I would like to thank Erik Thread, and techsan for their help in editing. I apologize for the mistakes I've made since they last saw it.
As the handsome young couple walked hand-in-hand down the hallway, an old woman called out, "Oh, what pretty flowers. Who are they for? If you're not in a hurry could you stop for a minute and visit with me? I never have any visitors. Who are you here to see? Would they mind? What brings you here?"
The couple stepped into the tastefully decorated room with a stunning view of the university campus. The young woman looked around the room noting Waterford crystal, oil paintings and other personal treasures then said, "Mike just asked me to marry him and we came here to tell a very special person."
"I don't want to keep you long--it's just that this is such a lonely place, all these old people, and so many don't have all their memories, you know. I remember when I got engaged. Could I tell you about it?"
"Certainly, I would love to hear your story."
The old woman paused, and then her whole body relaxed. "I think it... I think it is time that I finally told someone the whole story."
The years seemed to recede as she began. "I remember it all like it was yesterday. I was quite a catch, a real hot number, if I do say so myself. To start at the beginning, I was a sophomore in college, a cheerleader, and the star quarterback, a junior, had taken me on a few dates."
Her demeanor changed slightly. She leaned toward the young woman as if she were talking to her oldest confidant. "This is the part I've never told anyone. At the time I thought it was 'True Love.' Now I think it was more a case of one set of hormones calling to another. I was living the dream; we were the cat's meow."
"On that Friday night, he took me to a movie. I don't remember what it was, but afterwards we went to fancy restaurant. I felt like I was out with a movie star, what with people coming to our table and asking for autographs and all. The management was so impressed we had our gourmet dinner for free. We even got a bottle of Port wine. Port is 20% alcohol you know," she said as she arched an eyebrow.
"After the meal he drove us, in the brand new convertible an alumnus had given him, to a dark and secluded place overlooking the lake. There was a full harvest moon and we could see a sailboat leaving a gentle wake. I do believe it was the most romantic view I've ever seen."
Her voice dropped, her face showed a hint of blush. "We started petting, and I was tipsy from all that Port. We went further than I'd ever been before. Third base. You know what that means. He was pushing for more but I told him that I would never, not until I was married."
"He took off his fraternity pin and said, 'This will have to do until we can get a ring but I can't actually give it to you until the formal pinning ceremony."
"At my school, getting pinned was 'engaged to be engaged.' The whole fraternity would come over to the girl's sorority house dressed in tuxes and serenade the girl, with all her sisters around her on the porch. The brother doing the pinning would be dressed in white tie and tails. The girls all wore formals, and the girl being pinned would wear a new white one, almost like a wedding dress. The brothers would practice the songs for weeks. If it was a good fraternity and sorority, people would come from all over campus just to watch," she said wistfully, her eyes shining at the memory.
The old woman's face changed; it became set, almost hard. She sighed and continued in a soft voice full of regret. "I was so excited about getting pinned that at first I didn't fight as hard as I should have. I kept saying no. I even slapped his face Then I tried to scratch him but he was too strong and he took me right there in the front seat of his car. It was horrible. I bled like crazy and he hurt me so badly I could barely walk when he took me home.
"I cried most of the night. I tried to make excuses for him that I'd led him on, that I'd gotten him too excited to stop. I felt cheap. The only thing I wasn't worried about was my reputation since we were practically engaged.
"I waited all day Saturday for him to call me but he didn't. I tried to tell myself that it was because he had to get ready for the game. Besides we couldn't go out that night because the team was staying at a hotel to review the game."
" I was devastated when he didn't acknowledge me when he came out on the field. I tried to tell myself that he was just completely focused on the game but I thought I was going to die when he didn't even offer me a ride back to my sorority house after the game."
Her lips compressed and a touch of indignation crept into her tone. "Then, just before phone curfew, one of his teammates called and asked me for a date. I started to give him a piece of my mind when he told me that my boyfriend was bragging about copping my cherry and said 'I was in play now.' He just wanted to be first in line.
"Well you can just imagine how I felt? I even thought about suicide. I was trying to figure out where I could get some sleeping pills when I was told I had a visitor. Now you have to understand that phone curfew was after regular curfew and having a visitor at that time of night was unheard of. When I got down there, I discovered it was the new student coach. He was a player on last year's team and decided he wanted to learn to be a college coach. At first I was worried that it might be another... you know... but the housemother was standing right next to him and I know she would never let in someone trying to take advantage of me after curfew.
"The housemother led us to the dining room and then stood guard so we could talk privately. That was unheard of, too. Well, right off the bat he said that the quarterback had bet the whole offensive line a keg that he would have me before the first game. He made them pay off and the drunken story was spread to the whole team.
"If I hadn't been so mad, I think I would have died on the spot.
"That's when this young coach told me he'd taken the quarterback out back of the hotel and 'reasoned' with him until he agreed to tell the whole team that he'd used some chicken blood on his car seat so he wouldn't have to buy the beer.
"The coach called the whole team together and told them he and I were friends. He said I'd told him I'd been trying to find a good way to break up with the quarterback since I got back to school.
"He said he made sure that everyone thought the whole sordid episode was just an attempt to get even. He promised me that I didn't have to worry, my reputation was intact.
"Then he gave me a funny look and said that the best way to put the rumors behind me might be to find a new date right away. It would make the cover story more believable.
"I was so upset that I just blurted out the whole story. He got very angry and muttered 'breaking that jerk's nose isn't near enough.' Somehow, I ended up in his arms and I just cried my heart out. When I was rational, he said it sounded like rape to him and tried to get me to go to the police and press charges.
"Well, you know as well as I do that back then, that just wasn't done! I've never been sure why I did what I did next. I guess I just felt so safe in his arms that I stood on tippy toes and kissed him on the cheek."
She paused, took a sip of water, gave a sly smile and with a wink continued. "The next day after church he brought me flowers we walked and talked. He was a perfect gentleman, and so funny I laughed until I swear I was afraid I was going to wet my pants. For the next two weeks we would talk every day for hours and hours. He was so interested in my ideas, so encouraging, and always so funny.
"Then just before the next home game, that quarterback - funny, I can't remember his name - said he fell down three flights of stairs. He broke his arm and never played again. When Coach came to see me, his face was all beat up and his knuckles were skinned. I was so grateful that just blurted out that I'd like to go dancing if he felt up to it! You know how shocking it was back then for a girl to ask a guy out. He gave me that funny look again and for a second I was afraid I'd been too forward.
"Instead he hugged me so that my feet left the ground. The first date was wonderful. There hadn't been a whiff scandal about what had happened but I was still a bit skittish about being on a date. We danced fast and on the slow dances he didn't hold me too close. I felt safe and relaxed. From that point on we were inseparable. At first I was afraid he'd push to kiss me too soon. After a while, I was worried I'd have to kiss him! When he finally kissed me, well, if I hadn't been sitting down... Lordy that man could kiss.
"He was very proper though. Even though he knew I was no longer a virgin, he respected my wish to wait for the wedding! To tell the truth, I think the waiting was harder on me. We'd been dating almost three months when I knew for sure that I was in love for the first time in my life. Coach, that's what I always called him, was a man and everyone I'd previously dated was a boy. It was too good to be true.
"The ancient Greeks believed that too much happiness among mortals made the gods jealous. I don't know about that, but just before Thanksgiving break I made an appointment with a doctor across town. I had never been late so I was pretty sure I was almost three months pregnant before I went to see him. I borrowed a wedding ring and used an assumed name to have the test. The rabbit died.
"I had tried to ignore it but it isn't the sort of thing that goes away... You know back then, abortion wasn't an option. I couldn't have done that anyway. I have to tell you it was the darkest time of my whole life. I would rather have been shot dead than to marry that quarterback; you know it's funny but I can't remember his name.
"I decided that I would break up with Coach when I got back from Thanksgiving with my parents. I was hoping that they might help me find a distant relative to stay with. That's how things were done in those days. A girl went to live with her aunt in Kokomo and returned when she got her figure back. Everyone knew, of course, but if you were polite, you pretended not to.
Her eyes turned watery and she paused for a second then reached for a tissue. After a small sniff, she continued. "When I told my parents after Thanksgiving dinner, I said Coach wasn't the father but I was too ashamed to say who it was. My father was furious. I'd wheedled him into being allowed to go to college and he said it had turned me into a 'whore of Babylon, ' that I was no longer his daughter. He disowned me! He actually put me and my luggage on the front porch, then locked the door behind me."
She paused, her face reflecting the old pain. Straightening her shoulders, she gave a tiny shrug of regret and continued. "I didn't have anyplace to go. I had a return ticket to school but the sorority house was closed for the break. I didn't even have enough money to call my roommate; I had to reverse the charges. Margie was also my best friend and drove alone in her folks' car over two hundred miles to pick me up. Young ladies didn't drive after dark back then and she had already had two flats so we were both grateful that her parents had given her enough money for a hotel room.
"I don't know what I would have done if she hadn't been there for me. I knew there were homes for wayward girls but I didn't have a clue about how to find one or anyone to ask.
"When I got back to school, Coach came to see me that Sunday evening. I sent Margie down to tell him I'd had a big fight with my parents and I was going to drop out. I told her to tell him that I never wanted to see him again. I just couldn't tell him the whole truth. Margie told him everything. In violation of visiting privileges, he bulled his way up to my room. He insisted that he'd been in love with me since last year but couldn't ask me out when I was dating another. Now he wanted to marry me and make the child his. He wouldn't leave until I agreed to go for coffee and talk. I wanted to marry him but I was afraid I was being selfish; getting married would fix so many of my problems. The truth was that I loved him too much to let him raise a child that wasn't his."
Pursing her lips, she said, "The next week was vexing. He wouldn't take no for an answer. I just thought we'd talked before. Lordy, that man could talk and he was so persuasive! My nobility was weakening. I was down to my last argument. I said a scandal like this would ruin his college coaching career and I just couldn't let him ruin his dream.
"Then on Wednesday, I told him I learned about the Edna Gladney Home in Ft. Worth. I told him I had arranged to go there on Monday. I said that was my last word. Using every ounce of my resolve, I refused to see him or talk any more."