While visiting Manhattan, I saw a re-furbished Thunderbird for sale in Soho. I ran my hands over the beautiful leather seats, the chrome bumpers and wheel rims. I saw myself in it. My hair blowing in the wind. I imagined the stories it could tell. Maybe it once belonged to a young man who saved his allowance to buy it. Maybe it was a sweet sixteen birthday gift to a girl from her parents. Maybe it was owned by someone in the mob. I pictured him sitting in the back seat, being driven by his body guard to meet his death. Before I left Soho I took a photo of the car. When I returned home, I wrote a story about a boy, his car, and a young girl’s dream date.
The smooth blue and white leather felt cool on the back of Justine’s thighs. She pulled her skirt down to cover her knees. Tommy didn’t notice. He was more interested in how she liked the way the convertible eased over the potholes in the parking lot.
“I don’t know anything about cars,” she said.
Tommy pressed on the gas pedal. The wheels spun. Justine gripped the door handle as the car veered to the left then glided over the gravel road. “Like ducks on ice,” he said. He glanced in the rear view mirror, frowned and pulled a comb out of his shirt pocket. He ran it through his hair, looked in the mirror again and smiled. “Hey high school beauty queen,” he said, pointing to the radio. “Throw a dime in the juke box.”
She stretched out her hand to turn it on. Tommy put his hand on hers. “Be careful,” he said, “she’s delicate.”
It was the perfect afternoon. A love song on the radio and the most popular boy in school, she couldn’t ask for anything more. Justine leaned her head back on the seat and stared at the clouds flying by in a blue sky. She planned their wedding, their children and their life. After months of getting him to notice her it was worth lying to her parents about having to work.
Tommy pushed hard on the gas pedal. The turquoise T-Bird fishtailed out of control but quickly corrected itself. “That’s what I like,” he said and grinned at his reflection in the side mirror. He asked how she liked the feel of the leather and the purr of the engine. She looked at him and realized he didn’t know her name. He never asked. Since she could remember, he’d called her, high school beauty queen. What did she see in him when he pulled into the Burger Palace where she worked part-time? What did she think would happen when he asked to drive her home from school the next day? The other girls she worked with nodded at her then at him. They loved his slick dark hair, his bright smile, his pretty blue eyes and his car. They said he won every drag race. They said she was lucky. They said the girls in school would be jealous.
An hour later, he stopped the car in front of her house. “So what do you think?” he asked.
“About what?” she said.
He ran his hands over the chrome dashboard. “Isn’t she beautiful?” He didn’t wait for her reply. “Later high school beauty queen,” he said, then reached over and opened her door. He waved and sped away. Justine watched gravel scatter under the wheels of his dream date.
Previously published in CommuterLit