The Girl Least Likely…

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PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

When he came into the library, I panicked.  I was afraid that if he saw me, he would come over and say hi and I was petrified that I wouldn’t be able to hide my feelings from him.  He was the most popular guy on campus and I was—well, the girl least likely to attract someone like him.

“Hi.”

“Hi,”

“May I join you?”

“Yes.”

He sat down and stared at me so hard that I wanted to cover my face.  “Are you busy Saturday night?”

“No.”

“How about dinner and a movie?”

Stunned, I nodded.

He grinned.

 

99 Words

This was written for the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields For more details, visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Co-Workers Turned Couple

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He glanced up from his computer and realized that Shantel and he were the only ones in the office.  Everyone else had left.  It was Friday.  Most people left either minutes before or exactly at five.  And it was summer.  People wanted to enjoy the nice weather.

He wasn’t in any rush to get home.  All he did when he was there was watch television, play the stereo, read or spend hours on his laptop.  After living most of his life on a farm, it took a while to get used to living in the city.  In spite of the hustle and bustle and all that the city had to offer, his was a very boring life.  He didn’t have a girlfriend and he wasn’t interested in dating, at least that was before Shantel came on the scene.

Two years ago, she joined the company when Ruth who had been working there for over fifteen years, decided to move back to Toronto.  He was sorry to see her go because she was like an older sister to him.  However, when he saw her replacement, he was bowled over.  She was beautiful!  He was tongue-tied and couldn’t help staring when Ruth introduced them.

Shantel was quiet and reserved like him and they got along very well.  Some times they had lunch and took the subway together.  They learned a lot about each other.  He was relieved to find out that she was single like him.  They shared a lot in common and had similar tastes.  Sometimes, they went to the park to have lunch and after work, they went to the shopping mall or the library to browse before hopping on the train.

It wasn’t long before he started to develop feelings for her and he wanted so badly to ask her out but he was afraid of rejection and ruining their friendship.  He watched her now as she sat at her desk.  She glanced up and caught him looking at her.  She got up and went over.  She looked amazing in the purple dress which ended just above her knees.  What lovely legs she had…Realizing that he was staring, he turned away, his face red.

“Are you working late?” she asked.

He looked up.  “I wasn’t planning to,” he replied.  “What about you?”

“No.  I’m ready to leave when you are.”

“Okay.  I’ll be ready in five minutes.”

“I’ll go and get ready.”  She smiled at him before walking away.

He switched off his computer and quickly cleared his desk.  Grabbing his jacket, he went over to her desk where she was waiting for him.  They walked to the elevator.  On the ride down, she turned to him.  “Are you doing anything tomorrow evening?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No.”

“Well, I was wondering if you would to have dinner at my place.”

His heart began to beat faster.  “I would love to, Shantel.” 

“I’ve wanted to ask you that for a long time but just couldn’t work up the courage until now.”

His eyes darkened on her face and he reached for her hand.  “And I’ve wanted to ask you out so many times but was afraid to.”

She smiled and squeezed his hand.  “I’m glad to know that we both feel the same way and that we’re finally reached this stage in our relationship.  No more hiding or pretending…”  Her voice trailed off as his lips found hers and moved ever so gently, like a caress, making her catch her breath.

When they exited the elevator, they were smiling and holding hands.  They were a couple now.

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for today’s prompt, Farm.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Love on Campus

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Joslyn was walking across the university’s campus lawn heading for the library when she saw her Language professor walking towards her.  She stopped and waited for him, her heart pounding.  He looked so handsome in the navy blue suit, light blue shirt and navy blue tie.  His thick black hair was slicked back, giving him a polished look.  No one knew that they were in a relationship.  On campus, he was professor Alvarez but off campus, he was Joaquín.

She trembled when she remembered how he had urged her to say his name and the way he said hers when they were making love last night.  Her name sounded very sexy when he said it.  They had dinner at his place.  He was such a terrific cook.  Afterwards, they relaxed in the living-room, talking and sipping non-alcoholic wine.

Then, he reached over, took her glass and put it on the table with his.  He turned and cupping her face between his hands, he lowered his head and kissed her.  She placed her hand on his thigh, feeling the muscles contract and kissed him back.  Things got heated and in a matter of minutes, they were naked.  He scooped her up and carried her to his bedroom where they made love for the first time.

All morning she had flashbacks.  It was hard sitting in his class and trying to concentrate.   She kept remembering how good their merged bodies looked in the mirror and the passionate kisses they exchanged.  At one point, she dragged her nails across his smooth back, eliciting a moan and the confession, “Me vuelves loco.  You drive me wild.”

After their tryst, they showered and dressed in his robes, they went into the living-room and watched a movie on Netflix before he took her home.  She couldn’t sleep.  All she kept thinking about was him and how she couldn’t wait to see him today.  Excited, she walked into the classroom.  He wasn’t there as yet.  She went to her desk and waited.

Jamal walked in, saw her, grinned and sat down at the desk beside her.  “Hi,” he said, his eyes flickering over her slim figure in the red shirt and jeans.

“Hi,” she said with a slight smile.  He was a nice guy and she didn’t mind talking to him but he didn’t stand a chance.  She was madly in love with Joaquín.

They were talking and Jamal said something to make her laugh just when Joaquín walked in.  He looked at them for a brief moment before saying good-morning.  Other students started to file in.  Jamal got up and went to his regular seat.  After he was gone, Joslyn sneaked a glance at Joaquín.  He was preparing for class.

As class got on the way, she noticed that he seemed a bit off.  And when he called on her, she noticed that he looked very serious.  He was frowning.  Usually, he would smile.

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He reached her now.  Her smile faded when she saw the expression on his face.  Something was definitely up.  She wanted so badly to reach up and run her fingers through his hair like she did last night.  “Hi,” she said, instead.

“Hi.  Where are you heading?”

“To the library.”

“Are you meeting someone there?”

“As a matter of fact I am.”

His mouth tightened.  “Jamal?”

She frowned at him.  “Jamal?”

“Are you meeting him in the library?”

She shook her head.  “No, I’m meeting Rhonda.  She needs help with a research paper.”

He moved closer, his expression tense and a muscle throbbed alongside his jawline.  “When I walked into the classroom this morning, I saw Jamal and you together.”

“Yes, he came and sat down next to me.  We started talking and then you walked in.”

“You were laughing.”

“Yes, he said something funny.  He’s a funny guy.”

“Do you like him?”

“As a friend.”

“What about him?  Does he like you as a friend?”

“I think he wants to be more than friends but I’m not interested.”

“Why not?  He’s your age and he’s good-looking.”

She shrugged.  “So?  I’m not attracted to him or any other guy, Joaquín.   I have eyes only for you.”

He ran his fingers through his hair.  “When I saw the two of you together, I saw red,” he confessed tightly.   “I was so jealous.”

“I was right.  You weren’t yourself this morning.  Oh, Joaquín, there’s no reason for you to be jealous.  I love you.”

His eyes darkened on her upturned face.  “Say it to me in Spanish.”

“Te amo, Joaquín”

“Yo también te amo, Joslyn,” he muttered thickly.  “I want to kiss you so badly.”

The expression on his face made her mouth go dry.  “Later,” she said breathlessly.

“Later, I’m taking you to dinner and the theatre.”

She smiled.  “That sounds great.”

“I have something else to tell you.  My sister Julieta is getting married next week.  How would you like to go to Seville for the wedding?  It falls right around Spring break.  So, we’ll be able to spend at least twelve days in Seville.”

Her eyes widened.  “Seville, for twelve days?” she exclaimed.  She had never been to Europe before.

He smiled.  “Yes.  I want to show you where I grew up and introduce you to my family.  I’ve told them about you.”

“I’d love to see where you spent your childhood and meet your family.”

“Good.  We can leave on the Saturday after we break for Easter.  I can’t wait to take you sightseeing and Flamenco dancing.  You’ll love Seville, I promise.”

She stared up at him, her heart in her eyes when she murmured, “I love it already because of you.”

He glanced around to make sure no one could see them before he reached for her hand.   “I’d better be heading back,” he said, reluctantly.  “My next class starts in ten minutes.”

She could hardly think with him holding her hand.   “And I have to go.  Rhonda’s probably wondering where I am.  I’ll see you later.”

“Yes, I’ll pick you up at six.”  He released her hand, winked at her and then turned and walked away.

She watched his tall frame until he disappeared from her view before she headed for the library, her mind spinning.  The rest of the day was a blur.

They said; when you’re in love, you are in a cloud nine…Well, I guess they are wrong…cos’ the feeling is actually like in cloud 999 – – Ishe Tayco

The Right Moment

Zahara sat in the library with text books and papers spread out on the table in front of her but she couldn’t concentrate.  She was thinking about Kyle and what happened last night.  After making love, and as they lay there, spent, she said, “I love you.”  The silence which followed that declaration made her wonder if it had been premature and she wished she could take the words back.

They lay there for a while, neither saying anything until he suggested, “Let’s take a nice hot shower together and then watch a movie.”  Before he rolled on to his side to climb out of the bed, he lowered his head and kissed her on the forehead.  Bummer, she thought, turning her head away so that he wouldn’t see the disappointment on her face.   She lay there for a few minutes longer before dragging herself out of the bed and joining him in the shower.  As they stood underneath the water, he bent his head and kissed her by the eye which felt very strange.

After they finished showering, he gave her one of his robes to wear and they relaxed on the sofa, sipping hot chocolate as they watched a movie.  It was some time later when they got dressed and he took her home.   She went straight to bed but lay there for a long time, staring up at the ceiling and wondering why he hadn’t told her that he loved her too.  Was it because he didn’t?  Did her profession of love put him in a spot?  She could still recall the silence which followed and how she wished the ground would open up and swallow her.  They had been dating for almost a year so she thought that it was time for them to drop the L-word.  Clearly, she was wrong.

Tears pricked her eyes and rolled on to her stomach so that she could bury her face in the pillow.  What was she going to do if it turned out that Kyle didn’t love her?  It was not until after one in the morning that she finally fell asleep and it was fitful.  When she got up later to get ready for college, she was very tired.  On the train ride she leaned her head against the window and closed her eyes all the way to her stop.  Before she walked to the campus, she grabbed herself a coffee.

As she sat there now in the library, she asked herself the same question.  What if he never said, “I love you” to her?  What then?  Should she end the relationship?  She couldn’t bear the thought of not being with him so she dismissed the idea of breaking up with him.  So what if he didn’t say the words she wanted so much to hear?  What about his actions?  Didn’t they speak louder than words?  She had read some where that you could tell when a guy was really into you.  She could still remember the five signs and Kyle had shown all of them.

She was a priority in his life.  He was always taking time to catch up with her and spend time together, sometimes, he even blew off friends and family just to be with her.  He was always talking about the future, using the words, “we” and “us”.  He had no problem showing public display of affection like holding her hand and placing his hand at the lower part of her back.  He actually listened to her talk about her day and whenever she had a crappy one, he always found some way to help her to feel better.  And so far she had met most of his relatives.  Just recently, they went to his cousin’s wedding.

If he loved her why couldn’t he just say so?  Frustrated, she gathered her books and papers and stuffed them in her bag.  She walked out of the library and out of the building.   She sat on the concrete slab attached to the statue of Ezra Cornell and reaching into her bag, she took out her cell phone.  She dialed Farrah’s number.  Farrah was the friend who had introduced her to Kyle.

When her friend answered, Zahara told her everything.  “I’m so confused,” she concluded.  “I want to believe that he loves me but after what happened last night, I’m not sure.”

“Anyone can see that Kyle is crazy about you, Zee.  Don’t jump to conclusions because he hasn’t told you that he loves you.  Maybe he’s better at expressing his feelings through actions rather than words.  Instead of telling you that he loves you, he’s showing you.  Sometimes love expressed is better than love professed.  Don’t get so hung up on this that you end up ruining a good thing.  Be thankful that you have a man who loves in action.   I know women who would love to trade places with you.  Kyle is a terrific guy.  Don’t throw away what you have with him over something as trivial as this.  Remember men and women are different.  We can’t expect them to do things the same way we do.”

Zahara sighed.  “Thanks, Farrah.  I’m glad I called you.  You’ve given me a lot to think about.  I love Kyle and I don’t want to lose him.  I will stop stressing out over this and just concentrate on loving him.”

“The love is there but he’s not ready to say it as yet.  And there was nothing wrong with you saying ‘I love you’ to him.  You couldn’t contain your feelings and wanted to express them in words.  So, don’t beat yourself up for doing that because he didn’t respond the same way.  Your timing is not his.  Be patient.  Be willing to wait until he he is ready to say that he loves you.”

“I will,” she promised.  And she did.  She didn’t obsess any more over Kyle not saying “I love you.”  She just focused on being with him and doing fun things with him.  And on the day of her graduation she walked proudly up on the stadium to get her diploma, grinning from ear to ear as she saw him taking pictures.  Afterwards, they went to his place to celebrate.  It was while they were curled up on the sofa, that he told her that he was taking her to Paris for two weeks. “It’s my graduation present to you,” he murmured huskily.

She was thrilled because she had never been to Europe.  Her eyes sparkled.  “Thank you, Kyle,” she said before she kissed him.

Paris was everything she had imagined and much more.  She felt like Alice in Wonderland.  Her eyes drank in everything as they went sightseeing and the food was so good.  She loved the little cafes and the cobbled streets.  One evening after dinner, they went for a walk along the Seine river where they lingered for a while. It was a beautiful evening.  The sun was beginning to set.  He took photos of her backing the Seine river before they headed for the Eiffel Tower which loomed ahead.

Taking her hands he drew her closer to him, his eyes intent on upturned face as he said, “The first time I saw you my heart stopped, the world stopped and there were just you and me in the room.    I couldn’t take my eyes off you and when Farrah introduced us, I was tongue tied and nervous.  I wanted to so much to spend the night talking to you and getting to know you but I couldn’t ignore our age difference.  You didn’t look a day over twenty and I was thirty-six.  You were a university student and I was the Director of a company.  And I was in a relationship.  Yet, in spite of these complications, I just couldn’t get you out of my mind.  I ended my relationship and I asked Farrah for your number and here we are.”

“The first time I saw you I didn’t think that a man like you would even notice me.  I stood there, watching you, hoping and praying for the impossible.”

“How could I not notice you?  When I saw you standing there alone, watching me, I fell hard and it scared me.  I had heard about love at first sight but never thought it would happen to me.”

Zahara’s eyes widened and her heart began to race.  “Are you saying that you love me?”

“Yes, Zahara.  I love you.  I have wanted to tell you that for such a long time but the moment never seemed right.  I didn’t want to say it before we became sexually involved because I didn’t want you to think that I was saying it to get you to sleep with me.  I didn’t want to say it during our love making because I didn’t want you to think that it was in the heat of the moment.  That evening when you said you loved me, you have no idea how much I wanted to say it to you but the time didn’t feel right.”

“I was so embarrassed and confused.”

“I’m so sorry, Honey.  I didn’t mean to hurt you.  I just wanted to wait for the right moment to tell you what I’ve wanted to tell you since we met.”

She smiled up at him.  “What could be a more perfect moment than this one?  We’re standing in front of the Eiffel Tower when you finally say the three words I have been longing to hear.”

They kissed and then he gently extricated himself from her.  He reached into the pocket of his jacket and got down on one knee.  “This is also the perfect moment for me to ask you a very important question,” he said, presenting a small red box.  Her eyes brimmed with tears as she saw him take out an exquisite diamond ring which glittered in the setting sun.  “Zahara, will you marry me?”

“Yes,” she managed to say as she was choked up, the tears now streaming down her face.

Kyle stood up and cupping her face, he kissed her for several minutes before he buried his face in her neck and whispered, “I love you.”

Don’t wait for the right moment. Create it – Boldomatic

 

Sources:  EskimiHer Campus; Your Tango; Michael Hyatt

The Park

It was such a beautiful, sunny day that after visiting her aunt, Jessie decided that she would go to the park and spend an hour or so before heading home.  She loved this old park.  As a child she used to come here with her aunt and her cousins.  She went to her favorite area where there were three benches facing the pond.  As she approached them, she noticed a very attractive man sitting on the one in the middle.  Their eyes met when she walked past him to get to the third bench.  She sat down, placed her handbag beside her and leaned back, crossing her legs.

She was acutely aware of him and wondered if he was there alone or waiting for someone.  Unable to resist, she turned her head and her heart skipped a beat when she saw him watching her.  His arm rested along the back of the bench.  Although he was dressed casually in a pink tee shirt and jeans there was an air of elegance about him.  He looked like he was in his mid to late thirties.  They stared at each other for what seemed like a very long time and then, he smiled.

Heart racing, she smiled back.  This was so exciting.  Here she was making eyes with a perfect stranger in a park she visited frequently.  Does he live around here?  She wondered.  That seemed very unlikely.  He looked out of place in this modest neighborhood.

Her heart leapt when he got up from his bench and went over to her.  “May I join you?” he asked.

She nodded.  “Yes,” she replied, sounding a little breathless.  This close he was even more attractive.  He had the most amazing green eyes and smile.  She pulled her handbag closer to her to make more room on the bench.

He sat down beside her and held out his hand.  “Paul Bentley.”

She shook his hand.  “Jessie Moore.”

“I don’t usually approach a woman I don’t know in a park but I had to meet you.”

She smiled shyly at him.  “Do-do you live around here?” she asked.

“I used to,” he said, surprising her.  “I grew up here and then my family moved when my father started his own business.  I still come back here sometimes, though.  Life was tough at times but we got by.  What about you?  Do you live here?”

She shook her head.  “No, my aunt lives here.  I used to spend weekends with her and my cousins and we used to come to this park. It has changed a lot since then but I still love coming here.”

“Do you live with your parents?”

“No, I live on my own.”

“Do you live far from here?”

“Not really.  I take the tube and it’s about a twenty minute ride.”

“What about you?”

“I live in Canary Wharf.”

“That’s a really nice, upscale area,” she exclaimed.  “I went there a couple of times and loved it.”

“I like living there.  I especially enjoy going to the park or walking along the docks to unwind after a long and tedious day.”

“What kind of work do you do?”

“I’m a High Court judge.”

“You’re a judge?” She stared at him.  “But, you look so young.  Most of the judges I see are older men.”

He smiled.  “I’m thirty-eight,” he informed.  “I was appointed to the judgeship two years ago.”

“What sorts of cases do you preside over?”

“I sit in the Family Division which deals with personal human matters such as divorce, children, probate and medical treatment.  The Division exercises jurisdiction to hear all cases relating to children’s welfare, and has an exclusive jurisdiction in ward-ship cases.”

“Do you like what you do?”

“For the most part.  Although sometimes the decisions we make are seen as controversial as in the case where  the hospital was given permission to separate conjoined twins without the parents’ consent and the woman who was allowed to have her life support machines turned off but a husband wasn’t allowed to give his severely disabled wife a lethal injection with her consent.  We have faced a lot of criticism but ultimately, we practice law and equity. ”

She tried to envision him in a robe and wearing a white wig, seated on the bench with a gavel in his hand.  “I’ve never met a judge before.”

And I’ve never met a woman who makes me want to lose myself in her eyes and her smile.  He couldn’t get enough of her.  He wanted to know everything about her.  “Tell me about yourself.  What do you do when you’re not sitting in the park talking to a judge?  Do you have brothers and sisters?”  Never once did he imagine that he would be attracted to someone who looked much younger than him but from the moment he saw her, he knew he had to talk to her.

She looked at him, feeling shy again.  His eyes were intent on her face.  She began to tell him a little about herself.  “I graduated from university last year.  Got a job at Trends as a Digital Copywriter.  I have two older brothers and a younger sister.  My parents are retired and my mother volunteers at a women’s shelter.  On the weekends, I go vintage shopping or the cinema or pop into the library or hang out with friends or stay in and read a book or watch television.”

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-three.”  She hoped that her age wouldn’t matter.  It would be a shame if it did because she really liked him.

“I’m not married,” he said, startling her.  “Do you have a boyfriend?”  He could tell that she was attracted to him too but he wanted to make sure that she wasn’t already in a relationship because that would only complicate things.

She shook her head.  “No, I don’t have a boyfriend.”

Relieved, he said, “I would like to continue our conversation over dinner.”  He glanced at his watch.  It was six o’ clock.  They had been talking for an hour.  “I know a nice family run trattoria where we can go.”

“That sounds good,” she murmured as she took up her handbag and stood up, excited that they were going to spend more time together.

He got to his feet and she felt small beside him.  For a moment they stared at each other, their bodies close together.  She was really quite beautiful.  “Jessie, I know that there is a considerable age difference between us but I would really like to see you again after we have dinner tonight.”

Her heart was racing.  “I–I would like that too.”

He smiled.  “Good.”  Unable to resist, he raised his hand and brushed his knuckles gently against her cheek before they headed to the entrance of the park.

Over Penne Arrabiata and non alcoholic wine, they made plans to see each other again.   Two years later, when they went back to the park where they met, they were married and expecting their first child.

 

Source:  Court and Tribunals Judiciary; Wikipedia; Wikipedia; The Culture Trip

A Father’s Wish

The arias which always helped him to relax and enjoy his evenings did nothing to quell the uneasiness plaguing him.  He switched off the radio and the silence which followed was a painful reminder that he was alone.  It was near mid-night and she wasn’t home as yet.  Where on earth could she be?  He had tried calling her cell many times but it was turned off.  When he came home that afternoon, she wasn’t there but he thought nothing of it.  She was probably with her friends or at the library.  However, as it got late and she hadn’t come home or called, he began to get worried.  A couple of hours earlier, he looked across the street and saw a group of young people congregate outside of his neighbor’s home but she wasn’t among them.

He put off calling her friends because he didn’t want to come across as overprotective but eventually, he had no choice.  None of them knew where she was but promised to call him if they heard anything.  He closed his eyes in despair.  Tonight was supposed to be a special one.  He was going to tell her that he loved her but first they were going to enjoy the dinner he had prepared for them.  It was probably cold by now.  Oh, Rebecca, where are you?  Why don’t you call me?  It was not like her to do this.  He was out of his mind with worry.

The last time he felt like this was nine years ago when they were in the shopping mall and somehow they got separated.  One minute she was right there beside him and the next she was gone.  Frantic, he went through the mall, looking for her until finally, he went to the courtesy desk and asked them to make an announcement.

Ten minutes later, the embarrassed and distressed twelve year old showed up.  After hugging her tightly, they left the mall with him holding her hand in a firm grip.  He didn’t lecture her right away because she was visibly upset.  Suffice to say, they never got separated again whenever they went out together.

He would never forget the first time he met Rebecca.  She was eight at the time and it was at the company’s annual summer picnic.  Her father brought her with him that year.  It was two years after her mother died.  She and her father have moved out of the house and to a flat in the old neighborhood where he grew up.  He and her father worked together and over the years, they had become very good friends.  He always used to tell him, “I hope that Becky ends up marrying a good man like you, Noel.”

Rebecca stared up at him with those huge brown eyes and stole his heart.  So, three years later on that fateful day in the hospital when Clyde asked him to become her guardian he said yes.  Clyde died two days later and was buried next to his beloved wife.  Noel took Rebecca home and raised her as if she were his own daughter.  He was thirty at the time.

They had a very close and loving relationship. He took her to museums, concerts, operas, on day trips and the movies.  His life was never the same and he was thankful for that.  She filled his heart and home with such joy.  Whenever they visited her parents’ graves, he would silently thank Clyde for bestowing such an awesome responsibility on him and promised him that he would make sure that Rebecca married a good man.

He knew that she still missed her father, especially when it was his birthday or Father’s Day and she always talked about how conversant he was with movie classics and that it was from him that she developed her love for them.  So, whenever it was her father’s birthday or Father’s Day, they would watch old movies on TCM in his memory.

Things continued in much the same vein until Rebecca turned eighteen.  That’s when his feelings toward her began to change.  It became increasingly hard for him to be around her and not want her.  He continued to kiss her on the forehead as they bid each other goodnight every evening but how he ached to kiss her on the lips.  He considered sending her away to college in Washington, but quickly squashed the idea because their separation would be unbearable for him.  They still spent a lot of time together but he encouraged her to hang out more with people her own age.  At first, she protested, preferring to be with him like old times but he insisted so, she acquiesced.

He remembered one night when she came home from a friend’s birthday party and was aghast at the dress she was wearing.  Her hair was pulled up in a ponytail, she wore makeup, the gold earrings he had given her as a birthday present and the dress–if you could call it that, was short, hugged her figure and had fine straps.  Her cleavage was there for the entire world to see.

His face suffused with color and he took a deep breath before he muttered, “Please go and take off that dress.”

She went and ten minutes later, she was wearing a pair of pajamas, her face was scrubbed clean and her hair fell about her shoulders.  She watched him warily.  “You’re angry with me,” she said.

He dragged his fingers through his hair as he struggled to remain calm.  His heart was racing.  He wasn’t upset with her only but with himself because of his body’s response to seeing her in that dress.  He was relieved to see her in the pajamas because they were a bit loose on her.  “Rebecca, what were you thinking wearing a dress like that?”

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled.  “I wanted to look good.”

“Wanting to look good doesn’t mean you should expose yourself like that.  That dress was tacky.  You’re a beautiful young woman, Rebecca.  You don’t need to flaunt yourself in order to fit in.  I don’t care if your friends are wearing those kinds of dresses, I only care about you and so, I don’t ever want to see you in a dress like that ever again.”

She nodded.  “All right, Noel.  I won’t dress like that again, I promise.”

“Do you still have the receipt?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.  Tomorrow, I would like you to return it.  I’m surprised they sold it to you.”

“I’ll return it right after school.”  She went over to him, her eyes wide as they met his.  She put her arms around his neck and hugged him, burying her face in his chest.

At first he stood there, stiff as a board, unresponsive and then he put his arms around her waist and hugged her tightly, closing his eyes as strong emotions washed over him like a tidal wave.  After several tortuous minutes, he extricated himself and put a little distance between them, his eyes dark and stormy as they returned her gaze.  “Goodnight, Rebecca,” he said quietly.

“Goodnight, Noel.” She hesitated for a moment and then turned and walked out of the room.  He watched her go.  He had dared not give her the usual kiss on the forehead because he might have ended up devouring her lips instead.

The loud peal of the phone jolted him back to the present and he grabbed the receiver, his heart thudding.  “Hello?”

It was Chloe, one of Rebecca’s friends.  “Hello, Mr. Harding.  I’m sorry to be calling at such a late hour but I thought you might want to know that one of our friends saw Becky talking to a woman right outside of the university campus.  She said they looked like they were having words and then Becky ran off, very upset.”

“Did you friend describe what this woman looked like?”

“She said that she was blonde, stunning and drove a red Porsche.”

His fingers tightened around the phone.  Emma.  “Thank you, Chloe, for calling and letting me know.”

“Has Becky come home as yet?” She sounded very concerned.

“No, I’m afraid not.  When she does, I will have her call you in the morning.  Goodnight, Chloe.”

“Goodnight, Mr. Harding.”

As soon as he rang off from Chloe, he dialed Emma’s number, fuming.

“Hello, Noel.  Why are you calling me instead of coming over?”

He ignored her question.  “Why were you here this afternoon?”

“I stopped by to see you, of course.  Where were you?”

“What do you say to Rebecca?”

“Why what did she tell you?”

“I haven’t seen her since this morning and I’m out of my mind with worry.”

“Well, she’s probably doing this to spite you.  When I came by, she looked at me as if I were trespassing and when I told her that we were seeing each other, she as much as called me a liar.  So, I showed her a photo of the two of us together–you know the one I asked the waitress to take of us when were having dinner at that Italian restaurant? You should have seen her face.  I told her that she was only there because of the promise you made to her father–”

“How dare you tell her that?” he demanded furiously.  “I agreed to be her guardian because I loved her.   She means the world to me.  Damn you, Emma.  Don’t ever show your face around here again.”  He slammed the phone, shaking.  He could kick himself for ever getting involved with her.

He went to the window and looked out, his forehead pressing against the glass.  It was then in a moment of sheer desperation, that he mouthed a silent prayer, his eyes squeezed shut.

“Noel?” a timid voice called behind him.

Swinging around, he found himself staring at Rebecca.  For a moment, he thought it was a figment of his imagination.  Had God answered his prayer that quickly?  In a flash, he was across the room and pulling her roughly in his arms.  “Oh, Rebecca,” he moaned.  “Where have you been?  Have you any idea of the torment you’ve put me through?”  He drew back to stare down into her face.  She had been crying.  Her eyes were red and swollen.  Even now, tears were glistening in them.

“I’m-I’m sorry,” she cried.  “I didn’t mean to worry you but I was so upset this afternoon.  I had just come home from the library when I heard the doorbell.  It was a woman I’d never seen before.  She asked for you and when I asked her who she was, she told me that the two of you had been seeing each other.  I didn’t want to believe her and told her that she was lying.  She showed me a photo of the two of you and I realized that she was telling the truth.  I got so jealous and upset that after she left, I left too.  I couldn’t stay here.  I had to get out and go somewhere–anywhere.

“I went to Daddy’s grave and stayed for a long time, telling him about you and how much it hurt that you were with someone else.  On the day after my eighteenth birthday, I told him that I was in love with you and that I’d loved you since I was eight.  That day when I first saw you, I thought that you were the tallest and handsomest man I’d ever seen.   And you were so kind to me.  Next to my father, you were the only other person I really and truly loved.   I love my mother but I didn’t know her.

“Anyway, I told my father things that I never told another soul.  I know he can’t hear me but it helps to talk about things whenever I visit his grave.  I imagine that he’s listening.  This afternoon being at his grave didn’t help so I left there and went to the park you used to take me to when I was a child.  I sat in the same bench we used to sit on and I wished that you were there so that I could yell at you, let you see how much I was hurting inside.

“After I left the park, I just wandered all over the place, trying to forget about you and her but I couldn’t get the photo out of my mind.  You had your arm around her shoulders and you were smiling.  You looked happy…” her voice broke and a sob rose from her throat.  Tears fell afresh down her cheeks and she tried to push him away.

He caught her hands and held her immobile, his own emotions evident on his face.  “She doesn’t make me happy,” he told her thickly.  “You do.  My life wasn’t complete until you came into it, Rebecca.  You filled it with so much joy.  The moment I met you, my heart belonged to you.  I loved you as a father loves his beloved child but when you grew up, that love changed.  It turned into the love a man has for a woman.  What I’m trying to say, Rebecca, is that I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you–not as your guardian but as your husband.”

She blinked at him.  “You want to marry me?” she asked.

He nodded.  “Yes.”

“Oh, Noel,” she cried, her heart in her eyes which were sparkling now.  She reached up and kissed him on the mouth.

Groaning, he released her hands and cupped her face between his hands as he kissed her passionately, letting go of all the pent up feelings he had kept bottled up inside for so long.  For several minutes, they exchanged hungry kisses and then, he raised his head to gaze down at her, his face flushed and his eyes dark with desire.  “I won’t make love to you now although I want to very badly,” he muttered, breathing heavily.  “I want us to wait until we are married.”

Disappointment clouded her face.  She was on fire and ached for him.  “I don’t know if I can wait,” she admitted, trying to catch her breath.

“We’ve waited for four years, so six months wouldn’t hurt–”

Six months,” she exclaimed.  “That’s too long.”

“That’s when you turn twenty-two,” he reminded her.

“I can’t wait until then.”

“What about three months?”

“Two weeks.”

“A month.”

“What about three weeks?”

He smiled.  “All right, three weeks, it is.”

She smiled because they had reached a compromise.  In three weeks, she was going to marry the man she had loved for most of her life.  “I love you, Noel,” she whispered.

“I love you too, Rebecca,” he replied before he lowered his head and kissed her.

Three weeks later, as they faced each other at the altar in front of their friends and his family, he smiled as he imagined Clyde saying to him, “I got my wish, Noel.  My girl is marrying a good man.”

The Inheritance

He stood there, leaning against the tree, hands in pockets, watching her with his younger brother.  They were walking in the garden having what appeared to be a very deep conversation.  Try as he did, he couldn’t deny that it bothered him to see them together.  It wasn’t because he shared his mother’s theory that Rhonda was only interested in his brother for his money.  Granted, William would be left a sizable inheritance when their mother died but that wasn’t what troubled him as he observed them.  It was what he planned to do that concerned him.

He wanted to prove that his mother was wrong about Rhonda and the only way he could think of doing that was to spend more time with her.  While William and the rest of the family were away on the annual winter vacation in the Grand Cayman, he would remain here.

You know that proving your mother wrong isn’t the only reason why you want to get close to Rhonda.  You are in love with her and that’s why it bothers you to see her with William.  He closed his eyes as the truth he had tried to suppress rose to the surface, unrelenting.  He remembered exactly the moment when he realized that he was in love with her.  It was last year Autumn when she had wandered into the library by mistake when she was looking for the drawing-room.  He was sitting in the armchair, reading a book when she walked in.

She looked surprised but very pleased to see him.  Or maybe it was wishful thinking on his part.  He must have appeared rather calm to her but his heart was pounding.  She had that effect on him.  His eyes were riveted to her face.  Such a lovely face.  She laughed, apologetically.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you.  I was looking for the drawing-room.  This is only my second time here so I still have trouble finding my way around.”

“When you leave here, turn left and the drawing-room is two doors down the hall on your right.”  He hoped she would stay for a while.

She lingered.  “What are you reading?” she asked.  He showed her the cover and she read the title out loud, “The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush.”  A curious expression came over her face.  He could tell that it wasn’t what she expected him to be reading.

“It’s for my students,” he explained.  “A fellow teacher recommended it.  So, I’m reading it first to get ideas and then I will get copies for my students.  This book will help them to learn, accept and appreciate other cultures and differences in others.  It will also help them with their language and writing skills.”

She smiled.  “Oh yes, you teach Primary School.  How do you like it?”

“It’s very rewarding.  Sometimes, I learn from them.”

“My sister is a teacher too and she loves it.  How long have you been teaching?”

“For twelve years.  It’s not the lucrative job my mother was hoping that I would have.  She would have preferred that I were an airline pilot or a medical practitioner or a lawyer or even a broker.”

“Then, I guess she’s happy that William is a barrister.”  She was a court clerk and that was how they came to know each other.

“Yes, she is.” She is happy about his career choice but not about his relationship with you.  He could still see the expression of disapproval on his mother’s face whenever she thought of William with Rhonda.  She insisted that she had nothing against the young woman but she really was not suitable for William who would be far better off with a young lady came from a similar background as his.

He knew how his brother felt about her but he wasn’t sure how she felt about him.  A part of him hoped that she reciprocated William’s feelings and another part of him hoped that…He didn’t finish the thought as guilt filled him.  Instead, he closed the book and set it aside.  He got up from the armchair and walked over to the window where he stood looking out at countryside beyond the garden.  It was a warm, dry sunny day.  Perfect for a walk.

Rhonda joined him at the window.  She was wearing a light brown plaid jacket over a green turtleneck, brown corduroys and brown boots.  Her thick, short brown hair framed her face.  She looked amazing.  He tried not to stare but he couldn’t help it.  She was by far the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and it was at that moment he knew that he was in love.

She turned her head and their eyes met.  They stood there staring at each other for a long time and then, William walked into the room.  He looked from one to the other before inquiring of her, “Are you ready for that walk?”

She nodded and before moving away from the window, she glanced up at him again.  He saw something flicker in her eyes as she said quietly, “It was good seeing you again, Ambrose.”

He swallowed.  “It was going seeing you again too.”  I hope I see you again soon.

She moved away from the window and walked over to William who inclined his head at him before they left the room.  He had stood there for several minutes, watching the door and thinking how empty the room felt without her.

“Ambrose.”  The sound of his name brought him back to the present.  His eyes flew open and he straightened away from the tree when he found himself staring into William’s face.  Rhonda was standing beside him, looking concerned.  “You look like you were out of it for a moment there.  Are you all right?”

Ambrose ran his fingers through his hair.  “I’m fine,” he assured him.  “I think I’ll head back inside now.  It’s getting colder.”

“I need to talk to you when I come back from taking Rhonda home.”

“I’ll be in the library.”  He looked at Rhonda.  “Hello.”

“Hello.  I don’t have trouble finding my way around the house anymore,” she told him.  She was visiting more frequently, much to his mother’s chagrin.  Fortunately, the lady of the house wasn’t home today.

He smiled.  “You’re always welcome to come to the library even if you don’t get lost.”

She smiled in return and then she was quickly following William across the lawn. It seemed like he was always watching her walk away from him, leaving him forlorn and aching for her.  Sighing heavily, he walked slowly back to the house and when he reached the library, he sank down in the armchair.  He sat there until William joined him some time later.

After closing the door and approaching Ambrose, William got straight to the point.  “While I’m away, I’d like you to take care of Rhonda.  I don’t want her spending the Christmas holidays alone.  And as far as I know, you don’t have any plans, so the two of you can be company for each other until I come back.  What do you say?”

Ambrose stared at his brother.  He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  This was precisely what he had thought of doing—getting closer to Rhonda and here the opportunity was being offered to him.  How uncanny this was.  “I don’t mind doing you this favor but what about Rhonda?”

“I spoke to her about it and she was up for it.  She’s very fond of you.”

Ambrose turned away so that William wouldn’t see the expression on his face.  I want her to love me the way I love her, he thought and then chided himself for wanting something he shouldn’t.  “As long as she agrees to this, then, I have no objections.

“Thanks, brother,” William said, sounding very appreciative.

They talked about other matters and then he excused himself to go and start packing for the trip.  They were leaving that evening.  The house was going to be awfully quiet after they were gone but then, Rhonda was going to be there.  Ambrose’s heart skipped a beat when he thought of spending time alone with her.  He planned to invite her over to the manor for lunch tomorrow and after lunch he could take her for a drive to Cotswold which looked very picturesque in the winter.  His mind was swarming with ideas of how they were going to spend the Christmas holidays together.  He tried not to think about how hard it would be for him once William returned from vacation and things returned to normal.  Later that evening, after dinner, he called her and invited her to have lunch with him the next day.  She readily accepted and they spent over an hour on the phone talking.

The following day, she came and they had lunch before they headed off to Cotswold where they spent the afternoon.  The snow covered village reminded her of a postcard.  It was very quaint.  She loved it.  They visited the German Christmas Market where she ended up buying hand painted Christmas decorations.   When they returned to the house, they put up the Christmas tree and she put the decorations she bought on it.  They had dinner and sat in front of the fireplace, talking and making plans for the rest of the week.  It was after ten when he finally took her home.

One morning, they went to the Christmas festival where they enjoyed street entertainment, carolers, tasty food, cakes and other festivities.  She picked up gifts and when they returned to the manor in the evening, she went into the library where she wrapped them while he went to the kitchen to see about dinner.  When she was finished, she placed the gifts under the tree.   After they ate, they went to the library where they planned to spend the rest of the evening until it was time for him to take her home.

“I had a wonderful time today,” she told him.  “Cotswold is such a wonderful place.  The people are warm and friendly and there’s so much to do and see.  It’s my second favorite place.”

He smiled.  “What’s your first?”

“This library,” she said.  It’s my favorite place because of you.  “I could spend hours in here, reading.  Have you read most of the books on the shelves?”

He nodded.  “Yes, most of them.”

She got up from the chair and walked over to one of the shelves, her eyes scanning the scores of massive volumes and worn leather-bound books.  “I was wondering if I could borrow that book I saw you reading—the one you said you would use for your class.”

“The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush.  Sure, I’ll find it for you.”  He got up and went over to the bookcase.  “I believe it’s on this shelf.”

“I think I see it.” They reached for the book at the same time and their hands touched.

Mesmerized, she watched as his hand moved so that his fingers closed around hers.  She trembled as he pressed his lips against her palm.  They felt so warm.  She longed to feel them on her lips.  As if he read her mind, he released her hand to cup her face between his hands and his mouth was on hers.  He was ravenous, all the pent up emotions he had kept bottled up inside came gushing out and when he felt her feverish response, he lost his head.  She reached under his sweater and tugged his shirt out of his pants.  Her hands were on his bare skin, her nails digging into it as she kissed him back wildly.  It was then, that he pulled away, breathing harshly, his face flushed and his eyes dark with the emotions churning inside him.

When she would have reached for him, he groaned and moved away, tucking his shirt back in his trousers.  “We can’t do this,” he muttered thickly although his senses were screaming at him to continue.

She looked at him, bewildered.  “Why not?” She asked.  She ached to be in his arms again, kissing him.

“We can’t because of William.”

She stared at him.  “William?”

“Yes, you’re his girlfriend—”

“I’m not William’s girlfriend,” she told him.  “He and I are just very good friends.”

He pushed his fingers through his hair as he tried to digest what she was saying to him.  “You’re telling me that you and William are not in a relationship?”

She shook her head.  “No.  So, your mother has nothing to worry about—at least, not where William is concerned.”  She moved closer to him.  “I wonder what she’s going to do when she finds out that it’s her older son that I have my eyes on.  Is she going to think that I’m after you for your money too?  Yes, I know what she thinks about me,” she added when she saw the expression on his face.  “William told me.”

“I was going to get close to you just to prove that she’s wrong about you and then William asked me to take care of you while he was gone…”

“William knows how I feel about you, that’s why he arranged things so that we are spending so much time together.”

He moved closer to her.  “How do you feel about me, Rhonda?” he asked.  He knew she was attracted to him but he wanted more—much more.

“I’m in love with you,” she said huskily, reaching up and touching his face, trembling as he turned his head and pressed his lips against her palm.

He pulled her into his arms, his expression darkening.  “I’m love with you too.”

She put her arms around his neck and pressed against him.  “So, you don’t mind being with a woman of meager means?” she asked.

He shook his head, “Having your love is more valuable to me than having all the money in the world.  If my mother decides to disinherit me, then you and I will live a simple but extremely happy life together on our meager salaries.”

“Yes.  Money is not the most important thing in the world. Love is” she murmured before she reached up and kissed him.

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Source:  Peabody Elementary; Career Addict; Quote Fancy