Lady in Red Ch. 01byHarddaysknight©
I've read and greatly enjoyed stories by "Magi" and "Nick Scipio". They inspired me to create my own story of teen angst, love, and loss. To keep the melodrama at a high level, there'll be some incredible feats and heroic actions. This is no ordinary pair of kids and their adventures will prove it. If Navy Seals, football stars, surgeons, glamorous actors and models, and honest politicians destroy your ability to suspend disbelief; this story may not be for you. It is a work in progress with several chapters completed and many more to come. Thanks to everyone the takes the time to read this, and to all of you that still like to dream.
Paula Anderson was exhausted as she made her way back to the food court in the mall. She had been clothes shopping with her younger two daughters for the last four hours. Kate, her youngest daughter and a few months shy of 16, was determined to be the best dressed girl in the sophomore class. Paula had accompanied Kate as she spent the last three hours looking at hundreds of outfits and trying on dozens of them.
"How is it that Kate is such a slave to fashion while Gwen could care less?" wondered Paula to herself. "I don't think it took us half an hour to select Gwen's entire wardrobe for her senior year. Of course, it was much easier since Gwen still insists on those bulky, loose pants, baggy jeans, and oversized tops and sweaters. She just doesn't seem to have any interest in fashion, or boys for that matter."
As Paula and Kate rounded the corner by the Radio Shack store, Kate let out an audible gasp and stopped in her tracks. Paula turned to look at her daughter, who now stood still as a statue with her mouth open and her eyes showing shock.
"Mom! Look at Gwen! She's got a boy sitting at the table with her. And he's gorgeous!" exclaimed Kate. "This doesn't make any sense, unless she's tutoring him or something."
Paula turned to see what had caused such amazement in her youngest child. Gwen was sitting at a small table in the food court. She had a medium drink sitting in front of her, along with the novel that she had insisted on bringing. Across from Gwen sat, what Paula had to concede, was an extremely handsome, rugged looking young man. To Paula's knowledge, Gwen had never even been on an actual date. In fact, she never seemed to have any real interest in boys. Paula was reluctant to admit it, but she was almost as shocked as Kate had professed to be. What was going on?
Kate had recovered from her initial surprise and started toward her sister, with her mother following closely. Kate's curiosity had gotten the better of her and she was determined to learn more about the hunk talking to her sister. She would have been less surprised to have found space aliens in the Victoria's Secret shop across the mall than seeing Gwen with what appeared to be a real catch. Kate had to find out more about this mystery friend of her sister's.
Paula and Kate approached Gwen's table from behind her. Thus, Gwen had no clue that her mother and sister were drawing near. For her part, Paula was unable to stop looking at the boy chatting with her daughter. His shoulders were broad, his smile dazzling, and his brown hair was cut close, almost in a military style. Longer hair was "in" these days, but Paula had to admit that this young man made a strong case for shorter hair. The most striking feature on the boy seated with Gwen, however, was the intensity of his steel grey eyes. They seemed to pull Paula in when he turned his attention to her. The young man stood as she and Kate approached the table.
"You two must be Gwen's sisters," smiled the strange boy as he displayed a breath-taking smile. "Gwen told me that she had two sisters, but she neglected to mention how beautiful you both are. I'm Steve Hammer. You must be Kate, and you're Lisa?"
Kate simply stared up at the stranger as he shook her hand. Paula felt herself blushing as she realized that the young man had assumed that she was Gwen's older sister. Could he be serious, or was he just trying to butter up the mother of a girl in whom he was interested? Then the young man extended his hand to Paula and she firmly shook it.
"Ha! That's the way to make points with my mom," laughed Gwen. "When you see my sister, Lisa, you'll never mistake my mom for her again. Mom still looks great, but Lisa is supermodel material."
"Well, I'd have to say that trait runs in the family, Gwen. I've never seen prettier girls, or a younger, more attractive mother," smiled Steve easily as he shook Paula's hand. "It was nice meeting you, Kate. You, too, Mrs. Anderson."
Both Kate and Paula stood staring at the broad back of Steve Hammer as he strode away through the crowded mall. It wasn't until he was out of sight that Kate found her voice.
"Where the heck did you find that guy, Sis? How'd you meet him? Where'd you meet him? I never knew you had any hunky friends like that!" exclaimed Kate.
"I was sitting here reading "Lord of the Flies" for English class when he just dropped into the seat across from me. He asked if I was reading it for Ms. Summer's honors English class at Sparta High," laughed Gwen. "I have to admit I was slightly nonplussed myself. His eyes just seemed to look right through me. Finally, I overcame my initial surprise and asked him how he knew about Ms. Summer's reading assignments at Sparta. He told me that he was attending Sparta this year and was half way through the book himself."
"So he started talking to you about a stupid book for English? He wasn't hitting on you or anything?" questioned Kate. "I told you to let me pick out some new clothes for you, Sis. You lost a great chance to lock this guy in before all the cheerleaders and class sluts get their claws into him."
"He must have talked to me for fifteen or twenty minutes, Kate. He asked me all sorts of questions about the school, the classes, the other students, and even about my family. That's how he knew who you were. I've no idea why he asked mom if she was Lisa. I told him how beautiful Lisa was, no offense, Mom."
"You were right when you told him that he was making points with your mother by suggesting I was your sister, Gwen. That young man was trying to get in good with me to smooth his way with you," reasoned Paula. "I think you have an admirer, and a darn good looking one at that!"
"Mom, you're reading way too much into this," insisted Kate. "He may have bad eyesight, or he could be into cougars or something. Do you think a guy that looks like he does would go out of his way to chat up a girl dressed in a baggy sweatshirt reading some dumb book? The mall is full of el primo females of the species. He was probably just picking Sis's brains about his new school."
"Thanks for the high opinion of my allure, Kate," responded Gwen with some irritation. "Actually, he asked me if I'd go with him to the dance Saturday night at the VFW hall. It's that benefit being held for Tim Archer after his horrible motorcycle accident. The whole school, probably the whole town, will be there. You know how popular Tim is around here. His brother, Jim, is a senior and he's on the football team.
"That's this coming Saturday!" exclaimed Paula. "We'd better start looking for a nice dress for you, Gwen. He seemed like a nice young man, and he sure isn't hurting in the looks department, either. You'll have a wonderful time!"
"Before you get too excited, Mom, I turned him down. Forget the dress, and the dance," added Gwen.
"You turned down a date with that hunk, Gwen? What on earth were you thinking?" asked a stunned Kate. "Girls will kill for a date with that guy. I know I would!"
"I guess because I already knew what you pretty much just finished telling me, Kate. It would be like a fairy tale at first. Then next week, when school started, all the cheerleaders, bombshells, sluts, and half the female teachers would be drooling all over him. Then what would happen to me? He'd never talk to me again and everyone would know that I was a temporary fix until he found some girl more to his liking. Guys like that don't date girls like me. I know that and I'm fine with it, but I'm not going to play the fool for the amusement of everyone in school," concluded Gwen.
"Gwen, I can't believe you just said that! He sat with you for twenty minutes, chatted you up, asked about your school and family, and even asked you on a date. Does that sound like something a guy would do if he had no interest?" demanded Paula. "You need to get out more, Baby. You're going into your senior year. I know your grades are important and you want to get into pre-med at Stanford, but you need to have fun sometimes, too. You'll do even better in your studies if you're happy and enjoying life. Steve seemed like a really nice young man. He didn't ask you out because of some pity he felt for you. I saw him looking at you before he realized we were headed to your table. Believe me when I say this: he liked what he saw. That much was obvious."
"Yeah, Sis. I saw it, too. I was just kidding about getting you different clothes, and him not being interested in you. I'm sorry I said that. I was just jealous that he was sitting with you instead of with me. I don't know how you could have turned him down flat. You should've left yourself some room to reconsider, like get his phone number and promise to let him know tomorrow or something."
"Well, there is a very slight chance that I will be going to the dance with him Saturday," admitted Gwen. "He made me promise to go to the dance with him if our football team won the game Friday night. I guess he must be a member of the team. He acted awfully confident."
"If we win the game?" repeated a stunned Kate. "Gifford won the league championship last year! They beat us by thirty points in the first game of the season last year, and our quarterback and half the offensive line graduated last spring. It looks like you'll be staying home Saturday if our team has to win Friday."
"That's just what I told him, Kate. That's why I finally agreed to go out with him if they won. It was way easier than just telling him that I wouldn't go out with him," suggested Gwen. "It lets me off the hook without seeming too cold, or bitchy."
"Gwen! Listen to yourself," responded an exasperated Paula. "Not many girls your age would want to get off his hook, given the choice."
"Mother!" proclaimed Kate and Gwen simultaneously.
"I'm just saying!" laughed Paula. "It sounds to me like he was very determined to secure a date with you, Gwen. It might be prudent to formulate a plan B for Saturday. He might win that game all by himself, just so that he can take you to the dance."
Steve had gone to the mall to pick up a few items for the start of school. He was excited about attending a regular high school in the United States and about playing football in his senior year. He knew it would be a big adjustment, but it was one to which he looked forward. He was idly considering getting some fries at the food court when he first saw her.
Steve had seen lots of pretty girls in the mall. He recognized and appreciated beauty the same as any normal 18 year old boy would. That said, he was still pretty well flabbergasted when he saw the dark haired beauty sitting alone in the food court. She was wearing a Stanford sweatshirt and loose fitting jeans. As Steve appraised the girl more closely, he realized that the clothes could not totally conceal the nice figure beneath.
Her long dark hair was pulled back in a simple pony tail that hung more than half way down her back. Now and then she would gaze around the food court observing shoppers as they rushed about their business. More than a few times, Steve saw a small smile break out on the girl's face. She seemed bemused by the actions of the crowd. Gradually, Steve realized that it wasn't just the girl's beauty that had so enthralled him, but also her confident, good humored outlook on the world. She didn't appear to take herself, or life, all that seriously. She was comfortable being herself. Then he noticed the book she was reading and took a chance.
Gwen was killing two birds with one stone as she waited for her sister and mother to finish up their shopping. She was going to finish the final novel assigned for her honors English class as well as observe the people around her. She intended to become a doctor, hopefully a surgeon, and knew that the more she learned to notice what people were saying with their actions as well as with their words, the better she would succeed in her chosen field.
She saw him just before he pulled up a chair at her table. He had to be over six foot three and two hundred and twenty pounds. He wore his hair short. He appeared relaxed and confident. Then she looked into his eyes.
"Hi! I'm Steve Hammer. I see you're reading "Lord of the Flies" and I was wondering if you're in Ms. Summer's honors English class?" asked the boy as he held out his hand.
Gwen had no idea how long she was immobile, but she suddenly realized that she had been staring. She broke the trance and finally noticed the hand extended to her.
Taking the huge hand in hers, Gwen struggled to form a response. She had to replay what her mind had just heard to determine what she had been asked.
"Hi! I'm sorry about being so confused for a minute," apologized Gwen. "I was reading and you surprised me. To answer your question, I am in Ms. Summer's class. My name is Gwen Anderson. How did you know Ms. Summer assigned this novel for summer reading?"
Steve was reluctant to release the hand of the girl sitting across the table. Her voice was strong, yet feminine and her smile was intoxicating. He suddenly realized that he had been staring and quickly released the girl's hand. He went on to explain that he had enrolled at Sparta over the summer and had been informed of the reading assignment for his English class. One thing led to another, and soon Steve had learned Gwen had two sisters, the older of which was incredibly beautiful, in Gwen's estimation. That was when Steve decided to risk rejection and ask Gwen to the dance.
"Gwen, I understand that the fund raiser for Jim Archer's brother next Saturday," began Steve somewhat tentatively. "Could I ask you to go with me?"
Gwen was taken completely by surprise. No one had ever asked her out so soon after meeting her. In fact, only a couple of guys had ever even hinted that they would like to date her and she had quickly dashed their hopes. Gwen was very accomplished in her studies and was on track to graduate first in her class. She wanted to be a surgeon and she had long ago decided that fleeting emotional entanglements would not advance her career plans. She was also an avid reader and a born romantic. She was determined to not settle for some mundane romance. In fact, she would settle for nothing less than a love like Juliet had with Romeo. The boys that had shown any interest in her thus far had simply not measured up.
"I really can't, Steve. I have to study that night," replied Gwen weakly.
Even as she said it, Gwen realized how lame she sounded. Her usually calm demeanor dissolved as she struggled to think of something that would make more sense. Steve watched her closely for several seconds, and then smiled.
"If you have a boyfriend, I'll back off and apologize, Gwen. I didn't want to put you on the spot. If you just don't want to go out with me, say so. But please, don't try to tell me that you have to study the Saturday night before school starts," laughed Steve. "I'm not very good at asking pretty girls like you out, and that sure doesn't do much for my confidence. I'm asking again, Gwen. Will you go to that benefit dance with me Saturday?"
"Steve, the truth is that I don't think I want to go out with you. I have to wonder why a guy like you would ask the class nerd for a date. The only reasons I can think of are that either it's a joke, or that you just haven't met anyone else from our school yet. Once you do, you won't want to date me. We both know that," finished Gwen quietly.
"Okay, I see what you're telling me, Gwen. I'm an idiot because I asked out the first beautiful girl I met. She's really smart, funny, tall, sexy, and drop dead gorgeous, but I can do way better. I can probably find some blonde cheerleader with an IQ smaller than her bust line that would look good on my arm. I shouldn't try for a thoroughbred like you when I can have the horse that pulls the milk wagon."
Once again, Gwen had difficulty initiating speech. How could this boy rattle her so quickly, and completely?
"Steve, I'm no thoroughbred. I'm the plow horse. Look at me. There are only two girls in the class taller than I am, and they're both stars on the basketball team. I'm ten pounds too heavy, and I'm a braniac. Ask any guy in my class. You'll regret being seen out with me within a week of school starting," concluded Gwen.
"Or is it that you don't want to be seen with me, Gwen? Are your standards too high for me? I'm not in with your crowd? Is that the problem? Or is it my appearance? The way I dress? The way I get all goofy when I look at you?" grinned Steve.
"No! It's not you, Steve. It's me. I know what happens to girls that try to run with the wrong guys. They always get hurt. You'll be able to date any girl in our class, in the whole school. I'll bet some of the teachers will even go out with you if you ask! You won't want me after you see what's out there," asserted Gwen.
"We seem to be at an impasse here, Gwen. I propose a simple wager. We'll leave it to chance. Let the fates decide if we should go to that dance together," suggested Steve. "How about this? If Sparta wins the football game Friday night, you go to the dance with me on Saturday. If we lose the game, I won't pester you anymore."
"You do realize that we lost to Gifford by at least thirty points last year? They went on to win the league. We also had our quarterback and most of the starting offensive line graduate last spring. Sparta can't win that game, Steve. We'll be lucky to win any games this year," predicted Gwen.
"Then this should be a no brainer, especially for a 'braniac' like you, Gwen. Let's shake on it and we'll have a deal," urged Steve as he offered his hand to Gwen.
Steve and Gwen had just sealed their wager with a hand shake when Paula and Kate turned the corner in the mall and found them deep in conversation. Steve knew immediately that the two women approaching the table had to be the mother and sister that Gwen had mentioned earlier. The family resemblance was obvious. As they drew closer, it occurred to Steve that Gwen's mother would make a great ally in his, thus far futile efforts to impress Gwen.
Friday night found Gwen sitting with her mom and two sisters in the visitors section of the stands at Gifford High. It was the first football game of the new season. Gwen had mentioned that she might drive over to watch the game to her family the previous evening at dinner.
"I guess you will!" laughed her older sister, Lisa. "Rumor has it that you have a lot riding on this game, Gwen, like a date with an Adonis that suddenly appeared in Sparta. If you don't mind, I'll ride over with you. I haven't watched a high school game since I graduated. Besides, I want to look this guy over. The way Kate and Mom talk, he makes Brad Pitt look homely."
"Just wait until you see Steve," interjected Kate. "I know you think we exaggerated, but you'll see. Gwen has the best looking guy our school has ever seen chasing after her, and she's playing hard to get! It pays to be so smart. She's stringing this guy along before she snaps him up in front of all those prissy cheerleaders. There'll be legends about Gwen handed down from mother to daughter for years to come."
"I don't know why everybody's making such a big deal out of this," lamented Gwen. "We have no chance of winning the game tomorrow. There won't be any date, so there's no reason for all of you to go to the game with me."