Followers, It’s been about two years since the release of my first novel, Flash Mob. To commemorate the occasion, please enjoy this chapter and consider reading or rereading my work. I am currently working on a third installment of this series as well as some other projects. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Friday, Dec 21st
~ West Orange ~
Nurse Carrie Parker is helping Tommaso Pastor out of his bed and into a wheelchair.
“Are you sure you shouldn’t have some help doing this?” he asks.
“I figure I’ve done this about ten thousand times, and I haven’t lost a patient yet, Mr. Pastor. Besides, I’ve carried five children and two ex-husbands, so you should be a piece of cake.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me if you carried them all at once, Ms. Parker. I must say, that’s a delightful cologne you’re wearing.”
“Do you like it? It’s a combination of witch hazel, iodine, and soframyicin. I deal with a lot of bedsores here. And I must say, you do not exactly smell like a gentle spring rain, honey.”
“You don’t need to tell me. At this point, I’d drink Old Spice.”
“All, kidding aside, Mr. Pastor, you’ve got to let me know if you’re not getting a sponge bath every day.”
“I’m getting them, but you might want to tell management that they should do them after physical therapy rather than before.”
“Well I can tell management if you would like, but you’ve been here long enough to know how effective that will be. I recommend mentioning it to Marcus. He’ll be here to pick you up in a few minutes. You two seem pretty tight.”
“Maybe he’ll assign you to wash me if I ask him real nice.”
“You two ain’t that tight, you dirty old man. Besides, if I gave you a sponge bath, you’d bust your other hip.”
“Is that what happened to your first husband?”
“Both of them. Number two is two doors down. Now, I suggest you calm yourself, before your heart gives out.”
“Knowing that you are single has given me a lease on life.”
“Lease? Honey, I ain’t no rental. You apply for a mortgage and we’ll talk.”
Marcus walks in at the end of their exchange and smiles, shaking his head.
“Here’s your ride Mr. Pastor,” she says, “Enjoy your rehearsal and don’t forget to mention that thing to Marcus.”
“Thanks for getting him ready, Ms. Parker,” says Marcus, “and have a nice weekend.”
“I hope to see you in church on Sunday, honey. My baby Ranisha has a solo. And, give your mama my regards.”
“I will, and I’ll be there for sure.”
Carrie holds the door while Marcus wheels Tommaso down the hall.
In the Rec Room, Scotty is setting up the space when Tommy walks in. She is immediately swamped by the dancers with a myriad of questions, ideas, and complaints. Lew, or quite possibly Stew, races to the front of the line and is breathlessly sharing his latest idea for a new intro. Marcus wheels Tommaso in and begins heading toward Tommy., but Tommaso holds up a hand and points toward a corner of the room. Marcus gets the message and takes him around the outside of the chaos. Tommaso says something briefly to Marcus causing him to scan the room. He sees Scotty, turns back toward Tommaso, and jerks his head in Scotty’s direction. Tommaso nods, and dismissed Marcus with a flick of his fingers. Marcus wanders over to Scotty, who is watching Tommy intently.
“Chill, Brother,” says Marcus.
“She’s not going anywhere. Relax. Let her breathe.”
“But what if—”
“She’s still interested. Trust me. We…well, you, just need to take a step back.”
“But what if—”
“If Robin shows up, I’ll handle her. I promise that she won’t get near you or Tommy.”
“But what if—”
Marcus looks at Scotty. He holds out his hands, waiting. Finally Marcus asks, “What if what?”
“Nothing, I was just testing you. You were two for two so far. I didn’t want you to get overconfident.”
“Well, there is one more thing. The gentleman in the corner is her grandfather.”
“Shh! As far as you’re concerned, the gentleman. He’s here to check her out, but he’s also here to check you out, so be cool.”
Scotty rubs his temple.
“What’s a stroke feel like?”
“Stop being an asshole. Just stay back here, look busy, hit your cues, and smile…but not too much. I’ll be around.”
“Can you see? Are my ears bleeding?”
Marcus shakes his head and leaves.
After a productive half hour, Tommy spots her grandfather in the corner. She smiles and he waves. In another ten minutes she calls out to the troupe.
“Great work, people, it’s really coming together. Let’s take a ten minute break and please hold your questions until I return. Great work!”
She quickly trots over to Grandpa before she can be swamped by the most over-enthusiastic of the dancers. She gives him a hug and a kiss.
“I didn’t expect to see you here,” she says.
“I wouldn’t miss it. I’d like to tell you it looks great, but I have no idea what is happening. In any case, you look great, and they all seem to love what you’re doing.”
Tommy turns a chair around to sit facing him.
“I’m happy with it. It’s going well, and I’m glad I volunteered.”
“And the fella?”
“Trouble. At least I think so. Grandpa, something happened the other night.”
“Did he do something?”
“No, no, nothing like that. He’s been wonderful. It’s me—actually us, the Pastors.”
“Oh, that. You mean it’s me, the Pastor.”
“It’s never been an issue like this before, and I don’t know what to do.”
“Have you spoken to your parents about it?”
“No, I’m concerned it will upset them and I don’t want that, not at Christmas, when everyone is together.”
“Look, I know you have to get back to the dancing, but I’d like you to come by and tell me more about it.”
“We have a rehearsal Sunday afternoon at 2:00. Can I come by at noon?”
“That’s perfect. I’ll treat you to lunch. Tell everyone I’m looking forward to their visit on Christmas Eve. Now go back to your rehearsal, my angel.”
“I love you, Grandpa.”
She heads back to the waiting throng and Tommaso nods at Marcus. Marcus comes to return him to his room. The rest of the rehearsal goes without incident. Scotty has been wracking his brain looking for the right thing to say to avoid creepiness and awkwardness, while Tommy has been planning her escape route in an attempt to avoid the same. As the crowd disburses, Marcus wheels in a tray with three mugs and a carafe. He catches Tommy near the door.
“Where do you think you’re going, young lady?”
“Don’t even try it. Come, sit down and take your medicine.”
“You know, you and my grandfather are quite a pair.”
“You mean that we both care about you?”
“I was thinking more like demon wizards.”
“It’s a gift. Yo, Scotty, leave the chairs.”
Scotty comes over and joins them at the table. Marcus pours three hot chocolates from the carafe.
“Great rehearsal, Tommy,” says Scotty.
It sounds even more awkward aloud than it did in his head. He shakes his head and turns to Marcus.
“Can you toss an oxycodone in mine, please?”
“Make mine a double,” says Tommy.
Everyone laughs which breaks some of the ice, but before Scotty can launch his plan for another date, Marcus jumps in.
“Tommy, do you have plans tomorrow morning?”
She is caught off guard, because she was trying to word a polite rejection in her head.
“Uh, no, I don’t think so.”
“Why don’t you come to Mountainside Park? Scotty, Carter, and I have our last flag football game of the season at 10:30. It’s supposed to be sunny and pretty nice out. We can all go out to lunch afterward.”
“We could use your help. We need someone to take a few pictures for the newsletter. You can use my camera.”
“Okay, I guess…sure, why not. It sounds like fun. Mountainside Park, where the pool is?”
“Yeah, right next to the pool.”
“All right, I probably should be on my way. Thanks for the hot chocolate, and I’ll see you in the morning.”
She makes her way to the door. After she leaves, Scotty turns to Marcus.
“What the hell was that?”
“I was saving your ass, again.”
“I mean the newsletter. We don’t have a newsletter.”
“She was waffling. It closed the deal.”
“I think my brain is going to explode. Please explain.”
“You were gonna ask her out again.”
“True, but you chumped me off.”
“She was gonna say no.”
“We’ll never know, will we?”
“Exactly. She wanted to say yes, but was probably going to say no, so why take the chance? Now you’re still in the game.”
“She said yes to you, not me.”
“Wrong. When she left, she thanked me for the hot chocolate, then distinctly turned to you and said ‘I’ll see you in the morning.’”
“If that’s the case, why are you so convinced that she was going to say no?”
“She likes you.”
“Why are you doing this to me?”
“No, she likes you a lot, enough to keep you from getting involved in a complex relationship.”
“By saying no?”
“I haven’t figured that out yet.”
“I think I’d like some drugs now, please.”
“Let’s clean up and go home, asshole.”
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