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I was also friendly with Susan Cowsill, a member of the popular family singing group whose pop hit "The Rain, the Park and Other Things" was one of my favorites. We met at the Hollywood Professional Children's School, where I enrolled for eleventh grade instead of returning to Taft High. The two of us used to skip out of class and prowl the hot stores like Judy's and Pigeons. Sometimes we bought six-packs of beer at a nearby liquor store, drank one or two at the Griffith Observatory, and then returned to school tipsy. Thank goodness there weren't paparazzi like there are today.
I did something to Susie that I still regret. It happened one day when we were at the mall. I'd driven the two of us and a friend of hers. We were browsing in Pigeons, and we decided to shoplift. It was for kicks. To this day, I don't know if all three of us stole something, but I put a T-shirt in my purse, continued to shop as if nothing was wrong, and then walked out with the other girls.
As soon as I stepped through the doorway, the store alarm went off. It was right after electronic sensors were introduced. Once I heard the siren, I took off and ran through the mall as if I were an Olympic sprinter. I was afraid of getting busted, the headlines that would appear if I were caught shoplifting, and the damage that would do to my girl-next-door image.
I'd never run as fast in my life. Nor had I been as scared. Unfortunately, Susie and her friend were caught. While police dealt with them, I hid in my car for hours. I lay on the backseat, careful not to raise my head in case someone was looking through the parking lot. I didn't want to go home either, in case the cops were waiting for me there. It was like an episode from the show, something so surreal Bob Reed would've complained it made no sense. It didn't. I felt like a fugitive from the law.
When I finally did go home, I pretended nothing was wrong. But Susie's parents had already called and spoken to my parents, who relayed the information Susie's parents had given — all accurate — and said they agreed with them, that if I had stolen anything I needed to turn myself in. On The Brady Bunch, this would be the moment where Marcia breaks down in tears and admits the truth. But this was real life, my life, and I vehemently denied doing anything wrong.
I'm sure everyone knew I was lying, and consequently my friendship with Susan ended. Sadly, I haven't seen her since the moment when I fled from the mall. It was stupid, cowardly. If I had the chance, I'd apologize to Susan, own up to being a jerk, and ask if she would forgive me.
Even now, when I hear a security siren go off in a store, I reexperience that surge of anxiety, and then it changes to guilt. That was thirty-six years ago! It's a painful reminder of what was the first of a long line of mistakes.