Traveler: Storyteller Tales: Pumpkin Seeds

            Sandra was twenty-three and a senior at the University.  Glen did not know what she was majoring in, but at twenty-four, that was not what he was interested in.  Sandra was a slim, buxom blond, and Glen was achingly attracted to her.  At the same time, she was showing a decided interest in him; and she was showing it in every way she could think to show it in order to be certain that Glen got the message even if he turned deaf, dumb and blind.  Yet for all of the sexual tension between them; for all of the hormones that filled the air like great clouds, and despite the ache in Glen’s bones whenever she was in the room, and the desire for him that Sandra breathed out every time she was near him, Glen remained a Gentleman, calm and collected, and Sandra remained a Lady, sweet and demure. 

            It was true, an infant could have seen the blood boiling just below the surface.  They weren’t fooling anyone; least of all themselves.  And it was also true that while Glen might have wanted to say, “Come here, babe,” and he certainly wanted to press himself up against her to feel her rapidly beating heart, and he wanted to slip his arms around her and feel her arms around him and hear the shortness of her sweet breath as her luscious, thick lips said yes, o yes, and then he wanted to kiss her without mercy; but he did not.  He could not.  There was something standing between them, and it was something Glen could not name. 

            So they remained apart, at two separate desks in the school newspaper office, and each wondered why the whole room did not just explode.   Glen thought briefly about cursing that something unnamed that was standing between them, but he did not.  He knew curses always carried consequences.  Curses were always more than mere words.

            “Damn.”  Glen could say that much.  He was staring at the electric typewriter and the blank page in front of him.

            “What?”  Sandra asked, but Glen did not answer, so after a short time of staring at him and thinking thoughts that she imagined Glen could not guess, Sandra went back to her textbook, and Glen got up and walked to the window.

            Glen was only a junior in school, having wandered through three other schools, with plenty of time off before ending up at the University which was a small but very good school in New Jersey, not far from his home.  If not for his own history, he might have questioned why Sandra was older than most of her classmates, but he did not.  Instead, he remembered Diana, the young woman he dated a bit more than a year earlier. 

            He remembered how she betrayed him – how he came home one day and found her in bed with his roommate.  He understood that it was not really her fault.  He remembered that it was not his fault either, though he could not exactly remember why; but she betrayed him all the same.  He had been alone for a long time since then, but now Sandra seemed to be so willing.

             Glen tried telling himself that his reluctance to get close to her was because he was afraid of being betrayed again, but that was not true.  He was healed enough to where he was beginning to feel desperate to get close to someone again.  He tried telling himself that his reservations with Sandra were because he did not really know this girl, this lovely young woman, or much of anything about her; but to be honest, young men in their early twenties rarely think about a woman as a person until later; and especially when the attraction is so strong and so mutual; and, just to be fair, most women know this and dress and act accordingly.

            “I think I just need to go back to my room and get some sleep,” Glen said.  “I really am too exhausted to get any work done.”  That was true enough.

            “I could drive you,” Sandra offered, though she was not sure exactly which dorm he lived in.  She was living in town, at home for some reason.  Glen wondered if maybe she could not afford to live on campus.  “I’m late getting home myself,” she said as put her books away and was ready in no time.  She only took a second to straighten her sweater and run her fingers through her long, curly blond hair. 

            Glen just had to watch, especially knowing that she wanted him to watch.  He loved that white knit sweater.  It made a perfect V shape that hid little and suggested everything, and he felt sure she was wearing nothing of significance beneath the knit.

            Glen tore his eyes away and got his own things.  “It is hardly a walk to the dorm.”  It was a small school so the whole campus was within easy walking distance.  Glen pointed this out, but the protest was so feeble they both ignored him, and Glen thought how glad he was that he had a single room. 

            With that thought making all kinds of suggestions echo through his mind, Glen turned off the light and held the newspaper office door so Sandra could go out first.  She obliged, ignored the fact that there was plenty of room,  and brushed by him, or rather up against him, touching in several places as she passed.  Glen did not even check to see if the door locked behind them.

###

            Once in the car, with the windows up and only the light of the distant dormitory buildings and the stars overhead to shine down on them and bring a glow to their faces, Sandra and Glen began to talk.  It was not about much, at first.  It was mostly just talk, like empty words about some of their past experiences, their interests and such.  Sandra asked if he was seeing anyone, and Glen felt every ounce of hope in that question.  Glen started into his routine answer about Diana, not that she betrayed him, but that they broke up when he transferred from the State College to the University; but then he thought he had better be more honest.

            “It was a strange relationship from the beginning.  I found out that she had been abused as a child, and when we met, she left a guy who was abusing her again.  I kind of went overboard to make sure I was a gentleman the whole time, but I guess it is true that nice guys finish last.  She could not handle being with a nice guy, so after about a year she ended up in bed with someone who slapped her around.”  Glen shrugged.  He could never understand why some women can’t feel love unless they are with jerks who treat them like dirt, and of course, that isn’t love, it is only a kind of masochism.  “Well, anyway, that is past history.  So how about you?”

            Sandra turned away from Glen and Glen was surprised but certain that there was a tear or two.  Clearly it was something she did not want him to see.  He had the good sense to wait, patiently, though he did slip his arm around her shoulders to offer his comfort.  He could not help that.

            “Most men don’t want a used woman,” Sandra said at last.  She turned again to look into his eyes with such hope and longing it staggered Glen.

            “Don’t be so sure, there are all kinds of men in the world,” Glen said.  “Anyway, this is 1978 and aren’t you liberated or something?”  As was normal for him, Glen was trying to lighten the intensity of what she was feeling, because he was feeling it too.

            “Glen, I have stretch marks,” she said without any lightening in her tone at all.  She took his free hand and leaned into him ever so slightly as if to say, thanks for the comforting thoughts, anyway.

            “What?”  Glen did not get it, and he made her sit up again so he could look her in the eyes.

            Sandra looked in Glen’s eyes as well and she saw that he really did not get it.  She wondered how he could be so smart and so stupid at the same time.  “Glen, I have a baby.”

            “A baby?”  Glen still did not get it exactly, but his mind began to race.

            “Melissa.  She is two.”  Sandra said, and then it sunk into Glen’s brain and they got quiet.   For a long time they just looked at each other, face to face, living in the privacy of their own minds and feeling ever so much.  At last Glen leaned forward even as she leaned up and they kissed.  She let go of his hand to put her hand behind his head as if she was not going to let him go.  Her lips were moist and warm and everything Glen imagined they would be, and when they finally parted, Sandra was grinning like a woman who got what she wanted.  But then the something between them rose up inside of Glen’s soul and he pulled slowly away and took his arm back in the process.

            “Can I see you tomorrow?”  Glen asked, and then he amended the statement.  “Can I see you and Melissa?”

            “Oh, no,” Sandra tried to protest.  “I could never bring her to school.  People would ask too many questions and I just couldn’t.” 

            “Three O’clock.  It’s Friday and the campus will be empty.  We could walk in the woods so no one would have to see and ask questions.”  The University had natural woods at the back of the campus where nature trails had been made.  They were perfect for just such an adventure.

             Sandra shook her head ever so slightly, no, but she did not say anything, and the look in her eyes certainly said, yes. 

            “Come on.”  Glen prompted knowing that one kiss was never going to be enough.  “You and Melissa.”  He said it with more certainty and Sandra relented as her head began to nod.  She looked down and took both of his hands as if wondering if this might be the one.  She was not ready to go home.  She wanted to spend some more time with him right then, and maybe share everything, but by then the something was very strong in Glen’s spirit and he gently pulled his hands free, picked up his backpack and stepped out of the car.

            “Three O’clock,” he said.  “I’ll meet you beside Haddon House.”  That was the dorm closest to the woods, and Glen closed the car door before Sandra could answer.  He walked away, still feeling her breath in his face and touch of her lips on his, and the back of her hand holding him agreeably which said to him, “Hold me, too and don’t let go,” and he was wondering what he was getting himself into.  Sandra had a baby.

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