Caroline and Randy continued to see each other as Spring gave way to Summer. The sweet jasmine faded, and the smell of the sweet grass baking in the sun often reminded Caro of Mamma’s hot loaves of bread, brown and yeasty straight from the oven.
Florida summers brought a new routine around the house. Chores were done in the early hours of the morning, and afternoons were times to pull the shades and nap in your slip while the boys went swimming in the cow pond, or down to the dock to throw in their fishing lines and check the crab traps.
After the supper dishes were dried, the family gathered on the porch to catch the faint breeze off the river. The radio was tuned to the latest news from Europe. If the report was too grim, Mamma would clear her throat and nod to Papa. He would get up with a feigned nonchalance and announce that he was ready for the Fibber McGhee or Little Orphan Annie.
Often Randy would pull up in his truck, and join Caro on the porch swing. The boys began to look forward to Randy’s visits. He often brought them a treat. Three bamboo stalks for new fishing poles, a snake skin found as he trudged through the woods, or a Hershey’s bar to share.
Caro’s parents looked forward to his visits too. He brought Daddy all the news from town, and he shared stories with Mamma about his Mother’s challenge to get her hens to lay in the humid, summer heat.
Caro sat quietly, her foot pushing off the porch floor to set the swing to rock them both. She would smile at Randy’s stories and jokes, marveling at his ease and maturity. She was admiring his strong brown biceps, and the clean smell of his short sleeved shirt when she noticed Randy looking at her curiously.
“So will you come?” Randy asked her.
“I’m sorry, I was daydreaming,” she answered blushing to the roots of her hair.
“Would you like to go into town to attend the big dance at the Elk’s Lodge with me on Saturday? They are bringing in a band all the way from Atlanta. My friend Pee Wee says they sound just like Benny Goodman’s band.”
Caro looked over at her Mamma, who looked troubled.
“Randy, is this one of those big fancy dances, where the ladies wear formal gowns? Mamma asked.
“Oh, no ma’m,” Randy assured her. “This isn’t going to be like that. The men and ladies wear their Sunday best.”
Still Mamma looked worried.
“May I go Mamma?” Caro asked anxiously. “I’d love to go.”
“If it’s alright with your Daddy, you may go,” Mamma answered.
“Papa?” Caro looked at him beseechingly.
“It’s just fine with me, daughter. I know you are in good hands with Randy,” Papa nodded.
“Well, Caroline, I believe you and I will need to borrow the truck from your Daddy and go to town tomorrow. You are going to need a party dress,” Mamma declared.
Caroline’s eyes were shining with excitement. A real party dress from a store! She could hardly wait for tomorrow’s trip.