It was one of those muggy, sticky evenings in early August when the sky was just beginning to darken and the air smelled fresh with the hint of rain looming somewhere in the distance, a hint of what was to come.
I sat on the porch swing drinking in the evening, my stomach dancing with excitement.
I was seventeen and full of wonder. How I loved those humid nights in small town Pennsylvania. After months I was finally going to see him. Would I have a real romance? Would I be kissed?
I breathed in the sweet air, the mix of oak and cut grass, heavy with anticipation, closed my eyes and imagined his lips on mine...
Jimmy went to a different school and lived a few hours away. I met him on a whim the night before Thanksgiving when I went out with my friend Heidi and her boyfriend.
Knowing how desperate I was for a boyfriend, Heidi had planned to fix me up with an older guy that worked at a pizza shop. But that night we didn't go to the pizza shop and her cousin, who was a year or so younger than us, tagged along at the last minute.
I was finally pretty after years of awkwardness. I still had the braces but thankfully my teeth were being corrected and I had finally grown into my nose. My brown hair was longer and I had curled it and I was getting better with makeup.
It took me the longest time to realize maybe I wasn't so bad looking. Maybe I had blossomed from the 13- year old who sat at the lunch table with my friends and had a boy say, "Did your mom drop you or something? Is that how you got so ugly?"
That day was one of my most painful memories and I can still feel his stinging words as if I had been slapped across the face. I forced a laugh because it was a joke right? But my face burned and I wanted to sink into the floor, disappear...
There must have been some mistake. He couldn't have been talking about me.
"Emily isn't ugly!" One of my friends protested which only made me feel worse, only confirmed that he had actually said what I thought he had said to me.
"Well just look at her!" The other boys were laughing and all eyes were on me.
"You aren't ugly Emily," Heidi whispered and her pity was embarrassing. Heidi with the blond hair and blue eyes boys craved. My face was frozen in shock.
The rest of the school day was a blur and I just wanted to get home and look at myself in the mirror to see what they saw, what I didn't see.
I honestly didn't think I looked so bad. I thought I was one of the prettier girls in my friends' group.
Maybe I was blind. I did struggle to see without my glasses which I hated to wear. I squinted in the mirror but I couldn't see properly from the tears blurring my vision that I had held in all day long.
The tears quickly grew into sobs that I tried to wash away in the sink and drown out with the sound of the tap water so my parents wouldn't hear. How was I so much uglier than my friends that someone had to point it out in front of everyone?
I just stood there looking at my blurred image in the bathroom mirror, and I cried and I cried until there were no more tears.
But I was still there. I was still me and I wasn't someone else. I wasn't beautiful.
When I first laid eyes on him, I thought Jimmy was gorgeous, tall with ginger brown hair and light eyes and he was just super cool and laid back, but obviously I didn't think he was interested in me.
We drove to the mall that night. It was when Jimmy left to go to the restroom that Heidi's boyfriend turned around from the driver's seat. "He likes you!" And my heart lurched.
"What?" Boys didn't like me.
"It's true." Heidi said with a smile. "He reallly likes you Emily."
Later we ended up at Dairy Queen. I didn't order anything to eat. My stomach was in knots. I couldn't believe that a boy I liked actually liked me too. I just watched Jimmy eat his ice cream and thought wow. Is this really happening?
Months later I relived the memory of Jimmy and how Heidi later told me he wanted to hold my hand. I had never held hands with a boy. And I remembered him looking at my hand and this burning desire rising from the pit of my stomach, feeling something I had never felt before. A good feeling but also a fluttery sicky feeling that could barely eat my Thanksgiving dinner the next day
Finally summer was here and Jimmy could visit after months of longing. The most romantic time of year. Heidi picked me up from my house and we drove to her grandmother's farm, a place that would hold many memories for me to come of "firsts," first time riding a horse, first time drinking alcohol….and this.
When we got there, we all took a walk. It was finally pitch dark and just starting to get a bit chilly. Jimmy lent me his t-shirt which I eagerly wrapped around my shoulders. I didn't want to ever take it off. And while Heidi was chattering away, Jimmy very casually, like it was nothing, picked up my hand.
He kept holding my hand when we got to the school playground Heidi ran off to meet her boyfriend. And suddenly we were alone sitting on the stairs and talking about everything and he started rubbing my hand, caressing my fingers, still casually chatting as I felt lightning bolts run through me.
And then we started talking very quietly and more intimately and I felt droplets hit my face. I closed my eyes because I knew it was coming.
Then the rain started to fall, gently at first, then slowly getting harder dampening my face and hair and his words grew softer and his blue eyes grew more intense sending chills coursing through me and I leaned into him and his lips were so close. It all came so naturally. It was time.
They say that rain cleanes, strips away sin and purifies the soul. But sometimes it does the opposite.
He could have broken my heart the next day. I didn't care. He could have done anything, everything at that moment. All I knew is I had never felt more beautiful than at that moment. I had never felt more alive.