His fingertips traced slow, deliberate lines up her arm, sending out ripples of goose bumps. The rhythmic song of countless unseen crickets drowned out any thoughts of parental warning.
Julie looked over at her date, Michael. Since their freshman year Julie had never raised enough courage to ask him out. Four years later here they were at the lake, sitting on the famous red-checkered blanket.
His fingertips changed course, sliding down her back, altering the path of her thoughts as well.
Dad must be frantic by now. Her declarations of pending immorality had been coming on for weeks. He knew what she intended to do, and now he knew why.
“I want to know what it’s like to be really bad,” she’d yelled at her father, “like Mom.”
It stunned him long enough for her to escape.
She shook her head, wiping away the image of his haunted face like the picture on an Etch-a-Sketch. Life as the ‘good girl’ had never felt confining before. Only the discovery of her mother’s affair had changed Julie’s attitude. There must be something to all this if even her mother, the epitome of righteousness, could stumble and fall.
Michael gently pushed her down onto the blanket. Distracted by her thoughts, Julie immediately sat back up.
“What’s wrong?” her date asked.
“Hmm?” The present came crashing back. “Oh, sorry! My mind’s wandering a bit tonight.”
“Let me do something about that.”
His lips immediately pressed against hers, demanding attention. The force of it was frightening. The moment she felt his hand touch her belly underneath her shirt an image popped into her head: frizzy red hair, a smattering of freckles over a rather protuberant nose, and perched on top a pair of horn-rimmed glasses. The face held a highly disapproving look.
Julie pulled back, her hands frantically removing his.
“What now?” he asked.
“Mama Walker,” she muttered.
Sister Walker was one of her church leaders. All the girls called her Mama Walker, as she had a habit of mothering everyone in her path. It had turned out to be an extraordinary blessing in Julie’s life. After her mother left Sister Walker had been right there providing a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, or much needed encouragement.
It was exasperating to have her face pop up right at this moment. Determined to make this happen Julie pushed all thoughts of her surrogate mother aside and pulled Michael close.
He responded enthusiastically, picking up right where he left off. Sister Walker’s voice echoed inside Julie’s reluctant brain.
“If you’re ever tempted to cross that line of morality, think of my face. It’ll stop you in a second.”
Once again she pushed at Michael, untangling their limbs.
“This is getting old,” he said. “Would you please tell me what’s going on?”
He had every right to be annoyed. Julie had invited him out, making her intentions known from the beginning. Spurning his every move went beyond mixed signals.
“I’m sorry Michael. I really thought I could do this, but I can’t get someone’s face out of my head.”
She almost snorted. “Not exactly. It’s one of my church teachers. She gave a lesson on morality last Sunday. She’s always been one to encourage us to stay chaste. You know, be the ‘good girl’.”
Julie looked up into his face, hoping he’d understand. “Every time you cross a line her face appears. I can’t do this.”
He didn’t say anything at first, and then leaned over to gently kiss her on the cheek. “I think this is the first time I’ve ever felt good about being told no.”
They were quiet throughout the ride home. Julie wasn’t too surprised to see Sister Walker’s car parked right outside the house, but was when Michael opened the door and walked her up to the front porch.
“This will probably sound lame,” he said, “but even the bad guys hope to marry a good girl one day.”
Julie smiled, then paused, hoping he wouldn’t be offended by her own encouragement.
“That may be true, Michael, but not many good girls want to marry a bad boy.”
He nodded and walked back to his car. She barely took a step inside before someone caught her up in a bear hug.
“I was so worried,” her father said. “Are you all right?”
Julie’s eyes caught hold of her substitute mother’s. “I’m fine Dad, I promise. Turns out I’m a good girl after all.”
Mama Walker smiled.
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