“Are you serious I am too old to do that?” Erica Madison stretched her tanned legs out in front of her, and reached down and pulled up the left ankle-length sock, and straightened the toe part of the other. She cut her eyes back up at the African-American male with copper-colored skin sitting next to her on the cozy, over sized couch.
Jonathan Fountain stared at Erica with his deep, hazel-eyes glittering in the reflection of the overhead light in the living room. “I think you are wrong. You never finished your bachelors, why not? You could enroll in the cooking school, and then go further so you can teach.” He pulled her close to him, and kissed her cheek.
She cuddled next to him – straightening out her denim shorts, and pulling her legs up underneath her , and snuggling up under his arm. “I am 32 for one.”
Jonathan flicked a piece of lint off of her gray t-shirt, and then tugged at her auburn hair – pulled up in a ponytail by a velvet red scrunchie. “So, you are not old, baby.”
“Most of the students are in their late teens and early 20s – that would make me a decade older.” Erica commented, looking up at him, and touching chin – a little thick with stubble. “The goatee is looking good.”
He smiled. “Thank you, baby. So. Look, you had to quit college, and go work the food truck for your grandpa. Now, the food trucks are doing well … and you have got time.” Jonathan stretched a little bit, and put his feet on the coffee table in front of him. His black jersey shorts hung loosely at the hem, and were slightly visible under the big cushion on his lap.
“You know what they call students who go back to college? Mature students. Mature. That makes me sound like I am my parents’ age or my grandparents’ ages,” Erica said, sitting up a little, eyes on the television where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan were on screen at a party in the movie, “You’ve Got Mail.”
It was Erica’s favorite movie.
Jonathan sat up for a minute, and reached over to grab his phone. There had been a notification sound meaning someone had texted. Erica sat up. She pulled at the edges of his white t-shirt to smooth it out. “Who is it from?”
“Your brother … wants to know if we are going to play tennis today?” He asked, holding the phone, and looked back at her.
She looked at him, “Do you want to?”
“Only if you will say you will enroll in a few classes for the fall?” Jonathan said. “I will pay.”
Erica made a fish face with her lips, and raised her eyebrows. “You are really serious.”
“Get the degree, and then go get your masters … and then you can look toward teaching on the college level … you have such a creative soul, baby, and you really know how to make food taste good. You need to be teaching cooking.” Jonathan patted her stomach with the back of his right hand.
She moved a little. “OK, OK. I will go back for one semester. If they will take me … they were not real please when I left before, you know.”
Jonathan was punching keys on his phone. He said, “Well, they have taken you back.” Jonathan reached into the drawer on the end table next to him, and handed her an envelope.
Erica sat up, and took the envelope. The emblem made her heart jump – the Culinary Institute of New York. “Jonathan?”
She opened the envelope and asked Jonathan, “What?”
“I made some phone calls and filled out some forms, and your first semester is taken care of … whenever you choose to go. Chef Julian was over the moon when we talked – you were his prized student,” Jonathan said, smiling, put his phone back on the coffee table, and sitting back on the couch, wrapping Erica in his arms.
Erica read the letter, snuggling back closer to him, and she felt a tear falling down her cheek. “Oh, honey … I … What if I said no?” She kissed his cheek.
“You wouldn’t have said no,” He grinned, kissing her cheek and neck, and looked up, “I know you too well.”
Erica put the letter down, and turned to face Jonathan, “I love you.” She put his face in her hands, and kissed him. “Thank you, for believing in me.”
Jonathan grinned, “Always in your corner, baby … my little school girl.”
******* Fall Session at Cooking School *******
Jonathan, dressed in a dark, gray suit slacks with and a purple, tailored shirt tucked into the slacks, and belted, and a paisley tie with lavender, yellow and gray, was in the kitchen, frying up an egg. “ERICA SUZANNE, come on, baby, it is 6:30. Breakfast is ready. You don’t want to be late to your first day back at school.”
He put the eggs on two plates, and went to get the toast out of the toaster. A faint sound came from the living area where the television was on - ‘CBS This Morning.’
“ERICA!” He called again, putting the plates on place mats at the table by the window.
In a minute, he heard footsteps running down the stairs, “OK, DAD. Hold your horses.” She called. She was dressed in the uniform for cooking students – a white chef’s coat with her name, and the school’s name on it, and a pair of paisley cooking pants – the ones she had put up about 10 years ago, and her hair was up in a bun, with a chef’s cap in her hand, and a backpack over her shoulder.
Jonathan looked up. He grinned, and whistled. “Sexiest cooking student ever. Look at you.”
She grinned. “Look, the pants still fit and look new.” She put her stuff on the couch, and walked over to the table. He held her chair out for her, “My love.” He kissed her cheek.
Erica sat down, “It smells good.”
He touched her hair, “Lord, your hair. When you wear it up, it makes me want to just ...” He reaches down, and kisses her neck and the nape of her neck several times.
Erica could feel herself blushing, and she shrugged her shoulders. “Oh, my. You keep that up, and we are both going to be late.”
Jonathan smiled, and walked to the fridge, “You want orange juice or milk?”
“Milk, please.” She asked, putting her napkin down on her lap, and that is when she noticed the box with the bow on the table. “Jonathan, what is that, love?”
Jonathan walked over, handed her the milk, and sat down with his glass of orange juice. His smile was coy. “It is for you. Open it.”
Erica took the box, and unwrapped it. It was jewelry, and she jumped back. It was a simple gold chain, and on it was a diamond solitaire ring. “Jonathan?” She looked up, and he had walked over to her chair, and was on the ground, on his knees.
“I have loved you since the day you walked into 8th grade homeroom, and we should have done this much sooner, but, will you marry me?” He asked, holding the ring and the chain, and her hand.
Erica sighed, “Are you serious, man?”
“Never been more serious about anything in my life. I thought you could wear it on the chain when you at school.” He said, unclasping it. “That is if you say yes?”
Erica nodded, “Yes, baby, yes.” She kissed him, and he returned the kiss. He put the chain around her neck. She smiled at the ring … “We will have to do this proper on my hand later?”
“We will do it daily if you want ...” He kissed her forehead, and sat back down. “Now, eat. You need to be good and strong before you see Chef Julian.”
After finishing eating, and brushing her teeth, Erica came back downstairs, the necklace and ring underneath her shirts. Her step was a little bit peppier.
Jonathan was waiting by the door, with his jacket on. “The car is downstairs … we will drop you off, or will that make you more of a mature student?” He grinned.
“No, nope. I don’t mind the ride. Oh, my, J, I am nervous.” She said, slinging her backpack on her shoulder, stuffing the hat like scarf in her front pocket.
He handed her a bag – it had her name on it – a brown paper lunch bag. “What in the world?” She grinned, and peeked in – a banana, an oatmeal cream pie, a peanut butter sandwich and a bottled water.
Erica laughed. “You are something else.” He took the bag from her and zipped it in her backpack.
“OK, my little school girl, let’s go.” Jonathan said, grabbing his briefcase, and opening the door, waiting for her to walk out first.
“Here we go.” She took a deep breath, and headed to the elevator in the hallway.
Jonathan shut the door, and listened for the lock to click. It did just as the elevator door opened. Erica got on, and held the door for him.
They stood toward the back of the elevator.
Erica smiled and sighed. In her mind, she wondered what was ahead as she was sure to be one of the oldest students there. “My second chance waits.” She thought to herself.
After a few minutes of quiet, Jonathan cut his eyes over at her.
“My little school girl … I am so proud.”