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The Tale of Julianna and Jude
She had only been on the campus for two weeks for a summer intensive course and already, Jules had gotten a few appreciative glances from college guys taking courses for credit. She knew she was striking; her wavy black hair curled at the ends and her big brown eyes rimmed with eyeliner and mascara made her look older than her 16 years. Plus, she was the mature, responsible one in her family, which explained her taking courses at the local college the summer before her senior year of high school.
On this particular day, however, Jules was keeping an eye out for a boy. She had seen him almost every single day she had been on the campus. He was tall, with short, dark hair, cut clean and preppy like she liked it, high cheekbones, and gorgeous green eyes that had stuck in her mind ever since they had locked eyes the previous week. Try as she might, she could not forget about him.
Though she ended up spending a few days scouring the campus with her eyes for the ever elusive guy, she was ultimately surprised by how easily, and unexpectedly, they ended up meeting. He asked if he could sit by her one day while she was reading from her Algebra textbook before her class started. He was waiting for a friend, he said. And, he admitted, he had seen her around campus. They talked for a little bit. His name was Jude. She introduced herself as Julianna. Julianna made her sound like sexy, like a soap-opera siren with full, red lips and a European accent. Jules made her sound, well, 17. He was a graduate student studying architecture. Jules was careful not to mention her age. He talked about Frank Gehry and she nodded and pretended she understood. “I like you,” he said at the end of their chat. “Can I see you again?” They exchanged screen names and Jude gave Jules a kiss on the cheek before leaving.
He started their AIM conversation early the next day, Jules was pleased to notice. He asked if they could hang out when she got to campus later. She agreed and took the train two hours earlier than normal, nervously wringing her hands and feeling her heart thud dully in her chest. When she arrived at the school, he flirtatiously offered to give her a tour. He asked her tons of questions, even asking at one point, with genuine eyes, what angered her, p***ed her off, got under her skin. Wanting to be honest, she replied, “When people assume I’m a certain way.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I’m expected to do no wrong, I’m the good girl, you know. And sometimes that just angers me. I don’t know…” she trailed off, suddenly realizing how young and vulnerable she sounded. She had meant to sound older, more mature.
Jules learned about him too. How he had been raised Jewish, then decided to become an Atheist. How he knew Yiddish and its root language, German. She found Jude’s complexity and intelligence romantic. When they finally touched upon the age factor, he was surprised to find out she was only 17. She was flattered. But age was an arbitrary number, he said, and he wouldn’t let it determine who he did or did not hang out with. She loved that he used words like “arbitrary” so casually.
Jude was 28. At the time, Jules didn’t think to count the age difference, 12 years. Age was just a number and his number did not register in her mind.
He bought her a bracelet, teal with tiny, glittering flowers, from the campus shop. It was cheap and he threw away the receipt the lady behind the counter gave him. She liked its thin, metallic color, the first gift she had ever received from a boy.
When they finally kissed, him pressing her against a shelf of library books, she tried to ignore the racing thoughts in her head and focus on the sensations of his soft lips against hers and his warm hands caressing her thighs. Technically, she was thinking, this could be her first kiss, if she discounted the time she had kissed a junior when she was a sophomore. His tongue had felt disgusting and slimy in her mouth. Jude’s was a good first kiss too, the kind you saw in movies, where the banter had perfectly led up to the kiss.
When his fingers began inching towards her nether regions, she stopped his hand, blushing furiously. She hoped he thought she had stopped him because she wanted to take it slow, and thus, respected her for not being easy.
But after a few minutes of kissing, his hand took hers and guided it towards the space in between his legs. “I know I can’t touch yours, but you can touch mine,” he murmured. She hoped she looked more confident than she felt. She had never seen a penis before, much less touched one. She tried furiously to remember tips from articles in Cosmopolitan, articles with titles like “500 Ways to Please Your Man.” She decided on an up and down motion and was embarrassed when he mumbled uncomfortably, his hands fumbling around hers. Finally, he did the job himself, finishing as she knelt beside him, her bra straps tangled around her shoulders.
They walked to their parting point, making small talk and he stole a playful moment tickling her in the corner of the stairwell. He would walk her to her last class, he said, but he had a lecture to attend. They knew this was goodbye; he hugged her and she, wanting it to mean something more, pulled him back and gave him a lingering kiss on the lips. She took the final, messing up on questions she wouldn’t normally mess up on, and finally ditching the test completely. She handed it in early and without a care, because her lips were raw from being kissed and her shoulders rough from being caressed.
She IM-ed Jude two days later, to let him know how much she had enjoyed her time with him and to say goodbye. She figured this was how responsible, civilized adults handled these types of situations. He IM-ed back “I wish I could talk, but I have a girl in my room right now.” She read that line, once, twice, three times. It hit her like a slap to the face. She didn’t reply, wouldn’t reply, because she felt she should be the bigger person and walk away with what dignity she had left. She deleted the conversation, but couldn’t for the life of her bring herself to delete his name.
That night, she lay curled up on her bed, willing the tears, hot and surprising, back into her eyes. She wondered why she had thought she was more mature than kids her age and why maturity meant not caring about things like this or guys like Jude. She fingered the bracelet on her wrist, now chipping, a token of something that meant nothing at all.