Character's Folly

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Chapter Ten

“I’m going to have a bar-b-que,” Jessica began slowly. She didn’t know how Ernie was going to receive anything that she had to say. She was shaking, but he couldn’t see it through the phone.

“What do you need, Jessica? I don’t even know why you’re calling me. You made a pretty big mess at my party the other night.” Ernie was not being gracious.

Jessica bit her lip. This was about the hardest thing that she had ever had to do. “Well, she continued, slowly, “I’d like to make it up to you; to you and to Pete.”

“What’s Pete got to do with this? I’m not speaking to him. He’s a punk. He would have hit me if I didn’t get out of his way. I’m not interested in you, or in Pete.”

“Please. I’m sorry.” Jessica swallowed all of her pride. “I want to buy some steaks and burn some hamburgers. I don’t have a place anything like yours, but I have a recreation room that I can rent. And there’s a pool. I have several friends that you might like to meet…” Jessica was trying. She was ready for him to flat-out tell her to get lost.

Much to her surprise though, he didn’t. “Look. I got buckets of friends, girl. But I have to give you this; I appreciate your spunk. I don’t think that I would have had the guts to call you if the situation was reversed. You really caused a scene. Liked the dress though. Are you saying that we might have a chance of, you know, hooking up?”

“Not much.” Jessica stated. She couldn’t help but smile. Was this guy serious?

“When you thinking?” Ernie was willing to let it all go. He knew that life was too short to hold a grudge.

“Well, I’ve got a friend who’s coming in from Oklahoma. He’ll be here for about a week. Does next Saturday sound okay?” Jessica had not expected to get this far into the conversation. She was making it up as she went along.

“Sure. What time are you thinking about, six or so?” Ernie was a social slut. He was game; even if it was a small party. Maybe he could get Jessica to change her mind…

“Sounds perfect. I could invite –”

Ernie cut her off. “Just make it easy on yourself. Steaks get expensive, real fast. And Jesse,”

“Yeah?”

“Don’t be trying to set me up with anyone. And about Pete; just tell him that I bet I can beat him at pool. Your rec room does have a billiards table, I would think?” Ernie was setting up the party for Jessica, and she actually appreciated it. She really was clueless about such things.

“We do.” She said, with a friendlier attitude than she had had before.

“Good. And another thing. You really should drop the pool party idea. It gets wet and messy.” Ernie was being serious. He couldn’t remember how many pool parties that he had attended that had gotten out of hand. Maybe it was just the nature of the thing; a bunch of grown ups running around half naked… “Oh, and one other thing.” Ernie offered.

Jessica quietly listened.

“No alcohol, huh?”

“Funny.” Jessica replied. Some how in the thick of things she had made a friend.

***

“Seriously?” Brad didn’t believe it. He had told Jessica that she needed to call Ernie, and to apologize, but he had no idea that she would have the audacity to suggest a get together! “So, you mean he actually said that he’d come to your place?”

“Well, yeah. Why? Is that so strange?”

“It’s beyond strange. You really trashed his party.” Brad reminded her.

“I didn’t mean to. Anyway, he was pretty nice about everything.”

“Did you tell him that I’d be there?” Brad was really curious now.

“No. You didn’t come up. Pete did though. Ernie told me to tell him that he could beat him at a game of pool”

“Just like that? Wow. That guy must really like you.” Brad was certain. Why else would Ernie ever agree to ‘kissing and making up’?

“I told him he doesn’t have a chance.” Jessica put out there.

“You’re unbelievable. Well, you have to call him back. He needs to know that I’ll be there. I’ll go ahead and give Pete a call and see if I can’t get things straightened out with him. The last thing that we need is for hard feelings to show up at your place and have the fists flying, again.”

“You want me to call him?” Jessica offered, although she had no idea what she would say to him if she did call him. She hadn’t spoken to him since the night of the party.

“No. You deal with Ernie, and I’ll deal with Pete. I’ll talk to him. He’ll come.”

“Brad.” Jessica said.

“Yeah?”

“I owe you big time.” Jessica was sincere. She was so grateful that it looked like maybe things were all going to work out after all.

“You do. I’ll get back with you after I talk to Pete. Then I want to know what Ernie says about me going.”

“Shouldn’t you talk to Pete, I mean, if you can’t work it out with him first then I don’t see any reason to take it any further. I’m pretty sure that Pete would come to the party if I asked, but he needs to be okay with you there. Otherwise, I don’t know if you should come.”

“I have to come, girl. We’re in this together, remember? Tell you what. I’ll contact Pete and then I’ll get back with you.”

“Thanks, Brad. I’ll wait for your call.” Jessica got off of the phone and went to her refrigerator. This whole situation definitely called for chocolate.

***

“Hello, Pete. This is Brad.”

There was a long pause on the other end of the phone. Brad was certain that Pete was going to hang up on him, and he really couldn’t blame him. It had looked pretty bad the other night at the party. But how could Brad be angry with the guy? After all, he was just trying to defend a lady’s honor.

“What you need?” Pete really didn’t want to talk to the man. He had no respect for him.

“Hey, listen. I was wondering if we could talk.” Brad offered, with a quiet tone.

“Don’t see that we have anything to talk about.” Pete wasn’t interested.

“I think we do. Could you just give me five minutes of your time? I’d appreciate it.” Brad was hopeful, but wasn’t going to press the issue if Pete refused.

“Maybe five. But on my terms. I’m busy with a shoot right now.” Pete waved to the young model that she could take a seat. They were in his private studio, you know the one; the one where he did not take advantage of young girls, just because he could…

“I’m at my place. You know where it’s at?” Pete was being much more generous than Brad had expected.

“Afraid I’m not familiar.”

“You know where Ramada Drive is? It’s in the Village.”

Brad was familiar with Greenwich Village. “To the left or to the right of the square.”

“Off to the right. Easy enough to find. My building has a mural painted on it; but don’t be fooled by the graffiti. Mine’s an actual picture.”

“Sounds good, and Pete?”

“Yeah?” Pete answered, still a bit perplexed.

“Thanks.”

***

Pete had finished up his photo shoot and was relaxing in his spacious living room. He was laying on his couch with a game controller in his hand. He enjoyed his X-box and the mindless entertainment. It helped him to unwind.

Brad found the place easily enough and parked his car at the curb. There were several young boys hanging out on the corner of various races. They appeared to be about fourteen to sixteen years old. He got out of his car and locked it.

He casually strolled up to them. “Hey. You guys want to earn a couple of bucks?” He said to no one special, and to all of them in general. The tallest of the five young boys stepped closest to Brad.

“You talking drugs? ‘Cause we ain’t doin’ no drugs here.” He was lean and had on a baseball cap that was on backwards. He had long dreadlocks hanging in uniform out from underneath his hat. His skin was dark and smooth. He had on a crisp white t-shirt and some pretty baggy blue jeans. He almost fit the part of a gang-banger, but not quite. There was something almost normal looking about the kid. Brad saw a skateboard under one of the boy’s arms. Ah, skaters, that was it.

“Ain’t got no drugs.” Brad said. He knew that he wasn’t from the hood, but he could be cool. He wanted them to feel like he was okay. They just looked at him kind of funny. Anyone could tell that they were wondering what this old guy wanted. Twenty-something was old to them, all day long.

“Just want you to keep an eye for me. You know. On my car. Don’t let no one mess with it.” Brad looked in the direction of his nice little sports car, and the rest of them standing there did too.

“Nice ride.” Said the dread-guy.

“Want it to stay that way. Twenty okay? Ten minutes max.”

“Sure.” Casey held out his hand. He knew how to recognize easy money when he saw it. He’d keep an eye on the guy’s car.

“Thanks.” Brad handed over the cash and headed on up the sidewalk and up to the door to the place with the mural nicely painted on the wall. It was an ocean scene with a Mermaid with her long and shapely body climbing up the wall. Nice, Brad considered as he headed up to Pete’s door.

“Your art?” Brad asked when Pete answered the door.

“Sure. Had help. Come on in.” Pete let Brad into his bachelor’s apartment.

“I appreciate you letting me –” Brad started to say.

“Just cut to the chase. Is your car all right? Sometimes this isn’t the best neighborhood.”

“Yeah, it’s fine. Got me a babysitter.”

Pete understood. He had to give it to the guy. He wasn’t stupid. “So, what you need?”

“Just wanted to tell you no hard feelings about the other night.” Brad offered.

“Yeah, well, why should you have? Seems to me that it should have been you that was defending your own date, and not me.”

“It’s not like it looked.” Brad said.

“Yeah, well. It looked pretty bad to me. Jesse said that you gave her those drinks. Strong too.” Pete accused.

“Only the one. Anyway, I shouldn’t have. But I didn’t take her upstairs to – you know – to take advantage of her. I was keeping her safe from the shark.” Brad was being upfront and was clearly telling the truth.

“Well, maybe I shouldn’t have started swinging. But I was mad.”

“You had every right. She’s a good gal.” Brad wanted Pete to know that he appreciated him defending her honor.

“So, what you need?” Pete wanted to get back to relaxing. It had been a long day.

“Jessica’s having a party of sorts. She wants to clear the air.”

“Oh, I see. Figured out that she needs to get along did she? Small town.” Pete was saavy.

“Yeah, well, I kind of helped her to know that if we can’t play together, then we can’t work together. You know how it goes.”

“I got no beef with you. Sounds like you were about as caught up in the mess as I was. Don’t know about Ernie though. He got pretty bent. I haven’t talked to him. I need to, but I don’t want to piss him off.”

“Jesse talked to him.”

“Really?” Pete was genuinely surprised. He knew that Ernie was a pretty tough cookie to crack. “How’d that go?”

“Said that he’d challenge you to a game of pool at her party next Saturday.”

“Yeah, where?” Pete was listening. He needed to clear the air so that he could get on with his life also.

“Jessica’s place. At six. There won’t be too many there. Just bring yourself. She said no alcohol.”

“Well, that’s a good thing.” Pete said. He was done with the conversation.

“Pete?” Brad said, as he stood at the door, ready to leave.

“Yeah?”

“Thanks.”

***

The small group of boys on the corner had dwindled down to four. Brad lifted up his hand as a ‘thank you’ to the tall boy with the dreadlocks.

Casey lifted his hand in response, and then turned his back on Brad, and on his car, and went back to talking with his friends. His job was done there.

***

Brad headed back to Jessica’s place. It was on his way home, anyway.

“So, what’d he say?” Jessica could hardly wait to hear how it had gone with Brad and Pete. The more involved everything got, the worse she felt about it all.

“He’s okay. You sure have a way about you girl. Said he’d be here.”

“What about Ernie? Who should tell him about you?”

“I suggest that you do, sugar. You seem to have a way with the boys.” Brad smiled. He wasn’t going to worry about it. He was sure that she’d figure it all out. “I’m going home. And Jesse.”

“Yeah?”

“I’m proud of you. You did good, girl.”

***

“So, I just wanted to call you and let you know that Brad spoke with Pete about my party.” Jessica held her breath during the pause, before Ernie replied.

“And?” Ernie asked.

“And he’s coming.” She stated.

“He who?” Ernie asked in all fairness, as she didn’t say who she was talking about.

“Well, both of them, actually, Brad and Pete.” Jessica just threw it out there.

“And they’re okay with that?” Ernie asked. He didn’t want any more trouble with them fighting or anything.

“So long as you are.” She gave him all the power.

“Why would I care?” Ernie asked.

Jessica found her breath. She gave herself a second and then said, “It’ll be fun. I’ll see you on Saturday.”

“At six.” Ernie said as he hung up the phone. Ditzy chick, he thought, as he smiled. He liked her energy.

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