Edge of Seventeen

This vignette takes place in 1975. What do you think?


Heather agrees to spend a week in Tennessee with Robin. It is her first time there and she finds it a strange and wondrous place. They stay with Robin’s grandmother who lives in an old farmhouse without central heat or running water. She makes them biscuits and gravy for breakfast. She cooks them eggs-over-easy, the hens in her yard providing the fresh-laid eggs. The food is exquisite. Every morning they clatter down the stairs, chattering and laughing, to inhale the delicious food as if they are starving.

They wash in cold water they’ve pumped from outside. They run squealing through the chilly air to the outhouse. When they have to pee at night, they don’t bother with shoes or extra wraps, but run barefoot in their nightgowns through the coarse, stubby grass lining the path. They shiver as they return to the house, wiping their cold, wet feet on the towel hung inside the back door. They snuggle together in Robin’s bed, huddled under the heavy homemade quilts for warmth, talking late into the night. As Heather wakes, she finds Robin’s head nestled into her shoulder. She breathes in the crisp morning air, her fingers slowly running through Robin’s hair.

Every day they charge out of the house ready to explore western Tennessee. The dozens of tobacco barns they pass fascinate Heather. Many of the people she meets are involved in the industry. A family friend lets them walk through his barn. The large tobacco leaves are tied together at one end, then they are hung over open wood rafters to dry. The leaves gradually change from green to yellow to golden-brown as they slowly age in the carefully controlled environment. The barn is warm and humid, filled with the scent of earth and plant and musk. There are huge bales of dried leaves bundled around the periphery of the barn waiting transport to a different location for more fermenting. Heather reaches for one of the ochre sheets. Its thick, leathery texture surprises her. The leaves are slightly oily; her fingers come away coated with a fragrant tarry residue.

They visit many of Robin’s friends and family. They spend a day with Robin’s older brother who dares Heather to drive his big pick-up, saying, “OK long legs, let’s see what you can do.” She takes up the challenge. Of course, she can drive a stick shift, just watch. She clamors onto the high wide seat, noting it could easily hold four people. A gun-rack, loaded with rifle and shotgun, hangs behind her head. She presses back against the seat, testing if it will adjust any further, checks the mirrors and dashboard. She pushes in the clutch, puts the truck in gear, and slowly drives down the dirt track leading out of the farm. She likes riding higher than the rest of the world. The brother has her continue driving. A light cologne consisting of equal parts tobacco and alcohol hangs around him. She wonders if he wants her to drive because he has lost his license. It doesn’t matter. She likes proving she can do it.

One night Robin tells Heather they are going to visit two of her cousins. Heather laughs because everyone she meets is some kind of cousin. These two turn out to be the kissing kind. Both male, the older one immediately puts his arm around Robin and they head towards his bedroom. This leaves Heather alone with Tyler. He is blonde, clean-shaven, cute. He’s a few years younger than Heather, still in high school, seventeen to her twenty. He has helped on his dad’s tobacco farm since he was a child. They talk about what his life is like. He charms her with his eager innocence, his pleasure and enchantment as he hesitantly touches her. He tells her, “She is a treasure, a shimmering angel.” They lie naked on the wide leather couch in the darkened living room kissing and exploring. His ass covered by a scratchy granny square afghan. The glow of the Christmas tree bathes them in red and gold light. It softens the planes of their faces. It turns their lips into blurred shadows, their eyes darken and red-gold streaks gleam in their hair.

She enfolds him in her arms. She places his hand gently here. She whispers what she wants him to do. Her body is soft and cool beneath him. He follows her instructions. She is his first. He almost comes when her snug liquid heat first envelops him. He is surprised at her intimate warmth, how hot she is inside. She has him pause, take time to feel and appreciate. She encourages him to go slowly at first. She has him pull out then thrust back in hard. “Now harder, faster,” she says and he forgets himself, turns himself over to oblivion, aware of nothing but their joining. The soft sucking sounds surprise him too. He didn’t think it would be so wet and moiling. As he comes, he freely gives her part of his soul in exchange for the grace she shares. Forever after he will think of her as his magical Christmas angel. Glowing under him in the multi-colored light, she drowns him in her delight. For years, the memory of her will color his dreams and beguile his judgment.


Edge of Seventeen from Bella Donna by Stevie Nicks. Released: 1981. Track 1.

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