Unforgettable, My Love Has Come Along, page 7
“No morning faces, please,” he said, tickling my side.
“Oh stop that,” I giggled. “I’m afraid of my side.”
“Let me help you get rid of it then.” He reached for me and I pushed my chair away from the table.
“You know what I mean.” I grinned at him.
Shortly thereafter, we headed to Governor’s Square Mall nearby and shopped at Macy’s and JCPenny. We discovered Zinne’s Pretzels, a pastry shop and indulged ourselves with cinnamon sugar pretzels. Zinne’s Pretzels was a sweet little spot, for what I hoped was a temporary sweet tooth.
Later at home after dinner, we relaxed on the sofa, very aware that our time together was getting shorter.
“Any regrets that you came?” I asked nonchalantly.
“None! All good! I love you more, now that I have met you.”
I smiled and gently punched his shoulder. “Look at you. I like you too.”
Orane gave hollow laugh. “You are so good for my ego.”
“It will get better. I promise!” I looked at him coyly, then looked away. I looked back and he was gazing at me. “Stop it!” I playfully nudged him.
He closed his eyes then opened them. “I forgive you,” he drawled. “How’s your mother?”
“Mama is doing great. I spoke with her this morning.”
Mama was an exceptional woman and the heartbeat of our family. God had blessed her bountifully. Eleven children later, she was in great shape. Mama was also an amazing prayer warrior. From childhood days, she would rise early to seek God. She prayed for each member of the family, lifting us up before the Lord.
“I admire the closeness in your family,” Orane remarked. “Your sisters are great.”
“Thanks. We have always been a close bunch, a band of brothers and sisters.”
“Your father would be proud of you all.”
“Yes. I believe he would be.”
The death of my beloved father over twenty years ago brought much grief and sadness to the family but we trusted God. “It’s going to be alright,” Mama told us. “God is good.” Mama, along with my three eldest sisters, worked hard to raise the younger members of the family. We received great support, encouragement and comfort from relatives, friends, acquaintances and those who sorrowed with us.
“It will take me a while to remember the names of your family members,” Orane remarked.
“Don’t worry, it took me a while too!”
He eyed me with undisguised amusement. “Right!”
Laughing softly, I nudged him. “It sure did! Anyway… did I tell you about my little tirade with Natasha during my childhood days?” I giggled just thinking about it.
“Natasha, my sister, the fifth born in my family. Come on now, you must keep up!” I teased him.
He grimaced and poked my side.
“I was about five years old or so at the time. Natasha taught me how to spell my name, Annalisa Jones and that was fine. Then, she insisted on teaching me how to spell my middle name, Abigail. I got so upset, ranting and raving. I told her in no uncertain terms that I did not wish to spell Abigail because they gave me too many names. Oh, you should have seen me; I put on quite a show.”
Orane laughed out, doubling over.
“Okay, carry on. Have fun at my expense.”
“That is funny.”
I grinned. “That’s a lot of work for a five-year old. How are your mom and dad doing?”
“Very well. God has been good to them. Their later days are definitely greater than their former.” Orane shared deeply about his childhood, his past and vision for the future. I listened keenly, weeping at times and asking appropriate questions at the right moments. He concluded with Philippians 3:13-14, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
“Indeed! Amen!” I responded quietly.
“God is good,” he said enthusiastically. “He continues to do great things in my life.”
“Yes. God is awesome.”
Orane touched my shoulder and his warm eyes seared into mine. “Do you realize that we have not spent any time in the word since I have been here?”
You could hear a pin drop as I flipped a strand of hair from my eye and regarded him shrewdly. “You mean together. I have devotion early morning and most times before I go to bed.”
“I know.” He leaned back on the sofa with his hands clasped at the base of his neck. “I just want us to be careful.”
Suddenly, I felt so annoyed.
I took a deep breath, centering myself as I prepared to be honest with him. “So, why didn’t you ask me about devotion or prayer before this?”
Orane looked puzzled. “Are you upset?”
I got up from the sofa then squatted down again. “A little… peeved.”
He reached over and touched my hand. “Don’t be.”
I pursed my lips before responding. “I just sensed that you are laying it all on me.”
“No. I am not Babes.”
“I don’t know!”
“Babes, I’m in no way blaming you. Never.”
I thrust out my chin. “You know that I love spending time in the word and prayer.”
“Of course, I know that. I just miss us spending time in the word as we usually do in the nights. I don’t want us to lose that.”
I inhaled then exhaled and my annoyance slowly evaporated.
Orane held my hand. “Babes, there is no reason to be annoyed.”
“Okay. Let me not take on that wrong spirit,” I said quietly.
He gave me a quick smile and squeezed my hand. “Where is your bible?”
I took my bible from my bedroom and gave it to him. He read Genesis Chapters 1 and 2 and zeroed in on Genesis 2:2, “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.”
“Does God need rest?” Orane questioned.
“I know for sure that God was not tired,” I replied grinning. “Our God was not tired from creating. It simply means, He ceased to perform all His creative work.”
Suddenly, the room grew quiet as we considered our all-powerful, all knowing God.
“God sent you in my life at the right time,” Orane revealed quietly.
“That’s a nice thing to say,” I said softly.
He looked thoughtful. “I asked the Lord for a relationship that would lead to marriage.”
“Me too. You’re in my life at the right time too.”
He chuckled. “Babes, you need to get your own lyrics. You cannot just borrow my lines.”
“Why reinvent the wheel?” I poked him in his side, grinning as his eyebrows rose.
“Tell me what qualities you desire in a husband.”
“Again?” I rolled my eyes dramatically.
He chuckled. “Do I need to put you in the naughty corner?”
“Noooo!” I flashed him a smile. “I need a prayer partner, a God lover, a friend and someone who will give me emotional support. The way I see it, if my husband truly loves the Lord there will be evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in his life.”
In a deep drawl, he asked, “What about physical love?”
I swallowed then laughed nervously. “Oh, that’s a given. Physical love is a definite must have.”
“We have great chemistry,” he stated, gazing into my eyes, deep into my soul with love and acceptance. .
My breathing became shallow and there was a shift in my body as my temperature climbed rapidly. “Yes, we do,” I murmured looking away.
He chuckled softly. “Don’t worry, I understand. Let me get some water. Would you like some?”
“Ah, no.” I stared at my bible as Orane moved to the kitchen.
Lord, help us!
I could break my decision right now.
We had already made a firm decision to remain celibate until marriage.
“Penny for your thoughts!”
I did not realize that Orane had re-entered the living room so I made a valiant attempted to keep my voice nonchalant, unwilling to betray any emotion of sort. “Oh, it’s nothing.”
“Nothing! Sex is something,” he said quietly, gazing at me. “Can we hold each other accountable for our sexual purity?”
At first, I nodded, fearing I might say no. Then, I said boldly, “Yes we can.”
Never mind the struggle that I just had.
“Thank God for you. You are a wonderful person.”
I fought the frog in my throat. “Thank you.”
He touched my arm. “God has done a great job with you.”
I smiled at him. “He’s been working and I have been squealing. As soon as I overcome one hurdle, here comes another.”
“Sounds like life! You said that you wanted your mate to be your prayer partner. I have always wanted that. I also desire someone to support me and help me make decisions.”
“Thanks for saying that because some men have issues with women in that regard.”
“I am not one of those men,” he said confidently. “Let us commune with the Lord.”
We sang “I worship you almighty God”, kneeled before the sofa and earnestly sought the face of the Lord. I prayed first, followed by Orane.
A few minutes later, we hugged and said goodnight, still relishing the absolutely divine effects from a beautiful, spirit-filled time spent in the presence of God.
CHAPTER 10: OVERWHELMED
How can it be?
Orane and I burst out laughing when we spotted each other in the living room. We were in matching colors for church. I was dressed in a purple skirt suit, stockings, black shoes and gold accessories. He sported a black suit, purple shirt, purple and black striped tie and black dress shoes.
“Great minds think alike,” Orane concluded, still chuckling.
A tingle of excitement hit me as I pulled into the parking lot of the church, some fifteen minutes later. What will it be like to worship with Orane? I tried to maintain my usual confident demeanor as Orane held the door for me to enter the sanctuary. He looked at ease as we greeted several members of the congregation before taking our seats in the center pews.
I attended a vibrant church that focused on quality worship, prayer, studying the word of God, fellowship and community outreach. Bishop Jonathan Barker, a remarkable man of God, held the office of Lead Pastor. After the opening prayers, we experienced an awesome time of praise and worship to kick off the service. The tambourines, guitars and drums were in one accord and everyone clapped and sang wholeheartedly. Our hearts were prepared and ready for the unadulterated word of God and we listened attentively as Bishop Barker explained God’s love for humanity. As anticipated, Orane was cheerfully acknowledged during the welcome segment. We left church feeling uplifted and thankful.
Later that day, my joy was even more evident.
I giggled foolishly as Orane attempted to feed me with lobster pizza at A & O Seafood Restaurant. We were absolutely stuffed by the end of our main course—grilled lobster tail, steamed snow crab legs, garlic shrimp scampi, baked potatoes and steamed broccoli. Orane persuaded me to have dessert, strawberry sorbet and I was so glad he did.
I moaned as I savored the delightful taste of the fruity sorbet. It had just the right amount of tartness. “Gym here I…Orane are you okay?” He was deep in thought and his countenance had completely changed.
“Yes, I’m…” His voice trailed off.
“What is it?” I asked, reaching across the table to touch his hand.
He looked off in the distance. “I’m good.”
I eyed him with great concern. “What’s going on?”
“I know that we are good together but…” His voice trailed off again as he tried to find the right words. “I don’t think a relationship between us is going to work.”
My eyes widened and my heart quivered. Thankfully, I was sitting down for this mind-numbing bit of news. “You think so?” I offered a weak, shaky smile.
He did not respond.
I played with my sorbet, trying to hide how seriously traumatized I was. My mind began to swirl and I glanced at him, desperately trying to read his expression.
I could not!
What is this?
Did I open my heart too quickly?
Could he have hidden his emotions that well?
“We’ll be alright,” he said calmly. “Let’s give it more time.”
A number of comebacks came to my mind but I chose silence. My stomach felt sick. Was I blinded by my desire, hoping for something that apparently never existed in the first place?
I gazed blindly at the salt and pepper shakers as Orane started another conversation. I did not respond. I continue to pick at my sorbet hoping not to fall to the floor. For a moment, he assumed that something was caught in my eyes. I was blinking back tears. He doesn’t believe in ‘us’ and probably never did.
“Annalisa…” he said, reaching for my hand.
To avoid his hand, I reached for my water glass. “It’s okay,” I managed to squeeze out without choking.
Get it together, I cautioned myself.
“We’ll talk when we get home,” he said comfortingly as he paid the bill.
We’ll talk when we get home. I knitted my eyebrows and had to restrain myself. I wanted to glare at him. Talk about what? “Back in a moment,” I mumbled, escaping to the restroom.
Tears welled up in my eyes as our many conversations ran around in my head. I locked myself in one of the bathroom cubicles and spoke encouraging words to my spirit. Within minutes, I emerged from the restroom hoping that I would have a game plan by the time we made it home.
The ride home passed in a blur. Conversation between us was difficult for me. I was busy ordering my heart to change course. The car hit a few rough patches in the road, which consistently forced me back to the present. I attempted to push away unwelcome thoughts but reality kept intruding.
Later at home, while Orane packed, I entered the study and downloaded the pictures from the camera then burned them to a CD for him. I tried to think about what had occurred in a positive light but all kinds of negative emotions ran through my mind. My head was spinning and my confidence started to ebb.
Someone had just pulled the rug from under my feet.
How could I have I convinced myself that a relationship between us would work?
Months of fooling myself!
The realization was excruciating and a strangled sob escaped my lips as I knelt before the Lord in my bedroom. No words could express how I felt and I groaned under the weight of my burden. As I travailed before the Lord, I felt the comfort of the Holy Spirit. I knew that my inarticulate groans did not escape my omniscient God. I rose up and encouraged myself in the Lord.
Breathe! I told myself. I pressed my hands against the sides of my head, willing the ache in my heart to go away. I needed to talk with someone about the situation.
Which one of my cheerleaders could handle this…not so good news? Perhaps all!
I was sitting on the sofa in the living room, listening to Maydine’s words of wisdom, when Orane came downstairs and sat beside me. “Sister Maydine, I will talk with you later…Bye.”
I felt extremely self-conscious as I briefly gazed at him. How do I move away from him? I wanted to say something but my nerves were too raw.
“Annalisa.” His choked voice caused me to pause from my mental deliberations.
Not trusting myself to speak, I nodded without meeting his eyes.
“Please forgive me,” he said softly.
I laughed nervously. “There, there is…”
“I can’t believe you gave up on our relationship so easily.”
“I, I…” I was hit again.
“I, I nothing. You tried to save yourself inste
“You shocked me.” I made a valiant attempt to regain my composure. “I did not see it coming.”
“You could have said…of course a relationship between us would work. In fact, it would be downright wonderful!”
“Babes having a successful relationship takes guts and marriage takes laying down your life.”
“You took me off guard. You came out of left field.”
“Oh yeah? I bet you never saw this coming either.” He held my hands in his for a few moments. “I am deeply in love with you—body, mind, soul and spirit.” It came from deep within him; everything fell away.
He gathered me close and I gasped softly as his right hand caressed my cheeks. “You are beautiful. Even before I laid eyes on you, I knew that I wanted you in my life forever. Now, I cannot imagine having to spend my life without you. I love you. Babes, will you consider marrying me?”
My heart pounded and my mind screamed unintelligibly. I wrapped my arms around his waist and buried my face in his neck. “I love, I love you too. I will definitely consider marrying you.”
He cupped my face with his hands and looked at me tenderly. My heart fluttered as he leaned in and gently kissed my lips. “You are my baby,” he murmured, wrapping me in his arms again.
“Yes, I am,” I murmured softly, purring with delight at the sheer pleasure of it all.
“I would like you to meet my family when you are in Jamaica,” he said as we disengaged from our embrace.
I smiled at him. “I look forward to that!”
“I would also like you to see me in my environment before you make your decision.”
“That would be great.”
I hugged his shoulder with one hand and he rested his head on my shoulder. We had disarmed each other and now enjoyed the bliss of emotional intimacy.
Within minutes, I was brought back to reality by the overwhelming thought of Orane leaving. A quiet battle ensued within me. Tears welled up in my eyes and before long they rolled down my cheeks and I began to sob uncontrollably.
“Babes, why are you crying? Orane pulled me in his arms, comforting me with easy stokes over my back. “Stop, you’re breaking my heart.”