Chapter Three

Working Nine to Five

Christina got on the bus and took a seat near the front. She pulled out her iphone and put her headphones in her ears. She could afford a cell phone plan – at last.

It was April and she just finished her last accounting exam. It was nice to have it off her shoulders. Her course at the college had been in administrative assistance. Once it was finished, she could go look for a real job instead of escorting guys. Christina wasn't sure, but she thought the punk band in her headphones sounded like the halleluiah chorus.

As a bonus, there was one other reason she was excited about quitting her job as an escort. Once she had her evenings free again, she could maybe try to find a real boyfriend. She'd given up thinking there was a way for things to work out between her and Mark. It had been two months since Valentine's Day and he had made no request for her since then. Yeah, that opportunity had bombed out. Christina kept telling herself it didn't matter. She had paid off Mindy, the college, and the credit card people, like she wanted. She was walking into the world with zero debt. Christina thought the price had been very low. All she had to do was keep 'regular Christina' away from guys and she was always fresh for work (like that had been hard). Since it was all over, she really wanted to find herself a boyfriend. All the recent dating had left her somewhat experienced and given her a clear idea of what she didn't want in a guy.

Most of her escort dates were really impressed by the facade Christina and Mindy put together. They thought she was cute as a button, but was that really important? A guy who was impressed with a solid rack (inserts), thick eyelashes (fakes), long luscious hair (wig), and everything else that went into creating the illusion of Tina … was a guy that was simply not for her. She actually found herself sympathizing with Laura. Christina thought her real personality was probably more like Laura's than Tina's. She wanted a guy who saw her as a person without all that excess, added, flare. The only thing that put Christina down was her suspicion that Tina was about a zillion times more likely to score Mr. Right than Christina herself was. Well, she'd worry about that when she found Mr. Right. Until then, she'd be herself – fully and completely – and maybe he would see her. Right? She kept her fingers crossed.

That evening Christina went to the hair salon and got her hair cut. It been getting a little long lately, as in it had been covering the tops of her ears. She went and got it cut so that it was only three centimeters long on top and practically buzzed up the back. When she left the salon, she felt totally empowered. Her head felt so light. No wig anymore. No heavy hot thing on her head. She breathed deeply … and summer was coming.

Over the next few weeks, Christina kept on working at the escort service. She wasn't the only college graduate desperately trying to land herself a job. The competition was fierce, and Christina didn't have anything special to recommend her, except a stunning recommendation from the pub she had stopped working at after Valentine's Day. She had a few interviews, but nothing to get excited over.

Finally, she got an interview at Capier Incorporated. It was a job working as an assistant to a public relations officer. The lady who interviewed her was very sweet and she explained the job to Christina very thoroughly, but Christina was too excited to be there to do anything more than nod and promise she could do anything. She didn't hear a word the woman said. When Christina looked back on it, it seemed like the lights in the room were so bright she couldn't even see the woman's face.

After Christina accepted the job, she went into her jewelry box and pulled out the glasses she hardly ever wore. Clearly, she needed them if she hadn't been able to see the woman's face. Christina would need to be able to greet her when she showed up at work Monday morning.

When Christina got to work on her first day she suddenly realized she had been interviewed in the Human Resources department and not on the floor she would be working on. She was supposed to go to room 512 on the fifth floor.

All in all, Christina felt pretty chipper. She was wearing navy trousers and a white collared shirt with a baby blue sweater-vest over-top. She had gotten her hair cut again on Saturday. Mindy had done it as a courtesy because she couldn't stand the idea of Christina going to a salon for something she considered to be little more than a buzz cut. Mindy never wore a wig herself. Her roan tresses were real. Mindy was a really good cousin to take such good care of Christina, even if she was snobby about her hair. She even got up that morning to make sure Christina sparkled for her first day at her real job.

Christina got off the elevator on the fifth floor and looked for room 512. The outer ring of the tower was lined in private offices while columns of cubicles filled the inside tracks. There wasn't even a bullpen. Pretty spiffy!

Christina found room 512. It couldn't be her office, she would probably get a cubicle, but there was her boss's nameplate. So cute! It read: Mark Lewis – Public Relations Officer.

Her jaw dropped.

She was doomed! And she thought Valentine's Day had been rough. That had literally been dinner and a movie. The next ten seconds were going to be the dictionary definition of doom.

Did the woman who interviewed her say she would be working for Mark? Christina seemed to be under the impression she would be working for the woman who interviewed her. Unless, by some miracle, that woman gave Christina the wrong room number over the phone, Christina bet she worked for Human Resources and was simply interviewing for Mark's assistant in his stead.

Christina stared at the door and thought rapidly. Had he seen the applications? Did he select her application because he knew she was the girl from the escort service? Christina bit her lip as heat came off her in waves. Maybe he was in his office and she should knock.

Christina raised her fist to knock when Mark himself came around the corner.

"Oh hello," he said cheerfully. "Are you Christina Witten?"

Christina smiled and put out her hand to shake his. Hers was suddenly really sweaty. She hoped desperately that he wouldn't notice. The inside of his palm was like warm silk.

He shook her hand warmly and reached into his pocket to get the keys to his office. "I'm Mark. I'm sorry I wasn't there for your interview, but I was extremely impressed with what Elizabeth told me about you. It's so rare to find someone who doesn't mind working overtime – evenings and weekends. Working in PR is very exciting, but it's hard to find someone who really wants to dedicate themselves to the proper representation of a company. I hope you're up to the challenge."

She had agreed to work evenings and weekends? What else had she promised?

"I am!" Christina claimed energetically. Once again, she was blindly agreeing to things, but more importantly, did he know who she was? Her hair was really different, she was sans inserts, flashy jewelry, and to ice the cake – she was wearing thick rimmed glasses! If he didn't know she was the same person, she promised herself he would NEVER FIND OUT. She clenched her fists in determination like she was about to beat the crap out of him.

He unlocked the door and invited her into his office. It was an absolute disaster. There were sliding piles of paper everywhere.

"Is this what they call 'organized chaos?'" she asked, taking a stack of paper off one of the chairs. Every surface was covered in paper.

"No," he said, sitting down at the desk and unlocking the drawers. "This is what they call 'a mess.' I don't mean to depress you, but before you do anything else, I need you to sort through this trash and file it."

Christina gulped. It was certainly going to be a great task.

"But right now we have to do something much more important," Mark said. Surprisingly, he looked even handsomer than she remembered. Maybe it was the sun coming through the blinds hitting his cheek, or maybe it was simply because he was gorgeous. He was wearing a black button-up-the-front shirt – far from formal, which she had always seen him in before. Christina thought he looked better casual. If she kept her job she was going to be in major trouble if she couldn't stop drooling over him.

"I didn't get the chance to interview you," he said. "So if you don't mind, I'd like to ask you a few questions. Would you humor me?"

"Of course," Christina said, smiling and trying to act relaxed.

"You just graduated from community college this spring?"

"Yes," Christina answered.

"And you were working at The Backhanded Pub and Grill until February?"

"Yes."

"Why did you leave that job? Your reason wasn't listed on your resume," Mark asked, leaning forward from behind his desk.

The real reason was she could make much more money working at the escort service, but she hadn't listed her work as 'Tina' on her resume. She was worried it might damage her chances for an honest job, but then again, maybe the people working in public relations would have thought it was an asset. Christina smiled on the outside, but she cringed on the inside. Since she wasn't certain, she was going to have to lie. "I was afraid my job was interfering with my studies and I wanted my grades to be high," she answered.

"Really?" he exclaimed. "How studious! That's interesting because when I called your reference there, he said you left because you were offered a higher paying job."

Christina frowned. She couldn't believe she was caught in her lie already. "That's what I told him," she stammered. "The truth is that I was going to go work with my cousin at her place of work, but that fell through."

"So, why didn't you go back to the pub? It sounds like they would have rehired you," Mark said generously.

"Like I said, I found it was interfering with my studies. I liked having the extra time in the evening," she answered, trying desperately to make herself sound legitimate.

"Well then, are you from the city? Did you grow up here?" he asked, allowing her slip-up to pass.

Christina answered that she grew up in a small town. She moved to the city to room with her cousin and to attend college.

"And you're only eighteen?" he asked mildly – looking on her like she was a child. That rankled her. He hadn't looked at her like that when she was Tina. He appreciated Tina as a woman, but as he examined Christina across the desk he looked like he thought she was barely out of diapers.

"No, I'm nineteen," Christina answered – her cheeks burning with fire.

"You'll learn a lot here," he said positively. "If you work hard with me, you'll probably have a fantastic job waiting for you when you're done here. Let me show you your office."

Christina noticed he didn't use the word 'cubical,' even though that was clearly where she was going to be. It was sort of sweet of him.

"You'll be stuck with me all day, so if you want a cup of coffee or anything, now's the time to say," Mark said, getting up and beckoning her to follow him to the kitchen.

"I don't drink coffee," she told him.

"That's fine. If you drink orange juice, I'll treat you today," he offered.

"Thank you," Christina said. She was following him down the hall, trying to keep up with his long strides.

By the end of the day, Christina had learned all kinds of things about Mark. First, he gave her a tour of the office. He showed her where the photocopier was and how to fix it when it jammed. It seemed that everyone called him before they called the repairman. Then he introduced her to the receptionist and the rest of the staff. All the women seemed to sparkle when he stuck his head into their offices. Finally, Christina reached her conclusion about him.

He was a gem! He had to be an absolute gem! Not only did he not recognize her from before, but he was honestly happy to have her working for him. He said he'd been working his job for the past seven months and he'd been promised an assistant when he was hired. But it was only recently the budget was approved for him to finally get one. He was delighted.

"Now my office will be clean," he said jubilantly. "And that's so important in our line of work. I have to invite people into my office all the time and it's so painful when it's a mess, but I don't have time to clean it."

Christina's first day of work was incredible. Working for Mark was going to be awesome!

And he'd never find out she was Tina. If she had to protect her secret to her grave – she'd do it, because as soon as he found out, she'd have to leave. But the job had been too hard to get to simply cast it off because she used to be an escort Mark hired once.

Knuckles to nose – he'd never find out.

When Christina got home, she told Mindy about her first day at the office and how her boss happened to be the guy who had lost the bid for her on Valentine's Day.
"Holy crap!" Mindy exclaimed noisily. "How the freak did that happen?"

"He wasn't the person who interviewed me. Instead it was a woman named Elizabeth from Human Resources."

"And she didn't say that you'd be working for Mark Lewis?" Mindy asked, ultimately perplexed that such a screw-up had happened on her watch.

"I'm pretty sure she mentioned it during the interview, but I wasn't listening to her very carefully," Christina admitted bashfully. She hated owning up to her stupid side. "I was just so excited to be interviewed for such a great job."

"Well," Mindy said authoritatively, putting her feet up on the coffee table. "I don't believe for one second that he didn't know you would be the same girl. He probably watched you come in for the interview even if he didn't speak to you himself."

"But I look totally different … and men are stupid. He wouldn't have known the difference," Christina persisted.

"Even so, if he figures it out, or it comes out in the open, there's only one thing to do," Mindy said darkly. Christina wasn't sure, but sometimes Mindy acted like a gangster when it came to stuff to do with the agency.

"What's that?" Christina asked, almost jumping backwards at her cousin's forcefulness. "We aren't going to kill him, are we?"

"Hmm … You just leave it to me. I'll take care of you," she said, pounding on her chest with her fist.

Author's Notes: Where's the rest of the story? You could have sworn there were more chapters here! Well, you'd be right. Starting September 20, 2021 my novel 'Whenever You Want' will be available on Galatea. I'll supply a link on my profile page as soon as there is one. Please continue reading the story there! You guys are the best! Thanks for reading!