18. In Love With Spring: My Novel Online
Updated: Jan 29
MANDY SAT AT HER DESK trying to appear busy, but it was impossible to stop checking her watch. Two o’clock? How could it only be two o’clock? Everything was done—letters typed, invoices sent out, and calls made. The filing had been done during Mr. Perry’s lunch break.
“Mandy, what are you doing?” Florence was glaring at her.
“Just finishing up a few things.”
“You’re just sitting there,” Estelle said.
“I’m doing stuff,” Mandy protested. She opened a drawer and pretended to be looking for something.
“You always say that, but I swear to god all day long you just sitting there admiring your nails.” Estelle flared her hands and said in a high voice,”Oooh, my nails are sooooo beautiful!”
Mandy’s face burned with rage as she occupied herself with a stack of papers; meticulously, she inspected each one.
“Stop, you’ll make her cry,” Norma said.
“Don’t cry! Your mascara will run!”
Mandy looked at her watch. Three minutes after two.
The door opened and Mr. Perry came in, reeking of garlic. “Good afternoon, ladies,” he greeted them. Pausing at Mandy’s desk, he asked, “Those invoices ready to go?”
Before Mandy could answer, Florence sputtered, “Well I should hope so! She worked on them all morning!”
Mr. Perry barely glanced at her as he accepted the stack Mandy handed him. “Good girl. And I have some filing for you to do in my office.”
“I did it.”
Mandy tried to sound efficient. “After I finished the invoices, I went into your office and did it.” He couldn’t make a stink about it in front of the other women, could he? She waited while he wrestled with his anger.
“Next time let me know when you’ll be sneaking into my office,” he finally said in a cold voice he’d never used with her before.
Sneaking? Mandy wanted to object. Truthfully, however, “sneaky” described her furtive actions better than any other word. She’d waited until Florence was on the phone, Estelle was dealing with a customer, and Norma was in the break room.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Perry.”
“My office is my private sanctuary.”
“Okay. I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.”
Her contrition satisfied him. Mandy felt rather than saw the triumphant glances exchanged between her co-workers. She looked at her watch again. Five minutes after two.
“And then he goes, ‘Let me know when you’ll be sneaking into my office!’” Mandy told Tim a few hours later. They were at Russel-Berries waiting to order. “Like he cares if I go in there. I mean, the door is always open.” She sat back and sipped her water. “I’m having salad.”
Tim, who hadn’t looked at the menu yet, said grimly, “He just wanted to be there to watch you.”
“I know. Maybe a Caesar salad. I almost never have that.”
“When are you going to quit?”
“Quit?” She tapped her lips with one finger. “The only problem with Caesar salad is that the dressing is fattening.”
“I hate the thought of you working for that asshole. I hate that you have to…” Tim paused as Pauline arrived.
“Ready to order?”
“A cup of minestrone soup, please,” said Mandy, “and a Diet Coke.”
Pauline wrote it down, then both women turned questioningly to Tim and waited as he attempted to adjust to the new topic. “Um, uh…Diet Coke for me, too, and, um, a burger, I guess.”
“Oh, Tim.” Mandy’s tender voice caressed his name. “Red meat is so bad for you.”
“We have turkey burgers,” Pauline suggested. “Less calories, less fat. Good for you. And you can skip the bun. Just have it with some lettuce and tomato.”
Soundly overruled, Tim surrendered his menu. As soon as Pauline was out of earshot, he said, “What’s a turkey burger?”
“It’s a burger…only it’s turkey.”
“It’s a new craze, you’ll like it. Then he gives me this line about his office being his private sanctuary. Like it’s full of valuables or something! All he has in there are girlie magazines.”
“Does a turkey burger look like a hamburger?”
“Does it taste like a hamburger?”
“Don’t you think I should have at least gotten it on a bun? Then I could pretend it was a real hamburger.”
“What I should do is just show up wearing a bikini. You know? Take my coat off, and all I’m wearing is this tiny bikini, and I say, Got any filing for me to do, Mr. Perry?”
“What?” Tim was startled. “You wouldn’t do that, would you?”
Pauline stopped by to drop off their Diet Cokes. Mandy thanked her, then said to Tim, “You won’t even miss it.”
“Put catsup on it, and you won’t even miss the bun. A bun has a lot of calories. Or a see-through nightie. I could tell him I didn’t have a chance to get dressed because I didn’t want to be late for work.”
“If you’re not happy there, you should find something else.”
“I know, I will. What should we do tonight?”
“Want to see a movie?”
Her hand crept across the table and nestled into his. “No.” For several weeks they’d been psyching themselves up for the Big Night. But so far, circumstances had conspired against them: Tim’s workload was compounded by his own studies as he pursued his M.A. in education, and he spent a lot of evenings at the library. Mandy liked to get to bed early on weeknights so that she wouldn’t be tired at the office the next day. Tim’s roommate Stan almost never left the apartment, and the one time he did was the same day Mandy started her period. “It’s Friday night and you don’t have any tests next week…”
“Stan is home.”
“So let’s get a room.”
Before he could react, Pauline appeared. “We’re out of turkey burgers.”
“He’ll have a hamburger,” Mandy said.
On the way to the motel, they stopped at a drug store. Tim went in to buy condoms, and Mandy waited in the car, spinning the radio’s knob, hunting for just the right song. “Who Can It Be Now” by Men at Work was cool, but she wasn’t in the mood for it now. She went past “The Rose” and “Do That to Me One More Time.” News. A McDonalds’ commercial. Marvin Gaye…her fingers stopped. “Sexual Healing.” She sat back. This was it—this would be the song she’d always remember having listened to while Tim was in the drug store buying condoms for the Big Night.
With a happy sigh, she smoothed her hair and adjusted a bra strap, all the while peering through the window, waiting for him to reappear. It seemed like a long time…but maybe because she was so anxious…? “Sexual Healing” ended, and Toto’s “Africa” came on, ended, and then “The Girl is Mine” by Michael Jackson. Where was Tim? With a sigh, Mandy shut off the engine, grabbed her purse, and went inside.
She found him in the aisle with the condoms, and he glanced at her when she appeared, but didn’t acknowledge her at all; instead, he turned his attention back to an attractive woman in her early 30s, and she heard him say, “He’s improved, but, and don’t get me wrong, I can tell he’s been working really hard, but sometimes it seems like he’s not paying attention.”
“But he loves your class!” sputtered the woman. “He always comes home and tells me how much he loves your class. I mean, not that he says he loves it. He’s a teenager. He’s not going to say he loves a class. But he likes it. I’m sure it’s his favorite.”
“Well he’s doing fine, Mrs. Halloway. There’s nothing wrong with a B+.”
Mandy pretended to shop, then became acutely aware that she was in front of the feminine lubrication products. Quickly moving a little farther away, safely into the tampon and pad section, she tried not to laugh as she listened in.
“But I want him to get all As. He’s headed to college next year. Can he ever come see you after school? To get extra credit or whatever?”
“All my students are welcome to make an appointment with me, of course,” Tim said. “Anytime. Anyway, it’s nice to see you again. And please say hello to—”
“Let’s set up an appointment right now,” Mrs. Holloway said. “For an afternoon next week.”
“That would be fine, just fine.” Tim shot a glance at Mandy, and that’s when she noticed that he was holding a package of condoms behind his back. “Call me on Monday and we can—”
“Oh let’s just set it up right now,” the woman said. “My calendar is in my purse…where’s my purse? Oh my gosh, I left my purse in the car!”
“If you just give me a call on Monday…”
“Come out to the car with me. I need to get my purse anyway. And we can talk some more.”
She turned and hurried down the aisle.
After a second, Tim followed her, and as he walked past Mandy, he slipped the package of condoms into her hand.
Mandy froze. The thought of buying condoms was mortifying to her. Don’t be so stupid. It’s not like it’s 1950! Still, she hesitated. Maybe he didn’t mean for her to buy them—maybe he was going to buy them when he came back in. But no, he’d be with Mrs. Holloway, and couldn’t. This is ridiculous. Just buy them. She took a deep breath and headed for the register; but the cashier was a boy, not a girl, and she stepped back into the aisle, put the condoms on top of a box of tampons, and went back to the car. In the safety of the darkness, she looked around the parking lot until she spotted them—Mrs. Holloway was talking, talking…leaning against the car, gazing up at Tim, occasionally reaching out to touch his arm, as if to make sure he was hearing her. Held hostage by her good manners, Mandy sat and waited and waited. “This is unbelievable,” she muttered. “Tell her to shut up. Tell her to go home. Tell her you have a life.”
When at last Tim seemed able to pull away, and Mrs. Holloway started to get into her car, it looked as if they were wrapping things up. But then Mandy heard Mrs. Holloway shout, “Wait! I’m so silly! I didn’t do my shopping!” and to Mandy’s horror, Mrs. Holloway shut her car door and trotted after Tim, and they both went inside.
“Oh come on!” Mandy said. With an angry sigh, she sat back to wait.
In just a few minutes he emerged, and he practically ran to the car. Yanking open the door, he tossed a bag on the seat, started up the engine, and sped out of the lot.
“I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay.” She opened the bag. “Candy bar and Doritos,” she said.
“Yeah. I couldn’t get the…” He shook his head. “There’s a drug store next to the liquor store.”
The room was surprisingly cozy. Or maybe I just think that because of the way I’m feeling, Mandy thought, putting her purse on the desk and slipping off her shoes.
“I’m going to go find the ice machine,” Tim said.
“Okay. I’ll see if there are any glasses in the bathroom.”
“Okay. Be right back.”
The door clicked shut behind him. Mandy sat on the bed. By now her heart was pounding and her palms were wet. She stood again and went into the bathroom to check her hair and makeup. She was taking the paper tops off the glasses when she heard him come back, and suddenly his reflection appeared in the mirror behind her.
“The wine is officially on ice,” he said. “Let’s take a bath.”
So much for hair and makeup! She nodded. He turned on the water, and they kissed while they waited. Mandy had thought to bring a couple of candles, and she lit them and turned out the lights. Tim’s hands got busy, pulling her short dress over her head, and reaching around to unsnap her bra. Then his lips were on her breasts and she gasped, her fingers gripping his shoulders. With one hand he unbuttoned his shirt and peeled it off. Next came his shoes, socks, and pants, and underwear. Mandy stepped out of her panties and marveled at the sensation of his erection pressing against her pelvic bone. She saw that his pubic hair was pale brown, like the hair on his head.
They slipped into the tub and soaped each other’s skin, and when he lowered her onto the bed half an hour later, they were both moist and pink and warm. She expected him to slide right in, the way they do in the movies, but instead he reached down and maneuvered himself inside, which struck her as a bit graceless. But once he was in, it felt good. She wrapped her long legs around his waist and pulled him close, and when he began to move in and out, slowly at first, and then faster, she heard herself moan. His breath in her ear was rapid and shallow. He delivered a final husky groan, and then lay still.
Mandy had been hoping to be one of those girls who came the first time, so she was a little disappointed. But she’d enjoyed the bath, she would enjoy the wine, and she knew they’d work together to make it happen for her.