Just runnin’ scared each place we go
So afraid that he might show
Yeah, runnin’ scared, what would I do
If he came back and wanted you
Just runnin’ scared, feelin’ low
Runnin’ scared, you love him so
Just runnin’ scared, afraid to lose
If he came back which one would you choose
Then all at once he was standing there
So sure of himself, his head in the air
My heart was breaking, which one would it be
You turned around and walked away with me.
R. Orbison, J. Melson
I first met Christine in middle school and immediately had a hopeless crush on her. Christine Shores has probably always been beautiful. As a middle schooler, it was blindingly obvious. She was taller than average with an awesome shape, beautiful and expressive face, and shoulder length blond hair. On top of that, she was a good student.
My father was the principal of the school and admitted to me that she was the “complete package.” That he was principal was only part of my problem. I was a short, skinny kid in middle school. Christine never seemed to notice me though we were in the same advanced classes.
In high school, she was popular even with other girls. I was finally growing but was skinny though had hopes for developing a better build. I could run, catch, and throw well. Naturally, I played center field for our baseball team. I might have been a star if I could have hit for even a little power. Instead, I hit for average, batting second. I was told by the coach that defense was where my value to the team really lay. I graduated as an honor student having lettered in baseball every year.
For college, I received a partial scholarship for baseball and some small scholastic scholarships. I would get through with minimal loans. Christine, on the other hand, breezed through high school dating the quarterback who was also the star pitcher. She had an academic scholarship and won a beauty contest that provided a scholarship. Eric had a full ride in baseball.
They went to the same college as I.
Christine continued to date Eric Sloan through college while my crush continued quietly. It wasn’t always fun for me.
Who am I? I am Julian Hornsby. I topped out at five foot, ten inches. I have mousy, brown hair with a permanent cowlick. My eyes are an unremarkable hazel color. I rarely dated. First, because I really only wanted to date Christine, and second, because I just wasn’t that appealing. No one would ever look at me and accuse me of being a stud. My grades stayed good with a double major in business management and mathematics.
At graduation, my degree was with honors as was Christine’s. Eric did graduate though without any honors attached. He was, however, drafted by a professional baseball team. As a result, he was headed to a minor league team. To my surprise, he didn’t ask Christine to go with him or she didn’t want to go with him.
A week after he left, I asked her out. I was happily surprised when she accepted. I took her to dinner and then to a play at school. We had a wonderful time.
The only fly in the ointment was that she talked about Eric a lot. Since I had known Eric from high school and college baseball, I knew he was a good guy. That was the worst part. We weren’t close but he was kind to everyone. I decided that listening to her talk about him was a small price to pay to be with her. We were both still living on campus and I took her back to her dorm that evening. I didn’t even try to kiss her.
In the common area, she told me, “Julian, I had a good time. Thank you for asking me.”
I appreciated that she used my full name. Frequently, I was called, “Jules,” or even worse, “Julie.” I liked neither one.
I saw her in church that Sunday. I went consistently but rarely saw her there.
I asked her to lunch and she accepted. I took her to a small place I had found on the other side of town from our college. She hadn’t been there before and liked it.
I brought her back to her dorm and she pulled me by my hand into the common area and we sat down on a couch. “Julian, I appreciate your attention. I’ve been lonely and you have been good to me. I hope to see more of you.”
“I would like that, Christine.”
We paused for a long moment. She said, “I want to tell you something. I chose not to go with Eric. I have followed his lead for everything except my major in college. He is why I hadn’t gone to church. My parents totally supports him in any desire or wish he may have. I still don’t know if I will be able to resist him in the future.”
“I appreciate those statements, Christine, but why tell me?”
“Julian, you have always been nice to me. I don’t want you to build something in your mind that isn’t realistic.”
“I think I understand. I try to be realistic in my thinking and expectations.” I said it but I didn’t think I would be successful in that try. I had high hopes. It would depend upon what happened in the future.
We continued to see each other. Both of us were taking courses this summer. I wasn’t not sure about hers but mine were to head me into the MBA program into which I had been accepted. My parents were supportive of my schooling though missed me being home for the summer. My younger brother and sister were both there and I missed time with them, too.
I allowed Christine to have as much of my time as she wanted. I took her to eat, to plays and concerts at college, and for walks in the parks around town. My monetary status didn’t allow any grand expenditures. I knew I couldn’t compete with Eric with money or looks.
Toward the end of summer, Eric returned to town for a week. He monopolized all of Christine’s time. Eric left again and she had time for me again. She told me that he wanted her to come with him but she wasn’t willing to quit school.
She also told me that Eric knew, from her, that I was accompanying her while he had been gone. When I asked her what he had to say about my efforts, she told me that he hadn’t cared. I think it was because he felt I was no threat to take his place in her heart.
Eric’s career took him to “fall ball” in Arizona. He was far away from us. I continued to take Christine anywhere she wanted to go. Very slowly, we became somewhat romantic. We were holding hands and sitting beside each other in church and elsewhere. We were kissing now.
I knew how much I cared for Christine but was scared that I was still just a friend in her mind. Anytime Eric was available, I had to think she would be with him and not me. It hurt but I had to admit that it was also my reality.
Our time continued and we continued to be lightly romantic. Our kissing became a little more passionate. I was worried, concerned that Eric would return and Christine would run to him. I was looking over my shoulder, figuratively, wondering when he would return again and take over her life.
My fear began to affect my general psyche. Christine now knew me well enough that she knew there was something plaguing me. I wouldn’t talk about it.
Thanksgiving was approaching and I invited her to come with me to my parents’ home. Her folks were divorcing and she didn’t want to go with either one. I hadn’t heard about or of Eric in almost a month. I worried.
It was Thanksgiving and we went to my folks’ place. It was the same house that I had lived in all my life. My dad had remained as the middle school principal while my mom still taught elementary school. My brother was in college and my sister was a senior in high school. Christine would stay in her bedroom with her while we were in town.
We rode in my older car to my home. She looked around. I had found that her parents had moved away before separating. She hadn’t been back since they moved. I moved into my bedroom and Christine was sharing with my sister.
The next morning, I rose and went into the kitchen. Christine came in and saw me. “Julian, happy thanksgiving.”
“Happy thanksgiving to you, Christine. You look great as usual.
“Good morning and happy thanksgiving, Sis.”
“It’s good to see you, Big Brother. Jeremy and I have missed you since you stayed in school all summer and now this fall.”
Jeremy asked, “Julian, how is school going? Is the MBA program difficult?”