Author’s note – When Randi asked me to be a part of Legends Part Two I sent her four stories that I had been working on and asked her to pick the one she wanted me to submit. She chose this one and I hope you like it.
It was the tenth reunion of my high school class. It was early, and I was one of the first to arrive. I was sitting alone at a table for six when she came in. She looked around, saw me, and I saw her hesitate for a moment, and then she headed my way. As she moved toward me, I wondered why she was alone. I would have expected to see Seth with her. I stood up to greet her and she walked up to me. She wasn’t smiling, but even so, I didn’t expect the greeting I got. She slapped me! An openhanded slap to the left side of my face. My hand went up to my stinging cheek.
“What the hell was that for?” I asked
“That was for not fighting for me, asshole.”
Her name as Mary Alice Thomas, or at least it had been Thomas the last time I had seen her, but that had been five years ago and I expected that her last name was Reardon now.
Mary Alice and I had met in the seventh grade and had dated off and on through the seventh and eighth grades before deciding to go steady during the middle of the ninth. By the time we graduated from high school, we were making plans to be married when we finished college. We wanted to be married as soon as we finished high school, but that would have killed Mary Alice being able to go to college.
Her parents would not have paid for her degree if she got married. Their position was that if she married she would eventually end up pregnant, have to drop out and all the money spent on her education would have been wasted. They held that belief because that is what happened with Mary Alice’s older sister and two of her cousins. So, the long range plan was to get our degrees and then get married. We didn’t feel that it was much of a hardship. We had been making love since her eighteenth birthday and continued to do it.
Things were going along fine until the middle of our junior year. We had different majors so we didn’t have any shared classes and our times together were pretty much regulated by our class schedules, class assignments and class projects. One of MA’s classes (she preferred MA to Mary Alice), Managerial Economics if memory served, required a group project and MA had to spend several evenings meeting with her group at the library to work on their project. I didn’t think much about it because I’d had to do the same in several of my classes. Then one night when we were supposed to go to a concert, MA called me and told me that she was going to have to cancel our date. Her group project had hit a snag and her group was going to have to get together. The project was due in three days and would account for a third of her grade in the class, so surely I would understand. I told her that I understood and I did. I’d been there and done that in some of my classes, so I told her that I’d see her on Saturday.
Since the only reason I’d gotten the tickets to the concert was that MA wanted to see and hear the group, I gave the tickets to one of my friends and decided to take in a movie. I’m sure that by this point you already have figured out what comes next, but I’ll put it down anyway. There was a line in front of the ticket counter, and MA was in the line with Seth Reardon. She probably had expected me to go to the concert and she was surprised to see me when she turned and looked around the way most people do when standing in a slow moving line. Her face paled and she quickly looked away. I wasn’t the type to make a scene in public, so I just waited for my turn at the counter. I’d heard Seth say what movie (it was an eight-movie complex) he wanted and when I got to the counter, I chose a movie other than the one he chose.
When I got inside, I saw Reardon and MA standing in line to buy popcorn and a drink and I ignored them and went down the hallway to the theatre room where my movie was showing. It was ten minutes to show time, so I had plenty of time to sit and think about the situation. I was pissed and I wouldn’t even try to pretend that I wasn’t. MA had flat out lied to me about what she would be doing that night, and that, of course, made me wonder how many other times she had lied to me. How many of her trips to the library to work with her group were a lie? I had no way of knowing, but once was one too many.
What I should have done once I saw Mary Alice and Reardon was turn around, leave and save myself the price of the movie, because I didn’t enjoy it. Not that it wasn’t any good – it had gotten decent reviews – but my mind just couldn’t get into it. I sat there and thought about Mary Alice sitting next to Reardon, holding hands and her head probably lying on his shoulder, the same way she used to do it with me. Halfway through the movie I got up, left and went home. Mom was surprised to see me.
“Short concert or just no good?” Mom asked me.
“Didn’t go. Mary Alice and I broke up tonight.”
“You’re kidding,” Mom said. “You two have been as thick as thieves for almost five years. What happened?”
“I guess she found someone else she would rather be with,” I said, and then I headed up to my room.
It wasn’t until I’d undressed and was stepping into the shower that I realized what I’d just done. Without even giving it much conscious thought I’d put an end to Mary Alice and me. Without giving any thought to it, I’d just told my mom that MA and I were through. I stood there under the flow of hot water, thought on it and decided that my brain knew what had to be done and then had gone ahead and done it.
When I woke up Saturday morning, I had to decide what to do with my day. I was originally supposed to take MA to the wedding of one of her cousins, but that was off now. I decided to do some work on the car that my mom had given me as a graduation present when I graduated from high school. I’d bought seat covers for it, they needed to be put on and it was due a good cleaning, inside and out. I had just finished putting the seat covers on when Mom yelled at me that I had a phone call. I went into the house and picked up the phone.
“Where are you?” MA asked. You were supposed to be here half an hour ago.”
“I decided to let Seth take you.”
There were a few seconds of silence and then she said, “I don’t want Seth to take me. I want you.”
“You didn’t want me last night.”
“Is that what this is all about? We need to talk. Come and get me and we can talk on the way to the church.”
“Don’t think so. I’ve already made plans for the day. Goodbye, Mary Alice.”
I hung up, but then figured that she would call right back so I left the phone off the hook and went back out into the garage to work on the car. When I finished on the car I showered, dressed casual, had dinner with my mom, and then I headed out looking for something to enjoy.
I had more options since I’d turned twenty-one and could legally hit the bars and clubs. The problem I had was that I didn’t want to be alone doing whatever. I decided that what I needed to do was go somewhere where I could be with people who were having fun. The perfect place for that would be The Crystal Palace. The Palace was a country/western bar with a live band, there would be a lot of line dancing and you didn’t need a partner to line dance.
I got there early enough that the place wasn’t crowded, found an empty table close to the dance floor and settled in. I ordered a Bud Light and watched the dancers on the floor. It was a two-step and I enjoyed watching the skirts swirling and flaring as the gals went through the ladies under inside and outside turns. I wished that MA was with me so I could join in, but then I realized that that ship had sailed. I didn’t know if Reardon had gotten lucky last night or not, but it didn’t matter. What did matter was that MA had ditched me for him last night and had lied to me about her reason for breaking our date. I wasn’t worldly wise by any means, but I did know, even at that early age, that solid relationships are built on trust and it was now obvious to me that MA couldn’t be trusted.
While I’d been sitting there watching the dancers, thinking and nursing my beer, the place had filled up. When the band finished playing the two-step, they started playing Black Velvet and several people got out on the floor and started doing the Cowboy Boogie, so I got up and joined in. When Velvet was over, the band played another tune good for a two-step so I went back to my table, finished my beer and ordered another one. When the waitress brought it to me she asked me if I was waiting for someone. When I said no, she had a question.
“Could I get you to do me a huge favor?”
“Depends. I don’t think I would like it in jail so I won’t do anything illegal, but I’m open, otherwise.”
“My sister and her two friends just got here and the seats at this table are the only empty ones in the house.”
I wouldn’t mind some company, so I told her to send over her sister and her friends. When Iris (the name on her nametag) said her sister and two friends, I expected that one of the friends would be a guy. Not so. Three very sexy looking ladies showed up and one of them, a raven-haired beauty asked, “Are you sure that you don’t mind sharing?”
I looked at the three of them, smiled and then laughingly said, “I damned sure would mind sharing you three with anyone else.”
All three laughed, and then sat down and introduced themselves. The raven-haired beauty was Irene, and she was Iris’s sister. The two redheads were Barb and Bev and they were sisters. Bev smiled and said, “You said that you would mind having to share us, so do you think you can keep up with the three of us all by your lonesome?”
“Probably not,” I said, “but a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.”
“He’s cute,” Barb said to Bev. “I think I want him.”
“Oh no you don’t,” Irene said. “I’m the one who got my sister to get us here, so I’ve got dibs.”
“Bullshit!” Bev said. “We are in this together and we either share or we do rock, paper, scissors for him.”
“Do I have any say in this?” I asked and got a resounding “NO!” from all three, and then they did do rock, paper and scissors to see who would get the first dance with me. Barb won and she pulled me out onto the floor for a Cowboy Cha Cha. The next tune found all three of us out on the floor doing an Electric Slide. Then, Irene and Bev did RPS to see who got the next dance. Bev got that one and we did a Texas Two Step. Next, it was all four of us on the floor doing the Cupid Shuffle. It was finally Irene’s turn and I moved her around the floor in a Western Waltz.
The band took a break and as we sat at the table making small talk and working on our drinks. Irene asked me why I was there without a date, so I told her the story. She listened and then said, “She sounds like the female counterpart to my ex-boyfriend. I dropped him because I caught him trying to find out if the grass was greener on the other side of the fence.”
“That’s why I won’t allow myself to have a steady boyfriend,” Barb said. “I need to wait until the guy has had time to sow his wild oats and be ready to settle down.”
“Amen to that,” her sister said.
As the three talked, I sat there listening and occasionally throwing in a comment and wondering if I was settled down enough for one of them. Didn’t matter which one because looks wise, they were all Grade-A Prime. Then I had to laugh at myself. Just having those thoughts showed I wasn’t settled enough. Something must have showed on my face because Irene asked me what I was thinking. Since I only had a causal relationship going with the three of them and wasn’t expecting it to go any farther than the evening, I saw no reason not to tell them. Barb and Bev laughed, but Irene gave me a strange look and said, “You show promise, Bobby Denton.”
Just then, the band started their next set and everyone was out on the floor for a Tush Push. When we got back to the table, the evening got strange. A guy came up to the table and asked Bev for a dance. She looked at me and asked, “Would you mind, Bobby?”
It caught me by surprise, but she wasn’t really my date so I just said, “Enjoy,” and she got up and moved out onto the floor with the guy. I watched them go and Irene asked, “Now what are you thinking?”
“Why would she ask me if I would mind if she danced with the guy?”
“Remember what you said when we asked you if you would mind sharing?”
“I was just joking.”
Well, apparently Bev didn’t take it as a joke. As far as she is concerned, you laid claim to us so she had to ask your permission.”
“Oh, get outta here. That’s just ridiculous.”
“Not to Bev.”
“Or me,” said Barb, and the words were no sooner out of her mouth than a guy came up to the table and asked her for a dance. She looked at me and asked, “Would you mind?”
I chuckled and said, “Have fun,” and she got up and followed the guy out onto the floor. I looked at Irene and saw she was trying hard not to laugh out loud.
“What so funny?” I asked.
“You. When did you discover this strange power that you have over girls?”
“I didn’t even know that I had it. Mary Alice was the only girl in my life up until the other night. Come to think of it, that kind of proves that I don’t have any strange power. If I had it she wouldn’t have strayed.”
I guess my tone of voice or maybe my facial expression while I was saying that told her something as she said, “Don’t go glum on me, Bobby. Come on; let’s dance.”
We stayed on the floor until the band took their next break. Once back at the table the three girls and I talked and I found out more about them. I found out that all of them were older than I was, Irene by two years, Barb by two and Bev by one. Irene worked in the office of a large company, Bev was a sales rep for a pharmaceutical company and Barb was a paralegal at a downtown law firm. The three had met in college and had bonded.
One other thing about them that I found out was that the three of them could almost always be found at the Palace on a Friday or Saturday night, and that is one of the reasons that guys were coming over to ask the girls to dance. They were regulars and well known. The band came back, started on their next set and I received another surprise. A guy came up, asked Irene to dance and she said, “Sorry, Clint, but I don’t think my boyfriend here would like that,” and the guy walked away.
“Boyfriend? Just what the hell happened while Bev and I were out on the floor?”
“Bobby needs a new girlfriend, so I appointed myself.”
“No fair!” Bev said. “We should have had a chance.”
“Yeah,” Barb said. “He should date us all a couple of times and then make a choice.”
Irene grinned and said, “You both had your chance, but you decided to get up and go dancing and left us here alone. You know the old saying, ‘You snooze you lose’, right?”
Barb looked at me and asked, “Is it true? Are you her new boyfriend?”
My momma didn’t raise no fools, so I just shrugged and said, “A gentleman would never call a lady a liar.”
Then Bev said, “Well if it doesn’t work out for you, I get the next shot.”
“Like hell you will,” Barb said. “Rock paper scissors. Two out of three.”
I took Irene by the hand, pulled her from her chair and led her out onto the dance floor leaving the two sisters arguing with each other. The dance was a waltz and as we moved around the floor, I asked her about our sudden relationship.
“What’s the matter? You don’t like the idea?”
“We don’t even know each other.”
“True, but that is what relationships are for, right? To get to know each other?”
“I can’t argue with that, but you haven’t even known me for two hours.”
“So what? I get good vibes from you and I suspect there are a lot of girls out there who know you and the twit you were going with and who wished you would split up so they would have a chance with you. I just decided to get there first. Think about it, Bobby Dalton; what do you have to lose?”
She had a point, but one of my faults is that I’m always honest with myself so I said, “I don’t know that I’m ready for another relationship. It is true that my relationship with Mary Alice is done, but it is done because I don’t trust her anymore, not because I’ve lost all feeling for her. She still has a hold on me that I don’t know I can shake off any time soon.”
“That will be my job, sweetie, to try and get you over her. Gonna give me a chance?”
I looked into her deep blue eyes and then smiled as I said, ‘I’d be a fool not to.”
Irene was the designated driver that evening, so we didn’t leave the Palace together, but we did arrange a date for Sunday afternoon.
I had breakfast with my mom on Sunday morning and then I grabbed my books and went outside to sit at the patio table and work on an outline for a paper I had to do for my Production Planning class. I was deep in thought, bouncing ideas around in my head, when I heard the patio door open and someone walk out onto the patio. I thought that it was Mom until I felt hands on my shoulders and received a kiss on the back of my neck.
“Morning, sweetie,” Mary Alice said, and then she moved around the table and sat down across from me. I put down the pencil in my hand and asked, “What brings you here this morning?”
“I thought we needed to talk.”
“Why? I don’t feel the need.”
“Maybe you don’t, but I do. I can’t let you be having the wrong idea about things.”
“Oh? What wrong idea would that be?”
“I haven’t dumped you for some other guy. You are my man, Bob, and you should know that.”
“If I am your man, why weren’t you with me Friday night? You know, the night of the concert that you just had to attend and pressed me to buy tickets for?”
“I’m sorry, sweetie; I just flat forgot.”
“You also apparently forgot that I was ‘your man, ‘ as you just put it. How else do you explain your being out on a date with another guy?”
“Nothing happened, Bob. He didn’t even get a goodnight kiss on the cheek.”
“You expect me to believe that?”
“Why not? It is the truth.”
“Pardon me if I take that with a grain of salt.”
“Why would you say something like that?”
“It sounded more polite than saying that I think you are lying.”
“I would never do that!”
I laughed at that and said, “You not only would, but you did. You lied when you broke our date because you just had to go to the library and meet your group to work on a problem with your project, but who was it I saw in the ticket line at the movies? I’ve been in that building plenty of times, but I’ve never noticed a library in there.”
“We solved the problem quickly, and since I thought you had already gone to the concert and it was too late to call you, I said yes to Seth when he asked if I wanted to take in a movie.”
“Nice try for a save, MA, but it won’t wash. It was only thirty minutes from the time you called and broke our date until I saw you in line at the theatre. Not even close to the time it would have taken you to go to the library, meet with your group, fix your problem and then get to the theatre. Don’t waste your time, MA, because it just isn’t going to work. That isn’t even all of it, MA. Now I’m wondering how many other dates you broke with me so you could meet your group were actually spent with other guys.”
“You can’t possibly believe that!”
“Of course I can. After what you did on Friday night, I can’t believe anything you say anymore. I can’t trust you anymore, and I won’t waste my time on someone I can’t trust.”
“I swear that he never even got a kiss on the cheek, Bob. Nothing happened!”
“You don’t seem to get it, Mary Alice. It isn’t about what you did or didn’t do with Reardon. It is about what you did to me. You broke a date with me and lied about the reason why. You need to leave, Mary Alice. I need to get back to working on this paper. It is due on Wednesday and I’ve got a lot to do on it.”
“Please Bob; can I...”
“NO! NO! NO! Just leave, Mary Alice. Just get up and leave!!!”
There were tears on her cheeks as she got up, and I heard a sob as she went through the patio door and into the house. A couple of minutes later my mother came out and asked me why Mary Alice was crying. I told mom that MA and I had just broken up.
“She decided that we didn’t need to be exclusive and I let her know that I didn’t agree with her on that.”
“But you two have been together forever.”
“Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe she needed or felt the need to see what other guys were like.”
“That’s not a bad thing, Bobby. Better to satisfy your curiosities before tying the knot than after.”
“Maybe so, but she should have been honest and upfront about it instead of lying to me and going behind my back.”
Mom didn’t respond to that, and I got back to working on my outline. By noon, I had it done. All I needed to do was hit the library for a few reference works and then start typing.
At one, I called Irene, got directions to her place and rang her doorbell at one-thirty. Irene opened the door, smiled and said “Right on time. I like that in a man.” Once in the car she asked me what I had planned.
“A showing at an art gallery downtown, then an early dinner followed by a movie of your choice. Or, we can scrap my plan and do whatever you would like to do.”
“I’m good with your plan. Any particular reason for going to this particular showing?”
“I know her and want to show support.”
“Is she any good?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen any of her stuff, but it must be good if an art gallery wants to show it.”
It turned out that Helen’s stuff was pretty good. It was mostly landscapes and there was one that I really liked, but the price tag on it put it out of my reach. We had dinner at Mario’s and then Irene talked me out of going to a movie and instead, suggested that we go back to her place for coffee or a drink and just relax and get to know each other better.
Irene was a year older than I was, had a degree in Business Management and was working for a nationally known freight company. She had a brother and sister still living at home with her parents who unfortunately, lived four hundred miles away. We sat, nursed our drinks and talked about likes and dislikes, turn-offs and turn-ons until ten, at which time I said that I had to be going since I had an early class the next day. We made a date for Tuesday evening, and then Irene walked me to her door, thanked me for a nice date and gave me a nice kiss on the lips.
I went home in a good mood. The good mood lasted until I got to school. I saw MA waiting for me on the steps of Bryant Hall, which was the building that my first class was in. I couldn’t just turn around and walk away because I couldn’t afford to miss this particular class. I was just going to walk by her, but she stepped in front of me and said, “I need to talk to you, Bob. I know you are upset with me, but please give me a chance to explain.” I said nothing and then she said, “Give me half an hour, and then if you still want it that way I’ll leave you alone and stay away from you.”
“Okay, Mary Alice; meet me in the cafeteria at 11:30,” I said, and then I walked around her and went to class.
I got to the cafeteria at 11:20 and got a table. I half expected MA to be there waiting, but she didn’t show up until 11:35 and her arrival didn’t bode well for what she was hoping. Where I was sitting, I had a straight line of sight to the cafeteria entrance, and the hallway outside the entrance. I was looking at the entrance when MA showed up. She was with Seth Reardon. They stopped, said something to each other and then he headed down the hallway and MA came in, looked around, saw me and headed for my table.
She took her seat and said, “Thank you for letting me talk to you.”
I didn’t say anything, just sat there waiting. She finally realized that it was all going to be on her and she said, “I love you, Bob, and I am pretty sure that I want to spend the rest of my life with you, but I’m not ready to do it now. We have been together since the seventh grade and you are the only guy I’ve ever dated. Notice that I said pretty sure? Well I want to be dead certain; not pretty sure, but certain. I need to see what other guys are like, Bob. I need to make certain sure that I’m making the right choice.”
I said nothing. I just sat there and looked at her. I knew what she wanted. I knew exactly what she was working up to. She wanted me to say that I saw her point and that I would be okay with her dating other guys while still staying my girlfriend. What she wanted was to have her cake and eat it, too.
Sure enough, her next words were, “We both need this, Bob. You should be seeing other girls. There is no reason we can’t stay together, but open the relationship to see what else is out there. Marriage is a big step, Bob; we need to go into it with no doubts or curiosities.”
When she finished, she looked at me and waited for a response. I let the silence set there for a bit and then I said “I agree that I should be seeing other girls.” She got a big smile on her face that instantly disappeared when I continued, “Now that you and I are through.”
“You can’t mean that.”
“But I do. This little talk is the one you should have had with me before you started going out with other guys. There is a good chance that I might have gone along with you. The only reason we are having it now is that I caught you sneaking around behind my back. If I hadn’t caught you cheating on me you would have gone on stabbing me in the back. The good side of this is that now you no longer have to hide it from me.”
I stood up and said, “Nice talking with you Mary Alice,” and I walked away.
It wasn’t that easy, of course. Mary Alice got my mother involved. She told Mom that she had made a terrible mistake, was extremely sorry about it and that I wouldn’t give her a chance to make up for it. Mom told me it was only normal for young inexperienced girls and boys to make mistakes, and that I should be more understanding.
“It is obvious that she loves you, Rob. Give the poor girl a chance to make it up to you.”
Mary Alice enlisted friends that we had in common to try and get me back with her.
“The poor girl is a wreck, Rob. She knows she screwed up. You guys have been together far too long not to try and fix this.”
What no one knew was that I had also enlisted some friends. I asked them to keep an eye on Mary Alice and what she did. Yes, I was pissed at her, but we had been together for a long time and I couldn’t just turn my feelings for her off overnight. There was a chance – slight, but still a chance – that we could get back together, but it depended on how Mary Alice acted after our last talk. My feeling was that if she was truly sorry and wanted us back together she would stop dating other guys and concentrate on getting me back.
It wasn’t to be.
My spies kept me abreast of Mary Alice’s doings and what she was doing was spending all of her free time with Reardon. The entire time she was trying to get my mother and our common friends to talk me into giving her a chance, she and Seth were practically joined at the hip.
Irene and I were dating two and sometimes three times a week, almost always on a Friday or a Saturday, and on those dates we always ended up at the Palace and almost always shared a table with Bev and Barb. I could never understand why the two of them never had dates, but I did know that it wasn’t because they wanted to pick up some guy, because while they never lacked for dance partners, they always left alone.
The first few dates with Irene ended with a, “Thank you; I had fun,” followed by a soft kiss on the lips. The fourth date ended with a make out session that steamed up the windows of the car. On the fifth and sixth dates, the make out sessions moved into the living room of Irene’s apartment. The seventh date was the game changer. It was a Friday night, we had closed the Palace and then stopped at the Village Inn to get pie and coffee. We were talking about the dances that we liked best when she suddenly changed the conversation.
“Who wore the pants in your relationship with Mary Alice?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Simple question, Rob. Who was in charge? Who made the decisions?”
“I would like to think that it was me. Why do you ask that?”
“Just trying to get a feel for things.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I was the one who got us going when I laid claim to you in front of Bev and Barb. I was the one who initiated the first kiss, the make out sessions and decided, for the most part anyway, where we would go and what we would do.”
I smiled at her and said, “A smart guy lets the female take the lead until he sees where things are going and then he steps up. Let me explain. I didn’t know you or the sisters that first night at the Palace. I’d never seen the three of you before that night. I wasn’t there to find someone to hook up with; I was only there to try and have a little fun to try and help me get over what went down with Mary Alice. I had absolutely no intention of trying to hit on you three. To be honest about it, if I had been out looking to hook up I’m not all that sure that I would have been able to choose between the three of you. Again, all I was looking for was some fun to pull me out of the funk I was in.
“When you decided to appoint yourself as my new girlfriend, I decided why not go with the flow? You are damned fine looking and I like talking with you, so why not? Once we started dating, I let you set the pace. I had no idea where we were going, if anywhere, so again, I just went with the flow. You have to remember that Mary Alice was the only other girlfriend I’ve ever had. I have dated other girls when Mary Alice and I got into arguments and broke up, but those dates never went anywhere because Mary Alice and I always got back together before those dates could go anywhere. I did watch other couples, and what I saw were a lot of breakups when the guy pushed too hard to get where the girl wasn’t ready to go.
“I decided that if Mary Alice and I ever broke up for good and I went back to dating, I would let the girl take us to where she wanted to go rather than trying to get her to where I wanted to go. I’ve been letting you lead and so far, you haven’t taken me anywhere I haven’t wanted to go. I will say that given the hot make out sessions we’ve had that I was thinking hard on putting out feelers to see if you might be interested in taking things into the bedroom.”
She looked at me for several seconds before saying, “Why are we wasting time here when that bedroom is only five minutes away?”
I smiled, stood up and dropped enough money on the table to cover the tab and a tip and said, “Lead the way.”
When we got to her place, we went straight to the bedroom. I watched her as she undressed and once she was naked, I started to strip. I was down to socks, boxers and the t-shirt that I was pulling over my head when Ilene came over to me, pulled my boxers down and took my erection in her mouth. My socks didn’t get taken off until after we woke up in the morning and went to shower together.
After that evening, our dates boiled down to going out for dinner and maybe drinks before heading back to Ilene’s bedroom. The only difference was that either Friday or Saturday, we went to the Crystal Palace and occasionally were there both nights. On one of those nights, I got the story on Barb and Bev. Out on the dance floor I asked Irene about the sisters. They both had boyfriends or rather a boyfriend in Bev’s case and fiancé in Barb’s case, and both guys were in the Army Reserve. Both were on deployment in the Middle East and the girls were staying true to their men. They wanted to go out and have fun, but they always went home alone.
Two weeks after Irene and I had moved our relationship into the bedroom, Mary Alice caught me alone in the school cafeteria and sat down at my table. While I was eating my lunch, I was studying for the pop quiz I knew I was likely to get in my three o’clock class. I put my notes down, looked at Mary Alice and waited for her to speak.
“Are you ever going to give me a chance to fix things between us, Bobby?”
“You have had over a month to try and fix things, Mary Alice, but I have noticed that you haven’t bothered.”
“What do you mean? I’ve tried and tried.”
“No you haven’t, M A. All you have done is pester my mother and our common friends to try and push me back to you. What have you been doing while the others were pushing?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Simple question, M A. What have you been doing since the night you lied to me and broke our date? Trying hard to get me back, or spending all of your spare time with Seth Reardon?”
“He is just a friend, Bobby.”
“Right! And next you have a bridge you want to sell me, or is it beach front property in Florida?”
“What are you saying?”
“I have friends too, M A, and they keep me up to date on the things that you and Reardon do. I know all about your make out sessions, your visits to the Capri Isle Motel and even the backseat fuck you did behind Maxine’s Café. You sure weren’t trying hard to get me back then, were you?”
“He means nothing to me, Bobby. I love you and you know I do.”
“Just not enough, Mary Alice, just not nearly enough.”
I got up and walked away from her.
Irene and I didn’t last. I thought we had something good going, but I guess I was wrong. A month into my senior year I received a call from her telling me that I needed to stop by her place after I got out of class. It was a Tuesday and not one of our normal date nights. Because of my class schedule and study requirements, we were limited on dating to Thursday through Sunday. I got to her place, and saw a U-Haul truck in front of her apartment and found Irene busy packing boxes.
“Oh, good, you’re here,” she said. “You’ve got some stuff here that you need to pick up.”
“What’s going on?”
“I’ve been given a promotion, but it is in Atlanta and I’ve got to be there by day after tomorrow.”
I knew that they were not the same thing, but Irene’s announcement hit me pretty much the same way that Mary Alice’s going behind my back with Reardon had. Being offered a promotion, accepting it, dealing with a landlord and utilities and arranging for a truck and boxes takes a little bit of time, more time than the thirty-two hours between my leaving her place for Monday’s first class after spending the weekend in her bed. I didn’t say anything. I just walked into the bedroom and got the clothes I had there and headed for the door. Irene’s back was to me as she packed a box and I walked out without a word.
I went home, put my stuff away and then studied until Mom called me to dinner. Over dinner, Mom said that Mary Alice had called her that afternoon.
“Are you ever going to cut that poor girl some slack?”
I didn’t mean it, but it would shut Mom up so I said, “I’m thinking on it.”
She got a small smile on her face and before she could say anything, I changed the subject.
“Have you given any more thought to going to live with Aunt Edith?”
“Not a lot. Why?”
“It won’t be long before I graduate, and when that happens I’m going to strike out on my own. I don’t think you are going to like living in this big house alone.”
“Why would you move out? There is plenty of room here for you and Mary Alice.”
“There is a very good chance that my job prospects after graduation will take me away from this town and possibly even this state.”
“I’m sure that you can find something to do here.”
“I don’t want to find ‘something’ here. If I was willing to settle for ‘something, ‘ I wouldn’t have needed to spend all that money on college. You know that I planned on leaving when I graduated. Our agreement when Dad died was that I would stay at home until I had my degree. Quite frankly, I had expected to be moved out by now.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because I expected that you would have a new man in your life by now.”
“Really, Robert! Your father has only been gone four years.”
“Don’t call me Robert! Rob, Bob, Bobby or even Robby, but I don’t like to be called Robert and you know full well why (I was named after my mother’s father, he was a mean old bastard and I hated his sorry ass). “The key word there, Mom, is ‘gone’. He isn’t coming back and you are young enough to get another life.”
“I just can’t find anyone like your father.”
“And you never will. He was one of a kind. You need to find someone new and different and move on. I’ve got to get back to my homework” I said as I stood up, kissed her cheek and left the kitchen.
I put Irene out of my mind and managed to get through the week okay. Friday, I decided that I needed some cheering up so I headed for the Crystal Palace thinking that a few drinks and a line dance or three would lift my spirits. I was not surprised to see Barb and Bev at a table, but I headed for a seat at the bar. I’d no sooner planted my butt on the barstool than Barb was there grabbing my arm.
“Oh no you don’t, sweetie. Your place is with us.”
I opened my mouth to say, “Not tonight, Barb,” but she figured that is what I was going to say and she said, “Hush now, Bubba,” and she pulled me off the stool and pulled me over to her table