Starting Over

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I have English now.

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

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

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

“Okay.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can I walk with you to your class?”

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

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

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

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

“Whitney, please let me explain–”

“Is she your girlfriend?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“As friends?”

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

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

“Yes, I’m absolutely sure.”

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

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

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

Sources:   Seattle Pacific University;American Historical Association

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The Room in Venice

Friends since they were children, Monica and Russell were inseparable.  They went to the same schools and university and moved from Manchester to London after they graduated from university.  Whenever people saw them together, they always assumed that they were a couple and they would quickly inform them, “We’re just friends.”

They dated other people but the relationships never worked out and their respective exes always blamed their friendship.  Once, Monica’s ex-boyfriend accused her of sabotaging their relationship because she was secretly in love with Russell.  She had a run once in with Samantha, a model he was dating who informed her that she didn’t believe that they were just friends.  “A person would have to be blind not to see that there is something going on between you two,” she said.  “And which woman in her right mind could be just friends with a guy like Russell?”

Russell and Monica laughed about it but as time passed, they realized that there was some truth to what others were saying.  They stopped dating other people because they didn’t feel any connection with them and it was beginning to affect their friendship.  Russell found himself getting jealous of the men Monica dated and she hated seeing him with other women.  So, to safeguard their friendship, they remained unattached.   Instead of going to dinner with other people they went each other.  They went to the theatre, concerts and now, here they were in Italy for a three week vacation.

Monica stood now on the Spanish Steps as Russell snapped photos of her.  He looked so handsome in the white shirt and light blue jeans.  She noticed women walking by and casting admiring glances his way.  Jealousy gnawed at her although he seemed oblivious to them.  She knew she was being ridiculous but she couldn’t help it.  She always worried that one day he would meet someone else and fall in love with her.  Not wanting to spoil the moment, she smiled and posed for the photos.

The day went pleasantly as they visited the Pantheon and had lunch at a trattoria near the Piazza Navona.  After sharing a pizza, she went to the washroom.  On her way back to the table, a local looked up at her and said, “Ciao Bella ragazza.”  She glanced at him and then continued to where Russell was.

He stood up when she reached him.  “What did that man say to you?” he asked.  His expression was guarded.

“It sounded like, ‘Ciao bella ragazza,’” she told him.

Russell didn’t answer.  Instead, he put on his sunglasses and preceded her out of the trattoria.  They went for a walk along Castel Sant’Angelo before they went back to the hotel.  They went to their respective rooms until it was time for dinner.  The following day, they left Rome and went to Florence where they spent their second week.  The highlight for her was Michelangelo’s David.  She stood there for a long time just studying it.  Afterwards, they visited the Uffizi Gallery.  The following day, they took a trip to Milan and after visiting the Santa Maria delle Grazie where Da Vinci’s Last Supper hung, they stopped by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.  Russell took a photo of Monica outside of Prada.  From Florence, they went on a day tour to Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano.  They had dinner in Siena in a trattoria in Piazza del Campo.

The week went by very quickly and Monica was sorry when they left Florence but looked forward to seeing Venice.  They took the train early in the morning and while Russell read a magazine, she took a nap.  When they arrived in Venice, they found out that they had to share a room because the hotel was fully booked.  That made Monica very nervous but she was relieved when she saw that there were two separate beds.

They spent their first day in Venice at Piazza San Marco, reputed to be one of the most beautiful squares in the world.   They visited the Basilica of San Marco.  Before going inside, they took photos of its architecture which was a mixture of Byzantine, Roman and Venetian, the impressive work of artists and craftsmen who came from all over.  Monica was enthralled by the dome and could have stood there all day just staring up at it.

When they came out of the basilica, Russell pointed to the one of the arches above the entrance where there was a marble statue of an old man biting his hand.  “The legend says that he was relieved of his duties when he said that he would be able to build it even more beautiful.” They had lunch at a restaurant in the square, enjoying the sunshine and watching other tourists.  They finished their sightseeing for the day climbing the Campanile for the breathtaking view of the city and the lagoon.   They stayed there for a while.

It was late afternoon when they returned to the hotel.  They relaxed on the terrace and then it was time to get ready for dinner.  It felt strange getting in the bathroom while Russell got dressed in the bedroom.  She had to make sure it was safe to come out once she was finished.  He looked handsome as usual.  And she saw his gaze travel over her.  “You look great,” he remarked before turning away.  “I was thinking that after dinner, we can go to a church concert.”

She smiled.  “That sounds great.”  Venice was beautiful at night so it was nice walking to the square.  How she longed to hold Russell’s hand, especially when they passed other couples who were holding hands.  They had dinner at an elegant restaurant.  As they enjoyed the Chicken and Mushrooms and Pasta & Oca respectively, they talked about the places they had visited that day and where they planned on going the next day.  For dessert, they had Rosada cream with orange.  Afterwards, they walked to the church where they spent the next hour or so listening to uplifting music in a lovely atmosphere.

It was late when they got back to the hotel and she was tired.  On the way up to their room, she kept yawning and as soon as they got in she, took out a nightgown from her suitcase and headed straight for the bathroom.  She quickly changed out of her dress and into her nightgown and brushed her teeth.

She walked into the room and stopped short when she saw Russell standing there half-naked, holding his pajama shirt.  She turned away, flustered but not before her gaze swept irresistibly over the broad shoulders and wide chest.  He watched her, his expression tense and a muscle throbbed alongside his jawline.  It took every ounce of willpower on his part not to go over there and take her in his arms.  Instead, he went into the bathroom and closed the door quietly behind him.

As soon as he was gone, Monica hurried over to her bed and climbed in, pulling the cover up to her throat.

A few moments later, the door to the bathroom opened and Russell stepped into the room.  She watched as he walked past her bed to his.

“Goodnight, Russell,” she said, looking over at him as he pulled back the cover and got in.  His back was turned to her.

“Goodnight.”  He closed his eyes as his body reacted to the memory of her in the champagne colored silk nightgown.  He didn’t know how much longer he could continue being just friends with her when he wanted her.

She lay there on her back, staring up at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep.  She couldn’t get the image of him out of her mind.  When she saw his bare torso, her mouth went dry and what felt like a bolt of electricity surged through her.  She had turned away because she was afraid that her feelings would betray her.  She wished she had the courage to tell him how she really felt about him but she didn’t want to jeopardize their friendship.

Sometime later, she heard him stir and then get up.  In the faint light, she watched him tiptoe over to the chair where his shirt and pants were draped.   As he started to get dressed, she sat up, alarmed.  “Where’re you going?” she asked, turning on the lamp beside her.

He didn’t turn around.  “I thought you were asleep.  I can’t sleep so, I’m going out for a bit.”

After he pulled on his shirt and tucked it in his pants, he turned to face her, his eyes wary.  “I’ll try not to disturb you when I come back.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“I don’t know,” he replied shortly.

“Where will you go?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe I’ll go to Piazzale Roma or the Rialto or San Marco.”  He was about to walk past her when she quickly climbed out of the bed and stood in front of him.

“What’s wrong, Russell?” she asked.  “You seem upset.”

He kept his eyes on her face, not daring to let them go lower.  “I’m not upset.”

“I think you are, “she insisted.   “Please tell me what’s wrong.  We’re supposed to be friends—”

His expression darkened.   “I know we’re supposed to be friends,” he snapped.  “But right now, I don’t feel like a friend.”

She looked nonplussed.  “What do you mean?”

This is what I mean,” he muttered before he grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp.  His head swooped down and his mouth closed hungrily over hers.

Monica clung to him, kissing him back eagerly, feverishly.  As they exchanged kisses, he picked her up and carried her over to her bed.  He put her gently down on it and then drew back to remove his shirt.  She reached for him, pulling him down to her, her fingers digging into his back as he pressed his lips hotly against her neck.

They made mad, passionate love and the next morning when she woke up, she was alone in the bed.  She lay there for a moment thinking it had all been a dream.  Then she sat up and realized that she wasn’t wearing anything under the cover.  She looked over and saw Russell standing by the window.  He was wearing a robe.   He turned when he heard her.

He left the window and came and sat down on the bed beside her.  His expression was serious when he met her gaze.  “Do you regret what happened between us?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No,” she murmured huskily, reaching out and brushing the hair back from his forehead.

He leaned over and kissed her on the shoulder, making her shiver.  “Me neither,” he said.  “I wanted to make love to you for a very, very long time but you insisted on us being just friends—”

“I thought that was what you wanted,” she said.  “You never came out and said otherwise.”

“Do you have any idea how hard it is to be a friend to you when I want to be more?  That’s why I couldn’t sleep last night.  When I saw you in that nightgown, I wanted you so much.  I had to get out of here before I lost my mind.”

“I couldn’t sleep either because I kept thinking about how sexy you look without a shirt…”

His eyes darkened and cupping her face between his hands he lowered his head and kissed her.  “I love you, Monica,” he whispered, raising his head to look into her face.  “I wanted to tell you that so many times but my courage failed me.”

“I love you too.”

“I just wish we hadn’t wasted so much time dating other people when we should have been dating each other.”

“Let’s not waste any more time having regrets.  Things are different between us now.”

“Yes, they are.”

“You know, if anyone were to ask me what the most memorable part of my vacation is, I would tell them that it was the room in Venice.”

“Why this room?” he asked.

“It’s where you and I first made love and declared our feelings for each other.  I will always remember this room for those two reasons.”

His eyes darkened.  “Let’s have a late breakfast,” he suggested as he removed his robe.

“Or we can order room service,” she said, settling back against the pillows.

“Room service, then,” he agreed before his mouth found hers.

 

 

Sources:  Cabragadin Hotel; Ciao Florence; Italy Guides; Veneto Inside; Bistrot de Venise; Classic Tic; Rick Steves

 

A Misunderstanding

“Is your uncle at home?” Ashley asked casually as they walked the grounds on a beautiful, sunny spring afternoon.  She was wearing a denim jacket because it was still a bit cool.  They were at Eastwell Manor where Bradley was staying with his uncle until he found his own flat.  It was a magnificent place surrounded by acres of land, immaculate gardens and rolling hills.  She had been here several times and loved it here.  It was peaceful and the air was crisp and fresh.

Bradley glanced at her.  “You’ve got a thing for him, haven’t you?” he teased. “Most women who meet him do.  My uncle is cordial toward them but expresses no romantic interest whatsoever in any of them.”

“How long were he and your aunt married?”

“Fifteen years.”

“And they never had any children?”

“No.  Aunt Carol couldn’t have any.  What a great pity.  She would have been an excellent mother.”

“How did she die?”

“It was a car accident.  She was on her way home when an intoxicated teenager ran the red light and plowed into her as she was leaving the intersection.  She died instantly.  Uncle Anthony was a wreck.”

“What was she like?”

“She was a lovely woman, kind and very generous.  She adored Uncle Anthony and he adored her.  She was my favorite aunt.  She was like a mother to me.  I adored her.”

“How very sad.  I don’t think your uncle approves of our friendship.”

“Why do you think so?”

“I see the way he looks whenever we are together.  There’s disapproval written all over his face.  I can’t imagine why he should have any objections.  Perhaps he thinks you spend too much time with me and should be in the company of a girl closer to your age.”

“I haven’t met any girls my age that I am interested in as yet and besides, I enjoy your company.  We have known each other for some time now and I can’t imagine not having you around.  I can talk to you about anything.  You’re like a sister to me.  I don’t know why my uncle would disapprove of me having a friend such as you—unless, he thinks we are more than friends, though, I still can’t imagine why that should be any concern of his.  He’s not my father and I’m not a child.”

“Your uncle just wants what’s best for you.”

“I know.”

They continued walking and talked about other things.  Then it was time for her to leave.  As they walked toward the mansion, Bradley suddenly grabbed and dipped her before he bent his head and kissed her squarely on the mouth.  She clung to him to keep her balance.  It lasted a few seconds and then he raised his head, straightening and then releasing her.  She glared at him, her chest heaving in indignation.  “What on earth did you do that for?” she demanded.

“It was for my uncle’s benefit,” he told her.  “He was in the study watching us through the window.”

She swung round and looked up at the window where she knew the study to be.  There was no one there.  She turned back to Bradley.  “What you did was childish and very insulting to me.”

He looked contrite.  “I didn’t mean to upset you, Ash.  I was miffed at him for thinking that he can control my life simply because I am living under his roof.  When it comes to my friendship with you, I will not put up with his interference.”

“What will he think of me now?” she wondered.

“What does it matter?  He already thinks that we are a couple.”

“But, we’re not.  We’re just friends.”

“Why does it matter so much to you what he thinks?” Bradley pressed.  “Is it because you’re in love with him?”

“Yes,” she admitted.

“All right.  Would you like us to go and clear up this misunderstanding right now?”

Her heart lurched at the idea of seeing Anthony Eastwell after what just happened.  She couldn’t imagine how he would look at her now.  She shook her head.  “I can’t face him right now,” she said.  “I’m going home.” She turned and walked away.

Bradley followed her.  “I’m sorry, Ash,” he said, his expression apologetic.  “Please forgive me for acting like a fool.  I will straighten things out with Uncle Anthony, I promise.”

She looked at him.  “I’m very upset with you right now,” she said.  “But, I’ll get over it.  Call me later.” She was about to walk off when she froze.  Anthony Eastwell was walking toward them.

Immediately, her heart began to pound wildly and her breath quickened.  He always had that effect on her.  In spite of her distress, she couldn’t prevent her gaze from traveling over his tall frame and thinking how disturbingly attractive he looked in the tan ribbed sweater and navy blue slacks.

He stopped abruptly in front of Bradley who watched him warily.  “Please wait for me in the study,” he instructed in a tight voice.

Without saying a word, his nephew turned and walked toward the house.  Anthony waited until he was gone before he turned his attention on Ashley.  To say that he was angry would have been an understatement.  His brown eyes were dark with fury and his face was flushed.  “What do you mean by making a spectacle of yourself with my nephew out here in plain view for everyone to see?” he demanded.

She swallowed hard.  “He kissed me and I—”

“Don’t tell me that you put up a fight.  I saw you from the window and it was clear to me that you welcomed his advances which leads me to believe that your relationship is not platonic as you would have me believe.”

“Please, you don’t understand—”she protested.

“I understand perfectly,” he muttered thickly.  “You would rather be with him than—” He broke off and turned away, dragging his fingers through his hair as he struggled to compose himself.  Several minutes passed before he faced her again.  “If you are going to throw yourself at my nephew, I would prefer if you did it somewhere else.”

That was when she got upset.  “For your information, I’m not throwing myself at your nephew,” she retorted.  “I don’t make it a habit of throwing myself at any man, no matter how attracted I am to him.”

“So, you admit that you’re attracted to Bradley?”

“I’m not admitting anything.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, Mr. Eastwell, I have to go.”  She turned and strode off.

He stood there watching her, his face now pale and his eyes filled with torment.  How he longed to go after her and tell her how he really felt but pride kept him where he was.  He remained there for a while before he went back to the manor.

Bradley was standing by the window when he joined him in the study.  “Uncle, I hope you weren’t too hard on Ashley,” he said.  “The kiss was my idea not hers.  She was very upset with me.”

Anthony looked unconvinced.  “What are you talking about?” he demanded.  “From where I was standing the kiss looked mutual.  I saw her clinging to you.  That was not the action of a woman who didn’t want to be kissed.”

Something about the way he spoke and the expression on his face made Bradley stare at him closely.  “It upset you to see us together, didn’t it?” The look in his uncle’s eyes was all the confirmation he needed.  “Uncle Anthony, this has all been a terrible misunderstanding.  You see, Ashley and I are just friends.  I kissed her because I was angry with you.  I didn’t like you interfering in my friendship with her.  Ashley is not interested in me.  I’m like a little brother to her.  She’s in love with you.”

Anthony looked stunned now.  “In love with me?” he exclaimed.  “Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am.  I can tell from the way she talks about you and when she’s around you. I’m surprised you haven’t noticed.  Besides she admitted it to me.”

“I thought it was you she cared for,” he said.  “I had hoped but never imagined that she would have feelings for me.”

“Do you love her?”

“Yes.  I have loved her since the day we met.  I didn’t think it was possible to fall in love again after losing your Aunt Carol but it has happened.”

“Why don’t you invite Ashley over for dinner tonight and tell her how you feel?”

“After what I said to her earlier, I’m not sure she would want to see me. I’m afraid I wasn’t very pleasant.  I was acting out of jealousy.”

“Then, you can go over to her flat and see her.  She won’t refuse to see you once you turn up.  I’ll give you her address.”

“All right.  I’ll go and see her this evening and hopefully straighten things out with her.”

“I’m sorry, Uncle Anthony, this was entirely my fault.”

Anthony patted him on the shoulder.  “Don’t worry about it,” he said.  “All is forgotten.  I have been interfering in your life and I’m sorry.  You’re free to do as you wish as long as it doesn’t get you into any trouble. No hard feelings?” He held out his hand.

Bradley smiled and shook it.  “No hard feelings,” he said.  “I’m happy that you’ve found love again.  Ashley is a remarkable woman.”

“I know.”

It was after seven when Anthony showed up at Ashley’s flat.  In his arms he carried a box of red roses which he handed to her when she opened the door.  “These are for you,” he said simply as she stood there gaping at him.  “May I come in?”

She blinked.  “Yes, yes.  Come in.” She moved aside so that he could step inside and she closed the door behind him, hardly able to believe that he was here.  She opened the box and gasped when she saw the big, beautiful red roses.  There were a dozen of them.  “They’re beautiful,” she exclaimed.  “Please make yourself comfortable while I go and put them in some water.” As she hurried to the kitchen, she couldn’t deny that she was thrilled to see him, in spite of their earlier exchange.  She hadn’t expected to see him again.

She filled a vase with water, cut the ends of the roses and then placed them in the vase.  She went back into the living-room and put the vase on top of the faux fireplace mantle, stepping back to admire them.  They added more color and a pleasant aroma to the room. She turned to find Anthony standing by the sofa watching her.  She allowed her gaze to travel over him.  He was wearing a navy blue suit, blue tie and white shirt.  His hands were in his pockets and his expression was both serious and sheepish as he looked at her.

“I owe you an apology,” he said quietly.  “I acted like an unreasonable fool this afternoon.  My only excuse is that I was jealous.”

Her eyes widened in surprise.  “Jealous?” she cried.

“Yes.  When I looked out of the window and saw Bradley and you kissing, I was consumed with jealousy.  I couldn’t bear to watch so I moved away from the window.  I didn’t know what to do.  For a few minutes, I just paced up and down in the study and then I decided that I would confront the two of you.”

She watched him, her heart pounding. This seemed so surreal.  “I always thought you disapproved me because of my friendship with Bradley,” she said.  “I thought it was my age which made me unsuitable for him.”

“You’re right.  I disapproved of your relationship with him but not for the reason you thought.  I didn’t know that you were just friends.  I thought you were romantically involved.  In the garden this afternoon, I said the things I did out of jealousy and when you walked away, I wanted to come after you and tell you how I felt but pride prevented me.  I didn’t want to throw myself at the woman whom I thought cared for my nephew.”

“I do care for Bradley but I don’t love him.  What I feel for him is affection and what I want from him is friendship, nothing more.”

Anthony’s countenance changed.  Hope flickered in his eyes.  “I didn’t come over here just to apologize,” he said, moving closer.  “I came to tell you that I love you.  I’ve loved you since the first time we met.”

She moved closer.  “I love you too.  I have since the first time I saw you.  I didn’t think I stood a chance, though, because of your wife.  I feared that I would end up like those other women whose feelings for you were not reciprocated.”

“I didn’t think I could love again until I met you.  You stirred feelings in me that I thought had died with Carol.  What I feel for you is a deep and consuming love.”  By now he had closed the distance between them and was standing in front of her.  He reached out and caught her by the waist, pulling her against him.  His smoldering eyes met hers before he lowered his head and kissed her.  She clung to his shoulders, her fingers gripping the material of his jacket as she responded to his hot, searing kisses.

After a while he raised his head to gaze down into her face, his eyes dark and stormy and his face flushed with desire.  “Do you think you could get used to being Bradley’s aunt?” he asked.

She nodded, smiling.  “It would feel weird at first but I can get used to it,” she said breathlessly.

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

Sources:  Fantasy Name Generator; Pinterest

Affairs of the Heart

When Bianca went out on to the balcony of her friend Connie’s spacious flat, she was pleasantly surprised to see Chandler sitting there.  He looked so elegant although he was dressed very casually in a tan colored jacket, denim shirt and jeans.  The brown belt he wore matched the spiffy shoes she saw on the mat by the front door.  He was so handsome, she thought, her eyes eagerly drinking in each feature—the thick, silky dark hair, the incredible light grey eyes, olive skin and his lips…She started when she realized that she was staring.

For his part, he was staring at her too.  “It’s good to see you, Bianca,” he said as he got up and went over to her.  He put his arms around her and hugged her.  She hugged him back, closing her eyes and breathing in his fragrance.  He smelled so good.  It felt so wonderful being in his arms and held closely against him.  She put hers around his waist and wished that they could stay like that for a long while.  But just then, Connie’s voice reached them and Chandler drew back, releasing Bianca, his expression tense as he looked at her.  He moved away from her and stood leaning against the rail with his hands shoved in his pockets, a muscle pulsating along his jawline as he watched Connie approach.

Bianca sat down in the chair closest to her, her legs trembling.  She had to pull herself together before Connie saw her.  It was a hug between two friends but there was something else.  She felt it and sensed it.  At one point, she felt his arms tighten around her and his face in her hair.  What would have happened if Connie hadn’t been there?

She joined them now, her gaze going immediately to Chandler, her regard for him very evident on her face.  Then she turned to Bianca, her expression changing.  She doesn’t seem very pleased to see me, Bianca realized in surprise.  Perhaps it is because I didn’t call to tell her that I was coming over.

“Bianca, what are you doing here?” she asked.

Bianca got up from the chair, feeling a little embarrassed now.  “I’m sorry I didn’t call before I popped over but it was when I was on the tube, that I decided I would stop by your flat and ask you if you wanted to go with me to the Jazz concert in Chelsea.  It’s free and it sounds like fun.”

Connie shook her head at once.  “No thank you, Bianca.  I will pass.  Besides, I have already made plans.  Chandler and I will be spending the afternoon together.”

Chandler spoke up, “The Jazz concert sounds like a good idea.”

Connie pursed her lips.  “Jazz gives me a headache.  I prefer to go somewhere less crowded and I know the perfect place.  Well, Bianca, I guess you had better be heading off to your concert.  Call me later and let me know how it was.”

Bianca got up from the chair, wishing now she hadn’t bothered to come but then, she wouldn’t have seen Chandler.  Her eyes sought him and her heart lurched when she found him looking at her.   She went over to him and said, “It was good seeing you as usual, Chandler.”

“I hope we see each other again soon,” he replied.  And he reached out and caught her hand.  From where Connie stood she couldn’t see what he was doing but it was all Bianca could do to keep her composure.  It was hard when his thumb was caressing the back of her hand, stirring up all sorts of sensations.  The expression on his face made her mouth go dry. His light grey eyes were dark and stormy.  It was so obvious that he was attracted to her.  And it must be obvious to him that she was attracted to him too.  What about Connie?  Her gaze shifted to her friend and was mortified when she saw the hostility and jealousy in her countenance.  Yes, Connie had noticed the attraction between Chandler and her.

“I’d better go,” Bianca murmured looking away.  “I don’t want to be late for the concert.”

He released her hand with some reluctance and watched as she hurried past Connie. They heard the door close.  “You were a bit rude to her,” he said with some displeasure.

Connie glared at him.  “I saw the way you were looking at her,” she cried.  “You want her don’t you?  Well, you are wasting your time.”

He frowned.  “What do you mean?”

“She has a boyfriend.”

He grew pale.  “Are you sure?” he asked.

“Of course, I’m sure.  His name is Darnell.”

Chandler ran his fingers agitatedly through his hair.  “I had no idea,” he said in disbelief.

“Well, now you know.”

Chandler turned away and his hands gripped the rail as bitter disappointment filled him.  He closed his eyes but they soon opened when he saw Bianca’s face and remembered the look on her face when he was caressing her hand.  She could not have been in any doubt that I have feelings for her, he thought, and I could tell that she has feelings for me too but how could I pursue a relationship with her when she’s already in one? What a wretched business this thing called love is. He swung round to face Connie.  “I’m afraid I will have to cancel our plans,” he told her.

Connie stared at him in dismay.  “But, why?” she cried.

“I don’t feel up to going anywhere now,” he said simply.  “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“You’re cancelling on me because of Bianca?” she demanded.  “I knew her showing up here unexpectedly today was going to be a problem.   Now what am I going to do for the rest of the afternoon?”

“I’m sorry, Connie.  I’ll take a rain check.”  He walked past her and a few minutes later the door closed behind him.

Her face beet red, Connie marched into the living room, took up a vase of flowers and threw it on the floor.

Bianca sat at the concert, oblivious to the turmoil she was causing elsewhere.  Her mind and attention were not on the smooth sounds she was hearing but on Chandler.  This was the first time Connie and she wanted the same man.   They had been friends since high school but that friendship was in serious jeopardy now.  She would never forget the look on Connie’s face when she saw the attraction between Chandler and her.  Bitter resentment and jealousy marred her features.  She wondered what happened after she left.

She left the concert feeling that it was a waste of an afternoon.  When she got home, she was surprised to hear a message from Connie on her answering machine.  It said, “Well, Bianca, I hope you’re happy.  Chandler canceled our plans.  I can’t imagine why.  I saw the way you were looking at him.  If you want to remain my friend, you will forget about Chandler and set your sights on someone else.  Goodbye.”

Bianca stared at the machine.  All this time she thought Chandler and Connie were spending the afternoon together.  As she removed her jacket, she couldn’t help wondering why the sudden change of plans.  Connie didn’t seem to know or if she did, she wasn’t saying.  Perhaps, something unexpected came up and Chandler had to be somewhere else.  Whatever the reason, she couldn’t deny that she was relieved that they weren’t together now.  I wonder when I will see him again.  Then, she reproached herself for thinking such thoughts.  I must forget about him.  Connie met him first and they are more suitable for each other.  They are from the same pedigree.  I’m way out of my league.  What he feels for me may just be a physical attraction—nothing more.” The thought that his interest in her might just be purely sexual hurt but she had to be sensible about this. 

So that very day, she resolved to stay away from Chandler, not only because Connie requested it but to spare herself any heartbreak.  For the next several weeks, she avoided the usual crowd where she was sure to run into him.  She and Connie met for lunch once and she heard nothing but how much time Chandler and her friend were spending with each other.  She had to sit there and listen to Connie talk about how amazing Chandler looked in his swimming trunks and how wonderful it felt when he put sunscreen on her back.  “His hands felt so good on my skin,” she said, her eyes almost glazed over at the memory.  Bianca smiled but inside she was hurting.  The jealousy stabbed at her like a knife.  After that lunch, whenever Connie wanted them to meet up again, she always found an excuse not to.  She wasn’t going to sit there and listen to Connie talk  incessantly about her relationship with Chandler.

During the day, it was easy to occupy her mind but in the nights, her thoughts were filled with him, wondering if he ever thought about her.  Nothing had changed for her. She still loved and wanted him and it pained her to no end.  She lay awake for hours before drifting off into a fitful sleep.  How she longed to get away—go somewhere far but she knew that it wouldn’t make a difference.  No place existed where she could go and forget about Chandler.

One night, she was lying on the sofa, watching the television but not paying attention.  It was just background noise.  The doorbell rang and she sat up, wondering how it was.  She hoped it wasn’t Connie.  She really wasn’t in the mood for one-sided conversations.  She got up from the sofa and went to the door.  Her eyes widened and her heart somersaulted when she saw Chandler standing there.  How on earth did he find out where she lived?  It couldn’t have been from Connie.  She would never do that.

Taking a deep breath, she opened the door, her heart pounding.  How good he looked in the black shirt and dark blue jeans.  His face looked drawn and it seemed to her that he had lost a little weight.  Alarmed, she asked, “You’re not ill, are you?”

He shook his head.  “No, I’m not ill,” he told her.  “It’s nice to know that you still care.”

She stared at him, looking confused.  “What do you mean?”

“Each time Connie told me she saw you, I asked if you inquired after me and she said no.”

“She never gave me a chance.  All she talked about was your relationship and all the great things you were doing together.”

“We don’t have a relationship.  I admit that I tried to get forget you with her and she was quite willing to help.  One night at her flat after dinner, we started to get undressed—“

Bianca turned away, agitated.  “I don’t want to hear this,” she cried as the pain and jealousy tore through her.

He moved so that he was standing in front of her, his eyes dark and tormented.  “I thought that making love to her would get you out of my system,” he muttered tightly.  “But, I couldn’t go through with it. When I was kissing her, all I could see was your face.  I put my shirt back on and ran out of there as if the devil were chasing me.  I haven’t been in touch with Connie since.  This was about a month ago.  These past few weeks have been hell for me, Bianca.  I can’t stop thinking about you and wanting you.  I tried to stay away out of respect for Darnell but I had to see you one last time.”

She looked at him then, “Darnell?” she repeated.  “What do mean out of respect for him?”

“You have no idea how much the mere sound of his name torments me,” Chandler told her, his eyes were haunted as they met hers.  “Ever since I found out about him, I haven’t stopped thinking about how lucky he is to have an exceptional woman like you.  Many times I have wished that I could trade places with him.”

She was really confused now.  “What are you talking about, Chandler? “

He looked frustrated now.  “I’m talking about Darnell,” he muttered tightly.  “Connie told me about him.”

“What exactly did Connie tell you about my brother?”

He stared at her as if he hadn’t heard correctly.  “Darnell is your brother?”

“Yes.  He’s my older brother who lives in Manchester with his wife, my niece and nephew.  What did Connie tell you about him?”

He muttered something under his breath, his expression thunderous.  “She told me that he was your boyfriend.”

“My boyfriend?” she was aghast.  “Why would she do that?”

“No doubt, she did it out of jealousy.  She knew how I felt about you so she wanted to make sure that nothing would come of it.   It never occurred to me that she was lying.  All this time, I thought you were in a relationship and that drove me mad because I wanted you so much.”

“Chandler, is it just desire you feel for me?” she asked warily.

He shook his head and she could see the sincerity in his eyes as he answered, “No.  I feel a deep and consuming love for you, Bianca.  I have never experienced love before but I know that what I feel for you real.”

She reached up and touched his face, her eyes filled with the love which burned in her heart.  “I love you, Chandler.  I tried to get over you because of my friendship with Connie and because I was afraid of getting hurt.  I wasn’t sure that your feelings for me were more than physical.”

He lowered his head to kiss her.  She closed her eyes when she felt his warm lips on hers and her arms went around his waist, holding him closely against her.  They exchanged hungry kisses and then he raised his head to gaze down in her face.  “I love you, Bianca but as much as I am dying to show you how much, I think we should wait.”

She nodded.  “Why don’t we go for a walk in the park,” she suggested.  “It’s safer and it looks lovely outside.”

He smiled.  “Okay.  And we can stop somewhere and have a bit to eat as well.”

A couple weeks later they got engaged and after six months of trying to abstain from lovemaking, they got married.  Connie was not invited.  Bianca’s friendship with her ended the day when she found out about the lie she told Chandler.

They spent their honeymoon in Sorrento.  On the first night there, they went for a walk after dinner, holding hands and strolling through the little streets lined on both sides with shops.  They walked to a quiet spot where they stood watching the silent and looming Mount Vesuvius in the distance and the setting sun as it hovered over the Bay of Naples.  They sat on the bench for a little while just enjoying the pleasant evening and the view.  Then, they bought two gelati and ate them on the way back to the hotel.

As soon as they got back to their room, Chandler picked Bianca up and carried her over to the bed.  “Now, I finally get to show you how much I love you,” he murmured, his eyes darkening on her face.

She reached up and pulled his head down to hers, thinking no one else in the world could be as blissfully happy as she was at that very moment.

 

A New Chapter

Andrea waited until he was alone and then she went over to him.  He stood looking down at the grave, his face pale.  Her heart was heavy and she wanted so much to put her arms around him.  He looked up when she was standing beside him.  She didn’t say anything.  Words were not necessary.  The expression on her face adequately conveyed her sympathy.   He reached for her hand and drew her closer to his side.  “Stay with me for a while,” he said, his eyes filled with pain.  He and his father had been close.  They had been there for each other since his mother died when he was six.  Now, both of them were gone.

Andrea stood there with him, the tears silently rolling down her face and her hand clasped firmly in his. She would stay there with him for as long as he needed her to.  She glanced at him, wondering if he had any idea of how much she love him and wanted to take away the pain he was feeling.  She knew what it was like to lose a parent.  It was devastating.  She still missed her own father.  She wished he had been alive when she met Liam.  They would have gotten along very well.  They were so similar in many ways.

She met Liam at a mutual friend’s barbecue and they hit it off.  They became fast friends and spent a lot of time together.  From the very beginning she had been wildly attracted to him and those feelings evolved into the love that burned in her heart now.  She wasn’t sure how long she would be able to hide her feelings from him but their friendship meant the world to her so she did her best not to jeopardize it.

He turned to her now.  “Thank you for being here,” he said.

She brushed the tears away from her cheeks.  “Where else would I be?” she asked.  “We’re friends for life, remember?”

His eyes were restless on her face.  “Friends,” he repeated softly.  “Andrea, what if–?” he started to say when a few of the other mourners joined them.

She reached up and kissed him on the cheek.  “I’ll come by and see you later,” she promised.

He nodded and released her hand.  A muscle throbbed along his jawline as he watched her walk away.

Andrea went home and after fixing herself a salad, she cleaned her flat.  As she did her laundry, she wondered what he had been about to say before he was interrupted. He looked a bit odd when she said that they were friends for life.  When I see him later, I will ask him, she decided.

Finally, she was done with her chores and it was time to head over to Liam’s place.  She took a quick shower and left the flat.  She stopped at the supermarket and picked up some groceries.  She planned to fix him something to eat.  When she got there, he was not in the house.  She went to the kitchen and quickly unpacked the groceries.   Then she went out of the back door leading to the beach where she knew she would find him.  Her toes sank in the soft sand as she went down the embankment.

Liam was leaning against a tree, dressed in a white, knitted robe.  His hair looked a bit damp.  He had been swimming.  He watched as she approached him, a curious expression on his face.

She went up to him, her eyes searching his face.  How she longed to reach up and brush the hair from his forehead.  Instead, she shoved her hands in the pockets of her capri.  “How are you holding up?” she asked.

He shrugged.  “As best as I can,” he said.  “It will take some time to get used to not having him around, though.”

“I know,” she sighed.  “It took a very long time for me to get over losing my father but time makes all the difference.  And now I have my memories of him to keep me going.  It will be the same for you but it will take some time.  And, you’re not alone. I’m here for you.”

“Thank you, Andrea.  Your being here means a lot to me.”

“I brought over some groceries.  I’ll go and fix you something to eat.”

“No, don’t go,” he said, moving away from the tree.  “Come for a walk along the beach with me.”

“All right,” she said and fell into step with him as he walked along the water’s edge. She gazed out at the swell of the waves, savoring the tangy salt air and the sensation of the wet sand oozing between her toes.  The warmth of the sun felt good on her face.  It was peaceful here.  She felt as if they were the only two people in the world.

Liam stopped suddenly and turned to her, his expression serious.  “Andrea, you and I have been friends for a very long time,” he said.  “We have been through good times and bad.”

She looked up at him, wondering where this was leading.  “Yes, we have.”

He ran his fingers through his hair as he struggled to find the words.  “What if…what if I want us to be more than friends?”

She swallowed hard.  “Is this what you started to say to me at the cemetery?” she asked.

He nodded.  “For the longest while I have wanted to broach the subject but just never got around to it until this morning.  When I looked up and saw you standing next to me, I knew I had to say something.  I want to be more than a friend to you, Andrea.  Right now, I am aching to take you in my arms and kiss you.”

She moved closer, her heart pounding and her eyes betraying her feelings.  With a deep groan, Liam pulled her against him and kissed her.  She clung to him as she surrendered to the emotions that were churning inside her.   The sun bathed them in its golden light while the foamy water swirled around their ankles.  It was a beautiful afternoon–the perfect setting for the two solitary figures who were embarking on a new chapter in their lives.

 

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