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The following is the nineteenth installment of the novel "Women and Other Foreigners" by Montana Blue. All material is copyrighted and cannot be copied, in whole or part, without express written permission of "Links 2 Love."

Women and Other Foreigners©
by Montana Blue

Chapter Seventeen

The Hands of Women

     The next day after a fine morning of shopping and terrorizing the roadways, we head to the beach that Sophie has chosen - to the north where there are massive coral reefs and the water is calm.
     "It's the best place to get back on the horse," she has said too many times now. "It's beautiful up there and you don't have to go in if you don't want to."
     The Mustang is loaded with beach chairs, huge straw hats, freshly purchased suntan lotion, steamy novels, snorkels, masks, flippers, and a miniature ice chest bloated with diet drinks.
     As we back out of the garage, with the top of the convertible down, I ask Sophie, "You think you're going to enjoy the beach like that?"
      Sophie has her broad brimmed beach hat mashed onto her head with a cream-colored scarf. The white long-sleeved blouse and beige ankle-length skirt that she wears over her pure black swimming suit nearly eclipse her whole body. Only the tips of her fingers are visible, and they are currently wrapped tightly around the steering wheel as she reves up the Mustang for road-war.
     "Sure," she replies as the car bounds backward, "I can take some of this stuff off while I'm in the shade. There are plenty of trees up there."
     "What about when you're in the water?" I ask as I double-check the strength of my seat belt, adjust my swimsuit straps and smooth out the turquoise sundress that covers a new turquoise swimming suit with black polka dots. It's the only thing I let Sophie buy for me since I arrived here. She insisted that I throw out the old brown swimming suit I wore when I 'Went swimming like a friggin' idiot on the worst beach on the island.' as Sophie so sweetly puts it.
     "I'll put the waterproof lotion on and I brought a tee shirt to wear over my suit - you need one?" Sophie spins the wheel as we start forward onto the side road.
     "No, I'm fine. All I usually need is lotion." And I'm not planning out getting out of my beach chair.
     "Me too, but I'm not taking chances with this damn sun any more. Don't want to get any more new skin the hard way." Sophie wriggles in her seat and simultaneously turns the steering wheel and rocks the Mustang. It looks like she's trying to get comfortable in her seat by changing the car's position to fit her.
     I turn around to check the supplies in the back seat. "Why did you bring two sets of flippers? I've told you I'm not going to..."
     "Fins." Sophie says. "There are two sets of fins."
     "Fin, flipper, what's the difference? I'm not going in." For someone who mangles every saying that was ever invented, she's being awfully picky about one word.
     "Nobody's called it a flipper since the 60's. Flipper dates you."
     "Well, if he did, it would be the best date I've had in years." I smirk.
     Sophie casts me a glance and raises one eyebrow in a way that suggests my little monkey brain has once again slipped its tether from the organ grinder.
     We pull up to the intersection and Sophie spins us into the narrow two-lane main road. Her long-sleeved blouse slips up her right arm leaving her hand and wrist exposed.
     For a half-second I feel like I'm driving. The hand on the wheel is so much like my own. Sophie straightens her long fingers out as she presses the heel of her hand into the wheel.
     I look down at my own hand. The finger length, shape, handbreadth, freckles appear nearly identical to Sophie's. Only the tips of our fingers are different, hers with long burgundy nails carefully manicured into flat sturdy tops. My nails, manicured, but not as meticulously, are medium length, oval-shaped, and covered in frosted pink.
     "Park that puppy!" Sophie screams at a jeep that is moving slowly north in front of us. The heads of the couple in the car are both dipping and twisting as if they're watching two different tennis matches as they search the roadside for clues to their location. The woman passenger flaps a road map open as the jeep continues to creep up the road.
     Sophie roars up to one-foot behind the jeep like we're the paramedics from Hell on an emergency call. The Mustang nearly taps their left bumper as Sophie swerves out to the left to look for oncoming traffic around the curve ahead.
     She brakes and we fall back behind the jeep, "Damn tourists, if they don't know where they're going they should pull off the road and figure it out. Inconsiderate assholes!"
     Sophie honks the horn, yanks the car left again, then apparently sees a chance to pass, jams the accelerator and rockets us out past the jeep. I can see the terrorized faces of its occupants as we bullet by.
     "Sophie, the beach'll still be there if it takes us five extra minutes." I say, which is obviously a waste of good air.
     "I know, but it just pisses me off." Sophie fumes as she gives the steering wheel a quick punch with her fist.
     "Don't you ever hold anything in?" I mutter as I unlock the leg that I notice has been working its way through the floorboard toward the engine compartment.
     "Don't you ever let anything out?" Sophie's lips barely move as she stares straight ahead.
     Sophie yanks her sleeve back down over her hand. It is a shock to see Sophie's hands flash through the sunlight. If our hands are so similar, I wonder how much they resemble our mother's.
     These are the hands that I had searched for for the first twenty years of my life. The only two things that my adoptive parents knew about my biological mother's appearance, they told me, was that she had "lovely" hands and "beautiful" brown hair.
     Sophie suddenly snorts, "This place would just be paradise without those damned tourists!" As she begins to tailgate her next victim. Her voice abruptly shifts to a creamy purr, "There's Ruby Ackerbee."
     Sophie removes her sunglasses and her face looks so angelic, I barely recognize her. She slows the Mustang to a crawl and waves her left arm like a parade princess toward a woman in a car that is stopped in front of a philodendron dungeon of a driveway.
     "Hi Ruby," Sophie mouths as she shows every single one of her teeth to Ruby. Ruby, a leathered blonde covered in a gauzy daffodil ensemble, lifts two fingers briefly from the steering wheel of her white Cadillac convertible as we pull past her driveway.
     "Her family owns a huge compound over there." Sophie points to the side of the road and north into the dense growth as she continues, "They are from San Francisco and are so well placed. I met her up here two years ago. You can meet some of the best people up here and I've gone to luaus at Ruby's and Martha's, that's Martha Branwhipple of the L. A. Branshipples and..."
     I let Sophie's voice fade out and concentrate on the gorgeous lime and emerald greenery of the passing scenery. Streaks of sunlight tunnel like brilliant mine shafts through boughs of slender pine trees and filigreed ferns. The light plays like a myriad of lost stars on dark green broad-leafed plants. The spotlight travels across pale specks of wild white orchids, brilliant blasts of Birds of Paradise and scarlet hibiscus.
     Sophie continues her extensive detailing of the social hierarchy of the island while my eyes devour the great jungle salad that tumbles onto the shoulder of the roadway.
     With my right elbow resting on top of the rolled down window, I raise my hand and watch my fingers comb the air. These long fingers had once been trained to play the piano quite nicely on command.
     When I was six, I started taking piano lessons. At my first lesson I can still remember my teacher, Mrs. Donovan, saying to me, "My, Bernadette, you have such lovely hands."
     I sat stunned in my straight brown hair with its sensible Buster Brown cut, washed-out red pedal pushers, and red and white worn checkered blouse. I had never thought of any part of myself as lovely.
     As my scuffed brown oxfords quit swinging and my chunky bottom stopped squirming on the bench, I looked at my hands in shock. They had seemed unremarkable before. Just stuck on the ends of my unremarkable arms which were stuck on this dull little girl body.
     But, "Lovely" had she said "Lovely."?
     "What?" I whispered.
     Mrs. Donovan was flipping through pages of music. She stopped to gaze down at me with a smile. As she lowered her arm, she stirred a breeze of soap and lilacs.
     "What dear?" she said.
     I could see a reflection of myself in the glass of her round spectacles. The rusty coils of her hair fell toward me as she looked down.
     "My hands?" I watched my lips barely move in her lenses, afraid to stir, she might forget, I might not hear her.
     I held my breath.

Continued >>>

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