Chapter 5

Chrissy led her third graders into the cafeteria for lunch. She noticed the milk truck through the window backing into the loading dock to make a delivery and she didn't think much about it as she kept an eye on the kids in the line.

A few minutes later, Chrissy glanced out the window again to see the truck driver wheeling several cases of milk into the back room of the kitchen and she found herself staring at him because there was something familiar about him although she couldn't quite but her finger on it.

When the kids had gotten their lunches and were properly seated at their tables, Chrissy slipped into the kitchen and walked to the loading dock in the back. The truck driver was just closing the back door to the truck and he turned to see a woman standing in the doorway.

"Max?" She asked.

Max frowned for a second but then he realized that it was Chrissy, only with much shorter hair. He grinned, happy to see her again. "Well, hello!" He laughed. "Look at you!"

"It's been a long time, Max."

"I'm surprised you remember my name."

"Of course I remember you, Max," Chrissy smiled. "You were very nice to me."

"So, you work here?" Max guessed.

"I teach third grade," She said proudly.

"Teach?" Max said. "You mean you're not an aide anymore? Congratulations!"

"Thanks," she smiled. "You're not with Davidson Trucking?" She asked, gesturing to the Moobury Diary Truck.

"No, I left them not long after I moved out of your place," Max revealed.

"Did something happen between you and my husband?" Chrissy wondered.

"No, it was just time to move on," Max replied diplomatically.

"I need to get back," Chrissy said, gesturing toward the inside of the school.

"I have more deliveries too," Max said.

"Do you think we could meet for coffee?" She asked hopefully.

Max was surprised by the invitation. "That would be nice," he smiled.

'How 'bout Saturday morning? 10:30? Johnny C's?"

"Sure," He agreed. "See you then."

"Great," Chrissy said, spinning to head back into the school, glancing over her shoulder and smiling at him. Max gave her a wave and he climbed into the cab of his delivery truck feeling uplifted and amused.

Chrissy was hoping Max would actually show up for their pre-arranged meeting – there was no guarantee or obligation but when she entered Johnny C's Diner ten minutes early she was tickled to see Max already seated in a booth reading the morning paper. He stood when he saw Chrissy approach and she smiled as she slid into the bench on the opposite side of the booth.

"Hello," Max said cheerfully. "Nice to see you."

"You didn't think I might not show, did you?" She worried.

Max blushed slightly but the waitress arrived to refresh his cup and pour Chrissy a new one.

"It's good to see you too," Chrissy said warmly. "How long has it been exactly?"

"About three and a half years, I think," Max answered.

"How did things work out with your wife?" Chrissy wondered.

"We're divorced," Max reported. "She married her old high school boyfriend. She bought out my half of the house. I'm in a Condo in Greenville."

Chrissy nodded with understanding. "I'm divorced too," she said.

Max was legitimately taken aback by her announcement. "I didn't know," he said.

"I just couldn't take it anymore," Chrissy said. "I knew I had to get out no matter what anybody thought."

"So you went back to college?"

She beamed proudly. "Nights, mostly. Continued working as a teacher's aide and got other part time jobs. Moved in with my mother. Now I'm back out on my own."

The waitress returned – Chrissy ordered a Danish and Max went with a chocolate éclair.

"Where's Tex?" Max asked once the waitress was gone.

"His name is Theodore," Chrissy said. "Did you know that?"

"No," Max admitted with a grin.

"He thought Tex was more manly. Even more so than Ted."

"I assumed he was from Texas," Max said.

"Most people did," Chrissy remarked. "He's still in the house. He had someone living with him for a while but that's over."

Max knew better than to ask if that someone was somebody from work.

"That part of my life seems so long ago now," Chrissy smiled. "I can't believe I allowed myself to be so miserable."

"I'm glad things worked out for you," Max remarked.

"I spent most of my life thinking about everybody except me," Chrissy said. "I realized I needed to change the way I was living. Redirect my thoughts and attitudes."

"Good for you," Max grinned.

"I channeled my desire to teach and made big positive changes in my life," she said. "Found peace in my new realities, even though it was hard to let go of everything I knew and start over."

"But you did."

"I always did what my mother thought or what Tex said but I rarely did what I thought I should do,' she said. "I knew I deserved better than what I had."

The waitress brought the pastry to the booth, refreshed their coffee, and then left them alone.

"It was weird at first," Chrissy continued. "Being single again. Working. Taking classes. Learning to do it on my own but eventually I became more self-assured and confident. I did well in my classes, got my degree, and here I am."

"Very impressive," Max said. "You did good."

"Now I need to figure out my personal life," she said.

Max grinned. "Is that why I'm here?"

Now it was her turn to blush. "Tex turned me into an introvert. I'm almost obsessed with my career. My past medical issues worry me. I don't go out much unless my teacher friends drag me somewhere, sometimes on fix-up dates."

"I went the opposite way," Max admitted. "I played offense, went online opening up multiple dating accounts and accepting just about every invitation to go out and socialize, despite my failed marriage and my general dislike of the whole dating thing."

"Wow, how'd that work out for you?" Chrissy asked.

"It was exhausting," Max sighed. "I eventually burnt myself out without finding a compatible partner so I gave up."

Chrissy giggled and he peered at her with interest.

"Would you like to go out to dinner with me tonight?" He dared.

Chrissy wasn't expecting such a quick invitation but she was flattered by his request. "Sure," she agreed. "That sounds nice."

They went to dinner at Serguci's Italian Family Resturant that evening. Over the course of the next few weeks, they met up several times for coffee or some sort of outing. Chrissy was surprised at how easy it was to talk to Max who was willing to listen to whatever she had to say. He'd text her at the end of the work day to see how her day had gone. Unlike the gruff, demanding, and self-centered Tex, Max was caring, sweet, attentive, understanding, and patient, never rushing her when it came to dates or expectations.

It was an adjustment learning to trust Max's gentle nature after being groomed by Tex's quest for conflict, conquest, and captivity.

Summer arrived. Chrissy worked at a day camp for troubled adolescents as a summer job but she continued to see Max regularly. One Saturday morning, she completely surprised herself when she asked Max if he wanted to go on a hike.

"We can have lunch on the mountain top," she said.

"Sounds nice," Max replied on the cell. "Make lunch and I'll be there in a half hour."

Chrissy had no idea why she had Max drive them to the very trail Tex brought her to that fateful day. Maybe she wanted to try again with the right person. Her ankle still ached on rainy days, a reminder of how mean Tex had been to her that day. This time, she was careful where she stepped as she and Max hiked up the mountain trail and when they reached the top they enjoyed a nice lunch on a grassy knoll overlooking a spectacular view of the Blue County valley below.

"Do you believe in do-overs?" Chrissy asked when they were done eating.

"I consider this a do-over," Max revealed.

"How so?"

"I couldn't imagine how lucky Tex was to have you when I first met you," Max said openly. "I thought you were wonderful but you were married and I was a mess trying to deal with my wife's affair and so it just wasn't meant to be."

"With us, you mean?" Chrissy realized.

He nodded yes.

"But now?"

"Now is a do-over," Max said.

"I want to show you something," Chrissy said, standing and grabbing the blanket they had been sitting on.

Max followed her to the other side of the peak and down into a small open area surrounded by thin woods. She took him by the hand and led him along a small trail that opened into another small clearing. She spread the blanket on the mossy shady grass underneath a couple of large trees. Max joined her on the blanket and she leaned in and kissed him softly on the lips.

"Have you ever had sex on a mountaintop?" She whispered.

"Outdoors?" Max asked with surprise.

"Me either," she told him, kissing him again, this time more seductively. "But wouldn't it be daringly fun to try it?"

They kissed and rubbed at each other and soon clothes were removed and they both ended up naked on the blanket.

"Underneath the sun," Chrissy giggled into Max's mouth.

"What?" He asked.

"Never mind," she said. "I just wanted to see if I had changed enough to do this."

She pulled him on top of her and they made love outdoors under the sun. When they finished, they lay on the blanket naked and sweaty.

"This was an amazing place for our first time," Max said.

"Yes it was," she agreed.

Knowing they couldn't stay there forever for fear of discovery, they stood and dressed but Chrissy left her panties off, hanging them from one of the tree branches.

"It's a marker for us," she giggled. "Like leaving the flag on the moon."

They folded the blanket and retrieved the picnic basket from where they left it by the knoll and Max took Chrissy's hand and led her down the trail. Chrissy smiled but she didn't say anything, happy that she had finally left her past behind her where it belonged.