34. In Love With Spring: My Novel Online
"Who was that?” Lisbeth asked as Allie came in.
“It was… one of my teachers. I missed my bus.” Allie put her purse on the chair, then realized she’d left her books in the art room.
“My art teacher.”
“Teachers aren’t supposed to drive kids home!”
“I missed my bus,” Allie said again. “I stayed late. I’m working on a dinosaur and I didn’t realize it was so late.”
The whole situation was suddenly clear to Lisbeth: Allie’s daily impatience to get to school, all the times she seemed so spaced out when Lisbeth was trying to talk to her, and the fact that the other day she said she hated the weekends. She has a crush on him. She recalled her own crush on a teacher, but right away knew it was different; he hardly knew I existed, and he certainly never drove me home! “Allie… this doesn’t seem like a good idea to me.”
“Accepting a ride home from a teacher. He could get in trouble.”
“We weren’t doing anything wrong!” Too much, she thought; “He just happened to see that I missed my bus. I’m sure it won’t happen again.”
“Allie… you think I don’t see what’s going on?”
Allie saw it was pointless to hide her feelings, so she said, “Okay, okay. I like him. But he’s my teacher. Not like anything is going to happen.”
“Something did happen! He drove you home!”
“Just this one time!”
“If he got caught doing that, he could be fired!”
Allie stared at her, then sat on the couch and sighed. That had not occurred to her. “But… he’s so perfect. He’s everything I’ve always wanted in a man.”
Lisbeth sat next to her. “I understand that. But you have to think about him. He could get fired. You don’t want that to happen, do you?”
Allie scowled. “No.” In two years I’ll graduate and then Mr. Guillen and I can be together. But how can I wait that long?
Jules was headed back to her dorm room one near-summer afternoon when she heard someone call her name. Turning, she saw Nathaniel hurrying to catch up.
“How’s it going?” he greeted, falling into step with her.
“I thought you were going to meet us last night to study.”
“Oh, uh…” she flushed. “Sorry.”
He laughed. “And how is the boyfriend?”
They headed past the dorms toward the reservoir near the campus. It was a great place to walk, and Jules loved the way you had to shout to be heard above the roar of the waterfall.
“So, what’s the deal with you two?”
“Is this thing serious? I can never tell.”
“No. Not for him, I mean.”
Nathaniel tried to minimize her discomfort by looking away. He’d met Michael several times and was not impressed. Yeah, it was cool how passionate he was about theatre. But they all agreed he wasn’t nice to Jules—not calling her even once over the summer or Christmas break, and always canceling on her at the last minute.
“What about you,” she asked suddenly. “How come you’re not going out with anyone?”
“Gun shy. Dated a girl all through high school, and after four years she dumped me.”
“Who knows. Looking back, I’m glad she did. She wasn’t very nice. She was the smartest girl in school and I liked that. I figured we’d be one of those couples who always had intense discussions and wouldn’t own a TV set, and wouldn’t know what was going on in the world.”
Jules smiled; it was the same scenario she wanted for herself. “So you haven’t dated anyone since then?”
“No. Spent the past two years looking for someone smart like her… but I finally realized I don’t want that. She was smart, but she was mean.”
“Like us,” Jules said, startled. “We’re smart but mean.”
“Charles is smart but mean. You’re not. You’re nice. You’re sweet.”
“Thanks. You’re sweet too, now. I mean… ” So awkward! “Since you took that personality course. It’s changed you.”
“That class made me realize that I needed to put other people down in order to make myself feel better.” He thought for a moment, then added, “I’m trying to not need that anymore.”
“So Charles is insecure?”
“I think so. Don’t you?”
She didn’t answer. She was wondering if Michael was insecure and that was why he… well, he didn’t put her down, exactly… but he made her feel so bad about herself. Two evenings ago she’d stood in this same spot with him and had the following conversation: “Almost summer.” “Yeah.” “You have plans?” “Yeah.” She didn’t ask what his plans were because she already knew—to not call her… not think of her, not miss her.
“Jules, you okay?”
“What? Yeah.” She checked her watch and determined she’d have just enough time to take a shower before Michael came over. “Let’s go back.”
They headed back to her dorm in silence. Eventually he offered gallantly, “You want to talk about Hesse? I’ll listen.”
“No, thanks.” From all the way up the hall she could see a note on her door. Please don’t be from him, please don’t be from him… she picked up her pace, snatched it off the door, and read it.
“Looks like a bummer,” Nathaniel said, watching her face.
She handed it to him, and he read out loud, “Jules, can’t come by tonight, will explain tomorrow.”
Unlocking her door, she went inside. “Classic Michael."
Nathaniel followed her in and shut the door behind him. When she sat dejectedly on the bed, he sat next to her. “He makes you miserable.”
“You allow it.”
“I know. It’s like he’s got some kind of, like he put a spell on me. I can’t figure it out.”
“I think we want what we can’t have. Do you know what I mean? Maybe if he was all over you, you wouldn’t be interested.”
“I guess we’ll never know. Anyway,” she forced a shrug. “No big deal.”
“Ha. Do you forget I’m a second-year psych student? I’m not going to let you off the hook so easy—you have to tell me how you feel.”
“Pissed off. Unappreciated. Like an idiot.” She slumped against him. “So, Mr. second-year psych student, tell me why I love him.”
He laughed. “How should I know? Ask me in two years when I graduate.”
She laughed too; put up her fist as if to punch him. “Second-year psych student.”
But he grabbed her hand and pried it open. Suddenly he was stroking her palm, and Jules felt a jolt shoot through her.
“Great hands,” he murmured. “Writer’s hands… but your fingers are so delicate and feminine. I never noticed.”
Jules looked at her familiar, sturdy, useful hands. To the best of her knowledge, she never been called “feminine” before, and yet all of a sudden that was exactly how she felt. Gloriously soft and silky and girlish.
A tiny gasp escaped from her slightly-parted lips. Their faces were close. With hearts slamming against rib cages, they kissed—gently at first, then with urgent desire. They lay back on her bed. His hand crept up her t-shirt and caressed her tummy, then inched its way up toward her breasts. If she made even the slightest objection he’d stop; but she didn’t. She arched her back and moaned. Then she reached down and tugged at the belt of his jeans. With an eager groan, he yanked off shoes, socks, shirts, jeans and underwear, and so did she, then they slipped into her sheets. His lips were on her nipples and as her body rose to meet his, her last lucid thought was, What the hell am I doing?
Afterwards, as they lay in each other’s arms, she played with the hair on his chest. The sex, she had to admit, had been way, way better than with Michael; it had been leisurely, with Nathaniel admiring her, kissing her in places she'd never been kissed in. It had been fabulous, actually. This is why people love sex, she thought.
“I didn’t plan on this happening,” he said. “I mean, I never… I never thought about you this way.”
“I know, I never thought about you this way either.” She shut her eyes. She knew this was a one-time thing. A really wonderful one-time thing.
A frantic pounding woke her. For a moment she thought she was in bed with Michael and someone was at the door. Then she heard Michael’s voice, and remembered that it was Nathaniel who was beside her. She lay perfectly still, had no idea what to do. Michael pounded again, and she heard him say, “Jules! Jules!”
“Better talk to him,” Nathaniel whispered.
She nodded. Got up, pulled on a nightshirt, and opened the door a couple of inches. Her heart ached at the sight of him; his dark disheveled hair, his deep intense eyes.
He tried to come in, but she held the door. Perplexed, he tried to read her. “Jules, don’t be mad about the note. I had to go to the hospital. My mom called—my dad had a heart attack last night!”
She felt sick. “Oh no! How is he?”
“They don’t know. They said it was bad. He’s still unconscious.” Michael stood there, twisting his hands, in a daze, as if he didn’t realize he and Jules were on opposite sides of the door. “It was so scary, Jules! We were in this waiting room for hours. When we finally saw him, he was all hooked up to these tubes and shit. We didn’t know if he was going to make it, so we were all telling him we loved him… and I realized it was the first time I ever told him that! I work with him every single summer, and I don’t think I ever told him I loved him!”
To Jules’ shock, tears started streaming down his face. Then he realized he was out in the hall. “Jules, let me in, please… ”
“Um, I’m not really awake, let me um, get dressed… ”
But he pushed his way in, and walked into her arms, burying his face in her neck. “The doctor said he might not… ” his voice trailed off at the sight of Nathaniel in her bed. Releasing her and stepping back, he stared; puzzled and then hurt.
“Michael, I got your note and I… I didn’t know about your dad… ” What could she say? What could she possibly say?
He backed out and she heard him run down the hall. Then she turned back to Nathaniel. “I can’t believe I did that to him! He was hurt and he needed me, and I was… you… ” Nathaniel’s mild apologetic smile infuriated her. “For once in his life he needed me and I was with someone else!”
“But you didn’t know… ”
“It’s no excuse! I shouldn’t have… we shouldn’t have… why did we? We’re just friends!”
“It just happened,” Nathaniel muttered, and felt hurt. He got out of bed and dressed quickly.
“I’m sorry,” Jules said weakly. “It’s not your fault, I didn’t mean to sound like I was mad at you.”
“Who are you mad at?”
“I’m mad that I would do that to him. He was scared and he came here to see me… ”
Nathaniel sat looking at her, and she stopped to think about what she’d just said, and then she said, “You think I slept with you to get back at him. To hurt him the way he keeps hurting me.”
“Did you? Be honest.”
“I don’t know. I really wanted you. I didn’t fake it or anything. I...” she took a deep breath and decided to be completely honest. "I had my first orgasm last night. With you. I... I never did with Michael."
"Oh!" He took her hand. “I didn't know.”
“But now I have to figure out… what to do.”
“What to do?”
“Do I go there and apologize? He’s not going to forgive me.”
Nathaniel patted her knee and stood. “I don’t think you should apologize. I think you should tell him how you feel.”
Michael didn’t come to the door when she knocked, just said “Go away.”
“Let me in. I want to talk.”
“Then I’m going to stand out here and talk, and the rest of the dorm will know what happened.”
She heard the creak of his bed and the sound of the door being unlocked, and waited for him to open it, but then she heard him flop down on his bed. Shaking her head, she let herself in.
The room was dark and the shades were down. Unsympathetically, she turned on the light. He squinted and covered his eyes like a child. She shut the door, and moved his feet so that she could sit on the bed.
“I felt really bad about what happened,” she started, “but on my way over here I realized I didn’t do anything wrong. You and I never had any kind of commitment to each other. For all I know, on those nights when you canceled, you could have been with someone else.”
“You know I wasn’t.”
“Actually,” she leaned back a little. “I don’t.”
“If we’d had any kind of what I consider a relationship, Michael, I never would have slept with Nathaniel. But you’ve never seemed to care much about what I do.”
“Yeah, I’m such a horrible person. I had this coming to me, right?”
“You never once said I love you. I need you. I want you. I don’t want you to sleep with anyone else.”
“Oh yeah? Well you never said any of that shit to me, either.”
“The difference is, I would have.”
He was still covering his eyes, and had not even looked at her. If she hadn’t been so mad, she would have been amused. And the award for the most dramatic performance by an actor goes to... “Think about what it’s been like for me. Always playing by your rules. Only seeing you if you felt like it. Only doing what you wanted to do.”
Finally he lowered his hand, and glared at her. “Okay, fine, this is my fault.”
“Come on, its not a 'fault' thing. I just...”
Now he sat up. “Don’t tell me I never showed you how much I cared about you! You know damn well I did! I just don’t express myself as easily as you do, and sorry if that hurts your precious little feelings!”
She opened her mouth to retort, then just shook her head. “God, Michael. You didn’t learn anything last night, did you.”
“You never let your father know how much you loved him. Now you’re afraid he might die without you being able to say it. Well I’m giving you the chance right now to tell me!”
He let out a snort. “If you think I’m going to tell you I love you after what happened, you’re out of your fucking mind, Jules.”
“What about before what happened? Did you?” She hated herself for asking, because she knew he wasn’t going to cave.
“You knew what I was like when we met. You knew I wasn’t one of those Oooh, I love you so much kind of guys!”
Even though it hurt, she held her head up and said haughtily, “If that’s how you feel, then you have no right to be mad.”
As she let herself out, she was proud of how cool and logical she’d been; but that didn’t stop her from running back to her dorm, slamming her door, and throwing herself on the bed in tears.
Later she heard that his father passed away, and that he had to drop out in order to run the bakery. She and Nathaniel never spoke of their night together, and when Simon showed up on the last day to pick her up, she said, “Get me out of here!”
“I might have done a bad thing,” Simon told Jules on the way home.
“Well, you know, I still hang out with Kevin sometimes… ”
“He asked about Lissie. So I told him about Preston. That they broke up. He was really upset, he kept asking if she was okay. I mean, it seemed like he was really really concerned about her. Like he still really loves her.”
“I’m sure he still loves her,” Jules sighed. “And I don’t think she ever stopped loving him.”
“So… should we?”
“Should we what?”
“Try to get them back together?”
“No,” Jules said. “I don’t want to see her hurt again.”