San Francisco, city of my birth, must be just about the best damn place in the whole world for a single guy. Not just because there are more women than men, but because it's a faery city as well as a city of fairies. From any vista point, you might feel you were overlooking a silvered, shimmering Oz.
"Mornin' Sally. How you doin' this beautiful day?"
"Good morning to you, Gavin. I'm doin' okay."
The tall blond hid a large yawn behind long, red tipped fingers.
"Are we keeping you up, beautiful?" I teased.
"Late party last night. Low fat Latte?"
"As always." I eyed her slim hips as she turned to the Espresso machine. You could keep me up all night, you pretty thing. Just wrap those long legs around my neck and hang on. I almost chided myself for thinking lewd thoughts about this warm hearted young woman. Almost.
"Who was that big New York Jewish woman with you the other night?"
I didn't remember seeing Sally in my favorite Potrero Hill coffee stop, the Daily Scoop.
"A friend who was house guesting for a few days. She's thinking about immigrating. How did you know she's New York Jewish?"
"I recognize the style."
I almost couldn't hear her words over the machine's steam blast.
"And she has that nose made famous by Striesand."
Could only nod acceptance.
Sally turned to slide the tall Latte glass across the counter.
"You're a slut," she stated softly, grinning, her eyes sparkling.
"What?" I almost shouted, feeling a flash of horrific. If she'd stuck a finger in my eye, I couldn't have felt more pain. "I am not!"
Sally's steady grin held firm, despite my forceful denial.
"Every Saturday night, you're in here with a different woman. You are definitely a slut." She tried to quell her grin, forcing her full, wide lips into a puckered half frown.
My mouth hung open as I tried to find the words to deny, to explain, to mask the awful embarrassment of truth.
"You're cute when you blush," she noted, almost an aside. "I've seen you in action. You're a smooth talker, could prob'ley sell freezers to Inuits."
She plucked dollar bills from my numb fingers.
She gave her smile to the next person in the queue as I turned away, feeling confused.
Burying myself in the Sunday Chronical didn't work. Rambling thoughts confounded me.
Yes, I like women, and they like me. I've known more than a few, but to be called a slut hurt. I felt diminished by the cruel label, and didn't like it one little bit. What the hell's wrong with a little recreational sex? Or a lot of recreational sex? I decided to accept the title, to not feel demeaned by it.
"Hey, din't mean to hurt your feelin's, guy."
Sally slumped into the chair opposite, a hint of worry in her pretty blues, dark circles under her eyes.
"No, you just..." I looked closely at her slightly reddened eyes. "Got me stuck in a loop. You look..." I almost said 'terrible', but closed my yap in time.
"Had a 'disagreement' with my boy friend last night. We stayed up most all night after the party trying to talk it out, but..." she sighed heavily, dropping her eyes to her hands, her shoulders slumping.
"Tell me about it. I'm a good listener too." I grinned at her.
Sally made a small sound as if to reject the offer. After a moment, her eyes peeped up through pale yellow bangs.
She shrugged, clearly emoting 'nothing to lose'.
"Brian's a guy's guy. He's a good salesman, makes lotsa money, likes to hang with his buds after work, shooting hoops, drinking beer. Then he comes to my place and 'bops me a good one'." She snorted softly, shaking her head. "His words."
Sally sat taller in her chair, pulling her shoulders hard back for a few seconds, finally making eye contact with me. My eyeballs strained not to stare at her modest breasts.
"Then he wants me to fix him breakfast, and make like nice little wifey." Her eyes tightened. "He doesn't care I've my own agenda."
"So you butter both sides of his toast. What's on your agenda, Sally?" I asked her softly.
"I want to get married, to finish my degree, then make some babies." She tilted her head slightly, frowning. "That's not too far out, is it?"
"Sounds okay to me," I shrugged. I felt like picking her up in my arms, and carrying her to a warm safe place. "What's his problem, do you think?"
"He's thirty, says he doesn't want to get serious yet. He wants me to live with him, but doesn't want to get married for a few years. I'm sorta conservative, you know? I grew up in a small town that Norman Rockwell coulda sued for copyright infringement."
Laughing, I asked, "But you're sleeping with him, so you can't be that conservative."
"Should have said conventional. There's not much to do in a small town, so..." She grinned lewdly. "Most of us started, um, having sex pretty early." She burbled a big sigh through fluttering lips. "He's really a nice guy, and, when he turns it on, could charm the socks off a nudist."
We shared a small laugh.
"Thanks, Gavin. You made me feel better." She put a quick friendly smile on, reaching over to squeeze my arm. "Back to work," she said, standing.
"Give me your phone number, Sal. I'll call you later." I brought out my pen and poised it over a napkin.
"What for?" she asked, her eyes narrowing slightly.
"I'll ask a friend how she handled her Peter Pan, and will gladly share it with you."
"Oh, cool." She gave me her number, no longer guarded.
For the next while, my eyes were either on the Sunday paper or on her. She shared her warmth and friendly smile with each customer, though not with her usual energy. Damn, she's such a pretty one, I thought several times, trying to quash a tingle of lust, and not succeeding. Not succeeding at all.
That afternoon I called her, expecting to leave a message on her recorder, but she picked up.
"Hello," she answered softly. I could sense tears from the tone of her voice.
"Hi Sally, It's Gavin. I didn't expect to catch you. My friend is unreachable this week, so I'll have to get back to you next week or so."
"Don't bother, Gavin. I outlined my issues again and he split."
"I'm sorry to hear that." Like hell I was. "You okay?"
"No, I'm not. I feel like shit. Like a dog turd, squished on the sidewalk."
I listened to her snuffle for a moment.
"May I help you, Sally? What's your address, I'll come and take you to a beautiful place to contemplate your universe."
"I'd love to, Gavin, but I'm a mess. Maybe some other day. Okay? I just want to crawl into bed and pull the covers up over my head."
"Just give me an hour." I tried not to sound too pleading. "Please. I can guarantee you'll feel better."
Miracle's do happen. I picked her up in front of her flat, short blocks down the hill from mine. She was sitting on the narrow granite stairway with her cheek on her knees, her straight hair a cascade of shimmering gold down to her ankles. When she heard my car, she unwrapped her arms from around her legs as she twisted her head to look up.
When I waved, she made a weak smile and stood; long slim legs and torso slowly unfolding. She'd changed from tight jeans to a knee length, dark skirt and white blouse. She looked simply California Blonde Beautiful, even if her slouch marred the effect.
I leaned to open the car door for her. She tossed a ski jacket into the back seat before swiveling her butt into the leather bucket seat, flashing a long, slim bare leg.
I had to gulp and swallow, my mouth suddenly flooding with saliva. "Be cool. Be cool. Be cool," I subvocalized. I could feel the rush she elicited flush my cheeks.
"Where are you taking me, Gavin."
"There's a park just off Upper Market. The view is terrific, and it's very tranquil."
We rode in silence. She glanced at me several times, but I didn't respond until she didn't drop her eyes for almost half a minute.
"Why are you studying me, Sal?" I gave her a quick look. From her expression, I gathered that she was evaluating my worth, my value to her in this painful hour. I felt a tingle of goose bumps down my neck.
"You're too nice," she said, her voice flat. "You say too many nice things. Why?" she probed.
"Mm," I stalled, exaggerating a shrug. I glanced at her face again to find an amused gleam in her eyes.
"When I called you a slut, I thought your face was going to fall off." She laughed softly for a moment, as if delighted by the memory. "I'm sorry. I really didn't expect your reaction."
"I've come to terms with it, don't worry. In fact, I kinda like it, even if it's not really true."
"Liar!" she said with a soft chuckle
"I can talk, listen pretty good, whatever. Women like me, maybe 'cause it's obvious I like them." I shrugged again. "I really can't stand the company of most men." I thought about that for a moment. "Except some of the gay guys."
"You like gay guys?" She seemed surprised. "You're not..."
"No," I drawled, interrupting her. "There are just so many with a delightfully wicked sense of humour. What's to not like? You can't be comfortable in this town if you're homophobic." I held my breath, trying to feel out her reaction. "Or judgemental."
"Mm," she seemed to agree, nodding her head, the afternoon light shimmering in her long, straight yellow hair.
We rode in silence up Market Street. An oncoming yellow and green, turn of the century trolley car clattered past, its brakes squealing. Most riders seemed tucked into their own thoughts, except for the few grinning, head on a swivel, tourists.
"Where you from, Sal? Originally."
.... There is more of this story ...