This is the sixth episode of a fiction serial, in 1725 words.
Having the car was great at first. I spent all my spare cash on gas, and drove all over the state in my free time. Not that I had much free time, as I was still working at the lumber yard, and that took care of my weekends. I also discovered that driving alone is not that much fun. Going out with your friends in the car is what it’s all about, and as far as I could tell, I no longer had any friends. Duke came back to school looking thin and tired, and he still wasn’t interested in talking. Freddie started dating Sally O’Connor, which was a surprise. She was one of the popular girls. Always on the sports teams, and with a big group of friends, Freddie was the last guy I expected her to like.
Dad wanted to talk to me about college, and sat me down for one of his awkward man-to-man talks. I shocked him by saying I wanted to study law, at the nearby college in White Oaks. I could drive up there, and wouldn’t need to move out. He didn’t seem to know what to say, and when I asked him what he thought, he looked really uncomfortable. “I kinda thought you might consider joining the Army, son. It can be a good career for a young man”. I looked at him across the table, and realised he didn’t know me at all. His suggestion also made me wonder if him and Mom wanted me to move out, and have some time on their own.
I had taken it for granted that they would welcome my decision. Something else I got wrong.
College was like a breath of fresh air. I hardly knew anyone, except for some of the Riverdale girls who had never spoken to me anyway. Freddie and Duke had supposedly decided not to go to White Oaks, and it took me a while to discover that Freddie had decided to skip college completely, and work with his Dad at the car dealership. His time with Sally had been short-lived, when she had moved on to someone with better teeth, and better prospects. Duke had gone to live in Renton, to work in an engineering company there. His step-dad had fixed it up, and got him a room at a relative’s place too. I drove past Mr Hayes’ car place one morning, and saw Freddie standing there in a suit and tie that seemed too big on him. He was shaking the hand of an old guy I didn’t know, and I guessed they had just agreed a deal on the pickup truck next to them.
It would be a long time before I ever saw Duke again.
Although I was happy enough at college, I still didn’t make many friends. Mainly because I was driving home every evening, and never participated in any of the sports. I had only just got a good enough diploma to allow me in to study law, and the work was harder than I had expected. The department was small, and most of the students were male back then. Only two girls went to my class, and they were pretty snooty types. Everyone seemed to grasp it faster than me too. Sometimes, I got out of the house with my books, and went down to the river to study in the fresh air. But that was too distracting, as I would always start to think about what happened.
Working at the lumber yard every weekend didn’t help. I missed most of the social events around college, and always had to study late into the night during weekdays. One day in class, the teacher asked each of us to stand up and explain why we wanted to study law, and what we hoped to get out of it. Most talked about working as a Public Defender or Prosecutor, and a couple whose Dads were lawyers mentioned going into private practice. When It got to my turn, I said I wanted to become a Police Officer, maybe a Deputy Sheriff in Riverdale. I could hear them snickering behind me at that, and the teacher looked unimpressed.
Still, the next Spring, I got myself a girlfriend. Not one of the girls from College, none of them seemed interested. No, she was a waitress at a diner in White Oaks. I sometimes went in there for breakfast, to check over my work. She used to smile at me, and never minded that I didn’t leave her a big tip. One morning, she asked me if I had seen the film playing in town, and I shook my head. “Well I haven’t seen it either, so maybe we could go together?” It had never occurred to me that she was interested, and I blushed at being more or less asked out on a date by a girl. Of course I agreed, and arranged to pick her up. She wrote down her phone number and address on a napkin, and directions to her place too. I told her I worked at weekends, so we settled on Friday night.
So Lauren Ressink became my first date. Almost two years older than me, the same height, and a heavy build, I wondered if she reminded me of Mel, and that was why I had agreed. But she was very different to Melanie. Confident to the point of being a little bossy, she told me not to be late, and to be sure to bring her some candy. I wasn’t sure if she was joking or not, but the prospect of having a real girlfriend overwhelmed any indecision on my part.
Mom told me I was wearing too much cologne, which made Dad laugh because I hardly needed to shave anyway. “The poor girl will need a gas mask, Clay. Go and wash some off”. I bought a nice box of mixed chocolates, and got to her street fifteen minutes early. I sat in the car and waited until I was just five minutes early. Dad had warned me not to appear to be too keen. “Act cool, son. Girls don’t like to have a doormat for a fella”. Lauren’s Dad answered the door, and he was a lot friendlier that I thought he might be. He shook my hand, and asked my name. “Clayton Farlowe, sir. From Riverdale. He smiled. “Riverdale eh, small town. Hmm. I understand you’re a college man? What are you planning to do with yourself, Clayton?” I felt awkward standing in the hallway clutching the box, and shuffled my feet. “Well sir, I am hoping to become a police officer”.
Before he could tell me what he thought of that, Lauren breezed down the stairs looking like a million dollars in a smart dress and heavy make-up. I thought she was done up pretty fancy for going to see a film, but wasn’t about to mention that. As we walked to the car, her Dad called from the front porch. “Make sure you have my girl back by midnight young man”.
I was left in no doubt that Lauren had dated other guys. She talked all the way to the movie house, as if it was required to tell me her life history in ten minutes. “You’re the first college man I ever dated, Clay. I’ve had enough of guys who want to take me to a bar and drink beer, and who work at the slaughterhouse or water pumping station. I may be just be a waitress, but I want something better out of life, and no mistake. I read books, and know something about the world. I don’t intend to get stuck in White Oaks for the rest of my life, I can tell you that”. As I parked the car, I couldn’t help but wonder what she would make of Riverdale. But it was only our first date, so I said nothing.
Lauren offered me a chocolate from the box, but I shook my head. “They’re for you”. She took me at my word, and ate them all before the film was halfway through. I didn’t really watch the film. Instead, I sat looking at the side of her body and her legs, occasionally illuminated by the light from the screen. I started to think about what she would look like without that dress on, and whether or not I should slip my arm around her and try to kiss her. I never did muster up the courage though, and to this day I still don’t recall a single thing about that film.
Back in the car, she checked the tiny watch she was wearing. “It’s early yet. Why don’t we go for a drive? I know somewhere quiet”. She gave me directions until we arrived at a picnic spot close to the river. It wasn’t that far from where I had sat in the car that day, thinking about Old Man Henderson. When I switched off the engine, she turned and grinned. “Let’s get in the back, more comfortable there”.
I would like to say that we made love on my back seat that night. But that would be a lie. She grabbed me and started kissing me, pressing me so close I could hardly breathe. To say she got me aroused with all the stroking and squeezing was an understatement. Then she whispered “You got a rubber, yes?” I had to admit I didn’t. The last thing I had expected on a first date was for the girl to be sprawled on the back seat of my car with her legs in the air, and her panties in her hand. I expected her to think I was a loser, and to be annoyed. But she seemed pleased. “Not done it before? That’s okay. It’s actually kinda cute. You got a handkerchief? ” I produced a clean handkerchief from my pocket, and she opened it around her hand. When she unzipped my fly and started to stoke me, it happened so fast she squealed excitedly. “Oh man, you really needed that”.
I dropped her off outside her house before eleven forty-five. She leaned over and kissed me goodbye, then whispered in my ear as I got out to open the door.
“Next time, Clay, bring some rubbers”.