Part I The Meeting
Gladys was only 17 when she left home and went off to college. Not only was she very naive but was also very gullible. She went off to live in the dorm from hell and had to work to support herself and her college aspirations. Gladys worked as many jobs as she could. One of her jobs was working for a department store in the men’s department.
One day as she was shelving men’s bikini underwear and hanging nylon socks on the rack she heard a man say “my you have interesting hair.” Gladys looked up to see a tall good looking man. He was very exotic with a dark complexion and dark hair and eyes. She smiled and said “thank you”. You see Gladys rarely got complemented on her hair. It was a cross between Roseanne Roseannadanna and Farrah Fawcette. Those of you who are too young to know who either of those people are well; bless your young little hearts. She smiled up at the handsome stranger and asked “may I help you find something?” Mr. Omar Sharif look-a-like smiled down at me and very suavely said “yes, I think you can.”
That was it. That was all it took to make young Gladys swoon. She quickly left behind her busy work and helped Omar find whatever his heart desired. They made the usual small talk as Gladys showed him the rayon and polyester shirts and the Angle Flight Leisure Suits. He told her owned a very posh salon close to the store. He gave her his card and told her to come see him. He explained he had some product that would be perfect for “her type of hair”. Gladys tucked his card away in her sales book, rang up his purchase and sorrowfully bid him goodbye.
She didn’t think about him again. One day as she walked into the store to start her shift she spotted him back at the Customer Service counter. Her heart skipped a beat. Her stomach suddenly had a flock of butterflies swarming around and she found a smile on her face. He turned just as she approached and smiled that all too charming smile. He walked over and took her hands in his and said “there you are. I’ve been looking for you. Why have you not come to see me?” She blushed and stammered out some inane reply like “you, what, um, uhuh.” He smiled and leaned in close and asked “what time is your dinner break?” She sucked in air and tried to unswallow her tongue while trying to think of something just as suave to reply. Instead all that came out was “I don’t get a dinner break” she sputtered on “but, I do get off at 10.” Omar smiled and whispered “perfect! I’ll wait for you then.” Uh? What was he talking about? Gladys squeaked out “umhuh, I guess that would be okay.” Then he squeezed her hands and was gone.
She was a nervous wreck the rest of the evening. She was distracted and went to talk to Lillith the shoe girl, who was older and wiser. Lil smiled and told her just to go with the flow. What the heck, maybe she would even get a free dinner out of it. Gladys agreed that would be nice but still she didn’t know this guy from Adam. Lillith told her to agree to go to dinner but drive her own vehicle. That sounded reasonable so that was what Gladys was determined to do.
Gladys finished cleaning up her station and made sure the racks were straight. She fluffed her hair and reapplied another layer of mascara, spritzed on some Charlie and headed out the door. There in the parking lot sat a bright red Ferrari with Omar standing waiting. He smiled and said “Get in I’ll take you to dinner.”Her little heart did the hustle and her seventeen year old mind ran amuck. It could have been that she was just so desperate for attention that she thought going out with a complete stranger was a good decision or maybe she was just plain stupid, but Gladys threw all caution to the wind and let him tuck her in his Italian sports car. The engines purred and off they sped down the road. It was late August and the night was brightly lit with moon and stars. Omar turned to Gladys and said “I thought I would take you to the Factory for a late supper.”
The fact that this was a small college in a small town made the location and the vehicle in which they would arrive terribly impressive to Gladys. Most everything in that town closed up at 9 p.m. and there were only a few really fancy places to dine. The Factory was both of those things. The town in which they were dinning was in a ‘dry’ county, meaning no alcohol could be served unless it was a private club. All of these variables put Gladys in a very vulnerable position.
They were seated at a table and given the wine menu. She looked at Omar and said “I can’t order wine.” He cocked his head to one side smiled and said “Why of course you can. You just find something you like” Gladys turned pink and bit her bottom lip then said “No, I’m not OLD enough to drink.” His jaw dropped and he sucked all the air out of the room at once. He swallowed hard looked over both shoulders then leaned across the table and whispered “how OLD ARE you?” Gladys looked down at her hands and then up through her eyelashes at him and said “Seventeen, but I’ll be eighteen in a couple of weeks.” Omar sighed and leaned back in his chair. The waiter arrived to take their order. She was off the hook for a couple of minutes and was desperately trying to think of something to say that would not make her look foolish or childish to. Omar placed the order and ushered him away. He smiled leaned across the table and took her hand “How old do you think I am?” She was relieved that he wasn’t angry and anxiously replied “I don’t know? Twenty-eight?” His eyes sparkled and the corner of his mouth rose. “No little one. I am 38.” He waited for that to sink in and then continued “I never thought to ask how old you were. I was just so attracted to your sunny personality that I could think of nothing but spending time with you. Now I will have to wait until you are old enough. Until then we can spend time getting to know one another.”
Now it was her turn to swallow hard. Thirty-eight! Oh my GAWD he was ancient. Gladys smiled “Well everyone needs friends.” She looked up to see their exotic and delectable meal being served. The two chatted through the meal and he laughed at her jokes and stories. She learned he was of middle-eastern decent and he had an Irish Setter. He invited her to have a complete make-over free of charge at his salon. Gladys was elated and excited. She was convinced this was going to be just like Captain Renault said to Rick in Casablanca “the beginning of a beautiful friendship”. Oh sweet innocence.