A Chapter

Yes, I am working on the novel and to prove it, here is a chapter! 😄 It can almost stand as short-story on its own.

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 way.

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 kindred spirits.

Yes, he was in a jacket, sort of 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.

A polite goodbye to her mom and Roger was following 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 any?

“Huh?” Roger had said something.

“I just asked about work,” he said.

“Oh, it’s okay. How about with you?”

“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 he did.

“What does your dad have you doing?”

“Digging, mostly. Trenches for concrete footers.”

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 or two 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 palm 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 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.

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