Life is a Soap Opera Act 01byHLD©
This is the first of three parts in this series. If you are looking for a stroke story or quickie sex, hit the "back" button on your browser now because this is the wrong story for you. If you enjoy this part, please stick around for the next two chapters. Special thanks to my editor, michchick98. Enjoy!
"Sir, may I see your driver's license please?" the bartender nervously flashed the back of the debit card, showing "Ask for ID" written in bright red Sharpie. He had seen her working here several times before, but this was his first visit where she waited on him.
"I would be delighted." Gabriel's face broke into a wide smile. "Thank you for asking; so few people do."
With a sigh of relief the bartender checked his license against the name on the front of the card. "I always ask. After my purse was stolen last year, I know what a pain in the butt it is to have to deal with identity theft, so I have that on the back of my credit cards, too. You'd be surprised though, how many people get ticked off when you ask for their IDs."
"Yeah," Gabe agreed. "If only they understood it's for their own protection."
She nodded. "Let me go run this and I'll be right back."
"Thank you," he flashed her another appreciative smile. "Oh, and could you please have the manager come by?"
"Right away, sir."
She went down to the other end of the bar to run his card and leaned over the bar to talk to one of the servers.
Gabriel stared up at the big screen plasma TV above the bar. A baseball game was on but he only stared at it idly. The bartender returned and placed his card along with a pen and two slips on the bar in front of him. "The bottom copy is for you; please sign the top one for me."
He smiled as she picked up the plates that held the remnants of his steak, potato and Bloomin' Onion, then carted them off. Not a minute later, a man in a shirt and tie came over behind Gabriel.
"Was your visit to the Outback tonight a good one, sir?" he asked. Gabe could tell he was hesitant to ask; after all, people who ask for the manager in a restaurant usually have something to bitch about.
"It was excellent," Gabe replied. He was a regular and knew a fair number of the servers and bartenders on a first name basis. This manager was new, though. "Shawna was great and even asked for my ID like my card says."
The manager smiled.
"I'd like to make an unusual request, though," Gabriel continued.
"I'll see what I can do."
"Look over my shoulder. . . . Do you see those four girls there in the prom dresses? Don't stare. Two in blue, one in pink and the fourth in the purple? I'd like you to bring me their check. Oh, and don't tell them who's picking up their tab."
The manager looked surprised for an instant, but that passed quickly. "I'll find out who their server is."
"Thank you," Gabe said as he left.
Of course, they probably weren't paying for their own dinner; their parents were likely springing for the meal, but in his mind that didn't make up for them not having dates. He thought back to his own prom, when he had gone with a girl he knew, but wasn't crazy about. By the time he had even thought about the dance, all of the girls he wanted to ask already had dates. Julie was really his fourth or fifth choice, and in all likelihood, he was probably her sixth or seventh choice.
He glanced over at the girls one more time. They were almost through with their meal and were talking and laughing, but with all the promgoers there, they were conspicuously the only group of girls.
Just then, the thought crossed his mind that they were four lesbians attending the prom, but that didn't seem likely. The way they giggled and laughed and teased each other made them seem more like childhood friends on one of their last big nights together before they became adults.
The manager returned a couple of minutes later. Gabe looked over the bill, added a generous gratuity then signed both their bill and his own. He quickly gathered up his things and wanted to be out the door before they realised that their dinner was already paid.
Gabe took one last swig from his water and then headed towards the exit. He glanced over his shoulder and saw one of the girls talking to their server. He picked up his pace.
It was a warm night outside. The sun was just beginning to set. There was a soft breeze. A fair number of people were waiting for their tables on the benches by the parking lot. Gabriel headed for his car. He had just hit the button on his keyless entry and was reaching for the handle when he heard a voice coming his direction.
"Sir? . . . Sir?" There was no mistaking the tone of a teenage girl. "Excuse me, sir!"
Gabe turned and saw one of the girls headed his way. It was one of the two in blue. She ran across the parking lot as fast as her high-heeled feet would take her, her shoes clacking! along on the pavement. He thought for an instant to ignore her and just get in his car and drive away, but decided that would be rude.
She was holding the hem of her dress up so she wouldn't trip over it and soon was standing in front of Gabriel. "Excuse me, are you the man who paid for our dinner?"
He looked her over, up close for the first time. She was pretty, but then again, everyone was pretty on prom night. She had cute dimpled cheeks and her hair was pulled up with flowers woven into the tight braids. Her face was round, but then again so was the rest of her body. The elegant dress flattered her generous curves.
Gabriel had to remind himself to look her in the eyes.
At first he thought to deny her question, but then he saw the other three girls emerge from the restaurant.
"Bailey!" the other one in the blue dress called out, looking frantically around the parking lot.
The first girl was staring intently at him. Her big brown eyes bored into him.
"Did you pay our check?" she asked again. Her tone wasn't accusatory. Just curious.
"Well," Gabe stammered. His face flushed. He hadn't meant to get caught. "Um . . . yeah."
"Why?" she asked softly. The other girls were hurrying over to where they stood in the parking lot.
"I . . ." he started, but his voice trailed off. He put on a kind smile. "No pretty girls should have to pay for their own dinner on prom night."
Gabe thought he saw her blush and smile slightly when he said "pretty girls". The other three had joined them.
"Thank you," she said.
"You're very welcome . . ."
She blushed. "Oh, sorry. I'm Bailey."
He reached out and gently shook her hand. "Gabe."
"This is my twin sister, April," she pointed to the other girl in blue. "These are our friends Kimmy and Morgan."
Gabe glanced over at the other three. Kimmy was wearing pink and Morgan was in purple. Both were slender and fit. All four were made up for the big dance.
When he looked at April, Gabe never would have guessed she and Bailey were twins. Where Bailey was plump and round in all the right places, April was tall and slim. Her skin was darker and perfectly-toned. She wore a fashionable pair of glasses and had a million dollar smile.
Gabe made a point of looking back at the shorter sister and not gawking at her friends. He knew how hard it was to keep up with a sibling who was more popular in high school.
"It's nice to meet you all," he said politely.
"Did he pick up the bill?" Morgan asked.
"Yes," Bailey replied.
"Thank you," they each said.
"Yes, thank you again, Gabe," Bailey said appreciatively.
"Gabe?" Kimmy said, a flash of familiarity in her eyes. Where she had just seen a guy in his mid-thirties before, now she was trying to place his face. Gabe could see the gears turning in her head. Then the light came on. As it always did. "Gabriel MacKenzie?"
He smiled, trying not to appear self-conscious. "Yup."
"Oh, my god!"
Gabe watched as the younger girl's eyes grew starstruck.
"My mom is in love with you!" She reached into her purse for her cell phone. Morgan and April began to giggle.
"Listen . . . I'm sorry about my friends." Only Bailey seemed like she was trying to carry on a normal conversation. "They're usually not like this."
"It's okay," Gabe smiled gently. "I guess it's better than not being recognised at all."
Bailey only shrugged. She seemed quiet and shy. Maybe she was one of those kids who never quite fit in and was "invisible" around school. Gabe knew exactly how she felt.
"You'll never guess who we ran in to at the Outback!" Kimmy was saying into her phone. "That guy you like from The Sun Also Sets! . . . Yes! Oh, my god! He is so much cuter in person . . . Yes . . . Yes! YES! Here, you tell him . . . Mr. MacKenzie . . . it's my mom . . . She thinks I'm making this up."
The teenager handed him the phone. He took it politely. "Hello?"
"Hi, Mr. MacKenzie," the mother sounded nervous. "I'm such a fan . . . You have no idea how heartbroken I was when you left the show . . ."
The fawning went on for a couple of minutes. Gabe was polite to the adoring fan and promised that he would let the girls take their picture with him.
While Kimmy and Morgan tried to find some random stranger in the parking lot, the twins stood by and made some small talk.
"We're sorry for holding you up like this," April said. "You don't have anyplace to go, do you?"
"Not really," Gabe replied. In truth, he was thankful for even a little bit of company on a Saturday night. "You're saving me from some work around the house."
"We're also sorry about our friends," Bailey apologised again.
"Nah, don't worry about it."
One of those awkward silences fell over the three of them. Gabe could tell they wanted to ask a million questions, but were worried about intruding on his privacy. It was actually very considerate of them.
Finally, the other two reappeared with a friend from school. He was dressed in his tuxedo and found three digital cameras pushed into his hands.
Gabe stood in the middle of all four girls as the flash went off the first time. A small crowd had gathered around to see what the fuss was all about. He set his smile and turned on his public persona. Gabe generally hated paparazzi, but this was different. He hadn't been followed around for a while and it was refreshing to be recognised in public; a little boost to the ego was always welcome.
"One . . . One group picture . . . Hah, hah, hah!" he said, doing his best imitation of the Count from Sesame Street. Everyone laughed. Some other folks were snapping pictures with their camera phones.
"You realise that we're going to spend the rest of our lives telling everyone we went to prom with a TV star, don't you?" April asked him.
"That's okay," he replied with a smirk. "I'm going to spend the rest of my life telling everyone I had four dates on prom night."
The second flash went off.
"Two . . . two group pictures . . . Hah, hah, hah!" the crowd chanted.
"You also realise that these pictures are going to be all over MySpace and Facebook before dawn," Bailey said softly. He had his arm around her shoulder, the other around April. Her breath in his ear made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Impure thoughts raced through his mind. It had been so long . . .
"I was expecting before midnight." Gabe turned and smiled at the shy girl.
The boy taking the pictures motioned for the five of them to squeeze together. "One more!"
The four girls closed in around him.
"Goofy smiles! One . . . two . . ."
The flash went off.
"Three! . . . Three group pictures! . . . Hah, hah, hah!"
The crowd began to disperse. The four girls each thanked him again for dinner. He found that he was disappointed that the brief encounter was ending.
Kimmy, Morgan and April were headed towards their car, but Bailey lingered for a second. He looked into her pretty blue eyes. She started to say something, but stopped. After a false start or two, she finally spoke. "I . . . um . . . don't suppose you'd actually like to go to the prom, would you?"
Gabe met her gaze and could tell how hard it was for her to ask. There was a hopefulness to her. He almost said, "No."
"Would they let me in like this?" he motioned to his shorts, sandals and polo shirt. "I'm a little underdressed."
A disappointed look flashed across her face. Gabe sighed.
"But I can't let a pretty girl down on prom night." Her face lit up immediately. "Would you slum with a date like me, or should I change?"
"Oh . . . I don't know," she stammered. Then she started waving frantically to her sister. "April! . . . April! Come here!"
The other three girls came back to see what Bailey was shouting about. They huddled up. There was some giggling and a chorus of "Oh, my gods!" and "This is sooooo cools!"
"I'll tell you what," Gabe said. "I only live a little ways away. I'll go home and change then meet you at the dance. Where is it?"
"At school," Bailey replied. "We go to Washington County High."
"That's quite a drive."
The girl shrugged. "There aren't that many good places to eat out in the middle of nowhere."
Washington County was a rural district well away from town. It was a small school and close to an hour away.
"I don't suppose you've ever been there?" A disappointed look flashed across Bailey's face. "Listen . . . we can't ask you to go all the way out there for us."
Gabe's heart leapt into his throat for a second. No young girl deserved this kind of heartbreak. Not on her prom night. Besides, it wasn't like he already had plans or couldn't afford a little country drive. "Why don't you girls follow me home; I'll change and then we'll go to the dance."
Her eyes lit up.
"I can't stay too long, though," he warned. "And I probably don't want to know what kinds of things you girls have planned for afterwards."
The pair of them laughed nervously.
Bailey went back to her friends and Gabe got in his car. He led them back to his house. Actually it was the house he had built for his mother before she died. It was in an upscale neighbourhood with a gorgeous lakeside view. One of the perks of having a reasonably successful television career was being able to do nice things for his family.
Pulling into his driveway, Gabe got out and led the girls into the house. They waited in the living room while he went to the guest suite. He still couldn't bring himself to move into his mother's room, even a year later.
He kept a tux in the closet for fancy events and even though it fit a little tighter than it had the last time he put it on, Gabe slipped into it easily.
"My mom says we have to stop by the house," Bailey said, holding her hand over the mouthpiece of her cellphone. "Kimmy and Morgan's parents are going to meet us there."
Gabe smiled. What had started out as a whim was becoming a big production. He almost regretted it, but the company of the four girls brought a little bit of light to an otherwise boring weekend. He noticed that the girls didn't wander around or touch anything. He only hoped that once he had kids, they'd be as well-mannered and polite as this crew.
The girls gathered up their things and they went to leave. Gabe reached for a pen and his pocket camera then joined the girls in his garage.
April started to give him directions to their house, but Gabe waved her off. "You guys lead and I'll follow you. Write your address down and I'll let my GPS find the place if I get lost."
"Do you want one of us to ride with you?" The hopeful look in Bailey's eyes made his heart skip a beat.
"Um . . . sure," he replied.
The drive out to the school started out awkwardly. Bailey was quiet and still a little starstruck. Gabe didn't want to come off as the creepy guy in his mid-30s hitting on an 18 year-old. He turned on the satellite radio and made a little bit of meaningless small talk.
Bailey and her sister were graduating the next weekend. Both were attending the local community college with plans to transfer to a 4 year university once they had earned their associates degrees. Their family was middle class, but not swimming in money. They couldn't afford to get apartments and would be living at home while going to school.
As they drove, the girl opened up and began to chatter on like a little girl. Gabe thought it was cute and sweet. She wanted to be a nurse. He watched her out of the corner of his eye, careful to watch the road, not the bosom that was surely taped with great care inside her strapless dress.
She didn't ask much about him, and he didn't feel like talking about himself. Both had a natural introversion that he tried to overcome with friendly conversation.
The drive took about forty-five minutes and soon they were pulling into her driveway. The house was on a good-sized lot with neighbours that were neither too close nor too far. The grounds were well-maintained with a garden that helped subsidise the family's food supply.
Gabe looked over at Bailey, but she wouldn't make eye contact with him. It seemed that she was a little embarrassed after being in the large McMansion he lived in. He sensed that the young girl was afraid he would think that she was a little too country bumpkin or white trash.
"Do you folks raise animals, too?" he asked conversationally.
"Um-hmm," she stammered. "We've got chickens and pigs and a couple of cows."
"Not anymore," she replied and a sad look crossed her eyes. "We had to sell them . . . feed's getting expensive and they cost so much to keep up."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Gabe said quietly. On impulse, he reached over and gave her hand a sympathetic squeeze, which made her smile.
The car rolled to a stop on the gravel and he found that there was a small crowd of family and friends gathered. Taking a deep breath, he put his smile back on and opened the door.
A few cameras flashed and people rushed out to meet him. He shook hands and was sure to say all the right things.
"I can't believe this!" April and Bailey's mother kept saying over and over. She made it very clear to him that she was his biggest fan. Gabriel posed for pictures with all of his "dates" in various combinations. He made sure that at least one of the four girls was in every picture along with him.
"You have a lovely house, Mrs. Crawford," he said with one arm around her and the other around Bailey. "And two lovely daughters. I'm sure you're very proud."
"I sure am," she beamed. "They're going to BCC in the fall . . . and call me Joanne."
"That's what Bailey told me on the drive out here," Gabe replied. "Time sure flies, doesn't it?"
"That it does, Mr. MacKenzie."
"Now don't you start with that 'mister' stuff, Joanne," he scolded her playfully.
They shared a hearty laugh which was interrupted by a wistful look on the other woman's face. "It seems like just yesterday that they were born . . . right here in this house. We didn't know what to name them so Doc Caudill put a bracelet on each. One was marked 'A' and the other 'B', so we named them April and Bailey."
"Oh, mother," the teenager rolled her eyes with embarrassment.
"Well, they have become beautiful young women," Gabe said and squeezed Bailey's waist gently. He didn't mean to, but the motion pulled her breasts against him. A shiver ran through his body.
"That they have," Joanne said with a sigh. The rest of the crowd was still vying for his attention, but he knew he had to get the girls moving or they'd spend all night in the driveway.
"Come on, girls," he called to the other three. Bailey seemed like she was fixed to his hip. "Let's get going. We don't want to miss the big dance."
The four girls all piled into his car. Bailey elbowed her way into the shotgun seat and the other three slid into the back of his Lexus. Joanne and her husband were tagging along, he in their truck and she in the family car so the girls would have a way home from the dance.