This week for Sweet Saturday Samples (of course with a blog post scheduled in advance, seeing as this Shabbos is Yom Kippur and I won’t be anywhere near a computer!), I’m using an excerpt from Chapter 27 of Adicia’s story, “Letters to and from Lucine and Emeline.” Second-born Troy sister Lucine is now a student at Hunter College, and third-born sister and middle child Emeline is at the Episcopal boarding school for disadvantaged young women which Lucine went to. Younger sisters Ernestine, Adicia, and Justine recently wrote to their missing sisters, and on the day the letters arrive at their brother Allen’s apartment, Allen and Lenore get their signals crossed about their feelings for one another. Allen is now 20 and Lenore is 17, but he hasn’t told her how he really feels since she’s still underage, and Lenore doesn’t think a guy like Allen would ever be interested in her. It’s now October 1964.
“Lucine and Emeline’s letters came today,” he informs her as she’s pulling the meat out of the oven.
“That’s good to hear. The girls will be so happy to read them when they come over on the weekend.” Lenore pours herself a glass of milk. “By the way, Allen, could I ask you a personal question?”
“What do you want to know?”
“In all the two years I’ve known you, you’ve never had a girlfriend or gone on a date to my knowledge, and I know you had a lot of girls before you moved here. Are you afraid to bring girls up here because of what they might think of you having a female roommate? I hate to think I’m keeping you celibate so long.”
He hopes she doesn’t see he’s blushing as he struggles to find an answer that doesn’t involve confessing the truth. “Oh, I still like girls, but it’s just that I’m sort of in love with one girl in particular, and I’ll probably never be able to have her. I’d feel like I was cheating on her if I went on a date with another girl.”
Lenore feels a stirring of jealousy. “Oh. Is she a co-worker?”
“I’d rather not tell you too much about it. It’s embarrassing enough a guy like me is so hung up on a girl. By the way, have you met any guys in your night school class or at your job?”
“No one I want to date,” she says, hoping her voice isn’t shaking. “I’m not ready to do anything with a man yet anyway. There was one guy I thought I liked, but I guess he’s not interested in me.”
Allen’s eyebrows shoot up. “You liked a guy and none of us ever heard about it? How long ago was this?”
“He’d never like a girl like me anyway. He’s too old and experienced for me. I must’ve been dreaming if I ever thought I had a chance with this guy.” Lenore starts stabbing at her meat with her knife.
“Wow, I never suspected someone like you would have a thing for some older guy with lots of experience after what happened to you. Would I know this guy?”
“That’s none of your business,” she snaps.
“I guess you don’t wanna talk to me about it since I’m not a girl. I mean, I know how it feels to be in love with someone who will probably never love you back, but I don’t know how it feels when you’re a girl dealing with that. Me, I’m just an unlucky guy who fell in love with an unattainable girl the first and only time I was in love.”
“If I were your girl, Allen, I’d never treat you like that,” Lenore says sadly.
“You’re a nice girl,” he agrees. “Whoever gets you as his girl will be a very lucky guy.”
“Thank you,” she says in a small voice.
Lenore retires to bed early and starts crying herself to sleep on her pillow as soon as she knows Allen is asleep. She can barely stand to look at him over the ensuing days, believing his heart belongs to another woman. Hoping to force herself to get over him, she begins treating him very coldly and frequently snaps at him for no reason. Allen meanwhile wonders what he’s done to make her so mad at him, and like a hopelessly lovesick puppy puts up with all of her verbal abuse and silent treatment. Lenore forces herself not to feel sorry for him when he looks at her with his big brown eyes looking so sad and wounded. She had some beautiful dream in her head of Allen approaching her when she was old enough, she thought, to be viewed by him as a real woman and not just some teenage kid, and asking her if she’d like to go out with him, but apparently his eyes were on some other girl all along. Most twenty-year-old guys would probably laugh at the thought of a seventeen-year-old girl thinking she stands a chance with someone so much older, particularly when she has absolutely no experience with men.