She was hot! She was hot and she knew it. The table had been 'guy central' as guy after guy made the pilgrimage to the shrine to ask for her to bestow even the smallest amount of attention on them. She danced with a few, but turned three times as many away.
Some things never change.
She was hot! She was hot and she knew it. The two girls with her weren't bad, but they didn't even come close to her. A steady stream of guys made their way to her table and after a moment or two of conversation she sent them on their way. Football players, baseball players and all of the other types of jocks wanted to sit with her at her table in the school cafeteria, but she turned them all away.
I sat and watched and wished I had the nerve to try, but if she wouldn't have anything to do with the school's elite what chance did a bookworm like me have. None I thought; not a chance in hell. Bobby the bookworm. That was me. The kid with the worst case of acne on the planet. The kid who sat in the back of the class room. The shy guy who kept to himself.
Two years went by and Bobby he bookworm had filled out some. The acne had faded, but my face was so covered with scars and pits that it looked like a golfer with spiked shoes had walked across it. I was still the shy guy and I still sat in the school cafeteria and looked across the room to the table where she sat with her two friends and held court.
And then the strangest thing happened. She looked my way, our eyes met and she smiled at me. I knew it as sure as I knew my own name. She didn't smile in my direction, she wasn't smiling as she looked off into space – she was smiling at me. The buzzer rang announcing the end of lunch period and breaking the spell and we all got up and shuffled off to our next class. I didn't have any shared classes with her in the afternoon so I didn't see her again my first two classes the next day. I thought I saw her glance my way once or twice, but I was probably mistaken.
I was sitting in the cafeteria alone at a table which is how it usually was when she and her two friends came through the serving line. I, along with every other male in the place, watched as she paid the cashier. Next she would look around for an empty table and we would all watch as she and her two friends walked to it. It was the walk that we all wanted to watch. It was the sexiest sight in the world. Even if you couldn't see the rest of the package the walk alone would give you the hard on of all hard ons.
The cashier gave her her change and she looked around the room. There were several empty tables on the east side of the room and none on the side where I was sitting although there were three empty seats at my table. She turned and headed toward the empty seats at my table and behind her I saw her two friends look at each other in confusion before following along behind her. She walked up to my table, looked at me and said:
"May we join you?"
I was too stunned to say a word, but she knew the likelihood of my saying no was on a par with the moon being found to really be a big blob of cheese and so she sat down. She looked at me and said:
I nodded a yes.
"So tell me Robert, why do you sit here every lunch hour and watch me like a hawk?"
Her friends looked from her to me and then back to her and "what the hell is going on here" was as clearly on their faces as it was in my mind. I was shy, but it was the kind of 'shy' that prevented me from approaching people, not the tongue-tied kind of shy when people started talking to me. I smiled and said:
"Beauty attracts the eye. Extreme beauty attracts the eye and holds it."
She appeared surprised at that. The doofus was not a slack jawed clown? I had no idea what she was thinking at that moment. I wasn't the kind of guy who was privy to the way a goddess thought. She gave me a dazzling smile and asked:
"If that is true why have you never come over to talk to us?"
"What? Me? A commoner approach the throne?"
She laughed and said, "We could stand a steady diet of that kind of flattery, right girls?"
Her two friends, Carol and Bev, gave half assed smiles that clearly indicated that they had no idea of what was going on.
"Seriously" she said, "Why haven't you ever spoken to me before?"
"I can turn that back on you. We have been classmates for over three years now. Why haven't you ever spoken to me?"
"Because I am the queen bee and all the males are supposed to approach me, not I them" and then she laughed and said, "The truth of the matter is that I have been pretty much a superficial stuck up twit. I'm so used to all of the good looking guys fawning over me that I have never paid much attention to guys who look like you."
There was a sharp intake of breath from Bev and Carol when she said that and she laughed again and said:
"I'm the queen and the queen can say what she likes." She looked me right in the eye and said, "You know what you look like so you are not surprised that I see you the same way right?"
I shrugged and said, "No, not really."
"Good. We start off with no illusions."
"That's right bubba, start off. Meet me after school and you can carry my books home."
"Carry your books?"
"A figure of speech Robert. I usually go out the east door."
Then she switched subjects to who to vote for for the prom king and queen and we talked while we ate lunch. When the buzzer went off she said:
"East door at three. See you there."
She walked off leaving me sitting there wondering what the hell had just happened. Befuddled yes, stupid no! At three I was on the steps outside the east door when she came out. Bev and Carol were with her and when they saw me waiting I saw the look that passed between them. Each was soundlessly asking the other "Do you know what is going on here?" There was no surprise on her face when she saw me because she knew that I would be there.
She handed me her book bag and I took it. At the bottom of the stairs she turned right, but I took her arm and steered her to the left. She gave me a questioning look and I said:
"Bear with me my queen. All will become clear soon."
I walked us into the student parking lot and up to a 1993 Ford Mustang convertible. I unlocked the passenger door, opened it as I bowed low and said:
"Your chariot awaits my queen."
None of the three had ever seen the car before which wasn't all that odd since I'd never seen it myself before the previous night. It was my eighteenth birthday, but the decision had been made that we would celebrate it on Saturday so I wasn't expecting anything until then. Mom had told me to take out the trash while she got dinner ready and dad got out the plates and utensils to set the table. I went out the door to the attached garage where the garbage cans were and stopped in my tracks when I saw the Sea Green Mist Mustang with the white convertible top. It had a huge red bow on it and a streamer that said "Happy Birthday Rob."
I just stood there and stared at it. Mom and dad came up behind me. Mom said, "Happy birthday honey" and my dad said "The color is kind of yucky, but you're young enough that it can grow on you."
Mom punched him and said, "Shut up you. It is beautiful and I'm pissed you didn't give it to me and give Rob my clunky looking van."
"Couldn't give it to you" dad said. "You go out driving in that and I'd be beating guys off of you with a stick and I'm too old for that shit."
Mom laughed and said, "You are kind of old a decrepit. Maybe Rob will loan it to me some night and I can go cruising and find me some stud who can keep up with me."
Dad said, "I'll show you old and decrepit" and he picked her up, put her over his shoulder and carried her in the direction of the bedroom as she laughed and told him to put her down.
I held the door so Bev and Carol could get in the back and then she climbed in the front and settled into the white leather seat while I put the top down. I started it up and turned to her and said:
"Where would my queen like to go?"
That was the start of my relationship with Melissa Anne Courtney.
She directed me to Bev's house and then to Carol's and told them that she would call them later. Once we were alone she said:
"Why don't we go through the drive-thru, get a couple of Cokes and then drive over to the park?"
"I hear and obey my queen."
She laughed and said, "I should have found you sooner."
"I've been here all along."
"Tell me about yourself."
"Nothing to tell. I'm a bit shy and I keep mostly to myself except for a half dozen really good friends. Mostly I go to school, study and spend time at the library three or four times a week."
"Why so much time at the library?"
"I belong to a chess club that meets there on Tuesdays and a book discussion group that meets there on Thursdays. Wednesdays I read books to a group of four, five and six year olds."
"I notice that you don't participate in any sports."
"Don't care much for them. I'm not into physical competition. I do play tennis with my mom on weekends and bowl with my dad sometimes, but I get most of my exercise in the gym that my dad set up in our basement. But enough about me. Why has the queen deemed this lowly commoner worthy of her attention?"
She was silent for a moment and just as she was getting ready to say something we arrived at the Burger Barn and pulled into the drive-thru. I ordered two value meals and then drove across the street to the park, got out and went to a picnic table and sat down. She took a bite of her burger and a sip of her Coke and then said:
"The truth hurts Robert, but given the way you accepted my comment on your looks I believe you can handle it. I also said that I was a superficial, stuck up twit and it is true, but I had never been aware of it. I didn't have to be because I was too busy being adored and fawned over. Boys have been flocking to me since I was twelve and I had my pick. If the one I picked turned out to be a toad so what? Just dump him and pick another.
"I never lacked for a date and I didn't have a care in the world and it might have gone on that way forever if I hadn't overheard a conversation between my mom and dad. I wasn't supposed to be in the house. I was supposed to be at a sleep-over at Carol's, but she got sick and so I went home. Apparently my parents didn't hear me come in and they were talking about me. My dad was worried about my future if I didn't change my ways. He commented that all of my boyfriends were empty headed jocks and if you took the last five I'd gone out with and lumped all their brains together they still wouldn't be able to come up with the sense that God gave a grape. He said that they only reason that any of them spent any time at all studying was because they had to maintain a 'C' average or they couldn't play sports.
"My mom said it wasn't really that bad and besides I was young and having fun like you were supposed to when you were my age. My dad said that was true, but he was afraid I'd take my taste in boys with me when I went off to college this fall and I'd end up with some meathead whose only ambition was to play pro ball.
"I went up to my room and thought about what he'd said and I realized he was right. The only guys I had ever dated were good looking jocks. A lot weren't as dumb as my dad depicted, but they were almost all interested in sports and it seemed like that was all they talked about. When I studied it was never with the guy I was dating at the time; it was always with Bev, Carol or a couple of other girl friends. I tried to remember the last time I'd had a meaningful conversation with one of my boyfriends and I couldn't remember even one. My dad was right. I picked my boyfriends on appearance alone and it dawned on me that the reason I went through boyfriends so fast was that except for looks they didn't have anything going for them that would capture and hold my interest.
"I thought about it for a couple of days and decided that I needed to see how the other half was. I looked around and there you were. This is the truth may hurt part. I wanted to get away from jocks. I wanted to get away from yummy looking hunks. I wanted someone who my daddy wouldn't think of as just another meathead and like I said, there you were. Even at that you were the luck of the draw.
"It was night before last that I finally decided to do it and I spotted you yesterday sitting alone at lunch and I thought, "Whoa Lissa, there he is, the perfect guy. Not the best looking and not a jock and he is on the honor roll every semester so when I saw you sitting alone at lunch today I headed for your table and here we are. So what do you think of your queen now?"
"So I am a social experiment?"
"Why don't we say that you are part of a project?"
"Yes. The project is to try and change the self important, stuck up superficial twit into something else. Are you up to the task?"
She lifted an eyebrow at that and I said, "You said it yourself about four hours ago when you told me that you never paid much attention to guys who looked like me. The problem is that you are not the only girl with that attitude. I'm eighteen and have never been on a date with a girl and not from the lack of trying. I wouldn't have a clue as to what I could help you do as part of your project."
"You are pulling my leg right?"
"Not in the least. Never found a girl who wanted to go out with a guy whose face looked like it had been worked over by a cheese grater."
She sighed and shook her head. "Last weeks Mellissa would have been one of them. I guess there are two projects to work on now."
"Yep. Me and you. You get to work on the re-invent Mellissa project and I get to work on the turn Robert into a social butterfly project. Maybe they will compliment each other. Can you dance?"
"My mom made me take dance lessons when I was in the seventh grade."
"Done any since then?"
"With my mom at home. She and my dad used to compete in ballroom dancing events. When he is gone on business trips she wants to dance to fill in her evenings."
"Okay then. The first step in what I shall refer to as the "Bobby Project" will be to get you out into the company of others on dates. The goal will be to have you ready to shine at the prom."
"The prom? I don't have a date for the prom. I don't even know anyone I can ask to the prom. Every girl I have ever asked for a date has turned me down."
"Of course you have a date silly. You just haven't formally asked me yet."
"You? You are going to be my prom date?"
"A silly little requirement known as "asking."
I looked at her stunned and she said, "Repeat after me Robert. Will you go to the prom with me Mellissa?"
I stared at her in total confusion. How could this be happening? That the best looking and most popular girl in the school was sitting on a park bench and talking with me was mind boggling in itself. That she was telling me to ask her to the prom defied all logic.
"Come on Robert; you can do it. Just follow along with me. Will you go to the prom with me Mellissa?"
I pinched myself and felt the pain so I knew it wasn't a dream. I took a breath and asked:
"Miss Courtney; would you do me the honor of allowing me to be your escort to the senior prom?"
"I thought you would never ask. Of course I will. Now that we have that settled we need to go and see your mother."
"My mom? Why?"
"If she competed in ballroom dancing competitions she knows how important it is for you to be in sync with your partner. We need to have her see us together so she can make comments and suggestions. As you point out Robert I am the queen and the queen will need to reign supreme on the floor at the prom. When would be a good time?"
"I'll have to ask when I get home."
She looked at me and I found that she was pretty good at reading facial expressions.
"What are you thinking Robert?"
"I find it hard to believe that this close to the prom the best looking and most popular girl in the senior class doesn't already have a date, but mostly I find it hard to believe that you want to go to the prom with me."
"I have been asked by a half dozen guys and I have put them off since I was having a hard time trying to pick between them. I've already told you why I've never dated any one guy for very long and all the guys who asked me were the same as the ones I kept changing. There were all cut from the same cloth; out of the same mold so to speak. Your senior prom is supposed to be special and I was hoping for something better to come along. Then I did the re-evaluation thing and here we are. As your queen I'm going to lay a quest on you. It is up to you to see that your queen's senior prom is special. Accomplish this and your queen may grant you a knighthood or kiss you and turn you from a frog into a prince. Fail your queen and she may leave you a frog forever."
"I hear and obey my queen."
She laughed. "You big doofus. I should have checked out frogs sooner."
I drove her home and walked her to her door. She kissed my cheek and told me she would see me at school the next day.
Over dinner I told my mom that I had a date for the prom and told her what Mellissa said about getting some pointers on our dancing and mom told me to bring her home with me after school. I called Mellissa and she told me she had no plans for that afternoon and that she was looking forward to dancing with me.
Mellissa and I shared two classes and they were both in the morning and at the end of the second one she told me to make sure that I saved her a seat at my table during lunch. When I sat down in the cafeteria I thought I saw people looking at me and I wondered what was up with that.
I found out when Mellissa and the ever present Bev and Carol joined me at my table. Mellissa had told the guys who had asked her out that she wouldn't be going to the prom with them. She told Carol, Bev and a few others that she was going with me and the school grapevine spread the word. After some small talk about what Mr. Anders had covered in third hour Mellissa asked me if it would be all right if Carol and Bev could come with her to my house and I said that it was okay with me.
At three I was waiting for them at the east door and we drove to my house. Mom and Mellissa seemed to instantly connect and after a bit of conversation mom said:
"Okay you two; let me see what you got."
We went into the family room which had a hardwood floor and mom put on the CD that we usually danced to and started it playing. The first number was a waltz and it became immediately apparent that Mellissa couldn't dance. I mean she could dance like most teenagers, but she wasn't up to ballroom dancing standards. I was making her look bad. Not at all what I wanted for my queen. Mom was not the soul of discretion. She flat told Mellissa:
"You need some work honey. Let me show you what it should look like."
She held out here hand to me and hit the play button again and I took mom around the floor until the tune ended. Then mom said:
"We need to do one of two things here. Either Bobby has to tone it way down or we need to bring you up."
Mellissa said, "I vote for bringing me up. How do I do it?"
"Hard work honey. Hard work and time. How much can you give me?"
"Every minute I'm not in school. That includes weekends."
"What do we have? Two weeks until prom?"
Mellissa nodded a yes.
"Okay then. Every night after school and all day on Saturday. If we make good progress we can skip Sundays." She turned to me and said, "It means that you will be responsible for having dinner ready when your dad gets home. That all right with you?"
Mellissa said, "He cooks too?"
"My Bobby is a man of many talents. Sooner or later some very lucky young lady is going to realize what a catch he is."
I blushed and mom told me I wouldn't be needed for the day's lesson, but to be prepared to work hard the next day. As I headed for the kitchen I heard Bev ask if she and Carol could sit in. I didn't hear what mom said, but I was pretty sure it would be okay with her.
As I drove the girl's home they talked about dresses and other prom related things and when I got Mellissa home I walked her to her door. I got another kiss on the cheek and she told me to remember to save her a seat at my table next day.
I was late getting to lunch the next day and when I got there Mellissa, Carol and Bev were already at a table, but the fourth seat was occupied by Ray Hendricks so I found a seat on the other side of the cafeteria. That afternoon at three Mellissa showed up at the east door alone and as we drove to my house she apologized for not saving me a seat at the table.
"Ray sat down before I could tell him that I was saving the seat for you. He started talking to Bev about their prom date so I couldn't chase him away."
I shrugged and we pulled into my driveway. We were just walking into the house when I found out why Carol and Bev hadn't been with Mellissa when she came out of school. Ray pulled up in front of the house and he and Bev got out of his car even as Carol and Steve Miller pulled up behind him. I looked at Mellissa.
"Your mom said she would also work with Bev, Carol and their dates."
I just shrugged and said, "I guess the queen's court should look good to" and we went into the house.