Out of the Woods

I was home-schooled up to my last year before college. Then we moved out of the woods and into town and I went to Madison High for senior year.

On the first day of school, I walked over from our new home. Hundreds of kids were heading into the school buildings. A bell clanged, making me jump. I stood there staring at the crowd going in when a girl stopped beside me.

“Are you OK?” she said.

“I’ve never been to school before. It’s sort of blowing my mind.”

“I haven’t heard that expression in a while. You want some help?”

“I’ve been living out in the woods with my folks. They grew up in the sixties. My slang is probably decades old. Yes, I would love some help.”

“I’m Anna,” she said.

“I’m Mark.”

She led me into the main building. As a guy who had never been on a date, I was very aware of her presence beside me. She took me to an office where a woman provided me with a list of my classes. Anna helped me find the first class on the list. I considered our time together to be my first date and, given that she was beautiful and friendly, by the time she said goodbye, I was totally in love with her.

The teacher in First Period, which was English, seated us alphabetically. I was in a seat by the window, with a lovely young woman named Lea in front of me and another, Frances, behind me, and a third, Bella, on my right. The class had thirty students in it and there was a certain amount of disruption and chatter. Lea would turn around to talk to me and Bella would lean across and I’d turn around to talk to Frances.

I couldn’t tell which of the three I liked best. They were all cute and friendly and smart. My head was spinning. I felt strong romantic feelings for all three. I wanted to be faithful to Anna, who had helped me and was so beguiling, but it wasn’t easy with these three turning my head like they were.

Lea, Frances, and Bella were all in my next class, Economics, which they helped me find, but none of them sat next to me. Instead, I met Harper and Alexa, who were even cuter than the others, if that were possible. I couldn’t remember anything about the English class I had just left except the girls. Did I have homework? Who was the teacher? By the time Economics ended, I hadn’t yet torn myself away from Harper and Alexa long enough to figure out exactly what Economics was.

By the end of the day, I was in love with fourteen young women. I was wilted, quivering, hair askew. I walked alone down the sidewalk and came to an old-fashioned soda shop. I heard the sound of young women’s voices. Someone called to me to come in for an after-school treat. I went in.