Shades of Love

For the first time in his life, Maxwell was in love. The problem was–his family wouldn’t approve.  Why?  The object of his affection was a very dark skinned Nigerian woman.  He was a light skinned black man with blue eyes whose parents were light skinned blacks from Barbados.  He always had a weakness for dark women although to please his parents, he dated the light skinned ones.  This woman was absolutely stunning but he knew that his family wouldn’t see past her color.  Even his friends when they saw him checking her out at the party where they met, they told him, “Man, she’s way too dark.  There are so many gorgeous black women here to choose from and you had to pick out the darkest one.”

Of course, he ignored them and walked up to her, his heart racing with nervousness and excitement.  She turned and it seemed like his heart stopped.  This close she was even more breathtaking.  Her beautiful eyes mesmerized him and her skin looked smooth and flawless.  The black cocktail dress hugged her perfect body and the strappy black sandals she wore accentuated her long and shapely legs.  She wore a jeweled choker around her slender neck.

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

She put her hand in his.  “Adaolisa.”  They shook hands.

“That’s a pretty name.  What does it mean?”

“God’s daughter.”

“Adaolisa, you’re a very beautiful woman.”  I think you’re the most beautiful woman here.

She smiled.  “Thank you.  And you’re a very handsome man with the most amazing eyes I’ve ever seen.”

He blushed.  “Thank you.  I detect an accent.  Where are you from?”

“Nigeria. I moved from Lagos to London when I was seventeen to attend university.  I stayed with my aunt until I graduated and found a job.”

“You speak English very well.”

“Actually, English is my first language and the official language of Nigeria.”

“Have you been back since you left?”

“Yes.  I visit my family every Christmas.”

“Are you here alone?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  You came with your friends.”

So, she had noticed him long before he approached her.  That pleased him.  “Why don’t we get something to eat and then find somewhere to sit?” he suggested.

“All right.” They went over to the elaborate buffet table and helped themselves to the spread.  They went out on the terrace, found a corner where there were a couple of chairs and sat down.

“Which university did you go to?”

“Cambridge.”

“Now I wish that I went there instead of Oxford and then we would have met sooner. Why did you study at Cambridge?”

“Education.”

“How you like living in England?”

“I don’t mind it because I love my job and I have a lot of friends.  What really bothers me, though, is the prejudice that exists among blacks.  The lighter skinned women, especially, turn up their noses at me and they get upset when their men look at me.  I think too, that they don’t like me because I’m African.”

Maxwell shook his head.  “It’s a shameful thing when prejudice exists within the black community,” he said.  “Growing up in Barbados, I was exposed to bigotry.  My sister was bullied because she wasn’t dark enough and I watched light skinned children ridicule the dark skinned ones.  Many times I got into fights standing up for myself, my sister and my friends.  There was a girl who lived next door to my grandparents whom I liked and I used to hang around her.  My grandfather who was much lighter than me didn’t approve and used to say to me, ‘She’s too dark.’  He told me that all the men in our family married light skinned women so that the next generation would be lighter.  I loved my grandfather but I was ashamed of his ways.  Unfortunately, my parents are the same way.  When I was a teenager I used to date light skinned girls to please them but that changed when I went to university.”

“So, your parents wouldn’t be pleased to see you talking to me,” she commented.

“No, they wouldn’t be.  But it doesn’t matter.  I’m a grown man.  I like you Adaolisa and I want to get to know you better.”

“It’s sad to see blacks discriminate against each other.  It only polarizes the communities.”

“It does.  And it polarizes families too.  My younger brother married a German woman whom our parents welcomed with open arms and they dote on their Caucasian looking grandchildren.   My sister, however, is somewhat of a disappointment to them because she fell in love with and got engaged to Omar, a Senegalese man.  It doesn’t matter that he’s a great guy, loves her and treats her like a queen, all my parents see are his color and his nationality.”

“There are many shades of love.  Your brother chose one shade and your sister another.  All that matters is that they’re happy with their choices.”

He stared at her, admiration glinting in his eyes.  Not only was she beautiful but she was wise.  He knew he had found a treasure tonight.

They changed the topic and talked about other things until it was time to leave.  “May I give you a lift home?” he asked, hopefully.

She nodded.  “Yes, thank you.  I’ll be right back.”

After she left, he rejoined his friends.  “Where have you been, Man,” Trevor asked.

“He’s been with the Nubian,” Colin chimed in.

“So, are we still heading over to the Road House to catch the game?” Nigel asked.

“I’ll pass,” Maxwell told them.  “I’ll see you guys at the game on Friday.”

“He’s brushing us off because of black beauty.”

“Her name is Adaolisa.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I don’t like to keep a lady waiting.”  He turned and walked away, his heart and steps quickening when he saw her standing there, waiting for him.

That was two years ago and now, here they were on their way to see his parents before they went to their favorite restaurant where he was going to propose to her.  It didn’t matter to him what his parents thought.  He was madly in love with this woman and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.  She looked exquisite in the dark red dress with the spaghetti straps.  Unable to resist, he reached over and caressed her shoulder with his knuckles.  “Are you nervous?” he asked when she looked at him.

“A little,” she admitted.

“Don’t worry, I will be there.   As soon as I see that things are getting uncomfortable for you, we will leave, okay?”

“Okay.”  She seemed to relax and a slight smile tugged at her mouth.  She turned to look out of the window.

Five minutes later, they were pulling up in front of a very charming cottage nestled among climbing rose bushes.  He held her hand as they walked up the driveway.  When they were standing on the step in front of the door, he turned to her and asked, “Ready?”

She nodded.  Her grip on his hand tightened imperceptibly.

He rang the doorbell and waited.  It opened and his father stood there.  “Hello, Son,” he said, shaking Maxwell’s hand.  Then, his eyes shifted to Adaolisa.  “Good evening,” he said, extending his hand.

Adaolisa shook his hand.  “Good evening.”

“Please come in,” he said, stepping aside.  His manner toward her was polite but there was no warmth.  “Your mother is in the living-room.”

After they removed their shoes, they went to the living-room.  His mother was sitting by the fireplace.  She stood and went over to hug him.  “It’s good to see you, Maxwell,” she said.  “It has been a while.” When they drew apart, she looked at Adaolisa.  “How do you do?” she sounded a bit stiff although she shook her hand.

“I’m fine, thank you,” Adaolisa replied.  “What a lovely home you have.”

“Thank you.  Won’t you sit down?”

“Mom, we could only stay for a little while,” Maxwell told her as he sat down on the sofa next to Adaolisa.  “We’re going out for dinner.”

“Maxwell mentioned that you’re from Nigeria.”

“Yes, I’m from Lagos.”

“Do you have any family here?”

“Yes, an aunt.  The rest of my family is in Lagos.”

So, far so good, Maxwell thought, beginning to relax when his mother said abruptly, “Maxwell, may I have a word with you?  Excuse us,” she said to Adaolisa before standing up and leaving the room.

Maxwell looked at Adaolisa.  “I’ll be right back,” he promised.  He got up and left.

His mother was standing in the hallway.  “Let’s go into the kitchen,” she suggested and led the way.

When they were alone in the kitchen, she asked, “Are you serious about this girl?”

“First of all, she’s a woman not a girl and yes, I’m very serious about her.  I’m head over heels in love with her.”

“But what do you really know about her?”

“I know enough about her to want to marry her—”

His mother looked aghast.  “Marry her?”

“Yes.  I’m going to propose to her tonight over dinner.”

“But, she’s African.”

“So?”

“Why couldn’t you find yourself a nice Bajan woman or even an English woman?”

“So you object to Adaolisa because she’s African?”

“Yes and she’s too dark.”

Maxwell tried to remain calm.  “Do you have any idea how damaging it is to a child when they are treated differently because they are dark?  I knew someone at university who told me that when she was a child, the teacher gave her a black crayon instead of a brown one to color a drawing of herself.  She transferred to a different school because of the bullying but she still had to deal with verbal abuse from other black students.  How could you stand there and look down at Adaolisa because she’s not your idea of what is beautiful?  It’s not the color of her skin that makes a woman beautiful, it’s her character.  I brought her here to meet you because I hoped that once you got to know her, you would set your prejudices aside but clearly I was wrong.  I’m going to marry her regardless of what you say or think.  You’re welcome to come to the wedding if you like.  Now, it’s time for us to go.  Goodbye, Mother.”  He turned and walked away from her.

He was quiet on the ride over to the restaurant.   Then, turning to her, he said regretfully, “I’m sorry about the way things turned out.  I foolishly hoped that my parents would come around and accept you.  I know my mother is set in her ways but I thought that my father would be more forthcoming but aside from greeting you at the door, he said nothing to you all the time we were there.  And when I came into the living-room after talking to my mother, he wasn’t there.  You were sitting there all by yourself.  I was so upset that I had to get out of there”

She reached out and placed her hand on his thigh.  “Let’s not dwell on what happened.  We have the rest of the evening ahead of us.  Let’s enjoy it.”

“All right,” he said.  “Let’s enjoy the rest of our evening together.”

They ended up enjoying dinner.  The conversation flowed and there was a lot of laughter.  Just before they ordered dessert, he reached out and covered her hand, his eyes intent on her face.  Swallowing hard, he began the speech he had rehearsed over and over since the moment he knew that he was going to marry her.   “Adaolisa, words alone can’t express how I feel about you.  From the moment I first saw you, I knew that you were the one for me.  You took my heart and my breath away.  When I look at you, I see the woman I love, the woman I need and the woman I’m meant to be with.”  He reached into his breast pocket and took out a box.  Releasing her hand, he opened it and removed the ring.  It was an exquisite Rose Gold Leaf diamond engagement ring.

She stared at it in wonder and when her eyes lifted to his face, they were moist.  “It’s beautiful,” she murmured.

“It will look even more beautiful on your hand,” he replied huskily.  “Will you marry me, Adaolisa?”

She nodded.  “Yes, Maxwell.” The tears were rolling down her cheeks now as she watched him slide it onto her finger before he raised her hand to his lips and kissed it.

“I love you, Adaolisa.”

“I love you too, Maxwell.”

They raised their glasses in a toast and over dessert, they made wedding plans.  In May of the following year, they got married in an elegant but simple ceremony.  Her family was there.  His brother and his family were in attendance as well as his sister and her husband, Omar.  Noticeably absent were his parents.  Fortunately, that didn’t put a damper on the nuptials.

After a two week honeymoon in the Maldives, they moved into their new home, a half-hour drive outside of London.  Nine months later, they welcomed their first child—a girl with beautiful olive skin and her father’s eyes.  As Maxwell held her in his arms, he remarked, “She’s beautiful like her mother.”

“She’s another shade of love—our love for each other.”

 

Source:  Dazed Digital; Felix Online; Nation News; Barbados Free Press; Fluid London; University of Cambridge; Global News; Pinterest; Ben Garelick; Harper’s Bazaar

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Love in Tokyo

Kaito Takashi paused outside of the jewelry store before he went inside to look at the different displays of engagement rings.  He was convinced that Tamiko was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.  They met two years ago at a mutual friend’s house party and immediately hit it off.  She was stunning and he enjoyed getting to know her better.  He asked her to have dinner with him and they went to his favorite restaurant the following evening.

After that first date, they began dating.  She was the first girl he had taken home to meet his family.  Yes, things were serious between them and he was going to ask her to marry.  All he had to do was find the ring.  He glanced at his watch.  It was a quarter to six.  He had until half-past six to browse before meeting Hana and her friend, Sally for dinner.

Sally Johnson was in Tokyo for the weekend.  She was staying with her friend and former university classmate, Hana.  On Sunday evening she would take the 47 minute train ride back to Yokohama and to her position as Early Years teacher at Horizon Japan International School.

After graduating from University, she decided to spend the summer in Japan.  She stayed with Hana in Tokyo.  They took day trips to other parts of Japan.  They spent the weekend in Kamakura where Hana’s parents lived.  Sally met Hana’s younger brother and sister.  They all spoke very good English and it was Hana’s father who suggested that she took a job teaching English in Japan for a year.  They taught her basic Japanese.  When she returned to New York, she enrolled in a Japanese language program.  At the end of the year, she applied for a teaching position in Yokohama and got it.

She has been here in Yokohama for two months and was still getting used to the people, the place and the culture.  On the weekends, she visited Hana and they hung out in the city.  Tonight, they were going to meet Kaito, her older brother for dinner.  Sally was looking forward to meeting him.  Hana had recently posted photos of the two of them on her Facebook page and Sally couldn’t get over how good-looking he was.  She realized that it was foolish of her to be into a guy she hadn’t even met and who had a girlfriend.

“Earth to Sally.”  Hana’s voice broke into her thoughts, startling her.  The taxi had stopped and she realized that they had reached the restaurant where they were meeting Kaito.

“Sorry,” she mumbled before getting out of the taxi and stepping onto the sidewalk.  It was a beautiful, balmy evening.  The sun had set but the area where they were was ablaze with lights.  She could see the faces of the people walking by very clearly.  It was then she spotted him.

Hana saw him too and she waved.  “There’s Kaito,” she announced unnecessarily.  And started to head toward him.  Sally followed her.

As they approached, she saw him look first at Hana and then at her.  By the time she was they reached him, she was very nervous and her heart was beating really fast.  He was even more attractive in person.  He looked first at Hana who hugged him and then at her.  Over Hana’s head, their eyes locked.  It was as if time stood still and there were just the two of them.  Everyone and everything faded into obscurity.

And then, Hana was pulling her forward until she was standing right in front of him.  “Kaito, this is my very good friend, Sally.  Sally, this is my brother, Kaito.”

Kaito held out his hand first, his eyes riveted to her upturned face.  “Hello, Sally,” he said in English.

She took his hand and felt a jolt of electricity pass through her, rendering her breathless.  “Hello, Kaito,” she managed to say.  “It’s good to finally meet you.”

His eyebrows arched.  “You speak Japanese?”  He sounded surprised and impressed.

Before she could answer, Hana chimed in.  “Yes, she does.  She took classes in New York and we’ve been teaching her while she was here last summer.  She’s teaching English in Yokohama.”

Kaito hadn’t taken his eyes off her.  “How do you like teaching in Yokohama?” he asked in Japanese.

“I like it very much.  Yokohama is amazing.”

“Did you get a chance to see the Sparkling Fireworks Show?”

“Yes, I did and it was—”

“Guys, can we continue this conversation inside?” Hana interrupted in English.  “I’m starving.”

They went into the restaurant and as they walked to their table, Sally was aware of the attention she in particular drew.  She was used to the locals staring at her, an African American woman.  Kaito sat opposite her and Hana beside him.  It was a nice, cozy place giving one the impression that they were dining in someone’s home.   She liked that their server described each dish as he prepared it right in front of them at the counter.

Over mouthwatering Kobe Beef and Chateaubriand steak and sushi chased down with Sake drinks, they talked.  Sally learned that Kaito was a Risk Analyst at an investment firm.  He helped businesses to determine the amount of financial risks that involved concerning investments and operational costs.  She could tell from the way he spoke that he loved his job and Hana mentioned that it was one of the top ten highest paying jobs.

Throughout dinner, they exchanged glances.  There was no doubt that they were attracted to each other but she kept reminding herself that he had a girlfriend.  Hana didn’t seem to notice anything but Sally couldn’t be sure.  She had to be careful not to give herself away.  After tonight, there was no guarantee that she would see Kaito again.  And in less than a year they would be worlds apart.

“You mentioned that your teaching assignment is a year long.  After it is finished, I guess you will be returning to America?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“She can always come to Japan for the summer or maybe I will go to New York instead.  I haven’t been there since I moved back to Toyko.  Maybe you can come with me, Kaito and you can bring Tamiko.  How is she, by the way?”

Kaito lowered his eyes.  “Tamiko is fine.”

Hana was about to say something when her cell rang.  She flipped it out.  “Hello?” A big smile spread on her face and she announced, “It’s Riku.”  Riku was her boyfriend.  Excuse me.”  She left the table, talking animatedly in Japanese.

Silence settled over the table following her departure. Sally could feel Kaito’s eyes on her and she raised hers.  For several minutes they just sat there, trying not to stare at each other and then he spoke in that low, cultured voice of his. “You did not seem surprised when Hana mentioned Tamiko.”

“Hana had already told me about her.”

“Tamiko has always wanted to go to America.  I too would like to see it.”

“You’ll like it.  New York especially.”

“Yes, I would like to see New York, especially.” His eyes held hers captive when he said that.

She swallowed hard, her heart pounding. “There’s a lot to see,” she muttered breathlessly.

“Is there a man in your life?” he asked quietly.  He held his breath as he waited for her answer.

She shook her head.  “No, there isn’t.”  Did she detect a look of relief on his face?

Kaito expelled his breath.  “Good, because I want to see you again,” he admitted.

“You can’t,” she protested.  “What about Tamiko?”

Before he could reply, Hana returned to the table and sat down.  “Riku wants to take me out,” she said.  “He’s going to be here in ten minutes.  Kaito, do you mind taking Sally back to my place?”

He shook his head.  “No, I don’t mind.”  He looked at Sally who was looking at Hana and thinking, I’m afraid to be alone with your brother because of what can happen between us…

“Thanks, Kaiko.  Don’t wait up for me, Sally.  I’ll be coming in very late.”

Kaiko paid for dinner, brushing aside their objections and they left the restaurant.  After waiting with Hana until Riku arrived, Sally and he walked to his sleek black Jaguar which was parked a little way from the restaurant.  After holding the door for her to get in, he walked around to the driver’s side and climbed in behind the wheel.  She strapped herself in as the engine roared to life and they pulled away from the curb.

“I have a confession to make,” he said.  “Before I met Hana and you for dinner, I was in a jewelry shop looking at engagement rings.”

Sally turned so that he couldn’t see the disappointed expression on her face.  “So, you’re going to marry Tamiko.”

“I was seriously considering it and that’s why I went to shop for a ring but I didn’t see any that I liked.  I was going to continue looking next week but after meeting you, I’m not sure about a lot of things anymore.”

“Do-do you love Tamiko?”

“I thought I did but after meeting you, I’m not sure.”

“Kaito, I don’t want to get involved with a man who’s already in a relationship with someone else and isn’t sure how he feels about her.”

“You’re right, Sally.  I got carried away by my attraction for you.  I put you in a very awkward position and I am sorry.”

“I–I just don’t want to get hurt.”

“The last thing I want to do is to hurt you or Tamiko.”

“I hope you figure out what you want.”

“Me too.”

For the rest of the ride, they spoke about other things and then he was walking her to the door.  Using Hana’s spare key, she opened it.   She turned to face him.  “I would invite you in but I’m afraid of what would happen if I did,” she said.

His eyes darkened.  “Then, I had better leave now.  Goodnight, Sally.”

“Goodnight, Kaito.”  She turned and went inside, closing the door quietly behind her.

Kaito walked away, his mind spinning, his heart racing and his body aching.  I’m attracted to her in ways I can’t explain.  The feelings she stirs in me are the kind you read about in novels.  What am I going to do about her and Tamiko?  All the way back to his place, he tried to figure out what he was going to do.  He cared for Tamiko but he never felt that spark with her.  When he met Sally, there were fireworks.  Even now, he got butterflies in his stomach just thinking about her.  He wanted to see her again so badly he could almost taste it but she wouldn’t have anything to do with him, and rightly so, until he figured out what he wanted.  Somebody was going to wind up getting hurt and he hated himself for that.

He decided that he needed to get away and go to some place where he could think clearly.   He booked a flight to Okinawa where he spent two weeks at a luxury beach hotel.   Early in the mornings, just before the sun rose, he went swimming and then for long walks along the beach afterwards.  He thought about how surprised and disappointed Tamiko sounded when he told her about this trip.  Most likely she wanted to come with him but he explained that he had a lot on his mind and needed to be alone for a while.  They spoke on the phone every other day.

In the evenings he ate dinner and then went up to his room afterwards.  He sat on the terrace with a panoramic view of the sea thinking about Sally.  He wondered what she was doing at that moment.  Was she thinking about him?  Did she want to see him as much as he wanted to see her?  He remembered what she said before they parted company.  “I would invite you in but I’m afraid of what would happen if I did.”  He knew only too well that if he had stayed, he would have lost his head…

He closed his eyes as he tried to imagine what it would be like to make love to her and he sucked in his breath sharply when desire like a raging fire surged through his body.  Agitated, he sprang to his feet and walked over to the rail, gripping it until his knuckles gleamed whitely in the twilight.  He had a decision to make and soon.

Sally was in her room trying to read but she was distracted.  She couldn’t stop thinking about Kaito.  Every time she closed her eyes, she saw his face, his eyes, his lips…Frustrated, she closed the novel and got up.  She walked over to the window and leaned against it, looking out.  Several weeks had passed since the night they met.  She wondered where he was and what he was doing.  Was he thinking about her?

She would never forget the look in his eyes when she told him why she couldn’t invite him in when he dropped her off at Hana’s apartment.  They were ablaze with the same passion that stirred inside her.  She knew that if he had stayed they would have ended up making love and she wouldn’t have forgiven herself afterwards.  He had a girlfriend and until he sorted out whether or not he still wanted to be with her, she had to stay away from him.  It was hard, though.  She wanted so much to see him again.  It was all she could think about.  It was a good thing that she didn’t have his number or she would have been tempted to call him.

Sighing heavily, she turned away from the window just as she heard a knock on the door.  Wondering who it could be, she quickly went to find out.  When she opened the door and saw Kaito standing there, her heart leapt.  For several minutes they just stared at each other.  His eyes were restless on her face and hers eagerly drank in the sight of him.  “Hello,” she finally said in Japanese.

“Hello,” he replied.  And then in English he said, “I had to see you.”

“Come in,” she said, stepping aside so that he could enter.  After closing the door, she turned to face him, her heart racing.  “How are you?”

“Much better now that I’m here with you,” he said quietly.  He couldn’t stop staring at her and he ached to touch her.  “Sally, ever since we met, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you.

“What about Tamiko?”

“That’s why I’m here.  It’s over between us.  After I returned from Okinawa, I went to see her.  I felt awful, especially when she began to cry.  The last thing I wanted to do was to hurt her but I couldn’t help the way I felt about you.  Before I went away, she sensed that there was a change in my behavior towards her but she didn’t suspect that there was another woman until I told her.  I’m glad that nothing happened between you and me before I ended my relationship with her.  It would have been unforgivable.”

“Yes, it would have been.”  She felt sorry for Tamiko because she knew that if she were in her shoes, it would take a very long time for her to get over Kaito.  “Are you hungry?  We can grab something to eat and then go to Yamashita Park.”

He shook his head.  “No, I would rather stay here.” He reached out and pulled her into his arms, his eyes smoldering as they met hers briefly before dropping to her lips which parted invitingly.  Groaning, he bent his head and kissed her.  She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.  The kisses became very passionate, their breathing harsh and heavy and soon they were tearing at each other’s clothes, anxious to be rid of them and to feel flesh against flesh.  In a matter of minutes, they were under the sheets, making love as the bed creaked in protest.

Hours later, they got dressed and had dinner at a restaurant near Yamashita Park, the seaside park with its long walkway which connected Yokohama’s best attractions.  Afterwards, they went for a walk in the park, holding hands.  It was late when he walked her back to her place and before they parted company, they made plans to see each other the following evening.

Sally stood on the Osanbashi Pier watching the Kanagawa Shimbun Fireworks. They were spectacular.  Kaito joined her and she smiled as he handed her the ice-cream.  It had been ages since she had one.  Her engagement ring glinted in the lights that blazed in the sky.  She laughed when she saw that the pink ice-cream was in the shape of an elephant.  Kaito put his arm around her waist and she leaned against him as they watched the fireworks.  It was August.  In late November they were going to get married in Tokyo in the presence of their families, friends and her students.  Hana, of course, was going to be her bridesmaid.

A smile spread on her face as she thanked God for blessing her beyond her wildest dreams.

The smile on my face doesn’t mean my life is perfect, it just means I appreciate what I have and what God has blessed me withLookup Quotes

 

 

Sources:  Teach Away; Rome2Rio; Hills Learning; Zooming Japan; Yokohama Japan; Culture Trip; Japan Talk; Whisper; Study.com; Career Addict; Boldomatic; The Ritz-Carlton

God’s Preparing

Courtney stood at the window of her flat, looking out and wondering why her life was so messy.  She found out that Quincy had been two-timing her, Astral was downsizing so there was a possibility that she might get laid off and her car was stolen.  She had gone into a bad neighborhood to drop off food and other items for a single mother and when she went back to where she had parked her car, it was gone.  She had to walk to the subway, praying all the way that nothing happened to her.  The next time, she decided to go there, it would be during the day.  She reported her car stolen but hadn’t heard anything yet.

She pressed her forehead against the cool window pane and closing her eyes, she asked, “Lord, where are you?  Right now I feel as if I’m standing in a tunnel and there’s not light at the end.  What am I going to do if I get laid off?  How am I going to afford to pay the rent until I find a new job which could take a while?  I have to take public transportation now because I don’t have a car.  Why are all of these things happening?  Is it because I don’t go to church any more?  You know why I stopped going.  The older folks looked down their noses at me because I was having sex outside of marriage.  What about Donald?  He was doing the same thing with Deidre but nobody knew.  I made the mistake of telling Stella about Quincy and me and then I got a call from a church elder, chastising me.  Who was she to judge me?  I got tired of the holier than thou attitude and stopped going to church.  I think I’m doing just fine staying at home and reading my Bible.  I don’t need to go to church to worship you.  And even if I decide to go to church again, I wouldn’t go back there.  I would find a church where the people aren’t judgmental.  Lord, I wish I could restart my life from the time when things started to fall apart.  What am I going to do if I lose my job?  Lord, please help me to sort things out.  Amen.”

Just as she opened her eyes, the doorbell rang.  She moved away from the window and went to see who it was.  It was Gregory, her next door neighbor.  Opening the door, she forced a smile.  “Hi,” she greeted him.  He looked rather attractive in the white shirt and light blue jeans.  He had the most incredible blue eyes.

He smiled.  “Hi,” he replied.  “I hope I’m not disturbing you.”

She shook her head.  “You’re not.  Would you like to come in?”

“Thanks.”  He stepped in and she closed the door behind him.  “I was wondering if you are free this evening.”

She shrugged.  “I don’t have any plans.”  Except to stay here and continue to wallow in self pity.

“My church is having a benefit concert at seven.  It’s for HIV/AIDS awareness.”

She stared at him in surprise.  “HIV/AIDS awareness?” she repeated.  “Your church doesn’t have a problem addressing something that so many other churches don’t want to deal with?”

“No, we believe that caring for people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS is what it means to love your neighbor.  This disease concerns all of us and as Christians we should be doing what we can combat it.  And it’s very personal for me.  My younger sister died from AIDS which she contracted from a guy she was seeing.  She didn’t know that he was infected until it was too late.  She was only twenty-five when she died.”

Courtney reached out and touched his arm, her eyes filled with compassion.  “Greg, I’m so sorry.  One of my cousins died from the disease too.  He was a hemophiliac and he got it from contaminated blood.  He was fifteen.  My aunt never got over his death.  Yes, I will come to the concert.  Thanks for inviting me.  And if there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know.”

He smiled.  “Thanks.  I’ll pick you up at six.”

She nodded as she opened the door.  “See you then.”  She closed the door and locked it, leaning against it for a moment.  Suddenly, what she had been going through didn’t seem so bad.  There were people out there living with HIV and AIDS.  Her heart broke whenever she read about babies and children contracting the disease from parents or through blood transfusions.  She had always thought of doing something to raise awareness but never got around to it.  And lately, she had been preoccupied with her own problems.

As she moved away from the door, she found looking forward to going to the concert.  She spent the rest of the morning cleaning her flat, doing laundry and preparing something for dinner.  The time went by very quickly and it was five minutes to six when she finished getting ready.

Promptly at six, Gregory went for her and they rode down in the lift.  He was wearing a brown jacket, checkered shirt and brown pants.  Without thinking, she reached up and fixed the left lapel of his jacket.  Their eyes met and held briefly before she looked away, thinking to herself, That was very forward of me but he didn’t seem to mind.  She had noticed the way he had looked at her when she opened the door.  She was wearing a black blouse and a brocade skirt with low heel slingback shoes.  Her hair was pulled back at her nape with a clasp.  Even though it was a concert she was attending and not a church service, she still wanted to look presentable.  And she could tell from his expression that he approved.

“So, how have you been?” he asked after they pulled out of the parking lot.

“Not so good,” she sighed.  “I’ve been going through a tough time.  I found out that Quincy was cheating on me so I ended our relationship.  My car got stolen and I could lose my job.”

“Wow,” he exclaimed.  “When did all of this happen?”

“Well, I found out about Quincy a couple of months ago.  Last week I found out that my company is downsizing which means I could lose my job.  And it was two weeks ago when my car was stolen.  I was asking God why all of these were happening to me and then I begged him to help me.”

“I’m sorry that you’re having such a rough time but God never allows us to deal with more than we can bear.  I noticed that I wasn’t seeing your boyfriend around anymore and now I know why.  It’s hard when someone you care about betrays your trust.  Trust once it’s broken it’s hard to get it back.  As far as getting to work, I can give you a lift, if you like.  And I hope that you don’t lose your job but if you do, I can help you to find something else.”

She looked at him.  “You’re a Godsend,” she told him.  “I think you’re the help God sent me.  Rather than allowing me to stay home and mope, he sent you to invite me to the concert.  And telling you about my problems has helped.  I really enjoy talking to you because you are so easy to talk to.  I feel really comfortable opening up to you.  We’ve been neighbors for about eight years now.  I remember when we used to ride the lift together and go jogging together in the park.  Afterwards, we would pop into the cafe and have hot chocolates on the way home.”

“Yes,” he said quietly.  “All of that changed when Quincy came into your life.  I used to watch the two of you together and tried to be happy for you because you had found someone special but deep down inside I was disappointed.  I wanted that someone to be me.  I prayed to God about it, asking him to remove you from my heart but for some reason, He didn’t answer my prayer.  I kept asking Him why He was allowing me to continue to have feelings for a woman who was in love with someone else but all He kept bringing to my mind was this verse from Psalm 27, Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!

Her heart was racing now.  “I didn’t know you felt this way,” she said.

He glanced at her then.  “Would it have made a difference if you did?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  If I had known I wouldn’t have gotten involved with Quincy.  I thought you were just being a friendly neighbor.”

“I wanted to be more than a neighbor and a friend.  For the moment we met, I was attracted to you but I wasn’t sure that you felt the same way.  I wanted to ask you out so many times but I didn’t have the courage.  I guess I was afraid of being rejected.  And when I saw you with Quincy, I took it as confirmation that you didn’t feel the same way about me.”

“All the time I was with Quincy, I kept thinking how different you and he were.  I kept comparing him to you.  I found myself wishing that he was more like you.”

“If he weren’t cheating on you, would you still be with him?”

She thought about it for a moment.  “I don’t think so,” she said.  “It wouldn’t have worked out anyway because I didn’t love him and I was hung up on someone else.”

“If you didn’t love him why were you so upset when you found out about him and the other woman?”

“I guess I was upset because I had invested a lot of time and effort in the relationship.  I know it sounds silly but that was my rationale.”

“You said that you were hung up on someone else…”

“Yes, I was hung up on you while I was with Quincy.  I felt guilty about it and that’s probably why I was trying so hard to make things work between us.”

“Are you still hung up on me?” he asked, looking at her.  They were at a traffic light.  His expression was tense as he waited for her answer.

She swallowed hard.  “Yes.”

His eyes darkened and he reached for her hand.  “Now I know why God didn’t remove you from my heart,” he said huskily.  “He knew what was in yours.”  He reached over and kissed her.

She kissed him back.  Yes, she thought, He knew that my heart belonged to you even when I was with someone else.  Thank You, Lord, for showing me that all the things that bad things that happened to me was not You punishing me but You preparing me for the place where You want me to be and the person You want me to be with. 

 

Sources: Bible Gateway Scientific & Academic Publishing; blog.Bible; Psychology Today

The Heart Speaks

“I sympathize with your situation but I’m afraid you don’t fit what we are looking for.  You have the qualifications but you just don’t fit what we are looking for.  I’m sorry.  I hope things work out for you.”

These words played over and over in Shannon’s mind as she walked down the sidewalk, tired from job hunting and interviews that ended the same–rejection.  What was wrong with her?  Was it her appearance, her color?  Was it her hair which was very short and natural?  She had the qualifications and when they called her for an interview, they sounded enthusiastic but when they saw her in person, the reception was lukewarm.  And the interview didn’t last long at all.  She was in and out of there in less than half-hour.

What on earth was she going to do now?  If she didn’t get a job soon, she would be evicted from her flat.  That meant she would have to move back in with her parents until she could find a job.  She didn’t relish the idea of moving back with her parents after being on her own for a while.  Sighing heavily, she decided to go to the park and sit there and try to figure out what to do.  First, she would grab a cappuccino.  Maybe she could try an employment agency.  A temporary job was better than nothing.

It was after twelve and the cafe was filling up.  As she joined the line to place her order, she felt a tap on her shoulder and turned around.  Her heart skipped a beat when she found herself staring up into the handsome face of Arran Carter, her ex-boyfriend’s uncle.

His hazel eyes were riveted to her face which he thought was exquisitely beautiful. “Hello, Shannon,” he said quietly.  Since the first time they met, he hadn’t been able to get her out of his mind.

“Hello, Mr. Carter,” she said trying to sound calm when her heart was pounding and her pulse was racing.  He had this effect on her.  After meeting him, she knew she couldn’t continue to see Hugh.  It wouldn’t have been fair to him continue their relationship when she had fallen for his uncle.

“Please call me Arran.  It’s so good to see you.  How have you been?”

“Well, I haven’t been so good,” she told him.  “I have been out of a job for about a year now and haven’t found anything as yet and time is running out.  I could lose my flat if I don’t find something soon.”

“Have you had lunch?”

She shook her head.  “No.  I just came from an interview and was going to get a cappuccino.”

“Let me buy you lunch and we can talk more.”

She smiled, grateful.  “Thank you.”  He put a hand under her elbow and led her to a table in the corner by the window.  She removed her coat to reveal a navy blue skirt suit and a white shirt.  As she sat down, she couldn’t help thinking about how she used to dress when she first attended university.

During the summer, she wore top with spaghetti straps, bulky and cheap chains and necklaces and too much makeup.  And in the winter, she wore mostly black and leather, torn jeans and impossibly high pointed toe boots.  In her senior year, she underwent a complete make-over.  Her style went from edgy to elegant so that her friends and parents were shocked and pleased at the transformation.  She wondered what Arran would have thought if he had known her then.

She studied him as his six foot two inches frame settled in the seat opposite her.  He was wearing a tan colored jacket which he removed, a black shirt and pants.  His dark hair was thick and spiky, giving him a rugged look which she found very attractive.  She wanted to reach over and ruffle it.  Realizing that she was staring, she turned and looked out of the window.

The waitress brought menus and after they browsed through them and placed their orders, he said, “You mentioned that you had an interview earlier.  I don’t imagine that it went as you’d hoped.”

She shook her head as she played with the folded napkin on the table.  “No.  They said I didn’t fit what they were looking for even I had the qualifications.”

He pursed his lips.  “That was an unethical thing to say,” he remarked tersely.  “If you have  the qualifications, they should have hired you.”

She glanced up at him.  “Perhaps, they had a problem with the way I look.”

“What ‘s wrong with the way you look?” he wondered in surprise.  You look amazing. 

“Nothing as far as I’m concerned.”

“Do you have a copy of your resume with you?”

“Yes, I do.”  She reached for her handbag and produced a copy which she gave to him.  She watched anxiously as he read it.

“May I hold on to this?” he asked.

She nodded.  Just then, the waitress brought their orders.  She toyed with her salad, wondering if he was going to give her resume to someone he knew.

“You have all the qualifications I’m looking for,” he said.  “My assistant Loretta is going on maternity leave in two weeks so I’ll be needing someone to fill her position.  How would you feel about working for me?”

She stared at him for several minutes.  “I would like that very much,” she managed to say.  “Thank you, Arran.”

“You’re welcome.”  He had done it for himself as much as he had done it for her.  Hiring her as his assistant meant that he would get to see her on a regular basis.  “I’d like you to start on Monday.”  He took out his wallet and pulled out a card which he handed to her.  It was a business card.  “When you get there, have the receptionist call me and I will come and get you.”

She put the card in her wallet, grateful to him for his kindness.  Her appetite was back and she tucked into the salad.  “I haven’t asked you how you’ve been,” she said, sounding a bit apologetic.

“I’ve been fine, thanks,” he said, studying her.  Her eyes captivated him.  “Work keeps me busy.”

She wanted to find out if he was seeing anyone but instead she asked, “Do you go out on the weekends?”

“Sometimes.  What about you?”

“Sometimes I go out but most times I stay in.”

“I ran into Hugh the other day.”

“How is he?”  She hadn’t seen him since the break-up.

“He seemed fine.  He mentioned that you broke up with him.”

“That’s true,” she acknowledged.

“Are you seeing anyone now?” he asked.  His expression was inscrutable as he watched her.

“No, I’m not seeing anyone now,” she said, looking at him.  “What about you?”

“I’m not in a relationship,” he said.  Their eyes met and held for several minutes, then he asked, “Will you have dinner with me tomorrow evening?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”  Nervousness and excitement filled her at the prospect of having dinner with him.  “My address and number are on my resume.”

He smiled.  “I know.  I’ll pick you up at seven.”

They spoke about other things and then it was time for him to head back to the office.  “Thank you so much for lunch and the job,” she said putting on her coat while he paid the bill.  “I really appreciate it.”

“It was my pleasure,” he replied.  “May I give you a ride somewhere?”

“You can give me a ride to the tube if it’s not out of your way.”

“It isn’t.”  He pulled on his jacket and they walked out of the cafe.  They walked a short distance to where his BMV was parked.  He held the door open for her and their eyes met briefly before she got in.

As she strapped herself in, she couldn’t help but marvel at how her day was turning out.  She promised herself that she would get down on her knees as soon as she got home and thank God for turning things around for her.  Arran got in beside her and soon the engine purred to life and they pulled into traffic.  It was twenty minute ride to the train station and after she climbed out of the car, she turned to him.  “Thanks again for everything.”  She held out her hand and her senses swam when she felt his fingers wrap around hers.

“Don’t mention it,” he said quietly.  “I look forward to seeing you tomorrow evening.”

“Me too.”  She was sorry when he released her hand.  She waved at him before she turned and quickly walked away.

He stood there and watched her until she disappeared into the underground before he got back into his car and drove off.

It was five minutes to seven and she was ready.  She stood in front of the full length mirror looking at herself.  The V Neck Jersey Long Sleeve Red Mini Dress accentuated her figure and complimented her coloring.  The pearl necklace and tiny pearl earrings added a touch of elegance.  Satisfied, she walked out of the room and was just getting her coat of the closet when the doorbell rang.  She glanced at the clock.  Exactly seven.  Arran was punctual.

She pulled on her coat, quickly buttoned it and grabbed her the nude handbag which perfectly matched her nude pointed toe pumps as she walked to the door.  Her heart pounding with excitement, she eagerly opened and her face broke into a big smile when she saw Arran standing there.  His hair was slicked back, giving him a polished look.  “Good evening,” she said, holding out her hand.

“Good evening,” he replied, taking her hand, his gaze never leaving her face as he raised it to his lips.

The smile faded as she felt all sorts of sensations run through her body at the feel of his warm lips against the back of her hand.  Her chest began to rise and fall quickly and her heart was beating wildly.  She found herself wondering what it would be like to feel those lips on hers.  When he released her hand, she turned and locked the door, her hand trembling slightly.  She almost dropped the key on the floor instead on in her handbag.  Her legs felt a bit wobbly as they walked to the lift.

He took her to a French restaurant where the view of the city was breathtaking and ambience was warm and cozy.  She felt shy when she saw the way he looked at her when she removed her coat.  And he looked gorgeous in the charcoal grey dress suit, matching tie and light blue shirt.

Over white non-alcoholic wine  and amazing dishes, they talked and laughed.  She learned that his father was British and his mother was French.  He had one sibling–an older sister who was Hugh’s mother.  His father died five years ago from a stroke and his mother lived with her widowed sister in Manchester.  Arran told her that he had dated on and off over the years, but nothing serious ever came of those relationships.  He loved his job and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.  When he wasn’t working, he enjoyed watching sports or for long drives in the countryside.

“Perhaps you would like to come with me for a ride in the countryside tomorrow,” he said.  “We can go to Richmond Park and walk along the trails.  It’s beautiful at this time of the year.  You’ll see the deer that live there and we can have lunch afterwards at the lodge.”

“That sounds great,” she said, her eyes sparkling.  She was going to see him again tomorrow.

They spent a very pleasant evening together and when they got to her flat two hours later, they lingered outside the door, reluctant to part even though they were going to see each other the next day.

“I had a wonderful time this evening,” he said quietly, his eyes restless on her face.

“Me too.”  A pause.  “Would you like to come in and we can talk some more?”

He nodded.  “Yes, I’d like that very much.”

She unlocked the door and held it open for him to go inside and then she locked it.  After sliding of her shoes, she took his coat and went to the closet where she hung it along with hers.  “Would you like something to drink?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No thank you.  You have nice place.”

“Thank you.”  She sat down on the sofa beside him.

“I guess Hugh has been here.”

“Yes.”  There was a long pause and then, she said, “You know he and I never—”

He stared at her.  “You mean you and he never–?”

“We kissed but that was as far as it went.  I told him that I didn’t want to have sex outside of marriage anymore.  I didn’t always feel that way.  When I was in university I was a bit wild and my first and only time was with a senior at the back of his bright yellow pick-up truck when we went on a camping trip.  I was curious and most of my friends were sleeping with their boyfriends.  I was a little tipsy and we were alone.  The others had gone skinny dipping.  I couldn’t swim so I didn’t go and he stayed with me.  We started kissing and one thing led to the other.  I felt awful the next morning and I avoided him.  We never hooked up again after that.  After that night, I promised myself that I will never sleep with a man unless I loved him.  Every time I think of that night I feel ashamed and wish it had never happened.”

Arran reached for her hand.  “We’ve all done things that we regret,” he said.  “When I was sixteen I slept with my best friend’s mother.  I met her when I went over to my friend’s house for a barbecue.  She and his father were separated at the time.  I thought she was hot and she made it clear that she liked me.  One afternoon I dropped by my friend’s house to hang out but he wasn’t there.  He went to the library to return some books.  She was alone at home and she invited me to go in.  She offered me a glass of lemonade because it was hot outside.  We sat on the sofa and talked about all sorts of things and then she leaned over and kissed me.  I was shocked and excited at the same time.  Well, one thing led to another and we ended up doing it right there on the sofa.  Afterwards, I felt awful and I left before my friend got home.  I never went back to his house.  He never found out about his mother and me.  His parents got divorced the year after and he and his mother moved to Liverpool.”

Shannon stared at his long fingers as they played with hers, hardly able to concentrate.  “I have a confession to make,” she said.  “I broke up with Hugh because of you.  When I met you I knew that I couldn’t continue to see him.  It wouldn’t have been right to be with him when you were the one I wanted to be with.”

His eyes darkened.  “This may sound corny but the moment I laid eyes on you, my heart belonged to you.”

“You know the heart speaks,” she said huskily.  “That night at the campsite it spoke to me.  It told me to get away from that campsite before I did something I would regret but I didn’t listen to it.  It told me not to date Hugh but I didn’t listen.  I listened to it when it told me to break up with Hugh because I knew I was in love with you.”

“Is your heart speaking to you now?” He asked.  She nodded. “What is it saying?”

“It’s telling me to let go of the past and all of the regrets and hold on to the love that is right here in front of me.”  She moved closer to him and groaning, he cupped her face between his hands and kissed her.  Her hands were on his thighs, her fingers digging into the material as she kissed him back.  They exchanged passionate kisses and then he was lying on his back and she was stretched out on top of him.  That night marked the beginning of the rest of their lives together.

Nothing speaks louder than your heart.  Listen to what it’s telling you – Georgia Cates

 

Sacred Vows

His strategy for forgetting Justine Samuels was to keep busy with his work as the local parish priest but his efforts failed miserably.  No matter where he was or what he was doing, he couldn’t stop thinking about her and wishing that he could see her again.  He missed her terribly.  Against his better judgment, he had continued to see her even after he realized that he was in love with her.  His excuse was that her grandmother was one of his parishioners and it was his duty to visit her especially since she was unable to attend church.

On several occasions, he visited the elderly woman and prayed for her.  Then he would spend a few minutes in the living-room talking to Justine.  It was during one of those times that she broke down and confessed that she didn’t know how much longer she could continue to care for her grandmother on her own while worrying that she could lose her job because the company might be downsizing.  Her job meant a lot to her because she was able to work from home.  She had moved into her grandmother’s cottage after the elderly woman had fallen ill.

Touched with compassion, he offered to counsel her.  They met once a week in her grandmother’s bright and airy sun room and the sessions lasted for an hour.  Sometimes he would stay afterward and have a cup of tea or he would leave immediately after.

Soon he found himself dropping by even when they didn’t have a counseling session on pretext of checking on her grandmother.  Afterwards, he would feel guilty and go to the chapel and pray for forgiveness.  Try as he did, he couldn’t stay away and during the summer when the weather was pleasant, Justine and he would sit outside in the garden while her grandmother was taking a nap in the living-room.

One afternoon, they were out in the garden, sitting on the bench, talking.  Behind them was a climbing rose bush winding its way up the side of the house to second floor window.  He got up and went over to it.  “Whenever I see a rose, I can’t help but marvel at its beauty and intricacy.  Have you ever heard the quote:  Some people complain because God put thorns on roses, while others praise Him for putting roses among thorns.

She shook her head, getting up and going over to him.  “No, I’ve never heard that quote.  Which of the two categories do you fall into?”

“The second.  I praise Him for putting roses among thorns—beauty among the ugliness that exists in this world.”

“For me, the roses represent God’s grace among the thorns which are the trials in life.”

He reached out to pluck a rose from the bush and winced when its thorn pricked him in the palm.  As he reached into his robe for his handkerchief, she took his hand in hers and gently turned it over to examine the wound.  The touch of her fingers stirred feelings in him and mortified, he pulled his hand away.  She looked startled and when she would have reached for his hand again, he stepped back, putting some distance between them.  He pressed his handkerchief into his palm.  It wasn’t bleeding much.  The wound was the size of a needle prick.  “I must be going,” he said tightly.

“But you only got here ten minutes ago,” she protested.

“Yes.  I have matters I need to attend to.”

“Will I see you again tomorrow?”

“No, Justine.  We can’t see each other anymore.”

“But why not?”

“God help me, but I love you.”

Her eyes widened.  “I love you too,” she confessed.  “I’ve wanted to tell you that for such a long time.”

He dragged his fingers through his hair in agitation.  “There’s no future for us.  I’m a Catholic priest and I adhere to the church’s teachings.  I made a vow of celibacy that celibacy so I could identify with Christ who was celibate.   In an act of sacrificial love I vowed to give myself completely to the service of God and His church.”

“But where in the Bible does it say that priests aren’t allowed to fall in love and get married?” she asked, looking confused.  “Aaron and Caiaphas were high priests and they were married.”

“A Catholic priest follows the example of Christ who is our High Priest and He wasn’t married.  His gave His life completely to serving His Father and shepherding His church.  It was Christ who said in Matthew 22:30, ‘In the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.’”

“But how do you explain what Paul said about some people forbidding others from marrying, teaching human doctrines and putting traditions above God’s Commandments?”

“Paul made it clear that being single allows a person to give his undivided attention in serving our Lord.  He recommended celibacy because he himself was celibate.”

“But wasn’t it Paul who said ‘let them marry for it is better to marry than to burn with passion’?”

“He was talking about those who can’t exercise self-control.”

“Tell me, Father Montgomery, how do I stop myself from burning with passion?”

“Marry Robert.”  Robert was a member of the church she used to attend before her grandmother became an invalid.  On a few occasions he had stopped by the house to see how she and her grandmother were doing.  “He cares for you.”

“Is that what you want?” she demanded.

His face went pale.  “It’s not a matter of what I want but what must be.”

“So, this is goodbye.  I’m never going to see you again.”  Her voice trembled and he could see the beginning of tears in her eyes.   “This is so wrong.  You and I should be together.”

“What would be wrong is for me to turn my back on my faith, my church and God because I love you,” he muttered between clenched teeth.  He reached out and his hand trembled as he touched her face.  She caught his hand and pressed her lips into the palm where the thorn had pricked him.  Groaning, he wrenched his hand away and bolted from her.  That was the last time he saw her.  He stopped visiting her and sent the Vicar in his place.

Now he was faced with a dilemma.  His love for Justine was affecting his life and his work.    He had to do something about it, but what?  He went into the chapel and spent the next few hours in prayer, pouring his heart out as he sought God’s guidance.

Where is he?  Justine wondered as she sat there in the pew, hoping to catch a glimpse of him.  He wouldn’t be pleased to see her, she knew that, but she had to come, if only to see him once more and to tell him that she had employed a live-in caregiver for her grandmother and that she had left her job for a better one.

As soon as the service was over, she went up to the Vicar.  “Excuse me, Vicar” she said.  “Where’s Father Montgomery?”

“He is no longer with the church.”

Her heart sank.  “Did he transfer to another parish?”

The vicar shook his head.  “No, he left the priesthood.”

She stared at him, in shock.  “He left the church?”

“Yes.  Everyone was shocked except me.  He had started to question the teachings of the church and his heart was no longer in what he was doing.  I suspect this had to do with a woman although he never said anything.  He was unhappy and I told him that whatever he decided to do, make sure it’s a decision he can live with.  After much prayer and fasting, he decided that the best thing for him to do is to leave the priesthood and the Church.  I wished him well.  Perhaps God will lead him in another direction where he can serve Him as faithfully as he has served him all these years.”

Justine thanked him for his time and left.  She walked out of the church in a daze.  Father Montgomery had left the Church.  Where was he?  “Oh, Lord, You know where he is.  Please lead me to him.” As she got into her car, she got a strong impression to go to the park opposite where she lived.   After she parked her car in the garage, she crossed the quiet street and went into the park.  About ten minutes later, she spotted him sitting on the bench facing the duck pond.  Heart thudding she approached him.  “Hello,” she called.

He glanced up.  “Hello,” he replied, quietly, rising to his feet.  His expression was serious as he met her gaze.  “I was coming to see you.  Your grandmother’s nurse told me where you lived.  When I got here, I decided to come to the park first.”

“I heard that you left the Church.  What should I call you now?”

“John.  You can call me John.  How have you been, Justine?  I think about you every waking moment.”

“I’ve been miserable,” she told him.  “I missed you so much.  I went to the parish today just to see you but you weren’t there and the Vicar explained what happened.  Why did you leave, John?”

“I left because I had too many questions about the church’s teachings which contradicted what was in the Bible and—because of you.  I couldn’t hide from my feelings.  It’s funny.  I believed that the robe I wore would protect me from feelings I believed that I shouldn’t be having.  I realized that underneath the robe was a man—a man who desperately loved a woman who was right when she said that it was wrong for us not to be together.  Will you forgive me for running away from a love that no sacred vows could quench?”

She nodded, reaching for his hands.  “There’s nothing to forgive.  I know that it must have been hard for you to leave an institution you have known and served for most of your life but I truly believe that God has a great plan for your life.”

He pulled her closer and bent his head so that his forehead was resting against hers.  “Yes, I believe that He does and you are a big part of that plan.”

She closed her eyes as they stood there in the sunshine, silently thanking God for granting her the desires of her heart.

 

 

 

Sources:  American Magazine; Catholic Answers; Vox; EWTN; Catholic.com; Diocese of Trenton

The Age Difference

He traced his fingers over the heart with the initials TB + CH.  Eight years ago, he had carved them there.  Toby Barrington and Celeste Holmes.  Celeste.  Sighing heavily, he leaned against the tree as he recalled the first time they met.  It was eight years ago, just before the summer holidays began.

instead of going straight home, after leaving the college campus, he went to his mother’s office but she wasn’t there.  Instead, a woman he didn’t recognize was at the desk, sorting papers with her back to the door.  He stood there for a moment watching her.  Her hair was cropped short like a boy’s but when she turned around, her figure in the white blouse and pencil skirt was anything but boyish.  She smiled and walked over to him.  “You must be Toby,” she said, extending her hand.

He stared at her.  She had the most exquisite face he had ever seen.  She looked to be in her mid to late twenties.  Swallowing hard, he took her hand which felt small and soft in his.  “Yes,” he managed to say.

“I’m Celeste, your mother’s new assistant.  She told me that she was expecting you.  Please come in and have a seat over there by her desk.  She’s in a meeting right now but should be here shortly.”

He went over to the desk and put his knapsack on the floor beside the chair.  He didn’t sit but remained standing, watching her.  She finished the task she was doing before he interrupted and when she was done, she turned to face him.  “Would you like me to get you anything?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No, thank you.”

“All right.  If you change you need anything, just stop by my desk.  It’s nice meeting you.  I have heard so much about you.”

“It’s nice meeting you too.”  He wondered if his face was red.  It felt hot.  He knew he was staring but he couldn’t help it.

“Excuse me,” she said with a smile and quickly walked away.  He watched her until she disappeared.

He sat down on the chair and as he waited for his mother, he thought about Celeste.  When his mother finally joined him, apologizing profusely for keeping him waiting he nodded abstractedly, wondering when he was going to see Celeste again.  “Mother, do you mind if I were to pop by here again tomorrow?” he asked.

“Not at all, Dear.”

After the following day, he found excuses to stop by the office just so he could see Celeste until one day, his mother said to him, “Since you seem to like coming by the office so often, how would you like to work here for the summer?”

His face brightened.  “I would like that very much,” he assured her.  What a stroke of luck.  He was going to see Celeste all summer.  He was to start on the following week.   When he arrived bright and early on his first day on the job, it was Celeste who walked him through what his responsibilities were.  She was to be his supervisor which pleased him tremendously.

For the first couple of days, she sat with him and then, he was faring well on his own but it thrilled him whenever she stopped by to check his progress.  As she leaned over him to check something on his computer screen, he caught a whiff of her perfume and he turned his head slightly so that he could look at her.  After a while it was becoming increasingly hard being around her because his feelings for her were growing stronger.   He knew she didn’t have a boyfriend because his mother had divulged that information in passing.

One afternoon they were alone in the kitchenette.  She was rinsing her coffee mug and he was refilling his water bottle.  She looked incredible in the blue top with the V neck, revealing her long, slender neck and the tan skirt.  His gaze lingered on her shapely calves before returning to her face.  He blushed when he caught her looking at him.  It was not the first time that she had espied him staring at her.  She didn’t seem to mind, though.  He was sure that she must be used to men admiring her.

She leaned against the counter, studying him and making him very nervous.  “How old are you?” she asked.

“Eighteen.”

“Do you have a girlfriend?”

He shook his head.  “No.”

“What about the girls at college?”

“I’m not interested in any of them,” he said.  I am interested in you.

She seemed to be pondering something for a moment and then, she said, “I have a cousin about your age and—”

His expression darkened.  “I don’t want to go out with your cousin,” he told her curtly.  “I—I want to go out with you.”

That startled her and for a few minutes, she seemed at a loss for words.  “You’re too young for me,” she said finally.

That stung.  “I may be young but I’m very mature for my age,” he said.

“Yes, you are very mature for your age, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re eighteen and I’m—I’m nine years older than you.  Besides, your mother would not approve.”

“She doesn’t have to know.  We can see each other on the quiet until—until I’m at least twenty-one.”

She shook her head.  “No.  I can’t do it, Toby.  You should be with a girl your age.”

He opened his mouth to protest but she excused herself and walked away, leaving him feeling like he had been kicked in the stomach.  After that painful rejection, she avoided being alone with him.  And when his summer job was over, they hardly saw each other, except on occasions when his mother invited her over for tea or to work on some project.  And they didn’t say much to each other, except exchange pleasantries.  For eight years, he pined for her, longing for the day when she would give him a chance.

He roused himself from his reverie and moved away from the tree.  He didn’t come out here to dwell on the past or wish for something that may never happen.  It was a beautiful day but very hot.  When it was this hot, he always went for a swim in the lake.  He turned to look at the water as it shimmered in the sun, seeming to beckon to him.

Without any hesitation, he stripped down to his underwear and ran down to the water, wading in until it was up to his waist.  It felt nice and cool on his skin.   He swam to the other side of the lake and climbed on to the embankment.  He lay on his back in the shade with his arms folded behind his head.  He could stay out here all afternoon.

Unaware that he was being observed so when he turned to swim back to the grassy slope opposite, he started when he emerged and saw Celeste standing by the tree where his clothes lay.  His face grew crimson at the thought of climbing out, dripping wet, clad only in his underwear in front of her.  He wouldn’t be able to hide his attraction for her.

Her eyes travelled over his bare shoulders and torso before she turned away, her heart racing.  He went over to where his jeans lay and quickly pulled them on.  His shirt soon followed and after he buttoned it, he went and stood in front of her, his eyes riveted on her averted face.  “Why are you here, Celeste?” he asked.

“Your mother invited me to tea and to update me on all that happened while I was away,” she said, avoiding his searching gaze.  She couldn’t stop thinking about the way he looked when he came out of the water, dripping and the passions it evoked in her.

“I meant out here.”

“I-I wanted to give you this,” she said, showing him a beautiful wooden carved giraffe.  “I brought it back from Kenya for you.  Your mother told me that you were out here.  I—I didn’t know that you would be swimming.”

He took the souvenir from her, his fingers brushing against hers, sending a jolt of electricity through his body.  His eyes flew up to her face and found her watching him.  The expression on her face made his heart somersault.  What he saw in her eyes made him drop the giraffe and pull her roughly into his arms, making her gasp.  He kissed her hungrily, feverishly as the years of pent up emotions were released and groaned when he felt her cling to him as she responded wildly to his kisses.

She felt the rough bark of the tree pressing into her back and her head was tilted far back under the onslaught of his lips as he relentlessly plundered hers.  Her fingers gripped his hair, digging into the scalp as the emotions she had denied for so long raged in her like a fire.

This continued for a while and then, he raised his head, his breathing harsh and unsteady.  He gazed down into her face, his eyes dark and stormy.  “I love you,” he muttered thickly.  “I have loved you for eight long and agonizing years.”

She tried to catch her breath.  “I love you too,” she gasped.  “All the time I was in Kenya, I thought about you and wished that you were there with me.  I missed you so much, Toby.  I had to come by today and see you.  When I asked your mother where you were I was afraid that she would tell me that you were out with some girl.  She knows that I love you.  I couldn’t hide it from her and she wasn’t upset or anything.  Instead she told me where to find you and I ran down here to see you.”

He reached up and cupped her face between his hands.  “Does this mean that you will go out with me?” he asked huskily.

“Yes,” she whispered.  “As they say, when you truly love someone, age doesn’t matter whether it’s a difference of two years, fifteen years or in our case, nine years. Love is love…” her voice trailed off as she felt his lips against hers.

 

The Secret Relationship

Douglas was in the kitchen, stacking the dishwasher while she was in the living-room, admiring the décor and the beautiful patina of the antique table beside the fireplace and below a painting of a person walking along a tree-lined path in the rain.  She paused to admire it.

The myriad of bright oranges, reds and yellows suggested that it was in the fall.  The path and the bench were soaked from the pouring rain.   Yet, the walker looked dry underneath the umbrella and in no hurry to get out of the rain.  She wondered if she should come out of the rain before she got wet.  Douglas and she had been seeing each other for months now.  This was the first time they were at his place.  So far they had been going out but avoided places where they might run into people they knew.  They couldn’t afford to allow anyone to find out about them or Douglas could lose his job.  He was her Economics professor.

The moment she walked into his class and saw him, she knew she was in trouble.  She tried not to stare but it wasn’t easy.  She would shoot him furtive glances every opportunity she got and when the class was over, she would linger, spending a little long packing up her bag. Thankfully, his was the last class for the day so she didn’t have to rush off to the next one.

One afternoon when she was packing up her bag, he went over to her desk.  She glanced up and their eyes met.  He had the most incredible green eyes and his face–she realized that she was staring and quickly looked away.

“I’m going to grab a cappuccino,” he said quietly.  “Would you like to join me?”

She looked at him, her heart racing.  He was asking her outGet a hold of yourself, girl.  It’s just a cappuccino.  “Yes, I’d like to,” she answered.

He smiled.  “Good.  I’ll meet you at the front entrance.”

She zipped up her bag and left the classroom.  She waited on the steps, watching the sun set.  Five minutes later he drove up and stopped at the side of the curb.  She ran down the steps and got into his car.  They drove off.  On the way over to the coffee shop, he asked her what her major was.  “Sociology,” she said.  “I want to make a difference when it comes to the social problems that we face in our society and around the world such as poverty, race relations, gender inequality, globalization and environmental change.”

“When I tell people that I teach Economics, they look at me as if I were crazy.  Most people remember it as a very boring subject but when I explain to them that the course I teach is Urban Economics they become interested.”

They continued talking about university and courses until they arrived at an Italian cafe in Greenwich Village.  Over a Hazelnut Cappuccino and a Hot Chocolate, they talked about other things.

“Do you ice-skate?” he asked an hour and a half later when he was taking her home.

She nodded.

“Do you have any plans for tomorrow evening?”

She shook her head.

“We can go skating at Bryant Park and then have dinner at the restaurant there.”

They went to Bryant Park and she had a wonderful time.  It had been a while since she last skated and after a few shaky steps and falls, she was fine.  Afterwards they had dinner in the restaurant where it was nice and warm.  He asked to take her out the following evening and they began seeing each other regularly after that.

The sound of his footsteps behind her brought her back to the present.  She joined him on the sofa.  They were going to watch an old movie classic but she couldn’t concentrate.  She was intensely aware of him and the fact that they were sitting very closely together so that his knee was touching hers.  At one point she could sense that he was looking at her.  As the movie progressed, she was on tenterhooks, wondering if at any point, he was going to make a move and longing for him to.

Finally, unable to bear it any longer, she turned to look at him when she knew that he was watching her.  Their eyes met and held.  Deliberately, she lowered her gaze to his mouth and parted her lips.  Without saying a word, he reached for her and pulled her across his lap.  His head swooped down and he was kissing her.  Her arms went around his neck and held him tightly as they exchanged passionate kisses.

After a while, he raised his head and gazed down into her face, his own flushed.  “I’ve been a professor for ten years now and not once have I ever been attracted to any of my students.  Then, you walked into my classroom.  I didn’t want to be attracted to you but I couldn’t fight it.  I approached you at the risk of losing my job.”

She reached up and touched his face.  “I was never attracted to any of my teachers but the moment I saw you, I was in trouble.  Common sense told me to transfer to another class but I listened to my heart instead.”

“Robyn, I want us to continue seeing each other but under the quiet until you graduate.”

She nodded.  “Okay.”

“By the way, who was that guy I saw you talking to in the hallway on Thursday before you came to class?”

She tried to remember who he was talking about for a moment.  “Oh, that was Eric.”

“What did he want?” he asked tightly.

“He wanted to know if I was free Saturday night.”

His eyes darkened in jealousy.  “And what did you tell him?”

“I told him that I wasn’t.  I also told him that I was seeing someone.”

“I hate the idea of other guys asking you out.”

She reached up and kissed him.  “You don’t have to worry about any of them,” she murmured against his lips.  “They don’t stand a chance.”

Groaning, he kissed her back and then, putting his hands under her knees, he stood up and carried her to his room.

They managed to keep their relationship a secret and on the day of her graduation in June, he asked her to marry him.

mixed couple in love

Sources:  Thought.co; Huffington Post; University of Kent; NYU; Cafe Reggio