Hazy Days and Cloudy NightsHow It All Got Started 011: Lina
Monday, June 18, 1984
Lina Porter didn’t have to wait by the phone booth for long. But instead of Ian on his motorcycle, it was Eric Finn’s cherry midnight-blue Dodge Charger that rolled into the gas station lot. Lina recognized Eric’s music of choice for the ride as the Rockin’ Rebels, a local rockabilly band.
She fought the smile that came to her lips. He came for her.
Eric leaned over and stuck his head out the open passenger-side window. “Need a ride, bobby-socks?”
The car, the music, Eric himself… she couldn’t deny the little thrill she got from the whole package. Lina reminded herself to be pissed off. She crossed her arms on her chest.
“You got something to say first?”
He grinned ruefully. “C’mon, get in. We can talk on the way. Clock’s running.”
That was very true.
She put on her best pout and got in the car.
Eric pulled out of the gas station as soon as Lina closed her door. He turned down the volume on the cassette player.
“I guess I pushed it a little.” He kept his eyes on the road.
Lina looked at his profile. His lips lacked the slightest hint of sarcasm.
He nodded. “I got carried away.” Now he did smile, just a little. “You… you just get me really hot, Lina.”
She felt herself flush. She put her hands in her lap and looked away from him, out the window. She didn’t know what to say to that, at first.
“Thanks…” She sighed. “I just…”
“No, no.” Eric’s voice was soft and earnest and didn’t sound like him at all. Lina turned to look at him again. “It’s all right. We’ll take it slow.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “After all, anticipation is a kind of experience too, right?”
He looked at her and laid his open hand on the console between their seats. Lina wished she could see his eyes behind the sunglasses.
She put her hand in his.
“I guess so.”
Anticipation implied that something would eventually happen. She sighed again and looked out the windshield at the back of an Alpha Beta supermarket semi-truck ahead of them on the freeway.
She thought about touching Eric, about what he had wanted her to do, and where that was supposed to lead. Was that what she wanted? Did she want that no-do-overs moment connected to Eric her whole life?
Maybe. Maybe the first time didn’t matter, all that much.
They were pretty quiet the rest of the way to the mall, but they continued to hold hands. Eric eventually pulled the Charger up to Sears, gave her hand a squeeze, and let go. He didn’t lean in for a kiss, and that was okay with Lina.
“I’ll call you,” he said.
“Better not.” Lina thought about how her parents tended to react when they heard his voice on the other end of the line. “I’ll… I’ll call you. Tomorrow.”
He looked a little hurt; uncertain. “Will you..?”
She smiled and got out of the car. “I will, hon. Promise.”
He pulled out, cranking the volume on the tape deck as he did. “She’s My Angel” mingled with the rumble of the Charger’s engine.
Lina didn’t hang around to watch him leave the parking lot. She had to high-tail it to the other end of the Laguna Hills Mall, to where her mother was probably already waiting. She was totally late—not by much, but probably enough.
Lina slowed down as she went through the doors to the opposite parking lot. She didn’t want to act like anything was wrong. She could say her watch slowed down, or something, if her mother called her on it.
Her mother’s Oldsmobile slid up to the curb. Lina got right in.
Her mother glanced at Lina. “I’ve been driving around the parking lot, waiting for you.”
“Oh! Sorry! I guess my watch is a little off.”
Her mother nodded. “Did you have fun? How’s Claire?”
“Oh, sure, I guess. Claire’s… Claire.”
Her mother nodded again. They were out on El Toro Road now, which was heavy with late-afternoon commuters coming off the freeway. “I did some shopping myself, today. I needed to go to Ten East, but they’re only over at the Abbeque Valley Mall.”
Her mother continued. “Guess who I saw while I was there?”
“Claire’s done her hair up differently since the last time she was over to the house, hasn’t she?”
“Not now.” Her mother’s voice was hard-edged. “We’ll talk about it at home. After you father gets home.”
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