Here’s another Belinda Blue Brown episode draft. The more of these I write, the more loose ends there will be to clean up when I pull them together into one document. I hope you enjoy that I’m sharing a bit of the writing process here. In the end, I don’t know if the whole project will be a keeper, but that’s part of the fun.
That Shocking Proposal
My friend Velda Sue, well, she goes by Suzette now, and since we haven’t spoken in, oh, thirty years and since I only heard about her plight third-hand, I don’t suppose you could say she’s my friend anymore. But, jeeze, we’ve known each other since we were tykes runnin’ barefoot in black earth that seemed a whole lot moister way back when, you know. Oh, that dirt. It smelled so good we didn’t just make mud pies, we tried eatin’ ‘em out in my backyard one day. And my mama, she came out to hang laundry on the line and saw that mud all around our mouths, and us chewin’ up a storm.
She hauled us inside, stripped off our clothes and dumped us in the tub real quick, nothin’ harsh about it though. She was speedy but never the punishing’ type, thank goodness. Neither was Velda Sue’s mom. They lived right across the street from us, so it wasn’t long before Velda Sue’s mom came over, and the two of them were laughin’ about our mud pies over Sanka coffee in the kitchen and my mom’s special-recipe pound cake that tasted a whole lot better than mud, come to think of it.
And when Velda Sue and I were gettin’ bored splashin’ in the tub, it was her mom who came in, gave us each a good scrubbin’ and dressed us in matching sundresses, and told us to play inside for a while, at least until our dads came home from the Good Days Bakery, where they both worked as supervisors—my dad in the cookie department, and her dad in the bread department. So Velda Sue and me were like sisters, twins almost, born just a day apart, and we went to the same school and took the same ballet class and played on the same softball team and all that. I thought someday Velda Sue and me would live across the street from each other and raise our babies up together, just like our mothers, but, you know, I could tell by high school that wasn’t gonna happen. I just didn’t want to admit it.
See, my pa died in an auto accident when Velda Sue and me were ten. Her dad was driving, and he survived without much damage, just a few bumps and such. But my dad went right through the windshield. And it turns out he didn’t have any life insurance, and Mama had no marketable skills, so it wasn’t long before we moved in with my grandma and grandpa on the outskirts of town. So Velda Sue and me didn’t go to the same school again until high school, and, well, by then let’s just say we traveled in different circles. She was gorgeous and blonde and real coordinated, made the cheerleading squad all four years, which was like being a rock star or some kind of goddess. Now I was slim enough, I guess, but shaped sort of like a pear and not at all coordinated. Plus my wardrobe was, um, limited, and back then clothes mattered, a lot. So, Velda Sue and I would say a quick hi sometimes if we passed each other in the halls, but that was all.
But then, here’s the thing, we did become friends again for a little while, not the best of friends like when we were kids, but friendly for sure. After graduation, she went off to some fancy school in the East, and I went to school in California, a junior college outside of San Francisco where my uncle worked, so he pulled some strings to get me in tuition free. I got my AA and did the books for a music store for a year or so after that, but then, well, okay, I’ll admit it, I missed my mom and my grandma and grandpa, who were gettin’ up in years, and they all missed me, too. I kinda missed my brother and sister, too, and even North Bend, though I never figured on that. When I got on that Greyhound headed west, I thought I was goin’ away for good.
About a year after I returned to North Bend, Velda Sue came back to town, too, and it turns out we both showed up to volunteer for this thing called VISTA on the same day. It’s kinda like the Peace Corps only folks work in America, not in other countries, and it seems a lot of folks in North Bend are underprivileged, according to the government, so there was plenty for volunteers to do right here. And you know who else was volunteering? None other than my Bernie, but of course he wasn’t my Bernie back then. And Velda Sue and Bernie and some other volunteers and me, we’d go together to Paulie’s Diner after work, or throw parties, and so we had a little social group goin’ that was pretty fun, and it turns out Velda Sue, she fell for Bernie.
Now, I’d had a crush on Bernie since when I first saw him standin’ by his locker freshman year. Oh those big brown eyes and that sheepish grin of his, they did me in, but I kept it to myself, so when Velda Sue said she had the hots for him, I didn’t have any claim on him, so I figured they’d be an item soon enough. She said she wanted to settle down with Bernie and that she’d had it with all those fancy guys back east. So I wished her well and said Bernie’d be lucky to have her, which I thought was true. And one day she got all dolled up with eyeliner and eyeshadow and sparkly lipstick and a skimpy knit dress that hugged her curves just right. She’d gotten wind of Bernie’s having bought an expensive ring at Carolina Jewelers in town, and she said her heart was all aflutter because her dream was about to come true, and soon enough we were all at our regular booth at the diner, and Bernie got down on one knee, and he pulled out a ring, and he proposed, but he didn’t propose to Velda. He proposed to me. And I was like to be flabbergasted, and so was she, and she stormed off. I ran after her, but she yelled at me that I was a traitor, and worse stuff I won’t repeat, and she said to leave her alone.
Well, my feelings were hurt, and I stood there, mouth open a mile wide, while she got into her Corolla and started the engine, but then I thought of Bernie back in the restaurant, with all the food gettin’ cold, and so I turned around and came back to the booth. He was slinked down real low and our friends were saying stuff like, man, that’s a bummer, gosh, that didn’t go so well, did it. And so I sat down next to Bernie and I admitted I’d had a crush on him for a long time, but I didn’t really know him, and he didn’t know me, so maybe we could back up a bit and get acquainted, and if maybe after a while he felt I was still wife material and vice versa, we’d get engaged. And Bernie, being his wonderful self and all, he said of course. A year later he proposed for real at the very same booth at Paulie’s, and we got married a year after that, and had our reception at Paulie’s, too. By then Velda Sue was back in school, studying abroad somewhere, and I didn’t think I should invite her. She never believed that I hadn’t somehow intentionally stolen Bernie from her.
Now I’ve heard from my mama, who heard from Velda Sue’s mama, that Velda Sue is back at home and in a real bad way. She won’t talk about it, and she won’t go out. All she does is watch Lifetime movies and eat carmel corn and D’Giorno pepperoni pizzas. And my mama said Velda Sue is askin’ about me. Now I still have her old phone number memorized, even though I tried to forget it because I was so jealous of her, and I’m tryin’ to decide if I should call her. I did pick Bernie over her that day when I gave up on following her and returned to him in the restaurant. I could have pounded on the car window, told her she had to let me in, but maybe it was a little like how she picked her popular friends over me in high school, and maybe I was getting back at her in ways I didn’t even realize at the time. But I swear I wasn’t trying to win him or anything before that shocking proposal. The thing is, though, how do I know if Velda Sue’s really askin’ for me or if my mama’s just havin’ some fantasy about Velda Sue and me being buddies again, which I tell you, is about as likely as a cow jumpin’ over the moon.
Copyright (c) 2013 by Laura McHale Holland
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Mud pie photo by derringdos; Greyound bus depot sign by kuyman.