Gripping a platter crowded with a pitcher of lemonade, three glasses, a plate of macaroons fresh from the oven, and embroidered napkins, Missy Lake entered her dining room. The summer of 1963 was rapidly drawing to a close, and she and her best friends since kindergarten, Tempest Binsack and Maridee Pratt, had been organizing school supplies for Kiminee’s students. With feet wide apart and knees bent, she pushed aside a stack of canvas book bags to clear a spot on the table and placed the tray between her friends, who were seated.
“Oh, those macaroons smell good.” Tempest lifted one with plump fingers with nails polished a shimmering coral. She popped it, whole, into her mouth, then reached for a napkin and dabbed her generous lips, leaving a trace of coral lipstick on the cloth.
“Wish I could wear that shade,” Maridee said to Tempest.
“Nothin’s wrong with your powder-puff pinks; they go with porcelain skin,” Tempest said.
“Fish-belly skin is more like it. I can’t even tan.” Maridee gestured, palms up, to expose the fair skin of her inner arms. “And my hair turned prematurely white, so I have to spend a pretty penny on Clairol every month.” She poked at her limp locks. “Bill complains about that, believe it or not. I look at your deep olive skin and curly black hair, and I’m so jealous. And your curves, my, my. I’m just skin and bones. If I had an ounce of your beauty—”
“Enough of that talk,” Missy said. “We have the gifts God gave us, plain and simple. I’m right there bland in the middle, and—”
Tempest cleared her throat. “You’re about as bland as a mouthful of Red Hots.”
Missy squinted at her. “I am what I am. You are what you are. We can’t change it.”
Maridee tucked a wayward strand of golden blonde hair behind her ear and glanced out a picture window facing Missy’s backyard, where Blanche, Ray and Carly Mae played croquet. “Look at them, three peas in a pod.”
“You’d hardly know Carly Mae spends so much time away.” Tempest grabbed another cookie.
“If she’d had her way, she’d be with that group from St. Michael’s right now. They’re probably pulling in to Washington, D.C., at this very moment, you know, for that big civil rights march,” Missy said. “I put an end to the idea of Carly Mae going along straight away. It’s not like I’m against the cause, but the twins are junior counselors at the day camp. They couldn’t leave for some grand bus ride to the East Coast, and I didn’t want to cut short the already limited time Carly Mae has with them.”
“That wouldn’t be an issue if she lived at home full time,” Tempest said.
“Easy for you to say.” Missy lifted the pitcher, poured lemonade into a glass, and slid it toward Tempest, liquid sloshing over the top. Then she grabbed a napkin and wiped up splatters with such force it rocked the table.
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