Executive Platinum Ch. 02byBenLong©
With the first ring of the phone, I tried to turn the alarm off. The second ring of the phone awoke me instantly. I sat up, wondering what emergency was happening that I was getting a call in the dark hours of the morning. I noticed the clock as I reached for the phone, well past 1 am. Nothing good ever happens when the phone rings at 1 am.
"Jim? It's Gloria, from the airplane this afternoon? Umm, do you think I could take you up on your offer of a place to sleep?"
Hmmm. Maybe good or bad at 1 am depends on which side of the phone you're on.
Gloria gradually spilled a little of the story on the way home. She didn't say anything for nearly 5 minutes, then with a sigh admitted that maybe I'd been right after all. "Ned," if that really was his name, met Gloria at the airport, and she'd known almost from the beginning that he wasn't quite what he'd said he was.
The svelte executive that worked out regularly was actually overweight with a modest beer belly.
The well to do executive actually drove a 96 Honda Accord, that wasn't exactly in the best shape.
The nice restaurant turned out to be TGI Fridays.
The movie was a movie - but from there it went downhill. She'd literally taken her bag and walked away from him in the Gas Lamp district just after midnight and spent another hour trying to find a hotel room before she finally called me.
An hour and a half later we pulled back into my driveway, nearly 3 am. I'm an early riser; and having been two time zones out of whack for several weeks, I certainly wasn't in much of a mood for chat, but as with most newcomers to my home, Gloria was mesmerized with the view.
Nearly 500 feet above the surrounding valley, the view on a clear night can be incredibly spectacular, and this one was exceptionally clear. The neighbors had all turned in; my hill was an island of darkness surrounded by the glittering sea of city lights below us, shimmering in the dissipating heat of the day. Miles to the west a fog bank was rolling in, a line of increasing darkness behind it as the lights below disappeared one by one. I knew from experience on a night like this the fog wouldn't reach as far inland as we were; in the morning we'd awaken to a crystal clear morning. Although I've been accused of having a million dollar home -- it's actually only a half a million dollar home with a million dollar view.
Gloria was in awe of the city stretched out below us, but I didn't give her that much time to ooh and ah. I took her to the guest bedroom, showed her where the bathroom was, where clean towels were; told her to make herself at home. I told her she was free to go back out on the balcony and absorb the view if she wanted but that I was going back to bed, and bid her goodnight.
For the most part I've been an early to bed and early to rise guy for years. By the time I got Gloria home and settled it was almost time for me to normally wake up. I went back to bed, but it was only about an hour and a half later that I awoke with the sky already turning grey to the east. I knew it wouldn't do any good to try and go back to sleep, instead I got up and headed out for my morning run. Most mornings I do about 8 miles, which takes about an hour. When I got back, I quietly checked the house, the silence telling me my guest was still asleep. I knew Gloria hadn't had much sleep; I'd had most of a full night, so figured I wouldn't see her for a couple of hours yet.
It doesn't do any good to take a shower and clean up immediately after a run, being all hot and sweaty. I'd developed a ritual of jumping into the pool to rinse the sweat off, then taking about 15 minutes to check the chemical balance, skim the surface or vacuum any dirt and leaves from the bottom, take one more dip, and by that time I could go in and shower without being immediately sweaty again afterward. Having a private backyard and living alone, the ritual began with shucking my running clothes and not getting dressed again until I'd finished my shower. This morning I did no different; thinking that Gloria would be asleep for quite a while yet -- I went for my swim and didn't put anything back on.
The pool towels are kept in the laundry room which is just off the kitchen. When I'd finished cleaning and taking a second dip I grabbed my running clothes and walked naked to the house to get a towel. I dried myself off so I wouldn't drip through the house, wrapping the towel around myself when I was done. Normally I'd leave the towel in the laundry; I thought nothing of walking naked through the house. This morning however, knowing I had a house guest that might awaken as I was heading to my room, I chose to be slightly more modest. I could smell the coffee ready, the automatic coffee maker is a wonderful slave -- so I stepped to the kitchen get a cup.
The kitchen spans the width of the house. A sink at the one end had a picture window backdrop with a panoramic view of the valley below, while at the near end a picture window presented a panoramic view of the pool and yard. Standing near the window overlooking the pool, dressed in a white bathrobe and holding a cup of steaming coffee, was Gloria.
"I can't say as I've ever seen the pool boy doing his chores in the nude before."
"I'm sorry, Gloria. I wasn't expecting you up, I thought you'd be asleep for quite a while...."
"Oh it's alright. It's already after nine back home. I smelled the coffee, and figured I'd join you. I just wasn't expecting a Chippendale show. She stepped over to the coffee pot and poured me a cup. "Black?" I nodded. I noticed the French Vanilla container opened beside the pot, an empty sweetener packet lying beside it.
"One thing about it, it appears that you actually take care of yourself the way that Ned said he took care of himself."
I took a sip. "I take it Ned wasn't all he claimed to be?"
She was obviously ready to tell me much more about what the night before than the snippets she told me in the car. "I would say Ned wasn't ANYTHING he claimed to be. He wasn't well off, he doesn't take care of himself." She shook her head in disgust. "I thought I'd found a nice guy, someone that wanted to get to know me." She pulled a chair out at the table and sat, leaning her elbows on the table. I did the same.
"What made you think he was a nice guy?" I asked, recalling our conversation on the plane the previous day.
She sighed. "I don't know." She shook her head; I waited while she collected her thoughts.
"I guess I just wanted him to be, you know? I mean, after the divorce, I was a real mess. I was depressed, my world was upside down and for the first time in my life I was actually alone. At first I gained a lot of weight, practically all I did was eat. My daughter was off to school so I was alone a lot. I felt ugly, so I dressed ugly. I was ugly."
"I find it hard to believe anyone ever thought of you as ugly."
"Why thank you, but there was one person that surely thought I was ugly -- me. Whether I was or not, I felt ugly and that's what counted. Eventually one of the girls at work talked me into going to the gym with her. I started exercising more, which got me to start eating less and thinking better of myself. It took about two years, but I lost all the weight I'd gained over the previous two years. I almost got back to my high school weight before I got pregnant, but I'm just not built that way anymore. I started going out with the girls once in a while, and eventually started meeting some guys at the bars, began to realize maybe I wasn't as ugly as I'd felt. I dated a few guys, all disasters. Every last time the guys thought that if I went out with them on a date, I should be going to bed with them." She took a sip of coffee.
"I met Ned on the internet about 6 months ago. He sent me an instant message, and I responded. He seemed safe enough, being in San Diego, so I didn't think he'd be wanting to meet or anything, so I started talking to him. At first every couple of days, he'd pop up with a hello. He seemed to like the things I did; seemed to be interested in me, and I began sharing things with him that I didn't have anyone else to talk to about.
Eventually he started asking me about myself. How tall was I? What color was my hair, what color were my eyes. Was my hair long, or short? Did I wear makeup? It wasn't all the time, sometimes he'd ask me two or three things, sometimes only one, but when we'd say good bye, he always put what I'd told him in a description of me when he said goodbye."
"I don't understand, he'd describe you when he said goodbye?"
"He'd always say something like "Until next time, my 5 foot 4 lady friend." And then the time after he'd maybe say "Ta Ta, my five foot four green eyed lady friend," and the time after that my five foot four green eyed brown haired lady friend. That sort of thing. He always called me his lady friend.
That went on for quite a while. One day he said something about me being a stick figure. I asked what he meant, and he said he could imagine everything about me except a figure. I told him I wasn't a stick figure, so he asked what my dimensions were."
"And you told him?" She nodded.
"After that he started calling me his sexy lady friend." She took another sip of her coffee. "He was the only guy I ever talked with on line that never asked for a picture. I asked him once if he wanted me to send one and if he had one he could send me, but he said he didn't have a digital camera and he thought it was so much fun to use his imagination to know what "his sexy lady friend" looked like. The whole time he'd shared with me about what he looked like, and where he lived. I guess I had no reason to doubt him, he seemed to be telling the truth; at least he always told me stuff about himself that was consistent."
"It sounds to me like he kept a list." She looked at me, questioning.
"You know. A list beside the computer. Under "Gloria" he put the things you told him, 5'4", green eyes, brown hair. The he put down his list, "Ned," lives in La Jolla, no digital camera, works out daily. Then whenever he sent you a note, he always made sure he only put what was on the list, and always put on the list whatever he told you."
"I'll bet you're right. I never thought about it like that."
"Eventually you agreed to meet him. Was it your suggestion or his?"
"Definitely his. About a month ago, he said it would be fun to meet sometime, maybe a holiday weekend, I could fly out and he'd show me San Diego and a good time? I eventually agreed to meet him."
"And the rest is history?"
"Just about. They say to never judge a book by its cover, but why not? We do everything else. If the car looks bad it probably runs bad, if the grocery store looks dirty the food is suspect, if the man has a pot belly and bad teeth..." She drifted off.
"Not exactly in great shape?" I questioned.
She just nodded. "I'm sorry. I just had to tell someone."
We sat quietly for a few moments.
"So, what are the chances I can find a hotel today?" She asked, changing the subject.
"Not much, but why bother?" I quickly answered, "You're more than welcome to spend the weekend here."
"I don't know," she answered. "It's not like I really know you...."
"And you really knew Ted or Ned or whatever his name was?"
"Well, I thought so, but apparently not."
"See? So what have you got to lose?"
She didn't put up much of a fight, I knew she'd already accepted her fate, but just didn't want to admit it. I didn't put any more pressure on her; I just got up and started getting out food for breakfast.
I had to adjust the towel a couple of times, it kept starting to slip. I wasn't used to needing to cover up, but then again, I could have just gone in and gotten dressed. I didn't tell Gloria that I often didn't wear anything at all.
"Do you always clean the pool naked?" Gloria asked.
"Not always," I answered, sliding a plate of two eggs and an English muffin in front of her just as she'd ordered. "Just depends on whether I've been swimming or not. Most of the time I swim naked, and there's no reason to put anything on -- so I don't."
"I've never been skinny dipping before," she said, taking a bite of her muffin.
"Why not, are you that bashful?" I questioned.
"I don't know....Yeah, I guess so. Truthfully the opportunity never presented itself...."
"You mean you never made an effort to seek out the opportunity." I corrected. "Once you try it, you'll never go back. Humans are meant to swim naked, but that's just my opinion. You're welcome to swim in my pool any way you like."
"If I went swimming here, I might have to go naked."
"Just might?" I answered. "Are you going to play bashful or take a walk on the wild side?"
"I don't think I have much choice," she answered. "I didn't bring along a swimsuit."
After we cleaned up breakfast, I told Gloria since I had nothing special going on, I'd be more than happy to spend some time with her, showing her around. I asked her what she wanted to see or do, and when she came up with no ideas, I just told her to put on something comfortable while I did the same. An hour later we were at the Wild Animal Park, just north of San Diego, a part of the San Diego Zoo. Unlike the Zoo where the animals are in cages, at the Wild Animal Park they are in enclosures that nearly resemble their natural environment. Because she'd gotten up so early, we spent most of the morning there, but were ready to move on by early afternoon when it was beginning to get quite warm. She said she could handle some lunch when I asked, so I took us to the Embarcadero and Sea Port Village where we had a leisurely light lunch and a couple of drinks. Afterward we drove out to Point Loma and walked around the light house. On the seaward side of the point the fog was driving against the shoreline and the mountain, but on the bay side -- the summer heat was keeping the clouds away. A sharp demarcation marked the difference -- one block in the fog, a block inland -- bright sun ruled the day. It was late afternoon when we headed for home.
With every mile we drove inland, we could feel the temperature rising. From the mid 70's along the coast, it rose to the mid-nineties by the time we got to my house. From open windows and enjoying the breeze, we put the air conditioner on by the time we got just partway home.
"Wow," I commented as I got out of the car. "Good afternoon for a swim." Gloria didn't say anything.
We walked into the back yard; Gloria dipped her hand into the pool as we walked by. Due to the rocky hillside, although technically an "in-ground" pool, at the near end it actually has a retaining wall and the pool level is above waist height. At the other end, it's bordered by a giant boulder that comprises the entire hillside up to the neighbor's house, the only part that can be seen being their roof. Underneath the pool is solid granite -- either the pool was going to be above ground, or I wouldn't have a pool at all.
"Water feels really nice." Gloria commented. "Are you going to go?"
"Thinking about it. You going to come in?"
She looked at the pool and back at me. "I don't know..."
"But you're tempted?"
She looked again at the pool. "Maybe."
I opened the door, holding it for her. She stepped around me into the house, the cool of the inside a welcome difference to the heat outside. I asked Gloria if she wanted a drink, when she asked for something diet I got us both a diet coke. It didn't seem so hot now, I suggested we sit out back on the patio, but when I opened the door, it was obvious it was still too warm, at least without a swim.
"I'm going to take a dip." I informed Gloria,
"Go ahead," she answered, "don't mind me."
"If it bothers you I'll wear something, I don't want ..."
"It doesn't bother me," she indicated as well as said. "Really," she added when she saw my doubts. "I've got to admit I was a little taken aback at first this morning when I saw you cleaning the pool, but just because I wasn't expecting it." I looked right at her, she smiled. "Really, don't mind me."
So I didn't.
I took my clothes off in the laundry room like I normally do and taking a towel, walked naked back out to the pool. Gloria was still sitting at the patio table, she said nothing but I felt her eyes following me. Going to the far end, I dropped the towel down on the bench, stepped in onto the first step and then dove in. I swam one lap, swimming the third leg back towards her at the far end. I pulled up, leaning on the rock edge, to speak to her -- but she wasn't anywhere to be seen. I swam back to the far end, sitting in the shallows for just a few moments wondering where she'd gone when she suddenly appeared at the laundry room door, wearing the bath robe from this morning. She strode out, barefoot and purposeful; following the path I had earlier until she was at the steps with me.
"If you'll be a gentleman for a moment and turn your head, I'm going to join you." I slid to one side of the steps, turning away for just a moment and almost instantly heard her slide into the water, her hand steadying herself momentarily on my shoulder as she went by. Turning back, I saw her naked bottom surface momentarily as she swam away underwater, her bathrobe sitting in a pile beside the pool. I sat and watched, she surfaced at the far end, staying neck deep in the water. I just sat, making no effort to follow.
She giggled. "I think I like this."
"I told you you would" I grinned back at her.
She swam across the pool back toward me, staying neck deep or face down so she was always partially hidden from my view, even though the water was only 3 feet deep. She stopped about 10 feet out, standing on the bottom of the pool.
"I can't believe how "naughty" this feels."
"Being naked, outdoors, and with someone I hardly know..."
"So you don't like it?" I questioned.
"Oh god no -- it makes me wonder why I've never done this before." Her giggle was all I needed to know she was perfectly happy. "Let's just say it's deliciously naughty." She floated there in the pool for several minutes conversing with me before she moved closer. She brought an arm up across her breasts, bouncing on the bottom of the pool to move forward. As she got into shallower water where she didn't have to bounce or tread water, she folded her arms across her chest, keeping herself semi hidden from my view.
I was sitting on one of the deeper steps, leaning back, my elbows on the step head almost in the water. At this angle I couldn't see anything anyway, but apparently she didn't realize it. She stopped about 5 feet out, keeping her body hidden as we talked. We just sat and talked, getting to know each other better. I found out more about her ex and her daughter, she found out about my boys and what happened to my wife.
I stood, turned and climbed out of the pool. Taking my towel I wiped my face and body as I began walking toward the house. "Do you like Ahi Tuna?" I asked. "I picked some up on the way home yesterday, thought I'd have it for dinner tonight, but there's plenty for the both of us." Gloria had turned to face me, her arms still crossed. From here, looking down on her, crossing her arms actually was doing something to prevent me from seeing her entire body. She indicated Tuna sounded good, and I continued to the house, stopping to put on my shorts in the laundry room where I'd left them.
I'd just finished putting on my shorts when I heard Gloria call "Jim?"
"Yes?" I poked my head back outside, Gloria was still in the pool, back at the shallower end where I'd left her.
"Umm, I forgot a towel? Can you bring me one?" I glanced over and saw her robe, realized for the first time her predicament. I said nothing, just grabbed a towel and walked back up to the far end, realizing the tables were turned. Now she was the naked one and I the clothed one. I walked up to the edge of the pool steps, unfolded the towel and held it open for her.