Joy was the first truly liberated woman he had ever known. She did everything her way, on her terms, heedless of public opinion… no, inciting public opinion. She loved to shock people, to grab them by the scruff of their somnolent minds and give their imaginations a good shake… about 6.8 on the Richter scale. She was a year younger than he, another of his sister’s friends… uh, oh… but then, Dolores had been his sister’s friend and in spite of the ending he had no regrets… memories… no regrets.
Joy fascinated him, intrigued him, and captivated his imagination. He had noticed her on her first day at school and although he had felt completely committed to Dee, he nevertheless did notice her… daily. She was easy to find… just follow that voice! Years before Demi Moore first purred a line in a brat pack film, Joy had a lock on that voice. It felt like velvet in his ears, in his mind, and it cast a subtle spell. Almost Five feet tall with sunshine golden hair that fell nearly to her shoulders and eyes so softly blue that he was often tempted to try swimming in their warmth and yet, whenever he tried she invariably caught him and he would blush and look away. It was fun to be around her. It seemed she was always laughing, telling jokes, bringing smiles to countless faces, trying to be everybody’s friend, but in spite off all that she was treated most cruelly behind her back…
The jocks and the shit-heads at school told tales inside the boys’ locker room. It must have been the boys’ locker room… real men don’t kiss and tell. Every day somebody had something new to say, some new perversion attempted with success, for in the locker room no one ever struck out with Joy. She was a party girl, they all knew that from personal experience… feverish, wet-dream fantasies… grand tales laid out for all to hear, some even humanly impossible. He never believed a word. That was her ‘rep’… that was not Joy. At least not the Joy he grew to know, for when Dolores redefined ‘forever’ his obligation was dissolved. If he couldn’t live for forever he was resolved to live for today. He was learning… and in spite of disappointment he refused to raise the walls back up! Dolores had broken his heart, Joy was about to show him how to heal it.
He used his connections at school to discover her locker number and wandered by there between classes, even if it was out of the way. He looked for her in study halls, assemblies, lunchroom and pep rallies… even though those were usually among his least favorite places. Although it was his sister who finally found a way to get them together (always looking out for her big brother’s best interests, certain that she knew his needs better than he did), years later he would be unable to recall exactly how their paths first crossed. That was all he would ever forget about her.
He liked the way she brightened up any place she happened to be… laughing, smiling, joking… God, it was infectious! You had to try really hard to be depressed around Joy. Hell, it was damned near impossible! Yet he had a feeling that all was not as rosy as it seemed. It seldom is. He couldn’t imagine what demons pursued her, what spectral shades might haunt her dreams, but he sensed a suppressed tension that fed her animation. Even so, he felt comfortably at ease with her from the very beginning.
They soon became good friends and just as quickly their friendship grew into something much more special. It started with a little touch, a glance, a blush (his) and soon they were holding hands, talking for hours on the telephone and spending as much time together as they could. It was a delight just to be with her. He loved her voice, her softly cool-blue liquid eyes, her wildly twisted sense of humor (so much like his) and he found himself growing more strongly attracted to this enchanted sprite of a woman who seemed so much older than her years, yet who’s heart, he knew, would remain always young and indomitable. There was a magic in her spirit that was contagious and he admired her for that. Her magic saved him, like a lifeline cast to a drowning man. She pulled him up and pulled him in to the calming comfort of her sweet, gentle arms where he found only peace and acceptance, the two greatest gifts one human being can give unto another… and he loved her an extra measure for that. Yes, he dared to confess it! In spite of firm resolution to the contrary he had been unable to avoid loving her. It came easily, like her laughter… like his laughter when they were together. He dared not dream how long it would last. It really didn’t matter… maybe forever is built one day at a time… maybe every day is a gift… maybe…
He resolved to avoid such philosophy! He resolved to live, one day at a time, and to share each day with her for as long as she wished. They had come to an understanding, unstated but explicit. They were as one spirit and for the first time in his life he was truly at peace. Her gifts had given him that and in return he knew he would always love her for it. They never passed cross words between them and even when she decided it was time for their common path to part there was never any resentment. They never dated again but he knew he would never forget her, any more than he could ever convey how much she truly meant to him. Sometimes words are woefully inadequate.
He saw her one last time at the end of the summer after he graduated from high school two years later and those old magic feelings were still there. He was certain that he would always have her in his heart for she had, after all, healed him and taught him to live without fear… to love without fear. Yes, he would always love her… fearlessly… and he promised himself that if he ever got the chance, if he ever found the words, he would try to let her know just how special she would always be to him. He hoped he would live long enough to find the words and that life, never strong on granting second chances, would be kind enough to let him keep this promise.