Love and Friendship

“I’m just going to the drugstore.  I’ll be back in a jiffy,” Alison called out to her cousin, Derek who was visiting from New York and staying at her place.  It was good having him around, even if it was for just a few days.  He helped to take her mind off Richard or least distract her from her misery as much as was possible.

She grabbed her handbag and headed to the door.  When she opened it, she was startled to see Richard standing there.  “Richard!” she exclaimed.  Her heart lurched.  Joy and dread mingled at the sight of him.  How she missed him.  It had been about two weeks now.  She longed to throw her arms around him and tell him how much she loved him but she didn’t.  She couldn’t.  They were just friends.

His face was pale and his eyes were restless on her face.  “I had to see you, Alison,” he muttered.  “I miss you.”

She swallowed hard.  “I-I was on my way out,” she told him when what she really wanted to say was, “I miss you too.”

“Please let me come in.”

She stepped aside and let him in.  She closed the door and leaned against it for a moment.  He turned to face her and was about to take a step closer to her when Derek walked into the room, talking to someone on his cell.  He stopped when he saw them.

Richard looked at him and then at her.  His expression darkened.  “Is he the reason why you haven’t been returning my calls?” he asked.  “Are you and he–?”

“No.  Derek is my cousin.  He’s here from New York.  He came for the Caribbean Carnival.  He leaves tomorrow.”

Derek finished his call.  He looked apologetic.  “I thought you had left,” he said to Alison.  He turned to Richard.  “Sorry, Man, I was just leaving.  I’m Derek, by the way.”  He held out his hand.

Richard shook it.  “Richard.”

“Richard, I’ll be with you in a minute,” Alison told him.  He went over to the sofa and sat down.

“Is he your boyfriend,” Derek asked in a low voice.

Alison shook her head.  “No. We are just friends.”

Derek looked surprised.  “Really?  Well, when he saw me he acted more like a jealous boyfriend than a friend.  I’ll see you later.”  He called over his shoulder, “Nice meeting you, Richard.”  And then he was out of there.

Alison closed the door and walked slowly over to the sofa.  She sat down.  Richard was staring at her. “How have you been, Richard?” she asked.

“How do you think I have been, Alison?” he demanded.  “It has been two weeks since we last saw or spoke to each other.  I have been miserable.  Why have you been avoiding me?  Have you met someone? Do you think he would have a problem with our friendship?”

“I haven’t met anyone, Richard.”

“Then why haven’t you called me or visited or answered my calls?  I thought we were friends.”

She got up agitated.  “That’s the problem,” she said.  “I don’t want to be friends with you anymore.”

He jumped to his feet and taking her by the shoulders, he turned her round to face him.  He looked distraught.  “What do you mean?” he asked.  “Why don’t you want us to be friends anymore?”

With him this close, his eyes penetrating hers, she couldn’t think straight but she had to tell him the truth.  She owed him that much.  “I want to be more than friends, Richard.  I have wanted it for a long time now.”

He looked stunned.  Then, his countenance brightened.  “Oh, Alison,” he cried.  “You really had me scared.  I was going to tell you that if I couldn’t have your heart, at least I could still have your friendship but, when you said that you didn’t want us to be friends anymore I nearly lost it.”

Alison’s expression was frank.  “You have my heart, Richard,” she confessed.  “You have had it for a long time now.  I didn’t tell you because I didn’t know if you felt the same way.  And I couldn’t go on pretending that I was fine with just being friends.”

“And that is why you stopped seeing me for two weeks?  You have no idea how much I suffered during that time and until now.  I thought you had met someone and I was out of my mind with jealousy, wondering who he was.  And when I saw Derek, I thought–well, you know what I thought.  Yet, I would still have wanted to be your friend.  It would be better than not having you in my life anymore but I was relieved when you told me that he was your cousin.”

“Derek was right.  He said that you were jealous.”

“I was.”

“You have no reason to be jealous of anyone, Richard.  I love you.”

“And, I love you, Alison.”  He bent his head and kissed her.

Moments later, she drew back to look up into his flushed face.  “Derek won’t be back until later.  We have the apartment all to ourselves.”

He smiled.  “That sounds good.  You and I have a lot of catching up to do.”

black and white couple

Friends

They started out as friends.

Talked for hours on the phone.

Went out for pizza or to the

movies when they didn’t have

any other plans.  Some

Saturday nights they would

order in spicy Thai food

while watching classic or

foreign movies.

 

They didn’t know exactly

when their feelings for

each other began to

change.  Perhaps it was

the afternoon when they

went to the amusement

park and rode on the

carousel.

 

She held on to the pole

laughing as Tony tried

to take a photo of her.

Then, on the spur of the

moment, he leaned forward

and kissed  her.  It seemed

perfectly natural but she

was no longer laughing.

When the ride stopped

and he helped her

down, their eyes held

for a long moment.  They

were very close to each

other and his hands were

still holding her by the

waist.  Her legs were

a bit wobbly and she

held on to him for a

while longer until she

no longer needed the

support.

 

When they were

standing outside of

the park and away

from the crowd, he

stopped and pulled

her aside.  “I’m sorry

about just now,” he said.

“I shouldn’t have kissed

you.  I hope you’re not

angry with me.”

 

“I kissed you back,” she

said.   “Where do we

go from here, Tony?”

 

He moved closer, his

expression serious

as his eyes searched

her face.  “Where would

you like us to go, Nicole?”

 

She reached up and

kissed him.  “Does this

answer your question?”

she asked minutes

later when she drew

back to look up

at him.

 

“Yes, it does” he said.

“Are you hungry?” she asked.

“Famished,” he replied, rubbing

his stomach.  They laughed.

“I am in the mood for

some Penne arrabiata.”

“So am I,” he agreed, reaching

for her hand and lacing his

fingers through hers

as they walked to

their favorite Italian

bistro.

 

That was two years ago.

Now they were engaged.

Their wedding was in

two months.  Before going

on their honeymoon, they

planned to go back on

the carousel ride–where

for them, the journey from

friendship to romance began.

 

 

black and white couple

 

The Temporary Assignment

He had gone through a bitter divorce and custody battle.  His wife had their two daughters.  He didn’t hear from them not even on Father’s Day, his birthday or Christmas.  To them, it seemed as if he didn’t exist.  At first, it hurt but then he learned to cope and he had one more year to pay child support.

His marriage had left a very bitter taste in his mouth and as a result he had sworn off relationships.  He buried himself in his work.  He had friends and a church family who cared about him.  Life was pleasant for him.  Some might say his life was mundane but for him it was how he wanted it–relationship free.  And then she walked into his life and wham!

Amelia Johnson was hired to fill Susanna’s position.  Susanna was on maternity leave.  Amelia came from Alpha North Group Ltd with excellent qualifications and references from previous assignments. He remembered the first time he saw her as if it were yesterday.   When they were introduced, he tried not to stare but her fresh beauty took his breath away.  The unruly curls cascaded past her shoulders, some of the tendrils managed to escape the clasp that was holding it together and brushed against her face.  She wore a white top and black skirt.  She was petite and slender.  He towered over her.  When she looked up at him with those big brown eyes and smiled at him, he felt his heart melt.  He knew he was in trouble then.  Their handshake was brief but long after he had released her hand, he could still feel its warmth and softness.

During the 18 months she was with them he tried to keep his growing attraction hidden under the veneer of professionalism.  No one had a clue that every morning he would look out of his office window overlooking the street below to watch her walking up the sidewalk.  He was tied up in knots.  He didn’t want to become emotionally attached again because of the pain he had experienced with his ex but the more he fought against his feelings for Amelia, the stronger they seemed to grow.  It was a battle that he was losing.  He had no idea of how she felt about him.  She was as pleasant to him as she was with the rest of the staff.  He could tell nothing from her interaction with him if there was something there on her part.  And for all he knew, she might already be in a relationship.  The thought stung but he had to be prepared for that possibility.  How was he going to find out whether or not that she had a boyfriend?

He sat at his desk now in deep thought, wondering what to do.  This was Amelia’s last week with the company.  Susanna was back on Monday.  He had to do something before Amelia went out of his life forever.  The mere thought of never seeing her again agitated him so much that he jumped to his feet and paced about the room restlessly.  He had prayed about the situation and he knew that the answer was to talk to Amelia.  He swallowed hard and tried to suppress the rising fear that threatened to overwhelm him and deter him from doing what he knew he must do.

He went back to his desk and his hand trembled as he reached for the receiver.  He hesitated for a brief moment before he dialled her extension.  His heart was thudding heavily against his ribs.  When she answered, he kept it short, “I need to see you.”  He sank heavily into the chair after hanging up the phone and waited.  His tortured gaze was on the door which will open any minute now and Amelia will walk in.  There was no turning back now.

After she hung up the phone, Amelia stared at it for a moment.  Mark wanted to see her.  Why?  She was nervous about being alone with him.  What if she couldn’t hide her feelings for him?  It was one thing to act professional around him when others were around but quite another when they were alone.  Slowly, she pushed her chair back and got up, her legs feeling like jelly.  She smoothed her trembling and sweaty palms over her skirt and headed for his office.

She knocked on the door and hear him say, “Come in.”  Her heart was beating so fast and she couldn’t seem to control her breathing.  I must remain calm, she told herself as she opened the door and went inside.  He was standing behind his desk.  Her eyes travelled over his tall figure as she closed the door behind her.   She walked over to him and stopped in front of the desk.   She clasped her hands tightly in front of her so that he wouldn’t notice that they were trembling.  “You needed to see me,” she said.

He cleared his throat.  “Yes.  This is your last week with us.”

She lowered her eyes so that he wouldn’t see the sadness in them.  “Yes, it is.”  She had dreaded this moment.  She liked working here and the people but most of all, she hated the thought of leaving him.  He was the reason why she enjoyed coming in to work.

“I hope you have been happy here, Amelia. We were very fortunate to have you.”

She looked up.  “Yes, I have been very happy here.  Everyone has been so great.”

“We are sorry to lose you.  You will be missed.”

“I am going to miss all of you.”

There was a pregnant pause during which they stared at each other, each not knowing what to say next or how to act.  “Do you have a boyfriend?” He asked suddenly.

She blinked in surprise.  She hadn’t expected that.  She shook her head at once.  “No.”

He looked relieved.  “Good to hear,” he said, coming around the desk to stand close to her.  “Amelia, I’m divorced and have two daughters.  I had sworn off relationships until I met you.  You walked into my life and turned it upside down.  For the longest time I tried to fight my feelings for you but it was no use.”

Her eyes grew wide.  “Your feelings?”

“Yes.  I love you, Amelia and I wanted to tell you that before you walk out of my life for good.  Do you have any feelings for me?”  He braced himself for her answer, his face pale.

She nodded, her heart was in her eyes.  “Yes, Mark,” she cried.  “I love you too.  I tried so hard not to show it because it never dawned on me that you felt the same way.”

Mark took her in his arms and kissed her.  “You and I did a really good job of hiding our feelings from each other ,” he said when he raised his head, his eyes tender as he gazed  into her upturned face.  “I’m just very thankful that your assignment here is ending this week.  It was the possibility of never seeing your beautiful face again and encouragement from God that pushed me to declare mine.”

She smiled.  “When I took this assignment, I never imagined that I would find love too.”

two professional people in an office2

 

The Move to Paris

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

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

Leaving Toronto with its familiar

haunts, a job she loved, family and friends

to settle in a city she had only visited once

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

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

and already made plans to visit her in the

summer but her family was a different

story.

 

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

Europe all by herself and was fearful of terrorist

attacks.  Mia had to remind her that she was old

enough to take herself.  And she assured her that

God would protect her.

 

Her father warned her to be careful of the

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

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

have to share the bath-room with her anymore.

And she could move into Mia`s room which

was much bigger and nicer than hers.

 

Mia paused to look at the Eifle Tower.  She was

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

always been a dream of hers to live in Europe.

She had considered London, Rome, Barcelona

and Lisbon but she decided on Paris.  She could

speak French fluently and she loved the food.

And besides, she could always take the train or

the Hovercraft to London any time.

 

Upon her arrival in Paris, she applied for a

job to teach English and was accepted.  Her first

day on the job was tomorrow.  Her heart did

a little somersault.  The thought of standing

in front of a classroom was daunting.  Then she

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

Peace filled her heart and she offered a silent

prayer of thanksgiving.

 

She asked one of the people standing nearby to

take a photo of her.  Her first Sunday afternoon in

Paris.  She smiled broadly into the camera.  Paris

is a beautiful city and she had all the time she

needed to enjoy it.  For now she was content to

stay here a little longer and just soak up the

atmosphere and admire the view.

 

Asian woman in Paris

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

The Deception

“A letter for you, Miss,” Fanny announced as she handed the envelope to Clara.

Clara took it and frowned when she saw the name on it.  Why did he write me?  Why did he not come instead?  “Thank you, Fanny.” As soon as the young maid was gone, she ripped open the envelope and unfolded the letter, her fingers trembling with excitement.

As she read the contents, her face turned ashen.  The sheet shook in her hand and she gripped the chair with her other hand.   The letter read:

Dear Clara,

I hope you are well.  I am still in London taking care of the business matters for which my Aunt asked me to attend to.  I don’t quite know how to say this but my affections have long been engaged elsewhere.  Lady Agatha and I are to be married upon my return to Devonshire.  If I have given you reason to believe that my feelings for you were more than brotherly affection, please forgive me.  I will always remember you with fondness and felicity.

Your friend,

Raymond

She collapsed into the chair as her legs gave way under her.  He never loved her.  That was what he said.  He had been in love with Lady Agatha all this time.  Not once did she ever suspect that his feelings were engaged elsewhere.  He had always been so attentive to her and she could not have imagined the tenderness which she had seen in his features.   Had it all been an illusion?  Had she imagined that he loved her?

She dissolved into tears, her heart breaking.  How could she had been such a fool?  She had given her heart to a man who had given his to another.  How was she going to face her family and friends?  They too were under the impression that Raymond and she were soon to announce their engagement based on the warm and affectionate sentiments they had expressed toward each other.  It had all be a lie–on his part.  She had been deceived.

Pain gave way to seething anger.  She crumbled the letter and getting up, she rushed over to the fireplace and threw it on the fire.  She watched it burn.  Oh, how she hated him.  The love she had once felt for him had now turned to hate.  She never wanted to see him again.

It took Clara several years to get over Raymond.  During that time she was frequently in the company of an older gentleman whose devotion she grew to appreciate.  Eventually, they got married and Clara grew to love him dearly.  She never saw Raymond again.  He and Lady Agatha moved to France.  She no longer bore any ill-feelings toward the man she had once loved.  She wished him well.

 

victorian woman grips chair as she reads letter

A Second Chance

Natalie stood on the deck watching the Mediterranean Sea. It was a beautiful morning and it was the first day at sea.  She was on her second honeymoon.  For twenty-five years she was married to her first husband, Richard, a truly wonderful man.  They had started out as friends and then their relationship developed into something they hadn’t expected but felt was a blessing.

Together they raised two remarkable kids—Josh and Annie.  Those years with Richard were the happiest for her.  So, it was devastating when he died.  It was so sudden.  He was on his way home from the office when he collided with another vehicle which ran a red light.  The other driver escaped with scrapes and scratches but Richard’s injuries were severe.  He died at  the hospital.  It was her faith and the consolation of family and friends that got Natalie through those horrific years after Richard was gone.

 

In time the pain grew less and she was able to think of Richard without breaking down. She slowly began adjust to life without him.  Her kids now grown encouraged her to go out and enjoy herself.  She attended dinner parties, operas, ballets, concerts and even went on a cruise with a group of single friends.  It was on that cruise where she met Mark.  He was travelling with some friends too.  They shared the same dinner table and while the others went off either to the casino or to watch the live entertainment, she opted to go to the deck where she stood, enjoying the cool night air.  He joined her.  They spoke and she found that she enjoyed his company though she couldn’t get past the fact that he was much younger than her.  Still, he was really nice and she was so relaxed around him.  They spent a lot of time together and when the cruise was over, they exchanged phone numbers, promising to keep in touch.

 

Life returned to its old routine when she returned home but the highlight of her evenings was speaking to Mark on the phone  for hours.  They made plans to see each other over the summer.   She introduced him to her family and they seemed to like him although her mother didn’t seem too pleased.  She didn’t know exactly when it happened but she knew that she had fallen in love with Mark.  One night when they were sitting on the sofa, having tea, Mark confessed that her.  He asked her to marry him and she accepted but after he left, she worried about her family’s reaction.

 

She waited until they were at her mother’s house to make the announcement.  You could have heard a pin drop.  Her news had knocked them all for a loop.  It was some time before someone said something.  Josh spoke up.  “I can’t say that I am happy that you are marrying a man in my age group but I won’t stand in your way.”

 

Annie hugged her and said, “Yes, Mom.  You deserve to be happy again.  And I don’t see why it’s okay for a man to marry a woman much younger than him but a woman can’t marry a younger man.”  She said that for her grand-mother’s benefit.

 

Natalie looked at her mother whose expression was thunderous.  “How could you seriously be thinking of marrying a man half your age?” she demanded.

 

Natalie drew a deep breath.  “I didn’t plan to fall in love with a man younger than me but it happened.  Like you, I had a problem with our age difference in the beginning but I remembered that father was considerably older than you and yet, you were so happy together.  Mother, I am sorry that you don’t approve but God has given me another chance at happiness and I am going to take it.   We haven’t decided on a wedding date as yet but I will let you know as soon as we do.”

 

Her mother pursed her lips.  “Well, don’t expect me to be there,” she said.

 

And true to her word, she didn’t attend the wedding.  Nor did Mark’s parents which came as no surprise to her.  Still, she had hoped they make an appearance for their son’s sake.   She met them once when she was invited to dinner at their home in Long Island but that meeting didn’t go well.  They raised the same objections as her mother.  Mark’s mother had remarked that Natalie was a lot older than she expected.

 

It was a beautiful and simple wedding with some family and friends in attendance.  Her son gave her away and her daughter was the bridesmaid.  It was a day she would always remember.   And here she was now, basking in the joy she didn’t imagine she would experience again.  She had twice been blessed with two great men and she was thankful to God who had been her Anchor during those dark moments.  He had brought Mark into her life.

 

Mark.  He must be awake by now and wondering where she was.  She turned away from the rail and walked back to their cabin with its scenic view of the ocean, her steps quickening in anticipation.

 

woman in hat on deck of ship