• robinstratton23

18. In Love With Spring: My Novel Online

Updated: Jul 28, 2019


Mandy sat at her desk, trying to look busy, but it was impossible to stop looking at 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.”


“Looks like you’re just sitting there,” Estelle said.


“I’m doing stuff,” Mandy protested. She opened a drawer and pretended to be looking for something.


“She’s always doing that,” Estelle said to the others. “She always says she’s got stuff to do, but every time I look at her I swear to God she’s just sitting there looking at her 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!”


Just ignore them. If you react, they’ll be getting what they want. 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.”


“What?”


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 past two.



“And then he says, 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 nodded, wrote it down, then both women turned questioningly to Tim. He attempted to adjust to the new topic, but, unprepared, his eyes scanned the menu without being able to focus on any of the words. All he could think about was Mandy’s latest injustice.


“Um, uh… 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.”


“But… ”


“It’s new, 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. God—all he has in there are girlie magazines.”


“Does a turkey burger look like a hamburger?”


“Sort of.”


“Does it taste like a hamburger?”


“No.”


“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?” He was startled. “You wouldn’t do that, would you?”


She flipped her hand. “You silly.”


Pauline stopped by with two Diet Cokes. Mandy thanked her. Tim pictured Mr. Perry’s face as he saw Mandy in a bikini.


“You won’t even miss the bun.”


“What?”


“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.”


Tim’s mind raced uneasily, and he tried not to lecture. He could remember, word for word, his conversation with Mandy on the day Simon introduced them: This is my tutor, Tim.” Simon grinned, unaware of Tim’s sudden, stunned silence. Mandy’s skirt was short and her legs were gorgeous. “Nice to finally meet you,” she smiled. “Simon has told us so much about you.” Tim’s swift response, “Simon has told me a lot about you, too,” was clumsy. Jules said wryly, “Wow, earth shattering,” and everyone laughed. His initial impression was that she could be a model. Eventually he’d come to respect her for the way she too care of her sisters, for her courage during Lisbeth’s illness, and her sense of duty when she got a full-time job in order to help with the medical bills. “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.”


He read her loud and clear. 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 Masters 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,” Mandy said. “You don’t have any tests next week… ”


“Uh… Stan is home… ”


“So let’s get a room.”


Before he could react, Pauline appeared. “We’re out of turkey burgers.” 


Get a room! Out of turkey burgers! His head was spinning.


“A hamburger is fine,” Mandy said.


“Red meat… ” Tim objected feebly as Pauline left to execute the revised order.


“Don’t you want to?”


“Maybe if I get it without the bun… ”


“No, I mean, don’t you want to get a room? Tonight. With me.”


Tim stared at her while he waited for his brain to catch up. “A hamburger and a room,” he said finally. “Yes. That’s what I want.”


She smiled. “Well okay, then.”



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. An acne medication 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. 


“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, and 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 is over? 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 God, 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 have to go in, too!” and to Mandy’s horror, Mrs. Holloway shut her car door and trotted after Tim, and they both went inside.


“You’re not serious!” 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. “We’ll have to go to another drug 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. Want to?”


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 knit 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 while the wine got cold, and when he lowered her onto the bed half an hour later, they were both moist and pink and warm. He entered her gently. She wrapped her long legs around his waist and pulled him close. There was a moment of sharp pain, and then it felt okay. He moved in and out, slowly at first, and then it felt really good. She heard herself moan, and he moved faster. His breath in her ear was rapid and shallow, and all of a sudden their bodies were slamming together like two hands clapping. He delivered a final husky groan, and then lay still. 


Mandy would love to have been one of those girls who came on the first time, but she’d had no expectations of it, so she wasn’t disappointed. She knew they’d work together to make it happen for her. The first time was just… the first time. And it felt amazing, to be lying in his arms.

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© 2019 by Robin Stratton