The story so far: On their way to Eric’s party, Allison and Gwen stopped by a Dairy Mart where Allison’ cousin works. He sold them beer. The girls left the store and decided to see what kind of power Allison’s VW Beetle has. No sooner were they speeding back to town and they got pulled over by a cop. But the officer, a ex-boyfriend of Allison’s sister, Teri, let them off with a warning. What a way to start an evening. The year is 1987.
A long line of cars stretches from Eric’s house, down the street and around the block. I dropped off Gwen so she could take the beer inside, just in case one of Cuyahoga’s finest decided to patrol the neighborhood. Good thing I wore sensible shoes, as I had to park a quarter mile away. As I walk up the driveway, I’m greeted by Eric, standing alone and staring out at the street. He’s wearing Hawaiian shorts, Reeboks and a Daffy Dan’s T-shirt with the WMMS Buzzard on it. Eric is one of my favorite people. When I was in the hospital, he was one of the few friends I have who came to visit me.
“What are you doing out here?”
“Just getting some air. Didn’t you come with Gwen? I saw her inside.”
“Yeah, but I had to park across town.”
Eric smiles, impressed.
“So what are you really doing out here?” I ask.
“Waiting for someone.”
Studying his expression, I recognize that look of hope and longing. A girl, he’s waiting for a girl. One particular girl.
“Michelle Ito, huh?” I state.
“How did you…?”
“I hear things.”
“I thought she would come.”
“It’s only eight o’clock. Heck, she could be here and you don’t know it.”
“There aren’t that many people here.”
“She’ll be here. And once she finds out how completely awesome you are, she’s going to fall head over heels for you.”
I hug Eric. He whispers in my ear, “I have to pee before my bladder explodes.”
A nervous laugh rises out of my stomach, a guffaw that echoes through the trees. I bow my head in embarrassment. Eric hurries to the back yard and waiting bush.
On the front stoop is an ugly lawn Santa Claus that’s seen better years. It’s three feet tall, made of plastic, with faded paint, a hole where its nose used to be.
Staring at his rosy cheeks and permanent smile, I think about when we all believed in Santa Claus. I miss that innocence.
“Ho ho ho,” I say quietly, before entering the house.
Inside, it’s crowded, making finding Gwen a challenge. I nudge past kids, ignoring their surprised looks and inaudible asides to their companions. The front hallway leads into the family room, where some kids are dancing, and others are making out on the couch by the brick fireplace. In the kitchen, five or six jocks are playing a drinking game. At the entryway to the dining room, I think I see Kate. Panic sets in, and I rush for the patio, which extends off of the family room.
The patio is enclosed with glass windows and serves as the music room for the party. Eric has set up speakers to face the inside of the house, with his crates of records, turntable and cassette decks out here. There are two other people in the patio when I arrive: Nadine, a foreign exchange student from West Germany, and Charlie Hederman, a skinny, nerdy kid who just graduated.
I try to strike up a conversation with Nadine, but it’s tough to understand her broken English over the loud music, plus Charlie is hovering a little too close for her comfort. Eventually, Nadine excuses herself and leaves. Now it’s just Charlie and me. We were in choir together, so I’ve hung out with him on a couple of occasions. He’s harmless. Still, he’s not someone I want to spend the entire party with. I can’t ditch him so soon, though; I know what it’s like to be an outcast.
“I wonder what music Eric has,” I say.
Charlie kneels down next to Eric’s records and begins flipping through his massive collection.
“Hey look,” Charlie says, “the Eurythmics. You love them, isn’t that what you told me?”
“Sure. On the bus ride to the state choir competition when you were a freshman. Let’s put it on.”
Annie Lennox’s distinct voice comes through the speakers, “Missionary Man.” Charlie nods his head. He looks at me expectantly.
“So, you’re going to Duke?” I say, desperate for something to talk about. “That’s pretty impressive.”
“Thanks, Allison. Duke is, like, the coolest place. I went down to Raleigh last fall and I knew instantly that I wanted to be a Blue Devil. My cousin and I are going to room together, and since he’s a sophomore, I won’t have to live in a freshman dorm. Pretty sweet, huh?”
“I’ll be happy wherever I get to go to college.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well, you know, my mom doesn’t have a lot of money, so I’ll have to pay for most of it. Not like I can make a lot working at Sears.”
“There are scholarships. You were All Conference on the soccer team, for crying out loud. And you have plenty of other extracurricular activities, right? You know, I was in the chess club, the Key Club, the debate club and all of the school plays. That kind of stuff really impresses college admissions offices.”
He laughs, too hard, drawing giggles from some girls standing outside. I give them one of those “What are you looking at!” glares. Charlie blushes.
“Don’t mind them, Charlie.”
He looks up, wistfully. “I’m going to miss you, Allison. You’ve always been nice to me.”
“Thanks, Charlie. I’ll miss you, too.”
He takes a sip of his drink and looks around.
“I… I realize I’m not the coolest guy in the world. I guess that’s why I chose Duke, to, uh, start fresh, you know? No one’s ever heard of ‘Charlie the Tuna,’ or ‘Chuck the Schmuck’ or any of the loser names everyone calls me.”
“Charlie, you’re not a loser.”
He gets a far off look, as if he’s fighting back tears. I reach over and touch his arm, reassuring.
“Hey,” I start, in one of those gentle, soothing teacher voices, “next year’s gonna be great for you. New friends. A bunch of new girls. Heck, it won’t be long before you’re being called ‘Charlie the Stud.’”
Now I’m the one forcing a laugh; I’m the one getting stares from those girls.
“Turn around!” I command.
They quickly look away, like scolded school children.
“Can I tell you something, Allison?”
Leaning in, he says quietly, “I’ve never even kissed a girl.”
“Come on. What about your prom date?”
“She was drunk before we got to the dance and passed out on the ride to after-prom. It didn’t seem right to kiss her, so I took her home.”
“You took her home?”
“What was I supposed to do? She threw up on herself.”
I have to keep from laughing. Charlie catches me, and then tries to contain his own laughter. We both lose it.
He’s never kissed a girl? Isn’t it one of the unwritten laws of college that all incoming freshman must have one great lip locking experience before stepping on campus?
I can’t believe what I’m about to do.
“Come on.” I say, tugging him toward me.
“Just come with me.”
I walk down the hallway and into Mr. Garcia’s office, where no one will ever see us. Charlie follows behind me, unsure. The room is cluttered with Star Trek memorabilia, model spaceships, a bookshelf lined with the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
“Uh, Allison, what are we doing here?” Charlie asks.
I plop down on the couch and pat a hand on the cushion next to me.
“Have a seat.”
Charlie sits, obediently.
He reaches under his butt and pulls out a Star Trek doll.
“Cool, an original Scotty.”
With a snap of a hand, I fling the plastic engineer across the room.
“Look, Charlie, I can’t let you go to college having never kissed a girl. That would be wrong.”
I take a deep breath, thinking, “There’s still time to back out.”
“Sit back and close your eyes,” I tell him.
Charlie turns pale and stiffens up, like he may faint.
I lean in a little, but stop. My stomach has butterflies. Charlie’s face is smooth, no trace of facial hair whatsoever. Innocent. Easing into his face, I place my lips against his. They’re soft, a little dry. He barely kisses me back. I pull my head back. Charlie’s eyes are clenched so tight you’d think I was about to smack him.
One eye opens.
“It’s just like in the movies. You’ve seen people kiss in the movies, haven’t you?”
A quick nod.
“Then do it like they do in the movies.”
Charlie’s relaxes. I lean in again and this time his lips are waiting. We kiss a couple of times. It’s nice, sweet. Leaning back I reposition myself to get a good look at him. This is kind of cool; I’ve never been someone’s first kiss before. Charlie is in heaven.
“Thank you, Allison.”
“Just like in the movies, huh?”
Oh what the heck.
“Okay, Charlie, now I’m going to kiss you again. This time I want you to open your mouth a little.”
Placing my hand on his cheek, we kiss again and just as he opens his mouth, I slip my tongue into Charlie’s mouth. My body tingles as his tongue touches mine, and we swirl them around in each other’s mouths. I… I didn’t expect this, it’s nice. I’m actually enjoying this. I reposition to get a better angle. Our kiss goes on for a good minute. Charlie shifts, and his hand brushes over my right boob.
“Oh my God,” Charlie exclaims.
He pulls back, staring at my chest.
“It’s okay, no big–”
Suddenly, he’s all over me, gnawing on my neck and pawing at my shirt, trying to reach into the neck of my shirt.
Hand in my shirt. I try to push him off, but I’m pinned in the corner.
Hand cupping my breast. I grab his arm with my left hand and squeeze it tight.
Thumb slipping into my bra!
With my right hand, I reach back to Mr. Garcia’s desk, grabbing anything I can use to hit Charlie. I start whacking him with a hard plastic object. It must hurt because he recoils, holding the top of his head. Looking up, scared, guilty, Charlie is speechless.
“What is your problem? When a girl says ‘stop,’ you stop! And when she says, ‘No!’ You most definitely stop!”
I give him another whack for good measure.
“I’m… I’m sorry, Allison. I’m so sorry.”
The office door suddenly opens.
“Is everything all right?” a familiar voice asks.
Charlie panics, jumps up and runs past Kate, standing in the doorway. Shocked, she watches him go before returning her attention to me. In that instant, she could laugh or she could call me a whore or she could walk away and immediately start gossiping to all of her friends.
But she doesn’t.
“Did he? Was he forcing himself on you? I heard you say ‘no.’ Should I call someone?”
“It’s okay, I’m fine.”
We lock eyes. She hates me; I know it. But right now there are no boyfriends or betrayals; right now there are just two girls and one is watching out for the other.
“What happened?” Kate asks.
“It’s too mortifying to go over.”
“Your shirt is ruined.”
In his hormonal rage, Charlie ripped my shirt at the seam where the collar sinks into a ‘V.” It’s a substantial tear, and there’s no way I can walk out of this room without everyone getting a good look at my boobs.
“Wait here,” she says.
Kate leaves, closing the door behind her.
“Great,” I mutter, turning my eyes downward to the object I used to beat back Charlie. It’s a different Star Trek doll. Bones, I think.
The door reopens. Kate has returned carrying a hooded sweatshirt with Youngstown State embroidered on the front. She hands it to me, and I immediately pull it over my head. In the brief instant of darkness, while my face is completely covered by gray sweatshirt material, I say, “Thanks, Kate.”
When my head emerges through the opening, I realize that Kate left while I couldn’t see. Whatever kind of sister solidarity we had has faded away like the end of the Eurythmics song playing in the background.
Today’s artwork was by Leah Vladika.
Eurythmic’s song, “Missionary Man,” is found on their 1986 album, Revenge.
Previous Chapters: Chapter 16, Chapter 15, Chapter 14, Chapter 13, Chapter 12, Chapter 11, Chapter 10, Chapter 9, Chapter 8, Chapter 7, Chapter 6, Chapter 5, Chapter 4, Chapter 3, Chapter 2, Chapter 1, Introduction
Read Chapter 18 of Legendary.