How about a little short fiction this week? Sometimes I wonder how much of the fiction comes from the mind and how much comes right out of suppressed memory? Hard to tell. Let me know if you’ve had any experiences like the following.
“You have the most bea-u-tiful eyes, Robin Thackery,” the girl said. ”They mimic your name. You know, Robin’s egg blue.”
I remembered blushing ten years ago when Marella Hughes had spoken those words. My cheeks had grown so red they’d actually stung, just as if they’d been frost-bitten.
Marella and I were both twelve at the time, and while I can’t claim I was smitten, I was uncomfortably interested. We’d played together most of our young lives, but I think I’d just realized that she was somehow different from me … and the other guys in our little group.
Whatever. But she’d marked me for the next few years. My last name became – outside of parents and teachers and preachers – Seggblue. Robin Seggblue.
In the way of things, we grew up, best friends yet not intimate – beyond confiding most of my secrets to her – and eventually lost touch when her family moved to Cleveland. I remember being despondent most of my high school freshman year. We’d kept in touch for a while until they moved again. Then she vanished entirely from my life.
In the meantime, the years passed. I grew up, went off to college, and returned to my hometown earlier this year to take a position as an instructor of Computer Sciences in the local community college. New life, new interests, new friends, but still no real, lasting, permanent girlfriend … as Marella might have been.
And then this morning, as I walked down the hall toward my cubbyhole office, I heard something I hadn’t heard in six long years.
“Robin! Robin Seggblue!”
My heart tumbled and my mouth went dry as I turned toward the sound of that voice. I almost didn’t recognize her. Still looking for that skinny sixteen-year-old with freckles and pigtails, I saw intead a tall, emerald-eyed, raven-haired, sophisticated-looking woman in a silk pantsuit with sensible shoes.
“M-Marella?” I couldn’t keep the question mark out of my voice even though I knew this vision was my old buddy.
She came forward with arms held out. “Didn’t you know I was coming?"
I shook my head mutely as she clasped me to her, making me take note of another change in this stunning creature. This was a full-bosomed Marella, not the girl with the budding knobs I remembered.
“I took a year’s contract at CC to teach English. I wanted a break before I go for my Master’s next year,” she explained.
I held her at arm’s length. “I hadn’t heard. Great to see you.”
“Let me see if those eyes are still the way I remember them. Yup, pretty as ever. Robin’s egg blue.”
“Yours are pretty great, too.” I glanced at the people swirling by us and wondered if anyone had heard. Not that it mattered … I guess. I dropped my arms away. All I needed was to hear gossip that Mr. Thackery got caught practically making love to this … purrrr … pussy cat in the hallway between classes.
We agreed to meet for dinner that night at Blue Corn Joe’s before rushing our separate ways. I entered my classroom slightly breathless to find the room atwitter. Of course, it was Susan who’d taken notice of my chance meeting and spread the news to the classroom. Anyone else would have let it go, but not her.
“Who was that sweetheart you were buzzing in the hallway, Thackery?”
Susan Horvacs was one of those bright kids who had the brains to start college-level courses while still in high school. Now a year past graduation, she had almost enough credits for her Associate Degree. She was pretty, confident, and full of brass. I couldn’t even get her to call me Mr. Thackery like the rest of the class, including seventy-year-old Mrs. Harper who was determined to get some kind of a degree before she passed on.
“What was it that vision of loveliness called you? Segblew? The “vision of loveliness” part had a slightly sarcastic ring.
Damnation, nosy Susan must have been lurking out of sight and witnessed the entire meeting. I tried to put some authority in my voice. “Don’t know what you mean.”
“Yeah, she called you something like that. Robin. Robin Segblew.” This sharp young woman gazed straight into my eyes, and I saw the tumblers fall into place and unlock the puzzle in her brain. Her eyes widened.
“Blue. Robin’s … Robin’s egg blue. She called you Robin’s egg blue.”
After that revelation, it took a little effort to get the class settled down to Window’s Excel, but eventually I had them working problems with the formula function of the program.
Blue Corn Joe’s is a little classier than its name implies. Originally a Mexican food joint, Joe Reynaldo, the owner, had branched out into Anglo food. Burgers and dogs. Then a few years ago, he’d redone the décor and turned it into one of the better restaurants in town.
I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but I arrived a quarter of an hour early. The hostess, dressed in a green and white peasant’s costume with rolled hair fixed firmly in place by a huge tortoise shell comb, had known me for years. As a matter of fact, Ruby, Marella, and I had gone to high school together. Ruby selected a small, intimate table in a remote corner and agreed to bring my date upon her arrival.
Even though I could not see the entry, I knew the moment Marella arrived because there was a lot of squealing and greeting when she walked through the door. Ruby getting reacquainted, most likely. A few minutes later, Ruby returned looking slightly discomfited. A radiant Marella trailed along behind. And two steps behind her traipsed a tall, buff jock with shoulders so broad they threatened to split his form-fitting shirt.
“Sorry, we don’t have another table available,” Ruby said. “It’s going to be snug for a party of three.”
A smiling Marella clasped my shoulders and gave me a brotherly buzz. Then she stepped back.
“Robin, I’d like you to meet my boyfriend, Sam Steffans. Gus, this is Robin Thackery, or as we used to call him, Robin Seggblue. Get it?”
Gus stared straight into my eyes and grimaced. “Got it.”
Worst date ever! The whole situation was embarrassing, but playing kneesies with both of them at that tiny table raised it to a whole other level. Furthermore, she had her pet name for the boyfriend, as well. His eyes were gray, so he was Steelie Sam. Steelie Sam Steffans. The whole image put me off completely. Before it was over, Marella didn’t seem quite so clever, nearly so sophisticated, and not even quite so pretty.
We said our awkward goodnights, and parted – never to see one another again, so far as I was concerned. Of course, that wasn’t true. I’d see her in the teacher’s lounge, the hallway, somewhere on campus for damned near a whole year. Ugh. The thought made Blue Corn Joe’s excellent Tuna Melt on dark rye roll around uneasily in my stomach.
I drove through the night through pool after pool of bluish white streetlights. About five blocks down the road I thought of Susan and what she’d make of the fiasco tonight if she ever heard about it.
Susan. Her eyes were huge. Huge and brown. Elk’s eyes. Nah, too young. Maybe not. She must be at least nineteen. Only four years younger than I was. Yeah. Elkseyes. Susan Elkseyes Horvacs.
It had a certain ring to it.
Drop me a line and let me know how you liked it. Thanks for reading.