Unfinished Business

When Irina, the managing editor of Eye on You, decided that it would be a great idea to dedicate a big chunk of the summer Issue to eligible bachelors, everyone jumped on the bandwagon.  The magazine was female skewed so they knew that their readers and subscribers would get a kick out of these, especially as they received many letters asking if they could feature stories on men who were looking for love.

After wading through scores of submissions from all over the world, they narrowed the entries down to twenty-five.  Sheree got the enviable job of interviewing the lucky ones that would be featured in Eye on You. Irina’s daughter, Carly, the magazine’s Photographer was to accompany her.

The interviews were to be done over a period of five days on the beautiful island of Jamaica.  In such an inviting and scenic backdrop, the men would be completely relaxed and open up to her.  She had no reason to believe that anything would go wrong.  The weather was pleasant—sunny every day and blue, cloudless skies.  She hadn’t been to the island since she moved to the United States with her parents when she was six years old.  She was looking forward to going although it was a working vacation.

Carly and she were to arrive a day before the bachelors whose expenses were paid by the magazine.  They were to scout the place to see where the interviews could be conducted without any interruptions or distractions and the locations where their photo shoots would be taken.  As they boarded the plane, they began to feel both Nervous and excited.  It wasn’t every day that they were going to interact with twenty-five gorgeous single men.

The men would have leisure time when they were not being interviewed or photographed but they were not allowed to fraternize with any of the female guests staying at the hotel.  It went without saying that Sheree and Carly could not get involved with any of them.  On the last evening there, they would have a celebratory dinner before parting ways. They were to each receive a complimentary copy of the summer issue of the magazine and other gifts, courtesy of Made for Men.

The hotel where they were staying was amazing and the staff was really quite friendly and helpful.  Sheree found quiet spots on the beach and around the hotel where she would do the Interviews and Carly was excited about the locales for her photo shoots.  After they finished getting ready for what would be a busy tomorrow, they spent a couple of hours on the beach before heading back to the hotel for dinner.

After dinner, they both decided that they would turn in early.  The next morning, Sheree got up bright and early and headed down to the café to have breakfast.  Carly joined her a few minutes later.  Over coffee, fruit, scrambled eggs and toast, they went over the day’s itinerary. There were going to be five interviews and five photo shoots–two in the morning and three in the afternoon.  While she interviewed the first Bachelor, Carly got busy taking photos of the other bachelor before his interview. The morning went very well and quickly.

Over lunch Sheree and Carly compared notes.  They both agreed that the two guys from Sweden and Brazil were really, really nice.  “I’m looking forward to meeting the guy from Australia,” Carly said.  “He’s absolutely gorgeous.  I can’t believe that he’s single.”

Sheree’s heart leapt at the mention of the one guy she couldn’t stop thinking about. “I’m looking forward to meeting him too.”

After Lunch, it was time to meet the bachelors from France, Argentina and Australia. The French guy was charming, the Argentinean was a little flirtatious and then it was the Australian’s turn.  Her heart thudded when she walked into the lobby where he was waiting for her.  He was tall and athletic and a sharp dresser in a white linen suit with a Royal blue silk shirt underneath.

The first thought that came to her mind when she saw him was that his picture didn’t do him justice.  She remembered how she had stared at it, unable to look away from those incredible eyes and face.  He was the one she had looked forward to meeting and interviewing but now that they were face to face, it was going to be a problem.  It was going to be hard to act professional with him when she found him so extremely attractive.

Taking a deep breath, she smiled and held out her hand.  “Hi, I’m Sheree Wilson.  I will be interviewing you, Mr. Jones.”

“Please call me Ryder.”  He shook her hand, his eyes meeting hers in a steady gaze.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sheree.”

The feel of his warm palm against hers sent all sorts of shivers up her spine.  And it took a moment before she could say, “We’ll be doing the interview in the gazebo”

He smiled, releasing her hand.  “Sounds good.”

She could feel him watching her as they made their way to the gazebo and it made her nervous and excited at the same time.  He waited until she was seated before he sat down.  When she crossed her legs, she noticed that his eyes dropped to them momentarily before returning to her face.  Clearing her throat, she began the interview.  “Why you’re still single?”

“I think it’s because I have a tendency to put my career before relationships.  I spend so much time and energy building up the marketing company that I haven’t had time to look.  My sister and some of my friends think I’m picky and they have tried to set me up on dates but I just couldn’t seem to find the time so they gave up until my sister saw your magazine’s search for eligible bachelors and she managed to convince me to send in a bio and photo and was thrilled when I got the call saying that I was one of the twenty-five chosen.  She took me out to celebrate.”

“What about you?  Were you thrilled that you were chosen out of more than one hundred entries?”

He shrugged.  “I guess I was.  It helped to put things in perspective.  Although I like being single, it would be nice to get back into the dating game and meet different types of women.”

“What are you looking for in a woman?”

“Well, I like a woman with character, someone who is genuine and real, who’s not afraid to be herself around me and doesn’t take herself or life too seriously.  She must be affectionate, intelligent, confident, ambitious and humble.  As you can see it’s not about looks for me.  For me true beauty is what’s on the inside.  What matters to me is who a woman is not how she looks.”

She tried not to show how impressed she was with his answer.  The other men she interviewed placed more emphasis on the woman’s looks.  “What is your dream date?”

“I would say, having dinner on the beach, watching the sun set over the ocean and then going for a walk, barefoot in the sand, holding hands.  And at the water’s edge, I take her in my arms and kiss her”

Was it getting a little hot in the gazebo?  She asked him more questions and then she got to the trivial ones.  “Which do you prefer?  Sports or Arts?”

“Both.  I love working out at the gym and playing soccer.  I enjoy going to museums and the opera—when I have time.”

“Boxers or briefs?”

“Boxers.”

“Are you kid or pet person?”

“Both.  I love kids.  I enjoy spoiling my nieces and nephew.  Rover, the family dog and I were thick as thieves.  I was devastated when he died.”

“One last question.  What is the one thing that you think women should know about men but don’t?”

“We like to snuggle too.”

“And that wraps up our interview.  Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.  It was a pleasure getting to know more about you.” She switched off the recorder, sorry that the interview had come to an end.  “I must admit that I enjoyed that very much.  And now, it’s time for you to go and see Carly for your photo shoot.”

“Do I have to go right now or could I take a five minute break?”

She glanced at her watch.  “I guess five minutes wouldn’t hurt.”

“How long have you been working at Eye on You?”

“About two and a half years.”

“Are you married?  Single?”

“I was married but my husband died in 2014.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.  If you don’t mind me asking, how did he die?”

“He was a surgeon in Sierra Leone where he was infected with the Ebola Virus.  When I got the call that he was being flown from Freetown in a specially equipped air ambulance for treatment at the Nebraska Medical Center, I made arrangements to take go there.  By the time he arrived in the United States his kidneys weren’t functioning and he was unresponsive.  The doctors worked really hard to save him but it was too late.  The disease was already in its advanced stages.  By the time I got there, he was dead so I never got a chance to say goodbye or tell him that I loved him.  A couple of weeks after the funeral, I sold our house in Maryland and moved to New York.”

“I’m so sorry for your loss.  Do you have any children?”

She shook her head.  “No.  He couldn’t because of an injury.  We talked about adopting, though.  He would have been a terrific father.”

“He died just four years ago which is still fairly recent.  I guess you still haven’t gotten over losing him.”

“I still miss him but my job keeps me busy and I have Friends who are always inviting me out somewhere.  I don’t think I would have fared well if I had remained in Maryland.  I couldn’t stay in the house because it seemed so empty without him.  I think moving to New York was the wisest thing to do.  It made the grief a little more bearable and each year it gets better.  He will always have a special place in my heart.”

“I wish we could stay here a while longer but I think my five minutes are up,” he said regretfully.

She glanced at her watch.  “You’re right.  I’d better take you to Carly now before she begins to wonder where you are.”

After putting her notes and recorder away in her bag, she stood up.  He got up too and for several minutes they stood there, just staring at each other before she walked past him.  He fell into step beside her.

“What are you going to do now?” he asked.

“I am going to interview the Italian guy and after him, the guy from Indonesia.”

“And afterwards?”

“I’ll probably relax by the pool or go up to my room and take a nap.”

He wanted to ask her to meet him for mock-tails after dinner but decided that it would be premature.  They had just met and she was still carrying a torch for her dead husband.  “I guess I won’t see you until tonight at dinner,” he said.

“I guess so,” she said.  She was looking forward to seeing him again.   They were in the lobby now and her next interview was waiting for her.  Turning to Ryder, she held out her hand.  “Thanks for an enjoyable interview.”

He clasped her hand, his eyes riveted to her face.  “It was my pleasure, Sheree,” he said quietly.

She swallowed hard, her heart racing.  “Enjoy the rest of the afternoon,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Thanks.  You too.”  He released her hand and after a lingering gaze, he turned and walked away.

She stood there until he disappeared from view before she went over to the Italian guy.  After introducing herself, she took him to the meeting room where they were to have their interview.  As they walked down the corridor, she couldn’t help thinking about Ryder and how much she was looking forward to seeing him again.

That night at dinner, she couldn’t help glancing surreptitiously over at the table where Ryder was and each time, she found him already looking at her.  There was an attraction there but nothing could come of it.  He was one of the bachelors which meant that under no circumstances could she become involved with him.

All through dinner, she tried to focus on what Carly was saying but she was aware of Ryder at the next table and found herself wishing that she could be alone with him.  Is it wrong for me to feel like this?  Am I betraying Alan and our life together by having feelings for another man—a man I just met today?

“A penny for your thoughts.”  Carly’s voice intruded upon her thoughts, startling her.  “You look like you were miles away.”

“I was just thinking about something.  It’s not important.”

“All right.  I won’t pry.  Do you feel up to going to the beach and watch some limbo dancing?”

Sheree shook her head.  “No, I think I will have an early night.”

“I’ll see you in the morning, then.  Have a good night.”

After dinner, she went up to her room and after spending several minutes on the patio, gazing out at the ocean, she went to bed.  It took a long time for her to fall asleep because all she could think about was Ryder.  She kept reliving the moment when they had stared at each other in the gazebo.  The look on his face…she closed her eyes, trembling at the memory.

She didn’t want to admit it but when she met Alan, she wasn’t attracted to him at first.  It wasn’t until she got to know him that she began to have feelings for him.  With Ryder it was different.  From the time she saw his photo, she was attracted to him and it got very intense when she met him face to face.  He stirred emotions in her that she had never experienced before and that terrified her.  She didn’t want to lose her head over a man she hardly knew or would never see again after this was over.  The best thing for me to do, she decided, is to stay clear of Ryder.  Easier said than done because the next morning, when she was got up early and went down to the beach, she bumped into him…

He was coming out of the ocean, dripping wet when she saw him and immediately, her heart began to pound and her mouth felt dry.  Unable to help herself, her gaze swept over his magnificent body clad in red swimming trunks.  His hair was glistening wetly in the light and rivulets of water were running down his broad chest and flat stomach.  “Good morning,” he called, startling her and her eyes flew up to his face.  “What a pleasant surprise.”

She tried to act nonchalant which required a lot of effort.  “Good morning.  Do-do you usually go for a swim this early?”

He was standing in front of her now and she saw the way his eyes traveled over her.  “Yes.  I like to come to the beach before it gets crowded.  It’s nice and quiet at this time.  How come you’re out here at this hour?”

She shrugged.  “I-I just wanted to take a walk before breakfast.”  She tried to keep her eyes fixed on his face.

He walked over to where his clothes lay in the sand and picked up his towel.  As he dried his skin, he walked back to where she was.  “I’ve never been to Jamaica before but I can see why a lot of my friends come.  It’s a beautiful island.”

“Yes, it is.  I was born here in Montego Bay before I moved to US with my parents when I was six years old.  This is the first time since I left that I have come back here.”

“How come you haven’t been back before now?”

“I have been so busy but I guess I wanted to see other places first.  Alan and I had planned to go on a cruise the following year after he returned from Sierra Leone.”

“I’m sorry that your husband’s untimely death left so many of your plans unfulfilled.”

“Me too.”

“Do you mind if I accompany you on your walk?”

She shook her head.  “No, I don’t mind at all.”  Surely, there was no harm in them going for a walk together.

He finished drying his skin and tossed the towel on the sand next to his clothes before they walked along the water’s edge.  “How did you meet your husband?”

“We met at a mutual friend’s wedding.  We sat at the same table at the reception and when we were the only two people left there because everyone had gone dancing, we struck up a conversation.  He was a nice man and when he asked me for my number I didn’t hesitate to give it to him.  We started going out and then a year and a half later, we got married.”

“Were you happy?”

“Yes.  We were happy.  He was a good man and husband.”

“Do you think you will find happiness with someone else?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Before you settled down, did you date a lot?”

She shook her head.  “No, I dated only five men.  They were all nice but I couldn’t see myself being married to any of them.  Over the years, I’ve met all sorts of men.  Some of them were great but I wasn’t attracted to them and others were only interested in one thing.  So, after my relationship with the fifth guy ended, I stopped looking and then I met Alan.”

“My sister has given up trying to find someone.  She told me that she broke up with the last guy because she couldn’t deal with his narcissism.   She felt like she was competing with his ego.”

Sheree laughed.  “Yes, I’ve met guys like that.  Tell her not to despair.  Somewhere out there is the man for her.”

They walked and talked some more and then it was time for her to head back to the hotel, have breakfast and get ready for the first interview of the morning.  When they were standing where his clothes were, he turned to her and asked, “Can we do this again tomorrow morning?”

She knitted her brow.  “Ryder, I don’t think—”

“Please,” he insisted.  “We will just walk and talk like we did today.  I enjoy your company, Sheree.”

“I enjoy yours too,” she admitted.  “All right.  I’ll meet you here tomorrow morning.  Have a good day.”

He smiled.  “Thank you.  You have yourself a good day too.”  He reached for his shirt and pulled it on.

After a lingering glance, she turned and walked away, feeling his eyes on her.  She couldn’t resist turning around to wave at him.  She was looking forward to being alone with him tomorrow morning.

They met the next morning and every morning after that.  Each time, he would be coming out of the ocean after a swim, dry himself off and then they would set off down the familiar stretch of beach where they usually went for their walks.  They talked about all sorts of things and she laughed at some of his stories about his family, friends and dates gone wrong.  She enjoyed being with him and looked forward to their morning meetings.

On the last morning before they were to leave the island, they went for their usual walk.  This time the mood was heavy.  After today, she was never going to see him again.  The reality of this thought filled her with despair and her feet dragged in the sand.  When he stopped and they stood there at the water’s edge, the water lapping at their feet, he turned to her, his expression tense.  “I’m going to miss this,” he said tightly.  “I’m going to miss our walks on the beach and our conversations.”

She swallowed hard, thankful that she was wearing sunglasses so that he couldn’t see her shiny eyes.  “I’m going to miss them too.”

“Sheree, you must know by now that I’m extremely attracted to you.”

She nodded.  It was no use pretending that she didn’t.  She could tell by the way he looked at and acted around her.  She was sure that her feelings for him were obvious to him too.  “Yes, I—I do.”

“And I know that you are attracted to me too.  I can tell from the way you look at me and I can feel it.  Oh, Sheree,” he moaned and reaching for her, he pulled her against him, his eyes darkening on her face.

Panicking, she struggled against him, her eyes wide as they met his.  “Ryder, please let go of me.”

His grip tightened as he tried to hold her still.  “Stop fighting something that is stronger than both of us.”

“Ryder, we can’t get involved with each other,” she protested weakly, her heart pounding heavily in her chest but the hands that were supposed to be pushing him away were gripping his shirt.  She watched, mesmerized as his face got closer to hers and her eyes fell shut when she felt his lips on hers, teasing them and tormenting her.

Desire surged through her like a wild fire and she was kissing him back like a mad woman.  They stood there exchanging hot, searing kisses for a long time before he broke it off to bury his face in her neck, breathing heavily.  She clung to him, trembling like a leaf and gasping for air.

After a few moments passed, he raised his head to gaze down at her.  “When this is all over, I want us to finish what we started,” he muttered thickly.

“But you’ll be in Sydney and I’ll be in New York.”

“As soon as I sort out my business back home, I’m taking the first available flight to New York.”

“You would fly all that way just-just to see me?”

“Yes!  I would fly to the end of the world if I had to.  Now that I’ve met you, I can’t let distance keep me from you.  I will come to you.”

“And I will be waiting.”

He bent his head and kissed her again before they continued walking along the beach, his arm around her shoulders and hers around his waist.  They parted ways on the beach and she was in her room when he left for the airport.  On the flight back to New York, she told Carly everything and she was thrilled.  “I suspected that there was something between you two,” she said.  “Don’t worry about Mom.  I will sort it out with her.  It won’t be the end of the world if we end up with twenty-four bachelors instead of twenty-five.”

Sheree squeezed her hand.  “Thanks, Carly.”

Carly smiled.  “I’m a romantic at heart.”

As soon as Sheree got home, she sent an email to Ryder letting him know that she had arrived safely and waited eagerly to receive a reply which came the following day.  Over the next several weeks, she busied herself putting together the feature in the magazine.  Initially, Irina wasn’t thrilled that they were minus a bachelor, especially, the hottest one, in her opinion but, she didn’t want to stand in the way of Sheree’s happiness.  Sheree learned that once Ryder had been notified that he wouldn’t be featured in the magazine, he reimbursed them for the travel and hotel expenses.

Ryder and she exchanged emails every day and occasionally spoke on the telephone.  It had been several weeks since they last saw each other and she kept wondering when he would eventually come to New York.  Weeks turned into months and still no sign of him although they kept in touch via email.

It was Christmas Eve and she was about to fix herself some lunch when the doorbell rang.  She dried her hands in the towel hanging on the oven handle and went to see who it was.  Her heart somersaulted when she peered out of the keyhole, bursting with excitement and joy, she unlocked the door and tugged it open.  Her eyes slipped eagerly over his tall frame in the black winter coat with the fur trimmed collar and hood.  “Hello,” she greeted him.

He smiled that smile which made her knees go weak, pulled her into his arms and kissed her.  “Sorry it took so long for me to come,” he said after a while.

“You’re here just in time to celebrate Christmas,” she said.  “Come in and warm yourself.”  She opened the door wider so that he could go in.  She took his coat and hung it up while he removed his shoes.

“Where’s your luggage?” she asked.

“I dropped it off at the corporate apartment where I will be staying before coming over here to see you.”

Taking his hand, she led him into the living-room and invited him to sit on the sofa.  “I was just about to have lunch.  Are you hungry?”

He nodded. “A little.  Do you know what time it is now in Sydney?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“It’s two in the morning.  We’re 14 hours ahead.  It’s one of the things I had to factor in my decision to move here.”

She gaped at him.  “Move here?”

“Yes.  I’m going to be living in New York now that I am the new Director of our office here.”

“When did you decide to move to New York?”

“On the morning we said goodbye on the beach.  I knew then that I couldn’t go back to my life in Sydney when the woman I wanted to be with was in New York.  So, I made all the necessary arrangements and here I am to finish what we started in Montego Bay.”

Her response was to put her arms around his neck and kiss him.  Two years later, their unfinished business ended in marriage and their honeymoon was in Montego Bay where it all began.

Sources:  The Guardian; Just Mommies; Prokerala; The Washington Post; The 416 Magazine; Elite Daily; Thought CatalogHalf Moon;

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The Daydream

It was a glorious day.  The sun was bright, illuminating the field dotted with wild flowers and a soft, gentle breeze wafted caressed the leaves on the trees.  Intermittently, the trill cries of birds broke the silence.  From where she was, she could see the cavity in the tree above her and an adult bird peeking out.  It was the Nuttall Woodpecker.  She stood very still because she didn’t want to disturb it.  What a beautiful bird with its colorful plumage.  She wished she had brought her camera.

She stood there watching it for a while and then, she decided to sit on the grass and lean against the tree.  It was so relaxing out here.  Her eyes began to feel heavy.  She stifled a yawn.  I’d better go before I fall asleep, she thought.  But it was so nice being in the countryside, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  Five more minutes and then, she would leave.

She must have dozed off because the next thing she knew, Julien was standing over her, blocking the sunlight.  Startled, she scrambled to her feet.  “What—what are you doing here?” To her own ears, she sounded breathless and her heart was pounding.  He was dressed casually in a light blue shirt and khaki slacks.  His hair was slightly tousled from the breeze.  And his eyes…she couldn’t get over their unusual color.  They were the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen.  She felt as if she would drown in them.

“I live over there, remember?” he replied, indicating the palatial estate on her right.

She had been when he invited the staff during the summer and Christmas holidays.  It was a magnificent Victorian mansion surrounded by immaculate grounds.  He lived there on his own with a fully functional staff.  His parents died in a boating accident when he was in his twenties and he had no siblings.

She heard co-workers say that the lucky woman whom he married would be the mistress of the estate and living comfortably for the rest of her life.  I wonder who she will be?  There was some speculation that it would be the beautiful Catherine Taylor whom she had seen him with on several occasions.  She had to admit that the thought of him with Catherine or any other woman bothered her tremendously which was very foolish of her because she didn’t stand a chance with him.  The difference in age and background made her an unlikely candidate.

“What are you thinking about?” he asked, startling her.

“How long have you been standing here watching me sleep?” she asked evasively.  You can’t know what I’ve been thinking.

“About five minutes.  I was returning from a walk when I saw you.  I didn’t want to disturb you.”

She felt so embarrassed that her boss had caught her sleeping under a tree not far from where he lived.  “I didn’t mean to fall asleep.  I should be going now.”

He caught her by the arm.  “No, please don’t go,” he said quietly.  “Stay a little while longer.  It’s a beautiful day to be outdoors.”

“Yes, it is.”  She couldn’t think straight with his fingers on her arm.  They felt warm and they were stirring all sorts of feelings in her and when their eyes met, she was mesmerized.

His gaze was riveted to her face and his eyes darkened as he muttered, “Tue es adorable quand tu dors.”

She swallowed hard.  “What-what did you say?”

“I said that you are lovely when you are asleep.” Now he was holding her by the shoulders and drawing her toward him.

By now her heart was pounding wildly as she saw his gaze lower to her mouth before she saw his getting closer and closer…And then, they were kissing wildly, passionately, unleashing feelings which had been pent up for such a long time.  He pulled her down on to the grass which tickled her calves.  She was wearing capris.  They rolled over and over in the grass like tumbleweed, still exchanging kisses.  Her fingers were buried in his hair which was so soft and silky.  She wanted him to take her right there in the field among the flowers with their heady scent pervading her senses.

The sound of ringing jolted her and her eyes flew open.  She started when she realized that she was sitting at her desk with her head propped up.  She had been daydreaming again but this time it seemed so real and the kisses…she touched her lips.  Answer the phone.  She grabbed it.  “Hello?”

“Where are the reports?  The meeting starts in seven minutes.”  It was Julien.  He was calling her from the boardroom.  His French accent was more pronounced when he was annoyed.

“I’m—I’m on my way,” she stammered, flustered.  She wondered what he would say if he knew that she had been daydreaming about him.  Shaking her head, she grabbed the reports which were sitting on her desk and rushed to the boardroom.

He was there with nine other men sitting around the table and she felt self-conscious as she walked into the room, carrying the reports.  She avoided looking at him as she handed them out and then she walked out of the room.

After she was gone, one of the men, Russell Benson, commented, “You have a young and very pretty secretary.”

Julien’s expression darkened.  “She’s my assistant.  Now, let us get down to business.”  He was irked because he noticed the way Imani avoided looking at him and it didn’t help that she smiled with Russell before she left the room.

The meeting lasted for an hour and fifteen minutes and while the other men stayed behind to talk to Julien, Russell excused himself and left the room.  He went straight to Imani’s desk and holding out his hand, he introduced himself.  “Russell Benson.”

“Imani Johnson.”

“Tell me, Imani, how long have you been working with Julien?”

“Four years.”

“Do you like working with him?”

“Yes, I do.”  Russell seemed like a nice guy but she wasn’t interested in him.  All she could think about was Julien and how much she wanted to be with him.

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

She stared at him for a moment.  “No, I don’t.”

“How about having dinner with me, say tomorrow night?”

She shook her head.  “I’m sorry, Russell, but I’m going to have to say no.”

He arched his eyebrows.  “Wow.  Not to sound conceited or anything but this is the first time a woman has turned me down.”

“You seem like a really nice guy but—”

“…but you’re just not interested.”

“Sorry.”

“There’s no need to apologize.   I don’t think Julien would have approved anyway.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, when I mentioned that you were very pretty, he didn’t seem at all pleased.”

“Really?”

“And speaking of the devil…” he said looking past her and getting up from her desk on which he had been sitting.

Imani’s heart was racing but she didn’t turn around.  She didn’t have to.  Julien went and stood right beside her desk.  She looked up and their eyes met briefly before he turned to Russell.  “What are you still doing here?” he asked.  “I would have thought that you would be heading home after your long flight.”

“I arrived from New York this morning,” Russell explained to Imani.  “I remember why I hate flying.  I had to wait a long time for my bag because there was a problem with the conveyor belt.  By the time it was sorted out, I had to come straight here.”

Julien turned to Imani, “I need to see you in my office.”

She nodded and quickly looked away.

Julien held out his hand.  “Goodbye, Russell.”

Russell smiled and shook his hand.  “Goodbye, Julien.”

Julien turned and walked away.  When he was out of earshot, Russell leaned over and whispered almost conspiratorially, “I believe that if a certain Frenchman had asked you out for dinner you would have said yes in a heartbeat.”

She gaped at him.  “How did you–?”

“…figure that out?  Well, I noticed the way you acted around him just now.  It’s obvious to me, maybe not so much to him, that you are in love.”

“I don’t know what to do.  He hasn’t shown any sign that he’s interested?”

Russell stared at her in amazement.  “Are you serious?” he exclaimed.  “Didn’t you see the way he acted just now?  He obviously had a problem with me hanging around you.  I’d better leave before he has me escorted out.  It was really nice meeting you, Imani.  Julien is a very lucky man.”  He held out his hand.

“It was nice meeting you too, Russell,” she said, taking his hand.  “And thank you for being such a good sport.”

He clasped her hand in a warm handshake before he turned and walked away, whistling when Zara, an attractive blonde passed by him.  Imani chuckled, shaking her head.

She got up from her desk and went to Julien’s office.  He was sitting at his desk but got up when she went in.  “Close the door,” he called.

She closed it quietly behind her and walked over to him, her heart thudding.  “You needed to see me,” she sounded a tad breathless.  She was standing in front of the desk now directly opposite him.

“What did Russell want?” he asked abruptly.

“He-he wanted me to have dinner with him.”

His mouth tightened.  “Did you accept?”

She shook her head.  “No, I didn’t.”

“Why not?”

“I-I didn’t want to have dinner with him.”

“Ne le trouvez-vous pas attirant?”  He seemed surprised.

“What?” she asked.  He had a tendency to lapse into his native tongue.

“Don’t you find him attractive?”

“No, I don’t.”

Êtes-vous attiré par quelqu’un?  Pardon.  Are you attracted to anyone?”

“Yes, Julien.  I’m attracted to you.”  She couldn’t believe she said it.

Julien’s eyes darkened and he moved around the desk to stand right in front of her.  “I’ve never been attracted to anyone I worked with until I met you,” he admitted.  “I wanted to ask you out for such a long time but I wasn’t sure if you would want to because I’m your boss and quite a bit older than you.”

She moved closer.  “I was attracted to you the first time I saw you and wanted you to notice me but you were always so businesslike whenever we were together.  And I when I saw you with Catherine, I thought that you were serious about her.”

“Catherine and I are just friends.  I know that there have been rumors to the contrary but I assure you that my feelings for her are strictly platonic.  Imani, will you have dinner with me tonight?”

Yes!”

He reached out and took her hand.  His fingers felt warm against her skin, making her tremble.  Her pulse was racing and she seemed to have difficulty breathing as he reached for her other hand to pull her against him.  “J’ai voulu t’embrasser si longtemps”, he muttered before he bent his head and kissed her.

She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.  This was better than any daydream.  Just in case, though, she pinched her arm and felt the pain.

Love in the Office

When she went to the kitchenette to fill her bottle with water, Anton was there telling a couple of people about his camping trip with his friends.  She couldn’t help but smile.  He was such a droll when it came to telling stories.  She filled her bottle and turned so that she was facing the group.

“Sounds like you had a lot of fun on your camping trip,” she said a few minutes later, when they were alone.

He went over to where she was.  “I did,” he said, his eyes riveted to her face.

She wondered if he knew how much his closeness affected her.  “Good,” she said, sounding a little breathless.  “Where did you go camping?”

“Wild Boar Wood in West Sussex.”

“So, were there any women on your camping trip?” She had to ask.

He shook his head.  “No, just the guys.”

She couldn’t hide her relief and she saw his expression change.

“Even if women were there, I wouldn’t have been interested in any of them,” he said quietly.  “You must know by now, Tina, that I’m deeply attracted to you.”

Her chest began to rise and fall quickly and she seemed to have trouble breathing.  “I’m your supervisor,” she reminded him.

“Yes, I know that we have a working relationship but we can’t deny how we feel about each other.  I know that you’re attracted to me.  I saw the look on your face when I told you that there weren’t any women on the camping trip.  You don’t want me to be with another woman any more than I want you to be with another man.  You can’t deny that you have feelings for me, Tina.  I can see it on your face.”

Her resolve was beginning to weaken.  “I’m older than you,” she said.

“Age is just a number,” he said dismissively.  “Have dinner with me tomorrow night.”

“All right,” she acquiesced.  “You win.” She was no match for the emotions that raged within her or his power of persuasion.

He smiled.  “Good.  I’ll pick you at seven-thirty.”

“I think we should get back to work now,” she said.

“Right,” he agreed.  “I’ll get started on the report you asked me for.”  He excused himself and quickly walked away.

For several minutes, she stood there, wondering if she had acted wisely.  She couldn’t get past the fact that she was his supervisor and that there was a considerable age difference between them.   Yet, try as she did, she couldn’t deny her feelings for Anton.

From the moment she first saw him, she knew that she was in trouble.  His good looks, charm and friendly disposition made him irresistible.  Working with him was a challenge.  Many times, she found herself watching him and wondering if he had a girlfriend.  She couldn’t imagine that someone like him would be unattached.  It bothered her to see him talking to other women in the department, especially the younger ones.

Just yesterday, she had walked by the photocopier on her way to the boardroom for a meeting when she saw him standing there talking to Wendy, a pretty redhead.  He had his back turned to her so he didn’t notice her.  Her steps faltered and as she watched them talking, red, hot jealousy raged inside her.  She was tempted to go over there and interrupt them but she came to her senses and hurried away before he saw her.  When she was in the meeting, she had to literally force herself to focus on the business at hand and put the sight of Anton and Wendy out of her mind.  Later when they were alone in her office going over some files, she said, “Wendy’s pretty, isn’t she?”

He glanced up at her.  “I suppose so,” he said.

“I saw the two of you at the photocopier earlier today.  I think she likes you.”

“Are you trying to set me up with her?” he asked, startling her.

“No,” she protested.  “I—I was just making an observation.”

“Wendy’s a very nice girl but I’m not attracted to her.”  He was staring at her now and the expression on his face made her heart palpitate.  That was the first time she became aware of his attraction for her.

“Tina, Mr. Foster is waiting for you in your office.”  Annette’s voice brought her back to the present.

“Thanks, Annette,” she said and followed her out of the kitchenette.

Several hours later when it was time to leave, Anton stopped by her office.  She was straightening her desk.  He went over to her.  “Normally, I would tell you to have a good weekend,” he said.  “But, I’ll be seeing you tomorrow.”

“Yes,” she said.  She handed him a slip of paper with her address on it.  When he took it, their fingers touched and her breath caught in her throat.  Her skin seemed to burn.  Their eyes met and held for a long time before she turned away to remove her jacket from the back of her chair.   “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Tina.”  She heard him leave and turned round when he closed the door behind him.

Her skin still tingled where his fingers had touched it.  She traced the area, her heart pounding when she remembered the expression on his face as they stared at each other.  The desire she saw there was unmistakable.  She wondered what would have happened if she hadn’t turned away.  On the drive home, she mulled over it and nervous excitement rose in her whenever she thought of seeing Anton the following evening.  What on earth am I going to wear? She wondered, racking her brains to see if there was an outfit that would be suitable.  It had been ages since she had been on a date and it felt very strange going on one with someone she worked closely with.

As soon as she got home, she searched for something to wear and settled on a dress she had bought a month ago and had worn only once.  It was a black slash neck dress with a flare skirt.  On Saturday evening, she put it on and was satisfied with how it looked.  She wore her hair in a chignon, allowing a few tendrils to frame her face.  The strappy black and silver heels completed the outfit.  The doorbell rang just as she took one last look at herself in the mirror.  When she opened the door and saw Anton standing there, her heart leapt.  He looked gorgeous in the charcoal grey suit with the black dress shirt and black tie.  His eyes slid over her and when they returned to her face, admiration and desire shone in their depths.   “You look amazing,” he said quietly.

“So do you.”  As they walked to the lift, she could feel him watching her and she smiled, flattered.

The restaurant, set in a snug 18th century townhouse, was atmospheric in that the tables candle lit.   Over dinner, he told her about himself.  His father was British and his mother French.  He had an older brother and a younger sister.  He asked many questions about her and her family.

When they were having dessert, he said with a serious expression on his face, “I want to have a relationship with you, Tina.  I know that you are hesitant because we work together and the age difference but we can’t deny how we feel about each other.  It’s so hard for me to be around you and not want to touch you or kiss you.  Quite a few people in our department are dating each other.  At least, let’s give it a try and see what happens.   What do you say?”

She toyed with her Black Currant Sorbet for a moment and then, looking up at him, she nodded.  “Yes, let’s give it a try.”  He was right.  There was nothing to prevent them from having a relationship except her own misgivings which she knew had to do with her fear of getting hurt.  She still couldn’t believe that he was attracted to her instead of someone closer to his age.

He smiled and reaching over, he caressed her hand, making her pulse race.  They spent the rest of the night talking about all sorts of things and made plans to see each other the following day.  When he took her home, he leaned down and was about to kiss her on the cheek when, heart thudding, she turned her head so that their lips touched.

Groaning, he deepened the kiss while backing her into the flat.  Once they were inside, he kicked the door shut, his mouth moving feverishly over hers.  She clung to him, kissing him back while her hands removed his jacket.  His tie and shirt soon followed and then, she broke off the kiss, panting and grabbing him by the hand, she took him to her room.

The following day at the office, they smiled and kept exchanging knowing looks.  She felt like a lovesick schoolgirl.   When other people were around, they acted professionally around each other as before. They spent every evening together, either at her flat or his.  Over the weekends, they went for drives, to the cinema, dinner, the theatre, concerts and nightclubs or for walks along the Quay.  Tina knew that she was falling in love with him and hoped that he was with her.  Once when he was taking a shower, she joined him and as he gazed down into her face, the water beating on his back, she saw the look in his eyes before he kissed her.  There was no doubt in her mind that he cared for her.

One afternoon, she was on her way home to visit her sister, Vivien when she spotted Anton in front of a café.  He was not alone.   There was a traffic signal right there and she stopped as the light turned to red, craning her neck to see him and the girl he was with.  She watched as he leaned over and said something to the pretty brunette, making her throw back her head and laugh.  Then, she saw the girl reach up and put her arms around his neck, hugging him closely.  Her fingers gripped the steering wheel as jealousy ripped through her.

The honk of a car horn behind her startled her.  Dragging her eyes from the two figures on the sidewalk, she glanced up and saw that the light had changed to green.  She pressed her foot on the gas and drove off.  All sorts of thoughts were running through her mind.  Who was the girl and what was he doing with her?  And what about me?  Is he getting bored of me?  But he couldn’t be—not after the way he made love to me last night.  She trembled at the memory.  Is he seeing the both of us at the same time?  Is he sleeping with her too? The pain and jealousy almost suffocated her.

How she managed to get to Vivien’s home without getting into an accident, she had no idea.  As soon as her sister opened the door, she broke down.  Concerned, Vivien hugged her for a moment until she had calmed down, then she put her arm around her shoulder and led her over to the sofa.  “Tell me what’s got you so upset,” she encouraged her gently.  She handed her the box of tissues that was on the coffee table and waited patiently while she dried her eyes and wiped her nose.  “I’ve never seen you like this before.”

Taking her time, Tina told her everything.  “I love him, Vivien.  It really hurt to see him with her.”

“Does he love you?”

She shrugged her shoulders.  “I don’t know.  He hasn’t said so as yet.”

“Based on what you have told me, it’s obvious that he has feelings for you.  There might not be anything going on between him and the girl.  It may all turn out to be innocent.  When you see him tomorrow, ask him about her.”

“And what if he’s seeing her?”

“Then, you must end your relationship with him.” She reached out and covered her hands.  “I hope it all works out for you, Tina.”

Tina didn’t answer.  At that moment, her world was in an upheaval and she didn’t know what she was going to do if it turned out that Anton was two-timing her.

She drove to work the next day, feeling awful.  She hadn’t slept a wink at all last night.  Anton wasn’t at his desk when she got in and she went into her office and closed the door.  She knew she couldn’t avoid him but she dreaded the moment when she would have to talk to him.  Once when he knocked on the door and poked his head in, she pretended that she was on the phone.  He didn’t disturb her after that.

It was after twelve when she came out of her office and stopped short when she saw the same girl she had seen Anton with sitting in a chair next to his desk.  What is she doing here, she wondered, resentfully.  The girl didn’t see her.  She was sitting with her back turned to her and was on her cell phone texting.

She was tempted to walk over to her and find out who she was.  As she stood there, trying to figure out what to do, Anton came up behind her.   She felt him caress her arm and she swung round to face him.

“What’s the matter?” he asked when he saw the expression on her face.

“Who’s the girl over there at your desk?” she demanded in a low, angry voice.  She couldn’t hide her jealousy.

He looked over her shoulder and then back at her.  “You mean my sister?” he asked, raising his eyebrows quizzically.

She gaped at him.  “Your sister?” she repeated, wondering if she had heard correctly.

“Yes, my sister.  Come, let me introduce you.”  He took her by the arm and led her over to the brunette who glanced up at them.  “This is my sister, Louise.  Louise, this is Tina.”

Louise smiled and held out her hand.  “It’s nice to meet you, Tina.  Anton has told me so much about you.”

Tina shook her hand, dazed and feeling like a complete fool.  “It’s nice to meet you too,” she murmured.

Anton turned to her, “Louise and I are going to have lunch.  Would you like to join us?”

She shook her head.  “Thank you, but I already had my lunch and I have a meeting in about fifteen minutes.”

Anton grabbed his jacket and pulled it on.  “I’ll see you when I get back.”

Louise stood up.  She was a tall girl.  “I hope to see you again, Tina,” she said.

Tina managed a smile.  “Me too.”  She watched them as they walked away and then went back into her office.  She sat down at her desk and leaned her head against the leather upholstery, her mind whirling.  The heaviness which had been on her heart was gone.  She went to her meeting in better spirits.  When it was over, she went back to her office and waited for Anton to return from lunch.

When he did, she called him on his extension, asking him to go in and see her.  He went in right away and walked over to her desk.  “You’ve been avoiding me all morning,” he said, “and I’d like to know why.”

She got up from the desk and went up to him.  “I have a confession to make,” she said quietly, wringing her hands nervously.  “Yesterday I saw you with Louise, only I didn’t know at the time that she was your sister and I thought…”

“And you thought that I was seeing another woman behind your back.  Oh, Tina,” he groaned, raking his fingers through his hair in frustration.  “How could you think such a thing?  Can’t you tell by now that I love you?”

Her heart stopped.  “You love me?”

“Yes! I love you so much that I ache inside.”

“I love you too.  I’m sorry for being such a jealous fool.  When I saw you with her, I was so hurt, so jealous.  I—I was going to talk to you about it today but I couldn’t seem to work up the courage to do so.”

He reached for her and pulled her into his arms.  “There’s no reason for you to be jealous of other women,” he told her huskily.  “I love you.  I want to be with you.  I want to marry you.”

She stared at him.  “Marry me?”

“Yes.  That’s why you saw me with Louise yesterday.  She went with me to De Beers to help me to choose a ring for you.  I was planning to propose to you tonight over dinner at my place.  Afterwards, we went to a cafe.  You must have seen us just before we parted company.”

She began to cry and he hugged her tightly.  “I’m so sorry,” she sobbed.

He drew back to look down at her.  “What are you sorry about?” he asked.

“I’m sorry for ruining your surprise and for doubting you…”

“Don’t  cry,” he said.  “You haven’t ruined anything and I would have reacted the same way if I had seen you hugging a strange man.

She smiled at him through her tears.  “I’m so lucky to have you,” she cried.

He cupped her face between his hands and rubbed the tears away with his thumbs.  “I’m the lucky one,” he muttered thickly before he lowered his head and kissed her.  Wrapping her arms tightly around his waist, she kissed him back.

Slide1

 

Sources:  Time Out;Ali Express; Andrew Edmunds; De Beers

 

A Failed Plan

The young ladies were all in a tizzy because Mr. Edmond McFadyen was joining them for dinner that evening.  Mr. Burrows had taken the liberty to extend the long overdue invitation when he had the pleasure of bumping into the young man at the gentlemen’s club that morning.

Ever since the McFadyens had moved into Grand Meadow Manor, Mrs. Burrows had pressed her husband to make their acquaintance.  They were invited to tea but Edmond was not present at the time, much to Mrs. Burrows’ consternation.   She urged Mr. Burrows to invite the young man to dinner and was beside herself with excitement when it was accepted graciously.

Mrs. Burrows clapped her hands in delight.  “Oh, girls,” she said to her daughters, Louise, Evelyn and Henrietta.  “Just think, one of you will win the affections of Edmond McFadyen.” Yes, it was her plan to secure one of her daughters for one of London’s most eligible bachelors.

The girls giggled.  “Oh, Mama,” Henrietta cried, “He is ever so handsome.  Which one of us do you think he will prefer?” she asked her sisters.

“Me,” said Louise.  “I’m the oldest and wisest.”

Evelyn pursed her lips.  “I’m the prettiest.”

Henrietta clucked.  “And I’m the youngest.”

They began to quarrel among themselves and Mrs. Burrows raised her hand.  “Girls, girls, stop fighting among yourselves,” she said.  “We will know soon enough this evening which of you Mr. McFadyen will favor.  Now, why don’t you run upstairs and sort out what you will wear. You must all look your very best, you know.”

“Yes, Mama,” they cried and bustled out of the room, leaving Mrs. Burrows alone with their cousin, Kay.

Kay sat by the fireplace reading a book.  She had listened to the commotion but had kept quiet.  Her aunt would not have welcomed any remark from her.  The older woman had never made her feel welcomed in her home.  And her cousins had always made her plain and inferior.  Only her uncle treated her kindly.  Many an evening they would sit in the library and have stimulating conversations.  He had intimated once that he wished his daughters were more like her.

She could feel her aunt’s gaze on her and she looked up.  The withering stare she received elicited a heavy sigh.  She closed her book.  “Perhaps, you would rather be alone, Aunt Mabel,” she said.  She was about to rise from the chair.

Her aunt waved her to remain seated.  “Don’t leave until I have said what I need to say to you,” she said.

“What is it, Aunt?”

“Don’t imagine for one moment that Mr. McFadyen would pay any attention to you. He is a gentleman.  You are not a gentleman’s daughter.  Your father was a shopkeeper.  I still don’t know what possessed my sister to marry him.”

Kay’s face suffused with color.  She tried to remain calm.  “My father may not have been a gentleman, Aunt, but he was a man of good character and my mother loved him.  As for Mr. McFadyen, I have no given no thought of him paying me any attention that is beyond what is customary.”

“You are not a pretty girl by any means, so I don’t suppose there’s any likelihood that the good gentleman would even notice you.”

Kay opened her mouth to respond to that unkind remark but decided that it was not worth dignifying.  “If you have no further requirements for me, Aunt, I shall excuse myself.”

Her aunt waved her away dismissively.  Getting up from the armchair, Kay made her exit.  Kay spent the rest of the afternoon in her room and when it was time to get ready for dinner, she did so half-heartedly.  She chose the pink gown that flattered her coloring and shape.  She pulled her hair back from her face in a French knot, allowing a few curls to fall across her forehead and brush against her cheeks.  She examined her reflection in the mirror and satisfied that she looked respectable, she left the room.

They were all in the drawing-room, including Mr. McFadyen who was surrounded, poor chap, by her excitable cousins.  All eyes turned in her direction when she entered the room and she felt her face go red.  How she wished she could return to her room.  She would be happier curled up on the bed, reading her book.  A tray could have been brought up.  Her eyes caught the sour expression on her Aunt’s face, the disdained glances of her cousins, the affectionate smile on her Uncle’s face before her gaze drifted to the guest of honor.

He was tall, very stately in appearance and quite handsome.  “This is our niece, Miss Forrester,” she heard her Uncle say.  Mr. McFadyen bowed and she curtsied.

The announcement that dinner was ready came just then and they all went in.  Mr. and Mrs. Burrows preceded the party.  Mr. McFadyen escorted Louise as she was the eldest; her sisters followed, looking rather cross and Kay brought up the rear.

She was seated at the opposite end of the table, as conceivably far from Mr. McFadyen as possible.  No doubt her Aunt’s doing.  Louise sat on his left and Evelyn on his right while Henrietta sat beside Evelyn, much to her displeasure.

However, the evening didn’t go as her Aunt hoped.  Her Uncle kept drawing Kay into the conversation when her Aunt and cousins seemed perfectly happy to ignore her. Mr. McFadyen seemed more interested in what she had to say than the frivolous chatter of her cousins. Kay found that she and Mr. McFadyen had a great deal in common.  They shared a love for History and the Arts.  He had done a great deal of travelling and she listened with rapt interest as he recounted some of his adventures.

The evening turned out to be rather pleasant for Mr. Burrows, Mr. McFadyen and Kay.  Before he left, Mr. McFadyen said to Kay, “Miss Forrester, would you do me the honor of accompanying me to the museum tomorrow?  There are some new Egyptian artifacts on display which I have no doubt you will find fascinating.”

She smiled.  “Thank you, Sir.  I would be delighted to accompany you.”

“I bid you goodnight, Miss Forrester,” he said with a smile and a bow.

“I bid you goodnight, Mr. McFadyen.”  She curtsied.

After he left, she was subjected to malevolent stares from her Aunt and cousins.  “Kay, you should be ashamed of yourself, monopolizing Mr. McFadyen’s attention like that,” Louise scolded her.  “If you weren’t there, he would have paid more attention to me.”

“All that dull talk about History and Art,” Henrietta complained.  “He’s as dull as you, Kay.”

“And what did he say to you just now before he left, might I ask?” demanded Evelyn.

“If you must know, he invited me to accompany him to the museum tomorrow.”

“What?” her Aunt was aghast.  She slumped against the chair, fanning herself with her handkerchief as if she were feeling faint.

Her Uncle chuckled.  “It seems as if Mr. McFadyen has taken a fancy to Kay.”

“A fancy, indeed!  It’s all your fault, Mr. Burrows.  If you had ignored her like the rest of us, Mr. McFadyen would have requested the company of one of our girls.”

“My Dear Lady, it was clear to me that the young gentleman was not at all interested in any of our girls.  Therefore, ignoring Kay would not have changed that fact.  Now, it’s late and I am going to retire.”

Kay thought it a good time to leave as well.  She knew if she stayed, she would be raked over the coals.  “I too must retire.  Goodnight, Uncle.”  She kissed him.  “Goodnight, Aunt, Louise, Evelyn and Henrietta.”  She didn’t wait for them to respond but hurried from the room.

As she ran up the stairs, she felt a deep satisfaction that her Aunt’s plan for Mr. McFadyen had failed.  He was a gentleman, indeed and deserving of a woman who was his equal, not in social status but in character.

 

Source:  Fantasy Name Generators

Papa Joe

August 12, 1952.  It was a date she would never forget.  It was the day she buried the man who had been a father to her for over twenty years.  It seemed so surreal.  Papa Joe was gone.  She stood there alone in her grief, shivering although it was a hot and muggy day.

She stared at the ground where Papa Joe lay.  The tears rolled down her cheeks as she cradled his worn Bible, remembering how he used to read it to her when she was a child. When her parents had died he took her in and raised her as his own. She had grown to love the old man as if he were her very own blood.  Many of the townspeople had a problem with the widower raising a black girl and didn’t hide their displeasure but Papa Joe ignored them.  His business began to suffer.  Papa Joe was a tailor.  He knew that business would pick up again if he got rid of Cassandra but he refused to do so.  Even if he went bankrupt, he would never part with her.  He vowed that only death would separate them.

It was Papa Joe whom she shared her dreams with.  It was Papa Joe who comforted her when she went home crying because of the racial slurs and taunts.  Papa Joe was the only one who knew that she loved a man she had no right to love.  She had known Dr. Baker since she was a child.  He used to stop by and see Papa Joe.   He was always kind to her and brought her treats.  As she grew older, the visits became more frequent.  Papa Joe was no fool.  He could see that feelings were developing between them and he warned her, “You and the doctor have to be careful, Cassie.  This town will not take kindly to a relationship between a black girl and a white man.”

One night when Dr. Baker visited, Papa Joe excused himself and went to his room.  As soon as they were alone, the doctor took Cassandra into his arms and kissed her.  “I have wanted to do that all day,” he whispered when he raised his head to gaze down into her face.  “I know that there is a considerable age difference between us but I love you, Cassandra.  I tried to stay away when I realized that I had fallen in love with you but I couldn’t.  I had to see you.”

“I love you too.”

“I’m leaving for Paris in three weeks and I would like you to come with me.”

“Paris?” she exclaimed.  “Why there?”

“I have always wanted to go there and set up a practice.  My mother was French and your family was from Haiti.  So the language won’t be a barrier for us.”

“I can’t go to Paris with you, Robert.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t leave Papa Joe.  He has been so good to me.”

“Joe would want you to be happy and you won’t be as long as you remain in this town.”

“I can’t be happy knowing that he is here all alone.”  She could see the distress on Robert’s face and she reached up and touched his face.  “I love you for wanting to take me away with you, but I can’t.  I hope you understand.”

“I do,” he sighed.  “Well, I better be going.  Please say goodnight to Joe for me.”  They kissed and then she walked with him to the door.

“Goodbye, Cassandra.  Write me and let me know how you are doing.”  He gave her a piece of paper with an address on it.  She took it.  After a lingering look, he was gone–perhaps out of her life for good.

That was three months ago.  They had exchanged letters since and when Papa Joe died, she had written and told Robert.  She stood now at the grave, the tears falling.  Papa Joe had left the house to her and all the money he earned from his tailoring.  She had the money locked away in a box.  She didn’t want to go back to the empty house.

She had no idea of how long she stood there but the biting cold prompted her to start making her way back to the house.  She had just reached the front porch when she saw a car pull up and Robert got out.  He walked over to her and taking her arm he led her up the steps.  “I’m sorry I didn’t make it on time for the funeral,” he apologized as she unlocked the door and they went inside.

Once inside and the door was shut, she threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly.  She sobbed, letting out the pent up grief that had closed around her heart like a fist.  Robert stood there, holding her until the sobs subsided and then ceased.

When she was spent from all that crying, Robert took her over to the sofa and sat her down.  “Joe wrote me this note,” he said, handing it to her.  “I think you should read it.”

She wiped away the tears before she reached for the note.  Frowning, she slowly unfolded the paper and read it.  Dear Robert, I know that you love my Cassie and that you wanted to take her away from this cursed place.  If I know my dear girl she will not want to leave me.  She feels a sense of obligation to stay and take care of me as I have taken care of her all these years.  I don’t want to be a burden to her.  She is young and deserves to live her life.  There’s no future for her here.  I know that she loves you and that it broke her heart to be separated from you.  She thought I wasn’t aware, but I could see the unhappiness in her sweet face and I could hear her crying in the night.  She had sacrificed her chance for happiness for me.  I haven’t told her but I don’t have much longer to live.  When I pass on, which should be any time soon, please come and take Cassie away from here.  Take her to Paris where you and she will be free to love each other.  She can use the money from the sale of the house to pay for her fare.  I am sorry that I won’t be there for your wedding but know that I wish you both all the happiness in the world.  Please take good care of my precious girl.

Yours sincerely,

Joe

Fresh tears fell.  “I had no idea that he was dying.  He was tired more but I just thought that it was to do with age.  I am thankful that I was here for him.”

“Now, you can get on with your life.  We have his blessing.  Let me take you to Paris.”  He reached out and took her hands in his.  “Cassandra, I want to marry you.  Let me take you to Paris.”

She nodded.  “I will go to Paris with you,” she said.  Her life here was over.  There was nothing to keep her here.  Her future was with Robert now.  She would sell this house filled with so many wonderful memories and leave this town which had been the source of her unhappiness.  Yes, she will go to Paris and marry the man she loved.

 

crying african american woman in the 1950s

Florence

She sat at a small table outside of the local cafe set in the maze of

streets near Piazza Antinori.  One could get lost in Florence but won’t

mind at all.  It was a beautiful, bustling and exciting place.  There was

so much to see.

Around her mingled the sound of dishes cutlery, the clink of

glasses as people toasted each other and the voices and laughter

of tourists and locals alike.  She heard French, Spanish, English, Italian.

Whiffs of cappuccino, hot bread and pasta filled the air.  It was early

afternoon.  She had spent the morning visiting the Duomo and the

Antinori palace.  Now she was at this little cafe buzzing with locals,

and enjoying a glass of wine after having delicious Ravioli, drinking

in the friendly ambiance around her as she watched couples, friends,

students on summer break and the locals walk by.

This was her first time in Florence.  She loved it.  She loved the

cobbled streets, the history, the people and of course, the food.

She will definitely stop by this delightful cafe again and try their

Beef tagliata.  Hopefully, she would get a table inside.  Not that

she minded eating on the sidewalk.

This was her first trip alone.  Usually she traveled with her

Sister, June.  June got married a couple years ago and her life

was not wrapped up in her husband and their two children.

No plans for Travel any time soon.

She signed.  Being alone in a city like Florence wasn’t so bad.

She could get used to it.  She could just lose herself in the maze

of streets that now seemed to be beckoning her.

She finished her wine and grabbing her handbag, she

got up and headed to the nearest street.

 

This trip could be her own personal adventure.  Who knows….what

could happen in the city of love…

woman in Florence

Sources:  Tripadvisor; Antinori Palace

Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman was one of 13 children to Susan and George Coleman, sharecroppers.  The family lived in a one-room cabin in Atlanta, Texas.  When she was two years old, Bessie’s father left the family in search of better opportunities in Oklahoma.  Bessie’s mother did her best to support the family until the children were old enough to contribute.  When Bessie’s older brothers went to work, she took care of her two younger sisters.  She became the family leader, reading to her sisters and mother at night.  Bessie promised her mother that she was going to “amount to something.”

Bessie began attending school when she was six and had to walk four miles every day to her segregated one-room school.  There she loved to read and had the distinction as an outstanding Math student.  The school closed whenever the students were needed in the fields to help their families harvest cotton.

Bessie attended Langston University, known then as Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University.  She was able to complete one term before she ran out of money.  She returned home.  At 23 she moved to Chicago where she lived with her brothers.  It was when she was working at the White Sox Barber Shop as a manicurist that her interest in aviation was kindled.  She heard stories about flying during the war from pilots returning home from World War I.  American flight schools did not admit black women and one of the pilots was willing to teach her how to fly.

Determined to earn her pilot license and encouraged by Robert S. Abbott, founder and publisher of the Chicago Defender, Bessie went to France after taking a French language course at Berlitz School in Chicago.  In France, she learned how to fly in a Nieuport Type 82 biplane and on June 15, 1921 she became the first African American and Native American to earn both an aviation pilot’s license and an international license from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.  For the next two months, Bessie took lessons from a French ace pilot near Paris to polish her skills.  When she returned to the United States she became a media sensation.

She specialized in stunt flying and parachuting.  She earned a living barnstorming and performing aerial tricks.  In 1922 she made her first appearance in an American airshow.  It was an event honoring veterans of an all-black 369th Infantry Regiment of World War I.  She was billed as “the world’s greatest woman flier.”

It was Bessie’s dream to establish a school for young black aviators but she didn’t live to fulfill it.  On April 30, 1926, Bessie was killed in an accident while preparing for an airshow.  She was only 34 years old.

Bessie Coleman remains a pioneer of women in the field of aviation.  “Because of Bessie Coleman,” wrote Lieutenant William J. Powell in Black Wings 1934, dedicated to Coleman, “we have overcome that which was worse than racial barriers.  We have overcome the barriers within ourselves and dared to dream.”  Lieutenant Powell served in a segregated unit during World War I and pushed for black aviation in his book, journals and through the Bessie Coleman Aero Club which he founded in 1929.

Notes to Women is pleased to honor this remarkable woman who broke down gender and race barriers by daring to dream big.  She kept her promise to her mother.  She did “amount to something”.

The air is the only place free from prejudice.

I refused to take no for an answer.

You’ve never lived till you’ve flown!

I decided blacks should not have to experience the difficulties I had faced, so I decided to open a flying school and teach other black women to fly.

 

Bessie Coleman painting

Sources:  Biography; Notable Biographies; Wikipedia; Brainy Quote