Before I begin this tale I must tell you, this is not another one of those Cinderella stories, life, as I’ve learned, is hardly a fairy tale. Besides, I would look really bad in a dirty white, raggedy dress. I wasn’t born to a step mother with two evil step sisters, I’m hardly prince charming and I sure ain’t the fairy godmother. I’m just me; plain old me.
I guess I should start at the beginning so things don’t turn out backwards. Yes, life hasn’t been a walk in the park for me, nor was I born with a golden spoon in my mouth, more like a pitiful request for a morsel of food.
Okay, so perhaps I am exaggerating a bit, but if you can imagine the very bottom of the ladder, that’s me. My family was poor and I had three older brothers to boot. Indeed, they were a source of comfort; when one would beat me up, I would always have another shoulder to turn to. My parents barely had money for food, much less for education or anything else like that. However, I grew up fine, am quite healthy, if I may say so myself, and have even exploited…I mean, put to good use, the country’s different services. I had been having such a wonderful time with said services that I quickly found myself the guest of another one of those services. Yes, you guessed correctly, I found myself thrown in jail. My parents, of course, didn’t have the money to bail me out and so they simply “decided” to teach me a valuable lesson.
Believe me, I learned a lot that night. For instance, I now know three very creative ways to gut a…well, you get my drift. I also found out a few more interesting tid bits about the facts of life from a fellow guest of the state. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a wuss by any means, I’m actually a pretty strong and capable woman, but Bertha, as was my new friend’s name, had a bit of an advantage over me; about a hundred or so pounds, that is.
Finally, I was released and found myself thrust out into the cold world. My parents decided to teach me another valuable lesson. Apparently I was old enough to go out on my own and find my niche in life. With barely any education and no money in my pockets, you can just imagine the tremendous luck and opportunities I encountered. Roaming the streets with no real aim started to get to me after a while and I decided enough was enough. I was a grown, mature woman with all kinds of capabilities, that still elude me, by the way, and mostly, I was determined. After several hard days on the streets, going in and out of work places, from one interview to the next, I found my calling. I was to be a restaurant’s valet. Hey, there’s a skill for you no one checks if you actually possess it. I guess my fake license that reads Wilma Jones worked. Go figure. Now don’t frown at me, you know you would have done the very same thing. I had no choice. Besides, it wasn’t like I could kill someone. The worst thing that could happen was I slammed into a car or two and got fired. Let’s just say, I learned to drive real well, real fast.
This restaurant that I worked for was considered one of the city’s finest, or so I’ve been told. If they have a valet, that should tell you something. But then again, that valet was me, so…
I didn’t have time to ponder too long and frankly, I didn’t really care. I had a job! And I was happy. It was enough for me. Other than the fine paycheck they gave me, they offered a back room in the restaurant for me to crash in along with a suave looking, red valet jacket and a kind of dorky bow tie. At least I didn’t have to wear a stupid hat, like the ones I’d seen valets in movies wear.
Standing in front of the mirror, I pulled my long black hair into a tight pony tail, straightened my bow tie and looked with satisfaction at the tiny brass plate on my chest, proudly presenting my name in black letters, Gina Rich. Now ain’t that the irony?
Sparkling blue eyes gazed at me in the mirror; I smiled and winked at my reflection then locked the door to my small room and went to do my job.
It was a really good night. Lots of people came into the restaurant, most of them seemingly well off and most of them even tipping me. I liked those customers best. It was a bit of a dull job when you think about it; patrons coming in, giving me their keys, I park their car and they go out. Very simple, all very routine. Until I found that I could actually park their cars a further ways from the restaurant. Can you hear the grin in my voice?
I had a blast. Finally, the job became more suitable for me and the cars kept getting better and better. There came a time I even stopped bothering with the “lesser” cars and took out only the serious machines. It almost felt like I was their owner and I was free to do what I pleased. But then one day things changed.
I still had a job, which surprised even me, but that wasn’t the exciting event I was talking about. One night, a couple came into my restaurant. Yeah, after a while you get possessive of the place you work for. Or perhaps it’s just my covert megalomania simmering to the surface. Anyhow, the couple didn’t interest me all that much, it was one half of that couple that captured my attention. Damn, she was so beautiful. Never in my life had I ever been even close to someone that pretty. She had long blonde hair and the most amazing sea-green eyes. She wore a long black evening dress with a simple pearl necklace around her neck. That simple necklace could probably take care of me and my entire family for a year, by the way. But I’m digressing. Her breathtaking beauty wasn’t the only thing that made me look twice, and drool, but don’t tell anyone, it was more the fact that she stopped for a moment and spoke to me. In all the time I had been working for that restaurant, none of the men’s dates ever even so much as glanced my way, much less talked to me. The men didn’t speak to me either, but they felt they needed to tell me to take good care of their baby. This girl was different.
She came up to me; ok, so she came up to the restaurant’s door, but still, I was very close by. Walking alongside her date, her arm folded in the crook of his arm, they stopped. In that moment, all movement stopped, at least for me. I think, no, I’m pretty sure, I looked like a jackass standing there with my eyes glazed over, gaping while the man said something. I felt doubly embarrassed when he had to repeat his words. He had a nice car, a very nice car and was obviously worried. I assured him that no harm would be caused to his precious car and that he could go in and dine peacefully with his beautiful girlfriend. I had actually said that. Oh my God, I still can’t believe I actually called her beautiful in front of her and her boyfriend’s face. I breathed a sigh of relief when the man hadn’t seemed to notice, but smiled a bit crookedly when I noticed a gentle blush grace the girl’s fair cheeks. He threw the keys in the air, hoping I would catch them without having to touch him and then turned and started pulling his date into the restaurant. The girl lingered for a moment, looked at me and smiled, then with a shy little wave, followed her date.
I knew I would be having a lot of fun with this car. It was sleek, it was wild, it was fast. I practically jumped into the driver’s seat and revved the engine with delight. Not wasting time, I sped off. The restaurant was no longer visible since I decided to park it as far away as I possibly could. After a few minutes of roaming around at top speed, I found a comfy parking space and decided to take my chances and rush into it. In retrospect, that wasn’t such a good idea. The space being a parallel parking, something I wasn’t too good at to begin with, going at a lower speed might have been a better idea. The sound of the loud crash rang in my ears, making me cringe. Wide eyed and nervous, I quickly scrambled out of the car to look at the damage. Hoping against all hope I had only damaged the other car, I looked through squinted eyelids. A loud groan escaped my lips involuntarily. I was in deep shit and I knew I couldn’t run. The restaurant’s owner, my boss, had been good to me and all of my stuff was back there, so I couldn’t possibly make a run for it. I was a grown up and I had to face the consequences of my actions, no matter what they may be. I got back into the car, slowly pulled out…don’t ask me why, I know the damage had already been done but I wasn’t sure if the car would survive another hit…and drove back to the restaurant.
Lucky me, the owner of the car and his beautiful date were waiting by the curb for my arrival. If I could clearly describe the look on the man’s face when he saw his car, I would truly be an artist. He almost looked like a funny caricature from one of those animated movies I used to enjoy watching when I was back at home. His face contorted in all sorts of shapes and he was changing shades faster and better than any chameleon I had ever encountered. An assortment of choked sounds escaped his throat and I was momentarily afraid he would have a stroke. His girlfriend simply stood there, next to him, motionless, and watched the spectacle that her boyfriend had become. If I hadn’t been the target of his deadly stares, I would have laughed. I stopped the car in front of them and slowly got out. The minute I stepped onto the curb and opened my mouth to explain, the man grabbed me by the lapels of my jacket and started shaking me, screaming at me at such frequency that I thought my ears would start bleeding. I guess I missed the horrified look on the woman’s face, but faster than a speeding bullet, she was there, trying to pull him off of me.
“Josh, what are you doing? Let her go!” She screamed in helplessness.
Josh seemed oblivious though, he kept shaking me and screaming till his face was almost blue. His veins had an interesting twitch to them and I started counting the seconds before one of them would explode and splatter me in the face. After what seemed like an hour but was probably no more than a few long seconds, I had had enough. Using my superior height, I pushed him off, and in the process knocked him down on the floor. The surprise that registered on his face quickly changed into a deeper shade of rage. He got to his feet and before he could come at me, fists swinging, the restaurant’s manager stepped out.
“What is going on here?” He asked angrily, looking from me to Josh and back.
“This…This woman!” Josh spat, “wrecked my car!”
“Gina?” He turned around to look at me. He never did like me.
“It was an accident, I’ll pay for it.” I had no idea at that moment how I could possibly ever afford to pay for the car’s repairs, but I was willing to say just about anything.
“You’ll pay for it alright. You’re fired and you’re salary will be given to you, sir, for the repairs.” The manager said.
“You, you can’t fire me.” I swallowed convulsively. He wasn’t the owner and the owner wouldn’t fire me, or would he?
“I can and I just did. Pack your things from the back and leave, immediately.” With that, he turned on his heel and went back inside, leaving me alone with the couple.
“Josh! How could you? They fired her because of this. It’s not like you need her money to repair your stupid car.” Said the beauty. In my opinion, she was stunning even when she was seething. And I couldn’t understand, for the heck of me, why she was seething at her boyfriend when it was me that wrecked their ride.
Josh turned his angry gaze to his date, “I’m glad they fired this incompetent idiot! How could they hire a female valet in the first place anyhow?! Maybe her losing her job and her salary will teach her to take better care of other people’s stuff! And you dare call this car stupid?! If you don’t like it so much, how about you walk home!”
A pretty flush rose in the woman’s cheeks and she seemed just about ready to slap Josh senseless, but just at that moment, instead of her open palm, her closed fist connected solidly with the side of his face. A loud, sickening, crunching sound was heard and then Josh’s tormented scream let loose into the night air. “You bitch!” He screamed, still holding onto his already swelling eye. When I saw his arm swing back, I sprang into action. I grabbed his arm and pulled it behind his back, both immobilizing him and causing him a bit of needless pain.
“Don’t you dare raise a hand at her,” I said simply and shoved his arm a notch further up his back for good measure.
Josh only squeaked pathetically in response. I let go of his arm when I thought he had had enough and he quickly scrambled away from me and his, apparently, ex-girlfriend. He opened the door of his car and pointed an angry finger at the girl, “You’ll regret this and when you do and come crawling back to me, I’ll laugh in your face and treat you the way you deserve!” Slamming the door shut, he sped off, wheels screeching and all.
Suddenly, I was left all alone with the vision of my dreams and my entire bravado seemed to have sped off with Josh’s car. She looked at me shyly and we both started talking at the same time,
Chuckling lightly, the ice broke a bit and I said, “I’m so sorry for causing all this trouble. I never meant for any of this to happen…”
She stopped me with a sweet smile, “It’s okay. I know you didn’t do this on purpose. Though I have to say that I’ll forever have Josh’s expression burned into my mind. That was priceless.”
I rubbed my chin in embarrassment and smiled shyly, “Yeah, he seriously freaked out.”
“Hey, I’m sorry for having gotten you fired. If you’ll tell me the amount of your salary, I would be happy to write you a check…”
My eyes opened wide in surprise, “What? No, no, I can’t let you do that. I deserved it and besides, I wouldn’t take your money for anything.”
She smiled shyly and lowered her gaze. Looking around in somewhat of a helpless expression, she sighed deeply, held up the hem of her dress and carefully sat down on the concrete pavement. I blinked in surprise, pulled up my black pants and sat down beside her.
“I’m Gina, by the way.” I said as charmingly as possibly, offering my hand in greeting.
She blushed and said, “Oh gosh, where are my manners. I’m Lori.” She took my hand in a firm handshake and then laid her palms softly on the fabric covering her knees.
“I’m so sorry for causing you all this trouble. Because of me, he ran out on you and…”
Before I could continue she stopped me and said, “No, it wasn’t your fault. He ran out on me because he was an asshole and that’s his usual self, more than anything. Please don’t feel guilty about that. I’m actually grateful to you in a way.”
I smiled crookedly, not understanding. “Okay…then why were you dating him?” The question was out before I could stop it and I blushed with embarrassment. “I’m sorry, it’s none of my business.”
Lori smiled reassuringly, “Would you stop apologizing, it’s okay. I dated him because my parents liked him and because it was expected of us. We’ve been together since high school and it was only natural that we should continue seeing each other when we started college, which would inevitably lead to marriage.” She finished the sentence with a bitter look on her face.
“I guess I’m lucky in that way; I don’t have anyone to tell me what to do and no one expects anything from me, so I’m more or less free to do as I wish with my life.” I shrugged. At the time, I didn’t really understand the look of sorrow and sympathy that crossed those beautiful features.
“So, where do you live; do you have anywhere to go to?” She asked carefully.
I shrugged again, “Not really. I was staying at the back of the restaurant, but I guess I won’t be welcome there anymore. I better go gather my stuff before they throw it away though.” Getting back to my feet, I helped Lori up as well.
“Would you like to stay with me for a while? I have more than enough room and I still feel a little guilty for everything that happened.”
I shook my head, “No, it’s okay, I’ll be fine. Like I said, please don’t feel guilty, you had nothing to do with this, it was all me. But thank you for the generous offer.” When I turned to go to my room, her soft hand touched my arm, stopping me.
“Please don’t be stubborn. I want to do this and besides, I would like some company on the way back to my apartment.” She said with a half smile curling her pretty pink lips.
I looked deeply into her eyes for a few brief moments, seeing Lori’s jumbled emotions rushing through her sparkling depths. This must have been fate, and who was I to meddle with the hands of fate? So, I agreed.
We went to the back of the restaurant and gathered what little I owned and quickly left before they had to kick me out again.
The walk to Lori’s apartment wasn’t long and the company was marvelous. I was floating on cloud nine and it seemed like nothing could pull me down. You’re probably expecting the big blow, having me tell you that something did happen to rouse me from my joyful stupor. But alas for you, nothing happened and for once in my life, I had gotten lucky. Who would have thought I would be leaving the restaurant with the beautiful girl I had drooled all over earlier that night? Yeah, yeah…all of you are quite the smart asses. Well, I didn’t know, okay?
Lori’s apartment was a quaint little thing, very nicely and sharply decorated. Her living room formed a large square that contained a three piece black leather sofa, two end tables, a coffee table and what seemed to be a Persian rug covered the floor. The sofa faced a large screen TV and a pretty elaborate sound system. The kitchen was to the back and looked well used and yet, shiny and maintained. There were two bedrooms in the apartment; the master bedroom, which was almost as big as the restaurant I had worked in, was decorated in shades of light blue and grey. A door led to a walk-in closet and another led to an adjoining bathroom.
“Here, this will be your room.” Lori said and showed me into the guest bedroom. This room was slightly smaller than the master bedroom, but could still probably fit the entire apartment of my childhood. The room was decorated in shades of beige and white and contained much of the same things Lori’s bedroom did.
Turning to my hostess, I said, “Thank you for doing this. I really appreciate it.” I was at a loss for words and at that moment, it seemed like the thing to say. Lori just smiled and left me to settle into my new environment. It had been a while since I slept in such a large, soft bed with clean sheets. The room smelled like her. The entire house had Lori’s distinct smell and I decided, in that very moment, that I was grateful to have met her and for the fact that she was persistent.
Time flies when you’re having fun, goes the old saying. That person must have had one hell of a time. I knew what he had meant, but I also knew that I had taken more than enough advantage of her kindness. I had to start looking for someplace else to shack up or at least find a way to repay Lori’s generous hospitality. She had not only taken me in, but also kept me fed and in ways that were completely lost to me, managed to clothe me without having to embarrass me. She was my angel, but everyone has a breaking point and I never wanted to reach it with her.
One day when she came back from campus, where she studied law, she found me with my suitcase packed, waiting for her on the couch. Brows drawn and a look of worry lining her perfect features, she sat down next to me. “What’s this?”
“Lori, I can’t do this anymore. I have to go…”
“But why? Is it something I did, said?”
“No, God no, you’ve been so amazing to me, you’re my guardian angel, and even though I don’t want to lose y…I mean, I don’t want to lose all this, I’m afraid I can’t leech off of you any longer. I’ve done that long enough.”
Lori took my hand in hers and said beseechingly, “You’re not leeching off of me. You’re here because I want you to be here and I don’t want you to go. I know what you’re thinking, feeling, but it’s not true; you’re not exploiting me and I am getting something out of this as well.”
I looked at her incredulously, “What?”
“Your companionship, your friendship.” She said tentatively.
I smiled, “There is nothing that I would want more than to stay here with you, but…”
“Then stay. No buts.” She got off the couch, lifted my suitcase and took it back to my room. Standing in front of me with her hands on her hips, she looked…you guessed it, beautiful.
“You’re so beautiful, you know that?” I whispered almost unconsciously.
Lori lowered her eyes and blushed. “Thank you. So are you.” The last part was whispered so softly that I could barely make out the words, but when they did reach my ears, they filled my heart with light and joy. I felt I could fly, I was so light. Without giving my actions any thought, or considering the ramifications, I walked over to her and took her in my arms.
She felt so good, so soft. I held her tightly, reveling in the feeling of her wrapping her arms around my neck. Pulling back slightly, I tucked a strand of blonde hair behind her ear, caressing her smooth forehead in the process. Before I knew what was happening, I felt the softest touch to have ever graced my roughened lips. So this was what it meant to be touched by an angel. Our first kiss was slow and tentative; tender, sweet. Neither of us asked any questions, we simply followed our hearts, our instincts, and it felt so damn good. Slowly, little by little, the kiss grew more intense. We began exploring each other in earnest, trying to find the deepest, darkest secrets of our counterpart’s soul. To this day, I have no idea how we made it into her bedroom, but I soon found myself lying on her soft mattress, sandwiched between a fluffy cloud and heaven. We took our time undressing each other, like the unwrapping of a precious gift you had been waiting all your life to have. She was that gift to me. Our carnal dance lost all earthly meaning, it became something spiritual as our bodies gradually migrated closer and closer, to the point where we were practically one entity. When I said she was beautiful before, I was so completely wrong. The most beautiful sight that will forever be imprinted in my heart and mind was of my lovely Lori in the throes of passion. Straddling my waist, one strong thigh on each side of me, she rocked her pleasure against me, milking me from within. When I felt her getting close, I took her hands in mine, lacing our fingers together, and pulled her closer. At the moment of her peak, she opened her eyes and gazed straight into my soul. She then arched her neck backwards, clutched my hands in hers and released the sweetest sound into the still air of the room. Her release mingling with my own; entwining our souls in an unbreakable bond. Still panting and gasping for air, my love raised her head from my chest and looked into my eyes. I was perplexed at the look of worry that crossed Lori’s face.
“What’s the matter?” She asked softly, gently brushing her fingers along my cheeks.
I hadn’t noticed, but tears were slowly trickling down from my eyes, quickly being wiped away by her soft touch. I shook my head in wonder, “I don’t know. Nothing. I guess it just was…intense.”
She smiled, her worried frown still lingering however. She laid her head back on my chest and sighed in contentment.
Engulfed in her unique scent, I inhaled deeply and pressed my face into her blonde curls; tears were still running down my face steadily. “I guess I’m just happy and it’s all kind of new to me.”
“New?” She asked, mumbling into the skin of my chest.
“Yeah, new. I always wanted to know what it felt like to be really loved. And now that I do, I don’t think I can ever go back to living without.” I swallowed through the lump in my throat.
Lori raised her head slightly and said with confidence, “You’ll never again go without. Not if I can help it.”
Tucking that elusive strand of her golden hair back behind her ear, I caressed her soft cheek, “Thank you.”
She smiled that special smile of hers and laid back down, cuddling deeper into my embrace.
“I love you.”