The Nutcracker

It was on a Saturday night at the London Coliseum where Alexis and her sister Gwen ran into Mrs. Bannister, Alexis’ music teacher, a wonderful lady who didn’t look as if she had aged very much at all.

She was delighted to see her former pupil, her face beaming and her light blue eyes sparkling.  “Hello My Dear,” she said, “What a lovely surprise and on my birthday too.  How are you?  Are you still practicing on the piano?  You were a very promising student and one of my favorites.”

“It’s so good to see you, Mrs. Bannister,” Alexis said as they hugged.  “Happy birthday.”

Mrs. Bannister turned to the young man who was standing beside her.  “This is my grandson, Jeremy.  He brought me to the ballet this evening for my birthday.  He has always been a very thoughtful young man.  Jeremy, this is Alexis.”

Alexis’ attention shifted to the older woman’s companion.  He was tall and very handsome.  His thick brown hair was a bit long but it suited him.  He was wearing a fine and rather expensive looking dark grey suit, blue shirt and tie.  His light green eyes met hers and she thought she saw admiration shining in them.

He took the hand she proffered and shook it.  “A pleasure,” he said with a cultured English accent.

She smiled.  “It’s nice to meet you.   This is my sister, Gwen,” she said.  He acknowledged Gwen with a smile and shook her hand.  Then, he returned his attention to Alexis.

“Did you enjoy the ballet?” he asked.  “Grandmother has always wanted to see The Nutcracker and I promised her that one year I take her for her birthday.”

“Yes, I enjoyed it very much.  I’ve always wanted to see it too.  It was my good fortune that my brother-in-law is not a fan of ballet or musicals so Gwen asked me to come with her.”

“I should thank your sister for bringing you tonight,” he said quietly.  “I got to meet you.”

She smiled, not sure of how to respond to that remark.  He was staring at her making her feel both nervous and flattered.  She had never had a man this young interested in her before.  He had to be at least ten years younger than her.  “Are you and your grandmother close?” she asked.

“Very,” he said.  “She always says that I’m her favorite.”

“Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

“I have an older brother and a younger sister.  Do you have other siblings?”

“No, Gwen is the only one I have.  We were very close growing up.  Now she is married with two girls and a boy.”

He glanced down at her hand.  “I see that you’re not wearing a ring,” he said.  “I guess you’re not married.”

“No, I’m still single.”  She didn’t mention that she was once engaged but she broke it off when she found out that her fiancé was two-timing her with his new assistant.

Just then, Mrs. Bannister said to her, “Alexis, how would you like to have tea with me tomorrow afternoon, if you have no other plans, of course.”

Alexis smiled.  “I would be delighted,” she said with a big smile.

“Splendid.  So, I shall see you tomorrow afternoon at two.  Gwen, it was a pleasure to meet you.   Come, Jeremy, it is past my bedtime.  Thank you, Dear, for a lovely evening.  I shall never forget it.”

Jeremy said goodnight to Alexis and Gwen, his eyes lingering on the former before he took his grandmother’s arm and led her away.

Gwen looked at her.  “Mrs. Bannister seems like a really nice lady, very gracious and friendly.  I had a rather nice chat with her.  Her grandson is very handsome.  I noticed him paying you a lot of attention.  What did you think of him?”

“He’s very handsome and polished.”

“Were you attracted to him?”

It was no use denying it.  “Yes, very attracted, a lot good it would do me.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, for one thing, he’s younger and another, he’s upper crust.”

“It seemed like neither of those two things mattered to him and if he’s anything like his grandmother, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t at least entertain to idea of dating him.  Don’t allow what happened with Sidney prevent you from having a love life.  I never did like him.  Good riddance to him, I say.  You can do much better.  So, if you happen to see Jeremy again and he asks you out, don’t turn him down.”

Alexis looked unconvinced.  “I don’t know if I will see him again and even if I do, I don’t think he’ll ask me out.  No, I’m not going to get my hopes up.  I’ll go and see his grandmother tomorrow and we will spend a pleasant afternoon together, catching up.  Now, what do you say, we grab a bite to eat before you head home to your brood?”

The next day, Alexis drove over to Mrs. Bannister pretty cottage, nestled among thick foliage and surrounded by immaculate gardens.  She had a live in housekeeper who opened the door and showed Alexis to the drawing-room where the lady of the house was seated.

Mrs. Bannister’s face lit up when she saw her.  “Hello, my Dear.  Come and sit beside me and by the fire.  It must be cold outside and grey too.”

Alexis went over to her and after hugging her warmly, she sat down on a chair close to the one the elder woman was occupying.  “What a lovely home you have,” she remarked.  “I couldn’t help admiring your gardens.  I imagine that your grandchildren must have loved playing in them when they were young.”  She wanted to ask her so many questions about Jeremy and what he was like as a boy but thought better of it.

Mrs. Bannister nodded, smiling.  “Oh yes, they loved playing in the gardens which they were children.  Jeremy’s favorite spot was the lake. He would swim there sometimes.  He was always scampering about the place, vexing his mother who thought he was a bit too wild.  I always told her that he was a boy and boys were supposed to be a little unruly.  When he comes he could take you for a walk on the grounds and show you the lake.”

Alexis’ heart lurched.  “Jeremy’s coming here?” she asked.  The thought of seeing him again thrilled and terrified her at the same time.  She couldn’t believe that she was behaving like this over a younger man.

“Yes, he said that he would stop by around three.  He doesn’t usually come and see me on a Sunday so I was quite surprised when he called me this morning to tell me that he was coming over this afternoon.  I’ll ring for our tea now.”

They had their tea and sandwiches as they talked about old times and other things.  The time went by very quickly and Alexis had just finished drinking her tea when Jeremy walked into the drawing room.  He went over to his grandmother and hugged her.  When he drew back she looked up at him, beaming.  “It’s good to see you, Dear.”

“I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon,” he said, smiling at her.  Then he turned to Alexis.  “Have you had a chance to see the gardens?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “I saw them when I was coming up the driveway.  They look amazing.”

“I told Alexis that you would take her for a walk in the gardens and show her the lake where you used to swim as a child.”

“I’d be happy to,” he said, his gaze still on Alexis.  “Shall we?”

She got up and after excusing herself, she followed him out to the foyer.  She got her coat and scarf from the closet.

“I won’t keep you outside too long,” he promised.  “It’s very nippy.”

They walked through the gardens and to the path which led to the lake.  She looked around her in wonder.  Autumn in Surrey was breathtaking.  The thick foliage on the opposite side of the lake was cloaked in rich, bright colors.  The air was cold but very fresh.  “I can see why you loved coming here,” she commented as they stood there watching two swans gliding through the gold lake.  It was so peaceful out there.   It was a nice change from the city.

“Yes.  I used to come out here all the time and swim or feed the swans.  I loved being here more than at my parents’ estate in Yorkshire.  Yorkshire is even more beautiful in the autumn but I prefer being here in Surrey.  You’re right about it being peaceful here and that’s why this is still my favorite place to relax and think about things.”

“Do you still swim in the lake?”

He smiled and shook his head.  “I stopped doing that when I turned thirteen.  Besides, I don’t want to scare away the swans.”

“This is a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon,” she remarked.  “Your grandmother was surprised that you visited her today.  She said that you don’t usually visit her on a Sunday.”

“She’s right.  I’m usually at home or out with my friends but I came here today because of you.”

She swallowed.  “Me?”

“Yes, I wanted to see you again.”

A slight breeze started blowing and she shivered.  She pulled the hood over her head and shoved her hands in the pockets of her coat, wishing she had worn her gloves.

“You’re cold,” he observed.  “Let’s go back to the cottage.”

He helped her remove her winter gear and then he took off his coat and hanged everything in the closet.

When they went into the drawing-room, Mrs. Bannister was not there.  She went over to the fireplace to warm her hands.  He joined her.  He turned toward her and took her cold hand in his and rubbed it between his.  Her heart was pounding as she watched his long fingers move slowly but vigorously to warm hers.  Then, she raised her head to look up at his face and her breath caught in her throat when she met his smoldering gaze.  “I want to kiss you,” he muttered thickly.

She trembled at the thought.  “Your grandmother could return at any minute,” she said, trying to remain rational in spite of her senses which were screaming at her to let him kiss her.

“You’re right,” he admitted.  “It would be awkward if she were to walk in and find us kissing.  Have dinner with me tonight, Alexis.”

“Yes,” she said simply.  She gave him her address and he made a mental note of it.  “I think she’s coming.”  He released her hand and moved away from the fireplace just as his grandmother entered the room.

“Did you enjoy your walk?” she asked as she went over to the chair she had vacated and sat down.

“Yes, I did.”

“Good.  You must come in the summer.  It’s really nice then.”

“Mrs. Bannister, I must be leaving now.  Thank you for inviting me to tea.  I had a wonderful time.”  She went over and kissed her on the cheek.

“Goodbye, Dear.  Jeremy will see you off.”

He walked with her to her car and held open the door for her to get in.  As she was about to, he leaned down and kissed her on the cheek.  She closed her eyes at the sensation of his warm lips against her skin.  When he drew back, their eyes met and held for a while.  “I’ll pick you up at seven,” he said quietly.  She nodded and got in the car.  He stepped back and watched as she drove off.

When he returned to the drawing-room, he sat down in the chair Alexis had occupied and looking at his grandmother, he said, “Grandmother, I’m in trouble.”

“You are attracted to Alexis, aren’t you?” she asked.  “I noticed the way you looked at her last night.”

“I couldn’t help it.  That’s why I’m here today.  I wanted to see her again and I asked her to have dinner with me tonight.”

“Now, that wasn’t a wise thing to do.”

“I know and I feel like such a fraud,” he muttered, exasperated.  “She has no idea that I am engaged.”

“Well, from where I’m sitting, you have only two options—break off your engagement to Bridget or forget about Alexis.”

“I can’t forget about Alexis.  And I can’t marry Bridget.”

“It seems then, that you have made your decision.  I never did think that Bridget was the right girl for you.  I imagine that the engagement was all your mother’s doing.  Well, it’s time you started making your own decisions.  You’re old enough now.  You should go and deal with Bridget right now.  And when the time is right, you can tell Alexis everything.”

He got up and hugged her.  “Thanks, Grandmother.  I’ll go and see Bridget now.”

“Be gentle, Dear.”

“Yes, Grandmother.”

His meeting with Bridget went better than he expected.  She too had been having second thoughts about their engagement but didn’t know quite how to tell him.  They parted on amicable terms.  They realized that what all this time their feelings for each other had been platonic rather than romantic.  He let her keep the ring.

Over dinner at a trendy and romantic French restaurant, he told Alexis everything.  “I’m so thankful I met you,” he said.  “If I hadn’t, I would have married the wrong woman.”

“So, the two of you never slept together?”

“No.  We had decided that we would wait until we were married but I never wanted her.  Yet, I wanted you from the moment I saw you.  After I took my grandmother home, I went down to the lake to figure out what I was going to do.  I was engaged to one woman but had fallen hard for another.  I didn’t want to hurt Bridget but I couldn’t get you out of my mind.  When I saw you again the next day, I knew that I couldn’t give you up.”

“Where do we go from here?” she asked.

“I want to see you—go out with you,” he said, covering one of her hands with his, his expression earnest.  “I want to be in a relationship with you.”

She covered his hand.  “I want that too,” she admitted.

After dinner that night, they became romantically involved and a year later, they got married.  His father, brother, sister, grandmother and Bridget attended the simple wedding but his mother was conspicuously absent.

 

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The Barbecue

“You’re not his type.” If that smile were meant to take the sting out of her words it didn’t work.  Kay was smarting from it.  “I don’t mean to upset you, Kay, but I thought I would warn you because I have seen the way you look at Quinn every time you see him.  I don’t want you to fool yourself into thinking that a man like him would notice someone like you.”

Kay tried to remain calm.  They were riding down in the lift to the indoor parking lot of their office building.  “What do you mean someone like me?” she asked.  “What is wrong with me?”  She knew that this had nothing to do with race because Joanna’s son was married to a Somalian girl whom she adored.

“I have seen the women Quinn has been involved with and you’re nothing like them.  For one thing, they are stunning, sophisticated and move in high circles.  You are out of your league.”

“I may not be stunning, sophisticated and move in high society but I have a lot going for me.”  She wondered what Joanna would say if she knew that for the past several weeks she and Quinn had been seeing each other.

“When I invited you to my home and you were introduced to him, I didn’t expect you to get any fanciful ideas about him.  He’s a bachelor and enjoys being one but if he decides to settle down one day, I can say with great certainty that it won’t be with someone like you.”

They had reached the parking lot and the doors of the lift opened.

“You have made your point, Joanna.  Now, if you will excuse me, I need to be getting home.”  She left the lift and walked briskly to her car, fuming.  What a great way to start the weekend.  She unlocked her car, climbed in and slammed the door.  As she turned the key in the ignition, she saw that her hand was trembling.  How she hated scenes like that.  She and Joanna had never really gotten along.  They tolerated each other because they worked together.  She found the older woman to be infuriating and condescending.  Granted, Quinn was her brother but he was a grown man who didn’t need her interference in his love life.

Quinn.  The memories of their first meeting flooded her mind.  It was on a Sunday and Joanna had invited her co-workers to her country cottage for a barbecue.  She went with another co-worker and as they were walking up to the area where the chairs and tables were set up, she noticed a tall, handsome and sexy man sitting on a wooden bar. Hmmmm, she thought.  He looked incredible in the white shirt and tan colored pants.  His premature gray hair was very flattering; it actually suited him, although she could see that he was in his late thirties.  She turned to her friend, “Who’s that?” she asked.

Jenny smiled.  “He is gorgeous, isn’t he?” she agreed.  “That’s Quinn, Joanna’s brother. He’s looking this way.  Let’s go over and I’ll introduce you to him.”

Kay’s heart lurched.  “Do I look all right?” she asked nervously.  She was wearing a dark green scarf over her head and loosely wrapped around her neck because she wanted to look chic and a light green dress which complimented her slim figure.

Jenny touched her arm reassuringly.  “You look great.”

They went over to Quinn who slid down from where he was perched; his eyes went first to Kay, then Jenny and back to Kay where they stayed.  By now Kay’s heart was beating wildly and her feet felt wobbly but she resolved to appear calm even though she was far from feeling so.  This close, he was even more devastatingly handsome and his light brown eyes framed by long, dark eyelashes captivated her.  She felt as if she would drown in them.

Jenny looked at one and then the other, amused.  “Hello, Quinn,” she said, greeting him and he had to drag his gaze away from Kay to look at her.

“Hello Jenny,” he said with a smile.  Then, as if unable to resist, his gaze shifted to Kay.  “Who’s your friend?” he asked.

“This is Kay.”

He held out his hand.  “Hello, Kay.”  He smiled at her and she felt her heart stop.

She took his hand and felt his fingers clasp hers in a firm handshake.  “Hello,” she mumbled.  She felt a bolt of electricity surge through her at feel of his warm palm against hers.  Those eyes were so mesmerizing.  Did he have any idea of the effect he was having on her?

“Where’s Joanna?” Jenny asked.

“She’s probably in the kitchen,” he told her.  He was still holding Kay’s hand.

“I’ll go and see what I can help her with,” Jenny said.  “Excuse me.”  She winked at Kay before she walked away.

Now they were alone and Kay felt extremely shy and nervous.  She didn’t know what to do.  She was not used to having a man like Quinn staring at her, making it obvious that he was attracted to her.  She was sure that Jenny was going to tease her about it.  “What-what a lovely place Joanna has,” she stammered, looking away.  “It seems quiet and peaceful.”

“Am I making you nervous?” he asked, releasing her hand.  “I don’t mean to.”

“It’s all right,” she said turning her head towards him again.  “Did you come by yourself?”

“Yes.  I am alone or was alone until you came. I want to enjoy more of your company.  Would you like to take a walk in the English countryside?  We won’t go far or Joanna will be miffed.”

She nodded and fell into step with him.  As they walked, she began to relax and open up, admiring the lush, rolling hills and the sheep grazing peacefully.  It was truly a glorious experience being there in the countryside with its magnificent views–a welcome change from the city.

They talked about all sorts of things and she laughed at his childhood stories.  When they returned to the cottage, everyone was gathering around the tables where the food was laid out and helping themselves.  Everything looked appetizing. They ended up sitting at separate tables, much to her disappointment.  He was at Joanna’s table while she was at the same one as Jenny. After they finished eating, Quinn took her to the little river and bridge where they spent the rest of the afternoon until it was time to go.

Before they parted company, he asked for her phone number.  “I enjoyed our time together,” he told her as they stood under the tree.

She smiled.  “Me too.”

“I will call you,” he promised before he took her hand and raised it to his lips.  “Goodnight, Kay.”  Her skin tingled.

“Goodnight, Quinn.”  He released her hand, albeit reluctantly and she could feel him watching her as she headed to the cottage to say goodbye to Joanna and the remaining guests and get a ride home with Jenny.

True to his word, Quinn called her the following evening and they spoke for hours on the phone, making plans to see each other and have been seeing each other since.

Stirring from her reverie now, she decided that she would go over to his place instead of going home.   She needed to be with him now even though they had made plans for tomorrow.  She went straight up as the man in the concierge recognized her.  She rang the doorbell and a few minutes later the door opened and Quinn was standing there.  He was dressed in a black tee shirt and jeans.  “Hello,” he said.  He pulled her inside and closed the door.  “What a pleasant surprise.”

“I was on my way home but decided to come here instead because I really needed to be with you tonight.  I couldn’t wait until tomorrow to see you.”

His eyes darkened and as he removed her jacket, he began to kiss her.  She kissed him back, struggling to free her arms from the sleeves so that she could put them around his neck.  Finally, they were free and she clung to him as she was pressed against the door.   The jacket was discarded on the floor at their feet and his arms went around her waist as they exchanged fiery kisses until he raised his head to gaze down into her face, his own flushed.  “I love you, Kay,” he muttered huskily. “Do you love me?”

“Yes,” she said in a raspy voice, “I do, Quinn.”

“Stay with me tonight, then.  Now that you are here now, I don’t want you to leave.  I want to wake up in the morning with you next to me.  Say you will stay.”

“Yes, I’ll stay…” Her voice trailed off as his lips sought hers again.

 

 

 

The Intruder

A storm was raging outside.  The rain was beating relentlessly against the windows.  The lightning flashed across the sky and soon followed by the loud thunderous clap.  She hated storms. And being alone in the house didn’t help the situation.  She chided herself for coming ahead of the family to this place which been closed up for a year.  It feel strange being on her own in this large house.  So many rooms.  So many stairs.

She had come down to check the windows to make sure they were securely locked.  She was half-way down the hall when she heard it.  It was during the intermission between the clap of the thunder and the next flash of lightning.   At first she thought she had imagined it and continued walking.  There it was again.  She froze.  Her heart pounding now with fear.  She hadn’t imagined it.  She heard the jangle of keys.  She wasn’t carrying any keys with her.  Someone else was.  Who was in the house?

Then she heard the footsteps.  They were coming down the hall behind her.   Terrified, she darted into one of the rooms and locked the door.  She leaned against it, shaking like a leaf.  Again she wished she hadn’t come here tonight.  What on earth had possessed her to do so?  Why her parents and siblings were sleeping peacefully at the inn, she was here hiding from an intruder.  All sorts of terrifying thoughts assailed her mind.  It could be an escaped convict and the jangle she heard were his chains.  He had some how gotten into the house.

She heard the footsteps stop outside the room she was in and she almost dropped the candle.  Her heart was pounding in her chest, her breath was coming in short gasps and her legs had turned to jelly.  “Oh please, go away,” she whispered.

Then she heard the key turn in the lock.   She ran away from the door, her eyes darting wildly about the room for some way of escape.  The windows.  She could open one of them and climb out.  She and her brother used to do that when they were children. Climbing down the trellis in the pouring rain and possibly slipping and having a bad fall was preferable to what was going to come through that door.

She quickly blew the candle out and dropped it on the rug.  She ran to the window just as the door opened.  Frantically, she tried to unfasten the latch on the window.

“Who’s there?” a voice boomed.  “You are trespassing on private property.”

She swung around to face the speaker and just then lightning flashed across the sky and she caught sight of a tall figure wearing a raincoat. He was carrying a lantern which he now held up.   In its glow she could make out his features.  This was no convict.  It was Mr. Crawley, the caretaker of the property.  Relief washed over her and she stumbled over to him.  “Oh, it’s you, Mr. Crawley.”

“Miss Catherine?”

“I heard someone moving about in the house and I was dreadfully afraid.”

“I saw a light on in the house and came to investigate.   I didn’t expect anyone to be here until tomorrow, Miss.”

“I know,” she said.  “I decided to come ahead of the family.  I didn’t mean to cause you any trouble.”

“It’s no trouble, Miss.  Will you be all right?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I’ll be all right.”

“You can take my lantern, Miss.  I can find my way all right.”

“Thank you, Mr. Crawley.  Good night.”

“Good night, Miss.”  He bowed and left her.

She stood there for a moment, listening to the storm, no longer afraid.

woman with a candle

The Truth

“What are you doing?” she asked him, agitated.

 

“I am going to turn the pages for you,” he said.

 

She was sitting at the piano about to play something

while her aunt and her visitors were sitting in the drawing-

room having tea.  “I can manage,” she told him.

 

“Please, Helen.  I haven’t been alone with you for

days and you have been avoiding me.”

 

“Have I?” she began to play and for the next

few moments, no words were exchanged

between them.  He turned the pages, his eyes

never leaving her face.  How she managed to

concentrate with him being so near, she had

no idea.

 

The last note she struck was accompanied

by applause and compliments on her playing

and then the conversation resumed.

“You know you have been avoiding me,” he

insisted.  “Why, Helen?”

 

She looked at him in frustration.  “You know

why, Jonathan.”

 

“All I know is that we love each other and

avoiding me isn’t going to change that.”

 

“Please don’t say that.”

“It’s the truth.”

 

“We’re not supposed to love each other.”

“But we do.  Come for a walk with me.  I

need to be alone with you.”

 

“I can’t.  I’m–I’m not feeling well.”  She

did feel a little warm.

 

“Liar” he interjected.  He reached in his

breast pocket and took out a folded

sheet of paper.  He slipped it over to

her.

 

She stared at it, not taking it up.  “What

is it?”

 

“A poem.”

 

“Another one?  Jonathan, you have to

stop writing me poems and letters.”

She had them hidden away in her

drawer and at night before she went

to bed, she read them, even though

it tortured her to do so.

 

“It captures the feelings that I want

so badly to express.  I will leave you

now.  If you change your mind, I will

be in the gazebo.  It promises to be a

beautiful night.”  He walked away.

 

She sat there for a while, staring

at the sheet of paper and then she

picked it up, her fingers trembling.

She slowly unfolded it and read

the bold letters scrawled across

the lines.  Her heart breaking as

she read the words.  She pressed

the page against her chest and

closed her eyes.

 

“Are you all right?” the sound of

her aunt’s voice jolted her and

she got up hastily from the piano,

the sheet of paper slipped from her

fingers and fell on the carpet.

 

“I have a headache,” she said, “Please

excuse me, Aunt Cora.”

 

“Wait,” her aunt called, frowning, but

Helen had left the room.  Aunt Cora stood

there for a moment, pensive and then

she bent down and picked up the paper

which Helen had dropped.  She glanced at

it and then she folded it and slipped it into her pocket.

 

The clock struck eleven.  Helen sat by the window, looking

out of the window.  It was a beautiful night.  The moon cast its

light on the courtyard below.  Was he still out there in the

gazebo or had he retired?  What was he doing?

Should she have gone for the walk?  She knew why

she didn’t dare be alone with him.  The last time they

were alone together, they almost got carried away.

She had to practically run away.  After that she

vowed never to be alone with him again.

 

A knock on the door brought her out of her

reverie.  She turned to see her aunt in the

doorway.  “Aunt Cora.” She moved away from

the window.

 

“I hope I am not disturbing you, Dear.”

Helen shook her head.  “No, you’re not.  I

couldn’t sleep.  I have been sitting at the

window watching the moon.”

 

“I have something that belongs to you.”  She

handed Helen the poem.

 

Helen blushed as she took it, feeling embarrassed.

 

Aunt Cora motioned for them to sit by

the window.  “I think it’s about time that

I told you the truth about your father,”

she said.

 

Helen was startled.  “My father?”

 

“Yes.  My brother John was not your

father, Helen.  Your real father was

a close friend of John’s.  Your mother

died in childbirth and your father

raised you.  When you were three

he died in a riding accident.  When

John learned this unfortunate news

he brought you home as you had no

other living relatives.  He raised you

as his own daughter and he adored

you.  You were his life.”

 

Helen was crying now.  “I adored

him too,” she said.  “I miss him.  There’s so

much I want to talk to him about.”

 

Aunt Cora patted her hands.  “Yes, I imagine there is.”

 

“What were my parents like?”

 

“They were very good people.  I met your

father.  He was a delightful man.  He

doted on you.”

 

There was a pregnant pause as Helen tried

to digest the news she had just received.  “So

this means that Jonathan and I aren’t cousins.”

 

Aunt Cora nodded.  “That’s right.  And that’s why

I had to tell you the truth about your background.

I had noticed the way you and my son behaved

around each other.  And seeing you together

tonight convinced me that you are in love with

each other.  So, my Dear, there’s nothing to stop

you and he from being together.”

 

“Are you going to tell him?”

 

Aunt Cora shook her head.  “I will leave you to it.”

 

“Do I still call you Aunt Cora?”

 

“Oh yes, you do.”  The older woman hugged

her tightly.  “Now, try to get some sleep.”

 

Helen smiled, “Goodnight, Aunt Cora.”

 

“Goodnight, Dear.”

 

Helen turned to look out the window.  The

truth about her parentage turned out

to be her greatest blessing.  Now she and

Jonathan were free to love each other

without feeling guilty and ashamed.  Tomorrow

she would tell him.  Tomorrow couldn’t come

soon enough.

 

Girl on piano

Changed

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

This was the prayer that changed Lisa’s life.

Before she prayed it one night in her room,

she was a selfish person.  She went about

her busy life, not having time for anyone.

She went to church, yes, but she never

expressed any interest in being involved

in any of the ministries.  She didn’t attend

the afternoon programs or prayer meetings.

She never joined the youth group who

visited the senior homes.  She left church

soon after the service ended.

 

She didn’t visit her family often and

when she did, she found them all very tiresome.

She preferred to be on her own.  She spent

most of her time reading a book, watching TV

or browsing shops in the mall.  Her relationships

didn’t last.  All of her exes got tired of giving and

not getting much back.

 

She managed to convince herself that she was

satisfied with how her life was.  No obligations, no

commitments and no constraints.  She was free to

come and go as she pleased.  In her estimation, she

was doing just fine.

 

But God had other plans for her.  One evening she

watched a story of an older woman named Edith

who was always kind to everyone.  She had to go to

hospital for tests.  It turned out that she was terminally

ill.  Instead of sinking into depression and being angry

at God, she accepted her fate.  She spent the time she

had in the hospital telling everyone who would listen

about Jesus.  She helped a young girl who was pregnant

and unwed.  She didn’t judge her but spoke kindly to her.

She gave her the name and address of a women’s shelter

where she could go and stay until she was able to find a job

and raise her baby.  Edith didn’t think about herself.  She

was always reaching out to those around her, talking to

them, encouraging them and sharing her faith with them.

 

By the time Edith died, many of the people whose lives

she touched accepted Jesus.  Before the movie ended,

Lisa was sobbing uncontrollably.  This woman’s unselfish

character and love for others made her feel ashamed.  She

knew that if she had been in Edith’s shoes, she would have

been lashing out and asking God why.  Not once did this

gentle woman do that.  She was always saying, “That she

was looking forward to going to sleep and then waking up

when the trumpet sounded and her Jesus came to take her

home.

 

Lisa got down on her knees and poured her heart out to

God, begging Him to forgive her and the words of the

Psalm came to her.  God answered her prayer.   Now,

she was a driver for a senior centre.   She took clients for

their appointments, treatment programs, shopping, banking

and other daily chores.  The hours were flexible.  She

loved what she was doing.

 

Like Edith, she shared her faith every opportunity she had.

She attended prayer meetings and participated in church

programs and events.  Her time was better spent now and she

felt a joy and peace she had never experienced before.  Her family

noticed the changes in her and were impressed.

 

And on a more personal note, she was in a new relationship.

He was a volunteer at the senior centre.  So far, so good.  Only

time would tell.  For now, she was happy serving the Lord who

had opened her eyes to her true spiritual condition and had

brought her to the place He had prepared for her.   He had given

her a completely different outlook and a new purpose for her life.

 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven – Matthew 5:16

 

assisted-living-care3-720

 

Sources:  Bible Gateway;  Lumacare

 

The Ball

A picture of total calm, she sat there,

watching the people enter the ballroom.

She had the advantage of facing the

entrance.  Demure in her new white

dress, her black hair swept back from

with several curls framing her face,

she received admiring glances from

the gentlemen but she was oblivious.

Her eyes intermittingly taking pause

to regard the beautiful dresses, would turn

irresistibly toward the entrance, looking for

the appearance of a particular gentleman.

 

Philip Moore was one of the most eligible

bachelors in London.  She and he first met

at a dinner party.  He sat beside her which

made her very nervous.  He did most of the

talking because she was so shy and in-

accustomed to socializing with such an

arresting gentleman.

 

After the dinner the men remained in the dining-

room where they were served coffee while the

ladies went to the drawing-room.   She saw him

when he came to bid the ladies goodnight.

His eyes seem to linger on her face as he bowed

“Good night, Miss Parker.”

 

“Good night, Mr. Moore.”

 

That night she lay awake for a long while, thinking

about him.  They saw each other at several other

functions and he would speak to her, getting her

to open up, overcome her shyness.

 

Tonight she was going to see him.  She appeared

composed on the outside but there were butterflies in

her stomach.  Her heart lurched when he suddenly materialized.

Eagerly, she sat forward in her seat, watching as he exchanged

civilities with the host and hostess.  But, then the smile on her face

faded when she saw that he was not alone.

 

Her gaze shifted to the young lady standing beside him.  She was

tall and slender.  Her auburn hair was pulled in a bow and cascaded

in curls at her nape.

 

Amy watched her, wondering who she was when

she saw she look in her direction.  With a start,

she realized that they were heading her way.  Heart

thudding, nerves rattled, she didn’t know what to

do.  She wanted to get up and run out of there but

her legs seemed to freeze up on her.

 

“Miss Parker,” Philip greeted her, his eyes riveted on

her face.  “As soon as I saw you, I had to bring Georgiana

over to meet you.”

 

Georgiana smiled at her.  “Hello Miss Parker,” She said,

extending a gloved hand to Amy.  “It’s nice to meet you.

My brother has told me so much about you.”

 

Amy looked at her.  “Your brother?”

 

“Yes, Philip is my older and dear brother.”

 

Feeling tremendously relieved, Amy stood up and

took the extended hand.  “It’s a pleasure to meet

you, Miss Moore.”

 

“You must come and have tea with me one

afternoon,” Georgiana said.  “Philip, I will leave

you with Miss Parker while I go and say hello

to a dear friend.  Excuse me.”

 

Once they were alone, Philip turned to Amy.

“You look very beautiful tonight, Miss Parker,” he

said, his gaze steady and holding hers, making her

blush.

 

“Thank you.”

 

“Shall I have the pleasure of dancing with you this evening?”

 

“Yes.”  If I had my way, I would reserve every dance for you.

 

“Come, let us join the festivities.”  He held out his arm and

smiling happily, she took it and allowed him to escort her

to the ballroom.

 

young Victorian woman in whitejpg

Sources:  Angelpig; Geri Walton; British Baby Names; Victoriana Magazine

The Visit

She stood at the window watching

the snow fall in thick white sheets

on the streets below.  It had been

like this all morning.   What was

it going to end?

 

All night she had looked forward

to seeing Rupert.  When they had

last seen each other which was a

fortnight ago, he had promised to

visit her today.

 

When she woke up this morning

all cheerful, she was appalled at

the wintry scene outside her bedroom

window.  The snow fell relentlessly

with no promise of that it will taper

off any time soon.

 

Skipping breakfast, she came straight into

the library to occupy herself with a book

but it was no use.  She couldn’t concentrate

on anything.  She got up from the armchair

by the fire and walked over to the window.

She drew aside the curtain and watched

the snow which she now regarded as her

enemy.   It blanketed everything in its path.

The streets were deserted.  No one

dared to venture out in such blizzard-like

weather.  Why, of all days, did it have

to snow today?  There was no reason to

believe that Rupert would even attempt

to brave the weather just to see her.

 

Yet, an irrational part of her hoped

to see a carriage pull up in front

and a tall and slender figure alight.

She remembered how handsome he

looked in his officer coat when she

she first saw him.  It was at the ball

thrown by her Aunt in honor of her

husband, a retired officer.  Her eyes

scarcely left him and she urged her

aunt to introduce them.  Which she

did with relish.

 

Rupert was friendly and gracious and

she was immediately put at ease.

They spent most of the evening talking and

she was fortunate to have a couple of

dances with him.  It vexed her when she

saw him dance with other young women

but always, he returned to her side.

 

It was with deep regret that she bid him

farewell that night but her constitution

brightened considerably when he

promised that he would visit her in a

fortnight.

 

And here she was, watching her hopes

diminish with each falling snowflake.

Even if it were to taper off, the roads

were now impassable.   She might as

well face the inevitable.  She was not

going to see Rupert today.  And she

wasn’t even sure about tomorrow.

 

She turned away in distress.  Just then

the door opened and Rupert stood in

its opening.  I must be dreaming, she

thought.  I want to see him so desperately

that I am conjuring his image now.  Perhaps,

I need to go and lie down.  She felt a bit faint.

Perhaps not having a morsel to eat for

breakfast was taking its toll on her now.

 

As she started forward, the image

moved towards her.  Her eyes widened

in shock.  It was Rupert.  He was there–

but how?  He came forward, smiling and

took her hands in his.  His dark brown eyes

steady on her upturned face.  “I came by

very early this morning,” he explained.

“When the snow was just starting to fall.”

 

She still couldn’t believe that this was

real.  He was here.  “But, no one told me

that you were here.”

 

“When I arrived you were still in bed.  I asked

her aunt not to disturb you.  Your Uncle invited

me to join him in the drawing-room where I

was quite content to bide my time until you

were available.  Your Aunt had been to your

room to check on you but found that you had

vacated it.  On her way to the drawing-room,

she popped her head in the library and saw

you standing at the window.   She came and

informed me.  And, so without further delay,

I quit your Uncle’s company and came straightaway

here.”

 

“I thought—with the weather being so bad

that I wouldn’t see you today.”

 

“Hannah, you will soon learn that I am a

man of my word.  I promised that I would

visit you and here I am.  Besides, I have been

thinking of little else.   Come, let us go

and sit by the fire.  Your hands are cold.”

 

She glanced back at the falling snow.  A

smile touched her lips.  She no longer

felt resentment toward it but was thankful.

It meant that Rupert was going to be here

for a while.  Yes, it was to be an extended

visit after all.

 

Victorian woman looking out window

Source:  Military Heritage