MORE THAN LIFE ITSELF
A Love Story by
Diane Stark (McConnell) Sanfilippo
Chapter 2 - Our First Date
© 2003 Diane Sanfilippo
Chapter 2 – Our First Date
After a night filled with romantic dreams, all centered around this mysterious dark haired stranger, I hoped I would run into Billy on Friday, or even Saturday morning although I had no idea what I would have said or done if this had happened. One can make up an immense array of scenarios in their mind, but when it comes time to act, well, I just knew I would have been speechless, indeed a rare state for me!
North Georgia College was unique in that the student body had Saturday morning classes, because Wednesday morning was ‘dust inspection’ for all cadets. There were a few ‘coed only’ classes on Wednesday morning, for instance a ‘household physics’ class I took the first quarter, and some Home Economics courses where there no cadets involved. However, we had no choice other than make up the missed classes on Saturday morning, which made for a very short weekend.
All day on Friday, I looked around for Billy, and I asked questions of the upper classmen who were my friends, but no one seemed to know too much about him, or else they were not telling.
Saturday morning we followed a normal weekend routine and I played cards in the canteen before classes began. Still I never laid one eye on Billy, although I had scoured the ranks of cadets as they drilled around the field before breakfast.
Saturday night came soon enough and Dave was punctual picking me up, but I have to admit this was one of the longest nights in memory as I counted the hours until I would be with Billy. Although the night seemed as if it would never end, I do not remember feeling uncomfortable. I am sure I had a good time, as always, when I went out with Dave, but for the life of me, I cannot even remember what we did, where we went, whom we were with, or even if there was a kiss at the end of the evening. I am sure at some time or another, I kissed Dave, but as far as that night, I simply do not know.
I do know my mind was on Billy, and on what he was doing, and I wondered if he had gone home for the weekend. Was there a girlfriend back home? Would he be like me and keep a girl at home and a girl on campus? I even queried Dave a bit and asked if he knew Billy, but if so, he had no information to offer other than to ask me why I wanted to know. I never did admit we had a date the next night since I knew Dave would probably ask me out again soon. No point in burning bridges until there were more birds in the bush!
Sunday was another long day – I skipped breakfast and church, and slept as long as possible hoping to make the time go by more quickly. Co-eds were only encouraged to attend church, not required, although it was mandatory for the cadets who remained on campus, and they drilled to church just as they drilled everywhere else. They would form into groups based on which church they were attending, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Catholic and would drill right to the front door of each church.
While I had been dating Don, the drummer, I would meet him at the Methodist church so we could ‘hold hands’ while sitting together in a back pew, and then we would walk back to the campus together. However, this Sunday I had no ulterior motive, no one to meet, to give me that extra push I would have needed to arise early.
I even slept through lunch since I knew Billy had said we would have supper in Gainesville and I did not need two heavy meals in one day.
Sunday dinner at North Georgia College was always the same – fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans cooked with fatback until the only nourishment was in the pot – most of which I could certainly do without. However, the Sunday midday meals, and Sunday night sandwiches, were the only times the cadets and co-eds could eat together. It had taken me weeks over Christmas to lose the freshman weight I had gained from the starch and fat laden college diet, and I was determined not to gain it back. The meals, although strictly institutional, were not tasteless, just heavy, and fattening, and jokingly the students referred to the head of the kitchen staff as ‘Ptomaine Tilly’.
After I finally woke, I spent the afternoon working on my class assignments since I would not be in the dorm that night. As usual, my roommate berated me for breaking the rules, and as usual, her words went in one ear and out the other. NO ONE was going to make me miss this date with Billy, and as I told her again how special he was, she just rolled her eyes and told me how many times she had heard this before in just three short months, but I knew this time was different.
Finally, 5:00 p.m. arrived and Billy was right on time – actually, I saw him waiting in his car in front of the dorm about ten minutes before 5:00 - he had arrived early. Did this mean he was as anxious as I was? I sure hoped so since the time between our meeting and this date had been pure torture for me. All the questions I had asked, and I still knew very little about him, but I had a feeling I would get an earful tonight. I just hoped I could handle his advances, if there were any. Cadets could enter Lewis Hall only to pick up their dates but could go no further than the large lobby. There they would have their date paged, thus the entire freshman floor would know whenever anyone had a date.
While my feet wanted to run down the stairs, I am not sure they even hit the ground, so anxious I was to be with him, and I floated down the three flights to the lobby. I saw he was in uniform, as required, and he looked even more handsome than I remembered. I think my heart actually stopped beating for a moment and I felt so very strange.
I had never had this feeling before and I did not even know him, but I felt as if I did. The odd feeling that I had known him all of my life swept over me again, and this time it was almost overwhelming. Whether I had known him or had just been waiting to know him, it is difficult to explain the emotions pulsating through my heart that night so long ago. Today perhaps some would call it ‘hormones’, but I still call it ‘love’.
When he saw me arrive downstairs, he smiled as if this moment was one he had been waiting for too. With a grin on his face as big as the moon, I thought perhaps his heart was fluttering too; at least I wanted to think so.
As previously planned, I just pretended to sign out since I had actually signed out on Saturday night, and I knew from upper classmen that Mrs. D often checked the register. I could have signed out to the library, which I frequently did when I had two dates in a weekend, but Sunday dating, while not forbidden, was not encouraged. We were all supposed to be studying and getting ready for the upcoming week.
Although his car was old, it was spotlessly clean inside and out, and at a college where all students’ cars were ‘locked up’ during the week, except for emergencies; even having a car at all was a rarity and a luxury. Like Margaret and Linda had said the night I met Billy, ‘he is rich’, although I was not sure what they meant at the time. He held the door to the car open for me and I remember I sat about halfway between the passenger door and him – not too close since I did not want to appear ‘fast’ or ‘easy’, but not too far either as to appear ‘cold’.
We had not been in the car for five minutes before he reached over and held my hand as we left the lights of the campus behind and drove over Crown Mountain and down towards Gainesville.
Alternately, we asked questions of one another, and then politely listened to the other’s answer during our short trip. By the time we reached our destination, we both knew more about each other than almost anyone else would ever know. Our conversation had flowed freely while we traveled the now dark highway, and the more we talked, the more comfortable I felt with him, and by the time we reached town, I knew I had known him forever. The restaurant he selected adjoined one of the nicer motels in Gainesville, a small town that at one time was known as the ‘Broiler Capital of the World’, and I remember we both ordered steak and potatoes – mine baked, his fried – and salads.
We talked throughout the entire meal, and with each sentence, it was as if I knew exactly what he would say next, and what he would want me to say in reply. We just seemed to understand each other so well. I do not even remember eating my meal, or if the steak was good or not. I was only aware I was sitting across the table from Billy McConnell, the most handsome cadet at North Georgia College, at least in my eyes, and I could have been eating soap!
‘GI Blues’ starring Elvis Presley, was playing at the local drive-in, and I had wanted to see the film, but it was not to be this night. After finally locating a working speaker, Billy parked the car and hung the speaker on the edge of his window then closed it as tightly as possible. After all, it was early January and the weather was typically cold and damp. I settled down to watch the film but Billy moved out from under the steering wheel and closer to me – in fact, right next to me, and for a few minutes he just sat there holding my hand. Before long he had his arm around my shoulders but I did not move and I could barely breathe. I was afraid to move for fear he would take his arm away, and I liked his arm around me. We talked some more about our classes, our goals, our families, and slowly he leaned down and gently kissed me on the lips, and I kissed him back. In spite of the lack of bells ringing, I just knew I could go on kissing him forever as his soft lips gently caressed mine.
Touching his forehead to mine, he softly said, "You don’t look like a girl who would kiss on the first date."
As I looked into his wonderful deep blue eyes, and as if someone else was speaking for me, I murmured softly, "It just depends on who I am with."
Obviously, that pleased him no end, one kiss followed another, within half an hour the windows of the car steamed up, no one could see in, and we could not see out! As we continued to kiss, our tongues gently teasing, quite unexpectedly, he asked if I would wear his ring. For a moment, I think I was stunned. After all, this was our very first date! He then told me he had gone home on Saturday to get his ring back from a girl he had been dating since last summer, so I told him I too had a slight problem as I pulled Alex’s ring out from under my sweater. He did not seem surprised or even intimidated since he knew I could not possibly be serious about this other boy if I was dating on campus, and as I later found out, he had an answer for everything.
He softly said, "That’s no problem, I’ll just mail it back to him!"
Moreover, I knew he meant it!
My mind was working overtime, and I honestly did not know if I wanted to let my ‘bird in the bush’ go free and put all of my heart into this brand-new relationship. Then again, why had I even shown him the ring? It would not be the first time I had worn more than one ring. However, somehow I knew I needed to be perfectly honest with Billy since he had been perfectly honest with me. He did not need to tell me he had gone home for the explicit purpose of getting his ring back, knowing he was going to ask me to wear it, or did he? Afterwards, he said he just knew from the first time he set eyes on me I was the one for him, and he did go home just for his ring, and all of his friends verified his story.
At this point, I was not ready to let him know how much I liked him, so I told him I would have to think about it overnight. I explained I had known Alex for a long time and did not want to hurt him again as I had done so several times before. All the while, there was no doubt in my mind what my answer would be, but I wanted him to have to wait since he seemed so sure of himself. I did not want to appear too anxious. I wanted, no, I needed to have the upper hand. I wanted him to want me more than he thought I wanted him. This was how I always played the game, quite successfully thus far. My old habit of keeping at least one waiting in the wings, just in case something went wrong with my current relationship, was a difficult pattern to break since I had such a fear of being ‘alone’.
My dysfunctional, alcoholic parents and my own lack of self-esteem fueled by my mother’s fading beauty, I now know caused this insecurity. When my friends questioned me about this obvious flaw in my character, I just explained it away by saying if one did not know about the other, whom was I hurting? I must have been good at the game since I got away with it time after time, and only once was I caught, but amazingly, neither boy wanted his ring back, and one had been Alex! I really had not seriously thought Alex and I would eventually marry, and indeed, there was one big issue to be resolved before I would even consider it.
My mother told me when she broke the news to Alex that I was married; he had cried on the phone, and said, "She was supposed to marry me." However, I am getting ahead of my story, and Alex did not stand a chance after I met this breathtakingly handsome cadet with the most remarkable deep blue eyes, and a line that would not quit!
Back on campus, Billy parked in front of Lewis Hall, and we kissed for as long as possible since now it was completely dark, and only one dim street lamp barely lit the road. No one could witness our ‘display of public affection’, which now consisted of deep lingering kisses, our tongues desperately darting in and out, and my heart feeling as if it would explode. From that night on I hated the ‘ no touch’ rule because when I was with Billy I wanted him to touch me, to hold my hand or simply rub against my shoulder, and sometimes he did just that, but he was taking a chance of getting demerits and having to ‘walk the quadrangle’. His touch gave me goose bumps and my heart ached with a longing for him to hold me close and kiss me.
That final kiss seemed to last forever, and when it finally ended, he said softly, "I love you, little girl, I loved you the first time I saw you. Please love me back."
I could not say anything to top that, but my heart was turning somersaults as if saying over, and over, "you love him too"!
Still I would not give in about the ring, not yet, although he begged me not to make him wait. I was determined that hopefully he would want me even more if I did not appear too anxious. With a promise to meet him in the canteen the next morning and give him my answer, we reluctantly walked to the front door of the dorm. As I slowly opened the heavy door and stepped inside, our fingertips touched until the door closed behind me.