It so happened that Eunice Shepard and Ted Martin's high school graduation photos ran side by side in the Greenville News and Dispatch announcing their college choices. Eunice was heading to Emerson College in Boston to focus on Political Communications and Public Relations while Ted Martin had chosen the Carroll School of Management at Boston College where he would concentrate on Business.
Ted was surprised to read of Eunice's choice because he didn't see the quiet and shy girl excelling at communication and public relations given that she hardly spoke but Ted didn't know her well enough to pass judgement.
Eunice was tall with a long thin nose and a giraffe neck and she seemed like a nice girl from what little Ted knew of her. Some of the guys razzed him for the paper's "engagement photo" and Ted went along with the joke – as the old adage went – any publicity is better than no publicity.
A few days later, Eunice stopped Ted in the school hallway to congratulate him on his college choice. She had a high squeaky voice and Ted couldn't imagine how that was going to help her communicate but he politely congratulated her for her decision as well.
"Maybe we could car pool since we'll both be in Boston," Eunice timidly suggested in her high pitched yet nasally voice.
"Sure," Ted agreed. "That makes sense."
He watched her disappear down the hall, her long brown hair trailing all the way down to her backside. If nothing else, Eunice held the record for longest hair in the school.
Ted wanted to make the most of his senior year – including his final sports appearances as a Hillsboro Hurricane basketball and then baseball player although he was an average athlete at best. He also worked as a gopher in his father's accounting firm where he picked up various business tips that would hopefully help him in his collegiate studies.
Ted wasn't sure exactly what Eunice did with her time and interest although he saw her byline in the school newspaper The Hurricane a few times and he knew she was on the Yearbook Staff. It struck him as somewhat ironic that someone who was interested in communication was basically invisible around the school.
Ted was seated at a table in the library working on an assignment when Eunice entered the room and, to his surprise, she took a seat across from him. It occurred to him that they were both smart if they were going to prime colleges but Eunice was a quiet and shy person who didn't appear to have a lot of friends.
It wasn't as if Ted belonged to the most popular crowd either but he was still startled to find Eunice sitting across from him just because they appeared in the paper together.
Should he try to impress her? If she smiled at his silly joke, would that mean anything? His high school romantic career had been basically hit or miss with more duds than successes so he was secretly flattered to be at the same table with Eunice because it had to mean that she was at least semi-quasi interested in him.
They didn't talk (it was the library after all) but when the bell rang signaling the end of the period, they walked out of the library together and that's basically how their friendship started.
The two began spending time together around school – they had the same lunch period and they sat together which of course got the school rumor/gossip mill going. They hung out in the library together doing homework and they even met at the town library in the evening a few times. They started calling each other for help when they were stuck on a homework issue. Ironically, they hadn't really talked all that much about themselves or their lives – they were mostly acquaintance companions who shared their time together.
Some people around school assumed that they were dating but neither was bothered by that perception. Again, any publicity was better than no publicity - any popularity was better than no popularity.
Although some of Ted's pals joked about it, as time progressed Ted started to wonder about the possibility of hooking up with Eunice and the more he thought about it the more his stomach began to float butterflies and he began to feel weirdly hopeful about the possibility. He hadn't considered the reality that he had even become physically attracted to her and he found himself hopeful that Eunice might start showing signs of physical attraction toward him in response.
But she was a shy person and Ted realized that he would have to be the one to initiate that ice breaker so one day he held Eunice's hand in the hallway and he considered it a success when she didn't pull her hand away in disgust or horror.
Another time he gave her a hug goodbye and that felt different in a good way. As far as Ted knew, Eunice hadn't really dated in high school either so they were both rather novices at all this stuff.
Ted's only regret was that time was running short – they would be graduating in no time and heading off for college and who knew what the future held for them, even if they were attending college in the same city.
"Do you want to go to the prom?"
It was Eunice asking the question – perhaps because she worried he wasn't going to man up and invite her and Ted immediately felt guilty for being such a heel.
"I should be asking you," he said as they stood by his locker in the hallway. "With flowers and chocolates." Then he dropped down on one knee right there in the hall in front of everybody. "Eunice, will you go to prom with me?"
"Yes," she answered sheepishly but she was smiling and Ted was relieved that she was accepting his proposal in front of the others. It would have been humiliating if she had chickened out and said no.
The next day, Ted had a fancy cake from Norma's Bakery delivered to the school at lunch time with "Happy Prom" in icing written on top of it which made him the hit of the day when he presented it to Eunice.
Eunice looked amazing in a long velvet gown for Prom with her hair done up in a high tower bun and Ted was proud to be seen with her. She was a bit awkward on the dance floor but they had fun and they joined some other couples for a late night breakfast at the Greenville Denny's after the affair was over, but the kiss goodnight was tepid at best and Ted wondered if Eunice wasn't really attracted to him the same way he had feelings for her.
Maybe they weren't the most romantic couple at Hillsboro High but Ted enjoyed Eunice's company and her friendship even if she was unwilling to take the plunge. He especially loved to brush her hair out and Eunice allowed him to do so because it made her feel pampered and attended too – plus it was a lot easier when Ted did it for her.
The hair brushing started out innocently enough – on a day of high winds, the two sat in the lobby of the school and Ted brushed Eunice's hair out and they both liked the way it felt and so it continued. It was one of the reasons Ted started spending so much time at Eunice's house – not so much to do homework, but to brush out her long brown hair as if she was Rapunzel!
Ted became an expert at soothingly brushing Eunice's hair. It was especially long and easily tangled or clumped and it could be hard to brush out but Ted was gentle, never pulling on her roots and developing a sixth sense ability to smooth the trail out almost effortlessly.
He was good at using one hand as strain relief while using his other hand to brush it out. He was able to loosen and free hair knots by using the brush until it became free and untied, often using his fingers as a further aide. Ted also became good at using a dash of conditioner mixed with light water to make her hair easier to brush.
There were times when Ted spent a good hour brushing out Eunice's hair in front of the television or in her kitchen and he became good at braiding it or pulling it into a tight pony tail. It was the most intimate experience Ted had come to know and he never grew tired of performing the task. He especially liked it when Eunice was seated in front of a mirror because she was able to watch him work and he was able to see her face and her expression as he worked.
The hair brushing experience was also how Ted got to know Eunice's sister and mother better because they would often wander by whatever chair Eunice was seated in to check on his work and a conversation would ensue.
And then, just like that, graduation time was upon them. Ted and Eunice were marching partners for the ceremony and they attended the all night safe party at the bowling alley as a couple but Eunice remained reservedly platonic in her attitudes throughout the night and when Ted dropped her off at her house in the morning, she gave him an appreciative hug and a quick smooch on the lips but she was out of the car before Ted could engage her in a meaningful conversation or perhaps a little bit of post-graduate necking.
A few weeks later Eunice was off on her summer job – accompanying a family on a cross country trip as an au pair for the couple's three young children and, except for an occasional text or e-mail, Ted didn't hear all that much from her so it was a somewhat boring and lonely summer for Ted who spent his time working for his father and playing American Legion baseball.
Ted tried not to think about Eunice too much, especially now that high school was over – maybe they were only meant to share the newspaper space together and be classmates with him having a talent for hair brushing and nothing more but that made him feel sad.
Eunice returned ten days before college was to begin full of stories about her trip and Ted was glad to see her again (She called and asked "Do you want to brush my hair?" when she first returned).
They went out for pizza a few times and to the movies too and Ted looked for any excuse to stop by Eunice's house to see her – and brush her hair!
Eunice told Ted that her parents wanted to drive her to Boston for orientation and move in and he understood. She came to Ted's house for a family college farewell party a few days before they both left for college and although they were literally only a few miles apart – her at a residential hall on Boyalston Street, him in a dorm on Commonwealth Avenue - they didn't see each other as often as Ted had hoped – busy settling in, meeting new people, and going to class.
They met for coffee on Sunday mornings and occasionally Ted stopped by Eunice's residential hall to brush her hair. Ted's aunt and uncle lived in Dorchester and he left his car there as there was very little parking on and around campus.
Ted and Eunice coordinated their trips home and they'd take the T (subway) to Dorchester to retrieve the car and head to Hillsboro. But as the year progressed, Ted feared that he was nothing more than the designated driver and Eunice's hair brusher.