My mama is thirty-nine years old, but looks sixty. Her complexion is sallow and gouged from cigarettes and drink and long days working in the sun. My dad is forty and looks a little healthier, maybe because he doesn’t smoke and always manages to find humor in stupid things.
Mama always says, “I don’t know where you came from, girl. Nobody in my family was ever as smart as you.”
I don’t tell her that this past semester at college I learned that intelligence isn’t really hereditary, that I earned my scholarship because Daddy drove me to the library every two weeks, Mrs. Stiles let me borrow classics from her husband’s collection whenever I went to do chores around their place, and that Reverend Bill let me use his computer, taught me how it worked and gave me an old laptop when his new software wouldn’t run on it. And he always seemed to have books he’d finished with. What they say, it takes a village, is true in my case.
It’s Spring Break and I am home, walking along the Stiles’ long meandering drive to return French philosophy books to Mrs. Stiles when I see her son, Jake. He’s sitting on the hood of Darryl Lucas’ ancient corvette, tossing a baseball in his hands. Like me, he has a scholarship, but his is for baseball. Unlike me, his parents could probably have afforded to send him anywhere. But we attend the same state university and every once in a while I spy him on campus.
“Hey, Angela,” he says.
My heart flips because around Jake Stiles that’s what it’s always done. I smile at him and Darryl.
“Lookin’ fine, Angela,” Darryl says.
I laugh because it’s expected. I go around to the back of the house, where my cousin, Larleen, helps in the kitchen. After sharing local gossip, because Larleen expects it, I discreetly cross to the library, which is open and empty and reshelf the books I borrowed.
Back outside, I see Darryl Lucas is gone. His car’s been replaced by TammyLee Bartlett’s red convertible. Her long hair shimmers like threads of amber honey. She’s tanned, even now in March, and I hear her laugh about Cancun. Jake snags a fistful of her hair and pulls her to him.
My insides split, just the way they’ve always done, around Jake Stiles and his current fascination. Yes, Mama, I think. This green-eyed monster inside is roaring again.
They never even notice as I pass by, or if they do, they choose not to acknowledge me.
As always, I think of someday. Someday I will get a lucrative job. Someday I will buy Mama and Daddy a new home with all of the conveniences. Someday I will make sure Mama and Daddy have enough of whatever they want. Someday I will drive a red convertible. Someday I will wear new skinny jeans and fashionable shoes and a shirt without synthetic materials. Someday Jake Stiles will fall in love with me.