Author Russell MacClaren pens this romantic short story, taking the reader back to a different time while reflecting on meeting his first true love.
Friday, January 27, 1967, my college room mate, Wally Schneider called. “Got dates for us tonight. Mine has a blind date for you. We just need transportation.” Staying home would mean work and/or study for Wally. He renewed his appeal: “Your girl is supposed to be really fine!” After more insistence, I caved in to his request.
As we neared the home of his intended, I questioned Wally further. “What’s your date like?” I knew he only had hearsay about mine.
“Crazy little thing, big jugs,” he replied. “She’ll get things stirred up and keep ‘em going.” Not that either of us had trouble interacting with members of the other sex. On the ride to his date’s house we discussed school and what our return on Monday would bring.
* * *
I waited in the car while Wally walked his date to my window. She introduced herself with a seductive smile. “Hi, I’m Sherry; good to meet you.”
“Russell,” I offered. I checked out her pressed slacks and matching sweater. “My, my, don’t we look sharp!”
“Thank you,” she responded, staring me down. “Let’s drop Wally off and paint the town—just you and me.” She had a lot of brass to make such a comment right in front of Wally, but unsure of the dynamics between them, I figured she might have some old score to settle.
“What about my date?” I asked, hoping to diffuse the tension.
“We don’t have to pick her up.”
I smiled, making light of a suggestion that seemed more serious than I’d believed at first. “Which way to her house?” I asked.
* * *
I was wired that night and stormed the porch of my intended’s home like a puppy eager to make a friend. An attractive older lady opened the door. “I guess you’re Russell, Bobbie’s date. Good to meet you. I have to return to my bridge game,” she said. “But make yourself comfortable; Bobbie should be with you shortly.”
When she left, I noticed what looked like a family portrait hanging above the mantle. Two girls were depicted with an older couple. The photo included the woman I’d just met. If my deductions were correct, she was the mother, and I had a win-win situation! One of the daughters was very attractive, the other—absolutely stunning. Their smiles were pleasant. Their eyes shone with fire and intellect. There was no way I could go wrong with either one!
I studied the traditional, upper-middle class furnishings reminiscent of my parents’ place and felt comfort. I was looking forward to the evening. Thank you Wally!
After I’d grown acquainted with the decor, Bobbie came down the hallway. She was the gorgeous one! Soft smile, rabbit coat, fox collar complementing long, blond hair—as close to a goddess as I’d ever seen! She was my date? Karma favored me, and I struggled to contain myself.
“I’m Bobbie,” she said in a sultry voice that melted my last ounce of resistance.
“You sure are,” I muttered and immediately felt like an idiot. “I-I’m, ah, ah, Russell.”
She smiled, and the twinkle in her brown eyes spoke understanding. This beauty was for me? What had I done to deserve her?
I walked her to my folks’ Plymouth Fury and opened the passenger door to show the courtesy one of her grace and elegance deserved. Introductions were exchanged, and we were on our way, but on our way to where?
I turned to the back seat. “Where to?” Wally and Sherry looked at each other. It was obvious no one had made plans.
“Don’t know. I’m broke,” said Wally.
I had five dollars—enough to buy gas and purchase a couple tickets to a picture show or buy two decent meals, but it wouldn’t cover four of us. Score one for the big guy! He’d always been good at creating a mess.
Bobbie offered a suggestion: “Let’s go to Bay St. Louis and walk the beach.” When she spoke, I heard harps and violins. This young lady was an 11+ …composed, beautiful, intelligent, intuitive, understanding. I sensed this already. Sitting on the seat with her, my heart wanted to beat out of my chest. My skin tingled. No small-potatoes problem like lack of funds could bother me tonight. I’d won the lottery. Perhaps there was such a thing as love at first sight, after all! At the very least, I could feel that her waters ran deep.
She had positioned herself in the center of the front seat, not so far away to seem distant nor so close as to come across as expectant or demanding. I patted the seat beside me. “Come closer. Sit here. You look lonely over there.” She took her coat off and moved next to me. I put my arm around her, and she smiled ever so slightly. But what a smile!
“Where do you go to school, Bobbie?”
“Sherry and I are seniors at Ben Franklin,” she resplied.
“Ah, the high school for geniuses,” I chided. “My brother went there too.”
She laughed. “I don’t think of our school that way. It’s more like a school for those who are serious about an education.”
God, I liked this girl! Was there no bottom to her well? Our small talk continued, and the more I learned about her, the more I realized I was escorting a princess. I drove east on Highway 90, never mentioning a destination.
Five miles from the Mississippi border, Bobbie asked, “Where are you taking us?”
“To Bay St. Louis,” I responded. “Seeing you on the beach in the moonlight, would be a dream come true.”
She chuckled, and the glint of light that flashed from her eyes disarmed me.
I nodded. “You don’t know how beautiful you are, do you?”
She rolled her eyes. “I guess I look all right.”
“Mmmmnn,” I answered. “Magnificent is more like it. All right is for everybody else, and there’s more to you than just the way you look. The bottom of the volcano runs deep, and I can feel the heat.”
She laughed, and I was captured.
*** (Reflective, Romantic Short Story)
As we drove across Pearl River Bridge into Mississippi, a siren wailed behind us. I looked back and realized we were being chased by a highway patrol car.
I pulled over, and the officer approached with his ticket book. “You know you were exceeding the speed limit, don’t you?”
“Hadn’t thought so,” I answered. “The posted speed is 70. That’s what I was going.”
“Not over the bridge,” he said. “There’s a 55 mph sign at the base of the trestle. Some people overlook it, but I’m afraid I’ll have to issue a violation.”
“You can pay the Justice of the Peace and settle out of court. The fine is a dollar for every mile-per-hour over the limit. You were doing 70 in a 55 zone. If you have $15.00, you won’t have to come back to Mississippi.”
While following him to the residence of the Justice of the Peace, Sherry offered me two dollars. Bobbie found eight more in her purse. With my five, we had just enough. My beautiful date had become my heroine. I looked at her wide-eyed and suggested, only half jokingly, “Maybe we could get married when we get there.”
“A bit premature, don’t you think? Besides, we barely have enough for your ticket.”
“… ‘tis my great misfortune!” I pronounced. She snickered but maintained eye contact.
At the beach, Sherry slipped off her shoes, ran in the surf and got soaked to her thighs. Bobbie walked along the sand under the full moon, the hair of her coat a-swirl in the breeze. I watched her a moment then took her hand. We studied waves as they lapped the sand. Neither her face, nor the starlight sparkling on the waves could have been more perfect, and the froth that rushed into the sand sounded almost like her whisper.
“You’re beautiful in moonlight,” I said without thinking. I surprised myself with the comment, then to cover bases I added, “But you’d probably be as perfect by light of day.” I put my arm around her shoulders, and we strolled the beach, not noticing the wind. “Thank you,” I said with all the emotion I could muster.
“For suggesting this place, for the privilege of walking with you in the moonlight. I’ll remember and cherish this evening as long as I live.”
Bobbie looked into my eyes. I gentled her chin with my finger. “Being here with you is so invigorating. I’m hearing myself too, and everything I say sounds corny, huh? …but it’s the way I feel. Guess I’m just that kind of guy, and all I can do is admit that I’ve been busted for my corn.”
She looked into my baby blues the way people look to measure sincerity in others, and I exploited the opportunity to search her shining, brown eyes.
When we got back from our walk, Wally climbed into the car ahead of his wet date. I opened the door for Bobbie, then walked around to take the wheel. She snuggled next to me. Was there anything I didn’t like about this girl? The evening couldn’t last long enough!
Back at the bridge we realized there was a fifty cent toll on the Mississippi side. The girls got out and bummed money from people in the line for passage.
On the way home, Wally wouldn’t let Sherry near him in her wet clothes. Bobbie and I wordlessly appreciated the warmth of each others bodies.
Entering New Orleans on Chef Menteur Highway, Sherry produced two coupons, for a couple meals each to a new franchise called Burger King. The four of us got our free meals at the drive-up and ate them in the car, fully appreciating Sherry’s contribution.
When Bobbie and I finished our burgers, I pulled her to me for our first kiss—a deja vu experience that carried me away. Her lips were soft. Her hair smelled of lavender, her warmth was inviting. Soon we kissed and hugged, desperately. I didn’t want it to stop!
The blossoming romance sparked Sherry’s question. “Why are you kissing her like that, Russell? This is only your first date!” When I didn’t answer, she repeated the question. Bobbie turned and admonished her, “Mind your business, Sherry.” Bobbie’s reproof only caused Sherry to repeat her question.
I looked back at our heckler. “Do you really want to know?”
Sherry and Bobbie both drew breath.
Looking at Bobbie, my eyes were open so wide I was sure she could see my thoughts. “Because, Sherry, I like your friend very, very much, and I want to give her something to think about. If I’m very lucky, she’ll consider seeing me again.” Bobbie squeezed my hand.
Closer to New Orleans, Bobbie suggested we stop at the Sea Gull Lounge. She went in alone and came out with a beer. In that time, legal drinking age was eighteen. The four of us sipped, then passed the beer and laughed about the guy who’d bought it.
After dropping Wally and Sherry off, I pondered how to close the evening. I’d had a taste of heaven and couldn’t allow this angel to become a memory!
We shared a gentle kiss. “May I see you next weekend?” I asked, pleading to the softness in her eyes.
“I enjoyed my evening, Russell, but I have plans for both Friday and Saturday nights.”
“Who said anything about Friday or Saturday? Sunday is the weekend too….”
She kissed me. “You worked your way into that very nicely. Come by for lunch, Sunday at noon. My folks will enjoy your company as much as I have.”
What an evening! Bobbie’s smile lingered when she closed the door, and despite my floundering and shallow pockets, I had sufficient funds to cross the toll bridge to her heart, and I grew eager for our next walk together!