Gutsy Girl Power
“My Gutsy Story®” by Mariana Williams
I’m getting off the plane feeling nervous. Having sat in the last row, it took a while getting out. The pilot was walking way ahead of me when I noticed a text came in on my phone. “Where are you?”
I sighed and slowed down. Maybe contacting someone through a private detective after a forty-year gap wasn’t such a good idea. Was Danelle impatiently tapping her foot at baggage claim? Was she eager to return to her life—after meeting me? And, what is that life? Aghhh, maybe the text simply indicated she might not have recognized me walk past.
I’d been a writer for ten years now, and after penning three novels, my colorful life of peaks and valleys became the focus of my memoirs. The boldest early memories took place with the girl I met at summer camp. We were fifth graders and rode horses, swam, sang, and built a language of laughter that I was betting would be worth the 2,627miles sojourn across the Pacific Ocean.
Danelle was the friend that always pushed the limits of what was allowed. Now, decades later I suspected my gutsy friend would either be serving a prison sentence or the head of Wall Street. She hadn’t shown up for any reunions and no one had heard a word after high school. My mild obsession about the outcome of her life had me searching the Internet and even looking for her in a crowd. Danelle was my daring alter ego.
Ages twelve through seventeen it wasn’t sex, drugs and alcohol for us—we were just merry pranksters exploring the limits of travel without a car. Armed with imagination and a thumb we escaped the hot San Fernando Valley, often hopping off a bus in a random city. Danger was always around the corner and we saw its shadow, but I trusted my street-smart friend and aside from getting picked up by the police as runaways—all was bitchen’.
After a few capers we were restricted from hanging out. Oh, sure. That always works. Ask Romeo and Juliette. The last warning to stay away from Danelle was delivered in my mother’s low guttural growl—at three a.m., walking me out of a police station, picked up as runaways. Danelle and I feebly explained that we were vacationing at the Beverly Hilton Hotel that weekend. “What’s your room number?” barked the policewoman.
“Well, we don’t have a room exactly,” I stammered. “Our stuff is behind a big ol stack of chairs in the banquet room. We hang out at the pool in the daytime and crash behind the chairs at night. Really, nobody even cares.”
My husband’s golf buddy was a private eye. It was a gutsy move but I hired him. It took him about ten days—longer than he predicted. After a few phone conversations, I made plans to fly to Kauai—before one of us died or my fascination lost momentum. Curiosity led to sentimentality and now just the sweaty-palm of embarrassment as the twelve-year-old in me looks for my friend’s brown curly mop-head, somewhere by the baggage carrousel.
I catch the familiar eyes and serene smile immediately as I come through the door. She’s dressed in a feminine, white hippy blouse, jeans and a sporty hat; something straight out of my closet. My first thought was, I wish I had coincidentally worn that same outfit—it would have been a funnier moment. But it wasn’t about being funny. We hugged and surprised ourselves, I think, by holding the wordless embrace for a long while. A few tears flowed and I can’t say why. We had not gone through a war together, or donated a kidney to keep the other alive. However, Danelle and Mariana were, pound for pound, the best combination of laugh and adventure I’d known. Was there still room for more adolescent merriment?
A few years after leaving high school she dropped out of the mainland’s fast lane and opted for the gentle lifestyle of the tropics. She found her niche in the Garden Island of Kauai, and stayed after a brief stint at the hippy colony, “Taylor Ranch.” She married a local surfer and has two beautiful daughters and three grand girls. With animals in the yard and shells on the windowsill, their life is an endless summer and their home as comfy as a hammock swinging between two palms.
Once inside her house she tossed me a few floral sundresses from her closet to replace my “haole” wardrobe of black and white. Then we did what we do best, hit the road. As we tore around the island in her car, she seemed like a Guidess, half guide-half goddess—leading us into new adventures. We caught up on decades while we bobbed in the surf of hidden beaches and picnicked on cliffs.
We discovered we are both happily married; each had two children about the same age, one easier than the other. We cracked up knowing the more difficult child was the most like ourselves. Another coincidence—world travelers, we each had collections of rocks and crystals from foreign lands.
The week passed quickly nibbling shaved ice by day and nights under the Hawaiian moon whispering personal stories of unexplainable mysteries, coincidences, and magic moments. Instead of the Beatles, we tuned into the island music. It wasn’t Don Ho. It was the beat of waves crashing, the harmony of porch-chimes tinkling and always—girls laughing.
It was a gutsy move to put my ego in my back pocket and bet on girl power, and a friendship that could span years and miles.
MARIANA WILLIAMS is the author of the Veronica Bennett Series of romance, comedy, and accidental crime. Happy New Year, Darling, The Valentine State and Stars or Stripes 4th of July, which won a 2011 Indie Excellence Book Award. Her book of memoirs will be out in 2014. Mariana was a Moth Grand Slam finalist in the acclaimed story-telling competition held in Los Angeles. She is the Producer of Long Beach Searches for the Greatest Storyteller, an event in Long Beach, California, in its fourth season. She lives in So. California with her husband, Oscar-winning songwriter, Paul Williams. Website: www.Marianawilliams.net.
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SONIA MARSH SAYS: What a beautiful story of love and friendship that grew and remained etched in your heart from fifth grade. I love the way you hired a private detective to find your long-lost friend. I hope you make a point of seeing one another at least once a year, from now on.
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