Passed Over

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Photo courtesy of Fandango

Maria Vargas paused at the display of contorted tree limbs draped across wooden rocking chairs.  It was in this very spot that the Director of the Günter Museum of Modern Art, Gerhard Wilhelm had made inappropriate advances toward her.   For months, she had been subjected to his lewd and sexually suggestive comments.  He always did it when no one was around, so she had no witnesses.  It was a relief when she learned that she wasn’t his only victim.

When Gerhard arrived at the museum on Monday, he couldn’t get in because his access card had been deactivated.  Yesterday, he resigned, following an inquiry into his professional conduct.  Apparently some of the curators had been gathering evidence against him which they presented to the Trustees who were now investigating the matter.

Maria had her own evidence but never thought to share it with anyone because she didn’t think anyone would believe her.  And she was afraid that they might think she was maligning him in order to get his job.  It wasn’t a secret that she wanted to be Executive Director and Chief Curator.  She’d been passed over in favor of him.  Now that he was gone, perhaps…

198 Words

I was inspired by the Me Too scandal about the Mark Coetzee, the boss of Cape Town’s prestigious Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa who resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct were leveled against him and an inquiry was launched.

This was written for Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  City Press

His Muse

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Photo by Sue Vincent

The painting was almost complete.  He just had to add a few touches.  Painting landscapes was never his thing but he had been forced to paint them since…He tossed the paintbrush down and got up.  He walked over to the window and stared out into the street below.  It was quiet now.  It was Sunday.  Almost everyone was in church.  He had stopped attending Sunday mass three years ago.  He had stopped doing a lot of things three years ago.  Three years ago she had stood right there by the door, ready to removed her coat when her cell rang.  He had no idea who called her but after she ended the call, she grabbed her knapsack and said, “I have to go but I will be back later,” before she pulled open the door and rushed out.

He waited all day for her to return or to call but neither was forthcoming.  Three years later and she hadn’t returned.  He had no idea where she was.  Maybe she went back to her home in Benin.  She was the reason why he stopped painting people and started painting landscapes.  He had broken his own rule of never mixing business with pleasure.  She was supposed to be his muse–that was all.  He had painted hundreds of women before and not once did any of them stir any passions in him.  He was immune to them.  To him there were just muses.

Then, he met her one day at the gallery where his work was on display.  She was eighteen at the time.  Her youth was so refreshing.   She wasn’t beautiful or even pretty and her eyes seemed too large for her small face but she intrigued him.   He wanted to paint her right then and there.  There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that she was going to be his next muse.  After they left the gallery, he took her for a cappuccino.  She was a bit hesitant at first although she was flattered that he wanted to paint her but he was very persuasive.

She turned out to be the perfect muse, inspiring him to produce his best work.  He churned out painting after painting.   She sat there day after day, still as a statue.  He supposed that it was gradual but one day he realized that he that he had fallen for her–of all he foolhardy things to do.  He was twice her age, for pity’s sake.  He thought of finding another muse to replace her but he couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing her again.  She had brought light and joy into his otherwise dull existence.  Life without her would be intolerable.  He didn’t replace her but it became increasingly hard to paint because he couldn’t concentrate.  Instead of painting her, he wanted to take her in his arms and…

He leaned forward, his palms flat on the window seat, his tortured gaze scanned the horizon.  She was out there somewhere.  His life was empty.  There was a great big chasm and his heart ached every time he remembered how she had literally run out of his life.  He never got another muse.  No one could replace her.  Oh, Johari, my inspiration, my grand passion, my torment.

He heard a sound behind him and turned.  His face became ashen when he saw her standing there.  If she didn’t blink, he would have imagined that she was an illusion.  All sorts of emotions churned inside him.  His hands curled into tight fists as he tried to hold them in check.  Part of him wanted to take her in his arms and lavish her with kisses while the other part wanted to lash out at her for the misery she had put him through.

“I came back, Adriel,” she said, moving closer.

He didn’t budge.  “Yes, three years later.  Where have you been all this time?”

“I’ve been in Benin.  That day when I was here with you, I got a call from an uncle that my father had fallen ill and that I was needed home right away.  I got the first flight out of London.  I helped my mother to look after him until he recovered.  My mother asked me to stay until she could afford to hire a private nurse.  I tried calling you but there wasn’t any answer.  I think your cell was off.  I wrote to you while I was in Benin but you never answered.  Adriel, you must know that only a family emergency would make me leave you.  All the time I was away, I thought about you and missed you.  I wondered why you didn’t write me.  I thought you were out of the country or busy with gallery showings or—that you had met someone.”

He quickly closed the distance between them.  “I’ve been here all this time,” he told her.  “Missing you and wondering where you were.  I had my phone turned off and I never received any of your letters.”

“So, there isn’t another woman…?”

He shook his head vigorously.  “No!” Groaning, he reached for her and pulled her into his arms.  “I couldn’t be with anyone else even if I wanted to.  I love you, Johari.”  He covered her face with kisses, unable to help himself.

She hugged him tightly about his waist and murmured, “I love you too.”

They stood there in the sun-dappled room locked in a passionate embrace.  He stopped painting for a long while and he no longer had any need for a muse.  They got married in a quiet ceremony in SaintPauldeVence, one of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera.  When he returned to painting, he did portraits while Johari worked in a museum which featured his work.

 

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Faraway at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Falling in Love

Gloria was walking down the sidewalk after visiting her grandmother in the nursing home when she ran into David Mansfield.  He was heading into a café when he spotted her.  Smiling, he walked over to her.  “Hello, Gloria,” he said.

She smiled at him.  “Professor Mansfield.”

“Please call me David.  It makes me feel less old,” he said.  “How are you?”

“I’m fine, David,” she said.   Dressed in a black shirt and tan colored slacks, he looked very attractive.  He was twenty years her senior and a widower with a teenage son.  He used to be her History professor.  “I just came from visiting my grandmother.”

“How is she?”

“It’s hard to see a woman who was once very active confined to a wheelchair.”

“I was just about to grab a cappuccino.  Would you like to join me?”

She nodded and followed him into the café.  They found a table at the back by the window.   “The good thing is her mind is still agile and she can remember things I have forgotten.”

“That’s good.  My mother had Alzheimer’s.  It was sad seeing her mind deteriorate.  It was tough on my father.  He died soon after.  They had been married for over sixty years.”

“Sixty years.  That’s wonderful.  My parents got divorced ten years ago.  My father remarried and lives in Seattle and my mother has started dating again.  I hope that when I get married, it will last.”

“In my case it was death, not divorce.”

“How did she die?”

“It happened quite suddenly.  She was running up the stairs to answer the phone when she missed a step, fell and struck her head.  Mrs. Moore, our housekeeper found her.  Mark was at school.  It was a great shock for all of us.  This happened a week shy of her fortieth birthday.”

“I’m so sorry.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose a spouse or a parent.  How is your son doing?”

“Oh, he’s doing well.  He’s studying in Germany.”

“Good for him.  I always wondered what it would have been like to study abroad.  Sometimes I wished I had.”

“I’m happy you didn’t,” he said quietly.  “I wouldn’t have met you if you had.”

“Now that you mention it, I’m happy I didn’t study abroad either.” She returned his gaze, feeling her heart beat a little faster.  “I guess there’s no harm in me telling you this now, but I was very attracted to you.  I used to look forward to seeing you twice a week.  I was very sorry when the semester was over and when I graduated I wondered if I would ever see you again.  I was tempted to email you and ask you to have a cup of cappuccino with me.”

“And here we are having that cup of cappuccino.” A pause and then, “So, where do we go from here?”

“Wherever you would like,” she said.  She was flirting with him and it was exhilarating.

“I have a confession to make,” he said, leaning over.  “I was attracted to you too but I couldn’t allow myself to entertain any thoughts of having a relationship with you because it was against the university’s policy.  It was tough, though, walking into the classroom and seeing you.  After you graduated, I thought about you and wondered how you were doing.  I was sorry that I didn’t ask you to keep in touch.”

“Bumping into each other like this wasn’t an accident.  I believe it was God’s doing.”

“I’m very thankful to Him.  Are you free this evening?”

“Yes.”

“Have dinner with me.”

“Yes.” She took out a slip of paper, wrote her number and address on it and handed it to him.

“You know after Alice died, I never thought I would be interested in anyone else.”

“You must have loved her very much.”

He nodded.  “Yes, I did.  She was my first love.”

“I have heard it said that it is your first love that is very difficult to forget and that it will never die.” If he decides that he wants to have a relationship with me, will he always compare Alice and me? She wondered, her heart sinking at the thought.

“The memory of a first love never fades.  It stays with you.”

“Yes, I suppose it does.” She finished her cappuccino and stood up.  “I’m afraid I have to go now.”

“I’ll pick you up at seven,” he said, rising to his feet and looking down at her, his expression inscrutable.  “It was really nice seeing you again, Gloria.”

She smiled and held out her hand.  “It was nice seeing you again, David.”

He took her hand.  “You don’t mind going out with a man almost twice your age, do you?”

She shook her head, her pulse racing.  His hand felt warm against hers and his thumb was rubbing against the back, stirring all sorts of sensations in her.  “No, I don’t,” she assured him breathlessly.  The waitress came over to the table at that moment and he released her hand.  “I’ll see you later,” she said before turning and walking away.

As she walked to the subway, she wondered if she was not making a mistake getting involved with a man who was still in love with his deceased wife.  She wrestled with herself.  Her mind was warning her that she could get hurt but her heart was urging her to go for it.  Her heart won the battle.  The desire to be with him outweighed her reservations and she made up her mind that she would go out with him.  Her friends would probably have a lot to say about it but she didn’t care.  It was her life to do what she wished with it.

As soon as she got home, she went to her wardrobe to see which outfit she could wear and settled on the red jersey dress.  After she straightened the place, she took a shower and got ready.  She opted to wear her hair up, with a few tendrils framing her face.  A pair of red high heeled boots and matching handbag completed the outfit.  She paused in front of the mirror and was satisfied with how she looked.  Just as she left the bedroom, the doorbell rang and her heart skipped a beat.  Nervous, she hurried to answer the door.

David stood there, his coat open to reveal a charcoal grey suit with a black shirt, no tie and a light scarf draped loosely around his neck.  He looked incredibly handsome.  She saw his gaze travel slowly over her and the admiration in their depths when they shifted back to her face.  “You look beautiful,” he said quietly.

“Thank you,” she said, suddenly feeling very shy.  Dragging her eyes away from him, she hurried inside to grab her coat, put it on before she pulled the door in and locked it.

They went to a French restaurant in a historic former men’s club across from the Yale campus.   She used to walk past this place and never once did she imagine that one evening she would be having dinner with Professor David Mansfield.  She looked around, her face beaming.  The restaurant was elegant, not stuffy as so many of these fancy types of restaurants tended to be.  She was impressed with the high ceilings and beautiful woodwork.  When she looked at David, she found him watching her with an amused expression on his face.  “Have you been here before?” she asked.  “It’s beautiful.”

“No, I’ve never been here before but I know a few people who have and they all had great things to say about it.”

She didn’t know why but she was glad that he had never been here before.  They were experiencing something new together.  She hoped to have many other such experiences with him.

They shared the appetizer, ordered the same salad and while he had the grilled lamb chops, she had the roasted duck breast.  They passed on dessert and had coffee instead.  It was a very enjoyable evening.  She learned that his parents were in Berlin during the 1936 summer Olympic Games.  “The highlight for them was seeing Jesse Owens win four track and field gold medals.”

“Yes, it must have been wonderful seeing history unfold right before them.  Have you ever been to Germany?”

“Yes, I have been couple of times.  My mother’s family is German.  She told me that her parents risked their lives during World War II by hiding Jewish friends from the Nazis.  Their names are listed in a museum among other Germans who helped Jews to stay alive under Nazi dictatorship.”

“You must be so proud of them,” she said.  “They risked their lives to save lives.  I’m thankful that they weren’t caught.”

“Yes.  They would have been executed.”

“And you wouldn’t be here with me,” she said.  She couldn’t imagine a world without David Mansfield.  She thanked God for watching over his parents and protecting them from being discovered by the Germans.

David’s eyes darkened and he covered her hand with his.  “I’m happy with the way things turned out,” he agreed.  “It would have been a shame if you and I hadn’t met.”

They talked about other, lighthearted things and then it was time to go.  When they got back to her apartment, she invited him in.  After she locked the door and turned to face him, they watched each other as they removed their coats, not saying anything.  The air was suddenly filled with tension—a tension that had begun that afternoon in the café when he held her hand and had been building up all evening beneath the surface and now it was at the surface.

Compelled by a desire too strong to contain, she reached out and dragged off his jacket.  Fingers trembling, she unbuttoned his shirt.  She couldn’t tell whether it was his harsh breathing she heard or her own.  The rest of his clothes followed and he was standing there, with only the scarf draped around him.  She removed it and tossed it on the floor at his feet.  Then, she stripped and took the pins out of her hair, letting it down so that it fell in unruly curls about her face.

Muttering under his breath, he reached for her pulled her roughly against him, his mouth finding her and plundering it feverishly.  She clung to him, kissing him back wildly.  For several minutes they stood there, exchanging fiery kisses and then, he scooped her up and carried her over to the rug in front of the electric fireplace where they made passionate love.

After that night they became romantically involved.  When the summer holidays came, his son Mark visited and Gloria invited them both over to her place for dinner.  She was nervous about meeting Mark but David assured her that it would be fine.  Mark was a splitting image of his father, a few inches shorter and lanky.  He was very pleasant and he spoke about his studies and how he liked living in Germany.  Dinner was a success.  They enjoyed it and while she was in the kitchen cleaning up, they relaxed on the sofa.

“So what do you think?” David asked him.

“She’s a lot younger than I expected,” Mark said.

“She was my student,” David told him.  “She graduated last year.”

“I like her.  Do you love her?”

“Yes.”

“And does she love you?”

“Yes.”

“Then, I’m happy for you.”

“That’s good to know.  I never thought that I would fall in love again.  I still think about your mother and I will always cherish the life I had with her.”

“Mom would want you to be happy and it is obvious that Gloria makes you happy.”

David smiled and hugged him just as Gloria joined them.

Mark stood up, looking apologetic as he announced that he had to leave.  “I have an early and very busy day tomorrow,” he explained.  “Gloria, thanks for the dinner.  I enjoyed it.  And it was really nice meeting you.”

Gloria hugged him warmly.  “It was nice meeting you too,” she said.  “I hope to see you again very soon.”

“You’ll see me before I head back to Germany.  Dad, let’s do lunch on Friday.”

“Sure thing, Mark.”  They clapped each other on the back.  “See you on Friday.”

Gloria saw him to the door.  When she rejoined David in the living-room, he pulled her down on his lap.  “We have his blessing,” he told her.

She smiled, putting her arms around his neck.  “I’m relieved to hear that.”

“You’re a bit young to be his step-mother but that can’t be helped.”

Her eyes widened.  “His step-mother?”

“Yes.”  He reached into the back pocket of his jeans and pulled out a box.  He opened it and took out the ring.  She stared at it.  It was a white gold diamond rose engagement ring.  It took her breath away.  Her eyes flew up to his face which was becoming blurry.  “Will you marry me, Gloria?”

She didn’t trust herself to speak so she nodded vigorously, the tears falling now.  And she watched as he slid the ring onto her finger.  It was exquisitely beautiful.

David put his arms around her waist.  “When I met Alice, I fell in love with her once but with you, it’s different,” he confessed.  “Every time I look at you, I fall in love with you all over again.  And I will keep falling in love with you for the rest of our lives.”

“Falling in love with you is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” she whispered before she cupped his face between her hands and kissed him.

 

 

 

Source:  Union League Cafe

A Failed Plan

The young ladies were all in a tizzy because Mr. Edmond McFadyen was joining them for dinner that evening.  Mr. Burrows had taken the liberty to extend the long overdue invitation when he had the pleasure of bumping into the young man at the gentlemen’s club that morning.

Ever since the McFadyens had moved into Grand Meadow Manor, Mrs. Burrows had pressed her husband to make their acquaintance.  They were invited to tea but Edmond was not present at the time, much to Mrs. Burrows’ consternation.   She urged Mr. Burrows to invite the young man to dinner and was beside herself with excitement when it was accepted graciously.

Mrs. Burrows clapped her hands in delight.  “Oh, girls,” she said to her daughters, Louise, Evelyn and Henrietta.  “Just think, one of you will win the affections of Edmond McFadyen.” Yes, it was her plan to secure one of her daughters for one of London’s most eligible bachelors.

The girls giggled.  “Oh, Mama,” Henrietta cried, “He is ever so handsome.  Which one of us do you think he will prefer?” she asked her sisters.

“Me,” said Louise.  “I’m the oldest and wisest.”

Evelyn pursed her lips.  “I’m the prettiest.”

Henrietta clucked.  “And I’m the youngest.”

They began to quarrel among themselves and Mrs. Burrows raised her hand.  “Girls, girls, stop fighting among yourselves,” she said.  “We will know soon enough this evening which of you Mr. McFadyen will favor.  Now, why don’t you run upstairs and sort out what you will wear. You must all look your very best, you know.”

“Yes, Mama,” they cried and bustled out of the room, leaving Mrs. Burrows alone with their cousin, Kay.

Kay sat by the fireplace reading a book.  She had listened to the commotion but had kept quiet.  Her aunt would not have welcomed any remark from her.  The older woman had never made her feel welcomed in her home.  And her cousins had always made her plain and inferior.  Only her uncle treated her kindly.  Many an evening they would sit in the library and have stimulating conversations.  He had intimated once that he wished his daughters were more like her.

She could feel her aunt’s gaze on her and she looked up.  The withering stare she received elicited a heavy sigh.  She closed her book.  “Perhaps, you would rather be alone, Aunt Mabel,” she said.  She was about to rise from the chair.

Her aunt waved her to remain seated.  “Don’t leave until I have said what I need to say to you,” she said.

“What is it, Aunt?”

“Don’t imagine for one moment that Mr. McFadyen would pay any attention to you. He is a gentleman.  You are not a gentleman’s daughter.  Your father was a shopkeeper.  I still don’t know what possessed my sister to marry him.”

Kay’s face suffused with color.  She tried to remain calm.  “My father may not have been a gentleman, Aunt, but he was a man of good character and my mother loved him.  As for Mr. McFadyen, I have no given no thought of him paying me any attention that is beyond what is customary.”

“You are not a pretty girl by any means, so I don’t suppose there’s any likelihood that the good gentleman would even notice you.”

Kay opened her mouth to respond to that unkind remark but decided that it was not worth dignifying.  “If you have no further requirements for me, Aunt, I shall excuse myself.”

Her aunt waved her away dismissively.  Getting up from the armchair, Kay made her exit.  Kay spent the rest of the afternoon in her room and when it was time to get ready for dinner, she did so half-heartedly.  She chose the pink gown that flattered her coloring and shape.  She pulled her hair back from her face in a French knot, allowing a few curls to fall across her forehead and brush against her cheeks.  She examined her reflection in the mirror and satisfied that she looked respectable, she left the room.

They were all in the drawing-room, including Mr. McFadyen who was surrounded, poor chap, by her excitable cousins.  All eyes turned in her direction when she entered the room and she felt her face go red.  How she wished she could return to her room.  She would be happier curled up on the bed, reading her book.  A tray could have been brought up.  Her eyes caught the sour expression on her Aunt’s face, the disdained glances of her cousins, the affectionate smile on her Uncle’s face before her gaze drifted to the guest of honor.

He was tall, very stately in appearance and quite handsome.  “This is our niece, Miss Forrester,” she heard her Uncle say.  Mr. McFadyen bowed and she curtsied.

The announcement that dinner was ready came just then and they all went in.  Mr. and Mrs. Burrows preceded the party.  Mr. McFadyen escorted Louise as she was the eldest; her sisters followed, looking rather cross and Kay brought up the rear.

She was seated at the opposite end of the table, as conceivably far from Mr. McFadyen as possible.  No doubt her Aunt’s doing.  Louise sat on his left and Evelyn on his right while Henrietta sat beside Evelyn, much to her displeasure.

However, the evening didn’t go as her Aunt hoped.  Her Uncle kept drawing Kay into the conversation when her Aunt and cousins seemed perfectly happy to ignore her. Mr. McFadyen seemed more interested in what she had to say than the frivolous chatter of her cousins. Kay found that she and Mr. McFadyen had a great deal in common.  They shared a love for History and the Arts.  He had done a great deal of travelling and she listened with rapt interest as he recounted some of his adventures.

The evening turned out to be rather pleasant for Mr. Burrows, Mr. McFadyen and Kay.  Before he left, Mr. McFadyen said to Kay, “Miss Forrester, would you do me the honor of accompanying me to the museum tomorrow?  There are some new Egyptian artifacts on display which I have no doubt you will find fascinating.”

She smiled.  “Thank you, Sir.  I would be delighted to accompany you.”

“I bid you goodnight, Miss Forrester,” he said with a smile and a bow.

“I bid you goodnight, Mr. McFadyen.”  She curtsied.

After he left, she was subjected to malevolent stares from her Aunt and cousins.  “Kay, you should be ashamed of yourself, monopolizing Mr. McFadyen’s attention like that,” Louise scolded her.  “If you weren’t there, he would have paid more attention to me.”

“All that dull talk about History and Art,” Henrietta complained.  “He’s as dull as you, Kay.”

“And what did he say to you just now before he left, might I ask?” demanded Evelyn.

“If you must know, he invited me to accompany him to the museum tomorrow.”

“What?” her Aunt was aghast.  She slumped against the chair, fanning herself with her handkerchief as if she were feeling faint.

Her Uncle chuckled.  “It seems as if Mr. McFadyen has taken a fancy to Kay.”

“A fancy, indeed!  It’s all your fault, Mr. Burrows.  If you had ignored her like the rest of us, Mr. McFadyen would have requested the company of one of our girls.”

“My Dear Lady, it was clear to me that the young gentleman was not at all interested in any of our girls.  Therefore, ignoring Kay would not have changed that fact.  Now, it’s late and I am going to retire.”

Kay thought it a good time to leave as well.  She knew if she stayed, she would be raked over the coals.  “I too must retire.  Goodnight, Uncle.”  She kissed him.  “Goodnight, Aunt, Louise, Evelyn and Henrietta.”  She didn’t wait for them to respond but hurried from the room.

As she ran up the stairs, she felt a deep satisfaction that her Aunt’s plan for Mr. McFadyen had failed.  He was a gentleman, indeed and deserving of a woman who was his equal, not in social status but in character.

 

Source:  Fantasy Name Generators