by Terry Piper Ozark Series, vol. 3
Readers first met Charlene Ridley and the colorful cast of characters, who were part of her life, as she was about to start school in Boogey Flats, Missouri. OZARK GIRL told the story of a young girl growing up in poverty with an alcoholic father and learning to cope, not always successfully, with middle-school bullies.
In GETTING SMART, Charlene was a teenager who had learned to cope with bullies and had begun to carve a place for herself in the social landscape that was Boogey Flats High School. We followed her as she came to terms with boys, dating, and the love-triangles that sometimes cause rifts in friendship.
In OZARK WOMAN, Charlene finishes high school and heads off to college. The culture of the 1960s, as it was lived in the Ozarks, comes alive through Charlene's eyes in this final book of the trilogy. The Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam war, the Beatles, the pill - they all had an impact on Charlene and the decisions that would affect the rest of her life.
ISBN 978-1-59431-816-0 Women's Contemporary Fiction, Mainstream Fiction
Homecoming, senior year.
Pulling on her white majorette boots for the last time, Charlene thought about the word and wondered who, exactly, would want to come home to Boogey Flats High School. When she finally got out of this place, she was damned sure she wouldn’t be back. Not that her last year of high school was shaping up too badly. She’d liked being editor of the yearbook, her classes weren’t too demanding, and so far, Sharon Meyer hadn’t tried to terrorize her. Probably because she wanted a place on the yearbook staff, Charlene thought. Like that was going to happen. True, she didn’t have a boyfriend, which meant no date for the dance after the game tonight, but given what she’d been through with Kenny, she wasn’t feeling too bad about that.
Her feelings about Kenny were confused. She’d broken up with him a few months earlier, and ten days later, her period failed to arrive on time. She’d waited for what felt like months, but was really only a couple of weeks. She’d prayed, she’d made promises to God, and just when she’d given up hope and was set to pay a visit to old Maude English, the scare passed.. She was glad that she hadn’t told Kenny. She knew that he’d feel duty-bound to get back together, and she wasn’t sure she could have resisted, and then when the scare passed, well, they’d just have to go through the breaking up thing all over again. No, it was good that she hadn’t told him. Even better that there was no need.
She put her purse into her locker, underneath the clothes she had hung there for the dance later. She’d thought about skipping it, not having a date, but she didn’t have anything else to do, and it wasn’t like she hadn’t gone stag to a few dances during her high school years. In fact, she’d gone to all of them alone, except for the disastrous Junior Prom when her father had forced her to go with Bobby Ray. Mostly, though, she was curious to see what would happen. She knew that Lynn Cummings didn’t have a date, either. That wouldn’t be too surprising, normally, she supposed, although Lynn usually managed to snag somebody. But this year, she was a candidate for Homecoming Queen, and the fact that she didn’t have a date for the dance made the whole thing even stranger.
Nobody was more surprised than Charlene when Lynn Cummings was named as one of the two senior class candidates for Homecoming Queen, except possibly for Lynn herself. Lynn was never popular, although as Don Cummings’ daughter, she was tolerated. Charlene couldn’t imagine who might have nominated her, and asked her brother, but Dale just shrugged. “I don’t know. It was different this year. Last year, Coach just asked us to nominate girls. He wrote their names on the board. Then we voted by secret ballot. But this year, he asked us to write down the names of two seniors and two juniors we wanted to nominate, and those with the most votes would be candidates.”
“Who counted the votes?”
Dale shrugged again. “He did, I guess. We didn’t know until it was announced to the school, same time you heard.”
“Then you get to vote again?”
“Yeah, the day of the game.”
“Who counts the votes then?”
“I don’t know. Him I guess.”
I guess, thought Charlene, already fairly certain of the outcome.
The school was abuzz with disbelief when the candidates were announced. Sheila Durkin was no surprise, nor were the two juniors. But no one understood how Lynn had been nominated. No one could remember when anyone with a reputation as bad as hers had been a candidate for Homecoming Queen, unless she happened to be dating one of the team captains. Lynn had never dated anyone from BHS except for Louie, and they had broken up already. Dale told Charlene that a couple of the guys might have put her name down to get on the good side of the coach.
“How would that help if it was a secret ballot?” she wondered aloud.
“Some of the guys been hit in the head a few times,” Dale explained. “Or maybe some of the guys who want to play more figured it to would be a good idea to sign their names.”
Dale got a lot of time on the field, had never shown any interest in Lynn, and Charlene couldn’t imagine that he’d nominate Lynn or vote for her.