Waiting

by Wendell Jackson

Copyright© 2021 by Wendell Jackson

Romance Story: A tale of misunderstood love. And the struggles of being just a friend.

Tags: Romance  

Canyon City high School

Walking into the library, June Watson slid into the chair across the table from Greg. Holding out her hand she said, “Let me see your paper.” Greg knew which one she was asking for, and pulled it out of his folder. It was the results of their last math test. June could see at a glance, all the red marks which lowered the grade to non passing. June looked the paper over for several minutes, before handing it back. She saw that Greg had not understood the equation.

“let’s correct this and hand it back in.” she said it with a warm smile. They got partial credit for a corrected paper. “You’ve made some common mistakes, which we can take care of.” Handing the test paper back, June pointed to the problem and waited as Greg, looked it over and made the correction. They switched to the next problem and with a little explanation, he corrected that one and so on down the paper.

“I’m a little embarrassed having you do my homework.” Greg mumble only loud enough for June to hear.

“I’m not doing your homework, you are. I’m just helping point some things out. You’re still doing the adding and subtracting.” She assured him.

Greg and June had been friends for years. Living in the same small town, they rode the same school bus and had the same classes. The first year of high School, was drowning Greg in home work. Freshmen weren’t allowed a study period, which left him and his classmates doing homework at home. Which was the whole idea.

Without a study period, Greg used his lunch hour to do his homework in the library. June always checked his papers to make sure the answers were correct. To play sports, he had to maintain a c+ average grade in all subjects. The student body wasn’t large, and many of the boys didn’t participate in a sports program. Greg at the urging of his best friend, went out for the football team. There was only the varsity, which he was able to get a place on the second string. His best friend Dan Cadle also made the team, and had a better chance at making first string.

Dan was trying out for quarter back, as he had a talent for throwing the ball. He was better than the starting quarter back, A senior who was at the most, fair in passing. Jim Jefferies, the senior quarter back, loved to throw the ball hard in practice. He especially loved bouncing the ball off the new freshmen’s chests. His idea of toughness was for a man to experience pain. To an extent, the coach felt the same way. So, Dan’s passing drills at practice went unnoticed by Coach Ed White.

The team had lost the first three games, and only had three more left in the season. On top of that, they hadn’t scored a touchdown in any of the previous games. Greg wasn’t big enough to be what was needed for a guard or tackle, but he could run and catch the ball almost every time. It depended on which quarterback was throwing. However, Coach White liked the way Greg played on defense and put him in several times during the game on defense. Bill Sosavick played the position on offense and defense, but he was the main pass receiver, so the Coach wanted to save him for just offense.

A big change came about, during the game with Molalla Falls. A school with twice the enrollment of Canyon City high school. Molalla was leading with a score of 13 to nothing. Bill Sosavick had a shoelace snap, and came to the side lines to have one of the managers replace it as quick as possible. So, Greg was sent in to temporary replace him. Jim Jefferies, didn’t realize that Bill was on the side lines, and called for a pass play. Greg and two others ran the called for route, and Greg gave a fake that left him open. Jefferies seeing an open man, made one of his better passes of the year, and Greg caught and ran the ball into the end zone for a touchdown. The cheer that roared up from the Canyon City side lines, was enough to shake the windows of the school.

The team was elated over the touchdown, but certain ones were not happy that it was Greg that caught the pass and crossed the goal line. June and the other two cheer leaders were jumping, with excitement and throwing pompoms in the air. Jim Jefferies was mad that his buddy Bill wasn’t the one making the score. The extra point was scored, and the girls again were jumping with excitement, thinking that the game could be won.

On the kick off, Bill Sosavick was back on the field. The receiving team tried to bring the ball around their left end, and ran over the top of Sosavick. He was out for the season with a broken collarbone. Greg was back in the game, and concentrating on the opposing quarterback. This time it wasn’t a pass, but they came around his end, behind two blockers. They tried running over Greg, but he dipped down and dove under them, to come up with the ball runner. He made the tackle and left two blockers on the ground behind him. Now he had all eyes on him from the side lines, and they were cheering him on. The next play was around the other end, and Greg caught the ball carrier from behind. Even the coach was aware that the game had changed. They were still behind, but they felt like they were winning.

Canyon City received the ball on downs, and Jim Jefferies Jealous that the cheers were for Greg, deliberately ran the next plays over Greg’s position. He went out of his way to stomp over Greg’s back, as he gained a couple yards. It was too much for the coach, and he pulled Jefferies out of the game, sending in Dan Cadle. Calling for another pass play, Dan ran left with his guards as Greg waited an extra count, before heading down field, behind the defense. It was a total surprise, even to Coach Ed White. It was a play that Dan and Greg came up with in practice, and could be used with several other line ups. The ball came sailing in, spinning like a bullet, but catchable. The game was now tied. Jefferies wanted back in the game. The extra point would win it for them, if Molalla falls didn’t score in the next minute and a half. Coach White wanted this game bad, and refused to send in Jefferies. The game was won, and the cheering didn’t stop until half way home on the bus.

During the next two games, Dan Cadle was the quarter back, and passed for five touchdowns. Greg didn’t catch all the passes, as there were other players on the field too. They won the games and had the best season in four years.

Studies didn’t get any easier, and Greg was still doing his homework during the noon hour. June always helpful, checked on him regularly. He had surprised her with his talent for football, and that he was a big factor in their victories. The season was over, and he like the other players turned to basketball. There he wasn’t at all outstanding, but he got to play whenever the team was twenty of more points ahead, or they were losing so badly it didn’t matter.

While going over the next assignment in algebra, Greg asked June if she wanted to go for a soda after school. She had been afraid he might ask, and had let it be known that she was dating Carl Kelly, A junior, who had a license and could chauffeur her around to all the places she wanted to go. If Greg had been older and had a license, she would have said yes. She knew she was spoiled and didn’t want to give that up. Greg was a dear friend, but he didn’t have access to a car. It wasn’t the time for them to extend the relationship further. Looking up at Greg, she softly said, “Let’s wait on that.”

They didn’t ride the bus together as often now. June usually caught a ride with her older boy friend, Carl. Greg did give her a card for her birthday, and a box of candy on valentine’s day. The card and candy didn’t have strong over tones of emotion, as Greg knew that wasn’t what she wanted from him. He was sometimes her listen post, where she ran some of her personal problems by him. He was that person girls like to put off by claiming they regarded them as a friend.

June was driving her own car now, but never on a date. Her steady dates didn’t last long, as they wanted more from Her than she was willing to give. Some boys made up stories about their dates, but the fact remained, that June was a virgin. Once during a heavy petting situation, things got out of hand. Ruben Vaskal got angry and slapped her hard enough to bruise her cheek. Of course, her parents jumped Ruben about it, and he apologized. To June, her parents and his parents. They never dated again, but that didn’t stop Greg from slamming Ruben’s head into the lockers in the teams dressing room. That took place when Greg was a junior, and Ruben a senior. June heard the rumor that Greg had did it to avenger her. She but never brought the subject up, and Greg never said anything either.

After high school, Greg didn’t have the money for college. The navy was his choice for his military obligation he felt he owed the country. June went off to college out of state, and he figured that would be the last he’d ever hear from her. He came home a couple times on leave, and tried to look her up, but she was away at college and her parents were not exactly wanting an enlisted navy man in the family. If he’d been an officer, that would be different.

During the times he came home on leave, he didn’t ask about her, but was quick to listen to any news concerning her. She was still in collage and again on some cheering team. He saw a picture in the local paper of her squad performing at one of the big universities. It was obvious June had a full life.

Specializing in photography Greg served on several different ships. The last one being a destroyer that was patrolling the shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf. His assignment was to film and photograph all Iranian patrol boats that harassed their passage. It was a soft assignment that elevated him above his rank. He still had to salute all the gold braid, but he got the best food after filming the officers dining in the wardroom. His job was to take pictures and took a lot of them. He was on the port side, filming a passing oil tanker, when a sailor stumbled with a flare projectile he was moving to an after-store room. The flare rolled across the deck, hitting a bulkhead several times before it began sputtering to life. With the flare amid ship, and about to go full body, the Sailor kicked it in an open locker and slammed the hatch shut. It was the wrong thing to do. Even if he couldn’t kick it over the side, it would have been better to leave the flare to do its thing right where it was. Kicking it into the locker where oxygen breathing canisters were stored, was almost lethal. The canisters were highly explosive, and once used had to be tossed overboard as they remained explosive even after used.

All Greg knew was that there was a loud rush, maybe he heard an explosion. The world just turned a bright white, and he felt himself slam into a bulkhead. When he came to, he was feeling a lot of pain and in a Navy sick bay. It wasn’t on board the destroyer, as the space he was laying in was over forty feet wide, with many medical bunks. A medic or doctor told him they were transferring him to medical facilities ashore, where he would receive the best treatment medicine could offer. Things were a blur after that. He was heavily sedated, and lost all track of time.

Greg ended up in the naval hospital in San Diego. There he underwent several surgery’s, trying to make him look human again. He’d lost his right ear, and several teeth. Both arms had been broken, and were incased in plaster. With some miracle doctoring he had his teeth implanted and skin grafted around a plastic frame for his missing ear. It was while he was at the Naval Hospital that some letters caught up with him. One was telling him what the chaplain had already informed him with genuine regret, that his folks had been killed in an auto wreck shortly after his accident. The other letter was from June. He left it on the bed side table and just stared at it for a while.

The letter remained unopened, while he went through his feelings for June. It had been several years since her last letter. At that time, she was trying out for a woman’s cheer leading squad. She didn’t have the extra time to write letters, even to old friends. She mentioned that she was engaged, and if she ever married, she wanted him to come to the wedding. Even without thinking about it, going to her wedding was last thing he ever would do. He never opened that last letter. He kept it stored away in with his other memorabilia.

The day came when he was released from the hospital. Granted convalescent leave, he was temporary released from active duty. Facing a decision on where to go, He had no home, it had been sold to cover his parent’s funeral expenses, and lawyer fees. The other party in accident, brought a law suit against the estate. The decision was, His parents were not at fault. Money was spent on court costs and lawyer fees. Family house hold items had been placed in storage, and was about the only thing Greg had reason for going home.

Renting a house in nearby Canyon City, Greg kept a low profile. He bought some photography equipment, and started taking pictures around the town. He stopped by the high school and got permission to photograph student activities for a magazine layout, that may or may not be published. He was pleased to discover his old friend Dan Cadle was the football coach. Dan got two years of college under his belt, and came back home to take a position at the high school. His teams always had a winning season, even if they didn’t take the league title.

It wasn’t all rosy, his home coming. For one thing, Dan didn’t recognize him at first. The doctors had tried to make his face look like the old one, but there was too much to rebuild. He wasn’t ugly, but there were scars. The right side of his face, bore the evidence of injury, and his neck had a lot of burn damage. The scars couldn’t be hidden very well. When looking in the mirror, Greg could see there was a big change in his appearance. There wasn’t much of his old face to recognized. He began to think he was off on the wrong foot by coming home. Once they knew him, he was deluged with sympathetic comments, all dwelling on his looks. They meant well, saying he looked almost like his old self, but he knew better.

June wasn’t living in Canyon City these days, but Greg feared she might come back for a visit. The last thing he wanted was for her to see him in his new condition. It was then he realized, he never wanted to see her again, ever. He made that clear when he was invited over to Dan’s house where Dan’s fiancée prepared a fine dinner for the two old friends. When June’s name was brought up in conversation, Greg told them that he and June had moved on. There was no need for them to meet, as it would only add stress to the situation. It seemed childish to Dan, but neither he nor Helen made a comment.

Helen had taken a course in photo journalism and had a pleasant conversation with Greg on the subject. She was enthused about his proposed magazine layout. Asking if he thought it might be soon. She was also a teacher at the high school, and said it would give her students ideas for their future.

 
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