Tag Archives: romance

La Blue Luncheonette


By Rohini Sunderam

Louise stepped out of the door of her home and was caught by a blustery wind. She buttoned her coat down to the last button and was glad she’d thought to wear warm stockings. There was a glimmer of sun and a blue sky above. As she entered the path to walk down to her job at the dockyard she saw the first crocus in the flowerbed poke its cheeky lavender head out of the snow. It was going to be a lovely day.

Yesterday she had noticed a handsome young man, a new worker at The Blue Luncheonette standing outside smoking a cigarette. They had locked eyes for a brief moment and Louise had looked away.

Today, there was a lightness in her step as she hurried down to her work and she knew it wasn’t just the crocus that had put it there.

She saw him, leaning against the doorpost, the restaurant sign hung above his head, silhouetted against the early morning light. She wanted to see him again but she didn’t want him to catch her doing so. She thought she’d walk quickly past him, check him out through the corner of her eyes, and see if he was really as handsome as she recalled.

“Bon jour!” he said, stepping in front of her, bowing low, and doffing his cap.

French! Louise thought and blushed, “Good morning!” she replied, “I don’t speak French!”

“Oui, I..I..know.” He hesitated fumbling with the words, as he continued.

“Tu et jolie,” he said, his hazel brown eyes crinkled at the corners and his light brown hair fluttered in the wind as he straightened up replacing the cap on his head.

She knew enough school French to know he thought she was pretty. She couldn’t contain her amused delight and laughed. It was a clear bell laugh accompanied by a bright open smile that lit up her face and eyes.

That laugh and that smile were like rays of warm sunshine to Jacque. They were the first expressions of warmth and frank friendship that had greeted him in this cold grey outpost of the place they called Haaalifax. He’d practiced that ‘Ha’ till his breath steamed in the cold air. His natural tendency to say ‘Alifax had finally been tamed.

This place was to be his new home at least until the war was over. He had wanted no part in that and certainly didn’t want to be conscripted into a battle against an enemy he didn’t know. He promised his parents that he’d return or send for them from across the ocean when the time was right. And then he took that arduous winter journey across the choppy Atlantic, paying his way by working as a cook in the ship’s galley. He’d arrived barely two months ago at the pier in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

He had never experienced such bitter cold as he had on the journey across. Then he’d arrived in the middle of February to a city covered in ice and snow. Thanks to his knowledge of cooking and his experience on the ship he had found work at The Blue Luncheonette along with board and lodgings in the attic.

Now, here was this beautiful vision laughing and smiling at him, spreading her wholehearted affection to him, a stranger, inviting him with that beautiful smile to be part of it all.

He continued, “Je m’appelle Jacque,” he said, holding out his hand.

Louise shook his hand, smiled and nodded, she could feel a deep warm blush as it crept up from her neck, coloured her cheeks and suffused her face, “I have to rush to work,” she said abruptly, adding ‘work’ again as she quickly released his hand and hurried on without looking back.

What had happened to her! She was behaving like a giddy schoolgirl. The electricity that had passed between them was so intense it had taken her aback. She rushed on, her face gradually cooling down.

“Votre nom s’il vous plait!” He called after her. Please, he thought, I can’t have this vision of beauty disappear from my existence like dew in the morning sun. I must see her again! I must know her name.

Louise stopped, turned around and called out, “I’ll tell you tomorrow!”

“Ah!” He somehow understood that. Tomorrow was always a time of hope. So she would come this way again. He watched her as she walked down the street.

Louise was a tall, well-built girl with dark, wavy brown hair that tumbled down to the middle of her back and was held in place against the flirtatious breeze with a barrette and a simple beret. Her tan swing-back coat was both practical and smart. It swung saucily with each stride accentuating her waist and hips. She was acutely aware of his eyes on her.

Jacque was transfixed. “Tres belle!” he said to himself. Those eyes, “Mon dieu!” They were as dark as just-roasted coffee beans. Her smile, just thinking of it made him smile again. It was sunshine and warmth, it was love and hope, it was the scent of summer in a field and warm fresh bread. It would take almost too long for tomorrow. But, she had said, she had promised… tomorrow. He could live until then.

The next morning there was a row of crocuses all winking at Louise. This time she picked up her pace. She’d added a dainty brooch to the lapel of her coat and a small touch of lavender perfume to her wrists.

I have barely said hello to him! She admonished herself. But there was no denying that her heart was beating faster as she walked to work.

He was there!

Leaning against the doorpost of The Blue Luncheonette a casual stance that belied his own thundering heart. Would she come, the beautiful lady with a smile that would send him to paradise? He heard her footsteps. He had been dreaming of those footsteps all night long. They came to him and left as suddenly. A dream, a nightmare, a dream.

She was there! Despite the overcast skies, she was there and all at once the world was beautiful. He could hear the birds singing of the promise of spring. He could see the leaves pushing their way through the branches. He could smell the earth as it slowly nudged winter away. She was there!

He stepped into her path. Today he would not let her go until he had her name. It would be something to whisper to himself in the lonely bed in the attic. It would be a word to caress his mind and his fevered forehead. Her name.

“Good morning!” He said deliberately. He’d been practicing it in his head for a few minutes.

“Good morning!” She beamed back at him. “You learn quickly.”

He grinned, his eyes lighting up. “I practice,” he confessed. “But…please your name?”

“It’s important?” She teased him, her eyes twinkling.

“Oui. Trés important, for me.” He smiled again looking into her eyes this time.

“Louise,” she said lowering her eyes not able to hold the frank look of admiration in his.

“Louise!” He exclaimed, “Ai! C’est Français! You are not French?”

“No! Canadian!” Louise replied.

He was confused. “How? Louise?”

“Calm down,” She laughed, that laugh that sent him to heaven and back in a second, “My grandparents are from Italy.”

“Ahhhh!” He flung his hands up and shrugged in Gallic comprehension. “Louise,” he said again, this time it was a hoarse whisper. He held out his hand.

And she held out hers, with the glove removed.

He raised it to his lips, “Louise.” He said, inhaling the perfume of her, drawing her into his being, his life.

Louise it was the most enchanting name in the world. It was the name for him. He could take that name and this girl and hold her in his arms till eternity.

Their eyes met.

“Jacque,” She said, his name a burr of honey on her lips, “Jacque.”

They could say no more. Their names hung in the air and slow as the mist of their breaths they met, came together, and became one.


– end –

Forty two years they were married, their home was a place of laughter and stories, of never learning French and fumbling with English. It was a home of Italian dishes and French flair a truly Canadian home… A home where the first word of the day was always love and the last word, je t’aime.

(Note: This is based on a friend’s story about how her parents met. It is not entirely factual and names have been changed, but I thank her for the inspiration.)


Hearts for Valentine


Valentine’s Day was approaching and our publisher was in the throes of revamping the website. How do we make it more interesting? Let’s add a blog, he said. Let’s add stories and so I was moved to write this story, which is now available on Smashwords as a free read.

Here are the opening lines

They never celebrated Valentine’s Day, “Such a load of nonsense!” she said as they held hands and laughed at others’ follies: boxes of chocolates, bouquets of red roses tied up in guilt, hasty dates at restaurants waiting to lighten the lovers’ wallets.

There were jewellery stores dripping diamonds with their adamantine facets, sharp enough to break hearts. Rubies as red as the blood of the nightingale’s heart in Oscar Wilde’s tale, that beckoned lovers into the stores. Emeralds as green as the eyes of a mistress when she sees her lover with his wife on his arm winked through the shop windows at passers-by. The temptations and offerings were everywhere, and so hard to resist.

“We show love every day, and that matters more than chocolates,” he said.

“It does,” she answered laughing that carefree laugh that comes from the heart of a woman who knows she is loved.

Their children teased them, “C’mon Dad, get with the times!”

He shrugged. She laughed

Yet, one year arrived when she wished – it was just a little wish, light as the last snowflake of winter that disappeared in the warmth of his smile – that they did something a little special on Valentine’s Day. They never had, so why start now? After thirty some years of a happy marriage, there was really no need for any special recognition of the day. The commercialisation of love on display seemed too garish for them. Yet the little wish persisted in her mind, no longer an ephemeral snowflake, more like a spangle from a Christmas decoration. So that year, on his breakfast plate she placed a small dollop of raspberry jam in the shape of a heart.

“Oh!” was all he said. His hazel-brown eyes crinkled at the edges and lit up with suppressed laughter. He finished his single fried egg, sunny-side up on toast and then followed it with his second toast and the little heart of raspberry jam melted on its surface, spreading its soft sweet jelly redness over his tongue.

You may read the rest of the story on our Ex-L-Ence Publishing website


Or download it here:


Excerpt from ‘An Undesirable Marriage’



Meriel Brooke is another fellow author from Ex-L-Ence Publishing. She has written four books: The Story of Jacqueline Jackdaw, Pot of Gold, Sugar Pants and An Undesirable Marriage, here’s a little peek into the book that spans both the World Wars.

Finding cabin number nine, he knocked on the door softly. Ruth opened it immediately and, after a quick glance around, took his hand and drew him in. The cabin, was remarkably spacious and contained a single berth, a dressing table, a writing desk, a small wardrobe and a wash basin. The porthole was closed, and an overhead fan whirled gently.

“Ruth, I really…”

“It’s all right, I won’t eat you,” she interrupted. “Come and sit down. Do you know Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto?” He shook his head.

“It was written twenty years ago. Sit down and listen.” Sam sat down on the chair next to the writing desk on which there was an open gramophone which Ruth proceeded to wind. She lowered the needle onto the record, and the stirring strains of the third movement of Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto filled the cabin. For three minutes Ruth stood quietly beside him. As the needle reached the centre of the record, she leaned forward, pressing against Sam as she turned it to the other side. He did not react. She went and sat on the narrow bunk as the music started again.

When the needle reached the centre of the record once more, Sam raised the arm and gently repositioned it in its holder. He rose to his feet. “Thank you, that was wonderful. I’d like to hear the rest of it sometime.”

To buy her book click on the link above or here.



The Cactus Blooms


My publisher, Ex-L-Ence Publishing has a brand new website, from which you can now purchase directly. However, if you prefer to purchase your books on Amazon, there is a link on the page to take you there too.

Here’s an extract from Desert Flower… perhaps it will tempt those who haven’t read it yet to do so.

This time I entered the majlis quietly, slipping through the archway, less than a shadow, less than a breath. My face was properly covered with the niqab drawn across it. I had pinned it in place to make sure my face would not be exposed. After all, this was a foreigner who had come to the house, not another person from the Arabian Gulf, a Khaleeji, which if it were, of course, I wouldn’t have been called. This time my black abaya shrouded my entire body. All that was exposed were my eyes. I could see that the stranger was drinking a small cup of gahwa, our thick, rich coffee, and a small piece of baklawa. The fine pastry stuffed with pistachio nuts that I had the cook make that very day lay untouched on his plate. Eihab’s mother had seen that the servant had provided that.

And now that my frantically beating heart was somewhat stilled I had my voice under control too. I inclined my head slightly in a silent salaam and raised my right hand just a little.

“Have you got your wits about you?” Father asked gruffly.

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Some day I’ll be a writer


It started a long time ago. This aching need to write. To have my name attached to a work, such and such title, by Rohini Singha. That was my maiden name. I sometimes thought I’d be mysterious and have a penname. Everyone would wonder, “Who is that writer?” Critics and reviewers would declare, “Once again the mysterious author, Madame X, has captivated her readers with a scintillating tale of intrigue.” I was a great Agatha Christie fan in the days when my dream of being a writer was still limpid in its new-born vision. I was also unclear about what genre of story telling I would pursue. Madame X was the popular appellation for a woman of intrigue.

All this gradually became something of a private joke for me. By the time I’d read more complex, character and philosophy-driven work, the desire to write mysteries gave way to some day writing the great transformational novel. The imaginary nom de plume was replaced in my mind by my own and eventually my married name. It was still something that would happen “some day”. Through the years, although it was never pursued with any intensity, the dream was also never abandoned.

I’d potter away at the writing, late at night. After various domestic and motherly chores were completed, when a particular kind of silence enveloped the house, everyone was asleep and I was still awake. That’s when the draw of pen and paper, a phrase or comment I’d heard earlier in the day, or a look in the eye of a passer-by would nag at my brain. Like a sailor drawn by a siren’s song I’d steer my thoughts in that direction, embark on a tale and let it carry me wherever it wished to go. Oh the magic of those nights when I wasn’t reading another writer’s work!

It’s not to say that I never explored the possibility of publishing. Back then it was an arduous process. No Internet. No Google. I’d submitted manuscripts to publishers and agents and never heard from them. Finally we were in the Internet era. E-publishing was a reality. I submitted yet another story without much hope but with unfailing enthusiasm to an online publisher in the USA. Several months later she emailed me, “I like your story – Desert Flower and will publish it…” I read the message three times. Tears of joy welling up and spilling over.

After all the excitement settled I looked more closely at the publisher’s site. OMG, as they say today. Romance had a broad interpretation, and, although I haven’t read it, I suspect even Fifty Shades of Grey would pale into several shades of white at the list and variety of romance on display. I couldn’t possibly have my real name attached to this! I decided on a penname for Desert Flower – Zohra Saeed. My name, Rohini is Venus, the morning star, and that’s what Zohra means. Saeed, was taken from my old guru and mentor’s first name Saeed.

There’s a whole other story to this. That publisher eventually closed down, the rights reverted to me and Ex-L-Ence agreed to republish it. For those of you who have been following my outbursts of delight, it has done rather well over the last month or so, at one point it even reached #6 on the Kindle store. In the meantime Ex-L-Ence Publishing came into my life and published my collection of poems – Corpoetry – with my real name attached.

Two dreams have come true.

Screen Shot des flower at6

Desert Flower at #6 on Amazon, UK


Desert Flower blooms!


As with so much of my writing, a chance remark, a question, a comment, often sets me off and before I know it, usually out comes a poem, sometimes a rant, sometimes a story.

And that’s how I came to write Desert Flower.

I had just started working at the Chronicle Herald, we were based in Dartmouth at the time, when I was surrounded by some colleagues all mildly intrigued by me. I guess I was something of a curiosity. The fact that I was “from away” in itself was strange. India, they had all heard of. But, Bahrain! “Where on earth was that?”

Some colleagues told me they couldn’t comprehend the heat I was talking about. And there I was, in the throes of trying to wrap my mind, my arms and my shawl (worn over my sweater, further fortified by stockings on my feet) around how cold it was and that was the middle of May.

“So, how hot does it really get?” One colleague asked me.

I started to explain it to him and then I thought. ‘I’m a writer. Why don’t I write it down for him.’ So that day over lunch, I started to write. And before I knew it, this romance story, jumped on me, like a devil on my back and every lunch hour for the next two weeks I simply had to bash out this story. Until it was done.

By then it was June. The story had gone galloping off in its own direction, so of course the colleague who’d asked the question never saw this. But I did share it with some of my other colleagues who thoroughly enjoyed it. It was too long to be a short story and too short to be a novella so it lay with me until I returned to Bahrain and shared it with some of my young Bahraini colleagues.

“You have to publish it”, they insisted.

“How do you know about so many of our old traditions? Like the ‘mashata, the dallal…”

“These are being forgotten…”

Finally, I was able to publish it. But that’s why, the opening lines are…

How can I explain that sort of heat to you?

Dry. The air so hot you can hardly breathe. The sun: a high, burning, intense fire in the heavens. You can’t look up to see it. It is shrouded in a heat haze, so that although one is aware of a single heat source, the entire dome above seems like a pulsating radiator reflecting that relentless heat back to the baking earth below.

In such a land nothing lives, save a few daring palms that would cheat the heat, and not let it extract their moisture by thickening their trunks and shredding their leaves, or scrub trees, those tenacious acacias – gnarled and thorny, husbanding their water and sap, even their chlorophyll into the tiniest imaginable leaflets – extracting from the unforgiving environment more cleverly than Shylock, life. In this inexorably cruel environment, is it any wonder that trust is a precious commodity, almost as valuable as water?

And love? It is a rare jewel. It lives as the cactus flower, bright, showy and flamboyant, but only for a brief while. It is a thumbing of the nose, from that plump succulent stem with its spiny leaves, at the heat and wasteland around it.

Such was the love that I had found so very long ago on a tiny island, just east of Saudi Arabia, called Bahr’ein, because of its two seas, the salty one that flowed around it and the sweet water sea that lay hidden both underground and beneath the seabed. So much like us, we who call ourselves Bahraini, with our salty and crusty exteriors hiding the sweet softness beneath.”

You can read the rest at any of the links provided at my publisher’s page here: http://www.ex-l-ence.com/Desert-Flower.php

As for the pen name? Ah, that’s another story.



Growing Away


“Hello,” he said, “I’m Amar.”

“Hello. I’m alone.”

Amar laughed. “Do you always have these opening lines?”

“Not always. I never do anything always. But then I don’t always say never to anything, so perhaps I do.”

“What a complicated person you are,” said Amar.

“Do you always make snap judgements?”

And that was how we met.

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