December 8, 1951
Six months younger than Mitchell, Susan would be seventeen in February.
An exceptionally pretty girl, beyond her face, however, Susan was fairly average. Standing a bit above five foot, six and a half inches, she weighed 132 pounds, was extremely light-completed, and, according to her, would like her breasts to be larger, her waist narrower, her hips and buttocks curvier, and her legs more shapely. In truth Susan Friedman did not have the kind of figure that caused boys to drool, drop their hot dogs and follow her down the beach. A very good student, due to her parents’ urging she strongly believed that the better things in life came only to those with a superior college education.
Many of Susan’s classmates came from families that were considerably more affluent than the Friedmans, which gave her somewhat of an inferiority complex that she covered by being standoffish and a bit of a loner. Consequently, between her shyness and aloof attitude—much like Mitchell before his transfer to Niles Township High School—her fellow students thought Susan to be stuck-up, and although she did have dates, they were infrequent and she often went through bouts of loneliness.
She loved her parents dearly, and though her father was fairly successful at his sales job, Susan knew that they could have much more in the way of prestige and monetary benefits if he were able to work in the field he had trained for. But now too many years had passed for him to start anew in engineering.
The Friedmans lived well, but not nearly as well as Rose had lived before she’d married Eric, when she lived in the big house in Wilmette with her parents.
“How’s about tomorrow?” Standing hand in hand on the steps between the entry and first floor, “Can I see you tomorrow?”
“I’d love to see you tomorrow, Mitch, but I don’t want my parents to think that we’re moving too fast. But…” thinking, she looked at the ceiling. “Look, call me tomorrow at about, uh, eleven. Tell me you’re going to take your brothers sledding… Think they’ll want to go?”
“Sledding? You kidding? They’ll love it!”
“Okay, then. When you call, tell me you’re going sledding with…?”
“Larry and Mortie.”
“Yes, Larry and Mortie. Tell me you’re going sledding with your brothers and wondered if Butchie and I want to go along… Think your dad’ll let you take the car again?”
“You kidding? If my dad can get Larry’n’Mortie out’a the house so he has nothing to do but lay around and read the paper all day he’ll probably even fill the tank… But what about your parents? They going to want you and your brother away from them on a Sunday?”
Smiling, “You kidding? My mom and dad love being alone. I don’t know what they do…” She blushed. “Well, maybe I do, but they love being alone and you’ll be a real hero to them and Butchie.”
“Being a hero’s okay.” He smiled. “Okay, let’s try it.”
Walking up the three remaining steps, Susan looked down at Mitchell.
The hallway being warm, Susan’s coat was unbuttoned and, putting his hands on the slight curve of her hips, looking into her face, “Thank you.” he said.
“For lots of stuff. For being you. For taking a chance on me. And most of all—and I still can’t believe it—for telling me you love me.”
“Mitchie, don’t be silly.” Taking his head between her hands, Susan kissed his forehead, then, in an emotional, spontaneous move, pressed it against her chest.
Putting his arms about her waist, holding her tightly, he could feel and hear the reverberation of Susan’s heart. He smelled the spicy fragrance of her perfume and sensed the gentle, soft swell of Susan’s breasts upon either side of his face… Surprisingly, he did not get an erection, and felt as though he could stand there, like this, for the rest of his life, but, in a few all too short seconds…
“I’d better go in now.” Susan kissed him lightly on the mouth, opened the unlocked door, backed into the apartment, mouthed “I love you,” and threw him one last kiss.
Returning the kiss, Mitchell also silently mouthed, “I love you.”
“Hey, Mom, Dad,” he called from the front door, “I’m home!” And received the reaction he’d expected.
In the den, watching television, “Straw’s cheaper than hey!” his mother said.
And, “Glad you’re home,” his father said. “Weather reports say the streets are getting pretty bad out there.”
“Nah, the streets ain’t all that bad!” And again got the reaction he had expected.
“Ain’t ain’t in the dictionary, Mitchell!”
“Dad,” in the den, sitting on the edge of the desk, astonishing both his parents, “That offer you made to send me to R.I.T.,” Mitchell asked, “it’s still open, isn’t it?”
Glancing at his wife, Walter looked at his son. “Why?”
“I’ve changed my mind, Dad. I do want to go!”
“Mitchell, when I suggested R.I.T., it was because I thought it would be an investment in your future, and the studio’s. But when’s the last time you even set foot in the studio? Also, when I made the offer you still had two years left in high school, and maybe, just maybe, if you worked your tuchas off, maybe you’d have made it. But now, with… what? Less than six months to go before graduation you suddenly want to go to college! Forget it! You’ll never make it!”
“Dad, are you telling me that if I do pass the entrance exam, and if R.I.T. does accept me, you won’t keep your bargain?”
“Bargain? What bargain? Two years ago I told you that if you worked your ass off and got accepted to R.I.T. I’d pay. You’ve worked your ass off? Since when?”
“Mitchie, what’s this all about? This has something to do with the girl you met today, hasn’t it?”
“Mom, “Appealing to his mother because he thought she, rather than his father, would better understand. “I know this’ll sound really strange, but I love her.”
Not getting quite the reaction he’d expected from his mother… “Love? You just met her! You just want to get laid.”
Wincing at her words, “No, Mom! That’s why I know I love her, I don’t want to get laid! Look, I know you and dad have always been after me to work harder in school, and I know that I’ve always been a screw-up, but that’s all changed now. I’ve got to go to R.I.T., and I don’t care what it takes, or how hard I’ve got to work to do it.”
“You’ve had girlfriends before. Remember how you raved about Sally? And that lasted…? What, about two weeks?
The time with Sally, not counting the time he’d spent trying to get her to go out with him again, actually lasted four days.
“What makes you think that you and this girl will even be together that long? You don’t know a thing about her! You’ve only been with her tonight. What makes you even think you love her?”
“Why? Because of the way we met. Because… You won’t believe this, but I knew I loved her from the second I saw her… And believe it or not, she told me that she felt the same way then, too. And I know,” he said with finality, looking at his mother, “that Susan will be my wife! And she will be the mother of your grandchildren… That’s if I get into R.I.T.!”
Silent a few seconds, looking from her son to her husband, digesting “grandchildren.” “It’s so important, R.I.T.? Why not Wright?”
“You don’t understand, Mom. Wright’s a junior college. It’s not that all of a sudden I want to go to college, to any college; it’s that Susan’s a real good student! And her and her parents believe in a really good college education, and when I first got there tonight I got grilled by her parents like you wouldn’t believe.”
“You meet a girl you say you love, and suddenly college—and not just any college, but the Rochester Institute of Technology—becomes the most important thing in your life! And I’m to pay for it?”
“Dad, I told you, everything’s changed now. I want to go to R.I.T.! I want to work with you! I want to be part of the studio!”
Walter looked at Myra, who shrugged her shoulders.
“So, Walt,” she asked, “you think he’ll pass the entrance exam?”
“Not in a million years! I’d make book on it.”
“Okay, so if he’ll never get in, we can afford to be generous.”
“Okay,” jabbing his well-known finger in his son’s direction, “if you work your ass off,” jab, “if you pass the entrance exam,” jab, “your mother and I will pay for college.”
Taking a deep breath, “Thank you!” coming off the edge of the desk, kneeling in front of the sofa, “You won’t be sorry.” He hugged his father, “Thank you!” then his mother.
“Yeah? Don’t thank us so fast; you’ve got to get accepted first.”
“Don’t worry, Dad, I will!”
Beginning to leave the room, “Oh, yeah,” turning back, “when you meet Susan, don’t mention how I’ve been in school up to now, because she thinks I’m a B-plus student.”
“Mitchie, that’s no way to start out with a girl you say you love and are going to marry, by lying.”
“I know, Mom, I hated doing it, but you had to be there to understand.
Oh, by the way, if I can use the car, I’ll take Larry and Mortie sledding tomorrow.”
“Jesus Christ!” Walter said, “You’re volunteering to take your brothers someplace?”
“I’ll be damned!” Myra said. “When did you say you were getting married?”