Crystal rolled her eyes and didn’t even bother looking up.
She and Keith had already gone out a few times. They’d gone to dinner and out dancing and drinking at Crystal’s favorite clubs. Everything had come to a screeching halt during their last date. They were making out on the couch.
He answered her with a question of his own. “Is that all you think I want from you?”
“What? Of course that’s what you want! That’s what I want from you.”
“I admit that the first thing that I noticed about you when you started working at the firm is your long gorgeous legs. You certainly don’t dress to hide them, but that’s not why I wanted to date you. Well not the only reason.”
“It’s your honesty. You say what’s on your mind no matter what the cost. You’re unique, creative and intelligent. Those are qualities that I admire.”
“Turning thirty last month made me really think about my life. I’m where I want to be in my career, and now I want to settle down and find a wife to start a family.”
Crystal pursed her lips. “I’m still waiting for the answer to my question.”
“I don’t want just any woman, Crystal. I want someone who will make each day different and interesting, a special woman to become the mother of my children. Someone with whom I know that I will want to grow old. You seem to have some of those qualities, and I want us to take things slowly and really get to know one another. I want our relationship to grow and just see what happens. I don’t sleep with a woman unless I’m in love with her.”
Crystal frowned at him in disbelief. “How many times have you been in love?”
“So, why aren’t you married now?”
“The first time was as a teen. We lost touch after graduating from high school. We attended different colleges and ended up meeting new people. I fell in love with a girl in college, but we really rushed into our relationship. It was a mutual break-up. Neither of us was ready for a long-term commitment. We were both just getting started in our careers.”
“What about the third time?”
Crystal saw pain in his eyes.
“She died in a car accident a couple of years ago.”
“I’m sorry you lost her.”
They were both silent, momentarily lost in thought.
“You said that you admire my honesty. Well that’s good because I’m going to be honest with you. I don’t want a committed relationship with anyone. I don’t want to be in love or have anyone in love with me. I don’t want to have children. I enjoy being single and I intend to remain that way. I’m happy with my life the way it is! I’m not a slut, but I do occasionally sleep with the guys that I date if I’m strongly attracted to them. If you want to continue to go out from time to time and have fun together, then that’s fine. If you want more than that from me, then this will be the last time that we go out!”
“Have you ever been in love, Crystal?”
“No, and like I said, I’m not ever going to be in love with anyone. Love and families and romance is fine for some people, but that’s not what I want in my life.”
“Opening up your heart and sharing your life with someone else is a very special thing. It takes courage and a lot of trust, but to most people it’s worth taking a chance.”
Misty Ryan slithered over to him. Misty reminded Crystal of a snake with the way she sauntered around the office and draped herself on desks and chairs. She made Crystal’s skin crawl and her two-faced, self-important attitude completely annoyed Crystal too. It was no secret that Misty had slept her way into her current position at the firm.
Keith smiled at Misty and they talked together looking at the file on Keith’s desk. Seeing how close Misty was standing next to Keith made Crystal have an uncomfortable feeling inside her stomach. She pushed the feeling away.
The truth was that her heart was already set on someone else, but he didn’t see her in a romantic way at all. He only thought of her as a friend. She intended to change that, but she knew that it would take more time. Eventually she would talk to Crystal about her feelings for Angelo, but she wasn’t ready to do that yet. Angelo was Crystal’s friend too. He’d known Crystal for longer than June had.
“I just think Keith is a nice guy. So, are you going out with Angelo tonight?”
Crystal answered, “No, he asked, but I’m tired. I think I’ll just stay in and relax.”
He explained what would be needed in order to fulfill the new contract.
Crystal looked at Lionel in dismay. She wasn’t looking forward to working on the project with Keith. She’d been trying to keep her distance from him in the office, but now she wouldn’t be able to do that.
“Crystal I want to see you in my office.”
“I’m going to have my own design firm.”
Lionel laughed. “I believe you will.”
He was quiet for a few moments then he started back speaking.
“I did have a few trepidations about hiring you, but your work has been outstanding. Clients love your ideas because they are original and very memorable.”
“Thank you, Lionel.”
Crystal didn’t say anything although she was bristling with irritation inside.
“However, I know that I made the right decision for the firm in hiring you. I believe that your outspoken personality would appeal to certain clients that I’d like the firm to obtain. What I’m saying, Crystal, is that I would like to give you a promotion!”
“I said that I would like to give you a promotion. I didn’t say that I was going to do it. It depends on you.”
“I’m going to speak just as plainly as you do. If you stop dressing like a cheap hooker and dress more professionally then I will give you a promotion. It will mean a pay increase and involve some traveling. You and Misty will have the same job title but handling different clients.”
This time Lionel’s mouth fell open and he laughed. “You’re one of a kind, Crystal! Not everyone is fortunate enough to have talent like yours. Personally, I love the way you dress. It suits you, but this is a business where image is everything. If you just change your style up a little bit… I’m not an expert in women’s styles and I’m definitely not telling you to dress like a nun. Just cover up a little more. I’m not trying to offend you, Crystal. I really like you, and I want to help you succeed in this business.”
He really felt that Crystal deserved the promotion. He had Keith in mind to take over running the firm when he retired, but he wanted to help Crystal progress as much as she could. Maybe to eventually have Keith’s current position after Lionel retired. She’d brought a new energy into the firm, and he wanted to reward her for her hard work. She just needed a bit more polish.
Crystal was comfortable with the way that she dressed, but she understood what Lionel was saying. She’d never tried to conform to anyone’s standards other than her own, but she did want to be progress in her career. It was a big accomplishment for her to be working at one of the most respected firms in the business and she didn’t want to blow it!
She decided to go see Jamal and get him to help her find a look that would be more appropriate for work and still suit her personality. She’d spent her last teen years with Miki and Jamal. They were like family to her. Jamal was a stylist and she trusted him to help her choose a style that would complement her personality and look professional.
Jamal had tried to explain to Miki, but she refused to understand how he felt. “I know that we are committed to each other Miki! Hell, we’ve been together for years now, but I just feel that we need to have a legal commitment too. I can’t explain “why” anymore than I have, but can’t you just do it for me? Can’t you just marry me already!”
Jamal sighed unhappily at the realization that she was still completely opposed to the idea. Miki left the apartment and headed to work. Jamal had been trying to convince Miki to marry him for the last few months. He loved her and he knew that she loved him too. However, now that they were older, he wanted a legal commitment.
It was time for Jamal’s contract with the studio to be renewed and he wanted to check his insurance coverage to see if he needed to increase it as a part of the contract negotiations. He went over to the desk to find a copy of it. Normally, Miki took care of their bills and important papers, but she was already at the studio. He pulled out some folders and accidentally knocked one to the floor. He picked it up and started to put it back when the hospital’s name caught his attention. As he read it, his face paled. It was a copy of a hospital bill indicating that Miki had had an abortion three years before.
He’d understood that children were not in her life plan, but this was different. She’d been pregnant, aborted their baby and never even told him about the pregnancy. That was a decision that they should have made together.
He felt like he’d been punched in the gut! Clearly, he didn’t know Miki as well as he’d thought he did. Now this coupled with her refusal to marry him, convinced Jamal that Miki didn’t love him as much as he loved her.
Jamal left the papers out on the desk and went into the bedroom. He packed his things and then called Matthew. Matthew had been trying for years to get him to come out to Santa Fe and work at the studio there. Jamal decided that it was time to take Matthew up on his offer. He called and talked with Matthew and then headed to the airport.
Miki tried to reach Jamal when he didn’t arrive at the studio. Her calls went straight to his voicemail. He was too upset to talk with her calmly and so he ignored her calls. At lunch time, Miki went to their apartment. She saw that suitcases were out and all of his clothing was gone. He’d left the apartment. He’d probably gone to Santa Fe. She called Alissa.
“Jamal left me.”
“Miki, I understand that it isn’t important to you, but it has become important to Jamal. Maybe it’s not something that you need in order to feel secure in your relationship, but it’s something that Jamal wants now. How is marrying Jamal going to hurt you? What would really change in your relationship? Isn’t it something that you could do for him to show him that his feelings do matter to you? He’s not even asking for a big ceremony. Just going to the courthouse to get a civil ceremony is enough for him.”
As they were talking, Miki went downstairs to the desk to see if Jamal had left a note for her. The first thing she saw on the desk was the paperwork about her abortion. Jamal knew what she had done, and she knew that was the true reason why he’d left.
Alissa was horrified that Miki had not told Jamal about the pregnancy. How could she keep such an important thing from him! Miki didn’t know what she could do to make things right again between herself and Jamal. As soon as the abortion was over, she’d known that it was a mistake. If she could do it all over again, she would have handled things differently.
“Miki, you’re going to have to beg him to forgive you if that’s possible for him to do. You can’t do that over the phone. You need to talk with Jamal face to face. “
Miki felt tears sliding down her cheeks. Jamal had stayed in Bridgeport for all of these years because she wanted to do it. He’d have gone to work for Matthew a long time before this if not for her. He’d made many sacrifices because he loved her and she’d been so selfish. Now she was experiencing the consequences. She didn’t know if she would be able to repair the damage to their relationship and restore his trust in her, but she had to try.
When she arrived in Santa Fe, Jamal refused to see her. He said that right now he couldn’t bear to even look at her. Dale told her to give Jamal some space and some time to try to work through his feelings. Miki returned home to Bridgeport alone and afraid that it was the end for her and Jamal.
Keith and Crystal were in Crystal’s apartment working on the project. They were both being extremely polite and clearly uncomfortable with one another. It didn’t help that Crystal’s home office shared space with her bedroom. Crystal finally decided to clear the air.
Keith agreed although he hadn’t given up on having a romantic relationship with her. June and Crystal were close friends and he’d spoken with June in confidence about his growing feelings for Crystal. June really liked Keith and thought he would be good for Crystal. June had told him that it would be a huge mistake to pursue Crystal. Crystal would lose any interest in him at all if he did that. A better strategy would be to make Crystal think that he had no interest in her and then let Crystal do the pursuing.
Despite Crystal’s protests, June believed that Crystal wasn’t as indifferent to Keith as she professed to be. June had seen Crystal watching Keith and Crystal would look away if Keith looked up. Crystal wasn’t like that with any other guy. June really hoped that things would work out between them. She wanted her friend to be happy.
“I’m not going to bite you, Crystal!”
She looked embarrassed. This was a new feeling for her. The way that he was smiling at her made her have another funny feeling in her stomach. It made her angry and confused. “Let’s just finish this!”
They worked for a while longer and then Keith got a call on his cellphone. He answered the call and Crystal clearly heard a woman’s voice on the line.
“Excuse me just a moment. I need to take this.”
He walked away from her and Crystal heard him laughing and talking although she couldn’t make out the words. She didn’t like that it bothered her that he was so clearly enjoying talking with another woman. She wondered if he was dating the woman. When he came back Crystal asked him about the call.
The call had actually been from his sister, but Crystal’s reaction of displeasure was just what he wanted. “Shouldn’t we get back to work?”
They started back working and they made a lot of progress. They were both pleased at how it was turning out. Crystal heard her front door open and her friend Angelo called out to her. “Hey Crystal!”
She called back!
“I’m up here!”
He came up into the bedroom and walked over and kissed her.
Crystal introduced the two men. Angelo was her friend, but they were friends with benefits.
“No, I can do that at my place tonight. I’ll see you tomorrow, Crystal.”
He had a bit of doubt that June had given him the right advice. He gathered everything up and left her apartment.
She was glad that Angelo had come over even though she’d told him that she didn’t want to go out tonight. She didn’t feel like being alone. He always seemed to know when she needed him! She was so grateful to have such good friends like him and June. Her stomach let her know that she hadn’t eaten dinner. She hoped the pizza would be there soon!
Angelo knew better than to question Crystal about Keith. It was clear that there was something between Crystal and Keith. It made him feel very troubled. He had hoped that his own relationship with Crystal would become something more. He hadn’t planned for it to happen, but somewhere along the way, he’d fallen in love with her. He knew that telling her how he felt would spell the end of their friendship and that she would cut him out of her life. So, he kept his feelings to himself.
“That’s from “Doctor’s Without Borders?”
Dale had volunteered to work with that volunteer aid group years before.
“They’re asking me to come to the Central African Republic and assist with the refugees. There are several children who could use some specialized surgery.”
She asked him, “Isn’t there a war going on between different factions in that area?”
“Yes, that’s why the refugee camps have been established.”
Alissa was quiet with a lot going through her mind. She knew that Dale wanted to go and help, but she also knew that he wouldn’t go because of the dangerous situation. He’d been lost to them before, and he wouldn’t want to take a chance on that happening again. Of course Alissa couldn’t bear the thought of losing Dale, but at the same time she knew that if one of their children were desperately ill, she would want a doctor, a surgeon to do everything he could to save her child. Thoughts of the helpless desperation they had felt during Joy’s illness came back to her. Alissa had been feeling restless in her career lately. She’d wanted to do something different. An idea came to her.
“What! No! There’s no way that I could let you go, Alissa.”
“You’re going, and I’m going with you. My show won’t start production again until the fall, and I can do a story on the plight of the refugees. I want to do something that makes a difference, Dale, and I know that you want to help those children too. I can assist at the clinic or hospital. I’m sure that they need all of the volunteers that they can get.”
“Alissa, no offense, Honey, but I know that the living situation there will be rough. We will probably have outdoor showers and maybe even outdoor latrines. We’ll probably sleep in huts or tents when we have time to sleep. You don’t even like camping.”
“No, but I do it for the enjoyment of the family. Also, you seem to be forgetting that I’ve not always had a luxurious life. I know that I can handle it, and I really want to do this. You have to help those babies, those children and I want to help too!”
“Let me look into it some more and then we can decide.”
Maddie thanks for giving me your sims to use for Keith and Angelo. Thanks Ali for giving me June and Misty/ Caroline. They made this chapter so much easier to do! 🙂