Brad first took note of Mrs. Justine Henderson, the woman, when he was sixteen years old. He was shocked at the actions that went on in his BVD and, counseled himself. "She is old enough to be your mother for God's sake." Yet he continued to look at her and wondered, just what it would be like to roll with her in bed. He had known her all his life. Her two children were his best friends. His parents were very close to her also. She was his awakening. Away at university he had his share of girls but his thoughts still centered on, Justine how she was and what she was doing. Years later when they met again, he was even more fascinated by her. To him she had not aged but remained the same for the last nine years. Shaking hands with her, the shock that went through him when their hands met surprised him. He invited her to lunch and, told her of his true feelings for her. While making his feelings known to her he held her hands, fearing that she would have thought him impertinent and slapped his face.
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By Josephine Graham
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Josephine Graham
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Chapter OneJustine Carlyle Henderson paused by her bedroom window and stood for a moment looking down at the lights of the cars turning into her driveway. It was her forty fifth birthday. For one fleeting moment, she felt as if time was rolling backwards. It was her last day in grammar school. Her bags were packed; the only thing left for her to do was to meet with Miss Roberts, her house mistress. Justine stopped her hand held the hair-brush poised in mid air and looked at her final grammar school photograph. Her thoughts rushed on.
"During the years that I spent at St Hilda's, there was never any love lost between Miss Roberts and me. It's strange that I should be thinking about her at this particular moment."
In her minds eye she could see herself as she was then. It began in the spring of nineteen fifty. She was eleven years old, and during the summer holidays, her mother told her she would be going away to boarding school in the autumn.
Each year, her parents would take the entire household to Lake Lowry for their usual summer vacation. They always did so, because her brothers were home from school. Her father would take her and her brothers fishing, and her mother spent a lot of time riding. Instead this summer Miss Tess, her mother's dressmaker came and stayed with them.
During her stay she made her school uniforms and other new clothes. Mr. mighty the shoemaker came and fitted her with all kinds of shoes. When her things were ready, her tutor took her shopping at Issa's and Remco in Kingston for the items that could not be made at home. Two weeks before she was due to leave her mother had the famous mother daughter talk with her. That did not stop her from freaking out when her periods started. That was when she had her first confrontation with Miss Roberts. She roughly took her to the school nurse and told her. "Here! You deal with this."
Why after all the years, and the different things that had gone on in her life since. Why should she now remember that particular moment of her past life? Shrugging her shoulders she turned again to face the mirror and smiled. The party tonight, was dual purposed. It was more in keeping with the arrival of her children home from their studies, rather than celebrating her birthday. It was understood that her friends would not let her forget her part of the celebration. She was equally proud of both occasions.
For the first time in a very long while, she felt light hearted, irresponsible, and carefree enough to let her self go and dance as she used to do so long ago.
At age forty-five she had retained much of her debutant beauty. Her coffee colored-skin was wrinkle-free. The ten pounds she had gained over the last twenty-five years, had only served to enhance her five feet ten inch frame and fill out her womanhood. The skilled hands of her hairdresser kept the budding gray at bay. Physically, she appeared to be flawless. She was the product of meticulous grooming instilled by an angry and unforgiving mother. She had never cared for a daughter, but since she had Justine she had to be polished and well groomed as the horses she rode.
This was sometimes sad for the tomboy Justine, whose delight in life was rough housing it with her brothers and the boy next door. One day, after a truly serious run in with her mother, her adoring father took her aside and told her two of his golden rules of life.
Discretion is the better part of valor. The art of winning is, knowing when to retreat. Shortly after this conversation, her father insisted that she be placed in a boarding school. His choice was, ST. Hilda's Deaconess High School.
He himself made all the arrangements. Before her arrival he visited the school, seeing for himself just how his daughter would be situated. This was a very strict Anglican all girls school, with emphasis on education, deportment and poise. Both sides of her family were practicing members of the Anglican faith. Meeting with the headmistress he discussed with her the curriculum the school offered. Satisfied with what he learned, he gave instructions to her tutor to have her prepared for school at the end of the summer.
The morning she left for school, there were tears all around. Even her brothers were a bit misty eyed. Six years later, in the summer of nineteen fifty-six, Justine's graduation held mixed blessings for her. Her father was dead, and did not see the beautiful, confident, self assured lady she had become. Her mother had remarried. Her new husband was a man ten years younger than she was. Justine, now a beautiful, poised, polished and elegant young lady was not received at home with open arms. She was not at all surprised by her mother's reception. Not once did her mother ever object to her spending the best part of school vacations with friends and relatives who were eager to have her.
Justine Jerome by now had become a class act. She was everything her mother desired her to be. To everyone's surprise, she even took it one step further. She returned to her mother the same resentment she had for her. Her mother had lost the power to make her quake. Four years had turned her spine into an iron rod; she met her mother with respectful but open defiance.
Her father must have seen in advance what was to come. Because before his death he had a trust fund set up for his daughter that her mother could not touch. Julius, that pesky boy from next door, was always near at hand to make her smile through her gray days. During the very few days of her school vacation spent at home, the air was suffocating. In a pre- graduation interview with her headmistress, Justine told her of her desire to do something in the world of finance. A lot of students from her area were attending The London School of Economics but Justine opted for and was accepted by Reading University and that pesky boy Julius, from next door was accepted there also.
Julius after annoying and teasing her for all of her life, when other young men started to pay her attention. He woke up to find he was seriously in love with her. His teasing now became a courtship. She too found she was deeply in love with him. They were married right after graduation.
The years of her marriage with Julius were days of balmy winds, golden sunshine, and moon lit romantic nights. The flower petals of his love always smoothed the pathways of her life. When he became ill and died, she was left distraught and shattered for along while. Most of her days were spent roaming the house and gardens like a rudderless ship adrift in an unfriendly ocean.
Her home in the stockbroker's belt of Chislehurst was paid for. It was designed and custom built in the mid 1960's, by Peter Sinclair, a young architect and builder. He had made a name for himself in Jamaica. There some of his house designs were already considered classics. The Henderson's house in Chislehurst was his show piece in that new community. It was one of the first three houses to be built in that enclave. When it was discovered that the owners of the house were Jamaicans, it caused quite a bit of consternation among the neighbors: Justine and Julius fully aware of who they were, lost little sleep on their neighbor's fears and discomforts. They in turn, turned their noses up a little higher at the locals, whom they referred to as the "Post War Newly Emerging Middle Class." To make matters worse, their children were not sent to the local primary schools, but to the exclusive Parker Preparatory School. Often, their summers were spent abroad improving their language skills.
Financially she was secure. There was an insurance policy to pay for her children's continuing education. She had loved and depended on Julius for so long. Her MBA and other degrees were never put to use. Kristopher, fourteen, and Katrina aged twelve, were happy with their lives. They were fairly independent and responsible. Both were settled and happy in grammar school and were already looking forward to university. They pleaded with her to try and build a new life for herself. Six months after starting a refresher course in management, she was hired as an assistant manager with Midlands Bank in Bromley. Swiftly climbing the ladder she became area manager. For the first time she would now have the freedom to sit and think of herself. Kristopher, now age twenty-four, was following in his father's footsteps. He would start working with his godfather at Gray's Inn after the summer vacation. Katrina, two years younger, was blessed with all her mother's beauty, elegance and poise, and as an exchange student, she spent a year at the Sorbonne where she perfected her French accent. Stratford House, her former grammar school, had already offered her a position on their teaching staff. Kristopher and Katrina were now able to stand on their own and no longer needed their mother's constant attention.
With a deep sense of satisfaction and, contentment she turned to greet Kristopher, as he came bounding up the stairs. Tonight she was turning the first page to, a new chapter in her life.
"Mother, are you ready to go down?"
"Yes darling, will you please put the clasp on my necklace for me?"
Standing back to admire the picture his mother made forced him to say, "Mrs. Henderson, I have to tell you, you are more beautiful than your daughter."
"Nice line Kristopher, nice line. That ensures that you will have four dances with me instead of two. Bless you my son. Now I have all the courage I need,"
"Come on Mother, let's go make the other ladies eat their hearts out."
The door opened to receive their first guest as they entered the drawing room. Although the house had been custom built in the nineteen sixties, it was well kept. The style held its own amid the ones built later on the street. Each room was made larger than the original plan given. The drawing room was decorated in peach and cream with parquet flooring, the windows extended from floor to ceiling, and the French doors opened on to a wide verandah.
Over the years, climbing roses grew and formed a scented curtain over the filigree bars during the warm months. A large Waterford chandelier hung from the ceiling, its light catching the golden edges of the Meisen china pieces scattered about the room. West Indians in England had begun to spread their wings. A few, like the Henderson's, had been invited to have an expose of their homes, in House and Garden.
"Come in, Come on in Audrey, is John not with you?"
"No Justine, he will be here in a minute. Bradley was late getting home, you know he came down from St. Augustine today. For most of last year he was an exchange student in Australia."
A small crowd was now gathered as another family came in. It was James and Allison, and their children from two streets away.
"Hi! Audrey, are you glad the star pupil is home?"
"Allison, you have no idea, it seemed as if he had been away forever."
"You must be so proud of him. Imagine carrying two degrees at the same time, and he is only twenty-three. The old judge would have been so proud of him. Audrey, that gene pool is still going strong."
"Thank you James. Yes, we are very pleased with him."
"Today's young people are truly smart Brad graduated from Oxford with first class honors, and is now going off to Harvard, and Justine tells me, Kristopher will join his godfather at Gray's Inn in the autumn."
"Oh dear me, why are we all standing here by the door I am forgetting my manners. Let's go through to the pool area.
Kristopher was just out there showing the bartender the liquor cabinet. He must have gone upstairs to escort Katrina down.
By the way, the band tonight is a surprise from our youthful days."
Audrey looked back just as her husband and son appeared.
"Here comes John and Bradley now. Bradley come on over here and say hello to Mrs. Henderson."
As Justine turned to say hello to the little boy she once knew, something came loose in the pit of her belly. The boy was now a man over six feet with shoulders as wide as The Marble Arch. All dressed up in evening clothes his astonishing good looks made the dreams she once had of Harry Belafonte and Sydney Poitier looked like she dreamt of the hired hands.
"Oh my God! When did he become this very attractive man? Where is that skinny lanky kid, who used to play tag with my children?"
Her thoughts began to race; she felt as if she was spinning towards a bottomless abyss. In her head she was screaming at herself.
"Come on woman, get a grip. That's Brad the kid from across the street. You've seen him a thousand times. Why would you lose it now?"
In reality these were her thoughts. Yet the reality of it all did not stop her head from reeling. Nor her heart from doing a double beat. Not since Sidney Poitier first strutted across the screen, did any man have that affect on her. She reached for the chair to steady herself. He must have seen her little miss- step because he reached out and she caught his hand instead. The touch of his fingers were like fired ice, burning into her senses. His hand on her elbow became her lifeline; it rescued and brought her up to safety.
"Hello Mrs. Henderson it's so nice to see you again. It's been almost two years since I last saw you"
"You too, Bradley it's nice to have you home."
The sound of her voice surprised her. She was sure not a sound would have come when she opened her mouth to speak. Brad too, was taken by surprise, as he did not expect that kind of reaction between them. He gave a swift look at his hand to see if his fingers were still there. The jolt of electricity that went through his body at the touch of her hand numbed it for a minute. It made him both embarrassed and excited. He turned to see Kristopher and Katrina descending the stairway. Walking over he held Katrina lifting her down the last steps as easily as he did when she was little. He kept her hand in his to steady his stride at the same time forcing his mind to be jovial with his friends.
"Hey! Kristopher this can't be the girl I used to know as your sister? Not at all! That girl had spindly legs and buck teeth!
"No, Brad this is a chick I picked up at the swap mart in Portobello Market recently."
"Right on. You two keep it up and, neither of you will remain on my dance card. So there."
Still jibing at each other they joined the crowd now gathered in the back yard. It was decorated in the style of a tropical forest. The electric lanterns hung high in the branches gave the impression of Fern Gully by moon light, it really captured one's imagination bringing back memories of home. There were twelve tables scattered around the pool, candles in the shape of lotus lilies floated in the water. As soon as everyone had a drink Rev. Kenworthy asked them to be seated and the blessing was said.
Mee Mees did the catering. They served English dishes to satisfy the delicate palates of the few guests who were squeamish about eating strange food. The brave ones feasted on a variety of tropical dishes: rice and peas, curried goat, roast yam, oxtail stew, mannish water, carrot, and tamarind juice. Tropical fruit salad and, grape nut ice cream followed for dessert. The toasting, feasting, and congratulating came to an end when the lights were dimmed.
Sonny Broadsword and his orchestra began playing the beautiful Blue Danube Waltz:
Kristopher and Justine opened the dancing, to the shouts and, cheers of their friends. Katrina did not carry out her threat; she danced freely with Brad and Kristopher and all the other guys she had on her card. Each guest had one open dance on their card a free choice that they could dance with any one. The band was playing "Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On" Brad found himself standing next to Justine. Bowing, he asked her
"Mrs. Henderson, may I have this dance please."
"Yes, Bradley, it would be my pleasure."
She had not danced with him since he was a young teenager. Their dance together now somehow seemed more exciting to them both. Bradley was no longer the stumbling teenager. In his place was a man in command, with a lot of self confidence. She no longer directed his steps as she did when he was a youngster. It was that time of night when the light goes dim and the music often played nonstop. When there was a break in the music, Brad did not release her.
Excerpted from Affaire D'Amour by Josephine Graham Copyright © 2010 by Josephine Graham. Excerpted by permission.
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