Gina was waiting for Scarlett behind the high school auditorium in her sister’s red Mustang convertible. Shiny new with white leather seats, it was the prettiest car Scarlett had ever seen. “Well, come on. What are you waiting for? Let’s go,” said Gina. “Get in.”
Scarlett got in and ran her hand over the leather seats. “Jeez. I’ve never been in a convertible before. It’s beautiful.”
“Yeah, I know. I wish it were mine.”
“How come your sister’s letting you use it?”
“She doesn’t know. She’s away for the weekend so I just borrowed it. I know where she keeps the extra keys. It’s brand new, you know?”
“Yeah. I can tell,” said Scarlett, still admiring everything about it, including the shiny chrome on the gearshift and steering wheel.
“Well, where should we go?” asked Gina, driving off down . “Before the boys spot us in this hot, new car.”
Just about the second that pronouncement left Gina’s lips, Scarlett spotted Skeeter and his buddies in Buford Sales’ l955 Chevy Belair turning off on to . Apparently, her mother either hadn’t found him or hadn’t talked him into going back to the house with her.
“Shit!” exclaimed Scarlett. “That’s Skeeter Boyd in that Chevy.”
“So?” said Gina.
“I didn’t get a chance to call off our date.”
“No problem,” said Gina and she floorboarded the Mustang, burning rubber all the way down .
Buford Sales’ souped-up Chevy took off after them but Gina managed to ditch Buford and the boys by driving down an alley. She pulled over and turned off the engine until the Chevy’s lights flew past.
“Looks like the pussy posse’s going in the wrong direction,” said Gina.
They both laughed. It was sure enough true. That posse was headed for the city dump faster than the speed of light. If they didn’t find the girls, at least they’d have a place to dump all those hormones.
“Maybe we should go down by the river,” suggested Scarlett. “I know Buford doesn’t like to get his car dirty.”
“Neither does my sister. But we can always wash it afterwards. Right?”
“Right,” said Scarlett. “I’ll help you.”
Gina started up the car and drove toward the river. It was a beautiful night. A breeze kicked up from the south blowing a coolness across the countryside. It was the absolute perfect moment for a convertible ride down by the river. Magic rode the road and Gina was driving.
“Turn off at the next left,” said Scarlett. “It’ll take us down to a spot I know.”
Gina slowed down and made the turn. The road was a little bumpy but not enough to discourage them from going to their decided destination.
“Remember this song?” asked Gina.
“Yeah. I remember,” said Scarlett loudly. “Dream Lover.”
Gina turned down the radio. “When it was popular, I had a big crush on Hans Van Prittwitz. Silly name, huh?” she paused and explained. “My dad was stationed in then.”
Scarlett and Gina got quiet and listened to the rest of the song. The grass was getting tall from its spring spurt and swayed gently in the wind on either side of the road.
“Over there,” said Scarlett pointing. “It’s the old boathouse.”
Gina pulled the car up behind the building and turned off the engine. “Okay. Now what?”
“Let’s go out on the wharf,” said Scarlett, sensing Gina’s eyes on her. “You can feel the river breeze there.”
The two new friends got out of the car and made their way to the wharf with the help of a small flashlight that was in the Mustang. They sat down and hung their legs over the edge. The breeze was blowing pretty good now and picking up more coolness off the river.
“Thanks for asking me along,” said Scarlett. “I didn’t really want to spend the evening with Skeeter.”
“I know,” said Gina, sliding out of her shoes and sticking her toes in the water. “Have you fucked him yet?”
Gina’s abruptness stunned Scarlett. She was suddenly uncomfortable and didn’t know what to do but look up at the moon. “Well?” prodded Gina.
“Well,” stalled Scarlett. She wondered if she dare tell her new friend the truth. After a few more seconds of edgy silence, she decided she would. “Yes,” she said. “A couple of times.”
“Did you like it?”
“Not really. But a friend of mine told me that was because he wasn’t the right one,” said Scarlett. “What about you? Have you done it?”
“In . . ,” said Gina with a twinkle in her eye. “Just about everywhere my dad was stationed the last four years.”
“You started young,” observed an amazed Scarlett.
“Yeah,” mused Gina. “I guess I did.”
With that they both fell silent and felt the night. Scarlett couldn’t believe how comfortable she was with Gina. She barely knew her yet they were already sharing secrets.
“A friend of mine drowned in a river like this one,” said Gina. “In .”
“Yeah?” said Scarlett. “I lost a couple of my friends that way too. Right here, Norma and June. A freak current. They never found them. It was terrible.”
“I’m sorry,” commiserated Gina and she patted Scarlett on the back.
The big old fib had just sort of tumbled out of Scarlett’s mouth and now she didn’t know how to tell Gina it wasn’t so. She decided she better keep her mouth shut. If she told the truth now, it might sound like she had been poking fun at Gina’s poor friend over there in . To try and feel better about what she said, Scarlett rationalized her behavior. After all, June and Norma were at the bottom of the Monongahela. There was no doubt about that. They were down there trapped between the pages of a thrift shop book. So what if she had left out a detail or two.
“No more drowning talk. Okay?” said Gina. “It’ll just make us sad.”
“Okay,” said Scarlett, wondering who died in that far away river. There had been pain in Gina’s voice.
“How about a little pot?”
“A little what!” exclaimed Scarlett.
“You know, marijuana. I’ve got a joint in my purse.” Gina took out a square, compact mirror and flicked it open. Inside was a row of hand-rolled marijuana cigarettes.
“I don’t know,” said Scarlett. “I hear that stuff makes you crazy. That it’s just like smoking loco weed.”
“Not true,” Gina said softly, reassuringly, and lit one of the marijuana cigarettes with her lighter. She took a long breathy drag on it and handed it to Scarlett.
“I don’t smoke,” said Scarlett.
“This is different. Just inhale it and hold it as long as you can.”
Not wanting to displease her new friend, Scarlett took the joint and drew in the smoke. She immediately started coughing.
“No. Not like that,” said Gina and took the cigarette back from Scarlett. She inhaled on the joint and leaned over to Scarlett who reflexively leaned back, away from her. “Well, come here. How am I going to blow smoke down your throat if you’re way over there?”
Scarlett hesitated again and then obeyed. She leaned forward as Gina inhaled again.
“Open your mouth,” said Gina and she moved as close to Scarlett as one human being can come to another without kissing them and slowly blew the smoke into her mouth. “Hold it,” she directed, “as long as you can.”
Scarlett counted to ten and then she just had to exhale. The smoke tickled the back of her throat.
“Good,” smiled Gina approvingly. “You’ll feel that real soon.”
It was true. In no time at all Scarlett felt herself relax and the world around her change. The river sounds became louder and richer, the rustle of reeds along the shore more rhythmic and musical. Even her skin felt different. She felt every pore open as a breeze blew across her body.
“How do you feel?” asked Gina.
“Good, I think,” answered Scarlett.
“Well, let’s see if we can take the doubt completely out of it.”
Gina inhaled once again and blew her breath into Scarlett’s mouth, brushing her lips ever so slightly up against Scarlett’s as she did. Scarlett recoiled and felt herself begin to burn inside. Unsure of what to do, she turned away from Gina and looked up at the sky where the little sliver of a moon grew incandescent and the stars brilliant beyond bearing.
“How about another hit?” said Gina, holding up the joint. That twinkle was back in her eyes.
“Cool,” said Scarlett, trying to calm down and control the fire.
Gina leaned over to Scarlett and then suddenly pulled back. “Whoops!” she giggled. “I almost forgot what I was going there for.” She put the joint to her red lips and drew in the smoke.
“Maybe you were going to kiss me,” said Scarlett with a boldness that surprised them both.
Gina smiled. “Maybe I was.”
As she turned back toward Scarlett, the mood was suddenly broken by the insistent backfiring of a l955 Chevrolet Belair. “Shit!” exclaimed Scarlett. “They’re here. The boys found us.”
Buford’s Chevy bounced across the road and came to stop along side Gina’s sister’s red Mustang convertible. All the guys jumped out and admired the car and started commenting, like boys do, on such things as horsepower and all that cam stuff. Skeeter got to Gina and Scarlett first.
“What happened to you?” Skeeter asked Scarlett. “We had a date.”
“Didn’t Boonie tell you to meet us here?” Scarlett replied, making up a name to buy time. “He was supposed to.”
“You know, that sort of silly looking new guy. The one who transferred to Dillinger High the same time Gina did.”
Skeeter looked confused, trying as he was to remember somebody who didn’t exist. Gina winked at Scarlett.
“Come on, big guy. Sit down and have a hit. There’s one here just for you.” Gina took a brand new joint out of her compact and handed it to Skeeter. He looked somewhere between dazed and delighted.
“I didn’t know you smoked grass, Scarlett?”
“I bet you there’s a few other things you don’t know either,” laughed Gina as she lit Skeeter a joint.
The other boys finally came out on the wharf and joined the party. “Hot damn!” yelled Buford. “I smell heaven.”