Nerd Romance—After the Camping Trip

Several chapters lumped together

I have been publishing pieces of Nerd Romance as individual chapters because they work that way. There are references to earlier events, but if you have the gist of the story, you can read an individual chapter just fine and make sense of it. It’s like a sitcom episode—so long as you know the premise of the show, you don’t need to have watched every single episode in the season beforehand.

And then we got to this part.

Each of the “chapters” builds on the previous one. They lose something (coherence?) when presented separately. They also make for a half-hour read when lumped together. And nobody reads that big a chunk on Medium!

In case you ran across this anyway, it picks up right after the kids have decided to end their practice relationship and become REAL girlfriend/boyfriend:

The Real Relationship, Day 1

K smiled and nodded at some of the guys from his home room as they went by. He kept his hand on the open door of his locker, showing that yes, he was still engaged in whatever it was he needed to do in his locker; he just happened to be looking up, that was all. Not looking down the school hallway for a particular person at all.

Certainly not looking for his girlfriend.

Okay, this is silly, why would she be coming to see me at my locker? We’ve never done that before. It’s just two periods until chem lecture. I’ll see her then. She knows that. Why go out of her way? Wouldn’t make sense. E is very sensible. That’s what she meant by “See you first thing tomorrow,” that she’d see me in chem class. Just because it’s not a practice relationship now, doesn’t mean everything changes, right? Right.

He closed and locked his locker, settled his books in his arm, and headed for home room.

Obviously right.

E stood by her locker, books ready, stance alert. Getting more and more irritated.

So what part of “See you tomorrow, first thing” did I not communicate properly? Did I need to draw a map? He knows where my locker is! Is this some macho thing? Show me who’s in charge of this relationship now?

She glanced at the clock, growled, and started for her home room.

Okay, that actually makes sense. If we’re going to do this like a real relationship, really, then sure, the guy calls more of the shots. That’s just — look, maybe I didn’t expect that from K, but he’s a guy, that’s just how they are. Fine. Well, he can take charge all he wants to in chem lecture, then. I’ll let him do the talking. He’ll probably have some big excuse as why he didn’t make it this morning. Fine, I’ll let him apologize. I can be graceful about the whole thing. I’ll be soooo graceful he won’t know what hit him. Just wait.

The Real Relationship, Day 2

Pat marched up to James in the cafeteria, where he was walking around with his tray looking for a friendly place to sit. She blocked his way, put her hands on her hips, and asked, “What the hell is wrong with your lab partner?”

James decided the table next to him, with several freshmen on the other end, would be a good enough place for lunch. He had always gotten along well with Pat, so he wasn’t sure where this was coming from. James put down his tray, sat down, and indicated the chair across from him. “I’m sorry, what?”

Pat pulled the chair out from the table and dropped into it. “Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed! They barely said one word to each other in lecture yesterday, and lab this morning wasn’t much better. What did your idiot partner do? Mine was almost in tears! Did he say anything to you about it? At all?”

Truth be told, James had not, actually, noticed anything going on. “Um, I dunno, maybe they just aren’t talking right now? People don’t need to talk all the time. Right?” He punctuated the point by taking a bite out of his hamburger.

Pat looked incredulous. “Really? So you and…” She gestured at him. “Your girlfriend…” She waited a second before prompting, “Whose name is…?”

“Marcy.”

“So you and Marcy just, like, stop talking, for no apparent reason and totally at random. You are telling me this is normal behavior.” Pat’s expression indicated she had sincere doubts about this.

James was realizing he’d forgotten to put mustard on his burger. With cafeteria burgers, this was a serious mistake. And of more consequence, to his mind, than what was happening between their respective chem lab partners. “Uh huh.”

Pat angrily leaned forward toward him. “For somebody so smart, you are…” She seemed to be searching for words, and it was making her even more angry. “…such a…” She gritted her teeth, finally coming up with: “GUY!” She stood up and stalked off, leaving her chair pushed back from the table.

Having no response to that, other than to agree in a literal sense while remaining confused about the emotional undertone of the statement, James finished his burger in peace and started on his fries.

As E and K started to pass each other on the stairs that afternoon, between periods, E called out, “Hey, can’t make it tonight, I’m helping my dad grade papers. That’s okay?”

K shrugged. “Sure!”

E half turned to keep him in sight as they went in different directions. “Tomorrow night okay?”

K shrugged again. “Sure!”

They continued on.

The Real Relationship, Day 3, During School

E nodded at K as she sat down in the desk next to him in the chemistry lecture room

He nodded back.

When the bell rang they left the room without speaking.

They arrived at English class at the same time. K motioned E through the door first, then sat wordlessly behind her.

When class ended they departed with the other students, each heading in a different direction.

The Real Relationship, Day 3, After School

E trotted up the front steps to K’s house and rang the doorbell. She looked around the front yard as she waited for someone to come to the door. Saturday night — okay, Sunday very early morning, whatever — we had snow flurries. Three days later, tonight we have cherry trees in bloom. If it were more predictable, they wouldn’t call it “weather,” or so Dad likes to tell me. Still, glad I wore my jacket.

The front door opened and K greeted her. “Hi! Um… c’mon in.” He awkwardly moved out of the way to let her in, and then helped her take off her jacket and put it in the closet.

Okay, he’s still acting weird and barely talking. Sorry, K, we didn’t actually have sex on the camping trip, but that was nobody’s fault. We can have other camping trips, it’ll be fine. You weren’t the only one disappointed. The house seemed… odd. She could’t put her finger on it. Quiet? Yes, it was quiet, she should have heard other people by now. “So where is everybody? It’s not just us here alone, is it?” she asked jokingly.

As if in answer, Fritzi trotted up to her, offered E her toy, took it back, and trotted off. K watched as this happened, and as the dog exited explained, “Um, okay, Mom and Dad are in the city, she has some nurses thing downtown and they’re staying overnight. Jenn is at her boyfriend’s house, unless Mom or Dad call, in which case she is in the bathroom or the shower or working on the roses in the back yard. Whichever makes the most sense at the time.”

E blinked. Where to start? “When did you get roses?”

K rolled his eyes. “The flowers in the far corner.”

“The daffodils?”

“Yeah. I keep telling Jenn what they are, she keeps calling them roses. She claims it’s because she’s not horticulturally inclined. She says, ‘You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.’” K maintained a deadpan expression.

E snorted. “Sounds like something you would say!”

K feigned a wounded expression. “My dumb puns are much better than that!”

“Since when? Okay, moving on, so you are telling me that it’s you, me, and Fritzi. Please tell me Fritzi is the one making dinner.” K could make rice cereal treats and sandwiches, but that was about it. His family had told her horror stories about his attempts at things like biscuits.

“Dinner is warming in the oven and will be ready shortly. Have no fears, it’s Mom’s leftovers, we’re safe.”

Two settings were already laid out in the kitchen. The kitchen TV, which was always on when K’s father was home, was conspicuous by its silence. E filled the water glasses while K carefully checked the casserole in the oven. He removed the foil, transferred the casserole dish to the hot pad on the table, and inserted the serving spoon so that the handle was closer to E’s chair. Having seated E to his left, he sat himself next to her and gestured for her to go first.

E helped herself to two heaping servings — K’s mom made good tuna noodle casserole — and turned the spoon to K before saying, “So. Are we going to talk about this?”

K served himself. He picked up his fork. He put his fork down and turned slightly to face E better. “What would you like to talk about?” His face was carefully neutral.

I have never hated you more than I hate you in this very minute! She had kept her face composed up to this point, but she could feel herself starting to lose control. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry stupid idiot stupid stupid —

He leaned out of his chair, grabbing her and pulling her to him. He hugged her tightly and started to bury his face in her neck, then hurriedly took off his glasses as she threw off hers. They both stood up. He started to hug her again, then switched to kissing her. When he started to ease off she grabbed the back of his head and pulled him in again. Their lips and tongues weren’t so much kissing as running over each other, again and again. He moved his head aside enough to whisper in her ear, “I am so sorry! I am so sorry! I am so sorry! I am so sorry!” as she whispered the same thing back to his ear.

Finally they stopped moving and talking and just held each other.

He gave her a tighter hug and whispered, “I love you!

She hugged him back and whispered, “I love you too!” They relaxed their holds slightly so they could touch their foreheads together, each looking into the other’s teary eyes.

At this point they became aware they had an audience. Fritzi was sitting a few feet away, staring at them transfixed. When they looked down at her the schnauzer popped onto her hind legs, jabbed K’s leg with a front paw, and looked at them like, “You two okay? You had me worried!”

E laughed and told her, “We’re fine, Fritzi, it’s okay, nothing to fret.” She sniffed. “Oh crap, where’d my napkin go?” They retrieved the paper napkins that had fallen unnoticed. Fritzi, satisfied, departed the kitchen. E grabbed another couple of napkins from the napkin holder in the middle of the table, after picking up K’s glasses to return to him.

K removed E’s glasses off her plate, used a paper napkin to remove sauce, then pulled his handkerchief from his pocket to properly clean the lenses. He started to put them back on her face and she laughed.

“Seriously, honey, we might as well both leave them off for now, just stick them in your shirt pocket. I think they might be in the way for a little while.” She leaned into him to make her point; their kiss this time was gentle and loving, but still lasted several seconds. They went back to leaning foreheads on each other. E took a deep breath. “Okay, let me start. When I saw you on Monday, back at school, and you just acted like nothing had happened over the weekend, I felt like you had just decided to ignore the whole thing and go back to our practice relationship status. And I should have said something, and I didn’t, and after three days I didn’t even know how to start, and I was blaming you even though you didn’t do anything. It was like, ‘Oh, we’re in a real relationship now, the boy should be making all the decisions,’ and that was incredibly stupid on my part because that’s not how we operated before and it’s not like you were suddenly going to take over when we’d been partners up to this point.” She paused and thought. Nope, I think that’s it. Wait— “And I’m sorry.” Pause. “Over to you.”

K took his own deep breath. “I thought you would say something first. Like, you were the one who declared we were going to not be in a practice relationship, so you must know what the next step was supposed to be. So then I thought I must have messed up, and you were mad at me. But I couldn’t think what I messed up, so I got mad at you. But then I decided it had to be something I did wrong. So I got mad at me for messing up everything. But I still didn’t know what I messed up, but then I thought maybe I was right before and I really had screwed up everything by falling in love with you. But that didn’t make sense either. And I’ve just been going around and around like that, and I didn’t even know if you’d show up tonight.” Pause. “And I’m sorry, too.” Pause. “And I love you.” Pause. “Okay, now what?” Another long, slow kiss answered that question.

“Okay, now may I suggest we eat? Although I think your mom’s casserole should be okay cold.” They adjusted their chairs and started to eat, holding hands. That lasted a few bites.

“Do you want to switch places? That way you can eat with your right hand? And we can still hold hands?” K started to pick up his plate in anticipation of an affirmative answer, before E gently pushed his hand back down.

“We’re fine, hon, I can eat with my left hand better than you can. I’m close to ambidextrous, and you’re pretty darn monodextrous, or whatever they call it.” They went back to eating. E’s right thumb gently stroked K’s left thumb. Every so often one or the other would squeeze gently and they’d turn and kiss, before resuming their meal. They finished at about the same time — K ostentatiously cleaning the last of the sauce from his plate — and looked at each other. Okay, are we thinking the same thing? We are in a big lovely house, nobody but us and the dog, it’s not even six-thirty yet, and — wait, one question! “So when is the Princess Bitch due back?”

K shrugged. “No idea. She said not to hold dinner for her. Otherwise no clues. Wait, she did ask if you were coming over, I said yes, and she said she had her key. Whatever that means.”

E groaned. “Sometimes I think you just avoid reading your sister out of spite. Even I know what she was telling you. Telling us. Okay, is the guest room made up?”

K stayed poker-faced. “Mom only makes up the guest room when we’re expecting guests. And I had no idea if you were even going to show up tonight.”

Mouth twitch. I love you, and you will never be able to surprise me for my birthday or anything. She smiled. “So you made up one of the guest beds. Since this is your house, I believe protocol is for you to invite me upstairs?” She tilted her head at him.

He stood, bowed over her hand that he still held so that he could kiss it, then gently took her out of the kitchen, up the stairs to the second floor, and started to lead her to the third floor before exclaiming, “Wait! Crap! Almost forgot! Stay here!” He hustled up the stairs and she saw him disappear to the right toward the guest room. After half a minute or so he appeared again, started down the stairs, snapped his fingers, turned back up the stairs to vanish into the guest bathroom, reappeared almost immediately, and finally rejoined her to escort her up to the guest bedroom.

All the electric lights were off, but several candles were burning. One of the two twin beds was turned down to show linen sheets. The pillows from the other bed had been moved over to create an extra large pile at the head of the bed. “Wow!,” she said. “This… this is… okay, this is nicer than a tent in the woods.” She could hear water running in the guest bathroom. “Honey, I think you left something running in the bath.”

“Oh, yeah, see, I didn’t know how to make a sound like a stream running. So I turned on the water in the bathtub. And I didn’t know how to do frogs or crickets, so…” He reached into his pocket. There was a sudden click-ick sound like a party cricket noisemaker. “Close enough?”

E looked at the candles and smiled. “And you got candles for me! And they’re in silver candelabras!” She gave him a long kiss. “For somebody who wasn’t expecting me, you put a lot of thought into this!”

“Well, I used some of the used candles, so I used the good candle holders. Hold on, let me go turn off the water.” He hurried out the door and returned quickly. “Sorry, it just seemed wasteful. Want more cricket sounds?”

“It’s all wonderful, K! No, it’s better than that, it’s perfect!” She put her arm around him, laid her head on his shoulder, and together they looked at the room. “And you have no idea what to do next, do you?”

“Um… well, okay, I thought we’d talk it out like partners. Because that’s what we do.” He seemed to be waiting for a response from her; hearing none, he added, “Or, you could tell me what to do. Because you’ve read those sex, um, women’s books and everything.”

She turned slightly to look him in the eyes. “Are you okay with that? I’m not going to, I dunno, emasculate you or destroy your ego or whatever awful horrors women’s libbers inflict on men?” She smiled, but her eyes were serious. It’s a real question, K. This is for you, too, y’know.

He moved his face closer to hers, then moved it back so he could see her better in the candlelight. “My darling Ms. W., I would be pleased and proud to make love to you tonight, however you would like, in whatever way you like. Because if only one of us has a clue what’s supposed to be happening, she should probably be the one in charge.”

Okay! We’re really going to do this, just like I imagined it! Let’s see how daydream fantasies match with evening realities! She took a deep breath. Oh good god, I’m tingling. Steady, girl, steady! Slowly. We need to take this slowly. The book says a woman’s body needs time to prepare for penetration. Trust K, he’s going to do his best, I just need to talk him through it. “Okay, first, unbutton my shirt and pull it down off my shoulders. And then off me.” Or the shoes? Should I have him start with the shoes? Screw it, I can kick off the shoes. She closed her eyes as she felt his hands move across the front of her shirt.

He undid the two buttons on her shirt and stopped. “E!” he whispered, “You have a polo shirt! There are only three buttons.”

She opened her eyes and looked down. Why didn’t I wear a full-button shirt? Because nobody told me I’d be going to bed with K tonight! Specifically, K! Who obviously planned all this, but the doofus couldn’t even drop a clue, no, it just had to be a surprise! Stupid idiot! You don’t just surprise a girl, there are things to do! Really, like what? Like I could have worn that pretty lavender top that Aunt Lucille gave me at Christmas, that would have been sexy. Wait, Mom would have wondered why I was wearing that. Okay, I could have — HEY, CAN THE VOICES IN MY HEAD SHUT UP SO I CAN FOCUS HERE! K is just standing here waiting! “Valid point. I’m sorry, honey, we may have to improvise a little here and there. Okay, just pull it off over my head.” He did so, with just a momentary hesitation as the bottom of the shirt revealed her chest. And I have never had a guy see me in my bra before. Well, whatever, it won’t be on me much longer. “Now, take off — wait, no, let me unbutton your shirt and take it off.” She started to unbutton his shirt; the process took longer than she’d anticipated as his buttons weren’t what she was used to. Buttons! Stupid buttons! This should not be so difficult!

“Do you want me to help?” he whispered. She shook her head. The bottom buttons were tucked into his pants; tugging was not helpful in accessing the bottom of his shirt, and the tightness in the waist of his pants didn’t help. She was about to undo his belt when he stopped her. “Wait wait! I forgot something!”

The condoms? A little early for that, maybe, y’think? She watched as he went over to the bedside table in between the two beds, where he reached down and turned on the radio on the shelf.

He got himself back in position. “Okay, I had it preset. It’s WRMNC, romantic music at all hours.” He listened for a second. “Oh no…”

“UP-town FED-eral SAAA-vings, thirty-five thirty-five BROAD-way!” was playing. A commercial jingle. I’m going to lose my virginity to a commercial jingle. Oh no, not the giggles, I can’t get the giggles!

“E! Honey! It’s okay! They’ll be done in a minute. Or two. At most. Honey, please stop laughing, you’re going to get me started. Please. Please.” She slowly leaned forward and they collapsed laughing on the bed, her on top of him. She kept giggling as she felt his hands on her back, trying to manipulate her bra hooks.

“Oh god, you’re trying to get my bra off!” The idea sent her giggling hysterically, which he echoed himself. This is not good, he’ll get hiccups. “Honey. Honey. K, hold still, let me do this.” She reached around with one hand and undid her bra. “Okay, try now. Wait wait, let me get your belt.” Her attempt at his belt failed, basically because she was still lying on him.

“Wait <HIC!> let me <HIC!> get my belt <HIC!> unbuck <HIC!> unbuckled <HIC!>” He had to shift her slightly so her weight was no longer on him, at which point he unfastened his belt and pants, with continuing and unabated hiccups. “Okay <HIC!> I need to <HIC!> get my <HIC!> shoes off <HIC!>”

“Just kick them off, K, that’s what I’m doing.” E proceeded to demonstrate that for her own footwear, then looked down at K’s feet. “Work boots? You wore your work boots? What were you thinking?” That set off another round of giggles on her part.

He got unlaced and removed one boot, she got the other. Then socks. “Watch,” he said, still trying to suppress hiccups.

“Watch what?” responded E, then saw he was trying to get her watch off her wrist. That suddenly seemed like the funniest thing in the world, and her giggles while she worked on his watch started his hiccups all over again. Pants were a mutual mess, as was underwear.

And then suddenly, it seemed, they were lying in bed together, somehow under the sheets. I am naked. With my boyfriend. I am in bed, naked, with my boyfriend. And based on his erection, I need to find where my pants went so I can have that condom where it’s handy. “Wait a second, honey, I need to find my pants.”

K reached into the drawer of the bedside table, produced a condom, displayed it to her with an air of victory, and then immediately spoiled it by hiccuping. E collapsed in giggles on his chest.

He held her to him, stroking her back as she ran her fingers through the hair on his head. The interval between hiccups got longer and longer. “You are my love and my life, you are my inspiration!” he sang softly to her as a Chicago song came on the radio. She propped her chin on his chest and kissed him softly, then more urgently. “Okay, my love, my life, my inspiration — what do we do next,” asked her boyfriend. She smiled at him and rolled onto her back as she guided his hand over her breasts.

“Hold still. Your eyebrows don’t match.”

I thought I was holding still. Most of me, anyway. K was gently gliding his right hand across E’s left butt cheek, occasionally extending the caress up her back. Most of the rest of him was held in place by E as she rested on his chest and lower torso, her head raised slightly as she studied his face. Her left hand stroked his collarbone, while her right hand was engaged with doing something to the upper part of his face. Fixing his eyebrows, apparently? “Don’t pluck anything!”

She gave him a look of disapproval. “Honey, if I don’t pluck my eyebrows, why would I pluck yours?” She ran her fingernails — not much longer than his — across each of his eyebrows and declared, “There! Much better.” She snuggled her head into his chest, leaving him to breathe the scent of her shampoo. He pulled the sheets and blankets around her.

“Your hair smells nice.”

“You always say that.”

“It’s always true.”

They lay there together quietly, the radio softly playing romantic pop songs interspersed with local ads. “That’s the time,” sang E along to Roberta Flack, “I feel like making love… to you…” She broke off singing to put her chin on his chest to make eye contact again. “So, do we love each other, or are we in love, or some combination of both, or does it matter, really?” She pursed her lips at him while scrunching her brows for emphasis.

Has anyone told you that you get a little goofy after sex? Probably not. “That is a tough question. Someone could write a paper on it. Wait! Didn’t we do that last semester in Mr. McCluskey’s class?” He raised raised an eyebrow at her.

“Valid point.” She looked thoughtful. “I said that being ‘in love’ with someone was all about the person who was in love, whereas loving someone was all about the object of the affection. Something like that. I borrowed the idea from a book I’d read. What about you?”

“Uhhh…” He looked at the ceiling while thinking, then back at her. “I think I said that ‘in love’ makes you stupid, but ‘love’ makes you smarter. This was after that debacle with Wendy, so I was pretty sure about the ‘stupid’ part. With you…” He looked up at the ceiling again while stroking her back and butt. “I don’t feel stupid. I don’t know that I feel smarter. When I’m with you I just feel — “ He looked her in the eyes and smiled. “ — wonderful.”

“Awwww!” E whispered softly. She put her head back on his chest. “I feel wonderful with you, too, y’know.” She started to flick one of his nipples. She moved her head onto his shoulder and flicked the other one. She flicked the first one again. “Your nipples are weird,”

“Did anyone ever tell you that you get a little goofy after sex? Giddy, even?”

She was still testing his nipples. “It’s called post-coital depression. It’s a thing, K.”

“I don’t think that’s it.”

“‘Post-coital’ means — ”

“Thanks, E, I know what it means, it’s the ‘depression’ part I’m taking issue with.”

“Depression presents in different ways, K, with different people. As the son of a registered nurse, I’m surprised you don’t know that.” She gave up on his nipples and settled her head back on his chest. “Boys’ bodies are weird.” She gave him a half hug and a kiss on the chest. “But I like yours anyway.” She snuggled closer to him.

This is nice. This is the best part of sex. Okay, not much to base comparisons on, I guess, but just lying here with her is very, very nice. And naked is better than I thought. Skin to skin is nice. I thought actual sex would be… I don’t know, more exciting? But I’ve had better orgasms just beating off. This part, this part feels like love. Not just sex, but love. I like this part. I hope she does, too. One way to find out. K cleared his throat, more as an attention-getting device than out of necessity. “So, um, girls, their first time, with, y’know, a partner, sexual partner, they don’t… there isn’t always… for a lot of girls it’s disappointing, y’know? So, I, y’know, if there was anything I should have done better, or different, or not done, or, um…” He trailed off as E raised her head to give him a concerned look with a furrowed brow.

“Where are you getting this from?” Her eyes widened slightly. “Oh god, not your mom? Your mom didn’t talk to you about first-time sex, did she? Oh god, that would be too incredibly weird! Even from her!”

“Um, no, from Jenn.” In response to E’s shocked look he quickly corrected, “No, I overheard her talking to one of her friends, who apparently had a bad time with her boyfriend when they had sex the first time, and Jenn was trying to tell her it happens. A lot. So I was trying to remember some of the reasons it didn’t go well, and not do those with you. So, um…” Help me out here, E!

She moved forward to give him a long, soft kiss. “You were fine, honey. It’s a learning process. We’ll learn together. Making love to you was wonderful, I do not regret any of it.” They kissed again.

You are very sweet and wonderful. But not always totally honest. “This is the part where you shelter my fragile male ego, isn’t it?”

“A little bit, yeah. I think we need to work on this foreplay thing, for one. I thought it would just be making out, only naked, but there seems to be more to it, I guess. Also, we need to help you figure out where my clitoris is for manual genital manipulation so — ”

“You have a way of making sex sound so romantic!”

“Shush! Don’t interrupt, this is is important. Anyway, you were trying to get me stimulated and you just ended up rubbing my urethral opening. Not very comfortable. If — ”

“Okay, if we’re talking about manual genital manipulation, here, might I suggest that the next time you do that, you give me some warning first?”

E looked like she was trying to make a serious face. “I’m sorry, honey. I should not have tried to tickle your balls without warning you.” She broke into giggles. “How was I supposed to know you’d actually be ticklish there? Oh my god, you actually spasmed!”

“Yes, it was very funny, thank you for your empathy and understanding.” K blew a raspberry. “Anyone ever tell you that you get a little cruel during sex?”

“Oh, and next time, maybe, don’t feel like you have to be super-macho and try to drive your penis all the way to my uterus? Or maybe liver, a couple times? I’m gonna be sore sitting on those stupid stools in chem lab tomorrow.” Her breath did a sudden intake. “Oh god, we have school tomorrow! What time is it? What did you do with my watch?” She started to push herself up out of bed, impeded by the sheets and blankets he had wrapped around her to keep her warm.

“I put it on the bedside table. What did you do with mine?”

“It’s on the, um, other bed, somewhere, I tossed it, sorry I was thinking about other things at the time.” She found her watch where he had indicated. “Crap, it’s almost nine! I need to get going. Mom will kill me.” She extracted herself from the bed, and started searching through items on the next bed and on the floor.

Do I help? Or just stay out of the way? Wait, Jenn could be home by now, I need to get dressed so I can walk E out! He found his underwear and put it on backwards, realized the error, decided it didn’t matter, and started on his shirt. E already had her pants on and was tucking in her shirt. K tossed her one of her socks and looked for the other one.

E tugged one sock on, slipped that foot in a shoe, and joined K in the search for the other one. “How can you lose a sock? Is this room used for laundry? Do you keep a dryer under the bed or something?” She looked under the bed and found the sock. “Glasses!” K handed hers to her.

K got his pants on and his shirt tucked in. Never mind shoes and socks, I’m not going anywhere, this is fine, we’re good.

E did a mental checklist. “Okay, I think I’m good. How do I look?” She held out her arms and turned around in place for inspection.

K checked her up and down. “You look — you look great! You look beautiful!”

ARGH!” She smacked his arm. “No, doofus, the question is, do I look like I just had sex with my boyfriend?!” She gave him a full glare to emphasize.

HOW WOULD I KNOW THAT?! His expression told her what she needed — he had no way to answer that question, and trying to would just slow things down.

“Never mind, I need to get going. Bye K, see you at school tomorrow!” She dashed for the stairs, followed by her boyfriend.

“I’ll drive you!” he called after her, still in pursuit.

“Jenn has your mom’s car, I bet your dad drove them downtown in his car so he could show it off even though parking stinks and the train is faster.” E skipped the last few stairs to jump to the second floor landing, rounded the turn, and started down to the first floor. She slowed as she got to the front door, perfectly in time for K’s sister to open the front door, key still in the lock. “Hi Jenn bye Jenn late gotta run.” E ran off into the night.

Jenn went to put her jacket in the front hall coat closet, grabbed E’s jacket, and handed it to her brother. As he was sizing up how to catch up with a girl with considerably more speed on foot than he had, Jenn handed him the car keys along with one word: “Go!”

K started out, stepped on to the cold stones of the front steps, and turned back in a panic. “I don’t have shoes!”

Jenn blocked his path back inside. “You don’t need shoes to drive.”

K blinked. “I don’t need shoes to drive!” He resumed his gingerly hops to their mom’s car, jumped in, started the engine, backed into the street, and headed along the route E usually walked to get home. He caught up with her only a block away, alternating between a jog and a brisk walk. He stopped the car at the next corner, leaned over to roll down the passenger’s side window, and called out, “E! C’mon!”

E opened the passenger’s door and jumped in, then lifted herself enough to retrieve her jacket she’d sat on. They drove in silence for the next block before she said, “Thank you. For the ride. And the jacket. And the… everything. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” They were quiet for the next few blocks.

As they turned onto her street, E said, “Wait. Pull over for a second.” She waited until he had pulled the car over to the curb and put it in park. “I thought we should say good night here.”

K found himself smiling. “Ah! So your mother can’t see us.”

“Yes.” There was enough light from the street light so that he could see she was smiling too.

“When we have our good night kiss. Because she might be shocked.”

“Precisely.”

“Wouldn’t want to shock your mom.” He leaned over and gave her a chaste kiss on the cheek. “Good night, E.” He started to pull back.

She grabbed his head. “You are such a doofus!” She gave him a full-mouth, full-tongue smooch that reminded K that his underwear was on backwards. “And I love you, y’know. Don’t ask me why.”

“I won’t have to, you still owe me a poem, remember?” He put the car in gear, drove down the street, and turned into her driveway. He started to get out of the car and then remembered his missing footwear. Oh, screw it, cold feet never hurt anyone. Much.

E moved quickly out of her door without waiting for him to open it. “Get back in the car, you idiot, you don’t have shoes on! I’ll be fine! Thanks again for the ride and the jacket!”

“And the…?” he asked, jumping from foot to foot to the cold driveway.

“Oh, especially and the!” She looked at him, looking at her, and rushed back to him. “Most especially and the!” They embraced and kissed, E looking down with half an eye to avoid stepping on his feet.

The porch light came on.

“Crap!” E laughed.

He let go and gave her a last look. “Love you too!” Then he got into the car as E dashed for the front door that was starting to open.

The Return Home

Her father opened the front door, waved at K who was getting back into the car, and made way for his daughter to come inside. He shut the door behind her. E could see paperwork spread out over the living room coffee table and couch.

Oh thank god it’s Dad! Mom always accuses me of something even when I haven’t done anything, and she’d sniff guilt a mile away tonight! Oh god, do I smell like sex? Do I smell like K? Crap, it’s not like I can check while I’m standing in front of Dad. It’s fine, it’s fine, it’s Dad, even if he notices he won’t say anything. “Thanks, Dad! I had my key, but thank you. Mom in bed already, or is she watching TV?”

“She’s watching QB VII, I think it’s the second part. I don’t have the heart to tell her that Anthony Hopkins is the villain. The mini-series is okay, but you know me, I always like the books better. Anyway, I was correcting papers up here and I heard the car come up the driveway, so I thought I’d be a good father and let you in.” His smile turned to surprise as E threw her arms around him in an enthusiastic hug. He enjoyed it for several seconds before asking, “Pumpkin Candy! What did I do to deserve that? Should I be opening doors for you more often?”

She pulled back slightly so she could look him in the face. You used to be so tall, Daddy! When did you get to be my size? “I just wanted to thank you for being a wonderful dad, that’s all. I don’t tell you that enough, I don’t think.” And don’t tell Mom what time I got home.

“Aw! Thank you, Pumpkin!” He gave her a hug back. “So you had a good night with your young man, I take it? You look pretty happy. I’m glad! This should be a time for friendships and memories and happy things. There’ll be enough problems coming down the road when you take the on-ramp to adulthood.” He gave her a final squeeze and let her go. “Anyway, bed time! And, ahhh, just a suggestion, you might want to take a quick shower before you crawl into bed? I think you might have had a warm day at school. That happens a lot at the university buildings when the warm spring weather moves faster than the steam plant can adjust. Wouldn’t want your mother to make a remark about it.” He moderated the words with a warm smile. And a slight eye twinkle.

Translation: I smell like sex, and don’t let Mom catch me. Pick a million fathers at random, put them in this situation, and every one of them would be flipping out right now. And then there’s my wonderful dad, who wants his daughters to be happy. She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “G’night, Daddy! Love you!” She headed quickly up the stairs, grabbed her night shirt from her bedroom, and went into the bathroom.

K parked his mother’s car in the garage, then did a high dance step to the front door as he tried to move quickly while minimizing contact between his bare feet and the cold ground. He unlocked the front door and entered, to be greeted by Jenn popping out of the kitchen.

“Welcome home, Master Dork. You two left the tuna noodle casserole sitting out. I put it in the fridge.”

“Oh! Um, yeah, sorry, we were letting it cool and forgot it.” Why is she being so nice?

“No prob, no prob, glad to help. So, you two get lots done?” A casual stranger would see nothing but sincerity in his sister’s face. K was immediately highly suspicious.

“Um, sure, um, homework and stuff. We got so engrossed we lost track of time. That’s why she had to get home quickly. we suddenly realized how late it was.” There’s a trap here, somewhere. What’s the Princess Bitch up to?

“Ah! I thought so, at first, but then I remembered that you don’t have chem homework Wednesday nights because it’s lab tomorrow? Did I get that right?” Jenn smiled. Nicely. Perhaps with just the slightest touch of “the cat that ate the canary” overtones.

“Um, well, there was just, ahhhh…” He recognized the sound, coming from the basement, that had been nibbling at the back of his mind. “Is that the clothes washer?”

“Why yes it is! I have the guest room sheets and pillow cases in there. I checked the blankets, they’re fine, so I folded those up and stashed them in the guest room closet. I liked the candelabras, very romantic in a you kind of way, but I will leave the excess wax for you to clean up. I also checked the trash up there.” She tilted her head at him. “Rubbers do not go into the waste baskets! Rookie mistake, don’t let it happen again, eh?”

Her brother was having trouble breathing. Or something. Also, there was a certain lightheadedness that seemed to be suddenly manifesting.

Jenn laughed. “Relax, baby bro, I’m not turning you in, or collecting blackmail stuff, or whatever evil scheme you think I have planned.” She gave him a big bear hug that caught him totally by surprise. “Congratulations! You picked a good one! Or she picked you, or you picked each other, or whatever, it doesn’t really matter at this point.” She pulled back to give him a stern expression. “Now, you treat her right, okay? You talk to her tomorrow, you let her know she’s wonderful, get me? Get me?!

K managed to get out, “She is wonderful! She really is!”

Jenn clapped him on the shoulder. “Good. Your first always should be. At least that’s what a hopeless romantic like me likes to think.”

Hopeless romantic? Jenn? What? What was happening in the universe?

Jenn cocked an eyebrow at him. “And hopefully you followed my suggestions? About a girl’s first time?”

So weird. This feels like our universe, and yet somehow I’ve slipped into this Bizarro alternate dimension. “I… what… when…”

She patted his check. “You could be the poster child for clueless. It suits you! What, when I was talking on the phone to Elaine, you didn’t think I wouldn’t notice you listening? Like I would talk about stuff like that with the door open? Please! Do you even know who Elaine is?”

No. Why would I bother to keep track? “Um… no?”

“That’s because she doesn’t exist. So when I was telling her all the things her boyfriend should have done when they screwed for the first time, I wasn’t actually talking to a real friend, I was talking to YOU, Master Dork! Hopefully you took notes. And you’re welcome!”

K just stared at her, open-mouthed. She looks like Jennifer. Voice matches and everything. The aliens did a great job.

His sister patted him under his chin to close his mouth, turned him around toward the stairs, and smacked his butt to get him moving. “Bed time. Get going. I’ll finish up down here. First time is a freebie, from now on you clean up after yourself, okay?”

K nodded and started up the stairs to his room. “G’night, Jenn.”

“Good night, K!” his sister called after him.

Next Day after Chem Lab

Pat grabbed E as the bell rang for the end of that period. Students for the next period were already starting to file in for their own chem lab, so E’s lab partner hustled them both out. The lecture room next door was unused and available.

Pat sat E down at a desk in the front row. She remained standing to address her friend, hands on hips. “Okay, first, congratulations. You two couldn’t suit each other better. I’m happy for you both, especially when you had me worried most of this week. That said,” and she fixed a stern eye on E, “you two have got to tone it the hell down at school. I mean it. It’s embarrassing!”

E started to protest innocence. Oh crap, never mind, she knows! How could she know? We didn’t do anything! “Um, what did we do?” We didn’t do anything!

Pat rolled her eyes. “Really? You might as well be wearing matching ‘I got laid last night!’ t-shirts. Those long looks at each other. The way you both smile and then glance down like there’s nothing going on. You do know, when you blow a kiss at him and he blushes, that other people can actually see you, right? Good god, even James was noticing something was going on, he’s just too much of a guy to figure it out.” Pat sat down next to E. “Okay, remember last September, like two weeks into first semester, and you said I looked ‘really happy’ that Monday morning?” Pat made an open-armed “ta-da!” gesture. “Yup, I was really happy! Takes one to know one, trust me.”

On the one hand I feel like I should be embarrassed. On the other hand, it’s nice to have somebody to talk to! “So, this is, ah, a normal reaction to a sudden change-of-virgin status, is what you’re saying?”

“Um. Hmm. It’s… how do I put this… ah, let’s just say that my change-of-status event was not as joyful as the first time Charlie and I did it last September.” Pat’s face ran through sad, angry, wistful, angry, thoughtful, and ended on an expressionless face. “I was jealous of a friend of mine who had a boyfriend last summer, and she was all in-my-face about it when she lost her virginity, and I got stupid and drunk and tried getting flirty with a stupid football jock at a party. He… ha, he tried to make me give him a blow job, and when that didn’t work he… well, if the girl doesn’t scream, then it’s not rape, right? That’s what everybody says. That’s what everybody would say… so, anyway…”

And I never knew. Stupid friend I am. E took Pat’s hand. “I am so sorry, Pat. I don’t… I don’t even know what to say.” What can I say? What makes it better?

Pat squeezed her hand. “Hey, it’s how I started going with Charlie! He took me home, and made sure I was okay the next day, and just… was there, and he never made me talk about anything I didn’t want to, and somehow our just-friends meetings turned into dates turned into…” Pat laughed, but with only a small amount of humor. “Y’know, I was the one who talked him into bed, he was so afraid he’d hurt me, somehow, he was just, so gentle, so wonderful…” Pat started to cry, softly.

Great, now is when I need K and his hankie. Wait, idiot, you have one of his now, don’t be stupid. E reached into her back pocket and pulled out the handkerchief K had given her on the weekend. “Here.”

Pat took it and dabbed her eyes. She started to give it back, then gave it another look. “Why do you have a man’s handkerchief?”

“Long story.” She stood up, and pulled Pat with her. “Okay, deep breath!” E and Pat each took a deep breath together. “Okay, sister, let’s get to class. And don’t let the bastards get you down.”

K watched E walk out the door with Pat, then started off to his next class. James walked with him. “Hey, everything okay with you and, um, E?”

Why wouldn’t it be? “Sure. Why?”

“I dunno, you just seemed to be kinda distant with each other, then today everything seemed okay.” James paused at his locker and opened it.

“Oh. No, we just had a disconnect about something, then we sorted it out. No big deal. See ya!” K continued down the hallway.

“See! I told Pat it was no big deal! See ya!” James exchanged books in his locker and headed off.

Unlisted

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Husband & retiree. Developer, tech writer, & IT geek. I fill what’s empty, empty what’s full, and scratch where it itches. Occasionally do weird & goofy things.

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Jack Herlocker

Jack Herlocker

Husband & retiree. Developer, tech writer, & IT geek. I fill what’s empty, empty what’s full, and scratch where it itches. Occasionally do weird & goofy things.