"Come on, girls. I've already been late for work twice this week," Michelle said, cajoling her three daughters. "I can't have you girls be late for school again. The last thing I need right now is a note from your teachers," she said, pulling away from the curb.
She remembered how delighted she had been the day she was hired at the Boutique Specialty Shoppe. On her first day of work, she had shown up bright eyed and eager to please. Now, two years later, Michelle was resigned to the cold hard truth. Her job was anything but interesting. It was just a boring, dreary way for her to eke out a living.
At 32 years old, with three little girls to support, on a salary that was totally inadequate, she had grown to dread her job. She felt resentment toward the people she was forced to deal with day after day.
However, in spite of being beaten down by the daily trials of raising a family and earning a living, when Michelle looked in the mirror, she still saw an attractive young-looking female staring back at her.
When forced to start wearing glasses, she had become a bit self-conscience. She thought the glasses made her look older—yet to anyone looking at her—she still remained attractive. Even in maturity, she had managed to maintain that almost youthful look.
Her beautiful shoulder length blonde hair and trim little figure only enhanced her looks. After someone mentioned that her new glasses gave her the look of a sedate librarian, she had immediately felt better.
The exclusive little Shoppe where she worked catered to mostly affluent people. For Michelle, working around them was a constant reminder that they were well to do and she was not. Many of them turned out to be ill mannered, thoughtless, and demanding. There were days, when they seemed to enjoy going out of their way to make her life miserable.
To make matters worse, she had managed to attract the unwanted attention of a snide little Asian woman, a Mrs. Sandy Li. This sharp-tongued little female never seemed to pass up a chance to berate Michelle. This for no apparent reason other than she enjoyed doing it.
While Michelle could shrug off most of her customer's bad manners, she found it almost impossible to tolerate this woman. This sarcastic demanding little female had recently immigrated to the US from Asia. Being a little blue-eyed blonde born in this country, Michelle found it degrading and resented having to put up with this Asian female's hateful remarks.
After awhile, and for one of the few times in her life, Michelle found herself unable to avoid developing a dislike for this rude woman.
Mrs. Li would come in, usually on Tuesday, accompanied by her husband Sammy Li. During those times, she made a special point of being snide and hateful to Michelle.
After a few times, Michelle came to understand that this woman's husband was deriving a special, almost perverted pleasure, from watching the two of them. I wouldn't be surprised if he was encouraging her. What is it with him?, she thought.
It all came to a head one Friday afternoon. Their verbal exchange had become quite heated. Mrs. Li sarcastic mean-spirited comments had succeeded in making her so angry; Michelle had been forced to bite her tongue to keep from lashing back at her. To make matters worse, a few moments later, she noticed Mrs. Li had gone over and was talking to her Store Manager.
At the moment, she was waiting on one of her favorite customer. He was an attractive man, several years older than herself, who she knew only as Mr. Dalton.
Still feeling the emotional strain from being upset, she nevertheless felt regret knowing he had witnessed their little catty confrontation. Even thought the Asian female's verbal assault on her had been unfair, she still felt badly. For some reason, she thought, I want him to think well of me.
"Sorry you had to see that, Mr. Dalton," Michelle said, by way of an apology. "I'm afraid she brings out the worst in me."
"Michelle, don't be embarrassed on my account. It's very easy to identify her as a pushy little person who likes to throw her weight around. Just ignore her," he said. "For what it's worth, those catty little remarks of hers were entirely out of line."
At that moment, one of the other clerks interrupted their conversation, "Michelle, the Manager wants you to come see him right away,"
"Ut Oh!" she said, with a bitter little laugh. "Looks like I'm about to get called on the carpet."
"Michelle, I believe you owe Mrs. Li an apology," the Manager said, as she walked up to the two of them.
Because she needed her job, Michelle begin to mentally prepare herself for the humiliation of having to apologize. However, before she could speak, a deep voice spoke up from behind her.
"No... ! She doesn't owe her an apology. This woman, whoever she is, was totally out of line. In spite of whatever this lady has told you, Michelle did nothing wrong."
Before she even turned around, Michelle recognized the voice. It was Mr. Dalton, the customer she had just finished waiting on only moments before.
"She was quite catty and very rude to Michelle. I can't believe that you would allow any customer to treat one of your best employees in this manner."
"And just who are you?," the Manager said, becoming highly annoyed at this unsolicited interference.
"I just happen to be someone who plays golf with your Vice President, Mr. Gregory about once a week," Mr. Dalton said, a note of anger pervading his voice. "And... , if you feel it necessary to pursue this further, you may find yourself looking for another job."
From that day forward to her great relief, Michelle was never again called on the carpet. Walking away, she could see Mrs. Li was still seething with rage. As she walked past her, she attempted to give her a friendly smile. After all, I still have to deal with her, she thought.
A Month Later...
From the moment Mr. Dalton had defended her, she gradually became aware she had made a friend. A special bond had been created between the two of them. That had been over a month ago. Michelle came to realize that here was a decent person—someone who seemed to care about her. She was delighted they were becoming friends.
Although he was slightly older than she was, Michelle found herself looking forward to the times when he would drop into the Shoppe for coffee. No matter how busy her day, she always made time to spend several enjoyable minutes talking with him.
From the start, he took an honorable approach toward her. Being open and direct—he let her know right off that he liked her, that he was attracted to her.
After one of his visits, she couldn't help laughing at herself. Why is it that every time he comes in, I end up acting giddy as a school girl with her first crush.
Over time, they grew better acquainted. Michelle learned his first name was Randy, and that his wife and little daughter had been killed several years before in a car accident—that he had never remarried and lived alone. Without his ever mentioning it, she come to know that, like many of the other people who patronized the Shoppe, he was also quite well to do.
Leaving the Shoppe late one evening, she had been surprised to run into him. "Shopping late I see," she said, not knowing exactly what else to say.
"Yes... , I needed to pick up a few things," he said, a quiet smile crinkling the edges of his warm brown eyes. "Say... , isn't this kind of late for you to be getting off work? You look very tired."
"Yes, I suppose I am," she had replied. "My oldest daughter, Beth took my two younger daughters to the mall this evening. This gave me a chance to work a couple extra hours."
"Michelle, you need to hook up with some rich older guy with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel," he said, teasing her in an attempt to brighten her spirits.
"Why Mr. Dalton," Michelle said, a tired little smile lighting up her beautiful blue eyes. "Do you have someone in mind?" she laughed.
"Well, I do know this guy... , Randy Dalton," he said, his eyes twinkling with mischief.
"Gosh... ! That's nice, but I doubt he would be interested in a woman with three daughters," she said, deciding to play along. "Would he... ?"
"Well... , if he met someone with beautiful blue eyes, that had beautiful long blonde hair, and a trim little figure as pretty as yours, I think he'd have to be crazy not to be interested in her—even if she had seven daughters," he said.
Michelle was stunned! She was at a complete loss for words. Gosh... ! Does he really mean it? She wondered. Deciding to keep it light, to give him a gracious way to back out, in case she had misread his comment, she just smiled.
"Why thank you, kind Sir."
"Michelle, could I take you out for dinner sometime or something?"
"Yes. I would like that," she said, smiling up into his warm brown eyes. "Would you like my telephone number?"
"Definitely. I was hoping you would offer," he said, obviously quite pleased.
A Romance Blossoms...
A day later, he called. Would she go to dinner with him at the Woodland Country Club that coming Friday evening? Michelle found herself in a panic. Being level headed and honest person, she decided if this was going to work, she was going to have to be completely up front with him about her financial situation.
"Randy, I'm flattered that you would ask me to go out with you. I'm also embarrassed to have to say this—I don't really have anything that would be nice enough to wear to a place that exclusive."
.... There is more of this story ...