tagRomanceRevenge of the Nerd Ch. 18

Revenge of the Nerd Ch. 18


"Who is it?"

"Ashley Fine."

"Jeff isn't here."

"Open up, I want to talk."

"Jeff isn't here. I have to study."

"Open the door."

"I can't."

"Now!" I said it with the authority of a police detective armed with a warrant. I heard the click of the lock and the turning of the knob before the door swung open.

"I don't know where he is."

He was a little taller than Jeff, though not quite as lean. He had the frightened look of a plebe, anticipating the random hazing of upperclassmen.

I brushed past him.

"That's okay. I brought my books. I'll wait."

"You can't. I don't know when he'll be back." Jeff had coached him.

I could break him but it wasn't really necessary.

"However long it takes, I'm staying. I hope you can sleep with the lights on."

He had been coached, but not prepared for this. His shoulders slumped in defeat, he went to his desk to study. I sat on the couch and opened a book.

He gave a sigh of resignation. What could I do, Jeff? She forced her way in and wouldn't leave. And that would be accurate, because I wasn't going anywhere until Jeff showed up.

I ordered in a pizza for dinner. I had occupied the high ground and I wasn't going to desert it due to lack of supplies. Sun Tzu says, well, I have no idea what Sun Tzu said, but I'm sure must have said not to desert the high ground.

At around 11:30 there was a key fumbling in the lock. Roger looked like he wanted to utter a warning, but I gave him a withering stare and he dropped his gaze back to his book.

"Ash ley." Two words. I had surprised him.

"We need to talk," I said. The words every man longs to hear from his woman.

"I've just been -"

"Cut the crap. We really need to talk. Roger, go stretch your legs."

There was no doubt about my authority. He got up quickly and mumbled, "I'm going to take a walk. I'll be back later."

He scurried out of the room like he was afraid of police brutality.

I closed the door behind him.

"How did you get him to let you in?"

"Except for you, there are two kinds of guys. One type stares at me and, even though they know I can see them, they just can't help themselves, they have to look.

"The second kind can't look for too long. It's like they are looking at something forbidden and dangerous and they can only look briefly before they have to turn away or something terrible will happen."

"Remedios The Beauty," he said with awe.

"You've read One Hundred Years of Solitude? I've got to give you points for that."

"You needn't sound so surprised. I read voraciously," he said.

"I thought you read science and history and non-fiction. That's heavy duty literature."

"Yes, and, okay, I'll confess I'm a little surprised to hear you've read it too. I guess you get some points yourself. Speaking of which, how many of those thousands of guys you've gone out with have even heard of it?"

"You. Roger was the second type. I told him to let me in. I told him I was staying and he couldn't even look at me, so how could he argue with me?"

Jeff nodded. After that exchange, he didn't seem to know how to get this started. No problem. I could take the lead.

"This is the first relationship I've been in with someone I really care about, Jeff. Who'd have believed it?

"I've dated a lot and I have a lot of experience going out with guys. I've even dated a couple of guys who would have been justified in believing they were my boyfriend except that if I'd lost them, well, there was never any real possibility I'd lose them, it wouldn't have mattered to me at all. It would have had all the emotional impact of oh, it's raining, let me get an umbrella.

"But I don't have any experience doing this. It scared the hell out of me, and that made me want to spend as much time with you as I could. I don't know why, but it seemed like that would help.

"I would have wanted to spend the time with you anyway because I love to be with you. I guess I'm doing all the talking and I don't even know what you think or if that's what's bothering you. I'll just shut up."

"You talked with my Mother, didn't you?"

"How did you know that?" I asked.

"That's her style: honest, sincere, direct. You did it very well." His voice softened. "You're a revelation."

"I can't tell whether you mean that good or bad."

"When I got here, I'd had two dates in my entire life, in my senior year. I decided to exude confidence and it worked. People thought I was confident so I was accepted as being of value to associate with. It's amazing what you can accomplish with confidence and what you can't without it. But I digress."

"You digress a lot. It's one of the things I like about you. It's often more interesting when you're on a tangent," I said.

"Don't encourage me; it's bad enough already. So, pretty much all my dating experience came in the just over two months before we met again. I've never gone with anyone so I don't have a very good idea of how to do it.

"You're pretty much on the money with what got me worried. If I'm exclusively with you, I won't get any more dating experience. I'm not looking for variety in women, I just wanted to learn how to do it."

Do it? What's "it?"

"Date?" I asked.

"Yes, date."

How do I answer that?

"And there's another thing. Mom always encourages straightforward, honest communication. But, there was something I was embarrassed to talk about. It's obvious you're a different person from when I knew you before. I think maybe most of the change is since we met again. It's obviously qualities you already had, but just wouldn't let come out."

I raised my eyebrows. "That's a compliment? I always suppressed my good qualities?"

He stammered.

"I'm just giving you a hard time, Jeff, which you deserve for taking off on me without giving me a clue what was wrong."

And I could give him a hard time because of the incredible relief I felt that it wasn't over.

"I was a coward. Anyway, I had the scary thought that what if the old Ashley shows up and dumps me. I know it's not fair because you're not her and you know you're, I really …"

He was waving his hands around as if words would materialize into them from the air and he could finish his thought..

"You trying to say you're sweet on me?" I asked.

"Where did you get that, My Antonia? But, yes, that's what I was trying to say."

"My God, your face is bright red; you're so embarrassed. That's okay. I'm sweet on you too."

"Gee, do you want to go down to the Rexall and get a soda pop?" he asked.

"You'll be surprised at how much of a reader I've been. I read My Antonia, too, so that cancels out your points for that. I'll bet I can match you anachronism for anachronism. Will we talk about going steady?"

"You really know how to talk sexy."

"How long do you think Roger will be gone?"

"Not nearly long enough," he said.

So, we talked about our feelings about what had happened and our relationship.

After all the intense time we spent together, culminating in the concert, the seductive dinner and the seductive seduction, he was scared it was too good to be true, so he bolted.

We agreed not to let that happen again. We promised to talk if either of us had a problem.

Great, I've known him a month and a half and we're in couple's therapy. Those promises are much easier to make than to keep.

Neither of us was anxious to put a name to what we felt for each other. "Sweet on you," was helpful in avoiding it.

Nobody wanted to sound stupid by calling it love if it was just infatuation, although "just" is pathetically inadequate when used to describe the intensity of infatuation.

Whichever it was, it was a journey not to be missed.

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