A Cautionary Tale, cont’d.1

It had been her own idea to give up her apartment and move back in with her parents. “Just for the summer,” she’d thought. “Just until August, when I can head for Tallahassee and find a place near campus.” She counted herself thrifty, saving the money from rent and utilities and groceries. Her parents were mostly reasonable people, usually willing to overlook an occasional night when she arrived home after breakfast (she was an adult.) Despite all that, she still felt the need to slip into her ‘daughter’ persona as she pulled off the dirt road and into the drive. Would she ever shake that?

Scooping up her bags from the passenger seat, she just as suddenly dropped them into her lap and flopped back in the seat. Gazing up through the Spanish-moss covered, overhanging limbs of the huge live oak tree that shaded the drive, she thought for a moment about the cute guy. The summer held potential. She was still seeing someone from college, only occasionally now (the term ‘booty call’ was not yet part of the culture) so it might be fun to have a boy to party with until she left for grad school.

“What was I thinking, giving up my apartment so early?” It was only money any way, but now she was stuck on a pull-out couch in her parents living room, her comings-and-goings loosely observed by parents who really didn’t care how old she was, only that she still followed house protocol about phoning home, and overnight company. “But what they don’t know can’t possibly matter, eh?” she giggled, thinking back to a morning last month when, in spite of her delectable bed company, she had grabbed the ringing phone to answer an expected call. Still in a very compromised position, she’d held a conversation with the university registrar while…”Ooooo! That was good!” But way too close.

A slammed screen door interrupted her mildly pornographic reverie. “Mom wants to know if you’re going to be here for dinner. And you have to pick up milk.” Trop mundane.

Kicking off her sandals, she slipped through the screen door into the kitchen, where her parents were making coffee and working on a crossword together. The aroma of braised beef simmering in the crockpot met her nose, reminding her she hadn’t eaten since breakfast. She mentally crossed her fingers for leftovers.

“No, I’m not here for dinner. I have to work at five o’clock. Give me a second to toss my stuff behind the couch and I’ll run for milk. I met a guy today.”

“How is that different from any other day?” her younger brother inquired, coming through the door. “You’re always meeting guys.”

“I dunno. This one is…” She shrugged. “He’s going to do the brakes on my car. He’s nice. He didn’t make a pass at me.”

“Are you complaining? her father grinned. “Give him a little while. I’m sure he will. Shall I make enough coffee for a cup for you, too?”

“I’m ignoring you now,” she said, sticking her tongue out at her dad.  “Yes, thank you, to-go, please. And I’m gonna go get milk.”

She shoved her brother out the door. “C’mon. It’ll only take a minute. Come with me.”

“What’s this about?” he asked. “Something I ought to know about?”

“You’re nosy. And you know too much already. That’s why I wanted to ask you about this guy I met.”

“What are you talking about? Are you going out with someone I went to high school with? College?”

“Remember when you took my storage rent money in for me last month while I was working? That guy. The one running the storage place.”

“What!?!” he looked mortified. “He’s way, way too young for you. I’d bet he’s younger than me. You’re weird.”

“Thanks,” she responded. “I don’t think that’s exactly what I was looking for, but you’ve given me something to think about.”

A glance at the clock on the dash put some speed to her actions. Returning home, she threw the milk in the fridge, grabbed up some slightly more respectable clothing and her makeup, and a pair of absurdly tall purple suede slides for dancing, after work. She strode to the bathroom and within twenty minutes was heading down I4, sipping her coffee. The highway, always under construction, always congested during regular commuting hours, was remarkably traffic free at this time of day. Working the evening shift at the bath shop in the mall had its benefits. For one, she was done and out by ten pm. Second, just a change of shoes and she was dressed to go out and three, she was right near the action.

By nine forty five the shop was cleaned, the register balanced, and she was rearranging and restocking towels, contemplating her route home. She checked her wallet for cash. She only needed enough for one drink wherever she wound up, because most times she didn’t even have to buy the first one, but she always tipped.

She flicked the shop lights off, pulled on the door handle to make sure the lock held. Walking to the car, she observed how curious it was that the town could be dark and bright at the same time; this was her favorite time of day.

She steered the car toward the parking lot exit, pausing just long enough to drop the roof. There was something so heady about the nighttime smell of the orange blossoms wafting across the highway. Suburban Orlando was growing at a ridiculous pace, but there were still groves all around. The time would come when the land was worth much, much more as real estate, but not yet. And she loved that scent. She stopped at a light before the on-ramp, pulled down the visor and checked her reflection in the mirror.

Blond and long. It wasn’t natural, but her hair looked good. In a few months she wouldn’t be able to afford the luxury of being blond, but for now…whoever had said that ‘blonds have more fun’ was right. It was an attention-getter and she played it well.

She stepped on the gas, heading up the ramp, suddenly remembering she had intended to run by Church Street Station first. What was wrong with her? She didn’t ever goof up her route once it was planned. She sighed, remembering the braised beef and that she’d had nothing but coffee and a handful of Rollos since breakfast. That settled it. She would head for the Why Not in Atamonte Springs and partake of one of the made-to-order omelets that Julie created right there in the bar.  Smart marketing, it was, kept people dancing and drinking instead of heading for Denny’s. They were darned good, too. Julie could put a Western omelet together in a second. For a buck. And a buck tip. Mmmmm.

The bartender caught her eye as she crossed the threshold of the room, and had her drink, Bacardi and club soda, tall and with a squeeze of lime, on the counter before she reached the bar. The guys were three-deep. Becky was that beautiful…and that good at her job. But they parted for her, and one of them tossed a couple of bucks on the bar for her drink, patted his lap, motioning for her to sit. She thanked him for the drink, put her own tip on the bar, and declined his lap. She sipped her drink down a bit so it wouldn’t splash as she walked, then went in search of food. As the band came back to the stage, several seats opened up as people got up to dance. She made her omelet request, set two dollars on Julie’s counter, and found a chair. It was too loud to think. She was tired.

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~ by perchance2knit on January 7, 2011.

2 Responses to “A Cautionary Tale, cont’d.1”

  1. More than a bit! But not for a while. In the meantime, there’s a summer full of fun and romance…

    Thanks for the encouragement. My writing is more like a backward-looking diary of sorts. It truly is catharsis. I’m waiting for the divorce papers to show up, and remembering how I got to this place is putting things in perspective for me.

    ~hugs~

  2. I’m really envious of this lady.
    When’s the cautionary bit coming? ;-D

    Fun stuff! Thanks for sharing.

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