he lifts his chin defensively. “Yeah. Lots of people sleep twelve hours during the day.”
I hand him his onion rings. “I know. They’re called vampires, Billy.”
And then my mother walks out of the kitchen. “Billy! Amelia said you were visiting.”
She hugs him and he kisses her cheek. “hey, Carol.”
She looks disapprovingly at his beard. “Oh honey, you have such a handsome face. Don’t cover it up with all . . . this.”
My mother is such a mom, isn’t she?
Billy defends his facial hair. “Why’s everyone hating on the beard? I like the beard.” Then he holds out a hundred-dollar bill.
“For the onion rings.”
She shakes her head and pushes his hand back. “Your money’s no good here—you know that.”
A crash of breaking glass comes from behind the kitchen door.
And George Reinhart’s voice: “Carol!”
My mother clicks her tongue. “Oh, dear. George is trying to work the dishwasher again.”
She runs off to the kitchen. Billy and I share a laugh. Then he hands me the hundred-dollar bill. “Slip this into the register when your mom’s not looking, okay?”
It’s tough when you get to the point in your life—like we have—when you’re able to help the parentals financially, but they’re too stubborn to accept.
he taps the counter. “Okay, four o’clock, I’ll pick you up. Be ready. And don’t wear any power suit or shit like that—this is a strictly jeans and sneaks kind of mission.”
That’s what I’d planned on. But still I have to ask, “Why? What are we gonna to do?” he shakes his head at me. “You’ve been gone too long, Katiegirl. What else would we do? We’re goin’ womping.”
Right. Silly me. Of course we are.
Billy leans over the counter and kisses my cheek quickly.
Then he grabs his take-out and walks out the door.
have you ever gone for a ride in your car, after your last final exam or the beginning of a long weekend from work? And the road’s wide open, your sunglasses are on, and your favorite song is blaring out of the speakers?
Good. Then you know just what this feels like.
how to explain it? I’m sure there’re various names for it, depending on where you live, but here, that’s what we call it. It’s like mountain climbing . . . only . . . with a car. Or a truck. Or any other automobile with four-wheel drive.
The goal is to scale a hill, the steepest you can find, and get as vertical as you can, as fast as you can, without flipping car. It’s fun—in a stupid, dangerous, adrenaline-junkie kind of way.
Don’t worry about my delicate condition. Billy’s truck is an off-road vehicle with safety harnesses instead of seatbelts. So even if we flip? I’m not going anywhere.
We’re riding out to the hills right now, full speed ahead. Ohio isn’t exactly known for its hilly terrain, but there are a few spots where these abound. Lucky for us, Greenville is near them.
The windows are open, the sun is bright, and it’s a comfortable seventy degrees. I yell above the sound of the stereo, “So . . . another new car?”
Billy smiles and rubs his hand lovingly across the dash. “Yep.
And this baby’s unpolluted by my cousin’s evil handiwork.”
I roll my eyes. I definitely need to check out Billy’s financial portfolio. The wind whips my hair around my face. I push it back and yell again, “Don’t be that guy.”
“What guy?’ “The guy that has a different car for every day of the month.
Spend your money on more practical things.”
he shrugs. “I told Amelia I’d buy her a house. As long as she doesn’t tell Delores where it is.”
Billy and Delores love to rag on each other.
The song on the radio changes, and Billy turns it up to maximum volume. he looks at me. And he’s smiling.
We both are.
Because, once upon a time, it was our song. Not in a romantic way. In a teenager, rebel-without-a-cause kind of way. It was our anthem; our Thunder Road.
Alabama sings about getting out of a small town, beating the odds, living for love. We belt out the lyrics together.
It’s great. It’s perfect.
Billy pushes the gas pedal to the floor, leaving a cloud of dust behind us, and I remember how it feels to be sixteen again. When life was easy, and the most pressing matter was where we could hang out on a Friday night.
They say youth is wasted on the young—and they’re right.
But it’s not the youths’ fault. No matter how often they’re told to appreciate the days they’re living, they just can’t.
Because they have nothing to compare it to. It’s only later, when it’s too late—when there’re bills to pay and deadlines to make—that they realize how sweet, how innocent and precious, those moments were.
The singer croons about Thunderbirds, and driving all night, and living your own life. Billy’s first car was a Thunderbird. You got a glimpse of it in New York, remember? It was a junker when he bought it, but he fixed it up himself on weekends and during the many days he blew off school.
I lost my virginity in its backseat. Prom weekend. Yes—I’m a statistic. At the time, I thought it was the epitome of romance, the peak of perfection.
But—again—I didn’t have anything else to compare it to.