How Did You Two Meet Anyway?
Lydia Dalton felt that she had 'aged out' of family camping vacations but she didn't fight going as long as she could bring her supply of books (or even her Tablet). She was slightly embarrassed that her father still dragged them on the trips in their outdated pop up trailer - it felt weird to be among the RVs and other modern Campers but on this particular trip there was a family camping on the site behind Lydia's family in a huge blue tent so Lydia didn't feel quite so bad.
Lydia's kid sisters were still young enough to enjoy the activities of camping - swimming in the lake, toasting marshmallows over the camp fire at night, playing checkers on the picnic table, taking hikes in the woods - but Lydia had become bored and disinterested in such activities. She used to love to help her Dad pack up the car like a sardine can but now she grew annoyed and impatient with the ritual, complaining that they brought way too much junk to begin with.
At least this time they only drove a couple of hours from home to find the "perfect spot" (in Lydia's father's opinion anyway). Sometimes they would endure six hour trips to the sticks of Maine or to the lakes of western New York so Lydia was grateful that this time they were staying at 'Ma and Pa's Lake View Camping Park' in Vermont (even if they couldn't actually see the lake from their camp site). The bathrooms and shower huts weren't that far from their spot so Lydia wasn't about to complain.
After years of camping adventures, the family had the art down to a science (or was that science down to an art?). It only took them an average of ten minutes to have the pop up trailer popped-up, the car unpacked, and the site ready for live in adventures. The orange and white trailer slept six - Lydia's parents slept on one wing, her sisters Linda and Laurie shared the other wing, and Lydia had the table-turned cot in the center of the trailer as her own bed.
Unfortunately, the weather on this trip was (so far) unbearably hot, humid, sticky and stinky which made the trailer hotter than a greenhouse and not the best place for sleeping on hot summer nights but Lydia understood that the weather was part of the (mis)adventure. She was a veteran camper and she didn't begrudge her parents for dragging them into the woods where they endured insect and bug bites, animal feces, poison ivy, biting fish, brown lake water, scary sounding night animals, burnt hamburgers on the open grill, and the occasional crazy camper neighbor. Lydia had fond memories of family camping trips and she'd always treasure them because she knew it bonded the family and made for great cherished legacies but still - sometimes it was just all one big pain in the ass.
Lydia refused to act like a moody self-centered selfish teenager bent on ruining the family trip. She entertained and humored her siblings and she was polite to her parents. In exchange, they didn't hassle her for not participating in all the activities and they let her read her books all she wanted. Lydia had always been a shy and reserved girl and even now at seventeen about to start her senior year in high school she was basically a wallflower who was just as happy watching a History Channel documentary than she was hanging out with friends at the Mall.
Lydia wasn't anti-social but she was naturally shy and that meant she didn't put herself out there especially when it came to romance and dating. Her one would-be-heart-throb (the geeky Mouse Stinson) moved away sophomore year and he came closest to being called a boyfriend even though they never even held hands. Lydia had a small group of (girl) friends she socialized with but she wasn't one for seeking out guys and she found the high school dating scene foolish, fake, and shallow so she didn't waste her time playing that game. She was a pretty girl with long brown hair, dimples and freckles, but her mother complained that she didn't smile enough and that she let her intelligence cheat her out of being a more involved teenager.
Aside from the sticky humid weather that made sleeping nearly impossible and the noisy tent campers behind them that were consistently laughing, talking, singing and partying (Lydia assumed it was due to too much drinking), it was a nice getaway although Lydia felt like slime drenched in her own perspiration as she tossed and turned all night before finally giving up and deciding to abandon the sweltering trailer at dawn.
Lydia figured a shower would be refreshing so she headed for the shack down the trail. It was barely light and a humidity mist hung in the air. Lydia hadn't bothered putting in her contacts or even grabbing her glasses (she only really needed them for reading anyway) and she was really still half a sleep as she walked to the shack, an aging wooden structure with vented windows, men on one side, women on the other.
The bathrooms were in the next building - Lydia had used the restrooms plenty of times but this was her first trip to the showers. The women's bathroom was on the right and Lydia assumed it was the same with the showers so she didn't bother to double check the sign as she strolled into the shower area - a cold wet slab of cement floor with open lockers and a half wall separating the open shower stalls from the dressing area.
Lydia was surprised to hear the shower running - who in the hell was up taking a shower at this hour (beside her!)? There were a few flickering florescent lights and zero glamour to the place. Lydia stuffed her towel into one of the open locker boxes and stripped out of her sweat-soaked shorts and peeled off her drenched tee shirt, actually relieved to be rid of her sweat-soaked clothing and she quickly removed her bra and panties, leaving her towel behind as she walked naked toward the shower area.
The steam from the running shower water had fogged up the room and just as Lydia started for the shower area the sound of the running water ceased. Lydia had her head down as she walked around the half wall to the shower bay and she was knocked silly when she unexpectedly smashed into a big large wall of...flesh. There was a loud slapping sound that echoed through the stall Lydia felt something strangely hard yet fleshy rubbing against her thigh but the force of hitting the wall of humanity sent her sprawling back flat on her ass with a thud on the hard cement floor.
"Ouch!" She yelled, feeling vulnerable and exposed as she lay in a compromising position on the floor, her legs spread open like she was playing a game of crab soccer in gym class.
When she collected her bearings, Lydia looked up in a daze as to what in the hell just happened. She was confused and still momentarily stunned but once she got her bearings to refocus she wanted to die. Sitting frozen on her bare ass with her legs still flailed apart, she stared up at a naked guy towering above her staring at her with his mouth hanging open.
"Are you okay?" He asked with concern.
She was unable to speak of course and Lydia wished she was dead and yet she couldn't take her eyes of the nakedness that filled her field of vision and she was so knocked off stride by what was happening that it never even occurred to her that she should be closing her legs, covering her bare breasts with her arms and screaming bloody murder. She couldn't breathe and she couldn't get her larynx to function as she stared at the mass of masculinity - all of it.
"Are you...what are you...sorry...I..." He seemed to be having breathing and speaking problems too as he stared down at the girl who was absentmindedly showing him everything there was to see. "You realize this is the men's shower room, right?"
Her mouth moved but nothing came out. Finally, Lydia's frozen brain impulses started to work again sending red alert messages to her muscles and limbs as she suddenly struggled to get up off the floor. The naked Adonis - who didn't appear to be much older than her - leaned down and grabbed her by the arm, lifting her up off the floor as if he was pulling her out of a pool of water and saving her from drowning. Lydia was surprised at how strong he was but she was also shocked that a naked guy had touched her in all her nakedness. She was numb, humiliated, and beyond embarrassed as she foolishly turned to make her escape, thus exposing her bare ass to him - complete with the red mark that began to form across her buns from her hard crash landing on the cement floor.
Lydia could feel his eyes on her as she bolted for the locker cube and her towel and clothes. She wished he would look away like a scrupulous gentleman would but he seemed to be in a trance when she looked back to see that he was still staring at her, his mouth hanging open as she stood with her bare backside to him. She stole one last look at his particulars before she wordlessly threw her clothes on and ran from the shower shack - finally noticing (way to late) the white "Men's" sign hanging on the outside wall as she made her dash for freedom and escape from the absolute worse experience of her life.
The fresh air began to clear Lydia's head even though her heart was beating out of control and she felt beyond flustered. The only saving grace as far as Lydia could determine was that nobody else had witnessed the calamity and she was pretty sure she'd never see the naked guy again given the reality that she rarely left the camp site. It would be her own personal secret that nobody would ever know about and once she recovered from her shame and humiliation maybe someday she would laugh at her own stupidity remembering the first time she ever saw a naked guy (and a naked guy saw her naked).
What was really pathetic about the entire incident was that Lydia didn't even shower so she returned to the camp site even more sticky, smelly, sweaty and gross than she had been when she left the trailer a half hour earlier. Everybody was still asleep when she slipped back into the pop up and collapsed on her table bunk, hoping to erase the entire hopeless episode from her memory. She drifted to sleep thinking about what she had seen and what the guy had seen.
When Lydia woke up again, she was the only one in the trailer. She sat up and realized that she had put her tee shirt on inside out and backwards in her haste to get the hell out of the shower shack. She shook her head at her own stupidity and changed into fresh clothes although she realized she still needed a shower.
"Good morning, sleepy head," her mother greeted her when Lydia stepped out into the camp site.
"'Morning Mom," Lydia replied with a half-smile, wondering what her mother would think of her daughter if she knew the girl had foolishly exposed herself to an unknown naked boy.
Lydia's sisters were playing checkers and they barely gave their older sister a second look. Lydia smelled the chili cooking on the gas grill.
"Dad making his killer chili again?" Lydia asked.
"Oh yeah," her mother laughed.
Lydia noticed her father walking toward them from the noisy camp site with the loud family and the big blue tent.
"Want to hear something funny?" He asked when he reached the rest of his family.
"What is it, dear?" Lydia's mother asked her husband.
"Those guys are from Greenville!" Lydia's father laughed, gesturing toward the blue tent. "Small world, huh?"
"Really?" Laurie asked with interest. "Anybody we know?"
"I recognized the name," Mr. Dalton said. "O'Hannon. They run Greenville Dry Cleaning on Main Street and the son is a big sports star at Greenville High."
"Thad O'Hannon?" Lydia asked, slightly befuddled that she actually heard of the name but her friend Melissa's brother Eddie was a big sports guy at Hillsboro High and was always talking smack even though Lydia hardly paid attention to any of that stuff.
"Yeah, that's him," her father confirmed. "Anyway, I invited them down for lunch so they can try some of my killer chili."
"Dad!" Lydia complained, not thrilled to have a Greenville boy hanging around the site.
"What?" Her father asked innocently. "Just being neighborly."
"Greenville and Hillsboro are rivals, remember?" Lydia groaned. "Why would I want to be seen in the company of a Giant?"
"He seems like a nice kid," her father shrugged. "Pretty good ball player from what I've read in the paper."
"I don't like sports, Dad," Lydia said, taking a seat on a tree stump and peeling an orange she had taken from the table.
"Doesn't mean you don't have to like the guy," Her father laughed.
"Lydia doesn't like boys," Laurie said.
"Shut up!" Lydia ordered.
"Of course your sister likes boys," Mrs. Dalton told Laurie.
"Then how come she doesn't have a boyfriend?" Linda asked.
"Because I don't want one," Lydia barked.
"And I'm sure some sports stud from Greenville wouldn't want you as a girlfriend either," Laurie laughed.
"Girls," their mother warned. "I don't want to hear this talk."
"Any guy would want your lovely sister as his girlfriend," Mr. Dalton said warmly.
"I'm going to go take a shower," Lydia said, jumping from the stump, grabbing a towel from the clothes line and making a bee-line for the shower shack, her eyes filling with tears.
Last year, a classmate asked Lydia if she was a lesbian. Her sisters constantly made fun of her for not having a boyfriend. Her father was always hinting that she should go out on a date once in a while and Lydia wondered if her father purposely invited the O'Hannon family for chili because they had a teenage son camping with them. Why couldn't people just respect her feelings and understand that she was shy and not ready for the big time yet (even if she had done a naked dance with some naked stranger that morning)?
Lydia made sure she went into the women's shower this time and she waited until she was under the spray of the shower before she let her own tears freely fall.
Lydia's sisters were more congenial when she returned from her shower and Lydia agreed to play a couple games of Clue with them on the picnic table while their father tended to his killer Chili and their mother made a run to the local country store for soda, bread and other lunch supplies necessary to entertain unexpected guests.
At noon, the O'Hannon's from the site behind the Daltons came down the hill to share lunch and visit. Mr. O'Hannon brought a six pack of locally brewed beer and his wife was carrying a plate of brownies. There were four kids - three around Linda and Laurie's ages and an older teenage son who - of course - Lydia recognized as the naked guy from the shower that morning (even if he looked totally different with clothes on!).
Lydia knew it was him because he momentarily froze when he saw Lydia sitting at the picnic table and Lydia wasn't sure if she should run and hide or just jump into her father's huge pot of chili and burn herself to death.
Lydia tried not to look at the former naked guy (now identified as Thad O'Hannon) who was wearing shorts and a Greenville Giants tee shirt and sandals. She kept her eyes focused on the game board on the picnic table while her Dad and Thad's Dad made introductions although Lydia's head was spinning and she heard very little of what was being said.
When all the hellos were exchanged, the three younger O'Hannon kids made their way to the picnic table. Lydia was suddenly feeling quite claustrophobic (even though they were outdoors) so she left the picnic table and the gaggle of kids and headed for the sitting lawn chairs set up on the corner of the site. She was surprised to realize that Thad was following her.
"Go away," she said, glancing over her shoulder and blushing madly remembering the last time they were together.
"I'm sure your kid sisters are nice but I've had enough of my three siblings," Thad let her know. "Can't we hang out together for a little while?"
Lydia groaned as she collapsed into one of the lawn chairs, still refusing to look at him as he took a seat in the chair next to hers.
"Lydia," he said gently. "Let's just pretend we met just now, when our fathers introduced us."
"But we both know that's not how we really met," she said softly, staring at the ground, her voice shaking.
"It will be our secret," Thad said.
"I'm beyond humiliated," she whispered with shame.
"I'm kind of embarrassed myself," Thad told her.
She finally found the courage and strength to slowly look at him. He was a good looking guy with sandy blonde hair and baby face handsome. His blue eyes were dancing as he smiled at her and Lydia had to admit he was attractive but she also had to admit (to herself) that she kept remembering what he looked like naked and she wondered if she had instantaneously turned into a pervert because she couldn't get that image out of her head. She also wondered if this guy imaged her in her vulnerable nakedness every time he looked at her too!
"So, you go to Hillsboro High?" Thad asked.
Lydia nodded her head as she looked away, still unable to make eye contact.
"I guess I'll talk to you anyway," he joked.
"I'd get expelled if Hillsboro people found out I was talking to Greenville's biggest sports star," She said.
"Oh, I doubt that," Thad smirked. "You a sports fan?"
Lydia shook her head no.
"Uh-Oh," Thad teased. "Guess I can't count on you to be in my fan club."
"I'm sure you already have a pretty big groupie following," Lydia observed.
She didn't mean it to sound so catty and insulting but it came out that way.
"Oh, so that's why you're not a big sports fan?" Thad asked.
"Sorry," she mumbled. "I'm usually not like that."
"No, actually, I appreciate the honesty," Thad told her. "I'm surrounded by butt kissers and fakes who always agree with everything I ever say thinking that will get them into my inner circle. It's kind of refreshing to hear you be honestly blunt."
"Why were you up so early?" Lydia dared to ask. It had been bothering her all morning that the guy was taking a shower at the crack of dawn.
"Football training camp starts next week," he explained. "I've been increasing my running the last few weeks. I got up at the crack of dawn and ran five. It was so humid I was drenched so I figured I'd grab a shower."
"Oh," she said.
Lydia really couldn't blame him for what happened. She was the moron who blindly stumbled into the Men's shower like Mr. MaGoo. Thad was kind enough to change the subject to avoid the awkwardness of their naked meeting.
"So, is your Dad's chili really that good?" He asked.
"The best," Lydia smiled, finally tossing Thad a semi-glance. Lydia was surprised to realize she was actually having a conversation with the formerly naked guy. They both glanced out at the camp site. Mr. O'Hannon was standing at the gas stove with Mr. Dalton discussing chili. Lydia's mom, who had returned from her store run, was chatting with Thad's mother by the trailer. The batch of kids were seated at the picnic table playing the board game while occasionally glancing toward the two older teenagers and giggling.
"So, a pop up, huh?" Thad asked, glancing at the old orange trailer.
"Says the guy staying in the tent," Lydia remarked.
"Actually, I usually sleep outside in a hammock," Thad let her know. "But I guess both our Dads are the old fashioned kind when it comes to camping."
"Yeah, mine says there's no point in even going if we're going to have one of those modern RVs with electric stove and refrigerator and televisions and internet and indoor plumbing and all the rest of it," Lydia laughed. "I had to beg him just to be able to bring my smart phone!"
"That's probably why those two are hitting it off," Thad noted, glancing at their two dads by the gas stove. "My father says tent or nothing!"
Lydia wondered if she and Thad were strangely hitting it off. She should be hiding in the trailer after what happened that morning and she couldn't stop thinking about what she had seen – and what he had seen. It was awkwardly embarrassing yet weirdly bonding in a perverted inappropriate kind of way.
"What does your Dad do?" Thad asked.
"He manages the auto parts store in Hillsboro," Lydia answered. "And my mom's a teacher's aide. I doubt we could afford one of those fancy RVs even if we wanted one."
"If I wasn't in line for some athletic scholarships I'd probably end up at Blue County Community College," Thad said. "My parents kill themselves running the dry cleaning place and we barely manage to have these brief getaways. I'm sure I'll end up joining the business after college."
Lydia was surprised that he was so matter-of-fact about his prediction. Most of the jocks she heard talking made it sound like they were destined for the pros never to look back.
"You might be a big success in college," she said.
"Please," Thad said, rolling his eyes. "Greenville is hardly the breeding ground for famous athletes. No big name school is interested in me. I'll end up at some Division II school somewhere, have a nice four year college student athlete career, and go back to Greenville."
"When I was younger, I would sit at the kitchen table doing my homework and my father would sit there with me studying his auto parts manuals," Lydia recalled. "We started a game – I'd test him on certain parts and it got so I was just as good as him naming part numbers!"
"So, are you going to follow him in the business?"
"I've been working there part time weekends and summers since I turned sixteen," Lydia said. "Some of my friends think that's weird."
"They're just jealous because you know the order number for a '68 Chevy Impala muffler," Thad said.
"Ex8002," Lydia replied effortlessly. "But it doesn't help my reputation as an antisocial weirdo."
"What's antisocial about great customer service?" Thad asked. "I bet everybody you deal with loves you."
She was surprised that he wasn't threatened by her automotive knowledge like most guys.
"I'll probably go to BCCC at least for my associates though." Lydia told him.
"Business for me," Thad revealed. "So I can be an asset to the family business."
"That's very noble of you," Lydia said sincerely.
"Who thinks you're an antisocial weirdo?" Thad asked.
Lydia blushed. "My family, for starters," she mumbled. "My sisters are probably taking bets right now as to when you go running for your tent to save yourself."
"From what?" He frowned.
"My weirdness," she sighed.
"Stop," Thad said. "I think you're great!"
"What kind of idiot walks into the wrong shower room?" a mortified Lydia asked quietly.
"Well, that was kind of weird," Thad agreed.
"I have been known to be sort of flakey and absent-minded," she confessed sheepishly. "I once tried to highlight my hair and turned it as orange as Bozo's.
"Clowns can be sexy," Thad smiled.
"Another time, I drove my mother's car through the back of the garage."
"Hey, nobody's perfect," Thad let her know.
"I'm sure most people think their star quarterback is,' Lydia smirked.
"It is a tough stereotype to endure," he admitted.
"But it makes you popular with the girls," she teased.
"I bet your boyfriend finds some of your weirdness cute," Thad said.
"I don't have a boyfriend," Lydia admitted with embarrassment. Then she shot him a look. "But I know you have a girlfriend."
"Sort of," Thad confessed.
"Sort of?" She asked, lifting an eyebrow.
"Well, yes, I have a girlfriend," he acknowledged. "Mostly because I'm supposed to."
"I'm sure she's very nice," Lydia said politely.
"Yes, she's very nice and attractive, and smart, and popular, and talented and successful," Thad revealed.
"You make that sound like a bad thing," Lydia said sarcastically.
"It's just that we've been going out for a couple of years now and it kind of feels sort of boring and predictable," he complained. "Like this is what is expected of us and not necessarily that we belong together. I don't know," he sighed, giving Lydia a long look. "Maybe weird and different isn't such a bad thing."
"You're probably just hitting the senior year itch," Lydia reasoned.
"I think it's because I hit something else this morning," Thad responded.
Lydia couldn't help but look away at that comment and she knew it would always come back to that. The first time either of them saw the other they were both stark bare-assed naked and there was no way they'd ever be able to get beyond that (at least in her view). But - wow - she was actually talking to a guy for more than five minutes without getting totally overwhelmed by anxiety or doing something stupid - like having a fish stick hanging out of her mouth in the school cafeteria just as some guy said hi or spitting milk out through her nose when some guy made her laugh (without even being funny!).
Lydia had to admit walking into the men's shower shack and getting naked was pretty stupid too but at least the formerly naked guy was still talking to her - even though she had seen him naked too. But how stupid was all of this anyway? He was a big deal at Greenville High School and Lydia was a small nobody at Hillsboro High which was in a completely different town. Besides, he had a girlfriend (surely he had seen her naked too!?) so why would he give two shakes about Lydia? He was probably just bored camping in a tent and hammock and was being nice to her because she wasn't his annoying siblings.
"What's your girlfriend's name?" Lydia asked, finally looking at him again.
"Kelly," he muttered.
Lydia resisted the urge to ask him if he had seen Kelly naked too. (She couldn't handle the thought of the comparison).
"She's an athlete too?" Lydia guessed.
"Why are we talking about her?" Thad frowned.
"I just want to make sure you remember you have a girlfriend," Lydia replied.
"It's not like I'm asking you out on date," Thad protested. "We're just talking - and we're going to have chili."
"That's true," Lydia agreed.
"And I'm leaving tomorrow," Thad informed her.
"Oh?" Lydia was surprised at how disappointed she was to hear that announcement.
"Gotta get ready for football training camp and my parents can't be away from the store for too many days in a row," Thad said. "So, can't we just have a nice little camping trip visit together?"
"Sure, we can do that," Lydia agreed.
"Okay, come and get it!" Lydia's father called.
Both teens looked toward the site and were surprised to see that the picnic table had been set for lunch and that the kids were sitting around it waiting for the food. Lydia and Thad had talked right through all the preparations. There was more giggling from the younger kids as the two older teens joined the group. There wasn't room for everybody at the picnic table so Thad and Lydia ended up sitting on the log by the camp fire pit to eat Mr. Dalton's killer chili. They had to endure the snickers of their siblings and the knowing glances from their mothers and the huge smile on Mr. Dalton's face but Thad was the first to say the chili was the best he had ever tasted and Lydia knew her father would now consider Thad as the greatest guy ever.
There were various camping stories exchanged between the two families and Lydia's father asked Thad what high school football training camp was like. Lydia's mother asked Mrs. O'Hannon a few dry cleaning tips and before Lydia knew it lunch was over. The younger kids wanted to go on a hike and although the mothers thought it was too hot for such an endeavor the fathers said it would be cooler in the woods so Lydia and Thad were enlisted to be the guides and the seven kids headed out on a marked trail through the woods that – according to the trail maps – would end up at a place called Molly's Lookout. They brought a couple of back packs with water and snacks.
Thad led the way and Lydia brought up the rear which didn't allow much conversation between them but the other kids were full of energy, chatting with laughter and jokes. Linda was twelve and Laurie was eleven while Thad's sister Carol was thirteen, his brother John was eleven, and his kid sister Ginny was the youngest of the group at nine. Little Ginny was the last in line in front of Lydia and the girl spent a lot of time telling Lydia about her big brother Thad – how nice he was, what a great brother he was, what a good football player he was.
"Do you like him?" Little Ginny asked at one point, her blond ponytail bouncing behind her head with each step she took.
"We just met," Lydia replied. "But he seems like a nice guy."
"Oh, he is," Ginny giggled. "And I think he likes you."
"What makes you say that?" Lydia asked with surprise yet intrigue.
"'Cause he sat on the log with you," Ginny answered.
It was about a three mile hike to Molly's Point which turned out to be a high ridge overlooking a big valley. They could see the lake where they were camping in the far distance – and they could also see dark thunder clouds rolling in from the west.
"Looks like the heat's finally going to break when those storms come through." Thad observed. "We should probably head back before they get here."
"Yeah, I don't want to get hit by lightning," Laurie said.
So they headed back at a much quicker pace as the skies darkened, the wind picked up and the rumbling of thunder could be heard in the distance, Lydia started to get nervous fearing they would get caught in the storm but they managed to beat the bad weather by about ten minutes. The O'Hannons said their goodbyes and hurried for their tent while Lydia and her sisters joined their parents in the pop up and waited for the skies to burst - which they did with a fury, the rain coming down in buckets, the wind hollowing through the trees and lightning bolts dancing across the sky in rhythm with the booming thunder. The storms lasted a few hours and when they finally passed it felt like the temperature dropped about twenty degrees.
The winds had blown the O'Hannon tent down and the family had to wait out the storm in their car. Lydia and her Dad went up to their site to discover that the family decided to head back to Greenville that evening instead of setting the tent back up and leaving in the morning. Lydia was disappointed to learn that Thad was leaving.
"I guess our visit wasn't as long as we thought," Thad said as he walked Lydia away from the others.
"Oh well," Lydia said with a shrug knowing it was sort of the story of her life anyway.
She finally meets a guy she might actually like (even if he was naked) and now he was leaving.
"Sorry," Thad said. "I thought we'd have more time."
"Anyway," Lydia said, sucking in her breath. "I'm not exactly sure if I should say it was nice meeting you."
Thad laughed and blushed at the same time. But then he gave her a serious look. "Running into0 you is the greatest thing that ever happened to me," he said quietly.
Lydia dropped her eyes to the ground, afraid to look at him. "I don't think Kelly would want to hear that."
Thad sighed heavily. "Yeah," he agreed. "Probably not. But nobody understands how nice weird can be."
She smiled bravely and finally looked up and into his eyes. "Good luck this year – with football and everything."
"Thanks," he said. "I'll see you."
But Lydia knew she wouldn't. He'd head back to Greenville High and football and Kelly and working at the family dry cleaner place and Lydia would go back to her nothing life.
"I'll see you," Lydia said sadly before turning and rejoining her father who had been helping Mr. O'Hannon load up the family's large SUV.
Lydia and her dad said goodbye to the rest of the O'Hannon family. Little Ginny gave Lydia a strong hug which almost made Lydia cry. Her father put his arm around Lydia's shoulder as they walked back to their own camp site.
### ### ### ####
Lydia thought about the formerly naked guy quite a lot. Her sisters were extra nice to her for the rest of the camping trip and when they got back to Hillsboro Lydia tried to get back into her usual routine without obsessing too much about Thad O'Hannon although it was hard not to. She worked a few shifts at the auto parts store and did some school shopping with her best friend Judy whom she was dying to tell all about what happened while camping but she knew she couldn't.
One afternoon the two friends went to Red's Tastee Freeze for an ice cream sundae, sitting on one of the picnic tables near the side of the road enjoying their treat.
"Have you ever seen a guy naked before?" Lydia asked Judy, a tall thin girl with wavy reddish blond hair.
"No, of course not, why would you ask such a thing?" A flustered Judy said nervously.
"No reason," Lydia shrugged.
Judy groaned and put her spoon down. "Okay, who squealed?" She demanded with annoyance.
"Huh?" Lydia asked with confusion.
"Which one of those backstabbers told you about the strip spin the bottle?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," Lydia insisted, looking at her friend with disbelief.
"Oh, uh, well then never mind," Judy said quickly.
"Wait, you played strip spin the bottle?" Lydia asked with wide eyes.
Judy giggled and glanced around. "A while back," she confessed.
"With who!?" a shocked Lydia asked.
"I can't tell you," Judy said. "But there were five of us. Three girls and two guys. So, yeah, I so I saw – two guys naked before!"
"Oh my God!" Lydia said, stunned to learn of her friend's revelation.
"It was kind of neat, actually," Judy said with a giggle.
"How'd it happen?"
"I don't know," Judy shrugged. "We were over somebody's house hanging out, bored mostly, and somebody started teasing somebody about something and then there were all these stupid and silly dares and bets and the next thing you know we're sitting around in a circle in the family room cellar with a coke bottle in the middle."
"And you really spinned?"
"We were all in," Judy nodded with a smirk. "The game wouldn't stop until there was a winner and everybody else was naked."
"Did you win?" Lydia asked with wide eyes.
"Nope," Judy blushed. "One of the other girls did but she ended up getting naked anyway."
"So the five of you sat around naked on the cellar floor?"
"Petty much," Judy admitted. "It was carpeted," she noted. "It was kind of erotic and exotic and sensual and fun."
"Geezo, Judy!" Lydia said with amazement.
"Nothing happened," Judy was quick to point out. "We just kind of looked at each other for a few minutes and then we got dressed and that was that."
"Do you still think about it?" Lydia wondered.
"Sometimes," Judy giggled. "I mean one of the guys was really…..big!"
Both girls burst out in laughter
"I can't believe you did that!" Lydia said with amazement and envy.
"Me either," Judy laughed, looking both proud and embarrassed at the same time. Then she looked at her friend with interest. "What made you ask that question to begin with?" She wanted to know.
"No reason," Lydia lied.
Lydia knew she would never see Thad O'Hannon again but she couldn't even tell Judy an anonymous story about "some guy" while camping because her sisters might say something about meeting Thad O'Hannon while camping and then Judy would figure out the truth. Besides, voluntarily getting naked playing naked strip spin the bottle was a choice – Lydia didn't want to have to admit to her best friend once again that she had spazed out and one something stupid like getting naked in a men's shower shack because she was too oblivious to read the sign.
"Have you seen a guy naked?" Judy asked.
"No," Lydia lied again.
They finished their ice creams without saying too much else and Lydia would have to keep her secret to herself forever. That was probably a good thing but somehow the image of that morning in the shower wouldn't leave her thoughts and sometimes Lydia felt like she was some sort of pervert for thinking about it so much.
A couple of days later, Judy came to Lydia's house for the first time since the camping trip and sure enough Laurie and Linda were both quick to tell Judy all about them meeting famous Thad O'Hannon the Greenville sports star.
"Really?" an impressed Judy asked, raising her eyebrows and looking at Lydia with a smirk. "You're friends with Thad O'Hannon?"
"I wouldn't exactly say friends," Lydia shrugged.
"They sure did look friendly to me!" Laurie laughed.
"It was less than one day being together," Lydia said. "We barely know each other."
"Well, how did you meet?" Judy wanted to know.
"Ah….um….my father met them first," Lydia lied, deciding once and for all that the naked story could never be repeated even if Judy was a veteran at strip naked spin the bottle. "They came down for lunch – my Dad's killer chili."
"What's he like?" Judy asked.
"He's nice," Lydia smiled.
"Do you like him?" Judy asked.
"Doesn't matter," Lydia sighed. "He goes to Greenville."
"So what?" Judy wondered.
"He has a girlfriend," Lydia added.
"Oh," Judy said, shaking her head with understanding. "That sucks."
"That's life," Lydia replied, knowing it was just the way her life went most of the time.
Lydia read the paper every day but it wasn't until she returned from the camping trip that she paid extra special attention to the sports section of the Greenville News and Dispatch, reading any and every story about the Greenville High Giants football team and their star quarterback, Thad O'Hannon. The team was once again favored to compete for the league championship and even though Lydia hadn't been to a high school football game in her life she seriously thought about maybe seeing a Giant game.
The obvious thing to do, of course, would be to wait until Greenville played Hillsboro but the teams didn't square off against each other until the annual Thanksgiving Day rivalry and Lydia knew she couldn't wait that long. Greenville won their first game over the Riverside Royals 28-0 with Thad throwing two touchdown passes and their second game over the Miller City Mudhens 35-6 with Thad tossing three more scores.
The usually quiet and shy Lydia had taken to almost harassing her friend Melissa's brother Eddie about football and especially the Giants. Eddie, a junior, was at first flattered by the attention from a senior girl, but after a while he grew annoyed by Lydia's constant questions about the Giants.
"Jesus, Dalton, why don't you transfer to Greenville if you like them that much?" He groaned.
Lydia was embarrassed by her over-zealous pursuit of everything Greenville but she couldn't help herself. She had to know about Thad O'Hannon and what people thought of him as a player. Eddie and some of his friends started calling Lydia 'Greenie' because of her special focus on the Giants. Lydia finally couldn't take it anymore and she asked Judy if she'd go to a Giant football game with her when they drove home from school one afternoon.
"To watch O'Hannon?" Judy guessed.
Lydia sheepishly nodded her head yes.
"But you're not going to talk to him?"
Lydia shook her head no.
"Why not?" Judy groaned.
"He has a girlfriend," Lydia said sadly.
"So what?" Judy asked.
"I don't want to be that kind of girl, Judy," Lydia said.
Judy looked at her friend for a long moment with pity. "Boy, you have it bad, don't you?"
"Wouldn't you know the first guy I'm the least bit attracted to is totally unattainable," Lydia sighed, her voice breaking as she tried not to cry.
"We'll go to the game," Judy said with compassion.
Greenville played at home that Friday night against the So County Cubs. Lydia and Judy felt totally out of place, of course, knowing nobody as they wandered through the crowds and took seats at the far end of the Greenville bleachers. There was a lot of excitement and cheering going on and for her first game ever Lydia actually got into it a little bit although she felt like a spy clandestinely watching Thad play. Lydia liked the way Thad looked in his green and white football uniform (#12) and he made a couple of great plays (according to Judy since Lydia really didn't understand the game that well) and the Giants led 12-0 at the half.
Lydia and Judy went for hot chocolate at the half and they bumped into Eddie of all people with a couple of other Hillsboro football players near the refreshment stand.
"Jesus, Greenie, what in the hell are you doing here?" Eddie asked Lydia with disgust but his demeanor changed when he noticed Judy. "Hi, sweet thing," he grinned.
"Never mind that," Judy growled. "We could ask you the same thing," she accused. "What are you guys doing here?"
"We're scouting Greenville, for Christ sakes," Eddie groaned. "We play tomorrow this weekend so we had tonight available. Are you two going to try to tell us that you're here scouting too?" He demanded.
"Well, in a matter of speaking," Judy laughed knowingly.
"I wouldn't mind scouting you again, Judy, Judy, Judy," Eddie smirked, trying to sound like Cary Grant.
"Never mind that," Judy said nervously.
"Besides, we don't have to explain ourselves to you guys," Lydia boldly piped up.
"Just don't show up at school Monday wearing green, Greenie!" Eddie the burly linebacker warned. "I hope to see you again, Judy, Judy, Judy," Eddie smiled before disappearing into the crowed.
"What was that all about?" Lydia asked.
"Nothing," Judy said sheepishly.
"Just for the record, Eddie and Melissa weren't in your strip naked spin the bottle game were they?" Lydia asked as they returned to their seats.
"Ew, you think Mel would strip naked in front of her own brother?" Judy asked with a shudder. "That's gross."
"Yeah, I guess it would be totally inappropriate and immoral," Lydia agreed.
"I can honestly say with all certainty that Melissa wasn't there that night," Judy said with a devilish smirk and Lydia immediately knew that Judy and Eddie had been naked together that night with the bottle.
"How can you even look at him after that?" Lydia asked.
"It's hard not to look at him!" Judy giggled.
"You don't mind that he saw you al natural?" Lydia asked with interest.
"We weren't alone, Lid," Judy reminded her. "It was sort of like show and show instead of show and tell anyway. I can't change what we did."
The Cubs scored twice in the third quarter to take a 14-12 lead but Thad led his team down the field for a game winning score with a couple of minutes left in the game and Greenville escaped with an 18-14 win. Lydia couldn't help but cheer for Thad as he walked off the field in jubilant celebration but she was crestfallen when she saw one of the cheerleaders give him a hug and a kiss and Lydia knew that was Thad's girlfriend Kelly, a pretty girl with light blond hair and a shapely figure and all of a sudden Lydia felt about three inches tall.
"Oh, shit," Judy groaned. "That's not good."
"I told you he had a girlfriend," Lydia sighed heavily, her eyes tearing up. "Let's just get out of here," she said.
"You sure you don't want to say hi?"
"No, it was dumb to come here in the first place," Lydia realized. "I don't know what I was thinking."
Lydia felt dizzy as they walked through the celebratory crowd and headed for Judy's car. What a fool she had been to come to the game, naively oblivious to the reality that Thad O'Hannon had his own life that had nothing to do with the camp grounds or shower stall. She needed to forget about what happened and let go of him once and for all.
"Ask me how we met," Lydia said as Judy drove them home.
"You already told me," Judy said with confusion.
"Ask me," Lydia said forcefully.
"How did you two meet, anyway?"
"We were naked," Lydia revealed.
Judy swerved the car a little bit. "What?" She asked.
"I did one of my typical bonehead blunders," Lydia said, wiping a tear from her eye.
"What do you mean?"" Judy asked with confusion.
"I went into the men's shower by mistake," Lydia sighed with embarrassment. "It was early morning, I didn't have my contacts, I wasn't paying attention, and I got totally butt naked in the men's shower where I promptly walked into an equally as butt naked Thad O'Hannon coming around the corner from the shower stall."
"Oh my God!" Judy exclaimed. "That beats my naked strip spin the bottle story any day!"
"I mean I literally walked into him," Lydia clarified.
Judy glanced at her. "You mean you actually….felt him?"
"It was like hitting a tree," Lydia recalled. "He knocked me flat on my butt!"
"But there was contact?" Judy needed to know. "Skin on skin? And other things?
"Come on, Judy," Lydia said, her face turning red even though she could still hear the slapping sounds when they collided and the feel of him against her thigh.
"And you…..saw him?"
"And he saw me," Lydia replied. "Everything. I might as well had been strapped in the gyno's chair."
"Oh, Lid, how do you get yourself into these situations?" Judy marveled.
"It was the worst moment of my life," Lydia admitted. "But somehow….it was also the most honest moment of my life too."
"You must have wanted to die."
"At first," Lydia agreed. "But then I figured I'd never see him again so I decided it really didn't matter and it might even be a cheap thrill down the road looking back."
"But then your father invited him for chili."
"That's when I really wanted to die," Lydia groaned.
"But you didn't," Judy noted.
"He was nice," Lydia smiled. "We had this sort of embarrassing secret initiation introduction and somehow it kind of bonded us in this sick perverted naked sort of way. I liked talking to him. And now…." Her voice tailed off.
"And now?" Judy asked gently.
"And now I can't stop thinking about him," Lydia admitted.
"Oh boy," Judy sighed with sympathy. "This is bad."
"Yeah, it's bad," Lydia sighed. "Because I've lost him even though I've found him and saw him. I want him but I can't have him."
"Does he know that?" Judy asked.
"Doesn't matter," Lydia replied. "If he was interested I would have heard from him. Tonight I saw that he's not interested. He has…..her."
"I'm so sorry, Lydia," Judy said sincerely. "It would have been so much fun to be able to tell people how you two really met."
"Not a word," Lydia warned. "Or everybody will know about your naked strip spin the bottle incident."
"Relax, I wouldn't tell stories out of school," Judy insisted. "I just meant if you two ever got together it would be fun to say 'Hey, how did you two meet?'"
"Yeah, hilarious," Lydia deadpanned.
"So what are you going to do now?" Judy wondered.
"Forget about him," Lydia announced.
But she knew she never would.
Lydia stopped reading the sports page. She didn't go to anymore football games. She stopped harassing Eddie about Greenville football (and she resisted the temptation to ask him about strip naked spin the bottle games!) She reverted back to her old ways and routines and she tried not to think about Thad O'Hannon as hard as that was. She knew she was a dolt and that a guy like Thad O'Hannon would never think twice about a girl like her, naked or not.
It was a Saturday afternoon in late October. Lydia was working a shift at the auto parts store with Jefferson, an older gentlemen in his early sixties who never really adapted to the computer age. Lydia was trying to help him find something in the computer system when she heard a familiar voice.
"Excuse me, do you have a muffler for a '68 Chevy Impala in stock?"
A shocked Lydia looked up from the computer screen to see Thad O'Hannon standing on the other side of the service counter. She hadn't heard the front door open which was unusual for her but Jefferson had kept her distracted for a while now with his inane questions.
"Hello," Lydia said to Thad politely yet with reservation. "What can we really help you with?"
"Ah, my brother Johnny forgot to put the gas cap back on when he was filling the tank for my mother," Thad said. "Do you have a gas cap for a 2011 Ford Explorer in stock?"
"I believe that's the SKV-ST4 category, Jeff," Lydia said to Jefferson. "Do you want to try to call that up just for practice?"
"Sure," Jefferson said gamely as he began to punch in some numbers on the screen.
Lydia tried to look like she was paying attention to Jefferson but she kept glancing at Thad who was waiting patiently by the counter. There wasn't much point in conversing with him, was there?
"So, how are you?" Thad asked with that killer smile of his.
"Okay," Lydia said neutrally. "You?"
"Good, good," Thad answered cheerfully. "Seems like forever since we last saw each other."
"Yeah, that summer thunderstorm blew us right out of each others lives," Lydia remarked, trying to maintain her composure as she realized her heart was beating wildly in her chest.
"How's school?" Thad asked.
"Fine," she smiled. "How's football going?"
"We're undefeated," Thad said proudly.
"Congratulations," she said.
"Of course, we haven't played you guys yet," Thad grinned.
"Eddie says it's going to be a great game." Lydia said.
"Eddie Boswell?" Thad asked. "Linebacker, #57. Good player."
"I'm friends with his sister," Lydia clarified, not wanting to give Thad the wrong impression – like she was dating Eddie or playing naked strip spin the bottle with him or something.
"Oh," Thad said, nodding his head in understanding.
"How's Kelly?" Lydia felt like a creep the moment she said it.
"Found it!" Jefferson announced triumphantly, thus saving Thad from having to respond to Lydia's question.
"We have them in stock," Jefferson said. "I'll go get one."
"Thanks, Jeff," Lydia smiled but then she realized that she was once again alone with the formerly naked guy once Jefferson was gone.
"Gas cap, huh?" Lydia smiled. "Most of the newer models have them wired to the car so you don't lose them."
"Yeah, not this one," Thad replied.
"In the old days, they would have stuffed a rag down the spout and kept on driving," Lydia said.
Thad laughed and nodded in agreement. "You really do know your job, don't you?"
"Not everything," she said. "But I keep learning."
"Same here with the dry cleaning," Thad said.
"That's good," Lydia smiled.
Thankfully, Jefferson returned with the gas cap thus saving them from more irrelevant and mundane small talk. Lydia took the cap from Jefferson and scanned it in under the register gun.
"$18.29 with tax," she announced.
Thad fished out a twenty from his pocket and handed it to Lydia who promptly and professionally handed him his change.
"Thanks for shopping with us," she said politely.
Thad took the gas cap from the counter but he hesitated before leaving, giving Lydia a long look. "When do you get off?" he asked.
"We close at five," Lydia replied, surprised by the question.
Thad nodded and left the store without saying anything further and Lydia let out a long loud sigh.
"You know that guy?" Jefferson asked.
"Not really," Lydia replied - and that really wasn't a lie at all.
Lydia got busy with her day and kind of forgot about Thad's unexpected visit. It wasn't until she walked out of the store around 5:20 and saw Thad standing in the parking lot that she remembered him asking when she got off.
"I thought maybe you sneaked out the back," Thad said nervously when she approached him.
Lydia was surprised by the comment. "No, it just takes a few minutes to close up," she explained.
"Are you hungry?" Thad asked. "You want to get something to eat?"
Her natural instinct was to turn him down, knowing there was no point. But he had made the effort to wait for her so she figured she owed him a small favor.
"You ever been to Hillsboro Pizza?" she asked.
"No," he said.
"It's just around the corner," she said. "We can walk."
"Okay," Thad said, smiling with relief.
They didn't talk as they walked the brief distance to the pizza place. Truth was, Lydia felt a little weird about it. What if somebody recognized Thad? Saw her with him? Would gossip and rumors begin? And what was she supposed to say to the guy anyway? How's Kelly?
The stepped into the pizza place which thankfully wasn't that crowded and Lydia ordered a small pepperoni pizza at the counter without even asking Thad what he wanted. He grabbed a bottle of water from the cooler and he asked her if she wanted anything.
"Coke's fine," she replied as she paid for the pizza.
"You don't have to do that," Thad protested.
"I don't mind," she smiled.
They took seats opposite each other in one of the corner booths and Lydia found herself eyeing the door, worrying every time it opened. What if a football player came in?
"I don't get over to Hillsboro very often," Thad admitted. "Johnny C's a few times. Some ball games at Beano Field."
"I'm surprised you don't play in the Serguci League," Lydia replied. "My father is one of the sponsors for the Beansboro Beansters."
"Yeah, we're one of the sponsors for the Greenville Giants," Thad said. "And I'd love to play. But I'd rather play in the summer basketball league. Football is my first love and basketball my second. I play baseball for the school but not in the Serguci League."
"I see," she said. "So, you not getting over to Hillsboro much...is that why I haven't seen you since camping?" She boldly asked.
"Well, football dominates most of my time," Thad explained. "And I still put in some hours at the store on the weekends."
"Oh," Lydia said.
"But I've missed you," he said earnestly. "I thought about you."
"I went to one of your games," Lydia informed him.
"You did?" He asked with surprise.
"That was a good game."
"I saw you with Kelly afterwards," she reported. "Kissing."
Thad sighed and sat back in his chair. "Sorry," he said quietly.
"I didn't go to anymore games after that," she said.
"No, it's okay," Lydia said. "I understand. You don't owe me any explanations. You don't owe me anything, really."
"Lydia, I feel terrible," Thad said sadly.
"You shouldn't," Lydia told him.
"I really appreciate you coming to the game."
"I know there's a parts store in Greenville so I appreciate you coming over here," she smiled.
"I really wanted to see you."
Lydia couldn't help but think to herself that he had already seen all of her but she wasn't about to bring that fact up.
"Well, here I am," she said.
The door opened and Lydia groaned when she saw Eddie and a couple of other football players stroll in. He glanced Lydia's way and nodded.
"Dalton," he said.
They picked up their pizza to go and started to leave but Eddie started staring at the guy sitting in the booth with Greenie. Lydia held her breath hoping Eddie would head for the door but instead he stepped to the booth.
"O'Hannon?" He said, glaring at Thad, not quite believing he was having pizza with Lydia Dalton in Hillsboro Pizza.
"This is Eddie and some of the other guys," Lydia said.
"So this is why you were asking so many questions about the Giants?" Eddie frowned at Lydia. "Because you're dating their quarterback?"
"We're not dating," Lydia said.
Eddie squinted at the two of them. "Then what are you doing together?"
"Having pizza," Thad smiled. "Want to join us?"
Eddie was momentarily confused. "Ah, I don't think we should," he said with uncertainty.
"Then I guess I'll see you guys on Thanksgiving," Thad grinned.
"Yeah, sure," Eddie said, tossing Lydia another look. "Geez, Dalton, I didn't think you had it in you."
The football guys left and Lydia let out a sigh. "Now it's going to be all over the school and town," she groaned.
"Is that a bad thing?" Thad asked, raising his eyebrows.
"Ask Kelly," Lydia frowned.
"I know," Thad sighed. "I'm a scumbag."
"I didn't say that," Lydia said. "But...well, did you even mention me to her after all this time?"
"No," Thad confessed. "What would be the point?"
"None, I suppose," Lydia agreed.
"I've been thinking about breaking up with her," Thad offered.
"You said that in August," Lydia reminded him.
"I know," he sighed.
"I don't want you to break up with her anyway," Lydia said.
"You don't?" Thad asked with surprise.
"Not because of me I mean," Lydia clarified. "I mean, if you're not happy with things or whatever, that's your business but it really has nothing to do with me."
"Would you see me if I broke up with her?" Thad asked.
The waitress brought the pizza to the table and Lydia thanked her for her service.
"Would you?" Thad wanted to know once the waitress was gone. "See me?"
"I don't know," Lydia sighed. "But I do know I wouldn't want to be responsible for ending your relationship."
"You wouldn't," Thad insisted.
"So then it wouldn't matter if I saw you or not," Lydia told him.
"Ginny said something to Kelly about you," Thad revealed after a few bites from the pizza slices. "She calls you the lady in the woods."
Lydia smiled, liking that image.
The rest of the conversation was about how their senior years of high school were going at their respective schools and quick updates on their families. Lydia was somewhat disillusioned that Thad's life sounded so exciting and full while hers was basically the status quo even if she had been a bit more socially interactive since meeting Thad. She wondered if this is what it would be like if they did date – going out for pizza or a movie and sharing their lives. She was pretty sure she'd never know.
When they were done eating, they walked back to their cars at the auto parts store around the corner.
"Thanks for dinner," Thad said. "I'll have to return the favor sometime."
"Sure," Lydia smiled, certain she'd never hear from him again.
"Are you going to go to the Thanksgiving game?" he asked as they stood by her (mother's) car.
"I'm not sure," Lydia admitted.
"I hope you do," he said sincerely.
"We'll see," she replied, opening the door to the car, figuring that would act as a symbolic buffer if he had any ideas about kissing her. She would have loved a kiss – but not from the same lips that were still on Kelly's.
"Good luck with the rest of the season," Lydia said warmly as she climbed into the car with no effort of a kiss from Thad.
"Thanks," he said. "See you around."
Lydia doubted that as she drove away and she fought the urge to cry knowing all of this was a last cause.
As predicted, word got out around Hillsboro High that shy and quiet nobody Lydia Dalton was seen in public in the company of Greenville High School's star quarterback Thad O'Hannon and suddenly people seemed to be treating her differently – with some sort of new respect and awareness. Sure, some grumbled about her being a turncoat – dating a Giant when there were so many Hillsboro Hurricane boys to choose from – but most were impressed that she had landed such a big fish and Judy advised her friend not to bother correcting the record when it came to the rumors.
"Let them think what they want," Judy said. "You don't have to go out of your way to tell them you two aren't exactly going out. Just enjoy the ride. You didn't even do anything and you're popular!"
Although Lydia still didn't follow the sports page, she did check out the schedule the next Saturday and saw that the Giants had played a Friday night game. She had a rare Saturday afternoon off, so she gathered some of her clothes in need of dry cleaning and took a drive to Greenville, parking in front of Greenville Dry Cleaning. There were several dry cleaners in the area and Lydia's mom tended to spread her (dry cleaning) wealth. Lydia had been to this one before – but not since meeting the O'Hannon family in August.
Greenville Dry Cleaning featured a well maintained and attractive lobby, most of the work hidden behind partitions behind the main counter. A middle aged woman Lydia did not recognize was working the counter and took Lydia's order, logging her into the computer.
"Is Thad working today by chance?" Lydia worked the nerve up to ask.
"THAAAAAAAAAAADDDDDDDDD!" The woman barked over her shoulder toward the back as she handed Lydia her receipt for the clothes at the same time which she stuffed into a bag and tossed into a bin.
A moment later Thad emerged from behind the partition. He seemed surprised to see Lydia standing there but he quickly smiled. "Well, hello!" he said with excitement.
"I had some clothes to drop off," Lydia explained.
Thad nodded with understanding. "Do you have a few minutes?" He asked. "Want to come out back with me?"
"Okay," Lydia agreed, following him behind the partition which opened up into a sea of electric movable clothes racks with endless bagged clothes waiting for pick up.
In the back of the long building were several machines, work benches, and a couple of chairs. It was the first time Lydia had seen Thad looking less than perfect – he was wearing bleached out and tattered jeans and an old tee shirt. He was sweaty and he looked a bit disheveled. He gestured for her to have a seat in one of the chairs.
"How was your week?" He asked as he checked on the dials and gages of several of the machines that were currently in operation.
"Okay" Lydia answered. "Although Eddie spread the word that we're dating."
Thad nodded. "Even though we're not," he observed.
"Right," she said, feeling disappointed. "You're still with Kelly, I assume."
He shrugged sheepishly but didn't say anything. Lydia wasn't sure why she was expecting anything different. It was clear that they weren't meant to be and that they were living different lives. It was foolish for her to think otherwise and suddenly she wished she had gone to a different dry cleaner. She didn't know what else to say so she kept quiet and Thad didn't say anything as he kept eyeing the machinery.
"Maybe I should get going," Lydia announced after a few awkward moments, speaking loud enough to be heard over the noise of the machines.
"Stay just for a little while," Thad requested.
Lydia knew there was no point to his plea but she didn't move from the chair because she knew deep in her heart she wanted to stay. She noticed that Thad now had a smirk on his face as he stared at her.
"What are you grinning at?" She asked.
"Nothing," he said. "Except that this is nice."
Strangely, he was right.
"Can I ask you something?" Lydia inquired.
"What?" He asked, sounding nervous.
Lydia took in a deep breath. "Who do you really want to be with?" She asked.
"What do you mean?" He asked, sounding confused.
"Nothing, never mind," Lydia said, waving her hand.
There was a pause between them.
"Are you asking me if I'd rather be with you than Kelly?"
"No," she replied. "But you do seem to want it both ways sometimes."
"I'm afraid to break up with her," he admitted with a sigh.
He shrugged. "Partly because of my image and reputation," he confessed. "I keep hoping she'll break up with me so I don't have to hurt her."
"But you won't…..break up with her," Lydia guessed.
"Please don't hate me," he said.
"I don't," she insisted, standing. "I really have to go," she said. "I have my mother's car and I didn't tell her I'd be gone long." Half-truth. Her mother really wouldn't care but Lydia knew she need to get away from him and stay away from him because every time she saw him she became tortured, wanting him when she knew she couldn't have him.
She hurried through the racks of dry cleaned clothes, out from the partition, passed the counter lady and bolted out the front door as if she was claustrophobic. She had enough of being on the sidelines, the lady in waiting of perpetual hope when it was clear that Thad was going to stay with Kelly and continue his safe and popular routine. Lydia wasn't used to these unfamiliar pangs of love and want but she was tired of the hurt and pain of wanting that came with it. It was clear that she really hadn't made a difference in Thad's life since he was unwilling to leave his girlfriend. Lydia remained a nobody in the larger scale of important people. She needed to forget him even if it killed her.
Nobody at Hillsboro High (except for Judy) knew any of this, of course, so Lydia's newfound reputation of popularity continued as it was assumed 'Greenie' was still with "O'H" and with the Thanksgiving Day getting closer she was the good natured victim of gentle harassment and teasing regarding the impending 'death' of all the Giants.
Veteran's Day arrived and because there was no school Lydia took a full day shift at the auto parts store. She liked it when she was able to work side by side with her Dad as it didn't happen all that often. The day flew by as it always did when she worked with her Dad and it was near the end of the shift when Thad O'Hannon came strolling into the store. Lydia's father was thrilled to see him, of course, and Mr. Dalton dominated most of the first ten minutes of the visit before he finally realized that Thad was there to see Lydia, not him! Mr. Dalton insisted that Lydia leave work early to spend time with Thad so she felt like she had no choice by to go.
"How 'bout Johnny C's?" She suggested once they were outside the shop.
"Sure," Thad agreed.
She came to work with her father so she climbed into Thad's car with him.
"I know you're mad at me," Thad said, looking her straight in the eyes when he slid behind the driver's wheel.
"I'm not mad," Lydia replied.
"Disappointed, then," Thad clarified as he drove to the diner.
"It is what it is, Thad," Lydia replied. "Here we are again. Are you going to make me ask you the same question again?"
"We're still together," he mumbled.
"So why are you here?" She needed to know.
"I miss you," he admitted.
"And I'm trying not to miss you!" She said harshly, hoping he would finally get it.
He pulled the car into the parking lot of Johnny C's but he didn't say anything as they walked into the popular diner together. They quietly waited a few minutes for a booth. A few people recognized Thad and nodded or waved or offered a hello as they passed, mentioning the upcoming big game. A few joked that he was in the wrong town! The hostess eventually brought them to their booth and they took seats opposite from one another.
"What do you want from me, Thad?" Lydia asked impatiently.
"I like you," he said.
"Great," she snapped with a cold icy tone.
"Can't we be friends?" He asked hopefully.
"I can't be friends with somebody who saw me naked," She said bluntly.
He looked hurt. "Come on, Lydia, don't be that way," he pleaded.
"Sorry," she grumbled. "But all of this is very strange to me."
"Because it hurts," she admitted.
"I'm sorry," he sighed.
"You don't have to apologize," Lydia told him. "This is my issue, not yours."
"I'm sorry if I gave you the wrong impression," he offered meekly.
"What impression is that, Thad?" She asked with annoyance. "When we had pizza and you asked me if I'd go out with you if you broke up with Kelly?"
He looked down at the table with shame.
"Or back in August when one of our first conversations was you telling me how you were tired of being with your girlfriend?" Lydia asked.
"Okay, okay, maybe I was unfair," he admitted.
The waitress came and they hurriedly placed their orders. The waitress left and Lydia stared at Thad for a long moment.
"So, you came because you missed me?" She asked.
"And I wanted to talk to you," Thad said.
"About what?" Lydia asked with interest. "I don't know anything about the football team."
He smirked. "I was hoping you had Eddie's play book," he joked.
"That would be worth money," Lydia smiled.
"I hope you're not getting to much harassment about the game," Thad said.
Lydia rolled her eyes. "Football is not the most important thing going on in my life," she said.
"It's a big rivalry," Thad replied.
"For some," Lydia said, absentmindedly playing with her hair as she quickly found herself slipping back into her comfortable and happy place being with him. "What are we doing, Thad?" She wanted to know.
"Talking," he replied with a shrug.
"I'm quite hopeless when it comes to this sort of thing," Lydia admitted.
"You're doing fine," he smiled.
Lydia sighed. "But I'm always going to be on the sidelines," she observed.
Thad looked guilty. "I really do like you," he insisted.
"Why?" She demanded. "Because you saw me naked?"
He blushed. "No, of course not," he said with embarrassment.
"It's how we met, right?" She reminded him. "Naked."
"Lydia, please," he said. "That has nothing to do with anything."
"You know what I mean," he said sheepishly.
"No, I don't think that I do," she mumbled..
"This is not an easy thing for me," Thad told her.
"You think it is for me!?" She wanted to know.
The waitress returned with their food – double cheeseburger with fries and a chocolate shake for him, a club sandwich and house salad for her, with lemon water.
"I think we should stop all of this," Lydia said when the waitress was gone. "It's not easy for me seeing you when I know you're with another girl that you won't – or can't – let go of. I'm embarrassed whenever I see you because I remember how we met and if we're not going to develop a relationship it leaves me feeling perverted and exposed and vulnerable and I'm just tired of thinking about it every time we're together. Even when we're not together."
"We can't change what happened," Thad pointed about.
"But we can change what's happening now," Lydia rebutted.
"I want to be your friend," he sighed.
"But I want to be more than your friend, Thad, and there's the problem," Lydia told him. "I could degrade and demean myself and play second fiddle and be around for you when Kelly isn't and all that but you want to know something? I deserve better than that. So you need to decide right here and now what your choice is. Are you going to keep the status quo and not hurt Kelly's feelings and remain the Giant Golden Boy or are you willing to be seen naked again and start all over with somebody new and weird and a bit of a ditz?"
Thad stared at her without saying a word and Lydia returned the look as she ate her club sandwich.
"That's what I thought," she said after a few silent moments.
They ate the rest of their meal in relative silence and when the waitress brought the check, Lydia fished out her cell phone.
"I'll call Judy for a ride," she said.
"I can take you home," Thad offered. "Just let me pay the bill first."
"There's no point driving me home, Thad," Lydia said as she hit Judy's auto dial.
"I want to be with you," he blurted out.
Lydia hit the call end button on her phone. "What?" She asked, squinting at Thad.
He pulled out his own cell phone and hit an auto number.
"Kelly?" He asked tentatively, keeping his eyes focused on Lydia. "Remember that girl Ginny keeps telling you about? Right – the lady in the woods. Well, I think I'm in love with her….yes…um, I'm with her right now….whatever…well, before you do that, I need to tell you how we met..."
He waited for Lydia's permission to tell Kelly the truth. She nodded her head okay.
"Well, actually, you see, we were naked….." Thad revealed. "That's how we met, anyway."