Even as she slammed her foot on the brake pedal, Dana Cosgrove knew it was already too late. She barely had time to curse before the sound of metal against metal drowned out her voice, the front end of her old Ford Escort slamming against the rear of the Mercedes Sedan that had suddenly appeared in front of her.
The problem was, the sedan really hadn’t suddenly appeared, it had been there all along. The twenty-one year old redhead had been too busy arguing with her boyfriend on her cell phone to notice it until the last second. Even before she brought her car to a full stop, Dana was busy shoving that phone into her cut off jeans, not even taking the time to say goodbye. She only hoped no one had seen it in her hand.
“This is all Jack’s fault,” Dana thought as she finally turned off the ignition and opened the door of her car to get out. “If he hadn’t gotten me so angry, I wouldn’t have missed that stop sign back on the corner.”
Stepping around the front of the Escort, Dana’s mouth dropped in shock when she saw the jagged tear down two thirds of the Mercedes’ rear panel. Jack Henderson, the boyfriend of nearly four months that she had been talking to on the phone, was an auto repair mechanic and Dana had learned enough from him to make a quick assessment of the damage. The cost of repairs to the Mercedes, she quickly decided, was going to be more than her own car was worth.
“Shit, shit, shit!” Dana mumbled under her breath as she weighted that amount against the balance of her bank account and came up with a negative number. A large negative number.
“Are you alright?” Dana unexpectedly heard a woman’s voice ask.
Turning her head in the direction the voice had come from, Dana saw a platinum haired blonde in her late forties walking toward her. It took a moment for her to realize she had been the driver of the other car. She was dressed in a stylish business outfit, a charcoal gray jacket with a matching mid-length skirt. Beneath the jacket was a white buttoned down blouse. As was her habit, Dana wondered for a moment what an ensemble like that cost before deciding just as quickly that she didn’t have a clue. One thing she was sure of, however, was that the shoes that went with it cost at least three times what she had paid for the sneakers she was wearing, and those had set her back half a week’s pay.
“I asked if you were hurt,” the woman repeated as she came closer. “Should I call 911 for an ambulance?”
“No, no, I’m fine,” Dana finally responded, as the thought of the police officers that would undoubtedly accompany an ambulance served to again focus her thoughts.
“Are you sure?” the woman repeated as she came to a stop only a few feet away. “You do look pretty shaken up.”
“No, I’m fine, really,” Dana insisted. “I’m just a bit upset, that’s all. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before, I’m always such a careful driver.”
“Well, I can understand how a thing like this could be unsettling,” the businesswoman said with enough sympathy in her voice to give Dana a brief moment of hope that she might be able to somehow talk her way out of her predicament.
That was a hope that proved to be short lived indeed.
“But of course such things do tend to happen when one’s attention is divided between a cell phone and the road ahead of them,” the woman continued, the sympathy in her tone now gone. “It can cause you to miss all sort of important things, like stop signs for example. I guess that was why they made it illegal to use a hand held phone while driving.”
“Oh shit, I’m fucked now!” Dana thought, hoping even as the words formed in her head that her expression didn’t reflect the thought.
“What cell phone?” she said instead, trying to maintain a look of innocence.
“The one I saw in your hand just as I spotted you in my rear view mirror,” the woman said, “and is, I assume already safely stashed away in your purse or a pocket.”
“I think you were mistaken,” Dana said.
“I think not,” came her reply. “Fortunately, it will be a simple thing to verify the fact with your cell phone provider.”
The look on Dana’s face showed that she hadn’t thought of that. Contrary to her claim of a few minutes before, she actually had a horrendous driving record, attested to by a string of moving violations as well as two accidents in the past three years. That her license hadn’t been suspended was in of itself a minor miracle.
“Look, Miss...” Dana began.
“Connelly, Gail Connelly,” she interjected.
“Miss Connelly...” Dana repeated.
“Mrs. actually,” Gail pointed out.
“Mrs. Connelly,” Dana corrected herself. “We don’t need to involve the police or those silly insurance companies in this, do we? After all, no one got hurt, did they? I’d really hope that we could just work this out between the two of us.”
Dana knew that sounded pretty lame, but then again she had nothing to lose.
“To protect your flawless driving record no doubt,” Gail said, the sarcasm in the tone self-evident.
“No one ever wins when you involve all of them,” Dana went on, laying it on even thicker. “You have to fill out all kinds of paperwork, then they raise your rates six months down the line, even though none of it was your fault.”
“None of it was my fault,” Gail was quick to point out. “I wasn’t the one who ran the stop sign.”
Try as she could, Dana had no counter-argument she could make to that simple statement of truth. Visions of taking the bus to work and school for the next few years began to fill her head.
“Are you sure we can’t work something out?” Dana said one last time, wondering why she was even still trying.
To her surprise, Gail paused for a few long moments, looking as if she might actually be considering the idea. At least that was what a desperate Dana hoped she was doing.
If she could look into Gail’s thoughts, Dana would’ve been surprised indeed. She would learn that the forty-nine year old wasn’t upset at all by the damage to the car, considerable as it was. The reason being that it wasn’t her car, but that of her soon to be ex-husband. He had reluctantly lent it to her while her own, much more sensible Toyota Corolla, was in the shop having the struts replaced.
The Mercedes, like the secretary half his age that he’d been fucking on the side for the better part of a year, had been another sign of his self-described mid-life crisis. It was a toss up as to which he valued more, so it was with a serious lack of enthusiasm that he’d let her borrow it.
The reason he finally had was easy enough to understand. Gail had, much to his surprise, agreed to a quite amicable divorce settlement. One that gave her much less than his own lawyer told him she might be entitled to. However, until he had her signature on the divorce papers, it was always possible that she might change her mind and ask for more. In was that possibility that caused him to go out of his way to stay on her good side. Since she was the aggrieved party, his lawyer had assured him that “more” could be quite a considerable amount.
As to why Gail hadn’t asked for more, well, it was a decision based on her own sense of morality. Her husband hadn’t been the only one to stray outside the bounds of marital fidelity. In fact, he hadn’t even been the first. Gail had been having her own little affairs for quite a few years now. She had just been more careful about concealing them.
Yes, her soon be ex would indeed be understandably upset if she brought his car back in its current condition, but she was sure he wouldn’t complain too long or hard. Unlike Dana, Tony Connelly had no problem letting his insurance company pay for the damage.
“We seem to be attracting a crowd,” Gail finally said, drawing Dana’s attention to the small group of people looking over the damage to both cars, despite the late morning hour. “Might I suggest that if we are going to discussion some sort of alternate resolution, that we do it somewhere else before some helpful party calls 911 for us?”
Overjoyed at the possibility, Dana instantly agreed.
“I recall seeing a little coffee shop about a block back, one with a parking lot in front,” Gail went on. “Why don’t we relocate our discussion there? I’ll even spring for the coffee.”
As relieved as she was surprised, Dana again quickly agreed and climbed back into her car to follow Gail to the coffee shop. Just before she started the engine, it occurred to her that she hadn’t so much as given the other woman her name during their short chat. What was to prevent her from just taking off once they were on their way?
Tempting as that might be, she then considered that their talk had lasted more than long enough for Gail to memorize her plate number. Running a stop sign was bad, but being reported as leaving the scene of an accident was much worse.
Entering the coffee shop, Dana drew immediate attention from the few patrons still there at this time of day. It would’ve been hard for her not to, considering that in addition to the very cut off jeans she wore, the rest of her outfit consisted of an equally abbreviated sleeveless t-shirt, beneath which she had made no attempt to cover her medium sized bust.
It only took a moment to spot Gail sitting in one of the back booths and Dana quickly moved to join her. It was the opinion of most of the men at the counter that the view behind her was just as good, if not better than that in front.
As soon as she sat down, a waitress placed cups of coffee in front of each of them. Gail explained that she had already ordered for the two of them, another example of her confidence that Dana would show. Normally, the younger girl preferred tea, but knew now was not the time to point that out.
Gail waited until the middle-aged waitress was out of earshot, then began to speak.
“Okay, this is how it’s going to go,” she said, her tone now leaving no doubt that she was the one in control here. “You have the time it takes for me to finish this cup of coffee to convince me as to why I shouldn’t just head down to the local police precinct and file an accident report,” Gail said as she added cream and sugar to her coffee and began to stir it slowly.
“Well, I was sort of hoping that since no one was actually hurt, we might each just take care of the damage on our own cars,” Dana said, repeating her admittedly weak suggestion from before.
“You’re kidding, right?” Gail said after tasting her coffee. “I get to spend what I can only guess would be at least a thousand dollars or more repairing the damage you caused, and you just go on driving your car as is, because I’m sure one more dent isn’t going to make much of a difference. This is what seems fair to you?”
Dana sat staring at her untouched cup of coffee, unable to come up with much of an answer. Then, as if the proverbial light bulb suddenly went off over her head, she had a burst of inspiration. The answer to her problem was obvious and she wondered why it hadn’t come to her immediately.
Her boyfriend, she explained, worked in an auto repair shop and she was sure he would be able to repair the damage to Gail’s car. Even as she made the suggestion, Dana wondered what she would have to do to get Jack to do that for her. No matter what it turned out to be, it had to be less than what it was going to cost her if she lost her license and had to pay for the full repairs.
“Is that who you were on the phone with when you blew through that stop sign?” Gail asked, sidestepping the offer for the moment.
“Actually, yes,” Dana admitted, “why does that matter?”
“It doesn’t, I was just curious,” Gail replied pausing to again take a sip of coffee. “Where does he work?” she inquired after lowering the cup.
Dana told him.
The answer put a look of disappointment on Gail’s face.
“Honey, do I look that stupid to you?” she said. “I must, if you think I’m going to let some half ass mechanic that works at a “Joe’s Fix It” work on a thirty thousand dollar car. When you brought it up, I thought you were talking about someone who worked for Mercedes, BMW or something in that class.”
Her brilliant idea shot down, Dana again thought as hard as she could while Gail took another drink of coffee. When the cup again came back to the tabletop, the younger woman could see that it was already more than half-empty.
“What if I worked out some sort of payment schedule with you, to pay you back what it costs to make the repairs?” Dana suggested.
“How much are we talking about a week?” Gail inquired.
Dana told her.
“Let’s see now, giving that the repair bill is going to run about,” Gail began, using a figure that was more in line with Dana’s first estimate and not the low ball one that Gail herself had used a minute before, “that would put you in hock to me for at least two years. I hardly think I have that much patience in waiting for my money. Do you think you could get a loan from the bank, or your job, or from someone you know? Your boyfriend maybe?”
Dana slowly shook her head no. No bank was going to loan her money, and her father had already made it clear to her that he’d reached his limit in what he was willing to cover. Of her friends, the only one who might have that kind of money was Jack, due to all the off the books repair jobs he did. However, based on the way their relationship had been going lately, she doubted he’d be willing to lend her that much either.
“This boyfriend, he good looking?” Gail unexpectedly asked.
“I think so,” Dana replied, not seeing the relevance of the question but glad for anything that prevented Gail from draining the last of her cup.
“Well, he must be to have a good looking girl like you in his bed,” Gail laughed as she reached for the cup, but then withdrew her hand. “I’m assuming that the two of you do sleep together. It would be a terrible waste on his part if you weren’t.”
“Yes, we do,” Dana answered, not used to anyone other than her best friend Karen asking questions that intimate. Most people, including her parents, assumed that they were, but never actually asked directly.
“Is he a good fuck?” Gail asked, with a directness that not even Karen ever exhibited.
“Yes,” Dana replied, a bit of pride in her voice.
“Big cock?” Gail inquired, a question even more personal.
This time, Dana was taken back enough to hesitate a long moment before giving an answer. For some reason, it never occurred to her not to give one.
“I’ve always thought it big enough,” Dana finally said.
“Can’t be that big if you had to think about it,” Gail grinned, again closing her fingers around the cup handle, but leaving it on the table. “But if he keeps you satisfied, there must be something in the way he uses what he has.”
Dana only answered that one with a smile.
“Think you might be willing to throw him into the pot?” Gail inquired, again letting go of the cup without drinking from it.
“Excuse me?” Dana said.
“Yes, you heard me right,” Gail said. “If you really want me to just forget the whole thing, there has to be something worthwhile in it. If not money, then something that has some value.”
Dana was too shocked to answer.
“What’s the matter, you don’t think a roll in the hay with your boyfriend is worth what it would cost to fix my car?” Gail asked. “Remember, I’m just taking your word for it, sight unseen. For all I know, he could be old, fat and a really lousy fuck.”
“He’s not old or fat,” Dana said.
“I’d have been more impressed if you said he wasn’t a lousy fuck,” Gail countered.
This had gone beyond strange, Dana thought. Yet, she was still sitting there, which told Gail that she was at least thinking about the idea.
“I thought you were married,” Dana said.
“I am,” Gail confirmed, leaving out the little fact that she soon wouldn’t be, “but that doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in a little fun now and then. Haven’t you ever wanted to have a little adventure in your life, something that no one would ever know about but you?”
The question gave Dana pause enough to divert her from the other previously unimaginable question. What would Jack think of the idea?
She didn’t have to think about it long before she decided that he would probably be all for it. She’d lost track of how many times he’d talked about some of the middle aged women who flirted with him at the repair shop. Dana had long suspected that on an occasion or two some of them might’ve done more than flirt.
Despite being almost twice her age, the blonde sitting across from her was still quite an attractive woman. Even hidden by her jacket and blouse, it was obvious that she had an impressive bust, one that she didn’t have to wear an almost transparent t-shirt to draw attention to. By his own description, Jack was a boobs kind of guy.
“It’s a pity that my husband wasn’t driving the car today,” Gail said, again changing the direction of the conversation. “Then you could’ve flashed those perky breasts of yours and dazzled him no end.”
That thought had occurred to Dana more than once since this had all started. She was well aware of the power of her sexuality and how many times it had worked to her advantage. Sometimes all it took was a little jiggle and a smile, sometimes a bit more. A few drastic situations had called for drastic solutions, or at least solutions that might’ve seemed drastic to someone else. To her, the result had easily justified the means.
“You have thought about that, haven’t you?” Gail said, adding that the look on her face gave it away.
“So what if I have?” Dana countered. “He wasn’t driving it, you were, so what’s the point?” she added with an obvious regret in her voice.
“What if...” Gail asked, leaning in a little closer across the table, “what if it could apply?”
“I don’t understand,” Dana said, then thought she did. “You want me to do it with your husband?”
“God no!” Gail said, a bit too loudly, causing two of the patrons at the counter to turn in their direction, then lowering her tone added, “You are far too pretty a girl to waste on the likes of him.”
“I don’t understand,” Dana repeated.
“Let’s just say that despite your sterling recommendation of him, I really don’t have any interest in your boyfriend,” Gail said.
“Then what has this all been about?” an even more confused Dana started to say, but then paused as understanding finally filled her face. She looked deep into Gail’s face and realized that she was right. “But I’ve never...”
“Maybe that’s what makes it such an interesting proposition,” Gail said, cutting her off. “Haven’t you ever thought about it, wondered about what it might be like?”
Dana was all ready to say “never”, but that would’ve been a lie. Instead, she said nothing, which all but confirmed that she had.
“And just think, you could always say that you had no choice,” Gail offered. “That the mean closet dyke had you over a barrel after you smashed into her car.”
That thought had also just occurred to Dana.
“But that would be too easy,” Gail said, “and nowhere near as much fun. So I’m going to make you one of those offers you can’t refuse.”
She had Dana’s full and undivided attention.
“I have business in the city this afternoon and later this evening, so I was already planning to stay over here in town,” she began. “I have a room at the Charlton Arms in midtown; do you know where that is?”
Dana nodded her head yes.
“Good, now this is what I want you to do,” she continued, moving closer so that there were only inches between the two of them. “I’m going to be in the bar at the Charlton at seven-thirty tonight. I want you to meet me there and have a drink with me. Just a drink and I’ll call it even between us. I’ll go with your suggestion that each of us take care of the damage to our own cars.”
“I don’t get it, what’s the catch?” a guarded Dana asked.
“There’s no catch,” Gail assured her, “except that if you aren’t there by eight, I’m going to head down to the police station, which is only a block away from the hotel, and file an accident report.”
“So all I have to do is show up and have a drink?” Dana asked cautiously.
“Well, there is one other little thing,” Gail smiled.
“Here it comes,” Dana thought.
“What I want you to do, as you go about doing whatever it is that you have to do between now and then,” Gail said, “is wonder what it might be like to actually be with another woman. How her naked body would feel against your own, or how soft her lips might be. I want you to imagine the sweetness of her breasts and what it might be like to have her tongue caress your clit in a way that no man ever could. If you can ask yourself all of those questions and not want to find out the answers, well then, just leave after that drink and that will be just fine with me.”
With that, Gail rose from the table, dropping a five-dollar bill onto it that more than covered the cost of the two coffees. As she walked out of the shop and across the parking lot toward her car, Dana sat totally stunned. It wasn’t until the waitress came back over to inquire if she wanted anything else that she remembered that she had to be at work in less than a half hour.
Traffic was with her and she arrived at Sally’s Sandwich Shop just off Washington Square only fifteen minutes late. Even so, she went around back and slipped into the store via the rear exit. Quickly donning a plain white apron over her t-shirt and shorts, Dana slipped into the public half of the store as unobtrusively as possible. Her belated appearance didn’t go unnoticed by the similarly clad girl already behind the counter, but there were enough customers waiting for service that it would be almost an hour before the brunette could say anything about it.
“Alarm not go off again?” Karen Payne asked as she used a wet towel to wash off the countertop. “Or did Jack wake up and want an early morning encore?”
The two girls, aside from their similar apparel, looked enough alike to be mistaken for sisters. As it was, they were closer than most biological siblings, having been best friends since grade school. One of the few things they did disagree about was Dana’s current boyfriend, for whom Karen made no effort to hide her dislike.
“I’ll have you know I didn’t even spend the night at Jack’s,” Dana said as she wiped down her half of the counter. “I was in a ... I was just delayed this morning, that’s all.”
“Well you were lucky that Mrs. Goldman picked today to go to the bank before coming in,” Karen pointed out. “You know how she feels about people showing up late for their shift.”
Sally Goldman was the proprietor of the small sandwich shop, which, since it had opened thirty years before, had proved both popular and profitable. Located within walking distance of NYU, where both Dana and Karen took classes, it was the perfect part time job. More so since Sally was such a firm believer in higher education that she was quite willing to employ a number of college students, working around their class schedules. Of course, that didn’t mean that she would put up with any nonsense such as being constantly late.
Karen waited a few moments to see if there was more of an explanation forthcoming, and when none was, let the matter drop. At least until they’d taken care of the new customers that had just walked in.
“So how are things with you and Mr. Wonderful these days?” she asked Dana once the last customer had been taken care of.
“Things are fine,” Dana said, her answer lacking conviction. “As good as always.”
“That good, huh,” Karen snickered.
“I’ve never understood what it is you have against Jack,” Dana retorted.
“Oh there are a number of things,” Karen said, “the list being topped by the fact that it appears, at least to me, that the two of you spend more time fighting than fucking, and that’s never good.”
“Wasn’t it you who told me once that “makeup sex” was the best kind,” Dana grinned.
“It has its limits,” Karen replied. “Seriously, Dana you know I love you, and I hate seeing you make some of the same mistakes I’ve made with guys. God knows that I went out with some real winners,” she added with a heavy touch of sarcasm, “before Roger, of course.”
Karen had met Roger Parsons at her sister’s wedding two years before and had fell head over heels in love, or at least lust, at first sight. Fourteen months later, they’d announced their engagement. Dana had been overjoyed for her friend, even if she also felt a bit envious.
Dana found herself deliberating whether she should tell Karen about what happened this morning and get her advice. It wasn’t that she considered the brunette any smarter than herself, in fact the opposite was usually true, it was just that it might help having a view from an outside perspective. She didn’t get the chance, however, because Mrs. Goldman finally arrived after having finished her mid-morning errands. That put a definite crimp on any personal conversations for a while.
Lunchtime came soon enough and the two girls retired to the back room while Mrs. Goldman staffed the counter. The understanding had always been that if it got busy one or both of the girls would cut their lunch short and come out to help. Today was salad for the both of them and as they ate, Dana asked Karen a question.
“Karen, how long do you have to report an accident?” she said, trying to make the question as causal as possible.
“Oh God, don’t tell me you got into another accident on the way to work today,” Karen said, quickly drawing the obvious conclusion.
“No, of course not,” Dana lied, “someone asked me and I didn’t know, that’s all. I just thought that maybe you might know, that’s all.”
“Okay,” Karen said, unconvinced, “I’m not sure but I think it’s within twenty-four hours if no one is hurt. Why don’t you call and ask Jack? He should know if anyone does since he works in a repair shop.”
“He doesn’t go to lunch until later. I don’t want to bother him while he’s working,”
Dana said, knowing that she wouldn’t call him later either.
“Hey, with the amount of time you’ve been spending over at his place, I would think that he’d be happy to hear from you anytime,” Karen commented while she forked a bit of salad into her mouth.
“Well, to be honest, we had a fight last night and I think I should let it cool down before I call him for something so unimportant.”
“What were you fighting about this time?” Karen asked as she put down her fork.
“I’d rather not say,” Dana replied.
“Don’t tell me he’s still on your case because you don’t want to try anal sex?” Karen asked. “I tell you girl, there are few things I wouldn’t try, but having a cock up my ass is one of them.”
“No it wasn’t that,” Dana said. “And I wasn’t aware that there was anything that you wouldn’t try.”
“There are a few,” Karen grinned.
Dana suddenly saw an opening to get some advice without, hopefully, having to explain why.
“Karen,” she said, moving closer as she dropped her voice a bit lower, “have you ever wondered what it might be like to do it with another girl?”
“That was what the fight was about, wasn’t it?” Karen replied, a look of certainty on her face. “Jack couldn’t get you to give up your ass, so he falls back on every guy’s fantasy.”
“Every guy’s fantasy?” Dana repeated. “Does that mean that even Roger...”
“Of course,” Karen laughed, “but I told him right off that there had better be a ring on my finger before he ever asked me something like that again.”
Dana glanced down for a moment at the engagement ring on Karen’s hand.
“Yes,” Karen simply said, answering Dana’s unspoken question.
“Did you like it?” Dana asked.
Karen glanced over her shoulder, as if to confirm that Mrs. Goldman was still busy out in the front of the story. Then, bringing her head next to Dana’s, she spoke in an almost whisper.
“I wouldn’t admit this to anyone but you, and I’d never want Roger to know it,” she said, “but I think I would’ve liked it even more if he hadn’t been there. If it had just been me and her.”
“Really?” Dana said in surprise. “Who was she?” she added out of curiosity.
“I’d rather not say,” Karen said, the expression on her face telling Dana that if she had said a name, it would’ve been one that she would’ve recognized.
Thankfully for Karen, a reminder from Mrs. Goldman that lunch was now over prevented any further questions that might’ve proved embarrassing to either of them.
The afternoon proved much busier than the morning and the two girls didn’t have much time to chat. This now suited Dana as it gave her a lot of time to think. When it did finally quiet down about a quarter to five, Dana had a new question to ask Karen.
“Do you think you could cover for me if I left a little early?” she said.
“Come in late and leave early,” Karen replied, “I don’t think that’s going to go over too well with Mrs. Goldman...”
“Well, she doesn’t know I was late this morning, remember,” Dana pointed out.
“Well, maybe it doesn’t go over too well with me then,” Karen said, thinking of how many times the request had been made in the past. “Unless of course you have a really good reason for asking.”
“I’m supposed to meet someone for a drink later on in midtown,” Dana said, thinking that the truth, or at least part of it, was the best thing to say. “I can’t really go dressed like this, so I wanted to run home and change.”
Karen looked at her friend, thinking she had a similar excuse all too often. Then she remembered something even more important.
“Wait a second, I thought Jack works late on Thursday nights,” Karen said.
“He does,” came Dana’s reply.
“Well, well, well,” Karen said, a broad smile filling her face at the thought that her friend was finally wising up. “I guess I could cover for you, but I’m telling you, this is going to be the last time, okay?”
Even as she said it, Karen knew it wouldn’t be, and in her heart didn’t really care. That was what best friends were for.
Traffic during rush hour being what it was, it took Dana almost an hour to make what should’ve been a fifteen-minute drive home. After a quick shower, she changed into a dark blue dress more appropriate to a place like the Charlton Arms. Then, after leaving a note that she wouldn’t be home until late, which her parents had come to know as meaning not at all, she headed for the subway station a block away. Coming back above ground in midtown, it took her a few moments to get her bearings and remember where exactly the hotel was. She had a general idea, but had never actually been there.
When she finally found the old hotel, she was greatly impressed. The date on the cornerstone read 1925, and it looked like every effort had been made to restore it to what it looked like back then. Entering the lobby and searching around for the bar, she felt like she had suddenly been transported into her great-grandmother’s day. One of her first boyfriends in high school had been an architecture major, and he was always taking her to look at classic buildings. Looking around her, she decided that Timmy would’ve really loved this place. It only took a minute to locate the bar, and checking her watch to make sure she was on time, Dana headed for it.
It wasn’t until she was in the bar that Dana noticed what she failed to back in the lobby. All of the hotel guests seemed to be women. An assortment of different ages and types, but all well dressed, which made her very glad she’d gone home to change. The outfit she wore to work might’ve been fine for the local pub, but in a place like this she would’ve stuck out like a cheap hooker.
The left side of the room was dominated by a long, highly polished oak bar, at which stood a crowd of women almost two deep. Across from the bar was a number of small tables for two or three, and behind that sat a few booths against the far wall. She carefully looked back and forth for Gail, finally finding her in deep conversation with a similarly dressed black woman over by the last row of small tables. It took a bit of doing to work her way over there, but once she did, Gail was quick to spot her.
“Oh, there you are, darling,” she said, as if Dana had merely gone to the ladies room and not just arrived.
“Hi,” Dana said, suddenly feeling as if every eye on the place was on her.
“Natasha, this is my friend, Dana,” Gail said, turning her attention back and forth between the new and old arrivals. “She’s a new friend actually, but one that I hope will be a dear one.”
Natasha said hello and that she was glad to meet any friend of Gail’s. Dana took a moment to take in the woman she had just been introduced to. She was about the same height as Gail, if perhaps both a little heavier and older. Her bearing projected authority, and Dana wasn’t surprised when Gail added that Natasha was a partner at a law firm that she had never heard of. From the way the blonde stressed the name of it, she assumed that it was a rather important one.
“Natasha has been handling my divorce,” Gail went on.
“Your divorce?” Dana repeated, a bit surprised.
“Yes, official as of, what is it now, ‘Tasha, two hours?” she laughed.
Tony had indeed been quite upset about the car when she brought it back with a damaged rear panel. His dismay, however, was quickly put aside when Gail announced that as long as she was there, why didn’t she sign those annoying divorce papers and get it all over with? The car had been instantly forgotten.
“I’ve got to get going, Gail,” Natasha said. “It was nice meeting you, Dana.”
As the black woman left, Gail suggested they grab a table, one of which had just become available to their left.
“What kind of place is this?” Dana asked after they had sat down.
“What do you mean?” Gail asked as she tried to gain the attention of one of the waitresses.
“This place is filled with women only,” Dana stated.
“Well, what else would you expect in a hotel for women?” Gail replied as she finally caught a waitress’ attention.
“I don’t understand,” Dana said.
“I thought you knew,” Gail replied, “when you said you knew where the Charlton was.”
They were interrupted by the waitress, who took their orders and then disappeared back into the crowd. Once she was gone, Gail explained that the Charlton was one of the original “hotels for women” that had been built in the city back in the 1920’s. A place where young single women who came to the city to work could live in safety away from evil men; at least, that was how it was viewed back then.
Dana had heard of such places but never believed that any still existed.
In the late ‘70’s, the hotel started to be considered something of an anachronism and began to fall on hard times, Gail continued. At that point it looked like it would be converted to traditional housing or simply torn down. Instead, it was bought by some company named McMurphy Industries, which decided that instead of tearing it down, it would instead restore it to what it was when it first opened, and use it for the purpose it was originally intended.
“That must’ve cost a fortune,” Dana said, looking around at all of the detail work around her, most of which had to have been done by hand.
“I’m sure it did,” Gail replied, “but it sort of became a pet project of the CEO of McMurphy Industries and no one was about to tell her she couldn’t do it.”
“And all that stay here are women?” Dana asked.
Gail nodded her head, then jumped ahead at what she was sure was going to be the next question.
“And no, regardless what you might think, it’s not a high scale lesbian bar,” Gail said. “Although, as you might have noticed, some of the women around you might indeed fit that classification.”
Dana had indeed noticed that some of the women sitting around them did exhibit a more physical intimacy than might be expected. Nothing overt, but noticeable if you actually looked.
“Most of the women who come here are simply looking for a place to relax in the company of other women, to enjoy their sisterhood so to speak. It’s a place where you can get away from the world of men.”
The waitress arrived with their drinks and Gail signed for them, reminding Dana that she’d said she had a room in the hotel. The both of them took a taste of their drinks, then Gail paid Dana a compliment.
“I should’ve said this before, but you look quite lovely in that dress,” she said. “Not that you didn’t look fetching in the outfit you had on this morning.”
“Thank you,” Dana said.
“Well, here we are having our drink...” Gail said, letting the rest of whatever she was going to say just hang there.
“So now I’m off the hook, right?” Dana asked.
“Sweetheart, let me tell you something,” Gail smiled. “You were never on the hook to begin with.”
With that, she told her all about who owned the car and what had happened when she returned it.
“Then it was all a joke?” Dana asked, her tone slightly antagonistic.
“Not at all,” Gail assured her.
“Then why did you do all this?” the redhead asked further.
“Because I was taken by you the moment you stepped out of that car this morning and I wanted to get to know you better,” Gail confessed.
“You did all of this just to get to know me better?”
“Yes, don’t you think you’re worth it?” Gail asked.
Dana didn’t know what to answer. She did know that she couldn’t have imagined any guy she’d ever known going to such lengths. In a way, it made her feel flattered.
“So, if I just get up and walk out of here, then that’s that,” Dana said.