Complicated Love Pt. 06bycrystaltears©
Frieda sighed in frustration as she looked at the papers lying on her desk. Chris needed to sign them, and she was not sure when he was coming in. these papers had to be handed in tomorrow.
She had no choice left but to take the papers to Chris's house and get them signed there. However, she did not want to go to his house. She did not want to face him, not after the night he had spent at her place. Then, she really had not known about his marriage, no one had.
She only found out about the truth when one very enterprising gossip columnist published an article regarding Chris's "Mystery wife" in the tabloids. Apparently, they had been seen at a social event, and their engagement and marriage had been a hush-hush affair.
Frieda knew that when it came to conventional morals, her list had precious few, but even she drew a line at sleeping with married men. Her father had cheated on her mother, and she had seen firsthand all the pain that her mother had gone through. She had vowed that she would never cause that kind of pain, never inflict it on anyone. But she had. Unknowingly, yes, but she still had. She closed her eyes and cradled her head in her hands. She wondered what Chris would do when he saw her. Would he pretend to ignore her? Maintain a professional visage? Or would he get angry? Maybe he would feel extremely guilty. Frieda hoped it was the latter. She liked Chris, maybe even loved him, and had once looked forward to a long term relationship with him, but she felt that he needed to feel guilty for what he had done.
"Oh Cassie," she groaned. "Just why did you have to get so lucky?"
The fact that Cassie, introverted Cassandra Stevens, was Chris's wife had thrown everyone in the office for the loop. There had never been anything between them, and all the employees had been astounded when they found out about the marriage. Many snickered that it was a desperate move on Cassie's part to snare a wealthy husband. She had probably got herself pregnant and had trapped Chris into marrying her. Some others said that Chris was marrying Cassie out of pity, or some such codswallop. Frieda didn't believe all that. She did not know Cassie personally, but she knew that Cassie would never try and trap somebody into marriage, nor would she be able to live with someone who pitied her. No, there was another reason.
"Of course," she told herself. "They could be deeply in love and you never noticed."
"Then why did he sleep with you?" another voice in her head contradicted the first. "Why did he cheat on her?"
Frieda rubbed her eyes and stood up. There was no point in muddling over all this right now. What had to be done had to be done. There were no two ways around it. Dropping in at the reception to clock her departure, she carried necessary papers and got into a company car to go to Chris's house. She hoped she found her answers there.
Chris and Cassie strolled arm in arm behind James and Ann. James had wanted to go out again today and had insisted that Chris accompany them. To his surprise, Chris readily agreed.
Now, they were walking back home because James was tired. Laughing and joking, the group entered the house through the kitchen door, not noticing the black BMW parked in the drive.
"There's a Frieda Sommers waiting for you in the hall," Mrs Potts told Chris when she saw him. "She has some papers that you need to sign."
"Frieda, yes..." Chris said, paling slightly. "You guys just stay here, I'll be a minute."
"Okay," Cassie said, looking a bit surprised. "Take your time, we'll just go to the balcony and bask in the sun like lazy cats."
"You do that," Chris said, a forced smile on his face. He did not notice the tightening around Ann's mouth. She had guessed, correctly, why he was being so abrupt. She sent Cassie and her father upstairs, and sat down in the kitchen, where she would be able to hear what was being discussed if she listened carefully.
"It better not be what I think it is," Ann thought grimly. "For Chris's sake, it better not be."
Chris walked into the living room, bracing himself for the pass he was sure Frieda would make. Maybe there would be tears, he did not know what to expect. But he knew that having her at his house was trouble. He saw Frieda seated in a corner of the room, legs crossed demurely, eyes hard. She had papers in her hands, and rose when Chris walked towards her.
"Good afternoon Mr. Quentin," she said, her voice expressionless. "I have some papers that needed to be signed. I didn't know when you would come to the office next, so I thought that I'd bring them over myself."
Chris nodded, taken aback. Whatever he had been expecting, it was not this.
"You'll need to go through and sign them all by today. Most of them are due soon. You'll also need to come to the office sometime this week."
"Yes, I will do that. Are you going to wait here till I finish this?" Chris asked, still unable to comprehend why she was being so detached. He had expected some anger, maybe even tears, but not this cool demeanour.
"Yes." Frieda answered her gaze cold as she replied.
"Okay," Chris said, confused, but he was not displeased. If she chose to not address the issues between them, then it did not do him any harm. He had wanted to apologize, but looking at her, he felt that it would not b the right thing to do.
Time passed quickly as he immersed himself in the papers. He had to ask Frieda to help him in some areas, as he had not visited the office in a while, and was impressed by the amount she knew.
"She'll need to be promoted," he thought as she pointed out a small, but immensely effective clause that could be added to make the deals that they would sign more effective.
Nearly two hours later, Chris signed off the last paper. With Frieda's help, he had made two piles of the documents, one that was fine as it was and the other which needed a few changes. Cassie had come in for a short while and had helped with a few of the design specific documents. Frieda was friendly to her, and even laughed when Cassie made some dry remarks. But when she turned to Chris, her eyes become cold again.
"I'll drop in at the office the day after tomorrow to review these," he said pointing to the second pile.
Frieda nodded and carefully put the papers back into their respective binders and into a mailbag. Chris accompanied her to the car and stood as she carefully put the papers away. Then, she turned to him and Chris was taken aback by the hurt and the anguish that he saw in her eyes.
"Why did you cheat on Cassie with me?"
The words were spoken in a whisper, but the pain in them was quite obvious.
"It's..." Chris said, but stopped when he saw the expression on her face.
"I may not be a woman of very strong morals Chris, but I draw the line at sleeping with married men. I did not know about your marriage that night. If I had..." she trailed off, a small tear rolling down her cheek,
"This can never happen again. You have hurt me very badly. Like a fool, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could actually try to have a relationship with a person, but I was wrong. Just, don't cheat on her again will you? Cassie's a good person, and she doesn't deserve a cheating husband."
Chris look at her, absolutely stunned. As Frieda opened the door to get in, he stopped her with a hand on her arm. She flinched away from his touch, but stood and looked at him, waiting to hear what he wanted to say.
"I.....I wasn't exactly married when we slept together," he said softly. For some reason, he felt that he could trust her with the truth.
"My father was dying, and he wanted me married. So I asked Cassie, as a favour, to have a paper marriage. She would have to stay here with me, help with the picture of being a happily married couple. That night, we weren't in any sort of relationship."
"But now?" Frieda asked, she could see it in his eyes. He loved Cassie.
"Things changed. I like her, and we have a relationship and I want to make it work. I..."
"You love her." Frieda finished for him and almost laughed out loud when his eyes widened in surprise at her choice of words. Of course he didn't know he loved her. No matter how nice he was, he was still a clueless male.
"Yeah, and I know this is asking too much of you, but do you think we could put all that behind us? Start as friends?" Chris knew it was a long shot, but he figured that it did not hurt to try.
"You are asking too much," Frieda said flatly. "But I will consider it."
She looked over his shoulder and smiled suddenly, before whispering, "Heads up, Cassie's coming."
Chris nodded and turned to watch her making her way to them.
"You're leaving?" Cassie asked. "You could say for a bit longer and have dinner and go. It'll take you forever to reach the office in the traffic, and you'll probably only have time to eat at around 11."
"I'm good," Frieda said. "Don't like food much anyway. Bye Cassie."
"Bye," Cassie waved. She turned to Chris, only to find him looking at her incredulously.
"Frieda isn't really a friend is she?" he asked, knowing that Frieda really had not had much to do with Cassie in the office.
"No, not really," Cassie shrugged, slipping and arm around his waist and gently tugging him toward the house.
"What was that about then?"
"Beats me," Cassie shrugged. "Can we go in now? It's getting chilly out here."
"Sure," Chris said, now slightly worried. He certainly didn't need Frieda telling Cassie anything about what had happened on his birthday. He knew that she wouldn't, but there was a nagging doubt in his head. Sighing, he pulled Cassie closer to him as they walked to the house.
If he didn't want Frieda telling Cassie, he figured that there was only one thing to do. He would have to tell her himself. And, Chris added silently, he would have to tell her soon.
Ann stood in the balcony, nursing a cup of coffee. She inhaled the heavenly aroma that rose from her cup, and grinned. Cassie had taken to buying flavoured coffee, and tonight, Ann had taken out the 'Death By Chocolate' flavour. Her coffee almost smelled like hot chocolate.
She heard footsteps behind her and turned to see Chris join her. From the look on his face, she knew that he wanted to talk to her, and she had a very good idea as to what he wanted to ask her. However, she wasn't going to let him talk. She would start.
"You slept with Frieda?" she asked bluntly, smiling when she saw him wince at her tone.
"Before Cassie," he replied through clenched teeth. "Why is everyone giving me hell about that anyway? I was single at the time, and it is perfectly allowable for single people to sleep with other single people!"
"So Frieda gave you hell did she? Guess she has some character after all," Ann smirked, taking another sip. "So, did she scream at you for not sending her a wedding invitation?"
"No," Chris said, turning his back to Ann. "She gave me hell because I slept with her after I got married."
"Score one for Frieda. I sincerely hope she really raged at you," Ann said, anger colouring her tone. She knew that Chris wouldn't cheat on Cassie now, but the fact that he had overlooked a good thing that was right in front of him for two skinny legs and platinum blonde hair did not bode well with her.
"Give it a rest will you?" Chris said, sounding pissed off. "I don't cheat on any of my girlfriends. Dump them and move on, yes, but I don't cheat on them."
"As though that's any better. So what's Cassie? Number 1000?" Ann spat out. For some reason, she was angry. Extremely angry. The 'dump 'em and move on' comment had rubbed her the wrong way.
"Don't you say that!" Chris shouted at her, his eyes bright with anger. "Cassie's different."
"Sorry," Ann said, when she saw his face. She knew that that was below the belt.
Chris didn't say anything. He just looked pissed off.
"Okay, that was low. I've been on edge lately and I didn't want you hurting her..." like I've been hurt...she almost added.
When Chris said nothing, she went up to him and put an arm around his shoulder, giving him a gentle hug. "C'mon, don't stay mad."
"I won't," Chris relented. "I meant to ask you, who was the guy at the party the other night? Samuel someone?"
He felt Ann stiffen, and he turned to look at her.
"Just someone I know. Friend of a friend. Thinks it's a waste to become a model."
"I have to agree with him," Chris admitted, earning a slight punch from Ann.
"I like it. Besides, you know I want to do fashion design, and being a model is the first step. Really helps to know real designers and see how they work. Melissa's a model; too, and you don't get on her case about it." The last sentence was delivered with a pout.
"Yeah, well, I don't know Melissa all that well and she's beautiful, unlike a certain other model I know who's all elbows and knees," Chris teased, trying to draw a smile from Ann. He succeeded.
"Shut up," Ann said, taking another sip of her coffee. "You know I'm gorgeous anyhow."
She grinned and offered Chris a sip of her coffee.
"Ugh, it tastes like a pastry," Chris said, handing the mug back to Ann. "It's sweet," he added, looking pained. According to Chris, a good coffee was bitter and contained a hell of a lot of caffeine.
"Cassie buys this stuff," Ann said. "This is 'Death By Chocolate'."
"That figures," Chris said, thinking that Cassie certainly would buy coffee that tasted like chocolate. "Do you need me to punch that guy's lights out? You know, tough older brother act?"
Although Chris was being playful, Ann knew that if she said anything bad about Sam, Chris would make his life absolutely miserable. And funny thing was, although he really wasn't her favourite person at the moment, she didn't want Sam's life to become miserable.
"No," Ann said quickly. "I've got him sorted out. No problems on that front."
"Okay, but you know that you just have to ask." Chris ruffled her hair before going indoors.
"Goodnight," Ann said, watching his retreating back.
"Oh, it's going to be good alright," Chris said, turning briefly to give her a smirk. Ann caught the implication.
"Uh, no. I really don't need to know that," she groaned, as Chris burst into laughter.
"But then, it's still good to know," she thought to herself as she leaned against the railings. For one moment, it was just her and the starry sky, before she turned and went indoors.
She was scared that if she stayed by herself for too long, she would actually admit to certain feelings that were hidden just below the surface. Feelings about a certain intellectual, smart, funny man. A man who had managed to give her the world, and took it away in less than a second. For the last man on the earth she would have thought herself capable of loving. For the man who had oh-so-easily broken her heart.
Chris walked to his and Cassie's room with thoughts raging around in his head. He knew he had to tell her, but there really wasn't anyway she would take it nicely. With any other woman, he wouldn't have a problem, wouldn't mind hurting them. If he hurt Cassie, he'd feel the pain she felt, only intensified.
He didn't have much time to contemplate this issue when he entered the room though. Cassie fairly jumped him. She was in a robe and he was quite certain she wasn't wearing anything underneath. When he entered the room, she had practically run into his arms and her sweet lips were on his now.
Her kisses were distracting, her small hands even more so, as they were now moving all over his body. "Oh, sod it," he thought, pulling her firmly into his arms and kissing her back. "I'll tell her later."
Two hours later, Cassie and Chris were lying prone on the bed, still entwined. The sheets were in disarray and a musky smell hung in the air. The room smelt of love-making. Cassie moaned a little as she snuggled into him, her soft curves melding with his lean, taut body.
He absently ran a hand through her dam hair, stroking it away from her face. He had to tell her. Now.
"Cassie," he said in a whisper.
"Hmm?" Cassie said, looking up at him with those eyes of hers. Chris was momentarily distracted before he ruthlessly brought himself back to what had to be done.
"Cassie, I haven't been," he faltered, but took a strong breath and continued. "I haven't been faithful to you throughout our marriage."
He could feel her stiffen against him, and watch as the inevitable hurt filled her eyes. Cassie felt as though someone had dropped something heavy on her chest, and was now slowly smothering her. "When?" she asked, her voice sounding choked.
"My birthday," he said, holding her close. He couldn't bear it if she didn't love him, couldn't bear hurting her.
"That was before we started our relationship," Cassie murmured, suddenly feeling lighter. So long as he had not cheated on her, she was fine. But it still hurt, knowing that he had chosen another woman over her. The rational part of her brain told her that at that point, she wasn't available.
"I know, but I still shouldn't have, and with Frieda," Chris said, looking into her eyes, almost willing him to see the sincerity in his. He was telling her the truth. "I love you Cassie, and I wouldn't even think of it now, but at the time, it seemed a good idea. You were my business partner and Frieda was available."
Cassie felt a sharp stab of rage, but also pity. She recalled how distant Frieda had seemed, and how nice she had been. Frieda had known about this and had accepted this. She knew instinctively that Frieda would never, ever try ad seduce a married man, even if she loved him. Frieda was not a threat. Chris would not stray either, she knew that. But her heart refused to understand. She had been there, and he had still chosen beautiful Frieda. Unbidden, a tear seeped from beneath her lashes and Chris immediately wiped it away.
"Don't cry Cassie, please don't cry," he whispered, his voice breaking as he held her tight. "Don't leave. I cannot live without you. Please don't cry."
Cassie wrapped her arms around him tightly and sobbed. She was not crying for what Chris had told her. She was crying for the girl inside who still felt worthless next to people like Frieda. Now, she had to be strong. She wiped away her tears and detangled herself from Chris. She needed to think.
"I think I'll sleep in the guest bedroom tonight," she said, keeping her eyes downcast. She knew that she had hurt him, but he had hurt her too. She knew that if he had made that choice once, he might make it again. She was torn.
"Yeah," Chris said, looking at Cassie with eyes filled with pain. "I didn't want to hurt you," he whispered brokenly.
"I know," Cassie said, almost gently, before she rose, put on her clothes and went to the other room.
Cassie kneaded the dough, taking out all her frustration on it.
It had been two weeks since she had walked out of Chris's room, and it had been two of the longest weeks of her life. She could not deal with it. Things between Chris and her had gone from good to bad, then bad to worse. For the first few days, Chris was treading around her gently, speaking to her only is spoken to and doing small things for her.
She had remained numb. After the first week, Chris had resorted to anger. He felt justified in being angry with Cassie. He hadn't cheated on her, not technically. They had had a contract, one that stipulated certain things and made their marriage a business deal.
He was not in any way obliged to remain faithful to her. It was also before they had started their relationship. Once Chris had fallen for Cassie, he hadn't so much as looked at anyone else. He couldn't understand why she was still punishing him.
He felt punished. He had no way of knowing that Cassie wasn't punishing him, she was distancing herself from him because she believed that she wasn't good enough. She knew Frieda, and she felt inferior to her in every way. Her behaviour born out of her insecurity created a large rift between herself and Chris.