Heathcliff and I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

Her eyes shifted to the dog.  “Heathcliff?” she repeated.  “His name is Heathcliff?”

“You can blame Avery for that.  Heathcliff is his dog.”

“He’s a beautiful dog. What breed is he?”

“He’s a Bernese Mountain Dog.  By the way, I’m Avery’s Dad.” He got up from the armchair and went over to her, his hand extended.  He was tall and athletic and looked a lot younger than she expected.  He was probably in his early fifties.

“I’m Dana,” she said as they shook hands.  “I’m pleased to finally meet you, Mr. Faulkner,” she said, smiling shyly.  “Avery has told me so much about you.”

“I have heard a lot about you too.  Avery’s not here.  He had to run some errands but he should be back in an hour or so.  You’re welcome to wait here in the study, if you like or you can go for a walk with Heathcliff and me.”

She looked at Heathcliff who came over to stand beside Mr. Faulkner.  “Are you sure he won’t mind me tagging along?” she asked warily.  He was a huge dog.  She didn’t have anything against dogs but some of them made her nervous.

Mr. Faulkner’s lips twitched.  “No, he won’t mind,” he assured her.  “It’s not everyday that we have a pretty young woman accompany us on one of our walks.”

She smiled.  He thinks I’m pretty.  “Well, I guess it’s a good thing that I’m wearing jeans and comfortable shoes.  I would be more than happy to go for a walk Heathcliff and you.”

“Very good.  Let’s go, then.”

Dana followed him and the excited Heathcliff out of the study.  Before they left the manor, Mr. Faulkner informed Nigel that they were going for a walk in case Avery came back before they did.  It was a glorious day.  A comfortable summer day with a cool, gentle breeze and all around her and as far as the eye could see was picturesque land, a myriad of bright hues of green, yellow and the tops of the cottages tucked snugly among the foliage.  They headed straight for the moors, Heathcliff racing ahead of them, tail wagging.

“Now, I think I understand why his name is Heathcliff,” she said. “In the novel, Wuthering Heights it was where the character, Heathcliff felt most comfortable to be himself.  He felt more at home in the wild moors than at the house.  It’s the same with Heathcliff.  Look at him scampering about the place as if he owned it.  He’s not at all the same animal I saw sitting in the study a few moments ago.”

Mr. Faulkner smiled.  “Yes, he loves it out here and that’s why I bring him here every day.”

She drew a deep breath.  “I can’t blame him.  It’s beautiful out here.  It beats living in the city.”

“Don’t you like living in the city?”

“I like it more for convenience.  I can easily get around using public transportation and I live close to work and amenities.  I only drive my car when I’m going out of town. I enjoy the drive here to Yorkshire.  It feels nice leaving the hustle and bustle of the city behind even if it’s just for a while.”

“I can understand where you’re coming from.  Years ago after I graduated from Oxford, I left this estate and moved to London.  A couple of years later, I met the woman who was to become my wife at my best friend’s wedding.  Holly and I got married a couple of months later.  A year before Avery was born, we moved back here to Yorkshire after my parents left the estate to me and moved to Basel, Switzerland.”

“So, Avery is a country boy,” she remarked, smiling.

“Yes, we both decided that raising children in the countryside would best.  I don’t know if Avery told you this but he had a younger sister.  Her name was Lily.  She was a lovely child and was fair like her mother.  Unfortunately, when she was only eight, she died of Leukemia.  We were devastated. Before she died, Holly used to visit the grave on Lily’s birthday.  This May she would have been twenty-one.”

“Yes, Avery told me about her and he showed me a picture of her. You’re right, she was a splitting image of your wife.  It must have been tough for you when Mrs. Faulkner died.”

“It was.  When she complained of having the worst headache in her life, I took her to the hospital.  She suffered from migraines but this headache seemed out of the ordinary.  It was hard to really tell what it was.  It could have been a toxic headache caused by the over the counter painkillers she was using for her migraines.  In retrospect, the only warning sign was when Holly said that it was the the worst headache she had ever had.  Hours later the doctor came out and told me that she died to complications from a ruptured brain aneurysm.  I sat there for a long time in a daze before I came home here to tell Avery the terrible news.  The manor seemed so empty without her.  For a long time after, I would walk into the study or the drawing-room and expect to find her there.  It took a long time for me to get over the shock of losing her.  Although, she died five years ago, I still miss her, especially on her birthday and around Christmastime.”

“You never really get over losing someone you love.  My father died when I was six but I still miss him and wish that he were here.  We were very close and I always promised myself that when I got married it would be to a man like my father.”

“Aren’t you a bit young to be thinking about marriage?” He stopped and turned to face her.

She looked up at him.  “I’m not that young,” she replied.  “I’m twenty-five.”

“At my age, twenty-five seems very young.”

“If you don’t mind me saying so, you look a lot younger than I expected.”

He smiled.  “I’ll take that as a compliment.  It’s not every day that woman in her twenties tells a fifty-three year old man that he looks young for his age.”

She wondered what he would do if he knew that she was attracted to him.  As they walked, she gave him sidelong glances and thinking Avery’s good-looking but his father is extremely good-looking and sexy.  “Avery mentioned that you’re retired.  What made you decide to retire early?”

“I have more time now for doing the things I enjoy such as writing, lecturing, travel, playing golf and going sailing.”

He could afford to retire because he was wealthy, she thought.  As for her, she would have to work until she reached the retirement age which seemed like a long, long time from now.  “Do you ever get bored?”

He shook his head.  “No.  There’s always something to do.”

“When I retire, I’d probably travel.  There are other parts of Europe I would like to visit.”

“You don’t have to wait until you retire to travel.  Avery and a group of friends are leaving in a couple of weeks for San Sebastian where they will be spending the entire month of July.  Why don’t you go with them?”

She shrugged.  “I can’t be away from the office for that long,” she said.  Besides, San Sebastian sounds expensive. 

“Well, while Avery’s away, you’re welcome to come to Yorkshire and spend time with Heathcliff and me.”

She smiled.  “I’d like that,” she told him and thought that beat flying off to San Sebastian.

He glanced at his watch.  “We’d better be heading back,” he suggested.  “Avery’s probably back by now.”  He called to Heathcliff who came bounding over to him.

When they got back to the manor, Avery met them in the courtyard.  Heathcliff ran over to him and he squatted to ruffle his fur and got slobbered in the face.  “Easy boy,” he said to him before he stood up.  He looked first at his father and then at Dana.  “I see that you met Heathcliff and my father,” he said with a grin.  “Did you enjoy traipsing about the moors with them?”

She nodded.  “I did.  Now I know why you love the moors so much.  I can spend all day out on them.”

“Well, I don’t think I’ll be missing them while I’m enjoying the sea, mountains, city and countryside of San Sebastian. Are you sure you won’t change your mind and come?”

She shook her head.  “Sorry, I can’t but I’m sure you’ll have a great time anyway.”

“Will you stay for dinner?” he asked.

“I wasn’t planning to–”

Mr. Faulkner turned to her, “Please do,” he urged. “It would be a shame for you to leave now when you can stay and have dinner with us.”

“All right, I’ll stay for dinner.  Thank you.”  You’re reason why I’m staying.  She watched him walk toward the manor, after excusing himself, with Heathcliff close at his heels.  When he was gone, she turned to Avery.  “I like your father,” she said.  “He’s very nice, pleasant and easy to talk to.”

“Yes, he’s terrific.  I wish he would go out more often, though.  He spends too much time here on the estate.  It’s been five years since Mother died. I think it’s time he considered dating.”

“He seems quite content with his life, doing the things he enjoys.  Dating might not be on his list of priorities right now and I think you should respect that.”  She knew she was saying this because she didn’t like the idea of Mr. Faulkner dating anyone.

“I suppose you’re right.  Well, enough about my father, let’s go and sit in the garden until it’s time for dinner.”

She went with him to the immaculately kept garden with its fountain and sat down on the grass with her legs stretched out in front of her.  The warmth of the sun felt great on her face.  She wanted to talk more about his father but decided that it probably wasn’t a good idea.  Instead she talked about his upcoming trip and other things.  The time went by quickly and soon it was time for dinner.

Dinner turned out to be a very pleasant affair and she found herself laughing at the stories Mr. Faulkner told her about Avery when he was a child until he begged his father to talk about something else.  After dinner, they retired to the drawing-room where they played Charades, Monopoly and then Dana sat back and watched father and son play Chess.  Two hours passed and it was time for her to leave.

“Thank you for a wonderful evening, Mr. Faulkner,” she said as they shook hands.  “It was a pleasure to meet you.”

“The pleasure was all mine, Dana,” he replied with a smile which made her heart flutter.

“Goodbye, Heathcliff,” she said as she reached down and patted him on the head.  Avery followed her out of the drawing-room and to her parked car.  “Goodnight, Avery.”

He held the door open for her and she quickly got in.  “Goodnight, Dana.  I’ll call you tomorrow.”

She waved at him before driving off.  I’ll be back here in July, she thought.

July came and every afternoon, she drove to Yorkshire and Mr. Faulkner and she would go for walks on the moors or sit in the study or in the garden and have dinner.  On the weekends, they would go for picnics or drives to other parts of the countryside.  One Sunday morning, he took her sailing on his yacht and they had lunch on the deck.  She had never been sailing before so it was quite an exhilarating and terrifying experience because she wasn’t very good swimmer.

It was a Saturday afternoon and they were in the study when he got up from the armchair to look out of the window.  “It looks a bit grey but we can still go for a walk.”

She joined him at the window.  “But Nigel said that it’s going to rain.”

“We can go and come back before it does.  Let’s go.”

“What about Heathcliff?”

“I’d like it to be just the two of us this time.”

They left the dog sleeping on the rug and hurried down the hallway.  They met Nigel on the way.  “Nigel, we’re going for a walk.

“But, Mr. Faulkner, it’s going to rain any minute now.  If you and Miss Brown get caught in it you will be soaked to the skin.”

“Don’t worry, Nigel, I’m sure we’ll be back before it rains.”

Nigel opened his mouth to suggest that they take umbrellas but they were gone. Shrugging his shoulders, he turned and went to check every room to sure that the windows were closed.

The sky looked overcast now as they went across the moors and she had a terrible feeling that Nigel was right about the rain.  There were heavy black clouds looming above them and it was windy.  Avery had mentioned to her a long time ago about the summer storms in Yorkshire and she prayed that she wasn’t about to be caught in one.  Just then, she saw lightning in the distance and then the loud clap of thunder, making her almost jump out of her skin.  She looked frantically about her.  They were too far from the house to make it back before the rain came.  And came it did, a few minutes later.  It swept across the moors.

“It’s really coming down, isn’t it?” He commented.

“We should have listened to Nigel.  He told us that it was going to rain.”

“Yes, I should have listened to him.  Come, I know a place where we can go for shelter until the rain stops.”  Taking her by the hand, they ran across the moors as the rain pummeled them.

They came upon an abandoned and rundown farm house and went inside.  The front door was missing but most of the windows were boarded up.  They went to an area of the house where the rain couldn’t get in and waited there.  Dana listened as the rain beat down mercilessly on the roof.  “Is this a summer storm?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No, I don’t think so. But from the looks and sound of it, we could be here for a while.  I’m sorry, Dana,” he said, turning toward her.  “We could be in the study now, dry and relaxing instead of being here in this farmhouse, soaked.”

She looked up at him.  “It’s okay,” she said.  “I think it’s romantic.”

He raised his eyebrows.  “Romantic?”  The place was in a terrible state.  The walls were dirty and peeling, there wasn’t much of a floor where they were standing and a couple of beaten up chairs.  This was hardly what he would call a romantic setting.

“Yes.” She wanted to reach up and touch his face. What she was feeling must have been evident on her face because she saw his eyes darken and his expression change.  Her heart began to pound wildly against her ribs and she moved closer to him.  “I think it’s romantic–the two of us here, alone in an abandoned farmhouse on the moors because we got caught in the rain.  No one knows we’re here.  Something can happen between us and no one would know.”

He swallowed hard.  “Do you want something to happen between us?” he asked tightly, his heart racing.

She nodded, her eyes dropped to his lips and she moved closer.

Muttering under his breath, he quickly closed the distance between them and reaching up, he cupped her face between his hands, his eyes meeting hers in a scorching gaze before he bent his head and kissed her.  Dana pressed against him and closed her eyes when she felt his lips moving hungrily on hers.  She put her arms around his waist and kissed him back.

Outside the rain continued to fall, beating against the window.  The grey light streaked through the window bathing them as they stood there exchanging wild kisses.  He broke off the kiss to stare down into her upturned face, his breath harsh and unsteady.  He wanted her so badly.  With supreme effort, he released her and turned away.  “We can’t do this,” he muttered thickly.

She went up behind him and put her arms around his waist, burying her face in his back.  “I want you, Emmett,” she murmured huskily.  “And I know you want me too.”

He closed his eyes.  “Yes, I want you, Dana, I want you so much I can’t think straight but I’m almost twice your age.”

“I don’t care, Emmett.  I want to be with you.”

“And I want to be with you,” he groaned, turning around to face her.   “But not here in this abandoned farmhouse.  Let’s go back to the manor.”

“But it’s still raining.”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said.  “We’re already soaked. At least at the manor we can get out of these wet clothes.”

“All right,” she agreed. The wet clothes were sticking to her making her feel uncomfortable.  She couldn’t wait to get out of them.  They made their way gingerly to the front door and dashed through the rain, across the moors and to the manor.

Thankfully, Nigel wasn’t around.  They went straight upstairs to Emmett’s room and stripping, they went into the bathroom and took a long, hot shower together.  Afterwards, they put on his toweling robes and she sat at his feet while he dried her hair.  When he was done, he set the towel aside, got up from the chair and pulled her to her feet.

Their eyes met as he untied the sash and slid the robe off her shoulders.  It fell at her feet.  He removed his and they were standing there, facing each other.  He picked her up and carried her over to the bed where they made love while outside the rain continued to fall.  She ended up spending the night.  The rain ended early the following morning.  After breakfast, she went home and returned in the afternoon.  This time she brought an overnight bag with her so she could spend the weekend with Emmett.

They became lovers and spend every waking moment together.  They went sailing, to concerts, the opera, museums, dinner and on day trip to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath.  Dana was delirious with joy because she got to be with the man she was madly in love with and do fun things with him.  This was turning out to be the best summer of her life.

Emmett stood at Dana’s bedroom window looking out at the flickering lights of the city in the distance.  Tomorrow Avery was coming back from his trip and he was filled with mixed feelings.  He was happy to have his son back but he knew it would change things for Dana and him.  They wouldn’t be able to see each other as often and openly as they had been for these past weeks.

He heard the phone ringing in the living-room and wondered who could be calling so late.  He heard Dana stir behind him and then minutes later, he felt her arms go around his waist.  “What are you doing out of bed?” she asked sleepily, burying her face in his bare back.

“I couldn’t sleep,” he admitted.  “I guess it’s being in the city again with all its sounds.  Your phone was ringing.”

“Whoever it is will leave a message.  Let’s go back to bed.”

He turned to face her when she released him.  She took his hand and led him over to the bed.  After they got under the covers, she turned on to her side and gazed down at him.  “I love you, Emmett,” she murmured huskily.  “I love you so much.”

He reached up and gripped her head, pulling it down to his.  “I love you too,” he moaned against her lips.  They made love and then fell asleep in each other’s arms.

When she woke up the next morning, he wasn’t there.  After pulling on a dressing-gown she went to look for him and found him in the kitchen making breakfast.  He turned when he heard her and smiled.  “Good morning.”

“Good morning,” she kissed him before she sat at the table and watched him.  “Something smells really good.”

“What you’re smelling is my specialty—Grilled Tomatoes with Fried Eggs and toast.”  He had already set the table.  He put a plate in front of her along with a glass of Orange Juice and a cup of tea before doing the same for himself.  “I hope you enjoy it,” he said when he sat down.  “I haven’t made breakfast since Holly died.”

Touched that he made breakfast, she took her first bite.  “This is delicious,” she exclaimed.

He smiled.  “Thank you.” Then his expression became serious.  “I hope this will be the first of many breakfasts I make for you.”

She reached out and touched his hand.  “I hope so too.”

After breakfast, they showered together and he left.  She was going to see him later at the manor but first, she had a busy morning ahead of her.

Around noon, Emmett was in his study, sorting through the mail when his phone rang.  It was Avery.  “Hello, Son,” he said.  “I don’t have to ask if you had a good trip.  I could tell from your postcard.”

“Yes, San Sebastian was amazing.  We all had a great time.  Have you seen Dana?  I’ve been trying to reach her since last night.”

Yes, I know.  I was with her when you called.  “Is it urgent that you get in touch with her?”

“Well, I have something very important to say to her.  I’ll pop round to her flat later.”

Emmett wondered what it was that Avery wanted to say to Dana.  Was he going to tell her that he wanted to get back together with her?  They used to date when they were attending university until Dana decided to end it.  He always wondered why Avery never brought her to the manor to meet him while they were dating.  Did Avery think that he would object to their relationship because she was black?  He should know better than that.

“Dad?  Are you still there?”

“Yes—yes, I’m still here.  Sorry.  What were you saying?”

“I’m going to drop by and see you later.”

“All right.  I will see you later.”  He hung up and sat there, staring at the phone.  What was he going to do if it turned out that Avery wanted to renew his relationship with Dana?  What would happen if he found out that she had been seeing his father?  It would destroy his faith and trust in both of them.  And it could ruin his relationship with his son forever.

Emmett dragged his fingers through his hair in despair.  Why did he have to go and do a foolish thing like fall helplessly in love with his son’s ex-girlfriend?  Being with her these past several weeks had been the happiest times in his life.  She brought joy and excitement to his otherwise staid life.  And now…he had to end their relationship for Avery’s sake.  He closed his eyes, his expression one of torment.  He would end it today when she came by the manor.

Hours later, he instructed Nigel to send Miss Brown to the study and that he didn’t want to be disturbed.  As he sat in the armchair, waiting for her, memories of their time together flooded his mind.  He would never forget the first time they kissed and he knew that he would go to that abandoned farmhouse again.

He stiffened when he heard her come into the room and close the door.  Heart racing, he stood up and his eyes were restless as she hurried over to him, her eyes dancing and a big smile on her beautiful face.  For a moment, he wanted to forget the whole thing and just take her in his arms.  “Dana, we need to talk,” he said quietly and saw the smile disappear.

Frowning, she asked, “What’s wrong, Emmett?” She could see now that he was upset about something.  And she realized that he hadn’t pulled her into his arms and kissed her like he usually did.  Instead, he stood with his hands shoved deep in his pockets, his body stiff and his expression tense.  Something was definitely wrong.

“I don’t quite know how to say this,”

He was scaring her now.  “Just say it.”

“Dana, we have to end our relationship.”

His words were like a blow she didn’t see coming even though she knew that something was up and it took several minutes for her to catch her breath and ask, “But why?”

“I’m too old for you.”

“When we were in that farmhouse, you said the same thing but afterwards you told me that you wanted to be with me.”

“Yes, I did.  I still do but it doesn’t matter what I want, especially when it will hurt Avery.  He still cares for you, Dana.”

“So, Avery’s the real reason why you want to end our relationship?”

“Yes.  I don’t want to hurt him.”

“But, I love you,” she cried in a trembling voice, tears welling in her eyes.

He turned away and closing his eyes, he muttered tightly, “And I love my son.”

That cut through her like a knife, and stifling a sob, she turned and ran from the room, past Nigel who was walking down the hallway.

After she disappeared, he went to the study where he found slumped over his desk with his face buried in his hands.  “Is everything all right, Sir?” he inquired.

Emmett glanced up at him, his face pale and drawn.  “No, Nigel,” he muttered.  “And it will never be all right again because I just made the biggest mistake of my life.  I chased the woman I love out of my life.”

Dana ran blindly down the steps and straight into Avery who managed to keep his balance as he caught her by the shoulders to steady her.  “What on earth is the matter?” he asked.

“I…want…to… go…home,” she sobbed and tried to pull away but his grip tightened.

“You’re in no shape to drive,” he told her.  “I’ll take you home.”  With his arm around her shoulders, he led her over to where her car was parked and helped her in.  He reached in and strapped her in before closing the door and walking around to the driver’s side.  He glanced at her as he fastened his seat belt.  What on earth happened in there?  He had never seen her in such a state.  She was slumped against the seat, her body racked with sobs.  He grabbed a box of tissues and placed it on her lap.  As he pulled away from the manor, he thought he saw his father looking out from the window of the study.

He allowed several minutes to go by and when the sobs had subsided, he gently pressed her.  “What happened at the house, Dana?  Did my father say something to upset you?”

“I–I’d rather not talk about it…” her voice trembled and ended in a sob.  She pressed a wad of tissues against her mouth to stifle another sob as fresh tears fell.

Avery didn’t ask her any more questions but he suspected that his father had something to do with it and he planned to have it out with him as soon as he returned to the manor.  For the rest of the drive, he didn’t say anything.  He took her up to her flat and spent some time with her until he was comfortable leaving her alone.  He left, called for a cab and went to the manor.

An hour later, he went into the study and over to his father who turned when he heard him and asked, “What happened between Dana and you?  She came running out of the house, hysterical when I arrived.  I had to take her home because she was in no condition to drive.”

Emmett’s face was pale and drawn.  It was no use denying the truth.  “While you were in San Sebastian, Dana and I had been seeing each other.”

“I know that, Dad,” he said much to his father’s astonishment.  “Nigel told me.”

Emmett looked aghast, still trying to recover from his shock.  All this time Avery knew about Dana and him.  “Nigel told you?” he repeated.

“Before I left for my trip, I asked him to keep an eye on you.  I would have asked Dana to do it but I thought she would be too busy.  And one day when I called and you weren’t here, imagine my surprise when he told me that you and she had gone sailing and that you had been spending a lot of time together.  He even mentioned that Dana spent many nights here at the manor and that he had never seen you happier.”

“I was so sure that you would be angry with me because you and Dana used to date.”

“Dad, that was a long time ago.  Dana and I are just very good friends.”

“But, today, you said that you had been trying to reach her because you had something important you wanted to say to her.  So, I thought that you still had feelings for her and wanted to get back together.”

“No, I wanted to tell her that I met a terrific girl on the trip.  Her name is Isabella…”

Emmett went behind his desk and sank heavily down in the chair.  Groaning, he buried his face in his hands.  Alarmed, Avery rushed over to him and put his hand on his shoulder.

“Dad, are you all right?” he asked.

Emmett looked up at him.  “I ended my relationship with Dana because I didn’t want to hurt you,” he muttered tightly.  “I love her and I let her go.”

“You broke up—?  So, that’s why she was in such a state.  I’m so sorry, Dad.  I wish I had told you about Isabella and then none of this would have happened.  It’s just that I wanted Dana to know about her first because she was always telling me that one of these days, I would meet the girl of my dreams.”  He looked at his father’s face and his heart almost broke.  “Dad, I feel badly about what happened with Dana.  Why don’t you go over to her place right now and tell her that you made a terrible mistake?  If you like I could take you there myself.  It’s the least I could as this is entirely my fault.”

Emmett nodded and got up from the chair.  He followed Avery out of the room.

Dana was curled up on the sofa, hugging a cushion when she heard the doorbell.  She got up and went to answer it.  When she saw Emmett standing there, she immediately opened the door. Before she could say anything, he blurted out, “Dana, I made a terrible mistake.  Can you ever forgive me?”

Eagerly, she reached out and pulled him into the flat, slamming the door shut.  “Yes,” she cried.  “I forgive you for breaking my heart because you’re here now to put the pieces back together.  Oh, Emmett, I thought I would never see you again.”

His eyes darkened on her face.  Her eyes were red and puffy from crying but to him she looked exquisite.  Reaching up he cupped her face between his hands.  “I love you, Dana and I want to spend the rest of our lives showing you how much.”

Smiling, she put her arms around his waist, watching, transfixed as his face drew closer to hers and murmured, “I love you too, Emmett,” before his lips touched hers.

 

 

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Christ’s Suffering

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man – Hebrews 2:9

Today is a very emotional day for me.  The waterworks began this morning soon after I got up.  I mentioned the suffering of Jesus to my husband and he said, “He suffered all the way to the cross and even while He was suffering He thought only about you and me.”  As I made up the bed, his words hit home and the tears flowed as the enormity of the suffering Jesus endured for our salvation dawned on me.

Yes, Jesus suffered that day.  He was beaten.  He was spat on. He was mocked.  He heard the religious leaders and some in the crowd call for Him to be crucified although Pilate wanted to release Him because he saw no reason for Him to be put to death.  He was treated like a common criminal.  He hung on the cross between two thieves and heard the people mock Him.  He witnessed His mother weeping uncontrollably at the foot of the cross and He felt forsaken by His Father.  That morning He was denied three times by Peter.  The night before He was betrayed by Judas and abandoned by the other disciples after they had all sworn that they would never leave Him.

He suffered indignity as He hung on the cross.  The Bible said, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree (Galatians 3:13).  Yet, He remained on the cross, even though passers-by called for Him to come down from the cross if He were the Son of God and the religious leaders told Him to do the same thing so that they would believe in Him (Matthew 27:39-43, Jesus remained where He was for our sake.  He wanted to accomplish what He said to Nicodemus, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14, 15). 

Staying on that cross brought salvation into the world and eternal life to all who believe.  There was no other way for us to be saved except for Jesus to die on the cross.  He didn’t go through all that suffering just to abandon us to our fate.  A lot was at stake and hedged on Him.  He was sent into the world to save us and in spite of the agony He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane when He asked the Father if it were possible to take the cup away, He determined, nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).  He was obedient to the Father even unto death.

Even as He hung on the cross, in excruciating pain, Jesus didn’t think about Himself.  He looked down on the people who were mocking Him and prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).  He promised one of the thieves on the cross who asked Him to remember him when He came into His kingdom, ““Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” He promised this repentant sinner that one day he will enter the kingdom. 

He looked upon His mother as she stood next to the disciple John and He said to her, “Woman, behold your son!” and to John, He said, “Behold your mother!” He was placing Mary into John’s care.  He was looking out for her.  And it said that from that hour, John disciple took her to his own home.  Even in His suffering, Jesus was more concerned for the well being of others.

What can we learn from all of this?  No matter what we are going through, we must continue to remain faithful and obedient to God and to minister to others.  Jesus suffered but the story doesn’t end there.  He died on the cross, was buried but as He promised, on the third day He rose from the dead.  He ascended to His Father after spending time with his disciples and is now sitting at the right hand of God.  And one day, He will return to take us with Him.  As we go through trials, suffering, pain and difficulties, let us look “for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

The Engagement Party

It was her friend Zoe’s engagement party and it was being held at Lord’s The Home of Cricket.  It was a beautiful venue.  Dinner was to be held in the elegantly furnished and intimate Writing Room.  On the walls hung paintings of cricketing scenes such as an imaginary game between England and Australia watched by high society ladies and gentlemen.  From there one could see the views of the Ground from the north end of the Pavilion.  However, neither of these things held her interest.  All she could see was him.

She stood against the wall watching him now.  He was talking to a couple.  She had noticed him the moment he walked in.  He was easily the most handsome man in the entire room.  Tall, slender with thick black hair dressed in an expensive looking black suit, white shirt and black tie, he looked very stylish.  He probably wouldn’t even notice me, she thought.

Just then, he looked up and their eyes met.   Her heart skipped a beat.  She wanted to look away but couldn’t.  She saw him say something to the couple and then he was walking toward her.  By now her heart was pounding heavily and her breath quickened.  As he approached she saw his eyes travel over her.  She was wearing a red ankle length dress which flattered her with red strappy low heel sandals and her hair was swept up in a pile of curls on top of her head.

He was standing in front of her now and this close he was even more striking.   He had exquisite brown eyes which were riveted on her face.  “Hello,” he said, holding out his hand.  “I’m Cole.”

She put her hand in his and his fingers enclosed hers in a warm handshake.  “Stephanie.”

“Are you here alone?” he asked.  He was staring at her and she could see the admiration in his eyes.

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“Are you Gary’s friend or Zoe’s?”

“Zoe’s.  She and I have been the best of friends since we attended university together.  I’m her maid of honor.”

“I’m her uncle.”  He smiled when he saw her surprised look.  “I get the same reaction from other people.”

He looked rather young to be Zoe’s uncle.  He was most likely in his late thirties which meant that he was a child himself when she was born.  All of her uncles were old enough to be her father.  She wondered what Zoe would say if she knew that she was attracted to hers.  Right now she was captivated by him.  “Zoe mentioned that you’re giving her away.”

“Yes.  Her father, my older brother died two years ago.”

“It’s a pity that he couldn’t be here.  Zoe has told me so much about him.  They seemed very close.”

“Yes, they were.  You’re very beautiful,” he said suddenly, startling her.  His expression was serious.

She swallowed hard, her eyes wide as they met his.  His thumb was caressing the back of her hand causing all sorts of tingling sensations in her.  “Th-thank you,” she managed to say.

“I see you’ve met my dear Uncle Cole,” Zoe’s voice said over his shoulder and he released Stephanie’s hand.

They turned to the smiling redhead who looked radiant in her gold lace maxi dress.  “I was going to introduce you but I see you have beaten me to it.  Isn’t he handsome?” she asked Stephanie, with a twinkle in my eyes.  “I think all of my girlfriends had a crush on him.”

“You’re exaggerating as usual,” Cole said to her.  “Are you having a good time?”

“I’m having a wonderful time, thanks to you and Mother.  They took care of all the arrangements,” she explained to Stephanie.

“It’s a wonderful venue,” Stephanie agreed.  “After dinner I would like to take a walk in the grounds.”  Cole glanced at her when she said that.

“Well, now it’s time to have dinner,” Zoe said.  “The two of you are sitting at my table.”  She slipped an arm in each of theirs and walked with them to the Writing Room.  Stephanie sat between Cole and Zoe.  Dinner was superb.  Afterwards there was dancing.  Stephanie watched as Zoe and Gary danced, thinking how romantic they looked.  Then, she felt a hand on her shoulder and turned around.  It was Cole.  He bent down and said in her ear, “Do you still want to take a walk on the grounds?” She nodded.  He straightened up and she got up from the table.

It was a warm evening and still bright.  Cole took her first to the cricket ground where the stands were and then to see the W.G Grace Statue.  “Who’s this?” she asked marveling at the sculpture.

“It’s W.G. Grace.  He was an English amateur cricketer who was important in the development of cricket.  He is considered to be one of the sport’s greatest players.  He played first class cricket for a 44 seasons.  He came from a family of cricketers.”

“Does it look like him?”

“Yes, it’s a remarkable likeness.”

“Are you a cricket fan?”

He shook his head.  “No. I’m more partial to soccer and rugby.  My father, however, was a cricket player and was a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club, owner of the Lord’s Ground.”

“It’s really nice out here,” she said.  “Do you mind if we sit for a bit on one of the benches over there?” To be honest, she wanted to rest her feet for a bit.  They were starting to feel sore because of the heels.  She was not used to doing a lot of walking in them and they were still fairly new.

“Not at all,” he said and they went over to one of the benches and sat down.  She was facing forward while he was turned towards her with his arm resting along the back of the bench.  “You know, it feels strange being alone with you like this,” he commented after a moment of silence passed.

She turned to look at him.  “What do you mean?” she asked.  She enjoyed being here alone with him and wished that they could stay there for a long time.

“I’m at least ten years older than you.  I’m deeply attracted to you and you’re my niece’s friend.”

Her pulse began to race.  “I’m twenty-six,” she said.  “How old are you?”

“Thirty-nine.  I will be forty in September.”

“There’s not that much of an age difference between us,” she said.

“It feels strange being attracted to a girl who’s the same age as my niece.”

She got up and looking down at him, she told him, “I’m not a girl.  I’m a woman and I know what I want.”  She saw his expression darken and then, he was up on his feet and pulling her roughly against him.

“And I know what I want,” he muttered before he kissed her passionately, his lips almost devouring hers.  And her arms went up and encircled his neck.  She pressed closer against him as she responded to the onslaught of his kisses.

There they stood for a long while exchanging hungry kisses before he raised his head to gaze down at her, breathing heavily, his eyes dark and stormy and his face flushed.  “We’d better go back before they start to wonder where we are,” he said.

Fighting to catch her breath, she could only nod and he released her.  On trembling legs she walked back to the party with him.  Before they went inside, he paused to look at her.  “When can I see you again?” he asked huskily.

“Any time you want,” she said.  How she longed to kiss him again.

“Good,” he said with a slight smile before he reached out and caressed her cheek with his knuckles.  Before they parted company, she wrote down her phone number and address on the back of his business card and gave it to him.  He thanked her as he put it in his breast pocket.  He joined his mother and other guests while she joined Zoe and their other friends.

It was after mid-night when she left the party.  She got a ride home with a friend.  Before she left, she went over to Cole and said goodnight to him, his mother and the people with them.  She tried to be discreet where he was concerned and so she could only afford to give him a brief glance before walking away.  He watched her go, his expression drawn and a muscle throbbing along his jaw-line.

Weeks passed and she didn’t hear from him.  By the third week she was heartbroken.  Zoe kept asking her what was wrong when they met to fit on the dresses for the wedding but she assured her that she was fine.  She didn’t want to upset her friend.  Why hasn’t he gotten in touch with me?  The wedding was in two weeks.  What was she going to do when she saw him then?  Act as if nothing had happened between them?  Act as if everything was all right when her heart was breaking?  How she ached for him.  She spent sleepless nights, thinking about him and wondering why he hadn’t called or visited her.

It was the night before the wedding and she was feeling terrible.  How she wished she didn’t have to go but how could she not?  Zoe was counting on her being there as her friend and as her maid of honor.  She couldn’t let her down.  But how was she going to face Cole?  What if he showed up with a date?  That would be devastating, to say the least.  She wouldn’t be able to hide her distress and everyone would know that she was in love with him.

She got up from the sofa and went over to the window to look at the flickering lights of London.  He was out there somewhere, she thought.  Was he alone or was he with a woman?  She closed her eyes as fierce jealousy tore through her.  She pressed her head against the cool window pane as the tears ran down her cheeks.

Her eyes flew open when she heard the doorbell.  She moved away from the window, wiping her eyes in her tee shirt.  She looked through the keyhole and her breath caught in her throat.  She quickly pulled back the latch and tugged open the door, her eyes eagerly slipping over Cole’s tall frame.  He was wearing a navy blue suit and a checkered shirt.  Unable to help herself, she reached out and pulled him inside.  She closed the door, locked it and leaned against it, her chest heaving.

He turned to stare at her, his expression drawn.  “I couldn’t stay away,” he muttered thickly.  “I tried to but I just couldn’t stay away from you.”

“But, why did you want to stay away from me?” she asked, bewildered.  “I thought you wanted to see me again.  You said so at the engagement party.”

“Yes, I wanted to see you again so badly but our age difference kept bothering me.”

“I don’t care about the age difference,” she told him angrily.  “I want to be with you, Cole.  And I know that you want to me with me.  That’s why you’re here now.  Have you any idea how miserable I’ve been these past weeks, wondering why I haven’t heard from you?”

“Many times, I wanted to call you or stop by but I managed to convince myself it would be better if I didn’t get in touch.”

“Better for whom?” she was beside herself now.  The emotions were just pouring out now and the hot tears were spilling down her cheeks.  She was angry at him and she began to pummel at his chest.  “How could breaking my heart be better for me?”

His eyes darkened and his eyes were filled with pain.  “I’m sorry,” he said as he caught her fists and held them firmly.  “I’m so sorry.  Please forgive me, Stephanie.  Please forgive me for being such a fool.”

She calmed down and he released her hands which fell at her sides.  He reached up and cupped her face, his thumbs wiping away the tears.  Her eyes met his and the emotion in them made him groan.  He lowered his head and kissed her.  Moaning, she closed her eyes and kissed him back, her arms wrapping themselves tightly about his waist.

After several minutes, he broke off the kiss to look into her eyes.  “I love you,” he muttered huskily.  “I love you so much.”

Fresh tears sprang to her eyes.  “I love you too,” she whispered.

“Will you go to the wedding with me tomorrow?” he asked.

“Yes, I would love to but everyone will know that you and I…”

“I don’t care,” he declared.  “They will find out soon enough.”

“What about Zoe?”

“It may take some time but she’ll get used to her uncle dating her best friend.  Do you have any more objections?”

She shook her head.

“Good,” he murmured before he kissed her again.

 

Source:  Lord’s the Home of Cricket; Wikipedia; MCC;

Dealing With Our Enemies

The angry voices in the crowd rose to a crescendo, “Crucify Him!” drowning out Pilate’s protest.  They wanted Him dead.  They had delivered Him up and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go (Acts 3:13).  Yet, this was all in fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation.  The innocent was put to death for the guilty. The people had asked Pilate to put Him to death although they had no legitimate cause to do so (Acts 13:28).  They were motivated by envy (Mark 15:10).

He hung on a cross like a common criminal and they mocked Him, urging Him to save Himself.  “If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:40). Little did they know that it was because He was the Son of God, that He didn’t save Himself by coming down from the cross.  He stayed there for their sake and ours.  He took the punishment we deserved.

It must have wounded Him to hear the jeers but the same love that made Him willing to lay down His life was the same love that infused Him when He cried to the Father, Fatherforgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).  He was not overcome by their evil but He overcame it with good (Romans 12:21).

Jesus is our perfect example of how to deal with our enemies.  We don’t let their insults or wrongdoing get the better of us.  We rise above their evil intentions and follow Jesus’ advice “whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12).  He never said that it was going to be easy but as His followers and the children of God, we must make the effort.   And the Holy Spirit is there to help us.

The apostle Paul tells us how to deal with our enemies by quoting Proverbs 25:21, 22. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”  In acting contrary to what your enemy expects such as showing them love and kindness, it will stir feelings of shame and remorse. As Christians, we don’t treat people as the world does.  We treat them as Jesus would.

woman-counseling-woman-84579876-copy-650x434

 

Sources:  Blue Letter Bible; Bible Gateway; Bible Hub

Dinner for Two

She was in the children’s section, looking at the different books of Nursery Rhymes when she heard someone call her name.  She looked around and her heart leapt when she saw Tyler.   She hadn’t seen him since last week Saturday.  He walked around the people milling about there and came and stood beside her.  “Hello Stacey,” he said, his eyes dancing over her face as if he were trying to capture every feature.   “I was hoping that I would see you again.”

“I’m here to buy a book for my niece.  She’s going to be three tomorrow.”

“I’ve been thinking about you all week,” he told her.  “I wished I had your number so that I could call you.  Have dinner with me tonight.”

“But what about Amy?” she exclaimed.  “She’s enamored with you.”

“And I’m enamored with you.  I have been since last week Saturday when Darnell and I had dinner with Amy and you at Benares.   I’ll never forget the first time I saw you. When you walked over to the table, you took my breath away.  I could hardly take my eyes off you. I wished that it were just the two of us having dinner but if it hadn’t been for Darnell, I wouldn’t have met you.

“Amy’s my friend.”

“And Darnell’s my friend but I can’t help the way I feel about you.  Have dinner with me tonight.”

She hesitated.  Amy would never forgive her.  Just yesterday when they spoke, her friend was wondering why she hadn’t heard from Tyler as yet.  As far as Darnell was concerned, Stacey had made it clear to him, in a tactful way, of course, that she wasn’t interested in him.  After a few attempts to get her to change her mind, he gave up.  So, the only person left to consider was her friend.  “Amy will be very upset,” she told Tyler.

“I’m sorry about your friend but I never gave her any reason to believe that I would go out with her.   It’s you I want to be with.”

Stacey couldn’t deny that she wanted to be with him too.  He had been on her mind all week and it was such a blessing to see him now.  “All right, I will have dinner with you tonight,” she said.

He looked relieved.  “I will pick you up at six-thirty.”

She opened her handbag and took out the address book.  She wrote her address on a blank page, tore it out and gave it to him.  “See you later,” she said.

His eyes twinkled.  “See you later.”  And he was gone.  She turned to the shelf beside her and after examining a few more books, she chose the Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme book.  She grabbed a salad from a deli and headed back to the office.

He picked her up promptly at six-thirty.  He looked amazing in the black jacket, black shirt, black jeans and dressy shoes.  His sleek, auburn hair was combed back, giving him a polished look.   For her part, she was wearing a black dress, with three quarter sleeves and a keyhole neckline.  Her hair was swept back, with several curls framing her face.  “You look absolutely beautiful,” he told her.

“And you look so handsome.”

He took her to a romantic restaurant with a breathtaking view of the city of London. Over dinner he told her about the time in high school when he had to memorize a monologue from Hamlet for his drama class and on the day when he was supposed to do the presentation, he came down with the flu.

She teased him.  “Do you still remember it?”

He smiled.  “I do and I promise I will recite it to you when I am taking you home.”

Dinner was wonderful.  She had a terrific time.  He was so easy to talk to.  They laughed and talked about all sorts of things.  She was sorry when it was time to leave.  On the way home, he recited the monologue as promised and remembered it word for word.  She clapped when he was done.  “Have you ever thought of becoming an actor?” she asked.

“Heavens, no!  I like sitting behind a desk and designing buildings much better.”  That was how she learned that he was an architect.

Twenty minutes later, they stood outside of her flat.  “Would you like to come in for a cup of tea?” she asked.

“I’d better not.  I have an early day tomorrow.  When can I see you again?”

“Tomorrow afternoon.  I will make dinner and we can eat while we watch a movie.”

“That sounds really good.”  He smiled.

Unable to resist, Stacey reached up and brushed the hair back from his forehead.  He caught her hand and brought it to his lips.  He kissed the palm, his eyes darkening on her face.  She felt a bolt of electricity course through her.

He raised his head.  “I’d better go now,” he murmured as he released her hand which was tingling.

“Good night, Tyler” she said breathlessly.

“Good night, Stacey.” He turned reluctantly and walked toward the elevators.

She watched him as he waited for the elevator to arrive.  When it did, he turned and waved before he stepped inside.  She opened her door and went inside.  She couldn’t wait for tomorrow to come.  For now, she had the memories of tonight to occupy her.

 

 

Source:  Benares

 

Much to Celebrate

“Happy anniversary, my Darling,” he said as he handed her the beautiful bouquet of flowers.  “Forty years ago, you turned my life upside down when you moved into my neighborhood.  And it took a few years before I plucked up the courage to ask you out on a date.  Thank you for not saying no and for the happiest years of my life.”  He pulled her to his side and kissed her on the temple.

Joanne smiled as she inhaled the sweet fragrance of the roses.  “These are lovely,” she said.  “Thank you for being such a wonderful husband.”

Tears came to her eyes as she thought of how amazing he had been when they found out that she couldn’t have children.  It had devastated her because she had longed to be a mother and she knew that he would have made a terrific father.  For years they had tried and then she had learned that they would never have children.  It was a very bitter pill to swallow and for months she was depressed but Martin was always there, loving her and trying to help her through those though times.

During the moments of despair, she lashed out at God, asking Him why He would deny her the joy of being a mother.  Friends encouraged her to looking into adopting a child but she didn’t want to consider it.  And Martin assured her that she was more than enough for him and tried to encourage her to go away on trips with him and get involved in activities to take her mind off of things.  He was so devoted to her that sometimes she felt ashamed of how she was so fixated on not being able to have children that she might be neglecting him.

One day she was turning the pages of her Bible, not sure what to read.  It had been a while since she had even opened it.  And her eyes fell on the chapter one of the first book of Samuel.  She began to read it.  She could identify with Hannah.  She remembered those times when she couldn’t eat and was always in tears.  And all Martin could do was try to comfort her as best as he could.  It must have been so hard for him.  The words, But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the LORD had closed her womb.  Martin loved her even though she couldn’t give him children.  Her barrenness hadn’t diminished his love at all, in fact it had grown stronger.  Her friends remarked on how he treated her like a queen.

And Elkanah’s words to Hannah cut Joanne to the quick.  “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”  Wasn’t Martin better to her than the children she wished she could have?  He was there and they were not.  God had blessed her with an incredible man whose happiness was wrapped up in her and the life they could have together.  She felt ashamed and she cried out to God, asking Him to forgive her for being so selfish and for her anger and bitterness toward Him.

That night when Martin came home, she asked him to forgive her and he, of course, assured her that there was nothing to forgive.  He took her in his arms and held her close for a long time.  That night was the turning point in her life.  She decided that she would focus on her marriage and nothing else.

Forty years later and they were still going strong.  There were still moments when she wondered what would have happened if her life had turned out like Hannah’s.  Hannah had prayed to God and He had opened her womb and blessed her with seven children.  Joanne had prayed for Him to do the same miraculous thing for her but it didn’t happen.  God had blessed her with a lasting, strong and healthy marriage and tonight she was going to celebrate.

“Are you ready?” Martin asked.

She nodded.  “Yes.  I’m ready to celebrate forty years of being married to an incredible man.” Yes.  There was much to celebrate.  And she had God to thank for that.

man giving wife flowers

Broken Heart

She loved him from

The first moment she

Saw him.

Shy, she had watched

Him from afar.  When he

First spoke to her, she

Felt on top of the world.

They became friends.

They went places.

They enjoyed each

Other’s company.

She believed that he

Felt the same way

Until he met Anne…

Anne was more like

A sister to her.  They

Had been best friends since

High school.

She introduced them—

And was thrilled that

They hit it off.  It was

Important to her that

They liked each other.

Then, his visits and calls

got fewer and fewer

Until they stopped.

When she tried to

Reach him, there was

No answer.  He always

Seemed to be in a hurry

When she saw him.

And a bit distant and

Uncomfortable around her.

He was avoiding her but why?

Then, she saw them together.

They were strolling along

The waterfront, holding hands.

She stopped dead in her tracks.

Her mind refused to believe

Her eyes.  The hurt and anger

That consumed her, told her

That this was real—it wasn’t a

Terrible dream.  Her best friend

And David were seeing each other.

She saw them stop and look at

The lake.  She should confront them.

She should march over there and

Let them have it.

The hot tears spilled down her

Cheeks as she moved towards them.

The anger inside her increased with each step.

“If you pursue this, you will give place to the Devil”

The words ground her quick steps to an abrupt halt.

“Be angry but do not sin.  Turn and walk away.”

She stood there, her resolve to continue fading.

The two figures started to move away.

The distance grew wider and wider until

They dropped out of sight.

She turned and almost ran away.

Yes, she wanted to get away from the

Place where she saw them together.

Where she was betrayed by the two

People who mattered the most to her.

 

Some of us have experienced painful break-ups,

Unrequited love and betrayal.  Yet…the pain goes

Away after a while, we find someone who loves us

In return and we forgive those who betray us.

A broken heart can be mended—it just takes time.

 

crying woman

Source:  Ephesians 4:26, 27