"You look nice, Christine."
"Thanks, Mom," she said, brushing her hair.
"Where are you going today?"
"To the Shedd Aquarium"
"Yes," she said.
"He knows about the other young man you've been seeing?"
"Just making sure you're not turning around and doing what you accused Mike of doing."
Chris had to lie to her mom as to how she found out Mike had been out with Sesame Plexer on Saturday night instead of her. She'd told her that a friend of hers happened to be at the restaurant that night and saw him. Since she was supposed to be at the Anderson's babysitting it was the only way she could've found out. Her mother never asked for specifics as to who the friend was, so she hadn't had to drag someone else into the lie.
"I didn't accuse him, Mom. I caught him in a lie! And I'm not," Chris said. One date with both of them had turned into a month of dates every weekend. And a month of meeting Erik for pizza downtown one evening during the week. They'd figured out a train stop close to the pizza place where Erik could pick her up, letting her avoid bringing her mom's car into the city any more than she had to. Dan had yet to ask to do anything with her during the week. He didn't call her as much either. Erik called her before he was going to sleep most nights. He went to sleep early during the week, but that was because he woke up before sunrise every day.
"I'm just seeing, I guess. I jumped in with both feet with Mike so fast. I don't want to do that again."
"It probably helped that you'd known him for years however distantly. I remember you had a crush on him when you were younger. So, there's nothing wrong with what you're doing. Mike was the first serious boyfriend you had, I don't blame you. I just want to be sure you're being honest."
"I am. Erik wanted me to."
"Erik told you to tell Dan about him?" Her mom took a seat on her bed, so Chris realized they were probably going to talk for a while. Her dad was at the club, golfing. It was too cold as far as Chris was concerned, but she suspected it was the drinking afterward that her father looked most forward to this time of year.
"You seem to like him a little more than Dan, or am I misreading things?"
"I guess. He's certainly more attentive. He wants to see me during the week. He calls more and he actually wants to talk to me not just to see if I'm free on Friday night."
"But nothing, I'm just not trying to rush."
"There's rushing, Christine, and there's being foolish. If you have already figured out you like one of them better there's no sense leading the other one on. Perhaps Dan's figured that out as well, which may be why he's not as attentive. They're quite different physically, too. Erik's much taller than both of them, and neither of them is short so that's saying something. Dan resembles Mike more, too, wouldn't you say?"
"Did you have fun last night?"
"You were home pretty early."
"Well, I don't like to push my curfew for something like that."
"I'm not sure I'd extend it for a frat party, no. Erik seems to like to monopolize your time more than Dan."
"What do you mean?" Chris asked, though she'd sort of noticed that, too. Erik was more than willing to spend an entire day with her. The zoo was just the first of things they'd done that required spending hours together. He'd taken her to the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry. She'd been to both before on field trips with school and with her family, but he'd never been to either of them. He'd particularly liked the Coal Mine tour at the Science and Industry. He'd included Brenda in their dinner afterward last Saturday, which he certainly didn't have to do.
Dan, however, seemed fairly content with doing things on Friday evenings and he'd never expressed any interest in meeting Brenda. They'd had dinner together and seen a couple of movies over the weeks. Last night it was a party at his frat house. She wasn't too thrilled about going, mainly because so many of the guys there had seen that Playboy centerfold layout and she didn't really want to hear herself being called Miss March again anytime soon. He promised her no one would give her a hard time. No one had and she kind of had fun, but she felt uncomfortable. Drinking really wasn't a priority of hers. Everyone who was there as part of a couple were all over each other and she was very glad when Dan suggested they get out of there after a while. He'd driven her around for a while before taking her home well before the one o'clock her mom expected her home.
"I don’t know. Dan picks you up and always has you home a few hours later. You've done some pretty nice things with Erik that involve spending lots of time with each other, talking about things that interest and appeal to you. I assume so anyway since you've gone to the zoo and museums."
"Yes," she said. "I feel comfortable with him. I can walk around the zoo with him holding his hand and not think he's going to assume it means more than that."
"You don't feel that way with Dan?"
"We've never held hands," she shrugged. "So I don't know. Honestly, I think he doesn't like that I'm choosing to go to Lake Forest."
"Versus where? University of Chicago? You can't choose a college for a man, especially one who's graduating this year."
"I know that, Mom, and I wouldn't. I'm not sure why, really."
"What's he going to do after he graduates anyway?"
"Ah, so he'll still be in town, able to see you but busy with law school so a drive to Lake Forest may be out of the question some weekends. That's still no reason to choose a school."
"I know that, and I haven't even suggested I wanted to go there, but had mentioned Northwestern to him."
"It's not as if Lake Forest is a huge distance. I mean, it's not insurmountable. It's an hour to the city, maybe more if traffic is bad."
"I know that, too."
"The party last night was at his frat house?"
"And you had fun?"
"It was all right."
"Just all right?"
"Parties like that just aren't really my thing. I'm still in high school and they're all college students."
"You felt out of place?"
"Erik's older than Dan."
"I know, but it's different. I don't feel as though I'm being measured up against anyone else. And if he's seen that Playboy centerfold he hasn't said one word about it to me. Dan's friends all look at me as though they want to undress me."
"No," Chris said. While she was glad about that there was a part of her that wondered what was wrong with him that he never seemed to. Erik didn't look at her like he wanted to undress her, but he looked at her as though he liked her enough to think about doing that. She liked that look there without him pushing her to let him. She liked that he wasn't afraid to let her know he was attracted to her; she just never got that feeling from Dan. Not in the same way at least.
"Plus, you know I don't really drink or anything."
"That's good to know."
"I'm glad to know you keep a clear head about you and that you won't do something life changing because you've had too much to drink."
"No, if that's what I was going to do I would have with Mike. He probably wouldn't have gone out with Sesame then."
"Is that what you think, dear?"
"I don't know. Maybe. I mean, sometimes at school I feel like Brenda and I are the only ones out there who haven't."
"There's nothing wrong with it. I told you when you started seeing him if you needed me to make an appointment I would. That wasn't me telling you I advocate you going off and becoming sexually active, but he was older and I know things are different now than when I was your age. Things were a little easier with Aaron."
"They were, really?"
"Well, your father got to have the conversation with him. I'm sure the extent of the conversation was to know where to look at Walgreen's for what Aaron would need."
"Oh," Chris said, blushing at the thought of her brother needing condoms in high school. He'd dated the same girl from sophomore year of high school until junior year of college when they broke up. Chris still wasn't sure why, but Aaron was seeing someone else now so Chris would probably never know.
"The problem was with him, Christine, not you. No matter what you would have done the end result would have been the same. I've seen him around town, his car is difficult to miss, and he never lacks for female company. Already, since you I've seen him with a few other girls your age. And you know why?"
"Because he's not stupid. Girls your age will give in and he knows that, there's a reason he doesn't play his games with women his own age. A little sweet talking, show them a good time, make them feel special, flash a little money around, and say sweet things. He's good looking, has a nice car, comes from a nice family, and is very charming. Closer to his age and they'd see through it all. You're one of the few I imagine who didn't give in and you should be proud of that not sad. It hurts I know, though you do an exceptional job at not showing it does. Just think how you'd feel if you'd given him something that should be reserved for someone you love and who loves you."
"I know, Mom."
"I know it's unrealistic these days for me to expect you to be married first, but love still should still play a part in it. Not only did he not love you, but he certainly didn't respect you or he wouldn't have flaunted going out with a schoolmate of yours when he'd been seen with you."
"Just have fun, Christine. You're only young once, the right one will come when it's time. You have plenty of time. I felt with Mike you were in so much of a hurry, I hope that instinct is gone. Choosing a college tells me it is."
"It is. Thanks, Mom," she said. She stood then and sat next to where her mom had sat on the bed, giving her a kiss. "I love you."
"I love you, too, dear. Have fun at the aquarium. I'm glad he likes those sorts of things. Chicago has so many wonderful things to offer, but they're much more fun to do with someone special over going alone."
"I suppose now that Aaron and I are older…"
"Not much reason to go to them anymore, no. Your father went, of course, but not now."
"I'd still go with you."
"I know, but you have someone to go with for now so enjoy it. If he won't go to the Art Institute with you, let me know. I haven't been there in so long."
"I'm not sure how into art he is, but I'd go twice even if he did take me."
"He's not a very well-educated man, is he?"
Chris shrugged. "He graduated high school, but nothing beyond that. He's not dumb, Mom, give me more credit than that. He's very nice and he works hard. He can hold a conversation and everything. He just didn't have the money to go to college. He's actually the one who made me rethink college."
"Yes, he just made me see that I really need to have a degree so I can support myself."
"Well, I guess he's all right then. Funny, the one I'd probably tell you to forego is the one who is encouraging you to move away from him and the one who I'd probably tell you to pursue wants you to limit your choices."
"You don't like him?"
"I didn't say that, I hardly know him. He's been polite to me when he's come inside to pick you up. He doesn't honk when he pulls onto the driveway as Mike did, expecting you to be at the door ready to go as soon as he rang the bell. I gave him some credit at least for coming to the door; I've heard some mothers talk about their daughters having boyfriends who won't even do that much. There are worse jobs out there than being a mechanic and you said it's his garage."
"Well, who can argue with someone being in business for themselves?"
"Nobody, I guess."
"You could invite him for dinner some Sunday if you'd like."
"Why on earth not?"
"I don't know I've just never done that before."
"You certainly don't have to, but just so you know our dinner table is always open to a guest, honey."
"Thanks. I'm not sure I'm ready for that."
"When you are you'll know because it sounds kind of like you have your answer whether you're ready to admit it or not. I think Dan is very nice and you want to like him because he's who you know your father and I would envision you with. However, if he doesn't make you happy and if there's no attraction there, there's really not much point. You can't make feelings like that appear. They're either there or they're not."
"I know," Chris said. She'd been avoiding thinking this deeply on it yet because as much as she hated to admit it, it was kind of nice to have her weekends full for the past month. Sunday was always church with her parents, lunch at the club, and then she and Brenda did something for a while before Sunday dinner.
"Well, I have laundry to fold. You finish getting ready."
"I am ready."
"Well, you're welcome to come keep me company until he gets here."
"Okay, I'll be down in a bit," Chris said. It'd been a long time since she'd sat with her mom and watched her fold laundry. Her mom never let her help either.
She looked at herself in the mirror above her dresser one last time. The picture of Mike she'd had there was gone. She'd thrown the picture away when she got home that night and given the frame to her mom. Her mom would find something else to put in it, but Chris didn't want it. Today, there were postcards from the places Erik had taken her around the edge of the mirror. She'd add another one tonight when she got home, no doubt. He always offered to buy her something from the gift shop, but she didn't need things. At the zoo she'd picked a postcard because he'd insisted she get something and the other postcards had followed.
The two movie stubs from the movies she'd seen with Dan were on the dresser, but not on the mirror like the postcards. She hadn't bothered putting them up. They weren't pretty to look at like the postcards she'd told herself. Her favorite had been Lethal Weapon, but Blind Date had been okay. It got sort of ridiculous after a while, though.
"Why haven't we seen a movie?" she asked Erik as they were walking around the Lake Forest College campus. He'd driven them there from the aquarium.
"What?" he asked. He tugged on her hand to pull her toward him a little, sliding an arm around her. She had to admit she liked when he held her hand, but when he put his arm around her she liked it better. He didn't do it real often either.
"A movie. We haven't seen one."
"I don't know. Why?"
"I'm just wondering if there's a reason."
"I'd rather talk to you during the time I get to spend with you. I enjoy watching you as you see the different things at the places we go. Why? You'd rather see a movie?"
"No, I just wondered."
"Hmm, Dan takes you to movies I suppose?"
"Yeah, we've seen a couple."
"Not a dumb idea I guess if it lets him sit with you for a couple of hours in a darkened movie theater."
She rolled her eyes a little. "I'm sure that's not why."
He chuckled softly. "Maybe not. I don't know what to tell you. Do you want to see a movie?"
"No, I just wondered. It seems like a pretty common thing to do on a date."
"I'm common enough without doing something with you any guy in the world could do. Maybe I don't want to be common with you."
"We'll eventually run out of things to do."
"Bite your tongue. There's plenty to do around here. And it's not like you can't go to something like the zoo twice."
"I know. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought it up."
"You can ask me anything, Chris."
"I know. I do. I was really just curious."
"So, I was thinking," he said.
He shrugged. "You've picked your school."
"Yes," she said.
"This one, right? It's the one I've heard you talk about most."
"You think so?"
"And it doesn't bother you?"
"Bother me? If you were going to college in Hawaii it might bother me, but no, this doesn't bother me."
"Days like this, Hawaii doesn't sound so bad."
He chuckled a little at that. "True enough, but I just wanted to show you how close you'd be. It took a little over an hour to get here and that wasn't taking 94. The drive was nice, and it was a good excuse to spend more time with you, but it's not out of the realm of possibility to see you from time to time."
"Your friend Brenda is going to go here, too?"
"Well, that's good then. It's a nice campus."
"I thought so."
"You'll have to show me around when you get settled in."
"I'd be happy to."
"You hungry yet?"
"A little," she replied as they headed back to his car.
"So, this movie thing. Why are you asking?"
She shrugged. "I was just curious."
"Is this a he's doing something righter than I am thing?"
"No, it's not that at all."
"Hmm," he said, stopping her from getting into the car. "Would you tell me?"
"Tell you what?"
"If he was doing something better than I was?"
"He's not, Erik. It was just a question. I was curious."
He was looking at her pretty intensely and she knew somehow he was going to kiss her. She sighed softly as he did just that. She hated to admit it, tried to avoid saying so to Brenda, but she really did prefer kissing him over Dan. She wasn't sure why exactly. When Dan kissed her she didn't feel much of anything. His kisses were always nice, but Erik's made her heart pound in anticipation. Anticipation of what exactly she wasn't sure. She just knew that she never wanted them to end and a few times wanted more.
He nipped at her lower lip, drawing away a little to kiss her jaw. He slid his lips lower to her neck, nipping the pulse point there causing her to groan softly. How embarrassing except he didn't seem to mind. Her heart was racing, her body was positively humming and she knew she had her answer. She'd hoped to avoid one for a little while yet, but it was obvious to her. This … whatever it was he did to her, Dan just didn't do it. Not once had his kisses made her feel weak in the knees or crave more.
"You'd really come see me?" she whispered, tilting her head a little so he could keep kissing her neck. Right there. Oh God, she groaned again and felt things in her breasts and lower that she'd never felt before.
"Assuming you don't have a car to come see me, yeah."
"Yeah, about that. You know those auctions I go to?"
"I've been thinking of buying one for you."
"Erik, you can't buy me a car."
"Why not? I'd fix it up for you; do all the work so I know it'd be street ready and dependable. And, hey, it's not like you don't know someone who can fix it."
"That's too much."
"I don't think so," he whispered, finding her ear just then. "Then you could come see me sometimes. I think Shelly is finally getting used to my bringing you in with me. You stop coming in and she's going to wonder where you went."
Chris laughed a little at that. "I think Shelly likes you and doesn't like me so much because you bring me there. If I stopped coming in with you she'd probably hit on you."
"Sadly, you might be right, but I don't like Shelly like that. She's nice and all, don't get me wrong."
"I don't know what to tell you there. The heart knows what it knows I can't change it."
"You think so?"
She brought her hands to his face, tugging him away from doing the wonderful things to her ear he was doing.
"What? Too much? I figured out here where it's clearly just teasing would be okay."
"No, you're fine. It feels nice."
"Nice? Sweetheart, I hope it's feeling more than nice."
"Okay, very nice," she said.
He chuckled a little. "And don't worry I'm not leaving you any hickeys."
"That's good. My mom would have a fit."
"God yes. My brother came home with one once. He'd been dating Jen for like three years by this point. My mother was livid. She said that they could do whatever they wanted to do but to bring home visible evidence of it was just rude."
He chuckled softly. "Valid point. I bet Jen just learned to leave them places your mother couldn't see after that."
"Oh God," Chris said. "I hadn't thought of that."
"No. I mean, really?"
"As tempting as it is to say I'll show you, here and now isn't the time."
"It's okay. Some other time maybe." He looked at her, tilting his head a little against her hand. "What? You look so serious. What's wrong?" He sighed softly, looking suddenly sad. "More questions about movies? Or was mentioning the car too much, too soon?"
"You just have this look in your eye like you're about to say goodbye. Or kick a puppy and since I don't see you as the type to kick puppies, I'm guessing this is where I get off."
"No," she shook her head. "You think I'd do that. Just tell you goodbye?"
"I don't know how else this is going to end for one of the two of us. Neither of us was friends with you beforehand and I can honestly say I wouldn't be too thrilled with him hanging around you if we were supposed to be dating exclusively. So I can't imagine he'd feel any different if the shoe was on the other foot."
"Because he likes you."
"Not because you don't trust me?"
"Trust you? You've never said or done anything to make me not trust you."
"Dating you both?"
"No," he said. "You haven't lied. I hate it, I won't deny that, but after what that douchebag did to you I can't blame you for not wanting to jump into something with another guy."
"Yeah, it's a little scary."
"No one blames you for being scared, Chris."
"So is that it?"
"Actually you just made me decide. Well, my mom did earlier, too, but I didn't want to admit it until now I guess."
"I did? How?"
"You kissed me."
"Well, yeah, I like kissing you, I've been pretty clear about that from the day you came to my garage."
"I know, but I like it."
"Well, you're supposed to."
She laughed softly. "I really like it."
"Okay," he said cautiously.
She pushed on his chest a little and he stepped back from her. "I'm not saying I'm ready for more, okay, so don't take this to mean anything it doesn't yet. You kiss me and I want more."
"You're supposed to."
"I've never felt that before."
She shook her head. "No."
"So you're saying with Mike the temptation wasn't even there?"
"But you said prom?"
"Well, sure, I didn't know until now that I was supposed to feel anything from a kiss."
"Oh," he said. "Really?" He shook his head, apparently not believing her.
"Yes, I'm really that naïve. I mean, my mom educated me but I guess there are some things you just have to learn by doing them."
"I wouldn't say naïve. Innocence isn't always a bad thing, Chris. I just, wow, all right. So, what does that mean?"
"I want to feel that every time I get kissed."
"As you should."
"So I don't think I want to kiss anyone else."
He exhaled sharply and leaned toward her again, kissing her once more. He deepened it immediately, tongue finding hers and she met his boldly. She'd always held back a little, but she didn't tonight and he seemed to sense that.
"I have to tell him, you know," she said over their Chinese food.
"Yeah, I figured that would be the case. You're too nice to just not talk to him again."
"I think he's kind of expecting it anyway."
She shrugged. "I don't know, I think he knew before I was ready to admit it."
"Hmm. And he didn't turn the charm up a notch?"
She smiled a little at that, taking a sip of her tea. "I'm not sure it would've mattered."
"It's the car, isn't it? That pushed me over the top." He was teasing her; she could see it in his eyes. She never in her wildest dreams would expect him, or anyone but her parents, to buy her a car.
"Yes, that was it."
"So, another weekend of just getting Saturday with you then I take it."
"Just Saturday's? You want more?"
"Well, yeah," he said, looking confused. "You don't."
"I don't know. I mean, I just assumed you have other things to do."
"Well, sure, I do, but I can do them during the week when you can't see me."
"Oh," she said.
"That surprises you?"
He frowned. "Isn't that the point of dating someone? I'm not overly experienced either in this area believe it or not."
"No, no time."
"Yet you have time to see me."
"Oh, I have time to see someone. I don't have the time to meet someone I want to see, but I just assumed if you're dating someone you see them as often as you can."
"You don't sound so sure."
"My mom invited you for Sunday dinner."
"Your mom did?"
"Today's not Sunday."
"Oh, no, you're right. She mentioned it today, kind of an open invitation whenever I want to invite you."
"No invitations for Dan?"
"No, you're not going to hold the last month over my head forever, are you?"
"Forever? No, a little while at least, yes. It's kind of frustrating having to compete with someone who is the ideal partner as far as your parents – and probably you – are concerned. He gave you the forty-five dollars you gave me for the car and I was going to turn you loose close to midnight in a bad neighborhood without the car. That would point to his favor from the get go if I were keeping track of things."
"You weren't competing."
"No? What do you call it then?"
"I don't know. And you didn't turn us loose, you gave us the car."
"That's me, the mechanic with a heart of gold. Or who's just a sucker for little girls who think he's Thor. So you changed the subject on me. Just what is it you expect from me?"
"I don't know."
"I mean you just want Saturdays is that it? That doesn't seem like much of a relationship."
"I just don't want to be pushy."
"Pushy? I'd say you've been anything but pushy, but all right. We'll get through the next week then you can tell him and we'll go from there."
"Well, with Mike…"
"Mike was a jerk. If I ever saw him I'd probably punch him not for what he did to you necessarily, though that'd be top of the list for sure. Just because he gives guys a bad name and makes nice girls like you question what they should be doing."
"Don't beat him up."
"No plans on it, no."
"I'll come to Sunday dinner."
She laughed. "Really?"
"Really. Just tell me when and I'll be there. I'll even shave."
She smiled at that. "I don't mind when you don't shave."
"Yeah? You like the lumberjack look? I'm sure your parents would love it."
"My mom's seen you."
"Something tells me I don't have to worry about your mom so much as I do your dad."
"He's not a bad guy."
"You're still his little girl and if he has a clue what Mike did to you he's going to think my coming around is suspicious."
"My dad knows me well enough to know I didn't sleep with Mike."
"That doesn't mean the next guy won't try to succeed where Mike left off."
"Trying to succeed where Mike left off?"
"Well, now, that's a difficult question to answer. If I say no you'll think I'm a liar. If I say yes you'll think I'm just trying to get you out of your pants."
"So there is no answer?"
"Not really, no. My goal here is not to get you into my bed as soon as possible."
"Well, that's good."
"So, I have to ask," he said once they were on the way back to her house.
"Why not you?"
"I've kissed you before tonight and yet you didn't rush out and cancel on Dan before." Dan didn't know Erik's name, she wasn't one hundred percent certain Dan realized there actually was someone else. He never really asked who or what she was doing when he called her on Tuesday or Wednesday to see about plans for the weekend. He never questioned why her Saturdays were always busy.
"It's only been a month!"
"That doesn't answer my question."
"You don't think it should be you?"
"I think logic dictates the future lawyer would win a contest between the two of us."
"Good thing hearts aren't logical then."
"That's it? Your heart?"
"I guess. Whatever it is, it's not wrong. Dan's nice, but I suspect I bore him."
"Bore him? Why?"
"I don't know. He's surrounded by his frat brothers who have girl friends who I'm sure sleep with them. I hadn't told him about Mike or what happened so he probably assumed…"
"You'd be so grateful he gave you money and returned Sara's skate that you'd sleep with him?"
"Something like that. I think he's realized that I'm not Chaylene in any way, shape, or form."
"That's the first time you've mentioned that."
"What? My pornographic doppelganger?"
"Uh, yeah, that."
"You saw it?"
"Sweetheart, I don't live under a rock. Of course I saw it."
"You didn't say anything either."
"Well, what's to say? It's obviously not you."
"You're not eighteen first of all."
"There's a second of all?"
"Yeah, you're prettier."
"Shut up," she said, thinking it was kind of funny he'd say that because Joe Gipp had said something similar.
"Erik. She's a Playboy centerfold."
"Doesn't mean you can't be prettier. Put it this way, if I had my choice to be here right now with you or her I'd choose you in a heartbeat."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com