“Hi, Tim,” Leslie said, as she dashed off to History class one Thursday morning.
“Hi, Leslie,” I replied, with a lump in my throat. Leslie Morgan’s necklace sparkled, and I gazed in awe at her attractive bracelet as her cell phone ringtone wafted my way. My pulse raced, and my body froze when I saw her. Here it is, the 11th of June, and I still haven’t asked Leslie out. I’m crazy about her, and school will be out in less than two weeks. We friended each other on Facebook in April, but people friend each other at the drop of a hat. Time is moving, and I’ve got to act fast.
That night I tossed and turned, wondering how I’d get the nerve to ask her out on a date. Should I call her, leave a note, or send her a rose? Leslie has wavy auburn hair, the kind that turns bronze in the sunlight. I longed to hold her hand, gaze into her eyes, and watch the sunset at Pinehenge Park with her. I was truly smitten.
The next morning I saw her in the hall as she was leaving History class.
“Leslie, how are you doing,” I asked haltingly. My tongue was in a knot.
“Pretty well, Tim,” Leslie replied with a fragile smile.
“Leslie, what are you doing this summer?” I asked, straining for something to say.
“I’ll be working at Camp Laurel for the Handicapped. Since I’ll be majoring in Special Education in college, I thought I’d get some experience in the field. What are your plans for the summer?”
“I’m going to apply at the radio station, since I’m such a music buff. Maybe I’ll get a deejay job. By the way, Leslie, when’s your birthday? Isn’t it in July?
“It’s July 14th. I’ll be at camp then. It’ll be fun. Tim, I’ve got to get to Trig class. See you on Monday,” she said, as she slipped away–again.
All weekend I thought about Leslie Morgan. Leslie’s a genuine and down-to-earth girl, unlike a lot of girls at school. The problem is she’s dating Dave Donahue from the baseball team. He’s always dumping her, only to make up again. Leslie’s blind to Dave, always giving him one more chance. She deserves better, and I’m it. Now, if I could only ask her out!
The following Tuesday I ran into my friend Perez Garcia. “Perez, how did you hook up with Pat Caffrey last year? I have this huge crush on Leslie Morgan from History class, but every time I see her, I get tongue-tied.”
“I was helping Pat study for an English exam last June. She got a 93, and she couldn’t have been happier. We started dating right after that.”
“But Leslie doesn’t need any help with History. She always aces the tests, getting 95’s or 100’s. I just don’t know what to say to her. What if Dave finds out?”
“Ask her to the movies. Joan of Arc is opening this weekend, and it’s going to be a blockbuster, like Cars last year. Good luck, and I’ll catch ya later.”
I kept putting off asking Leslie out. What if she said no? That thought unnerved me. I rehearsed lines in my mind, making sure I didn’t trip on my words. The lines went like this:
“Leslie, how would you like to go to see Joan of Arc Saturday night?
“Leslie, do you want to go out for an ice cream Friday night?”
“Hi, Leslie, would you like to meet over at Pinehenge Park?” The lines came out so effortlessly, but of course, Leslie wasn’t around.
Two days later Perez cornered me in the hall. “So Tim, did you ask Leslie out?”
“No, not yet,” I replied.
“Time is ticking. Tomorrow is the last day of classes.”
The sands were slipping through the hourglass in my mind, and I felt more helpless with each grain that passed through.
The next day at lunch I overheard Leslie and Dave talking. They said something about Pinehenge Park and 6 o’clock. So I decided to take a stroll down to the park to do a little innocent spying.
A lot of the gang goes down to the park to hang out, and it’s always fun shooting the breeze with friends. The oaks and maples were in full bloom, it was 75 degrees, and I needed a study break. As I was walking down a tree-flanked path, I began to hear two familiar voices over a din of rock music. The voices belonged to Leslie and Dave. I decided to hide behind an oak tree across the way and eavesdrop. I’d seen them together before but usually in a group. I’d never seen them alone at Pinehenge Park.
“Leslie, be there at 9.”
“I’ve got to study, Dave. Exams are next week.”
“Study, study, study! That’s all you ever do! I was hoping we’d hang out with the guys after the game, then we could get it going later on. You’d better produce for me tonight–I’ve waited long enough. What’ll I tell the guys if you don’t show? “
Why does Leslie put up with his nonsense? I thought.
“Dave, your friends are superficial creeps. I’m not a piece of meat for you to devour.”
“Don’t give me that baloney. It’s a man’s world–women were made for men, and girls were made for boys. It’s biological manifest destiny. Give me some tonight, or it’ll be over!”
I was seething inside. The girl of my dreams was right in front of me, and she was with a louse. Meanwhile, the argument was escalating. If only I had Leslie’s cell number, I could go behind a tree nearby, and that’d distract Dave.
“Don’t bother, Dave. I’ve finally seen you for what you are. I was naive for a long time. You seemed all right at first–you’re handsome and athletic, but you’re pushy and I don’t like that. I’m saving my first time for someone I really like.”
I respected Leslie for standing up to Dave. I too am a virgin, and I plan to wait until I’m married, regardless of what the guys say. Meanwhile, the quarrel raged on:
“I’ll find another girl before you find another guy. Julie Jensen is willing, and so is Kelly White.”
“Then go ahead and see Julie,” Leslie said sharply. “She’s more your speed anyway. And one more thing, Tim–get a life!
“Don’t talk to me like that. I’m Dave Donahue,” he snarled, as he grabbed Leslie’s knapsack and unzipped it. Her books and papers tumbled out. He then shoved her to the ground. Leslie’s face turned white, and tears began to stream down her cheeks. Adrenaline shot through my body.
“Let her be, you lowlife,” I shouted, as I emerged from my hiding place, 50 feet away.
“Just who are you, nerdface?” Dave sneered.
“I hate to see a girl treated like that,” I said firmly.
Leslie was still crying but managed to smile weakly at me.
“One way or another, you’re going to give it to me. Hopefully, we can get it over with tonight, because I want it,” Dave said, menacingly. “Anyway, I’ve got to cruise. The game starts at 7. You know where to be tonight. I’ll be waiting,” Dave said with a sly grin. Leslie gave Dave an icy stare as he walked toward his car.
I was finally alone with Leslie. I picked up her books and papers, which were strewn all over the grass. I noticed her skin was still pale. “Leslie, are you all right,” I asked quietly.
“O.K., just a little dizzy,” she said, as she slowly regained her composure.
“Has he tried to come on to you before tonight,” I asked.
“A few times, but he’s all talk. He did scare me this time; he’d never done anything like this. He’s probably stressed out because of the big game. It’s over between us anyhow, and summer’s coming. I’ll be glad to get to camp.”
“Leslie, I was wondering if we could go to the ice cream parlor,” I said quickly.
“My treat! I owe you one,” Leslie said emphatically. I don’t know what he would have done if you hadn’t shown up. He’s got a temper, and he’s getting more controlling.”
We talked for an hour at Marty’s Ice Cream Parlor nearby.
“Leslie, do you know about the Teens Against Violence Coalition? Students started to meet a month after the Columbine shooting in 1999. We talk about combating all sorts of violence, from shootings to bullying to date rape,” I said. “Olinda Jackson is the one to speak to about violent boyfriends.”
“Maybe I’ll call her this weekend,” Leslie replied.
I walked Leslie home, and I encouraged her to call or e-mail me. The next few days passed quickly, and I took my exams. After five days, I decided to give Leslie a call to see how she was doing. For 30 minutes I stalled, as I approached the phone, then shied away. I wish I had Leslie’s e-mail, because e-mail is a godsend for shy people. As it stood, I was a shy person with only a phone number. Sure, I could send Leslie a letter, but she’ll be leaving for camp any day. Finally, I dialed the number.
“Leslie, this is Tim McDonald. I was wondering how you’ve been doing since last Friday.”
“Pretty well–very busy getting ready for camp. Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you-I’ve been so busy! I’ll be back from camp in two months. I’ll be in touch in late August!”
Late August was two long months away. I had to see her before then.
Meanwhile, I had gotten a job cleaning at the local top-40 station. It wasn’t a deejay job, but it was a start.
The next two weeks went by slowly. There was a hit song out, “Yours for Life,” by Sara Stanley, which reminded me of Leslie. Sara sounds like a cross between Mariah Carey and a female John Mayer. Since the song knocked me out, I requested it every night, hoping she’d hear it and call me. I wasn’t sure if Leslie would be listening to the radio at camp, as it was hard to pick up a local station so far away. I kept requesting the song, though.
I made up my mind that I had to see Leslie on her birthday. I decided I would surprise her at camp that day. By the time the 14th of July rolled around, I was wired. I was even losing weight. The night before Leslie’s birthday I tossed and turned. How would the next day turn out?
Saturday the 14th arrived, at last. Luckily, I had the day off from work. I was planning to leave for Camp Laurel at noon with Mike O’Connor.
“Tim, where are you going today,” my mom asked, shortly after I’d gotten up and showered.
“I’m going to visit a friend at Camp Laurel. I’m going up with Mike, and he’s driving, so I won’t need the car today. I’m paying Mike 7 bucks for gas.
“Be sure to get some breakfast. It’s going to be a hot one today,” my mom reminded me.
“I’ll grab some toast and juice,” I said quickly.
While slipping the bread slices into the toaster, I thought about that Sara Stanley tune again. It was just the kind of song Leslie would like: folk-tinged pop. It was our song, though she didn’t know it yet.
Mike and I left at noon sharp. We arrived at the camp at one.
“They’ve got to be swimming now,” I said, perspiring.
“They usually go in around 1:30,” Mike replied, clutching his towel and preparing to make a mad dash for the lake. “Everybody will be in today–that sun’s a razor, and it’s 90 degrees.”
We headed for the lobby.
“I’m looking for a Leslie Morgan who works here,” I asked the receptionist, a dark-skinned Puerto Rican girl named Maria Rodriguez. “She’s a counselor, and today’s her birthday.”
“You’re out of luck. Leslie went to the shore with some of her friends. It was her day off.”
My face fell when I heard that.
“As long as you guys are here, you might as well go for a swim. Salvage something,” Maria offered.
“Yes, yes,” Mike said merrily, eyeing Maria. I was in the dumps because I was going to miss out on Leslie-and the Jersey shore was 200 miles away!
“Come on, Tim, let’s go for a swim. Just leave a note for Les after we’re done,” Mike said.
I reluctantly walked to the dressing room. After suiting up, however, we were in the water in ten seconds flat. While we were swimming, I was thinking about what I’d write to Leslie in that note. Mike couldn’t stop talking about Maria the receptionist-love at first sight?!
After we were done and dressed, we went back to the lobby. I borrowed a pen and a piece of paper, and wrote:
I know you will be surprised to hear from me. I wanted to visit you on your birthday, but you had gone for the weekend. I hope you had a good day. Please drop me a line.
Sincerely, Tim McDonald
“That note’s too generic,” Mike chided.
“But it’s sincere-and that’s what she likes,” I retorted.
After waiting for Mike to finish chatting with Maria, we decided to head back, stopping by Perez Garcia’s on the way back. After hanging out and eating pizza with Perez and Pat, Mike dropped me off at my house.
A few days passed. I buried myself in my work. I wasn’t sure if Leslie would write back. I lost another two pounds.
“Tim, I’ve set up an appointment with Dr. French. He’s awfully good to talk to,” Mom said.
“I’m fine. I have a crush on some girl, that’s all,” I said impatiently.
“But all you do is work and think about that girl. She’s not the only fish.”
“That’s such a cliché,” I replied. “Besides, Leslie’s unique. She’s an amazing writer and artist-not your average fish in the sea.”
“There’ll be others,” Mom said, brushing it off.
There was no one like Leslie.
My sister Joanne went to get the mail. When she came back, I asked her if I’d gotten anything.
“Let’s see: the phone bill, a Wendy’s ad, a Justin Timberlake Fan Club newsletter for me, Baseball Digest for Dad, Better Homes and Gardens for Mom, and a letter for you from a Morgan with a Laurel, Pennsylvania postmark.
“Morgan?! Laurel?! That’s Leslie’s last name, and that’s where she works,” I gasped.
I ran to my room. My pulse raced, and my legs trembled as I tore open the envelope. I then read:
Thanks for remembering my birthday-what a great surprise! It was so good to hear from you. It gets lonely up here, even though we’re busy all the time. I’d like you to come up for a visit sometime next month. And maybe we can catch the sunset at Pinehenge.
“Cancel that appointment with Dr. French. And Mom? May I have the car next Saturday?
Contributed by aspiring romance writer Sid Tierney.