The Symbiotic Club
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents
are either the product of the author's imagination or are used
fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events
or locales is entirely coincidental.
This work contains adult themes and is not intended for children.
Chapter 4 - The Love Game
When the Army discharged me, I entered a regional university close to home. Using the G.I. Bill and money that I'd saved, I attended full time during the school year and worked in the summers. I pursued seriously a degree in journalism. The first summer I worked in the circulation department of my home-town newspaper. During my sophomore year, I reported on sports for the campus newspaper.
The next summer, I worked in the newsroom of my local daily, basically as a copy boy and gofer. My junior year, I was the campus-paper's sports editor and felt that I was making progress professionally. I looked forward to the possibility of being News Editor my senior year. Although it was a small university weekly, that experience, coupled with my summer jobs, would provide the necessary skills to qualify me for a good starting position upon graduation.
During the first year, while I made progress toward my professional goal, I failed to find any romantic opportunities. A primary factor was that during that year, I experienced culture shock. The world had changed since I left civilization in 1965. By 1968, the sexual revolution had exploded, and I felt ill at ease when even talking to women. Everywhere I looked, I saw shapely legs extending from mini skirts, unrestrained breasts moving in tightly drawn blouses, and often cleavage rising above open tops. I still didn't know how to relate to women and I began to believe that they wouldn't be interested in me anyway.
I expressed my frustration to Mother during that summer. She nodded her head sympathetically while I talked. Then, she told me to look in the mirror. "You aren't the same person who the girls shunned in high school. Look how your face has filled out."
"All mothers think their children are attractive," I said.
"Yeah, maybe. But, in your case it's true. Your body's no longer the skeleton it was. You're a man now. Tall, dark and handsome! You're going to get a degree in journalism, get all kind of prizes. You're going to be a real success. A real catch! The woman who gets you is going to be lucky. You just have to realize that, and be patient. The right person's gonna come alone for you; don't you rush it none."
Mother's talk did help during my second year. I concentrated on making time in my schedule for dates and asking for dates. I was surprised by the number and attractiveness of the women who would date me. However, I seldom received more than one date, and never more than two, with any one person during that fall quarter. I didn't know why. I tried to treat each with respect and to show her a good time.
"Perhaps Mother was right about everything," I thought. "She was right about my ability to get dates. I'll just have to be patient until the right one comes along."
In the Spring Quarter of that year, I saw a woman who quickened my heart rate. Judy Bernard was in my feature writing class during that term. She had legs that were designed for the mini skirt. She filled her skirt and sweater to suggest an almost perfect figure. It would have been perfect except that her waist was too long and her back had too much curvature. She had olive tan skin, sparkling brown eyes, a pug nose, and honey blond hair that she kept cut short. As I watched her during features, she didn't seem to be aware that I existed. Someone told me that she was dating, steadily, one of our linebackers.
Judy wasn't a good student. She had no concept of what made a good feature, nor did she have a good use of the language. What she did have was an involving smile where the left side of her mouth opened wider than the right, revealing beautifully even white teeth. With the smile often came the lightest carefree giggle. It was apparent that she wasn't at college to get an education. It was also apparent that Professor Sloane didn't feel that she needed any education.
Dr. Stan Sloane was director of the campus newspaper and coordinator of the journalism section. He had been at the school since getting his Ph. D. from the University of Missouri, ten years earlier. He had consulted with most of the state's newspapers and most of them employed his graduates. He had earned considerable respect and professional influence.
He had a lovely wife who had been one of his students at MU. She was a homecoming princess the year before their marriage. She maintained the essence of her figure despite their four children under twelve years old.
Still, even with the charm and beauty of his wife, Dr. Sloane chose not to be satisfied. He eyed all the women and gave extended attention to ones with shapely figures. Rumor was that he had propositioned, with success, several coeds. From the stories, he preferred more mature students, seniors and graduate students, who were both intelligent and sophisticated; they offered less risk for him. If he was so selective, Judy didn't qualify. She wasn't yet twenty at the time, and while she may have been sophisticated, intelligence wasn't one of her obvious attributes.
Nevertheless, Sloane apparently shared my attraction to her. He positioned himself during his lectures so as to be visually near her; she was always in his line of vision. When he said anything intended to be funny, he looked directly at her. I'm not sure who influenced whom, but as the quarter progressed, he said more and more things that she found amusing.
It didn't surprise me completely to find Judy on the staff of the newspaper on my first day back for my junior year. That she was a feature writer did surprise me, but I reasoned she could do the paper less damage writing features than by reporting on critical news.
Her friendliness toward me surprised me even more. She asked me about my grade in features. I thought she was just looking for help in her new position. I liked the idea of helping her; also, if I became editor of the paper my senior year, experience with features might help. Then, she asked me about my summer. I told her it was "okay" and asked about hers almost by reflex.
When we started talking, we had been about six feet apart. I leaned against the paste-up table in the newsroom. She came closer to me while we talked. When I asked about her summer, she took a definite step to where the tips of her toes were between my outstretched feet.
She told me that her boy friend had dropped her in July. Her voice was soft. I thought she was on the verge of tears. I reached out and put my hand on her shoulder.
"Oh, I'm over him now," she said, not very convincingly. "We were very close. I thought it was forever. I had a few hard weeks in July but I'm doing well now."
The intimacy was intense. It was as if we had been friends for years. Somehow, I forgot her flirtation with Dr. Sloane.
"I'm sorry that you had it rough." I looked into her beautiful brown eyes. I don't think that I breathed for that minute.
Finally, she said, "Well, we should have a good year this year."
"Yes," I said, but the voice wasn't mine. I realized that I still had my hand on her shoulder and that she was shifting away from me. I let my hand drop and lifted myself from the table edge which brought us even closer together but she had turned to where we were then more side by side. She began to walk toward the door and I moved with her. My wits had returned somewhat.
"Perhaps we could take in a movie on Friday before things get too hectic." It was Tuesday afternoon, before school started on Wednesday. Our first issue of the paper wouldn't come out for a week.
"Yes, I'd like that. Camelot is showing at the twin. I'd really like to see that."
As Judy walked out the door, I thought, "Boy! That was easy!"
I was still smiling from my success when Kathy Yeagley walked in the door. I didn't remember her name, then, but I did know that she was a new graduate student who was now the student editor of the paper. She responded well to my jovial mood. She told me that she had worked for the Capital Reporter for two years after graduating, but she just wasn't cut out for the political grind -- either state politics or the politics of the newsroom. When she got her student loans paid off she came back to school.
She had to older than she looked. She had a soft voice that also projected an immature image. I could understand why she would have trouble competing with the pushy corps at the capital. She asked that I show her around and help her adapt to the campus and her new job. She told me that I was certainly the best person to do it since the job would most probably be mine when she left.
She knew more about me than I knew about her. Warning lights should have flashed somewhere, but I didn't see them. Instead, I wondered, "How can Sloane hire this person to be editor? It can't be her looks surely." She wasn't ugly, just too plain by Sloane's standards.
I showed her around the press room and told her about the weekly demands of getting out our paper. She did show an understanding of the general process. She suggested that we walk around the campus. As we walked, we talked about the paper's personnel. I was open and honest with her; I reasoned that she needed to know her staff. She asked about Sloane, and I found myself angry thinking about him flirting with Judy the previous spring. I told Kathy that she had best be on guard because Sloane had a reputation for seducing female graduate students.
We walked near the fountain in front of the Union. She stopped and looked at the water. I came to the fountain and stood beside her. I turned so as to look at her as we talked. With my warning about Sloane, she turned to face me. For the second time in one day, I stood within inches of a woman.
"Would it bother you if he seduced me?" Now her soft voice gave a totally different impression than it had in the news room. Her eyes were like pools of deep clear water and I was diving deeper and deeper into them. She took my hands into hers. "That's really sweet." She reached up and gave me a small kiss on my cheek.
She said, "I'm hungry. Why don't we go get something to eat? Dutch treat. Or better yet, we could get a jug of wine and go to my apartment and I could fix us some soup and sandwiches. Come on, what'd you say?"
It sounded like a question, but she turned still holding my right hand and started walking toward the street. "My car is over in the metered lot. Do you have a car?"
"Well that simplifies matters. We'll just take mine."
I bought the wine and Kathy fixed the soup and sandwiches. She sat to my left at the small table in her efficiency apartment. She talked about how anxious she was in returning to graduate school. She worried whether she could meet the demands that would be placed on her. I tried to assure her. She told me that she was glad to have met me, that knowing that I was there would be a big help. I told her that I would do what I could to help.
By this time we had finished eating. She looked at me, smiled and squeezed my left hand as it lay on the table.
"Well, the information you gave me about Dr. Sloane will be helpful. Anything that you can tell me about earning a good grade in his classes, or any of the other classes would help."
I told her what I knew about the teaching methods of each of her teachers. I surprised myself with my knowledge of what was required to earn the maximum grade with the least amount of effort. Kathy listened attentively throughout most of what I had to say. Toward the end, she seemed to become weary. I realized that I had been talking continually for an extended time.
"Go on," she said, "this is all very helpful. I'm just tired, already, from the thought of what all I'm going to have to do this year."
I arose and walked behind her and began massaging her shoulders. "Umm, that feels great."
"Yes, it should help you to relax."
"Well, I just meant to get some of the tension out. Anyway your blouse makes it awkward," I said as I started back to my seat.
"Oh, don't stop! It feels so good." Her pleas prompted me to return to her back. "Here, I can loosen this blouse." She unbuttoned her blouse. Beneath it she wore both a slip and a bra.
I moved strands of her red hair and slipped my hands under the collar of the blouse. Her skin felt soft and smooth. I told myself that I was only giving a back rub to help her relax, but I felt myself becoming aroused. I hardly knew this person, really didn't think that I liked her, but here I was in her apartment wondering what her breast felt like under that bra, just inches from my finger tips.
I seemed to be mesmerized. I continued to rub her back. I massaged the muscles around her shoulder blades. She removed the blouse. I rolled the straps of her slip out of the way over her shoulders.
She pulled them on down, lowering the slip to her waist. I caressed the skin of her back. Her moans indicated that she was enjoying the attention.
"Oh, that feels so good," she said after a while. "Oh, thank you! That helped so much!"
Then she arose from her chair and put her arms around me. The seams of her bra pressed against my shirt. I placed both my hands on the small of her back, but somehow her movement had broken my trance. I was tremendously aroused; I could feel her body with my arousal. Still, facing her, I knew that I didn't want to enter an intimate relationship with her. Earlier that same day, I had made a date with a woman of whom, heretofore, I could only dream. Now, my body was pressed next to a woman to whom I wasn't attracted. The madness of it left me still for the moment. As I looked into her half closed eyes, she closed them completely.
"Thanks again," she said and kissed me softly but lingeringly.
It was such a sweet kiss that it was impossible not to return it. I thought of the kiss as an expression of appreciation. At the end of the kiss, she moaned again and leaned even more against me. Her body was soft against mine. I felt strong with her tenderness pressed against my hardness. The pleasure of that embrace perpetuated its continuance. The tender excitement of the moment suggested wonderments too intense to imagine. Their realization seemed possible. All that I had to do was unfasten the two snaps linking the straps just above my hands and the softness of her breasts would be released to me. What would happen after that was uncertain; certainly we would be beyond any bounds of a kiss of appreciation. Indeed, the length of the caress already improperly stretched those bounds. Somehow, I knew, I had to move back within those limits.
I moved my right hand up and gently patted her back twice.
"Well, I'm glad that I could help." It sounded weak, but I had nothing better to say. "It all starts tomorrow; so, I'd best let you get some sleep." I released her back with my left hand and added, "It's getting pretty late."
Her hands dropped and I stepped backward turning toward the door. "See you tomorrow."
She didn't respond. Her shoulders were forward, her head lowered.
I moved toward the door. She followed slowly. She didn't bother to retrieve her blouse from the chair. Her slip still hung from her waist. Her mouth was slightly open, its lines turned down at the edges; her eyelids drooped.
I stopped at the door. She stopped, now a few feet from me.
I said, "Good night."
On Thursday, I called Judy Bernard to confirm our date. I probably didn't need to remind her; she said that she remembered, but I hadn't seen her since we made the date, somewhat casually. We didn't have a class together that quarter.
I saw Kathy Yeagley several times that week. She was, perhaps understandably, cool toward me; professional, she probably called it.
Judy and I walked over to the new twin cinema, which was only four blocks from her dorm. I felt good just being with her. Her voice made everything seem carefree. She inspired a sense of humor. The walk that I wished could last forever seemed to take only a few minutes.
As we sat awaiting the show's start, she asked me about Kathy Yeagley. I knew, when I thought about it, that she asked only about her as a coworker. My delay in answering prompted Judy to look at me more intensely.
The smile faded momentarily from her face. I hastened to say, "She'll probably make a good enough editor."
Judy giggled. "I wonder if she's having fun at Sloane's party."
Hearing her say his name prompted a ripple through my nervous system. I tried to remain composed, but I heard my voice quiver.
"Dr. Sloane's having a party tonight?"
"Oh, yes. He's invited all the graduate students!"
As the show began, I wondered how Judy knew about the party. She was in one of Sloane's classes that term. She reached over and took my hand and I ceased to wonder.
After the movie, I felt in Utopia. The show created a feeling of exuberance. It was a beautiful fall night. A harvest moon lit the night; the stars twinkled and danced, and I felt as though I could dance among them. Judy's festive mood intensified into a playful one. She took my pen and wouldn't give it back. I chased her to the lab school's playground. She bargained a push on the swing for the return of my pen. Pushing her was a pleasure. Her waist was small and easy to grasp. As she sailed from me, my hands lingered on the roundness of her hips. Back and forth, higher and higher she went.
"Okay!" she screamed, "that's high enough!"
I pushed her again, "I'll teach you to steal my pen!"
As she went forward, she dragged her sneakers into the ground.
I was surprised at how much she slowed herself. On her return arc, she jumped, turning in mid air to catch the seat of the swing. She used it to brake her fall (and certainly prevented it from disabling me in its free flight). She landed on her feet, charging me. I managed to avoid her rush until we were both out of breath. It was pure enjoyment watching her body move as she ran.
Out of breath, laughing too hard to inflect damage, she caught me near the merry go around. We kissed. Her lips were soft, wet and warm. All that touched were our arms and lips, but I was engulfed by her. I knew I was in love.
As we walked back to her dorm, I told her that I had to report on the football game the following night and asked her to go with me. She told me that she enjoyed football and would love to go. And thus began my first romance.
We attended a strict school, for a public college. The administration still believed in in loco parentis. Coeds had to be in their dorms with all males out by 10:30 p.m. on week nights and midnight on Friday and Saturday. Still, Judy and I saw each other as much as possible that term. We studied together during the week. She didn't enjoy studying at all; but I encouraged her. On Fridays, we went to the movies, to plays on campus, to concerts or we just watched television in the dormitory's lounge. Judy and I had few moments of privacy. Our good-night kisses were passionate but too short.
Our most secluded times were on the Saturdays that the team played on the road. As staff reporters, we were permitted to travel with the squad on the school bus. We were busy most of the trip, but there were moments, particularly while the players were in the showers, when we shared a few minutes alone. These were tender moments. During one of these, I first told Judy that I loved her. She responded with a passionate kiss.
The most disconcerting thing about traveling with the team was that it brought us in contact with Judy's linebacker. He was ruggedly good looking. He was also intelligent. He had an air of confidence that came from having both physical and mental abilities. And, of course, football was his element. He talked with us, especially Judy, with a friendly ease.
Sometimes, he made it obvious that he knew Judy much better than I did. Often, he made me wonder why he had dropped her. I was pleased that he had.
I was definitely in love.
I would've only been happier had Judy been brighter. We didn't have any penetrating discussions. Our conversations centered on the perfunctory concerns of daily existence. We didn't even discuss class work in any detail. I never helped her with her features. As much as they could have been improved, she didn't discuss them with me.
Even with this one drawback, I believed Judy to be a perfect mate for me. I spent as much time with her as possible.
I didn't think that the time I spent with her adversely affected my work. Yet, during that fall term, success, both in the classroom and at the paper came with difficulty. Admittedly, I had never been a star student. Overall, I had a high C average; but, I had made mostly B's in my major. Moreover, while I felt most competent in the newsroom, there, during that fall term of 1970, my efforts became, "less than desirable." It wasn't Kathy Yeagley who made this assessment, but Dr. Sloane himself.
Everything about the paper, even my dear Judy's simplistic features, suited Sloane, but my sports page had to be letter perfect simply to be acceptable.
At first he made subtle, even constructive, suggestions. Then, as the quarter's end drew closer, his criticisms became more biting. To some degree, I was lucky that I wasn't in any of Dr. Sloane's classes that term. Yet, his opinion of me seemed to affect the evaluation of the instructors that I did have. In addition, I knew that I had scheduled, for the winter term, his Advanced News reporting.
On the Wednesday before finals were to begin on Tuesday, Judy met me after her Copy Editing class which Sloane taught. I had never seen her mad before and it was difficult for me to interpret her mood. Her lips were drawn tight and her eyes looked straight ahead, past me. She didn't say a word, but squeezed my hand as we walked to her dorm.
The squeeze helped. I knew the anger wasn't toward me. I waited. The wind from the northwest predicted the harsh winter yet to follow. As we walked along that November day, Judy released my hand and kicked at the fallen leaves.
"That damned Stan Sloane! He has been slamming your sports page for weeks now. Only until today, I don't think most of the students knew what paper he was talking about."
"He's criticized me in class?"
"Yes, sort of, you know. It was really like a inside joke. You really had to be in the newsroom to understand his references"
I stopped. I had known things were bad but I had never imagined that Sloane would make me the brunt of his classroom jokes, jokes which he shared with my girlfriend.
Judy stopped also. She was looking at her feet as they smashed leaves. "He really came unglued today! He brought the last issue to class and asked me to tell him how the sport page should be laid out. I told him that I thought it was fine the way it was. He just snorted and asked if I thought my silly romance was clouding my professional judgment. I mean, I was on the spot! I've never been so humiliated in my life. We spent the whole hour with him telling us what was wrong with the layout and how it should be done."
"Well, I guess I should go talk with him."
Judy looked at me. "I don't know if that's a good idea. It'll probably blow over." She paused before asking, "What's he got against you anyway?"
"I don't know. I don't know. I haven't done anything to him. He's always liked my work well enough until this year."
"Do you think that it has anything to do with Kathy Yeagley?"
"How could it? I don't want her job until next year."
"No, not that! Did you know her before she came here this year?"
"No, I met her in September."
"Why does she dislike you so? You know, of course, that she and Stan are sleeping together."
It came as a complete surprise to me. Previously, I would have known all the gossip. It illustrated how occupied I had been with my own activities. Then, I hadn't thought that Kathy was Sloane's type. Somehow, it still didn't all make sense to me. I couldn't accept that Kathy was sufficiently upset with me to poison Sloane's mind against me, or that she could have that much influence.
I wondered about it all during Thanksgiving. I had wanted Judy to come visit, but she said that her family already had plans to visit her aunt. My grades came. They were all C's; for major and minor courses, they were not impressive! I had to do better the next quarter, but given that Dr. Sloane would personally teach one five-hour course, one third of my total class load, I wasn't too optimistic.
Dad encouraged me to just do my best. My dad didn't believe that a college professor could maintain such a personal grudge against a single student. He told me, "The dread is worse than the doing. Nothing works if you don't"
He convinced me that I should be able to win Dr. Sloane's support.
I knew that my career depended on my being able to do so.
Mother seemed concerned that my self confidence not be injured.
Her words to me as I boarded the bus were, "Remember that the dumbest person can ask questions that the smartest person can't answer."
We had three weeks of school between term break and Christmas vacation. Most of the students simply wasted the three weeks. The teachers couldn't get into enough material to make any meaningful assignments; the students believed it unreasonable that they be expected to remember what they were taught over Christmas break; and, if that wasn't sufficient reason to be lackadaisical during those three weeks, it was Christmas time.
The campus and the surrounding town were completely decorated; there were parties and holiday celebrations, and generally a mood of the holidays that defied being scholarly. But, dedicated to academia I was. I was determined to produce my best work both in the classroom and in the newsroom.
Dr. Sloane wasn't helpful. There were only sixteen students in the class, yet he seldom looked at me. When he did, it was a glare. He did ask me questions. I thought they were the most difficult. I also thought that I usually had the answer; he never reacted as if my answers were correct. In the newsroom, he had stopped saying anything to me at all. He acted as if he wished I wasn't there. I did take some solace in the knowledge that he would have difficulty replacing me. I did try to talk with him once to see if I could persuade him of my qualities as a student. I told him I was dedicated to my studies.
He replied with a snorted, "I knew all you care about is getting the best grade for the least amount of work," and left the room. I knew the likely source for that distorted point of view was Kathy Yeagley.
Everything seemed to be putting a strain on my relationship with Judy. I worked long hours. Our class schedules were mismatched. She was busy covering the social events of the season and couldn't attend the away basketball games with me. We simply were unable to see much of each other.
Again, Judy was unable to visit my home over Christmas, but I was invited to stop at her home on the way back to school. Her step-father and she picked me up at the bus station in a rusty old station wagon.
I had missed Judy and was excited to see her. I wanted to take her in my arms when I first saw her, but she seemed reserved, more formal; she introduced her step-father, keeping him between us.
He shook my hand and smiled. "I thought I'd dress up for you," he laughed pointing to his dirty overalls. "No, I just got off work. Judy's probably too ashamed of me to tell you that I slave in a machine shop making tractors so that she can get a real education." He laughed again shaking his beer belly.
I liked her bald-headed step father.
I put my suit case in the back seat and we all rode, in silence, in the front seat. I rested my left arm on the back of the seat, almost over Judy's shoulders.
The Bernards lived in a two bedroom duplex located next to the tractor factory, physically on the grounds of the company. I was never sure whether the apartment was furnished as part of the wages or if they paid a token in rent. The rent on the wood frame building couldn't have been much, even had the building been in a more desirable location. Mr. Bernard did explain that his job required him to be close to the plant in case an emergency arose.
Judy's mother looked more to be her older sister. The resemblance was striking although the signs of suffering were obvious in Mrs. Bernard. Her brown eyes didn't have the sparkle. Her olive skin was more drawn. She smiled less often, but just as beautifully. Her brown hair flowed loosely over her shoulders. Her matronly dress failed to completely obscure the purity of her features. She was absent the bow of Judy's back. In short, Mrs. Bernard was a beautiful woman with a story written in her face, movements and apparel.
My journalism training was helpful in securing missing details. After dinner, sitting on straight-backed cane-bottomed chairs, Mrs. Bernard told me about her life. Her husband had taken his beer to the living room and had fallen asleep watching television; Judy washed the dishes.
Mrs. Bernard was only thirty seven. She was barely seventeen when Judy was born. Judy's father was popular at their high school. His family had standing in the community. Mrs. Bernard's did not. He denied having any special relationship with her. And, to make matters worse, her family sided against her. Only an older sister, married and on her own, provided any assistance. It was through the older sister that Mrs. Bernard met Mr. Bernard. They married soon after Judy was born and had been married ever since.
"My," Mrs. Bernard said, "look at the time. I sure didn't mean to go on so. You young people want to visit, not listen to me, I'm sure. Here, let me get the Old Man to bed so we can make the sofa for you to sleep on; then we will give you some privacy. But, don't you take advantage of it. We've raised Judy up to be a good girl; we sure don't want her to make the same mistake I did."
True to her word, Mrs. Bernard provided us with our first real privacy in the four months during that we had been dating. I had no intention of abusing the privilege, but her admonition bolstered my resolve.
Sitting side by side, we embraced and kissed. I was happy.
All the concerns about doing well in school faded from my mind. Judy's lips were more absorbing than ever before. She darted her tongue in and out of my mouth. Then she pulled away.
"Nothing really. I just told myself that I wasn't going to do that again."
"There is nothing wrong with it," I said as I reached out to kiss her again. The movement was awkward with her leaning back.
She patted my back as we kissed. "Here let me show you. You lean back."
"Just sit still for a minute." She stood, turned and sat with her legs stretched away from me down the couch, her buttocks next to my legs, and her upper torso turned to my chest. She straightened her mini skirt, but most of her beautiful, tanned legs extended down the couch; they were bent at the knee to fit the length of the sofa. My eyes followed the curve of her hips, as they had many times in the past, but never from this vantage point. Her breasts made two neat hills as they extended the fabric of her sweater. She leaned away from me as she followed the movement of my eyes. She smiled that sexy smile of hers.
She closed the lids over those big brown eyes. I kissed her again. Her hands caressed my face and smoothed my hair. My hands were free to move at will.
Easily, I could have moved to the globes of her breasts, to the flatness of her stomach, to the smoothness of her legs, or even to the tenderness beneath the hem of her skirt. Yet, mindful of her mother's admonition and my own belief that we had ample time to enjoy together our first totally sexual experience, I contented myself with caressing her back. Still, it was the most passionate petting in which I had participated to that point.
Judy ended the session. She looked at me tenderly. "You are really wonderful. We are going to have a wonderful life together."
I wished that she would have told me that she loved me, but she didn't continue.
"Judy, I love you."
"I love you too, Silly. But, I'd better get to bed. We have a bus to catch tomorrow."
On the trip back to campus, Judy was in high spirits. It was good to see her happy.
As we were riding along, she said, "My step-dad likes you. Mother thinks you're great. I don't see any reason why they won't support our getting married right away."
My face must have shown the surprise I felt. I had told her over two months before that I loved her. It was only the night before that she had even said those words and then it seemed almost in jest. I had never dreamed of mentioning marriage. I hadn't really thought in terms of her being my bride, only of her being my wife. We both had another year of school. She was an attractive and popular woman; I had harbored doubts that she would eventually select me.
She turned and looked out the window. I had seen that look before. She didn't like my reaction.
"I thought you'd be excited to marry me! Don't you even want to?"
"Yes, I want to when the time is right."
"When the time is right! That's all you men want to do: string us along!"
The remainder of that winter quarter brought sustained misery. Judy and I seldom got to talk and when we did, she wanted to talk about setting a date for a wedding. I wanted to talk about our long-term future together. She took it as an indisputable indication that I didn't love her and never wanted to marry her. Sloane was increasingly more demanding of me and more caustic when I failed to produce the impossible. One problem confounded the other. My work and worry made it difficult to give Judy the attention that she obviously needed. She kept telling me that I didn't love her enough.
Finally, two days before Valentine's Day, she told me that she didn't want to see me again. I begged for her understanding. She got that cold steel look in her eyes and tightened those lips. There was no reasoning with her. She ended the conversation by slamming a door in my face.
As disheartening as that conflict was, I couldn't expend energy on its resolution. With little hope of fairness from Dr. Sloane, I had to produce a Herculean effort simply to pass his course. To my advantage during those two weeks, he seemed to be preoccupied; he didn't ride me as usual. I could concentrate on my work.
I did have hope that Judy's anger would subside and we would resume our romance. I attempted, unsuccessfully, to phone her over term break. My grades came. To my relief, they were two C's and a D. I wouldn't have to retake Advanced News Reporting; I would be able to complete my degree program. However, the local paper told me that it wouldn't need my services that summer.
There wasn't much of a sports page that spring. Our basketball team did not advance to post-seasonal play. Our staff reporters could handle the limited baseball and softball coverage. I knew that I wouldn't have a staff position my senior year. I spent little time at the paper. I spent much time seeking ways to talk with Judy, but she was adept at avoiding me.
Finally, three weeks into the quarter, I was able to have more than a few words with her. It was the end of March and we were experiencing a brief break in the cold weather. By contrast, it seemed like spring. Spirits were lifted, and Judy smiled as I told her that her avoiding me was cruel and inhumane punishment. Wasn't my persistence the proof for which she had asked? Based on this question, and probably the beautiful day, she agreed to give me another chance.
For the next two weeks, we dated as much as before Christmas. I even had some hope that she would visit my home over Easter. I reasoned with her that it would be such a short visit; we only had a three day weekend.
Finally, on Monday, she asked, "Well, is there any chance that we might get married this June?"
"Hon, it's already April."
"It wouldn't have to be anything fancy. We could just get married in front of the Justice of the Peace. I'm sure my parents could help. We only have another year to go."
"We really ought to wait. As you say, it's only another year."
"Well, if we're not getting married, I don't see no rush in visiting your parents." Her eyes were already set.
From that day, when I was able to see Judy, she was moody, and seldom were the moods happy ones. She didn't show up when we had plans to meet. She would find fault with little things I did or didn't do. I told her once that she reminded me of Dr. Sloane. She didn't smile. Instead, she told me that her aunt was sick and that she had to go to St. Louis to visit her. Remembering the support her aunt had provided to her and her mother, I thought that the illness might account for Judy's recent moodiness. She left on Tuesday while I was in class, and I was uncertain when she would return.
I didn't miss her as much as I was afraid I might. I learned that Dr. Sloane had gone to Chicago for a convention; so, I used the opportunity to enjoy my fleeting position as sports editor. Kathy obviously didn't like me being in the newsroom, but she didn't say anything. She appeared preoccupied; she probably missed her man Sloane. I wondered why she hadn't gone to the convention with him; perhaps she had too much work to do here.
Thursday evening as I returned to my dorm, I was approached by Judy's friend, the line backer. He appeared to have been drinking.
"Hey, I've been thinking about you. I hear you finally broke up with that cunt, Judy. Awful nice ass though, huh?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Don't give me that shit! 'Member who you're talkin to, chum. I was fucking her before you even saw her. Best piece I ever had, I'll tell you that much."
I let him ramble; some men were like that I figured. He probably thought that his talk impressed me.
"I understand that she's finally going to marry that Jed Calahan."
"Oh, you don't know. Jed and Judy were a thing all though high school. I'm from Higginsville. We used to play them in football and everything. I've known Jed since I was sixteen. Never did like the son of a bitch. He was a fairly good running back though; dumber than sin. He works in the factory with her old man. Shit, he must have been fucking Judy since she was fourteen, I bet ye. Her mother couldn't stand it. She did everything in the world to break um up. She wanted something better for her Judy.
"Hell, man, why do you think that I started dating her in the first place. Hell, man, I knew it was good screwing.
"I did have feelings for her though. Hard not to! She's a beautiful chick. She sure knows how to have a good time, and to please a man. No need to tell you that! Hell, you dated her for, what, six months? She is sure some fine woman! You know I might have married her myself!
"I'll tell you true, and, I mean I knew about her and Jed, their past and all. Still last summer, it caught me by surprise. Every time she went home, she'd get back with him. Guess he's the one that fulfills her. She's like a sailor: she's a lover in every town. I told her I didn't have a double standard or nothing, but, hell, I'd been faithful to her. Wonder she hadn't married him last summer. If it hadn't been for her mother, I'm sure she would of."
Of course, I didn't believe him. Perhaps she had a fellow at home. That would explain her unwillingness to visit my parents, but the rest he surely made up for whatever reason to satisfy his own ego.
Friday afternoon, the local radio station reported that Stan Sloane, Jr., 12, had been found dead from a shotgun wound. No details of the shooting were given. Whatever the particulars, it was a tragedy. The boy had been on campus several times in the three years that I had been there. He had always struck me as a sharp lad, a handsome kid who got the best features from both his attractive parents. I had liked him although I hardly knew him. For so many reasons I wanted to know more about his death.
The campus was quiet that Friday, but the communication graduate-assistants' office was active. I listened to the students discussing the Sloanes' misfortune. Dr. Sloane was still in Chicago when his wife found the body. She couldn't reach her husband. It was believed that he had already caught the train for the trip home. He couldn't be contacted until its arrival.
"Good thing Kathy didn't go with him."
"Good for her, perhaps."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You don't think that he went up there alone, do you? They've appointed a committee to meet the train so that his wife won't have to meet it. That'll spare her that grief."
"Thank goodness for that! The poor woman's been through enough already."
I had heard all I cared to hear.
I had to be there when the train arrived, and so did Kathy Yeagley. I guess for the same reason. She had already occupied the observation site that I desired. The porch of an office building next to the station permitted a view of the train, but provided a shadow. Seeing Kathy there, I walked on to the tracks. I saw the committee, faculty and church leaders from Sloane's church. I saw Sloane exit the train, turn and offer his hand to assist the young woman. I saw her smile first -- the smile that had given me so much pleasure. On that humid April evening, it sent chills to my extremities. I turned and walked away.
Judy Bernard Calahan didn't return to campus for our senior year. She gave birth to a healthy girl, I was told, during the holidays. One coed who allegedly saw the baby told everyone that it looked just like me. I'll never understand what people gain from spreading such gossip. I do know that rumors made it difficult for me to build a meaningful relationship with any of the women on campus my senior year.
Judy's linebacker became an insurance salesman in my home town. From all reports, he remains one of its more eligible bachelors.
Dr. Stan Sloane stayed at the school and supervised the paper my senior year, long enough to ensure that I couldn't work on it again. During that year, the paper won none of its usual awards and its quality was generally recognized to have suffered. During that year, also, Dr. Sloane's wife left him. She later married a local contractor who built a fine house for her and her remaining children. At the end of that year, Sloane resigned and accepted a position at a small college in California.
Kathy Yeagley completed her master's degree during that, my senior, year while doing analysis for the Capital Reporter. Before I graduated in May of 1972, she had moved to Washington to cover the national election. In the years to follow, she could be seen on one or another of the Sunday morning political-discussion shows from time to time.
At the completion of four years of higher education, I could only secure a job as a sports reporter in a small southern town.
I didn't feel fortunate. I still was alone. And, some people would say that I hadn't gambled for four years.