He unwrapped his arms and rose to his feet. Thinking he was leaving she grabbed his hand, “Please stay.”
“You thought I was leaving?” he shook his head, “No, I was gonna ask you if you wanted to get something to eat.”
“Really?” she replied.
He nodded smiling, “Yeah. It's not too late and I'm sure you didn't get to eat anything with what happened.” he wiped the tears off her face, “So, what do you say?”
It broke his heart to see her like this but she almost smiled, and it made him feel a little better.
“Can we go to that place I showed you once?” they were both out shopping for a birthday present for Shirley that day, and they'd walked past this beautiful Italian place. She'd only been there once with one of her ex-boyfriends and she remembered loving it so much. Unfortunately, it was a little expensive and she never had the money to go back.
“Sure.” he knew the meals there were expensive but he didn't care, anything to make his friend happy. He helped her to her feet and her kiss on his cheek took him by surprise, “I need to change into dry clothes first. Is that okay?” she couldn't go out with the damp dress she was wearing now, unless she wanted to catch pneumonia.
He nodded, “Yeah, sure. Go ahead.”
“I won't take long, I promise.”
And she hadn't lied, less than five minutes later, she was going down the stairs wearing a simple pair of jeans and a shirt with her hair up in a messy bun. She'd managed to stop crying though her face was still red.
“Well, that was quick.” he chuckled. God knew Shirley could take at least two hours to get ready which drove him nuts every time.
“You expected to wait an hour, didn't you?” she asked as she got down the stairs.
“Well, yeah.” he admitted laughing.
She couldn't help but smile, “I ain't Shirl, I don't need three hours to get ready.”
“Well, you look lovely.” He'd always liked when she had her hair up like this. Not that he'd tell her or anything. She knew he was only being nice but accepted the compliment anyway.
“Come on, let's go.” he held his hand out to her and she grabbed it, following him as they finally left her apartment.
Carmine managed to make her laugh a couple of times on the way to the restaurant so he really thought she felt better by the time they arrived. However after watching her sip from her fourth glass of wine while he barely touched his first one made him realize he had been wrong. She couldn't hold her liquor so she was completely hammered.
“Maybe you should slow down a little.” he grabbed the glass from her. “Let's get you a cup of coffee, all right?”
“One coffee, please.” Carmine called after the waiter who nodded. “Coming right up.”
“I don't want coffee, I'm fine.” she managed to grab her glass back and drank what was left inside it.
“Still, no more wine for you.”
“Who died and made you boss?!” she almost shouted and then giggled, “Sorry. I like saying that.”
Well, at least she was laughing, right? “Please, lower your voice, okay?” people were starting to stare.
“Aww, I'm embarrassing you.” they were sitting next to each other instead of face to face, so she hugged him and playfully pinched his cheek.
He couldn't help but laugh, “Stop that. Come on.” he unwrapped her arms still chuckling, “You'll drink that coffee and we're going home.”
The waiter approached with the coffee two minutes later.
“Get that thing away from me.” Laverne protested almost spilling everything.
Seeing that she wouldn't cooperate with him, Carmine sighed. “Just one sip, okay?” she shook her head, “Nope.”
“Come on, do it for me?”
“Just one sip? I won't have to drink the whole thing?”
“Just one sip.” he repeated although he did wish she would just sober up, because seeing her like this was no picnic.
She took her sip, but was really disgusted by it. “There! Now get it away from me.” He did what he was told. He rose to his feet, grabbing his wallet and paid for everything. “It's time to go home, Vernie.” he held out his hand to her.
“I don't want to go home.”
“Now come on, Laverne, don't start.” he warned her as she finally grabbed his hand. She was staggering so he made sure she held onto him. The last thing they needed was for her to trip and fall head first on someone else' table. Since the restaurant wasn't far from their building, they'd walked there. Now he wished he had taken the car.
“I don't want to walk.” she whined, refusing to let go of his hand.
“Well, you have to. I can't carry you in the middle of the street in front of everyone.”
He shook his head, “No.”
She almost begged, “Please.”
“Uh-uh.” she used the puppy eyes and he gave in, “Ah, all right. But not now wait til we get there. I'll carry up the stairs but that's it.”
Somehow satisfied with his offer, she smiled. They continued walking and he was holding her hand. She didn't watch where she was going, so obviously when they had to walk on the sidewalk, she missed the step and tripped. She was starting to cry and he was immediately by her side helping her up.
“My God are you all right? Did you hurt yourself?”
She'd only hurt her elbow and knee but nothing too serious. Band-aids would fix them in no time.
“On a scale of one to ten, how much does it hurt?”
“Well, it's not so bad then, is it?” she shook her head.
“Thanks for the meal.” she said now smiling while he wiped her tears.
“You're welcome.” he caressed her hair as she held on to him tightly making sure she wouldn't fall again. They walked the next five minutes without saying anything though since her knee hurt, she was limping.
“I don't feel well.” she said, breaking the silence.
“We're almost there.”
She was sobbing now, “Carmine, why does no one ever like me?” she asked out of the blue.
His heart sank, “I like you.”
He nodded kissing her temple, “Yeah.” even though he told her he'd only carry her up the stairs, he changed his mind. Who cares if people would watch?
“Do you still want to be carried?” he didn't need to ask the question twice, her arms were already around his neck. So he picked her up and he only let go of her when they were in his apartment ten minutes later.
“Okay, you stay right here.” he carried her to the sofa, “I'm gonna get the band-aids.”
“I don't feel well.”
“Do you need to use the bathroom?” She nodded.
Carmine nodded, “All right.”
He held her hair back the entire time she was throwing up. She was crying at the same time so it made her cough pretty badly lasting ten minutes at least. He handed her a couple of towel papers and she wiped her mouth with them.
“Does your elbow still hurt?”
She shook her head, “No but my knee does a little.” she felt so tired it was a miracle she could still talk.
“You're gonna have to remove your jeans if you want me to place the band-aid.”
She tried to do it but it required too much of an effort.
She groaned finally giving up, “You do it.”
Okay, he never planned something like this to ever happen and he felt uncomfortable, “W-what?”
Seeing he didn't really have any other choice, he removed her shoes and jeans slowly, making sure he wouldn't hurt her. Her knee only had a tiny cut, nothing too serious.
He smiled putting the Band-Aid on.“There, it should stop hurting soon.”
“Come on, let's get you into bed.” Carmine said holding out his hand to her but she didn't have the strength to get up. He ended up carrying her again and lay her down on his bed under the covers.
“You get some sleep now, all right?” she nodded. As he was leaving, she called after him.
He turned around, “Will you hold me until I fall asleep?”
Okay now, he knew that wasn't a good idea. Laverne was his best friend and he loved her but if he did that he'd cross a line. And not only that, but what would Shirley say?
“I can't do that, Laverne.”
“Well, Shirley wouldn't be too happy about it.” he chuckled.
“But she's not here, she won't know.”
“I can't do it, I'm sorry.”
“Please.” the look on her face broke his heart all over again. She was literally begging him to stay with her and he knew he shouldn't do it, but he didn't have the heart to say no again. And if you think about it, as Laverne said, Shirley wasn't here. It wouldn't take long for her to fall asleep, right? He'd just have to hold her for a few minutes and then go sleep on the sofa, what was the big deal? Shirley would never know. He took a deep breath, “All right. But only for a few minutes, okay?” he got rid of his shoes and jeans and climbed in bed beside her, wrapping his arms tightly around her.
He woke up to the sound of his front door opening. “Carmine? It's me.” Shirley announced. “You'll never guess what happened!” She was supposed to stay until tomorrow but the mom went into labor and so the shower was obviously canceled and she had no other choice but to come home today. Though she was able to see the baby once before she left.
He recognized her voice right away and panicked realizing he never made it to the sofa last night, and fell asleep while holding her. Oh God. Laverne didn't hear anything and she was still sound asleep, her arms around him. “Laverne, you gotta wake up.” he whispered.
“Carmine?” Shirley called him again. “Where are you?”
“Yeah, I'm coming.”
“Laverne!” he whispered louder and she groaned. He literally jumped out of bed and into his pair of jeans and ran to the living room, closing the bedroom door behind him.
“There you are!” Shirley smiled and went to kiss him. “What took you so long?”
“I..uh, I was getting ready...taking a shower and stuff.”
“In your bedroom?” she giggled, “You were asleep, weren't you?”
“Yeah.” he chuckled anxiously, “You woke me.”
“Aww, I'm sorry.” she went to kiss him, “I didn't mean to wake you up..it's just I can't find Laverne anywhere and I have such great news to tell her. Have you seen her?”
“Uh, Laverne?” he shook his head, “No, I haven't seen her.”
He stammered, “W-what are you doing here? I mean, weren't you supposed to come back tomorrow?”
“Well, yes, I was...but oh my God, you'll never guess what happened!” she giggled again, jumping up and down in front of him.
“Connie went into labor at her own baby shower!”
He chuckled, “Oh, wow...”
“I know right! A beautiful baby girl. Oh, you should see her, Carmine, she's so cute.”
He shrugged, “Aren't all babies cute?”
“Yeah, but you know me and babies.”
He tried looking at her as much as possible so she wouldn't suspect anything.
“So, you really don't know where Laverne is, huh?”
He shook his head, “Nope..but uh, you know she had a date last night...maybe she stayed at the guy's place.”
“She didn't tell me she was seeing someone.”
“Well, she met him yesterday.”
“Oh..all right.” she somehow bought his story and he felt relieved. She yawned, “I'm kind of tired, how about we both go back to sleep?” she offered smiling, wrapping her arms around him.
“No!” he almost shouted removing her arms, “I..I mean, I'd like to..it's just I..I can't, I have to go to work soon.”
“I didn't know you had singing telegrams to deliver on Saturdays.”
“I have to deliver them every day, Shirl.”
She was disappointed, “Well then, if you have to work..I'm just gonna go back to the apartment and unpack.”
He nodded grabbing her arm and walking her to the front door, “You do that.”
“Hopefully Laverne will be back soon.”
She stepped outside, “I'll call you, then?” she asked about to kiss him on the lips again but he averted his face somehow and the kiss landed on his cheek. He nodded, “Yeah, you do that.” she barely had the time to say goodbye before he slammed the door almost in her face. Not even two seconds later, he was running back in the bedroom. Laverne was still asleep and didn't hear anything at all.
“Laverne,” he placed his hand on her arm, “you have to get up now.” he said calmly this time, but loud enough for her to hear him.
She groaned, “Just a few more minutes..please.” her voice was barely audible.
“No, no. Right now. “
She slowly opened her eyes to see Carmine staring at her. Then she looked around and realized she wasn't in her bed. “What am I doing here?” and why did she have the biggest headache ever?
“You don't remember last night?”
Then she finally noticed she was in her panties and started panicking, “Oh, my God...did we?” she brought her shaking hand to her face. How much did she have to drink last night?
“No, no. Calm down. We didn't.” he reassured her. “You hurt your knee, remember?” he pointed to the band-aid and somehow everything came back to her. He handed her jeans back, “Shirley came back early.”
“Oh, my God, she found me in your bed and uh-”
“No, no. She doesn't know you're here. We have nothing to worry about.”
Tears were rolling down her cheeks as she struggled to put her jeans on. “I swear nothing happened.” he said again, “Shirley will never know you spent the night here.”
“I know nothing happened.”
“Well then, why are you crying?”
“I'm so sorry about last night Carmine, I didn't mean to drink so much.”
“I know. It's okay.” he said with a warm smile. “Let's make a deal, all right?”
She said nothing so he continued, “You don't talk about last night and I don't talk about it either. No one has to know and it'll just be our little secret. Okay?”
That sounded good to her. What was the point of telling Shirley if nothing happened?
“Okay;” she wiped her tears while getting up and he walked her to the front door somehow holding her hand while doing so.
“By the way, I told Shirl you were probably sleeping at your date's house if she asks.”
She threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tight. They stayed like this for two long minutes before finally letting go. He didn't ask what it was for because it was obvious.
“I..I should go.”
He placed a gentle kiss on her forehead, “You're a very special person, Laverne. Don't you ever forget that.”
“You're the only person who's ever said that to me.”
He finally opened the door, giving her the kindest smile ever. “You take care of yourself, okay?”
She kissed him on the cheek, letting go of his hand, her fingers sliding from his grasp.
He took a deep breath watching her leave and as she turned around, they smiled at each other one last time.
X x x x x