It was not yesterday, but many years ago, that I first noticed the shy and very lovely Jenny.
You see, both of us attended a junior high school, grades seven through ten, and I had just entered ninth grade. We older students, almost always guys but once in a while girls with more than their share of guts, could become "hall monitors", which involved telling students—usually lower classmates, not to be boisterous or to—horrors—go up stairs two at a time.
Well one day I noticed the shy and very lovely Jenny, and by the books she carried I knew she was an eighth grader. Maybe it was just the beauty of a spring day, but I saw—or pretended to see—Jenny take two steps at a time. I scowled, and spoke with what I thought was a deep and official sounding voice, "You, go back down the stairs!" And shy and very lovely Jenny looked at me and said, "You are being mean!" But she went back down the stairs, as did her friend, also a lovely girl but without the sparkle that Jenny possessed.
A day or so later, that friend saw me in the halls and said, "You were really mean to Jenny, you hurt her feelings."
And that is how I learned her name was Jenny. A few days passed, and again I was on hall duty, and again I saw the two girls come up the stairs. When they passed me, I said, "Jenny, I am sorry I picked on you."
Even today, I can summon forth the smile on her beautiful face as she accepted my apology. "Kent, you know my name," was her only response. "Yes," I told her, "your friend told me your name." "My friend's name is Jill," Jenny told me.
One day, saw Jenny leave Miss Babbage's classroom, and I knew who was her English teacher. "Hi, Jenny," I said, "so you have Miss Babbage for English?"
"Yes, Kent, I do, and I know you had her last year," she told me. And I knew then that, somehow my noticing Jenny had been seen by the eagle-eyed Miss Babbage, whose recollection of past students was legendary. And, just maybe, Miss Babbage had told Jenny my name, or Jenny had asked her.
Then, somehow, things changed a bit with Jenny. I never sent her down the stairs again, and she always gave me her shy "Hi Kent" when I was at my monitoring post. Jill, who seemed a bit protective of her friend, although both were in the same grade, smiled at me once in a while, too.
One Saturday, Jenny showed up at the stationery store where I was stock boy. Sometimes I could run the register, especially if the customer had greeting cards or just a few items. I must have blushed or something when Jenny came in, because one of the clerks, close to my mother's age and someone who teased me about girls from time to time, conveniently left the register as Jenny approached.
"Hi, Jenny." "Hi, Kent," she replied. And she gave me her one purchase, a birthday card, to ring up. "Jill's birthday is next week, and I wanted to mail this to her. She always sends me one, although my birthday is in August."
She reached in her pocket and took out coins, counting out the thirty-five cents the card cost, then adding pennies for the tax. I saw she had a bus transfer slip, so I asked her where she lived. I could not help but notice that she had very few coins in her pocket, and just one wadded-up dollar bill. She told me the street she lived on, and I knew it was one of the poorer areas of the city, and that she would probably have to wait awhile for the second bus she would ride to her home.
"Kent, that is a really nice girl, you ought to ask her out," my co-worker said after Jenny left the store. I guess I blushed, but thought to myself, "If Mrs. White thinks I ought to date Jenny, maybe I will ask her out."
A few days later, I just "happened" to pass Miss Babbage's classroom about when Jenny's class would end, and I waited for her.
Jenny told me that Jill liked the card, and thanked me for helping her find it. I really didn't help her, I told her, but ... and then I stumbled into what was on my mind.
"Jenny, how about a date? There are some good movies coming up, and I could get you home before it is dark."
Jenny sighed, and I can still recall her voice as she told me, "Kent I cannot. My parents won't let me date until I am fourteen, and that will be in August ... But ask me then, and, if my parents say it is OK, I will go out with you. Unless," she added with a smile, "you keep sending me back down the stairs!"
"Jenny!, I did that only once!!"
"Yes, I know."
Then shy and very lovely Jenny told me exactly where she lived. "But don't stop by before my birthday, promise?" she asked me. She even told me her full name, which she pronounced as "Jenny Siska".
I spelled it S I S K A and she laughed, "I can tell you don't know :Polish, it is spelled Sieczka."
During the summer, I would sometimes ride my bike to my old elementary school, where pick-up baseball games were frequently played. Usual games were not of two teams, but three at a time were "batters" to take turns batting until one made an out. That player would go out to right field, and eventually become a batter again after rotating from the outfield to infield to pitcher to catcher as outs were made. It was a fun time, but I noticed that I usually biked home taking a route that would go by Jenny's house.
I never learned if it was one family or multi-family, I suspect it was the latter, although I never saw mail boxes. The house needed a coat of paint, but the grass, such as there was, was neatly trimmed; a small flower garden bordering the front of the house.
I kept my word, and never stopped by her house, in fact I never saw any activity at the house. I never saw grass get mowed, although on trash pickup day several trash barrels were by the curb. Then, for two weeks in August, the pick-up baseball games ended for me, for I went with my parents for a vacation in the Adirondacks. Jenny's birthday hadn't come yet, I told myself, so I didn't send her a card.
School started just after Labor Day, and again I was a hall monitor. I saw Jill the second day of school, but not Jenny. "Jill, where's Jenny?" I asked her.