Affairs of the Heart

When Bianca went out on to the balcony of her friend Connie’s spacious flat, she was pleasantly surprised to see Chandler sitting there.  He looked so elegant although he was dressed very casually in a tan colored jacket, denim shirt and jeans.  The brown belt he wore matched the spiffy shoes she saw on the mat by the front door.  He was so handsome, she thought, her eyes eagerly drinking in each feature—the thick, silky dark hair, the incredible light grey eyes, olive skin and his lips…She started when she realized that she was staring.

For his part, he was staring at her too.  “It’s good to see you, Bianca,” he said as he got up and went over to her.  He put his arms around her and hugged her.  She hugged him back, closing her eyes and breathing in his fragrance.  He smelled so good.  It felt so wonderful being in his arms and held closely against him.  She put hers around his waist and wished that they could stay like that for a long while.  But just then, Connie’s voice reached them and Chandler drew back, releasing Bianca, his expression tense as he looked at her.  He moved away from her and stood leaning against the rail with his hands shoved in his pockets, a muscle pulsating along his jawline as he watched Connie approach.

Bianca sat down in the chair closest to her, her legs trembling.  She had to pull herself together before Connie saw her.  It was a hug between two friends but there was something else.  She felt it and sensed it.  At one point, she felt his arms tighten around her and his face in her hair.  What would have happened if Connie hadn’t been there?

She joined them now, her gaze going immediately to Chandler, her regard for him very evident on her face.  Then she turned to Bianca, her expression changing.  She doesn’t seem very pleased to see me, Bianca realized in surprise.  Perhaps it is because I didn’t call to tell her that I was coming over.

“Bianca, what are you doing here?” she asked.

Bianca got up from the chair, feeling a little embarrassed now.  “I’m sorry I didn’t call before I popped over but it was when I was on the tube, that I decided I would stop by your flat and ask you if you wanted to go with me to the Jazz concert in Chelsea.  It’s free and it sounds like fun.”

Connie shook her head at once.  “No thank you, Bianca.  I will pass.  Besides, I have already made plans.  Chandler and I will be spending the afternoon together.”

Chandler spoke up, “The Jazz concert sounds like a good idea.”

Connie pursed her lips.  “Jazz gives me a headache.  I prefer to go somewhere less crowded and I know the perfect place.  Well, Bianca, I guess you had better be heading off to your concert.  Call me later and let me know how it was.”

Bianca got up from the chair, wishing now she hadn’t bothered to come but then, she wouldn’t have seen Chandler.  Her eyes sought him and her heart lurched when she found him looking at her.   She went over to him and said, “It was good seeing you as usual, Chandler.”

“I hope we see each other again soon,” he replied.  And he reached out and caught her hand.  From where Connie stood she couldn’t see what he was doing but it was all Bianca could do to keep her composure.  It was hard when his thumb was caressing the back of her hand, stirring up all sorts of sensations.  The expression on his face made her mouth go dry. His light grey eyes were dark and stormy.  It was so obvious that he was attracted to her.  And it must be obvious to him that she was attracted to him too.  What about Connie?  Her gaze shifted to her friend and was mortified when she saw the hostility and jealousy in her countenance.  Yes, Connie had noticed the attraction between Chandler and her.

“I’d better go,” Bianca murmured looking away.  “I don’t want to be late for the concert.”

He released her hand with some reluctance and watched as she hurried past Connie. They heard the door close.  “You were a bit rude to her,” he said with some displeasure.

Connie glared at him.  “I saw the way you were looking at her,” she cried.  “You want her don’t you?  Well, you are wasting your time.”

He frowned.  “What do you mean?”

“She has a boyfriend.”

He grew pale.  “Are you sure?” he asked.

“Of course, I’m sure.  His name is Darnell.”

Chandler ran his fingers agitatedly through his hair.  “I had no idea,” he said in disbelief.

“Well, now you know.”

Chandler turned away and his hands gripped the rail as bitter disappointment filled him.  He closed his eyes but they soon opened when he saw Bianca’s face and remembered the look on her face when he was caressing her hand.  She could not have been in any doubt that I have feelings for her, he thought, and I could tell that she has feelings for me too but how could I pursue a relationship with her when she’s already in one? What a wretched business this thing called love is. He swung round to face Connie.  “I’m afraid I will have to cancel our plans,” he told her.

Connie stared at him in dismay.  “But, why?” she cried.

“I don’t feel up to going anywhere now,” he said simply.  “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“You’re cancelling on me because of Bianca?” she demanded.  “I knew her showing up here unexpectedly today was going to be a problem.   Now what am I going to do for the rest of the afternoon?”

“I’m sorry, Connie.  I’ll take a rain check.”  He walked past her and a few minutes later the door closed behind him.

Her face beet red, Connie marched into the living room, took up a vase of flowers and threw it on the floor.

Bianca sat at the concert, oblivious to the turmoil she was causing elsewhere.  Her mind and attention were not on the smooth sounds she was hearing but on Chandler.  This was the first time Connie and she wanted the same man.   They had been friends since high school but that friendship was in serious jeopardy now.  She would never forget the look on Connie’s face when she saw the attraction between Chandler and her.  Bitter resentment and jealousy marred her features.  She wondered what happened after she left.

She left the concert feeling that it was a waste of an afternoon.  When she got home, she was surprised to hear a message from Connie on her answering machine.  It said, “Well, Bianca, I hope you’re happy.  Chandler canceled our plans.  I can’t imagine why.  I saw the way you were looking at him.  If you want to remain my friend, you will forget about Chandler and set your sights on someone else.  Goodbye.”

Bianca stared at the machine.  All this time she thought Chandler and Connie were spending the afternoon together.  As she removed her jacket, she couldn’t help wondering why the sudden change of plans.  Connie didn’t seem to know or if she did, she wasn’t saying.  Perhaps, something unexpected came up and Chandler had to be somewhere else.  Whatever the reason, she couldn’t deny that she was relieved that they weren’t together now.  I wonder when I will see him again.  Then, she reproached herself for thinking such thoughts.  I must forget about him.  Connie met him first and they are more suitable for each other.  They are from the same pedigree.  I’m way out of my league.  What he feels for me may just be a physical attraction—nothing more.” The thought that his interest in her might just be purely sexual hurt but she had to be sensible about this. 

So that very day, she resolved to stay away from Chandler, not only because Connie requested it but to spare herself any heartbreak.  For the next several weeks, she avoided the usual crowd where she was sure to run into him.  She and Connie met for lunch once and she heard nothing but how much time Chandler and her friend were spending with each other.  She had to sit there and listen to Connie talk about how amazing Chandler looked in his swimming trunks and how wonderful it felt when he put sunscreen on her back.  “His hands felt so good on my skin,” she said, her eyes almost glazed over at the memory.  Bianca smiled but inside she was hurting.  The jealousy stabbed at her like a knife.  After that lunch, whenever Connie wanted them to meet up again, she always found an excuse not to.  She wasn’t going to sit there and listen to Connie talk  incessantly about her relationship with Chandler.

During the day, it was easy to occupy her mind but in the nights, her thoughts were filled with him, wondering if he ever thought about her.  Nothing had changed for her. She still loved and wanted him and it pained her to no end.  She lay awake for hours before drifting off into a fitful sleep.  How she longed to get away—go somewhere far but she knew that it wouldn’t make a difference.  No place existed where she could go and forget about Chandler.

One night, she was lying on the sofa, watching the television but not paying attention.  It was just background noise.  The doorbell rang and she sat up, wondering how it was.  She hoped it wasn’t Connie.  She really wasn’t in the mood for one-sided conversations.  She got up from the sofa and went to the door.  Her eyes widened and her heart somersaulted when she saw Chandler standing there.  How on earth did he find out where she lived?  It couldn’t have been from Connie.  She would never do that.

Taking a deep breath, she opened the door, her heart pounding.  How good he looked in the black shirt and dark blue jeans.  His face looked drawn and it seemed to her that he had lost a little weight.  Alarmed, she asked, “You’re not ill, are you?”

He shook his head.  “No, I’m not ill,” he told her.  “It’s nice to know that you still care.”

She stared at him, looking confused.  “What do you mean?”

“Each time Connie told me she saw you, I asked if you inquired after me and she said no.”

“She never gave me a chance.  All she talked about was your relationship and all the great things you were doing together.”

“We don’t have a relationship.  I admit that I tried to get forget you with her and she was quite willing to help.  One night at her flat after dinner, we started to get undressed—“

Bianca turned away, agitated.  “I don’t want to hear this,” she cried as the pain and jealousy tore through her.

He moved so that he was standing in front of her, his eyes dark and tormented.  “I thought that making love to her would get you out of my system,” he muttered tightly.  “But, I couldn’t go through with it. When I was kissing her, all I could see was your face.  I put my shirt back on and ran out of there as if the devil were chasing me.  I haven’t been in touch with Connie since.  This was about a month ago.  These past few weeks have been hell for me, Bianca.  I can’t stop thinking about you and wanting you.  I tried to stay away out of respect for Darnell but I had to see you one last time.”

She looked at him then, “Darnell?” she repeated.  “What do mean out of respect for him?”

“You have no idea how much the mere sound of his name torments me,” Chandler told her, his eyes were haunted as they met hers.  “Ever since I found out about him, I haven’t stopped thinking about how lucky he is to have an exceptional woman like you.  Many times I have wished that I could trade places with him.”

She was really confused now.  “What are you talking about, Chandler? “

He looked frustrated now.  “I’m talking about Darnell,” he muttered tightly.  “Connie told me about him.”

“What exactly did Connie tell you about my brother?”

He stared at her as if he hadn’t heard correctly.  “Darnell is your brother?”

“Yes.  He’s my older brother who lives in Manchester with his wife, my niece and nephew.  What did Connie tell you about him?”

He muttered something under his breath, his expression thunderous.  “She told me that he was your boyfriend.”

“My boyfriend?” she was aghast.  “Why would she do that?”

“No doubt, she did it out of jealousy.  She knew how I felt about you so she wanted to make sure that nothing would come of it.   It never occurred to me that she was lying.  All this time, I thought you were in a relationship and that drove me mad because I wanted you so much.”

“Chandler, is it just desire you feel for me?” she asked warily.

He shook his head and she could see the sincerity in his eyes as he answered, “No.  I feel a deep and consuming love for you, Bianca.  I have never experienced love before but I know that what I feel for you real.”

She reached up and touched his face, her eyes filled with the love which burned in her heart.  “I love you, Chandler.  I tried to get over you because of my friendship with Connie and because I was afraid of getting hurt.  I wasn’t sure that your feelings for me were more than physical.”

He lowered his head to kiss her.  She closed her eyes when she felt his warm lips on hers and her arms went around his waist, holding him closely against her.  They exchanged hungry kisses and then he raised his head to gaze down in her face.  “I love you, Bianca but as much as I am dying to show you how much, I think we should wait.”

She nodded.  “Why don’t we go for a walk in the park,” she suggested.  “It’s safer and it looks lovely outside.”

He smiled.  “Okay.  And we can stop somewhere and have a bit to eat as well.”

A couple weeks later they got engaged and after six months of trying to abstain from lovemaking, they got married.  Connie was not invited.  Bianca’s friendship with her ended the day when she found out about the lie she told Chandler.

They spent their honeymoon in Sorrento.  On the first night there, they went for a walk after dinner, holding hands and strolling through the little streets lined on both sides with shops.  They walked to a quiet spot where they stood watching the silent and looming Mount Vesuvius in the distance and the setting sun as it hovered over the Bay of Naples.  They sat on the bench for a little while just enjoying the pleasant evening and the view.  Then, they bought two gelati and ate them on the way back to the hotel.

As soon as they got back to their room, Chandler picked Bianca up and carried her over to the bed.  “Now, I finally get to show you how much I love you,” he murmured, his eyes darkening on her face.

She reached up and pulled his head down to hers, thinking no one else in the world could be as blissfully happy as she was at that very moment.

 

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The Candlelight Dinner

Renee got into her car and drove over to Callum’s flat.  He had invited her over for dinner.  When she told her friends, they were shocked.  They couldn’t believe that a bookworm had much of a social life.  They concluded that although he was very attractive, no woman would want to date a man who spent most of his time with his nose buried in old and used books.  Renee didn’t agree with them.  She thought Callum was remarkable and enjoyed spending time with him, listening to him relate the interesting stories he read.  He had a penchant for folklore.  His love for books was really quite endearing.  She especially liked it when he recited poetry in that deep, velvety voice of his.  Sometimes the words spilled from his lips like a caress.

She didn’t know exactly when it happened but she had fallen in love with Callum.  It wasn’t something she had intended and she wasn’t sure how she would be able to continue seeing him without betraying her feelings.  Perhaps, he wouldn’t even notice.  Books were his passion and he didn’t seem interested in being in a relationship.  She sighed.  It was just her luck to fall in love with a booklover.

The first time they met it was at a library.  She was reading a book on Greek Mythology when he went over to her.  At first he seemed more interested in the book than in her.  His eyes were riveted on it for several minutes before they rose to her face where they remained.  He smiled at her then and held out his hand.  She shook his hand, thinking what an attractive man he was with dark brown hair falling rakishly across his forehead, green eyes behind a pair of glasses.  He was dressed in a dark green shirt, black vest and black slacks.  He was tall and slender.  She invited him to join her.

He sat next to her and they had a very animated conversation about the contents of the book she was reading and other such books.  Time flew and it was time to go.  They arranged to meet again the following evening at the library.  And after meeting there a few nights in a row, they exchanged numbers and they saw each other frequently.   They met for coffee, went for lunch, had dinner a few times and for went walks in the park, always talking about books.

Whenever they were out together, she observed other women admiring him but he didn’t seem to notice at all.   She wondered what he would do if she were to kiss him on the spur of the moment.  The idea had occurred to her but she thought better of it.  Tonight, she hoped that they would talk about other things besides books of every genre.

She arrived at his flat.  She grabbed the bottle of wine that was on the passenger seat and climbed out of the car.  As she walked toward the entrance she drew admiring glances from the group of men who were standing there.  How she wished that Callum would look at her like that.  Perhaps tonight he will.  She was wearing a white dress with broad straps which hugged her figure and the earrings she had picked up from a thrift store.

As she stood outside his door, her heart began to pound.  She suddenly felt nervous as if she were going on a date for the first time.  Calm yourself, she told herself.  Take a deep breath.  A few seconds passed as she pulled herself together, then she raised her hand and pressed the doorbell.

The door opened almost immediately and Callum stood there.  His eyes traveled over her and she detected admiration and something else in them.  “You look amazing,” he commented as he stepped aside for her to enter the foyer.  He closed the door and locked it.  When he turned to face her, she was tempted to reach up and kiss him but instead, she handed him the bottle of wine.   “Oh, thank you,” he said, taking it from her.   “Let me give you a quick tour of my place.”

She removed her slingbacks and followed him.  They went through the living-room which was very spacious and cozy.  He put the bottle of wine on the kitchen counter. “Something smells delicious,” she said.  It smelled like Indian food which she loved.

He smiled.  “We’re having Chicken Tikka Masala.”

“Sounds great.”  They passed by the washroom and paused outside of the bedroom door.  He switched on the light and she looked around the room.  It was immaculate, and decidedly masculine with its colors and wood furniture.  From the window, you could see the Tower Bridge. Beside the window, there was an armchair.  Mostly he sat there and read before turning into bed.  Her gaze went irresistibly to the bed.  It was so perfectly made up, it looked like something out of one of those home decor magazines.  Unbidden, came the thought, has any woman been in that bed?  It aroused jealousy in her.

“No woman has shared my bed,” he said, startling her.  Her eyes were wide as they met his.  Had he read her mind?  “You’re the first woman I have ever invited to my place.” There was a curious expression on his face as he stood there looking at her and then he turned away.  “Let’s finish the tour.”  He switched off the light and started down the corridor.  She followed him, chiding herself for being so transparent.

They paused outside of a doorway and he turned on the light.  It was a library, with four book shelves, lined with books and a desk facing the window.  “This is my favorite room,” he said.  He looked at her.  “I’m sure that comes as no surprise to you.”

She frowned, thinking that there would be more books.  There were empty spaces on some of the shelves.

As if he read her thoughts, he said, “I donated some of them to the library.”

“You donated them to make room for the new ones you are planning to get,” she deduced, looking at him.

He laughed.  “Can’t fool you, can I?” He switched off the light.  “Now, it’s time to have our dinner.  But, first, I will take you out on the terrace for a bit of fresh air.”

She followed him to the terrace.  He drew aside the drapes and opened the sliding doors, stepping out into the cool evening air.   The sun was setting and it cast a crimson glow on the Tower Bridge and the Thames.  It was a magnificent view. Then, she turned, intending to walk along the length of the terrace when she noticed the table.  She gaped.  It was covered with a tablecloth, set with fine dinner ware, two glasses and two candles.  Callum had gone to a lot of trouble.

Touched, she turned to him.  “Callum, I didn’t expect this at all,” she said.  “What a lovely surprise.”  She hugged him and when she drew back to gaze up at him, she felt his arms go around her waist and then he was kissing her.  She responded, her senses swimming and her arms wound themselves around his neck.

Several minutes passed before he raised his head to look down into her face.  “This dinner is my way of showing you how I feel about you.  You are the first woman I have ever invited to my flat or cooked dinner for.  You are the only woman I want in my life.  I love you, Renee.  I have loved you from that day in the library when I came over to you on the pretext of being interested in the book you were reading.  I had noticed you a couple of days before but never worked up the courage to approach you until that afternoon. All those times we spent together, talking about my love for books, I was trying to figure out how to tell you that I loved you.  Tonight, I wanted to show you.”

For a moment, she was too moved to say anything.  Then, she confessed, “I love you too, Callum.  I have loved you since the first time we met.  For the longest while I have been trying to figure out how I could continue being around you and not betray my feelings.”

“Tonight, we can enjoy being with each other the way we have always wanted to.” He lowered his head and they kissed.  “I’d better go and bring out the dinner,” he muttered, reluctantly letting her go.

“Let me help.”

He shook his head and walked over to the table and pulled out the chair facing the Tower Bridge.  “You sit here and enjoy the view,” he suggested.  “I’ll be right back.” When she sat down, he bent his head and kissed her on the nape of her neck before he walked away.

Renee sat there, digesting what had just happened.   The river Thames shimmered in the setting sun and as she gazed at it, she smiled, thinking how fortunate she was to be sitting here, about to have a candlelight dinner with the man she loved.  Yes, this something she had never imagined would happen but that was how life was sometimes–unpredictable.

 

Source:  Cooking Channel TV

One Day in the Park

It was a sunny day much like today when she and Michael first met.  She was sitting on a bench in the park close to where she lived and just enjoying the sunshine.  It was a long weekend.  No work the next day.   Usually on a Sunday afternoon she would be home doing laundry, sorting out her clothes for work and then watch the news as she had her dinner.  A rather mundane existence.  Her friends tried unsuccessfully to get her to go out on the weekends with them but she always had an excuse.  After a while they gave up.  And that suited her just fine.  She wasn’t one for going to bars or parties or walking aimlessly around shopping malls.  She was perfectly happy curled up on the cushy sofa with a good book.

That afternoon was an exception, though.  She had looked out of her living-room window and thought it was too beautiful a day to be cooped up inside.  So, she quickly changed, fixed her hair and face and went to the park.  She walked for a bit and then sat down on one of the benches facing the fountain.  She watched the families with their children pass by, pausing to take photos.   The park wasn’t crowded but there were a good many people milling around.

She saw a rather attractive man walking in her direction.  She didn’t want to stare at him so she looked over at the fountain, all the while aware of him.  It seemed like he was going to walk past when he stopped and came over to the bench.  He sat down next to her.

She could feel his eyes on her but she kept her head straight.  “It’s a great afternoon, isn’t it?” he said, startling her and she turned to look at him.  She wasn’t one for speaking to complete strangers but he seemed harmless.  And he had the most incredible blue eyes she had ever seen.

“Yes, it is.”

At first it was just a polite exchange and then the ice broke and the conversation became easier.  Pretty soon it was getting late and she had to leave.  They arranged to meet in the park again the following Sunday at the same spot.  This continued for a few weeks and then Michael asked her out for dinner.  More dinners followed, then the movies, then the theatre.  Pretty soon her weekends were busy.  She met Michael’s parents when he took her to dinner at their place.  And he met hers at one of their family barbecues.  Yes, she and Michael were officially dating.

“Hello Beautiful,” that soft but deep unmistakable voice brought her back to the present.  She got up, always beaming when she saw him and they hugged and kissed.

“I hope you haven’t been waiting long.  Had to run a couple of errands.”

She shook her head.  “No, I haven’t been waiting long,” she said.  She was just so happy to see him.  They didn’t see much of each other during the week because of busy schedules but they spoke on the phone for hours.  Weekends were their time together.

“Let’s go for a walk,” he suggested.

She was surprised.  Usually they would sit and chat for a while before they went for a walk.  She shrugged.  “All right.”

“First, I need to tie my shoe lace.”  He got down on his knee.  She stood there watching him as he fussed with a perfectly tied lace.  Then he fumbled in his pocket and her breath caught in her throat when she saw him take out a red box.  He opened it and held it out, his eyes now on her face.  “Lauren Spencer, will you marry me?”

She began to laugh and cry at the same time.  People were passing by and watching them, smiling.  “Yes, I will marry you, Michael Donovan.”

Michael slipped the ring on her finger and then got up.  “You have just made me a very happy man,” he said, cupping her wet face between his hands and kissing her.  She thought she heard applause but she soon blotted out the sounds around her as she basked in the knowledge that she was going to marry the man of her dreams.  And this was all as a result of that one day she went to the park.  She hadn’t gone looking for love but it found her.  Life was so wonderfully unpredictable.

 

young couple having a great Conversation

 

Stress

What is stress?  For some it is trying to prioritise the many projects they have undertaken and making decisions.  For others it is moving to another apartment; raising a family; going for a job interview; meeting their future in-laws.  Stress is knowing that the deadline for an article is fast approaching and you just can’t seem to find the time to sit down and write it.  Stress is having to wait another 15 minutes for a bus because the first driver did not stop even though he saw you dashing across the street, your arms flailing.

Then there is good stress like having a child; getting married or getting that promotion you always wanted.  These are stressful because they are big chances.  For each there are greater responsibilities and a lot of adjustments to make.

Stress can result from an overactive imagination.  Take Susan for example.  She invited her boyfriend for lunch for the first time.   She worried that she wouldn’t get home from church in time to prepare the meal.  She worried that he wouldn’t get a parking space.  She worried that he wouldn’t be able to eat chicken or turkey because she wasn’t sure if he was a vegetarian.  She worried that she would be so nervous that she would spill or break something.  Well, her boyfriend got a parking space as soon as he arrived.  Not only did he eat the chicken and the turkey but he had seconds.  Lunch went very well.  The only setback was that it was not long enough.  Susan had allowed herself to get stressed out because she imagined the worst.  Stress robs us of a peace of mind and rest.

Many of us have spent sleepless nights because of stress.  We lie awake worrying about that presentation we have to make to very important clients; a job interview or final exams.  A lot of times stress is self-induced.  We worry and fret unnecessarily and only succeed in giving ourselves high blood pressure. 

How do we cope with stress?  Taking time out is always a good idea and doing something else such as going for walks in the neighbourhood or in the park.  Around this time of year it is especially nice because of the changing colours of the leaves and the air is fresh.  Fresh air helps to clear the mind.  Exercise is another option.  Walk off the stress on the treadmill or pump it out of your system as you lift weights.  Read a book or flip through a magazine.  Pick up the phone and call a friend.  It helps to talk to someone.