May 23:

I think today was an exercise in karma.

I had just finished sending out an email to Vincent this morning, when my laptop suddenly started being very slow. I eased off it like Jim taught me to do, instead of my usual trick of pressing every button in an attempt to make it do something. Except it continued to be slow. And then it spontaneously brought up the Blue Screen of Death.

I panicked. I panic less about computer-related stuff than I used to, because I’ve got Jim and he can fix anything. But this scared me. It said that it couldn’t read my hard drive. I tried to restart the laptop, but it brought up the blue screen again and refused to even attempt to load Windows.

It was about nine in the morning (and Saturday) and Jim was still asleep. I swear to god, he sleeps like a teenager. On weekends, he often sleeps till noon. I can’t do that. I wake up at seven in the morning, whether I want to or not. He’s gotten even worse lately because his leg spasms have been aggravated by his sore, so he had to start taking a medication for it, which makes him sleepy.

Although actually, he doesn’t sleep in one straight shot. On weekends, he sets an alarm for himself at about six in the morning and gets up to go to the bathroom. I don’t really talk to him about his bathroom habits and honestly, I don’t really want to know and I’d feel weird asking. I mean, normal couples don’t talk about stuff like that, so I don’t feel like I need to know what he does in there just because he’s a quadriplegic. He just told me vaguely that he can’t hold it for the entire night. I have a feeling when we’re married, if he gets sick or anything, I might end up needing to know more about this stuff, but right now I think it’s better if I don’t know.

Anyway, usually I let him sleep in because he’s more pleasant when he gets a lot of sleep, but I couldn’t stand to wait three hours to see if my computer was dead. I went to the bedroom and woke him up, and informed him that I was getting the Blue Screen of Death.

“Huh?” he said, looking at me with bleary eyes.

“I need your help,” I said. “Please get up.”

He rubbed his eyes with the back of his wrists. “Okay, Tessie. Just give me five minutes.”

I was practically pacing by the time Jim wheeled into the living room in his underwear, looking very tired and unshaven, his hair sticking up. Actually, he looked adorable. I ran over to him and threw my arms around his neck. “Thank you for getting up,” I said.

He smiled sleepily. “No problem,” he said. “What happened?”

I explained to him again and he wheeled over to my computer to take a look. He rebooted it, removing his glasses briefly to rub his eyes again. Jim looks so cute in the morning. I’m so lucky I have a fiancé who can fix my computer.

“Uh oh,” Jim said.

My stomach flip-flopped. “What?”

“Tessie, I think your hard drive died,” he said.

“Can’t you fix it?”

“Not if it’s dead,” he said.

I was shocked. I really believed he could fix anything. I thought of all the data I had on my hard drive and was horrified at the idea that it could all be gone. I remembered Jim telling me I needed to back everything up, but I hadn’t listened. I’m such an idiot. “Isn’t there anything we can try?”

There was, thank god. Jim got out an external hard drive reader he owned. I felt lucky I live with a guy who has gadgets like an external hard drive reader. He got out his tool kit, turned my laptop over and unscrewed my hard drive. I am always impressed over his unscrewing abilities. (As well as his screwing abilities, ha ha.)

I watched anxiously as he tried to boot up his own laptop with my hard drive. “Is it working?” I asked.

“Um,” he said. “Not… really. No, it’s not. I think it’s completely dead.”

“Is there anything else you could try?” I asked, almost hysterically.

He shook his head. “I really think it’s dead.”

I started crying. I’d had my laptop for four years. Four years of information… gone. Photos, documents, music… all gone. I couldn’t believe it.

“Tessie,” Jim said gently. “Don’t cry over this. I’ll run out to Fry’s and get you a new hard drive right now. I’ll have it working for you by tonight, I promise.”

“But I lost all my data,” I sniffled.

“Oh.” He smiled crookedly. “No, you didn’t. I backed it up for you a few weeks ago.” I stared at him. “What?”

He shrugged. “I kept telling you to back up your computer and you didn’t. Your computer was being really flaky and I had a bad feeling about it. So one day last month when you were working late, I backed it up for you with my external DVD writer. It wasn’t even that much. I got it all onto two DVDs. I thought I told you about it.”

For a second, I was speechless. Then I fell into his arms, kissing him all over his neck and cheeks. He laughed.

This is what I love about Jim. The fact that he’s looking out for me to the point where he anticipates what problems I’m going to have and prevents them. I don’t know what is wrong with me, having these flirtatious emails with Vincent. I am going to stop. Now.

May 24:

Is it just Jim or are all guys so horny when they wake up in the morning?

I really don’t know the answer to that. Jim’s the only guy I’ve spent the night with on any regular basis. And he is always horny in the morning.

I got him up at 11:30AM this morning for lunch and he grabbed me and pulled me into bed with him. He is surprisingly good at doing that, considering how poor his grip strength is. He started kissing me all over my neck and then lifted my shirt to kiss my abdomen. “I was having a dream about you,” he murmured.

“Really,” I said. “What was it?”

He didn’t answer. He was busy pulling my bra cups off my breasts with his teeth.

“You know, I made lunch. It’s getting cold…”

“Don’t care.”

I felt a little guilty because he was obviously very turned on, but I had just made food and he’s turned on every morning! I playfully pushed up off me and he pouted, but then agreed to come eat. I mean, I think he knows that I’m not going to fool around with him every morning. It’s flattering that he wants me so frequently, to be honest.

May 25:

Late this morning, Vincent sent me the following email: “I need to talk to you to go over some numbers.”

It was a weird email because, although I’m often going over numbers with people, Vincent isn’t in my department and we’re not working on any projects together. So I couldn’t imagine what numbers he meant. I wrote back: “Which numbers?”

He replied instantly: “Um, 36-24-36?”

Very funny, Vincent. Aren’t those the numbers from Baby Got Back or something? I don’t think women exist who truly have that kind of figure and if there are, I am certainly not one of them. I wrote back: “Those are NOT my numbers, sorry.”

Vincent wrote again: “OK, but I accidentally bought two sandwiches from the deli this morning. Come by and help me eat one.”

Vincent himself had been coming by my cubicle a lot. He always came up with some excuse, something that sounded legitimate enough when Sandra was staring at us. I don’t think Jim has any idea how often he’s been coming by. He probably wouldn’t be too happy if he knew. But anyway, the point is, I haven’t been to Vincent’s office since that first day when I met him there. And while my cubicle is completely exposed, his office is not. If I were in his office with him, anything could happen in there and nobody would see.

This made me nervous. Nothing inappropriate had happened so far with Vincent and I felt like I wanted to keep it that way. I’m engaged to a man that I love. How many women are lucky enough to say that?

But then maybe I am just out to sabotage myself, or maybe I was just hungry, because I found myself taking the elevator up to Vincent’s office. I have to say, I’m a little resentful that he even has an office. Jim has an office now too. I’ve been working here longer than either of them and I only have a crappy cubicle. What the hell? Sexism!

Vincent looked really happy to see me and I noticed he immediately closed the door behind me when I came in. But he was all business. “Turkey or ham?” he asked.

“Turkey,” I said, being good with my diet.

He handed me a wrapped sandwich. He wasn’t making a move to unwrap his sandwich, so I felt like I’d be a pig if I started eating mine. But I was pretty hungry.

“Go ahead, eat,” Vincent said.

“Maybe I should go back to my cubicle,” I said, hesitating in front of his desk.

“What, you’re not going to keep me company?”

Vincent was about a foot away from me. He was wearing another great suit that fit his body perfectly. I wondered how often Vincent went to the gym to work out. A lot, I imagined. I could just see him in shorts and a T-shirt, getting all sweaty as he lifted a barbell over his head and…

Ugh, no! Stop, Tessie! What is wrong with me??

“I should probably get back to work,” I mumbled.

“Tessie.” Vincent took the sandwich out of my hands and looked into my eyes. He had brown eyes, like mine, except I think his were actually prettier than mine. “Look, I’m going to be completely honest with you. I’ve been thinking about you a lot.” He paused. “And I think you’ve been thinking about me too.”

I swallowed. “Jim and I…”

“Oh, bullshit,” Vincent said. “Don’t tell me Jim is the man of your dreams. Jim is a nice guy, but that’s not the right reason to get married. Look at that ring… clearly he’s overcompensating because he knows he’s not good enough for you.”

I remembered what Jim had said to me about nice guys always finishing last. As Vincent hovered close to me, I wondered if this was true. “I have to go back to my desk,” I managed to say.

Vincent didn’t budge. He was staring into my eyes. His face must have been maybe six inches from mine, which believe me, isn’t very much. My heart was pounding so hard, I felt like I was going to drop dead of a heart attack any second. That would solve this problem, at least.

“I’m going to go,” I said again.

Finally, Vincent nodded. “Go,” he said with a shrug.

I took my turkey sandwich and got the hell out of there. I noticed Vincent’s secretary Cheryl gave me kind of a funny look as I came out, so I held up the sandwich and croaked, “Lunch.” Because obviously the only way for anyone to get lunch at this company was to go to one of the junior executive’s offices and get a sandwich. That was an airtight excuse.

I felt an urgent need to find Jim. Even though he had no idea what just went on inside Vincent’s office and had less of an idea of what was going on inside my head, I felt like I had to make it up to him. Prove to him and to myself that I still loved him.

I went to his office and he wasn’t there. Of course. He’s never there.

I considered searching for him, but he could have been anywhere in the building if he was fixing someone’s computer or in a meeting. It was crazy to run all around to find him. I guess I could have called him, but I didn’t want to bother him in a meeting.

Finally, I went back to my desk and settled down with my sandwich. I sent Jim an email: “I love you.”

He must have been at a computer somewhere, because in five minutes, I got a reply: “I love you too. Everything OK?”

I hesitated before typing back: “Yes.”

May 26:

We’ve been seeing a lot of Jim’s brother Eric since he moved down here from Oregon. I really like Eric, but it’s clear that his impending divorce is doing a number on him. We had dinner once last week and he didn’t talk about it much, but he looked kind of wrecked. I think he misses his kids, but he also feels like Alicia completely betrayed him.

They broke the news to the parents a few days ago. Apparently, Jim’s mother started crying. I don’t think she was a particularly huge Alicia fan, but she felt bad for her son and also the fact that she might not get to see her grandsons as much. Jim told me that the only saving grace was the fact that at least her other son was getting married “to a wonderful woman who would never do anything like that.”

Today Eric came by with a photo album that turned out to be his wedding album. “I found this in one of the boxes Alicia packed for me,” he told us. “I guess she doesn’t want it and I don’t want it either. But I couldn’t bring myself to throw it out. Can you take it for me?”

“Yeah, of course,” Jim said.

I think the initial intention was to stash the album away somewhere, but instead Eric ended up flipping through it, analyzing the photos for early clues that Alicia was unhappy even back then. I looked on with them, mostly because I was curious to see early photos of Jim, who was Eric’s best man. He was pretty easy to pick out, being the only person there who was in a wheelchair. He was about 22 years old back then. He actually looked pretty similar to the way he did now, and was devastatingly handsome in a black jacket and tie. Jim is just about the most photogenic person I’ve ever met.

I noticed a brown-haired girl posing with Jim in one of the photos. His arm was around her and they were both smiling for the camera. “Who’s that?” I asked him.

He looked over at the photo I was pointing to. “Oh yeah, that was Elisa. She was my girlfriend in college.”

I studied the photo for a minute. After seeing Jim’s drop dead gorgeous ex-girlfriend Molly, I assumed that was the only kind of women he dated. But Elisa was… normal looking. In fact, she sort of looked a little like me. Or at least, the way I did in college. Maybe Molly was the anomaly in his love life. I always felt like Jim must think I was hideous compared to his other girlfriends, but I guess his standards weren’t as crazy I had thought.

“What?” Jim said, looking at me quizzically.

“Nothing,” I said. “She just seems… nice.”

Jim grinned. “You sound shocked. What, you think I only dated horrible bitches prior to you?”

“Actually, that’s kind of true,” Eric said. He winked at Jim. “I won’t embarrass you with examples.”

“Thank god.”

“Elisa was pretty nice though,” Eric added. “What did she end up doing?”

“Law school in New York,” Jim said. “She’s some high power district attorney now, I think.”

“She married?” Eric asked with a grin.

Jim glanced at me nervously. “How should I know? You think I keep track of my ex-girlfriends?”

Eric laughed. “Oh, come on, Jim. You think Tessie is jealous of some girl you dated ten years ago who lives three thousand miles away?”

“No,” Jim said, although he didn’t sound sure of himself.

The truth is, I wasn’t jealous at all. In fact, since laying eyes on Elisa, I felt a lot better about myself and my relationship with Jim. If he liked girls like Elisa, it made more sense that he could like me. Maybe I really was his type. Not that he’d done anything to make me doubt the fact that he liked me.

May 27:

Vincent and I are still emailing.

It’s hard to stop. I mean, it’s innocent. On my part, at least.

I just haven’t had a lot of experience with men being as persistent as Vincent. I hardly ever even get asked out, so having a guy who wants to email me all the time and makes it obvious he’s interested is weird for me. Jim was the first guy who ever really pursued me actively. Maybe the fact that I’m spoken for makes me somehow more desirable. Or maybe I’m just getting hotter as I get older. Yeah, right.

Sandra came over to my desk today while I was in the middle of writing an email to Vincent. She saw what I was doing before I had a chance to close it. “Tessie, are you working on some project with Vincent Alton?” she asked me.

“No…” I said.

She glanced over at my email program. I quickly minimized it but I wasn’t fast enough. “Why are you exchanging so many emails with him then?”

I shrugged helplessly. “He just… keeps writing to me.”

Sandra’s eyes widened. “Oh my god, Tessie, seriously, is something going on between you and Vincent?”


She gave me a look.

“He likes me,” I said softly.

“Oh, Tessie,” Sandra murmured. She pulled her chair a vacant chair over to my cubicle and sat down. She’s pregnant enough now that she says her feet swell when she stands too long. “What are you DOING? How could you do this to Jim?”

“I’m not doing anything to Jim,” I protested.

“So does he know you’re flirting with Vincent?”

“I’m not flirting!”

Sandra sighed. “Tessie, you know Vincent doesn’t really like you. He just wants you because you’re not available. That’s the kind of guy he is.”

I felt angry. A few months ago, Sandra was yelling at me for not being confident enough. Now she was belittling me for thinking that a desirable guy like Vincent could be interested in me. “That’s not true,” I said.

“Vincent is obviously a player,” Sandra said. “Come on, he’s good looking, he’s suave. He’s in his thirties and he’s not married.”

“Jim is in his thirties and not married.”

Sandra rolled her eyes. “Obviously, that’s a little different. He’s in a wheelchair. And anyway, he’s engaged to you.”

I tried to tell Sandra again that there was nothing going on and Vincent was totally harmless. She wasn’t buying it. I don’t know, I just don’t think getting engaged means I necessarily need to not speak to any men again ever. Nothing is going to happen between me and Vincent. I love Jim. This is all totally crazy.

To be continued....