The Friday night of the weekend that would change my life found me and my friend, Laura, on our way to Shoney’s.
Laura pointed to a nearby parked car—a gold Camaro accented with black stripes. “Who is that?” she asked, her voice tinged with wonder.
I didn’t know it yet, but I’d just met the man who would save my life, long before I knew my life needed saving.
The following evening, Kenneth picked me up at my house for our first official date—an evening at the Birmingham Raceway. By now I knew plenty about him that I liked and one thing in particular that I didn’t—he smoked cigarettes.
I hated cigarettes.
But on the positive side, Kenneth was in the United States Air Force, stationed in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, which was a mere four-hour drive away. When he could, he told me, he came home on weekends to visit his family, and I was fairly positive I could convince him to come home as often as necessary if only to see me.
Goodness gracious, I hoped …
After meeting and completely charming my mother, father, and twelve-year-old brother Eddie, Kenneth and I got in his car to head out. First thing I saw—a blasted pack of cigarettes resting on the dashboard. I stared it down like it was high noon at the O.K. Corral, knowing full well I wouldn’t want Kenneth to smoke and then try to kiss me, no matter how cute he might be.
A warm breeze moved through the open windows of the car, and Steppenwolf cranked out Born to be Wild on the radio. Kenneth and I chatted away, continuing to get to know each other in the early hours of our relationship and first date. Still, I kept my eyes on the cigarettes, hoping Kenneth wouldn’t reach for it and before he pressed the cigarette lighter in.
Then, a stroke of brilliance came to me. As we sailed over the viaduct near Birmingham’s Purina Dog Food plant, I reached over, grabbed the cigarettes in my right hand and tossed them out the window. They jumped the railing of the cement bridge, landing somewhere on the ground near the old steel mill. Where, I didn’t know. And I sure as fried chicken on Sunday didn’t care.
I looked at Kenneth, daring him to challenge me. And challenge me, he did. His eyes grew wide and his mouth dropped open. He chuckled as if he didn’t know what else to say or do, and I smiled back, pretty as you please. Then, after turning his eyes back to the road, he said, “I cannot believe you just did that.”
“Well, I did,” I told him. “I hate those things, Kenneth. I’ve grown up around cigarette smoke my whole life, and it does nothing but turn everything yellow and brown and make everything it falls on stink to high heaven. So, here’s the deal. If you want to date me, fine. If you want to smoke, fine. But, you can’t have both. It’s them or me.”
Kenneth slowed the car down as he reached to take my tiny hand in his big, strong one. I waited for what felt like hours until he finally said, “Well then, I guess I pick you.”
And with that, we were on our way. We just didn’t know how far life would take us.
Not yet, anyway.
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by LeeAnn Jefferies with Eva Marie Everson
In her decades-long modeling career, LeeAnn Jefferies represented such companies as Bobbi Brown, Avon, Princess Cruise Lines, Marks and Spenser, Modern Bride, and the Home Shopping Network. As an in-demand model for Ford Modeling Agency, she traveled the world and “rubbed elbows” with celebrities. But her greatest career accomplishment has been opening dialogue about Bipolar Disorder and its accompanying diagnoses, providing hope for millions. LeeAnn and her husband Kenneth make their home in North Carolina. They are the parents of two grown children and have been blessed with two grandchildren.
Eva Marie Everson was born and reared just outside of Savannah, Georgia, in the charming small town of Sylvania. She has a southern accent which gets a little more southern every time she crosses the Florida/Georgia state line. She loves hiking in the great outdoors and enjoys pushing herself to new heights, both physically and spiritually. Eva is an ex-nurse and a seminary graduate. She and her husband have been married since 1979 and have three of the greatest kids ever and the most amazing grandkids. When she’s not writing, she’s editing. When she’s not editing, she’s running Word Weavers International, an international membership group of writers who, using the art of critique, become iron sharpening iron. Eva is also one of the two directors of Florida Christian Writers Conference. She speaks at writers conferences across America and to women’s groups as well as to congregations.