by Lawrence Christopher
When Christie invited me over to her house for “a talk” as she put it; that was one thing. When she gave me the option to bring an overnight bag, well that was simply a whole other story. It is this story.
Christie and I had been working together for about three years. The first time she entered the conference room as the new project coordinator, Christie grabbed the attention of most of the men and few of the women. First of all, she is gorgeous. Secondly, she is statuesque. Thirdly, she has a captivating and appealing smile. Lastly, she has the open personality that is every bit as attractive as she is on the outside. I have been love-struck from the day I met her.
For the past three years I had been shamelessly flirting with Christie. It had been harmless flirtations; because the company we work for frowns on employee fraternization. I also had a mentor once tell me “never to let a company control your house”. What he meant by that was; for me to not to date or marry someone who works for the same company as I do. If the company goes under or decides to lay us both off at the same time, that company in effect has control of our house. It’s that advice and a rule that I have followed ever since. It had been tough at times, especially when someone like Christie comes along.
Together, Christie and I have gone to lunch and attended company events. Co-workers would remark that we would make the perfect couple. In front of others I would laugh it off or make no comment, while secretly I wholeheartedly agreed. Christie on the other hand would just offer a polite smirk. Over the years, we have become quite close and very good platonic friends.
Still, I thought of her as the woman with whom I was in love. I thought of her subconsciously, and unconsciously. Whenever I was out and saw something that reminded me of her or felt she would appreciate, I would buy and give it to her. Above all, when I would see her in passing at work, I was stopped in my tracks and I made it a point to wait until she moved out of my sight, before I moved on.
So I was standing in the middle of my bedroom thinking of what to pack in my bag besides a change of clothes, including underwear. I went to my nightstand and grabbed one; okay two, alright, alright - three Durex Mutual Pleasure condoms. I figured if I got lucky, I might as well make the most of it.
With my overnight bag hanging on my shoulder, I stepped to the door of Christie’s condo. She greeted me with a smile and her signature scent, Pleasure. I love a woman who smells good and who is not afraid of being feminine. Christie was wearing sweats, no shoes and her hair was pulled back, held by a scrunch headband. She was still beautiful.
“You can drop your bag by the stairs.”
“Are you hungry?”
“Not terribly, but I could eat a little something.”
“Good, because that’s what I have; a little something.”
On the coffee table were three dishes; one had a pile of thinly cut corn beef, the other had Brie, and there was a bowl of picked grapes and sliced kiwi. There was also a box of wheat Ritz crackers and an unopened bottle of Patron Silver tequila, with two shot glasses. I sat on the couch. Christie went to her stereo and pushed the play button on her multi-disk CD player. I noticed the CD cases of Unwrapped Volumes 1 through 4 lying out. The jazz cover of Fifty Cent’s 21 Questions began coming from the surround sound speakers. Christie came and sat next to me and began eating the fruit. I pinched a clump of corn beef and tossed it in my mouth. It was Christie who took the first shot of tequila. Then she began.
“What do you want out of life?” She asked.
“Is that a trick question?”
“No. I’m serious; I want to know what you want out of life.”
“Why not just ask me where do I see myself in five years, like they do during interviews?”
“What is this, some kind of joke?”
“No. I said I was serious.”
“Okay then; uh, I intend to be happy and productive five years from now, working at a job I love in a company that values my talents. How’s that?”
“Fine if it’s the truth.”
“It is. So what about you?”
“I want to quit.”
“Quit . . . as in working?”
“Not working, just quit corporate America. I still want to do something, like run my own business.”
“Oh really? What kind of business?”
“A personal concierge service for executives, athletes, entertainers. It’ll be named, At Your Service.”
“So you’ve given this some thought.”
“Yes I have.”
“How much thought have you given it?”
“Enough to know that I can’t do it alone.”
“Is that where I come in?”
“Sort of . . .”
“I know that the Bible says that the man is supposed to take the lead and come after the woman. I’m . . .”
Christie paused, looked at me, then she excused herself. I’m thinking to myself, “What in the world is this. Is this woman about to propose marriage to me?” On one hand, it was a dream come true. On the other; I was nervous as all get out. I took a couple of shots of the Patron. When Christie returned, she made herself an open-faced cracker, Brie and corn beef sandwich. She chased it with a tequila shot before finishing her thought.
“I’m ready to settle down . . . with you, but first we needed to have this conversation. We’ve known each other for a long time and I consider you a good friend. That’s why I can talk to you about this. We’ve been able to talk about anything. I feel that I can trust you. ”
“I know. You have always been there for me. Some times I felt like I was taking advantage of you.”
“Well, it wasn’t easy listening to you tell me about the guys in your life.”
“I know . . . and I’m sorry.”
“Now that we are being open and honest about things; I want you to know, despite my personal feelings for you any relationship advice that I ever gave you was strictly objective. Like when you asked me about your old boyfriend trying to get back with you. I was like, ‘how is she going to call me about some other dude’. But it was cool.”
“You know, I never even thought about it being an issue with you. I’m sorry. You are such a good listener and when you do give me good advice, you put it out there in real terms from a man’s point of view.”
“Uh, I am a man.”
“Oh I know that. I’m just saying you don’t just tell me what I want to hear. Like when I was telling you about my friend Tiffany. I thought she was my girl and all, but she only called me when she was going through with some guy. It got to be a pattern with her. She meet a guy and she would call me talking about he’s the one. They go to bed and it was all good. Next time I hear from her, she’s talking about how men are dogs, because the guy stopped calling her. You helped me see that she was only using me. What was that you said; ‘Don't follow anyone who's not going anywhere. With some people you spend an evening: with others you invest it.’ Well you were right about that. Tonight, I hope that I’m investing my time with you toward our future.”
“Dang girl, you sure aren’t beating around the bush. I guess that’s what I like about you. You are as real as they come.”
“Thanks, I guess.”
“Okay, so you want to leave a secured corporate job to start your own business.”
“First of all, no corporate job is secured. Between downsizing, off-shoring and scandals it’s just a matter of time.”
“So you’re going to break out and do your own thing.”
“Right, like you said; ‘working at a job I love in a company that values my talents’, my own company.”
“Alright. Alright. What about this settling down with me business? Is this investment in time of yours going to cost me an investment of my money?”
“No silly. Not directly.”
“You would quite naturally be my partner if you’re my husband.”
“Okay, real or not . . . why all of the sudden do you want to hook up with me?”
“It’s not all of the sudden. I’ve known you for years. We’ve worked side by side on projects. I know that you are a good man and a hard worker, who makes things happen.”
“I won’t argue with you. But you definitely have thrown me for a loop coming on like this. Then again, that’s among one of the other things I like about you. You are one of those people who see and seize an opportunity. And I’ve watched you; and you have this way of influencing people, providing inspiring ideas. I mean, you would make a great business partner; the way you add value by your work integrity.”
“I could say the same thing about the way you try your best to equip and inspire others. Every time I turn around, you’re being nominated for mentor of the quarter.”
“I don’t mentor to get nominated for anything. In fact, I don’t even consider myself as a formal mentor. I have these informal mentoring relationships with people.”
“See, that’s what I’m talking about. Only a truly good person would have that great attitude.”
“I don’t know if I’m all that great.”
“I didn’t say you were. I said you have a great attitude.”
“So you said I would make a good business partner. What about life partner?”
“No. No. I’m not saying ‘dang’ like anything is wrong. I just can’t believe this is happening. I’ve wanted to get with you ever since I saw you and now you’re coming on like gangbusters.”
“I couldn’t tell that you felt like that. I mean, you flirted with me. Not trying to sound conceited or anything, but I get that a lot.”
“I’m sure you do!”
“It’s not all like that.”
“You’re the one who just said it.”
“No . . . I mean that’s just something that I come to expect from men. The flirt is just part of the game. Some men mean it, and some men use it to just get their foot in the door, so to speak.”
As if on cue, Christie’s phone rang. She got up from the couch and went across the room to answer it.
“Hello. – Oh hi. – Yeah, I have company, a friend from work. – I’m not sure; we might be busy for the rest of the night. – Alright then, I’ll talk to you later.”
When she came back to the couch, Christie averted looking directly at me. That made her stubbing her toes on the coffee table even more comical. She literally hopped a couple of times before falling on to the couch. We both laughed, despite Christie having real tears streaming from her eyes.
“That’s not funny,” she said.
“Obviously it is or you wouldn’t be laughing yourself. That’s what you get.”
“Not looking where you were going.”
“I was looking.”
“Let me see your foot.” She stretched her leg out to let her foot rest on my lap. I removed her sock, uncovering a slightly chocolate ashy foot.
“No! No! Give me my foot. After I took a shower, I didn’t have time to put any lotion on my feet.”
“That’s okay, hold up.” I went to my overnight bag and grabbed my bottle of Burt’s Bee Baby Oil and returned to the couch. “If I may; would you give me your foot?”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“I want to.” She returned her foot to my lap, to which I began oiling and tending to the stubbed toes. “So, before your phone call, ahem, you were saying how you have all these guys flirting with you.”
“I didn’t say that. I said that, that is what guys do just to get my attention. Don’t try changing my words around.”
“Alright, my bad. So how many guys are we talking about, counting the guy who was on the phone?”
“Like you don’t have women calling you. Let me see your cell phone.”
“Hold up. Hold up. We weren’t talking about me.”
“But we are now.”
“Okay, you’re right. But I’m not in anything serious with any of them.”
“Neither am I.”
We sat quietly for what seemed like an hour, but not nearly. I was concentrating on the task in hand of massaging Christie’s foot. I had left the toes alone and was working on her heel and ball of her foot. So far we had been talking hypothetically about being together. When Christie asked about women calling me, she made me think seriously about having to tell a few biddies that we could no longer be “friends with benefits”. When it became obvious that I had run out of foot to work on, Christie pulled the sock off her other and switched them on my lap. I looked at her with a grin on my face, only to find her smirking back at me.
“So have you ever been in love,” asked Christie.
“I am now.” Christie’s foot stiffened in my hands. When I looked at her face, I saw widen eyes. “With who,” she asked.
Christie scooted over to my side of the couch and laid across my lap, to where she was facing me. I wrapped my arms around her to secure and hold her close. She was looking up at me.
“How do you know?”
“That’s the thing about love, you don’t think about it to know it. You feel it. I feel for you in my heart.”
“I used to use just my heart to determine my love. I have found the key to a long lasting relationship comes from leading a little more with your head and less with your heart.”
“Is that the reason for this evening and all the twenty-one questions, so to speak?”
“So you don’t have any feelings for me?”
“Oh, I most definitely have feelings for you. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. If a man gets a woman to love him, there is nothing she won’t do for him. I can’t afford to give just any man that much power over me. Believe this, to my man, I’m loyal.” She kissed me.
“With a woman like you, it would be easy for a man to live up to his commitment.”
“And what commitment would that be?”
“The commitment of marriage. Will you marry me?”