It all started at Ron Mercer's retirement party. I had been sitting on a barstool at the Rosewood Inn with Mary, my best friend and co-worker, watching the rest of the office celebrating the grumpy old guy's departure. My little black dress was uncomfortable. I couldn't wait to get home and get out of it, although I was enjoying the looks I was getting from my boss across the room. Six months ago, I had been apprehensive about working at Walsh, Winthrop & Johnson, but it couldn't have turned out better.
"You look uncomfortable. What's with you?" Mary wanted to know.
"You know me too well." I had to laugh. "This dress is a little tight. I knew I should have tried to lose those five pounds before wearing it again."
"Oh stop! You look gorgeous. If you need to lose five, then I have to lose twenty. Besides, Jack can't take his eyes off you. You should be enjoying being away from the kids for the evening!"
I smiled. Mary didn't need to lose an ounce. Her figure was what you might call 'womanly' and certainly got plenty of male attention. She always knew the right thing to say to put me in a good mood. Checking out Mr. Jack Walsh as he talked with the other two senior partners, I re-crossed my legs to make sure he could see them better. This flirting stuff could still be fun. I thought I had forgotten how to do it since I'd had such little practice lately. Being afraid that your husband is having an affair will do that to you. The good news was that it came back to me like riding a bicycle. It might have had something to do with the second glass of wine.
"You know what you need, right?" Mary grinned.
"I'm afraid to ask."
"You need a weekend away from the kids for some 'adult' fun."
Mary's an expert. She's been married three times.
The boss made his way over to the bar and hailed the bartender.
"Can I buy you ladies a drink?"
Jack's brown eyes crinkled at the corners. He needed a haircut. His salt and pepper waves were curling over his suit collar.
"Big spender, Mr. Walsh, isn't it an open bar tonight? But then again, I suppose that means you're paying for everyone's drinks. I'll take another glass of wine." Mary thanked the bartender and took a sip before hopping off the barstool.
"I think I'll leave you two alone for a few minutes. I'm going to find the ladies room. Now, Christine, remember what I told you."
He was chuckling and shaking his head as she walked away.
"Is that any way for our best salesperson to speak to the boss? Why do I get the feeling she's a bad influence?"
"Because she is!" The third glass of wine was making me bold. "Hey, I was just thinking, how would you like to go away for a night or two, just you and me? Do you think we could swing it?"
Looking down, I played with my ring, not sure how he'd react. I should have known better.
When you have a couple of kids with piano lessons, dance lessons and basketball practice, sneaking away without them is a little like planning the invasion of Normandy. Between Jack's schedule at work and the kid's activities, the only time I could manage to cover all bases was for one day, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. There was one obstacle to get through. I called my mother.
"Mom, when are you and Dad driving upstate for Thanksgiving?"
"You know we always go up on Wednesday afternoon. Why?"
"Do you think you could take the kids with you? I have a meeting with an important client at three o'clock on Wednesday. We won't be able leave for Windham until Thursday morning. I hate to have the kids miss out on seeing their cousins until Thanksgiving morning and Megan really enjoys helping you cook."
"Your father and I wouldn't mind at all. But I don't understand why you have to work so much. Are you sure it's worth it? Thanksgiving is important to the kids!"
"I know! It's the only time our client could schedule the meeting. What can I do?"
A little white lie. That's all I needed.
The day before Thanksgiving had finally arrived. I felt naughty but pleased with myself for pulling the whole thing off. After I drove the kids to school, I dropped off our suitcases at my parent's house and headed to the office. I just had to get through work. My Blackberry buzzed.
Jack: Can't wait 2 get out of here! U leave @12, K?
Ur the boss :)
Jack: I have address. C u there- what r u wearing?
Thats 4 me 2 kno & u 2 find out :P - don't take 2 long!
I found myself grinning ear to ear like a schoolgirl with a crush. Jumping at the knock on my office door, I looked up to see Mary laughing at me.
"What are you still doing here?"
"I do want to leave now but I don't want anyone to see me sneaking out so early."
I leaned to the left to see around Mary, peering into the sea of cubicles.
"Come on! It's not like you're going to get in trouble."
"You know how everyone gossips around here. I don't want it to look like I've gotten any special favors!"
"If you didn't get any special favors, I'd be disappointed for you!" Mary said with a wink.
Mary had been right. The Alexander Hamilton House was easy to find. The stately white Victorian bed and breakfast, nestled in the tree-lined neighborhood, sported a giant Christmas-style wreath welcoming guests tastefully. I had arrived with plenty of time to spare before Jack's train was scheduled to get in.
The "White Chamber" took up the whole third floor. It smelled faintly of linen and vanilla, almost as delicious as it looked. With the creamy white cabbage-rose wallpaper, white fluffy comforter on the king-sized brass bed, and wood-burning fireplace, it was easy to see why it had received five stars on the list of "Best Places to Kiss in New York State." Tossing my suit jacket on one of the chairs, I kicked off my high heels. After I placed a couple of logs and some kindling in the fireplace, a fire blazed quickly. I plugged my iPod into the dock in the stereo system.
A bottle of white wine and two glasses sat on the table in the corner, along with a plate of assorted crackers, nuts and dried fruit. I poured a glass and enjoyed the view of the Hudson River. The bed was too inviting to resist. I plopped down to test it out. Sinking into the soft covers, I watched the cottony clouds turning sunset pink as they floated in a sea of baby blue through the skylights overhead.
Everything had changed since I'd started working again. My life felt different to me now. If someone had told me a year ago that I would be sneaking off to a romantic get-away, I would have thought they were crazy.
I roused to Jack's warm breath on my ear. He wrapped his arm around me, his nose in my hair. I stretched as he pulled me closer.
"I must have fallen asleep! What time is it?"
I tried to sit up but he just held me tighter.
Too comfortable to protest, I sank back down into his embrace. Lightly touching my forehead, he swept my long bangs behind my ear. His fingertips traced a line down my cheek and neck to the buttons of my white silk blouse.
"You're so beautiful. I'm sorry it took me so long to get here."
He had turned on the light next to the bed. I could see the stars overhead.
"You're late! Why didn't you call me?"
Six months ago I would have been a suspicious wife thinking that he was having an affair with someone in the office.
"Where's your phone? I sent you texts and left you a voice message."
I waved toward the chair across the room.
"It's in my jacket pocket. The ringer must still be turned off. So what was the message? On second thought, who cares? You're here now."
I sighed contentedly in his arms.
"Marrying you was the smartest thing I've ever done Mrs. Walsh. The next smartest thing was hiring you."
I put my finger to his lips.
"I agree but, shh, don't talk anymore."
Mary planted the seed. It's all her fault. I blame her. I'll thank her tomorrow.