They walked slowly and silently back to the campus; Jeremy seemed lost in thought, while Jean was trying not to think. As they passed through the main gate, Jeremy spoke again.
"Trace, your place or mine? Lord, I’ve always wanted the chance to say that."
"Yours. It’s closer, and—"
"And, I cannot be certain what Terrie and BJ are doing right now, but I know I don’t want to see it. It might scar me for life."
"I don’t understand—Oh!"
"I see you wouldn’t mind seeing it, but not tonight, I hope."
"Yeah. By the way, ‘Let’s give it a try?’ How unromantic."
"Look, I’m nervous enough as it is. Please don’t make me feel any worse."
"Sorry." They walked a bit more, and then Jeremy asked Jean, "Could you explain to me the mathematics behind buckyballs?"
"Well, I’ll try to tell you what I know about algebraic top ology, but I will make some mistakes. A buckyball is shaped like a sphere, right?"
"Right. Sixty carbon atoms in a ball."
"There’s a difference?"
They discussed math and chemistry for the remainder of their walk to Jeremy’s dorm room. "Jeremy, thank you. I feel a lot better now."
"You’re welcome. I’m glad it worked. I’m going to wash up."
Hand-in-hand, the two walked to Jeremy’s room. While Jeremy fumbled for the keys, his roommate Johnny opened the door.
"Johnny. I thought you were—"
"I just came to get some clothes. See you kids tomorrow."
"Remember, mushrooms and peppers."
"Johnny, embarrass me all you want, but if you do anything to hurt Jean, I will get you. I learned a trick in chemistry class: you mix iodine and ammonia, and let the precipitate dry, for example."
"Jean, are you really sure you want to know this guy? I’d better go." Johnny walked off, and they entered the room.
"Jeremy, what was that about?"
"Dorm custom. If you have a guest, and you displace your roommate, you owe him a pizza from Ricardo’s. I hope you’re not offended."
"No, no. It’s funny. Just don’t act so smug."
"I am not smug. I just try to be prepared. ‘That’s the Boy Scout’s marching song.’"
"Please, Jeremy. don’t sing ‘The Elements.’ I hear Tom Lehrer songs enough."
"It’s a deal. Now, where were we?"
"You were going to seduce me."
"I thought we were seducing each other."
"I think we’re talking too much."
"Sorry. I’m nervous too. I feel as though I were Mister Magoo leading Ray Charles through a maze."
"Good. We are on nearly equal terms, then."
"Let me get the candles." Jeremy lit a pair of candles, put some Coltrane on the stereo, turned off the lights, and returned to her and the couch.
"’My Favorite Things’? Strange choice."
"Hush." Jeremy began to kiss her, first one cheek softly, then the other, then sweeping over her lips, then tickling the tip of her nose. Jean didn’t move; she hardly even breathed. She wanted to remember every sensation he gave her. His kisses were like brush strokes, painting her with fire. He kissed her eyelids, he nibbled on her earlobe, and then he pulled back.
"Jean, is something wrong?" Jean realized that she needed to give Jeremy some feedback, but she didn’t trust herself to say anything. She took his hands in hers, released the breath she had held, and leaned forward to kiss him. She then drifted downward and nipped at his chin. He leaned to the side, and traced a path down to her neck. Jean’s breath seemed to catch, and she heard nothing, not even the CD, but her own heart pounding. He continued to lick and nibble her, slowly dragging his tongue along her face, leaving spirals of excitement behind. She gripped his hands more tightly to show her approval; she still did not trust herself to speak.
He broke off his kiss, and pulled back to stare at her. Jean thought: "I hope he knows I love this." He pulled back further, and looked worried. Jean responded by moving toward him, and saying just one word: "More." He nodded, and they kissed again. First their kisses were gentle, then their tongues touched, and then he pulled back a bit and just seemed to wait.
Jeremy looked nervous again, and Jean thought to herself, "What is he waiting for?" Then, she looked at him again. He was staring at her face, searching it for a hint of expression. She herself had acted the same way at job and college interviews. "He’s waiting for me," she realized. Jean loosed Jeremy’s left hand, hugged him close, and kissed him again, playfully licking the inside of his lip, then tracing the contours of his teeth, and then pulling her tongue back and trying to suck his into her mouth. Jeremy’s eyes seemed to shine in the candlelight as he stroked her hair with his free hand.
They kissed like that while the CD advanced to "Summertime," and then to "But Not For Me." Jean mumbled, "Thanks." Jeremy replied, "I knew you’d like that." Jeremy let his hand slide down her back toward her waist, and Jean felt herself shiver. He pulled upward on her shirt, and the material came loose from her jeans. He started to caress the small of her back, and Jean hummed her approval.
Jean released Jeremy’s other hand and pressed her body against his; Jeremy encircled her waist and moved his hands in widening circles, slowly exposing more of her skin. Jean felt much like she had as a small child on Christmas morning. Her parents would not allow her to open her presents until after church, and she would wait throughout the church service with fevered anticipation. She knew there would be a wonderful surprise at the end, and she felt secure in her parents’ love. She certainly didn’t feel secure now, however.
Jean needed to do something; no longer could she silently accept his caresses. She fumbled at the buttons of his shirt, but her nerves rendered her clumsy; she could not undo them. Jeremy enclosed her hands in his and stilled them, and she painstakingly tried again. Jeremy went back to her waist, and then started to unbutton her blouse; Jean’s instincts took over, and she stiffened beneath his touch.
"Too fast?" "Too fast." Jeremy leaned back and let Jean finish with his shirt.
He shrugged out of it, and Jean just leaned back and stared.
"Jeremy, let me look at you a minute; I’ve never been in this situation before."
"Do you like it?"
"Yes. You look, well, cute. What’s that?"
"Appendectomy scar. And that mark on my left arm is a chemical burn."
Jean shifted so that they were side by side, and Jeremy placed his arm around her shoulder. She looked up at him and asked, "What should I do now?"
"You should relax. We have no deadlines; we needn’t hurry. Use your judgment; I think it’s very good. You told me once that you had to be playful to be a good mathematician. I think the same applies to this."
"It’s easier to say such things than to do them." She tried, however. She reached toward him and traced his scar line, and then she moved her hands up toward his chest. She brushed his nipples quite lightly, and was fascinated to see them stiffen. She continued by stroking him in the same manner he had just stroked her, with spirals that sometimes tickled him, and with scratching motions that gave him goose bumps. He made no attempt to interrupt her.
She stopped after a few minutes and snuggled against him, and he again reached for her buttons. This time, her instincts were working for her; she didn’t flinch. He slipped off her shirt and faced her squarely, his eyes alternating between her face and her chest.
"You look like you’ve never seen a bra before."
"Well, not yours. I’ve been wanting to see it for a while now."
"My bra, or what it holds?"
"Both, actually. May I?"
She nodded, and he reached for her and lightly pinched her nipples through the material. She shivered, and he reached around her to unsnap it. This time, he was too clumsy to get the job done, and she pulled back.
"You’re nervous too. I thought you were supposed to reassure me."
"If I weren’t nervous, I’d be taking you for granted. Would you want me then?"
She answered him by reaching behind her and undoing her bra. He reached for her, but she stood up and danced away into his bedroom. He followed.
Jeremy had grabbed one of the candle sticks on his way into the bedroom, and he used it to light a pair of candles he had set on his dresser earlier. Then, he turned toward her on the bed, and he stopped short.
Jean had already made herself as comfortable as she could—the bed was dorm-standard, not comfortable but sturdy. Jean felt that way herself. She lay supine on the bed, with her head and upper back supported by a large pillow. As Jeremy turned toward her, she saw his body come to attention, stock-still and erect. He still had his pants on, but she could tell that he was locally erect too.
She saw how her body affected him; Jeremy’s breathing was shallow and fast, he looked sweaty, and he started to tremble. He tried to speak, but couldn’t. Jean felt embarrassed for him; this was the first time she had seen the power she could have over a man, and that power made her uneasy.
Jeremy soon snapped out of his paralysis and moved onto the bed. Jean started to turn away from him, but Jeremy reached her first and leaned toward her for a kiss. She started to say something, but Jeremy kissed her objections away. Despite her training, she responded again, and leaned forward into his kiss.
After trading a few kisses, Jeremy drifted down her body to her right breast.
"Ohhhh." He started to lick a helical path around her breast, stopping before the areola. "Oh, ohh, ohhh." She had trouble breathing. Now, she was shaky. He reached toward the other breast and started to tickle its bottom a little. When she started to giggle, he started to lick and blow on her nipple. Now, she started to shiver.
Jean was still troubled. Despite the pleasure she felt, she still had the old inhibitions. Something was different, though; her inhibitions seemed to be coming purely from within. She forced the thoughts back down; she didn’t want to deal with them now.
He continued licking and nibbling for a few minutes, and then he switched sides. New instincts began to supplant her old ones, and she cradled his head in her hands, aiming his mouth where his kisses most excited her. Then, Jeremy moved his right hand down her torso, brushed past her navel, and he tried to undo her jeans. This she couldn’t accept, and she pushed his hand away.
"Jeremy, please. Wait."
"Still nervous? What’s wrong?"
"Bad dreams, I guess. Give me a moment."
"I wish I knew how to make you feel comfortable. I wish I knew what you are thinking."
"I’m not really sure myself. Perhaps I should leave. Perhaps I shouldn’t be here. I’m not ready for this."
He rolled over and stretched out beside her. They lay together for a moment, silent but for their breathing—his shallow, as if he had been running, and hers exaggeratedly deep, as she struggled to calm herself.
"Is this really about your old neighborhood, or is this just about you?"
"What do you mean?"
"You said: ‘Perhaps I shouldn’t be here.’ What does that mean?"
"I don’t know. I’m not doing this right. I don’t belong here. I’m not supposed to be doing this. I can’t figure it out."
"Jean, look. There is no right way or wrong way to make love; you won’t have a quiz in the morning."
"You don’t belong here? Exactly how long were we kissing each other last night? Shouldn’t that persuade you that you’re welcome here? Shouldn’t that persuade you that it’s right for you to be here?"
"And, what authority is telling you that you shouldn’t be doing this? I think it’s you yourself."
"Of course it is. I make my own decisions."
"Look, can you imagine yourself as a sensuous human being, or do you reject that as being sensual and animal?"
Jean thought for a moment. "I’ve taught myself to reject this sort of thing."
"Sex, you mean."
"Yes, sex. Now I can hardly imagine myself having sex."
"You are a human being, not just a math student—not just a scholar. You are an adult. If you want to stay here tonight, stay. If you want to leave, leave. But, make an adult decision; think about why you’d be leaving. If it’s because I’m not the right person for you, or if it’s because of religious objections, or if I’m really going too fast for you, then go with my blessing. But I think you want to stay."
Jean stood up and walked toward the candles on the dresser; the flame seemed to hypnotize her; she thought clearly and furiously. When Jean was 5 years old, she had developed a troublesome fear of the dark. She would refuse to go to sleep; she would fight her parents, and she would awaken each morning tired and irritable. Her father sat her down and told her she wasn’t really scared of the dark; she was scared of herself. She didn’t understand her father then, but she remembered the phrase. Now, she saw its justice.
She sagged a little and started to cry; then she felt Jeremy hugging her from behind and his arms circling her waist. "Jeremy, I want to stay; it’s just so hard to go against my instincts."
"I have an idea; BJ said earlier that perhaps I should get you exhausted, and then you’d be less self-conscious. Please wait here."
He left the bedroom, and Jean heard nothing more for a minute. Then, she heard the stereo’s hum. Jeremy called to her, "May I have the first dance?" She joined him as "The Blue Danube" began to play.
He led her in a simple box waltz; they didn’t have room for anything more. Still, they stumbled and tripped over each other. At the end of the waltz, he bowed to her and she realized something odd—she’d danced the entire waltz without thinking about her semi-nudity.
"Thank you," said Jeremy. The next waltz began.
"Thank you. You know—"
"Oh, say it. Everyone does."
"Every time I hear this, I think of space ships docking to space stations."
"Well, if I chose ‘Bolero’, you would have ran away."
"I’m not Bo Derek. Neither am I Jayne Torvill."
They danced like that for a few more waltzes, occasionally adding turns and spins. They also added occasional bruises as they hit the furniture. At the end of "The ‘Dan Jansen’ Skaters’ Waltz," Jean told Jeremy, "You know, I’m actually comfortable doing this. I’m surprised."
"You aren’t self-conscious? Good. I’m glad. You dance very well, considering these circumstances."
"Thank you. Would you like to try this some time in public?" His gaze dropped a fourth of a radian. "Wearing clothes."
"Yes, I would. Would you like to try something? Call it a test of your comfort, if you want."
"What do you mean?"
Jeremy reached down to undo his belt, but Jean stopped him.
"I want to do this, and I’m going to have to sometime. Let me."
"I can see that you weren’t exactly comfortable before."
"Well, puberty teaches you patience."
"Really? Well, I’m glad you have it. Patience, I mean."
"One more waltz?"
"Psychological tolerance. I need a little more inspiration. Please?"
"Now I’m addicting you? Yes, you may."
"I see that the flesh is willing, though the spirit be weak."
"Terrie didn’t give you any of my clothes, did she?"
"No. I’ll lend you a pair of my jeans; they’ll be baggy on you, but they’re clean."
"The spirit’s getting stronger, by the way. One more dance?"
"Oh, that was fun. We’ll have to try it again some time. I could use something to drink, though."
"There’s some apple juice in the fridge. One moment. Here."
"Ah, thanks. No more dancing, though."
"I’d like to dance some more. Just not vertically."
"I’m still scared. Be careful leading me."
"Certainly. I would be honored."
Jeremy took a moment to switch CDs and to get some more apple juice. Then, she
took his hand, and they walked together into his bedroom. They embraced before
the bed, and she asked, "How do you feel about my body? I mean, I don’t look—"
Jeremy interrupted by cupping her chin in his hand, and said, "You mean, do I think that your breasts are too small, or your eyes are the wrong color, or your hair is too short? You’re Armstrong. You’re lovely. You want me. That’s my turn on. Shall I prove it? Besides, I’m not, er, very impressive myself. You might be disappointed."
"Oh, hush. You can start by kissing me." He did, again tracing a path from her mouth to her ear, her neck, and down to her chest. Again, he licked and kissed helices around her breasts. Jean was transfixed; she could do nothing but moan.
Jean felt Jeremy’s hand slide down her chest to her navel; he then started to stroke her abdomen in circles, delicately enough to excite her further, but strong enough not to tickle her. She began to sway and to lean into his kisses. He looked up at her face and grinned. "More?" "More."
Jeremy dipped his hand farther down her body; Jean fell back onto the bed and went rigid with fear. Jeremy stopped for a bit and waited for her to relax; after a few minutes, she did. He then lifted his hand a centimeter or two and moved it downward to hover over her mons veneris. His hand did not touch her skin; she felt it ruffle her hair. It felt gentle to her, feather-light, too subtle for her to name. It felt good.
After a minute of this, Jean rose a bit and propped herself on her elbows; she wanted to look at what Jeremy was doing. Jeremy moved to a seated position next to her and continued his caresses. He still didn’t touch her skin; it served to tease responses and demands from her. Finally, with a cry of "Oh, damn!", she reached down and pressed his hand onto her, forcing him to caress her directly.
Jeremy’s hand was cupping her crotch; she felt the heel of his palm resting on the top of her triangle, the pad level with her clitoris, though not yet touching it, and his fingers teasing her labia. He ran his fingers along her outer lips, up one, down the other, tickling and teasing them. She started to slip backwards, but Jeremy held her up, swung himself behind her, and wrapped his arms around her belly.
"Enjoying yourself?" Jeremy was peering over her shoulder, and Jean started to laugh nervously. Then, Jeremy started stroking her again. His right hand ran up and down along her inner lips, and occasionally dipped shallowly in between. His left hand was softly drumming all around her delta; occasionally it drifted toward her thigh, and occasionally a finger touched down next to her button. Her button was beginning to release from its hood, and Jean started to abandon herself to his touches. Something still bothered her, however.
Suddenly, the thought came to her, and she exclaimed, "You’re playing the piano!" He started to chuckle, and she turned toward him with a mildly angry look on her face; then, she started to giggle too. They both turned forward again, and then he straightened slightly and started to nibble on her earlobe.
She started to relax all but one area of her body; her legs stretched out, but she didn’t feel them; she fell first onto her side and then onto her back, but she didn’t realize it; her eyes were wide open, but she saw nothing. Only her heartbeat and the tingling in her—what should she call it; she never talked that way—registered. Then, she felt a mouth on her nipple, almost breathing it in, and she herself started to gasp, breathing out with a low hum. And then, it happened; lightning bolts flashed up and down her body, her head lolled from side to side, and unbidden tears poured from her eyes. This lasted ten, twenty, thirty seconds, she couldn’t tell, and at its peak she suddenly closed in on herself, curling into a ball, trapping Jeremy’s hand between her thighs, forcing Jeremy from her breast. Ten, twenty more seconds, and then she fell backward again, limp and unthinking. It was over, and nothing had ever felt like that before.
She came to a few minutes later as Jeremy was kissing her tears away. "Trace?"
She reached up and hugged him to her, first weakly and then desperately.
"Trace, are you okay?"
"I’m not sure. A little dizzy."
"Here, relax. Have some juice."
She tore the wrapping on the container, stabbed the straw through its top, and greedily sucked down its contents. Then, he leaned over her and kissed her. They stayed like that for a while, occasionally kissing, but mostly just looking at each other. Her breathing slowed, her heart stopped racing, and she reoriented herself.
"Jeremy. I’ve never felt like that before. When I do it to myself, it’s just, well, pleasant. That was astonishing."
"A little Jabberwocky?"
"Well, you burbled as you came."
"I am not in a mood for puns. You’re awfully self-possessed."
"It’s just a mask. Inside, I’m quite jittery. What shall we do now?"
"Do? Let’s do what we’re here to do."
"And that is?"
"Jeremy, make love to me."
"I thought that’s what we were doing."
"You know what I mean. don’t tease me; make love to me."
"Screw you, you mean?" At that, she frowned a bit, and he continued, "Well, you can’t use clinical language in bed; you’re going to have to use words like ‘fuck’, ‘pussy’, and ‘cock’ eventually. Besides, that’s too passive a mood. I don’t want to just fuck you; that makes it seem like I’m just an impersonal force just doing a necessary task for you. Of course, that’s the way I acted my first time: ‘Hooray, I won’t be a virgin any more.’"
Jean lay a while in thought. "You’re right. I guess I’m not that different from everyone else. I must have really been a prig before."
"No, no. You were just on automatic pilot. It happens. So, what now?"
She thought for a minute, and then giggled nervously. "I’m really embarrassed. I still think I was right to wait this long; I would never have come this far had I been the typical teenager in my neighborhood. But, I guess I considered myself unique; I wouldn’t be gross and use 4-letter words, I wouldn’t actively seek out sex; I’d just let it happen to me when I was old enough. Well, that’s like my neighbors; they had sex because they thought that’s what they were supposed to do, and I acted like I was supposed to lay here and be screwed because it was time for me to become an adult."
"You’re too hard on yourself. I just hope you want me not just because you need a warm body, any warm body."
"No, Jeremy. I want you for yourself. And if I can’t be unique any more, at least I do get promoted to human. Jeremy, I want you to—sorry—I want for us to fuck, and now. I’m still nervous, however. Pain and such."
"I’ll try to be gentle, but I may not succeed. Will you accept an apology in advance?"
"None is required."
"About the nervousness; it might work out better if you first get to know your dance partner. Take a look. Familiarize yourself."
"Seems reasonable to me."
Jean reversed her position on the bed, and the two of them just stared at each other’s not-quite-private parts for a bit.
"You know, it really looks cute in a way; it just looks so absurd."
"Men don’t like to hear that, you know."
"It just does, so wrinkled and short like that."
"Well, if you expect it to grow bigger, you’ll have to stop insulting it."
"Okay, okay. Let me take a closer look. Are you enjoying your view?"
Jeremy didn’t answer, instead teasing her lips again. Now, Jean stretched out her hand to run her fingers lightly near his balls; she was fascinated as the skin shifted and his cock started to come erect. She heard, "Would you like to give it some encouragement?" She began to stroke the shaft, imitating the way he had stroked her before. It worked; his cock was getting cocky indeed. When it reached its full height, she impulsively gave it a kiss. She then pulled back and returned to her earlier position.
"Are you ready now?"
"I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. You’d better prepare yourself too."
"Oh, right." Jeremy pulled a box out of his night table, and he then fumbled around for a minute.
"That color does not look good on you."
"I’ll find another brand." Suddenly, he spun and positioned himself over her. They kissed once, formally, as if it were a handshake. They kissed with passion, as if they needed to breathe from each other. They kissed with abandon, as if they could do nothing else. And when they finally disengaged, he reached down and placed his cock at her vestibule, rubbing the outside slightly.
She could wait no longer; she reached down to his buttocks and started pulling him into her. He proceeded to move in and out very slowly, while also fingering her lips and the area around her clitoris. The feelings were exquisite. They both moved slowly, as if they were immersed in quicksand. He drifted downward to nuzzle her breasts, she left a trail of kisses from his mouth to his Adam’s apple, and he slid his hands to her buttocks, holding them steady.
She could not tell how long they stayed like that, rapt, wrapped in each other’s embrace. Their positions shifted slightly; once she suckled on his nipples while he ran his fingers through her hair. At one point he leaned forward, which caused his shaft to rub against her clitoris. It was too much for her; she needed him, she wanted to mold her body to his.
She tugged at his hip, and he understood her signal; he slowly pressed into her.
At first, she felt only pleasure, but soon she felt him pressing upon her hymen. Jeremy looked worried; he was about to say something when she placed her hand over his mouth and commanded him: "Keep fucking me." He still looked worried, but he did exactly that. She felt the barrier stretch, and she started taking deep gulping breaths, as if she were in a Lamaze class, to override the ache. She started to thrust back at him, and soon she felt a tearing within her. The hurt showed upon her face, and he pulled back in panic.
"I’m all right. don’t worry. I’m glad you’re concerned, but I’m okay. Besides, I’ve already forgiven you." She huffed and puffed for a while until the pain reduced to a cramp and an ache; then she leaned over to him and kissed him.
"So, what shall we do now?" asked Jeremy. "Well, we’re down seven points with six minutes to go. Let’s win." They adjusted their positions and resumed play. Slowly, they regained their confidences, and they weaved and cut, spun and twirled, nibbled and licked, led and followed, took control and relinquished it, thrusted and parried, gave and took. The ancient rhythms of sex took hold of them.
Soon enough, their play became serious and single-minded. Jean and Jeremy even stopped talking their way through the act. Jean did get frightened for a moment when she saw Jeremy’s face become determined and grim, but she realized that she looked the same way. Soon enough, her eyes unfocused; she no longer noticed anything outside her body. And in the end, their voices mingled in triumph:
"Trace, I’m about to..." "Yes!" They had both won their personal game of one-on-one.
"Trace, that was great. You’re great."
"Well, you can’t stop her; you can only hope to contain her."
"Right. I did put the biscuit in the basket."
"Nothing but the bottom of the net!"
Giddy with happiness, they spent the next ten minutes bouncing sports talk and catch phrases off each other. The mood didn’t last long; they were both exhausted, and they did only the most necessary of personal tasks before they both fell asleep. Jean did not dream.
Jean shut her eyes tightly, willing the conversation she heard through the thin dorm wall to go away. She thought, "It’s Sunday morning! Why can’t they let me sleep?" The conversation became louder and louder, and she resigned herself to an early and unwanted start to her day.
Still, she kept her eyes closed, hoping for a few more minutes of half-slumber. Why were her thoughts so unfocused? She had never felt so clumsy before. As she awakened, other uncomfortable thoughts entered her mind. Why was her arm numb, and her neck stiff? Who were those fools in the next dorm room? Why was she nude?
Nude? At that, she opened her eyes wide. A soft voice from behind her whispered, "What a glorious sight to awaken to." Still confused, she rolled onto her side and looked at the source of those words.
"Jeremy?" Jeremy nodded, and they stared at each other. Now, she remembered.
"Jean, you could call me ‘don’ for now on."
Suddenly, Jean launched herself on top of don, kissed him, and said, "don, what shall we do now?"
don looked up at her and said, "You have no idea how much you are distracting me." Jean only stared down at him. "I guess you do."
don considered the question for a moment; Jean was glad he had the grace to take it seriously. Then, he took a deep breath and said, "We’re too young to think of this as the prelude to marriage; we both have three years left here, a few years of grad school, and a lot of growing up to do. We don’t know what will happen to you, to me, to us in the process. I know only that we don’t want to limit ourselves. You worked hard to avoid the traps of your neighborhood; I was lucky enough not to need to. Let’s just explore. Learn about each other. And who knows, we might be a permanent couple after all."
"That seems reasonable; I can’t say, ‘I love you, I want to marry you and have your children,’ just yet."
"Well, I’m greatly honored by your trust. Do you have any regrets?"
"No. This was exactly the right time. I’m glad I waited, but I’m glad we did it."
"I’m relieved. Meanwhile, do you want to study?"
Jean chuckled, and said, "I thought you’d never ask. Pass me that box."
After making love, they heard footsteps. People were going to and from the showers, or heading downstairs for a late breakfast, or greeting their friends, or otherwise beginning their day. Jean got up and started to gather her clothes.
"Trace, leaving so soon?"
"don, I do have to get back; I’m a couple of days behind studying for my French class. Besides, I do need some time alone. It’s not as if we won’t see each other again."
"I know. I’ll miss you. When do you want to meet again?"
"Not tonight. I need to think and to relax. There will be a rally tomorrow on Cannon Green; would you like to meet there, say at Clio Hall?"
"Great. Oh, here’s a pair of jeans. Do you need a shirt?"
They dressed in silence; neither had anything left to say. They embraced, she walked to the door, she turned back to him, she kissed him fiercely. Then, she left without a backward glance. She did hear an exclamation from behind her:
"Waltzes, don?" It made her smile.
She left the dorm, retracing the steps she had taken two days before. At first, she sped down the promenade, dodging and weaving the same way she had done many times on Fifth Avenue. While passing the tennis courts, however, her energy flagged; she slowed to an amble, and she started to sing:
"It’s very clear, Our love is here to stay, Not for a year, But forever and a day.
"Oh, the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, They’re only made of clay, But--- Our love is here to stay!"
A few heads turned toward her, but she didn’t care. There were some catcalls from the tennis courts, but she ignored them. She walked leisurely past the Grant Apartments, the Dinky, the Wa, and across Alexander Road to her dorm. A few people waved, and she turned down the hall to her room.
Terrie was on the phone when Jean walked in; Jean was surprised to find the room perfectly clean and to find Terrie looking well-rested and neatly dressed. Terrie waved and pointed at Jean’s computer; Jean walked over to it and picked up the Post-It note Terrie had left:
Sat, 3/16 8:36 am Yr mom cal’d. Told her u doing laundry, wud kal back. Ok? A
Jean sat down and slumped over the keyboard. She heard Terrie put down the phone and walk toward her; then Terrie started to massage her shoulders.
"Jean, what’s wrong?"
"Well, in my entire life I have never done chores early on Sunday. It was always my day to sleep in. Sunday was church, and weekdays were school. Mom’s smart; she knows."
"So, that doesn’t matter, does it? How was it?"
"Well, we got a few dances in. Oh, it was great. I’d better call her."
"Dances. Dances? Oh, brother." Terrie tossed her the phone, and she dialed home:
"Hello, Mother. How are you today?"
"Oh, I’m all right. Look, I haven’t visited your campus in a while; would you mind if I came tomorrow?"
"Of course I don’t mind. But, you’ll miss church."
"The Lord will forgive me this once."
"And, do you really want to be traveling on Saint Patrick’s Day?
You know how the city gets."
"I’ll be Armstrong."
"Take the train at least. It’s more expensive, but it takes you a block away from me. Also, there will be a rally at noon tomorrow; I really want to go."
"Of course; that was a great game."
"Look, I have to go. Can you make the 8:50am train?"
"Armstrong. Jean, be well. I love you."
"Love you Mom. I’ll meet you at the Dinky."
Terrie said, "Well, she does know. Why should you care anyway? That doesn’t mean you’re going to stop, does it?"
"No. Hell, no."
"That’s encouraging. You really should do your laundry now, you know."
"Right. I’ll shower while it’s in the washer. Terrie, do you have any books I could borrow? I’d like to prepare myself better."
"Books? On sex? You are truly a student. I’m afraid not."
"I’ll go to the U-Store later. I’ll be back soon."
Jean changed into her robe, grabbed her laundry, and left.
The rest of the day was quiet. The team lost its second-round game to Mississippi State, but no one was sad; no one could expect two miracles in one week. Jean then went to the U-Store and bought her textbooks and supplies; studied her French in the early evening, and spent a few hours curled up on the couch, celebrating the weekend with a hot fudge sundae, and reading about sexual Starters and Main Courses.
The next morning, Jean waited for her mother at the Dinky station. She was a little scared, and she now was angry at herself for being scared. Why did she care what mom thought? The train slid into the station, the doors opened, and her mom came out. Mom wore a beautiful green dress, and she looked as if she had just come from the beautician. The sight reminded Jean of mom’s wedding photos;
Jean could understand why dad had decided to court mom years ago.
"Hi, mom! Here!"
"Hi, Jean. Could we go to your dorm? I need to wash up."
"Of course. Do you need anything from the store."
"No, I’m Armstrong. Anyway. So, who’s your special friend, Jean?"
Jean choked a bit, both at the question and at how alike mom and she sounded.
When she got her breath back, she replied:
"I could lie to you, but it wouldn’t do any good; you know me well enough. Jeremy Segal. He’s a freshman, a chemistry student. You’ll meet him at the rally."
"Well, that isn’t a lie, but it isn’t the entire truth, is it."
"No, mother, it isn’t. You’ve guessed already. Do you approve?"
"Would you stop if I didn’t approve?"
"No. Of course not."
"Then, you are ready. You’re growing up. Frankly, I’m glad."
"Yes. I know that it is strange for a mother to tell her daughter that it’s okay to have sex, and I am glad you waited until college. But, I want you to be happy and whole. Are you?"
"I feel happy. I am happy. I’m not exactly whole. Not since Friday, at least."
The conversation stalled as they walked into the dorm and dropped off her mom’s things, and they resumed it while walking to the gathering.
"So, how serious are the two of you?"
"Well, we’re both very serious people. But, we don’t know how long this will last. How could we?"
"I’ve never told you this, but you should know that neither your father or I were virgins when we met, nor did we wait until after we married. Remember, he was 25 when we married and was 30 when you were born; when he was 20, he spent a year in Vietnam patching up tanks and jeeps. I went to Queens College from ‘68 to ‘72. I did have some boyfriends along the way. I’m not ashamed of that, and I never asked him about that aspect of his Army year. It didn’t matter. When we fell in love, nothing before mattered."
"The matter never came up?"
"Oh, no. What do you think? He never asked anything like, ‘So, where did you learn that?’ That would have been crass and foolish. We were happy together. Even at the end, we were happy."
"He was the ‘luckiest man on the face of the earth’?"
"Now, now. We weren’t Yankee fans. But, that’s just about how he felt. I still have him inside my heart."
"Is that why you haven’t dated since?"
"I’ve never really wanted to. Besides, it wasn’t easy getting you grown up. I put enough of my time into raising you that I didn’t have the time or the energy to look for romance."
"So, why didn’t you move us out of the neighborhood?"
"The life insurance went to pay medical bills; what’s left I devoted to your college fund. Besides, I’m too stubborn to be driven from my home."
"Oh. So tell me, what other news do you have?"
They chatted about neighbors and friends, church and choir as they went past the U-Store to Blair Arch, and from there to Clio Hall.
"Jean. And this is...."
"Jeremy, I’d like you to meet my mother, Sarah Franks. Mom, this is Jeremy Segal."
"I’m pleased to meet you, Mrs. Franks, even though I didn’t expect it."
"I’m happy to meet you too, Jeremy. So tell me, what do you study here?"
"Chemistry. I’m hoping to work on buckyballs and their analogs."
"That’s interesting. I’ve only read about them in the popular press, but it looks like there will be a lot to learn about them. But, analogs?"
"Well, I’m wondering what will happen if you dope them with boron or nitrogen.
There must be new structures you can create."
They chatted like that for a few minutes, until the president, provost, and deans took their positions on the bandstand, and the president started to speak.
"Jean, what’s going on?" whispered don.
"I’m not sure; I think she wants to check you out."
"You told her?"
"No. Let’s talk later. Eight o’clock, at my room."
They watched as the team and staff was introduced, and listened as each was given a chance to speak. There were cheers and songs, shouts and praises. At the end, the president presented Coach Franklin with an award handed out only once before, to Bill Bradley at his final home game, a large plaque with the Nassau Hall bell clapper mounted thereupon. The rally ended, and they parted.
"So, mom. What did you think?"
"He’s a good person. I like him. He seems good for you. So, do you have any questions about the birds and the bees?"
"No, mom. Why don’t I give you a tour. We’ll get you back after dinner."
Hours later, Jean and Jer were sitting on her bed, chatting about their parents, and about the day.
"God, that was rough for a while. I didn’t know whether she would fly off the handle or not, but she took it well."
"Well, she’s a reasonable person. Besides, she was the realist. Give her credit for that."
"Anyhow, there’s some homework I’d like you to help me with."
"Yes, homework." She reached into her nightstand and pulled out a book; there were a few Post-It flags marking pages. "Are you interested in this? And this? And this? And didn’t you think of doing that Friday night?"
Jer’s eyes widened, and then he began to laugh. She joined him, and then he gasped out, "Yes. Yes. Yes. And, no, I didn’t think of it at all. But I’d be happy to try. Homework like this I could never get enough of." They laughed harder and harder until they ran out of air, and then they turned to each other, and continued their studies.