Tuesday

Ted+Kelly, Part 4: Make-out Hill

It has been a hugely long time (in the scheme of how fast I've been recording this love story) since I last posted.  My dear Ted was out of town for several days.  Gwenna had spring break.  We went on vacation for over a week.  I had a kidney stone.  Then, I got back to this.  I promise, part three (obviously) was NOT the end, as much as I suspected it would be at the time. 

If this whole story is new to you, start here:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Enjoy!

*****

The Sunday after the peculiar date was an unusual Sunday.  My institute teacher (who was also my Bishop - i.e. congregational leader) had asked a strange favor of me.  He had asked if I might be willing to come to Elders' Quorum the next Sunday (the last hour of church, a class comprised solely of 18-25-ish year old men in our ward) to speak for about ten minutes on a few topics he thought the men would benefit from hear in a woman's perspective.

"So you are teaching Elders' Quorum?  That's not strange at all."  My roommate Casey's sarcasm as she made her breakfast expressed exactly how I felt.  I had prepared well and wasn't nervous but did feel a little out of my element.

Arizona had her usual broad grin she wore when she had a teasing comment. "One girl in a room with all those guys... sounds like a fast pass to weddings bells." 

How absurd.  "Oh gosh."  I moaned.  "I think most of them know I want to serve a mission."  Maybe they did and maybe they didn't but I wasn't eyeing anyone in particular.

"Does Sterling know?"  Arizona asked, maintaining her smile. 

Sterling had been coming around our apartment more and more lately, sometimes bringing his guitar to serenade the girls in our apartment, but most specifically to serenade me.  He was a nice guy and we had been out on a date but nothing had come from it.

"Well," I replied, "if he doesn't know, he needs to know."  My plate was fuller than full and the prospect of a mission on the horizon only made me that much more firm in my resolve to avoid love right now.

*****

I felt twenty pairs of eyes on me as I walked into Elders' Quorum. I'm not going to say I had tried hard to primp that morning but I was speaking to a room of single men.  Any self respecting woman would have relied on her black pencil skirt!  And to keep it fun, I added  a bright pink button down shirt just for a pop of color. 

Many of the men in this room I considered my friends, most lived within a few apartment buildings of my own.  I knew the usual suspects would all be present and I scanned the room as I spoke, my eyes landing on Ted.  His mouth was slightly open, reminding me faintly of Mary Poppins.  "Close your mouth, Theodore, we are not a cod fish," I thought but of course did not say.

I was grateful when my ten minutes of fame had passed and I could return to my own meeting where my pencil shirt and pink top would blend into a sea of similar ensembles rather than sticking out like a sore thumb in an ocean of polyester ties and white shirts in need of ironing.

I was ready to leave promptly at the end of church when Sterling caught me by the door. 

He smiled. "Hey Kelly.  Good job in Elders' Quorum."

"Thanks, Sterling."  Let's keep it brief.

"I was thinking of coming by later on this afternoon if that's OK."

No harm could come of that. "Sure, that's fine.  I should be home," I replied. 

We said our goodbyes.  I head home to nap for a while. 

I didn't exactly wait around for Sterling but it would have been rude to go out.  I decided to head out to visit some friends a few hours after church - to my neighbor girls' apartment - and that was exactly where he was. He was visiting the apartment of girls next door to us.  It didn't exactly bother me but I was surprised since he said he would be coming by my apartment.  It seemed such a flippant choice, faced with the two doors as he walked up the stairs, and he chose the one on the right.  I was on the left.  Didn't bother me, I told myself.  Just surprising.  He never did make it by my apartment that day.

*****

Monday came around, rushed and hectic as it always was.  Class, work, work again at another job, and Family Home Evening that night.  By time I arrived at the institute (church) building, I was worn out.  But I had responsibilities to fill and it was only an hour or two until my day would finally be over.

And when it was, with the closing of our activities, Ted met me at the door, as these boys seemed to be doing lately.

"Hey Kelly, want a ride home?" he asked with his signature cheesy grin that fell somewhere between nervously fake and ecstatic.

I hadn't driven to the institute so I gladly accepted.  Our short drive was filled with light though enjoyable small talk and he walked me to my door.  I walked in, still in conversation and he naturally followed, commenting on what a nice night it was.  Casey and Arizona where both home, in the living area.

"It's so nice out tonight," Ted said, "we should go out and do something, just for a little while.  I know you've had a long day.  But, do you want to go on a little drive?"

He was right, I was still exhausted from my day but it sounded like something chill and fun enough that it might shake off some of my day before I dove into textbooks.  "Yeah.  Where do you want to go?" I inquired.

"Oh, I was thinking... Mars Hill."  Ted's eyes shifted and his lips pursed as they squelched a smile as he suggested this location.

"You mean Make-out Hill??" blurted Arizona, who sometimes had a talent for blurting.

I had never been to Mars Hill but it did have the reputation, a sort of romantic look-out point in Flagstaff, for being a make-out spot.  I should have been surprised Ted would make that kind of offer but just by suggesting it in front of my roommates rather than just casually driving up the hill, he was showing he had no suspicious intentions.

"Yeah!  You know it.  OK, not really.  It's just a pretty night and I thought it would be fun."  Ted's mock confidence dripped off him like perspiration.

"Sure.  Why not?  Let's go.  See ya later girls."  I winked at my roommates on the way out.  They both laughed, seeming to know something I didn't.

We headed out in Ted's gray toaster of a car that he loved so much.  I observed what a conscientious driver he was, knowing that driving for a living had surely sharpened his skills.  He told me about how he learned to drive really young, having gotten his license at 14, a whole ten years previous. 

The drive up the hill was windy but I relished the cool air through the windows.  Talking with Ted and enjoying the night air washed away layers of stress and Mynday grime that had built up over the course of my day. 

We got to the top of the hill, overlooking the greater part of Flagstaff.  The downward facing lights gave way to a beautiful night sky as we parked next to a row of mostly closed, dark cars, making things feel only slightly awkward. 

"Want to get out and check out the view?" I was glad at Ted's suggestion.

I was immediately taken aback by the clear sky.  "Wow, the stars are amazing.  You can see so many more than Phoenix.  I love living up here.  What a view!"

Ted agreed.  "Yeah, it's pretty great."  But he wasn't looking at the view.

Just then I got a chill.  I thought it had something to do with the brisk Flagstaff night air but it probably was more than that.

"Hey, I have a blanket in the back of my car.  Let me grab it for you."  Ted went to the back of the car and returned with a black and white quilt.  He unfolded it and wrapped it first around my shoulders, then around his, his arm across my shoulders as well.

I must have given him a look of surprise because his response was priceless.  "What?  What kind of guy would I be if I can't even help keep you warm on make-out hill?"  We both laughed.  It was so easy to laugh with Ted and despite the newness of it, I took note to the fact that I fit perfectly under his arm. 

My thoughts were interrupted by my ringing phone in my pocket.  I pulled it out and Ted said to go ahead and answer, though it seemed rude to ruin the moment.  He didn't retract his arm.  I took the call.

"Hello?" I asked.

"He Kelly, it's Sterling."  Wow.  This is awkward.

"Hey Sterling," I said to alert Ted to the caller.  He still didn't remove his arm, though I suspected he would.  Felt like he should.

"Hey.  So have you been asked to the institute formal yet?"  No beating around the bush for that guy.

The institute formal dance was coming up in a week.

"No, I haven't." I didn't offer any more details than I had to, especially standing on Mars Hill with Ted.

"Ok.  Hey, can I come by later tonight for a little bit?" Once again, Sterling seemed direct.  I didn't particularly want to go to the dance with him but, I hadn't been asked.

"Yeah, that would be fine.  See you then."  I could be direct too.  He said goodbye and I closed my purple flip phone.

"So Sterling, huh?" Ted half asked, half sighed.

"Yeah.  He asked if I'd been asked to the institute formal yet.  I said no.  Since I haven't..." I sort of trailed off, realizing, at that moment, that maybe Ted had wanted to come to this lovely setting to ask me just that.  I wished I could take back my last words.

"Oh. ... That's... cool."  Ted trailed off also.  "I was sort of hoping to ask you as well but it seems like you've already been asked just now.  Or he's going to ask you?  Making his intent known?  I dunno."  He seemed more disappointed than I'd have imagined. 

"Well he didn't technically ask.  He just asked if I have been asked and said he would like to come over tonight."  Again, I felt like the words were coming out all wrong.  Why couldn't I just say what I was feeling?: Nope, he didn't ask me.  You still can.  But Ted's comments made me realize he was probably seeing things from a guy's perspective.  Sterling had essentially just staked his claim.

The subject somehow got changed, thanks to the beautiful view, and a few minutes later, we headed down the mountain, less happy then when we had driven up.

When we got back to our apartment complex, Ted walked me to the door. 

"So, hey, I was hoping to ask you to the institute formal tonight, but I feel like I sort of got the rug pulled out from under me.  I'd love it if you'd go with me but if you choose to go with Sterling, I understand.  No pressure.  It's totally up to you."  Ted looked hopeful and young, like a little boy asking for another cookie.  And not in a strange way but in a completely endearing, freshly-shaven way.

I wanted to be honest.  I had only ever wanted to be honest with Ted but that has backfired in the past.  I measured my words.  "I know Sterling is going to come by and I feel like he tried to sort of 'stake his claim' so I feel really conflicted.  I don't know what to do." 

Ted half smiled.  "It's cool.  I understand.  Anyway, I had fun tonight on Mars Hill.  We should do that again sometime."  Then the real smile popped out.  Captain Insinuation.

"Thanks Ted.  I had fun too.  See you later."  I turned around and went into my apartment, knowing I wasn't mirroring his fun.

"Night." He called after me.

I walked in.  Arizona and Casey were both in their upstairs loft bedroom, Arizona's presence, at least, made obvious by George Strait's twang wafting down the stairs.

I walked straight to the landing of the stairs and collapsed.  Both Arizona and Casey appeared at the top of the stairs.  "WHAT happened?" they said in unison.

"Ted kind of asked me to the institute formal but while we were on Mars Hill, when his ARM was around me, Sterling called to basically say HE wanted to ask me and now I don't know who asked first or what to say or do."  I buried my face in my hands on the stairway covered in decrepit brown carpet from the Ice Age.

There was a knock at the door.  I thought for sure it was Sterling.  He and Ted must have passed on the stairs because I'd only walked in seconds before, having spewed my brief report in Gilmore Girl speed.

"COME IN!" Arizona called down from the loft.

In came,  not Sterling, but Ted.  He pushed into the apartment with long strides and open arms.  He came straight to the stairs where I had collapsed and enclosed me in the best hug I'd had in a while.

"You just looked really upset when you came in so I just wanted to come back and give you a quick hug and tell you know to worry about the institute formal.  It's no big deal."  He released me from his awkward yet loving embrace, retracing his steps towards the door.

"See you tomorrow," he said as he closed the door.  I hadn't said a word.

I looked up at both my roommates, eyes bulging, hands both pointing towards the door, the look on my face saying, "SEE?"

"I guess you know who you're going to the dance with," Casey said with a dimpled grin.

4 comments:

Marquette said...

I'm loving this! What a fabulous love story!

Amy said...

I'm pretty sure I remember that formal. It was the one Wes really didn't want to go to, but thought it would be funny if I went with Albert, just to have fun with the rumor mill. I kind of wish I did. :) It would have been fun to play with the rumor mill. I enjoy reading your story because I know some parts of it, but not all of it!

Jewel said...

I love love LOVE that he came back in to give you a hug because he could tell you were upset.
You picked a winner!!!

Joshua said...

Once again, I love your writing. The way you describe details I wouldn't even think to include makes it so much more interesting. I also admire that Ted was sensitive and intuitive enough to notice you were upset (many men are not), and not only that - but he was self-assured enough to do something about it.