You could only describe Beth Hairston as alluring. Her dad called her Snow White after the 1937 cartoon classic because of her black hair and ivory complexion. The first quality you would take notice of was her bright, azure eyes. Tall, her shapely, long limbs carried her with grace. She ran with the most favored cliques who included the cheerleaders and the stars of the basket and football teams.
When she turned fifteen, her father allowed her to date. Several, male students asked out, but the dates never extended beyond the second one. She could not meet a guy who met her standards and hated boys who moved too fast. One boy took her to the movies. When the movie started; he put his arm over her shoulders, drew her in for a kiss and placed his free hand between her legs. She slapped him and stood. “Never touch me that way again,” she told him and walked away. Her dad always gave her a dime to call him in an emergency. Before she left the theater she phoned him.
Beth wanted a husband resembling to her father. He treated her with respect and held her dear to his heart. Her mother and she sensed how special they were to him. She thought every boy she dated a shallow shell and once it broke they appeared ugly to her. Now at seventeen, she didn’t have a steady boyfriend and was the pure one among her companions. Before God, her dad and mom she declared; she would stay a virgin till she married.
Her nickname came to be “Elsa”. The guys stated she as the image of a frigid princess and ice-cold, but continued to shower her with affection. She remained popular and more of a conquest. Her girl-classmates claimed she would never meet the perfect guy.
While in school, she competed in sports. She showed great promise in track, basket and gymnastics. Despite her athletic prowess, she chose medicine as her career path. One course blocked her path; she struggled with math. From this a spark would ignite, bringing her and Mark Farmer together.
Mark Farmer was a nerd. He came to be the person people liked to pick on the most. Somewhere behind the dark-rimmed glasses he wore, a very handsome boy hid. He had coffee brown hair and big, whisky brown eyes gazing at the world over glasses which always slipped a little too far down on his nose. Seeing Mark push them up with his middle finger always got a laugh out of his peers. Little did they know he used the finger on purpose and for their benefit.
Mark received a lot of teasing for always wearing Khaki pants and navy blue polo shirts, about the way he always wore his shirttail tucked in perfectly, and for the pen pouch he kept tucked in the pocket. The pen pouches often got pulled out and thrown to the floor. Mark faced humiliation every time someone would pull his shirt tail out with a painful wedgey to follow adding further the insult. The taunting remarks would come next. “Is your closet full of khaki pants and navy shirts? Does your mommy write your name on your underwear?” One boy who administered a powerful wedgey announced to everyone, “Well, I don’t believe it, his mommy didn’t stitch his name in the back of his underwear.” Someone else remarked, “Check the front.” The boy laughed. “Not going there, dude.”
Mark wasn’t the athletic type, but was physically strong from riding a bike. He also worked out in his father’s home gym. Beneath those nerdy clothes he hid strong pecs, abs, arms and legs.
Mark, however, never fought back.
He had always been a straight “A” student. His grade point average was at 5.0. Mark had skipped two grades, the sixth and ninth. Now in the 11th grade, he felt oddly out-of-place even though at fourteen his height reached nearly 5’10” and he appeared older. He could easily have gone on to the 12th grade or be in his first year of college, but his father held him back because. Dr. Farmer didn’t want his son being pushed too hard and forced to mature too fast.
Mark found school boring, but he aspired to reach certain scientific degrees. He already knew which direction he wanted to go. He planned out each subject in science and math to help him achieve his goals.
Mark had taken biology and physics during the summer. His present studies included chemistry and Algebra II, and calculus which he was taking online with a few other courses. His only friends were nerds like himself, but he rarely hung out with them. He belonged to the science club and math club and was the extent of his social life. After school he kept mostly to himself; studying, working out, playing video games, or reading.
Mark had one dream he doubted would ever come true.
Her name was Beth.
Beth entered the Algebra II classroom and took a seat. She paid little mind to the boy sitting in the nearby desk. No one paid attention to Mark until they needed someone to pick on or help with an assignment. Charity, her best friend since grade school chose the seat opposite to hers and they continued with the conversation they were having when they walked in.
Beth may have ignored Mark, but he noticed her. He had known of her since his sophomore year. Every time they passed in the hall he would shyly glance at her and even imagined she had smiled at him a time or two. He wished he could speak, but knew once he opened his mouth, he would stutter or say something stupid.
Mark had skipped two grades because of his scores. He held a 5.0 since first grade which made popularity for him even harder. His chances of her ever seeing him as anything but the smart nerd were slim to none. He told himself, as he had so many other times, love with a girl like her was hopeless. How could he, the youngest of the nerds, stand a chance? Still Mark dreamed someday she would be his.
Now here she was, sitting so close to him, the nerd who would never know her love. They were an arm’s length apart. As it was in most classes, these would be their permanent seats. Oh, the irony. He would get to sit next to her, hear her voice and dream.
The first few weeks of school passed slowly by.
Beth often caught Mark staring at her. She thought it cute when he quickly looked away or down at his desk. Beth even considered him handsome if you looked past his geekiness. She often gave him a warm smile. Mark believed she had the most beautiful smile in the world.
Mark overheard Beth tell Charity she barely got through the first year of Algebra. “I must have been crazy to take Algebra II. I’ll never pass.” This bothered him. He wanted so badly to help her, but how? He hardly got pass the word hello without stuttering.
The teacher, Mr. Byzet, was adamant about giving pop quizzes. He would grade the papers at night and pass them out the next day. As Mr. Byzet passed out the test papers one afternoon, he paused beside Beth’s desk. “Miss. Hairston, you have failed again. I suggest you either get a tutor or drop this class.” He looked over at Mark. “Mr. Farmer, how would you like to be Miss. Hairston’s tutor?”
Mark could hardly speak and stammered, “I — I,” He felt as if his heart would leap right out of his chest and do a happy dance on his desk. Mark wanted nothing more than to tutor Beth, but the thought of her saying no would devastate to him.
Beth turned and smiled at him, “Will you Mark?”
She said his name. He felt frozen and unable to speak. A smile came to his lips. All he could muster was a nod.
“We can study here or you can come by my house after school,” Beth said. “Which one would you rather do?”
“Uh, your—your home, I — I guess,” Mark replied in a near whisper, for he felt he was about to lose his voice entirely.
The afternoon came and school let out. Mark went straight to the bike rack and found the red 10 speed he rode to school every day. His heart pounded in his chest all the way to her house. Yes, he knew which one it was. He rode past it every day on his way home from school. He always hoped for a glance of her. He rode up her drive. She wouldn’t be home yet, so he waited on her front porch.
Beth rode the bus home from school. It surprised her to find Mark waiting on the steps of the front porch with his 10 speed parked beside him. “Mark? I didn’t expect you to be here waiting on me.”
Mark stood. “I — I thought we, uh, c-c-could get started.” He had never noticed how much taller he was than she. He rather liked the way she had to lift her eyes to look at his face. Pushing his glasses up on his nose, he said “I thought it, uh, was, was b-b-best just to wait here.”
“Well come on.” She walked to the garage and entered.
Mark followed walking his bike beside him. He parked it in front of a SUV and waited as she opened the door.
Mark wasn’t sure where to start or how much Beth understood. He had tutored other people, but no one ever made him this nervous. Would he be able to explain equations to Beth so she would understand? With these thoughts running through his mind, he pulled off his backpack and opened it. Taking out his algebra book, a spiral notebook and two sharpest pencils from his pencil case; he rested the backpack against the end of the couch. “We will st-st-start off with a few e-equations,” he said as he opened the notebook to a clean sheet of paper.
Beth’s mother entered with a plate of chocolate chip cookies, and two glasses of milk on a tray. She found a spot on the coffee table and sat it down. She looked at Mark with a glint of optimism and said, “Mark, I sure hope you can help her.”
Mark reached for a cookie. “I-I’m going t-to try.”
She smiled at the two young people sitting on the couch. “Beth, I want you to listen to everything Mark says.” She left with a smile and a good feeling about Mark.
“In Algebra,” Mark began and the stutter he had before disappeared, “alphabetical symbols are representative articles of an unknown value, which, by the application of known mathematical functions, we may determine the variable’s value or, at least, its possible values.” — He glanced over at her, — “You don’t know what the hell I am talking about.” A smile came to his face and she noticed a little dimple in his left cheek.
She smiled back.
“It seems complicated,” Mark said, “but it can be fun.” He was in his element now and his comfort level had risen.
She giggled, “I never thought math could be fun.”
“Guess it is all in how you perceive it.” He copied equations down on paper and explained how each symbol had a purpose. “Symbols used in Algebra are not to confuse but to aid in the solving of a problem.” Mark glanced over at her. “Remember mathematics is a game with no objectives. It’s kind of like love. The idea is simple, but it can get very complicated.” Like my feelings for you, he thought
Beth thought it odd he would use love to explain math. “So am I to fall in love with math?”
“Sometimes I think math is my love,” Mark answered and gave a shy smile. It was the means which had brought them together. He felt he could never really have her as a girlfriend, so Mark made the best of this opportunity given him. “Now let’s look at these equations I have written. They are simple, but I think it will lead you to a better understanding.”
Beth liked Mark. She had been afraid the tutoring session would bore her, but Mark surprised with a sense of humor and a charm she never expected. She unconsciously moved a little closer to him. “What is Algebra good for anyway, Mark?” she asked.
Mark shook his head and hoped he could teach her and encourage her to love math as much as he did. “Mathematics is in everything; from the simple task of measuring to bake a cake to figuring out the distance between the stars. Algebra helps you find the answer when there doesn’t seem to be a solution.” He gazed at her over his glasses. “I hope you will someday enjoy math as much as I do.”
“So do I,” she replied and felt suddenly shy. What was it about this boy that made her blush?
Years passed swiftly by.
“Do you still love me?”
He looked at her with a smile and fingered the lace around the collar of her blue dress. “After two children, two houses and a lifetime left to spend with you, what do you think?”
She reached up and touched his cheek. “You still have the twinkle in your eye.”
“I guess my love is showing.”
“I remember in school when you used to look at me. Even back then the twinkle was there.”
He winked. “I loved you the first moment I saw you. The miracle is you fell in love with me.”
She felt herself blush. “You can still make me blush.”
He kissed her tenderly her lips. “Happy Anniversary, Beth.”
“Happy Anniversary, Mark.”
“You will forever be my love.”