Chapter 61: A Near Miss
Chapter Description: A flashback to a more pleasant time when a young Clark Gibson was dating a Miss Cassie Braun
Chapter 61: A Near Miss
“Ooo awf awffng ow?!”
“Clark. Chew. Swallow. Then talk.”
I finished wolfing down my bite of massive cheeseburger with the fried egg on top and took a sip of soda. Back in those days I swear I could almost eat like an Amazon, be hungry an hour later and not gain a pound. I leaned forward in the restaurant chair and lowered my voice to a whisper. “You’re dropping out?” I whispered to my girlfriend.
Cassie straightened up and smoothed back her chestnut brown hair. She was keeping it short. Not pixie cut short, there was still body to it, but enough so that pigtails and ponytails, basically anything with a bow would have looked out of place. For an instant I found myself staring at her breasts and felt my palms ache as I imagined myself cupping them. She was just light enough to where I could imagine myself picking her up and her wrapping those legs around my waist as I grabbed the back of her scalp and pressed her lips harder to my own.
What? I was nineteen. I was always a little bit horny, even if it came in sudden, inappropriate flashes. Oh to be a teenager again, before the weight of the world had settled more firmly on my shoulders. I thought I’d looked so much like an adult, just like my father, but in hindsight I still looked like a kid. My goatee still had that scraggly look no matter how much I trimmed it. My frame hadn’t filled out as much as I imagined it had and so it almost looked like I was wearing a bit of costuming like a fake mustache. I dunno. Maybe ‘college Clark’ just couldn’t pull the goatee off and had to grow into it…
I’m rambling though.
My girlfriend of almost two years had just told me that she was dropping out of college over a breakfast burger. If that wasn’t the opening line to our inevitable break up, I wasn’t sure what was. I thought about the wild night we’d had last weekend at her parents house. Had that been...had that been break up sex and I hadn’t even known it? I’d just thought she was getting off to the thrill of fucking just quiet enough to not get caught. Instead she’d been getting me out of her system.
Some deep dark part of me hoped that if the break up was coming, we’d at least go one last round at my dorm. I hadn’t gotten my break up sex. As inner monologues tend to do all of that whirred through my brain in the time it took for me to swallow, glance at Cassie’s perfect breasts, and then travel my consciousness upward towards those pools of brown she called her eyes.
“I’m not dropping out,” Cassie said. She didn’t even say the last two words, instead mouthing them to be safe. “I’m dual enrolling at an online university.”
I took another bite of the tremendous burger. Best to show that I wasn’t as worried as I was. It was a smaller bite, though, one that still left me room to talk. “Why?”
“You know why,” Cassie said. She took a sip of vanilla malt.
The Littles Student Union had just secretly released a list of professors known for disproportionately flunking Littles over on MistuhGwiffin.web. The campus was a minefield of stodgy old Amazons who didn’t make any secrets about their opinions on Littles being more suited to nursery school over proper academia. I’d just myself scraped by an intro to educational theory course with a B+ because I’d made sure to cram buzzwords from the Amazon teacher’s own book into my final paper.
Yes, a B+ was scraping by for me. Not because I was an amazing, naturally gifted student, but because most Littles were on scholarship. Even those of us that weren’t felt like we were on a kind of automatic academic probation. Slipping grades, or anything less than perfect was enough of an excuse to get us kicked out. Getting kicked out meant going home a failure...and everyone feared that it wouldn’t be our parents’ home we’d be going back to.
“Yeah,” I said. “Why are you dual enrolling? Single enrollment is difficult enough.”
Cassie adjusted her seating on the stack of phonebooks held together by thick rubber bands. I did the same. In a very low, yet casual voice as to not raise suspicion, she said, “I’m enrolling at an online community college. It’s got a good track record for computer programming and an even better one for Littles. I’m going to take online courses there, and front load as many art classes as I can, even if I don’t pass them.”
“But what if you fail?”
An Amazon waitress about our age came and refilled our water glasses. “Can I get you guys anything else?” she asked.
I raised my fore and middle fingers together slightly to indicate that I’d be paying. “Just the check please.” The young twenty-something who could have tossed me over her shoulder had she wanted to, reached into her apron and took out a slip of paper. “Here you go. Pay up at the front whenever you’re ready.” She left it face down on the table and covered it with some extra napkins.
“Thank you,” I said. We waited for her to leave out of earshot before continuing our conversation. “What if you fail?” I repeated.
“I’m going to,” Cassie said, nonchalantly. “That’s why I’m dual enrolling. I’m going to take all of the art classes I can, learn as much as I can, and then disappear back to my parents’ place where I’ll learn computer stuff.”
“But you hate computer stuff,” I said. “You love art.”
Cassie let out a long, almost mournful sigh. “I do. And I want to do it as long as possible in mediums that aren’t scented marker, finger paints, and crayon. So I’m going to get as much out of this place as I can and get out before I can’t.” She didn’t need to explain what that meant. “I can paint and sketch from home and make money. I don’t need a degree to make art.”
“I need a degree to be a teacher,” I replied. “I can’t leave.”
My girlfriend looked away from me. “Yeah. I know.’
We didn’t say anything after that for a while. Just nibbled on rapidly cooling hashbrowns and sipped on warming shakes. My heart sped up when the Amazon waitress got a booster seat from a stack next to the bathroom. It was for an Amazon lady with a toddler, a real one.
“What made you decide this?” I asked. I don’t know if I was asking or about the inevitable heartbreak that would happen as soon as I paid the check or her decision to purposefully tank her stay on campus. Both?
“My roommate,” Cassie said. “I got a new one.”
I wasn’t connecting the dots; maybe even willfully so. “Lara, right?” I’d crossed paths with her a handful of times. “Um...sturdier girl? Likes anime? Film major? Kinda...quirky?”
Cassie got this far away look in her eyes, revisiting horrors that I could not see. “She’s gone.”
“What do you mean she’s gone?”
“I think she started watching cartoons,” Cassie whispered. “She wet the bed. When our R.A. found out about it...now I’ve got a new roommate.” I let that sink in. “She’s a film student too. Just got the scholarship. Lara’s scholarship.”
“I...I...I…” I didn’t know what to say. “I’m sorry, Cass. I’m so sorry.” Stupidly I inserted, “I didn’t realize you two were close.” That wasn’t the point and I knew it.
“This place isn’t just a degree factory,” she told me. “This place is an Adoption Agency. They move us on down the line until they’re ready for us.”
Some stupid, prideful part of me bristled at that, not that I had any particular love for the ol’ Alma Mater, but nineteen year old me had this almost compulsive need to be correct even when I was obviously wrong. I patted the phonebooks beneath us. “Then why are we sitting on these and not those,” I pointed to the stacks of boosters. “Or those?” I thumbed to the row of cheap restaurant highchairs beside them.
“We’re not ripe yet,” Cassie said. “We haven’t stepped out of line. We haven’t given them an excuse. We haven’t reminded them we existed enough.”
I had nothing. She was right. I knew she was right. I was raised knowing that she was right.
She kept going. “You know Shelton Prince, III Stadium?” Of course I did. It was literally a campus landmark. “Prince wasn’t some big brainiac. He was a Tweener who over a hundred years ago took all the courses on agriculture he could, dropped out, and jumped into the agriculture industry. We only know about him because he gave a ton of money to the University after the fact.”
“So you want to be Shelton Prince the Third but with art?” I asked.
“He didn’t need a degree to make money.” She said it with the kind of finality that I’d already grown to know that I was barking up the wrong tree.
“Yeah but…” I paused. “...what if I never see you again?”
My girlfriend looked away uncomfortably. There. I knew. She was breaking up with me. She might not have been planning to do it here at the restaurant, but she was going to do it. Like putting down a sick dog, she just hadn’t decided where and when to end our relationship.
The sick old dog had a few tricks yet. “Tell ya what,” I said. “I owe you from last year. Let me pay you back.”
“Last year?” Cassie said. “What do you mean? How did I-?”
I grinned. “I seem to remember a pretty girl calling me on my bullshit in a class we shared. If I’d kept going that hard and fast, I’d be in a stroller by now.”
Still in the heat of a kind of puppy love, Cassie blushed. “You can play it smart,” she admitted, “when you try hard enough.”
“I’m also figuring some stuff out,” I told her. I got out of my chair, walked over to hers and offered mine. She grabbed the check and took mine. That simple touch, holding hands, lit my entire world on fire in the best way. “Let me see what I can do to help.”
Cassie leaned into me, putting her head on my shoulder as we walked to the cash register. “Help how?”
“You help me slam the breaks,” I told her. “I’ll teach you how to power through. Certain people are crazy,” I dared now slander Amazons as a whole so close in ear shot, thanks Cassie, “but if you ‘yes and’ them you can I dunno...watch!”
I broke away from my girlfriend and made a straight away for the Amazon and her toddler in the booster seat. “Excuse me, ma’am,” I said. “Can I just compliment you on what a well behaved child you have.” I gestured to Cassie who looked like she wanted to literally hide behind the nearest countertop. My friend and I were enjoying our brunch and I was worried for a second that our conversation would get drowned out. Babies. Restaurants. You know the stereotype. It’s so good to see someone who not only has socialized their child to be out in public but clearly has a good relationship with them. I’m sorry for interrupting.”
The mother seemed confused for a second and then smiled, blushing at the wave of absolutely nonsense compliments I’d just fed her. “Oh wow. Well, thank you! I see so many babies and Littles getting fussy in public and I just get the worst case of second hand embarrassment. I’ve gotten my Joshua used to it. Thank you for noticing.”
I chose to ignore the Littles comment. No sense in arguing certain things.
While she was talking, the chubby cheeked cherub that could likely have beaten me in a fist fight got a bowl of applesauce slid in front of him. As he began greedily digging in with a plastic spoon, I observed. “I’m guessing that Joshua is,” I mulled the odds over in my head. “Not quite one and a half?”
“He’s seventeen months to the day,” the Amazon mother said. “How did you..?
“Usually left or right handedness starts to develop around eighteen months and is usually solidified around age three,” I said.
“You’re very articulate,” the woman gushed, staring at me.
Just the slightest jingling of alarm bells entered my teenage head. “Thank you ma’am.” I ignored the implication that Littles couldn’t be or weren’t particularly articulate. ‘Articulate’ is a lot like ‘mature’, if the word needs to be said to describe you, the person saying it probably doesn’t think you are or should be. “I’m taking early education classes, and developmental milestones of various ages was one of my favorite chapters. I find it fascinating how brains and cognitive development evolve over time.” I saw her eyes go glassy. I went too hard with the technical jargon. “I’m learning how to be a teacher of young children. Kindergarteners and preschoolers.”
“Oh!” the stranger remarked. “That’s wonderful. You’re going to be a teacher?”
“I hope so,” I repeated. Best not to sound too confident as to be cocky. Something I’d learned from Cassie. “Thank you for letting me test my skills.”
“I think a Little would make a great Preschool teacher!” the Amazon said. “You’d be so good at relating to the children!”
I didn’t even flinch. “Empathy is an important skill set, you’re right,” I replied. I’d been ready for this. Saying she was right was enough to change her point into my own. “Sometimes educators forget that children are just people who haven’t had the time to figure everything out yet and sometimes get overwhelmed with their own natural emotions.”
“My goodness,” the mother said. “That is so true.”
Time to hit the dismount. “You must be so proud that you’re giving your child the time, attention, and skills so that he can grow-up into a fine young man.”
I had her eating out of the palm of my hand. “Thank you so much for saying so.”
“I won’t take up any more of your time,” I said and gave a polite bow as though she were royalty. “Thank you for letting me practice,” what I was practicing was besides the point. “You and Joshua enjoy your meal and the rest of your day.”
I was almost turned around when I heard the giantess say, very calmly. “Just a moment.” I saw Cassie’s frozen panic, but kept my own calm.
“I used to be a starving college student. Can I pay for your meal?”
“That’s very kind of you,” I said, “but not necessary. I’ve enough money. If you’d like to help with the tip, I wouldn’t complain...” Refusing an Amazon’s charity is sometimes just as dangerous as accepting it, so I gave us both an out. Best to meet halfway.
She was already reaching into her purse. “No no no, I insist.” She leaned over and shoved a handful of bills into my palm. “You’re about to be a teacher and nobody gets into teaching for the money. Take it and enjoy the rest of your day with your Little lady friend.”
The counter was a good twenty steps away, but I pocketed the money anyway. “Yes, ma’am!” I said. “Thank you, ma’am.”
“You’re very welcome, sir.”
We got out and paid while the getting out was good. The Amazon lady had given me plenty of money. Enough that would more than cover me and Cassie’s meal and the tip. If we didn’t leave a tip we could probably have gotten a light dinner. The waitress was also an Amazon, so we tipped and didn’t accept any change.
“Did you just get us a free meal?” Cassie asked once we were clear.
“Yup,” I said. “Looks that way.” I gave her a kiss on the cheek and pulled her into me.
“Did you plan that?”
“Not entirely,” I admitted. “It’s less chess and more like poker. Part bluff, part playing the hand you’re dealt. Sometimes you hold, sometimes you fold.”
“Looked more like playing chicken, to me,” Cassie grumbled.
“I won didn’t I?” Damn I loved showing off for her. “More importantly, next time she sees a Little, she might think ‘articulate college student’ instead of ‘potential baby’. Did you like that part about emphasizing growing up?” I asked. “I’m hoping that I planted something in there. I gotta work on that part, but I was trying to hint that if she adopted a Little, she might be a failed mother or something, ya know?”
Cassie didn’t directly answer my question. “I think at least she’ll be less likely to want to adopt you,” she conceded. She shrugged. “Which honestly? Might be the best you can hope for.”
“So how about it?” I rounded on our original conversation. “Let’s go back to your room, ignore your new roommate and-”
She shoved me in the chest, but she was laughing. “Clark, you jerk! You wanna risk what the R.A. will do if we’re caught doing THAT?!”
“I was going to say,” I winked at her, “Let’s go back to your room and re-look at next semester’s schedule. We can use the L.S.U.’s list about what courses to avoid, maybe take some gen ed classes together. We’ll figure stuff out from there. What do you say?”
Cassie stopped on the sidewalk. “I don’t know…”
“Come on Cass,” I begged her. “Give us a shot. Let’s stick with it.”
“This place?” Casssie lifted her head and looked me in the eye. “Or us?”
“Why not both?” I said. “Come on. Give us a chance. If something goes wrong, we’ll split and do the computer thing. Simple as that.”
“Both of us?”