I was in seventh grade when I first met Jason Harter. He was absolutely gorgeous, but he was just a friend. We were in a special math class for geniuses together and he sat next to me.
Truthfully, I hardly noticed him then. I had a huge crush on Bruce Boxer, who sat in front of me. But Bruce barely knew I existed and there started my pattern of loving guys from afar.
It wasn’t until eighth grade that Jason and I became friends-best friends in English class, that I first noticed he was actually a guy. My friend, Pamela Bronson, told me she had a crush on him and I took it upon myself to tell him she liked him.
I found Jason swinging on the high bar during lunch and said, “Hey, Jason. Pamela likes you.”
He flipped off the bar and said, “No she doesn’t.”
I insisted, “Yes, she does. She told me she does.”
He said, “No, she doesn’t, Mel.”
We went back and forth like that until we reached our fifth period classes. His was next door to mine. I found it really odd that he refused to believe someone had a crush on him. Why was that? Was it because he didn’t want Pamela to like him or was it he didn’t think anyone could like him?
The following week in English class, our teacher, Mrs. Berents announced, “I’d like you to form in to groups. We are going to begin working on newspapers this week.”
Since Jason sat behind me, I turned to him and asked, “Do you want to work together?”
He nodded and said, “Yeah, that sounds good, Melanie.” We got down to planning for the rest of the period.
The following weekend, I was actually home for the weekend rather than at practice for figure skating. I was five foot nine and way too tall to be a figure skater, but I was considered very good- even possible Olympic material.
I was in my room dancing around to some oldies when my mother walked in my room and announced, “There’s a boy named Jason on the phone.”
I walked to the phone a bit baffled as to how he got my phone number since I never gave it to him and answered, “Hi, Jason. What’s up?”
He said, “Hi, Melanie. Here’s the weather report I wrote. ’The weather will be whatever Jason and Melanie want it to be since this is their paper and no one else’s. So there!’ What do you think?”
I laughed and answered, “It’s absolutely brilliant! Keep it! I’m still working on the Sports section and the Life Section. Did you want to write me a letter so I could give you advice?”
Jason replied, “Sure. I’ll write you about my little sister, Catherine. She drives me insane. Did I tell you I showed your picture to my stepmother? She said, ‘Ooh, Jason! Is that your girlfriend? She’s sooo cute!’”
I laughed not knowing what to say. I sort of half liked him then. He was so cute with his dirty blond hair and beautiful blue eyes that reached into my soul. He was taller than me, which was a huge plus in my book. He knew me better than my best friends, Susan Potter, Renée Klaus and Jane Baden. We hung up and I returned to my dancing not giving Jason another thought.
Not ten minutes later, my mother walked in smiling and said, “It’s Jason again. I think he likes you.”
I said, “No he doesn’t. We’re working on a newspaper together for English class.” I think it was my mother who really planted the seed that I really liked Jason as a prospective boyfriend.
Twenty minutes later, Jason called again to ask me for input on the newspaper we were doing. I should have told him whatever he decided was fine but I didn’t. I liked the calls too much.
He called several more times that day, one of which was to inform me he went to a local store to buy a black marker. As if it was terribly important for me to know that.
The following day, I worked on the sports section and completed it in a couple of hours without needing to call Jason about every detail.
When I saw Jason the following day, he’d written the letter for the Life section of our newspaper, so I got to work answering it.
All through lunch that day, Susan and I had a discussion about the boys we liked. She was dating a really hot guy who went to Madison High School about a mile and a half from Holt Junior High (or Holt Juvenile Hall, as Susan called it) were we were currently interred.
Susan, flipped her ramrod straight dark brown hair and asked, “So, Mel, who is it you like?”
I shrugged and answered, “Jason Harter.”
“God, Melanie! Jason Harter! He’s not worthy of you.”
“I’m the one who’s not worthy of him. Look at him! He’s gorgeous! He’s really nice, courteous and really sweet. I think I’m in love with him.”
Jane commented, “Might I remind you you’re already going together with Michael Edison, Mel?”
I replied, “I’m aware of that. It’s just that he doesn’t do it for me the way Jason does. Michael is nice, I suppose, but I’m still not sure why he picked me. He’s so pompous. Besides, I’m a sucker for pretty boys. Remember last year when I liked Tom Tsoukalas? He was gorgeous.”
Renée nodded and said, “Mel, no one’s ever seen Jason with a girl before. I’m not completely sure he likes them. He’s always nice to girls, but…”
I sighed and said, “I should just dump Michael. I don’t even really like him as boyfriend material. He’s much better as a friend. And frankly I’m tired of half the school coming up and asking me if we’re really going together. What’s that about?”
Susan shrugged and replied, “Maybe they think you’re too good for him.”
I commented, “It’s more likely the reverse. You know how evil those popular people are. They love making life miserable wherever possible among us not so popular people. I hate them so much! Kristen Yamamoto and Joanne Palmer are the most evil of the bunch.”
Susan, Jane and Renée all nodded in agreement. The popular kids at our school weren’t particularly nice to the non-popular kids. In fact, they went out of their way to be cruel to them.
Later that day, I broke it to Michael that we were through. He actually took it quite well. It was as if he wasn’t that into me either. If that was the case, why were we even together in the first place? Michael was more of a friend than anything.
After Michael and I broke up, I returned to pining over Jason. It wasn’t as though I sat around and waited for him to start liking me. I had little crushes on other guys that last little more than a couple of weeks, but none of them compared to Jason.
The worst part about it was that we were really good friends. I knew everything about him. Every fact he told me about his life I stored away in my mind like a jewel in a safe. His parents were divorced and both were remarried to other people.
His father was the director of “Tahiti P.I.”, a long running show, which was in its seventeenth season. Jason seemed to be very close to his mother, but he was a Cancer, so it made sense.
Everyday at school, I waited until he rode into the bike lot, so I could have my first glimpse of him.
My best friends were the only ones aware of my feelings for Jason. I’d have been the laughing stock of school if anyone else knew. I could imagine everyone saying, “Can you believe it, Melanie Yates likes Jason Harter? Who does she think she is?”
I was at the movies one weekend with a friend and saw him walk in with whom I assumed was his father and sister.
After the movie was over, he was walking behind me and made a point to tap me on the shoulder and say, “Hi, Melanie.” Of course, I was aware of his whereabouts during the whole film.
I nonchalantly replied, “Hi, Jason.”
The following day during English, Jason asked me, “So, how’d you like the movie?”
I shrugged and replied, “It was alright.” I always made it a point to keep my cool around him.
He asked, “Who was that girl you were with? I didn’t recognize her.”
I answered, “She’s a friend who has a thing for my brother, Mark.”
He simply nodded.
During class, we got our results back from the newspapers we all did. Jason and I scored the highest in the class with our newspaper. I was so excited I impulsively grabbed his hand. I didn’t even see what his reaction was. I was sure it wasn’t good.
I didn’t see Jason again till lunch. We never had lunch together. He hung out with his friends and I hung out with mine, although I did spend a great deal of time staring at him from my vantage point.
Susan asked, “Why don’t you just go tell him how you feel, Mel?”
I shook my head and replied, “I couldn’t. He’d just laugh at me. I’m just not pretty enough for him.” Truthfully, I didn’t know I wasn’t pretty until I got to Junior High School. I was a brain who got straight A’s, but I wasn’t pretty.
Jane said, “You’re beautiful, Mel. You’re just not the overtly pretty like the ditzes at this school are. If Jason were to fall for anyone, it would be you. He already likes you a lot. You’ve got half the battle won.”
Fiercely loyal Susan said, “I don’t know why you like him anyway. He’s a jerk if he can’t see how wonderful you are.”
I smiled and said, “Thanks, guys.”
Renée said, “Now about my problem with Martin Nichols…” Renée had had a thing for the cellist who was in the Junior Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra for over a year.
Soon, April 28th rolled around. My birthday had finally arrived. I knew my friends were throwing me a surprise birthday party at Don Ricardo’s at the Northridge Fashion Center. Jane, who could never keep a secret, spilled the beans.
I was really angry with her for ruining the surprise, which would turn out to be the only surprise party I would ever have in my life.
I was led to believe that the party was off, so my parents decided to take me to the mall to pick out something for my birthday. When we walked downstairs, I saw Susan, Renée and our friend, Sheryl Marks, sitting on a bench waiting for us.
All three of them screamed, “Happy Birthday, Melanie!”
I asked, “What on earth are you guys doing here?”
Renée said, “We decided to go ahead with the surprise party anyway.”
Susan asked, “Do you want Jane here?”
I shook my head and replied, “I’m still mad at her.”
We had the best time at my surprise party drinking virgin strawberry daiquiris. My friends were the best people on the planet who were always there with me no matter where I went in life. Renée was my heart and social conscience, Jane was my cunning and Susan was my mind and bravery.
The following Monday at school, Jane and I made up. It turned out she was jealous because no one had ever thrown her a surprise birthday party before.
The last day of school came rather quickly. Susan and her family had a vacation house in Pismo Beach and that’s where they always went, leaving on the last day of school, so she was never there.
During English class, Jason wrote me a lengthy letter apologizing for being so horrible to me. Truthfully, I hadn’t known he was. The letter went on and on for almost ten pages.
The weird thing was, I’d had a dream the night before that he wrote me a letter proclaiming his undying love for me. The fact that he’d written me a letter at all was kind of scary.
Sixth period math finally came and his class and mine joined since his class’ teacher was out or something and we weren’t doing anything anyway.
I sat with Jason during that class and asked him pointedly, “What the hell are you talking about in this letter? You weren’t mean to me. At least to my face anyway.”
He didn’t really give me a straight answer that made any sense. Every time I was near him, I practically melted, but had to remain cool. I was acutely aware of his presence at all times.
As I was leaving school to walk home, I saw Jason heading for the bike compound and walked over to him to give him a hug goodbye for the summer. As I tried to hug him, he tried to break away from me, so I finally let go, realizing he didn’t want me as a girlfriend. It broke my heart.
I called him after school and asked why he wouldn’t let me hug him and he replied, “Because all my friends were around.” What did that mean? I was okay to be friends with as long as his other friends didn’t know about it?
A month went by and Jane and I had taken to sneaking out of the house a lot. Some of the time we’d just walk around and do nothing but talk. Jane lived the closest to me, so it was easy for us to meet somewhere if one of us wasn’t sleeping over the other’s house. Jane was really into the telephone party line and often met people. She always tried to set me up with some of her friends, but honestly, who could compare to Jason Harter?
Then came the night I was raped. I had snuck out of the house to go see Jane and three guys were waiting for me. They must have followed Jane and I around when we snuck out. I was thirteen years old and that’s how I lost my virginity.
I didn’t see Renée much that summer. She was angry with me that I forgot about our plans and didn’t speak with me. She always accused me of canceling on her for better plans, which was probably true, but I honestly forgot about our plans when I made the other ones, it wasn’t deliberate at all. I’d never deliberately do that to another person. I’d had it done to me and it hurt terribly.
One night, Jane slept over my house and I decided to call Jason. We talked about nothing much for a while.
He said something that made me angry then I said, “I don’t think it’s a good idea that we be friends anymore.”
Then he started crying and exclaimed, “My mom and stepdad are splitting up. I can’t lose you, too, Melanie!”
I was completely taken aback by Jason’s sobbing and felt a bit freaked out, but loved him all the more at the same time. He felt comfortable to cry in front of me, sort of. That touched me deeply.
Jane spoke with him a few moments, then I got back on the phone and he sang me “Palisades Park” by Freddie Cannon, which was incredibly odd. He had a terrible singing voice. I think I was a little shocked by the fact the guy I loved was singing to me over the phone. Why was he doing that? Who knows?
Jane and I hung up with him a while later and went to bed. I smiled when I remembered the guy I loved so dearly actually sang to me.
A couple of months went by and school finally started. I could finally see Jason every day again.
It was weird, but there were times I could have sworn he felt the same way I did, but then there were times he acted like he hated me. Honestly! It was so frustrating to love Jason Christian Harter sometimes. It was too bad he was such a Cancerian male who was so complex and moody, it was hard to figure him out most of the time.
A couple of months after school began Pinning Day arrived. It was something ninth graders went through every year at our school. I asked my current boyfriend David Lehman to pin me and he asked me to pin him. I was set.
I really wanted it to be Jason I pinned but I knew intuitively he’d never go for it. He deserved someone beautiful and that just wasn’t me.
Renée wanted desperately to pin Martin Nichols, but that wasn’t to be either. We were decent girls who were always nice to everyone, even the popular people we hated with a capital ‘H’, but the guys we loved so desperately just didn’t notice we were girls, which was kind of weird because I was a C cup at thirteen even though I wasn’t fat.
After David and I pinned each other, Renée, Susan, Jane and I ended up pinning all the guys who didn’t bother to ask anyone to pin them.
Jason stopped me on the way to third period after the pinning ceremony and commented almost cattily, “I heard you pinned a bunch of guys today.” It might have been my imagination, but he almost seemed hurt by the fact I pinned all those guys. I never did find out who pinned Jason. For all I knew, he did it himself.
I shrugged and said, “Yeah, I did. A lot of the guys didn’t bother to ask anyone so they asked either Renée, Susan, Jane or me to do it for them.”
Jason nodded and looked at me like he wanted to say something then walked around me to his third period class.
After school that day, there was a Pinning Day dance. Renée, Susan, Jane and I dragged our dates to the dance and promptly ditched them to dance with each other, although I did manage to dance with David a couple of times. Susan and I danced together the most. My friends and I had so much fun at that dance, but we were terribly sweaty by the time we left.
I never did see Jason so he probably didn’t go to the dance. If he did, he must have been way in the back of the auditorium somewhere because my friends, our dates and I were all near the stage.
The following day at school, Susan, Jane, Renée and I excitedly spoke of how fun the dance was for us. We planned to attend all the school dances from then on.
One thing I found very strange about Jason was he didn’t particularly care for any of my boyfriends, but only when I was going together with them. He often acted like a jealous boyfriend himself when I’d talk about them to him. I was so confused about him it wasn’t even funny.
I still spent lunch and nutrition watching him from my vantage point, but we didn’t speak as often as we did before. We were still friends but I was busy with David and my friends and Jason was busy with his friends.
David seemed to be oblivious about my love for Jason. Sometimes he annoyed me because he’d just do whatever I told him to do. David was like my own personal puppet to move wherever I wanted him. I wished he’d stand up to me but he never did.
I think a lot of the reason I dated so many guys in junior high school was because I wanted Jason to stand up and take notice that other guys wanted me, why couldn’t he?
There were long periods of time were I wouldn’t be with anyone and that’s when Jason and I were usually the closest. I guess he felt more secure when there wasn’t another guy vying for my attention.
Susan commented one day, “Maybe Jason really does like you after all, Mel. He spends an awful lot of time sneaking up behind you, tapping you on the shoulder and pretending it wasn’t him. That’s teenage boy for ‘I really love you, but I’m terrified you don’t feel the same’. Larry told me so.” Larry was Susan’s latest boyfriend, who was eight years older than her.
Jane added, “That and the fact that he’s hated all your boyfriends when he is normally friends with the guys as long as you’re not with them. He wants you all to himself. You told me yourself you and he get along better when you’re not dating anyone. I think he fears rejection from you.”
I asked, “Then why did he tell me when we talked about Pinning Day he wanted someone pretty to pin him?”
Renée replied, “Maybe in his own roundabout way, he was trying to say he really wanted it to be you, but you were with David at the time.”
I replied as tears fell freely, “I honestly don’t believe he wanted me. He likes me as a good friend and that’s the extent of his feelings for me. You don’t know how much I wish he felt the same as me, but he doesn’t and that’s that.”
The end of the year rapidly came and everyone was busy signing each other’s yearbooks. Susan took up two whole pages of my yearbook to say what she wanted to say, but then, I did the same to hers. Jason signed mine as well.
It’s been great knowing you. We’ve been through a lot of difficult times together but we always pulled it through. Have a great summer. See ya next year!
I’m sure I wrote something inane like:
It’s been nice knowing you. Have a great summer. See you in 10th grade.
Frankly, I was too busy staring at him. His friend, Sean Stevens, noticed, I’m sure.
Summer passed by quickly and I was looking forward to starting high school. Renée and her family moved away to a town about fifteen miles away. I was angry with her for leaving me. She kept me honest to a fault and I missed seeing her every day.
Susan and I were going into a special college preparatory program. Jane hoped to join us the following semester.
A month or so later, I started hanging out in what Susan and I called “regular school” with some old junior high school friends such as my ex-boyfriend, Michael Edison, an old friend Greg Patter and some others. I used to walk Greg to biology, knowing Jason sat behind him in the class.
I craved just one sighting of Jason per day, but truthfully, he hardly noticed me. We weren’t that close anymore. I think it’s because we didn’t have any classes together anymore, or he’d finally fallen in love himself, only with someone else. That was one of the worst periods on my life. It was all right when he wasn’t seeing anyone at all, but the thought of him with another girl made me crazy.
That’s when the lies started. I kept telling Greg that it was Jason who really loved me and I was the one who didn’t love him. And Greg, being so honest himself, believed me.
In the spring semester, Greg asked me to go together with him. I was really fond of him and loved him in my own way, but it was nothing compared to my feelings for Jason. Jason became something of an obsession with me in high school, not that he wasn’t in junior high school, but it was ten times worse now.
All my classes were next to the P.E. area and I knew Jason had P.E. during first period, so I made sure to be out by that area just so I could watch him. I busy talking to the other people in my program, but always had one eye on Jason.
Susan informed me she was taking the high school equivalency exam and going on to college at the end of tenth grade. I wanted to stay in school to have my high school experience. I knew I was going to feel bereft without Susan there to fiercely defend everything I did.
School ended for the summer and my family went to Australia for a few weeks. We had so much fun. I was still going together with Greg, but had a little dalliance with a pair of twins in New South Wales.
When school started up again the head of the college prep program told me to take Physics in regular school. I was fine with that, although I’d have been happier taking it in the program.
It turned out my Physics class was next door to Jason’s Chemistry class, so I saw him every lunch period. I looked forward to it. Frankly, I doubt he even noticed me. We never spoke anymore. I guessed our friendship was over and that did hurt a great deal.
I’d given up figure skating by this time and was happy to do it. It had become such a chore for me to get up at three o’clock everyday just to go skate.
In October, a former member of my college prep program asked a few of us to star in his USC Film School film about writing an expository composition. It was going to be filmed at a friend’s house that Saturday.
The filming was fun and the director took us to dinner after we wrapped. The director seemed to take a liking to me and started hanging out with me at school. In a way, it was kind of creepy
One day, we sat waiting for my Physics class and I saw Jason join his friends next door. The guy who followed me around stood up and hauled off and kissed me in front of Jason. Truthfully, I doubt if Jason even noticed. He never noticed me when I sat there alone.
In Physics, I confessed to my lab partner, who happened to be Jason’s racquetball partner in P.E, I was in love with my beloved Jason.
My lab partner suggested I write Jason a letter telling him how I felt about him. Stupid me, I agreed. My lab partner promised to deliver the letter for me.
I also had to break up with Greg. I still hadn’t told him the truth about my feelings for Jason. Greg was such a sweet guy and I felt terrible that I was going to hurt him, but I couldn’t stay with him knowing I loved someone else.
True to his word, my lab partner delivered the letter to Jason. Jason read it and said to Greg, my now ex-boyfriend, “Melanie said she’s in love with me.”
Greg said snidely, “I thought that’s what you wanted.”
Jason was really confused and gave my lab partner his phone number so he could give it to me.
I called Jason after school that day. I was caught in my lies and couldn’t get out. I asked Jason if there was any chance he felt the same way I did and he said no. We hung up a few moments later and that was the last time I ever spoke to Jason Harter.
I think I cried for days until I thought I finally got him out of my system. I had destroyed any possibility of ever being with Jason because of my own lies.
It’s been twenty-six years since I’ve seen Jason. I believed I was over him for almost as long, but I still wonder what it would have been like if only he’d returned my love for him and I hadn’t told all those stupid lies. How long would we have lasted? Would we have married?
Susan is now a divorced mother with four children. Jane is married with three children. Renée has been missing for over twenty years. Wanda Malick, a mutual friend, told me her stepfather was in some shady business dealing and now Wanda believes Renée, her mother, stepbrother and stepfather are in the Federal Witness Protection Program.
Greg and I are friends again. He’s happily married with two children the last I heard. We email each other from time to time.
Every now and again, something will happen that will remind me of my first love. I truly hope he’s happy wherever he is. I’m sure he’s married by now with a huge family of his own.
I’ve often Googled him on the Internet just to see if I could find anything about him. There was nothing. I have an address and an email for him, but I’ve never had the courage to contact him.
Jason was my first love and a love I will never forget as long as I live. Recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not yet over Jason Christian Harter. I seriously doubt I ever really will be.
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