To: Sara (YoungMarie)
For: Summer Fic Exchange 2012
Prompts: skittles, tie-dye, "Tell me to calm down and I guarantee I won't", glow in the dark anything
Notes: Sorry if this ended up being darker or weirder than I intended. I was genuinely feeling all of this in my heart though, so I just got it out. This exchange was fun to be a part of, but I think this is my swan song, guys. I hope you like it, Sara! I admire your work so much.
"Tell me to calm down and I can guarantee that I won't," I yell. Mom blinks at me, dumbfounded, torn between wanting to snap back and wanting to wipe away the angry tears on my face. Blessedly, the doorbell rings and it's Dylan, carrying a red Birkin bag in one hand and a jumbo bag of Skittles in the other.
We retreat to my bedroom and I rehash the entire story. I can barely spit out the finer details without cringing in shame.
I always assumed that I would have a boyfriend in middle school or high school. All the older girls at Octavian County Day did. Young men who were hot, toned, and wealthy. Boys who were cute, loyal, and athletic. I couldn't wait to date, couldn't wait to kiss like they did in the movies.
But by the time I moved from lower school to upper school, I realized that something was wrong. My friends Dylan and Alicia had already had their fair share of adolescent trysts, yet I had no experience to speak of. No boy I had crushed on had ever liked me back, and the one who did only held my hand for two weeks before unceremoniously dumping me. Dylan and Alicia assured me that I was beautiful, I was so likeable and desirable, and that it would only be a matter of time before the right boy came for me.
The summer between eighth and ninth grade came and went, and while they let boys sneak their hands under their shirts, I remained firmly in the never-been-kissed camp.
I was horribly embarrassed about my NBK status. None of my peers particularly cared—OCD was an all-girls school, and some of my classmates still thought you could get pregnant from French kissing—but I knew that if the Briarwood boys found out, I'd never hear the end of it.
It was Fawn Taylor that drove me to write the article. We were both on the newspaper staff—she was a senior editor and I was a section manager. My NBK status quietly slipped into our conversation—I definitely wasn't trying to brag about it or anything, but it came up nonetheless. She began to prod me for details in shock. Why had I never kissed anyone? Did I not want to? Was I scared? Had I ever tried? She left for a Starbucks break, and I descended upon the editorial section in frustration, pounding out a quarter-page story about how it was perfectly normal to have never kissed anyone.
Hardly anyone read The Daily Phoenix; most girls just flipped to the back and scanned the gossip column. I figured that at a shallow all-girls school, no one would notice and the article would just be regarded as another space-filler. But Fawn slapped a big old headline on it and by the time I reached lunch on publishing day, everyone had read it.
Even the boys across the street.
Hubbub died down by senior year. I had grown used to my singleton status. As Alicia gave up her virginity to Josh Hotz, Dylan and I made a list of why I still had never been asked on a date, let alone kissed a boy. 'Boys are intimidated by your beauty' still topped the list—I refused to believe this, but let her say it anyway. 'Shyness' was another factor, as was 'You scare them off with your intelligence'. We eventually concluded that The Article was the main reason. No Briarwood boy wanted to be the first boy, the one responsible for taking away something as stupid as my lip virginity.
"You just need someone from another school," Dylan said. "Someone who doesn't know all that stuff. Who just likes you."
"Yeah, that'll happen," I snorted, dreaming of the day when I went to university, where none of the boys knew or cared. I told myself that I would not kiss or date or be involved with anyone until I went to college in the fall.
And quite suddenly, one boy changed my mind.
I'd heard of Dune Baxter before. He went to Abner Doubleday Day, and he had dated Olivia Ryan on and off throughout junior year. By the time of the spring formal senior year, they were officially off, but Olivia still snagged him as her date.
Dune and I ended up sitting next to each other at dinner, with Olivia right across from us. I was fond of my own date, a Briarwood boy named Dahn, but I couldn't help but notice how blue Dune's eyes were, how much nicer Olivia's corsage was compared to my own, and, most importantly, how interested Dune was in everything I had to say.
"Dune seems really cute," I said to Olivia as we touched up our makeup in the bathroom.
"You two would look so good together," she gushed, nearly dropping her MAC lipstick in the sink.
"Nah," I said, thinking of my self-imposed rule.
I tried to focus my attention on Dahn, but my eyes fell to Dune all night. He greeted my gazes with flirtatious smiles. As the dance began to wind down, we chatted eagerly by the dessert tables. By the time we reached Massie Block's after-party, he was attacking me with flirty pokes and saying anything to make me laugh. I knew what this meant, but I didn't admit it to myself until my hand accidentally brushed his and he grabbed onto it. We stayed hand-in-hand for the entire night.
I left the party without giving Dune my number, but he moved first. He immediately Facebook-ed me, and we started a brief inbox thread about how nice the dance was, and how fun Massie's party was. He threw in a remark about how cute I was. At that point, I gave him my number. Then I burst into tears, because nobody—no boy—had ever complimented me like that before.
We texted furiously for the next week, all of our messages being flirty remarks about how much we liked each other. Dune was the first person I talked to in the morning and the last person I talked to at night. If he fell asleep before sending me a 'good night' text, I would get extremely upset, only to feel elated again when he woke me up with a 'good morning, beautiful' message. He was cute, he was sweet, and he had completely monopolized my feelings.
He was going to be my first kiss.
On Wednesday after the dance, we planned our first date, a movie. That Friday, I stressed about what to wear and, more importantly, how to kiss. Dylan told me that I just needed to breathe and it would be fine.
Dune picked me up at six and droned absentmindedly about surfing and Abner Doubleday until we reached the theatre. I was so nervous that I didn't know what to think or how to act. When the lights went down, he threw his arm around me, and we stayed snuggled up like that through the whole showing.
Regardless, I couldn't help but think that this, this cuddling in the movie theatre, didn't feel half as magical as the time we spent together at the dance. We had been texting so furiously for the last week, building up to this one moment, and now that it was here, I just felt deflated, even a little bored.
When the movie was over, we went back to his car and just stayed there. He played a bunch of unintelligible rap songs followed by saccharine pop ballads by Owl City wannabes, and the whole time I kept thinking, "I don't want my first kiss to be to this song." We started to flirt-poke again, and our faces got too close, and I moved away.
"I should probably let you know that I haven't kissed anyone before and it's totally not a big deal but I just had to let you know," I blurted.
He blinked, then nodded. "Yeah, Olivia told me."
At some point during the dance, I found out later, Olivia had taken Dune aside and told him that I was interested in him. He asked what I was like, and she told him that I liked to write.
"Kristen once wrote this super-cute little article about how she's never kissed anyone before," she told him. Of all the articles I had written for The Daily Phoenix, it was the only one that Olivia remembered.
In the car, I grew silent, and Dune started babbling about how kissing wasn't really a big deal, that he had even been called a bad kisser before. I didn't respond and instead sent off a few texts to Olivia and Dylan. Olivia was confused as to why I was angry; Dylan was shocked that my first date ever had gone downhill so fast.
"Can you take me to McDonald's? I want a Coke," I said, and we drove away.
Dune tried to initiate some more cuddles and flirty behavior throughout the night, but in the end, I just asked him to take me home.
When I crash through the front door, Mom pounces on me immediately, wanting to know every detail. This is a big moment for her—she had lots of boyfriends in high school and has been dying for me to get a real one as well. I recount the disastrous night through angry tears, and all she wants to know is why I didn't just kiss him.
"It's a big deal, okay Mom?" I cry.
"It's just a kiss, it's not sex," she replies, exasperated.
She cannot begin to comprehend that when you wait so long for something, even a little thing like a first kiss, it is a big deal. I gradually grow more hysterical, and I know what the next words out of her mouth are going to be.
"Kristen, cal—" she begins.
"Tell me to calm down and I can guarantee that I won't," I shriek before Dylan comes to my rescue.
"So what are you going to do now?" Dylan asks. She's upset because I'm upset, but I know that she also wishes that I'd just taken the chance.
"Stop texting him, cut it off," I say. "Even before the not-kiss, I wasn't really feeling it, you know?"
Dylan bites her lip. "What?" I snap.
"There's word in the Twittersphere that he's going to ask you to ADD prom," she says, and I groan.
"That would be the literal worst," I say. All I can do is thank god that Dune and I don't go to the same school.
Dune's texts are still heavy on the flirting, but I've toned it back. Nonetheless, when I arrive home from school Monday afternoon, a basket of Skittles and a note asking, 'Prom?' are waiting on my doorstep. I stare at it, dumbfounded.
"He actually did it," I whisper. I'm actually a little excited, because I've never been asked to a dance before, either, but Friday's humiliation still feels fresh. And all of this—the dance, the texting, the date—feels way too fast. I've only known him for a week, and now we're going to prom together.
When I open my door, Dune is waiting there in the kitchen with my mother, who excitedly snaps some pictures of my shocked face.
"Will you go to prom with me?" Dune asks, as if I needed confirmation about who left the basket of Skittles. I reply 'yes' in a numb voice, and he gives me a big hug before leaving.
I spend the rest of the day holed up in my room, glaring at the basket of my favourite candy.
ADD prom is not for another three weeks. Dune and I text on and off until then. He occasionally asks why I am so distant, detached, but I just blame it on finals. When he asks me on another movie date, I take Dylan with me. Everyone I know is telling me to just have fun, but I don't even know what that means. I balk at his touch; I can't stand the thought of kissing him.
The week before ADD prom, it's time for me to decide on a date for my own prom. I awkwardly ask him via text and he replies yes. I shell out the big bucks for our tickets—to take a non-Briarwood boy to OCD prom is expensive.
The day of ADD prom, I hate everything about my appearance: my makeup is too orangey, my hair is too frizzy, and some stains have appeared on my dress overnight. My mom can't see anything beyond the fact that I am going to two proms. I begrudgingly greet Dune at the door.
ADD prom is at the Westchester Country Club. They have a live band instead of a DJ, and the decorations are no more than twinkly lights from Walmart. I am irritable for most of the night, and Dune is puzzled by my behavior.
When he thinks that I'm not listening, Dune starts a clandestine conversation with his friends.
"What's your total now, bro?" one boy asks.
"ADD prom, White Plains prom, Hackley prom, Sacred Heart prom, Rye Country prom, and OCD prom," Dune replies gleefully. "That's six proms. I win."
"Duuudeeee," another boy cheers. "Think you're gonna score at all of them?"
"Definitely at Hackley and White Plains," Dune says. "But not with this one."
Out of the corner of my eye, I see him gesturing towards me.
My heart sinks to the floor. I want to take it all back; I want to disinvite him to OCD prom. But I've already paid for the tickets and given him his tie-dye 'OCD Prom 2012!' t-shirt.
It's too late.
I endure both proms much in the fashion of a petulant child enduring the dentist. I regret not having a magical prom story to tell when I'm older, but not as much as I regret falling for Dune in the first place.
I graduate and send off my final transcripts. I am eighteen years old and I have still never been kissed.
The first Friday on campus, my dorm throws a glow-in-the-dark party. Some of the future frat boys in my math class refer to is as a 'blow-in-the-dark' party. I roll my eyes and shrug this off.
I dance, I drink. I gather glowsticks and adorn my cheeks with glow-in-the-dark stars. I drink enough to keep a buzz, but not to get drunk. I bump into another boy who is as buzzed as I am, maybe a little less.
"I'm Kristin," I say.
"I'm James," he replies. We shake hands.
We spend the rest of the night together.
Maybe he'll be my first kiss. Maybe he won't. Maybe we'll be best friends. But I know now not to jump into it. And if I kiss somebody for the first time—when I kiss somebody for the first time—it'll be because I know it's right.
It'll be my choice.