Emily/Snowfall #writephoto

chatsworth-snow-11

Photo by Sue Vincent

It was snowing.  It was the first snowfall on the season.  Emily raised her head and closed her eyes.  The flakes dropped like soft petals on to her face.  She smiled.  It was early in the morning.  In a couple of hours, classes would begin.  This was where she came every morning.  This was where they met.  She glanced at her watch.  He would be there in ten minutes.  Her heart skipped a beat at the thought.

While her family was still sleeping, she had slipped out of her room and come here.  The sneaking around, the clandestine meetings were so exciting.  She wondered what they would say if they only knew that she and Mr. Andrews, the headmaster were romantically involved with each other.  It began shortly after the new school year began.  She had transferred from another school.  Her mother wanted her to attend the same ivy league school she herself had been privileged to attend.

At first Emily was resentful and resistant because she was leaving all of her friends behind in London but when she met Mr. Andrews her outlook immediately changed.  He was a very agreeable, charming and attractive older man.  He looked to be in his late thirties, early forties.  He reminded her of the men she read about in Mills & Boon.  It wasn’t long before she started daydreaming about him.  And then, what a thrill it was to find out that her attraction for him was reciprocated.

She wondered what Mommy dearest would say if she only knew about Mr. Andrews.  A smile tugged at her mouth.  She would probably have one of her fits.  Mommy was such a drama queen, always overreacting to things and blowing things way out of proportion like the time when she found her and Edward in her room.  They hadn’t been up to any mischief.  Edward had kissed and she hadn’t resisted because she was curious to see what it was like to kiss and be kissed.

Of course, no amount of protestations and explanations could appease her enraged mother who threw Edward out of the house and warned him never to set foot there again.  And Emily was grounded for a month.  She was not allowed to go anywhere after school or on the weekends.  It was like being a prisoner on death row.  Her dislike and resentment for her mother increased.  They had never cared for each other.  Emily adored her father who indulged her while her mother favored her brother, William.

Her reverie was interrupted when she spotted Mr. Andrews heading towards her.  Heart racing, she waited anxiously for him to reach her.  When he did, they embraced and then they were kissing passionately.  When he drew back to gaze down into her flushed face, she said, “I’m late.”

He shook his head.  “No, you’re not.  School doesn’t start for another hour or so.  We have more than enough time.”

“No, I meant that my period is late.”

His expression changed at once.  “Do you think–?”

“I don’t know.  It’s possible that I could be or it could be nothing.”

“I hope and pray that you aren’t.”

“Would it be such a terrible thing if I were?”

“It wouldn’t be a good thing at all, Emily.”

“We could get married and–”

He released her then, his face darkening.  “No, we can’t,” he informed her tersely, startling her.

“Why not?” she asked, bewildered.

He shoved his fingers through his hair.  “Emily, I don’t know quite how to say this.  I can’t marry you because I’m engaged.”

The color drained from her face.  “Engaged?” she almost choked on the word.  “You’re engaged?”

“Yes.”

She fumbled for the tree and leaned heavily against it.  Her heart was aching now.  “To whom?”

“Julia Farnsworth.”

“When-when are you getting married?”

“In June.”

“When–when were you going to tell me?”

“I’ve wanted to tell you but couldn’t bring myself to do it.”

“So, you were going to continue sleeping with me although you’re engaged to someone else.”

“Emily–” he tried to touch her but she pushed his hands away, the tears almost blinding her.

“I can’t believe that I was such a fool.  I thought you loved me.”

“I care very deeply for you.”

“I hate you!  And I hope that I’m not pregnant with your child.  I want nothing whatsoever to do with you any more.”  She stumbled away from the tree and ran as fast as she could across the snow covered ground.

Weeks later, her period arrived.  She requested to be transferred to another school which her father took care of, in spite of her mother’s vehement objections.  Emily’s father knew the reason behind the transfer.  He wanted to report Mr. Andrews but Emily asked him not to.  She never saw Mr. Andrews again.  She read about his nuptials online.  She didn’t hate him any more.  Besides, she had moved on. She was now dating a very nice boy whom she met at her new school.

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

Taking a Chance

Valerie and her younger sister, Chloe were at the café having lunch.  “I think moving to Berlin would be good for you,” she said.  “It’s a great opportunity for you to broaden your horizons.  I chose to study here in London because I wanted to be close to home but if I were to do it all over again, I would have opted to study in Berlin and then move back here after graduation.  It’s cheaper to study in Germany than here and the scholarship you applied for and got allows you to study there for free.  What more could you ask for?”

Chloe sighed.  “I’m excited to go but scared at the same time,” she confessed.  “I’ve never been away from home before and I don’t know what it would be like living on campus in a strange city.  Maybe I’ll get homesick and want to come back at the end of the first semester.”

“Or maybe you’ll love it there and we won’t see you except during the summer and Christmas holidays.  Don’t assume the worst.  Just have faith that everything will work out.  And who knows, you might meet a cute guy.”

Chloe smiled.  “If he’s as cute as Colin, I wouldn’t mind at all.”

Colin was Valerie’s boss.  “Yes, Colin is very good-looking, isn’t he?”

“You like him, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do.”

“What about him?  Does he like you?”

“I don’t know.  I really can’t tell.”

“Why don’t you ask him out?”

Valerie balked at the idea.  “I can’t do that,” she exclaimed.

“Why not?  Is there an office policy that says you can’t date?”

“No, there isn’t but—”

“Val, I think you should ask him out.  The worst thing that could happen is that he turns you down.”

“And it could affect our working relationship.  I don’t know, Chloe, I have to think really hard about this one.”  She glanced at her watch.  “I have to be getting back to the office.  I’ll give you a lift to the train station.”  She signaled to the waitress for the bill.

When they stepped outside, she blinked in the bright sunshine and chided herself for not having her sunglasses.  They walked to where her car was parked and drove to the train station which was about twenty minutes away.  Outside of the station, they hugged and Chloe promised to call her over the weekend.

As Valerie drove to the office, she thought about what Chloe said.  The idea of asking Colin out on a date both thrilled and terrified her.  They have been working together for six years yet she still couldn’t say with any degree of certainty that the attraction she felt for him was mutual.  There were times when she thought that it was but since nothing came of it, she dismissed it as wishful thinking.  Well, there was only one way to find out but she was afraid to take that chance.  She didn’t want to jeopardize the great working relationship they had.  So, if she couldn’t be with him romantically, at least, she could be with him professionally for now.

By the time she got to the office, she had made up her mind that she wasn’t going to ask Colin out on a date.  She went to her desk and put her handbag away.  After logging on to her computer and checking emails, she was about to reply to some of them when her phone rang.  It was Colin.  He wanted to see her.  She got up immediately and went to his office.  After closing the door behind her, she walked over to where he stood looking out of the window.  He turned when he heard her.

He looked amazing in the grey striped suit and white shirt which was unbuttoned at the neck, exposing his throat.  Like clockwork, her heart was pounding and her pulse was racing.  She tried to appear nonchalant by tucking her hands in her pants pockets.  She saw his gaze travel over the short grey jacket, white blouse and black pants she was sporting before it returned to her face.  “Did you have a good lunch?” he asked.

She nodded.  “Yes.  Chloe got the scholarship to study in Berlin in September.  She is nervous about living away from home.”

“It was the same thing with my sister, Kathleen when she got accepted to the University of Edinburgh to study medicine.  She was nervous about living away from home but after the first week, she loved it.  She had made new friends and was getting used to the student life.  Joining different clubs helped.”

“The next time I speak to Chloe, I will tell her about Kathleen.”

“I can do better than that.  I can have Kathleen get in touch with her.”

“That would be great.  Thanks, Colin.”

“Do you have plans for tomorrow?” he asked suddenly, startling her.

“No.”

“Good.  I’d like you to have dinner with me at my place.”

She stared at him for several minutes.   Did he just ask her out?

“What’s the matter?” he asked when she didn’t answer.  “Don’t you want to have dinner with me?”

“Yes, I do,” she said.  “It’s just that you caught me by surprise.”

“You and I have been working together for a long while now, don’t you think that it’s time we pursued a more personal relationship with each other?”

“Yes,” she agreed, sounding a little breathless.  He was staring at her and the expression on his face made her mouth go dry.  “What-what time would you like me to be there?”

“Seven. Val…” he reached out and caught her by the hand, pulling her toward him, his eyes darkening on her face. Then, he was kissing her and she eagerly responded. His hands pressed her against him and her arms wound themselves tightly around his neck as they exchanged kisses. This lasted for several minutes before he raised his head, his breathing unsteady. “I’ve wanted to do that for a long, long time,” he admitted huskily.

“What prevented you?” she asked, trying to catch her breath.

“I wasn’t sure how you felt about me and I didn’t want to put you in a bad spot.”

“It’s funny but just today, Chloe was encouraging me to ask you out but I was afraid to because I didn’t know how you felt about me and I didn’t want to ruin our working relationship.”

“Well, I’m glad that one of us took Chloe’s advice.  I wish I didn’t have to go to a meeting now but I do.” He reluctantly released her and went over to his desk to get a notebook and some papers.  They walked together to the door.  He opened it and before they parted he said in a low voice, “I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

For the rest of the afternoon, she was on cloud nine and all that evening she thought of nothing else but having dinner with Colin.  She called Chloe and her sister was thrilled.  “Good for him,” she said.  “He took a gamble and it paid off.  Well, have fun and call me on Sunday with the juicy details.”  Valerie chuckled and ended the call.

Saturday evening came and she was on her way to Colin’s flat over at Canary Wharf.  She fixed her hair and smoothed her dress before she rang the doorbell.  Colin opened the door, his eyes brightened when he saw her.  “Hello,” he greeted her before stepping aside to let her in.  He removed her coat and his eyes slipped admiringly over her slim figure in the long sleeved Cranberry colored dress with the scooped neck.  Her hair was pulled back at her nape with a clasp with a few tendrils framing her face.  “You look great,” he remarked.

“Thank you. So do you.”  He looked incredibly sexy in the black shirt and black jeans.  His hair was slightly damp with a few strands brushing against his forehead.  She handed him a bottle of non-alcoholic white wine before she followed him into the living-room.  “You have a beautiful place,” she remarked, her eyes sweeping over the spacious room with its muted shades of titanium and brown.

It was very stylish, decidedly masculine décor and cozy.  There was a large balcony which faced the tall office buildings in the Financial District.  It was too cold to go on there now but she could imagine how pleasant it would be to sit out there during the summer.  In the centre was a rug that looked like wall tiles with a low table on it and adjacent were the stereo system and television set.  Opposite was a large brown leather sofa with four decorative cushions and a gorgeous antique chair faced the balcony.  Behind the sofa was the dining-room and on the table were dinnerware, two glasses and unlit candles.

“Have a seat at the table,” he suggested before he disappeared into the kitchen.

She sat down in the chair facing the balcony and watched the skyscrapers.  A delicious and mouthwatering smell wafted into the room and she found herself eagerly looking forward to what he was preparing.  “Something smells really, really good,” she commented when he brought out two bowls of salad.

He smiled.  “We’re having Crispy Chicken with Shallots served over wild rice.” When he came back, he lit the candles and sat down at the table.  After she prayed, they tucked into the Green Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette.  It was delicious and she made a mental note to get the recipe from him.  When they were done, she wanted to take the bowls in and help him to bring out the dinner but he said, “I can manage, but thanks for offering to help.”

He brought out the plates, set them on the table and then went back to get the bottle of wine which she had brought.  “Thanks for bringing this,” he said as he poured some in her glass and then his.  He raised his glass in a toast.  “Here’s to the first of many dinners together.”

She smiled and raised her glass.  Over the mouth-watering main course, they talked about different things, including making plans to see each other.  A long while after, he asked, “Do you have room for dessert?”  She nodded, although she didn’t think she could eat another morsel.

When he brought two glasses of chocolate mousse, her eyes brightened.  “I love anything with chocolate,” she exclaimed and picking up her spoon and dived into it, savoring the thick, creamy richness.  When she was done, she looked up at him.  He looked amused.  “Thank you for a wonderful dinner.”

He smiled.  “It was my pleasure.  Make yourself comfortable on the sofa while I clear the table and chuck everything in the dishwasher.”

She got up from the table and went into the living-room.  Instead of settling down on the sofa, she went over to the glass door and stood, looking out at the city skyline.   The buildings loomed like giants above the streets and the wharf, silent and the lights that dotted their structure reminded her of diamonds.  What a magnificent view and to be greeted by it every night must be a real treat.

Colin joined her in the living-room.  He turned on the stereo and the sound of R&B filled the room.  He went over to her, and taking her by the hand, he danced with her in front of the sliding doors.  She put her arm around his neck and gazed up at him as they moved to the music.  His eyes searched her face before he lowered his head and kissed her.  It was a light caress at first and then it deepened.  They stopped moving to the music as they kissed wildly, passionately.

Then he picked her up and as he carried her through the living-room, the following quote came to her mind, “Nothing important was ever achieved without someone taking a chance”.  Colin took that chance and here they were.

Office Romance

Source:  Scholars 4 Dev

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.

 

The Funeral

It was a gloomy day with intermittent spurts of rain.  It was as if nature itself was mourning the loss of a great woman.  Tracy was not surprised at the large turnout. The church was packed as many came to pay their respects and pay homage to Mrs. Gladys Townsend, the dear lady whom she had nursed for over five years.   She was a remarkable lady with a magnetic personality.   Although her body had succumbed to the Parkinson’s, her mind was still alert.  In the end, she had died in her sleep.

Tracy remembered how Mrs. Townsend had loved it when she read to her before she went to bed.  She loved Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.  Tracy enjoyed reading to her and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next in the story.  She had Aiden to thank for the position which had been a tremendous blessing for her.  Aiden was Mrs. Townsend’s son.  It was his idea to have his mother remain in the comforts of her home but be attended by a live-in nurse.  He contacted the live-in care agency a friend had recommended.

Tracy was selected for the position because of her experience and qualifications.  It also helped that she and Mrs. Townsend hit it off right away.  Whatever misgivings Aiden might have had, they were squashed when he saw how his mother received her warmly, remarking, “What kind eyes you have.”

Aiden.  Her gaze moved exactly where she knew he was standing.  Tall and regal in the black coat, his expression somber as he watched the coffin being lowered into the ground.  He seemed oblivious to the rain that was falling.  His dark hair glistened in the pale light.  She wanted to go over to him and shelter them both with the umbrella but she remained where she was, off to the side like an onlooker.

At the church, they hadn’t spoken to each other.  He was flanked by family and friends and Caitlin Brown.  Caitlin made no secret of the fact that she wanted to be more than friends with Aiden.  Tracy saw her tuck her arm in his and rest her head against his shoulder.  She looked away, feeling ashamed of the jealousy that stirred in her when she was supposed to be mourning the lost of a dearly departed one.

It was no use denying that she was in love with Aiden.  It might have happened the first time she met him or during those visits to his mother’s home on the weekends. He lived in London close to his office and work kept him busy.  So, visiting during the week was not feasible.  She found herself looking forward to those weekends.  Over the years, feelings developed between them but Tracy had to keep things on a professional level because of her job.  She could get fired if she were to become romantically involved with a family member.

Mrs. Townsend was very fond of Tracy and knew that she and Aiden had feelings for each other but she understood Tracy’s reasons for not doing anything about it.  So, to be on the safe side, Tracy avoided being alone with him as much as was possible. She had watched him throughout the funeral service and when she saw him and Caitlin get into his car, it stung.  She got a ride with a friend.

Now, here she was watching him and Caitlin huddled together.  The coffin was being covered with dirt as the priest said the final words.  Then it was over.  She turned and was walking back to where the cars were parked when she heard Aiden call her name.  She stopped and turned.  Her fingers gripped the handle of the umbrella tightly as she tried to appear untroubled at the sight of him and the beautiful redhead at his side.  She noticed the look of disdain Caitlin gave her and how her long red nails curled into the sleeve of his coat.

Aiden was looking at Tracy who met his gaze, wondering if he could tell how much she wished that the two of them were alone.  Her fingers itched to reach out and run themselves through the thick tresses of his hair.  For his part, his expression was drawn.  “How are you holding up, Tracy?” he asked.

“As well as expected,” she said, touched that he was concerned about her when he must be going through hell.  He and his mother were close.  Mrs. Townsend adored him and was always singing his praises.  “How about you?”

“I’m coping,” he said.  He gently disengaged his arm from Caitlin’s, removed his coat and draped it over his arm as he stepped closer to Tracy.  “Will you let me take you back to the house?” he asked.

She nodded.  It had stopped raining.  She closed the umbrella.

He took her arm and was about to walk away when Caitlin, who looked rather put out, exclaimed, “What about me?”

“Jake will give you a ride home,” Aiden told her before he turned walked away, taking Tracy with him.

“I don’t think she likes me,” Tracy commented as they walked to his car.  She had to almost run to keep up with him.  It seemed like he wanted to get out of  there and fast!

Aiden didn’t answer.  In fact he said nothing all the way to the car or even when they were leaving the cemetery.  It wasn’t until they were a good way from there, that he spoke.  “Tracy, what Caitlin thinks is of no importance to me.”

She looked at him in surprise.  “But, I thought that you and she—”

“How could you think that there is anything between Caitlin and me when I have waited for five years for you?  I haven’t dated her or any woman since I met you.  I know that your job prevented you from getting involved with me but now you are not longer employed by me.  So, what is stopping us now from being together?  I love you, Tracy.  And I know that you love me.”

She nodded.  “I do.  You don’t know how hard it was for me to push my feelings aside all these years.”

“Let’s go away,” he said.  They were at a stop light.  He turned to look at her, his eyes intense as they met hers.  “I want to be alone with you somewhere far away from here.”

“Where would you like to go?” she asked.

“It doesn’t matter as long as we are together.  Perhaps somewhere tropical.  It would be good to get away from this dreary weather and the cold.”

“When would you like to go?”

“As soon as possible.  Perhaps as early as Friday.”  Friday was four days away.  “No one will object, and even if they did, I really don’t care.  It’s what Mother would have wanted.  She was rather fond of you, you know.  She knew how I felt about you and always encouraged me to hang on.  I would have waited for you, Tracy, no matter how long it took.  My only regret is that I couldn’t be with you while my mother was still alive.”

“I know.  I also know that we have her blessing.  Jamaica.”

“Jamaica?” he looked puzzled.

She smiled.  “You said somewhere tropical.”

He laughed.  “Jamaica, it is.”  He reached over and kissed her before the light turned green.

It was on the Friday, their first evening in Montego Bay, as they stood on the beach, watching the setting sun as it hovered over the ocean when Aiden proposed to Tracy. As he got down on his knee, Tracy’s hand flew up to her face as the sound of a sob mingled with a gasp rose from her throat.  Aiden took out the box and opened it, displaying the exquisite ring he had bought the year after they met and which he had shown his mother the night before she passed away.  He had kept it hidden in a drawer just as he had kept hidden in his heart the hope of one day putting it on her finger.

And here they were, on a beautiful beach, bathed with the crimson glow of the sun and the sound of the waves as they rolled on to the sand.  It couldn’t have been more romantic.  As he looked at Tracy’s face which glistened with tears, he thought he had never seen her look more beautiful and his heart swelled with the love he felt for her.

He took the ring out of the box and reached for her hand.  He slowly slipped the ring on, savoring the moment.  It was a perfect fit.  He stood up, his eyes held hers for a moment before he took her in his arms and kissed her just as the sun disappeared into the sea.

Sources:  Christie’s CareHilary’s Agency