|Gillian liked the boys, a lot. And the boys, it appeared, liked Gillian
as well - at least initially. For although Gillian had no trouble at all
securing a first date, she could not, it seemed, ever manage a second.
After three first dates in a row with three very different boys, all of whom Gillian had liked a great deal, and had thought liked her an equal amount in return, Gillian began to wonder: could it possibly, just maybe, be . . . me?
She consulted her friends.
"It's a problem of intensity," Jennifer offered. "You're too intense."
"I'm passionate," Gillian retorted.
"The best way to get a job is to have a job," was Samantha's advice.
"But I don't need a job," Gillian pointed out.
"You're too hungry. Guys sense that shit," Katarina said with a shrug.
"You mean like a dog senses fear?" Gillian asked, beginning to understand.
No one quite knew why Gillian was so crazy about the boys, least of all Gillian herself. Perhaps because for most of her life she had been awkward and shy, unable to even look a boy in the eye, much less talk to one. Or maybe it was the lack of males in her life -- no brothers, no father. Whatever it was, something changed one day when Gillian got good and tipsy at a party and ended up making out with a lovely boy who she never saw again. Still, from that day forward she realized boys were not something to fear, but something to love. The formerly shy schoolgirl now found herself overcome with enthusiasm whenever in the presence of a cute boy. All the boy had to do was smile innocently in her direction and she damn near peed on the floor. All the boy needed to offer was a polite "hi" and Gillian burst with joy, like Drew Barrymore on ritalin, lunging at the lad, nearly knocking him to the ground. There wasn't, however, much carnality in the affection she felt for each new boy. It was purely love; the kind of instantaneous love felt for an abandoned kitten or goldfish; the kind that leaves the object of affection gasping for breath, struggling to be set back down.
Adam was the first. He asked her to the movies, suggesting a horror film that everyone (excluding Gillian) seemed to want to see.
"Okay," she told him. "But I'm warning you, scary movies really freak me out."
Adam hadn't given this much thought, figuring she was just hinting at a little handholding during the show; perhaps his arm around her shoulders. He then was more than surprised, mortified really, when halfway through the movie she crawled into his lap, hid her face in his jacket, and remained there until the credits rolled. He didn't know what to do with her, nor what to make of her, and so he did nothing. He dropped her off with the remainder of the Milk Duds and that was that.
A few days later Simon asked her out. The week was warm and sunny and so they decided to go to the zoo. Gillian was thrilled; she hadn't been in years. From the moment they passed through the gates, Gillian was jumping up and down, running from one animal to the next, her excitement on par with a blind person whose sight had just been restored. Simon trailed behind, or alternately, was pulled along reluctantly by Gillian, his energy soon waning.
"Come on!" she urged, tugging on his arm. "Oh look ? a baby gorilla! Aren't babies just the sweetest? Don't you just want, like, ten of them?"
Simon just stood there, saying nothing, looking at the ugly little gorilla, wondering what drugs Gillian might be on, and if she might have enough for him. He needed something. Maybe he could talk her down.
But there would be no talking. It was at the kangaroo exhibit that the real trouble began. One moment Gillian was at his side, holding his hand, the next she'd climbed the fence and jumped across the ravine that separated the humans from the animals. "Come on, Simon! Come see the kangaroos! I think I see a joey in one of the mama's pouches!" Simon tried to coax her back out, but Gillian was oblivious. She flopped herself down amongst the mostly sleeping marsupials in the grass as though she were one of them. Soon people were pointing and yelling, "Hey, look! There's a girl in the grass with the kangaroos!" That's when the zookeepers and security guards arrived, asking Simon if he were Gillian's husband. After they pulled her away and out of the exhibit, Simon and Gillian were quickly escorted out of the zoo and asked not to return.
On the car ride back, Gillian looked up at Simon, her eyes pleading, "You're not mad at me, are you?"
"No, I'm not mad," he lied, seeing no need to bother now with the truth.
"We'll go out again then?" she dared ask.
"Yeah, sure. I'll call ya in a couple days."
"Okay," she smiled.
Four days she sat by the phone, wondering when he would call. After
a week had passed, she began to forget to wait.
When Gillian met Dash several weeks later, her stomach cartwheeled and her heart sighed. He was far and away the most beautiful boy she had ever seen. His almond-shaped eyes reason enough to give whatever he might ask for. So when he asked her to dinner, she replied, "Yes! Yes!" with the sincerity and relief of a woman who has waited years for her cold-footed boyfriend to pop the question.
He picked her up in a cab and took her to some out-of-the-way Italian restaurant, which Gillian thought quite cozy and terribly romantic. There the wine and conversation flowed effortlessly and seemingly endlessly, and Gillian tried her very best to remain calm, not to appear giddy.
Later, while walking in the park, Gillian forgot herself again, the coolness of the night air and the twinkling of the stars sparking her desires tenfold.
"Let's play tag!" she pleaded. "You're it!" She touched his sleeve and ran off behind one of the large oaks that lined the park.
"Come on, Gillian," Dash had called. "I don't really want to play right now."
He stood looking for a moment, but when it appeared she was not giving up, he simply sat on a bench and waited. He was too tired for such games; too old; too grown-up. After awhile, Gillian gave up too.
"Spoilsport!" she said, plopping down on the bench beside him, taking his hand in hers.
"Look, I'm sorry, but I just don't see . . ."
But before he could finish the sentence, she turned and kissed him. She kissed him with the passion and intensity of someone who has not been kissed in a very long time. She kissed him without stopping to notice if he were kissing her in return. She kissed him as though she might never see him again. When finally she stopped, he quickly took the opportunity to speak, lest he find himself immersed in her mouth once more.
"Well, I think we should get going," he said unapologetically, pulling his hand from hers.
"What? But . . . " Gillian was having trouble making out his words.
"It's just that, this is our first date, and . . . "
"Don't go yet," she begged, grasping for his arm, his hand, his lips, any part of him within reach. But he was too quick for her. He was already on his feet, walking back out of the park, back out of her life.
"Wait!" she called, now walking after him. His pace quickened to a stride, and then to an all-out run. Gillian ran after him, but he knew this part of the city and she did not. In a matter of seconds he had turned a corner and was nowhere to be seen.
Gillian continued to run, without direction, without reason. The tears streamed her cheeks as she called to no one in particular, "Just tell me what it is! Did I say something? Do I have bad breath? Just tell me! Tell me!" By now the tears had turned to sobs and Gillian was completely, hopelessly lost. She kept running, hoping her feet would lead her to familiar ground.
That's when she ran smack into him.
"Ouch!" she cried as their heads hit.
"Sorry about that," he apologized, rubbing his forehead, feeling for a bump. "Are you alright?"
"No. I'm not," she confessed, tasting her tears as she spoke.
"What's the matter? It can't just be the bump, can it?" he asked, looking fully concerned.
"No, it's not. I kissed a boy and made him run away. It seems to happen to me a lot."
"That's hard to believe," he said. "Tell ya what. Why don't we go get some coffee or pie or what have you, and we can talk about it. Or about something else."
Gillian stood silent for a moment, wiping her eyes with the backs of her hands, clearing her vision to see the boy who stood before her now. Why, he is rather cute, she thought, noting his sandy wavy hair and hazel eyes.
"Sure," she said, smiling again. "I'd love some pie."
As they walked down the street to the corner coffee shop, Gillian couldn't help thinking: I better be careful, I could fall in love with a boy like this.
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