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Fiction Romance Coming of Age

I was under the impression that first kisses were meant to be magic.


I had been led to believe that the long-awaited lip-lock would be witnessed by a star-spangled sky at the top of a stalled county Ferris wheel, or cheered on by roaring crowds at the end of a victorious football game.


I had been deceived into thinking that I’d be tangled up with a brooding boy whose cruelty was a shallow façade masking a kind soul, or that I’d be wrapped up in the arms of a letterman jacket way above my own social standing. 


I had been taught that under the bravado of beautiful teenage boys, there was a sweetness and an intelligence that I would one day have the privilege of knowing.


Imagine my mortification when, at a few weeks shy of sixteen and still never-been-kissed, I found myself spinning the bottle at a party in a stranger’s dark basement, the brown Berber carpet chafing on my knees as I waded through the blur of booze to kiss my best friend’s boyfriend. 


The ten seconds it took for us to awkwardly struggle across the circle, introduce our lips, and part ways again, moved with a sluggish unreality.


This is it. This is how it’s going to happen.


The girls (including Marianne) shrieked and clutched at one another, well aware that they had just won front row seats to my first kiss.


This is happening.


Initially I was surprised by the softness of his lips; then I was taken aback by the strawberry bubble gum slime of Marianne’s lingering lip gloss.


That’s it. That just happened.


As I settled back into my seat on the floor, face flaming, life resumed its regular beat and the game went on.


Wyatt and Marianne had only officially been dating for two months; however, high school measures time on its own terms, and two months felt more like two years.


During that period, I came to harbor a forbidden affection for the shaggy-haired wide-grinning athlete whose arm was always slung over Marianne’s shoulders, who was polite but indifferent towards my presence, and who inspired many of my most wistful daydreams. Based on my extensive romantic comedy education, the whole situation appeared ripe for a love story to blossom.


And so I waited.


Every day, I went to school excited and came home defeated. I selfishly longed for some lucky happenstance to cleave them apart and bring us together. As much as I loved Marianne, I had come to worship Wyatt, my adoration fueled with fanatical imagination and sustained through a determined ignorance of reality. 


Of course, I kept all these desires reigned in tight. I couldn’t make a move on Marianne’s man (nor would I know how). With fear of humiliation wrapped in the guise of loyalty, I went about my public life as I always had: cheerful but cautious in navigating the tempestuous adolescent social scene. Meanwhile, in the sanctuary of my heart, I longed for fate to prompt the Hollywood-promised turn of events that would change everything.


So, in the moments after the catastrophe that was my first kiss, I wondered if maybe that was the turning point I’d been waiting for, if the disaster was merely a comical prelude to a potential budding romance.


I quickly decided it was not.


By the time the buzz of Bacardi Breezers, Mike’s Hard Lemonade and (for some god awful reason) shots of Absinthe disassembled our game, Wyatt had sucked face with almost every girl in the circle and then retired to a bedroom with Marianne as he should have.


To fend against shame and ward off overwhelming disappointment, I chucked back two more shots—of 190-proof Everclear.


I proceeded to have a great time. Then I stumbled home, probably woke up my parents in spite of my stealth, ate half a bag of salt and vinegar chips, and clung to the edges of my bed throughout the rest of the night to survive the spins.


I woke up feeling so poorly, both in head and heart, that I swore off alcohol, rom coms, and Wyatt forever.


--


Ten years later, over two bottles of wine and the credits of He’s just not that into you, I reminded Marianne of the indignity of that first kiss and finally disclosed my unrequited puppy dog crush on the boy she’d later dumped in our senior year. Smarting from the sting of the higher-stakes romantic trials of our twenties, this revelation was absolutely hysterical.


“I completely forgot about that!” Marianne gasped through her tears.


“He tasted like you,” I hooted, “You may as well have been my first kiss!”


“I’m a much better kisser,” she promised, giggling.


“What do you think happened to him?”


“According to his Facebook he’s in Idaho,” Marianne said, “I think he got a basketball scholarship there.”


“At least he was good at something,” I cracked, and we dissolved again.


When the hilarity subsided, we lay on the floor side-by-side and stared up at the dark ceiling.


“Boys suck,” she whispered.


“The worst,” I agreed.


Marianne never went longer than a week without a boyfriend and often juggled multiple suitors at one time. There was no doubt she would, eventually, settle down with one of them. I, on the other hand, remained much less lucky in love.


Contemplation of my own lonely existence continued into my shift at work the next evening, where I fought off a lingering headache behind the bar in Trinity's dim neon light.


It was a quiet night, with only a few elderly patrons nursing beers and snacking on limp mozzarella sticks in the back booths. The lesser of two pubs in town, Trinity’s was sandwiched in a strip mall between Dairy Queen and a dry cleaners. I liked working there because the locals I'd grown up with preferred the shinier Spotlight downtown. Serving was a nasty business to begin with; adding the discomfort of being tipped (or not tipped) by people I knew made it much worse.


I was refilling a couple of dark pints when the bells above the door jangled, announcing an icy wind that blew in the last person I ever expected to see. Wyatt plopped himself on a barstool straight across from me, his black wool coat dusted in glittering sequins of snow.


“Whiskey,” he said dejectedly, “Neat.”


I stared at him, my jaw on the floor.


“What?” he asked, lifting his eyes from the groove on the bar that he was picking at with a notedly ring-less hand. 


“Um – sorry.” I spooled myself back together and got busy finding and pouring his drink.


He was still a stud. The decade since high school had been kind to him. His hair was a little shorter; his shoulders were a little broader. I was glad to see that he’d traded in the nylon track suits for the respectable jacket and well-cut jeans.


I placed the whiskey on a square white napkin, and he blinked at me with verdant eyes that were still thick-lashed and honest.

Trying not to gawk, I found a set of glasses I could pretend to polish. The whole situation was too bizarre to be real, persuading me to wonder if fate had been playing the long-game with my love-life all along. 


“So,” I said casually, “what’s brought you back to town?”


He looked up from his drink, turning his head this way and that to confirm I was talking to him.


“Do we know each other?” he asked with surprise.


“Oh,” I said, deflated, “Um, I’m Karli. We went to high school together?”


He looked genuinely baffled.


“Marianne’s friend?”


“Oh!” His face broke out in that damning grin. “Of course, Karli! I didn’t recognize you at all – I’m so sorry.”


I shrugged, as if to shake off the obliviousness that gut-punched my confidence as a human being.


“You still friends with her?” he asked.


“We’re roommates.”


“She single?”


I sighed. “No.”


“Oh.” He went back to staring miserably into his Jim Beam, and I refused to give him the satisfaction of asking the source of his blues.


A few minutes later, he requested a refill. Swirling it around, he asked, “Did things turn out the way you thought they would?”


“What?”


“I mean—I guess probably not,” he gestured to me behind the grimy bar in a way that made me grit my teeth (although, fair point). “But do you ever feel like, I dunno, things didn’t go as planned?”


The irony of that question falling from the very lips that had torn my scripted plan into pieces all those years ago was not lost on me.


“Every day.”


In that moment, with a burst of determination, I decided I was done waiting and robbed the glass from his hand. As I knocked it back, it was his turn to stare open-mouthed at me and my audacity. 


“You want to hang around until my shift is done?” The bourbon burned with fortifying comfort in my chest, soothing the panic that sprouted the second the question slipped from my tongue.  


He gazed at me in wonder, as if seeing me for the very first time. “Absolutely.”


I grinned. Maybe there was more magic in second kisses.


February 13, 2021 18:45

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33 comments

Roger Crane
21:26 Feb 17, 2021

Hi again, Christina. This was a good story, told from the point of view of women. That's okay, an interesting look in. I like a number of your phrases, such as "a determined ignorance of reality" and "glittering sequins of snow." You carried the story out nicely giving a good ending. No major errors. But remember that phrases which stand alone as incomplete sentences gain their "sentence" feeling from the implied verbs, and usually jump off the prior sentence. "As he should" was one that should have been preceded by a comma, because it ha...

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Christina Marie
03:53 Feb 18, 2021

Thanks for the feedback Roger. I'll definitely give some thought to the transitions!

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Izzie Q.
04:33 Feb 23, 2021

hi hi!! the first sentence totally drew me in, you really are such a poetic angel!! I look forward to reading more of your work, keep going friend!!

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Grace Arons
15:57 Feb 22, 2021

Excellent storytelling and convincing characters. I really enjoyed this read

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Christina Marie
23:11 Feb 22, 2021

Thanks Grace! :)

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Amany Sayed
15:45 Feb 22, 2021

Love love LOVE the way you interpreted this prompt. You made it in a way that it was not rushed at the way she asked him out. The perfect imperfect romance. I haven't got any critique!

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Christina Marie
23:12 Feb 22, 2021

Thanks so much for the feedback and for reading :)

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18:30 Feb 20, 2021

Terrific story! Once in a while, nothing like a happy ending to make our hearts lighter.

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Christina Marie
18:34 Feb 20, 2021

Thanks Mariana! I sometimes find it's harder to write happy stories than sad ones, so this was a challenge but I'm glad with how it turned out!

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Kate Winchester
18:18 Feb 20, 2021

I really like your writing style. Nice job!

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Christina Marie
18:25 Feb 20, 2021

Thanks Kate!

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Courtney C
22:01 Feb 19, 2021

Phenomenally written. This gave me all kinds of high school nostalgia (the Everclear, the Mike's Hard, both drinks I've permanently sworn off lol). Such a well written piece :) it felt vividly like-like and relatable.

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Christina Marie
22:27 Feb 19, 2021

Thanks so much for reading! Same goes for me on the swearing off of mikes and everclear :)

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Philip Hedges
06:54 Feb 19, 2021

Thank you for the truly enjoyable read. The fluidity of the language paired with the images you chose gave me the feeling I was watching a short film. I like how you chose to be realistic rather than romanticize the character’s relationships.

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Christina Marie
22:30 Feb 19, 2021

Thank you for reading! I think sometimes sticking with reality resonates really well :)

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Aisha Khan
16:02 Feb 15, 2021

Haha! Wow! I really liked this piece. I really felt like I was in Karlie's shoes and wanted to cheer at her decision at the end! So good!

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Christina Marie
16:17 Feb 15, 2021

Haha that's awesome! Thanks so much for reading :)

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H L Mc Quaid
10:27 Feb 15, 2021

Hi Christina, You accurately captured the high school experience--the confusion, the self-doubt, the delusion, ahahha. It's well-written, so I don't have any critiques on sentence structure. One typo: "until I’m done my shift?"...should be .."until I"m done with my shift?" And maybe think about rephrasing, "imagine to my surprise." as that's veering into cliche territory (and the rest of the writing is really fresh, so phrases like that stand out more). I enjoyed the story. It made me reflect on my first kiss, and how that shaped my p...

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Christina Marie
16:17 Feb 15, 2021

Thanks Heather! I've made some updates at your suggestions - I really appreciate the read and the feedback. Glad you enjoyed :)

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Nancy Drayce
08:50 Feb 15, 2021

The last sentence was very good! I wanted to start this comment differently, but the last sentence was very strong so I had to mention it first. 😅 The profile of young teenage girl and of her first kiss was very well and the shift of ten years wasn't rough, which is very good! Interesting idea, and the writing itself was amazing! Wonderful job! 💙🌟

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Christina Marie
16:18 Feb 15, 2021

Thanks Nancy!!

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Claire Lewis
20:59 Feb 14, 2021

The beginning is so cringey... very accurate high school angst. I’m impressed and slightly mortified. I love the open ending, the characters, and the artful way you give us just a few moments in time and let us piece things together. Well done!

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Christina Marie
00:13 Feb 15, 2021

Thanks Claire! I was definitely hoping to capture the cringeworthy angst haha :)

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D. Owen
10:58 Feb 14, 2021

Oh, those teenage pains-captured so well.

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Christina Marie
18:04 Feb 14, 2021

Thanks haha! It definitely took some cringe-worthy reflecting :)

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Frances Reine
01:36 Feb 14, 2021

I especially love the beginning. It's a whirlwind of nightlights and that summery glow I'm missing because of the snow.

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Christina Marie
05:36 Feb 14, 2021

Thanks! Me too - spring can't come fast enough :)

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The Cold Ice
04:01 Feb 24, 2021

Wonderful story. Keep writing. I loved it. Well written. Amazing job. Would you mind reading my story. “Leaf me alone”Thanks?

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Swagger Girl
15:25 Feb 23, 2021

I was in joyful tears as I finish this story. it was to the point where I was at the edge of my seat waiting to finish the end. It was really a story with a twist that I wasn't expecting but loved so much I hope there will be a part two in the future cuz this story will need it. I have so many questions that could be answered in part two. Here are some of my questions: Will Karli and Wyatt get together? Will there be drama between Karli and Marianne? Will Karli and Marianne's friendship end? There's so much to be answered I hope you do mak...

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Christina Marie
19:27 Feb 24, 2021

Thanks for reading and the kind comment :) :)

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A.Dot Ram
18:07 Feb 21, 2021

This was great. I enjoyed the relationship between Karli and Marianne (I played with a similar dynamic on the same prompt this week), and the way you blended the past and present. Your pacing and storytelling was great. This story flew by without a dull moment.

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Zilla Babbitt
19:38 Feb 21, 2021

This made me smile and cringe and giggle. Excellent writing, you pulled me straight in and played with my emotions. Keep it up!

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Christina Marie
00:29 Feb 22, 2021

Thanks for reading :) so glad you enjoyed it!

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