My latest book, HALLEY, awarded 2015 Jefferson Cup Honor for Historical Fiction, awarded the Moonbeam Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction, and awarded the 2016 Frank Yerby Award for Fiction. Available at: NewSouth Books: www.newsouthbooks.com/halley and Amazon.
Here I am in 1958 with folded arms prepared for any undergarment failure
I reached my teens in the 1950’s—the age of can-can petticoats, Elvis, rolled bobby socks, and drive-ins. However, I never experienced any of those. Daddy didn’t allow me to date, and if he had given permission, I was too timid to go. So there I was, nearing seventeen without ever having dated. Then a friend stepped in. Maureen Pratt was the envy of almost every other girl in school, because she was a magnet for every good-looking boy on campus. However, her parents were strict Baptists, and unless the date was a church event, they allowed only double-dates. She didn’t reveal any of this when she invited me to spend the night. But on the bus after school, she confided, “We’re going on a double-date tonight. Johnny, my new boyfriend, is bringing his cousin for you.”
My heart sank. I had not worn my best bra or my best dress and , maybe worst of all, I had on my mother’s good shoes, which were a size too small. My feet were screaming for release.
“You’ll like Ronnie,” she assured me. “He’s cute.”
When Johnny arrived in a 1950 Chevy with a coon tail on the radio antenna, his cousin was just another skinny, pimply-faced teenage boy with a drake tail haircut. Ronnie’s limp hair was swept back in waves—Jerry Lee Lewis style.
“Hi,” I said when introduced, and then wondered what on earth else I could say.
Then we were in the car, bumping along River Bend Road—the roughest road in the entire county. “Be careful of all these pot holes,” Maureen said to Johnny. “Some are ‘bout big enough to swallow the car.”
Both boys laughed. “You telling me,” Johnny said. “These holes are beating the alignment right out of my front end.”
“Pro’bly the rear end too,” Ronnie said, laughing.
Maureen giggled. “Naughty! Isn’t he naughty, Faye?”
“Uh, yeah,” I said, trying to think of something cool to add, but before my tongue hooked up with my brain the sparkling date talk went on without me. More jokes, the last basketball game, who was dating who and which couples had broken up. Maybe I could mention the weather. We went around a curve and I slid toward Ronnie before I could stop myself. Grabbing the door handle I pulled myself back in place.
Johnny swerved to miss a pot hole. I bounced up and down and slid toward Ronnie again. As I pulled back I felt my right breast bounce free. A broken bra strap! I had a safety pin in my purse for this very disaster, but no way I could use it now. Crossing my arms across my chest, I tried to stop the bounce. With my luck, it might burst out of my dress and give me a right to the chin.
“Finally,” said Johnny when we turned onto the Chatsworth Highway. “Good pavement.” Ronnie agreed that it was good hard-d-d pavement. Giggles all around. It seemed hours before we reached the drive-in.
“West of Laramie!” cooed Maureen, leaning toward the lit up marquee. “Don’t you just love westerns!”
As soon as we pulled into a parking spot on one of the back rows and got the speaker attached, Maureen turned to me. “Want to go to the little girl’s room?”
Did I! I clamped my left arm over the runaway titty and threw open the door with the other.
“When we get back Johnny and me are going to take the back seat,” she whispered on the way to the concession stand. “I think he’s going to propose tonight!”
We pushed ahead of a half dozen girls going in to the tiny bathroom. Doris took one stall and I took the other. Girls began pounding on my door almost immediately while I shucked off my dress and and the age-yellowed bra that Mama had bought when I was thirteen and wore a B cup. Now I needed a D cup but Mama said new underwear was way down her list. Not that I minded the size— the B cup acted as a girdle. I had learned the art of distributing some bust below the cup and still more under each arm. That still left a goodly amount to squeeze together in the middle. By pulling the straps as tight as possible, I could mold the remainder into what I hoped was a semblance of a normal bosom.
Fishing my emergency safety pin out of my purse, I began looking for a sound area of fabric in back to pin the strap to. The commode in the next stall flushed. “You ready to go?” Maureen called.
“I’ll come later, “ I said. “Go on.” The rusted pin refused to pierce the fabric. I scrubbed it against the metal lock on the door until I got some rust off. Finally, the bra strap was pinned and my breasts distributed. I tried to breathe shallow in order to avoid another rupture.
Outside, I realized another problem. Where was the car? Dang! Somewhere in back—but which row? And what color was Johnny’s car? Grey? Blue?
Finally, I saw a familiar car off to the right, and headed toward it . But just as I reached for the door handle a big dog lunged halfway out the window, barking furiously.
Retreating, I slammed into someone with a soft drink, which dropped and immediately soaked my skirt and and my right shoe. Now the shoe squished with each move.
“Sorry,” I said and sloshed off toward a coon tail I’d just spotted two rows away. The car was vibrating, and as I got closer I saw a leg with a rolled sock dangling out of a back window.
“You got here in time for the round-up,” Ronnie said, nodding toward the screen.
“Goody,” I replied, dropping myself onto the seat. Squish went my right shoe. Bounce went my breasts. Sproing-g-g-g went the seat.
“Uh, you might want to move over this way,” Ronnie said. “Bad springs on that side.”
“Seat’s fine,” I said, folding my arms tightly over my chest.
From the back seat came the sound of murmuring and heavy breathing. On the huge screen thousands of cows thundered across the prairie, and from somewhere across the lines of cars came the barking of a dog. Time stood still. It was only a hundred and sixteen hours until we were back at Maureen’s house and Johnny and Ronnie were backing down the driveway to River Bend Road.
“Did Johnny propose?” I asked as the car drove away.
“Nearly,” said Maureen. “Did Ronnie ask you for another date?”
“Nearly,” I answered.
I had survived my first date.