The Ugly DucklingbyPaulSandarac©
[This story got its inspiration, but not its theme or plot, from a very old movie with very haunting theme music, "A Summer Place"; that starred, among others, Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue as young lovers. While the world of the movie, and the novel it was based on, are, like Tara, "Gone With the Wind", the intensity of first love never changes, and the portrayal in this movie is one of the better characterisations; or at least I think so. – PS]
[All characters in this story who are involved in serious sexual situations are at least 18 years old - PS]
* * *
Christopher looked around the classroom, temporarily ignoring his history teacher. She was droning on about the causes of the First World War. He was going to have to write an essay on one of them very soon, but that wasn't really worrying him, after all, history was his best subject, and he already had his university admission organized. All he needed was to maintain an average above 70 to keep it from being revoked.
No, the problem was sitting two rows over and slightly ahead of him ... and it had a name, Eleanor. The problem had beautiful long auburn hair, done this day in a flowing pony tail; grey eyes, clear glowing skin, and a tantalizing shape, one that curved in all the right places. The problem also had a way of dressing that made male hormones jump into overdrive!
Since Christopher had recently split up with his girlfriend Carol, he was free to chase the problem. Unfortunately the problem was quite elusive; three times he had asked her out; and three times she was: "Busy." The third rejection was given in a way that didn't exactly leave the door open for a fourth attempt!
The break up with Carol, he had to admit to himself, was all about ego ... his ego. He had to face facts; she was three years younger than him, and he was basically in it for purely physical reasons. He had never seriously kissed a girl before he dated Carol, and really didn't know what to do. She was able to help him overcome this difficulty, despite her tender age, and certainly taught him plenty during a number of heavy "necking" sessions. But one night, when he tried to take things farther by touching her breasts through her blouse, she had immediately stopped him, saying: "You know I'm only fifteen."
That crushing rebuke pointed out the folly of their "relationship" ... if you could even call it that. He was eighteen and needed a girlfriend that was more his own age. Besides, you couldn't take a fifteen year-old to the senior prom ... c'mon ... how pathetic could a guy look?
"Apparently pretty bad," he answered himself ruefully, because if he couldn't get Eleanor to go with him, and that was looking increasingly hopeless, he was then facing the further humiliation of attending the prom stag; or with one of the less attractive girls. Perhaps even taking a Grade 10 girl would have been better than that!
There was still time, but only six weeks, and he knew which girls did not yet have escorts. He had this information from his close friend Peter, who was very firmly plugged in to all the romantic events affecting the senior class via his girlfriend Catherine. Eleanor was about the only unattached female left who met his self-imposed criteria for female adolescent beauty. To go with any of the others would be "slumming", although, he thought to himself grimly, it might just come down to something really depressing, like Kathy or Phoebe, both of whom had, at various points in time, signalled their interest in him.
Of course the realistic side of his personality made him admit to himself that he wasn't exactly the hottest member of the male species in Grade 12, despite his lofty standards for feminine company. He was just totally, totally average, in height, weight, looks, and athletic ability. About the only place where he stood out was in the intellect department. He wasn't the smartest senior by a long shot, but he was fairly well up the chart, and had the grades to prove it!
"Do you really think you're good looking enough, or cool enough, for a girl like Eleanor?" he asked himself sarcastically, "Get real, she's probably 'Mission Impossible' for a guy like you."
As he morosely considered his rapidly vanishing prom date prospects, his thoughts returned to Kathy, in particular, as an option. He suspected that she had a crush on him; because he had caught her surreptitiously staring wistfully at him on a few occasions. Kathy had flame red hair, an almost unmanageable mane of it, along with a zillion freckles, brown eyes and a pointy nose. And for good measure, no discernible figure! But she did dress nicely, and was one of the smarter members of his class. Phoebe was a bit better looking than Kathy, and actually had breasts, but wore totally weird clothes, and had a very annoying way of laughing at things that were not really even funny.
Maybe he should ask Kathy out on a date, he decided; that way if he had to settle for her for the prom, it wouldn't look to her like she was a desperation choice.
"Like she is," he thought to himself grimly.
"Why, oh why, oh why did I tell Peter about Eleanor?" he thought bitterly. He could only imagine how amused his friend would be once the news broke that Kathy was going to be his date, "Maybe this will teach you once and for all to stop shooting your big mouth off," he added inwardly, with a shake of his head, "talk about a loser!"
There was perhaps only one upside in this scene of unmitigated disaster. It was possible, given Kathy's apparent attraction to him, that if he took her on a few dates prior to the prom, she might let him get past first base at the end the evening. After all, she was also eighteen, and even if she had never had a boyfriend before, she might want to have sex with him if she liked him a lot. And anyway, it was the senior prom, and it was sorta traditional for kids to lose their virginity that night.
But just as he was considering his chances of seducing Kathy, and unabashedly trying to imagine what her pussy might look like, another memory involving her crept into his mind, leaving him feeling a little ashamed of himself.
"You don't fuck the face," one of his friends, Mike, had crudely suggested one time, while they were sizing up some of the less attractive girls in the cafeteria, including Kathy!
Mike, a self-professed expert on the opposite sex, maintained that ugly girls were good bets for action, especially if you, as a guy, were someone who wouldn't normally be boyfriend material for them.
"They'll usually come across pretty quick," he had said with a smirk, "just to make sure you keep taking them out; and so they can show you off to their girlfriends, who are usually members of the ugly club as well. Only problem is that sometimes they fall in love with you ... and then it's really tough to get rid of them."
Christopher didn't share Mike's rather cynical view of young women, or his opportunistic strategies for sexually exploiting them. He reminded himself that even a "Plain Jane" type of girl like Kathy would probably have some standards, and might not throw herself at him just because she liked him, and he had taken her to the prom. If he was going to go to the prom with Kathy, he'd better make sure he behaved just like he would with an Eleanor; it wasn't Kathy's fault that his love life was a fiasco!
* * *
Later that morning, he was heading downstairs to the cafeteria for lunch when he spotted Kathy at her locker chatting with a few of her girlfriends, all of whom Christopher knew. He boldly strolled right up to them and joined their conversation, which he could tell from the suspicious glances surprised them. After a few minutes discussing the history essay, and who was going to the basketball game after school, and so on, he politely excused himself to go get his lunch.
For once, the gods were smiling on him, because right afterwards, as he walked back to his locker, he noticed that Kathy was again at hers, retrieving her books for the afternoon classes, alone.
"Now or never," he thought to himself.
"Hi Kathy," he ventured, which earned him a shy smile.
"Hi Christopher," she answered; a little nervously it seemed to him.
"I'm glad I caught up with you ... I was wondering ... well ... I was wondering if you were doing anything Friday night. Maybe we could go to a movie or something."
"Oh Christopher, I'm very sorry, but I have a date with Matt ... he's taking me to the prom."
"Oh ... ah ... sorry," Christopher stammered, trying to regain his composure after this disastrous disclosure, "I didn't know you and Matt were an item."
Matt was very much in the same adolescent average category as Christopher, without quite the same level of academic accomplishment.
"We're not quite that," Kathy said by way of explanation, "we just started going out last week."
"I understand," Christopher said, trying to keep the disappointment out of his voice.
And then it was time to save face.
"Maybe another time ... if things don't work out with you Matt ... I mean not that I'm hoping for that ... but ..."
"It's OK," Kathy interrupted him, clearly trying to save him from further embarrassment, "Can I get a rain check?" she continued in an encouraging tone of voice.
"Good any time," he answered, attempting a smile of his own.
The two of them chatted for a few more minutes, but it was getting close to time for classes.
"See you later then," he said, turning away.
As he trudged back to his locker, a positive torrent of self-recrimination flooded his thoughts. Kathy was a lot nicer than he had realized, and while he was smooching away the school year with Carol, and then chasing the unattainable Eleanor, a major romantic opportunity was slipping right through his fingertips. And he knew that Matt was a decent guy, so there was a better than even chance that he and Kathy would become an item, and to top it all off, probably end up having sex after the prom. And where would he be ... with Phoebe? God forbid!
As he returned to his locker, he felt like one of those cartoon characters that walks around with a rain cloud over their head, while everyone else is in the sunshine.
* * *
By the end of the day Christopher was in no mood for basketball games, not with everyone, and Peter and Catherine for sure, asking about prom plans. So he decided to go to the library and begin work on his history essay.
When he got there it was almost deserted, everyone else was down at the gym no doubt, taking in the action with their arch rivals from across town. Deserted, that is, except for the one permanent fixture of the reading area, Alice. Now Christopher knew Alice, and had even spoken to her on a few occasions, but she was hardly of any interest to him romantically speaking. Amongst the social zeros of the senior class, Alice was so low that she rated a negative number!
There she was ... heavy unflattering glasses with industrial strength rims, obscenely large braces, zits, no makeup, not even lip gloss, and a totally nondescript wardrobe ... faded badly fitting jeans, and a shapeless ratty looking top. She had dark brown hair that she kept tied up in a ponytail with an elastic, and spent all of her time either reading, making notes, or hiding out at the back of class, clearly hoping that the teacher would not call on her. Most of the kids, both male and female, when they noticed her at all, made fun of her, but Christopher didn't, in fact he felt rather sorry for her.
In his present dismal mood, he decided that misery needed company, even if the company was Alice.
"Hi Christopher," she replied in a shy small voice.
"What are you working on?" he asked, observing that she had several books propped open and had been writing in a notebook.
"That history essay we got today ... I've just started."
"That's what I came here for," he responded, trying to sound friendly, "how come you aren't at the basketball game?"
Alice looked at him, as if making a decision, and then in a hesitant tone of voice, answered.
"I don't like to go to things like that ... I always have to sit alone ... and sometimes people laugh at me."
In an odd way, Christopher warmed to her; he had always hated cruelty, and he knew how mean some of his friends could be when they took verbal shots at those they considered to be their teenaged inferiors.
"Sometimes people are real jerks ... it makes you wonder," he said to her.
He and Alice discussed the essay for a few minutes, and after a while Christopher forgot who he was having a conversation with. And Alice seemed to relax too, and even made a few jokes that got them both laughing.
Alice, it turned out, was quite a bit smarter than Christopher, or any of his friends, suspected. She loaned him one of her books, and pointed out passages here and there that fit the criteria for Christopher's essay topic. With this assistance from Alice, Christopher soon had a very satisfactory outline for his own essay. Suddenly, Alice looked up at the clock.
"I've got to go," she exclaimed.
Christopher also looked at the clock; it was just 4:30.
"I have a job," Alice explained.
As Christopher walked home later, he reflected on his conversation with Alice.
"It's too bad she's a walking disaster area in the looks and clothes department," he thought to himself, shaking his head, "because she's actually quite an interesting person."
* * *
Over the next several weeks, Christopher met up with Alice in the library several more times, and he found that he really enjoyed talking with her. Of course his friend Peter ragged on him quite a bit about this, and his announcement that he was going to the prom stag.
"What do you see in that chick?" Peter teased, "God, you are past desperate!"
Even the beautiful Catherine, who was usually very supportive, was critical.
"Christopher, if you keep hanging around with Alice, no other girl is going to ever go out with you," she warned, "I don't mind Alice, I mean the glasses and braces and zits are revolting, but you can't hold that against a person; however, most of the other girls think she's strange, because she doesn't seem to care about clothes or boys or anything."
"If those same girls got to know her," Christopher said defensively, "they might be very surprised."
"You're probably right ... but I mean let's face it," Catherine said with a grin, "shallow and superficial, and being a teenager, just kind of go together, now don't they?"
But he was undeterred. It was nice to have a female friend he discovered, one where no romantic or sexual tension interfered with things.
* * *
Alice actually lived quite near Peter, he soon found out. Right on the west side of a four lane street that separated two residential districts, each with very different socioeconomic profiles. The beautiful house that Christopher lived in sat on a large professionally landscaped lot. It was surrounded by other large custom built expensive homes. Alice's district was a mixture of older, small, story and a half houses, along with an increasing number of newer larger ones, as families that found the prices east of the main street too high, were tending to purchase the much less expensive homes on the west side, and then having them demolished to make way for new ones, thereby gaining access to the area schools and other amenities.
A few weeks into their friendship, Christopher offered to walk Alice home one evening, after they had done some homework in the library together. As they strolled along, Alice, for the first time, answered some of his questions about her family, and volunteered some personal information.
"My father died when I was five," she explained, "My mom owns our house ... but it's just a little one ... there was some insurance money, but not much else, and my mom used it pay off the mortgage, and to live on until my younger sister was in school. We don't have a lot, because my mom got sick when she was young, and only barely finished high school."
"Is she OK now?" Christopher asked, trying not to imagine what it would be like to have your father die at five, and a sick mother on top of that.
"She's fine now ... some new drug that's really expensive ... but she doesn't have a very good job ... that's why I work ... to help pay for things."
"These houses," Christopher said, pointing at several of the smallish ones that dotted Alice's street, "are getting to be worth quite a lot ... my parents have discussed it ... maybe your mom should sell yours?"
"She knows that, but she doesn't want to until my sister is finished high school ... plus it's a good location to commute to university for me."
The realization dawned on Christopher that, based on the apparent financial situation in Alice's family, there was no way her mom could afford to send her away for school. Christopher, and most of his friends, were all relatively well off. Some of them did have part-time jobs, like Alice, but used the money to pay for clothes and cell phones and the like. None of them had to actually help their family with real bills.
Alice had really gotten the short end of the stick in her life, he decided. Not only did she inherit bad eyesight, bad teeth, and acne, but unlike a Kathy, she didn't have the money to deal with any of these problems.
As their walks continued, Christopher learned a number of additional things about Alice that underlined how much he had, and sadly, how little she did. Alice's mother had got her the braces by taking advantage of a university teaching clinic that provided the labour for free, and the materials at cost, but she had to wait several years to get Alice an appointment. Alice didn't have a cellphone, and was responsible to give her mother the majority of her working money. There was only the most basic of cable TV packages, no computer, much less an Internet account; one dilapidated old car, and no money for eating out, or joining a recreational league or club of any kind. Her mother worked rotating shifts, and took any overtime she could get in an instant!
Christopher wanted to help Alice, he had never known anyone who was actually poor ... or compared to himself, close to it ... but he also had a sense, as he got to know her better, that she had some pride ... despite her circumstances.
It was on their fifth or sixth walk home.
"Alice ... my father just bought me a new laptop as a present for getting accepted into university ... would you like my old one?" Christopher asked casually, "Otherwise I don't know what else to do with it ... it's just sitting on a shelf at home ... but if you don't want it, that's OK ... I mean it is two years old."
Alice just stared at him, apparently speechless. As Christopher returned her unbelieving gaze, he noticed how very blue her eyes were, behind the ugly glasses. How come he'd never noticed them before?
And suddenly Alice's arms were around his neck as she hugged him, and then just as quickly drew away from him, looking embarrassed with herself.
"Would you like to stop at my place and pick it up on the way home?"
Still no words, but a nod and a smile that said: "Yes".
By the time they got to Christopher's house Alice had regained the ability to speak, and started to ask all sorts of excited questions about the laptop, which wasn't surprising as she had to use the pathetic collection of computers in the library if she wanted to do research on the Internet, or type up her school work.
An off-hand suggestion that Alice could bring the laptop over to his house to use the wireless Internet connection anytime she needed to, or their colour printer, if she had a project or an essay to print out, earned another grateful look, and as he walked her home afterwards, he felt very pleased with himself.
* * *