After a relatively nice days sleep (which had only been interrupted three times: twice by my neighbors screaming at each other for a divorce, and once by my landlord pounding on the door to remind me that my rent was due yesterday), I climbed out of my creaky bed and made myself some eggs. It was breakfast time – for me, anyway. Besides, I liked eggs. Besides, they were all I had.
Grocery day had also been yesterday. Money was not a friend that often indulged me with a visit.
As I finished my eggs (a little too runny), I silently recounted the dream Id had just before waking, in which Id been on a date (yes, me! On a date!) with the beautiful east African woman. We had been getting coffee after an opera, when the much-more-handsome, much-better-dressed Gideon showed up and swept her off her feet with nothing more than a charming word and a seductive glance.
As shed begun walking away into the sunset with him, Id reached for her hand one last time. Her skin felt like satin.
”Its the Armani suit, isn it? ” I had asked her.
She had smiled at me, her golden eyes full of pity. ”Oh, Theodore, ” she had said, ”that, and so much more. ”
Then Id heard a chorus of voices, led by my mums, chanting ”Theodore! Theodore! Theodore! ” at me with enough volume to make my brain rattle.
Thank goodness I had woken up at that point. With my luck, I don even want to consider what might have been in store for me next. DNA tests for me against the gay chap, the dead chap, and the inmate? No, thank you very much. Not within the same twenty-four hour period as a fire in the Penthouse and falling on my face in front of the most beautiful woman Id ever seen.
I washed my dishes and straightened up the shabby little flat. I was just settling down in the ratty plush chair by my window to read yet another rousing chapter of Winning Friends and Influencing People when someone knocked on my door.
I dropped the book.
No, never. They mustve had the wrong flat. No one ever knocked on my door. My landlord banged with his grubby fist like the bloody world was going to come crashing down, and the heroin addict down the hall who always wanted to
” money just shouted:
”Ted! Ted, I know you
e in there! Don hate! Help a brotha out! ”
But this was a knock. And a polite one, at that. In a cheeky little rhythm that almost sang, ”Ted has a visitor! ”
Unfazed by my inadequate attire of holey jeans and an old faded Weezer T-shirt from their Pinkerton tour, I ran to the door and flung it open with gusto.
Shiny shoes, navy Armani suit, impish smile, and lots of swirling cigar smoke.
”Mr. Gideon! ” I coughed.
”Ted! ” Gideon said, noticing my violent coughs. ”Are you sensitive to smoke, Ted? Sorry about that. Ill put it out straight away. ” And, indeed, he did singe out the cigar – with his fingertips. I cringed, but he didn bat an eye.
”Mr. Gideon, how did you..? ”
”Find out where you live? ” he finished for me.
I nodded weakly, my eyes still darting to his fingers. There were no burn marks.
”A lovely girl at the hotel – Lara, I think – was kind enough to give me your address, ” Gideon said. ”I hope thats alright with you. It was a bit presumptuous of me to just show up. ”
”Not at all! ” I cried. I found his interest odd, but admittedly flattering. ”Erm, please, come in! ”
Gideon looked around the meager contents of my flat with an open expression. ”Your apartment is…what I expected, ” he said, not unkindly.
”Yes, Im sorry, ” I said, pushing my lone straight-backed chair up to the plain round table. I felt certain that Gideon was used to much more luxurious surroundings. ”Its not the best of places to entertain. ”
”That hardly matters, Ted,
” Gideon told me.
”Im not staying, and neither are you. We
e having an evening on the town tonight, you and me. ”
My heart fluttered in my chest. ”You want to spend an evening on the town with me? ”
Gideon laughed. ”Yes! What dyou say? ”
”Mr. Gideon, I— ”
”Just Gideon, Ted. The Mr. isn necessary. ”
”Oh! Right! Of course, sir—I mean, Gideon. ” I knew I was stammering like a royal git, but this was an exceptional moment for me. No title? Why, that was almost like having a friend!
I made my best attempt to compose myself. ”Gideon, I am more flattered than I can possibly tell you. Unfortunately, I must work tonight at 11:00. But really, can we rain check? ”
The impish smile hed sported at the door made a return appearance.
”No need for that, Ted. You
e not working tonight. ”
”Wh—what? ” I sputtered. ”Says who? ”
”Says your boss, Red Toulouse, ” Gideon replied, acting like I had no reason at all to be surprised. ”That charming girl Lara provided his phone number when she provided your address. I called and asked him if you could have the night off, and he agreed to it. ”
”You must be bluffing, ” I said, looking around and half expecting Red to burst through the door and yell, ”Gottcha! ” ”Red hasn given me a night off in four years! ”
”I had a feeling youd say that, ” Gideon said, reaching into the breast pocket of his suit jacket. He retrieved a crisp sheet of white paper, folded into thirds. ”I had him fax this to the hotel as proof, since I figured youd be too unsure to take my word for it. ”
He handed me the paper. In Reds less-than-legible handwriting, it read:
Yᵉᵃʰ, ᵀᵉᵈᵈʸ ᵍᵉᵗˢ ᵗʰᵉ ⁿⁱᵍʰᵗ ᵒᶠᶠ.
ᴮᵉ ᵍʳᵃᵗᵉᶠᵘˡ, ᵖᵘⁿᵏ!
”I don bloody believe it, ” I said, gawking at the fax in shock. ”Did you hypnotize him? ”
Gideon laughed. ”Hypnotize? No. But youll find I can be very persuasive at all the best times. People tend to feel quite…tempted to do as I suggest. ”
That didn surprise me in the least. If Gideon asked me to get snot-slinging drunk and jump off the Brooklyn Bridge with him in the middle of January naked as a jay-bird, I was fairly certain I wouldn even hesitate.
Gideon saw my book, Winning Friends and Influencing People, lying on the floor. Gingerly, he picked it up and tossed it on the table in front of me.
”After a few hours with me, youll be able to write the new and improved edition of that, Ted. ”
”You think so? ” I asked in awe.
”I know so, ” he answered, winking at me.
”Alright! ” I said, very excited by the sudden change in plans. ”Well, Im set! Lets be off then— ” I stopped abruptly and looked down in dismay at my shanty clothes. ”Oh, Gideon, Im afraid I don have anything thats appropriate for a night out. All my clothes are shite— ”
”Stop right there, ” Gideon said holding up a hand. ”I had a feeling youd say that, too. And I noticed how much you admired my suit last night, so I arranged a little surprise for you. ”
”A surprise? For me? ”
”Yes, ” Gideon said, glancing at his watch (a Rolex, no doubt). ”And it should be arriving right about…now. ”
Another polite knock sounded at the door.
I gaped at Gideon.
”Open it, Ted, ” he said, amusement lighting up his features. ”Its not for me. ”
Shell-shocked, I opened the door. A ravishing red-headed young woman stood on the other side. She smiled and held a large box out toward me. It was shiny and black and read ”Armani ” across the top in silver letters.
”Compliments of the Conflagration Wardrobe for Men! ” the girl chanted at me with a wide smile exposing a mouthful of perfect white teeth.
”Is this…what I think it is? ” I asked, taking the box from the girl like it was a brick of gold.
Gideon gave her a smile and a tip. ”Open it and see, ” he suggested.
Boy, did I open it. Like a seven-year-old on Christmas morning who knew he was getting a super hero costume.
It was indeed a beautiful, fashionable, posh suit – complete with matching shoes and tie.
” I sighed when Id found my voice.
e like a fairy Godfather! ”
”Something like that, ” Gideon said, smiling like he knew something I didn . ”Go change, Ted. Lets see how you clean up. ”
He didn have to tell me twice. I raced to the loo, suit in hand. I threw off my old clothes, not caring that they landed in the bathtub, and began dressing – really dressing – myself.
”If you like it, I can arrange to have a few more sent here, ” Gideon called from the main room.
”Like it? ” I called back. ”I love it more than a years rent! Its fitting perfectly – how did you know my size? ”
”I have an eye for these things, Ted, ” Gideon replied. He said something else, too, lower, so I didn catch it through the door. It hardly mattered, though; I was far too excited.
Tying the tie was beyond my ability (Id never owned one), so I brought it with me when I emerged from the loo. I figured Gideon was a master.
”What do you think? ” I asked him, noticing that I was suddenly walking differently. Taller, straighter, more like a person of importance. The owner of a hotel instead of the front desk clerk.
Gideons eyes widened slightly when he saw me, and he stepped forward to take the tie.
”You shine up like a silver dollar,
” he said, sounding very pleased. He tied the tie for me and stepped back to survey the finished product.
” he said after a moment,
e ready to make your debut. ”
”Oh, marvelous. Superb, ” I said, and suddenly, I began wringing my hands. Where would we go? Would people wonder who I was? Would they be able to tell I didn belong? I smiled sheepishly at Gideons confused expression. ”Im just, you know, a bit edgy. ”
Gideon smiled calmly. ”Theres no need; trust me. Run a comb through your hair and meet me downstairs. Ill have the car waiting. ”
”The car? ”
He winked at me. ”You know it. ”
He left in a whisk, and I ran back into the loo. My thick dishwater blonde hair was a birds nest again, but for some reason, I had no doubt Id be able to make it look presentable. It may have been the first one in my life, but this was my lucky day!
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