Frankie was one of those girls who even as a little kid seemed to have some sort of sense of morality. She wasn’t prissy or self righteous about it but you would never catch her doing things that seem so appalling when kids to them, like pulling the wings off butterflies or shooting dogs with BB guns. Frankie seemed a little on the serene side, and that helped considering her father was one of those ex-military by the book always hyped up guys who still shine their boots every day before waking up at four in the morning.
They were part of the church crowd and unlike a lot of the church crowd, more these days than back then, they seemed to live the life they advertised, and I always like them for that. Frankie’s father was forever volunteering to help out someone who was down on their luck, and her mother was one of those people who seemed to thrive on baking for the needy and that sort of thing. Frankie’s younger sister, Pat, seemed to be the one headed for trouble, and even as a small child you could tell this one was going to be the wild one in the family.
Years after The Incident Frankie and I sat down and had a few beers together, and it was very stranger drinking with her. She hadn’t married Tim, her childhood sweetheart, and it was odd to see her with another guy. One thing about Frankie was her absolute sense of honesty and if you asked her a question she would tell you whatever was the truth, ever it may bring. I asked her what happened that night, and after a beer or two she told me. Some of this, of course, I already knew from her sister’s tale of The Incident because unlike Frankie, Pat would tell anything she knew regardless as to whether or not it was true. The Sheriff’s Office never made an official report on it, but still, there were a lot of the facts that checked out cross referenced, and so most of what you’ll read today is true, in as much anything you read that happened that long ago can be.
Frankie and Tim were “going steady” in grade school back when hand holding is considering consummating a relationship and sitting together on the bus is paramount to matrimony. As they matured together Frankie told me after their first kiss they agree to get married, and have kids, and after more kissing decided to leave sex out until after they were married, and after they had both graduated from College. It seemed like a fairly decent plan. One day they were in the church alone, and Frankie told Tim when she was a kid she would pile all the stuffed animals in the nursery in front of the huge communal crib and hide there. They went downstairs to where the nursery was piled the stuff animals around it and crawled under it together. Frankie said she knew at that moment virginity wasn’t going to last much longer, and had someone not come downstairs to use the bathroom things might have gotten weird. Frankie and Tim both felt incredibly guilty about the crib encounter because it had happened in church, and vowed to cease all pre-sexual activity. It lasted about three days. Over the next couple of months they found themselves alone sometimes on purpose and sometimes not, but they could not control the fire. Twice Frankie had decided to throw away all restraint, and both times it was Tim who sat up and began to profusely apologize for going too far. Both were getting edgy about it.
Helping or hindering, however you want to look at it, was Frankie’s father vowed not to let her date until she was eighteen, an edict she had pretty much always agreed with. But she was fifteen and a half, Tim was sixteen, and they both were straining at the leash, even when they didn’t realize it. Tim got up the courage to ask Frankie’s father if he could take her to Dothan to see a movie, and to everyone’s surprise, the man said yes, but it was to be strictly structured. They were to leave with just another time to get to the movie, they were to use the payphone in the lobby to call home when they got there, and they were to home straight home. And this they all happily did, their first date, albeit a hurried one, was a success, and they made it home with fifteen minutes to spare. Frankie’s father decided to let them sit in Tim’s car for a while, and both Frankie and Tim had ever good intention of him stealing a good-night kiss so they both could have some time to study for midterms which were coming up fright before the Christmas break. One kiss, and off he would be, and everyone would call it a night. The night was rather cool for South Georgia, the car wasn’t running, and the air was crisp and still. Frankie told me she knew there was something odd about that night, and she thought seriously about going inside and starting some sort of journal to describe the way she felt that night, and how the stars looked as if they were trapped on the outside of her world, and they were dying to get in. She planned to write about this night, so that later in life, she could remember it.
Even the best laid plans.