Franklin & Carmella--
They stood silently watching Bernard as he walked to the end of the hallway and got into the elevator. Franklin turned to Carmella.
“What did you want to talk to me about?”
Nothing really, I just didn’t want to get in the elevator with him. Last week it took almost thirty minutes to get him to let me get in my car. Can’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
“Dang, it’s that bad? “ He moved through the doorway when she gave him a little push. “I knew he liked you, but I can go and put a little hurt on him if you want me to. I’m a third degree black belt.” Franklin smiled. “If you think that’s too violent I can hit him with a little of my Tae Bo moves.”
Carmella laughed softly and pulled the room door shut behind them.
“Naw, that’s okay.” She locked the door and started to walk towards the elevator. “Come on. He’s probably still down there.”
Entering the elevator Carmella stood to the wall, crossed her arms and rested her back. Franklin stood facing the door. Fiddling with his coat button and watching her in the doors reflective surface. He cleared his throat nervously when he saw that she was watching him.
“So Franklin, why are you taking a cooking class?”
“Why are you taking a class? Do you have a wife or a girlfriend you are trying to impress?”
“Then why take the class? It’s not like you ever pay attention.” She pushed away from the wall as the door opened on to the basement floor parking garage. “If you were acting like one of the other million guys who have taken the class and spent most of the evening trying to hit me up I would think you liked me, but you say nothing.” She walked out of the door, pulling his sleeve as she exited. “Come on. My car is over here.”
He followed her without telling her he knew her car, had known it for weeks before he had even decided to take the cooking class. For one thing it wasn’t hard to remember her car, no one else he knew drove a little red Aston Martin and for the past year they have attended the same church, even though he had avoided contact with her.
“How can you afford this car teaching people how to cut onions and celery?”
“I cut a lot of onion and celery.”
“You know, Franklin.” She pushed the button on her key’s chain and opened the car’s door. Sitting in the driver’s seat she pushed the button that would start the car. “If you want to wait until you have gone through a few more classes before you ask me out its okay. I won’t tell you no, but please do it before you cut your fingers off.” She started the car. “I don’t think it would be fun to date someone without fingers, won’t be able to use chopsticks.” She laughed, pulled the door from his hands and drove off.
Left standing alone in the damp chilly night air, Franklin admonished himself for being such a chicken as he put on his coat and watched the last chance of the evening slip away with the click of her car’s door closing. Turning he walked a few steps over and got into the passenger seat of the waiting car. Banging his fist on the dashboard in frustration he took a deep breath and prepared himself to hear the ridicule from his roommate.
“I guess that means you still didn’t ask her out, huh?”
“What do you think? And dang, Bernard why’d she tell me it took nearly thirty minutes for her to get you to let her go last week? I asked you to just make sure she got to her car safely.”
“Man, I was just tryin’ to do you a favor.” Bernard pulled into the busy traffic. “It got her to get you tonight, right? Man, you been in love with this girl a long time. What is keeping you so long to date her? You used to be the player. No girl could get away from you.”
“I don’t know what the problem is. She’s just different. I don’t want to mess up with her.”
“How long are we going to be doing this? I can’t continue to lie and acts like an idiot in the class. I’m supposed to be a man of God, a man of integrity.”
They pulled up outside of the house they shared and went on in. Bernard threw his coat on a chair and walked into the kitchen. He grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and a banana from the cabinet before returning to the living room and flopping onto the couch. With his feet on the coffee table he pointed the banana at Franklin and shook it for emphasis.
“This act I’m putting on for you is making me look like a jerk and when you marry the girl she will never like me because she will think I am a liar and a fake. Can’t have that, Man you promised I could be the first kid’s godfather.” Brandon caught the falling half of banana and stuffed it into his mouth.
“We’re not even dating yet and you have us married with children.”
“I can just see it.” Bernard’s voice was muffled by the mouth full of fruit. “I know she is the one God has sent for you. I just feel it. She’s into the church, on fire for God and she doesn’t play around. Believe me I know. I think she would have pushed me in front of her car and run me over if she could have gotten away with it. I was being one of the most obnoxious guys I could think of. The old ladies in the class today were really ticked at me. One of them passed behind me a if she were going to the sink and whispered in my ear that she would hit me in the head with her rolling pin if I didn’t start to behave. Man, I can’t be gettin’ beat up by old women just so you can walk Ms. Carmella Candi to her beautiful little red car. If you don’t tell her something before the next class I am going to have to exonerate myself by standing in front of the class and telling Carmella the truth. This is starting to get embarrassing.”
“I know, I know. I just don’t know what to say.”
“Let’s start with tonight. What did she say when you were alone in the elevator. You did talk to her, right? No? Okay, what about when you were standing by her car?”
“In the elevator she asked me why I was taking the class and I couldn’t answer. I was so embarrassed at being caught staring at her reflection on the doors and when we were by her car she told me I could wait to ask her out on a date after a few more classes but to hurry before I cut off my fingers. And then she laughed about something about not being able to use chopsticks.”
Bernard choked on the gulp of water he had just taken and began to laugh heartily through the strangling coughs and the thumps on his back from Franklin.
“Man, even she knows how much you like her. If you don’t step to the plate soon she will think you are a wimp and put you out of her mind. You have her cell phone number call her. Wait,” he called to Franklin’s retreating back. “Franklin Emmanuel Henderson, do I have to act like your momma and call you out? Man up and call the woman. What can you lose?”
"What do you mean ‘call me out’? Don’t you know I know you have been calling me a wimp ever since I got in your car? You have fallen back on your old habit of calling me ‘Man’. You only do that when you want to call me a punk or a wimp, but you’re too afraid I’ll whip you up. So you call me ‘Man’.
“True. You know me well. We’ve been friends way before we could walk and I haven’t seen you like this before. She is a great girl. Don’t let her get away from you.” Bernard pushed Franklin in the chest with his open palm as he walked past. Tomorrow is singles night at church. She’ll be there so if you’re not ready to call her tonight, you had better be ready tomorrow. Man, I can’t keep living here with you. I have to have my house for my own wife. If we stay together too long, people will start getting the wrong impression.”
Franklin watched Bernard as he went into his room. It was a fact he and Bernard had grown up in the same crib. Their mother’s had been friends up until they had died together in a car accident four years previously. Franklin and Bernard found comfort through their grief by moving into Bernard’s family home.