This couldn't be happening. It just wasn't possible. Miguel and I were meant to be together. He wasn't supposed to be marrying my psychotic cousin!
I ran and ran, as fast as my legs would carry me. But no matter how fast I ran, I couldn't seem to outrun the demons that plagued me.
In just a few short weeks, we would graduate from high school. That wasn't the problem, of course.
The problem was that shortly after graduation, Miguel and Charity planned to get married.
From the first time we kissed, I knew that we were destined to be together. He had been my first kiss, and I just knew that he was the one that I was supposed to spend the rest of my life kissing.
Ok, so maybe I didn't realize it at first. Could you blame me? The first time Miguel kissed me, my "Eeeew! Cooties!" stage was just coming to an end. He was going on his first date, and he wanted to make sure he knew how to kiss… so he had asked if he could kiss me.
After he had made dozens of promises that I had known that he would never end up fulfilling, I had agreed. We had kissed a couple times before he had decided that he had done sufficient practicing.
But by then, I wasn't so sure that I wanted to stop anymore. By then, I had realized that maybe kissing a guy wasn't such a bad thing.
The shouts of school children brought me out of my reverie. I took my eyes off of the path before me and saw that I was behind Harmony Elementary. With a soft smile, I fondly remembered the days of my youth.
The days before Charity came to Harmony and ruined everything.
Suddenly, I felt my feet leave the ground and saw the ground rising quickly before me. I must have tripped over the roots of some damn tree on this godforsaken path. I knew I should have run along the road!
Before my eyes fluttered shut, I caught a glimpse of a faintly scratched shape on a tree beside the path. The misshapen heart had some letters inside of it, letters I could barely make out.
As memories of what those letters stood for flooded my mind, I lost my grip on reality and slipped swiftly into unconsciousness.
They say that you never forget your first kiss. They say that the person, place, time… everything about that first kiss will be forever engraved in your mind.
I forgot my first kiss.
That is, I forgot my first kiss until that fateful day.
This is the story of my first kiss and of how remembering it changed my life.
"Hey, LoFitz," I whispered to my best friend as our second-grade teacher attempted to teach us our multiplication tables.
His head moved only slightly, but I knew that he had heard me. "What do you want, Kay?"
"You coming over after school? We got a new basketball hoop last night."
He nodded slightly, as I had expected. Miguel never could say no to a game of one-on-one.
Just then, the classroom door creaked open. Mrs. Wheaton walked to the door and whispered a few muffled words to the school secretary.
"Class," she announced in her typical preachy tone, "we have a new student joining us today. Reese Durkee is moving to Harmony from Chicago, Illinois."
As usual, I was attempting to tune out Mrs. Wheaton and focus my concentration on more important things—like how to beat Miguel at basketball that night.
Mrs. Wheaton moved aside to let this Reese kid into the classroom. She must have told him to take the empty desk next to me since moments later he was seated beside me.
Great. Miguel and I had sat in this corner of the room all by ourselves for the entire year, but now this new kid had to come and listen in on all of our conversations.
"Now, Reese," Mrs. Wheaton began, "I don't know what you were learning in your old school, but we're learning our multiplication tables right now. I'm sure Katherine would be more than happy to help you get caught up," she continued, looking at me meaningfully.
I sighed. I knew that I probably knew the most about multiplication tables, but did she have to make me work with the new kid?
"Actually, Mrs. Wheaton, I already know my times tables. We were working on division with remainders when I left."
Mrs. Wheaton's jaw dropped in shock. Well, maybe that was a slight exaggeration, but she was obviously very surprised—and that almost never happened!
I glanced over at the boy next to me with a sense of appreciation. Maybe having him in the class wouldn't be so bad after all.
In the next few days, my life changed completely. Reese quickly became a friend to both Miguel and me, and we spent much of our time together.
Also, the unexpected was beginning to happen.
I was beginning to like a guy.
It's not that I didn't like guys. I did. Miguel had been my best friend practically since birth! But I had never liked a guy in the boy-girl way.
Rather, I had spent most of my time making fun of Miguel's fate-obsessed sister Theresa. Theresa claimed to be madly in love with a guy that she had never met. Simone and I never got enough of teasing her about it.
But now I was almost as bad as Theresa was. Granted, I had actually met the man of my dreams, but I really liked Reese.
He was so cute with his spiky blonde hair and his blue-gray eyes. He was smart. He was athletic.
But most of all, he was sweet.
He always made sure that I was warm enough when we tramped around in the woods after school. Ordinarily, I would feel as if he didn't think that I was capable of taking care of myself, but he offered me his sweatshirt in such a way that I didn't feel insulted.
His sweatshirts were always warm and fuzzy—and they smelled so good. I could cuddle up in his sweatshirts for hours on end.
And when we went to his house after we were done walking, he would make the best hot chocolate. It had just the right combination of milk and chocolate… it was perfection.
And his smile. Oh, God, don't even get me started on his smile.
Reese had this way of just looking at me, with a faint grin playing on his lips and laughter shining in his eyes, that caused me to immediately start laughing.
He had a tendency to look at me like that during class. Needless to say, I was no longer one of Mrs. Wheaton's favorite students.
But I didn't care. 'Cause I had Reese in my life now, and everything else just didn't seem to matter quite as much anymore.
Before I knew it, it was the last day of school before Spring Break. Miguel had left the night before to go visit his relatives in Boston, so it was just Reese and me at school that day.
Oh, sure, it was awkward at first. We weren't used to spending time together when it was just the two of us, but by the time lunch came around, we were loving it.
We teased each other more that we usually did. Insults were flying like mad—but it was fun.
Reese ended up chasing me to the far corner of the schoolyard, back by the trees that surrounded the grass we scrambled around on each day.
I stopped, afraid to go too far. What if we got caught? Dad wouldn't be happy if I got in trouble.
Reese walked up behind me and put his hands on my waist. "Why'd you stop, Kay?" he asked, teasingly. "Are you afraid???"
"I'm not afraid!" I insisted indignantly.
"Oh, yeah?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.
"Yeah," I replied, getting slightly unnerved by the look in his eyes that I had come to realize meant that he was up to something.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, he began to tickle me. His hands roamed my belly, my arms, my legs—everywhere. I fell to the ground, laughing so hard that tears were pouring down my face.
"Are you still sure you're not afraid?" he asked as he looked into my eyes.
I didn't want to give in to him. I wouldn't—I couldn't! I squirmed, trying my best to get out of his tight grasp, but it was of no avail.
"Uncle!" I cried out. "Fine, I was scared! Satisfied?"
Reese smirked and immediately stopped tickling me, but he also made no move to let me stand up. "I knew it. I knew you were scared!"
"So what, Reese Durkee? Everyone's scared of something!"
He chuckled. "I like you Kay Bennett." Then, he leaned in closer, as if he wanted to make sure that no one else heard what he was about to tell me. "But you don't have to act so defensive. I like you no matter what."
My heart nearly stopped beating. The boy who had taken up permanent residence in my dreams liked me too? This was almost too hard to believe!
"Kay, at my old school in Chicago, one of my friends got married."
My jaw dropped. A second-grader had gotten *married*???
"He married this girl that he liked in our class. He wasn't the only one either. There were lots of people getting married to girls that they liked."
"Did you ever get married?" I asked him softly, almost afraid of what he might say.
He laughed. "No, I thought that it was stupid. I teased them about it all the time. Now I realize that they were wrong." He paused, as he reached into his pocket.
"Kay, will you marry me?" he asked me, as he took out a small ring made out of a flowering daisy.
I nodded, and he slipped the ring onto my finger. "Now what?" I asked.
"Now we have to kiss," he informed me.
I looked at him. Kiss? Was he serious? Kissing was so gross—I could never stand to watch Noah kiss his girlfriend. It was just too icky!
"We have to, Kay," he insisted. "Otherwise, we won't be married."
Reluctantly, I agreed. Reese leaned forward and pressed his lips softly to mine.
Amazingly, it was gross or disgusting. Instead, I felt tingling all the way down to my toes.
Reese's lips tasted sweet—almost like wild strawberries. I didn't want to stop kissing him, but he soon pulled away.
"Now, we have to write this down somewhere," he said, glancing around as he searched for somewhere to write.
"Aha!" he exclaimed moments later, as he grabbed his jackknife from his pocket. "I'll write in on the tree!" Quickly, he knelt down at the foot of a nearby tree and carved a heart with the letters "RD + KB" inside of it.
Just as he was finishing, we heard the teachers shouting that recess was over. We stood up together to head back to class, but before we left the shelter of the woods, I whispered, "I really like you, Reese."
He grinned his classic grin. "I really like you too, Kay."
I don't know why I ever stopped liking Reese like that. We stayed married until that summer, when he went off to some computer camp. After he came back, his family left for a trip to Europe. By the time I saw him again, he had changed.
Don't get me wrong, he was still the same loving, caring Reese Durkee that he had always been. But he *looked* different. And he didn't seem as interested in sports anymore—he'd rather play computer games that basketball any day.
So we grew apart, I suppose. We were still friends, with Miguel completing our trio, but it wasn't the same anymore. As the years passed, my memory of our marriage and our first kiss was swept away like dust in the wind.
But then Miguel's impending marriage to Charity sent me on a run that reminded me of my own marriage. A marriage to the man who I had forgotten that I had loved.
With a groan, I opened my eyes. I felt around me, trying to figure out where I was. It was obvious that I wasn't on the trail anymore.
Everything around me was so blurry—I couldn't see any distinct shapes. But, for some odd reason, the scent of Reese's sweatshirts from second grade seemed to be present.
Instantly, I blamed it on my overactive imagination. I was simply trying to turn my memory into reality, so I could start all over again.
Reese was a wonderful man, and I had treated him like crap. No one deserved to be treated like that—especially not Reese.
But he had taken it without complaint.
With a gasp, I realized that I had loved him when we were younger… and even more startling, I realized that I still loved him now.
"Kay?" a voice asked, as I heard steps approach me.
That wasn't Reese's voice, was it?
No, it couldn't have been. Reese didn't even know that I was going for a run, and even if he did, he wouldn't have known where to find me.
"Kay, are you awake? Are you all right?"
I blinked, and suddenly everything was clear.
Reese was above me, worry and concern shining in his eyes. With a slight grin, I realized that I could still read his emotions just as easily as I had been able to back then.
I tried to talk, but words wouldn't come out of my mouth. Quickly, I motioned that I needed a glass of water, but it wasn't necessary. He had a glass in my hand before I had finished.
"Reese, I'm sorry," I told him quietly.
He quirked an eyebrow. "For what?"
"For being so forgetful." He looked at me, confusion written on his face. I knew I'd have to elaborate.
"I forgot about our first kiss, Reese. I don't know why I did, but it happened. But I remember now, and I'm sorry, Reese. God, you have no idea how sorry I am."
Reese chuckled and a wide grin spread across his face. "There's nothing to be sorry for, Kay—but I am glad that you remember."
"Me too," I replied with a smile, as I sat up to look into his eyes.
"Reese, how did you find me?"
"I was picking daisies," he said mysteriously, as he walked over to the nearby dresser. "You see, there's this girl that I love, but I know that if she loves me back, I'll need to give her some daisies."
"Oh, really?" I asked, as I slowly stood up. "Is it anyone I know?"
He grinned his classic grin. "Depends… Kay, will you marry me?"
I laughed so hard I began to cry, but in between my tears, I nodded. With a grin, he slipped a daisy chain around my neck and placed a ring on my finger.
Slowly, he lowered his mouth to mine, and I felt that tingly feeling that I had felt the first time that we had kissed.
As his tongue gently invaded my mouth, I realized that Reese didn't seem all that fazed by my change of heart. Perhaps he had known that I had projected my feelings for him onto Miguel for the past few years. If so, he was apparently certain that I would realize the error of my ways sooner or later.
Realization had set in. Reese was the man that I loved—not Miguel.
Reese loved me. And for the first time in a long time, that didn't seem like such a bad thing.
Years have passed since that sunny May day when I went on that run. We're older now, but I know that I will never again forget the story of my first kiss or the rings that Reese had given me.
I have a new ring now. The petal-shaped stones shine brightly on my fourth finger, as I wave my new daisy ring the air at the tall man walking towards me. He grins, and as always, I can't help but laugh. Reese's smile has always had that effect on me, and I can't help but hope that it always will.
Swiftly, he approaches and kisses me deeply. I feel the electricity shoot through my body, and I taste the sweet wild strawberries of his kiss.
It just goes to show that some things never change.
And that sometimes, that's a good thing.