A few years after my father left, my mom had a kind of breakdown. She didn't go wild, she didn't freak out, she just grew very sad and felt like she needed family. So we went upstate to live with our grandmother on the coast for a while. A pretty little town with an endless beach and vast stretches of sand dunes, here I had my first kiss, and my first love. He moved away the summer after, which was when I met Taylor. The bright-eyed boy. He was wild, he was arrogant, he didn't give a flying fuck for anything, he was glamorous and dangerous and cute as all hell. He had the sort of smile that made people do bad, bad things. I was crazy about him.

Both my mother and brother were wary of Taylor, but my grandmother was the most vocal. "He drives too fast. He's too spoilt. He'll get you into trouble. He hangs around with the wrong crowd. He's rude. He's disruptive. You're a lovely girl, you could do much better....."
On and on. I love my grandmother, so I'd smile and reassure her, while thinking - but hey, Lark and I drive too fast, trouble looks like fun, and love is not a competition to see how well you can do.

Then I'd slip out, to see the bright-eyed boy. We'd tear up the sand in his dune buggy, or play pirates in his father's boat with his crowd, mostly bored rich kids with nothing to do. We staged food fights in diners. We trashed two cars. We broke into the old spook house and stayed overnight. I was seventeen. Mom and Grandma sat up all night when I didn't come home. The patrol car found us, under a blanket. I cried, it was so embarrassing.

Mom, the hippie, didn't want to ground me, so Grandma took things into her own hands. She called Taylor and asked him to come over. He came. She sat him down at the table and asked him straight out if he wanted to mess with the law, or mess with her granddaughter. Taylor, not used to straight talking, was scared into being quietly apologetic. He was around six feet two, and when Grandma, around five feet in her funny old slippers, threatened to tan his hide for him, I thought he'd laugh. But he was respectful, called her ma'am, and as he said goodbye to me on the porch he whispered in my ear: "She sure is one cool lady. She shoulda been a general. She'd have given em hell."

And after that, we called her The General.