I wish music didn’t tell all of my business.
Perfect example: Last week I went to the grocery store to pick up some things that Eva and I needed. Everything was fine until ‘Emotional Rollercoaster’ by Vivian Green came on. I cried like a baby. It would’ve been ok had a little girl not said out loud “Look, mommy, that lady’s crying!” and drew the attention of everyone in the cookie aisle. At least she came up to me and offered a tissue. I guess that cleaned it up some.
Maybe I allow things to affect me too much. Actually it’s not things – just Jackson. I spend so much time thinking about what he wants and needs that I forget our relationship should be about us. Add in Eva and her pre-teen issues and what you have left is an over-emotional, cookie-eating mess.
My therapist says that I should do some self-evaluation, set boundaries, and possibly spend some time alone. But what does she know? I haven’t been alone since I was sixteen years old. I wouldn’t know how to operate outside of a relationship. And anyway, Jack is all I know. I love him, and sometimes I want to hurt him, but I don’t want to leave him. So I’ve concluded that she just wants me to spend more money than I have for sessions that I may or may not need.
I’ll just get a new therapist…
…and more cookies.
“If we don’t do our paper by Friday, what’s gon' happen?”
“Then you’ll be spending another year in the 10th grade, Steven.”
The class pointed and laughed loudly, which made the young man angry and embarrassed. “Miss Glenn, come on, that ain’t funny!”
“You’re right, it isn’t funny, so the rest of you can stop laughing because the same applies to all of you.” Urie responded with a calm strength that commanded the respect of the class and quieted them quickly. “Listen, I know that this has been a long few weeks, but it would be a shame if you failed at the finish line. I expect to see your papers on my desk by Friday, and if any of you need my assistance, please do not hesitate to ask.” The bell sounded and each of the students filed out of the room. “Steven,” she waited until he turned around, “I know you can do this. My door is open if you need help, ok?” She smiled as the young man nodded and walked out the room. Urie sighed deeply as she began to gather her papers to head home for the afternoon. Lord, I don’t care what I need done to my condo. Never let me teach summer school again.
“Um, excuse me Miss Glenn, Tre’ keeps hitting me!”
Urie looked up and saw Parker standing in the doorway. “First of all, you are too grown to be making your voice sound like that.” She laughed. “Second, these kids in this building are too grown to be talking about someone hitting them. It would be more like hitting on them and they would probably like it. Girl, what are you doing here?”
“I’m working from home today, so I am on my lunch.” Parker walked into Urie’s class room and sat on the edge of her desk. “Man, this school has not changed since we went here.”
“I know right? The only thing that has changed is how fast the students are. At least we tried to keep our business out of the halls. These kids don’t care.”
“I hear ya. So where do you want to grab something to eat?”
“I could go for some pizza.” Urie answered while continuing to gather her things. “I’ve had a taste for some Giordano’s for a minute.”
“Somehow I knew you’d say that. Come on, Lydia’s on her way there now and so is Syd.”
“Am I that predictable?”
“I wouldn’t say predictable, but I know you well enough to know what you’re going to say.”
“That’s the definition of predictable.”
“No, it just means that I know you.” Parker put her arm around Urie and smiled. “Now come on, I’m starting to get bad memories being in this building…”
As they gathered the remainder of her things, a gentleman walked into the classroom. “Um, excuse me,” he interrupted their conversation, “I don’t mean to interrupt, but can either of you ladies point me in the direction of the music room?” Urie took a look at the gentleman that came in the room. He had a strong yet warm presence about him, and his smile immediately captured her attention. “I’m trying to get a few things set up before the arts boot camp in a few weeks and, well, I’m new here so I don’t know my way around the building yet.”
“That’s alright.” Urie extended her hand for a handshake, which he gladly returned. “Urie Glenn, I’m one of the English teachers here.”
“What grades do you teach?”
“During the school year, all of them, but I’m teaching sophomore English for summer school. You’re the new music teacher?”
“That’s what they hired me for, so we’ll see how it goes.” He winked at Urie then turned to Parker. “And what do you teach here?”
“Dear God no, I’d kill one of these kids.” All of them laughed at Parker’s honesty. “I’m just here with her for the day. But my name is Parker Peterson….”
“You’re Parker Peterson, huh? Well it’s good to put a face to a name…”
Parker raised her eyebrows. “And that means…”
“My sister talks about your blog all the time. She and a lot of her friends are huge fans. What is it, Curls Cake and something?”
“It’s Curves Curls and Cake, so you were close.” Parker smiled proudly. “And tell her thank you, I’m flattered.”
“Since you know our names, what is yours?”
“Guess that would be fair, huh? I’m Bryce Anderson. Nice to meet you ladies.” He turned his focus back to Urie, who had just finished grabbing her papers. “Well, I don’t want to take you out of your way if you were on your way out the door…”
“Oh, that’s ok. I can show you were the arts wing is.” Um, what was that all about? Urie thought to herself after she cut him off. Cutting people off is rude. And where do I get off sounding so eager?!
“There’s a whole wing here. I see.” Bryce laughed as he reached for her bag. “Here, let me take that...”
“Don’t worry about it, I’m good. I can take you to your new room and then exit right out to the faculty parking lot. It’s not heavy, so I’ll be fine.”
“I would be less of a gentleman if I didn’t offer to carry your bags for you, Miss Glenn…”
“You can call me Urie…”
“Only if you agree to call me Bryce…”
As cute as you are, I’ll call you whatever you want… wait, did I just think that!? Come on, Urie, get it together! “Alright, Bryce. Agreed.”
Awww suki suki now! Parker thought to herself as she watched the chemistry between the two of them. Let me get out the way! “Um, Urie, I’ll go wait in the car. I parked in the visitor’s lot up front so I will see you in a minute…”
Urie’s eyes opened wide as she turned her focus completely to Parker. The last thing she needed was to be left alone with Bryce. “Um, you went to school here too. You can come with us too if you…”
“Nope. I need to go to the car anyway. Gotta make an important phone call about an interview I have set up for my blog.” Parker flashed a quick mischievous smile at Bryce and then turned back to Urie. “See you in a minute. Take your time! Bye! Tell your sister to keep reading, Bryce!” She took off out the door and around the corner before Urie could respond.
Great. Just great. Leave the awkward chick alone with a cute guy. Really funny. Urie sighed and turned back to Bryce who was withholding laughter. “I wish I could apologize for my friend but…”
“No need. I understand.” Bryce slipped Urie’s bag off of her shoulder. “The music room, shall we?”
“It’s this way.”
Urie pointed down the end of the hall. They walked quietly for a moment before Bryce broke the silence. “So your friend, she went to school here?”
“Both of us did actually.”
“And you came back?”
“It’s funny. I was voted ‘most likely to come back and teach’. I guess some of those really do come true, huh?” They laughed for a moment before she continued. “I like it though. It’s paying the bills and keeping me in the teaching loop while I’m getting my 2nd Masters Degree.”
“Oh really, in what?”
“School administration. I really would prefer to the principle rather than just a teacher.”
“I’m sure you’ll get there, but I bet your students will miss you.”
“What makes you think that?
“You look like a good teacher.”
“And how does one look like a good anything?”
“I can just tell. You seem to carry yourself in a way that garners respect and kids need to see that, especially our young ladies.”
“So what got you into education?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you don’t see a lot of young men in teaching high school. What got you interested in education?”
“I love music and my heart goes out to our youth, plain and simple. And I always knew I’d be a teacher. More young men need to see minority males teaching. I think it gives them something to look up and aspire to, regardless to what their career ambitions are. But outside of here, I also play in a jazz quintet.”
“Really? How often do you all play?”
“I have a steady gig on the weekends at a place called Blue Sunflower, and I play in a few other places..” Bryce looked at Urie and smiled. “Maybe you and your friend would love to come check us out sometime…”
That just sounds too much like temptation… Urie thought to herself. “Maybe.” She simply replied.
“So this is the music room?” Bryce came in and surveyed the space. The room was u-shaped with a few stairs leading down to the center, where a large piano and other instruments were located. Trophies and photos from competitions past surrounded the room, and several bookcases and shelves Bryce walked down the stairs, looking at some of the pictures and surveying how dusty some of the shelves were. He finally arrived to the piano, lifting up the lid and hitting one of the keys. “Good sound.” He stated. Bryce then sat down and began to play the opening chords to a jazz song. “Good acoustics too.”
“Blue in Green.” Urie called out from the top of the stairs.
“What did you say?” Bryce looked up but continued to play.
“The song you’re playing, it’s Miles Davis’ Blue in Green.” Urie repeated while walking toward where Bryce was. “That’s one of my favorite songs.”
“Oh, so you know jazz, huh?”
“A little.” She smiled shyly. “I just like music period.”
“Ok, ok.” Bryce started playing another song. “So what’s this one?”
Urie let out a smirk. “Come on, if we’re gonna play name that tune, then challenge me. Sophisticated Lady.”
“Nice, but I’d be more impressed if you knew the words to the song as sung by Ms Nancy Wilson?”
“I do, but…”
“So you sing too?”
“I never said I could sing.”
“I can tell by the tones in your voice that you can. You can’t fool a real musician sweetie. So are you gonna sing for me or not?”
“Um, are we gonna eat or not, that’s the question?” Both of them looked up to see Parker standing in the doorway, arms crossed and foot tapping. “Or should I just meet you there?”
Embarrassed, Urie grabbed her purse off of the piano. “I should probably get going.”
“No problem. I’ll listen to you sing another time.”
“Again, I never said I could sing.”
Bryce continued to play as he repeated. “There’ll be another time.” Urie just smiled and started to head up the stairs. “Summer school ends this week, right?”
“Yes it does.” Urie replied.
“So maybe you’ll take me up on my offer to come see us play, that way I don’t have to wait until the school year starts to speak to you again.”
Urie looked at Parker, who just stared at her mischievously. She then turned back to Bryce. “I’ll ask my girls how they feel about coming, and if they’re game, we’ll come check you out.”
“I hope so. Nice meeting you, and thanks for showing me over here. It was nice meeting you too, Miss Parker.”
“Yessir. Pleasure meeting you as well.” Parker replied, looking directly at Urie. “Are you ready?”
“Yes ma’am.” Urie waved goodbye to Bryce and waited until they were outside of the door before she continued. “I ought to punch you dead in the jaw!”
What? What I do?”
“But the question is this – did you get his number?”
“No, I did not.” The group began to make comments as Urie continued. “Why would I get his number? Hello, relationship?”
“Hello, bad relationship?” Sydney replied. “If the man was clearly flirting with you, and you were flirting back, then numbers should have rightfully been exchanged…”
“I was not flirting back!” Urie exclaimed.
“She was flirting back.” Parker added in between a bite of pizza.
Urie rolled her eyes and looked away. “Parker, I was not flirting…”
“And if you were,” Lydia interrupted, “there is nothing wrong with that. It just shows that you’re a woman with sensual instincts. By sensual, I mean that your senses are working and responding when you see an attractive man and feel him showing interest in you. At least I assume he was attractive.”
“He was.” Urie answered back and sipped her beverage. The other three women stared at Urie, making her slightly uncomfortable. “What!?”
“Umm hmm,” Sydney laughed while grabbing another slice, “not flirting my Aunt Francis.”
“The only thing that happened was me showing him to the music room, he played the piano a little bit, I guessed a song or two that he played, and then Parker’s hungry behind showed up at the door. Completely harmless interaction between two educators…”
“Ok, back up a bit.”
“The game of ‘name that tune’ you two were playing.” Urie immediately became embarrassed and bit her lip, but Sydney continued. “I know you, chick. All of us do. And if there is one thing we know about you, it’s that you have soft spot for music and musicians…”
“That’s what got you stuck on Jackson, remember?” Parker added.
“I wouldn’t say stuck, but…” Parker just stared at her blankly until Urie began to laugh. “Ok, so I have a thing for musicians. Who doesn’t! There’s something about a man that plays an instrument or sings that is just sexy…”
“I second that!” Sydney waved her hand as if she was in church.
“So yes, I have to admit that I was a little attracted to Bryce. But I am in a relationship with Jack, have been for almost ten years…”
“And I still don’t know how you’ve managed that long without a proposal…” Lydia mumbled.
“…and am not going to ruin that. As a matter of fact, I will be seeing my sweetie tonight. So in conclusion…”
“In conclusion? What is this, a book report?” Parker laughed.
“…carrying on a conversation with someone who I may think is cute does not mean that I have to get his phone number or go out with him or anything like that…”
“Who said you had to go out with him?” Lydia teased. Urie immediately grabbed another slice of pizza to deter her attention. “Mmmm hmm. Y’all will be going out. Miss Faithful over here is going to have her first experience with life outside of Jacksonville…”
“Speaking of faithful,” Parker interjected while turning her focus to Lydia, “what is the deal with this Calvin character?”
“What of him?”
“Don’t act new. That man has been all over you since you first met at your birthday party…”
“Not to mention all of the flirty phone conversations you’ve been having…” Sydney chimed in.
“Wait a minute,” Urie chimed in, “you’re talking about me being unfaithful and you’re flirting with random guys? Who is Calvin?...”
“Oh my goodness, really y’all?”
“Yes really!” Sydney leaned forward on the table, which made Lydia a little uncomfortable. “I’ve been around you two, and there is no way you can consider how he acts toward you strictly professional. He wants you, and you’re playing with fire if you think that you can maintain a professional relationship with a man who wants a little something extra…”
“Something extra like what!” Lydia exclaimed loudly.
“Girl, shhh!” Urie grabbed Lydia’s hand in an attempt to calm her down. “Do you really want everyone to know your business?”
“No, but I am tired of defending myself about Calvin to you all. My interactions with Calvin are for business purposes only. Period, end of story. I am catering the upcoming Dreams Inc. gala, which is a huge milestone for my company. Yes, I admit, I may flirt a little bit with him. But as I just stated, it simply means that I am responding to my senses…” Lydia’s words trailed off as their waiter came to the table to bring the bill. She openly flirted with the handsome young man who gladly flirted back. After giving him a kiss on the cheek and playfully wiping the lipstick off of his cheek, she waited until waiter left before continuing. “See, harmless sensual response.”
Sydney rolled her eyes. “And you of all people would know all about being sensual.”
“Jealous?” Lydia asked while raising her eyebrows.
“Of you? You wish.” Sydney and the rest of the women at the table laughed.
Urie looked down at her cell phone. No missed calls. And he is late. Again. She frowned as she smoothed out her orange maxi dress that hugged her hips closely and showed just a hint of cleavage. Normally Urie wouldn’t wear something that low-cut, but since Jackson suggested she should start wearing things that were a little more daring to ‘…give him something to think about when he wasn’t around…’, she gave it a shot. While taking a sip of her beverage at the bar, she glanced at all of the other couples enjoying their meals. What is taking him so long? I don’t understand why he insists on being late. It’s almost as if he is dreading meeting me. If he had something else to do tonight, he should’ve said something before agreeing to meet me for dinner. I could be at home spending time with Eva or getting some work done for class tomorrow…
“Babe, you didn’t get my message?” Urie looked up to see Jackson come in wearing jeans and a t-shirt, an inappropriate outfit for the elegant restaurant that she had chosen for dinner. Urie shook her head as she readjusted the headband that pushed her curls away from her face. She did not respond to him until he got close to her. After giving her a peck on the lips, he leaned down close to Urie’s face, which held a scowl. “Urie, sweetie, why do you look upset?”
“What time is it, Jackson?”
“It’s 8:45. Why?”
“What time did you say that you were going to be here?”
Jackson huffed and sat down on a bar stool next to her. “You mean to tell me you’re mad about that? I got here, ok? Did you get us a table?”
“I did, an hour and 45 minutes ago. We’ve lost our reservation.”
“Why you didn’t just tell them to hold it?”
Urie stared blankly at Jackson for a moment. “You don’t tell people at restaurants like these to hold a reservation; you simply show up for the time you reserved your table. And even if they were nice enough to hold your reservation, they are not going to do it for almost 2 hours after the time you are supposed to be here!...”
“Alright, alright, I messed up. I had a couple of meetings at the center that ran over so I ain’t have time to change clothes, but I got here. Can you at least be happy about that?” Urie still showed no emotion toward him, so Jackson took her in his arms and kissed her softly. The kiss broke the hardness of her attitude and she cracked a small smile. “That’s my girl. So, what’s this bourgeois place you got me in? Folks sitting around eating all quiet, people playing’ piano in the corner and sh…”
“Watch your mouth. And it’s not bourgeois, it’s quiet and elegant. I hear that they have really good food here.”
“Who told you that?” Jackson asked dryly.
“Parker. You know she has the 411 on all the good places to eat and hang out.”
“Her fat butt would know all the good places to eat…”
“Jackson, that is rude! What did I tell you about talking about people’s weight? Besides, I’m a thick girl just like she is. Are you going to call me fat behind my back?”
“Sweetie, there is a difference between you and Parker, ok? You are thick, which is what guys want, and you know I can barely keep them curves out my hands.” Jackson pinched her hips, which got a small giggle from Urie. “But Parker is fat, which is what guys think is nasty….”
“So what do you think of Lydia and Sydney? Are they thick or fat?”
“Lydia got a nice shape on her, but she too needy and got a bad attitude. Plus, that chick a gold-digger so I don’t know why you hang around her…”
Hate to admit it, but he is right about the gold-digging part… Urie thought to herself.
“And Syd’s alright, but she ain’t really my type either. She too loud. I like my women thick and distinguished-acting. Like you.”
“Well, you can like what you like in a female but that still doesn’t give you license to clown my friends. There is a lot that I can say about your boys and yet I keep my mouth shut…”
“Naw, go on and say what you gon say!” Jackson pinched her hips again and made her giggle a little louder, finally cracking the last bit of anger that Urie had with him. He knew it would take much; just a couple of touches and a couple of kisses and he was back in her good graces. Jackson held Urie close to him. “For real though, you are the full package. I know I mess up with you sometimes and I’m sorry…”
“Like being late tonight…”
“Yes for being late tonight. You know I love you, right?”
“I know you do.”
“Oh, I don’t get an ‘I love you too’? You just gonna leave me out here, huh?”
“I’m still mad at you.” Urie kissed him on the check and then wiped the lipstick off with her thumb. “Come on, I can still see if we can get a table.”
The two of them walked over to the hostess’ stand, where a woman greeted them with a smile. “Can I help you?”
“Yes, I had a reservation for 7pm, but we ended up having to push it back. Are there any tables available still?”
“Yes ma’am, I can sit you two right away. This way please.” The hostess grabbed two menus and began to walk Jackson and Urie through the restaurant. A couple of people looked at Jackson’s attire, which made him a little angry. To calm him, Urie placed her arm around his and leaned in, giving his cheek another kiss as if to say ‘Remember, you’re here with me.’ The hostess sat them at a table along the perimeter of the room near the pianist that played soft jazz music. “Your waiter will be with you momentarily. Can I order you some champagne or something else to drink?”
“I’ll just have another 7-Up please.”
“Can I have a rum and Coke?” Jackson ordered as he sat down in his chair.
“Yes, coming right up. Thanks!” The hostess walked away happily.
“For once,” Jackson laughed while pulling his Blackberry out of his pocket, “I would like to see you have a real drink.”
“7-Up is a real drink!” Urie laughed.
“No, I mean something with some liquor in it. Something grown folks would drink. Act like a big girl for once!”
“I occasionally drink wine or a cooler, but not all the time and not when I am not in the mood. The only thing I am in the mood for is a good pop and a good meal…” Urie stopped as Jackson’s phone began to ring. He tried to ignore it, but Urie asked, “Are you going to answer that?”
“It’s probably Joe from the center. He acts like he can’t shut the place down without me.” The phone stopped ringing as the hostess returned with their drinks. The phone immediately began to ring again and the hostess walked away. “Hold on, let me take this. Hello?...yeah,…oh really?” Jackson let out a smug laugh as he rubbed his face, “that’s how you feel about it, huh? Well, I’m eating with my girl right now so…Oh for real?...Well can it wait?...No? Aight give me 10, I’m on my way. One.” Jackson hung up the phone and placed it back in the phone case. At one time, he drank the glass of rum and Coke that the hostess brought to the table and kissed Urie’s cheek. “Babe, I’m sorry…”
“Who was that and what did they want?”
“Joe from the center. Apparently something happened that they need me to come check out since I’m the site director now. I’m sorry to mess up our dinner. I’ll call you when I get home.” Urie didn’t say a word; she just sipped on her 7-Up, allowing her emotions to return to the place of hurt and anger she was in prior to him arriving. “Better yet, I’ll come by later on and we’ll chill out or watch a movie or something…”
“I have to take Eva to gymnastics early in the morning to get her ready for a competition. I am going to get some sleep.”
“So I can’t come by?”
“No. Go do what you’ve gotta do, Jack.”
“Aight sweetie, love you.” Again Urie did not respond, so he kissed her on the cheek again before leaving out. “Order me something good and bring it by my apartment on the way out, ok? Bye babe!” Jackson grabbed his jacket and headed out the door.
Bring you something by the apartment? What do you think this is, Meals on Wheels?! Urie sighed deeply as she motioned the hostess over. “Um, I’m sorry for this, but we won’t be needing the table after all. Can I pay you for the drinks?”
“Don’t worry about it.” The hostess replied sweetly.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure! You have a good night, ok?”
Urie knew why the hostess was not charging her for the drinks – she pitied her for being left behind on her date. As soon as the hostess walked away, Urie threw a couple of dollars on the table and gathered her purse. I think I will stop by the liquor store. I may need a big girl drink to cope after this mess.
Amber has a gift for storytelling and character development. We are only three chapters in, and I already feel like I know the main characters and am invested in their stories. I can't wait to read the next installment.
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About PLUS Inc.
PLUS Inc. is a multi-character drama following the lives of four friends. Taking place in Chicago, IL., the ladies – Parker, Lydia, Urie, and Sydney – face life as they hold each other up through the bonds of friendship.
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