Chapter 17

       After leaving the hospital later that afternoon, Michael had taken Symphony out to dinner at a romantic restaurant in downtown Baltimore, located along the waterfront. Never the one to take any shortcuts, Michael reserved a private table for two overlooking the scenic harbor.

       During dinner, they talked, laughed, played footsie under the table, and of course, kissed. Symphony couldn't believe that just over a month ago, she was telling herself of how wrong it was to date her professor, and now here she was falling head over heels in love with him.

      After dinner, they walked in silence along the waterfront hand-in-hand. Symphony loved talking to Michael, but she also loved that they were able to enjoy the comfort of each other without speaking a single word.

       Stopping in front of a massive lighthouse, Michael placed his index finger under Symphony's chin, tilting it upwards.

       "I have something I'd like to ask you," he whispered tenderly.

        As butterflies filled Symphony's stomach, her breath hitched inside of her throat, as her brain shouted loudly. "No! I hope he's not about to... No, he can't be! It's much too soon."

      When he felt Symphony's body go rigid, he giggled and said, "relax, Symphony. I'm not about to pop the question, but this would have been a lovely place if I was to do so."

       Letting out a shaky breath, she smiled embarrassingly and said, "Sorry, my imagination can run a little wild at times."

       Michael smiled softly as he placed a gentle kiss on one of her freckled cheeks. "It's ok, but onto my question. And please... Don't feel obligated to say yes. But I was wondering if you would be interested in traveling to Newyork with me? I have a business meeting to attend and I've been invited over to a good friend's home for Thanksgiving dinner. I would love for you to accompany me."

       Shrugging her shoulders up and down, Symphony smiled and said, "sure. I don't have any plans for Thanksgiving as of yet, and my parents are going out of town for a romantic get-away."

       "Oh! How very sweet. It's rare to find two people still in love after so many years."

       "It is! Trust me, I know. I've accidentally walked in on them getting their groove on quite a few times," Symphony laughed.

        "Sounds like you need to knock before entering rooms," he chuckled in return.

       "That doesn't work. Those two get frisky every and anywhere, but as much as I tease them, I do admire them. They've been married for over forty years, and they're still in love."

      Taking both of her hands in his, he kissed the tip of her nose and said, "you're so precious to me. I don't know what I'd do without you. I love you, sweetheart."

       As Symphony wrapped her hands around the back of his neck, she kissed his lips softly and whispered, "I love you too, baby."

       Shutting his eyes tight, Michael spoke low, his voice breaking between words. "Please promise me you won't hurt me. I haven't been so lucky at finding true love."

       "Michael, baby. I'd never do such a thing. You mean the world to me," she whispered sweetly while brushing her nose back and forth across his.

      Michael giggled, "you're too adorable— Eskimo kisses. This is my second time receiving something like this. The first time was with 'Sir, Howard Morrison', a famous New Zealand Entertainer. I believe they call it a 'Hongi.' He didn't rub my nose but only lightly touched it several times. While I love seeing how others greet each other around the world, I wasn't ready. I was so apprehensive about the whole thing. I hope I didn't make him feel bad."

        Symphony guffawed. "That's so hilarious. I hope you weren't too traumatized by the experience."

       "No. I wasn't. But I would have appreciated if they had given me a heads up," he grimaced.

      "So, should I never rub noses with you again?" she frowned playfully.

       "Are you kidding me? Your nose is softer, and you smell way prettier," he chuckled huskily.

       "You're so silly. I've never been with a man that made me laugh as much as you."

       Pulling her close against him, he sucked her earlobe and said, "mmm. I know the perfect way to make you laugh even more. Have you ever been tickled while being completely naked?"

       "Hmm, Dr. Black! I can't say that I have," she spoke saucily.


       "Spend the night with me and you'll be in for a treat."


       "But Michael! It's a school night. Remember, we agreed to not spend the night together during the week unless it was a holiday."


       "I know. And since it was my own rule to begin with, I'm now ending it. Please stay with me tonight. I need you, beautiful."


      "Ok, but let's not stay up too too late. I don't want to fall asleep in your class tomorrow."


      "For your sake you better not— or I'll have to put you over my knee and spank you," Michael chuckled while tapping her bottom lightly.

     

***

       When Michael awoke the next morning, Symphony was knocked out cold on top of him. As he went to stroke her back, they both startled upwards at the sound of several large crashes and his car alarm going off.

      Jumping out of bed, Michael slid on his pajama bottoms in a hurry. He figured someone had broken into his car, but he needed to shut down his car alarm before it awoke his neighbors. His car's security system and FOB had been giving him some trouble, and he needed to shut down the alarm manually.

       As he grabbed his keys from off the nightstand, he walked briskly towards the bedroom door and said, "I'll be right back, sweetheart. Stay here, please! Don't come outside."

       "Be careful, please!" Symphony spoke worriedly.

       After exiting the house, Michael gasped in disbelief once he arrived at his driveway. All of the windows to his car had been busted out completely. This was the first time something like this had happened to him and he was in utter shock.

       Before nearing his car, Michael carefully assessed the situation and hissed, "What the actual fuck? I don't believe this shit!"

      Making sure not to cut his feet on the broken glass, he walked slowly towards his car. All he needed was a trip to the E.R. in the wee hours of the morning. But just as Michael was about to get inside, he spotted Raven's earring laying on the floor. The last time Raven had been in his car was months ago, proving to him beyond a shadow of a doubt, she was the culprit behind the damage.

      After carefully getting inside of his car, he disabled the alarm by turning it's ignition on and off. When Symphony heard the roar of the engine, she became alarmed and headed outside. "Oh my goodness! Michael! Are you ok? What the hell happened?" she exclaimed quietly, walking towards him.

         Quickly dashing out of his car, no longer giving regard to the sharp shards of glass under his feet, he wrapped his arms tightly around her and said, "baby what are you doing out here? I told you to stay inside."

      "I know, but I became worried when you didn't come back right away, and then I heard your car startup. What's going on?" she spoke concernedly while trying to see around him.

        "Symphony, please. Be careful. There's glass everywhere and I don't want you to get hurt! Let's go back inside, you're only wearing a robe. It's cold out."

      Once they were back inside, Michael slammed the door and shouted, "I can't believe that witch!"


        "Calm down baby! And what are you talking about? Who's a witch?"


        "Oh come on, Symphony. You know who I'm talking about— Raven! I know she's the one that broke the windows out of my car."


      "I know. I figured as such, but I didn't want to assume. I thought you spoke with her?"


      "I've been trying to, but she's been avoiding me like the plague. I even wrote her a letter and put it in her teacher's mailbox."


      "Maybe I should try and speak with her? I don't like seeing you so upset, sweetheart."


      "No, baby. You stay away from her. Raven is proving herself to be crazy and I don't want you getting tangled up in a mess I created. I'm sorry for all of this."

       Placing her hand on Michael's cheek, Symphony pressed her forehead against his and said, "Michael, please listen to me. I know you've dated and slept with other women prior to committing yourself to me, which is normal. For I too, have slept and had relationships with other men. However, now that we are an official couple, I would like for us to move forward in peace. I don't mind having a woman to woman conversation with Raven if need be."

       Michael raised his eyebrows at her last sentence. He knew Symphony wasn't a pushover, but he always found her to be on the meeker side. It was something else they both had in common. Michael too was also quiet and reserved until provoked. "No-no baby. I promise... I'll handle it. I don't want you to do anything that could possibly jeopardize your attendance at Peabody."

        Symphony sniggered. "And how would I do that? It's not like I'd beat her up or anything... Even though I should. I still can't believe she slapped you. For that alone I should whoop her ass."

       "Hey-hey! Now stop that. Don't let her bring you out of character. She's not worth it," he spoke gingerly, trying to calm her down.

        "Yes, Michael. I know. But this is apart of my character. I'm not a push-over and I don't take her antics lightly. She's not only messing with you, but me now as well. You're my man and I'm your woman. I will not let us, or our relationship be disrespected."

       Caressing her back lightly, Michael let out a heavy sigh and said, "I understand, sweetheart. But look. We both need to calm down, ok? It's bad enough I was angry earlier and now you are as well. I'll deal with Raven later today after I replace my car. Let's get some rest and spend the day together. Since I have no car to drive, I'll have to call out of work today."

        "Ok, Michael but um... Wouldn't I technically be skipping your class?" she laughed, feeling her anger subside.

       Scooping her up into his arms, he winked at her and said, "Yes. But I'll let this one slide. We can go over today's lesson while making love."


***

      Later that morning, Michael awoke to the smell of coffee and what he used to call 'The Michael Jackson breakfast; scrambled eggs and turkey bacon. It was his favorite.

       As he entered the kitchen, he smiled at the sight of Symphony preparing breakfast for him. She was wearing one of his favorite red shirts and singing to herself.

        Walking up quietly behind her, he wrapped his hands around her waist and pressed his body snuggly against her's. "Hey baby, just give me a few more minutes and I'll be done fixing breakfast. Are you hungry?"

        Michael yawned. "A little, but take your time. I have to call the substitute teacher and give him my lesson plans for the day. After that, I'll call the university to let them know I'll be out today. God, I hate calling out."

      Reaching her hand upwards to touch his cheek, she smiled and said, "I know you do, but at least you always keep us, your students up to date when you're absent."

       Michael smirked. "Well I hope you'll enjoy your private lesson. I can't wait to hear you moan while I go over 'Sequential Modulations' with you."

        "Mmm, how perfect, Dr. Black! I'm looking forward to my private lesson," Symphony giggled.


***

      Later that afternoon while riding in Michael's new car, Symphony shook her head at him and said, "I can't believe you bought the same car."

       Placing his hand on her knee, Michael laughed. "Hey, what can I say? I'm a creature of habit. This car is efficient and cost-effective."

      "Seriously? Symphony huffed while giving him the side-eye. "I'm sure you make more than enough money as the top music professor at Peabody."

     "While that is true, I still love a good deal. And don't forget, I also own half of Sony ATV," he smirked proudly, " I really don't need the university's paycheck."

      "Oh now you're just showing off," she chuckled.

      "Yes. I am. But with good reason. The money that I make at the university get's directly deposited into the (Music for Medicine Center). I also donate money to many other charities as well. And since I care about the earth, I love my Toyota Prius because it's fuel-efficient and is a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle. Meaning that less poisonous gases and pollutants are released into the atmosphere."

       Symphony laughed and shook her head sideways. "Alright-alright! I was only teasing. I totally understand, and that's very sweet of you. I'm sure the university and many are grateful for your contributions. That's another thing I love about you. I love how giving you are."

       Leaning over towards her, Michael kissed her cheek lightly and said, "I love that about you as well. Seeing you perform for free at the center made my heart swell. You're a good woman, Symphony. Please don't change. The world needs more people like you. The kids really love you and you brought some happiness into their day."

     

       "Oh, but it's nothing compared to what you do for the kids. I wish I could do more for them. They're the best audience and I always look forward to seeing their adorable little faces."


      "Hey, how would you like to accompany me during my volunteer times? I'm sure your new friend, Akeelah, would love to see you."


      "Aww. I'd love to see her as well. All of the kids actually. Quite a few always ask me when I'm coming back. They're so sweet."

       

       "Wonderful! So I'll share my volunteer schedule with you and you can join me when available. Sound good?"


       "Sounds good, Michael! And where are we going? I've never been to this side of town before," Symphony asked inquisitively as she looked out of the window.

        Placing his hand over hers, he took a long pause and said, "Raven's. This is where she lives. I want you with me while I set things straight with her."

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