Apparently a mismatch, these two find love by looking deeper (1/2004)
Katherine turned out the light in her office, shut the door and walked toward the elevator. It was just after 8:00 in the evening and she was tired from another long day at work. Especially when this one was a Saturday, like so many Saturdays before. She was already imagining a long, luxurious soak in a steaming bubble bath and the soothing sounds of one of her favorite CDs when she walked passed Steve’s office. She noticed he was staring at his computer screen, still hard at work.
“Hi Steve. What are you doing here so late on a Saturday?” she asked as she stopped at his doorway.
“Trying to debug the remote security kernel,” Steve replied. Steve was one of the senior programmers in the company’s software development division. Steve ’s blue jeans were typical garb for the company’s Engineering department, but Steve normally wore a button down dress shirt rather than the t-shirts that were the norm within his organization.
Katherine was the company’s Chief Finance Officer, or CFO. Steve was glad that she had stopped by, if even for a brief moment. He’d had a crush on her for months, but being shyer than the pretty cousin at a Southern family reunion he had never done anything about it. Besides, she was an executive, a Suit, albeit a pretty one.
“Just finishing up the Q2 budget” was Katherine’s answer when Steve asked her the same question in return. Katherine thought Steve was nice and kind of cute, if a bit nerdy. She’d often wondered why he hadn’t asked her out on a date. Did he actually think she was seeing someone, in spite of how many hours she was at work? He seemed to be the kind of guy that probably had three or four computers at home “just for fun” – maybe he was just more interested in computers than women, she thought. Maybe since he was a techie, he just saw her as an undesirable bean counter.
Maybe it was because she was particularly tired. Maybe it was because he looked particularly handsome in what looked to be a new deep blue button-down dress shirt. But Katherine decided to stick around and try to talk with him a bit.
She complimented Steve on his shirt. Politely and shyly, he thanked her. She suspected he was more comfortable talking computer software than he was having a casual, friendly conversation. Maybe it was the same way with her and headcount and capital expenditures, she wondered. He was so shy it was actually kind of funny. She was even more attracted to him than ever.
After a few pleasantries and a bit of awkwardness, Katherine finally said, “Well, goodnight. Don’t stay too late.” Steve wished Katherine a good night with a sincerity that had Katherine thinking all the way home.
A half an hour later, Katherine arrived home. She parked her car, walked down her driveway and grabbed the stack of mail from her overflowing mailbox and unlocked her front door. She dropped the mail and her keys on the kitchen table, and threw her purse on one of the kitchen table chairs that had gone underused for far too long.
Before doing anything else, Katherine went upstairs to her bathroom and turned on the water in the tub. Katherine had one of the old fashioned kind of tubs, with two knobs to turn, one for hot and one for cold; the knob for cold water went untouched. She turned the small silver handle below the faucet and watched with satisfaction as the water began to rise in the tub.
The bath underway, Katherine kicked off her shoes and threw her suit coat on her bed. Less than a minute later, Katherine was sliding her nude body into her pink cotton robe she’d gotten on a business trip to London a few years back. It was one of her favorite possessions; it even had a ‘K’ embroidered on the front. She poured herself a glass of Chardonnay from an open bottle in the fridge, popped the newest Seal CD into her CD player and headed back to the bathroom.
Katherine added a little cold water and after swishing the water around the tub a few times, she disrobed and gingerly stepped into the tub. A moan escaped from her lips as she slid down into the steaming water.
After twenty minutes of relaxation with her head resting on a folded towel and a few sips of wine, Katherine was successfully shaking off the stress of the day. What was left was, well, loneliness.
She didn’t like to admit it to herself very often, but Katherine was definitely lonely. She tried to convince herself that she was simply alone, not lonely. But while the difference in meaning between the two words was real, when she was honest with herself she knew she was both. Unlike many of her colleagues, Katherine actually liked her work and most of the people she worked with. But after two years of twelve-hour days and 70-hour weeks, she wasn’t getting personal satisfaction anywhere else in her life. And she certainly wasn’t getting any sexual satisfaction; it had been over a year since she’d been with a man and even that was a horrible, regrettable one-night stand with some asshole lawyer from the Legal department.
The ride home had steeled her resolve – she was definitely going to ask Steve out sometime. When she finished her glass of wine, she made the decision to call him right then, from the tub.
She called him at the office. He was still there, hard at work. She told him that she wanted to talk with him. Not about work.
“I’ll be right over,” was all he said.
Katherine got out of the tub, toweled off and put on an old pair of jeans and an oversized pink sweatshirt. By then, she’d finished her second glass of wine and had poured herself another.
With nervous energy, Katherine cleaned up around her house, fiddling with her various tchotchkes around the living room. She couldn’t sit still and paced waiting for Steve to arrive.
A half an hour later, he rang her doorbell. She opened the door to let him in.
“Hi, Steve. Thanks for coming over.”
“Sure. No worries,” Steve said.
“Come on in. Want something to drink?”
Steve noticed her wine glass and said, “A glass of whatever you’re drinking would be nice, thanks.”
Katherine poured Steve a glass of wine, handed it to him and sat on the couch next to him. She wanted to sit right next to him, and actually had to force herself to sit across from him in the opposite corner of the couch.
“You have a nice place,” he said.
“Thanks. I’m not really here to enjoy it all that much, though.”
“Tell me about it. I’m at work so much there are times when I swear I sometimes go a week without seeing my place during daylight hours.” To this, Katherine laughed a knowing – if not a bit sad – laugh.
They talked for over two hours. Katherine found herself rebuking herself for having stereotyped Steve. Maybe he did like computers, but he was more than able to carry on a stimulating conversation. He surprised her with his factual knowledge of and insights on the recent Enron disaster. He had well-thought-out positions on issues such as the extent the Federal government should control employee’s retirement investments in their own company’s stock and under what conditions certain programs should be tax advantaged.
As the clock approached 11:00, Katherine decided to risk telling Steve how she felt about him. And about what she’d come to want.
As they talked about their feelings for one another that night Steve was anything but shy. What Katherine mistook as shyness at work was really Steve private nature. But now that the ice had been broken, he was quite articulate about his feelings and thoughts about her. He told her openly and honestly that he’d wanted to ask her out since he’d met her months earlier.
Steve left just after midnight. At the door, Steve leaned down and gave Katherine a gentle kiss. As he left, he said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” Katherine slowly closed her door behind him, locked the dead bolt latch and leaned back against the door. Her lips were tingling.
That night, Katherine hardly slept. She lied in her bed thinking about Steve. About how different he was than she expected. She rebuked herself for “putting him in a box” as her father used to say. It was an important lesson relearned.
Over the course of the next six months, she saw Steve often, and not just at work. Both began to lighten their workload by delegating more work to others on their respective teams, and both spent all of their newly available time with each other. Steve asked Katherine to marry her and she excitedly accepted. At work, their coworkers shook their heads at the apparent mismatch: an engineer with a finance executive. Katherine and Steve didn’t mind, though. They had chosen to look deeper, and that’s all that really mattered.