Nerd Romance—The Farewell (Part 1)
“Hey, you.” “Hey, you.”
This is yet another chapter in a series I “finished” last year, but my characters kept talking to me. Then Roz Warren convinced me into fill out the series into a book, so now I’m working on that. Most of what I’ve been doing lately has been filling in gaps or adding to existing material, but this chapter felt like it could stand without the reader having just finished the one before.
Short summary of the story to date:
The series covers two academic over-achievers with limited social skills (aka “nerds”) in the last semester of their junior year in a suburban high school in the 1970s. They call each other by their initials, so she is “E” and he is “K.” They were engaged in a “practice” relationship, working from an agreed upon list of goals, trying to learn to be more like regular people before they head off to college. Both kids agreed that this was a mutually beneficial partnership, and not in any way a romantic association.
Which worked really well. Until it didn’t.
They arranged a clandestine camping trip, during which they planned to have sex. The planned beautiful spring night actually was cold, wet, and awful, so while they did admit to falling in love with each other and shared a sleeping bag, that’s as far as things got. They also decided that the “practice” part of the practice relationship was over, and they were going to be actual boyfriend and girlfriend. That fell apart for a few days, and then everything came together and so did they, having sex in the guest room at K’s house while his parents were out of town.
They looked forward to spending time together over the summer, and having senior year together. Then Jenn, K’s older sister told them that K’s family would be moving hundreds of miles away. In a matter of weeks. E had a plan to fix things… that didn’t work. They tried to get have sex in a borrowed car, also ending in failure. And now it’s time for K’s family to head out of town…
E slowly approached K’s house on foot. The June sun was barely up, but already the day was feeling warm. Glad I wore shorts. I guess this is better than rain. The garage door was open, both cars had moved out and parked in front of neighbors to leave room for the moving truck, and K and his dad were positioning furniture from the garage to the driveway while K’s mom and Jenn moved boxes and suitcases between the cars and the garage.
K came over to give her a kiss and a long hug. “Hey, you.”
“Hey, you.” She looked at the activity going on. “This seems a little chaotic?”
K gave her a “Don’t go there!” warning look. “The movers are due here sometime between — ” He looked at his watch. “ — eight minutes ago and and an hour and fifty-two minutes from now. So we are trying to get the stuff in the garage that needs to be in the cars into the cars, the stuff we tucked into the cars so it was out of the way into the garage, and hopefully the movers will take long enough that everything will be where it’s supposed to be by the time they’re done and we can leave. You had breakfast yet?”
E nodded. “Ate before I came over.” She looked at her boyfriend with concern. “Wait, did you have breakfast?” K needs to refuel first thing or he’ll be running on empty by noon.
“Yeah, I’m good. Grocery store coffee cake on paper towels. Fit with sleeping on blankets on the living room floor overnight. Nobody could find the sleeping bags, we think maybe the Palmers took them when they picked up the tents and the other camping gear.” K shrugged. “Situation normal.”
K’s dad waved at E and gave her a big smile. “Good morning! You’re here to help? We can always use another hand!”
K gave her one of his sarcastic phony grins. She gave him a light swat on the arm. “Sure, Mr. P.! Where do you need me?” Might as well be useful. Plus it’ll take my mind off — nope, don’t think about it, just start moving stuff.
K’s mom gave E a big hug before getting into the Buick; his dad gave her a farewell wave, but seemed more concerned about getting on the road as soon as possible. “C’mon, El, we need to beat the rush hour traffic if we want to get downtown before their office closes.”
K gave Fritzi a goodbye scratch, but the dog was more intent on giving licks to E. Maybe she realizes this could be the last time E gets to see her? Me, I’ll get to walk her tonight when we meet up in Ohio. K and E stood with their arms around each other and waved as the Buick headed down the block and turned toward the city.
They heard a hand slapping a thigh behind them. “Allllllright, then!” announced Jenn in an English accent, “Nobody told ye to stop workin’!”
E looked at K, who explained. “It’s from the movie Zulu. Dad and Jenn love that movie, they watch it every time it comes on TV.” He looked at his sister. “So, what, we need to stack the mealy bags head high? With firing steps?”
“Sure!” responded his sister. “Or, maybe, just stand around and see if the movers have any more questions. That’s what I’m doing. Max said they should be done inside two hours, tops.”
Max, the overweight middle-aged supervisor for the movers, chose that moment to show up with his clipboard and more questions. Jenn followed him into the house while the couple watched. K took E’s hand and started them walking around to the backyard; the only furniture left that was suitable for sitting was the stone bench in back, which K’s father (upon finding that moving companies charge by the pound) had deemed too heavy to move and had gifted to the next owners.
E blinked at the three classmates setting up a model rocket launcher in the middle of the backyard. “Nels? Oz? What are you guys up to?”
“And why do you have my old Red Dart ready to launch?” added her boyfriend. That poor beat-up old rocket. I almost threw it out when I was getting stuff together to give to the guys. That was one of the first kits we all put together.
“First off, it is not your Red Dart, you gave it to me,” said Osbourne. “Okay, us, fine, whatever,” he added as Nelson protested, “so we can do what we want with it. Which, in this case, is launch it on a final, glorious, amazing farewell flight. Into Lake Michigan.” He pointed roughly east. “That way.”
K looked in that direction as if he could actually see the lake through the suburban houses and trees. “That’s got to be almost a mile, guys.”
“Three-quarters,” affirmed Nelson, “little bit over. But we have a favorable wind and an engine we may have tweaked just a little bit outside of guidelines recommended by the manufacturer. And the Red Darts are light to begin with. Plus it now has a parachute that is massively over-sized for conditions. This puppy won’t even be a problem to people swimming off the beach.”
“As long as the thing no longer has my name on it, that’s fine with me.” K raised an eyebrow at the girl in shorts and t-shirt watching from nearby, hands in pockets. “Marie? I thought you hated rockets?”
Marie made a face at him. “I think they’re boring, I don’t hate them. Plus it’s just one, and I made this guy — ” giving a light tap on Nelson’s butt with her foot as he crouched down to connect the launch wires to the rocket engine igniters, “ — promise to buy me a peach ice cream cone at Homer’s afterwards. So I’m just tagging along until I get my cone. Plus I thought it would be polite to say goodbye, seeing we have a long history, Kissy-Puss.” She winked at E.
E furrowed her eyebrows at K. “You told me you never had any nice nicknames. Would you care to amend or retract that statement?”
How can I get in trouble for this? This is not my fault! “I may have forgotten that one. Repressed! I may have repressed that one. Plus that was…” He looked at Marie. “Senior kindergarten? First grade? We were learning letters, I think.”
Osborne looked interested. “I never heard it, and I’ve been with you guys since third grade.”
Nelson announced, “Continuity light is on! We are ready to launch!” before adding, “My family got here in fifth grade. All new to me.” He shook his head and sighed dramatically. “You think you know somebody, and just before they shuffle off to New York state you find they have a sordid past in their younger years.”
K looked pained. “No, it’s — We were comparing initials, and mine are ‘KSP,’ and somebody, I forget who — ” he looked at Marie, who signaled ignorance, “ — turned that into ‘Kissy-Puss.’ For absolutely no reason! All the kids teased me about it. It was awful.”
“Aww! Poor honey!” E pulled K’s head over to give him a kiss on his temple.
Nelson’s face showed exaggerated suspicion as he looked at Marie. “So you and he…?” indicating K.
Marie assumed a regal expression. “A lady, sir, never kisses and tells!” She undercut the effect when she shook her head and gave a “nuh-uh” signal to E.
“Rocket is still live!” Nelson reminded everyone. “We gonna light this bird, or what?”
The group took positions several yards away from the rocket. K shielded his eyes from the sun while looking skyward. The sky was clear, but he could feel a brisk breeze pointing toward the lake.
“Lift-off in five, four, three, two, one, ignition!” Nelson pushed the launch button and the rocket zoomed up and away with a moderately loud WHOOSH. “Oh man, that bird is gone! We did good, Oz!”
K saw the puff of white smoke as the parachute deployed. The rocket was practically invisible, but the red chute was easily seen as it opened. Within half a minute the height of the house blocked the view as the rocket followed the wind in an eastbound direction.
“Damn!” said Osborne, “Never mind the lake, that thing is headed toward the state of Michigan!”
“A fine final launch for a fine fellow rocketeer.” Nelson shook K’s hand. “Send us a postcard when you get settled in New York, okay?”
“Drive careful, okay? If Jenn lets you, that is.” Osbourne shook K’s hand. “Hey, can we leave the gear here for now and pick it up later? Seems silly to carry it all the way to Homer’s and then back again when we just cut through your yard on the way home anyway.”
“Um, sure, I guess. The movers are almost done, we’ll leave once the van pulls out, and the new owners don’t take possession until tomorrow. Or the day after. I wasn’t really paying attention.”
Marie stepped up to K, started to put her hand out, then impulsively grabbed him into a hug. “Bye, Kissy-Puss!” She let go of K and looked at E. “Sorry!” Marie looked embarrassed as she moved quickly out of the backyard as the other four kids watched her.
“Why did she apologize to you?” K inquired of his girlfriend, “When I was the one she grabbed?” I don’t get to just grab girls! I mean, I don’t want to, but it’s just — this is not fair!
“Wait wait wait, how come nobody’s apologizing to me?” asked Nelson, “I’m the offended boyfriend!”
E crossed her arms and glared at all three boys. “It was a courtesy apology, one woman to another. We respect each other’s boundaries and make sure that we do not interfere with the interpersonal relationships enjoyed by other women with their respective romantic partners. Marie was extending me an understanding that she was not, in any way, attempting to interfere with the bond between me and him.“ She pointed at K.
Nelson looked at K. “What?”
Osborne chimed in, “And why am I getting yelled at? I didn’t say anything!”
E threw up her hands. “It’s a girl thing, okay? Does that work for you guys?”
K, Osborne, and Nelson all nodded at each other.
E stepped up and put her arm around K as the other two boys left. He was staring at the model rocket launch equipment. “You okay, honey?”
I dunno. I just feel weird. “Yeah. It’s just… I dunno. It’s like it’s starting to sink in, all over again. I can’t even remember ever living anywhere else. It’s like I’m leaving my whole life behind.”
“It’s okay. Let’s go sit down.” They sat down on the stone bench, holding hands. There was a long silence.
If I don’t ask now, I’ll never know. “So seriously, what was with Marie apologizing to you?”
She gave his hand a squeeze. “Some girls are really insecure, K. Marie doesn’t know me, so she was just making sure I wasn’t going to freak out when she hugged you. I’m pretty sure she did it on impulse. It’s no big deal. I don’t know why girls get all upset when their boyfriends, I dunno, have a life. Seems dumb to me.” She gave K a kiss. “Plus I know you love me.” She went in for a longer kiss. Lips still touching, she mumbled out of the side of her mouth, “Kissy-Puss!”
Next: Yes, it’s really over.