Structural Damage – Chapter 3

Sabrina was in the office early, as usual. She was feeling pretty good now that the nonsense with the Hawaiian build was behind her. She had received a late email from Brent Iber that indicated the contract review with the developer had gone well, and he had no changes; the document would be signed and finalized and sent back today. She was going through the project boards on her desk and determining the next priority project. The problem was, her brain was stuck on two nights ago and the interaction with Chris at the Signature Room. There was something about him that she couldn’t get out of her head. Her confrontation with Audrey, well it was about the fact that the comment was made in a packed restaurant, and anyone could have heard her. But there was a bit of herself that was angry that she wasn’t taking him home, it had been a while since she had brought a man home. Heck, it had been a while she since she had wanted to take a man home; work had been so crazy, and her schedule had her thinking of nothing but work. The concept of physical touch or sexual release was the furthest thing from her mind. But Chris, he unleashed something in her, and it was more than the fact that he was a good-looking man.

No, he was smart, charming, flirty, and most of all, he did not appear to be intimidated by her. She knows how to carry herself and she doesn’t cower to anyone, somehow he disarmed her with ease and never flinched when she told him she was a successful architect. He didn’t even seem phased when the Mayor came by for a chat; who was this guy? Okay, so he was an actor, but she didn’t know who he was. She fired up her laptop and decided to do a little research by doing an internet search for Chris Evans. She was stunned when the results pulled up. She was scrolling through the images and the listing of his movies when Audrey waltzed in.

“Good morning, boss. Are you ready for our meeting?” When Sabrina didn’t answer, she stood there for a moment and marveled at how intent she was over whatever was on her computer screen. Finally, she cleared her throat, “Sabrina!”

At the loud sound of her name, Sabrina jumped and looked up at Audrey, almost as if she was a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar. She quickly slammed the top of her laptop down, “Sorry, I didn’t hear you come in. What’s going on?”

“We have a meeting, did you forget about it? What were you looking at, because it completely had your attention?”

“I just lost track of time that’s all. Um, before I bring up the next project. I didn’t know that Chris was Captain America.”

“Oh! You were looking up Chris? So, are you going to admit to me that you might be interested in him?”

“I don’t know that I’d go that far,” her voice trailed off.

“It’s still the fact that he picked your building isn’t it? That totally turned you on,” Audrey started laughing, “Wow, who would have thought that potentially the way into your panties is to tell you that they love your building without even realizing it is yours.”

Sabrina was beginning to blush, something Audrey had not seen happen in, well, in years. “Well, at least I know he has great taste,” she finally said, even it was a little pompous and self-aggrandizing, “Fine, yeah, I kinda like him. Fuck, Audrey why did you have to introduce me to him?”

Audrey could not contain herself, this was momentous, “Oh girl, I had no idea you would fall for him. I figured it’d be good for you to meet him since we’re friends, that’s all. I swear this wasn’t about a hookup.”

“Well, it isn’t like I’m saying I’m going to marry him or anything; I’m not even in love with him. I’m only saying that I think he is attractive, and I might be interested in him. I wouldn’t mind an opportunity to see him, just the two of us.”

“What about your dating rule?”

“What about it? I told you, I’m not saying I want to marry him, I spent a short amount of time with him the other night, and I’d like an opportunity to maybe spend some time with him again, that’s all. I’m going to regret saying anything to you.”

“What if you find that you really like him?”

“Audrey, quit pushing! I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it if I get to it. There is no reason to think he will call me unless you plan on running to your office and dialing him up and telling him to ask me out.”

“Nope, not going to do that, I don’t want to get involved in any mess you might create,” although she knew she was already in the middle of it. “Shall we get down to business?”
Audrey had brought the conversation back to business and Sabrina was actually relieved. They began to discuss the next items for business and were deep into contracts when Alice gently knocked on the door, “Pardon the interruption ma’am, but there is a gentleman here who would like to see you. He does not have an appointment, but he said that you are an acquaintance, his name is Mr. Evans.”

Sabrina’s eyes went wide and darted over to Audrey, “Don’t look at me Sabrina, I had nothing to do with this.”

“Um, send him in Alice, that is fine,” She stood up and straightened her skirt and fussed with her hair, knowing she must look like a teenager trying to get ready for the most popular boy in school to walk past.

“You look fantastic, quit fidgeting,” Audrey offered.

Chris walked in the door, he was wearing jeans and a button up plaid shirt, sleeves rolled up, and the top buttons were undone. His trademark sunglasses were tucked into the top of his shirt, pointing out that he was not wearing a t-shirt or tank top and drawing her attention to the fact that his clavicle tattoo was peeking out. His shirt was tucked in, and he looked stunning, she was almost at a loss for words, which worked out perfectly, he decided to speak first. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt your meeting,” he turned back toward the door, “I can leave and come back.”

In unison, Sabrina and Audrey said, “No!”

Audrey stood up, “No, it’s fine we were finished and just chatting. I’ll catch up with you later, Sabrina,” she started walking towards the door and before leaving she turned back to Chris, “When is the wedding you are going to?”

“Saturday, why?”

“Just trying to determine how much longer you are in town. Seeing if maybe we can get together again before you leave.”

“I’ll give you a call,” he offered and then turned to look at Sabrina. “I’m sorry for just dropping in on you, but I didn’t have your phone number.”

“And you didn’t think to ask Audrey for it?”

“Well, I didn’t want her to know I was going to call you. Little did I know I would stop by your office, and she would be in here,” he said sheepishly as if he was embarrassed. “Is there any chance you might be able to take some time off this afternoon?”

“I don’t know, I’m kind of busy, what exactly did you have in mind?” She didn’t want to sound eager so she had to make it seem like it would be a big deal to call off work and leave with him. When in reality, she was ready to go the minute he asked.

“Well, I made arrangements to get a private architectural boat ride; didn’t want to have to do one with tourists. So, I made a donation and got a boat to myself and thought that since you are obviously an expert, you could maybe fill in the details or blanks where the docents might be lost.”

“You want me to take an architectural boat ride with you? Just the two of us?”

“Wow, you are able to listen to details? Well, color me impressed. I have a picnic lunch scheduled, and I will be eating a lot of food by myself if you don’t join me.”

She hit the button on her phone to buzz Alice, when she answered, Sabrina picked up the phone, “What is on my calendar for the remainder of the day?” She listened intently, nodding and then answered, “Clear it all, I’m going to be departing with Mr. Evans and will not be back this afternoon.” As she hung up the phone, she noticed that Chris had a grin on his face and it practically lit up the room, “What? Fine, I’ll go on your little boat ride with you, I’d hate for you to have to eat a large picnic lunch all by yourself.”

“Are you going to wear that? Don’t get me wrong, you are stunning in a power suit and heels but wouldn’t you be more comfortable if you changed?”

“Well, you might be right. Can you give me a few minutes?” Chris watched as she sauntered into the bathroom that was adjacent to her office and when she emerged a few moments later, she had indeed, changed clothes. Now wearing tan jeans with a navy blue sleeveless shirt with tan polka dots and a light cardigan; she also had changed from her heels into more reasonable ballet flats. The outfit on most women would probably look casual, but Sabrina still looked like she was a powered woman attempting to go casual; he knew it had to do with the way she carried herself. “I keep clothes in the office, just in case. Does this seem more fitting for the boat trip?”

He couldn’t speak at first, just nodding his head in agreement. “Um… yeah, okay, so I think we need to get going. The boat should be ready for us about the time we get there,” he held out his hand to her, hoping she would take it. He wanted to put his arm around her but would settle for hand holding right now. Her touch sent electricity through is body, he knew this was going to be bad.

The walk to the boat ramp was short, and they were, indeed, ready for them when they arrived. Sabrina knew how much the private boat tour cost so she was surprised that he was doing this. “Are you really that much of a fan of architecture?”

“Actually, I am because I am a little bit of a nerd if you must know. But, I have to admit, this was also a good way for me to be able to steal you away from the office. Figuring you wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to listen to a topic that is close to your heart. Plus, if you are on a boat with me, you can’t run away.” Sabrina let out a light laugh at this comment, and Chris felt relieved that she could take some good natured ribbing.

The two of them walked up the ramp and stepped onto the boat where they were greeted by the Captain. They were then introduced to their Architectural Society docent, Millie. Millie looked to be in her early twenties, which caught Sabrina off-guard. Usually, the volunteers she had seen on the boat tours were older men and women who had been on the architectural scene for many years. She was a sweet young woman, and they introduced themselves to her using only their first names. Chris noticed that she was staring at him rather intently, but she never said anything. He figured she must recognize him but was afraid to say anything, maybe she would warm up by the end of the trip. The boat was the Lady Grebe, a small private boat that could only accommodate up to six passengers and was designed for private tours. Chris and Sabrina took their seat along the back of the vessel on a wicker loveseat, providing them a beautiful view of the river and intimate seating.

Chris put his arm around Sabrina and pulled her towards him, he leaned over and whispered in her ear, “Are you going to set her straight if she gets anything wrong?”

She shook her head, “No, that would be rude; but I will interrupt her if she says anything disparaging about my family. Besides, she is so young, I don’t want to crush her spirit or hurt her feelings.”

While they were waiting to get started, Chris figured he would strike up a general conversation with Millie to see if he could warm her up a little. “So, Millie, how long have you been doing these tours?”

“I just started, this is probably my fifth or sixth one. I’m a student at UIC, and I decided this would be a unique way to put my love of architecture and design to work while I am in school. I’ve taken this tour so many times that it only seemed right to actually give it.”

“Well, we look forward to it, and we promise to be attentive.”

The boat started up, and the Captain prepared to push off. Millie began her presentation, talking about the birth of the city of Chicago and the importance of the river and trade. As the boat began it’s journey down the river, Millie started to talk about the city’s architect, Sabrina’s great grandfather, Daniel Burnham. She pointed out the Wrigley Building and discussed his influence on the city during his lifetime and how that plays out today through the work of his great-granddaughter, Sabrina Burnham.

Millie explained that Sabrina had been responsible for the rebirth of the modern skyscrapers and the unique designs that have been incorporated into the skyline. She has a vision, like her great-grandfather, for what the city can be and how to innovate through aesthetics and design. Millie told them she would point out Sabrina’s buildings throughout the tour, although they should be easy to spot as they do stand out and that was a positive. Chris glanced over at her and noticed that she was blushing and keeping her head down, she seemed truly humbled at what Millie was saying.

“Are you alright?” He asked quietly.

She nodded, “I guess I didn’t realize what they said about my family or me on this tour. I’m embarrassed to know that every cruise, day after day says the same thing; it’s just an odd feeling.” Chris squeezed her a little tighter, he saw a softer side to her, and he figured she didn’t show that very often.

A short time into the trip, they unpacked their picnic lunch and the bottle of wine. They snacked and even shared their food with Millie, trying to be polite as they were afraid it was rude to eat in front of her. Millie chatted with them about the different buildings and architectural styles that ran throughout the city; providing anecdotal stories to go with the buildings and who built them. They were at the end of the river, near Navy Pier and looking at the skyline and taking in the beauty of the city.

“You do have a beautiful city,” Chris remarked.

In unison, Millie and Sabrina both said: “Yes, we do!”

“Hey, Millie, I have a question,” Chris started off, “Can you tell me about a particular building? I was having a bit of a discussion with this beautiful woman a few nights ago and told her that I really liked an individual building.”

“Sure, which building is that?”

“I think it is called Aqua?”

“Oh yes! You do have a keen eye. That building is unique because of it’s mixed use and the use of the concrete and limestone to offer unique balconies and overhangs. From the sides, the building offers a unique design that compliments the surroundings. There is a rooftop pool and running track as well. It is the first building in the city that provided office space, a hotel, apartments, condos and penthouses all in one location.”

“Wow, it is definitely unique then and quite beautiful. So, who was the designer on that?”

“It is a Sabrina Burnham building, it is probably her most famous building actually. Although, there is talk that she will be building a grand building in that empty lot over there where the defunct Spire project was supposed to go. And from what I have heard, the Mayor loves the design and if it gets built, well, that might be the most famous building this city has ever seen.”

“So, in other words, this woman is a pretty big deal around here?” When he asked this question, she swiftly elbowed him in the side.

“Oh, yes, a huge deal. She is actually one of the reasons I got into architecture and design.”

Sabrina set up straight, “Really? Why is that?”

“Well, she is a successful woman in a field that is dominated by men. She has proven that a woman can do this job and be successful, and that is a fantastic role model for young girls. I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen her or met her, but I hear she is wonderful. Very bright and charming but you want to stay on her good side, she is definitely a shark in business. She does not let anyone walk over her, and she usually gets what she wants. She is very philanthropic, too. She abides by her great-grandfather’s mission to serve although it is my understanding she tries to keep that quiet.”

The boat pulled into the dock, and they were given the all clear to get up and disembark. As they were leaving, Chris thanked Millie for the enjoyable cruise and all of the information she provided. As he stepped off, Chris reached back for Sabrina’s hand to help her off the boat and to guide her down the walkway. Sabrina got about ten steps away when she turned around and walked back up the walkway and approached Millie.

“Millie, I should have done this before I got off the boat the first time, I didn’t formally introduce myself.”

“Oh you did, you told me your name was Sabrina when you got on the boat. I remembered thinking to myself how much I like the name, and I immediately thought of Ms. Burnham.”

“Yeah, well the thing is,” she extended her hand, “I am Sabrina Burnham and I was on this tour because my friend, Chris, well he wanted to take the tour and he dragged me out of my office.” Millie shook her hand, and you could see, in her eyes, the fear and excitement mixed together. “You did an excellent job on the tour and thank you for the things you said. I’m humbled to think that you are pursuing your dream because of me. I wish you all the luck in the world and call my office and set up an appointment for me to see your work. I’d love to see it and potentially provide some mentoring if you would like.”

Chris watched the interaction between Millie and Sabrina; he couldn’t hear what was being said, but he had a relatively good idea. He watched as she stepped back off the boat and he could not wipe the smile off his face. “You introduced yourself to her, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, I did. She was a little shocked. Is that how kids react when they realize you’re Captain America?”

“Something like that,” he said laughing. He reached down and took her hand, and they began to walk along the river.

“I guess that you were a little embarrassed though with all the things she said?”

She turned and looked at him, “Just a little, I should be used to people saying things about me in my presence, I’ve received awards and accolades before.” She heard him scoff at these words, “I’m not being conceited or arrogant, Chris. I can’t help it that I’ve been successful, and I’ve heard these things. The difference is I hear them from people who are blowing smoke up my skirt and who want something from me; I never take it seriously and figure most of it is just to try and inflate my ego.”

“And it works, right? I mean you do feel pretty confident about yourself, I can see it in the way you carry yourself.”

She stopped walking and let go of his hand, “What? So I guess you think I’m a conceited bitch then?”

“No, oh hell, no I didn’t mean it like that,” he suddenly began fumbling over his words.

“Look, I am confident about my abilities not because I have someone at an award presentation tell me I’m great. I’m confident when my design gets picked, and my building gets built, and people are drawn to them. Not because a room full of crusty men decide it’d be good to put a girl in a skirt up on stage and tell her she’s fantastic for a change.”

Chris ran his hand through his hair, “Oh wow, I really didn’t mean it like that, I swear I didn’t. I just meant that you carry yourself like you know you are good at what you do, and you wear your success well.”

“Oh,” she said, dropping her head and shaking it from side to side, “I guess I am a little sensitive. Sorry about that.”

He took a step forward so he was back in front of her and reached for her hand, “It’s okay, it happens, and I can only imagine how hard it must sometimes be. No, I’m not trying to be condescending. Let’s keep walking, shall we?”

“Sure, how about I walk you over to the Tribune building? It is across the street from the Wrigley and placed on the sides you will find 150 pieces of buildings and structures from around the world. It is a neat little slice of the world, right here in Chicago.”

The two of them walked up the grand staircases from the river walkway up to the street level and then across the bridge to Michigan Avenue. They came to the Wrigley Building first as it sat on the river, Chris was impressed with the grandeur of the building. He stood there staring up at it for a few moments with no words being spoken.

Finally, Sabrina broke the ice, “Would you like my dime store tour information?” He didn’t say anything, just nodded his head. “Okay, so these buildings were started in 1920, and it took four years for them to build. They are made out of glazed terra cotta, and that is why they are so white. From time to time the entire building is washed by hand to preserve it.”

“Wow, hand washing? Would really hate to have that job.”

“This is the first office building in Chicago that had air conditioning. And the South Tower, which is taller than the North Tower, has a clock on each side. The clock face is 19 ft and 7 inches in diameter.”

“The building is gorgeous, it’s unbelievable to think that chewing gum built this, you know.”

Sabrina smiled and began walking him down the block toward Tribune Tower. “Ok, so the original Tribune building was destroyed by the great fire and in 1922 a contest was held to come up with a design for a new building. The winning design would receive $50,000 as the grand prize. There ended up being 260 entries submitted and the winning design was from two architects from New York named Howells and Hood.”

“New Yorkers built the quintessential Chicago newspaper building? That’s an interesting piece of trivia.”

“Well, here’s a better piece of trivia for you. The Tribune owns a television station, when they were trying to come up with the call letters they decided it should relate it back to the fact that they were the world’s greatest newspaper. Thus, the TV station was called WGN.”

“Oh you are making that up, that is not why it’s called WGN.”

“Google is your friend my dear, look it up! The building was started in 1923 and finished in 1925. We can walk around and see fragments from historical buildings and locations around the world that are put into the foundation.”

As they crossed the street and approached the building, Chris realized she was telling the truth. He saw a piece of the TajMahal, and as he walked around the corner, he saw a piece of the Parthenon in Greece. He had to admit, having an architect as a tour guide could really come in handy from time to time. He had not let go of her hand since he had recaptured it after their little argument on the river walk. It felt natural to have her hand in his and honestly, he wished he had the guts to put his arm around her waist and pull her to him. He was positive she had no idea as to the effect she had on him.

The ended up walking around the building and looking at the relics for a few minutes before continuing to stroll down Michigan Ave. They walked hand in hand, no words were spoken for at least a block when Chris decided to venture into the family waters. “I know who your great-grandfather was, thanks to Millie and the tour. But why don’t you tell me about you and your immediate family? Were you born here in Chicago?”

“Yes, born and raised. I went to college here, I’ve never lived anywhere else, and I don’t want to. I’ve traveled for work, gone to incredible cities here in the US and abroad, but I always come home to Chicago.”

“You said your father was an architect, was your mom?”

“When did I tell you my father was an architect?”

“When we had drinks the other night at the Hancock, you told me you were an architect like your father and grandfather. So, I guess it runs in the family?”

“Wow, so you were actually listening to me the other night? Yeah, it runs in the family, but I am the first woman to take the mantle and run with it. See, my dad had several brothers and they all had multiple children, boys, and girls. Same up the line in the family tree. But my mom and dad only had one child, and they got stuck with a girl. Mom almost died in childbirth, and they told my parents not to have any more kids, so they got stuck with a girl and no boys.”

“I’m sure they didn’t see it as being stuck with a girl. I’m sure you were a precious little thing,” he reached over with is free hand and pinched her cheek as they walked, making her smile.

“Well, dad was disappointed at first, but he got over it I guess. The family business began to die down, and the boys in the family began to branch out and go in other directions. I loved to design and draw and build, it was a passion for me from a young age. When the men in the family turned their back on the family business, I stood up and said I wanted to be a part of it.”

“I take it they didn’t care for it? Did your own family ridicule you?”

“Oh yeah, they thought I should do more womanly pursuits, like cooking and cleaning. Instead, I went to design school and never took no for an answer. I don’t know if you’ve figured this out yet or not, but I am fiercely independent.”

Chris put his hand to his chest as if in shock, “What? You’re kidding, I would have never guessed,” he began to laugh. “I think that is why I like you, you are definitely spirited.”

“Yeah, that is a polite way to put it. I just started standing up for myself and not backing down when I was told ‘no.’ My mother wanted me to turn and run, and my father was afraid I would get hurt but he encouraged me to fight. So, I did.”

“I’m sure they are very proud of you.”

“Mom died about ten years ago. She had lung cancer, it was awful, and I don’t wish that on anyone. Dad had a hard time dealing with it, they had been married for almost fifty years so he didn’t know what to do with himself when she was gone.” Sabrina was somber, and again, he didn’t intend for her to be this way but he was not going to apologize for seeing a softer side to this incredibly complicated woman. “Three years ago, dad and I were out shopping. He told me he didn’t feel good and wanted to know if we could go home. I said sure, and when I put my stuff down and turned around, he had collapsed. He had a massive heart attack and died instantly. I haven’t been able to go to the Farmer’s Market since.”

“Oh, Sabrina, I am so sorry. But they both got to see your career take off, right? I mean they saw how successful you had become and what you had achieved?”

“Yeah, and Dad even told me, probably a month before he died, that he wasn’t so sure that I could make it in the architectural world. He thought I was too soft and girly, but now he realized that I had bigger balls than some of the guys I worked with, and he was impressed with what I had accomplished.”

Chris let out a hearty laugh and clutched his chest in his classic left boob grab, “Oh my goodness, that is fantastic. He actually said that to you? Oh, I wish I could have met him.”

“He would have liked you, I’m pretty sure of it,” they walked a few steps more, “So, you’ve heard all about my family, enough about me. Tell me what I need to know about Chris Evans. Where are you from?

“Boston, I was born in the city but raised in the suburbs. I have a brother and two sisters, my parents are divorced. That happened when I was 18 so I had a relatively normal and stable childhood. My dad is a dentist, and my mom is the creative director at a Children’s Theater. I’ve got two nephews and a niece, and I play a superhero on the big screen, but I am a big, goofy guy most of the time.”

“So, you are not like Captain America? All straight-laced and perfect?”

“No, although I think sometimes my mother wishes I would be a little more like Cap and a little less like Chris. How about you, does this news disappoint you?”

“No, just the opposite,” there was a bit of mischief in her eye as she spoke these words, “I’d get really bored with the straight-laced guy all the time, I like a guy who can get into a little trouble now and then.”

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