The softest most slender fingers John could ever remember found their way around his neck, and a voice called out, “Guess who.” As he turned around those same fingers found their way down his chest and came to rest firmly on his belt buckle, and John found himself staring into the most amazing Blue green eyes he had ever seen.
To say that Darlene McGee was a conundrum was an understatement. Her family was firmly from old money in Connecticut, as her mother continued to explain to anyone within range, yet Darlene Spoke as though she had just stepped off the Tara plantation. Almost as tall as John, they had known each other for a few years, he had shown up in her homeroom class in the 9th grade with a huge disadvantage, he was from out of town; the rest of the class had gone through middle school together. However the one thing that made him intriguing, at least as far as Darlene was concerned, was that he was from a real city, Chicago, with all its lights and glamour and glory. Most of all, its opportunities. Darlene loved the south, but hated being stuck in a small town, and was dying to get out.
Initially she thought that getting married to a Marine and shipping out with him would solve her problems. But then she started to hear about some of the things that ‘Bucky’ and his friends were doing when on leave. Then when she found out that Bucky had been to that ‘clinic’ over on the west side of town she knew there was only one reason he wouldn’t have gone to his regular Doctor that was her dad. Dr. McGee had been a very successful Pediatric Surgeon in the northeast for most of his career, but when he decided it was time to start working towards retirement, and start raising a family, at 45, he moved to the town of Slidell. Truly the armpit of the south, if you were under the age of 70. When he arrived he brought with him all the fame of having created the technique that had saved more ‘premature babies’ than anything since the turn of the last century, and suddenly his small ‘retirement practice’ was thriving. Everyone who was anyone immediately booked their children into his clinic. Bucky’s parents had been no exception, her dad said that he was probably looking for an adult physician, but poo, daddy had been good enough to write his referral to the Marines, there was only one reason he went elsewhere, and that was the end of her 2 ½ years with Bucky.
Bucky, apparently had taken it very hard, heading out to the ABC to drown his sorrows, but then he had the gall to show up at her doorstep intoxicated and with some college girl in his back seat. She had hit him hard enough to leave welts, well she hoped she had, it had cost her a nail in the process. He had wobbled back to the car and getting into the front seat she took no pleasure in noting that the college tramp moved forward as well. But that had freed her up, six months before prom, and she should have her pick, but she had known all these boys since Kindergarten, and the thought of, well it was not a thought she wanted to pursue, as her brief encounter with Bubba had proven.
But that week with Bubba had performed one very interesting thing, introduced her to John, on a much more intimate basis. From the outside John and Bubba could not be two more different people. John was average height, slightly muscular and dark, while Bubba was a big ‘ol cowboy, most people who walked and talked like he did were called ‘rednecks’, but bubba, God Bless him, actually worked on a cattle ranch. By anyone’s standards he was huge, the only freshman starting on the JV football team, blonde hair, blue eyes and an easy smile. Yet somehow, Bubba looked to John as some great leader and mentor. Where Bubba was loud and boisterous, turning up both Waylon and Willie, John preferred Neal Diamond or Hall and Oates, typically just louder than a whisper. John’s grades were quite the secret, while Bubba made loud displays anytime anything higher than a C was written on a paper. Bubba loved to party, John loved to read, but they were the best of friends, and somewhere in that week, Darlene had found herself very attracted to john’s quiet intelligence.
He had been dating Mary Ellen Goolsbey at the time, Bubba said it had sprung up over the summer, so even though she told Bubba that his schedule and hers just didn’t mesh anymore, she quietly bided her time, waiting to see what would happen between John and Mary Ellen. Then the whispers started, several of the girls had already lined up their dates for Prom, six months may seem premature to some, but when you had to travel two to four hours to find a decent dress shop, there was no such thing as to early. So Darlene decided to make her move, the boys went on a camping and canoe trip every spring, but she knew she couldn’t wait that long, so one day she asked John if he would teach her how to canoe, fabricating a cheer squad trip sometimes near Christmas. She and John met by the river, he in cut offs and a jersey, she in, well, last years cut offs.
As John started to get the canoe ready and loaded with their supplies, she decided I was now or never. Her original plan had been to dump the canoe and play helpless, but the water was WAY to cold today. As John turned to reach for their lunches, he suddenly found himself staring very closely at Darlene’s eyes; she had quietly positioned herself less than an inch away from him. Who moved first is one of those things that changes with each telling of the story, but before either could generate a complete thought their lips were touching, and what followed should only be told by the two of them.
The rest of the day seemed to float by as if in a fog, they couldn’t seem to get close enough to each other, to the point where John took over rowing completely; somehow managing that for 10 miles hit Darlene perched on his lap. As the sun started to set and they reached the end of the river, John had confessed that he an Mary Ellen had a party to attend that she had been planning to go for months, although he admitted his heart was not going to be in the event, he also explained that he could not just leave her standing waiting for him. So John dropped her off, with a promise to call her private line as soon as he returned.
Imagine Darlene’s surprise when at 9:30 that night her bedroom phone rang, it was much earlier than she expected so she hadn’t even turned down the bell as she would have when she went to bed. She scampered off to her room, followed by a very irate gave from her mother. She tried to catch her breath before she answered, but was afraid if she waited too long, and if it was John, than he might hang up. Sounding slightly huskier than normal she answered, softly, ‘Hello?” “Hey Darlene, this is John, I just wanted to let you know I made it home relatively unscathed.” He sounded happier than she expected. “Earlier than I would have expected,” was her reply. “Well…” John drew out, “once Mary Ellen heard about this morning, she wasn’t really interested in being there for too long.”
Suddenly the thoughts of being stalked by a psychotic jealous ex flashed through Darlene’s mind, “John”, she said, slightly louder than she planned,” you did not tell her we kissed.” His only response was a long pause, “Darlene, you didn’t expect me to lie to her did you? I mean she asked directly if I had kissed you, so I said yes.” Suddenly Darlene felt a thrill run down her core, although she wasn’t sure why, no one had ever stood up like that for her,” How would she even know we were at the river?” John paused, “Well it turns out that you have some mutual friends, do you tell Sandy and Candy where you were this morning?” Suddenly things started spinning in Darlene’s mind, oh know, had she forced his hand by telling the, and what on earth could they have said to start the whole things, thoughts were crashing in her mind by the dozens. John broke her concentration, “Well Sandy noted that I had gotten a little more sun since yesterday, and Candy commented that you were a little burned on your shoulders…and well it just went from there.”
Suddenly feeling slightly embarrassed, Darlene said , “Oh John, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to spoil,” then she couldn’t stop it and tears started running down her cheeks, feeling that she may have just pushed him over the edge, by being too pushy. When John spoke his voice was softer, “Oh Darlin’ don’t you worry about that, it wasn’t that fun of a part anyway, and boy wait until you see the pictures. Did I tell you it was a costume party…” and on their conversation continued, until her mom came in for the fifth “and final time” threatening to take her phone away. But after all it was 2am, and well a girl did need her sleep…
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