A Classmate

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Sue and I lived together in an apartment right after high school. She attended junior college and had such a crush on this boy, Troy—a classmate. He sang in the choir, too. She would drag me to all of his shows, and I’d egg her on to go backstage afterward and compliment Troy about his performance. Of course, she never would, the wilting wonder. That’s what I called her.

So one time I sneaked backstage and saw Troy standing with a group of people. I shouted, “Sue thinks you sing like an angel” and then ran through the wings, jumped off the stage, and caught up with a very mortified Sue, hightailing it out an exit. She claimed she talked to him in class—sure, riiight. Then Sue finished her AA degree and Troy went back east to attend a four-year university.

Sue and I worked at Woolworth’s downtown, and about a year later this girl came into the store and said to Sue, “You’re a classmate, from junior college.” They caught up, and it wasn’t long until Troy’s name came up. This girl knew Troy’s mother. And according to the mom, he was so lonely and thinking about dropping out of college and joining the army. I thought Sue should write him. This girl thought that was a wonderful idea, too. Of course, Sue acted like I asked her to jump out of a plane. After some coaxing, Sue let me find the number of Troy’s mother in the phone book. Not having the nerve, she let me call Troy’s mother, who also thought it was a wonderful idea.

“Troy is awfully homesick,” the mom said, “and would love to hear from an old friend.”

I told Sue this was her chance and not to hold back. If I had anything to do with it, I made sure she didn’t pen a shy, boring letter. So I helped her write a witty, encouraging letter. Troy answered right back with an appreciative letter. I helped her write more letters, and the correspondence went on for months. Then Troy wrote he was coming home for spring break. He mentioned a high school buddy, Arnold. He wondered if Sue had a friend for a double date. I assured her I wouldn’t leave her side during the whole night.

Poor Sue. She broke out in hives all over her body.

Finally, when the knock on the door came, I made Sue answer it. It was so funny—well, not so much. Before she opened the door all the way, Troy marched right in, already singing that “Peggy Sue” song. And he marched right up to me! You see, Sue and I had the same dark hair, about the same height and weight. Troy hugged me, his hands roaming all over my back, all the time saying, “Oh, Sue, I’ve missed seeing you. Your letters are so hilarious.” I quickly said, “I’m not Sue. I’m her roommate.” Arnold started laughing and practically skipped through the door and to my side. Sue was not amused. Poor Troy. His face was beet red and stayed that way for hours.

The four of us went out to movies and dancing every night that week. But this was odd: Sue and Troy never went out by themselves. It was always the four of us together. That Saturday, I let Arnold take me out without the others. But Troy showed up, even though he was catching the red-eye later on. He accidentally bumped into us. He ate off Arnold’s plate and flirted with me. I didn’t tell Sue I saw Troy just before he left; she was more shriveled than ever.

But I’ll admit I was surprised when I found out Sue and Troy kept up their letter writing. Sue let me know, though, that she could write her own letters from now on. She still felt browned off by that mix-up, I guess. That was fine by me. Besides, that’s about the time your dad showed up, and we were going out night after night. Well, next thing you know, Troy proposed to Sue in a letter. And she accepted in a letter back to him. Get this: Sue and Troy still had never been on a real date, just the two of them. It wasn’t long before Sue told me to find a new roommate and flew back east to elope. Now that really bowled me over! Finally, the wilting wonder had grown some powerful wings to flap around.

The last time I saw Troy and Sue was when they came out for my wedding. Troy flirted up a storm with me, even in front of your dad. Not in front of Sue, of course. Troy made sure of that. And do you think your dad even lifted an eyebrow when Troy wrapped his arms around my shoulders and whispered in my ear? Take a wild guess on that one. Sure…riiight. I haven’t heard from Sue since. I guess they’re still married. Maybe they have kids. Grown, like you. Oh, and poor Arnold. We only went out those few times, but he kept asking me for more dates. I broke his heart. He wanted to marry me so badly. I just never fell for him, but maybe I should’ve, huh? I found out from Sue, who was my maid-of-honor, that Arnold showed up at the park where your dad and I were married. This is awful: I didn’t see him, but Sue saw him, standing by a tree, crying into his hands. Arnold left before your dad and I walked down the aisle. Although, it really wasn’t much of an aisle. Just a few old wooden stairs off a tiny gazebo. And your dad’s foot crashed right through one of them, splintering it to smithereens.

 

Dan Crawley’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals, including CHEAP POPNew World WritingSpelkJellyfish Review, and New Flash Fiction Review. Along with teaching creative writing and literature courses in Arizona, he reads fiction for Little Patuxent Review. Find him at https://dancrawleywrites.wordpress.com.

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