• robinstratton23

6. In Love With Spring: My Novel Online

Updated: Jul 28, 2019

When Brent’s car pulled up, Allie looked out the window and announced his arrival. “You’re right, Mandy, he’s a total babe! But who’s that in the car with him?”
Mandy, standing beside her, frowned. “Ashley. And that guy must be her cousin. Shoot. I was hoping he’d come get me first.”
It was on the tip of Jules’ tongue to make a crack, but Lisbeth said, “Ashley probably wouldn’t let him. She knows how gorgeous you are. Probably afraid you’ll steal Brent away.”
“He’s coming in,” Mandy hissed. “Don’t anyone say anything weird!”
Four April females nodded obligingly. Their eyes glued to the door, they lined up conspicuously to meet the man of Mandy’s dreams. Mandy flipped her hand, indicating that they should scatter to give the appearance of a more casual reception, but no one moved. She waited one blasé second after the bell sounded before opening the door.
“Hi, Brent.”
“Hi. Wow, holy crap you look great!”
“Thanks! Um. So…” Nervous, she led him up the line introducing everyone
“Hi, Allie. Lisbeth. Hey there, Jules. Hi, Mrs. April.” He responded appropriately, but kept looking at Mandy.
Jules didn’t blame him; the night before, Mandy, giggling uncontrollably, had shown them her new Frederick’s of Hollywood padded push-up bra. “For cleavage!” she said. Lisbeth, fingering the cups, said “I can’t wait to be able to wear one!” Jules said, “What do you need cleavage for?” and Mandy, Lisbeth, and Allie laughed.
Ashley, waiting in the car, greeted Mandy with as much enthusiasm as possible, but couldn’t keep the envy out of her voice as she said, “This is my cousin, Roger.”
“Wow, hi,” he said.
Ashley turned on him with a glare. “She’s just here because I had to take you and Brent needed a date.”
“I know,” said Roger.
Once they arrived and chose a table, Ashley said, “Brent! Check out what song they’re playing!”
“‘Keep on Loving You’,” Brent obliged.
“This is our song! Oh my God, we have to dance!”
“Well, um, shouldn’t I dance with…”
“She’s fine. You’re fine, right, Mandy?”
Mandy nodded.
“So come on. Roger, watch my purse!”
Mandy, watching Brent get dragged onto the dance floor, sighed wistfully.
“Want to dance with me, Mandy?” Roger asked.
She looked at him and realized he knew exactly what was going on. Humiliated, she shook her head. “No, thanks.”
“I’ll get us punch. Okay?”
“Okay. Thanks.”
She watched him make his way to the refreshments table. On the ride over she’d learned that he was majoring in engineering at MIT. He seemed sweet, and was probably really smart. Jules would have loved his dark-rimmed glasses—they made him look intellectual, rather than nerdy. But Mandy couldn’t help noticing that his hair was unfashionably long, and his suit—not even a tux!—looked suspiciously as if it had been borrowed from someone. Ashley’s father, maybe. With a sinking heart, she wondered if the other kids assumed that Roger was her date. Is it my imagination, or are Brent’s friends laughing at me? They all know I like Brent… and he’s out there with Ashley… I should have stayed home!
When Roger returned a minute later with two glasses of punch he said, “Just so you know, I looked around, and you’re the prettiest girl here.” He sipped. “By far.”
“Oh! Thank you.” She sipped too—without tasting.
“I mean, not just pretty. Really really pretty. I mean… oh man.” He chuckled and shook his head. “Pretty smooth talker, huh.”
Mandy managed to smile. “Thank you,” she said again. She watched Brent dance with Ashley.
“Want cheese?”
“They have cheese up there. Little cubes. I could get you some.”
“No thanks.”
“Mind if I get some?”
“Of course not.”
Again, she watched him walk; now noticing that his suit was too tight across the waist. She couldn’t help but compare him to Brent, who was trim and athletic. I’m sure everyone thinks he’s my date, and that Brent changed his mind and decided to go with Ashley after all! This stinks!
She produced another smile when Roger returned with a plate of cheese, and when he offered it to her, she grimly stabbed a cube with a brightly-colored toothpick. Cheese is so fattening, but so what!
“Keep on Lovin’ You” ended, and Ashley and Brent came back to the table. “That’s our song, we love that song,” Ashley said. She was holding Brent’s hand, and sat next to him.
“So,” Brent said awkwardly, “anyone want punch?”
“All set.” Mandy held up her glass and took another sip.
“Is it good? Any booze in it?”
“Brent and I love punch with booze in it,” Ashley said.
The DJ put on “My Love” by Paul McCartney, and Brent said, “Mandy, um, you wanna dance?”
Mandy ignored Ashley’s glare. “Yes.”
He rose and offered his hand. They glided off and suddenly she was in his arms, looking up at him.
“Are you having fun?” he asked.
Before she could answer I am now, he said, “What the hell?”
She followed his gaze and saw Ashley motioning for him to come to the table. Don’t go, don’t go…
“Shit. I have to go see what she wants.” Still holding her hand, he led her back to the table. “What?”
“You said you were going to get us punch!”
“In a minute!”
She pouted. “Everyone else has punch.”
“Okay. Jesus, Ashley.”
He headed toward the refreshments table; at the same time, Roger stood and said, “Mandy… ?”
She nodded and they went to the dance floor. Her face was so red that she kept her head down.
“I don’t know what Brent sees in her,” Roger said.
“Well, she’s usually nicer than this.”
He laughed. “No, she’s not. I’ve known her for seventeen years, and this is exactly what she’s like all the time. Spoiled brat. Only child. Her parents don’t like how serious she is with Brent—that’s why they made her take me. They had this huge fight. I was in the other room, but I could hear it, they were all screaming at the top of their lungs.”
“Oh wow.”
He held her a little closer. “I also don’t know what you see in Brent.”
“Well, he’s usually nicer too.”
“He’s an idiot. He’s obviously attracted to you, but he’s too much of a wimp to tell Ashley he wants to ask you out.”
“Really?” Mandy hated herself for asking. “You think he’s attracted to me?”
“Who wouldn’t be?” Roger’s eyes were soft and brown, but had an intensity that was lacking in Brent’s crystal blues. Mandy caught herself wondering if he was a good kisser. She looked over at Brent and Ashley and saw that they were sitting very close. At the same moment, Brent looked up. He looked so handsome in his tux that Mandy felt actual pain. For a moment, she couldn’t breathe. Oh no, I’m going to cry!
Roger maneuvered her around so that she was no longer facing the table, and she sneaked a glance around the room. So weird, seeing all the kids dressed up. Most of the boys never wore anything but jeans, but tonight they looked so cute, so compliant in black with cummerbunds of royal blue, turquoise, or jade, as dictated by the color of the gown of their date. The girls, self-conscious and chilly in spaghetti-strap dresses, compared shoes and hair styles, and flirted with each other’s boyfriends. It dawned on Mandy that no one was laughing at her.
“My Love” ended, and the dancing heated up with a Michael Jackson medley, followed by “Still the One’” by Orleans.
Eventually, Mandy excused herself to go to the bathroom. She pushed open the door and was surprised to find it full of girls. They welcomed her in eagerly.
“Mandy! Who is he?
“He’s such a hunk!”
“How old is he?”
“His name is Roger.” Mandy checked herself in the mirror, and saw that she was rosy from all the dancing, and glowing. “He’s in college.
The others squealed. “You are so lucky!”
On the way home Ashley sat up front with her head on Brent’s shoulder. Mandy was allocated to the back seat with Roger. Brent’s ears look so funny! She thought suddenly, squinting in the semi-darkness. How come I never noticed? She laughed. Roger smiled at her.
“What’s so funny?” Brent turned down the radio so he could hear their answer.
“Nothing,” said Mandy.
“I hate people who have secrets.” Ashley turned the radio back up.
A few minutes later, Brent pulled into Mandy’s driveway. Roger got out to walk her to the door. Mandy’s eyes met Brent’s in the rearview mirror, and as he said goodnight, his tone was distinctly regretful. You big baby, Mandy thought; Roger is right, you’re a wimp.
Ashley, moving her hand up to run her fingers through Brent’s hair, said sweetly, “’Night, Mandy.” Then she added, “Not that I’ll get any sleep tonight, right, Brent?”
Mandy wanted to shout, You can have him! It was wonderful, to be out from under his spell.
“Be right back.” Roger took Mandy’s hand and led her up the walk. When they arrived at the porch, they lingered, their arms loosely around each other’s waist. “I had a great time, Mandy.”
“I did, too.”
Roger pulled her close and kissed her on the lips. It was nice—just the right amount of pressure, not too wet and not too dry. The hug that followed was nice, too; tight, then he released her. “Goodnight.”
Mandy watched him walk back to the car. He turned and waved before disappearing into the darkness of the car.
It was still early and everyone was up, waiting for her. As soon as she came in, they bombarded her with questions.
“How was it?”
“Did you have a good time?”
“How was Brent?” This came from Jules, and to everyone’s surprise, Mandy said, “You were right. He’s a jerk.”
“He is? I mean, yeah.” Jules looked at the others, then back at Mandy. “Wait, what happened?”
Mandy took off her earrings, and then released her fluffy chestnut hair from its jeweled clip. “He’s using Ashley big time, because she’ll put out.”
“Whoa,”’ said Mom. A proud alumni of the 60s and the whole Free Love era, she was, nonetheless, startled. For the millionth time, she thought how lucky she was to have just girls. Boys seemed so predatory. Dad had never exactly said he was disappointed, but doesn’t every man want a son? When you have a boy, you only have to worry about one penis; when you have a girl, you have to worry about all the penises, he used to say. Mom sighed. Apparently they’d dodged a bullet this time, but she knew soon she would have to start worrying about all the penises.
© 2019 by Robin Stratton