Episode 13 – Back to Business
It was a couple of weeks into Jamal’s final semester at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) and he was just getting adjusted to night classes. Having been allowed to leave work an hour early, he headed straight to school to finish some reading that he needed to do for his public relations class. The plan was to grab a bite to eat in the school cafeteria and find the quietest and most inconspicuous corner to sit in.
While standing in line to pay for a slice of pizza and grape juice, Jamal felt a tap on his shoulder. “Well hello stranger, how are things going in the corporate world?” It was Ms. Jones, standing behind him in line holding a tray with a sandwich, salad, and Pepsi on it. “Hey Ms. Jones, it’s good to see you. I’ve been meaning to come by and visit, but with my new night schedule I usually don’t get to school until around 6:00pm and then I am rushing to get to class on time.”
“It’s ok Jamal, I know that you used me to get that internship and now I don’t matter to you anymore.” Ms. Jones stated, poking fun at Jamal, but he didn’t get the joke.
“No Ms. Jones, I would never betray your trust like that. You are my favorite professor.” He replied apologetically.
“Relax Jamal. I was just joking with you.”
Breathing a sigh of relief that he did not mistakenly offend Ms. Jones, Jamal asked if he could join her for dinner and she agreed. After paying for their meals and carefully selecting a table in the center of the cafeteria so that no one could mistake their innocent dinner for a tryst, they settled in and began to play catch up.
“So how is the internship going for you?”
“It’s pretty good. I am definitely learning a lot. Initially, I didn’t see how I could fit into a law firm, but I didn’t know that I would be placed in their accounting department.”
“Oh yeah, like any other corporations, there are different departments that make the whole project work. Ms. Smith tells me that everyone is pleased with your performance. She also told me about your interview.”
“Yeah, I try not to think about that. It was definitely one of those rare times when I was off my game, but I’m glad that I got a second chance. Trust me Ms. Jones, it will never happen again. Just like a boy scout, I will always be prepared.”
“That’s good to know, because I was shocked when she told me what happened. Not only did you make yourself look bad, but you put me on the line too for referring you. I’m glad that you were able to bounce back though. Now tell me, how often do you see Ms. Smith at work? Do you guys get to spend anytime together?” Although Jamal received this line of questioning as a teacher merely checking up on her star pupil, Ms. Jones was actually prying. She still hadn’t gotten over her best friends’ attraction to Jamal. Even though she convinced herself that Leslie wouldn’t stoop that low, there was this feeling that she just couldn’t shake. So Ms. Jones decided to play eye spy without Leslie finding out.
“Well, I really don’t see Ms. Smith too often. When I do, she is always trying to oblige me. I have been given free reign to stop by her office at will. She says that I can utilize her office even if she isn’t there. She also frequently offers to take me out for lunch, but I haven’t taken her up on it yet. I guess I’m going to have to give in pretty soon, so that she doesn’t think that I’m trying to avoid her. It’s just that I want to make an impression on her and I don’t want her to think that I’m just along for the perks.”
“I understand Jamal. But don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Lighten up. It’s ok to be ordinary every once in a while. No one is perfect and you are too tense to be so young.” Satisfied that Leslie hadn’t breached her promise yet, she began to collect her items to leave. “Well, I have to go back to my office and grade some papers. I’m normally gone by now but I’m trying to stay on top of everything this semester. Stop by my office when you get a chance. Remember, if you ever need to talk I’m here for you.”
“Ok, Ms. Jones. It was nice breaking bread with you. Take care, and don’t work too hard.”
Jamal really looked up to Ms. Jones with admiration. No other professor inspired him as much as she. Sometimes Jamal had to catch himself as he would begin to fantasize about her as a little more than just a professor. It was always the same scenario, Ms. Jones went from dowdy professor to sexy seductress in a manner of minutes. But for whatever reason, Jamal could never get past the part where she leans over to kiss him. This is always where the fantasy ended. He rationalized that it was probably some Freudian hang-up where he had too much respect for Ms. Jones to fully objectify her. He would always blush from embarrassment once he snapped out of fantasyland.
Suddenly, Jamal felt a tickle on his right hip. His phone was vibrating. Thinking it was his baby Lela, because she normally called him at this time, he automatically answered the phone without checking caller ID in a sexy voice, “Hey baby.”
“Baby? Mmmh. Now just when did I become your baby?” It was Leslie on the other end poking fun at Jamal. Surprised, Jamal apologized for his behavior. “Oh I’m sorry Ms. Smith, I thought you were Lela.” “Don’t apologize for talking sexy to me but do apologize for calling me Ms. Smith. How many times have I told you to call me Leslie?” For Jamal’s sake, he was lucky that the visual cell phone had not been invented. Otherwise, Leslie would have seen him blushing uncontrollably. If she could feel his temperature rise through the phone, her ears would have definitely been burning.
“What’s the matter, cat got your tongue.” Jamal didn’t realize that he still hadn’t responded to her so he was a little startled by her statement. “Like I told you before Ms. Smith, I mean Leslie, it’s a little difficult for me to call you by your first name. You have to give me some time to get adjusted to that.” Jamal stated trying to give Leslie the respect that she was denying him. “Well, I hope it doesn’t take too long for the adjustment. Just like your internship, I like fast learners. So learn to take Ms. Smith out of your vocabulary or else you will offend me.” Leslie knew that this last statement would appeal more to his upbringing. Since he was raised with morals and standards, offending her was the last thing that she knew he would do.
“Anyway Jamal, I didn’t call to give you a lesson in how to address me. I want to know why did you leave work early?”
“Oh, Mr. Edelman said that there wasn’t much left for me to do today, and so he allowed me to leave an hour early to go to school.”
“Ok. I was just checking. I had come by to invite you to dinner in my office and they told me that you had left for the day. I was a little concerned, so I decided to check up on you. I’m happy to hear that you are ok.”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Thanks for checking up on me.” Jamal felt somewhat special that she cared that much about him. He figured she was looking out for him as a favor to Ms. Jones’.
“Jamal, since I am your mentor, I want us to keep regular appointments with each other so that I can see how you are handling things and to lend any expertise or advice.” Prefacing their meetings as advisory sessions was Leslie’s way of getting Jamal in her office alone on a regular basis. The routine would also be used as a decoy to anyone who suspected anything going on between them. “Are there any days during the week that you don’t have to go to school?”
“Yes, I am free on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I take two classes on Tuesday and Thursday.”
“Great, then let’s meet every Wednesday at 5:30pm. I will supply dinner for us and we can go over any concerns at work and strategize how to start your business. Be prepared to stay as long as necessary.” Jamal’s perked up at the idea of starting his business. Leslie could sense the sudden arousal in his speech that was now more enthusiastic than at the beginning of their conversation. She knew that she was working him well.
Jamal excused himself as he clicked over to receive a call from Lela. While on hold, Leslie began to fantasize about the escapades that she hoped would take place in her office. She knew there was a purpose for that giant maple wood desk in her office that she picked out two years ago. It wasn’t just the pure beauty and color of the wood, but the sturdiness that Leslie desired. It withstood the wrestling matches that she and her ex got involved in on many occasions. She was confident that Jamal’s masculinity would not harm it either. Knowing that Jamal would never hang up on her she waited patiently for him to switch back over. She was beginning to get annoyed when she heard his voice.
“I’m sorry, Leslie. I hope I didn’t have you on hold for too long. Lela can sometimes talk a mile a minute without taking a breath. When she gets like this, it’s difficult to get a word in. You have to wait until you catch her inhaling and then you have to jump on the opportunity to speak quickly before she blows it out.” Leslie chuckled at his description, of Lela’s loquaciousness to amuse him. She could really care less about his little tales of puppy love. Lela was the one distraction that Leslie had to get rid of. It was just a matter of time in Leslie’s mind, before she would sink her teeth into him. Once he had a real woman, she thought, he would forget about that little girl.
“So Jamal, do we have a date for next week Wednesday?”
“For sure Ms., I mean Leslie. I will be there at 5:30 sharp. Is there anything that I need to bring?
“No, you alone will be just fine.”
It was just Thursday, so Leslie would have to wait six more days before she would begin to lure Jamal into her web. The plan of deceit was already in motion.