By Lois Guarino Hazel
She was 15 the first time that she decided that she didn’t like who she was: a Catholic girl with strict parents in a small town in Western Pennsylvania, and friends who didn’t have a clue as to the depth of her restlessness in Dullsville, USA.
Chuck was 21, tall, lanky, with hair that skimmed his collar when the rest of the male world in her purview sported closely shorn styles. He also was headed for the Marines in the Vietnam War era, which spoke to Judith of virility and machismo. She met him when he came into the café where she worked after school as a waitress.
Judith could pass for 19 or 20, fully developed thanks to her Italian ancestry, smoky, flashing eyes and full plump lips. She moved with a sexy swish of her hips and uplifting of her ample chest—unleashed only at work and outside of her parents’ ever-watchful eyes.
“Coffee,” she asked, approaching his table against the back wall and deliberately meeting his cornflower blue gaze with flashing olive-black eyes and a seductive half-smile.
“Sure,” he drawled with an accent she knew was not native to Dullsville. “And what do you have to satisfy a very hungry man?”
Her heart slammed against her chest noting his testosterone-loaded voice and demeanor.
“Have you checked the menu?” she queried, trying to keep the shakiness out of her voice.
“Yeah-h-h-h-h-h,” he purred. “But I reckon a gal like you knows what would satisfy a re-e-e-e-ally hungry man.”
“How ‘bout a chicken pot pie with homemade noodles, lots of veggies, and a crust that melts in your mouth? And biscuits, dripping with butter? And apple pie, topped with vanilla ice cream from our local creamery for dessert? Would that fill the void?”
“It’s a danged good start,” Chuck said, with a wink.
A month and many served meals later, Judith crept out of her house at 2:00 a.m., met Chuck at the diner, and slipped into his big black truck to begin the first of her personal reinventions.
They drove to Elkton, Maryland, where couples “in a hurry” flocked. After a brief and perfunctory ceremony, legal because of Judith’s forged ID, they were wed. A new last name, a new identity, a new life as Mrs. Charles Vandervoort.
At the motel where they consummated their marriage, Judith experienced mind-blowing sex. No teenaged fumbling ineptitude. This man knew how to pleasure a woman (or, in this case, a girl whose only experience had been in the back of an old Chevy, at the hands of a more-than-eager 17 year old, who shared her virgin status.)
In a few months, Judith’s parents, with the help of a private investigator, tracked her down, removed her from the cheap, barely furnished apartment she kept after Chuck went to ‘Nam, and immediately began the annulment process . . .costly, but so vitally important for Judith’s future, as her parents envisioned it.
Judith returned to high school and graduated in the middle of her class. She was bright and caught up easily with those who had stayed in school. But she was restless and found life at home suffocating and unbearable.
Seven months after graduation, two straight-backed Marines in full dress uniforms, delivered the letter. Judith was listed as last known relative; Chuck had no other living family. His squadron had been ambushed at Chu Lai; no survivors. Thus began the next reinvention of Judith.
She declared herself a “war widow” to all who would listen, eliciting the wrath of her generation of pacifists who could not understand why anyone would want to serve, defending a government their young naïve selves neither appreciated nor understood. Judith thrived as a contrarian and this role stirred her soul.
In her early twenties, she decided that a career in law might keep her challenged and allow her inclusion into circles worlds beyond Dullsville. She aced her accelerated college studies and applied only to law schools in the Midwest, the Deep South, or California. Because she was bright and had excellent LSAT scores, Stanford Law accepted her application.
Judith began packing, and headed West, beginning another metamorphosis. This one included a radical change in her appearance. Her waist-long, dark-chocolate, wavy hair gave way to a short, auburn bob. Her thick brows were plucked pencil-thin and lips previously proclaiming their provocative plumpness with bold reds were softly blushed with pinks and corals. Now a vegan, Judith’s ample curves gave way to a lean taut sleekness. In her latest reinvention, she had shed 20 pounds.
Lois Guarino Hazel retired as a project editor from Rodale Press Book Division after 20 years. Her freelance work has appeared in: Sun Magazine (Reader’s Write), and online at 50+SeniorLife.com and StagesofLife.com. Lois writes flash fiction, memoir, essays, poetry and is working on a book of haiku.