Before they’d walked ten yards, a long brown Cadillac Fleetwood El Dorado pulled up beside the two girls. The passenger side glass slid down with a whoosh to reveal a middle-aged man with gray hair combed over his suntanned pate. “Get in the car, Lou Ann,” he said.
Arbre face straight ahead with a severe look. She picked up her pace and said, “Come on, Vida.”
The man in the Cadillac wasn’t giving up, though. “Lou Ann, let’s talk. Get in.” He edged the long car slowly to keep steady with their gait.
Vida looked at Arbre, but there was no response from her. “Lou Ann, your mother’s not sleeping. She needs to know how you are.”
“Is that your dad?” Vida asked.
Arbre turned to the car. “Go away, Frank.” Her face had gone white with anger.
“I’m sorry for everything, baby,” Frank said. Cars were piling up behind him and had begun to honk.
“I don’t have a father,” Arbre whispered.
“Come on, Lou Ann. Please be reasonable,” he went on.
She finally turned to face Frank. “Reasonable? I hate you.” Frank looked hurt, pain across his face. He looked like the actor Keenan Wynn. Vida was uncomfortable. When she caught up, Arbre began to laugh out loud. “Did you know I was Little Miss Jefferson City? On TV and everything. They did that to me. Pushed me to be that thing I didn’t want to be.”
Vida had a hard time imagining Arbre in the beauty pageant. Not that she wasn’t pretty. Arbre was beautiful long golden hair that reached all the way down her back. Her skin, brown from trips to the beach. The idea of her parading around with crowns and banners was hard to picture.
Arbre had sadness about her. Something that went deep that you couldn’t touch or make better. She felt sorry for Arbre.
“My mother’s crazy,” Vida said.
Arbre looked at her. “Aren’t all mothers?”
Vida shook her head. “No. I mean totally nuts. They locked her up for it.”
“I didn’t know. I’m so sorry.”
“She’s been that way a long time. They tried everything. Shock treatments. Pills. Nothing worked.”
“You know what? Let’s just go. Let’s go to the beach. I want to feel the water.”
Vida said, “She ate her lipstick.”
But, Arbre already had her thumb out, hitchhiking. “Let’s go to Nobody Beach,” she said, her words on the warm wind.
Vida would remember this day for a long time. To stand on the sand with the warm brown suds caressing her bare feet. Her skin as hot as the air and a part of it all. She looked out at the water and wondered which way China was. You couldn’t see anything but the ocean where it almost turned blue instead of brown. She could hear Arbre laughing and watched her run into the waves, the water running down her back from her long hair. She kept yelling out “the sea, the sea.” at the ocean. It was good to not think. About death or parents or anything. It was good to be young. And alive.
Some bad things happened later. Pecos House got raided and they rounded up a bunch of underage kids. One of them got let go. His name was David Owen Brooks. He would become famous for the serial murders of other Texas teens. They dug up three bodies not far down from where Vida and Arbre basked on the deserted shore. Just two girls and the warm brown water of the Gulf of Mexico. That day at Nobody Beach.
Cindy Marabito is a writer, pit bull rescuer, filmmaker and activist. She has written and published Pit Bull Nation, a memoir about saving death row dogs, Jackson, a horror story told by a 15 year-old white girl and Jules, the Truth Finder, a twin flames erotic paranormal romance novel. Small Texas is a collection of stories about people one meets in deep East Texas amidst the swamps and boscage known as the Big Thicket.