Harry had been my best friend for so long that it was hard for me to sometimes remember how far back we went. I'm pretty sure that it was around the second grade, but it might have been the first. He lived three doors down from me and we started walking to school together in the morning and then home again after school. We played together after school and on the weekends and as we grew older the bonds became tighter.
When we were thirteen the Ellsworth brothers took his bike and I went with him to get it back. I got a black eye out of the deal, but I broke Burt Ellsworth nose and we did get Harry's bike back. When we were fourteen I got it a fight with Ronnie Liss over something I said to his sister and I was cleaning his clock until his cousin Sam jumped in to help him. Harry waded in and took care of Sammy while I finished with Ronnie. Harry had my back and I had his.
When we started dating we double dated a lot and we even swapped dates a time or two. We went out for football and Harry was a pretty good quarterback and as the center I made it my mission to keep tacklers off of him and I did it with some degree of success. We also went out for basketball and during one game a guy blindsided me while I was taking a jump shot and Harry was on him before I hit the floor. The two were thrown out of the game, but it was another case of Harry having my back.
We went to college together and it was there that he met Mary Ellen Baker and fell ass end over tea kettle in love with her. They dated, became close, he proposed, she accepted and three months at a party later Harry caught her when she sneaked off to a bedroom and was fucking another guy. I was the one who took him, got him drunk and convinced him that she was a worthless piece of shit and in general helped him through the bad time. He was there for me when my mom and dad were killed by a drunk driver and he was my best man when I married Suellen Foster.
For over twenty years Harry had been my best friend and confidant. Given that I could only wonder at how my best friend could do what he did.
I met Suellen in my sophomore year at State. It was the first day of the term and my first class of the day was Managerial Economics. I walked into room 116 at Thornton Hall and found an empty seat. I sat down and then looked at the girl sitting next to me and my heart did flip flops. She was the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. She looked at me and smiled and I was lost.
I had never seen her before and I knew nothing about her. A quick look at her left hand showed no ring, but that didn't mean that she didn't have a boyfriend and in fact, as good as she looked, it was a damned good bet that she did have one. The British Army has a unit, the SAS, and the unit motto is "He who dares wins" and I had adopted that as my creed. At the end of the class I turned to her and said:
"You may already have a boyfriend, but on the slim chance that you don't my name is Rob Foreman and I would like to apply for the position."
She laughed and said, "My next class isn't until eleven so between now and then I will be conducting interviews at the cafeteria in the Student Union. There are quite a few applicants and the interview schedule is pretty tight, but I may be able to squeeze you in" and she got up and left. I had another class in ten minutes, but a man has to have his priorities straight so I ditched the class and hurried to catch up with the gorgeous redhead.
"So tell me Mr. Foreman just why do you think you qualify for the position?"
"I'm dependable, hard working, fairly intelligent and have a pretty decent sense of humor. I'm physically fit and have been told that I'm reasonably attractive, but I will concede that I may have been lied to about that. But I think the biggest thing I can bring to the table is that a beautiful green-eyed redhead can totally own me and make me her willing slave. I'm told that some women like that in a man."
"Well it all looks good on paper, but I will need to do an in the field evaluation. The only opening I have is tonight."
"I can do tonight. I will have to cancel half a dozen things, but I can do tonight."
I picked her up at six-thirty and we had dinner at Geogio's and then I took her to see a movie. When I took her home and walked her to her door she said:
"As field evaluations go you did reasonably well. I think that I may just take a chance on you, but you need to know up front that you will be on probation and can be let go at any time."
"How long is the probation period?"
"It is indefinite. If you can accept that then the position is yours."
We kissed on the third date, steamed up the windows of my car on the fourth, fifth and sixth. I had her over to my apartment and fixed us dinner on the seventh and then we made out on the couch for hours. We both knew where we were headed and on the eighth I made the move. She said:
"I'm not a virgin Rob."
"Neither am I."
"I didn't expect it to happen this soon so I'm not ready. I'm not on the pill and I don't have my diaphragm with me and please don't insult my intelligence by telling me that you will pull out."
"I can wait. In fact I'll wait until we are married if you want."
"No need to go that far. Marriage is not in my immediate plans. Besides, don't I have to be asked first? And even then isn't a "yes" required?"
"We have only been seeing each other for a month, but it has been long enough for me to decide that I've found the one I want."
"Take it slow Rob; I'm in no great hurry."
On the ninth date I asked Suellen what she wanted to do and she said:
"Go to your apartment."
"I wasn't expecting that so the refrigerator is empty."
"As long as your bedroom isn't as cold as your fridge we will be okay."
That set the tone for our relationship. Almost every date after that ended up in the bedroom at my apartment and the more time I spent with Suellen the more I was sure that I had found my life partner.
Unfortunately Suellen didn't feel the same way. She said that I was "her man" but she wasn't ready to commit to the long term. We went to Cabo for spring break and I spent half of my time there poised to fight all the assholes that hovered around Suellen when she was on the beach in her bikini. In fact I did punch out one guy who got a little too carried away. When I objected to his putting his hands on her and he said, "Back off little man. The lady needs to see what a real man can do for her" I lost it. It was a good thing I was pulled off the asshole because the way I was going I probably would have killed him. I almost got in a tiff with Suellen over it when she said in a sarcastic tone of voice:
"My hero. Did it not occur to you that I'm a big girl now and I can take care of myself?"
"Hey" I responded, "You want some strange asshole to run his hands all over you just tell me and I'll go the fuck away and leave you alone, but I'm not about to stand around while some asshole messes with the girl I am with. I will not have everybody who is watching thinking that I'm a fucking wimp."
Suellen saw that she had touched a nerve and she quickly turned lovey-dovey on me. The rest of the break passed without incident. Suellen drew plenty of admiring glances, but the guys gave her a wide berth when I was around.
Things ran along nicely until summer vacation. Suellen told me that she was going back to Texas to spend the summer with her family. I knew she was from out of state, but somehow had overlooked the fact that she would leave when the term was over. We would be apart for over two months and I wasn't very happy about it, but there wasn't anything that I could do. I told her that I would probably come down and visit her and she told me to call well in advance.
"My mom was talking about us making a trip to visit my Aunt Mae and I wouldn't want you showing up and me being in Oregon."
I called her once or twice a week for the first month and then I made the phone call that changed things and not for the better. Every other time I called Suellen had been the one to answer the phone. Then I made a call that was answered by her mother. Apparently to her mother on the phone I sounded like someone she knew.
"Hi. Is Suellen there?"
"No she isn't Harvey. She and Jake went to the lake for the weekend. I think he is going to propose. You want to leave a message?"
"No thanks; I'll call back next week."
"Okay Harvey; say hello to your mom and dad for me."
I wondered if when Jake proposed Suellen would give him the same song and dance she gave me about not being ready for a long term relationship. I stewed over that phone call until Monday and then I called again.
"Hi. Is Suellen there?"
"Oh hi Harvey. No she isn't. She and Jake are off somewhere and I don't expect her back until Sunday or Monday. How are your parents?"
"Fine. They said to say hi."
"You want to leave a message?"
"No thanks. I'll call back later."
Except I didn't. I put Suellen out of my mind and got on with my life.
Three weeks went by and then I got a call from Suellen.
"You haven't called."
"Didn't want to interfere."
"Interfere with what?"
"I expected that you would be busy making plans for the wedding and I didn't want to intrude."
"Plans for the wedding? What are you talking about?"
"I did call Suellen. I called twice. Do you know a guy called Harvey?"
.... There is more of this story ...