“Some things are just best left alone, Ashley,” Erica said as we round the corner of the law firm. “It’ll take a lot more evidence to win that case. They never retrieved the murder weapon or found his prints on the scene. I know you owe him one, but I don’t think this trial is the one for you to pony up, babe.”
She’s right. The were definitely stacked in the favor of the defense. I’ve seen worst cases were the prosecution won the jury in the end, but those weren’t any of my cases. I did owe Gavin some help after he guided me through my first year at the firm, but with my wedding date coming up quick, I couldn’t get tangled up in court longer than I wanted. I just felt so guilty letting him take on such a big case by himself. “My mind says you make a lot of sense, Erica, but my heart is heavy and I just hope that my choice to stay away from the case doesn’t ruin my wedding events.” I replied, looking down at my black heels as we walked in sync along the empty sidewalk.
“Bitch, please,” my colleague shouted loud enough for anyone in earshot to hear. “That fine ass hunk of a man of yours’ is more than enough to keep you occupied; both physically and mentally, no doubt.” she grabbed my arm as we shared a laugh together. I could feel the blood rushing to my cheeks as we did. She always knew exactly what to say to make me turn red in the face. Even back in high school when we weren’t such close friends. Not because we hated each other or anything. Just because we grew up in such a segregated community. It wasn’t until law school that I got to see her for the amazing friend she could have been to me all those years ago.
“You think Brian’s brother would like to have a little cocoa with his vanilla?” Erica whispers.
“What? What about that one hottie that brought you flowers up to the office two days ago?”
Erica shrugged. “Unlike you Ashley, I’m still looking for Mr. Right and he wasn’t it. He was sweet and everything, but he wasn’t man enough for me, if you know what I mean,” she said with a raised eyebrow .
“Oh god, Erica, I get the hint.”
We both laughed again as we stopped at the crosswalk. That’s when the bum approached us. I can still smell the stench of urine and beer radiating from his battered and torn clothing. Most of his skin was covered up by the many articles of clothing he was wearing, but the parts that were exposed, fingers, neck and face, were covered in soot and dirt. Erica spotted him first and took a defensive posture in front of me. She was raised in a home with four older brothers and she never has been one to cower in front of any danger. The stranger stopped out of arm’s reach of us and said “I can’t believe my eyeballs. Is that you Erica Housely from Haven High?”
We both stood there, puzzled that he actually knows Erica somehow. I remember thinking he was either some weird mega stalker of hers or this guy actually knows her. Erica squinted her eyes and examined the homeless creature of a man. Then, her eyes bulged opened and she shouted in question, “Tommy Jenkins?”
The name struck a cord inside me as she said it. In that moment, several thoughts came to me before he could confirm or deny her answer. When was the last time I seen Tommy? How did this happen to him? Why is he here now?
“That’s me, Erica. I still have my letterman jacket in my alleyway, hidden,” he responds with a smile, showing missing and darken teeth. “Your friend looks awfully familiar, too but I can’t quite remember her. She did go to Haven High with us, right?”
“I did,” I said as I slowly appeared from behind Erica. I wanted to say more, but I couldn’t get the words out. All I could think about was the crush I had on him back then. He was a star basketball player of our class. So talented, smart, and driven to the point of every girls attention. Well, all the black girls anyway. My parents wouldn’t dare let me date a boy of color back then, so I always kept my distance, yet my desire for him stayed true. Even now, knowing who he is, I still forced myself to remember the scent of his cologne when he walked by in the halls over the fresh smell of liquid waste between us now.
“Well, what was your name, girlly? I may be homeless, but I don’t have all day to be talking to you. I got some panhandling to get to on the eastside before lunch starts.” Tommy said.
“My name is Ashley Whitmore. We had a few classes together, but we hardly ever spoke to one another.”
He stood there and examined me just as Erica did him moments ago before he said “Oh, Ashley! I remember you. You sure did fill out good. Mhmm.”
“Easy now, Tommy. We’re not in high school anymore and you’re far from being the most popular guy like you were back then,” Erica stated firmly. She never liked the idea of any woman being harassed by anyone, that alone a hobo.
“Yeah, I know, Erica, but I remember how she use to stare at me in class and I should’ve jumped on that pretty little-”
“Shut up!” I shouted louder than I wanted to, not ready to reveal my past intentions. Although the heat that I felt rushing up to my cheeks probably did just that. The shout carried a tone of anger across the street were a police officer was standing next to a hot dog stand. It alerted him to what may seem like a danger to me from afar. He shoved what was left of the food in his mouth as he looked both ways frantically to cross the street, attempting to come to my rescue. The lights would still be green for another twelve seconds. Long enough for Tommy to get a running start way before the office gets his chance to cross.
“Here comes Mr. Lawman always overreacting whenever I’m around,” our old acquaintance says backing away from us. I wish I still had that car of mine so I could make my grand escape, but these old two fun shoes will have to do.” Tommy pace quickened. He slowed himself for a moment when Erica had one more thing to say.
“You’re talking about that busted banana colored car you use to show off in from senior year?”
The timer for the crosswalk was narrowing down. He had to speed away, but the look on his face showed his disappointment in what Erica asked and I knew why. That senior year, I paid more attention to him then I ever had. So much that I found myself eavesdropping in on his conversations with our classmates and everybody would always call the yellow mustang a banana. He would have to defend the honor of his steed every time and correct them. I could here his voice through his smile even that day on the street. I couldn’t help myself. I just had to correct her.
With the same timing, Tommy and I responded to Erica. “Fix your eyes. The color isn’t banana. Its pineapple.” Tommy dashed down the street and rounded the corner just as the officer reached us. Erica and I didn’t move. I was too embarrassed to even look at her while she was laughing at my high school crush revealed after all these years.
Damn you, Tommy Jenkins.