* * * * *

You know that I really like you, and you’re a good friend; I would love to go out with you, just, if you were a little taller…”

It was the Kiss of Death. I’d heard it hundreds of times. Kristi had that look on her face, the one that was trying not to be embarrassed, and look sincere at the same time; I had seen it so often that I saw it in my nightmares.

Kristi was about five foot four, and right around a hundred pounds. Slender, but not skinny, with just a hint of B cup tits poking out her blouse. Thick black hair that hung to the center of her sweet, sweet shoulders. She was everything I looked for in a girl on the cusp of becoming a woman; smart, quick witted, and fun to talk to and be around. And did I mention her eyes? Ice Blue? Grey? White? Different light made them all three. They were the most amazing eyes I had ever seen. In a group of friends she laughed, oh, that throaty gurgling laugh, and bantered back and forth. She would giggle, and put her hand on my arm, give me a little shove as she got the double entendre of a classical reference that went right past the others. It had given me that most cruel of things, Hope.

It had taken me weeks to gather my courage, talk myself into believing that Kristi would be able to look past my altitude disadvantage, and say yes. But it was not to be. My heart was somewhere south of my feet, I felt the old familiar gut-punch of disappointment, but I kept smiling. “That’s OK, I understand,” I said. “I’ll see you tomorrow after lit class. Maybe we can grab a sandwich and discuss our papers.”

The look was back, stronger. Her eyes started wandering, looking at everything but me. “I don’t know, I told some friends that I would meet them for a study group for my sociology project… but I’d like to if it wasn’t for that.”

The Double Kiss of Death. I made appropriate sounds, and bailed as fast as I could. I found myself in my hidden little spot behind the engineering building. I was breathing heavily, sad and mad knowing I had screwed up another friendship. Kristi now knew that I had more intense feelings for her, that I wanted to date her. That maybe we could go to the next level of friendship, and now every time she saw me she would think first of all that she was four inches taller than me. Four lousy inches.

I was short. I had never grown up thinking much about it. Hell, everyone in my family was short. You should see my sisters and mother and aunts! My dad was taller than me, but even he was only about five five. The altitude record in the family was a cousin that at five eight got every joke about the weather and hey tell us what’s going on over there. I was five foot (with my shoes on) and actually not badly proportioned. Just everything was proportioned on a small scale. I had even had several girls make remarks about my butt, and that I looked pretty good, other than that fact that I was shorter than all of them. The only thing that gave me any hope was that there was one thing that was not scaled proportionally. In high school, I played in the band, and changing into the marching uniform, guys would say, “Holy shit dude, how did you wind up with that thing!?” Unfortunately, guys don’t spread the word to their girlfriends that somebody else has a bigger cock than they do.

Mom was worried about me, I was starting to see it. I joked with her about liking tall girls, because I didn’t have much choice. But mom would occasionally ask if I had met someone now that I was a freshman in college and away from the small town I’d grown up in, and I would turn red, and and say something about there were a few girls I had my eye on. Right. My eyes, and that was all it would ever be. Mom would sigh, and say something about girls would mature and get past the height differential, and University would be better.

I just couldn’t quite understand why a young woman could be so nice and easy to be around, seem to care about me and interact in a group, but the second I hinted at a date, it all came crashing down. The easy laughter, the conversation that had been so effortless, the joking back and forth, all became stilted and forced. Then whoever she was would find reasons to avoid me, and the group of people we hung out with would distance themselves, letting me know that I was the reason she had left.

I was tired of it, and depressed. I quit hanging with anyone, and wrapped myself up in studies, and found that I had a knack for writing technical papers that were easy to read, and didn’t need an engineering degree to understand. My counselor at school had introduced me to several professors who honed my talent, and showed me that getting a broader education in literature and classical writing in addition to science and engineering would improve my skills.

Then I had met Kristi in my English Lit class. From the first day of the class my breath had gone short, my dick took on a mind of it’s own, and the old familiar awkwardness tied my tongue in a knot. The prof had taken the paper assigned the first week of class, and spread them around so that we proof read them for each other, and did editing markups. Kristi, by the grace of the Old Gods, got mine. She sought me out, and wanted to not only discuss my paper, but have me proof hers as well. We started hanging out after class and my tongue started losing the knot. The Prof tended to use my work as the benchmark for acceptability, and other students started joining us for the lunch time discussions. I had never been so accepted, and even sought after for my thoughts and input. And Kristi had seemed to be there in the middle of it all, helping me to get past my shyness, and coaxing me to believe that people really wanted to know what I thought. If only she knew that the awkwardness and shyness was because of her.

Well, now she did, and the old familiar dance was beginning again. I would be alone, the others would blame me for Kristi’s absence. I had hoped, prayed, that Kristi wasn’t like all the others, would see me for me, and not just a collection of inches. A substandard collection.

My little refuge behind the engineering building was screened by trees and shrubs, quiet and cozy, a place where students could relax and think. It was wasted on engineering students, who were in a lab or rushing off to a math class. They didn’t have time to sit and smell the flowers. The math was why I got into writing. I was always a term behind in understanding what the hell was going on. It had been that way since high school. I had had fantasies of bringing Kristi here, sitting and talking just the two of us. Well, one thing growing up and staring at girls made up of Unobtanium had given me was a healthy (?) active imagination. Rosy Palmer had never let me down.

It was a week later, and spring was well and truly arrived, and sure as the growing hints of professors about subjects of Finals, the Greeks were planning their Spring Bacchanalia’s. There were other groups putting on parties, but the ones of legend were the Frat/Sorority parties. I was a freshman, and definitely not one of the “in” crowd. I was planning on spending the time getting a head start on papers for finals, and pounding the math I had to pass.

“Yo! Ken, what you doing this weekend?” Dave was yelling down the dorm hall, and I groaned inwardly knowing he was going to button hole me about going to a party somewhere. He was a buddy that, to give him credit, tried to get me involved in a social life. I hated it. Dave and all his friends either had girlfriends, or were having a great time playing the field, dating multiple women, and of course, getting laid on a regular basis.

“Studying, man. Gotta get the math grade up, or finals will kill me.” He gave me that pitying look, and walked over and stood looming over me.

“Man, you have got to get out and loosen up. It would probably even help the damn math; you stress too much. Science club is having a little get together starting Friday night, with Saturday for good luck . They booked the game room and pools at the Holiday Inn that night and all day Saturday.” Dave grinned and slugged my arm. “I’ve already booked a room, you should get one too.” I stepped back and looked up at him, “Yeah, you and Sandy are gonna have a great time, and Paul and Janine, and all the regulars. A, I don’t have the money for a room, and B, I don’t have a use for one.”

Dave frowned and tilted his head a little, his eyes getting intense. “Hey, I thought you and Kristi were getting to be pretty good friends, you could always ask her to go.” I just stared at him in amazement. How the hell did he know about Kristi? He saw me turn red. “You guys doing the Lit thing at lunch? Even the Prof’s are talking about it. Lund is even talking about the possibility of starting a regular club and writing workshop. You and Kristi seem to be at the center of it. People talk, you know?”

I didn’t know what to say, so the truth fell out. “I asked Kristi for a date, and she bolted.” The look of incomprehension on Dave’s face was both priceless, and comical. I lost it. “Look, you people think it’s all so easy! You go up to a girl, ask if she’d like to go get coffee or a movie, and off you go. How the fuck tall are you?” I was yelling, everyone on the dorm floor was poking heads out of doorways, and Dave obviously didn’t have a clue why I was asking how tall he was. ” How tall, goddammit! Six feet, six two? How tall is the average girl on this campus? Five five to five eight. It has never crossed your mind that a woman will be concerned about it. But when I ask for a date, all they see is four goddamned inches!” I was really screaming now, and pins dropping would have been an earthquake. I suddenly noticed Dave was blushing red, bright red.

“Hey! Calm down dude. Man the whole campus heard that. What, your telling me that girls won’t go out with you because they’re taller than you? That’s crazy…”

When my fist smashed the door to the room the sound popped and echoed down the hall. Maybe it was my knuckles popping, because my hand sure as hell began to throb.

Dave grabbed me by the shoulders and hustled me into the room, shoved me over onto the bed and grabbed the desk chair. He was pulling his phone out of his pocket. “Yeah, Sandy, I need you to get over to the dorm. Ask anyone for Ken’s place. Thanks” Dave was not stupid, he was here on multiple math and science scholarships. And the wheels were turning.

“So, if we follow the evidence, you’ve never been on a date.” Dave said it as fact, and he wasn’t wrong. “The corollary to that is that you’ve also never been laid. No wonder you are so uptight. Sex is the only thing that gets people through school, man. Why do you think every one is hooking up with, well, every one? Without the release, the way to get it out, we’d all die of heart conditions before we could graduate.” He paused, and his voice got strangely gentle. “You’re right, I’ve never given my height a thought. Hell, I’ve never really given yours a thought. This is going to take some thought. Sandy can help, maybe get Janine to help. So, you never even had a date in high school, never did the make-out thing?”

I shook my head, my whole body felt as if it was glowing so hot that the bed should catch fire. “Not since playing doctor at eleven or twelve. Then the girls grew, but that was cool, because they hit first, and pretty much all the guys were in the same boat. But then you all, you know, regular guys, all caught up and shot passed the girls at fourteen or so. Me, I grew a couple of inches at twelve, but since then nothing.” I couldn’t believe that I was being so open to Dave. I was down to being merely cherry red.

The door flew open and Sandy strode into the room. “So, what’s the big emergency Dave. I could tell by your voice somethings up.” Dave looked over at me, then stood and gave Sandy a hug, and a kiss. Sandy was about five seven, and curved in all the right places. Her hair was long, and reflected her name, legs that were trim and went all the way to the ground. Perky C cup breasts rode her chest like a pair of schooners setting sail. She was majoring in American history, with an eye on teaching at the collegiate level, and had a scholarship on the school rowing team. She also ran swam competitively on the off season, to stay in shape. Man, she figured in my active imagination, but I was careful to not let a hint of it show to her and Dave. Over the years I’d gotten good at that. It beat getting beat by pissed off boyfriends.

Dave had an arm around Sandy’s waist, and he turned her to me. “Tell me what you think of Ken, about how you would react if he asked you on a date.” I did the radioactive thing again, as she looked at me for a moment. “Be honest,” Dave said.

Sandy looked me up and down, and gestured for me to stand up. “Well, he’s not bad looking, and he does have a nice butt, but a date? We’d look kind of weird walking together. I mean, I’m so much taller than he is.”

Dave looked at me, then Sandy. He asked Sandy why it made a difference, look at Paul and Janine. He was much taller than her, by six inches or so. Heck, Dave had five inches on Sandy. “That’s normal, all men are taller than women,” she replied.

I grinned, “Yeah, that’s me, Abbynormal.” Sandy had the grace to blush. Oh man, fodder for fantasy.

Sandy looked puzzled for a minute, “What’s this got to do with…” her eyes got wide, and she put a hand to her mouth. “You asked Kristi for a date, didn’t you?” She sat down in the desk chair. “That explains a few things. I mean, I’ve heard that you two were becoming an item over at the Union, but suddenly she’s not there. And apparently she’s been upset about something.”

I was looking at the floor, and couldn’t meet her eye. “Yeah, I did, even knowing what would happen. But dammit, I thought she would be better than that. I mean, she was the one that wanted to start hanging out.” My anger, and maybe my desperation was leaking through. “She was being so, so cool, especially when other people started to hang out, and we were having a good time.

But four fucking inches!”

I realized I was shouting again, took a deep breath, reached for calmness.

I finally looked at Sandy. I walked over next to her, even sitting down she was looking me in the eye. “As long as we were talking school, authors and papers and stuff, it was all good. But as soon as it gets personal, boom. And then she can’t look me in the face without being embarrassed. So she’s gone. Then I’m the bad guy in the crowd because she won’t admit that it’s a bias, and work past it. I thought, hoped university would have people mature enough, cool enough to get past societal hangups, but even you say that it would be too uncool to go on a date with me because you’re taller than me.”

“And don’t even go to the place about finding a girl shorter than me. Most are built like bowling balls with appendages, and any cute girls are booked out for the next ten years. They get their pick of studs. I can’t compete.”

Dave, without thinking about it, picked Sandy up, sat in the chair, and sat her on his lap. Her arm went around his shoulders without any more thought. They were a hell of a couple. I was so damn jealous.

“So,” he said, “You see the problem. No dates, no social intercourse, no intercourse.”

Sandy’s eyes got big again. “Oh, my God!” She hopped off Dave’s lap and began pacing the room, all five steps of it. She began thinking out loud, probably not even aware of it. “So, Kristi, who is really smart, and a really nice girl, is upset and avoiding you. You asked her for a date. I know that she’s been out with other guys, but she seems to be pretty picky; but I’ve also heard that she knows what to do in the bedroom,” she glanced over at me, smiled, and said, “Woman’s grapevine. Especially with the pretty ones. Everyone gossips about every one.” She resumed her pacing, tapping her lips with her right index finger. We just shut up and let her think.

“So, are you going to go to the science club blow out?” the question startled me, and I started to explain why I couldn’t go. “Of course you are going to go. And you’re going to have a good time, regardless. Even if it’s just a good drunk. You need to unwind, relax, before you blow up. Freshman year is totally fucked up.”

Sandy and Dave were sophomore’s, as was most of the crowd they hung with. Why they tried to include me was more than I could figure. “Bring a bag with some swim wear, basic toilette kit, and a change of underwear. Maybe a clean shirt. Dress comfy casual. Dave, you see that he gets there, if you and the guys have to rope and dope him. I gotta go. Janine and I will put us girls’ heads together and make a plan.” She smiled at me. The Sun made an appearance, and the glow of the Great Bird of the Galaxy surrounded me. I tried not to let hope seep in at the edges.

Friday afternoon, and I was as nervous as a drug smuggler at the border. I was wearing a nice pair of jeans and a short sleeved Hawaiian button down shirt. I’d had my ‘kit’ packed since the night before. I couldn’t stand still, let alone sit. I was preparing myself for either Heaven or Hell, and I was betting on Hell. Dave had let me know that he would pick me up in front of the dorm at four, and if I wasn’t there, Sandy would track me down. He wasn’t responsible. Apparently, the girls had a plan. I was scared shitless.

Dave and Paul pulled up in Dave’s mustang, and I piled into the back. “Good thing I’m small, or you’d have to get a bigger car.” I quipped. Dave grunted and hit the gas. We were at the hotel in ten minutes.

“The ladies are already here, Sandy’s in the room, so we’ll go drop your stuff there, then go mingle for a while, get some nibble’s and booze. Then we’ll hit the pools.” It was becoming obvious that Dave had strict instructions.

The mingling thing was going fine, I knew a lot of the science people because of classes, but because of my credit load, I hadn’t actually joined the club. It would be nice, and was thinking it would be a good thing for next year. I noticed that though I wasn’t being chaperoned, some one of Dave group was always where they were visible. I had had some of the finger food, and a couple of beers, which put me at my safe limit. More, and I ran out of mass to soak it up, then I’d get maudlin. Then I’d get stupid. Experience, eh?

“Hi, I didn’t expect to see you here. I thought you were cramming math, or something.”

I turned around and nearly dropped my beer. My ears were working after all and the eyes confirmed that Kristi was really standing there. My tongue knit itself into a knot, Mr. Stiffy started to rise to the occasion, and really, really wanted to say Hi!

Kristi was wearing a white midriff length top that clung to her assets in a way that drew the eye, without screaming slut, but left a very nice, flat, expanse of skin exposed. The purple mid-thigh length sheath of a skirt, (complete with slit,) started at just high enough to cover her belly button, then drew the eye to one of the best pair of legs I’d ever seen. To top it off, she was wearing white open toed one inch flat sandals. Her nails and toes were colored to match the skirt. I knew Kristi was stunning, but I had never seen her wear this kind of outfit before. My dick was trying to prove that it met the military height requirement.

“Uh, I, I didn’t really expect to be here either,” I stammered. Great beginning. “But now I’m glad that I am. Uh, I didn’t expect to see you here, I mean, I didn’t know you hung out with the science and geek crowd.” Way to classify yourself, idiot. ” Not that your a geek, or anything…” Keep on shoveling, moron.