Home > A Walk To Remember(6)

A Walk To Remember(6)
Nicholas Sparks

After seeing the competition, I figured that I might have a chance after all. My entire future was on the line here, so I formulated my strategy. Eric was the first to agree.

“Sure, I’ll get all the guys on the team to vote for you, no problem. If that’s what you really want.”

“How about their girlfriends, too?” I asked.

That was pretty much my entire campaign. Of course, I went to the debates like I was supposed to, and I passed out those dorky “What I’ll do if I’m elected president” fliers, but in the end it was Eric Hunter who probably got me where I needed to be. Beaufort High School had only about four hundred students, so getting the athletic vote was critical, and most of the jocks didn’t give a hoot who they voted for anyway. In the end it worked out just the way I planned.

I was voted student body president with a fairly large majority of the vote. I had no idea what trouble it would eventually lead me to.

When I was a junior I went steady with a girl named Angela Clark. She was my first real girlfriend, though it lasted for only a few months. Just before school let out for the summer, she dumped me for a guy named Lew who was twenty years old and worked as a mechanic in his father’s garage. His primary attribute, as far as I could tell, was that he had a really nice car. He always wore a white T-shirt with a pack of Camels folded into the sleeve, and he’d lean against the hood of his Thunderbird, looking back and forth, saying things like “Hey, baby” whenever a girl walked by. He was a real winner, if you know what I mean.

Well, anyway, the homecoming dance was coming up, and because of the whole Angela situation, I still didn’t have a date. Everyone on the student council had to attend—it was mandatory. I had to help decorate the gym and clean up the next day—and besides, it was usually a pretty good time. I called a couple of girls I knew, but they already had dates, so I called a few more. They had dates, too. By the final week the pickings were getting pretty slim. The pool was down to the kinds of girls who had thick glasses and talked with lisps. Beaufort was never exactly a hotbed for beauties anyway, but then again I had to find somebody. I didn’t want to go to the dance without a date—what would that look like? I’d be the only student body president ever to attend the homecoming dance alone. I’d end up being the guy scooping punch all night long or mopping up the barf in the bathroom. That’s what people without dates usually did.

Growing sort of panicky, I pulled out the yearbook from the year before and started flipping through the pages one by one, looking for anyone who might not have a date. First I looked through the pages with the seniors. Though a lot of them were off at college, a few of them were still around town. Even though I didn’t think I had much of a chance with them, I called anyway, and sure enough, I was proven right. I couldn’t find anyone, at least not anyone who would go with me. I was getting pretty good at handling rejection, I’ll tell you, though that’s not the sort of thing you brag about to your grandkids. My mom knew what I was going through, and she finally came into my room and sat on the bed beside me.

“If you can’t get a date, I’ll be happy to go with you,” she said.

“Thanks, Mom,” I said dejectedly.

When she left the room, I felt even worse than I had before. Even my mom didn’t think I could find somebody. And if I showed up with her? If I lived a hundred years, I’d never live that down.

There was another guy in my boat, by the way. Carey Dennison had been elected treasurer, and he still didn’t have a date, either. Carey was the kind of guy no one wanted to spend time with at all, and the only reason he’d been elected was because he’d run unopposed. Even then I think the vote was fairly close. He played the tuba in the marching band, and his body looked all out of proportion, as if he’d stopped growing halfway through puberty. He had a great big stomach and gangly arms and legs, like the Hoos in Hooville, if you know what I mean. He also had a high-pitched way of talking—it’s what made him such a good tuba player, I reckon—and he never stopped asking questions. “Where did you go last weekend? Was it fun? Did you see any girls?” He wouldn’t even wait for an answer, and he’d move around constantly as he asked so you had to keep turning your head to keep him in sight. I swear he was probably the most annoying person I’d ever met. If I didn’t get a date, he’d stand off on one side with me all night long, firing questions like some deranged prosecutor.

So there I was, flipping through the pages in the junior class section, when I saw Jamie Sullivan’s picture. I paused for just a second, then turned the page, cursing myself for even thinking about it. I spent the next hour searching for anyone halfway decent looking, but I slowly came to the realization that there wasn’t anyone left. In time I finally turned back to her picture and looked again. She wasn’t bad looking, I told myself, and she’s really sweet. She’d probably say yes, I thought. . . .

I closed the yearbook. Jamie Sullivan? Hegbert’s daughter? No way. Absolutely not. My friends would roast me alive.

But compared with dating your mother or cleaning up puke or even, God forbid . . . Carey Dennison?

I spent the rest of the evening debating the pros and cons of my dilemma. Believe me, I went back and forth for a while, but in the end the choice was obvious, even to me. I had to ask Jamie to the dance, and I paced around the room thinking of the best way to ask her.

It was then that I realized something terrible, something absolutely frightening. Carey Dennison, I suddenly realized, was probably doing the exact same thing I was doing right now. He was probably looking through the yearbook, too! He was weird, but he wasn’t the kind of guy who liked cleaning up puke, either, and if you’d seen his mother, you’d know that his choice was even worse than mine. What if he asked Jamie first? Jamie wouldn’t say no to him, and realistically she was the only option he had. No one besides her would be caught dead with him. Jamie helped everyone—she was one of those equal opportunity saints. She’d probably listen to Carey’s squeaky voice, see the goodness radiating from his heart, and accept right off the bat.

So there I was, sitting in my room, frantic with the possibility that Jamie might not go to the dance with me. I barely slept that night, I tell you, which was just about the strangest thing I’d ever experienced. I don’t think anyone ever fretted about asking Jamie out before. I planned to ask her first thing in the morning, while I still had my courage, but Jamie wasn’t in school. I assumed she was working with the orphans over in Morehead City, the way she did every month. A few of us had tried to get out of school using that excuse, too, but Jamie was the only one who ever got away with it. The principal knew she was reading to them or doing crafts or just sitting around playing games with them. She wasn’t sneaking out to the beach or hanging out at Cecil’s Diner or anything. That concept was absolutely ludicrous.

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