Falling in Love

Gloria was walking down the sidewalk after visiting her grandmother in the nursing home when she ran into David Mansfield.  He was heading into a café when he spotted her.  Smiling, he walked over to her.  “Hello, Gloria,” he said.

She smiled at him.  “Professor Mansfield.”

“Please call me David.  It makes me feel less old,” he said.  “How are you?”

“I’m fine, David,” she said.   Dressed in a black shirt and tan colored slacks, he looked very attractive.  He was twenty years her senior and a widower with a teenage son.  He used to be her History professor.  “I just came from visiting my grandmother.”

“How is she?”

“It’s hard to see a woman who was once very active confined to a wheelchair.”

“I was just about to grab a cappuccino.  Would you like to join me?”

She nodded and followed him into the café.  They found a table at the back by the window.   “The good thing is her mind is still agile and she can remember things I have forgotten.”

“That’s good.  My mother had Alzheimer’s.  It was sad seeing her mind deteriorate.  It was tough on my father.  He died soon after.  They had been married for over sixty years.”

“Sixty years.  That’s wonderful.  My parents got divorced ten years ago.  My father remarried and lives in Seattle and my mother has started dating again.  I hope that when I get married, it will last.”

“In my case it was death, not divorce.”

“How did she die?”

“It happened quite suddenly.  She was running up the stairs to answer the phone when she missed a step, fell and struck her head.  Mrs. Moore, our housekeeper found her.  Mark was at school.  It was a great shock for all of us.  This happened a week shy of her fortieth birthday.”

“I’m so sorry.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose a spouse or a parent.  How is your son doing?”

“Oh, he’s doing well.  He’s studying in Germany.”

“Good for him.  I always wondered what it would have been like to study abroad.  Sometimes I wished I had.”

“I’m happy you didn’t,” he said quietly.  “I wouldn’t have met you if you had.”

“Now that you mention it, I’m happy I didn’t study abroad either.” She returned his gaze, feeling her heart beat a little faster.  “I guess there’s no harm in me telling you this now, but I was very attracted to you.  I used to look forward to seeing you twice a week.  I was very sorry when the semester was over and when I graduated I wondered if I would ever see you again.  I was tempted to email you and ask you to have a cup of cappuccino with me.”

“And here we are having that cup of cappuccino.” A pause and then, “So, where do we go from here?”

“Wherever you would like,” she said.  She was flirting with him and it was exhilarating.

“I have a confession to make,” he said, leaning over.  “I was attracted to you too but I couldn’t allow myself to entertain any thoughts of having a relationship with you because it was against the university’s policy.  It was tough, though, walking into the classroom and seeing you.  After you graduated, I thought about you and wondered how you were doing.  I was sorry that I didn’t ask you to keep in touch.”

“Bumping into each other like this wasn’t an accident.  I believe it was God’s doing.”

“I’m very thankful to Him.  Are you free this evening?”

“Yes.”

“Have dinner with me.”

“Yes.” She took out a slip of paper, wrote her number and address on it and handed it to him.

“You know after Alice died, I never thought I would be interested in anyone else.”

“You must have loved her very much.”

He nodded.  “Yes, I did.  She was my first love.”

“I have heard it said that it is your first love that is very difficult to forget and that it will never die.” If he decides that he wants to have a relationship with me, will he always compare Alice and me? She wondered, her heart sinking at the thought.

“The memory of a first love never fades.  It stays with you.”

“Yes, I suppose it does.” She finished her cappuccino and stood up.  “I’m afraid I have to go now.”

“I’ll pick you up at seven,” he said, rising to his feet and looking down at her, his expression inscrutable.  “It was really nice seeing you again, Gloria.”

She smiled and held out her hand.  “It was nice seeing you again, David.”

He took her hand.  “You don’t mind going out with a man almost twice your age, do you?”

She shook her head, her pulse racing.  His hand felt warm against hers and his thumb was rubbing against the back, stirring all sorts of sensations in her.  “No, I don’t,” she assured him breathlessly.  The waitress came over to the table at that moment and he released her hand.  “I’ll see you later,” she said before turning and walking away.

As she walked to the subway, she wondered if she was not making a mistake getting involved with a man who was still in love with his deceased wife.  She wrestled with herself.  Her mind was warning her that she could get hurt but her heart was urging her to go for it.  Her heart won the battle.  The desire to be with him outweighed her reservations and she made up her mind that she would go out with him.  Her friends would probably have a lot to say about it but she didn’t care.  It was her life to do what she wished with it.

As soon as she got home, she went to her wardrobe to see which outfit she could wear and settled on the red jersey dress.  After she straightened the place, she took a shower and got ready.  She opted to wear her hair up, with a few tendrils framing her face.  A pair of red high heeled boots and matching handbag completed the outfit.  She paused in front of the mirror and was satisfied with how she looked.  Just as she left the bedroom, the doorbell rang and her heart skipped a beat.  Nervous, she hurried to answer the door.

David stood there, his coat open to reveal a charcoal grey suit with a black shirt, no tie and a light scarf draped loosely around his neck.  He looked incredibly handsome.  She saw his gaze travel slowly over her and the admiration in their depths when they shifted back to her face.  “You look beautiful,” he said quietly.

“Thank you,” she said, suddenly feeling very shy.  Dragging her eyes away from him, she hurried inside to grab her coat, put it on before she pulled the door in and locked it.

They went to a French restaurant in a historic former men’s club across from the Yale campus.   She used to walk past this place and never once did she imagine that one evening she would be having dinner with Professor David Mansfield.  She looked around, her face beaming.  The restaurant was elegant, not stuffy as so many of these fancy types of restaurants tended to be.  She was impressed with the high ceilings and beautiful woodwork.  When she looked at David, she found him watching her with an amused expression on his face.  “Have you been here before?” she asked.  “It’s beautiful.”

“No, I’ve never been here before but I know a few people who have and they all had great things to say about it.”

She didn’t know why but she was glad that he had never been here before.  They were experiencing something new together.  She hoped to have many other such experiences with him.

They shared the appetizer, ordered the same salad and while he had the grilled lamb chops, she had the roasted duck breast.  They passed on dessert and had coffee instead.  It was a very enjoyable evening.  She learned that his parents were in Berlin during the 1936 summer Olympic Games.  “The highlight for them was seeing Jesse Owens win four track and field gold medals.”

“Yes, it must have been wonderful seeing history unfold right before them.  Have you ever been to Germany?”

“Yes, I have been couple of times.  My mother’s family is German.  She told me that her parents risked their lives during World War II by hiding Jewish friends from the Nazis.  Their names are listed in a museum among other Germans who helped Jews to stay alive under Nazi dictatorship.”

“You must be so proud of them,” she said.  “They risked their lives to save lives.  I’m thankful that they weren’t caught.”

“Yes.  They would have been executed.”

“And you wouldn’t be here with me,” she said.  She couldn’t imagine a world without David Mansfield.  She thanked God for watching over his parents and protecting them from being discovered by the Germans.

David’s eyes darkened and he covered her hand with his.  “I’m happy with the way things turned out,” he agreed.  “It would have been a shame if you and I hadn’t met.”

They talked about other, lighthearted things and then it was time to go.  When they got back to her apartment, she invited him in.  After she locked the door and turned to face him, they watched each other as they removed their coats, not saying anything.  The air was suddenly filled with tension—a tension that had begun that afternoon in the café when he held her hand and had been building up all evening beneath the surface and now it was at the surface.

Compelled by a desire too strong to contain, she reached out and dragged off his jacket.  Fingers trembling, she unbuttoned his shirt.  She couldn’t tell whether it was his harsh breathing she heard or her own.  The rest of his clothes followed and he was standing there, with only the scarf draped around him.  She removed it and tossed it on the floor at his feet.  Then, she stripped and took the pins out of her hair, letting it down so that it fell in unruly curls about her face.

Muttering under his breath, he reached for her pulled her roughly against him, his mouth finding her and plundering it feverishly.  She clung to him, kissing him back wildly.  For several minutes they stood there, exchanging fiery kisses and then, he scooped her up and carried her over to the rug in front of the electric fireplace where they made passionate love.

After that night they became romantically involved.  When the summer holidays came, his son Mark visited and Gloria invited them both over to her place for dinner.  She was nervous about meeting Mark but David assured her that it would be fine.  Mark was a splitting image of his father, a few inches shorter and lanky.  He was very pleasant and he spoke about his studies and how he liked living in Germany.  Dinner was a success.  They enjoyed it and while she was in the kitchen cleaning up, they relaxed on the sofa.

“So what do you think?” David asked him.

“She’s a lot younger than I expected,” Mark said.

“She was my student,” David told him.  “She graduated last year.”

“I like her.  Do you love her?”

“Yes.”

“And does she love you?”

“Yes.”

“Then, I’m happy for you.”

“That’s good to know.  I never thought that I would fall in love again.  I still think about your mother and I will always cherish the life I had with her.”

“Mom would want you to be happy and it is obvious that Gloria makes you happy.”

David smiled and hugged him just as Gloria joined them.

Mark stood up, looking apologetic as he announced that he had to leave.  “I have an early and very busy day tomorrow,” he explained.  “Gloria, thanks for the dinner.  I enjoyed it.  And it was really nice meeting you.”

Gloria hugged him warmly.  “It was nice meeting you too,” she said.  “I hope to see you again very soon.”

“You’ll see me before I head back to Germany.  Dad, let’s do lunch on Friday.”

“Sure thing, Mark.”  They clapped each other on the back.  “See you on Friday.”

Gloria saw him to the door.  When she rejoined David in the living-room, he pulled her down on his lap.  “We have his blessing,” he told her.

She smiled, putting her arms around his neck.  “I’m relieved to hear that.”

“You’re a bit young to be his step-mother but that can’t be helped.”

Her eyes widened.  “His step-mother?”

“Yes.”  He reached into the back pocket of his jeans and pulled out a box.  He opened it and took out the ring.  She stared at it.  It was a white gold diamond rose engagement ring.  It took her breath away.  Her eyes flew up to his face which was becoming blurry.  “Will you marry me, Gloria?”

She didn’t trust herself to speak so she nodded vigorously, the tears falling now.  And she watched as he slid the ring onto her finger.  It was exquisitely beautiful.

David put his arms around her waist.  “When I met Alice, I fell in love with her once but with you, it’s different,” he confessed.  “Every time I look at you, I fall in love with you all over again.  And I will keep falling in love with you for the rest of our lives.”

“Falling in love with you is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” she whispered before she cupped his face between her hands and kissed him.

 

 

 

Source:  Union League Cafe

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Papa Joe

August 12, 1952.  It was a date she would never forget.  It was the day she buried the man who had been a father to her for over twenty years.  It seemed so surreal.  Papa Joe was gone.  She stood there alone in her grief, shivering although it was a hot and muggy day.

She stared at the ground where Papa Joe lay.  The tears rolled down her cheeks as she cradled his worn Bible, remembering how he used to read it to her when she was a child. When her parents had died he took her in and raised her as his own. She had grown to love the old man as if he were her very own blood.  Many of the townspeople had a problem with the widower raising a black girl and didn’t hide their displeasure but Papa Joe ignored them.  His business began to suffer.  Papa Joe was a tailor.  He knew that business would pick up again if he got rid of Cassandra but he refused to do so.  Even if he went bankrupt, he would never part with her.  He vowed that only death would separate them.

It was Papa Joe whom she shared her dreams with.  It was Papa Joe who comforted her when she went home crying because of the racial slurs and taunts.  Papa Joe was the only one who knew that she loved a man she had no right to love.  She had known Dr. Baker since she was a child.  He used to stop by and see Papa Joe.   He was always kind to her and brought her treats.  As she grew older, the visits became more frequent.  Papa Joe was no fool.  He could see that feelings were developing between them and he warned her, “You and the doctor have to be careful, Cassie.  This town will not take kindly to a relationship between a black girl and a white man.”

One night when Dr. Baker visited, Papa Joe excused himself and went to his room.  As soon as they were alone, the doctor took Cassandra into his arms and kissed her.  “I have wanted to do that all day,” he whispered when he raised his head to gaze down into her face.  “I know that there is a considerable age difference between us but I love you, Cassandra.  I tried to stay away when I realized that I had fallen in love with you but I couldn’t.  I had to see you.”

“I love you too.”

“I’m leaving for Paris in three weeks and I would like you to come with me.”

“Paris?” she exclaimed.  “Why there?”

“I have always wanted to go there and set up a practice.  My mother was French and your family was from Haiti.  So the language won’t be a barrier for us.”

“I can’t go to Paris with you, Robert.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t leave Papa Joe.  He has been so good to me.”

“Joe would want you to be happy and you won’t be as long as you remain in this town.”

“I can’t be happy knowing that he is here all alone.”  She could see the distress on Robert’s face and she reached up and touched his face.  “I love you for wanting to take me away with you, but I can’t.  I hope you understand.”

“I do,” he sighed.  “Well, I better be going.  Please say goodnight to Joe for me.”  They kissed and then she walked with him to the door.

“Goodbye, Cassandra.  Write me and let me know how you are doing.”  He gave her a piece of paper with an address on it.  She took it.  After a lingering look, he was gone–perhaps out of her life for good.

That was three months ago.  They had exchanged letters since and when Papa Joe died, she had written and told Robert.  She stood now at the grave, the tears falling.  Papa Joe had left the house to her and all the money he earned from his tailoring.  She had the money locked away in a box.  She didn’t want to go back to the empty house.

She had no idea of how long she stood there but the biting cold prompted her to start making her way back to the house.  She had just reached the front porch when she saw a car pull up and Robert got out.  He walked over to her and taking her arm he led her up the steps.  “I’m sorry I didn’t make it on time for the funeral,” he apologized as she unlocked the door and they went inside.

Once inside and the door was shut, she threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly.  She sobbed, letting out the pent up grief that had closed around her heart like a fist.  Robert stood there, holding her until the sobs subsided and then ceased.

When she was spent from all that crying, Robert took her over to the sofa and sat her down.  “Joe wrote me this note,” he said, handing it to her.  “I think you should read it.”

She wiped away the tears before she reached for the note.  Frowning, she slowly unfolded the paper and read it.  Dear Robert, I know that you love my Cassie and that you wanted to take her away from this cursed place.  If I know my dear girl she will not want to leave me.  She feels a sense of obligation to stay and take care of me as I have taken care of her all these years.  I don’t want to be a burden to her.  She is young and deserves to live her life.  There’s no future for her here.  I know that she loves you and that it broke her heart to be separated from you.  She thought I wasn’t aware, but I could see the unhappiness in her sweet face and I could hear her crying in the night.  She had sacrificed her chance for happiness for me.  I haven’t told her but I don’t have much longer to live.  When I pass on, which should be any time soon, please come and take Cassie away from here.  Take her to Paris where you and she will be free to love each other.  She can use the money from the sale of the house to pay for her fare.  I am sorry that I won’t be there for your wedding but know that I wish you both all the happiness in the world.  Please take good care of my precious girl.

Yours sincerely,

Joe

Fresh tears fell.  “I had no idea that he was dying.  He was tired more but I just thought that it was to do with age.  I am thankful that I was here for him.”

“Now, you can get on with your life.  We have his blessing.  Let me take you to Paris.”  He reached out and took her hands in his.  “Cassandra, I want to marry you.  Let me take you to Paris.”

She nodded.  “I will go to Paris with you,” she said.  Her life here was over.  There was nothing to keep her here.  Her future was with Robert now.  She would sell this house filled with so many wonderful memories and leave this town which had been the source of her unhappiness.  Yes, she will go to Paris and marry the man she loved.

 

crying african american woman in the 1950s