This story had its origins in high school although not much really happened there. There were three elementary schools in town that took you from kindergarten to the fifth grade; two middle schools that took you from the sixth through the eighth grade. There was only one high school that took you from the ninth to the twelfth so when I started the ninth grade I saw tons of kids that I had never seen before and one of them was Nancy Wilde. I don’t know if you remember what it was like when you saw your first love or the one that you hoped would be the first love (and hopefully only), but I as instantly ‘owned’ by Nancy.
I sat as close to her as I could in every class that we had together and pretty much followed her around like a lost puppy. I tried to get her to sit with me in the cafeteria at lunch time and I asked her out for every after school activity that came around. I pretty much made a fool of myself where she was concerned and of course everyone in our class knew it and laughed about it. Unfortunately one of the laughers was Nancy.
About halfway through the tenth grade Nancy decided that I wasn’t a joke any more. I of course thought that the reason was because she finally realized what I had known all along – that we were meant for each other. It wasn’t until much much later that I found out the real reason.
Because of my birthday and the school systems age requirements I was six when I started kindergarten instead of five (I missed the cut by four days) and then when I was halfway through the sixth grade I had a burst appendix that made me miss so much school that I had to repeat the sixth grade. As a result of those two things I was two years older than the other kids in the tenth grade. I was seventeen compared to their fifteen. And because I was seventeen I had a driver’s license and more than that, thanks to parents that spoiled me, I had a car. A car that gave me the freedom to go places and do things that my classmates couldn’t.
Those things never entered my mind when one day Nancy sat down at my table in the school cafeteria and asked
“Don’t you like me any more Robby?”
“Of course I do Nancy; why would even you think otherwise?”
“You don’t ask me out any more.”
“I stopped asking because you always said no to me.”
“That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t interested in you. My parents wouldn’t let me date until I turned fifteen and even then my mom was always telling me that I was too young to get serious with any guy. You were the only guy I could even think about getting serious about so I had to keep you at arm’s length.”
Looking back I should have realized it was utter bullshit, but I was so besotted by her that the fact that she was sitting at my table and talking to me kept me from even thinking about the lie she was telling me. I’d seen her out on dates since we started the tenth together, but it wasn’t until a year later that I put it altogether and realized I’d been played. Anyway, back to the cafeteria.
“So what has changed” I asked her.
“I’ve seen you with other girls and I finally decided that I’d better get off my butt and make a move before some other girl gets you into a steady relationship.”
I had dated a lot and there had been some kisses and make out sessions and even a little ‘stink fingering’ a time or two, but never with anybody that I wanted to go steady with.
“You want to go steady with me?”
“We won’t know that until we’ve spent some time together, but six months or a year from now I don’t want to look at you with a steady girlfriend and saying to myself that I wish I had tried to find myself in her place.”
That was the start of it. I immediately asked her out and she said yes. I was walking on air! Nancy had said yes to a date with me!
It was just a movie and root beer floats at Harry’s Malt Shop after, but I was with the girl that I wanted to be with forever. On the second and third dates I got a kiss on the cheek and while I know it sounds stupid I didn’t was my face for two days after.
Then came the weekend that Nancy said she wanted to go to the lake and I said fine. Then she asked if it would be all right if her best friend Bev and her boyfriend could go with us and I said sure. We had a good time and when I took Nancy home I tried to go for a real kiss. I got a peck on the lips, but even as nuts as I was about her I could tell that her heart wasn’t into it. I just put it down to her thinking that it was too soon for us to be getting into that.
After that weekend at the lake every date I had with Nancy was a double date with her and her friends. I need to point out here that the car I had was a Ford Galaxy 500 station wagon that would seat nine. Not the car that you would normally associate with a teenager, but when my parents went looking for a good used car for me they couldn’t pass up the price it had on it. Anyway, soon after Nancy and I started dating the car that would seat nine usually had nine in it. Sometimes even ten or twelve depending on how familiar they all were with each other.
It was Nancy who usually picked where we would go and I really didn’t care because all I really wanted was to be with her. It never occurred to me that wherever we went she spent more time with the others that we were with than she did with me. I know it makes me sound like a doofus that it never occurred to me that I was being used because I had a driver’s license and a car. I was getting better kisses and we did neck more and I thought we were moving along. It didn’t dawn on me until the summer was over and we started the eleventh grade. The significance of that event? That is when my classmates started turning sixteen and getting their driver’s licenses and access to the family car or in some cases they had parents like mine who bought them a car.
I’ll never forget the date. It was September 12th.
I was sitting in the school cafeteria waiting for Nancy to join me. She came in, sat down at the table and said:
“I’m sorry Rob, but I can’t see you anymore. My parents say I’m getting too serious with you and that it isn’t good for someone my age to be getting that way” and she got up and left me sitting there watching her walk away.
Then to make it worse when school let out and I went out to my car in the student parking lot I saw Nancy getting into a car with John Woodman. She slid over next to him, kissed him, and then they drove off. I did notice that the car Woodman was driving had temporary tags on it so it was likely that he had just gotten it.
As they drove out of sight I wondered about what I’d just seen and I started to remember some of the things I’d seen during the summer that I hadn’t really paid much attention to. Things like Woodman always seemed to be in the group when Nancy and I had gone on a group date to the lake, amusement park or wherever and Nancy did seem to spend more time with him than the rest of the group we were with. A couple of times Nancy had disappeared for some time and thinking back on it I couldn’t recall Woodman being around while she was gone. Even then I didn’t put two and two together. I was still too hug up on Nancy to think straight where she was concerned.
Two days later two things happened in the space of forty-eight hours that ripped the blinders off of me. The first was hearing the buzz going around among my classmates that Nancy had announced that she and Woodman were now going steady. That happened on a Thursday. Saturday I was at a party at Adolphus Thomas’s house and there was a lot of smoking going on. I didn’t smoke and sometimes the smell got to me and when it did I usually ducked outside for a breath of fresh air.
It was a little past seven and already out and when Becca Marsh and Audrey Totten came out probably for the same reason they didn’t see me leaning against an oak tree over by the fence. Normally I would have made my presence known, but they were talking about me so I stayed quiet and motionless.
“Do you think there will be fireworks when Nancy and John get here?”
“Wouldn’t it be great if Rob did go off on the two of them?”
“I just can’t see it. Rob is just too nice a guy.”
“Yeah. It is a shame he is so clueless when it comes to Nancy.”
“I know. I would love to have a guy that deeply into me.”
“You think by now he realizes just how much she played him? That she was just using him until John could get his license and a car?”
“I doubt it. I don’t think he is capable of having bad thoughts where Nancy is concerned. He has been gaga over her since the ninth grade.”
“What a waste. I don’t know why he was never able to see what a manipulative bitch she is, but he is clueless where Nancy is concerned. I man how could he not know that she and John dated all during the week?”
“From what I hear she told him that her parents wouldn’t let her date during the week and since Rob works that part time job during the week he probably never had a chance to catch them.”
“It is a rotten shame that he is so into Nancy. I would have loved to go out with him and not just because he has a car.”
“I know what you mean, but he is, or maybe I should say was, so wrapped up in Nancy that he never even noticed the rest of us.”
As I listened to the two of them my feelings for Nancy died a slow death. I stepped out of the shadows and said: “You are absolutely right. I was clueless, but what I don’t understand is why you guys who are supposed to be my friends never gave me a wakeup call.”
.... There is more of this story ...