It had been a nice date. But as they were driving home, top down on the Ford Coupe, she had to admit the evening had not been as dazzling as she’d hoped. The gentleman was kind, had opened doors and pulled out chairs, yet the spark was noticeably absent. He clearly noticed too, as he’d switched from his charming manner to a more casual, jovial one. She appreciated that, and though disappointed in a lack of romance, looked forward to the addition of a new friendship.
“So are all the gals in your suite English majors?”
“Not all of us, just most. Zenith is planning to go into nursing, so she dances between math and chemistry.”
“Oh, a dancer- think maybe we could double with her sometime if I bring someone for you?”
Billie laughed, “Of course! Though I meant dances between classes, I’m not sure if she can handle a swing.”
Todd grinned at her, “Oh I can teach a girl to swing, but she’s got to know how to move between things first.”
Billie laughed again, and they began to discuss the different double date partners they could find for one another.
Two blocks from her dorm, Todd slowed the car for a stop sign. The warm buzz of a city afternoon flowed into the car. There were other Friday night dates walking by with ice creams, discussing their hometowns. A young co-ed called her beagle to heel. A few rowdy boys sat outside a sandwich shop, loudly comparing baseball stats for anyone to hear and be mildly impressed. Two young men in their Navy fatigues waited at the intersection to cross the street. It was a perfect southern evening, with a crescent moon threatening to show her face a little early over the palmetto branches, and a cool breeze beginning to sweep the stale heat of the day away.
Todd waited patiently for this turn to go, but when he put his foot on the gas, Billie stopped him with a hand to his arm.
“Todd- who is that.”
It was more a demand then question.
Todd followed her gaze to the Navy privates. “Oh they’re in my command. You talking about the taller one or the shorter one?”
She raised an eyebrow at him.
“Alright, the taller one then!” He laughed, “That’s Jerry Johnson. Says he’s from Graniteville. Sorry to say, sugar, but he’s got a fiancé back home.”
Billie smiled mischievously, “Well Todd, that’s too good a nose and too nice a hairline for my children not to have ’em. So I’ll just have to introduce myself.”
“There’s no stopping you,” Todd chided her, but still pulled over to the corner. “Jerry! Connor! Come jump in! This is Billie and we’re going for a float at Hannigan’s.”
The shorter, stalkier man didn’t hesitate, “I’ll never say no to a good float with a pretty gal!”
Jerry Johnson still stood on the sidewalk, considering.
Todd waved him in, “Come on Jerry, you’ve got time for a soda with us!”
Billie met his eyes for the first time- hers blue as the first crest of sea at dawn and his the last rippled waves at night. She felt him reading her, calculating, wondering. She knew he saw what she did; the promise of future. A bit of undeniable destiny on the corner of Spring St. and Main.
“Yeah,” He said slowly, in a drawling agreement to the rest of his life, “I’ve got time for that I think.”
Serendipity (Noun): The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
Some of you have heard the shorter, FAR less fictionalized version of the above story. My Nanna, Billie, met my Poppa when he was already engaged. However, she wanted that strong Southern nose and long legs on her babies, and he could not resist those deep blue eyes and “the prettiest smile in Columbia” with a brain behind it to boot!
I, of course, switched around a few characters and romanticized a bit. I think they’d both forgive me for doing so, and can almost hear Nanna’s rounded laugh at my interpretation. I’ve wanted to tell this story for a while, and it being the first story I’ve written since she passed, it felt like a good way to honor her.
Though Poppa’s originally-intended may disagree, this change in Poppa’s fate is celebrated constantly by my family. Nanna is a sweet but mischievous lady, in the very best ways, so although others who have met her are surprised to hear such risky romance paired with her loyal church going and PTA attendance, and her firm farming roots, we’re not all that surprised 🙂
Enjoy the crazy chances the come by, lovely readers! Do as Ms. Billie did and ride fate’s wave!