I met Cookie in the seventh grade. Her parents had moved to town just in time to enroll her at the start of the school year. I was walking up the steps to the west entrance of the school and I saw her by the front door. She was blocked by three guys who were making fun of her pigtails. She kept trying to get by them, but they kept moving to keep themselves between her and the door. One of the guys was Oscar Walls and he and I had gone at it a couple of times. Once on the playground at the elementary school during recess and once at the city swimming pool. Both times there were no clear winners, but both times had established that I wouldn't put up with his shit and since then we had steered clear of each other. I walked up to the little group and said:
"You're in the way Oz. The lady and I want to go in that door."
"You can go, but we ain't done with Miss Piggy."
"Yeah. What else would you call a girl her age who runs around in pigtails."
"Maybe you could ask her what her name is and call her by that. Move."
"You going to make me?"
I turned to the girl and asked her if she would please hold my books. I could see that she was scared, but she nodded her head "yes" and I handed them to her and turned back to Oz.
"Yes Oz; if I have to I will."
He sneered at me and looked at Dick Reed and Phil North and back at me and I could see that he was thinking "Three against one – a piece of cake" but when I stepped toward him Phil and Dick beat feet into the school. They didn't want any part of a fight on school grounds.
Oz was a bully, but he wasn't stupid. He had fought me before and he knew I wouldn't quit and that it was likely that the fight would still be going on when some teacher came to see what all the commotion was about. Without Phil and Dick to help make it a quick short fight he knew we could easily end up in the principals office and with the girl telling her side of the story he could end up being expelled. I could too for that matter, but I thought that I might get points for stepping up to help the girl. Oz decided that it wasn't worth it and he turned and walked into the school. I turned to look at the girl and she was looking at me wide eyed.
"You were really going to fight him?"
"He's a bully and the only way you can handle a bully is stand up to him and let him know you aren't afraid of him."
As I took my books back from her and the crowd that had gathered to see what was going on dispersed I said:
"I don't think I've seen you here before."
"It's my first day here. We just moved here from New York."
"My name is Frank and let me be the first to welcome you to Hadley Middle School."
"Pleased to meet you Frank. I'm Cookie."
That was the start of it.
Cookie and I were good friends all the way through middle school. I asked her for a date to go to the movies a couple of times, but her parents wouldn't let her date until she was sixteen. I made her promise me that I would be her first date when she reached that age and she promised.
I was glad I had that promise because when summer vacation ended and we started the tenth grade a brand new Cookie appeared. She had spent the summer visiting relatives in New York and while she was gone she had bloomed.
Until that time I'd pretty much had her to myself, but suddenly other guys were paying her attention. A couple of times I had to jokingly remind her that she had promised her first date to me. Her birthday was on the 10th of October and around the middle of September I asked her if her parents would allow her to date on her birthday or would she have to wait a day. She told me that it wouldn't matter because she had a restriction in that she couldn't date on school nights. She could only date on Friday, Saturday and go on a daytime date on Sunday providing she was home by seven. The 10th was on a Wednesday so I asked:
"Will you go out with me Friday the 12th?"
"I don't know if I can. My parents told me that they would probably set something up for the weekend since my birthday was in the middle of the week."
"Let me know as soon as you can okay? I've been waiting almost two years to take you out on a date."
On the 3rd of October Cookie told me that her parents had made plans for the weekend following her birthday. That meant that it would be the weekend of the 20th before we could have our date, but that was the weekend that I had to go to Chicago with my parents to celebrate my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary. I was going to have to see if I could get out of going somehow.
There were distractions during the two weeks leading up to Cookie's birthday. We always sat together in the school cafeteria for lunch, but one day Cookie got there before I did and when I got there I found her sitting with Jason Medved. I joined them and got a nasty look from Jason. A kind of "Why the fuck are you horning in on us" look. I ignored him, but he kept butting in whenever I tried talking to Cookie and when he finally left Cook said:
"That was pretty rude of you."
"What was rude?"
"Sitting down without asking if you could join us."
"How was that rude? You and I sit together every day and everyone knows it. If any one was rude it was Jason."
"Still, you should have asked."
Lunch was over before it was taken any farther and nothing was said about it by either of us the next day. Two days later I got to the cafeteria and found Cookie and Jason sitting together at a table so to mollify Cookie than anything else when I walked up to the table I asked:
"Mind if I join you?"
"Yeah, as a matter of fact I do" snarled Jason.
I looked over at Cookie and she just shrugged so I walked away. The next day I got there first, but when Cookie came through the line she was with Jason and when the paid the cashier she looked around and saw me and headed for my table. Jason took her by the arm and steered her to another table and she went without protest. They sat at a table not far from me and even though Cookie was sitting facing me she never once looked my way.
That day when classes were over – for the first time in ages – I wasn't waiting outside the school to walk Cookie home. Around six the phone rang and my mom answered it and then said the call was for me.
"Hi. Where were you after school? I waited and waited and you never showed up."
"I figured that you would probably be with Jason so I came straight home."
"Why would you think that?"
"Why wouldn't I? Think about it. I've got to go" and I hung up on her. Childish of me maybe, but what the hell; I wasn't a grown up yet and I was pissed.
The next day, even though I shared two morning classes with Cook I avoided her. I was at the cafeteria first and was at a table when Cook got there and she was alone. No Jason lurking by. She got her change from the cashier and came over to ma and said:
"Mind if I join you?"
"Why would I mind?"
"After being an asshole and hanging up on me yesterday I wasn't sure that you would want me here."
I motioned for her to sit and she put her tray down and took the chair opposite me.
"What is wrong with you Frank?"
"You and the way you have been these last few days."
"What do you mean by that?"
"The way you have been with Medved."
"I don't know what you are talking about."
"Sure you do. You rip me for being rude when I joined you at the table the other day when we have been sitting together since the start of high school. My place was at that table and I was not rude in taking my place. Did you say anything to Jason for the rude response I got when I followed your lead and politely asked if I could join you?"
I could see from her face that she hadn't and I said, "I thought so. And yesterday when he steered you away from sitting with me did you protest? Did you say "I always sit with Frank" and again I could tell from her face that she hadn't.
"I've gone through the last four years thinking that you were my girl, but I guess that I was wrong."
"You are being silly Frank."
"I don't think so. If you were my girl you would have let Jason know. You would have told him that you always spent lunch period with me and then invited him to join us if he wanted. You know what bothered me most about yesterday? You sat in a chair that was facing me, but not did you look my way and meet my eyes and to me that said that you knew what you were doing wasn't right, but you did it anyway."
"Oh come on Frank; it isn't like we are going steady or anything."
"That isn't because I don't want to Cook; it is because your parents won't let you until you are sixteen. On your sixteenth birthday I had fully intended to ask you to go steady."
"You say that like you don't intend to any more."
I looked at my watch. "Got to run. Can't be late for Calc."
"You walking me home tonight?"
"If you want me to."
That afternoon when I left school I saw Cookie standing and talking to Jason and I walked up to them and stood there waiting for their conversation to end so I could leave with Cookie. Jason turned to me and said:
"Beat it ass wipe. We're busy."
It wasn't cool of me; not in the least, but I dropped my book bag and punched Jason in the face with everything that I had and he dropped to his knees as blood flowed from his nose. I bent down, got my face inches from his and said:
"If you ever talk that way to me again I swear to God that I will beat the living hell out of you and you had best believe that!"
.... There is more of this story ...