Stuart Thomas looked out his window. The sun was bright so he had to squint a little. The LA smog hung like an ugly and unwanted chandelier. He hated LA. He couldn't understand what people saw in this place. It was too crowded, too polluted, too many stuck-up women. He'd been here for two years which was one year too many. His firm promised him that after one year he'd have his pick of offices. He chose San Diego with its beautiful beaches and close proximity to Baja. When the time came for him to move-on the firm asked him to stay on and oversee a merger that was that close to litigation. He reluctantly agreed and they gave him a fat raise to compensate. From his corner office on the seventieth floor of the US Bank Tower he could barely see the street below from the smog. He was restless and he couldn't sit still. He looked at his watch; ten o'clock. He felt the need to move about so he decided he needed a walk. He got up from his chair and walked out into the lobby.
'Beatrice, I'll be out for a bit. I need to take a walk. Do I have anything before noon?'
Beatrice Dexter opened up her boss's appointment schedule and saw all blanks until 2pm.
'You're clear until two, Boss' – she turned her head slightly and smiled. 'Where are you off to? Feeling anxious?' As she said that she wrinkled her nose.
'Ha ha. No, I'm feeling restless and need to get out of here before my head implodes' Call me on my cell if you need me. Want anything while I'm out?'
'Yes, stop by Hollywood and bring me a hunk' Stuart smirked.
'Anything else, Your Majesty?'
'Yes, I want him young. No older than 25! See you when you get back'
The phone rang and Beatrice answered as Stuart turned away and headed out the door and into the elevator lobby. He had a unique relationship with his assistant. She kept him grounded and complimented his manic approach to work. His colleagues were surprised that such an outspoken woman, and a black woman at that, could remain at such a prim and proper place like a high-priced law firm. Stuart liked straight forwardness and Beatrice had plenty of that and more. He could see how she intimidated the other lawyers. The woman also oozed feminine sexuality like no other he'd seen. She wasn't slutty and she always dressed impeccably. Above all though, she was efficiency personified.
Stuart stepped out of the elevator and exited the building into the bright LA sunshine. The brightness reminded him of those high-watt bulbs used in photo shoots and it made him squint. He checked his jacket pocket and realized that he'd forgotten his sun glasses back upstairs in his office. He didn't want to go back and get them, they were cheap ones anyway. No matter he thought, I'm in LA so how hard could it be to get sun glasses? He needed a decent pair the high-priced lawyer that he was. He turned right and headed towards the shopping district. Walking and thinking, he couldn't quite put his finger on what exactly it was that turned him off about LA. He hated the smog and above all, the traffic. He tried thinking of the things he liked; the women, the restaurants, Venice Beach and the wet bikini contests. And while he hated to go through with it, he went and bought himself a condo. Living at the Four Seasons was getting to him and it seemed the right thing to do. He no longer had to rely on his car. Granted there wasn't a whole heck of a lot to do downtown but he did manage to find a gem of seedy bar a few blocks east of his place. He decided that he was going to head there after work.
He rounded the corner and saw a sign that said 'Vuarnet' and headed towards it. When he entered he was relieved to find the shop considerably cooler than outside. It was still early so the store was also empty. There was no bell on the door announcing his presence and he didn't see any sales people. The dimness of the store caused him to have to go right up closely to the display cases and look. The glasses all pretty much looked the same, he thought. Save for the price of which there were none on any of the glasses he saw.
'Are you looking for something in particular?'
He looked up and almost fell over. Feeling his face flush, he barely managed to compose himself before answering. The woman across the room looked as if she'd stepped out of magazine. She was tall, blonde, soft featured with full lips surrounding a mouth that could only be described as 'pouty' He felt awkward staring at her the way he did. He felt like a proverbial deer in the headlights. Or in this case, like crosshairs. Her green eyes never left his as she walked towards him. The metal on-metal click of heels on the marble floor made him want to bolt from the store and never return. As she got closer he saw taught hips that sat atop long muscular legs. Runner's legs he surmised. He was transfixed by the way her tight black leather skirt swayed from side to side; almost like a sensual pendulum. He saw that she was wearing black leather boots that went up just above her knee. She crossed her arms over full breasts that strained under a white silk blouse and stood behind the display. He could smell a delicate mix of jasmine and vanilla. When he stood up she was eye to eye with him. The bored look on her face told him to get to the point.
'Hello. Yes, please. I'm looking for a pair of sun glasses'
'Obviously. Why else would you be in a store that sells sun glasses' Her rhetorical answer immediately made him feel like an idiot. She remained still, her eyes transfixed with his. He felt uncomfortable and fought to maintain his composure.
'Um, well yes – he chuckled. He felt like a complete and utter moron.
'How much are you willing to spend?' She asked. She walked around the front of the display and stopped about three feet from him.
He decided that he would try to be cool and gain control of the situation. He turned on his best boyish smile
"I dunno, a hundred dollars I think should do it".
'In that case this store is not for you. I suggest you try Penny's a few blocks over at the mall. They cater to the pedestrian' She never moved an inch. Her eyes bored into his. It was as if he was of great inconvenience to her. He was starting to get annoyed.
'I beg your pardon?' He tried his best to sound incredulous while maintaining his ram-rod Harvard Law composure.
'I said, why don't you take your pedestrian taste elsewhere. Somewhere more suited for your type. No offense meant' Clearly she was lying with her 'no offense meant' comment. He wasn't about to stand there and take this from a retail employee.
Stuart turned towards her and crossed his arms as if he was cross-examining a hostile witness. He was now eye to eye and shoulder to shoulder with this woman. Though he clearly was annoyed, he tried to stay cool and make light of his predicament.
'Don't you want my business? Is my money no good here?'
'It's your tourist taste that is no good here. We don't cater to customers who walk in into a store like this and expect it to have a bargain bin'
Her expression never changed and she did not move. He was able to feel her from the three feet that separated them. Not once did she take his eyes off of his. Stuart was almost at a loss but refused to give up. He was not about to give a single inch with this woman no matter what.
'I would like to buy a pair of sun glasses', he said calmly.
'I think we've well established that fact. What you clearly fail to understand is that we do not sell sunglasses for that price. Or even remotely close to it.' Her tone was even. It wasn't patronizing or apologetic, it was matter of fact.
'Well how much... '
'Now ... she interrupted him.
'This is what is going to happen; you're going to turn around and with your one hundred dollars you're going to leave my store. Run along now, there's a good boy'
Stuart just stood there gawking, unable to say anything. The nerve of this woman, he thought. Who the fuck did she think she was? He was now in unfamiliar territory being spoken to like that and was unable to decide what to do next. Clearly though, retreat was not an option. The few seconds he stood there silent seemed like minutes. Even though the store was cool he could feel himself getting hot.
'Umm, look I'm sorry. I uh, I'm new to LA and uh I guess I figured one hundred dollars would be enough for a pair of sun glasses. I actually left mine back in the office' His smile was met with an icy stare that would have chilled an Eskimo to the bone. She didn't say anything but kept staring at him as if it was some kind of contest. He started to feel nauseous and he wanted to get out of there.
'Look Miss, umm... ? He waited for her to tell him her name. She just stood there silent. He finally broke her gaze and looked down. He shook his head and turned toward the door. She still didn't move. As he grabbed the door handle she said;
'Where are you from' It wasn't a question. It was a statement that required an answer. He stopped and turned to face her. She had turned her head towards him not moving the rest of his body.
'Seattle' he said. He felt his nausea turn to a mixture of fear and anger.
.... There is more of this story ...