So after months of feeling like crap, I decided the time to move on was here at last. I also realized that I needed some extra money. Spring was beginning and this college girl needed new clothes, so I went to Sherry, the mall manager and asked her if I could work at the Easter Bunny booth during the season. She said sure and that is when, oddly enough, the rest of my life began.
I worked the picture booth taking the pictures several times and it was just fine. I was the bunny once and it sucked. It was hot and smelly inside that stupid paper mache head. It was not conducive to getting drinks of water or scratching your nose. It was also confusing. Does the bunny talk? Does the bunny just pat the little ones on the head and send them away? The bunny doesn’t have fingers, so the bunny helper gave the little kids a lollipop and coloring book which took off some of the pressure. Also, it seemed the stupid, stinky head harbored germs. I did my stint as the bunny and came down with a horrific, snotty, sneazy cold. I didn’t want to be the bunny on my next shift like I was scheduled to be. I wouldn’t be able to breathe or wipe my nose or get drinks. I knew there was a teenage boy working the booth with me, so I called him at home and asked him if he would don the stupid suit for me the next day. Of course he said yes. Initial contact had been made.
The next day, I went to work in a shortish blue and white striped dress, a red belt that was one of those super cool Limited slouch belts and red heels. Popped collar and carefully curled hair accompanied the outfit. I was 80’s hot and I felt great, in spite of the snot. I walked into the mall office to get my bunny stuff and my savior was sitting there with his elbows on his knees staring at the floor. His first glimpse of me was those red, red shoes. In retrospect, it was like a silly scene from a movie. He looked at the shoes and scanned up to my face, swallowed really hard, regained his 18-year-old composure in the face of my 20-year-old sophistication, cleared his throat and popped out a manly “HI!” I knew exactly who he was and that he was there to save my butt, but of course I had to act like I was not sure who he was. “Oh, are you Mark?” When he responded in the affirmative, I helped him get in the stupid suit, picked up the cash box, grabbed our elderly mall-cop escort and headed out into center court for our shift.
It was a really slow night, so I stood over by the bunny and talked to him. It was really nice. He was a nice person. He sympathized with my cold and told me that he would do bunny duty for the remainder of the season whenever we worked together. I was appreciative, he was nice. When we got our break, I stopped at the popcorn store on the way back to the office and bought us a couple of cokes while our elderly escort took him on back. We had a half hour break because of the heat of the suit, and we sat in the empty mall office the entire time talking. We talked about my school, his school, our friends, spring, the mall, Easter, the bunny suit, Kings Island, cars, food, the lake, our families, music and on and on. Every time we worked together, we did the same thing. We’d talk. About everything. We’d get bored at the booth because weeknights were slow, so I’d grab the basket of suckers, take my bunny friend by the arm and we’d walk around the mall looking for little kids. We became friends. Really good friends.
Finally toward the end of Easter Bunny season, we decided to go out and hang out after work that weekend. We were buddies and we enjoyed each other’s company. I was not interested in him in a boyfriend kind of way at all. I was done with that remember? He was cute. Very, very blonde and he had nice legs, but I really didn’t care. I also couldn’t imagine actually going out with a boy two years younger than me. I had just never thought of such a thing. So with that knowledge firmly stuck in my brain, we got off work Saturday night, left my car at the mall, got in his car and proceeded to cruise around for hours. Talking. We decided we didn’t want to actually go anywhere so we just drove. It was a pattern what is still repeating itself to this day. Drive and talk. Stop for a snack and a potty break, drive and talk some more. By the time he took me back to the mall for my car, it was obvious that our hanging out had evolved into a date. We decided to do it again.
We went out every chance we had. We did all the usual stuff, movies, hanging out with friends, eating out etc., but the thing we enjoyed more than anything else was either driving around alone, or sitting by the lake or the river someplace with a picnic and talking. We talked more than I had ever talked to anyone else in my life. We really got to know one another and like one another as human beings. After about a month of this, he invited me to his prom. I did not hesitate for even one second. I had been out of high school for two years and my undying wish was to go to another dance. So I got a beautiful white, full length halter dress, told none of my friends and went to prom. We had a blast.
After prom, he graduated and we proceeded to spend the entire summer going to Kings Island Amusement Park. He had worked there for several summers and I had been hanging out there for years. We had our season passes and we wore them out. Part-time work doesn’t provide lots of cash for dating, so KI was a great way to actually go somewhere and have fun. We’d split sodas and snacks and stay there all day til it closed. Then we’d drive back roads home and then sit on the porch swing at my house and talk. We’d been talking all day and we could still talk half the night on that swing. Sometime in June, he told me he was going into the Air Force in August. THAT sucked. I had previous experience with boys going in the service and it was awful and I didn’t want to go through it again. For some reason though, I decided to put up with it. I didn’t want to lose this boy who it seemed was the perfect person for me. We were attracted to each other of course, but our emotional and mental connection was unparalleled. We suited each other in every way but especially in the ways that count. We were friends. We were each in love with our best friend. So we continued to spend each and every available moment together and at the end of August he left. I went from being happy again to being sad again, but in a completely different way.