Chrissy's Deception Pt. 03byJewelTran©
From the moment that Chrissy walked out of the front door of the ranch, Mike had been plotting to be with her again. She had told him that she wanted a baby, but he really didn't think her future plans included a husband! So Mike had kept his own future plans to himself - he hadn't told Chrissy that his time in the Marines was up because he didn't want to scare her away.
Even before meeting Chrissy, though, Mike had been in the process of getting his retirement in order. At this point, all he needed to do was to get back to base, finish up the paperwork and close up his office. He had already applied for his terminal leave and it would begin in the middle of January. He would then have about 2 months before he was officially discharged, but he would be on leave for the whole time. It was a nice way to have some income and not have to worry as he was trying to figure out where he was going next. And where he was going next was definitely somewhere very close to Chrissy.
It took Mike the full two weeks to finish all that he had to do in order to process out of the Marines. Time took on an unreal quality for Mike with one moment seeming to pass quickly and the next moment seeming to drag on forever. He was anxious to get back to Chrissy, but he was really excited about bringing his successful military career to an end. He had done well as a Marine and there were lots of friends that wished him well. It was with great pride and pleasure that, on January 15th, he closed his office door and turned in his key. Mike's car was already packed and pointed out of town. Next stop - Chicago!
Over the past three weeks, Chrissy's life had been busier than ever. She had returned to work on Jan. 2nd and immediately immersed herself into the world of corporate loans. Rather than allow for the possibility of having any extra time on her hands to mourn for her loss (both of Mike and the child she had hoped for) she took on even more of the loan applications than before. She found herself being asked out to dinner, by more than one male client, in order to finalize their loans. Chrissy marveled that, just when she no longer cared about getting male attention, suddenly she seemed to attract it. Even though she had no intention of pursuing a relationship with any man, she accepted the dinner meetings and closed deal after deal for the bank. Although her personal life was in shambles, her professional life had never looked better.
So, when her intercom buzzed on a bright Monday morning in the middle of January, Chrissy answered it with her usual, "C. M. Stanton - may I help you?" The intercom was wired throughout the whole building and it wasn't unusual for a new employee to call the wrong office. It was always safer to identify herself.
"Ms. Stanton? There is a client here who needs to speak with you," came the hesitant reply from the information desk receptionist.
Chrissy had worked with the bank long enough that she didn't have to handle the day to day customers. She only worked with the corporate accounts, and those meetings were arranged by appointment only. Annoyed at the interruption, she responded, "I'm afraid that I am not able to meet with anyone this morning. Is it possible that another of the loan officers might be able to help our customer?"
Chrissy was hoping that the receptionist would take the hint and direct the customer elsewhere. But her hopes were in vane as the young woman replied quietly, as though trying to keep someone else from hearing her, "I'm sorry, Ms. Stanton, but he refuses to speak to anyone else!"
Chrissy huffed out her annoyance but answered sweetly, "Very well. Ask our customer to give me a moment and I'll be right there." As she made her way out of the back offices into the main area, she pasted on her best smile. She approached the information desk, thinking about a few odds and ends she needed to wrap up, and vaguely wondering just what this customer wanted.
"Katie? Is our customer here? The one that needed to speak with me?" Chrissy asked the receptionist.
Katie's eyes were big and round as she pointed over to some chairs that made up a small waiting area. "It's the gentleman over there," she said.
Chrissy wasn't sure what the man had done to intimidate Katie so badly, but she knew that she would need to do a little damage control when this meeting was over. Either that, or find a new receptionist since this one seemed about to short circuit!
As Chrissy approached the area, she noticed that there was only one person in the waiting area. The man had his back to her. He was wearing a baseball cap and an old blue jean jacket. Not exactly the kind of corporate clothing she was used to her clients wearing. She cleared her throat, "Excuse me? I'm Chrissy Stanton."
When the man turned around and looked Chrissy in the eye, her legs gave way under her and her face turned ashen. He was beside her instantly and guided her into a chair, squatting down beside her. Her heart was hammering and she felt like she couldn't breath. Her mind kept screaming, "It's Mike! It's Mike" - Mike couldn't really be here - could he?
But it was Mike and he was grinning at her like a Cheshire cat. Chrissy reached out and touched his face. Mike turned to kiss her palm. Chrissy's eyes widened even more, "Mike? Are you really here?"
"Yes, Ms. Stanton, I'm really here!" he answered, with a twinkle in his eyes.
Chrissy realized that the receptionist had turned around in her seat and was watching them with great interest. Several of the tellers were also moving around behind the counter trying to get a better view of the waiting area. For the sake of deterring office gossip, Chrissy realized that she needed to get Mike out of such an open area and she needed to do it fast. "Why don't we go discuss your loan in my office, Mr. O'Connor?" she asked with business like politeness.
Mike took his cue and stood up, offering her his hand. She accepted it only to stand, then broke the contact. Although disappointed that she hadn't held onto his hand, Mike obediently followed her out of the front office and down a hall into the back. Personnel offices lined the walls in this area of the bank. Chrissy turned into one of the doors on the left which had her name printed on it in block letters. Mike had a brief moment to register that her office was rather Spartan in appearance with nothing more than two rather generic landscape paintings on the walls.
Then Chrissy was closing the door and suddenly all of his attention was focused on her. Her face had gotten a little bit of color back in it. She was wearing a pale green jumper with a hot pink turtle neck under it. In the dead of a Chicago winter, Chrissy looked like the blessed breath of spring. Her flaming red hair was drawn back into a twist, but several soft stands hung loosely around her face. Mike's heart warmed when she pushed her sleeves up on her arms, and he heard the familiar jingle of her charm bracelet. She was everything he remembered and all that he would ever want. But the look on her face said that she was less than amused at his presence.
"Mike, what are you doing here?" Chrissy asked quietly, in a pointed and measured tone.
"Well . . . ", Mike drawled, "I was hoping you could help point a newcomer in the right direction for getting a job."
Chrissy looked at him suspiciously. "Just who is it that needs a job?" she asked.
Mike's face broke into a huge smile. "Sweetheart, you're looking at him!" he said.
Chrissy felt the blood drain out of her face once again. "Wh-what are you talking about?" she stammered.
Mike moved over to one of her chairs and dropped down into it. "Well, when I got back, I packed up my bags, locked up my office and retired from the Marines. Now, I'm living the civilian life! I thought I might just settle down here in Chicago and make a go of it in the city. I've never lived anywhere like this before!"
Before she could stop herself, Chrissy gave a cynical laugh at that comment. If Mike was surprised at her reaction, he didn't show it. He just sat there, looking around her office, like he was considering moving in to it.
None of the fantasies that Chrissy had entertained over the last 3 weeks had prepared her for this moment. Never, in her wildest dreams, had she imagined Mike out of the military. The Marine Corps was his life. What was he going to do now? More importantly, what was she going to do now?
Chrissy realized that she was still standing against the door. She crossed the room and sat down in her own chair. She felt a little more balanced with her desk in between Mike and her. But her thoughts were still in a muddled mess. "Mike, why would you come here?" she asked, sounding rather plaintive even to her ears.
Mike looked as though he was actually pondering the question. Then, out of the blue, he asked, "So are you pregnant?"
That question was so far out of the range of possible things that Chrissy had expected Mike to say that it took her several minutes to recover enough to answer. Mike knew the answer from the look on her face long before she formed the words to tell him "no".
Until that moment, Mike hadn't totally comprehended how much he had hoped that she was carrying his child. The news that she wasn't hit him like a ton of bricks. He actually felt a physical pain in his chest at the loss. He lowered his eyes to hide his reaction from Chrissy. He struggled to get control of himself and to formulate a plan. Maybe this was just the break he needed.
"I'm sorry, Chrissy," he said quietly. He continued, "I know how much you were hoping to be pregnant. Have you gone ahead with the artificial insemination?" His gut was clinching at the idea that she might not be carrying his child, but that she was willing to try to carry some other man's. He was hoping she hadn't had time to pursue her original idea for getting pregnant, but he needed to be certain.
Mike hadn't thought that Chrissy could ever look any sadder than she had on the morning that she had last left him. But the look in her eyes at that moment rivaled the pain he had seen the last time they had been together. "No, Mike. I haven't been artificially inseminated. I won't be pursuing that any further," she answered him in a voice thick with emotion.
The look that Mike gave her showed his surprise, "You've dropped the idea of having a baby?"
Chrissy took a deep breath before she answered. "Yes. No. Well, sort of. What I mean is that I'm not going to be getting pregnant." At the completely startled look on Mike's face, she continued, "I wanted to get pregnant because I thought it would be the most fulfilling physical experience of my life. I wanted to feel, within my own body, what it was like to intimately hold another human being - to be one with another person even if it was only for nine months. But after Christmas, I had to admit that it would be impossible for me to ever experience anything that could top the intimacy that I shared with you. Even carrying a child in my womb couldn't compare to what you and I had. Therefore, I dropped the idea of artificial insemination. I will be going forward with my plans to adopt, but I won't follow up on the other."
Mike couldn't have been more surprised if she had told him that she was an alien. He knew that he had never experienced anything like the passion that they had shared, but, to hear Chrissy admit that it had meant just as much to her, shook him to the core. Mike wanted to jump over the desk right then and show her exactly how much she meant to him - how much he loved her. He held himself back, though, realizing that he needed to bide his time. She wasn't pregnant, and she wasn't going to get that way without his help, so he had a chance. Now he needed to not blow that opportunity.
With as casual of a voice as he could muster, Mike changed the subject, "Look, I know that we are taking up your work time. Will you have supper with me tonight?" When he saw the hesitation on her face, he added, "Please? I don't know my way around yet and I really could use a local's help."
Chrissy couldn't hide the trepidation that she was feeling. She took a few moments, then said, "Do you promise that it's just dinner?"
Mike looked confused. "What else would it be?" he asked.
Chrissy sighed in frustration, "I don't know! I just know that I can't handle any more than dinner right now. I'm still stunned that you are here and my mind is all messed up and now you want to go out and I don't know what it is that you really want and I don't know why you are really here and why you picked Chicago and I'm not sure if I can handle all of this!"
Mike would have laughed at her run-on explanation, if she hadn't been so serious. So he stifled his smile and said, "It's ok, Mickey. I just want supper."
At the sound of her nickname, Chrissy's bones seemed to melt. She was glad she was sitting down, because her legs wouldn't have held her up at that moment. When Mike called her Mickey, it reminded her of the most intimate caresses they had shared. She swallowed hard and said, "Meet me here at 6:00. I'll make arrangements for dinner and then I can show you the city."
Mike was much more interested in seeing Chrissy than he was in seeing the city, but he didn't let on. He thanked her adding, "It's really good to see you again. I've missed you." Then he was out the door and gone.
Chrissy felt like she had just been run over by a truck! Or did she feel more like she had just ridden an emotional roller coaster? OK, maybe she felt like she had been run over by a truck while on an emotional roller coaster. Yeah, that sounded about right! She sat, stunned, at her desk, trying to put her thoughts back together. Mike was out of the Marines. Mike was in Chicago. Mike was going out to dinner with her. And, damn it, she hadn't even got around to kissing him!
The rest of the work day was virtually wasted. Every time Chrissy looked at the numbers on the papers in front of her, they kept swirling around into heart shapes. The image of Mike's face kept floating to the surface of her mind. Her palm kept tingling from his kiss. And her body kept quivering, remembering what they had shared together. She was so relieved when the clock finally chimed six that she almost shouted for joy. Then, breathing a sigh of relief, Chrissy locked up her office and headed out the front door.
Mike was standing outside of the bank, on the sidewalk, waiting for Chrissy when she came out. He had changed into the outfit she had bought him for Christmas. He looked so handsome. Suddenly she remembered the rest of what she had bought him and wondered if he had on the silk boxers. Her face turned bright red as she chastised herself for such a thought.
She reminded herself that Mike had wanted her for sex over the holidays. Now that he was out of the Marines, and living in a new city, there would be lots of women interested in keeping his bed warm at night. Chrissy knew she didn't have what it took to compete against the beautiful women of the world in order to win the affections of a man like Mike. She wished she could just be happy that he was willing to be her friend.
Chrissy tried to tell her heart that knowing that Mike could have his choice of women shouldn't hurt. They had had a deal and now it was over. He had looked her up because she was a familiar face in a new place - and that's all there was to it. But her heart knew that it was much more than that for her and it just kept aching for him.
Mike reached out for her hand as soon as she was close enough. His grasp felt warm and secure and Chrissy longed to lose herself in him. She was afraid that she wasn't special to Mike, except as a friend, but she wanted so much more.
As she felt a sadness creeping up on her, Chrissy brushed aside those thoughts. Anyway, she told herself, they had dinner reservations at her favorite restaurant so she didn't have time to stand in the middle of the cold Chicago streets mooning over Mike. She forced herself to smile up at him. She said, "We can walk to the restaurant then come back afterwards and pick up my car. I'll drive you around to see some of the sights after dinner". Mike nodded his agreement and they started off down the street.
The restaurant that Chrissy had chosen was an Italian diner. The owners were original immigrants and Chrissy promised that the food was excellent. The atmosphere was loud and festive. When Chrissy walked in, several of the staff called out greetings to her by name. Mike was surprised by that because he had pictured Chrissy as a woman who was quiet and kept to herself in the city. But obviously, in this place at least, Chrissy was not a wallflower.
After they were seated, the waitress brought them a bottle of wine to sample. Chrissy declined, saying that she needed to drive home later, but she encouraged Mike to try the offering. It was truly some of the best wine he had ever tasted. The waitress poured him a glass and promised to bring more when he finished that.
As soon as the first waitress left their table, and before Mike had a chance to even get Chrissy's attention, a different waitress came over to them. This woman sat down by Chrissy and hugged her tightly. After she left, the host came over and kissed Chrissy on both cheeks. Finally, the owners arrived at the table and pulled Chrissy out of the booth to hug her. Not that he didn't like her himself, but Mike was amazed by everyone's open affection for Chrissy.
"Just how well do you tip these people?", he joked when they were finally alone for a moment.
Chrissy just laughed. "I met them all when I first moved here. I needed a roommate to share expenses. The owners' daughter was insisting on moving out of the family home, but they were horrified that she might fall in with a bad crowd. I offered to let her move in with me until she had a chance to get to know more about the world. She ended up living with me for about a year. I really enjoyed it and she had a taste of life outside of her family."
Mike sat, waiting for her to finish the story, but Chrissy seemed oblivious. When she continued to remain silent, he finally burst out, "Well??? What happened then?"
Startled, Chrissy laughed out loud. She hadn't realized that he wanted to hear more. She said, "At the end of the year, she met a good Italian boy from next door, took him home to meet the family and was married before the end of the next month! Her family thinks that I had something to do with getting them together and they are just so thankful that I chose an Italian! The truth is that I had no idea who my neighbors were at the time - their daughter went out on her own and met the people living around us. I'm just glad that, in the end, it was Nicky who lived next door to me and not some ax murderer!"
Mike chuckled at her story and the sound filled Chrissy's heart with warmth. She knew that she had been miserable for the last few weeks, but until that moment, she hadn't realized just how empty her life had been without Mike.
Throughout dinner, the staff kept coming over and talking to Chrissy. She introduced Mike to everyone as her brother-in-law. When there was a lull in the visitors, she whispered, "Since they are Italian, family means everything. They will understand our relationship a lot better if I couch it in terms of family."
Mike nodded his head, sagely, but inwardly he wondered about her comment. He was glad that these people could "understand" their relationship, because he sure couldn't!
After dinner and many well wishes and good-byes, Chrissy and Mike walked back to her car. Mike was glad to see that Chrissy's life wasn't a lonely one. When she had said that she had a simple, quiet life in Chicago, he had been afraid that she meant that she didn't have a lot of friends. He couldn't imagine that being the case, but he was still glad to have evidence that it wasn't. Although he certainly didn't want her to have any special male friends, he was pleased that she had so many caring friends.