The next day, after church, Myrtle decided to have a simple lunch at home. One of her favorite comfort meals was a tomato sandwich. White bread, thick sliced tomatoes covered in salt and pepper and a thin layer of mayonnaise. Add some salt and vinegar chips on the side and you couldn’t ask for much more. After finishing her lunch and a large glass of ice cold sweet tea, Myrtle sat on her back deck to relax. Her mind was still full of Laura from the day before and she knew that the only way to try to get past it was to write. As she went inside to grab her journal from the nightstand, she passed her wedding photo. Seeing Bradford’s smiling face reminded her that the remembered pain from her teenage years was ancient history. Smiling herself, she grabbed the journal and headed back to the deck for sunshine and catharsis.
By our senior year of high school, Pop and I had been dating exclusively for two years. For the most part everything was great between us but we did have our problems. Pop became more and more popular – being a member of the football and basketball teams. His good looks didn’t hurt matters. I wasn’t cut out for the in-crowd, though, and preferred to spend my time with my small group of friends. My focus was on school and my part time job at IGA. There were times that I turned down Pop’s invitations to go to parties or hang out after games with the players and their girlfriends. Most of the time this turned into an argument. The worst was a night I will never forget in April 1970 – only one month from graduation. I still remember it like it was yesterday.
“Myrtle, everyone is going to Lake Robinson tomorrow night to hang out. I want us to go.”
“Pop, you know how I feel about that. I’m fine to go to a party around here sometimes but I don’t think it’s a good idea to go there. Your friends like to party. They drink and smoke pot.” Myrtle could see Pop getting ready to defend them. “Don’t, Pop. I don’t care what they do and you know it. But, the truth is, that isn’t who I am and it pisses me off that you are trying to make me into something I’m not.”
“What? All I said was that I wanted to go to a party and now you are accusing me of trying to change you. That’s insane. You just think you are too good for them. That’s why they call you a miss goody two shoes.” As soon as the words left Pop’s mouth he knew he made a mistake.
“Do you think I give a rat’s rear end that your dumb-butt friends don’t like me? Let me enlighten you. No, I don’t. Take me home. Now.”
Both of us were silent on the ride to my house. I got out of the car and slammed the door behind me. My father just raised his eyebrows when I came inside but he didn’t say a word. I went into my room and punched the pillow a few times. Then I cried for about an hour. All the time, I kept waiting for a knock on my window. Pop had always come back to apologize when we argued but this night he didn’t.
The next day I didn’t hear from him at all. I moped around the house and avoided Vera’s phone calls. She had her standing Saturday night date with Jake and I wasn’t in the mood to talk anyway. It was a long night. I tossed and turned and slept a grand total of ten minutes. Around 3 am, I decided that I needed to go and talk to Pop first thing in the morning.
I told Mama and Daddy that I was sick the next morning so that I could skip church. At 9:30, I drove over to Pop’s house in my Mama’s car. I was so nervous when I knocked on the door but after several minutes I realized that noone was going to answer. Pop had stopped going to church about a year before so I thought he must have been still sleeping. I was writing a note to leave on the door when I heard a car pull up. As I turned, I realized it was Pop just coming home from his night of partying at the lake. But what was most surprising was that Laura Mungo was exiting the passenger door. When he saw me, Pop stopped dead in his tracks. The look on his face, along with the slow smile spreading across Laura’s, told me everything I needed to know. When I turned him down, he took Laura, who had been after him for years.
I watched Laura walk to her house next door and I slowly approached Pop.
“What did you do, Pop?”
“Pop, answer me. What did you do?”
He scraped his hands across his face and looked at me with the blue eyes I had loved since I first laid eyes on him. “When you wouldn’t go with me, I was so angry. Laura was in her yard when I was leaving last night and she said it was a shame for me to make the drive alone. I don’t know why but I asked if she wanted to go with me.”
“Is that all? Did you just drive her there and home?”
“Myrtle, we all had a lot to drink. It was a crazy night.”
“Tell me the truth, Pop. Now.”
“I didn’t plan it, Myrtle. Laura started kissing me and one thing led to another.” He started crying then and I knew the truth was going to be bad. “Myrtle, I love you.”
“If you really loved me you wouldn’t think about touching another girl. Did you sleep with her?” I couldn’t believe how calm I sounded when my heart was pounding and I was sure I was seconds from passing out.
“I did. I don’t know why but I did. As soon as it happened, I knew it was a mistake. It meant nothing to me. Nothing. You are my world.”
Feeling numb, I let out all of my frustration. “You don’t treat ‘your world’ that way, Pop. I knew you were partying with your friends but I thought you were better than this. If someone had told me that you, of all people, would break my heart, I would have punched them in the face. Instead you’ve made the last two years a lie. We’re over, Pop. I don’t want to see you ever again.”
I slowly walked to my car and looked over at Pop one last time. He looked dejected and alone but, for the first time, I felt nothing when I looked at him. I’m not sure how I made it home but somehow I got there and into my room before anyone else could see me. Knowing I needed my best friend, I called Vera. We spent the next several hours cursing Pop and all men in general. For weeks, Pop begged for forgiveness and I ignored all of his attempts. He finally stopped coming around and I eventually started seeing him and Laura around town together.
From that moment on, Vera hated Pop. I eventually forgave him but knew that I could not forget. Our friendship was over along with any chance for a future.