Co-Workers Turned Couple

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He glanced up from his computer and realized that Shantel and he were the only ones in the office.  Everyone else had left.  It was Friday.  Most people left either minutes before or exactly at five.  And it was summer.  People wanted to enjoy the nice weather.

He wasn’t in any rush to get home.  All he did when he was there was watch television, play the stereo, read or spend hours on his laptop.  After living most of his life on a farm, it took a while to get used to living in the city.  In spite of the hustle and bustle and all that the city had to offer, his was a very boring life.  He didn’t have a girlfriend and he wasn’t interested in dating, at least that was before Shantel came on the scene.

Two years ago, she joined the company when Ruth who had been working there for over fifteen years, decided to move back to Toronto.  He was sorry to see her go because she was like an older sister to him.  However, when he saw her replacement, he was bowled over.  She was beautiful!  He was tongue-tied and couldn’t help staring when Ruth introduced them.

Shantel was quiet and reserved like him and they got along very well.  Some times they had lunch and took the subway together.  They learned a lot about each other.  He was relieved to find out that she was single like him.  They shared a lot in common and had similar tastes.  Sometimes, they went to the park to have lunch and after work, they went to the shopping mall or the library to browse before hopping on the train.

It wasn’t long before he started to develop feelings for her and he wanted so badly to ask her out but he was afraid of rejection and ruining their friendship.  He watched her now as she sat at her desk.  She glanced up and caught him looking at her.  She got up and went over.  She looked amazing in the purple dress which ended just above her knees.  What lovely legs she had…Realizing that he was staring, he turned away, his face red.

“Are you working late?” she asked.

He looked up.  “I wasn’t planning to,” he replied.  “What about you?”

“No.  I’m ready to leave when you are.”

“Okay.  I’ll be ready in five minutes.”

“I’ll go and get ready.”  She smiled at him before walking away.

He switched off his computer and quickly cleared his desk.  Grabbing his jacket, he went over to her desk where she was waiting for him.  They walked to the elevator.  On the ride down, she turned to him.  “Are you doing anything tomorrow evening?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No.”

“Well, I was wondering if you would to have dinner at my place.”

His heart began to beat faster.  “I would love to, Shantel.” 

“I’ve wanted to ask you that for a long time but just couldn’t work up the courage until now.”

His eyes darkened on her face and he reached for her hand.  “And I’ve wanted to ask you out so many times but was afraid to.”

She smiled and squeezed his hand.  “I’m glad to know that we both feel the same way and that we’re finally reached this stage in our relationship.  No more hiding or pretending…”  Her voice trailed off as his lips found hers and moved ever so gently, like a caress, making her catch her breath.

When they exited the elevator, they were smiling and holding hands.  They were a couple now.

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

Rebecca Lee Crumpler

She changed the face of medicine

Rebecca Lee Crumpler

It was being raised by a kind aunt who spent much of her time caring for sick neighbors and her desire to relieve the suffering of others which led Rebecca Lee Crumpler down the a career path that would earn her the distinction of being the first African American woman physician in the United States.   In doing so, she rose to and overcame the challenge which prevented African Americans from pursuing careers in medicine.

Rebecca, a bright girl, attended the West-Newton English and Classical School in Massachusetts, a prestigious private school as a “special student”.  In 1852 she moved to Charleston, Massachusetts where she worked as a nurse.  In 1860, she took a leap of faith and applied to medical school and was accepted into the New England Female Medical College.

The college was founded by Drs. Israel Tisdale Talbot and Samuel Gregory in 1848 and in 1852,  accepted its first class of women, 12 in number.  However, Rebecca proved that their assertions were false when, in 1864, she earned the distinction being the first African American woman to earn an M.D. degree and  the college’s only African American graduate.  The college closed in 1873.

In 1864, a year after her first husband, Wyatt Lee died, Rebecca married her second husband, Arthur Crumpler.   She began a medical practice in Boston.   In 1865, after the Civil War ended, the couple moved to Richmond, Virginia, where she found “the proper field for real missionary work, and one that would present ample opportunities to become acquainted with the diseases of women and children.”  She joined other black physicians caring for freed slaves who would otherwise would not have access to medical care.  She worked with the Freedmen’s Bureau, missionary and community groups in the face of intense racism which many black physicians experienced while working in the postwar South.

Racism, rude behavior and sexism didn’t diminish Rebecca’s zeal and valiant efforts to treat a “very large number of the indigent and others of different classes in a population of over 30,000 colored”.  She declared that “at the close of my services in that city, I returned to my former home, Boston where I entered into the work with renewed vigor, practicing outside, and receiving children in the house for treatment, regardless, in measure, of remuneration.”

The couple lived in a predominantly African American neighborhood in Beacon Hill where she practiced medicine.  In 1880, she and her husband moved to Hyde Park.  It was believed that at that time she was no longer in active practice but she did write a “A Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts”,  the first medical publication by an African American.  The book consisted of two parts.  The first part focused on “treating the cause, prevention, and cure of infantile bowel complaints, from birth to the close of the teething period, or after the fifth year.” The second section contained “miscellaneous information concerning the life and growth of beings; the beginning of womanhood; also, the cause, prevention, and cure of many of the most distressing complaints of women, and youth of both sexes.”

Rebecca Lee Crumpler died in Hyde Park on March 9, 1895.  Notes to Women wishes to celebrate this brave woman who had the tenacity to pursue a career in medicine, proving that women can change the face of a field which many wanted to bar her from because of color and gender.  Her passion to help alleviate the suffering of others was what led her to take this path.  Her courage and perseverance in the face of racism, sexism paved the way for many, not only African Americans and women but for those who like her, will seek every opportunity to relieve the sufferings of others.

Rebecca Lee Crumpler’s story is a reminder to all of us that we should never let anything or anyone prevent us from pursuing our dreams.

Selfish prudence is too often allowed to come between duty and human life – Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Sources:  Changing the Face of Medicine; PBS

Heartstrings

“I love the way you play,” he said.

I smiled, flattered.  “Thank you.”

We were standing backstage at Carnegie Hall.  I had invited him to the performance and was thrilled that he actually came.

“The way you played that piece it was as if you were telling a story.  You had me hooked.”

“Joshua Bell, the celebrated violinist once said that when you play a violin piece, you are a storyteller and you’re telling a story.”

“I would like to hear your story.  How about going for a cappuccino with me?”

“Yes,” I said without any hesitation.  I wanted to be with him.  Since we started working at the same company, I have wanted to get to closer to him.  This was my opportunity.  I quickly put my violin away and followed him to the parking lot.  The café where we went was about a twenty minute drive.  It was a nice and cozy place.  I have never been there before.  We managed to get a seat beside the window.

After ordering two Lattes, he asked, “So, how old were you when you first started playing the violin?”

“I was five when I started learning how to play it.  My father loved classical music and he used to play it all of the time.  I would sit and listen it, especially the music featuring the violin.  I told him that I liked the violin and wanted to learn how to play it.  He took me seriously and got a friend to teach me.”

“Five.  Wow. That’s very young.”

I smiled.  “I’ve heard of children starting as young as three.”

“My sister started playing the piano when she was nine.”

“What about you?  Wasn’t there any musical instrument that you wanted to learn how to play?”

“I liked the saxophone but never got around to learning how to play it.”

“Most people like the saxophone because of its cool image.”

“And most women think it’s sexy.”

“That’s true.  When my sister met her husband he was playing the sax at a Jazz club.”

“So, if he hadn’t been playing the sax, she wouldn’t have been interested?”

“Well, it turned out that it was how he looked as he played was what really attracted her to him.”

He laughed, revealing even white teeth.  “Whatever works.”

“Yes.  Twenty years later and they are still happily married.”

“What about you?” he asked.

“I’m single.”

“That’s good to know.”

I was surprised to hear him say that.  Did he want to have a non-professional relationship with me?  Was I reading more into this than there was?  Did he just want to be friends?  All these and other questions swirled around my head.  I didn’t know what to say.  I just smiled.

He continued, leaning over, his hands clasped in front of him, his eyes meeting mine directly.  “I have wanted to ask you out for a long time now but wasn’t sure if you would want to date someone you worked with.”

It’s a good thing I wasn’t drinking my Latte at that moment or I would have choked on it.

“You look surprised,” he commented.

“I am,” I quickly admitted.

“Why?” he asked.

“Well, there are other women at the company, especially in our department whom I thought you would be more interested in.”

“Yes, there are but I’m not interested in any of them,” he reached over then and covered my hand.  The skin tingled and my stomach did a cartwheel.  “I’m interested in you.”

I felt warm all over.  “I don’t know what to say.”

“Say you’ll have dinner with me tomorrow night.”

I felt like a giddy schoolgirl.  “Yes.”

He smiled again and I felt my knees go weak.  We ordered sandwiches and sat there for another couple of hours, talking.  The following night he took me to an upscale restaurant in Soho where in the background Jazz music was playing.  I smiled when I heard the saxophone.  We had a very pleasant and enjoyable evening together.  I laughed a lot and felt totally relaxed with him.  After dinner, we went to Club Shelter where we had a blast.  I don’t recall ever having such a great time with anyone, not even my sister who used to be a real party animal.

It was after mid-night when he took me home.  We stood outside of my place, facing each other.  I didn’t want him to leave.  I didn’t want our time together to end.  “Would you like to come in?” I asked.  I waited, hoping that he would say yes.

Instead, he said, “If I do, I might not want to leave.”

Heart pounding wildly against my ribs, I stepped the foyer as I replied, “What if I don’t want you to leave?”

His response was to come in and close the door behind him.   The expression on his face thrilled me and I gasped when he pulled me roughly against him, his eyes smoldering as they met mine.  Then, we were kissing like two crazy people.  We barely made it to my room where we had an explosive session.  Afterwards, we fell asleep, wrapped in each other’s arms.

He left the following morning after a shower and breakfast.  We made plans to see each other that evening.  No one in our department knew about us until the day we announced our engagement.

She tugged at his heartstrings with her violin playing but by the cords of love he was drawn to her.

 

The Age Change

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Gwyneth glanced up from sorting the colorful rolls of thread.  “You’re joking,” she said to her brother, Nolan.

He glowered at her.  “I’m not,” he informed her crossly.  “If people can change their genders and their birth names, I don’t see why I can’t change my age.  I’m 65 years old but I look and feel twenty years younger.”

“So, you want to change your age to…?”

“Forty-five.”

“Why?”

“I’m looking for a job.”

“What on earth for?  You’re retiring next month.”

“I don’t want to retire.  I want to continue working but wherever I apply, I’ll face discrimination because of my age.  If I’m 45, I’ll have a better chance of getting hired.”

“What does Vera think about this?”

“Vera and I broke up.”

“She didn’t approve, so you dumped her.”

“Well, yes and no.  We’re not compatible anymore and besides, I met this beautiful woman at the gym yesterday and…”

“She’s much younger than Vera, isn’t she?”

“You make me sound like a jerk.”

“Well, you are, no matter what your age.”

174 Words

This story was inspired by the true one of a 69 year old man who applied to legally change his age because he identifies as 20 years younger.

This was written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers hosted by Priceless Joy. For more information visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  Independent

Back in the Saddle

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PHOTO PROMPT © Jilly Funell

Initially, she had been nervous going to the JP Morgan’s Re-Entry Program, a 14-week training experience for women like her who left the workforce but after being encouraged by family and friends, she decided to go for it.  Besides, she missed working.

She had left her job to be a stay at home Mom of three but now that her husband was deceased and the kids were grown, she longed to be among the working class.  Concerns about ageism had prevented her from venturing out before now.

Here goes.  Taking a deep breath, she climbed the stairs.

97 Words

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

Source:  Gender Fair

Buenos Aires

Ayana sat there staring at the computer screen, still reeling from her run in with Inga, Rolf’s girlfriend a few hours ago in the parking lot.  The unpleasant incident happened when she was on her way to meet a friend for lunch.  She was about to open the car door when she heard someone yell her name and turned to see Inga marching toward her.  Startled, she stood there, wondering what the blonde wanted with her and why she looked so livid.

When she reached her, she said rather nastily, “Is it because you don’t have a man of your own that you’re trying to move in on mine?”

It took a few minutes for Ayana to recover from her surprise.  Why would she make such an assumption?  “I’m not trying to move in on Rolf,” she said finally.  “He and I work together, that’s all—”

“Since when does work include the two of you flying off to Argentina?”

“Our trip to Buenos Aires is purely business, Inga.  I’m Rolf’s secretary so I have to go with him.”

“You expect me to believe that you and he are going to work all the time you’re there?  What about at nights when you don’t have any meetings?  What will you do then?”

Ayana shrugged her shoulders.  “I don’t know,” she said.  “I haven’t thought that far ahead.”

“I can’t imagine that you would be eating alone.  Knowing Rolf, he will invite you to join him for dinner.  My concern is what will happen after dinner.”

“Inga, you don’t have anything to worry about.  Rolf and I have been working together for about four years now and nothing has ever happened between us.  Besides, you’re mistaken about me not having a man of my own.”

“You have a boyfriend?”

“Yes.”

“But, Rolf said that you didn’t—”

“Well, I just started dating him.  Rolf doesn’t know about him.”

“And it sounds like you don’t want him to.”

“I don’t see why it should be any concern of his.  We just work together.”

Inga studied her for a few minutes.  “Well, I’m glad to hear that it’s strictly business between the two of you.  And I won’t say anything to him about your boyfriend.  And you won’t say anything to him about our little conversation.”

“He won’t hear about this from me,” Ayana promised.  She just wanted to get out of there.  She had never been accosted by a jealous woman before and it was very unsettling.

“Good.”  Inga looked her over, her expression one of disdain before she turned and walked away.

Ayana quickly opened her door and got into the car.  She started the engine and drove off.  Her head and heart were pounding.  She hated confrontations.  Fortunately, no one had observed them.  Why did Inga think that she had designs on Rolf?  Did she sense that she had feelings for Rolf?  How could she not?  Rolf was an extremely attractive man.  No woman could resist him. Just thinking about him now made her pulse race.  There were times when they were alone in his office, working and she could hardly concentrate because she was painfully aware of him.

While he was poring over some papers, she would sneak a peek at him, noting the way, he furrowed his brow when he was concentrating.  His hair would fall rakishly across his forehead making her ache to brush the strands back.  He would remove his jacket and tie and loosen the top buttons of his shirt.  Underneath the shirt sleeves she could see the chiseled muscles of his arms.  She wanted to reach out and touch them.  The smell of his aftershave tantalized her senses and his eyes when he looked at her made her heart flutter.  And when he absentmindedly stroked his jaw as he focused, she found herself imagining what it would be like to have those long fingers caressing her face.

Sighing now as she sat in her cubicle, Ayana had to admit that Inga had every reason to distrust her.  She had lied to her about having a boyfriend.  She wasn’t dating anyone.  None of the men out there or in the office interested her.  She was stuck on Rolf, which was unfortunate for her.  How was she going to manage being in Buenos Aires with him for twelve days?  They were to leave tomorrow night and arrive in Buenos Aires the following morning.  The flight was over ten hours long.  What were they going to talk about?  Should she take a novel?  How could she read, though with him there?  Her head was beginning to hurt from all of these questions and she rubbed her temple.

Just then her phone rang, startling her.  She glanced at the display.  It was Rolf.  She quickly picked up the receiver.  “Yes, Rolf.”

“Do you have a minute?”

“Yes.  I’m on my way.”  She hung up and got up from her desk.

He was putting on his jacket when she went into his office.  “I’m heading out now,” he informed her.  “I have errands to run.  Are you all set for tomorrow?”

She nodded.  “I have the plane tickets, the files we will need and the itinerary for each day.  Was there anything else you needed me to take care of?”

He glanced around before shaking his head.  “No, I think we’re good.  I will pick you up at seven.”

“I’ll be waiting in the lobby.”

“See you tomorrow evening.”  He grabbed his briefcase and preceded her out of the office.

She went back to her cubicle to finish up some work.  The next few hours went by quickly and soon it was time to go home.  After showering and having dinner, she made sure she had packed everything she needed, including the new outfits she had bought earlier in the week.   When she was finished, she watched the News and then went to bed.

The following day went quickly and soon it was time to go to the airport.  She quickly showered, got dressed in a pair of dressy jeans, a red blouse and a denim jacket.  She was ready and waiting outside on the steps leading to the front entrance of her building when the company car pulled up and the chauffeur went round to the trunk to open it.  She wheeled her luggage over and he hoisted it into the back along with her carry-on.  She thanked him as he held the passenger door open for her to climb in beside Rolf who looked very attractive in the black shirt and grey slacks.

She saw his eyes flicker over her before he smiled.  “Excited about going to Buenos Aires?” he asked as the car drove off.

“It’s the first place I’ve been to outside of the United States,” she told him.  “I’m a little nervous, I guess.”

He reached out and gently squeezed her hand, making her heart skip a beat.  “There’s nothing to be nervous about,” he assured her.  “I’m sure you’ll like it.”

“Have you ever been there before?”

“No, but I’ve heard great things about it.  A female friend of mine who has been there said that it’s a city that is alive and sexy and gets under your skin.”

“Sounds exciting,” she remarked.  Her heart was racing now because he was still holding her hand.

“It does,” he agreed, withdrawing his hand.  “I hope you brought a camera because we will have time for some sightseeing.”

“I did,” she said.  And she brought a book to read as well.  It turned out that she didn’t need it.  They talked and then she watched a movie while he looked over some papers.  It was just after mid-night when she went to sleep.

Buenos Aires was beautiful.  She loved the colorful buildings mixed in with the faded European grandeur.  She stared out of the window of the taxi, her eyes drinking in the sights.  Their hotel was located in the most stylish neighborhood of La Recoleta and surrounded by the best city´s restaurants and shops.  After they checked in, they went up to their rooms.  “We have time to unwind, shower and go over some notes before the meeting,” Rolf told her as they rode the elevator.  “I’ll meet you by the front desk.”

“All right.”  She couldn’t wait to shower and change.  It was going to be a long day.    Her room was bright and spacious.  The bed looked so good that she wanted to throw herself on it.  Instead, she took out what she was going to wear, stood for a moment, looking out the sliding doors at the buildings opposite before going into the bathroom to undress and take a long, hot shower.  Rolf wasn’t by the front desk when she went down but a very handsome young man was there.  He smiled when he saw her.  “Buenos dias,” he said.

“Buenos dias,” she replied.  “I’m afraid I don’t speak much Spanish.”

“That’s okay.  Most people who come here don’t.  My name is Ramon.”

“Ayana.”

“Is this your first time to Buenos Aires?”

“Yes.  On my way over here, I saw a little of the city and it’s beautiful.”

“Yes, it is a very beautiful city.”

Just then the elevator doors opened and Rolf stepped out.  She turned to Ramon, “Excuse me, Ramon.”

“It was nice meeting you, Ayana.”

“It was nice meeting you too, Ramon.”

She walked away and joined Rolf.  They had breakfast and then they went through the papers until it was time for the meetings.  The day went quickly.  The attendees were from Europe, America and Asia.  They were about two women in attendance.  During the breaks, she spoke with them.  Annette, the one from Cleveland nudged her saying, “You have a very attractive boss.  Is he married?”  She herself was married and had three children.

Ayana shook her head.  “No.  He has a girlfriend, though.”

“Too bad.  I think you and he would have made a very nice couple.”

Ayana didn’t answer.  She just smiled.  Over the next couple of days, when they had spare time, Rolf and she went sightseeing.  She loved Buenos Aires and hoped that she would visit it again someday.   The days went by very quickly and it was their last evening before they flew back to New York in the morning.  Tonight, Rolf was taking her for dinner at a popular restaurant where they would be treated to a Tango show.

After she finished getting ready, she went downstairs to the lobby to wait for Rolf.  Ramon was on duty and he smiled broadly when she walked over to the reception desk to give him her key.  “Buenos noches, Ayana.” he greeted her, his dark brown eyes traveling appreciatively over her figure in the black cocktail dress.

“Buenos noches, Ramon.”

“The man you’re with, is his your boyfriend?”

She shook her head.  “No, he’s my boss.  We’re here on business.”

Ramon smiled.  “Bueno.  Then, he won’t mind if I took you dancing later.  I can teach you the tango, if you like.”

He was very nice man but she wasn’t interested in him.  Smiling apologetically, she said, “I’m sorry, Ramon but I can’t go dancing with you tonight.  I already have plans.”

“What about tomorrow night?”

She opened her mouth to tell him that she was leaving in the morning when Rolf joined them.  He looked at her and then at Ramon who said to him, “Your taxi is waiting outside, Senor.”

“Thank you.”  Rolf handed him his key and then turned to Ayana.  “Are you ready?” he asked abruptly.

“Yes.  Goodnight, Ramon.”

“Goodnight, Ayana.”

She didn’t notice Rolf grimace but when he started to walk away, she followed him.

He held the door open for her and when she climbed into the back, she caught a whiff of his cologne.  After he got in and told the driver where they were going, he leaned back in the seat.  For several minutes neither of them said anything.  They were both looking out of the window.  Then, she heard him say, “You and the guy at reception seem to be on very friendly terms.”

She looked at him but his head was still turned toward the window. “Ramon is a really nice guy.  Very friendly.”

“A little too friendly,” he replied.  “Tonight wasn’t the first time I’ve seen him flirting with you.”

“He wasn’t flirting with me.  He was just being friendly.”

“I saw the way he was looking at you, Ayana.  He wants to be more than friends.”

“Well, he invited me to go dancing with him tonight but I told him that I already had plans.”

Rolf looked at her then.  “If you and I weren’t going to dinner and a show, would you have gone dancing with him?”

She shook her head at once.  “No, I wouldn’t have.  I like Ramon but I’m not interested in him.”

“Is there someone you’re interested in, Ayana?” he asked quietly.

“Yes, but you’re already in a relationship.”

He reached for her hand, making her heart leap in her chest.  “I ended my relationship with Inga last year.”

Ayana stared at him.  “Last year?”

“Yes.  I thought you knew.”

“No, I didn’t.  When I saw her in the parking lot on the day before we flew out, she made it sound like you were still seeing each other.”

“You saw her in the parking lot?”

Ayana told him what happened.  “To diffuse the situation, I told her that I had a boyfriend,” she concluded.

“I’m sorry that you had such a nasty run in with her.”

“She heard about our trip to Buenos Aires and jumped to conclusions.”

“I wonder how she found out about it.  I will have a word with her when we return.  I don’t want her accosting you anymore.”

“I have to admit that it was very unnerving.”

“Let’s not think about the incident any more.  It’s our last evening in Buenos Aires. Let’s enjoy every moment.”

She nodded.  “Yes, let’s enjoy every moment.”

He raised her hand to his lips.  “And I hope that tonight will be the first of many enjoyable nights you and I will spend together.”

The brush of his lips against her hand made her pulse race and her stomach flip flop. Yes, the evening was off to a very exciting start.

 

Sources:  Smart Meetings; Prokerala; Four Seasons; CTrip

 

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