Betsy never liked me. I don't know why. I always thought she was a sleek-looking thing. Plus, she was with My Man when I first met him, so I felt she must have something special about her. Nevertheless, throughout all the years we knew each other and had Matthew in common, towards me she always displayed a reluctant acceptance.
Maybe it's because I had the audacity to make that fatal comment on one of the first occasions the three of us spent time together. It really was a severe breach of etiquette, but I must protest that, considering how things went, it could also have been read as a pithy foretelling of the future.
Matthew and I were on one of our very first dates in San Antonio at the time. He was attempting to use raw animal charm to attract me, being all freshly sweaty from a basketball game. We were hanging out at his old college campus and had seen a raccoon, which I giggled and oohed about like a little girl from Tennessee (which I happen to be). We walked back to his car, and I sat casually on the hood and smiled at him.
Heaven help me! I'm surprised he didn't whack me with a switch of some sort and demand that I stay the hell off his car, knowing as I know now just how important that vehicle was to him. But he didn't. I guess he was in love. (uh, with me - in case you're wondering)
Anyway, as I sat on that hood all brazen like, I said something like, "Yackety, yackety, yackety....my car!"
Yes, that's right. I barely knew the man, and at the end of some sentence I don't remember, I pronounced his car mine like some sort of crazy relationship incantation I'd learned from an old witch down by the Rio Grande River.
I blushed, I know; I can always feel the heat burning my cheeks at such moments. And I promptly slid off the hood. Matthew began to jab at me playfully, "Your car, huh? Your car?"
"I'm sorry," I drawled like Miss Scarlett in order to distract him. "I really don't know what came over me..."
If I'd had a fan, I'd have beat it through the humid night air like a hummingbird's wings to calm my flushed face and hypnotise My Man.
Luckily, I have a superhuman ability to overcome embarassment at will, and I accepted his persistent teasing gracefully, cheeks colored only with the lingering heat of the evening as I smiled charmingly back at him.
But neither of us would forget that bizarre slip. And neither would Betsy. Or so I believe.
When Matthew and I married (aha! you see how I foretold our interlocking fates?), the car didn't become mine obviously, but I had a sort of permanent claim on its passenger side, because I couldn't drive stick. Or - pardon me - let me rephrase: I couldn't drive period. Still, I respected the car. I understood that this vehicle was the first major thing My Man had purchased out of college when he got his first career job. I also mutely accepted Matthew's assertions that this sporty car with its sun roof and fin was a family vehicle, because it had four doors (never mind that while in the backseat, an adult's head was constantly threatened by the back windshield at every little bump or that your knees rested against your chest or that a rear-facing baby seat could barely be wedged in the rear space).
The time came shortly after our union when I finally asked Matthew what he had named his car, because it was my experience that a car was always given a name by those who truly loved it.
"Betsy," he answered.
"Betsy?" I couldn't help laughing out loud. "Really? Why Betsy?"
"Because," he began coolly. "on the drive home from my brother Tim's wedding, I saw some cows by the side of the road and thought of "Betsy".
I had to contain my mirth, so it wouldn't come out in a loud guffaw. I got the whole cow-Betsy connection, I really did, but that sporty little Acura did not look at all like a bumpkin Betsy to me. I just hoped she couldn't hear my laughter from the curb.
Laughing at her Matthew-given name was a small infraction, however, compared to what I would unwittingly let happen to her on Christmas Eve 2001. That terrible incident would sink me in her estimate forever and make me feel guilty forevermore.
End part one. To come:
Beloved Betsy: The Infamous Midnight Raid
Beloved Betsy: The Wreck and the Empty Parking Space