Living with my grandmother was nothing to brag about. Soap operas and early dinners shaped my life into a boring interpretation of what I thought it should be. Work at a nearby gas station helped get me out of the house for a few hours at a time, but the bulk was spent sitting home being unproductive. In short, I relaxed like a professional.
Once in a while when feeling lonely I would think about someone from my past. Her name’s Judy and in high school she was the only person I was interested in. Senior year we had a class together and I was able to gather enough nerve to talk to her. We became friends and spent all our time together.
The summer after high school she moved with her parents and I didn’t see her again until I was twenty-five; which is the beginning of this story.
I knew my grandmother would be gone by the time I got home from work, so I was anxious to get back and have the television all to myself. It was Friday afternoon and she wouldn’t be home until Sunday, the house was mine to do as I wished.
I locked the front door and entered the kitchen to get something to eat. After making a sandwich I sat down at the dining room table and saw the note my grandmother had left. It read just like they always did: the number of where she’d be, and instructions on how to heat the dinners she had prepared for me. All was normal until I reached the last line. Judy had called. It was her aunt’s number, which meant she was in town.
I finished my sandwich then turned on the television. Not being able to find anything of interest, I turned to the soap operas. I was trying to ignore the note in my hand, but was unable. The phone next to the television seemed to taunt me, daring me to call. My mind was reeling a thousand thoughts a minute, yet all seemed calm.
Leaving the note by the phone, I went upstairs into the bathroom and stripped to my underwear. Getting down on the cold tile I did as many push-ups as my body could handle (somewhere between nine and thirteen). With nervousness in my stomach I turned the shower on cold and stepped in; beginning the psychological preparation I needed to make the call.
Sadly, one of my only personal possessions was a high school yearbook. The reason I kept it being the pictures of Judy. I sat starring at it as I had a million times before, my eyes occasionally glancing over to the note next to the phone.
Thoughts of how different she must be and look after so many years passed through my mind. She still had to be gorgeous; there was no doubt in that, but people change. I felt like I was preparing for a job interview. What if I wasn’t good enough? What if she was a normal, successful adult? How could she take my life seriously? I couldn’t even take my life seriously.
I closed the yearbook and went into the kitchen to check the lasagna. As I turned the oven off the phone rang. I stood froze until the answering machine picked up.
“Charlie, its Judy…from high school. I called earlier today…”
I took a deep breath as I walked into the living room and picked up the phone.
“This must seem pretty random? Me calling you after all these years.”
Her voice sounded the same as I remembered.
“Seven years isn’t that long.” I said, trying to come across cool and collected.
She asked whom I still stayed in touch with and I thought of lying, but decided against it.
“I wasn’t friends with many people, remember?”
“You were friends with me.”
I thought of all the hours I’d spent thinking of her over the years.
“What brings you back to town?”
“Well, I was wondering if you would like to get together. There’s something I’d like to ask you, and I would feel more comfortable in person.”
With just lasagna and an empty house, I decided to take a chance.
“If you want to come over here tonight, that wouldn’t be a problem.”
“I just got into town this morning and I’m planning on taking it easy, how about in the morning?”
“Morning sounds great.”
“I’m at my aunt’s house on the lake.”
Memories of the two of us swimming in that lake are possibly my favorite.
“I’ll be over a little after nine.” I said.
“Thank you… this must seem strange, but...”
I had a hundred questions I wanted to ask her.
“What’s strange about calling an old friend? I’ll be over in the morning.”
“Good night, and thanks again.”
She hung up before I could say goodbye.
I tossed and turned all night. I got up with the dawn and began cleaning around the house; not wanting to show up at Judy’s to early. When the clock said eight thirty, it was time to go. The walk took longer than I expected, which gave me time to go over what I would say. I wasn’t sure why she wanted to see me, but I didn’t care. All I knew was that I wanted to see her.
I reached the house and knocked on the front door. Judy’s aunt answered and recognized me instantly. After a brief catching up, she told me Judy was in back by the water.
In a bathing suit on the grass, Judy lay tanning in the morning sun. Every cool thing I had thought up to say on the walk over left my mind as I starred at my high school crush. She had her hair pulled back like she used to, dark sunglasses on, and a glass of water next to her. With her not knowing I was there, I took the liberty of admiring her as one might admire a painting in a museum: slowly, and with as much attention to detail as possible.
Reaching for her glass of water she saw me standing and motioned for me to come over.
“I’m so glad you’re here.” She said, standing up and holding her arms out wide for a hug. “It’s been so long.”
“It’s really nice to see you.” I was able to say as I wrapped my arms around her exposed body. My heart beat so heavy I thought she was going to feel it against her chest.
We sat down in the grass and began talking about how the last time we had seen each other was right here at her aunt’s house. I remember the day perfectly.
Throughout our conversation I desperately wanted to ask her to remove her sunglasses, but didn’t feel it was an appropriate question.
“Are you hungry?” She said. “There’s food inside, or we could go out to get something if you’d like.”
I was hungry, but didn’t want to encourage her to put on cloths. The bathing suit meant more than the rumblings of my stomach.
“I’m all right if you’re all right.” I said. “Lets just sit her for a while…it’s relaxing.”
“I think it is to.” She said.
She asked what I had been up to over the years and I hesitated, not knowing what I should say. I was never a good liar so I just told her the truth.
“I’m still living with my grandmother…working part time…I like to read…and somehow I’ve become a fan of soap operas.”
She looked at me a moment then started laughing.
“Well that sounds very nice. I always liked your grandmother. How has she been?”
“Good. She’s gone for the weekend with some friends of hers, so I’ve got the house all to myself.” As I said it I hoped she wouldn’t think I was trying to entice her or something along those lines.
“All to yourself, huh? Maybe tonight I could come over, if you don’t mind. Hanging out here can get kind of boring.”
“Yeah, shouldn’t be a problem, isn’t a problem, sounds like a plan.” I cursed myself for being overeager.
“I’m kind of hungry,” She said smiling. “Do you want to go inside and make some breakfast?”
I agreed and we got up to go into the house. She walked a few feet ahead of me and I mentally took as many pictures of her body as I could, knowing once inside she would change into normal cloths.
As I sat in the dining room, memories started hitting me. Being in that house again was something I never thought would happen. Seeing Judy again was something I never thought would happen. She emerged from the bathroom wearing a tank top and shorts. To my disappointment she still had on her sunglasses.
We cooked eggs together and then sat on the back porch looking out over the water. The conversation came easy. We spoke of mostly trivial stuff like movies and television, but the content of the talk didn’t matter to me. It was good to know there was still a comfort between us.
“I promised my aunt I would go to the store with her. What time do you want me to come over tonight?”
It was only ten thirty in the morning. I didn’t want to seem like I had nothing to do all day, but the thought of waiting to see her seemed torturous.
“Whatever is best for you. The earlier the better, I’d like to catch up.” I felt I handled that well.
“I’ll be over around six thirty then. Is that good?”
She walked me to the end of the driveway and gave me another hug.
“It’s really great to see you.” She said.
“Definitely. I’m glad you called.”
I turned to start my walk home, then turned back to her.
“Wasn’t there something you wanted to ask me?”
“Tonight.” She said.
“Judy, can I see your eyes before I go.” It felt like a dumb question, but she was still wearing sunglasses.
“Tonight.” She said again.
“Six thirty.” I said, and started my walk home.
At seven o’clock I started to worry. The house was clean, dinner was cooking, and I could think of nothing else to pass the time. I picked up the phone then put it back down. Maybe after this morning she changed her mind about seeing me.
As I thought about taking another quick shower there was a knock on the door.
“Sorry I’m a little late.” She said as I let her in. “My aunt can really get talking.”
For the first time in years I was able to look into her eyes. They were as I remembered except she seemed to be wearing heavier makeup. It took me a moment to realize she was concealing a black eye.
“Something smells great. Are you cooking?”
“Meatloaf. It’s just about ready.”
Sitting at the dining room table, we talked as easily as we had in the morning. She ate slowly and kept complementing my culinary skills. I explained how my grandmother had left it and I had just heated it up.
“Still, you’ve got to know when to take it out of the oven.”
I took the compliment. I had heated it perfectly.
After eating we washed our dishes. Standing next to her at the sink I had a vision of what married life might be like. In the living room we sat on the couch and turned the television on. I scanned the channels hoping to find a romantic comedy when Judy asked if we could listen to music instead.
My grandmas’ record collection was quite extensive. Although it contained nothing produced within the last forty years I was confident I’d find something appropriate.
“Is this all right?” I said, placing the needle on the record.
Softly a man’s voice came thorough the speakers, singing of love the way they did in the forties.
“It’s very relaxing.” She said as she kicked off her shoes. “Remember the dance?”
Of course I did.
“You were always so kind to me. I always felt comfortable with you.”
“Would you like to dance now?” I said.
She stood and we started slowly turning in circles around the living room.
“I haven’t danced in years.” She said, placing her head on my chest.
She was the last person I had danced with.
“Judy, how come you never called?”
“I did.” She said. “I called today.”
Naked, I went to the bathroom and started the shower. Judy lay in my bed, a sheet covering her from the waist down. Standing in the doorway I watched as she took a pack of cigarettes out of her purse. I had never seen her smoke before.
“Do you mind?”
“Whatever you want.” I said.
She lit it and took a deep drag.
I could air it out before my grandmother got home.
We got in the shower and the water washed away her makeup. Her black eye was worse than I had thought. We made out for a while then turned the shower off and got out.
“Is it all right if I call my aunt and tell her I won’t be back tonight?”
“I’ll meet you back in bed.”
In the dark and under the blankets, she rested her head on my shoulder. I was glad the lights were out because I knew how goofy I must have looked smiling from ear to ear.
She rubbed my chest and I had to fight the urge to weep for joy.
“About what I wanted to ask you.”
Her voice was soft in the quiet room.
“It’s going to seem like a silly question, but…”
She tensed slightly then relaxed, her fingers making small designs on my stomach.
“You can ask me whatever you want.” I said.
“Did you love me?”
“I do love you, Judy.”
She began gently sobbing and I tightened my hold on her. With nothing more to say, we fell asleep in each other’s arms.
I woke up alone a little before nine. I looked around the house expecting a note but found nothing. After having some breakfast I called Judy’s aunt’s house.
“I gave her a ride to the bus station early this morning.” Her aunt said. “She said she would contact you soon.”
Four years later, Judy called again.