If my morning tree lived in my backyard.
There we sat. Three generations of strong, smart women — sharing bowls of queso, chips and delicious guacamole. My daughter and I on one side of the booth, my Mom on the other.
We barely had an hour for lunch, but we were making the most of it. Angela, our oh-so-cute waitress took our orders and poured iced teas. It was a noisy Monday lunch crowd, but we managed to converse, laugh and enjoy each other’s company.
Until, when we were about half way finished with our meal, three 30ish men were seated in the booth behind us.
Their crass conversation halted my ability to hear anything but them. It centered on the Tinder App, and on-line dating in general. On conquests. On drinking. On swiping right, and on the preferred size of women’s breasts. They bragged and they shared, and it went on, and on, and on.
At one point, my daughter leaned in and whispered, “I can’t help but…“ “Eavesdrop?” I finished her sentence. We both laughed, rolled our eyes and did our best to maintain.
“I hope Grandma can’t hear,” she said.
Soon, it was time to go. I asked Angela to bring me the check.
I was buying this lunch…
…until Angela returned moments later and announced, “Your check has magically been taken care of!” Her smile was bright, and it was clear she enjoyed delivering such news. And then she was gone.
The three of us shared a brief moment of confusion, exchanged questioning looks, and then burst into smiles. It was a first for all of us. Holy Guacamole! Someone had just paid for our lunch. I glanced around the crowded restaurant, searching for a familiar face, or one holding a secret. But the generous benefactor remained anonymous.
“I guess we’ll all be paying this forward,” my precious child said as we stood to leave.
So, this is happening on Saturday from 1-3 p.m. (I’m mentioned on their website)…Eeek! Come by and say hi 😃📚
The stadium was full, the band played the Landry Longhorn’s fight song and people began taking their seats. There was excitement in the air and the metal bleachers vibrated with the noise. Jovi and Opal found a group of classmates to sit with behind the band. Opal sang along with the fight song and they both clapped.
Jovi scanned the crowd and found her family in their usual seats. The twins were on their feet, dressed in cheerleader uniforms and shaking pompoms. Sassy and Grant sat in the seats on either side of the girls and both checked their phones. Jason and Analise faced each other, their foreheads touching. Jovi felt self-conscious and looked away, embarrassed as if she had been peeking through closed curtains. But her heart warmed with the knowledge that her brother and his wife were so deeply in love.
She watched as her Dad made his way up the stadium steps with a small bag of popcorn in each hand. He took a seat between Cora and Clementine. The twins abandoned their pompoms and dove into the popcorn. Jovi’s Mom was at home, and probably already asleep. Everyone being accounted for, she turned her attention to the field.
The boom, boom, boom of the bass drum brought the fight song to an end and the crowd roared as the ball was placed on the forty-yard line and Landry prepared to the receive the second-half kickoff.
Jovi knew very little about football. She was there to show school spirit, see some friends and family, and to cheer for Graeme. From listening to him talk during their date last weekend, he played offense, was a running back, whatever that meant, and wore jersey Number 22. She studied the scoreboard and saw that the Longhorns were ahead 7-3. Then she scoped out the field and spotted Graeme, in the familiar orange and white uniform, standing on the sidelines. A warmness filled her heart.
The next hour flew by and Jovi saw and understood very little of the game. There was so much going on in the stands that it was difficult to focus on the boys running up and down the field. There were trips to the concession stand, members of the band throwing candy and gum at the crowd, and the cheerleaders performed too many back flips to count. When the score was 14-6 and there was ten minutes left to play, she stood and told Opal she’d be right back.
“Aunt Jovi!” Cora and Clementine chimed in unison, and rushed to give their aunt a hug.
“Hey you little cheerleaders, who’s gonna win?”
“The Longhorns!” they cheered loudly.
She hugged her Dad and Sassy, then Jason and Analise. Everyone was talking at once. Grant stood a few feet away, in the aisle, having a conversation with someone Jovi didn’t know.
Dark hair framed amber eyes. His features were strong and he stood at least 3-4 inches taller than Grant, who was six feet tall. His handsome face and imposing stature disturbed her sense of balance. She couldn’t look away, and met his rugged gaze head-on, freezing her in place. His eyes raked her with a fierce possessiveness. A sudden warmth crept across her cheeks and, flustered, her eyes darted to her feet. She could still feel the power of his gaze and her heart raced.
“…. Cross-country meet in the morning?” Sassy asked.
Thankful for the distraction, she turned to face her sister. Her head felt as if it was detached and floating. “Um, yeah, Marble Falls,” Jovi managed to find her words. Opal is spending the night and she’s going with me.”
Then she turned her attention to her father, still lightheaded. “Oh, Dad. After the meet in the morning, Opal and I are going to Austin so she can shop for a homecoming dress. We’re going to stay the night with her aunt, then drive home Sunday morning. I’ll be back in time for dinner. Mom said it was alright.” She rambled. Hands clammy, her stomach churned.
“So you won’t be around to help in the orchard.” His gray eyes turned stormy.
“Mom said it was okay. I promised Opal…” Her voice sounded hollow. She felt faint. Why was she lying to her family?
“Well then. You do what you think is right,” he said.
Why had he chosen those words? He could probably see right through the lies. She gulped in a much-needed breath. “Yes sir.”
What a mess. Why had she agreed to take her best friend to the audition? Opal kept things from her parents all the time. But lying to her Mom and Dad was new territory for Jovi. Her stomach twisted in knots and she felt a strong compulsion to run.
From the corner of her eye she saw Grant and Sir Hotness move toward her. She was in no condition to meet the intriguing stranger. “Well, I gotta go,” she blurted, then turned and bolted down the bleachers.
You may have noticed I haven’t been posting on my blog much in recent weeks. This is because I’ve been devoting all of my free time to writing a Young Adult (YA) novel – a contemporary coming of age story of family, friendship, and toxic love.
Here’s an excerpt. More later!
There was a quiet knock on Jovi’s bedroom door.
“I gotta go,” she whispered.
“No! You have to-”
Jovi disconnected with Opal, set down her phone, and minimized Twitter on her computer screen. “Come in,” she said as she turned in her swivel desk chair.
Vivian opened the door and stood at the threshold.
“Hi mom!” Jovi nervously glanced around her messy room. Clothes covered every surface, and she had not made the bed. She was just about to say something when Vivian stepped toward the dress hanging on the closet door.
“I love what you did with the skirt here,” Vivian said, running her fingers across the cloth. “Wait, is this fabric from one of your old Easter dresses?”
Jovi pulled her legs into the chair and sat cross-legged. “Yeah, and the lace at the top I got from one of your pageant dresses. You said I could use what I wanted from the trunks in the attic. I hope you don’t mind,” Jovi rambled. It had been so long since her mother was in her room, she found herself fidgety – worried she would say something to scare her away. She cleared her throat and calmed her voice. “I’m sorry it’s such a mess in here. I was going to straighten up but I need to finish my essay first. And I need to get outside to- ”
“You’ve got quite a flair, Jovi Joy. Quite a flair,” Vivian interrupted, still admiring the dress. “Aunt Dovie has taught you well. I think you may be a better seamstress than she is now.”
“Oh well, I don’t know about that. It’s just fun. And I figure, why buy clothes when I can make something I really like, and that fits me,” Jovi said. She picked up an ink pen and clicked it up and down. “When I do buy something, I just end up ripping it apart anyway, you know? And making something else out of it.”
Vivian didn’t reply. She walked over to the window and parted the white muslin fabric draped over a tension rod. Unlike the view of the orchard from Vivian’s room on the back of the house, this window looked straight down Caddo Creek Road.
Jovi recognized the sudden gulf between them. It was as if her mother had walked through an invisible barrier into another world. A world where sadness, worry and fear swooped in heavy and hard threatening to never let go. With all the enthusiasm she could muster, she picked up the conversation. “Thank you again for giving me free reign of your old clothes.”
“I’ve been wearing some of them as-is. Vintage is the new black!”
“I can’t wait until it gets cold enough to wear your old suede jacket with the fringe. Opal is going to flip when she sees it!” Jovi could hear the sadness seeping into her own voice.
“If that jacket could talk…” Vivian said quietly as she let the makeshift curtain fall.
Relieved, Jovi got up from her desk and crossed the room. She wrapped her arms around an impossibly tiny waist and rested her cheek against the upper back of her mother’s cotton shirt. Vivian’s arms hung loose at her sides. Jovi tried hard to reconcile the person she held with the vibrant woman her mother had once been. High-school cheerleader. Beauty queen. Budding photographer.
“You and I will learn to surf next summer,” Vivian said.
Jovi didn’t know how to respond to the impossibly optimistic promises that often flew from her mother’s lips. They sprang from nowhere. Bright ideas. Daydreams, that when spoken aloud crashed into reality and shattered like broken glass. Last week Vivian had proposed they go skydiving.
“That’ll be fun Momma,” Jovi said as a single tear fell from her cheek.
The back door slammed. “Junebug,” her father yelled.
Jovi’s body went stiff.
“Go,” Vivian said as she turned to face her daughter.
“I love you Momma,” Jovi said, looking into her mother’s beautiful green eyes. Then she flew from the room and down the stairs.