The latest installment for Fiction Friday: A story to tell
I wish I had a good story to tell but I don’t.
There aren’t really any good stories left to tell, are there?
They’ve already been told.
So, this is just another story about a girl who loved a boy who she thought loved her.
He played the guitar and sang like nothing I’d ever heard before. He was charming and handsome and for some reason he had eyes for me when all the other girls had eyes only for him.
The letters came often and the visits were after dark when my parents were asleep.
I’d meet him by the maple in the backyard and he would tell me about the show he’d just performed or the dance he’d just been to.
Sometimes he’d lean down in the moonlight and kiss my lips and I’d feel butterflies dancing in my belly and wonder why he even looked at me when I wasn’t anything but plain.
“Come away with me and we’ll make a life of our own,” he told me one night under that tree.
“I can’t do that,” I looked down at the tip of my shoes and bent my ankle back and forth.
“Why not?” he touched my chin with his fingertips and I looked up into his deep green eyes and my knees felt like bread that had been kneaded too long.
“My daddy would be so mad. He doesn’t like you.”
“Your daddy doesn’t like me ‘cause he knows you’re better than this little garbage farm town and I can take you away from it.”
And he did take me away from it. One night he came with a bag and a guitar and a promise of dreams to come true. We reached the train station before dawn and traveled 30 miles north to find a judge to marry us and a job for him.
He kissed me tenderly that night and many nights to come. If only I’d known then what I know now – of all the kisses he was giving away, of all the others he was promising dreams to.
But that was a long time ago.
And now I’m alone on this train with a baby on my lap and fear weighing heavy on my chest.
I’m going back to daddy to tell him he was right all along.
I met Hank the night of the dance that daddy and mama almost didn’t let me go to.
“She’s too young for dances,” Daddy said, sitting in his chair, reading the local newspaper, not even looking up.
“Well, Edith is going to be there,” Mama offered, mentioning my older sister.
“Is this meant to comfort me?” Daddy asked.
“Oh, good grief. She’s 17, Daddy. She’s old enough for dances,” Edith said, walking into the dining room in a flared blue skirt and a white blouse with the top two buttons unbuttoned.
Daddy looked at her disapprovingly.
“Is that what you’re wearing?” he asked sharply.
“What’s wrong with it?” Edith said looking down at her skirt and smoothing it with her hands.
“It’s fine if you want to wait on a corner in the city,” Daddy mumbled under his breath.
I knew Edith didn’t hear him, but I did.
“It looks lovely,” Mama said quickly. “At least it’s longer than the last skirt you wore. Are you going to wear your pearls with it?”
“Pearls aren’t in fashion right now,” Edith announced then turned her attention to me.
“Come on, Blanche, let’s find you a dress and see what we can do with your hair.”
“I didn’t say she could go,” Daddy said.
“Daddy, I promise to keep an eye on her,” Edith assured him as she led me up the stairs.
It would have been hard for Edith to keep an eye on me with the eyes of most of the boys at the dance on her. She abandoned me almost as soon as we entered the building when a gaggle of her friends surrounded her, giggling and whispering and telling her Jimmy Sickler was asking where she was. I knew Jimmy wasn’t the only boy asking where she was.
I stood in the corner while she danced with each boy who asked for a twirl in her orbit. I sipped punch and shifted my weight from foot to foot and swayed a little to the music.
“Hey,” I saw a cigarette being lit next to me and when I looked up, I saw the guitar player who had been on stage standing there.
I nodded a quick greeting then looked at the floor, all scuffed up from dancing feet.
“You here alone, kid?”
There was a piece of gum on the floor and I kicked at it.
“You like the music?”
“You’re just a little chatterbox, aren’t you?”
I twisted my finger in my hair and wished he’d go away.
I could feel the eyes of other girls on us and they were giggling.
Betty Johnson blew a stream of smoke to one side and looked at him with heavy eyelids.
“I wanna dance,” she said with a flirtatious grin.
She leaned forward and I could see down the front of her shirt. Everyone could see down the front of her shirt. And she’d clearly forgotten her bra.
“Well, alright, then,” the man she’d called Hank, smashed his cigarette into an ashtray on the table behind me, leaning close to me. He paused and I caught his gaze, his lopsided grin. I felt a rush of warmth travel from my chest to my cheeks. “I guess I’ll dance with you since Little Miss Chatterbox here don’t wanna.”
I put my hand to my throat and felt my heart pounding underneath it as he stood there, his hand grazing my arm as he pulled it away from the ashtray. Suddenly he leaned his face toward mine, his mouth close to my ear.
“I’ll save the next one for you, pretty girl,” he whispered, his breath warm against my skin.
He touched me under my chin and smirked as he walked away with one hand on Betty’s back.
I looked for the exit.
I didn’t dance.
I didn’t go to dances and I didn’t know why I was even there. Edith had told me to come.
“Get out of the house,” she’d said. “Gawd, Blanche. You’re so boring. You never do anything. You’re going to grow old right here in this house getting’ daddy’s slippers and making an apple pie with mama if we don’t get you out to meet some boys.”
The night air was cool when I reached the front door and stepped into the dimly lit parking lot.
It was too far for me to walk from home and I knew I’d have to wait for daddy to pick me and Edith up.
I could faintly hear the music being played in the hall as I rubbed my arms to keep me warm, realizing I’d left my sweater on a chair inside. I peered in the window and could see Betty with her arms up around Hank’s shoulders, throwing her head back and laughing, like everything he said was the funniest thing she’d ever heard.
I rolled my eyes. I could never be so forward with a boy, especially not one who was pretty much a man and probably knew all there was to know about the world.
When the song ended I saw Hank turn to find me. I moved away from the window and watched girls stand and talk to him as he picked up his guitar and headed back to the stage. I sat down and leaned back against the old maple in the side yard.
“Blanche. Where have you been?”
I’d fallen asleep next to the tree waiting for the dance to end and Edith’s sharp tone woke me.
“I was just waiting for you.”
“Well, that Hank Hakes was looking for you. Where’d you go?”
Daddy’s car pulled up before I could answer.
“Did you girls have fun?” Daddy asked, looking stern in the rearview window.
“We sure did,” Edith said. “Billy Jenkins danced with me and even Blanche had a boy ask her to dance.”
“Did she now? And who was that?.”
“It was no one,” I said quickly and shot Edith a warning glare.
She rolled her eyes and pursed her lips together.
“You going to go with me again?” she asked that night when the lights were off.
“Why not? I know Hank wants you to. He asked me where you’d gone. You know all the other girls just swoon all over him. You ever hear him sing? Oh my gosh, he’s like Hank Williams meets Frank Sinatra.”
“Good night, Edith.”
I closed my eyes tight and tried not to think about how warm and soft his skin had felt against my arm or how good he’d smelled when he leaned in close.
I wasn’t anyone special and I knew it. He’d just wanted to make fun of the scared little girl standing in the corner. He was probably laughing with his friends now about how silly I’d been. I was never going back to one of those dances and no one, not even Edith was going to make me.