PART I: BEFORE // Chapter Four: How He Grew Up: 4

The next day found him rested and with a much clearer head, and he decided that he could wait no longer. Summoning up all of his courage, he stepped out into the hall and dialed a number on the pay phone.

After a couple of rings, a familiar voice on the other end said briskly, “Gorman Productions. Who may I say I calling?”

Trying to sound nonchalant but with a slight tremor in his voice nonetheless, Gil replied, “Natalie? This is Gil Hall. Remember me? We met—”

“I know you who are, Gil,” Natalie interrupted. “I’ve been waiting for you to call. How’d it go?”

Somewhat relieved, Gil took a deep breath and began to speak more naturally. “Pretty well I think. We wrapped the picture last week and yesterday I got paid. Natalie,” he continued, a note of incredulity entering his voice, “you wouldn’t believe how much I got paid.”

“Hey,” she retorted, “I’m no show biz ingenue, you know. I’m figurin’ you’ve got a little more than you expected, right?”

“Right,” he breathed in a hushed tone, as if he were afraid that someone might be listening. “I’m putting a check for twelve thousand five hundred dollars in my account this afternooon.” Now came the hard part. Drawing another deep breath he blurted out quickly, “Listen Natalie, I really want to celebrate. You know, my first good paycheck and all, and I really don’t have anybody to celebrate with. I was wondering…”

“Why, Mr. Hall!” a suddenly coy voice on the other end interrupted. “Could you be asking me out on a date?”

Gil could feel his face reddening and was glad she couldn’t see him. “Well,” he said, “I guess you could call it that. I mean, you know, we could go maybe someplace nice and have dinner. I mean, I pay for everything.”

“Sure,” she said, dropping the pose as she could sense his discomfort. “Why not?” Then making light of it, she added, “I’m the kind of girl who could be had for the price of a good meal.”

“Great!” said Gil, much relieved. “When would you like to go? I mean, I’m not really doing anything, at least for the moment.”

She replied quickly. “How about Friday night? I don’t have to work the next day, and we can really relax and enjoy ourselves. Where do you want to go?”

Gil thought for a few moments. He really hadn’t thought through to this part of it. Heretofore his financial situation had largely limited him to the cheaper neighborhood eating spots—hamburger and taco stands, hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurants, and greasy spoons with cheap but indifferent cuisines. “I don’t know,” he said at length. “Where would you like to go?”

“If you want to go someplace nice,” she observed, “why not Chasen’s? Not only is the food reasonably good, but it’s a great place to see and be seen, if you know what I mean. It might be good for your career.”

“Okay,” he said with a shrug, “sounds good to me.”

“But I warn you,” she said, “it ain’t cheap. Better plan on bringing at least fifty to sixty—wait, make it a hundred if you want to do it right.” Then as an afterthought she added, “You don’t have wheels, right?”

He admitted that this was so.

“Okay,” she said, “no problem. You make reservations for eight. Better do it today, they fill up quickly on the weekend. I’ll pick you up between seven and seven-thirty Friday evening.”

“Okay,” he agreed, “I’ll be ready.”

“And by the way,” she said, “wear something nice. This is a high-class place, and I don’t want people staring at us instead of admiring us. Get the picture?”

“Right,” he agreed. “I’ve got a suit from college that’s still in pretty good shape. I’ll go get it cleaned and pressed. Will that do?”

“Sure,” she agreed. “I’ll wear a nice dress and my grandmother’s pearls. See ya Friday!” 

And with that there was a sharp click and Gil walked back into his apartment, strangely unable to feel the floor beneath him.

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