By Cindy Wiggins Tapia

My parents welcomed me home from the streets of Atlanta with joy that soon returned to the cold animosity of old. Feeling trapped, I was determined to bounce that house again-never mind getting caught- was a sure-fire ticket to juvenile hall.  Big whoop and la-dee-da.

I laid plans to save my school lunch and recess money, 45 cents per day for six months. Instead of swiping Kotex off the bathroom shelf, I’d filch food out of Mama’s kitchen cabinet. Feature a three-foot-tall hippie with cans of potted meat and tuna fish stuffed into a pillowcase thrown over her shoulder and $40.50 in her hard straw pocketbook, thumbing to Glendale, California, to be with the guy she’d loved so much that she’d run off with his best friend.

People reached out to me, but I was unreachable. Daddy’s sister and her husband insisted I spend every Saturday night with their 16-year-old daughter Kathy. They took me out for steak dinners and shopping and pumped me for hippie street lowdown. At night, Kathy and I would read the forbidden True Story magazines that she kept stashed under her mattress, and she would explain how risky unwed sex was. Sunday morning, we’d go to church. It was obvious to me that the good Christian girls in her class thought I was dirt.

Kathy decided to quit her waitress job at Teen’s Diner, and Danny Anglin hired me in her place. I waited tables, washed dishes, mopped, and swept floors three hours after school and eight on Saturdays for a buck an hour and all the frozen apple pie and French fries I could swipe and gobble. The frozen pie would have tasted better if I’d heated it up first.   

I’d came home numb with exhaustion, but I soldiered on like a good little bad girl.

I had to meet a probation officer once per week on the steps of the courthouse on Garnet Street. One day as I strolled through town toward Danny’s, who should I see but David Williams standing in front of Ramey’s. He asked me to go on a double date with him and another couple. They picked me up after work. I told Mama we were going to the Buford Drive-in in Sugar Hill, but we went parking on Lake Lanier instead. He was the perfect gentleman. We didn’t even share a kiss. Honey, we didn’t even hold hands.

After that, lots of late afternoons, a gang of his couple friends would pick me up, and we’d go roaring around Btown in a big lemon-yellow Pontiac LeMans with a thundering muffler. When they dropped me back home, David would kiss me goodbye so hard,  I thought my front teeth were going to bend back against the roof of my mouth.

I had friends and a job. I was able to pay my own school expenses, buy albums and 45s at Grady’s Music Store and cute clothes at Parson’s and Meryl Norman makeovers on Main Street. I bought Mama Dorsey a diamond pendant necklace that she wore for decades.

Working jump-started my self-esteem. I began to think about college and a writing career.

With the dollar an hour, Danny Anglin had paid me the priceless wage of delivery from what nightmares might have come.

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