"Father forgive me for I have sinned. It's been two days since my last confession"
Father Shaughnessy signed audibly. She was back again. He didn't need to ask the nature of her sins. He was just worried about his poor parishoners, and who was the latest object of her attention. They went through the usual rigmarole, where she confessed to lusting after one of her neighbours, or maybe a boy in a store - and then stalking them.
"I know I shouldn't" she said "But I can't help myself, I just like watching them."
Well aware that he shouldn't, he became more conversational. He had to reach this girl somehow. She was incorrigable. "Who was it this time Gina?"
"No-one you know Father, just a guy in the mall."
"You know, to be honest, I'm beginning to wonder if any of us are safe from you my girl. If I'm safe even"
"Oh you're perfectly safe Father, you're way too old, and in any case you wear plus lenses, I'm only interested in minus lenses. See?"
He sighed again, returned to his professional tone and continued "....and sin no more". What a waste of breath.
She walked out and down the steps, walked half a block, turned right around, and started following another one. This one walked quite fast so she picked up her pace, hurried round the corner, and wham, straight into Father Shaughnessy.
"Oh, I'm so sorry Father, I was in such a hurry, I....."
"Who were you following Gina?"
She hung her head.
"My child, can you not just get a job in an optometrists? It would save us all so much...trouble."
"Well" she mumbled "I did work in one once but I got fired......"
"I DON'T want to know" said Father Shaughnessy quickly and gestured for her to walk with him.
How distracted she was, always on the lookout he thought, like a predatory bird. He left her at the intersection with an admonishment, and tried ".....and get a...HOBBY.....a different one."
She crossed the road, headed down into the subway and found a watching-place. She knew all the best watching-places. Businessmen in suits got off here, as did students. She wasn't too picky about age. In her early thirties herself, but with her lack of responsibility giving her a much more youthful appearance, she would watch them from youth to middle-age.
After a good hour in the subway she took a train herself, and took her usual place in the coffee shop. One of thousands in the city, this had been hand-picked as a bustling center of life on summer evenings, where for the price of a couple of cappucinos she could watch for myopic men to her heart's content.
In her head was a racing commentary: "Oh, look at him, very nice, mixed race, wonder what......oh! over there in the green sweater, get a load of......WOAH! sitting by the window he has to be at least.........wait, what's this, natural blond, I like......." on and on, until it got too late and she made her way home.
Gina lived alone. She worked hard and supported herself, but by any standards it wasn't a comfortable lifestyle. Her tiny apartment was clean, pleasantly furnished, and cozy, but certainly no palace, and she had no real career prospects or any chance to change that, as things were. She was just as aware as was everyone who knew her, that her obsession was standing in her way of improving her lot, and yet she was in no hurry to alter things. All that bothered her was the clock ticking away. Yes, she followed men. Yes, sometimes they noticed. Yes, some were flattered and would talk to her. Rarely did she actually get a date, and when she did, it never led anywhere.
The next morning she sat at her desk gazing out the window. All she could see from there was a wall, and some pigeons. That at least helped her concentrate on her work. After many attempts of finding such a job, she was now in an all-female environment, with no distractions. The only male, the boss, was too old to interest her. Way too old, due to retire.
Saturday came and she had plans. She was going to go to the swimming pool and watch for guys squinting. However the phone rang early and changed all that. Her mother was coming over. DAMN. Of course she was happy to see her Mom, but this meant hiding a ton of stuff around the apartment. It was full of pictures she'd snapped of unsuspecting myopic guys, like a fetish paparazzi, hiding behind shrubs and signs. Then there were celebrity pictures, her precious magazine collection, and the videos......she didn't have time to hide the videos. She just assumed they'd go shopping once they'd had a coffee. Her Mom wouldn't see the videos.
Her Mom saw the videos. She was just sitting sipping coffee and announced "hey! You got some new movies? What have you got?" and before Gina could even THINK she was going through them........
"This is a weird bunch of titles, what's this? "Over Time"? Hey, you're turning into your brother, he watches that stuff...."
"He can have it" Gina said, and meant it. Damn disappointment that had been too...."Highly recommended" by her friend Kevin, the one and only person she confided her fetish in other than her priest, he still hadn't GOT IT. She was into MYOPIC men. Sheesh, what was so hard to understand about THAT?
So they went shopping, her Mom and her constant chatter which she quickly zoned out from, and Gina looking every which way for men to ogle. Every now and then she caught a glimpse and felt a pang of excitement. Some were worth a really good look, and one drop dead gorgeous guy in quite strong glasses actually spoke to her, asking if she knew the way to the art gallery, and didn't her Mom jump right in and tell him? Like Gina didn't know? Sheesh, it was one of her watching-places!
An idea hit her, and she excused herself from her Mom, remembering a sudden urgent appointment with a sick friend, and made her way to the art gallery. It was a huge place, and she hadn't a hope of finding him in there so she lurked in the lobby, and got lots of other sightings while she waited. A good hour passed
Finally her quarry appeared from an elevator and she moved into action. Out the revolving door (which she almost got squashed in) down the steps, turn left, across the road, past the hot dog stand, avoid the trash can, STOP. He'd seen her. Just when she thought she was getting better at this.
"Are you follow....oh, you're the girl I asked directions from, did you...want something?"
The times she'd had to answer this sort of thing. By now she ought to have a perfect excuse ready, and yet despite being caught over and over again, she was always stumped as to what to say. Kevin had told her to be honest. Upfront. Just admit she had an obsession. He said it would go one of two ways, either a disgusted look and a request to stop, or an invite. She's never had the chutzpah to come out and say it. So once again she mumbled "I was just going this way......"
Few if any, bought it. This one didn't seem angry, but in fact laughed out loud. "Well, I'm just meeting my boyfriend for lunch, if you'd like to join us."
That was the other problem. In this city with its high ratio of gay guys she was often on a wild goose chase. Chalk one up for Kevin. Still undeterred she hung around and watched him greet his lover. They embraced briefly and her jealousy bore right through her. Then she headed for the music store and wept silently, but blew her nose loudly.
Kevin was working. After he'd dealt with his customer he waved to Gina and she went over. She gave her a big smile and a bear hug.
"How's your day?"
"What is it with you guys, are you recruiting or something?" she whined.
"Huh?" said Kevin?
"First catch I've made in weeks and he was gay."
"Oh, well, there you are, was he nice?"
"Argh, I don't know, quite good, you're so much better at this - maybe about like....WOAH!"
A customer had walked in, and he was HOT...
"Like that" she could hardly get the words out, she sounded like she was choking.
"Oh my" said Kevin, and pulled himself up taller.
"Mine" said Gina.
"Prove it" said Kevin.
She walked over to where he was browsing and stood very close. Then she reached across in front of him to pick out a CD, and said "excuse me" deliberately AFTER she'd done so. It was a test they contrived between them.
He completely ignored her.
She shrugged and gestured to Kevin, who left his post and approached with "Are you looking for anything in particular?".
The customer smiled, and Kevin winked at Gina. She stuck her tongue out at him and left the store, muttering to herself and even more distracted than usual.
It took several attempts for Hannah, one of her colleagues from work, to get her attention.
"GINA! I tried calling you!"
"What, oh....Hi....why? it's Saturday."
"Yes, I know but I got a call this morning, you won't believe it, Frank Anderson is dead!"
"Yes, last night, massive heart attack. Nothing they could do."
Being her usual caring self Gina asked "Am I out of a job?"
"No, silly, they'll send a new manager in from Head Office, I've been asked to go in tomorrow and empty all the personal stuff out the desk and everywhere, change the name plates and computer passwords and everything. Weird huh?"
"Go to work on a Sunday? Very weird."
"Yes, want to come and help me?"
"Well, after church, I guess..........."
"OK, thanks, I hoped you would because, well, it's kind of creepy, you know? "
"Yeah, it is...OK....wow........a dead boss......that's never happened before......"
In Gina's world reality tended to take second place to her plans. It shook her up quite a bit, put her off her customary Saturday afternoon's man-following, and instead of watching movies all evening, she went to her parents place. Anderson was the same age as her Dad. It made her think.
She came from a large family and a number of her siblings were there. Although they were pleased to see her they berated her for not coming round more often. The place was full of babies too, and her older sisters couldn't resist passing them to her, making her feel even more uncomfortable. She was beginning to wish she hadn't come, but at dinner it all seemed warm and familiar, and quite nice. Maybe it was time to settle down.
Father Shaugnessy was expecting her next morning and he wasn't disappointed. He wasn't expecting what he heard though.
"I really want to try and change Father, I really want to just find a good man, and get married, have a family, like everyone else."
"What's brought this on?" he found himself saying inappropriately, but unable to hold back.
No reply. Gina was crying. He absolved her and watched her leave. She seemed quite different to usual.
Arriving at the unusually quiet office she found Hannah kneeling on the floor filling boxes with stuff from Anderson's desk, but she wasn't alone. Helping her was a good-looking - a VERY good-looking - man in his early fourties dressed in jeans and an open-necked denim shirt. She assumed him to be from her late boss's family. But Hannah introduced him.
"This is Tony, he's our new manager. Came in today to get down and dirty with the workers!" they both laughed. Gina was speechless.
"Oh, I guess you're not used to a boss who crawls on the floor with the office staff? Old man Anderson, great guy, but pretty distant right? I'm more hands-on, good to meet you" he held out a hand to Gina and she came back to her senses.
Well, this wasn't right. This wasn't right at all. For one he was going to be her boss, and for another NO GLASSES. And yet all the usual sensations were running through her body. She thought to herself, maybe there's hope for me yet, and fingered the cross around her neck. A silent prayer. Then she thought maybe that wasn't the sort of thing you were supposed to pray about.
After they'd finished he took both girls for coffee, and it was obvious Hannah was interested. She was flirting with him quite openly. Funnily enough, however, it seemed to be Gina he had eyes for, and she felt herself getting quite flustered every time he smiled at her.
Arriving home she immediately phoned Kevin.
"I can't..um..talk now Gina, I have a.... visitor" he whispered
"Not the guy in the store yesterday?"
"Yeah.......well, anyway, talk to you soon."
Thanks a bunch, she thought, I'll always be here for you too.
Well, she told herself, what if this new boss does turn out to be interested, should I turn him down? The boss, he could support me, yes. I could be a good wife. A manager's wife. Nice house, nice car. Yes, I could do that. BUT WOULD I GIVE UP MAN-WATCHING. Could I? She went to bed early, wanting to look her best next morning.
A respectful air of gloom hung over the office, but who could say they really missed him? No-one really KNEW him. He stayed in his office most of the time, never had a personal conversation with anyone, heck, no-one knew anything about him. No, this was just a change of staff, and Tony shook hands warmly with everyone and settled right in. He chatted easily to everyone but, unless she was imagining it, seemed to be very keen to spend more time with Gina. Hannah looked like she was ready to kill, and Gina therefore figured she wasn't imagining it. Three times in the course of the day he made the trek from his office to her desk to bring her things to do, when he could easily have called her in. He seemed to like getting around, being with the staff. Everyone took an immediate liking to him.
She stayed home all evening. She had no desire to go man-watching. She had no desire to watch her movies. She had no desire to go through her collection of pictures. All she could think about was Tony. It was the weirdest thing.
Kevin phoned, and apologized. But she wasn't angry with him. She said she felt like there'd been a change in the wind direction. She was happy for him. Kevin thought she must be ill.
"Oh come off it" he said "this won't last. I know you."
"I mean it Kevin, I really want to be normal."
"Well, it's OK for you, you can carry on like this forever, I want to have a family."
There was a long silence "Don't you think I'd like that too?"
Gina was mortified "I'm so sorry, I just never thought......."
"No-one ever does. It's OK. One day....maybe."
Along came Tuesday and Gina got another greeting from Tony that filled her with hope. All that's holding him back, she thought, is that he's the boss and he needs this to be done discreetly. So, I'll give him plenty of time.
After his initial "New Boss" tasks he now had to really get down to work, and was busy most of the day. He came through once, smiled at her, but kept going. She didn't mind. Work first. Priorities, it's ALL about priorities.
By Wednesday he was snowed under. She only saw him once, very briefly early in the day, and on Thursday he didn't even emerge from his office. Maybe Anderson hadn't been such a recluse after all, maybe this was just one hellish job. But Friday he made an obvious, deliberate effort to come and see her, just before leaving, and apologized, sort of, for his absence.
"Well, I don't know what he'd been doing in there but I've got some serious catching up and damage control to do. He certainly didn't die from overwork - that's for sure, maybe it was guilt stress," and with that, he briefly gripped her hand and said "See you monday".
Gina felt like a million dollars. She'd definitely been singled out. She wondered how long she'd have to wait for.....well.......more.
She spent Saturday doing laundry and catching up with errands. She went to her parents for dinner again Saturday night, and when she got home there was a message on her phone from Kevin asking if he'd offended her. It was the first Saturday in 4 years she hadn't visited him at the store on her man-watching tour. And when Sunday morning came..........
"Forgive me Father for I have sinned......."
Father Shaughnessy sighed, but, miracles do happen, this time it was very different.
"I know I shouldn't lust after my boss Father, but he would make a good husband."
"Well, we may be jumping the gun a bit here.....but it's good news Gina, it really is."
Kevin was busy, again, damn him, so she spent Sunday putting away her photo collection. She felt like she was overcoming an addiction. She thought she'd quite like a photo of Tony though.....and then she thought of wedding photos and went off into another daydream. She'd got it BAD.
Monday started in the new familiar routine, he arrived mid-morning, greeted her warmly, and gave her a pile of papers, then disappeared for the rest of the day. Every time she saw him the sun came out, and these brief meetings just weren't enough. She wanted at least to give him some encouragement, so that it wasn't DOUBT that was holding him back....she decided to contrive a reason for going to HIM. But she couldn't think of one. There was no genuine, innocent reason for her to bother him in his office.
And then fate stepped in.
The ladies' room was being fixed. Staff were told that as it was such a long journey to the next nearest ladies' room, on another floor, they were allowed to use the men's room. As the only guy in the place was Tony it was pretty much free all day anyway, and it meant walking right past his office.
To her utter delight Gina discovered he worked with his door open. This was so senior staff, with genuine reasons to go in there, could do so freely. So twice during the day she went to the bathroom, and got a quick glimpse of Tony, busy on the phone both times and quite unaware of her walking by. It didn't matter. She got her fix of his beautiful brown eyes and slightly messy hair. Desperate not to slip into her old "ways" she resisted the urge to go any more than actually necessary, but she did have an extra glass of water.
On the third occasion he seemed similarly distracted on the first pass, but on her return he saw her and called her in. At first she was too taken with his face and the fact that he wanted to talk to her to be aware of much else, but some sort of internal detector took over and dragged her eyes to the desk.
Right next to the phone were a pair of glasses.
"I'm sorry?" she said, as she'd been so affected by seeing glasses laying on his desk she was sure she'd mistaken what he said.
"If you could get the R3 details for me?" he repeated kindly.
"Yes, yes......I'll start it straight away, I.......um......yes" and with no valid reason to stay and look again, she hurried back to her desk, and sat down utterly, totally, completely dumbstruck.
Maybe they weren't his. Maybe someone else had left them there. So now what? Did she want that to be right or not? Did she want to find she'd fallen for a man who wore glasses after all, or to be cured, once and for all? And if that wasn't enough tearing her mind in half, did she want to go back for another look, or not? She decided the best thing to do was immerse herself in her work, get the R3 details for him, and take it from there. She had never worked so fast in her entire life. A draft report that anyone would expect to take a full day was ready in an hour. She was determined to have it done before leaving, and she actually stayed late, another first, just to have it done for him. Quickly, she picked up the papers and headed for his office but both he and the glasses were gone. She didn't leave he report however, she took it back to her desk.
Next morning she was delayed in her desires to take it to him immediately, by various annoying people asking her various annoying questions about her........annoying job, but finally she made her way to his office, and he was, of course, busy on the phone. She was going to give in gracefully at that point and leave the papers on his desk, but he gestured for her to sit down. Putting his hand over the phone he whispered "I'll only be a minute, hang on".
She sat in suspense, and it sure seemed like more than a minute, but eventually he hung up, then took the phone back off and laid it on the desk, smiling. He was avoiding being interreupted by another call, she thought, without the customary request to his secretary to hold back his calls. This way it just looked like he was busy.
"Thanks, that was quick!" he said, picking up the report.
She scanned the desk for the glasses, but saw nothing. Her heart sank. Well, at least she knew whether she was cured or not. Not.
He opened the report, laid it out on the desk, but instead of looking at it he just laid his hands on it, and said "How about dinner? Tonight? Somewhere quiet and cozy?"
Ayee. She didn't know what to do, but accepted eagerly anyway, just to give herself time to think. He said that he'd meet her at the corner of 12th and George, and right there she had no good reason to go back to his office before the date. And they'd fixed the ladies' room. Sheesh. No more excuses to walk past either.
So, at precisely 8 as arranged, she waited under a street light in her lowest cut sweater, wondering what the hell she was doing, and Tony was right on time, looking far more relaxed out of a business suit. He pecked her on the cheek , which made her head spin, and ushered her into an intriguing Bistro named "Capricorn". This was rather more up-market than she was used to. They collected drinks at the bar, chatted easily, and then settled at a cute table by the window.
"Are we on show?" she asked, posing like a mannekin. He laughed.
"No, they play live music later, it gets a bit too loud to talk easily further in, is this ok?"
Oh yes, this was fine. She actually liked the idea of being seen by passers by, sitting with this hunk.
The waiter brought wine, and menus.
Without any comment, pause, or affectation, Tony calmly pulled a pair of glasses out of his jacket pocket, put them on, and checked out the menu.
Gina thought she was going to pass out.
She grabbed her drink and almost finished it one go. He laughed.
"Steady!" he said "You'll be on the floor".
The floor was beginning to pull at her anyway, regardless of knocking back the better part of five ounces of red wine so fast, and she feigned a cough and dived behind her menu. And then peeked back out again.
He was looking at her, highly amused. Well, isn't THIS precious, thought Gina.
She took a deep breath, sat up straight and looked over the top of her menu again. He was still looking at her.
"What's wrong? Don't you like seafood?"
Don't I like seafood? DON'T I LIKE SEAFOOD? Well, do I? I can't remember, she thought. She had no idea if she liked seafood or not at that point, her brain had turned into a jellyfish and she was treading water, trying not to drown.
"What.......do you recommend?" she asked at last, giving her an excuse to look hard at him. As she did so she confirmed easily what she'd suspected, quite obviously, as reading glasses, these were plus lenses. She squirmed at her own mixed feelings. Better than nothing, huh?
"I haven't been here in ages, so I'm going to try the new stuff, but you won't go far wrong with the shrimp, if you like hot food".
Hot wasn't a word she wanted bandied about at that point, and she took the last drips of her wine.
Not really knowing what to order, she went with his suggestion. And then she looked at him again, wondering why she'd ever had a problem with guys in plus glasses, and thought take them off, please...no, don't...yes, do...no......yes......no......and just when she thought it couldn't get any worse than this, he pushed them down his nose and called the waiter over. Then he turned back to her and looked at her over the top of them. She'd never seen anything so sexy in her entire life.
After ordering, he took his glasses off, put them away, and the evening continued. Gina was in an inner turmoil. If anyone had offered her a penny for her thoughts at that point she'd have refused their money. Her shrimp was fantastic, her date was a blast, and her life had just done a backflip.
The live music was wonderful, jazz guitar, something she'd never been familiar with but was instantly sold on. Tony seemed surprised she'd not come across it before, and she said as little as possible beyond how she liked it, not wanting to admit having had rather restricted interests thus far. She was suddenly aware of a social gulf between them, but hoped it wouldn't matter. As the evening wore on it was clear that they had a chemistry, but it couldn't go on indefinitely, at least he offered to walk her home.
She was so entranced by his company she was past caring what he thought about her humble place of residence. He seemed fascinated by this older part of the city anyway. Gina shivered. The perfect gentleman, Tony took off his jacket and draped it across her shoulders. It smelled like him, of course, but that wasn't the best part. She was aware of something hard in the inside pocket, and with her arms covered he was unaware that she reached up to feel his glasses. Carefully, through the pocket lining, so as not to leave a mark, she felt the lenses and tried to make out the thickness in relation to her own fingernail.
When they arrived at her building she thought about asking him in, but decided not to be so forward. She really wanted to get this relationship right, even though her head was still spinning with the implications of it all. He gave her a gentle kiss, took his jacket back, and waved goodbye, then called, laughing "This is no excuse to be late into work!"
Oh my God, thought Gina.
Gina was in a quandry. She'd spent her whole life obsessed by myopic men, to the point of stalking them. It had lost her jobs, it had kept her poor, and just when she's tried to shake herself out of it and look for a good husband instead, she'd found a man at least ten years her senior who wore reading glasses. Plus lenses. It WASN'T what she had been looking for, it was all wrong, all wrong. She paced up and down in her tiny apartment, trying to weigh one thing up against another. Just to make everything more complicated, he was her boss, a busy man, and an educated man too, just about the oppposite of every man she'd ever actually dated. But he was wonderful. He was charming, and intelligent, and, well, not hard up either.
She got into work on time, and to her utter delight and surprise, as everyone was watching, when he walked through the main floor he greeted her with a kiss. Just a peck, but it said "OK you gossips, have a field day". He didn't care. Yes, the gossips got busy. She even overheard Kate saying that he was probably one of those bosses who just worked his way through every woman in the place. For a nanosecond Gina worried, but they hadn't had the evening with him she'd had. There was no way he was like that.
Mind you, he could have been. The main comment she overheard when lurking to hear the gossip was that all the girls thought he was hot. And she listened in to most people's conversations. Years of stalking had made her a very good spy. Just before lunch a note was put on her desk telling her to go to Tony's office. She assumed it meant immediately, so she gathered up her belongings as if going to lunch, and headed straight there.
The door was slightly ajar, so she stuck her head round. What a treat. He had his glasses on. He was, as always, talking on the phone, so he waved her in with a smile. The telephone conversation was boring, and she just sat and gazed at him. She'd never really studied plus lenses before. The light played on them differently. Right now they seemed to glow. It was bittersweet. She felt like she'd been given the ballgown of her dreams - but in the wrong color. But at least he wore glasses, at least. She smiled to herself, how silly, thinking she could ever get over that obsession. It was never going to happen. He saw her smile and returned it. God he was gorgeous. Just plain gorgeous. Like no man she'd ever seen before..........
He interrupted her thoughts by hanging up the phone and pretending to sceam. She laughed.
"I've been on that call...." he looked at his watch ".....thirty minutes, can you believe that? He just kept repeating himself. God, I HATE this job!".
Wow. It had never occurred to her that someone in his position could feel that way. She thought it was only minions like her who dragged themselves in every day thinking only of the paycheck. She was still gazing at him. For a moment he lost himself too. But then he asked her,
"What are you thinking Gina? You're very intense."
"Oh" she came to, "I'm sorry, I....um......I'm OK"
"Shall we escape and take a business lunch?"
"Sure!" she said, having been expecting, or at least hoping that was what she was here for. He took off his glasses, put them in his pocket, stood up, walked across the office and held the door open for her. My hero, she thought.
They walked half a block to "The Miller's Arms", a British style pub. Gina loved it.
"This place is great! I've never been in here before."
"It reminds me of London" he said "I spent five years there actually, I've only been back a few months. Have you ever been there?"
Gina had never been anywhere. She'd never left her own state, let alone her country.
"No", she said "Tell me about London."
But he told her more than that. He told her about the rolling English countryside, about Stonehenge and Canterbury Cathedral and the little cobbled streets. He told her about red double-decker busses, and fish and chips in newspaper, and sweet old Yorkshire women who were totally unintelligable. He ordered Cornish pasties for lunch and something called real ale, and it was good. It was all good. And it got better, because the check came, and that meant he put his glasses on and she could lose herself in them again. And because she was lost he obviously felt no compulsion to take them off because he was too busy looking back at her across the table. Finally he said,
"You know Gina, I've traveled quite a bit actually, both here and abroad, and I've met a lot of really sophisticated women, the type of women I really thought I wanted, and I never found anyone I could really just feel comfortable with. Sure, I can talk easily enough, it goes with the job, you know, communication skills, people person. But it's always like I'm talking in code. And so are they. And we both know it. I never get past that. I prefer talking to you, it's refreshing, you're so.......honest."
He means dumb, she thought, or maybe he truly meant what he said.
"A lot of people think I'm weird" said Gina, honestly. "I say things that you're not supposed to. My priest told me that I should count to ten before I say anything."
Tony laughed, but kindly.
"It goes like this - I'm 43 Gina, and I'm still single. I really don't enjoy my job, but the money is good and I've made enough from it to do something I'd like better when I can't stand it anymore. I have a nice home, a nice car, and I'm fit and healthy. The only thing missing from my life really is someone to share it with. I'm long past the playboy thing, and I really, really need to settle down. I'm looking for a long-term relationship, so it's only fair I'm upfront with you about that. I didn't ask you out so quickly because I'm some kind of office gigolo, I just knew the moment we first met that you were exactly what I was looking for. You're funny, you're so open and honest, my God, you're so natural. I didn't have any reason to wait, and I hope you don't feel I'm rushing into something here."
Whew. Gina sat straight upright. Honesty. He wanted honesty?
"I hate my job too," she offered to begin with, he laughed.
"It's OK, I wasn't asking you to confess, I think your priest is probably better for that."
"He doesn't understand me," she said, and then realized she'd left herself wide open.
"Well, then in THAT case, feel free to offload. It makes a change from business talk."
But right then she had nothing to say. Oh yes, there WAS something she wanted to tell him, but now was not the time. He waited a bit, saw she wasn't going to begin, then looked at his watch and apologized.
"Maybe we can talk later? I really MUST get back now, you understand, I know."
He took his glasses off, folded them, but instead of putting them back in his pocket something occurred to him to tell her, and he cupped them in his hands.
"See? I'm middle-aged. Me. I never saw it coming, it crept up on me. I was the jock, you know, and then the cool young business exec with the fast car. Then one day I realized my arms had gotten shorter....."
Gina suddenly felt very strange with him talking like this, and she wasn't sure what he was going to say next. Seeing her obvious reaction, he laughed,
"What?" he said, looking at her bemused.
"Well" she said, in a whisper "you see I've got this....um....quirk"
He looked more bemused, and now amsued too. She couldn't go through with it. She couldn't tell him.
"I'll explain later" she said, very flustered, and quickly got up to leave.
Immediately after work she went to straight to the music store to find Kevin. He was closing up.
"Don't tell me you're busy, I need you."
"OK, alright, I'm all yours, what's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, well it's all wrong, but it's alright, I mean it's all good, JUST LISTEN."
"I AM LISTENING. MAKE SENSE!"
"OK, sorry, OK. OK, Kevin, how long have you known me."
"Right, and since then you've always know me to be pretty singled minded about men, you know what I'm saying, we share the same thing."
"Yes, indeed" he replied "We both have a passion for nearsighted men. You take the straight ones and I take the gay ones. None are wasted! None left behind!."
"Yes," she laughed "But what about the other men, the farsighted ones, they get left behind, right?"
"Well" said Kevin, "It's true they're not my first choice but I wouldn't reject them......."
"Oh?" said Gina.
"No, I mean, hey it's still glasses right? Just different. There are just more cute nearsighted guys around, I guess."
"Well" said Gina "I've got one."
"I've got a farsighted guy. He's my......boss actually. He wears glasses to read."
Kevin's eyes were like saucers. "Is he cute?"
"Yes, very. Listen you know about these things right?"
"Oh stop acting dumb Kev. You know all about glasses, you wear glasses yourself. You know all the terminology."
"Well, some of it."
"So what's the difference? I mean I'm used to looking at minus lenses, these are really different. They glow."
She wanted to hit him.
"OK, maybe glow isn't quite what I mean. They hold the light. Oh come on, you know what I mean."
"I think so, but it depends. Are you sure he's farsighted and not presbyopic?"
"Well, if he just wears them to read...how old is he?"
She knew that precisely "He's 43."
"Well, there you are then, that's presbyopia. It comes with middle-age, sheesh Gina, what are you dating a wrinkly for?"
"He's not wrinkly. Actually he doesn't look any older than you."
"Well, if you say so, but I mean it's an old guy thing. I know what you mean about holding the light, that means they're pretty strong actually, do they make his eyes look bigger?"
She had to think about that.
"Yes, now you come to mention it, they do."
"OK, follow me."
He took her to the pharmacy on the corner. They sold cheap, over-the-counter reading glasses.
"Now look at these" he said to her "do they look like this, or this, or....."
"This" said Gina. Right at the bottom of the display the strongest lenses they sold matched how she remembered Tony's glasses to look.
"Wow" said Kevin.
"Yeah wow, like how the hell can anyone see through those."
"Well, he can obviously," she said, defensively "What's the problem?"
"Not a problem, no, just.....wow."
Kevin hurt her head sometimes.
"What's that word again?"
This time she hit him.
"You said there was another word, began with p, instead of farsighted."
"I don't think I'll remember that."
"Were you thinking of asking him?"
"No, no......but I was going to tell him....my.....quirk."
"Good for you. Honesty is a good thing"
"That's pretty much what he said"
"There you go then, now can I go home?"
I released Kevin, and went the other way, to my home. I spent an hour getting ready for Tony, and he was right on time. Yes, he had a VERY nice car. We drove to a dinner theater on the other side of the city. I'd never been anywhere like that before, and, being honest, I told him so. It was divine. The setting, the service, the food, the show, everything. And Tony, so handsome and....suave? And my special treat, watching him put on his glasses to read the menu, and then the program. And laying them on the table the rest of the time for easy access. He put them on to read absolutely everything, including - I noticed - his watch. I loved it. I felt like a voyeur again, with the ever changing view. There was something very exciting about this on-off-on-off thing.
After the show he asked me if I wanted to go straight home, or to go back to his place for coffee, and he stressed,
"No pressure Gina, OK, just coffee?"
I was happy to say yes anyway, as it was his suggestion.
What an amazing place. Leather sofas you could drown in and some really neat artwork. It wasn't cluttered but it wasn't sparse like batchelor's homes often are. He'd obviously collected quite a bit in his travels, and he enjoyed having it around him. A beautiful long-haired cat appeared from a doorway, and he rushed to pick it up.
"This is Cleopatra, she's my first love. Can you accept that?"
We both laughed. He fetched coffee, and put some of that guitar music on. He threw his jacket on another chair and took off his tie. I wasn't completely convinced about "no pressure" but I wasn't bothered. I was quite ready to bed this man.
We chatted for quite a while, and the topic drifted from one thing to another, always without any pauses, only stopping to think while gazing into each others eyes. God he had beautiful eyes. What a beautiful man! What gorgeous skin, bone structure, hair - his hair always looked slightly ruffled, but never bad. That's what I was trying to put together in my head. He was very sure of himself, but not so much as to be "smooth". He had an edge.
We gradually sank further and further into the sofa, until I was laying across him. I was starting to get sleepy, and I think he was too, but there was so much to talk about. I found I was talking about myself very openly, like I normally didn't actually, and I felt so completely totally relaxed just laying there, that when he said,
"Earlier you said you had a....... quirk?....."
......I was ready to open up.
"Well, this is going to sound funny, but ever since I can remember I've only been interested in men who wear glasses."
He nodded, like it didn't sound too funny at all.
"And when I first met you, and you didn't, I wasn't sure why I was attracted to you. Like it wasn't right. Then I saw you that wear reading glasses, and then it was OK, but not what I was expecting.....I mean for me.....to end up with.......I mean.......I never thought the man I really............."
"Fell in love with?" he said, hopefully.
"Yeah, I guess....I never thought I'd fall in love with a man who was......." and she tried to remember the word that Kevin had taught her, but it was long gone.
"OK" Tony said, smiling "I think I understand. You like guys who wear glasses all the time, because only needing them some of the time isn't the full deal. And people who wear reading glasses only wear them some of the time."
"YEAH!" she said exitedly, and then suddenly felt like she wanted to disappear down the back of the sofa. Well, she'd been honest.
"Well" said Tony "I think I can help."
She sat up, not knowing what was coming next. He was killing himself laughing.
"Can I be honest with you?" he asked.
"You know, I said earlier, I'm not enjoying the idea of being middle-aged too much, I live in denial. It's crazy, but there you are. The only part of me that's middle-aged is my eyes, honest."
She agreed eagerly. He really didn't look his age at all. No grey hairs, no lines, nothing.
"So as you can imagine, when I was told by my optometrist the other week that I really ought to be wearing glasses virtually full time, and he said the word "progressives" I just freaked right out. I did. I lost it. I don't remember what I said exactly, but I pictured my Father, you know? What happened? When did I get old? I haven't had a life yet! And...and...I just said no, flat out, right there. I walked out! But I know it would really be so much easier. AND, I thought, I've just met this girl, and she's...fantasic.....and she's so much younger, and she'd hate it......."
He looked pleadingly at her, like he'd said too much and wanted reassurance, and he got it. She kissed him, and she told him they could grow old together.
The next morning she emerged from the bathroom to find a very casual Tony in a white sweater, making breakfast. Wearing his glasses.
Gina sat at the breakfast table and gazed across at her lover. She'd had the most fantastic night of her life, and this was even better. He looked happy too, she noted, and very relaxed. And he was indulging her. Her innermost thoughts just wouldn't stay put, and it didn't matter, he loved her honesty.
"I love your glasses" she said, and he smiled.
"Yes, I know" he said "But they are a bit too strong for me to see into the distance, this is just your breakfast table treat, OK?" and he laughed, the laugh of a very happy man. Then he took her hand and said "You'll get your wish soon enough, and it'll be a good thing for both of us, thank you." And he meant it.
They got ready to go out, as he'd said he was going to take her shopping, and at the door, just as he was about to take off his glasses and put them in his pocket she stopped him, put her arms around his neck, and kissed him. She ran her fingers along the metal of the frames, and then took them off for him, folded them and tucked them into his pocket. He took a step back as her face blurred, then laughed to himself and said "let's see if my optom can squeeze me in today".
Sitting in the car Gina had a hard time keeping the smile off her face. Then suddenly she remembered Kevin, her best friend. She had to introduce Tony to Kevin. Then she thought about the other people she would have to introduce him to - her family. Maybe not just yet. Maybe she'd break it to them gently. She wasn't quite sure which was going to bother people the most, the age difference or the fact that he was her boss. She was so lost in her thoughts that Tony noticed, but he didn't say anything. He had a lot on his mind himself.
"Well you've changed your tune" said Tony's optometrist when they got there. "Last time I thought you were going to hit me!" The jovial doctor wrote out the prescription Tony had rejected out of hand previously and then explained it.
"Like I said before, most of your problem is a mental block! You know very well that you've needed glasses for distance too for a long time Tony, in fact you're probably breaking the law when you drive, that's one reason I've been on your back. I do prescriptions like this for people a lot younger than you, so..........." and he stopped and looked at Gina who was beaming.
"She talked me round" said Tony "Last night" and then winked at Gina, who suddenly looked coy.
"Well, like I was saying" the doctor continued "I'm giving you a distance prescription of +1.50, and I'm bumping up your near quite a bit, you'll notice a difference, you wear +3 now, this is a +2.50 add, so it's a total of +4 near, it may take a bit of getting used to, but I think you'll manage." He looked again at the coy Gina who had only heard the word "distance" and then he'd lost her, but she knew what it all meant. It meant her Tony would be wearing glasses all the time. It would take a few days for them to be ready, but her dream was coming true, she could wait.
They left the doctor's office and Tony was being mysterious, not telling her where they were going next, but it was a nearby jeweller.
"I want to buy you something nice, you choose, a necklace, whatever you want. It's a no commitment gift, but I want to do this."
Gina found some earrings she liked better than anything, and Tony delighted her by, quite naturally, putting his glasses on to look at them. He approved. Then SHE noticed the price tag and wondered if HE had too. She freaked inside, just momentarily, could he read that? They did it on purpose of course, keeping the tags tiny. But he didn't ask so...............he just handed over a credit card and seemed unconcerned. Gina was speechless.
They had a late lunch when they'd finished shopping, although most of the time they'd just been wandering hand in hand through the mall chatting. There was a glass dome roof with a "café" under it on the upper level, presented with trees and market stalls in a very European style. Tony had obviously enjoyed his time in Europe and was eager to show her his discoveries by encouraging her to order unfamilar food. She was never disappointed. He was a learning experience.
Gina left Tony later in the afternoon to go to her parents' for supper. Gently does it, she thought, we'll have enough time together in future.
Sunday morning, but not too early, she phoned Kevin and told her she was now the proud owner of a $1000 pair of earrings and a proper boyfriend.
"What do you mean? A "proper" boyfriend?"
"As of Wednesday he'll be a full-time glasses wearer, I can't wait. Do you want to meet him?"
"I admit to a soupçon of curiosity. But can I just have a quick ogle, discreetly, prior to the formal introduction?"
"Hmm, well, he comes and goes at odd times at the office, but as he's the only man there it's not like you wouldn't know who he was. If you want to do a Gina and lurk in waiting..... I taught you everything I know."
"Indeed you did. Wednesday you say? Quiet day at the store, I'll close a bit early and hang around outside the office and catch him leaving. Oooh this feels naughty."
"Well be discreet, or when I do introduce you he may remember you as some weirdo in the hallway!"
At work Monday Gina noticed that Tony wore his glasses far more, and didn't just whip them off the moment he was done reading anything. She wasn't sure if he'd just relaxed, was preparing for his new ones, or was doing it for her.....probably, in truth, a mixture of the three, but she liked it anyway, and she liked listening to the comments from the girls in the office who hadn't seen him in glasses before, most of which were very positive. If only they knew, she thought.
She was particularly keen to hear what Hannah thought. Hannah had been a bit cool with her ever since it became obvious to everyone that Gina and Tony were seeing each other outside work, in fact she'd been virtually avoiding Gina. They used to get along well, and Gina didn't like this. So she made a point of talking to Hannah Tuesday afternoon and when it proved to be harder than she thought she very firmly, but quietly, said "Hannah, what is your problem with me suddenly?"
Hannah looked annoyed at first, but then she sighed, and lowered her head.
"I guess I'm just envious really. I thought Tony would tire of you and do the rounds."
"Well, I don't know....that's what his type usually do, I thought we'd all get a chance."
Gina was speechless.
"You really believed he was a playboy?"
"Well, they usually are, when they're single at his age."
"What.....so you thought you'd take turns to spend his money?"
"Hell Gina, we didn't mean any harm! Just a bit of fun!"
Gina relaxed. Yes, she could understand it. Hadn't she been the Queen of one-night stands, or to be accurate, the Queen of fantasizing about them. She smiled.
"Hannah, I don't want us to fall out over this. I really like Tony, in fact.....I'm in love with him....yes, I am."
"Well, you're lucky to wim him girl, wow, they don't get any better than that!"
"Yeah I know" said Gina and grinned like the cat that got the cream. She was just dying to ask Hannah what she was thinking, which was "doesn't he look cute in glasses" but she couldn't do it.
Wednesday came at last, like she never thought it would. She wasn't sure what he was going to do, and to her shock and delight, halfway through the morning, he appeared in the doorway with his jacket in his hand, and without a single word he gestured to her to follow him. She was going to go with him! Everyone turned and watched them leave together, and she couldn't resist grinning at them as she went out the door.
At the optometrist they checked his new glasses for fit. He looked great in them she thought, but he didn't look too happy. He smiled politely at the assistant as he paid, but then whispered in Gina's ear "This isn't as easy as it looks, I feel seasick". The assistant had keen hearing and repressed a smile.
"It will take a little while Sir" she said, "You're not driving anywhere right now, are you?"
He assured her he wasn't. She suggested he just take a walk through the mall, slowly.
Gina had never seen Tony unnerved before, but he was doing his best to hide it. They had a bite to eat and then headed back to work. He was quieter than usual, but when they arrived he switched on his boss charisma, or so it seemed to her, and walked in very non-chalantly, gave her a quick peck on the cheek in full-view of all the girls and disappeared into his own office.
The girls were buzzing but they were making a point of doing it out of gina's earshot. Oh, she had a rough idea what they were saying alright.
Tony didn't emerge once. Eventually she could stand it no longer, and with no reason other than she cared about him, she marched to his office, and peeped round the partly open door.
"How's it going?" she asked him, hoping he knew what she meant. He did.
"Well, I knew I'd have to go through this eventually, but right now I'm only doing it for you!" and he pretended to scowl at her, but found himself laughing. He gestured to her to come in and close the door. That was his signal to everyone that he wasn't to be disturbed.
"I think I'll leave early actually, because I have a rotten headache, I kind of expected it.....I know I've just got work through this, but right now I don't want to do it here. I want to go and whine a lot in private. You don't want to hear it either, I'm sure. I'm going to go pester my Mother."
Gina laughed, then leaned across the desk and kissed his forehead.
"OK" she said "Maybe tomorrow will be easier"
Ten minutes later Tony was gone, and she suddenly remembered Kevin, so she phoned, intending to tell him not to bother coming, but he'd already left. In fact he hadn't missed Tony, he'd just arrived seconds before Tony left.
"Well" said Kevin, after Gina explained that Tony was suffering from his new glasses "I've heard that sort of thing before. Some people seem to cope better than others. He's young and......macho.....ooooh....he'll be fine soon, you'll see."
"So you approve?" Gina asked.
"Approve? Oh my dear, he's divine. You are a lucky, lucky girl. Now when do I get to meet him properly?"
"Ah well" she said "I've been thinking about that. At some point I have to tell him my best friend is a gay man, but he seems to really appreciate honesty, I don't think it'll be a problem."
It wasn't. Gina went to see Tony in his office the next morning and he seemed much happier. He said driving had been weird, but not scary, and he fully conceded that he really did need the distance correction. He seemed rather pleased with himself actually, so when Gina said she hoped he might like to meet her best friend, he was already in the right frame of mind.
"His name is Kevin" she said meekly, „he's gay, I hope that doesn't bother you, we've been friends since school.“
Tony, in his inimitable style didn't flinch, he simply asked
"Does he have a partner, we can all go out for dinner together tomorrow?"
Gina was just stunned at this, and of course very pleased. She called into the music store on the way home and told Kevin, who was so thrilled he bounced.
"I'm surprised you didn't want him to meet your parents first?"
"Yeah, well, one thing at a time."
Her parents. Yeah.
Friday evening Tony collected her, and she almost died. He was breathtaking in a brown leather jacket, and open-necked white shirt. Did he ever know how to dress, she thought. They met Kevin and Paul and headed for the British pub that Tony loved so much. Once or twice during the evening she kicked Kevin under the table for paying too much attention to Tony, but she was actually pleased she was making him envious. He had been getting guys she wanted for years.
They went their separate ways after a really fun evening, Gina thought Paul was just right for Kevin, and she whispered as much to him as they were leaving.
Tony took her home, and she asked him to come and see her place. She'd cleaned it up as best she could, but it was, well, it wasn't much - but it was part of her, and it was time he saw it. To her amazement he loved it.
"This place is great Gina! It's so you!"
She wasn't QUITE sure what that meant, but she understood from his tone that it was a good thing.
Gina made coffee and Tony just watched her. He never stopped smiling. She brought it through and sat down beside him, then something just came over her and she put her hand up on the side of his face - her fingers touched his glasses.
"Thank you" she said, but he shook his head, and held her hand without moving it at all.
"No, thank you" he said "You've done me a huge favor."
"Is it getting any easier?" she asked.
"Actually yes, and it's really nice to be able to see everything, all the time."
"You're funny" he said, and she looked dismayed.
"Oh no Gina, I don't mean it as a bad thing! Don't ever change! Just tell me once, and I promise I'll never ask you again, but because I don't understand, what is your....."quirk"...with glasses, what's it all about?"
"Ah, well" she said, sighing deeply "I'm not sure I can answer that. It's just something that's always been there. Even when I tried to push it aside."
She gazed into his eyes and lost herself in his glasses one more time.
"I know what I like about yours" she said at last, "they glow"
He looked at her oddly, but smiled warmly.
"I'm sorry" she said "I would explain it better if I could. All I know is that right now I want you to make love to me with your glasses on."
He didn't have to be asked twice.
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