This is the story of how a teenager's longing for a lost love causes confusion.
|Nancy Gallagher methodically chopped lettuce for a salad while listening to her kitchen radio one late winter evening.
“The Carpenters are “Hurting Each Other,’” Sandy Clark, Nancy’s roommate, cooed over the airwaives. “Well, what do you expect from brothers and sisters?”
Nancy chuckled slightly. Deejay jokes, right?
Nancy and Sandy had finally started warming to each other after being thrown together by their mothers and moving into the apartment complex Nancy’s Aunt Alice managed.
Despite being from the same small school, Nancy and Sandy couldn’t be more different and couldn’t have been in more different positions.
“This is Sandy Clark, helping some of you late stragglers make it home from work at a quarter to seven on WFXD.”
Sandy took well to her first radio job, while Nancy was a bit overwhelmed as a rookie teacher. For openers, you could fit about a dozen Fultons into Foxwood High, and here she was, mousie little Nancy Gallagher, teaching history in a school bigger than her home town.
Nancy’s meal and lesson plans were interrupted by a loud noise and two crashing doors coming from outside the apartment. Oh and another thing.
Nancy peered out her front window, then grabbed her coat and walked out of the building to find Tim Fenton, her cousin, star pupil and a troubled soul slumped against the building.
“What’s wrong?” Nancy asked, crouching down to face her despondent relative.
“Aw nothing,” Tim growled.
Nancy shrugged, dropped her head and smiled sheepishly.
“Did your mom want you to meet some girl? On second thought, what class did you have trouble in today?”
“Mrs. Hutchinson’s been asking some questions about me,” Tim muttered. “It’s about a story I’m doing for her outside of class and she’s been asking some of the kids about me.”
“What’s she asking?”
“If anybody knew me, if anybody went to junior high or grade school with me.”
A perplexed look crossed Nancy’s face.
Just then, the headlights of a sleek green Mercury Cougar flashed into the complex’s driveway. Moments later, an attractive young woman with long dark hair strode up the walk.
“Hi Sandy. Your dinner’s in the fridge. You’ll have to heat it up.”
Sandy looked at Tim and grinned.
“Just the man I want to see. Here’s a question for you. What did Joe Torre do in 1961?”
“He was runner-up to Billy Williams for National League Rookie of the Year.”
“Thank you,” Sandy said with a grin before turning to go into the apartment.
Tim’s eyes seemed to follow her in, his eyes transfixed on the sleek black dress boots protruding out from under Sandy’s coat.
“Tim,” Nancy said sternly. “She’s my age.”
“What was with the baseball question?” Nancy asked Sandy when she reentered their apartment.
“Randy Ferguson, the news and sports guy at the station,” Nancy explained. “He keeps coming up with baseball questions for me to try and stump Tim with.”
Nancy shook her head.
“What was with Tim tonight, anyway?”
“One of his teachers has been asking around about him.”
“I don’t know.”
Sandy had long recognized her roommate’s concern for her cousin. Nancy had become a second big sister to Tim as he grew up and had seen high school become an ordeal for the awkward youth.
Girls had especially become a sticking point for Tim.
“Does Tim have a girlfriend?” Sandy asked.
“Did he ever have one?”
“I don’t know. When I chaperone a dance, I drag him along and he just sits in a corner. Sometimes, he’ll try to dance or try to strike up a conversation with a girl and some character will come up and either yank on his chain or turn the girl’s head. What’s it to you?”
“I’m going to be as nice about this as possible, but I think Tim’s mom is concerned about how friendly you are with him.”
Sandy shot a puzzled look at her roommate.
“You know, taking him to your station, introducing him to everybody there,”
As Nancy continued, Sandy’s jaw continued to drop.
“And that episode at Christmas.”
“Nancy, you were there with us! We went into Chicago, looked at the storefronts and went to the movies!”
“He’s gonna be 17 in a couple of weeks and his mom says that he calls your name at night.”
“I’ll talk to him.”
An autographed picture of Sandy Clark working her air shift was part of the montage of Chicago baseball, car and Wisconsin outdoors pictures adorning the walls of Tim’s bedroom, but that wasn’t who was on Tim’s mind as he pondered the ceiling of his darkened bedroom.
He tossed and turned, this wasn’t a good night. Between mom going off on him about Sandy and all the questions Mrs. Hutchinson was asking about him, Tim was having a really bad night.
Oh, and a girl named Sandy was on his mind, just not his cousin’s roomie.
He flipped over and turned on the radio, keeping the sound low, as it was tuned to the all-girls station where that roomie worked over the weekend.
“Hi,” the sultry-voiced announcer softly whispered over the radio. “This is ‘P.B. After Midnight,’ one of your Fox Valley girlfriends on 97.9 FM. Having trouble sleeping at a quarter to two? One of those nights? Maybe the Partridge Family can help you out.”
Tim let out a slightly cynical chuckle. He had met “P.B.” when she stopped by Nancy and Sandy’s one night. She looked like she sounded from about the waist up, a pretty, shag-haired thing named Priscilla Borkowski.
The chuckle faded as Tim listened to the radio. He rolled his eyes over actually singing along with the Partridge Family while he seemed to follow David Cassidy’s instructions.
He reached into his nightstand drawer and pulled out an old school picture. By the glow of a small pen light, Tim grinned and looked longingly at the honey-brown haired girl smiling back at him. With a sad smile, Tim blew a kiss at the image, biting his lip to fight back tears.
As the radio played, Tim thought about Sandie, seemingly with help from every record P.B. played over the next hour.
All those years, from first grade on, gently teasing, gradually coming to know each other. Tim made his move in the eighth grade, winning Sandie long enough to lose her in that mass of humanity known as Foxwood High School.
“But we were number one in the state in football,” Tim whispered to himself.
“Where’s your school spirit?” he replied in a mock snotty voice.
“It died my first day there.”
But if Sandie Peck had been in his homeroom…
Then she moved away, leaving Tim with a picture and a set of vintage magazine covers where his sister had left some red-marked hearts with “T.F. and S.P.” in them.
Another sad chuckle.
“Most guys hide girlie magazines under their mattress,” he thought to himself. “I hide Life magazine’s 1968 election wrap-up.”
“B.J. Thomas singing that “Rock ‘n Roll Lullabye,” P.B. whispered into the mike. “It’s 2:36 at WFRV-FM with a dozen cold ones on the thermometer. On a chilly night in Illinois, Brook Benton is singing about that ‘Rainy Night in Georgia.’”
Tim softly sang along, holding Sandie’s picture to his chest, finally crying as the song faded.
“Sandie,” he sobbed. “Sandie.”
“Timothy Fenton!” his mother angrily called out. “Timothy John Fenton! Get up and get in here!”
Alice Fenton was not in a good mood as her son stirred and stumbled to the kitchen.
“What was going on in there last night,” she demanded.
“In your room! Who were you talking about? Nancy’s roommate again?”
“Then why were you crying about Sandy?”
“Nancy’s roommate is not the only girl I’ve ever known named Sandie.”
“Don’t give me that,” Mrs. Fenton said as she stormed out of the kitchen and across the hall.
Tim rolled his eyes. Now mom’s going to tell Nancy, who will lecture him all the way to school about a crush he doesn’t have, he thought to himself.
Now Nancy will lecture him all the way to school about how much Nancy and Sandy were the same age and he needs to find someone his own age, all the way to Foxwood High riding with his cousin and history teacher.
All he did was nod and say “yes Nancy” over and over again, gazing at some girls in black boots kicking their feet to stay warm as they waited for the school bus.
“Listen to me!” Nancy startled Tim with her demand.
“Sandy knows you’re interested in radio and she’s willing to help you out with that, but she’s too old to be your girlfriend. “
“I don’t look at her that way.”
“I’m not done talking to you about this,” Nancy said as she pulled into the faculty parking lot at Foxwood. After she finished parking, she looked up to see two other teachers heading for the door.
“Tim, go get the door.”
Tim slouched to the door just in time to let his English teacher, Mrs. Hutchinson, into the school. Once inside, she and Mrs. Ivers, her colleague and friend, spoke to him.
“Good morning Timothy.”
Tim grinned a bit and waived at the tall, blonde-haired woman.
“I finished your story. I would really like to talk about it I can’t see you after school tonight, but how about tomorrow?”
Tim held the door for a few other teachers and started making his way to English class. He grudgingly gloamed an old junior high classmate’s blue suede boots as they passed in the hallway.
“Julie Windsor thought she was just going to take over Foxwood,” Tim thought to himself, mimicking his mother. “And I was going to take Sandie Peck to the prom. I guess we both blew it. “
Moving further down the hall, he saw a group of Sandie’s old grade school buddies, among them her best friend. He sadly began to sing “Hurts so Bad” under his breath.
“The Lettermen and ‘Hurts So Bad’” Sandy intoned into the microphone. “Hope you’re not hurting at all at thirteen before four. It’s 35 degrees outside at WFXD.”
A sense of dismay hung over Sandy as she switched records and cued up the next commercial.
“Hey Sandy!” Randy Ferguson said, popping his head in the door of the control room. “Does your boyfriend k now as much about high school basketball as he does about baseball?”
Sandy looked at Randy with a chilling stare.
“He’s not my boyfriend,” she intoned.
Usually, Sandy responded to Randy’s references to Tim as “her boyfriend” with a giggly denial, but not today.
“He’s not my boyfriend,” she snapped.
“Okay, okay, sorry I asked that way.”
Sandy just turned her head and went back on the air.
Nancy snapped off her car radio at the sound of her roommate’s voice.
“You don’t need to be listening to her,” she snorted at Tim. “And when we get home, you go into your mom’s apartment and stay there. I’ll be watching and I’d better not see you lurking in the hallway or outside the door when Sandy gets home.”
“What if I have to do something for mom?”
“I mean it Tim!” Nancy growled. “You are too young for her!”
When they returned home, Tim fled into his room and pulled Sandy’s picture off the wall. Desperately, he placed it inside his nightstand, next to Sandie’s picture.
“Anybody out there?” Nancy demanded as Sandy entered the apartment.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes,” Sandy said. “It’s sad in a way. I’m kind of used to seeing him there.”
Nancy glowered as she went over her students’ papers.
“Miss Gallagher?” one of those students said as class ended the next day.
“You’re Tim Fenton’s sister, aren’t you?”
Nancy chuckled a bit.
“I’m his cousin. Why?”
“Does he have Mrs. Hutch for English?”
“Well, Mrs. Hutchinson is his English teacher.”
“She talks about him a lot. Does anybody know Tim Fenton? Did anybody go to grade school with Tim Fenton? Junior high? Did Tim Fenton every have any girlfriends?”
Nancy just shrugged, reminding herself that Tim was meeting with Mrs. Hutchinson that afternoon.
“It just so happens that Mrs. Hutchinson has been looking over some short stories Tim’s written,” Nancy said. I’ll ask her this afternoon.”
Nancy erased the blackboard in her room and slipped out the door, heading for Mrs. Hutchinson’s room at the other end of the hall. I just hope Tim appreciates the work Mrs. Hutchinson has done on his stories, Nancy thought to herself.
Mrs. Hutchinson grinned a bit as she counseled Tim on his latest attempt at authorship, as he sat listening, his desk across from hers.
“Now, I find you in here as Peter,” she said. “And there’s something here that you’ve never talked about before. I have a very personal question I want to ask and I hope it doesn’t offend you.”
“Was there ever a girl who meant to you what Annie means to Peter?”
Nancy stopped and stood awkwardly outside the classroom as Tim nervously answered the question with a blushing nod of the head.
“What was her name?”
Nancy’s eyes flared.
“Tell me about her.”
“I was in the same room through most of grade school,” Tim said. “She had this real cute little grin, she was real quiet. I was always kind of drawn to her, but I didn’t really come on to her until about the eighth grade.”
Nancy’s expression changed as Tim continued and it became apparent the girl he was describing was not her roommate.
“She was a Girl Scout and she loved rabbits, but I thought she was well,” Tim said, blushing and grinning.
“She was what?”
Tim leaned over and whispered something into Mrs. Hutchinson’s ear.
“Timothy Fenton!” she exclaimed with a mixture of shock and bemusement. “You thought that?”
“She was special.”
“Did she know?”
“Oh yeah, maybe since the second grade.”
“I don’t know. I couldn’t say what I had to, somebody else came along, we weren’t in any classes together here and she moved.”
Tim’s face contorted and tears started forming in his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he said, his face staring more at his desk than his teacher.
By now, Nancy had come up behind him and started patting Tim’s shoulders. Mrs. Hutchinson reached over, and tapped him on the wrist.
“Thanks for coming in,” she said. “Let me know if you finish another story.”
Tim nodded sadly.
“And Tim, next time write something for me about her.”
Nancy said nothing all the way home and tried to explain things to Tim’s mother before making a hasty retreat to her apartment.
“Sandy, there’s something I need to say,” she told her roommate that evening. “About Tim…”
“Well, it seems that there was another Sandie…”
Just then, Tim rang the doorbell.
Sandy opened the door to find an exhausted young man staring back at her.
“I’m sorry if I did anything to bother you,” he said.
Nancy invited Tim into the apartment.
“Something still wrong?”
“Yeah, the good news is that I don’t have a crush on your roommate. The bad news is that my mom still gave me the business over my old girlfriend. I got a half-hour lecture about moving on.”
Tim gave out a loud sigh and turned to leave.
“Tim, hold on a minute,” Sandy said.
“Do you know as much about high school basketball as you do about baseball?”