I will never forget that day in the park with you and Sam.
A clear, warm day in May, filled with the scent of black-eyed Susan and primrose flowers. We sat on the grass, and you plucked two puffy dandelions, handing me one to make a wish upon. How many wishes did we make that day? I remember mine, and refusing to tell you, even when you tickled me until I squirmed and cried uncle. I so wanted my wishes to come true.
I wished that day would never end. I wished you’d kiss me, and ask me to be your girl, and I wished us to be okay, unfettered by the perceived thoughts of others.
I also wished I could be as good to you as you were to me. Kind, sincere, James. I fell hard for you that day, as we wandered through the park, aimlessly chatting. Sam seemed happy, too, ignoring our flirtation and, instead, he kept cracking us up with his jokes.
There was much laughter that day. Laughter and mirth.
But stop for a moment and think. Did you know? Could you see what I was harboring inside? Not all the time, mind you. Sometimes I was truly happy, as I was that day in the park, and I could forget. But it was always there, James. Inside me. I was crumbling, finding it hard to cope with–
It was the moving-on part I was dreading most, what with senior year looming for me. But, first there would be summer and all that it would bring. After that, the thought of what lay ahead–the unknown of it–was frightening. I wanted things to stay the same, but with each passing day, that appeared less likely.
Sometimes I felt as though my skin was made of tempered glass and if I moved the wrong way, I’d fall and burst into a million pieces. Other days, I’d stay in bed, fearing if I stood up, I’d find my feet sinking into quicksand.
But then I’d go to school and smile and kid around, like the best of them, feeling happy and joyful, seeing you and my friends, and singing. How I loved to sing! I’d flit through the day, dancing like a sprite, and singing. And sometimes, the sadder I was, the louder I’d sing.
There was also George. Silly George. Drab George. Why did he keep coming back for more? He had a crush on me, I don’t know why, and I could feel nothing in return. Though I tried, I really did.
But, that was a good day, our day in the park with Sam. A fine day. I remember noticing the sun on your hair, flickering like stars flitting about your head. Your skin so pale and smooth, your black, soulful eyes, inviting, and your smile that still gave away the layer of shyness beneath. I drank them all in. My heart pulsates, remembering.
I was punch-drunk giddy that day, for you brought out the best in me, and I was deliriously taken with you. We were happy, James, the three of us together, bantering, teasing, and you, no longer shy around me.
I won’t forget how every conversation and every story I shared, I’d use as an opportunity to impishly touch your hand, your shoulder and yes, even your leg, on the pretense that I was making my point. I’d leave my hand on you longer than needed, for I craved the feel of you. And, you smiled, all the while, knowing what I was up to, reminding me of a Cheshire cat that had swallowed the fish whole. Ah, the folly of it all, we were kids in a game of love.
When it was time to part, we lingered as long as we could. A sideways glance, a forlorn gaze–now I knew why I disliked goodbyes. Out of earshot from Sam, you softly said,
“Meet me here next Saturday. Just us.”
Eagerly, I nodded. Without hesitation.
The following weekend was even more magical. We met soon after breakfast and, meandering through the park, you took my hand. It felt so right, talking about everything, except the future. Only the now. When we reached a clearing, we stopped and sat on a bench.
And, that’s when you looked at me. I mean, you got all serious and looked at me, and I felt my blood rush through me. A little scared, a little sense of anticipation. Right then, I wanted to say, I love you, James!
But, the words hesitated on my tongue, held back by a fleeting fear. And, that is when you kissed me. Your lips brushing against mine, delicately and sweetly at first, then more intense and I lost myself in the moment.
That day would be the beginning of a relationship filled with sultry kisses, looks of longing, and endless passion. Oh, yes there was passion, James–and joy. But, there was also pain. We’d meet after school, most often at your home, in your bedroom, in the shadows of our solitude. Wrapping ourselves in each others arms, you were my panacea, for all that ailed me.
When I’d head home, I’d be overcome with guilt, and the next day I wouldn’t show up. You’d wait for me and I wouldn’t come over. You were a tenth grader, after all, and I was too mortified to tell a soul about our relationship. And, that was adding to the ache gnawing inside me. You must’ve felt it, too.
Loving you, James, brought me unbridled joy. It also chipped away at me, exposing the rawness beneath. Though you swore age didn’t matter, it did, James, which is why I kept you a secret.
I was leading a double life, and I needed to make things right. For this reason, I accepted George’s invitation to the prom.
Only I couldn’t tell you, James.
Secrets. They sure can mess you up.
(To be continued.)
Missed an installment? Catch up by visiting the page, Lightning in a Jar: High School Years.