11 months later...

I expect the trial to come along next spring. My best friend since grade school, Mary Anne Smith, has been charged with aggravated assault and attempted murder. I imagine a change of venue is inevitable, which is a huge disappointment for most of the people here in town, who were looking forward to the spectacle. Wasn't everyday that the star quarterback of the state champion football team gets almost killed by some little girl no one had ever heard of (Would be two time state champs, 'cept for that fumble by that Chitwood kid in the quarterfinal game against Biloxi the year before. At least he had enough sense to leave town. Just thought you should know that).

This is how the whole thing unfolded, at least from my vantage point. I blame mother nature. Let me start with that. If the summer after our junior year had treated Mary the way it treated me, she would have returned to school with the laser zapped eyes her grandfather bought for her in Memphis and the newly straightened teeth her Mom supplied, finally freed from the braces. Other than that, she would have been just another of the nameless faceless. But old mother nature wouldn't leave well enough alone. In just three months, she had given Mary a body that stopped traffic and caused a considerable amount of brick damage to that storefront on Mason street (the workers had seen her walking by in a halter top and lost track of three rows). She had, in fact, grown the most amazing breasts many of us had ever seen. Larger than seemed appropriate for a girl 5 foot 2 and with the ability to defy gravity. Girls at the school swore they were man made and would make comments like She must have heavy shoes so she don't fly away and Watch out for the teacher's lounge, the microwave is on, we don't want you to melt. "Jealousy is hell," I told Mary. Which is true, of course.

So she returned to school with this amazing body and although pleased with it, had no idea the effect it had on people. Especially boys. Boys who had never even spoken to us were carrying our trays and treating us like we were actual people. It was a rush, I won't deny it. But that was not the incredible part. The amazing part was when noticed her. Michael. He was in between girlfriends and had been told about this whole ugly duckling into swan thing going on. So one day, I think it was November, he walked over to our locker and said the most amazing thing:

How y'all doin'...

That's what he said, as if we were significant people, like a coach or a college scout or someone who had access to a keg party. We were too dumbfounded to say even one syllable, so we stood in awkward silence. He grinned, teeth bright like searchlights, shook his head, and walked away. I am sure we both pinched ourselves three times.

So what happened next was this: Michael strolled in and out of lives and Mary, amazed to even have him speaking to her, just stared out into space. She was scared mainly, thinking he was going to make fun of her or something. It never occurred to her he might take it as playing hard to get, which is exactly how he didtake it. Michael, for all his wonderful qualities, is not the brightest light bulb on the marquee.

So he upped the ante, not wanting to lose at this. He was unaccustomed to losing at anything, 'course. Started sending her flowers, buying her Mom candy, and getting her Dad football tickets for an Ole Miss game (it wasn't the Bama game, but it was the thought that counts). He's a charmer, ain't no doubt about that. Finally, about Christmas time he drove up to her house in his little BMW and actually asked her out. Like a regular person. She said yes, of course, and so the dating began.

Many of us, including yours truly, thought it would last a month, tops. But a second major development entered the picture. A college scout from Auburn had come to town to and signed Michael to a letter of intent. There was a news conference, and reporters from Memphis, Birmingham and Jackson, the whole shindig. That was the good news; the bad news was it was all contingent on his test scores (barely good enough) and grades (awful). Without a good tutor and some serious work, Auburn would take the field the next fall without our golden boy. Hope appeared lost. Until I remembered that Mary was just a few points from a merit scholarship. She could (would, of course) be the answer. She become the answer.

Michael had the best of both worlds. Of course, it was how things worked out for him most the time. A very much in love, good-looking girlfriend and a willing tutor and study guide. In the same package. Now, whether she actually wrote his final term paper is a subject of much debate. I don't think that will come out until the trial, I expect. The long and short of it was this: He got straight B's in his courses (A in gym class, of course) and was all set. For Michael it was set. For Mary, it was the beginning of the end.

I tried to warn her, seriously I did. I used the words "used" and "taken" and all that, but she didn't listen: the one month fling was going on nine months. She reminded me of this often. It became July and they were still dating, she was sure I was wrong (he was dating others by then, but she didn't know it). I knew the fall from grace would be hard, but I didn't know the half of it.

He broke it off over the phone, the coward.   Then he left town in the middle of the night for Auburn and she and I were left to cry over milkshakes the next day. I could tell she was crushed (who wouldn't be, this is Thor we're talking about, OK?) but I couldn't believe what she told me:

He said it was forever, he let me drive his car and he said we were gonna get married, we drove up to the mall and looked at rings..

OK, even I was amazed at this part, Wow, the gall.

I thought that would be the end. He would go on to stardom and fame, while Mary would go off to school and marry some auditor with asthma. Just as God intended. I left for Ole Miss the second week of August, but Mary stayed at home. She was spending all of her time in the basement of her parents' home with Prozac and old Doris Day movies. I didn't think anything else would happen.

When I heard the report on the evening news, I knew. Well, as soon as I heard the part about the quarterback and the jilted girlfriend, well, honest,  at that point I knew it was them. The details, as I know them, are this. She had driven down to Auburn without telling anyone. Had found him at some frat party and not surprisingly, he didn't even notice her. She walked right up to him, in front of dozens of people and gave him a big hug, and a surprise. I would've loved to see his face. Because the hug included a hypodermic needle and 4 ccs of HIV-infected blood Mary had gotten at a research lab outside of Oxford.

I hear that Mary is going to plead insanity, which only makes sense. A boy like that will make you crazy, ain't no doubt about that.

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