Brian twisted the knob and opened his bedroom door. Once through,
he closed the door swiftly behind himself without slamming. A
whoosh of air flowed down the hallway, carrying the scent of his
musk cologne. Brian waited for his masculinity to be detected
before he entered the living room.
Celia caught a whiff and immediately came to attention. This
familiar musk scent meant that her godfather was present, not
her moody uncle. She grabbed her paper plate, napkin and beer
bottle off the coffee table. She cleaned up after Frank, too.
Celia instructed him to finish his beer and put the bottle into
the recycle bin beneath the sink. Startled, Frank chugged the
remaining half, wiped his mouth with his sleeve, and followed
Celia into the kitchen.
Having made his presence known, Brian heard Celia's and Frank
scuffle, which sounded as if they were afraid of getting caught
doing something that he would disapprove. Entertained, Brian made
his entrance. He smiled at the two as they both stepped out of
the kitchen. His eyes were beaming with laughter.
"Let me get your plate and glass," offered Celia.
Before Brian could respond, Celia grabbed the dishes out of his
hands. After he relinquished with little resistance, she placed
the dishes directly into the sink.
"Grab your coats," ordered Brian. "I'm fine as
Celia went over to the couch and grabbed her leather moto. Frank
retrieved his waxed cotton jacket from the closet.
Frank noticed that Brian was wearing the same wardrobe as when
they met a month ago: a navy suit, a light blue shirt with top
button unfastened, and cognac brogues. This must be his signature
look, Frank thought to himself.
"Have you got the tickets," inquired Brian authoritatively.
"Mine and yours, yes," chirped Celia.
"Frank, here's your ticket," presented Brian after
he tucked away a vertical black cordovan wallet into his inner
Brian angled his arm up slightly above his shoulder and dangled
his hand as he held the ticket for Frank to take. Brian looked
down his nose at his guest, whose attire was too casual for his
liking. He was unsympathetic to Frank's sartorial plight
despite being unaware of the concert at Carnegie Hall. Brian wished
he had not purchased the ticket.
Frank realized that his host had shaved for the occasion; he
could clearly see the stress in Brian's flexing jawline and his
protruding neck tendons. Frank felt embarrassed, so much so that
he wished he could back out of going to the concert--but, that
would mean that he wanted out of this so-called business relationship--and
his reputation, albeit presently nonexistent in Manhattan, might
be damaged in the future if Brian put the word out.
"Alright, let's go," snapped Brian.
The tone of Brian's voice made Frank wonder if this demanding
vehemence was the sign of a staunch liberal megalomaniac or that
of a rigid conservative control freak.
Celia motioned to Frank to leave the apartment first; Brian motioned
to Celia to go next. After which, he locked the doorknob and advanced
the deadbolt after the door shut behind him. Frank was halfway
up the hall before he looked over his shoulder and saw that the
other two were lagging several feet behind, arm-in-arm.
"Press the button for the elevator, would you." condescended
Arriving first, Frank turned around, winced and stated with a
smile, "No problem," when he saw Brian shorten his stride
and tug on Celia's arm to adjust hers. When the elevator door
opened, Frank entered and used his arm to prevent the automatic
closing. Brian's and Celia's pace quickened. They thanked Frank
upon entering the chamber. Celia looked into Frank's eyes apologetically;
Brian unfurled his eyebrows. Celia politely asked Frank to press
the button for the ground floor.
"'G' is for garage," she teased.
Brian jerked her arm, causing her to lean off balance. Celia
placed her free hand on Brian's shoulder to steady herself. Unintentionally,
Frank pressed '2', then the correct one. He turned his body sideways
in an attempt to hide his mistake.
The elevator moved slowly, silently, seemingly without gravitational
pull or mechanical release. When the door opened, Frank stuck
his head out to look up and down the hall as if he was expecting
to see a person waiting. Doing so, he also took a deep breath
of fresh air.
"I saw you press '2'," commented Brian. "You're
a terrible actor.
Celia chimed in before Frank could respond.
"I think Frank needed a break from your ghastly cologne.
I know I do."
Frank tried not to laugh. He muffled the guffaw with his fist
and a fake cough.
"See, he's allergic," quipped Celia.
To extinguish a vitriolic verbal reply, Brian huffed.
Frank began to panic. His palms began to sweat. With his arms
at his sides, he balled his hands into fists, then he jutted his
fingers downwards. His body stiffened. Eyes closed, his head fell
back: his face, towards the ceiling. His back was against the
wall. Frank knew that he almost blew it, almost irreparably ruined
his relationship with Brian by laughing at Celia's joke.
"I'm a bit of a claustrophobic," explained Frank. Then
he pursed his lips to prevent a stupid utterance that would undermine
The awkward silence was interrupted by a ding, signaling the
Brian disengaged his arm from his niece's, and gestured for them
to exit the elevator. Frank regained his composure and followed
Celia. She waited at the metal-framed glass door that lead to
the sidewalk. Frank did the honor of turning the security handle
and yanking the door towards them.
"Please. Go ahead!"
Brian walked through first, then Celia. The godparent and child
locked arms again after they heard the self-locking door click
shut. Frank moved beside Celia as the guy-girl-guy group made
their way to Carnegie Hall. Frank tried to think of a safe topic
the three of them could discuss.
After about a half of a city block, Brian stopped in his tracks,
causing the group to halt abruptly. He tilted his upper body forward,
gave Frank a stern look and asked him if he would lag behind a
bit so that he could discuss a personal matter with Celia, who
tilted her body in the opposite direction and stared off at a
distance, trying not to look shocked by Brian's request.
Frank nodded without saying a word. He waited as the couple proceeded
to a distance adequate for a private conversation before he began
to tag along. Chafed, he decided, then and there, not to speak
unless spoken to.
Frank figured he comprehended the subtextual difference between
Brian's business attire and his day-to-day clothes. He remembered
that Brian was Celia's second choice for the evening, and was
performing his familial duty.
Besides, what Frank felt most was a beer-buzz. He thought the
quiet walk would do him some good, help him clear his mind, get
prepared for a possibly long evening.