We were driving roughly 55 miles an hour in the summer heat. I stared out my open window at the trees and shrubbery slowly turning into houses and mansions. My twin sister Levy, my older brother Michael, my younger brother Davy, and I were spending this season with my mother's sister, Charlotte. My parents would be there, but more involved in the parties and the drinking, while we high dived off the cliff on Aunt Charlotte's property.
Aunt Charlotte had one daughter, Olivia. Olivia, Levy and I were all the same age; rarely did the three of us agree or get along. But we had the summer of 1946 to ourselves; the adults would be sleeping in the daytime and partying at night. (Our father did that already, but now everyone would be able to be there and watch.)
"Sydney, scoot over. I want to be able to see the mansion when we come to it."
"Well, then, Levy put your hair up and you might be able to."
She smirked at me, wrapping a purple elastic around her hay-straw blond hair. My slightly darker bun bobbed as Dad ran over a bump in the road. Michael, Levy and I crammed ourselves into the backseat of our father's car. We did it happily when we stood in the driveway of our South Georgia home. But the four hours spent in the car turned Michael's happy go lucky mood into sour milk.
Davy, in his five year old form, had slid comfortably in between my father and mother. Levy had scrunched over to my side as to not upset Michael further. He would relax as soon as we hit the ocean air. But as it was just blistering hot desert air, I was finding it hard not to swat Levy's thigh away from mine.
My thoughts were a million miles away when Davy's exclamation of joy rang through the car. I saw my dad's shoulders relax and the corner's of my mom's mouth perk up. Dad could finally have his afternoon drink and Mom could hand Davy off to one of us. Or she could send Davy off with one of us and then follow all of us around.
I was just excited about the house. And of course Aunt Charlotte, Olivia I could stand but in the right situation she turned into Ms. High-and-Mighty. Aunt Charlotte never acted superior. She was just Aunt Charlotte.
Michael leapt from the car when the house valet opened his door. Levy waited for my door to be opened to exit the car. The North Carolina mansion was the most grand by far. Aunt Charlotte pushed my uncle to expand and decorate. Uncle Ray, being a well established man, put his motto of "spend money to make money" to use and added a whole other house onto the property, renting it out to travelers.
It was a great spot, and the cliff was right in their back yard. The cliff was infamous. Over twelve feet tall, Mike considered it his only barrier into manhood. Of course, he also needed facial hair and puberty to actually make it there. We ran screaming up the steps followed by two Great Danes that ran from the back of the yard to the front door.
"Aunt Charlotte!" Davy exclaimed when she appeared at the window.
"Davy McKee look how you've grown," she screamed back at him in her Carolina accent. "Sydney, raise your hand girl, you know I can't tell you and Levy apart."
I smiled and put my hand skyward.
"Ah, there you are my beautiful one. This is for you, and Levy this ones for you." She handed me a green pendant.
The black cord was braided and firm, a simple silver clasp at the end polished and glimmering in the late afternoon sun. The pendant looked vibrantly emerald in my still white palm. Levy's was exactly the same, except her pendant was a lustrous turquoise. This was Aunt Charlotte's way of welcoming us and giving herself a way to tell us apart.
I blinked and raised the clasp to neck, to place the pendant where it would stay for the summer.
Olivia had made her way to the front door and now stood off to the side, glaring at the dogs who sat patiently their eyes staring up at her.
"Hello Olivia," Levy chanced. Olivia mumbled a greeting and then climbed over dogs to get back inside.
Aunt Charlotte shook her head and told us, "Forgive her, we told her she couldn't have this Sarah Partridge person over and now she's punishing all of us."
We laughed and Michael was finally pushed into Aunt Charlotte's embrace. He smiled like the little boy we all knew he still was. And I looked up at the brilliantly blue sky. It was a great way to start the summer of 1946.