Being True to Yourself

7653_t_1e9aa193-50be-4e07-8006-a69bcab56527“Lyndon, a group of us are going out for drinks after work.  Would you like to join us?” Jane asked him as he stopped by her desk to give her a brown envelope he wanted her to give to the mailman when he made his afternoon rounds.

“No thanks.  I already have plans for this evening.”

“Oh, yes, The Nutcracker Suite.”

Leela walked up just then.  “The Nutcracker Suite.  Is that the name of one of those fancy hotel rooms?  Is she anyone we know?”

Jane tried hard to keep a straight face while Lyndon’s face turned beet red.  He gave Leela as withering look as he muttered, “It’s the name of a ballet.”  Then he did an about turn and strode off, his back straight as s rod.

As soon as he was out of earshot, Jane doubled over with laughter.  “Why do you let him think that you’re ignorant when it comes to the Arts and the finer things in life?” She asked when she stopped laughing.

Leela shrugged.  “I enjoy getting a rise out of him.”

“You like him, don’t you?”

“A lot of good it does me.  It’s obvious that he can’t stand me.”

“Well, what do you expect?  You’re always teasing him.  If you want him to like you have to try a different approach.  You know what some of his interests are, talk to him about them.”

“All right.  I’ll do that.  I’ll pass on going for drinks.  I think I will stay here at the office and do a little extra work.”

Jane gave her a knowing look.  “Good for you.”

Leela smiled and went back to her cubicle.  As soon as five o’clock arrived and everyone had left, she got up from her desk.  She headed straight for Lyndon’s office.  His door was opened so after a knock on the door to let him know that she was there, she walked over to his desk.  He looked up from what he was doing and she could tell from the expression on his face that he wasn’t at all pleased to see her.

“I would like to finish this report before I leave,” he said.

“I won’t take up much of your time,” she said as she sat down opposite him.  “I came to apologize.”

His eyebrows rose.  “Apologize?”

“Yes, for my remark about The Nutcracker Suite.  I was just pulling your leg.  I know that it’s a ballet.  I’ve seen it twice.  It’s one of my favorite ballets.  My other two favorites are Giselle and Swan LakeSwan Lake was Tchaikovsky’s first ballet.”

She had his attention now.  “You know your ballet,” he remarked.

“I’m not only a big fan of ballet but opera as well.  I love La Traviata,La Bohème, Rigoletto, Tosca and The Marriage of Figaro.”

“That’s a very impressive list.  What about Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute and the Barber of Seville?”

“I’ve always wanted to see those as well as Aida but never got the chance.”

“I hope you get the opportunity to see them.  They are masterpieces.  Tell me, what else do you enjoy?”

“Well, I enjoy good books such as Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, To Kill A Mockingbird, Lolita, Anna Karenina and Beloved by Toni Morrison.  And as far as plays go, I love anything by Henrik Ibsen.  I think he was a male feminist.”

Lydon smiled.  “I suppose you’re right about that.  In A Doll’s House, he was basically saying that Nora didn’t have to remain as her husband’s “doll,” but that she can be independent.  What about other works from other playwrights like Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill?”

She shrugged.  “I have read all of their plays but I’m more partial to William Shakespeare, Ibsen and Chekhov.”

“Are you familiar with August Strindberg?”

She shook her head.  “No.  Is he a playwright?”

“Yes.  He has written several plays.  I have a volume with five of his plays in it–The Father, Miss Julie, The Dance of Death, A Dream Play and The Ghost Sonata.  I could lend the volume to you if you like.”

Leela smiled.  “I would like that very much.  Thanks, Lyndon.”

“Tell me something.  Why do you give the impression that you’re not cultured?  Why do you come across as if you don’t know the difference between Art and the Arts.”

qLBb61ET_t“I’ve discovered that although men may like the idea of dating a smart woman, they don’t actually want to date one.  I’ve been dumped by several men because I was too smart.  I like to have intellectual and philosophical discussions but that was a big turn off for them.  They wanted to talk about sports, music, money, fitness, television and movies, clothes, work, food, travel, cars and guy things.  I don’t have a problem talking about these things but not all the time.  The minute I bring up something that interests me, they either change the subject or signal for the check.  And I don’t hear from them again.  One guy even said to me that he wants to wake up in the morning next to beauty not brains.  So, my solution to my dating problem was to pretend that I wasn’t all that smart and it worked.  I had no trouble getting and keeping dates.  Then, one night when I was lying in bed, I remembered what Polonius said to his son, Laertes before he left for Paris.”

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

“Yes.  That was very good advice and I decided to take it.  So, at the moment, I’m not dating anyone.”

“Not all men are intimidated by smart women.  I’m not.  And I think it’s important that we don’t diminish ourselves to please others.  Besides, it was God who blessed you with an intelligent mind.”

“Yes, He did.  Lyndon, I should leave now.  I don’t want to keep you from your date.”

“Actually, it isn’t a date.  I’m taking my niece.  It’s her birthday and she has always wanted to see The Nutcracker.”

“Oh.  You’re taking your niece.”  Leela was relieved.  “What a great birthday present.  She must be so excited.  She will love the ballet and so will you.”

“Yes, I’m sure we will.”

Leela stood up.  “Have a good evening and weekend.  I’ll see you on Monday.”

He stood up too.  “Leela, are you busy tomorrow evening?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“How-how would you like to have dinner with me at the Les Enfants de Boheme?”

“I’d like that very much.”

He smiled.  “Good.  I’ll pick you up at your place at seven.”

She wrote down her address and phone number on the notepad on his desk.  “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“See you tomorrow.”  He watched as she walked out of his office before he went behind the desk again and sat down.  He was looking forward to their date.  Finally, he had found a woman right up his alley.

“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.”– Frederick Douglass

Sources:  Literary Devices; Huffington Post; ListVerse; Udiscover Music; The Talko; Develop Good Habits

Dance in Worship

Let them praise His name with the dance; Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp – Psalm 149:3

shutterstock_6951040

Now as the ark of the Lord came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart. So they brought the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it.

Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And when David had finished offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts. Then he distributed among all the people, among the whole multitude of Israel, both the women and the men, to everyone a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins. So all the people departed, everyone to his house.

Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”

So David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the Lord. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.”

Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death (2 Samuel 6:16-23).

Some time ago, I read this message, “Be more concerned with what God thinks about you, than what people think about you.” David didn’t care how he looked when he was bringing the Ark of the Lord into Jerusalem. He was experiencing such joy that he couldn’t contain himself. He was leaping and dancing. Michal saw him and was critical.

This reminds me of some churchgoers who look down on others because they are more liberal in their worship—they shake their heads and murmur because people get up and praise God with their arms wide open and their faces uplifted. They feel that the conservative way is the only way to worship God. Michal looked down on David because he was not acting like a king. She likened his behavior to a base person. Her tone when she spoke to him implies sarcasm and contempt. David explained to her that he was dancing before the same God who chose him over her father to rule over the people of Israel, therefore he was going to play music and be even more undignified than that. And for the record, the people whom she claimed he had degraded himself in front of, they were the same people who would respect him.

David was willing to look foolish in the eyes of some people in order to express his thankfulness to God fully and honestly.  In contrast Michal was so disgusted by his “undignified” actions that she could not rejoice in the ark’s return to Jerusalem.  Worship had become so deteriorated under her father Saul’s reign that it had become stilted and ritualistic.  Michal could accept David as a military conqueror and as a king, but she could not accept his free and spontaneous expression of praise to God.  Some devoted people may look to us in their heartfelt expressions of worship, but we must accept them.  In the same way, we should not be afraid to worship God with whatever expressions seem appropriate (NIV Life Application Study Bible, page 627).

Michal cared too much about what other people would think and this led her to worry about how David’s behaviour would reflect on her and as a result she ended up without any children. People lose out on so much when they nitpick and criticize others. David was making a joyful noise and he was dancing and twirling because he was praising God. His heart was in the right place. There are times when we should be on our feet, praising God. God accepts that kind of worship too.  As long as we worship from our hearts, that is all that matters.  Worship is an expression of our love and thankfulness toward God.  It should not be suppressed but expressed in a way that will glorify and delight God.

Worship should be a joyful experience.  We are encouraged to praise the LORD with the timbrel and dance, with stringed instruments and flutes and to come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms (Psalms 150:4; 95:2).

His Type

It was an elaborate dinner for just the two of us, something I hadn’t expected at all.  When I showed up at the mansion, I expected to find other guests but I was the only one.  I was escorted by a butler who walked with his back straight as a rod to the dining-room.

She was sitting at the head of the table but rose gracefully when I entered.  The red shimmering dress with the V-neck flattered her figure and the high slit at the side revealed a pale, shapely thigh.  Her auburn hair tumbled about her shoulders.  Her red lips parted to reveal even white teeth as she reached up and kissed me on the corner of my mouth.

“Her gaze traveled slowly over me.  “You look amazing in that tux,” she remarked, admiration flickering in her eyes.

“Thank you.  And you look ravishing.”

Color suffused her cheeks.  “Thank you.  I hope you don’t mind that it’s just the two of us,” she said when she drew back to look up at me.

“Weren’t the others able to come?”

She studied me for a moment, her green eyes twinkling before she sashayed back over to her seat.  “They were never invited.”

My eyebrows arched.  Amused, I waited until she sat down before I did in the chair on her left.  “I’m flattered,” I said.  “If you wanted to have dinner with me, all you had to do was ask.”

“Would you have accepted if I had?”

“I might have.”

“You don’t sound sure.  Am I not your type?”

*************************************************************

“Well, is she your type?” Jayla interrupted.

He shook his head.  “No.”

“Did you stay and have dinner with her?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Why?”

“She went to all of that trouble.  I couldn’t just leave.”

“She got you over there on false pretenses.  You weren’t obligated to stay.  Once you realized that she had tricked you, you should have left.”

“She didn’t trick me.”

“Well, she deceived you, then.  You should have left.”

“Maybe I should have.”

“If she had asked you to have dinner with her, would you have accepted?”

“Maybe.  I don’t know.”

“And did you answer her question?”

“Which one?”

“The one about her not being your type.”

“No, I changed the subject.  I told her that I was working on a new novel.  She asked me all sorts of questions about it.”

“And what happened after you finished having dinner?”

“We went into the drawing-room where we listened to music while having after dinner drinks.”

“And is that all you did–have drinks and listen to music?”

His lips twitched and he said, “You know from this angle that picture looks a bit crooked.”  Putting his glasses down on the counter, he got up and went over to adjust the frame.  When he turned to face her, she was glaring at him.  “Jayla, nothing happened between Vanessa and me.  After the drink, I thanked her for a lovely evening and then left.”  He returned to the stool and sat down.

“You said she looked ravishing.”

“She did.”

“Are you going to see her again?”

He shook his head.  “No.  Before we parted company, I made it very clear, in a tactful way, of course, that I wasn’t romantically interested in her.”

“And how did she react?”

“She was disappointed but there were no hard feelings.  We parted on good terms.”

Jayla got up from the sofa and walked slowly over to him.  “You said she kissed you.”

“Yes, she did.  Right here.”  He pointed to the right corner of his mouth.

“Did-did you feel anything?”

“No.”

She hesitated for a moment and then, leaning over, she kissed him at the corner of his mouth.  When she drew back, their eyes met.  “What about now?” she asked, breathlessly.  “Did you feel anything?”

His eyes were smoldering.  “Yes,” he muttered.  “I felt something.”  And then she was on his lap and he was kissing her.

Jayla wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back, her head spinning as all sorts of sensations swept through her body.  She had always fantasized about kissing him but this was beyond her wildest imagination.

Several minutes later, he drew back to gaze at her, his breathing labored and his face flushed.  “I’ve wanted to do that for a long, long time,” he panted.

She smiled.  “Why didn’t you?” she managed to say in between breaths.  Her chest was heaving and her heart was beating so fast.

“I wasn’t sure how you felt about until today when I saw that you were jealous of Vanessa.”

“You’re right I was very jealous.  I thought you were attracted to her because of the way you described her.”

“She is a very beautiful woman but I don’t want her.  I want you.  I have always wanted you.  I think it’s time I showed you just how much.”

She slid off his lap and swallowed hard when she saw the expression on his face before he picked her up and took her to his room.

You’re my type,” he said hours later when they were having dinner.

She smiled.  “And you’re mine.”

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompts for Thursday’s word, Elaborate and today’s word, Angle.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Anabella

piano-anshu
PHOTO PROMPT © Anshu Bhojnagarwala

He was in the study about to light his pipe when he heard it. Rising slowly to his feet, he left the room and went towards the sound of the piano. The haunted melody filled the house. It had been years since he last heard that song. Who was playing it? He reached the drawing-room. The door was slightly ajar and he pushed it open.

A woman sat with her back to him. He went up behind her. “Who the devil are you?” he demanded.

The music stopped abruptly and she turned around. His face whitened. “Anabella? It can’t be.”

100 Words

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

Choosing Love Over Fear

man playing piano

He sat at the piano, running his fingers over the keys.  His heart was heavy and his mind muddled.  Music was elusive.  He couldn’t concentrate.  All he could think about was her and how much he missed her.  What a fool he had been to let her walk out of his life.  He had allowed fear to get the better of him.

What was he so afraid of?  Of falling in love?  Too late.  He was already madly in love with her.  It wasn’t lack of trust.  He trusted Odeta implicitly which was more than he could say about other women he had been involved with.  Did it have to do with her last relationship?  After they had been together for two years, the guy suddenly decided that he didn’t want to be tied down to one woman.  She later told him that it hurt like hell and it took a while for her to get over it.  And it was when she was starting to pick up the pieces that he came into her life.

They met at a trendy restaurant in Soho.  The usual piano player couldn’t make it because he was sick so as a favor to his friend, the club’s manager, he filled in.   He would never forget the first time he saw her.  She walked in alone, tall and beautiful, her hair cut short like a boy’s, wearing a red, off the shoulder dress which flattered her slender figure.  No jewelry.  Only a touch of red lipstick.  Her dark skin was flawless.  She looked like a model.  Their eyes met.  He wanted to stop playing and walk over to her but he stayed put.  Besides, she was meeting someone.  She walked past him and to a table where an African man was sitting.

african woman in dress bw

He kept an eye on her all evening as he played.  Was the man her boyfriend or husband?  Or were they meeting for the first time?  Was this their first date?  He shook his head.  Forget about it, Man.  You’re out of her league.  She looks like she’s used to being with men like the one she was with now–elegantly dressed, used to dining in expensive establishments like this, drove fancy cars and wealthy.

Still, he couldn’t help himself.  She intrigued him.  And when he took a break and went to the bar to have a drink, he passed by her table.  She looked at him.  He smiled and left the room.

As he sat down at the bar and ordered his drink, he saw the man she was with leave.  He didn’t look upset or anything.  A few minutes later, she came out of the dining-room.  When she saw him, she walked over to the empty stool beside him and sat down.  She ordered a virgin cocktail.  Turning to him, she said, “You play the piano very well.”

This close, she was even more stunning.  “Thank you,” he replied.  “Didn’t your date enjoy my playing?  Is that why he left?”

She smiled.  “He left because he flying back to Cape Town tonight.  And he wasn’t my date.  He’s my brother.”

He couldn’t hide the relief on his face.  “Your brother.  I thought he was your boyfriend or husband.”

“I’m single.  And you?”

“Single.  Are you a model?”

She laughed.  “No.  I’m a Marketing Director.”

“When I saw you, I thought you were a model.  I’m sure I’m not the first man to think that.”

“You’re right.  I have been approached by people in the modelling industry and they always are surprised when I tell them that I’m not interested and that I’m perfectly happy with being in the Marketing business.”

“It’s easy to see why they approach you.  You’re a very stunning woman.”

She smiled.  “Thank you…I don’t know your name.”

“It’s Ian.”

“Nice to meet you, Ian,” she said holding out her hand.  “Odetta.”

“Likewise, Odetta.  My break will be over in ten minutes.  Would you be able to stick around for half hour?”

She nodded.  “Sure.  I’ll just sit here at the bar until you’re done.”

“Good.  We can go somewhere else and talk.”

“So, what do you do when you’re not playing the piano?”

“Structural Engineering.”

“Sounds interesting.  Tell me about it.”

The ten minutes went quickly and he reluctantly left her at the bar to finish his session.  Half hour later, they were sitting at a cafe, continuing their conversation.  It was after mid-night when he finally gave her a ride home.  They saw each other the following night.  They began dating and things were going well until he got cold feet and told her that he they should take a break because things were moving too fast.  Hurt and angry, she walked out of the apartment.

That was a month ago.  Many times he wanted to go over to her place and apologize.  His life was empty without her.  What a fool he was to ruin a good thing because he was afraid.  And now, here he was alone and miserable, tinkering with the piano and missing her like crazy.

Finally, he got up from the piano and went over to the window.  He stood there for several minutes and then he quickly left the room.  He went into his study, sat down behind the desk and taking out stationary and a pen, he wrote her a letter, pouring out his heart.  By the time he was done, the letter was three pages long.  He folded them and stuffed into an envelope.   After sealing it and adding postage, he got up and left the house.  He walked to the mailbox and after a slight hesitation, he pushed the letter through the slot.

A week later, he was sitting at the piano again trying to play something–anything when the doorbell rang.  Thankful for the interruption, he got up and went to answer the door.  His heart lurched when he saw Odeta standing there.  She must have gotten his letter.  “Hello,” he said when he opened the door.  His eyes eagerly ran over her.  She looked beautiful in the denim dress.

“Hello, Ian.”

“Please come in.”

She went in and he closed the door.  “I got your letter.”

“I figured that’s why you’re here.”

“Thank you for writing it,” she said quietly.  “It explained a lot.”

“Let’s go into the living-room and talk.”

“I was so hurt and angry when you said that you wanted us to take a break from each other.” she said when they were sitting on the sofa.  “You said that things were moving too fast.”

“I’m sorry, Odeta.  The last thing I wanted to do was to hurt you but I was scared.  I was falling fast and hard for you.  I’ve been hurt before and I was afraid of getting hurt again.  And as I mentioned in my letter, I was afraid that you were on the rebound.”

“I can’t blame you for thinking that since we met just a few months after the breakup.  I wasn’t looking for anything.  Believe me, having another relationship was the last thing on my mind but that night when I walked into the restaurant and saw you I was immediately attracted to you.  That’s why I came over to the bar soon after my brother left.”

“I was immediately attracted to you to and was thrilled when you joined me at the bar.”

“Ian, I know you’re afraid of getting hurt.  So am I.”

“I’m still afraid but it’s nothing compared to the emptiness I feel inside without you in my life.”

“Do you want to give us another chance?”

“Yes, Odeta, I do.”

She touched his face.  “I was hoping that you would say that.”

This time I chose love over fear,” he murmured, his eyes searching hers and what he saw in them made his heart sing.  He had nothing to fear now.

Source:  Paired Life

Venice

Friends since they were children, Monica and Russell were inseparable.  They went to the same schools and university and moved from Manchester to London after they graduated from university.  Whenever people saw them together, they always assumed that they were a couple and they would quickly inform them, “We’re just friends.”

They dated other people but the relationships never worked out and their respective exes always blamed their friendship.  Once, Monica’s ex-boyfriend accused her of sabotaging their relationship because she was secretly in love with Russell.  She had a run in once with Samantha, a model he was dating who informed her that she didn’t believe that they were just friends.  “A person would have to be blind not to see that there is something going on between you two,” she said.  “And which woman in her right mind could be just friends with a guy like Russell?”

Russell and Monica laughed about it but as time passed, they realized that there was some truth to what others were saying.  They stopped dating other people because they didn’t feel any connection with them and it was beginning to affect their friendship.  Russell found himself getting jealous of the men Monica dated and she hated seeing him with other women.  So, to safeguard their friendship, they remained unattached.   Instead of going to dinner with other people they went each other.  They went to the theatre, concerts and now, here they were in Italy for a three week vacation.

Monica stood now on the Spanish Steps as Russell snapped photos of her.  He looked so handsome in the white shirt and light blue jeans.  She noticed women walking by and casting admiring glances his way.  Jealousy gnawed at her although he seemed oblivious to them.  She knew she was being ridiculous but she couldn’t help it.  She always worried that one day he would meet someone else and fall in love with her.  Not wanting to spoil the moment, she smiled and posed for the photos.

The day went pleasantly as they visited the Pantheon and had lunch at a trattoria near the Piazza Navona.  After sharing a pizza, she went to the washroom.  On her way back to the table, a local looked up at her and said, “Ciao Bella ragazza.”  She glanced at him and then continued to where Russell was.

He stood up when she reached him.  “What did that man say to you?” he asked.  His expression was guarded.

“It sounded like, ‘Ciao bella ragazza,’” she told him.

Russell didn’t answer.  Instead, he put on his sunglasses and preceded her out of the trattoria.  They went for a walk along Castel Sant’Angelo before they went back to the hotel.  They went to their respective rooms until it was time for dinner.  The following day, they left Rome and went to Florence where they spent their second week.  The following day, they took a trip to Milan and after visiting the Santa Maria delle Grazie where Da Vinci’s Last Supper hung, they stopped by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Russell took a photo of Monica outside of Prada.  From Florence, they went on a day tour to Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano.  They had dinner in Siena in a trattoria in Piazza del Campo.

The week went by very quickly and Monica was sorry when they left Florence but looked forward to seeing Venice.  They took the train early in the morning and while Russell read a magazine, she took a nap.  When they arrived in Venice, they found out that they had to share a room because the hotel was fully booked.  That made Monica very nervous but she was relieved when she saw that there were two separate beds.

They spent their first day in Venice at Piazza San Marco, reputed to be one of the most beautiful squares in the world.   They visited the Basilica of San Marco.  Monica was enthralled by the dome and could have stood there all day just staring up at it.  When they came out of the basilica, Russell pointed to the one of the arches above the entrance where there was a marble statue of an old man biting his hand.  “The legend says that he was relieved of his duties when he said that he would be able to build it even more beautiful.”

They had lunch at a restaurant in the square, enjoying the sunshine and watching other tourists.  They finished their sightseeing for the day climbing the Campanile for the breathtaking view of the city and the lagoon.   They stayed there for a while.

It was late afternoon when they returned to the hotel.  They relaxed on the terrace and then it was time to get ready for dinner.  It felt strange getting dressed in the bathroom while Russell got dressed in the bedroom.  She had to make sure it was safe to come out once she was finished.  He looked handsome as usual.  And she saw his gaze travel over her.  “You look great,” he remarked before turning away.  “I was thinking that after dinner, we can go to a church concert.”

She smiled.  “That sounds great.”  Venice was beautiful at night so it was nice walking to the square.  How she longed to hold Russell’s hand, especially when they passed other couples who were holding hands.  They had dinner at an elegant restaurant.  Afterwards, they walked to the church where they spent the next hour or so listening to uplifting music in a lovely atmosphere.

It was late when they got back to the hotel and she was tired.  On the way up to their room, she kept yawning and as soon as they got in she took out a nightgown from her suitcase and headed straight for the bathroom.  She quickly changed out of her dress and into her nightgown and brushed her teeth.

She walked into the room and stopped short when she saw Russell standing there half-naked, holding his pajama shirt.  She turned away, flustered but not before her gaze swept irresistibly over the broad shoulders and wide chest.  He watched her, his expression tense and a muscle throbbed alongside his jaw line.  It took every ounce of willpower on his part not to go over there and take her in his arms.  Instead, he went into the bathroom and closed the door quietly behind him.

As soon as he was gone, Monica hurried over to her bed and climbed in, pulling the cover up to her throat.

A few moments later, the door to the bathroom opened and Russell stepped into the room.  She watched as he walked past her bed to his.

“Goodnight, Russell,” she said, looking over at him as he pulled back the cover and got in.  His back was turned to her.

“Goodnight.”  He closed his eyes as his body reacted to the memory of her in the champagne colored silk nightgown.  He didn’t know how much longer he could continue being just friends with her when he wanted her.

She lay there on her back, staring up at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep.  She couldn’t get the image of him out of her mind.  When she saw his bare torso, her mouth went dry and what felt like a bolt of electricity surged through her.  She had turned away because she was afraid that her feelings would betray her.  She wished she had the courage to tell him how she really felt about him but she didn’t want to jeopardize their friendship.

Sometime later, she heard him stir and then get up.  In the faint light, she watched him tiptoe over to the chair where his shirt and pants were draped.   As he started to get dressed, she sat up, alarmed.  “Where’re you going?” she asked, turning on the lamp beside her.

He didn’t turn around.  “I thought you were asleep.  I can’t sleep so, I’m going out for a bit.”  After he pulled on his shirt and tucked it in his pants, he turned to face her, his eyes wary.  “I’ll try not to disturb you when I come back.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“I don’t know,” he replied shortly.

“Where will you go?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe I’ll go to Piazzale Roma or the Rialto or San Marco.”  He was about to walk past her when she quickly climbed out of the bed and stood in front of him.

“What’s wrong, Russell?” she asked.  “You seem upset.”

He kept his eyes on her face, not daring to let them go lower.  “I’m not upset.”

“I think you are, “she insisted.   “Please tell me what’s wrong.  We’re supposed to be friends—”

His expression darkened.   “I know we’re supposed to be friends,” he snapped.  “But right now, I don’t feel like a friend.”

She looked nonplussed.  “What do you mean?”

This is what I mean,” he muttered before he grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp.  His head swooped down and his mouth closed hungrily over hers.

Monica clung to him, kissing him back eagerly, feverishly.  As they exchanged kisses, he picked her up and carried her over to her bed.  He put her gently down on it and then drew back to remove his shirt.  She reached for him, pulling him down to her, her fingers digging into his back as he pressed his lips hotly against her neck.

They made mad, passionate love and the next morning when she woke up, she was alone in the bed.  She lay there for a moment thinking it had all been a dream.  Then she sat up and realized that she wasn’t wearing anything under the cover.  She looked over and saw Russell standing by the window.  He was wearing a robe.   He turned when he heard her.

He left the window and came and sat down on the bed beside her.  His expression was serious when he met her gaze.  “Do you regret what happened between us?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No,” she murmured huskily, reaching out and brushing the hair back from his forehead.

He leaned over and kissed her on the shoulder, making her shiver.  “Me neither,” he said.  “I’ve wanted to make love to you for a very, very long time but you insisted on us being just friends—”

“I thought that was what you wanted,” she said.  “You never came out and said otherwise.”

“Do you have any idea how hard it is to be a friend to you when I want to be more?  That’s why I couldn’t sleep last night.  When I saw you in that nightgown, I wanted you so much.  I had to get out of here before I lost my mind.”

“I couldn’t sleep either because I couldn’t stop thinking about how you looked shirtless…”

His eyes darkened and cupping her face between his hands he lowered his head and kissed her.  “I love you, Monica,” he whispered, raising his head to look into her face.  “I wanted to tell you that so many times but my courage failed me.”

“I love you too.”

“I just wish we hadn’t wasted so much time dating other people when we should have been dating each other.”

“Let’s not waste any more time having regrets.  Things are different between us now.”

“Yes, they are.”

“You know, if anyone were to ask me what the most memorable part of my vacation is, I would tell them that it was Venice.”

“Why Venice?” he asked.

“It’s where we finally declared our true feelings for each other.”

His eyes darkened.  “Let’s have a late breakfast,” he suggested as he removed his robe.

“Or we can order room service,” she said, settling back against the pillows.

“Room service, then,” he agreed before his mouth found hers.

A year later, they returned to Venice for their honeymoon.

 

Sources:  Cabragadin Hotel; Ciao Florence; Italy Guides; Veneto Inside; Bistrot de Venise; Classic Tic; Rick Steves

 

The Queen of Soul

“When God loves you, what can be better than that?” ~ Aretha Franklin

There is so much I could write about Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul but I decided to concentrate on the highlights of her music career and her “social and civic contributions”.

Aretha Louise Franklin was  born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee.  Her father, Clarence LaVaughn “C. L.” Franklin was a Baptist minister and a circuit preacher while her mother, Barbara was an accomplished piano player and vocalist.  Theirs was a troubled marriage because of her father’s philandering.  The couple separated in 1948.  Before her tenth birthday, Aretha’s mother died from a heart attack.  Several women, including her grandmother and Mahalia Jackson alternated helping the children at the Franklin home and it was during this time that Aretha learned to play the piano by ear.

Following her mother’s death, Aretha began singing solos at New Bethel, debuting with the hymn, “Jesus, Be a Fence Around Me.”  When she was twelve, her father became her manager, bringing her on the road with him during his “gospel caravan” tours for her to perform in various churches.

Her music career found Aretha signing on with big recording giants such as Columbia, Atlantic, Arista and RCA.  She belted out many hits such as You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, I Say A Little Prayer, Hold On, I’m Comin’.  And she thrilled the younger generation with Who’s Zoomin’ Who and Freeway of Love.  Hearing Freeway of Love transported me back to the ’80s which were a great time for me when I was living in New York.  And who could forget I Knew You Were Waiting For Me, her number one duet with George Michael?

In 1980, she gave a command performance before the Queen at Prince Albert’s Hall, in 2009 she sang at the 2009 inauguration of President Barak Obama.  In the following year, she received an honorary degree from Yale University.  In 2014, she received honorary degrees from Harvard University and New York University as well as honorary doctorates in music from Princeton, Yale, Brown, Pennsylvania, Berkeley, New England Conservatory of Music and University of Michigan.  She was the recipient of other honors such as Doctor of Humane Letters and Doctor of Law degree.

Aretha was dubbed “one of the giants of soul music, and indeed of American pop as a whole.  More than any other performer, she epitomized soul at its most gospel-charged.”  Her voice was described as being a “powerful mezzo-soprano voice” and she was praised for her arrangements and interpretations of other artists’ hit songs.  At the age of 14 when she recorded her first album, Songs of Faith, Jerry Wexler declared that her voice “was not that of a child but rather of an ecstatic hierophant.”  A hierophant is a person who brings religious congregants into the presence of that which is deemed holy.  Aretha’s explanation for that would have likely been, “Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I’m using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I’m happy with that.”

Singing and music weren’t her only passions.  Aretha was a civil rights activist.  Throughout her life, she was involved in the struggle for civil rights and women’s rights.  When Angela Davis was jailed in 1970, Aretha told Jet Magazine that, “Angela Davis must go free… Black people will be free. I’ve been locked up (for disturbing the peace in Detroit) and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace. Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a Black woman and she wants freedom for Black people.”  Not surprisingly, her songs “Respect” and “Natural Woman” became anthems of these movements for social change.  She was also a staunch supporter of Native American rights, supporting their struggles worldwide and movements which fostered their cultural rights.

“We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It’s our basic human right” ~ Aretha Franklin

It was a sad day when it was announced that the great Aretha Franklin passed away after losing her battle with pancreatic cancer.  She leaves behind a world touched by her music, her incomparable voice and her effortless work in championing human, civil and women’s rights.  She was the first woman to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.  In 2013, she was again ranked first in Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Singers” list.

“American history wells up when Aretha sings.  Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock and roll—the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope” – President Obama in response to her performance of “A Natural Woman” at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors.

Notes to Women salutes the woman with “the voice of the civil rights movement, the voice of black America” and a “symbol of black equality”  She was an inspiration not only for those in the music world but for all of us.  Although she is no longer with us, her music, her legacy will live on.

“It really is an honor if I can be inspirational to a younger singer or person. It means I’ve done my job” ~ Aretha Franklin

aretha-franklin.png

Sources:  Wikipedia; Brainy Quote