They hated each other, the woman from the trailer park and the man from the privileged background.
She hated the perfect suits and ties he wore. He hated the Wal-Mart specials clothes she wore. She made as much money as he, which was ample, so she could afford a better cut of clothes. The only positive thing he could say about her hair was that it was clean. Her language was as crude as his was precise and condescending. He though you could take the girl out of the trailer park but not the trailer park out of the girl. She thought that he had swallowed his silver spoon and would spend his life constipated.
If pressed they would admit to one admirable thing in the other. She admitted that for a man that never needed to work in the first place he worked hard at his job. He admitted that she must have worked long and hard to manage a college degree with honors while working at a local restaurant.
The each thought Cole, the operations manager was nuts when he paired them as a team. He had major successes when pairing a flaming queen and a bimbo, and then pairing the oldest with the youngest members of the staff. They had produced excellent, moneymaking work for the agency. Even while giving him credit for that most of the agency was positive that this pairing was doomed. All the others were innately pleasant people to start, respectful to one another. Anthony and Sara hated each other on first sight.
Imagine the shock when their first assignment produced the agency's second Clio nomination and their first win. Anthony and Sara had argued loudly during the entire process. Each had gone to their boss to complain about the other's hardheadedness. Each had been encouraged to "meet in the middle."
They turned in their project half a day past deadline, neither satisfied with it. Production took it and a month later they were summoned to the screening room. The clients and the agency brass were there. Cole introduced them to the clients in glowing terms and played their spot.
Anthony and Sara had been so insistent in fighting for their own vision they had never really looked at the others efforts. Together they had produced a masterpiece. When the segment ended there was spontaneous applause. The bosses thanked them and sent them to payroll where they received the first five digit bonuses ever given by the agency.
The news of their achievement had spread before they reached their shared office. Their ad had been sent to everyone's workstation and a few actually whispered "Clio" as they walked by.
Anthony and Sara were speechless when they reached their office. He eventually remembered his upbringing and offered his hand to Sara to thank her for her efforts. It took her a moment to absorb what he was saying because she was still staring at her bonus, the largest single amount of money ever in her hands.
Finally she said, "A handshake wont' do prissy boy," and flung her arms around him and gave him the biggest kiss in his life.
The kiss lasted longer than she intended and he allowed it to go on longer than he though prudent. He was embarrassed he had returned the kiss and even more so when he realized he had an erection.
She had enjoyed the return of the kiss but was puzzled by the fact that his hard dick pressing on her upper thigh had not repulsed her.
They retreated to hide behind their own desks while searching their minds for something to say. They were given a reprieve when Miss Roberts, the owner of the agency, and Cole came in.
She said, "The clients loved it as you could tell. They wanted you two to do their Christmas ads. I told them that would be nearly impossible since it is already September and there was little time to do one ad much less three. She insisted I ask, so I'm asking. Before you answer I want you to leave the office now and spend your bonus money. Go to a beach or a spa somewhere and relax. Monday kick it around and tell me Tuesday morning. Again, great work guys. See you Monday."
She stepped out of the office as the boss shook Anthony's hand and kissed Sara on the cheek then followed the owner out.
Again Anthony and Sara were speechless. As they prepared to leave he at last thought of something innocuous to say. "Those two seemed to be joined at the hip sometimes."
"Yes, they are in love with each other but we are not supposed to know," Sara said.
Riding the elevator down Sara asked, "Do you have anything special planned for your bonus?" she regretted asking him as soon as the words left her mouth.
He did not seem to mind the question and said, "I am going to see if I can get to Wrigley Field. I've never been there and I figure I should be able to get a seat for a mid-week game. Tickets for weekend games are nearly impossible to get even with them scalping their own tickets."
Sara's eyes were wide in wonder. Anthony was a baseball fan. In the four months they had been fighting each other baseball had never come up. The only other passion Sara had besides work was baseball. After she started getting very nice paychecks she bought herself a Lexus. Her next extravagant purchase had been season tickets to the local MLB team.
"What are you going to do with your bonus? Anthony asked.
"I don't know yet," she lied. "Listen, if you don't mind. Get me a Wrigley Field t-shirt please, and if they have it a Ron Santo t-shirt too. I'll pay you back."
'OK, no problem," he said as he got into his Camry.
He was driving out of the lot before he asked himself, "How the hell does she know who Ron Santo is?"
Sara knew where her money was going. She had wished she could make herself look better but the simple truth was she did not have a clue as to how to do that. She had purchased expensive dresses but when she saw herself in them she looked like trailer trash Sara playing dress-up.
Miss Roberts had brought her into her office recently to encourage her to dress better for work, reminding her that she was a frontline player and clients would want to meet her. Sara had broken down and confessed she did not know how. Miss Roberts assured her she would think of something.
That something was a spa in Arizona that had a five-day course in everything she needed to know. She would leave knowing what clothing flattered her and which looks to avoid. Make-up and hair care lessons were included as well as proper eating habits, exercise, and manners. The spa was going to eat more than half of her bonus but even though she was afraid it would not "take" she felt she had to try. In her bonus envelope there was a note.
Miss Roberts had written, "They are expecting you. Trust them, I do."
As she drove out of the parking lot she wondered what else did she not know about Anthony. She also pondered about how the rich man drove a Camry and the poor girl drove a Lexus. She concluded that at least one rich man did not see the need in proving he was rich while a poor girl did.
She decided that one poor girl was going back to her original dream car, a Miata convertible. A petite blonde schoolteacher, a regular customer at the restaurant she worked in, drove one. The car and the girl looked good together. She actually let her drive it one time when the teacher had too much to drink. Sara's ride had followed them to the home. The teacher actually made a pass at Sara, which she would have gladly accepted if the teacher had not been drunk when she made it. That plus gossipy Denise was behind them. She did get a nice kiss.
That brought up another thought to Sara's mind. It had been months since she last got laid. She was bisexual and even though that made most of the planet a potential sex mate she had been going steady with her vibrator for a long time. She wondered how much money she spent on batteries.
Her ruminations lasted until she parked her car at the long-term car park at the city airport and took the shuttle to the terminal.
Monday morning Sara was waiting for Miss Roberts in her office when she arrived. She was so self-conscious that she did not think she could face her colleagues. Miss Roberts did a real double take when she saw her.
The spa had decided her hair was hopeless; it had been cut short. Layers of golden curls adorned her head. She wore a charcoal grey pants suit with red piping, fashionable open toed shoes with short heels, (Sara was a tall girl), and for the first time ever her fingernails and toenails were polished.
Sara did not expect the reaction Miss Roberts had to her new look, all Miss Roberts could say was "Wow."
As she stepped closer to Sara the compliments flew, her garments and her minimal make-up were examined by touches that "accidentally" caressed her ass, her tits, her lips.
Miss Roberts wanted her and that was the turning point for Sara. It had been a lot of bother and it had taken a long time to get ready that morning but when the most beautiful woman she knew wanted her she knew she would always make the effort.
The next time Miss. Roberts hand strayed to her breast Sara held it there, looked into her eyes and thanked her. She leaned towards her lips and was immediately rewarded with a soft kiss that lasted long enough for an understanding to pass between them.
After they separated Miss Roberts said, "Let's go to your office and watch Anthony cum in is pants."
The giggled most of the way there and although no telltale stain appeared on his slacks Sara definitely had him speechless. Miss Roberts reminded them that they had to work on a decision for her by the next morning and left them to their own thoughts.
Soon the interruptions started, everyone wanted to see Sara. She got kisses, proposals, (some indecent which she would sort through later), and unanimous approval. Anthony became increasingly irritated by the interruptions and sequestered himself in the conference room to work on the Christmas ads possibilities. It was just after lunch that the two were able to begin putting their ideas together to see if there was any hope they could do it. Their bickering and yelling resumed.
To the others it was "business as usual" between the two, but in fact that was just at the surface. They had seen how their talents had meshed in their previous effort and were now actually listening to what the other said. The reaction to her new looks had given Sara a sense of self-assurance that allowed her to be less challenging. Anthony was continuously distracted wondering why he had never noticed how beautiful Sara was.
They also knew the other shared their love for baseball.
The previous week in Chicago Anthony had no trouble finding a Wrigley Field shirt for Sara but the Ron Santo shirt took some doing. He eventually bought a replica jersey with the former all-star's name on the back. He had also managed to get Ron Santo to sign it.
As Monday afternoon turned to Monday evening they fought tooth and nails until someone's stomach growled. The competition came to an abrupt halt and in the ensuing silence both of their stomachs growled. They could not help laughing and decided to call it an evening and tell Miss Roberts in the morning the chances were slim that they would have anything ready for the client before deadline.
As they rode the elevator down Sara asked Anthony if he had ever eaten at a Vietnamese restaurant at the edge of downtown. Anthony said he had many times and that it was one of his favorites. As they walked to their respective cars Sara said it would be a good night for her to try it out. Anthony surprised her when he said he would meet her there.
They were both wondering how they had ended up on a dinner date so suddenly. They consoled themselves by thinking it was not a date, driven by hunger they had just agreed on the spur of the moment to eat at the same place.
Sara was left behind at a light and lost sight of Anthony's car. When she arrived at the restaurant she considered the possibility that he had changed his mind about dining with her and had just gone home. Her smile was genuine when she went in and saw him waiting by the hostesses stand. His smile was just as genuine. He had been afraid Sara had decided against dinner with him and had had just driven by.
The hostess though to herself, "lovers."
They were seated at a corner table. Sara was impressed by the décor and even more by the gigantic menu. She allowed Anthony to choose for her since she had little knowledge of Asian cuisine. Her diet had been hamburgers and tacos for most of her life. This place had reasonable prices for exotic food. She liked it and hoped her dinner lived up to her hopes.
While they were waiting to be served Anthony asked her how she knew about Ron Santo.
"From my grandfather," Sara said. "Granddad was a third baseman in the Cubs minor league system. He was invited to spring training by the big club one year and got to know him. Even though my grandfather was being groomed to be his replacement Ron Santo took him under his wing and in one spring training made him a much better fielder. Granddad was a large lummox of a man, very strong but not very athletic. Ron taught him the footwork he needed to field his position well.
But he could not teach him bat speed. No one can do that. He had great power and any mediocre fastball or hanging curve thrown over the plate was crushed. On his way up the system he had always led his team in homeruns. In Triple A Ball few have mediocre fastballs. He retired after he struck out nearly a hundred times the next year. He never forgot Ron Santos kindness and encouragement. I have been a fan of his since I was a little girl and he told me the story. I even send him birthday cards," Sara added with a sad smile.
"Were you able to find a t-shirt with his name on it?"
"No, I did find you a Wrigley field one. It's behind my desk. With everything going on today I forgot to give it to you."
Anthony had decided to give her the jersey as a surprise on a special occasion, a birthday perhaps.
"Did you play? Sara asked.
"Yes, high school and college. The only thing my dad and I ever agreed on was that I was not good enough to come close to the major leagues. That was not my goal though; my goal was to have a scout offer me a professional contract. None came to see me in high school although I pitched a very good game against a pitcher they did come to see. In college scouts did come to see me. One even said his team was going to draft me after the first two rounds if I was still on the board. I pitched the last game of the season right after a torrential rain. I slipped on the mound and tore my knee and my shoulder on the same pitch. I have not played since then. By the time my knee healed I was too old to be bothered with. That was seven years ago. Even today there are days when my shoulder hurts or my knee gives way.
I do tell myself that I did accomplish my goal. A real scout told me I would be drafted. My dad doesn't agree, he says, "Show me the signed contract."
"I don't think I would like your father much. Ooops, sorry, sorry."
"No problem. I don't like him much either. We eventually did get our fondest wish, we are completely out of each others lives now."
They fell into a comfortable silence. They spotted a silver haired Hispanic man dressed nattily in a nice suit. He was alone and had the air of someone that had been in authority for a long time but somehow there was a deep sadness in his eyes. They perked up when a young waitress brought him his drink and stayed to chat with him for a while. The sadness slowly returned to his eyes when she left his side until she returned. She stayed to visit a while each time and repeated her visits throughout his dinner. She had gently placed her hand on his shoulder and he had cherished her touch.
When Anthony next looked at Sara she had tears streaming down her face. Without thinking Anthony put her hands in his and waited for Sara to fill him in.
"Mr. Koslowski," she said. "A regular at the restaurant I worked. He always wanted me as his waitress, never came if I was not working. He was in his mid-seventies and had owned a shipping company. When I met him I saw the same sadness in his eyes you see over there. His wife had died several years before, his children and his grandchildren were grown and their lives seldom intersected his. He was lonely. You may have a hard time believing this but I am a softie, I made him my friend.
Eventually I loved the man; I think he loved me too. He came every Tuesday without fail. I made sure my schedule included every Tuesday. If I did not have a table available he would sit quietly and wait. The others would kid me that my boyfriend was waiting for me but the hostesses would steer people away from my area until he was seated. Since I was single I worked all the holidays. He was there for most of them too. I cannot think of a single week in a span of almost three years in which we did not see each other.
The last few times I saw him he was so frail I had to help him to his favorite booth. A woman in her fifties drove him to the restaurant but never came in with him. As soon as she saw that I was taking care of him she drove away. When it was time for him to leave she was there for him. One rainy Tuesday she came in and asked to see me by name. I feared the worst and led her to our furthest booth. The lady was Mr. K's daughter, her name was Olivia. She had come to tell me he had died. I cried as I had cried when my grandfather died. The lady hugged me and fought tears of her own. She told me of the funeral arrangements and said her father would be pleased if I came to say goodbye.
During the final services I was seated as family, I rode with Olivia in a limo to the cemetery. She and I were the only two crying. That pissed me off somehow. I later learned that he had been a hard, driven man. Olivia was forty before her father had told her for the first time he loved her and was proud of her. That same day he handed control of the business to her instead of her older brothers.
One week later her father embarked on an around the world tour with her mother.
Olivia suspected something was wrong but it would be nearly a year before she learned her mother had cancer. At her request her father never revealed his wife's illness.
Olivia's mother fought the cancer for four years before losing the battle. Her father became a recluse until he was pushed into going out for dinner once a week. Finding old friends to accompany him was not difficult at first. But as time went by more of them ended up in nursing homes or just died.
Olivia said she would always love me for keeping her father alive for a few extra years.
The Christmas before he died he gave me this heart pendant you have seen me wear from day one. The other heart on the chain came from my grandfather."
They settled into a comfortable silence as they continued to observe the older gentleman and the young waitress. Their mood was interrupted when dinner arrived. Sara was overwhelmed by the enormous quantity of food and its delicious aroma. They started eating with ravenous appetites but each had a nagging memory that would not surface until they were in their own bed on the verge of sleep. Anthony had held Sara's hands until the food arrived. What nagged at them was how much their hands missed each other's when they had separated.
After dinner, which Anthony graciously paid for, he walked her to her car. They were both absorbed in thought; a germ of a plan for those Christmas ads was forming in their heads. As he held the car door open for her they had kissed before she settled inside. The first few miles on the way to their respective homes were spent on asking themselves "How the hell did that happen."
The following morning Miss Roberts came to their office and said, "Well?"
Sara and Anthony had discussed the project for ten minutes that morning and they both said "Maybe." They needed to know the clients parameters. What they had in mind was different enough that client consent would be needed. Miss Roberts had them follow her to her office and called the woman that handled the advertising arm of the client company, a popular brand of coffee. Her name was Kate. On their conference call Sara and Anthony explained their concept. Miss Roberts' eyes widened at the boldness of the idea. The silence at the other end of the line was broken by just one word. "Go."