"Hi, Buddy, what's up besides your pecker." These dubious words of wisdom came from Agnes, the 45-year-old waitress at Mack's Diner. It was late one rainy night and I had dropped in for my customary dinner after work. Mack's Diner was in, what had once been, a fashionable part of town but now was just one step away from skid row. It had become, over the years, a local greasy spoon, frequented by seniors on a fixed income who didn't want to cook at home, singles, like myself, who had no culinary skills and the occasional lost stranger who dropped in for directions, a cup of coffee, or a piece of pie.
"Nothing much, it's been a rough day. Where's Rosie?" Rosie was the other waitress and my favorite. Although I knew she was only 23 years old she looked 16, a little pudgy, creamy white skin, red hair, millions of freckles and the most charming smile and bubbly personality you could imagine.
Agnes poured my coffee while she told me the story. "The poor kid is out back crying her eyes out. That scumbag druggie boyfriend of hers left yesterday. He must have been planning this for weeks. Without her knowing it, last week he gave the landlord notice that they were leaving. When she got home last night she found her clothes packed up in grocery bags in the hallway of the apartment. The boyfriend sold all the furniture that she was paying for on her credit card and the landlord took possession of the apartment. Then, last night, when she went to the ATM machine to get some cash to get a motel room she found her bank account cleaned out. Her credit cards are maxed out so she had to spent the night in her car."
I couldn't believe that anyone would treat sweet little Rosie that bad. I knew she was naive but I never thought she would let someone take advantage of her like that. Then it dawned on me, that I only knew her from the Diner and really didn't know anything about her personal life. "Ask her to come out and talk to me. I'll take that booth over in the corner."
Agnes disappeared into the kitchen with my message while I moved my coffee cup and silverware to the booth. I had no idea I was going to do or even what business of mine her problems were, I just knew that I felt sorry for Rosie and wanted to help.
I had thrown myself into work after my wife and I divorced nine years ago. She took everything we had of value in return for letting me keep my fledgling import/export business. After five years of 12 to 14 hour days, seven days a week, I was now "successful." I had received an attractive offer to sell the business and was very seriously considering retiring with a couple of million bucks at age 38.
"Hi Buddy." Rosie's eyes were red and puffy but she was smiling a little. "What can I get you for dinner?"
"Nothing Rosie. Agnes told me about your problems. Why don't you let me take you to dinner somewhere besides this place?"
"Oh, I'd like that but I don't think Mack would let me go. Besides, I'm still wearing the same uniform I had on yesterday. I desperately need a bath." She started away from the table then suddenly turned and came back. "I'll tell you what, let me serve you dinner, then I'll go with you to your place and use your shower. How's that for a deal?"
I thought it was pretty exciting. Rosie didn't know me except from the diner. I didn't think she knew that I had recently bought a very upscale condominium in a new high-rise building. "OKAY, you got a deal!" I glanced at the menu but since it was Tuesday I knew that the daily entree was veal Parmesan. "I'll have the special."
Rosie was smiling as she served my dinner. The rain and the late hour must have been holding customers off, so when she wasn't busy she slid in to the booth across from me. "I guess Agnes told you about my problems. I'm completely broke. The only money I have is my tips from yesterday and today and I only have two days pay coming. If you have an extra bed maybe you'd let me crash there for a few days until I can get myself together."
I was overjoyed when she first suggested coming home with me, but now I wasn't too sure. After all, I was at least 15 years older than she was and didn't know anything at all about her. I had been so busy building my business the last few years that there had not been time for women or anything else resembling a social life. Well, I had committed myself now.
I finished my dinner, left a generous tip and went to the counter to pay the tab. Agnes took my money while Rosie bussed the table. "Rosie told me that she was going home with you. You better be good to her or you'll answer to me! She's a sweet kid and I don't want to see her hurt again."
While I was reflecting on what Agnes had told me Rosie came out of the back room putting on a sweater. "I'm ready. Which is your car? I'll follow you. Everything I own is in my trunk."
She didn't say anything else but her eyes got wide when I indicated my big, new, Mercedes. She fell in behind me with her old Toyota and followed me to the parking lot of the condominium, and parked in a guest spot in the underground garage.
"This is some swanky place." She remarked as we stepped into the elevator, loaded down with her stuff.
My 12th floor penthouse apartment had a stunning view of the city and the ocean beyond the lights. The interior of the apartment had been designed by one of the city's top decorators. For some unknown reason it suddenly became important for me to impress this young nymph. I watched for the sparkle in her eyes when I opened the apartment door. It was there, along with a sharp intake of her breath. "Old my goodness, how beautiful!" I was beaming.
I tried to get her busy stowing her gear but she was standing on the balcony taking in the view. "Come on and I'll show you where you can put your stuff." I made the ultimate sacrifice to gallantry when I added, "Unfortunately I have converted the spare bedroom into an office so I'll bunk on the couch in there and you can have my bed."
She smiled a bit at this news but was not to be patronized. "Oh no, I couldn't take your bed, I'll take the couch."
This was what I wanted in the first place so I didn't protest too much. I showed her the "guest" bathroom and got her fresh towels. We went to bathe, but unfortunately to separate bathrooms. I could still hear the other shower running when I had finished. I brushed my teeth, shaved, doused myself with a liberal dose of Paco Rabanne and put on a pair of loose fitting shorts. In order not to appear too "ready" I added a polo shirt.