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This page copyright © 2009 Olympia Press.
Eileen Roberts strode across the Farley campus with rebellion building in her. Autumnal splendor spilled across the grounds, but she saw none of this. With a sigh of recurrent impatience, she swept away from her face the tumble of silken, sand-colored hair that fell to her shoulders. Her Mediterranean blue eyes were stormy as she considered her situation. Another six weeks like these last ones, and she would go ape.
Eileen slowed down at the approach to Kramer Hall. How could she have known this would be the kooky kind of campus where you had to import your dates? At other colleges, fellows wandered right into the dorms, looking! Here, a man on the campus, even just trying to buy a cup of coffee at the student snack bar, would walk right into “campus protection” and be escorted off the grounds.
Why did her mother have to insist on her going to an Eastern college, when everybody she knew was headed for coed campuses in the Midwest or on the West Coast? Because her sister Olivia was working at that magazine job down in New York, barely seventy miles from Farley.
Ever since the divorce last May, mother had this thing about bringing Olivia and her closer together—especially now that she was chasing around in Europe, while dad career-chased in his new single status. How did marriages break up, after twenty-four years?
Eileen sauntered up the stairs, across the porch, into the large, sprawling house that was Kramer Hall. How did you get to meet guys at a nutty school like this? Townies were square. Besides, what coed would date a townie?
“Eileen!” Dorry Allen, her attractive brunette roommate, called eagerly from inside the lounge, and sprinted towards her.
“You've been getting calls regularly for the last two hours. Long-distance operator in New York City.” Dorry's grey-green eyes sparkled inquisitively. “You holding out on me, honey?”
“Are you kidding?” Eileen dropped her tall, curvaceous torso into a chair near the phones, crossed the long, perfect legs. “It's probably Olivia. Mother gave her that slush about keeping an eye on the baby sister,” she mocked. “She's phoned three times since I checked into this hole.” Restlessness glowed from her. “Olivia didn't get tied up with a mid-Victorian campus like this. The way I heard it, she had a four-year ball at college. She could have got married half a dozen times if she wasn't sold on her career first.”
“Why don't we cut out of here some weekend and go tearing down to see Olivia?” Dorry demanded effervescently. “You say she's got this real jazzy job. She ought to know just hundreds of guys.”
“Olivia thinks I'm an infant.” Eileen shrugged. “She'd never introduce me to her men.”
The phone rang. Eileen shot from her seat to grab it.
“Hello,” she said, faintly breathless.
“I have a New York call for Miss Eileen Roberts,” the operator began.
“This is Eileen Roberts,” she said quickly.
“One moment, please.”
“Eileen?” Olivia's voice came to her, and for one unexpected instant Eileen was brushed with nostalgia, for the days when Olivia and she squabbled over lipsticks or who got to take the spare car in the family.
“Hi, Livvy.” Warmth deepened Eileen's voice. Olivia had been really cut-up over the divorce. Luckily, she was already in New York, in that swinging magazine job of hers.
“Sweetie, I've got this wild assignment, to make a tour for the magazine. It's a research project for a series we're planning. I thought I'd send you the keys to the apartment, and maybe you could run down to New York once a week, to make sure everything's okay,” Olivia said, with an aura of anticipation in her voice. Olivia always did like off-beat deals. Even her apartment wasn't the typical career girl in a luxury building deal. She'd found this small apartment in a graystone and had gone hogwild in redecorating it.
“Sure thing,” Eileen agreed, ideas popping, full-blown, into her mind. “You don't mind if I bring my roommate along?” A pad in the city, without Livvy around! Zowie! “Oh, what about the super?” Eileen added uncertainly. “They won't think I'm housebreaking?”
“I told the super—he's in the rear basement apartment— that my sister would be around. And of course, it's okay to bring your roommate. I know you're not going to use the place for any wild bashes,” Olivia laughed. “Besides, I won't be gone more than four or five weeks. I'll feel better, though, if you look in now and then.”
“When are you leaving?” Eileen asked, aware of Dorry's avid curiosity as she hung in the doorway of the phone booth.
“I'm taking a late flight out tonight. I'll drop off the key special delivery—you should have them tomorrow morning. Oh, have you heard from mother lately?”
“'Last week. She was in Paris,” Eileen reported.
“That'll cost dad a bundle,” Olivia said cynically. “I'll write to you, baby. Thanks for looking after the apartment for me.”
Eileen placed the phone back on the hook, her mind deep in thought. No problems about weekend passes, with Livvy in New York.
“What gives?” Dorry exploded. “You look like somebody just gave you a million!”
“How would you like to spend the weekend in New York?” Eileen drawled. “In a little apartment on West Tenth Street, Manhattan?”
“I'm ready to pack right now,” Dorry giggled.
“We'll have to wait until morning, for the mail delivery,” Eileen stipulated. “But in the meantime, how do you go about renting a car in this town?”
Eileen and Dorry slowly drove in and out of the streets, both girls watching for a parking spot.
“Over on the left,” Dorry said urgently. “That little foreign job is pulling out.”
“Good, it's practically in front of Livvy's house,” Eileen sighed in satisfaction. “We'll have to find out about garages in the neighborhood.” She ignored the impatient driver behind her, calmly manipulated the rented car into the spot at the curb.
“You've been here before, haven't you?” Dorry asked, intrigued with the new adventure.
“Just once, with mother, the night before she jetted to Europe,” Eileen explained. “You have to give Livvy credit. She's sharp. This apartment was a real dog until she went to work redecorating.” Eileen giggled reminiscently. “She spent enough money on it to make even dad yell.” That was one good deal about dad—he felt so guilty about the divorce he was handing over a jazzy allowance, and Olivia had made him part with a real bundle for the apartment furniture.
“Let's have dinner down in Greenwich Village,” Dorry said. “That's a swinging spot, The way I hear it, the whole NYU crowd hangs out down there.”
“We forget about Farley until tomorrow night,” Eileen said happily. “We've got six weeks of vegetating to make up for!”
They left the car, walked down to the stoop before Olivia's building. The shutters were a shining, freshly painted black, like the low iron fence about the patch of garden to the left of the stoop. The house looked smart, Eileen thought—but then, leave it Livvy to make sure of that. The rent was wild, she remembered.
In the foyer, Eileen remembered to collect Livvy's mail. There was a Con Edison bill, a circular from a computer dating bureau.
“Come on,” Dorry was prodding exuberantly. “Let's get inside.”
Eileen pulled open the door, strode inside—and headlong into something tall, masculine, and amused.
“Are you always in such a rush?” he chuckled, obviously interested in the scenery.
“I'm sorry,” Eileen apologized. She had dashed in without looking where she was going. She'd been about to say something to Dorry when they collided. Now, she turned on the personality, full power. Golly, he was something! A neighbor of Livvy's? “Do you need first aid?” she mocked. Almost six feet, about twenty-four or twenty-five. Sandy hair, crew cut. Nice eyes. Blue? No, gray.
“I'll let you off with identification,” he offered. “I'm Ted Scott, 2-B.” His eyes swung from her to Dorry with frank admiration.
“Eileen Roberts,” she introduced herself, with a bright smile. “My roommate, Dorry Allen.”
“You just move in?” He looked distinctly interested.
“My sister lives here,” Eileen explained. “Olivia Roberts, in 3-B. She's away for a few weeks. We'll be popping in on weekends, from Farley College.”
“I'm shoving off myself for the weekend,” he said, making it sound as though he wished he weren't. “I'll come knocking on your door next Sunday—you haven't lived until you've tasted the Ted Scott Sunday morning breakfasts.”
“Don't knock before noon,” Dorry warned. “But we'll come a-running then!”
“Don't you forget.” He grinned, breezing by them. “Sunday breakfast next week, chez Ted Scott.”
Ted Scott sauntered out into the sunny Saturday afternoon autumn. Suppressing their giggles, the two girls hurried up the carpeted stairway.
“Did you ever see such phenomenal luck?” Dorry whispered excitedly. “Falling into something gorgeous like that right in the foyer!”
“Livvy just doesn't keep the right schedules,” Eileen said with a sense of triumph. Usually, it was her sister who was credited with the sharp mind. Dad said Olivia could connive her way past St. Peter, if she decided that was the place to go.
Eileen fumbled in her purse for the key, found it, unlocked the apartment door. She felt a deep respect for the large square room, done in greens and blues, with the impressive wood-burning fireplace and the mixture of modern and traditional that was unexpectedly sophisticated.
“It looks like something out of a decorators' magazine,” Dorry said, momentarily interested.
“The bedroom's tiny,” Eileen remembered, “and the kitchenette is just a closet. Say, Ted Scott must be just below,” she said with a pleased realization. “He said 2-B.”
“I'm hungry,” Dorry said pointedly. “Let's dump our weekender and head for a restaurant.”
“Just think,” Eileen marveled, “if the magazine hadn't sent Livvy chasing out on that assignment, we'd be spending another square weekend up at Farley.”
“Stow the philosophizing,” Dorry ordered briskly, striding into the tiny bedroom. “Let's see what kind of a Saturday night we can dig up for ourselves in this swinging town.” She dropped their communal weekender across the double bed, flipped open the lid, and began to unpack.
“It would be helpful if we had some phone numbers,” Eileen admitted restlessly, busy with a hair brush at the mirror over the dresser.
“Who needs them?” Dorry challenged. “With our credentials?” Complacently, she inspected herself in the mirror, teased a flip of dark hair into a more flattering angle. “Come on, let's blow.”
The day was autumn at its best. The sun shone down with caressing warmth. The air was crisp, invigorating. The two girls were conscious of the backward glances they collected as they walked with compulsive swiftness in the direction of Washington Square. Eileen remembered because Olivia had taken her mother and her to dinner in an unexpectedly elegant little place near West Fourth.
“I don't know why it took us six weeks to get down here,” Dorry giggled. “This should be our home away from home.”
They were heading south now, with the Arch in dramatic view. Eileen was conscious of the youngness of the faces they passed, the predominance of their contemporaries. She saw the fountain that was always being written up in some magazine or newspaper article. Exhilaration spiraled in her.
They strolled casually towards the fountain, where early afternoon hordes gathered in little clusters, enjoying the sun, the companionship of fellow travelers, the feeling of being young.
Almost immediately, Eileen found her attention drawn to a tall, dark-haired fellow in a grey cashmere sweater, who was in intense conversation with a male companion, his face away from Eileen and Dorry. They were battling over the values of Brecht in modern-day theatre. Too bad, she thought regretfully. That was out of her depth.
The one in the gray cashmere reached into his pocket for a pipe. It fell to the ground, rolled. He leaned forward to pick it up. Somehow, when he was vertical again, he was less than two feet from the girls.
“I'd take a bet you're not City College or Hunter,” he said casually. “If you were NYU, I'd have noticed you long before now—” His eyes were good-humoredly probing.
“Farley,” Eileen contributed, aware of anticipation taking root in her. Oh, he was good-looking! Probably a junior or senior. “That's about seventy miles up—”
“I know Farley,” he broke in kiddingly, sending eye signals to his friend to join them. “I was up there once, way back in my freshman days.”
“We were going ape,” Eileen admitted. “Until we decided to head for the city. My sister lent us her place for some weekends.”
“This character is Rick Masters,” he said, grinning at the tall, clean-cut, aggressive looking male who was covering the distance between them. “I'm Jim Lawrence.”
“Eileen Roberts,” she said pertly, “and Dorry Allen.”
“Hi,” Dorry drawled, immediately annexing Rick. “Look, maybe you two can send us off in the right direction. We just drove into town—we're famished. Where do we go for a burger and coffee around here?”
“That's exactly what we had in mind ourselves,” Rick said exuberantly. “Come on, Jim, let's take them down to The Hut for chow.”
Over burgers and coffee, the four of them exchanged vital statistics. Jim and Rick were both seniors, both twenty-one. Rick lived in an apartment right off the square, with three other students. Jim lived in solitary splendor this year, in a tenement flat on East Fifth.
“My last year's roommate took off for the Peace Corps,” Jim explained. “With the rent so low I decided to swing it alone this year. Besides,” he grinned, “it makes life less complicated if I decide to throw a bash. No need to confer with the roommate.”
“Like tonight?” Rick asked interestedly.
“In recognition of the good-neighbor policy between campuses, why don't you two gals come up and cook dinner for the local students tonight?” Jim pressed.
“These two particular students,” Rick stipulated.
“The only meal I can make is spaghetti and tossed salad,” Eileen flipped. Wouldn't this make a story to repeat on campus? One hour in New York and they had an apartment date with two swinging seniors!
“Let's go supermarket shop,” Rick accepted. “I'm a bug about spaghetti.”
“Let's shop on my side of town,” Jim ordered, bowing mockingly at Rick. “In deference to student budgets.”
In high spirits they left The Hut and headed east for the less fashionable neighborhood where Jim lived. They found the small corner supermarket where he regularly shopped, and joined the bearded young men, the lank-haired girls in thigh-high shifts, who moved leisurely along the aisles.
“Maybe I'd better prepare you,” Jim chuckled, a hand about Eileen's shoulder as she debated between three respective brands of spaghetti. “My pad's four flights up, and it was chosen for economy, not smartness.”
“My feet can take the hike,” she said calmly, “and where did you get the idea I was a snob?”
What other kind of ideas were Rick and Jim cooking up, she wondered, suddenly uneasy. Were they counting on a making-out session after dinner? They were in for a disappointment. At least, on the first date, Eileen amended honestly.
Dorry and she had both made out in high school—they talked about it at great length at the end of the first week of rooming together. Both of them had thought this was the greatest ever—but by the time graduation rolled along, the spark was gone. Those were kids back in high school—Jim and Rick were men. Excitement ricocheted through Eileen as she considered the difference between the boys and the men. No sack tonight, she told herself— but after all summer and six weeks at Farley, she felt almost like a virgin again. It was a status she had no desire to reclaim.
“We've picked out dessert,” Dorry called behind them. “What are you two stalling about?”
“All set,” Eileen said firmly, throwing a box of spaghetti into the wagon. “Let's go. My spaghetti sauce has to cook for at least two hours.”
“Don't worry, baby,” Jim crooned softly. “Those two hours are going to just fly.” His arm tightened about her shoulders. Their eyes tangled in matching expectancy. Wow, the way they had clicked, right off, Eileen thought exultantly. Usually, she played it cool with a new fellow.
“Not too fast,” she warned, trying to sound nonchalant. “Farley's slowed us down a bit.”
“You make the rules,” Jim agreed, while his eyes said something quite different. “Now let's get up to the pad and throw dinner in the pots.”
And the girls in the sack, Eileen asked herself realistically? No. She'd got the message across that there were rules for Dorry and her. Loud and clear! They would play, up to a point, sure. Right this minute, she was shaking to feel the touch of Jim's mouth, his hands. But the rules were posted, for now. That would be enough. Eileen thought.
Jim pushed the supermarket cart into the “Express” lane while Eileen mockingly checked the number of items they had collected against the maximum permitted in the lane.
“If we have too many things,” Jim decided good-humoredly, “we'll shove that frozen strawberry shortcake off on old Rick.” He grimaced eloquently at the line-up of piled-high carts waiting in the lane next to theirs, with each transaction obviously a time-consuming venture. “Think we make it, Eileen?” He dropped an arm companionably about Eileen's shoulders as she counted.
“You make it, you make it,” Dorry giggled exuberantly behind them Rick was taking a complacent inspection of Dorry's curvaceous dimensions beneath the body-hugging, off-white double knit shift she wore, which ended an entrancing four inches above her knees.
“How far away is your place?” Eileen asked Rick, simultaneously beginning to unload their cart. The couple ahead of them—he was bearded and she wore her hair limp and hanging to her waist—were collecting their bundles now.
“Just three blocks,” Jim said. His eyes were making another tour of the young lushness of her, encased in a turquoise knit suit that spoke eloquently of the high, firm breasts beneath, the tiny waist, the sleek hips. “Short ones,” he added, grinning. Was he getting ideas, Eileen wondered uneasily again. She wasn't making out on a first date. Not even an apartment date.
The girl behind the check-out counter briskly tabulated their items, yet managed to take overt inventory of Eileen and Dorry. They looked like visitors, Eileen decided— not like the way-out girls who sauntered casually about the aisles of the tiny supermarket. This was the new East Village, she realized with a faint flicker of expectancy. There were some seniors up at Farley who made a big scene of keeping the Village Voice