15. In Love With Spring: My Novel Online
Updated: Jan 27
ON ONE OF THE FIRST warm days of spring, Mandy shut off her typewriter and folded her jacket over her arm. She said, “Goodnight,” even though she knew no one would respond. By now their hostility amused her. As she passed Mr. Perry’s office, she waved. His polite nod belied the injury Mandy knew she’d inflicted with her phone calls from Tim. What a great plan that had been! She was meeting him at Russel-Berries and couldn’t wait.
He was standing at the door, and when they saw each other, they laughed for no reason. Inside, they ordered iced tea—a welcome departure from the hot tea they’d been drinking all winter. A moment later, Pauline delivered two tall, thin glasses, and a couple of straws.
“Good,” he said unwrapping his, “paper, not plastic. The plastic ones wind up in the ocean and fish swallow them by mistake.”
Unexpectedly, Mandy’s mood crashed. Watching him pour two packets of sugar into his tea, she thought, Why isn’t he asking me out? What’s the matter with him? Why does he keep inviting me here if he doesn’t want to start something up? To her shock, she suddenly heard herself say, “You know, Tim, I’ve never been friends with a guy for so long without having him ask me out.”
Then she sat back, amazed. There! She said it! And she was proud of it. Not only was it more or less true, but it implied that she’d had lots of boyfriends.
“Oh, you wouldn’t go out with me,” he said.
“Yes, I would!”
“I didn’t think you’d want to.”
“Why? Why would you think that?”
“Well because…I didn’t know how you felt about me.”
“Tim!” Mandy shook her head. “Are you for real? I practically throw myself into your arms every time I see you!”
“But…I’ve wanted to ask you out since the day I met you!”
“Why didn’t you say so?”
They looked at each other in surprise and delight. When he didn’t say anything, she said, “So ask me out, already!”
He laughed. “Okay, are you free Saturday night?”
"Let me think about it," she teased. A weird thought came to her: This will be a fun story to tell our kids someday!
Lisbeth felt weird the first time, seating herself at Grandfather’s piano; nerves jangling, she prayed she wouldn’t embarrass herself. But as soon as Kevin established the beat, she fell into a jazz groove that Simon and Eddie followed, and she forgot what it was even like to be shy. Being in a band, creating magic together…This is amazing. Reading each other, the three musicians ended the jam at the same moment, as if they’d rehearsed it a hundred times.
“Wow!” she said, so surprised.
Simon laughed. “I hate to say I told you so!”
“That’s my girl,” said Kevin from behind his set.
His girl. Lisbeth couldn’t stop the smile spreading across her face. She and Kevin had been going out every weekend, usually to dinner and a movie, and they saw each other two evenings a week at practice. On Wednesday practice ended early in order to have the house rock band-free by the time Grandfather came home, and they’d go out to Burger King for fries and a Coke. If I hadn’t gotten sick, I wouldn’t have promised myself to get out more, and I wouldn’t have met him! God had kept His part of the bargain, and she was keeping hers.
AT ALLIE'S SCHOOL the buzz was about Billy Nugent. He was one of those rare kids who was popular not because he was great looking or rich or a jock, but because of his personality; he had, in fact, been voted “Most Likeable” by the yearbook staff. But since he wasn’t great looking or rich or a jock, Allie didn’t know who he was until her friends started to rave.
“He’s such a honey,” squealed Carly. “I dropped my pen the other day and he picked it up and I said, ‘Thank you,’ and he said, ‘It’s what I live for.’ I cracked up!”
Janine said, “Yesterday I bumped into him, accidentally by mistake, and I go, ‘Oh, sorry!’ And he goes, ‘The pleasure was all mine.’ I was like, Oh my god.”
“Billy Nugent…is that the kid we saw talking to the lunch ladies the other day?” Allie asked. “He was calling them by their first names. It was kind of weird.”
“He’s a riot!”
Allie shrugged, but she was intrigued. “Where’s his locker? I want to get another look at him.”
They scurried upstairs, tracking their prey until they spotted him near the water bubbler. Carly called his name in the silky, teasing voice teenaged girls use as a prelude to giggles. As he turned, Allie inspected him without much interest. Nothing remarkable about him except the effect he was having on her friends. He murmured, “Hello,” as he passed, and they tittered and hung onto each other as if they were unable to stand without assistance. Watching him disappear around the corner, Allie thought, Maybe he is kind of cute.
Within a week she joined the ranks of those who loved Billy Nugent. He was so cool! All the teachers adored him, and even the principal favored him. Suddenly he was the most desirable boy in the world. Allie had to have him.
She and her circle of friends were considered the prettiest and most popular girls in school; it was taken for granted that they could have their pick of boys. They were the girls other girls hated. So it was only a moment of time before one of them conquered Billie Nugent. It was rumored that he was dating a very sweet but plain girl from out of town, but that would pose no problem. Most of the kids assumed Allie would be the victor, because she was generally accepted as the prettiest girl in her group. So once she set her sights on Billy, she went to work.
She had several methods of operation, all of which had met with success in the past. There was the inviting glance, the averted gaze; she could be shy, as if interested, or aloof, like she couldn’t care less. These were the lures in her tacklebox, and once a boy bit the hook, all she had to do was reel him in.
But Billy proved to be one stubborn fish. He always returned her smile, but there was never anything suggestive about his expression. He was just being nice. Allie realized she would have to approach him—something she’d never done before. But what would she say? He wasn’t in any of her classes. He wasn’t even in her grade, he was a year older. Allie pondered this situation during the remaining weeks of school, and as summer vacation approached, she knew she’d have to do something pretty quick or else she wouldn’t see him again until she went to high school in another year.
So on the second to last day she stepped up behind him He was working the combination on his locker, tapping his foot impatiently.
He turned. “Hi.”
He didn’t call me by name. Maybe he doesn’t know who I am! But how can that be possible? “You psyched that school is almost over?”
He opened his locker and deposited his books inside. “I guess so. I don’t know. I like school.”
“Yeah,” Allie agreed although she, like most kids, preferred being out. She was put off by how uncommunicative he was; it seemed like this was the first time she’d ever seen him not smiling. “Do you hang around, or go away, or what?”
“Usually hang around. This summer will stink, though. My girlfriend and I just broke up.”
Oh good. “How come you broke up with her?”
“I didn’t—she broke up with me.”
“She did?” Allie was indignant on his behalf. “When?”
That explains it—he’s still depressed. “How come she broke up with you?”
“I guess we were too different. We didn’t get along too good. Oh well, what can you do.” With his back to her he took a book out of his locker, slammed it shut.
“I’m sure you’ll find someone else soon,” she said.
Billy turned, and she waited while he took in her thick, shimmering blonde hair, her lively blue eyes, her perfect complexion, her short skirt and her tight sweater. “I don’t know,” he said slowly. “I don’t think I’m ready to go out with anyone else yet.”
“I bet the right girl could help you get over her.” Allie felt a prick of impatience. Hurry up and ask me out!
“The right girl, huh? Wonder who that would be.” He stared at her a long time. The bell rang and students streamed past them on their way to class.
No way, I’m not going to beg. “Well,” she said, “good luck. See you!” When she turned to go, she wasn’t surprised to hear him say, “Hey, Allie, can I ask you something?”
So he does know my name. I’m not going to say yes right away; after what he put me through, he doesn’t deserve that. “Sure. What?”
“Did you think I was going to ask you out?”
It was so far from what she was expecting to hear that she didn’t even understand the words. “Wh…what?”
“I said, Did you think I was going to ask you out? Or any of your snotty friends…did you honestly think that?”
While Allie waited for her brain to catch up, a teacher walked by and told Billy how much she enjoyed having him in class, and that she hoped he’d have a nice summer.
“Thanks,” he said. “You too.”
The teacher noticed Allie, gave her a brief nod, and headed down the hall.
Billy went on. “You think you can have any guy you want. But not me. I’m not going to fall for any of your tricks.”
“Tricks?” Allie repeated, injured; then anger rescued her pride. “You don’t even know me!”
“Don’t I? I’ve heard what the other kids say about you. I know you think you can drive a guy wild with one blink of your eye. Well I’m not like that. I don’t go out with a girl just because she’s pretty or popular or will go to second base with anyone. I go out with a girl if she’s smart and sensitive and unselfish. And has better things to think about than clothes and hair.”
Allie took a step back. She wanted to object but couldn’t. He’s right! Everyone in school knows what I’m like. What boy in his right mind would be interested in me except for like a quick make out session? She looked around to see if anyone had overheard his comments—no one had—and then with her head down, hurried away.
When she got home, Mandy met her at the door. “Thank god you’re home.”
“What is it?” Allie put her purse on the table. “Why aren’t you at work?”
“I left early. I have to figure out what to wear on my date with Tim.”
“That’s two days from now!”
“I know, but I tried on everything I own, and nothing looks good.”
She grabbed Allie’s hand and dragged her down the hall, into her room, and gestured at all the clothes on the bed. “What should I do? Should I buy something?”
“Well, what kind of message do you want to convey?”
“What do you mean?”
“What kind of message. Are you hot for him? Do you want to drive him crazy? Or do you want to come across as wholesome, so he won’t be tempted to take advantage of you? Or you could go for an academic look—that might be a real turn on to someone like Tim, since he’s a teacher.”
As Mandy watched Allie her inspect the options, she noticed that Allie’s skirt was so short that it almost exposed her cheeks when she leaned over, and her tee shirt that was cut too low to accommodate a bra. Her breasts were still small enough that she could get away with it, but still, in Mandy’s opinion, she should have found a way to wear one. “I think my message would be different from your message,” she said wryly. “I’m a little more modest.”
“Maybe that’s why it took him so long to ask you out. Maybe he thought you just liked him as a friend.”
Mandy was impressed. “That is what he thought.”
“Uh huh. So do you want him to go insane at the sight of you?”
Mandy nodded humbly.
“Then wear this dress.” Allie held one up.
“That’s not a dress, that’s a shirt.”
“Wear it as a dress. It’s slinky enough so you won’t need a belt—when he puts his arm around you, all he’ll feel is a smooth line. And the color is subdued enough to be sophisticated, but with just the right touch of eager willingness.”
“Are you serious? What will Mom say when she sees me leaving the house wearing just a shirt?”
“Mom had a baby seven and a half months after she was married,” Allie reminded her. “What could she say?”
“Just try it.”
Mandy took off her blouse and skirt and pulled it on. A long shirt, it still made for a short dress, reaching the middle of her thighs. With delight, she examined her slinky reflection in the mirror. “It looks like I just threw it on! Tim would never guess I’ve been sweating for two hours over what to wear! What about shoes?”
“Flats. That’ll make it look like you hardly took any time with it at all. Like you know you’re an attractive woman no matter what you wear. Boys love girls who are confident.”
Mandy slipped on black flats and was amazed. She’s right, it looks like I have a ton more important things to think about than the way I look! “Thank god you’re such an expert about boys,” she said happily.
And when Tim saw Mandy emerge from the house, he caught his breath. “Hey, you look great.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ve seen this a thousand times,” she shrugged.
The wine eased their inhibitions, and Tim told her that the first time Jules brought her to Simon’s house, he’d thought that she was the most incredibly great-looking girl he’d ever seen.
“Oh stop,” she slipped her hand.
“Then I figured, She’s probably got a hundred boyfriends. So I didn’t say anything. I hardly said a word to you until the wind blew your skirt up that afternoon in front of Russel-Berries.”
“I was so glad to see you that day. I loved how mad you were at my boss.”
“Then you took forever to ask me out.”
“I told you—I didn’t think you would want to go out with me.”
They both laughed. How could things have gotten so complicated?
During E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, he put his arm around her and rubbed her shoulder. One of her hands was resting so high on his thigh that he had trouble concentrating on the movie. Against his better judgement he imagined that hand sliding up just a few more inches, fumbling with his fly…hastily pushing the thought aside, he took his arm from around her shoulder and took her hand in his, lowering it closer to his knee. He planned to take it real slow with her, because he knew through Simon who knew through Jules that she was a virgin (and he assumed that Mandy knew through Jules who knew through Simon that he’d only been with two girls.) However, the fact that she’d worn a shirt for a dress gave him hope that she wouldn’t mind if things heated up a bit.
After the movie, they drove around for a while. She was leaning against him and he was stroking her waist with the hand that wasn’t steering. Occasionally he would let the hand wander down a little lower, along her thigh, and her response was to snuggle a little closer. A good sign.
He drove to a park and suggested they get out and take a walk. She agreed. As they strolled in silence, their minds were racing. Mandy commented on how pretty it was, with a near-full moon, a warm breeze, and bright stars. Tim’s thoughts were less poetic as he debated just how far she was going to let him go.
Eventually they reached a tree that shielded them from the lights of the street. Luxuriating in the first private moments of the evening, Tim sat with his back against its trunk, and Mandy sat at his feet. She asked if he liked the movie, and he said the special effects were cool. He reached out and tugged her hand, and she moved closer. Their first kiss was gentle, then became passionate. He pulled her onto his lap. Her arms went around his neck, and as he ran his hands lightly down her sides, his elbow accidentally brushed one of her breasts. Mandy’s startled moan was his green light: the fingers that had been canvassing her back now mobilized forces and moved boldly to the front. There was no resistance to their advance, and when his hand grasped the prize, chills shot through him.
But his victory was thwarted when he sent his other hand up her dress and tried to capture her panties. Mandy’s sensibilities intervened: swiftly rescuing her panties with one hand, she pushed him away with the other.
Tim retreated. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t plan on that happening, I got carried away, I am so sorry!”
Mandy got to her feet.
“I’m really sorry.” Tim jammed his hands into his jeans pockets.
“That’s okay, I just got…I mean, I guess I’m not…ready yet…”
“Of course not, this is our first date! Christ! What an asshole, I am just so sorry. Please don’t be mad.”
“I don’t want to make you do anything you’re not ready for. I’ll wait for as long as it takes. Years even.”
She laughed. “Okay.”
Holding hands, they walked back to the car. But when he dropped her off a few minutes later, something about her goodnight kiss told him he wouldn’t have to wait very long. That and the fact that she’d worn a shirt as a dress.