Deke stayed in town longer than he intended. He'd worked until almost seven o’clock that evening at the local College for Young Ladies, and was hungry. He would get dinner at Molly’s, the local Roadhouse, and head home after that. His dog, left with old Mrs. Walker, would be okay, and so would the other one, which had full run of his property.
Molly’s place was a hangout for soldiers, and a certain kind of woman once the evening advanced, but he wouldn’t be here that long. There was only one young woman who interested him and she wouldn’t be seen dead in a place like this.
It would soon become too noisy for comfort, but he was a people watcher. It was interesting to study others when they did not know they were being watched. He liked to see and understand their expressions, gesticulations, and their body language toward each other as the beer flowed, and the inhibitions loosened. The competition to latch on to the prettiest, or most uninhibited and unattached female in the room, heated up in proportion to the noise, and the crush of bodies. Words were unimportant in this place. Everyone knew why you were here after a certain time of the evening. You were here either to get laid, or to do the laying.
The room began to fill up from the army base before he had finished eating almost half an hour later. That was when he noticed two women who seemed out of place. They were much too young to be here, and probably were under-age, but they looked to be able to handle themselves. And then he saw a third. She, the last one, was uncomfortable, did not want to be here, and looked to be very much out of place. This was not the place for her, and she didn’t want to be here, didn’t want to be seen and kept out of the way, anxious to leave. She was unsteady on her feet, having difficulty focusing, and may have been drugged. She didn’t look the type to take drugs. She also looked vaguely familiar in that poorly lit environment.
Deke watched and waited. They were all heavily made up. Too heavily. It fooled no one. Some of those girls from the college, which was where these three came from, were worse than whores, and too expensive, though they were free. Some of them, a handful of them, were whores, morally, if not professionally, but there were bad apples in every barrel. The first two fitted in that category. The third didn’t. They were jailbait; but only if you got caught with them, or they complained.
They were from the nearby New Bristol College for Young Ladies. Though not all of them in that College were ladies, as he well knew considering the mischievous and personal tricks too many of them sometimes tried to play on him to tempt him while he was working around the school. He knew enough not to respond in any way on those occasions, and not to allow himself to get trapped in any isolated place with any of them without a teacher, or a trusted pair of older girls to guard him. Some of them were man-crazed and sex-mad. The rest of them were just curious about him. He was the only young, handsome man in the college, and he worked there at least two days a week on their security systems, rewiring the entire school to bring the electrical system up to code, and the remainder of the week on other things throughout the building, as they were brought to his attention.
He usually ate in the college cafeteria each lunch time, along with the few other, older men who looked after the school, so he thought he should recognize these three girls, young women, and he thought he did. One, of the three, her again, was out of her depth, uncomfortable and obvious, while trying to stay back and out of sight. She had come in a few minutes after her friends, and just wanted to leave. She was animatedly telling them so, but they ignored her, wanting to hear none of that. They were arguing. She wanted to get out of here and go back to the college, but she couldn’t leave alone. They must have come in the car of one of them, or a taxi.
No, they'd not come by taxi, or she would have got the driver to take her back to the school. Her school clothes would also be in their car, so she would have to stay and tough it out until they decided to leave, which might not be for a few hours. Or longer. She was trapped!
He eventually recognized all three of them with some surprise after a few minutes of observing them, but couldn’t put names to the first two. As he had guessed, they were all from the college, just eight miles away.
The one of them that regretted being there, despite her maturity, and whom he easily recognized now, looked uncomfortable. He eventually saw the young woman beyond the dress and behind the make-up, though it had taken him a few minutes of watching her. She was Susan Arnhold. He knew her name; knew her well, very well, and was surprised to see her here. He stood up immediately and was about to go over to her when he hesitated and sat down again. There was more happening here than there should be, and he had better be cautious.
She knew him too, but she had not yet seen him, and she would be shocked and embarrassed when she saw him there and would know that she had been recognized. This was the last place he would have expected her to be, or that she wanted to be, he knew that, and he would not judge her for this until he knew more, but he also knew that he had to get her out of here and rescue her at any cost.
This, where she was now, was somehow beyond her control, he could see that, and it had not been of her choosing.
He’d had lunch with her in the cafeteria not eight hours ago. They had sat and relaxed next to each other, as they usually did as they talked, their legs touching, an occasional light touch on a knee or hand. If they sat opposite each other, they sometimes allowed their feet to touch. Their eyes, as they met, told each other, and those who were able to observe them, more of the same timeless story. They were in love, but had not yet spoken of it to each other, and the restrictive college environment was not a place where they could speak openly of such things or be more demonstrative with each other, as it was obvious they soon would be, and that time was approaching. It was daring enough, and already pushing the boundaries that they dared have lunch together, but with the entire school as chaperone and closely attentive to them, what might they dare do?
She was shy, as he was, but neither of them were as shy with each other as they had been almost a year ago. It had been a particularly difficult event that had taken them both decisively beyond that, thrown them together in a memorable and revolutionary way, and set them on a track of getting to know each other better, and being able to talk to each other. That memory seemed unreal now. They had been thrown together so intimately, but that same event had also forcing them both to step back from the precipice they both teetered upon. They understood what had come so close to happening between them, what actually had happened, but knew that it must get back to that first step, rather than that they both leap off into free-fall, into the unknown abyss, after giving in to total intimacy. They backed off.
Their friendship had grown steadily from there. He often spoke with Susan now as he joined her in the cafeteria for lunch, or she joined him; their shared secret, where they had almost made love in the heat of that memorable moment, unspoken, but always there. Almost made love? They had made love, no mistaking that but never to completion, and it had been too soon for them both, so they both had to put it behind them no matter how much they needed to speak about it. In just a few days time, when school finished for the year, they would go back to that moment in time and speak fully about their feelings for each other, which had only grown, but not yet. Not until she finally graduated and left the college, which would be in a few day's time when term, and the school year ended.