Lady Bug Summer —

When Two Girls Did Every Bad Thing and Became Adults

Wendy Cohan

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Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Summer, 1977

Take two naïve girls from a town so small it barely makes the map. Add two plane tickets to Phoenix, a suspiciously-heavy package wrapped in brown paper, and the recently attempted hijacking of United Flight 696 — to Cuba. We were really not adequately prepared to cope.

I’d just turned seventeen, and Gillian would turn seventeen later that summer. We were both in that noxious-teenager stage where we couldn’t believe our deep misfortune to have been born into families who didn’t understand or appreciate us, or grasp that we were meant for significantly greater things. My friend spent all her time show-jumping horses and attending Pony Club outings. I spent all of my time plunging baskets into deep-fat fryers and creating masterful swirl-cones. As mid-summer approached, we were both craving something wildly different.

Gillian’s older sister, Beatrice, invited us to come for a visit, and we jumped at the chance. We announced to our families that we were going, and there was nothing they could do to stop us. They were no doubt relieved to see us stalk out the door, and probably half-hoped we’d never return.

I worked for Gillian’s brother, Will, with whom I was secretly in love, at the ice-cream and burger joint he owned. Beatrice and Will were close in age and super competitive, but there was one point on which they agreed: the best ice-cream sundaes were made with maple-walnut sundae topping, an item both expensive and hard to come by. For a special treat, Will arranged for Gillian to bring Beatrice a restaurant-sized jar of maple-walnut sundae topping, which he carefully covered in bubble-wrap and brown Kraft paper, and taped it with duct tape. We stowed it in Gillian’s carry-on, and then, the two of us headed to the airport, where we boarded our first flight — en route to Fort Worth, where we’d meet our connecting flight to Phoenix. The 737 rose into the air just as the bright lights of Pittsburgh began to spread out below us.

Photo by Yuhan Du on Unsplash

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Wendy Cohan

Author of character-driven women's fiction, short stories, and essays. Her contemporary romance, The Renaissance Sisters, debuted May 23, 2023.