"Excuse me," the tall redhead in the light green leisure suit and matching skirt said as she stepped up to the small desk just inside the restaurant entrance.
"May I help you?" the hostess asked with a smile as she looked up from her seating chart.
"My name is Gabrielle Adams, I'm meeting Julia Logan for lunch," the thirty-seven year old replied with an equally warm smile. "Has she arrived yet?"
"Oh yes, Mrs. Logan arrived just a few minutes ago," the younger hostess said as she stepped around the small podium. "If you'll follow me, I'll take you to her table."
Gabrielle followed the hostess through the small restaurant out onto the esplanade overlooking the East River. There, sitting at the next to last table was a thirty-nine year old blond.
"Gabrielle," Julia called out as she spotted her friend. She rose from her chair as Gabrielle approached and kissed her on the cheek. "I'm so glad you where able to make it. It's been much too long."
Gabrielle took the empty chair on the other side of the table, responding to the hostess's question if she would like something to drink by ordering a Pina Colada.
The hostess returned to her station, leaving a second menu on the table and saying she would send someone back with Gabrielle's drink.
"So how are you really?" Julia asked as the two friends were left alone. "It's been so long since you've even come into the city."
It had actually been seven months since Gabrielle had come into New York City from her home in the suburban town of Point Royal. A month prior to her last visit, her marriage had ended in divorce.
"I'm doing fine," Gabrielle said. "Things are going fine."
"I'm so glad to hear that," Julia replied. "Roger and I have been ever so worried about you. We've heard from Timothy of course, but barely a word from you in such a long time."
Julia Logan had been the Maid of Honor at Gabrielle's wedding. Her husband, Roger, had been Tim's best man.
"Well, I've been busy I guess," Gabrielle said, "but I'm ready to get on with my life again."
"That is so good to hear," Julia said as a young man in white showed up with Gabrielle's drink. "You're going to love this place," she added, changing the subject. "Madge Dawson told me the cuisine here is to die for."
Gabrielle thanked the boy who couldn't have been more than twenty and took a refreshing taste of the Pina Colada. As the waiter turned and headed back toward the bar, both women paused to watch him.
"Mmmm, speaking of things good enough to eat," Julia said, swirling her tongue across her lips for a brief moment.
"Julia, that's terrible," Gabrielle said in mock horror.
"Oh pooh," the older blond said back. "You can't tell me that you weren't thinking the same thing. I've known you way too long to think you've been living the life of a vestal virgin out there on the Island since you and Tim broke up."
"You make it sound like I've been holding weekend orgies," Gabrielle laughed.
"Well have you?" Julia asked, mirroring Gabrielle's horror with her own mock sincerity.
"Hardly," her friend laughed in reply, "but I'll admit that I've hardly been living a monastic life."
"Good, I was hoping it wouldn't take me too long to get you to the good stuff," Julia gleamed, "I want to hear all about it."
"There isn't really that much to tell," Gabrielle replied as she picked up the menu and scanned the day's specials. "I've been on a few dates but nothing special."
Gabrielle's answer was true enough but lacking the specifics that Julia normally thrived on. She had indeed dated a few men in her town now that she was once more available. In fact, she had even gone to bed with two of them.
Then, after she had slept with the second of them, a strange thing happened. At least strange to her. Gabrielle was still an attractive woman, a fact she was well aware of. Yet she found it surprising that the number of men showing an interest in her suddenly tripled.
It wasn't hard to learn that one, or perhaps both of her bed partners had spread the word that the newly available divorcee had a hair trigger libido. A rumor based in fact that had led to a list of men who wanted nothing more than to find out just how hair trigger it was.
Not wanting to be quickly labeled the town whore, something she had seen happen to others, Gabrielle had taken a step back to let the interest die down. Still, the desires within her remained.
If it was one thing Gabrielle had learned from her late marriage, it was that one should keep any indiscretions far from home. It was a lesson her husband had failed to learn.
A month ago, Gabrielle had gone up to New England with her daughter to visit the college Janice would be starting at in the fall. While there, Janice had run into some friends from her high school and elected to head back home with them instead of her mother. Remembering what it was like to be that age, Gabrielle had agreed.
As she was leaving the school, Gabrielle had impulsively given a lift to a young graduate student heading home after finishing his exams. The normal five-hour drive turned into an overnight trip with her sharing both a room and her body with him. She remembered it as a night far more memorable that those spent with anyone from Point Royal.
"What..." Gabrielle said.
"You looked like you were somewhere else for a moment," Julia said.
"Just remembering something, that's all." Gabrielle replied.
"Must've been something pretty nice from the look on your face," Julia said inquisitively, hoping that her friend might elaborate on the subject.
Before Julia could get anything more out of her lunch guest, a third woman joined them at the table. The waitress who'd come over to take their order was in her mid-twenties with long jet black hair tied in a ponytail down her back and a rich olive Mediterranean complexion. She wore a simple black and white uniform, the blouse of which seemed to strain to stay closed against an impressive chest.
"Have you ladies decided what you'd like to order?" the girl whose nametag identified her as Callista asked as she held her pencil over a small pad.
Julia and Gabrielle picked up their menus and gave their orders. Julia really didn't give the young woman a second glance, but Gabrielle had become totally fixed on Callista. Or more specifically, on a bright charm that caught the redhead's eye.
A half-inch in length and gold plated if not gold itself, the charm consisted of an interlocked double female symbol. Attached to a rope chain, it hung in the valley between Callista's large breasts.
Since she had begun to explore her new sexual freedom after almost twenty years of marriage, Gabrielle had developed no small fascination with both alternate lifestyles and sexual adventures. So far, having spent the night with a man almost young enough to be her son had been the most daring of her erotic adventures.
That fascination had extended to lesbianism and bisexuality, two subjects which were barely discussed the last time she was single. So far, her interests in the topics hadn't extended beyond the theoretical. Not including of course, her active imagination. An imagination that Gabrielle was sure at that moment, had just found a new subject.
After their entrees were delivered, the two friend's conversation returned to other topics. By the time they finished, Gabrielle was glad she'd come into the city to have lunch. It had been too long since she'd had a chance to sit down and enjoy herself with an old friend.
"I have to excuse myself for a moment," Julia said as she pulled a small package from her purse and rose from her chair.
"You go ahead, I'm fine," Gabrielle said as she returned to her meal.
The redhead had just finished the last of her lunch when she realized that someone was standing by her shoulder. Turning her head to the right, Gabrielle found herself once more looking right at Callista's gold pendant and the soft flesh that surrounded it.
"Can I get you anything else?" Callista asked.
"No, I think we're just about done." Gabrielle said as she realized she was staring and quickly averted her eyes.
"Don't worry sugar," Callista said in a low voice that no one else could hear as she leaned over and placed a small tray with the check on the table, "I don't mind a pretty woman taking a good look."
"I err..." Gabrielle said in an equally low embarrassed tone as she placed her charge card on the tray. "I was just curious about your necklace. It's very striking."
"Yeah," Callista said as she picked the tray back up. "A lot of people think my necklace is pretty striking."
Julia returned to the table, passing Callista as she did. Sitting down, she realized Gabrielle had paid the check.
"I thought I was the one who invited you to lunch?" Julia said.
"You can get it next time," Gabrielle replied as she spotted Callista coming back with the receipt for her signature.
As Gabrielle signed the receipt, this time making sure that she kept her eyes in check, she noticed an extra piece of paper under the bill. Folding it in half without looking at it, she pressed it under her charge card and slid both into her purse.
"I hope you'll both visit us again," Callista said as she picked up her copy of the paperwork.
"Oh I'm sure we will," Julia said as she gathered her things. "The food was really excellent."
"Yes it was," Gabrielle agreed as she also rose from her chair.
As she did, Callista stood in front of both of them for a long moment, blocking their exit. The way she stood, Gabrielle had one long last look down the waitress's blouse. It might've been her imagination, but Gabrielle was sure there hadn't been so many buttons open a few minutes ago. Then just as quickly, she stepped out of their way and they exited the restaurant.
"Well I have to meet Roger at three," Julia said as they walked down the street, "but I still have time to share a cab with you down to Penn Station."
"Actually," Gabrielle said, "since it has been so long since I've been in the city, I was thinking that I might do some shopping before I go home."
"Sounds like fun," Julia said. "I wish I could join you."
"Next time," her friend suggested.
"As long as next time isn't another seven months," Julia insisted as she flagged down a taxi.
"It won't be, I promise," Gabrielle promised as she hugged Julia good-bye.
Gabrielle waited until Julia's cab disappeared in the traffic before reaching into her purse and taking out the note she had hidden there. Feeling as if every passerby was watching her, she unfolded it and read the hasty scribble.
"If you are really curious about my charms," the note read, "I finish up at four-thirty. Maybe we can have a drink and discuss it."
The note also had what Gabrielle took to be a cell phone number.
The thirty-seven year old had to laugh. Imagine, getting propositioned by a woman that had to be ten years younger than her at the least. It had to be a joke. Then again, that young man up at the college had been even younger than Callista and he certainly didn't think it was a joke.
Gabrielle thought about it a few minutes more, then made what she was sure was the right decision. Crumpling the note into a ball, she tossed it into the nearest trash can.
"Some things, I guess," she told herself, "might be better off staying as fantasies."
Leaving her chance for adventure behind, Gabrielle headed down Second Avenue to check out a few of her favorite stores. As she shopped, the idea began to slip further and further from her mind as she found herself wrapped in the latest in summer wear.
"Thank you very much," the older man said as he handed Gabrielle back her credit card and the two boxes that contained the new dresses she had just bought. "and do have a good evening."
The statement made the redhead realize she had shopped the last of the afternoon away. Checking her watch, she saw that it was already quarter of five. Heading to Penn Station now was going to put her into the middle of rush hour.
Putting her wallet back in her purse, Gabrielle took out her cell phone to call home and leave a message for her daughter that she'd be home later than she originally thought. She was about to put her phone away when she inexplicably found herself trying to remember the phone number that was on the note.
Wondering if it was even a real number, she began to dial out of curiosity. The phone rang a few times and Gabrielle was just about to disconnect when a voice came online.
"Hello?" the woman said.
Gabrielle's first instinct was to hand up and her finger was already reaching for the red end button. It never reached it as she found herself saying hello instead.
"Callista?" Gabrielle asked.
"Speaking," the voice on the other end said. "Who's this?"
"Gabrielle," the redhead said as she realized that she couldn't remember actually giving the younger woman her name. "I'm the woman who was at your table this afternoon that you left a note with and..."
"Where are you?" Callista interrupted.
Looking up at the street signs above her, Gabrielle read off her location. She did so in an automatic response to the question without thinking about it.
"Wait there, I'll meet you in five minutes," the dark-haired girl said as she cut off the call before Gabrielle could say otherwise.
"What do I do now?" Gabrielle asked herself, wondering if grabbing a cab and heading for the train station might be the best thing she could do.
It turned out to be closer to three minutes when Gabrielle saw the dark-haired woman heading down the street toward her. Callista had changed from her uniform to a short sleeve yellow pullover and dark jeans. Her ponytail was now undone and her hair hung free across her shoulders.
"Hi there," Callista said as she stepped up to Gabrielle.
"Hello," Gabrielle replied, the touch of nervousness evident in her voice.
"I was surprised you called," the younger woman said. "When four-thirty came and went I thought that was it."
"I think I was a little surprised myself," Gabrielle said, not being able to think what else to answer.
"Another few minutes and I would've been out the door," Callista said. "You're not going to believe this but I only live a block and a half from here."
"Oh, if you were going out I wouldn't want to keep you," Gabrielle quickly said, seeing a quick out.
"Not at all," Callista replied. "I was just going to do a little shopping. It looks like you were doing more than a little of that yourself." she added as she took note of the boxes at Gabrielle's feet.
"A little," the older woman said, still trying to think of what to say.
"If you still want to have that drink, we can go to Demarco's just up the block," Callista said. "It's not a lez bar or anything like that if you're worried about it."
"That hadn't even entered my mind," Gabrielle said, wondering if it should've. "But now that you mention it, I think I really could use a drink."
Callista's response was a broad wide smile.
It was still early and they had no trouble getting a small table in the back of the bar. This time, Gabrielle ordered a drink a lot stronger that the one she'd had with lunch. She surprised even herself when she quickly downed it and ordered another.
"I've never done anything like this before," Gabrielle said as she took a much smaller sip of her second drink.
"You've never had drinks in a bar before?" Callista asked, a smile on her face.
"No, I've never been picked up by a woman before," the redhead corrected.
"Oh, is that what I'm doing?" the brunette asked innocently. "And here I thought we were just having a few drinks and discussing our taste in jewelry."
"Oh, I thought..." Gabrielle started to say, then realized that Callista wasn't serious.
"Maybe we should just lay our cards on the table," Callista said. "I thought you were really cute this afternoon and felt that maybe something passed between us. Normally I don't go around trying to pick strange women up, but I had the feeling that you might've felt it too and we might have a little fun together. I'll be honest and admit that women like you turn me on. So I left you my number. If I was wrong then I apologize. We'll just call it a big misunderstanding and leave it at that."
Gabrielle took a deep breath and then a good swallow of her drink before responding. Her answer surprised even herself.
"You weren't wrong," she said. "I was staring at your breasts and thinking dirty thoughts."
"I know," Callista smiled knowingly.
"It feels good to finally say that," Gabrielle admitted.
"Then shall we go?" Callista asked.
"Go where?" Gabrielle asked.
"My apartment, silly," Callista said as she got up from her seat. "Unless you'd like to try and do it right here in the ladies room?"
"I don't even know your name," Gabrielle said as she also stood up.
"Callista Theodoropulas," the younger woman replied.
"That's certainly a mouthful," Gabrielle remarked.
"My name isn't the only thing that's a mouthful," the olive skinned woman laughed softly as she turned and headed for the entrance to the bar.
Gabrielle paused for a brief moment more, then followed the long-haired woman out. Part of her, the rational, logical part, told her that she wasn't thinking clearly. That she should back off and take the time to carefully consider what she was doing. Then another part of her exerted itself, echoing the same words she had used when she had gone to bed with that grad student. "Fuck it, you only live once."
Callista's home was only a block away, the front apartment of a four-story walk-up. Moderately furnished, it was a single room studio with a small bathroom. It only took a few moments for Gabrielle to take it all in as Callista closed the door behind them.
"You have a lovely apartment," Gabrielle said as she stepped inside.
"Thanks," Callista replied as she motioned for her guest to have a seat on the couch. "It's small but it's home."
Callista walked over to the small kitchenette and opened the refrigerator door, asking as she did, "Can I get you a beer?"
"A beer would be fine," Gabrielle said, all too aware she had passed her normal alcoholic intake for a day some time ago.
As Callista took two bottles of beer from the refrigerator, Gabrielle noticed a photograph on the small table behind the couch. The picture showed Callista and a blond haired girl about the same age in Central Park, their arms over each other's shoulders.
"That's me and my roommate, Lana," Callista answered in reply to Gabrielle's unasked question, holding out one of the beers as she did. "She's doesn't get home from work until about eight."