Invitation to Paradise
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Standing in front of a small row of lockers wedged into the back of the storage room, Bradley Coleman changed out of the black jeans and gray top that served as his uniform and into a pair of tan slacks and a light blue dress shirt. His shift had ended twenty minutes before and the dark haired twenty-year-old was glad to put the day behind him.
An area landmark for over fifty years, the Liberty Bell was a place where you could have an enjoyable meal with family or friends and not spend a small fortune. Most of the staff were high school or college kids, working part time to put a few dollars in their pockets. Bradley had started there during his last year of high school, and had worked his way up from bus boy to server. It was a good job to have while he continued his education at the local college.
Stepping out of the storage room into the small anteroom off the kitchen that doubled as a break area, Bradley was surprised to find the rest of the afternoon shift still there. Since he had been the last one to enter the locker area, he had assumed everyone else would be already long gone.
“What are you all still doing here?” Bradley asked.
“Waiting for you, silly,” a tall, curly haired blonde in the front of the group said.
Donna Haynes, who Bradley had known since high school, worked as one of the restaurant’s hostesses. Vivacious and pretty, she had always had a soft spot for her former classmate, but, much to his regret, had never seen him as anything other than a friend.
“What for?” Bradley inquired.
“Rainbow Rhapsody is playing at the Blue Diamond tonight and we’re all planning to go,” Donna replied. “I thought you might like to come along too.”
Standing next to Donna was Roger Weaver, a tall, brown bearded twenty-seven-year-old whom she had been dating the last few months. Lest anyone be forgetful of that, he had his arm wrapped possessively around her waist. The dissatisfied look on his face clearly said he wasn’t happy about the invitation to Bradley.
Glancing behind Donna and Roger, Bradley saw Elaine Bishop and Jeffery Adams who, while not a couple, were still friends enough to go to the concert as such. They didn’t seem to care one way or another if Bradley came.
“Thanks for thinking of me, Donna,” Bradley said, flashing a smile of appreciation, “but five is an odd number and I’d hate to feel like a fifth wheel.”
“Well, it wouldn’t have to be five,” Donna replied, “I could invite my cousin Gina to come along. You remember Gina, don’t you?”
If there was one girl in the county that Bradley went out of his way to avoid, it was Gina Haynes. While he managed to maintain an impassive expression when he heard her name, he couldn’t keep his thoughts from flashing back to his one and only date with Donna’s cousin last winter. It had started with dinner and a movie, and had ended in the back seat of his car, where the red haired twenty-two-year-old had demonstrated make out skills that left him speechless. In less than an hour, she went from first base to nearly third, and only the fact that it began to snow heavily prevented it from going any further.
Bradley had, he was willing to admit, been pretty turned on by Gina’s aggressive behavior, and while he wasn’t sure if she was the kind of girl he wanted in the long term, he was willing to see where it might go in the interim. It didn’t take long for him to find though, as the very next day, Gina showed up at his mid-afternoon football game, acting almost as if they were engaged. Evidently, as far as she was concerned, after last night they practically were.
It had taken Bradley nearly a month to finally shake her loose, and he had no intention of giving her a second opportunity to latch onto him.
“Yes, I remember Gina,” Bradley repeated, this time out loud, “but I’m afraid I already made plans for tonight.”
“Are you sure?” Donna asked, “I know she still has a thing for you.”
‘That’s what I’m afraid of,’ Bradley thought but prudently didn’t say, instead just thanking Donna again for thinking of him and telling them to all have a good time.
“Oh, all right,” Donna finally relented, “but if you change your mind, you can always catch up with us later.”
Before Bradley could say anything more, Roger entered the conversation.
“Okay, you asked, and he said no,” Roger said. “So, can we leave now?”
Bradley shifted his attention to Roger, who not only stood nearly six inches more than his own five four, but outweighed him by at least fifteen pounds. As much as he sometimes dreamed of knocking the arrogant idiot on his ass, Bradley knew that in any physical confrontation with the well-muscled jock would more likely end with him on his. So he just smiled as if he couldn’t hear Roger, which, since he knew that annoyed his older co-worker, was at least something. istanbul escort
“You better get going or you won’t get a good seat,” Bradley said, turning his gaze back to Donna. “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”
Bradley watched as the quartet exited through the restaurant’s back door and then peered out the small window to be sure that they were truly gone. It wasn’t until they all piled into Roger’s car and pulled away that he let out a sigh of relief and then sat himself down at the small break table.
Bradley hadn’t been lying when he said he had something to do, but what he didn’t mention was that it was probably the craziest idea he’d ever had. Reaching into his pocket, he took out a small strip of printed paper and stretched it out on the table. It was a customer receipt from one of his tables and he’d been carrying it around since mid-afternoon. Taking a small breath, he flipped the paper over and again looked at the hastily scribbled note on the back, still unable to believe it was real.
When he’d first seen it, Bradley had simply assumed it was a joke, a prank by a customer who’d had a little too much to drink. He’d been about to toss it in the garbage, then hesitated, slipping it into his pocket instead. It had sat there untouched as afternoon gave way to early evening, yet never left his thoughts. Finally, by the time his shift came to an end, what had initially seemed impossible had risen to simply improbable – which in his mind was a pretty big step.
Silently, he began to read it again.
“I think that you are really cute, so cute in fact that I’d love to take you to bed. So, if you are even the least bit curious as to how good a fuck an uninhibited old lady can be, give me a call when you finish your shift.”
It was signed Maureen and had a cell phone number at the bottom.
Although not in Roger’s class, Bradley had been called cute by enough girls to accept it was probably true, even though his experience with most of them had been little to none. He’d lost his virginity during his freshman year of college, in an event so brief and unremarkable as to have barely counted. And the only really good thing he could say about the few encounters since was that they had happened in beds rather than on an uncomfortable basement couch.
Bradley had heard stories about older women that picked up younger guys for sex, but believed them to be just urban legends. And even if they weren’t, they always seemed to take place in bars, not local family eateries, with generous amounts of alcohol usually being involved. Still, he had to admit, just because he didn’t know anyone it ever actually happened to, that didn’t mean it never did.
‘I guess I could just call the number and see who answers,’ Bradley thought, adding that the worst that could happen was that it was indeed a joke and he’d be laughed at.
Which was something he had become almost accustomed to of late, especially since Roger had come to work at the Liberty Bell and made him the focus of his practical jokes. In fact, if his persistent antagonist hadn’t been off today, having only showed up at shift’s end to pick up Donna, he would’ve automatically assumed it was one of his set-ups.
But, if this turned out to be actually real, there was another question Bradley had to consider. There had been six women in that lunch party at table eight, any one of whom might have written the note. No one person seemed to have been in charge, at least not that he’d noticed, and since the bill had been paid in cash, there was no credit card signature to compare it against.
Still staring at the receipt, Bradley tried to recall what he could about each of the women. Age wise, they ranged from their mid-forties to mid-fifties, at least by his estimate. From snippets of conversation he’d overheard, they all worked at the Red Ridge Mall, which was some ten miles out of town out by Route 15. The luncheon was a monthly thing, a chance for them to get together outside of work, at a location that changed each month. Which explained why Bradley hadn’t recognized any of them. Not that he really paid that much attention to customers old enough to be his mother, beyond getting their orders straight. He thought he might have heard the name Maureen used, but really couldn’t match it with a face.
Perhaps the thing to do, he said to himself, was to match each person to their order, which had been his main focus after all, and see if any bells went off. Running his finger down the receipt, he began to do just that.
The lemon chicken had been ordered by a fiftyish redhead who he tagged as ‘skinny’ in his head since, at least compared to the others, she was the slimmest of the group. The nickname was a trick he had been taught long ago as a way to remember who ordered what. Dressed in a black top and flowered skirt, she had a pleasant face and stood at least three inches taller than him. She also had small breasts and actually reminded him a bit of one of his aunts. Which he wasn’t sure was a good şişli escort or bad thing if she had been the one to leave the note.
The second woman, who had ordered just soup and salad, was quite heavyset, enough that one might even call her fat if they wanted to be unkind. Even though she couldn’t read his mind, he went with ‘chubby’ instead of ‘fat’. With short, neck length blonde hair, she wore a lime colored top that did little more than drape over her body, and a pair of black stretch pants. Bradley had never been attracted to large women, but had an older cousin who raved about them, claiming they were hot in bed.
Number three had medium length dark brown hair and a physique that fell somewhere in the middle of the group. Wearing a black skirt and a short sleeved red top that accented a good sized bust, she had ordered a small sirloin and broccoli. She reminded Bradley of an actress who played a doctor on a popular television show, so ‘doc’ became her sobriquet. If she was the one, Bradley wouldn’t have minded at all.
Next came grilled salmon for the beefy blonde wearing a low-cut leopard skin dress held up by thin straps, one that put another impressive set of mounds on display. Now that he thought about it, he remembered her as being a bit flirtatious, but not really more than a few other customers sometimes were. Especially after a few drinks, which all of them had had. “Flirt’ seemed natural enough for her.
Another soup and a garden shrimp salad went to the only black woman at the table. Much like her friends, she had a good-sized bust and a rounded face framed by very short black hair. Age wise, Bradley would put her toward the bottom of the list. ‘Black’ as a tag seemed obvious enough.
Lastly, there was the eyeglass wearing matron that had opted for stuffed rigatoni with meat sauce. Not as heavy as the woman in lime, she was still slightly stocky and had short cropped gray hair. If only because of that, Bradley considered her the oldest of the group and ‘grandma’ was her fate. She had on a black dress with a white design on the top that came almost down to her ankles, along with an open green sweater.
The memory exercise did little to bring him any closer to deciding who might have left the note, but it did give Bradley, if only for a few moments, the opportunity to consider what sex might be like with any of them. None of them had been the type of older woman you might see in a movie or on television, but rather more like friends of his mother or even his grandmother.
Last summer, Bradley’s uncle, who had an enviable record with women, had, after a couple of drinks, shared some of the secrets of his success. Never judge a woman’s propensity to go to bed with you by her appearance, he had said, or what she might be like once you got there. The most intense fucks of his life, he’d added, had come from women who could’ve easily been taken for Sunday school teachers. Or in more mundane terms, never judge a book by its cover.
“I guess there’s only one way to find out for sure,” Bradley said to the empty room as he slipped his cell phone out of his pants pocket.
He began to dial the number, then stopped. It was unlikely that he would be disturbed by any of the evening shift taking a break this early, but since the room was also used for storage, someone might come back for supplies. Hitting cancel, he put the phone back in his pocket and headed out into the parking lot.
Walking to the curb just outside the lot, Bradley took a seat on the empty bench at the bus stop and began to dial the number again, this time completing the sequence. It rang a few times, then a voice filled his ear, one definitely belonging to a woman.
“Hello?” she said.
“Hello,” Bradley replied, “is Maureen there?”
“May I ask who’s calling?” the woman replied.
Bradley felt a small relief that the woman hadn’t said Maureen who. Even as he dialed the number, part of him had expected it to belong to a local business or something like that. There had once been a busboy at the Liberty Belle who thought it funny to, while clearing up the bathrooms after closing, scribble ‘for a good time’ messages in the stalls. The numbers he left later turned out to belong to local businesses.
“My name is Bradley … from the Liberty Bell,” he said, pausing for a long moment before adding. “She … she left me a note.”
‘Damn, why did I give my real name?’ Bradley thought as, holding his breath, he waited for a response.
“Well then, hello, Bradley from the Liberty Bell,” she finally said. “I’m so glad that you called.”
“You’re Maureen?” Bradley asked, ignoring that it was obvious.
“Did you expect someone else?” Maureen asked, then adding, “Oh, I understand, you thought the note might have been some sort of prank.”
Bradley didn’t want to really say that he had, even though it was a reasonable assumption.
“Well, let me assure you, I’m quite real,” Maureen said when Bradley didn’t respond, “and I really am glad that you mecidiyeköy escort actually called.”
‘Oh God,’ Bradley thought, feeling his heart skip a beat, “this is real.’
“So, I’m assuming that you would like to get together?” Maureen abruptly asked in a frank manner.
Her directness startled Bradley to such an extent that he was certain he couldn’t reply. Yet, somehow, a voice that he only recognized afterwards as his own replied in the affirmative.
“Excellent,” Maureen replied, a bounce in her tone. “Are you still at the restaurant?”
“Yes, I’m right outside,” he replied.
“Do you have a car?” Maureen asked.
“Yes,” Bradley answered again.
“Good,” Maureen said. “Do you know where the Westridge Diner is, over on Columbus Ave and Saint James Bouvard.
“I do,” he said.
“Well, I’m only down the block from there,” she said. “Call me from that corner and I’ll give you the address.”
‘This is really happening,’ Bradley again thought, his heart now racing as he then said that would be great.
“Wonderful,” Maureen replied, a smile almost visible over the phone. ‘How long will it take you to get here?”
“I guess about fifteen minutes,” Bradley estimated.
“Excellent, then I’ll see you then,” Maureen said.
A sudden silence on Bradley’s end made Maureen wonder if they’d been disconnected. She waited another breath, then asked if he was still there.
“No, I’m still here,” Bradley said.
“Oh, good, I thought for a moment that perhaps you’d suddenly changed your mind,” Maureen answered.
“No, I haven’t,” he quickly replied. “It’s just that, well …”
“Well what?” Maureen asked.
Bradley confessed that he had no idea which of the six women who had been at lunch she was. As he did so, he was the one faced with what seemed a long silence – one broken seconds later by soft laughter.
“That is so funny,” Maureen chuckled. “You actually have no idea which of us I am, yet you still called. Are you really that horny?”
When she put it that way, Bradley felt a bit embarrassed.
“Not that there’s anything wrong with being horny,” Maureen added in the same tone. “After all, I left you the note because I was feeling a bit that way myself.”
That made Bradley feel a bit better.
“I’ll tell you what, Bradley,” Maureen said in a quieter tone, “why don’t we meet at the diner instead and have a cup of coffee? That way, if you do have a change of heart once we actually meet, it will be easier for you to simply walk away.”
Bradley was sure Maureen could hear the relief in his voice as he agreed. If so, she didn’t comment about it. Instead, she asked another unexpected question.
“Bradley, I’m curious, is your cock hard right now?” she said.
Realizing that it was, he said so.
“Good, so let’s just hope it stays that way after you meet me,” she laughed. “I will see you soon.”
With that, the call finally did disconnect.
Bradley just stared at the phone for almost thirty seconds, until someone else sat down on the bench next to him. Slipping the phone back into his pocket, he returned to the parking lot and his car. He’d gotten half way there when his phone rang, causing him to stop and check it. The tone had been the generic one for messages and since everyone on his contact list had their own distinct tone, he knew it wasn’t from any of them.
A cold feeling washed over him when he saw that the text had come from Maureen’s number. Had she been the one with a change of mind and was now canceling?
“Holy shit!” Bradley cried out as he saw that the text contained a photograph – of the sort he only imagined ever getting.
It was a photo of a woman, naked from her neck down to her knees. Clearly visible were her breasts, which were large and full, and a very hairy bush between her legs. A note along with the image said – “Just a little preview.”
As he climbed into his car, all Bradley could think was, this would be the worst day ever to get into an accident. So, he promised himself to be extra careful as he drove the six miles between the Liberty Bell and the Westridge.
Bradley managed to reach the diner without incident, even if it took a bit longer than he expected. There was plenty of space in the lot but he decided to park on the street instead. If Maureen did live just down the block, it made more sense to find a good spot now instead of trying to find one later.
As he walked back up to the diner from where he’d left the car, it occurred to Bradley that the photo Maureen had sent considerably narrowed the question of which woman she was. The body obviously wasn’t that of a black woman, or skinny, or for that matter, heavy enough to be considered fat. That left only three other possibilities and as he reconsidered them, Bradley found himself hoping she turned out to be the brunette who had ordered the steak and broccoli.
Although he had passed by the Westridge a number of times, Bradley had never been in the diner before, so he was glad to see that it had a pretty basic layout. There weren’t that many patrons this time of day, still a good hour before dinner, so it didn’t take long to survey both the counter and the booths off to the side.
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