(This story started here
“I sort of got into a fight today,” Sharon said quietly.
She had been silent for a few minutes before saying this and I’d started to doze off, but I raised my head to look at her.
I’d been exploring some areas of her body with pretty close attention over the previous hour or two, and I hadn’t seen any bruises.
“Please don’t tell me I have to go out and beat somebody up to defend your honor,” I said.
She examined my face, squinting in the dim light from the window. We’d been together for a few weeks at this point, long enough for her to start to learn some ways of telling when I was trying to be funny.
We were lying in my narrow bed. She was naked, and I was wearing my T-shirt and boxers. It was a warm night, and the sheet was only pulled up to her waist. In the moonlight, her golden skin looked like it was glowing, and her pale eyes seemed to have no pupils at all.
“It wasn’t a real fight, with fists,” she explained seriously. “It was with Professor Potter. He’s had trouble with a student who lives in U-town — she doesn’t always show up for class, hands in her assignments late, that sort of trouble — and he started saying things about U-town, things which aren’t true. I didn’t know whether I should, but I raised my hand and I said that it’s not right for him to generalize in that way, since I live in U-town and I’m always in class and I always do my work.
“He said something about people who live there are all freaks, and I objected to that, too, but then some people started to laugh, so I sat down.”
She looked, for her, really upset. She never cried, but she looked pretty unhappy. I suddenly knew that the next thing which had happened, which she didn’t want to say, was that somebody had mentioned me, in connection with the category “freak.”
“People don’t understand about U-town, I guess — people who haven’t been there.” I shrugged. “I’m curious about it myself.”
“You are?” she said. “You could come and visit, if you want to. Would you like to?”
I nodded. “Yes, absolutely. Whenever is good for me to come.”
“You could come tomorrow, tomorrow night,” she said. That was Friday, when she’d be going home anyway. “Craig will be making his baked fish for dinner — it’s really good.”
“I don’t want to impose–“
She smiled. “He’ll make extra.”
This was typical of us. We could talk frankly about war and peace and psychology and music and everything else, but when it came to each other we always tiptoed, as if the whole thing might turn out to be as fragile as a soap bubble.
Well, our weekend in U-town put an end to that, and to some other things as well.
When I woke up in the morning, with Sharon wrapped around me like a very friendly octopus as usual, I wondered about something.
U-town, quite famously, had no telephones. How was Sharon going to let her brother know that company was coming and he should make more of his excellent baked fish?
After my last class, we walked together to the bridge as we did every week, but this time, instead of giving her a goodbye hug, I started up the bridge with her. She took my hand as we walked up the incline.
We’d never held hands before, and, knowing her, she had thought long and hard about making this move. She might even have drawn a line down the center of a page of looseleaf paper, using a ruler to make sure it was straight, and made a list of pros and cons.
She didn’t look at me as she took my hand, but I was careful to squeeze her hand as we walked, to let her know that this was okay (to say the least) with me.
I suddenly wondered how her brothers were going to feel about us sleeping together in their house. Obviously she was a college student and not a kid, but brothers can be weird about that sort of thing, and I knew they were a very close family.
Well, I’d deal with that if it came up. The important part to me was that she was bringing me to meet her family. She’d never talked about her parents and I’d always had idea that they were dead, so meeting her brothers was a pretty definite statement that I was her boyfriend. And she was my girlfriend.
I squeezed her hand again as we reached the top of the bridge. In the back of my mind, always, was the question of my parents. Thanksgiving break was coming, inevitably, and I know they expected that I would come for a visit, for the long weekend.
Well, that was weeks (fewer and fewer weeks, of course) away, and here I was nearly over the bridge to U-town and I wasn’t even paying attention.
More to come…