Wide and streamlined as a ship, the color of a powder blue sky and chrome sided, the 1959 Oldsmobile 98 convertible slid into Bessie’s driveway and came to a careful and quiet stop. She had been looking out the front window waiting for him to show up, hadn’t taken her eyes from the street since she’d changed her clothes and doused her mother’s perfume behind her ears.
It was a surprise, Roland having his new car practically a whole month early, wasn’t supposed to get it till the end of June, right before graduation. But, that morning, he called to tell her that his mother had sent him out with the garbage and there it was, sitting pretty in the driveway, tied with a big white ribbon and a card on the windshield that said: Congratulations, son.
“I don’t believe it,” Bessie said loudly, feeling nearly faint. After all, she wore his high school ring around her neck, making his possessions as much hers as his.
“And there is nothing I’d rather do than show off my best girl in my new Oldsmobile,” he said.
“Oh, I can’t wait.” Bessie jumped up, and then down, at least ten times while the ashtrays rattled on the tables and the lamps moved precariously close to taking a tumble. She took no notice, on purpose, of her mother’s sullen observation.
“I’m taking you for a ride, Bessie,” Roland said into the white princess phone she held to her ear. She could hear the excitement in his voice, barely containable…buoyant and intoxicatingly free-spirited.
“A spin in my brand new 1959 humdinger—best-looking, smooth-riding, pretty slick and spectacular new convertible. And the river wind will catch your hair in its willowy fingers and blow it back up toward the trees. And if you get cold, you know where to find my arms. I’ll be there real soon. Bye, Bess.”
The minute she got off the phone she ran upstairs, two at a time, and sponged on a natural beige makeup base, a touch of shadow, and replaced her old tailored shirt for a pale pink shell top, after trying on the white one and the green one, which didn’t work as well with her blue pedal pushers, not like the pink, which appeared to be the very same color she had brushed on her lips. Of course, she sprayed her hair like crazy. Convertible? That was sure to make her look a mess. She slipped into her dark shoes, even though it was nearly summer. She couldn’t let her shoes show the mud sure to be there after all the rain they’d had leaving a real mess from the road to the front door of the fishing cottage Roland’s father owned. Bessie’s mother would know exactly where she’d been if she noticed the mud on her shoes. She’d be grounded forever. Her mother knew everything. Bessie couldn’t have a thought of her own without her mother telling her what it was.
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