She had stayed until everyone left and I was walking Bekah to her car. It was the first day we were together and she was going to her parents where she was staying for the summer.
“Don’t go,” I said. “You belong here. With me.” I kissed her.
It didn’t take more than that to convince her to stay at my house that first night. We went to bed. Now, I was not going to fuck her. I was not interested in doing that until I was in love with her. Sex had become a thing my body refused to do without love. I could make out with anyone. I could do all sorts of sensual and sexual things but the act of sex was impossible for me without deep love. I didn’t want her body that night. I just wanted her.
When she was in my bed in her t-shirt and undies, I looked at her and braced myself.
“Now listen. We can turn the lights off before I get undressed if you want,” I said.
“Why?” She looked slightly scared, as if she feared what would come from my mouth next.
“Some girls who have seen my body have wished they hadn’t. Now I can just turn off the lights and we can go from there. I don’t plan on getting naked tonight anyway, the boxers stay on, but I usually don’t sleep with a shirt on like I did last night and when I take it off you might be—” I couldn’t say it. I had been preparing to say it all night but I couldn’t say it now.
“I might be what? You’re starting to freak me out.”
“You might be disgusted.” I could not look at her. My eyes were for the bed, the floor, the walls, anywhere but her face and her eyes.
“Why would I be disgusted?” The look on her face said she was bracing herself, trying to strengthen her resolve.
“I’m—” I couldn’t look at her. “I’m hairy.”
She sat up on her knees. “Really?” She looked excited. She looked really excited.
“Let me see,” she said. “I want to see it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Oh, you would not believe how sure I am. Come on, show me,” she said.
No girl had ever reacted this way. Draconic had acted as if she liked my body hair but I had never trusted it. Every other girl I dated had been quiet about it. Mary had told me her mother said only fat guys were hairy. That was when I was in the best shape of my life. I remembered the look on Mary’s face when she said it. “My mom is a nurse, she would know.”
Never had any girl seemed this excited about my body. I knew I was disgusting. I knew it. Everyone had told me. All my guy friends, all my girlfriends. I knew Bekah would have a problem with it. I braced myself for the worst and took my shirt off. I looked down at her miserable and tried not to turn away and cover myself.
“Oh my God.” Her mouth would not stay closed. “Holy shit,” she whispered.
She had not had a problem with it.
Two days later Bekah and Bliss stopped by my house to say goodbye as they headed out of town on their way to Plan’s house.
She wrapped her arms around my neck and kissed me. I looked at her and pressed my forehead against hers.
“Don’t forget about me,” I said. But I knew she would. I knew she would spend time with her sisters. Get some distance. She was going to a college town; her sister would have college guy friends. There would be parties. There would be wild and fun. I was back here at Pizza Hut and Best Western working 60 hours a week and would never make in a year what those guys were set to make in a month. It was with utter misery that I kissed her and walked her to her car. I opened the door for her and she sat down. “Don’t forget I am here waiting.”
“I’m not going to forget you, Jesse. Don’t be silly.”
I kissed her through the window and touched her face.
“I miss you,” I said.
I walked to the end of the driveway to watch her taillights in the distance. She was gone. And I tried to tell myself that when she came back with stories of wild college parties I would not ask her about the guys. I walked back into my apartment and looked at my Droogs.
Bell sat on the loveseat. He looked at me thoughtfully. Burg sat in his chair and looked at me. They both looked at each other. They spoke. Bell and Burg have a way of talking without words. A way of lifting an eyebrow, or shaking a head, and passing information back and forth.
“She is coming back,” Burg said.
“She is going to find a college guy at some college party and hook up with him.”
They both burst into gales of laughter.
“You guys are assholes.”
“No, you’re an idiot,” Bell said. “Idiot?” he said to Burg.
“Fuck you. Taste will be here at any moment. I don’t want to talk about this around him,” I said.
“Fuck Taste,” Burg said.
“He is not a bad guy,” Bell said.
“Anyway, no talking about her being gone and cheating on me while he is around. He will only make it worse,” I said.
“Taste is not your enemy,” Bell said. “He is a great guy. He is just going through a hard time right now.”
A car pulled up in the driveway blaring Backstreet Boys. And we knew. Taste had arrived.
I braced myself and looked at Burg, who rolled his eyes.
Two days later I can’t get the image of college guys out of my head. They were talking about things I didn’t understand. They were laughing at jokes I would never get. They were talking about important things while they got drunk and high and I was here. I needed her to think about me. I needed her to know how I felt. I had no way of doing that.
Then Guardian. He rose to the top and nodded grimly. It was time for bold action. He had a plan. And he grabbed the white pages and thumbed to the L’s. Now for those of you who don’t remember, or never knew, the white pages was a phone book that held everyone in town’s phone number. You had to send in a special letter requesting they leave your number unlisted if you wanted to be left out of this book. Otherwise anyone could look up your name and find your phone number.
All Guardian could do was pray they had not done that. He found the Lynch section of the phone book and saw a few names. Quite a few. Not so many that picking was impossible but just enough that this might be a long day. He almost closed the book, but this was the guy who beat them all in an arm-wrestling match. This was the guy who had ridden a bike with no seat and a girl on the handlebars. Guardian was capable of bold action and utter commitment, so he chose a number and called.
A woman answered the phone. He had no idea who she was. “Hello.” Her name had not been printed in the white pages.
“I’m looking for Mister Vigil Lynch. Is he home by chance?”
“This is Mrs. Hymnal Lynch.” Attitude. Guardian was behind already.
“Is this Bekah’s mother?”
“I am Rebekah’s mother. Who is this?” Anger.
“You haven’t met me yet. My name is Jesse Teller. I am her new boyfriend,” Guardian said.
“Oh,” she said. Her anger was fizzling. “How can I help you?”
“I need your oldest daughter’s address. I plan on sending flowers to Bekah and I don’t know where to send them. Can I have Plan’s address please?”
Silence. Followed by yelling. “Vigil! Vigil!” She had not even moved the phone from her mouth. I was finding out by the sound of her voice and the pure undiluted excitement that I had made a good first impression.
“Don’t go!” she said. “Hold on. I’m going to set the phone down. Please hold.”
“I’m not going anywhere, Ma’am.”
She set the phone down and I could hear every word she said. “Vigil, get your phone book, hurry up!”
Grunting and mumbling.
“This is Bekah’s new boyfriend and he wants Plan’s address so he can send Bekah flowers.” Though the phone was set down I could hear every word she was saying.
More mumbling. Then the phone was picked up.
“Hello, this is Vigil Lynch.”
“My name is Jesse Teller, sir, and I think you know why I called by now.”
“I do. You’re Bekah’s new boyfriend.”
“That’s fine, do you have a pen and paper?”
“I’m ready when you are.”
He gave me the address and I thanked him, told him I could not wait to meet him and he said the same. Then I hung up and gasped for air. I grabbed my chest and felt my heart pounding frantic. I had done the hard part. The rest was easy.
Called Bell but he was busy so I walked across the driveway to my mother’s. Rose was a hopeless romantic and had raised me to be the same. I knew that as soon as I told her my plan, she would lose her mind. She would be so proud of the man she had raised. This was going to be great.
“You’re going to do what?” she snapped.
My heart quailed. Servant stepped out and bowed his head. “I was thinking that I might buy her some flowers and send them to her.” He could not meet her gaze. For reasons Servant could not name his romantic mother was furious.
“You can’t send her flowers. They will be dead before she gets back. This is a bad idea, Jesse. A bad idea.”
Servant nodded and pulled back. Guardian began to step forward. Shadow stopped him.
“So, this is the thing. I’m sending her flowers. I don’t know how to do it. I am not sure at all how it works. But flowers can be sent from a distance away. I am going to do that.”
“Do you have any idea how much that will cost? I don’t think it is worth it. Have flowers waiting for her when she gets home, that is good enough.”
Shadow pulled out his wallet and counted out one hundred and twenty dollars in twenties. “I have the budget,” he said.
Rose stared then shook her head. “I am not going to let you spend that much money on this Lynch girl.”
“It won’t cost this much, and why not?”
“She is a Lynch, Jesse. She is rich. She is spoiled and she is going away to college as soon as she gets back.” Rose shook her head. “This is not the type of girl we want. She will get her education and then tell you how to live your life. She will not stay around long enough for that even. When she goes back to college with those college boys all around her, she will be stolen from you. I have talked to your uncles about it and—”
“So, I am walking then?” Shadow said.
“To Every Blooming Thing, the only flower shop in town. I am walking, right? It is a four-mile hike but you’re going to make me take it anyway.”
“You’re being disrespectful.” She stabbed a finger at me.
“I have my own money. I have a girlfriend. This is the most romantic thing I have ever thought to do, or had the power to do. I am willing to spend money on it no matter how much it costs. I am going to send Bekah Lynch flowers today, Mother. Will you make me walk?”
She snatched her keys off the table and swung her purse to her shoulders. “This is stupid. You are being stupid.”
Silence all the way there and when we walked in Shadow swaggered up to the desk and waited. The woman who came around the corner smiled her polite business smile and said, “May I help you?”
I smiled back at her. “I’m the reason you got into the flower business,” Shadow said.
“Is that so?” the woman said smiling. But her eyes lit up.
“I need to send flowers to my girlfriend. She is on vacation in New York and—”
“They have been dating for five days,” Rose said.
The woman’s eyes rimmed with tears.
“I can’t let her forget me. I have to make a statement. I have to keep this girl,” I said. “You are the one who is going to help me do it.”
The woman wiped her eyes and her voice cracked when she said, “You are right.” She grabbed a three-ringed binder and slapped it with a thwap on the counter. “You are the reason I got into this business.”
“Oh, brother,” Rose sighed.
“What do you want to send?”
“How does it work? And how much will the delivery cost? I only have one hundred and twenty dollars.”
“Well, oh my. Well then, okay,” the woman said. She fanned herself with her hand as Rose stomped forward.
“I am not going to let my son spend that kind of money on this girl.”
“There is a tiny delivery cost but you can afford it. You tell me what you want, I call a flower shop in town there and they tell me how much it will cost and you pay me. They deliver it and it’s done. We go by their prices.”
“Let’s get started,” I said with a wink.
“Well you have the budget to get this girl,” the woman touched her throat and swallowed hard, “whoever she is, anything you want I would say. So, what are you thinking?”
“One dozen roses,” I said.
“No, no, absolutely not,” Rose said. “I swear I will take that money right out of your hand right now if you try to buy a Lynch Girl a dozen roses.”
“Oh my, which of the Lynches are we buying for?” the woman asked.
“The cute one,” I said.
“Her name is Bekah,” Rose said.
“Vigil’s daughter,” the florist said.
“I haven’t met him yet, but I talked to him on the phone today to get this address.”
“Vigil is great. I’m sure he will like you.”
“He better,” Rose spat. “A dozen roses is off the table. I will not have it. How is she even supposed to get that many flowers back home? No, a dozen is not good. You can send her two.”
“We have a package of three in a vase,” the florist said. She looked at me and I saw the fire in her eyes.
“Three is great. I love the vase idea. Let’s do it.”
“Do you want balloons, too?”
“No balloons,” Rose said. “Balloons are tacky.”
But Shadow was furious now. He was lit on fire. He would have bought every balloon this woman had if he could. He turned and looked at Rose and sighed. “Do you have a balloon that says Miss You or Missing You?”
“I sure do. I have dozens of them,” the woman said.
Shadow almost busted out laughing when the woman used the word dozen.
Rose turned and stormed to the door. “I’ll be in the car!” She slammed the door behind her.
“I want one balloon that says Miss You if you can find it. Put a teddy bear on it if you can.”
“Done.” She wrote something down and looked at the door.
“My mother is a romantic, I swear. She is just not thrilled I am dating Bekah,” Shadow said. “She is not a bad person.”
“Oh dear, I never thought she was,” the woman said. “Do you want a card?”
“Make it say ‘Come Home Soon’.”
I got a call the next day. I screened all my calls with my answering machine but when I heard a wailing howl on the other end, I picked it up immediately.
“Oh my God I can’t believe you did this! Thank you so much! I can’t wait to get home!” Bekah said. “No one has ever done anything like this for me before!”
“Well they should have. Hey, don’t forget me, okay?” I said. I was almost crying. I know I sounded desperate but she didn’t notice. I heard Bliss in the background.
“Okay, I’ll tell him,” Bekah said. “We went out to lunch and Plan was talking about her new boyfriend and how he was out of town and we walked into the backyard and saw flowers and a balloon on the back porch. We all melted except Plan who shook her head and said, ‘I don’t know why he did this. This is silly.’”
“Oh shit,” Shadow said.
“Yeah. Well Bliss wanted a picture so Plan sat on the porch next to them and Bliss took the picture. Then Plan looked at the card and yelled out. ‘These aren’t for me, these are for Bekah!’” Bekah giggled. “None of us could have guessed that they were for me. This sort of thing doesn’t happen to me.”
“It does now,” Guardian said. “Come home to me soon. I miss you. This is where you belong.”
“I’ll be home as soon as I can.” I heard her giggle again. “This is great,” she said. It was almost a whisper. It was a hushed hope for the future.
It would turn out to be a future we would fight tooth and nail for. A future at the end of tears and heartbreak. But she was right.
This is great.