This story is based on real people and true events in my life. There is a strong and (I hope) very obvious fantasy element involved; but every person, place or thing referenced is drawn from experience. The first portion of the story is an almost exact transcript of an event in my early teen years. I have not even changed the names.
I will leave it to the reader to determine the demarcation between fact and fantasy.
If you have read my story "Two Wives, Two Lives," you'll notice a distinct similarity in themes; but the two are simply the same concept applied to two different sets of circumstances from my past.
This is not a stroke story. It contains no explicit sex, and includes romantic, non-sexual interactions between younger teens. If this is not your cup of tea, please move along.
The first time I met Cindy for the first time was breathtaking.
The second time I met her for the first time was heartbreaking.
Let's back up a bit, shall we?
I was always a bit of a contrarian. Part of my nature, I suppose. I discovered early on that when someone told me I would do so-and-so, I would go out of my way to ensure it would not happen.
Example: I read, in about fourth grade, that a right-handed man will invariably put his left leg in his pants first.
So what do you suppose I did? Right. Trained myself the other way. I was not going to let someone tell me I was destined to be a member of a herd, with the attendant mentality.
So it was that when I turned twelve, and began manifesting those pubescent features that come along about that time, my father started ragging on me. One day soon, he'd say, some willowy little blond would come and drape herself on my shoulder.
See where this is going? Not if I had anything to say about it, she wouldn't. Girls and boys that age have mutually infectious cooties, if you'll recall; I just made up my mind never to recover.
At the end of that school year, my father was promoted and transferred to another town about three hours away. My folks spent a couple of weekends in May scouting places to live.
As soon as school let out, the moving began. I was farmed out to my maternal grandmother, with whom I was always extremely close, for a couple of weeks of settling-in; my younger sister to my Dad's older sister, who had a crop of girl cousins.
Eventually the family was reunited, and we began to meet and know the neighborhood folk.
Among my friends was a fellow named David L___, about thirteen months my senior, but with whom I shared an immediate and easy rapport. My family lived in a corner duplex apartment; his in the same configuration at the end of the block.
David's family was interesting. He and his three younger sisters lived with their (relatively young) grandparents. Their son and his wife had gotten the "d" word, scandalous back then, and had unceremoniously dumped the four kids on Gramma and Grampa L___.
Of the sisters, the youngest was Barbara, cute as a button, six years old, and besotted with my father. She'd sit in his lap, and even called him "Daddy" a time or two. My dad adored the child, sure, but he was uncomfortable with the situation; still, he played along and doted on her.
The next up the chain was Molly, my sister's age, and they became inseparable.
Ah, and then there was Cindy.
David and Cindy were barely eleven months apart, so she was a little older than I, even though we were both (by now) thirteen. She was thin and gangly and vivacious, and just starting to get these interesting bumps on her chest. She wore glasses and sundresses and had flyaway dirty-blond hair.
And when I met her, she giggled and said, "Hiya, handsome."
Well, the other kids were merciless. She and a couple of the other girls ran off, shrieking with laughter. David and Bobby, another neighbor friend, gave me the usual shit kids inflict on their friends at that age.
I was smitten.
Now, I wouldn't have admitted it for all the rice in China; but deep inside, a button of mine had been pushed.
I played it cool, of course, and pretended to be mortally offended.
Summer wore on and we kids got to know each other better. It wasn't a gay thing, but I began to wonder how I'd ever made it without a friend like David. We were as close as young boys can be, and still be straight (which we both were, most emphatically).
Every time I saw Cindy, thought, she's singsong, "Hiya, handsome," and giggle. Truthfully, my chest swelled every time.
School started eventually, and they were nowhere to be found. They were, we were told, Catholic, and went to Parochial School. I didn't know what's a Catholic -- we were Southern Baptist, and we knew Methodists and Presbyterians and Jews -- but it was explained to my satisfaction, and even a bit of sorrow, as there would be no chance to attend school with David.
Or with Cindy.
In early October, their Grampa L___ was called to this place called Australia. He was a plant engineer in a local textile mill, and they needed him to help start up a plant there. He was to return around Thanksgiving.
It was big neighborhood news. We knew a person who was going to ANOTHER COUNTRY! We shimmered with our newfound self-important self-image.
Right about the third week of November, our church bulletin announced a Christmas Social for the teenagers in church, to be held the second week of December.
My folks dropped a couple of hints about my going, and maybe Cindy would like to go. I ignored them. The hints became more like suggestions, and the suggestions more like interfering in my life.
Still, I was silently enamored of her. My protests would have sounded hollow.
Grampa L___ returned just before Thanksgiving, on schedule. Everyone was thrilled, and simultaneously busy with other concerns.
Well, the Sunday evening after Thanksgiving, I finally acceded to my parents suggestions, and I called Cindy. I asked her if she'd like to go to the church social. She giggled and agreed. I acted put out, to my folks, but they beamed, and I was secretly thrilled.
The next day everything changed, though no one knew it at the time.
There was commotion at the L___ household, everyone could tell. There were two extra cars parked in the driveway. David met me outside as I walked home from school, and said, "Come on, I want you to meet my Mom and Dad."
I was confused, but went along and met them. They were very nice; I could see David looked like his father. Cindy and the other girls looked like different reflections of their mother.
Cindy wouldn't look at me.
I thought it odd, but went on home and reported the news to my parents.
The next Friday evening there was a kind of block party, a grill-out with burger and dogs and these strange things calls brats, and of course potato salad (my mother's, almost solely, by demand; she makes the BEST ever) and all the other attendant goodies. We met the parents and spoke to the grandparents and met neighbors we had not yet gotten to know.
At then end of the shindig, Grampa L___ made an announcement.
Cindy stared at me though the whole thing.
Grampa L___ had done a wonderful job, said his bosses. So wonderful, in fact, they had offered him the opportunity to relocate the family Down Under for a few years. They would leave the next weekend.
When he said that, I looked at Cindy, who was sill looking at me. She turned and silently entered the duplex; no one else noticed.
Everyone oohed and aahed at the announcement, offering whatever help they could.
My family eventually gathered up our stuff and walked the bare half-block back home. My Dad held me back a little. "I'm really sorry, son," he said, and immediately walked into the house.
There was furious activity the next week as the L___ household was wadded up for their adventure. I watched as the worked moved things in and out. I barely comprehended what was happening.
Then came Saturday. The L___ station wagon came down the street, honking its horn, and everybody flocked from houses and apartments to see the family off.
I walked to the back window and shook hands with David. He didn't look sad; he was on the cusp of a new adventure, and I was so happy for him. We'd see one another again one day, he avowed.
Then I walked to the right rear passenger window. Cindy was sitting there, looking at me.
"Well, we'd have enjoyed that social," I said lamely.
She held out her hand, and I took it. She pulled it into the car and kissed it, then let go. "G'Bye, handsome," she said, and giggled. It was a half-assed giggle.
"Oh, yuck!' I opined, and she laughed. Our eyes locked for a moment, and then I moved aside so someone else could bid her adieu.
We watched them leave, and as the crowd dispersed, a melancholy fell over me. Not a depression, not despair: just a light sadness.
Later that evening I sat in my bed, up against the wall, listening to the radio. My dad knocked and walked in unbidden; he sat on the bed beside me and said, "I know that was a little rough, son."
I shrugged. "I have more to worry about than girls, anyway. You're always telling me to concentrate on my studies." I gave him a telling look.
He looked in my eyes for about ten seconds, then broke the gaze, slapped my knee a couple of times and said, "Right you are."
(A couple of years later, my parents built a house and we moved out of the neighborhood. After I got my driver's license, I'd occasionally cruise through, thinking sadly of the places I'd seen Cindy, thinking of the missed opportunities.)
The rest of junior high and high school were unremarkable. I made sufficient grades, but not spectacular, and I dated not a single girl. I always had it in my mind I would one day find Cindy again. It never occurred to me she might meet another "handsome."
After my high school graduation, I heard, through some long-forgotten grapevine, that's exactly what had happened. She married someone, said someone. Had a baby, said the news. Pop goes the dream.
I attended the local community college, and eventually I allowed myself to let go of Cindy as an object of hope. I went on to a nearby university, where one evening I made up a story about how we, at thirteen, did THE DEED. I was newly legal and legally drunk; but no one knew anyone I was talking about. So who cared?
Finally, there came graduation and jobs and settling into routines. Settling into routines became getting married to the only woman who'd have me; that led to three years of misery because of the cheating bitch.
No, that's not fair, really. I mean, I have to acknowledge my own role in the failure of my marriage. I was still, on some level, consumed with Cindy. It wasn't right, and it caused me to treat my wife with ... well, less than full devotion as a husband. I wasn't there for her, so she found someone who was.
So it was that I found myself, freshly divorced, living in a shoebox of an apartment. One evening, long past legally drunk, I sat heavily on my couch, one of the few items I'd salvaged from my divorce, bottle of Johnny Red in hand. "Three years down the tubes," I slurred aloud; my last thought was, Oh, Cindy, Where Art Thou? Hahaha, the Coen brothers would have loved that.
I fell asleep, and awakened with a headache. I reached for the water bottle I normally keep with me.
Bam! My hand hit something hard. Felt like sheetrock. I reached out, more gently, when the light came on.
"What happened?" asked a familiar voice. "Are you okay?"
I looked at the figure, trying to focus. It was my mother.
I was way confused by this time. She looked the same as she had fifteen years earlier.