The Mirth of Firsts

One of the best things about writing romance is reliving all of the experiences that qualify you to write this stuff. I was thinking the other day about first kisses: my first kiss as a teenager and my first kiss with my husband. Oh, boy! They couldn’t be more different, and I remember them both like they happened yesterday.

My first kiss happened when I was fourteen years old. I had been crushing on and flirting with an “older guy.” He was seventeen. High school was about to start. I was a freshman, and he was a senior. That alone spelled doom for our brief romance, but in the month prior to school and all of its social strictures, we had a fun summer. His parents helped out our family when we were homeless. They were a family of three and we were a family of six. So, the nine of us piled into a two-bedroom house less than a thousand square feet. God bless them. They endured so much to help us out.

One might think it would be difficult for two hormone-crazed kids to find a place to make-out in the middle of the night with people scattered about every inch of floor space…but one would be wrong. Our flirtation began in the usual way, subtle touches – a hand to the arm, a brush of shoulders. It then progressed to a dare. “I’m not ticklish, I swear!” The only way to know is to find out, right? Tickling progressed to wrestling, which progressed to cuddling. And then…THE moment. I’d been dying for it to happen, but being so naïve and young I had no idea how to go about making it happen.

There we were, sitting on the edge of his bed watching The Godfather, holding hands. He kept rubbing his thumb over my knuckles and my heart pounded as I decided just to go for it. I stared at him until he turned to stare back and then I leaned in and gave him the biggest peck on the lips I could muster. That was what kissing was to me. So…imagine my surprise when he slipped his tongue in my mouth! My eyes bulged wide open, and I’m pretty sure my tongue hung there like a dead weight in my mouth. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. If that mortification wasn’t enough, I was ready to shrivel up and die the moment he reached up with his hands and brushed his fingertips over my eyelids to shut them. Oh, gawd!! I chuckle every time I think about it, which is every time I hear the theme song to The Godfather. We definitely figured it out, though, and had some fun nights while it lasted. 

Fast forward exactly ten years to London, England. I was squatting with two good friends (who happen to be siblings). Naturally, I paired up with the girl in person, even though the guy and I had become great friends over the previous few years via emails and long-distance phone calls. She picked me up at the airport and took me back to the squat, where I took a nap on a shredded orange couch that was to be my bed for a few months. I heard him come in the front door and stomp excitedly down the hall.

“Is she here?” he asked his sister.

“Yeah, but she’s sleeping.”

That didn’t deter him. He came quietly into the room and sat on the couch opposite me. After several long moments of hearing nothing, I opened my eyes to find him staring right at me with a smile on his face. It was obvious the moment our eyes met that the attraction we’d both been wondering if we’d feel in person came down on us with a wallop.

Less than a week later, his sister fell ill and our night out on the town was not to be. That is, until her brother gallantly swooped in to do the honors. We pub-crawled, knocking back the beers and chatting easily, as we had so many times over the computer. When the buzz started moving through us with a growing heat, the conversations turned more intense. Comments like, “It’s even better having you here in person than I imagined,” and “You’re someone I could see myself with for the rest of my life,” were floating around somewhere in the cloud of smoke I was puffing up from my cigarettes in between beers. We were sitting side-by-side on a bench, and all of a sudden he sat up, grabbed his beer from the side table and downed it in three gulps (for a little more courage, perhaps?).

He slammed the empty pint glass down on the table, exclaimed, “All right, then!” and grabbed my face and kissed me. I kissed him back instantly, but when I realized what I was doing I broke away in a fit of laughter.

“Come on, then,” he said, so typically-British, and grabbed my face again but I pulled away, still laughing.

“You’re going to be so embarrassed in the morning,” I told him. “I don’t want you to wake up and cringe that you kissed me. I don’t want to make things awkward between us.”

“I’m not too drunk to know what I’m doing,” he said. “I won’t regret anything.”

Still, I pulled away. “I don’t want you to think I’m some easy hook-up.”

His eyes turned serious. “I don’t think that about you. I think you’re someone I could fall in love with.”

We soon left and eventually made our way back to the squat, jumping from bus to bus. We had one long, kiss goodnight with me warning him that he’d feel differently in the morning. I went to bed worrying about sunrise and that first awkward, horrified look we’d share when he awoke and realized what he’d said and done.

But it wasn’t the sunrise that woke me up. It was the soft press of his lips against mine. I opened my eyes to see him hovering over me, fully dressed in his business clothes, looking fresh and ready for work, a day bag slung over his shoulder. I said nothing, and neither did he. He just smiled at me, kissed me again, and left for work. And that was the moment that I realized something…

Damn, that boy can handle his alcohol!

That…and that he had no regrets. And neither did I.


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