Green Eyes and Good Hair
The crowded diner hummed with the energy of the after-church crowd. It was still early, only around noon, but already the waitstaff’s starched white collars drooped and the bow ties the owner forced them to wear hung limp at their necks. Their soft-soled sneakers made little sound as they glided between tables and booths where men in dark Sunday suits and women in wide brimmed hats ate and drank with gusto after a morning spent in vigorous worship.
Tony Truman and his friends occupied a booth in a corner of the diner, as far from the din as it was possible to get but when he spoke his friends still had to lean in to hear his voice above the buzz.
“…and then when I finished doin’ my thing, home girl lay back chillin’, gettin’ all comfortable like she was wanting to cuddle.” He spat the last word out, as if it left a bad taste in his mouth.
He paused, and his companions leaned in closer to hear the rest of the story.
“Then what?” Curtis asked impatiently.
“Then what?” Tony repeated with a tone that implied the answer was obvious. “I gave her five minutes to catch her breath then I said, yo baby girl, you gots to bounce.”
“Damn brotha, that’s cold,” Jay said.
“Oh please! Give a chick an inch and she’ll take a damn mile. Next thing you know…”
Tony went silent as a convoy of elderly ladies, glorious in Sunday best complete with white gloves and coiffed hair fine as mist, tottered unsteadily by on canes and walkers. One of them noticed Tony and paused at the table, peering closely at him with watery eyes magnified by thick lenses in tortoiseshell frames.
“Anthony Truman? Is that you?”
“It’s me, Ms. Rose,” Tony said. He stood and kissed her gently on the cheek.
The old lady beamed, showing perfectly white, perfectly straight teeth.
“How are you, young man? I don’t see you in church anymore.”
“I’m good Ms. Rose, thank you for asking. I miss Brooklyn Bethany but my niece and nephews beg me to come out to Long Island to go to church with them. How can I refuse the children? My friends here wanted us to have breakfast together so I rushed back to Brooklyn after the service this morning.”
“Such a good boy, your mother must be proud. How is Helen by the way? We miss her.”
“She’s great, loving retirement and enjoying the Florida weather.”
“That’s so wonderful. You let her know we’re thinking about her, you hear, it’s been a…” Ms. Rose’s hand wobbled and her cane shook unsteadily. Tony quickly held onto her arm to steady her.
“Come on Ms. Rose, I’ll walk you to your table, the other ladies must be wondering what you’re doing over here associating with a bunch of hooligans like us.”
The old lady chuckled as she took Tony’s arm. They tottered slowly over to the table where the rest of Ms. Rose’s group sat, chattering away like magpies. Tony pulled a chair out gallantly, then said something to the other ladies seated around the table. Almost as one, gloved hands flew to mouths and they giggled like schoolgirls. Tony said his goodbyes and rejoined his friends.
“Wow,” Curtis said in amazement. “That was like watching Superman change back to Clark Kent.”
“What are you fools talking about?”
“You go to church with your brother and his family on Long Island?” Jay asked.
“We…what did he say, oh yeah, we hooligans asked you to have breakfast with us?” Sean added.
“You rushed right back after service? Fool, you haven’t been to church since your mother moved to Florida two years ago,” Curtis chimed in.
Tony rolled his eyes at his friends as he retook his seat.
“I’ve known Ms. Rose since before I could walk. She was my Kindergarten teacher and my Sunday School teacher. What did you want me to tell her? Oh Ms. Rose, so nice to see you again. Me? Oh, not much, just eating some breakfast after I spent the night at Rebar. Fornicating with big-breasted sluts all night is hard work.”
“Speaking of the big-breasted slut, how did that end up?” Curtis asked.
“Oh right. Where was I…oh yeah, she wanted to stay the night but to hell with that. If I let that bitch stay over before you know it there’s pantyhose hanging in my bathroom and she’s snooping through my phone. Fuck! That!”
“So what did she say?” Sean asked.
“The usual female bullshit, oh we had such a great time, you seem like such a great guy I’d like to see you again blah blah blah. I said baby I didn’t even know you a few hours ago. I picked you up in a bar then took your ass home, and now you want a relationship? Great sex ain’t the foundation for anything but more sex. Anytime you want another dose, you know where to find me, but for now you don’t have to go home but you need to get the hell outta here.”
“Damn,” said Curtis. “That’s messed up, even for you.”
“You really said that to her?” Sean asked. “Fine as she was?”
“Hell yes! Let me school ya’ll. Honeys like that are a dime a dozen. Plus, they like being treated like shit. Trust me on this one, there ain’t a chick alive that wants a nice guy. Oh, they say they do but ya’ll know that a nice guy will get played.” His friends nodded their heads in agreement. “That ain’t never gonna happen to me. You know what I say, treat her like a whore and you better believe she’ll keep coming back for more.” He leaned back in the booth and sipped his coffee, a smug look on his handsome face.
“So what happened then?” Asked Jay.
Tony rolled his eyes.
“What do you think happened? She got dressed and broke out like I told her to, that’s what happened.”
Sean shook his head and was about to comment when he noticed a group of women being seated a few tables away.
“Hey, check it out. Isn’t that Charlene and her sister?”
They all shifted in their seats to look at the women.
“Tony didn’t you and Charlene have a thing not too long ago?”
“Yup, then I got with her best friend too,” he said with a huge grin.
“Oh damn. That’s foul. She must have been pissed.”
“Pissed ain’t the word,” Tony said. “She showed up at my place beating on the door and causing a scene, my neighbors almost called the damn cops. She calmed down eventually though.”
“How? Did you apologize?” Jay asked.
“I don’t apologize my brotha, you know that. You know what I say…”
“Only suckers say sorry.” His friends completed Tony’s mantra.
Tony grinned. “I see you fools pay attention. No, I let my dick do the talking and she was fine.”
Tony chuckled as his friends smiled and shook their heads.
Curtis nudged Tony. “Hey who’s that with them, I’ve never seen her before?”
“I don’t know who she is, but damn that girl is thick!” Sean said, craning his neck to stare at the new arrival.
Tony looked at him in amazement.
“You like that? She’s FAT! I don’t care what you call it, thick, BBW, healthy, zaftig, whatever, the girl’s still FAT!”
“Yea you’re right.”
“I don’t care for that either.”
“Ya’ll are crazy,” Sean the lone dissenter said, glaring at them. “That girl is sexy as hell. And she’s cute too. Those green eyes…damn!”
“Yea,” Tony said, “I’ll give you that. She’s a cutie. For a fat chick. Who is she anyway?”
“I met her at a seminar last week, her name is Olivia Reynolds, she’s the new head of Sato Electronics’ New York office,” Jay said.
Tony looked at the newcomer in a new light. Sato Electronics was a Japanese firm that had fast become one of the major players in consumer electronics. The Sato Tablet, or the S, was a low-cost high-quality tablet that had quickly challenged Apple’s iPad for superiority in the tablet computing market. Tony’s firm had repeatedly tried and failed to get the incredibly lucrative Sato account and his mind churned with the possibilities. Fat chicks are desperate, he thought. Why not show her some attention and give her big ass a thrill? A little dinner, some sweet talk, hell if it came down to it he might give her some. With the way he put it down there was no doubt he would be the one to land Sato. After that, there was no way in hell he wouldn’t make partner.
“Too bad you don’t like big girls; you could work your magic on her and have the inside track on the account,” Jay said.
“You read my mind my brotha,” Tony said, rising. He adjusted his already perfectly knotted tie. “I’m not into the heifers but sometimes, well, you just have to take one for the team. Excuse me gentlemen.”
Tony left his flabbergasted friends behind and made a beeline for the ladies’ table, pausing here to shake a hand or there to kiss a cheek as he navigated through the throngs of breakfasting churchgoers. He glanced at a mirror along the way to check if his tie was as straight and his fade was as tight as he thought.
He arrived at the ladies’ table a moment later but passed it, then did a double take as if he’d only just noticed them there.
“Ladies, how are you? I didn’t see you over here. You all look stunning this morning. If I knew you were going to be here I’d be breaking the fast with you all and not with that bunch of knuckleheads over there.”
He punctuated his sentence with a smile that showed every one of his capped and whitened teeth to dazzling effect.
“How’ve you been Tony?” Charlene asked. Her tone was icy but the look in her eyes gave away her attraction.
“Pretty good Char. And you?”
“I don’t know how you could ask me that, you know what the f…”
Charlene’s sister Michelle put her hand on Charlene’s and spoke up, cutting her off.
“So Tony, have you met our friend Olivia? She just moved here from Atlanta a couple of weeks ago.”
“Hello Olivia, it’s my pleasure.” He stuck out his hand as he gave her the full dazzling wattage of his smile.
She returned his smile with a mega-watt smile of her own.
“Very nice to meet you too, the pleasure is all mine.”
She was even prettier close up. Her green eyes and light mocha skin were a deadly combination for him. As she smiled a sprinkling of tiny freckles played across her nose.
“So Olivia how do you like Brooklyn?” He asked.
She sighed. “It’s been so hectic for me I haven’t seen too much of it, but I love what I’ve seen so far. I’m looking forward to seeing more.”
Tony’s already huge smile grew bigger. Olivia had just given him all the opening he needed.
“Well, I’m a born and bred Brooklynite so if you ever need someone to show you around I’m your man.”
“That’s great, I’d like that,” Olivia said. A business card materialized in her hand and she handed it to him. “My cell number is on the back, why don’t you give me a call.”
Tony was momentarily taken aback by Olivia’s directness but didn’t allow it to show. He quickly fished in his pocket for his own business card and handed it to her.
She tucked his card into her purse and returned her attention to her friends. “It was so nice to meet you, we’ll talk soon,” she said.
“Ah…yeah…nice to meet you too. Take care ladies.”
He hadn’t expected Olivia to respond to his advance so boldly and in front of the others no less. He was used to being in the driver’s seat and the feeling was disconcerting. His walk back to his table had less swagger in it, but he saw his friends looking over at him as he approached and knew they would expect a typical Tony story. By the time he was back at his table he was himself again. She was one of those type-A career chicks, he reasoned. They go for what they want and she saw me and wanted me. She’s no different from any other woman. Plus, big job or not, she was only some fat chick. He would work it out.
Charlene watched Tony as he returned to his table then reached over and punched her sister on the shoulder.
“Why did you do that? I wanted to give that fool a piece of my mind.”
Michelle glared at her younger sister. “This is neither the time nor the place. It’s Sunday and we just came from church. Save the drama for another time.”
“Drama?” Olivia asked.
Michelle rolled her eyes. “You’re going to be sorry you asked.
Charlene gave her sister a nasty look.
“Girl, that asshole Tony sweet talked me and took me out a couple times, telling me he was looking for a good woman blah blah, bullshit, and bullshit.”
“His bullshit must’ve been great since he talked you out of your panties on the first date,” Michelle said.
“Shut up Michelle, whose side are you on anyway?”
Charlene shot her sister another nasty look. “Anyway, we…you know…were…together a few times and then the fool told me that he didn’t think we would work out, but that if I still wanted to sleep with him once in a while that was all good.”
“An offer you took him up on quite a few times,” Michelle said.
“That’s not the point.” Charlene snapped. Her face reddened and she shot her sister yet another nasty look.
“Then what is?”
“You know damn well what the point is. After he kicked me to the curb he went and fucked Keisha.”
“Keisha?” Olivia asked.
“Her best friend,” Michelle said.
“Former best friend,” Charlene corrected. “To hell with that bitch.”
“No!” Olivia said.
“Oh yes, he sure did,” Charlene said angrily.
Michelle rolled her eyes at her sister. “And you still want him bad. He’s got you so open you don’t know what to do with yourself.”
Charlene sighed. “Well…it was good…real good. Really, really, good. A woman has needs, shoot,” she said sheepishly.
The women laughed at the look on Charlene’s face.
“Listen Char, I didn’t know about your history,” Olivia said when the laughter passed. “If he calls me I’m going to tell him to forget it.”
“No, it’s okay. I don’t think he’s interested…I mean…he just…”
He just what?”
“Well it’s just…he doesn’t…he doesn’t…you know… like bigger girls. I heard him say plenty of times he’s not into…you know…big girls.”
“Charlene!” Michelle gasped.
To their surprise, Olivia burst out laughing.
“Honey it’s okay. There are plenty of guys who want all this,” she said, passing her hand over her body with an exaggerated flourish.
The waitress arrived to take their order and the conversation turned to other matters, but Olivia’s mind remained on Tony and his offer to take her out. Despite what she’d told her friends, she’d seen the look in Tony’s eyes when he looked at her. He was definitely interested. She’d had enough experience to know that they were plenty of men who said they didn’t like a big girl but behind closed doors it was a different matter entirely. Plus, he was pretty, and pretty boys were her weakness. If he were as good in bed as Charlene said there was no way she was letting him escape. No, she had this one on her hook and she intended to land him. After all, he was just some pretty wannabe Playboy, not her first and he certainly wouldn’t be her last. She would work it out.
Tony checked his reflection in his office mirror. Perfect, he thought, but it never hurt to get a second opinion. He pressed the intercom on his desk phone.
“Carmela, can you come in for a second please?”
The door opened a moment later and Tony’s Executive Assistant Carmela Minucci entered the office, purse in hand.
“Do you need something Tony? I was just getting ready to leave.”
“How do I look?” He asked.
“Ravishing,” she replied, smirking. “Who’s the lucky lady this time?”
“Oh, no one in particular,” he said smugly. “Just Sato Electronics’ new Executive Vice President of East Coast Marketing.”
Carmela’s eyes widened and she glanced outside the office to make sure no one had overheard, then quickly shut the office door.
“Sato? Tony this could be big.”
“I know, I know, I’m going to…”
“If you get this account you’re a lock for partner. A lock!”
“I know Carm, this is…”
“Could you imagine us working up on the 40th floor? It would be amazing, we’d be set! You better play your cards right Tony.”
“Carmela, calm down. I got this. You know how I do.”
Carmela put her hands on her hips and glared at him angrily. She pulled herself to her full 5’2″ height and stuck her finger in his chest.
“Yea I know exactly how you do,” she said angrily, her Lawn Guyland accent in full effect. “You do lousy that’s how you do. I can’t count how many times I’ve lied to some poor broken-hearted woman for you. I think I changed your cell number three times last year alone.”
He rolled his eyes. “You’re just exaggerating, I’m not that bad.”
“Oh really? Remember Tanya, the first-grade teacher?”
“No? Let me refresh your memory. She cried on the phone for almost an hour. I mean weeping, Tony, like someone died. How about Carolyn, the woman that owns the flower shop in Hoboken? She sent you flowers every single day for a month; it was like the Botanical Gardens in here. Oh, and who can forget Marta the translator at the U.N.? She quit her job and flew home to Barcelona because she couldn’t bear to live one more day in the city where her heart got broken. Do you know she calls you here every year on the anniversary you broke her heart? Then there was…”
Tony threw up his hands. “Okay, I get the point. I get it. Damn.”
“Do you really? I don’t know that you do. This isn’t some woman from ‘round the way or one of your bar skanks. The point is, don’t screw this one up Tony,” she said, poking him hard in the chest.
“Ow, ow. Damn Carmella, I won’t, Jesus.”
“See that you don’t.”
She removed a speck of lint from his suit jacket and made a minute adjustment to his tie. “I have to go. I expect a full report in the morning.”
She opened the door then turned and glared at him.
“Don’t screw it up!” She said again.
In the cab on the way to Olivia’s SoHo office Tony thought about Carmela’s warning. He had to admit that she was right, in the past he’d been somewhat cavalier in his dealings with women but that wouldn’t be the case with Olivia, she was just some fat chick and this was strictly business.
She wasn’t his type in the least but she was still beautiful, there was no denying that. He’d been intrigued when they’d met on Sunday morning, and had found himself strangely attracted to the beautiful, plus-sized woman. He made it a point never to date anyone above a size 4 but for some reason Olivia had stayed on his mind. He’d put it down to the circumstances of the meeting and the fact that Olivia could help to advance his career. Also, Charlene had been there and the thought of sleeping with another of her friends appealed to his darker side.
The truth was he hadn’t set out to sleep with Charlene’s friend Keisha but they’d been out one night and Keisha slipped him her number with Charlene not six feet away. Her boldness turned him on and an hour after he’d taken Charlene home he was naked in her best friend’s bed. He hadn’t cared why Keisha had done it, he supposed it was some weird female competition thing. He never understood the urge of some women to betray the friends they held the dearest and he didn’t try to, he just took advantage of it.
That was probably the same reasoning behind Olivia’s actions, he’d thought, as the cab pulled up in front of Olivia’s office building. She’d seen an opportunity to stick it to her friend and she took it. And right in front of her no less. No matter. His plan for Olivia was textbook. Wait a day or two before he called her, then make reservations at an expensive place, take her out and spend the evening charming her then back to his place for some wine. He’d dangle the promise of some good sex then talk about business. If he liked what he heard maybe they’d end up in bed.
Or not. He would see.
Olivia had other plans however and that evening his phone rang and he was surprised to hear her voice on the line. The call only lasted a minute or two, just long enough to exchange brief pleasantries and arrange a day and time for dinner. He’d put the phone down feeling vaguely disconcerted by her for the second time that day. She hadn’t proposed a day and time as much as dictated it. It seemed she had a way of taking control of situations that he wasn’t sure he liked. It was he who usually made the brief call to dictate the time and place for dates. He enjoyed the predatory feeling of hunting, tracking and stalking before making the kill and devouring it, leaving behind the carcass of his conquest. Again, he put it down to that weird female competition dynamic. No doubt, Charlene had bragged of his skills and Olivia couldn’t wait to experience them for herself.
He reminded himself of that as he paid the cabbie and entered the building; still he couldn’t shake the feeling that this time he was the one being hunted.
Olivia leaned back in the Herman Miller chair, attention fixed on the massive monitor on her desk. It had a state of the art webcam built in and she could see her face in a small window on the bottom right hand corner of the screen. The face of her CEO, Masahiro Sato, Japanese billionaire and owner of Sato Electronics, dominated the rest of the screen in crystal clear HD. As Olivia listened intently to her boss speaking in rapid Japanese, her assistant silently entered the office and placed a post-it on the desk where Olivia could see it.
Olivia ignored the note and continued to listen intently to Sato, taking notes as he spoke.
“Watashi wa rikai shite Sato-san,” Olivia said, a few minutes later when Sato was done speaking.
Sato smiled broadly from half a world away. “Ah, Olivia, it is always such a pleasure hearing my language spoken with your delightful accent.” Sato said, switching to his Oxford-accented English.
“Sore o hanasu koto no yorokobidesu Sato-san. It’s always a pleasure speaking it, but please forgive my poor pronunciation.”
“Nonsense. Your Japanese is excellent.”
Olivia smiled, bowing at the waist as Sato ended the video conference. She made a few more notes about the meeting then glanced at the post-it on her desk. Don’t forget Tony Truman is here, it said. Olivia glanced at her watch. It was almost 6:30; he’d been waiting for about thirty minutes but she wasn’t concerned. Let him wait.
Her office had its own bathroom and she took her time freshening up then grabbed her purse. Her hand was on the doorknob when her cell phone went off. She intended to ignore it, but a glance at the screen showed her father’s number.
“Hi Daddy,” she said, smiling.
“Hey there baby girl. How is the Big Apple treating you? Are you Mayor yet?”
Olivia smiled. Gunnery Sergeant William Jefferson Reynolds, USMC (Ret) was probably the only person left in North America who still called New York City the Big Apple.
“No, not yet, I’ve only been here a few weeks, but check with me next month, I might have some news.”
Her father’s booming laughter made her smile even harder. They’d moved from base to base over the years, never staying in one place for more than a year or two, but the one constant, the one thing that always made her smile no matter where they were was hearing her father’s booming laugh.
“Wiseass,” her dad replied.
“Hmm, I wonder where I get that trait from?”
“Not me, I’m a serious man. And speaking of serious, how are you really doing, Olivia?”
She’d thought about making another wisecrack but thought better of it. Her father never called her Olivia unless he was being serious. She knew he was worried about her. Like him, she’d chosen a career that kept her moving around the world, and like any parent of children who were a certain age and hadn’t settled down, he wanted to see her sharing her life with someone.
“I know you daddy, the real question you want to ask is did I meet anyone yet.”
“Okay, now that you mention it, it has crossed my mind.”
“Well if you must know, Sergeant Nosy, I did, and he’s waiting for me right now. We’re going out to dinner this evening.”
“Wow, that’s great Princess, how did you meet?”
Olivia gave a quick rundown of her and Tony’s introduction at the diner, conveniently omitting Tony’s sordid past with Charlene.
“All right honey, have fun. And try to…just have a great time okay.”
“Try to what, daddy?
“Nothing, just have a good time. Go on, get outta there, don’t keep the young man waiting.”
“Please. He’s not going anywhere. Speak your mind, daddy.”
Her father sighed. “Just give him a chance Olivia.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean. Give him a chance. Give someone a chance for Pete’s sake.”
“How can you say that dad? I always do.”
“Is that right? Like the lawyer in Tokyo or the stockbroker in Rome. How about the doctor in Sydney, Lord, I still don’t think that man is over you.”
Olivia said nothing. Her dad had spoken in that strict Marine tone that made her feel like a little girl.
When he spoke again his tone had softened.
“I didn’t do the right thing by you, Olivia,” he said.
“What? Are you kidding, daddy? I couldn’t have had a better parent. You did a great job.”
“No. I didn’t. I should have…”
“How can you say that? It was me and you traveling all over the world. How many little girls can say they saw most of Asia before they were ten years old?”
“I loved those times ‘Liv, but after your mom died I should have taken a posting stateside and settled down in one place. Maybe met someone nice and given you a normal childhood.”
“That’s not what I wanted daddy, it was me and you. Us. Together. We didn’t need anyone else. We had each other.”
“But it’s not me and you anymore Princess. We had some great times, we really did. I tried my best to raise you to be independent but I think I did too good a job. Don’t get me wrong ‘Liv, I couldn’t be more proud. You’re on your own, traveling the world, and making your mark. That’s fine, nothing’s wrong with that, but you need someone to love, someone you can love back. We all need that.”
“Daddy, I have you. Plus, you didn’t need anyone.”
He sighed. In her mind’s eye she could see him removing his reading glasses and rubbing the bridge of his nose.
“Oh yes I did,” he said. “I still do. And so do you.”
For the first time in her memory, Olivia heard a hitch in her father’s strong voice. It was so unfamiliar that for a moment she was at a loss to explain it. Her dad had been acting out of character for a few months now. She’d sensed there was something wrong for a while now, but he wouldn’t admit to anything, even when pressed. One of the reasons she’d taken the New York posting was because it put her closer to Washington, D.C., where he’d retired to. Then suddenly it dawned it came to her. Her strong father, Vietnam veteran, winner of more medals and citations than she could count and one of the toughest and most respected Marines the Corps had ever produced, was lonely.
“I’ve taken enough of your time baby girl. Go on your date. All I’m saying is, if he’s worth it, give him a chance. Trust me on this one Olivia, you do not want to get to my age and find yourself alone.”
“Okay daddy,” she said in a small voice.
“That’s my girl. I love you Princess, call me tomorrow and tell me all about the date, okay.”
“I will daddy, I love you too.”
Could her father be right, Olivia thought as she put her phone away and dabbed at the tears that had formed in the corners of her eyes. Hadn’t she given anyone a fair chance? She stared at her reflection in the mirror as she freshened her makeup. No, she decided when her makeup was perfect again. Her father was wrong. She’d given plenty of chances but not a one had lived up to the standard she demanded. The standard that he himself had set by his strong, unwavering example. Her mother died when Olivia was about a year old and from that time until she left home for college her father had made it his duty in life to raise his daughter. He’d never put anyone before her, he’d never even been on one date that she could recall. All his energies were devoted to her and to the Corps, in that order. No, she doubted Tony would live up to her standards but she would keep her word to her father and give him a chance. She gave herself a last once over then walked out to meet him.