The Truant Risk

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 14 (v.1) - BACK TO DETROIT

Submitted: August 02, 2019

Reads: 87

Comments: 1

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Submitted: August 02, 2019

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Come early Monday morning, KariAnn grabbed her school backpack and headed out the door as she did for the past two weeks only today she had no intentions of going to school.  Instead of walking down Hickory to Livernois and turning right towards the high school, she cut through the backyard to a field with a small worn path.  About halfway between her house and Livernois, she tossed her backpack in the weeds and turned left in the other direction when she reached the road.

A block away was a small gas station, and KariAnn stopped to buy a pack of cigarettes.  Out of the vending machine, cigarettes cost a bit higher than the 31 cents she could buy a pack at Fred’s Party Store down the street, but the store wasn’t open yet.  KariAnn dropped in a quarter and a dime not caring about the extra 4 cent cost and pulled the knob under the Kool brand and grabbed the pack that fell into the bottom tray.  Just then a guy walked in from the garage, and she was surprised to see the attendant was Linda’s older brother, Gary.  “Hi, Gary, how long have you been working here?”

“Hey, KariAnn, long time no see.  I started this job over the summer after I moved away from home, and I have my own apartment now.” said Gary then asked, “Shouldn’t you be in school young lady?”

“I have track first hour, but I’m dropping it.” KariAnn made excuse lighting up a cigarette from her new pack.

“Yeah, smoking and track don’t exactly go hand in hand.” he laughed.

“That’s what the coach said too.” she laughed with him.  “You mind if I hang out for a little while to kill some time?  It doesn’t look like you’re busy.”

“Sure, why not.” Gary said causally.  “I only have to restock a few fan belts and wiper blades to the inventory out front that are low.  It won’t take long.  Have a seat, and I’ll be right back.”

“So how do you like being a gas jockey?” KariAnn asked when he returned with an arm load of inventory.

“It’s okay I guess.” shrugged Gary hanging some wiper blades on the hook.  “It’s a paycheck, and the job is pretty easy.  I only have to pump gas, clean windows, check fluid levels and tire pressure; sometimes give directions and then pretty much take people’s money.” Gary summarized while finishing up with replenishing the stock.

They sat and talked, listening to the radio in the background for almost fifty minutes before a customer walked in, and KariAnn said she had to get going.  Continuing in the opposite direction of the high school, she started walking towards the K-mart store on E. Maple Rd. roughly a half mile away.  Reaching the store’s parking lot, she walked over to the pay phone on the side of the lot.  Dropping a dime into the slot, KariAnn pulled out Johnny’s phone number from her purse, and dialed his number.  This time she had a pocketful of change not wanting to call him collect in addition to asking him a big favor.

After dialing the number, an operator came on the line to tell her the long distance charge for her call would be 63 cents a minute, and to wait for her to call back after the call is completed and she would let her know how many minutes she talked and the amount that was owed.  She could hear the phone ringing on the other end, and someone picked it up on the third ring.  “Hello, this is Johnny.”

“Hi, Johnny, this is KariAnn.  I’m so glad you answered as I was hoping to ask you a big favor.” she got right to the point.

“I’ve been expecting your call.  Debbie filled me in.” Johnny let her know.

“Good, then you know what happened after I went home.  Mom has me grounded forever with no phone privileges, and I’ve decided I’m coming back to Detroit to be with my friends who are more of a family to me than my family is.” said KariAnn.

“Don’t tell me.  You need a ride, and want me to come pick you up?” guessed Johnny.

“Yes, that’s exactly what I was hoping.  I can give you a couple dollars for gas.  Please!” she pleaded over the phone.

“Yeah, sure.  What are friends for?” he agreed.

“How’s Tony?  Mom told him he was too old for me and she would never let him see me again.  It’s been a whole month now since I’ve seen him.  Is he seeing someone else do you know?”

“I heard about that, and Tony was pretty hurt, but he’s been too busy with his classes to go out much.” Johnny told her.  “I know he misses you.”

“I have really missed him too, and all of you guys for that matter.  When can you come get me?” she asked.

“Where exactly are you?” Johnny inquired.

“I’m at the K-mart store on the corner of Livernois and Maple.  Do you know where that’s at?” she asked.

“I’ll be able to find it.” Johnny assured her.  “Let’s see, it’s almost 8 o’clock now.  Give me an hour as I have to do something first, and I’ll meet you out front of the store at 9.”

“Thanks so much, Johnny!  You’re the best!  I’ll see you out front at 9.” she repeated hanging up the phone and then answering it when the operator called back.

“This is the operator, and your call lasted two minutes.  Please deposit now one dollar and thirty cents.”

K-mart was getting ready to open so she walked across the parking lot and headed toward the doors.  Having another hour to kill, she decided to grab something to eat in the cafeteria located in the back of the store.  The café was surrounded by short walls topped with a decorative wrought iron rail so you could see out into the store while you dined.  KariAnn poured herself a medium-size Coke from the soda machine, and glanced over the menu specials hanging on the wall as she walked toward the cash register.  Today’s special was a ¼ lb. hamburger, French fries, and a 16 oz. jumbo Coke for 88 cents which was a $1.05 value.  It was too early for a meal that big and she ended up getting a blueberry muffin to go with her Coke, and smoked a couple cigarettes to pass the time before going out front to wait for Johnny.

True to his word, Johnny drove up at 9 o’clock in his recognized white Dodge Polara, and she hopped in the front seat.  KariAnn was so excited knowing soon she’d be back with Tony and all of her friends, and gave Johnny a kiss on the cheek to thank him and the two dollars she promised for gas.  “Are you sure you want to do this?” Johnny asked her before driving off.  “It’s not too late to change your mind, but once your parents realize you took off again, there’s no going back.”

“Yes, I’m sure.” KariAnn confirmed.  “Mom didn’t want to take me home, but the judge sent me home anyway not giving her a choice.  She’s unhappy, and I’m miserable with absolutely no freedom to do anything I enjoy or have any friends to spend time with except at school.  My only regret is disappointing my dad again, but everyone will be better off with me gone.”

“Okay, I just wanted to make sure you carefully thought about this.  I really missed you too, and I’m glad to have you back with us.” Johnny smiled.

“Me too, Johnny, take me back to Detroit.  That’s where I want to be.”  She lit up a cigarette and turned up the radio which was playing Bad Moon Rising sung by Creedence Clearwater Revival.  Life was good again, and KariAnn felt like she was back in control of her life, and no one was going to tell her what she could or couldn’t do anymore.

“Would you like to stop at my house and wait for Tony to get out of his morning Design class?” asked Johnny.  “Boy is he ever going to be shocked to see you!”

“That would be great!  I can’t wait to see him!” she said excitedly.

Johnny lived right next door to Tony on Seminole St., and also came from an affluent family with his father owning one of the largest car dealerships in the area.  Approximately twenty-five minutes later they pulled up to a large red brick two story house with tall white pillars, beautifully landscaped yard and attached 3-car garage.  KariAnn came from an average middle-class family and couldn’t get over how differently people with money lived, and the houses on that street all looked like they came out of Better Homes and Gardens.  This was the first time she had ever seen where Tony and Johnny actually lived as they always came out to see her.  She had figured it was probably due to Tony’s mother being a judge and her being a runaway.

“I’m going to make myself an Italian sub.  Do you want to split it with me?” asked Johnny playing host.  “I’ll grab the salami, pepperoni, ham and provolone cheese from the frig, and you can grab the hoagie buns out of the bread box.”  Although KariAnn wasn’t all that hungry, she decided not to pass up a chance to eat some hand sliced fresh deli lunch meats instead of the pre-packaged bologna, liverwurst, and olive loaf type sandwiches she was used to eating at home.  Besides a free meal is a free meal when money is tight and you don’t know where the next meal will come from.  It also served as a temporary distraction from the butterflies in her stomach, but all she could think about was seeing Tony’s face when he got home.  She didn’t have to wait long before Johnny noticed him pull up in his blue Caddy a little before 10, and stuck his head out the door to call him over.

“Hey, Tony, gotta minute?  There’s something you must see!” Johnny shouted.

“Sure, I’m coming.” Tony shouted back as KariAnn’s heart skipped a beat at hearing his voice.  “What’s up, Johnny?”

“There’s someone here to see you.” said Johnny mysteriously.

“KariAnn!” Tony’s face lit up when he saw her.  “What are you doing here?”

“I tried, Tony, I really did, but I couldn’t take it anymore.” KariAnn began to explain and ran into his arms.  “It was a mistake going back home.  I have missed you so much, and thought I’d never see you again!”

“After talking to your mom, I didn’t think I’d ever see you again either.” he admitted and then asked, “Does this mean you ran away again?”

“Yes.  Everyone still thinks I’m in school, but instead of going I called Johnny this morning to come pick me up.” said KariAnn.

“We’ll figure something out later, but right now all I want to do is hold you.” said Tony.  KariAnn was so relieved that he wasn’t upset with her and seemed to miss her as much as she had missed him.

“I’ve got a big test in Calculus this afternoon,” Tony told her, “but afterward we’ll get together I promise.  Are you going back to the commune?”

“Yeah, I think that won’t be a problem with Glen, but I’ll need to start looking for another job.” KariAnn replied thinking ahead.

“Maybe you can work with me again.” Johnny added in.  “Right now I’m working for my dad delivering new cars from our Detroit dealership to dealerships out of state.”

“That would be fantastic, Johnny!  You know, I think you’re about the best friend I’ve ever had!” she said hugging him. 

“I’ve got a joint rolled if you guys want to catch a quick buzz to celebrate.” offered Tony.

“Sounds good, but we can’t smoke it in the house or my mom will kill me when she gets home if she smells it.  Let’s take it out to the gazebo.” suggested Johnny leading the way to the backyard.

KariAnn sat in the middle between Tony and Johnny, and tried to imagine what it would be like to live the kind of lifestyle they both were accustomed to.  “This sure is the life.” she commented while taking a toke off the joint.

“Yeah, it is a pretty good life, but it just got a little better with you being in it again.” Tony winked at her.  “How about I take you out tomorrow night?  I know this great nightclub on the Detroit River called the Roostertail.  You’ll love it!”

“Sounds fun, but I don’t have anything to wear.” KariAnn pointed out.  “Besides, can I even get in?”

“Sure, they only check IDs to buy alcohol; not at the door.” Tony assured her.  “I’ll pick you up later after my classes, and take you shopping for a dress.”

“Wow, Tony!” exclaimed KariAnn excitedly giving him a kiss.  “Then I can’t wait!  I’ve never been to a nightclub before.”

Once they finished off the joint, Tony excused himself so he could cram a little more for his test before hitting the highway on his 45 minute commute back to U of M, and Johnny drove KariAnn out to the commune to be reunited with the rest of her friends.  Everyone was excited to see her, and she felt like a celebrity with all the attention she was receiving.  Both Debbie and Pam embraced their missed friend, and Glen rolled a big fatty to celebrate while KariAnn filled them in on the events that took place over the past month.

“I’m so glad to be back!  I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’m glad to be back!” KariAnn emphasized.  “You can’t imagine how hard it is to go from having total freedom to having absolutely no freedom at all.”

“I bet!” said Debbie trying to put herself in KariAnn’s shoes.

“Is my bed down in the basement still available?” asked KariAnn crossing her fingers.

“As a matter of fact it is, and so are most of your clothes just the way you left everything.” assured Debbie.  “No new people have moved in, and luckily I didn’t have the heart to toss the clothes out.  Plus I’ve lost a little weight, and now some of them fit me again.”

“I thought so.” acknowledged KariAnn.  “You look great!  Are you still with Ray?”

“Yeah, and he’ll be coming by later this afternoon.” Debbie replied.  “He’ll be really surprised to see you too.”

“So was Tony!  He looked like he’d just seen a ghost!” laughed KariAnn.  “He’s stopping by here after he finishes his classes to take me shopping for a dress so I have something to wear tomorrow night.  He’s taking me to a nightclub called the Roostertail in celebration of my being back.” KariAnn informed them with excitement.

“I’ve never been there, but I hear it’s a popular, swanky place.  Scott Regen, the deejay for WKNR Keener 13, used to re-broadcast the “Motown Mondays” that played at the Roostertail’s Upper Deck on his radio show every Saturday at 11 pm.” Debbie recalled.

“I remember that.” added Pam.  “You got to listen to the actual full performances from Motown greats such as the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Supremes and The Temptations to name a few.”

“You are so lucky, KariAnn.  Ray seldom takes me anywhere.” said Debbie with a slight twinge of envy.

“I wish we were all going.” KariAnn sympathized.

“Me too, but Ray’s working.” sighed Debbie.  “Besides, this sounds like a special date for you and Tony.”

“Yeah, Debbie’s right.  I hope you both have a lot of fun.” said Pam.

“Maybe we can do it another time.” chimed in Glen.  “We’ll have to make plans to take you girls out when we can all go and make it a night on the town.”

“That would be a blast!” agreed Pam.  “I know just the outfit I want to wear!”

Although the morning had been overcast, the afternoon turned windy and was raining heavily when Tony walked in the door around 3:30 shaking off the rain from his jacket and closing his wet umbrella.  “What happened to our nice day?” he laughed.

“It’s Michigan, dude.” Glen replied.  “You know if you don’t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes and it will change.”

“You got that right, Glen.” KariAnn chuckled and then asked Tony, “So how do you think you did on your Calculus test?”

“I think I did pretty well on it, but am so grateful I studied for it.  It was hard.” answered Tony.“I did get most of the same answers some of the others did, and now I’m just relieved it’s over with.”

“I heard you’re taking KariAnn shopping for a dress to wear to the Roostertail. Where are you going?” inquired Debbie changing the subject.

“I thought we’d start at Montgomery Ward first, and see what they have.” said Tony.  “They usually have a pretty good selection.”

“I love Montgomery Ward.” KariAnn showed her approval.  “That’s where my grandma usually buys us clothes at Christmas, and no one is ever disappointed.  She always gets stuff everyone likes.”

“It’s funny how grandmas often are the ones who have good taste.” agreed Debbie.  “Or maybe it’s just they spend more money than our parents to get the good stuff.”

“Well, it doesn’t look like this rain is going to ease up anytime soon, so hope you don’t mind getting a little wet.” Tony said to KariAnn.  “Better grab your jacket as it’s only 57 degrees out, and stay close to me under the umbrella if you want to stay dry.”

Tony’s Caddy now had its top up with the change of the weather, and they ran to the car cuddled together under the shared umbrella.  The rain was still coming down when they reached the store’s parking lot, but luckily was able to grab a spot near the door just as a car was backing out.  “I don’t think we could have found a better parking spot.  Are you ready to make a run for it again?” Tony asked.

Once inside the store, they headed straight to lady’s fashion to look at dresses, and KariAnn narrowed the choices down to two.  “I want to try both of these on,” she told Tony, “and I’ll come out and model them for you to see which one you like best.”

“Okay, I’ll wait right here for you.” said Tony smiling as he watched her disappear into the dressing room.

The first dress she tried on was a mod shirt dress labeled ‘Seahorse Sun-sation’ in a bright green color and the price tag read $6.50.  KariAnn loved the color and the fit, and walked out to show her boyfriend.  “What do you think of this one?”

“I like it, but let’s see the other one on you.” said Tony holding back his full opinion.

The other dress was a black short sleeve polo shirt dress with a point collar, front button closures, and dress length hit 5” above the knee; it was made of cotton and machine washable with a price tag of $9.97.  “So what do you think of this one?  I like them both.”

“Although they both look great on you, I prefer the black one.” admitted Tony.  “The black one looks more ladylike and less like a hippie.  Now let’s find you a pair of shoes and stockings.”

“Thanks so much, Tony.” she said kissing his cheek and putting the other dress back on the rack.  Underscoring the short skirts came the most varied look in shoes and stockings.  In shoes, they saw patent leathers in every conceivable color and color combinations often with perforations.  Chunky high heels were the rage, and the square toe was everywhere.  KariAnn ended up selecting a pair of black patent leather chic chain casuals for $7.88 with a smart silver-color chain trim across the vamps with square toe and 2” heels.  The stockings also came in a wide variety of colors, but she went with sheer black pantyhose for $1.59.  In total everything came to $20.22 including tax out the door, and KariAnn felt like she was the luckiest girl on earth.  By the time they returned to the commune, the rain had finally stopped.  Tony dropped her off to head home for dinner, but said he would pick her up tomorrow night at 8 o’clock.

Although no new people had moved into the commune while she was gone, KariAnn did notice one of the guys living there had an empty syringe poked in his arm, and finding Glen in the kitchen, asked him what was going on.  “Since when did Kevin start shooting drugs with a needle,” she directed her question at Glen, “and why is it just hanging in his arm?”

“Kevin is a dumbass.  I told him to stay away from Heroin, and now he’s hooked on the shit.” answered Glen shaking his head.  “I think inserting the needle in his arm helps calm him down.”

“That sure the hell isn’t good.  I will never touch Heroin or shoot drugs with a needle.” replied KariAnn with conviction.  She was a little worried about what was going to happen to him, but knowing there was nothing she could do except not make the same mistake he did.

“Glad to hear that.  One junkie is too many.” Glen agreed.

“Is that chili I smell?” asked KariAnn changing the subject and peeking into the covered pot on the stove.

“Yeah, I just made a large pot if you’re hungry.  Feel free to grab yourself a bowl.” he offered.

“Where’s Debbie and Pam?” asked KariAnn not seeing either of them.

“Pam is in back taking a nap, and Debbie took off with Ray but should be back soon.” answered Glen.

“Great because I wanted to show them my outfit for my big date.” she said with excitement then added, “I’d love a bowl of your chili.”

When Debbie and Ray returned, Debbie was as excited to see her new outfit almost as much as KariAnn was excited to show her.  “So let’s see this new dress!”  KariAnn held up the dress to her body to give her an idea of what it looked like, and then pulled out the shoes and nylons for approval.

“You’re going to look beautiful in it.  Love the shoes too.” Debbie complimented, and then had a thought.  “You know I think I have the perfect belt that would look stunning with your dress.  I’ll be right back.”  A few minutes later she returned with a silver chain belt that matched the silver chain on her shoes.

“You’re right, Deb, it’s the perfect accessory!  Thanks so much for letting me borrow it!” she said gratefully hugging her friend.

It felt so good to once again be surrounded by great friends to talk to, the music she loved playing on the stereo, and joints being passed around the room.  Although this was her first day back, it felt like she had never left, and she never wanted to leave again.  If she could only make it until she turned 18, she could legally be on her own allowing her to go back to school and not have to keep looking over her shoulder.  She just needed to stay out of trouble and they’d never find her.  Luckily all anyone knew was she had been staying in Detroit, and she was so glad she was smart enough not to give her parents any details.

The hours ticked quickly by and soon Tony would be picking her up for their big date.  She got dressed early, and everyone told her how nice she looked.  In addition to Debbie’s borrowed chain belt, Pam loaned her a pair of dangle earrings and let her put on some of her Wind Song perfume by Prince Matchabelli.  Now that she was totally ready, the final minutes seemed to creep by slowly in anxious anticipation.  It was nearing 8 o’clock when Tony walked in sporting a dreamy casual look.  He was wearing a dark blue turtleneck, brown tweed jacket with shoulder pads and elbow patches, along with pressed slacks that flared at the bottom, and she couldn’t help thinking he looked a lot like a younger version of Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt.

Pulling onto Marquette Drive, she could see the Roostertail all lit up off in the distance.  As they got closer you couldn’t miss the stunning view of the Detroit River with the backdrop of the city skyline.  There was a big ‘R’ on the front of the building and ‘Roostertail’ was spelled out on top of the blue slanted roof that could be seen a good ways off.  Although it was a Tuesday night, the place was filling up.  This was going to be a night to remember she told herself, and proudly walked up to the doors holding Tony’s arm.

Admission prices were only $4.95 on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but went up to $5.95 on Friday and $7.95 on Saturday.  Tony paid both of their $4.95 admissions with a ten, and they passed through the downstairs’ spectacular Supper Club where a long haired band was warming up.  They were singing a newly released song from the radio KariAnn recognized called “Whole Lotta Love” and when she told Tony she loved that song, the curly haired blonde vocalist winked at her and they stayed to listen until the song finished before climbing the outdoor stairs to the upper deck’s bar and lounge.

There was a deejay and large dance floor, and after finding a table, Tony ordered her a Coke and a pitcher of beer showing the waiter his ID.  After the waiter left he explained that once she finished her soda she could pour herself a beer from the pitcher.  KariAnn loved to dance and knew the dance moves to the Twist, the Shimmy, the Frug, the Hitch-Hike, and the Swim from watching American Band Stand on TV, but tonight she would be introduced to what Tony called Dirty Dancing.  She loved how sensual he looked when he moved his head, neck and shoulders in a fluid manner following the rhythm of the music while swaying his hips and pelvic area and lighting touching himself.

“That looks so sexy, Tony.  Can you teach me to dance like that?” asked KariAnn excited to learn.

“Sure, let me show you a couple easy moves.” he said while placing his right hip so it was glued to her right hip.  Then he took his right leg and placed it between her legs.  He placed her hand around his neck and placed his hands on her hips.  “Just bend your knees a little bit, and rock your hips from side to side, swinging your behind down towards the floor as you sway.”

“Like this?” KariAnn asked as she tried it.

“Not bad, but you need to loosen up your body and throw yourself into the rhythm.  Focus on yourself and your body, and don’t worry about what anyone might think.” he instructed.  “Good, just like that.”

“This is fun, Tony.  Show me more.” KariAnn said eagerly.

“Okay, now run your hands up and down your legs, touching your knees and upper calves.” Tony said while showing her by doing it himself.  “Great!  I think you’re getting it.”

The song had ended, but they remained on the dance floor waiting for the next song which was “Stand By Me”, another great song to dirty dance to.  “Here’s another popular move called the Grind which involves rubbing your hips on my groin area.” Tony said getting behind her.  “Keep your feet hip-width apart and gently bend over.  Keep your back arched so your behind sticks up into the air.  Then wiggle your hips gently against my groin.”

“Okay, you’ve got me all turned on.  Now what?” she laughed.

“Maybe we should sit the next one out.  You’re not the only one turned on.”

The total ambiance of the night was an experience before now she had only dreamed of and her remembrance of dancing the night away, drinking a beer on the outdoor balcony overlooking the marina, and later cozying up to the fireplace with the one she loved would store away into her fondest memories forever.  The perfect evening ended at 11 p.m. as Tony had classes in the morning, and dropped her off at the commune without coming in.  Although he had to rush home to bed, KariAnn walked into a party, but then every night was a party at Glenn’s pad.

KariAnn returned the borrowed items back to her girlfriends, and then changed into a pair of jeans and T-shirt.  She didn’t want to stay up too late and risk missing Johnny in the morning to discuss working with him again, but she was also eager to tell everyone about her exhilarating experience.  She knew Debbie and Pam would never let her crash until she laid out every detail, but that’s why she loved them both like sisters.  KariAnn thought to herself that if only her parents had realized just how important her Detroit friends were to her and would have let her continue to see Tony, she might have actually buckled down and stuck it out.

KariAnn managed to get to bed by midnight, and woke at 7:30 when the alarm went off.  Luckily Debbie slept right through it, and she headed upstairs to make a cup of instant coffee and have a cigarette before calling Johnny.  It was quiet and peaceful this time of morning with the entire household asleep after partying late into the night, and she sat there enjoying the solitude.  Glen had a wall phone installed in the kitchen while she was gone so she no longer had to walk to a pay phone, and Tony was able to call her whenever he wanted.  Dialing Johnny’s number which was now local, she asked him if he knew when his next out-of-state vehicle swap would be.

“I don’t have any road trips scheduled today, but am taking a brand new Chrysler 300 Hurst Edition down to Terre Haute Indiana tomorrow if you want to ride along.” invited Johnny.  “I could use the company and a navigator.  You do know how to read a map, right?”

“Of course, doesn’t everybody?” she teased.  “When should I be ready?”

“I’ll swing by to pick you up at 8:30 tomorrow morning.  Be ready to walk out the door.” Johnny told her.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be ready.” assured KariAnn.  “See you then.”  After hanging up the phone an idea came to her.  She wanted to write a letter to her parents to let them know she was okay and not to worry, while at the same time deceiving them into thinking she wasn’t staying in Detroit this time.  She could mail the letter in Terre Haute without a return address pretending to be clever, but knowing they would pick up on the postmark where it was mailed from and believe she was in Indiana.  With that she grabbed a sheet of paper and started writing the letter.  She didn’t hate her parents and really didn’t want them to worry, but wanted them to know she couldn’t live by their strict rules or be the person they wanted her to be.  She needed to be true to herself.

It was after 10 when people started waking up, and KariAnn had finished her letter.  “Does anyone have a postage stamp I could use?” she asked hoping someone had one.

“Sorry, KariAnn, I don’t have one,” answered Debbie, “but maybe Pam does.”

“I don’t know, but let me check.” said Pam looking in her purse.  “Nope, I don’t have one either.”

“There should be a couple stamps left in the desk drawer that I use to mail the bills.” said Glenn finding one and giving it to her.

After thanking him, KariaAnn licked the back of the 6 cent stamp and stuck it to the upper right corner of the letter.  “I’m going to mail this letter to my parents in Terre Haute tomorrow when Johnny & I drop off a car there so they’ll think I’ve left the state and didn’t go back to Detroit.  Good idea?”

“Let’s just say you have a talent for underhanded tactics, KariAnn.” laughed Glen.

“Are you saying I’m devious, Glen?” she laughed too.

Ray came by that morning and took Debbie and KariAnn dumpster diving at Dunkin’ Donuts which was the highlight of an uneventful mid-week day.  KariAnn learned to her surprise that whatever donuts didn’t sell that day were thrown into plastic garbage bags and tossed into the dumpster out back, and they ended up taking home a large bag of assorted donuts free of charge for everyone.  The day came and went, and KariAnn once again set her alarm to go off at 7:30 a.m.

KariAnn was ready when Johnny pulled out front at 8:30 to pick her up and take her to the Chrysler Dodge dealership on Telegraph which his father owned.  They had arrived there a good ten minutes before the office opened, and Johnny showed her a couple of the cars he liked.  “What do you think of this blue beauty, KariAnn?” asked Johnny.  “It’s a 1969 Chrysler Newport with 2-door convertible body, has rear-wheel drive, manual 3-speed gearbox, and a V-8 engine.  It even has wing windows where the hardtop version doesn’t.”

“It’s absolutely beautiful.” admired KariAnn.  “I love all the chrome trim.  I see your dad is asking $3,823 for it which is a lot of money.”

“Oh, but she’s worth it.” defended Johnny.  “Check out this 1951 that sold for about the same price when new” Johnny said pointing to an 18-year-old maroon Chrysler New Yorker which also sported the 2-door convertible body style.  “I wish I had the $2,800 to buy it. It needs a little work too.”

“Buy it?  What year is your Polara?  It’s a nice car too.” she pointed out.

“It’s a 1966, but it’s a hard top.” said Johnny.

“Yeah, I can see why you love them both.” she related.  “It seems you have a thing for convertibles like Tony does.”

“Over-weight guys like me need all the help we can get to attract the ladies.” he kidded, but smiled when KariAnn said that just gave them more of him to love.  When they saw the manager drive up, they walked to the office to grab the keys and the title, and sign the car out. 

“She’s all gassed up and ready to go, but remember no smoking in it.” reminded the manager when he saw KariAnn put out a cigarette and she agreed that she wouldn’t.  “It looks like the car is already promised and sold to a customer who is waiting for it in Terre Haute.  Have Tom sign the paperwork that he took possession of the car, and you’ll have to sign and bring back the paperwork and title for the 1969 Chrysler Imperial Sedan you’ll be bringing back.”

“You got it, Rick.” promised Johnny taking the keys, title and paperwork from him.  “Come on, KariAnn, wait until you see the car we will be driving down!” he said with excitement.  The car had been pulled off the lot and was sitting out back of the office.

"This luxury muscle car is actually a 1970 and is next year’s model.” explained Johnny as they walked up to it.  “It is a Hurst-modified Chrysler 300 with a special order 440-cu. in. V-8 engine called the ‘TNT’ that can produce 375 horsepower, enough to get this custom fuselage Chrysler from 0 to 60 in just a tick over seven seconds!  Not bad for a car of its mass weighing over two tons.’”

“That’s impressive alright and sounds fast.” replied KariAnn with awe.

“You bet it is fast!” Johnny assured her.  “This car can nudge the 120 MPH mark, however, we won’t be taking it over 80 MPH.”  The car was a red 2-door with a black hardtop, and the interior had everything you might expect; a simple two-spoke steering wheel, vinyl bucket seats and chrome.

“So what kind of price tag is on this baby?” KariAnn wondered.

“You’re looking at a $4,400 car.” answered Johnny.

It was a quarter after 9 when they hit I-69 S, and this 367 mile route from Detroit to Terre Haute would take approximately 5 and half hours each way estimating their arrival to the Indiana dealership around 3 p.m. if they drove straight through.  Crossing the state line just before entering Fort Wayne, they pulled into a rest area to use the bathrooms and smoke a quick cigarette.  They had been on the road about 2 and half hours and had driven 200 miles; a little more than half way to their destination and were making great time.

“I know it’s getting close to lunch, but would you mind if we hold off until after we drop off the car and we’ll find a place to grab a quick bite to eat before we head back?”

“Sure, that would be fine, Johnny.”

“I’ll pay for your meal and give you $20 for making the trip with me.  Does that sound fair?” he asked.

“More than fair, and the easiest $20 I ever made.” she answered smiling.

Johnny drove 80 MPH every chance he could and looked like they had shaved some time off their estimated arrival when they saw the green and white metal highway sign posting the miles to go for the upcoming cities:

Terre Haute 14

 Vincennes 72

 Evansville 124

KariAnn glanced at her watch and saw it was only 2:15, and their new arrival time was now looking more like 2:30.  The next metal highway sign they passed read:

Exit 7

Terre Haute

Evansville

1 Mile

“It looks like we’re almost there, Johnny, only one more mile to our exit.” reported KariAnn who was looking forward to another smoke.

“Keep your eyes open for S 3rd St.” said Johnny after exiting the highway, and a few minutes later they were pulling into the dealership.  Johnny walked in to square away the paperwork with Tom while KariAnn smoked a cigarette and waited for him out in the lot.  When Johnny returned, he was holding the keys to a green 4-door 1969 Chrysler Imperial Sedan. 

“This one’s really nice too.” admired KariAnn when she opened the door and saw the interior.  “Are all Chryslers luxury cars?”

“Yeah, most of them are.” Johnny replied.  “I must confess I’m developing an affection for these new fuselage Chryslers.  There’s just something about the way they look that looks right to me.  I really like the recessed headlamps, subtle use of chrome, and even the subdued exterior is quite handsome.”

“You sure know a lot about cars.  Is this one fast too?” she asked curiously.

“Yep, this top of the line model can reach a top speed of 124 MPH.  Call it what you want: a barge, a land yacht, a tank, a boat, but I call it beautiful.” said Johnny starting up the engine.

“Would you mind pulling over to the next mailbox we come to so I can mail my letter?” asked KariAnn suddenly remembering the letter in her purse.

“Sure, no problem.” assured Johnny.  “Then we can stop at that Burger King we passed down the road coming in.”

Johnny spotted a public mailbox just a short block down the street and pulled the car over so KariAnn could hop out and drop in her parent’s letter.  A few minutes later they pulled the car into Burger King, and went inside to eat.  After ordering each of them a Whopper, large fries, and a Coke, Johnny told KariAnn to find them a table while he found a phone to call his dad to confirm everything went off without a hitch and give him their new guesstimated time to expect them with the new car they were driving home.

KariAnn had separated the two orders from the bag and had already started eating when Johnny got to the table.  “So is everything good?” asked KariAnn.

“Yeah, and he said he would stay to wait for us even if we made it back after they close at 9 o’clock.” Johnny stated.  “He said to take our time and be safe.”

“Spoken like a true dad.” humored KariAnn.

It was a little after 3:30 in the afternoon when they hit the road returning to Detroit, and arrived back at the dealership about fifteen minutes before closing time.  “Let me give you your twenty before I forget.” said Johnny placing the bill in her hand.  “Here, take my keys and wait for me in the Polara while I give this stuff to my dad, and then we can take off.”  That had been the first of close to a dozen road trips she took with Johnny over the next weeks ahead, and each time he paid her $20 and bought her lunch.

Halloween had come and gone, and now it was Thanksgiving.  Glen and Pam were having dinner at Pam’s parents, Debbie and KariAnn were having dinner with Debbie’s mom and brother plus his fiancée, and everyone including Tony, Johnny, and Ray were left to their own holiday plans.  KariAnn wished she could be sharing dinner with Tony and his family, but then Debbie wasn’t sharing dinner with Ray and his family either.  It was what it was, but in any event she was still grateful for the loving family that adopted her so to speak into their own.  Tony had called her to wish her a Happy Thanksgiving, and said he would see her tomorrow afternoon and had something he needed to talk to her about.  KariAnn tried to find out what it was, but all he would say is that he’d tell her tomorrow.


© Copyright 2019 Katie McDougal. All rights reserved.

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