“Baby, where I come from, we don’t eat ice cream like that,” Derek leans in real close so I watch every word float from his perfect Cupid’s bow shaped lips.
I think about kissing them.
They’d be cool and I might just run my tongue over them, tasting the hint of peanut butter from his dessert.
My mind is racing over the last 90 days with him as I play back all of our dates like a movie. There was our walk around the park when the sprinkler system went off so we had to run like crazy back to his car. It turned out alright because he gave me his sweatshirt which I still haven’t given back. And then there was the trip to the movies. I hated the film. It was some action flick. But boy, did I love the way Derek bought the popcorn and a chocolate bar for me. And I will never forget how our fingers lingered in the popcorn bowl. There was Chelsea’s birthday party at her neighborhood pool. I wore my stupid, blue one piece out of the house, but Chelsea let me borrow her sister’s bikini and it fit basically ok. We took a few more walks. I bought him dinner using my babysitting money at the diner that serves Shirley Temples. He tied a cherry stem into a knot using just his tongue. It felt like a dream this whole summer.
But as sunsets arrived sooner each day, I also took note of the fact that the time between our dates felt longer. His mind was preoccupied by moving into the dorms in the fall. Mine was worried about my sophomore year of high school. Neither of us were willing to address the elephant in the room: could we make long distance work?
I guess that’s why this date matters so much. Because I don’t know when he’ll have to move and I don’t have my license yet so I can’t even make the hour drive to Denver University on my own. Chelsea might be able to take me, but she’ll ask for gas money and babysitting dries up come the fall since we all go back to school. It’s not fair to ask him to drive all the time.
“Earth to Belinda. Earth to Belinda. Belinda, do you read me?” Derek asks between laughing at me.
I lean on the table, using my hands to cradle my chin-preparing for the kiss. I need to show him I’m here. In this moment. Not worried about some issue weeks away.
But he leans back instead, holds his ice cream closer to his chest. He dips his spoon in, takes a huge bit out of his mountain. The spoon is flipped over, his hand deft at the memorized motion. Perfect lips curl around the spoon. He grins. His treat is now melting softly like snow on a spring day. “You try,” he says through a full mouth with puffy cheeks like a squirrel and lifts his spoon encouragingly at me. I do my best to humor him by dipping my spoon, taking a huge bite out of my blue cotton candy flavored mountain, flip the spoon over with clumsy fingers, close my red lips around the treat, and let my ice cream melt like glide down my throat. He’s right. It tastes better.
We hold hands on the walk back to his car. He turns on the AC and the seat warmers. I shiver from the delight of a warm butt. He grins at me, showing me a slight gap between his two front teeth. We listen to the radio—talk about songs we like or dislike. I’m not ready to sing in front of him. But he turns his steering wheel into a drum set at every red light.
He pulls up in front of Mama’s house. I admire the sunset’s beautiful mane of red hair streaking behind Mama’s blue house. The sigh that I heave feels heavier than I intended. My ears perk up like Lucy’s used to when she heard the crunch of gravel in the driveway. But Derek doesn’t comment the sigh. Or maybe he’s just pretending not to notice. For both our sakes’.
His gear shift lets out a familiar click as he throws it into park, “I’ll walk you to the door,” he says. Before I can protest, he’s helping me out of the car. “I had a lot of fun tonight,” he tells the hot, black pavement beneath his sneakers.
I clear my throat to say, “Me, too.” Can Derek see how red I am in this light? His hand finds mine and we interlace fingers at the front door, despite sweaty palms. I can feel it. This is it. My heart is racing. I don’t know where to look and my eyes reflexively go back to those lips. I bet they’re soft…
His green eyes remain steady. They search for mine in the dim light of Mama’s porch. Then, they nervously glance at the pot of dying pink geraniums that I got Mama at the farmer’s market a few months before. That’s when this whole thing—the me and Derek thing—had been all brand new. Now, I am left to watch the sand fall from an hourglass of our love story.
I squeeze his hand three times. He leans in close. I hold my breath. The bow is so close I can taste it. The warmth of his face radiates like a fireplace. And I can smell the soft scent of something manly—cologne? It couldn’t be aftershave; we’re still too young for that. I run my tongue over my teeth, worried that blue dye from my ice cream may kill the mood. Panicked, I pull my eyes from Derek to the porch light that has been burnt out for the last six months. It’s yellowed with age and a spider has built a home on it. I shrivel my nose in disgust.
At the thought of disgust, I suddenly worry for my breath. Oh I should’ve packed a breath mint….Or gum? Mama wouldn't have forgotten gum on her first date with Daddy. But I did because I refused to bring a purse because I didn’t have one that would match my purple top. But…my purple top is my favorite one…And I wanted to use my pretty pink lipgloss which Chelsea says does not go with my black purse. It’s the only one I own because I, unlike Chelsea, do not receive a weekly allowance for sitting on my ass and texting boys all day long.
All of these thoughts racing through my head have distracted me. My eyes return to Derek. Derek who I now realize he is millimeters away from me. I close my eyes, let them fall shut like a butterfly’s wings because that’s how all the actresses do in the movies. I pucker my lips softly, ready to take the leap…that never comes.
Instead, I hear the familiar click of the front door being unlocked, the dreaded squeak of the screen door, and Mama’s heels on the concrete porch. “Belinda?” she asks with a tone warning me of what’s to come if I don’t open my damn eyes and step away from that boy this instant. Time seems to stop as I contemplate my choices. On the one hand, Derek Anderson was never supposed to go out with me because Chelsea had been sick the night of the final basketball game so she gave me her ticket. That meant I was the girl cheering the loudest when Derek scored that final point to win the season for our school.
The crowd went wild.
On the other hand, if Mama sees us kiss she’ll be sure to tell Daddy and he ain’t gonna play around with his little girl so this may be the last time Derek gets to breathe much less kiss a girl. On the other hand, if this is the last time he gets to kiss a girl, I better make it count.
So I lean in real close to Derek Anderson’s Cupid’s bow lips. And I pucker mine. And I rub my tongue over my teeth.
Mama is screaming. She’s yellin’ and hollerin’ so loud I’m sure the whole neighborhood can hear. I catch her saying, “My girl ain’t like this!” And “I raised her better!” And “Belinda May you step away from that boy he is three years older than you! You’re only fourteen, girl!”
But I don’t care. Because Derek’s perfect Cupid’s bow lips are slightly cold from the dessert. And they do taste like peanut butter when I run my tongue over them. And the hand that scored the final game of the season is cradling my cheek while the other one grabs my waist to pull me closer as we share our first kiss on the final date of the summer.