Addie’s Little Adventure/Invitation #writephoto

portal

Photo by Sue Vincent

Everyday after school, I took a shortcut so that I would walk past the mansion where the English couple lived. And every time I paused to peek through the gates which were always ajar and stare at the strange faces on the posts. Behind and above the gates was foliage which swayed from the gentle summer breeze. Mama used to work there before the Mistress fired her. She accused Mama of stealing. Mama denied it, of course. Mama said that the Mistress didn’t like her because she was black. The Master was away when Mama got fired. The Mistress told her that if she showed her face at the mansion again, she would report her to the police.

Mama was sorry to lose the job because it helped to take care of my sister and me but she didn’t have a choice. For months she couldn’t find a job because the Mistress refused to give her a reference but the Master gave her one. Mama said that he was always very kind to her. That’s why I’m fixing to meet him so I could thank him for being good to my Mama.

The gates were ajar. After glancing around me to make sure that no one was around, I pulled it open so that it was wide enough for me to pass through. I pushed it in behind me. I looked around me. I felt like Alice in Wonderland. The grounds stretched endlessly in all directions. They looked like a giant green lush carpet rolled out. The sweet smell of roses and bougainvillea filled the air as I walked between them, my heart racing. I was on private property. I could get into trouble for trespassing. What if someone caught me and took me to the Mistress. That thought alone stopped me in my tracks. Maybe coming here wasn’t such a good idea. I’d better get out of here NOW.

I turned and started to head back to the gate when I heard a man’s voice behind me. I froze. I was afraid to turn around. I stood there. I don’t know for how long before he came and stood in front of me. He was tall and very attractive with black hair and grey eyes. He was dressed as if he had been out riding. For some insane reason, he reminded me of Mr. Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility. His gaze narrowed as he studied me.

“Have we met before?” he asked.

I shook my head. “No.”

“You look familiar.”

“I’m—I’m Mabel Brown’s daughter, Addie.”

His expression brightened. “That’s why you look so familiar. How is your mother?”

“She’s doing well. She got another job.”

“I’m happy to hear that. I was sorry to lose her.”

“That’s why I came here. I wanted to thank you for giving Mama a reference.”

“It was the least I could do after what my ex-wife did.”

“Your ex-wife?”

“Yes. We’re no longer married.”

“Is it because she fired Mama?”

“It was the last straw.”

“I’m glad she’s no longer here. I was afraid that if I got caught I would have to face her.”

“You don’t have to worry about her anymore, Addie.”

“Is she back in England?”

“Yes. Are you in a hurry to leave?”
I shook my head. “I was but I’m not anymore.”

“How would you like a tour of the grounds?”

My face brightened. “I’d like that very much.”

He smiled. “Come along then. You came all this way to thank me. The least I can do is to show you around.”

As we walked, my eyes drinking in my surroundings, I thought of Mama and what she would say if she were to see me now, walking on the grounds of the fine mansion where she used to work. She was right about her former employer. He was a really nice man not to mention, very attractive. I was happy that he was no longer married and it wasn’t only because I disliked his ex-wife. Stop filling your head with romantic notions. He’s a grown man. He’s not going to be interested in a school girl.

“How old are you?”

We were standing by the fountain and I was watching the water as it cascaded when he asked the question. I turned and faced him. “Seventeen.”

“I’m twice your age.”

“You look much younger.”

He smiled. “I have my father to thank for that. He too appeared to be much younger than he was.”

“Are your parents still alive?”

“Yes. They are living in Marseilles where my mother was born. Are you dating anyone?”

I shook my head. “I’m not interested in any of the boys at school.”

My answer seemed to please him. “If I didn’t have to attend to business now, I would invite you to stay and have tea with me. Are you free tomorrow afternoon, say around the same time?”

Heart racing with excitement, I nodded eagerly. “Yes, I’m free tomorrow.”

He smiled. He had such an amazing smile. It made his eyes twinkle and my stomach flutter. “Good. Tomorrow afternoon, then.”

We walked back to the gate. As we stood there facing each other, I held out my hand. “Thank you for the tour.”

“You’re welcome, Addie.” He shook my hand and when he released it, I could still feel where his fingers had been. The skin tingled. “I’ll be waiting here for you tomorrow afternoon. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.” I waved before I turned and walked away. Halfway down the street, I realized that I didn’t even know his name. Not to worry. I’ll find out tomorrow.

 

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

The Ball

Monica was walking on the immaculate grounds of Whitmore Manor where her friend and co-worker Alex invited her to spend the afternoon.  It was the day before the annual charity ball and already there was a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air.  This was to be her first one since she only started working with Alex in autumn of last year.

As she pondered over what to expect, her gaze drank in the beautiful landscape which spread before and around her.  She was so caught up in her surroundings that she didn’t notice the tall man heading towards her until she almost ran into him.

Her eyes flew up from his broad chest to his face.  Her breath caught in her throat when she found herself looking into classic handsome features.  Dark, wavy hair, dark brown eyes, chiseled nose and his lips…she realized that they were moving which meant he was saying something.  She pulled herself together.

“I–I’m sorry,” she apologized.  “I was so busy admiring the place that I didn’t see you until a moment ago.”

His eyes were riveted to her face.  “And, you are?”

She held out her hand.  “I’m Monica.  I’m here because of Alex.”

“Jared.”  He grasped her hand.  “Does he know you are here?”

“Yes.  He brought me here to spend a quiet afternoon.”

“Where is he?  He’s not a very good host leaving you out here by yourself.”

“He didn’t mean to desert me,” she said, trying to act calm when her heart was racing.  Jared was staring at her with those penetrating eyes of his and he was still holding her hand.  “He had to run an errand and said that he would be back shortly.”

He released her hand then and shoved both of his in the pockets of his trousers.  “So, how long have Alex and you known each other?” he asked.

She put her hands behind her back.  “September will make it a year,” she said.

“You’re different from his other girlfriends,” he noted as he studied her face.

She was about to tell him that she was not Alex’s girlfriend when Alex himself showed up.

He came from behind Jared.  He grinned at Monica.  “I see you have met my big brother,” he told her.  He turned to Jared.  “Thank you for taking care of Monica while I was gone.”

Jared inclined his head.  “It was my pleasure,” he said before his gaze shifted to Monica.  “It was nice meeting you.”

She smiled at him.  “It was nice meeting you too.”

“Excuse me.”  He turned and walked away.  Monica was sorry to see him go.

When they were alone, she turned to Alex, “He thinks I’m your girlfriend,” she told him, looking very displeased.  “What gave him that impression?”

“Well, the only women I brought here to meet Mother and Jared were the ones I dated so when he met you, he naturally assumed that you were my current girlfriend.”  He looked at her.  “Does it bother you that he thinks that we are dating?”

“Yes, it does.”

Alex groaned.  “Don’t tell me that you have fallen for his dark, brooding looks too.”

“Is that why you never mentioned to me that you even had a brother?”

“It must have slipped my mind.  Anyway, let’s talk about something else.  Are you all set for the ball tomorrow evening?  I won’t be able to bring you, I’m afraid.  I have to be here, greeting the guests.”

“Yes, I’m looking forward to it.  I’ve never been to a ball before.  Is everyone going to be there?”

“By everyone, you mean Jared.  Yes, he’ll be there–he and his brooding looks which always seems to attract the ladies.”

Monica looked at him.  “Do I detect a little bit of jealousy?”

Alex sighed.  “Yes, I am jealous and have been since we were children.  He was always getting the attention and the girls.  That hasn’t changed.  Just once I would like to find a woman who will be immune to his charms and prefer me instead.”

Monica tucked her arm in his and gave him an encouraging smile.  “I’m sure you will find such a woman.  Now, this woman would like a tour of the grounds, if you don’t mind.”

He smiled.  “It would be my pleasure.”

It was the night of the ball and she entered the room, her eyes wide with wonder as she espied the magnificent room and the beautiful decorations.  When Alex saw her, he whistled.  He was standing by the entrance receiving the guests with his mother and Jared.  She was wearing a strapless cream chiffon gown and her hair was swept up exposing her long, slender neck.   “You look amazing,” he said as he kissed her on the cheek.

She smiled.  “Thank you.”  Her gaze shifted to Jared who was staring at her.  He looked absolutely gorgeous in his black tuxedo.  Even in her heels, she had to tilt her head back to look up at him.  “Hello, Jared,” she said shyly.

“Hello, Monica,” was his quiet reply.  He had a curious expression on his face.  “It’s good to see you again.”

“It’s good to be here.”  She lingered there for a moment before she moved reluctantly away.  She could feel his eyes on her as she greeted his mother.  The older woman beamed at her.  “You look lovely, my Dear,” she said.  “I am delighted that you could come.  I hope you enjoy yourself.”

Monica smiled.  “Thank you, I will.”  She moved on, taking in the atmosphere, the people.  She saw a few of her co-workers milling about and she joined them.  At dinner time, she sat at the same table with the Whitmore family.  She was seated next to Alex and opposite Jared.  Every now and then, she raised her eyes to look at him and found him already looking at her.  Each time their eyes met, she felt her heart race.  No one else seemed to notice.

The food was amazing and afterwards, there was dancing.  She danced a couple of dances with Alex who was in very high spirits.  Then, as she was about to follow Alex back to the table, Jared barred her.  “Dance with me,” he said and wordlessly, she acquiesced.   Her heart did a somersault when he pulled her to him and they moved to the music.

He was a terrific dancer and his movements were fluid.  She was acutely aware of his hand in the small of her back, their bodies inches apart.  He smelled really good.  It felt wonderful dancing with him and she wished that it would last.  At one point she looked up at him and he was looking down at her.  His eyes were dark and smoldering and a muscle throbbed along his jaw line.  They didn’t say anything but the moment was charged as their attraction for each other was palpable.  She saw his gaze lower to her lips and they parted.

“Mind if I cut in?” Alex’s intrusive voice startled her and she felt Jared release her.  Then she was in Alex’s arms and he swirled her away as Jared walked stiffly off the dance floor.  For the rest of the night, Alex tended to her and she didn’t have a chance to dance with Jared again.  She left the ball feeling frustrated, especially after his cold manner toward her when they said goodnight to each other.

She tossed and turned all night and in the morning, she decided that she would go over to Whitmore Manor and straighten things out with him.  She couldn’t let him continue to believe that Alex and she were dating.  Last night it might have seemed that way, though.  She let Alex have it last night when he was driving her home.  He was sorry and he told her to drop by the manor and talk to Jared.

She finished her breakfast, showered and pulling on a pair of dress jeans and a yellow top, she left her condo.  She took the train from London to Surrey and then a short taxi ride to Whitmore Manor.  The place seemed quiet—she supposed it was because it was a Sunday morning.  She hoped Mrs. Whitmore wouldn’t mind her dropping by unexpectedly.  She ran up the steps leading to the front door and rang the bell.  As she waited she looked over at the spot where she first met Jared.  How handsome he looked that day in his denim jacket over a black shirt and tan colored trousers.

The door opened and the butler stood there.  “Good morning,” he said.

“Good morning.  Is Mr. Jared Whitmore at home?” she asked.

“He is but he gave strict instructions not to be disturbed.  Perhaps, you would like to see Mrs. Whitmore, instead.  She’s in the drawing-room.”

“Yes, thank you.” The man stepped aside to let her into the foyer.  He took her to the drawing-room and after informing Mrs. Whitmore that she had a visitor, he left.

Monica went over to the armchair where the woman was seated.  “Good morning, Mrs. Whitmore.”

Mrs. Whitmore smiled when she saw her.  “Good morning, Dear.  How nice of you to drop by this morning.  Did you have a good time at the ball last night?”

Monica nodded.  “I did.”

“It was an extremely good turn out and I believe that this year we received more donations.”

“Mrs. Whitmore, I came to see Jared but was told that he didn’t want to be disturbed.”

Mrs. Whitmore sighed.  “He’s been cooped up in the study all morning.  Can’t imagine what he’s doing in there.  He hasn’t had any breakfast.  I have a good mind to send a tray in to him.  You know, that’s exactly what I will do.”  She pulled the cord beside her.  “He needs to eat something.”

“Mrs. Whitmore, do you mind if I take it to him?”

“No, not at all.  You may be a welcome distraction.”

A few minutes later a maid appeared and Mrs. Whitmore asked her to prepare a tray for Mr. Whitmore and to bring it to the drawing-room.  As they waited, Monica and Mrs. Whitmore exchanged pleasantries and spoke of the ball.

Then, the maid went in carrying the tray.  “Thank you, Janet,” Mrs. Whitmore said. “Set it on the table over there.”  Janet did so and left the room.

Monica went and took it up.  She went to the door but stopped, unsure of where to go.

“The study is down the hall here and on your right.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Whitmore,” she said gratefully before she departed.

Her heart thudded with every step as she went down the hallway.  She set the tray down on the floor, opened the door and pushed it open.  She took up the tray and went inside.  She stood at the door.  Jared was sitting at the desk backing the door but when he heard it open, he said.  “I gave strict instructions not to be disturbed.  I don’t take kindly to having my orders disobeyed…” his voice trailed off when he swung the chair around and saw her standing there.  “What are you doing here?”

She stood there, unsure of what to do next.  He was standing now, his expression guarded.  “I brought this tray for you.  Your mother said you haven’t eaten.  She’s concerned about you.”

His gaze shifted to the tray and then back to her.  “So, she sent you with it instead of sending Janet?”

“I offered,” she told him.   “I needed to speak to you.”

“Set it on the table over there.   What do you need to speak to me about?”

“It’s about Alex and me…”

His expression darkened at once and he dragged his fingers through his hair.  “Never once in all of my years have I ever been jealous of my brother.  Not even when I see how our mother continues to pamper him as if he were still a child, but that all changed when I met you.”

She stared at him.  “What do you mean?” she asked, looking confused.

“I am jealous of him because of you, Monica.  From the moment we met, I wanted you.  That’s why I said that you were different from his other girlfriends.  I was never attracted to any of them.  You were different because I was immediately and deeply attracted to you.  Last night at the ball, I couldn’t take my eyes off you.  I watched you dancing with him and wished that I was the one dancing with you. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer and that’s why I asked you to dance with me.  The way you felt in my arms…” he closed his eyes at the memory.  “It felt so right.  I asked myself how could something that felt so right be wrong.  I wanted to kiss you so badly but just then, Alex came and claimed you and I had no choice but to step aside.  I watched you with him for the rest of the night, kicking myself for falling for a woman who belonged to someone else.”

It took a moment for Monica to answer because she was stunned.  She couldn’t believe what she just heard.  “Jared, I don’t belong to Alex,” she told him.  “He and I are just friends who happen to work together.  When you and I met, you assumed that I was another one of his many girlfriends and when I tried to clear up that misunderstanding, Alex joined us.”

“My brother has a knack for interrupting at the most inopportune moment.”

She took a step closer.  “That’s why I came here this morning, Jared.  To clear things up.  I couldn’t go on letting you believe that I was in a relationship with Alex when I am not.  Alex knows how I feel about you.  He knew it since the first time I met you.”

Jared moved around the desk so that he was standing in front of her.  “How do you feel about me?” he asked, his expression tense.  His hands were at his sides, aching to hold her.

“I never thought it was possible but when I met you it was love at first sight,” she said, her feelings unguarded.

He pulled her into his arms then and he muttered, “I fell in love with you the first moment I saw you and I felt like a heel because of Alex.  That’s why I have been cooped up in here all morning.  I was sitting here, thinking about you and feeling guilty.  And now that I know Alex and you are not romantically involved, I feel like a guilty man who has been granted a reprieve.”

She reached up and cupped his face between her hands.  “You have no reason to feel guilty anymore,” she said, “We are both free and we both know what we want…”

“Yes,” he groaned and his head swooped down.  His mouth closed passionately over hers.

She sighed and closed her eyes as she responded to the kiss which she had been dreaming of since last night at the ball.

Source:  Trainline

A Picture of Faith

When I saw this painting of John Huss, I had to take a photo of it.  It made such an impression on me.  He was in the dungeon in the Island Tower in Konstanz, Germany, confined with fetters on his legs, hardly able to walk, yet his dedication to the Lord kept him.  It helped him to rise above his dismal surroundings and conditions.  It was here that he had a dream which comforted him in his last days.  It was of the triumph of the true faith and the image of Christ painted afresh in hearts by better preachers than himself.

In the painting his eyes are looking up in faith and not down in despair.  He was looking to the Author and Finisher of his faith.   It was to his Savior that he sang, “Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me” as the flames kindled about him.

John Huss

Sources:  The Great Controversy; Wikipedia

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