Vanessa A Journey To Forever

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Introducing a young lady Vanessa, who was raised in London, her roots from the Congo aged 24 years old and lives in the West side of London. Known as the dreamer, freethinker, nonchalant in her ways and a seeker of love. She's had a series of heartaches and currently shares a mysterious relationship with an old school pal Marlon in the spiritual realm. After finishing fashion school she is at a crossroads in her life not knowing what the future truly holds for her, she will either have to fulfill the hopes to be a fashion designer or settle for being a waitress. Will she ever experience true love as her heart yearns for or forever fantisize on a pact set up between her and Marlon in the spiritual realms. Vanessa knows she can do more, seeks more and questions life, and everything around her. Her spiritual practices leads her to be guided by her guardian angel Laurence who reveals her whole life prophecy through an amazing painting found at one of the famous art exhibitions in London. This epiphany unfolds the mystery of her next chapter which will take place in New York, in which her guardian angel travels with her and oversees her on this journey, appearing and disappearing, directing her along the way. It is upon Vanessa to heed to the voice within and find what it is she is looking for, choosing to venture out or never get the chance to understand her true potential of character and what her purpose in life holds. Vanessa is called to exercise her faith, walk in her hopes and sacrifice all she has grown comfortable with, she wants to discover life away from this relationship that haunts her, from an uncertain future in her neighborhood and so takes the opportunity to venture out to NYC to gain the true beauty of Love for herself and others. This is her hidden mystery. Having struggled to have relationships and suffered numerous heartache's Vanessa is still on this quest of understanding Love, spirituality and her life. Sharing this powerful connection in the higher dimensions has left Vanessa in an un-easy predicatment, she’s trying to remain loyal to this powerful connection yet she is facing trials and tribulations through possible suitors and within herself. Self-mastery to ascend her dreams as well as battling to keep an unrealistic love leads Vanessa to ponder on what is really real. This is all new, exciting and already she is seduced by a handsome young man Mikel who falls in love with her free-thinking attitude. Vanessa's presence is recognized as a gift among her room-mates in NYC - Manhattan even so she still must face challenges within herself, to reach her highest potential in love that is and in her life's purpose – parties, sex, alcohol, drugs have tried to be her downfall but she fights to withstand every influence that comes her way meanwhile her spiritual relationship in her dreamworld keeps calling her and in doing so is stopping her from experiencing a new love she is building with Mikel, nonetheless her guardian angel Laurence helps her to percieve the difference in knowing true love by listening to the soul - but the world around her and her new pals somehow has them trapped in trying to fit in, at the same time warring to do the right thing. Vanessa however knows who she is and has brought a new energy to the table in which her mission of Infinite Love has only just begun.

Vanessa
 
A Journey to forever
 
Part 1: The Thrill
 
 
 
 
 
Introduction:
 
 
 
Have you ever wondered if true love really exists? That fiery, breathtaking, time stopping ferocious love. Does it ever occur to you that we just might imagine our own feelings in our minds? 
 
What is love anyway…
 
I’ve always kind of walked through life hoping I would find Mr. Perfect but then I realized no one is perfect apart from what I know to be...  which is GOD or whatever human beings try to define God as. Seriously, life hasn’t seemed to go the way I planned it, career wise, relationships and RELATIONSHIPS! Call me extra why don’t you.
 
I’m 24 turning 25 and I have had a series of heart-breaks as well as drama, work life is like sooo tragic I should be a fashion designer right now or working for at least one of the highest paid art and fashion companies in the industry ! ‘I so wish’ ..
 
My mother came to London from The Congo 20 years ago and had me and my little brat of a brother Joshua in the East of London and later we moved to West London. My dad which I’ll refer to as a bulldog deserted us; he’s lost out BIG TIME! Nonetheless out of this all for some disturbing reason my past school crush Marlon doesn’t seem to leave my mind. We never even had a relationship! All that existed between us was eye contact, a small exchange of words and my heartbeat. I just happened to find him intriguing and he has not left my thoughts since, sadly I haven’t been able to have real relationships because of him – He appears in my dreams and talks to me – I’m in contact with his higher self I’m guessing. I’m in love with a guy who doesn’t know I Love him, and my existence to him was flushed down the toilet 8 years ago. On the other hand my mums business is on the brink of closing and we are on the verge of nothingness and me, well me.. I’m hallucinating on love films such as the Holiday desperately waiting for prince charming to sweep me off my feet but yet life’s challenge’s still keep closing in on me. It’s a journey I have to take. . . so I have to be willing to win. Right? I just hope I find what I’ve been looking for.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Chapter 1: I’m tired, I’m tired
 
 
 
“Vanessa! Vanessa!” . . . Frank shouted from the kitchen floor.
 
“Yes Frank, what do you want now?”  I moaned entering the restaurant kitchen, my hair neatly wrapped in an ancient bun inspired by my afro descent.
 
“Girl, quit giving me that cute face it’s your turn to collect the cups on the restaurant tables Theo’s on his break and Laura’s the only one on the shop floor so come on, get on with it” Frank groaned.
 
Frank, a tall muscular built Tanzanian with the most smoothest skin and luxurious smile never failed to keep me in check while at work seeing as I easily day-dream 3 minutes into my shift. 
 
Unfortunately from time to time I lose myself to the fantasies of the hidden treasure in my soul, my own fairy tale world.
 
 I prefer my inner world.. it all makes sense in that dimension.. Being here in the outside..what we call earth kind of slows everything down, can you relate?
 
 
 
*sighs*
 
 
 
 Today is just not my day, my mum had been pestering me all morning to pay off some of the house bills but I’m near enough broke. This waitressing job is just not kicking it for me right now, I feel somehow trapped in a cage but at the same time I feel like a cat meowing my way through life. Ha-ha.
 
The sky was bright, the atmosphere pleasant as the restaurant began to quiet down and everything flowed smoothly, though Theo was still nowhere to be seen – Let me guess he’s probably talking to his 1 out of 4 girlfriends as per usual.
 
“Excuse me madam” a deep, but yet calm and soothing voice spoke behind me. . . as I slowly turned around, frustrated by the number of cups I had to carry. . Standing before me was one of the most handsomest faces’ I have ever seen, his smile projected the pacific ocean in the warm colors of the rainbow, and his eyes like innocent doves floating in the lonely skies.
 
“Uhh Hi..sir.. I stuttered.. How may I help. . 
 
“Well Miss, I usually come to the Happy Diners every lunch time and I am always glad to see you on the resturant floor looking rather beautiful. I like it when you wear your hair up like that and as for your caramel coco complexion…I . . .
 
 
 
I rudely interrupted him.
 
 
 
“Sir, I am not here for compliments I am here to work as you can clearly see, so if there is no problems that I can help you with can you excuse me to continue with my Job. . . I muttered, politely.
 
“Well, Well, Well young lady you seem to be rather aggressive, don’t you think? I was only being kind, hoping you would understand that” his face changed, he seemed disappointed.
 
 
 
 *Rolls eyes* Here we go again, every guys (guilt trip) game.
 
 
 
“Ok, my apologies I’m just not quite here today, had a whole heap of problems since I passed the age 21- Life is just Life huh.. ok ..let’s start again. What’s your name?” I asked sarcastically.
 
The young man chuckled, reflecting his glossy white teeth,
 
“My name is Laurence and yours.. I – know -  is - Vanessa”.
 
 His eyes gazing into mine somehow made me lose my cool, his charm was irresistible. 
 
 
 
“I heard one of your colleagues calling you out not to long ago, just in case you thought I was stalking you” .
 
 
 
 I smiled  and continued collecting the cups, 
 
 
 
“So Mr Laurence with the lovely curly hair, what do you do?”. . . at this point Laurence seemed pretty shy and began to nervously tap his feet, the restaurant was starting to get busy as people were coming in and Theo thank goodness returned to the restaurant floor.
 
 
 
“Umm, does this Laurence speak or…”
 
 
 
“VANESSA!…VANESSA!…” yelled Laura, “What are you doing, can’t you see the floor is getting packed and you’re here talking to” . . Instantly Laura stopped mid-sentence and glared at Laurence before slowly pointing towards the kitchen and shooting off.
 
 
 
“I guess that’s my queue for me to leave, it’s getting really busy”. Laurence strangely looked at me for a few seconds, the creases in his eyes had begun to soften my eyes that I had to instantly look away, was his eyes smiling at me? Why did I sense him trying to express something more than words to me? Wait is my soul vibrating? I wonder what his star sign could be.
 
 
 
 (Star signs aren’t legit, why think of that at this time Vanessa!)
 
 
 
((My mind frowned))
 
 
 
“Vanessa, how long until you finish your shift? I would like to talk more with you”.
 
“Well its 4:30HRS I finish in 30 minutes so you can sit outside or inside and wait for me if you want” He shrugged his shoulders and I continued on collecting the cups and returned to the kitchen. As soon as I walked through the kitchen door, Laura came charging at me with a big grin on her face,
 
 
 
“Vanessa who was that gorgeous fella you was talking to he is well fit,” she gulped. 
 
I tried my hardest not to laugh but I couldn’t help it, Laura always over exaggerates everything I must admit working with her for the past 3 years has definitely been a walk in a packed out park full of women screaming. . . ATTACK THE BULLDOGS!! 
 
 
 
“Laura, it was just a random customer who took an interest in my braids and complimented me” I responded, rolling my eyes. She slowly went to the kitchen door and peaked through the window..
 
”So why is this random customer sitting on the table you was just on looking right at the window I am looking through”.
 
  Now she was sounding crazy, I quickly left the cups in the sink and peaked through and saw his eyes fiercely looking straight into mine. Now, I know I sound like a hopeless romantic but I truly am a runaway love and this type of guy is way too good for me, wait, let me not get too ahead of myself before I start blowing things out of proportion.
 
 
 
As we returned to the kitchen sink, I began to wash the plates and cups, I informed Laura of the conversation me and Laurence had and I told her that he wanted to speak to me some more. Laura looked at me with the same face my mother does, the serious stern eyes that makes my skin crawl, as I looked into her chinky blue eyes I could tell she was warning me.
 
 
 
“W-h-a-t”, I said like a whiney spoilt child ..
 
 
 
“You know WHAT Vanessa, don’t be rushing anything okay”, she begun to wrap her long blonde hair in her hand and looked at me with the most sincere expression 
 
“You’re a sweet girl Vanessa, your still in love with an old school crush, who probably don’t give two flying monkeys about you and you’ve only been in 2 serious relationships since you left school and entered college  ...your obviously not really normal are you” said Laura.
 
 
 
I rolled my eyes, “Of course I’m normal, I’ve had a few crushes but nothing happened, it’s not my fault that these bulldogs don’t like what they see plus Laurence seems interesting I don’t think it will head in that direction.. He seems more like .. hmm. . . a guardian angel. Laura smiled, ‘Well let’s leave it that way then sunny jim, anyway off you go its 4:55HRS – don’t let me hold up your date!” she said excitingly “GO! GO!
 
I logged out of my shift with my happy diners card, quickly went into the toilet to freshen up to only find that someone had exploded their backside in the loo once AGAIN, like has no one heard of air freshener here!? I looked at my oval eyes and plump cheeks wishing my baby face will somehow turn into an older version of me, I’ve always looked younger than my age but this is beginning to get ridiculous, even makeup makes no difference. I put on some deodorant, creamed my face and left the loo, and suddenly I remembered that I was supposed to help my little bro Josh with his math homework, his private tutor would not be happy if he hasn’t completed it. I’ll spend 30 minutes with this Laurence dude and make my way home after that ..I promised myself.
 
 
 
Laurence was still sitting in the same table I left him at and as he saw me walking towards him he stood grinning at me as a father looks at his new born child. 
 
“Hi Vanessa, was thinking you might stand me up”
 
“Of course not I am not that harsh love. Would you like to go for a walk or sit here and talk”? I asked kindly.
 
“I’d prefer if we can go for a walk, I’ve had your colleague walking up and down eyeing me this whole time, its making me uncomfortable” He said nervously.
 
I looked around to see who he was talking about, and I saw Laura, Frank and Theo at the counters looking directly at us, I tapped Laurence to take the lead and leave the restaurant.
 
“Bye guysssssssss” I called out, as they all looked on grinning at me. As we left the restaurant we begun to walk along Bond Street heading towards Marble arch station, the pathways were so full of people rushing to and fro it didn’t help that it was boiling too, the heat of the sun in July was not meant to be this serious. My brown skin felt the burn of the sun and small pebbles of sweat had begun to release themselves upon my forehead, HOW EMBARRASING! Laurence grabbed my arm and we entered a side walk which took me directly to my bus stop.
 
“This is your stop right?” Laurence questioned. 
 
 I weirdly nodded my head in suspicion, has this man been watching me to know exactly where I catch my bus or is this just fate or could he really be my guardian angel. . . I wondered.
 
 “Vanessa” said Laurence softly, ‘You asked me earlier what I do. . .Well. .  I am currently studying my PHD in architecture at The University of Manchester, I’m hoping one day to go to Kenya and build homes for my people”. I blinked, stunned at what came out of his mouth, I cleared my throat and looked him in the eyes as I spoke, “ Really? A PHd.. wow well done Laurence, I didn’t really go that far, I had a chance to go Uni but I blew it because I kind of thought why get qualifications to become an art and fashion guru, I might as well find a job in that sector.. But unfortunately it hasn’t been easy”. I looked down embarrassed by our difference’s, he was so fine, so articulate in speech and  as I begun to drift off in thought I unexpectedly felt a hand on my shoulder. .  . His hands were so gentle and the grip just soothed my saddened heart for like 6.2 seconds and as I looked up at him he watched me sincerely, 
 
“Vanessa you have what it takes to be what you want to be, I see it in you. . you don’t need a degree or PHd qualifications you just ought to believe in yourself and do your research and find ways to get there”, he said sympathically. “Your beautiful, your talented, you have charisma, you seem like someone who doesn’t give up. . your eyes capture me and I know you have it in you” he expressed.
 
“I always find it hard and never really believed in me” I whispered.
 
“Well you have only met me, but I’ve met you many times – take it from me - Laurence believes in you” he said comforting my half broken soul. We ended up speaking more about his life and mine, little did I know his dad was Persian and his mum Kenyan and he was 26!!! He lives in Ladbroke grove whilst I live in Kensal Green so that was really interesting, he invited me back to his place but the idea made me uneasy, 
 
 
 
“It’s okay, next time when you’re ready,
 
 or we can go to an art gallery in Regents street if you want to come with me tomorrow” he suggested.
 
“That seems cool, I’m off work tomorrow too. . what time?” 
 
“Hmmm, I’ll pick you up in my car at 2pm at Kensal green station and we’ll make it there for 3pm, is that a deal Vanessa? He concluded. “Yes sir a done deal”.  We exchanged numbers and I waited for my bus as he went to his car. How funny, I thought. . I randomly met a cool guy, who was fricking hot and I will be seeing him again tomorrow isn’t that splendid!
 
Not long till I got home, I heard Josh screaming at the TV, he is always playing on that PS4 sometimes I want to smash it up in pieces! What is a 13 year old constantly doing on video games, it needs to stop! As I entered the house Josh greeted me with a half-smile whilst I slopped his cheek with a wet kiss
 
 
 
 
 
“Wheres MaMa?” I said.
 
“She’s in the kitchen bruv, with Whitney cooking,  mum was reading the bible to her” he explained. 
 
“Ok, switch off the PS4 and take out your math homework, I’ll be back in 10 minutes” .
 
“Argh! Sis, one more game pperrrrrleeeeaaaseeeeeee” he sighed.
 
“Josh you already heard me, stop acting up” I snapped. Boys will forever be boys! I’m just glad that
 
ma has always been deep in her faith teaching us to pray every morning and night and during the day in our hearts. God is everywhere she says and it’s important we remember him. I must admit it’s helped me and somehow strengthened my heart in the worst situations, so I hope Whitney takes it on board to try and find that peace and clarity in the issues she’s facing with her abusive boyfriend. Whitney is one of my closest friends, my sister I would say, the one who’s always had my back through my silly moods and as always she held me up and I thank God for her. As I walked in the kitchen I smelt the swift smell of spicy fried chicken and roasted sweet potatoes, veg and gravy my all-time favorite and ma’s quick munch before she heads out to work. As soon as Whitney saw me she raced up towards me and hugged me so tightly, her face was bruised and her eyes red, I could tell she’d been crying.
 
 
 
“You okay Sis” I hugged her back holding her in my arms, her tender small light skin frame reminded me of Chris browns ex-girlfriend Karrueche, her sweet smell of perfume drifted in the air travelling up my nose and then…
 
 
 
“ACHOOOO” I sneezed loudly. 
 
“Girl, your always sneezing when you hug me man.. you must be allergic to my perfume nessa” she giggled.
 
“Yep something like that, goofball” I smiled at her, whilst she stuck her tongue out at me. . I looked in her tired eyes, the things we would do for the people we love huh?
 
  Ma wasn’t in the kitchen; I heard her rushing downstairs, the sound of her slippers knocking against the light floorboards.
 
 
 
“Vanessa is that you?” Ma bellowed..
 
“Yes Ma, are you alright?  I let go of Whitney slowly and walked towards the steep stairs by the kitchen.
 
 “Yes my daughter all is well by God’s grace.. I am off to work and I have left you, Joshua and Whitney some food okay, please wash the dishes and help Josh with his home-work” she reminded me. Ma checked the time on her phone and quickly gave me and Whitney a big hug. She turned to Whitney and said soothingly,
 
“My Whitney, you are a beautiful young lady let no man play with the treasure and gift God has given you. Be strong and have courage, every choice is in your hands. Call me if you need me” Ma spoke so softly sometimes it made us feel like little children but I understood, mothers have a way of making us feel calm that transcends past this physical world, it is a spiritual divine essence that bears witness to Love through ever mother.
 
Whitney’s parents had both passed away in a car crash and she was left to be looked after by her auntie since she was 12, her auntie barely noticed if she was there or not, and so my mum has become her mum and we are practically sisters. Ma said her goodbyes to Josh and left out for work.
 
  The sky was turning navy blue, as the stars were forced to reveal themselves in the heavens, the breeze blowing through the opened window, and the white curtains gently swaying against the calm of the wind.
 
It was 8pm after I finished helping Josh and he went upstairs to have a bath and get ready for bed, so it was me and Whit.. she took out a ciggerette, 
 
“You want one?” She asked tiredly.
 
“No, I’m good for now sis.. I’m trying to cut them out altogether” 
 
Whitney pouted at me while she lit up her ciggerette,
 
“Oh is that you my girrrrrl, My Queen errrrr’daay” she blurted, we both laughed and ended up catching eye contact, me and Whitney shared a connection that sometimes made my soul move I know she felt it too it is unexplainable but the love is real. As she looked into my eyes, the water begun to swell up and she burst out in tears,
 
“It’s cool Whitney cry it out, I’m here” I reassured her as I stroked her hair, she threw the cigarette out the window, coughing as she laid down her head on my lap.
 
“What would I do without you and ma..even Josh” she chuckled, ‘You have been the closest thing to family for me, I love you Nessa, I honestly do” she said as she turned her head on my lap so she could look directly at me. 
 
“I Love you to Whitney, For-real. . you know”
 
“I know sis, I know”
 
“So are you leaving him then?” I asked calmly.
 
“I will, I can’t do it no more. . Jay keeps beating me and I can’t deal with it no more Nessa, one minute he loves me next minute he hates me, I’m 23 ..I’m too young for this and he’s 32 and it just can’t work. I can’t do it no more” she cried.
 
“Shhh babygirl, everything will be okay, God got us both okay” I vowed. 
 
As she lay on my lap, she slowly drifted to sleep and I sat up thinking of all the things I had hoped for, in our lives, my dreams, and my family’s life, Marlon the old school crush that I hoped to meet once again and continue what we didn’t finish. . Laurence and his intriguing personality. Everything.
 
 
 
PING! My phone instantly began to vibrate as a message appeared up writing:
 
 
 
‘ Don’t forget, Art gallery tomorrow I will pick you up by Kensal green station at 2pm.
 
 Be there or be square!
 
 
 
  Forever yours, haha Laurence : )’
 
 
 
I didn’t reply, but my mind was beaming. I scored me a guardian angel after all!
 
 
 
  Expect the unexpected. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Chapter 2:  Bills, Bills, Bills
 
 
 
RING! RING! RING!
 
 
 
 My phone started vibrating in my pocket as I gradually drew near to Kensal green station; I reached into my bag quickly thinking it was Laurence. Once I grabbed the phone, the name ‘Frank’ appeared on the screen, I pondered for a moment. . . why would Frank be calling me at a random time such as this?
 
 
 
“Hello” I greeted him, softly. 
 
 
 
“Hi Cutie pie, sweet sugar plum, cotton socks, baby face with the rasta hair – what is really good” he replied energetically.
 
 
“Nothing much really, I’m meeting up with Laurence, the one I met at the restaurant yesterday. .”  I slowly cleared my throat, “Erm.. yeah he’s taking me to an art gallery in Regents park to inspire me some more with my fashion and arts prospect’ I clarified.
 
 
 
“Oh. Right. That should be interesting shouldn’t it” he said in a rather abrupt manner.
 
“Uh Yes of course. . .”
 
 
 
Silence.
 
 
 
 
 
For some reason I had no idea why I was explaining myself to a work colleague, and another thing was I felt he wanted to say something else to me. I didn’t want to overthink the situation, and plus Laurence could be trying to call and possibly could be at the station anytime soon. I need to learn to stop explaining myself all the time, especially to MEN, I am not a kid being caught red-handed poo-ing myself so I don’t need to cry my way out to be changed.  Right? Wait that don’t even make sense but hey, whatever. 
 
 
 
“Soooooooooo.. Frank you obviously called me for a reason, Wassup?” 
 
“I just wanted to hear your voice” He claimed.
 
“Oh.. Really, and that was it” I said..raising my brows.
 
“No there was more I wanted to say, but I don’t quite know how to say it” he replied. 
 
 
 
I felt some tension, I felt his thoughts, I felt his energy floating through me but I couldn’t seem to capture them. . My stomach felt uneasy but I held myself up. Why did this feeling come upon me? What was happening? What did Frank want to say?
 
 
 
“Go ahead Frank, I’m listening” I assured him.
 
“This is like the wrong time to be calling you and saying this and face to face is much easier but you know how it goes once you feel the emotion you just have to flow with it. Vanessa, I’m going to come right out with it.. You have been on my mind for a while. . Since I first met you, looking into your eyes I saw something special, something rare that not most women have. . 
 
 
 
Ok. . This was AWKWARD!
 
 
 
“. . I have been watching you and analyzing the type of person you are, and the person I see 4 times a week is the person I think I am growing deeply fond of. I care about you so much, and that is also why I feel the need to protect you. You’re so sweet Vanessa, and sometimes I think about how it would be if me and you could be together. I know that’s not . . exactly . . what you was. . expecting to hear but I needed to get this off my chest” he enunciated. “What do you have to say V”.
 
 
 
Like really?  What can I say .. I thought.
 
 
 
There I was in a day dream standing opposite Kensal green cemetery, all those lives’ that passed through earth. . And their souls returned to where-ever Life intended. I wonder if they could hear this love confession.  God probably heard it and laughed.  I knew Frank cared about me but not like this, this came as a surprise.  An interracial couple walked passed me – holding hands and laughing as the warmth of this summer season echoed in their hearts and surroundings. The trees were swaying in the care-freeclimate and the sun’s golden reflection brightened the day making it a picture perfect scene. Cars were zooming by in different directions and I stood on in silence, and just as I was about to open my mouth. . .
 
 
 
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
 
 
 
The sounds of the horns frightened the crap out of me – I looked to the right from where I heard the car beeping and saw a black Audi a5 parked on the side and Laurence standing outside of the car waving at me with his gorgeous smile. I felt paralyzed but my hand did the right thing, it waved. I slowly turnt my perplexed body towards the direction of Laurence.
 
 
 
“VANESSA?” Franks voice seemed low and distant.
 
“Uhh Sorry Frank, I was day-dreaming, I heard everything you said” – I continued walking, and was a few yards away from Laurence.
 
“Laurence has arrived but I will definitely continue the conversation with you at work on Friday okay?”
 
“That’s fine” he replied.
 
“. .and Frank?”
 
“Yes Vanessa”
 
“Thank you for being real with me, for telling me how you feel” I said stupidly.
 
“No V, thankyou – we’ll speak Friday. Have fun. Take care, see you.”
 
“See you dude” I responded, a little confused.
 
 
 
 I’m so lame, why thank a guy for expressing his feelings? Who does that, ME OBVIOUSLY.
 
It was 2:05pm the time Laurence arrived, I stood next to his car and he stared at me, I didn’t feel uncomfortable I just confidently stared back. We both suddenly broke out into a giggle and he gave me a big bear hug.
 
 
 
“You look beautiful as always Vanessa” he mentioned, his eyes met mine and this time I couldn’t help but look into him. No man will trick me with his eyes, NEVER. 
 
“Thankyou Laurence, I think you’ve only met me once so .. always? Hmm okay.. you look rather handsome yourself young man” I responded politely.
 
“Don’t..” he seemed really tense.
 
“Why? You are a stunner though.. What is there to be ashamed of?” 
 
“Nothing, I just.. never mind, and just to inform you ‘Mrs I always want to be right’… I have not only met you once at the restaurant like I said – I have seen you there on numerous occasions. Enough with this odd debate would you like to enter my ride and we head out to the art gallery then”. I looked at Laurence, he was a very mysterious person but there was something subtle about his character but it was not in my power to understand it. . Go with the rhythm of the heart I told myself.
 
The day went by smoothly, Laurence drove on super-speed, and I felt like I was in grand theft auto being chased by the Po-Po, no joke. 
 
We finally reached the gallery in less than 20 minutes; we quickly took our passes from a lovely security guard at the front registration area and entered Frieze Art Fair the open art exhibition. We encountered numerous weird paintings by different artists one which happened to be drawn by Salvador Dali had me raising my eyebrow, his choice of colors and shapes amused me but seemed really gripping and the thought process and imagination was absurd but yet beautiful. Laurence had left me in the gallery to quickly go to the toilet so I continued walking through some crowds of people and crossed to another set of corridors in the building and caught my eyes on a strange painting, it was completely out of this world. 
 
Hmmm.. I thought trying to weigh the picture in my mind. In the painting was 2 mirrors, one was colored white with strange patterns around it and the other black with branches hanging off the mirror, (CRAY!)  in the white mirror there was an image of a field and in the distance of the field a young girl sitting crossed legged playing with flowers, in the black mirror was the same girl with a peculiar face, she seemed lost but found, alone yet content, but then she appeared to be a dreamer, her hands were pointing towards the little girl in the other mirror but she was pointing with a book that clearly wrote ‘Life or Death’.
 
 
 
“Vanessa” said Laurence.
 
 
 
I jumped as his voice startled me and I felt his breath on my neck, even though he was not so close to me. 
 
 
 
“For goodness sake Laurence, please don’t sneak up on me like that” I rolled my eyes and looked back at the picture.
 
 
 
He laughed.
 
 
 
“I see you’re truly compelled to this drawing huh?” I looked up at him, he had a half smile on his face – his eyes seemed to be changing, his pupils were enlarging as he gawked at me. 
 
 
 
“I am intrigued by it actually, yes” turning my head back to the picture..
 
“But for some reason I don’t understand what it implies, but I know it is talking to me. . there is a parable in the painting but I can’t quite put my finger on it”.
 
 
 
Laurence came closer to the painting, till we were standing side by side, he was silent and then nodded his head.
 
 
 
“The girl in the field has found her innocence,” he uttered. “The flowers symbolize her heart..the memories she holds in which are unexpressed but yet she is smiling, if you have noticed”..he said looking back at the picture.
 
 
 
“Ohh..yes I didn’t see that” 
 
 
 
“Mmmhmm the smile is the fact she has the ability to express the memories in her heart however she chooses but she seems to be holding it as her secret pact to herself, she is free at this moment ..She does not need to express the feeling of those memories, she has a choice to let go or hold onto them. The black mirror with her pointing at the reflection of herself in the field is the part of her in the flowers. . . ‘The memories’ the memories still speak to her. The girl in the black mirror is symbolizing the girl unexpressed, it is the girl who has not spoken in her past memories but has the ability to speak, whatever it is she is passionate about. The book which she is holding out to her reflection is titled “Life or Death” because it shows she can speak up and it can give her more life that she can share to others and so she may gain better experiences by releasing the memories and beginning again, or she can kill her.  . . if she kills her then she kills her-self for it is in that memory of her-self that is used to open her into what is new if she allows herself to pick the flowers and express the memories instead of fiddling with them and holding on to them. The falling branches in the black mirror mean the growth it will take to combine her as one, the balance between light and darkness; there are quite a few branches because there’s a different stage of life she has had to walk through. Do you understand?” 
 
My heart was beating, I looked to the ground and felt a lump in my throat this picture and Laurence’s explanation can’t have gotten to me that much that I was literally about to cry! I felt like her, I’ve handled so much until this point and everything I handled I have held in and not spoken to anyone about. Laurence appeared from nowhere and starts to inform me of something as deep as myself. . this cannot be real. My eyes began to water and there was no way of stopping it, I suddenly felt Laurence’s arm wrap around me. . The warmth of his shirt and his body holding on to mine felt surreal-like I was entering heaven. I hugged him back and stared into the ceiling as I pondered my journey, this can’t be all I’m here for.. There’s so much more to me. . I thought. . Then do something about it. .my heart responded to my mind.
 
  I let go of Laurence slowly, he had a concerned and passionate look on his face, he put his hand on my cheeks and continued to look deeply in my eyes – his pupil’s enlargening as his light brown eyes spoke to me. . Both of his hands cupped my face and he brought his forehead against my forehead, his eyes closed, so I closed mine.. I then heard thoughts enter my mind so clearly. . It seemed to come from another dimension,
 
 
 
‘I have heard your cries Vanessa, I know who you are. Life has been a struggle and you have had numerous battles from your childhood but I have never left you. You have had purpose but you have not understood your potential neither have you believed in it. It has taken this long so that you can grasp the essence of your spirit and so face the upcoming challenges ahead as I create a new life for you. You will do things that you never thought you could do, it was destined for you to experience, to let go and finally begin again with me. Love . Once you see the sacrifice of what love has to fight for, you will be ready. You know what it takes.. I built it in you. Listen.. your next stage is New York City, you will find somewhere to stay. . I’m with you. I see you, I’m in you.’
 
 
 
As I opened my eyes Laurence was not standing there, a security guard was walking towards me, he had an annoyed and tired look on his face, 
 
 
 
“Excuse me madam, the gallery is about to close, you have been standing and staring at that painting for the past 45 minutes. Everyone has left the building accept for you.” He muttered, unbothered.
 
 
 
I squinted my eyes, and searched around me. . Where was Laurence? 
 
 
 
“Laurence!! Laurence!! Laurence!! Where are you! Come out the toilet now! The gallery is closing” I shouted walking up the corridor. The security guard looked puzzled, 
 
 
 
“Young lady you are the only one who is in this building we have checked the whole place to make sure everyone was out”
 
 
 
“But.. but .. I came here with a young man, he’s 6ft and mixed race, dark hair..he was wearing a white shirt and white trousers, you saw us come into the gallery you spoke to us both and gave us a pass” I stuttered, tears building up in my eyes.
 
 
 
“Sorry miss there’s quite a few security guards here, I don’t recall seeing him”
 
“No it was definitely you” I shouted.
 
“Right, that’s it miss the building is closing so if you refuse to leave I will have no choice but to call the police” he responded. I looked at him with tears in my eyes; I began to cry so hard, what was happening to me?  Where was Laurence, why did I feel lost? The security guard was asking me a number of questions, who could I call and did I have a place to stay, I just continued crying. I took out my phone and called ma, I handed the phone to the security who explained everything to her. 
 
It was 5PM ma had pulled up in her cooper on the side street of the gallery, I quickly said goodbye and apologized to the security and ran across the road to ma’s car, I opened the door and sat inside. Ma looked at me and said nothing, she started the car and we drove the whole way home in silence. As we entered the house Josh was knocked out on the sofa with his football kit on, ma switched off the telly took his football boots off and put a pillow on his head. . She signaled me to go into the kitchen.
 
I sat on the kitchen table looking out the window, how was this all possible..I thought.
 
Laurence disappeared but gave me a message from his mind – I can’t be crazy . . I felt everything. . it was real. How do I explain this to Ma?  Or to Whitney? 
 
I’ll appear crazy. Am I crazy? Did that really happen?
 
Did I make up Laurence in my head? I can’t have!?
 
Everyone at Hungry diners saw him. . 
 
Something just don’t add up. 
 
 
 
“Vanessa, whats going on?” Ma asked me, she entered the kitchen with a puzzled look on her face.
 
“Nothing Ma”
 
“Don’t nothing me Vanessa, I did not raise you to hide things from me” she replied strongly.
 
Here she goes again acting like she knows me inside and 
 
out. .well she partially knows me I guess, I’ve lived under her roof for 24 years. 
 
I looked at ma with tears in my eyes, “Ma’am this life is getting to me, I don’t know how to feel.. I went to the gallery to get inspiration, you know for the whole. . Fashion designer thing. . Ma something weird happened to me. . I had an epiphany but Ma” . . I couldn’t finish what I was saying, I burst out in tears.
 
“Now Now Nessa” Ma came close and hugged me tightly, “Life is a series of struggles, joys, sadness, happiness and many more, but it is faith that comes knocking on our doors in the time of need my child. You weep because you do not understand but God is always here to help you understand if you ask him. He is in your heart Vanessa”.
 
“Ma”. . I said coughing out my tears and wailing like a baby, “Ma, I have tried to talk to God but I can’t hear anything back right now. . why won’t he talk to me”.
 
“God is talking to us every day my child, are you paying attention. God can use anyone to speak to you and redirect your course of action”. . Ma looked me in the eyes faithfully; I saw a light so deep in her that echoed in my heart. I recognized that same light when I remember looking in Laurence’s eyes.
 
My mind began to race.
 
Laurence, maybe that was God talking to me. .maybe that was his message to me.
 
So God heard my prayers? He sent Laurence, wait!
 
Laurence could have been my guardian angel. . OMG YES, I see. . I finally see.
 
I looked at Ma, and wiped my tears,
 
 “Ma I’m sorry for all of this crying”.
 
“Don’t be sorry child, don’t be sorry” she replied, Ma sighed and sat on the chair and took out some letters from her bag.
 
“Whats wrong MaMa”.
 
“Come. . take a look at these letters for me”. I walked close to Ma’s chair and picked up some letters as I begun to read, my heart sunk.  The letters explained that our mortgage had been declined of payments for the past 6 months and now ma was in heavy arrears, if she did not pay the debt in 5 months we would be taken out of our house, and where would we go?  Another letter wrote ‘Pure flash’ my mums cleaning company was closing down in a month due to poor credit arrangements and insufficient capital. My heart stopped.
 
 
 
“Ma, why didn’t you tell me about these letters?” 
 
“I didn’t want to worry you Nessa”.
 
“No mum, you should have told me!” I replied angrily.
 
“Excuse me? Nessa bring down your tone when you are speaking to me, have respect. There is no need to worry I will find a part time job with the company I provide cleaning services for, they like me there. I think it is time for pure flash to close down, it’s not been easy Nessa and if God wills it let it be” she spoke confidently. I wasn’t quite sure what to think at this moment, everything seemed to be confusing me, nothing was really as it seemed, and this is what I had to deal with in life. 
 
Ma looked at me with a tired smile, “We will be fine, have faith and create a plan. .  Have I not told you this before? Look. . .” 
 
Ma took out her bible from her bag and opened it to the book of Habakkuk chapter 2 verse 2 to 4, it read: 
 
 
 
Then Yahweh answered me and said, ‘Write the vision down,
 
Inscribe it on tablets to be easily read. 
 
For the vision is for its appointed time, it hastens towards its end
 
And it will not lie; although it may take some time, wait for it, 
 
For come it certainly will before too long.
 
‘You see, anyone whose heart is not upright will succumb,
 
But the upright will live through faithfulness.’
 
 
 
As she finished reading, Ma had tears in her eyes. . I hugged her tightly and whispered a prayer,
 
 
 
“Dear Creator of Heaven and Earth, help us all to not give up. . 
 
Let us find a plan in order for our lives to be united in your will. .
 
Strengthen Mummy and Whitney, Me and Josh and everyone in the world going through their struggles. 
 
You are our source of Hope, in Faith guided by Love. I trust in your plan.
 
In Jesus name I pray, Amen” Amen” Ma responded.
 
After the prayer Ma quickly made us a sandwich and left for work at
 
 
 
18:00HRS. 
 
 
 
It was around 18:30HRS and Josh was still fast asleep on the sofa, I quickly ran upstairs and went into my room, I switched on my small lamp took off my doc martins and grabbed the laptop from under my bed. The bright blue light from the laptop screen dazzled my eyes as I stared at the screen in thought of everything that happened.
 
 
 
God told the Habbabuk guy to write a vision.
 
My vision was to be a fashion designer, to own my very own company.. designing wedding dresses and children’s wear but I know I ought to gain experience by working in a arts and fashion company
 
Before I could ever own my own.
 
Laurence left me with a plan; he said my next stop was New York.
 
Now I ought to find fashion companies in New York that I can apply for. I thought.
 
 
 
A lightbulb lit up in my mind, this was just the start of something I never knew would take place in my life but it was happening, just when I was trying to release myself from the past more ideas came pouring in for the better. .as I hoped to believe. I went on google and found 8 fashion companies that stuck out to me:  Louise Eid, Saffroni McCoid, Avena la grande, Fendi, Moschino, Havoni, Lucas & Gabin and finally Sensori. These companies were well known in NYC and were taking on interns too! I applied to every single one, but was I really going to wait for a response ? 
 
 
 
Vanessa just buy a one way ticket to NYC and find somewhere to stay there for at least  1 month.
 
God will make a way, he always makes a way.. that’s what mum says. 
 
 
 
What would mum say? How can I just up and leave? 
 
This is my life, if I want to make it better and help mum I have to go out and find the experience necessary to follow my dream and reach for my passion.
 
OMG! I was really doing this; I went to the virgin airlines website and looked for a one way ticket to NYC – I saw one for the 27th July – just one week from today – so next Thursday! The price was only £160 and so I didn’t hesitate. I leaped off my bed and grabbed my bag excited with what was happening before me, my hands rummaging through to find my purse and my passport which I near enough always carried on me.. Despite my ma telling me it was dangerous to do so. I took out my bank card and entered my details on the purchasing form, I skim read all the information and double checked every detail, I clicked next and the website took me to the last page: TO PURCHASE. I stared at the screen, 
 
 
 
Vanessa is you really doing this? Is this what you want? Are you ready?
 
  I pressed ‘OK’, I gawked at my laptop screen. . my one way ticket was emailed to my email address – 27th of July Next Thursday I will be leaving to go to NYC – WOW! I did a research on some apartments in the local area of Manhattan and found a student apartment that had a room available for $300 a month– I emailed them and was awaiting a response when my phone started ringing. I looked at my phone which was lying on the bed, it was my sweetheart Whitney. 
 
“ Hello babygirrrrrrl” I answered.
 
All I heard was a loud sobbing on the phone, a man shouting in the background and a glass smashed whilst Whitney continued to scream and cry.
 
 
 
“Whitneyyyyy where are youu!!!!!” I Shouted, “What is going on?”
 
“Vanessa, help..Jay is smashing up the house, he’s been drinking and hit me again but now 
 
I’m scared. . please Nessa come and get me” she sobbed so loudly, my heart began to beat as I quickly put on my nikeys and jacket, reached for my phone again and rushed out my room – down the stairs – through the living room – Josh was up playing PS4.
 
 
 
“Josh I’ll be back” I said rushing out the front door. I ran down Burke street and into the alley way this was the quickest route I could think of. . . my mind was focused on making sure Whitney was okay, my heart racing as I continued to run by SK lane and as I reached number 24 I opened the gate, I banged on the door. No answer. I banged again and again. No answer. I heard feet coming down the stairs and to my surprise Jay answered the door and smiled at me.
 
“Hello Pretty, Whitney is not here at the moment she went to the shop” he said with his empty eyes piercing through at me, I looked him deep in his eyes and felt him back down a little.
 
“Whitney is here, stop lying” – I barged through the door to find Whitney at the bottom of the stairs bloody nose, swollen eyes and a bag full of her clothes. She was shivering and her face looked so tired, my soul cried – tears rolling down as I picked her up and she just stared at me – no expression in her eyes just sadness, emptiness. My heart begun to sink, but my spirit would not allow me to lose strength at this time – as I picked her bag Jay came behind me and hit my hand.
 
 
 
“She is going nowhere” He shouted. . . “I will kill you both” 
 
“I would like to see you try you waste of a space” I spat at him. He came charging at me with full force, I quickly grabbed Whitney and put her to the right hand of me – I picked up her bag just in time as he came close I put out my foot, and he stumbled on the floor.
 
 
 
“Quick Whitney, go for the door” I yelled. Whitney ran to the front door, she opened it and to our surprise police were standing at the front porch. 
 
“Good evening,I’m PC Davidson and this is PC Smith-  we have just received a report of shouting and smashing of glass coming from this house – Whats going on?” . He looked at Whitney’s face, pushed the door a little more open,  saw me in the corridor holding her bag of clothes, they saw Jay on the floor – with his drunken self-apologizing and they realized what had taken place.
 
PC Davidson entered the flat, and grabbed Jay –
 
 
 
“Young man you are under arrest for common assault, you do not have to say anything but it may harm your defense if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence”
 
 
 
“I did nothing wrong” he shouted, pulling and tugging at the police. PC smith briefly spoke to Whitney outside and asked us if we was both okay, Whitney was willing to press charges and had agreed to do a statement the following day. I took her house keys and her bag and suitcase which were hiding behind the living room door. Just before I closed the door I saw a note on the floor. .I picked it up, it read:
 
 
 
She’s always in my heart, I don’t go a day without thinking of her 
 
My sister, my queen, my love and my friend.
 
I love her like I love my own soul, she has never left me alone.
 
She has always shown me what is unconditional, 
 
LOVE. . something I have never known.
 
How to tell her the way I feel, but one day she will know. . . Together we’ll be healed.
 
 
 
The words echoed in my heart chakra and deep in my spirit. My body was beginning to feel light, when I heard Whitney come in, 
 
“The police are gone now, are you ready to go”. Whitney looked straight into me. I looked straight into her, and we both looked at the note I was holding in my hands. 
 
“Yes I’m ready to go” I said quietly, she came close to me, and my heart began to slow down. . .she took my hand and I took hers as we both walked out the front door. 
 
 
 
 
 
Goodbye 24 S.K Lane, Whitney won’t EVER BE SEEING YOU AGAIN.
 
 
 
BANG! The front door closed.
 
 
 
 
 
Chapter 3: Self-Discovery
 
It was mid-day on the 21st July 2013, a Friday at last but this time I wasn’t off work. I started work in 2 hours and so was just finishing having my shower. Whitney had stayed over our place and had woken up at 10am to get ready to visit the police station to write down her statement, Josh had left for football practice and ma was at the gym working out as per usual. I finished my shower and walked along the hallway past my brother’s room humming to myself, I walked past the stairs hearing a strange wailing noise coming from the living room. It sounded like someone crying.. 
 
 
 
“Whitney, is that you?” I called anxiously. There was no response, I tip-toed down the stairs, my hair was wet and the water continued to drip from my braids into my face. . This is the moment I should summon for a hairdryer. .I thought.  As I got to the final stair I saw Whitney sitting on the living room sofa with her face in her hands. I knew she was going through a lot internally and so I sat next to her and wrapped my body around hers, she sat up and stared at me, tears in her eyes. Looking into her eyes melted my heart. Her pain was something I could relate too but I no longer wanted to be in my pain or bring up the past that had an effect on me so much. Whitney took her hand and laid it on my chest, I took my hand and stroked it on her cheeks, tears rolled down her eyes and I stared at her and she looked back at me. I felt her soul, and she felt mine. .we closed our eyes and as we did our foreheads touched and then there was silence. All that was left was the dance of the soul within our quietened bodies. Our minds had humbled itself into stillness and our hearts were left to beat and feel the present moment. We cozed up on the sofa for 10 minutes, my towel wrapped loosely around me,
 
 
 
“Don’t you have work in an hour” Whitney asked.
 
“Yes, and Frank will be picking me up, we both start at the same time” 
 
“Okay when you leave, I’ll head out the same time” 
 
“No biggy but are you alright Whitney? I can cancel work and go with you to the station”. .
 
“No Nessa go to work, I got this”. . I studied Whitney’s face, she looked different for some reason, I didn’t know if it was her hair, her eyes, her whole face but something looked transparent in her. 
 
I stood up about to leave the sitting room when unexpectantly, Whitney took my hand,
 
“Vanessa, you don’t know do you?” she whispered.
 
“I don’t know what?” I replied puzzled, “Well, spit it out why don’t you” I said rolling my eyes.
 
“Don’t know how special you are . . . Has anyone ever told you?” 
 
 
 
I looked down at my hands nervous and confused with why she would just come out with it like that, Whitney never does that.
 
“Thanks for letting me know... now…”
 
“No Nessa you have to understand you’re a gift to my life, to your family, to this world. . . You can’t even see it, the fact you cannot see it is crazy. . has God blinded you or something” Whitney gave me an awkward stare.
 
“No I am not blind I can see thanks Whit, but like I said.. Thank you”
 
“One day you will understand girl, one day” she replied calmly.
 
“Ahh please whatever, miss chimpanzee” I laughed and threw the piece of rubber at her.
 
 
 
I really wanted to tell her about moving to NYC but I wouldn’t know how she would take it. I decided to wait until I finished getting dressed for work. I ran upstairs dried myself, creamed my coco skin and began to get dressed, Whitney walked in on me as I was putting my clothes on.
 
 
 
“Ooops” she said startled,
 
“It’s okay Whit, come in munchkin. . .  I wanted to tell you something anyway, you’ve come at the right time” I replied.
 
Whitney sat on my bed and began to fiddle with some of my teddy bears, as always. Whitney reminds me of my inner child, she’s some-what like a baby, one I feel I have to take care of and make sure she’s okay.
 
“What did you want to tell me then” she whispered in a sweet angelic voice. 
 
 
 
I laughed.
 
 
 
“Yoo Whitney, I’ve come up with a plan” I blurted out
 
 
 
Whitney raised her eyebrows, and turned to look at me folding her arms and sitting up on the bed allowing her legs to swing..
 
 
 
“Uhh I’m pretty confident this is good for me, and it will help me to grow and understand exactly what it is I want to do. I’ve decided to take a 3 month trip to New York and start an internship with a fashion company. I’ve already booked my ticket for the 27th next Thursday – I’ve emailed a student accommodation which takes on students who are already enrolled in an internship”. . . 
 
 
 
Whitney blinked. Her eyes darted from left to right, and then up and down.
 
 
 
My girls looking like she’s creating a maze with her eyeballs. 
 
 
 
She cleared her throat quietly, she didn’t seem to budge, and she just stared into space. 
 
 
 
“Well, are you not going to congratulate me then?” I asked pretty hurt from her non response.
 
 
 
Whitney said nothing. 
 
 
 
“After everything we have been through together Whitney I thought you would be at least happy for me” I bickered. “All you’re doing right now is staring at me and looking away. . . Like you’re meant to be my sister this is the time I really need your support right now”. 
 
Whitney looked up at me, tears beginning to come up in her eyes.
 
 
 
For goodness sake not AGAIN!
 
 
 
“I am happy for you” Tears began to roll down her eyes. I was forced to put on my happy diners shirt so fast to go and clean her eyes up before they go puffy as they always did. She sniffled,
 
“I knew this day would come, where you would be free to do what you have always wanted, you have always had it in you. . .that’s why I have always needed you”. 
 
I looked at her warmly, my precious friend the one and only friend who has truly been there for me although she hasn’t been able to advise me so much, she’s been able to understand the person I am and never rejected that. ME. 
 
 My eyes also began to water, we both hugged each-other crying non-stop.
 
 
 
It was real, I was really leaving, and I released it out in the air. . God knew, the Universe obviously found out and now Whitney. . yes. . now Whitney. All that was left was Ma, Josh and obviously everyone at work.
 
 
 
As the hug tightened, Whitney expressed, 
 
 
 
“I am happy for you girl, I have looked up to you for so long.. You have always been the strong one. I will miss you, I love you. .I will miss your hugs and your touch. . Your soothing words but your with me in my heart forever and always sis, forever and always”.
 
 
 
I let go of her and looked at her eyes, 
 
 
 
“Babygirl, forever and always until eternity. .And beyond I love you and you’ll be with me, skype me or call me and I will do the same. Plus, this bedroom is yours for the next 3 months girl.”
 
 
 
“No way” she added
 
 
 
“Yes way boo. I love you” I breathed. She looked down, and wouldn’t look me in my eyes, 
 
 
 
“Hey” I said lifting up her head. . . “I got you” . .  I then kissed her forehead and she kissed mine. 
 
 
 
For the next 30 minutes as I put my hair up and prepared my bag, Whitney went on and on about what clothes she will be taking from my wardrobe, if I had told ma yet and if I have everything prepared. 
 
 
 
Argh, Women! All they ever do is go on and on. 
 
 
 
DINGGGGGGG!! DONGGGGGG!!
 
 
 
Whitney had run downstairs to answer the door, I rushed over to my bed to take my phone off the charger and collect my bag. I took one quick look in the mirror, I smiled, life is about to change. .everything is about to change. For the better, I hoped. .I believed. As I skipped downstairs there was Frank standing by the living room door a delighted expression on his face, he held a bunch of flowers in his hands, Whitney had a smirk on her face, she looked like she was about to burst out in a giggle. 
 
 
 
Ohh noo, not flowers. . please. . this is the way to my heart.
 
WHY just WHY!!!
 
 
 
I walked up to Frank and smiled, 
 
 
 
“Thanks bruh, i appreciate it much” I bubbled
 
“And so you should!”
 
 
 
I hurried to put the flowers in a vase by the kitchen window, I put on my shoes and we all left out to begin our evening, each journeying on to what he had set out to accomplish in his mind. Frank dropped off Whitney to the police station, she gave us both a hug and said she will call to let me know if she was staying over or going to her auntie’s place. Frank and I continued on to work.
 
 
 
Today was going to be a long evening. 
 
 
 
I’ll avoid our conversation for today I thought. I and Frank will discuss everything on Monday. I’ll be ready then.
 
 
 
As he drove the car, I looked at him.. He looked at me. . We both smiled.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Chapter 4: Dilemma of the heart
 
 
 
 The next few days zoomed by, Saturday was a lazy day but Sunday was more active as Ma demanded me and Josh to clean the house. I didn’t feel that it was the right time to inform Ma of the big move, she was stressed with everything to do with the closing down of the business and the arrears of the mortgage, and I didn’t want to worry her. 
 
Thankfully Sunday went by swiftly, no worries, no mega stress, a bit of house cleaning, relaxation and family time, exactly what I needed.
 
 
 
Monday 24th July 2013
 
08:02AM
 
 
 
RING!! RING!!
 
 
 
My phone was vibrating. Little did I even know it was Monday morning, and I was due to be in work in an hour, and I had completely forgot and overslept.
 
 
 
“Hello” I murmured.
 
“Hi Vanessa, its ma” 
 
“OHH Hi mum, whats up.. you do know you just woke me up right?” I teased
 
“Well good, you was bound to be late anyway, its Monday”..
 
 
 
We both laughed. 
 
 
 
“Nessa I need you to do me a favor, I’ve left my keys at home . . . do you mind dropping them off to me at the gym before heading out to work”
 
“Ahhh Maa” I whined..
 
“Please Nessa, do me this favor my love”..
 
 
 
  I could hardly say no to mum, she was my ride or die, my best friend. .  Even though she annoyed me at times. .  She was my beating heart. 
 
 
 
“Okay ma, I’m going to have to call in that I’m running late – hopefully I can switch shifts with Laura, I’ll call you back ok?” 
 
“Okay Nessa, make sure” Ma said sternly, knowing me I would forget to call her back.
 
 Once I got off the phone I forced my body to release itself from its comfortable position and I sat upright on my bed, the house was quiet – Josh probably went to football training again.
 
 I looked on my phone for Frank’s number and gave him a ring, I silently waited to hear his voice answer.
 
After 3 rings he picked up,
 
 
 
“Hello sweetie pie” he cooed.
 
 
 
I smirked, this guy knows exactly what he is doing . . . It isn’t going to work.
 
 
 
“Hello muscle man, I hope you’re alright and slept well” 
 
“Of course Nessa, I slept peacefully. . hmmm so someone cares for me all of a sudden” he whispered.
 
 
 
Honestly I have no idea how I have dealt with this brother for so long, sometimes I feel like bursting out with laughter. .  Other times I feel like sitting in silence and glaring at him. 
 
 
 
“I have always cared, I’m a love machine” I replied, smiling at myself and watching my reflection in the mirror. 
 
“Frank I need to ask a favor, I’m on early this morning with you, but Ma has forgotten her house keys and has asked me to come and meet her at the gym to give her the keys – I might be running late, if Laura is starting in the afternoon is it okay to swap shifts?” I put on my most angelic voice . . .“Laura lives like 5 minutes’ walk from the hungry diners, she wouldn’t mind, just tell her it’s my ma -  she’ll understand.” 
 
 
 
Frank coughed on the phone, and cleared his throat. . 
 
 “Yes why not, but if I wasn’t working the whole day I would of said no – you do know that Vanessa” 
 
“Oh really, and why is that” 
 
“Because then I wouldn’t see your beautiful face throughout my morning shift would I, I love seeing you on shift girl – it makes my day”
 
 
 
Butterflies!! Butterflies!! WHY? It didn’t make sense but his sweet talking was getting to me . . .sweet talk always gets to me, eye contact and flowers …they all soften my sponge of a heart. 
 
 
 
“Yeah Yeah whatever” I gushed. . “I’ll see you in a few hours then yeah
 
“Alright beautiful, looking forward to seeing you” 
 
 
 
We cut the phone, and I sat on my bed peacefully. . No thoughts were running through my mind but I felt my soul warming up within me. The thought of leaving everything behind, to begin something new made me excited but at the same time I was scared . . . scared of the change. I would be all on my own, in a big city without Whitney, mum or even Josh to annoy me. This was all the beginning of something new and I was prepared all I had left to do was to inform Mum, Josh and Frank . . . And so I thought, this was it. I got up off my bed and went to the bathroom to brush my teeth, tired still for whatever reason.. Only God knows. I still had a few hours left so I went downstairs to make some breakfast. As I opened the fridge, I heard a voice behind me. . .
 
 
 
‘Vanessa, Vanessa’ the voice sounded like Laurence. 
 
I turned around to see no one there. . I looked back at the fridge, all my sense’s now fully alert. . 
 
‘Vanessa, Vanessa’
 
This spooked me out, completely. I turned around again. . . ‘Vanessa’
 
Standing in front of me was Laurence. . .He was dressed differently. 
 
His hair was pulled back – and he wore a white robe, but this time he had an angelic glow around him.
 
I instantly jolted.
 
“What are you doing here, why are you here.. get out” I said sharply.
 
I felt my skin becoming warm, I closed the fridge and looked at the corner of my eye there was a cooking pan. . I quickly darted by the cooker and picked up the pan ready to sucker slam the head off of Laurence. He didn’t even move he just stared at me. The creep. He smiled, as I stood puzzled by his calmness. 
 
 
 
“Why do you fear Vanessa, I am your guardian angel. .I watch over you as God has asked me too”
 
“Stop LYING” I screamed, waving the pan. For a second a thought came into my mind, 
 
 
 
You believe in God and angels, you even stated to Lauren that Laurence could be your guardian angel. . he disappeared and then appeared and you don’t believe. .he could possibly be an angel.
 
 
 
I looked up at Laurence, he was still in a calm state looking at me smiling so softly. I put down the pan. 
 
 
 
“What do you want from me Laurence” I demanded.
 
“I came to check that you were fine, I have been watching you, have you told your ma about the move yet?”
 
“No I haven’t I wanted to tell her today” I replied. My spirit began to soothe and become relaxed.
 
“Why did you disappear on me at the gallery, why did you leave me? I thought angels are meant to be honest from the beginning!” I challenged. Laurence stared into my eyes and spoke, 
 
“I have a mission to help you, I hear your prayers daily.. I have grown fond of you. Since the moment God formed you in your mother’s womb and I saw the heart you would have. I had to disappear because I had to allow you time to think. . .God is the one controlling our meetings and our steps in order to enhance your deep awareness in The Father himself”
 
 
 
I sighed.
 
 
 
“Have no fear God is guiding you, I am by your side . . . so whenever you need support God will send me straight to you. . .  O.K remember the number 112. Your mother is returning any moment now – she forgot her gym card at home – now is the time to tell her”
 
 
 
At that moment Laurence disappeared and there was a tap on the letter box, I froze for a few seconds taking in the whole situation. I slowly walked to the door and looked in the peak hole, mum was standing there with her gym bag.. I gulped and opened the door.
 
 
 
“Hey ma”
 
She walked into the house seeming a little annoyed, “Vanessa I forgot my gym access card” she moaned.
 
“It’s okay Ma, just rest for today, anyway I need to talk to you about something”
 
“About what?” she questioned, Ma raised her eyebrows. “Well. . .”
 
 
 
“Okay Ma, sit down please” I said uneasily. Ma walked to the living room sofa and sat down so quickly, very strangely her eyes watching me I knew she was ready to hear what I was going to say. 
 
 
 
I slowly started, “Ma you always told us ..me, Josh and Whitney that we should always have faith. You always said if we believe in something and pray seeking for guidance there will always be an answer, that the creator of the universe would hear us” I began. Ma nodded, “Yes I have” she agreed, lifting her head.
 
“Now is the time I am acting in faith Ma, we have struggled for so long in our lives and never had much, papa left us a long time ago, you did your best trying to open a business and getting into this mortgage. I am so proud of you ma, so so proud of you and I couldn’t ask for a better ma, such a strong woman like you has built me ready to endure what life can throw at me only because of faith ma”.
 
 
 
There was tears building in Ma’s eyes, and my heart was pulling at me – my throat was getting tight and the words were beginning to struggle to come out. My spirit pushed me to stay on course with my words.
 
 
 
“I know there’s so much going on with the house, and having to close down the business, but I have decided to move to New York for 3 months, to find an internship in fashion – Ma you know how I have always loved fashion and hope to have my own fashion company one day.” 
 
 
 
“You’re what? If I heard correctly. .  You are moving to New York” her face looked so shocked.
 
“Yes ma”
 
“..And when are you thinking of leaving”
 
 
 
I was silent, not knowing how she would take it.
 
 
 
“I asked you when Vanessa” she said, firmly.
 
“In 3 days Ma, I booked the ticket for the 27th July”
 
 
 
Ma looked at me; her eyes sad and tired. I finally could see the fullness of stress that she had been dealing with written in her eyes, the small wrinkles in her face were beginning to become evident and her laughing lines were clearer. I felt bad. Why did I feel bad? As she continued to stare at me tears fell from her eyes, she grabbed my hands quickly and went into a prayer, 
 
 
 
“Heavenly Father, you gave me my only daughter that I may show her the way of truth that she may never forget the power you have given her within. Lord you know her more than I do but you understood every choice she would make before you gave her this life she has. She has decided to move to New York and I know she consulted you for guidance, take care of my baby Lord, guide her Yahweh.. Protect her precious and strong heart and spirit. Bless her endeavors and keep me in peace as she leaves, may her guardian angel watch over her Father. I leave her in your hands, experiences an, life changing events will take place to only build her and strengthen her. May her guardian angel be with her. Thank you, in Jesus name I pray. Amen”
 
 
 
“Amen” I affirmed. Ma hugged me so tight, my eyes begun to sting – I never liked Ma seeing me cry, NEVER. She looked at me, 
 
“I always knew one day you would take off to learn and find what it is you’re looking for – when you were a child I saw you had that spirit to search and not conform, to explore and be free, and I am happy and glad you have decided now my daughter. Have no fear – God is with you – you have my blessing”
 
 
 
I smiled at her, but deep down I wanted to latch onto Ma and not let go. This was it. I told her. No screaming, no shouting – this was truly meant to be. 
 
 
 
“We will hold you a gathering at the house, with some friends and work colleagues. How about that?” 
 
“No, No …Ma I want it to be just us – Me, you, Josh and Whitney and by the way Whitney will be staying in my room for the next month before I return maybe or if God does something great out there I could stay for the whole 3 months”
 
 
 
We both laughed. Ma wiped her face and mine.
 
 
 
“Well I’m more than happy for Whitney to be here, whenever she’s around it reminds me of you Nessa– but no one will ever be you. You are a diamond, a rare diamond” Ma pronounced, proudly looking at me. It was 11:00AM, Josh returned from his football training as he walked through the door he saw me and Ma sitting on the sofa, “why are you guys hanging out on my sofa, that’s my spot”
 
 
 
“errrmm excuseeee me” I stood up putting him into a headlock. Josh yelped and tried to get out but as per usual I could pin him down so easily. Haha.
 
“Maaamaaa tell Nessaaaa”
 
“Nessa leave your brother alone” she looked at us both with so much love in her eyes.
 
I let go of Josh and he went to hug Ma, “Are you okay Ma” he said, kissing her cheek.
 
“I’m okay son, it just amazes me to see how much you have both grown, and now your sister will be moving away for a while. . .things will be different”.
 
 
 
Josh looked at me, “What! Nessa where you going? . . Please don’t say you’re getting married” he asked confused. Me and Ma smiled. 
 
“No I am not getting married Josh” I rolled my eyes, “I’m moving to New York for 3 months to do an internship with a fashion company bro”. Josh went quiet, his face remained straight. He looked at Ma,
 
“And you’re okay with this Ma?” he questioned, sarcastically.
 
“Of course Josh, why wouldn’t I be” she laughed.
 
“You never let me stay at my friend’s house but you let Nessa travel on her own for 3 months, that’s not fair!” 
 
“Josh, Vanessa is a young lady, she is growing up, she is heading out to find more experiences to come back and truly know what she wants in her life” Ma told him, giving him a hug.
 
“Well at least I won’t have you attacking me every time I come back from football or nagging me about homework” 
 
“Whitney will definitely be getting on to you about your homework; she will be staying in my room till I am back dude!!! She’s harsher than me, you know this!”
 
“Aragh – whatever – I’m not going to miss you, you better ring me you know” he said, “Or I’ll come all the way there and uppercut you”. Josh threw his fist in the air mightily, he got up and did karate chop towards me, I got him by the legs and twisted him around and we both lost balance and fell to the floor. We couldn’t stop giggling. Ma reminded me that I had work in 1 hour so I quickly went upstairs freshened up and Ma dropped me in for 2pm. 
 
Frank was glad to see me, Laura left early and Theo was out on break as it was quiet on Mondays.
 
The afternoon/evening shift went quite well, Frank kept me laughing throughout the shift, Theo entertained us with the stories of all the girls he was managing to handle all at once, I must admit Theo was such a womanizer. The day was drawing to a close it was 21:30HRS, Theo had asked to leave 15 minutes early so it was only me and Frank left in the restaurant – all there was left for us to do was to clear the chairs. This was the time for me to hand in my resignation letter to him, to give to the manager who was hardly in.  As we were just finishing clearing the chairs, I went to collect our coats and my bag and brought it to the restaurant floor.
 
“Frank, I need to tell you something” I said nervously. He turned to look at me as he put on his jacket,
 
“What’s up sweet pea” 
 
“Frank during these past 2 weeks I’ve had a lot of strange things happen to me, it has all been going on inside of me and I’ve tried my best to remain calm ..But sometimes I get stressed” I said. He walked closer to me; I took out my letter from my bag.
 
“What is this” he muttered.
 
“It’s my resignation letter Frank, I’m leaving as of today – I wanted to tell you before but I couldn’t, I’ve made a decision to go and live out in New York to do an internship in a fashion company for 3 months”
 
Frank looked at the letter and then at me stunned at the information I was giving him, he was silent for about 4 minutes. He then spoke, 
 
 
 
“Right now, I don’t know how to feel I am happy you have made a decision to follow your dreams but at the same time everything I told you – didn’t it mean anything to you Vanessa?” he spoke gently, as he came closely towards me.
 
“Of course it did everything you told me from the day I went to the art gallery and the flowers you gave me, yes it did touch me but I have found it difficult to be intimate with a man in my lifetime – I’m talking real intimacy. I haven’t been able to be myself properly because I have been carrying so much in myself” I said.
 
“Carrying what” he asked, staring into my eyes. My eyes begun to water,
 
“My pain Frank, my experiences, the let downs – my child-hood, what people have said and done to me, my family struggles everything – I’ve held it and not been able to love as I should. Even though I have showed I can” I explained.
 
“I understand” 
 
“I’ve always wanted to be loved, cared for, looked after but you know life is just life isn’t it . . . if it’s for me it will be. As of now I have to go and experiment and find what it is I am looking for in myself”
 
Frank put the letter on the table and took a step forward closer to me, he looked deeply into me and I could feel his affection and desire towards me – I felt his soul and the strength it had to cater to my needs, but I just couldn’t surrender to it. In an instant I felt his warm lips against mine, it happened all so fast. . As he pulled me into his hold, I fought to let go but his arms held me in so softly I gave in to his kiss. Our lips entwined as one, the feeling of fireworks coming alive in our stomachs and the sensational feeling of his body close to mine made me collapse more into his touch. His lips let go of my lips as he breathed the words “I wish you were mine, please stay with me Vanessa. I will make you happy” Our cheeks brushed against each other as his hands slowly caressed the back of my neck, and he kissed on my cheeks. His hands were so soft, his lips smooth. At that very moment the picture of Marlon popped into my head, I pulled away from Frank so rapidly – my heart began to race.
 
“Frank I have to go please, take me home”
 
“What’s wrong, did I do something wrong Vanessa” he replied, worried.
 
“No, it’s me Frank, not you” I said reassuring him.
 
We both looked at each other, everything around us silent.
 
 
 
I could have had something special I thought. I just couldn’t get Marlon out my head, I just didn’t know why – I always dreamed about him, always thought about him and this made it so difficult for me to connect to other guys.
 
 
 
Frank took the restaurant keys as we both walked out and he locked up the diner behind us. It was breezy and dark outside and his car was sitting across the road, there was no sign of other cars on the street. He unlocked the car and we both got in, we drove in silence – no music, no conversation, just the silent whisper of the wind blowing outside the window. As he pulled up to my drive Frank put his hand on mine, 
 
 
 
“I’m sorry if you feel I touched you in a wrong way Vanessa”
 
“No Frank, it’s my head – and my heart, there in different places” I said guiltily.
 
“I guess this is it, I won’t see you again will I?” 
 
I touched his cheeks and smiled, “Course you will Franky” I sighed, “Just believe you will and you will”.
 
He took my hand and kissed it, a tear fell from his eyes and my heart begun to sink, I felt tears swelling in my own eyes but I kissed his cheeks and managed to get out the car just before they began to fall. I walked up my driveway. I didn’t look back. He pulled away and drove off. I sat on my porch and cried.

 

I had no idea why I was crying, I never knew I cared this much for him. It was so difficult knowing I knew I wouldn’t see him. I knew he would let Laura and Theo know but I felt his hurt, I felt his disappointment but sometimes you have to do what’s best for you. We have joked and hung out for 3 years as friends and last minute he wants to tell me he likes me. . Wrong timing.

 

I walked in the house everyone was asleep, I slowly went up the stairs took out my laptop and logged into my email address.

‘PINGG’ I received a new email – it was from the student housing accommodation in Manhattan they had approved me stay at one of their accommodations which they sent me the address:

 

Dear Vanessa Simone,

 

  We have received your email and are delighted you have chosen to come and stay at one of our student apartments. We have one room available in downtown Manhattan. We hope you enjoy your 3 month stay at Manhattan and we know you will fit in well with the other student interns! Night life and downtown is something you will enjoy!

  Please find the student address below:

 

  The Belvz 112B, 9th Street, Apartment 8D, New York – Manhattan, NY 10128

 

From the Airport you may take a taxi to the apartment or use the transport links we have available.

 

Regards,


 

Student Intern Apt Association.

I sighed, relieved that was completed. I closed my laptop and knocked out.

The next 2 days went by so quickly, Ma and Whitney helped me pack enough clothes for a year; ha-ha Ma also gave me some money even though I refused! Laura had texted me saying she wasn’t happy I left without informing her so I messaged her that I would call her when I get there and explain everything. I guess this was all happening, just one day left to go – and I will be on the plane, taking off to a new adventure, a new experience.

 

This is it.

 

Chapter 5: Take Off

 

  27th July 2013 – 10:30HRS

 

The next morning was mayhem, my flight was at 1pm and I had 1 hour and 30 minutes to get to the airport for check in. I woke up late, well to me! It was 10:30am; I quickly did my morning prayer and woke up Whitney. We both freshened up in the bathroom and changed our clothes, Ma was praying in her bedroom but she was ready. I didn’t know what to think but I just allowed myself to do everything that needed to be done, I took down my suitcases and bags and then I went into Josh’s room, he was cozy in bed fast asleep I gave him a kiss as he turned – he rubbed his tired eyes,

 

“Are you leaving now Ness” his voice sounding so sleepy.

“Yes munchkin, I will call you when I get there ok”

“O.K” in seconds he was snoring again. I smiled, Ma finished praying, and she kissed me on the cheeks before we both went downstairs, she whispered, “I’m proud of you”.

 

My confidence went sky highhhhhhhhh…like literally it rose to the heaven

We had some cereals and quickly left out for Heathrow airport, though there was so much traffic on the road we managed to get to the airport at 12PM. Check-in had started, my suitcases were taken, my heart was calm but I had to say my goodbye’s to Ma and Whitney. We all held each other in a big bear hug. I turned to Whit,

 

“Don’t mess up my room, listen to ma, look after ma and Josh – get a part time job and No boyfriends, and don’t forget to pray you hear me!” I said sternly. Ma laughed,

 

“You sound like me now Nessa” she said.

“I’m going to miss you so much Vanessa, please call me as soon as you land – and no boyfriends” she agreed. I turned to Ma,

“Thank you for believing in me Ma, for never doubting me, Thank you for supporting me, I love you and appreciate you” I smiled with tears in my eyes. Ma hugged me so tightly,

“God is with you my daughter do not give up on him, you will learn more about yourself when you get out there – do not be led astray, be aware of everything you do and stay focused. Remember your plan!” Ma smiled and planted a kiss on my forehead. My flight was called out and I had to go in the waiting area so we all hugged one last hug and I walked on to catch my flight in my terminal, I waved to them before heading in.

It was 12:45PM and I lined up to board the plane, I received a message from Frank,

 

‘I’m thinking of you, have a safe flight xxxx’

 

I replied,

 

‘Thankyou xxx’

 

 I sat down on my chair and fastened my belt ready for this 7 hour flight – I contemplated everything I had dealt with for the past 4 years – the weight of everything slowly lifting off my shoulders. The tears, the lonely nights, crying myself to sleep, writing in my diary, the people I had come in contact with, the disappointments, the manipulation, the fears, the hurt, the abuse. These past years showed me who I was, and was I about to change, no, I guess Love held me and is still holding me in this growth but I certainly level-stood everything that had come my way to this point. I was still helplessly in love with my old school crush no matter how hard I tried to remove him from my heart – I knew though. . I was soon to face him and in facing him I will realize what I truly was afraid of. My heart knew we would meet again but although I didn’t desire it – my heart and soul said something different. Why was I not able to remove him, why was I not able to eliminate his presence. . It would work soon – everything will be gone soon. As for me being here and starting anew I guess this was what I needed from everything that had happened. I needed to get away and be me without the thought of Him around or the weight of life upon me back home. My freedom is certainly a must, never have I ever been able to breathe – Yes I wanted love, I wanted to be held, and told I was the only one but sometimes what we wish for can truly bite us if we are not careful. So what is left?

 

God, Me and this journey. Laurence I believed was on the plane with me. I saw him walk past and then disappear. Haha. What is for me is for me I thought. It will manifest itself, but I believed that I had the power to help in making it happen. Prayer, belief and action.

 

This was a new beginning. TAKE OFFFFFFFFFFF!!!

 

 

Chapter 6: Change

 

Finally, the plane landed at JFK Airport (John F Kennedy International Airport) at 21:30HRS, one of the passengers had woken me up, I was dozing off completely. I thanked him and waited to make my way off the plane. I was knackered and the crazy thing was I did not plan on how I would get to the apartment from the airport, maybe public transport or taxi, I knew Manhattan was quite a while a way. Silly me.

 As I stood waiting for my luggage I felt someone tap me on my back, I turned around only to find Laurence standing there grinning at me.

 God loves to be playing these games on me, not him again!

“Yessss how can I help you Laurence” I yawned, half rolling my eyes and half smiling. I think I will have to get use to him showing up.

“Now Vanessa I’m only here to help don’t throw any bags at me or even try to karate chop me” he pleaded, grinning. Laurence took two of my suitcases from the baggage claim area, while I pushed the other. . . “Follow me”.

  We walked towards the automatic doors and as it opened the warm air swimmed through my skin, I breathed in the calm whiff of the night . . .there was a line of taxi’s and dazzling lights everywhere. Wow I thought, this airport is BIG for real.

“Are you coming or not Vanessa, hurry our car is over here I don’t want to get us a fine for parking in the wrong spot”.

“Okay Okay” I followed behind him, my mouth dropped. . The view of this city from afar was breath-taking, this was completely a whole different world, people were calling out for their taxis, I was just mentally stressing out that I was tired yet kind of excited.  As I followed Laurence we stopped at his car, he had the same Audi a5… ‘Impressive’.

 

 I thought angels have super-powers and could change anything, why does he have the same car. . I thought.

 

 

“I heard that” Laurence stated, putting my suitcase’s in the boot and we both got into the car.

“Angels can change cars, but I knew to keep this one. I know how intelligent you are. . I don’t need to be all fancy for you, and yes I read your mind. Right, now rest as this drive will take an hour and 30 minutes – give me the address, I’m driving us there” he said. I gave him the address of my apartment and he entered it into his sat nav, by the time the car had begun moving I knocked out to sleep.

 

BEEP BEEP!!!

 

I struggled to open my eyes, there was so much noise around me..music blasting from the atmosphere, I could see flashing lights all around me, as I blinked once again and fully awoke what I saw before left me in awe, a swift smell of tomatoes and basil.. Fresh cooked food was in the air. . . there was a line of restaurants, taxi’s and lights in the mist. My belly growled rather loudly. Laurence looked at me and snorted, “Someone’s hungry aye, you want to stop and get a bite”.

“Yeah, why not” I rubbed my eyes and sat up straight.

The city was alive, groups of people were talking loudly and laughing, others on the phone, young kids kicking beer cans by the rubbish bins across the road were making so much noise. The buildings were so large and tall I felt so small. Wow I thought, this city is huge. There were moving advertisements everywhere; this place reminded me of Piccadilly Circus but a larger version. Laurence parked the car in a parking space by a Vietnamese restaurant. As we got out the car, a beggar came and asked us for some money, he was scratching his body seeming nervous. I looked at him sincerely, “Sir I have no change to give you, only my bank card in my purse on me now but what I do have is a bottle of water and the love of Christ in my heart, I can share that with you. . If you want some food I can buy you noodles too”. He smiled, “Yes please give me the water, never mind the food but young lady share that love with me” he replied. Both our eyes met, what a hard life he must have had, he looked tired and worn out with no shoes on his foot. . I gave him a hug, I poured out my energy from my soul to his, a hug from the soul. . I held on to him, breathing my life into our touch and as I did his cold body began to turn warm. As I let go of him, his eyes was beaming,

“Thank you so much my Lady, Thank you. .You have given me one of the greatest blessings in my life. . I will never forget you my lady. .never” he shouted as he went on by skipping and singing in the dark alleyway. I looked over at Laurence who was standing there the whole time with his hand on his heart, when he looked into my eyes he suddenly looked away.

“What’s wrong”

 “Uhh I was touched by the Love in your eyes” he said.

“Ahhh stop it, come on lets go to this Vietnamese restaurant, I want some stir fried veg noodles” I groaned.

Laurence looked at me with a kind smile, we strolled through what I had now realized it to be Midtown Manhattan on a side street, we was right by times square, the place every tourist goes insane over. *rolls eyes*

We entered the restaurant, one of the young waitresses who worked there greeted us nicely, her American accent sounded like she was singing a song,

“Hey lovely people, a seat for two?” she nodded

“Oh no, we are taking away – we would like to place an order please”

She nodded her head, took out her pad and took my order, weirdly enough Laurence wasn’t hungry.

Angel’s aye, interesting superbeings – I wonder what they eat in heaven.

We walked back to the car and I sat inside eating my veg noodle stir fry, it was so delicious, the taste of the carrots, red peppers, red onion and God knows what else tossed in with the noodles and the sweet chilli sauce was mind blowing. . I’m telling you! Once I finished eating I called Ma, there was no reply, I’ll just wait till I get to the apartment I thought.

Laurence drove me 15 minutes on to down-town Manhattan where my apartment was, as we parked outside the apartment it read: The Belvz, 112B, 9th Street. My heart started racing,

OMG okay calm down Vanessa it will be okay, there’s a first time for everything, new people and all. . I will be okay. No need to be shy or tense; I’m having a panic attack. . I told myself.

“Vanessa” Laurence’s soothing voice brought me back to my inner peace. .”Everything’s okay, be yourself they will like you, I’m pretty sure of it.  

How do you know, I’m so weird Laurence”

“Uhh Vanessa you are different, yes.. but that is what makes you unique – they will see it and automatically be drawn to you – fear not for God is with you” he comforted me. . “Be wise, stay aware of the temptations and the traps the enemy may come to set, pray continually for spiritual guidance and do not allow your feelings to control your actions but allow the Holy Spirit to direct you, do you understand”

“Yes I do”.

We got out the car, Laurence unloaded my luggage as I buzzed the tall block, a young man, with a deep husky voice answered, “Yes who isit”, “Oh Hello Its Vanessa Simone”. .

“Ahh the new girl, yeh come on up”

We were buzzed in, we pulled the 3 suitcases and my bag into the lift and pressed the 3rd floor, as the lift went up my heart was filled with a deep inner peace, that I had not felt in a long time. I and Laurence walked out the lift and we were in front of Apartment 8D. The view was amazing, the city lights glistened in the hazy dark night, and shouts were heard from the other blocks, it sounded as if there were parties going on. I looked at Laurence, he stared into my eyes and whispered ‘I am with you’ in an instant he disappeared and the front door opened. I was left looking to the side of the balcony wondering how he managed to disappear so quickly, and at the same time I realized a young man was at the front porch. .  “Hey, are you Vanessa”. . I turned around and gulped. . I looked at his tall slim physic, his handsome oval dark brown eyes, and cocoa skin – his slim jaw was stunning, I was taken away by his beauty. “Yes I am” I replied as we both stared at each other for a few minutes. He nodded his head like he knew something I didn’t know, he took my suitcases one by one and welcomed me in.

I heard voices in the front room and stopped.

“What’s up” he said. .  “You didn’t tell me your name” . . “Ahhh my apologies, my name is Mikel, Mikel Lewis” he said smiling, whilst gaping deeply into my eyes, I didn’t look away I stared right back into him. How strange. I usually turn my gaze away, but with him I felt his home, his soul was already home. As we walked into the front room, there was a piano by the window, the window had been opened fully for us to see the beautiful view of downtown Manhattan, there were three candles on the table, and the chandelier was so gorgeous I was in awe of its reflection in the dark. Everyone was silent and stared at me; a really cute olive skinned girl, sitting on the floor smiled and stood up,

 

“Hey girl, I’m Sonia. . your new Italian sister - I guess your Vanessa huh?” she asked, raising her eyebrow.

“Mmhmm yes I am” I looked at the rest of them and smiled.

“Well you sure is a pretty cute London girl” one of the guys replied, the other girl elbowed him. . “Never mind my boyfriend over here, Lucas likes to admire pretty girls . . Hi I’m Jasmine”.

Jasmine reminded me of Whitney, about 5ft3 skinny and her little caramel skin was so golden and beautiful, I admired her petite figure – and her boyfriend Lucas was a good looking chocolate brother, he could definitely pass as a model. She came up to me and hugged me,

“Have you eaten” she added.

“Yeah I had some stir fry noodle in mid-town Manhattan”

“Oh yeah . . .” Mikel answered, “. .and who took you to the Vietnamese restaurant?” he questioned.

I turned around, to find him leaning on the door of the front room. .

 

How did he know it was a Vietnamese restaurant, hmm wait he has lived in the area a while so of course he would know. But there were so many noodle restaurant bars there. Good guess I thought.

 

“I managed to get the taxi to stop by the corner and I went in to buy it” I replied with a frown on my face. He smiled. “Nice one”

There was another young man lying there on the sofa, he was fast asleep though he looked like he had a long day. I noticed another girl coming out from the bathroom as she saw me she stopped and eyed me from my head to my toes,

 

“And you are. .” she asked rudely.

“Hi I’m Vanessa the roommate here” . . I held out my hand to her, expecting her to shake it at least.

She laughed. “And why you laughing Kazzy” Mikel asked her in a firm voice.

“Another pretty little student, they always coming around. . They ain’t got anything better to do” she responded rolling her eyes. I could tell she had a thing for Mikel but I pretended I didn’t see anything. Kazzy looked interesting there was something about her that didn’t sit well with me though, she was about 5ft 6, gorgeous dark coco skin – nose stud and long wavy hair – she had a glamorous face and was beautiful but seemed quite up herself.  Mikel nodded for me to come out into the hallway, he showed me into my room and helped me place my suitcases in there.

“We are all going out downtown to one of the buffet restaurants, there’s a bar too so if you want - come and hang out with us if you like”.

“Yeah why not, I’ll have a quick shower and be there in 30 mins”.

“Cool by the way Vanessa, it’s good to have your presence here” he mentioned. I nodded my head and began to open my suitcase to choose what I was to wear for the night as he closed my door. My bedroom was painted plain white; the windows were large and had light blue curtains which hanged loosely on the side with pink ribbons at the bottom. There were two large white drawers, a desktop where I could place my laptop and books, as well as a toilet and mini shower in the room. How cool!

I had my shower and wore a navy blue flowery dress, fixed my hair and put on a little bit of mascara and lip-gloss. Then I called Ma,

 

“Hello Nessa” Ma said relieved.

“Hii Ma, I landed. . I’m at the apartment now”

“Good my darling, how was the flight .. did it go okay?”

“Yeah it was okay not too bad, I got the cab here, it wasn’t that difficult”

“Good, what about the students there are they nice”, Ma seemed concerned.

“Yeah there okay Ma, they invited me out to eat with them at a local restaurant, we are just about to go there now”

“And what time is it there Nessa”

“It’s 11PM Ma, don’t worry I’ll be okay. . Remember God is always with me.. Isn’t he?”

She sighed, “Yes he is my daughter but BE CAREFUL, no drinking, no drugs . . be aware okay?

“Yes Ma I will, I Love you . . and tell Whitney I will message her tomorrow and kiss Josh for me”

“I will, and kiss yourself for me too Nessa” Ma said, we both laughed. As soon as we hung up, there was a knock on my door. “Come in” I responded – the door opened and in walked in Mikel with Jasmine, they both grinned as they came in. “We heard you on the phone to your Ma” giggled Jasmine, “you so cute girl” she stuck out her tongue, as she sat on my bed admiring my clothes. I threw one of my teddy bears at her, and she threw it back. All that time I saw Mikel from the corner of my eyes watching me, there was something that seemed attractive about him, it wasn’t how handsome he was it was more than that.

“You look beautiful by the way” he said

“Ohh” I smirked. . “Thanks” I looked over at jasmine who was acting like she was not in the room. Kazzy walked in and gave me the weirdest look.

 

I could tell she didn’t like me, I didn’t know why. .  I had no idea who she really was but I had a feeling Mikel would be feeding me on everything I needed to know tonight.

 

 Sonia woke up Andrew who came and greeted me; he was a tall Caucasian dude from Canada who seemed really jolly, he definitely would be the comedian of the group. .by 11:30PM we all were ready to leave out. I locked my room and followed Jasmine to the front door. Lucas, Mikel, Andrew, Sonia and Kazzy were on the ground floor waiting for us, as jasmine and I entered the lift she turned and gently spoke,

 

“Vanessa don’t mind Kazzy, she comes across quite rude – she’s not part of the ICU team which is me, Sonia, Lucas, Andrew and Mikey (nickname) – she just use to date Mikel and slowly became part of the gang” she said, rolling her eyes.

“Ahhh right I see, whats ICU”

Jasmine giggled sweetly, “It’s the nickname of our team at the fashion company we all intern at, there’s different teams on the different floors, it’s easier for our manager to identify us” she responded

“That’s really cool, I’m into fashion as well – would like to know more about this fashion intern when you have time, I actually came here looking for an internship”

“For real? I’ll keep that in mind . . .Yeah of course I’ll let you know more about our company. I like you Vanessa, you seem chilled – even though I don’t know you.. Our previous roommates have been quite wild but there’s something calming about you, you make me feel relaxed” she said, looking at me and smiling. By the time I could respond, we were at the bottom floor and we heard the rest of the ‘ICU’ having there chat. We walked out the building and began to walk up 9th street. It was surprising to see how busy the streets were, a lot of young people were out and groups of young guys were on the street corners doing what seemed to look like funny business. Mikel slowly walked up by my side, and said nothing as we continued following the rest of the crew. There were a group of melanin beauty’s and Latina’s walking along the street in mini dresses – which were very short – there hair and make-up was amazing though, they wore high heels and were receiving  a lot wolf whistles by taxi drivers and men from across the streets.

  “Typical” Mikel said, “Some of them aren’t even women, there Transsexuals’ fooling men as always” he frowned.

I stayed quiet.

“Do you go clubbing or partying whatever you call it in London”

“No, I have been but never liked it – I never felt comfortable, I spent most of my time outside talking to people instead” I laughed. He looked into my soul at this point, I couldn’t look away.

“Uhhh guys” Kazzy interrupted. We both were pulled in by each other’s aura that we nearly passed the restaurant.

We both looked up and there she was arms folded pointing to the restaurant, the others already went in. There was a casino next door and quite a few young men hanging outside,

“Hey pretty Lady” one of them shouted and winked at me, Mikel put his arm on my shoulders, directing me into the diner. Kazzy rolled her eyes giving me a blunt face. We walked in directed by a waitress to a table right at the back of the restaurant where Sonia, Jasmine, Andrew and Lucas were sitting, music played in the background softly and the quiet atmosphere relieved me.  

“What you having to eat or drink” Mikel asked me.

“I’m not really that hungry but I wouldn’t mind a glass of rose wine” I said

“Girl come on have a little something to eat, there’s a buffet, make your ass fatter than it already is” Andrew said smirking. I rolled my eyes.

“ANDREW – you have no chill - don’t be so rude” Sonia said standing up with Jasmine to get some food.

“You don’t mind me complimenting your ass do you” Andrew said winking at me, I laughed and looked at Mikel who was reading the alcohol menu. He looked up at Andrew,

“Hey bro, quit the jokes” he glared at him seriously. Andrew nodded, his face turning a little rouge he then turned to whisper in Kazzy’s ear, he took out a small plastic sachet which had some white powder inside and they both went outside.

 

Wow, that can’t have been what I thought it was. Kazzy and Andrew going outside to take cocaine.

 

“Don’t look surprised Vanessa, this is downtown Manhattan girl everybody takes drugs” Lucas snorted, as he took out what looked to be like a rolled up joint from his bag. . “Get used to it, but don’t be a part of it.. a sweet looking girl like you should keep your mind focused”.

“Yo Mikel, you going out for a smoke”

“Na I’ll be chilling here for a bit before going to the bar, I’ll catch you guys soon” they both touched elbows and Lucas went on outside. Hmmm, in London people usually spud they touched elbows – pretty cool.  As I looked around the restaurant it did seem very quiet but it was more of an underground buffet and bar, I caught Jasmine and Sonia talking to a group of people at the buffet area – they looked like they all knew each other.

 

“You okay” Mikel said, putting his arm over my chair. I turned to look at him, one thing I realized was Mikel seemed to be the only one who was a look-out among them. He seemed distant from them yet the protector of the crew, I wondered why?

 

“Yeah I’m okay, just a tad bit overwhelmed that’s all”

“A tad, whats that?” his face seemed puzzled. I laughed.

“My apologies, it’s a british way of saying being a little bit of something”

“Ahh right I see, why you overwhelmed – this environment, being away from home?”

“I don’t quite know but I guess it’s just me, I’m overwhelmed by myself, my thoughts being here right now in this place – talking to you while the world is going by”.

 

Mikel looked away from me towards the bar and back at me, I watched as he studied my face – my eyes, my lips, my hair and back to my face again.

 

“I knew you was different”

“What do you mean” I said turning my body around in the chair to face him.

“As soon as I saw you and looked into your eyes – I felt a home I haven’t felt in a long time, a warmth a realness, a beauty that I don’t see very often – the type of beauty I think about in people even in myself” he said, staring into me.

“I see, well does this home you looked into make you comfortable, do you feel that you can be free and be yourself?”

 He begun to play with the menu in his hand, and looked down at the paper.. He nodded –

 “Yes, I can see trust, loyalty, respect and love in you – I can always be myself around that” he expressed. I smiled and tapped his knee; he nervously looked up at me and slowly smiled until we both ended up laughing for literally no reason.

Sonia and Jasmine came back over to the table with their plates, which had fried chicken and a wrap with stir fried noodles and veg.

 

“Nice to see you two getting along well darlings” said Sonia trying to mimic the posh British accent.

“Oh yes dear, we are gladly enjoying each other’s gracious company and admiring the beautiful sight of this rather intimate restaurant” I uttered back, in my own crispy clear and clean posh accent. They all cracked up.

 

“So what brought you here Vanessa, I know you’re probably a student but what are you studying right now – are you working or looking for work experience at all?” Sonia questioned.

“I came here to get away from the person I am in love with” I said.

“Like really?” Jasmine gasped

“Noo I’m kidding”. . I giggled, “I finished my studies in fashion during my college days, I went on to a fashion school and did a diploma there again and didn’t bother going to Uni – I just decided to earn some money. Only recently I had this realization that I have to come out here and look for any fashion companies that would like to hire for me an internship. I have 3 months to find one, whether it be magazine or art design, boutique.. Whatever I can find really. I’ve always wanted to be a fashion designer, for wedding dresses especially and children’s clothes too”.  

“That’s awesome, you actually took the step out to follow your dream, and how old are you girl?” Sonia asked.

“I had no choice, it wasn’t like Life was getting better where I was anyway, I’m 24 and you guys?”

“Cool, I’m 23 . . Jasmine is 22, Lucas and Andrew are both my age and Mikel is the grandad, he’s 25”

 

Mikel turned and looked at me with a grin on his face. He got up and went to the bar.

 

“Vanessa remember I told you earlier that we work for a fashion designer company?” Jasmine reminded me. . “Well seeing as you’re here and looking we can all put in a word to get you hired for an internship..right Sonia?”

 

“Yeh why not, we all can but I know who would be a good reference – Mikel – he gets on well with our manager Simon from Avena La Grande he’s practically his PA so if he can mention you then I guess you got the job – it pays as well $500 dollars a month, which is so awesome” Sonia explained while biting into her chicken wrap.

 

“You guys are so kind, thank you, I’ll still look around for internships in the meantime” I responded. Mikel came back to the table with a bottle of rose and 4 glasses, he poured us each a glass and he lifted his and said,

 

“Cheers to some good days ahead for us all”

“Cheers!” we all agreed, tapping our glasses together.

“By the way Vanessa, I heard you mention you was looking for an internship with a fashion designer.. as the girls have probably told you we are interns at Avena Lagrande and I’m basically the managers PA – I have no problem putting in a word for you to start as an intern as soon as possible” Mikel exclaimed

 

I smiled at him, and then sipped my rose.

 

“You would really do that, after not even knowing me that long?” I asked. He looked at me and his eyes smiled, “Course, on one condition though”.

 

“Oh No. . Whats the condition” I started to get a little panicky, that I had to put my glass down.

 

Lord, let it not be one of those bribes..take drugs or sleep with him for this favour..PLEASE!

 

“Stop worrying, I know what you’re thinking and no, you don’t need to sleep with me” he rolled his eyes, Sonia and Jasmine sniggered silently whilst sipping their wine.

“I’m asking you to come with us to the companies 1st year anniversary party for Avena La Grande next Wednesday – but will you be willing to be my date, just for that night?” he asked.

 

I nearly choked on my drink, as I finished sipping the 1st glass I poured another. .

 

“Girl you sure do like your wine” Jasmine sipped her glass, raising her eyebrow’s.

“Yeah I do, I won’t get too carried away though – 3 glasses maximum” . . I looked at Mikel who was awaiting my response – “Uhhh Mikel I haven’t been on a date before, I don’t quite know what to expect but Yes I don’t mind being your date at all”

 

He grinned, “That’s a done deal then”.

 

It was 00:45HRS – some of Sonia’s friends from the other table came over to say goodbye, Sonia introduced me to a few of them – Latesha, Davone, Natasha, Iva and a few others. . I didn’t catch their names.

 

“Bye Girls and Boys” they all shouted as they left the restaurant quite merry.

 

Lucas returned to the table and was busy making out with Jasmine; Sonia went back to the bar and was speaking to a Lad who happened to have taken an interest in her. Mikel and I had just finished the bottle of rose when he said,

 

“You wanna head back to the apartment and chill?”

 

I hesitated for a moment; I don’t really know this guy who knows what he is capable of. If I think like that I’m basically asking for something wrong to happen, he doesn’t even seem like that type of guy anyway. God please protect me – I quietly whispered in my heart.

 

“Yeah why not I’m a little tired and it’s kind of late” I nodded. Mikel nudged Lucas and told him we were off and we’d meet the rest of them back at the apartment. We left the restaurant which I later found out was called Turtledove, we was both a little tipsy but – we briefly spoke about the area and the things to do.

 

“You should so come to the art gallery in Mid-town man, it’s totally cool, and you would love it” he entreated, as he took out the keys to buzz the door. We both entered the building and walked inside the lift.

 

“Really? Okay so when you free for us to go then”

 

We walked out the lift and Mikel opened the front door, as we entered – we heard some groans coming from one of the bedrooms.

 

“What the hell is that” I slurred. Mikel put his fingers to my lips and told me to follow him through the corridor to one of the rooms, I never realized how big the apartment was, it had 5 rooms and there were 2 doors that we could enter from too get into the actual apartment itself. It seemed confusing, but I would get used to it. As we walked along the hallway by the kitchen we stopped outside what seemed to be Andrew’s room.

 

“Ahhh Andrew, more..more..Andrew” a young womans voice cried, the voice sounded so familiar.

Andrew was grunting and moaning like a man on steroids working out at the gym. Me and Mikel sniggered and walked back along the hallway. . My room was by the front door opposite the lounge. I took out my key that Mikel gave me earlier and opened the door – Mikel threw himself on the bed, I raised my eyebrows, and he suddenly got up,

 

“My apologies, I was getting a bit too comfortable”

“Mmmhmm” I said. He went to sit by the work desk and looked around the room.

“Well yeah about what you asked earlier, I can take you to the gallery on Saturday if you want, Saturday lunch time”

“Okay cool, so I’ll see you here then – wait do you live here?” I quizzed.

 

“No I gave my room to Andrew, I have my own apartment just 7 blocks away, it’s a 10 minute walk, I sometimes kick it through the alleyway or drive back”

 

“Ohh right”

“I’m mostly here every day though, unless I’m visiting my parents out of town, they live in Florida – I’m going to see them Saturday evening, won’t be back till Monday” he said a little disappointed.

“Aww family time is always the best time huh, you the only child?”

“Nope, but I am the oldest – I got a little sister, she’s seven – how bout’ you?”

“I got a little brother he’s 13” I smiled thinking of Josh.

 

The room went quiet. I didn’t know what to say for once but I didn’t feel weird.

 

Through the hallway the sound of Andrews grunting was still pretty loud – I sighed– I hope this won’t be happening every night I did not sign for sex and the city XXX rated.

 

“You know who that girl is right?”

“In Andrews room?”

“Yaaa” Mikel said sarcastically.

I smirked, “No but her voice sounds familiar, I heard it today I think”.

It’s Kazzy” he said. My eyes nearly popped out my face but I kept myself composed.

“But. . . I thought you guys. . Were together . . . and”

“And what?” he strongly kept a solid eye connection with me.

“And… uhh she was trying to get you back or something”

“Yes we dated, but we broke up a year ago, she still hangs around because she’s a part of the party crowd downtown – you kno’ -  the people we met at turtle dove?” I nodded, “Well she was hanging with them and that’s how I met her”. I crossed my legs intrigued by the information,

“So yeah we started dating but she not only smoke’s weed, she takes the hard stuff, she be sniffin’ coke or smoking crack and she pretty much addicted – I couldn’t take it so I left her. Andrew takes coke too sometimes but I’m always trying to look out for him – a few weeks after we broke up she was sleeping with Andrew so I knew it wasn’t something to keep” he said.

“It?” I said . . “You mean she wasn’t someone you wanted to keep”.

 

Mikel smiled with his eyes, whilst looking at me like I was a big baby.

 

“What about you, any relationships?”

 

BRAIN FREEZE.

 

I felt myself getting hot and sweaty. What was I meant to say, I haven’t been in a proper relationship for nearly 6 years, meaning I have not even had intercourse throughout that time, even though 3 guys have tried to lead me on – I just knew that I needed to wait for that special one. Do I explain this or what?

 

“No, I haven’t been in a relationship for a few years” I said, embarrassed.

“Really” Mikel marveled. I nodded,

“Yes, really”.  I started playing with my fingers, I felt saddened at the fact I had not been fully involved with someone. . “I had 3 guys try and lead me on in the past 6 years since my first ever real relationship, which lasted 2 years – we broke up when I was 19. The first guy I was ever with didn’t manage to break my virginity properly, we were together 8 months. It took my 2 year relationship for me to really experience sex – although I didn’t like it” I explained.

 

“Wow, I get you. What happened to those other guys during the past 6 years” he asked, sitting upright on his chair.

 

“Well, the first guy was with me for 6 months, I let my mum meet him I thought he would be the one but we had to go our separate ways due to him continually talking to other girls. I couldn’t take that..I guess I was insecure. The other guy was a close friend we ended up getting very close and kissed at one point, we were emotionally intimate. I opened my heart to him way too much. I told him everything, he led my feelings on and so did I. . Only to find out he had a girlfriend and was playing me. The third guy only wanted to have sex – he liked me and told me he did but his actions didn’t match his words, we still talk as friends but nothing more”.

 

Mikel folded his arms and looked up at the ceiling; he seemed to be in deep thought. We both sat in Silence for about 2 minutes.

 

Then he spoke,

 

“I guess God was always trying to keep you for someone special huh” he winked at me. I snorted.

“Well it’s funny how every guy who has come along has not been able to understand the type of person I am. . Love is meant to make you a better person – why is it that it continually drains me and I never get what I put into it. It’s never reciprocated.”

 

Mikel smiled.

 

“Because your rare, your special and only a real man who knows Love will recognize you and slowly plan his way to pursue you – he just needs to be certain it is you, and there are many guys out there who will see your worth but won’t tell you Vanessa – they fear your strength”

 

“But why, my strength to be free and try and keep going is what can help the both of us as a couple” I whined. Mikel got off the chair and walked beside my bed and sat next to me – staring me into my eyes –

“Listen and listen carefully. . . your strength is something that can develop people and help people but it can also break ego’s and us men have huge ego’s. When I first looked into your eyes I was drawn by your freedom your love that stood out to me – it made me feel peaceful, some men will fear that peace because they have never experienced it but they desire it especially if a woman can be that peace to them. Don’t think men do not find you attractive Vanessa they do but it’s only the serious men who will have the courage to talk to you – there’s someone out there who desires you – you’re beautiful, your aura speaks so much for you alone that you don’t even have to say a word – He already will know the gift you are.” Mikel looked down at his trainers, and then back to me, “Young ladies like you are hard to find, but they have to deal with so much to make them the kind of woman you are right now”.

 

I immediately stood up and began to organize my suitcases, I felt my heart being tugged and tears trying to come through I didn’t want this to happen right now. Why. It has just always got to me. . No man has been able to love me but I guess I am not defined by a man’s love – I am neither attached to it.

So why was I in love with an old school crush? Why is it that even though I let him go he still lingers in my soul. Love is so precious and I am its image, I have to cultivate it in my self and share it’s light to the world until he finds me, until he realizes it has always been me. . .until he stops hiding and understands he found his home in me. . Whoever HE is.

I took off my shoes and looked at Mikel, who was getting up to leave,

 

“Mikel” I said softly, he turned around.

“Yes ma’am” he replied.

“I want to tell you something” . . I gulped, “I feel like I can talk to you – I just want to say that throughout the 6 years I realized I was in Love with someone more deeply than ever. Since young I have never forgotten this young man from my school – I think of him from time to time, I have no idea why but I think I’m in Love with him” I whispered.

 

“Does he know?”

“No, but he always appears in my dreams – when I least expect him too”

Mikel laughed and walked towards the door, he opened the door a little and turned around to look at me,

“Romance huh, romance. . .he is probably thinking of you too, maybe he wanders what you’re doing and how you feel – maybe he wants to talk to you but I know this feeling you are describing. Maybe it’s in your mind too much. Don’t stress about it, live your life – if it’s meant to be it will be – but maybe her has recognized you whatever happens from there is not in your hands, maybe you could fall in love with someone else and forget him. God knows what could happen anyways I’m off sweet cheeks – I’ll catch you on Saturday morning ok?” He walked back into the room and took my hand and kissed it. I began to blush.

 

“Okay, see you Saturday morning” I smiled. He left my room and closed the door behind him.

 

The time was 2:30AM, the others’ still had not returned. I sat in my bed, and wondered what all this would turn out to be.

 

Love has a funny way of turning up in my life unexpected – I just have to allow myself to emerge with it – become one within it. Life Oh Life – I thought.

Chapter 7: Temptations

 

Friday 28th July 2013

 

It was 11AM mid-day I had just finished having my shower and getting dressed when I heard a knock on the door,

 

“Come in” I beckoned. The door opened and there was Jasmine grinning like she won a million bucks,

“Hey girl, wanna come downtown for a bagel and coffee?” she asked, looking sweet as ever in her petite yellow maxi dress.

I put on my flipflops, grabbed my purse and keys – stuffed them in my bag, along with my portfolio and skipped towards the door, “Let’s go girl” I said cheerfully. I locked my bedroom door behind us, we walked past the kitchen and I saw Kazzy making a toastie,

 

“Good morning” She turned around and frowned. .

“Morning, you alone?” she stared me dead in the eye.

“Nooo she’s not actually, I’m with her” Jasmine replied lazily walking up towards the kitchen and peaking her head through the door.

“Where are you guys going?”

“I’m taking Vanessa downtown for a coffee and showing her around so she knows the neighborhood much better” Jasmine replied rolling her eyes, “Catch you later”..

“Yahh later” Kazzy bit into her sandwich, her face did not look in the mood.

 

We left the building and began walking along 9th street, the sun was scorching my skin and I totally forgot to rub my sunscreen on me. I viewed the roads it was so much larger than London, so many cars and people were around, New York was more interesting in the day than at night – Honestly. The comforting smell of sweet bakery and coffee was in the air as we crossed the traffic lights, cars were beeping at pedestrians who were taking their time to cross the road, I saw 2 business women coming out from a monumental building reading ‘GemRef’ the title intrigued me. I could feel myself starting to break out in a sweat under my armpits, Jasmine continued to walk beside me as I followed her looking around at the environment, everything was fast paced – inside of me I felt as though I was in slow motion. . .  BEEP!!!

 I felt an arm grab me,

 

“Girl you crazy” Jasmine shouted. . The taxi drove past and waved his hand at me, to tell me off I guess. “You could have got yourself killed, wait for the walking sign duh! Girl you too busy admiring these buildings you aren’t looking around you – that taxi could have sent you flying to space yo.” I laughed, covering my mouth with my hand. “Nah I’m serious, these streets are dangerous b” she said sincerely.

 

“Okay, my bad” I rolled my eyes. She linked her arms in mine as we crossed the second crossing. We finally were in town and from where we stood I could see our apartment block.

 

“Look, over there is our blocks ‘The Belvz’ that’s the name of our apartment, opposite us is Crowns field where all the underground parties take place, 5 blocks down is Mikel’s place in the Grover estate” she said smiling. It won’t be hard for you to remember” she grinned. We turned one corner and then entered into the coffee shop, this appeared to be the main spot in town – it was packed full of people on laptops, talking on phones and meetings taking place in the back of the cafe. *Sigh*

This country is forever busy. Jasmine found us a table for two and she quickly went into the rest room. In a space of 30 seconds, Laurence appeared in front of me smiling as always,

 

“Hey Vanessa how are you doing today” he asked staring me in my eyes; his pupils were full of life and shining bright.

“I’m okay, look Laurence you shouldn’t be here” I said looking around to see if Jasmine was coming.

“It’s okay I just came to make sure you’re doing well and settled” he responded

“Yes I’m alright, everything is moving pretty quick but I guess I’m cool – any news you want to tell me?” I questioned.

“No nothing that you shouldn’t be aware of already but I’ll inform you – be mindful of Kazzy” he mentioned.

 

“Vanessa, what you wan’ eat?”.. I looked up to see Jasmine looking at me a little impatient, as I looked at the chair in front Laurence wasn’t there – How in the heck does he manage to do this without making me appear like I am insane talking to the thin air.

“Ermm An egg and mushroom bagel with a skinny latte – soya milk – no sugar please – Ohh and a carrot cake” I said, winking my eyes at her.

 

“Hmm nice one, I’ll get the same as you then” she said, walking to the line to place our order. I took out my portfolio from my bag and opened it to see my sketches, they were so beautiful the dresses and shirts I had drawn and the colors complimented really well. I hadn’t looked at this portfolio in such a long time, as I turned the pages there were cut out pictures from cosmopolitan magazine, different wine colors and fabric cut out from actual garments on to the sketches itself. Hmm, I am rather artistic I thought. Jasmine skipped over,

 

“The waitress will bring the snacks and coffee when it’s ready” she stopped mid-sentence, “Oh my gosh, that is totally cool, are these your sketches – girl I would so wear that dress!” she said loudly. Some people from the other table looked over. She snatched the portfolio from my hands and looked through it, gasping and smiling and praising every sketch – my heart never felt happier to have someone love my work the way she did. My eyes began to water; she was still looking through it babbling on until the waitress came to our table,

 

“Hey girls, 2 egg and mushroom bagels, 2 skinny latte’s – soya milk and no sugar and 2 carrot cakes” she smiled putting down our plates, “Enjoy”.

Jasmine closed my portfolio and put it in my bag on the chair next to us and then she glanced over at me,

 

“Vanessa is you crying?” she asked, “Did I say something wrong?”.. I wiped my tears,

“No Jaz, no..I just haven’t had someone love my work the way you did – you literally took your time to go through each page and I felt the love honestly” I said tearing up again. What the heck was wrong with me, I’m so soft sometimes it’s unreal.

 

“Aww babe, I gotchu..its cool, your talented and I ain’t going to deny that – a sister has to celebrate a soul sisters work ethic – we got to celebrate each other . . right?” she emphasized whilst biting into her bagel.

“Right” I agreed. She kissed the air and looked at me and touched her heart, I kissed the air and looked at her and touched mine. I felt a sudden peace.

We finished eating our breakfast and Jasmine showed me around town, I ended up buying a floral top and wavy trousers to match from the city center – and I also bought Jasmine a beautiful Swarovski charm bracelet – I brought the same too. A friendship remembrance, charm.

 

“Oh girl you didn’t have too” she sighed, she looked like she was just about to get emotional.

“Don’t start whatever it is I can see coming at me Jasmine, when I go back to London at least you have this to remember me by okay” I added. She smiled and gave me a sweet warm hug that felt so beautiful – with an added peck on the cheek.

 Who knew Americans could be this cute, they usually crazy. We returned to the apartment at 3PM and Jasmine went to hang out with Lucas, I quickly showed Sonia what I brought, she was impressed and made me some noodle stir fry in teriyaki sauce. We sat in the lounge talking, fashion, boyfriends, trends, politics, religion, and of course downtown Manhattan.

 

“Okay girl, I’m going to my room – going to have an early night in and call my sis” I said

“You have a sister” she queried

“No she’s my home girl, my day one”

“Ahh yeah, I dig you, ok cool – we heading out tonight but there’s a party in Crowns field tomorrow at 8PM – come through Vanessa – I want you to come!” she smiled, pinching my cheeks.

“I’m not that party type, drugs and stuff isn’t for me”

“No you don’t have to take drugs, just come and chill with us – meet the crowds”

I thought about it, it can’t be that bad.

“Alright then tomorrow it is girl” I said, she gave me her pinky finger and we both made an agreement.

  I went into my room and called Whitney, she told me she was missing me like crazy and she hasn’t been able to sleep properly, she was so over exaggerating. *Laughs*  She told me that her ex-boyfriend Jay was released from custody and was warned to not be seen anywhere near her aunties home or near her otherwise he would be arrested again and banged up for 5 months. Thank goodness. Whitney seemed okay, and Josh was doing fine so I guess everything was cool and Ma I knew was going through a little bit of headache with the business and house – I told Whitney to be there for her and she vowed she would. We said our goodbyes and our Bluetooth kisses and hugs. I instantly, remembered to text Lauren and Frank that I got there safe and I hoped they were okay – this was now my time, I threw my phone on the bed unpacked some of my clothes and ran my bath I was going to relax, pray, search more on fashion, read my book and sleep. Calm.

 

Saturday 29th July 2013

 

10AM

 

Mikel came by the house at 10AM and woke me up by jumping on my bed, I have no idea who gave him the right to do that but hey his personality from the other night was definitely starting to grow on me. I had my shower and got dressed and we headed into Mid-town Manhattan by Times Square taking the subway which was hilarious. The trains were packed and there was a band on a platform singing some beautiful jazz music, for a few minutes I was literally flying in the air until Mikel nudged me to wake up.

 

“The music is taking me to heaven, stop disturbing me” I sang closing my eyes and pretending to fly. He laughed at me.

 

“Girl, quit it with your corny ass”

“My corny ass huh” I said sarcastically, glancing in his eyes and scrunching up my nose. When I looked at Mikel I couldn’t see his handsome face - I just looked at him, he attracted me to him but it was deeper than attraction it was basically like seeing me in someone else. We smiled at each other. The day continued as he took me to the Museum of arts and design, the museum was incredible the glass building was ingenious and the collections and crafts mixed with the arts were impeccable nothing like I have ever seen. This definitely boosted a confidence in me to experiment more with idea’s in fashion – artistically speaking these were all some-what an inspiration to being more imaginative. This insight was definitely needed. After the walk around the city and Mikel having to deal with me dancing around taking pictures of the both of us – he took me to a Spanish restaurant where we placed our order and waited for the dinner to be served.

It was 4PM by now.

“Did you enjoy today” he asked

“Yes I did and did you?”

“Yes I did” he smiled, looking down at the knife and fork on the table.

“Mikel’s going shy now is he” I teased.

“Shhhhh, quit playing with me” he replied looking me in my eyes. I guess that look meant, he still had control even when he was a little caught off guard. HAHA.

 

“We should do this again, but I’ll take you somewhere else, you pick this time” he mentioned, smirking at me.

“Hmmm Okay, I want to walk along the Brooklyn bridge” I said excitingly, sounding like a kid.

“Ahhh sight seer huh, I like... I like, well after the Avena La Grande party maybe during that week we can go, we’ll confirm the date”. Our meal was brought over to the table – I had a Gazpacho made with full flavoured Spanish tomatoes, with tortilla Espanola on the side. It smelt amazing, it tasted great too. Mikel ordered paella mixed with chicken, beans and vegetables and black fried rice. We thanked the waitress and gorged down the food, something I will never do again but I was SO hungry yo’ I had no choice but to gruesomely attack the plate seeing as it wouldn’t resurrect again. We ate and briefly spoke about the designs we saw, Mikel had some real great ideas for wedding dresses, I couldn’t wait to show him my portfolio – he may like my ideas – I thought.

 It was getting late and I had to be at the house before 8PM,

 

“You staying home alone?” Mikel asked, “I heard the others are going to a party a few blocks away”.

 

“Mmmhmm Sonia invited me to go along with them”. Mikel stopped and looked at me; “Really” he seemed shocked. “That place is so not for you” he had a concerned look on his face. . “You will realize when you get there”.

 

There was silence between us. I noticed his mood had changed.

 

“Whats wrong”

“Nothing, I just don’t want you mixing with people who ain’t gon’ do you no good you kno?” he said rubbing his head. Now that was what you call sweet, he was actually looking out for me and cared about where I was going. Let me take note of this. . I told myself.

 

“It’s cool, I’ll call you if there are any problems but I don’t want to disturb your family time”

“You won’t be disturbing me, I‘d rather you call me when your there and stay on the phone to me the whole night whilst being there than not talk to you while you’re there” he emphasized. .  . “Those kids down by Crowns field take some heavy drugs yo’ – just be careful he said looking at me and rubbing my shoulders. We took the subway back to downtown and managed to get to the apartment at 7:00PM, giving me enough time to shower quickly and get dressed – I wore a black dress which fitted nicely around my waist and thigh’s, my small frame hugged the dress well but my booty of course did a lot of talking. HAHA. I put on some mascara, pink lip gloss and my Nike boots I made my way to the lounge where the ICU team was hanging out – Andrew, Sonia, Mikel, Jasmine and Lucas including Kazzy who was smoking her cigarette by the window.

 

“Hey guys are we ready to go” I watched them all chillaxing as I put one of my braids up in the bun.

Andrew wolf-whistled at me, I rolled my eyes.

 

“Girl you look Hawwwt” Sonia complimented, Mikel looked up at me and caught my eyes – I could see he wanted to be with us tonight but something else seemed to be on his mind. I didn’t ask.

 

We all left the apartment and Mikel had his car parked outside.

He drove us to Crown-field, the neighborhood was certainly ghetto – there were a lot of young people outside one particular block with loud music blasting out from the house. Girls were smoking weed by the steps of the block, while some boys were talking and making jokes.  As Mikel parked we all got out the car, a few of the guys from the block walked over and greeted Mikel,

 

“Waddup my nigga, ain’t caught you in a hot sec man – you nuh come in nah?”

“Nahh I got a few things I’m caught up with” he explained, looking over at me.

“Aight bro, shout us my nig” the group of guys each gave him a hand shake, a few girls came and hugged him too – I turned my gaze and looked at Jasmine who was walking towards me,

 

“You okay girl?”

“I guess” although I felt a little uneasy. It was dark and everyone started moving into the house, the music blaring and smoke coming out from the windows, the smell of weed was in the air. There were shouts of foul language between a groups of young boys by the door, I sighed, man this was the wrong idea. As the group moved closer to the block doors, Mikel grabbed my arm and pulled me towards him, he whispered in my ears,

 

“Be careful okay, make sure you watch your drink – don’t leave it around and stay with Jasmine or Sonia – ya dig?” I nodded. He looked at me and smiled once again – I felt so calm around him like everything was okay – he gave me a kiss on the cheek and went off to his car and drove off.

 

Guess I wouldn’t be seeing him till Monday. *Sighs* He seemed like someone I could relate too as well.

 

As I turned to enter the block Kazzy was standing outside facing me, she gave me a welcoming smile. . That was weird but I looked passed it.

 

“You okay Vanessa” she said coming down the stairs and linking her arms into mine, “I told the other guys to go in and I’ll look out for you – this is my area – my territory” she spoke proudly.

 

“Oh cool, let’s go in then”. We entered the block, and the house was on the first floor, the house was completely full of people some were sitting on the sofa others by the window – people lying on stairs smoking weed – and taking lines - I literally understood this place weren’t for me. Kazzy took me to the kitchen where I poured myself a glass of wine, she introduced me to a few guys who had winked at me and tried to make a move but she told them to back off. How nice of her. I found Jasmine who was with Lucas dancing in the lounge – they were zoning out to the RnB classic by JaRule Ft Ashanti – Always on time, I drank my wine and danced on my own a little. From the corner of my eye I could see Kazzy talking to one of her guys, who was stunning, a tall fair skin young man with tattoo’s all over his neck and chest, she was laughing and glanced over in my direction and signaled me to come over. I told Jasmine where I was going although she seemed confused but nodded.

 

“Vanessa meet Devontae, Devontae meet Vanessa”

“Hi”  

“Hey Shawty, you looking pretty – I wanna kick it with you tonight”

“Kick it, whats that” I asked puzzled.

“He’s basically saying he wants to hang out with you, dance, drink.. whatever” Kazzy interrupted.

“Ah Ok . . . why not”. He winked at me. Kazzy gave him a hug but whispered something in his ear and he nodded she looked at me – “I told him to keep you safe, he’s well known around here so yeah your cool” she gave me an awkward look and hugged me then went off in the crowd I didn’t see her again at the party.

Everything happened really fast, Devontae took me to the kitchen and I had another glass of wine, we spoke about me being from London which was such an awkward conversation, I was a little tipsy and tired. He offered me a glass of Hennessey – I refused but he still went into the kitchen and poured me some in the cup – he came back smiling,

 

“Yo everyones going crazy upstairs man, you got some people taking some real smack man – you want a line?” he said, whilst the music got louder.

“No I’m fine thank you” I looked around and couldn’t see any of the ICU – I really wanted to go home, I was going to drink this and call a cab I thought.

In a space of 10 minutes my head begun to hurt, I was feeling very tired and my body was starting to become weak I looked over at Devontae and told him I wanted to go home. He nodded. I slowly got up and put my phone in my purse, I walked through the crowds of people following Devontae to the door, wobbling a little from the drink and headache I was feeling. There was a group of guys hanging outside,

 

“Aye Devontae where you going with that pretty lil thang” I heard them shouting, my head was spinning and my thoughts weren’t calculating up properly. God please don’t let me pass out, I thought.

 

I got into his car,

 

“You live by 9th street at Belz apartments’ right”. .  I nodded not able to speak. He drove for 5 minutes and he parked on the same spot Laurence parked at when we first arrived. We got out the car, I opened my purse looking for my key, and my head was spinning whilst my body was moving slowly. I tapped my key to buzz the apartment doors, as we got into the lift my body felt like it was shutting down.

 

WHAT DID I DRINK? WHAT IS GOING ON IN MY HEAD? WHY DO I FEEL LIKE THIS? I NEED TO CALL MIKEL.

 

 I opened the front door to the apartment and fell onto the floor.

“Ahhh” I cried.

 Devontae picked me up and carried me into the lounge placing me on the sofa facing upward towards him. He kissed my cheeks.

“Shhh, pretty lil princess” he said taking off my shoes. He took off his sneakers and climbed on top of me, and began to kiss me I tried to pull away but he continued kissing my neck and rubbing my breast. My heart was screaming, my body was closing in on me, my words wouldn’t come out. I slowly moved my mouth,

 

“Please” I whispered, “Please” I said weakly.

Devontae continued kissing me, I felt his body beginning to get heated up, he slid off my knickers from under my dress, I tried to shake my legs but they wouldn’t move. He slowly had begun to remove his trousers . . . everything going in a dense motion as my body dimly reacted to every movement.

 

GOD please wake me up, please ..whatever has happened – take me out this trance – my spirit begged inside.

 

In an instance I heard the door close loudly,

BANG!

 

“What the heck are you doing here man, why is the door opened” I recognized the voice.

It sounded like Mikel, Devontae got off me instantly as the footsteps got closer – “What are you doing here” the voice asked, walking closer to the sofa. All of a sudden I heard a loud noise, shouting, swearing from a distance – I tried to open my eyes and I could see Mikel punching Devontae and dragging him out the apartment – Devontae was begging him to not hurt him or tell anyone what happened – Mikel took his clothes and shoes and threw it out over the balcony.

 

“Why shouldn’t I tell anyone, I could have you down for this – I can get the field nigga’s to deal with yo’ stupid ass” Mikel spat out, “Huh tell me why I shouldn’t” he yelled kicking Devontae as he was on the floor.

 

“Please .. hear me out.. please…

Kazzy told me to set her up man, don’t tell her I told you, she told me to drug her up and bring her here – sleep with her and leave” he confessed, panicking in his breath. Mikel was silent.

 

 “Get out of here – I don’t want to see your face around here again – ya heard?”

 

Devontae quickly got up, ran to the lift not looking back. I heard a little of what he had said but my body was numbed, Mikel came in his face screwed and I glanced up at him – he walked by the sofa and bent down to pick up my knickers, he lifted me up and  took me into my room and laid me on the bed. I heard the shower running, Mikel came into the room he lifted me up and placed me sitting upwards in the shower – the water ran down my face and my body gradually began to  feel strength coming back into my system I was so tired.

 

“Urghhhhh” I vomited, I coughed and spluttered the vomit all over me and I began to cry like a baby.

 

“Why did he want to hurt me, what did I do wrong” I cried. Mikel came into the bathroom and held me as I bawled, his clothes were getting wet but he didn’t complain he just held me as I wept. He then washed me up, took out my pajama’s and dressed me into them laying me down in my bed.

 

“What did I tell you, that place wasn’t for you” he whispered stroking my cheeks “Something told me to come back for you” he whispered in my ears. .sitting down on the floor beside my bed. I was too frail to respond but I put my hand on his cheek and he knew exactly what I was trying to say. Mikel left the room and went and changed in Andrew’s bedroom and came back with a spare pillow and duvet he slept on my floor the whole night waking up to watch me as I was in and out of sleep whimpering.

The next morning, I woke up with a headache and loud shouting coming from the lounge; I painfully got up to find a duvet and pillow on the floor – who the hell had slept on the floor during the night I thought. I threw the duvet off my bed and got up walking towards the door, my head was thumping so hard and I was still so knackered. I walked along the hallway towards the lounge, Jasmine, Lucas, Andrew, was sitting on the sofa whilst Mikel was standing up shouting at Kazzy – her eyes were bloodshot, with tears running down her face. Sonia must have still been asleep.

 

What was wrong with Kazzy, her face looked like someone died. I stood in the hallway and listened in the conversation.

 

“You think you can get away with ruining people’s lives Kaz, you have done everything in your ability to destroy anything that tries to get close to me or whoever I get close to” yelled Mikel.

“I’m… so..rr..yyyy.. I’m so so..rr..yy, I didn’t think Mikel, I must have been high please don’t” she cried

“Don’t what, I know you kazzy..I know what your like. Your manipulative - you could have got Vanessa raped and you want me to forgive you? She’s come here from London to pursue something, she has passions and dreams and this is how you treat her” Mikel barked.

 

My heart stopped. The image of Devontae flicked in my mind, I saw myself falling at the front door and then my knickers being taken off. I looked down at my hands – Mikel’s image came up as I remember him kicking Devontae on the floor and then him in the shower. OMG. What happened, tears built in my eyes, what happened!

 

“Mikel come on, take it easy on her” Andrew butted in.

“Take it easy? So here goes the two addicts in support of each other over a rape that one nearly set up towards an innocent individual” Mikel mocked. He turned around towards the door and stopped as soon as he saw me. The others looked in his direction, everyone was silent. Jasmine and Lucas got up and walked over to me,

 

“You okay” Jasmine hugged me, Lucas half smiled at me with disappointment in his face – he squeezed my shoulders.

“We aren’t going to let this happen again, ya hear?” he said. Tears begun to roll down my cheeks, Jasmine tried to hug me but I pulled away, I walked passed them and towards Kazzy who was staring at me with no expression on her face. I looked at her and laughed.

 

“I forgive you” I said looking straight into her eyes. . She looked away.  “I’d rather have found out this way – I was confused this morning, but I felt something was wrong hearing all the shouting. Listening to what you guys have been talking about just now made me see the flashbacks of your good friend Devontae – He was close, so close but I wouldn’t of even known would I ?” I sniffled, tears rolling down my face. “I done nothing to you, all I did was try to be nice but you return me with disrespect, I should have known you would repay me with wickedness . . .your kindness was a way to hurt me for nothing I have actually done but be me. I remember you looking towards me and laughing with him, you must have felt proud then right? You’ve barely known me but your quick to hurt me.. why?”

I shook my head, the pain building in my heart; I’ve dealt too long with people trying to hurt me, my soul said to itself.

 

I looked up at Kazzy,

“I forgive you and I know God forgives you”.

 

She had tears building up in her eyes I turned and walked back into my room. I never saw Kazzy in the apartment from that day onwards. I locked myself in my room, and I cried in prayer –

 

Heavenly Father,

I ain’t perfect, I have made many mistakes in my life but I have never sought to hurt another out of pure hatred. What Kazzy has done to me has hurt me deep down in my soul, I knew she didn’t like me but I never knew she could do this to me. Why? It was by your grace you sent Mikel to come by, I remember I called to you in my spirit to help me and you did. Thank you. I don’t know how to feel, I won’t live in fear I need your love to strengthen me as I continue to be here – I can’t trust no one and I feel so let down but Father, your unconditional love never changes. I pray you purify my heart and my mind from all that I may think or feel and please, please let me not hold this in my memory. Thank you for hearing me.

 

I cried, sitting on my bed – looking out my window wishing I was home . . . the embarrassment of not being in control of myself, I was vulnerable and nearly taken advantage of. Mikel, Jasmine, & Lucas were standing outside my door listening to me as I said my prayer. Mikel’s soul was heavy but he understood when you hold love you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going no matter the pain, that’s something he had learnt from his own past.

 

Love must go on.

Chapter 8: Avena LA Grand

 

I remained in my room for 2 days reading and researching a few things on fashion as well as talking to Whitney, I didn’t tell her what went down during that weekend. She would have gone crazy – I haven’t told her about the traumatizing things that have happened to me anyway during our friendship. I don’t need to be pitied. I am not a burden to no one.

A new week, a new start but yet still I felt awkward about everything that happened during the weekend, it all seemed surreal but HEY!

 

It was Wednesday morning, 8:00AM. Today was Avena LA Grand’s anniversary party – the one year anniversary celebrating their grand opening success. How funny huh, I came here to meet these guys actually working as interns in a company I happened to have randomly researched back in London. I had no idea if the invitation to the party was still opened seeing as the past two days I had remained in my room and no one had approached me. I sat up in silence on my bed – staring at the desk where I placed my laptop and books, my inner voice spoke:

 

You can’t drown in your sorrow’s girl you got to get yourself together, yes it’s crazy you happened to have been here for basically one week and already someone try switching up on you but it’s only a lesson learnt. You either choose to hide or you get back out there and show yourself what you’re made of.

But I’m embarrassed Mikel saw me naked, he was there washing me.. No one has seen me that vulnerable in my life – no man. . . how am I meant to be around him now.

Girl, things happen beyond your control – be happy he was there, God sent him to protect you! Plus who knows what can come from this.

 

I pulled a face at myself; my soul can be funny at times. I sighed. I got up, brushed my teeth had a shower and began to get ready for the day. I sat on my bed looking in the mirror – my clear skin and baby face staring right back at me. I put my hair in a bun, and creamed my face, shaped my eyebrows no mascara for me. I put on my dungaree’s and converses and said a little prayer in my heart: Lord, let me be brave and strong – clear my mind please. I unlocked my door, the lounge was silent. I walked past the bathroom and then the kitchen, no one was in there. I opened the door to the lounge and saw Mikel sleeping on the sofa. My soul smiled. I went to sit next to him as he slept – so I thought.

I stared at his face, his handsome chocolate skin was so clear in complexion, his adorable butt chin and chinky eyes and slim cheekbones was so cute. Girl, don’t get too carried away.. I thought.

He half smiled with his eyes still closed,

 

“So you’re up then huh” he grunted. My heart skipped a beat.

“Yes I am” I moved a little away from him, I didn’t want to be too close. He opened his eyes and stared at me for about 2 minutes. He coughed and then sat up and continued looking at me.

  My armpits felt hot, I could feel myself about to break a sweat.

 

“WHAT are you looking at Mikel” I said, getting annoyed. He smiled,

“Your beautiful face”. My heart sunk, oh no.  . . So I’m the victim then I fall for him for saving me. Great. I looked into his eyes and my tummy began to twirl, I studied his eyes and my soul looked at itself internally studying the affect his eyes had towards my inner being. Interesting, I was still able to hold myself as well as feel very passionately at the same time. Mikel stroked my cheeks,

 

“Are you better now” he turned his gaze away from my eyes, he felt bad but it wasn’t his fault.

“By God’s grace yeah, I got this”. He looked up at me and said nothing. The door of the lounge opened and in came Andrew,

 

“OooOOoo Wala she’s alive then is she” he sang in his annoying American accent.

“Yes she has resurrected” I answered sarcastically. Andrew laughed.

“I was worried you would do something to yourself in their”

“Like you would be worried Andrew or even care the least” I said turning around looking at him rolling a joint.

He turned his face towards me; he was serious for once,

 

“I do have a heart you know, I do have feelings and I do have feelings towards others”

“Okay fair enough, I’ll choose to believe you – thank you for caring and by the way – smoking kills”

He smiled, “By the way herbs are life” he replied grinning. I laughed. In came Lucas and Jasmine, then Sonia, they all gave me a hug and started there morning with a joint. I and Jasmine were the only one’s not smoking, at least I weren’t alone. All morning they discussed the evening party and Willow who I heard apparently was a female dog (that’s the most respectful way to put it HAHA), she was the companies’ deputy manager working under Simon. I heard she was an intern at Marc Jacobs and then managed to work her way up into being known for her collaborations and of course sucking ass to get to her position. As they spoke Jasmine went into the kitchen and made us all fried eggs on toast, we all ate breakfast and then they rolled another joint, continuing to talk about the upcoming project for winter season. I was a little tired and Mikel noticed,

 

“Lay down on my lap” he said, stretching his legs and making space for me. I hesitated for a moment but then shrugged it off, I lay down in between his legs and covered myself with his duvet and snoozed for about 10 minutes. When I woke up it was 11AM, Mikel was laying down looking up at the ceiling and stroking my baby hairs. I didn’t know how to feel about how close we could start becoming, it wasn’t just a random hopeless love or crush..whatever you call it like I had towards Marlon, this seemed like it could be more maybe. . . it seemed deeper but even so I felt a push and tug towards Marlon. Mikel had a calming spirit and genuinely cared for me seeming like a very good friend – I haven’t had just anyone understand me straight away the way he did from the moment he saw me.

I sat up,

 

“Am I still invited to the company dinner party this evening?” I asked, nervously.

He looked at me with such affection,

 

“Of course, why wouldn’t you be” he smiled, “Anyways I have a surprise for you at my place, the other guys have gone shopping to get a few bits for tonight – bring your makeup bag and a nice pair of shoes, we are heading to my apartment” he said enthusiastically. He got up and folded the duvet I went into my room and picked out my Tommy Hilfiger Chelsea boots, I really liked them they always went with everything. I quickly looked through my wardrobe and picked my favorite wool cardigan that had small detailed Swarovski diamond stones sewn into them – one of a kind and limited addition from Alexandra McQueen – I literally saved my ass off to buy it on sale! I wore the cardigan and put my makeup bag, spare bra, knickers and my shoes into my mini Burberry side bag..Finito. I locked my bedroom door and walked towards the lounge; Mikel came out the toilet and politely opened the front door. We both walked out the apartment in silence, and entered the lift. . Mikel continued to take small side glances at me, I smiled during the duration of his stares, we entered his car and he drove 15 minutes up the road to his blocks otherwise known as Grover estate. This area seemed like an upper class community or maybe working class, the cars parked outside the driveway were sporty, Mikel’s car was pretty sporty too I asked him,

 

“What car is this you driving, I know it’s a BMW but which one?”

He laughed, “Well this baby here is a BMW 640d Gran coupe”.

He closed the door, kissed the boot and locked the car, I followed behind him to a block of apartments named Melbourne house, he used his fob key to enter in, and we walked up 2 flights of stairs, fairly doable as it only was 3 stairs each. We stopped at number 9 and Mikel turned to look at me whilst putting his keys in the door,

 

“Welcome to my crib girl”. As he opened the door and I walked in a sweet vanilla and lavender smell enlightened my nostrils, his apartment was bright – all one level with a stair going towards the balcony. His house was very pretty; the walls were colored red and cream with a red leather sofa in his living room and 4 cream velvet looking cushions neatly placed on the sofa with a huge flat screen TV screwed into the wall. His kitchen utensils hang near the sleek silver cooker and above it a grand looking fan everything so neatly placed, I walked a little more and saw his kitchen surface was made of marble; it was black and silver such a good combination. There was another set of mini stairs near the kitchen but the large room had a long see through red satin curtain hanging down, the curtain had small mini Japanese details on them. .  as I walked up the little stairs I opened the curtains and to my amazement there was a King size bed with a gorgeous Japanese set, the most detailed patterns I have seen in a long time, this must have been expensive I thought. There was a little cat lying down on the bed it nervously jumped off the bed and purred at me, it suddenly walked around me 3 times and then came close wanting me to stroke its cute little head. Mikel’s room was full of contrast paintings and art pictures, a huge board with paintbrushes and pencils were by the window in his bedroom –I can tell he had a free mind a very artistic man indeed.

“So you like the place huh” he said, standing behind me.

“Yes you have a lovely place, very lovely indeed” my awareness swallowed in the whole moment.

“Missy has taken to you, she’s not really a fan of people, she stays in my room and greets no one . . . so take it as a compliment she has warmed to you! Anyway let’s go out on the balcony for a abit”. I followed Mikel through his kitchen and up another mini set of stairs into his balcony, on the table was 2 glasses a bottle of wine and sliced mangoes with grapes in a Greek bowl. Mikel kindly pulled out a chair and I sat down gracefully, he sat down opposite me and opened the wine bottle pouring me and him a glass. He raised his glass,

 

“Cheers to the mysteries of Life” he praised, with a very seductive smile on his face.

“Cheers” I replied, winking at him. He certainly did like drinking wine, and always having some sort of mini celebration in his heart. We managed to finish the whole bottle of South African red wine whilst eating the grapes and mangoes discussing our favorite colors and interests, our worst experiences with people.

“Like there was time I kissed a girl and accidently farted, like for real I was smitten”

 “Now that is crazy” we both laughed so hard. How one can decide to fart whilst kissing is very comical indeed. We both were a little merry but we couldn’t help but gaze intensely at each other the crave of wanting another soul was real, the desire of sharing that intimate moment just us as the world went by. We stopped talking and stared profoundly into each other’s eyes, my heart began to beat and I felt Mikel’s heart beating too, it was unexplainable but I knew at that moment we shared something deeply a connection far beyond words.

 

“I’m so glad I met you” he whispered, across the table from me.

“So am I, It’s strange, I didn’t think I would be this comfortable in a long time”

“Neither did I, but everything happens for a reason right” he nodded.

“Mmmhmm, I guess”

 

He got up and took my hand, and led me to his room there on top of his cupboard was an old vinyl player he put on a vinyl cd and it begun to play – the amazing sounds of sweet Jazz filled the air. Mikel came up close to me and took my hand and pulled me in near to him, his tall slim muscular body against my short small framed figure, we stared into each other’s eyes as the music played and our bodies swayed to the melody. I have never felt so much peace looking into someone, I lay my head on his chest as he held me tight - within that moment I felt home. I closed my eyes and I listened to my heart beat slowly to the jazz floetry in the air, there was a rocking chair by his immense wardrobe which took one half of his room he walked to the chair and sat down and I sat on his lap. Our souls cuddled clinging onto eachothers life, for this moment we had nothing else to live for but to be in each other’s arms, how weird, I was allowing myself to be open. To be in the moment of love to be surrendered to that opening that is unexplainable, I felt his breath on my neck and his lips kissed my neck only once and he held me for what seemed like eternity our souls entwining in this beautiful moment – we both ended up falling asleep.

‘Meowww Meowwww’ I heard in my ears, I opened my eyes there was missy sitting looking at me. . Mikel was still sleeping and the sky was turning into a dark blue. The party! I nudged Mikel, who was still sleeping, I nudged him abit harder,

 

“Mikel. . . Mikel”

“Yes Beautiful” he groaned.

“It’s getting dark”

 I got up and went towards his cupboard the time on the clock was 5:30PM,

 

“Mikel its 5:30PM” I said. He opened his eyes,

“Fo’real, man we good we ain’t meeting the others till 8 so why don’t you go ahead and have your bath, everythings in there . . .your towel shower gel, cream I’ll get everything else ready” he had a tired smile.

“But.. but I didn’t bring my dress, what am I to wear”

“Don’t worry about that, I got you” he stroked my cheeks. I blushed, even though my coco skin couldn’t go that red haha, I quickly went into the bathroom. The bathroom was a pure white and baby blue color made me feel like I was in a maternity ward, I removed my clothes and let the warm water brush against my brown skin, I poured some shower gel onto a sponge and cleansed my body, adding some essential oils on my skin and letting the water run over me, it would have been better to have a bath but there was no time for that now. I came out the shower and dried my body, rubbed a little lavender oil into my skin and a pinch onto my face. I sprayed my deodorant and Marc Jacobs’s decadence perfume and felt refreshed; I walked out the steamy bathroom and went to Mikel’s room. I gasped; I couldn’t believe my eyes… Mikel was holding a navy blue gown, it had beautiful flowers sewn onto it with an amazing mesh draping behind it. The top half of the dress was slim and slender, having detailed patterns of leaves and flowers creating a brilliant affect to follow down throughout the dress. This was a fairytale gown, only worn for a princess. I grinned so hard and ran towards Mikel hugging him and squeezing him at the same time, he delicately held onto my waist and softly kissed my neck and hugged me again.

 

“So you like it – it was designed by Mak Tumang” he smiled.

“Yes yes yes I love it Mikel, I’ve never worn a dress like this in my life…I have always wished I would get the chance” I never got the chance to go to my school prom, so this would be my replacement. Mikel smiled, “Now is your chance”. He turned around and I quickly put my bra and knickers on. . .

“You can turn now, I’m going to need help to put this gown on” I said. He turned around and saw me in my bra and granny knickers, and cracked up.

 

“Whaaaaaat you laughing at?” I questioned, feeling a little uptight.

“You look like a big baby.. Your little belly and big bottom” he sniggered. I slapped his shoulder as he came up behind me and hugged me, I felt his closeness more than the body, I felt him, I felt everything within and I breathed in . . . quickly letting go. He looked at me,

 

“It’s okay Vanessa, it’s okay” he said holding out his hand, I took his hand and moved in closer. He hugged me and then took the gown and undid the ribbons at the back. I was in awe of the dress it was something unique I have never seen before, how can someone be this kind to me.

 

“It’s ready for you” he said holding the rather extravagant gown upright, I took the dress from his hand and slid both my feet in even though I was worried it may not be the right fit. The slender top part of the dress was stuck at my thighs.

 

“Arghh, it won’t go up” I whined. Mikel laughed.

“Take your feet out, we’ll try it on from the top down-wards”.

 

I removed my feet from the gown and handed it to Mikel, I raised my arms up as he lifted the gown on top of my head. . .the slim and transparent lace sat perfectly on my breasts and my tummy. The rest of the dress draped downwards coming out in an amazing twirl behind me, the mesh draping behind as my figure hugged the life out of this gorgeous attire. Mikel helped to fasten the ribbon behind the dress which was woven in to hold it up, as it crisscrossed from the left to the right. He then tied the bow, I smiled in my mind… I knew I looked good.

 

“All ready” his face beaming. I turned to look in the wardrobe mirror , I gasped.

“Wow, wow and wow Mikel” I screamed in excitement. Mikel watched me in amusement my reaction like a child,

 

“I look beautiful” I said so happily.

“Yes Vanessa, you look ever so exquisite” he spoke putting on a posh English accent.

“Thankyou, thankyou ever so much” I hugged him squeezing tightly.

“Your more than welcome, I’m happy your happy . . . but we aren’t quite done yet I could tell you don’t wear heels so I brought you wedges instead, exclusive Chloe- Lauren espadrille, navy blue and suede to compliment your dress”

He opened his wardrobe; I never realized how large it was as he opened it we walked into another world. Half his wardrobe was full of shoes, sneakers, sandals, flip-flops the whole shebang! Another part full of every designer bag one can imagine and some pretty decent normal looking side bags. He wasn’t completely up himself then, HAHA. As I looked at the back and right side of his wardrobe it was lined with suits, neatly folded jeans, trousers, joggers, shirts, jumpers, cardigans, shorts, t-shirts, jackets everything lined up in the colors that matched. He wore very subtle and neutral colors with the odd bright shocker of pink or orange, surprisingly yellow too.

Woah, I thought. Is this material obsession or what? He just like’s his fashion I guess.

He walked to his shoe section and took out a box with Chloe written on it, as he opened it I stared google eyed in shock of everything he was doing for me. Why?

He took out the shoes, and called for me to come to him and so I walked over to him taken away by everything that was happening . . . he lifted my feet and put the wedges on my left foot, I cringed a little.

I hated people touching my feet. He carried on anyway and buckled the straps and took my right foot and buckled the shoe up, I didn’t quite know how to stand upright at first as I was in a daydream at all that was taking place.

 

“Vanessa, Vanessa” Mikel pinched my ankle.

“Owwwwwwerrrrrrrrr”

“Come on man, wake up.. it’s real, yes it’s happening. You’re wearing a beautiful gown an amazing shoe. Yes you look beautiful. Yes you deserve to be treated this way. Wake up girl” he said, standing up and squeezing my shoulders. We walked out his wardrobe and he closed it behind him,  the mirror reflected me, I pulled up the dress and the wedges were just so awesome!

 

“How… why… this dress.. Everything … it’s so beautiful” I said lost for words, my heart was all over the place.

 

“It’s Okay, it’s Okay” he replied.

 

BUZZZZZZ!!! BUZZZZZZ!!! BUZZZZZZ!!!

 

“AHH it’s the team”

“What time is it?” I asked.

He looked at his watch, “Oh snap Its 7PM, I’m going to answer the door and get in the shower and get ready. He looked at me and smiled, and went out his room to answer the door, in a space of 3 minutes I heard Andrew and his loud laugh with the rest of ICU entering into the house. Jasmine came through the curtain and her jaw dropped,

 

“Oh my gawwwwwwwd”. The rest of the team came running in and they stopped mid-way and looked at me astounded. I didn’t know how to respond to their reaction all I knew was I must have looked exquisite for true.

 

“Aww Vanessa girl you look stunning, a real life African princess” Jasmine whispered

“Seriously, wow” Andrew said grinning.

“Mmmhmm Yes, this is so you” Lucas said smiling.

“PrincessVee up in this …”

“Don’t say the word Sonia” they all said laughing and looking at me.

“Thank you guys, you all look . . . uhh rather expensive, stylish even” I felt a little shy and awkward by their eyes looking at me Jasmine definitely sensed the vibe,

 

“Anyway girl I’m going to do your makeup” Jasmine skipping towards me and making me sit on Mikel’s dressing table. The others went out the balcony to smoke a blunt,

 

“Hey you guys don’t let no one come in here until I’m done, including Mikel” she shouted, smiling to me whilst looking in the mirror.

 

“Okay Vee, I gotchu 100.. I’ma finna get yo ass looking so fly aye, Simon will not want to turn you away sister” she laughed.

“Simon?”

“Yeah girl, we gon’ have to make you look the part right?”

 I smiled, Jasmine was so sweet I know her and  Whitney would find it difficult to share me HAHA. She took her makeup bag and mine, and combined some of our powders, she first put on concealer and did this contouring thing that I usually see girls on YouTube do and Whitney like every day! She did my makeup within 25 minutes; there was a knock on the wall outside the room.

 

“Can I come in” Mikel’s deep voice was heard through the red satin curtains.

“Yes, you may” Jasmine said joyfully.

 

Mikel walked In, I turned around to look at him. We both were so amazed, he looked at me like I was a precious treasure and I looked at him like he was the treasure I had always desired to see. Jasmine cringed,

 

“I’ll be outside people, hurry up because its quarter to 8 we are leaving in 15” she said walking out the room. Mikel looked so handsome, his neat shape up, glossy face, moisturized lips and his glamorous suit, he wore a suede navy blue tuxedo with navy blue loafers. Man.. he looked good, real good.. Kazzy was crazy to have messed up. . . Mikel was an amazing soul and who would let him go.

 

“You…” we both stuttered and chuckled.

I looked up at him,

 

“You look so handsome; you really are a good-looking soul. I see you, you’re delicious” I stuck out my tongue. Mikel looked really shy.

 

“Don’t be nervous” I said standing up and staring into his eyes, the same way he looks at me. He looked down as I walked towards him, I lifted his chin.

 

“You are beautiful, mmhmm yes you” my serious face making him know I was not playing!

“Thankyou” he gushed. We both looked at each other, Mikel held out his hand. . .

“Care to give me a twirl and dance for 3 minutes my princess”

“Of course my prince”.

 

Mikel held my hand and twirled me around and pulled me in close, our hearts beating in that moment.

I felt his intense soul, he yearned for me in ways I couldn’t even explain but for some reason I didn’t yearn so much for him but I accepted him and wanted to embrace this yearning, it could only be something beautiful, a desire which cannot be explained.

“You’re beautiful” he cooed into my ears. I bent my head and giggled; he smiled and kissed my cheek. He looked so happy, so comfortable, and so free.

 

“By the way what suit is that, it looks so fine on you.. man Mikel, you got serious style”.

“You really want to know?” he said looking me in my eyes.

“Mmmhmmm”

“It’s Dolce and Gabbana” he took my hand to lead me out.

“Ohhh Rah, topnotch yeah… is that you” my sly ghetto London accent came out. He stopped.

“No Vanessa, No. I just like things of quality, that’s all. . They don’t make me who I am” he looked at me a little disappointed.

 

  I looked away embarrassed by my remark, he nodded his head and led me out in front of him.

 Guess I was wrong, if he has the money of course he would buy the things that are quality – I shouldn’t judge him. I am not rich, neither do I have designer everything I’m just your everyday plain Jane with a few bits and bobs of quality but somehow he likes me. Haha.

 

*Wolf whistle*

“Ayyyyyyy you guys look great together” the team said as we came out to the living room.

We both proudly looked at eachother, the Taxi called Andrews phone and so we all left out of the apartment, the sounds of Sonia and Jasmine’s heels were heard dancing with the floor. The 4 of them got into the taxi and me and Mikel took his car. It took us 15 minutes’ drive to SoHo Manhattan, 171 Prince Street, we parked behind the building in the private parking for all Avena LA Grand colleagues. We both got out the car; Mikel closed the door and rushed to my side to help me out,

 

“Thankyou”

“You’re more than welcome beautiful”. We went out to the front as a crowd of people were entering the tall glass building dressed very extravagantly, Sonia, Jasmine, Lucas and Andrew were greeting a few others. A short Caucasian man, with a bald head and smart glasses came out the door with a glass in his hand graciously smiling at everyone and welcoming them in. As me and Mikel walked up the stairs the man raised his eyebrow,

 

“And you are” he asked in a feminine manner, looking at me like I was something he could eat.

“I’m Vanessa, Vanessa Simone” I said glancing at Mikel a little confused – he smiled confidently.

“Ahh I see, my name is Simon, Simon Cartieur” he replied holding out his hand,

“I’m glad to see your beautiful face with my personal assistant Mikel”. I held my breath.

 

“Goodevening Simon, nice to see you and congratulations on the opening sir” he said politely shaking his hand.

“Thankyou Mikel, I know I’ll be seeing the others soon.. and I would love to talk more to your princess here – wonderful dress and fabulous wedges girl” he grinned, sipping his wine.

 

“Thank you, congratulations” I kissed his cheek and walked in arm in arm with Mikel. The building was astounding, chandeliers hanging throughout the whole hallway, the large doors on the other side opened as security stood outside ushering people in the dine hall to sit on the seats. The dinner party started at 9PM, Mikel had gone to talk to a few designers and other colleagues, he briefly introduced me to Willow who smiled and asked me what I did.

 

“I’m a designer myself, seeking to gain experience and hopefully I can use my skills to be recognized as an artist, and a fashion designer” I said confidently. Willow stared at me, and rolled her eyes,

 

“Aww well I wish you the best” she smiled unenthusiastically. I turned my head towards the menu and continued sipping my wine, she stomped off. I have no times for ego’s, I’ll flush them down the toilet in no time. I sat down watching the whole atmosphere of the formal dinner party, Lucas and Jasmine came and sat on the table for a while and got back up a few times. Andrew came and pestered me to eat olives, He was like an annoying little brother . . .even josh was more behaved than him!

  As the night pushed forward a few members of Avena LA Grand

 had taken the center stage to thank Simon for the promotion in the company as well as celebrating the ICU especially Mikel on his incredible work with assisting an associate designer with last summer’s season design – He was the first intern to participate in the project as an assistant. Sonia, Andrew, Lucas, Jasmine and Mikel scored interns of the year badges with promises of a good future ahead of them, being called to stand center stage Mikel looked across at me and threw over the warmest smile . . . I looked away shyly and as I looked back again there his eyes was staring right through me. He knew how to get to me. Simon came up on stage and his speech began:

 

“To everyone that has joined us in the past year of implementing this new business in the fashion industry I want to congratulate you on coming on board to a new adventure and I am willing to create new plans and strategies for all ideas to be welcomed and considered to further our brand. To all the interns who have come on board, thank you so much for your creativity and skills it has been appreciated highly – your hard work does not go un-noticed.  On this 1 year anniversary we have done so well and our brand has its first issue on the runway this winter. I have some incredible designs and am also looking to collaborate with an intern to elevate this company. Avena LA Grand are not only known for its high end and chic fashion but for its ability to enhance our teams - working together to create a new atmosphere where all individuals are considered valuable and of a great asset to our fashion. Once again, Thank you All”.

 

There were loud cheers and claps in the room as everyone raised there glasses, the night was flowing so well, Mikel came up behind me as a young man was talking to me about fashion. He wrapped his arm around my waist; I felt him and didn’t have to turn around. He whispered,

 

“Come with me Princess”. I nodded at the young man I was speaking to and followed Mikel.

I took his hand as he led me through the hallway to a large office, there was a small light brightening in the room. Mikel knocked on the door,

 

“Come in” the voice replied tiredly.

 

As we walked in Simon stood there rubbing his shiny head with a glass of wine in his hand and a portfolio which looked like mine. I took a deep breath. 

 

“Please be seated Miss Simone” said Simon, with a serious face but such a gentle appreciation to my presence.

 

“How” I stuttered.

“Shhh” Mikel said, soothing my hand. He pulled out a chair for me to sit down on.

 

“Well what can I say I hope your enjoying your evening here Miss Simone I have to admit your designs are incredible young lady. I sat here with Mikel as we discussed your stay in NY and most assuredly your designs are unique, the creative ideas you hold are fascinating, the fabric idea’s brilliant and the colors so beautifully chosen for each season. I am compelled to ask you have you done anything within the fashion industry before?”

 

“ Uhh…. I.. well.. uhh No, I finished my diploma in fashion and textiles, that’s about it. I’ve sat at home drawing designs for a while in hopes it will get somewhere. I worked full time for a few years since, and then I thought why not come out here and find a way to get involved in the fashion industry. Avena LA Grand was the company I was intending to find out more about, your fashion ideas is unseen in the market today. Completely a mixture of artistry and supreme colors, a mix between minimalist and runway rolled into a humble soul food style with such warmth and texture to all idea’s, including your hats” I said passionately.

 

“Mmmhmm, wow you are quite imaginative aren’t you?” he looked me in the eyes.

 

“Yessir, I tend to be in my own dream world a lot”. Mikel looked down at his hands smiling, he understood.

“Well to keep things short as we are wrapping this dinner party up soon, I have a proposition for you. . .Mikel here my most trusted intern and my PA has put in quite a good word for you, I see he is fond of you..dearly I must say. I am aware of the reason you have travelled and quit your job to pursue your dream in the fashion industry. I would like to welcome you as an Intern here at Avena LA Grand starting from next week Monday. I have been searching for an intern to feature on the new winter collection and I have welcomed designs from 4 different people. I would like you and Mikel to work on a winter collection portfolio for me. I want it in my office by August 27th. How does that sound?”

I was shocked with all the information; I turned to look at Mikel who was smiling with his eyes.

 

“Yes, you are clear”

 

“So Monday 12th of August come into our office which is further down from this building, please bring with you your passport and bank details and any relevant information we will need. I will pass your info to Willow our deputy head that will assist you on your first day, please write your email here on my memo. I will make sure Willow emails you to confirm your starting day, as well as all information you will need to bring on Monday – just in case you forget.

 

  • You will be working alongside Mikel or other interns, your duties including –

Ordering fabrics and accessories, I will also need you to assist in sewing and fabric cutting. Many admin tasks will be allocated to you by Willow and booking and organizing any events will be asked of you as well as attending photoshoots for magazine’s for our brand. You will also update the Avena LA Grand social website alongside other interns. Erm.. You will receive your laptop on Monday which has the company information on there and everything else Willow will elaborate on as she is deputy manager from me.

 

So all is clear, and I guess what is left is for you is to come in Monday morning at 9am!”

 

“Yes uhhh… I.. am looking forward to it, Thank you so much for this opportunity I don’t quite know how to thank you but I am ever so grateful”.

 

“No worries – Thank your friend Mikel here. I look forward to seeing you, welcome to the team” he held out his hand for me to shake. I shaked his hands over his desk, I was in awe, he handed Mikel my portfolio. We stood up to leave the room as a young lady knocked on the door with a bottle of champagne; she nodded at us as we left the office. We walked along the hallway in silence; I looked into my purse to check the time it was 1:30AM. Mikel took my arm and led me in a little room by the dining hall, there was no light but we could see each other,

 

“Before you ask - Jasmine told me about your portfolio, she wouldn’t stop going on and on. I told her to use the spare key to go in your room and take it. It was the only way to also show Simon more of who you were, I hadn’t seen the portfolio until now” he said.

 

I looked at him. “And you trusted Jasmines excitement to know that it was good enough to show Simon?” I questioned.

“Yes I did” he responded. My eyes began to water, no one . . . no one has believed in me, I have always looked like a failure someone who has talent but doesn’t use it. I had tried but it didn’t ever go right and for a stranger to believe in me melted my heart. Mikel lifted my head, and patted under my eyes.

 

“Don’t cry b”  he watched me, feeling what I was feeling.

I breathed in and gave the biggest sigh as big tears fell from my cheeks.

 

“My makeupppppp” I moaned. We both laughed.

Good thing he had a napkin, he dabbed my eyes and cheeks gently as he looked at me.

In that instant our souls locked..there came over us a deeper knowing; Mikel drew in closer to me and held my head lightly his lips getting closer to mine. Our lips wrapped around each other lightly, we began to breathe slowly..my eyes closed as my body succumbed to the vulnerability. Mikel took his arms and held my waist – he sighed and pulled away from the kiss. He then lay his head on my shoulders, he continued to breathe, he then passionately kissed my neck . . . my mind was empty of thoughts all I could feel was a passion to love and be loved. The electric feeling swiftly passed through my body, something I had never felt, this intense motion flowing in and out as Mikel gently kissed my lips, my back was up against the wall and he leaning in towards my dress. Our bodies were not hot but its warmth made us drowsy as we continued to hold each other in the drunkenness of our entwining, the suffocating of our breath’s to feel one another more and more. We pulled away,  as our breathing heightened and our bodies unguarded in this moment. . .Mikel came towards me again and stroked the back of my neck – I leaned in wards to brush his neck with my lips, I felt his body giving up to this love, the love he yearned for.

,

BANG!!! BANG!!! BANG!!! We both breathed in heavily, and in shock our arms held onto each other for dear life. It sounded like a shooting. Screams were being heard in the dining hall, Mikel took my hand and led me out the small room – there was chaos everywhere in the hall and outside the hall, people from outside were running in. Mikel took me under his arm and looked around for Lucas, Jas and the rest but he couldn’t find nobody suddenly Jasmine came in with water in her eyes,

 

“Mikel.. its Andrew, a group of guys in a car were shouting at eachother. . . “

“What Jasmine, say it, where is he”

“A driveby between gangs and they shot Andrew in the leg and his arm, he was smoking a joint outside” she started to bawl. I held Jasmine as Mikel ran in between the crowds of people to the building doors, he ran down the steps and there lying on the floor was Andrew with Sonia covered in blood she was crying and using the dress to stop him from losing any more blood. Lucas removed his shirt and wrapped it around his arm where the blood was pouring. I and Jasmine walked out the building; I went and kneeled where Mikel was . . . he looked at me with water in his eyes. I couldn’t see him like this.

I saw pain in his eyes, I saw deep pain. At that moment I closed my eyes and looked to heaven,

 

Dear Heavenly Father, save this young man’s life. You know his soul and this cannot be his ending for you know his hearts longing although he may hide from you he understands what he needs in you. Let this time, this moment be his healing not only for his body but for his mind, heart and soul. Restore him life again in his spirit. Deliver him O Most High, save his soul. In Jesus name AMEN’

 

The whole team said Amen. In that moment the Ambulance had come they put him on the stretcher as quickly as possible, whilst onlookers stared, some in shock others in tears at another young person possibly losing his life because of gun crime. Sonia went with him, we all went into Mikel’s car and followed behind as they took him to Lenox hill hospital. There was dead silence in the car. Mikel called Sonia who came out to get us and led us to the emergency department where he was, we stood outside the room whilst doctors, nurses ran to and fro with different equipment seeking all ways to save his life. My heart continued to pray, Jasmine and Lucas were asleep on the chairs, Sonia stared into space and Mikel was pacing up and down. I went to the vending machine to get a bottle of water; I walked up to Mikel,

 

“Are you okay” I whispered.

“DO I LOOK OKAY” he yelled at me causing the bottle of water to drop from my hands, I was taken aback from the anger in his voice, Lucas woke up..


“Hey man, don’t take it out on Vee, it wasn’t her fault” his voice sounding sleepy and stressed. I picked up the bottle and walked away and sat down, my heart heavy. . . I didn’t want to be a problem, I didn’t want to be the issue . . . after all it was because of me we left the hall and wasn’t together. Mikel looked guilty but he couldn’t say anything, he was too hurt – I understood. It was 8am, everyone was up and sitting in silence, a doctor came out the surgery,

 

“Hello, are you the friends of Andrew Thomas Carlin”

“Yes we are” we all said standing up.

“Just to inform you, he has made it through this night, it was a struggle – he had to fight, he would have been pronounced dead on scene but somehow by a miracle he managed to live” the doctor said. We all looked at each other, Mikel staring at me.

 

“He will be able to leave the hospital in a weeks’ time we have to look over the wounds and make sure his breathing is okay, seeing as it also was the problem to him nearly suffocating as we were trying to save him, too much smoking I suppose” the doctor said. . . “You are all welcome to go and see him”. Sonia was the first to run to his bedside, her eyes in tears. We all stood around his bed, his eyes twitched and he opened them.

 

“Hey you” Sonia whispered

“Hii” he whispered back

“We was all so worried and scared we would lose you man” Lucas’s began to water, I never saw Lucas show much emotion, but I could tell Andrew meant something to all of them no matter how annoying his jokes were at times.

Andrew looked away from us, “Losing me isn’t a big deal”.

 

“Yes it is” Mikel replied.

“Mmmhmm” I and Jasmine said.

“Vanessa prayed for you when you was on the floor covered with blood” Jasmine told him

“I know, I heard her and I my body felt calm, I was in shock. .I thought I was going to die” he grumbled. We watched him as he went back to sleep and we all went back to the apartment. Sonia, Lucas and Jasmine went to have a shower and sleep; I stood in the lounge as Mikel sat on the sofa,

 

“I’m so sorry about earlier” he said shamefully. He stood up and walked towards me, he tried to kiss me but I pulled away.

 

 

 

“Not now Mikel”.

 

He looked hurt, but I just took his hand kissed it and went to my room unlocked the door, jumped on my bed and knocked out.

 

Chapter 9: Work, Work, Work!

 

The following few days and week went by pretty rapidly, Mikel and the others went to visit Andrew at the hospital after work the remaining few days before I started work as an intern; I spent time on my own which was good for me. I spent time talking to God, spoke to Ma and video-called Whitney, and then done some researching on fabrics for winter designs, I did some sketches too. I received an email from Willow Friday afternoon informing me of my start day and what I had to bring in to the head office, I was over the moon! I went with the team on Saturday to see Andrew who was looking so much better, Sonia and Andrew were beginning to become close it was sweet to see, I realized sometimes it takes pain to create something beautiful between people, not only in thyself. Sunday was a chilled day we all stayed in the lounge watching films, me and Mikel still hadn’t spoken over what happened the other night at the hospital, but I didn’t look too deep into it, but I knew he felt a type of way.

 

Monday 12th August

7AM

 

  Knock Knock!!!

 

“Who is it” I shouted from the bathroom

“Mikel”

“Come in”

 

Mikel came in and sat on my working area, I quickly came out the shower creamed and put on my black high waist skirt, black tights and black shirt. I creamed my face like super-duper fast and shaped my eyebrows. My neck was aching so bad it felt like I was turning into a grandma way too soon. I opened the door to my bathroom and saw Mikel on his phone, for some reason I felt weird but continued anyway paying no attention to my feelings. He looked at me and put his phone away.

 

“Why did you put your phone away, don’t mind me.. text away” I said unbothered. He rolled his eyes,

“I finished texting my sister so why else be on my phone?”

“I don’t know, why else would you be on your phone” He smiled and looked away,

“You’re looking for a fight aren’t you?”

“No I’m not” I felt agitated at the fact he always was able to sense me, somehow. I sat on my bed and put everything I needed into my backpack; Mikel sat next to me and took my hand. . .

 

“Stop overthinking”

“I can’t help it sometimes” I turned my gaze away from his and let go of his hand. I really wanted him to hold me but since that night at the hospital things have been a bit awkward between us.

 

“Anyway’s we start at 9 right” I queried. Mikel sighed, “Yes we do”. I could tell he wanted to hold me and be held too, we were both being petty but Oh well, we’ll get over it. It was quarter to 8, the others were still getting ready so we left out, Mikel drove through the busy streets of Manhattan. I was surprised to find out the other night the building we went to for the party was not actually where the real work takes place, a few blocks up the road stood the enormous Avena LA Grand building, the writing on top of the actual building was not too hard to miss at all.

 

“You ready for today?” Mikel asked kindly.

“Yes sir, I guess I am”. Mikel leaned over to kiss me, I didn’t mean to but I turned my cheek - it just happened.

 

“Have I done something wrong, it’s the other night isn’t it?” his face began to screw up

“No its not” I looked away; this can’t be happening I thought in my mind. . . I did not sign up for this!

“You know what forget this man” he opened the car door and slammed it shut. *sigh*.

I got out the car and closed the door gently looking at Mikel throwing his temper tantrum, he was cute. We entered the building, he took me to the head office, so many individuals were walking around speaking on the phone and some having meetings in small side rooms, we both sat and waited for Willow in stillness.

 

“Hi guys, its 8:30AM, your early” Willow walked up beside us with a cup of coffee in her hand.

We both stayed quiet, I tried my best to smile but the tension between me and Mikel was just in the atmosphere.

“Vanessa comes with me, Mikel go to Simon’s office and start your duty please, thank you” she said nodding her head. Mikel looked at me blankly and went on his business, guess we weren’t talking. That sucked!  Willow showed me around the head office, the first 4 floors I would be working on, my midi desk which was next to Jasmine. Hooraaaay and my laptop. Throughout the whole induction she seemed not as bothered to tell me necessary information; I had to continually keep trying to ask relevant questions to find out more about the building, and my duties during the day.

 

“Everyone is allocated a to-do list each day; it is usually emailed or posted up on the Avena La Grand Intern Memo. There are currently 8 interns you are our 9th and hopefully last one” she arrogantly said. Her character was disgusting, I signed some forms, gave her my passport, bank details and home address with emergency contact details. She copied them, handed them back to me and set up my laptop login and password details as well as my Avena LA Grand email address.

 

“Just to let you know, the intern lasts up to 12 months with a full time position being offered to the intern if their performance has been adequate, every intern is paid $500 dollars a month, so expect to see that in your bank account or check your pay’pal which will also pay into depending on the preference of the individual”. I nodded, well as of today you will shadow Mikel and from tomorrow you will receive your duties on your memo. Please make sure you log into your email everyday as there is important announcements being made daily.” She took me to the 3rd floor where Simon’s office was, he was in a meeting so I sat outside the office, at 9:45AM Simon came out and briefly greeted me, and Mikel in his own zone, disregarded my existence for a few seconds.

 

“So you’re shadowing me huh”.

“Yes” I replied rather bluntly. We both wanted each other but were not able to articulate it properly. Funny. The day went by quickly as we were constantly busy, there were a lot of paperwork and continual meetings, both me and Mikel had to take the minutes. I was asked to make at least 70 phone-calls in the afternoon. No kidding. We both finished at 6PM and returned back to the apartment, I knocked out in the lounge. The whole week went by, I never knew how busy it would be, me and Mikel both had no time to sit down and do sketches at all, we had to plan a few days off work where he could stay at our place and sort everything out with this whole winter collection.

 

August 19th

 

Sonia had made mini sandwiches and red velvet cupcakes placing them on little plastic plates, we had some wine and beer spread out on the piano and table she kindly rolled Andrew one blunt as we awaited his return. Mikel buzzed up – as he walked in the door with Andrew on a wheelchair we all yelled ‘Welcome Home’. Andrew had a big grin on his face,

 

“You lot crazy man, where my blunt at Sonia baby” he said. She came up to him and gave him a kiss, and lit his blunt for him, taking a few puffs herself and passing it to him. We all spoke about what had been happening at work; Andrew told us that the police had come to visit him to find out details on the shooting. He explained he was not gang affiliated and so there were no further questions, they would contact him if they found out who the suspects were, but knowing NYC and the gun crimes who knows if the young lads would be found.– Sonia also notified Andrew of me starting at Avena LA Grand,

 

“Hey Vanessa not long and you’ve been put in” he said grinning, “You one of us now”. We both laughed.

We all got merry; Lucas jumped on the piano and played a few melodies while Jasmine free-styled, who knew she could sing so beautifully.

 

“Girl you can sing, you got that indie vibe to you – why you not doing anything with it” I pinched Jasmine as she leaned towards the piano

 

“Ah Vee, it’s just a hobby nothing special”

“It’s special to me”

 

Jasmine stopped and looked at me; she squeezed my hand and turned back around to Lucas. I wonder why she didn’t take it seriously she was so good, like so good.

 

Mikel remained sober and spent most of his time in the kitchen balcony staring out at the open sky. I I came into the kitchen and stood at a distance behind him,

 

“What do you want”

“Nothing” I said disappointed and turned to walk out.

“No. . . I didn’t mean to say it like that . . . don’t turn around and go in the lounge”. How did he know I was going when he was looking ahead? There was no way of seeing or even hearing me move . . .Energy man..energy.

I walked towards him and as I came up behind he grabbed me so fast and we gazed at each other in the eyes, we both had so much aggression from the other night we could only heal from looking at one another in the soul. We continued staring in each other’s eyes for around 15 minutes, both our guards came down and we were laughing like crazy. Andrew wheeled himself in the kitchen,

 

“Don’t tell me you let Vee hit that blunt, No Vee never.. you ain’t the type” he spoke out shocked.

“Nooo Andrew” I continued laughing, “Our spirits are high off love”. He rolled his eyes,

 

“I’ma leave use two undercover lovers then”. He went back in the lounge.

 

“You know how hard it’s been to be mad at you” Mikel pushed his nose onto mine.

“How hard” I began to grin and tease him

In that moment he kissed me, I thought I lost my consciousness but his kiss sobered me up in an instant! His soul was literally eating mine and I had no idea how to catch up this time it was more demanding of my love! I was not having it! I let go and began to bite his neck, he weakened, I returned to his lips and softly began to kiss him, and then that was it. . .he whimpered and I attacked, we both staggered back into the kitchen our lip’s locked. I jumped into his arms, he grabbed my legs and placed me on the kitchen surface . . . he silently groaned and it vibrated through to me. We were breathing heavily, trying not to kill each other, we slowly calmed down as his groans were beginning to get a bit too obvious. Both our foreheads touched, our souls were literally on fire at the wrong time. Mikel kissed me again softly . . . and again. Then he straightened himself out.

 

“You are dangerous Vanessa”

 “This is why not any man can have you; you have a gentle fiery spirit . . . a true spirit to love”.

 

“Are you just any man?” I asked. He looked me deeply in my eyes, and walked towards me, I felt the fierceness of his walk, the roar of his stride. He looked me dead in the eye,

 

“Do I look like any man?”

I was taken aback by every-thing. . .I didn’t quite know what man he really was – I didn’t really know him but I knew something deep within us was forcing us to one another. 

 

“There is something about you that is different, but I don’t know the difference . . . all I have ever known is what I have known, when will I ever know what man can share in this beauty.. what man can have me” I explained.

He looked at me innocently and with goodwill,

 

“You will know”. We went back in the lounge and everyone was watching a film, we cuddled up on the floor, Lucas threw us a duvet cover and some pillows. We both went to sleep in the space of 10 minutes, I cannot explain how Mikel made me feel as he held me but he truly was someone special. I dreamt that night, I dreamt of Marlon, I dreamt he texted me to come and meet him – I was too scared to go but he came to my house and forced me to come out. . . I was trying to run but he was watching me the whole time – then I saw him in bed with two women and me watching him – crying.

  I woke up instantly, it was daytime. . . I was not in the mood, and I was off from work for 2 days . . . it was just me and Andrew in the house. He was knocked out on the sofa . . . the dream got to me for real. . . I went to the window in the lounge and opened it, I pulled the chair close by and sat down admiring the fast pace atmosphere of the environment. Everything seemed surreal, how was this possible that I was finally here in New York working for a fashion design company that I had initially planned to check out . . . but somehow got a good word in from people who hardly knew me. . It must have been all divinely planned out; these guys accepted me and were so kind to me to even go as far as set me in with their intern company. Who does that? Most people these days are stubborn or even prideful they wouldn’t want to help a soul out if it jeopardizes there career or even their own personal development in whatever sector they have been placed. If you know what I mean. All this seemed rather crazy to me, I just didn’t know what to make of it. As my mind began to wonder in the skies, everything was turning white in my inner being – as in I was seeing clouds swift through me – in a trice I saw Laurence standing next to me looking out the window too.

 

“Hi Vanessa” he said, smiling curiously.

I continued to stare out, as always Laurence pops up at the right time, “Hello, once again my friend” I replied.

 

“Your friend?”

“Yes, are you not my friend?”  

“Of course, I have been waiting for you to mention me as your friend” he acknowledged.

“You do know, Andrew is laying on the sofa right? He can wake up any second”

“Never mind him, he’s good – he’s got a few hours’ sleep in him” Laurence spoke looking behind at Andrew snoozing on the sofa.

 

“So how can I be of your service today?” I emphasized. Laurence was trying not to crack up with laughter, knowing farewell that angels were in service for humans not the other way round.. but still the mysterious part of it all was angels still learnt some things from humans. Come on, we all learn from each other, angels are just higher advanced - but yet the complexity of humans is the overall interest and study of angelic forces – the hidden intelligence that humans have not been able to tap into for a long time . . . this being fascinating as they watch us mortal beings try to understand and suss out the reality and meaning of life.  

 

“I can hear your mind Vanessa”

“I know you can” I replied looking out the window and staring into the sky.

“Your over-whelmed by this trip aren’t you?”

“Yes, I never knew that things will unfold this rapidly – I somehow thought it would be difficult, that I would be roaming around without a clue but I guess.. there was an inner knowing” I squinted my eyes,

“The crazy thing is being accepted – being helped, no one hardly helps me, hardly understands. It’s usually me helping or giving a hand out to others. I fitted in so well although you warned me about Kazzy .. man that experience scared me Laurence – I was somehow locked but being away from everyone for a few days made me think of why I live.. not too hide from my pain but to embrace it and keep going.. Where ever it is I am going . . . hmmm”

 

 

“You are a wise soul young lady. . .your experience’s are morphing you to become far greater than you will ever realize”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yes, really. There will be times ahead you won’t understand why you had to deal with some huge challenges but you will realize the strength it has given you as an individual – as a free soul – as a light-bearer as a messenger”. I nodded.

“I understand, I just pray the Father gives me strength dude”

“Oh he sure wills Vanessa, he sure will – undeniable strength, you are a gift. . it is being made known”. . .

“Laurence I had a dream about Marlon – You know Marlon?”

“Yes he came into your life at a young age, for a reason that is” he nodded.

“Really? I have never forgotten him – I have tried to erase him from my mind but he doesn’t ever completely go away, I feel deeply for him – and yet something strange is pulling me towards Mikel”. Laurence turned to me,

 

“Vanessa the soul knows what it desires, and what it wants. It’s drawn to its own and never forgets its own . . . it remembers and when it does it realizes another soul is their own reflection. Love is a gift but not every soul will recognize it in another unless their heart yearns for it – it is an attraction far beyond the human eye – it is Spirit. Many souls hear its call but not every soul responds but if you are open you will hear or see the call of another lover – even if it is not the one intended for you – you have a choice to wait for your reflection or to follow on in the love calling you in another soul. This is the position you are in, your dreams of Marlon is his very own Spirit calling out to you. He recognizes who you are, but his physical state does not allow him to come and make himself known to you. He is stuck in this reality and is trying to come out from what he knows – he knows your soul can help him. If you choose to help and allow your heart to feel towards him then you will find one another BUT it will be a difficult journey but rewarding for you both spiritually with God. His soul loves you but his physical state and his environment denies you. He’s calling, will you answer?”

I stayed silent. Love is crazy, somehow like a game, a trick do we even win this ?

 

“How do I answer?” I replied.

 

“Stay silent, open your heart to Love and be free but allow his memory to live within you. If you choose to forget him you cut off his spirit connection from you but it will not completely die away. Carry on in life, be open to love but do not give yourself a way to anyone . . . your spirit is sacred your body a temple. God knows exactly the outcome - Mikel wants to experience what has been placed in your heart, he wants to share it with you and give his own to you. Your soul truly knows what it wants, listen to your soul”.

 

My eye’s had teared up, I didn’t want war to begin not within me . . . not for feelings I had no deep knowing of.

 

“Have faith Vanessa, trust God’s will not your own” Laurence said. . . “Open your heart and pay attention to the needs of others” he turned his head in Andrew’s direction as he was lying on the sofa. “Some people are calling for your help – pay attention” he spoke, and then he disappeared. I looked outside in the sky and sighed I wasn’t hungry so I continued to sit down and watch the world go by. Andrew grunted in his sleep and accidently let it rip meaning he passed wind ha-ha.  

  Andrew turned onto his back and then slowly popped his head up from behind the sofa,

 

“Hey you” I

“Waddup, whats the time?”

“it’s 10:42AM” I replied.

“Oh, Ok. . Give me a hand here please Vee . . . I need to smoke on one, Sonia made me 3 for today”. I pulled a face at him; he really loved his weed. Andrew had a cast on one hand and a bandage on his leg so he needed support onto his wheelchair. I helped him on the wheelchair opened his smoke box and wheeled him to the window. I sat down and watched him take the lighter and spark his blunt. A large puff of smoke came out his mouth and the smell of weed filled the apartment, it sailed the air and disappeared in the distance.

 

“You’re quiet this morning” I said suspiciously.

“Things on my mind” he blew out smoke staring at me, “You’re awkwardly beautiful this morning” Andrew spoke, smiling.

 

“Thanks I appreciate it”

“You and Mikel fit well together, he’s a very good guy – and I know he cares for you deeply – I can tell from his eyes.. The way.. he..looks at you.”

“So you read eyes do you” I sniggered, he looked up. His eyes drooping.

“I read a lot of things” he sighed.

“What’s wrong?”

 

Andrew looked out the window, I felt the lowliness and depression of his heart – his whole atmosphere changed.. randomly it began I had never seen Andrew cry let alone cry as hard as he was, and didn’t stop. Tears were pouring from his eyes, he sobbed in misery, he dropped his blunt on the floor, and I quickly picked it up and put it in his ashtray. I didn’t know what to do, I walked by his chair and put my arm around him – he flinched but I held on and then he broke down completely, his head on my belly . . . weeping and howling. My eyes watered as I felt his pain, it was a pain I have not heard of in a long time – since my own breakdown years ago, and it was a cry from the soul, a mourning of a broken contrite heart, a burdened spirit. Andrew wrapped his arms around my waist, holding on like a child in need of his mother I held him tightly and let him cry when he finished I quickly went into the kitchen to get some tissues and wiped his tears and nose. Andrew took his blunt and sat in silence for a few minutes staring into the blank atmosphere,

 

“Whats up?”

He inhaled on his blunt; he held the smoke in with strength and blew out.

 

He sniffled. . his eyes watering,

 

“A lot is wrong Vanessa, have you not seen the things I do?”

“What do you do?”

“You really want me to spit it out to you?”

 

I stared at him dead on “Mmhmm” I responded.

He blew out his smoke and dabbed out his blunt, his eyes bloodshot – his face pale and tired of life.

 

“Vanessa I don’t know where to start”

“Start where you can”.

 

“Well look at me, I’m forever high, taking coke, sleeping around, before you came here so much sh*t happened – so much, I’ve been kidnapped and done so much bad things and now I’ve been shot and in a wheelchair seeming like this is my punishment for not taking life seriously” he explained.

“Isn’t this the faze your meant to work out what you want to do, isn’t this normal behavior, experimenting even?” I opposed, purposely.

“No it’s not normal, to me it’s called being lost . . . do you think I like being like this?”

“Well do you?”

“No I don’t, it is not me. .  I . . . lost. . me. . a while ago. . .” his tears rolled down his face.

“When did you lose him, and where did you leave him . . . do you know how to find him?”

“I lost him at 14 or 15, where.. probably at home and I don’t know where to find him. . .  I need help” the tears rolled down his eyes slowly.

 

I tapped his back,

 

“You have found him; you have already begun the journey, right here, right now  ...You acknowledge something happened to him and because you have understood this you know where to find him. He’s with you . . . one second”

 

I quickly ran to my room, grabbed my bible and walked back to the lounge.

 

God help me guide him to know the secrets of his own life through your instruction.

 

“Oh no not religion” he said rolling his eyes.

“No not religion, I will show you some secrets” I told him.  I opened the word,

 

“You said you didn’t know where to begin, your searching for yourself right . . . the self you lost?”

“Yes” he sat upright in his wheelchair, wiping his face.

 

“Well in the bible many people lost themselves and sought the power of life to help them understand themselves, and most individuals were all like us having weaknesses. Prophets spoke of a kingdom - of a knowing in their own hearts – God talking to them somehow, through people, situations . . .of something far beyond what we can imagine and to enter it we had to connect with God who would reveal our life to us. They mostly told us to change and repent which basically is denouncing ourselves and our faults which you just done – you acknowledged your lost and your actions speak for themselves right, because you feel like what your doing is a result to you losing you, am I correct?” He nodded,

 

“Well in the bible the religious leaders asked Jesus “When will the kingdom of heaven come?” he answered them, “People can’t observe the coming of the kingdom of heaven. They can’t say, “Here it is!’ or ‘There it is’ You see, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:19 – meaning everything your seeking or trying to work out to enter into what you want to understand is buried in yourself – when you return back into that Kingdom you begin to know the truth of what went wrong and so you begin the journey to finding out what you can do to make things right – the kingdom is inside you”

 “Really, where do I find it in myself?” he questioned.

 

“James 4:8 says ‘Come close to God, and he will come close to you. Clean up your lives, you sinners, and clear your minds, you doubters’ – So where in your self needs to be cleared out Andrew, where in you is drowned in misery and hopelessness?”

 

“My heart is heavy, my mind is racing with thoughts …my spirit just feels broken and my soul is lost”

 

“Well, that’s what God requires for us to enter into his kingdom - Psalm 51:17 – The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. O God, you do not despise a broken and sorrowful heart – and it also says in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is our God. The Lord our God is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength – but Andrew remember though the kingdom is in your heart it’s not far from you”

 

“But how can I believe in what I cannot see, I’m aware that there must be a God but it’s hard to believe sometimes?”

 

I smiled, “In Romans 1:19-22 it says

 ‘What can be known about God is clear to them because he has made it clear to them. From the creation of the world, Gods invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly observed in what he made. As a result, people have no excuse. They knew God but did not praise and thank him for being God. Instead, their thoughts were pointless, and their misguided minds were plunged into darkness. While claiming to be wise, they became fools.’ – Andrew the evidence of God is in his very own creation – all that is created and all that is shows that there is a power far beyond what we can comprehend but it observes us and is a part of us, yet we refuse to honor it. Our intuition, our understanding, the wisdom we accumulate in our years is the power of God. It is not through our own knowing, something journeys with us and it knows because it lives through us. We can begin to honor God by first returning to ourselves to seek guidance in who we are, when our spirit’s cry out – his spirit is there to uplift us because his spirit is still alive, it’s all around us, in people who choose to acknowledge him, so he makes a home in them.”

 

“Wow, that’s deep”

 

“Remember Where ever your heart is there your treasure will be also – Matthew 6:21 – Whatever you put your heart towards there you will find your joy – if you lose yourself to the empty things of life it’s because you thought you will find your happiness and joy there but unfortunately it entered into your home and stole your joy, peace and happiness – the devil did come to steal, kill and destroy you know”

Andrew looked down, and let his tears fall. .  

 

“Christ came to give us life and life to the full, his word is our life we ought to apply it – believe it and seek to understand it in order to live free from all the passions that consume us Andrew”. He looked up at me, “I want to be free Vanessa, I really really do!”

 

“Well Christ did say, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32) – you heard that saying before no?”

“Yes I have. . one thing – everything you said was true but I’m still holding on to hurt – from the past”

“What hurt, if you don’t mind me asking?”.  Andrew breathed in, he silently weeped.. he remained still,

 

“I have never told no-one I was adopted when I was younger, I have never known my parents and I have been angry – so angry, why would they leave me, why abandon me. Then I was sexually abused by my uncle, he took away the youth and happiness that was within me. All I have ever wanted to have was a real family.”

“You have a family; don’t you realize it was love that made them desire to adopt you – if it weren’t for love why would they choose you, I’m so sorry your uncle did that to you.. I’m so so sorry”

I got up and hugged him, and rocked him as he sobbed silently.. he was releasing his pain and I knew this would be a better start for him to know himself.

“Why would anyone love me when I have always been abandoned and alone? When my uncle I trusted layed his hands on me” he cried.

“You have made yourself alone and told yourself you are abandoned in your own feelings and this is why it has followed you to this day and caused anger in your heart, everything people did to you – look at it, understand it, learn from it but do not hold it in your heart or you will burden your own soul. You never spoke to anyone not even your parents and this was causing resentment in you. – Psalm 27:10 says – Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will take care of me – Love did not abandon you bro, believe it was there but you held on to the pain”. Andrew reached out his arms and hugged me tightly with tears in his eyes, he held a lot in himself for years I could see.

 

“I want to pray” he said, “What do I say?”

“Say whatever you feel Andrew, whatever is on your heart”.

 

“Okay, Dear God, Creator, Christ. . Thank you for sending a person of love into my life, someone who wouldn’t judge me for being the person I am, she listened to me.. I thought I would need professional help but I needed to release my pain to someone who cared to listen without controlling my mind. Thank you for allowing me to release this pain, this feeling that has hovered over me for years – I needed this, forgive me for putting my family through pain and struggles, I forgive my uncle and I pray I can be honest with my parents about what happened. I gave up on faith but I still believed somehow because you have always allowed me to see you existed. I want to get my act together, I am not perfect I have faults and weaknesses but I want to walk the right way from the bottom of my heart, please show me the way, open my heart and mind and soul to your truth and please help me, heal me and make me a better man. Amen.”

 

“Amen” I replied grinning my teeth . We both gave each other a high-5. Andrew looked up at me,

 

“Thankyou Vanessa, for coming into our lives – thank-you for being you, I don’t cry to no one but your presence has made me able to be free and be me. Thank you”. I walked up to him and placed a kiss on his cheeks,

 

“You’re more than welcome drew, I’m proud of you” I replied.

“Hey my mom calls me that” he laughed, wheeling his chair around and heading to his room,

“Anyways I’m going to shower and rest myself for a while girl” he said. I nodded sitting down looking out the window.

 

As he left, my heart sunk, I was in dilemma I was still in love with Marlon and I knew that the dream was pushing my heart back to him even though I was trying to forget him. This wasn’t fair, he never paid attention to me, he never cared about me why then must I be in love with someone who doesn’t love me? My heart hurt so much at the fact all these years I had secretly been in love with him and never was able to tell him my own feelings. I hadn’t seen him in years, he was probably living his life, and my memory was wiped out from his. I’ve been a fool for too long, loving people who never loved me, trying to give my all and it never being appreciated. . . he probably doesn’t care about me anyway so why? Why the dreams, why the feelings, why EVERYTHING! All I want to do is move on, and I am determined to get him out my mind, my heart and even my soul. I want to put an end to this once and for all, but you know what they say . . . once you decide it’s over, that’s when it only begins.

Chapter 10: Just Us

 

“Stop tickling me” Jasmine moaned, laughing as Lucas smooched her neck. The day was bright and central park was full of people, we sat on the grass relaxing in the distance some of the public were seen jogging others riding their bicycles. Children were laughing as they ran happily in the new season that was breaking through; September was only around the corner. .  Autumn was here and as the Americans call it “Fall”. I sat down sketching some ideas for the winter coats collection Simon had assigned me and Mikel to do. Mikel managed to get Simon to agree for September 3rd to be our hand in date for our collaboration over-view. Since starting the Intern we have continually been busy with all the admin tasks, and keeping up with Avena’s website updates, on Friday I attended a fashion shoot with Sonia and another intern in which we had to take notes on any garment faulties that our designers needed to be made aware of. We also had to take pictures of the model in different angles to put on social media updates on the new fall promoting Avena La Grande’s High end Streetwear Casual look. Avena had a very unique style, everything was made simple but with such poise it stood out from a mile away, this made runway executives and designers notice the hard work Simon had been putting in as Avena L’G was becoming a hot topic in the fashion world, also appearing in Schon! And i-D magazine. Right now I was determined to get my idea’s recognized and put out there, and with the Coats/Jacket idea’s I had – my hopes were that Simon would take to them and allow me this moment to shine under his guidance.  I sipped my Frappuccino whilst Lucas and Jasmine cuddled and wooed each other.

 

RING! RING! RING! RING!  My phone vibrated.

 

I looked into my side pouch and it was Mikel ringing,

 

“Hi Mikel”

“Waddup Vee, where you at?” he asked, concerned. I smiled,

“I’m in Central park dude”

“Not by yourself I imagine, who you with?”

“Lucas and Jasmine”

“Ahhh right, listen I spoke to Simon via email and he has given us a week off to get out idea’s down to bring them into the office – I gathered since he gave us an extra week we might as well take it off so we can spend time and find some inspiration you know – Jasmine will cover for me?”

“That’s great, I agree. . . Thanks – So what you up to now?”

“Well its Sunday the chill day I have no major plans but I was hoping to see you, maybe you can come over to my place and we lay down some ideas”.

“Okay cool, what time you want me to come to you?”

“Don’t worry about that Vee I’m coming to getchu’ now, just ask Lucas and Jasmine to walk you to the east meadows by 5th avenue ok, I’ll be there in 10”

“Okay, see you”. I cut the line and turned to Jasmine and Lucas,

 

“You guys, Mikels coming to get me, I’m heading over to his place to lay down some ideas for our project, he told me to ask you lovey dovey people to walk me to 5th avenue by east meadows”

“Okay girl, come we go then”. We all got up, I took my folder in my arm and followed them both as they led the way, the sun was cooling and my skirt was flaring up as the wind continually blew over my direction, good thing I wore tights! The walk was only 5 minutes; Lucas purposely kept bumping jasmine into me, which was so frustrating. As we got too 5th Avenue, Mikel pulled up instantly and beeped at us, great synchronization, I thought. He got out the car and hugged me like a teddy bear and said Hey to Lucas and Jasmine,

 

“I’m taking Vee back to my place, you wan’ a ride ya’ll”

“Na me and my chickenhead here are gon’ go and get a bite to eat” Lucas said putting jasmine in a headlock. They were so cute together all they ever did was play like children, one day I better be this free with my husband, I thought..smiling at them both. Mikel smiled looking at me, and nodded his head at lucas,

 

“Ite bro, see you later on in the evening then maybe, Jasmine one” said Mikel.

“One bro” Jasmine shouted, as Lucas chased after her on the pavement.

Mikel looked at me his eyes shining ever so sweetly; he wore his cute Adidas shorts and shirt with his slides, his shape up making his cocoa skin look so eatable, his brown eyes always got to me I could always see myself in them which meant he was obviously seeing me VERY CLEARLY. *Laughs*

We got into his car and drove back to his place listening to some 90’s RnB,

 

“You have good taste Mr” I said grinning

“How can I not sitting next to someone like you” he replied, with a serious face.

We were silent for like 5 seconds, and then burst out laughing.

 

“You’re so corny” I said, rolling my eyes

“Only for you goofball” he stroked my cheeks, whilst we drove past

 Crownsfield estate. My heart skipped, and he felt it, he kept driving the more he stroked my cheeks the more my heart opened just like a baby. As we parked outside his apartment, he turned and looked at me,

 

“Vanessa, you know we have a week off work and we have been selected to collaborate in the winter season with Avena – our jackets got to be looking superfly and ting’ so how about you stay at my place for a week” he said with a cute lil smile. I stared at him blankly.

 

“Stay at your place?” I queried. He nodded.

I squinted my eyes, and looked at him trying to see if there were any hidden agendas,

 

“I’ll sleep on the sofa; you take my bed – we get our ideas and sketches done – and we sorted for the following week.”

I looked at him with my angelic face, “Well okay, I’ll stay”.

 

He gave me his fist to spud, and we got out the car and went up to his apartment. As soon as we entered I took off my shoes and jumped on his sofa – he followed behind me. We both lay on the sofa and ended up napping for half an hour. This time it was Mikel waking me up with a hot chocolate and sliced mangoes, I don’t know how he knew I loved mangoes..I never told him.. not that I can remember anyway but the first time I came to his place he also gave me mangoes.

We chilled on the sofa as some background music played behind us, the house was warm and cosy missy came and jumped on my lap – I stroked her she became relaxed in my arms. It was 16:30PM, Mikel brought in a few sketch books and his laptop, and he looked like he just couldn’t be asked and was tired.

 

“Someone does not look like he’s in the mood for this anymore” I said, raising my eyebrows.

“Well I’m not, it’s just good to be around you, and plus we have 5 whole days to do our sketches,

Todays Sunday so why not chill and start our work tomorrow?”

He seemed like he was suggesting this but at the same time he was asking me to allow him for the day. I rolled my eyes,

 

“Fair enough, tomorrow it is then – so what we going to do?” I raised my eyebrows.

“Relax, watch a film or something – order pizza but I want to know more about you” he asked.

Missy jumped off my lap and skipped back into Mikel’s room,

 

“What do you want to know” I said, sighing.

“Hey, don’t sigh.. This is good for you, I know you’re not use to it but you’re going to be a well-known fashion designer soon” he winked, “so you ought to be prepared with the questions”.

I smirked.

“Tell me about your parents” he began, sitting up close to me.

“My parents?” I said, he nodded.

“My Ma is a lovely woman, she came to the UK from the Congo many years ago and had me and my bro here, my dad I never knew him”. Mikel looked at me shocked,

 

“You never knew your dad and your strong as you are?” his face intrigued

“Well it’s God, its Christ in me and my mother’s faith – she taught me and my bro that faith was the key – life’s obstacles and struggles forced me to be strengthened”

 

“Interesting, sorry about your dad” he said.

“What about you and your parents, how are they?” I asked curiously.

Mikel was silent for a little bit, he was calculating how to actually speak on his parents which totally confused me.

 

“My parents are back and forth from Nigeria at times and of course as I told you before they live in florida with my little sister”

 

“Oh I see, so why they back and forth from there?”

“Well my dad owns an oil company in Nigeria, and it’s his homeland too, my mum is Haitian”

 

Oh so that explained the fancy apartment, car and everything.. I thought his parents funded it all.

 

“Interesting, that’s cool – my mum owned a cleaning company but it had to close down, she was doing so well ..Paying the mortgage then everything just changed. . last minute but she’s okay with it – she explained it is part of Gods plan”. Mikel nodded his head,

 

“I think it is” he replied.

 

“Why you say that”

 

“Everything happens for a reason Vanessa if she knows her reason who are you to tell her she’s wrong”. I rolled my eyes, he was right I was in no position to tell her any different especially if Ma knows who she is and how God has worked things out for her in the past. We sat in silence for a few minutes, Mikel staring into space,

 

“So you was a spoilt child I’m guessing”

“You can say that, but I had a whole lot of discipline at the same time” he looked down.

“How ya mean?”

“My parents would beat the hell outta me sometimes, for small petty things . . . they wanted me to realize that this privileged life I had was not my own”

“Really?” I asked confused. He nodded, embarrassed. I could tell he had never mentioned this to anyone.

 

“I went to a private school and had the best education, finished my BA degree in fashion at The Parsons, The New School for Design and have had numerous opportunities to become my own brand”  

 

“So, why didn’t you?”

 

“All my life I was never appreciated by my parents I was meant to worship the ground off of them for everything they done for me, when I went into Uni I had a few problems and got into a wrong crowd – I just wanted to know what it’s like to be ghetto and come from nothing but they saved me from the shame of bringing their family name into ruins. Instead of going forward in creating my own brand, I decided to work for my dad for a few months and save some money as well as take the money from my own trust he opened. I managed to get into that trust and take my money and my own savings and come here to New York and live. I started a new, I wanted change and my parents resented me for this but they later grew to respect my courage”

 

I looked at him amazed; he was brave for real he obviously wanted to understand life differently from what he knew to work with no one’s name behind himself.

 

“Well done for your bravery and courage – even though you slipped up you still knew what you wanted and never gave up. I’m proud of you” I said honestly. Mikel looked up at me with tears in his eyes, hasn’t anyone said this to him, I wondered. I moved closer to him on the sofa and dabbed his eyes with my cardigan – I went to kiss his cheeks but he turned his lips towards me and kissed me fervidly, he meant this with his whole being, it was his thank you for noticing him and listening. I kissed him back wrapping my arms around his neck and making him know I was here for him, and he had a friend in me, this kiss made me a little uncomfortable  it somehow tried to tug parts of my heart that wasn’t emotionally available for him but I tried my best to return his feelings. We let go of each other and missy came back into the living room and stood by the chair staring at me, I knew she realized something I didn’t but she kept her distance. Later that evening Mikel ordered pizza we watched a few movies and chillaxed there were times Mikel would pull me in close and tickle my chin he had his ways, missy just stared at us mesmerized by this friendship she bore witness too. The sun went down and it was late after watching 5 movies we both were exhausted,

 

“You take the bed and I take the sofa” Mikel said lying flat on the sofa. I felt bad,

 

“No come and share the bed with me, it’s alright – just don’t try and touch me in places you know you shouldn’t” my eyes opened widely warning him.

 

“Oh no my lady, I wouldn’t do such a thing” he laughed. We both went into his room, Mikel offered me his PJs, I got changed and jumped into bed. Mikel removed his clothes and stayed in his boxers *rolls eyes* this was not what I wanted it to be but I was calm and relaxed. . . I trusted him enough not to do anything he wasn’t supposed too. He closed the lights and the whole house was silent, missy lay in her little basket licking her paws, she looked up at me as I stared at her and then continued cleaning herself.

 

“Mikel?”

“Yes”

“Can I ask you something”

“Go on. . .”

“Have you ever been in Love?”

“Ugh.. ermm I think so yes”

“What is Love?” I asked, curiously.

 

“Well that’s hard to define Vanessa, through my point of view it is giving all of you to someone in prospects that they will receive it openly and not forfeit it for a lie but take it as it’s truth and build upon it – to make someone happy, to find the missing part of you” he explained turning around looking into my eyes. . .”What’s Love to you Vee?”

 

I hesitated. My mind clear no thoughts just space.

 

“Well Love is, it just is – it’s a character that withstands the tests and trials of life, and is willing to go through that with someone else. It is a choice to push further within yourself with someone else to bring out the best in each other – it is Spirit, it is Life, it is me and it is you. . It’s more than a touch, more than the passion and intense fire we feel. Love is sacred an embodiment of the Divine within a person working for the greater good – between two people and also between many others. Two people will experience growth, passion, strength, hope, faith, divinity, sight and knowledge of who they are as one. Love is, honesty, patience, kindness, joy, peace, loyalty, trust, slow to anger, truthful. It cannot merely be explained but its term is to be lived.”

 

Mikel turned his whole body towards me and stared, I looked up at the ceiling as the words of the Spirit echoed in my soul.

 

“Wow – and this is why I said there is something in you that not any man can just have”

 

I turned to look at him and smiled, “Goodnight munchkin”

 

“Goodnight angel”. We both slept peacefully that night as a new week laid ahead we had to be determined to get our designs done.

I woke up at 7:30AM, I heard Mikel having his shower; I got up tired and sat in the bed looking at the ceiling Mikel came into the room 5 minutes later with his towel dangling from his waist. I gulped silently, his abs was amazing, and they were squared up perfectly and positioned on his stomach like someone literally drew them on. I never noticed his body like I did today but he saw me looking at him and grinned, he came over to the bed and kissed my forehead. . I closed my eyes and felt the tingle creep into my stomach. I sat up as he sat down on the bed with his towel still wrapped around him, he wanted to kiss me but he somehow had to stop himself. He stroked my cheeks, my arms and my legs looking into me trying to discover something he was not yet able to understand but his persistence was sweet I must admit. I took his hands and pretended to eat it causing him to giggle,

 

“Well I’m going to shower, is there a spare toothbrush in the bathroom?” I said getting up

“Yes there is look in the drawers but all the towels are dirty, so take this one” he said, taking off his towel and revealing his ever so gigantic penis. My heart stopped, I gasped. . My eyes opened wide and I looked at him from his head to his toes in shock. He had an amazing body but that wasn’t what shocked me, his mannerism at this moment was bizarre, what would make him do such a thing?

 

“What? You never seen a penis before” he questioned, smirking walking close to me. I stood still, not knowing how to react, should I faint . . . should I slap him . . . or should I play along with his arrogance!

 

“Of course, I have” I said, getting myself together. He came up so close I felt his manhood brush past my vagina and he stayed there, up close and personal gaping into me – he bent his head to kiss me and I kissed him back and his flooded lustful emotions tried to consume my body, he pushed me onto his bed and got on top of me . . . smooching my neck his naked body rubbing against me – my body weakened – my legs hugging his back. I slowly began to feel a fire erupting in me. I watched this all happen to sense what love he wanted and carried, but it was beginning to take me away. .he was rushing me not knowing that his patience was an undercover lie to his lust, or was this all in my head..

 

“Stop - get off me” I said. He stopped, and looked at my face, stunned. He stood up his penis sticking upright looking as if it had an electric shock - that wood won’t be enjoying a ride, it better jump on somewhere else I thought. I couldn’t be a victim to lust it would only destroy my character and then leave me burdened in guilt, it manipulates the self into thinking you are loved when you are just desired looked on as an attraction – nothing more.

 

“Sorry, sorry Vanessa. . I. . Uhh. .” Mikel turned his back at me ashamed.

His bum was really cute though.

“It’s cool, don’t worry – anyway I’m going to bath now. .  Thank you”

 

I walked into the bath and stared into the mirror what was I getting myself into, first Frank and now Mikel . . . what do I have that is attracting these guys? A few men had tried to come but I never let them even close as I let my friendship blossom with Frank although I would of never known Frank liked me weirdly enough Mikel was getting too close for me. . This was far out of my comfort zone. I let the water run, and had my shower, brushed my teeth and changed in the bathroom, I let my twisted braids down to dry and walked into the living room – Mikel was making breakfast and looked at me he didn’t know what to say,

 

“What you making us to eat then” I smiled, jumping on the sofa. He stared into me and seemed lost for words, “Well?” I asked crossing my eyes and sticking out my tongue. He laughed,

 

“Uhhh.. I’m frying some eggs with plantain”.  I got up and walked into the kitchen area and hugged him, “It’s cool, Mikel no hard feelings” I said calmly, “It’s just not that time, for me right now”. He nodded, “I know, but when will it ever be your time” he asked.

 

“God knows, only God knows” I said.

 

We ate our breakfast and sat down relaxing for a few minutes, and then we spoke over some inspiration we both had acquired during our time alone. I showed him some sketches in my notebook which he kind of went crazy over – these puff jackets I sketched were suede at the back, a vinyl diagonal zip styled fronting with Chinese printing on the back of the coat – the printing would be in white/cream, black or red and the coat itself – being made in red, black, brown and cream color. The beige puffer would be the brands winter model with a beige suede behind the Jacket with large cream chinese prints in the suede – Ivory vinyl at the front of the jacket with the label in metallic at the left hand side of the jacket reading – Avena LG - on the right arm AV would be lightly printed half suede and half vinyl with the mixture of Ivory and Beige. The other Jacket to be our winter model of puffers was black suede with white vinyl and dark grey Chinese print and metallic label with dark grey AV on the right arm. Mikel was so excited over the creativity. We had our puffer style down! We discussed the material to be used, Mikel informed me the puffers were best to be made as a down jacket meaning it would be filled with soft feathers of a duck or goose and outer layers with some polyester, allowing it to have a longer life and being warmer – breathing better and compressing better. I was impressed by his knowledge of materials. . .

 

“As for the suede, we will try and use a type of leather so it creates a more textured look, appealing soft if not we may use faux suede but add parts of the leather in it too balance the look we desire” he said adding notes to my sketches. We both looked at each other and smiled, team work felt good . . . I liked working with him it was interesting and certainly fun. We went back to the ICU apartment later that evening, as we entered the house there was Kazzy standing by the lounge yelling and throwing her arms in the air bewildered, Sonia had slapped her in the face and Jasmine was trying to stop the whole commotion.

 

“What is happening here” Mikel shouted, he pushed past me and looked at Kazzy. .“Why are you here?”

“I came to see Andrew, I want to talk” Her eyes were red, she was high and completely not herself.

 

“Andrewwwww I got some coke here for us, come out” she yelled. Andrew came out his room on his crutches and looked over at me his face full of sadness; I walked over to him and gave him a hug.

 

“Ahh here comes London girl to save the whole lot of you weak sh*ts!” she screamed, “She’s a dirty trash, taking my place”

 

“That’s enough” Mikel shouted at her, “Dirty trash? With the dirt you have on your own hands” he said looking down at her. . . “Look at you Kazzy, look what you’ve become . . . everyone has tried to help you but you won’t help yourself – Just get out”

 

“I want my Andrew” she sobbed.

 

Sonia walked up to her, Jasmine standing in between them,

 

“He’s not your man crack-head, get out of here with your fake cries – come here again and I will call the police – do you understand” she said, piercing her eyes into her. Kazzy backed away, Andrew came out the lounge by the corridor, and he watched us all and then turned to Kazzy,

 

“Kaz, we were never together. I don’t do coke no more, I’m trying to put that all behind me – I’m trying to be a better man, a God-fearing man. Look at me, look what happened because I was focused on the world and its ways rather than looking within myself to understand who I is as a man. I don’t want to be lost and I don’t want you to be lost. God loves you Kaz, Jesus made that obvious for us all to know, and he paved a way for us all to be new men, new women. .you don’t have to do this to yourself”

 

“Don’t you preach to me, DON’TTT Y-OOO-UU DAAREE PRE-AAA-CCH TO MEE” she shouted. Mikel instantly grabbed her by the arm and threw her out the door closing it on her. She banged on the door and shouted for an hour, we listened as her high began to wear off; she was completely out of it – what could have gone wrong? Our choices are always driven by an empty place inside of us, somewhere that needs healing, attention but instead we choose to numb it by the use of substances, people, work, sex anything that stops us thinking of the reality of our own life. I felt for her but it wasn’t my place to talk to her now.

Sonia, Andrew, Jasmine and Lucas sat down in the lounge in silence,

 

“Yo bro, when did you start getting into all this God stuff” Lucas asked Andrew.

 

“The day I got shot and Vanessa said that prayer, God showed me love exists, her prayer saved my life.. He showed me that” Andrew replied, with tears in his eyes. Sonia fiddled with her hands and looked like she was going to cry – they both silently went back into Andrews’s room and closed the door. Lucas and Jasmine were both looking at me and Mikel like we held the answers, I went into my room to pack my clothes for the week to stay at Mikel’s and as I came out Jasmine was at my front door. . .she hugged me tightly.

 

“See you in a week girl – I will miss you & I love you” she said. In that moment my heart melted, my knees felt like they may go weak but I stood straight, the way she spoke was so sincere.

 

“I love you to Jaz” I kissed her cheek and went on out to find Mikel at the door, I waved goodbye to Lucas, then Mikel and I left out to head to his place. That evening we relaxed, we hugged a little in silence and then went asleep on the sofa. I liked our friendship more than the added romance, even though the romance at times made me happy it didn’t quite fulfil me – don’t get me wrong Mikel is an amazing guy but something in me did not want all of this with him, but “this” was beautiful. The friendship, the connection was beautiful. Could it be the wrong timing, maybe the wrong person? There’s no right or wrong person anyway – Love is Love who am I to drive it away but I often thought someone out there would understand me differently, not through romance, maybe romance could be involved at a point but I wanted something more intimate. I wanted to be transparent and not think about my transparency with them, I wanted a clear mind. I had hopes he would see me and know he met himself. Maybe it’s just my imagination; don’t know if what I was looking for really existed.

The days drifted on we both managed to lay down our sketches; Mikel made some incredible designs for parka jackets and leather style jackets using faux fur of course, animal cruelty is not welcomed in Avena LG which I must admit is superb. As the week drew to an end me and Mikel were proud of our determination, and we had our portfolio completed full of sketches, pictures and colors, including materials of interests.

 

“We put in the work yo” Mikel said, slumping back on his sofa

“Most definitely, High 5” I slapped his hand, he pulled me into him. I lay on his chest, my eyes closed.

We both sat there, listening to the sound of the world, the quietness of the home.

“Do you like me?” Mikel randomly uttered

“What do you mean, do I like you” my eyes opening.

“Do you feel towards me, are you attracted to me”.

I sat up, and looked at Mikel in his eyes . . . being honest is the only thing that I can do to save myself from heart ache – I generally liked him but not enough to want to form something with him because I was in love with another man, who unfortunately did not love me, so Mikel could do better than me, right?

I sighed,

 

“I like you Mikel, I like your personality your kindness, your bravery, your hard work and the way you care for others. You’re a good soul, of course I like you”

 

“Do you like me enough to want to be with me?”

“I don’t know Mikel; you know the situation I’m in”

“What that you love a guy who doesn’t even think about you, who doesn’t even care about you?”

“It’s not like that”. Mikel sat up; I sat back and looked at him.

 

“Then what is it yo’ cause I’m all here digging you so much, and seeing the gift you are and your fantasizing over another guy? You know deep down you like me but it’s the thought of him, your holding on to the past – let it go”. Tears were building up in my eyes, for once someone was getting to the part I only kept for him someone was trying to destroy and open up the place I knew he could do himself, this hurt, it stung me so bad.

 

“I wanted him and I couldn’t have him – I was so close to being able to have something . . . anything but I feared my love would be used and he would throw me away. I can’t forget him because I wanted him in ways I have never wanted anyone Mikel – in places deep in me that no one can ever find but him” tears rolled down my eyes, “I’m in love with a person of the past and I haven’t let him go, I’ve tried but his memory sneaks up in me and I find it hard to breathe I want to let him go so much, my girl has told me forget him and move on- we never had a relationship, we never got the chance. I love him and I do not understand why – there’s no reason to. He is living his life, he probably has every girl he wants I’m not even perfect enough for him”

 

“But your perfect enough for me Vanessa, your perfect enough for me” Mikel took my hand, and I sobbed –  knowing that deep down what I felt I didn’t want to feel I wanted to let it go and I couldn’t ..I found it hard – so hard, how can an old school crush haunt me this way? Mikel raised my head up and looked me in my eyes,

 

“Vanessa, you’ve fallen hard for someone who doesn’t care about you, they don’t know you anymore, they have moved on. They are probably in a relationship, probably fooling around. Do you want a man like that? You are a sweet girl, you deserve so much that a man can give you if you let him, a real man not your idea of a school boy” he said, he moved in closer and kissed my neck . . .once, twice, three times and then held me, cradling me in his arms.

I came to New York to follow my passion but someone else ended up becoming passionate about me, for what reason – I will never know? God was teaching me about me, about what I wanted, what I deserved and what I didn’t quite understand. What was my idea of love? What was this feeling in me that craved a man I couldn’t have – it was like if I could be with Marlon my internal being would dissolve and I would disappear. What type of imagination is that? Why did I think so much of him, what was he even capable of doing to me that I was so drawn to him?

We left the conversation there in the living room; we didn’t talk about it the rest of the day Mikel knew I was thinking about a lot of things and gave me my space. It was Sunday and I had to go back to the apartment and the following day we had to hand in the portfolio to Simon so there was no time for chilling around. At 8PM Mikel drove me back to the apartment, we entered the house and saw the team chilling in the lounge watching TV,

 

“Waddup guys” Mikel nodded his head, Sonia and Andrew lay on the sofa whilst Lucas and Jasmine cozed up on the mini sofa chair, they all turned around smiling, and Lucas was half-asleep but woke up

 

“Yo Mikel, come hit this blunt”

“One sec” he said.  I walked in the kitchen to get me a glass of water and went into the lounge sitting down on the floor by Sonia’s smelly feet, she squeezed my shoulders and I turned around,

 

“You okay” she whispered. I nodded, “I’m cool”.

Mikel came in from the toilet and took the blunt sitting on the ashtray on the table, he came and sat next to me blowing the smoke out from his mouth and staring at the TV. I didn’t know what the film was but it looked a little interesting, I lay down and put my head on Mikel’s lap and napped for an hour or so. The evening went by slowly; Mikel woke me up as everyone was going back to their rooms,

 

“Bedtime twinkle”

 

I slightly opened my eyes and Mikel looked at me his tongue sticking out about to touch my nose, his eyes a little red.

“C’mon let me put you to bed”

 

I got up, the TV was closed and everyone had already gone to sleep. My bedroom door was open, I had no reason to lock it to be honest everyone in the house was cool. I quickly had a shower and changed into my Pj’s, Mikel sitting on my bed waiting on me. As I came out he looked amused,

 

“What?” I said half tired.

“Your cute face, that’s what”. I rolled my eyes, and jumped into bed and wrapped myself in warmth under the covers.

 

“It’s late, you heading back to your place?”

“No I’ma sleep on the sofa”

“Why don’t you take my bed and I take the sofa”

“You cute, no how about I cuddle up with you on your bed”

 

I pulled my drama queen face.

 

“I’m playing miss grumpy, I know you want yo’ space” he gave me a peck on the forehead and went in the lounge.

 

Monday 4th September

 

I got into Avena at 9am, Mikel dropped me and Sonia off whilst Jasmine and Lucas went to the coffee shop and headed to the office from there, Andrew was due to start in a week’s time so it was good he wouldn’t be at home alone. That morning was very hectic I didn’t get to see Mikel as he had many errands to complete seeing as his week off did leave him with many tasks that needed to be completed. I signed onto my laptop and received a reminder:

 

Reminder:

 

Hand in Portfolio

 

Mikel

 

I had the portfolio in my bag and decided to head over to Simon’s office, I knocked on the door there was no reply.

 

“Hmm how can I help you Vanessa” Willow turned around, with her eyebrow raised.

“Oh I was looking for Simon?”

“Well he’s in a meeting, what is it you need”.

 

I didn’t feel comfortable telling her but she was practically every interns mentor so I couldn’t hide the fact I had me and Mikel’s designs she would soon find out we would be associate designers in the new season collection – I grinned in my mind.

 

“I wanted to hand in me and Mikel’s portfolio, as today was our deadline”.

She smirked,

 

“Hand it to me, after his meeting I’ll hand it over to him”. I looked at her suspiciously – I handed her the portfolio and went back to my desk, I began to update the company social media sites when Jasmine came,

 

“One skinny latte to my queen”

“Thanks girl”

“Your welcome, diamond”. We both sat on our laptops, discussing the NYFW that went past and looking over Avena’s upcoming social events in the calendar”.  Simon walked past our desks, and nodded in our direction me and Jasmine hushed.

 

“Did you give him your portfolio?”

“I handed it to Willow, he was in a meeting – she said she would give it over to him”.

Jasmine opened her mouth and rolled her eyes at the same time, and went back to her work. An email popped up for the both of us from Avena:

 

Avena LA Grande:

 

Meeting being held on 2nd floor @ 11:30PM

 

All interns at ICU and ICA Textile designers please be at the hall prompto!

 

Simon.

 

I looked over at Jasmine, she looked at me grinning! The meeting was in 10 minutes, I had no idea where Mikel was right now but I needed him! Me and Jasmine left our laptops on the desk, took our notebooks and pen and went on down to the 2nd floor, a young lady welcomed us in the hall where there were quite a few chairs neatly placed for all who were attending the meeting. People started entering the hall, Lucas came over to us and we couldn’t find Sonia, Mikel wasn’t in the hall either. The hall was not as packed as I thought it would be, around 20 people were seated, holding notebooks and pens then the room went quiet as Simon walked in. He scanned the room and on his table lay 4 portfolio’s, where was the fifth one – I wondered.

Sonia entered the hall quietly and Mikel shortly after, Willow was nowhere to be seen. Simon waved for Mikel to come to him, he whispered in his ears and Mikel went on over to Sonia. I’m guessing they weren’t going to start the meeting without Willow being present. Meanwhile Willow was in the toilet; one of the HR’s came into the loo and saw her sniffing her nose, some powder left on her sleeve, she dismissed it

 

“Are you not meant to be at the meeting?”

“What meeting” Willow said

“2nd floor in the main hall” the young lady replied.

 

Willow quickly left the toilet and went to the second floor, Sonia was informed to go and find Willow. Sonia knocked on Willows office door, she pulled the knob to see if it would open and to her surprise it did, she peaked in to find no one in there. She looked around the 3rd floor to see if anyone was around, when the coast was clear she quickly went into her office, intrigued by what Willow actually kept on her desk Sonia walked around the office, looking at the pictures on the wall, smirking to herself. She walked towards the desk and unexpectantly her feet knocked the bin onto the floor, she quickly picked up the small bin and a folder which looked like a portfolio. Hmmm…she thought curiously opening the folder she gasped – her face screwed up. What a fricken ass, stupid ass, coke sniffin’ ass b*tch .. Sonia spoke out loud. She was holding me and Mikel’s portfolio, she left the office immediately, using the stairs to get to the 2nd floor, and she entered the hall. Everyone turned as she entered the room, Willow was seated upfront with Simon. . . her face pale as she saw what Sonia held in her hands,

 

“Good morning, well I should say good afternoon Sonia, thank you for assisting us this morning” Simon began, “To all who have not met this young Lady this is our intern from ICU” the rest of the group nodded. Me, Jasmine and Lucas looking at Sonia as she walked towards the front, what the heck was she doing – I thought we saved her a seat by us.

 

“Uhh Simon just to let you know, I went by Willow’s office . . .”

“Yes thankyou Sonia she is here now, please be seated”

“No Simon” – he looked alarmed, “I went by to her office to find Mikel and Vanessa’s portfolio in the bin!” Everyone in the hall gasped.

 

“Excuse me?”

“Look...” she handed the portfolio to Simon.

He looked at her and then at the folder, opened it to see me and Mikel’s name written at the fore-front. Mikel sat up his face outraged but I could see from where he was sitting he kept his cool. Sonia came and sat down on the 3rd row where we saved her seat, Simon continued speaking on the new season designs and the 5 interns who would work alongside him and 2 fashion designers at Avena as associate designers for the winter season. Everyone noted down the dates and times of Avena’s winter model runway in the hall for the following month October 25th, the meeting finished at 1pm and the 5 interns were asked to stay behind alongside Willow and Simon. As everyone begun to leave the hall, Jasmine squeezed my hands,

 

“I hope you get this collab girl, I’ll be praying to Jesus for you” I grinned,

“Thanks boo”.

 

Simon sat down and looked through the portfolio’s carefully, we were all silent.. Mikel looked at me, his eyes smiled.

 

“Okay, I have looked at the sketches and all of you have put in a tremendous piece of work – but as we are looking for more minimal and not overboard designs that we can make stand out I have made my decision. My new associate designer for this winter collection will be Vanessa Simone accompanied by Mikel Lewis”

The four other interns applauded us, shook Simons hand and left the hall, Simon turned to Willow,

 

“So is this true, did you throw their portfolio in the bin knowing that they had their deadline today? Was this a way to stop them from a great opportunity that I had planned for 2 very talented individuals?”

“I’m sorry” Willow looked ashamed.

 

“I have no choice but to give you a warning, as this misconduct is unacceptable, I would like you to write a written letter of apology to both interns by the end of this week – I will get Michelle form HR to follow up on that”. Willow nodded.

 

“As for you two, fascinating and edgy designs, October 2nd you both shall lead the designs on the winter collection working with me, Anita and Salmek my two other designers as well as our Garment technologist. Everything will be explained in detail and the notice on the Avena site shall be updated for you both featuring as our first ever intern associate designers for the runway! Be please, be pleased” he clapped and left the hall taking our portfolio with him, Willow following on behind him. As soon as they left Mikel grabbed me and spun me around in the air,

 

“We done it, well you done it. Your belief is real huh – you came all this way to get what you want”

My face beaming, this was really true I somehow managed to get a feature with a top upcoming brand how this worked out . . . I smiled, God knows. Mikel squeezed my cheeks and then kissed me, I closed my eyes and kissed him back and in that moment – just that moment my heart allowed myself to feel his deep affection within me.

Chapter 11: Celebrations

 

“Here’s too Mikel and Vanessa” they roared, the champagne bottle popped and everyone was already tipsy. Jasmine, Lucas, Sonia and Andrew held us a celebration party we didn’t even ask for one but the love was real! Some of the interns from Avena turned up and a few neighborhood friends of Lucas and Andrew came to chill, it was a lovely small gathering, on a blessed Saturday. I was so happy, I hadn’t been happy like this in a while I called mum the day after we got the news, Ma screamed down the phone Whitney started talking in all sorts of tongues, haha and Josh was Josh he didn’t even get what it truly meant but he was glad I was still alive. I was a little bubbly and tipsy and Mikel kept tickling me on the sofa, the music was playing the lounge windows were wide opened, some smoke travelling in the air. . . this felt like home. Thankyou Jesus. Mikel whispered in my ear,

 

“Let’s go to my place, less noise and less people we will come back later or tomorrow”

“You been drinking though and you’re a bit tipsy Mikel, no driving”

“I can drive though, pleaseeee mummy” I laughed so hard, and got up off the sofa went to my room to get my fleece and slides and came into the lounge,

“C’mon then”

Mikel went up to Lucas and Andrew to let them know we were off and would be coming back later they nodded; he thanked some of his friends from the neighborhood for rolling through to the gathering. I went to the kitchen to find Jasmine,

“Girl, I’m going back to Mikels for abit, we shall be back” I giggled, abit slurry in word.

“Ahhh Vanessa whyyy, a—rghh..”

“What do you want to tell me” I opened my eyes, I knew she had something on her mind – she’d been acting funny this whole week.

 

“Well.. I don’t know how.. to .. say .. this”

“Just say it before Mikel comes in”

“ erm me and Lucas are having a baby”

 

I paused. Then blinked. Then smiled.

 

“Oh my goshhhhh” I squealed and hugged her like crazy she hugged me back,

“Ohh my does he know?”

“Yes he does”

“Awwwwww girl!!! God bless the fruit of your womb, may he/she be a great blessing to you both – and if you ever need me to come from London to babysit I’m a phone call away”

“How ya mean girl, you’re staying.. I need your presence – you’ve helped me so much by being you, just you being around here has brought me peace and joy in my heart – you haven’t got to say nothing it’s just you and I knew from the moment I met you”

“Don’t make me cry Jasmine, stop it”. She looked like she was going to cry, I hugged her like I was hugging my own soul, what a special gift she was . . .I thought. Mikel came into the Kitchen,

 

“What are you two love freaks doing” we laughed,

“Okay Jasmine we will talk when I’m back okay” she nodded,

“Love you girl and Mikel you better look after her” she rolled her eyes and he stuck out his tongue. They were both hilarious; Sonia hugged me and Mikel at the front door,

 

“Congratulations my dudes and duddette’s – You is the shizz” we laughed and left the apartment. In 10 minutes we were at Mikel’s place, I took off my slides and ran into his room and jumped on his bed, missy meowed and came on the bed stroking her head on my hand, I rubbed her soft fur and whispered,

 

“Love is amazing huh” she meowed again her eyes piercing through mine. Mikel came into the room with a bottle of wine and 2 glasses; he poured the wine into the glass,

 

“To Me and You” he grinned,

“To our joint collaboration!” We drank the whole bottle of wine as jazz music played in the background – we lay on his bed facing the ceiling. My mind was free and I was floating in the clouds thinking of running far, far, away to the arms of love. Mikel turned to look at me,

 

“You are beautiful”

“I’m cute”

“No you don’t see it, you are beautiful”. He came closer to me and whispered in my ears,

“You are beautiful” . . . my heart started beating, the wine swirling within me; my soul understood the language of beauty, beauty that lives within. Mikel kissed my cheeks, and the right side of my neck my soul echoed – my eyes closing. He moved closer . . . his lips slowly kissed mine, my breath being taken in that moment; he stood up and pulled me into him. My fleece hung loosely by my elbows as I wrapped my arm around him, but he removed one arm out slowly letting it drift on to the floor, he unbuttoned his shirt. My body felt his body, and his fingers travelled on my back unzipping my dress and pulling it off until I was left in my lingerie. He picked me up and carried me to his dressing table; he kissed me from my head to my toes. .my heart aching. .

“Your beautiful, Your love” he whispered.. We were intoxicated by the jazz music playing that every movement flowed as we held each other for dear life . . . our souls yearning for more than the body. He gently picked me up again, and sat on his bed me lying on top of him, his hands sliding down my back as he sucked my lips, our minds dancing to the rhythm of love. . The electric fire moved through my soul as he laid down and my thighs tightened around his waist, I released a deep sigh. .  our souls fighting for this warmth, my breath drew in like a hiccup. . I was breathless as I looked down at him in that moment the whole atmosphere changed.

 

 I was in the clouds, drifting and I heard his voice, I remembered his voice,

 

“Vanessa, Vanessa” . . . I turned around and there was Marlon, he was looking at me saddened,

“Why are you doing this to me” I looked around and the clouds were continuing to float – where was Mikel? Where was I?

 

“Why am I here?”

“I know you remember me, I know you haven’t forgot me”

“What are you talking about” . . . He walked closer towards me, his face innocent and his light coco skin looking radiant.

 

“I’ve never forgot you” he said.

“Stop it, stop lying – get out of my head, get out of my dream – leave me alone”

“Why? You love me, stop denying it – and I love you but I can’t be with you now”

I stopped to look at his face and I began to cry and I couldn’t stop,

 

“Please don’t cry Vanessa, please – You don’t love this guy the way you love me and you know it. Don’t do anything stupid you’re saving your love for me – and I’m saving mine for you – We are going to meet soon” He took my hand and kissed it he pulled me into a hug, his body melting into me – it felt so real my body recognized him and I softened in his touch, I instantly gasped and Mikel jolted,

 

“What’s wrong?” he said.

I quickly got off him,

 

“I have to go back to the apartment Mikel, I can’t do this.. I shouldn’t be doing this” I picked up my dress and put it on zipping up the back, I quickly took my fleece and zipped it up.

 

“Why you doing this Vanessa, why? Stop letting Marlon get in your head, he doesn’t care about you”

“How do you know that huh, what if he did?”

“You gon’ drive yourself mad thinking he does, you don’t talk to the damn nigga, he call your phone? Are you connected?”

Tears were rolling down my eyes, he was right . . . the only connections I had was dreams. What were dreams, they always happened but I knew mine told my story. . .

 

“Please Vanessa, don’t do this.. its late don’t go” I walked out his room and went to the living room to get my slides, the cat followed me meowing, “It’s okay Missy, it’s okay . . we’re okay”

 

Mikel looked so angry so upset everything at the same time and I really wanted to make him happy to make him smile but Marlon pulled me away from everyone he stopped me loving anyone else so deeply because he pulled me into him and I had no idea where he was, and what I was doing. I stupidly followed this pull, this tug. WHY!? My whole being was tired, tired of this love of his call of everything I had held and accumulated in my life, the strength was no more and he was that part I wanted to kill but even when I desired to eliminate him. . .he always came back somehow – one way or another.

 

I opened the front door to leave, Mikel walked up behind me,

 

“Please Vanessa, I’m falling in love with you, I want to love you but you won’t let me – I know you want to be loved, I know but you won’t give me you – the whole you” I looked at him upset,

 

“Mikel, the whole me is here but it fights and it’s always been fighting but it’s been healing too and it’s been learning and growing. I’ve been here all along with you but you haven’t understood that what you want to give me is not necessarily what I may need. I feel you, because I feel love I know what it makes you feel Mikel, I understand it’s affect’s on us – the desires, the urges.. I understand but I need more than just that feeling . . . I don’t even really know what’s going on with me anymore. We’re just acting love this can’t be true”

 

“I’m trying to give it to you but you want him – please just let me love you”

 

“How can you love someone whose heart is somewhere else”

“I can make your heart love me, I know I can”

“Mikel, the heart desires but the soul knows what it wants”

I walked out the door and down the steps, Mikel looked at me, with tears in his eyes,

 

“Let me drop you Vanessa, it’s too late” -

“I’ll be okay, you stay inside, you’ve done too much for me” my eyes watering up as I looked at him, I ran down the stairs and pushed the apartment’s block door open.

The air was cold as I walked so I decided to jog; I crossed the road opposite Melbourne house and jogged by the road passing Grover estate. I then took an alleyway which led me down to crowns field, I wasn’t too far now – this was exactly where I was for the party. I stopped jogging and walked past two blocks, in the silence of the night, there was no sound but the wind itself blowing through the rubbish bins as cans tattled rolling to and fro. There was another mini alleyway ahead which led to the main road where I would walk 5 minutes to the Belvz apartment, I was a bit skeptical at first but I walked through the alleyway, it was dark, lonely and I sensed a horrible fear trickle in my spine. I kept walking and at the bottom of the alleyway I saw three men – they looked like they were selling drugs, one of them turned around and saw me walking up he whispered in the other young man’s ear. They turned to look at me; they both came walking towards me as I was soon approaching the end of the alleyway –

 

“How you doin’ miss, you lookin’ fine”

“Yes baby girl, you want some coke”

“Uhh no I don’t sniff thanks, can you please excuse me”. The tall Caucasian boy, stood over me and backed me up in the corner he slapped me and pushed me near the bins, I shouted but by the time I could scream the black man took my arms from behind and covered my mouth.

 

“Scream and we’ll kill you” he said.

 

 Everything stopped, my life stopped . . . the time in my own heart was removed and all I knew was the pain I was about to suffer – this was all I knew at this moment. My eyes closed as the tall man pulled down my knickers forcefully and undid his belt, I closed my eyes and felt the sharpest pain I had ever felt in my life– the man shoved his penis so deep inside of me I screamed, kicking my legs in pain I felt blood trickling down my thighs. Ohh lord why, whyyy my soul cried, lord why.. he continued  for 10 minutes until he stopped. The man, stood up and spat on the floor doing his belt,

 

“Nice, tight pussy” he laughed, I cried silently.. the tears rolling down. My soul felt like it left me, I didn’t know if I would live after this.

“Please, please let me go” the other young black dude punched me in my face, his eyes looked so evil and he looked at me as if I was his prey. I felt numbed to the pain blood pouring from my nose, the Caucasian man held me down, covering my mouth while the black guy pulled down his trousers and forced his penis in me, I gasped. . .my legs were so weak I had no more strength left to fight. I felt like someone was ripping my guts open while I lay awakened to the misery of being its witness. As the man finished the third young man came, he was on the lookout for any buyers, I opened my eyes to see a Latino or Mexican looking guy, he looked at me and I saw he had a cross on his neck. My eyes panicked, my heart beating – Please Jesus not another one..please I begged deep down. My whole insides were sore. . .I couldn’t feel my legs.

 

“You gon’ have a go or what”. He continued to stare at me, and stepped back

“The F*ck man, hurry up”.

“Nah, man I’ll pass man.. c’mon we gotta go before someone walks by.

 

They all ran in the direction of crowns field, my body lay there still . . . numbed and cold. My heart was racing, I felt so powerless but I begged God for strength in my spirit. I slowly got up, but a sharp pain pierced the insides of my groin to my stomach – I screamed. I got on all fours crying and pushed myself next to the bin, using its handle to pull myself up. I cried,

 

“Oh God, why did you let this happen WHYYYY” I shouted in the alleyway, the dark night listening to my wails. I stood up and tried to walk, I felt something warm running down my legs.. I looked down, there was blood pouring out from my vagina. I walked out the alleyway turning right, I staggered on the pathway. Some cars drove past, my head down so many thoughts running through my mind. I reached the apartment and buzzed up, Jasmine answered

 

“Hi its Vanessa”

“Oh hey girl come up”

 

She buzzed me in and I entered the lift, I looked into the mirror I had a swollen eye, bust lip and a nose bleed. I started to cry so heavily – my heart was burdened. As I came out the lift and walked by the front porch, I looked out at the blocks far ahead and remembered the words of Laurence:

 

“Be wise, stay aware of the temptations and the traps the enemy may come to set, pray continually for spiritual guidance and do not allow your feelings to control your actions but allow the Holy Spirit to direct you”

 

The door was left a little opened; I breathed in then I pushed the door and closed it behind me. . . I walked into the lounge, there were just a few people left, Jasmine came out the kitchen and saw me, and she dropped the glass running towards me. I stood silently, Sonia, Andrew, Lucas and two friends were smoking out the window they hadn’t noticed I came in – they all panicked surrounding me. Lucas told his neighbors to go home, as Andrew sat me down tears in his eyes,

 

“I’m going to pray for you” he said I sat in silence and blinked into space, blood running from my leg. Jasmine was crying, Sonia called Mikel,

 

“Mikel please, come to the house.. something bad has happened to Vanessa” she cut the line. Lucas came back in with towels and tissue roll,

 

“I’m so sorry Vanessa” I saw the pain in his eyes as he looked at me; he walked off not able to deal with cleaning me up.

 

“God please strengthen Vanessa, please give her hope in this time of pain and in her struggle to understand why this has happened.. let her know that you are with her no matter the difficulty or struggle you are with her – In Jesus name – Amen” they all said Amen. Mikel came rushing through the front door as he saw me, he yelled and punched the lounge door, and I started crying harder . . . he started crying. Everything was upside down and it was my entire fault. He came and knelt down by me,

 

“Vee who did this to you, who raped you Vee – did you see them, how many people were there” he shouted, his chest rising up and down.  The tears poured down but I couldn’t speak the whole night – I sat up staring ahead of me, what was this life. What was life? Everyone sat around me the whole night till the following morning, Mikel called 911 the police and ambulance came by the house at 2AM, the police questioned me,

 

“Madam, what time did this happen?”

“Where were you when it took place?”

“Can you remember what they looked like?”

 

The ambulance services tried to check me but I wouldn’t allow them to touch me, they cleaned my nose and told the group to bring me into hospital the following day for a check-up, I knew I wouldn’t go. I didn’t feel safe; I just wanted my mum and Whitney. I felt dead, but I was breathing. One of the policemen who were not in uniform took everyone’s information and would be in contact the following day to talk to me, knowing I wasn’t able to speak at that moment. I had so many voices in my mind, yelling at me,

 

‘You silly girl, your pathetic, a piece of trash, your nothing-you don’t deserve happiness..you never did’

I sat there listening to the voices as they got louder and louder, I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t. I stayed up till the next morning; they all stayed up with me. Why? Mikel couldn’t even look at me without tearing up. As the light of day came out, Jasmine came up to me,

 

“Vanessa, do you want to shower”. I looked at her my eyes tired, I nodded. She looked at me as if she recognized the soul had somehow died, and her energy full of life fought to remain strong in her power in order to strengthen me – we both knew what we believed in. She pulled me up and walked me to the main bathroom, we didn’t talk . . . she ran my shower and removed my fleece and dress, I had no knickers on, Jasmine was holding back her tears. I limped in the shower her holding me, knowing my misery . . . knowing somehow life was taken from me last night. She took the shower knob and sprinkled the warm water on my sore body, she sang to me whilst scrubbing me tears rolling down her face. Sonia brought in my jogger set. When Jasmine finished she dried me up, Sonia and her both creamed me in silence and put on my clothes for me. Sonia hugged me,

 

“God is with you, I know he is – you will be home soon”

 

I tried to smile but . . . nothing. The detective came to the apartment in the morning; he tried to talk to me,

 

“Hi Vanessa, I’m Detective Lawson – I’m dealing with your case, I know your hurting right now but I need you to speak to me, can you remember what happened”. I looked at him and said nothing.

 

“Do you want everyone to leave; maybe you can talk to me properly then?”

 

I blinked,

 

“What difference does it make, they know what happened it’s obvious – you know what happened so what does it matter to explain”. Everyone looked at me shocked.

 

“Vanessa we can catch these people and put them away”

My mind remembered the Latina boy who refused to touch me; I clearly remembered his face and the cross he wore.

 

“I don’t remember what they looked like, one was white, another black and the other Latina but don’t worry just write your report let me take it back to London, please call my mum and explain to her what’s happened – I can’t do it”

 

“Vanessa, NOO – DON’T LET THESE GUYS GET AWAY WITH IT” Mikel begged

“Mikel stay calm, just listen to her” Andrew reassured. Jasmine had her head in her hands, Lucas was not able to even speak, and Sonia was just sitting there staring at me.

 

“Are you sure Vanessa, you want me to leave this case?” he asked. I nodded, he nodded seeming like I made his life easier, he wrote a report on the incident and my injuries and gave me the paper . . . I gave him my phone, he spoke to my mum . . .I heard her crying and Whitney on the other side asking to speak to me but I told Lawson to tell them I will be home in a days’ time and I wasn’t able to talk. Lawson spoke to Mikel by the door and left out; Mikel called Simon and explained to him the situation

 

“How is she doing?”

“Simon she is not able to work, she needs to go back to her family”

“I understand, what about the collaboration – are you able to stand in alone”

“Yes Simon, still keep her name up on our feature – her ideas have also been included, they make this project”

“Of course, send her my regards, I’ll give her 3 months leave write off and email her my condolences – Thank you for letting me know Mikel”

“It’s cool, see you on Wednesday then”

“Right Yes. Take Care”

 

Mikel cut the line. Lucas and Jasmine went to sleep; Sonia went for a walk it was just Andrew and Mikel in the lounge whilst I sat there looking at my hands.

 

“Vanessa when you going to book your ticket?”

“Today” tears forming in my eyes.. why was this happening to me.

 

“I’ll get the ticket” Mikel said, his tone low and distant. We both were hurting and I really wanted him to hold me with his warmth and tell me everything will be okay but it was because of me denying his love for me in the first place that led us to the mess we were in. I being raped was my fault; I should have listened and never let Marlon get into my head. Mikel was hurting because I was hurting, he cared about me enough to feel my feelings and be affected in what I was affected by – why did I reject that for someone who doesn’t love me? Why was I so stupid, why did I always let this feeling of love bring me where it hurts the most. Is Love really a losing game?

I burst out in tears, Andrew came close to me and put his arm around me – Mikel stood by the piano looking out the window his heart pulling and tugging at the sounds of my cry. My head buried in my lap, I couldn’t hold it in I wailed . . .Andrew began to grieve with me, Lucas and Jasmine came out and huddled on the sofa there arms all wrapped around me. Sonia returned from her walk and joined us all in the lounge – she stood by Mikel as tears rolled from his face, he walked out the lounge, she came and knelt down by me,

 

“Mikel just needs time to process this, he has a huge heart - you meant a lot to him in such a short space of time, we all saw it”

 

I looked into her eyes and understood, I did. I looked at them all and saw the true care and love they had for me,

 

“Thank you for caring for me, thank you for supporting me. . .you don’t know how much it means especially when right now I really need my mother – yesterday two men raped me”  a tear rolled down Sonia’s face. . “The third man didn’t want to but I saw the cross on his neck and he looked at me funny and didn’t do it – what they did it was so painful, it hurt ahh”

 

“Don’t explain it, please. . . we’re here for you, anything you need, we’re here” Lucas hugged me tightly.

 

“I need to talk to Mikel alone, can you guys call him for me”.

“I’m here” he walked out the kitchen. They all went back to their rooms and left us alone.

 

“Don’t explain to me what happened” Mikel said. He wouldn’t look at me.

“Why can’t you look at me?”

“Because I wasn’t there to protect you when I should have been – I should have come after you”

“It’s not your fault, it’s mine”. Mikel walked over to the sofa, and sat by me

 

“Don’t you ever say that again, EVER” he said sternly. I looked at him, and he looked at me hurt,

“They decided to lay their hands on you and hurt you, they decided to take something that didn’t belong to them, you didn’t give it to them you was at the wrong place at the wrong time Vanessa – please don’t blame yourself, your precious, your beautiful, you’re not stupid, you’re not worthless – this is not your fault” he slowly put his arm around me, I leaned into his chest and stared out into the open, the last tears released from my soul dropped on his lap as I realized I really made a mistake leaving him that night.

 

“It’s okay Vanessa, I gotchu.. I gotchu”

 

“I’m sorry” I told him, “I’m so sorry”

“No Vanessa don’t start this, don’t”. He rocked me the whole evening until I lay asleep in his arms. 

 I dreamt of the Latina boy, he was running from people who were trying to kill him but a hand reached out and saved him I didn’t see the face of the person.. Just large hands out of nowhere.

That evening Jasmine and Sonia packed my suitcases for me, I laid in Mikel’s arms.. He comforted my heart through its troubled sorrows. I couldn’t eat, Mikel advised me to go to the hospital but I reassured him I’ll see my nurse back in London. I just drank water throughout the day until the evening; Mikel booked my flight at 10PM that evening to leave for London the following morning at 11:30AM.

 

“Thankyou”

“Don’t thank me Vanessa, please”

 

It was 10:30PM, everyone was in the lounge, and we all sat down the TV switched off.

 

“We just want to say Thank you Vanessa for coming here and being you, your kind and peaceful personality changed our atmosphere – we didn’t even realize love could be in our mist that way and we’re sorry about everything that happened from Kazzy, Devontae and this incident. We are so sorry” Lucas spoke up

 

“It’s true, we are sorry but I’m also grateful you’ve made a difference in my life Vanessa – you listened to me and accepted me. Thank you” Andrew agreed.

 

“Your my soul sister” Jasmine said, “You know and when you get back to London don’t forget us come back, don’t drown in the mess the devil might try and throw at you. God got you okay” Jasmine kissed my forehead. My heart felt her peace for me.

 

“You know I haven’t said much but seeing you and studying the way you are has taught me a lot, you’ll be on my mind when your gone” Sonia said, she looked at the floor. We all shared a group hug, it was hard to say goodbye this way – it wasn’t the right way to leave.

 

Mikel didn’t want me to leave, and my heart didn’t want to leave him either but it had too. That night we looked into each-other’s eyes and said nothing, he held my hands and stroked my cheeks . . . I was still thinking of everything I had come here to do, I was leaving the one person I emotionally became intimate with him, we shared so much in common our friendship was so special and leaving it behind for a while hurt me inside. The friends I made, the experience was cut short but I knew I would be back.  We drifted to sleep and I woke up Monday morning 10th September at 6:30AM, I slowly walked to my room and it looked exactly the way I found it when I first entered it, spacious and empty. The girls packed everything perfectly, Jasmine left out my bra and knickers, uggs, leggings and my baggy Gap hoody . . . This girl knew me for true. I had my shower, freshened up and changed into my clothes and took out my passport. I opened my doors and brought my suitcase and large bag out, Mikel came walking in the corridor his face looked so down . . . he didn’t say anything he took my suitcase and my large bag. He placed it by the front door and went to freshen up; I heard the rest of the group waking up. I went into the kitchen to take a bottle of water from the fridge and sat in the lounge, I texted Whitney:

 

Sis, I’m returning today. I’ll let you know about everything when I’m back.

Tell Ma I should be there later on at night or something.

I’ll get a cab back, I’ll be fine.

 

Love Vee x

 

I sent the message, I sat there drinking my water not having any feeling whatsoever 2 days after the attack and I felt numbed completely. I just needed to board the plane. It was 7:30AM, Mikel and the rest came to the lounge, and Lucas didn’t smoke as per usual. .Sonia looked grumpy, Jasmine looked tired – I knew she was pregnant so she didn’t need this entire headache. Andrew had a light in his eye, he looked brand new refreshed, rejuvenated. . Something in his spirit had changed and I was glad to see it. I checked my email to see if I received the ticket in my inbox, and I did.

It was 9am and my flight was leaving at 11:30AM, Mikel took my suitcase and bags downstairs, I took my bag and left my bedroom keys on the table we all left out Jasmine holding my arm as we entered the lift. Everyone was quiet this morning, there wasn’t much talking. Sonia sat on Andrews lap and Jasmine sat next to Lucas, I sat at the front. Mikel looked at me with no expression and started the ignition driving to John F Kennedy Airport, the radio playing in the car each person in their own thought about everything that had taken place since my arrival. We got to the airport and it was 10:30AM I held my bag as Mikel pushed my suitcase the rest of the team following behind us, we got to my terminal and I handed in my luggage, waiting for my boarding ticket to be called. We all stood in a circle and looked at one another, I sighed..

 

“You guys have been so good, so good to me. You accepted me and I was so freaked out before I came thinking you all would think I’m weird the way I am but you didn’t. I am grateful for everything you guys have done for me and I’m upset I have to return because of this, I just know deep down I need to be with my family and I need to heal away from here. I’ll be back, after my leave I’ll be back God willing. . .I don’t want to leave you guys – I just started getting use to you all. . I felt like this would be my second home, my second family” my eyes watered, “You know what though, things happen.. Like I’m not even surprised I’m not, I just.. I’m just broken because when I think I get better something tries to come and tear me down again but this God that I believe obviously thought and knew this situation would help me somehow didn’t he. I can’t control the course of time neither can I rewind things so I’m taking it as it is and finding the quickest route to get back to what I know to understand myself again and not be torn down even more. God help me” my boarding number was called. The tears ran down my face and I wiped them away,

 

“I love you all and I’ll text you when I’m back – don’t miss me too much” I half smiled. We all had a group hug and Mikel walked me to my gate where I would board the aircraft. He didn’t cry he was emotionless and he didn’t look as he always did, his brown eyes looking at me like he lost something he thought he gained . . . I guess I mirrored his feeling. I touched his face and I longed to kiss him but I couldn’t for my heart would tear and only then I realized I must have begun this love game with him. As I stroked his face he looked down and my heart strings though frail, they pulled at his soul’s sadness of losing me. What fool of me to not listen, what a fool to run on my emotions that I could lead myself to this predicament?

The others watched us from afar.

 

“I’ll call you”

“That’s not enough for me” he said, “I want you here” he touched his heart, “Right here with me but right now it seems like your being ripped away”.

I couldn’t breathe because I understood everything he said, everything.

 

“I’ll be back you know it”

“No you won’t, you think I don’t know you Vanessa? You don’t know me, you’ve looked past me and not at me.. And now we are here”

“I looked at you Mikel, but . . .”

“Don’t bother, don’t bother – if you come back, I’ll be waiting for you and if you don’t somehow you will know I haven’t forgotten you . . . Somehow but just remember I do love you”

  I looked at him as tears rolled down my face, this was the last piece of me left . . .I couldn’t do it no more – I forced out a smile as he took my hand and kissed it. The same hand Marlon took and kissed.

He touched my face and followed the outline of my cheeks, and then he turned and walked to the others. I stood and watched him go; I went to the gate and turned around to see them all waving at me, Mikel standing there just looking through me and not at me.

 

 

 

I boarded the plane.

 

I sat on the passenger seat, tears rolling down my face as I stared out the window – the plane preparing to take off.

 

Chapeter 12: Love’s Call

 

My heart speaks:

 

Love, have you betrayed me? Have you really left me broken in order to build me again, did you mean to tear me open because of change? I wanted the best for us, for me and you but this is how you repay me? I listened, I followed you and I heard your call and voice but you never came – you never came back to me. WHY did you do this, why did you reveal yourself at a time I was forgetting you and becoming one with another, why couldn’t you just let me be, let me live WHY. Now all I have is a painful memory that zoomed by in an instant and I am left with thoughts of what was and where it was going but you..you came and stopped me. You opened my eyes to this and then removed me from it. You tricked me. I’m sat here suffering from everything that happened to me that night, the memory isn’t haunting me it’s stuck inside me and it’s trying to take you away from me… love.. But you were taking me away from the person who wanted me. I would have given everything to be with you but you never came to me, you whispered in my dreams, you looked at me in love in our dreams, your eyes melted in pain by my love for you in our dreams but you never came for me in my reality, you never came. I’m distraught by this pain, Mikel wanted me and I would have had a good life but you, you destroyed everything and you’re roaring for me to come to you – your summoning my spirit while I’m trying to run, your invoking my heart while I was entwining my soul with another. I’m tired love, I’m tired.. I can’t run anymore, I have run with you in me for years and now I need to let go – please go for you have taken every part that I longed for myself to be new but you came and you left your print somewhere you was not meant too – instead of allowing us to be – you have torn us apart – he is aching for me and he wants me but he can’t have me for you have released your fire and burned our engagement. Why Love? Why?

 

The plane soared in the air my heart cried as I looked out the window, in that moment I saw Laurence and other white radiant beings floating in the air. Laurence held his heart and I touched my own. I looked up . . .

 

I was happy and free but now I return empty and broken but somehow I knew I would get through on my own as always, but this time I had so much to face. Our house was going to be taken away, mum lost her business, I had no job and I had been raped and their souls lingered in me, those bloodthirsty deceitful men. What was left for me? What did my story really hold? Loves game was fooling me, wasn’t it. . . coming around every so often to break me down. . .

 

All I knew was as I awaited to land I would hear Love’s call, and what was long lost would certainly come around to its home to be found.

 

To be continued. . .

 

 

 


Submitted: April 27, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Elle8. All rights reserved.

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