Standing in line, I made my way to the podium where the professor was distributing last week's statistics midterm exams. My heart was beating fast. I just hoped I passed. I held my breath as I got to the front, and the professor handed me my test. Clutching the pages tightly to my chest I made my way to the back of the lecture hall. Once I was away from the throngs of students, I took a deep breath and peeked at the sheet. My eyes welled up with tears when I saw red slashes and comments all over the page, and a big fat C- on top. I sat down in the last row for the lecture, but I could barely concentrate. How could I be so good at everything else, and so bad at statistics?
Like many people I got my bachelors degree before being turned out into the cold hard reality of supporting myself. I worked for four years eeking my way to the middle rung of the corporate ladder. The higher-ups loved me, and I expected to go far in the company. That's why I was shocked when I attended my last performance review.
"Sarah, you're great at this job, you can get things done like no one else," my boss started, and I knew there was a 'but.' Why is there always a 'but?' "But I'm afraid I can't promote you any higher without an MBA." So, back to college I went.
The MBA program was filled with professionals, so we had many of our classes in the evening. I'd taken the first few classes without difficulty, since my few years of working had helped me to understand business pretty well. My company was happy to pay my tuition and I could stay in the program so long as I maintained at least a 3.25 average, which honestly hadn't been terribly hard up until now.
Statistics was different though, there was something about mathematics that had always given me fits, and no matter how much I studied, the problems still looked like Chinese to me.
And that is how I came to be in a classroom, filled with over achieving professionals, sitting in the back of the room wondering how in the world I could ace the statistics final in seven weeks to keep my GPA high enough to stay in the program. The professor rambled on and on and all I could think of was if I failed the exam, I'd be out of the program, my tuition wouldn't be paid, and I'd be destined to a lifetime of working in a cubicle.
After class I started toward the door and the guy who sits in front of me came up to say hello. We'd said hello a few times and flirted briefly, but tonight I was in no mood for chitchat. Tonight I was worried about my future.
"Everything okay, Sarah?" Eli asked looking genuinely concerned.
"Yeah, sure. I guess I just need to study a little more." I tried to downplay how terribly I'd done since it seemed everyone in the class but me understood this stuff.
"Anything I can do to help?" His face always seemed to light up when we spoke. He truly seemed to be interested in my plight. I shrugged my shoulders - how could anyone help this? I thought. "Listen, want to grab some coffee?" he said. "I'm a good listener, whatever the problem is, let's see if we can work it out."
I agreed to coffee, it isn't like I have anyone at home waiting for me. I split up with my last boyfriend over six months ago, and since starting night classes I'd barely had the energy to get back on the dating horse. We sat in an all night diner near campus and talked for a long time.
It turned out that Eli was amazingly good at statistics, since he had taken several courses in it as an undergrad. We talked about personal things too. The conversation turned serious when he told me his long time girlfriend Marilyn had moved out a year ago. They had been high school sweethearts, and after 8 years of being together she had run off with Buddy McKay, their old high school quarterback.
"Listen, Sarah, I know you need help with statistics. How about I tutor you?" he suggested.
For the first time that night my eyes lit up. This could be the answer to my problems! "I don't know, Eli," I replied cautiously. "That's a lot to ask. I'm not even sure I could afford a tutor - how much do you charge?"
Eli thought for a minute, then said, "Okay, how about we just study together? Then it isn't tutoring, and you don't owe me anything."
I was so excited to have a solution to my dilemma that I quickly agreed. However, we both knew it was tutoring - he barely even needed to study for the exam.
We set up a schedule to meet Tuesday and Thursday evenings after work at each other's apartments for studying. We'd sit at the dining room table and work on assigned problems. Often, I'd be hard at work trying to decipher something, and I'd look up to ask Eli something only to catch him looking at me. He smiled often, and his eyes fairly sparkled when he was happy. He was only a couple years my senior, and so handsome that I couldn't believe he was still single after a year.
After four weeks of studying, we felt very comfortable together, and I was so excited to spend time with him that I actually started looking forward to statistics. He hadn't made any moves on me at all, which surprised me. Most men would have felt they had a right to be paid back for tutoring. I hadn't made a move on him because I couldn't even tell if he was interested, but also because studying was going so well, I didn't want it to end.
"Have you done problem thirty-two yet?" I asked, looking up from my paper.
He looked up, saw in my eyes that I needed help with it. "Yeah, that was a hard one." He stood up and walked around behind me, leaning over my shoulder to see what I'd already done. "You might want to recheck the fourth step there, I don't think the standard deviation is calculated right."
As he leaned over I turned slightly toward him, God he smelled so good. He always seemed to smell fresh out of the shower when we met, and the scent of soap has always been an aphrodisiac of mine.
When I didn't respond to him, he looked down to see my eyes closed and my mind drifting in a mini-fantasy of scrubbing Eli's back in the shower. "You ok, Sarah?" Jolted out of my thoughts, I looked up at him, and stammered, "Right, the umm...standard deviation. Ok, good point." I felt a blush creep up over my chest. Does he know I was thinking about him naked and soapy?
He chuckled and headed toward the kitchen to get us drinks. What I need is ice water in my lap, I thought, as I watched his jean-covered buns leave the room. Being so near to Eli without being able to kiss him or touch him was really starting to wear on me. In the kitchen around the corner I heard the phone ring and Eli answered it.
"Yeah, John, I got the invitation. Yeah, ten years, can you believe it's already been ten years? Seems like just yesterday we were running track together and making fun of old coach Alderman."
His voice seemed wistful, remembering days gone by, and I felt bad for eavesdropping, but everything about Eli had become fascinating to me lately.
"Listen John, I don't know if I can make it. She's going to be there, and she'll be with that oaf Buddy. I'd love to see you, see the whole gang, but I just don't know if I can stand to see them together."
After only a few more comments he promised to call his friend back and let him know if he would attend.
Without a word Eli came back to the table, and sat down looking glum. I'd never seen him when he wasn't smiling and full of life. Now it was my turn to be concerned, "Everything okay?"
Without even looking up, he mumbled, "Sure, everything is ok, no big deal."
I closed my statistics book, and looked directly at him. He'd helped me so much and maybe this was my chance to help him a little. "What's wrong, Eli?"
He just stared aimlessly at the paper in front of him, deep in thought. After a minute of silence, he finally said, "It's my high school ten year reunion. It's next month, and I thought I'd really like to go, but I don't think I can." We talked for a long while about it, about how much he missed his high school friends and wished he could go. He admitted that it was silly not to go just because his old girlfriend would be there. His eyes turned so sad while telling me about how he'd only ever dated a few women in his life, but he was just so devastated that she left him when he was sure they were meant to be together.
We talked for over an hour about it, and he seemed dead set on not attending. We said our goodnights and at the door, I stepped forward and hugged him. We'd never had that much physical contact, but it was killing me to see him so miserable.
I thought over the weekend about his dilemma, and by next Tuesday's study session I had a solution. We met at my place, and as usual we sat down and promptly got down to business. With open books and papers and pencils spread all over the table, we spoke only of statistics.
I wasn't sure how to broach the topic, but when it was getting late I decided to just dive right in. "Listen, Eli, I think I have an idea on how I can help with the reunion." I saw the resignation in his face. "Hear me out before you decide. You've been so generous about helping me, and I'm actually starting to understand this stuff. It would mean a lot to me if you'd let me help you, and let me be your date for the reunion."
"That's really sweet of you, Sarah, but I couldn't ask you to do that."
I decided to try a different tack. The guilt card usually works well. "If you don't accept then I'll feel too indebted to you for the study help, and I don't think I'll be able to have you tutor me anymore."
His eyes widened with the threat, and then he smiled, realizing that I was playing on his need to be a gentleman. "Okay, Sarah, how about this: if you do well on your exam, then I'll take you to the reunion. It isn't that you owe me or anything, but I guess going with a friend would be better than going stag."
My heart leapt inside knowing we'd have an actual date after the exam. We said goodnight with a hug now that the precedent had been set, and tonight he seemed to hug me a little longer. I again inhaled his scent as he leaned to my ear and whispered, "Thank you."
On my way home I was so pleased knowing we'd be going out. Once class was over there wouldn't be any other reason to see him, and I knew I'd miss him terribly. I still couldn't even tell if he was interested in me. Wait, did he say we'd be going to the reunion as 'friends'? With other men it was easy to tell if they were interested, they stared at my cleavage and made their wishes more clear. With Eli I just couldn't tell.
The big exam day finally arrived, and I awoke that morning with butterflies in my stomach. This is it, I thought, do well and I'll get to finish my degree, do badly and its bad coffee and dreary repetitive desk work. As the tests were being handed out I tried to take deep, controlled breaths. Eli turned around and looked at me, and surely saw I was very nervous. He reached out and put his hand on mine, looking warmly in my eyes and said, "You can do this." Those few words of encouragement from him took away my flighty thoughts of failure.
The exam went well. I slowly and methodically went through each problem, hearing Eli's voice in my head telling me over and over that I can do this. I turned page after page, expecting the next problem to be harder, but I didn't come across any I couldn't do. When I turned the last page I looked up shocked to find I had finished without difficulty, and disappointed to see that Eli along with most of the rest of the class had already left.
I stopped by the professor's office a couple days later, and he handed me the exam without even looking up. An A! I could hardly believe my eyes. I was so giddy with excitement I could barely wait to call Eli. That night I called him and spilled out, "Thank you thank you! I got an A, I couldn't have done it without you. You saved my life!"
Eli laughed, he enjoyed hearing me so happy. "You know, it wasn't me who took your exam. This was all you. You're pretty smart, you know."
My voice turned sincere, "Eli - seriously - I couldn't have done this without you. Thank you."
His voice took a serious tone as well, "Sarah, I know you said you'd go to this reunion and all, but it'll be a terrible bore for you. And I don't like the idea of you feeling indebted. Plus, I'm not even sure I can go. She'll be there, and she's moved on with her life, and I just haven't been able to..." His voice trailed off and I knew I needed to make myself clear.
"Listen, Eli. You promised me you'd take me, and I'm not letting you change your mind. You have moved on, you don't need her, and you'll show her just that at the reunion." He agreed, and we planned for him to pick me up Friday night.
I went out shopping to get myself a nice reward for all my hard work. Looking through the many choices, I finally settled on a simple black dress. The dress was short, and showed a nearly indecent amount of cleavage, but was sexy without being slutty. I picked out a beautiful matching set of black lace bra and garter, then decided on the thong, since it was the only way to avoid panty lines in the snug dress.
Friday night came, and I took a long hot shower carefully shaving my legs and pussy. I put on the clothes I'd picked, and slowly slid on the black stockings. I decided to wear my long auburn hair down, since Eli had only ever seen my hair in a ponytail. Actually, he'd only ever seen me in jeans and t-shirts when we studied, I thought as I fixed my makeup carefully in the mirror. I slipped on my high-heeled pumps and took a final look in the mirror just as I heard Eli's car pulling up. Smiling into the mirror, I took a deep breath. I don't even remember the last time I felt this sexy, I thought as I heard the knock on the door.
As I opened the door, I watched Eli's eyes carefully for some reaction. He just stood there slightly stunned, not saying a word, looking me up and down in disbelief.
"Holy cow, Sarah!" he said at last. "You look amazing!"
I giggled, "You don't look too bad yourself."
And he really didn't. In fact he looked so good I could barely contain myself. He was dressed in a beautiful charcoal grey suit, with a bright cobalt blue tie. He put out his arm like a gentleman, and led me to the car. We drove in silence, and I watched him in profile. He seemed genuinely nervous. Damn that horrid woman for making Eli so miserable! When I'm done tonight, I thought, she'd be sorry for what she had lost.
We walked into the reunion arm in arm, and I loved feeling him so close to me. It was easy for me to feel composed because I didn't have any history with these people. We walked to the reception desk and he filled out a nametag for me. He peeled off the back and started toward my chest before stopping and looking at my cleavage. I giggled and took his hand, directing the tag to my dress just above my breast.
I affixed a sticker to him and in a quiet voice I said, "Listen Eli, if you want to make her believe you're over her, you'll need to act a little more comfortable with me. Let's pretend we've been together for months now, and don't worry, it'll all be fine."
He looked so nervous as he held my hands tightly. It was my turn to encourage him, and I leaned toward him and stood on tiptoes, whispering into his ear, "You can do this." He smiled wanly, but with trust in his eyes, as we set out for the groups of people in the main hall.
Eli held my arm as we walked from one group to the next. Everyone we met seemed to like Eli and have memories of how he helped him or her out of this jam or that. Although I already thought Eli was a kind-hearted person, I grew to realize what a truly amazing man he really was. As he talked to friends I looked up at him and he'd smile back.
He offered to get us a drink, and when he left a woman leaned over to me and said, "You really got a good one, honey. All the girls wanted Eli, but he'd have none of them. He only wanted Marilyn, that horrible stuck-up cheerleader." I nodded, thinking about how funny it is that things that seem so important in high school really have little meaning at all in real life.
Eli walked toward me trying not to spill our drinks, and as he approached I saw his eyes widen, looking at something just past me. I turned around and saw a woman with big blond hair and too much makeup yabbering on loudly with a large group of men. Men seemed fixed to her like bees to honey, and it was no wonder. Her micro skirt and push up bra left very little to the imagination. She looked very much like the kind whose looks would fade in a few years, and I suddenly felt a little sorry for her.
Eli handed me my drink just as Marilyn saw him. She grabbed a man's arm and headed straight toward us. Grinning from ear to ear as she approached, she said in a smarmy, insincere voice, "Why Eli, I didn't think you'd make it. How nice to see you." Eli politely smiled and she barrelled on, "Eli, you remember Buddy? Buddy McKay? The football quarterback?"
Eli politely and quietly said, "Yeah, hi," and reached out to shake his hand. Buddy was dressed in an out of date nearly too tight suit. It was clear he didn't continue his athletic path, and his hair had already begun to thin.
Taking the initiative, since Eli seemed almost too hurt to continue, I reach out my hand to her and said, "I'm Sarah, Sarah Jacobs. Nice to meet you."
She smiled in a catty way, looking me up and down. "Sarah. Well, I'm Marilyn, I'm sure Eli has told you all about me."
Smiling sweetly I replied, "No, I don't think he has. Did you go to high school here?"
Shocked to imagine that she wasn't the center of Eli's life even in her absence, she just stared at me. Buddy reached out his hand to mine and took it with a forceful grip. "Hi, I'm Buddy. Buddy McKay." He looked lasciviously over my body nearly drooling, being far more direct than was socially acceptable. "If you need a used car, I'm your man!" And with that he produced a business card out of nowhere, and handed it to me.
I turned to Eli, and said, "Ooh, I love this song. Let's dance." He smiled, happy to be out of the uncomfortable meeting, and we started to turn toward the dance floor. I looked back and said, "Nice to meet you, Mary? Mary Beth was it?"
"Marilyn!" She yelled over the music. As I turned I saw Buddy staring at my ass and Marilyn catching him, slapping his shoulder. They started to argue, and we just walked away. I wondered what Eli could have ever seen in her.
We stepped onto the dance floor as a slow song was starting. He held my hand and wrapped his arm around my waist as we danced. I could feel the stares of women all around the room on us as the music played. The combination of rum punch and adrenaline had made me feel giddy inside, and I pulled Eli closer, pressing my cleavage to his chest. He smiled down at my bosom, then into my face.
He pulled his face near my ear and whispered, "Thank you. I couldn't have done this without you." And then he leaned over and kissed me. A long passionate kiss, and I forgot we were on a dance floor as my lips began to part. His tongue traced around my lips and as we danced close I could feel his excitement against my hip.
As the song ended so too did our kiss. For a long moment Eli just looked down into my face, as though seeing me for the first time. He smiled and for the first time tonight appeared to be genuinely happy. For the rest of the night he seemed back to himself, laughing and joking with old friends. He held me close and frequently squeezed my hand and leaned over to kiss my neck. We danced a few more times, and I delighted in feeling him so warm against me. It seemed we'd be dancing together for years, as he directed me so expertly with light touches on my back. I was so content and proud to be with Eli, and wished the night would never end.
The reunion began to draw to a close as many people had already left. We sat with a small group of old friends, and I caught Eli looking at my legs. I realized the very top of my stocking was showing, and as I reached down to pull my dress to cover it, Eli took my hand in his and smiled. His eyes never left mine as he told his friends, "I think we need to be going." I wished I could read him better. I couldn't tell if he was happy to be with me, or grateful for what I'd done, or maybe just happy to have had the courage to attend.