Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Up From Sorrow - Ch. 5

Wednesday arrived finally. It was a beautiful sunny day with very few clouds in the sky. Awakening at 6am, Kristin was able to see the purple and orange streaks make way for a soft powdery blue. This morning she was up before Jana, largely because she was so excited about her new job and because she was more than a little nervous about seeing Van again.

Yet determined to make the best of it, Kristin dressed with special care. The navy blue suit and rust-colored silk blouse she chose complimented her caramel skin exquisitely. And the matching rust-colored heels completed the outfit to perfection.

Kristin had an abundance of business attire at her disposal. Even though she didn’t have much money right now, she certainly looked like she did. In fact, many of her clothes weren’t even a year old yet, thanks largely due to her husband. Two weeks before the accident, Sammy woke up one morning and insisted on taking Kristin on a major shopping spree.

When she initially resisted due to their financial obligations (Kristin wanted to invest the money back into their fiscally-strapped company), Sammy persisted by saying, “An investment in my wife is an investment in my business. When people come into the business, they need to see signs of prosperity in the people that work here. Besides, I want them to see my wife looking ‘good’.” Sammy had believed in making sure that his wife was adorned with the finest things. His father had been like that with his mother, too.

Kristin blinked away a sudden tear. She missed Sammy terribly. Then after applying her lipstick, she once again twisted her hair into a bun. Although stylish, she needed to appear as school-marmish as possible today. She didn’t want to incite that look in Van’s eyes again or do anything else to arouse those same feelings within herself.

* * *

At the office, Van waited patiently for Kristin to arrive. Normally Brenda trained the new employees while he made his usual cameo appearance later, speaking to them briefly as he welcomed them into the company. But today he was going to find a way to be more involved in the training process. In fact, Van had dressed with Kristin in mind, wearing one of his best navy blue Italian cut suits.

At 8:30am Kristin arrived. She was even there before Brenda who always came at least fifteen minutes early for work each day. Van nodded his approval. Not only was she making a good professional impression on him, she was making a good personal impression on him as well.

She looks remarkable, Van mused, fighting the urge to unravel that tight bun Kristin wore. He liked her hair better loose. Speaking to her, he said, “Good morning, Kristin. You’re looking well.”

“Good morning to you, too, Van...uh…Mr. Rogers,” Kristin replied, looking around nervously. This man sure smells great. His spicy scent caressed her nostrils, prompting her to struggle to stay focused.

He wanted to tell her that calling him ‘Van’ was fine with him, but at the office everyone else called him Mr. Rogers, so it wouldn’t be appropriate. But just the thought of Kristin calling his name over and over again in passion caused erotic images to creep into his mind.

Pull it together, man, Van told himself. It wasn’t like him to want to jump a woman’s bones. In fact, he was usually the epitome of self-control. To keep his mind on safe ground, Van quickly reverted back to business. “Uh…Kristin, let me show you around the center,” he said, preparing to give her a brief tour.

As Kristin followed him through the modern and efficiently designed training center, she was immediately pleased with its soothing blue, burgundy, and hunter green color scheme. Those colors made everything seem so warm and inviting. As her eyes scanned from left to right in the large client computer room, she noticed that the various mini workstations were multi-colored, too.

“Each instructor has his or her own section. Yours will be in the burgundy area,” Van said as he moved towards the hallway, anxious to show her to her office.

Like the rest of the building, Kristin’s office was also user-friendly and efficient. All of the oak furnishings were functional and comfortable. As she admired her surroundings with pleasure, Van watched her and derived pleasure also. Not only was he glad that Kristin liked her new office, her smile made him want to please her even more.

“Go ahead and sit at your desk,” Van urged, standing behind her chair.

“I think I will,” Kristin replied, sitting her purse down on the oak desk.

Holding the burgundy high-back chair out for her, Van waited as she settled into it. As Kristin’s head grazed his fingers, he thought again of undoing that restrictive hair bun. He liked her hair loose and free - the way it was the first time he saw her. Van could imagine running his fingers through its length from root to end as she lay in his arms after a long night of passion.

Suddenly a voice jarred him away from his thoughts. “Mr. Rogers, Mrs. Gray, good morning,” announced Brenda Combs. All too soon, their workday had begun.

* * *

By lunchtime, Kristin had been properly introduced to all of the other instructors. She liked everyone there. Everyone, except for Claudia Dafoe. Kristin was going to have to work a little harder to get along with her.

Claudia was slim and beautiful with honey-bronze skin. Her hair was short and dyed golden blonde and her apparel was immaculate. Claudia was gorgeous and it was obvious that she knew it. And it seemed as if she wanted everyone else to acknowledge it, too. She stayed up in Van’s face most of the morning, finding reasons - any reason - to talk to him. But what irritated her other eight co-workers the most, was the fact that Claudia always seemed to find ways to put them down to make herself look or feel more important.

Quickly picking up on this unfortunate character flaw in Claudia, Kristin vowed to keep her distance from the forward woman. And while I’m at it, I’ll keep my distance from Mr. Rogers too, she mused, hating the thrilling effect that Van had on her. Even now Kristin craved his presence. And just one glimpse of his hazel eyes right now would probably be enough to sustain her for a week.

Just then, as if he’d known that she was thinking about him, Van stuck his head around the corner of her office door. “I guess you’re staying in for lunch,” he said, having been led to her office by a delicious aroma. Everyone else had gone out to eat.

“Yes, I brought my lunch today,” Kristin answered, leaving out the fact that she really brought it because she needed to save money.

“The office closes down for lunch everyday, so you won’t be disturbed. What did you bring? Wait, let me guess,” Van said, taking a deep whiff of the air around him as he stepped inside the office. The smell was stronger in here. “Some of Cousin J’s greens,” he promptly deduced.

“How did you know?” Kristin laughed, nodding yes. He has the smoothest skin I’ve ever seen on a man, she mused, admiring Van’s nut-brown complexion.

“That woman looks for occasions to cook her famous collard greens. When she moved to New York, we all grieved for those greens.” Van rubbed his belly with emphasis.

Kristin smiled at that. “Here, I’ll share some with you.” She generously pushed her clear plastic container towards him.

Seeing her soft pouty mouth expand into a smile, caused Van’s breath to catch in his throat. Lord, she’s beautiful. He wanted to kiss those full lips right then, but he restrained himself. Kristin was still grieving and this was a place of business. He didn’t want her to feel harassed. Instead Van went to the break room and returned with a fork and a paper plate.

“Hmmm...sure smells good,” he said, reaching for the sectional container. Kristin thought he was talking about the greens. He was talking about her.

There they sat in her office eating ham, collard greens, and cornbread and talking about the Gray/Rogers family. Van was nine years older than Sammy, so he had many fond memories of his younger cousin’s brief stay in Georgia. “I remember how carefree Sammy always was. He never seemed to worry about anything and was known to spend every dime in his pocket to get what he wanted,” Van said, thinking that his cousin had been just like his father before him. Sam Sr. was known for his extravagant spending, too.

Before continuing, Van took his cornbread for another dip into his greens for that extra special taste that can only come from pot liquor. “I remember one time Sammy came home from the candy store with a pocket full of treats. I think he had Lemonheads, oatmeal cookies, and Now/Laters. He was completely broke, but you could tell that he didn’t care from that huge smile on his face,” he disclosed, laughing at that memory.

Kristin liked talking about Sammy with Van. He was so easy to talk to and didn’t seem threatened by her husband’s memory at all. In fact, Van seemed to enjoy the subject as much as she did.

Van continued to watch Kristin’s face as they ate and conversed. She was animated as she talked about how she’d met her husband during their senior year of college and how they’d dated for three years before getting married last year. Then Van saw sorrow surface in Kristin’s eyes when she spoke of their brief marriage.

“Why did you guys wait so long to get married?” Van asked, wiping his mouth with one of the napkins on her desk. Given the chance, he’d marry her today.

“Sammy wanted to build up enough money to help his father with the business without having the added expenses associated with marriage. Even after we got married, we stayed with his parents in order to save money to put towards the business. Except we hardly ever got to do that, because Sammy was always finding some new reason to spend our savings. In the end, we lost everything anyway,” she said through unexpected tears. They’d all taken a gamble and lost. Now Kristin was determined to be more careful with her money and her heart.

Van put his plate down and immediately went to her side to console her. “It’s alright, Kristin,” he said as he bent beside her chair with one hand behind her back and the other patting the side of her head in comfort as he held her close to him. His heart went out to her as he discerned what must have happened.

While Sammy and his father were alive, they’d probably continued their lavish lifestyle that included only focusing on the delights of the present, never thinking about the future, particularly their wives’ future if something were to happen to them. Such foolishness had almost cost Sam and Jana their marriage many years ago and now it seems that it had cost both widows their financial security.

Right then, Van resolved himself to do as much as he could to lighten Jana and Kristin’s burden. So caught up in the moment, he failed to realize that they were being closely watched.

© 2007 by Suprina Frazier

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