His Muse

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Photo by Sue Vincent

The painting was almost complete.  He just had to add a few touches.  Painting landscapes was never his thing but he had been forced to paint them since…He tossed the paintbrush down and got up.  He walked over to the window and stared out into the street below.  It was quiet now.  It was Sunday.  Almost everyone was in church.  He had stopped attending Sunday mass three years ago.  He had stopped doing a lot of things three years ago.  Three years ago she had stood right there by the door, ready to removed her coat when her cell rang.  He had no idea who called her but after she ended the call, she grabbed her knapsack and said, “I have to go but I will be back later,” before she pulled open the door and rushed out.

He waited all day for her to return or to call but neither was forthcoming.  Three years later and she hadn’t returned.  He had no idea where she was.  Maybe she went back to her home in Benin.  She was the reason why he stopped painting people and started painting landscapes.  He had broken his own rule of never mixing business with pleasure.  She was supposed to be his muse–that was all.  He had painted hundreds of women before and not once did any of them stir any passions in him.  He was immune to them.  To him there were just muses.

Then, he met her one day at the gallery where his work was on display.  She was eighteen at the time.  Her youth was so refreshing.   She wasn’t beautiful or even pretty and her eyes seemed too large for her small face but she intrigued him.   He wanted to paint her right then and there.  There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that she was going to be his next muse.  After they left the gallery, he took her for a cappuccino.  She was a bit hesitant at first although she was flattered that he wanted to paint her but he was very persuasive.

She turned out to be the perfect muse, inspiring him to produce his best work.  He churned out painting after painting.   She sat there day after day, still as a statue.  He supposed that it was gradual but one day he realized that he that he had fallen for her–of all he foolhardy things to do.  He was twice her age, for pity’s sake.  He thought of finding another muse to replace her but he couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing her again.  She had brought light and joy into his otherwise dull existence.  Life without her would be intolerable.  He didn’t replace her but it became increasingly hard to paint because he couldn’t concentrate.  Instead of painting her, he wanted to take her in his arms and…

He leaned forward, his palms flat on the window seat, his tortured gaze scanned the horizon.  She was out there somewhere.  His life was empty.  There was a great big chasm and his heart ached every time he remembered how she had literally run out of his life.  He never got another muse.  No one could replace her.  Oh, Johari, my inspiration, my grand passion, my torment.

He heard a sound behind him and turned.  His face became ashen when he saw her standing there.  If she didn’t blink, he would have imagined that she was an illusion.  All sorts of emotions churned inside him.  His hands curled into tight fists as he tried to hold them in check.  Part of him wanted to take her in his arms and lavish her with kisses while the other part wanted to lash out at her for the misery she had put him through.

“I came back, Adriel,” she said, moving closer.

He didn’t budge.  “Yes, three years later.  Where have you been all this time?”

“I’ve been in Benin.  That day when I was here with you, I got a call from an uncle that my father had fallen ill and that I was needed home right away.  I got the first flight out of London.  I helped my mother to look after him until he recovered.  My mother asked me to stay until she could afford to hire a private nurse.  I tried calling you but there wasn’t any answer.  I think your cell was off.  I wrote to you while I was in Benin but you never answered.  Adriel, you must know that only a family emergency would make me leave you.  All the time I was away, I thought about you and missed you.  I wondered why you didn’t write me.  I thought you were out of the country or busy with gallery showings or—that you had met someone.”

He quickly closed the distance between them.  “I’ve been here all this time,” he told her.  “Missing you and wondering where you were.  I had my phone turned off and I never received any of your letters.”

“So, there isn’t another woman…?”

He shook his head vigorously.  “No!” Groaning, he reached for her and pulled her into his arms.  “I couldn’t be with anyone else even if I wanted to.  I love you, Johari.”  He covered her face with kisses, unable to help himself.

She hugged him tightly about his waist and murmured, “I love you too.”

They stood there in the sun-dappled room locked in a passionate embrace.  He stopped painting for a long while and he no longer had any need for a muse.  They got married in a quiet ceremony in SaintPauldeVence, one of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera.  When he returned to painting, he did portraits while Johari worked in a museum which featured his work.

 

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

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Each Other’s World

On Friday morning as Taliyah took the lift up to her workplace, her stomach churned nervously.  She wondered if she would get the same frigid treatment she got from Dax yesterday.  It was evident after he returned from a business lunch and she went to his office to give him a file to go through at his leisure.  He seemed very detached and she had no clue why.  Every time she tried to talk to him about it, they were interrupted.   At the end of the day, she lingered, hoping to speak to him but he was gone for a long time and she had to leave.  She called him at his home but the machine picked up and his cell was turned off.  Was he out or was he ignoring her calls?

Was this the brush off?  Had he lost interest in her?  Was he planning to end their relationship?  But, it didn’t make any sense to her, especially not after Wednesday night when he was at her place.  She trembled now as she remembered their lovemaking.  It was steamy and explosive.  And now things were frosty between them.

The lift stopped and the doors opened.  She stepped out and forced a smile for Belinda, the receptionist who greeted her as she walked past.  As she approached her cubicle, she saw Dax standing at the doorway of his office and her heart began to pound heavily.  He glanced up as she approached and their eyes met.  She saw something flicker in his before he turned and went back into his office.  Not a smile or a word of greeting, she thought, feeling hurt.

She went to her desk and got settled in.  After checking phone messages and emails, she went to fix herself a cup of hot chocolate and was on her way back to her desk, when Dax stepped outside of his office.

“I need to talk to you,” he said quietly.  His eyes traveled over her in the black jacket, top and jeans.  It was casual Friday.  She looked amazing.  Desire coursed through him like a fever.  Muscle throbbing along his jawline, he turned and walked briskly away, his back rod straight.

She set her mug on the desk and then went to his office.  He was standing at the window, looking out.  He heard her go in but didn’t turn around.  After closing the door behind her, she joined him.  It was flurrying outside.  She stared at his profile, her pulse racing.  How she longed to reach out and touch him.  She loved him so much it ached.  “I missed you last night,” she said huskily.

He turned toward her then, his cold demeanor belied the emotions that were raging inside him.  “Did you?” he asked tautly.

She frowned.  “Of course, I did.  I called for you because I wanted you to come over.  I was hoping that we could enjoy a quiet and romantic evening together.”

His hands tightened into fists as he struggled to stay calm.  “You must really take me for a fool,” he muttered tightly.

She looked at him, stunned.  “Why do you say that?”

“Wednesday after I left your place, I was on my way home when I realized that I didn’t have my cell.  So, I came back to get it and saw you with him.  Who is he, Taliyah?”

She swallowed hard.  “Dax, please let me explain—”

“Explain what?” he demanded angrily, his eyes stormy as they met hers.  “What is there to explain?  You waited until I left and then you invited your other lover over.”

Flabbergasted, she exclaimed, “I don’t have another lover.”

“I saw you hug him before letting him into your place.  Did he spend the night?”

“No,” she protested.  “Dax, you’re wrong about Mark and me–”

“Mark?” he hissed.  The mere mention of the other man’s name made his blood boil.  Red, hot jealousy consumed him and it took every ounce of his will power to keep his anger in check.  “While you and he were inside, I stood out there in the hallway for a while and then I left.  It was after twelve when I finally got home.  I couldn’t sleep.  I tossed and turned, thinking about you and him.”

She moved closer to him.  “Dax…”

“You have to make a choice, Taliyah.  It’s either him or me.  You can’t have both of us.”

“Dax, Mark and I aren’t lovers.  He’s my friend–that’s all.  He suffers from depression and last night, he needed to talk.  We spent hours just talking.  I offered to help him to find a doctor or therapist and to go with him on the first visit.”

Dax could see that she was telling the truth and he calmed down.  He reached for her and pulled her against him.  “I’m sorry to hear that your friend Mark is suffering from depression,” he said.  “It’s good that he had you to talk to and that you’re encouraging him to get the help he needs.  And I’m sorry that I acted like such a jerk.”

She put her arms around his neck.  “I would have reacted the same way too if I had seen you let another woman into your flat,” she told him.

“You don’t have to worry about any woman showing up at my flat for any reason.  Now, regarding your friend, Mark, I know you want to help him, but remember, you can only do so much.  You have your own your own health to think about.  You don’t want it to suffer because of Mark’s depression.”

“I promise to set boundaries.  I don’t want my friendship with him or my desire to help him to affect my relationship with you.  You are my world, Dax, and I love you so much.”

His eyes darkened on her upturned face.  “And you are my life. My world. My love. My everything,” he declared before he lowered his head and kissed her.  They kissed for a long time before he raised his head, his face slightly flushed.  “My place later?” he asked.

She nodded with a smile.  “Yes.”

 

Sources:  Help Guide; Ali Express; Lovable Quote

Recommit to God

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.  I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill.  Selah – Psalm 3:3, 4

When I was going through a tough time because I was pregnant and unmarried, the words of this psalm comforted and sustained me.  I knew that I was not alone.  The Lord was with me.  He didn’t condone what I had done but He didn’t condemn or forsake me.

A story I can relate to is the one of the Samaritan woman.  She was married five times and living with a man who wasn’t her husband but Jesus reached out to her in love.  He didn’t excuse her lifestyle but he offered her a new one life with him in the center.  He didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery but showed her grace while at the same time telling her to stop sinning.  God doesn’t discard us when we sin.  He reaches out to us through His Word or through others. I once heard about a man who was at the lowest point in his life, feeling worthless and one day he heard a sermon about God’s love and forgiveness which turned his life completely around.

When we cry out to God, He doesn’t ignore us but we must come to Him with a contrite heart, ready to forsake whatever separates us from Him and receive His forgiveness.  We have the assurance that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

For those of us who feel we are too sinful to go to Him, we are encouraged to, “Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness …” (Joel 2:13)  There isn’t anything you can do that will diminish God’s love for you.  I knew that even while some church members were unforgiving toward me, I knew that I had God’s forgiveness and that His love for me hadn’t changed.  It hadn’t lessened.  In fact, during those times when I felt the heat and the censure from others, God’s love is what sustained me.  If you have wandered away from God, return to Him.  He is like the father of the prodigal son who returned after wasteful living.  The father was waiting for him and he ran to meet him.  God longs for us to return to Him.  He’s waiting with open arms to welcome us back.

I’m thankful that God is “gracious and full of compassion” (Psalm 145:8).  Our response to His goodness and mercy is to recommit our lives to Him.  And in doing so, we can be confident “that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Source:  Bible Knowledge

The New Doctor Who

It’s about time.

A woman takes on the title of Doctor Who for the first time.  She is the 13th Doctor Who.  What is she like?  According to Chris Chibnall, head writer and executive producer of the show, “She’s absolutely the Doctor.  But there’s a new calibration, a new mixture of Doctorishness.  The Thirteenth Doctor is incredibly lively, warm, funny, energetic, inclusive – she’s the greatest friend you could wish to have as your guide around the universe.”

This is a nice change for the show which has been around for 55 years.  I have watched several episodes of it and of all the actors who played the character, my favorite is David Tennant.  Actress Jodie Whittaker takes on the role.  Unlike the daffiness and idiosyncrasy of her predecessors, she makes the doctor energetic, full of spark and relatable.

It will be interesting to see how Jodie fares in the role.  Unavoidably, she will be compared to her male counterparts but it has been said that she is much closer much closer in tone to Matt Smith or David Tennant.  If this is the case, then she’s off to a very good start because Business Insider ranked David Tennant as the top doctor and Matt Smith number 3.

Reaction to Whittaker being cast as Doctor Who was for the most part, positive.  Some believe that a female Doctor would be a good role model for young girls, while others felt the Doctor was only ever meant to be male, or felt the casting was an exercise in political correctness.  Jodie urged fans not to be afraid of her gender, saying, “Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change. The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one.”  And it turns out that Chris Chibnall always wanted a woman for the part and that Jodie was their first choice.

We wish Jodie all the best in her groundbreaking role.

Doctor Who_Series 11_Costume Reveal

Sources:  The Guardian; Radio Times; Wikipedia

The Ruin of Sarah Ann Johnston

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Photo by John Brand

Every time Grandma and I walked past the abandoned house with the gigantic grass shaped cross, she would tell the sad story of Sarah Ann Johnston.  I indulged her.  She was getting up there and forgot that she had told me the story many times before.  I just listened as she talked about the downfall of the reputed most Christian woman who ever lived in Green Bay County.

“We warned her not marry him,” Grandma said, shaking her head.  “but she wouldn’t listen.  We told her that she shouldn’t be unequally yoked with a man who didn’t have a religious bone in him but she foolishly believed that she could reform him.

“Everyone in the county except me went to the wedding.  I’m no hypocrite.  I wasn’t going stand up there and pretend like I approved.  Sarah Ann was mad at me, of course, but I had to be true to myself.”

“It wasn’t long before things got bad between them.  She caught him red-handed with another woman and shot them dead.  Now she’s in jail.  Foolish woman, she should have listened.”

Poor Sarah Anne Johnston.  Her blind and foolish love led to her ruin.

195 Words

This was written for Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

The Queen of Soul

“When God loves you, what can be better than that?” ~ Aretha Franklin

There is so much I could write about Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul but I decided to concentrate on the highlights of her music career and her “social and civic contributions”.

Aretha Louise Franklin was  born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee.  Her father, Clarence LaVaughn “C. L.” Franklin was a Baptist minister and a circuit preacher while her mother, Barbara was an accomplished piano player and vocalist.  Theirs was a troubled marriage because of her father’s philandering.  The couple separated in 1948.  Before her tenth birthday, Aretha’s mother died from a heart attack.  Several women, including her grandmother and Mahalia Jackson alternated helping the children at the Franklin home and it was during this time that Aretha learned to play the piano by ear.

Following her mother’s death, Aretha began singing solos at New Bethel, debuting with the hymn, “Jesus, Be a Fence Around Me.”  When she was twelve, her father became her manager, bringing her on the road with him during his “gospel caravan” tours for her to perform in various churches.

Her music career found Aretha signing on with big recording giants such as Columbia, Atlantic, Arista and RCA.  She belted out many hits such as You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, I Say A Little Prayer, Hold On, I’m Comin’.  And she thrilled the younger generation with Who’s Zoomin’ Who and Freeway of Love.  Hearing Freeway of Love transported me back to the ’80s which were a great time for me when I was living in New York.  And who could forget I Knew You Were Waiting For Me, her number one duet with George Michael?

In 1980, she gave a command performance before the Queen at Prince Albert’s Hall, in 2009 she sang at the 2009 inauguration of President Barak Obama.  In the following year, she received an honorary degree from Yale University.  In 2014, she received honorary degrees from Harvard University and New York University as well as honorary doctorates in music from Princeton, Yale, Brown, Pennsylvania, Berkeley, New England Conservatory of Music and University of Michigan.  She was the recipient of other honors such as Doctor of Humane Letters and Doctor of Law degree.

Aretha was dubbed “one of the giants of soul music, and indeed of American pop as a whole.  More than any other performer, she epitomized soul at its most gospel-charged.”  Her voice was described as being a “powerful mezzo-soprano voice” and she was praised for her arrangements and interpretations of other artists’ hit songs.  At the age of 14 when she recorded her first album, Songs of Faith, Jerry Wexler declared that her voice “was not that of a child but rather of an ecstatic hierophant.”  A hierophant is a person who brings religious congregants into the presence of that which is deemed holy.  Aretha’s explanation for that would have likely been, “Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I’m using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I’m happy with that.”

Singing and music weren’t her only passions.  Aretha was a civil rights activist.  Throughout her life, she was involved in the struggle for civil rights and women’s rights.  When Angela Davis was jailed in 1970, Aretha told Jet Magazine that, “Angela Davis must go free… Black people will be free. I’ve been locked up (for disturbing the peace in Detroit) and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace. Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a Black woman and she wants freedom for Black people.”  Not surprisingly, her songs “Respect” and “Natural Woman” became anthems of these movements for social change.  She was also a staunch supporter of Native American rights, supporting their struggles worldwide and movements which fostered their cultural rights.

“We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It’s our basic human right” ~ Aretha Franklin

It was a sad day when it was announced that the great Aretha Franklin passed away after losing her battle with pancreatic cancer.  She leaves behind a world touched by her music, her incomparable voice and her effortless work in championing human, civil and women’s rights.  She was the first woman to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.  In 2013, she was again ranked first in Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Singers” list.

“American history wells up when Aretha sings.  Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock and roll—the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope” – President Obama in response to her performance of “A Natural Woman” at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors.

Notes to Women salutes the woman with “the voice of the civil rights movement, the voice of black America” and a “symbol of black equality”  She was an inspiration not only for those in the music world but for all of us.  Although she is no longer with us, her music, her legacy will live on.

“It really is an honor if I can be inspirational to a younger singer or person. It means I’ve done my job” ~ Aretha Franklin

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Sources:  Wikipedia; Brainy Quote

Encounter on the Beach

Tanya was rubbing sunscreen on her arms when she felt someone watching her.  Looking up, she saw Benjamin.  He was lying on his stomach in the sand, close to the water’s edge, his head propped up by his hand.  His glistening body was covered in sand.  She couldn’t deny that she was extremely attracted to him but he was younger than her.  She never went out with men younger than her.  They were either her in age group or older.

He didn’t hide the fact that he was attracted to her.  Whenever they saw each other, he would ask her to go out with him and she would turn him down.  He was very persistent.  Right now he look so good lying in the sand.  Shaking her head and ignoring her body’s response, she dragged her eyes away from him and continued applying the sunscreen.

Several minutes later, he was standing next to her.  “Hi, Tanya.”

She had no other choice but to look up and when she did, she couldn’t prevent her eyes from traveling over his dripping body.  He had washed the sand off.  She swallowed hard when her eyes met his.  “Hi, Ben.”

“It’s always a pleasure to see you.  Are you here alone?”  He began to dry his skin, his eyes never leaving her face.  His lips twitched slightly when he saw her gaze follow the movements of the towel.

“Yes, I’m–I’m alone.  What about you?”  What did she have to sound so breathless?  And she wished her heart would stop racing.

“Yes, I’m alone too.  Do you mind if I join you?”

She shook her head.  “No, I don’t.”

He finished drying himself, spread the towel beside her and sat on it.  His eyes left her face to slowly travel down her bikini clad body.  “You look amazing,” he remarked, his expression serious as he met her gaze.  “You’re easily the most beautiful woman I know.”

“Thank you.”  His eyes were caressing her and she sucked in her breath sharply when he reached out and ran his fingers down her arm.  A jolt of electricity coursed through her body and there were curious sensations in the pit of her stomach.  It was becoming impossible to breath normally.

“Why won’t you go out with me?” he asked.  “I know you’re attracted to me.”

“You’re younger than me,” she mumbled.  He had taken the sunscreen from her hand and gotten on his knees.  She jumped when she felt him smearing it across her back.  His fingers felt nice and firm against her skin.  She closed her eyes.  How was it possible for something as simple as putting on sunscreen to become so sensuous?

“There’s only a seven years age difference between us,” he pointed out.  “Don’t let something like that prevent us from having what we both want.”  He moved closer so that his body was touching hers.  His breath was unsteady now and unable to help himself he lowered his head and pressed his lips against her shoulder.  He felt her tremble against him.  He raised his head, his heart pounding.  “Tanya, please have dinner with me tonight.”

She was incapable of doing anything else except nod her head in assent and whisper, “Yes.”

“Thank you,” he murmured.  He set the bottle down.  “I think we should go and cool off in the water.”  He stood up and helped her to her feet.

Her legs felt wobbly.  After she regained her senses and composure, she followed him to the water’s edge.  Holding her hand, he led her into the cool water where they spent a good chunk of the afternoon.

Following that encounter on the beach and a night of dinner and dancing, they began dating and a year later they tied the knot.