A New Experience

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PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

My family and I drive past it every day on our way to drop our son to school. It’s a beautiful old building in a quiet neighborhood. I’ve often wondered what it looks like inside.

I recently learned that the word synagogue comes from the Greek word for gathering together. It can be a house of prayer, of learning or a meeting place.  It’s a place where people of shared faith feel at home.

I have a Jewish friend. I wonder if she wouldn’t mind me tagging along one Saturday. I want to experience what their worship service is like.

100 Words

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

Source:  BBC

Finding Her Own Way /Decisions #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

Ma was dead and gone.  There was no reason for Louisa to stay now.  She stooped down and laid the wildflowers she had picked at the foot of the cross which marked Ma’s grave.  Tears ran down her cheeks.  She was going to miss Ma.  After Da died, it was just the two of them, struggling to make ends meet.  Then, Ma got sick and after languishing for a week, she passed away.

Louisa had Ma buried here on the land she loved instead of a graveyard.  Ma wanted to be free, even in death.  Well, now she was.  She was at peace.

Wiping her eyes, Louisa stood.  Her pale blue eyes scanned the endless stretch of green land around her.  Yes, she had made up her mind weeks ago that she was going to leave this place she had called home since the day Da and Ma brought her home from the orphanage.  She was going to miss it.  It was a happy place, filled with love and laughter and the smell of fresh bread and Ma’s delicious Treacle Tarts.

It was hard to leave but she had to.  Beyond the horizon a new destiny awaited her.  She remembered Ma’s words.  “When I pass on, I want you to go and find your own way, Child.  I don’t want you to be stuck here.”

“Well, Ma,” she whispered.  “I’m going to do as you said.  I’m going to find my own way and make you and Da proud,  I promise.”

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

Puppy Love

“Adorable,” she said as she watched him with the three puppies.  He had brought them over from their next door neighbor.

“Who, me?”

“No, silly, the puppies.”

“Yes, they are.”

“As adorable as they are, we aren’t going to keep all three.”

He sighed.  “I was afraid you’d say that.  Okay, which one do you think we should keep?”

She got up from the sofa and went over to them.  She sat cross legged on the floor and looked at the little critters.  She picked up the black one with the white patch on its tiny nose.  She cuddled him against her.  “This one,” she said.

guy with puppies“Good choice.  Well, Patch, it looks like this is going to be your new home.”

“Patch?” she looked quizzically at her husband.

“Don’t you think it’s a fitting name?”

“It’s a bit corny but it will do.”

“I’ll take his brother and sister back over to Bill and Cheryl.  Are you sure you don’t want to keep them?  You know to keep Patch company?”

“I’m sure,” she insisted with a laugh.  “One puppy is more than enough.  While you take them back, I’ll fix up a place for this little guy.”

He sighed and got up.  “All right.  I’ll be back shortly.”

As she fixed up a basket with old blankets for Patch, she wondered what Erik would say if he knew that there was going to be another addition to the family.  She smiled.  Tomorrow, they would go shopping for a crib and think about turning the spare bedroom into a nursery.

The Cabin

Bethany lay there, thinking about Lysander and his winsome smile.  Groaning, she turned over in the bed, burying her face in the pillow.  She was mad at him yet, she missed him so much.  She knew that if she weren’t laid up here in bed, her body covered in hives, she would be driving up to the cabin to see him.  Why on earth did she have the chocolate dipped strawberries for dessert, knowing that she was allergic to them?  She blamed it on what happened between Lysander and her.   Depressed, she thought having what used to be her favorite comfort food would help her to feel better.  It didn’t.  She was still depressed.  Sighing heavily, she allowed her thoughts to drift back to that last visit to the cabin…

It was a mild winter day so she decided that she would drive up to the cabin.  She had a proclivity for showing up unannounced, especially after she had a row with her sister-in-law.  Her teeth gritted when she thought of Cicely.  Who was she to tell her that she shouldn’t go about throwing herself at Lysander, a man who was so much older than her?  She wished Cicely would stop telling her to date a guy at her university or trying to set her up with her friends’ sons.  She was old enough to know what she wanted and she wanted Lysander.

She had known him since she was a child but fell in love with him when she became a teenager.  He was her brother’s best friend and best man at his wedding.  Lysander was always very nice to her but he treated her like a little sister which frustrated her.  Sometimes she felt like they were Almonzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder from Little House on the Prairie before Almonzo noticed Laura.  Would the same thing happen for her?  Would there come a time when Lysander would see her as a woman instead of a little girl?

All of these thoughts were running through her mind as she made her way to the cabin which was about an hour’s drive from the city.  It was a cozy place in the woods and very peaceful.  It was no wonder that Lysander spent so much of his time there.  He was there every weekend and during the holidays.  When she visited they would go for long walks and then return to sit outside for hours, talking, having lunch or playing card games.  She was looking forward to seeing him and her foot pressed down a little harder on the accelerator.

Soon the cabin was in sight and her heart began to pound.  As she pulled up, she saw his jeep and the door on the driver-side was open.  He was either on his way out or had just arrived home.  She stopped the car a little distance away and turned off the engine.  After fixing her hair and checking her face in the mirror, she grabbed her handbag and got out of the car.  He was still sitting in his jeep so she walked over to him.  “Hello, Ly,” she called out, smiling.  Her smile soon faded, though, when she saw the expression on his face.  He wasn’t smiling at all.

“What are you doing here, Beth?” he asked.  She couldn’t tell if he was getting in or out of the vehicle when she showed up.  She hoped that it was the latter.

“I came to see you, of course,” she replied flippantly although she was wary.  She had hoped that he would be pleased to see her. They hadn’t seen each other in about two weeks.  He had been out of town on business and got back yesterday.  Didn’t he miss her?  She had missed him like crazy.  Her gaze slipped over him as he got out of the jeep.  He looked sexy in the tan colored jacket with the fur trimmed hood and collar and the leather pants.  How she longed to run over and throw her arms around him but his demeanor was not forthcoming and she doubted that he would welcome such a display of emotion.   “Aren’t you happy to see me?”

“You can’t keep dropping by unexpectedly like this,” he said.  “What if I had company?”

She stiffened.  “What do you mean?” she asked.  “Are you seeing someone?”  The thought of him seeing another woman was unbearable.

He sighed.  “Beth, you and I can’t continue seeing each other like this.”

“Why not?” she asked in a trembling voice.  This couldn’t be happening.

His eyes darkened as he gazed down into her face.  “My feelings for you have changed.”

She swallowed hard, her heart pounding.  “They have?”

“Yes.  I’m deeply attracted to you.” His gaze lowered to her lips and his parted.  Dragging his fingers through his hair, he said to her, “I think it would be best if you go now.”

Shaking her head, she reached up and held his face between her hands.  “Don’t send me away, Ly,” she pleaded huskily.  “Let me stay.  I want to be with you.”  Before he could say anything, she pulled his head down to hers and kissed him.  She moaned when she felt his response and his hands go around her waist, pressing her tightly against him.  They stood there in the crisp wintry air with the sun bathing them, exchanging passionate kisses.  She loved and wanted him so much it ached.

Lysander continued to kiss her and then he pulled away, his face flushed.  It took a moment for him to catch his breath.  “We can’t do this,” he muttered thickly.  “Please go.”

“But, I don’t want to go,” she protested, reaching for him again but he stepped back.  “I love you, Ly.  I love you so much.  Please let me stay.”

“No!” he cried, startling her.  “I’m too old for you.  You should be with someone your own age.”

“I wish you would stop using our age difference as an excuse,” she retorted.  “I’m twenty-four years old and you’re forty.  So, we have sixteen years between us, why is that such a big deal?”

“You should be with someone your own age,” he insisted.

“So, you are willing to throw away what you and I could have because of something as stupid as our age difference?” her voice was trembling now.  She was hurt and angry.

“I doing what I think is the only viable thing to do.  In time you will get over me.”

“Fine,” she cried.  “I will go away and leave you alone–” her sob rose to her throat before she could stifle it and she turned and ran back to her car, ignoring him as he called after her.  She yanked open the door and got in, slamming it behind her.  Her fingers shook as she put the key in the ignition and turned it.

The tears were falling now and almost blinded her.  She saw him coming towards the car and she quickly reversed and raced off down the gravel.  When she got back to the city, she went to a secluded spot where she broke down and cried.  Her heart ached for Lysander.  Her lips still felt tender from his kisses and she knew that if he were to call her on her cell then and asked her to go back, she would in a heartbeat.

That was three weeks ago.  She hadn’t seen nor heard from him since that awful day.  And now she was stuck in the house because of a bowl of strawberries.  The antihistamine she had taken seemed to be working because the headache was gone and the swelling was going away.  In a matter of hours or in a day or two she should be back to normal.  Until then, she didn’t want to see anyone.  She closed her eyes.  When she opened them again, it was morning.

She sat up and stretched.  It looked like another beautiful sunny day.  I wonder what Lysander is doing now.   Is he thinking about me?  Probably not.  She felt her eyes well with tears at the thought but she quickly blinked them back.  I’m not going to cry.  The hives on her body were fading, thank goodness.  She threw back the covers.  The hives on her body were fading, thank goodness.  She got out of bed.  After soaking in a warm, oatmeal bath, she got dressed in loose clothing and went downstairs to have breakfast.  Cicely was sitting at the kitchen table having hers.  “Good morning,” she greeted her sister-in-law.

“Good morning,” Cicely said, watching her as she helped herself to some scrambled eggs, toast and tea.  “How are you feeling?”

“Much better, thanks.  By tomorrow, the swelling and the hives will be completely gone.  Where’s Derek?”

“He had to take the car to the mechanic.  It has been giving trouble again.  I have been telling him to get rid of it and buy a new one”

“He loves that car.  He’s had it for years.  I can’t see him buying a new one any time soon.”

“Buying a new car would be better than wasting money on a beaten up old one but it’s his decision, I guess.  So, do you have any plans for today?”

Bethany shook her head.  “I don’t plan on going anywhere until my skin clears up.  I’ll just catch up on my reading and do some studying.”

There was a pregnant pause and then, “Lysander was here last night.”

Bethany stared at her.  “Ly was here?” she exclaimed.  “When?” It must have been when she was sleeping.

“Around eight-thirty.  He stopped by to see Derek but he asked for you.”

“What did you tell him?” she asked, her heart racing.  How she wished she had been awake when he came by.  She would have gotten out of bed, dressed and gone downstairs just to see him.

“I, um—told him that you weren’t at home—”

“Why did you tell him that?” she demanded.  “He must have seen my car parked in the driveway.”

“Well, I told him that you were on a date—”

Bethany glared at her.  “Why did you do that?” she demanded.  “Are you trying to ruin my life?  You know I love Lysander and that he’s the only man I want to be with.  Why did you make him believe that I was seeing someone?  Do you dislike me that much, Cicely?”

“I don’t dislike you, Bethany and I’m not out to ruin your life.  I still think that Lysander is too old for you but after seeing his reaction to what I said, I realize that your feelings for him are not one-sided.”

“What do you mean?” Bethany was on the edge of her chair now.

“I believe that Lysander is in love with you.  I saw the look on his face when I told him that you were on a date.  He looked hurt, devastated.  I felt bad for lying to him and wanted to tell him the truth but he said he had to go and to give his apologies to Derek and then he left.”

Bethany pushed back her chair and got up.  She had lost her appetite.

Cicely looked up at her.  “Where are you going?” she asked.

“Where do you think?” Bethany retorted, giving her a withering look.  “To see Lysander.”

“Do you think you should drive all that way now—so early in the morning?”

“When do you think I should go or do you even think I should go at all?”

“Well, I think it would be best for you to see him somewhere else rather than driving over to his place.  A girl your age shouldn’t be alone with a man as experienced as Lysander—”

“I’m not a girl and this isn’t the 1800s.  Now, you have interfered in my life for the last time, Cicely.  As soon as I graduate in the summer, I will find a job and move out.” She turned and marched out of the room, her expression thunderous.

In ten minutes, she was on her way to the cabin.  She had no idea of what kind of reception she would get but she had to see him and clear up the misunderstanding.  What he must think of her now, especially after her declaration of love.  How could she say she loved him and then go out on a date just three weeks later?

She gripped the steering wheel as fresh anger toward Cicely consumed her.  When Lysander asked for her, why couldn’t she have told him that she was not feeling well or come and let her know that he was there?  No, she decided to take it upon herself and tell him an outright lie.  Oh, Ly, she cried, tears stinging her eyes.  I hope Cicely is right and that you love me too.

When she got there, his jeep was parked outside. Relieved, she quickly parked her car and ran to the front door, letting herself in.  It was nice and toasty in the living-room.  She removed her coat and boots and then went over to the fire to warm her hands.  She looked around.  Why was Lysander?  It was so quiet.  Perhaps he was still sleeping or maybe he was outside getting more wood for the fireplace.

She went to the window and looked out.  There was no sign of him.  It was such a beautiful sunny day, albeit a bit nippy.  Perhaps he went for a walk.  Then, she heard a sound in the bedroom and she hurried to investigate.  The door was ajar and she opened it wide enough to go in.  Her breath caught in her throat when she saw Lysander.

He was standing in front of the bureau.  His broad, bare back was toward her and she allowed her gaze to travel slowly over his muscular frame clad only in a pair of jeans.  He had taken a sweater out of the drawer and was about to pull it on.  She watched him, her heart pounding wildly.  How she longed to go up behind him and put her arms around him while she buried her face in his smooth skin…

He turned around and started when he saw her standing there, gawking at him.  Dragging on the sweater, he demanded, “What on earth are you doing here?”

“I—I came to see you.”

He pulled the sweater down, covering his torso as he watched her, his expression inscrutable.  “When did you get here?  I didn’t hear your car.”

“I came about ten minutes ago.  You were probably in the shower when I arrived.”  His hair was glistening damply in the light coming through the windows.  Her fingers itched to run themselves through the silky strands.  “It has been three weeks since we last saw each other, Ly.  How have you been?”

“I’m fine,” he said curtly.  “I don’t have to ask you how you’ve been.”

Her eyes widened.  “What do you mean?”

“You’ve been dating.  You don’t waste any time, do you?” His face was glowering now.

“That’s not true,” she protested, crossing the carpet to stand a few feet away from him.  “I’m not dating.”

“When I stopped by last night, Cicely told me that you were out on a date.”

“She lied to you, Ly.  I was upstairs in my room sleeping when you stopped by.  I came down with hives because I ate too many strawberries.  If you don’t believe me, I will show you the rashes on my arms.  They are going away but you can still see them.  I haven’t been anywhere since I got them a couple of days ago.”

“Why would she lie to me?”

“She lied to you because she thinks that I should be with someone my own age.”

“Perhaps she’s right—”

“No, she isn’t.  I don’t want to be with anyone else, Ly.  I love you and I want to be with you.  If you don’t feel the same way about me, tell me now and–and I will go away.”  She moved closer and her mouth went dry when she saw the expression on his face.

He reached for her and pulled her roughly against him.  “I can’t let you go,” he told her thickly.  “I love you, Beth.  That’s why I came to see you last night.  I wanted to tell you that I was sorry about the way I acted that day at the cabin.  As soon as you drove away, I was afraid that I was making a terrible mistake.  I wanted to come after you but I decided that it was probably the best thing for us not to see each other for a while until I could really think things through.  During the time when we didn’t see each other, I nearly went out of my mind thinking about you and missing you.  Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and that’s why I decided to come to you.  When Cicely told me that you were on a date, I was blindsided.  It was the last thing I expected to hear, especially after you told me that you loved me.  I realized then that in spite of what I said to you, the last thing I wanted was for you to be with someone else.”

She put her arms around his neck and pressed against him, loving the feel of his firm body against hers.  “The important thing is that we’re together now,” she told him huskily before she pulled his head down to hers.  They exchanged hungry kisses and then, he picked her up and carried her over to the bed.

The following week, they got engaged and in the summer after she graduated from university, they got married in a small, intimate wedding ceremony.  Derek was the best man.  After they returned from their honeymoon in Nice, Lysander sold his flat in London and they moved into the cabin.

 

The Announcement

Ingrid wished she hadn’t come here tonight.  She felt so out of place.  The black lace off the shoulder dress looked great on her but she felt too exposed in it and chided herself for not wearing a shawl to cover her back and shoulders.  People were milling around, talking and laughing.  She stood in a corner watching them, purse clutched in one hand and a glass of mock-tail held in the other.

Why did Amanda invite her to this shindig?  The two of them didn’t get along because Amanda was condescending and made it painfully obvious that didn’t like her.  She had no idea what she had done to make the older woman so hostile toward her.  This is why she was shocked when she received an invitation in the mail two weeks ago.   She knew that Seth was the only reason why she was there.  Seth was Amanda’s younger brother.  Unbeknownst to Amanda, Ingrid and he were seeing each other.

They started seeing each other the day after they met.  They met at the company’s picnic and were immediately attracted to each other.  He was alone and so was she.  He was leaning against the wall, watching her before he walked over to where she stood and introduced himself.   They got to talking and then they arranged to have dinner the following evening.  Dinner was at a popular French restaurant where they enjoyed a delectable meal before heading to a nightclub.  It was a wonderful evening and the first of many dates.  Last night when he was at her place, she meant to tell him that she would be here tonight but she never got around to it.

Since she arrived at the party, not once did Amanda go over and talk to her.  She was going about the room, chatting with the other guests but she seemed to ignore her.  On one occasion she walked right past her to say greet a couple standing nearby.  It was humiliating.  I don’t need this, Ingrid decided after standing there alone for half-hour.  She put her glass down on the window seat.  I’m going home.  I’m sure no one will even notice that I’m gone.  I was really hoping to see Seth tonight but he can come over to my place later.

Just as she was heading for the door, she heard Amanda call for everyone’s attention.  After asking people to gather closer she said she had an announcement to make.  Curious, Ingrid stood still to hear what she had to say.  Amanda invited Seth to join her.  Ingrid stared at Seth.  When did he get here?  She hadn’t noticed him until now.

Amanda looked very pleased.  “I’m very pleased to announce my baby brother’s engagement to…Brooke–where are you?  Come up here and join us.”

Ingrid felt sick.  She didn’t wait to see who this Brooke was.  She stumbled to the door and found her way to the bathroom where she dissolved into tears.  The door to bathroom opened and she tried to compose herself.  She felt two hands on her shoulders turning her around.  It was Seth and his face was pale.  “You can’t be in here,” she protested.  She tried to pull away but his grip was firm.  “Please let me go.”

“Let’s go somewhere quiet where we can talk.”  He took her hand and led her out of the bathroom.  Curious eyes followed them as they left the building and went to his car.   When they were seated in the car, he gave her his handkerchief which she used to wipe her eyes.  “I didn’t know that you were going to be here,” he said.

“I meant to tell you last night but I forgot.”  The pain was unbearable and she wanted to get as far away from him as possible.  It hurt too much to be with him knowing…”Why didn’t you tell me about Brooke?” she demanded tearfully.

“Brooke and I used to date but we broke up long before you and I met.”

“Why did Amanda announce that you are engaged to your ex?”

“That was for your benefit.”

She was confused.  “What do you mean?”

“Amanda knows about us.  A friend of hers saw us together and reported back to her.  When Amanda confronted me about it I admitted that we are in a relationship.  She was livid and tried to convince me that Brooke was better for me but I made it very clear to her that I loved you.  I told her that I was going to ask you to marry me.  She stormed out of my flat and I thought that was the end of it.  Then, she pulls this stunt, making everyone believe that Brooke and I are engaged.  I should have known she was up to something when she said she had an announcement to make and invited me to join her.  I saw her looking across the room at you and the smug smile on her face.  When I saw you leave the room, I had to follow you and undo the damage she did.”  His eyes darkened on her face and he reached out and held her hands in his.  “I’m sorry about what Amanda did.  I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you if you’ll have me.”

Tears welled in her eyes and she put her arms around his neck.  “Of course, I’ll have you,” she said huskily.  “I love you too.”

He reached into his pocket and took out a box.  “I was going to propose later when I came by your place but now is a good time, I think.  Will you marry me, Ingrid?”

“Yes,” she cried and she drawing back as he took the ring out of the box and placed it on her finger.  The sun hadn’t set as yet so she could see the ring and how exquisitely beautiful it was.  Then, it became a blur.

Seth reached out and cupped her face between his hands.  “I love you so much,” he murmured before he lowered his head and kissed her.

She put her arms around his waist and returned his kisses, her heart bursting with joy.  Just a few moments ago, her world was torn apart by an announcement.

The Inheritance

He stood there, leaning against the tree, hands in pockets, watching her with his younger brother.  They were walking in the garden having what appeared to be a very deep conversation.  Try as he did, he couldn’t deny that it bothered him to see them together.  It wasn’t because he shared his mother’s theory that Rhonda was only interested in his brother for his money.  Granted, William would be left a sizable inheritance when their mother died but that wasn’t what troubled him as he observed them.  It was what he planned to do that concerned him.

He wanted to prove that his mother was wrong about Rhonda and the only way he could think of doing that was to spend more time with her.  While William and the rest of the family were away on the annual winter vacation in the Grand Cayman, he would remain here.

You know that proving your mother wrong isn’t the only reason why you want to get close to Rhonda.  You are in love with her and that’s why it bothers you to see her with William.  He closed his eyes as the truth he had tried to suppress rose to the surface, unrelenting.  He remembered exactly the moment when he realized that he was in love with her.  It was last year Autumn when she had wandered into the library by mistake when she was looking for the drawing-room.  He was sitting in the armchair, reading a book when she walked in.

She looked surprised but very pleased to see him.  Or maybe it was wishful thinking on his part.  He must have appeared rather calm to her but his heart was pounding.  She had that effect on him.  His eyes were riveted to her face.  Such a lovely face.  She laughed, apologetically.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you.  I was looking for the drawing-room.  This is only my second time here so I still have trouble finding my way around.”

“When you leave here, turn left and the drawing-room is two doors down the hall on your right.”  He hoped she would stay for a while.

She lingered.  “What are you reading?” she asked.  He showed her the cover and she read the title out loud, “The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush.”  A curious expression came over her face.  He could tell that it wasn’t what she expected him to be reading.

“It’s for my students,” he explained.  “A fellow teacher recommended it.  So, I’m reading it first to get ideas and then I will get copies for my students.  This book will help them to learn, accept and appreciate other cultures and differences in others.  It will also help them with their language and writing skills.”

She smiled.  “Oh yes, you teach Primary School.  How do you like it?”

“It’s very rewarding.  Sometimes, I learn from them.”

“My sister is a teacher too and she loves it.  How long have you been teaching?”

“For twelve years.  It’s not the lucrative job my mother was hoping that I would have.  She would have preferred that I were an airline pilot or a medical practitioner or a lawyer or even a broker.”

“Then, I guess she’s happy that William is a barrister.”  She was a court clerk and that was how they came to know each other.

“Yes, she is.” She is happy about his career choice but not about his relationship with you.  He could still see the expression of disapproval on his mother’s face whenever she thought of William with Rhonda.  She insisted that she had nothing against the young woman but she really was not suitable for William who would be far better off with a young lady came from a similar background as his.

He knew how his brother felt about her but he wasn’t sure how she felt about him.  A part of him hoped that she reciprocated William’s feelings and another part of him hoped that…He didn’t finish the thought as guilt filled him.  Instead, he closed the book and set it aside.  He got up from the armchair and walked over to the window where he stood looking out at countryside beyond the garden.  It was a warm, dry sunny day.  Perfect for a walk.

Rhonda joined him at the window.  She was wearing a light brown plaid jacket over a green turtleneck, brown corduroys and brown boots.  Her thick, short brown hair framed her face.  She looked amazing.  He tried not to stare but he couldn’t help it.  She was by far the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and it was at that moment he knew that he was in love.

She turned her head and their eyes met.  They stood there staring at each other for a long time and then, William walked into the room.  He looked from one to the other before inquiring of her, “Are you ready for that walk?”

She nodded and before moving away from the window, she glanced up at him again.  He saw something flicker in her eyes as she said quietly, “It was good seeing you again, Ambrose.”

He swallowed.  “It was going seeing you again too.”  I hope I see you again soon.

She moved away from the window and walked over to William who inclined his head at him before they left the room.  He had stood there for several minutes, watching the door and thinking how empty the room felt without her.

“Ambrose.”  The sound of his name brought him back to the present.  His eyes flew open and he straightened away from the tree when he found himself staring into William’s face.  Rhonda was standing beside him, looking concerned.  “You look like you were out of it for a moment there.  Are you all right?”

Ambrose ran his fingers through his hair.  “I’m fine,” he assured him.  “I think I’ll head back inside now.  It’s getting colder.”

“I need to talk to you when I come back from taking Rhonda home.”

“I’ll be in the library.”  He looked at Rhonda.  “Hello.”

“Hello.  I don’t have trouble finding my way around the house anymore,” she told him.  She was visiting more frequently, much to his mother’s chagrin.  Fortunately, the lady of the house wasn’t home today.

He smiled.  “You’re always welcome to come to the library even if you don’t get lost.”

She smiled in return and then she was quickly following William across the lawn. It seemed like he was always watching her walk away from him, leaving him forlorn and aching for her.  Sighing heavily, he walked slowly back to the house and when he reached the library, he sank down in the armchair.  He sat there until William joined him some time later.

After closing the door and approaching Ambrose, William got straight to the point.  “While I’m away, I’d like you to take care of Rhonda.  I don’t want her spending the Christmas holidays alone.  And as far as I know, you don’t have any plans, so the two of you can be company for each other until I come back.  What do you say?”

Ambrose stared at his brother.  He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  This was precisely what he had thought of doing—getting closer to Rhonda and here the opportunity was being offered to him.  How uncanny this was.  “I don’t mind doing you this favor but what about Rhonda?”

“I spoke to her about it and she was up for it.  She’s very fond of you.”

Ambrose turned away so that William wouldn’t see the expression on his face.  I want her to love me the way I love her, he thought and then chided himself for wanting something he shouldn’t.  “As long as she agrees to this, then, I have no objections.

“Thanks, brother,” William said, sounding very appreciative.

They talked about other matters and then he excused himself to go and start packing for the trip.  They were leaving that evening.  The house was going to be awfully quiet after they were gone but then, Rhonda was going to be there.  Ambrose’s heart skipped a beat when he thought of spending time alone with her.  He planned to invite her over to the manor for lunch tomorrow and after lunch he could take her for a drive to Cotswold which looked very picturesque in the winter.  His mind was swarming with ideas of how they were going to spend the Christmas holidays together.  He tried not to think about how hard it would be for him once William returned from vacation and things returned to normal.  Later that evening, after dinner, he called her and invited her to have lunch with him the next day.  She readily accepted and they spent over an hour on the phone talking.

The following day, she came and they had lunch before they headed off to Cotswold where they spent the afternoon.  The snow covered village reminded her of a postcard.  It was very quaint.  She loved it.  They visited the German Christmas Market where she ended up buying hand painted Christmas decorations.   When they returned to the house, they put up the Christmas tree and she put the decorations she bought on it.  They had dinner and sat in front of the fireplace, talking and making plans for the rest of the week.  It was after ten when he finally took her home.

One morning, they went to the Christmas festival where they enjoyed street entertainment, carolers, tasty food, cakes and other festivities.  She picked up gifts and when they returned to the manor in the evening, she went into the library where she wrapped them while he went to the kitchen to see about dinner.  When she was finished, she placed the gifts under the tree.   After they ate, they went to the library where they planned to spend the rest of the evening until it was time for him to take her home.

“I had a wonderful time today,” she told him.  “Cotswold is such a wonderful place.  The people are warm and friendly and there’s so much to do and see.  It’s my second favorite place.”

He smiled.  “What’s your first?”

“This library,” she said.  It’s my favorite place because of you.  “I could spend hours in here, reading.  Have you read most of the books on the shelves?”

He nodded.  “Yes, most of them.”

She got up from the chair and walked over to one of the shelves, her eyes scanning the scores of massive volumes and worn leather-bound books.  “I was wondering if I could borrow that book I saw you reading—the one you said you would use for your class.”

“The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush.  Sure, I’ll find it for you.”  He got up and went over to the bookcase.  “I believe it’s on this shelf.”

“I think I see it.” They reached for the book at the same time and their hands touched.

Mesmerized, she watched as his hand moved so that his fingers closed around hers.  She trembled as he pressed his lips against her palm.  They felt so warm.  She longed to feel them on her lips.  As if he read her mind, he released her hand to cup her face between his hands and his mouth was on hers.  He was ravenous, all the pent up emotions he had kept bottled up inside came gushing out and when he felt her feverish response, he lost his head.  She reached under his sweater and tugged his shirt out of his pants.  Her hands were on his bare skin, her nails digging into it as she kissed him back wildly.  It was then, that he pulled away, breathing harshly, his face flushed and his eyes dark with the emotions churning inside him.

When she would have reached for him, he groaned and moved away, tucking his shirt back in his trousers.  “We can’t do this,” he muttered thickly although his senses were screaming at him to continue.

She looked at him, bewildered.  “Why not?” She asked.  She ached to be in his arms again, kissing him.

“We can’t because of William.”

She stared at him.  “William?”

“Yes, you’re his girlfriend—”

“I’m not William’s girlfriend,” she told him.  “He and I are just very good friends.”

He pushed his fingers through his hair as he tried to digest what she was saying to him.  “You’re telling me that you and William are not in a relationship?”

She shook her head.  “No.  So, your mother has nothing to worry about—at least, not where William is concerned.”  She moved closer to him.  “I wonder what she’s going to do when she finds out that it’s her older son that I have my eyes on.  Is she going to think that I’m after you for your money too?  Yes, I know what she thinks about me,” she added when she saw the expression on his face.  “William told me.”

“I was going to get close to you just to prove that she’s wrong about you and then William asked me to take care of you while he was gone…”

“William knows how I feel about you, that’s why he arranged things so that we are spending so much time together.”

He moved closer to her.  “How do you feel about me, Rhonda?” he asked.  He knew she was attracted to him but he wanted more—much more.

“I’m in love with you,” she said huskily, reaching up and touching his face, trembling as he turned his head and pressed his lips against her palm.

He pulled her into his arms, his expression darkening.  “I’m love with you too.”

She put her arms around his neck and pressed against him.  “So, you don’t mind being with a woman of meager means?” she asked.

He shook his head, “Having your love is more valuable to me than having all the money in the world.  If my mother decides to disinherit me, then you and I will live a simple but extremely happy life together on our meager salaries.”

“Yes.  Money is not the most important thing in the world. Love is” she murmured before she reached up and kissed him.

Slide1

Source:  Peabody Elementary; Career Addict; Quote Fancy

The Studio

“You don’t have to be a genius to see that this relationship will not last,” commented Marie as she and Caitlin sat in the corner of a trendy restaurant in the fashionable district of Chelsea.  It was celebratory dinner party for the opening of Ava’s boutique in the area.  She had invited Marie, her sister-in-law who had in turn invited Rachel.  They were sitting having non-alcoholic drinks after a delicious dinner while the others were on the dance floor.

Marie’s remark was directed at Ava and her boyfriend, Reid, a businessman/artist.  They had been dating for less than a year now.  They were dancing but he seemed a bit uncomfortable.   Clearly, he didn’t like the public display of affection but Ava didn’t seem to care.  This was her way of letting the other women know that he was not available.

As Rachel watched them, she couldn’t deny that they made a very attractive couple.  Ava had thick dark brown hair that tumbled down in unruly waves down her tanned back.  She looked absolutely stunning in the strapless fuchsia dress.  Several male eyes were on her but she only had eyes for Reid.  Rachel’s gaze shifted to Reid.  He was tall and very attractive.  He looked amazing in the navy blue striped suit, navy blue shirt and matching tie.  His thick dark brown hair was neatly combed as usual.

She remembered the first time she met Reid.  It was at a mutual friend’s place.  It was early autumn and as she came out of the cottage to go for a walk in the gardens, she noticed him standing among stalks of wheat which seemed rather out of place to her.  She expected the grounds to be covered in green grass and surrounded by trees with changing colors.  He was wearing a blue sweater over a checkered shirt and dark blue trousers.  He didn’t notice her at first as she stood there just staring at him and thinking that he was drop dead gorgeous.  Then, he turned his head slightly to the right and their eyes met.

Shortly after, he went over to her, his eyes never leaving her face.  She was wearing a black and white striped shirt and black pants.  She hoped her hair looked fine.  He held out his hand.  “Hello, I’m Reid,” he said.

She smiled as he clasped her hand.  “Rachel.”  After he released her hand, she folded her arms.  She saw the way his eyes slipped over her before they settled on her face again.

“Do you have a jacket?” he asked.  “It’s a bit cool today.”

“It’s inside with my handbag,” she said. “I came out to go for a walk and forgot how cool it was.  I’ll go quickly and get it.”  She went back to the house and when she went back, he was standing where she had left him.

“Do you mind if I join you?” he asked.

She shook her head, smiling.  “I would like the company,” she said.

“Did you come alone?”

“Yes,” she turned to look at him as they headed for the gardens.  “Did you?”

“I came with Ava.”

“Ava Parker?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know her?”

“Not very well.  She’s my friend Marie’s sister-in-law.”

“Yes, I have met Marie.  A very pleasant woman.”

As they walked he asked her questions about herself.  She learned that he met Ava at a gallery where his artwork was on display.  She suddenly stopped and stared at him.  “Are you Reid Faulkner?” She asked.

He nodded with a smile.

“I’ve seen some of your paintings and they are amazing.  They are so real.  My favorite so far is of the homeless young girl.  You did it in black and white.  It was beautiful and haunting at the same time.  It’s now hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in London.”

“I like to paint about current issues,” he said.  “I’m more into realism than the other forms of art like impressionism and romanticism.”

“You captured the sadness in her eyes, the dirty fingernails and the hopelessness of her situation.  Whatever became of her?”

“She’s in a homeless shelter for the youth now.  When she learned that her portrait was in the gallery, she was over the moon.”

“That’s great.  How do you do it—your painting, I mean?”

“I sketch and then, I paint.  I don’t have to have the person pose for me.”

They continued walking and then they decided to head back to the cottage.  When they got there, Ava was waiting in front and as soon as she saw them, she hurried over to Reid.  “There you are,” she exclaimed, slipping her arm in his.  “I was wondering where you had gone off to.  Oh, hello, Rachel,” she said, her green eyes shifting to her and pursing her lips.  The displeasure on her face was unmistakable.  She tugged gently on Reid’s arm.  “There’s someone I’d like you to meet.  Excuse us, Rachel.”

Reid barely got to give Rachel a backward glance before he was whisked away.  They hadn’t had a moment alone after that.  Ava saw to that.  However, she couldn’t prevent them from looking at each other every opportunity they got and on her way home, Rachel couldn’t stop thinking about Reid and how much she wanted to see him again.  And couple months later, here they were in a Chelsea restaurant.

She turned now to Marie who was looking at her.  “You were somewhere else for a bit,” she said.

“I was just remembering something,” she said evasively.  “Why don’t you think their relationship will last?”

“She’s too clingy and men don’t like that.  They don’t like to be smothered.  Besides, I don’t think he’s as into her as she’s into him.  It’s all in the body language, my dear.  Look at him.  The dance is over and he looks relieved.  Why don’t we invite them to join us?”  She waved at the couple as they parted and were heading back to their table.

Rachel’s eyes went immediately to Reid and her heart began to beat fast.  She smoothed her hair down and rubbed the palms of her hands on the skirt of her blue elastic waist dress.  Reid’s gaze went first to Marie and then to Rachel where they remained.  Ava noticed and said, “Why don’t we go over to the bar and sit there or outside on the terrace where it’s a lot cooler?”

At that moment, Marie got up from her seat and said to Ava, “Why don’t we go and freshen up?” and she grabbed her arm and escorted her away before she could object.

Alone, Reid sat down beside Rachel.  “It’s good to see you again,” he said quietly.  “I was hoping that we would meet again.  How have you been?”

She smiled and tried to act calm although she was nervous.  He was staring at her, his expression was intense.  “It’s good to see you again, too,” she admitted, sounding a bit breathless.  “I’m happy to see you and I’ve been doing well.”

“Are you busy tomorrow afternoon?” he asked.

“No.”

“I’d like you to come over to my studio,” he said.  He took out his wallet and removed a business card.  He scribbled something at the back of it and handed it to her.  As she read the name and address of the studio, he added, “I’d like to paint you.”

She glanced up in surprise.  “Paint me?” she exclaimed.  “But why would you want to paint me?”

“You’re beautiful,” he said simply.  “I want to capture that beauty.”

“I’m not sure,” she said, suddenly feeling very self-conscious.  “I’ve never had such a proposition before.” He thinks I’m beautiful.

“Think about it.  I will look out for you tomorrow.  If I don’t see you, I’ll know that you decided not to do it and although, I will be disappointed, I will understand.”

“Thank you,” she said and she put the card in her handbag.  She didn’t feel pressured now.

“If you like, you can still come to my studio just to see my work.”

“I’d like that,” she said.

He smiled and just then, Ava and Marie joined them.  Ava’s eyes flashed at Rachel.

Marie said to Rachel, “I think we should leave now,” she said.  “It’s getting late and I have a busy day tomorrow with the hubby and kids.  Ava, congratulations on your new business venture.  I’ve no doubt that it will be a great success.  Reid, as always it is a pleasure to see you.”

Rachel got up and came round the table so that she was standing next to Reid.  She could feel his eyes on her.  She said goodnight first to Ava whose expression was hostile and then she turned to Reid, holding out her hand.  He took it and her pulse raced when she felt him squeeze it gently.  Their eyes held for a brief moment and then she turned and walked away.

On their way to her car, Marie remarked, “There’s something going on between Reid and you.  I sensed it and I know Ava did too, that’s why she didn’t want to leave the two of you alone.  So, what did he say to you?”

“He invited me to go to his studio tomorrow.  He wants to paint me.”

“Wow, that’s a great compliment.  I wish I had an artist ask to paint me.  Well, are you going to do it or not?”

“I’m not sure…”

“I think you should do it.  It might be fun and besides, it gives the two of you a chance to be alone.”

“But, what about Ava?”

“Ava’s history.  I won’t be surprised if he breaks up with her tonight.”

“I don’t want to be the cause for their breakup.”

“It would have happened even if you weren’t in the picture.  Don’t feel bad about it.  Ava’s not the right woman for Reid.  And that’s a fact that’s clear to everyone, except her, unfortunately.”

Rachel sighed.  “She already doesn’t like me and now I’m giving her a good reason to hate me.”

“Don’t worry about Ava,” Marie advised her.  “She’ll get over Reid in time.”

Rachel thought about it as she lay in bed that night and by morning, she had decided that she would go to the studio.  It was on a quiet street and located on the second floor of a warehouse.  The door was open and she went in.  There was an easel with a blank sheet of paper on it.  Framed paintings stacked against the walls.  Bright light effused the spacious room.  She could smell the paints and she smiled as she looked around.  It was such a treat being in an artist’s studio and seeing his work.  There were a couple of floor lamps, chairs, a stool and a table with the paints.

As she was studying and admiring the paintings on the wall adjacent to the windows, Reid came in.  He smiled when he saw her.  “Hello,” he said.  “I’m glad you came.  I hope you didn’t have any trouble finding the place.”

She turned toward him, thinking how sexy he looked in the black shirt and blue jeans.  “No, I didn’t have any trouble finding it.  It’s a really nice with lots of natural light.  I was just admiring your work.  Some of them, I recognized.  Has Ava ever been here?”

“Once.  Would you like something to drink?”

She shook her head.  “Not right now, thanks.”

“So, what have you decided?”

“I’ve decided to let you paint me.”

He grinned, rubbing his hands together.  “Splendid.  Now, all you have to do is sit on the stool over there and try not to move.  You can set your handbag and jacket on the chair over there.  Thanks for agreeing to do this, Rachel.”

She did as he instructed and climbed up on the stool.  As she sat down, she was glad that she had worn jeans instead of the long black skirt with the side slit.  She watched as he mixed the paints and then stood behind the easel and got to work.  After two hours of not moving, she was relieved when he set his brush down and stepped from behind the easel.

“We’re done for today,” he said.

She slid down from the stool and stretched.  “How long will it take to complete?” she asked.

“Two weeks.  You don’t have to sit every time because I know you’re busy.  I have a sketch that I can work from.”

“I can come in the evenings after work,” she offered.

“That would be great.  Are you hungry?”

She nodded.

“There’s a bistro around the corner where we can have something to eat or we can order take out delivery and eat here.  Which would you prefer?”

“Take out.”

They had Thai food delivered to them and they sat cross legged on the floor, eating and talking.  It was dark outside by the time they left the studio.  Before they parted, they arranged to meet again at the studio the following day.  For two weeks, she went to the studio and sat for two hours as he painted her.  Finally, the day came when she would see the finished painting.  Excited, she let herself into the studio and closed the door.

She went over to the chair to put her jacket on it when Reid came into the room.  She turned and her breath caught in her throat when she saw that he was not wearing a shirt.  It was in his hand.  He stopped short when he saw her.  “You’re early,” he commented as he pulled it on but didn’t button it.  He went over to where she stood.  Flustered, she turned away.

She felt his hands on her shoulders turning her around to face him.  Their eyes met and what she saw in his made her mouth go dry.  Desire shone in their depths.  “Rachel,” he muttered huskily.  “You must know by now how I feel about you.”

The feelings churning inside her were on her face.  “What about Ava?” she asked, trying not to look at his chest.

“I ended my relationship with her that night at the restaurant.  She blamed you.  She saw the attraction between us.  I told her that I would have ended our relationship even if you and I had not met.  I told her that we were not right for each other.  I felt badly about it but I couldn’t continue pretending that everything was fine when it wasn’t.”

“I feel sorry for her but, I can’t say that I’m sorry that you’re available now…”

“Oh, Rachel…” he moaned before he lowered his head and kissed her.  She kissed him back, her arms going around his neck as she pressed against him.  The sunlight flooded the room, bathing them in its warmth as they exchanged passionate kisses.  “I love you,” he murmured against her lips.

“I love you too,” she whispered.  She had loved him that day when she saw him standing there among the wheat, looking like he just had stepped out of the pages of GQ.

Several hours later, he unveiled the painting and her mouth dropped open when she saw.  Moved to tears, she said, “It’s beautiful.”

His eyes were tender as he looked at her.  “That’s how I see you,” he said quietly. “You’re beautiful within and without.  This painting is going to be for my private viewing.  It’s not going to be placed in any gallery.”

“Good,” she said, putting her arms around his waist.  “I don’t relish the idea of hanging in public for everyone to gawk at me.  Both the painting and I are for your eyes only.” And with that, she reached up and kissed him.

Sources:  End Youth HomelessnessReitman’s; Social Lifestyle Magazine; Albert’s Club