Sister Mary Teresa was the one who introduced Carrie Malone and Delores Gouge. It was the first day of third grade.
“Delores dear,” she cooed in a voice never heard in math class, “Carrie is a new student. You’ll be her buddy while she learns the routine. Be sure she sits with you at lunch.”
Carrie stood quietly, waiting for instructions from her young and rather dumpy looking mentor. They wore identical uniforms but Delores seemed all wrinkled and buttoned wrong. The newcomer looked bandbox fresh and very put together. Her hair ribbon matched the regulatory plaid skirt. In sharp contrast, Delores held her fizzy mop back with a plain bobby pin.
The seeds of a lifelong friendship were planted. From that day, and for thousands more, the frumpy child would never stop trying to achieve perfection.
During the growing up years Carrie remained a sensible, quiet beauty; a brunette with blue eyes and a sweet smile. Delores spent much experimentation time, some of it on every style and color of hair. Once, she even bought a synthetic wig. It blew off in a March windstorm right in front of George Dooney. Delores simply scooped it up and winked at poor George. He never forgot.
Carrie’s family were loving but of modest means. Delores had no parents. She inherited a fortune from her grandfather. When she was sixteen she read what she called her “life plan” to her best friend.
“Now listen to this,” she began with no little import, “ you are the first witness to my future milestones.
Carrie had genuine interest in her rather bohemian friend’s goals.
“Every year, before my birthday, I am going to do something outstanding to improve myself. I can’t have plastic surgery yet, but after I am twenty-one I can do as I please”
Carrie’s brow creased. She was a little perplexed about this life plan.
“For example,” Delores continued as she flounced over to the big mirror and began to fluff her new permanent, “before next year I am going to a mineral springs spa with Aunt Flora and we will have mud packs and drink cucumber and carrot juice.”
Delores struck a pose. Well, Carrie-Berry, it is supposed to do fantastic things for your pores and your insides.
All Carrie could think of to say was, “Really?” It seemed a little silly to her.
Every year the self-improvement reports became more unbelievable and expensive. Delores even traveled to a mountaintop to see some weird guru fellow, and then she had her nose fixed. She tried to be a vegetarian but her weakness was cheeseburgers.
Carrie never forgot to telephone Delores on her birthday. She always began the conversation, “What did you do this year?”
Their friendship, even long distance, was full of laughter. Carrie married a good man and had a lovely family. She tried to tell DeDe about the Lord, but her witnessing fell on deaf ears.
Delores never married. She always had boyfriends. Every few years she would drop in on Carrie and wow her with the latest surgical changes to her standard issue shape. There was always something else to lift, plump, or smoothe.
Still, she refused to hear about Jesus. “I have it all, why do I need a crutch?”
After many decades, Carrie was a loving grandmother; Delores was still flitting from man to man and spending money .Her skin looked like plastic.
The day before this year’s birthday call, the phone rang.
“Carrie?” Delores was sobbing.
“DeDe, what’s wrong?”
“I’m dying. Please come” That’s all she said.
Delores was in a big city hospital in a town where she owned a penthouse. Standing over the bed, holding the hand of the gasping woman, Carrie suddenly became very forceful and serious. She raised her voice.
“You listen to me Delores Magdalena Gouge !” I am telling you that when you die, your spirit will keep living somewhere, so girl it is now time to fish or cut bait!”
Delores tried to laugh. "I did Carrie. Oh, I did!” Then she closed her eyes.
At the funeral, the talk was about how gorgeous Delores looked to be such an old lady. Carrie was stunned that no mention was made of any inner beauty. She stood by the farewell box that held her best friend’s perfect old body.
No one heard her whisper, “Happy NEW BIRTH day DeDee.”
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