Love is a Storm

Jasper was walking down the street, heading to the cafe where he was supposed to meet his girlfriend, Shannon when he heard someone call his name.  He turned and saw that it was Raina, Shannon’s friend from university.  She stood there, dressed in an odd white top, denim capri pants with a smile on her face.  Around her arm was a gold band and several handcraft chains around her neck.  In his mind he juxtaposed her image with Shannon’s.  They were different as night and day.  Shannon was glamorous and Raina was not.  Yet, it was Raina who made his heart race and his stomach do somersaults.  He walked over to her.

“Hi Raina,” he said, nervous and excited at the same time.  She had that effect on him.

“Hi, yourself.  Where’re you off to in such a hurry?” she asked.

“I’m meeting Shannon for lunch at Kennington Lane Cafe.”

She had a way of tilting her head to the side as she looked up at him.  “It’s been a while since I last saw you.  Are you avoiding me?”

He blinked.  “Why would I be avoiding you?” he asked.  Was she on to him?  Did she somehow guess that he had been avoiding her?

“Maybe because of what almost happened the last time we saw each other.”

He felt his face grow hot when he recalled the incident she was talking about.  He had invited some friends over to celebrate Shannon’s birthday.  Raina got there early so that she could set things up.  She was busying stringing the decorations when he went into the living-room.  He stood beside the mantelpiece and watched her.  As if sensing that he was there, she turned, a smile on her face.   And then, to his surprise, the smile disappeared and she gaped at him for a few minutes before turning abruptly away.  Frowning, he walked over to her and stood in front of her.

“What’s the matter, Raina?” he asked, still clueless.

She avoided looking at him.  “Your–your shirt is open,” she mumbled.

He glanced down.  Sure enough.  It was unbuttoned.  Blushing profusely, he quickly buttoned it and tucked it in his pants.  “Sorry about that,” he apologized.  “You can look now.”

She did and for a long moment their eyes locked.  Then, she turned and went over to the step ladder to finish stringing the Happy Birthday, Shannon sign.  “Could you hand me those balloons, please?”

He picked up the balloons stringed together and gave them to her.  She put them below the sign.  After checking to make sure her handiwork was fine, she started to come down the ladder when she stumbled.  He reached up and caught her.  Winded, she leaned against him for a few minutes, trying to catch her breath.  This was the closest he had ever been to her and it excited him.  His heart began to pound and his breath quickened.  They stared at each other, the air around them pulsating.  She felt so soft against him and he couldn’t hide his reaction.  His smoldering gaze lowered to her lips which parted.  Inflamed, he leaned over to devour them when the doorbell rang.  They draw apart immediately and raking his fingers through his hair, he went to answer the door.

For the rest of the evening, he avoided her but he hadn’t been able to think of anything else but how badly he wanted to kiss her.  For weeks, he tried to stay away, afraid to face her.  And now here she was.  He swallowed hard, his expression tense as he returned her searching gaze.  “I would have kissed you if the others hadn’t shown up then,” he said.

“I know,” she said, sounding a little breathless.

“I haven’t been able to think about anything else.”

“Me neither,” she admitted.

“Why did my open shirt bother you so much?”

“You know why,” she said.

“I want you to tell me.”

“Seeing your bare chest turned me on.”

His eyes darkened.  “You turn me on and right at this moment, I want to take you back to my place and show you how much.”

“Jasper…”

“This is why I’ve been avoiding you.  I’m afraid of what I would do and say when we’re alone together.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t be alone now,” she said.  “Maybe I should go…”

He caught her by the hand.  “Don’t go,” he said.

“I should,” she insisted.  “Besides, you have a lunch date, remember?”

“When can I see you again?” he asked, still holding her hand.

She blinked, trying to think but found it hard with him rubbing his thumb against the inside of her palm.  “I-I don’t know.”

“How about later?”

She shook her head.  “I can’t.  I have a date–”

His expression darkened at once.  “A date?” he repeated.  Jealousy ripped through him.  “Who’s the guy?  Do I know him?”

“I don’t think so.”

“How long have you been dating him?”

“I haven’t been.  This is our first date.”

“How did you meet him?”

Before she could answer, his cell rang.  Muttering under his breath, he released her arm and whipped his cell out. “Yes?”  A pause then:  “I’m on my way now.  I should be there in five minutes.”  He listened and then rang off.

“You’d better go now or she’ll go ballistic.”

“Raina…”

“I’ve to go,” she said and quickly walked away.

 

“What’s the matter with you?” Shannon asked him as they sat by the window having veggie burgers, salad and shakes.  “You’re acting a bit odd.”

“Nothing’s the matter with me.”

Shannon looked at his unfinished burger and then at him.  “You’ve hardly touched your lunch.”

“I’m not very hungry.”

“Aren’t you feeling well?  You look a bit piqued.”

“I’m fine,” he insisted.  “Let’s drop it.”  He picked up the burger and forced himself to eat it.

She wasn’t convinced but she dropped the matter.  After lunch, they went a Jazz concert and then he took her home.  She wanted him to stay but he made an excuse and left.

 

“I had a terrific time and you’re a really nice guy, Joel but…”

“But you’re not interested,” he finished.  They were standing outside of her flat.  “It’s another guy, isn’t it?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“Well, whoever he is, he’s a lucky guy.”

“Goodbye, Joel,” she said, holding out her hand.

“Goodbye, Raina.”  He took her hand and raised it to his lips.  And then, he was gone.

She turned and unlocked her door.  Once inside, she thankfully removed her shoes and wriggled her toes.  They were gorgeous but they hurt her feet.  She was about to head for the bedroom to change when the doorbell rang.  Frowning, she turned and peered through the keyhole.  Her heart lurched when she saw Jasper standing there.  She opened the door.  “What are you doing here?” she asked.  He looked amazing in the black shirt and black pants.  She saw the way his gaze traveled over her body clad in the black cocktail dress with cap sleeves and a side slit.  Her curly hair framed her face which was devoid of makeup.

“You look beautiful,” he added, his expression tense.

“Thank you.”

“May I come in?”

She stepped aside for him to go inside and closed the door behind him.  Afterwards, she turned to face him.  “What are you doing here?” she asked again.

“I had to see you, Raina.”

“You shouldn’t be here, Jasper.”

“Why?  Do you have company?” he asked, looking over his shoulder.

“No.  I’m alone.”

“Where’s your date?”

“He left.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing.  We had a terrific time, he brought me home, we said goodbye and he left.”

“Are you going to see him again?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“You know why.” She watched as he moved closer.  The air was charged between them.

“I want you to tell me.”

“I’m stuck on you.”

In a flash, he was standing in front of her, his body trapping her against the door.  “And I’m stuck on you,” he muttered thickly.

Her hands went up to push at his chest.  “We shouldn’t,” she protested weakly, her heavy breathing mingling with his.

He took her hands and pinned them above her head.  His scorching gaze met hers before he lowered his head and kissed her, his lips almost devouring hers.  Raina kissed him back wildly.  Outside, dark clouds had gathered and minutes later, it was pouring rain.  Lightning flashed across the sky and the loud clap of thunder followed.  Inside the flat a different storm was raging.  It moved from the foyer and into the bedroom.  Minutes later, they were under the sheets, their bodies undulating to the tempo of  lovemaking which increased as their feelings for each other engulfed them.  Outside the storm continued to rage.

The following day, Jasper ended his relationship with Shannon.

Love is a storm that engulfs the senses – Lee Hiller

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A New Life

“It’s so hard to believe that the child who used to disobey me at every opportunity is the same beautiful young woman standing before me now on her special day,” Mrs. Clark said to her daughter, Karen who looked radiant in her wedding dress.  Tears pricked the older woman’s eyes and she quickly blinked them back.

Karen hugged her tightly.  “Oh, Mom, I’m so sorry for all the trouble I gave you when I was growing up.  I know it wasn’t easy for you to be a single parent.  You struggled to make ends meet and to give me the best.  There were some nights when I heard you crying in your room.  I knew you were missing Dad and wishing he were there to help you to raise a wayward daughter.  I thought of running away so that you didn’t have to deal with me any longer but I knew that would only make things worse.  On the night of my fifteenth birthday, I got down on my knees and asked God to change me.  I didn’t want to be a burden to you anymore.   You were such a good mother to me, so patient and forgiving.  You deserved a better daughter.  So, with God’s help, I changed.  And this is what you see before you now. I’m only sorry that it took so long and so much heartache before I came to my senses.”

Mrs. Clark hugged her and looking heavenward, she mouthed a silent prayer of thanks to God for answering the unceasing prayers she had offered up every day for her daughter.  She had been encouraged by various scriptures and had clung to them when the temptation to give up was particularly strong.  Prayer was the strongest crutch a parent had when it came to protecting a child. For as long as she was alive, she would continue to pray for Karen.

They drew apart and Karen smiled.  “I am trying hard not to cry,” she said.  “Mom, I’m so happy, so blessed.  I am about to marry a terrific man and start a new life with him.  I wish Dad were here.”

“He is,” Mrs. Clark said.  “He’s here.” She pressed her hand against Karen’s heart.

“Yes, he is,” Karen agreed, blinking.

“Are you ready?”

“Yes, I am.”

“I will send your Uncle Jack in.”  Her father’s younger brother had the honor of walking her down the aisle.

“Mom, before you go, will you say a prayer?”

Mrs. Clark smiled.  “Of course, Honey.”  She took Karen’s hands and bowing her head, she prayed.  And the same peace she felt the night before Karen’s transformation filled her and she knew then that all was going to be well.

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Providence

“Miss Johnson, to what do I owe the pleasure of this unexpected visit?” Lucius Suchet asked, his brown eyes studied her as she stood in the doorway.  “I’m astonished that you remember me considering that you didn’t so much as say a word to me last night.”

She ignored his remarks and marched over to the table where she tossed books, papers and pamphlets willy-nilly on the table.  She was about to turn around and leave when he caught her by the arm.  She tried to tug it away, glaring at him but his grip was too firm.  “Unhand me, Sir,” she ordered him.  “Remember that I am a Lady.”

His expression darkened.  “Yes, and I should remember that I am the son of a vicar,” he muttered.  “Yet, it was I who was invited to sit at the table and have dinner with your family when you were not.”

She blinked.  “I know that the color of my skin is the reason for this arrangement but it by no means suggests that I am not held in the highest regard by my family.  They are merely following convention however prejudicial it may be.  Now, please let go of my arm.  Perhaps Miss Foster might allow you to manhandle her but I won’t.” She tugged at her arm again and he released it.

His eyebrows arched.  “Miss Foster.  Why do you mention her?”

“I observed the two of you last night after dinner.  How she hung on your every word and how you showered her with your attention, no doubt filling her head with foolish notions–”

He laughed.  “My dear Miss Johnson, you are jealous.”  He seemed very pleased at the thought.

His remark and the expression on his face infuriated her.  “I am not jealous,” she retorted.  “To be jealous would imply that I have feelings for you, which I do not.”

He moved closer to her and she backed away, her eyes wary now.  “Look me in the eye and tell me that you don’t have feelings for me and I will pursue the matter no further.”

She glanced frantically at the door, longing to make her escape but he advanced toward her like a tiger while she backed away until she felt the wall behind her.  “Mr. Suchet, if you are indeed a gentleman as you would have me believe, you will permit me to leave right now.  The coach is waiting downstairs for me.  I must return home before my family begins to wonder where I am.”

He was standing very close to her now.  His eyes held hers like a trap holding a helpless bird.  “Tell me now that you don’t have any feelings for me,” he insisted.

Her eyes were wild now, with fear and something else which she hadn’t wanted him to see.  Her breath was quick and laborious and her heart was pounding.  She closed her eyes in defeat.  “I can’t” she admitted.

She felt his warm breath against her cheek.  “I have feelings for you too.  Feelings I have had ever since the first time I saw you.  I tried to fight them because was painfully aware of the difference in our stations but they are too strong.”

“What about Miss Foster?” she asked.  Seeing them together had filled her heart with such jealousy and pain that she had wanted to bolt from the room.  Instead, she had turned her attention to the gentleman who paid her some attention.

“There is nothing between Miss Foster and me, I assure you.  What about you and Mr. Wright.  I saw how receptive you were to his attentions.  I was mad with jealousy but propriety kept me in check.”

“It was the wish of my family that I should marry him as he was the only gentleman who would marry a woman of color.  I suspect that his reason for wanting to marry me had more to do with my fortune.”

“Is it your wish to marry him?” he asked anxiously.

She shook her head.  “No.  I turned him down and my family was not at all pleased. They fear that I shall die a spinster as there will be no more prospects of marriage for me.”

“Would you have a problem marrying the son of a vicar?”

“Are you asking me to marry you, Mr. Suchet?”

“Yes.”

“Then, my answer is yes.”  Her family would not approve of this match but she could not bring herself to marry for any other reason but for love.  And she loved Lucius Suchet, a man without fortune but a gentleman, nevertheless.

He swept her up into his arms and swung her around.  Then he bent his head and kissed her.  “I love you, Ivy,” he whispered when he drew back to gaze down into her upturned face.

“And I love you, Lucius.  I almost allowed pride and station to rob me of this happiness.”

“I believe that Providence had a hand to play in this,” he said.  “It is what gave me the courage to press you about your feelings for me.”

“I am thankful, then to Providence,” she said with a smile.  “It brought me to my senses.”

 

 

A Friend’s Advice

Perfume and incense make you feel good, and so does good advice from a friend – Proverbs 27:9

Nothing is sweeter

than the frank advice

of a friend offered

out of a loving heart.

Just as perfume pleases

the senses and lifts your spirit

so does sharing your troubles

with someone who cares

the burden is lifted

and the heart is made light.

You can trust your friend

to be honest with you even

if it hurts.

Perfume is sometimes overpowering

almost suffocating like

unwanted advice or those who

deceive or flatter us, telling us

what they think we want to hear

rather than what we need to know.

It is the friend that sticks closer

than a brother or sister

whose counsel is like

a pleasant fragrance to

the soul.

 

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Sources:  Bible Gateway; Matthew Henry’s Commentary