True to form Van and Kristin tried to keep their distance from each other. For the next few weeks, they rarely saw each other, even at the office. But Kristin could always tell when he was there. Claudia made sure of that. The aggressive woman stayed up in Van’s face so much that some days it took everything in Kristin not to scream with anger.
But anger wasn’t the only thing she was feeling these days. Kristin was also feeling an abundance of jealousy. She wanted to be the one monopolizing Van’s time, trying to make him smile with her wit, inhaling his spicy scent, enjoying his nearness. But how could she? She was the one who’d asked for space, not him. Now Kristin was just going to have to live with that decision.
* * *
One mid-October morning, a large bouquet of flowers arrived for Kristin at the center. Two of her co-workers immediately came into her office to see them. Claudia was one of them. Cecily Gates was another.
“My, my… somebody’s got an admirer. Do tell who it is,” Claudia purred, sitting in one of the chairs in front of Kristin’s desk.
Cecily sat in the other and pushed Claudia’s hand away when the forward woman tried to remove the card. “That’s for Kristin to look at, not you!” Then completely ignoring Claudia’s scowl, she pointed to her other co-worker – the smiling one. “Go on, Kristin, read your card. And when you finish, just give us the initials of the person who sent them to you.” She winked mischievously.
Cecily was a newlywed, just returning from her second honeymoon. Her first marriage had been a bust, but this second one had by far exceeded all of her expectations. Now she saw it as her personal mission to encourage divorced or widowed people to try love again. Kristin was one of the people Cecily felt assigned to.
I bet I know who sent her those flowers, Cecily speculated with approval. She’d noticed their boss and Kristin trying not to look at each other on several occasions and thought it wonderful. Many of their other colleagues agreed with her as well. Mr. Rogers deserves someone like Kristin. Then glancing over at Claudia, Cecily added to herself, He certainly doesn’t deserve to be punished with a woman like Claudia. I wouldn’t wish ‘her’ on any man.
Kristin’s eyes sparkled brilliantly with expectation. A part of her wanted them to be from Van, too, but another part feared that it was. She took a deep breath and opened the pink card. It read. ‘Happy Birthday. Love, your sister Kambria.’
Kristin exhaled and lowered her head towards the colorful lilacs to hide the sliver of disappointment she felt at them not being from Van. Then determined to be appreciative of Kambria’s gesture, she inhaled deeply of the purple and red arrangement and smiled. After all, their relationship had come a long way over the last few months. It felt good to be on good sister terms again.
When Kristin looked up at her co-workers again, her face still bore that smile. “It’s from my sister in
Cecily looked a bit disappointed, too. Claudia, on the other hand, looked positively pleased. “Well, I guess I’ll be getting back to my own office now,” she said, getting up to leave. Claudia walked out with a lighter step and a smug smile on her face, relieved that the flowers weren’t from Van. I guess that means I’m still in the running.
Cecily got up, too, but she stayed behind for a moment. “Today’s not over yet. You might get another surprise.” Then she winked again and left.
* * *
Later that evening, Van arrived at the office to pick up some papers. It was almost quitting time, no clients were around, but the office was still in a hub. He came just in time to see Brenda present Kristin with a pink and white cake, several birthday cards (signed by all of her co-workers), and a wrapped present. The cake had already been sliced and pieces of it were being passed around.
When Kristin opened the pink and white gift box, she squealed with delight. It was a leopard print steering wheel cover. “Oh thanks, you guys.” She looked over at Brenda, who knew how much she loved animal print items and smiled. “You told them, didn’t you?”
Brenda arched her brows in feigned innocence. “Told them what? That you are an animal behind the wheel? I’m sure they can tell that by the way you peel out of the parking lot every evening.” Her laughter was joined by everyone, including Van. They’d all seen Kristin drive away before. Although a safe driver once she got on the road, she did had a tendency to take off fast. That habit came from years of driving in a big city where aggression afforded one the privilege of getting where one needed to go without being involved in a traffic deadlock.
“Well, I promise not to peel out of here tonight.” Kristin laughed as she moved to hug Brenda. “Thanks so much.” Then as she made her rounds among the rest of her co-workers, distributing grateful hugs, she noticed that Van had disappeared into his office. Hiding her disappointment for the second time that day, Kristin forced her smile to remain as she waved goodnight to some of her co-workers as they prepared to leave for the day.
In her office, Kristin took her time packing her brown leather briefcase. There was no rush to get home tonight. She and Jana had already had a birthday lunch to celebrate this day and she had no further plans. Well, no further plans beyond washing her hair and getting ready for work tomorrow. Kristin didn’t know if it was appropriate for new widows to go overboard celebrating stuff like this. After all, her husband hadn’t been dead a year yet.
I wish somebody would write a book or something about how widows are supposed to act, Kristin thought just as a knock sounded on her office door.
“Come in,” she said, closing her briefcase and locking it. When she looked up, her eyes widened. It was her boss and he had a long, rectangular-shaped, blue box in one of his hands.
Van came into the office and shut the door behind him. His face was stoic, completely unemotional. “I waited until everyone else was gone. I thought it would be best to give you this in private.” Van handed the blue box to Kristin and waited for her to open it.
With trembling fingers, Kristin popped the top up. Inside was a pair of beautiful, blue and silver hand-designed hair combs. They were perfect. Tears welled up in her eyes. One slid down her caramel cheek. “I…they’re exquisite.”
Van’s face suddenly lit up with deep satisfaction. He was pleased that Kristin liked her present so much. When he finally spoke again, his voice was gentle and low, almost strained with emotion. “I thought you might consider wearing these instead of your bun. This way you’ll still be able to keep your hair out of your face as you work.” Van put his hands behind his back and clasped them tightly together, lest he touch Kristin as he ached to do right now.
Kristin looked up with glossy eyes. “Thank you so much, Van. This means so much to me.” Then throwing caution to the wind, she went over and hugged him.
Van lowered his hands to his side. Although he didn’t put them around Kristin, he couldn’t suppress the moan of pleasure that escaped his lips at having her so close to him. She feels so good, he mused as another audible moan brought her eyes up to his face.
When Van looked down at her, he knew that there no hiding the obvious. Red-hot desire was swimming around in his hazel pools like an Olympic swimmer preparing for a meet. He couldn’t deny his longing for Kristin any more than a scientist could deny that the earth was round. Van wanted her and he’d proven it on several occasions. But this wouldn’t be one of them. No, he was going to stick to their agreement and hope that it didn’t kill him.
Suddenly clearing his throat, Van stepped away from her. “I’m glad you like them. I had them handmade for you.”
Kristin nodded, almost afraid to use her voice to speak. Van’s thoughtfulness in honoring their agreement and in purchasing this gift was overwhelming. Overwhelming in a good way. Finally she found her voice. “Thanks again.” Then she added, “For everything.”
Van nodded and turned around to leave. Spending any more time in Kristin’s presence would only make it that much harder for him not to touch her, to kiss her soft lips, to take her in his arms and make sweet love to her in every corner of this room until every time she came into this office she was haunted with passionate images of him, like he was with her.
* * *
That night, Van flipped through his Bible and happened upon the book of Ruth. He knew the story well, yet he felt compelled to read it again. When finally finished hours later, he felt a renewed sense of destiny. Now Van knew exactly where he belonged – with Kristin.
The next day, Van came into the computer center earlier than usual. He would be spending most of the day there working on a special task with Brenda. As soon as he walked into the computer room, his eyes instantly searched for and found Kristin. She was teaching a client how to use the new internet software that the client had acquired for his small business. As usual, she looked beautiful.
Today Kristin wore a blue crepe-styled dress with sheer georgette sleeves and ruffles in the front. And to Van’s great pleasure, she had her hair down with only parts of it pulled back by the blue and silver combs he gave her.
When Kristin noticed him, she smiled affectionately and ran a hand through her hair before turning back to her client. That one-of-a-kind smile got Van through the rest of the day. It remained with him as he visited his father, and later that evening, he drove home with the memory of it still tucked away in his heart. That smile even rocked him to sleep that night. This was one man that was most definitely in love.
© 2007 by Suprina Frazier