The Second Date

Marla was taking a stroll on her last vacation day in the summer, enjoying the quiet neighborhood close to where she lived and the beautiful weather when her cell rang.  It was Dean.  Smiling she answered it.  “Hi, Dean.

“Hi, Marla.  I just wanted to call and tell you that I had a really great time last night.”

They had dinner at the swanky Polo Bar.

“Me too.”

“You mentioned that you like Jazz so I was wondering if you would like to go to Bill’s Place with me tonight?”

“Sure, I’d love that.”

“Good.  I’ll pick you up at seven.”

“It’s a date!”

He smiled.  “Yes, it is.  The second of many, I hope.”

Sources:  Trip Advisor; Conde Nast Traveler;

Vacation

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After four years of studying at university, it was time for a carefree vacation.

14 Words

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This was written for the Weekend Writing Prompt by Sammi Cox. For instructions, click Here.

More Space?

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Here I am on a beautiful tropical island and instead of relaxing in the shade with a good book, going for a walk or a swim, I’m texting him.  What’s the matter with me?  I told him that things were moving too quickly and that I needed some space.  He wasn’t happy about that but he respected my wishes.  I promised him that when I got back from my vacation, I would call him.

So, why am I texting him now?  I guess absence makes the heart grow fonder.  I miss him and wish that he were here.  I keep my message simple.  Am having a great time.  The weather here is lovely.  Hope you’re doing okay.  After I send it, I walk to the water’s edge and wait for his reply.  The water looks really tempting.  Maybe I will go for a swim after I hear from him.

Twenty minutes later, he replies.  While you’re there having a great time, I’m missing you like crazy.  So, I’m not doing okay. 

I immediately texted back, I lied.  I’m miserable here without you.  I don’t need any more space.  I’m going to cut my holiday short and fly home.

No, don’t do that.  I’ll come to you.

When he showed up hours the following day, I was deliriously happy.  We have been inseparable since.

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This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for today’s prompt, Island.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Her Boss

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It was her first day back to work after a month long vacation in Jamaica.  Since she left there ten years ago, she hadn’t visited until now and was happy that she did.  She had forgotten the verdant mountainsides, crystalline rivers and white beaches surrounded by a turquoise sea.  She stayed with her cousin, Winston who owned and ran a beach resort.

The funny thing is all that time she was away, she couldn’t help thinking about Zain.  She missed him.  When she went shopping, she picked up a vintage wood carved hand-painted vase and a bottle of Rum for him.  She was looking forward to giving them to him.  He must have gotten the postcard she sent.

Winston was a party animal and he dragged her to different nightclubs, bars and house parties where she met all sorts of men.  They were interested in her and she found some of them very entertaining but she just wasn’t into any of them.  How could she be when she was in love with Zain?  Zain was her boss, for Pete’s sake.  Before she became his secretary, she was his father’s.  After Sadiq Patel decided to go into early retirement, he handed the company over to his youngest son along with her, his trusted secretary whom he hired fresh out of university, a decision he always prided himself was the one of the best ones he had ever made.  He used to say to her, “If I were at least twenty years younger, I would leave for my wife for you if you’d have me.”

Teona knew that he wasn’t serious.  She used to shake her head and say, “You and I both know you would never do that.”

He chuckled.  “You’re right, Teona.  I don’t have the courage to do it.”

She knew courage had nothing to do with it.  He was crazy about his wife.  Death was the only thing that could come between them.

On her last day working with him, they had hugged and she had cried.  She had loved working for him and was going to miss him terribly.  Mrs. Patel and he returned to New Delhi.  The last she heard, they had opened a restaurant.

Pakistani male modelThe first time she met Zain, he was in his father’s old office, sitting on top of a table.  To say that he was handsome was a gross understatement.  He was drop dead gorgeous and for several minutes all she could do was stand there, tongue-tied, staring at him.  A slight smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.

“Hello, Teona,” he said.  Unlike his father, he had a British accent.  “My father has told me so much about you.  I’m looking forward to us working together.  Please have a seat and we can go over the company’s books to see where we are.”

That day was a complete blur for her as she tried to get him up to speed with everything and at the same time distracted by his good looks.  They soon came up with a system which worked perfectly for them.  And she soon found that, like his father, she loved working for him too but for completely different reasons.  It was too bad that he had a girlfriend…

The ringing of her phone jolted her back to the present.  It was Zain.   She quickly picked it up.

“Welcome back,” he said.

“Thank you.”  It’s good to be back.  She didn’t think she would ever go away for that long again.

“Come and see me after you’ve settled in.”

“All right.”  After she hung, she checked her emails, deleted many and responded to some.  She went to the washroom to make sure she looked fine.  She grabbed the bag with the stuff she had brought back for him and went into his office.

He was sitting at his desk but got up when she went in, closing the door behind her.  She walked over to him and extending the bag, she said, “I brought these back for you.”

He took the bag and looked inside.  “Thank you,” he said, smiling.  “I got your postcard.”  He set the bag down on the carpet beside his desk.  “Did you have a good time?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I did.”

“Has it changed much since you left?”

“Yes, it has.  I’d forgotten how laid back life there was compared to here.  It was nice not rushing around and being able to just walk out to the beach instead of having to drive there.”

He was leaning against the desk now, arms folded, watching her.  “Did you stay at a hotel or with family?”

“I stayed with my cousin, Winston.  He has a beach house.”

“What else did you do besides go to the beach?”

“Well, I went river rafting, zip-lining and visited Ochos Rios, Negril and Kingston where the Bob Marley Museum is, nightclubs, bars and parties.”

“Did you meet anyone?”

“Well, I met a lot of men, most of them were Winston’s friends.”

“Were you attracted to any of them?”

She shook her head.  “No, I wasn’t although most of them were really nice.”

“I missed you.”  The statement took her by surprise and the expression on his face made her heart skip a beat.

“Sure you did,” she replied, lowering her eyes.  “It’s the first time since we have been working together that you had to work with another secretary.  Did you get along well with Stacey?”  Stacey and she covered for each other.  The older woman was extremely competent.

“Yes, we got along famously but when I said that I missed you, I wasn’t speaking as your boss.”

She swallowed hard.  His eyes captivated her.  “What—what about Amrita?”

“We broke up.”

Her eyes widened in shock.  “You did?  How come?”

“She kept hounding me to get rid of you and gave me an ultimatum.  It was either you or her.”

“Why did she want you to get rid of me?”

“Do you remember the day when you and I were in here working on a project?”

Yes, she remembered.  How could she not?  They had spent most of the morning on it and finished it just after noon.  He ordered in take out and they sat on the sofa to have it.  Over delicious Thai food, they talked about all sorts of things, including her trip to Jamaica.  When they were finished eating and had put the containers in the garbage, she was about to take up her notes when he reached out and rubbed the right corner of her mouth with his thumb.  “You had a bit of sauce,” he explained.

“Thank you,” she murmured.  His hand was still holding her face.  They stared into each other’s eyes and their heavy breathing mingled.  Her gaze dropped to his mouth and watched, mesmerized as it drew closer…The loud knock on the door startled them and they sprang apart just as Amrita walked in.  She looked from one to the other, her expression dour before she inquired stonily, “Am I interrupting something?”

Flustered, Teona muttered, “No, I was just leaving.”  She turned away, grabbed her notes and almost ran out of the office.  For the rest of the day, she relived those last few moments in Zain’s office—when he rubbed the sauce from the side of her mouth and the kiss they almost shared.  The following morning she was on a plane headed for Jamaica.  And now she was back and here in his office.

“I remember,” she answered.  I thought about it a lot when I was away.

“Amrita knew that she had interrupted something.  She sensed that there was something between us and that’s why she wanted me to get rid of you.”

“So, instead of getting rid of me, you dumped her?”

“Yes.  Why should I get rid of a perfectly good secretary?” His eyes twinkled and his lips twitched.

“Is that the only reason why you didn’t get rid of me?”

His expression changed.  He looked very serious now and he reached for her hands.  “You know it isn’t,” he replied, pulling her closer to him.   His heated gaze met hers squarely.  “Just like you know what would have happened if she hadn’t interrupted us.”

By now she was having trouble breathing normally.  And her heart was pounding like crazy.  When she was standing inches from him, he released her hands and cup her face between his hands.  Then he was kissing her.  Now that her hands were free, she wrapped her arms around his waist as the kisses became more passionate.

Several minutes passed and then as things were getting really heated, he broke off the kiss, his breath harsh and unsteady.  “We’d better stop,” he gasped.

She nodded, trying to catch her breath.   “Yes, I’d better get back to my desk.”

Reluctantly he released her and ran his fingers through his hair.  His eyes were stormy as they met hers.  “Have dinner with me tonight.”

“Where?”

“My place at seven-thirty.”

“All right.  I’ll be there.”

He leaned over and kissed her long and hard on the mouth.  “It’s great to have you back.”

“It’s great to be back,” she murmured before she turned and walked unsteadily out of his office.

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for today’s prompt, Courage and yesterday’s prompt, Verdant.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Sources: The Nature Conservancy; Road Affair; Etsy; Road Affair

Two Reasons to Celebrate

Young and sassy are the words my husband use to describe me.  We are opposites.  He’s an introvert and I’m an extrovert.  He’s in his mid-fifties with grey sideburns but he still has the body and libido of a much younger man.  I’m in my late twenties and I’m trying to keep up with him.

We met last year when a mutual friend invited a group of people to Maui for a week of sun and fun.  Lorenzo didn’t go with anyone and nor did I.  We were immediately attracted to each other and for the rest of the vacation, we were inseparable.

A year and four months later, we are newlyweds.  For our honeymoon we went on a 12-day Mediterranean cruise which ended in Venice, the city of love.  After we spent two days there, we headed to Milan to visit his family.  We figured we might as well since we were in Italy.

I must say that although I half-expected it, it still came as a bitter disappointment when his parents made it painfully obvious that they didn’t approve of me.  No doubt my color had more to do with it than my age.  His teenage children from his previous marriage were polite but I could tell that they didn’t approve either.  Being married to me meant that their father wasn’t going to return to Milan or reconcile with their mother.

I feel sorry for them.  When my parents divorced and my father remarried, I was upset.  I wasn’t nice to my step-mother, Violet because she ruined all chances of my parents getting back together.  It took years for me to get over that disappointment and be civil to Violet.  Now, she and I are friends.  And I can see how happy she makes my father.  I hope that one of these days, Lorenzo’s children will come around too.  He’s the love of my life and his happiness means the world to me.

Lorenzo and I ended up spending only two days in Milan and then we were off to Rome.  I loved Rome–the people, the food and the piazzas.  On our last night, we visited Piazza Navona and enjoyed a couple of gelato as we admired Bernini’s perfectly lit Fountain of the Four Rivers.

Lorenzo and I were sorry to leave Italy but we were excited about beginning our life as a married couple and moving into our new home overlooking Central Park.  It took a while for me to get back into a routine because of jet-lag.

Ten weeks have passed since our honeymoon and I’m standing in front of my enormous closet, looking at the designer clothes, bags and shoes I brought back from Milan and Rome.  As I look through the outfits a smile tugs at my lips.   I can’t wait to see Lorenzo’s face when I tell him the good news tonight over a home cooked dinner.  We have two wonderful reasons to celebrate.

That’s right.  We’re going to have twins.  Whether they are boys or girls or one of each, we won’t know for some time or maybe, we’ll decide to wait to find out.  Already, I’m making plans to turn the extra bedroom into a nursery and I’m just dying to go shopping for the babies.

The chiming of the clock reminds me that I have to get dinner ready.  I close the closet doors and leave the bedroom.  I’m going to make sure that tonight is a very special night for Lorenzo.

I’ve been learning to cook Italian dishes thanks to Jamie Oliver.  I’m going to make tasty tuna meatballs with pasta and Caesar salad.  And for desert, what else but his favorite–pistachio gelato from our favorite neighborhood gelato place.

After dinner and when we’re relaxing in the living-room, then I will tell him that we’re going to have twins.  And then, we celebrate with a bottle of Martinelli’s Gold Medal non-alcoholic Sparkling Cider.

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for Sunday’s word: closet and Monday’s word:  jet. If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Change/Renewal #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

I stare out of the window at the sky which looks like it is on fire.  I have never seen anything like it before and I linger for a little while, forgetting for a brief moment my daily struggle to feed three young children and my sick husband.  I push all thoughts of my brothers and their families who are currently enjoying themselves in Tunisia’s Mediterranean coast.  I suppress the bitterness and anger that struggle to rise to the surface as I try not to think about them using my inheritance money for their vacation.

My brothers pressured me to give up my small inheritance entirely.  I could do with that money right now.  They’re spending it on travel while I’m stuck here, taking care of my family.  I should be relaxing on a beach somewhere.  Everyday, I get up, cook, clean, and whatever needs to be done in this house, no matter how tired I am.  My brothers don’t care about me.

Until things change in this country, women like me are going to continue to feel helpless and bitter because of gender inequality in inheritance.  Whereas daughters inherit half of the estate, sons inherit twice as much.   I inherited half because I’m a sole daughter.  Had I sisters, collectively, we would each inherit two thirds.  That hardly seems fair.  When are things going to change?  When is there going to be gender equality in inheritance?

I hear the baby crying.  I wish I could spend a longer time watching the sunrise but duty calls.  I turn and after going over to the bed to check on my husband, I leave the room to tend to our daughter.  I hope that by the time she becomes an adult that there will finally be a change where she will be granted equal inheritance rights.

This story was inspired by an article I read.  In Tunisia, there is a law which limits daughters’ inheritance rights and provides that sons inherit twice as much as daughters.  Equality Now is taking action to change this.

This was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.  For more details click here.

Source:  Equality Now

 

Two Brothers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Flexible hours.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Théo grinned.  “Something like that.”

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

“The usual.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She smiled.  “Thank you.”

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

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

“Sounds good.  I’ll have that.”

“I’ll be right back.”

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

“I get off at nine.”

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

“I usually take the train.”

“May I give you a ride home?”

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

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

“Do you live alone?” he asked.

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

“Do you have other family here in Paris?”

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

“Do you visit them?”

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

“Do you have any siblings?”

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

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

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

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

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

“It would be double trouble, for sure.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

She smiled.  “Thank you, Emile.”

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

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

“And spend time with Théo.”

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s all right,” he said quietly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Goodnight, Emile.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Exactly!” Ines chimed in.

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

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

“Her name begins with a C.”

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

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

“I have to leave, Mother.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The one to St. Barts with Théo.

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

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

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

“Celeste?”

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

“But you and he went dancing last night.”

“Yes.  Celeste was there too.”

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

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

“I thought you were his girlfriend, Celine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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