There were six of them. Five of them were sitting around on the beds: Sue, Jill, Gloria, Sam and Shane. It was Sam's room, and he was the life of the party, and he had just been telling them all a hilarious story about his date last night. Gloria wiped her eyes, and said, "Well, that was funny. You must be a fun date, Sam."
This was not the flirting that it sounded like, as Gloria and Shane were all but engaged. And Sam would never have trespassed onto his friends territory. He didn't need to, for one thing.
"I love dating," Jill said. "It is glorious fun. There is only one thing that really bothers me."
"Oh?" Shane said, taking a swig of his coke.
"Well, it's George here," Jill said, pointing at the sixth member of their 'party', who sat in a corner working on his physics homework, and whose ears grew rapidly red. "We all know what a nice guy he is and all, but he is so painfully shy that he never gets any dates. Have you ever asked a girl out, George?"
George, the pinkness moving to his cheeks, said nothing, but focused more closely on his physics. Gloria pulled at Jill's sleeve, but she ignored her. "Well, has he Sam? What good are you if you can't help your roommate get dates? That is a roommate's first obligation, isn't it?"
Sam laughed. "I've tried. But he goes all pink, and clears his throat, and the next thing you know he is talking about stellar bi-polar nuclear transformations."
"What he needs," Jill said, continuing her subject, and ignoring the fact that George was now a beet red everywhere visible and no doubt most of the places one couldn't see, "Is someone to teach him how to behave. He is an excellent student. If he just knew all of the 'rules', well, then, he could apply them just like he applies his calculus."
Shane and Sam laughed but, just as they finished, Sue spoke up, decisively. "I'll do it."
Everyone looked at her. Sue was popular, if a little quiet, and they didn't know how to take her comment.
"Do you hear me, George? Starting tomorrow I am going to teach you how to date. Meet me tomorrow, at noon, in the student lounge."
George didn't answer, scratching away instead at his homework.
"George, write it down in your daytimer. I know that is where you write everything important."
George, finally, looked up to see Sue staring directly at him. There didn't seem to be a hint of kidding on her face, nor did she start to laugh at him when he pulled his daytimer out and, slowly and carefully, wrote down her instructions. Tomorrow, lunch, student lounge, dating instructions with Sue.
No one else said anything when he was done until Gloria broke the awkward silence with, "hey, let's play Scrabble. George, get out the board and bring it over."
He came up to the table nervously. Sue was sitting reading a book, a novel, and didn't notice him until he was right at the table. Indeed, he had stood there for a minute or two before she looked up.
"Ah, George. Good. Ready for your first lesson?"
George didn't say anything, but Sue didn't wait for him, "Now, what I think we need to do is practice your asking out a girl for a first date. That seems to be the first step. Right now let's not worry about technique, let's just get the words out. So, I want you to go across the room, and wait a minute, and then come over and ask me out for a date. Don't worry about where or anything, or even about your words. We will work on that later. You just pretend that you are asking me out on a date, and I will pretend to be thrilled. OK?"
George nodded, dumbly, and went across the room.
"Oh, hello George, how are you doing?"
"I'm fine, would you like to go out on a date with me?"
"Well, that would be wonderful, thank you for asking me."
George stood looking at her for a second, and then she said, "That was great."
She got up and picked up her book. "Let's try that again. This time I will be walking across campus, OK?"
"Oh, hello George, how are you doing?"
"I'm fine. Good actually. Say, would you like to go out on a date?"
"Oh, yes, I would. Thank you so much for asking.'
"Well, how did it go?"
George plopped down on his bed. He didn't mind talking to Sam so much when it was just the two of them. "It went fine. Good really."
"What did you do?"
"She had me ask her out. Like for a first date. I must have asked her a dozen times. In the student lounge, out on the sidewalk, down by the lake, in the library... and even at her dorm room. That was hard."
"Jill answered the door and I had to get through her first."
Sam smiled. He could see Jill having fun with that.
"So, are you done?"
George shook his head. "No, she's just getting started. Tomorrow I have to give her some details."
"Like, where, and when."
"You mean you didn't do any of that?"
"Nope, I just had to ask her today."
"Well, till tommorrow then."
George nodded and got out his books. He knew where he stood with those.
The two were on their fifth 'first date'. George had asked Sue to go 'on a walk' with him, down by the lake. He liked this... just walking, and talking.
"Do you think, now that I've practiced asking, and the first date, that I should ask a real girl? I mean, not that you're not a real girl, but this isn't a real date, if you see what I mean..."
Sue was quiet for a minute, and George's heart pounded in his chest. "No, I don't think so. You haven't really practiced asking her on a second date yet. Or even if you should. We should probably do that first, no?"
George nodded, and the two walked on.
"Hey Jill, is Sue there?"
"George! No, she's out right now."
"OK. Well, could you leave her a message for me?"
"Sure, what is it?"
"Could you find out if she is free, I mean..." George paused. "Could you tell Sue that if she is free tonight, I would like to take her to the campus play. It is about, well she probably knows what it is about... anyway, could you leave her that message?"
Jill laughed. "Sure George. You want to talk to her now?"
George sighed, "Yeah. Tell her how badly I did and then put her on."
He heard the girls laughing in the background, and then Sue came on. "Well, you made Jill's day anyway. That is a hard skill, having to go through a third party. Why don't you call back, and this time ask me out for ice cream."
"Ummm, Ok. But I would like to go to the play, I mean, I think it would make a good practice date."
"Well, ask for both then. I can but say no."
"You don't want to go?"
"I was just saying that *the girl* when you called her might say no, silly. Now, call back."
George sat up, causing the arm he had 'draped' around Sue shoulders (today's lesson) to jerk uncomfortably, "Sue, do you think it is time for me to ask out a real girl yet? I mean, we've done first date, and second date.. what, about thirty of those. And now I've.. he blushed, realizing where his arm was... and then continued bravely, "touched you." he blushed furiously at the implications of that, and tried, "I mean, put my arm on you... around you..."
Sue let him run down, and then answered him seriously, "Well, you are doing really well. But you are still finding the physical part hard. I think if you had to kiss a girl good night you might find it hard.
George turned pink, and nodded.
"Well, then, we'll practice that next. We had better get that done before you go out on a real date."
"I've got to go now," Sue said and George, who had been holding her hand, said,
"OK. I probably should study too," and leaned forward. The two's lips met perfectly (or, at least reasonably) and Jill got up to go to the door...
and the room erupted in applause. At least as much applause as four people could afford. "That was great, George. It looked totally natural."
George blushed, and Sue sat back down next to him.
"So, do you think that I'm ready to try a real date?"
"Well.... Shane said, "You've done the 'first date' thing, and the 'second date' thing, and..."
"And calling me up a hundred times or so to get me to 'leave a message'," Jill put in.
"And you have put your arm carefully around her in the movies, and in the library..."
"And in the dorm, Gloria said. About a hundred times by my count."
"And as we saw, you have kissed. Done any more than that? Light petting, heavy petting? Or is that too far for our Sue?"
"I won't do that," George said. "I'm not even sure we should have kissed, but Sue insisted. I wouldn't' want some other guy pawing my wife, and I would like to return the courtesy."
"Well, then, it looks like you have covered... bad metaphor," Shane said with a laugh. "Anyway, what else is left?"
"No," Sue said, "there is a very nerve wracking step left, and I am not letting my student go until he has passed it.
"What is that?" Sam asked.
"You did tell them, didn't you?" George asked, his eyes firmly fixed on the road.
"Of course, I wouldn't lie to my parents. But they agreed to pretend that they didn't know. And we didn't tell any of my siblings."
George knew he was sweating profusely. He was going to stink by the time they got there. Sue lived four hours away from the college, and they were going for the thanksgiving break. Sue had called his parents to explain, he was sure he would have just died first.
'OK. They won't, I mean..."
"where... where will I sleep?" He asked, finally.
"Oh, good grief," Sue said. "This isnt' one of those horrible romantic comedies. You'll sleep in the boys room with my brothers, of course. You'll like my brothers..."
"This is hardly even difficult," George said. "I mean, my parents? They are thrilled with everything you have done for me, and you are never nervous, and I have no real reason to be nervous."
"Well, our job isn't to make you nervous, but to give you practice. Just focus on pretending that I am your serious girlfriend, one you are getting ready to ask to marry you. Remember all of the various lessons you have learned, and put them all into play."
"So, do you think I should date now?" The two sat at the edge of the college pool, resting from the dozen laps they had just completed. George doubted he would ever date someone who was this dramatically athletic, but Sue had insisted they practice. And she did look good in her suit.
"Almost," Sue said. "I think you have only one step left..."
George came up to her room, flowers in hand. A dozen red roses, as per plan. He looked down at himself. He thought he looked OK, and Sam had said he was 'fine'. Fine. How could one look 'fine' for something like this?
He knocked on the door, and Jill answered it. Bother. He cleared his throat. He still never managed, quite, without the 'throat clearing'. "Is Sue here?" he managed using his best 'debonair' voice.
"Oh, Sue," Jill said with a grin, opening the door wide, "someone to see you."
"Jill, you're such a tease," Sue said, coming up and kissing him. "For me, what nice flowers," she said.
Sue was dressed nice, although not as fancy as she had done before. Of course, technically, according to the acting, she didn't know what was going to happen. Technically, this was just one more date by a long-dating couple. She handed the flowers, almost casually, to Jill, and took his arm. "So, where are we going tonight?" she asked.
"La Bonne Temps," he said. He had done his research, and it was one of the most 'private' places in town. Sue had stressed 'privacy' in her instructions and it certainly sounded good to him.
"Well, that sounds interesting," she said. Neither of them said anything else as they walked to the car, and as he helped her in. It was a very nice dress, really,' he said to himself as he walked around to the other side of the car. She looks fantastic in it.
"Did you have a nice day?" he asked, settling himself in and remembering the 'first date' lessons.
"Oh, yes. Lots of homework, of course, but Jill and I still had time to watch a movie. 'The Notebook'? I don't know if you've seen it?"
She was pushing him a bit hard. Of course he had seen it. What, on their tenth 'first date'? But, then, two could play at this game.
"No, no I don't think so. What was it about?"
She grinned at him (which he thought sort of cheating), put her hand on his shoulder, and described the movie which kept them nicely going until they got to the restaurant.
Dinner was awkward, one of their more awkward 'dates'. But that was OK, she had told him that this was bound to be an awkward time. But dinner was finally finished, and the waiter had left them alone. He slipped out of his chair, and went down on one knee. And then he froze.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, she said, "Well, OK, this is difficult, but it has been quite a while since you froze up quite so completely. What's wrong?"
"I'm afraid you will say no," he said, looking down at the floor.
"Well, yes, there is a chance the girl will say no," Sue said, calmly, "and I can see how that would be very awkward for you, thinking about that. But, still, you need to just keep going. And you need to look at her, for heaven's sake."
"No," he said, taking a ring, a real ring, out of his pocket. A ring that had not been part of the plan for the evening. Still staring at the floor, he said, " No, Sue. I'm afraid that you will say no."
The silence that followed was the longest in his entire life. Eventually he could stand it no longer and looked up, to see Sue smiling gently at him. They looked each other in the eyes for a minute and then, she reached out for his hand, took it, cleared her throat, and said, gently, "No. You don't need to worry about that. I won't say no."
A former missionary to Africa, I am now an LVN and EMT with a wife, six kids, and small farm. I like to write about Theonomy, Betrothal, Fantasy, and Science Fiction, just for starters.