In Danger

His fiancée, Madeline was giving a lecture at the university and he encouraged his students to attend.  He hoped that one in particular would attend.  Yesterday, he had approached her about it.  She was leaning against a tree, gazing off in the distance when he joined her.

She started when she turned and saw him standing there.  A guarded expression came over her face.  She always seemed so reserved around him.  He couldn’t get her to open up.  Sometimes he got the impression that life was hard for her.  He wanted to know so much more about her.  She intrigued him—more than he cared to admit.  Even now, he realized that being alone with her like this wasn’t a good idea.  He couldn’t stop staring at her.  She wasn’t beautiful or even pretty but her face beguiled him.  Long after he dismissed the class and she had walked out of the classroom, an image of her face would linger.  He found himself thinking about her constantly and feeling guilty about it because of Madeline.

“I’m sorry, Marcy.  I didn’t mean to startle you.”

The expression on her face was a mixture of shyness and apprehension, though why the latter, he wasn’t sure.  She had nothing to fear from him or did she?

black girl with short hair“It’s all right, Professor Bonneville,” she said.  “You didn’t startle me.”

When he realized that he was staring at her, he shifted his gaze to the scene before them.  “This is one of the reasons why I chose to teach here at King’s College.  During my breaks I love to come here and relax by the River Cam.”

She followed his gaze.  “Yes, I like to come here too in between classes and watch the students punt.  Sometimes I have my lunch here under this tree.”

He found himself wanting to be here when she was.  There’s wasn’t anything wrong with them spending time together here in the open, was there?  He forced himself to focus on the reason he had approached her.  “I have to leave shortly,” he informed her.  “But before I do, I was wondering if you have decided if you’re going to come to the lecture tomorrow evening.”

She hesitated for a moment as if weighing the decision in her mind.  “Yes, I’ll come.  The topic, Endangered Speeches, sounds very interesting and I’ve heard that Madeline Haigh is an exceptional speaker.”

He smiled.  “Yes, she is.  Well, I’m delighted to hear that you’re coming.  Are you coming alone?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow evening, then.”

“Yes, Professor Bonneville.”

It was on the tip of his tongue to say, “Please call me, Leighton,” instead, he said, “Enjoy the rest of your afternoon.”

“Thank you.”

He turned and walked away.

The following evening came and he stood in the Great Hall talking to different people but his eyes were constantly moving to the doors as students filed in.  He really hoped she would come.  He glanced at his watch.  In fifteen minutes the lecture would start.

“What a great turnout,” Madeline commented, sounding quite pleased.  “You did a remarkable job getting the students to come.  I should hire you to be my PR person.”

He glanced down at her.  “I think your reputation as a great speaker had something to do with it,” he remarked with a smile before turning his attention back to the doors.  Where was she?  And then, he saw her.  His countenance brightened.  “Excuse me,” he said to Madeline before he hurried over to where she stood just beside one of the doors as if trying to decide where she was going to sit.  “I was beginning to think that you weren’t coming,” he said.

“I had to wait a while for the bus,” she explained, sounding apologetic.  “I was worried that I would be late.”

“You made it just in time,” he assured her.  “Where would you like to sit? Perhaps closer to the front?”

She shook her head.  “I don’t want to sit closer to the front.  Here’s fine.”  She removed her jacket and spread it over the back of the seat.  Their eyes met and held before she lowered hers.

“Don’t leave after the lecture is over,” he said.  “There will be a light reception afterwards.”

“All right, Professor Bonneville.”

He excused himself and left.  Her being there meant more to him that it should have.

Marcy sat down and watched him as he made his way to where the speaker was.  He was the real reason why she came this evening.  Granted the topic sounded very interesting and she did hear great things about the speaker but she came because of him.  It was foolish to be in love with a man who was not only your professor but engaged as well.  She knew that Madeline Haigh was his fiancée.  Like him, she came from an elite and upper-class family.

They met a couple of years ago at Wimbledon through a mutual friend.  They have been together since.  It was at the beginning of this year when they announced their engagement.  It was all over social media.  Everyone was thrilled, except her.  Before she enrolled in his class this semester, she used to see him around campus and admire him from afar.  He was the youngest of the professors at the university and extremely handsome.

It was hard being around him because of her feelings.  She couldn’t be sure if he was aware of them.  She tried to hide them as best as she could.  There were times, like yesterday, when she sensed that there was something between them but always ended up dismissing it as wishful thinking.  And yet…The lecture began and she tried to concentrate on it.

After it was over, everyone filed out.  Many stayed for the reception.  She stood there by the door and waited for Professor Bonneville.  He went over, accompanied by Madeline.  He introduced them.  “Madeline, this is Marcy Williams.  Miss Williams is one of my top students.”

Madeline shook her hand.  “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you,” she said.  “Leighton has told me so much about you.  I suspect that you’re the teacher’s pet.”

Marcy didn’t quite know what to say.  She was surprised to learn that Professor Bonneville had even mentioned her to his fiancée, much less that she had been the subject of many conversations.  She looked at him and found him looking at her, his expression inscrutable.

“I think you’re embarrassing her,” he said to Madeline.  “Why don’t we go and have some refreshments now?”

They left the hall and went to area where the refreshments were.  While Madeline chatted with the students and faculty, Professor Bonneville stood next to Marcy who felt really out of place.  She wasn’t keen on social gatherings.  She planned on leaving in half-hour.

“Are you glad you came?” he asked her.

“Yes.”

“I’m glad you did too,” he said.  “Do you live far from here?”

“It takes me half hour to get here.”

“May I give you a lift home?”

She looked him.  “If it isn’t too much trouble.”

“It isn’t.”

“Thank you, Professor Bonneville.”

“Please call me, Leighton…Marcy.”

The way he said her name made her pulse race.  “Thank you, Leighton…” Their eyes were locked in a steady gaze.  Surprisingly, no one else seemed to notice.

Hearing her say his name thrilled him and made his heart beat faster.  It was no use denying it.  He was deeply attracted to her.  Right now, he wished that they were somewhere else, alone.   “Do you have a boyfriend?” he heard himself ask.

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Are you busy tomorrow evening?” Tomorrow was Saturday.

Again she shook her head.  “No.”  Her heart was pounding now as she wondered about him asking all of these questions.

“Do you like classical music?”

“Yes.”

“There’s a Vivaldi Four Seasons concert at the St Martin-in-the-Fields Church.  I thought you might be interested in going.”

“What-what about Miss Haigh?”

“Madeline won’t mind,” he said.  “She’s flying to New York in the morning but she gave me the tickets and told me I can take whomever I liked.  I’d like to take you, Marcy.”

There wasn’t anything wrong with them going to a concert together, was there?  Besides, wasn’t being with him what she wanted?  “I’ve never been to a live concert before,” she said.

“Trust me, you’re going to enjoy this one.”

“What are the two of you conspiring over here?” Madeline inquired as she joined them.

Professor Bonneville turned to her.  “I just invited Miss Williams to go to the Vivaldi Concert with me.”

“Oh, Leighton, why don’t you call her by her first name?  Miss Williams sounds too formal.  I’m sorry I can’t go with you to the concert.  At least you won’t be going alone.  Marcy, I’m sure you will enjoy it.  It’s Vivaldi, if you like his music and being held in the beautiful and historic Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields where my parents got married.  Are you ready to leave?” she asked her fiance.  “It’s getting late and I have an early flight in the morning.”

“Yes.  Oh, I hope you don’t mind, but I offered Marcy a lift home.”

“That’s fine,” Madeline said.  She waved good night to the people still milling about before heading towards the entrance with Professor Bonneville and Marcy following.  It was a bit cold but thankfully, the car was parked very close.  After he held the door open for Madeline to get in, he opened the passenger door for Marcy.  She caught a whiff of his aftershave as she moved past him to get into the car.

She fastened her seat belt, thankful for the lift and the heat that soon filled the car.  Not much was said on the drive to her flat.  Marcy asked her about her field of study and then talked about her trip to New York.  She was a guest lecturer at Columbia University.  Marcy listened but was thankful when they pulled up outside her flat twenty minutes later.  “It was nice meeting you,” she said to Madeline.

“Likewise.”

Marcy got out of the car, her eyes met Professor Bonneville’s as she passed him.  They faced each other on the curb.  “Thank you for the lift,” she said to him.

“You’re welcome.  Goodnight, Marcy.”

“Goodnight, Professor Bonneville.”  She waved before turning and walking up the steps to the entrance.  She couldn’t wait to see him tomorrow evening.  Her heart skipped a beat at the thought.  She wasn’t going to get much sleep tonight.

Leighton watched her until she disappeared inside before shutting the door and walking round to the driver’s side.  He was looking forward to seeing her tomorrow evening.

“You know I was quite jealous of Marcy because you spoke so much about her,” Madeline remarked as they drove off.  She leaned her head against the back of the seat with her head turned towards him.  “but after meeting her this evening, I have no reason to feel threatened by her.  She isn’t at all what I expected.  For one thing, she’s not very attractive, is she?  Although I suppose some men might find her so.”

Leighton glanced at her.  “What if I found her attractive?” he asked.

Madeline laughed.  “Oh, don’t be absurd, Leighton,” she said.  “Why do you think I don’t mind you going to the concert with her?  I know that you’re in no danger of falling in love with her.”  She laughed again and turned her head to look out the window.

Leighton’s mouth tightened and his eyes glowered behind his glasses.  He wished he could wipe that smile off her face.  For the rest of the ride, he was quiet.  He walked her to the door of her flat but declined to go in.  “You have an early flight in the morning, remember?” he reminded her.

“You can spend the night and then we can have breakfast before I head up to the airport,” she suggested, putting her arms around his neck.

He gently disentangled her arms.  “You’d better get your rest,” he said.  “I’ll see you when you get back.  Goodnight.”

She didn’t look at all pleased.  “Goodnight,” she said, grudgingly before reaching up to kiss him on the mouth.

He turned and headed down the corridor to the lift.  There was a time when he would have gladly spent the night but that was a long time ago and that was before he met Marcy.

The following day went by quickly and soon it was evening.  He picked her up outside of her flat promptly at six.  It was a pleasant evening.  Not cold like the previous one.  On the ride over to the concert, they talked about several things.  He learned that she was an only child of her parents who lived in Kingston, Jamaica and whom she spoke to as often as possible.  She worked part-time to support herself while she studied.  This meant that she didn’t have much down time during the week but she made up for that on the weekends.

Madeline was right, she thought when they walked into the church.  It was beautiful, especially in the candlelight.  They found seats close to the front.  She enjoyed the concert so much that she bought the CD which he played in the car on the drive to her flat.

He walked her to her flat and they stood outside the door.  “Would you like to come inside?” she asked.

“I really shouldn’t,” he replied.

“You must be hungry and I can fix us something to eat,” she said.

“All right,” he said.  He was hungry.  He hadn’t eaten since lunch.  He wished now that he had thought of taking her to dinner after the concert.  It was rather very nice of her to invite him in for a bite to eat.  He stepped inside the flat and she closed the door behind him, locking it.  It was a small, modest place but very warm and inviting.

“Please make yourself comfortable in the living-room while I get things ready,” she said after she took his jacket.

He went into the living-room which was smaller than his study at home.  He went over to the window and looked out.  In the far distance, he could see Big Ben.  Behind him he heard her in the kitchen getting things ready.  He moved away from the window and went over to the sofa.  He sat down and stretched his legs in front of him while he looked over the rest of the place.  It was impeccably kept.  Nothing was out of place.  And it was nicely decorated with potted plants, a bookcase, a small desk with a laptop and a handful of watercolor paintings.

She popped her head into the living-room to let him know that dinner was ready.  They sat around the small dining-table.  Dinner smelled delicious.  It was Stew Chicken over rice and peas and served with a tossed salad.  It tasted as good as it looked and smelled.  Afterwards, they went into the living-room where they had Apple Cider Hot Toddy while watching TV.

Leighton tried to concentrate on the program but it was hard because he wanted to touch her so badly.  He turned to look at her.  She was staring straight ahead.  Unable to resist, he reached out and rubbed the back of his index finger against her neck.  She didn’t move away or anything.  He watched as she closed her eyes instead as if she was enjoying the caress.  He saw her lips part and that was his undoing.  He used his other hand to turn her head towards him.  She opened her eyes and he saw in them, the desire that was raging inside him.  Groaning, his mouth found hers and when she responded, he plundered it hungrily.

As they kissed wildly, passionately, he unbuttoned his shirt and dragged it off, moaning against her lips when he felt her hands on his bare skin.  Desire coursed through him like an uncontrollable fire and he knew in that instant that it was over between Madeline and him.  When she returned from New York, he was going to break off their engagement.  He realized then, too that, in spite of what she said, he was in danger of falling in love with Marcy.

Source:  King’s College; Candlelight Concerts; King’s College Job Hunting

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Take the Fall

“This is madness,” he thought to himself but yet here he was parked outside of the university, waiting for her.  Sometimes she would be with a friend or in a group and other times she was alone.  And each time, when she saw him, she would look at him without making it obvious.

He had no business being here.  “I should be heading back to the office and finish marking the stack of term papers sitting on my desk.”  Yet, he remained, his eyes scanning the drove of students for her.  Would she be alone today?  He hoped so.  And if she were, what was he going to do?  He hoped she didn’t think that he was stalking her.  He was no stranger to this campus.  In fact, it was at one of his lectures where he first laid eyes on her.  She was sitting in the second row.   He could still remember what she was wearing that day.   And he remembered thinking that her lipstick was way too bright.  How he managed to get through the lecture, he had no idea.

At the end, while other students were crowding him and asking questions, she stood beside the chair where she had been sitting and watched him.  Their eyes met and held for what seemed like eternity before she turned and walked away.  He watched her go, wondering if he would see her again.  For the rest of the afternoon, he could think of nothing else but her.  What was her name?  What was she studying?  Did she have a boyfriend?

Driven by a compulsion he couldn’t explain, he found himself outside of the university the following day, hoping that he would see her.  And he did.  His heart pounded wildly against his ribs when he saw her walking towards his car with a friend.  She was laughing at something the other girl said when she spotted him.  Without missing a beat, she met his gaze directly, making him blush before she walked past the car.

He broke out of his reverie when she appeared now.  She was alone today and when she saw him, she stopped and stood there, staring at him.  Today, she was wearing a black hat, black jacket over a white tee shirt and jeans.  Her hair was pulled together in a side plait, making her look much younger and her lips were bright red.  And then, she moved.  She’s coming towards me, he realized.  Nervousness and excitement filled him.  He ran his hands over his hair, straightened his clothes before getting out of the car.  He leaned nonchalantly against the car and waited.

When she reached him, she smiled and held out her hand.  “Hello, Professor Remington,” she said.

She remembers my name.  He cleared his throat, smiled and shook her hand which felt very small in his.  “Hello, Miss–?”

“Sydney Bradshaw”

“Pleased to meet you, Sydney.”

“I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your lecture.”

“I’m happy to hear that,” he said.  “I have another one coming up next month.”

“Where?” she asked.

“The University of Roehampton.”

“What’s the lecture about?”

“Self-victimization or victim playing.  I will explain what it is, the reasons why people engage in it and the signs.”

“That sounds very interesting.  I’d definitely like to come.”

“I hope you do,” he said.  “You don’t have a boyfriend, do you?”

She shook her head at once.  “No, I don’t.”

“Good.  And I don’t have a wife or a girlfriend.  I’d like to continue our conversation more over cappuccinos.”

She smiled.  “I’d like that too.”

He walked around to the passenger-side of the car and opened the door for her.   They went to a nearby cafe where they the rest of the afternoon, talking over cappuccinos and the following evening, they had dinner at a charming French restaurant.   By the end of the year, they were engaged.

…ignore the risk and take the fall. And if it’s meant to be it’ll be worth it all – Daniel Seavey

Sources:  Genius; Wikipedia; The Daily EvergreenRate Speeches

You Were Wrong

steps

Laurel had just reached the bottom of the steps leading from her flat to the street below when she bumped into Professor Ingram.   Thirty years had passed since she last saw her but she’d never forgotten her.  She still remembered her saying to her, “It doesn’t matter what you do, you’ll never amount to anything.”

At first she was crushed but after learning that Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle and her favorite writer, Charlotte Bronte were told the same thing, she was encouraged.  She was determined to prove the Professor wrong.

Now, several published and critically acclaimed novels later and the recipient of the  the Nobel Prize for Literature, she was face to face with the professor who almost succeeded in dashing her hopes.  “Hello, Professor Ingram.”

The woman studied her.  “You look familiar.  What’s your name?”

“Laurel Jackson.  I was your student thirty years ago.”

“Laurel Jackson, the writer?”

“Yes and this year’s Nobel prize winner for literature.”

Professor Ingram smiled.  “And you were one of my students?”

“Yes.  I’m the girl you said wouldn’t amount to anything.”

The smile disappeared.

“You were wrong, Professor.  I did amount to something.”

197 Words

This was written for Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read more stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Sources:  MSNWikipedia

The Paper

spf-09-02-18-joy-pixley-1

Photo:  Joy Pixley

She couldn’t believe that she was sitting there, watching a western with Kyle, the hottest and most popular guy on campus.  It felt surreal.  It was that morning when he approached her as she was closing her locker.  He smiled his incredible smile as he offered to walk her to class.

As they walked down the hallway, he invited her over to his house that evening for pizza and a movie.  She accepted, smiling when she saw the other girls watching them.  I bet they never thought a guy like Kyle could be interested in a girl like me. 

He picked her up in his convertible and took her to the family mansion.  His parents were at the opera.  After a quick tour, they ate and then settled down to watch the movie.

When it was over, he took her home.  Outside of her house, he turned to her.  “I’ve this paper that’s due next week and was wondering if you’d write it for me.”  He took out his wallet.

Her heart sank.  Now she understood the reason for his sudden interest.  “I stopped writing papers for other students.”

“Bummer,” he replied.

She got out of the car.

198 Words

Written as part of Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  Study Breaks

God, the Restorer

adult blur bouquet boy

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

He remembered the day he proposed to her as if it happened just yesterday.  She was waiting for him on the train tracks where they met one fine summer day.  As he approached, holding the wild flowers behind his back, she turned and smiled that smile that melted his heart.  She looked beautiful in the sundress and her hair fell in thick, dark tresses down her back.

Slowly, his heart racing, he walked over to her.  Still holding the flowers behind his back, he leaned down and kissed her.  Then, he held out the flowers. “Happy birthday, Emily Rose.”

Her eyes lit up and she took them.  “Thank you,” she exclaimed, reaching up to kiss him in delight.  She breathed in the sweet, fresh fragrance of the flowers.  “They are beautiful.”

“I have something else for you,” he said.  He reached into his back pants pocket and kneeling down on the dry leaves in between the tracks, he produced a red, velvet box and opened it.  He saw her eyes widen.  “Emily Rose, I have loved you since we were children but that love changed to what it is now.  You are the love of my life–my soulmate.  You are my heaven on earth.  When I look at you, I am amazed not only because you are the most beautiful girl I know but because everything I have ever wanted or dreamed is right in front of me.  When I look at you, I believe that God really loves me because He blessed me with you.  I want to spend the rest of my life loving and taking care of you.  Emily Rose Carter, will you make me the happiest man on the planet by saying that you will marry me?”

Emily was crying now.  In between sobs, she managed to gasp, “Yes, I will marry you.”

After he slipped the ring on her finger, he stood up and picking her up, he swung her around, making her laugh before setting her back down on her feet.  He cupped her face and kissed her for several minutes.  “Let’s celebrate over dinner,” he murmured after raising his head to gaze down into her radiant, tear streaked face.  She nodded and they walked, arms wrapped around each other to their favorite eatery.  It was a balmy afternoon.

Over dinner, they planned the wedding which they wanted to take place as soon as possible.  They didn’t want a long engagement.  They decided to have a fall wedding which was about three months away.  Arrangements were made for a vintage country wedding in a church hall.  The weeks went by quickly and the day which seemed a long way off was nigh.  Then, the unthinkable happened…

Emily and her roommate, Rita were driving home from Emily’s bridal shower when a car ran a red light and slammed into the passenger-side of the car.  Emily died at the scene but Rose was taken to the hospital in critical condition.  When he heard the news, he was devastated, inconsolable and he lashed out at God.  Emily was only twenty-five–in the prime of her life and looking forward to their future together.  How could God have allowed this tragedy to happen?

It was the first day of Fall, just a couple of days before what would have been their wedding ceremony, was Emily’s funeral instead.  He sat there, stone faced still bitter but no longer angry with God.  He had reached the place where he could seek God in prayer and ask him to help him with his anger.

After the funeral, he went home where he remained until the next day when he forced himself to get up and go to work.  He went through the day like an automaton, trying to keep it together but a couple of times, he had to go to the washroom and pull himself together as waves of emotions swept over him.  He missed her so much.  How was he going to function without her?  Her beautiful, expressive face filled his thoughts and her winsome smile tugged at his heart strings, making him ache for her.

It was during one of these meltdown moments that he decided that he had to leave New York and move to another state where he wouldn’t be reminded everyday of his loss.  It took months for him to get everything sorted out and before he left for Seattle, he visited Emily’s grave where he left fresh wild flowers.

Moving to Seattle was the best decision he made, although, it still took five years for him to recover from his grief.  Teaching at the university, going to church and making new friends helped tremendously.  His friends invited him out to different venues and he went.  It was better than being cooped up in his apartment.  However, he made it clear to them that he didn’t want to get fixed up with anyone.  The idea of dating didn’t appeal to him.  He was quite content to be single.

They say love finds you when you’re not looking.  And it did one afternoon when he was walking in the park.   It was a pleasant day.  The sun was high in the cloudless sky and there was a slight breeze.  He went to the lawn flanked by trees and sat on the bench.  There was a group of young people playing Frisbee and he watched them.  They seemed to be having a great time.

The Frisbee landed close to where he was sitting and one of the young women ran over to get it.  She looked to be about twenty or twenty-one–attractive with long chestnut hair which streamed behind her as she ran towards him.  She was dressed in a white tee shirt and denim shorts, exposing long defined legs.  It was obvious that she worked out.

She stooped down and picked up the Frisbee.  When she straightened up, she paused.  For several minutes she just stood there, staring at him, making him uncomfortable and then, she approached him, an inquiring look on her face.  When she stood in front of him, she asked, “Daniel Miller?”

He nodded.  “Yes.  Have we met before?” This close, she looked vaguely familiar now.

She nodded.  “Yes.  We met at my brother’s barbecue.”

“What’s your brother’s name?”

“Mark Brown.  I’m his sister, Cheryl.”  Just then her friends started yelling and waving.

“Oh, yes.  I remember now.  You were in charge of the bean darts.”

She laughed.  “Yes, I was.  And you got the highest score.”

“I got lots of practice from throwing darts.  Um, I think your friends are trying to get your attention.”  They were yelling and waving.

She looked over at them and then back at him.  “I’ll be right back,” she said before bounding off.

He watched as she gave the Frisbee to one of the guys, say something to the group before walking away.  It seemed that Cheryl would rather talk to him than continue playing Frisbee with her friends and for some reason which he couldn’t quite understand, that pleased him immensely.  When she sat down, he asked, “Are you attending university?”

“Yes, Seattle Pacific University.”

“How long have you been attending there?”

“This coming semester will be my second year.”

“What are you studying?”

“Applied Human Biology.  I’ve always wanted to find out how the human body works and why it works the way it does.  Plus, I’m thinking of doing a therapy doctoral degree program after I graduate.”

“It sounds like you have your future well planned.”

“Yes, as far as my academic future is concerned.  When it comes to my personal life, well, that’s a different story.   What about you?  What line of work are you in?”

“I’m a director of Communications and Marketing at Companier.”

“You’re from New York,” she remarked suddenly, startling him.  “Sorry, don’t mean to be nosy.  It’s just that I recognize the accent.”

“You’re right.  I’m from New York.  I moved here to Seattle almost six years ago.”

“How do you like it here?”

“I like its natural beauty, mild winters and the people.  I have more friends here than I know what to do with.”

She smiled.  “All very good reasons,” she said.  “And I heard that it’s cheaper living here than in New York and other cities.”

He smiled.  “That’s true.”

“Are you doing anything later?” she asked.

He shook his head.

“My friends and I are going to the Amusement Center to play their Ultimate Real Life Escape Games.   This is my first time.  It’s supposed to be a lot of fun.  You get to solve real puzzles.  Afterwards, we’ll grab a bite to eat.  Why don’t you come with us?”

The idea of hanging out with a group of university students, most of them probably ten years his junior, didn’t appeal to him but he wanted to see her again.  He enjoyed talking with her.  She was so easygoing and he felt completely relaxed with her.   “All right,” he said.

She looked pleased.  “Great.  We’ll be there for seven.  I’ll wait outside for you.”

“I’ll be there.”

They talked for a while longer and then she returned to her friends.  Shortly afterwards, they left the park.  As he watched them go, he felt a flutter of excitement in his stomach when he thought about seeing her again that evening.

True to her word she was waiting for him and he couldn’t prevent the smile from spreading across his face as he quickly closed the distance between them.  She looked great in a floral top and jeans complete with low heel sandals.  Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, making her look even younger.  Her face lit up when she saw him and grabbing his hand, she took him inside to meet her friends.  They turned out to be a rather nice bunch and he enjoyed interacting with them.

There were two games and they chose the Bourne Mission.  The object of the game was to recover the documents and get out of the abandoned bunker undetected. No one should know you were ever here and if you got caught, there was no rescue mission.  They had a blast even though they fell short of completing the mission.  They made plans to try the Bio-Hazard Room the next time.  They went to a family run Greek restaurant nearby where they enjoyed generous portions of delicious food.  Lively conversation and laughter flowed late into the night.

Daniel offered to take Cheryl home and she readily accepted.  On the way over to her apartment building, they talked animatedly about different things and by the time he walked her to her door, they had arranged to see each other the following day.  It was a beautiful sunny day so they decided to go to Woodland Park Zoo where they spent the entire day.  They bought food from the food truck and then went for a walk in the Rose Garden.  They lingered at the Reflecting Pool and Sculptural Fountain.  It was sunset by the time they left.

As they stood outside of her apartment, he knew that he was ready to be in a relationship again.  “Have dinner with me tomorrow,” he said and she nodded.  He gently brushed her cheek with his knuckles before he walked away.  They began dating.

One evening, they took the ferry to Whidbey Island where they planned to have dinner.  As they stood on the Deception Pass Bridge as it ran suspended over the swirling water, Daniel turned to Cheryl.  He cupped her face between his hands and gazed down into her face.  “Before meeting you, I never thought that I could ever fall in love again,” he said huskily.  “We may not be each other’s first love but I want to be your last and forever love.”

Tears sprang to her eyes.  “You are my first love,” she told him.  “And my last and forever.”

“I love you, Cheryl,” he whispered.

“I love you too, Daniel.”

He smiled slightly before he lowered his head and kissed her. When their lips touched, he felt a fire stir deep inside him.  He felt alive again.  He had heard about people feeling fireworks when they kissed that special someone but when he kissed Cheryl, her lips set his whole heart on fire.

That night over dinner, he asked her to marry him.  Five months later, they got married in the Woodland Rose Garden witnessed by family and friends.  As he gazed into her shining eyes as they danced their first dance, thinking how true the words, God wants to restore everything that’s been stolen from your life. He wants to heal every hurt and every pain.  It took five years but God had restored his life and now he was experiencing love and inexpressible joy once again.  Very few people could say that they were twice blessed but he was–first with Emily Rose and now with Cheryl.

 

Image by © Jamie Grill/Corbis

 

Sources:  Seattle Pacific University; The University of Western Australia; Lake Union Movers; City-Data; Livestrong; NameLix; Trip Advisor; Flee Escape; Woodland Rose Park; The Culture Trip; CBS Seattle; Feels Like Home

Two Brothers

“Young people these days, gallivanting all over the place.  In my day, unmarried people didn’t go on holidays alone.  They got married first.”

“Oh Mother, you have such an archaic view of relationships.  Nowadays lots of unmarried couples go away together and society doesn’t see anything wrong with it.”

“Well, society definitely isn’t the way it used to be in my day.  Nowadays people are living how they please with no thought of the consequences or how it could reflect badly on them and their poor families.”

Emile sat in the armchair beside the window, catching snippets of the conversation between his mother and sister.   They didn’t draw him into it because they could see that he was preoccupied.  He was thinking about Celine.  This morning, he finally faced the truth.  He was in love with her.  It wasn’t something he wanted to happen.  After all, she was Théo’s girlfriend.

He never imagined that his life would change forever because of the afternoon he went with Théo to the restaurant where Celine worked.  He had heard so much about her that he was curious to meet her.

“I told her that we were coming,” Théo told him when they were sitting at a table.  The place was busy as usual for a Saturday.

“I hope she doesn’t mind you bringing me here to meet her.”

“Not at all.  In fact, she’s looking forward to meeting you.”

Emile looked around.  “I notice that the staff is mostly students,” he remarked.

“Yes, that’s because the university is close by which is one of the reasons why Celine is working here.”

“How does she manage working here while going to school?”

“Flexible hours.”

“This is the first time I’ve been here but I’ve heard about it.  They serve Italian food.”

“Yes.  Oh, there she is.”  He waved and a few minutes later Celine was standing at the table.   He smiled up at her before turning to Emile who stood up.  “Emile, this is Celine.  Celine, my brother, Emile.”

Emile felt his breath catch in his throat when he looked down into those big and beautiful brown eyes framed by long lashes.  She was young and beautiful.  Her skin was smooth and flawless.  He wondered if it felt as soft as it looked.  Her neck was long and slender.  And her lips, he saw them part to reveal even white teeth.  She was smiling at him and holding out her hand.  He took it, marveling at how small and slight it felt in his.  Clearing his throat, he muttered, “I’m pleased to meet you, Celine.”

“I’m pleased to meet you too, Emile,” she said.  “Théo promised me that he would bring you around today.  I’m happy he kept his promise.  I hope you will like it here and will come again.”

“I’m sure I will,” he replied.  He tried not to stare and after he released her hand, he sat down.

She turned to Théo.  “You didn’t mention that he was this handsome,” she said, teasingly.  “Is that why you didn’t bring him around to meet me before today?  Were you afraid that I might like him better than you?”

Théo grinned.  “Something like that.”

She smiled.  “It would serve you right if I did.  Anyway, what would you like to drink?”

“The usual.”

“All right.”  She looked at Emile who hadn’t been able to take his eyes off her.  “What about you, Emile?”  Just the way she said his name made his heart skip a beat.

“I’ll have a French limonade, thank you.”

“I’ll get your drinks while you take a look at the menu.”  She excused herself and went away.

As soon as she was gone, Théo remarked, “She’s a lovely girl, isn’t she?”

Emile kept his eyes on the menu.  “Yes, she is.”  He wondered if his brother had noticed the way he kept staring at her.

A few minutes later she returned with their drinks and took their orders.  Before she moved off, her eyes lingered on Emile who felt his face grow hot.  He knew then that he had to go back to the restaurant—just to see her again.  And he did the following night.  He was alone and he sat at the same table.  She looked surprised but very pleased to see him.

“Back so soon?” she said as she stood at the table.  “I guess you enjoyed your dining experience yesterday.”

He nodded.  “Yes, I did.  I enjoyed the food and really liked the service.”

She smiled.  “Thank you.”

“What do you recommend that I try this time?”

“Try the Penne with basil and Home Provencal tomato sauce.”

“Sounds good.  I’ll have that.”

“I’ll be right back.”

When she returned, he asked, “What time do you get off of work?”

“I get off at nine.”

“That’s an hour from now.  Do you have a ride home?”

“I usually take the train.”

“May I give you a ride home?”

“Sure.  Thank you.” She excused herself to go and wait on the other tables.

He watched her as he ate, thinking that she looked even more beautiful than yesterday.  He glanced at his watch.  He couldn’t wait for nine o’ clock to come so that he could be completely alone with her.  For dessert he had a fruit salad and then paid the bill.  He gave her a generous tip which she was very appreciative of.  He waited for her at the door and together they stepped out into the warm night.  They walked to where his car was parked.  He held the door for her and their eyes met briefly before she got in.  He lowered his tall frame behind the wheel and soon they were merging into traffic.

“Do you live alone?” he asked.

“No, I live with my aunt on my mother’s side.”

“Do you have other family here in Paris?”

“No.  The rest of my family is back in Guadeloupe.”

“Do you visit them?”

“Yes, but only at Christmas time.  It’s the only time I can get away.  I stay here during the summer to work full-time at the restaurant.”

“Do you have any siblings?”

“I had a younger sister but she died from pneumonia when she was eight.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.  It must have been a great tragedy for your family.”

“Yes it was a great loss for us.  I know my mother wished she had let Louise come to Paris with me.  She believes that Louise would still be alive.  About a year ago something really weird happened to me.  I was on my way to church when I saw a woman and her daughter.  The little girl was my sister’s doppelganger.  I stood there staring at her because her resemblance to Louise was uncanny.  If I believed in ghosts, I would have sworn that I was looking at my dead sister.  It still gives me the chills.”

“I have heard of such things.  They say that everyone has a twin somewhere out there.   My sister said she saw someone who looked exactly like her sister-in-law one day in the shopping mall and she called out to her but the woman didn’t look around.  When she spoke to Marie the next day, she learned that she was in London at the time.  I hope I don’t have a double.”

She laughed.  “What about Théo?  Can you imagine two of him?”

“It would be double trouble, for sure.”

“Growing up with him must have been fun, though.”

“Yes, it was.   He mentioned that you are in your second year of university.  What are you studying?”

“Hospitality and Leisure Management.  There are two areas which I’m interested in–hotels and restaurants.”

“Is that why you’re working at the restaurant?”

“Yes.  Next year, I’ll work at a hotel.”

“I have no doubt that you would be exceptional in both of these areas.”

She smiled.  “Thank you, Emile.”

She was such a refreshing change from the women he used to date, most of whom were all airs and graces.  He liked that she was down to earth and modest.  She was easy-going, charming and self-assured.  Théo was a very lucky man.  “So, what do you do when you’re not studying or working?”

“I read, go for walks, shop and watch television.”

“And spend time with Théo.”

“Yes.  What about you?  What do you like to do in your spare time?”

“I like to read, hike, play tennis, swimming, cycling, going to motor and art shows and eating out.”

“Sounds like you have a very active life of leisure.  Do you have a girlfriend?”

Her question caught him by surprise and it took a few moments for him to answer.  “No, I don’t have a girlfriend.”  And I wish you didn’t have a boyfriend.

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to be so nosy.”

“It’s all right,” he said quietly.

“Here we are,” she said, pointing to the apartment building on the right.  He slowed down and pulled up alongside the curb.  She turned to him.  “Thanks for the lift, Emile.”

He looked at her, his expression tense.  “When can I see you again?”

“I’m not busy tomorrow,” she informed him.  Tomorrow was Saturday.

“How would you like to visit the Chateau de Saint-Germain-en-Laye?

“I would like that very much.  I’ve always wanted to visit the musée d’Archéologie nationale. ”

“I will pick you up at nine.”  He turned away to open the door and get out.  He walked around to open hers.  After she stepped out he said,  “Goodnight, Celine.”

“Goodnight, Emile.” She smiled up at him before she walked away. He watched her until she went inside and then he got back in the car and drove off. As he headed back to his apartment, he tried convince himself that there was no harm in going on an excursion to Saint-Germain-en-Laye.  It was all perfectly innocent.  She always wanted to visit the museum and he merely giving her what she wanted.  Surely Théo wouldn’t have a problem with that. Besides, he wasn’t interested in this sort of thing.

They ended up spending the entire day in Saint-Germain-en-Laye.  They visited the chateau and the museum before having lunch at a nearby restaurant.  After lunch, they stopped by composer Debussy’s childhood home and museum where many of his personal possessions were kept.  They visited the Eglise Saint Germain and the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, one of the oldest churches in Paris.

Before heading back to the car, they strolled through Place des Marchés, having ice-cream, soaking up the atmosphere.  On the drive home, they talked about all they had seen and how much they enjoyed the excursion.  Outside of her flat, they faced each other.  He wanted so badly to lean over and kiss her but it wouldn’t be right.  Instead he reached for her hand and raised it to his lips.

“Thank you for a lovely day,” she said, her eyes wide as they met his.  She sounded a little breathless.

“It was my pleasure,” was his quiet reply.  He was still holding her hand which he was reluctant to let go of.  “Is it serious between Théo and you?”  He had to ask.

The expression on her face could only be described as baffled but why should she be?  It took a moment for her to say something.  “Why do you ask?”

He released her hand then.  “You’re right.  I shouldn’t have asked the question.  Goodnight, Celine.”

“Goodnight, Emile.”

He turned and walked away.  In the lift, he leaned against the wall as he dragged his fingers through his hair.  He promised himself that he would stay away from Celine.  He had to.

Several weeks passed and he kept busy so that he wouldn’t think about her and miss her but at nights it was torture.  He had sleepless nights.  When he saw Théo, he resisted the temptation to ask about her but one afternoon while they were having lunch at a bistro close to where he worked, his brother said to him, “Celine has been acting very strange lately.  She isn’t her usual upbeat self.  Something’s troubling her but she won’t tell me what it is.”

Emile tried to appear calm but his heart was racing at the mere mention of her name.  Perhaps she was feeling guilty about going to Saint-Germain-en-Laye with him.  “Maybe she has a lot on her mind.”

“Well, I’m taking her dancing at Le Bal Swing tonight.  Hopefully that will cheer her up.”

Emile didn’t answer and he hid his face behind the menu so that Théo couldn’t see the downcast expression on his face.  That night he stayed home, wondering if Celine was having a good time dancing the night away with his brother.  The following day, he drove over to the family chateau to visit his mother.  His sister, Ines was there and now they were having a very heated debate over something or the other.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.  Their raised voices had intruded upon his thoughts.

His mother looked at him, exasperated.  “Well, it’s nice of you to finally join us,” she said crossly.  “Perhaps you can talk your brother out of flying off to St. Barts.”

A surprised expression crossed Emile’s face.  “Théo is going to St. Barts?” He wondered why he hadn’t mentioned that to him.

“Yes, he decided this morning that he was going to take a trip.”

“What’s wrong with him going to St. Barts?”

“Exactly!” Ines chimed in.

Her mother humphed at her before saying to Emile, “I wouldn’t object if he were going alone or with his friends but he’s going with some girl–”

Emile stiffened at once.  “Do you know who she is?”

“Her name begins with a C.”

“Celine?” he asked tightly, his expression taut as he met his mother’s gaze.

“Yes, that’s it.  I told him that I didn’t approve of him going on vacation with a girl he wasn’t married to and–”  She broke off when Emile got abruptly to his feet and stared up at him in surprise.  “What’s the matter?” she asked.

“I have to leave, Mother.”

“Where are you going?” she demanded.  “We haven’t even had dinner as yet.”

“I’m sorry but I can’t stay.  Goodnight.”

“Are you all right?” Ines asked as he walked past her.

Without turning around, he bid her a terse “Goodnight.”

She stared after him, bewildered.  “What do you suppose is the matter with him?”

Her mother shrugged her shoulders.  “He seemed fine until I mentioned the girl.”

Ines looked at her.  “Mother, you got her name wrong.  It’s Celeste, not Celine.”

“Well, the names are so similar, it’s easy to get them confused.  I wish Emile hadn’t run off like that.  What could be more important than having dinner with us?”

Emile hurried to his car and got in.  For a few minutes, he sat there, trying to process what he had just learned.  Théo and Celine were flying off to St. Barts together.  It seemed as if his brother had succeeded in cheering her up last night.  His fingers gripped the steering wheel as jealousy ripped through him.  He had no right to be feeling like this but he couldn’t help it.  He was in love with her and the thought of her with his brother on a beautiful island was unbearable but what could he do about it?  The best thing for him to do was to get over her.  Perhaps, I should fly off somewhere too just to get her out of my system.

He gunned the engine and raced away.  Instead of heading home, he found himself going in the direction of Théo’s flat.  What was he going to say to him when he got there?  He had no clue.  All he knew was that he had to see him.  When he got there and stood outside of the door, he hesitated.  This was not a good idea.  He should turn around and go home.  Just as he made up his mind to do just that, the door opened and Théo stood there.  He was surprised to see him.  “I was just on my way out,” he said.  “Celine is here, though.  I’m sure she would be happy to see you.”

Hearing that Celine was there got his heart racing.  “Where are you going?  Will you be gone long?” he asked his brother.  He was afraid of being alone with her.  There was no telling what he might be tempted to do.

“I have to run an errand.  I should be back in about forty-five minutes or so.  Oh, did I tell you that about the trip to St. Barts?”

Emile shook his head.  “No, you didn’t.”

“I meant to when we had lunch yesterday but it slipped my mind.  The flight is tomorrow night.  Anyway, go on in and make yourself at home.”  He held the door open for Emile to step in and then he closed and locked it behind him.

Emile stood in the foyer for a few minutes before he removed his shoes and went into the living-room where Celine was.  She turned when she heard him.  He closed the distance between and they stood there staring at each other.  The air was palpable between them.  She was wearing a black top and a denim skirt which revealed shapely legs.  His felt his body respond and he released a shaky breath.

“I didn’t expect to see you,” she said.

“I didn’t expect to see you either,” he replied.  “I thought you might be home packing for your trip.”

She stared at him.  “Trip?” she repeated.  “What trip?”

“The one to St. Barts with Théo.

“I’m not going to St. Barts with Théo.”

He looked at her, confused now.  “But Théo said…”

“Théo couldn’t have said that I was going with him. He’s going with Celeste.”

“Celeste?”

“Yes!  She’s the girl he’s been dating for some time now.”

“But you and he went dancing last night.”

“Yes.  Celeste was there too.”

He ran his fingers through his hair, trying to make sense of this.  “When my mother mentioned that Théo was going to St. Barts with someone, I–”

“You made the assumption that it was me.  Why?”

“I thought you were his girlfriend, Celine.”

“No, Théo and I are just good friends.  Is that why you haven’t been in touch with me?  After we spent such a lovely day at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, I thought that we would see more of each other.  I thought you liked me, Emile.”

He stared down into her face, incredulous.  “Like you?” he exclaimed.  “Celine, I’m in love with you.  I wanted to see you again but I couldn’t because of your relationship with Théo.  I truly believed that you and he were romantically involved.”

“All this time you thought I was in love with your brother when it was you all along.  I fell in love with you when he showed me your photo.  I wanted to ask him if I could keep it but I decided that would seem a bit weird.  I kept hounding him to introduce us and he finally did.  When I saw you in person, I fell harder for you.  Your photo didn’t do you justice.   You were reserved but very charming.  I couldn’t keep my eyes off you that night and I was so happy when you came by the following night.  And when you offered to give me a ride home, I was ecstatic.  I got a chance to know you better and I was on cloud nine when you asked me to go to Saint-Germain-en-Laye with you.”

He took her hands in his and drew her towards him, his eyes darkening on her upturned face.  “I’m thankful that I came over here tonight because we cleared up some misunderstandings.  I would have continued to believe that you were Théo’s girlfriend and that you went away with him to St. Barts.”

“Yes.  I would have continued feeling miserable because I thought you were no longer interested in me.   Théo suspected that my troubles had to do with a man but I didn’t tell him who it was.   He tried to cheer me up by taking me dancing but I couldn’t stop thinking about you and missing you.  I left him and Celeste there and took a taxi home.”

He released her hands and cupped her face between his, his eyes searching hers.  “I feel as if I have been waiting for you all of my life.” he murmured huskily.  “I want to court you for a while and then I want to marry you.”

She smiled up at him as she put her arms around his waist.  “When I asked God to give me someone that I could love with all my heart and who would love me in return, someone I can grow old with, to spend the rest of my imperfect life with,  He gave me you.  I will be eternally grateful to Him.”

“Yes, I too am eternally grateful to Him because He blessed me with you.”  He lowered his head and kissed her then.  As their lips locked, he knew that if he were to ever lose his memory, he would never forget their first kiss.

 

Sources:  My University Money; Bistrot 77; École normale supérieure; Top Universities; Solo Sophie; Hostel Geeks; Wikipedia; Culture Trip; Poem Hunter; Simply Love Quotes

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.

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Source:  Peabody Elementary; Career Addict; Quote Fancy