"Roller Coaster"~ (chapter seven)

Seven

It was a long drive home from Arizona made longer still by the theft of the car stereo during the night before his departure. He had awakened early, showered and put away two cups of coffee before Dolores had opened her eyes. They shared a tender moment or two before saying their good-byes and descending the stairs to the parking lot where they found a window broken out of the car and an empty space in the dashboard where his music used to be. Without music for distraction he had nothing but thinking-time to occupy his hours on the road and memories helped the miles glide by…

His sister had pestered and pleaded with him for weeks. There was a new girl in her class at school. She was kind of quiet and shy. She had a nice personality… uh, oh! She really wanted to meet him, his sister said. He ran out of excuses, but was trying hard to find a new one… his sister’s friends didn’t always make the best dates… but he was safe until next week, at least he thought he was. A rehearsal with his band on Wednesday and gigs on Friday and Saturday precluded any possibility of meeting this latest of his sister’s many friends until after the weekend and surely he could come up with some excuse by then. He didn’t know about the surprise party that was planned for Wednesday, or the effect it would have on the way he viewed his sister’s friends.
He arrived home after all the errands were completed a lot behind schedule and more than a little perturbed. This weekend was important and the band needed to practice. They were breaking in a new drummer, they were always breaking in a new drummer, and every minute they could squeeze into their schedules was spent in getting ready for this two-night stand at the Wagon Wheel Bar and Grill. If all went well they would have a steady job all summer and the payoff from that would be enormous… money, free beers on the sly during breaks, and the girls… not just giggling high school honeys, but girls who were old enough to drive, girls who were old enough to buy a drink, girls who were… women. It was all the other guys talked about… money… beers… girls… if only they took the music more seriously. At least practice was at his place today. All he had to do was help Gramps carry in the groceries, drop them on the table and strap on his bass. It was already tuned. He could hear the guys inside jammin’ to Iron Butterfly as he stepped out of the car and raced up the steps. He was well inside the house before it hit him… “Surprise!”
He hadn’t had a birthday party since second grade and he certainly wasn’t expecting this one. The house was full, the tables piled with food and presents, it was possibly the first and last time that the band was on time for practice, but practice was going to wait. Grandmother was pleased that it was a real surprise, Grandfather was quietly slipping off to his workshop in the basement to escape the ruckus about to begin, and his sister was… grinning. The source of her smirk was over in the corner… kind of quiet and shy… the prettiest girl he’d ever seen in his brief but extensive life, all fifteen years of it. His sister was grinning because she was watching him staring into the corner. “That’s her, the one I’ve been trying to get you to meet for the last six weeks. Her name’s Dolores. What do you think? By the way… happy birthday.” He didn’t know whether to kill her for not being more persistent or himself for wasting six weeks avoiding this angel, but he wasn’t about to waste another moment. It was the start of the best summer of his life.
She lived three and one half hilly miles away and by mid-June he could make it in fifteen minutes. He always rode his bike, as her parents wouldn’t let her car-date yet… even with Grandfather driving. Good Catholic girls just didn’t do that at her age. They were together every moment that they could beg, borrow or steal and they spent the summer walking in the woods, hand-in-hand, talking for hours about nothing or not talking at all for hours, just holding hands and swimming in each other’s eyes… both of them caught up in that first true love spell that the fortunate among us can still recall. It was the shortest summer of his life.
June flowed through July and into August and the summer was gone before they knew it. At least they were on the same bus, going to the same school, seeing as much of each other as they had all summer. They barely noticed that they were almost always surrounded by dozens, if not hundreds, of people. PDA being strictly forbidden (public displays of affection, to those not familiar with school dress codes and rules of conduct… abandoned, antiquated practices seldom utilized in today’s shoot ‘em up, crack cowboy schools), they were unable to make more than fleeting physical contact while at school, but they could always go swimming in each other’s eyes… and they did… often… constantly.
Autumn came early that year, arriving on the heels of a late September frost, the wooded hillsides exploding in riotous color and her parents trusted them enough to let them travel by car… and they did… often. Their favorite place was the ledges, a park carved by retreating glaciers thousands of years ago. A large network of pathways over, under, around and through the cliffs and crevasses of moss-covered conglomerate rocks compressed, deposited and eroded by the dying icy giants was a perfect place to wander, holding hands, talking/not talking, and swimming… in their special way. The days grew colder, the leaves released their last tenuous grip on their branches, and the crowds at the park got thinner until even the arcade and deer-petting park closed down for the season. They barely noticed.
Winter came early, too, although mid-October was unseasonably warm. Her father had taken a new job… in Arizona. It might as well have been Mars. They were inconsolable. They made their good-byes in an empty, ramshackle farmhouse that had long ago fallen into serious disrepair. A cold rain was falling. Her younger brother was trying to find them. They were soaked to the skin, wrapped around each other in an embrace without beginning and, they hoped, without end… it was not to be. The moving van blew a blast on its air horn, the agreed-upon signal for her return to departure, but they refused to separate until the sound of footsteps in the weeds outside intruded upon their consciousness… one last kiss and then good-bye. They walked, hand-in-hand, to her parents’ station wagon and they went swimming one more time until the car was out of sight… Frozen to the spot, frozen to his bones, winter descended upon his soul and he doubted that his heart would ever smile again.

"Roller Coaster"~ (chapter seven)

WonderlandGlass

Mansfield, United States

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