On Love

'I didn't want to miss my chance'

Krysta Borkowski and Mike Scanlon can credit the 2007 holiday shopping season and a couple of shoplifters for helping them find each other -- and fall in love.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 7, 2010

The first time she met Mike Scanlon, Krysta Borkowski had just caught two teenage girls shoplifting. The Virginia Tech senior was home for Christmas break, working at Macy's at Fair Oaks Mall the day after Thanksgiving in 2007, when she called Fairfax County police to help with the incident. She knew two of the officers who showed up from previous cases, but didn't recognize Scanlon.

"I thought he was the cute, hot cop," she recalls. "But I also really liked his sense of humor -- he was the one who kept everybody laughing."

Borkowski, then 22, guessed that Scanlon was about 28, and though she'd had an on-again, off-again boyfriend since high school, she hoped that duty would call Scanlon back to the mall a few more times that holiday season.

In fact, he'd be there almost every day. Scanlon had been on the force for 13 years, but this was the first time he'd been assigned to the Christmas anti-theft team. His unit was specifically tasked with covering Fair Oaks; he and a partner would patrol the mall in 11-hour shifts looking for criminal activity.

Borkowski spent her days in a closet-size room full of dozens of monitors. After working as a salesperson at the store for several years during high school, she'd joined their loss prevention team and was responsible for helping to prevent thefts and accidents.

Because of Macy's size, Scanlon checked in regularly with Borkowski's security office. Between laps around the mall, he'd plant himself in the tiny room to watch their shoppers -- and visit the pretty blonde with the easy laugh.

"I was enamored enough with her that I would always volunteer to go in early," he recalls.

Over the weeks leading up to Christmas, the dark office became, he says, "like a confessional, almost. A lot of sharing was done in that office and expressing how we felt about life and the world in general -- politics, religion, everything."

Borkowski told Scanlon about the problems she and her sometimes-boyfriend were having. Scanlon told her he wasn't 28, as she'd assumed -- he was 37, father of two teenage daughters who live in Upstate New York and just coming off a divorce after 16 years of marriage.

"It was open disclosure from the very beginning," she says.

Her crush grew increasingly intense, but Borkowski was certain the feelings weren't mutual. "I just kept telling my friend, 'Oh, I hope he comes today,' " she recalls.

In January, the week before she went back to school, Borkowski made brownies for all the officers who'd helped throughout the season. "I wanted to show appreciation for their work, and I also had an ulterior motive -- for him to recognize that I liked him," she says.

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