Convinced

When Tiffany walked into her flat and saw Sebastian standing by the window, to say that she was astonished to see him would have been a gross understatement.  He turned when he heard her, his gaze traveling over her slim figure in the short sleeve turquoise blouse and navy blue pencil skirt.

Ignoring the accelerated beating of her heart, she tossed her handbag on the sofa and going over to him, she demanded, “How did you get in?”

“Your room-mate let me in before she left.”

“I’m going to have a talk with her about whom she lets into the flat when I’m not here.”

His mouth tightened then.  “I will ignore that remark,” he muttered tightly.

“Why are you here?”

“I had to talk to you.”

“Let me guess.  You’re here to warn me to stay away from Elliot again.”

“That’s one of the reasons.”

“And what’s the other?”

“My mother asked me to give you this.”  He handed her a white envelope.

Curious, she took it and opened it.  It was an invitation to a dinner party next week Saturday.  She put it back in the envelope.  “Please thank her for me.”

“Are you going to come?”

“Would you prefer if I didn’t?”

“Whether you come or not doesn’t matter to me,” he retorted.

That stung and she turned away.  “Yes, you can tell your mother that I will be there.”

“Now about Elliot…”

“Why are you so bent out of shape about our relationship?”

“I’m not bent out of shape as you so eloquently put it.  I just don’t think that you’re suitable for each other.”

“And what makes you an authority on who is compatible and who is not?”

“Experience.”

“So, you’re basing your misgivings about Elliot and me on your failed relationships?”

“My past relationships are not the issue here, your relationship with my brother is.”

“Well, my relationship with your brother is none of your business.”

He glanced around.  “It feels like a sauna in here,” he said, removing his jacket and placing it on the window seat so that he could loosen the top button of his shirt.  “Don’t you have air conditioning?”

He was right.  It was hot in there.  She tried not to notice how snug the rather expensive looking light blue shirt was snug against his broad chest as she walked past him to the wall where the panel for the air-conditioner was and turned it on.  “Are you satisfied now?” she quipped when she rejoined him by the window.

He glowered at her.  “Very.  Now, back to the main reason why I came here today—”

“You’re wasting your time,” she informed him crossly.  “I will not end my relationship with Elliot because of you.  Now, if you don’t mind, I would like to unwind after a very busy day at the office.”

“Do you love him?” He asked abruptly, startling her.

“Yes, I love him.”

“I’m not convinced,” he said, much to her chagrin.

Raising her chin, her eyes flashing, she retorted, “I don’t care if you’re convinced or not.” When she would have turned away, he caught her by the arm, forcing her to look up at him.  Their eyes met and held for several tense minutes during which she hear herself breathing heavily or was that him?  Her heart was racing and panicking, she tried to pull her arm away but his grip was firm.  “Let go of me.”

“Not until you convince me that you love my brother,” he muttered tightly, his eyes stormy as they met her wide ones.

“Let go of me or I will scream,” she threatened.

Instead of letting her go, he pulled her closer.  His eyes dropped to her lips where they lingered for a tantalizing moment before returning to her face.  “Go ahead and scream,” he dared her.

Stumped, she could only stare at him.  Just then, the doorbell rang.  He released her arm and she practically ran past him to answer the door.  She fumbled with the latch and jerked the door open.  Elliot stood there grinning but he frowned when he saw her face.  “What’s the matter?” he asked.

“Your brother’s here,” she explained as she grabbed his arm and pulled him inside.

“Sebastian’s here?” he exclaimed.  “How come?”

“He–he dropped by to give me an invitation to your mother’s dinner party on Saturday.”

“Oh.  That was nice of him, I guess.  Well, I’m here to take you out to dinner and a movie—if you’re up to it.”

“Actually, I just got in from work and was planning to spend a quiet evening.”

“Would you like me to leave then?”

“No!” she cried, panicking.  “Please stay.  We can order in pizza or Thai while we watch a movie.”

“What about Sebastian?”

“He was just about to leave.  Why don’t call one of the take out numbers beside the phone while I get rid of him?”

Shrugging, Elliot did as she asked while she hurried into the living room.  Sebastian was standing where she left him.  She went over to him but not too close.  “Elliot is here,” she informed him tightly.  “He and I are going to have take-out and watch a movie.”

His expression darkened.  “I thought you said that you were going to unwind.”

“I do—”

“I got the impression that you wanted to unwind alone.”

“I changed my mind.  Now, if you don’t mind—”

“Don’t worry, I’m leaving.  I wouldn’t want to ruin your plans with Elliot.”  He strode over to grab his jacket from the window seat and then he left the living-room.  She followed him.

Elliot was on the phone but he covered the mouthpiece to say hello to his brother who acknowledged him with a withering look before he turned to Tiffany and bidding her a rather curt, “Good evening.”  He tugged open the door and stepped out, closing it firmly behind him.  After locking it, she leaned against it, trying to get catch her breath.

Elliot hung up the phone and went over to her.  “The food will be here in about twenty minutes,” he told her.  “What’s the matter?  Did I miss something?  Why did Sebastian leave in such a hurry?”

“I’ll tell you after I get changed,” she muttered before moving away from the door and hurrying off to the bedroom.

It was while they were having the Thai food that she told him everything that had happened between Sebastian and her.  Elliot whistled.  “No wonder he stormed out of here.  Tiff, why did you let him think that you’re in love with me when he’s the one you’re in love with?”

“I don’t know.  I guess I was upset with him because of some of the things he said.

“Well, my advice to you is that you tell him how you really feel.”

She shook her head.  “No way,” she protested.  “I can’t do that when I don’t know how he feels about me.”

Elliot stared at her.  “You’re kidding, right?”

She looked bewildered.

“Tiff, Sebastian’s in love with you, that’s why he’s so bent out of shape over our relationship.”

“But he said he wasn’t bent out of shape.”

“He said a lot of things but his actions said differently.  And you and I both know that if I didn’t show up when I did, things would have gotten hot and steamy between you.  Now, my advice to you is to go and see him.  Tell him how you feel.”

“No, I’m not going to do that.  After the way I treated him tonight he’s not going to want to see me and I’m not going over there and embarrass myself.”

“All right,” he said.  “I won’t press you anymore on this.  Let’s watch the movie.”

Two hours later, Elliot stood outside of Sebastian’s flat.  He rang the doorbell.  Shortly after, the door opened and his brother stood there, scowling at him.  “What do you want?” he asked.

“I know it’s late but I need to talk to you and I’d rather not do it out here.”

Sebastian opened the door wider for him to go in.  After he closed it and locked it, he turned around to face him.  “What do you have to say to me that couldn’t wait until tomorrow?”

“It’s about Tiffany.”

Sebastian stiffened at once.  “What about her?” he asked tautly.

“You’re in love with her, aren’t you?”

“Is that why you’re here, Elliot, to gloat?”

“Gloat?”

“Yes.  You came here to gloat because I love Tiffany and she loves you.”

“You’re mistaken about two things.  I didn’t come here to gloat and Tiffany isn’t in love with me.”

“I asked her if she loved you and she said yes.”

“She loves me, yes, but as a friend–nothing more.  She made you believe otherwise because she was upset with you.  Besides, she said that you weren’t convinced that she was telling the truth.”

“I didn’t want to believe that she was.  I didn’t want to believe that she loved you.”

“Well, you can rest assured that she doesn’t love me in a romantic way.   Besides, if one of us has something to gloat about it would be you.”

Sebastian looked confused and then it dawned on him.  “You mean…?”

Elliot nodded with a grin.  “Yes, Brother, Tiffany’s in love with you.”

Sebastian ran his fingers through is hair, a stunned expression on his face.  “I had no idea,” he said.  “Earlier when she and I were alone together, I suspected that she might be attracted to me but I never imagined that she was in love with me.”

“Well, now that you know, what are you going to do about it?”

“I’ll go and see her tomorrow evening.”

“Good.  I’ll be taking off now.  Have a good night, Sebastian.”  He patted his arm before turning to unlock and open the door.

“Goodnight, Elliot,” Sebastian said with a smile.  “Thanks for stopping by.”  After he closed the door, he went straight to bed, although he knew that sleep would elude him.  His mind was racing.  Tomorrow, he was going to see Tiffany and confront her about their feelings for each other.  His heart skipped a beat at the thought.

Tiffany had just finished taking a shower and changed into a tee shirt and slacks when the doorbell rang.  Frowning, she went to answer it and like clockwork, her heart began to race when she saw who it was.  She opened the door.  Her gaze slipped over his tall frame, thinking how amazing he looked in the black silk shirt and black trousers.

“Hello,” he said quietly.

“Hello,” she replied as she stepped aside for him to enter the foyer.  When he walked past her, she caught a whiff of his aftershave.  Her hands trembled slightly as she closed the door and locked it.  When she turned to face him, their eyes met and held for a long time.  She could tell that he was nervous too.  “Before you say anything, I want to apologize for my behavior yesterday.”

“I owe you an apology too.  It was very presumptuous of me to interfere in your life.”

“When you asked me if I loved Elliot and I said yes, I panicked when you said that you weren’t convinced.  I thought you had seen right through my little white lie.”

“I said that because I didn’t want to believe that you were in love with him.”

“You-you refused to let go of my arm unless I convinced you that I didn’t love Elliot.  How were you going to get me to do that?”

“By doing this,” he muttered and reaching out, he pulled her against her and his mouth found hers.

Unable to help herself, Tiffany put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.  They stood there, kissing each other wildly, consumed with desire.  Then, she broke off their kiss to ask rather breathlessly, “Are you convinced now that I don’t love Elliot?”

“Yes,” he muttered thickly.  “No woman would kiss a man the way you just did if she were in love with someone else.”

“You’re right about that,” she managed to say before he kissed her again.

 

 

 

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Lost and Found

Claudine and Duke were at a diner having lunch. The last time they saw each other was a couple of weeks ago at his younger brother, Alan’s funeral.  Duke had called her last night to ask her to have lunch with him today.  She was happy to see him.

“It’s good to see you, Duke,” she said.  “How have you been?”

“I’m doing all right, I guess.  I’m still trying to deal with Alan’s untimely death.”

She reached out and put her hand on his.  “I know how hard it is when we lose someone we love.  I went to see Doreen yesterday and she’s still having a really tough time coping.  The kids are staying with their grandparents for a while.”

“Since the funeral I haven’t been to see Doreen and the kids.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t face them right now.”  A pause and then, he blurted out, “I can’t face them because I feel guilty.”

She stared at him, concerned now.  “You feel guilty?  Why?” she asked.

Instead of answering her question, he countered with, “God is love, right?”

“Yes.”

“Then, why did He let Alan die and me live?  Not once when we were kids, did I ever see him throw a tantrum.  And he was the most religious guy I knew.   He was always reading His Bible, active in church and involved in community service.  I, on the other hand, am not a practicing Christian.  I don’t go to church often and I hardly read the Bible.  As far as community service is concerned, I give donations when I can.  I don’t pray often.  And to top it all, I had an affair with a married woman.  Why did the God whom we say is love, let a godly man like Alan who served him all of his life and never did anything wrong, die, leaving a wife and two children behind and let me live? I should have been the one to die in that boating accident, not Alan.”

His words cut into her like a knife and she withdrew her hand from his, lowering her eyes so that he couldn’t see the anguish in them. The thought of losing him in that accident was unbearable.  She was overcome with compassion for Alan’s family but she was thankful that Duke had survived.  She was still thanking God for sparing his life. “Is this why you feel guilty?”

“Yes.  I keep asking myself over and over why God didn’t take me instead of Alan.  Why did He let me live?”

“It is because He loves you.”

“He loves me?” he exclaimed. “What about Alan?  Didn’t He love him too?”

“Yes, He did.”

“Then explain to me why He chose to let me live when He could have saved Alan instead?”

“God doesn’t always do what we expect,” she said. “He had His reasons for sparing your life.  Let me give you an illustration.  Let’s say that you have two children.  One is at home with you and the other is lost.  Which child would you be more concerned about–the one who is safe or the one who is lost?”

“The lost child, of course.”

“So, if you are more concerned about the lost child, does this mean that you love that child more than the other?”

He shook his head. “No.  I would do the same thing for the other child if he were lost too.”

“Exactly! It’s the same thing with Alan and you.  God didn’t spare your life because He loved you more than Alan.  Alan was already saved but God spared you in order to save you,”

“But, I’m a sinner.”

“We’re all sinners but the Bible teaches that God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

“How could God still love me after some of the things I’ve done and the way I’ve treated Him?”

“God is not like us. He loves us in spite of how we are.  His love is unconditional.  He doesn’t stop loving us when we do bad things or turn away from Him.  He keeps reaching out to us like the shepherd who went to find the lost sheep, the woman who searched the house until she found the lost coin or the father who ran to meet his lost son when he saw him coming home because he was so overjoyed to see him.  Jesus said that’s how God feels about the lost.  He rejoices when He finds them.”

“So, what should I do now?” he asked.

“First, you need to thank God for sparing your life so that you have the opportunity to get to know him. This act of mercy and grace demonstrate the loving nature towards us.  He doesn’t want you to die without making a conscious decision to know Him.  In realizing that God saved in your life, I hope that you will see now His love for you and that He wants you to spend time with in a Father and son relationship.”

“One of my favorite scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11 which says, ‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.’ God promised that when you call on Him and pray to Him, He will listen to you.”

“Thank you, Claudine,” he said quietly. “I really appreciate you being here and helping me to understand things that don’t make any sense to me.”

She smiled.  “That’s what friends are for.”

They finished eating and after he paid the bill, he asked, “Are you seeing anyone?”

She shook her head.  “No.” I want to be with you.

It would kill me if you were seeing someone.  “Do you need a lift anywhere?”

“A ride to the subway would be great,” she said.  “I’m going to the nursing home to visit my father.”

“How is he doing?”

“He’s doing all right.  His mind is still very active and alert it’s just his body is worn out.  I still haven’t gotten used to seeing him in a wheelchair.”

“Why is he in a wheelchair?”

“He suffers from intense episodes of Asthma.”  She wrapped the scarf around her neck before pulling on her coat.  She got up from the table and followed him out of the diner as he dragged on his jacket.  She squinted as they stepped into the bright sunshine.  It was a lovely day. They walked to where his car was parked and after he held the door open for her to get in, he slid behind the wheel.  He turned on the radio and classical music played.

“I have a cousin who suffered from asthma since she was a child.  I read somewhere that, Once you have asthma, you have it for life. You might not always be symptomatic. You might have it as a kid and grow out of it. But it may revisit at some point, usually when you have a stress in your life.  Have you ever seen your father have one of his attacks?”

“Yes, more than once and each time it was very scary.  It made me realize how we can take something as such as breathing normally for granted.  But, my Dad is a trooper.  He doesn’t let his bout with asthma get him down.  He’s one of the most upbeat people I know and he always says that God is good to him, one breath at a time.”

“Your father is a very wise man.  I like him.”

“He likes you too,” she said.  “Whenever I visit him, he asks about you.”

“Please say hello to him for me.”

“I will.  Maybe the next time I visit him you can come with me.”

“I’d like that.”

They reached the subway and he pulled over to the side of the road.  He got out and walked around to open the door for her.  As she got out, she stumbled and he moved quickly to steady her.  His hands were on her waist and they were standing very close.  She raised her eyes to look at him and he looked down at her.  For several minutes they stood there looking at each other, their bodies inches apart.  She wondered if he could hear how fast her heart was beating and he wondered what she would say if she knew how badly he wanted to kiss her at that moment.  He released her and stepped aside for her to step on to the curb.

“Thanks for the ride,” she said quietly.  “I’ll call you during the week.”

“Thanks again for having lunch with me and your advice.  I really appreciate it.”

“You’re welcome, Duke.”  She hesitated for a split second and then she reached up and kissed him on the cheek.  He closed his eyes as he felt an intense longing surge through his body and it took all of his will power not to turn his head so that their lips touched.  When she drew back, his eyes were dark and smoldering.  She felt her body respond and turning, she quickly walked away.  He watched her go before he got back into the car and drove off.

All the way to the nursing home, Claudine thought about that unguarded moment between Duke and her.  For the first time since they have known each other, she saw clearly that he was attracted to her too.  She saw the desire she felt shining in his eyes.  Since they met, she had known that she loved him and had prayed that they would end up together.  Was God beginning to answer her prayers?

Her father was in his room when she got to the nursing home and he grinned when he saw her.  “Hello, sunshine.”

She smiled and went over to hug and kiss him.  “Hello, Dad.  How are you feeling?”

“I feel great.  What about you.  How are you doing?”

“I’m fine.  I had lunch with Duke.”

“How’s that young man doing?” She told him about their conversation.  “It sounds like he’s suffering from survivor’s guilt.”

“Yes.  I told him that he has nothing to feel guilty about.”

“Where’s he now?  Why didn’t you bring him with you?”

“He has stuff to do, I guess.  However, I invited him to come with me the next time I visit.”

“Good.  Take off your coat and sit down.”

She removed her coat and draped it over a chair and placed her scarf on top before settling down in a chair by the window.  The room looked bright and cheerful with lots of natural light.    “Have you gone for a walk as yet?” she asked.  “It’s beautiful outside.”

He shook his head.  “Not yet.  I’m watching Premier League football.  Manchester United and Arsenal are playing.”

Claudine shook her head, smiling.  Her father was a football fanatic.  He could sit there and watch it all day if it were possible.  “All right, finish watching your game and then, you and I will go for a walk and sit outside in the garden for a while.  A bit of fresh air will do you a lot of good.”

“Claudine, you’re worried about Duke, aren’t you?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“Don’t because God is going to sort him out and after He’s through sorting him out, you can tell him that you love him.”

She looked at him in astonishment.  “But, how did you–?”

“Guess that you’re in love with Duke?  It’s written all over your face every time you talk about him.  These eyes don’t miss anything.  I like Duke but he’s not the right man for you yet but he will be when God is through with him.”  Shouting on the television caught his attention and he watched as they showed a replay of Manchester United scoring its second goal.

Claudine sat there, trying to make sense of what her father just told her.  His words gave her hope.  Duke was the man for her and when the time was right, they would be together with God’s blessing.  Tears sprang to her eyes and she quickly blinked them back.  Thank You, God for answering my prayers.  And thank You for taking care of Duke.

For the rest of the afternoon, Duke couldn’t stop thinking about Claudine and what almost happened between them outside the subway station.  And that night before he went to bed, he got down on his knees and prayed.

Lord, today when Claudine kissed me on the cheek, I wanted so much to show her how much I love her.  I’ve loved her for eight years.  I knew from the moment we met that she was the right woman for me although I knew that I wasn’t the right man for her.  I’ve asked you to remove the love I have for her from my heart but it just keeps growing stronger.  I tried to get her out of my system by having an affair with Heather who was separated from John at the time.  I know what I did was wrong but I wasn’t thinking at the time.  I was hurting because I couldn’t be with the woman I loved.  It was sheer torture loving someone I couldn’t have because I was wrong for her. Even now it’s hard to be around her knowing that I could never be more than friends with her.  Lord, please help me.  Please help me to get over her.

He remained there beside the bed on his knees for a while longer, in the quietness of the room, waiting.  Before you could be the right man for Claudine, you need have a right relationship with Me. The words filled him with hope.  He could be with Claudine but first, he had to make things right with God.  He had to put his relationship with God first.

The following morning he got an email from Claudine.  It read, Hi, Duke,

I found two links that I thought may be very helpful to you. The first is about God’s Pursuit of Man and the second is about having a personal relationship with God.  God longs to have a loving relationship with you.  James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  God promised in Jeremiah 29:13 that when you seek Him you will find Him when you search for Him with all your heart.  I pray that when you come to know God, you will see how valued you are in His sight and the guilt you feel about surviving the boat accident will be resolved.  I’ll be in touch.  Blessings, Claudine.

He replied to her email and then clicked on the first link.  Eagerly, he read it and by the time he was finished, he was in tears.  After he opened and read the second link, he turned off the laptop and got ready for work.  As he showered and got dressed, he would follow the six simple steps Alan once shared with him on how to build a relationship with God:

  1. Take the time to touch bases with God
  2. Invite Him to come close
  3. Talk
  4. Listen
  5. Make contact throughout your day
  6. Take action when you hear God’s voice

The next several weeks, he spent time reading the Bible, praying and reflecting.  When Claudine invited him to go to church with her one Sunday, he readily accepted her invitation.  From the moment he walked through the doors, he knew that this was the church he wanted to be a part of.  The love and warmth of the parishioners filled his heart with such comfort and joy that it brought tears to his eyes.  It wasn’t long before he got baptized.  Doreen and the children were there.  After the service, she hugged Duke and said, tearfully, “Alan would have been so proud.”

That evening, Claudine and he went out for dinner at one of his favorite restaurants.

“So how does it feel to be part of a church family?” she asked, smiling across the table at him.

He beamed.  “It feels wonderful,” he said.  “Now I understand why Alan loved the church community so much.”

“It was good to see Doreen and the kids.”

“She told me that Alan would have been proud.”

“Yes, he would have been.  His brother was lost and now he’s found.”

He reached over and covered her hand.  “I owe this all to you too,” he said quietly.  “I’m who I am and where I am now because of you.  Thank you for pushing me gently toward God.”

“You’re welcome.  I’m so thankful that things have worked out the way they have.”

“There’s one more thing.”  His expression was tense now.  “I have something to tell you.  It’s something that has been on my mind for a very long time but now is the right time to tell you.”

Frowning, she asked, “What is it you want to tell me?”

Taking a deep breath, he said, “I love you, Claudine.  I’ve loved you since the first time we met but I never told you because I didn’t believe that I was the right man for you.”

Heart racing, Claudine looked him straight in the face and replied, “I love you too, Duke.  I’ve loved since the first time I saw you.  My Dad was right.  That day when I visited him after you and I met for lunch, he said that you weren’t the right man for me yet but that when God was through with you, you will be.”

“Wow, that’s profound.”

“That had to be God revealing His plan to him to encourage me because I’d been praying and it seemed like God wasn’t answering or taking a long time to.”

“So, now that we know that we’re right for each other, I don’t want to waste any more time.”  He reached into his pocket and produced a small black box.  Then, he got up from the table and walked around to where she was and got down on one knee.  He opened the box, took out the ring and asked, “Claudine Bradshaw, will you marry me?”

Laughing and conscious of eyes on them, she nodded.  “Yes, I will marry you, Duke Addington.”  Through tears, she saw him slip the exquisite ring with its single heart shaped diamond on her finger before he reached up and kissed her.

Amidst the applause, he rose to his feet and went back to his seat, grinning broadly.  He raised his mock-tail and said, “To us.”

After dabbing her eyes with the napkin, she raised her glass. “To us.  And to God be the glory.”

 

 

Sources:  Our Daily Bread; Karman Healthcare; Yearning Hearts; Wise Old Sayings; Heart Spoken;

Three Days, Three Quotes Challenge: Day 1 (9th April)

First, I would like to thank Aieshi for nominating me for the Quotes Challenge.  It was greatly appreciated 🙂

Helen-Keller-Quotes-1

 

Here are the Rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you

2. Post a quote for three consecutive days (1 quote for each day).

3. Nominate three bloggers each day.

 

My nominations for today are:

  1. Life Lessons
  2. The Lonely Author
  3. In A World Like This

 

The Moors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Very good.  Let’s go, then.”

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

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

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

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

“Don’t you like living in the city?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Will you stay for dinner?” he asked.

“I wasn’t planning to–”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What about Heathcliff?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But it’s still raining.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dad?  Are you still there?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t quite know how to say this,”

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

“Dana, we have to end our relationship.”

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

“I’m too old for you.”

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

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

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

“Yes.  I don’t want to hurt him.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dad, are you all right?” he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Soho

Lord Nelson Hadley always prided himself in being a man in control of his faculties. He was more analytical than emotional when it came to the affairs of the heart.  And being ultra conservative, he was staunch in his stance against abortion, premarital sex, same sex marriage, drug use and other practices that were contrary to his religious and moral beliefs.  He was never married.  Marriage was something which he held in very high regard and he wanted to get it right because he didn’t want to end up divorced like some of his friends.  He wanted to take his time and make sure that he married the right woman.

Over the years, he dated several high society women. Currently, he was dating Agatha Sullivan, the youngest daughter of Ted Sullivan, retired Supreme Court Judge.  Agatha was a beautiful, accomplished woman and a philanthropist.  They met at a charity ball two years ago.  She shared his faith and his political views.  He enjoyed her company and cared deeply for her.  His family and close friends highly regarded her and thought she would make him a very suitable wife.  He began to seriously and prayerfully consider marrying her.  And then, he met Regina Davis…

Their meeting reminded him of David’s and Bathsheba.  Like David, he was where he shouldn’t have been.  It was around noon and he was hungry.  He was in the mood for spicy food so he decided that he would go to a familiar Caribbean restaurant in Soho.  Besides, it was a nice change from the upscale establishments he frequently went to where the food was sometimes bland.

He didn’t notice her until after he had given his order to the waitress.  After closing the menu, he glanced up and his gaze fell on her.  She was sitting two tables away, alone and she looking at him.  She wasn’t the sort of woman he would be attracted to although, she was attractive.  Perhaps it was the excess makeup or the fact that she was wearing too much jewelry.  Yet, he couldn’t tear his eyes away.  He was like a moth drawn to a flame.

They stared at each other for a long time and when the waitress came and placed the plate in front of him, he barely glanced up at her.  He didn’t touch his food right away.  He found himself wondering who the woman at the table was and for a maddening moment was tempted to invite her to join him.  Then, she smiled at him and his heart skipped a beat.  Without thinking, he smiled back.

His response seemed to be all the encouragement she needed and his heart began to pound when he saw her get up from her table and walk over to him.  She was wearing a blue long sleeved sweater which hugged her and a pair of faded jeans which fitted her snugly.  She was medium height and looked to be in her late thirties.  She stood behind the chair opposite him, her manicured hands resting on the back.  She seemed a bit nervous and cleared her throat.

“Lord Hadley, I’m sorry that I was staring at you,” she said.  “It’s just that I went to a fundraising event last week with a friend and saw you there with Agatha Sullivan.  I wanted to come over and thank you both for your generous donations to the Olive Davis Community Center but something came up and I had to leave.”

This close, she was even more arresting and he found it hard to stop staring.  “Do you work at the Olive Davis Community Center?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I’m the Director.  The center was founded by my grandmother Olive Davis who wanted to help the youth to stay off the streets.”

“What’s your name?”

“Regina Davis.”

He saw that she wasn’t married.  “It’s nice to meet you, Regina,” he said, holding out his hand.  She moved around the chair and closer to him so that she could shake his hand.  Her hand felt so soft and very small in his.  “The Olive Davis Community Center is doing excellent work in the community and we wanted to show our support.”  Am I sounding like a politician?

“Please thank Miss Sullivan for me.”

“I will,” he promised.

She hesitated and then said, “Well, let me not take up any more of your time.”

“I would like to stop by your center some time,” he heard himself say and he knew that the reason for deciding to drop by had nothing to do with the center itself.  He was just using it as an excuse to see her again.

She smiled.  “That would be great,” she said and reaching into her handbag, she took out a business card which she handed to him.   “Here’s my card.  Call me when you plan to stop by.”

He took it and put it in the breast pocket of his jacket.  “Thank you,” he said, his eyes meeting hers.  He wanted to ask her to stay but decided that it would be unwise to do so.

“Goodbye, Lord Hadley,” she said.  After a lingering glance, she turned and walked out of the restaurant.

He sat there for a long time, watching the door through which she had left and feeling like a heel because all he could think about was how badly he wanted to see her again.  By the time he left the restaurant he had made up his mind that he would stop by the community center the following week.

On Monday morning, when he called her to let her know that he was going to stop by on Wednesday afternoon, she sounded very pleased to hear from him.  The sound of her voice did things to him and he wondered if he sounded as breathless as he felt.  His heart was racing and his hand gripped the phone tightly to stop it from trembling.  What on earth is the matter with me? he asked himself after he hung up.  He was acting like this over a woman he met just last week when he was contemplating marrying another.  Perhaps, he should call her back and tell her that he couldn’t go but the desire to see her again was too strong.

Wednesday came and he was both nervous and excited.  He keep looking at his watch.  When it was time to leave, he quickly shut down his laptop, got up, pulled on his jacket and left the office.  On the drive over, he kept asking himself why he hadn’t mentioned to Agatha that he was going there today.  He had conveyed Regina’s message to her but left out the part about stopping by the center.

Regina was waiting in the reception area when he got there and a bright smile came over her face as she quickly closed the distance between them to greet and shake his hand.  She looked lovely in a cream pantsuit which flattered her figure and he noticed that she wasn’t wearing that much makeup or jewelry.  “It’s so good of you to come,” she said, after introducing him to Jasmine, the receptionist and they were walking down the hallway to begin the tour which she had promised him over the phone.

“I’m sorry that I didn’t think of it before.”  That was true.  He remembered how Agatha had mentioned visiting the center to get a better perspective of how it was operated and to meet the staff and maybe some of the youth whom they were helping but they never got around to it due to conflicting schedules.  Again, he felt guilty about not arranging for a convenient day and time for them to come together.  Pushing these feelings aside, he concentrated on what Regina was telling him about the center and the different programs.

“We offer services to women, children, youth, immigrants and the homeless.  We have programs for teenage mothers, at risk youth, parenting workshops, health and cooking programs.  Last year we launched a food bank which helps people from all ethnic and educational backgrounds and low in-come families.  My grandmother, Olive, believed strongly in helping people from all walks of life, especially the vulnerable, needy and faceless in our communities.  She was a God-fearing woman who was determined to show God’s love to everyone, no matter who they were.  She always said, ‘Love is not about feeling, it is about doing.  Jesus was always doing’.  I thought that was a great saying to put as part of our mission statement.”

“I think your grandmother would be proud of the work you are doing,” he said, genuinely impressed by what he saw and it made him want to do more.

She smiled.  “Thank you.  This center means a great deal to me because not only is it here to help many people and to make a difference in their lives but it keeps my grandmother’s dream alive.”

When the tour was over, they went to her office where they spent a little while longer talking about the center.  “I was wondering if you would be willing to come and make a presentation to my church one Saturday.  It may encourage members to get involved.”

“I’d love to,” she said.  “Just let me know when.”

“Thank you.”  He stood up.  “I must be going.”

She followed him to the entrance.  “Thank you again for coming, Lord Hadley.”

They were alone.  The receptionist had left for the day.  “Please call me Nelson,” he said quietly.  Heart thudding, he asked, “Will you have dinner with me tomorrow evening at that restaurant where we met?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  I could meet you there, if you like, because I live about ten minutes away.”

“All right,” he agreed.  “I will be there for seven.  Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

The next evening when she got there five minutes before seven, he was there sitting at the same table as the last time.  He rose to his feet and held out the chair for her to sit.  His eyes traveled over her, admiration shimmering in their depths.  She was wearing a red long sleeved dress and heavy makeup.  Big, gold earrings dangled from her ears and this time, her nails were painted bright red.  He was wearing a charcoal grey suit, matching tie and black shirt.  After they ordered dinner, she asked, “Are you a Seventh-day Adventist?”

“Yes.”

“I asked because you mentioned that your church service was on a Saturday.  My grandmother, Olive was a Seventh-day Adventist.  As you can tell, I’m not one.”

“You are referring to the makeup and the jewelry.”

“Yes.  If I were to show up at your church like this, they would probably run me out.  With the exception of my grandmother, I always thought that Adventists were intolerant and judgmental.”

“Most of us may come across that way because we are passionate about the Bible and its application in our lives.” Right now if one of the members were to see me with you they would have a conniption.  Agatha had gone to church with him on a couple of occasions and they welcomed her but he suspected that it was because of her Adventist background.

“When I come to your church I will be makeup and jewelry free, I promise.”

“Thank you.” He turned the topic on to other things.  Dinner turned out to be a very pleasant experience and he was sorry when it was over.  He took her home and walked her to her door.  Outside, they faced each other.  His heart was pounding wildly against his ribs.

“Wouldn’t you like to come in?” she asked.

“I shouldn’t,” he said weakly.  His mind yelled, Run but his body was screaming, Stay.

She turned and unlocked the door and pushed it open.  “Just for a nightcap,” she said.

Temptation cast itself like a net over him and drew him into the flat.  When the door closed, he knew he was in deep trouble.  Desire seized him in an iron grip and blindly, he reached for her and pulled her roughly against him.  His mouth found hers and devoured it like a ravenous lion, pressing her up against the door, groaning when he felt her eager response.  Hands tugged at clothes until they were discarded on the ground by their feet, nails clawed at bare skin as they moved like two drunken people toward the hearth where a cream shaggy rug was spread.  There, in front of the electric fireplace, they made wild and passionate love, beginning what was to be a torrid love affair.

They saw each other as often as it was possible and spent most of their time at Regina’s flat.  They went out occasionally and were careful to avoid the places where they might run into familiar faces.  The only place they frequented was the Caribbean restaurant in Soho.  It became their favorite haunt because it was where they met.

On the Saturday when she was invited to speak at his church, they were careful not to give themselves away, always acting circumspect around each other, especially since Agatha was there.  After the service, as Nelson watched the two women chatting over potluck in the church basement, he couldn’t help comparing them.  As usual, Agatha looked regal in her lime green suit with matching hat, shoes and purse.  She was a very beautiful woman with thick chestnut hair and bright blue eyes yet it wasn’t she who make his heart skip a beat whenever he was around her.  His gaze shifted to Regina.

She was wearing a below the knee black and white dress with long sleeves.  Her face was devoid of any makeup and she was not wearing any jewelry.  She had kept her promise.  She looked incredible.  He had to be careful not to be caught staring at her.  After the afternoon program, she left.  That evening, he went to her flat and didn’t go back home until the following afternoon.

It wasn’t long before his affair with Regina began to affect other areas in his life.  He found it difficult to concentrate on his work and when he was in sessions, he found himself thinking about her.  When he was with Agatha, he was distracted and when she inquired about it, he was evasive and said that he had a lot of things on his mind but assured her that it was nothing for her to be concerned about.  Whenever he read his Bible and came across passages talking about fornication, he was filled with conviction.

Finally, it was yesterday when he had resolved, I must end my relationship with Regina.  With a set expression on his face, he had closed the Bible and gotten up from behind the desk in his study and left the room, determined to push all feelings aside and do what his faith and conscience dictated.

He had gone over to her flat, with every intention of ending their affair but when she opened the door, pulled him inside and pushed him up against the door, after slamming it shut, his resolve weakened.  He blushed now as he remembered how she had dragged off his jacket, tossed it on the floor before ripping open his expensive white shirt, sending the buttons flying.  His body reacted when he remembered how she had buried her face in his heaving chest even as her fingers loosened his belt.

They had ended up making passionate love right there on the rug in front of the door. All the reasons he had come up with for ending things between them went straight out of the window.  His mind and senses were dulled by the desires which consumed him. The guilt of his hypocrisy and his duplicity which had plagued him all the way to Regina’s flat that evening had taken flight in the face of his insatiable hunger for her.  He spent the night with her.

He came home a couple of hours ago after another one of their explosive trysts.  Now that he was alone, all the guilt and self-recrimination came flooding back and he sank down on the bed, burying his face in his hands.  And to make matters worse, he didn’t even remember that Agatha and he were supposed to attend the opera that evening.  If she hadn’t called an hour ago, he would have stood her up.  He spent all day, trying to figure out what to do.  Regina was like a drug that he was addicted to.  He wanted more and more of her.  The carnal feelings she aroused in him were terrifying and foreign to him.  In all of his forty-two years, he had never felt like this about any woman.

That evening as he got dressed, he couldn’t stop thinking about Regina and as he buttoned his shirt, he thought of the shirt he had to discard because she had ripped off the buttons.  He closed his eyes briefly as an intense longing filled him, making him whisper her name as he remembered the rapt expression on her face as he made love to her that morning.  Frustrated, his eyes flew open.  Get a hold of yourself, Nelson, he chided himself.  Dragging on his jacket, he left the bedroom.  He had no idea how he was going to get through the night being in the company of one woman while thinking of the other.

Regina sat on the sofa, an opened book on her lap but she wasn’t reading it.  She couldn’t concentrate.  All she could think about was Nelson.  They were worlds apart and moved within different circles.  He was a Lord and in a relationship with a cultured woman.  There was no question that one of these days they were probably going to get married.

Regina closed her eyes at the thought and painful jealousy filled her.  She had no doubt that Nelson wanted her.  It was evident whenever they were together but she wished that he felt more than desire for her.  I wish he were in love with me like I’m in love with him.

She opened her eyes and tossed the book aside, rising to her feet.  She had to face facts.  There was no future for her with Nelson.  The only option was end their affair.  She couldn’t continue sharing him with Agatha, dreading the day when he would announce their engagement.  Still, the thought of never seeing him again was just too unbearable for her.

Tears sprang to her eyes.  She felt helpless–trapped.  Why did I have to be in the restaurant that day when he came in?  Why did I have to fall in love with him?  Why? Why? Why?  A sob escaped her lips and the tears fell.  Dear God, please help me, she begged silently.  Just then, the phone rang.  Brushing the tears away, she hurried to answer it.  “Hello?”

It was Andrew, her nephew.  He was in the area and wondered if she would like to go to the movies and then grab a bite afterwards.  She readily accepted his invitation.  It would take her mind off her problems and it would be nice to catch up since it had been a while since they saw each other.  After she hung up, she showered, got dressed and left to meet him in the lobby.

It was while they were sitting at a traffic stop when Nelson spotted Regina coming out of the cinema with a tall, athletic young man.  He watched as she looked up at him and laughed when he said something before she slipped her arm through his as they started down the sidewalk.  Nelson’s face suffused with color.  Red, hot jealousy surged through him and he knew that if Agatha weren’t in the car with him, he would have jumped out and gone after them.  He wouldn’t have cared who saw him.  He sank back against the seat, his head spinning.

“What’s the matter?” Agatha asked, touching his arm, making him start.  When he turned to look at her, there was concerned expression on her face.  “All you all right?”

He stared at her for a long moment, trying to figure out what to do.  Should he be honest with her and tell her that he was upset because he had just seen Regina with someone else?  And what would he say if she asked him why seeing the Director of Olive Community Center with another man should matter to him?  Or should he just tell her that he wasn’t feeling well?  How could he do that when he knew that for weeks she had been looking forward to seeing Verdi’s opera, Un Ballo in Maschera?  He didn’t want to ruin her plans.  “I’ll be okay,” he finally said, with a forced smile before he turned away to stare out of the window.

It was after eight by the time Regina let herself into the flat.  She put her keys on the table in the foyer before heading straight for the sofa where she plopped herself down.  She reached for the remote and switched on the television.  It was nice going to the movies with Andrew, grabbing pizza afterwards but she couldn’t stop thinking about Nelson.  I wonder what he’s doing right now.  The flat seemed lonely without him.  She hugged the cushion tightly, wishing he were there with her.

Finally, the opera was over and it was time to leave.  He had no idea how he sat through it when all he wanted to do was leave and head over to Regina’s flat.  During intermission, he had excused himself and gone toward the bathroom but instead of going inside, he went somewhere quiet to call her.  There was no answer and when he tried her cell, it was turned off.  Frustrated, he dragged his fingers through his hair, wondering where she was.  He returned to the balcony and sat down just as the lights dimmed.

Now as he sat in the car as it merged into traffic, heading to the Sullivan estate, he thought, she should be home by now.  Is she alone or is he there with her?  Unable to stand it any longer, he turned to Agatha, “Agatha, I have a confession to make…”

Regina woke up with a start.  Somehow, she must have dozed off.  Sitting up, she was about to turn off the television when she heard the doorbell.  Scrambling off the sofa, she rushed to answer it.  It was after ten.  Peering through the keyhole, her heart skipped a beat when she saw who it was.  Eagerly, she unlocked the door and flung it open.  The smile that lit up her face faded when she saw the expression on his.

Stepping aside, she let him go in before locking the door and turning to face him.  “Don’t I get a hug or a kiss?” she asked, longing to put her arms around him and kiss him.  He looked very handsome in the black silk suit, matching tie and white shirt.

“I called you earlier but there wasn’t any answer.  I tried your cell phone but it was turned off.”

She frowned.  “What time did you call?”

“I called during the intermission which was around five minutes past seven.”

“Intermission?” she inquired.

“Yes, I was at the opera.”  He was a walking contradiction of emotions.  Jealousy, anger and desire churned inside him.

She pursed her lips.  So that was where he was tonight and it explained why he was all dressed up.  “You went to the opera with Agatha.”

“Yes.  Regina–”

“Did she enjoy it?”

“I’m sure she did.”

“What about you?”

He almost lost it.  “No, I didn’t enjoy it,” he muttered tightly, his eyes dark and stormy.  “And do you want to know why I didn’t enjoy it?”

She looked wary now.  “Why?” she asked in a small voice.

“Because of you.  Are you seeing someone else?” he demanded thickly, almost beside himself with jealousy.

She stared at him, her eyes wide.  “Of course not,” she said, shaking her head.

“Then who was the young man I saw you leaving the cinema with this afternoon?  I saw the two of you when Agatha and I were on our way to the opera.”

“That was Andrew.  He’s my nephew.”

“Your nephew?” he repeated.  “That young man I saw you walking down the sidewalk arm in arm was your nephew?”

“Yes!”  She turned and abruptly walked away, returning a few minutes later with a framed photograph.  She showed it to him.  It was of her, another woman and the young man.  “That’s his mother, Beryl, my older sister when we were at our parents’ home in Florida last year Christmas.”

He closed his eyes, slumping against the door as relief washed over him.  “I was out of my mind with jealousy when I saw you with him,” he told her.  “If Agatha weren’t with me, I would have jumped out of the car and come after you.”

Regina put the photo on the table besides her keys and then she reached up and slowly unbuttoned his jacket.  “It seems like we both had a miserable night,” she said quietly.   “I was over there on the sofa wondering what you were doing and missing you like crazy and you were at the opera with Agatha thinking that I was cheating on you.”  His jacket was off and on the floor.  Next, she started on the buttons on his shirt.  He opened his eyes then and what was in them matched what she was feeling.

“I told Agatha about us,” he admitted, staring at her bent head.  “I couldn’t continue lying to her and to myself.  I ended our relationship tonight and then I came straight here.  I love you, Regina.  Seeing you with Andrew today only made me realize that I can’t be with anyone else.”

Her hands paused as she raised her eyes to his face.  “I love you too but what about your family and friends and your church?  What will they think about you being in love with a sinner?”

“We’re all sinners, Regina but the good news is that we have a Savior who loves us.”

“You know, when I was at your church, the members made me feel very welcome.  Do you think they would mind if I started going regularly?”

He shook his head.  “No, they wouldn’t mind at all.”

“Good.” She bent her head and resumed unfastening the buttons.  The shirt soon joined the jacket on the floor.  When he was standing half-naked before her, she reached up and pulled his head down to hers.  His arms went about her waist, holding her tightly against him as he kissed her back.

A year and a half later after she was baptized and became a member of his church,  they got married.  The service was held there and the reception at the Park Plaza County Hall and among the guests was the staff from the Caribbean restaurant where this all began.

“[Soho] is all things to all men, catering comprehensively for those needs which money can buy. You see it as you wish. An agreeable place to dine; a cosmopolitan village tucked away behind Piccadilly with its own mysterious village life, one of the best shopping centres for food in London, the nastiest and most sordid nursery of crime in Europe. Even the travel journalists, obsessed by its ambiguities, can’t make up their minds.” ― P.D. James, Unnatural Causes

For Nelson and Regina, Soho was everything to them because it was the place where they met and fell in love.

 

Sources:  Agincourt Community Services Association

The Autograph

He was walking down a busy street in downtown Manhattan, heading back to his hotel room when he saw her.  She was coming toward him–a very pretty girl in a white jacket over a black top and blue jeans.  He wasn’t looking for anything because he was already in a relationship which he was having serious misgivings about, especially now that Claudia was pressuring him to get married.  The last thing he wanted was to be distracted by another woman.

Yet, as they approached each other, he couldn’t look away.  She was staring at him too and that thrilled him.  Since Claudia and he began dating four years ago, he had never once looked at another woman until now…His heart thudded as they got closer to each other and as they passed each other, she looked right up at him.  He was tempted to look back but continued walking.

“Excuse me,” she called and he stopped.  When he turned around, she went closer, her eyes searching his face.  “Aren’t you Bernard Forbes, the British stage and independent film actor?”

He nodded.  “Yes, I am.”

She smiled broadly, her eyes bright with excitement.  “I’m a big fan of yours,” she told him.  “I have seen all of your films.  And last month when I was in London, I went to see you in the latest stage production of Macbeth.  It was the only reason I visited England.  I wanted to go backstage and get your autograph but my aunt was in a hurry to leave.”

“I’m flattered that you went all the way to London just to see me in a play.  The least I can do is to give you my autograph for your trouble.”

“It just so happens, I have the program with me.  This is the handbag I had with me when I went to see the play.  I just never got around to taking it out and I’m happy I didn’t.”  She took it out along with a pen and handed them to him, her heart racing.  He was even more handsome in person and gracious too.  She couldn’t wait to call her aunt in London and tell her.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Kimani Jones.”

“Kimani.  What an unusual name,” he commented.  “What does it mean?”

“’Beautiful’ and ‘sweet’”, she replied.  “My mother saw it somewhere and decided that she would call me that.”

“It suits you,” he said, his eyes meeting hers in a steady gaze before he turned his attention to signing his autograph.  He wrote:  To: Kimani, my warmest regards and my very best to you always.  Bernard Forbes.  He handed the program back to her.

She read what he wrote.  “Thank you,” she gushed, beaming at him.  “I really appreciate this.

“It was my pleasure,” he said quietly.  “How come you’re not in school?”

“I’m on March break,” she said.  “And I’m in my third year at New York University.”

“Are you in a hurry to get somewhere?”

She shook her head.  “I was just window shopping.  Spring is around the corner so I was thinking of buying some new clothes.”

They were standing close to a café.  “Let’s move our conversation from the sidewalk to in there,” he suggested.  There wasn’t any harm in talking to one of his fans, was there?  She was a welcome change from the movie and theatre crowd and the people he usually associated with.  Besides, this was better than going back to his hotel room to brood over his relationship with Claudia.

She readily acquiesced and they went into the café.  He found a table at the back and by the window.  It was after ten o’clock so the place was almost empty save for a few people and aside from curious stares in his direction, no one bothered them.  After they ordered two hot chocolates, he leaned forward in his chair, arms on table and studied her.  “You mentioned that you’re in your third year in university.  What is your area of study?”

I can’t believe I’m sitting here having a conversation with Bernard Forbes.  “I’m studying Psychology.”

“Why Psychology?”

“I want to help people.”

“That’s commendable,” he said.  “I have a feeling that you will do very well in the field.”

“Thank you.”

“Have you always lived in New York?”

“Yes.  And I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

He asked her all sorts of questions about herself and in no time an hour had passed.  “Spend the rest of the day with me, Kimani,” he heard himself say.

“All right,” she said, thrilled.  And after he paid for the hot chocolates, they left the cafe and walked up the road where he hailed a cab.

They went to Central Park where they spent a fun afternoon.  They went up to the Belevdere Castle to check the temperature and to enjoy the panoramic view around them.  Afterwards, they visited the Conservatory Garden and watched people sail their boats at Conservatory Water before they grabbed lunch.  After lunch they went to see a puppet show at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre.  They ended the day at Bethesda Fountain where they each made a wish.

The sun was setting as they walked to the exit of the park.  He hailed a cab and she gave the driver her address.

“Thank you for an incredible day,” he told her when they were outside of her apartment building.  “I haven’t enjoyed myself so much in a very long time.”

She smiled.  “I had a wonderful time too.  I never knew there were so many fun things to do in Central Park.”  I hope we can see each other again.

“Kimani, I want to see you again.” This was madness but he couldn’t seem to get enough of her.  He had to see her again.   “Have dinner with me tomorrow night.”

“I’d like that,” she said.

“Good.  I’ll pick you up at seven.”  He took her hand and raised it to his lips, making her tremble.   “Have a good evening.”  He reluctantly released her hand and climbed back into the back of the cab.

Her flesh tingled.  “You too,” she replied breathlessly.  She wave at him before she turned and walked to the entrance of her building on rather shaky legs, her mind spinning.  She hoped this wasn’t all a dream.

Dinner was at the Empire State Building.  As soon as they walked in they were greeted with a smile before being shown to a table with a magnificent view.  Over Burrata and Shave Kale salads, Scottish Salmon and Roasted Farm Chicken and non-alcoholic wine, they talked about many different things.  She learned that Bernard began acting on stage when he was eleven at the encouragement of his father who used to be renown theatre actor himself.  His mother was an opera singer.  Both parents were still alive and living in the South of France.  They recently celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary.  He flew out for the occasion.  He was an only child like her.

“Do you ever wish that you had brothers or sisters?” she asked.

“Sometimes.  It would have been nice to have an older brother whom I could go to for relationship advice and the one I’d call instead of one of my parents when I got into trouble.  And of course, be each other’s best man at our weddings.”

“Yes, I wish I had an older sister that I could share secrets with whose closet I could raid when I didn’t have anything to wear and someone to hang out with whenever we are forced to attend a family get together and go shopping with.”

He smiled.  “And what would happen if you both ended up liking the same guy?” he teased.

“I would like to think that if the guy liked her instead of me, I would bow out gracefully.”

His expression grew serious.  “If I were that guy you would be the sister I liked.”

She smiled shyly at him.  “And if you had a brother, I would like you instead of him.”

“Kimani, I’m here in New York for a week.  Can I see you everyday until it’s time for me to fly back to London?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  I just have to figure where we can go that you haven’t already been.  I read on line that you have been to New York many times because it’s one of your favorite cities in the world after London and Paris.”

He looked intrigued.  “What else have you read about me?”

“That you like going to museums, for long walks, traveling, cooking, volunteering, you prefer theatre acting to film acting and prefer dating actresses.”

“I’m guilty of all of those things except the bit about my preference for actresses.  You’re not an actress, are you?”

She laughed.  “I was in drama class once in high school and I managed to get through it but I knew then and there that acting was not for me.”

“I love it,” he said simply.  “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

“What about when the opposite sex throw themselves at you?”

“Yes, that ‘s the part of my career which I truly dislike,” he agreed.  “but it has brought us together.”

“I never imagined that I would bump into you in the street or that when I asked you for your autograph we would end up spending the day together or having dinner.  I still can’t believe that this is really happening.  I’m afraid that this is all a very long and wonderful dream.”

He reached over and grasped her hand.  “This is no dream, Kimani,” he assured her, gently squeezing her fingers to make his point.  “I’m real, you’re real and what is happening between us is very real.”

She blinked, finding it hard to think with him holding her hand.  Just then, a couple approached their table.  They smiled apologetically before the woman said hesitantly, “I’m so sorry to disturb your dinner but know that my husband nor I wouldn’t be able to forgive me if I passed up this opportunity to get your autograph.  We saw you in Macbeth, Hamlet, Absent Night and Secrets in the Dream, your latest independent film.  We are huge fans.  Do you mind signing the front of this photo of my husband and me?” she handed it to him with a pen.   She smiled at Kimani.  “Sorry for the interruption.”

Kimani smiled.  “Don’t worry about it,” she said.  One of the things she had to get used to when being with him was having interruptions like this.

“What are your names?” Bernard asked the woman who was pretty and looked to be in her late thirties.

“Kevin and Angela.”

He scribbled something on the photo and gave it back to her with the pen.  “Have a good evening,” he said with a smile.

“Thank you so much,” she said, looking at the signed photo in appreciation before she put it in her bag.  “Enjoy the rest of your evening.”  She turned and walked away.

“Do you ever get used to people coming up to you wherever you go for your autograph?” she asked.

“Actually, I have gotten used to it but not tired of it.  I will always be happy to sign autographs long after I’ve retired from acting which wouldn’t be for a very long while.   I hope you didn’t mind.”

She shook her head.  “I didn’t.  She’s a fan just like me.  I can relate.”

He glanced at his watch.  “The night is still young.  Would you like to go for a carriage ride in Central Park?”

Her eyes brightened.  “Yes!”

His lips twitched and he signaled to the waitress.  Ten minutes later, they were on their way to Central Park.

The carriage ride was a remarkable and romantic experience.  The Park was transformed at night, a perfect escape from the bustle and noise of the city, making it easy for them to enjoy the spectacular views of the city skyline.  It was the perfect end to a perfect evening.  He took her home and they saw each other for the rest of the week going to the museum, the theatre, the movies, a gondola ride in Central Park, Atlantic City and Coney Island.

On Sunday afternoon, she went with him to the airport, sorry to see him go.  They faced each other general area before he went to the terminal where he would catch his plane.  He took her hands in his.  “I will be back in a week,” he promised.

She nodded and then reached up and hugged him tightly.  “I’ll see you in a week.”

He bent his head and kissed her.  It lasted for a few minutes and when they broke apart, his face was flushed.  “I’ll be back before you know it,” he said before he turned and walked away.  She watched him until he was out of sight before she left the airport, her heart heavy.

The day after he returned from New York, Bernard went to see Claudia.  She was expecting him.  She opened the door, dressed in a long black negligee leaning and her mouth raised for a kiss but after a light brush of his lips against her cheek, he walked past her and into the living-room.  There was a time, not so long ago, when he would have dragged that negligee off.  It was amazing how a man could look at the same woman who used to drive him wild with desire and feel nothing.

Frowning, she closed the door.  “Is something wrong?” she asked when she joined him and noted the expression on his face.

“Please sit down,” he said.  When she did, he sat beside her.  He took a deep breath.  “Claudia, I can’t marry you.”

She stared at him, her face going pale.  “Why not?” she asked.

He hesitated for a moment and then he confessed, “I don’t love you.”

“So, for the four years we have been together you never once loved me?”

He nodded, feeling awful.  “I cared about you, but I wasn’t in love with you.”

“Is that why every time I broached the subject of marriage you shut down?”

He nodded again.  “Yes.  When it comes to marriage, a person has to be very sure before taking that step.  And since I wasn’t sure about us, I couldn’t take that risk.  I went to New York to sort things out and I realized that what was troubling me from the very beginning were my feelings for you.  You loved me but I had to admit to myself that I didn’t love you.  Claudia, you deserve to be with a man who will love you back.  I’m not that man.  I’m sorry…”

She got up from the sofa and began to pace, her arms folded tightly as the enormity of what he was saying hit her.  Tears sprang in her eyes but she blinked them back.  “You came to this conclusion when you were in New York?”

“Yes.”

“Did you meet someone else while you were there, Bernard?”

He sighed, “Yes, but—”

“Is she the reason why you have now decided that you don’t want to be in a relationship with me anymore?”

“Before I met her, I was filled with so many doubts about you and me which I couldn’t shake off.  And being with her helped me to realize that it wouldn’t be fair to either you or me to continue our relationship when it would not lead to what you want—marriage.”

“So, who is she? Another actress or one of your adoring fans?”

He didn’t answer.  “Claudia, the last thing I wanted to do was hurt you but I have to be true to myself and I cannot in all honesty and good conscience, continue to be with you when I can’t give you what you want.  Marriage between us will not work.  I’m sorry.  I hope that in time you will see that I’m right.”  He got up from the sofa and would have gone over to her but the expression on her face deterred him.  “I’m sorry,” he said again.

“So, what are you going to do now that you’re no longer tied to me?” she demanded.  “Go back to New York to be with her?  Well, I hope for your sake that it works out but if it doesn’t don’t think you can come crawling back to me.  I won’t take you back even if you begged me—” her voice broke into a sob.

Contrite, he took a step toward her, “Claudia—”

She held up her hand, glaring at him.  “Bastardo.  Don’t come near me,” she cried.  “I want you to leave.”

He hesitated for a moment and then he turned and walked out of the room.  The last sound he heard was her crying before he closed the door behind him.

Kimani was relaxing on the sofa, reading a book when the doorbell rang.  Putting down her book, she quickly got up and went to answer the door.  Her heart somersaulted when she saw who it was.  Eagerly, she unlocked the door and flung it open, a big smile on her face.

“Do you have room for a weary traveler?”

“Yes, one in particular,” she said as she reached out and grasped by the hand to pull him inside before locking the door. After he set his luggage down on the floor, she hugged him tightly, closing her eyes as she felt his arms go about her waist, holding her close against him.  “I’ve missed you like crazy. One week seemed like a year.”

“I’ve missed you too,” he muttered thickly.  “I couldn’t wait to come back to you.” As soon as she drew back to look up at him, he kissed her.  They stood there for several minutes kissing passionately, happy to be together again and determined never to be apart again.  At length, he drew back to gaze down into her face.  “I have to talk to you about something,” he said quietly.

Frowning, she took his hand and led him over to the sofa.  She curled up on the cushion beside him, with one arm resting along the back of the chair and the other on his thigh.  “What’s on your mind?”

“When you and I met, I was already in a relationship.  When I came to New York, my only intention was to clear my head—figure out what I was going to do about my relationship because I was having so many doubts about it.  And then, I met you.  I tried so hard to fight my attraction for you but it was hopeless.  I had to get to know you better and that’s why I suggested we talk more in the café.  And that time we spent together wasn’t enough so I suggested that we spend the rest of the day together.  By the time we left Central Park, I knew that I was hooked.  I had to see you again.  Being with you made what could have been a complicated situation worse made it bearable.  Those hours I spent with you were the happiest and most relaxed I’ve ever had and it helped me to make up my mind about what I was going to do about my relationship.”

“I knew that you were dating someone,” she said.  “Remember, I’m a fan so I have read every article there is about you.  She’s Claudia Riaz, the beautiful Venezuelan actress who co-starred with you in The Stone of the Predator.  Everyone kept going on about what an attractive couple you made but I didn’t think so–for obvious reasons.  You dated her the longest–four years but there was no news about any engagement which I dreaded because I had developed such a crush on you.  No woman would have been suitable for you.”

“Is it still just a crush that you have on me?”

She shook her head.  “No, by the time I saw you in Macbeth, I had fallen madly in love with you.”

“I never believed in love at first sight until that morning when you stopped me on the sidewalk.”

“I’m glad I asked you for it.”

He reached out and caressed her cheek with his knuckles.  “And do you still think no woman would be suitable for me?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“What about you?”

“I’m the exception,” she said huskily.  “I think I’m very suitable for you.”

“Yes, you are,” he groaned and cupping her face between his hands, he kissed her.  As she kissed him back, she thought of what Walt Disney said, all our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.

 

 

Sources:  City Parks FoundationNYC Carriages; Ruggenberg; Very Well Mind

 

Love Stands No Doubts

Alisha stood at the window, looking out, her mind on what happened or almost happened between Fabian and her this afternoon in his office.  It was like any regular day or so she thought until she walked into his office.

She went over to his desk to leave some papers for him to check over before signing them when he glanced up from the laptop screen to stare at her.  The expression on his face was grim and she frowned, puzzled.  “I brought the documents for you to review in case there any changes you want to make before you sign them,” she explained.  It was hard to think straight with him staring at her like that.  She was transfixed by the most captivating feature in his handsome face–his eyes.  They were an usual shade of green.  They were almost transparent.  It was hard to describe them but they were stunning.

“When were you going to tell me?” he demanded, startling her.

“Tell you what?” So, she was the reason why he was in a foul mood.  She watched as he pushed back his chair and sprang to his feet, leaning over the desk with his palms flat against the hard surface.

“That you had lunch with Bob Ford last week.”

“But how did—?”

“Did I find out?  It doesn’t matter.  The fact is I found out…from someone else.  Why didn’t you tell me?”

She shifted from one foot to the other, feeling much like a child who was in trouble being scolded by a parent.  “Well, Bob called me and asked me to have lunch with him and–”

“Why did he want to have lunch with you?”

She fumbled for words, still not understanding why he seemed to have a problem with her having lunch with Bob.  “He wanted to catch up.  We haven’t seen each other since I left the company to come and work here.”

“Is that all he wanted to do?  Catch up?”

“What are you implying?” she asked.  She was beginning to resent his interrogation.  Whom she had lunch with shouldn’t concern him.  He was her boss not her boyfriend, although she wouldn’t object to him being the latter.  She wondered what he would say if he knew how she felt about him.  At lunch, she had confided in Bob who advised her not to act until she was absolutely sure that Fabien felt the same way.  And to be quite honest she wasn’t sure.  She had seen the way he looked at her sometimes but she always chalked it up to wishful thinking.  And now, she wasn’t sure why he was acting this way over her and Bob.

“You and he were once in a relationship.”

“I know but–”

“What would you do if he wanted to resume your relationship?” he moved around the desk so that he was standing close to her.  His eyes were dark as they stared down into her upturned face.  “Would you take him back?”

She swallowed hard, her heart racing now.  Suddenly the atmosphere in the office had changed.  It was palpable with raw sexual tension.  Was that her breathing or his that she was hearing?  Her eyes were trapped in a steady, penetrating stare with his.  She shook her head and her voice was barely above a whisper when she answered, “No, I–I wouldn’t.”

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because–because I don’t want to be with him.”  It had gotten so difficult to breath.  Her heart was pounding wildly against her ribs and her legs felt weak.  Her eyes dropped to his mouth and her lips parted with intense longing.

He made a move toward her, his eyes darkening with desire when the phone rang.  The shrill peal jarred their ears and senses, ruining the moment.  Dragging his fingers through his hair, he turned and walked back around the back of the desk to answer the phone.  She turned and walk unsteadily out of the room.  Instead of going straight back to her desk, she went to the bathroom where she tried to compose herself.

If the phone hadn’t rung when it did…she closed her eyes, trembling as she remembered the look on his face.  He wanted her.  The realization thrilled her.  The desire that raged inside her was on his face.  And it explained why he was so bent out of shape about her lunch with Bob.  For some reason he thought that Bob wanted to get back together with her and that she would take him back.

While it was true that soon after they broke up that Bob wanted to reconcile, she had refused.  She cared for him but she didn’t love him.  All she wanted from him was friendship, nothing more.   Besides, she was in love with Fabian.  She fell in love with him the very moment when she first met him.  When she confided this to Bob at lunch today, he seemed a bit wistful but her happiness, even if it were with someone, was all that mattered to him.  When they parted, he wished her all the best and hoped that things worked out between Fabian and her.

Ten minutes later, she went back to her desk and had just sat down behind the computer when Fabian came out his office, closed the door behind him and went over to her.  She noticed that he had his briefcase with him which told her that he was leaving.  “I have a meeting at the head office and won’t be back to the office.  Call me on my cell if there is an emergency.”  He was all business again.

She nodded.  “See you tomorrow.”

“See you in the morning,” he replied before he turned and walked briskly away.

She watched him go until he disappeared around the corridor before turning her attention to the computer screen.  For the remainder of the afternoon, she buried herself in her work, trying not to think about what almost happened between.  She would have plenty of time to do so later when she was alone in her flat.

And here she was, hours later, at home, looking out of the window, reliving the moment in Fabian’s office and wishing that they hadn’t been interrupted.  In the distance, she heard Big Ben strike the hour of eight.  It was still very bright.  The sun wouldn’t set until around nine.  Was he at home now? she wondered.  Suddenly, the idea of stopping by his place occurred to her and her heart began to thud with nervous excitement.  Moving away from the window, she rushed into the bathroom, stripped and took a quick, hot shower, got dressed in a yellow top and denim skirt.  Since she would be walking in sand to get to his house which overlooked the beach, she donned a pair of canvas shoes, grabbed her handbag and left.

As she drove, she wondered if he would be pleased to see her.  She hoped so.  She hoped that what almost happened between them today was the beginning of what could be an exciting relationship.  Twenty minutes later, she was walking up the beach, gazing at the sea as it shimmered in the sunlight and the waves rolled onto the sand.  Unable to resist, she removed her shoes and smiled as her toes sank into the soft, wet sand.

Fabian was on the deck, looking out when he spotted her.  He stood there watching her for several minutes, his heart racing.  All afternoon and evening he couldn’t stop thinking about her and how close he had come to kissing her.  If the confounded phone hadn’t rung, he would have taken her in his arms and shown her just how much he wanted her.  His body reacted now to the thought and pulling on the hoodie, he ran down the steps leading to the beach, anxious to reach her.

Alisha saw him coming and her heart began to beat faster and her footsteps quickened.  Soon they were facing each other at the water’s edge, standing inches apart, their eyes locked in a gaze.  “I had to come,” she told him.

“Why?” he asked, running his fingers through his hair when what he really wanted to do was take her in his arms.

“We have some unfinished business,” she told him huskily, dropping her shoes in the sand.

Groaning, he reached for her and pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp.  Her arms went round his neck as his mouth sought hers, ravishing it and she responded feverishly.   As they stood there, the water swirling about their feet, the sun began to set, casting a red and orange glow on them while a flock of birds flew against the backdrop.  Oblivious to the beauty of their surroundings, they continued to exchange passionate kisses.

When she broke off their kiss to bury her face in his bare chest, he hugged her tightly against him, breathing harshly, his eyes still closed.  “I love you, Alisha,” he muttered thickly.  “I’m sorry that I drilled you about Bob but I was so jealous.”

She raised her head to look up at him.  “There’s no reason for you to be jealous of him or anyone else,” she assured him.  “I love you.”

“I didn’t know how you felt about me until today in my office.  I saw what I was feeling inside written all over your face and that encouraged me.”

“Yes, for the first time since we have been working together, today was the first time I didn’t have any doubts about your feelings for me.”

“I once read a quote which says, Love stands no doubts.  Whatever doubts we had about each other, they were swept away today.”

“Then it was a good thing that I had lunch with Bob, after all,” she concluded.  “If I didn’t how much more time would have passed before you and I admitted how we feel about each other?”

“I would like to think that I would have worked up the courage to tell you without Bob’s help.”

She smiled and then cried out when he suddenly scooped her up in his arms.  He started toward the steps leading to his beach house.  “My shoes,” she protested, trying to struggle free so that she could go and get them.  But his grip tightened and she gave up after a while, putting both arms around his neck.

“They’ll be there in the morning,” he promised her.  “Besides, you won’t be needing them where we’re going.”