Ben was waiting for her when she got to the soda shop. She heard a car door slam and he was beside her, guiding her into Pete’s before he even said hello. He seemed impatient to get in and get out in the next few minutes. He looked around for Barb.
“Let’s order,” he said flippantly.
“What’s the hurry I’d like to give her a few minutes. You know she’s never on time.” Trish pretended to look over the menu though she seldom ordered more than a coke.
“I have to get the car back by five or my old man will have a fit.” He studied the wall clock.
The waitress circled their booth and pocketed her order book. Finally, Trish put the menu back in its holder. The waitress came over to them again.
“I’ll have a chocolate coke, please, “Trish sat back while she wiped the table.
“‘Make mine a cherry coke,” he laughed and looked directly at Trish, who blushed to the roots of her hair.
“Where are we going?” she asked, not meeting his eyes,
“I have this nice park picked out for an afternoon of sun and fun.” He reached for her hand just as the waitress placed their drinks in front of them.
“Wonder what could be keeping Barb?” She looked nervously at the clock.
“Drink your coke,” he commanded, taking a few large gulps and nearly emptying his. Then he chased the ice on the bottom of the glass with a few loud slurps.
The drive to the park was further than Trish anticipated and the area was decidedly farm country, and almost deserted. Once on the grounds, he drove to a remote area and parked.
“Gee, I never knew this place existed.” She got out and noticed him taking a blanket from the trunk. “We won’t be needing that. I forgot to tell you I have to stop at Pomeroys department store and pick up something for my Mom’s birthday.”
“I thought you two fought like cats and dogs.”
“Well, she is my Mom, and I still have to get her a birthday present. It’s one of the few times she is nice to me.”
“That isn’t what I had in mind for today.” He stroked the back of her neck.
She stopped and took his hand away from her neck. “Ben, you promised me we could wait. I believed you. Why did you lie to me? I don’t want to make any dumb mistakes that I will regret all my life.” Her mother’s threats echoed in her mind.
“Okay, so you think I would be a dumb mistake. I changed my mind, see. I could go after any girl. I thought we were from the same side of the tracks, but I guess I was wrong, bitch.”
Trish was crying, looking around for help.
“Get in the car,” he ordered. “I’ll leave you off at the store. From there on you’re on your own, sister. I shouldn’t even be doing that. What a wasted day!” He threw up his hands and hit the side of the car with his fist.
Trish collapsed on the front seat. Her sobs could be heard above the noisy engine.
“Pull yourself together, we’ll be there in about ten minutes. You can’t go shopping looking like that.”
By the time he dropped her off in front of the store she had combed and used a light lipstick. Only her puffy eyes gave her away and she quickly added her sunglasses.
Once inside the store she went directly to the bargain basement where she purchased the first scarf she picked up.
The walk home was as miserable as her thoughts. There wasn’t one person on earth she could trust and that included her father, He was too busy trying to keep a roof over their heads. She walked slowly, dreading the moment she would step into the house. Her mother now had the coat, and was out job hunting to try to keep it, even though Dad said it was impossible.
On the next corner at a Blue Sunoco gas station two girls stood by a bucket of roses and held them out to passing motorists. Trish needed a bathroom break and crossed the street.
When she came out one of the girls approached her. “You look like you could use a friend. We don’t see many pedestrians on this stretch. Do you have far to go?”
Trish started to sob again. “About two miles, I think. I guess I could use a friend about now,” she admitted.
They sat down on a bench outside the entrance to the office. Neither spoke for a long time as though the flower girl was waiting for Trish to speak first.
“I just broke up with my boyfriend, I have a rotten home life, can’t seem to get along with my mother or the kids in school. That pretty much says it. I guess I’m a loser.”
“Don’t ever tell yourself that. There’s a place for everyone. My life sounded pretty much the same until I found real peace.”
It was dark when Trish got home. Her father was worried even if her mother wasn’t. When Trish snuggled under the bed covers, her thoughts were of hope on a sinking ship.