Jesus kissed my daughter and me at least three times last weekend. We were on a mother daughter roadtrip. In search of the college.
I gassed up the Honda in Summersville. The cashier let me mix bold roast coffee with flavored cappuccino for no extra charge, but he wouldn't look me in the eye. I squinted at him. Look at me. Nothing.
I put my dollar five on the counter. "Can I ask you a weird question?"
He cowered. "Weird?''
"Have you heard of people who are afraid of big, long bridges? And sometimes state troopers'll drive 'em across?"
He used his finger in the corner of his t-shirt to clean the ledge over the cash drawer.
"I've heard of it, but I don't think they do it 'round here," he said. "You scared of the
?" New River Gorge Bridge
When he said the name, my heart revved. I nodded.
"You can't see over the sides, you know."
I took a breath. It sounded like a death rattle.
"But it's super high and really long. And it's raining to beat all."
"Just drive slow. Stay in the middle."
And pray like nuts.
He peered out into the soaking wet night.
"The wind," he said. "Be careful about the wind. It'll blow your car all over the place."
My fingernails bit my palms. I walked over to the door and got my umbrella ready.
"Thanks," I said inside the store.
"For nothing," I said outside.
I pecked on my daughter's window. "Your turn to drive."
We went five miles. I waited. For the mist to form on my palms. For my heartbeat to make my shirt move. For my daughter to look over and say, "You okay?"
We turned left onto State Route 39, miles before the gorge. Drove past the low level of
. Wound through a mile or two of rhododendron and mobile homes. Summersville Lake
"Pull over," I told my daughter.
"We missed it," I said. "You don't have to drive after all."
I looked at the stars as I walked around the back of the Honda. I clasped my hands and made my index fingers point up. Like a steeple.
"Thank you so much."
The next morning, after our complimentary continental breakfast, we took our bags out to the car. It wouldn't start. My palms felt slick.
"Your dad's gonna be so mad at me," I said.
The front desk clerk didn't have jumper cables. The maintenance man fussed me out for not having AAA roadside assistance. I went back out to the car.
"I guess we take a taxi to the college tour."
My daughter stuck her lower lip out. "If you could find out who has the car on either side of us, maybe--"
I walked back through the lobby, toward the dining room. I paused outside. Lord . . . . help . . . please.
The room smelled of waffles. I removed my eggplant-colored rain hat and stood inside the doorway.
"Does anyone have a red Sebring or a light green Chevy Malibu?"
A man in a Nascar hat raised his hand. "Red Sebring."
I squeaked. Lifted my eyes to the ceiling. Thank you so much.
Nascar man and his elderly father followed me to the Honda. The son popped his trunk and produced extra long jumper cables. I reached out to pet their bright orangeness.
The older man squinted at my battery. "Looks original. If I were you, I'd high tail it up to Wal-Mart and spend $30 or $40 on a new one."
The car started.
"Just let it run 15, 20 minutes," Nascar man said when his dad wasn't looking.
I dug in my pockets. "Can I give you twenty bucks?"
The man swatted air. "Pa-lease."
I bit my lip. "A hug then?"
He opened his arms.
"Thank you so much, you guys," I said. "You saved the day."
My daughter knocked on the windshield. Tapped her wrist watch.
"We best be going," I said as I opened the car door. "Have a nice life."
I glanced over at my daughter as we climbed a monstrous mountain between here and there.
"You know Jesus has kissed us twice on this trip."
She didn't look up from her AP biology book. "I know," she said. "I just hope he kisses me one more time."
I was pretty sure I knew what she was talking about--the ring.
Two days ago, I had walked into my favorite jewelry store. Showed a picture of the ring to the store owner.
"A heart, a cross, and a key," he said. "It's clearly Christian, but what does it mean?"
"It's a promise ring," I said.
The jeweler shook his head. "No, it's not. A promise ring has a tiny diamond that tells a young lady a guy intends to marry her someday."
I took my jean jacket off and laid it on the glass case.
"Actually," I said. "It's a purity ring."
The man squinted. "A purity ring? What's that mean?"
I pushed my shirt sleeves up and puffed my bangs off my forehead.
"It means she's saving herself for . . . you know . . . marriage."
The jeweler huffed. "In this day and age? Whoever heard of such a thing?"
I didn't smile. "A mother can hope."
The jeweler snorted. "I grew up in the age where women did that. Saved themselves for marriage."
He kept talking as he bent to examine a stack of catalogs. "Every woman I've ever talked to said she wished she hadn't waited."
I put my hands on the glass case. "I wish I'd waited."
The jeweler paused his searching and glanced up. "You do?"
I nodded. "That's something you can only give away once. I wish I'd given it to my husband, instead of . . . "
The jeweler massaged his jaw. "Wow," he said. "That's really nice."
I looked at my hands on the case. Touched my wedding ring, then the ring my husband gave me for Mother's Day the year our middle child was born.
The man stood. "You still married to him?"
I nodded and pointed to the black opal ring on my left hand.
"He bought this here, remember?" I said. "For our twentieth anniversary."
The jeweler lifted my hand to his face. "Him? Ah, he's a good guy."
We looked through the books for religious rings. We saw faith, hope, and charity charms. Star of David rings. Crucifixes, with and without Jesus on them.
The jeweler closed the last catalog. "No purity rings," he said. "I can make one. Engrave a signet ring with the heart, cross, and key."
I headed for the door. "I'll get back to you."
The college tour guide was not earning his keep.
I leaned over and whispered in my daughter's ear. "Wanna cut out?" I said. "I'd rather go back over that mountain today than tonight."
She yawned. "Yeah. Let's."
We found the Honda in the vast commuter parking lot. I held my breath as I turned the key in the ignition. Success.
Before I backed out, I handed the Mapquest directions to my daughter.
"Basically, we're going to follow 'em in reverse," I said.
She turned to the last page. "We need Route 29 West," she said. "Turn right at the second stop light."
After the second stop light, that's when I saw it. The Lifeway store. I flipped my turn signal on just seconds before I whipped the car into the parking lot.
My daughter clutched the grab handle over her window. "What’re you doing?"
"This is your third kiss," I said.
"How do you know?"
I smiled as I put the car in park. "Just a feeling."
There they were. Up by the cash registers. Not one, but two. Two different styles of heart, cross, and key rings. The sign said, "Ask cashier to order your size."
My daughter flipped the display case back and forth. "Which one do you like better?"
I shook my head. "It's your ring."
"I like this one. It's--"
"More delicate. More feminine."
The salesperson took it out of the case. "We can mail it to you in your size, but it'll take a few weeks."
I leaned against the counter. "If this one fits, can she have it?"
The salesperson took the ring out of the box. "Sure. If it fits."
I put my hand on my chest. My daughter slid the ring on, gave it a nudge to get it over her knuckle.
She extended her arm and smiled at the ring. "It's perfect."
I grinned. "Awesome, but you can't wear it home. You have to wait 'til Easter."
She batted her lashes at me. I shut my eyes and shook my head.
"Oh, okay," she said.
Out in the car, she opened her phone.
"Who you texting?" I said.
"What’re you saying?"
She smiled at the keyboard. "I'm telling him Jesus is the best kisser ever."