Do You Know Him?

box-office-ted-strutz

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

It was a nice, summer day.  After lunch, my father and I went to matinee show at the theatre which was within walking distance from the apartment I shared with my mother and sisters.

Later as we were walking back to the apartment, a cute guy was approaching from the opposite direction.

He looked at me, smiled and said, “Hi.”

“Hi,” I replied, smiling.

After we passed each other, my father asked, “Do you know him?”

“No.”

He laughed, looking surprised and amused.  I guess in his day, a guy didn’t say hi to a girl unless he knew her.

100 Words

 

Although I changed a few details, this actually happened years ago when my Dad was visiting me in Queens, New York.  We were returning from somewhere and a guy I had never seen before said hi to me.  It wasn’t the first time that happened but it’s one of the many fond memories I have of my father.

This was written for the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields For more details, visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Ties in Seattle

Des had just gotten on his motorcycle, about to take off when he spotted Chantoya coming down the sidewalk.  He turned off the engine and slid off the seat.  Adjusting his shirt and smoothing his hair down, he walked over to her.  “Hi there,” he said when he was standing in front of her.

A big smile broke out on her face.  “Hi yourself,” she exclaimed before hugging him.  “It’s so good to see you.  It has been a while.  How have you been?”

“I’ve traveling a lot.  Just got back from South Korea.”

“South Korea?  What’s it like there?”

“It’s a great place.  I was there for a month and loved every minute of it.  The culture, the history, the food and the people made it worthwhile.”

“I’d love to hear more about your trip, Des.  How about we meet tomorrow afternoon at Squirrel Chops?”

“Sure.  What time?”

“Is five okay with you?”

“Yes, it is.”

“I’m sorry I can’t stay and chat more but I’m on my way to the theatre.”

“Okay.  Don’t let me keep you.”

She touched him on his arm.  “It was really great seeing you.”

“Ditto.  Have fun at the theatre.”

“Thanks.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Anneyeong, Chantoya.”  He smiled.  “That means goodbye in Korean.”

She laughed.  “I’m impressed.  ‘Bye, Des.”

black woman with afro hair

 

He watched her walk away and then returned to his bike.  He hopped on and after putting on his helmet, he pulled out of the parking space.  As he merged with the traffic, he wondered if Chantoya had a date.  She was all dressed up, looking pretty as usual.  He had thought about her all that time he was in Korea. 
He went to Seoul Yangnyeong Market with every intention of buying her a gift but at the last minute, he decided not to.  It probably wouldn’t have been a good idea since Chantoya was Shelley’s room-mate.   Shelley was his ex-girlfriend.  They had been dating for four years until they broke up last year.  She wanted to get married but he didn’t.  So, they parted ways.  In retrospect, he realized that she wasn’t the one he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.  Since the breakup, he hadn’t seen Chantoya until today.

During their exchange a few minutes ago, neither mentioned Shelley.  Perhaps, it wasn’t necessary.  He wondered if Chantoya would tell her that she had bumped into him.  Maybe that too wasn’t necessary.  Perhaps, Shelley had moved on.  At least, he hoped she had.

Chantoya met her date, Calvin outside of the Paramount Theatre.  They were going to see the musical Wicked.  Calvin looked handsome in his dark suit but when they hugged, she didn’t feel any spark.  It was more like hugging a friend.  As they walked through the doors and up to the orchestra section, she thought about Des and wondered what he was doing at that moment.  It was really great seeing him again.  She had wanted to get in touch with him after he broke up with Shelley but decided that it wasn’t a good idea.  How would it look her getting in touch with her room-mate’s ex?  It had been a tough time for Shelley who really checked for him but she tried to help her to see that it wouldn’t have been good continuing the relationship when it was clear that Des and she weren’t on the same page when it came to marriage.

Chantoya realized that he hadn’t asked about Shelley.  If he had, she would have told him that she had moved to New York.  I’ll tell him tomorrow when I see him, she decided.

“So, did you have a good time at the theatre?” Des asked her when they were sitting by the window having Lattes.

“I really enjoyed Wicked.”

“Did you go alone?”

“No.  I went with Calvin.”

“Is he your boyfriend?”

She shook her head.  “No.  I went out with him a couple of times but after last night, I decided to stop seeing him.”

“What made you decide that?”

“I wasn’t attracted to him.”

“Is there someone you’re attracted to?”

She looked at him.  Their eyes met and held.  “Yes.”

I hope it’s me.  “Who’s the lucky guy?”

“You.”

He reached over and put his hand over hers.  “The attraction is mutual, Chantoya,” he said quietly.

“I’ve been trying to fight it all of these years because of Shelley.  After you broke up with her, I wanted to call you but didn’t think it was wise or proper to do so.  Then, after she moved to New York, I thought about getting in touch with you again.”

“So, she finally moved to New York.  When we were together, she talked about us moving there.  I like New York but I’ve never wanted to live there.”

“She hasn’t been in touch with me since she moved there.  Maybe she has decided to cut all ties here.”

“Maybe.  I hope she finds happiness in New York.  My ties are right here–in Seattle.”

“Mine too.”  She looked down at their hands.

Sometimes relationships don’t work out because the two people involved are meant be with other people.

Sources:  Yelp;The Culture Trip;Trip Advisor; Seattle Theatre Group

Best Friends

mens-hairstyles-curly-hairstyle-menHe raked his fingers through his disheveled hair, frustrated.  It was no use.  He couldn’t concentrate on his work.  He had come here to the cottage to work on the manuscript which was due in a couple of days.  The quiet, solitude were exactly what he needed to get him going but his mind was refusing to focus.  His eyes shifted to the time at the bottom of the screen.  All he could think about was her with someone else…  Muttering under his breath, he jumped to his feet and walked over to the window.

He looked out at the mountains as they loomed in the distance.  The lake was calm.  He envied it.  Sometimes, he wished he didn’t feel anything.  It would make life so much easier.  Right now, he didn’t want to feel the pain that gnawed at him.  Why on earth did he break his own rule and fall in love with his best friend?  They had known each other since high school.  Back then, she was a skinny girl with the terrific smile and who wore glasses that were too big for her face.   She wasn’t pretty like the other girls but she was smart and he liked hanging out with her.  They were interested in the same things.

Over the weekends, they went to Art galleries, museums, poetry readings and the theatre.  They weren’t into parties or hanging out at the mall.  They went to the prom together and enrolled in the same university.  His major was Creative Writing and hers was Journalism.  Whenever he wrote a story, he would have her read it.  She was his best critic.  She was more excited than he when his first story was published in the local newspaper.  And it was she who encouraged him to consider writing novels.  One snowy day, he sat down and crafted his first novel which he dedicated to her.  It was a bestseller.

They were friends for life—inseparable until her career as a journalist took her to LA where she got to work at the magazine she had always dreamed of writing for.  It was too great an opportunity to pass up.  It was when they were facing each other at the airport that he realized that he wasn’t just saying goodbye to his best friend but he was saying goodbye to the girl he had fallen in love with.  When they hugged, he closed his eyes and buried his face in her hair.  He didn’t want to let go.

When they drew apart, she gazed up at him, her eyes brimming with tears.  “We’ll see each other in the summer and for the Christmas holidays,” she said.  “We’ll keep in touch every single day.”

He smiled even though his heart was breaking.  “Yes, we will.”

“I love you, Jonas,” she said, reaching up and touching his face.

He swallowed hard.  “I love you too.”  He knew that she loved him as a friend but he was telling her that he loved her as a man loved a woman.

“Take care of yourself.”

“I will.”  He watched her walk away, taking a part of him with her.

The drive back to home had been a depressing one and when he got in, he went into the study and sat down in front of the laptop to write.  Writing was the only thing that gave him any comfort and purpose.

They kept in touch through texting, emails, phone calls, Facebook and Skype.  They saw each other during the summer and over the Christmas holidays.   She had changed somewhat.  Gone was the awkward and shy girl.  In her stead was a glamorous and confident woman.   Gone were the glasses and in place of the braids was her natural hair.  She looked great.  Although they had both changed, they still connected.  Neither was dating.   That changed however, last summer when he visited her for Christmas and was introduced to Roger, the man she had started dating.

They met at some function or the other—he couldn’t remember.  His heart was aching.  Pain and jealousy consumed him.  He smiled but it was a facade.  It masked the hurt he was feeling.   He thought that was the worst moment of his life until that afternoon when they were walking through Seward Park where she told him that she was engaged.  It was too much.  He couldn’t hide his distress.  “I’m sorry,” he mumbled.  “I can’t do this.  I can’t pretend that I’m happy for you when this is killing me.  I have to go.”  He turned and walked away.

That was the last time they saw each other face to face.  She had called him but when he saw her number on the display, he let it go to voicemail.  She sent him emails but they sat unopened in his inbox.  Last week, she left a message about him going to LA for Christmas which was a week away.  He couldn’t go.  He couldn’t face her.  He couldn’t bear to see her with Roger.  He couldn’t do it.  That was why he came here instead.  He wanted to lose himself in his new novel but it wasn’t working out.  All he could think about was her.  He was losing his best friend.  He was losing the woman he loved.  How was it possible for a person to live with a broken heart?  Right now he couldn’t see past the pain.

I need some fresh air, he decided.  He moved away from the window.  Grabbing his coat, he left the cottage and went down to the lake where he stood, gazing at the mountains.   What a magnificent view.  The sun hovered over them, enshrouding them in its golden hue.  What he wouldn’t give for Rose to be there right with him now.  Just the two of them, alone out there, no interruptions.   They would sit by the lake and or go for a swim.  Afterwards, they would go and have a bite to eat or go for a drive.  At night, they would sit out on the back porch and watch the stars.

He closed his eyes in despair.  They soon opened.  It was so faint that at first he thought he imagined it.  Then he heard it again.  He turned.  His eyes widened in disbelief when he saw her running towards him.  “What are you doing here?” he demanded when she reached him.

“I’ve been trying to reach you,” she said, trying to catch her breath.

“What are you doing here?” he asked again.

“I came back,” she cried, her expression earnest as she looked up at him.  “I left my job in LA and moved back here where I belong.”

Jonas stared at her, dazed and confused.  “You moved back to Seattle?”

“Yes!”

“But what about Roger?”

“I broke off our engagement.”

“Why?”

“I broke it off because I love you, Jonas.”

He blinked.  “I’m sorry, but did you just say…?”

“Yes.  I love you.  I tried to tell you that when I called and emailed you.”

“I didn’t want to talk to you or to read your emails.  I didn’t want to hear anything about you and Roger.”

“That day in the park before you walked away, you said something that made me realize how you really felt about me.  Before that I had no idea.  I had hoped but I thought you said that because you didn’t think that Roger was the right guy for me.  I didn’t think…”

“Yes.  I was hurt, jealous and angry.  You have no idea how much I wanted to tell you that I loved you.  It was too much to deal with so I walked.”

“I wanted to run after you but I was afraid that I would make a fool of myself.  All the way back to LA, I couldn’t stop thinking about what you said and the way you looked. As soon as I arrived at the airport, I called Roger and asked him to meet me at a café near my apartment.  He took it well.  He suspected that I was in love with you.  After we say our goodbyes, I went home and typed up my letter of resignation.  Then, I booked a flight to Seattle.  And here I am.”

“How did you know I was here?”

“I didn’t.  I went to your place and your neighbor told me.”

Jonas stared at her.  “I can’t believe that you’re standing here in front of me.”

“This is where I belong, Jonas.  Here with you.”

He pulled her against him, his eyes darkening on her upturned face.  “Yes, it is,” he agreed huskily.  “Now, I really won’t be able to get any work done…”

She smiled.  “So, you’re working on a new novel?”

“Yes, but it can wait.”  He bent his head and kissed her.

Venice

Friends since they were children, Monica and Russell were inseparable.  They went to the same schools and university and moved from Manchester to London after they graduated from university.  Whenever people saw them together, they always assumed that they were a couple and they would quickly inform them, “We’re just friends.”

They dated other people but the relationships never worked out and their respective exes always blamed their friendship.  Once, Monica’s ex-boyfriend accused her of sabotaging their relationship because she was secretly in love with Russell.  She had a run in once with Samantha, a model he was dating who informed her that she didn’t believe that they were just friends.  “A person would have to be blind not to see that there is something going on between you two,” she said.  “And which woman in her right mind could be just friends with a guy like Russell?”

Russell and Monica laughed about it but as time passed, they realized that there was some truth to what others were saying.  They stopped dating other people because they didn’t feel any connection with them and it was beginning to affect their friendship.  Russell found himself getting jealous of the men Monica dated and she hated seeing him with other women.  So, to safeguard their friendship, they remained unattached.   Instead of going to dinner with other people they went each other.  They went to the theatre, concerts and now, here they were in Italy for a three week vacation.

Monica stood now on the Spanish Steps as Russell snapped photos of her.  He looked so handsome in the white shirt and light blue jeans.  She noticed women walking by and casting admiring glances his way.  Jealousy gnawed at her although he seemed oblivious to them.  She knew she was being ridiculous but she couldn’t help it.  She always worried that one day he would meet someone else and fall in love with her.  Not wanting to spoil the moment, she smiled and posed for the photos.

The day went pleasantly as they visited the Pantheon and had lunch at a trattoria near the Piazza Navona.  After sharing a pizza, she went to the washroom.  On her way back to the table, a local looked up at her and said, “Ciao Bella ragazza.”  She glanced at him and then continued to where Russell was.

He stood up when she reached him.  “What did that man say to you?” he asked.  His expression was guarded.

“It sounded like, ‘Ciao bella ragazza,’” she told him.

Russell didn’t answer.  Instead, he put on his sunglasses and preceded her out of the trattoria.  They went for a walk along Castel Sant’Angelo before they went back to the hotel.  They went to their respective rooms until it was time for dinner.  The following day, they left Rome and went to Florence where they spent their second week.  The following day, they took a trip to Milan and after visiting the Santa Maria delle Grazie where Da Vinci’s Last Supper hung, they stopped by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Russell took a photo of Monica outside of Prada.  From Florence, they went on a day tour to Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano.  They had dinner in Siena in a trattoria in Piazza del Campo.

The week went by very quickly and Monica was sorry when they left Florence but looked forward to seeing Venice.  They took the train early in the morning and while Russell read a magazine, she took a nap.  When they arrived in Venice, they found out that they had to share a room because the hotel was fully booked.  That made Monica very nervous but she was relieved when she saw that there were two separate beds.

They spent their first day in Venice at Piazza San Marco, reputed to be one of the most beautiful squares in the world.   They visited the Basilica of San Marco.  Monica was enthralled by the dome and could have stood there all day just staring up at it.  When they came out of the basilica, Russell pointed to the one of the arches above the entrance where there was a marble statue of an old man biting his hand.  “The legend says that he was relieved of his duties when he said that he would be able to build it even more beautiful.”

They had lunch at a restaurant in the square, enjoying the sunshine and watching other tourists.  They finished their sightseeing for the day climbing the Campanile for the breathtaking view of the city and the lagoon.   They stayed there for a while.

It was late afternoon when they returned to the hotel.  They relaxed on the terrace and then it was time to get ready for dinner.  It felt strange getting dressed in the bathroom while Russell got dressed in the bedroom.  She had to make sure it was safe to come out once she was finished.  He looked handsome as usual.  And she saw his gaze travel over her.  “You look great,” he remarked before turning away.  “I was thinking that after dinner, we can go to a church concert.”

She smiled.  “That sounds great.”  Venice was beautiful at night so it was nice walking to the square.  How she longed to hold Russell’s hand, especially when they passed other couples who were holding hands.  They had dinner at an elegant restaurant.  Afterwards, they walked to the church where they spent the next hour or so listening to uplifting music in a lovely atmosphere.

It was late when they got back to the hotel and she was tired.  On the way up to their room, she kept yawning and as soon as they got in she took out a nightgown from her suitcase and headed straight for the bathroom.  She quickly changed out of her dress and into her nightgown and brushed her teeth.

She walked into the room and stopped short when she saw Russell standing there half-naked, holding his pajama shirt.  She turned away, flustered but not before her gaze swept irresistibly over the broad shoulders and wide chest.  He watched her, his expression tense and a muscle throbbed alongside his jaw line.  It took every ounce of willpower on his part not to go over there and take her in his arms.  Instead, he went into the bathroom and closed the door quietly behind him.

As soon as he was gone, Monica hurried over to her bed and climbed in, pulling the cover up to her throat.

A few moments later, the door to the bathroom opened and Russell stepped into the room.  She watched as he walked past her bed to his.

“Goodnight, Russell,” she said, looking over at him as he pulled back the cover and got in.  His back was turned to her.

“Goodnight.”  He closed his eyes as his body reacted to the memory of her in the champagne colored silk nightgown.  He didn’t know how much longer he could continue being just friends with her when he wanted her.

She lay there on her back, staring up at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep.  She couldn’t get the image of him out of her mind.  When she saw his bare torso, her mouth went dry and what felt like a bolt of electricity surged through her.  She had turned away because she was afraid that her feelings would betray her.  She wished she had the courage to tell him how she really felt about him but she didn’t want to jeopardize their friendship.

Sometime later, she heard him stir and then get up.  In the faint light, she watched him tiptoe over to the chair where his shirt and pants were draped.   As he started to get dressed, she sat up, alarmed.  “Where’re you going?” she asked, turning on the lamp beside her.

He didn’t turn around.  “I thought you were asleep.  I can’t sleep so, I’m going out for a bit.”  After he pulled on his shirt and tucked it in his pants, he turned to face her, his eyes wary.  “I’ll try not to disturb you when I come back.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“I don’t know,” he replied shortly.

“Where will you go?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe I’ll go to Piazzale Roma or the Rialto or San Marco.”  He was about to walk past her when she quickly climbed out of the bed and stood in front of him.

“What’s wrong, Russell?” she asked.  “You seem upset.”

He kept his eyes on her face, not daring to let them go lower.  “I’m not upset.”

“I think you are, “she insisted.   “Please tell me what’s wrong.  We’re supposed to be friends—”

His expression darkened.   “I know we’re supposed to be friends,” he snapped.  “But right now, I don’t feel like a friend.”

She looked nonplussed.  “What do you mean?”

This is what I mean,” he muttered before he grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp.  His head swooped down and his mouth closed hungrily over hers.

Monica clung to him, kissing him back eagerly, feverishly.  As they exchanged kisses, he picked her up and carried her over to her bed.  He put her gently down on it and then drew back to remove his shirt.  She reached for him, pulling him down to her, her fingers digging into his back as he pressed his lips hotly against her neck.

They made mad, passionate love and the next morning when she woke up, she was alone in the bed.  She lay there for a moment thinking it had all been a dream.  Then she sat up and realized that she wasn’t wearing anything under the cover.  She looked over and saw Russell standing by the window.  He was wearing a robe.   He turned when he heard her.

He left the window and came and sat down on the bed beside her.  His expression was serious when he met her gaze.  “Do you regret what happened between us?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No,” she murmured huskily, reaching out and brushing the hair back from his forehead.

He leaned over and kissed her on the shoulder, making her shiver.  “Me neither,” he said.  “I’ve wanted to make love to you for a very, very long time but you insisted on us being just friends—”

“I thought that was what you wanted,” she said.  “You never came out and said otherwise.”

“Do you have any idea how hard it is to be a friend to you when I want to be more?  That’s why I couldn’t sleep last night.  When I saw you in that nightgown, I wanted you so much.  I had to get out of here before I lost my mind.”

“I couldn’t sleep either because I couldn’t stop thinking about how you looked shirtless…”

His eyes darkened and cupping her face between his hands he lowered his head and kissed her.  “I love you, Monica,” he whispered, raising his head to look into her face.  “I wanted to tell you that so many times but my courage failed me.”

“I love you too.”

“I just wish we hadn’t wasted so much time dating other people when we should have been dating each other.”

“Let’s not waste any more time having regrets.  Things are different between us now.”

“Yes, they are.”

“You know, if anyone were to ask me what the most memorable part of my vacation is, I would tell them that it was Venice.”

“Why Venice?” he asked.

“It’s where we finally declared our true feelings for each other.”

His eyes darkened.  “Let’s have a late breakfast,” he suggested as he removed his robe.

“Or we can order room service,” she said, settling back against the pillows.

“Room service, then,” he agreed before his mouth found hers.

A year later, they returned to Venice for their honeymoon.

 

Sources:  Cabragadin Hotel; Ciao Florence; Italy Guides; Veneto Inside; Bistrot de Venise; Classic Tic; Rick Steves

 

Love on Campus

Black-Women-have-highest-enrollment-for-college.

Joslyn was walking across the university’s campus lawn heading for the library when she saw her Language professor walking towards her.  She stopped and waited for him, her heart pounding.  He looked so handsome in the navy blue suit, light blue shirt and navy blue tie.  His thick black hair was slicked back, giving him a polished look.  No one knew that they were in a relationship.  On campus, he was professor Alvarez but off campus, he was Joaquín.

She trembled when she remembered how he had urged her to say his name and the way he said hers when they were making love last night.  Her name sounded very sexy when he said it.  They had dinner at his place.  He was such a terrific cook.  Afterwards, they relaxed in the living-room, talking and sipping non-alcoholic wine.

Then, he reached over, took her glass and put it on the table with his.  He turned and cupping her face between his hands, he lowered his head and kissed her.  She placed her hand on his thigh, feeling the muscles contract and kissed him back.  Things got heated and in a matter of minutes, they were naked.  He scooped her up and carried her to his bedroom where they made love for the first time.

All morning she had flashbacks.  It was hard sitting in his class and trying to concentrate.   She kept remembering how good their merged bodies looked in the mirror and the passionate kisses they exchanged.  At one point, she dragged her nails across his smooth back, eliciting a moan and the confession, “Me vuelves loco.  You drive me wild.”

After their tryst, they showered and dressed in his robes, they went into the living-room and watched a movie on Netflix before he took her home.  She couldn’t sleep.  All she kept thinking about was him and how she couldn’t wait to see him today.  Excited, she walked into the classroom.  He wasn’t there as yet.  She went to her desk and waited.

Jamal walked in, saw her, grinned and sat down at the desk beside her.  “Hi,” he said, his eyes flickering over her slim figure in the red shirt and jeans.

“Hi,” she said with a slight smile.  He was a nice guy and she didn’t mind talking to him but he didn’t stand a chance.  She was madly in love with Joaquín.

They were talking and Jamal said something to make her laugh just when Joaquín walked in.  He looked at them for a brief moment before saying good-morning.  Other students started to file in.  Jamal got up and went to his regular seat.  After he was gone, Joslyn sneaked a glance at Joaquín.  He was preparing for class.

As class got on the way, she noticed that he seemed a bit off.  And when he called on her, she noticed that he looked very serious.  He was frowning.  Usually, he would smile.

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He reached her now.  Her smile faded when she saw the expression on his face.  Something was definitely up.  She wanted so badly to reach up and run her fingers through his hair like she did last night.  “Hi,” she said, instead.

“Hi.  Where are you heading?”

“To the library.”

“Are you meeting someone there?”

“As a matter of fact I am.”

His mouth tightened.  “Jamal?”

She frowned at him.  “Jamal?”

“Are you meeting him in the library?”

She shook her head.  “No, I’m meeting Rhonda.  She needs help with a research paper.”

He moved closer, his expression tense and a muscle throbbed alongside his jawline.  “When I walked into the classroom this morning, I saw Jamal and you together.”

“Yes, he came and sat down next to me.  We started talking and then you walked in.”

“You were laughing.”

“Yes, he said something funny.  He’s a funny guy.”

“Do you like him?”

“As a friend.”

“What about him?  Does he like you as a friend?”

“I think he wants to be more than friends but I’m not interested.”

“Why not?  He’s your age and he’s good-looking.”

She shrugged.  “So?  I’m not attracted to him or any other guy, Joaquín.   I have eyes only for you.”

He ran his fingers through his hair.  “When I saw the two of you together, I saw red,” he confessed tightly.   “I was so jealous.”

“I was right.  You weren’t yourself this morning.  Oh, Joaquín, there’s no reason for you to be jealous.  I love you.”

His eyes darkened on her upturned face.  “Say it to me in Spanish.”

“Te amo, Joaquín”

“Yo también te amo, Joslyn,” he muttered thickly.  “I want to kiss you so badly.”

The expression on his face made her mouth go dry.  “Later,” she said breathlessly.

“Later, I’m taking you to dinner and the theatre.”

She smiled.  “That sounds great.”

“I have something else to tell you.  My sister Julieta is getting married next week.  How would you like to go to Seville for the wedding?  It falls right around Spring break.  So, we’ll be able to spend at least twelve days in Seville.”

Her eyes widened.  “Seville, for twelve days?” she exclaimed.  She had never been to Europe before.

He smiled.  “Yes.  I want to show you where I grew up and introduce you to my family.  I’ve told them about you.”

“I’d love to see where you spent your childhood and meet your family.”

“Good.  We can leave on the Saturday after we break for Easter.  I can’t wait to take you sightseeing and Flamenco dancing.  You’ll love Seville, I promise.”

She stared up at him, her heart in her eyes when she murmured, “I love it already because of you.”

He glanced around to make sure no one could see them before he reached for her hand.   “I’d better be heading back,” he said, reluctantly.  “My next class starts in ten minutes.”

She could hardly think with him holding her hand.   “And I have to go.  Rhonda’s probably wondering where I am.  I’ll see you later.”

“Yes, I’ll pick you up at six.”  He released her hand, winked at her and then turned and walked away.

She watched his tall frame until he disappeared from her view before she headed for the library, her mind spinning.  The rest of the day was a blur.

They said; when you’re in love, you are in a cloud nine…Well, I guess they are wrong…cos’ the feeling is actually like in cloud 999 – – Ishe Tayco

The Weekend

When Deandra took her niece to see the musical, Aladdin, for her thirteenth birthday, she certainly didn’t expect to bump into Harrison and his date.  It was when they were leaving the theatre.

As they were going down the stairs, she asked Maya, “So how did you like the show?”

Maya shrugged.  “It was okay,” she said.  “I prefer the movie with Robin Williams as the genie.”

“Me too.  Well, I hope you had a good birthday anyway.”

Maya smiled.  “Yes, I did.  Thanks for taking me for dinner and bringing me to the theatre.”

Deandra put her arm around her shoulder.  “It was my pleasure.  I can’t believe you’re thirteen.  Where does the time go?  It seems like only the other day you were wearing pampers.”

“That’s right, Dee.  I’m not a baby anymore.”

“You’re growing up.  Soon you’ll be dating.  Any cute guys at your school?”

“Well, there’s this one guy in my Math class that I really, really like.”

“What’s his name?”

“Curtis.”

“Does Curtis like you too?”

“I think so.”

“Did you tell your Mom about him?”

Maya shook her head.  “You know how Mom is.  She will just tell me to concentrate on my school work and that there is plenty of time for boys when I’m much older.  You’re the only one I’ve told about Curtis.  You’re cool, Aunt Dee.  I can talk to you about anything.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being interested in boys at your age as long as it doesn’t interfere with your school work.  I know you’re a very sensible girl.”

“Thanks, Aunt Dee, for having such faith in me.  I wish my parents were the same.”

“I know how you feel.  My parents were very strict with your Mom and me, but with me especially because I was younger.  I got spanked and grounded a lot.  I kept thinking how unfair and unreasonable my parents were until I grew up and realized that everything they did was for my good and that’s why I turned out the way I am—a relatively decent person.”

“Okay, Aunt Dee, I’ll go easy on my parents and try to remember what you said the next time I get a lecture.”

Deandra smiled.  “Good.  Always remember that they love you even when it doesn’t feel like it.  It’s the same with God.  Remember where it says that getting chastised doesn’t feel good but God does it out of love and for our benefit.”

“Isn’t that Harrison over there?” Maya asked suddenly, startling Deandra who looked around in panic.  Harrison here?

“Where?” she demanded.

“Over there.”

Deandra followed her gaze and her heart somersaulted when she saw the tall, familiar figure standing close to the exit.  Her eyes shifted to the woman standing beside him and jealousy ripped through her.  Another one of his conquests, no doubt.  The man was incorrigible.  Grabbing Maya’s hand, she urged, “Let’s get out of here before he sees us.”

“Too late,” Maya announced.  “He saw us and is coming over.  Who’s that with him?  She looks familiar.”

“How should I know?” Deandra muttered irritably.  The last thing she wanted was to face Harrison Reed and his date.  Why did she have to run into him?  She watched him approach, her heart beating so fast that she felt a little out of breath.

“Aunt Dee, you’re crushing my hand,” Maya said.

“Sorry,” Deandra mumbled, letting it go.  She shoved her hand into the pocket of her coat and tried to appear calm.

Harrison and his date were standing in front of them now.  The thinning crowd leaving the theatre walked around the four of them.  He smiled his disarming smile—the one that made her go all weak and chide herself for it.  “Good evening, Ladies,” he said in that silky voice of his.  “Maya, it’s good to see you.  You’ve grown a lot since the last time I saw you.”

Maya smiled.  “I turned thirteen today,” she informed him.

His eyebrows arched.  “Happy birthday.”  He reached down and hugged her.

“Thank you, Harrison,” she said when he drew back.  “Deandra treated me to dinner and this.”

“That was very nice of your aunt,” he commented, turning to look at Deandra.  Their eyes met and held for several minutes.  Then, he turned away to introduce his companion.  “Deandra, Maya, this is Eva.  Eva is in London for a couple of weeks.”

Eva gave them a dazzling smile and held out a bejeweled and well-manicured hand to Deandra who shook it and forced herself to smile in return.  The woman was stunning, exotic with lustrous black hair that fell about her shoulders.  “Pleased to meet you,” she said in a soft voice with a hint of a Spanish accent.  “Happy birthday,” she added when she shook Maya’s hand.

Maya stared at her.  “Now I remember where I’ve seen you before,” she said.  “You’re Eva Vasquez, the Mexican model on the cover of the latest issue of Cosmopolitan.”

Eva nodded.  “Yes.”

Maya began to ask her all sorts of questions and while the two of them chatted, Deandra’s eyes shifted to Harrison who was staring at her.  “What happened to that reporter you were seeing last month?  Wasn’t she exotic enough for you?” she asked in a low, tight voice.

“You sound upset,” he remarked.

Her mouth tightened.  “I’m not upset,” she retorted.  “What possible reason could I have for being upset?”

“It’s that green eyed monster called jealousy—”

It took supreme effort not to raise her voice.  “Don’t be ridiculous,” she replied angrily.

He moved a little closer, his eyes riveted to her face.  “When are you going to admit that you’re attracted to me?”

“Attracted to you?  Don’t make me laugh.”

“I’m attracted to you, Deandra.  I have been since we met three years ago at Rachel’s engagement party.”  Rachel was his older sister who was married to Deandra’s brother, Kenneth.”

Her breathing was unsteady now and her resolve weakening.  “Yes, you’re so attracted to me that every time I see you, you’re with a different woman.”

“I would rather be with you, Deandra,” he admitted huskily.  “I’m going up to the cabin this weekend.  Come with me.”

She swallowed hard.  “I-I can’t—”

“Can’t or won’t?  How long are you going to run away from me and your feelings?”

“I’m—I’m not running away from anything,” she denied weakly.

“Okay, prove me wrong by coming with me to the cabin this weekend.”

“But what about Eva?”

“There’s nothing going on between Eva and me.  We’re just friends.”

“Let-let me think about it and-and I’ll call you in the morning.”

“Please don’t pass up something that can be amazing for both of us.  I’ve never been more serious about wanting to be with a woman as I am with you.  I want to be in a relationship with you, Deandra.”

“I’ll call you in the morning,” she said.

“All right,” he conceded, a muscle pulsating along his jawline as she turned away to interrupt Maya’s conversation with Eva.  At least she’s going to think about it, he thought, consoling himself.

“Well, young lady, it’s time I took you home.”

Maya turned back to Eva, “It was really nice meeting you.”

Eva hugged her.  “The pleasure was all mine.  You’re a lovely young lady.  Don’t ever change.”

Maya said goodnight to Harrison.

Deandra shook hands with Eva and then she turned to say goodnight to Harrison before walking away with Maya.

After they were gone, Eva went up to Harrison and slipped her arm through his.  Looking up at him, she inquired, “So, did you ask her?”

He nodded.  “She said she would think about it.”

“I have a feeling that you won’t be going up to that cabin alone.  I saw the way she looked at you and I could tell that she was jealous of me.  No woman is jealous over a man unless she has feelings for him.”

“You’re not just saying that to make me feel better, are you?”

“No, you should know by now that I don’t tell people what they want to hear.”

“So, you think I have a chance with her?”

“Absolutely.  Now let’s go to that little café around the corner and have cappuccinos with cream and bits of chocolate on top.”

“Aunt Dee, I had a great evening and birthday.  Thank you.”  They were outside of Maya’s home.  “I can’t believe I met a famous model too.”

Deandra smiled.  “I’m happy that you had a good time.  Say goodnight to your Mom and Dad for me.  Tell your Mom that I will call her on Sunday night.”  They hugged and then she waited until Maya went inside the house before she drove off.

On the ride home, she thought about what Harrison said.  Was she really running away from her feelings for him?  Was that why she automatically turned him down the first time he asked her to go to the cabin with him?  She panicked and said the first thing that came to her head.  The thought of being alone with him for an entire weekend terrified her.  She hated to admit it but he was right.  She was attracted to him.

When they first met, her attraction for him had been immediate, much to her chagrin, because of the stories she had heard about him and his bevy of women.  She had tried really hard to fight it because she didn’t want to have feelings for a man who seemed to go through women like he went through his wardrobe.  But it seemed that the more she tried to fight her attraction for him the stronger it got.  Seeing him with the other women drove her mad with jealousy and tonight was no different.  She couldn’t hide her feelings from Harrison and she could tell that he didn’t buy her feeble attempt to deny them.

What was she going to do now?  Should she call him tomorrow and tell him that she couldn’t go to the cabin or should she throw caution to the wind?  Right now her mind and emotions were in a fierce battle.  She would have to sleep on it although she couldn’t imagine getting any rest.  Why out of all the men in London, did she have to want Harrison Reed?  No man ever made her feel the way he did.  He filled her thoughts, her senses and her heart…She sighed heavily.  Yes, she was in love with him too.

When she got in, she went straight to bed but as expected, she couldn’t sleep.  The following morning, she rolled on to her side, blinking as the sunshine streamed into the room.  She must have fallen off to sleep at some point.  She glanced at the time on the alarm clock.  It was eight.  She stared at the phone.  Her heart racing, she picked up the receiver.  Her fingers trembled as she punched in the numbers.  He answered on the second ring.  “Good morning, Deandra.”

“I-I hope I didn’t wake you.”

“I’ve been up since six.” A pause and then, “So, what have you decided?”

“I’ll come to the cabin.”  I hope I’m not making a terrible mistake. She had wrestled all night because her mind was telling her one thing and her feelings another.  Her feelings won.

When he spoke again, she could hear the relief in his voice.  “You won’t regret it, Deandra. I promise.  I’ll pick you up at ten-thirty.”

“All right.” She hung up and got out of the bed.  After packing an overnight bag, she showered and had a light breakfast before heading down to the lobby to wait for him.

At exactly ten-thirty, Harrison walked into the lobby.  At once her heart began to pound wildly.  He looked sexy in the brown leather jacket with the white fur trimmed collar, white turtleneck and faded jeans.  His hair was slightly damp and tousled.  He took her bag from her and they walked out of the building to where his jeep was parked.  He opened the door for her to get in before putting her bag in the trunk.

When he got behind the wheel, she glanced at him and their eyes met for a few minutes before she looked away.  He donned his sunglasses before firing up the engine and pulling out of the parking lot.  Soon they were on their way to the cabin which was about a 90 minute drive from the city.  “What are you in the mood for?” he asked and she looked at him, startled.

“I beg your pardon?”

“What type of music are you in the mood for?”

“Oh, um. Something relaxing, I guess.”

He turned on the radio, searched until he found a station which played Smooth Jazz.  For a while only the sound of the music and the muffled traffic outside filled the silence and then, he said, “What made you decide to come with me?” he asked.

“I wanted to come,” she said simply.  No use beating around the bush.

He glanced at her.  “I didn’t expect you to say that,” he told her.

She returned his stare, “What did you expect me to say?” she asked.

“That you wanted to prove me wrong about what I said about you running away from me and your feelings.”

She turned away.  “I’m not a coward,” she muttered.  “I don’t run away from anything.”

“I didn’t say that you were a coward.  All I did was to challenge you.”

“I’m not here to prove anything,” she insisted.  “I’m here because I want to see the countryside.”

He decided to change the topic. “You’ll like the countryside.  It’s a welcome change from the city.”

“Am I the first woman you’ve invited for a weekend at the cabin?”  She had to ask.  It had been bothering her ever since last night.

“You’re the only woman I’ve invited to the cabin.”  He reached for her hand but she jerked away at once, her eyes wide as they met his.  He didn’t get upset.  He waited until she put her hand back on the seat and he held it.  This time she didn’t pull away.  Her fingers felt soft and small in his.  How he longed to press his lips into the palm but he didn’t want to rush things.  He had waited too long to be with her to blow it all now.

She turned to look out of the window.  After traveling on it for about half-hour, they turned off the road which ran parallel to railway tracks and turned onto another one.  All around them was land that seemed to stretch for miles and miles.  She saw sheep and cattle grazing, bales of hay and rolling hills.  It was a beautiful, sunny day.  This was the first time she had ever been to the mountains and it was a marked change from the hectic pace and feel of the city.  Now she could understand and appreciate why so many people owned or rented cabins on the outskirts of the city.  It was their way of escape.

“We should be there in about ten minutes,” Harrison said.  And she sat up, her eyes glued to the window as she waited to catch the first glimpse of the cabin.

About ten minutes later, she saw it.  It sat there, quiet and secluded, nestled amongst the birch trees with a pond beside it.  He pulled up at the side of the cabin and turned off the engine.  He glanced at her as she stared at the cabin, her eyes wide with wonder and he smiled before opening his door and stepping out.  He walked round to open the passenger side door for her to climb out.  “So, what do you think?” he asked.

“I like it,” she said.  “It’s very quiet around here, except for the chirping of the birds.”

“This evening you can see the deer come down the hills to graze.”

“I can see why you like to come here.  It’s so peaceful and the views of the hills are stunning.”

“I promise you will enjoy the weekend so much that you will want to come again.”

“Thank you for inviting me,” she said.

“I’ve wanted to for a very long time but I’m happy that you’re finally here.  Let me take the bags out of the trunk and then we’ll go inside.”

She went with him to the back of the jeep and would have reached for her overnight bag when he prevented her.  “Let me take some of the groceries in then,” she offered.

He gave her the lighter bags while he carried the rest.  He went back for her overnight bag and slammed the trunk shut.  He opened the door to the cabin and pushed it open for her to go inside. After all the bags were inside, he closed the door and locked it.  “Let’s put these in the kitchen.”

As she followed him, her eyes traveled over the rustic interior of the cabin.  It was quite spacious and lots of natural light streamed through the windows.  It was cozy and nicely furnished.  She loved the kitchen with its breakfast nook and open concept.  He took the parcels from her and put them on the counter.  “Let me give you a tour and then take you up to the guest room.”

He took her into the rustic living-room with its high ceiling and large windows looking out at the birch trees and the hills in the distance.  There was an electric fireplace incased in stone facing modern furniture.  Glass doors opened on to the landing.  “Do you eat out there?” she asked.

“Yes, sometimes.  During the summer, of course when it’s warm.”  He took her upstairs and showed her the master bedroom which was enormous with a view of the hills.  He showed her the guestrooms and the one closest to the bathroom was the one he chose for her.  It was a lovely room, big with its own fireplace and a bed facing a large window from which she could mountains in the far distance.   They were still covered with snow in some areas.  He looked at her.  “I hope you like the room,” he said.

She nodded.  “Yes, I like it very much.”

“Good.”  He went and got her bag and brought it into the room.  “I’ll give you a chance to settle in while I go and get lunch ready.”

When he was gone, she closed the door and went into the bathroom.  Ten minutes later she went back into the room, feeling refreshed after washing her face.  She unpacked her bag and then she stood, looking out of the window for a while before heading downstairs to the kitchen.  Lunch was on the table and Harrison was just pouring what looked like Cranberry Juice in glasses.  “Have a seat,” he said.  “I hope you don’t mind having take-out.”

She sat down beside the window, her back to the kitchen.  “I don’t mind.  It smells really good.”

“It’s what I consider to be the best authentic Greek food.”

He was right about that.  It was the best Greek food she had ever had.   While they ate, they talked about different things.   After lunch, they went for a walk and then returned to the cabin.  They spent most of the afternoon watching movies and then Deandra went upstairs to take a nap.  While she was upstairs, Harrison went to his study where he spent a couple of hours doing some work before preparing dinner.

It was after six when Deandra woke up.  She had a shower and then went downstairs.  Harrison met her at the bottom of the steps.  He looked extremely attractive in the white shirt and black jeans.  His eyes traveled over her in the red top and denim skirt which revealed long legs.  “We’re having dinner in the dining-room,” he informed her.  They went into the dining-room with its two-sided fireplace.  The table was set.  He pulled out the chair for her to sit before going into the kitchen to bring out two salads followed by the main course which was Seared Tilapia with Spiralized Zucchini.  It tasted as good as it looked and smelled.

“This is delicious,” she exclaimed before taking a sip of the sparkling white wine.  “Rachel mentioned that you’re an excellent cook.  I thought she was just being bias because she’s your sister but she wasn’t exaggerating.”

He smiled.  “It’s something I learned to do years ago when I moved out of our parents’ home.  Over the years I have come to really enjoy it.  And this would be a tremendous blessing for the woman I marry because she won’t have to do all of the cooking.”

“I can’t imagine you getting married,” Deandra interjected.

“Why not?”

“You’re too much of a ladies’ man to ever settle down with one woman.”

He didn’t answer.  Instead, he took a couple of sips of wine before continuing to eat the pasta.  In the background classical music played.  “In about twenty minutes you will see the deer coming out to graze,” he told her.

“I’m looking forward to seeing that.  The only deer I’ve seen were in movies.  How long have you had this cabin?”

“I’ve had it for about seven years.”

“And in all that time, you’ve never brought a woman here before?”

He shook his head, his expression serious. “No.”

“Okay.  I believe you.”

He glanced at his watch.  It was eight o’clock.  “If you go to the window now and look out, you will see the deer.”

“I’ll help you clear the table first,” she said, putting her napkin on the table and getting up.  She took up the empty salad bowls and glasses while he carried the rest of the things into the kitchen.  While he stacked them into the dishwasher, she took a damp cloth and wiped the table down.  When she was done, she hurried over to the window and looked out.

Harrison joined her.  A few minutes passed and then, she saw something move.  It was a deer. She leaned forward, pressing against the window in her eagerness as she watched the magnificent animal made its way down to the grassy slope, her eyes shining.

Harrison watched her, thinking that she never looked more beautiful.  “Deandra…”

She turned her face toward him and her heart lurched when she saw the expression on his face.

“I want to kiss you so badly,” he murmured huskily.

“Is that what you usually say to a woman before you sleep with her?”  The minute she said those words, she was mortified and wished she could take them back, especially when she saw the hurt look on his face.  “Harrison, I’m sorry—”

His face was flushed and he raked his fingers through his hair in frustration, his eyes flashing at her.  “You have a really low opinion of me, don’t you,” he muttered angrily.  “To you I’m a libertine, a Lothario who wants to bed every woman he meets.  For your information, the number of women I’ve slept with isn’t as high as you may think.  And since I met you, I haven’t bedded any.  Maybe bringing you here wasn’t such a good idea.  I should take you home.  I wouldn’t want you to spend the weekend with a man you so obviously despise.”

“Harrison, I don’t despise you,” she protested and reaching out, she caught him by the arm.  She could feel his muscles contract underneath the material of the sweater.  His eyes darkened on her upturned face and a muscle was throbbing along his jawline.  “I’m sorry for what I said.  I regretted it the moment I said it.”

“Why did you say it then?”

“I was jealous.”

“Jealous?”

“Yes, I’m jealous of the women you’ve been with.”

He groaned.  “Oh Deandra, what will it take for you to believe that you’re the woman I want to be with.  Those other women are in my past.  My present and future are with you.”  He reached up and cupped her face between his hands and his eyes met hers as he whispered, “I love you.”

She began to cry.  “I love you too,” she sobbed.  “That’s why I’m acting like a jealous fool.”

No woman is jealous over a man unless she has feelings for him.  Eva was right.  Deandra loved him.  The realization filled his heart with joy and unable to help himself, he lowered his head and kissed her.  When he felt her immediate response, the kiss became more intense.  They stood there in front of the window, exchanging wild and fiery kisses.  Then, he picked her up and carried her upstairs to the master bedroom where in the throes of unbridled passion, they made love.

When they were lying spent in each other’s arms, he murmured, “I want you to know that being here at the cabin with you means a great deal to me and I hope that this is the first of many weekends that we will spend together.”

She raised herself up to gaze down at him and lightly traced her finger along the tattoo just below his right shoulder blade.  “You know I’m not crazy about tattoos,” she said.  “Promise me that you won’t get any more.”

“I promise.  I got this one when I was in high-school.  I was trying to impress my girlfriend at the time.”

“Speaking of girlfriends, you’re officially off the market.”

He smiled.  “Does this mean that we are officially a couple?”

“Yes,” she said before he reached up and pulled her head down to his.  What was that quote she read the other day—oh yes, it went something like this, “The Only Happy END That I Know It’S The WeekEND”

 

 

Sources:  Eagle Brae; Aneilve; Houzz; Woman’s Day; The Fresh Quotes

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