I wrote this story as a mini-prequel to my vampire trilogy, Forever Fifteen.
His singular thought at the first moment he saw Lucy Albert was YES.
In the past year, his entrance into manhood had divided the entire world of females, be they young, old, beautiful, or ugly, into two distinct categories. He didn’t like that his thoughts were obsessively partitioned into two separate camps; in fact he had actively tried to battle the new tendency. Until the age of thirteen, he simply had not cared about the yes or no question. Now it popped its ugly head whenever and wherever a post-pubescent female was present, and it was obnoxious: a compulsion that he dismissed as all the more disgusting because he knew every boy his age was plagued by the same question his every waking hour.
The question, never to be uttered aloud, was asked of Mrs. Dettweiler, his ancient P.E. instructor who had the legs of a starving chicken and a face of an inquisitive frog. It was asked of his cousin, whose bat mitzvah had brought him and his parents to New York for a hectic weekend of feasting and gift-giving, as she engaged in her nasty habit of sucking on the split ends of her hair until they fell into serrated, saliva-moist rows at her shoulders. He felt ashamed at how many times a day the question occurred, always feeling if only he possessed sufficient self-control, he could prevent his brain and his hormones from asking the question at all.
Because of the question, John sought involvement in as many activities as possible. Despite his schoolwork being a near-full time job (he often had two hours of homework a night between math and chemistry alone) he sought to pack in as much overtime as could be jammed into a twenty-four hour day. His parents were nothing short of overjoyed for their crazily busy-bodied son, often beaming with pride of John’s participation in at least three team sports a year. Many a cocktail hour had been full of John’s mother subtly bragging to her tennis friends about her son’s stellar academic record and his ability to juggle Varsity Basketball along with half a dozen other clubs and activities any given semester. John’s father was more prone to worry, silently acknowledging his son was modeling himself after dear old dad in a way that was downright eerie.
Unbeknownst to John, his father often wondered if he had done the right thing by chasing after the dream of a big house in the suburbs and a career in property law. Unlike John, his father had pulled himself out of the mire of Pennsylvania white trash and gone to college entirely on scholarship. He had not had a real day’s rest since the age of fifteen and it was beginning to show on his medical scans. Now John was showing the same tendencies as he did as a teenager: sleepless nights; an obsession with success; caffeine addiction; an inability to take a badly needed fifteen-minute nap for fear of missing a phone call. What John’s father had utterly forgotten was the root of the beanstalk far beneath the clouds.
The question. The question was enough to drive you crazy.
John suspected his friends would make fun of Lucy if they had the slightest inkling he was interested in her. At fifteen, it was very difficult to determine how important his friends’ opinions were in his own mind.
The fact of the matter was Lucy was weird. She slouched as if she was trying to shrink away from the other people in school, as if she was trying not to let them get a good look at her face. When she was introduced as the new girl in the art class where he had first discovered her existence, she shiftily looked around the room, mumbling her name so quietly the teacher had to ask her to repeat herself twice. She had not known he was memorizing every detail about her, the Yes Yes Yes mantra already occupying every corner of his brain. Had she noticed him back? The answer seemed to be a resounding “No” and that made him very sad.
She always wore an oversized black T-shirt and jeans, the bottom of the shirt flaring over her pants like a stovepipe. Her jeans were always form-fitting yet her shirt was not. He spent many weeks trying to discern the shape of her buttocks under the frustratingly long shirt until one day he got incredibly lucky. She was late coming to Social Science class, her cheeks flushed from the cold weather and her huge, out-of-control hair (he loved her hair even though it reminded him of Gilda Radner’s from Saturday Night Live, and Gilda was definitely a “No”) falling into her eyes. Her purse handle caught on the door on the way in and the entirety of her purse’s contents spilled on the floor. She bent over, giving him a clear shot of her blue-jeans clad behind. As he expected, Lucy’s butt was round and firm, and nicely apple-shaped. He could feel his penis hardening in response – instant wood – as he watched her get down on all fours to get some coins that had rolled across the mat. She not only had a nice ass, she also had a slim waist. Her overlarge shirt gaped and he could almost see her bra!
Now he was glad he was sitting down. He was belatedly horrified and ashamed as he realized not a single person, including himself, had gotten up to help her. In fact, he had failed to notice a few of his friends snickering at her for being so clumsy, as if a similar situation could not possibly happen to them. By the time shame diminished his boner, she was already seated. He had taken to sitting in the desks closest to the door, which was something he never did, because that is where she sat.
He also knew she waited for everyone to leave class and evidently did not give a rat’s ass whether she was late to the next one. He, however, could not afford the luxury of lingering along with her. He had too tight of a schedule to keep.
He masturbated the night he saw her bend over in her jeans, his enthusiasm so great he came almost instantly and realized he’d have to have another go before he slept if he was to have any relief at all. I learn to control my speed just in case, he thought, as he finished ejaculating in his second shower of the day. And why should I control my speed? What do I expect? Along with these thoughts, his tormented brain simultaneously remembered there were games for the next three weekends and they would probably lose like usual no matter how much Coach yelled at them. How was he supposed to study for his Spanish test? He resolved to bring his Explorations In Spanish II book to the game.
That night he tossed and turned. He lacked time to masturbate again and caffeine caught up with him.
He woke at three-thirty seven in the morning after having gone to bed at eleven.
“Oh, man,” he said, rubbing his forehead as his body practically propelled him out of bed, his penis leading the way. This time it was because he had to pee. He already knew there would be no getting back to sleep. He was far too wired. He considered going for a run. Thunder cracked overhead and made his decision for him; a sheet of rain pummeled the window to affirm it. He decided to use the Nordic Track in the recreation room, so perhaps his mom would let up on complaining about his dad never using it.
As John’s pulse began to accelerate during his exercise session, he wondered if Lucy had ever been skiing. He supposed not, his pulse flaring with the hot realization that the Becks could never afford the types of vacations his parents regularly took him on. Last year, he found out through his friend Alan that she was a foster kid staying with Shari and Mike Beck’s family. The Becks were among the nicest people in the school. They did not seem like the skiing type. She certainly has the tone of someone who skis, he thought as he replayed the image of her naked waist for the hundredth time that morning. His erection began to emerge like a fiddlehead fern out of a dense cover of spring vegetation and he was immediately angry and ashamed of himself – could he really think of nothing else? Is this what his life had become despite all his best efforts, a National Geographic special on human mating?
He wasn’t sure what it was exactly that fascinated him about her. It sure as hell wasn’t her oversized shirts. She didn’t do her hair in the style all the girls were wearing, with the odd, hair-sprayed, feathered, lateral wings that reminded him of the frill-necked lizards he was obsessed with from the ages of five to eight. The feathered hairstyle was so popular, all of the girls and some of the guys wore some version of it, all except her. She didn’t talk to anyone and as far as he could tell, she didn’t have any friends except her foster sister and brother. She had a very nice face, but you wouldn’t know it from her lack of makeup.
He was still thinking of her when he went into the kitchen, following the smell of his dad’s coffee. At five in the morning, his dad was reading the Wall Street Journal, waiting for his toast to pop up.
“Morning.” John replied, his voice becoming more like his father’s with each passing day. He poured himself a cup of coffee.
“Why are you up so early?”
“You need to lay off the coffee.”
“Yeah, I know.” John sat down and picked up the copy of the Chicago Tribune laying on the table.
“I’ll quit tomorrow.”
John’s father chuckled. “That’s what my father always said about whiskey.”
“Dad, who did you go out with in high school?”
“What?” John’s father put the paper down. “Hmmm, well I went with Ann Townley for a total of three months until her parents put an end to it in the middle of my senior year. Then I went to college to avoid going to Vietnam.”
“Why did her parents put an end to it? I don’t get it.”
“There’s no mystery. I was from the wrong side of the tracks.” John’s father’s voice had an air of finality that was like a judge’s gavel coming down in a silent courtroom.
“So what? Was she stuck up?”
“Things were different for me back then. She knew we were doomed and so did I the entire time we were dating. Maybe that’s why it seemed so special. There was a lot of pressure on her to marry well; her family wasn’t incredibly well off. She didn’t know I’d end up wealthy.”
“But if you loved her, who cares? Couldn’t you elope?”
“John, if I had eloped, you would have never been born. I don’t regret not chasing after Ann.”
“You cared for her though, right?”
“You don’t ask the easiest questions at five in the morning, do you?”
John cracked a smile, realizing how absurdly intense he was.
He sighed. “There’s this girl. She’s weird. I want to ask her out.”
“What about that girl you were dating, Kate was her name?”
“Katy. I had to break that off.”
“Oh.” John’s father shrugged and slurped his coffee, pausing thoughtfully.
“So just ask her out and be done with it.”
John’s expression became pained. “It’s not that easy. I’ve never even talked to her. How do I talk to her?”
“In my day, we used to ask girls to help us study. Asking a girl to study was virtually secret code for ‘Will you go out with me.’”
John pouted. “It’s not the code anymore though. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
“You really seem to like this girl. What’s her name?”
“Lucy.” He said guiltily. “She’s from the wrong side of the tracks.”
John’s father laughed. “In Princeton Hills? There is no wrong side of the tracks in Princeton Hills.”
John drank some of his coffee, which had finally stopped steaming.
“John, if you like her, you are going to have to do the logical thing. Overcome your fear and find a reason to talk to her. If she rejects you, then at least you’ll know you tried.”
John took a deep breath.
“You’re right, Dad. Thanks.”
Later that afternoon, he asked his friend Mark if anyone in their circle knew Lucy.
“Lucy Albert. She’s Mike Beck’s foster sister.”
“Oh, her? She’s kind of a snob.”
“No she’s not.”
“Dude, she never talks to anyone.”
“That’s because nobody ever talks to her.”
“Yeah whatever, sorry, I don’t know of anyone who is friends with her. Do you have the hots for her or something?”
“Well, yeah, or something.”
John watched as Mark mulled Lucy’s sexual attractiveness over, the familiar insidiousness of the question forming a furrow between his eyebrows. He almost hated Mark for thinking of Lucy in that way before he quashed the instinct as yet another animal distraction from living an upright life.
“I guess she’s kind of hot.”
John sat with his teeth clenched in Social Science, waiting anxiously for Lucy to arrive. Why the hell is she always late? Isn’t she worried about getting a detention? He had to consciously stop his foot from tapping to an imaginary beat. He could feel a thin film of sweat creating a sticky coating in his armpits despite a liberal application of Right Guard; the caffeine was working its magic by playing hell with his sweat glands. 1:02pm and in two minutes, she would be late for the bell. He watched the second hand on the clock as it passed the forty five second mark, tuning out the asinine chatter of girls blathering about their junior prom dresses.
She’s going to be late and get a detention, he thought. Ms. Darnell was very clear about tardiness on Tuesday; Darnell had been so damn pissed he imagined steam practically coming out of her nostrils, just like a cartoon bull. The countdown began. Forty five seconds. Frank Martino walked in like he owned the place, his heels dragging on the floor. Thirty seconds. A breeze from a person running down the hall fluffed some papers hanging half out of the garbage can. Twenty seconds. He could smell the stale hotdog on the breath of the person behind him above the aggressive lavender of his Right Guard. Ten seconds. No sign.
She slipped in the door with only three seconds to spare, whirling into the seat in front of him with no ceremony. Three seconds! He couldn’t imagine being so late!
He was sad. Thanks to the conversation he had with his dad, he got up the courage and was planning on trying to talk with her in the few minutes before class. He was going to tap her on the shoulder and ask her if she could help him study. He knew it was lame and he knew she would know it was lame, but if she liked him, it was more than worth it.
He tried to throw himself into Ms. Darnell’s lecture, thinking of the day when he would be listening to a college professor instead of an overworked high school teacher. He couldn’t help his mind wandering to Lucy, especially since she was within maddening closeness to him. She was close enough to touch! He had a fantasy where he gripped her shoulders and she turned around in response, instantly inflamed with passion for him. All of the other people in the classroom would magically disappear. He would take off her shirt slowly and deliberately, revealing her perfect (of course) breasts. She would then climb on top of him right there on the tile floor and bring him to a climax that made reaching the peak of Mount Everest seem pedestrian.
He crossed his legs, wishing he had stopped himself from having the fantasy while he had the chance. Darnell continued in a robotic monotone.
The surge of caffeine vacated him and around mid-period he began to crash from both caffeine and lack of sleep. He stared at her hair and wondered what the back of her neck looked like.
He was in real danger of nodding off when Ms. Darnell announced a pop quiz and the entire class scrambled for their backpacks and purses. Lucy scrambled along with them, frantically digging through her backpack. He heard her swear under her breath and realized she had no pencil! He, of course, always carried half a dozen pencils in a special part of his Trapper Keeper, along with plenty of extra notebook paper and a separate gummy eraser so he did not have to wear the erasers down on the pencils themselves…
She’s turning around!
He gripped his Trapper Keeper, trying to keep his hands steady as he opened the pencil compartment in anticipation of her request. His mind quickly raced as to how the hell he would turn a borrowed pencil into a date.
“Can I borrow a pencil?” She asked meekly, almost shuddering with embarrassment.
OF COURSE YOU CAN BORROW MY PENCIL his brain shouted, the wooden, graphite-filled stylus already in hand.
“Here you go.”
“Lucy and John! Detention! I will see the both of you in detention this afternoon in Room two-oh-four!”
She turned back towards the teacher. She was holding the pencil in mid-air as if she was in shock.
He was a bit shocked himself, never having earned himself a detention before in his entire school career. Ms. Darnell was definitely a detention-psycho, handing them out for every little infraction. Little did she know, Darnell had just given him his big chance at the girl he coveted so dearly for what seemed an eternity, or at least a teenage eternity.
John grinned, not even trying to hide it.