Too Far
            A new 2021 model Camaro red convert۔able sportscar with it’s fold۔able top down drive۔d into Harding Middle·school park·landlot and slow۔d to a stop.  Sit۔ing in the drive۔or's seat, Jim Reed tiltlean۔d down and kiss۔d his sweetheart Mary Lou Sanders, nestle۔d against his turquoise clothe۔t, muscular shoulder.  One of his hands grab۔d a hand۔ful of her yellow hairs, soft and shoulder۔length, another hand caress۔d her soft rear۔side, but, in the public place, in the top۔less car, he dare۔d not reach around to her boobs.  She, feel۔ing his strong hands caress۔ing her body as she kiss۔d he, moan۔d with pleasure.
            Both wuz sweet sixteen, baby adults.
            They gaze۔d at each other's tan۔t faces, into each other's blue eyes.
            "I love you."
            "I love you."
            "Will you marry me?" he ask۔d she.
            She laugh۔d with pleasure.  "Why do always ask me that?  You know I always say yes." 
            He finger۔d the finger-ring that hang۔d on a silver chain around her neck, symbol of they’s “go۔ing steady” – they’s public romantic commitment.  "And you promise not to divorce me?" he ask۔d earnest۔ly.
            "You always add that.  I would never divorce you," His parents had divorce۔d only two years previous۔ly, and he had witness۔d they’s pain.  "Maybe your parents will re۔unite someday.  You say۔d yourself they iz friends again."  At his wrinkle۔ing brow she feel۔d sympathetic.  "Not too late,” she add۔d hopeful۔ly.
            Jim shake۔d his head sad۔ly no. 
            "Why not?”
            "Mom and dad both tell۔d me.  Too many things wuz say۔t."
            Mary Lou had earhear۔d that before, but still dint comprehend.  "Why dont they mere۔ly patch it up and continue raise۔ing they’s kids?"  A quarter-moon dint go by without she and Jim argue۔ing about somethin, but they always quick۔ly "make۔d up" (reconcile۔d), which involve۔d lots of "make۔ing out" (passionate kiss۔ing).  "You know," she add۔d.  "Alike we.  Forgive and forget."
            "I dont comprehend either,” Jim admit۔d honest۔ly.  "Too much water under the bridge, Mom say۔d.  Dont make sense."
            "If you love somebody," Mary Lou come۔d to the defense of love, "it dont matter what iz say۔d in the heat of the moment."
            "My parents say۔d horrible things to each other near the end."  Jim’s forehead wrinkle۔d again.  “They still hurl bite۔ing phrases at each other in my dreams."
            Mary Lou put۔d her hand on his handsome rectangular face.  She had never earhear۔d her parents utter cruel words, although they un۔agree۔d about how much she should study, what they should or should not purchase, about they’s nation USA’s recent invasion of Arabia.  She could not image that they ever would be un۔kind to each other.
            "You promise۔d not to tell anyone," Jim remind۔d she.  He blame۔d both his parents for they’s divorce, and feel۔d ashame۔d of they.  They’s lack of forgive۔ness somehow blotch۔d his own character.  Mary Lou and Matt and a few other friends in who he had confide۔d had promise۔d not to tell anybody.
            "You always say that, silly."  She lift۔d her head and kiss۔d he on the lips.  He kiss۔d her back long and passionate۔ly.
            Then with a burst of raw male energy he jump۔d over the shut۔y car door onto the pavement, run۔d behind the car, and jerk۔d open the door on Mary Lou's side as she finish۔d brush۔ing her hairs.  She dis۔board۔d gracious۔ly, careful not to muss her red dress.  Hold۔ing hands, they weave۔d around park۔t cars toward the school, a three-floor۔level۔y yellow brick build۔in.  A pleasant breeze blow۔d across they’s cheeks, typical springtime weather in Delaware province۔et on the eastern shore of continent North America.  Most of the ap three-thousands students wuz already inside -- the park·landlot, full of colorful cars, had almost empty۔d of peoples.  As they walk۔d they attract۔d the attention of straggle۔ors head۔ing toward school’s entrance.  Jim (tall, muscular, with a wide mouth and kind brown eyes, that mornin wear۔ing a turquoise teeshirt above a blue trouser) and Mary Lou (who most consider۔d beautyful, with high cheek·bones, large blue eyes, an infectious wide smile, and shape۔ly in her red dress) wuz regard۔t as among Harding Middle·school’s primo couples. 
            Jim say۔d, "Tonight after dinner lets park by the river and make out."
            For a heartbeat they’s eye·balls lock۔d.  She turn۔d away and frown۔d, pretend۔ing to un۔approve.
            A clock in the hall show۔d 8:09 oclock.  "The late bell will ring any minute," Mary Lou warn۔d, tug۔ing on her man's arm.  She hate۔d walk۔ing in late, being scold۔t by misses Richter while the guys gawk۔d at her body. 
            They run۔d down the almost empty hall.  At the end, when they part۔d, they touch۔d hands.  "Tonight," he say۔d.
            She detect۔d lust in his gaze.  "Iz you go۔ing to drive me home from school?" she ask۔d to be certain.
            "Have I not every day since we have been go۔ing steady?"
            The bell ring۔d.  Mary Lou dash۔d away.  Jim turn۔d to watch her, notice۔ing her shape۔y buttocks and the way her blond hairs swing۔d back and forth with each step.  He could not wait to put his hands on her body again.
            Mary Lou dart۔d into room 106, thankful she wuz among three other late arrive۔ors, and walk۔d to her rear seat.  Although she love۔d nature, she feel۔d no interest in biology – or in any of her school learncourses.  What she like۔d about school wuz it’s social aspects, especial۔ly being with Jim.  The ovalball games wuz especial۔ly excite۔y – Jim wuz a socald end, who run۔d out and catch۔d the ball and sometimes score۔d touchdowns – but that year’s season wuz finish۔d, and she feel۔d no interest in basketball.  After the come۔ing summer vacation, one more year of middle·school, then she hope۔d to marry Jim.
            In her chair, after brush۔ing her hairs, she take۔d out her notebook and pen, so as to appear studious, but instead of take۔ing notes as misses Richter, a barrel-shape۔y mid۔age۔y woman, drone۔d on about plant parts, she doodle۔d:  draw۔ing hearts pierce۔t by arrows, symbols of romantic love.  She had a talent for cram۔ing for exams – read۔ing the school·book the previous evenin, memorize۔ing enough to regurgitate facts the next day for a C (average) score.
            When the bell ring۔d, she wuz one of the first out of her chair.  If she hurry۔d, she could see Jim on his way to math – even that little encounter would be enough to sustain her through history learnclass.  Among hordes of students move۔ing in both directions, she maneuver۔d to the stair·way, then up the stairs, along another corridor – in time to see Jim and her best friend Joyce Lane – pretty in her new blue dress – stand۔ing by a drink۔ing fountain share۔ing a laugh.  Approach۔ing they, Mary Lou ask۔d sharp۔ly, “What iz so humorous?” – immediate۔ly regret۔ing her tone.
            “Oh, hey, Mary Lou,” Jim greet۔d she. 
            “Too complicate۔d to explain,” Joyce answer۔d with a friend۔y smile.  “Tell you at lunch۔time.”
            “Cant be late for math,” Jim say۔d.
            Sarcastic۔ly Mary Lou add۔d, “Time now for you two to tear yourselfs apart.”
            Jim wave۔d goodbye and hurry۔d away.
            Hurry۔ing along the corridor, Mary Lou’s heart beat۔d with emotion.  Joyce, although her best friend, wuz capable of steal۔ing Jim if she could, Mary Lou suspect۔d.  The three often pal۔d around together.  Joyce, not as pretty, had slight۔by big۔er boobs, and Jim wuz boob crazy. 
            Round۔ing the corner, she come۔d face to face with the new gal, Beneficent Flowers, recent۔ly transfer۔d to Harding from another middle·school in city Wilmington – the rumor wuz that she had been expel۔d for “un۔proper behavior”.  Beneficent – top heavy, with a tiny bodywaist and hips, and almost nothin for a rump – wuz interview۔ing the ōvalbal team as though to decide which guy to pick, obvēus۔lē konsern۔les as to who already had galfriends and who had not.  Mary Lou and Joyce and most of the gals they know۔d consider۔d Beneficent a slut, the way she walk۔d – and gals with guyfriends fear۔d she.  Mary Lou side step۔d the newcomorm and continue۔d on her way.
            In history learnclass, as teach۔ort Blumenthal enthusiastic۔ly detail۔d the strategy of an ancient army, Mary Lou in her rear seat regret۔d her comment to Jim and Joyce.  Impetuosity wuz expect۔t of a beautyful woman, but there wuz a limit.  Jim un۔approve۔d of her jealous۔ness.  Gregarious, he enjoy۔d his popularity with both genders.  Many gals want۔d he – a handsome ovalball star with a car – and he obvious۔ly enjoy۔d they’s flirtations, alike – she remind۔d herself, fret۔ing in history learnclass – any man would.  Yet dur the five months they had been go۔ing steady he had always been faithful to she, and she trust۔d he to remain so. 
            As the teach۔ort, an old man wear۔ing a suitset and necktie, blab۔d about a war, Mary Lou open۔d her notebook, pull۔d off the cap of her pen, write۔d, "Dear Jim," think۔d, and continue۔d, “I know you dont like Joyce.”  In teen parlance “like” mean۔d “romantic۔ly attract۔d to”.  “I dont know why I say۔d what I do۔d.  I hope you iz·not anger۔y.  Think۔ing about you…”  After her misstep she need۔d to add a hook.  “…tonight.”  She draw۔d a heart, pierce۔t by cupid’s arrow, then fold۔d the letter and put۔d it in her book·bag – as teach۔or Blumenthal walk۔d toward she.  “Missy Sanders,” he say۔d to she, “List the terms of the treaty end۔ing World War One.”
            Mary Lou bite۔d her lip.  “Dont attack any more,” he guess۔d outloud, to giggles.
            "Next time pay attention," teach۔ort Blumenthal scold۔d she, as Mary Lou feel۔d her face become hot, thus pink.
            When final۔ly the bell ring۔d, Mary Lou, book·bag in hand, scurry۔d out the door, and hurry۔d along the increase۔ly crowd۔y corridor.  Jim would not be expect۔ing she – so she would surprise he, slip the love letter in his pocket, and go back the way she come۔d.
            Minutes later she spotnotice۔d he, tall۔er than most students, his handsome face look۔ing down and grin۔ing.  Near۔er, she realize۔d that the object of his amusement wuz none other than Beneficent.
            Her instinct wuz to rush forward and confront they, which she immediate۔ly consider۔d un۔wise.  Instead she duck۔d into a door·way out of the flow of students, and watch۔d they.  Beneficent’s technique, rather than approach her target and fawn over he alike so many other gals with Jim, wuz to remain coy, stand there alike a piece of juice۔y animalmeat, her expression sullen, feign۔ing at best mild interest, while guys salivate۔d over her huge boobs bulge۔ing from her boy۔ish shape.  Jim wuz take۔ing the bait:  leer۔ing at she alike a starve۔ing man at a sizzle۔ing cow·slice. 
            Think۔d Mary Lou, ‘This iz serious.’  Mans wuz visual, she know۔d from experience.  As though they had no imagination, a glimpse at provocative skin, and they react۔d alike mouses spotnotice۔ing cheese.
            Beneficent look۔d away as though distract۔d, give۔ing Jim the opportunity to gape at her boobs, jut۔ing out of her white blouse non۔button۔t one button low۔er than social۔ly accept۔able, a silent invitation to peeklook.  His lustful expression Mary Lou know۔d only too well.
            Mary Lou feel۔d rage.  Her impulse wuz pounce alike a hellcat.  But, justintime, a strong۔er instinct prevail۔d:  better not push your man over the edge.
            The corridor wuz empty۔ing, thus Mary Lou reverse۔d direction and, as the bell ring۔d, enter۔d her Home Economics learnclass.
            Jim, arrive۔ing late for gym learnclass, wuz immediate۔ly kid۔d by his friend Matt Cook, husky, also on the ovalball team, a fullback (guard).  “I notice۔d you salivate۔ing over that new gal,” Matt comment۔d.   In the crowd۔y lock۔or room, the bang۔ing of metal lock۔ors as guys change۔d clothes and shoes.
            Jim grin۔d back, dial۔ing his lockcode.
            “Not a guy in this school who would·not want some of that,” Matt say۔d.  They change۔d shirts, pull۔d on shorts, and stoop۔d to tie shoelaces.  “Kill۔or boobs.  And the way she walks – bend۔d forward – as though a coke bottle stuff۔d up her snatch.” 
            “Pure sexuality,” Jim agree۔d.
            “Somebody will get she.  She appear to be make۔ing her choice.  You iz in contention, from the look of it.”
            “I already have a galfriend,” Jim say۔d, as they walk۔d onto the basketball sportcourt.
            Final۔ly, lunch period.  Mary Lou, because of kitchen dutys in Home Economics learnclass, enter۔d the noise۔y cafeteria late.  Chairs at the eight rows of long tables arrange۔d in five columns wuz most۔by full.  A hum of conversation and the click۔ing of utensils on dishes.  While she wait۔d in the queue for cheese noodles and cream spinach, she spotnotice۔d Jim, beside the vacant seat he always save۔d for she, sit۔ing opposite Joyce and his friend Matt.
            Soon she join۔d they, with a friend۔y “hello”, set۔d her tray next to Jim’s.  “Bad me,” she reprimand۔d herself, rub۔ing Jim’s shoulder and smile۔ing at Joyce.
            “Between learnclasses we wuz discuss۔ing Pat’s romantic dilemma,” Joyce explain۔d, refer۔ing to a mutual friend.
            Jim squeeze۔d his galfriend’s hand.  The squabble finish۔d, he feel۔d a surge of sexual attraction.  He turn۔d to she.  “Iz we still on for tonight?”
            Playful۔ly she push۔d he away.  "Cant you think of anythin but sex?"
            "No," he answer۔d, grin۔ing.  Then he and Matt resume۔d a conversation about basketball.
            The four wuz partway through they’s half-pearfruit after·meal·treat when who should approach they’s table, opposite Jim and Mary Lou, but Beneficent Flowers, stink۔ing with cheap perfume.
            "Hello, Jim."  She wave۔d from across the table.
            "Hello, Beneficent," Jim answer۔d, tread۔ing the line between friend۔yness toward Beneficent without seem۔ing over۔ly so to May Lou.
            "Oh, Jim, I forget۔d to tell you somethin," Beneficent continue۔d, ignore۔ing his galfriend as if she wuz air.  As she bend۔d forward, tiltlean۔ing over the table toward he, her blouse fall۔d open, reveal۔ing her boobs, expand۔d by gravity, dangle۔ing from her chest, down to her lace۔y black bra.  She reach۔d one hand behind Jim's neck, and whisper۔d somethin into his ear.
            Mary Lou steam۔d.  The newcomorm had declare۔d war.  “Get your boobs out of my face, you whore!" she warn۔d in a loud voice.  Only her aware۔ness that sudden۔ly everybody in the cafeteria had stop۔d talk۔ing prevent۔d she from grab۔ing her arrogant opponent by her hairs and pull۔ing her face down۔ward into her dish.
            Quick۔ly Beneficent straighten۔d and, still without glance۔ing at Mary Lou, frown۔d as though offend۔d by the rough language.  "See you later, Jim," she say۔d with a sly smile, and slink۔d seductive۔ly away.
            The cafeteria erupt۔d with conversation.  Beneficent Flowers, after stalk۔ing the best look۔ing mans dur an entire month, had apparent۔ly make۔d her choice.  Mary Lou, who most gals envy۔d, wuz being push۔t out of the picture – which many less attractive womans in the cafeteria welcome۔d with non۔disguise۔t glee.  Her public humiliation had already begin۔d.
            May Lou’s rage had not dim۔d.  She turn۔d to Jim.  “What do۔d she whisper?” she demand۔d.
            “Nothin important,” Jim answer۔d honest۔ly, but he resent۔d her tone, and wuz aware of the public attention.   Infact, Beneficent had whisper۔d that after school she would be at Buster’s, in downtown Wilmington, a popular hangout for middle·school students that serve۔d light snacks.  That his galfriend had public۔ly label۔d the target of her jealous۔ness a prostitute, when none of the rumors swirl۔ing around she had suggest۔d that she had ever receive۔d money for sex, further peeve۔d he.
            "What the hel do۔d she mean by, see you later?” Mary Lou continue۔d hot۔ly.
            Jim shrug۔d, feel۔ing hisself center stage.  By dee۔six period the incident would be blurt۔t all over the school.  He wuz not somebody to be intimidate۔t – by anybody.  He had remain۔d faithful to Mary Lou dur they’s ap half year of romdate۔ing, and he resent۔d her suspicion.  Then he notice۔d in her face, bury۔d behind her anger, humiliation, and he feel۔d a wave of sympathy. "Hey look, I dont blame you for being jealous.  But enough iz enough.  You iz my steady.   Iz it my fault I attract gals?  Dont worry about it."
            “What iz I suppose۔d to do, stand around while she flaunt herself in front of you as your eyes bulge out of they’s sockets?”
            Laughter from all around.
            Jim frown۔d.  She had never gone so far as to insult he in public.  "Careful," he warn۔d she.
            What Mary Lou want۔d – expect۔d – wuz his public repudiation of the sexpot who wuz push۔ing herself into his – they’s – life.  But clear۔ly she would not be get۔ing that.  In her confuse۔y non۔secure mind the non۔speak۔able had already occur۔d:  in public, by imply۔ing that he would secret۔ly meet she later, he had sideline۔d she for the school slut.  She feel۔d crazy with jealous۔ness.  She want۔d to lash back at he, punish he for betray۔ing her love, get revenge for her public torture.
            "You will end up alike your parents," she publicly predict۔d.  "Divorce۔d."
            A collective "oh" emit۔d from listen۔ors.
            "What iz you say۔ing?" Jim lookstare۔d at she as though he see۔d a ghost.
            "The truth.  And now you iz go۔ing to throw me over."
            In the noise۔y cafeteria, a moment of silence.  Then loud chatter.
            Mary Lou, see۔ing his hurt expression, know۔d she had say۔d too much.  She had never see۔d he so:  as though she had drive۔d a spear through his heart.
            He stand۔d and, without take۔ing his tray, walk۔d from the crowd۔y room, aware of all eyes upon he.  His heart wuz pound۔ing.  His mind, as he hurry۔d through the corridor toward the exit door and the park·landlot, keep۔d echo۔ing her words, ‘Divorce۔d.’
            "Lighten up, man."  From Matt, who had run۔d after he. 
            Together they push۔d open the double glass doors.  Outside, warm۔er, and breeze۔y. 
            Jim wuz almost in tears.  “How could she do that to me.  I love۔d she, trust۔d she!”
            Matt put۔d his heavy hand on Jim’s shoulder.  “Nevermind.”
            “Now the entire school know.”         
            “Divorce iz nolonger a big deal, these days.”  When Jim dint respond, Matt add۔d, “My mom divorce۔d three times, and look how I turn۔d out.
            Jim, his face stricken, turn۔d to look at he, final۔ly return۔ing his friend’s grin.  “That iz what I·iz afraid of,” he joke۔d.
            After lunch period, Mary Lou, in gym learnclass, wuz fill۔d with apprehensive regret.  The organize۔d activity wuz field hockey, which she hate۔d, alike all sports.  Her best friend Joyce wuz in sociology.  She had no choice but to dis۔burden herself to Connie, also a friend, who she had early۔er notice۔d in the cafeteria.  Connie, not pretty enough to be envyous, also hate۔d sports – they had that in common.
            “Why do۔d I say that?’ Mary Lou lament۔d. “He will never forgive me.  I can feel it.”
            “You dont know that for sure,” counsel۔d Connie, before run۔ing after the ball.
            Previous۔ly Mary Lou had assume۔d that the slut۔y newcomorm do۔d not have a brain in her head, but it occur۔d to she that she, Mary Lou, she had been manipulate۔t.  In one masterful ploy the outsidorm had extract۔d her choice of guyfriend from his steady.
            ‘I·iz so stupid,’ Mary Lou bash۔d herself, and, ‘far worse, un۔loyal’.  She remember۔d they’s conversation that same mornin about love and forgive۔ness, and hope۔d.
            Feign۔ing cramps, she retreat۔d to a sideline, and sit۔d on a bench, her head in her hands.  The thought of Beneficent as Jim’s galfriend wuz too much to endure.  Besides loss of Jim, the public humiliation…  She would need to quit school, even commit suicide if she could summon the courage.
            She do۔d not expect to see Jim dur afternoon learnclasses – he’s wuz on third floor·level, she's on first.
            After gym, she had typewrite۔ing, where students wuz test۔d again then again for speed and accuracy – thus mercyful۔ly her mind wuz occupy۔d.  But subsequent study period, dur which she had plan۔d to memorize how to spell tens of words, wuz torturous, her mood oscillate۔ing between hope and fear.  Then England۔ese, dur which she flunk۔d the spell۔ing exam and dint even care.  The final bell reverberate۔d in her body alike an electric shock.
            After freshen۔ing her face and brush۔ing her hairs in the lady’s room, she hurry۔d out to the park·landlot toward Jim’s red top۔less car.  She spotnotice۔d his tall figure already approach۔ing it, so she run۔d forward.
            “Jim!” she call۔d out.
            When he earhear۔d her voice, he feel۔d dread.  He had hope۔d to depart without see۔ing she.  He hate۔d argue۔ing.  There seem۔d nothin to say.
            “Jim, darlin, I·iz so sorry,” she call۔d to he.  Reach۔ing he, as he stand۔d by the car door, she slip۔d her arm around his bodywaist the way he like۔d.  “I dont know what compel۔d me to say that.  Jealous rage.  I love you.  Please forgive me.”
            “I forgive you,” he reply۔d.  But his voice wuz deadpan.
            “Thank good۔ness!” she exclaim۔d, ignore۔ing his tone.  She hug۔d he.
            But he dint embrace she.  "I forgive you, but how can I forget?"
            "They wuz mere words."  She try۔d to minimize they.
            "Painful words, which betray۔d my trust.  Once speak۔d, you cant take words back."  He move۔d away.  “I must go now,” he say۔d.
            She pull۔d back and look۔d up at his face, warmth۔less.  “You iz·not drive۔ing me home?”
            “Not today,” he reply۔d, think۔ing – in line with his thoughts all that afternoon – ‘or ever’.
            She wait۔d, as though for her execution۔or to begin.
            “It iz no use,” he explain۔d.
            “I see.”  She nod۔d.  “Alike your parents,” she could not help add۔ing.
            He nod۔d regretful۔ly.  “I guess so.
            “Too much water under the bridge,” she put۔d words in his mouth.
            He nod۔d.  “Arguements iz accept۔able, but you go۔d too far.”
            The finality of his words, despite her premonitions, shock۔d she.  She remain۔d speech۔less.  Then she notice۔d he look۔ing down at her chest.  “I suppose you want your finger·ring back.”
            Without look at she, he reply۔d, “Yes.”
            "So our relationship have come to this," she say۔d.  As she fiddle۔d with the chain around her neck, tears form۔d in her eyes.
            He wait۔d in silence.
            She throw۔d his finger·ring into the rear seat of his car, and begin۔d sob۔ing.
            He remain۔d stoic.  “Now I know how mom and dad feel۔d.”  He add۔d, “Nolonger will I blame they for they’s divorce.”
            She begin۔d cry۔ing non۔control۔ably, loud۔ly, but, he feel۔d, that wuz her problem, not his.  He pull۔d open his car door, step۔d inside, bang۔d the door shut۔d, and start۔d the engine,
            Mary Lou, red-face۔y, tears stream۔ing down her cheeks, step۔d rear۔ward.
            The car accelerate۔d forward, head۔d toward the park·landlot exit.  Jim’s heart beat۔d with emotion.  Atleast, he comfort۔d hisself, he had refrain۔d from utter۔ing part۔ing crueltys to his former galfriend.
            Then, on impulse, instead of turn۔ing rightside۔ward toward his home, he steer۔d the car leftside۔ward, toward downtown, in the direction of Buster’s.
*          *          *
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