The Letters

Her eyes went straight to the desk where she expected to see it and there it was.  Heart thudding, she walked into the classroom and picking it up, she examined it.  It was the same long, plain white envelope with her name written neatly on the front.  She got one every Thursday since the beginning of the semester and found herself looking forward to receiving them.  They were beautiful, heartfelt and honest outpouring of his feelings and she longed to find out who was writing them.

The mystery person was obviously a student who attended her Tuesday and Thursday classes.  She taught on Mondays and Wednesdays as well and had Fridays off.  He got there early so that no one would see him leave the envelope on her desk.  Perhaps this letter will give her more clues.  She put the envelope in her handbag, promising herself to read it as soon as she got a chance.

As she got ready for the class to begin, her gaze swept over the faces of the young men in the room while in her mind she asked the question, Is it you?  She knew which one of them she wanted her mystery man to be.  Her eyes shifted to him and caught him watching her.  He blinked and blushed before he looked away. Clive Bennington.  He sat in the front row.

The first time he walked into the classroom, she noticed him.  In all of her years of teaching never once did she ever notice a student until that moment.  He was tall and athletic.  Well dressed, he had the word preppy written all over him.  The combination of sensuality and studiousness added to his appeal.  It wasn’t long before she became strongly attracted to him.

She was careful to hide her feelings because if she were suspected of having a romantic interest in a student, her job could be in jeopardy.  Outside of the university and in her private time, she permitted herself to daydream about him and when she started getting the letters, she wished that they were from him.  She kept them in her bureau and read them every night before she went to bed.

Presently, she schooled herself to concentrate on teaching and the time went by very quickly.  As usual, he was the last to leave and as he was packing up, she went over him.  “I enjoyed your paper,” she said.  “You’re an excellent writer.  You have a remarkable way of expressing yourself.  Your writing is down to earth and engaging.  You should think of publishing some of your work.”  As she spoke to him about his writing, it dawned on her, not for the first time how much it reminded her of the penmanship of the letters.  It had to be him.

He looked shyly at her, his face a little flushed.  “Thank you, Professor Williams.”

She wanted to reach up and brush the lock of hair back from his forehead.  “You’re welcome, Clive.”  Would it be wrong for her to ask him to go with her for a cappuccino?  She decided that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea.  Walking back to the desk, she gathered the papers together and put them in her folder.  “Good night, Clive.”

“Good night, Professor Williams.”  He grabbed his bag and after glancing at her, he walked out of the classroom.

After he was gone, she finished packing up and left.   Thirty minutes later she let herself into her flat.  Not bothering to fix something to eat, she took the letter from her handbag and headed straight over to the sofa, her heart beating fast with excitement.   Her hands trembled as she unfolded the sheets of paper.  Leaning against the soft cushions, she began to read.

Dear Rose,

This is the first time I have addressed you by your first name.  I hope you don’t mind.  Whenever I see a rose, I think about you.  To me you’re more beautiful.  I will always remember the first time I saw you.  It was during my second year at Oxford.  I was sitting outside with Samantha, my girlfriend, enjoying the weather when you walked by.  My heart stopped and I couldn’t stop staring at you.  You took my breath away.  I saw there, bewildered because I really believed that I loved Samantha and always thought she was the girl for me.  And yet, when I looked at you, it seemed as if time stood still and nothing and no one else existed.  In that instance, I felt like Romeo when he was at the ball.  First he couldn’t take his eyes off Rosaline but when Juliet appeared, Rosaline faded into obscurity.  All Romeo saw was the lovely maiden who had captured his attention and his heart.  For me you were Juliet and Samantha was Rosaline.

You didn’t notice me that day because you were talking to a student, giving her your undivided attention.  I found myself wishing I were that student but I knew that if you talked to me I would be tongue-tied and probably make a fool of myself.  I wanted to know your name, which course you taught so that I could be one of your students.  I watched as the girl walked away and then another student call out to you, “Professor Williams.” And you turned and smiled as he ran over to you.  I knew your last name. Behind me I heard Samantha say, “Clive, I have to be getting to class now.  I’ll see you later.”  She reached over and kissed me on the cheek before leaving me.  I sat there, watching you talk to the student and I made up my mind that I was going to find out more about you from him.  It felt as if I were sitting there for hours and then you left.  As soon as you were gone, I went over to the student and asked him, “I’ve never seen that professor before, is she new?”

He shook his head.  “No, that’s Professor Williams.  She’s been at Oxford for about ten years now.”

“What does she teach?”

“English Language and Literature.  She teaches 4th year students like me.”

“Is she a good teacher?”

“The best.  Make sure that when you do your enrollment for your last year, that you sign up for her class. Before I took her class, I wasn’t keen on writing but now I find that I like it very much.” After I thanked him for his time, I went to my class but I was hardly paying attention to a word Professor Ayers was saying.  All I could think about was you and how much I wanted to see you again.  I discovered that you were a creature of habit.  Every day, at a certain time of the day, you went to the library to read.  I made sure I was there when you were.  You didn’t notice me as I sat there with my books open on the table watching you and wishing that I had the courage to walk over there and introduce myself to you. 

For two years, I have watched and admired you from afar.  I am ashamed to say that I broke up with Samantha but didn’t admit the real reason.  I simply told her that I didn’t love her the way she wanted me to.  She was heartbroken.  I felt like a heel, especially when she transferred to another university. I never meant to hurt her but I couldn’t help that I had fallen in love you.  Many nights I lay awake whispering the words, I love you.  I sit in your class, longing for the day when I could say it to your face.  Yes, I took the student’s advice and signed up for your class and I am so happy that I did.  The first day I walked into your class and you smiled at me, I was on cloud nine.  When you first spoke to me, I couldn’t think straight.  I was so nervous and I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to hide my feelings.  Sometimes I noticed the way you looked at me and that encouraged me.  I started to believe that you were attracted to me too and that made my heart dance with joy.

I graduate in three weeks and I have mixed feelings.  I’m happy to be moving on bigger things but at the same time, I will miss being in your class.  It has been the highlight of my whole university experience.  I look forward to seeing you every week and can’t wait for the weekends to end.  I am hoping that you will want to stay in touch with me.  I will even dare to say that I hope that you would be open to the idea of going out with me.  Nothing would make me happier than to be in a relationship with you.  My family will not approve for obvious reasons but when you’re in love, it doesn’t matter what others say or think.  On Tuesday, I will stay after class and ask you to go to the café with me.  I hope that you will say yes.

This is my last letter but before I close, I wanted to say that when I first saw you, I never imagined that I would fall so hard.  I dream about you, think about you and long to be with you every day.  My heart pounds when I see you and I get butterflies in my stomach when someone mentions your name.  Even if you don’t end up falling in love with me, I want you to know that I love you now and I will love you for the rest of my life.

Clive

Rose didn’t realize that she was crying until a teardrop fell on the page.   Finally, she knew who the mystery man was.  It was Clive.  This was the only letter he signed his name to.  In all the other letters, he simply wrote Anonymous.  This letter was by far the most precious one and after reading it a second time, she clutched it to her heart.  Clive loves me.  He wants to be in a relationship with me.  On Tuesday, I will let him know how I feel.

Tuesday came and all through class she thought of nothing else but going out with him.  As soon as they were alone, Clive went over to her as she was gathering the papers together and putting them in her briefcase.  She paused and looked up at him.  He looked so shy and unsure of himself that her heart melted.  Reaching for his hand, she said, “It’s a beautiful afternoon.  Let’s walk to the café.”

His heart was racing and he couldn’t think straight because she was holding his hand.  “Thank you,” was all he could manage to say and she smiled.

She finished packing up and then preceded him to the door.  They walked to the café and sat at a table in the corner.  They chatted for a while about different things including what his plans were after he graduated.   “I’m going to miss your letters,” she told him.  “I loved reading them.  I read them every night.”

“Really?” he asked, looking thrilled.  “I’m relieved to hear that.  I was afraid that I was being too forward but I couldn’t keep my feelings bottled up inside.”

“You were right about me,” she admitted.  “I was attracted to you the first time I saw you but I tried not to show it.  There were times when I couldn’t help looking at you.  I had to be careful that no one else noticed.  When I started getting the letters, I hoped that they were from you.”

“Does this mean that you will go out with me?” he asked, looking anxious.

She nodded.  “Yes, but we have to keep it on the quiet until you graduate.”

“All right,” he agreed, holding her hand, relishing the feel of it in his.  “We’ll do whatever you think is best just as long as we are together.”

“Are you free tomorrow evening?” she asked, unable to think with him caressing her hand.

“Yes,” he said. “I am.”  Even if he had another engagement, he would cancel it for her.

“How would you like to have dinner at my place?”

“I’d like that very much, Rose.”

“Come at six-thirty.   Let me give you my address.”  She had to extricate her hand from his in order to write down the information.

He took the folded piece of paper and put it in his wallet.  “I’m looking forward to dinner,” he told her.

“I’m afraid I have to leave now,” she said, sounding regretful.  “I have to attend my niece’s recital this evening.”  She finished her cappuccino, paid for both and then quickly wrote down her address for him.

He was disappointed that they weren’t going to stay longer but at least he was going to see her tomorrow.  He stood up when she did and they left the café.  They walked back to the parking lot of the university.  When they beside her car, he wanted to kiss her but thought better of it.  Someone might see them.  “See you tomorrow,” he said.

“See you tomorrow,” she replied, smiling up at him.  She got into her car and waved before she drove off.

He watched until her car disappeared from view before walking to his.  He couldn’t sleep that night.  All day in school, he thought about Rose and when it was time to go home, he scooted out of there.  Promptly at six-thirty he was outside of her flat.  She opened the door, smiling when she saw him.  “Good evening, Clive. Come in.”

“Good evening, Rose.”  He went in and turned quickly so that she couldn’t see what he was holding behind his back.  After she closed and locked the door, he produced a bouquet of orange roses.  “Roses for a Rose,” he said huskily.

“They are gorgeous,” she exclaimed.  She took them and put them on the table nearby.  “Thank you, Clive.”

Touched, she reached up and kissed him.  When she would have pulled back, his arms went around her waist and his eyes met hers in a passionate gaze before they dropped to her lips.  They darkened with desire when he saw hers part and then he was kissing her, feverishly, wildly.  All the pent up emotions came gushing out and she matched his kisses with the same intensity, her arms going around his neck as he pressed her against him.

Several minutes went by as they exchanged hungry kisses and then he released her to remove his jacket while still kissing her.  She moved her arms from around his neck to help him to pull the dress tee shirt off.  Then, she was backing him over to the hearth where a rug was spread.  They were lying on the rug, his hands were holding her face between his hands as he plundered her lips.  “I love you, Rose” he muttered thickly when she drew back to look at him and to catch her breath.  “Let me show you how much.” And then she was lying on her back, staring up into his flushed face.

“I love you too, Clive,” she whispered before she reached up and pulled his head down to hers.

They ended up having a late dinner and that night marked the beginning of a relationship which led to marriage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Beach

She ran all the way to the beach and didn’t stop until she saw the silhouette of his house but instead of running up the stairs, she collapsed on the sand, the tears almost blinding her.  Why had she come here?  She should be as far from here as possible.  She had promised herself that she would never see or talk to him again–not after what happened this evening at the award ceremony.

She, along with the other volunteers and the staff were there to cheer on Mitchell Ryan, the founder and director as he accepted the award for outstanding community service on behalf on his non-profit organization.  He deserved it because it was he who played a dominant role in creating and implementing several after-school and summer programs geared toward keeping the youth off the streets.

Through his unwavering efforts and the support of staff and volunteers, many lives were transformed.  Youth who were taking or selling drugs, came clean and began talking to others about the effects of drug use.  There counseling services and programs for those who were victims of bullying and those who bullied.  “We’re here to help the victim and the bully,” Mitchell always said.  Many of the youth who were helped by his organization later became volunteers.

Vanessa met Mitchell ten years ago when she was a senior in high-school.  She was going through a tough time at home.  Her parents were always fighting.  To escape she went to the beach where she spent hours just sitting or standing in the sand, depending on the weather and watch the gentle swell of the ocean as it ebbed and flowed, wishing that she could go with it.  Before she left, she walked along the water’s edge, trying to imagine what it would be like to live on the beach with nothing but the sounds of the waves and the tangy salt air to fill her days.  It was better than living in the city with the constant sounds of traffic, sirens and chatter and of course, her parents bickering.  How she longed to escape it all.

One afternoon she walked farther than she normally did and came upon a lone beach house.  It stood tall above the grassy slope which led to the beach.  It was adequate for one or two occupants with a wide deck and a long flight of wooden steps leading down to the sand.  She wondered who lived there and thought how lucky they were to wake up every morning to a sunrise over the ocean.  As she stood there admiring the property, she heard a voice remark behind her, “It’s a beautiful place, isn’t it?”

Startled, she swung round and found herself facing a very attractive man who looked to be in his early to mid-thirties.  He smiled at her.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.  It has been a while since someone has come along this part of the beach.”

“Do you live there?” she asked.

He nodded.  “Yes, I do.”

“It must be nice having this part of the beach to yourself.”

“Yes, it is.”

She glanced at her watch.  “I’d better be heading back home,” she said.

“Where’s home and how did you get here?”

“I live in the city and I drove here.  I come to this beach a lot.  This is the first time I have walked to this part of it.”

“You know, when I was younger and I had a lot on my mind, I used to come to the beach and just sit and stare at the ocean.  Is that why you come here?”

“Are you a psychiatrist?” she asked.

“No,” he chuckled.  “I run a community organization which helps youth.  My name is Mitchell Ryan, by the way.”  He held out his hand.

“Vanessa Rivers,” she told him as she shook his hand.  He seemed like a really nice man.  “I really should be getting back home before my parents begin to wonder where I am–if they even notice that I’m gone.”

“I’m not going to press you but if you need to talk, you can get in touch with me.  Here’s my card.”  He handed her a business card.  “It was nice meeting you, Vanessa. And any time you want to drop by just to say hello, don’t hesitate.  It’s quiet out here but sometimes, a bit too quiet.  I’m always grateful for some company.”

Vanessa smiled.  “It was nice meeting you too.  ‘Bye, Mitchell.”

“‘Bye, Vanessa.” He stood there with his back to the house, watching her.

She waved at him before she retraced her steps until she reached familiar ground and her car.  As she drove home, she thought of how it would be nice to see him again even if she didn’t want to talk to him about her problems.  Perhaps, she could find out more about his organization and see if she could volunteer.  It would be better than being around her bickering parents.  When she got home, the place was quiet.  Her father was in the basement watching TV while she and her mother were in the kitchen.  “Mama, why do you and Dad fight so much.  Don’t you love each other anymore?” she asked as she was having her dinner.

Her mother sighed.  “Baby, we still love each other but it’s just that we seem to get on each other’s nerves.”

“I hate it when the two of you fight.  That’s why I go to the beach so often.  Are you and Dad going to get a divorce?”

“No, Baby.  We’re not going to get a divorce.  Sure, we bicker a lot but we have been married for a long time and only death will separate us.  So, that’s where you were this evening–at the beach?”

“Yes and I met Mitchell–”

Her mother stared at her.  “Who’s Mitchell?”

“A really nice man who lives in the only house on the beach.”

“How old is this Mitchell character?  Does he know that you’re still in high school?”

“He’s in his thirties and I didn’t tell him that I was in high-school but he knows that I live with my parents.  He gave me his card–”

“What for?”

“He runs a community organization and thought that I might be interested in learning more about it.  I think I will drive over there tomorrow after school and see if I would like to volunteer during March break and the summer.”

“Well, I don’t suppose there’s any harm in visiting the place but make sure you don’t spend too much time alone with this Mitchell character.  Remember you’re a very pretty girl and men get ideas.”

Vanessa shrugged and dropped the subject.  In her mind, she thought, I wouldn’t mind if Mitchell noticed me.  He’s very attractive and although, I don’t know anything about him except that he runs an organization and lives on the beach, I like him.  Who am I kidding?  He’s in his thirties.  There’s no way, he would be interested in a high-school girl although I graduate next month.  He probably has a girlfriend anyway.

The next day after school, she dropped by the historic building and was taken to Mitchell’s office.  He was pleased to see her and invited her to have a seat.  “So, how are things with you?” he asked after they exchanged pleasantries.

She told him about her parents and her concerns about their marriage.  “My family has a history of broken marriages.  I’ve seen my cousins going through a tough time because their parents got divorced.  I’m afraid that the same thing will happen with my parents although my mother assured me that she and my Dad will not split up.”

“Well, based on what your mother said, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.  I’ve known couples who are always bickering but they have managed to stay the course.  There will always be conflicts in relationships but it depends on the couple if they will let those conflicts affect their marriage to the point where they want to split up.  I read somewhere that arguments can lead to a greater understanding between the two people.  I have heard people say that learning how to argue strengthened their marriages.  The good thing is that your parents don’t run from fights like some couples who are afraid to address issues because they don’t want any conflicts which can later lead to bigger problems in the relationship.”

“My parents are not afraid to discuss sensitive issues.  They don’t sweep things under the rug.  And I guess that’s a good thing.  Get things out in the open and deal with them.  I guess my fear is that their constant arguing would lead to a split up because I had seen it happen to other family members.  They were always fighting even when they had company.  My parents don’t fight in front of other people, thank goodness.  I’m the only one who hears them.  I love them very much and hope that they will always be together.”

He smiled.  “I hope so too.”

“It felt good talking to you about it,” she told him.  He was wearing a nice shade of blue tee shirt with the top two buttons undone and tan trousers.  His dark brown hair was tousled but it was becoming for him.  She started when she realized that he had noticed her staring at him.  She couldn’t tell what he was thinking, though.  His expression was inscrutable.  Perhaps he was used to the opposite sex staring at him.  “I-I was thinking that it would be nice to volunteer here during March break and the summer but I’ve decided that I could do it before.”

“We always need volunteers,” he told her.  “Do you have a particular area of interest?”

“I’m interested in fundraising.”

“You can join our fundraising and event planning committee.”

“I’d like that.”

“When are you available?”

“During the week after school for four hours.”

“That’s great.  I will have Melanie our Volunteer Coordinator set you up.  How soon could you start?”

She wanted to say now.  “Monday.”  She hoped the weekend would go by quickly so that she could see him again.

“Monday’s fine.  I’ll take you to meet Melanie now and she will take care of you.”  He rose from behind the desk and she preceded him to the door.  Melanie wasn’t at her desk when they got there.  “She’s probably with one of the volunteers.  You can sit over there and wait for her.  On Monday when you arrive and after you see her, come and see me in my office.  I want to give you a personal tour of the place and introduce you to the staff.  Thanks for volunteering with us, Vanessa.  I look forward to seeing more of you and you being a part of the team.”

She smiled.  “I look forward to being here on a regular basis,” she said.  It means that I will get to see you every week.

They shook hands and then he left.  She went and sat down in the chair by the window and waited for Melanie who breezed into the office ten minutes later.  She was a very pleasant young woman who made Vanessa feel very welcome.  She had her fill out a volunteer form and they chatted for a while before Vanessa left there, confident that she was going to like working there.

When she told her parents that she was going to volunteer at the organization, her father thought it was a great idea and her mother wasn’t so enthusiastic.  “Make sure it doesn’t interfere with your school work,” she admonished.

As soon as school ended on Monday, she was heading over to the organization.  After checking in with Melanie, she was taken to Mitchell’s office.  Her heart began to beat fast when she saw him and when he smiled at her.  After they spent a few minutes in his office chatting, he took her on a tour as promised and introduced her to the staff.  Then, he left her with Berta, the chairperson of the fundraising committee.

Berta was a Jamaican woman was in her late fifties.  She was a very affable woman and Vanessa liked her immediately.  Berta took her under her wing.  She was a widow with two grown children, married and with their own families.  Vanessa loved being on the fundraising committee and brainstorming with the other volunteers.  Her first week went very well.

At the end of some evenings before she went home, Mitchell and she would walk over to the café and have cappuccinos.  They talked about the day and other things.  She enjoyed his company and knew that he enjoyed hers too.  One evening when they were standing in the parking lot, he said to her, “If you were ten years older, I would go out with you.”

Her heart began to pound.  “I’m going to be nineteen next month,” she told him.

“That’s too young,” he said.  “I’m thirty-four.”

“What about ten years from now when I’m twenty-eight?” she asked hopefully.  “Will you reconsider then?”

He pondered that for a moment.  “I might,” he said quietly.  “Goodnight, Vanessa.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Goodnight, Mitchell.”  She walked to her car, her heart fluttering with excitement.  There was still hope for her.

Ten years later, she reminded him of their conversation that evening in the parking lot and he admitted that he had thought of nothing else.  They began to see each other discreetly.  No one at the organization knew about it and he was determined to keep it that way.  They went for dinner, to the theatre, the movies and spent a lot of time at his beach house.

They arrived separately to the award ceremony and were careful not to spend any time alone together.  For all appearances, their relationship was the same as it always was, platonic.  She was enjoying the evening until she spotted Mitchell talking to a woman she had never seen before.

“Who’s that with Mitchell?” She asked Caroline, a fellow volunteer. Whoever she was, she was very beautiful.  Tall and striking in the cream pants suit and thick chestnut hair falling about her shoulders.  They seemed to know each other very well and she felt a sharp pang of jealousy.

“Oh, that’s Linda, Mitchell’s wife.  They are separated but from the way things look now, I wouldn’t be surprised if they get back together.”

Vanessa looked at her, shocked and devastated.  “Mitchell’s married?”

“Yes.  I thought you knew.”  Caroline stared at her.  “Are you all right?” she asked, looking concerned.

“I–I have to get out of here–” the words were strangled as a large lump rose in her throat as she fought to keep back the tears.  She ran out of the room and out of the building.  When she got to her car, she fumbled in her bag for the keys, almost dropping them.  She climbed into the car, slammed the door, started the engine and sped off.  Her fingers gripped the steering wheel as waves of pain washed over her.  Mitchell was married.  Why didn’t he tell her?  Since he didn’t wear a ring, she assumed that he wasn’t married.  What about those times when they were together why didn’t he say anything?  If she had known that he was married she wouldn’t have gotten involved with him no matter how much she loved him.  And she loved him so much it hurt.  Anger, hurt warred inside her and she wanted to scream. 

She didn’t know where she was going.  She couldn’t go home and let her parents see her like this.  They would have a fit.  She didn’t want to go to her friend, Nicole.  The beach.  She would go to the beach.  It was the only place where she wanted to be right now…Ten minutes later, she was running like a wild animal down the beach which, thankfully, was deserted, until she reached his house.  She collapsed in a heap on the sand and buried her wet face in her hands.

The sound of her name and a pair of hands lifting her up broke into her reverie.  It was Mitchell.  She struggled vigorously, trying to push him away as he picked her up in his arms and carried her up to the house.  Once they were inside he put her down and immediately she began to pummel him, the tears falling afresh.  He caught her hands by the wrists, his grip firm but gentle and restrained her. “What’s wrong, Vanessa?” he asked.  “Why are you so upset and why did you leave the award ceremony?  I looked for you but you weren’t there.”

She struggled to control her emotions, her chest heaving at the effort.  “Why didn’t you tell me that you’re married?”

He stared at her.  “Married?”

“Yes, I saw the two of you together this evening at the award ceremony and I asked Caroline who she was and she told me that it was your wife.  She said that you were separated.”

“Oh, Vanessa.  I’m so sorry.  I don’t know why Caroline told you that I’m separated when she should know that I’m divorced.  Linda and I got divorced shortly before I met you.  Our problem was lack of intimacy.  We didn’t feel connected to each other anymore.  She was there this evening because she was also going to receive an award for her commitment to volunteering.  When you saw us together we were just congratulating each other and catching up.”

“Caroline said that you might back together with her.”

“She is mistaken.  I will have a talk with her on Monday when I see her.  I have no desire to get back together with Caroline.  Why would I go back to her when I love you, Vanessa?  How could you think that I would have a relationship with you when I was still married to her?  You should know the kind of man I am by now.”

She started to cry.  “I’m sorry,” she sobbed.  “When I saw you with your ex and how friendly you were with her, I got jealous.  And when Caroline told me that she was your wife…”

He cupped her face and used his thumbs to wipe the tears away, his eyes darkening on her face.  “So, that’s why you ran out on me this evening.  I was going to invite you and the other volunteers on to the platform with me.  Don’t cry, my darling.  There’s no need for tears.  I love you and I want to be with you.”  He kissed her tenderly, almost like a caress.

She responded, putting her arms around his neck.  “I love you too,” she whispered.  “And I’m sorry I ran away instead of facing you.  I would have saved myself a lot of heartache.”

“Don’t beat yourself up about it.”

“Based on how I reacted and my hasty exit, Caroline probably put two and two together and figured out that I’m in love with you.”

“It doesn’t matter anymore.  I don’t want us to continue to hide our relationship, especially since I am going to marry you.”

She gaped at him.  “Marry me!” she exclaimed.

“Yes.”  He reached into the back pocket of his jeans and produced a red velvet box.  He flipped it open and took out the sparkling diamond ring.  He raised his eyes to look her straight into her moist ones.  “Will you marry me, Vanessa?”

“Yes!” She kissed him enthusiastically on the mouth before she watched enthralled as he slid the ring on her finger.  It was the most exquisite thing she had ever seen.  She couldn’t wait to show it to her mother—and Caroline.

He pulled her into his arms, his eyes met hers before he bent his head and kissed her.  As she responded, she remembered a quote that she once heard.  Heaven seems a little closer at the beach.

 

Sources:  Eva’s; Marriage.com; Daily Mail; Huffington Post; Next Avenue

I do but you don’t!

What should you do if you want to get married but your man doesn’t? Well, the first thing you do is to have a candid talk with him and find out why he doesn’t want to get married.  Elite Daily shares the following reasons why some men don’t want to get married or are hesitant to take that giant step:

Have seen too many divorces:  A man I used to be involved said he was never going to get married because he had seen people he knew get divorced.  Something must have changed or it could be that he met the right woman because he is now married with two children.

A bad experience which turned them off the idea of marriage.  I read that one guy had a bad engagement experience where his intended broke up six months after he asked her to marry him, picked and paid for the place for their wedding.  He promised himself that he would never do that again.

The urge or desire to get married isn’t there.  Some men just don’t feel the urge to settle and conclude that marriage isn’t for them.

Selfishness.  Marriage is about taking care of the other person’s needs and some men feel that they are not cut out for that.

Bad marriage.  For some men, one bad marriage is enough.

There’s no benefit.  What’s the point getting into something where the benefits are non-existent and all you have are the costs?

Don’t need marriage to be happy.  Some men are quite happy with the relationship as it is and don’t see the need or point in getting married.

Marriage is a gamble.  It’s a gamble that a lot of men are just not willing to take.  The stakes are too high.

Distrust of the court system.  Men feel that the court system will not deal fairly with them.  My husband has always said that the court system favors the women over the men.

Don’t get upset with your man when he says that he says he doesn’t believe in marriage.  Find out why he feels the way he does.  Is he ruling marriage out completely or just until he grows more comfortable with the idea?

Remember marriage is not for everyone.  It may be for you but not for him.  You will have to decide if you are willing to remain in a relationship which may never end in marriage or walk away.  In the end, both of you will have to do what is best for yourselves.

According to Samantha Daniels, professional matchmaker and founder of The Dating Lounge dating app, “The key thing here is to be true to yourself and what you can truly be happy with.”

Sources:  Elite Daily; Bustle;

A Second Time

It was New Year’s Eve and Barbara was sitting in her warm and cozy apartment, staring at the crackling flames of the fire burning in the fireplace.  She was alone.  Her son Travis was spending the holidays in Seattle with his girlfriend and her family.  A couple of weeks ago, she had assumed that she would be welcoming in the New Year with Martin.

Martin.  They met two years ago at a mutual friend’s barbecue.  Barbara was a widow with a teenage son and Martin was a divorcee with two teenage daughters.  His ex-wife had custody of the girls and he saw them on the weekends.

Barbara and he hit it off and they began dating.   He was a wonderful man and it wasn’t long before she fell in love with him.  Travis and he got along very well.  She met Martin’s daughters and they were lovely girls.  Last year, the five of them went on a summer vacation together.   Everything was going so well until the afternoon when she left the shopping mall and was walking to her car and happened to see Martin with his ex, Paula in the parking lot, talking.

Barbara stood there and watched them, debating whether or not she should go over to them.  She saw them get into Martin’s car and drive away.  For several minutes, she stood there, all sorts of thoughts and questions whirling in her mind.  Why they together?  Were they thinking of reconciling?  Their divorce had been an amicable one and there was no animosity between them.  They ended their marriage because of religious differences.  Paula was Jewish and Martin was Christian.  When Martin made it clear that he would not convert to Judaism, Paula decided that there was no point staying married.  She filed for a divorce and they agreed that she would have custody of the girls.  And as far as their religious upbringing was concerned, they were already considered to be Jewish because of their mother.  Had Martin changed his mind about converting? 

Barbara took out her cell and dialed her sister’s number.  “Hi, Wanda, it’s me.”

“Hi, Barb, what’s up?”

“I just saw Martin and Paula together.  They were talking and then they got into his car and drove off.”

“What’s so strange about that?”

“Do you think that they are thinking of getting back together?”

“Now, why in the world would you think that?”

“I don’t know.  It’s just how they were interacting.  They were having a deep conversation.  What if he’s thinking of going back to her?”  The thought terrified her because she loved Martin.  She never thought she would fall in love with anyone after losing Donald.  Donald had been the love of her life until prostate cancer claimed his life.

“Trust me, Martin’s not thinking of any such thing.  He loves you, girl.  It’s so obvious.  Don’t jump to conclusions.  When are you going to see him?”

“He’s coming over tonight for dinner.”

“Wait until the time is right and then mention that you saw him with Paula.  It’s possible that he might bring it up before you even have to ask.  Don’t assume the worst.  You’ve been blessed with something most women can only dream of–finding true love a second time.  Don’t throw it away over what could be a perfectly innocent meeting between two people who will always be connected because of their daughters.”

Barbara sighed.  “You’re right, as usual,” she said.  “Thanks, Wanda.”

“Anytime, Barb.  Call me later and let me know how it went.  Love you.”

“Love you too.  Say hello to Barry and the kids for me.”

“Will do.”

Barbara ended the call and put her cell back into her handbag.  She walked briskly to her car and got in.  When she got home, there was a message on her machine.  It was from Martin.  “Baby, I’m sorry I won’t be able to come for dinner tonight.  Something has come up.  I will driving down to New Jersey today and won’t be back until Tuesday.  I will call you as soon as I can.  I love you.”  She stared at the machine.  He wasn’t coming tonight.  He was going to New Jersey.  New Jersey was where Paula and the girls lived.  Why was he going there?  

All sorts of thoughts and questions flooded her mind.  She felt shock and fear and although he ended the message with I love you, she still felt a sense of foreboding.  She wasn’t going see him tonight or on New Year’s Eve.  He was going to be with his ex-wife and their girls.  She was going to be alone–alone with her thoughts and doubts.  She went over to the phone and called Wanda.

“Hi Wanda, it’s me.  Martin called and said that he’s going to New Jersey today and won’t be back until Tuesday.  I’m afraid that he’s going to get back with Paula.  Why else would he be going there?”

“What did he say exactly?” Wanda asked.  Paula told her verbatim.  “You have nothing to worry about, Barb.  Something came up and that’s why he’s driving there.  It must have something to do with why you saw them together earlier today.  Maybe it has to do with one of the girls.  He said he was going to call you.  Wait and hear what he has to say and he did say that he loves you.  I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about.  Martin is not a player.  He’s as honest as they get.  Stop thinking the worst and wait and until you hear from him.”

“All right.  Thanks, Wanda.  I’m sorry that we won’t see each other on New Year’s Eve.”

“Me too.  I know that you don’t want to miss Martin’s call.  Call me when you’ve heard from him.”

“I will.”

“And don’t worry.  Everything will work out.”

“All right.  ‘Bye, Wanda.”

“‘Bye, Barb.”

That was ten nights ago and she still hadn’t heard from Martin.  By now she was convinced that it was over between them.  Agitated and close to tears, she got up from the sofa and began to pace the room.  God, why did you bring this man into my life, make me fall in love with him and then, he ends up back with his ex-wife?  Why didn’t you let me remain Donald’s widow, content with memories of a happy marriage and life?  I wouldn’t be feeling rotten like this now.  I would be at Wanda’s home with Barry and the kids waiting to welcome in 2018.  Then, I would call Travis and wish him a Happy New Year.  Instead, here I am feeling as my world has collapsed around me and this unbearable pain in my heart.  Why, Lord, why?  The tears were falling now and she pressed her knuckles against her lips to smother the sob that rose to them.

The doorbell rang and she started.  Who could it be?  She hoped it wasn’t Wanda.  She really wasn’t in the mood to see anyone right now.  Using her sleeve to dry her eyes, she walked to the door and looked through the keyhole.  Her breath caught in her throat when she saw Martin standing there.  Slowly, she unlocked the door and opened it.  One look at her face and she was in his arms.  “I’m sorry, Baby,” he murmured.  “I should have called but things were so crazy at the hospital–”

She drew back, alarmed.  “The hospital?  What happened?”  She drew him inside the apartment and closed the door.  Her expression filled with deep concern as she looked up at him.

“Yolanda was involved in a hit and run.  When they took her in, she was in critical condition but the doctor managed to stabilize her, thanks be to God.  Paula, Tasha, their grandmother and other family members are with her now.  I told Paula that I had to come back to New York and be with you.”

“I’m so sorry to hear about Yolanda but am very relieved that she’s out of danger.  Paula must have been out of her mind.”

“Yes, she was.  She was at the mall buying a birthday present for her mother when she heard the news and called me right away.  I drove over there as soon as I could and we drove down to New Jersey after I threw some clothes in a bag.  I called you before I left.  I’m so sorry that I missed having dinner with you and spending Christmas together.  I will make it up to you, I promise.”  He held her face between his hands and kissed her.  “I love you, Baby,” he murmured against her lips.

She put her arms around his waist and smiled when he drew back to gaze down at her.  “I love you too.”

As he lowered his head to kiss her again, she silently apologized to God for what she had said earlier to him and thanked Him for watching over Yolanda who almost didn’t survive to see the New Year.  And Wanda was right.  For the second time in her life, God had blessed her with a phenomenal man.

 

 

 

Source:  My Jewish Learning

Jesus’s Birth

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – Isaiah 9:6

Jesus’ birth didn’t happen exactly as one would expect.  Matthew tells us how it came about.  Mary, Jesus’ mother was a virgin.  In fact, Matthew makes a point of showing that in having Jesus, Mary was fulfilling prophecy.  “Now all this occurred to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through the prophet, saying,  “A virgin shall be with child, and will bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is interpreted, “God with us.”

Mary was engaged to a carpenter named Joseph.  It was around that time that she was found with child by the Holy Spirit.  Matthew doesn’t go into the details as to how her pregnancy came about but Luke does.  The angel Gabriel visited her to tell her that she was highly favored and blessed among women.  She was told that she would have a Son and call His name Jesus.  He explained how this would happen seeing that she was still a virgin.  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).

It is not a surprising  thing for the Holy Spirit to create life in Mary.  He was part of the creation of the world where things that didn’t exist came into existence.  Jesus’ birth was to be different from the rest of humanity’s.  He was to be both Divine and Human and this could only be accomplished the way Gabriel explained.

At the risk of ruining her reputation and even her life, Mary agreed to the Lord’s plan for her life.  In those days, if a woman betrothed to another  man was discovered to be pregnant and the child was not the man’s whom she is promised to in marriage, she could be stoned to death for committing adultery.  And this is what was weighing on Joseph’s mind when he found out that Mary was pregnant and knew that it wasn’t his child.

Joseph was a decent man.  He didn’t want to publicly expose Mary but he couldn’t go through with their impending marriage.  He had to break things off quietly.  No doubt his sleep was fitful and it was while he was thinking this predicament, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for He who is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

What a relief that must have been for Joseph.  Mary hadn’t two-timed him and he could go ahead and marry her as he had planned.  When he woke up, he did as the angel told him and he took Mary to be his wife.  And he named her Son, Jesus.

God knew exactly what He was doing when He chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus and Joseph to be her husband.  He knew that everything would work out as it should.  Mary trusted God when she accepted His will for her life and as a result she was blessed with Jesus who would her Savior and the world’s.

Sources:  Matthew 1; Luke 1

The Plane Ride

He sat there on the plane, the open magazine on his lap, his head resting against the back of the seat and his face turned towards the window, watching the clouds and knowing that the distance between Natalie and him was getting wider.  He closed his eyes in despair.  Walking away from her was the most painful and hardest thing he had ever done in his life but things couldn’t continue as they were.  He had to end their relationship.

After a night of torrid lovemaking, he woke up very early the next day and quickly got dressed while she was still sleeping.  He wrote a note for her and left it propped up against the lamp on the bedside table next to her.  He stood for several minutes staring down at her, longing to bend down and kiss her bare shoulder but was afraid that he would wake her.

He tiptoed to the door and slowly opened it.  He stepped into the hall and closed the door behind him.  The place was silent except for the clock ticking and the sound of his heavy breathing as he fought the temptation to turn around and climb back into bed with her.  Once he was outside of the flat, he released a shaky breath and hastily headed for the lift.  In his car, he told himself that he was doing the right thing even though his heart felt heavy.  He went home, packed his bags and booked the next available flight out of Detroit and heading to London.  It was an impromptu vacation.  He couldn’t be in Detroit right then or his resolve would crumble.  He hoped that the distance would somehow ease the pain and that being with his family would help as well.

So, here he was on the plane heading for London.  He wondered if she had read the note and how she was taking the news.  He remembered every word he had written.

Dear Natalie,

I never imagined that I would fall in love again but I have.  I knew that I loved you the first time we met.  I tried to fight it not because I found out that you’re Darnell’s sister.  I forgave Darnell for being responsible for Jody’s death.  It wasn’t easy because it was his reckless driving which resulted in her death but God helped me to get over the bitterness I was feeling toward your brother and to come to the place where I could not only find it in my heart to forgive him but to share His love with him.  

My healing came from talking to Darnell about God and sharing the Bible with him and as I watched him accept God’s love and forgiveness, it brought a peace to my heart which I hadn’t felt in a long time.  Visiting Darnell was a much of a blessing for me as it was for him.  Then, I met you. 

When you walked into the room, my heart stopped.  I couldn’t believe that another woman could have such an effect on me.  I felt as if I was being unfaithful to Jody’s memory.  Jody was my best friend before she became my wife.  We had known each other since college but didn’t start dating until years later when we were in our thirties.  Two years after we started dating, we got married.  We were married for two and a half years when she died.   I had lost my wife and my best friend.  We had planned to have children but that dream died with Jody.

Falling in love again was not something I imagined would happen and when it did, I tried to fight it.  You stirred in me feelings and passions that I have never experienced in my life–not even with Jody and that scared me.  I wanted you so much that it was all I could think about.  And when I realized that you were attracted to me too, it was only a matter of time before we became lovers.  

Loving you has consumed me to the point where I have turned my back on what I know to be right and acceptable in God’s sight.  As a man of faith, I can’t continue to be in a relationship with a woman I am not married to.  It goes against what I believe.  I have to choose between my love for you and my faith.  It pains me to do this but I must choose my faith.  By the time you read this letter, I will be out of the country.  

We cannot attempt to see each other anymore.  Please believe me when I say that I love you and will always love you.   Sometimes doing the right thing hurts but in the end, we have to be able to live with ourselves.

Andrew

“Oh, Natalie,” he moaned under his breath, aching for her.   Life without her was going to be unbearable.

Natalie read the note again, the tears streaming down her face.   She hadn’t seen this coming.  She thought they were happy but when she read the note, she realized that how hard it was for him to go against his religious convictions.  She herself came from a Christian family and had been taught that sex outside of marriage was wrong.  She had drifted from her faith, not going to church as often as she should.  Her makeup and choice in clothes were evidence that she was not as devout when it came to religion as the rest of her family but after meeting Andrew, those things had changed.  She had stopped wearing the makeup and had opted for the more natural look and her wardrobe had changed too.  And she had begun to read her Bible more lately.  She even began going back to church and then this morning she found this note.

Thankfully, it was a Sunday morning and she didn’t have to worry about going to work.  There was no way that she would have been able to function.  Heartbroken and depressed she didn’t even feel like getting out of bed.

When Andrew got to Heathrow, his brother was waiting for him.  He went up to him and after hugging him, said to him, “I know that this is going to sound crazy, but I must return to Detroit.  There’s a woman there whom I am going to ask to marry me.”

Stuart stared at him.  “Are you serious?  You just got here and now you’re going to leave?”

“Yes!  I’m been an utter fool.  I can’t believe that I didn’t think of this before.  I walked out of her life when I could have asked her to marry me.”

“Does she love you?”

“Yes and I love her.”

“Then, go to her.  I’ll explain everything to the folks.  I’m happy that you have found someone after losing Jody.  I wish you all the best, Andy.”

“Thanks, Stuart.”  They hugged again and then Stuart left.

Andrew found his way to the departure terminal where he booked the next available flight to Detroit.

The following evening, Natalie was sitting on the sofa, despondent when the doorbell rang.  She was not in the mood for seeing anyone but she got and went to answer the door.  Her eyes widened when she saw Andrew standing there.  Opening the door at once, she exclaimed, “What are you doing here?”

“Where’s the note I wrote you?” he asked as he stepped inside the foyer.

She closed and locked the door behind him before she reached into the pocket of her dressing-gown and handed the note to him.  He tore it up.  “Why did you do that?” she asked, bewildered.

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” he told her.  “I was a fool to write it in the first place and I was a bigger fool for walking out of your life.  I love you, Natalie and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.  Marry me.”

She gaped at him.  “Marry you?” she repeated, her heart thudding.  He looked dead serious.

“Yes.  Let’s get married on Saturday.  We’ll go and get the ring today.”

Her mind was spinning at this turn of events.  Just a few moments ago, she felt as if her world had been pulled out from under her and here, she was on the verge of being blissfully happy.  “Are you sure?” she asked.

“Yes, I’ve never been surer of anything in my life.  Today we get engaged and on Saturday we get married.  In between that time, you and I have to abstain.  We will not make love until we are on our honeymoon.”

Her heart bursting, she put her arms around his neck.  “I love you, Andrew Clarke and I will marry you.”

His arms slipped around her waist and he held her tightly against him, his eyes darkening on her upturned face.  “I’m sorry it had to take a plane ride to London to make me realize that marrying you is the right and best thing to do.”

She smiled.  “And this is a decision that we can both live with.”

 

 

The Orphan

“What’s the matter, Honey?” Ralph Forrester asked six year old Janet as she lay there in bed, crying.  He was there to read to read her a bedtime story as usual and was surprised to find her in her present state.  When he sat down on the bed, she sat up and hugged him.  He gently patted her on the back, trying to soothe her until the sobs subsided.  “Now tell me what’s the matter,” he coaxed when she drew back to look up at him.

“Aunt Agnes called me a Gremlin,” she wailed.  “Gremlins are ugly, horrid creatures.”

“They are also very mischievous,” he told her, relieved that it wasn’t anything serious although to her it was.  “Did you get yourself into trouble again?”

She hung her head.  “Yes,” she admitted reluctantly.  “It was my idea to bathe the dog in the bathtub because he was so dirty.  Matthew helped me to put him in the bath.  While I was washing the dog, he went to get a towel to dry him off and that’s when Aunt Agnes walked in.  She was really mad and that’s when she called me a Gremlin.”

“Honey, she was understandably angry because you were bathing a dirty animal in her nice, clean bathtub.  And you must have made quite a mess.”

“She said that I was a bad influence on Matthew.  What does influence mean?”

“It means you make Matthew do things that he wouldn’t usually do.”

She looked contrite.  “I don’t mean to make Matthew do bad things,” she said, “or to get him into trouble.  He’s my best friend.”

Ralph patted her hand.  “I know.  We never mean to get others in trouble but sometimes we do.  I think it would be best for now if you didn’t visit Matthew at the manor.  He could come here instead.  Beth and I will make sure you don’t get into any mischief.”

“I don’t think Aunt Agnes likes me very much,” she said, surprising him.  “Is it because I’m adopted?”

He stared at her.  “Who told you that you’re adopted?” he asked.

“Aunt Agnes.  She told me that you and Beth adopted me when I was a baby.  What happened to my real parents?”

“They died and you were placed in an orphanage.  Beth and I always wanted to adopt a child from Africa. We chose South Africa because we were there once on a mission trip and loved it.  As soon as our application was approved, we went the orphanage where you were.  We loved you the very first moment we saw you.  I remember you staring up at me with those big, beautiful brown eyes of yours and I promised God and myself that I would take very good care of you.  We named you Janet which means ‘God’s gracious gift’ because you were a gift from God.”

She smiled.  “I’m happy that you and Beth adopted me,” she said, hugging him.  Then, she settled back on the pillows and waited for him to read to her.  When he was done, he kissed her goodnight, switched off the bedside lamp and left the room.

Beth was in the kitchen fixing them a pot of tea when he went downstairs.  He went over to the table and sat down.  Beth turned and looked at him.  “What’s the matter, Honey?” she asked.

He grimaced.  “Agnes told Janet that she’s adopted. What right did she have to do so?”

Beth brought over the two cups of steaming tea and after setting one in front of him, she sat down.  “While I agree that it should have been left to us to tell Janet that she’s adopted, it must be obvious to her by now that she’s different.  You remember the other day when she came home from school, very upset because some children had asked her how she could have white parents when she was black.”

“I wish people would mind their own business,” he muttered crossly.  “Janet doesn’t think that Agnes likes her because she’s adopted.”

“There are very few people whom Agnes likes,” Beth said dryly.  “She didn’t approve of you marrying me.  I was a bad influence on you.  It was on account of me that you gave up your rather cushy job to become a missionary.”

“For as long as I live, I will never regret marrying you, becoming a missionary and adopting Janet.  Agnes has always been a controlling woman but she has never been able to manipulate me, though she tried to.  She objected to my marriage, change in career and decision to adopt but her objections fell on deaf ears.  I’m happy with the life I have made for myself and will not tolerate any interference from her.  She’s my sister not my mother.”

“Sometimes, she acts like she has two sons instead of one.”

“Poor Matthew.  She’s always doting on him.  I pity the girl he ends up marrying.  Unless, Matthew and his bride moved far away from Yorkshire and his mother’s influence, they will never get a moment’s peace.”

“I’m very fond of Matthew.  He’s such a loving and considerate child.  No doubt he takes after his father, God rest his soul.”

“Yes, if I had a son, I would have wanted him to be like Matthew.”

Beth looked at him.  “Do you still regret not having children of you own?” she asked. They had tried to conceive but couldn’t.  It turned out that he had an undescended testicle when he was a baby.  He was devastated because he was looking forward to raising a family with Beth.  Beth had pushed aside her own disappointment and sought only to console him.  Several years went by before they considered adopting and six years ago, they welcomed Janet into their lives.

“Yes, sometimes,” he admitted.  “But I have since realized that things happen for a reason.  If we had been able to have our children, that precious little girl upstairs would not be here.  She has brought so much joy in our lives.  I can’t imagine not having her around.  I thank God every day for her.  She is truly a blessing.”

Tears pricked Beth’s eyes and she reached out and covered his hand with hers.  “Yes, she is.”

Twelve years later, they were gathered in the living-room watching and smiling as Janet blew out the nineteen candles on her cake.  Ralph and Beth watched her.  It was hard to believe that it was same girl they had brought home from the orphanage.  She had grown into a lovely young lady.  They watched as she put a piece of the cake in Matthew’s mouth, laughing as he got some of the icing on his nose. “Do you suppose that those two will end up falling in love?” Beth asked in a low voice so that the others couldn’t overhear.

Ralph glanced at her.  “I wouldn’t object if that were to happen but you know Agnes…”

“Yes,” she sighed.  “She will do her best to sever any romantic attachment that may develop between them.”

Just then the doorbell rang.  “I wonder who that could be,” Ralph said.

“I’ll and see who it is.”  Beth hurried from the room and down the corridor to the front door.  She peered through the keyhole and her eyes widened in surprise and delight.  She opened the door.  “Blaine,” she exclaimed, hugging him.  “It’s so good to see you.”

He smiled.  “It’s good to see you too, Beth.”

“When did you get back?”

“Yesterday.”

“Come in.”

He went in and glanced toward the living-room where he heard voices and laughter.  “It sounds like you’re having a party.”

“Yes.  We are celebrating Janet’s birthday.”

“How old is she now?”

“Nineteen.”

“The last time I saw her, she was ten.”

“Yes, well, she’s all grown up now.  Wait till you see her.  Come and let me introduce you to everyone.”

He removed his shoes and followed her to the living-room.  Beth introduced him to Janet’s friends, some of the girls cast admiring glances at him.  He shook hands with Matthew.  “You’ve gotten tall,” he said, grinning.  Matthew smiled.

Blaine’s attention shifted to the girl standing next to Matthew.  “Janet?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

He stared at her. “I can’t believe how much you have changed since the last time I saw you,” he said.

She smiled.  “I’m not a child anymore.  I’m a woman.”

“A young lady,” Beth interjected.  “Are you hungry?” She asked Blaine.

He shook his head.  “I had a late lunch.”

“Would you like a slice of cake?” Janet asked.

“Yes, thank you.”  He knew he was staring but he couldn’t help it.  She had changed so much.  Gone was the little girl with the pigtails who used to follow him around, chatting incessantly about school, beg him to push on her on the swing and give her a piggyback ride.  Standing before him was a very attractive young lady in a pretty blue dress with a smile that melted his heart.

She cut a slice of cake and gave it to him.  “How long will you be staying?”

“Two weeks.”

“Only two weeks?”  She couldn’t hide the bitter disappointment she was feeling.  In the past his visits had been sporadic but she never had to wait for more than a year to see him.  This last time, nine years had passed before she saw him again and it would be for only two weeks.  He was a Management Consultant.  How she wished that he had a different job—one that would not take him out of the country and away from her.  She missed him terribly.  “Will you come again tomorrow?” she asked, hopefully.

He nodded.  “Yes,” he said quietly.  “We have a lot of catching up to do.”

Just then one of her friends pulled her away to take photos and Matthew joined him.  For the rest of the evening, they were apart, mingling with other people and at the end of the evening as things were winding down, he went over to her.  “I’ll be leaving now,” he said.

“You promise you will come tomorrow?”

He nodded.  “Yes.”  He reached down and hugged her.  “Happy birthday, Janet.”

She saw him to the door and stood there watching his tall, slender figure stride briskly to his parked Aston Martin car and climb in.  She waved and waited until the car disappeared before going back into the house.  She couldn’t wait to see him the next day.

He showed up the following afternoon as promised and subsequently every day for the two weeks he was in London.  She would sit there and listen to Ralph and Beth ask him countless questions about his travels, patiently waiting for her time alone with him.  As soon as that time came, she would take him outside where they would spend most of the afternoon.  Once, when they were standing by the swing, he said, “You’re too grown up now for me to give you a piggyback ride, but I can still push you on the swing.  She sat down and laughed as he pushed her.  It brought back memories.  Other times they sat on the deck talking for hours or go for walks.

Then, it was his final evening and they were out in the backyard.  The sun was setting.  It cast an orange glow on them as they stood there facing each other.

He studied her face.  “I must be leaving now,” he said quietly.  “Are you sorry to see me go?”

She glanced up at him.  “Yes,” she answered, surprised that he would ask such a question.  I don’t know when I will see you again.

“May I kiss you goodbye?” he asked, moving closer to her.

She looked up at him, her heart racing.  “Yes,” she said breathlessly.  She lowered her head so that he could kiss her on the forehead like he used to when she was a child.  Instead, she felt his hand under her chin raising her face up so that she was staring up into his.  She watched, mesmerized as he bent his head slowly towards hers and his lips get closer.  Her breathing was quick and unsteady now.  She felt his mouth on hers and readily responded. Blaine’s hands cupped her face as the kiss became more intense.

She clutched his arms, her fingers digging into the fabric of his jacket as she felt herself going weak in the knees.  Eyes squeezed shut as if to blot out the world, she savored her first kiss, wishing that it would last.  It lasted for several minutes and then Blaine drew back, his face flushed.  She reluctantly opened her eyes and looked up at him.  They were both breathing heavily.

“I have to leave now,” he muttered thickly.

“Why?” she asked.  “Why can’t you stay a little longer?”

“If I stay, I will kiss you again.”

“I want you to kiss me again—”

“No,” he groaned, pushing his fingers through his hair, his eyes darkening.  “I can’t.”

She looked bewildered.  “But why?”

“I’m too old for you, Janet.  You need to be with a guy your own age like Matthew.”

“But, I don’t want to be with Matthew or anyone else,” she cried.  “Why can’t I be with you?  You’re only ten years older than me.  You’re not like Maxim DeWinter who was forty-two and married a girl my age.”

“You’re right, I’m not Maxim DeWinter.  I can’t be with a girl so much younger than me.  In September, you will be attending university.  That means you will around people your age.  Sooner or later, you will meet someone, fall in love with him and forget about me.”

She shook her head.  “No, I won’t,” she cried.  “I love you,”

A muscle throbbed along his jaw line.  “You’re infatuated not in love.”

“Do you think because I’m young, I don’t know what love is?”

“I shouldn’t have kissed you,” he said.  “I don’t know what I was thinking.  It was an utterly foolish thing to do–” he broke off when she started to cry.  He pulled her into his arms and held her closely.  “Don’t cry,” he begged, as she buried her face in his chest.

The feel of her body against his was his undoing.  Unable to help himself, he gripped the hair at the nape of her neck and pulled her head back so that he stare down into her wet face before his lips closed feverishly over hers.  Her impassioned response to his kisses inflamed him.  It was no use.  He couldn’t walk away from her now.  She was in his blood and in his heart.

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Sources:  Gov.UK; International Adoption Guide; Evening Standard;  The Guardian; London City Mission