The Time Shifter Chapter 7


Advanced Comp, PE, Journalism, Poli Sci, they all went by extremelyslowly for me because I was so focused on seeing Leah (Li-hua). "Leah" was an adopted name because my high school had maybe a totalof about six Asians combined in it and thus asking the students orteachers in that area to pronounce Chinese names correctly was anon-starter. She took that appellation, actually, in elementaryschool because of those issues.

Finally, lunch rolled around. I hurriedly walked out to the area Iremember Li-hua and her friends Tina, Maria and Liz hung out whilethey ate. Maria was actually dating one of the newer male teachers,but she was 18 and a senior and it wasn't the kind of era ofperpetual panic like it is now, so nobody gave a shit because shewas an adult and was capable of making her own decisions. Maria wasa totally nice, decent girl, btw.

Anyway, I sat on the brick planter and it wasn't long before theyshowed up. I greeted each one but showed special enthusiasm, ofcourse, for Li-hua. She was 5'2" or thereabouts. I have no idea whather weight was. Maybe 100 pounds? She was a tad hippy with just ahint of a soft belly, long beautiful, curly black hair that sheusually wore in a pony tail and maybe B cups. Maybe. Her skin was onthe dark end of the scale for a Chinese and she had a small mouththat often turned up into the cutest little smile. "So how iseverybody's first day of school going?' I asked. They all gaverather bland answers, as I did.

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   Then I asked them how they spenttheir summers. I remember spending mine either playing pickup gamesof basketball or baseball or going to the beach. Li-hua's family hadsomehow escaped China during the revolution in 1949 and eventuallymade their way to the U. S. , where they opened a well regardedChinese restaurant. Li-hua revealed that she had spent a lot of hervacation toiling, like she did during the school year, too, at thatbusiness. I admired her family for their gumption, but I'm sure theyexpected a lot of her. AFAIK, Li-hua never had any boyfriends duringher three years of high school (this was before middle schoolsbecame the rage), which I always thought was weird because she wasjust such a great girl. Maybe she just wasn't given enough time todate.

I was on pins and needles waiting for an opening to ask Li-hua out. The lunch ending bell rang and the four girls went their separateways. I went with Li-hua. "Hey Li-hua, let's go to dinner Fridaynight," I proposed. "Sorry Ricky, I can't. I have to work at myfamily's restaurant.

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  " "Well, when aren't you working?" "We're closedMonday," she revealed. "Cool! How about we go out then?" "I'll askmy father and see what he says," she promised. "Hey listen Li-hua, Ithink you're really great. You know me. It's not like I'm going todo anything bad with you. " "I know, Ricky. But my dad is prettyconservative when it comes to that stuff. " "Yeah, I can understandhow he would want to protect his beautiful daughter. " That last linemade her blush briefly. We got to her classroom and I had to turnand go to my British Lit class. "Well, see you tomorrow Li-hua!""Bye Ricky!" she offered sweetly.

Now keep in mind this was before cellphones and the internet, sobarring her calling me via a landline rotary phone, and I hadn'tgiven her my number, I would have to wait until I saw her at schoolthe next day for a yes or no. I didn't know if she was blowing meoff by lying to me or what. THAT was a long ass night and first fourperiods of school that Tuesday. It also didn't help that it wasfucking hot, as it usually is in Southern California in September,and our school didn't have air conditioning.

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   That made the wait forlunch even WORSE.

So during lunch, here comes Li-hua. "My dad wants to know wherewe'll be going and how long we'll be gone. " "Jesus Christ, Li-hua,your dad is strict!" "Tell me about it," she giggled. I told her Iwas going to take her to a restaurant that I'm not going to namehere near the mall not far from school and that we probably wouldn'tbe gone anymore than two, two and a half hours. She replied shewould relay that to her dad. I wrote my number on a piece of paperand gave it to her and told her to call me and tell me yes or no.  She said she would.

She took the bus home, so I knew that I had at least a couple hoursto kill after school. I went to a chain guitar store one city overfrom the one I was living in and bought a Gibson Les Paul, a FenderStrat, a Gibson Explorer, a Gibson Flying V and a Marshall 100 watthalf stack plus guitar stands and cables for them. After I took themhome, I went to a local record shop and purchased about 20 albums Iwanted to nick tunes off of plus a better stereo system than what mybrother and I had at the time. Listening to those albums and thengetting them down on guitar helped pass the time. This was an erabefore anyone had cable tv, so all you had was the three bignetworks and a bunch of independent stations that played all rerunsand that nobody watched plus a couple PBS stations. So your choiceswere EXTREMELY limited and even for the time the programming qualitysucked hard.

I heard the phone ring and dashed like a bat out of hell down thestairs (yes, we only had one phone for the entire household! Imaginethat!) to get it.

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   My heart was pounding like a motherfucker. "HiRicky, it's Leah. " "Hi Li-hua. So what did your dad say?" "He saidwe can be out for the two and a half hours, but that's all. " "Great!I enthused. "So how are you doing tonight? Are you busy?" "Yeah,kinda. It's off and on. " "It's rather a long day for you, huh?""Yeah. It's a lot of work. " "Well, I better let you get back to it,then. Take care Li-hua. " "Bye Ricky. "

Now the question was what would her dad think of my long hair, whichat the time was down to the middle of my back? I know I wouldn'thave given a fuck and I shouldn't have. I thought her dad would havepreferred me to get her home earlier, so I told Li-hua I would pickher up at 6:30. She gave me directions to her house and now it wasjust a matter of waiting until Monday.

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I bought a bunch of new clothes because I needed to, as well as newshoes. I also asked Li-hua how I could get on her dad's good side. She didn't give me much of an answer other than giggling that Ishould learn Mandarin Chinese. I would have had no objection tothat, but at that time they taught that only on the university leveland not high school like today. Also, the bookstores back then werepretty sucky and all they would have had would have been touristChinese kind of guides and it would have been for Hong Kong orTaiwan anyway, which have their own dialects.

Monday finally came and I drove up to Li-hua's house, which lookedlike any other ranch style home in that area, a few minutes early. Inervously knocked on the door and she answered. Both of her parentswere at work, so I guess I didn't have to meet them yet, but I didhave to drop her off at their restaurant. We got into my car and offwe went to the restaurant near school, which was basically aglorified steakhouse. I hated having to hurry through my meal, but Iasked Li-hua to tell me about her family and then I told her aboutmine while we ate and, just as I thought, she had never had aboyfriend before. I couldn't understand it.

I did manage to get her to her folks' restaurant in time. I didn'twant to just leave her in the parking lot, so I walked her to thedoor and said hello to her parents, but that was about it. Tuesday,when I saw her at lunch, I asked her what her parents said about mewhen I stuck my head in. Not much, apparently other than they wereglad I kept my promise to get her back in the allotted time.

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   I thenasked if she wanted to go to the zoo Saturday. She thought thatwould be doable. Her parents gave the okay as long as I had her backby 6 p. m. before the evening dinner rush. That was going to betough. I love zoos and would have liked to spend a leisurely dayrather than a forced march because we were going all the way down toSan Diego, but oh well. I wondered if her folks were testing me. They and I were definitely battling for Li-hua's time.

The day at the zoo with her was pretty mellow. I finally went for itand held her hand as we walked from exhibit to exhibit, I  guess youcould call them. We sat down to have lunch just after noon  and Iasked her if her parents would ever give us enough time to really doit right when it came to dating. She smiled shyly and said that shedidn't know. Then she asked me, "so how come you didn't ask me outtwo years ago?". During the time she alluded to, I had justtransferred into that high school from another one I hated and shewas seated across the room from me in my English Lit class.


   So Iguess she definitely knew I was interested. I did catch her eyesquite a few times and she would smile back at me. I answered that Ireally wasn't ready yet for a real relationship (which was thetruth) and couldn't take her anywhere due to not having a car ormoney.   And, to be frank, I didn't think I was good enough for her.

We finished eating and I wrapped my left arm around her and pulledher into me as we stood up and kissed her. It was just a shortseries of pecks on her lips. I knew she wasn't the type who wasgoing to get into major tongue tussling in public, but it reallybroke the ice and we both relaxed after that. Of course, being a 50year old man in a 17 year old's body, I knew how to talk to womenmuch better than when I was an actual teenager, so the date went alot smoother than it would have back in the day.

We left the zoo at four and I got her to her family's restaurantwith about 15 minutes to spare. Her parents came out to greet us andthen her father sat down and asked what my intentions with herdaughter were and what I was going to do with my future. I respondedthat I was dating Li-hua with every intention of one day marryingher and I was going to go to college when I graduated high school. Ialso promised that I would never hurt her and take care of herbecause she was such a great girl. I said all this very intentlybecause I meant it and he seemed to pick up on that. Then I pulledout the trump card and said I would like to make dinner for her andher family one of these days. "Well, we're already here, why don'tyou do it for us now?" he insisted.

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   "Okay Mr. Cheng, let me call myparents and tell them I won't be home for dinner and then we can getstarted," I advocated.

An hour later, the four of us finished off the meal I cooked in theback of the restaurant. "This is really good!" Mr. Cheng praised. "You want a job here?" "Thanks for the kind offer, Mr. Cheng, but myparents want me to focus on my studies," I lied. Li-hua knew thatwas a fib and needled me about it at school the next day. Nonetheless, I was in like Flynn (kids, ask your grandparents whatthat means!) with her folks now. Mr. Cheng asked me how I learned tocook Chinese food like that and I lied again, saying that cookingwas a hobby of mine. The other thing that helped was even at thatage I was pretty well spoken, a product of all the reading I haddone in my life as well as the discussions I had over the dinnertable with my parents on a whole panoply of subjects. I wasn't justsome inarticulate clodhopper as most teenage guys are.

What worked for Li-hua was that as often snarky and difficult as Iwas in the classroom or with people on campus, she saw the kindnessin my nature and knew that she would always be safe with me andliked that I had a brain. So that date was very productive and herparents began to slacken up on the amount of rope they doled out toLi-hua.

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That Monday, and for the first time ever, I began arriving at schoolearly to meet her bus. My pattern had been to get there barelybefore the five minute warning bell preceding first period. I tookher hand and we went out to the amphitheater, had a seat and I puther on my lap and hugged her tightly, exchanging more short kisses. "Hey babe, let's go back to your place right after school. You canchange into your bathing suit and we can hit the beach for a while,change and then go have dinner. How about it?" "I don't own abathing suit," she giggled. "You will," I laughed.

We stopped off at my place, where I changed into swim shorts and at-shirt, tossed my regular clothes and a couple of towels into abag, snagged my acoustic guitar and brought the whole mess out tothe car before making a quick stop at the supermarket for charcoal,lighter fluid and some matches. Then it was on to her house so shecould tell her folks where we were going. About 40 minutes later, wewere at the beach. I took her to a  surfwear shop and bought her ayellow bikini and cajoled her into wearing it out. We left herregular clothes in the car, from which I also picked up the grillingsupplies and my six string. Except I wasn't going to grill anything. We went out to a fire pit, I emptied the entire contents of thecharcoal bag and a good portion of the lighter fluid into it andignited, soon giving us a nice warm fire.

I tuned the guitar up and started singing the Eagles' "Best of MyLove" to her and then Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle" and Crosby,Stills and Nash's "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.

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  " "So what other talents doyou have I don't know about?" she wondered. ""Wouldn't you like toknow?" I archly rejoindered, causing her to giggle. Fuck, that smileof hers was just slaying me! On the serenade went. The JeffersonAirplane's "Come Up the Years," "Uncle John's Band" by the GratefulDead, "Thunder Road" by Bruce Springsteen and Aerosmith's "DreamOn. "

I put the guitar down and we had a nice snuggle and snog. "I hopethis doesn't sound lame, Li-hua, but you're a flat out fox. You'reso bitchin'" I enthused, trying to maintain era appropriateteenspeak. She giggled and the making out became rather passionate,the firelight putting a radiant glow to her cute little face.

By that time, the marine layer was coming in off the ocean and thetemperature was dropping rapidly. We returned to my car and shepulled her clothes on over her bikini and I slid my shorts off realquick and threw my pants on plus some shoes and socks and drove to anearby funky little fish restaurant, where we ate before I took herhome. "That was fun. We  need to do that again," I told her. "I hada lot of fun, too, Ricky. It's nice actually getting out once in awhile. " "Isn't it though? Especially when the company is someonelike you, Li-hua.


  " I kissed her good night and she went inside.

I wasn't going to turn 18, though, until almost a year later, so wecouldn't do much beyond the usual teenage stuff. I definitely wasn'tgoing to take her virginity in my car. That would have been crass. On our next date, though, I did undo her blouse and bra, feel her upand suck on her little nipples for a bit in the backseat in a darkcorner of a park parking lot near where I resided with my family. Unfortunately, I was tagged out at third, I guess you could say. SoI have no idea if what I was doing was making her wet. If she wasmoaning while I suckled her milk ducts she suppressed them quitewell. It didn't matter, though. I just loved being with her. She wasreally sensible and a good governor on some of my more mercurialimpulses.