“There he go.”
Charley motioned toward the door and Harvey took a quick glance to see Glenn walking towards them. He was a little later than usual getting to the bar and the guys were starting to work about him. He hugged a couple of women, kissed two on the cheek, and shook the hands of two men he’d never met before taking his seat between his two friends.
“Where ya been?”
“Hello to you too, Harv.”
“We’ve been down here waiting for you for two hours. Haven’t we, Charley?”
“Yes sir. We got down here at 3 like we agreed last night.”
“Y’all ain’t been waiting on me, y’all been drinking like you would be if I was coming or not.”
To the casual observer, it would seem as if these men didn’t like one another, not that they were the best of friends. They were always gruff towards one another, in the way that grandfathers were, but today each of them seemed a bit ornerier.
“When Gwen let you out of the car last night, we said meet down here at 3,” Harvey was going to drive his point home.
“I know what we said last night, but today was something different.”
Charley motioned to Alicia to pour Glenn a drink and refresh his glass. Harvey’s also.
“Well, what changed today?”
“Diane Patterson changed today, Harvey.”
The name alone made Harvey sit up a little straighter and turn to face Glenn. Even Charley slowed down on his Johnnie Walker to hear this story.
“Her old man ain’t been dead six months and you already chasing her.”
Charley couldn’t suppress his laughter as Harvey accused Glenn of chasing a dead man’s wife.
“No, it ain’t nothing like that. Diane called me over to tell me that Cynthia Baker passed away this morning. You know me and Cynt used to go together back in the 80’s before she married Billy Cole.”
“Damn, Cynthia gone? How’d she go?”
“Heart attack, Charley. Died this morning after breakfast.”
“What you talking bout, Harv?”
“Charley, what is this fool talking about two? Two what?”
“Death comes in threes.”
“Thousands of people die every day, Harvey.”
“I know that, Glenn.”
“Hundreds of thousands.”
“But when you know one person that die, rest assured two more coming right behind that one.”
“My big mama always said death comes in threes.”
“Now don’t you get started too Charley.”
“I’m just saying, we sitting around drinking to Nat Monroe’s life yesterday and Cynthia gone today.”
“If you keep saying “that’s two” Harvey, we ain’t gonna have to wait long for the third one.”
Alicia liked to stay out of the way when these guys got to fussing with one another. She tried to refresh their water glasses and step away quickly, but Charley reached out toward her.
“Alicia, your grandmother ever learn you anything about death?”
She heard their conversation and the question clearly but was still shocked at what she was asked.
“My nana always told me that if a bird flies in the house that means death is coming and death always comes in threes.”
Harvey tipped his glass in her direction and Glenn resumed his argument with his friends as she backed into a quiet corner where Camille’s smile was lit by the phone she held close to her face.
“Just Jason talking about making dinner for me when I get home.”
It was now Alicia’s turn to smile. She was genuinely happy for her friend. She was in a good relationship, had a stable job and things seemed to be looking up for once.
“Now that’s a man. His woman works fourteen hours and he’s making food for her when she gets home.”
“Girl, please, any other night I’ll be bringing Jason home wings from this place. He just thinks he gonna get some tonight.”
“You are so crazy, girl.”
“If he don’t use those canned string beans, he might get a little something extra.”
The women laughed and gave each other a high five. After a quick glance to make sure they weren’t needed by any customers, they continued their huddle.
“Well, what’s going on with you? You’ve been putting in crazy hours around here.”
“Trying to pay my car off, besides, ain’t like I got no man to run home to.”
Camille waved her hand to acknowledge that she knew all too well what Alicia was dealing with. It was that long ago that she was working two jobs and a few hours a week at Sideline just to make ends meet. Not to mention her nasty breakup with Darnell two years ago. She was in a great space and wanted her friend to reach one too.
“Lamont called the other day and asked if he could stay with me a few days until he gets on his feet.”
“I thought he was down in Georgia?”
“He is. Or was. Either way, he’s coming back here and wants to crash at my place. For the kids.”
The air quotes caused Camille to laugh a little too loud and drew the attention of one of Alicia’s customers. He held his glass up and gave it a slight shake. Alicia grabbed a bottle of vodka and headed his way.
“Shot and a drink, Cole?”
“I’ll just take the drink this time. Going a little easy today.”
Alicia smiled in reply.
“I was wondering…”
Another customer grabbed Alicia’s attention and Cole cursed himself for hesitating. He’d made up his mind that he was going to ask her out this weekend. He’d asked twice in the past, but she turned him down cold both times. He figured the third time could be the charm.
If only he could get her attention. She poured shots for a few customers down the bar and then went to the corner with Tiffany. Maybe she didn’t hear him, maybe she ignored him. He was overthinking the situation entirely too much.
“I see your fav is here tonight.”
By reflex, she looked in his direction and he was looking at her. No, he was staring at her. They both turned away quickly. Blushing. At that moment, she realized he was saying something before she went to pour shots from Charley, Harvey, and Glenn.
“Cole, were you saying something before?”
He smiled. She couldn’t recall seeing him really smile. She wanted to ask him if he ever had braces but thought that may be rude.
“Yes. I was wondering if you have plans for this weekend. I have tickets to see Mary J. Blige and I was hoping you would join me.
“Oh. Wow. Umm. I don’t have plans. But.”
She was taken off guard by the ask. He’d asked her out before, but one time he was a little drunk, so she wasn’t sure if he was serious. The second time seemed like an afterthought. He said he was going to get something to eat, and she mentioned she was hungry, so he asked her to join him. Both times she declined.
“I’m sorry to just spring that on you, but I heard you say you love Mary J., so when I saw she was coming to the area, I thought it would be a good idea. If you’re uncomfortable going with me, you and Camille can use the tickets.”
Alicia could feel her face getting red. Cole felt sweat trickling down his ribcage. They looked like two teenagers, not two people closing in on 40, who obviously had a thing for one another.
The answer came out so fast that it surprised Alicia.
“Yes, I would love to go to the concert with you. But only if you let me buy you dinner before the concert?”
“That sounds like a date to me.”
The two exchanged information and planned to meet Saturday. Alicia said they could meet at the bar and leave from there. Cole understood that she didn’t want him to know where she lived and was cool with her protecting herself.
Alicia drifted towards Camille at the cash register and told her what happened. They exchanged high fives and giggles. They were whispering to one another when Gwen walked in looking for her brother and his friends.
“Glenn, why do you even bother to carry that phone?”
“What’s the matter, Gwen?”
“I’ve been trying to get a hold of you to let you know that Eddie Fisher died this afternoon.”
Glenn’s head dropped immediately. Charley took a drink and Harvey looked at his friends.