Property Values

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“I’m going to do something about this,” Winnifred declared angrily as she looked out the window at the construction site.  “How dare they think that they can build a casino here?  This is a respectable neighborhood.  Do you know what kinds of people a casino will draw?  I’m going to the meeting and voice my objections.  Are you coming, Thomas?”

Thomas lowered his newspaper.  He personally didn’t see what the big fuss was.  If a casino brought more business to the community, why get bent out of shape about it?  He wasn’t going to attend any meeting just to hear folks spewing up like volcanoes, talking over each other and not really getting anything.  Besides, he was quiet comfortable relaxing in his easy chair reading his paper.  “No, Dear,” he said.  “I’ll pass.”

Winnifred spun around.  “How would you feel if a bunch of rowdy under-aged crowds came here, bringing down our property values?”

He shrugged.  “The property values went down the day your sister and her family of misfits moved here.”

172 Words

This was written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers hosted by Priceless Joy. For more information visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  NBC New York;

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The Charity Case/Glimmer #writephoto

distant-lights

Photo by Sue Vincent

 

Shanice sat on the summit overlooking the city.  This was her place.  It was where she could be alone with God and her thoughts.  She drew her knees up and wrapped her arms around them.  Her life had been a tough one.  She grew up in a rough neighborhood.  When she was seven, her father was killed in a drive by shooting.  Ten years later, her mother overdosed on crack.  She went to live with her uncle but ran away after he started sexually abusing her.  For several months she lived on the streets, rummaging through garbage bins for food because she refused to turn to prostitution.  She believed in God and that her body was a temple.

It was one Autumn morning when she met Neil Patterson, the city’s councilor.  He was a very popular man who had been doing a great job cleaning up the city.  She was standing outside of a café, watching the people inside having their hot coffees and chocolates along with donuts or bagels, her mouth watering when she sensed that someone was standing behind her.  She turned around at once and found herself looking up at a very tall and distinguished man dressed in an expensive black coat.  His sandy colored hair was neatly combed and she could tell that he didn’t belong in these parts.  He looked familiar too.  Then, she remembered where she had seen him.  He was on the cover of yesterday’s newspaper.  He was even more attractive in person and looked to be in his early forties.  He smiled now.  His eyes were an unusual shade of blue.  “Are you hungry?” he asked.

She nodded and wondered if he was going to give her money to buy something to eat.  To her surprise, he said, “Come, let’s go inside where it’s nice and warm.”  He opened the door and after a slight hesitation, she went inside.  He led her over to a table by the window as several gazes followed them.  People recognized him and greeted him.  They didn’t look at all surprised to see him with an African American teenager who looked like she hadn’t had a bath in years.  They were used to seeing him rubbing elbows with the dregs of society.  It was part of his appeal.

He seemed nice enough and she let him buy her a meal.  Hunger overpowered pride.  Besides, she didn’t know when again she would be treated to a free meal.  While she wolfed down the food, he talked.  He was a good talker and she could see why he was where he was.  He was charismatic and she found herself warming up to him.  And he was very attractive.  She always did have a thing for older men.  The guys her age were full of themselves and so immature.

He wasn’t married.  She didn’t see any ring on his finger but then, again, he might be one of those men who didn’t bother to wear one.  It was foolish sitting there thinking these things when she wasn’t going to see him again.  He was being kind to her and she was thankful for that.  After they left this café, they would go their separate ways and he would forget all about her.  She knew that she would never forget him.

He didn’t have anything to eat.  All he had was some hot chocolate.  He asked a lot of questions about her life which she was unwilling to answer but did anyway.  She left out the part about her uncle, though.  He asked her about going into a foster home and a homeless shelter but she made it clear that she didn’t want to be in either.  She had heard horror stories about those places and she wanted nothing to do with them.  She would rather take her changes on the streets until circumstances changed for her—until God intervened.  She didn’t mention God to him.  Most people were put off by religion.

She liked being in the café.  It was warm and friendly.  She wished she could stay there longer but she knew he was a busy man and had places to go and people to see so she didn’t want to keep him.  After she finished her hot chocolate and he paid the bill, she stood up.  Holding out her hand, she thanked him for his kindness and was about to walk away when, he said, “Instead of going back to the streets, why don’t you come and live with me?  I have large estate, with lots of room and staff.  You will have your own room.  You can come and go as you please.  I won’t put any restrictions on you.”

She stared at him.  “Why are you doing this?” she asked.

“I just want to help you.  I have a sister your age.  What do you say?”

“Well, I don’t want to be a freeloader,” she said.  “Is there a job I can do to pay for my keep?”

“What about college or university?” he asked.  “Aren’t you interested in furthering your education?”

“Of course, I am but my mother couldn’t afford to send me to college.  What little money we had she wasted on drugs.”

“Instead of working for me, you’ll go to the college or university of your choice.  What do you say?”

She stood there for a moment, considering all of this.  This was better than being homeless—living in the streets and struggling to survive.  Besides, the weather was getting colder and all she had was this beat up jacket which wasn’t keeping her warm at all.  She studied him.  He looked like someone she could trust.  And she didn’t hear any alarm bells going off in her head.  Shrugging, she said, “Sure.  Thanks again.  As soon as I graduate from university, I’ll be gone.”

He smiled.  “Whatever works for you, Shanice.”

They left the café and her life on the streets behind.  That was four years ago.  She was in university now, studying Sociology.  Their relationship had started out platonic and then, this morning, when she went back to the estate after a night of partying at a friend’s house, he was waiting up for her.  She sneaked into the living room and paused until her eyes adjusted to the darkness when the room was flooded with light.  Blinking, she went over to the sofa and sat down, tugging off her strappy sandals.  Her black dress was short and hugged her body.  The skirt rode high, revealing her legs.  She watched as his gaze traveled over her and the color flood his cheeks before he demanded, “Where have you been?”

“I was at a friend’s birthday bash,” she explained.  “I tried to be very quiet so that I wouldn’t disturb you—“

“Do you have any idea what time it is?”

She glanced at her watch.  It was five minutes to three.  “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.  “I didn’t mean to stay out so late.”

He went further into the drawing-room, his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his silk robe.  His hair which was always neatly in place was slightly disheveled.  “I knew that I had told you that you were free to come and go as you please but, I still expect you to act responsibly.  For this infraction, you are forbidden to leave these premises unless accompanied by me for the rest of the summer.”

She jumped to her feet, aghast.  “That’s not fair,” she cried.  “This is the only time I’ve stayed out late.  You can’t hold this one time against me.”

“And another thing, I don’t want to see you dressed like that again.”  Anger flared in her at that moment.  “You’re not my father,” she retorted.

“No, but I am responsible for you and as long as you live under my roof, you have to abide by my rules.”

“Fine!” she said, grabbing her shoes and handbag.  “If that’s all, I’d like to go to bed.  I’m tired.” She was about to walk past him when he caught her by the arm.  She turned her head and looked up at him, the anger in her eyes dissipating when she saw the expression on his face.

“I care about you, Shanice,” he muttered urgently.  “I was out of my mind with worry when it was midnight and you hadn’t come home.  I had no idea where you were.  I tried calling you but your cell was turned off.  In future, you need to tell me where you are so that I don’t worry or in case I need to get in touch with you.”

“You’re right,” she acknowledged.  “I should have let you know where I was last night.  I’m sorry.”

“And I’ll do the same,” he said.  “I’ll let you know where I’ll be at all times, in case you need to reach me.”

The grip of his fingers on her arm was very distracting and he was staring directly into her eyes.  She suddenly had trouble breathing properly and her heart was pounding.  “Am-am I still forbidden to leave the premises?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No, you’re not,” he said softly.  “You’re not a prisoner.”

“So, I can leave whenever I want?”

He nodded.  “Yes.”  He moved closer.  “You’re free to leave here as agreed four years ago but I hope you decide to stay.  This place and my life would not be the same without you.  They would be empty.”

That was the most beautiful thing anyone had ever said to her.  She was touched to the very depths of her being and she could feel her eyes water.  She loved it here.  It was the home and life she had always dreamed of.  And she loved being with him.  She realized that she had loved him since the first time they met but had convinced herself that she could never be more to him than a charity case.  But, the way he was looking at her and what he had just said proved her wrong.  Without thinking, she reached up and touched his face.  He turned his head and pressed his lips into the palm before he pulled her into his arms.

She smiled now as she remembered that first kiss.  It was out of this world.  It sent tingles all over her body and she could swear that she heard fireworks.  Scrambling to her feet, she watched as the sun finally disappeared over the horizon.  Tomorrow was the first day of her last year at university.

It was getting late.  It was time to head back.  She wanted to be there, waiting for him.

This is a response to the #writephoto Prompt – Glimmer curated over at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Buenos Aires

Ayana sat there staring at the computer screen, still reeling from her run in with Inga, Rolf’s girlfriend a few hours ago in the parking lot.  The unpleasant incident happened when she was on her way to meet a friend for lunch.  She was about to open the car door when she heard someone yell her name and turned to see Inga marching toward her.  Startled, she stood there, wondering what the blonde wanted with her and why she looked so livid.

When she reached her, she said rather nastily, “Is it because you don’t have a man of your own that you’re trying to move in on mine?”

It took a few minutes for Ayana to recover from her surprise.  Why would she make such an assumption?  “I’m not trying to move in on Rolf,” she said finally.  “He and I work together, that’s all—”

“Since when does work include the two of you flying off to Argentina?”

“Our trip to Buenos Aires is purely business, Inga.  I’m Rolf’s secretary so I have to go with him.”

“You expect me to believe that you and he are going to work all the time you’re there?  What about at nights when you don’t have any meetings?  What will you do then?”

Ayana shrugged her shoulders.  “I don’t know,” she said.  “I haven’t thought that far ahead.”

“I can’t imagine that you would be eating alone.  Knowing Rolf, he will invite you to join him for dinner.  My concern is what will happen after dinner.”

“Inga, you don’t have anything to worry about.  Rolf and I have been working together for about four years now and nothing has ever happened between us.  Besides, you’re mistaken about me not having a man of my own.”

“You have a boyfriend?”

“Yes.”

“But, Rolf said that you didn’t—”

“Well, I just started dating him.  Rolf doesn’t know about him.”

“And it sounds like you don’t want him to.”

“I don’t see why it should be any concern of his.  We just work together.”

Inga studied her for a few minutes.  “Well, I’m glad to hear that it’s strictly business between the two of you.  And I won’t say anything to him about your boyfriend.  And you won’t say anything to him about our little conversation.”

“He won’t hear about this from me,” Ayana promised.  She just wanted to get out of there.  She had never been accosted by a jealous woman before and it was very unsettling.

“Good.”  Inga looked her over, her expression one of disdain before she turned and walked away.

Ayana quickly opened her door and got into the car.  She started the engine and drove off.  Her head and heart were pounding.  She hated confrontations.  Fortunately, no one had observed them.  Why did Inga think that she had designs on Rolf?  Did she sense that she had feelings for Rolf?  How could she not?  Rolf was an extremely attractive man.  No woman could resist him. Just thinking about him now made her pulse race.  There were times when they were alone in his office, working and she could hardly concentrate because she was painfully aware of him.

While he was poring over some papers, she would sneak a peek at him, noting the way, he furrowed his brow when he was concentrating.  His hair would fall rakishly across his forehead making her ache to brush the strands back.  He would remove his jacket and tie and loosen the top buttons of his shirt.  Underneath the shirt sleeves she could see the chiseled muscles of his arms.  She wanted to reach out and touch them.  The smell of his aftershave tantalized her senses and his eyes when he looked at her made her heart flutter.  And when he absentmindedly stroked his jaw as he focused, she found herself imagining what it would be like to have those long fingers caressing her face.

Sighing now as she sat in her cubicle, Ayana had to admit that Inga had every reason to distrust her.  She had lied to her about having a boyfriend.  She wasn’t dating anyone.  None of the men out there or in the office interested her.  She was stuck on Rolf, which was unfortunate for her.  How was she going to manage being in Buenos Aires with him for twelve days?  They were to leave tomorrow night and arrive in Buenos Aires the following morning.  The flight was over ten hours long.  What were they going to talk about?  Should she take a novel?  How could she read, though with him there?  Her head was beginning to hurt from all of these questions and she rubbed her temple.

Just then her phone rang, startling her.  She glanced at the display.  It was Rolf.  She quickly picked up the receiver.  “Yes, Rolf.”

“Do you have a minute?”

“Yes.  I’m on my way.”  She hung up and got up from her desk.

He was putting on his jacket when she went into his office.  “I’m heading out now,” he informed her.  “I have errands to run.  Are you all set for tomorrow?”

She nodded.  “I have the plane tickets, the files we will need and the itinerary for each day.  Was there anything else you needed me to take care of?”

He glanced around before shaking his head.  “No, I think we’re good.  I will pick you up at seven.”

“I’ll be waiting in the lobby.”

“See you tomorrow evening.”  He grabbed his briefcase and preceded her out of the office.

She went back to her cubicle to finish up some work.  The next few hours went by quickly and soon it was time to go home.  After showering and having dinner, she made sure she had packed everything she needed, including the new outfits she had bought earlier in the week.   When she was finished, she watched the News and then went to bed.

The following day went quickly and soon it was time to go to the airport.  She quickly showered, got dressed in a pair of dressy jeans, a red blouse and a denim jacket.  She was ready and waiting outside on the steps leading to the front entrance of her building when the company car pulled up and the chauffeur went round to the trunk to open it.  She wheeled her luggage over and he hoisted it into the back along with her carry-on.  She thanked him as he held the passenger door open for her to climb in beside Rolf who looked very attractive in the black shirt and grey slacks.

She saw his eyes flicker over her before he smiled.  “Excited about going to Buenos Aires?” he asked as the car drove off.

“It’s the first place I’ve been to outside of the United States,” she told him.  “I’m a little nervous, I guess.”

He reached out and gently squeezed her hand, making her heart skip a beat.  “There’s nothing to be nervous about,” he assured her.  “I’m sure you’ll like it.”

“Have you ever been there before?”

“No, but I’ve heard great things about it.  A female friend of mine who has been there said that it’s a city that is alive and sexy and gets under your skin.”

“Sounds exciting,” she remarked.  Her heart was racing now because he was still holding her hand.

“It does,” he agreed, withdrawing his hand.  “I hope you brought a camera because we will have time for some sightseeing.”

“I did,” she said.  And she brought a book to read as well.  It turned out that she didn’t need it.  They talked and then she watched a movie while he looked over some papers.  It was just after mid-night when she went to sleep.

Buenos Aires was beautiful.  She loved the colorful buildings mixed in with the faded European grandeur.  She stared out of the window of the taxi, her eyes drinking in the sights.  Their hotel was located in the most stylish neighborhood of La Recoleta and surrounded by the best city´s restaurants and shops.  After they checked in, they went up to their rooms.  “We have time to unwind, shower and go over some notes before the meeting,” Rolf told her as they rode the elevator.  “I’ll meet you by the front desk.”

“All right.”  She couldn’t wait to shower and change.  It was going to be a long day.    Her room was bright and spacious.  The bed looked so good that she wanted to throw herself on it.  Instead, she took out what she was going to wear, stood for a moment, looking out the sliding doors at the buildings opposite before going into the bathroom to undress and take a long, hot shower.  Rolf wasn’t by the front desk when she went down but a very handsome young man was there.  He smiled when he saw her.  “Buenos dias,” he said.

“Buenos dias,” she replied.  “I’m afraid I don’t speak much Spanish.”

“That’s okay.  Most people who come here don’t.  My name is Ramon.”

“Ayana.”

“Is this your first time to Buenos Aires?”

“Yes.  On my way over here, I saw a little of the city and it’s beautiful.”

“Yes, it is a very beautiful city.”

Just then the elevator doors opened and Rolf stepped out.  She turned to Ramon, “Excuse me, Ramon.”

“It was nice meeting you, Ayana.”

“It was nice meeting you too, Ramon.”

She walked away and joined Rolf.  They had breakfast and then they went through the papers until it was time for the meetings.  The day went quickly.  The attendees were from Europe, America and Asia.  They were about two women in attendance.  During the breaks, she spoke with them.  Annette, the one from Cleveland nudged her saying, “You have a very attractive boss.  Is he married?”  She herself was married and had three children.

Ayana shook her head.  “No.  He has a girlfriend, though.”

“Too bad.  I think you and he would have made a very nice couple.”

Ayana didn’t answer.  She just smiled.  Over the next couple of days, when they had spare time, Rolf and she went sightseeing.  She loved Buenos Aires and hoped that she would visit it again someday.   The days went by very quickly and it was their last evening before they flew back to New York in the morning.  Tonight, Rolf was taking her for dinner at a popular restaurant where they would be treated to a Tango show.

After she finished getting ready, she went downstairs to the lobby to wait for Rolf.  Ramon was on duty and he smiled broadly when she walked over to the reception desk to give him her key.  “Buenos noches, Ayana.” he greeted her, his dark brown eyes traveling appreciatively over her figure in the black cocktail dress.

“Buenos noches, Ramon.”

“The man you’re with, is his your boyfriend?”

She shook her head.  “No, he’s my boss.  We’re here on business.”

Ramon smiled.  “Bueno.  Then, he won’t mind if I took you dancing later.  I can teach you the tango, if you like.”

He was very nice man but she wasn’t interested in him.  Smiling apologetically, she said, “I’m sorry, Ramon but I can’t go dancing with you tonight.  I already have plans.”

“What about tomorrow night?”

She opened her mouth to tell him that she was leaving in the morning when Rolf joined them.  He looked at her and then at Ramon who said to him, “Your taxi is waiting outside, Senor.”

“Thank you.”  Rolf handed him his key and then turned to Ayana.  “Are you ready?” he asked abruptly.

“Yes.  Goodnight, Ramon.”

“Goodnight, Ayana.”

She didn’t notice Rolf grimace but when he started to walk away, she followed him.

He held the door open for her and when she climbed into the back, she caught a whiff of his cologne.  After he got in and told the driver where they were going, he leaned back in the seat.  For several minutes neither of them said anything.  They were both looking out of the window.  Then, she heard him say, “You and the guy at reception seem to be on very friendly terms.”

She looked at him but his head was still turned toward the window. “Ramon is a really nice guy.  Very friendly.”

“A little too friendly,” he replied.  “Tonight wasn’t the first time I’ve seen him flirting with you.”

“He wasn’t flirting with me.  He was just being friendly.”

“I saw the way he was looking at you, Ayana.  He wants to be more than friends.”

“Well, he invited me to go dancing with him tonight but I told him that I already had plans.”

Rolf looked at her then.  “If you and I weren’t going to dinner and a show, would you have gone dancing with him?”

She shook her head at once.  “No, I wouldn’t have.  I like Ramon but I’m not interested in him.”

“Is there someone you’re interested in, Ayana?” he asked quietly.

“Yes, but you’re already in a relationship.”

He reached for her hand, making her heart leap in her chest.  “I ended my relationship with Inga last year.”

Ayana stared at him.  “Last year?”

“Yes.  I thought you knew.”

“No, I didn’t.  When I saw her in the parking lot on the day before we flew out, she made it sound like you were still seeing each other.”

“You saw her in the parking lot?”

Ayana told him what happened.  “To diffuse the situation, I told her that I had a boyfriend,” she concluded.

“I’m sorry that you had such a nasty run in with her.”

“She heard about our trip to Buenos Aires and jumped to conclusions.”

“I wonder how she found out about it.  I will have a word with her when we return.  I don’t want her accosting you anymore.”

“I have to admit that it was very unnerving.”

“Let’s not think about the incident any more.  It’s our last evening in Buenos Aires. Let’s enjoy every moment.”

She nodded.  “Yes, let’s enjoy every moment.”

He raised her hand to his lips.  “And I hope that tonight will be the first of many enjoyable nights you and I will spend together.”

The brush of his lips against her hand made her pulse race and her stomach flip flop. Yes, the evening was off to a very exciting start.

 

Sources:  Smart Meetings; Prokerala; Four Seasons; CTrip

 

The Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

She shook his hand.  “Jessie Moore.”

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

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

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

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

“Do you live with your parents?”

“No, I live on my own.”

“Do you live far from here?”

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

“What about you?”

“I live in Canary Wharf.”

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

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

“What kind of work do you do?”

“I’m a High Court judge.”

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

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

“What sorts of cases do you preside over?”

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

“Do you like what you do?”

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

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

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

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

“How old are you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

God’s Preparing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She swallowed hard.  “Yes.”

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

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

 

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

The Precinct

“How’s Viola?” Franco Manetti asked his friend and partner of twelve years, Joe Martin, as he was getting ready to leave for the night.

Joe stopped writing his report to look at him, his expression was one of exasperation.  “Why don’t you ask her out already?” he demanded.  “You’re always asking about her and she’s always asking about you.  You’re not dating anyone and she’s not dating anyone.  Why don’t you two date each other?  Look, the precinct is having its Christmas party is next month, why don’t you ask her to go with you?”

Franco considered his suggestion.  “That’s a great idea,” he said.  “Are you sure you don’t mind me asking your little sister out?”

Joe rolled his eyes.  “If I minded you asking her out, would I be encouraging you to?”

Franco laughed.  “I guess not.  I’m sorry, pal.  I just thought it might be awkward for your partner to be taking your sister out, that’s all.  Well, have a good night.  I’ll see you in the morning.  Say hello to Dora for me.”

“You have yourself a good night too.  By the way, Viola is coming over for dinner at our house tomorrow night.  You’re welcome to drop by.  You can ask her to the Christmas party then.”

“I can’t come by tomorrow, I’m afraid.  I am having dinner over at my parents’ place.  Could I call you instead and talk to Viola?”

“Sure.  She’ll be there until ten.”

Franco pulled on his jacket and grabbed his keys.  “‘Night, Joe.”

“‘Night, Franco.”

On his way home, Franco recalled the first time he met Viola.  It was on a Tuesday, around noon.  She came to the precinct to see Joe.  They were going out for lunch.  He was at his desk doing paperwork when she walked in.  He looked up as she went over to where Joe sat.  Joe was away from his desk.

Franco stared at her.  She was dressed in a black pants suit over a red blouse and her hair was pulled back at the nape of her neck.  For several minutes, he just sat there staring at her.  She smiled and held out her hand.  “Hi, I’m Viola, Joe’s sister.  You must be Franco.”

He got up and shook her hand.  “Pleased to meet you,” he managed to say.  He waited for her to sit down in the chair beside Joe’s desk before resuming his seat.

“Joe has told me a lot about you,” she said.  “You and he have been partners for a long time.”

“Yes, for twelve years.”  He knew he was staring but he couldn’t help it.  She was so beautiful.

“I remember when Joe joined the force our mother was terrified at first.  She feared that he would get shot or killed but Dad encouraged her to have faith.  He told her that Joe was serving God and his community.  It took some time to convince her but now instead of worrying she prays a lot.  What about you?  Did your family have a problem with your choice of career?”

He shook his head.  “My parents were just relieved that I wanted to be in law enforcement instead of ending up like some of the kids I used to hang out with in our old neighborhood.”

He wanted to ask her if she had a boyfriend.  He could hear his mother saying to him, “I hope that before I die, you meet a nice Italian girl and marry her.  Nearly all of your cousins are married and have children.  Guido is married and has blessed your father and me with two grandchildren.  Your little sister, Sophia is married.  You’re the eldest and you’re still single.  What are you waiting for?”

He noticed that Viola glanced at his hand to see if he was wearing wedding ring.  Just then Joe returned to his desk.

“I see that you two have met,” he said with a smile.  He grabbed his jacked and pulled it on.  “Ready?” he asked Viola who was looking at Franco.

She glanced up at her brother and nodded.  As she stood up, she turned to Franco who was on his feet, watching her.  “It was nice meeting you,” she said, smiling at him.  “I hope we see each other again.”

“Me too.”  He watched her walk away, thinking he had just met his dream woman.

As he pulled into his parking space, Franco promised himself that he was going to ask her to have dinner with him on Saturday and then invite her to go with him to the Christmas party.

They were having dinner when out of the blue, his mother asked, “So, have you met a nice Italian girl as yet?”

Franco was about to lift the fork to his mouth but he paused to look over at his mother who was watching him very intently.  “I met a nice girl, Mama,” he said quietly, “but, she’s not Italian.”

She wrinkled her brow.  “She’s not Italian?  What is she?”

“She’s Joe’s sister.  You remember Joe.  I’ve brought him here for dinner once before when his wife, Dora was visiting her parents in Florida.”

“Yes, I remember Joe,” his father said.  “He’s a very nice guy.”

“How come you never mentioned his sister to me before?” Mrs. Manetti asked.

“I did. I told you about the time when she and I first met.”

“Oh yes, but that was last year.  You mean to tell me you haven’t been dating anyone since then?”

“No.  After meeting her, I don’t want to date anyone else.”  He glanced at his watch.  It was eight-thirty.

“Why do you keep looking at your watch?” his mother asked irritably.  “Are you going somewhere after you leave here?”

He shook his head.  “No, Mama.  I’m going straight home after I leave here.”

“Why do you keep looking at your watch, then?” she insisted.

“Oh, Carmela, leave the boy alone,” Mr. Manetti snapped.  “If he wants to look at his watch, that’s his business.”

“If you must know, Mama, promised Joe that I would call over at his house tonight.”

“Oh.  Eat your spaghetti before it gets cold.”

It was nine o’clock by the time, they finished eating and he helped to clear the table.  He excused himself and went down into the basement to make the call.  Joe answered.  They spoke for a while and then he went to call Viola.  Franco’s heart began to pound.  He was really nervous now.  When he heard her voice, his heart leapt in his chest.  “Hello, Viola,” he said, sounding a bit breathless.  “How are you?  Good.  I’m fine too.  I—I was wondering if you would have dinner with me on Saturday evening.  You would?  That’s great.  I’ll pick you up at seven.  Sure, I’ll take down your address.  Just hold on while I find something to write on.”  He put the receiver gently on the sofa and got up.

He looked around wildly for some paper and a pen.  He saw an old newspaper on the coffee table and a pen beside it.  It was opened to the Crossword section.  Dad, he thought, with a grin.  He tore a piece of paper and grabbed the pen.  He hurried back to the phone.  “Sorry about that,” he apologized.  He wrote down her telephone number and address and put the piece of paper in the breast pocket of his shirt.  “I’ll see you on Saturday.”  He sat down in the sofa and talked with her for a while before he said, “Good night, Viola,” and hung up.

His parents were in the living-room.  His father was watching TV in his favorite chair while his mother was on the sofa mending his shirt.  She glanced up when Franco entered the room.  “How is Joe?” she asked.

“He’s fine.”

“You were on the phone for a long time.” She looked at him, suspicious.  “Are you sure it was Joe you were talking to all this time?”

“Carmela, leave the boy alone.”

Mrs. Manetti clucked her tongue and continued mending the shirt.

Franco sat down on the sofa beside her and spent an hour with them before he left.

“Viola told me that you invited her out for dinner tomorrow night,” Joe said to him the next morning as soon as he sat down at his desk.

“Yes, I did.  I wanted to go out with her before the Christmas Party.”

“Good for you.”

Franco smiled and got to work, although every now and then his mind went on Viola.  He couldn’t wait to see her the following night.

He took her to the River Café, nestled under the Brooklyn Bridge with stunning views of the New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty.  They got a table beside a window where she could see the East River.  For the appetizer, they both had the summer salad and for the main course, she had the Organic Chicken while he opted for the Lamb.  And for dessert, they shared the Chocolate Brooklyn Bridge.  The conversation between was easy and they felt very comfortable with each other.  He learned that she was a Community Outreach Coordinator at a government agency in the Bronx and that she was bullied in high-school because of her weight.

“I was overweight,” she said.  “I ate a lot of junk food and spent most of my time sitting around the house, reading or watching TV.  I wasn’t active except when I was doing gym at school.  So, I was teased at school because of my weight and height.  I didn’t fit in with the other girls who were tall and skinny.  In grade ten, I decided that I wasn’t going to change my habits.  I stopped eating unhealthy foods, went on a diet and walked home from school instead of taking the bus.  It worked.  I dropped to and maintained a weight that worked for me.  As you can see, I’m not skinny but I’m not overweight either.”

He looked at her.  “I think you’re beautiful,” he said.

She smiled, feeling a little shy.  “Thank you.”

“We are having our annual Christmas party on December 16 and I was wondering if you would like to go with me.”

“Yes, I’d like that.”

After dinner, they went for a walk, enjoying the warm night air and the views of the bridge over the River.  Then, it was time to take her home.  When they were standing outside of her condo in Queens, he said to her, “I had a great time tonight with you.  Viola, I really, really like you and I want to be in a relationship with you.  Do you feel the same way about me?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I do, Franco.”

He smiled, looking relieved.  “Good.  I’ll call you tomorrow.  Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  She watched him as he walked away, her pulse racing and her heart pounding.  Things were really looking up now.

They began dating and by the time the Christmas party rolled around, things had gotten very serious between them.  He took her to meet his parents one Sunday afternoon.  Viola was nervous about meeting his mother.  Mr. Manetti was very warm and friendly.  At first, Mrs. Manetti didn’t say much.  She was busy sizing her up.  Then, when the men went out into the backyard, leaving the two of them in the living-room, Mrs. Manetti cleared her throat.

“Come and sit beside me,” she said, patting the empty seat on the sofa.

Viola went over and sat down next to her, trying to act calm when there were butterflies in her stomach.  She turned to look at the older woman who was studying her with those sharp eyes of hers.

“I had my reservations when Franco told me about you,” she began.  “I wanted him to find and settle down with a good Italian woman because my other two children married outside of their culture.  Franco is my first born.  He will always have a special place in my heart.  I want him to be happy.  And I can see that he is very happy because of you.  I can tell that you love him and I know that he loves you.  So, you’re not Italian but as long as you’re good for my Franco, that’s all that matters.”

Viola breathed a sigh of relief.  “Thank you, Mrs. Manetti.  It means a lot to me that you feel this way.”

“Good.”  Mrs. Manetti smiled and patted her hand.  “Now, why don’t I cut you a nice big slice of cake?  I baked it just this morning.”

When Franco and his father joined them a while later, they were chatting as if they had known each other for years.  “It looks like you’ve won over my mother,” he said when they were alone.

“Yes.  She’s a wonderful woman who wants what’s best for her son.”

He reached for her hands and held them, his expression serious as he gazed down into her face.  “You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me.  I love you, Viola.”

“I love you too.”

“Marry me,” he said as he released one of her hands to reach into his pants pocket for the box.  Then, he got down on his knee and opened the box to show her the engagement ring.  She gasped when she saw it.  It was an elegant 3 carat oval shaped diamond.

“Yes, I will marry you,” she replied, her eyes wide and watery.  She watched as he put it on her finger and then he was on his feet.  He pulled her into his arms and kissed her.

A short while later, he announced their engagement to his parents.  “This calls for a celebration,” Mr. Manetti said and he disappeared into the kitchen.  He was back with a tray four glasses and a bottle of wine.  After he filled each glass he raised his in a toast.  “To Franco and Viola,” he said.

They all raised their glasses in merriment.  And in Spring of the following year, Franco and Viola got married at her family’s church and had the reception at Prince George Ballroom.  It was a glorious night.  “We never thought we would see Franco settle down,” Guido said to her, laughing.

Sophia said to her, “It’s good to see Franco so happy.  I wish you two a lifetime of happiness.”

“Happy?” Franco asked as Viola and he danced.

“Very,” she replied.

He smiled and then twirled her around the dance floor as his mother watched them, happy to see that her son had finally found and married a nice girl.

Sources:  River Cafe; Marisa Perry; Prince George Ballroom

Much to Celebrate

“Happy anniversary, my Darling,” he said as he handed her the beautiful bouquet of flowers.  “Forty years ago, you turned my life upside down when you moved into my neighborhood.  And it took a few years before I plucked up the courage to ask you out on a date.  Thank you for not saying no and for the happiest years of my life.”  He pulled her to his side and kissed her on the temple.

Joanne smiled as she inhaled the sweet fragrance of the roses.  “These are lovely,” she said.  “Thank you for being such a wonderful husband.”

Tears came to her eyes as she thought of how amazing he had been when they found out that she couldn’t have children.  It had devastated her because she had longed to be a mother and she knew that he would have made a terrific father.  For years they had tried and then she had learned that they would never have children.  It was a very bitter pill to swallow and for months she was depressed but Martin was always there, loving her and trying to help her through those though times.

During the moments of despair, she lashed out at God, asking Him why He would deny her the joy of being a mother.  Friends encouraged her to looking into adopting a child but she didn’t want to consider it.  And Martin assured her that she was more than enough for him and tried to encourage her to go away on trips with him and get involved in activities to take her mind off of things.  He was so devoted to her that sometimes she felt ashamed of how she was so fixated on not being able to have children that she might be neglecting him.

One day she was turning the pages of her Bible, not sure what to read.  It had been a while since she had even opened it.  And her eyes fell on the chapter one of the first book of Samuel.  She began to read it.  She could identify with Hannah.  She remembered those times when she couldn’t eat and was always in tears.  And all Martin could do was try to comfort her as best as he could.  It must have been so hard for him.  The words, But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the LORD had closed her womb.  Martin loved her even though she couldn’t give him children.  Her barrenness hadn’t diminished his love at all, in fact it had grown stronger.  Her friends remarked on how he treated her like a queen.

And Elkanah’s words to Hannah cut Joanne to the quick.  “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”  Wasn’t Martin better to her than the children she wished she could have?  He was there and they were not.  God had blessed her with an incredible man whose happiness was wrapped up in her and the life they could have together.  She felt ashamed and she cried out to God, asking Him to forgive her for being so selfish and for her anger and bitterness toward Him.

That night when Martin came home, she asked him to forgive her and he, of course, assured her that there was nothing to forgive.  He took her in his arms and held her close for a long time.  That night was the turning point in her life.  She decided that she would focus on her marriage and nothing else.

Forty years later and they were still going strong.  There were still moments when she wondered what would have happened if her life had turned out like Hannah’s.  Hannah had prayed to God and He had opened her womb and blessed her with seven children.  Joanne had prayed for Him to do the same miraculous thing for her but it didn’t happen.  God had blessed her with a lasting, strong and healthy marriage and tonight she was going to celebrate.

“Are you ready?” Martin asked.

She nodded.  “Yes.  I’m ready to celebrate forty years of being married to an incredible man.” Yes.  There was much to celebrate.  And she had God to thank for that.

man giving wife flowers