The only thing that she that came to her mind when she thought of him and their situation was “Asshole,” so she didn’t answer his texts or his calls. She wasn’t an expert on relationships, but she was an expert on Chris and she was pretty sure that repeatedly screaming “asshole” wouldn’t work well with him.
Chris is a cowboy: rugged, strong, and prideful. He is a control freak, used to running everyone in his life: his employees, his wife (oh yeah—he has a wife), his kids (he has three of them too). He makes people jump, act, report just by walking his 6’5”, 250 pound self into a room. Once people hear his deep baritone voice, they are in his army: signed up and at attention.
Of course, he caught her attention immediately. He caught everyone’s attention. Plus, she worked at his company, so she was paid to pay attention.
As the VP of Marketing, she was frequently in meetings with him, but they had never talked much out of that context or one-on-one.
Then one night, she closed her laptop, gathered her things and stopped by his office to lay a report on his desk — so that he would see it first thing in the morning. She didn’t expect him to be there. He was in his tan, leather chair leaned back as far as it could go with his legs stretched long and crossed in front of him. His hands were behind his reclined head and his eyes were closed. He was perfectly still. Renee stood there for a moment, looking at him the way one looks at a baby when he sleeps. She had never seen him still. There seemed to be an electricity coming from him at all times, to see it static was odd. She stayed looking at him a moment longer and turned to walk away.
“Stay,” she heard his voice, sounding even deeper than normal.
She stopped and turned around. He was there, in the same position, eyes still closed — and so motionless that she thought that she imagined hearing him speak.
“Please stay,” he said again.
She walked in as quietly as she could—something about the air in the room made her feel as if she needed to be quiet and respectful, as if she were walking into a ballet performance that was already in mid-performance.
She sat down softly on the brown, leather couch that was positioned catty-corner in the back of his forest green painted office and remained silent.
Neither of them talked for several minutes. He lay motionless with his eyes shut. Renee simply looked at him. For the first time, he seemed real to her. She had always viewed him the way we do movie stars, almost as a product. She never took the time to consider that this massive man had a heart, and feelings too. He was a human just like the rest of them at Tackler Industries, just maybe super human.
Suddenly, he let out a large breath—as if he had been holding it in for hours—and sat up straight in his chair. He got up, walked over to the mini bar in his office, and poured two drinks of some sort of brown liquor.
“Want a drink,” he asked as he handed the glass to Renee, confirming that it wasn’t a question.
Chris sat down on the couch about three feet from Renee, which made her immediately take a large gulp of the oaky tasting liquid.
“It’s been a rough one, he revealed” looking at the his glass intently. He became silent again for so long that Renee wondered if that was all he was going to say.
I had to fire my CFO today,” he said. Renee knew the CFO, Franklin, another Black man in the company: good looking, short and quiet. “He’s my brother.”
Renee looked in Chris’ eyes immediately upon hearing this news. He had looked up from his glass and looked directly at Renee, perhaps to see her reaction. Renee looked back, shocked at all of the pain she saw housed there. Unconsciously, she slid closer to him on the couch, set the drink down on the table, and placed her hand slightly about his knee.
Over the next two hours, they went from virtual strangers to friends; from boss/employee to friend/trusted confidant, as Chris told Renee how he had found his half brother seven years ago, many years after they had both been given up for adoption when they were in elementary school. His brother had some drug problems, but Chris had paid for him to spend a year in rehab, then go back to college and eventually work for him at Tackler. Yesterday, Chris learned that his brother had embezzled almost $500,000 from him.
Renee didn’t say a word the entire time, but listened and sipped her frequently refilled glass of brown liquor. When he was clearly done talking—and was just sitting quietly on the couch—cocooned in his own thoughts, Renee left as quietly as she had come in, took a cab home and figured that she would never talk to Chris again— in that way-again. She resolved that she was like the stranger you meet in the ladies room: you meet briefly, catch each other at a vulnerable time, bond because of the timing and situation, and never go back to that place again.
For the next three weeks, things at Tackler were the same. She and Chris interacted normally, until one Thursday she got an email asking her to dinner: “Renee, can you join me for dinner tomorrow. I’ll send a car to your place at 7:00.” Intrigued, she replied, “yes” and made a mental note to pick up the dry cleaning on the way home, so she could have something decent to wear.
She didn’t know what she expected when she agreed to meet Chris for dinner, but she didn’t expect the black, Lincoln town car to pull up in front of a local dive bar on the outskirts of town. Renee felt silly in her black, skin-tight, Herve Leger dress, but walked confidently into the bar, to find him in jeans and a purple polo shirt, sitting at the bar. She didn’t have the time to feel self-conscious about their difference in attire because Chris gave her a huge smile, and hugged her the way a man hugs and touches a body that he is familiar with. He pulled back slightly, his large hands still on her waist and kissed her, his tongue waking up her shocked one. There was no hesitation in his movements, no first time jitters. Right then, with just that hug and kiss, he claimed Renee. He touched her in a way that announced, “you are mine”.
And she wanted to be his. She didn’t know before that moment, but she wanted to be his.
“Hungry?” he asked after he stopped kissing her.
She smiled at the double meaning and slipped onto the bar stool.
“Starving,” she replied smiling slyly.
Chris smiled back, handed Renee one of the menus that was stacked on the bar and said, “They have the best clam chowder in the state. That’s why I brought you here.”
Two hours later, they were both stuffed on double bowls of clam chowder and two bottles of Cabernet (which Chris had brought with him because while this place had great chowder, they had lousy wine). Chris stood up, “Ready?”
Renee didn’t know what he was asking if she was ready for, but she nodded her head, grabbed his extended hand and followed him out of the bar into the gravel parking lot, where his silver Porsche 911 was parked under the blue neon sign that said, “Coors Light.”
He leaned her against the car and began kissing and sucking her neck hungrily, as if he had been thinking about eating her the entire meal instead of the clam chowder. One hand grabbed her butt, while he placed his other hand on the inside of her lower right thigh. His hand moved, under her dress, up and down her inner thigh until he reached the crotch of her panties. There he took his index and middle finger and gently traced her anatomy. He stopped kissing her and looked into her eyes as if in deep study, and kept tracing her anatomy — learning her.
Despite being in public, in spite of herself, Renee clasped Chris’ back and lifted her leg and wrapped it around his leg to provide him with better access. He looked at her with a combination of appreciation and lust, took the hand that had been on her butt, looped it under her knee, and hoisted her onto the hood of her car. Even to this day, Renee often wondered if he would’ve taken her right then and there had a group of eight or so rowdy 20-something year olds not staggered out of the restaurant just then.
“Let’s go,” he said in voice thick with desire.
He drove those eight miles downtown going 20 miles over the speed limit and blasting Anthony Hamilton. Renee’s mind was racing faster than the Porsche. “What in the fuck am I doing,” she questioned herself, while knowing fully that she wasn’t going to stop.
He pulled up to the nicest, tallest apartment building downtown, got out while a doorman opened Renee’s door. He met her around on the other side, grabbed her hand and escorted her to 29A, one level down from the penthouse but an impressive space nonetheless—not that she really got to see it. As soon as they walked it, he swooped her up in his arms, started kissing her, and took her to his bed where he proceeded to lick, suck, rub, caress every part of her body. Renee was lost in him, in all that he was doing: his hands were so large, so commanding and everywhere—as were his lips.
“Now,” she whispered. He ignored her.
“Please, Chris,” she urged, arching her back and grasping his shoulders.
He dined on her, without pause for an hour, as if she were his last meal. She was shaking and on the verge of crying by the time he finally entered her with force. Immediately there was a loud, animalistic moan (although she didn’t know from whom).
Renee had been Ms. Teen, her high school’s Homecoming Queen, Ms. Delta Theta Episilon and had modeled though college. She never felt as beautiful as she did that night. The way he looked and touched her made her feel precious, as if he had been waiting just for her all of his life.
The next morning, as she was walking out to get in the car that he had called for her, he said, “See you next Thursday.”
And that’s what they had done for the past 18 months: every Thursday evening they spent 12 incredible hours together — until this past Thursday, when Renee told him that they would have to meet Friday instead because she had a friend visiting from out of town.
“I can’t do Friday, baby. Junior plays football every Friday night,” Chris explained in his always calm voice.
“What about Saturday? I was supposed to go the Heart Association’s fundraiser with Michelle and Terry, but can skip it.”
“No, baby. Saturday won’t work. You have Thursdays.”
And that’s when Renee hung up the phone.
Oftentimes during the week, Chris would call her to meet him at the apartment for a hour of stolen time. Renee always came, regardless of what she was doing or had planned. Hearing him say that she had Thursdays made her realize that she had been living completely on his (very regimented) schedule. She worked as long as it worked—for his schedule.
So she hung up in his ear that Monday and stopped taking his calls. “Motherfucker”, she thought. “It’s all about him.”
She, who could talk endlessly about anything, for once didn’t know what to say. Talking was hopeful interaction: you never knew what you would learn or discover when interacting with someone. With him, when he became fixed in this particular mood, talking became a hopeless interaction. He wasn’t going to listen. Even when she begged nicely, “Please listen to me.” So, she stayed mute.
She loved him. He loved her, which was the problem. Cowboys don’t do love, not the passionate, deep kind because it’s uncontrollable. They do the dependable, steady, “I’ll have beans on the stove” type of love because it’s predictable and clean. Meeting every Thursday was predictable and clean. He had reached to the ranks in his career and life, by working hard, being consistent and following the rules. He feared anything that suggested chaos. Renee knew from working for him for so long and loving him the last year that anything that got him out of his pattern terrified him.
So what was she to do: Live the rest of her life dependent on Thursdays? Not have any vote in their relationship because he was inflexible? Where did his sacrifice come in? He couldn’t make a change now and then?
He called her multiple times a day, but she just couldn’t answer. Most of time she would put her ringer off, so ignoring the calls was easier because prior to doing so, every time the phone would ring, her heartbeat always increased. She hated that he had that affect on her. But she knew that with time, it would get easier and that he would eventually stop calling.
He did, she was right.
“Hello,” he said walking into her office after most people had left one Friday. Renee looked at him-stunned—because he was very careful about them not interacting at work since the affair started.
“I miss you, Renee. You are the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. You are the only thing that I had for me. You were mine—my piece of happiness. I wanted to see if you would come on a date with me: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, actually any day. You let me know after looking at your calendar, which day you prefer and I will make it happen.”
With that, he walked out, leaving Renee at her desk, only to open Outlook at look at her calendar.