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

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The Autograph

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

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

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

He nodded.  “Yes, I am.”

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

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

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

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Kimani Jones.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you in a hurry to get somewhere?”

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

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

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

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

“Why Psychology?”

“I want to help people.”

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

“Thank you.”

“Have you always lived in New York?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’d like that,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Kevin and Angela.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her eyes brightened.  “Yes!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

He sighed, “Yes, but—”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you have room for a weary traveler?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m glad I asked you for it.”

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

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“What about you?”

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

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

 

 

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

 

The Room in 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 once in 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 highlight for her was Michelangelo’s David.  She stood there for a long time just studying it.  Afterwards, they visited the Uffizi Gallery.  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.  Before going inside, they took photos of its architecture which was a mixture of Byzantine, Roman and Venetian, the impressive work of artists and craftsmen who came from all over.  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 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.  As they enjoyed the Chicken and Mushrooms and Pasta & Oca respectively, they talked about the places they had visited that day and where they planned on going the next day.  For dessert, they had Rosada cream with orange.  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 jawline.  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 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 kept thinking about how sexy you look without a shirt…”

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 the room in Venice.”

“Why this room?” he asked.

“It’s where you and I first made love and declared our feelings for each other.  I will always remember this room for those two reasons.”

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.

 

 

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

 

One Day in the Park

It was a sunny day much like today when she and Michael first met.  She was sitting on a bench in the park close to where she lived and just enjoying the sunshine.  It was a long weekend.  No work the next day.   Usually on a Sunday afternoon she would be home doing laundry, sorting out her clothes for work and then watch the news as she had her dinner.  A rather mundane existence.  Her friends tried unsuccessfully to get her to go out on the weekends with them but she always had an excuse.  After a while they gave up.  And that suited her just fine.  She wasn’t one for going to bars or parties or walking aimlessly around shopping malls.  She was perfectly happy curled up on the cushy sofa with a good book.

That afternoon was an exception, though.  She had looked out of her living-room window and thought it was too beautiful a day to be cooped up inside.  So, she quickly changed, fixed her hair and face and went to the park.  She walked for a bit and then sat down on one of the benches facing the fountain.  She watched the families with their children pass by, pausing to take photos.   The park wasn’t crowded but there were a good many people milling around.

She saw a rather attractive man walking in her direction.  She didn’t want to stare at him so she looked over at the fountain, all the while aware of him.  It seemed like he was going to walk past when he stopped and came over to the bench.  He sat down next to her.

She could feel his eyes on her but she kept her head straight.  “It’s a great afternoon, isn’t it?” he said, startling her and she turned to look at him.  She wasn’t one for speaking to complete strangers but he seemed harmless.  And he had the most incredible blue eyes she had ever seen.

“Yes, it is.”

At first it was just a polite exchange and then the ice broke and the conversation became easier.  Pretty soon it was getting late and she had to leave.  They arranged to meet in the park again the following Sunday at the same spot.  This continued for a few weeks and then Michael asked her out for dinner.  More dinners followed, then the movies, then the theatre.  Pretty soon her weekends were busy.  She met Michael’s parents when he took her to dinner at their place.  And he met hers at one of their family barbecues.  Yes, she and Michael were officially dating.

“Hello Beautiful,” that soft but deep unmistakable voice brought her back to the present.  She got up, always beaming when she saw him and they hugged and kissed.

“I hope you haven’t been waiting long.  Had to run a couple of errands.”

She shook her head.  “No, I haven’t been waiting long,” she said.  She was just so happy to see him.  They didn’t see much of each other during the week because of busy schedules but they spoke on the phone for hours.  Weekends were their time together.

“Let’s go for a walk,” he suggested.

She was surprised.  Usually they would sit and chat for a while before they went for a walk.  She shrugged.  “All right.”

“First, I need to tie my shoe lace.”  He got down on his knee.  She stood there watching him as he fussed with a perfectly tied lace.  Then he fumbled in his pocket and her breath caught in her throat when she saw him take out a red box.  He opened it and held it out, his eyes now on her face.  “Lauren Spencer, will you marry me?”

She began to laugh and cry at the same time.  People were passing by and watching them, smiling.  “Yes, I will marry you, Michael Donovan.”

Michael slipped the ring on her finger and then got up.  “You have just made me a very happy man,” he said, cupping her wet face between his hands and kissing her.  She thought she heard applause but she soon blotted out the sounds around her as she basked in the knowledge that she was going to marry the man of her dreams.  And this was all as a result of that one day she went to the park.  She hadn’t gone looking for love but it found her.  Life was so wonderfully unpredictable.

 

young couple having a great Conversation

 

Dame Angela Lansbury

I still watch Murder, She Wrote because I like the show and the character Jessica Fletcher played by the great Angela Lansbury.  My 7 year old son is also a fan of Jessica Fletcher’s.  Before taking on the role of a mystery writer in one of the longest running detective drama series in television history, Angela was a silver screen movie star.  My husband thought she was hot then.

Angela is a versatile actress, easily portraying an unlikable and cheeky maid in Gaslight opposite Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer to the music hall singer who, unfortunately and tragically, falls in love with the protagonist, Dorian Gray in the movie, The Picture of Dorian Gray to the frightening and domineering mother in The Manchurian Candidate.  Her performance as Mrs. John Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate is ranked #21 in the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains for villains.

Angela was born to an upper middle class family on October 16, 1925 in Regent’s Park, central London. Her mother, Moyna Macgill, was a Belfast born Irish actress and her father was the wealthy English timber merchant and politician Edgar Lansbury.  He was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and former mayor of the Metropolitan Borough of Poplar.  Her paternal grandfather was the Labour Party leader and anti-war activist George Lansbury.  Angela was in awe of him and to her, he was “a giant in my youth”.  Angela had an older half-sister, Isolde from her mother’s previous marriage.  When Angela was four, her mother gave birth to twin boys, Bruce and Edgar, prompting the Lansburys to move from their Poplar flat to a house in Mill Hill, North London.  In the weekends, they went to a rural farm in Berrick Salome, Oxfordshire.

She was nine years old when her father died from stomach cancer.  To cope with her loss, she played characters, describing the event as “the defining moment of my life.  Nothing before or since has affected me so deeply.”  Faced with financial difficulty, her mother got engaged to a Scottish colonel and moved into his house in Hampstead.  Angela attended South Hampstead High School from 1934 to 1939.  She considered herself to be largely self-educated, learning from books, theatre and cinema.  She became a “complete movie maniac”, going regularly to the cinema and imagining herself as certain characters.

Angela’s grandfather died in 1940 and with the onset of the Blitz, her mother, Moyna took her and her brothers to the United States.  Her half-sister, Isolde remained in Britain with her new husband, actor Peter Ustinov.  Angela’s mother got a job supervising sixty British children who were evacuated to North America aboard the Duchess of Athol, arriving with them in Montreal, Canada in mid-August.  From Montreal they went by train to New York City where Moyna was sponsored financially by a Wall Street businessman and moved in with his family at their home in Mahopac, New York.  Angela got a scholarship from the American Theatre Wing which allowed her to study at the Feagin School of Drama and Radio.  There she appeared in performances of William Congreve’s The Way of the World and Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan.  By the time she graduated, she and her family had moved to a flat in Morton Street, Greenwich Village.

Moyna got work in a Canadian touring production of Tonight at 8:30.  Angela joined her mother who got her first theatrical job as a nightclub act at the Samovar Club in Montreal.  She lied about her age to get the job and earned $60 a week.  She returned to New York city but her mother had moved to Hollywood to revive her cinematic career.  Angela and her brothers joined her.  After moving into a bungalow in Laurel Canyon, Angela and her mother got Christmas jobs at the Bullocks Wilshire department store in Los Angeles but unfortunately, Moyna got fired for incompetence.  The family had to live on Angela’s wages of $28 at week.

Angela met John van Druten at a party hosted by her mother.  He recently co-authored a script for Gaslight.  He suggested that Angela would be perfect for the role of Nancy Oliver, a conniving cockney maid and she accepted the part although at the time she was only 17.  A social worker had to accompany her on the set.  She got an agent and was signed to a seven-year contract with MGM, earning $500 a week.  She adopted “Angela Lansbury” as her stage name.  The movie received mixed reviews although Angela’s role was widely praised.  It received six Academy Award nominations, one of which was for Best Supporting Actress for Angela.

Following Gaslight, Angela starred in a supporting character in National Velvet which was a major commercial hit.  Angela developed a lifelong friendship with co-star Elizabeth Taylor.  I remember that the two friends appeared together in Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d with Angela in the role of the endearing Miss Marple.

Angela next starred in The Picture of Dorian Gray with Hurd Hatfield, George Sanders, Donna Reed and Peter Lawford.  Surprisingly, at least to me, the film was not a financial success.  However, it garnered Angela her second Best Supporting Actress nomination.  She lost to her National Velvet co-star Anne Revere.

Angela married Richard Cromwell, an artist and a decorator.  When I saw a photo of him, I recognized him as the brother of Henry Fonda’s character in the marvelous movie, Jezebel.  Angela’s marriage to Richard was a trouble one.  She would later disclose that he was gay, something she was not aware of until after their separation.  The marriage ended in less than a year and Angela filed for a divorce.  They remained friends, however, until his death.

Angela met her second husband, Peter Pullen Shaw at a party held by her former co-star Hurd Hatfield.  Hurd would later be a guest star on Murder She Wrote.  Peter was an aspiring actor also signed with MGM and had recently left a relationship with Joan Crawford.  He and Angela became a couple, living together before she proposed marriage.  They wanted to get married in Britain but the Church of England refused to marry two divorcees.  So, they wed at St. Columba’s Church which was under the jurisdiction of the Church of Scotland in Knightsbridge, London.  They had their honeymoon in France.  They returned to the United States and settled in Angela’s home in Rustic Canyon, Malibu, each becoming naturalised U.S. citizens with dual British citizenship.

Angela’s contract with MGM ended in 1952.  She was miscast, playing older and often villainous women.  Earlier in her career, MGM loaned her to United Artists for The Private Affairs of Bel Ami in 1947 and then to Paramount for Samson and Delilah (1949).  Unhappy with the roles MGM was giving her, Angela instructed her manager to terminate her contract.  At the time she was pregnant with her first child, Anthony whom she gave birth to that year.  Soon after he was born, she joined the East Coast touring productions of two former Broadway plays, Remains to be Seen and Affairs of the State.  In 1953, Angela gave birth to her daughter, Deidre Angela.  Angela’s husband, Peter had a son by a previous marriage and had legal custody of him.  He brought the boy to California to live with the family.  They moved to a larger house in Santa Monica.

In the mid-fifties Angela entered the world of Broadway theatre.  In 1957 she debuted in Hotel Paradiso, a French burlesque set in Paris, at the Henry Miller Theatre.  Although the play ran for only 15 weeks, earning her good reviews, she later stated that had she not appeared in the play, her “whole would have fizzled out”.  Next she appeared in A Taste of Honey, playing Helen, a boorish and verbally abusive absentee mother of Josephine played by Joan Plowright who was only four years younger.  Angela became friends with Joan and Laurence Olivier, Joan’s lover.  It was from Angela’s rented apartment on East 97th Street that Joan and Laurence eloped to get married.

Angela didn’t feel comfortable in the Hollywood social scene.  She chalked this up to her British roots. “In Hollywood, I always felt like a stranger in a strange land.”  In 1959, the family moved to Malibu where they settled into a house on the Pacific Coast Highway where she and Peter were able to escape the Hollywood scene and send their children to state school.

In 1962, Angela starred opposite Lawrence Harvey in The Manchurian Candidate, playing his manipulative mother even though she was only three years older than him.  The role earned her her third Best Supporting Actress Award nomination.  It bothered her that she didn’t win.  Angela starred in several movies in the 1960s but although her performances were well received, the kind of roles she wanted evaded her and she became dissatisfied with the minor roles she was getting, feeling that none of them allowed her to explore her potential as an actress.

I was a wife and a mother, and I was completely fulfilled. But my husband recognised the signals in me which said ‘I’ve been doing enough gardening, I’ve cooked enough good dinners, I’ve sat around the house and mooned about what more interior decoration I can get my fingers into.’ It’s a curious thing with actors and actresses, but suddenly the alarm goes off. My husband is a very sensitive person to my moods and he recognised the fact that I had to get on with something. Mame came along out of the blue just at this time. Now isn’t that a miracle? – Angela Lansbury

In 1966 Angela took on the title role of Mame Dennis in the musical Mame, the musical adapted from the novel, Auntie Mame.  The director’s first choice for the role was Rosalind Russell who played Mame in the non-musical adaptation but she declined.  Theatre critics were surprised that Angela was chosen for the role, believing that the role would go to a better known actress.  Angela was forty-one at the time and this was her first starring role.  She trained extensively for the role which involved over twenty costume changes throughout the play and ten songs and dance routines.  Auntie Mame opened on Broadway in May 1996, gaining Angela rave reviews.  She received her first Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical.  Following her success as Mame, Angela appeared in Dear World, the musical adaptation of The Madwoman of Chailott, as a 75 year old Parisian eccentric.  Angela found the experience “pretty depressing” but received positive reviews for her performance and her second Tony award.   The show, however, received critical reviews and ended after 132 performances.  After Dear World, Angela played the title role of the musical Prettybelle, based on Jean Arnold’s The Rape of Prettybelle, set in the Deep South.  It was a controversial play because it dealt with issues of racism with Angela as a wealthy alcoholic who seeks sexual encounters with black men.  It opened in Boston to poor reviews and was cancelled before it even reached Broadway.  Angela would later say that the play was a “complete and utter fiasco.”  She felt that her performance was awful.

In the early 1970s Angela turned down several cinematic roles, including the role of Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest which went to Louise Fletcher who won the Oscar for Best Actress.  In 1970 Angela appeared as the middle-aged English witch in the Disney film, Beadknobs and Broomsticks, her first lead in a screen musical.  1970 was a traumatic year for the Lansbury family.  Peter underwent a hip replacement, their son Anthony suffered a heroin overdose and went into a coma and the family’s home in Malibu was destroyed in a bush fire.  They bought a farmhouse constructed in the 1820s located near the village of Conna in rural County Cork.  It was there Anthony was taken to receover from his drug addiction after he quit using cocaine and heroin.  He enrolled in the Webber-Douglas School, his mother’s alma mater and became a professional actor before becoming a television director.  Angela and her husband did not return to California, instead, they divided their time between Cork and New York City.  They lived opposite the Lincoln Centre.

Angela returned to theatre in 1972, performing in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theatrical production of Edward Albee’s All Over in London’s West End.  Although reviews of the play were mixed, her performance was widely praised.  She did a revival of Mame which was touring the United States at the time.  She returned to the West End to play Rose in the musical Gypsy.  Initially, she turned down the role because she didn’t want to be in Ethel Merman’s shadow.  Ethel had portrayed the character in the original Broadway production.  Eventually, Angela accepted the role and she received a standing ovation and rave reviews.  Not at all in anyone’s shadow, she was in demand among the London society, having dinners in her honour.  When Gypsy went to Broadway, it was a critical success, earning Angela her third Tony Award.

Eager to move on from musicals, Angela decided to tackle a production of one of William Shakespeare’s plays and landed the role of Gertrude in The National Theatre Company’s production of Hamlet.  The play received mixed reviews.  Angela later admitted that she hated the role because it was too restrained. To make matters worse, she learned that her mother had died in California. Angela had her mother’s body cremated and her ashes scattered near to her own County Cork home.

Angela appeared in Edward Albee’s Counting the Ways and Listening.  Her performance was praised.  She followed this with another revival tour of Gypsy.  She appeared in the revival of The King and I musical at Broadway’s Uris Theatre.  After seven years, she starred in her first cinematic role in Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, opposite her brother-in-law Peter Ustinov and Bette Davis who became a close friend. Of Bette, she had this to say, “She is an original. There has never been anyone, before or since, who could touch her.”

In 1979 she earned her fourth Tony Award playing Nellie Lovett in Sweeney Todd:  The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.  In 1982 she played an upper middle class housewife in A Little Family Business which also starred her son, Anthony.  The movie was panned and accused of racism by the Japanese-American community.  She co-starred with friend Bette Davis in the film made for television, Little Gloria…Happy at Last.  She appeared in other television movies, one of which was BBC’s A Talent for Murder which she jumped at the chance to take in order to work with co-star Laurence Olivier.

Then in 1983, Angela was offered two television roles–one was in a sitcom and the other was in a detective series.  She was unable to do both so her agents advised her to accept the sitcom role but she decided to accept the other role.  And we are thrilled that she did!  Angela described her character Jessica Fletcher as “an American Miss Marple”.  It’s interesting that she said that because she played Miss Marple in The Mirror Crack’d.  She played the sleuth the way Agatha Christie described the her unlike Margaret Rutherford who made the role famous.  The role of Jessica Fletcher had been offered to Jean Stapleton first but she turned it down.  I must say that I am happy that she did because I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part.  Angela was the perfect choice.

Angela took her role as Jessica Fletcher very seriously and had creative input over the character’s costumes, makeup and hair.  Network executives wanted to put the character in a relationship which Angela strongly rejected, believing that the character should remain a strong single female.  She changed any script which did not fit Jessica’s personality.  She saw Jessica as a role model for older female viewers and praised her “enormous, universal appeal” and admitted that, “It was an accomplishment I never expected in my entire life.”  Murder, She Wrote was described as a television landmark in the U.S. for having an older female character as the protagonist, paving the way for series like The Golden Girls, another show I enjoyed tremendously.  “I think it’s the first time a show has really been aimed at the middle aged audience,” Angela said.  It was the most popular show among senior citizens but it gradually gained a younger audience.  By 1991, a third of the viewers were under fifty.  It gained high ratings throughout most of its run.

I know why [Murder, She Wrote was a success]. There was never any blood, never any violence. And there was always a satisfying conclusion to a whodunit. The jigsaw was complete. And I loved Jessica’s everywoman character. I think that’s what made her so acceptable to an across-the-board audience – Angela Lansbury, 2014.

As the show went on Angela assumed a larger role behind the scenes with her own company, Corymore co-producing the show with Universal.  After a while, though she began to get tired of the series, especially of the long working hours and said that the 1990-1991 would be the show’s last season.  However, she changed her mind after she was appointed executive producer for the 1992-1993 season, which made it far more interesting for her.  For the seventh season, the show’s setting moved to New York where Jessica had taken a job teaching criminology at Manhattan University in an attempt to attract younger viewers.  Angela encouraged this move.  The show aired on Sunday where its ratings improved in the early 1990s.  People had gotten used to tuning in every Sunday night to see what murder mystery Jessica Fletcher would be solving so it was unfortunate when CBS executives got the bright idea to move it to Thursdays opposite NBCs new sitcom, Friends with the hope of drawing a larger audience.  Not surprisingly, Angela was angry at this move, believing that it ignored the show’s core audience.  The show’s final episode aired in May 1996 and ended with Angela voicing a “Goodbye from Jessica” message.  The role of Jessica Fletcher would prove to be the most successful and prominent of Angela’s career.  It must have been hard saying goodbye to Jessica Fletcher for Angela and the faithful viewers.  All good things must come to an end.  Sigh.

After the end of Murder, She Wrote, Angela returned to the theatre.  Fast forward to March to June 2014 when Angela reprised her 2009 Tony winning Broadway performance as Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit at the Gielgud Theatre in London’s West End, marking her first London stage appearance in nearly 40 years.  She picked up her first Olivier award, Britain’s most prestigious prize a the age of 89 for Blithe Spirit.  It’s worth mentioning that Angela received an Academy Honorary Award for her lifetime achievement at the Governors Awards on November 16, 2013 and received the Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Theatre on November 16, 2015.

I read a few interesting things about Angela.  I will just mention a few.  In the late 1940s, MGM planned to cast her as the female lead in a film entitled “Angel’s Flight” with Clark Gable but the project never came through because Mr. Gable disliked the storyline, so the studio had to squash the entire project.  She was considered for the role of Miss Caswell in All About Eve (1950), but Marilyn Monroe was cast in the role instead.  Frank Sinatra wanted Lucille Ball for the role of Mrs. Iselin, the manipulative mother in The Manchurian Candidate but Angela got the part and played it convincingly.  I don’t know if Lucille Ball would have pulled it off.  Angela is a staunch Democrat and a solid supporter of Barack Obama.  She was very close friends with Bob Hope.  She gave a speech at his memorial service on August 27, 2003.  Her nephew David Lansbury was married to actress Ally Sheedy, The Breakfast Club.

Angela was self-professed homebody who preferred spending quiet evenings inside with friends to the Hollywood night live.  She is a supporter of the United States Democratic Party and the British Labour Party.  Notes to Women celebrate this remarkable woman who is a staunch supporter of charities such as Abused Wives in Crisis which combated domestic abuse and those who worked toward rehabilitating drug users.  She supported charities dedicated to fighting against HIV/AIDs.  She was a chain smoker early in life but gave up the addiction cold turkey in the mid-1960s.  We congratulate her on her promotion to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to drama and to charitable work and philanthropy.  Last year she was made a Dame by the Queen at Windsor Castle.  This honour couldn’t have happened to a more deserving lady.  Dame Angela, we applaud you for the work you have done in movies and in theatre and most importantly, your charitable deeds.

The older I get, the more I realize how much I have missed because I was so busy entertaining that audience and so busy pursuing a career.
I just went along for the ride. It was a God-given gift. It is. So you can’t say well, you wasted your life because you spent all of it acting, but I think gosh, I’ve never been to China, I’ve never been to Japan. I’ve never been to Yellowstone Park.
I had no idea that such a thing could happen. It never occurred to me.My son told me. He called me and said, “Darling, I just wanted you to know that you have been chosen to receive an honorary Academy Award.” I was in the back of this car, and I said, “Oh,” and burst into tears, of course, because it was so unexpected and quite wonderful. I thought it’s been worth hanging around all these years.
I honestly consider that the greatest gift to me, is the reaction that I get from my work. That is a given which I never, ever take for granted. But to be given that by audiences, individuals, on the street, in the theater, is an extraordinary feeling.
My mother was one of the most beautiful women, I have to say, of her generation. She was absolutely lovely. She was a very, extremely sensitive, Irish actress. She came from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and she came to London, and she was sort of discovered by several people.
~Angela Lansbury~

Sources: azquotes; Wikipedia; IMDB; Hollywood Reporter; Deadline Presents