When Becky came into my life on the 5:15 bus out of Houston, I presumed we’d be friends. She flew in from Los Angeles and I’d have picked her up proper from the airport except Dad didn’t want me wasting gas on account of the shortages. It was the early days of summer 1979 and I reckon bus travel wasn’t so bad back then anyhow. Truth to tell, most days I’d have rather taken the bus than drove Dad’s yellow station wagon anyway.
In those days it was good manners to be early and so I was there a waiting a good while before the bus showed. I parked across the street from the stop and got out to lean up against a telephone pole just far enough away from the Mustard Mobile to claim they weren’t my wheels should Diana Lancaster happen by me. It wasn’t as though we’d ever talked, but I was smitten with her just the same and there’d been a rumor running round the last days of school she’d taken to fancying me too.
My thoughts were all about Diana until Becky stepped off that bus. Now I hadn’t seen Becky since we were both barely out of diapers and other than a few pictures my Aunt sometimes slipped into Christmas cards, I didn’t have much of a memory of her. She had the family dark hair and the same nose I shared with my Dad too, so it wasn’t hard to recognize her. Course as she walked across the street toward me in platform white sneakers, I wasn’t looking at her nose or her hair. My eyes were glued to the frayed threads of her cutoff shorts bouncing against her perfectly tanned upper thighs and when they got tired of the threads, her long, bare legs were plenty captivating as well. In hindsight, it’s a good thing Diana wasn’t around that day.
Becky dropped her bag at my feet and strutted over to the passenger door. She blew a giant bubble of grape gum until it popped and then planted a single hand on her hip while fluttering her eyelashes in my direction. “I thought all you cowboys were supposed to be perfect gents?”
The sun blazed down on us from a cloudless blue sky and I was starting to feel faint on account of the heat. I’m sure it had nothing to do with my eyes feasting on the enormous amount of bare tan skin Becky was displaying or the bead of sweat that ran from somewhere beneath her tube top down to her bellybutton. My tongue got a little dry or a little twisted or a lot of both and when I opened my mouth the only thing that came close to coming out was drool.
Becky tossed her hair from side to side and said, “Lord, don’t tell me you’ve never seen a girl before.”
Her words shook me free of my stupor and elicited a touch of embarrassment that threatened to turn my cheeks pink. The feeling gave way to bravado when my muscles flexed to handle the heft of lifting her bag off the ground. Not looking at her, I said, “I’ve seen girls before, but I ain’t never seen one dressed like you.”
She looked down at her self and then back at me. “What, this? All the girls back home dress this way.”
I shook my head and said, “I’ve got to take a trip to LA.”
Becky wasn’t much conversation on the ride home. She found Dad’s collection of 8 tracks and had the Eagles popped into the player before I could even buckle my seat belt. The windows were rolled down and I’m not sure if Don Henley or Becky was crooning louder while I drove. Either way, Dad was frowning when I pulled into the driveway.
Things might have gone wrong right then and there, but I guess Dad wanted to be fair as possible. After all, Becky was going to be staying with us for a good long while, attending the University of Houston beginning in the Fall. I imagine she rightly deserved a warning or two before being introduced to our manner of discipline. It might just have been Mom had supper on the table though and was waiting for us inside.
Dad stopped me at the door with Becky already inside and out of earshot. “You best mind your manners and keep your eyes above her neck. She’s your cousin and I won’t have you leering at her no matter how badly she’s dressed. Am I understood?”
I swallowed hard and nodded cause there weren’t no doubt he meant business. “I was going to suggest she change before Mom sees her.”
“Never you mind,” Dad said, patting me on the back and guiding me inside. “Your Mom and I’ll have a chat with her after supper. You just ‘member what I told you.”
I said, “Yes, sir.” And we joined Mom and Becky at the table for dinner.
It weren’t no surprise when after dinner I was sent to put Becky’s bag in the spare room. I offered to unpack for her, but Becky wasn’t too keen on that. Setting her bag on the bed didn’t take much time and Mom had already taken care of the sheets and putting fresh towels in the bathroom so I just loitered around knowing I wasn’t wanted anywhere near the conversation they were having in the kitchen. When Becky finally came to her room, she popped a grape flavored bubble in my face and pushed me outside her door.
She looked at my feet and said, “That’s as close as you get to this room from now on.”
I shrugged. “If you need anything—
“I don’t,” she said and closed the door.