Southern Charm

Cars that were filled to the brim with dried up, half-eaten burritos from Taco Mwahna, cups with more mold than some cheeses, and empty packets of ketchup, made, Caro thought, the car she was currently riding in the actual moving violation. Not her compact, super clean, super sporty, cherry red Pocket Rocket. And just because she didn’t pay a few- five to six if she had to guess- speeding tickets, old ratchet face, Judge Leblanc, suspended her license faster than she could say the words- mood swings. Now she was stuck hitching a ride with her third cousin, twice removed, and all she could think, other than Becky’s shoes completely missed the mark if they were supposed to match her outfit, was that she would have to endure what she imagined road-kill to smell like for the next couple of months. Seriously though, who wore fluorescent yellow hills, black pleather pants, and paired them with the ugliest shade of orange on a sweater? Her cousin. Becky. 

Becky didn’t notice the light shifting from green to yellow, then immediately following, to red, but Caroline did. She pushed her hands out swiftly, slapping them onto the dash-board. She Locked her arms in place and screamed “Becks, the light, watch out,” while praying her last minutes on earth were short and painless. The semi that was approaching the four-way would unfortunately slam into the right side of the car where Caroline happened to be sitting. Apparently, and a really good thing, the trucker saw what was going down too, but instead of breaking, he laid on his horn and accelerated, and for some odd reason, Caroline thought, it seemed to make the entire situation slow down and was ten times scarier and drawn out. Becky acted like she had everything under control, of course, and somehow answered Caroline’s plea by flipping off the driver for scaring her into burning her rubber, while slamming on the breaks, dramatically screeching to a stop at the light, and doing this all at the same time. The trucker blazed through the light still laying on the ear-splitting horn as his wheels continued on their path. Becky, on the other hand, threw him another bird, a silent one, for him to take with him on his trip wherever he was going. Caroline, well… she was feeling sick…and a little murderous.  

Becks, smacking on her gum, said, “Gawd, I hate truck drivers like that.” She shook her head, and then remembered what she wanted to show off to Caro earlier. 

“Omigod Caro, check out the new hills.” Still parked at the stop light, Becky was able to pull her leg up enough to show off said tacky hills. “They’re awesome, right? I mean, these bitches just won’t quit.” Becky loved to throw phrases around that weren’t relevant to any conversation. Ever. 

Taking a deep, calming breath, “Yea, I saw those babies. Do you really think it was wise though to wear them with that sweater? Might be a bit much is all I’m saying.” She was thinking it was more like a fashion collision with U-G-L-Y. 

 Running her hands through her bangs, taming the beast as much as it would allow in the August humidity, she blew herself a kiss, happy to be alive, then slapped the visor closed and stared straight ahead. It was amazing how a brush with death could really wake a person up. Not to mention her nerves- tattered and torn- she didn’t realize the light switched back to green and that they were already moving again. As far as she knew they were still having show-and-tell day for the worlds foulest shows, but hey, what did she care at this point. Instead of hyperventilating all the way to work, she decided to scout road signs instead. That way she could calculate how much longer she would have to keep her throat and nasal passages closed before getting to the office. She giggled a little, with the death threat under way, she didn’t mind joking to herself that being hit by a huge semi might be a better and quicker way to die than having to endure the smell that was burning the little hairs right out of her nose. Stay out of my mouth road-kill-smell, she continued chanting to herself as the car raced down the highway. 

“You know, you should let me take you shopping while you’re doing your time you little law-breaker.” Becks joked. 

Huh? Not. Gonna. Happen. Don’t hold your breath, she thought, or better yet, do. “Maybe next week okay? I’m swamped at work right now. Plus, mama and daddy put me on house duty while they’re upstate. You know how they are about the house.” She shifted her feet, cautiously trying to locate the floor with the tip of her shoe, having no luck whatsoever.

It’s not that she didn’t like her cousin, she did, but they were just never that close. And she didn’t understand people who had as much money as Becky’s family, yet were too lazy to take care of their belongings. I mean, the last time they all got together at the Tates’, the house was beyond messy. Dirty clothes were strung about everywhere, dishes in the sink with food caked on so long it was practically super glued to the plates, and what’s worse, they didn’t even pretend to make excuses, or try to hide any of it. Can you say…hall closet. The only time it was kept clean was when the housekeeper was on duty and that was never often enough. 

Caroline shifted her foot one more time in an attempt to get comfortable. Wait, was that a- used condom that just touched my toe! She wondered furiously at herself trying to come up with plausible reasons for not getting off her ass and paying those damn tickets sooner. While scolding herself for that mishap, she was also horrified by the thought that her big toe could possibly be in possession of an STD. Okay, calm down. Music, she thought, and then punched the buttons on Becks’ radio for the programmed stations. A smile settled on her face when some familiar words greeted her: 

“This ain’t love it’s clear to see

But darling, stay with me

 “Why am I so emotional?

No it’s not a good look, gain some self-control

And deep down I know this never works

But you can lay with me so it doesn’t hurt” 

As quickly as the smile appeared, it disappeared. If those lyrics didn’t sum up her behaviors after her last disastrous boyfriend, none would. She was the reason someone ever coined the term “playing the field”. 

But before her one and only real relationship ended, she knew that she did everything she could within her power to hold on to him. She put forth all the effort and genuinely wanted to spend time with him, as much as possible in fact. The problem of no effort was on his part. It wasn’t that she felt she had to be near him all the time, but if she was honest with herself, she did get to a place where she lost her own identity, and if she wasn’t with him, she was consumed with wondering where he was at all times. She learned, the hard way of course, that that’s what happens when you stay with a man who cheats on you, a “one-time only” mistake, or not. How could she ever trust what he said? How could she believe him when he was out, swearing to only be with the boys, promising he wasn’t doing anything wrong, or going anywhere that wasn’t on that damned pre-approved list she made for him? The answer was, sadly, she couldn’t. And the day she realized she had become that clingy, list-making, wildly obsessed girl that if today would make herself present would get bitch-slapped. Unfortunately for her, and the doomed relationship, it was O-V-E-R. Why did she feel the need to spell four letter words in her head all the time? She didn’t need to emphasize to herself how ‘over’ they really were. Oh boy did she already know. 

 She wasn’t ashamed to admit that her sanity and dignity were a little late getting to the party, but because in the end she found the courage to walk away, she learned to accept her past mistakes and grew from them, or so she had hoped. It had yet to be tested since she hadn’t had a real boyfriend in six months. She was counting the days. 

She rolled her eyes at her thoughts. It’s not easy to close the door in the face of a two-year relationship, but some things just couldn’t be tolerated. So running to different men for comfort? Maybe not the smartest thing, but sometimes it just couldn’t be helped. Not everyone was cut out to be alone. At least that’s what she told herself. 

“Hellooo. Earth to Caro.” Becky waved her jeweled, meaty, bed-tanned arm back and forth to get her attention. “Come back to me,” snapping fingers in Caro’s face, “come on, get out of there,” referring to Caro’s headspace. 

“Yea. I’m present. Sorry. Don’t know where I went.” Anxiety mounted as she thought about how she would balance her job and social life without a driver’s license over the next couple of weeks. 

“Well get outta that head girl because we’re here.” Becky swung the car around the circle drive, pulling up to the front of the office building where Caro worked. 

She picked her purse up off her lap and pulled on the door handle, pausing, she turned back to Becky, “Thanks for the ride. And I’m sorry if I was distracted. I really do appreciate the lift.” She shifted her legs into exit position before the car even came to a halt. When she did finally step out, some papers, napkins, and a couple of bags dropped from the car’s passenger side along with her finely heeled feet. She sighed and then bent over to pick them up. If she was caught on camera littering in this parking lot, they’d fire her ass quicker than Becky could take a turn on two wheels. Employees like her came a dime a dozen and they would not hesitate to let her go, she thought with some resentment. Egos on the twelfth floor seemed to get their jollies by ruining other people’s lives, but again, what did she know, she was just considered a clerk, although she was an art connoisseur. 

Color exploded in her cheeks from the rogue trash that had peppered the ground. Once it was packed away back in Becky’s car, Caro decided to make a run for it as she took a quick glance around her feet for any strays she might’ve missed. And of course, a fluorescent pink sticky-note on the bottom of her frickn’ heel. What was it with Becks and all-things-fluorescent? She pulled the stupid thing off, crumpled it, and gave it a toss back in the direction it came from. At this point the only word that came to her mind was ‘ridiculous’ and she laughed out loud. If she couldn’t laugh at herself in situations like this one, she’d be in trouble because she often found herself right where she was…as Queen of Dorkdom.

Smiling, she waved to her cousin, yet again, as she closed the car door, maybe a little harder than was necessary and took off toward the front door of the building where she worked.

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