Revenge of the Nerd Ch. 30byrpsuch©
Jeff was asleep.
I snuggled in beside him and it woke him up. He turned to me, took me in his arms and kissed me. It started out as an it's-nice-to-have-you-here kiss, but the level of passion increased rapidly.
"Not with your sister in the next room."
"I know. I wasn't thinking of that. I was just thinking of how happy I am to have you here with me."
Great. It was a blessing and a curse.
The relationship would fall apart within days if I kept thinking about how bad it was that it was so good.
"Nothing," I lied.
"I can feel it. Your body tensed up in a something's-wrong way."
"You can't possibly tell that just from holding me."
But I knew he could. So I told him about my conversation with Sandy and my fears.
"It's a triumph of hope over reason. I've never been seriously hurt by someone I trust. If it happens, I won't be a virgin anymore. I'll learn to deal with it. I just won't have my innocence intact."
And that was it.
My body relaxed and he chuckled, his point confirmed. He would learn to deal with it. He would be okay.
I would try to avoid it, but it didn't have to drain all my energy.
We walked around the campus.
We had coffee at the Student Union even though it was nowhere near as good as what we could have gotten at Starbucks. This place had ambience. Okay, it had an authentic college feel and that was more important to Sandy.
We went food shopping so that after dinner we could make our own desserts: big, nasty sundaes with nuts, jimmies, chocolate syrup, maraschino cherries and Jeff and I had bananas.
It took a lot longer to make them than to eat them, though we did try to savor what could not possibly be mistaken for a delicacy.
We turned in after the 11:00 news. His family would be here in the morning.
Graduation was no big deal to Jeff, but it was to his family so he gathered the appropriate level of enthusiasm to make them happy.
I watched the way he did it and his attitude. It wasn't a task he resented. It certainly wasn't something that was expected. He did it because it gave him joy to make them happy.
Sandy was so thrilled to have been included by us that it spilled over when the family arrived into unbridled enthusiasm to see them. Everybody was delighted to see everybody.
Sam and Harri took me aside to tell me of their week-long wagon train adventure. Harri told me that, even though it was almost as far from luxurious as possible, it felt like a second honeymoon to them, despite the fact that they had already taken a second honeymoon, and a third.
Listening to them gave me hope. They had been together for over 40 years and were clearly devoted to each other, maybe even stupid in love.
Sam picked up a few authentic trail recipes and promised to showcase them for me. I experienced the joy of giving all over again.
Louis was kind of warm and friendly if still a bit awkward. He was clearly sincere, he just wasn't that comfortable expressing it. He was an enigma. It would probably take a long time get to know him.
Sunny was the essence of loving. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the way she hugged you and the noises and rubs that accompanied it were worth an entire chapter.
We headed to the stadium. No other place on campus had nearly enough room to accommodate friends and family. We were fortunate to have a pleasant day topping out at 72 degrees with very few clouds in the sky.
The graduates numbered nearly three thousand and we didn't expect to hear Jeff's name in the ceremony. His grades would have made him valedictorian, but he wasn't even really in this class and the deal to allow him to graduate had been made within the last few weeks. So we were surprised to hear his name announced as recipient of a newly created full scholarship for grad school.
His parents and grandparents were delighted to hear this, but Sandy was busting at the seams at the laudatory mention of her big brother. Somehow, I didn't think my graduation would be like this.
I watched Sunny and Louis. He didn't verbalize much. I saw not only the way he treated her, but his body language, the way he looked at her. It didn't take a detective to figure out how she felt about him. I logged another reason for hope. Sunny and Louis took us all to a lovely dinner and returned home with Sam, Harri and Sandy, giving Jeff and me another day to be together.
I could say we put it to good advantage, but anything we did together seemed to be putting the time to good advantage. It was not only faith that led me to believe I could find my way to stupid.
I saw Jeff some nights and every weekend before I left. It was wonderful, but it wasn't the same as living together.
When I went to the hamper, never did I find a pair of boxers that didn't quite make it in.
When I woke up in the morning, there was no warm Jeff-smelling body to snuggle against. No cheek to cheek on demand before the chest to chest.
We did those things, but it wasn't the same.
I even missed finding the lid up on the toilet seat, though perhaps it was the nostalgia of finding it up I missed rather than the reality.
I missed these things even more as my departure drew closer.
We made plans. I thought I had done an effective job of keeping any knowledge of Jeff's existence from my parents. I didn't want them being surprised by a phone call from America.
Email and IM should provide an effective way to contact each other. I gave Jeff our address outside of London just in case, but I didn't think he would have any need to use it.
I packed early so no one would have to bother me to get ready the night before we left. I took Jeff home a little before six in the morning. Even if I could have persuaded my father to let me find my own way to the airport, Jeff couldn't take me there. As far as my parents knew, he didn't exist.
I snuck away to say goodbye on my cell. He took the opportunity to play.
"So, are you bringing any good books with you?" he asked.
"On a trip to Europe? I may have other things to do. There are so many handsome young men there."
"You're going to fall behind in book points."
"Hey, I can give you a run for your money. I know you read lots of technical stuff, but I may read even more novels than you."
"Not with all the time you're going to be spending chasing after those handsome young men."
"Ashley Fine does not chase men of any description."
There was a lull. I don't think either of us wanted to say, "I'm going to miss you."
Whether it was because it was something real or because I was in serious need of some rationalization, I began to look on the trip as an opportunity to see how I handled myself without Jeff.
My reasoning, or rationalization, was that I was relying too much on being with Jeff to supply my happiness. Time away would give me an opportunity to develop a better sense of who I was now and what was important to me.
When we lifted off, I watched the ground recede and felt a profound sense of emptiness. It had not just been a rationalization.