Love and Friendship

Russell Wong and Vonetta Willimans attended the same high school and the same university.  And now they were working at the same company.  Her friends teased her, “It seems like the two of you are destined to be together.  Why don’t you go out with him?”

“He hasn’t asked me,” Vonetta informed them curtly.  Was it that obvious that she had a thing for Russell.

“We’re living in the twenty-first century, gurl.  Why don’t you ask him out?”

Vonetta’s heart skipped a beat at the thought.  “I-I can’t,” she stammered.

“Why not?” Gwen asked, rolling her eyes.  “It’s obvious to me that he likes you.  I’ve seen the way he looks at you.   Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed.”

“If that’s true, why hasn’t he asked me out?”

“Maybe he’s shy,” Sharon suggested.

“Or maybe he’s not sure that you would want to go out with him.”

“Why, because he’s Asian?”

“Maybe.”

“Have you and he ever spoken to each other?”

“Yes.  We’ve talked to each other many times.  You can say we’re friends.  He’s from Hong Kong.  He moved here with his family when he was three.  He has three sisters and one brother.”

“He’s very good-looking.”

“Yes, he is,” Vonetta agreed.  “And very reserved.”

“If that’s the case, how on earth did you two get to talking?”

“Well, we had a friend in common–Michelle Forbes and she introduced us.  I think she liked him but it never got further than friendship.  The three of us hung out for a bit and then it was just him and me.  We sat next to each other in class and had lunch together.”

“And was it the same in university?”

“Yes.”

“And neither of you dated other people?”

“No.”

“Then, why on earth didn’t you two go out with each other since then?” Gwen sounded exasperated.

“What about now?” Sharon asked.  “Does your workplace have a policy against co-workers dating?”

Vonetta shook her head.

“And even if they did, what they do outside of the office is their business,” Gwen said.

“Gwen’s right,” Sharon told Vonetta.  “I think you should ask him out.”

Vonetta swallowed hard.  “I’ve never asked a guy out before,” she protested.

“Well, there’s a first time for everything,” Gwen quipped.  “Do it over the phone if it’s too much trouble for you to do it face to face or better yet, text him.”

“Yes, text him.”

“Do it now,” Gwen urged.  “You might not have the courage to do it when you’re alone.”

“Yes, do it now.”  Sharon was beginning to sound like a parrot.

“All right,” Vonetta acquiesced.  Heart pounding, she took out her cell and flipped it open.  Taking a deep breath, she texted a short message.  “Hi Russell, it’s Vonetta.  Are you interested in going out with me?” She quickly pressed the button to send it before she chickened out.

“And now we wait for his reply.”

“What if he doesn’t reply right away?” Vonetta asked.

“Don’t start panicking if you don’t hear from him.  Maybe he’s busy or he doesn’t have his phone with him.  If you don’t hear from him today, text him again tomorrow.”

Vonetta’s brow creased and she sighed.  “I probably shouldn’t have texted him,” she said.  Just then her phone rang.  She looked at the display.  Her heart skipped a beat.  “It’s him,” she announced.

“Wow, he didn’t waste any time,” Gwen remarked, impressed.

Vonetta answered the call.  “Hi, Russell.”

“Hi, Vonetta.  I got your text.  I would love to go out with you.  I wanted to ask you out for a very long time but wasn’t sure that you would be interested.”

“I’m so relieved to hear that,” she admitted.  “I was thinking that we could go to this tapas restaurant that recently opened and has gotten very good reviews.”

“Sure.  When would you like to go?”

“Is tomorrow evening at seven good for you?”

“Yes, it is.  Vonetta, are you free later?”

“Yes, I am.”

“How would you like to go to the Starlight and watch the latest Mission Impossible movie?”

“That sounds great.”

“We’ll grab some take-out before we go the the drive-in.”

“All right.”

“I’ll see you at six.”

“See you at six.”  She rang off.  “We’re going to the drive-in later and to dinner tomorrow,” she announced excitedly.

“Wow, two dates in a row.”  Gwen was thrilled.  “Well, have fun and give us all the juicy details the next time we get together.”

Vonetta laughed.  “I will,” she promised.

That evening when Russell went to pick her up, she was waiting on the steps in front of the entrance to her flat.  Her heart leapt when he stepped out of the car, looking really good in a black tee shirt and a pair of faded jeans.  He smiled and held the door open for her, his gaze traveling over her small frame clad in a red tee shirt and denim capris.  “Are you in the mood for Thai?” he asked as they drove off.

She smiled.  “It’s funny you should mention Thai.  I’ve had a craving for Mango Chicken all week.”

He picked up a Mango Chicken for her and a Ginger Chicken for himself.  The food smelled so good in the backseat that her mouth was watering.  As soon as they were inside the drive-in, he reached for the bag and they took out their containers.  After saying Grace, they dug into the food.  It was every bit as delicious as she remembered.  Afterwards they had Lychee Cheesecake.

“That was really good,” she remarked leaning back in the seat.  The trailers were showing now.  It had been ages since she came to the drive-in.  The last time was with her family and when she was in primary school.  They were chewing gum to get rid of the taste of the rich food.

He turned to her.  “Yes, it was.  That’s the great thing about a drive-in.  You can bring your own food.”

“I used to come to the drive-in with my family when I was a child.  It was a treat for my sister and me.  My favorite snacks were Chocolate Chip-Pretzel Bars, Pimento cheese sandwiches and Sweet Potato Hummus.   What about you?  Did you and your family come to the drive-in?”

“They came only when there was a Jackie Chan movie.”

She laughed.  “I’m a big fan of his too and Jet Li’s.  Actually, I think Jet Li is kind of cute.”

Russell stared at her, his expression serious now.  “And what do you think of me?” he asked quietly.

Vonetta’s heart skipped a beat when she saw the expression on his face.  “I think you’re gorgeous,” she said, sounding a tad breathless now.

“And I think you’re beautiful,” he muttered before leaning over and kissing her, his going about her waist.

Vonetta closed her eyes and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck. 

The way you feel when you kiss him for the first time. Like fire within … Like every part of you that came from a dead star is alive again – Nikita Gill

The kiss lasted for several minutes but when the movie started, they forced themselves to stop and watched it.  But, their minds were on other things and she felt her body react when he held her hand, rubbing his thumb against the back, making her skin tingle.   She could hardly concentrate on the movie.  When, it was over and they were on their way to her flat, she turned to him. “Thanks for an incredible first date,” she said.

“You’re welcome,” he replied.

“Would you like to come up for a while?” she asked.

He looked at her.  “Yes,” he said simply.

When they got to her place, he parked his car underground in her space–she didn’t have a car and they held hands as they walked to the elevators.  Her heart was racing as she unlocked the door and as soon as they were inside and the door was locked, they reached eagerly for each other, aching to continue what they started at the drive-in.

Russell ended up spending the night.  The next morning they had breakfast on the terrace before he went home.  Dinner at the Tapas restaurant was romantic and they went dancing afterwards.   They became a couple and they met each other’s families, a nerve racking experience for both of them initially but in time both families accepted the relationship.   The following year they got married in a lavish ceremony thanks to their parents’ extravagance.

And now they were on their honeymoon in Algave, Portugal.  As they stood on the balcony of their room overlooking the beach and the royal blue waters, Russell put his arms around her waist and drew her against him.  “This is paradise,” he murmured.

“Yes,” she agreed and she owed it all to Gwen and Sharon, her bridesmaids and the best friends a girl could ever have.  Thanks to their persistence and encouragement, she was here in “paradise” with the guy she had been madly in love with since high-school.  She raised her glass.  “To Gwen and Sharon, the best friends a girl could ever ask for.”

Good Friends don’t come easy…Friends come and go..but Good Friends are Treasures you find..Treasures you keep! – Midge Gonzaga

 

Sources:  Wikihow; The Knot

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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

 

Trespassing

He sat at the back of the car, gazing out of the window, his mind miles away, when he spotted her walking through the fields.  What on earth was she doing there?  He tapped on the glass partition.  “Please pull over, Rodney.”  The car slowed and then pulled over to the side of the road.  “I’ll be right back,” he promised before he opened the door and stepped out.

Oblivious that she had been spotted and that someone was approaching her, she walked through the field dotted with bright yellow daffodils, her mind elsewhere.  She had a fight with Tyson and after storming out of his flat, she decided to go for a drive in the countryside to let off some steam.  It was quite by accident that she came across this field and on the spur of the moment, decided to stop her car at the side of the winding road and make her way through it.

It was very peaceful out there and it helped her to think clearly.  It was no use remaining in a relationship that wasn’t going anywhere.  She didn’t love Tyson and he didn’t love her.  They were just prolonging the inevitable.  She made up her mind then and there that they should go their separate ways.

“Are you lost?” A voice asked, startling her and she swung around to see to whom it belonged.

She found herself staring at a tall, athletic, extremely good-looking man, well dressed in an expensive dark blue shirt and black trousers.  He had thick, dark hair, a swarthy complexion and classic features.  He looked either Greek or Italian and in his late thirties or early forties.  A quick glance at his hand told her that he wasn’t married.  She realized that she was staring and that he was waiting for an answer to his inquiry.  She shook her head.  “No, I’m not lost.  I was driving by, saw this place and decided to stop.”

“You’re trespassing, you know.”

“Trespassing?”

“Yes, this is private property.  Didn’t you see the sign over there?” he asked, pointing behind her.

She looked back and it was then she noticed a sign saying, Private Property.  No Trespassing.  She turned to face him again.  “No, I didn’t see it.”

He was watching her with a suspicious expression on his face.  “It’s hard to miss.”

Clearly he didn’t believe her and her lips pursed in indignation.  “As I said, I didn’t see it.  If I had, I would have turned around and climb right back in my car.  I don’t want to get in trouble with anyone for trespassing on their property.”

“What’s your name?” he asked, surprising her.

“Do you want it so that you can report me?” she asked.

He smiled.  “No,” he assured her quietly.  “I’m asking out of curiosity.”

“Roberta.”

“Alexis,” he said, holding out his hand.

She shook his hand.  “You’re Greek.”

He nodded.  “Yes.  What brings you all the way out here, Roberta?”

“I needed to get away for a while, to clear my head.”

“Are you in some kind of trouble?”

“No.  I had a fight with my boyfriend, that’s all.”  Why on earth was she telling her business to this perfect stranger?  He was still holding her hand and his eyes were intent on her face.  He was very disarming.  Her pulse was racing and her heart was pounding.

“I’m sorry, Roberta.  I didn’t mean to pry.”  He released her hand.

“Maybe I should go—”

“No, please don’t.  Stay a little while longer.”

“But, I’m trespassing.  What if the owner catches me and—”

“Don’t worry about him.”

“You know him?”

“Yes, I do.  He’s a reasonable man.  Excuse me for a moment.”  He whipped out his phone and walked a little distance from her.  “Rodney, I won’t need the car for the rest of the afternoon.  See you in the morning.  Thank you.”  He flipped his cell closed and slipped it back into the breast pocket of his shirt.  When he joined her, he asked, “I’m going for a walk, would you care to join me?”

She hesitated.

“We won’t go far.  Just up to the hills over there.”

“Okay.”  She fell into step beside him.  The countryside was beautiful with its rolling hills and fields of yellow flowers.  “Do you come here often?”

“Yes, I do, especially on the weekends.”

“I envy the people who live in the countryside.  After working in the city it must be nice to get away and come home to peace and quiet.  And the scenery is breathtaking.”

He was looking at her.  “Do you love him?”

She glanced at him, confused.  “Who?”

“Your boyfriend.”

She lowered her eyes.  “No.  I think we’ve outgrown each other.   We fight a lot and we’re not happy.  It’s time we ended the relationship.”

“Ending a relationship is always tough but sometimes it’s for the best.”

“Tyson and I have known each other since high school.  We dated on and off.  Now that I think about it, when we were just friends, things worked perfectly between us but the moment we decided dating, things went downhill.  Now, things have gotten so bad that I don’t think we can even be friends.   When two people are not meant to be, it’s best they don’t force it.  We should never have gotten involved with each other but remained just friends.”

He studied her, his eyes taking in every detail of her features, thinking that there was no way that he could be just friends with her.  He was deeply attracted to her and the desire to see her again was overpowering.  “Are you busy this Saturday?” he heard himself ask.

“No.”

“The owner of this property is having a costume ball and I would like you to come…as my guest.”

She stared at him.  He was serious.  He really was inviting her to a costume ball.  Immediately, her mind conjured up images of people dressed as kings, queens and fictional characters.  She had never been to a ball before and the idea of dressing up thrilled her.  “I’d like to come,” she said, smiling.

He reached into his pocket and took out a card which he handed to her.  It was an invitation to the ball.  “Do you know who you will come as?” he asked.

She considered for a moment.  “I think I’ll come as Tiana from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog.  I’ve watched the movie with my niece and loved it.  And it’s not every day that you get to dress up as a princess.  What about you?”

“I don’t know as yet.  I guess you’ll have to wait and see”

She glanced at her watch.  “I really must go now.”

“I’ll walk you to your car.”

When they were standing beside her car, she held out her hand.  “It was nice meeting you, Alexis.”  He had the most amazing eyes—they reminded her of rich, dark chocolate.

He grasped her hand.  “It was a pleasure meeting you.  I look forward to seeing you at the ball.”

“Thanks for inviting me.”  It was hard to keep a clear head when he was holding her hand and staring at her.  Her heart was racing and she seemed to have a little trouble breathing.

He released her hand and watched as she climbed into her car, waving as she drove off.  The sun was beginning to set, casting an orange glow on the field.  He cut across it to get to the manor.

All the way home, Roberta thought of nothing else but about Alexis and the ball.  She couldn’t wait to see what costume he would be wearing.  She could see him as a dashing count or a Greek warrior or even a gladiator.  She had just pulled into her parking spot underground when her cell rang.  It was Tyson.  “I’m sorry about today, Roberta.  I said a lot of things I shouldn’t have.  It’s obvious that we don’t work as a couple.”

She sighed.  “I’m sorry about the things I said too.  And you’re right. We don’t work as a couple and it’s time we parted ways for good.  I wish you all the best, Tyson.  There’s a woman somewhere out there for you.”

“I wish you all the best too.  Take care.”

“Goodbye, Tyson.”  She ended the call and slipped her phone back in her bag.  It was finally over between them.  They were both free to move on with their lives.  As she got out of the car, she thought of Alexis and her heart skipped a beat.  Tomorrow after work, she was going to get her costume for the ball.

Saturday came and she was beside herself with excitement.  Every time she thought about seeing Alexis again, her heart somersaulted.  She took her time and put on her costume and then examined her reflection when she was done.  The dress hugged her slim figure and the wig with the few curls cascading about her face while the rest was pulled back suited her.  She smiled as she adjusted the tiara, quite pleased with how she looked and hoped that Alexis would be impressed.  Drawing quite a number of curious looks, she made her way to the garage.

When she drove up the graveled driveway, she couldn’t help marveling at the impressive Victorian mansion that loomed above her.  A parking attendant came to take her car.  Nervously, she climbed the steps to the large doorway where two footmen stood.  They reminded her of Cinderella.  Music, voices and laughter filled the air.  There was a man at the door who asked for her invitation.  She showed it to him.  Heart pounding, eyes wide as they scanned the large room where the guests were, she walked slowly through the doors.  She recognized Queen Elizabeth I, Mata Hari, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill and a host of others but there was one person she was just dying to see.  Where was he?

“Hello there,” a voice said behind her and she swung around, her expression brightening when she saw Alexis.  “You’re not wearing a costume!” she exclaimed.  He looked incredible in the black suit, black shirt and no tie.

He smiled.  “The host isn’t required to wear a costume,” he replied and saw her eyes widen.

“You mean this estate belongs to you?”

He nodded.  “Yes.  All of this was left to me—the only son of Demetrius Yannos.”

“Demetrius Yannos was your father?”  Demetrius Yannos was the media mogul who was listed among the world’s richest people and was featured in TIME Magazine as person of the year.  At the age of three, the self-made millionaire from the town, Galaxidi, migrated to England with his family.  At the age of forty he married a beautiful English model half his age and they had two children—a boy and a girl.  Five years ago, Demetrius died of a heart attack while vacationing in Mykonos with his wife.  The story was all over the news.

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you tell me who you were when we met?”

“I wanted you to be interested in Alexis, not Demetrius Yannos’ son.”

“I would be interested in you regardless of whose son you are,” she assured him.

His expression became serious as he returned her gaze.  “After meeting you on Monday, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you,” he confessed.  “I’ve been looking forward to this evening all week.”

She swallowed hard when he reached for her hand.  “It’s—it’s over between Tyson and me.”

“So, you’re free to date?”

“Yes.”

“Good.  Let me introduce you to some of the guests and then, I’ll get you something to drink.”  Still holding her hand, he took her over to different people and introduced her.  Some of them were people who worked for him, friends and relatives.  She met his younger sister, Diandra and her husband, Thomas.  They were dressed as Cleopatra and Marc Antony.  Diandra was fair like her mother and very pretty.

After making the rounds, meeting new people, Alexis got a non-alcoholic Sangria for her and they went out on the terrace to enjoy the mild evening.  “You look very beautiful tonight,” he told her.  He was leaning against the balustrade watching her as she gazed out at the sprawling grounds below.

She smiled at him, feeling a little self-conscious.  “Thank you.”  Her hands were feeling hot in the long white gloves so she removed them and draped them over the balustrade.  Her heart leapt in her throat when he took her glass from her hand and set it on the ground.  He took her hands in his and drew her closer to him.

“I want to be with you, Roberta,” he told her quietly.  “From the moment I met you and we started talking I knew that I wanted to be with you.  Do you feel the same way about me?”

She nodded, her heart thudding.  “Yes, Alexis,” she murmured breathlessly.

He pulled her into his arms and kissed her.  Freeing her hands from his, she wound them around his neck, kissing him back.  In the back of her mind she thought how true the words that, One day you will meet someone who will make you realize why it never worked out with anyone else.

 

 

Sources: WikipediaPinterest

The Last Session

He glanced at his watch.  She was late.  Sighing, he got up from the chair and walked over to the window where he stood gazing out at the street below.  Where was she?  She was supposed to be there ten minutes ago.  Was she with him again?  The last time she was late, she had run into Devon who persuaded her to have a coffee with him and she didn’t show up here until almost half-hour later, apologizing profusely.  Fortunately for her, he didn’t have any other appointments for the afternoon so he was able to see her but he had advised her not to be late again.  And now, she was late again and most likely, Devon was the reason.

He closed his eyes as jealousy ripped through him.  Dragging his fingers through his hair, he made up his mind that he couldn’t continue seeing her.  Today they would have their last session and then he would refer her to a colleague.

It was his sister who had referred her to him and when she walked into his office, he should have realized that he was heading straight toward the slippery slope.  He tried to remain detached and professional as he listened to her talk about her relationship troubles with Devon, a young man she had been dating since high-school but as the weeks went by, he found himself wishing that she would do them both a favor and end her relationship with Devon.  She deserved better.  She was beautiful, smart and had so much going for her.  She didn’t need to be in this dead-end relationship with a man who clearly didn’t appreciate her.  She had so much love to give but she was giving it to the wrong person and that drove him crazy.  Whenever he thought of Devon, anger and jealousy consumed him.  He doesn’t know how lucky he isIf I had an incredible woman like Ramona, I would treat her like a queen.

He turned when he heard the door open and his heart leapt when he saw her standing there.  She came over to where he was.  “You’re late,” he said unnecessarily.

“I’m so sorry I’m late,” she said, looking anxiously at him as she quickly removed her leather jacket.

He couldn’t prevent his gaze from traveling over her.  She was wearing a black turtleneck sweater, a knee length red skirt with knee high black boots.  Her hair fell in thick waves of curls about her face and shoulders and for one maddening moment, he wanted to bury his face in them.  Abruptly, he walked over to the chair where he remained standing until she sat down on the sofa.  “We only have twenty-five minutes for the session so we’d better get started.”

She sat with her hands in her lap.  “Twenty-five minutes isn’t much time,” she said.

“You were supposed to be here thirty-five minutes ago.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Let’s not waste any more time with apologies and talk about why you’re here today.”

“I saw Devon at the café yesterday afternoon and—”

“Did you arrange to meet him there?”

“No, I went to get a cappuccino and he was there.”

“Did you leave the café after you bought the cappuccino?”

“I was about to when he came over to me.”

“What did he want?”

“He just wanted to say hello.”

“And after he said hello, did you leave?”

She shook her head, beginning to look uncomfortable now.  “Well, we left the café together.”

“Where did you go?”

“We walked back to my flat.”

“What happened when you got there?”

“He wanted to come upstairs but I told him that it wasn’t a good time.”

He tried to remain calm and pragmatic.  “So, the only reason he didn’t go up to your flat is that it wasn’t a good time.  The last time we spoke, you indicated that you wanted to end your relationship with him but it seems to me that you had an opportunity to do so yesterday but you didn’t take it.  It is obvious that you still have feelings for him and don’t want to make a clean break.”  He glanced at his watch.  “Your time is up.”

She looked upset.  “Already?”

“I’m afraid so.  Before you leave, I have something to tell you.”

“Yes?”

“This is our last session.  I will arrange for you to see my colleague, Mike Harris.”

She looked at him as if he had just given her devastating news.  “But why?” she asked.  “I’ve gotten so used to talking to you and you know so much about me.  Why do you want me to see someone else?”

“I don’t think I can help you.  You need someone who would be more objective.”

She got up from the sofa and went over to him.  “Jackson, please, I need to continue seeing you.  I promise I won’t be late again.”

He felt himself weakening when he stared up into those beautiful brown eyes and he wanted to reach up and pull her head down to his…Muttering under his breath, he sprang to his feet and went to stand behind the desk, putting as much distance between them as possible.  “I’m sorry, Ramona, but I think you would be better off seeing another therapist.  I will have the office get in touch with you.”

She stared at him for a long moment and then, stifling a sob, she grabbed her jacket and handbag and bolted from the room.  He stood there, trembling as he fought the temptation to go after her.  He believed he had done the right thing–the sensible thing yet why did he feel rotten?  He had to take a few moments to collect himself before he was able to see his next client.

He was packing up to leave when the door opened and his sister walked in, her expression a mixture of censure and concern.  He looked at her in surprise.  “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“Jackson, what happened between Ramona and you this morning?” Noreen asked him.  “She came to my office in tears.”

He continued what he was doing.  “I told her that I couldn’t continue with our sessions and I recommended that she started seeing Mike.”

“Why did you do that?”

Without looking up, he confessed quietly, “I’ve done something that a therapist should never do.  I fell in love with her.”

“And your solution to this problem is to send her to someone else?”

“I can’t continue seeing her when there’s a conflict of interest.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to sit in that chair and listen to her talk about another man?  I get so jealous that I can’t think straight.  She deserves to be helped by someone who can be objective.”

“She said that you were upset with her for being late.”

“Yes, I was.  I thought that she was with him—”

“Well, you were wrong.  It’s my fault that she was late.  I offered to give her a lift but wanted to stop by the cemetery first to put flowers on Tom’s grave.  Today is his birthday, you know.  He would have been fifty-three.  I spent a longer time than I intended and we had to rush over here.  Poor Ramona was mortified and was afraid that you wouldn’t see her.  I wanted to come up with her and explain why she was late but she declined my offer.”

“Okay, I was wrong about why she was late today but the fact remains she’s still hung up on her boyfriend even though he treats her like…” he broke off as he found himself getting upset.  “Let’s face it, Noreen, I’m in love with a woman who wants to be with a man who doesn’t deserve her.  Such is life.”

“Is that what you believe?  You believe that Ramona wants to be with Devon?”

“Yes.” The word came out as a strangled whisper.  It was torture loving and longing for someone he couldn’t have.

Noreen touched his arm, her eyes searching his face and seeing the pain etched in its features.  “You’re wrong about this too,” she told him quietly.  “Ramona doesn’t want to be with Devon.  She broke up with him weeks ago.”

Jackson stared at her.  “She broke up with him?” he repeated, looking puzzled.  “But why did she continue to come here and talk to me about him if she ended their relationship?  It doesn’t make any sense.”

“People do strange things when they’re in love, Jack.”

“In love?  Are you saying that–?”  He shook his head.  “No, you must be mistaken.  She may have broken up with him but she’s still carrying a torch for Devon.  That’s why she’s been coming and talking to me about him.”

“I’m not mistaken.  She told me herself.  She kept coming to your sessions because she wanted to continue seeing you.  And when you told her that you were referring her to another therapist, she was devastated.  She didn’t tell you how she felt about you because it would be another reason for ending your sessions.  She was in quite a state when she came to my office.  I gave her a lift home.”

He raked his fingers through his hair, trying to digest what he was hearing.  His heart wanted to believe that Ramona loved him but his mind kept resisting.  “This is probably transference.  You know when a patient transfers his or her feelings to the therapist…”

“I know what transference means, Jack.  I don’t believe that it applies here, though.  Ramona is in love with you.  Why don’t you go over to her flat and tell her how you feel?  Put both of you out of your misery.”

“I’m afraid, Noreen,” he confessed, his voice a bit unsteady. “I’m afraid to hope and believe that she could love me when she has loved him since high-school. I’m afraid that he will always be between us.”

“Jack, love is a funny thing.  We can’t help whom we fall in love with. Sometimes, it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.  But, love is like the ocean.  It can be calm or rough, shallow or deep but we can’t know unless we venture out and get our feet wet.  Don’t let fear prevent you from following your heart.  Life is too short for fears and doubts…and regrets.”  She sighed.  “What I wouldn’t give to have my Tom alive and with me.”  Tom, her husband of thirty years had passed away five years ago, leaving behind their three children and her.  “Go to her, Jack.”

Heart racing, he decided to take her advice.  “All right,” he said.  “I’ll go and see her now.  Thank you, Noreen.”

Noreen smiled and her eyes seemed a bit moist.  She reached up and hugged him tightly.  “Don’t mention it.”  They walked out the office together and parted ways in the parking lot.

He sat in his car for a few minutes, wrestling with himself and then he pulled out of the parking lot, heading for the highway which would take him to Ramona.  Twenty minutes later, he was standing outside of her flat, his heart pounding hard.  His hand shook as he raised it to ring the bell.  The door opened and she stood here, staring at him.  How he longed to take her in his arms.

“I didn’t think I would see you again,” she said in a trembling voice.  Her eyes were red from crying.  She stepped aside so that he could go in.

“I’m sorry about today,” he said after she had closed the door and was facing him.  “Noreen came to see me and she explained why you were late.”

“I wanted to be early,” she said.  “I couldn’t wait to see you.  I was looking forward to spending an hour with you but because I was so late, I got to spend only twenty-five minutes which went by so quickly.”

“My next appointment was in ten minutes.  Noreen told me that you broke up with Devon.  Why didn’t you tell me?”

She glanced down at her hands which were twiddling with a crumpled tissue.  “I was afraid that if I did you would stop seeing me and—and I couldn’t bear that.”

“Why Ramona?” he asked huskily.

“I love you,” she murmured, still holding her head down.  Her heart was racing.  She wanted to throw herself in his arms but uncertainty about his feelings for her held her in check.

His fingers clenched into fists as he fought the urge to take her in his arms.  “What about Devon?” His faceless rival hovered between them.  “Did you see him yesterday?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I did but it didn’t transpire the way I told you.  I went to the café to meet my friend, Brandi and he was there.  We spoke for a while and then he left.”

“So, all that stuff about him wanting to go up to your flat, that wasn’t true?”

“It’s true but it didn’t happen yesterday.  It happened a long time ago when we were on and off and before I started seeing you.”

“What about now?” he asked, his expression tense.  “Do you still have feelings for him?”

She looked up then, her eyes wide as they met his.  “No.  He and I are finished.  I don’t love him.  I don’t believe I ever did.  It was an infatuation which died when I met you.”

He swallowed hard.  “I want to hear you say that you love me again.”

“I love you.”

“Say my name.”

“I love you, Jackson.” She moved closer to him.  “I love you so much that the thought of never seeing you again was unbearable.”

He pulled her into his arms, his eyes dark and stormy.  “I love you too, Ramona,” he muttered thickly.  “You have no idea how much it pained me when you ran out of my office.  I wanted to come after you but I thought about Devon and…”

She raised her hand and touched him gently on the lips.  “Let’s not talk about Devon anymore.  He’s my past and you’re my future.  And now we have the present.”  She trembled when he held her hand and pressed his lips into the palm before he bent his head and kissed her.  Cupping his face between her hands, she responded wildly.

For several minutes, they exchanged hungry kisses and then she drew back to gaze up at his flushed face.  “Does this mean that you’re no longer my therapist?” she gasped.

“Yes.  Today was your last session.”

“Being with you is all the therapy I need,” she murmured before she pulled his head down to hers.

 

Moving to Canada

“You’re leaving?” Robyn asked Patrick, her heart pounding and a feeling of dread overcame her.  “When?” He had just told her the awful news that he was leaving London and moving to Toronto.  The two cities were worlds apart.  The thought of never seeing him again was unbearable.  They had known each other since she was in high school.  He was there for her when her parents died in a tragic hit and run accident.  They were on their way to a restaurant for dinner.  They were going to celebrate their fortieth wedding anniversary.  She had made the reservation for them just that morning.

At the time it happened, she was in a café having hot chocolate with him.  It was after he took her home and had left that she received the devastating news.  When the doorbell rang soon after Patrick left, she thought it was him and ran excitedly to the door and froze when she saw a police officer standing there instead.  She felt numb after he broke the news and after he left, she walked stiffly over to the phone.  She picked up the receiver and dialed Patrick’s cell number.  He answered on the second ring.  She had no memory of what she said to him but in about ten minutes he was at the house, holding her as she finally broke down.  The pain she experienced then at the sudden loss of her parents was similar to the pain she was feeling now at the thought of losing him.

“I leave in three weeks,” he told her quietly, his expression tense as he studied her face.  “I’m going to miss our conversations.”

“Is that all you’re going to miss?” she asked in a trembling voice.  The tears threatened to come and she blinked them back.  “Our conversations?”

His eyes darkened.  “No,” he muttered thickly.  “I’m going to miss you like crazy.”

“Then, why are you leaving me?” The tears were rolling down her cheeks now.

He reached out and cupped her face, his heart aching as he gazed down into her face.  “Robyn, please don’t cry.”

He must be out of his mind, thinking that he could fly off to another part of the world and leave her behind.  How could he when he loved her so desperately?  He had fallen helplessly in love with her five years ago when she went to the office to take her father to lunch and he introduced them.  He and her father enjoyed a good working relationship and after he retired, they kept in touch.  Several times Patrick was invited to their home for dinner.

After her parents died, Robyn and he became very close.  He loved her but didn’t know how she felt about him.  He knew she cared about him but it could be the kind of love she would feel toward a dear friend.  It tortured him to think that one day she would fall in love with someone else and he seized the first opportunity to leave London before that eventuality happened.  He chose Toronto because it was so far away.  And now, as she stood here, crying, he felt his resolve to leave weakening.

“I can’t help it,” she cried.  “I love you, Patrick.”

Groaning deeply and unable to help himself, he lowered his head and began to kiss her, his mouth moving hungrily on hers when he felt her response.  She hugged him tightly around the waist and pressed against him as she kissed him back wildly, her love for him gushing out.

The frenzy exchange of kisses lasted for several minutes and then he raised his head to look down at her.  “Come with me to Canada.”

She stared at him.  “Do you mean it?” she asked.  It was hard to imagine leaving the city where she was born and raised but she was willing to leave it for him.  She would go anywhere with him.  He was her life.

He nodded.  “Yes, I do,” he muttered thickly.  “I love you, Robyn and now that I know that you love me too, I can’t go to Canada without you.”

Her heart leapt with joy and Canada which just a few moments ago was the place that was going to take him away from her was to be their new home.   She put her arms around his neck, her eyes shining.  “I never thought I’d be happy to leave London.”

“Before we leave, I want us to get married.”

Her eyes widened.  “Married?”

“Yes.  I don’t want us to be shacking up.  We will get married on Saturday.”

Her head was spinning.  He loved her and wanted to marry her before he took her to Canada with him.  Her world which had seemed dark and dismal a few moments ago was bright and beautiful again.   Smiling through her tears, she pulled his head down to hers, closing her eyes as their lips touched.

 

The Move Back

After moving to Montreal in search of more employment opportunities and living there for four years, Elise decided to move back to Paris.  Living in Montreal made her nostalgic for the little cafes she used to haunt in the Latin Quarter.  She missed her family and friends.  Most of all, she missed Jules.

She found out from his mother that he was living in Marais.  When she looked at the address, she saw that it was within walking distance from her parent’s home.  His mother was happy to see her and they had a nice, long chat.  Elise asked her not to let Jules know that she was back.  She wanted to surprise him.  After promising to visit again, she left.

She went home and took a quick shower.  As she got dressed, she wondered how Jules would react when he saw her.  The night before she left for Canada, they had dinner at a restaurant which offered a spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower.  They talked about her move to Canada and after dinner, they went for a walk along the Seine River.  It was a beautiful night.  “Where will you stay?” he asked.

“I have an aunt who lives in Montreal.  I will stay with her until I find a job.”

He looked at her.  “I will miss you,” he said quietly.

She looked up at him.  “I will miss you too.”

“You will keep in touch, won’t you?”

“Of course, I will.”

They stood there for a moment, facing each other.  For a brief and maddening moment, she wanted him to kiss her.  “I’d better take you home,” he said.  “You have an early flight in the morning.”

Disappointed, she turned and fell into step beside him as they walked to his car.  They didn’t say much on the ride over to her house.  He walked her to the door and when they were standing out there, he reached down and hugged her.  She closed her eyes and hugged him back.  When he drew back, he stared down into her face for a long moment during which her heart was pounding fast and hard.  Then, he leaned over and kissed her.

It began as a tentative caress and then turned into a passionate kiss.  She reached up and gripped the sides of his jacket as she kissed him back.  This lasted for several minutes and then he pulled back and muttered, “Goodbye, Elise.”  Before she could say anything, he turned and quickly walked away from her.

She watched him go, her heart breaking.  Her parents were still up but she went straight up to her room and didn’t leave it until it was time to have breakfast before heading to the airport.

The next time she saw him it was in the summer of the following year.  She had no idea that he was in Montreal until he called her one afternoon from his hotel room.  Excited, she dropped everything and took a taxi over to the hotel.  She knocked on the door and it was opened immediately.  He smiled at her as she stood there in her tan colored jacket over a white dress, arms folded and grinning broadly.  Then she was throwing her arms around him, almost knocking him over.  “It’s so good to see you,” she exclaimed as they hugged.

“It’s good to see you too,” he said when they drew apart.  He pulled her into the room and closed the door.  Before she had a chance to look around the suite, his arms were around her waist and he was pulling her roughly against him.  “I’ve missed you so much,” he muttered thickly before he lowered his head and kissed her.  Elise’s arms traveled over his arms and found their way around his neck as she responded to his fiery kisses.

They ended up spending the rest of the afternoon in his suite and he ordered room service.  He spent three weeks which went by very quickly.  After that they saw each in the summer and over the Christmas holidays.

The knock on her bedroom door interrupted her daydreaming and she went and opened the door.  It was her mother.  “Your Aunt Lourdes invited us for dinner tonight,” she said.  “Would you like to join us?”

“Sorry, Maman, but I have other plans.  I’m going to see Jules.”

“So it is serious between Jules and you?”

Elise nodded.  “Yes, it is.”

“Well, I’m happy for you.  Jules is a very nice young man.  His mother did a very good job raising him.  I’ll see you later then.”  She turned to leave and then paused.  She looked over her shoulder.  “It is good to have you home again.”

“It’s good to be home, Maman,” she said.  When she was alone again, she quickly fixed her hair and checked herself in the mirror before hurrying out of the bedroom.  Five minutes later she was walking to Jules’ apartment building.

It was the last day in April so the weather was beginning to warm up somewhat.  The cashmere sweater she wore with the skinny jeans kept her warm and they looked great with her ballerina apartments.  As she hurried down the sidewalk, she hoped Jules was home.  He was.  When she rang the doorbell, she heard his footsteps and then the sound of the latch being pulled back.

He opened the door and started when he saw her.  His eyes grew wide.

“Surprise,” she said, laughing.

He stood there staring at her.  “What are you doing here?” he asked.  Then collecting himself, he took her arm and pulled her inside the apartment.  After closing and locking the door, he turned to look at her.  “Why didn’t you call or email me to tell me that you were going to be in Paris.”

“I wanted to surprise you.”

“Well, you succeeded.  How long are you here for?”

“I’m here for good.  I’m not going back to Montreal.  I moved back to Paris.”

“When did you move back?”

“This morning.  I’m staying at my parents’ house for now.”  He looked so cute in his white polo tee shirt and blue jeans.  “How many of these things do you have?” she asked, tugging at the sleeve.

“Too many,” he replied dryly.  He reached for her and pulled her against him, his eyes dropping to her lips, his parting in anticipation.  “Kiss me.”

“I thought you’d never ask,” she murmured huskily before she reached up and pulled his head down to hers.

Several hours later, they were relaxing on the sofa.  She was wearing his robe.  She turned to look at him, reaching over and running her fingers through his hair which was still a bit damp from the shower.  He rested his hand on her thigh.  “Why did you really move to Montreal?” he asked.

“I was trying to prove something to myself.  Growing up, I always felt so unsure of myself.  I was the gawky kid who didn’t think she was particularly good at anything.  In high school, I wanted to be daring like some of the girls but I didn’t have the guts to do it.  It changed when I was in college.  I was more confident because my academic excellence.  In a sense, I’m happy that I went to Montreal.  Being there made me realize that my identity is more than my accomplishments or my failures.  It’s who I am as a person.  I don’t see myself as awkward any more, just unique.”

“And I see you as the incredible woman I love and want to spend the rest of my life with,” he said reaching into the pocket of his robe and pulling out a small box.

Elise gaped as he opened it and revealed an exquisitely beautiful diamond ring.  “When did you…?”

“I bought it in January and was planning to give it to you when I saw you in June.  But, now that you’re here, I see no reason why I shouldn’t give it to you now.”  He slid off the sofa and got on one knee.  “Elise, will you marry me?”

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.  The tears in her eyes made him a big blur.  She felt rather than saw him slip the ring on her finger.  She brushed the tears away.  He got up from the floor and sat beside her again.  He pulled her onto his lap and his mouth found hers.  She put her arms around his neck, closing her eyes as she kissed him back.  She couldn’t wait to see her mother’s face when she showed her the ring.

 

Sources:  Interstude; Paris Insider’s Guide;

Affairs of the Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He frowned.  “What do you mean?”

“She has a boyfriend.”

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

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

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

“Well, now you know.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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