How's My Plant Doing?
Heads turned as soon as Bradley "Buzz" Bergeron walked through the front door of St. Anne's Catholic High School on the first day of classes. He was formerly a big deal sports star at powerful Hillsboro High School and it was strange to see him at St. Anne's with its much smaller and weaker sports program.
Buzz was a good-looking guy with brown hair with blue eyes. He had a scruffy looking stubble of a beard going and he was wearing the required white dress shirt with a (Three Stooges) tie although he was wearing designer blue jeans which was definitely pushing the school's dress code envelope. The junior walked through the school's lobby looking at his schedule while feeling eyes on him as he passed various students.
"Man, I don't believe this!"
Buzz looked up to see Ben Rosehart standing by a row of lockers. "You actually did it!"
"What, you thought I was making it up?" Buzz grinned.
"Yes!" Ben laughed.
Ben was a short guy (especially for his age) with a mechanical left arm, born with a stub above where his elbow should be along with three missing toes that left him with a pronounced limp when he walked. He wore horned rimmed glasses but otherwise was a handsome and friendly guy.
"You gave up fame and glory for this place?" Ben asked.
"Yep," Buzz replied.
"Man, that's impressive," Ben remarked.
They were friends from church and Buzz was Ben's hero. Ben admired the athlete's large muscular arms and his fit frame. Buzz Bergeron was a stud!
"You gonna show me around?" Buzz wanted to know.
"Sure!" Ben replied.
Ben grabbed Buzz's schedule from his hand and gave it a quick glance. "Oh, this is pretty easy," the Catholic school veteran replied. "Come on, I'll give you a quick tour."
Buzz was the new guy and that's why he was getting double looks and long stares as Ben walked him through the halls of the school. Several kids recognized him from his Hillsboro High School reputation and they were surprised to see him at their quaint Catholic school.Ben ledBuzz to his assigned home room and wished him luck. Buzz nodded and entered the room, taking a seat near the back and opening the book he was currently reading.
Lynn Baker noticed him as soon as she walked through the door and she literally stopped dead in her tracks to gawk, causing her friend Rebecca to walk right up her back.
"What are you doing?" Rebecca asked with annoyance.
Buzz was too engrossed in his book to notice the pretty girl with her long reddish blond hair pulled up in a ponytail standing in the doorway. Her eyes were green but they were hidden by her glasses. She was wearing a blue skirt with a mandatory white blouse with white knee socks and sandals.
"What are you looking at?" Rebecca asked with a frown.
"I don't believe what I'm seeing," Lynn said.
Rebecca looked past Lynn and saw the guy sitting in the back of the room. "Hey, isn't that Buzz Bergeron?" She asked.
"Can you believe it?" Lynn muttered.
Rebecca had black hair with blue eyes and she was dressed similar to Lynn (and most of the girls in the school). "Are you going to go talk to him?" Rebecca asked.
"I guess I'd better," Lynn determined.
"Yeah, before he thinks you'reretarded," Rebecca advised.
Lynn slowly approached Buzz, feeling her heart racing.
"What are you doing here?" She asked when she reached his desk.
Buzz looked up from his book and smiled when he saw that it was Lynn. He was amused to see her in her school uniform-like clothes. She always wore pretty long dresses to church.
"How come nobody believed me when I told them I was transferring to St. Anne's?" Buzz asked.
Lynn took a seat next to him, her eyes wide. "You mean you're really a student here now?" She asked with disbelief.
"Yep," he answered proudly.
"Oh," Lynn said, somewhat nervously.
Buzz laughed. "Why are you blushing?"
"Please don't tell me you transferred here because of me," she practically whispered.
"Why else would I come?" Buzz laughed.
Lynn's eyes widened even more and her face turned even redder. "Don't you think that's sort of….extreme?"
Buzz laughed again. "A little," he agreed.
She sat back in her chair and sighed heavily. "I didn't think you were really serious about doing this," she said.
"Here I am!"
Lynn shook her head in confusion. "You're crazy," she said, her heart racing. "You know that, don't you?"
"Yeah, I've been told," Buzz replied.
"You gave up everything," she said.
"Not everything," Buzz said, giving her a meaningful look.
"You shouldn't have done this," Lynn told him.
"Too late now," Buzz smirked.
They knew each other from St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church but they only saw each other on weekends at Mass, church functions, and Sunday CCD (Sunday School). They met in second grade first communion class and they went through the ranks together. Buzz was an altar server and Lynn belonged to the youth group along with Buzz. Now they were about to be confirmed together later in the year.
Lynn never lost her religious innocence, seriousness, or belief - she still had the same first communion wonderment in high school as a devout and dedicated Catholic who defended her Faith at every turn. Buzz was more of an 'arm chair' Catholic. He still believed that Jesus was the Son of God who became Man and died for man's sins but he also became more cynical and rebellious about some of the church teachings as he grew older. Buzz didn't care if his gay Uncle received Communion and he certainly didn't want to hear that masturbation was a sin when it felt so good.
Lynn debated Buzz in CCD Class when he questioned some of the church teachings. She definitely had a purity about her that earned her a reputation of being prudish and virginal but Buzz found her sincerity to be fresh and welcoming compared to some of the hypocrites he saw receiving Communion on Sunday while dropping the F bomb on Monday and lip locking some jerk at a Saturday night party. Buzz like to believe that as long as he tried to do good and lived a good life Jesus would forgive him for his sins and transgressions, especially those conducted late at night, alone in his bedroom under the covers with one hand.
Buzz joked for years that he was going to attend St. Anne's Catholic School but Lynn never took him seriously. He was a popular sports player at Hillsboro and he had a chance to play on championship teams as a Hurricane. The St. Anne Saints were perennial also-rans who rarely fielded strong or contenting teams. A guy like Buzz would be a fool to leave a strong sports program at Hillsboro to languish at St. Anne's.
Buzz looked at Lynn who was staring at him as if he was a ghost. She was still blushing and then she finally laughed nervously. "You have to promise me that you won't blame me if things don't work out for you here," she said.
"Why wouldn't things work out?" He asked innocently.
The bell rang and Lynn left to sit with Rebecca up front.
"Are you two going to go out?" Rebecca wanted to know as soon as Lynn took her seat.
"You know I don't date," Lynn replied.
"But he's so perfect," Rebecca swooned. "I think I'm in love!"
"Forget it," Lynn advised. "He only came here for one girl."
"Boy, no pressure on you, huh?" Rebecca laughed.
"I didn't ask him to do this," Lynn replied defensively.
"Ask him out, girl!" Rebecca advised.
"I don't date," Lynn repeated.
### ### ###
The St. Anne's Football Coaching Staff had done a great job keeping their catch under raps. Nobody at the Greenville News and Dispatch were aware that Buzz Bergeron had been practicing with the St. Anne's squad during pre-school August workouts or that he was missing from the Hillsboro Hurricane roster. By the time the news broke, Buzz was the starting Saints quarterback instead of backing up Senior Max Kelly with the Hurricanes.
The Saints only suited up seventeen players (as opposed to the Hurricanes' twenty-eight) so Buzz was playing defensive safety as well as QB and while the talent level was no where near the quality of Hillsboro's squad, St. Anne's did have a couple of top-notch players to compliment their new QB. Of course, football was not the reason Buzz transferred to the Catholic School but he wasn't about to tell the truth about his intentions: that he wanted to be closer to a girl he liked.
Lynn felt guilty about Buzz leaving Hillsboro. A part of her was glad that he was attending Catholic School but another part worried that Buzz would resent her if she didn't go out with him. She never made any promises anyway. They were friends at St. Patrick's Parish and while she enjoyed his company and was grateful for his companionship at Church and its related activities, she had made a personal private vow that she would avoid the temptations of romance and remain serious about her studies, her virtues, and her values as a student at St. Anne's Catholic School. Having a guy like Buzz Bergeron around all the time wasn't going to make that any easier!
Aside from the crucifixes in every classroom, religious statues in the halls, and a religion course as an elective, St. Anne's Catholic School wasn't all that different from Hillsboro High as far as Buzz could tell. There were still the cliques and peer groups, troublemakers, jocks, stuck ups, and seductive girls, just not as many of them. Buzz had Ben as his right hand man and a couple of other kids he knew from church, but his reputation proceeded him and Buzz had little trouble fitting in.
He became an instant star when he completed 12 of 16 passes for 149 yards with two touchdowns while rushing for 57 yards in his debut game with the Saints, a 27-20 loss to the Riverside team. Buzz was heartened that Lynn came to the game, sitting in the bleachers with Rebecca and Ben cheering him and the team on.
Because Lynn and Buzz were seen talking to each another around the halls at school and eating lunch together with Ben and Rebecca, it didn't take the rumor mill long to churn the gossip that Buzz and Lynn were dating, even though Lynn continued to insist that she didn't date and that she and Buzz were "just friends".
Buzz was hurt that Lynn was so distant and detached when it came to the possibility of a relationship but he didn't give her a hard time about it. He understood that she owed him nothing and he was simply happy to be around her every day at school instead of just on Sundays at Church.
Buzz and Lynn were in three classes together which was also nice but Lynn was just as content to sit with Rebecca as she was with Buzz and he found himself hanging out with Ben more than he did with Lynn which was slightly disappointing. There was one time when Buzz grabbed Lynn's hand and pulled her into the cafeteria to eat with him and that was the first physical contact between them ever. He would have kept hold of her wonderful hand all through the lunch line if Lynn hadn't pulled it from his grasp and stuck both her hands in her sweater pockets.
Buzz was welcomed and accepted by the student body as well as the faculty. He was surprisingly well read and educated (for a jock with the unspoken stereotype of being a moron) and he got along well with the teachers. The football team was receiving extra buzz in the paper because of Buzz's presence and nobody was complaining about the extra (positive) publicity. Buzz brought Hillsboro's winning mentality, work ethic, and discipline with him to the Saints and his intense philosophy rubbed off on the other players.
The Saints almost pulled off an upset against the favored Miller City Mudhens before dropping a 22-21 nail biter in the final minute on a fifty yard punt return by the Hens. Buzz completed 75% of his passes for nearly 200 yards and he scored the go ahead touchdown on a trick play before Miller City grabbed victory from the clutch of defeat in the waning seconds of the game.
Most of the Saints seemed to accept the defeat as a lesson learned but an incensed Buzz ranted and raved in the locker room after the defeat, reminding his teammates that 'almost' only counted in horseshoes and hand grenades and the Saints would remain mediocre unless they developed a passion, wiliness, desire, and commitment to win. Some of his teammates would point to that moment as when everything changed.
Buzz liked meeting Lynn in the library which was quieter and more intimate than the auditorium study halls. Lynn had a familiar relationship with Miss Halberg the school librarian and she often volunteered her student services in the library during her free time. A part of Buzz couldn't help but think Lynn did the extra work to avoid having to talk with him.
Buzz occasionally expressed his frustration about Lynn's standoffish attitude to Ben who wasn't as fatalistic as Buzz was starting to feel.
"Just keep hanging out with her," Ben advised. "You like her and I know she likes you."
"How do you know that?" Buzz wondered.
"I see the way she looks at you," Ben replied.
Buzz asked Lynn why she spent so much time in the library.
"I love books," she answered. "And I like to write too. The library is my sanctuary."
"Do you mind me hanging out here with you?" Buzz asked.
"No," she replied, somewhat unconvincingly.
"You don't have to be shy with me, Lynn," Buzz told her. "We've known each other a long time now."
"We know each other in our church lives," She clarified as they sat at a table working on their homework.
"Church life?" Buzz asked with confusion.
"It's a safe place to be your friend," she explained. "It's church. What could happen there? Our parents are around. Other parents. The priest. The lay people. Everybody keeps an eye on us."
"But not here?"
"We're on our own here," Lynn said. "We can basically do what we want."
He slowly slid his hand across the table and placed it on top of hers. "And that scares you?"
Lynn looked at Buzz from across the table. He noticed that her face had turned red. Lynn cleared her throat and looked away, embarrassed.
"I don't want to get in trouble," she said softly.
"I would never do anything for that to happen," Buzz assured her.
"You went to public school," Lynn reminded him. "I know you think different things."
The third football game of the season was against the Sun Rise Lake School For Boys, always a wildcard game because the Lakers often fielded fifth year grad students to make up for the lesser talent and smaller number of players. The Saints won their first game of the season with an 18-6 win over the Lake with Buzz throwing for 120 yard on 10 completions and scrambling for fifty yards on the ground. Saint sports boosters were already claiming that Buzz Bergeron was the best player in a generation to wear a St. Anne's uniform and the new attitude he brought made him a popular teammate, a fan favorite, and a star around school although Buzz remained humble and gracious despite his success. The last thing he wanted Lynn to think was that he was just another egotistical jerk jock.
Ben and Rebecca were in the same confirmation class at St. Patrick's as Lynn and Buzz. Ben served on the altar ten times a week but Buzz only served at a couple of Masses a week, partly to impress Lynn who was still adamant in her Faith and one of the most outspoken students in the confirmation class. Lynn was definitely pro-life whereas Buzz was more apt to believe that the right to choose was a woman's basic human right. He learned not to debate Lynn on the abortion issue or other church teachings on sexuality, including homosexuality. Lynn also sang in the church choir and Buzz said she had the voice of an angel.
Lynn usually went to school with Rebecca but sometimes she's let Buzz give her a ride. He was too busy with football practice in the afternoons to spend time with Lynn but sometimes they'd meet for lunch at Johnny C's after Sunday Mass and Confirmation class. The diner wasn't all that far from the Blue River and if the weather was nice they'd take a walk along the path overlooking the river.
On the walk on this particular Sunday (the day after the first football win of the season), Buzz gently took her hand in his. He felt her tense up but she didn't release his grip. Lynn softly blushed when he did this and held his hand.
"I think you're the prettiest girl around," he let her know. "And the nicest," he added.
"Thanks," she said quietly.
"I was hoping you'd go out with me," Buzz said.
"You know I don't date," she said. "Let's just keep it the way it is, okay?"
Buzz sighed. "Sure," he said, squeezing her hand. "No problem."
Buzz and Lynn knew each other's parents from Church and while there was no particularly surprise that Lynn and Buzz were spending more time together outside of their church life since they now attended the same school too Buzz still felt an uncomfortable awkwardness radiating from Lynn's parents whenever he stopped by the Baker house. Buzz's parents, of course, thought Lynn was absolutely perfect for him!
"We're just friends, Mom," Buzz would remind his mother three times a day.
The Saints took on the (West) County Wildcats, always a tough game against a tough team and when St. Anne's pulled off a 26-24 upset win to beat County for the first time in twelve years, Coach Demers called it one of the biggest school wins ever. Although Buzz threw his first interception of the season, he completed 12 of 19 passes for 174 yards and ran for 38 yards and a rushing touchdown.
Buzz was so thrilled by the win that he momentarily forgot himself as he came off the field, grabbing Lynn on the sidelines, wrapping his arm around her waist and planting a kiss right on her mouth. A stunned Lynn blushed, clearly embarrassed and caught off guard. She stepped back reeling and Buzz muttered an apology although Ben and Rebecca were both amused by the episode.
The Greenville News and Dispatch ran a feature story on the Saints that week, quoting Coach Demers (a big burly balding cigar chewing former lineman) as saying that the team had a new attitude this year. Several players echoed the Coach's sentiments, saying they now felt like they had a chance of winning every time they took the field when in the past they knew they were probably going to lose. Many attributed the new attitude to the arrival of Buzz Bergeron.
Buzz was quoted as saying that he was happy to be a Saint representing a positive and proud Catholic school. He gave props to his teammates instead of talking about himself.
Buzz told Ben that he was having fun this season. There was no pressure to win at St. Anne's like there was at Hillsboro where the school fielded a competitive team nearly every year.
"Well, it's so great to finally win this year here," Ben said. "People are coming to our games and the school is feeling good about itself in the sports arena."
A few nights later, Buzz was sitting with Lynn on the front steps of her porch. It was the eve of the big game against the South County Crusaders, another strong team that would test the Saints ability to compete against good programs. Buzz took Lynn's hand in his and looked into her eyes.
"Thanks for coming to all the games and cheering us on," he said.
"Oh, I'm big into school spirit," Lynn laughed. "I recognize that good publicity for our school is good publicity for our Faith. If a winning football team promotes Jesus, I'm all for it!"
"We do have a good team this year," Buzz said.
"Because of you," Lynn replied knowingly.
"It's a team effort," Buzz insisted, staring into her eyes.
Lynn started to look away when she felt his eyes on him but he leaned in and kissed her. She pulled back and sighed.
"You have to stop doing that," she said.
"I'm sorry," he replied. "I can't help myself. You're just so beautiful."
"I should probably go in," Lynn announced, abruptly standing. "Good night, Buzz."
"Good night, Lynn," Buzz said sadly as he stood too, watching her disappear into the house.
### ### ###
Buzz looked forward to each new day because it meant another day with Lynn. Despite Lynn's resistance to his innocent advances, Buzz had never been happier with his life. Football was fun, he liked his teammates and the coaching staff, school was great, and being with Lynn was a dream come true.
It was the day of the big Crusader game and Buzz was nervous. He decided to swing by Lynn's house on the way to the school. He always felt better when he was around her. He rang the doorbell and after a few minutes one of Lynn's kid brothers opened the door. There were four of them and Buzz always got confused as to who was who. Brandon? Matt? Timmy? Mike? They all looked alike.
"She's still asleep," the brother announced, stepping out of the door and leaving it open. "You can go wake her if you want."
"Isn't anybody else home?" Buzz asked as the kid ran off the porch.
"Nope, Church, I'm late, you're on your own." And with that whoever-he-was was gone.
Buzz slowly stepped into the house and closed the door behind him. The Baker place was handsomely decorated with plenty of religious icons, paintings, and crucifixes decorating the tables and walls. There were also plenty of plants, enough to fill a greenhouse. Buzz had been in the house before, but never upstairs where the bedrooms were and he slowly made his way up the stairs. There was hall running down the middle of the floor with rooms on each side. One near the end was closed and painted pink and Buzz guessed that was Lynn's room.
He walked down the hall and gently knocked on the door. "Lynn?" He called.
There was no response so Buzz carefully opened the door to see Lynn's bedroom for the first time. It was painted in a light purple lilac like color with pretty furniture. There was a painting of Jesus over her bed and Buzz realized that Lynn was still in the bed, sound asleep under the covers. She looked like Sleeping Beauty.
"Lynn?" Buzz called out again as he slowly and cautiously stepped toward the bed. "Are you alive?"
He gently reached his hand out and gave Lynn's shoulder a tap as she lay on her side. "Wake up!" He said rather loudly.
Lynn woke up with a start and did a double take when she saw Buzz standing at the side of the bed. "Oh My Gosh!" She screamed out loudly, panicked. "What are you doing in here!?"
"Your brother said I could wake you up," Buzz grinned.
Lynn rolled onto her back and pulled the covers up to her neck. "You're not supposed to be in here!" She warned.
"Too late for that!"
"What do you want!?"
"Just wanted to talk before the game," he said.
She frowned. "Wait downstairs," she ordered.
"Okay," he agreed, smiling at her for a long moment before finally leaving the room, wondering what she had on under the covers!
Buzz sat in the kitchen patiently waiting for Lynn. He heard the shower running upstairs and that gave him something to think about even though Jesus and the Twelve Disciples were staring down at him from The Last Supper image hanging on the wall over the kitchen table.
Lynn finally came into the room, her hair still wet from the shower. She was wearing a blue St. Anne's sweatshirt with blue jeans. Her glasses looked a little steamed up.
"I can't believe you went upstairs and into my room," she said, sounding shocked. "What were you thinking?"
"Come on, it isn't that big of a deal," Buzz laughed. "Why?" He grinned, "Were you naked under the covers!?"
"Don't talk like that," she warned, glancing around. "Somebody could hear you."
"Oh," she said, sounding relieved. "Well, it's still not a very appropriate thing to say!"
She was standing in front of him as he sat in one of the kitchen chairs and suddenly he reached out and began tickling her side, causing her to jump back.
"Cut it out!" Lynn demanded, but there was a giggle in her voice.
"What if I don't want to!?" Buzz laughed as he continued to tickle her, causing her to step back, still giggling.
Buzz got up and reached out with his hands to tickle her stomach, even getting his hand under her sweatshirt.
"Stop!" She screamed. "Hands off!" She tried to slap his hand away but he kept doing it. "I'm very ticklish."
Buzz laughed but he wouldn't stop tickling her. Her back was up against the wall now and she tried to pull his hands away from her bare tummy.
"Buzz, please stop," she pleaded but that only caused him to tickle her harder and she started slumping to the floor, bent over trying to get him to stop. "Knock it off!" She yelled with frustrated anger in her voice, grabbing his arm and pushing him back. "You really can't be touching me," she warned.
Buzz stepped back, surprised by the tone of her voice. "Sorry," he said defensively, feeling slightly put off. "I was just fooling around."
"You shouldn't be fooling around with me," Lynn said seriously. "Now, what did you want?"
"Do you have a problem showing affection?" Buzz asked with concern.
"You know how I feel about this stuff," she sighed. "What we've talked about in CCD about safe dating practices and all that."
"I never talked about that crap," Buzz replied as he collapsed into a chair. "I wish you wouldn't take it so seriously."
"Did you have girlfriends at Hillsboro?" She wanted to know, giving him a frown.
"I had girls who were friends," he clarified, giving her a suspicious look.
"What's that supposed to mean?" She wondered.
"Nothing," he muttered. "Anyway, big game today."
"No big speech though," he said. "Just play the game."
She nodded and sat in the chair next to him. "I know you'll do well, Buzz."
She gave him a studied look. "Where did the nickname Buzz come from again?" "Do you think it's a stupid name?" He worried.
"No, I like it," she assured him. "It fits you."
"I had long hair in fifth grade and then got a buzz haircut and the name stuck," he explained.
It's a cute name," Lynn said.
"I like it better than Bradley," he said.
"Really?" she asked with surprise. "I like that name too."
"Do you have a nickname?" Buzz wondered.
"No," she replied. "I was Lynn-ie when my brothers were younger but nothing else, really."
"Hmm," he said, thinking about it for a minute. "We should come up with a nickname for you that's just between us," he suggested.
"That's not necessary."
"Don't you want a pet name?"
"No," she groaned. "Please don't do that to me."
"How about... Cutie pie?" He laughed.
"Gosh, No!" she said.
"Well, I'll think of something," he vowed.
"Please don't!" She said. "So, nervous about the game?"
Buzz shook his head no. "Just gotta go out there and play," he said. "What happens, happens."
"Well, good luck," she smiled.
"You'll be there, right?"
"Of course," she promised. "With Ben and Rebecca as always."
"My own fan club."
"Just don't call us groupies!" Lynn laughed.
"I should probably get going," Buzz realized, glancing at the clock on the wall. "I'll see you after the game." He stood and gave her a longing look.
"Okay," she agreed, standing too. "Have a good game."
He wanted desperately to kiss her for good luck but he knew that's not want she wanted so he smiled and nodded his goodbye before heading for the back door.
"Win one for Jesus!" Lynn called out as he went through the door.
He gave her a thumb's up sign before disappearing from her view. Lynn sighed and collapsed into the chair, rubbing her hands through her still damp hair and looking down with defeat. Her feelings for Buzz were getting more confusing and scary and she didn't like the temptations that were running through her mind. His kisses! Him being in her bedroom! Him tickling her bare stomach! This stuff was getting dangerous.
### ### ###
The South County Crusaders were a heavy favorite to beat the St. Anne Saints so it was the biggest surprise of the season when the Saints literally demolished the Crusaders 36-6 in one of the largest routs in St. Anne's school history.
The Saints scored 18 points in the first quarter on a fumble recovery, punt return and a fifty-two yard pass from Buzz and they never looked back as the upstart team breezed to victory. Buzz sat out most of the fourth quarter with the lopsided score with Gilbert Schwab (who Buzz easily beat out for the QB job) getting playing time.
Boosters had to go back nine years to find the last time the Saints had won three straight and with a 3-2 record, the Saints were actually still in contention half way through the season!
Buzz continued to be the buzz of the school and parish with even the priest congratulating him before Sunday Mass. The conversation in confirmation class was whether or not Jesus helped teams win.
"That would mean he would have to help the other team lose and Jesus just wouldn't do that," Lynn argued. "It's a positive spirit and a belief in good that allows teams to win."
Buzz's mother invited Lynn to Sunday dinner at the Bergeron house and Lynn politely accepted. Buzz's mother had already spoken with Lynn's mom so there was no problem and Lynn left the church with Buzz after second Mass that morning. It was Lynn's first visit to the Bergeron home. Buzz was an only child and his parents were about ten years older than hers. They lived in a small cape in the flat section of town and the house seemed strangely quiet compared to her rather rambunctious abode with four younger brothers, two cats, a rabbit, and three aquariums.
Mrs. Bergeron was involved in many of the same parish societies and activities as Lynn's mom so Lynn was familiar with the woman. She didn't know Mr. Bergeron quite as well but he seemed like a pleasant enough man when he welcomed her into their home. The football game was on the television – the only television set at Lynn's house was used for DVDs and videos, most of them religious in theme.
Most of the talk was of Buzz's football success and his switch from Hillsboro High to St. Anne's Catholic. It was obvious that Mr. Bergeron was quite proud of his son and that Mrs. Bergeron was happy he was playing for the Saints.
The roast beef dinner was delicious and after Lynn and Buzz helped his parents clean up, the Bergerons took an after meal walk, leaving Buzz and Lynn home alone. Lynn looked lovely in the dress she had worn to confirmation class and Mass that morning and now that Buzz finally had Lynn alone he couldn't resist the temptation to give her a kiss. They were sitting on the couch in the living room watching the football game when Buzz leaned into her and softly placed his lips on hers.
He kissed her, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her closer to him.
Lynn closed her eyes and sighed, trying not to enjoy the passionate kiss.
"Buzz, we really shouldn't," she said, putting her hand on his chest and trying to push him away.
"Why not?" Buzz asked.
"'Cause it's wrong," Lynn said, turning her head away.
"Aw, come on, Lynn, how can it be wrong to show a little affection for someone you really care about?" Buzz wanted to know.
"'Cause a little affection can lead to a lot of attention," Lynn sighed knowingly.
"It's just kissing," Buzz pointed out.
"I know you think I'm a freak," she sighed.
"I don't," he assured her.
"Then why do you keep trying to tempt me?" She asked.
Buzz was surprised by her remark. "I'm not trying to tempt you," he said. "I just want you to know that I'm really attracted to you and that I care about you."
"If you cared about me you wouldn't pressure me," she pouted.
"I didn't realize I was pressuring you," he said with sincerity. "I apologize if you've been feeling uncomfortable around me."
Lynn blushed. "It feels so good that it can't be right," she sighed.
"Kissing, you mean?" Buzz smirked.
"I shouldn't like the way you make me feel," Lynn admitted.
"Do you like me, Lynn?" Buzz asked.
"Of course I like you!" She groaned. "That's what scares me."
"I adore you," he told her. "You're the only girl I've ever been interested in or attracted to. I respect your feelings, your cautions, and especially your religious beliefs and I would never do anything you don't want to do."
"Thanks," she said with obvious relief in her voice. "I appreciate that."
"I appreciate you," he grinned.
"I'm sorry I'm a nice girl, Buzz," Lynn sighed with guilt. "I know you're probably used to girls who aren't quite as…reserved."
"I wasn't a playboy at Hillsboro High, Lynn," Buzz let her know.
"I bet you were popular though."
"Not like that," he told her. "Don't worry about my past," he smiled. "The present is the only thing that matters now."
"Okay," she agreed happily. "And I'm glad to be a part of it!"
### ### ###
The Newall Knights were one of the worse teams in the league and it was assumed the Saints would have little trouble beating the undermanned team. Confidence was high and the Greenville News and Dispatch made St. Anne's a 20 point favorite. Nobody could remember the last time the Saints were favored to win by that many points.
Buzz noticed that Lynn seemed more relaxed around him after their little conversation on his couch that Sunday afternoon following dinner. He only attempted to kiss her if she seemed particularly interested or amorous and Lynn enjoyed her new found popularity being around the star quarterback, the closest thing to a sports celebrity the school had seen in years.
The St. Anne's fans were fired up and ready for a lopsided victory when the Saints took the field against the black-uniformed Knights but a funny thing happened on the way to the win: nobody told the host Knights to roll over.
The Saints were down 12-0 at the half. Buzz had been sacked three times and had only completed 3 of 9 passes for 23 yards and it looked like the team had reverted back to its old ways against a bad team. But St. Anne's bounced back and rallied in the second half. Buzz threw a twenty-seven yard touchdown pass and scored the two point conversion himself to get the Saints on the board, 12-8.
The score remained that way until late in the fourth quarter when the Saints recovered a Knight fumble deep in their own territory with about two and a half minutes to play. Buzz engineered a text book late game rally drive, marching the Saints down the field and, with 14 seconds left on the clock, the Saints running back scored on a broken play and St. Anne's pulled out a 14-12 victory to save its season.
Lynn let out a breath of relief as she stood in the stands with Ben and Rebecca celebrating the win. She was surprised by how caught up she had become in the game, the team, the record, and the season. Football was suddenly important to her and she knew it just wasn't about free publicity for Jesus anymore. She wanted Buzz to win.
The three friends waited for the players to emerge from the locker room to board the bus for the long ride home.
"Great game!" Lynn said happily as she gave her favorite QB a hug.
"Not really," Buzz sighed.
She gave him a kiss, the first time she had initiated any intimacy between them. "I'm proud of you for hanging in there," she said.
Buzz kissed her back, hugging her close with appreciation. He slid his hands around her back as they kissed with contentment and satisfaction. He rubbed her back slowly. "Oh Lynn."
"Oh Buzz," she moaned, daring to stick her tongue into his mouth.
"Be careful or you'll have to get a room!" Ben warned and Lynn immediately broke away from Buzz, her face red.
"I shouldn't have done that," Lynn sighed.
"Ah, that was nothing!" Rebecca said with a laugh. "Trust me, I've seen much grosser!"
"I'll see you," Buzz said with a smile as he headed for the bus.
"Bye," Lynn sighed, watching him go.
"I didn't mean to embarrass you," Ben apologized. "I was only goofing around."
"I know," Lynn said. "But you are right – I should be careful."
Buzz lay in his bed that night not only replaying the game in his head but also thinking about Lynn and that wonderfully spontaneous and honest kiss she had planted on him in front of the bus. He could still feel her, smell her, and taste her hours later and that made him want to violate some of his confirmation class lessons as he pulled his underwear off under the covers.
Buzz thought he was still dreaming when he heard Lynn's voice the next morning.
"Football hero needs to wake up," said the familiar voice that pulled him from his sleep.
When his eyes came into focus, Buzz was stunned to see Lynn staring down at him with a smile.
"Rise and shine!" She said with a laugh.
"How did you get in here?" He asked with confusion.
"Your parents let me in," she grinned. "They just left for early Mass."
"What are you doing here?" He wondered.
"I thought we could grab something from Johnny C's before Confirmation Class," she said.
"Really?" Buzz asked hopefully. "That would be great!"
"Yeah," Lynn agreed. "So hurry up and get moving!" She reached for his cover and he tried to grab it.
"You don't want to do that!" He warned but it was too late because Lynn had pulled the covers from his grip and ripped them off the bed to reveal his nudity from the waist down.
"Oh!" She said, horrified as her eyes went wide.
Buzz felt himself growing and he threw her a helpless look. "Sorry about that," he said, hoping she wouldn't ask why he slept in a tee shirt but no underwear.
"I…I….I…" the red faced Lynn stuttered.
She should have covered her eyes and ran from the room like any good Catholic girl would but she was almost memorized by what she was looking at.
"My fault, not yours," Buzz replied, getting out of the bed, finding his underwear on the floor on the other side of the bed and putting them on with his back to her, giving her the opportunity to stare at his firm football buns.
"I….I…..I…" Lynn mumbled, transfixed yet ashamed.
"You've seen me," Buzz replied with a shrug. "Nothing we can do about it now."
"I'm going to have to go to confession!" Lynn realized, finally coming out of her daze with a look of embarrassment combined with shock on her face.
"Can't we just keep this between ourselves?" Buzz asked as he dressed for Johnny C's/Confirmation Class/Mass.
"I was just trying to be funny to get you back from when you came into my room," Lynn explained with embarrassment pasted on her face.
"It's alright," he assured her. "It's just that you're not laughing," he added with a bemused look on his face.
"Please don't tell anyone about this, okay?" Lynn begged, a concerned look on her face.
"Yes, I know, you have a reputation to protect," Buzz said, somewhat sarcastically.
"They'd make fun of me and call me a hypocrite," Lynn sighed.
"I won't tell anybody," he said. "I promise."
She looked away sheepishly, now realizing the full extent of what had happened. She had never seen a boy her age naked before and she couldn't get the image of what she had seen out of her mind, especially when it grew the way it did.
Dressed now, Buzz gently nuzzled his face against hers and he kissed her softly. "I guess it was your lucky day," he whispered.
Lynn laughed nervously. "That was the last thing I expected to s….it was kind of awkward," she said as she blushed.
"For you or for me?" Buzz asked as he took her hand and walked her from the room.
"Both," she decided.
### ### ###
Buzz tried to forget about the awkward introduction in his bedroom that morning. Did Lynn figure out why he wasn't wearing any underwear? Did she see any yellow spots on his sheets? Was she grossed out by what she saw? Would she never treat him the same now that she had violated her own personal code of modesty, purity, and humility?
Lynn tried to act as if nothing had changed between them but how could it not? She had seen what she wasn't supposed to see and worst than that she liked what she had seen. She liked the way it made her feel but she didn't mention that part during confession – just that she had accidentally violated someone's privacy. The priest told her as long as it was an accident it wasn't a sin but that didn't make her feel any less guilty.
There was a lot of hype during the week regarding the big game against Hillsboro High and Buzz's old teammates. Buzz was looking forward to the challenge but he was surprised that some of his former teammates badmouthed and ridiculed him in the paper, calling him a traitor for jumping the team to play for the Saints. Buzz thought that was a little harsh but he realized some of those guys were just trying to pump up their team for the big game.
Buzz tried to focus and concentrate on the game but Lynn was never far from his thoughts. He kept seeing the look on her face when she pulled the covers back that morning and he wondered if she finally saw him in a sexual way instead of the 'just friends' fake game they had been playing all along.
The other thing that had been happening in recent weeks was that the odd couple of Rebecca and Ben apparently had developed some sort of relationship – or at least a close friendship. The two had been spending so much time with Buzz and Lynn that they had naturally formed their own bond and Buzz was happy for Ben who had overcome many hardships in his life to develop a social life in high school. Rebecca wasn't exactly his type but it was good to see him with a girl.
"Hey Benjamin," Rebecca said seductively one morning as Ben and Buzz walked down the hall.
"Hey, Bec," Ben replied, kissing her cheek.
Rebecca giggled and playfully pushed him away. "Don't slobber on my cheek!" Ben laughed with delight. "Where else would you like me to slobber?" He joked.
"They're so cute together, don't you think?" Lynn asked Buzz as she stood next to Rebecca.
"Definitely!" Buzz laughed.
"It's all your fault!" Rebecca told Buzz. "If you hadn't transferred here I never would have been hanging out with Ben."
"You're welcome!" Buzz laughed.
Rebecca rolled her eyes dramatically and gave Buzz a gentle shove. "You just think you're the cat's meow, don't you!?"
"Who, me?" Buzz asked innocently.
Lynn laughed and leaned into him. "Who else?" She purred.
Lynn glanced at Ben who continued to cuddle with Rebecca. "So Ben, does Buzz ever talk about me with you?" She asked with a smirk.
"Only all the time!" Ben laughed.
"What does he say?" Lynn smiled.
"Oh, about how great and terrific and beautiful and perfect you are," Ben groaned. "It can get annoying sometimes. It's like he's dating The Virgin Mary."
Lynn's draw dropped open and her face turned red as she bolted to the nearest ladies room.
"Smooth move, Ex-lax," Rebecca groaned.
"I didn't mean anything by it," Ben said defensively. "I wasn't talking in sexual terms or anything. I didn't mean to imply she was going to have an Immaculate Conception or something!"
"Just shut up!" Rebecca ordered before she followed her friend down the hall.
Ben glanced at Buzz and shrugged. "Sorry," he said with a sigh.
"Well, she really is like the Virgin Mary, isn't she?" Buzz remarked before heading down the hall in the other direction.
For the first time all season, Buzz was feeling nervous about the game. Facing off against the Hurricanes on Hillsboro's home field was unexpectedly nerve wracking with a Twilight Zone like familiarity to the surroundings as he ran onto the field wearing a Saints uniform. Everything was the same but different and Buzz felt confused, torn, uncertain, and strange.
There were his old coaches and teammates and friends. What was he doing standing on the other side of the field? Some of his ex-teammates razzed him during pre-game warm ups and some of the Hillsboro student body fans had funny signs in the stands like "Benedict Bergeron" and "Buzz fizzed" and "Buzz ain't no Saint" and "Buzz stormed by Hurricanes" and "Jesus Can't Save You Now, Buzz!".
Buzz also had Lynn on his mind way too much. Ever since the bedroom naked episode and especially since Ben's dumb Virgin Mary remark, Lynn seemed quieter and withdrawn and that concerned Buzz.
Hillsboro played a swarming type of defense keyed on Buzz with a lot of blitzes and stunt defenses. The Hurricanes were clearly playing revenge football and they kept Buzz scrambling and on his heels the entire game. He was sacked four times, threw three interceptions, and was the victim of several hard hits, including a couple of late hits for penalties. The strategy worked because the Saints offense was almost non-existent and Hillsboro cruised to a statement 38-0 bone crushing victory that left the Saint players and fans demoralized.
Max Kelly played a lights out game as the Hurricane QB - throwing for four touchdowns and over 200 yards, burning Buzz at safety a couple of times. Coach Demers pulled Buzz from the game in the fourth quarter for his own safety and the Saints QB stood on the sidelines enduring the catcalls and razzing from the Hillsboro stands. It was the worse day of his high school football career and he couldn't wait for the final gun to go off.
Lynn didn't know what to say after such a resounding beating and Buzz didn't have a lot to say either when he came out of the locker room looking bruised, sore, and disillusioned.
"I guess we weren't ready for the big show," he sighed.
"You got bitch slapped," Rebecca observed.
"Yeah, we did," Buzz agreed.
"You're still 4-3," Lynn said with encouragement.
"And Jesus still loves you," Ben joked.
"You guys will come back next week," Lynn said.
"Against Greenville?" Buzz frowned. "I doubt it."
Lynn hadn't seen Buzz this down before. Ironically, she was supposed to go out with him, Rebecca and Ben that night in what was going to be a celebration but now would probably be a funeral.
"Well, there's nothing you can do about it now," Lynn remarked. "Let's just go out together tonight like we planned and have a good time."
"Sure, that sounds like fun," the downtrodden Buzz said with fake excitement.
Buzz wanted to avoid some of the Hillsboro hang outs where he'd face the ridicule of the Hurricane fans so they went to a movie in Greenville and had pizza at the Greenville Pizza House afterward. On the way home, they stopped at the bike path along the Blue River to take a late evening stroll.
"I think me and Rebecca are going to walk ahead," Ben said, taking her hand and quickly moving out ahead of Buzz and Lynn.
"Okay," Buzz replied.
"It's really a nice night for a serine walk," Lynn remarked.
"Yeah," Buzz agreed, but he was still down from the game and wasn't in the mood to talk much.
Ben and Rebecca had been giddy but it had been a quiet and moody evening for Buzz and Lynn. Buzz was bummed about the game and Lynn remained troubled about whatever it was that was bugging her.
"Sorry about the game," she said as they walked along the path.
"I've never played that badly in my life," Buzz sighed. "It was sobering."
"You'll bounce back," Lynn encouraged him.
"What about you?" Buzz wondered.
"Something's been bothering you," he observed.
She glanced out toward the river which was barely visible in the dark.
"What is it?" Buzz asked quietly.
"I guess I'm having a test of Faith," Lynn sighed heavily.
"What do you mean?" Buzz asked.
"You make me think about things I shouldn't be thinking about, Buzz," Lynn sighed. "I've spent my entire life spouting off about virtues and values and how easy it is to fight off temptations, desires, lust and wanting but lately all I want to do is rip my clothes off and let you do what you want with me."
"That's normal teenaged hormones, that's all," Buzz assured her. "Perfectly normal."
"Not for me," she sighed. "I've never felt like this before."
"Maybe you're just a late bloomer," he joked.
"Maybe I'm just a pathetic hypocritical sinner," she groaned.
"Come on, Lynn, you haven't done anything wrong."
"It feels like I have," she cried. "Like that day in your bedroom when I saw…"
"Looking isn't a sin."
"It is when you're thinking about what you're looking at," she insisted.
Buzz stopped walking and he reached out for Lynn's arm. He pulled her toward him and wrapped his arm around her waist. "Shh," he said softly, pressing his lips against her mouth but Lynn pulled away. "You think way too much," Buzz told her before kissing her again and this time she didn't resist his advances.
They kissed for a bit until Lynn finally pulled away again.
"I shouldn't be doing this with you," she sighed.
"Why not?" Buzz asked innocently.
"Because one of these times I'm not going to be able to stop!" She wailed.
They were saved by Ben and Rebecca who were returning from their walk ahead of them. Nobody said much as they returned to the car and Buzz drove them home, dropping Rebecca off first, then Ben, and finally Lynn at her house.
"I wish we could stay out longer," Buzz said.
"Thanks for the night out, Buzz," Lynn said with her game face on. "I had a good time."
"Yeah, right," Buzz groaned, knowing how miserable they both were for a variety of reasons.
"Spending time with you is always a good thing," she said with a sad smile.
Buzz gently kissed her and she hugged him. "See you," he said.
"Yeah," Lynn replied before jumping out of the car and running to the house.
Buzz watched after her for a long time before finally driving home.
### ### ###
The write up in Monday's Greenville News and Dispatch was particularly brutal on the Saints performance and especially critical of Buzz Bergeron "who had no sting".
Buzz tried to shake it all off and concentrate on the next game by getting back in sync. Coach Demers didn't bother to show the game film from the Hillsboro debacle and he told his team to learn from the experience but to forget about the game and move on.
The scheduling folks were cruel to assign St. Anne's back-to-back games against the two toughest and best teams in the league. After getting blown away by the Hurricanes, the Saints had to regroup and take on the legendary Greenville Giants in a home game that would probably determine whether or not the Saints were really a good team or just another average team in the league.
Buzz would be lying if he didn't admit his confidence was shaken after the Hillsboro thumping, even though Max Kelly had enough class to call him on Monday and tell him to keep his chin up. The Greenville game was homecoming weekend so there was extra pressure on him to perform well for the alumni.
Lynn was attending Mass every day now and she was in the confessional almost as often. She joked to Rebecca that she was praying extra for the Saints football team but Buzz knew she was struggling with her Faith and personal temptations and that Church was where she needed to be during her crisis. He didn't take it personally and he certainly didn't put any extra pressure on her about anything. He needed to focus on the game anyway and there were all the homecoming distractions to keep him busy too.
Some of the Saint shine had been dulled by the lopsided Hillsboro loss but the students tried to remain upbeat and positive as the homecoming week festivities unfolded.
The Giants were 18 point favorites as the Saints took to the field on Saturday after the Friday rally and bonfire and Saturday morning float parade. Lynn went to the bonfire with Buzz, Ben and Rebecca and while the students were fired up and cheering on the event, Buzz was nervous and Lynn looked sad.
The first ten plays St. Anne's ran during the Greenville game were running plays. The first pass of the day was thrown by the half back on an option. The game was a defensive battle and it was still 0-0 at the half, with Buzz completing 2 of 6 passes for 17 yards. The Saints were playing an extremely conservative style and some of the fans actually booed at the team trotted off the field.
"Let Bergeron throw the ball!" Somebody screamed at Coach Demers.
The scoreless tie was actually a moral victory for the Saints who had been overwhelmed early by Hillsboro but withstood the Giant onslaught to stay in the game. Buzz was actually feeling petty good about the team's chances as they took the field to start the third period.
"We need to capitalize on any mistake the Giants make," Coach Demers told the team.
It was Buzz who did just that, intercepting a Giant pass and running it back 54 yards for the first score of the day, giving the Saints a 6-0 lead. Greenville got on the board early in the fourth quarter on a punt return and the Giants burly fullback barreled through the line for the two point conversion that gave Greenville an 8-6 lead.
The game remained a defensive battle and with less than three minutes to go, The Saints got the ball back on a punt and Buzz engineered a great drive, moving the team down the field methodically and efficiency. The Saints had the ball first and goal on the six yard line with twelve seconds to go. Three passes in the end zone were unsuccessful although it was agreed that the ref blew a call when he ruled the Saint receiver out of bounds on an apparent touchdown pass.
On fourth down with two seconds left in the game, Coach Demers elected to try a field goal to win the game instead of going with a final pass or trick play. The stands booed and when the field goal attempt was partially blocked and wobbled wide right the Saints walked off the field as 8-6 losers.
The Greenville coach told Buzz he played a great game and he told Coach Demers that the Saints were a good team as the two sides congratulated each other on a great game. Although Buzz was disappointed they couldn't win the game in the waning moments, he felt good about the team's performance and he knew they had pushed the highly favored Giants to the limits in the hard fought well played game so he really couldn't feel too badly about the end results. The loss was more on the ref who blew that call then it was on the team.
It was time to focus on that night's homecoming dance. Lynn agreed to go as long as she and Buzz went with Rebecca and Ben – her new 'safety in numbers' mantra although Buzz wasn't sure if Rebecca and Ben would stop them from doing something if they really wanted to!
Buzz was actually excited about the dance, happy to be able to take Lynn, who looked fantastic when he picked her up that evening. She wore a simple but attractive black dress with white stripes and a modest amount of makeup that accented her lovely features. Buzz was glad to see her looking relaxed and happy for a change too.
"Wow, you look terrific!" Buzz said with wonderment.
"Thanks," she blushed.
Unfortunately, Buzz felt like he was in front of a parole board the way Lynn's parents were looking at him. They asked several specific questions about the couple's plans, set a firm curfew time for Lynn, and gave Buzz several expectation instructions before letting the teens leave the house.
"Sorry about that," Lynn said with embarrassment. "My parents tend to be overprotective and careful."
The gym was packed when the four friends arrived at the dance.
"I've never had a date for a dance before," Lynn admitted sheepishly.
"Yeah, I always used to go stag too," Buzz said before dragging her onto the gym floor for their first ever dance together.
Lynn smiled at Buzz as they danced to a semi-slow number.
"Good thing there are chaperones!" Buzz joked and Lynn blushed again.
"Yeah, it's safe here," she replied.
They danced several numbers, Buzz did the football schmooze thing with students, faculty and alumni, and Lynn interacted with her friends too.
"So are you having fun?" Buzz asked Lynn when they returned to the dance floor after a break.
"Yes," she said happily. "I'm just glad I haven't stepped on your toes!" She laughed.
"You're the best dancer here!" Buzz assured her.
"I highly doubt that," Lynn replied knowingly.
They danced several more numbers together and the night seemed to fly.
"This is a great night," Lynn told him during another semi-slow dance.
"It is," Buzz agreed.
Lynn looked into his eyes and smiled. "I get to be with the star QB," she joked.
He leaned in and kissed her softly as they danced.
But all good things come to an end when there's a curfew in affect and after dropping off the giddy Ben and Rebecca at their respective houses, Buzz took Lynn home.
"Tonight was so much fun," Lynn said happily. "It was one of the best nights of my life. Thanks for taking me."
"I was honored to be with you," he said.
Lynn smiled and kissed him goodnight. "Thanks for a wonderful time and a wonderful memory."
"Same to you," Buzz replied, returning the kiss before she jumped from the car and once again trotted into her house with Buzz watching after her the entire time.
### ### ###
The St. Anne Saints still had time to salvage its season with two games left against weaker opponents. The Drakesville Dragons rarely had a good team and Buzz was confident he could get his passing game back in sync after a few rough outings. The Saints had only scored a total of six points in the last two games and Buzz knew he needed to generate some offense as the team leader.
The team practiced hard and Buzz felt good as the week progressed. Lynn was more relaxed since the dance and she didn't seem to be attending Mass quite as often. Buzz wasn't sure where he stood with her and where the semi-relationship might be going but he valued and appreciated every moment he had with her. School was fun, football was exciting, and Buzz had zero regrets about his decision to come to St. Anne's Catholic High School.
It was a long ride to Drakesville on the school bus and Buzz tried to utilize his time by relaxing, meditating, and "seeing the ball" in his mind's eye. Lynn, Rebecca and Ben followed in Lynn's car like they did for every away game since Buzz joined the team, a welcomed Saturday ritual that gave Lynn some meaning and purpose. Her high school life felt complete now and she was enjoying her time with Buzz, even if it still scared the hell out of her.
The Saints guaranteed themselves a .500 season with a total wipe out of the unfortunate Dragons. Buzz completed the first 11 passes he threw to tie a school record and he finished 22-27 for 233 yards and four touchdown passes before Coach Demers sent Gilbert Schwab into the game in relief. The final score was 42-12 and Buzz actually felt sorry for the poor Dragons, knowing how it felt to get their ass kicked after his experience with the Hillsboro game.
Now there was just the Thanksgiving Rivalry game against the Mt. Griffin Mountaineers to look forward to before football season ended and basketball season began.
Buzz went out with Lynn, Ben and Rebecca again that evening – Buzz had figured out that the only time Lynn would see him socially away from school or church was if they were with other people.
"Safety in numbers," she had said and Buzz wondered if it would be like that forever.
Buzz also noticed that Lynn had been more refrained than usual in confirmation class recently, not being so vocal and outspoken when it came to some of the cultural discussions in the class. Buzz knew it was because she was feeling guilty about what had taken place between them since he came to St. Anne's.
Spirits were up again around school after the impressive win against the Dragons and the students looked forward to the Mt. Griffin traditional Turkey Day game. Buzz was used to the huge Greenville-Hillsboro rivalry and the Saint-Mountaineer match up hardly brought the same intensity, publicity, and interest but he was glad to be playing a football game on Thanksgiving Day morning.
Buzz felt good about the Saint's chances as the big game approached. The team was fired up and confident, determined to win the final game of the season and post its first winning record in nearly ten years.
Lynn was encouraging and supportive as always but she declined a couple of offers to go out with Buzz without Ben and Rebecca in tow and that left him feeling rejected and even alienated. But the four friends did go out as a group the following Saturday night. And there was still Church on Sunday which Buzz considered his special Lynn time and he tried to concentrate on the upcoming game instead of fretting about Lynn.
Thanksgiving morning was cold and windy and that affected the Saints game plan of throwing the ball against a soft Mountaineer secondary. But St. Anne's had little trouble running the ball and while Buzz's passing stats (5-8, 85 yards) was limited he ran for 83 yards and scored two running touchdowns to help his team to a 28-12 holiday victory over Mt. Griffin to finish with a winning 6-4 record.
The season had been a success and Buzz was happy to have played for the Saints. Thanksgiving was enjoyable and he was delighted that Lynn invited him to her house for dessert although he was disappointed to find the place mobbed with friends and families so there was no alone time with Lynn.
Buzz stopped by Lynn's house on Saturday morning and he was surprised to find her home alone. She was reluctant to let him into the house but he promised he would behave. Of course as soon as Lynn closed the door behind him, Buzz was kissing her endlessly and she tried to thwart his efforts, at least for the first few minutes but eventually she submitted to his advances and they ended up on the living room couch for an extended make out session, the longest one yet as a matter of fact, but after a while Lynn got nervous and broke it up by insisting they play a game of Chess instead.
Molly McReynolds had a chaperoned party that night and Buzz escorted Lynn to it although she insisted that Ben and Rebecca accompany them too. Buzz had a feeling that after that morning's unexpected make out session the chances of him being alone with Lynn again were pretty slim!
Buzz and Lynn continued walking the non-dating but really liking each other tightrope in the weeks after Thanksgiving. When they went out, it was always with Ben and Rebecca and Buzz was starting to become frustrated by the situation. But there were basketball tryouts and practice to focus on and that kept Buzz preoccupied enough not to get overly bothered with the situation with Lynn who was a great friend but seemed to be holding something back whenever Buzz tried to show affection and interest toward her.
Christmas was approaching and that kept Lynn's spirits up. "It's my favorite time of the year," she told Buzz happily.
The Sunday before Christmas vacation began, Buzz swung by Lynn's house to give her a lift to confirmation class. He rang the doorbell and one of Lynn's kid brothers opened it and once again Buzz had no idea which one it was - Brandon? Matt? Timmy? Mike? They still all looked alike to him.
"She's still asleep," the brother announced, stepping out of the door and leaving it open just like the first time Buzz came. "You can go wake her if you want."
"Is anybody else home?" Buzz asked as the kid ran off the porch.
"Nope, Church," he said. "That's where I'm going now."
And with that whoever-he-was was gone.
Buzz went into the house and up the stairs to Lynn's room where he gently knocked on the door. "Lynn?" He called.
There was no response so Buzz carefully opened the door to see that Lynn was still asleep in the bed, soundly sleep under the covers.
"Hello again, Sleeping Beauty," Buzz whispered as he stepped toward the bed.
Lynn was lying on her stomach with the covers pulled up and he could see that she was wearing some sort of yellow shirt or nightgown. He decided to be funny like she had been that day in his room and he reached out, grabbed the covers and yanked them down the bed.
Lynn woke up with a start and she screamed just as Buzz realized that Lynn was bottomless and he got the perfect look at her perfect rear before she was able to grab the covers and pull them back up to cover her bareness but not before Buzz got a quick muff shot as she turned her body a little to retrieve the covers.
"Get out!" She screamed loudly, clearly freaked out.
"Just get out of here!" She shrieked. "Now! Get out of my room! Get out of my house! Get out of my life!"
Buzz sighed with defeat and left the room, feeling horrible that she felt horrible. But she was clearly overreacting. It had been an innocent mistake and an accidental peek. He felt horrible that she felt horrible but it was just like what happened to him when Lynn accidentally did the same thing.
Lynn didn't show up for confirmation class and Buzz didn't see her in church when he served at second Mass. He tried calling her several times but she wouldn't answer or return his messages. He stopped by that evening but a not thrilled Lynn's mom said she wasn't feeling well.
Buzz looked for Lynn at school the next day but she was clearly avoiding him and it wasn't until lunch that he finally cornered her in the library for a conversation.
"Look," I'm sorry about yesterday," Buzz said as they stood in the shadows of the book racks.
She wouldn't make eye contact with him. "I don't want to see you anymore," she said coldly. "Don't talk to me, don't follow me, don't call me. Just leave me alone."
"Come on, Lynn, don't you think you're overreacting just a little?" Buzz frowned.
"Just do what I ask," she said with frost in her voice. "I choose not to socialize with you. I hope you'll respect my wishes."
She walked past him and out of the library, leaving him dumbfounded and crushed.
Buzz figured Lynn would lighten up and thaw out a little after a few days but every time he tried to approach her she'd walk away or ignore him. Rebecca started running interference, telling Buzz that he needed to back off because he was dead to Lynn.
"Am I nuts here?" Buzz asked Rebecca one day in study hall. "We're over because of an unfortunate privacy violation?"
"She's always been modest and a bit of a prude," Rebecca admitted. "You sort of confused her about all this."
"It was as stupid accident. It didn't mean anything."
"It did to her," Rebecca said.
"Has she always been this weird about this stuff?" a perplexed Buzz asked.
"She always told me that her Faith and Religious life was more important to her than boys," Rebecca said with a shrug. "You're her first real love interest. I just don't think she's ready."
"She should just laugh off what happened," Buzz sighed.
"It wasn't very funny to her," Rebecca replied. "She was embarrassed and humiliated and I think she just doesn't want to deal with this guy stuff anymore. It's as if she wants to pretend you never came to St. Anne's in the first place."
"Are you saying I should leave?" Buzz asked.
Rebecca sighed. "That's up to you to decide."
"She's the only girl I've ever cared about," Buzz revealed. "She might be the only girl I'll ever care about like this."
Rebecca sat back in her seat and stared at Buzz for a long moment. "If you really care about her, Buzz, you'll do what she asks."
The bell rang and Rebecca left the room leaving Buzz behind as the loneliest guy in the school.
### ### ###
Returning to Hillsboro High School after the Christmas break was not easy. School administrators sped the process to allow Buzz to start on the first day after break but the students treated him with indifference and a surprisingly amount of disrespect. Buzz couldn't blame them and he offered little resistance to the ongoing insults, suspicions, and detachment he faced in his uncelebrated return.
Ben was incensed when he discovered what Buzz had done. Buzz hadn't said a word to anybody about his plans so Ben didn't figure it out until the first day after break and he raced to Buzz's house after school.
"Why did you go back to Hillsboro after you promised you were a Saint for the duration!?" Ben demanded.
"Unforeseen circumstances," Buzz sighed as he lay on his bed.
"This is insane!" Ben insisted. "You can't bail over a girl!"
"Who said this has anything to do with a girl?" Buzz asked suspiciously.
"Come on, so you saw her ass, so what?" Ben growled.
"Who told you that?" Buzz demanded, jumping up from the bed.
"Rebecca," Ben frowned. "Christ, that Puritan Lynn is going to become a nun!" Ben predicted.
"Listen, you can't say anything about this to anybody!" Buzz ordered. "No bad mouthing Lynn, no violating her privacy."
"With the truth you mean?" Ben frowned. "Everybody's going to think you jumped ship again for a better deal. Your reputation will be in the toilet."
"So be it," Buzz stated.
"What about confirmation class?" Ben asked. "You can't avoid her there."
"I switched parishes," Buzz told him. "The priest at the polish parish said I can get confirmed there."
"Why are you walking the plank for her?" Ben wanted to know. "Our Faith is supposed to be all about forgiveness, mercy and pardon," he complained. "It's not supposed to be holding a grudge, staying bitter, and burning guys at the stake."
"Just let it go, Ben," Buzz pleaded. "This is apparently my destiny."
"To be a martyr?" Ben asked with disapproval. "You're sacrificing the rest of your high school life just to protect Lynn's virtue?"
"It's the right thing to do," Buzz concluded.
"Man, you've got it bad," Ben realized.
"I have to do this," Buzz said sadly as he rubbed his forehead and sighed.
"No you don't," Ben rebutted. "You didn't do anything wrong and you're willing to ruin your life for her. It's stupid."
"I don't care what you say," Buzz said. "I've made up my mind and nobody's going to change it."
Ben shook his head with disgust. "You're going to regret this," he predicted forcefully. "Don't do it. Don't leave St. Anne's Don't go back to Hillsboro. Don't give in. She's just a girl. You'll get over her. She'll get over it. You came here for a reason."
"I'm leaving for a reason too," Buzz said.
"Yeah, all the wrong reasons," Ben said bitterly.
"My choice," Buzz said.
"I'm out of here," Ben grumbled bitterly. "Nice knowing you."
"She was the best thing that ever happened to me," Buzz called out.
"She's the worst thing that's ever happened to you," Ben corrected as he kept on going out of the room.
Buzz lost his seniority on the basketball team having missed tried outs and practice time. He didn't get off the bench for the first five games of the season and his teammates were less than receptive regarding his return. There were all sorts of rumors, gossip, and innuendos regarding Buzz's quick exit from St. Anne's. He impregnated a girl. He raped a girl. He assaulted a girl. He was a closet gay. He stole money. He beat up a teacher. He cheated on an exam. He dealt drugs.
Because Buzz wasn't talking, Ben was sworn to secrecy, and Rebecca had Lynn's back, such talk ran amok and Buzz's reputation, character, and trustworthiness were in the crapper. He went to school, attended classes, and showed for basketball practice, but he was a shadow of his former self as far as his status and credibility was concerned.
Buzz's parents were supportive and they didn't ask a lot of questions. They trusted him to do the right thing for the right reasons and they even started attending St, Stanislas Kostka parish to show their Faith in him. Buzz appreciated the gesture and he was embarrassed to tell them the real reason he had bailed out of St. Anne's Catholic School and St. Patrick's parish but he was pretty sure they figured out that something terrible happened between him and Lynn. Ironically, they assumed she was the one who did something bad to him!
St. Anne's visited Hillsboro four games into the basketball schedule but Buzz didn't play so he wasn't much of an issue other than getting booed during pre-game warm ups. The Hurricanes visited the Saints for Game #10 and the home school fans were much more brutal when Buzz took to the floor for warm up drills. The Saints players refused to say a word to him and there were plenty of cat-calls and Bronx cheers for him all through the game. Buzz didn't enter the game until there were about three minutes left in the first half and he ended up playing a total of seven minutes, scoring three points and not being much of an in-game factor although he was the star of the show for all the wrong reasons.
Buzz looked in the stands a few times but he didn't see Lynn sitting with the sulking Ben and the grim-faced Rebecca although they didn't participate in the jeers. Buzz hadn't seen much of Ben since jumping ship and he definitely didn't have any close pals at Hillsboro so it was a rather lonely existence.
But Buzz played through the season - the Hurricanes were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs and Buzz wasn't much of a factor in the team's success. Baseball season wasn't quite so bad - Buzz was needed in the pitching rotation and he started six games and relieved in four others for a 4-3 record and a 3.87 ERA but he was never fully accepted by his teammates and the team finished .500 on the season. Hillsboro played the Saints twice - but there was no Lynn sightings in the bleachers - in fact, Ben and Rebecca didn't even show up for the games either and Buzz felt abandoned and forgotten.
Buzz worked his summer job at Fontaine's Family Grocery Store. He saw Mrs. Baker in there a few times but it was obvious she was avoiding him and he made no attempt to say hello. Showing up for the first day of football practice was a gut-wrenching experience and Coach made it clear that the AWOL player would have to earn the QB job. Had he not played for the Saints last year, Buzz probably would have been handed the job but now he was competing with Junior Jose Martinez for the position and when training camp broke, Martinez was named Starting QB with Buzz as the back-up, although he was named the starting safety on defense.
Football wasn't much fun anymore but Buzz played through the season and performed the best he could. He was still ostracized by most of his teammates and as the Saints game approached on the schedule some of them questioned whether or not Buzz should play in the game, accusing him of perhaps trying to throw the game in the Saints direction.
The Hurricanes were 5-1 when they played the Saints on the St. Anne's field. Gilbert Schwab had led his team to a 3-3 record in Buzz's absence. The boo-birds were out in force and there were several mean-spirited signs in the stands lambasting Buzz for his desertion from the team and school. Buzz saw Ben and Rebecca in the stands but there was no sign of Lynn.
Hillsboro had little trouble handling the Saints. The Score was a comfortable 28-6 in the third quarter when Buzz intercepted Gilbert Schwab's arrant throw and ran it back twenty yards before Saints fullback Sam O'Hara absolutely lambasted Buzz as he stepped out of bounds, a unexpected cheap hit that sent the unsuspecting Buzz sprawling unprotected into the Saint bench, falling awkwardly on his back and head and getting his lights knocked out.
He was down for nearly five minutes and the authorities wouldn't let him get up when he came to. They put him on a gurney and transported him go to the hospital to get checked out. Buzz had a severe concussion, a neck sprain, and a back contusion and he season was over. He was kept in the hospital overnight for observation and besides his parents his only visitor was Ben whom Buzz hadn't talked to since that day in his bedroom the previous January.
"Was it worth it?" Ben asked cynically.
"I can't control what other people think, say or do," Buzz replied as he lay in the hospital bed with a neck brace on. His head was throbbing.
"You're the most despised guy in either school," Ben remarked.
"How's Lynn?" Buzz had to ask. He had been thinking of her non-stop every day.
"Who gives a shit?" Ben replied. "She's living her life as if you never happened. Do you think that's fair?"
"You still going out with Rebecca?"
"Yeah, but I avoid Lynn most of the time," Ben reported. "It's my own silent protest."
"As long as Lynn is happy," Buzz said.
"I bet you're not happy," Ben observed.
"It doesn't matter," Buzz said.
"You're pathetic," Ben complained before he left the room in disgust.
Ben's high school sports career ended the day O'Hara laid him out. He didn't bother standing on the sidelines in civilian cloths with the team for the remaining games given that most of them didn't want him there anyway. He didn't go out for the basketball team and he skipped his last year of baseball too. Sports no longer was fun and Buzz didn't want to play as the lone man on a team that didn't want him around.
Buzz received his Sacrament of Confirmation at the Polish Parish and he applied at several colleges. He decided to go to Worcester State for Business Management and he heard from Ben that Lynn was accepted at Ave Maria Catholic University in Southern Florida. He was relieved when graduation day finally arrived and he received his high school diploma without fanfare, eager for a fresh start beyond high school and away from home. With Lynn heading for Florida, there was nothing keeping him in Blue County and he was anxious for a change.
He never got over Lynn, of course. There were relationships in college but nothing serious, committed or long lasting. He thought about Lynn often and his mother kept him up to date on what was going with Lynn. Buzz acted as if he didn't care but of course he did.
Five years passed. Buzz accepted an entry level manager's position with a moderate sized family owned plastics business outside of Buffalo. When his mother told him that she saw Lynn's wedding announcement in the local paper, Buzz sent a plant to her at her parent's address.
And then he tried to get on with his life but, of course, he never really did.
### ### ###
He was still known as "Buzz" even at age forty. In fact, the news release in the Greenville News and Dispatch announcing Bradley Bergeron's appointment as Chief Operations Officer at Greenville's Attama Plastics Company referred to him as "local native Buzz Bergeron".
Bergeron, the article revealed, was leaving a similar position at a much larger manufacturing company outside of Syracuse to join the local outfit.
The bachelor purchased a town house a few miles from his new company and settled into his new assignment with excitement, energy, and commitment. Having ties and familiarity with the area helped him identify with the workers and the product they were producing. He established a good working relationship with the CEO and President of the firm and he settled into his new job with contentment.
Buzz waited nearly six months before he mustered the courage to drop by Lynn's house. His mother told him about Lynn's husband's death nearly two years earlier and that piece of news was really what set his career course in a different direction. Buzz passed by the house several times in the course of a few weeks. It was a handsome ranch in a nice section of Hillsboro and as much as Buzz wanted to see Lynn after so many years he kept questioning himself as to why he should bother. It had been a life time ago when they were semi-together and he had done as she had asked by leaving her alone all these years. Now he wondered if the widow needed to still be left alone.
Finally, on a late summer afternoon, Buzz found the guts to pull his car to the curb in front of the Fillmore residence. That was her married name. The obituary for Lance Fillmore was glowing and long, an accomplished local business man who was heavily involved in his parish and community, a "Devout Catholic and family man who served as an Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister, CCD Teacher, and Youth Counselor Mentor." The obit also revealed that he was President of the Parish Council, ran the local Catholic Men's group, and was a member of the Knights of Columbus and The Elks.
Lynn obviously married a man who was as strong a Catholic as she was and his untimely death from a rare form of a fast moving cancer at the age of 41 was a blow to the community and, of course, devastating to his family. There were three children – the oldest must have been about sixteen now, another one around twelve, and the youngest ten.
Buzz walked up the front walk and nervously rang the doorbell. A moment later, the door opened and there she was – instantly recognizable as if he had just seen her yesterday.
"Hello, Buzz," she replied without missing a beat.
"I'm here to check on my plant," Buzz told her.
It took her a moment but a slight smile crossed her face. "Yes, come in, I can show it to you."
Buzz was amazed that the plant as still alive as she brought him to the kitchen and showed him several plants on the bay window sill overlooking the back deck and yard.
"That one's yours," Lynn told him, pointing to a handsomely rich and full plant nearest the window. "It's done very well over the years."
Buzz nodded and glanced at her. Her reddish blonde hair wasn't as pronounced at it once was. She wore it shorter and curlier than in high school. Her figure was still trim and except for a few crows feet by her eyes she looked young and vigorous. She was still as well dressed as ever.
"I wasn't sure if you would accept it when I sent it," Buzz admitted as he glanced at the plant and then back to her.
"It was a kind gesture," Lynn replied with a warm smile. "It meant a lot to me."
Buzz nodded but didn't say anything.
"Why would you give up a big deal job in Syracuse to come back here?" Lynn wanted to know as she slipped into one of the kitchen chairs and stared at him.
"My Dad's having health problems," Buzz replied. "It seemed like the right thing to do."
"So you didn't come back because of me?" She challenged
""Don't you think that would be sort of….extreme?" Buzz asked with a smirk, remembering her reaction that day when he transferred to St. Anne's.
Lynn smiled. "A little," she agreed, sitting back in her chair. "I didn't think you'd really do something like this after all this time," she admitted.
"Here I am!"
Lynn shook her head and laughed. "You're crazy," she said. "You know that, don't you?"
"Yeah, I've been told," Buzz replied.
"You gave up everything," she said.
"Not everything," Buzz said, giving her a meaningful look.
She cleared her throat and looked out the window. "I'm sorry for the way I acted," she said softly.
"It's okay," he said, leaning against the kitchen counter and eyeing her. "I'm sorry about your loss," he said gently.
"Thank God we have our Faith to get us through it," Lynn commented.
"Yeah," he said.
"That day in my bedroom," she said quietly. "I wasn't really humiliated or mad," she said.
"Could have fooled me," Buzz deadpanned.
"It's just that I was… scared and horny and I wanted to save myself so I had to disengage totally from you," she explained. "It was the only way."
"I understand," Buzz said, surprised at how hurt he still felt.
"I was a virgin when I married Lance, Buzz," Lynn revealed. "I stayed true to my virtues, my values, and my vows until my wedding night."
He shook his head in understanding. "I know I wasn't as strong as you when it came to that sort of stuff," he said.
"Yeah," she admitted. "That's what scared me."
"Sorry," he mumbled.
"That's why I was bare-assed that day, you know," she said. "Sinning by doing things to myself like you had when I saw you."
"I guess I was a bad influence," he admitted.
"I made your life miserable because I was selfish," Lynn told him. "Ben never forgave me. And I know you didn't have it easy going back to Hillsboro."
"Doesn't matter now," Buzz said with a shrug.
"It matters to me," Lynn sighed. "So please accept my humblest apology for not being able to forgive you for your weaknesses."
"Accepted," he acknowledged.
"Thanks," she said with sincerity.
"Do you think I could come back from time to time?" Buzz asked quietly. "To check on my plant?"
"I'd like that," Lynn replied, standing and smiling brightly. "We still go to St. Patrick's, you know. Are you still practicing?"
"Off and on," he replied.
"It would be nice to see you there. The priest now is a Hillsboro native. Fitzgerald."
"I'll check it out," Buzz promised.
"Good," Lynn replied, walking him toward the door. "Thanks for stopping by, Buzz. To check on your plant."
"I'm surprised it lasted this long," he said.
"Well, I tended to it extra special," Lynn told him. "I thought it was important to keep the roots strong."
"'Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord'", Buzz recited from memory. "'He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.' Jeremiah Chapter 17, Verse seven and eight."
Lynn looked at him with surprise as they reached the front door of her attractive and pleasant home.
"I learned a few things at Catechism and St. Anne's," Buzz smiled before he left the house. "Keep watering that plant!" he called out as he walked toward his car.
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