The Moors

Dana walked into the study and went over to the massive bookcase.  She placed the book she had borrowed back on the shelf and stood there looking at the names of the other books.  She was about to reach for the volume containing all of Jane Austen’s writings when she heard what sounded like a dog growling.

Startled, she swung around and her eyes widened when she saw a big and beautiful black, copper and whitish dog sitting at the feet of…her eyes traveled up long knees covered in tan colored and trousers, a white shirt until she found herself staring into the face of a very attractive man with dark brown hair with touches of grey.  He was watching her.

“I-I didn’t know that anyone was in here,” she stammered.

He smiled.  “I’m sorry,” he apologized.  “Heathcliff and I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

Her eyes shifted to the dog.  “Heathcliff?” she repeated.  “His name is Heathcliff?”

“You can blame Avery for that.  Heathcliff is his dog.”

“He’s a beautiful dog. What breed is he?”

“He’s a Bernese Mountain Dog.  By the way, I’m Avery’s Dad.” He got up from the armchair and went over to her, his hand extended.  He was tall and athletic and looked a lot younger than she expected.  He was probably in his early fifties.

“I’m Dana,” she said as they shook hands.  “I’m pleased to finally meet you, Mr. Faulkner,” she said, smiling shyly.  “Avery has told me so much about you.”

“I have heard a lot about you too.  Avery’s not here.  He had to run some errands but he should be back in an hour or so.  You’re welcome to wait here in the study, if you like or you can go for a walk with Heathcliff and me.”

She looked at Heathcliff who came over to stand beside Mr. Faulkner.  “Are you sure he won’t mind me tagging along?” she asked warily.  He was a huge dog.  She didn’t have anything against dogs but some of them made her nervous.

Mr. Faulkner’s lips twitched.  “No, he won’t mind,” he assured her.  “It’s not everyday that we have a pretty young woman accompany us on one of our walks.”

She smiled.  He thinks I’m pretty.  “Well, I guess it’s a good thing that I’m wearing jeans and comfortable shoes.  I would be more than happy to go for a walk Heathcliff and you.”

“Very good.  Let’s go, then.”

Dana followed him and the excited Heathcliff out of the study.  Before they left the manor, Mr. Faulkner informed Nigel that they were going for a walk in case Avery came back before they did.  It was a glorious day.  A comfortable summer day with a cool, gentle breeze and all around her and as far as the eye could see was picturesque land, a myriad of bright hues of green, yellow and the tops of the cottages tucked snugly among the foliage.  They headed straight for the moors, Heathcliff racing ahead of them, tail wagging.

“Now, I think I understand why his name is Heathcliff,” she said. “In the novel, Wuthering Heights it was where the character, Heathcliff felt most comfortable to be himself.  He felt more at home in the wild moors than at the house.  It’s the same with Heathcliff.  Look at him scampering about the place as if he owned it.  He’s not at all the same animal I saw sitting in the study a few moments ago.”

Mr. Faulkner smiled.  “Yes, he loves it out here and that’s why I bring him here every day.”

She drew a deep breath.  “I can’t blame him.  It’s beautiful out here.  It beats living in the city.”

“Don’t you like living in the city?”

“I like it more for convenience.  I can easily get around using public transportation and I live close to work and amenities.  I only drive my car when I’m going out of town. I enjoy the drive here to Yorkshire.  It feels nice leaving the hustle and bustle of the city behind even if it’s just for a while.”

“I can understand where you’re coming from.  Years ago after I graduated from Oxford, I left this estate and moved to London.  A couple of years later, I met the woman who was to become my wife at my best friend’s wedding.  Holly and I got married a couple of months later.  A year before Avery was born, we moved back here to Yorkshire after my parents left the estate to me and moved to Basel, Switzerland.”

“So, Avery is a country boy,” she remarked, smiling.

“Yes, we both decided that raising children in the countryside would best.  I don’t know if Avery told you this but he had a younger sister.  Her name was Lily.  She was a lovely child and was fair like her mother.  Unfortunately, when she was only eight, she died of Leukemia.  We were devastated. Before she died, Holly used to visit the grave on Lily’s birthday.  This May she would have been twenty-one.”

“Yes, Avery told me about her and he showed me a picture of her. You’re right, she was a splitting image of your wife.  It must have been tough for you when Mrs. Faulkner died.”

“It was.  When she complained of having the worst headache in her life, I took her to the hospital.  She suffered from migraines but this headache seemed out of the ordinary.  It was hard to really tell what it was.  It could have been a toxic headache caused by the over the counter painkillers she was using for her migraines.  In retrospect, the only warning sign was when Holly said that it was the the worst headache she had ever had.  Hours later the doctor came out and told me that she died to complications from a ruptured brain aneurysm.  I sat there for a long time in a daze before I came home here to tell Avery the terrible news.  The manor seemed so empty without her.  For a long time after, I would walk into the study or the drawing-room and expect to find her there.  It took a long time for me to get over the shock of losing her.  Although, she died five years ago, I still miss her, especially on her birthday and around Christmastime.”

“You never really get over losing someone you love.  My father died when I was six but I still miss him and wish that he were here.  We were very close and I always promised myself that when I got married it would be to a man like my father.”

“Aren’t you a bit young to be thinking about marriage?” He stopped and turned to face her.

She looked up at him.  “I’m not that young,” she replied.  “I’m twenty-five.”

“At my age, twenty-five seems very young.”

“If you don’t mind me saying so, you look a lot younger than I expected.”

He smiled.  “I’ll take that as a compliment.  It’s not every day that woman in her twenties tells a fifty-three year old man that he looks young for his age.”

She wondered what he would do if he knew that she was attracted to him.  As they walked, she gave him sidelong glances and thinking Avery’s good-looking but his father is extremely good-looking and sexy.  “Avery mentioned that you’re retired.  What made you decide to retire early?”

“I have more time now for doing the things I enjoy such as writing, lecturing, travel, playing golf and going sailing.”

He could afford to retire because he was wealthy, she thought.  As for her, she would have to work until she reached the retirement age which seemed like a long, long time from now.  “Do you ever get bored?”

He shook his head.  “No.  There’s always something to do.”

“When I retire, I’d probably travel.  There are other parts of Europe I would like to visit.”

“You don’t have to wait until you retire to travel.  Avery and a group of friends are leaving in a couple of weeks for San Sebastian where they will be spending the entire month of July.  Why don’t you go with them?”

She shrugged.  “I can’t be away from the office for that long,” she said.  Besides, San Sebastian sounds expensive. 

“Well, while Avery’s away, you’re welcome to come to Yorkshire and spend time with Heathcliff and me.”

She smiled.  “I’d like that,” she told him and thought that beat flying off to San Sebastian.

He glanced at his watch.  “We’d better be heading back,” he suggested.  “Avery’s probably back by now.”  He called to Heathcliff who came bounding over to him.

When they got back to the manor, Avery met them in the courtyard.  Heathcliff ran over to him and he squatted to ruffle his fur and got slobbered in the face.  “Easy boy,” he said to him before he stood up.  He looked first at his father and then at Dana.  “I see that you met Heathcliff and my father,” he said with a grin.  “Did you enjoy traipsing about the moors with them?”

She nodded.  “I did.  Now I know why you love the moors so much.  I can spend all day out on them.”

“Well, I don’t think I’ll be missing them while I’m enjoying the sea, mountains, city and countryside of San Sebastian. Are you sure you won’t change your mind and come?”

She shook her head.  “Sorry, I can’t but I’m sure you’ll have a great time anyway.”

“Will you stay for dinner?” he asked.

“I wasn’t planning to–”

Mr. Faulkner turned to her, “Please do,” he urged. “It would be a shame for you to leave now when you can stay and have dinner with us.”

“All right, I’ll stay for dinner.  Thank you.”  You’re reason why I’m staying.  She watched him walk toward the manor, after excusing himself, with Heathcliff close at his heels.  When he was gone, she turned to Avery.  “I like your father,” she said.  “He’s very nice, pleasant and easy to talk to.”

“Yes, he’s terrific.  I wish he would go out more often, though.  He spends too much time here on the estate.  It’s been five years since Mother died. I think it’s time he considered dating.”

“He seems quite content with his life, doing the things he enjoys.  Dating might not be on his list of priorities right now and I think you should respect that.”  She knew she was saying this because she didn’t like the idea of Mr. Faulkner dating anyone.

“I suppose you’re right.  Well, enough about my father, let’s go and sit in the garden until it’s time for dinner.”

She went with him to the immaculately kept garden with its fountain and sat down on the grass with her legs stretched out in front of her.  The warmth of the sun felt great on her face.  She wanted to talk more about his father but decided that it probably wasn’t a good idea.  Instead she talked about his upcoming trip and other things.  The time went by quickly and soon it was time for dinner.

Dinner turned out to be a very pleasant affair and she found herself laughing at the stories Mr. Faulkner told her about Avery when he was a child until he begged his father to talk about something else.  After dinner, they retired to the drawing-room where they played Charades, Monopoly and then Dana sat back and watched father and son play Chess.  Two hours passed and it was time for her to leave.

“Thank you for a wonderful evening, Mr. Faulkner,” she said as they shook hands.  “It was a pleasure to meet you.”

“The pleasure was all mine, Dana,” he replied with a smile which made her heart flutter.

“Goodbye, Heathcliff,” she said as she reached down and patted him on the head.  Avery followed her out of the drawing-room and to her parked car.  “Goodnight, Avery.”

He held the door open for her and she quickly got in.  “Goodnight, Dana.  I’ll call you tomorrow.”

She waved at him before driving off.  I’ll be back here in July, she thought.

July came and every afternoon, she drove to Yorkshire and Mr. Faulkner and she would go for walks on the moors or sit in the study or in the garden and have dinner.  On the weekends, they would go for picnics or drives to other parts of the countryside.  One Sunday morning, he took her sailing on his yacht and they had lunch on the deck.  She had never been sailing before so it was quite an exhilarating and terrifying experience because she wasn’t very good swimmer.

It was a Saturday afternoon and they were in the study when he got up from the armchair to look out of the window.  “It looks a bit grey but we can still go for a walk.”

She joined him at the window.  “But Nigel said that it’s going to rain.”

“We can go and come back before it does.  Let’s go.”

“What about Heathcliff?”

“I’d like it to be just the two of us this time.”

They left the dog sleeping on the rug and hurried down the hallway.  They met Nigel on the way.  “Nigel, we’re going for a walk.

“But, Mr. Faulkner, it’s going to rain any minute now.  If you and Miss Brown get caught in it you will be soaked to the skin.”

“Don’t worry, Nigel, I’m sure we’ll be back before it rains.”

Nigel opened his mouth to suggest that they take umbrellas but they were gone. Shrugging his shoulders, he turned and went to check every room to sure that the windows were closed.

The sky looked overcast now as they went across the moors and she had a terrible feeling that Nigel was right about the rain.  There were heavy black clouds looming above them and it was windy.  Avery had mentioned to her a long time ago about the summer storms in Yorkshire and she prayed that she wasn’t about to be caught in one.  Just then, she saw lightning in the distance and then the loud clap of thunder, making her almost jump out of her skin.  She looked frantically about her.  They were too far from the house to make it back before the rain came.  And came it did, a few minutes later.  It swept across the moors.

“It’s really coming down, isn’t it?” He commented.

“We should have listened to Nigel.  He told us that it was going to rain.”

“Yes, I should have listened to him.  Come, I know a place where we can go for shelter until the rain stops.”  Taking her by the hand, they ran across the moors as the rain pummeled them.

They came upon an abandoned and rundown farm house and went inside.  The front door was missing but most of the windows were boarded up.  They went to an area of the house where the rain couldn’t get in and waited there.  Dana listened as the rain beat down mercilessly on the roof.  “Is this a summer storm?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No, I don’t think so. But from the looks and sound of it, we could be here for a while.  I’m sorry, Dana,” he said, turning toward her.  “We could be in the study now, dry and relaxing instead of being here in this farmhouse, soaked.”

She looked up at him.  “It’s okay,” she said.  “I think it’s romantic.”

He raised his eyebrows.  “Romantic?”  The place was in a terrible state.  The walls were dirty and peeling, there wasn’t much of a floor where they were standing and a couple of beaten up chairs.  This was hardly what he would call a romantic setting.

“Yes.” She wanted to reach up and touch his face. What she was feeling must have been evident on her face because she saw his eyes darken and his expression change.  Her heart began to pound wildly against her ribs and she moved closer to him.  “I think it’s romantic–the two of us here, alone in an abandoned farmhouse on the moors because we got caught in the rain.  No one knows we’re here.  Something can happen between us and no one would know.”

He swallowed hard.  “Do you want something to happen between us?” he asked tightly, his heart racing.

She nodded, her eyes dropped to his lips and she moved closer.

Muttering under his breath, he quickly closed the distance between them and reaching up, he cupped her face between his hands, his eyes meeting hers in a scorching gaze before he bent his head and kissed her.  Dana pressed against him and closed her eyes when she felt his lips moving hungrily on hers.  She put her arms around his waist and kissed him back.

Outside the rain continued to fall, beating against the window.  The grey light streaked through the window bathing them as they stood there exchanging wild kisses.  He broke off the kiss to stare down into her upturned face, his breath harsh and unsteady.  He wanted her so badly.  With supreme effort, he released her and turned away.  “We can’t do this,” he muttered thickly.

She went up behind him and put her arms around his waist, burying her face in his back.  “I want you, Emmett,” she murmured huskily.  “And I know you want me too.”

He closed his eyes.  “Yes, I want you, Dana, I want you so much I can’t think straight but I’m almost twice your age.”

“I don’t care, Emmett.  I want to be with you.”

“And I want to be with you,” he groaned, turning around to face her.   “But not here in this abandoned farmhouse.  Let’s go back to the manor.”

“But it’s still raining.”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said.  “We’re already soaked. At least at the manor we can get out of these wet clothes.”

“All right,” she agreed. The wet clothes were sticking to her making her feel uncomfortable.  She couldn’t wait to get out of them.  They made their way gingerly to the front door and dashed through the rain, across the moors and to the manor.

Thankfully, Nigel wasn’t around.  They went straight upstairs to Emmett’s room and stripping, they went into the bathroom and took a long, hot shower together.  Afterwards, they put on his toweling robes and she sat at his feet while he dried her hair.  When he was done, he set the towel aside, got up from the chair and pulled her to her feet.

Their eyes met as he untied the sash and slid the robe off her shoulders.  It fell at her feet.  He removed his and they were standing there, facing each other.  He picked her up and carried her over to the bed where they made love while outside the rain continued to fall.  She ended up spending the night.  The rain ended early the following morning.  After breakfast, she went home and returned in the afternoon.  This time she brought an overnight bag with her so she could spend the weekend with Emmett.

They became lovers and spend every waking moment together.  They went sailing, to concerts, the opera, museums, dinner and on day trip to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath.  Dana was delirious with joy because she got to be with the man she was madly in love with and do fun things with him.  This was turning out to be the best summer of her life.

Emmett stood at Dana’s bedroom window looking out at the flickering lights of the city in the distance.  Tomorrow Avery was coming back from his trip and he was filled with mixed feelings.  He was happy to have his son back but he knew it would change things for Dana and him.  They wouldn’t be able to see each other as often and openly as they had been for these past weeks.

He heard the phone ringing in the living-room and wondered who could be calling so late.  He heard Dana stir behind him and then minutes later, he felt her arms go around his waist.  “What are you doing out of bed?” she asked sleepily, burying her face in his bare back.

“I couldn’t sleep,” he admitted.  “I guess it’s being in the city again with all its sounds.  Your phone was ringing.”

“Whoever it is will leave a message.  Let’s go back to bed.”

He turned to face her when she released him.  She took his hand and led him over to the bed.  After they got under the covers, she turned on to her side and gazed down at him.  “I love you, Emmett,” she murmured huskily.  “I love you so much.”

He reached up and gripped her head, pulling it down to his.  “I love you too,” he moaned against her lips.  They made love and then fell asleep in each other’s arms.

When she woke up the next morning, he wasn’t there.  After pulling on a dressing-gown she went to look for him and found him in the kitchen making breakfast.  He turned when he heard her and smiled.  “Good morning.”

“Good morning,” she kissed him before she sat at the table and watched him.  “Something smells really good.”

“What you’re smelling is my specialty—Grilled Tomatoes with Fried Eggs and toast.”  He had already set the table.  He put a plate in front of her along with a glass of Orange Juice and a cup of tea before doing the same for himself.  “I hope you enjoy it,” he said when he sat down.  “I haven’t made breakfast since Holly died.”

Touched that he made breakfast, she took her first bite.  “This is delicious,” she exclaimed.

He smiled.  “Thank you.” Then his expression became serious.  “I hope this will be the first of many breakfasts I make for you.”

She reached out and touched his hand.  “I hope so too.”

After breakfast, they showered together and he left.  She was going to see him later at the manor but first, she had a busy morning ahead of her.

Around noon, Emmett was in his study, sorting through the mail when his phone rang.  It was Avery.  “Hello, Son,” he said.  “I don’t have to ask if you had a good trip.  I could tell from your postcard.”

“Yes, San Sebastian was amazing.  We all had a great time.  Have you seen Dana?  I’ve been trying to reach her since last night.”

Yes, I know.  I was with her when you called.  “Is it urgent that you get in touch with her?”

“Well, I have something very important to say to her.  I’ll pop round to her flat later.”

Emmett wondered what it was that Avery wanted to say to Dana.  Was he going to tell her that he wanted to get back together with her?  They used to date when they were attending university until Dana decided to end it.  He always wondered why Avery never brought her to the manor to meet him while they were dating.  Did Avery think that he would object to their relationship because she was black?  He should know better than that.

“Dad?  Are you still there?”

“Yes—yes, I’m still here.  Sorry.  What were you saying?”

“I’m going to drop by and see you later.”

“All right.  I will see you later.”  He hung up and sat there, staring at the phone.  What was he going to do if it turned out that Avery wanted to renew his relationship with Dana?  What would happen if he found out that she had been seeing his father?  It would destroy his faith and trust in both of them.  And it could ruin his relationship with his son forever.

Emmett dragged his fingers through his hair in despair.  Why did he have to go and do a foolish thing like fall helplessly in love with his son’s ex-girlfriend?  Being with her these past several weeks had been the happiest times in his life.  She brought joy and excitement to his otherwise staid life.  And now…he had to end their relationship for Avery’s sake.  He closed his eyes, his expression one of torment.  He would end it today when she came by the manor.

Hours later, he instructed Nigel to send Miss Brown to the study and that he didn’t want to be disturbed.  As he sat in the armchair, waiting for her, memories of their time together flooded his mind.  He would never forget the first time they kissed and he knew that he would go to that abandoned farmhouse again.

He stiffened when he heard her come into the room and close the door.  Heart racing, he stood up and his eyes were restless as she hurried over to him, her eyes dancing and a big smile on her beautiful face.  For a moment, he wanted to forget the whole thing and just take her in his arms.  “Dana, we need to talk,” he said quietly and saw the smile disappear.

Frowning, she asked, “What’s wrong, Emmett?” She could see now that he was upset about something.  And she realized that he hadn’t pulled her into his arms and kissed her like he usually did.  Instead, he stood with his hands shoved deep in his pockets, his body stiff and his expression tense.  Something was definitely wrong.

“I don’t quite know how to say this,”

He was scaring her now.  “Just say it.”

“Dana, we have to end our relationship.”

His words were like a blow she didn’t see coming even though she knew that something was up and it took several minutes for her to catch her breath and ask, “But why?”

“I’m too old for you.”

“When we were in that farmhouse, you said the same thing but afterwards you told me that you wanted to be with me.”

“Yes, I did.  I still do but it doesn’t matter what I want, especially when it will hurt Avery.  He still cares for you, Dana.”

“So, Avery’s the real reason why you want to end our relationship?”

“Yes.  I don’t want to hurt him.”

“But, I love you,” she cried in a trembling voice, tears welling in her eyes.

He turned away and closing his eyes, he muttered tightly, “And I love my son.”

That cut through her like a knife, and stifling a sob, she turned and ran from the room, past Nigel who was walking down the hallway.

After she disappeared, he went to the study where he found slumped over his desk with his face buried in his hands.  “Is everything all right, Sir?” he inquired.

Emmett glanced up at him, his face pale and drawn.  “No, Nigel,” he muttered.  “And it will never be all right again because I just made the biggest mistake of my life.  I chased the woman I love out of my life.”

Dana ran blindly down the steps and straight into Avery who managed to keep his balance as he caught her by the shoulders to steady her.  “What on earth is the matter?” he asked.

“I…want…to… go…home,” she sobbed and tried to pull away but his grip tightened.

“You’re in no shape to drive,” he told her.  “I’ll take you home.”  With his arm around her shoulders, he led her over to where her car was parked and helped her in.  He reached in and strapped her in before closing the door and walking around to the driver’s side.  He glanced at her as he fastened his seat belt.  What on earth happened in there?  He had never seen her in such a state.  She was slumped against the seat, her body racked with sobs.  He grabbed a box of tissues and placed it on her lap.  As he pulled away from the manor, he thought he saw his father looking out from the window of the study.

He allowed several minutes to go by and when the sobs had subsided, he gently pressed her.  “What happened at the house, Dana?  Did my father say something to upset you?”

“I–I’d rather not talk about it…” her voice trembled and ended in a sob.  She pressed a wad of tissues against her mouth to stifle another sob as fresh tears fell.

Avery didn’t ask her any more questions but he suspected that his father had something to do with it and he planned to have it out with him as soon as he returned to the manor.  For the rest of the drive, he didn’t say anything.  He took her up to her flat and spent some time with her until he was comfortable leaving her alone.  He left, called for a cab and went to the manor.

An hour later, he went into the study and over to his father who turned when he heard him and asked, “What happened between Dana and you?  She came running out of the house, hysterical when I arrived.  I had to take her home because she was in no condition to drive.”

Emmett’s face was pale and drawn.  It was no use denying the truth.  “While you were in San Sebastian, Dana and I had been seeing each other.”

“I know that, Dad,” he said much to his father’s astonishment.  “Nigel told me.”

Emmett looked aghast, still trying to recover from his shock.  All this time Avery knew about Dana and him.  “Nigel told you?” he repeated.

“Before I left for my trip, I asked him to keep an eye on you.  I would have asked Dana to do it but I thought she would be too busy.  And one day when I called and you weren’t here, imagine my surprise when he told me that you and she had gone sailing and that you had been spending a lot of time together.  He even mentioned that Dana spent many nights here at the manor and that he had never seen you happier.”

“I was so sure that you would be angry with me because you and Dana used to date.”

“Dad, that was a long time ago.  Dana and I are just very good friends.”

“But, today, you said that you had been trying to reach her because you had something important you wanted to say to her.  So, I thought that you still had feelings for her and wanted to get back together.”

“No, I wanted to tell her that I met a terrific girl on the trip.  Her name is Isabella…”

Emmett went behind his desk and sank heavily down in the chair.  Groaning, he buried his face in his hands.  Alarmed, Avery rushed over to him and put his hand on his shoulder.

“Dad, are you all right?” he asked.

Emmett looked up at him.  “I ended my relationship with Dana because I didn’t want to hurt you,” he muttered tightly.  “I love her and I let her go.”

“You broke up—?  So, that’s why she was in such a state.  I’m so sorry, Dad.  I wish I had told you about Isabella and then none of this would have happened.  It’s just that I wanted Dana to know about her first because she was always telling me that one of these days, I would meet the girl of my dreams.”  He looked at his father’s face and his heart almost broke.  “Dad, I feel badly about what happened with Dana.  Why don’t you go over to her place right now and tell her that you made a terrible mistake?  If you like I could take you there myself.  It’s the least I could as this is entirely my fault.”

Emmett nodded and got up from the chair.  He followed Avery out of the room.

Dana was curled up on the sofa, hugging a cushion when she heard the doorbell.  She got up and went to answer it.  When she saw Emmett standing there, she immediately opened the door. Before she could say anything, he blurted out, “Dana, I made a terrible mistake.  Can you ever forgive me?”

Eagerly, she reached out and pulled him into the flat, slamming the door shut.  “Yes,” she cried.  “I forgive you for breaking my heart because you’re here now to put the pieces back together.  Oh, Emmett, I thought I would never see you again.”

His eyes darkened on her face.  Her eyes were red and puffy from crying but to him she looked exquisite.  Reaching up he cupped her face between his hands.  “I love you, Dana and I want to spend the rest of our lives showing you how much.”

Smiling, she put her arms around his waist, watching, transfixed as his face drew closer to hers and murmured, “I love you too, Emmett,” before his lips touched hers.

 

 

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The Autograph

He was walking down a busy street in downtown Manhattan, heading back to his hotel room when he saw her.  She was coming toward him–a very pretty girl in a white jacket over a black top and blue jeans.  He wasn’t looking for anything because he was already in a relationship which he was having serious misgivings about, especially now that Claudia was pressuring him to get married.  The last thing he wanted was to be distracted by another woman.

Yet, as they approached each other, he couldn’t look away.  She was staring at him too and that thrilled him.  Since Claudia and he began dating four years ago, he had never once looked at another woman until now…His heart thudded as they got closer to each other and as they passed each other, she looked right up at him.  He was tempted to look back but continued walking.

“Excuse me,” she called and he stopped.  When he turned around, she went closer, her eyes searching his face.  “Aren’t you Bernard Forbes, the British stage and independent film actor?”

He nodded.  “Yes, I am.”

She smiled broadly, her eyes bright with excitement.  “I’m a big fan of yours,” she told him.  “I have seen all of your films.  And last month when I was in London, I went to see you in the latest stage production of Macbeth.  It was the only reason I visited England.  I wanted to go backstage and get your autograph but my aunt was in a hurry to leave.”

“I’m flattered that you went all the way to London just to see me in a play.  The least I can do is to give you my autograph for your trouble.”

“It just so happens, I have the program with me.  This is the handbag I had with me when I went to see the play.  I just never got around to taking it out and I’m happy I didn’t.”  She took it out along with a pen and handed them to him, her heart racing.  He was even more handsome in person and gracious too.  She couldn’t wait to call her aunt in London and tell her.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Kimani Jones.”

“Kimani.  What an unusual name,” he commented.  “What does it mean?”

“’Beautiful’ and ‘sweet’”, she replied.  “My mother saw it somewhere and decided that she would call me that.”

“It suits you,” he said, his eyes meeting hers in a steady gaze before he turned his attention to signing his autograph.  He wrote:  To: Kimani, my warmest regards and my very best to you always.  Bernard Forbes.  He handed the program back to her.

She read what he wrote.  “Thank you,” she gushed, beaming at him.  “I really appreciate this.

“It was my pleasure,” he said quietly.  “How come you’re not in school?”

“I’m on March break,” she said.  “And I’m in my third year at New York University.”

“Are you in a hurry to get somewhere?”

She shook her head.  “I was just window shopping.  Spring is around the corner so I was thinking of buying some new clothes.”

They were standing close to a café.  “Let’s move our conversation from the sidewalk to in there,” he suggested.  There wasn’t any harm in talking to one of his fans, was there?  She was a welcome change from the movie and theatre crowd and the people he usually associated with.  Besides, this was better than going back to his hotel room to brood over his relationship with Claudia.

She readily acquiesced and they went into the café.  He found a table at the back and by the window.  It was after ten o’clock so the place was almost empty save for a few people and aside from curious stares in his direction, no one bothered them.  After they ordered two hot chocolates, he leaned forward in his chair, arms on table and studied her.  “You mentioned that you’re in your third year in university.  What is your area of study?”

I can’t believe I’m sitting here having a conversation with Bernard Forbes.  “I’m studying Psychology.”

“Why Psychology?”

“I want to help people.”

“That’s commendable,” he said.  “I have a feeling that you will do very well in the field.”

“Thank you.”

“Have you always lived in New York?”

“Yes.  And I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

He asked her all sorts of questions about herself and in no time an hour had passed.  “Spend the rest of the day with me, Kimani,” he heard himself say.

“All right,” she said, thrilled.  And after he paid for the hot chocolates, they left the cafe and walked up the road where he hailed a cab.

They went to Central Park where they spent a fun afternoon.  They went up to the Belevdere Castle to check the temperature and to enjoy the panoramic view around them.  Afterwards, they visited the Conservatory Garden and watched people sail their boats at Conservatory Water before they grabbed lunch.  After lunch they went to see a puppet show at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre.  They ended the day at Bethesda Fountain where they each made a wish.

The sun was setting as they walked to the exit of the park.  He hailed a cab and she gave the driver her address.

“Thank you for an incredible day,” he told her when they were outside of her apartment building.  “I haven’t enjoyed myself so much in a very long time.”

She smiled.  “I had a wonderful time too.  I never knew there were so many fun things to do in Central Park.”  I hope we can see each other again.

“Kimani, I want to see you again.” This was madness but he couldn’t seem to get enough of her.  He had to see her again.   “Have dinner with me tomorrow night.”

“I’d like that,” she said.

“Good.  I’ll pick you up at seven.”  He took her hand and raised it to his lips, making her tremble.   “Have a good evening.”  He reluctantly released her hand and climbed back into the back of the cab.

Her flesh tingled.  “You too,” she replied breathlessly.  She wave at him before she turned and walked to the entrance of her building on rather shaky legs, her mind spinning.  She hoped this wasn’t all a dream.

Dinner was at the Empire State Building.  As soon as they walked in they were greeted with a smile before being shown to a table with a magnificent view.  Over Burrata and Shave Kale salads, Scottish Salmon and Roasted Farm Chicken and non-alcoholic wine, they talked about many different things.  She learned that Bernard began acting on stage when he was eleven at the encouragement of his father who used to be renown theatre actor himself.  His mother was an opera singer.  Both parents were still alive and living in the South of France.  They recently celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary.  He flew out for the occasion.  He was an only child like her.

“Do you ever wish that you had brothers or sisters?” she asked.

“Sometimes.  It would have been nice to have an older brother whom I could go to for relationship advice and the one I’d call instead of one of my parents when I got into trouble.  And of course, be each other’s best man at our weddings.”

“Yes, I wish I had an older sister that I could share secrets with whose closet I could raid when I didn’t have anything to wear and someone to hang out with whenever we are forced to attend a family get together and go shopping with.”

He smiled.  “And what would happen if you both ended up liking the same guy?” he teased.

“I would like to think that if the guy liked her instead of me, I would bow out gracefully.”

His expression grew serious.  “If I were that guy you would be the sister I liked.”

She smiled shyly at him.  “And if you had a brother, I would like you instead of him.”

“Kimani, I’m here in New York for a week.  Can I see you everyday until it’s time for me to fly back to London?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  I just have to figure where we can go that you haven’t already been.  I read on line that you have been to New York many times because it’s one of your favorite cities in the world after London and Paris.”

He looked intrigued.  “What else have you read about me?”

“That you like going to museums, for long walks, traveling, cooking, volunteering, you prefer theatre acting to film acting and prefer dating actresses.”

“I’m guilty of all of those things except the bit about my preference for actresses.  You’re not an actress, are you?”

She laughed.  “I was in drama class once in high school and I managed to get through it but I knew then and there that acting was not for me.”

“I love it,” he said simply.  “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

“What about when the opposite sex throw themselves at you?”

“Yes, that ‘s the part of my career which I truly dislike,” he agreed.  “but it has brought us together.”

“I never imagined that I would bump into you in the street or that when I asked you for your autograph we would end up spending the day together or having dinner.  I still can’t believe that this is really happening.  I’m afraid that this is all a very long and wonderful dream.”

He reached over and grasped her hand.  “This is no dream, Kimani,” he assured her, gently squeezing her fingers to make his point.  “I’m real, you’re real and what is happening between us is very real.”

She blinked, finding it hard to think with him holding her hand.  Just then, a couple approached their table.  They smiled apologetically before the woman said hesitantly, “I’m so sorry to disturb your dinner but know that my husband nor I wouldn’t be able to forgive me if I passed up this opportunity to get your autograph.  We saw you in Macbeth, Hamlet, Absent Night and Secrets in the Dream, your latest independent film.  We are huge fans.  Do you mind signing the front of this photo of my husband and me?” she handed it to him with a pen.   She smiled at Kimani.  “Sorry for the interruption.”

Kimani smiled.  “Don’t worry about it,” she said.  One of the things she had to get used to when being with him was having interruptions like this.

“What are your names?” Bernard asked the woman who was pretty and looked to be in her late thirties.

“Kevin and Angela.”

He scribbled something on the photo and gave it back to her with the pen.  “Have a good evening,” he said with a smile.

“Thank you so much,” she said, looking at the signed photo in appreciation before she put it in her bag.  “Enjoy the rest of your evening.”  She turned and walked away.

“Do you ever get used to people coming up to you wherever you go for your autograph?” she asked.

“Actually, I have gotten used to it but not tired of it.  I will always be happy to sign autographs long after I’ve retired from acting which wouldn’t be for a very long while.   I hope you didn’t mind.”

She shook her head.  “I didn’t.  She’s a fan just like me.  I can relate.”

He glanced at his watch.  “The night is still young.  Would you like to go for a carriage ride in Central Park?”

Her eyes brightened.  “Yes!”

His lips twitched and he signaled to the waitress.  Ten minutes later, they were on their way to Central Park.

The carriage ride was a remarkable and romantic experience.  The Park was transformed at night, a perfect escape from the bustle and noise of the city, making it easy for them to enjoy the spectacular views of the city skyline.  It was the perfect end to a perfect evening.  He took her home and they saw each other for the rest of the week going to the museum, the theatre, the movies, a gondola ride in Central Park, Atlantic City and Coney Island.

On Sunday afternoon, she went with him to the airport, sorry to see him go.  They faced each other general area before he went to the terminal where he would catch his plane.  He took her hands in his.  “I will be back in a week,” he promised.

She nodded and then reached up and hugged him tightly.  “I’ll see you in a week.”

He bent his head and kissed her.  It lasted for a few minutes and when they broke apart, his face was flushed.  “I’ll be back before you know it,” he said before he turned and walked away.  She watched him until he was out of sight before she left the airport, her heart heavy.

The day after he returned from New York, Bernard went to see Claudia.  She was expecting him.  She opened the door, dressed in a long black negligee leaning and her mouth raised for a kiss but after a light brush of his lips against her cheek, he walked past her and into the living-room.  There was a time, not so long ago, when he would have dragged that negligee off.  It was amazing how a man could look at the same woman who used to drive him wild with desire and feel nothing.

Frowning, she closed the door.  “Is something wrong?” she asked when she joined him and noted the expression on his face.

“Please sit down,” he said.  When she did, he sat beside her.  He took a deep breath.  “Claudia, I can’t marry you.”

She stared at him, her face going pale.  “Why not?” she asked.

He hesitated for a moment and then he confessed, “I don’t love you.”

“So, for the four years we have been together you never once loved me?”

He nodded, feeling awful.  “I cared about you, but I wasn’t in love with you.”

“Is that why every time I broached the subject of marriage you shut down?”

He nodded again.  “Yes.  When it comes to marriage, a person has to be very sure before taking that step.  And since I wasn’t sure about us, I couldn’t take that risk.  I went to New York to sort things out and I realized that what was troubling me from the very beginning were my feelings for you.  You loved me but I had to admit to myself that I didn’t love you.  Claudia, you deserve to be with a man who will love you back.  I’m not that man.  I’m sorry…”

She got up from the sofa and began to pace, her arms folded tightly as the enormity of what he was saying hit her.  Tears sprang in her eyes but she blinked them back.  “You came to this conclusion when you were in New York?”

“Yes.”

“Did you meet someone else while you were there, Bernard?”

He sighed, “Yes, but—”

“Is she the reason why you have now decided that you don’t want to be in a relationship with me anymore?”

“Before I met her, I was filled with so many doubts about you and me which I couldn’t shake off.  And being with her helped me to realize that it wouldn’t be fair to either you or me to continue our relationship when it would not lead to what you want—marriage.”

“So, who is she? Another actress or one of your adoring fans?”

He didn’t answer.  “Claudia, the last thing I wanted to do was hurt you but I have to be true to myself and I cannot in all honesty and good conscience, continue to be with you when I can’t give you what you want.  Marriage between us will not work.  I’m sorry.  I hope that in time you will see that I’m right.”  He got up from the sofa and would have gone over to her but the expression on her face deterred him.  “I’m sorry,” he said again.

“So, what are you going to do now that you’re no longer tied to me?” she demanded.  “Go back to New York to be with her?  Well, I hope for your sake that it works out but if it doesn’t don’t think you can come crawling back to me.  I won’t take you back even if you begged me—” her voice broke into a sob.

Contrite, he took a step toward her, “Claudia—”

She held up her hand, glaring at him.  “Bastardo.  Don’t come near me,” she cried.  “I want you to leave.”

He hesitated for a moment and then he turned and walked out of the room.  The last sound he heard was her crying before he closed the door behind him.

Kimani was relaxing on the sofa, reading a book when the doorbell rang.  Putting down her book, she quickly got up and went to answer the door.  Her heart somersaulted when she saw who it was.  Eagerly, she unlocked the door and flung it open, a big smile on her face.

“Do you have room for a weary traveler?”

“Yes, one in particular,” she said as she reached out and grasped by the hand to pull him inside before locking the door. After he set his luggage down on the floor, she hugged him tightly, closing her eyes as she felt his arms go about her waist, holding her close against him.  “I’ve missed you like crazy. One week seemed like a year.”

“I’ve missed you too,” he muttered thickly.  “I couldn’t wait to come back to you.” As soon as she drew back to look up at him, he kissed her.  They stood there for several minutes kissing passionately, happy to be together again and determined never to be apart again.  At length, he drew back to gaze down into her face.  “I have to talk to you about something,” he said quietly.

Frowning, she took his hand and led him over to the sofa.  She curled up on the cushion beside him, with one arm resting along the back of the chair and the other on his thigh.  “What’s on your mind?”

“When you and I met, I was already in a relationship.  When I came to New York, my only intention was to clear my head—figure out what I was going to do about my relationship because I was having so many doubts about it.  And then, I met you.  I tried so hard to fight my attraction for you but it was hopeless.  I had to get to know you better and that’s why I suggested we talk more in the café.  And that time we spent together wasn’t enough so I suggested that we spend the rest of the day together.  By the time we left Central Park, I knew that I was hooked.  I had to see you again.  Being with you made what could have been a complicated situation worse made it bearable.  Those hours I spent with you were the happiest and most relaxed I’ve ever had and it helped me to make up my mind about what I was going to do about my relationship.”

“I knew that you were dating someone,” she said.  “Remember, I’m a fan so I have read every article there is about you.  She’s Claudia Riaz, the beautiful Venezuelan actress who co-starred with you in The Stone of the Predator.  Everyone kept going on about what an attractive couple you made but I didn’t think so–for obvious reasons.  You dated her the longest–four years but there was no news about any engagement which I dreaded because I had developed such a crush on you.  No woman would have been suitable for you.”

“Is it still just a crush that you have on me?”

She shook her head.  “No, by the time I saw you in Macbeth, I had fallen madly in love with you.”

“I never believed in love at first sight until that morning when you stopped me on the sidewalk.”

“I’m glad I asked you for it.”

He reached out and caressed her cheek with his knuckles.  “And do you still think no woman would be suitable for me?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“What about you?”

“I’m the exception,” she said huskily.  “I think I’m very suitable for you.”

“Yes, you are,” he groaned and cupping her face between his hands, he kissed her.  As she kissed him back, she thought of what Walt Disney said, all our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.

 

 

Sources:  City Parks FoundationNYC Carriages; Ruggenberg; Very Well Mind

 

Dating Again

Dionne was having lunch with her friend, Mavis when Fenton Hardy walked into the cafe.  He looked disturbingly handsome in the grey jacket, pale blue shirt and jeans.  This was the first time she had ever seen him dress casual and it suited him.  His dark hair with streaks of grey added to his attraction.  And like clockwork, her heart began to pound and she placed her hands in her lap so that Mavis couldn’t see that they were trembling.  He always had this effect on her.  She would never forget the first time his son, Joe introduced them.

He was dressed in an expensive pinstriped grey suit and black shirt, no tie and had just walked into the library where she were searching the internet for information for a research paper Joe was doing.  They both glanced up when they heard him and Joe got to his feet.  “Hello, Dad,” he greeted him, getting up and extending his hand.

“Hello, Joe.”  They shook hands and then Joe’s father’s gaze shifted to Dionne who was staring at him and thinking what a handsome man he was.  Their eyes met and held for what seemed like eternity.

“Oh, Dad, this Dionne.  Dionne, this is my father.”

She got up and held out her hand.  “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Hardy.  Joe has told me so much about you.”  What piercing blue eyes he had.

His hand clasped hers in a firm grip, his gaze riveted to her face.  “A pleasure to meet you, Dionne.”

“I-I was just helping Joe with a research paper he’s doing,” she stammered.  His palm felt warm against hers and she was acutely aware of him.  His cologne and nearness titillated her senses, making it hard for her to think straight.  She was relieved when he released her hand and stepped back.  She sank heavily back into the chair and gripped the edge of the desk.  Her legs felt like jelly.

“Well, don’t let me interrupt you,” he said to Joe, although his eyes were on Dionne.  “Will you be joining us for dinner?”

She looked at Joe.  “Well, I–”

“Yes, she’ll be joining us.”

“All right.  I’ll let Mildred know.  Excuse me.”  He turned and walked out of the room.

After he left, Joe returned to the desk and sat down beside Dionne who was still trying to recover from meeting his father.  She had heard so much about him but never once did she ever imagine that she would be attracted to him.  He looked young for his age which was somewhere in the mid-forties.  He was a widower.  His wife died eight years ago in a skiing accident.  Joe was their only child.  He lived there at the manor with his father and was currently in university.  He and Dionne met through a mutual friend and they hit it off.  They have been friends for two and a half years now.

“Are you okay?” Joe asked her, looking at her with a frown on his face.

“Yes, I’m okay.  I finally got to meet your father.”

He studied her closely and then groaned, “Oh, no, not you too!”

She stared at him.  “What do you mean?” she asked warily.

“I’ve seen that look before.  You find him attractive, don’t you?”

“Well, he is very handsome,” she replied defensively, turning her head away.

“And what am I?  Chopped liver?”

“You’re very cute but–”

“Cute?” he exclaimed, shaking his head.  “A baby is cute but I’m a grown man.”

She laughed.  “Okay.  You’re drop dead gorgeous.”  He had his mother’s Scandinavian looks.

His mouth twitched and his eyes twinkled.  “That’s much better.”

“Let’s finish up here,” she suggested.

“Yes, we should.  I’m glad you’re staying for dinner.”

“What time is dinner?”

“It’s at seven.”

She glanced at her watch.  It was six forty.  In twenty minutes she was going to see Fenton Hardy again. Her heart lurched at the mere thought.

Dinner was served in a fine dining room with a crystal chandelier hanging low over a long antique dining-table covered in a lovely snow white lace table cloth, massive oil paintings adorned the walls and a decorative arched ceiling above their heads.  Her surroundings reminded her of Downton Abbey.  I feel I should be wearing a gown, she thought, glancing down at her white blouse and navy blue skirt.  I’m being ridiculous.  Joe was dressed in a shirt and jeans and his father…she started when she glanced at him and caught his watching her.  He had changed into a brown shirt and tan colored pants.  His hair looked damp as if he had just taken a shower.  Her fingers itched to run themselves through the thick strands to see if they felt as soft and silky as they looked…

A tap on her arm brought her back to the present and she looked blankly at Mavis.  “Wow, you were gone for a while.”

Dionne shook her head.  “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.  “My mind wandered for a moment.”

“It seemed more than a moment.”

“I saw someone I know and it brought back memories.” She wanted to get up and go over to him as he stood in the line but courage failed her.

“I was thinking of going to Walthamstow Market after I leave here to pick up some fabric.  Did I tell you that I bought a sewing machine and have decided that I’m going to make my own clothes?”

Dionne found it difficult to concentrate on what her friend was saying because her mind was on Fenton Hardy.  “Yes, I think you did.”  What if he leaves without seeing me?  

Suddenly, Mavis leaned over and whispered conspiratorially, “I meant to tell you that a very handsome man has been staring at you since he came into the cafe and now he’s coming over.”

Dionne’s heartbeat accelerated at once and her breath quickened.  She fought to stay calm as she waited for Fenton to come over.  When he did, she smiled nervously as she glanced up at him.  He towered over her.  His eyes held hers in a steady gaze.  “Hello,” she greeted him, thinking she sounded a little breathless.

“Hello,” he replied quietly.  He had cappuccino in his hand.

She turned to Mavis.  “This is my friend, Mavis.  Mavis, this is Fenton Hardy, Tom’s Dad.”  She watched they shook hands.

“I saw you when I came in but I wanted to grab this first before coming over and saying hello.”

Mavis suddenly got up.  “I’ll be right back,” she said and hustled off before Dionne could say anything.

Alone with him made her even more nervous.  She didn’t know what to say, except invite him to sit down in the seat Mavis just vacated.

He leaned forward, his eyes meeting hers directly.  “I want to ask you something,” he said.  “I has been on my mind since we met.”

“What-what do you want to know?”

“Are Joe and you more than friends?”

His question startled her and a few minutes passed before she answered.  “No, we’re just friends.  Why-why do you ask?”

“I wanted to make sure before-before I asked you to have dinner with me.”

“Dinner?” she repeated, swallowing hard, her mind reeling.  He’s asking me to have dinner with him. 

His expression was serious.  “Yes, I would like you to have dinner with me, Dionne.”

“Yes,” she replied simply.

“Tomorrow evening at seven?”

“Yes.”

He smiled.  “I’ll pick you up at six.”

She gave him her address.

He got up just as Mavis returned.  “I’ll see you tomorrow,” he told Dionne before saying, “It was nice meeting you, Mavis.”  And then, he turned and walked away, leaving the two friends and other women in the cafe staring after him.

After he was gone, Dionne turned to her friend, her eyes shining with excitement.  “He asked me to have dinner with him,” she gushed.  “This means that he’s interested, right?”

Mavis sat down, grinning at her friend who was beside herself.  “Yes, he’s interested.  I saw the way he was looking at you and it’s obvious that he’s got a thing for you.”

“What am I going to wear?” She racked her brains, trying to figure what was in her wardrobe.

Mavis patted her hand.  “Don’t worry,” she told her.  “I’m sure you will find something to wear.  I hate to cut this short, Honey, but I really have to go.”

They split the bill and left the cafe.  When they were in the parking lot, they hugged and promised to meet up again.

She had just finished getting dressed when the phone rang.  As she hurried to answer it, she prayed that it wasn’t Fenton calling to cancel their date.  “Hello?”

“Hello, Dee.”  It was Joe.  Relief washed over her.

“Hi, Joe.  I’m just on my way out.”

“I know.  That’s why I’m calling.  I know that you’re having dinner with Dad and I just wanted to say that I—approve.”

“You do?”

“Believe it or not, I do.  You’re the first woman my father has shown any interest in since my mother died.  Until he met you, he was living like a recluse, only leaving the house to go to work.  He didn’t socialize nor have friends come over.  He spent most of his time in the study or going for walks on the grounds.  It was as if he stopped living after my mother died.  That afternoon in the study, I saw the way he was looking at you and at first, I was miffed because as you know, I’m smitten with you but when it became very clear to me that you were attracted to him, I decided that I would do the honorable thing and step out of the way.  My father is a terrific person and he deserves to be happy again and if you’re the woman who could make that possible, then you have my blessing.  He’s going to show up looking very dapper and that’s thanks to yours truly.  I told him he had to dress to impress.  He’s really nervous, so go easy on him and have fun.”

This was so typical of Joe, always saying something that either made her laugh or cry and that was why she loved him dearly and cherished their friendship.  Blinking back tears, she muttered, “Thank you, Joe.  Having your blessing means a lot to me.”

“Now, do go getting all sentimental on me.  I’ll call you during the week.  Take care, Dee.”

“Bye, Joe.”  She hung up and finished getting ready, her heart skipping a beat when she saw that it was five minutes to six.  Fenton would soon be there.

As he rode up in the lift to her flat, Fenton leaned against the wall, his heart thudding.  He felt as nervous as a young man going on his first date.  It had been a very long time since he had asked a woman out.  After Caryn died, he hadn’t been interested in dating until now.  When he met Dionne, he was taken aback at how deeply attracted to her he was.  It blindsided him.  And when he shook her hand, feelings he had never experienced before surged through him like a flood.  When Joe’s other friends were over at the house, he never asked any them if they were staying for dinner but it was different with Dionne.  He wanted her to stay and, besides, it felt good having another woman besides Mildred, in the house again.

All during dinner, he could hardly keep his eyes off her and after she left, he couldn’t stop thinking about her or wondering when he would see her again.  It was a purely by chance that he saw her today.  He was on his way home when he decided to stop in the cafe and grab a cappuccino.  When he saw the long lineup, he decided that he would go somewhere else when he spotted her.  He couldn’t pass up an opportunity to talk to her so he went in.

He watched her as he stood in the line, wishing she were alone.  After he bought the cappuccino, he went over to her table.  When she looked up at him and smiled, his heart stopped.  He couldn’t stop staring at her and he was so nervous.  He was relieved when her friend left them and he seized the opportunity to ask her the question which had been plaguing him since they met.  He wanted badly to ask her out but he had to make sure that there was nothing between Joe and her.  He never imagined that he and his son would be attracted to the same woman but it thrilled him to know that Dionne was attracted to him too.

And now here he was, on his way up to her flat to take her out for dinner.  The lift stopped and the doors slid open.  He walked through them, his heart accelerating with each step closer to her flat.  After taking a deep breath, he raised his hand which trembled slightly to ring the doorbell.  The door opened and Dionne stood in its aperture, smiling up at him.  His eyes darkened on her face.  He wanted to kiss her so badly.  “Good evening,” he said.

His eyes slid irresistibly over her slender figure in the flattering black long sleeve knot dress which hugged her in all the right places and revealing a pair of long, shapely legs.  She looked amazing.  How he was going to get through dinner without wanting to touch her, he had no idea.

She couldn’t get over how gorgeous he looked in the black jacket, black silk shirt unbuttoned at the neck and black pants.  His silky dark hair was slicked back with a few strands falling across his forehead giving him a rakish look.  She wanted to brush them back.  Realizing that she was staring, she lowered her eyes as she replied, “Good evening.”

She stepped out into the hallway, pulling the door in behind her before she turned and locked it, her hand trembling slightly.  When she turned to face him, he was staring at her and the expression on his face made her knees go weak. For several minutes, they stood there, their eyes locked and the attraction between them palpable.  Then, the sound of voices reached their ears and they moved away from each other and walked to the lift.

On the ride over to the restaurant, they were intensely aware of each other and many times, their eyes met, the air between them charged.  By the time they got to the restaurant, they could hardly think about anything except how much they wanted each other.  Dinner was at a French restaurant, the dim lights and décor added to its warm and romantic ambiance.

Over non-alcoholic wine and a sumptuous meal, they got to know each other.  She learned that he was the second of eight children and that his parents met in high-school and got married after they graduated.  All of his siblings were married with families.  His parents died before he got married so they never met Caryn or Joe.  He and Caryn met at a mutual friend’s wedding.  He was the best man and she was one of the bridesmaids.  They hit it off immediately.  They began dating and two years later they got married.  Joe came along in the third year of their marriage.

“Caryn’s family was from Norway.  After her parents died, she moved to London.  She shared a flat with another girl until she got a job and was able to afford one of her own.  Every winter, she loved to go up to the ski lodge and always got me to go along although I’m not a fan of skiing.  The year she had the accident, I wasn’t with her.  I was out of town on business and Joe was spending the weekend at a friend.”

Instinctively, she reached out and covered the hand which was resting on the table.  He looked down at their hands and then up at her, his expression inscrutable.  “I’m sorry,” she mumbled, withdrawing her hand.

He was sorry that she removed her hand.  It felt so soft on his.  “I’ve told you about me and now I want to hear about you.”  He asked her many questions about herself, eager to learn everything he could about her.  He sat there, listening to her talk, thinking how lovely she looked, especially when she talked about her father to whom she was very close, her eyes sparkling as she shared childhood memories of him.  She had an older married brother who lived in New York and her mother had moved to Fort Lauderdale to live with her sister and her family.

“So, I’m the only member of my family still living here in London,” she said, concluding her life story.

“I’m happy that you didn’t leave London or we wouldn’t have met.” His expression became intense now as he returned her stare.  “Dionne, you’re the first woman I’ve looked at since Caryn died.  I’m deeply attracted to you and I would like to be in a relationship with you.” He reached for her hand.

Her pulse was racing and she could hardly think with him holding her hand.  “I—I would like that too,” she replied breathlessly.

He smiled then.  “Good.”  At that moment, dessert arrived and they talked more as they savored the French Lemon Tart.  Then, it was time to go.

Thirty minutes later they were standing outside of her flat.  She invited him inside for a nightcap.

“Thank—thank you for a lovely evening,” she said, her heart pounding.  “I—I had a wonderful time and—” Her words were cut off when he pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp and his head swooped down.  His mouth closed hungrily over hers and she responded wildly, eagerly, putting her arms around his neck.

Desire coursed through Fenton like a wild fire, consuming him and making him reckless.  All evening he had yearned to take her in his arms, feel her body against his and kiss her.  No woman had ever made him feel this way, not even Caryn.

A door closed, jolting them and he raised his head, his breath harsh and unsteady.  “I’d better go,” he muttered.

She shook her head.  “Let’s go inside,” she gasped.  She pulled away from him and fumbled in her handbag for the key.  She opened the door and they went inside.  After she closed and locked the door she turned to face him.  Then, she was in his arms again and they were exchanging passionate kisses.

After several minutes passed, Fenton broke off their kiss, his face flushed as he met her gaze.  “I want this, I want us, I want you…forever,” he muttered thickly.

“You have this, you have us and you have all of me…forever,” she murmured before reaching up to pull his head down to hers, her fingers gripping his hair as their lips locked.

Sources:  Pinterest; Brainy Quote

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

A Misunderstanding

“Is your uncle at home?” Ashley asked casually as they walked the grounds on a beautiful, sunny spring afternoon.  She was wearing a denim jacket because it was still a bit cool.  They were at Eastwell Manor where Bradley was staying with his uncle until he found his own flat.  It was a magnificent place surrounded by acres of land, immaculate gardens and rolling hills.  She had been here several times and loved it here.  It was peaceful and the air was crisp and fresh.

Bradley glanced at her.  “You’ve got a thing for him, haven’t you?” he teased. “Most women who meet him do.  My uncle is cordial toward them but expresses no romantic interest whatsoever in any of them.”

“How long were he and your aunt married?”

“Fifteen years.”

“And they never had any children?”

“No.  Aunt Carol couldn’t have any.  What a great pity.  She would have been an excellent mother.”

“How did she die?”

“It was a car accident.  She was on her way home when an intoxicated teenager ran the red light and plowed into her as she was leaving the intersection.  She died instantly.  Uncle Anthony was a wreck.”

“What was she like?”

“She was a lovely woman, kind and very generous.  She adored Uncle Anthony and he adored her.  She was my favorite aunt.  She was like a mother to me.  I adored her.”

“How very sad.  I don’t think your uncle approves of our friendship.”

“Why do you think so?”

“I see the way he looks whenever we are together.  There’s disapproval written all over his face.  I can’t imagine why he should have any objections.  Perhaps he thinks you spend too much time with me and should be in the company of a girl closer to your age.”

“I haven’t met any girls my age that I am interested in as yet and besides, I enjoy your company.  We have known each other for some time now and I can’t imagine not having you around.  I can talk to you about anything.  You’re like a sister to me.  I don’t know why my uncle would disapprove of me having a friend such as you—unless, he thinks we are more than friends, though, I still can’t imagine why that should be any concern of his.  He’s not my father and I’m not a child.”

“Your uncle just wants what’s best for you.”

“I know.”

They continued walking and talked about other things.  Then it was time for her to leave.  As they walked toward the mansion, Bradley suddenly grabbed and dipped her before he bent his head and kissed her squarely on the mouth.  She clung to him to keep her balance.  It lasted a few seconds and then he raised his head, straightening and then releasing her.  She glared at him, her chest heaving in indignation.  “What on earth did you do that for?” she demanded.

“It was for my uncle’s benefit,” he told her.  “He was in the study watching us through the window.”

She swung round and looked up at the window where she knew the study to be.  There was no one there.  She turned back to Bradley.  “What you did was childish and very insulting to me.”

He looked contrite.  “I didn’t mean to upset you, Ash.  I was miffed at him for thinking that he can control my life simply because I am living under his roof.  When it comes to my friendship with you, I will not put up with his interference.”

“What will he think of me now?” she wondered.

“What does it matter?  He already thinks that we are a couple.”

“But, we’re not.  We’re just friends.”

“Why does it matter so much to you what he thinks?” Bradley pressed.  “Is it because you’re in love with him?”

“Yes,” she admitted.

“All right.  Would you like us to go and clear up this misunderstanding right now?”

Her heart lurched at the idea of seeing Anthony Eastwell after what just happened.  She couldn’t imagine how he would look at her now.  She shook her head.  “I can’t face him right now,” she said.  “I’m going home.” She turned and walked away.

Bradley followed her.  “I’m sorry, Ash,” he said, his expression apologetic.  “Please forgive me for acting like a fool.  I will straighten things out with Uncle Anthony, I promise.”

She looked at him.  “I’m very upset with you right now,” she said.  “But, I’ll get over it.  Call me later.” She was about to walk off when she froze.  Anthony Eastwell was walking toward them.

Immediately, her heart began to pound wildly and her breath quickened.  He always had that effect on her.  In spite of her distress, she couldn’t prevent her gaze from traveling over his tall frame and thinking how disturbingly attractive he looked in the tan ribbed sweater and navy blue slacks.

He stopped abruptly in front of Bradley who watched him warily.  “Please wait for me in the study,” he instructed in a tight voice.

Without saying a word, his nephew turned and walked toward the house.  Anthony waited until he was gone before he turned his attention on Ashley.  To say that he was angry would have been an understatement.  His brown eyes were dark with fury and his face was flushed.  “What do you mean by making a spectacle of yourself with my nephew out here in plain view for everyone to see?” he demanded.

She swallowed hard.  “He kissed me and I—”

“Don’t tell me that you put up a fight.  I saw you from the window and it was clear to me that you welcomed his advances which leads me to believe that your relationship is not platonic as you would have me believe.”

“Please, you don’t understand—”she protested.

“I understand perfectly,” he muttered thickly.  “You would rather be with him than—” He broke off and turned away, dragging his fingers through his hair as he struggled to compose himself.  Several minutes passed before he faced her again.  “If you are going to throw yourself at my nephew, I would prefer if you did it somewhere else.”

That was when she got upset.  “For your information, I’m not throwing myself at your nephew,” she retorted.  “I don’t make it a habit of throwing myself at any man, no matter how attracted I am to him.”

“So, you admit that you’re attracted to Bradley?”

“I’m not admitting anything.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, Mr. Eastwell, I have to go.”  She turned and strode off.

He stood there watching her, his face now pale and his eyes filled with torment.  How he longed to go after her and tell her how he really felt but pride kept him where he was.  He remained there for a while before he went back to the manor.

Bradley was standing by the window when he joined him in the study.  “Uncle, I hope you weren’t too hard on Ashley,” he said.  “The kiss was my idea not hers.  She was very upset with me.”

Anthony looked unconvinced.  “What are you talking about?” he demanded.  “From where I was standing the kiss looked mutual.  I saw her clinging to you.  That was not the action of a woman who didn’t want to be kissed.”

Something about the way he spoke and the expression on his face made Bradley stare at him closely.  “It upset you to see us together, didn’t it?” The look in his uncle’s eyes was all the confirmation he needed.  “Uncle Anthony, this has all been a terrible misunderstanding.  You see, Ashley and I are just friends.  I kissed her because I was angry with you.  I didn’t like you interfering in my friendship with her.  Ashley is not interested in me.  I’m like a little brother to her.  She’s in love with you.”

Anthony looked stunned now.  “In love with me?” he exclaimed.  “Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am.  I can tell from the way she talks about you and when she’s around you. I’m surprised you haven’t noticed.  Besides she admitted it to me.”

“I thought it was you she cared for,” he said.  “I had hoped but never imagined that she would have feelings for me.”

“Do you love her?”

“Yes.  I have loved her since the day we met.  I didn’t think it was possible to fall in love again after losing your Aunt Carol but it has happened.”

“Why don’t you invite Ashley over for dinner tonight and tell her how you feel?”

“After what I said to her earlier, I’m not sure she would want to see me. I’m afraid I wasn’t very pleasant.  I was acting out of jealousy.”

“Then, you can go over to her flat and see her.  She won’t refuse to see you once you turn up.  I’ll give you her address.”

“All right.  I’ll go and see her this evening and hopefully straighten things out with her.”

“I’m sorry, Uncle Anthony, this was entirely my fault.”

Anthony patted him on the shoulder.  “Don’t worry about it,” he said.  “All is forgotten.  I have been interfering in your life and I’m sorry.  You’re free to do as you wish as long as it doesn’t get you into any trouble. No hard feelings?” He held out his hand.

Bradley smiled and shook it.  “No hard feelings,” he said.  “I’m happy that you’ve found love again.  Ashley is a remarkable woman.”

“I know.”

It was after seven when Anthony showed up at Ashley’s flat.  In his arms he carried a box of red roses which he handed to her when she opened the door.  “These are for you,” he said simply as she stood there gaping at him.  “May I come in?”

She blinked.  “Yes, yes.  Come in.” She moved aside so that he could step inside and she closed the door behind him, hardly able to believe that he was here.  She opened the box and gasped when she saw the big, beautiful red roses.  There were a dozen of them.  “They’re beautiful,” she exclaimed.  “Please make yourself comfortable while I go and put them in some water.” As she hurried to the kitchen, she couldn’t deny that she was thrilled to see him, in spite of their earlier exchange.  She hadn’t expected to see him again.

She filled a vase with water, cut the ends of the roses and then placed them in the vase.  She went back into the living-room and put the vase on top of the faux fireplace mantle, stepping back to admire them.  They added more color and a pleasant aroma to the room. She turned to find Anthony standing by the sofa watching her.  She allowed her gaze to travel over him.  He was wearing a navy blue suit, blue tie and white shirt.  His hands were in his pockets and his expression was both serious and sheepish as he looked at her.

“I owe you an apology,” he said quietly.  “I acted like an unreasonable fool this afternoon.  My only excuse is that I was jealous.”

Her eyes widened in surprise.  “Jealous?” she cried.

“Yes.  When I looked out of the window and saw Bradley and you kissing, I was consumed with jealousy.  I couldn’t bear to watch so I moved away from the window.  I didn’t know what to do.  For a few minutes, I just paced up and down in the study and then I decided that I would confront the two of you.”

She watched him, her heart pounding. This seemed so surreal.  “I always thought you disapproved me because of my friendship with Bradley,” she said.  “I thought it was my age which made me unsuitable for him.”

“You’re right.  I disapproved of your relationship with him but not for the reason you thought.  I didn’t know that you were just friends.  I thought you were romantically involved.  In the garden this afternoon, I said the things I did out of jealousy and when you walked away, I wanted to come after you and tell you how I felt but pride prevented me.  I didn’t want to throw myself at the woman whom I thought cared for my nephew.”

“I do care for Bradley but I don’t love him.  What I feel for him is affection and what I want from him is friendship, nothing more.”

Anthony’s countenance changed.  Hope flickered in his eyes.  “I didn’t come over here just to apologize,” he said, moving closer.  “I came to tell you that I love you.  I’ve loved you since the first time we met.”

She moved closer.  “I love you too.  I have since the first time I saw you.  I didn’t think I stood a chance, though, because of your wife.  I feared that I would end up like those other women whose feelings for you were not reciprocated.”

“I didn’t think I could love again until I met you.  You stirred feelings in me that I thought had died with Carol.  What I feel for you is a deep and consuming love.”  By now he had closed the distance between them and was standing in front of her.  He reached out and caught her by the waist, pulling her against him.  His smoldering eyes met hers before he lowered his head and kissed her.  She clung to his shoulders, her fingers gripping the material of his jacket as she responded to his hot, searing kisses.

After a while he raised his head to gaze down into her face, his eyes dark and stormy and his face flushed with desire.  “Do you think you could get used to being Bradley’s aunt?” he asked.

She nodded, smiling.  “It would feel weird at first but I can get used to it,” she said breathlessly.

“Good,” he murmured before he kissed her again.

Sources:  Fantasy Name Generator; Pinterest

Anchored

She stood on the pier watching the boats come and go.   She was once like an unmoored boat, drifting out into the currents of life because she had no anchor to hold her like the boats fastened to the dock.  It began when her parents were killed in a car accident and she had to live with her aunt and uncle.

Life with her aunt was terrible.  Her uncle was nice–he treated her with kindness but her aunt was a miserable woman.  She kept saying to her, “You are your father’s daughter.  You are just like him.  No good.  He was a good for nothing lout, a drunk and a cheat.  I don’t know why my sister ever married him.”

Day in a day out she said bad things about her Dad and her.  It got to the point where she stayed out late just to avoid going back to that house.  Her aunt thought that she was out drinking and partying with her friends and threatened to kick her out.  “I will not have that sort of behavior in my house,” she fumed.  It was no point telling her aunt that she hadn’t been doing any of those things.  The truth she had spent hours in the library until it closed and then she had gone to the pier to look at the boats and the flickering lights.  It was her favorite place.  She and her Dad used to go there.

She didn’t say anything in her defense but went on the laptop in the study and started searching for an apartment to rent.  Her uncle helped her to find a place and she gladly moved out.  She was relieved to be away from her aunt who was a Christian.  Her uncle wasn’t one.  If Christians were any thing like her aunt, she wanted nothing to do with them.

Of course things didn’t get any better after she moved out.  She struggled to get by.  She had to do a lot of things for herself–such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, paying bills, etc. Working part-time while studying was a great challenge.  Going out with friends during the week was out of the question now.  She went out with them on Saturday nights but she got tired of going to nightclubs and bars and meeting guys who had only one thing on their minds.

After she graduated, she got a job at a publishing company and life was improving.  She was no longer struggling.  She made new friends.  It was at a barbecue at one of these friends’ home where she met Jim.  Jim was a funny, handsome and easy-going guy.  They hit it off right away.  They spent most of the afternoon and evening together.  He drove her home and they arranged to go out for a bit to eat the following evening.  They started to see each other on a regular basis.

When Jim first told her that he was a Christian, she couldn’t believe it because he was the complete opposite of her aunt.  One evening he invited her to go to church with him on Saturday.  At first she was hesitant but then he persuaded her and she went.  The moment she set foot in the church, she was amazed at how warm and friendly the people were.  Jim’s parents were there too and he introduced her to them.  They invited both of them to have lunch with them after church.  She spent a very pleasant afternoon with the family.  Like her, Jim was an only child.   He and his parents were very close.  As he drove her home, he told her that they liked her very much.

Jim studied the Bible with her and she went to church with him very week.  Then one Saturday morning, she got baptized.  Her uncle went but her aunt didn’t.  When she heard that it was a Seventh-day Adventist church, she refused to go saying, “Adventists aren’t real Christians.  They are a cult.”

She smiled now as walked along the pier.  It was here where Jim proposed to her.  It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon.  They had just had dinner and had come here afterwards. As they walked slowly along the pier, he suddenly went in front of her and got down on one knee and popped the question. With a happy laugh and tears in her eyes she said, “Yes!”  He sprang to his feet and hugged her.  For the rest of the night she was walking on cloud nine.

She called her uncle and asked him to give her away.  As they drove to the church, he looked at her and said, “I wish your parents were here to see what a beautiful young woman you have become, especially your Dad.  He was a good man, Amanda.  He adored you.  And he was good to your mother.  It’s just that things got rough for him and he coped with it the only way he felt he could.  You are your father’s daughter and don’t let anyone make you ashamed of that.”

She smiled at him through the tears and squeezed his hand.  “Thanks, Uncle Bob.”  Yes, she wished her Dad were there that day to walk her down the aisle.

Now she stood there on the pier, anchored in her faith and in her marriage.  Yes, she was like one of the boats fastened securely to the dock.

woman on pier with sunglasses

Rescued

She came from Niger, a place notorious for child marriage.

Her name is Abayomi which means “she brings me joy”.

She was only 14 when her parents insisted that she got married

Abayomi was filled with horror.  She had heard stories of  girls

as young as seven years  old being sold into marriage.

She didn’t want to get married–yet.  And when she did she

wanted it to be her decision.  She wanted to go to school and

study to be a doctor.   Her pleas fell on deaf ears.

 

A year passed and she was set to marry a man twice her age.

She had a wedding dress and the dreaded day was approaching.

There seemed to be no hope.  She thought of running away but where

could she go?  She couldn’t stay here.   She  thought of the horrible stories

she heard of young girls losing their lives when their parents married  them

of because they were having children when they were too young.  She didn’t

want to end up like them.  She didn’t want to die in childbirth.

 

No.  I’m going to fight this, she resolved.  She continued to refuse the

arranged marriage until her father cancelled it.  And to her surprise,

he encouraged her to join UNFPA’s Action for Adolescent Girls programme.

When Abayomi went to the programme, she met other girls who had left

school to marry and some were even pregnant.  She was happy that she had

escaped the same fate.  She had her father to thank  for that.  What had made

him  change his mind after he had been so adamant?

 

She learned that he had met a Christian who told him about Jesus.   Curious, she

asked him what he knew about Jesus.  He explained that Jesus would not have

wanted him to force her into doing something against her will.  Then, he gave

the Gospel of John booklet the man had given him.  After everyone else had

gone to bed, she read stayed up to read the Gospel.

 

As Abayomi read how Jesus rescued the woman caught in adultery from

being stoned to death, she realized that she too had been rescued from a

terrible fate.  She felt the tears spill down her cheeks and sliding off the

bed , she knelt on the floor.  “Thank You, Jesus,” she prayed.  She decided right

there and then to give her heart to One who had seen her plight and had come

to her aid.

 

Abayomi continued with her education and is currently in medical school.  She

is also encouraging other girls to say no to child marriage.  And her parents have

changed their views of forced marriage.  They believe that she should have the

right to choose her own husband and to marry when she is ready.

 

Nigerian Girl

Sources:  UNFPA; The Telegraph; BBC