Jess

Amateur

“I want those shoes so much,” Jess said, staring longingly at the photograph on her computer screen.

I glanced at the screen. Four hundred pounds. A lot of money for a pair of shoes.

“You’ll just have to save up then, won’t you?” I said, trying to sound more interested than I actually was.

“It’ll take me ages to save up for those,” Jess said, glancing up at me with a look of longing before returning her gaze to the object of her affection.

Then her mind was made up. She clicked the cross symbol at the top of the window and the photograph of the expensive footwear disappeared.

“No, it’s no good,” she said, an air of slightly false conviction in her voice. “I’ll never be able to afford them.”

I tried to think of something to say. I couldn’t care less about the shoes, of course. But I didn’t really mind what we were talking about. I was just enjoying spending time with her, talking to her.

“The looking forward to getting something is all part of the fun,” I said, smiling. “It makes you appreciate it even more when you do get it. If you could get them straight away, it wouldn’t be the same.”

That’s what I tell myself, anyway, I thought.

She didn’t look convinced. Just then her mobile rang. She looked at the screen.

“It’s Mark, I’d better answer it,” she said, giving me a parting smile, then answering the phone and greeting her boyfriend.

***

“You’ve just been talking to Jess, haven’t you?” Ryan smiled.

I feigned a look of surprise.

“Jess? Why would I have been talking to her?”

Ryan gave me a knowing look.

“I can tell by the smile on your face,” he said.

“OK, OK, I might have seen her when I was passing through the computer suite,” I said, the smile returning to my face.

Ryan nodded. He was used to me acting like this where Jess was concerned.

Perhaps I should explain a little.

My name is John. At the time I was 20 years old, a student at University studying English literature. I was (still am) pretty shy, and didn’t really engage much in the social aspect of university. However, I did have a small group of friends, and Ryan was probably my best friend.

Ryan was also pretty quiet, and shared quite a few of my interests and hobbies. We got on very well and tended to spend quite a bit of time together.

Ryan had been there the first time that I had met Jess. I rarely attended parties or other events like that, but one of our mutual friends had had a house-warming and Ryan and I had both been invited.

We had both stayed very much on the sidelines at the party, mainly chatting to each other and a few other people we knew well. Part way through the evening, I found myself left on my own for a short while. I always felt particularly uncomfortable in that situation.

Jess had approached me and struck up a conversation. I’d been really nervous, as I always am when I meet someone for the first time, and had responded largely with one word answers.

How was I enjoying the party, she asked? It’s fine, I responded. She smiled. She had a beautiful smile.

What was I studying? English literature. She nodded. She was studying French, she told me. She had relatives in France, and had grown up knowing something of the language. One of her French relatives owned quite a large company over in France, and she thought she might get a job there when she graduated.

The conversation continued like this, Jess doing most of the talking. She had a lovely accent that I couldn’t quite place.

The more she talked, the less I wanted our conversation to ever end. She was interesting, funny (most of the jokes were at my expense, but in a good natured way), down-to-earth. She seemed genuinely interested in what I was saying, unlike normal small talk at parties. She had plenty of interesting stories, especially about her gap year where she had worked at an orphanage in Eastern Europe. I don’t know how long we spoke for, but however long it was, it wasn’t long enough.

Eventually, Jess checked her watch and told me that she would have to leave. However, she said that she was sure she would see me around the campus and that perhaps we could go for a drink sometime.

I left the party that night unable to think about anything else but Jess. I replayed the conversation over and over in my head. Had she really asked me to go for a drink? What did it mean? Was she asking me on a date? Or was she just being friendly?

I had no idea. When it came to girls, I didn’t have a clue. I’d only ever been out on two dates before. One was a blind date organised by mutual friends. It was nice of them to set it up, but within a couple of minutes of us meeting it was clear that it was to be our first and only date with each other. The second date, the girl asked me out. She admitted halfway through the date that she had done it for a dare.

There had been a few girls I would have loved to ask out, but I’d never had the confidence to do so. What was the protocol for these things? How did pendik otele gelen escort you know if a girl wanted to go on a date with you or not? How did you know if she already had a boyfriend?

***

I couldn’t think about anything else for the next few days. What should I do? I didn’t know much about her. I knew her first name. I knew she was studying French. I knew how she’d spent her gap year. But I didn’t know how to contact her. Should I ask Jake for her number? After all, it had been his party. He must have invited her. He must know her.

I was still mulling over the questions a few days later. Between lectures I dropped into the computer suite to check my emails. As I did so, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned round and got quite a shock. It was Jess.

She smiled. I froze. What should I say?

“Hi John,” she said.

“Hi,” I said, struggling to get even such a simple short word out.

“I haven’t seen you in here before,” she continued.

“No,” I said, desperately trying to keep calm and act normally.

“Well, I have my own computer in my room, but there’s a problem with the Internet connection at the moment – well, actually, I think it’s the network card…”

I trailed off. I was babbling. Did she really want a description of my IT woes? Was I boring her? Was I going to make her think I was some kind of boring nerd? I desperately tried to think of something else to say, something funny maybe, to make her laugh.

“Oh, I don’t know anything about computers,” she laughed. “If it was my computer I wouldn’t even know what was wrong with it at all – I’d just turn it off and back of again!”

She mimed pushing a button repeatedly with her finger, a frustrated look on her face. She looked so cute.

I laughed at her little piece of pantomime. It was my turn to talk. What could I say? My mind was blank.

“So I just came in here to check my emails,” I supplied, finishing my previous sentence for lack of anything better to say.

Damn, damn, damn, I thought. Why is my brain doing this to me? Why can’t I think of something clever or amusing to say?

Jess smiled.

“That’s why I came in, too,” she said. “I don’t have a computer of my own so I have to come in every so often to check my emails. Don’t know why I bother really. Most of its just spam. Yesterday I had five emails offering me pills to give me a longer penis and two offering me pills to help me last longer in bed!”

I must have blushed bright red at this. I didn’t know how on earth to respond to that.

There was a short silence, then Jess’ face lit up as a thought occurred to her.

“What do you think happens if a girl takes a pill that’s supposed to give you a bigger willy?” she asked.

I hadn’t got a clue what to say. All I could do was mumble, “I don’t know.”

The conversation ended on that note, and Jess said goodbye and moved on to check her emails. I wanted to get some fresh air. I shut the computer down and went outside. I’d bottled it, I realised. I should have asked her out. But the idea terrified me. I didn’t even know whether she was single. She hadn’t mentioned anything about going out for a drink this time. Maybe she’d forgotten? She’d probably had quite a bit to drink at the party. Maybe if I asked her out for a drink she’d turn me down. And what should I say? Should I ask whether it was supposed to be a date or not?

After that encounter I regularly went into the computer suite, hoping Jess would be there. Sometimes she was. She would always greet me with her beautiful smile and be happy to talk to me for a while, chatting away about anything really – her course, what she had watched on TV the previous evening, stories from her gap year. Over time I got more confident in talking to her, and we always seemed to get on really well. Even better, she had never once mentioned a boyfriend, and I began to think that perhaps, just perhaps, I might one day pluck up the confidence to actually ask her out.

***

It was a Tuesday morning. I still remember it well. There shouldn’t have been anything remarkable about it, really. Ryan and I had to attend a lecture in “communication skills”. It was a compulsory part of our degree. Ever the conscientious student, I had already read through the lecture notes on the University website, and it all looked rather dull.

By the time we arrived at the lecture theatre it was almost full. We looked around to try to see two seats together. Then suddenly something, or rather someone, caught my eye. I could only see the back of her head from where I was standing, but… wasn’t that Jess, laughing away at something her friend had said to her? And two empty seats next to her.

“Over there, two spare seats,” I said to Ryan, and set off before he could object.

Upon reaching the seats I found that it was indeed Jess. She looked up at my approach and her face lit up with that perfect smile of hers.

“Hi, John!” she said. “Sit here!”

As pendik rus escort I went to take the seat next to her, Ryan caught up.

“Oh, hi Jess,” he said.

“Hi Ryan,” she replied, flashing him a smile also.

“You two know each other?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Ryan answered. “We went to school together.”

I was rather surprised by this revelation. Neither of them had ever mentioned the other to me before.

It transpired that communications skills was also compulsory for students studying French, which was why Jess was there. The lecture proved as dull as expected, both in content and in delivery. The lecturer presented the whole thing in a monotone.

After about ten minutes of listening to him, Jess whispered to me, “he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about – he’s just reading from the lecture notes.” Then she raised her hand.

The lecturer broke off from his reading and looked at Jess, looking most surprised that anyone was interested in the subject enough to want to ask a question.

“Erm… yes?” he asked.

“I’m finding this really interesting,” said Jess, in an obviously exaggerated tone of enthusiasm. “But can you explain to me how this relates to Khan’s third law of dichotomy?”

I looked at her, amazed. What on Earth was she talking about? The mischievous expression on her face answered me. She’d just made it up.

“Erm… yes, that’s… that’s a really good question…” stammered the lecturer. “Erm… I’m going to be coming to that later in the lecture…yes, now, where were we…”

Jess and I collapsed into a fit of giggles at the lecturer’s bewildered reaction. After that the lecture livened up considerably as we took it in turns to ask increasingly obscure questions of the embattled lecturer.

At the end of the lecture we amused each other with impressions of the lecturer’s reactions to our questions. I was so happy that we were getting on so well, and really looking forward to the next lecture in communications skills. Perhaps soon I would even build up enough confidence to ask her on a date.

After the lecture Ryan and I walked together through the campus to the library.

“Did… did you know that I knew Jess?” I asked, trying to sound casual.

Ryan smiled. “Yes, she’s told me all about your little chats in the computer suite.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, anxiously. “What has she told you?”

“Just that she chats to you when she sees you,” he said, nonchalantly.

“Nothing else?” I asked, disappointed that she hadn’t expressed any more interest in me than that.

“Such as?”

Ryan was smiling. He must know something else.

“Such as that… that I really like her?”

Ryan laughed.

“Yeah, she knows that,” he said.

“How?”

“Girls can tell that sort of thing,” Ryan said.

“Really?” I asked, somewhat surprised. She’d never given me any indication that she knew I liked her. Or at least, I didn’t think she had.

“Yeah, of course,” Ryan said, laughing again. “She says it’s obvious.”

“And…” I asked, desperate to know if she had said something about how she felt about me. She must have.

“You do know she’s got a boyfriend?” Ryan said, more seriously now.

“What?” I asked, almost panicked. “A boyfriend? She’s never said anything?”

“Yeah,” Ryan said. “Been with him a while. Mark. Nice bloke.”

I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what to say. All this time, all that wondering, and now I had the answer. And it wasn’t the answer I wanted.

“But she likes you,” Ryan reassured me. “You know, as a friend.”

***

I was disappointed, of course. I’d… well, I don’t know if “fallen in love with” is the correct phrase, but I’d certainly come to very much like Jess, and to hope that we could be more than just friends. She was the first girl I’d ever felt like this about. Of course I’d found other girls attractive before (though not nearly as attractive as Jess), but I’d never felt like this about another girl, whatever “this” was.

Still, at least I knew now, and in a way that was a good thing. At least that’s what I told myself. Which brings us to where the story started. I had to live with the fact that Jess had a boyfriend, and just look forward to the day when, maybe, possibly, Jess and Mark would split up and maybe, just maybe, she’d let me take her out on a date. And she, I told myself, would be worth the wait – no matter how long.

I did go out on a few dates. Ryan set me up with someone he knew from chess club. Another friend organised a date for me with a girl off his course. Both were actually more successful than my previous dates, though that wasn’t difficult. I actually had the novel experience of a second date with both of the girls, and even a third date with the girl from chess club. But neither went any further than that. I tried to tell myself that I shouldn’t compare them with Jess, but each time I saw Jess after one of the dates, I just couldn’t get excited about pendik sarışın escort going out on another date with the girl in question.

***

It was the first day back after Christmas. I hadn’t seen Jess for weeks. I was walking through the campus on the way to the library when I caught a glimpse of her in the distance. I quickly changed direction and hurried towards her. As I got close I slowed down, hoping to look casual.

“Jess!” I shouted.

She looked round and gave me my first Jess smile of the year. How I’d missed that. She stopped and I caught up with her. She was just having a walk through campus, not going anywhere in particular. It was a bit cold to stand around chatting, so we walked together, not going anywhere specific, just talking.

We talked about what we had got for Christmas, what we had done, seeing our families. I reflected to myself how much easier I found it to talk to her now. Perhaps it was the fact that I wasn’t worrying about whether to ask her out anymore. I wasn’t sure. But all that mattered was how well we were getting on.

She made fun of me in her customary way. When I told her that my grandmother had bought me 20 pairs of socks, she mimed opening a present and then mimicked my facial expression upon seeing what was inside – surprise morphing into disappointment and then a rather unconvincing smile. I laughed, both because her impression was funny but also because it was uncannily accurate.

“And what’s worse,” I laughed, “was that she insisted I tried them on to see they fit – every single pair!”

Jess laughed. I loved it when Jess laughed. Especially when it was because of a joke I’d made.

“Then,” I said, now starting to stretch the truth a bit to try to make Jess laugh again, “she insisted that the eleventh pair that I tried on were ‘too small for me’ and said that she was going to take them back to the shop – just that pair!”

Jess laughed again.

I mimed finding it difficult to lift my foot due to its alleged size.

“You know what they say about people with big feet,” I said, laughing.

Jess gave me an innocent look.

“No, what do they say about people with big feet?” she asked.

“Big hands!” I declared.

“Now is that what you really meant?” Jess asked, still maintaining her angelic expression. “Or were you thinking of another part of your anatomy?”

“No, of course not!” I protested, still in a joking tone, though wondering exactly where this was going.

“So you’ve…” she said, giving me a naughty look, “not got a big willy?”

What on Earth to say to that?

“Well,” I said, fixing her with a serious look. “I suppose you’ll never know.”

Jess looked at me for a second, looking a bit uncertain, then giggled.

“I’ll take that as a ‘no’ then,” she said.

The conversation tailed off there. There was always a point where they did. It was a strange thing – I really liked her, as much more than just a friend. She knew I did. Through Ryan, I knew she knew I did. And she probably knew that I knew that she knew I did. If you see what I mean.

We got along so well now, better in fact that we had been I’d found out about her boyfriend. In a way it had been a good thing, as I was now more relaxed around her, not having to worry about whether I should ask her out or not, not having to worry so much about impressing her. But still, on occasions such as these, our conversations touched upon the outskirts of the discussion we never had, and they went no further.

Our friendship continued until the summer when we both graduated. She never mentioned her boyfriend to me, but I would occasionally overhear her talking to him on the phone, or be reminded by Ryan of the fact that she and Mark were still together.

***

After graduating we didn’t really stay in touch. We tried, at first, but both of us were busy, and she lived quite some distance away from me. I still thought about her regularly, particularly in the first few months after we finished University, and it took me a long time before I could even consider looking at another girl. I did eventually manage to go on a couple of dates, and even managed to date one girl for two months, easily a record for me.

It was about a year after we had graduated that a reunion was planned, appropriately enough by the same friend who had organised the party at which I had first met Jess.

I wasn’t sure whether to go or not. The potential presence of Jess left me in two minds. On the one hand, I had always really enjoyed being round her, and that final six months or so at University had been one of the happiest times of my life. But on the other hand, did I really want to see her again? Would she bring Mark? Perhaps they’d even be engaged by now? How would I feel about that? And would seeing her again rekindle all those feelings I had had for her a year ago?

In the end, I decided to go. I walked into the room where it was being held and looked around. I saw a few people I recognised, but not Jess. Then I saw Ryan. I’d lost touch with him, too, over the last year. I went over to say hello.

I asked how he was, what he was doing now, and he asked the same of me. Then, as soon as I felt the obligatory small talk had been made, I asked the question I really wanted to know the answer to – “do you know if Jess is coming?”

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