The (Almost) Disaster
It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and there was a nice breeze blowing off the ocean.
She was thoroughly enjoying the drive to school. It was her first day at college (well, sort of).
Reb had picked up her beautiful little car two days earlier on her eighteenth birthday. Her little baby wasn’t brand new, but the midnight blue paint job sparkled in the sun as if she was just out of the showroom. Her new car purred like a big cat. She was proud of the job she had done acquiring her sport sedan and was looking forward to meeting her friends after school to take them for a ride.
Buying her first car hadn’t been the best of her plans but the results had more than justified the work she had put in to it. She was really pleased with the way things had turned out with her parents.
She knew that Mom would not let Dad pay for the whole car. Not that money was an issue, but Mom made it a point to protect Dad from his darling daughters on some matters. He was pretty much a pushover when it came to things he could buy to make his girls happy. Mom was a firm believer that things that cost nothing were treated as if they were nothing. She was not about to let anyone treat Dad’s love as nothing, nor the things that Dad did out of love for his girls. It had taken Sarah and Reb a while to learn the lesson, but by the time they had reached their teens they had gotten the point.
The car had not been cheap, but the negotiations with Mom had resulted in a fifty-fifty split on the total ticket. It was a lot, but Reb had planned on having to pay something like that. Also part of the agreement was that Reb was responsible for sales tax, registration and insurance costs. Apart from making sure that she valued her Dad’s gift, it was certain that Mom also wanted to remind that money didn’t grow on trees. That part hurt because it cut in to her allowance, but she was sure that with a little bit of thrift and somewhat better management of her investments she could manage comfortably.
The best part of the whole deal had been persuading Dad to go shopping with her for the car. The whole family had been a little stunned when independent Rebecca, who rarely if ever let anyone in to her dealings, had pleaded ignorance of automobiles and asked Dad to help her make her choice. It had taken a little big-eyed begging and pleading, but Dad had relented pretty quickly and agreed to make time to help her shop.
No one had to know that Reb’s friend Ramey made it a practice to bait her boyfriend hooks with questions and conversation about the wonderful cars they drove. Ramey had helped Reb with her selection at every step of her research. (Ramey had other kinds of bait, too, but those were between Ramey and her boys.)
Most important, Mom had seen through the charade and had said nothing when Reb did more than her usual amount of theatrics to get her way.
There was an ulterior motive to the scheming, but the purpose had been unselfish. Even teenage eyes could tell that Dad was working too hard at the job and needed a break. To most people shopping for cars was a pain, but Dad had always been a hardware sort of guy. It had just taken a little bit of acting to get Dad to help out his little girl pick out a nice, shiny machine.
Reb had done all the homework. Dad just had to show up for trips to the dealerships and look at the few models Reb knew she was interested in. Reb did the driving to the three dealerships she had picked out, and was always famished after their visits so that she and Dad simply had to stop at a nice, nearby restaurant for lunch. It was a sneaky way to get Dad away from the job, but it worked. The result was a happier, healthier Dad and the pretty little blue car she was driving. Reb wasn’t known as the family schemer for nothing.
All in all, things would have been perfect if she had gotten the volleyball scholarship to the University. Reb knew that was a long shot, though. Her friend Stacey and her car expert Ramey (Ramona to her parents) had been sure things. They were the heart of her championship high school team, tall, fast, ball smart and just plain athletic. They deserved the scholarships. She’d known all along that it was unlikely that the U would recruit her too. She just wasn’t as skilled as her friends were. She was also right at the lower limit for height. Reality was that at the University she would be competing against other girls who were just as fast, a little more skilled, and taller than her. She was good at odds, and the odds weren’t with her.
No matter, the U was where she wanted to go for academics anyhow, and she’d just walk on. She didn’t really need the athletic scholarship. Her grades had been more than adequate and she’d been accepted for admission, even with the school’s ridiculously high academic standards. She had turned down their honors program because the curriculum wasn’t very flexible and trying to fit the classes she wanted to take into honors would have been a problem.
The money wasn’t a problem; this was one place where Mom’s usual rules would not apply. Especially with Mom on board concerning the classes she wanted to take.
For Reb the most important thing was to keep her gang together. She thought her chances were good for a little playing time, so she wouldn’t be just a bench warmer. Even if she didn’t make the team, she and her best friends would still be at the same school.
She couldn’t show up out of shape, however, so even with her summer school load at the community college she was planning on swimming regularly to keep fit. She and her girls were also going to play some beach ball one day during the week and on Saturdays. It wasn’t really enough, though, so Ramey and Stace were hoping to find an indoor court they could use a couple of times a week. Might not be doable, but you never knew until you tried.
The beach volleyball would be a real kick. Reb was sure they would attract a nice crowd of boys, and after all the time she had put in on school and athletics it was high time she found some good looking male company who could help her with a little, um, experience.
Lost in thought about the future, Reb started her turn into the campus parking lot and almost hit a boy crossing the driveway. She slammed on the brakes and they stared at one another for a second, both contemplating the barely averted catastrophe. After a moment the boy stepped back, took off his baseball cap, bowed and with a wide sweep of his arm he waved her in with it, smiling ironically. Reb smiled apologetically and mouthed the word “Sorry”. Then she slowly proceeded into the parking lot.
Reb mentally kicked herself. Daydreaming while driving was not a good thing and she had been dancing in the clouds for nearly her entire drive. It was a beautiful day but that was no excuse. Dad would have been really unhappy if she had managed to dent her new car with a body. Talk about a mess!
Alex had a long walk to the community college but he didn’t mind the walk at all. He had to walk everywhere at the Institute back east, and his first year had been cold and snow-packed. Compared to that a walk near his home was almost a walk in the park, even in a warm summer. He could use the exercise, too.
He had almost stayed at the Institute during the summer. There were some good lab jobs open and he had been tempted. He could have used the money and it would have saved the cost of travel both ways. He was more than a little homesick by the end of spring term, however, and while the job experience on campus would have been great he really wanted to come home.
Besides, if he’d stayed on campus he was pretty sure he would have run into Ariel. At this point in their sort-of relationship that was something he didn’t want to do.
At a place like the Institute, where eighty-five percent of the enrollment and about the same of faculty were male, a good-looking woman like Ariel had her pick of the litter. And pick she did. The word on her among the upper classmen was that aside from particle physics, Ariel’s primary activity was the education and training of bright young freshmen in the fine art of sex. The catch for the boys was that Ariel offered a one-term seminar. When the term ended, Ariel expected the student to make room for the next young man to be mentored.
Ariel was a PhD student in her fourth year on campus, and the word was that five freshmen had attended her special seminar (two in one year somewhere along the line). Alex became the sixth.
Ariel taught one of the elementary physics sections that were left to the doctoral students. It was that kind of place; if a grad student couldn’t teach a freshman physics class then he/she didn’t belong at the Institute. Regular faculty were too busy and too important to expose themselves to freshmen. It was a mandatory class for hard science majors and freshmen took the class they were scheduled into. No options and no questions.
The first day of class was almost funny. There were a few girls his age in his section, but tall, blond, and shapely Ariel was far and away the prettiest thing in the room. That made it tough on the young men in class that first day, but after that what made it tough was Ariel kicking the intellectual butts of virtually every student in the section. Not only was she good looking, she was very good in her field.
Even though Alex was a bit young to be a freshman he completed his first semester at the Institute in good order. He really didn’t get to know Ariel during the class; they had spoken a few times but it was all about the work and there was nothing social about it. As a matter of fact he really didn’t know her when she drafted him into her special seminar. Being just past eighteen when he was drafted, he was a bit clueless. He didn’t realize he was one of a series until almost half way through the spring term. By then it didn’t really matter.
Ariel never brought someone on who was currently taking an Institute class from her. For Alex she waited until the start of spring term, when his section was taken over by another PhD student. Alex never did know exactly how he had gotten picked, but Ariel had an eye for academic survivors who were reasonably good looking, had some talent for social situations, were fast learners and looked like they could satisfy her physical needs. Alex qualified on all four criteria. Thus it was that one weekend early in the spring term of his freshman year Ariel invited him over to her apartment to talk about his academic future. After a bit of wine and a bit of socializing, Alex found himself in his very first class on the practical aspects of sex. He had plenty of theory and he was a healthy young male, so taking Ariel up on her offer was really a foregone conclusion.
Alex was in Ariel’s special class for a couple of nights each week until the end of spring term. Ariel was very good at picking students who were going to be successful and Alex was no exception. He never found out what his grade was, but if a letter grade had somehow been necessary Ariel would have given him an A. From an experienced young woman like Ariel, that would have been high praise.
Like all good things, and especially good things taught by Ariel, his relationship with her had to end. It was over shortly after the end of the term. That definitely hurt a bit but by that time Alex understood the rules of Ariel’s class. Passing out of Ariel’s hands only hurt a little; for a variety of reasons Ariel wasn’t the girl for him. There was no whining and there were no tears, and Alex appreciated Ariel’s special one-man class for what it was. Certainly there was no question that Ariel’s teachings would come in handy someday.
His experience with Ariel was still rather fresh in his mind and still a somewhat painful recollection when he enrolled at the community college back home to pick up some practical skills that he needed. As he walked to school, thoughts of Ariel popped into his head pretty frequently. He wasn’t really paying much attention to the walk. He stepped off to cross the parking lot driveway that morning, when a dark blue sport sedan came to a sudden stop about a foot short of him. Thoughts of Ariel had almost gotten him killed.
The driver of the car and he stared at one another for a second, both contemplating the barely averted catastrophe. Alex stepped back and looked at the driver, who appeared to be a rather nice looking girl in sunglasses. In a quickly conceived twist of humor he took off his baseball cap and waved her in with it, smiling ironically. It helped to settle his nerves and he thought it might help the frightened driver, as well. The girl smiled apologetically and mouthed the word “Sorry”. Then she slowly proceeded into the parking lot.
After the crisis had been averted Reb wished she had gotten a better look at her near-victim. Definitely not the kind of boy one should throw away (or run over). On the tall, slender side, with light, almost blond hair and a really nice face. The ironic smile had been cute as well as funny in a near-miss sort of way. If this one was a sample of the boys on campus it might be a very good summer for boy shopping.
Over the next few days it seemed like they were both on the same schedule. Each day Reb would be about to turn into the campus parking lot, and each day the boy would just be walking up to the corner. Depending on the exact relationship, one or the other of them would cross the campus driveway, she into the parking lot or he down the sidewalk. It got to be a rather nice game; the boy would wave her in with an ever-more elegant wave of his cap, or she would smile and wave him across the driveway.
Their game went on to the end of the week, but on Monday he wasn’t at the driveway and she hadn’t seen him walking along the street. Worse, she hadn’t seen him on campus at all. Reb found she was a little disappointed.