© Copyright 2004
Courtney O'Keefe. Just hearing her name is enough to get my heart singing. My lips turn up in a smile, and a warm feeling spreads through my entire body. It still doesn't quite make sense to me. Courtney, the girl of every man's dreams... on my arm. How could I be so lucky?
To this day, I'll never understand what she saw in me. I think maybe it was the fact that I didn't immediately start fawning over her, bending over backwards to her every whim, just on the off chance I might get a shot at her. I wasn't like that.
Not that I didn't want to be, mind you.
Courtney moved to Minnesota from somewhere out east, during the summer before our senior year of high school. She was immediately the "hot chick" of the school, and the object of every guy's attentions.
You have no idea how hard it was to sit back and watch all the other guys practically line up in a row, just for the opportunity to get shot down. I would have been right there along with them... I wanted to be, in fact. You would have found me in the very back of the row, but I would have been there, but I'm just too damn shy.
Every day, I'd see her in my physics class. I kept hoping to hear Mr. Humphries ask me if I wanted to partner up with Courtney.
"Dennis," he said in the imaginary conversation I played over and over in my head. "How would you and Miss O'Keefe like to partner up on our lab." In my fantasy we were discussing magnetism, and how polar opposites attract. It couldn't have been more perfect.
"Of course, if that's what she wants," I answered. Even in my own daydream I was practically unable to look her in the eye, just like reality. Courtney had a wild, Irish goddess look about her, as if she was some kind of Celtic warrior princess, and I was completely and utterly intimidated by her presence.
In my dream though, nervous as I may have been, I was finally able to turn and give her what I hoped was a gallant grin. My heart felt ready to burst, because in my fantasy Courtney never failed to return my smile before she turned back to Mr. Humphries.
"I'd like that very much," she always answered in her soft melodious voice.
But alas, daydreams and fantasies rarely come true for me. My walls aren't filled with scantily-clad women or sports stars, because I know I have no shot at dating a supermodel or playing in the big leagues.
What decorates my walls? Pictures of my parents, my sister, photos of the library of the college I've already been accepted to. Those sort of things. People who love me, who care for me, things already in my grasp. I can happily engage in my fantasy life, but would never dream to put it out in front of me as some sort of goal.
Put another way, it's fun to think about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but completely silly to go looking for it. There's no use pining for something that can't exist, and that's how I felt about Courtney. She was there, but was certainly too good to be true, at least in my world.
"Dennis?" I had been biding my time in study hall, my homework finished, just staring out the window as the leaves turned red and orange and prepared to float to the ground, a constant reminder of the coming of winter. It was the fall of my senior year and I was ready to graduate. Only seven more months and I was out of here. I started at the sound of my name and turned to see who wanted me, and my mouth immediately dried, my throat suddenly raspy.
"Yes?" I managed to gasp. That one syllable was almost more than I could string together, as my entire field of vision was filled with the sight of Courtney O'Keefe, only this wasn't some far-fetched daydream. This was real.
"Dennis Miller?" she asked, smiling slightly as the realization hit her. Yes, that's my real name, and no I'm not nearly as funny as he is.
"Yes," I nodded, rolling my eyes as she laughed. I took the opportunity to glance around to see if anyone had noticed this... this goddess standing at my table. Talking to me... me!
"Mr. Armstrong gave me your name, said you might be able to help me?" I saw she was holding a slip of paper, and recognized it as a referral to one of the student tutors. I reached out and took it from her and quickly looked it over.
I was never so happy for computer glitches. It had been two semesters since I'd been an active tutor for Mr. Armstrong's calculus class, but I still occasionally received tutoring assignments like this. Normally I would apologize and send the student back to the office for a new tutor. I was no longer being paid by the school, so why bother, right? Not this time, there was no way I would turn this assignment back.
"Sure," I said as casually as I could, handing the paper back to her. "Glad to help."
"Great," she said, beaming a million-watt smile at me. I swear her teeth sparkled brighter than in the toothpaste commercials. She even had little dimples in her cheeks when she grinned, and my heart started beating faster.
"When... when would you like to start?" I asked, frantically making mental notes to cancel any and all plans I might have had. Nothing was more important than this. Nothing.
Courtney fidgeted in place, biting on her lower lip as she thought about when we could study.
"How about Thursday?" she finally suggested.
"Sounds fine," I said without thought. She smiled at me, although I'm not sure if it was because I sounded so eager or if she was simply glad I could help.
"Perfect," she said. "Oh... where do we meet?" she asked. My place or yours, I almost blurted out, but thankfully didn't.
"How about the library?" I asked, startled when she frowned.
"Oh, I don't have any study halls," she answered. "I just got a pass out of gym so I could come find you. We'll have to study before or after school."
"In that case, why don't we work at your place," I said, sounding much calmer than I felt. "Do you have somewhere quiet we can study?" I asked.
"My room?" she asked, and I shook my head. "Oh... Isn't that okay?"
"Too comfortable. Too many distractions. A kitchen table is often best for serious studying. It's not as fun," I said, my heart leaping in my chest as Courtney smiled at me, "but it's more effective."
"I guess that's cool then," she said. "We'll have the place to ourselves, since my mom works late on Thursday nights, so we won't be bothered."
"Great," I said. "It's a date." I blushed when I realized what I had said, but Courtney just smiled and stuck out her hand.
"It's a date," she agreed. My palms were sweaty, and I hurriedly wiped them on my pants before reaching out to seal the deal. Her hands were delicate and smooth, and I had a hard time letting go. I finally did though, and Courtney gave a little wave as she left the study hall.
I looked around, hoping someone had seen me talking to Courtney, but no one seemed to notice.
Some kind of bizarre warping of time and space always seems to take effect when it's least wanted. Why is it, for instance, that when I'm racing to get to the bank before it closes, time speeds up and I get there a few minutes too late? How can the road get longer when I'm pulling up to a yellow light, forcing me to stop and sit through a red light, then get shorter when I'm trying to stop suddenly on a patch of black ice?
Why was it that time stood still between our first meeting and Thursday? It was only two days, but if I'd put my mind to it, I'm sure I could have written a novel, time seemed to move so slowly.
I found myself glancing at the clock so often that even my mother noticed.
"Everything okay Dennis?" she asked. I looked at the clock for the fiftieth time since I'd gotten home from school, and saw it was ten minutes after five o'clock.
"Yeah," I said. "I'm just... I have a tutoring assignment and I don't want to be late."
"Oh, well that's... wait a minute, I thought you stopped tutoring."
"Um... I still help some students. When I can... if I'm not busy. I like to help out."
"That's nice. Who are you tutoring?"
"Some girl. Courtney."
"Do I know her?"
I scanned my memory, trying to remember if my mom would have ever seen Courtney. If she had she'd certainly know who I was talking about. And probably why I was so nervous.
"I don't think so," I finally said. "She's new this year."
"Oh. Is she nice?"
I almost laughed. What an understatement! As if the most beautiful, most stunning, absolutely perfect example of the female species could be called... nice. What an insult!
"Yeah. I guess so. She's pretty nice," I heard myself answer. Way to play it cool, right?
"When do you have to be there?" my mom asked, and I found myself checking the clock for the fifty-first time in two hours, and groaned when I saw only two minutes had passed, which sadly was about the average.
"Seven o'clock," I mumbled, and went to my room to check myself in the mirror. Again.
I knew I had no real reason to be nervous as I knocked on the O'Keefe's front door. This was just a study date to Courtney, and meant nothing more to her than that. From her point of view I was a tool to a better grade. Nothing more, nothing less.
Obviously I was blowing this way out of proportion, and I realized there was a better than average chance of me embarrassing myself simply because I was so nervous. I took a deep breath to calm myself, but ended up choking as the door opened right as I started to exhale.
I stood there coughing and sputtering on the front step as Courtney looked at me in amusement and concern.
"You okay?" she asked as I slowly got my breath back.
.... There is more of this story ...