Monday, April 19, 2010

Harter Union: Part Three, Chapter 5

I arrived at work and noticed the entire staff was sitting in front of the newly-installed televisions. I stood next to Chrissy and looked up at the TVs. “I see they finally got those flippin’ TVs installed.”

“Ssh,” hushed Jason pointing at the idiot box. “TV.”

“Oh, God, I knew this was a bad idea.”

“Where’s Maggie?” asked Alyson.

“She’s helping her sister with her new job so she can only work on Sunday.”

“Is she getting paid for it?” asked Nathan.

“Yeah, her sister is reimbursing her for all the work missed here,” I sat down next to Chrissy. “Where’s Wendy?”

“She’s at home talking with Steve,” Alyson replied. “She’s going to ask him to come down for the Old Castle Dance.”

“Steve? That guy she met on the Internet a few weeks ago?”

“Yeah, they’ve really been hitting it off. She’ll sit in front of that computer for hours just talking to him. It’s kind of sickening,” Alyson explained.

“And has anyone explained to her that this Steve guy may not be who he says he is?” I asked.

“He sent her a picture…” Nathan said.

“Really? And Lord knows that can’t be fraudulent.”

“I say let her do it,” began Alyson. “It’s a harmless activity that brings her some joy. Let her have this. Wendy’s a big girl and I’ve been her friend a lot longer than you so I think I know how to handle this.”

“Well, I didn’t want Wendy to get hurt but apparently you have everything under control!” I got up and stormed off into the kitchen where I ran into Wendy in front of the ice machine.

“Hey, Jeff, I have great news. I got a date for the Old Castle Dance!” Wendy was so excited.

“Well, congratulations, I’m sure it’ll be a wonderful night for you,” I faked a smile and patted her head. I went into my office and sat down. “The world’s gone crazy.”

The Old Castle was a three story sandstone building on Fifth Street between Elm and Fremont. When Baker University started in 1858, Old Castle was the first university building. It is now a museum housing several artifacts from the Santa Fe Trail era and of surrounding communities that no longer exist. I went to Old Castle a couple times to look around and found it interesting and educational. The Old Castle Dance was an extremely formal ball open to Baker employees, alumni, and people willing to spend ungodly amounts of money for a plate. What was special about this year was it would probably be the last Old Castle Dance because people just weren’t donating money like they used to. Kathryn and Melissa were catering the event and they went all out for it. Maggie had to help her sister so I had just planned on having a quiet evening at home but kept thinking about Wendy’s date with Steve. I got out and drove past Wendy’s apartment which was still lit up despite the fact that Wendy should be at the dance and Alyson went out with Nathan, Jason, and Chrissy.

I went home and called Wendy. “Hello?” she answered.

“Just checking to see if you’ve left yet.”

“No…no. Steve called and he’s running late but he’s on his way,” she said. Her voice was quivery and it sounded like she was or had been crying.

“Well, I just called to tell you to have fun and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

“All right, Jeff,” she half-heartedly chuckled, “thank you.”

We hung up and I dashed to my room. I pulled my tuxedo out of the closet and began undressing. Heather came into my room and saw the tuxedo on my bed and me in my boxers. “What are you doing?” she asked.

I’m going to be someone’s knight in shining armor,” I said.

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m taking Wendy to the Old Castle Dance.”

“I thought that Steve guy was taking her.”

“Yeah, well, like I told everyone, that Steve guy is scum. Wendy is sitting at home waiting for a guy who is not going to show up. I’m going to save her from the embarrassment and humiliation.”

“Very noble of you,” Heather said.

“Oh, what? I’m doing something nice for someone I care about. Why do people always think this is a bad idea?” I complained.

“I didn’t say anything! I’m just making an observation!” Heather defended.

“Okay…I’ll be home late and I’m sorry I snapped at you…” I apologized.

“It’s okay,” Heather left my room and went back into hers.

I threw on my tux and headed downstairs. When I arrived at Wendy’s, I knocked on her door and she quickly answered it. She was in a dark blue sleeveless dress and looked twice as beautiful as normal. Her eyes widened when she saw me standing in my tuxedo.

“What are you doing here?” her voice still quivering.

“I’m going to take you to the dance. You ready?” I held out my arm like a gentleman and expected her to take it.

“That’s nice of you but Steve is taking me…” Wendy said softly.

I sighed. “Look, I know he’s not coming. I never thought he would but you can either sit in this apartment wearing that beautiful dress no one will see or you can come with me to the dance, attempt to have a good time and show off how beautiful you are.”

“You think I look beautiful?” she asked quietly.

“Always,” I extended my arm again which Wendy promptly took. “Watch your step, milady.”

“I’m not just a charity case am I?”

“I’m just a friend helping a friend. Come on, we have a dance to get to.” I opened the car door for Wendy and helped her in. I got in the driver’s seat, started up the car and headed toward campus for the dance.

Alyson, Nathan, Jason, and Chrissy were all headed back to Baldwin from Olathe. Nathan drove while Chrissy gave Jason a blow job quietly in the backseat. As they drove home, Jason began playing twenty questions with Nathan and Alyson.

“How long have you two been dating?” he asked.

“About five months, why?” Nathan answered.

“And you two haven’t had sex yet have you?”

“Uh, no…why do you ask?”

“Well, considering you and Trina were pretty hot and heavy back in the day and I assume that Alyson has a hole between her legs so I figured you two would be humping like rabbits.”

“Well, we haven’t,” Nathan revealed.

“Why not?”

“We just haven’t!”

“That’s not a good excuse. You are the horniest guy I have ever known. If I had a dollar for every time I heard you masturbating…” Chrissy’s lips tightened around Jason’s penis as he came in her mouth. “Chrissy, how long did we wait until we had sex?”

Chrissy swallowed and cleared her throat. “About two days.”

“I know Alyson is a virgin and all but you can’t keep it forever so you might as well give it up to Nathan,” Jason argued.

“This has nothing to do with Alyson’s virginity! Can we please drop the subject? This is so stupid!” Nathan ordered. “Idiot.”

The slow song ended but Wendy didn’t seem to notice as she continued to dance with me, her head resting on my chest. “Hey…” I whispered, “the song is over.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m just so caught up in the moment. It’s been perfect. I couldn’t have dreamed up a more perfect night. How did you get to be so sweet?” Wendy asked, hugging my arm.

“After the accident, they had to remove 30% of my brain. But I’m feeling much better now.” I walked Wendy over to the punch bowl where Melissa was standing. I poured Wendy a glass of punch and handed it to her. “How are you doing, Melissa?” I asked sweetly.

“I’m doing fine. Um, Jeff, I was wondering if I could talk to you about something,” Melissa looked at Wendy and then back at me.

“Yeah, of course. If you’ll excuse me, Wendy.” Melissa led me to a small alcove area. “What do you want?”

“Why are you doing this?” Melissa asked sternly.

“The guy she was supposed to go with didn’t show up so I’m her Prince Charming, if you will,” I explained.

“What makes you think you need to rush to the aid of every girl in Kansas when their lives go bad? You give way too easily and you get hurt. You are not Superman…”

“I never said I was! I’m doing this because I want to. I didn’t want her to sit around her apartment all night in that lovely dress waiting for some jackass who’s not going to show,” I explained. “What is this really about?”

“I don’t want to see you get hurt,” Melissa said.

“I’m not going to get hurt! This is just a nice evening with a friend and nothing more. I love Maggie and I don’t want to ruin that. Why are you giving me this lecture?”

“Because I love you and I care for you!”

“And you said I live in the past. All right, fine, I’ll tell you the truth. There is a part of me that still loves you but I am with Maggie now and I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that and the way I still feel about you, doing anything—even holding hands—would change everything,” I explained.

“What about Wendy?” Melissa asked.

“Wendy’s too good for me. Even if I had a chance, I wouldn’t deserve her,” I said solemnly. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve left Wendy alone too long. It’s impolite,” I walked away from Melissa and rejoined with Wendy.

Nathan dropped Jason and Chrissy off at his house and proceeded taking Alyson home. They stood outside her apartment trying to avoid the subject at hand.

“Look, we don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” Nathan said taking Alyson’s hand.

“No…we really should because I have been thinking about it,” Alyson giggled. “A lot.”

“Well, do…do you want to?”

“Yes,” Alyson looked up into Nathan’s eyes.

“But it’ll be your first time…”

“I know…” Alyson unlocked the door and opened it. She took Nathan’s hands and led him into the apartment. “Come on in.”

“What about Wendy?” Nathan asked.

“She’s at the dance…” Alyson kissed Nathan softly on the lips, “…she won’t be home for hours.” Alyson wrapped her arms around Nathan’s neck and they kissed again as Alyson kicked the door shut.

After the dance I took Wendy to Signal Oak just north of Baldwin. Signal Oak was a huge oak tree at the top of a hill that was used as a communication tool to warn Lawrence settlers when border ruffians were approaching. A lantern was hung in the branches and telegraphed codes across the valley to Blue Mound then another light shone from Blue Mound to Mount Oread in Lawrence. The tree was torn down in 1914 but the view from the hill was magnificent.

“Thank you,” Wendy said.

“For what?” I asked.

“For what? For everything you’ve done during the last few hours. This is what Maggie keeps talking about, huh?”

“What does Maggie keep talking about?”

“About how underneath your quiet and secretive workaholic self, you’re a really nice, romantic and charming guy.”

“She said that?”

“Every word. Why do you hide that side of you?” asked Wendy.

“To keep from getting hurt again. It seems like every time I’m nice to any girl, it backfires on me and I end up having my heart stabbed,” I turned and looked at Wendy, took her hand and smiled. “Yet, for some reason, I keep taking that chance.”

We sat and looked out at the view for a couple more minutes and then I started the car and followed the gravel road down to the main road.

Jeff and Emily end up getting trapped in a freezer on the night Jeff has a big date with Maggie.