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December 24th, 2003 Kim Colton | Hitched
 

Jay and Krista Wheeler

AUGUST 9, 2003

     
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The sexy barista. The dreamy bartender. The hunky dishwasher repair man. We've all had secret crushes on complete strangers. And why not? It's exciting to fantasize about the possibilities--even if we think nothing will ever come of it.

For some lucky people, that fantasy becomes a reality, and in 1995, it happened to Krista Gaylor. That's when she first developed a crush on one lanky, tattooed cashier at Powell's City of Books. At 28, she was working as a nanny and performing in God's Favorite Pussy, a local performance troupe. When she'd visit Powell's with her two charges in tow, she admits she'd keep an eye out for a certain cashier. She didn't know his name. Back then, she simply referred to him as "the cute guy who worked at Powell's."

"I'd come in and I'd try to flirt with him," she says. "He would just have none of it."

If she'd known better, she could have understood why: "The cute guy" was Jay Wheeler, then 29, and then married.

She also didn't know that books weren't the only thing Jay was checking out when Krista would reach the counter. Jay admits he didn't send any signals, for a couple of reasons. First, he was, after all, married; and second, he thought those two kids on her arm were her own.

Good thing the two had time on their side.

Three years later, Krista had ditched the kids and (by total coincidence, she claims) started working at Powell's. At the same time, Jay found himself going through a divorce. Both say they still secretly fancied each other, though only their coworkers knew of the mutual attraction. Jay says he'd always considered Krista out of his league.

"I was pretty much afraid of her," Jay says. "Not afraid, but she's just gorgeous."

When he learned that he'd be sharing a shift with Krista once a week in the Rare Book room--out of the more than 400 employees in the company, he'd been assigned to work with the woman he had a crush on--he suffered from a case of nervousness.

"Three hours in the morning every Sunday?" he says. "I was going to freak out."

Jay survived the anxiety. "It was probably a couple of weeks before I realized she was human," he says.

They developed a friendship through their yearlong stint looking after dusty first editions. One of their biggest topics of conversation was Jay's failed marriage. Jay admits he was still processing it and Krista helped by lending her ear.

Sure, she listened, but she also took mental notes. Krista mentions that Jay rebounded into a relationship around that time and she didn't mind one bit.

"That was all part of the plan," she laughs. "I didn't want to be the girlfriend-after-the-wife. I wanted to be the girlfriend-after-the-girlfriend."

No flirting, no coffee dates--the two remained "just friends" until the summer of 2000, when Krista asked Jay out on a date after an employee wedding.

When they say they've been inseparable ever since, they mean it: After a month of dating, Krista moved into Jay's rented Mount Tabor home, and both still work at Powell's. And though, like all store employees, they've been working without a contract, the couple signed their own--as a marriage license--this summer.

The ceremony--arranged nine months after Jay proposed in a museum deli--was a lavish affair on a cherry farm in Mosier, with catering by Ripe, a surprise bagpiper and a Vera Wang wedding dress. The whole windswept event was a fantasy, Krista says, come to life.

A fantasy--just like the ending to a story about a secret crush she once had on a cute bookstore cashier.

 
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