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The First Date

Copyright © 1984 Ann Carol Ulrich. All Rights Reserved.

Continued

GREG CAME BY and they drove downtown, where a science fiction film was playing. She found out a few things about Greg. He wanted to attend the university next year. Most weekends he worked and sometimes after school. Greg knew few of the teachers or kids at school. He didn't know who Mr. Lipman was.

Priscilla enjoyed the movie, but Greg didn't even hold her hand. Afterward they drove around town a little, but Priscilla felt uneasy. What's wrong with me? she wondered. Here she was on a date, but couldn't think of anything to say. She was being a drip.

When Greg finally drove her home, Priscilla didn't get out immediately. The car's motor idled. "I had a good time, Greg," she said.

"Yeah," was all he said.

"It's a nice night," she said. Did he expect a goodnight kiss? If so, how could it possibly be done with her sitting way over by the window and him so far away? Finally, after a long embarrassing moment, Priscilla opened the car door and said, "See you Monday in school."

"Good night." Greg waited until she had reached the front door, then slowly drove away.

"Did you have a good time?" her mom asked.

"Yes." The words choked in Priscilla's throat as she ran into her room and closed the door. She stared at her reflection in the mirror. Her long dark hair hung freely, brushing her shoulders. Was she that bad? What had gone wrong? He hadn't even tried anything. He didn't even hold her hand at the movie!

Priscilla dropped onto her bed. Her body shook and tears began to seep. Greg would never call her again, she was certain of that. Why had she thought her life might change? Other girls had dates and boyfriends. Not Priscilla Gardner. She was a failure.

She wiped the tears from her cheeks. What did she care? At least D.L. appreciated her. He was more mature, not some dumb high school kid like Greg.

MONDAY CAME. Priscilla was relieved not to see Greg at her locker that morning. He's probably avoiding me, she decided. She felt depressed.

D.L. was already in the classroom when Priscilla walked in. He looked up from his desk when she sat down. "Is this blue Monday?" he asked.

Priscilla sighed. "I don't know." She spent the first part of the hour doodling. D.L. sat at his desk, reading. She started to draw him on the blank paper in front of her. She soon had a startling likeness of D.L. before her and was filling in the details when D.L. called to her.

"Pull up a chair," he said. "I finished your story.'

Priscilla slipped the sketch under her folder, then went to D.L.'s desk. "How was it?" She was afraid to ask after that miserable play.

"There are a few things to work on," said D.L. He discussed the story with her, but her mind wandered. All she could think about was Greg and Saturday night, and how ridiculous she was getting over this infatuation with D.L. Here he was, acting like the perfect teacher. He treated her no differently than any other student, male or female.

"The characterization is quite good," D.L. said, "but I'm not sure why you had Andrea going to all the trouble of... Priss, what's wrong?"

Priscilla looked up. She couldn't keep her lower lip from trembling. Her fingers twisted the pen in her lap.

"Hm, I can see your mind is not on your writing today," said D.L. "I know now you feel." He stretched back and placed his arms behind his head. "There are days when all I seem to have are problems, too. I wonder what I'm doing, anyway-- twenty-six years old, getting older, not married yet, with no yard to mow on weekends." He hesitated. "It might help to  talk to someone about what's bothering you. I'm a good listener."

Priscilla didn't want to tell D.L. about her problems. He would think she was really miserable. How could he understand, anyway?

"We've got twenty minutes before the bell," he prompted.

When she dared look up, he smiled, those magical blue eyes melting into hers. "I don't know what's wrong with me," Priscilla began. "I feel like such a failure."

D.L. looked startled. "How could you be a failure? How many seventeen-year-olds have sold a poem?"

"Excuse me, Mr. Lipman." Priscilla glanced around. A woman from the main office stood in the doorway. "You have a call. Can you take it?"

D.L. said to Priscilla, "Don't go away. I'll be right back." But D.L. didn't come right back. Priscilla gathered up her books for the next class as the bell rang. She was leaving just as D.L. came in. "Sorry for the delay," he said.

"That's okay," she said. "It really doesn't matter."

"No, I can see it's still on your mind," he said. "Can you stay?"

Priscilla explained she had to get to science class.

"What about after school?" he asked.

"Well, I have to catch the bus," she told him.

"Tell you what. How about if I meet you for a cup of coffee across the street at the Alley Cat? I can give you a lift home."

Priscilla felt a surge of exhilaration and nearly dropped her books. "Okay," she said with a tremor in her voice. She hurried to science. D.L. had invited her out with him, even if it was only for a cup of coffee. She had never dreamed this would happen. Throughout science class all she could think of was D.L. He was so wonderful, so understanding. Nobody had ever cared as much as D.L. It was just too good to be true. All the guilt she had felt before about having a crush on a teacher dissipated. She no longer cared what other people thought. D.L. was going to meet her, Priscilla Gardner, over at the Alley Cat for coffee.

"I'm not riding the bus home," Priscilla announced to Margie later. "I have a date."

"What! Where? With who... Greg?"

"With whom," Priscilla corrected her. "And no, it's not with him." She lowered her voice as Greg suddenly appeared at his locker.

"Hi," said Greg.

"Hello," said Priscilla.

"Prissy, who, who?" demanded Margie, her voice shrill.

"D.L."

Margie gasped so loud that Greg stared at her. "You're kidding! Lipman asked you out!" She had forgotten to keep her voice down.

Priscilla wanted to crawl into her locker and hide the rest of her life. "Why do you have to broadcast it all the way down the hall?" She was so mad at Margie for that outburst that she slammed her locker door and almost ran down the hall, her cheeks burning.

WHEN PRISCILLA SAT DOWN at a booth in the Alley Cat, she wished she hadn't said anything to Margie. Had there been a hurt look on Greg's face as she left so rudely? He had to have heard. Still lost in her thoughts, Priscilla didn't notice D.L. until he slipped into the seat across from her. It was startling how boyish he suddenly looked now with his hair ruffled and his tie gone.

"Hello, Mr. Lipman," she said.

D.L. greeted her, then brushed the stray strands of blond hair off his forehead. He ordered coffee. Priscilla felt her heart pounding. It was the old D.L. charm, she thought, and met his eyes with a smile.

"I'm really sorry about that phone call," he told her. Priscilla felt like she was being carried away on the softness of his voice. She wanted to close her eyes and float off into oblivion with D.L. His voice soothed her. It made her want to curl up against him and forget everything.

"Cream or sugar?" asked the waitress. Priscilla awoke from her trance. D.L. took his black. Priscilla never drank coffee, so she took hers black, too, and the waitress went away.

"Now, what's been on your mind?" continued the soothing voice. D.L. gazed into her eyes. Priscilla felt goose bumps on her arms. She remembered the sketch she had drawn and wondered if she should show it to him.

"It's not important anymore," she said. She felt hypnotized by those compassionate blue eyes. This must be what it was like to be in love.

"Come on," said D.L., chuckling. "You can tell me. Don't think of me as a teacher."

Priscilla's heart raced. "Oh, I don't," she said.

"Good. Then I won't think of you as a student -- for the time being." He took a sip from his cup. Priscilla lifted the cup to her lips, but blinked. It was too hot. "You said earlier you thought you were a failure," he said. "What did you mean by that?"

Priscilla sighed, the memory of Greg and Saturday night so far away now, so unimportant. She was here with D.L. and nothing else mattered. Any moment now he might confess his love for her. She could tell he had feelings for her. It was obvious. She longed to pour out all she felt for him. Reaching for her folder, she pulled out the sketch she had drawn of D.L. that afternoon.

"What have you got there?" he asked. Without a word, Priscilla showed him. She watched his face as he studied the drawing. "When did you do this?"

"This afternoon," she replied.

D.L. drew in a deep breath, then eyed Priscilla sharply. "You mean you spent class time drawing this?"

Priscilla felt a gush of disappointment flow through her.

"Oh, Dwayne! Dwayne!" a voice rang out. D.L. set the sketch down and Priscilla saw a young woman, a redhead and very pretty, coming toward them. "I hope I'm not too early," she said.

D.L. turned to Priscilla. "Sharon, meet Priscilla Gardner, my star pupil."

"Oh, glad to meet you." Sharon never stopped smiling.

Priscilla felt immobilized. She was in a state of shock.

"Sharon's my fiancee," D.L. said.

"Oh no, I'm interrupting your conference," said Sharon. "Oh, Dwayne, I'm sorry. I'll come back in a few minutes."

But before Sharon could leave, Priscilla grabbed her purse and made an effort to stand up. She almost lost her balance and did manage to spill her coffee. "There's no need," she said as tears flooded her eyes.

"Wait a minute," said D.L. "Priscilla..."

"I'm so sorry," cried Priscilla. She dashed toward the door. Already the sobs escaped her throat and she charged blindly outside. She fought to hold in the storm until she could be alone. She saw a phone booth at a gas station and slipped into it. There she closed the door and stood for a couple of minutes as the sobs broke loose and the tears fell freely from her stinging eyes. Every time she thought of D.L. and Sharon, and the fool she had made of herself, she wanted to die.

"Hey, Priscilla, open up!"

She turned and saw Greg standing outside the phone booth. She wished she could draw a shade or crawl into a corner and hide, but he had already seen her tear-streaked face. Reluctantly, she opened the door.

"What's wrong?" he asked. It was then that she noticed he was dressed in a blue uniform. This must be the gas station where he worked.
"I'll be all right," she sniffed.

Greg whipped out a handkerchief. "Here," he said, "it's clean." Gratefully, she blew her nose. "I tried to talk to you all day," Greg said. "I've got tickets to the university football game next weekend. Do you want to go?"

A veil seemed to lift all around her. She could hardly believe it. Greg was asking her out on a second date. "You mean... you want me to go?"

"I've got the day off... special." Greg flashed one of his irresistible smiles that made his eyes seem browner than ever. Before she could answer him, somebody called Greg's name. He looked over his shoulder, then turned back to her, closing a strong warm hand over her wrist. "Let me talk to my boss a minute. Then I'll drive you home... you missed your bus, didn't you?"

Priscilla stared after him in wonder. A glow warmed everything up inside. He had touched her. There was hope yet.

 

Copyright © 1984 Ann Carol Ulrich. All Rights Reserved.

 

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