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The spring semester—oddly named, since it began in the depths of winter—was only a few weeks old when Damon wandered into the student center to escape a chilly wind and get a cup of coffee before heading home for the day.

It was when he was about to sit down at a long table with his steaming cup of coffee that he saw Nan Baker.

He recognized her from his history class—the very one (“Origins of World War I”) that he had reluctantly taken after Iris had refused to let him take her own class that semester. Even though she was a bit on the quiet side, she had impressed him with her firm knowledge of the subject and her ability to defend her point of view even when noisier students—mostly men—challenged her. But as he took notice of her now, other thoughts came to his mind.

Many men would probably have thought her a “plain Jane,” but he wasn’t one of them. Perhaps an inch shorter than Iris, she was quite slender but had nice curves in all the right places. In past ages she would have been referred to as a “little slip of a girl”—one who might just blow away in a puff of wind. But it was her face that entranced Damon: its amazingly regular features, almost bereft of makeup and framed by long, straight blond hair parted in the middle like the famous picture of Emily Dickinson, gave her a purity and simplicity that Damon found hypnotizing. He knew she was a junior, like him, but she looked younger.

But right now, she seemed swathed in gloom.

She was seated all by herself at one end of that long table, staring down at it without looking at anything in particular—not a book, not a notepad, not her cellphone. Something about her expression wrung Damon’s heart. Had some horrible thing happened to her or her family? Or was she just naturally melancholy?

He couldn’t help approaching her.

“Hey,” he said quietly, slipping into the seat next to her, “don’t be sad.”

For a few moments Nan wasn’t even aware that Damon was talking to her. Then she snapped out of her reverie and looked over at him.

“What?” she said in a high-pitched, musical voice. “Did you say something?”

“I just don’t want you to be unhappy,” Damon said with a fervency he couldn’t explain. He was looking at her with incredible intensity.

And that was when Nan burst forth into a smile that somehow caused Damon to get dizzy with delight. It was a smile that seemed as radiant as a rainbow, and, along with her twinkling eyes, it lit up Nan’s face so that she was suddenly transformed into a creature of inexpressible beauty.

“I’m not unhappy,” she said. “But thank you for—”

“You’re in my history class,” Damon couldn’t help interrupting. He felt like a callow schoolboy.

“Yes, I know,” she acknowledged.

“You’re really smart!” he enthused. “You seem to know everything already!”

“I wouldn’t say that,” she demurred. “But I’ve read some good books on the subject. I find it really interesting.”

Damon simply sat there like an idiot, gazing fixedly at her face—and, from time to time, casting a quick glance at the swelling mounds at her chest, even though they were completely hidden by a blouse that was buttoned up to her neck.

“You’re on the baseball team, aren’t you?” she said.

Damon thought he might pass out from ecstasy. “How did you know?”

“I saw you in some games last season. You’re really good.”

His mouth suddenly went dry. God, I feel like I’m a gawky kid back in high school—maybe junior high!—who’s trying to keep up a conversation with the class beauty. I gotta snap out of this.

“Oh, I’m not that good.”

“Sure, you are. Maybe you’ll get to the Major Leagues someday.”

Damon chortled derisively. “Nan, you have to be way better than that to get there—even to the minor leagues. I just like playing baseball, but after I graduate I’ll get a normal job like everyone else.”

“You’re much too modest,” she said, reaching out to touch his hairy, muscular arm.

That touch seemed to galvanize him. Watching raptly as her light, delicate fingers landed like a butterfly on his forearm, he said impulsively, “Say, it’s nearly dinnertime. Would you like to get some pizza at Modena’s?” That was one of the popular hangouts for Westminster students—noisy and crowded, but the pizza was good and cheap.

When he saw Nan suddenly jerk her hand away and freeze like a deer in the headlights, Damon thought he had come on too strong. God, what a dope I am! I haven’t even shared a cup of coffee with her—and I’m asking her out to dinner?

But Nan said “Okay” in something close to a whisper, looking down at her lap. That melancholy expression had returned.

Well, she doesn’t sound exactly enthusiastic about this! But Damon wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip through his fingers.

“Great!” he said. “Let’s go.”

But then he thought of something.

“Nan,” he said awkwardly, “can you just give me a minute? I have to call my, um, roommate and let him know I won’t be home for dinner.”

He bolted away from her, leaving her sitting wide-eyed Anadolu Yakası Escort and with mouth slightly open as she watched him race out of earshot.

He quickly called Iris on his cellphone. He knew she would be home by now.

“Say, darling,” he said after she answered, “I won’t be around for dinner tonight.”

“Oh?” Iris said, in a faintly teasing tone of voice. “You with someone?”

“Yeah,” Damon said grudgingly.

“A girl?” More teasing.

“Yes, a girl,” he shot back. “Someone in Professor Harper’s history class, if you’d like to know.”

“Is she pretty?”

Damon let out a sigh. “Yes, she’s pretty. And she’s lots of other things as well. You know I don’t judge females just on their appearance.”

“I’m glad you don’t. Anyway, I’ve always said you should try to find someone of your own age.”

“Gee, Iris,” he said exasperatedly, “I’m not going to make love to her! You’re the only one I love. You know that.”

“That’s very sweet, Damon, but you should always keep your options open.”

He wasn’t entirely sure what she meant by that, and he soon put an end to the call.

Rushing back to the table where Nan had been sitting, and fearful that she might herself have flitted away like a wisp of smoke, he was relieved to find her still there.

“Come on,” he said a tad brusquely. “Let’s go.”

He helped her up, and even the simple contact of his hand on her elbow was electrifying.

They made their way to the pizza place, which, even though it wasn’t even 6 p.m., was already filling up. But they only had to wait a few minutes for a table, and after putting in their order to the harried waitress, they got down to the business of getting to know each other.

It turned out that Nan’s family lived right in town, and that she had pretty much spent her whole life here. Damon wasn’t quite clear on who exactly constituted her family, but he got the impression she was an only child. And, well-versed as she seemed to be in history, she was actually an English major. She was taking the class largely to get some background on some of the writers of that period whom she was interested in. She rattled off some names—ranging from Lord Dunsany to Madison Cawein—that didn’t mean a thing to Damon, but he didn’t care. He was just gazing fixedly at her, especially at her full and luscious lips, as she spoke with touching naïveté about herself.

She suddenly seemed to realize that Damon was neither saying much nor paying much attention to his pizza, and she stopped abruptly.

“God!” she cried, blushing. “I’m talking way too much! You should have told me to shut up.”

I’d never say that in a million years, Damon said. “Everything you said was incredibly fascinating.”

Her blush deepened, and she was unable to reply.

“You’re so smart,” he said in a kind of awe, adding: “And so beautiful.”

That really made her blush, but she laughed derisively. “I’m not beautiful,” she said flatly.

Damon was almost offended at her response. “Yes, you are,” he said heatedly. “I think you are.” He bit his tongue before he could add: And I’ve had a lot of experience with beautiful females.

“You’re really sweet,” she said, again reaching out to touch his arm. “But you’re in a minority, I think. Not many guys in high school seemed to think I was their cup of tea. I don’t think I even went on a single date in high school. Of course, I probably didn’t give them much encouragement—they all struck me as pretty hopeless, either nerds or jocks.”

She suddenly placed a hand over her mouth. “Omigod, Damon, I didn’t mean that! It’s just—”

“Don’t worry about it,” he said with a chuckle. “A lot of jocks are jerks. I hope I’m not.”

“Of course you’re not!” she said, taking the liberty of stretching a hand up to stroke his cheek. “You’re so sweet,” she whispered. She seemed to like that adjective.

After some moments of awkwardness, they managed to carry on. Damon now took over, telling his life story. Naturally, he refrained from spilling the beans about Iris, but he did mention his “roommate,” Brad.

She scowled in concentration. “Center fielder?” she offered.

“That’s right!” Damon said, impressed.

She gave a smile that had just a hint of gentle mockery. “He seems kind of like a big lug—but I’m sure he’s cute.”

“I don’t know about that,” Damon said. “He certainly is big.” Especially in a certain part of his anatomy.

They continued to chat amiably, and the time passed without their noticing it. Finally, the waitress made pointed suggestions that, if they weren’t going to order anything more, they should make room for other customers. Damon gallantly paid for the meal, brushing off Nan’s attempts to contribute, and they strolled out of the restaurant.

It was getting toward nine, and Damon figured he’d better not press his luck. So he just walked Nan back to her rooming house, just off campus.

As they stood in front of her building, she stared down at the ground. It was quite clear she wasn’t going Bostancı Escort to invite him inside, and he had no expectation that she would. But as he said, “Well, see you in class tomorrow,” he bent down and tried to kiss her on the mouth.

She reacted with alarm and turned her face away. Damon was cut to the quick.

“What? What’s the matter?” he said, wishing he didn’t sound as if he was whining. “Don’t you want me to—?”

“I’m sorry,” she said miserably.

“Sorry about what? Didn’t you have a nice time with me?”

“I had a wonderful time, but—”

“But what?”

She refused to answer, and the silence seemed to stretch on to infinity. At last, Damon gently took Nan’s chin in his hand and made her look at him.

“You like me, don’t you?” he said.

“Yes, of course.”

“Then can’t I just—?”

“I’ve never been kissed before,” she said in a frantic whisper, her eyes glancing everywhere but at him.

He was stunned. “I don’t believe that for a minute.” My God, this is a girl who is even more inexperienced than Iris was before I came along.

“It’s true,” she said, and he could see her eyes welling up with tears.

“Well, there’s always a first time for everything, isn’t there?” he said, trying to lighten the mood.

She laughed nervously, and a few tears flowed down her cheeks. “I guess.”

“Good. Let’s see if I can do this right.”

He stood directly in front of her, placed his hands lightly around her waist, brought her close to him, and pasted a kiss on her mouth—at first gently, but with the clear implication that this was a kiss that was going to last a long time.

She seemed to sense that also, and she instinctively threw her arms around his neck and, to his surprise, thrust her body close to his so that they were touching, head to toe. Given that they were both wearing winter coats, he couldn’t quite say that he could really get a sense of the contours of her body as she pressed up against him, but the contact was nonetheless stimulating. And that contact had the inevitable effect on his groin.

She sensed that also, and abruptly pried herself out of his grasp, giving him a frightened look as she rushed into her house, saying over her shoulder, “Bye!”

That left Damon standing disconsolate on the sidewalk, watching her disappear through the front door as it closed behind her.

He trudged along home.


He wasn’t in any mood for further teasing from Iris.

“So tell me about your new girlfriend,” she said as he wandered in, doffing his heavy coat and hanging it in the closet off the front hallway.

“She’s not my girlfriend,” he said acidly. “Just someone I met in class.”

Iris sensed that he was sensitive on the subject, so she urged him to sit on the living-room couch. She found a place next to him.

“But you like her?” she said quietly.

“Of course I like her!” he spat back.

“You think there’s a possibility . . .?”

“I don’t know,” he said, almost in despair. “She hasn’t . . .”

“Hasn’t what?”

“Hasn’t had much to do with guys.”

“Well, that’s good, isn’t it?”

“Yes and no. She seems super-shy and even a little scared of men.”

“You’re telling me she’s a virgin.”

Damon laughed shortly. “She’s about as untouched as a woman can be in this day and age.”

“Well, then, you just need to be slow and careful with her.”

“I’ll do my best—but man, I think she’s fabulous!”

“I’m glad, Damon.”

He looked over at her in an attempt to gauge her true feelings. “You really mean that? You won’t mind if I—?”

There was no need for him to finish.

“Of course not, dear,” she said. “But if she’s the one, then you should—”

“You’re the one!” Damon said hotly. “You know that.”

She reached over to stroke him on the cheek—just as Nan had done a little while before. “Damon, I know you love me, and I love you too. But I’ve told you that it’s not clear whether we have a future together, not long-term.”

“I’ll never leave you! I love you too much!”

“That’s very sweet, but I do think it would be helpful if you found a girl of your own age to love. And maybe this girl, Nan, is the one.”

“Maybe,” he said lugubriously. “But she’s going to take a lot of convincing.”

Damon got a keen sense of the truth of that utterance when, next day in history class, Nan sat as far away from him as possible, did everything she could not to look in his direction, and made an effort to bolt out of class the moment it was over.

He had to run to catch up to her, seizing her a little roughly by the arm to make her stop.

“Hey, hey!” he said. “Nan, come on! What gives?”

“Nothing,” she mumbled at the floor. “I just have to get to another class.”

“I know you don’t have another class after this.”

She continued to stare at the floor.

“Nan,” Damon pleaded, “I don’t want you to be afraid of me. I won’t hurt you. I won’t do anything you don’t want me to do.”

She Ümraniye Escort peered up at him with sorrowful eyes. There was such an aching look of fragility in her expression that Damon himself almost burst into tears.

“Why don’t we do some studying together later tonight?” he said, frantically trying to find some way to deepen his relationship with her.

The idea somehow took her by surprise. She digested it for a moment, then said, “Okay.”

“Can I come to your rooming house—say, at eight?”

“All right,” she said, although she still sounded hesitant.

“That’s great!” he cried. He gave her a little kiss on the cheek, then dashed away before she could change her mind.

At dinner with Iris and Brad, Damon had to endure some further teasing—this time by Brad, who said, “Man, Damon’s really smitten with this girl! He can hardly see straight.”

“Shut up, guy,” Damon said venomously.

“Hey, don’t bite my head off!” Brad protested disingenuously. “You’re going to her house after dinner, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” Damon said tightly.

“I wonder if we’re going to see you again tonight,” Brad mused. “You know it’s your night with Iris. If you’re not around, maybe I’ll have to take over.”

Damon didn’t see the need to respond to that. He launched himself upstairs, got his books and other paraphernalia, and headed out the door.

It took only a few minutes to walk over to Nan’s rooming house. It was a rather run-down place, and the common room had furniture that was both old and tattered—a lumpy sofa, scuffed coffee table, and threadbare carpets. It was clear that Nan was a bit embarrassed at the place, but she explained to him that she really didn’t want to live at home, even though it would have been easy for her to do so. For the sake of her own independence, she had to be on her own.

Nan’s own room was a little better, although very tiny. There was not much room in it for anything but a large bed, a desk and chair, and a dresser. Nan closed the door, then sat primly at the desk and got out some books. Damon dumped his backpack on the floor, fished out his own books, and flopped onto the bed.

He thought Nan flushed as she saw his lanky form draping itself on the bed (he had removed his shoes, so that they wouldn’t dirty up the blanket), but she quickly got down to the business of going over the last several chapters of their textbook. Pretty soon they were deep in study, debating numerous points and at one point almost getting argumentative over the interpretation of a key historical event.

After about two hours of hard work, they both decided that they’d done enough studying that evening. But it became clear to Damon that Nan wasn’t at all certain what—if anything—would be next on the agenda.

Pleading exhaustion (and he really was pretty tired), Damon shoved the books off the bed and stretched his limbs like a cat, saying, “Man, I’m bushed! Maybe we should rest a bit.”

Nan made no move to budge from her desk chair, even though she said, “That sounds like a good idea.”

Damon made sure to occupy only the left side of the bed as he patted the other side and said, “You wanna lie down?”

Nan considered the situation, biting her lower lip. Like someone in a trance, she slid off the chair and fell onto the right side of the bed, lying at full length on her back and gazing blankly at the ceiling.

He pondered her for a little while. “Um, you seem pretty tense. Why don’t you let me massage your back and shoulders? I’m pretty good at that.” Iris likes it a lot when I do that to her.

“What?” she said uncomprehendingly.

“Come on,” he encouraged, and with a deft motion he scooped her up (she was indeed, as he had predicted, light as a feather) and placed her face down on his own body. Without further ado he began his massage. She really was tense, and it took quite some time for her to start feeling more relaxed. In this position, he could definitely feel her breasts pressed against his chest, and he had somehow managed to slip one leg between hers in a way that seemed both to alarm and to excite her. Her face was buried in his neck, as if she was too shy or embarrassed to admit that his ministrations were making her feel really good. But he could tell that they were, as little murmuring sounds were coming out of her throat.

After some moments, he whispered in her ear, “You feel better now?”

She nodded shakily, then raised up her face to look at him. “You’re sweet,” she said simply, using her favorite all-purpose adjective of approval.

What else could he do but kiss her?

She seemed to welcome his move, as her arms snaked slowly around his neck. She herself persisted in the kiss for half a minute, then a full minute—an eternity where kissing is concerned. At last their lips parted, but only so that they could gaspingly take in some air before resuming the fusing of their lips.

Damon’s hands were stroking Nan’s head, neck, shoulders, and the small of her back as his lips made a silent but eloquent plea for greater intimacy. Nan seemed content with the smooching; and when Damon unwisely let his hand drift down to graze her bottom, covered as it was with a thick wool skirt, Nan let out a choked cry and jerked out of his grasp, turning away from him and retreating to the farthest edge of the bed.

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