Friday, May 30, 2008

Hot Georgia Winds by Charlotte Boyett-Compo

Francesca Castile took a long sip of the iced Bailey's Irish Cream and let the potent liquor roll around on her tongue before she swallowed it. It burst on her senses as it always did and made her long to gulp the delicious brew as though it was water, and she a parched husk.

Sighing, she forced the double shot of her favorite libation down on the table and looked her best friend of fifty-one years, Georgi Lansing, in the eye. "Don't start up with that again, Georgi," she warned.

"Ah, come on, Frankie!" Georgi said. "What will it hurt?"

Giving Georgia stern look, Francesca shook her head. "Every time the five of us get together, we wind up doing something we ought not to do. Or have you forgotten Savannah?"

Georgi giggled. "I'm not damned likely to forget Savannah," her best friend said. "I don't think Tybee Island will forget us, either!"

"And then there was New Orleans," Francesca reminded her. "Mardi Gras, 2000."

"Oh," Georgi said, and a pink tint highlighted her cheeks--sculpted cheeks the best plastic surgeon in California had given her a year earlier.

"Not to mention the Romantic Times convention we went to in Orlando." Francesca winced. "Those poor waitresses at the Arabian Nights probably still have nightmares about us."

A long, hopeless sigh escaped Georgi. "You are getting to be such a fuddy-duddy, Francesca Louise Castile," she said.

"Grown women should act their age, Georgetta Marie Blake," Francesca stated. "We're not freshmen at Bama anymore."

"We're not senior citizens yet, either," Georgi replied. She straightened her shoulders. "At least I'm not."

Francesca took another long sip of her drink. Yesterday the nit-twit at McDonald's had given her a discount although Francesca had asked for it and didn't think she looked old enough for a senior citizen discount. But that little incident had only added insult to injury for earlier that morning, she'd found another gray hair and had silently cursed her hairdresser. Soon, she'd be going under the knife just as Georgi and their three closest friends already had. It was inevitable.

"It's just a weekend, Frankie," Georgi insisted. "A sort of breaking in of Alex's new condo in P.C. You don't even have to leave her damned building if you don't want to."

"And Brett won't be coming with us?" Francesca asked. Of the five women, only Georgi still had a ball and chain attached to her, but since he stayed mostly on his side of their million dollar mansion and Georgi stayed on the other, they had survived thirty-four years of relatively happy marriage.

"Hell, no, he won't be coming!" Georgi said, aghast at even the thought. "Who could have any fun with that dead-man walking tagging along?" She narrowed her eyes. "When has he ever come along with us, Francesca?"

Francesca started to tell her friend that if Georgi's husband came with them, perhaps they wouldn't get into trouble this time. Instead she simply shrugged.

"Okay, so it's settled," Georgi told them. "Sammi will pick us up in her pretty new Escalade after church tomorrow and we'll stop in Marianna at that terrific seafood place for lunch."

"I don't know," Francesca hedged. She rolled the bottom of her glass around and around on the table top.

"Have you been getting your mustache waxed?" Georgi asked, staring at Francesca's upper lip. She folded her fingers into a fist and leaned her chin on it. "You really should try the laser..."

"All right," Francesca hissed. "Just stop already."

"And for the love of God, don't tell Richard where we're going this time," Georgi insisted. "I don't want that self-indulgent bastard calling to chew you out about some perceived slight his new wife suffered at the country club."

"Will Brett know?" Francesca asked. She had no intention of telling her ex-husband anything.

Georgi rolled her eyes. "Unfortunately he will, since our stupid daughter-in-law could deliver that brat of hers any minute now. Otherwise, he wouldn't know where we'll be, either."

Francesca smiled. Despite the bored look on Georgi's face, she knew her longtime friend was as thrilled about the pending birth of her grandchild as she could possibly be.

"Okay, but if we wind up in the P.C. Police Department again this year..." Francesca said, letting her words hang in the air along with a raised eyebrow.

"Yeah, yeah. I hear you," Georgi grumbled. "Redneck Riviera, here we come!"

So on that pleasant June afternoon, Francesca Dubois-Castile, Alexandra Baylor-Hutchins, Georgette Blake-Lansing, Samantha Hudson, and Theodora Jennings-Chambers--friends since childhood--left Albany, Georgia right after Mass let out at St. Teresa's Catholic Church for the beaches of Panama City, Florida. In Sammi's plush new SUV they tooled along to the Super Sounds of the Sixties on CD and joined in on the songs that had defined their generation.