About 'On the Avenue': When I was a teen, well it started when I was a child actually, I formed these families in my head who all lived in the same neighborhood and I and started writing stories about them. As I matured, the stories matured. I want to condense it into a single tale, but there were so many characters I couldn't do it. So instead of following a straight plotline, I focused on a different character in this "imaginary" neighborhood so I dealing with the same set of characters at different points in time and I try to reveal different sides to any given character in each story.

Title: Gentleman for a Day
AUTHOR: D.M. Kelley
RATING: PG-13
WEBSITE: silentbard.net

Summary: He's dangerously desirable to every female he touches, the bad boy every mother fears. Yet, Lina, one of the few girls who sees him for the play boy he is, challenges him to be a gentleman only to find herself falling in love.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Not intended to represent any real persons, places, events, or things. All rights to these characters belong to me.

Feedback, always appreciated.

ON THE AVENUE: Gentleman for a day

Lina Gaby walked through the door carrying Rocky, her two-year-old baby brother. Her mom had a business meeting and wouldn't be back till morning. She and her best friend, Karen, were having a late study session. It hadn't started out that way. Her mother's meeting had forced her to bring Rocky along and he'd interfered with their studying so much, they couldn't get anything done until he was asleep.

Rocky was snoring loudly against her neck. His weight was like a forty pound rock on her shoulder. Her books slowly slid off the other. She managed to kick the door closed and make her way into the living room. She jumped when she saw the outline of a guy sitting on her couch. Her action jerked her brother half awake. He looked up for a second, closed his eyes and quickly drifted back in dreamland.

"Did I scare you?" the guy asked.

"Harold, you gotta stop doing this," Lina Gaby said as she lay her brother on the couch. "How do you get in here anyway?"

"My secret," he smiled.

"This isn't proper. I am Nelson's girlfriend after all."

"Kirk's my boy, I would never try to push up on his girl."

Lina left the room. Harold followed her into the kitchen. She began washing the dishes from the previous night.

"Yo Lina, everybody call my man Kirk, how come you call him Nelson?"

"Cause that's the name his parents gave him."

"But it's a dumb name. At least Kirk sounds a little better," Harold said as he slid in a nearby chair. "So, what do you want for your birthday?"

Lina Gaby stopped to consider the question. What did she want? Well she wanted a few things, none of them material, but Harold couldn't get those things for her. Still, it was nice of him to ask. Nice, not many would believe she used that word to describe Harold. She wished everyone could see him that way. Maybe they could have if they knew him as she did. She slid into the chair facing him. "You usually make a pretty good guess at gift."

"Well, I'm asking you this year. What do you want from me?"

"I want you to be a gentleman."

"But I'm always a--"

"No you're not. At my party, I want you to be a gentleman, even with your little girl toy Sharice."

"And what do I get for this?" Harold asked, looking into her dancing brown eyes.

"My appreciation," Lina smiled.

His caramel hand gently took hold of her brown one. He lifted her hand to his lips and lightly kissed her fingertips. "I'll do better than just at your party, I'll bet you I can do better, I'll be a gentleman all day. But I name the price if I win."

"If you say so, but I decide if the price is reasonable." Like it matters, you'll never do it, Lina thought. She moved away from the table and opened the refrigerator. "So you want a snack or --"

The door slammed and she looked back. Harold was gone.

Harold walked into his house. Baby cries greeted him at the door. Walking into his sisters room, he found his fourteen year old brother, Mick, struggling to quiet the baby girl. Though they were only two years apart, he had spent most of his childhood taking care of his baby brother. Mick was frustrated, as frustrated as Harold had been when there was nothing he could do to quiet Mick as a baby. Their parents ignored him, ignored both of them. They had no time for baby cries, the parents screams dominated that house in those days. Mom and Dad were a joke.

"Let me," Harold said as he took the baby from his brother. He soon had her quiet, but realized her diaper was wet.

"Thanks," his brother said. "Mom's not here and I got a date with Mie."

"What is it with you and that River chick. She got you trippin'."

"You ask me that all the time. It's like I said before, I love her."

"Love is bullshit bro. Why don't you get that?"

Mick smiled and walked out the room. Harold carried the baby into his mom's room to change her. Inside he was greeted by the picture that constantly mocked him. The picture of that pale brunette hanging on the neck of that dark brown man. They were smiling, looking like the perfect happy young couple.

"You'll always be like that black bastard father of yours," his mom constantly told him. He used to think it was their blackness that made their mother turn away from them. His blond baby sister, Estelle, had proved that theory wrong a few months ago. She was the product of a one night stand that his mother would rather forget. Her father was white and she was still treated the just like them, ignored.

She still had a better start than either himself or Mick. They'd been plucked out of that slum and away from their father a long time ago. Their mother, a jealous woman, constantly accused their father of cheating. Most of the time it was true, but still she suffered his fist for her meddling. Thanks to his Grandma's intervention, she escaped her boyfriend's fist. She never forgave her boys for the forced separation from the man she loved. And though her son's faces were a definite blend of mother and father, all she saw when she looked at them was the father and his treachery. So they were neglected.

The boys had been underdogs when they arrived in the suburban area dominated by mom-dad families with 2.5 kids. Sons of white trash, they were shunned at first. Harold fooled them all when he rose from this lowly status to the tops of kiddie/teenage social structure. He became the guy all their sons wanted to be and all their girls wanted; The Bart Simpson of childhood and Fonzie of high school. Part bad boy, part Don Juan, he was the man. He had even succeeded in grabbing up the prettiest girl in their high school, Sharice.

Sharice was a cool person to hang with, but that wasn't his concern. No, he enjoyed the envy in guys eyes as he strutted down the hall with the beautiful girl. She got people to notice him, but in truth she was an easy conquest. Karen was his challenge. She pretended to be Francisco's loyal girlfriend, but he had played her type before. In the end she was just like the rest of his broads and getting with her was one of his long term goals. Then there were Kim and Stacy, both were freaks. Kim, Karen's identical twin and she and Stacy were both chicken heads. The only fun he got out of them at all, was seeing how far he could make them go. In the past, he had periodically allowed himself to be identified as one or the other's boyfriend, but was never serious about either.

Then there was Lina Gaby Fletcher. She was an A student, student council president, etc., etc. Her perfect student routine should have bored him, but it didn't. There was something down to earth about her despite all this. He felt comfortable with her, she called him on his bad behavior. But she was Kirk's girl. Kirk was his homeboy, he never messed with a true homies' girl. But Lina, Lina lived right in the middle of them. Not only physically, but all the time. He wouldn't say he loved her, but he was intrigued by her. She could hold her own with the guys and still act like a lady. Everything about Lina was different.

"You get away to easy with being cute," she always said. He loved the way her eyes sparkled when she laughed and the contrast of her brown skin against white dresses. She wore a white dress on her birthday, every year, just for him. Her legs seemed to glide across the room when she walked and everything she did seemed to bespeak grace. She was beautiful, but not conventionally like Sharice. He didn't love her, he didn't love any woman. But there was something about Lina, something that made him hesitate when he should have moved in, something he couldn't define or was afraid to define. No, that didn't make sense. He wasn't afraid of anything.

He had rocked Estelle to sleep then, so he took her to her crib and went to call Kirk. Thoughts of Lina were clouding his mind. A good game of B-Ball would wash them away.

------

Lina and Karen, stood in the hall talking with Kim and Stacy. Stacy and Kim were only friends when they weren't arguing over Harold. The arguments ended when he and Sharice started dating. She had stolen Harold from both of them and they hated her equally for it.

"Lina, I usually dis your man, but Kirk looked good in that game yesterday," Kim said.

"And that was so sweet how he sang happy birthday to you at the end of the game," Karen added.

"Speaking of your birthday," Stacy added, "I can't wait to go to your party tonight."

"You got a date?" Kim asked Stacy.

"I'll ask Benny."

"Too late I got him, " Kim said. "That little surfer boy is totally sprung on me."

"Yea, he's also a total geek and my last resort."

"He may not be this month's Chippendale model, but he do got it going on in the bedroom."

"Kim, stop it," her twin interceded.

"Oh, you just mad cause you ain't getting none," Kim responded.

"Here they come," Lina Gaby said, redirecting the girls' attention toward the hallway opening. Harold entered with Sharice, whose perfect frame was filled out in a pair of tight pants and a waist-length shirt that barely covered what the pants molded. Comments like, "She think she all that," were heard immediately. Karen was Sharice's only female friend in the whole school and was the only one to defend Sharice when the girls began to talk down to her. Lina couldn't figure out why Karen wanted to be friends with a girl like that, could her she be any more suggestive to the male eyes glued to her as she glided through the hallway?

Lina hated watching them together. She didn't admit it to anyone, but she was attracted to Harold. He was cute, who could help being attracted to it? She didn't love him, you couldn't love a guy like him. He was easy enough to catch, but difficult to keep. She didn't know if her heart could handle being broken by him. They had a special, intimate, secret friendship and everything was safe there. Suggestive remarks were taken as jokes and flirtatious smiles were thrown out quickly. Sharice was his show, his symbol; Lina had to believe she was more. She noticed suddenly that instead of slobbing Sharice down in his usual way, he gave her a soft chaste kiss on the cheek. He was taking her 'be a gentleman' request seriously.

Lina was shocked to see that he kept the gentleman act up all day. He carried her books to one of the classes they had together. At various times during the day, when he shared classes with them, he also carried Kim and Stacy's books, and neither had got an ounce of courtesy from him before. He opened doors, spoke politely to everyone, and refrained from using overly obscene comments in his flirting. He would never make it through the party, she thought. Girls would be all over the place. He couldn't survive it.

----------

Later that night, Harold leaned against the car and waited for his brother and Mie. He kept staring at his watch. Sharice was starting to wonder if something was wrong. He was standing a good distance from her and avoiding looking at her.

"Harold, is something wrong?" Sharice asked. She had bought the short red strapless dress especially for him.

"What do you mean?"

"I got a new dress that reveals more than it covers and you've hardly looked my way. And all today you haven't tried to make out or anything else."

"It's nothing baby, you look beautiful," which is exactly why I can't look at you, his mind finished, but it never reached his lips. Despite this, he turned toward her. Harold exhaled as he looked at the Nubian goddess-like form beside him. He wanted to throw her on a couch and tear the dress off. She wouldn't refuse him, but thoughts of his promise to Lina for her sixteenth birthday outweighed his primal need.

Speak of the Devil. The door next to his own home opened and Lina exited. His eyes were drawn to her as she left arm in arm with Kirk. The couple waved at them and they waved back. Harold and Lina's eyes locked on each other for a moment. She looked like an angel in her white dress. Harold sighed deeply. Words couldn't explain her beauty and he didn't want to. She was a treasure, a treasure that belonged where she was. In the arms of the A student, football player, good guy Nelson Kirk. Hell, their skin was even the same shade, Harold thought; they were the perfect couple.

And he belonged where he was, with Sharice the sex symbol. They were alike in that respect, the sex symbols of their high school. Neither of them had anything else. Their parents were losers, they hadn't earned any awards, they didn't belong to clubs, and their permanent records were a mess. All they had was their status as sex symbols.

When Lina disappeared in Kirk's car, Harold turned to his date and kissed her deeply, but held back any serious moves. They were soon disturbed by Mick and Mie. Harold didn't see what his brother saw in the freckled face Red head. Mick said it was love, but he had seen from his parents that love was only a temporary illusion.

----------------

Lina was having a great party. She had danced herself tired, but at least she was enjoying her day. To her surprise, every time she glanced at Harold, he was keeping up his gentleman act. Couldn't say the same for Sharice; she was being her usual sluty self. Unfortunately, Harold had also been ignoring her for most of the night. He was hooked in a sports conversation with the guys when Lina decided to capture him in conversation. Her attempt was intercepted by Sharice.

"Hey Lina," Sharice began. "I know we don't know each other that well, but I get the feeling you don't like me."

"Sharice, like you said, I don't know you."

"Well maybe we could get to know each other." Sharice said, but she was only annoying Lina. "Like a simple conversation. I mean, like why do you call Kirk, Nelson when everyone else calls him Kirk."

"Cause Harold changed his name. And Harold's not his Daddy, so call him by the name his parents gave him."

"That's really--"

"Sharice," Francisco called from across the room.

"Gotta go," Sharice said with a smile and walked toward the voice.

Lina shook her head. That girl could annoy the devil. Her thoughts broke with Sharice as she saw Harold departing from the group of guys. She snuck up on him. Tapping him from behind so he would be forced to turn and see her rather than flee.

"Why haven't you said anything to me tonight?"

"So I could remain a gentleman for you. I do have another gift for you, but it isn't like you other gifts so I left it in the car."

"Well let's go get it," Lina said grabbing his arm.

"What about Kirk?"

"He's over there talking with a couple of his football buddies. I told him it was OK, he's given me enough attention for tonight," Lina explained.

Harold shrugged. They walked out to the car. He pulled a gift bag from his trunk. She never knew what to expect from Harold.

"Remember when I was eight and I busted your Squeezable Sue doll. You wouldn't talk to me for a week. Well that was the longest week of my life. So I--" he stopped and pulled a little doll from the bag.

Lina giggled. "Where did you find this?"

"In a thrift store, I saw it by accident." Harold smiled.

She walked toward him and kissed him on the cheek. He turned toward her in part shock. Her face inches, she looked into his eyes. Their gazes locked for a moment. Then their lips moved toward each other. Halfway there, Lina stopped herself and ran back inside. She dropped the doll along the way. Harold was carrying it when he returned inside. A slow song began to play as he moved toward her. She looked at him, her heart in her throat. He smiled at her, easing the tension. This guy

"I believe this dance is mine," Harold whispered softly.

She said nothing as he took her onto the floor and swept her away from the party and people around her. Somehow, some way, in this moment they were swept into the world they usually shared in private. Lina guarded against it ever happening in public, but on the dance floor it was there. Harold flirted all the time, so those around them, including Lina's boyfriend, didn't really notice anything strange. They couldn't see that the two were lost in some mystical world for those three minutes the song played. Both retreated in fear of their own emotions when the song ended. Love, they both thought, no it couldn't be.

Lina kept the doll with her for the rest of the night, but stayed away from its giver. He did the same.

_____________

Later that night Lina was tired and overjoyed as she exited the bathroom in her robe and walked into her room. It was a good birthday. She jumped in shock. Harold's silhouette rested on the bed in her room.

"Harold," Lina said amazed. "What are you doing here?"

"It's after midnight, I've fulfilled my gentleman goal."

"That you have," Lina smiled.

"Well Sharice sure wanted me tonight. I disappointed her when I walked away. Don't you think I deserve a big reward for that?"

"Well, that depends, What kind of reward do you want."

"I want to finish something"

He got off the bed and walked toward her. She was in a robe and very easy prey he knew. If she had been any other girl he would have taken her, but she was Lina Gaby. He cared about her, she was his homegirl. It wasn't love, but she was special. He had to handle her with care.

He would savor his brief reward. His cupped her face in his hand and gently traced her lips with his tongue, starting a fire inside. Kirk never made her feel this way. He followed this with a soft butterfly kiss that teased her, but did not satisfy the fire he'd started inside. Damn, she thought, she did love him. That was dangerous.

"See you tomorrow," he whispered and escaped through her window.

Oh God, she thought, she loved Harold. Harold? She could tell no one or do nothing, for fear of injury to her heart. She knew love was what she felt, because she had felt nothing like it ever before in her life. With one gentle kiss, he'd made her feel what Nelson never could. She was in love with the best friend of her boyfriend. Boy was this a case for Ricki Lake. Emotionally exhausted she lay on the bed and fell into dreams of Harold in her arms.