Chapter Fourteen

June 2011- Oak Park, Illinois – Late night

"Lexi honey, what's going on? Why are you running from me? I thought that we were having a moment down there." Chris stood at the door, talking to Lexi.

Lexi whispered. "Ssh, Billy is right next door. Go to bed, Chris. You do not want your son telling his mother that Daddy didn't sleep in his bed tonight. Do you really want your wife to know? If you want to touch a woman so badly, then you should go home to your wife. Caitlin told me everything. I know that you two have been having sex during this separation. You are not going without intimacy. Your wife is still meeting your needs, so don't be making moves on me."

Chris ran his fingers through his head in frustration. "Lexi, I swear that isn't happening anymore. Caitlin and I aren't seeing each other and we aren't having sex. We haven't had sex since I moved in here. What she described happened when I was staying at the motel. I'm honestly trying to tell you that things aren't getting better. There's no touching and we barely talk."

Lexi started pacing, arguing with Chris as if there wasn't a door between them. "That's because you're not trying hard enough. When you love someone, you have to do everything in your power to let them know how much you love them. That's what it takes to make a relationship good, two committed people who communicate and demonstrate their feelings."

Chris changed to a gentler tone. "You are absolutely right. I'm sorry that I scared you earlier and I'm sorry if I took things too far when we were playing around. I promise that I'm gonna work on communication and sharing my feelings. I'm gonna work harder to improve the relationship. I don't want to lose the love of my life and I don't want to lose the best friend that I ever had."

Lexi's heart pinged in disappointment at his words, but she didn't let it show. "I'm glad that you finally realize what you have to do. You should change out of those wet clothes before you catch a cold. I'll see you in the morning. Good night, Chris." She knew she'd done the right thing, helping Chris stay focused on his marriage. It would be so foolish to let any lingering attraction mess that up.

"Thanks for talking to me. Good night, Lexi."

Lexi heard Chris's footsteps and the sound of his bedroom door opening and closing. She took her hand off the doorknob and started getting ready for bed by changing out of her wet clothes. She got into bed wearing a fresh cotton nightgown. She turned off the lights and tried to go to sleep. A little while later, one of Lexi's nightmares began. She screamed and cried. Chris dashed into the room. He put his arms around Lexi to soothe her back to sleep. She woke up groggy and frightened, not sure if she was awake or asleep. Chris kissed her forehead and gently rubbed her back. "It's gonna be okay, honey. You're safe now."

Lexi sighed, struggling to come to terms with what she had to do to make the nightmares cease. "If I want this to stop, I've got to talk about the baby. Would that be okay with you? I know that you might be uncomfortable talking about this. I know that it might be uncomfortable to talk about this with me. I know it was for me when Caitlin used to talk to me about Billy during her pregnancy and when he was a baby. I wouldn't ask, but a therapist and another friend advised me to try to talk about my baby so I can let go of some of the bad feelings that I hold inside myself. I'm hoping that it will help the nightmares go away."

He stroked her hair to soothe her as he'd done with Sabrina and Nicole after a nightmare. "Lexi, it's okay. I'm here for you. Please talk to me. I'll listen to anything that you need to talk about."

She pulled back to look at him. "And you're sure that this isn't gonna bother you? I need to know if any of this makes you feel uncomfortable."

"Honestly, Lexi. I've wondered why it took you so long to bring this up. You always try to appear so strong to everyone, but you're human just like everyone else. You have wants and needs just like the rest of us."

"I wouldn't necessarily say that, Chris. You seem to have a lot more wants and needs than I do. I've noticed that a lot more lately," Lexi said, smirking.

"What you've been doing is unfair. You're like most women, using sexual attraction to get what you want."

"Like you don't? Men do it, too. I grew up with Abby and Kim as role models. Don't you think that I learn a thing or two about how to deal with men? This is why it's hard for men and women to be friends. Sooner or later, sexual attraction gets in the way. Men have their biological urges and women start thinking emotional intimacy can cross over into physical intimacy. This is why friends should be just friends. Dating involves chemistry and attraction. Those things have no business being in a friendship."

"Well, honey I haven't been giving in to biological urges and needs lately, but there's plenty of chemistry going on," Chris remarked with a smirk.

"Ha, ha. You think that you're so crafty. I'm trusting you not to cross over the line anymore. I mean it. This relationship stays at friendship. We've always had the emotional intimacy thing work for us, no matter what. I think we should stick with what works for us and not let anything get in the way of that."

"Do you realize that we've gotten off the topic of conversation? I don't think that I'm the one who's uncomfortable with talking about the baby. It's you. Come on. Let's start talking, really talking. No more jokes or clever comments."

To Lexi's dismay, her voice broke slightly. "Okay. I don't think that I ever got over losing the baby. When my baby died, I just fell to pieces. It's hard to pull out the joy that I once felt out of the pain that has stayed with me for the last twenty-two years."

Chris pulled her to him in a tight embrace. "For the record, you were incredibly brave about the whole thing. You set out on your own to have a child when you were almost as young as Sabrina was when she had Julie. Sabrina had us and you had no one."

"My parents were ashamed of me. I wasn't getting any support unless I got married."

"I never figured out why the idea of marriage was such a terrible option to you. Look at Jeff and Sabrina. They're doing great."

Her blue eyes were full of life, pain, and unquenchable warmth. "There was a lot of love there. Julie was conceived under happy circumstances with love. In scenario one, I conceived a child on one of the worst days of my life under the influence of too much alcohol on a night that I can't even remember. In scenario two, I conceived him during an affair with a man who was getting ready to marry another woman. That all sounds bad, even to my ears. Look at it this way. Marriage only works when two people love each other enough to make it work. I didn't want anyone to be forced to marry me."

He caressed her cheek, smiling sadly. "Did you ever think that it's not such a terrible idea to marry someone that you can trust? Feelings can grow. Love matures. Friendship isn't a bad foundation. That's how you and I started out."

"Don't get me started on why that was a bad idea. I agree that friendship is a good foundation, but there has to be more. When we got married, we had the emotional intimacy and the physical intimacy, but we didn't know each other well enough. We were still young. Three months is not enough time for a relationship to grow into a lifetime commitment. Jeff and Sabrina were together for two years before they got married. They were friends since the eighth grade. They've learned how to grow together. We didn't. There's got to be love there from the beginning to keep people committed to staying together. Do you remember what things were like between us in 1988?"

"I've known you since 1985. You were unnecessarily hostile towards me until 1988. Things changed pretty quickly after that."

"You were hostile towards me. I just reciprocated the feeling. You made all kinds of negative comments about why I was undateable. You were mean. I was defending myself because you were a pain in the butt! Things haven't changed much since then. I always have to defend myself to you and you are always acting like an incredible jerk!"

He stiffened as though she had struck him. "Okay, fair enough. I admit that I made those comments, but that was because Mike was not the right guy for you."

She glared at him with burning, reproachful eyes. "No, I remember. You said that I wasn't the right girl for him. I wasn't good enough to date such a popular, good looking jock like him. I was this little shy little high school girl who spent more time reading than out having fun. My clothes were wrong. I didn't wear makeup and I wore glasses. I was well aware of what guys thought of me. Mike was different. He got to know the real person underneath."

The angry retort hardened his features. "You're the one who's hung up on looks. You judged me as a popular jock that was like all the rest of the guys that you knew. You never even tried to get to know the real person underneath. I tried to get to know you. I was never cruel to you. You made a habit of saying cruel things right to my face. Did you ever think that there had to be something good about me? Mike and I were best friends. Mike trusted me and you trusted Mike and his judgment. Wasn't that good enough for you to have a better opinion of me? You always had a good opinion of Mike no matter what he did. He screwed up plenty of times." Raw hurt glittered in his dark eyes. "You chose to overlook any of that. I was there for you when Mike hurt you and you still wouldn't let me in. You held your guard up until I came to see you in Valparaiso. That wasn't fair to either of us. It was nothing but wasted time. You waited until you had no one else before you allowed yourself to let me in. You needed help long before that. I could've been there for you, but you waited until it was a life or death situation to let your guard down."

Tears started to fall down her cheeks. "Don't you think that I know that? I think about it every day. I chose to go off on my own. I put my body through h-l when I should've taken better care of myself and my child died! I know that. I live with it every day of my life. I know that it's my fault. There's no one else to blame."

Chris started to gently rub her back to soothe her. "Honey, there's no way that we could know that for sure. Some women take excellent care of themselves and still get pre-eclampsia. You take very good care of yourself now and you still have high blood pressure. Look, we've always made clever comments to each other. That's how we are. It's not being mean or cruel. We've never take it personally. I'm not sure why you did before. Do you regret marrying me?"

"No. We had sixteen good years. Things could've been better if we'd been friends for a longer period of time before we got married. We never learned how to handle hard times together before marriage and that was why we didn't work as a couple. Besides, you've always wanted a woman who would treat you like a king and let you do anything that you want. I'm not sure what you have to complain about these days. You have a beautiful wife who works hard to look nice for you. She loves you more than anything else in the world. You get to do exactly what you want. She does everything around the house. You don't have to lift a finger. You are her hero. The two of you still have sexual attraction between you. You have everything that you've always wanted in a marriage. I'm not sure why you are letting it slip away."

He spoke in an odd, yet gentle tone. "I'm not. I'm trying to work on the marriage. It would be nice if you would admit that I'm not such a bad guy after all."

"Okay, you're not such a bad guy after all. You are a good friend and a wonderful father, but you were a lousy husband. You really need to work on that if you want to keep your wife happy and your marriage on track."

"I really don't want to talk about the marriage right now. I want to focus on you. It would be nice if you could admit that you were wrong about me and that you should've let me be your friend."

"Fine. I was wrong about you back then. Happy?" she added with a slight smile of defiance.

"Yes. Would it have been so terrible for us to have gotten married when you found out that you were having John?"

"I'm not sure. We were practically strangers, barely acquaintances until the trip to Las Vegas. The friendship didn't exactly grow much after that until after I returned from Valparaiso. I was terrified at the thought of marrying someone that I barely knew. I wanted to marry for love. I didn't want to come between you and Mike either. I'm sorry that happened anyway. I promise to be less judgmental if you promise to be more considerate and responsible."

"I can do that. It's a deal. I will show you that I can be a better person."

"I'll believe it when I see it. Wait, that may have come off as harsh. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt this time. I hope that you can. I really hope that you can for your sake. Your marriage is depending on it."

"I know that. I understand that I have to prove myself in order to win back the love of my life."

Lexi cringed as he said "the love of my life". Why did Caitlin get to be the love of his life? She thought it over. She wouldn't say that Chris was the love of her life, so why should she care if she's not the love of his life. "I want what I cannot have. It's the same thing that I accuse Chris of. This is not what friends should even think about," Lexi thought silently.

Chris noticed that Lexi was deep in thought. She frowned. He figured that he would have to work harder to put a smile back on her face so she could fall asleep and be at peace.

He thought of something that she laughed at a few months ago. "You look like you're thinking of something really unpleasant. I know how to turn that frown upside down."

"Whatever you're thinking of better not be something that will turn my stomach. I mean it. Do not try anything else with me tonight. I don't always like your idea of a joke."

"We can joke and kid around like that as long as we don't go too far. As long as we don't get into really personal issues, then the jokes are okay. By the way, I really appreciated when you came over to talk to me. You worry about me. I understand why you call me inconsiderate and irresponsible. I will work on that. I guess I've made a lot of thoughtless comments and done a lot of stupid things that hurt you. I am unbelievably sorry, honey."

"I accept your apology. I'm sorry that I've made some cruel comments to you, too. Wow! I really think that we'll be able to make this friendship work. I think that we're really turning a corner here. I'm glad that I'm finally able to see you grow up. I think that we should be able to help each other work on issues that will help us become better people. This friendship is really turning into such a good thing.

"I think so, too. I'm glad that we're able to get to this point where we can be nice to each other. Do you feel better?"

Lexi nodded, and then she hugged Chris. He put his arms around her and held her, waiting until she was ready to let go. It was an important conversation that they wouldn't have had if he weren't staying there. He was there at a moment when she needed him most and she opened up to him. He felt that he finally made the right decision about his life. He was exactly where he wanted to be.

Lexi pulled away and looked at Chris. "Could you stay here until I fall asleep?"

"Sure. Do you want me to keep holding you?"

"Yeah. Believe it or not, I think that it helps me sleep better. Then you can go back to your room. I don't want Billy to wake up and find you gone. Thanks for everything. I'm sorry that I pulled you into the pool earlier," Lexi said, drowsily. It was hard for her to keep her eyes open. She felt the pull of sleep.

"Don't be. I'm not. I like having fun with you. Hey, Lexi? Do you still love me?"

"Yeah, but I shouldn't. You're married. I was the other woman before with Mike. It was bad. That's why I took the overdose. I don't want to be that person anymore. I've been sad for as long as I can remember," Lexi said softly. Her eyes were closed. Her voice was soft, but detached.

"I don't want you to be sad anymore, honey. I love you."

"No, you can't. My life was finally going good. I got a second chance and I blew it. I don't have either of the guys that I love and I've lost my babies. Maybe I have to give up on the fairytale. No one is gonna come and save me. Time is flying by and I won't get the chance to have what I want most in this world."

"What do you want, Sweetheart? Tell me."

Lexi turned her body to the side with Chris's arms still holding her. Her eyes were still closed. Her breathing was slower. She continued to speak in the soft, detached way. "I want to have fun more often. I want someone to romance me. I want to get married and have more babies. I miss Paige. I miss Indiana. I feel bad because you don't want any of those things. I can't count on you to be the guy who can make these things happen. I can't count on Mike either. He promised that it would be different this time. I think that my heart is gonna be broken forever. There isn't any other guy out there who can connect with me that way. I've tried. I want fireworks and that ain't happening. I want to be the girl I was before my life fell apart. I want to see you look at me like you used to, like I was the prettiest girl in Indiana."

"I can do that. I'll make our date the most romantic one that you've ever had. You are the most beautiful woman that I've ever seen."

"I'm not prettier than Caitlin and Kim. I wanna be sexy."

"Honey, you are prettier and sexier than any woman in Illinois and Indiana. To me, you'll always be that amazing girl who asked me to dance with her and flirt with her. You're the one with a voice like an angel."

"You don't mean that. You left me for Caitlin. You stopped wanting me. You didn't want our baby. I had to live through losing her. You didn't want our baby in the first place. You don't want to be my husband because I'm controlling and mean. You don't want the same life that I want. I'm not a good wife."

"Yes, you are. I'm the one who was wrong, not you. You didn't do anything wrong. I was stupid to leave you. Now, what about our baby? Are you talking about John?"

"No. I lost our baby in Indiana. I think that she was a girl. I wanted to name her Maggie."

Chris slipped one of his hands around to Lexi's belly while he heard her talk. "Is that why you wouldn't work things out with me?"

Lexi nodded. "I had severe postpartum depression. I wasn't thinking clearly. I just wanted it all to go away and pretend it never happened."

Chris held onto Lexi tighter. "I love you, honey. I really do. Will you marry me and be the mother of my children?"

Lexi giggled briefly. "I already did that. You'll leave again. I don't wanna be sad anymore."

"I won't leave you again. I'll prove it to you. Do you still wanna have a baby with me?"

"Maybe. I love you. I want us to stay like this forever."

"Me too. Why did you run from me earlier?"

"I want you, but it's wrong. I can't let you cheat on your wife. Caitlin is a friend now. I don't wanna be your alternate choice. She is the love of your life. It was so hard to stop myself earlier. I like kissing you. I want you so much when you touch me."

"That's good to know. Honey, you aren't the alternate choice. Do you think that Caitlin is the love of my life?"

"Yes, you said so yourself. For the record, I want you as much as I did the first time. I won't be a homewrecker, Chris. We can't do anything about that." Lexi's voice was softer and slower.

"Honey, are you talking in your sleep again?"

"Mmm-hmm."

"Can I kiss you now? Can I kiss you tomorrow?"

"Now, but not tomorrow. I'll hit you if you try tomorrow. I can't let you cheat on Caitlin."

"I really want to kiss you, honey. All the time."

"This is a nice dream. I miss you."

"Do we kiss in your other dreams?

Lexi nodded. Chris moved in to kiss her. She felt his touch on her lips. She smiled and kissed him back. He moved his lips to her neck and his hands began to explore her body over the material of her pajamas. She moaned slightly. She moved to kiss Chris's neck, too. She let her tongue glide over his skin. His hands kept caressing her. She moaned again. She began to kiss him fiercely. She kissed down his neck again to his shoulders. Her lips moved with intensity over one spot on his shoulder. She sucked and nipped at the spot. Chris was pleasantly surprised. Lexi never kissed him like that before.

Lexi stopped kissing him. She was smiling. She laid her head on his shoulder. "Stay with me tonight." Lexi stopped talking. She was breathing even deeper now.

"Honey, are you still sleeping?"

Lexi snuggled her head against his shoulder. "Mmm-hmm."

"There you go. I'll stay here all night long. Don't worry. I'm not leaving you. Sweet dreams, Sweetheart." Chris ran his fingers gently along the side of her face and kissed her forehead. He began to drift off into a peaceful sleep himself.

However, he was not prepared for what he encountered the next morning….