Finding Her Own Way /Decisions #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

Ma was dead and gone.  There was no reason for Louisa to stay now.  She stooped down and laid the wildflowers she had picked at the foot of the cross which marked Ma’s grave.  Tears ran down her cheeks.  She was going to miss Ma.  After Da died, it was just the two of them, struggling to make ends meet.  Then, Ma got sick and after languishing for a week, she passed away.

Louisa had Ma buried here on the land she loved instead of a graveyard.  Ma wanted to be free, even in death.  Well, now she was.  She was at peace.

Wiping her eyes, Louisa stood.  Her pale blue eyes scanned the endless stretch of green land around her.  Yes, she had made up her mind weeks ago that she was going to leave this place she had called home since the day Da and Ma brought her home from the orphanage.  She was going to miss it.  It was a happy place, filled with love and laughter and the smell of fresh bread and Ma’s delicious Treacle Tarts.

It was hard to leave but she had to.  Beyond the horizon a new destiny awaited her.  She remembered Ma’s words.  “When I pass on, I want you to go and find your own way, Child.  I don’t want you to be stuck here.”

“Well, Ma,” she whispered.  “I’m going to do as you said.  I’m going to find my own way and make you and Da proud,  I promise.”

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Decisions at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Assimilation

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Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding

Assimilation.  It was something Chaska fought against from the very start.  Much like I tried to fight my attraction and gradual love for him.  We were of different cultures and races.  I always believed that one day after I left college, I would marry a colored man.  Never once did I ever imagine that I would end up falling in love with a Lakota Sioux man.

The moment I saw him, I sensed that I was in grave trouble.  He was bigger than life but at the same time, reserved.  He was strong not just physically but spiritually and mentally.  I was struck by his features—handsome, weather-beaten face, smooth dark skin and long, thick, flowing black hair and his quiet strength.

He and two other Indians enrolled in this historically black college.  It was clear that they felt out of place and resisted wearing the uniforms but I persuaded him to and he them.  He disliked being in a classroom, saying that outdoors would be better– nature would be the classroom.  The desks were set up in the woods behind the college.  Years later, they still sit there, neglected.  As for me, I’ve a happy home elsewhere with Chaska.

 

 

200 Words

This story was inspired by the 1999 movie, Unbowed.  It’s a story about three Lakota Sioux men who enroll in a historically black college, and their reluctance to assimilate causes friction between their black peers. Some come to embrace their similar history, while others remain bitter.  One of them falls in love with a black woman.

This was written for Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

The Newlyweds

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Photo Credit: C.E. Ayr

They were on their way to Venice for their honeymoon.  She was bursting with excitement.  Before today, she had never been anywhere outside of London.  As they walked through the station and up the stairs to the platform, her eyes danced with excitement.  The porter followed them with the luggage.  As they stood on the platform, waiting for the train, other passengers observed them with great interest.  They were not your typical married couple.  He was a middle-aged man with streaks of grey in his dark brown hair and she looked young enough to be his daughter.  Women shook their heads in disgust and the men were positively green with envy.

Ignoring them, the man put his arm around his young wife’s shoulders as they waited for the train.  He didn’t care what they thought.  He had been given a second chance at happiness. What did age matter?  So what if she was younger than his eldest daughter?  After losing Barbara, he never imagined that he would ever fall in love again.  He hadn’t planned on falling in love with someone so young but the fact was, she made him happy and that was what really mattered, wasn’t it?

 

199 Words

This was written for Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Falling in Love Again

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“I gave Anastasia the scarf you brought back from Kampala and she loves it,” Tomás said to his father.

“I hope you didn’t mind me buying her something.  It’s just that I saw it and thought of her.”

“No, no, I don’t mind at all.  She and I are just really good friends.  Papá, why don’t you ask her out?”

Salvador balked at the idea.  “You can’t be serious?”

“Why not?”

“I’m too old for her.”

“When it comes to love, Papá, age shouldn’t matter.”

“Is it that obvious?”

“That you’re in love with her?  To me it is.”

“What about her?  Do you know how she feels about me?”

“Well, she hasn’t come right out and said anything to me but I can tell that she feels the same way just from the way she acts whenever we talk about you.”

Salvador ran his fingers through his hair.  “I feel like a lovesick schoolboy,” he remarked.

Tomás grinned.  “It’s good to see you fall in love again.  It’s about time.  Mami has been dead for fifteen years now.  You need to get on with your life and be happy.  Anastasia is a fantastic girl.  The two of you will be very happy together.”

“So, you really think I should ask her out?”

“Yes!  Do it this afternoon when she stops by to thank you personally for the scarf.”

Salvador’s heart skipped a beat.  “She’s coming here this afternoon?”

“Yes.  Somehow, I don’t think the scarf is the real reason for her visit.  She missed you while you were gone and is very anxious to see you.”

“I missed her too.  I thought of nothing or no one else all that time I was in Kampala.”

“Good.  Then, the two of you can tell each other how much you missed each other in person.”  He glanced at his watch.  “I’d better be going or I’ll be late.”

Salvador watched him in alarm.  “Where’re you going?” he demanded.

“I’m going to the movies with the guys.  Papá, I mentioned this yesterday.”

“You’re going to leave me here alone with Anastasia?”

“Papá, you’re a big boy now.  You don’t need a chaperone.  Gotta run.  I’ll call you tomorrow.”  And he was out of there before his father could say anything else.

Alone, Salvador went over to the sofa and sat down.  He was nervous.  He had never been alone with Anastasia before.  Tomás was always around.  What was he doing to do when she showed up?  Agitated, he got up from the sofa, slid the glass door open and went down the steps leading to the beach.  A walk would help to clear his head and calm his nerves.

Anastasia rang the bell but there was no answer.  She rang again twice.  Frowning, she tried the handle and the door opened.  She went inside, closed and locked it behind her.  After removing her shoes and leaving them on the mat in the foyer, she went into the living-room.  It was empty but the glass door was open.  She went out on to the terrace and looked.  She saw a lone figure walking along the water’s edge.  It was Salvador.  Her heart began to race in excitement.  She couldn’t wait to see him.  She missed him so much when he was in Kampala.  As soon as she heard that he was back, she had to come and see him.  Placing her satchel in one of the chairs, she opened it took out the beautiful scarf he bought her.  Smiling, she draped it about her shoulders and waited for him to come back.

When he came back sometime later, he saw her waiting for him on the terrace.  Nervous and excited he approached slowly, cautiously.  She had the scarf draped about her and was looking down at him as he stood at the bottom of the steps.  She looked so lovely.  He ached to take her in his arms but he shoved them into the pockets of his trousers, trying to look nonchalant.  “Hello,” he said.

“Hello,” she replied.  He had the most amazing eyes.  She wanted to run down the steps and throw her arms around him but she remained where she was.  Until she knew how he felt about her, she had to remain cool.  “I had to come by and thank you for the beautiful scarf.”

“I’m happy you like it.”

“Was this your first visit to Kampala?”

“Yes.”

“Did you like it?”

“Yes, I did.”

“It’s funny.  When I was living in Gulu, my family and I never visited Kampala which was a four hour drive away.  At one point I wanted to attend the university there but my parents wanted me to go to Uganda Christian University instead and I’m happy I did.  I would like to go to Kampala one of these days, though.”

He wanted to say, I’d love to take you, but instead, he said, “You’ll like it.”

It was still bright although it was almost seven in the evening.  “It must be nice living at the beach,” she remarked, turning to gaze at the waves as they rolled onto the sand.

“It is,” he agreed.  A long pause while he wrestled with himself.  Finally, he asked, “Do you have any plans for the evening?”

She looked at him.  “No.”

“Would you like to stay and have dinner with me?”

“Yes,” she said without the slightest hesitation and that was very encouraging for him.

Smiling, he went up the steps.  “You can stay and relax out here while I go and get things ready.”

After he went inside, she folded the scarf and put it back into her satchel.  Then she sat down in one of the chairs facing the beach.  Twenty minutes later, he joined her, carrying two large plates of something which smelled really good.  “I thought we could eat out here and enjoy the view at the same time.”  He set the plates down on the table between the two chairs.  “I’ll be right back.”

She looked at what they were going to have.  It looked like meatballs in sauce served over rice and vegetables on the side.  It looked and smelled delicious, making her mouth water.

He returned with two glasses of sangria which he set on the table before he sat down in the other chair.  “I hope you enjoy the Spanish Style meatballs in a Sunny Mediterranean Sauce.  I don’t eat Pork so I used Chicken instead.”

“I don’t eat Pork either.  I’m sure I will enjoy this.”

He smiled.  “Buen apetito.”

They ate and she marveled at what a great cook he was.  She had never tasted meatballs this good before.  She wondered why Tomás never mentioned his father’s culinary skills.

It was while they were sipping the Sangrias when he turned to her, heart beating fast and said, “Anastasia, you don’t have any objections, I’d like to us to be in a relationship.”

She put her class down.  “I don’t have any objections,” she said.  “I’ve always wanted to be in a relationship with you.”

He put his glass down and stood up.  Reaching down, he took her hands and drew her to her feet.  Cupping her face between his hands, he kissed her.  Behind him the sun began to set, marking the end of another day but tomorrow it would rise again, marking the beginning of a new day.  That evening marked the beginning of a new relationship for them.

Don’t be afraid to fall in love again.  It’s God giving you another chance at happiness. 

Happy News

It was late by the time Abigail got home and she was tired.  Gingerly, she opened the front door went inside.  The light in the foyer was on.  Noah must have left it on for her.  It’s a good thing she had grabbed something to eat.  She wasn’t hungry and could go straight to bed.  As she was about to go upstairs to their bedroom, she noticed that the light in the basement was on.  Noah was still up.

She went downstairs.  He was sitting on the leather sofa watching TV.  He turned when he heard her.  She smiled at him.  “Hi, Honey,” she said.  “I thought you’d be in bed.”

“I wanted to wait up for you,” he said.  He turned off the television and glanced at the clock.  “It’s almost midnight.”

“I know and I’m sorry.  Vicky wanted to go for dinner and dancing on her birthday so we went to a popular Latin restaurant.  We had a good time but I had to leave.  They are still there.  You wouldn’t think that they have to go to work tomorrow.”

She went over and leaning over she kissed him.  He pulled her down on the sofa next to him.  “Did you dance with anyone?” he asked.

“Of course not,” she said, playfully punching him.  “I’m a married woman, remember?”

“No one would be able to tell that you’re married because you’re not wearing your ring.”

“That reminds me, tomorrow I have to stop by the jeweler’s and pick up our rings.”  They had them engraved with the Hebrew word, Mizpah which meant, May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent from one another.

“You and I met at a nightclub,” he reminded her.  “You were with your friends and I was with a couple of guys from work.  When I saw you, I felt as if someone had knocked the breath out of me.  I couldn’t take my eyes off you.”

“I noticed you the moment you walked in and thought it was cute the way your friends were urging you to come and talk to me.  You were the only guy I danced with that night.  We exchanged phone numbers and had our first date the following day.  And the rest, as they say, is history.”

“We’ve been married for three years.”

“Yes, and one day we will be married for fifty years and counting.”

He smiled and reached over to kiss her.  “I look forward to growing old with you,” he murmured against her lips.

“Me too,” she said.  She drew back to look at him.  “Noah, remember how I told that I’ve been feeling tired lately?  I don’t know how I managed to get through tonight. ”

He frowned.  “Yes, I remember.  And I’ve noticed it too.”

“Well, I went to see the doctor this morning.”

He was looking very anxious now.  “What did she have to say?”

She reached out took his hands in hers, her eyes meeting his.  “‘She said, congratulations, you’re going to have a baby.'”

He stared at her.  “You’re pregnant?”

“Yes,” she cried in delight.  “We’re going to have a baby.”

He looked emotional.  “A baby,” he repeated.  “I’m going to be a father.”

“Yes, in about eight months.”

He cupped her face between his hands.  “I love you,” he muttered huskily.

Tears sprang to her eyes.  “I love you too.”

They kissed and then, he stood up and pulled her gently to her feet.  “Is it okay for us to…”

She laughed.  “Yes, it is.”  They held hands as they walked out of the basement and up the stairs to their room.

At the doorway, he picked her up in his arms and carried her over to the bed.  He lowered her unto the soft coverlet and stretched out beside her.  He caressed her face, his eyes filled with love and adoration.  “Thank you for making me so happy,” he said.

“Ditto,” she murmured as she reached up and pulled his head down to hers.

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Source:  The Knot

Family Affairs

“You’re the most infuriating, insufferable, arrogant man I have ever met,” she fumed.

He looked unperturbed.  “Is this what you came all the way over here to tell me?” he asked.  “You could have just as easily phoned me and save yourself an hour’s drive.”

“I wanted to tell you what I think of you to your face,” she retorted.

He moved closer.  “Why don’t you admit it, Debra?”

“Admit what?” she asked, eying him suspiciously and warily.  He was a little too close for comfort.

“That you want me as much as I want you.”

Alarm filled her and for a brief moment, she was at a loss of words.  Then, lifting her chin, she declared, “You’re mistaken.”

“I’m not afraid to admit that I want you.  I wanted you from the first time I saw you.  Feel what you do to me.”  He took her hand and pressed it against his heart.  It was pounding wildly—like hers.

She tried to pull her hand away but his grip tightened.  Her eyes flew up to his face and her mouth went dry when she saw the unbridled passion shining in their depths.  Desire coursed through her body and she tugged at her hand, desperate to put as much distance between them as possible.  “Please let go of me,” she begged.

“Why?” he asked thickly.  “Am I making you feel things you don’t want to feel?”

Just then, the sound of someone clearing his throat came from the doorway.  Then, a voice called, “Mr. Rhys, Sir?”

Without turning his head, Rhys said, sounding somewhat put out at the interruption, “Yes, Albert, what is it?”

“You have a telephone call.”

“I’ll take it in the study.  Thank you, Albert.”

When Albert left, she tugged at her hand again and he released it this time.  She stepped back, grateful to Albert for the interruption.

Rhys watched her.  “Will you wait here until I return?”

“No,” she said crossly.  “I have things to do.”

“Have dinner with me tonight,” he said quietly.

She glared at him.  “Even if my life depended on it, I will never have dinner with you.  Good day.” She stormed past him and out of the room, leaving him watching after her, his expression a mixture of irritation and longing.

On the drive back to London, she fretted and fumed at herself for the brief betraying moment when she wanted to succumb to the feelings he aroused in her.  If Albert hadn’t interrupted when he did she would not have been able to resist him any longer and that scared her.  She didn’t want to have feelings for the man who was responsible for her sister’s misery.

Her sister was the reason why she went to Surrey to see him.  She had meant to find out why he was opposing Vanessa’s marriage to his brother, Mark but when she saw him, she just lost it.  She hoped she hadn’t make things worse.  Just who did he think he was?  Insufferable man.  How she disliked him.  Yet, how was it possible to loathe a man and want him at the same time?

She didn’t go back to her flat, instead, she went over to her friend Marcy’s cottage.  “You look fit to be tied,” her friend exclaimed when she saw her.  “Come on in.  A cup of tea would do you some good, I think. Come to the kitchen and tell me what’s on your mind while I get the tea ready.”

Debra sat down at the table while Marcy put the kettle on.  “I went to see Rhys,” she said, trying to be calm.

“You mentioned that you were going to find out why he was stalling his brother’s wedding plans.  What did he say?”

“I didn’t give him a chance to say anything.  I just laid into him because he got me so mad.”

“What did he do to get you so mad at him?”

“Well, nothing, really,” she said.  “When I saw him, looking so smug, I lost it.”

“So, you didn’t find out why he is stalling the wedding?”

“What other reason could there be besides the fact that he doesn’t think that my sister is good enough for his precious brother?”

“Deb, you can’t assume that’s the reason.  It might be something else.”

“What other reason could there be?  Mark and Vanessa love each other.  They have been dating since high-school and all through university.  No one was surprised when they announced their engagement.  Plans have already been put in place for a spring wedding and now, they have been put on hold because of Rhys.  He acts more like Mark’s father than his older brother.”

“I guess he feels responsible for him because after their parents died, he raised him.  It’s only natural that he wants what’s best for his little brother.”

“Doesn’t he think that marrying my sister would be the best thing for his brother? Is it because she’s not from rich family like Mark and he?”

“Deb, you and I can sit here all morning and speculate about Rhys’ reasons for putting everything on hold.   There’s only one way to find out for sure and that’s to talk to him.”

Debra took the steaming cup of coffee from Marcia.  She didn’t relish the idea of seeing Rhys again but if she wanted to get to the bottom of this, she had to.  “I’ll stop by his office tomorrow during my lunch break,” she sighed.

The next day, she made sure she called Rhys first to find out if it was all right with him to stop by his office around twelve-thirty.  He sounded surprised to hear from her but said that he was free to see her at that time.  She got there at about twelve thirty-five and was shown into his office which modern, spacious and had a remarkable view of the city.  He was sitting behind the desk but stood up when she walked in.  He went over to the door and closed it.  Then, he offered her a seat.  “What a pleasant surprise,” he remarked.  “What brings you here?”

She sat down and came straight to the point.  “I want to talk to you about Mark and Vanessa.  Why are you standing in the way of their happiness?”

He sat down behind the desk, his expression serious now.  “I’m not opposed to their happiness,” he said.  “But I do have my misgivings.  I think they are too young to get married.  He’s twenty-three and your sister is twenty-two.  Mark has a trust fund which doesn’t have full access to until he’s twenty-five. Right now, he can live comfortably from the money in the trust fund but with marriage comes so many responsibilities that I’m not sure he’s ready for.”

“So, your objection is based solely on their age and not on their suitability for each other.”

He nodded.  “I have always heard of many cases where young marriages don’t work out.  I just don’t want Mark and Vanessa to be one of those couples.”

“But how long do you expect them to wait?  Until they are in their thirties?  That doesn’t seem fair.  Those marriages you mentioned failed most likely because the couples were not mature.  Mark and Vanessa are mature and very sensible beyond their years.  If you still have misgivings why don’t you consider having them go for pre-marital counseling?  I have a friend who has counseled many couples, including those in their twenties.  I could arrange for her to see Mark and Vanessa.  The sessions will determine whether or not they are ready for marriage.”

“That would be very helpful,” Rhys agreed.  “It would put my mind at rest.”

“All right, I will call my friend this evening.”  She got up.

He stood up too.  “Are you leaving so soon?”

“I have to head back to the office.  Thanks for taking the time to see me.  Rhys…” she looked at him, feeling a little embarrassed.  “I wanted to apologize for the way I spoke to you yesterday.”

He came around to where she was and stopped a few feet away from her.  “I will accept your apology on one condition,” he said quietly, his eyes studying her face.  “Have dinner with me tonight.”

“All right,” she said.

“I’ll see you at seven-thirty, then.”

She turned and crossed the carpet towards the door with him following closely behind.  The same time she reached for the knob, he did and his hand covered hers.  Heart leaping in her chest, she turned her head to look up at him and met his penetrating gaze.  Without saying anything, he took her hand and pressed it against his thumping heart then without any warning, he reached over and kissed her.

Unable to help herself she turned so that she was facing him and her arms reached for him as she responded to his fiery kisses.  Several minutes later, she felt herself pressed up against the hard surface of the door while his hands on her hips held her tightly against him as he ravaged her lips.  Then, his lips were hot against her neck and she groaned, reaching up to bury her fingers in his hair.

A knock on the door jolted them and he pulled away, his face flushed.  He took a few moments to control his breathing and regain his composure before he moved to open the door slightly.  “Yes, Betty?”  Betty was his secretary.

“They are waiting for you in the boardroom, Mr. Yardley.”

“Okay.  Thank you, Betty.  Inform them that I will be there shortly.”

“Yes, Sir.”

He closed the door and turned to Debra.  He ran his fingers through his hair.  “I forgot that I have a board meeting at one,” he said.  “I’m sorry.”

She smoothed her hair and straightened her white top with the V neck and her navy blue skirt.  “I should be heading back now,” she said, stooping down to pick up her handbag which had dropped to the floor.

“I look forward to seeing you again later,” he said quietly.  He held open the door for her and she glanced at him before she went out.

On the way back to her office, all she could think about was the kiss and how much she wanted him.  She couldn’t wait to see him later.  When she got to her desk, the first thing she did was to call her friend, the marriage counselor.

At exactly seven-thirty he was at her flat.  He looked amazing in a fitted black suit, white dress shirt and no tie.  His hair was slicked back, giving him a polish and slightly rakish look.  His eyes slipped over her when he saw her in a short navy blue dress with a beaded neckline which flattered her figure and her hair pulled back at the nape with a clasp.  She looked simple but elegant.  “You look incredible,” he commented as they walked to the lift.

She smiled.  “Thank you,” she said.  “So do you.”

He took her to his favorite restaurant which offered them privacy, spectacular view of the city of London and food to die for.  They talked and opened up to each other.  She mentioned to him that she had called her friend and that whenever Mark and Vanessa were ready, she would see them.  “I really believe that things will work out for them,” she said.

“I hope you’re right,” he said.

“I was wrong about you,” she admitted.  “I thought you were causing problems for my sister because you didn’t think she was suitable for your brother.”

“That couldn’t be farther from the truth.  I like Vanessa.  She’s a remarkable girl.”

Debra smiled.  “Yes, she is.  Sometimes when I look at her, I can’t believe that she’s that kid that used to follow me around and look up to me.”

“It was the same with Mark.  I was his role model.  My good opinion and approval meant a lot to him.  He turned out to be a very fine young man.  I’m very proud of him.”

“Here’s to the two remarkable young people in our lives.” Debra held up her glass and they made a toast.

“And here’s to us,” he said, his expression serious as he returned her gaze.  Their glasses touched and then, he signaled to the waiter for the bill.

They left the restaurant and went back to her flat.  As soon as she closed the door and locked it behind her, he grabbed her, pulled her roughly against him, muttering “I’ve been dying to do this all evening,” before his head swooped down and his hungry lips sought hers.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back, her fervor matching his.  As they exchanged feverish kisses, she kicked off her shoes while he dragged off his jacket and tossed it on the floor.  Then, breaking off the kiss, she drew back, almost fighting for breath and without saying a word, she grabbed his hand and led him toward the hallway to her room where they spent the rest of the night.

The following year, on a beautiful day in May, Mark and Vanessa tied the knot.  The service took place at the church where his parents got married and the reception was held at their home in Surrey.  It was a happy occasion.  The pre-marital counseling had really paid off and after receiving assurance from the counselor that the couple was ready for marriage, Rhys happily gave his consent and the wedding preparations went ahead.

As Rhys stood beside Debra at the foot of the steps leading down from the front entrance, he turned to her, “It looks like you’re next,” he commented, indicating the bouquet which she had caught.  “When would you like to get married?  In the spring like your sister or in the summer?”

She stared at him.  “Stop teasing me,” she scolded him.

“I’m not teasing you,” he said and he pulled out a small velvet box from his pants pocket.  “I was planning to give you this later after dinner but I don’t think I could wait until then.  Come with me.”  He grabbed her hand and led her off to a quiet spot out of ear shot of the wedding guests.

He got down on his knee, opened the box and took out the ring.  “Will you marry me, Debra?” he asked huskily, his eyes tender as he looked up at her.

“Yes,” she cried, laughing as the tears ran down her face.  “Yes, I will marry you.”

He put the ring on her finger and then stood up.  “I love you,” he murmured before he kissed her.

“I love you too,” she answered when he drew back.  She reached up and touched his face.  Then, the sounds of voices reached them.

“They’re leaving,” Rhys said.  “Let’s go and say goodbye.”  He took her hand and they hurried off to say goodbye to the happy couple as they came down the stairs laughing as rice grains were thrown at them.

Debra hugged Vanessa tightly.  “I’m very happy for you,” she said.  “You make such a beautiful bride.  I wish you great happiness.”

“Thank you, Deb.  And I wish you the same.”  When she saw her sister’s engagement ring, she was so overjoyed.  She hugged her again.  “Congratulations.   Rhys is twice my brother-in-law.  I couldn’t be happier.”

Later that evening as she stood on the terrace, looking out at the grounds, Rhys joined her.  He put his arms around her waist and she leaned against him.  “That night when you agreed to have dinner with me, did you do so because you felt badly about the way you spoke to me?” he asked.

She turned around then and faced him.  “No,” she said softly.  “I did it because my happiness depended on it.”

“So did mine,” he murmured before he took her up in his arms and carried her into the bedroom.

Sources:  The Telegraph; To Love Honor and Vacuum; Guide Doc

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.

 

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