It was Written in the Stars Ch. 03bylaptopwriter©
"Steven Haynes, what the hell is wrong with you?" sounded a very upset Gail.
My head was pounding, my joints were sore from the way I slept, and I had my best friend's wife pissed off at me; what a way to start a new year.
"Well I hope you're proud of yourself; do you know you had that poor girl crying! What the hell happened? I've never known you to be so rude; something must have happened..."
"She's a Virgo," I said interrupting her.
There was a short pause. "What?"
"She's a Virgo," I said again. "I really liked her, Gail, but then she came out with that astrology crap; from now on I absolutely will not have anything to do with anyone who even dabbles in that stuff as a hobby; I will NOT!" I said emphatically.
Again Gail took a moment before she spoke, "Steve, I...I don't really think she's into astrology at all; I mean, she's never said anything to me about it."
"Well she did to me; we hadn't talked for more than half an hour when she asked what my sign was, and then informed me that she was a Virgo. I'm sorry, Gail; I honestly didn't mean to make her cry but when someone even mentions that crap to me it's like scraping fingernails on a chalk board. I won't have anything to do with it, or anyone who farts around with it in any way."
I heard her sigh. "Yeah, I can understand that; I'm sorry, Steve; she really is a very sweet girl and I just thought you two would hit it off; I was hoping she could get you out once in a while and away from that studio."
"Gail, I know your heart was in the right place. I'm sure Megan is a very nice person and I'm sorry I hurt her feelings, I really am; but please, from now on, no more playing matchmaker. I don't have time in my life right now anyway. Okay?"
"Okay, Steve; I'm sorry it didn't work out though."
"I know; do me a favor, when you see Megan again, please give her my apologies. I know I should have never walked out on her like that, I just couldn't help it."
"I will, Steve," replied Gail.
At least we were still friends by the time we hung up, but now I was upset all over again from just talking about it, and on top of that, I felt guilty about Megan as well...damn, I didn't mean to make her cry.
I needed to get myself together. The apartment had a much nicer shower than the studio so I decided to go home, shower, and hit Denny's for some food; thank God for Denny's on the holidays.
As I sat, eating what turned out to be a late lunch, I thought back to the night before. Even though it didn't work out with Megan, I had to admit it was nice talking with a member of the opposite sex again.
I took the last sip of coffee, and by the time I paid the bill, I had made up my mind to start dating again; not a lot, but maybe two or three times a month. Hopefully that would be enough to get me laid once in a while; it'd been a long time.
My first opportunity to jump back into the dating pool came up the following week. Erica Snell was a local model I had used many times in the past. Between her vast number of wigs, make-up styles, and facial expressions, she had more looks than Rich Little had voices; on top of that she was intelligent, had a great sense of humor and was very friendly.
We had been working all day on an ad campaign for one of the major candy distributers in the city. It was almost five o'clock by the time we wrapped things up. I was a little nervous; I hadn't asked a woman for a date in many years but if I played this right it really wouldn't be like asking for a date, it would be just a simple, friendly gesture to buy a hard working girl dinner.
"So what do you think?" she asked coming out of the dressing room now in normal clothes with just a little make-up, "Will I be on billboards?"
"Billboards, magazine ads, you name it; did you hear their advance man, they loved the shots; you're in, Erica. I heard the ad exec say they may use you in a commercial spot."
"Really?" she asked getting excited. "Would you do the commercial?"
"No, that would go to one of the big boys down town," I replied. "I don't have the resources for that kind of thing." She was getting her stuff together to leave. "Say, Erica, it's after five already, let me buy you dinner for doing such a great job."
She stopped and looked at me; I could almost see the hesitation in those expressive eyes of hers; finally she answered. "Yeah, okay; I'm starving."
There was a little Italian bistro only three blocks away; I'd actually never eaten there before, Denny's was just a couple blocks further, but I wasn't going to take her there.
It turned out to be a nice place; it had a nice wine list, good food, and a quiet atmosphere. We mostly talked about the various shots we did during the day and which ones we thought they would use. We were there for about an hour and I decided I'd better go for it.
"Erica, I was wondering if you had a steady guy? The reason I'm asking is...well, if you don't, I'd like take you out. Maybe go to a show or dinner and dancing..."
She was giving me kind of a strange look like she was just waiting to say something so I stopped talking.
"What happens if I don't go out with you, you stop using me?" she said suspiciously.
The question surprised me; I knew there were photographers who coerced their models into sleeping with them by threatening not to hire them anymore if she didn't, but it angered me to think she would consider me to be one of those guys.
"Let's just forget I asked," I said curtly, then added, "And don't worry, you're a great model and I'll continue to use you like I always have."
"I've insulted you, haven't I; I'm sorry, Steve, it's just that I get offers like that all the time and well...it's cost me a lot of work. I should have known you weren't like that; my apologies."
"Apology accepted," I said.
"I appreciate the offer, Steve, you're a really nice guy but I really don't like mixing business with pleasure. It's fine as long as everything goes okay in the relationship but as soon as something goes wrong it can be disastrous. I did it once, when I was just starting out; after six months I broke it off and he went around bad mouthing me to every photographer and agency in the city; it was almost the end of my career."
"Erica, you have to know I would never do that," I said, again a little miffed.
"I know you wouldn't Steve, but I just see it as a conflict of interest."
Like I said, she was an intelligent woman. She was absolutely right and convinced me then and there that I have to look outside the profession for my dates.
"You're right," I said nodding my head slightly, "But I still reserve the right to take you out for a victory dinner if you land the contract for that commercial."
She smiled; "You got it, Steve; in fact if I get that commercial I'll take you out to dinner."
I knew she was just being conciliatory after turning me down flat, but it was still nice to hear.
For the next week or so, I didn't think about dating; the holidays were over and I was busy again. It was after one in the morning and I was still editing shots in the back of my studio when I decided I needed a break. I sat back in my chair and again thought how nice it was talking with Megan; until she told me she was a Virgo, of course. Still...I needed someone to relax with; maybe go on a date or two. I thought about my conversation with Erica and knew I had to rule out the models with whom I worked. So who; and where? I hated the thought of going to a pick-up bar. I never did very well in those places anyway.
As I sat and contemplated my stomach started to rumble and I realized I hadn't had any dinner. Ah, Denny's, open twenty-four, seven. I was about to call it a day anyway; I'd walk down, grab a bite to eat then good home and get some shuteye.
As I walked into the restaurant I was surprised to see Karen; she usually worked the dinner hour. I sauntered up the counter. "Karen, you're here awfully late; forget to go home?"
She chuckled a little. "Talk about not going home; are you still working?"
"Yeah...well, no, not really; I'm going home after I eat something. What about you; how come you're here so late?"
"My son broke his arm a couple months ago; even with insurance the hospital bill is over a thousand dollars. I asked Bill, the manager, if I could work some more hours; I was hoping he'd let me work lunch and dinner but he gave me the graveyard shift instead; Oh well, I guess beggars can't be choosers; isn't that what they say?" she said with a smile.
I was surprised to hear she had a son old enough to break his arm. I'd never really looked at Karen before; she was a pretty woman. I would have guessed she was only twenty-one or two.
"How old is your son?" I asked.
"He'll be seven in April," she said. "If he lives that long; he thinks he's a stuntman or something, he knows no fear."
I laughed. "You'll have to get him a protective suit like an astronaut wears."
"Yeah," she chuckled. "What'll you have, Steve?"
"Ah, well," I said still looking at the menu, "since it's almost time for breakfast how about steak and eggs?"
"You got it," she said turning around and feeding my order into the computer. She picked up the coffee pot and started making her rounds to the other late night patrons.
I sat there wondering why I'd never really noticed Karen, other than to give her my order. She was really a very striking looking woman. A young woman with money problems and a child; I'll bet she'd jump at the chance to go out to a nice place for dinner and dancing, I thought. Sure, why not? Just then she came back with my order.
"Hey, Karen, when you get a minute come on back; I'd like to ask you something," I requested.
"No time like the present," she said putting her chin in her hand before resting her elbow on the counter in front of me. "Ask away," she declared with a smile.
"Well, I was wondering if you'd like a short reprieve from all work and worries and go out with me for a nice dinner and some dancing afterward?"
She hesitated for a few seconds while staring me in the face.
"How long has it been since your divorce," she asked.
The question surprised me a little; I really expected her to just about jump over the counter thanking me. "Ah, well we separated a little over a year ago but the divorce was final seven months ago."
"I appreciate the offer, Steve, I really do, but after going out with a couple of recently divorced men I've learned something...they all have a lot of baggage they carry with them for a long time," she said.
I guess I looked a little shocked but she went on.
"Look at you; I used to see you in here at dinner time once in a great while; now I see you in here at one in the morning, how come? Because throwing yourself into your work is the only way you can survive. Now you're horny and you want to get laid but I'm not anyone's one-night-stand. When I go out with someone I want at least the potential of a relationship. I want someone who is stable in their own life; right now that's not you, Steve."
"I'm stable," I said in my defense. "I'm good at my profession; I have a growing business..."
"Yeah but what about all the things still swirling around in that head of yours; the grief, the anger, the pain; are you looking for another relationship already, I doubt it. All that emotional chaos you went through, it's still there and it'll take a while before it all dissipates. When it does, come back and see me then, Steve; come back and ask me when you can enjoy life and laugh again; I'd be honored to go out with you then. Right now I have enough emotional problems of my own to contend with; I couldn't take on yours too."
She leaned over the counter and gave me a soft kiss on the lips, then left with a smile to go fill ketchup bottles. To say I was stunned was an understatement. Was I really that messed up? Maybe I was, I thought about it all the way home.
That night I couldn't get to sleep; I kept thinking about what Karen said. Maybe I shouldn't even think about dating yet; hell, I couldn't get anyone to go out with me anyway.
By the next day I'd pretty much given up on dating again, but I still had that problem between my legs; damn, dating or no dating, I had to get laid!
Hooker? I just couldn't see myself paying a prostitute, besides it was dangerous; no, no hookers, but maybe, I thought, I should try going to some meat market on a Friday night and just seeing if I can get laid. It seemed to be my best option at the time.
The following Friday night I decided to take a chance and went down to The Fox's Tail, one of the best pick-up bars in town...or so I was told. The place was packed with wall to wall humanity, mostly guys but there were quite a few women as well. I was surprised to find a bar stool empty and grabbed it. I ordered a beer and started to look around some more. I was really feeling out of place; funny how lonely you can feel in the middle of a room filled with people. It didn't take me long to figure I'd finish my beer then leave.
I was on the verge of one last swallow before hitting the bricks when the bartender told me someone was staring at me. I glanced over and saw an attractive woman looking back at me. I smiled; so did she. I was trying to decide what to do next when she started walking my way.
"You're that photographer, aren't you?" she asked.
I was stunned. "Ah, yeah; at least I'm 'A' photographer. I'm sorry, do I know you?" I'm usually pretty good with faces but I didn't remember her at all. I knew she never modeled for me.
"Not really," she said holding out her hand to shake. "My name is Jeanette; my ex-husband is Wally Simsky, you used to work with him. I saw you a few times when you would meet him at one of the houses but I always stayed in the car; I don't think you even knew I was there."
Now I knew who she was. Her ex was a real estate man. When I was just starting my business I used to shoot interiors and exteriors of the homes he was selling. It didn't pay much but in those days I took everything I could get. I did remember sometimes seeing a woman in the car when he'd meet me at a property but I was never introduced.
"How do you do," I said shaking her hand. "It's nice to finally meet you."
"Same here," she said with a smile.
Just then the guy sitting next to me left; I quickly put my hand on the stool to save it for her. She sat down and asked if I was still working for her ex. I told her no, I hadn't done that kind of work in three or four years. We seemed to be getting along pretty good, and after a full hour of talking she hadn't mentioned astrology once; that was good enough for me. I asked her out and she accepted.
The following night I was nervous as I pulled in to her apartment complex. I wondered if she had the same goal for tonight as I did...getting laid. I'd hoped so. She seemed like a nice person, and from what I could see the night before, had a nice body, but there were certainly no sparks, at least not from my end. I knew there was not going to be any big romance between us but I sure wouldn't turn down a friend's with benefits type of relationship.
She gave me a small peck on the cheek when she met me at the door and we were off for a nice dinner, some dancing, and I hoped a night of wild sex.
"So, Steve, if I'm not being too nosey, what happened between you and your wife?" she asked about half way through our meal.
"Ah, it's a long story but basically she believed in astrology instead of life," I said.
"Huh," she sneered, "I wish my break up was that easy to explain; to this day I don't know why Wally wanted a divorce. According to him we just grew apart. I think he was running around on me but I couldn't prove it. That's why I was in the car sometimes; I wanted to make sure he wasn't meeting some floozy. Of course he always swore he wasn't having an affair but I knew he was lying, hell all men have affairs; I'll bet you fucked some of those models when you were married, didn't you?"
I was flabbergasted, "I sure as hell did not," I indignantly responded.
"Liar, men are all alike, none of them can keep it in their pants; some bimbo wears her skirt six inches above her knees and they'll crawl all over themselves to see who can get to her first," she snarled.
I could feel my jaw hitting the floor as I listened to her tirade; where did this come from, I wondered. She wasn't like that at all the night before.
"Hey, hey," I said interrupting her. I think my anger must have come through when I spoke; I'd hoped so. "Let's forget about our ex's and just have a good time tonight, huh."
She looked up like she was a little embarrassed. "Oh I'm sorry, you're right; I just get worked up sometimes."
I don't think we said three words to each other for the rest of the dinner and I was really thinking about calling it a night and forget about taking her dancing but I thought, what the hell, maybe she's just nervous; I'll stick it out and see if things get better.
When we got to the club it was of course packed; I looked around and figured the ratio was at least two guys for every girl and was thankful I had a girl to dance with already. We couldn't find a vacant table but there were counters all along the walls where people could set there drinks while they stood and watched the dance floor. We picked out a spot and were only there a few seconds when a nice looking barmaid came to take out orders. She explained as long as our glasses were on a napkin she knew we were dancing and would not pick up our drinks; when we left we were to put the glasses directly on the counter so she knew we were not coming back.
We waited until she brought our drinks so we wouldn't lose our place then I asked her to dance. My folks were masters at the jitterbug; I wasn't anywhere near as good as them but I did learn enough moves to get by and was pleasantly surprised when she stayed right with me. After that we did the two step to a slow song before returning to our drinks.
After her diatribe at dinner, I was a little gun shy to start a conversation but we had to talk. The night before she told me she worked in a sports store as a manager but we didn't get very far into it.
"So, Jeanette, I know you're a manager but what do you do exactly for the store?"
"Try to keep my boss from feeling me up, mostly," she said.
I thought, oh no! I opened the flood gates again, but just then a guy walked over and saved me; at least that's what I thought at first.
"Hi, Jeanette, I've never seen you in here before," he said looking straight at my date.
"Hi, Tom," she replied. Then, almost as an afterthought, she introduced us, "Tom, this is Steve; Tom works at the store with me," she explained.
"It's nice to meet you," I said cordially. He barely glanced in my direction with a slight nod of his head and completely ignored the hand I had extended.
"You want to dance?" he asked Jeanette.
"Sure," she responded without so much as looking at me for approval. She left me standing there and strolled out on the floor with asshole.
If I had cared for her even the slightest, I would not have allowed that to happen, but I had already decided this was the first, last, and only date I would have with Jeanette. I had completely given up hope for having her for a fuck-buddy, in fact, with the way the night had gone, I wasn't even horny anymore.
I stood and nursed my beer while watching them dance three dances together without coming up for air. I took my last swallow, removed the napkin from under the bottle and paraded out to where they were.
"Jeanette, I'm leaving, have asshole here drive you home."
"What, no wait!" I couldn't believe she was surprised at my actions. As I started to leave, Tom grabbed my arm.
"What did you call me?" he said trying to act the big man.