I’ve decided to share an extra chapter of A New Beginning this week on the blog. Why? I don’t know. Why not? Call it a New Year’s gift. Plus, I wanted to get some of the more exciting portions of what I’ve been working on, knowing all this could change when I work on the second and final drafts in February and March.
As always, this is an initial draft so there will probably be typos, missing words, maybe even plot holes. I take feedback from the blog and other sources to help me rectify those issues, but for now, I’m simply sharing a story for fun.
Emmy was definitely sporting the “pregnancy glow” as she sat across from me on the couch in my parents’ living room almost nine months after she had told us all she was expecting. Her face lit up even more when I mentioned Daddy had been giving me driving lessons.
“If you can drive now, then let’s drive to Dalton and see a movie together! We can have a girl’s day out!”
“I don’t even have my license yet,” I said. “I go next week for the test.”
“Well, then I can drive! Oh, but Sam dropped me off. Oh! I’d have to drive — oooh…”
I didn’t like the expression on Emmy’s face. I knew what she was thinking and it wasn’t going to go over well. Daddy was proud of his Oldsmobile, bought new only the year before. He’d had his old car for 20 years. Mama and I thought he’d never get rid of it but were thrilled when he came home with the new car one night, told us all to get in and drove us to Dalton for ice cream. He washed it every Saturday afternoon during warmer weather and even built a carport to protect it in the winter.
I wasn’t sure he was going to be willing to let Emmy and I drive it even 20-minutes away to see a movie.
Daddy walked into the living room with a slice of pie on a plate in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.
I lowered my voice to a whisper. “You ask him. You’re a guest. He might be more willing to say ‘yes’ to you.”
“Ask me what?” Daddy asked.
Emmy sighed and coughed softly. “Mr. Robbins? I was just wondering . . . see, Sam went to work after he dropped me off and he was going to pick me up later, but Blanche and I would love to go to a movie. Would it be possible for us to borrow your car?”
Daddy looked at Emmy as he shoved a forkful of Mama’s blueberry pie into his mouth.
“My car?” he asked around a mouthful of pie.
“Yes, Daddy. Your car.”
He swallowed. “Well, I don’t know…I mean… I guess . . .”
I could tell Daddy was nervous and I imagined he was more concerned about his car than Emmy and I but I wasn’t about to say it out loud.
“Daddy, we’ll be careful, I promise. Emmy said she’ll drive since I’m not totally confident yet. She’s been driving a lot longer than me.”
He cleared his throat again and his gaze drifted to Emmy’s stomach. He tipped his head so he was looking over his reading glasses at her.
“You sure you can reach the pedals in your condition, young lady?”
Emmy laughed and flipped her hair over his shoulder.
“Oh, Mr. Robbins! You’re so funny!”
Daddy chuckled but then levied a serious look at her.
“But, seriously – can you?”
Emmy sighed. “Yes, Mr. Robbins. I can reach the pedals in a car just fine still.”
Daddy sighed and lifted the keys from the table next to his chair.
“Well, go on then. You girls be careful and don’t hang around in town too long afterward. I heard we’re supposed to get snow this afternoon.”
He hesitated as he handed the keys to Emmy holding tight to them for a moment as she reached for them.
Emmy smiled at him. “You have to let them go, Mr. Robbins.”
“Yeah, I know. Just .. well, be careful with her.”
“With Blanche or the car, Mr. Robbins?”
“Uh, with Blanche?”
Emmy and I laughed, knowing he meant the car.
“We’ll take good care of the car, Daddy,” I said as we reached for our coats and headed toward the door. I leaned down and kissed Jackson on top of the head. “Be good for Grandma and Grandpa.”
“Will you bring me a treat?” he asked.
“I can bring you back some theater popcorn, what do you think?”
“Okay,” he said. “If you get me chocolate too, you can go.”
Daddy chuckled as lifted Jackson into his lap and winked at me. “He’s definitely your kid.”
Jackson looked at his grandpa. “We gonna watch the baseball game on the TV, Grandpa?”
I smirked. “And he’s definitely your grandson.”
“Where are you girls headed?” Mama asked as she walked into the room with a cup of tea. “We’re supposed to get snow today. I don’t think you should be out on the roads. It could start early.”
I kissed her cheek. “I’m sure we’ll be fine, Mama. I heard the forecast on the radio earlier and it’s not supposed to start until this evening. We’ll be back long before then.”
Emmy giggled as she shoved herself behind the steering wheel a few moments later.
“Your daddy might have been right. I almost can’t fit back here.”
When we reached the theater I felt like a young girl again, out on the town with my friend, only this time my friend’s belly was poked out like she had swallowed a watermelon and I knew I needed to be home before dark so I could give my son a bath and tuck him into bed.
After we’d purchased our tickets we waited for popcorn and snacks. “Well, look whose here!” Emmy called as I turned toward the theater a few moments later, a soda in one hand, a bag of popcorn in the other.
Judson, standing with Sherry Fenton, who I would have graduated with, if I had graduated high school, reached out to hug Emmy.
“Judson! So happy to see you finally socializing!” Emmy leaned toward him.
I hadn’t seen him in three months and almost didn’t recognize him. He’d grown a full beard but his eyes were still the same bright blue, his dark hair still long across his forehead, and his smile still aggravatingly attractive.
Sherry’s reddish blond hair was coiffed on the top of her head in a modern hairstyle, her dark eyelashes framed under dark blue shadow. My eyes fell to her low cut blouse and moved back up to her bright red lipstick.
“Whoa there, kid, be careful you don’t tip yourself over,” Judson teased Emmy. “I don’t know if we could get you back up again.”
Emmy playfully slapped his arm. “You hush up, J.T., I know all kinds of secrets about you I could spill right now in front of your date.”
Judson held his hands up as if in surrender. “Now, now. Slow down there. You know I was only teasing. I guess it’s the perfect day for a movie. You two want to sit with us?”
Emmy enthusiastically agreed before I could protest and we soon found ourselves a foursome, with Sherry in the seat on the inside, next to Judson, and me on the other side of him with Emmy on the end of the aisle in case the baby kicked her bladder and sent her running to the bathroom. I was glad the movie started before we all had to make small talk.
Sitting there, in the dark, Judson’s arm brushing against mine, I thought about the day in high school Edith had gone to a movie with me and spent most of the movie watching Jimmy with Annie Welles. Edith had been so jealous she could barely contain her fury when she’d left the theater. She’d channeled that anger into a lewd, flirty moment with Jimmy and later admitted to me that she and Jimmy had never established they were an exclusive item, so she had no right to be jealous.
I noticed Sherry watching Judson as he watched the movie. Her eyes traveled across his face and down his arms, a small smile playing across her lips. I couldn’t explain why I felt so annoyed at the idea of the two of them together. I knew it wasn’t because I would have preferred Judson had asked me out. Why would he ask me out? I’d made it clear I wasn’t interested in him by avoiding him, making our conversations short and sweet, and shoving any remote attraction to him deep down inside me. If it hadn’t been clear to him before, our interaction in Mr. Worley’s barn at the end of the summer had driven my position home. I had no claim to him and no right to feel uncomfortable with the way Sherry was laying her hand against his and smiling.
I was determined not to be silly like Edith had been when we were younger and she had seethed with jealousy over Jimmy. The difference was that Edith had actually dated Jimmy while I’d only met Judson a few times and had a few spars with him while I tried to make sure he kept his distance. He’d clearly taken the hint and moved on, if he had even been interested in the first place.
“So, what did you think of the movie?” he asked when the movie ended and we slid our coats on.
“It was different seeing Paul Newman in a comedy,” I said. “But he pulled it off, didn’t he?”
“He can pull anything off with those blue eyes,” Sherry said with a wink.
“Well, I suppose that’s true,” I laughed.
“He’s always been one of my favorites and he didn’t disappoint,” Emmy added.
Judson cleared his throat as we walked into the lobby. “Well, maybe I should just leave you ladies alone to discuss Paul.”
Sherry joined Emmy and I as we laughed.
“Oh, dear, is someone feeling left out?” Sherry asked, laying her hand against Judson’s shoulder.
“I’m sure I’ll be fine,” he sighed, feigning hurt. “I’ll just think about Shirley while you all talk about Paul.”
Sherry playfully slapped his arm. “Well, let’s hope not,” she scoffed. “That woman needed more clothes on.”
Sherry turned to Emmy and me as she slid her scarf around her neck. “Emmy, Blanche. I’m so glad we bumped into you. This was really fun.”
Why did she have to be nice and pretty? It made it hard to dislike her.
And I had to admit she was right. It had been nice watching the movie as a group.
“It really was,” I said sincerely as I buttoned my coat.
Emmy was cheerful, maybe too cheerful. “We will have to do it again sometime.”
I wasn’t sure I would go that far, but it was a nice sentiment.
Outside the theater, we all glanced up at the milky haze that had settled over the town. Large flakes were drifting from the murky clouds and landing in our hair and on our coats.
“We’d better head out before this gets worse,” I said.
Judson nodded as Sherry looped her arm through his. “Agreed. You ladies drive careful.”