Promise Notes

By Lynn Vroman

“So, do you like the place?” Frank unbuttoned his suit jacket and leaned back against the dainty chair.

“It’s a bit pricey, don’t ya think?”

The sound of violins filled the dim room as waiters dressed in tuxedos pranced between the tables of diners.

“Well, yeah, but I think we deserve it.” Frank dug in his ear, watching the ballet of workers doing their best service arabesques.

With a twist of her hoop earring, Jenna looked towards the exit and checked her watch. “Sure, I guess. If you say so.”

“I need to ask you something.” Frank pulled a box from the inner pocket of his jacket and slid it halfway across the table.

“What?” Her eyes traveled over the graceful busboys and servers, the violinist with the crowbar mustache, and the maître de. They went everywhere but to the velvet box on the table.

Frank slid the box closer. “What do you think I want to ask?”

“Oh, Frankie, look. There’s a cellist now. Yeah, too fancy for my blood. I’ll have to call Mom, let her know I got serenaded while I ate my clams.” Her eyes fell on the box as she picked up her glass of Chianti. “What’s this?”

Frank smacked his forehead, a bit of the styling wax he always used coming away with his fingers. Using the linen napkin to wipe it off, he rolled his eyes. “What do you think it is? It’s a ring. My grandmother’s ring.”

“Well, why are ya giving it to me?” She twirled her earring, the box staying on the table.

“You know, to close the deal, make it official.”

“Make what official?”

“Us, you airhead, us!” His beefy arms flailed back and forth, just missing the lit candle sitting on the middle of the table.

The box still untouched, Jenna said, “What about the wife you already got?”

Frank waved a hand in the air. “Details, details. I handle that; just say yes, will you?”

Jenna grabbed the box, opening it. “There’s nothing in here.” She pulled out a piece of paper. “Just a note.”

Frank crossed his arms over his protruding stomach and smiled. A bit of red sauce stuck to his cheek. “Well, read it.”

“To my darling Jenna,” she began, enunciating every syllable. “You are the next at bat.” She crumbled the note, throwing it on the table. “What the hell does that mean?”

Frank’s greasy smile got wider. “I thought it was funny, ya know? Next at bat?”

“Where’s the ring?”

“I have to get it from her.”

“From who? Your wife?”

“Yeah, who else would I mean?”

Jenna picked up her glass, squeezing the stem until her knuckles turned white. “You telling me I get a used ring?”

“Let’s call it…ah…gently worn. What? It was my grandmother’s. Tradition and all that.” He took a sip of his wine with a chuckle bouncing his ample belly.

“Tradition? You mean cheap.” She threw her drink in his face, stopping the sophisticated cadence of waiters and busboys and grabbed her purse. “I’ll tell ya what, Frank. You either buy me a new ring, or I’m gonna find me a new man. Got it?”

Frank wiped the Chianti and red sauce off his face, no longer smiling. He gave a look around at all the stares pointed in their direction. “What’re ya looking at?”

When the restaurant workers resumed their dance and the patrons looked to their plates, Frank threw his napkin on his lasagna and followed Jenna out the door. “Baby, wait. We haven’t even had dessert yet.”

The night air blew at Jenna’s hair, but her hairspray prevented any flyaways. It just flopped to the side and bounced back into place when the wind quieted. And Frank’s wet shirt, unbuttoned down to the middle, stuck to his equally wet chest hair. They both stood out like boils in this part of town where sleek fashion and comfortable wealth dominated.

“Ah, screw your dessert, Frank. And screw you, too! I’m tired of sneaking around, meeting you in empty parking lots and behind buildings.” She took the time to reapply her bright red lipstick before hailing a cab. “One year. It’s been one year since you told me you was leaving her.”

“I was gonna tell her tonight, after I dropped you off.”

When a taxi pulled up to the curb, Jenna shoved the tube of lipstick into her pink sequins purse and yanked open the door. “You got one week, Frankie. One week to ditch the wife and buy me a ring I can show my mother.” With that, she folded her body into the cab.

With a huff, Frank made his way to the parking garage. By the time he made it to his driver’s door, the huff turned into a wheeze.

The ride to Brooklyn from lower Manhattan took an hour. And when he made it to his apartment building, his eyes drooped and the Chianti dried, making his shirt stiff and tie-dyed pink. After fumbling with his keys, Frank gained entry into the tiny apartment his wife inherited from her grandmother.

“Where you been, Frank?” Nancy stood at the mouth of their bedroom, hands resting on her ample hips and curlers decorating her dyed black hair.

“I had a business dinner on the lower eastside.”

Nancy’s lips curled in a sneer when her eyes met with the angry pink stains on Frank’s shirt. “Didn’t go so well, did it?”

Frank peeled off his jacket, and then his shirt, showing off a barrel-chested batch of coarse black fur. “Not good, no. Didn’t even get to eat dessert.”

“Well, there’s some leftover Tiramisu in the fridge. Mother brought it to Susan’s Tupperware party. Said I could bring the rest home for you.”

“You didn’t spend a bunch of my money, did you? We got enough of that plastic shit in the cupboards.”

Nancy raised an eyebrow and snorted. “Your money? You haven’t brought in more than enough money to pay the electric bill for the past year. Mother spotted me the cash, just like the last 10 months.”

Frank went into the kitchen and grabbed the cake out of the fridge. “Things are coming together, just give me another month or so, and I’ll get it all straightened out.”

Nancy grabbed a green plastic plate from the dishwasher and handed it to him. “Yeah, sure, Frank, big plans, big plans.” She waved her flabby arms in the air, her triceps flailing like wings.

Frank bit into the cake, and said around a mouthful, “You never have any faith in me, woman.” He gestured her way with his fork. “You’re not starvin’.”

“Thanks to Mother.”

Frank took another bite as a stream of melting hair wax drizzled down the side of his cheek. “That woman spends too much time in my business.”

“If she didn’t, we’d be out on the street.” She poured Frank a glass of milk, setting it by his plate on the counter. “How’d you get your shirt all messy?”

“Spilled my wine.”

“How can you afford to drink wine?”

He took another bite. “My client paid for it.”

Nancy put the milk and the rest of the cake back into the fridge. “Some client.”

Frank grunted, scraping his fork on the bottom of the plate.

“Hey, I almost forgot. Have you seen my grandma’s ring?”

Frank brushed by her, put his plate in the sink, and headed towards the bathroom. “How the hell would I know where it’s at?”

“Don’t get testy. I just haven’t been able to find it is all.”

“Well, don’t ask me.” With that, Frank shut the door and locked it. After turning on the shower, he stripped off the rest of his clothes, leaving them in a pile by the hamper. Before hopping under the warm stream of water, he took his wallet out of his pants pocket and dug out the pawn store receipt.

He slid it under the toilet seat cover and let the water wash away another day.

Category: Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student