Friday, October 14, 2005

The Real Prize

I've got a lot of favorites among my stories but this one ranks high. Other stories had better writing, stronger plots, more memorable characters but I just plain like this story. The theme was "Heavenly Bodies" and I wrote the story in mid August of 2000.

I've always hated wasting time on awards banquets and this one was no different even if I was supposed to be the guest of honor. As the speeches droned on I found myself daydreaming. I'd always been interested in Astronomy even as a young boy. I loved nothing better than to find a field to lie down on my back in and stare for hours as the heavens paraded by.

That's where I was on the fourth of July on the year I started college. While everybody else was enjoying the festivities I'd gone off to just stare at the stars and dream. Had I stayed I'd not have really fit in. I was a nerd and I had long ago accepted that. I didn't have the easy going way with the ladies like most of the guys seemed to but I'd pretty much resigned myself to that and to being picked on for looking the part of the nerd as well.

"Hello," I heard somebody say startling me out of my dreams and causing me to spill the drink I was holding on my shirt.

"Hello," I said, blotting at my shirt and looking up to see who was there. I was surprised to see Samantha Jakes. She was to my mind the prettiest girl in school. "What brings you out here?"

She knelt and dabbed at the soda on my shirt and said, "I'm sorry I startled you. You did look deep in concentration, are you ok?"

"I'm fine, I was just sitting here looking at the stars and thinking."

"Why aren't you at the party? There's lots of good food and dancing."

"I'm not much for dancing I guess, or for parties. I'm just a nerd who loves to stare at the stars."

"You are NOT a nerd," she said in a tone that made me look over at her. Pretty as ever, long kinky red hair and a nice sprinkling of freckles and wearing a white bathing suit that showed she had plenty going for her.

"Oh come on Samantha, yes I am. I stopped kidding myself long ago. I am a nerd and I always will be. I'm different than most people.

"Ok I will grant you that you're a nerd but you know what? That doesn't mean you can't socialize, that people don't like you. You ought to be at the party."

"Why, who cares? They all have someone and are enjoying themselvesand I am happy out here staring at the stars and dreaming of possibilities."

She sat down beside me and I felt her leg against mine and found myself looking into her eyes as she said, "Well there is somebody who cares, somebody who wishes you were at the party to dance with her and yet here you sit."

"Who? None of the girls has every paid me any mind"

"Well you never pay them any mind." She said and then sighed. "You really have no clue do you?"

I just shook my head and she smiled and went on, "Remember last year in biology you let me be your lab partner? Why do you think I picked you?"

"So you'd get a good grade?" I ventured.

She laughed and said "That was just a benefit you idiot, I wanted to spend some time with you. Remember near prom time this year I kept saying hi every morning and trying to talk to you?"

"Well yeah, but I…. Well I thought you and your friends were…. Well picking on the nerd."

"Do you really think I'd do that to you?" She asked softly.

"Well I didn't want to but its what seemed to happen, one of the guys with you would always make some kind of crack."

"Oh God I guess it might have seemed that way." She said. "Well it wasn't. I wanted you to ask me to the prom"

"Really," I squeaked and remember vividly beginning to sweat even though it was relatively cool that evening.

She didn't say another word for a long time. She just pushed me back and kissed me. I grew up a lot that night and found something more important to me than stars.

I was brought out of my reverie of that wonderful evening by loud applause and realized I'd been introduced and was just sitting there with a silly grin on my face. Looking out I could see people whispering to each other. Oh well, I was used to it after all these years. I went to the podium and don't even remember what I said just wanting it to be over. Getting the award was nice but I had all I needed in my life.

Then blissfully it was over and I could work my way out and go home. I looked around and then heard behind me, "I'm proud of you." I turned and she kissed me, making me blush just like it always does when she kisses me in public. Then quietly she said in my ear the words I first heard that night so long ago and still love to hear today, "you're my favorite nerd in the whole world and I love you."

With a grin on my face, knowing I'd won the grand prize years ago, I walked out with her on my arm still looking as stunning as she did back then with her red hair flowing down and the low cut evening gown glittering like the heavens and getting the attention of every man there.

Walking by some reporters, I smiled at her and she chuckled as she looked in my eyes with her eyes full of love and we heard one of them say to the other "Now THERE is a heavenly body, how did HE ever get her?".

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