A couple of years ago, I went for a drive down Old Frankfort Pike on a lovely autumn afternoon. A friend and I were headed to Wallace Station for a Monday night fried chicken dinner. Along the way, we saw a sign for a restaurant proclaiming “LuLu’s Authentic Mexican. I thought it was worthy of its’ own short story. Here it is:
She never really felt like a “Lucy,” but that was what they called her. By day, at tea parties with other debutantes and while shopping with her mother and grandmother at Pogue’s, “Lucy” seemed appropriate. “Lucy” was blue starched cotton and white kid gloves and Emily Post and hand-written thank you notes in opulent, navy blue ink on creamy Crane paper.
But at night, her sun-burnished cheek crushed against a satin lapel smelling of Grey Flannel and horsehair, she couldn’t bear the sound, the feel, the touch of that name kissed into the cilia of her ear. No, at night, she was no Lucy.
Now as daylight seeped from an early autumn afternoon, Lucy tied her hair into a high ponytail and slipped a light green cardigan over her shoulder-baring halter hoping to avoid her mother’s censure. She peeked into the kitchen where Margaret bent over the enamel sink. She waved goodbye and winked at her to keep quiet. Lucy slipped out the kitchen door, holding it from banging closed, then ran toward the converted barn and grabbed the keys to her 1957 T-bird off the wall. Within seconds, she was on the road to Lexington, the top down and wind whipping her ponytail across her face. As she turned onto the main road she faintly heard her mother calling her name but knew she was far enough away to claim later she hadn’t.
Despite the October date, the wind was warm and dry. Days without rain turned much of the grass brown but here, in the pristine farmland of Woodford County’s horse country, chestnut-colored yearlings ran along white fences, their well-manicured hooves nestled in lush, well-watered foliage. The sun set among bands of charcoaled clouds shot through by prisms of color. Lucy looked past the top of the windshield and felt the sky envelop her as if she was actually flying into the clouds instead of driving beneath them.
She pulled the band off her ponytail and let her hair stream behind her like a yellow banner. She checked her lipstick in the rearview mirror: Strawberry Meringue. She needed something darker tonight though. Lucy pulled her handbag into her lap and dug around for the tube of Ruby Red, the same shade Marilyn Monroe wore. Not there. She tried again. Nothing. She knew it was in there. Lucy glanced down and just as she located the cylinder, felt a shift. The pavement was gone.
Lucy watched as the tires lost contact with the pavement. She flew above the steering wheel, into the open space above her head and saw the sky coming to meet her until a white fence interfered with the brief flight. The car plowed through the wooden slats and came to a shuddering halt. Lucy’s hair swung forward and for a long time, everything was dark and quiet.
She became aware of a sound coming to her across a vast distance and tried and failed to put her hand to her head. She opened her eyes and saw blinking white diamonds in a black velvet sky. She smiled. How beautiful. Then came that sound again, closer now but not so near that she needed to pay attention to it. Must be her mother calling after her as she drives away. No, no, this is deeper, darker. But a voice, yes.
Hmmmm, miss. Miss what? Who? Oh, no, wait, the voice was talking to her.
“Miss? Can you hear me?”
It came again but sounded funny. She giggled a little bit and tried to move her hand to her head again. This time it worked. Aha! She sat up and the diamonds gave way to a dark male shape sitting directly in front of her.
“Miss. Hello? Miss?”
“Yes,” she said, “Yes. I am.”
If it is possible to hear a person smile, she thought, I just heard this one. She smiled in return.
“How may you be feeling, Miss?”
“I’m ok, I think, I’m ok. Who are you?”
“I am called Carlos.”
“Carlos?” Lucy didn’t recall an angel named Carlos from Sunday lessons at First Presbyterian Church, but she generally didn’t pay too close attention. Maybe her car had flown and actually landed in some other country. “Carlos? I don’t know anyone named Carlos. Are you an angel?”
Now the man actually laughed. “No miss. I was riding home and I have watch your automobile fly across my fence. I am come to see that you are well. My name is Carlos de Leon. I have just purchased the farm onto which you have landed.” Now Carlos moved to Lucy’s side and she saw for the first time his white teeth grinning at her.
“Now, may I have the pleasure of knowing your name?”
“Me? My name is Luciana. But you may call me LuLu.”