Literally the next day, things took a turn for the strange.
Sure enough, their next liason was beautiful, passionate, spontaneous, and fulfilling. Now that they had plucked this fruit together, there was little to stop them from exploring its tender textures, its savory flavors, and the freshness.
Her reaction surprised him considerably. Dismay might be a better word.
Gina shed a tear, taken aback by his strategic withdrawal.
Not unreasonable, he thought. They’d never once discussed the very real possibility of starting a family with their first love.
He tried to explain, and she did understand, intellectually. The truth was, the feeling of completion inside her had been the most satisfying thing ever in her memory. Its absence was unexpected this time, and however irrational it seemed, she tried to reach for an explanation.
“It’s not…it’s not that you’re rejecting me, really,” she started.
“Of course not, baby.” He felt a bit dizzy. Despite himself, he could actually feel how, from a certain point of view, their rush into everything was just short of insane!
“After what I’ve…experienced up til now,” she continued, “I guess…” She struggled to put it into words. The last thing she wanted was to make Lewis feel bad about their times together. “How can I put this?”
“Did you want to get pregnant?” he asked, softly.
“Well, one day, yeah!” she said, sitting up. “I’ve always wanted that, someday, with the man I love. I definitely love you. I feel I belong to you.” She felt just a twinge of worry. Had she crowded him in some way with her complete acceptance? Had she misjudged? She took a breath, and aimed for a more level headed approach. He didn’t seem put off by what she’d said to this point.
“We don’t have to get pregnant now. I don’t want you to feel like that was it, at all.” She took his chin in her hand. “What I did with you, I did because I love you! It’s an act of love. It’s about you and me, baby.”
“That’s true for me, too,” he agreed, “though, you know as well as I, a natural consequence of sex without protection should be…you know…eventually, a child.”
Okay. How could they just talk about this without her seeming to be a crazy lady with no regard whatsoever for any issue from their love? Their first kiss was last week. How irrational was it, that she was ready for everything with him? One thing her parents’ perpetual struggles had shown her: it’s hard to really be ready for a kid. Then again, it was hardly their fault that every single form of birth control had flopped. Society called for a more reasonable response. Then again, society didn’t think people who had known each other for three weeks had any business deciding to be together for life.
“I can go on the pill for you,” she said, “if that is what you want. It’s going to take a little while for it to start working. After what we’ve done, I’m not sure I could ever use a condom!”
“I’m sorry I never talked to you about it, myself,” he said. “I’ve acted so impulsively.”
“And I LOVE that about you! I love that, in me. I wish I could tell you why it bothered me, at all. I…how do I put this? I’m just human. I felt a little bit like you might not want me. But baby! Don’t let that bother you! I know you want me. We both know the most potent sperm’s at the beginning, anyway. And it’s not at all that I need that from you to feel loved. It was just a feeling. I don’t want it to stand between us in any way!”
He sat back and laughed a little. “I’m glad to hear it. I suppose we could consider using condoms until your birth control started working. Or we could…wait?”
Now they both laughed.
It was hard to imagine a force on Earth that would make them wait, if they were both healthy!
The weirdness dissipated before long. In fact, for good measure, they were at it again before she left for work. This time, her poor underwear seemed to up and vanish. It was just going to be one of those things she’d have to deal with tonight.
She hadn’t been gone very long when the phone rang. Lewis was right beside it, thinking about calling up Ed to see if he or Wylie wanted to hang out. They shared an apartment just two miles west, where he had often gone, before moving in with Ed’s girlfriend to a place big enough for all of them, just behind the very McDonald’s where he’d fed Gina the cheeseburger. He hadn’t really seen them since his birthday, except on the job he’d just quit the week before.
In fact, Ed’s girlfriend, who he had only met once, was the new server at Stefan’s. He wondered if he was going to need to apply there, himself, to make some road money, rather than live out of his new girlfriend’s pocket. Or…fiancée? Wasn’t that more to the point, now? Was there any doubt?
Marrying her as soon as possible, considering how they felt for each other, was even more understandable to him, in an old-fashioned sort of sense, if they were going to sleep together unprotected. It irked him a little that he would feel that old-fashioned, if they weren’t simply going to wait…and besides, when had he planned for sure to legally marry? It was just one more convention…but why let the phone just ring, ring, ring…
“Hi, may I speak to Lewis, please? Say…Lew, is that you?”
“Ah…it is. You sound familiar…”
“Do I? Dude, this is April. April Hilliard. Do you remember me?”
“I…yeah!!! Completely! Hey! I never thought I’d…wow!”
The sensation of dizzy came back for the second time today. This time, he felt a sunburst of feeling, a kind of joy…
…and…Gina. The love of his life. Wow.
“I just came back to town, and I got your number,” April continued, giddily. “I’ve been doing some modeling…well, hand modeling, mostly…but I was in Cleveland when the urge to come home hit me in a biiig way!”
“Heh! I imagine that often happens in Cleveland.”
“Hahah! You’re quick like always. I really hope you don’t mind me just dropping in from out of the blue, but I asked around and decided to look you up.” She paused. “You mind if I admit something to you? I never forgot you, Lewis. You were one of the coolest people in the world, like the first truly cool person I think I ever knew.”
“Thanks, April. I thought you were really cool, too. I appreciated catching your notice. I’m glad you remembered me.” He wanted to be reassuring, to return some of this energy she was beaming his way. He readily admitted, his exhilaration, any other time---a week ago, even---would’ve known no bounds. Something like that. He would’ve at least been thrilled to be remembered---honored to be her friend. That still stood true, really. She had been such a cutie…and the first girl to make him not just feel attractive, but the first to appreciate him as an artist, a mind and soul.
That book of his poems, modest though it was, was the first creative work he’d ever “published” for anyone outside his family. He’d felt as though he were taking up a mantle of sorts. She had enough soul to appreciate a thing like a simple book of poetry. She’d had the most beautiful body of anyone who ever…
“I think, of anyone in this town, I would be really happy to see you, and talk with you again.”
“Wow…that’s…very cool,” he said, failing to sound completely nonplussed.
He remembered how very badly he had wanted her. She probably never realized how close she’d come to being his very first. That one night had enchanted him like nothing before…
…and now, nothing like that could happen, because he couldn’t just go out with her to see what would happen. He’d just given his heart to someone loveable and true. They had moved so fast…but he meant what he did and said with her. She was too special to pretend otherwise.
“I know I’m kind of dropping in out of nowhere,” she said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you were dating someone
amazing, but you were that rare friend who has such an incredible impact on the way you see the world…you know?”
“That’s so flattering, April. You really blew my doors off, too. You made me feel like my inner life mattered.”
“That’s what I’m trying to say…you’re so good with words, Lewis.” She paused, still sounding very happy. “I wonder what are you up to, these days?”
Oh, how part of him, stirred by memories, remembered her in his arms, their special connection. But Gina shined brightly even now in his mind. If ever one day he would learn that love could exist between more than two people, such a thing seemed utterly impossible to him now. Gina had become his wind and rain and sunshine itself. Suddenly, in the presence this astounding little lady, he could see as clearly and definitely as ever, he now knew true love.
“Doll, I was planning on bugging out, about a week ago,” he began. “I had worked my two week notice and set my eyes on the road. I bought a guitar this past summer, and I’ve been writing, too. I wanted to be what no one else ever said I could be!”
“That’s what makes you so cool,” she beamed. “You were the first person I knew who wasn’t afraid to be creative, as a way of life. Not just an artistic person, but someone who ‘got it’ philosophically! That really opened the world for me when I started meeting other artists, when I started modeling. I got to meet some very cool people!”
“I’m really happy for you!”
“Thanks. So I got really lucky even talking to you again, sounds like!”
“I…feel pretty lucky, too,” he said. Now, he had to tell her.
“So, anyway, I made this friend, lately, before I left…and when we finally got to spend some time together, something…so incredible happened. Like nothing else before. And so much has happened so fast…I just kissed her for the first time a week ago, but April…she totally won my heart…I asked her to go West with me, first. Then we realized how deep the bond went.”
“That’s great!” she said, with half the energy but all the same sincerity. “So you just met someone special?”
“I wasn’t looking at all,” he said. “I had turned my back on needing anyone else to affirm me, needing a girlfriend to feel good about myself. I think I finally turned the corner on being truly comfortable with myself…truly being happy with my own company.”
“I always got the impression you had that in you,” she said. “I would’ve described you that way, anyway! “
“Well, I guess I did, some of the time, at least,” he said. “But never to the point where I was ready to just strike out on my own. I mean, going to college was like that, but then I would get hung up on a girl, and if it didn’t work out, I’d spend as long being hung up on her as I had, going out with her. Just a co-dependent mess!” She laughed along with him.
“So, I just wanted to cheer this girl up,” he said, honestly. “I thought I could do that and move on down the highway…just being selfless, gaining my strength from the task for its own sake, working and opening my eyes and heart to the song of life all around me.”
“That’s just how I remember you,” said April. “You just finally got around to seeing yourself as you truly were.”
“You really warm my heart with that assessment. It takes a lot of soul to see people that way.” He paused. He had been truthful.
“You know, I realize I was lucky to even talk with you,” she began. “I’ve got to admit…well, let’s put it like this. You’re just too good a guy for me to regret calling you, and I didn’t know where you would be in life…actually, where ARE you, buddy?”
“You know Juniper Street? Over in Riverside?”
“Oh, is that where you stay? Sure I know!”
“That’s where I’ve been for six months. That’s where I am this week, as it so happens.”
“Then, listen,” she said, summoning bravery in her voice. “If it’s okay…I would still love to meet up with you. What’s your girlfriend’s name? I would like to meet her, too. She’s got to be a pretty cool chick.”
“She is,” he smiled. “I think that would be fine. We call her Gina.” What could’ve been. Oh well!
“Yeah, you driving? I can meet up with you today or tomorrow, I don’t see why not. I’ll see when Gina’s available…I’ll pick a time she’s not working. I have nothing but great things to say about you. I can hardly think of a better friend for her to meet,” he said, trying to mirror her maturity and magnanimous charm. “I’m just lucky I was still around, so we could meet again!”
“I feel the same.” He thought of a time, and she recommended the Dairy Princess downtown.
He listened to her tell a little about her career; though she was two years younger, her life, he had to admit, sounded a lot more interesting than his had been. At least…until this week. With the elephant in the room calmly snacking on its peanut now, he enjoyed every minute of their conversation.
His infatuation with April hadn’t without merit. Yet…
…she had her one shot with him. Truthfully, at the time? She just wasn’t ready to let go of someone else. And these things happen. Chances come and go. He had even asked her, when he saw her again, would she marry him? He realized his impulsiveness had emerged before, but never from such a self-assured place.
Always, he had been looking for someone to complete him. First he needed to grow into a whole person, himself!
Because of what his talk with April had illuminated so brightly for him, Lewis didn’t hesitate to tell Gina that he wanted them all to meet. He thought her good nature would allow for this generosity. He believed in her to feel secure in trusting him. He felt good about being above-board. Because of her absolute honesty with him, he knew he could return the favor, and nothing need be taboo or buried between them. That sense of limitless space combined with hope for a world of actions made the future he saw with her, a masterpiece.
Lewis took Gina for a walk beside the water in the park---a favorite date spot and contemplation point in one. They walked to the end of the boat landing, beneath the low hanging limbs, and sat out on the tires tied together as bumpers for the boats. She looked really great in yet another top gifted to her by Misty, lavender with a window opening on her chest at a diagonal. “My skirt’s just perfect for sitting with my legs up on the end of a pier,” she burbled.
“So funny thing is,” he began, “this friend is the same one cousin Jack mentioned the other day. “She had been friendly, so somehow I decided, on Field Day, to give her one of my copies of my book of poems. There was one about Auschwitz, one about life as a spiral groove, one about passing time in traffic in chill mode, some funny ones. I don’t even know what became of it, for sure. I guess I was comfortable enough with the charge of pretension! But she liked it. She gave me her phone number a couple of days later, and I gave her mine. Then she called me one day a couple of weeks after I graduated, and we met in the cocktail area of what is now Stefan’s. Same place we danced, later, you and I. We blew the joint after a little conversation, and went up to Clocktower Hill. We got out for a walk to enjoy the view, and then it started raining, so we ducked back into my car.”
He held her hand and looked off into the trees on the other bank.
“We started kissing…really good ones…and it was way more than I hoped for. I thought we might just be on a friendly
“You gotta watch that,” Gina joked.
“Don’t I, though? So we climbed over into the passenger seat, and let back the seat. I am sorry I don’t remember what else we talked about, but…she was really really revved up. As a red-blooded male, that was all I needed. How could she know I was a virgin, too? She lifted up her pink skirt, and pulled her panties down. I thought I was going to explode. I wanted her so bad! I undid my pants, too. I could see her naked body exposed, and I thought “well this is finally it!”
“Then…she stopped. She apologized. She said something didn’t feel right, and it was her, not me. Would I forgive her if we could just stop for now? And she read me well enough to know I would give in and do that for her. We just held each other while it rained, and she thanked me for caring enough about her feelings to understand. I had no idea what I was understanding,” he chuckled, “but I was sure what was the right thing to do, anyway. When the rain lifted, we kind of abruptly ended our date. I mean, we had pretty much skipped to the end, under the best of circumstances, and who knew where to go from there? I wondered, after she left, had I rushed too quickly into things…had I seemed too eager for too much? But I was hardly alone.”
“We talked a couple of more times on the phone. She got back together with this guy she’d been seeing for like three years, was it? And they had just broken up when school let out, I don’t know why.”
“I think it makes sense to me what happened,” Gina reassured him. “If that was what she was going to do, anyway, it would’ve been a lot worse for you. More baggage for her, too. It really wasn’t to do with you, darling.”
“Well, I ran into her again…I don’t quite remember when, but I was single, and so was she, and she was living with someone right across from an aunt of mine. This is what Jack talked about. Logan was there, too. Like a fool, I remembered what had happened, and affix all this significance to it. I even asked her like, would she want to marry me someday? Hahah---like you have to do that. It’s pretty obvious where I wanted things to go again, huh?”
“I’m pretty sure she said no.” Gina’s smile made him glad he had opened up so much. It really didn’t seem like too big a deal, with the level of understanding they shared. Funny how different things felt on the outside, in conversation, than they did bumping around in the dark, in his head.
“Yah. It was an amiable enough parting. Maybe, if things hadn’t gone so far before, so quickly, I could’ve just, you know, asked her out again or something normal. I guess these drives to …do certain things…and the values I was trying to honor…maybe they short-changed the honesty of my experiences. You know what I mean?”
“Intimately,” she said, assuring him with her body language and tone.
Fortunately, she had the next day off, so meeting April was no problem. He saw her parents drop her off---she didn’t have a car, apparently---and Gina and Lewis met them in the Dairy Princess parking lot. Very nice people. Not obviously the parents of a model. Then again, April was a little short for the usual top tier of that profession, but unique in her look and cute as a button in her blond pony tail. Her friendliness was rewarded and reciprocated. A few minutes later, they’d all placed an order and sat down to chat in a booth, with Gina curled up unconsciously on Lewis’s arm.
They had a good time, talking about April’s career so far, the odd and talented people she’d met, and she was genuinely interested in the strange path into the unknown awaiting Lewis. It seemed lit with more ideals than details, but that was hardly a surprise. She promised him that those things took care of themselves, so long as a person stayed true. Gina shared a little of their romance story, talked with her about babysitting, and quietly listened to the old friends’ exchange. It was funny how well they clicked, because the realization hung there, April and Lewis didn’t really have very much history together. For all the intensity of their one date, it had a kind of innocence about it. Lewis had no idea, as yet, about the different kinds of love that could exist between broad-minded people---but that is another story altogether. All he knew was, he had, however impulsively, made his choice. He could see now, it carried some consequences, and from his perspective, closed some of the possibilities of which he’d barely been conscious, now.
For all that, he felt no regrets about Gina. He was very glad these two liked each other so well. Maybe this time, they could keep touch?
How could he know, when she climbed into her parents’ car an hour later…he’d never see her again.