Harlem Love

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
"Harlem Love" is a short story about two best friends who fall in love during the Harlem Renaissance.

Submitted: June 22, 2017

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Submitted: June 22, 2017



"Mop the floors, Derek! Time is money and it sure is a'wastin! Ain't nobody hired you to talk to them fast-talking girls that come 'round here!" yelled Mr. Lynn, my manager. 

Mr. Lynn is right. I can't lose my job over a couple of beautiful girls that swing by the dancehall during the day. Now you see, these girls are real smart. Some of 'em. During the day all of us busboys are out here making sure everything is nice and clean for each night's festivities. We clean and set this place up from noon to three. Then after that, we don't come back till 7. That's when just about half of Harlem shows up for good singing, poetry, and dancing. Langston Hughes even drops by here pretty often. It all sounds great, it really is, but we ain't allowed to show our faces in here at night when everything's happening. We come out at the very end.. It's a group of ladies (not the ones that visit us during the day) who serve up the food and drinks at night. That keeps the wealthy men coming back. That's why them girls come around and see us during the day, because they know they won't get a chance to see us when they come back for the evening. We always have snacks and drinks waiting for them. 

The Dancehall is closed during the day, so technically ain't nobody really supposed to be coming by. But these girls always make up the excuse that they come by because it's hot out and they needed some place to cool off. Sometimes Mr. Lynn gets annoyed by it, and other times he'll just shrug it off. 

There's this one girl who is real nice to me. Yes sir. Her name is Natalie. She is the most beautiful girl in all of this world to me. She doesn't really like to say so, but I think she likes me. I know she likes me. And I like her too. She's got beautiful brown skin that makes her glow like an angel when she stands in the sun. And her eyes...man, I could go on for days about her eyes. Her eyes be making me think about things. Things I never even knew were things. And every time I see her, or I hear her name or somethin', I get this warm feelin' in my stomach. It feels like someone is baking fresh chocolate chip cookies there. I've known Natalie for three years now. We talk all the time, and we do some fun things together when we do get the chance. Like, running up and down Lenox Avenue looking silly, or, going to a burger joint and spendin' our last dime on the jukebox just to sing our favorite songs in front of the whole restaurant.

Natalie is something special. She's my girl. Well, not officially. But I know in my heart that that's the girl for me. I'm sure of it. I wanna tell her that I love her.

I stopped by the fruit market and got me some apples, oranges, and bananas after setup at work. Then I headed on home and arrived about twenty minutes after three. After eating, I relaxed to my favorite station on the radio. They play jazz and gospel music all day and night long. Such heavenly sounds. I laid back against my pillow and before I could count to ten, I was fast asleep. When I woke, I was feeling a little bit out of place--but I did get myself together. The dreams I had were still very fresh in my mind, very colorful and detailed. They involved music. That seems very fitting, considering I love music so much and I'm surrounded by it constantly. 

I wanted to take another nap, but it was time to get back to The Dancehall. I put on my white collared shirt, black bowtie and pants and was on my way. Natalie was surprisingly coming up the walkway to my house. 

"What you doin' here, pretty girl?"

"I came to walk you to work, handsome man. This way we get to spend a little time together."

"That's so nice of you, Natalie." I touched her waist and kissed her cheek. She blushed and turned her face away, smiling.

"Tell me who's on the bill for tonight". she said. 

"I don't know who. Guess it'll be a surprise. You like surprises?"

"Oh, I love surprises!"

"I'm glad you do! I don't really like surprises all the time. Sometimes I just like to know."

Natalie smiled and nudged my shoulder. We put our arms around each other's backs and were glued together as we headed on. I was smilin' the whole time just because she was by my side. I truly ain't never seen no one quite like Natalie. She is somethin'.

Later on, when the lights went down at The Dancehall, none other than Ms. Ella Fitzgerald was singing. I could recognize that voice from anywhere. I snuck a quick glance out there when Mr. Lynn was not looking. Ms. Fitzgerald was dressed in a lovely black and silver gown that was just perfect. Her smile was perfect as well. I quickly got back to working before anyone could notice that I was off task. When she got off the stage, somebody announced that up next would be none other than Mr. Langston Hughes, performing some of his poetry. I darted out that kitchen with a quickness. Ain't no way in the world was I gonna miss him. He's never actually performed his poetry there before. He usually just comes by to sit in on other artists' performances. I scanned the room for Natalie and spotted her sitting by herself in the corner--also scanning the room. I got over to her quickly and she smiled really big. We enjoyed Mr. Hughes' words. She was in awe just like I was. I wrapped my arm around her. I wondered if she was thinking the same thing I was. You know, like, how beautiful this moment was, and how much I wanted to kiss her. 

Mr. Hughes seemed to look at me knowingly and nodded his head in a very discreet motion. A little smile crept across his face as well. He never paused his speech though. 

I pulled Natalie in close to me and leaned in for the kiss. She didn't pull away. I felt her smile form against my lips, and it made me smile as well. 

When we stopped kissing, we looked at each other for awhile. We were in another world. 

"Will you, um..." I looked down at my sweaty hands. "Do you want to be my girl?"

She smiled. "I'm already your girl." Then she kissed me again. 

Mr. Hughes told a funny story to the audience before leaving the stage. Mr. Lynn came out of the kitchen. I gotta tell you, Mr. Lynn always be dressin' real nice when he knows somebody famous is comin' to his Dancehall. It doesn't matter if he's a fan of the artist or not--he always wants to make a good impression. He had on a white tuxedo with a black bowtie. His face looked pissed though, and I knew it was because I had left the kitchen. But, when he saw me with my girl, he rolled his eyes--but in a good way. It was as if he understood, so he wasn't completely over the edge. I knew he had to have had a heart in there somewhere.

Natalie and I held hands as we walked down the street after the show. We went to a little soul food diner and shared a delicious meal. We had a slice each of sweet potato pie for dessert. She had hers with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Some of it got on her upper lip. 

She laughed. "I feel like I'm eating like a kid."

I smiled. "It's fine. Don't worry about it."

I got up and put a coin into the jukebox. I chose song seventeen, since I ain't never heard of it before. There were no words to it. Just the saxophone playing real nice. That's when I took Natalie by the hand. We slow danced right there next to the jukebox. She laid her head against my shoulder, and I rest my head upon hers. I then said something to her that I never meant more in my whole entire life. "I love you".

"I love you too, Derek."

We kept dancin' and dancin', till the diner closed up for the night. I felt happiness right then and there, and everything was alright with me.





© Copyright 2019 Tony Nicholas Clark. All rights reserved.

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