Please take this opportunity to broach the world of Kathryn and Christopher
L P Budish
"Aspiring Author of Adult Romance"
It all started and ended in the front seat of a cherry-red 1957 Chevy.
A slight chill with an ever-so-soft breeze penetrates the midnight air after the 1959 high school homecoming dance. A bright, full moon with hundreds of stars glowing from above casts a soft shimmer on Lake Michigan.
As they’re driving along the lake on the south side of Milwaukee, she realizes her plan is coming to fruition. She’s known him since childhood, living in the same neighborhood. Having grown intrigued by his bad boy image, she’s been pursuing him for what seems an eternity. She finally snared him at a Catholic Youth Organization dance. He attends Milwaukee Technical High School and she, St. Mary’s Academy.
Everyone knows he’s a ladies’ man. Tall and muscular with cobalt blue eyes, his golden blond hair in a crew cut accentuates his bronze, chiseled face. As the quarterback, he anticipates receiving a full athletic scholarship to play football at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. No one dares to be on his bad side because of his reputation as a straight shooter with a quick temper.
Pretty with a petite figure and fair complexion, and bright blue eyes,
she wears her long, ash-brown hair in a French curl and carries herself with ease and grace. Since going steady with him, she’s been warned by her girlfriends she could find herself in trouble.
Upon reaching their destination on Jones Island overlooking Lake Michigan, he parks the Chevy alongside a few other cars facing the lake. Turning off the motor he keeps the radio on; they listen to Frank Sinatra sing I’ve Got a Crush on You.
He gazes into her eyes. “You look beautiful tonight. You were the most beautiful girl at homecoming.” Wrapping his arm around her shoulders he draws her close and leans forward. Joining lips, he playfully invites his tongue into her mouth.
With lust, she glides her fingers through his gel-spiked hair, and then clasps her hand around the nape of his neck as their tongues dally and flirt. Hot and heavy in passion, the windows of the car quickly fog up.
Slowly he glides his muscular hand under her long flowing, pink silk dress, gently caressing her inner thigh and realizes she isn’t wearing panties.
Softly moaning, her body quivers as she runs her fingertips along the outline of his stiffening manhood, her erogenous zone kindled.
“I’m not sure we should do this,” she murmurs, allowing him to freely explore.
“Who in the hell are Donny and Rick, Kathryn Ann?” Father demands as he trots downstairs with luggage in hand, wearing a dark-brown, three-piece suit with a white cotton dress shirt and brown tie.
Heavily sighing, I reply, “I’ve told you before. They’re Cheryl’s friends who live in her neighborhood. They just want me to hang out with them while they play pool. After all, it is Friday night, I am in college, and I’ll be 18 next Wednesday, to be exact.”
“You’re not going out with two guys I’ve never met. The answer is no, end of statement.” Towering over me, Father’s gelid eyes peer through large tinted lenses.
“But Father, they’re nice guys. I’ve met them several times. It’s not like anything’s going to happen to me,” I say, rolling up my eyes.
“What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand? The N or the O? And don’t be rolling up your eyes, young lady...I saw that. Now I’ve got to go. I’m late. I should have been at the airport by now.
“I love you, Kathryn.” He gives me a perfunctory kiss on my forehead.
Disheartened I reply, “I love you too, Father.”
Mother joins us. He gives her an obligatory peck on her cheek.
“I love you, Diane. I’ll see you two on Tuesday.” Pinching together the front crown of his brown fedora, he places it on his head, hiding his widow’s peak and receding hairline, and walks out the door to an awaiting cab.
With stricken eyes Mother and I turn to each other. I know Mother’s upset because Father leaves her, once again, on a business trip. However, I resent him for not allowing me to go out with two respectable guys.
Mother rubs her temples, careful not to muss up her short blond hair that is perfectly coiffured in a permanent of soft curls, teased and picked, with bouffant bangs swept to one side. Though tall for a woman, she looks beaten down as if she is Atlas carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders.
“Mother, Donny asked if I wanted to hang out with him and Rick while they play pool. Is it okay if I go with them...please?” Lowering my head, I look up through my long sweeping eyelashes, my lower lip covering my upper lip.
Closing her eyes Mother rolls her shoulders as if shedding the weight. “I heard the discussion you had with your father, and he said no. Is Cheryl going with?”
“No...she’ll be at her cousin’s birthday party.”
In a frail voice she says, “Well, I’ll tell you what. As long as they come in and I get a chance to meet them, I might let you go...and your father must never know about this.”
“I won’t say a word, I promise!” Springing toward Mother I give her a hug as she stumbles backward. “Oh, Mother, thank you, thank you, thank you! You’re a lifesaver!”
I run upstairs to my bedroom and call Donny, then change into something casual...jeans and a crisp cotton, pastel green blouse with puffy sleeves and ruffled cuffs. I spray on Charlie perfume and prance to the bathroom.
As I brush my straight ash-brown hair cascading over my shoulders, I stop to study my reflection in the mirror...fair complected with no makeup and bright emerald green eyes. Turning to my side, I pat my tiny potbelly, then swivel around and look over my shoulder at my nice round butt filling out my jeans perfectly.
Tapping my foot, I watch out the window for Donny and Rick. Ten minutes later they pull in the driveway. Rattling the windows, the low-rhythmic sound of Money by Pink Floyd blares from Rick’s metallic blue 1969 Dodge Charger. Rick revs the engine to a stentorian rumble.
“They’re here, Mother!” I scoot into my sandals, grab my purse, and pull out a light jacket from the front closet.
“I can tell,” Mother yells out over the thundering rumble as she shambles to the door. “Can that car get any louder?”
Rick turns off the car, the cacophony of sound ceases. Looking up to heaven, I pray they give a good impression.
I open the door as Donny and Rick stroll up the sidewalk in tattered jeans and T-shirts, Donny’s T-shirt prominently displaying a picture of George Carlin holding a rectangular garden pot, a breadth of marijuana plants standing tall. Mother knows all about George Carlin. He was arrested for disturbing the peace at Summerfest in Milwaukee while performing the Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television. Oh good God!
“Hey, guys. Come on in.”
“Thanks.” Rick’s T-shirt reads University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Athletic Department. That’s acceptable. Mother will look upon that favorably.
I take in a large pray-to-God breath. “Donny...Rick, I’d like you to meet my mother.
Mother, this is Donny and Rick.”
Mother extends her hand to Donny.
“Que pasa...nice meeting you.” Donny takes the tip of her forefinger and lightly shakes it. What is up with that?
Rick gives Mother a light handshake as they exchange greetings.
“Please come in and have a seat,” Mother suggests, gesturing us to the living room.
We all take a seat. Mother sits tall in Father’s black leather recliner as if taking his place. “So Rick, I take it you go to UWM?”
Nodding he answers, “Yes, ma’am.”
“Do you have a major?”
“No, not quite sure what I want to major in at this time.”
“Where did you go to high school?”
“Oh, so you’re Catholic?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Rick is very matter-of-fact and respectful, but Donny doesn’t come off that way. At least he hasn’t so far.
“Oh, that’s nice.” Tilting her head, Mother shifts her gaze to Donny...or more like to his T-shirt. “You must be a George Carlin fan.”
Donny looks down. “Oh, you noticed my T-shirt. Cool, huh?” Oh good Lord! “Where did you go to high school?”
“Milwaukee Boys Tech.”
“Are you also Catholic?”
“Do you go to college?”
“What are you studying?”
“I’m just taking those damn...oops, sorry...darn requisites.”
Mother shoots him a skeptical look.
Trying my best, I hurry outside the house with Donny and Rick before Mother changes her mind. I cannot believe she let me go out with these two guys. Rick was appropriate, but Donny? Maybe she let me go because she knew Rick was driving and seemed level-headed. And he’s Catholic. That has to count for something.
Donny opens the passenger door. With a sweeping bow he says, “After you.”
Inside are bucket seats. Tilting my head, I look at Donny skeptically.
“Don’t worry. There’s enough room.”
Hopping in I hug myself against the console. Donny slides in and wraps his arm around my waist pulling me onto his lap. My body tenses. Gut instinct tells me to jab him, push him aside. I didn’t ask to sit on his lap. If I wanted to sit on anyone’s lap, it would’ve been my father’s lap when I was a little girl. But Father didn’t give me the time of day. I swallow the frothing words in mind. After all, I begged Mother to go out with these guys. Rick gets in and starts the car, revving the engine several times before taking off. The music Us and Them from Pink Floyd’s album The Dark Side of the Moon, is blaring. Eyeing the volume dial on the dashboard, I impulsively lift my hand to turn the music down, then drop it, realizing it’s not my place to do so.
We arrive at Romine’s High Pockets on 27th and Wisconsin close to Marquette University. Walking into a brightly lit room, the air is fetid with stale smoke, sweat, and beer. People are congregated at the bar; others seated at rectangular diner style
tables with shiny, aluminum edges and chrome-plated legs.
Donny and Rick lead me upstairs to a darker room. Numerous green felt-covered pool tables are centered, each lit by a suspended green-shaded light fixture. A large crowd of people, about my age, are playing pool or hanging out.
“I’ll challenge you to a game of pool,” Donny says.
“Thanks, Donny, but I’ll just watch. I don’t want to make a fool out of myself, after all.”
“You sure? No one cares how you play.”
“Trust me. I’ll just watch.”
“Then why don’t you sit down over here,” he says, leading me to one of the tables lining the wall. He turns a chair to face the pool games. “Would you care for a drink?”
“Um, a Coke sounds good.”
“Sure you don’t want anything else? Like a rum and Coke, screwdriver? You should be celebrating. After all, next week is finals and then you’re finished for this year.”
He’s pushing his limits, considering I answered with a simple Coke. But what the heck. “You’re right. I think I’ll try a rum and Coke.”
“At your service.” Donny jets off and returns shortly with our drinks. Handing me my drink in a tumbler with a short stirring straw, he takes a seat across the table.
“What kind of drink do you have?” I ask.
“Harvey Wallbanger. It’s a screwdriver with a little Galliano on top. Want to try it?”
“No, thank you.”
I take a sip of my drink and wrinkle my nose, tasting the robust flavor of the rum. I manage to swallow the potent sip and take another.
Donny takes a slug of his Harvey Wallbanger as if he couldn’t get enough, and then
says, “You know, I was thinking after finals maybe you and I could go out for a hamburger, then see a movie.”
Breaking out in a cough I lightly pound my chest. Who does this guy think I am? His girlfriend? “Just you and me?”
“Yep, just you and me.”
“I don’t know, Donny. I always thought of you as just a friend...more Cheryl’s friend.”
“Well, maybe you and I can get to know each other better. Would you at least think about it?”
“I don’t know.” I’m overcome with ineffable shock. What can I possibly say without hurting his feelings?
From across the room Rick shouts, “Hey, Donny, do you want to break the rack, or should I?”
“Be right there,” Donny shouts. “Will you at least think about it, Kathryn?”
“Sure, Donny.” Shifting in my seat, I force a smile and take another sip. What a stiff drink! I’m starting to feel a buzz already...and I kind of like it.
I watch Donny bolt to the pool table and chalk up his cue tip. He’s not bad looking. Caramel brown hair worn shoulder length with a small flip frames his keen, sandy-brown eyes, a prominent nose, and mutton-chop sideburns.
Taking his cue stick, Donny bends forward as he focuses his aim, gently pulling the stick back and forth in the bridge along his forefinger and thumb. Slugging the cue ball into the racked balls, a clack reverberates. They shatter, ricocheting against the edges of the table. A striped ball lands in a corner pocket, another striped ball in a side pocket. He slowly walks around, examining his possibilities.
My eyes falter away to the many players at different pool tables, their faces unfamiliar. Feeling the need to use the restroom I wander aimlessly in search of it and brush against a tall, sleek man whose face I can barely see in the haze of smoke, his scent Brut and leather. “Excuse me.”
“Excuse me.” His voice is deep.
In the restroom I wash my hands, brush my hair, and smooth my blouse as I gaze at my reflection in the mirror. While the thought of Donny wanting to go out with me is flattering, I have no interest in him...or anyone for that matter. Finding a man is not on my agenda. Sucking in a breath I shake my head.
Upon returning, an alluring presence is seated in my chair performing a balancing act, teetering on the back two legs.
He peers up as I hover over him...glowering. “I do believe you took my chair. Can’t you see my drink sitting there? And my jacket laying on the chair next to you?”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he says in that same deep voice I heard moments ago. The front legs of the chair plump to the floor as he gets up. “Please sit down. I’ll sit across from you if you don’t mind.”
He picks up a bottle of Heineken and grabs his leather jacket from the back of my chair. The scent of Brut and the musky smell of leather are intoxicating.
“Thank you.” Taking my seat, I’m captivated by his taut ass encased in clean-cut, skintight blue jeans. Well proportioned he is tall, dark, and muscular wearing his short, charcoal- black hair neatly combed...a masterful Michael the Archangel.
Turning a chair toward the pool games he takes a seat, draping his leather jacket over the back of the chair. His eyes stray to a game of pool.
In a trice, I’m wired with nervous energy, and my eyes lurk his way.
He glances over.
My heart begins to race.
He does a double take.
My breath twitches.
“I don’t believe I’ve seen you here before. I’m Christopher Jung.” He extends his large hand, revealing long, slender fingers...the fingers of a surgeon or pianist.
“And I’m Kathryn Kelly.” His handshake is firm. A tingling sensation sparks every nerve in my body.
“It’s nice to meet you, Kathryn.”
“It’s nice meeting you too, Christopher.” His sable-brown eyes are mesmerizing.
“Lovely name you have,” he says with a warm, inviting smile. “How do you spell it?”
“What’s your middle name?”
Slowly nodding, he gazes into my eyes, then casts a glance at my drink. “Are you in school?”
“Yes, I attend Mount Mary College.”
“What are you majoring in?”
“English. I’d rather major in journalism, but that program isn’t available.”
“What do you want to do as a journalist?”
Lowering my head, I begin twisting and twirling my gold class ring. “Well, I have several ideas in mind. I’m just taking it one day at a time.” Peering up I ask, “So what about you?”
“What about me?” he asks with an air of pomposity, a twinkle in his eyes. His five- o’clock shadow takes my breath away.
“Well, what do you do? Where do you live? You know.” My gaze lowers to his red formfitting T-shirt emblazoned in gold “USMC” letters, molding his virile, muscular pecs. “So what does USMC stand for?”
Christopher thrusts his chest. “United States Marine Corps. I’m a Second Lieutenant.” His eyes beam.
“What exactly do you do?”
“I’m currently assigned to the NROTC program at Marquette University, as an instructor, while also studying for my law degree there.”
“Wow! That’s impressive.” Salaciously, I skim over his muscular physique and blurt out, “The Marine Corps must certainly agree with you.”
“You think so, huh?” Christopher asks with an intense gaze, his chin held high.
Holding his gaze my jaw slackens, not sure what to say next.
He sits back in his chair. “I went to Marquette University, majoring in pre-law, and now I’m finishing my second year of law school. I graduate a year from now.”
“What are your plans after you graduate?”
“I’m not sure. My dad and uncle have a well-known law practice here in Milwaukee, Jung & Jung...Jung spelled with a J. Have you ever heard of it?”
I roll up my eyes. “No, not really...I haven’t been in need of a lawyer.”
“Well, I’m surprised. As beautiful as you are, breaking men’s hearts could be considered a criminal offense...and then you would need a lawyer.”
A giggle escapes. “So you think I’m beautiful?”
“Yes, I do...and you know it too.”
Wiggling in my chair, a warm flush sweeps my body and across my face. He thinks I’m beautiful. Or is that just a line he uses on every woman? Taking a sip of my drink, I realize it’s kicking my butt...and wish for another drink. I begin bouncing my knee.
“So do you always bounce your knee when you talk to people, or is it just me?”
I quit bouncing my knee and take a deep breath, needing to change the subject. “What part of Milwaukee are you from?”
“Actually I grew up along Lake Michigan in Whitefish Bay. Now I live in the Exton Apartments on North Prospect overlooking the lake. I’ve been living there since I started as a freshman at Marquette...by the way, are you here with someone?”
I point to Donny and Rick. “I’m with those two guys playing pool over there.”
Across the room Donny slams the cue ball, the eight ball spins into a corner pocket. “Yes!” He punches his fist in the air.
Rick leaps off his barstool. “Way to go!” Holding up his hand he gives Donny a high five. Donny then picks up a couple bills from the end of the pool table as their two opponents look on.
Sneaking a peek at Christopher, his eyes are contracted and sharply focused.
Following the path of his gaze, I observe Donny and Rick clinking their glasses, Donny belligerently mocking their opponents. “Hey, Donny and Rick are only friends. I just came to hang out.”
Knitting his brow, he asks, “How do you know them?”
“Through Cheryl, my best friend from high school. They live in her neighborhood.”
“Do they go to school?”
“Yes, they attend UWM.” I flash him a devious smile. “Let’s change the subject. After all, I’m celebrating.”
“What are you celebrating?”
“The end of the semester.” I peer up through my eyelashes, my lower lip covering my upper lip. “Do you think you could get me another rum and Coke?” I ask in a sweet little girl voice and raise my glass of melting ice.
“You completed your finals this week?”
“No, they’re next week.”
Taking a swig of his Heineken, he peers at me over the top of his bottle. “So you’re celebrating early?”
“You could say that.” Again, using my little girl pouty look and sweetest little girl voice I ask, “Could you please get me another rum and Coke...pretty please? I’ll pay for it.” Shaking my glass, the melting ice clinks.
Holding his head high, a bemused smile lands on his stark, masculine face. “I’d be happy to get you a rum and Coke...except I’ll pay.” Standing up he towers over me, his gaze overpowering. “You are 18 and legal, right?”
Batting my eyelashes, I reply, “Well, don’t I look 18?”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
My eyes follow his every move as he strides to the bar. Leaning his elbow against the bar he crosses one leg in front of the other and waits. Standing tall, dominating the bar, he appears to be on the straight and narrow. I look down and begin twisting my ring. A tress of hair falls over my face, and I tuck it behind my ear.
Christopher returns with my drink and another Heineken for himself. Softly smiling I say, “Thank you.”
I sip on the Coke with a healthy amount of rum.
“So are you celebrating with them?” He tilts his head toward the pool table where Donny and Rick are.
“Then why are they playing pool, leaving you all alone?”
“Because I came to watch.” Who is he to judge? Turning toward the pool tables I dismissively toss my hair over my shoulder.
From the corner of my eye, I observe Christopher’s soft gaze transfixed on me. My heart begins pounding along my ribcage, echoing in my ears. I push my hair behind my ear...as if it weren’t behind my ear already. Blindly staring at the pool games, I squirm in my chair.
Time flits by, voices are shrill. People shout over each other. Is Christopher ever going to talk to me?
Loud, ubiquitous music, Paradise by the Dashboard Light sung by Meatloaf, engulfs the room. As the drawn-out song progresses, the crowd spontaneously stops whatever they’re doing to sway to the music in exaggerated movements and sing to each other, bursting out the lyrics at the top of their lungs.
In my periphery I observe Christopher glancing at me. Somehow I must have snagged his attention.
The repetitive lyrics at the end of the song gradually fade. Imagine by John Lennon begins to play, and the volume to the juke box is turned down.
Imagine...Christopher Jung as my boyfriend.
Donny staggers to our table, hunches over, resting his hands on the edge. “What’s up?”
He must have had one too many Harvey Wallbangers. “Not much. You’re good at playing pool.”
“You’re damn right. I’ve won 200 bucks.
“You’re playing for money?”
“You’re damn straight I am. I see you got another drink.”
I look over at Christopher. “Yes, Christopher bought me a drink.”
Donny swings his head toward Christopher, his eyes growing stormy. “Who are you?” Standing straight up, he teeters.
“Christopher Jung.” Christopher reaches out to shake his hand. “And you’re...”
“Donny Voss. Kathryn is here with me,” he says as if I’m his free bounty. Who in the hell does he think he is? Donny winces as they shake hands.
“Well, we came together in the same car...in Rick’s car,” I clarify.
“I see.” Christopher stares at Donny, his eyes molten dark.
With a flippant smile, Donny sifts his hand through my hair, then softly grips the nape of my neck. “In fact, Kathryn and I plan on seeing more of each other. Isn’t that right, Kathryn?”
My chest tightens. Raging blood surges throughout my body in waves. How theatrical. He’s performing a show for Christopher. What did I get myself into?
“No, Donny,” I shrug away his hand, “I never once said that and you know it.”
A smug, indulgent smile crosses his lips. “Aah, but you said you would seriously think about it. Isn’t that what you said, Kathryn?” He skims my cheek with his fingertips.
I fling his hand away. “No, I didn’t say that. Please leave. Go back to your game.”
“You didn’t say you would think about it?” Donny asks with a wicked smile.
Christopher stands up. “You heard the young lady. Leave.”
“Stay out of this. Kathryn isn’t here with you. She’s here with me.”
“And she asked you to leave.”
Donny pushes Christopher against his rock-solid chest...Christopher doesn’t budge.
“Donny?” Rick shouts over the crowd, crutching his pool stick alongside a pool table, a shot of dark liquor in hand.
Donny snaps his head around. “Be right there.” He then turns to me. “You got your wish. I’m leaving...but I’ll be back.”
Reeling around he shoots Christopher an evil look.
Christopher...my knight in shining armor. I think I like this guy. He’s charismatic and kind. He stood up for me when he didn’t have to.
Looking down, I twirl my ring. Donny isn’t who I thought he was. I’d like nothing to do with him...but they’re taking me home tonight. Maybe Mother could pick me up. No, if she knew I was at a bar drinking, she may become angry. Maybe I should have Rick take me home now, before he’s too smashed. Then again, the thought of Donny swooping me into his lap is disturbing. Now if it were Christopher Jung’s lap...
“Huh? I’m sorry.”
“That’s okay. I was asking what your relationship is with that Donny character?”
Shaking my head my breath quivers. “I don’t have a relationship with him.”
“Then why do you hang out?”
“We usually don’t.” This is none of his business. Why is he asking?
“I don’t understand. Were you thinking about going out with him?”
Please stop with your questions. “He asked me earlier tonight and I said I’d think about it only to appease him.”
“Are you interested in him?”
“No. I have no interest in anyone. Not anyone at all. I focus on my studies.” Glancing down, I squeeze my lips shut, taking a huge silent breath. “Tit for tat, are you interested in anyone?”
He looks off in the distance, seemingly immersed in his own world. “No. I haven’t found the right person. And besides, I have a lot going on right now too.”
He would never be interested in me. He’d consider me too young.
“By the way, am I to infer that Donny is taking you home?”
“Actually, Rick’s driving, and right now I don’t think I can deal with that.” Hooking the collar of my jacket with my finger I stand up and shrug it on. “It was nice meeting you, Christopher.”
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going home. I can’t stay here any longer. Donny said he’d be back.” One more minute with that creep and I think I’d puke.
“How are you going to get home?”
“Have you ever heard of the bus?”
“Where do you live?”
“In the Milwaukee area.” I grab my purse and stride toward the stairs.
He swiftly follows me. “Where in the Milwaukee area?”
“On the bus route.” Why is he following me? I know how to get home on the bus.
“Oh, c’mon, Kathryn. Where in Milwaukee?”
“Would you please stop for a moment.”
I stop and whirl around. His eyes look pained as if he wants to help me. Does he?
Bowing his head, he releases a huge sigh and says in a throaty voice, “And where in Wauwatosa...pray tell...do you live?”
“Off Capitol Drive and 92nd Street.”
Christopher looks up to his left. “I’d be more than happy to drive you home.”
“No, I wouldn’t want to burden you.”
“It’s not a burden by any means. Would you please accept my offer?”
I release a sigh of relief laced with anxiety. “I suppose.” Why would he be so kind as to take me home? He barely knows me.
“Good. Now let’s return to our table and finish our drinks. If that Donny kid comes back, I’ll take care of it. I won’t let him disturb you.” His kind gaze is penetrating.
I nod. He slips his large hand around the crook of my arm, gently leading me back to the table. I think he wants to get to know me better. I sure would like to get to know him better.
Back at the table, I take off my jacket and sit down, obliquely glancing at Donny and Rick. It’s obvious they’re enthralled in the game they’re playing. Turning my chair toward Christopher, I lean forward, embracing his charm. A whiff of his clean, manly scent titillates me. “So what time are you taking me home?”
“What time would you like to go home?”
“I suppose I should be home by midnight. I have a lot of studying to do tomorrow.”
“Understandable. I have a lot of studying to do as well.” He turns his chair and leans forward, resting his arm on the table. “So tell me about yourself.”
Gazing into his beautiful eyes I notice his firm, kind face and deep, affectionate eyes, fueling a smile across my face. Tension begins melting away. I lean my elbows on the table and frame my face with my hands. “What would you like to know?”
“Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
“No...grew up as an only child.”
“What about your parents?”
My father is the head of the compliance department at Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, and my mother is a secretary at Marshall High School and basically runs the place.”
Pool balls clack hard against the pool table. “Oh fuck! That cost me 20 bucks,” Donny bellows.
We swing our heads toward the pool game.
“I almost had that eight ball. Dammit!” Donny pounds the edge of the pool table with his fist.
Christopher and I return our attention to each other. “Just ignore him, Kathryn.”
“It’s kind of hard to ignore him, wouldn’t you say?”
“Do you want to go somewhere else?”
“No, I’ll be fine.”
“You sure?” he asks skeptically.
“Positive.” This guy seems genuinely concerned about me.
“So, do you have any special plans over the summer?”
“Nope. I just want to take it easy. Right now I’m looking forward to living on my own for one week while my parents are in Florida.”
“When are they leaving?”
“May 13th, to be exact. I’m also thinking about getting some sort of job and saving up some money.”
“What is it you’d like to save up for?”
“To be on my own. I’m hoping, in time, Cheryl and I can rent an apartment and share expenses.”
“Do you think your parents would help out with school or living arrangements?”
“I don’t know. I did get a full academic scholarship to Mount Mary, so I don’t have to worry about tuition.”
Christopher raises his eyebrows.
“My parents bought me a new Camaro as a graduation present, so I don’t have to worry about buying a car...Actually, I don’t know whether they’d help me out or not. I think they want me to live at home.”
Propping his chin in the palm of his hand, Christopher rests his other hand on the table. “You got a full academic scholarship?”
“Yes, I did.”
Christopher and I enjoy each other’s company throughout the evening chatting about the classes we take, a little more about our families, and touch on religion and politics. Soon it’s eleven-thirty.
“Christopher, I hate to say this, but I need to leave.”
“Not a problem.” He looks at his watch and stands up. “Let me help you with your jacket, Kate.”
Kate? No one’s ever called me ‘Kate’ before. I’m drawn to Christopher as if he was a magnet...a new experience for me.
Christopher holds my jacket open as I slip my arms in the sleeves. He shrugs on his black leather jacket, and I grab my purse.
“Where the hell are you going? You’re with me, remember?” a gruff and disgruntled voice calls out.
My heart begins to thud, and my palms grow sweaty. I spin on my heels and inhale a jagged breath. “Donny, I was going to let you know Christopher is taking me home.”
Donny narrows his eyes. “Well, I don’t think that was the arrangement.”
“You’re right, it wasn’t the arrangement until you and Rick began drinking to excess. Plus you’ve been rude, and I don’t appreciate it. So leave me the hell alone.”
“You’re such a bitch...”
Impulsively I clench my hands.
“You heard Kathryn. Just leave her alone. Don’t come near her again,” Christopher growls.
“Who do you think you are, anyway?”
“Someone who treats Kathryn with respect. Now leave. Go back to your game.”
“I’ll just do that. Maybe I can win back some of the money I lost.” He pivots around and staggers back.
I am forever grateful for Christopher. How can I possibly repay him? He’s so kind, gentle...masculine, authoritative. I like how he took charge.
“Are you okay?” he asks.
“My stomach’s in knots, but otherwise, yes. I just want to leave. I never want to see that jerk again.”
Outside I breathe in the brisk air and shiver. Along Wisconsin Avenue a ribbon of streetlights illuminates the black sky. Cars whiz along the nearby expressway; a siren wails in the distance. A commercial garbage truck rumbles by.
Christopher unlocks a shiny black sports car spotlighted by an overhead streetlight. “Wow, I like your car! What kind is it?”
“It’s a 1976 Mercedes Benz 450 SL.”
“Was this your graduation present from your parents?”
“No. This used to be Dad’s car, and he gave it to me last year as a birthday present. He wanted a new 1978 Mercedes.”
“That was nice.”
He helps me into his car, then retreats to the driver’s side and loads an eight-track cartridge into the car’s player. The soft music of Nights in White Satin by The Moody Blues is soothing to my ears after all the commotion at the pool hall.
“Oh, Christopher, I forgot to tell you, my birthday’s next Wednesday.” Bite my tongue...
“Oh really. So how old will you be?”