Saving herself for marriage seemed
terribly old-fashioned to Rhonda Deerfield, yet that was just what
she had been doing. She had no illusions that her best friends had
done the same. Rhonda would not change her habit this night. No. If
it were going to happen it would not be with Roger.
Roger was trustworthy. She was pretty
sure of this. Oh, he could be encouraged. Couldn’t all guys? Roger
Starr was no one she intended to encourage. He was someone to go out
with, just to have someone to go out with. She felt she should have
that someone on a Friday night and assumed Roger saw her the same
They wouldn’t see each other after
this summer, anyway, would they? She’d be at the University of
Florida, he was bound for Florida State. That should make them mortal
enemies the rest of their lives!
At least during football season. She
wouldn’t see any of her friends, not the real friends. Everyone was
headed a different direction. Or in Joey’s case, staying right here
in Naples while the rest of them left. Joanna Varney was bright,
maybe even the brightest of them all. She could do better than the
local JC. She deserved better.
Pink lipstick? If she got much tanner
it wouldn’t look quite right. She finished her makeup and stood to
look herself over. Maybe she should have gone more casual. It was
only dinner and a movie with Roger. Oh, chances were he’d have on a
jacket and tie. It was so stupid of them both.
More so when the weather was this hot.
Ronnie almost wished she’d been the one invited to a keg party on a
deserted beach, dancing to car radio music by headlight illumination,
wearing shorts and slapping at mosquitoes. She wasn’t sure she
would enjoy it, she knew she would feel out of place, but maybe just
to do something different. Instead, an evening in a white dress,
neither boring nor exciting. Just an evening.
The doorbell rang. That was almost
certainly Roger. Yeah, there was his dark blue Falcon in the drive.
Did someone let him in? “Hi, Ronnie. Ready to go?” Mom was at his
side, at the door.
Mom liked Roger, of course. He was
solid and bland and polite and was going to be an engineer. Big and
sort of good looking too, but slow-moving, not athletic. Dad, of
course, made jokes about him, the same sort Kris made. Those two were
Yes, he was in a jacket, gold colored,
with a striped tie. He might have worn both last time they went out,
for all she knew. “Bye Mom,” she said. “Home before midnight.
We don’t want Roger’s car to turn into a pumpkin.” That set a
time without her mother awkwardly attempting it. Mom had become
unsure about curfews now she was officially an adult.
With a polite goodbye to her mom, Roger
followed her out the door. He held the car door open for her, being
painfully polite as usual, a robot gentleman. Before turning the key
in the ignition, he turned and asked, “Blackbeard’s Ghost?
Or should I drive to Fort Myers? There are better movies playing up
there.” Roger did not sound eager.
She wasn’t that eager to spend an
hour riding north either. Not to mention coming back. “Don’t
bother. It’s just a movie.” Maybe neither would enjoy it much but
it was something to do on a Friday night, an excuse not to sit home.
“We can catch the first show, can’t we? And eat after.”
“Sure.” He cranked the engine and
eased away from the curb. Even were they a little late, it wouldn’t
matter any. Was this going to be her summer? None of it mattering
“Huh?” Roger had said something.
“I just asked about work,” he said.
“Oh, it’s okay. How about with
“A pain. But it’s college money.”
Roger was actually working construction, working for his father’s
company. It felt odd to think of him in work clothes, doing whatever
“What does your dad have you doing?”
“Digging, mostly. Trenches for
Hard manual labor. It did feel odd. She
tried to picture Roger shoveling dirt in a sweat-stained tee and
found she couldn’t. Did he sit and talk with the other guys on the
job? Did he use the same profanities, maybe drink a beer—maybe more
than one—at the end of the day? Ronnie had seen construction
workers and thought she knew a thing or two about them.
“I hope you showered well after a day
of that,” she quipped. Why did she say that? It wasn’t the sort
of thing she did. Roger only chuckled. She didn’t seem to have
embarrassed him. Not as much as she embarrassed herself.
“Lots of cars,” he mumbled. “I’ll
see if there’s a parking space on Broad.” He pulled into one
about halfway up the block. Only a block and a half from the beach.
Ronnie thought she might prefer to walk that direction instead of
back toward the theater. She got out before Roger could come around
and get the door.
It wasn’t quite dark yet. A glow came
from the direction of the Gulf, the just-set sun. Black silhouettes
of coconut palms stood against a smoke-purple sky. They lined both
sides of Broad Avenue, had as far back as she could remember, tall
when she was still a little girl. They clipped the nuts off before
they matured these days but once one could drive about in the early
morning and pick up freshly-fallen coconuts.
Too many had fallen on people’s cars.
That wouldn’t do as more and more took up residence in town and in
the developments beyond, northerners who didn’t understand a few
dents from fallen coconuts were part of the price of life in
paradise. That was what Dad said, anyway.
There were kids standing around the
theater entrance, and at the drugstore next door. The venerable Beach
Store—it was older than
she was, in a town where very little was old. The theater was old too
and located in a Quonset hut. That definitely would be torn down
soon. Everyone knew that. Some would miss it, eyesore though it was.
“Just a coke,” she murmured to
Roger when he paused at the concession counter. She didn’t really
want that, even. She just thought she should let him buy her
something, so he wouldn’t feel awkward if he got something for
himself. How dingy this place was, its dim tiled and stuccoed walls,
the dark red ragged carpet, littered with bits of popcorn and paper.
Up a couple steps from the lobby; to the right was the gallery where
black people would have sat only a couple years ago. To the left, the
main seating. It was a reasonably large place, really, with just as
big a screen as any theater in Fort Myers.
Unless one counted the drive-ins. She
was glad Roger didn’t suggest that. The opening credits were
running. Perfect timing. Enjoy the movie, she told herself. It will
be okay. Even enjoy Roger’s arm around you and don’t mind if he
kisses you later. It’s something to do on a Friday night.
This is Chapter Two from my novel-in-progress, ‘One Summer in the Sun,’ but I realized it can work as a standalone short story. So here it is. This would take place in the summer of 1968.