Blue Velvet

by Judith St.Claire

In May of 1960, I turned twenty-one, old enough to vote.  At last!  (Yes, in those days, you had to be twenty-one.) 

After leaving work on my birthday, I rode the ancient ferry back across Humboldt Bay.  Standing at the aft of the vessel, a fresh breeze ruffled my hair and salted my lips.  As we prepared to dock, the captain blew an extra long, ear-splitting blast on the horn and shouted, “Happy Birthday,” out the open wheelhouse window.  I waved at him and smiled my sparkling twenty-one-year-old smile. 

Happy birthday to me.

On land, I climbed into my early 1950s Plymouth and headed straight for Daly’s Department Store to check the status of the royal blue velvet coat I’d been watching for quite several weeks.  If it was still there, I’d know it was meant for me.  It was.  I tried it on one more time.  The blue was so bright, so royal, and the velvet so soft.  I bought it and decided to wear it home. 

As I wafted past a full rack of dresses, I heard stage whispers between two half hidden clerks, both much taller than I.

“Just look at her.  She’s too short for that coat.  She’ll drag it on the ground or slam the tail of it in the car door.”

“Yeah, it looked much better on me, too.” 

My chin jerked up.  A slight frown appeared between my brows.  With my head tilted back, I looked down my long nose and marched straight ahead out the double glass doors. 

When I got into my car, I shut the door, but only after having made sure the coat did not hang out the opening. 

Happy birthday to me.

Mother and my two youngest sisters were making my birthday dinner, so I hurried home.  I made sure my entrance was attended by announcing in dulcet tones, clearly audible to the neighbors, “Hello-oo!  I’m ho-ome!” 

In a tight little group, the ladies emerged from the kitchen.  I twirled.  My sisters gasped, clapped their hands and crowded around to feel the rich fabric.  Mother stood just inside the doorway, hands on hips.  

“You’re too short for that coat.  You’re gonna drag it on the ground, and you’ll probably slam it in the car door.”

Happy birthday to me.

Note:  This little story was written in response to the Tuesday Writing Challenge,  Overheard, on “The Daily Post.”


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