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A peek at ‘Caroline Hearts Toby’

I remembered the first night we spoke, at a party, a week after I turned fourteen.  It was a humid Saturday night and an ex had decided to start a fight with me.  I turned into a full fledged drama queen, and ran crying to the solace of a wooden gazebo on the edge of the woods behind the party house.  The tip of his long shadow touched the steps of my fortress before Toby did, “Are you OK?”  he asked.
“Yeah,”  I said between racking sobs.
“You want to talk?”
“Yeah.”  I went on for what felt like years but was actually a few hours without taking a breath.  “…he’s just such an asshole you know, I could do so much better than him.”
“You could do a lot better, like me.”
For the first time that night, I burst out laughing.
The side of his mouth turned up in a half smile.  “What’s funny about being my girlfriend?”
“You don’t want to date me, I’m like, totally crazy.”
“Maybe,” his light eyes enveloped me. “But you’re laugh is the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard.”
Before I could decide if he was serious or not a group of boys with baggy jeans, flannel shirts, and backwards baseball caps called out, “Hey!  We’re leaving, man.  You coming?”
He stood up.  The eaves of the rotted wood sighed beneath his tall frame.  “I gotta go, see you around.”
“See you around.”

That Monday, Margo and I strolled up to the side entrance of the two story brick prison called high school, and there he was.  His azure eyes were half closed as he sat on the steps playing an acoustic guitar the color of wheat.  The scene was more fantastic than an e.e. cummings poem.  My heart stopped beating in my chest as I followed the trajectory of his skinny left arm and the fingers of his right hand caressing the neck.  Even though he was fully clothed, a hundred feet away from me, and so into the song he didn’t know I was staring at him, it was the most erotic event of my life up until that point.
Margo, my best friend since forever, nudged me.  “Gawk much?”
I took a breath, not realizing I’d been holding it the entire time, and shook my head.  “No way.  Total waste of time.  It’s not as if he likes me, or whatever.”
“He totally likes you, Caroline.”
“How do you know?  Are you psychic?”
“I have eyes.”  A smirk stretched over Margo’s tan skin.  “Every time you speak, he looks over at you and smiles like a little kid.  I’m afraid he’s gonna pull on one of your pigtails during recess, or something.”
My pulse sped up.  “Really?”
“Watch him for yourself if you’re so interested.”

I did.  Our eyes met for the briefest of moments and it made me feel as if I’d been shot out of a cannon.  I turned back to my notebook and started to write, secretly wishing my Mom would give in and buy me a cell phone.  Since I was fourteen, the best idea for expressing my undying love to him was to pass him a note after class, and that’s exactly what I did.  The rest of the day proved supremely agonizing.  As I walked out the front door to my bus, he stopped me, and handed me a note of his own.

I wrote him a note every day for the next two years.

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Blake Morgan’s First Kiss

I threw myself onto my bed and rolled over.  My glasses were askew, and when I straightened them I saw glossy dark leaves reflecting the Moon outside the large bay window.  They swayed in the wind and reminded me of my first kiss, five years ago.
It was the Fourth of July and my parents had a crab broil for the block.  David insisted we invite Chris, which filled me with relief, because then I didn’t have to admit that my best friend was his sister, Sophie.
The younger kids ran up and down the street with sparklers while Sophie climbed halfway up the White Oak in my front yard.  “C’mon Blake, you can see the fireworks better from up here.”
“I’m good down here.”  I was never a big fan of heights.  If humans were meant to fly, we’d have evolved wings by now.
“Why?  Too cool to climb trees anymore?”
I sighed and pulled myself up to the same limb she sat on.  From my new vantage point I could see David making out with someone who wasn’t his girlfriend on the side of the garage.  “Jesus Christ.”
“What?”
“You didn’t tell me there’s a perfect view of my brother and Jordan down there.”
“Where?”  She giggled and turned her head side to side.
“Right there.”  I pointed.
“Uh!  I hate being so short.”  She pulled up on my shoulder, until her face was parallel with mine. Her long red braid tickled my arm.  “Whoa, I bet he knows what she had for lunch.”  She sat on her knees so her eyes leveled with my throat, although she directed them to the night sky.  “I can’t wait until someone kisses me like that.”
I shook my head.  “Girls are so weird.”
She turned back to me.  “Why?”
“Boys don’t think about stuff like that.”  I knew it was a lie once the words left my mouth because I thought about it too.  All the time.
“Yeah, right.”
“I don’t.”
“Oh, I forgot, I’m talking to the Casanova of Annapolis.  So, what do boys think about?”
“I don’t know, stuff?”
She giggled then lowered her voice, “Like hunting, bowling, and beer?”
I laughed.  “Yeah.”
She raised her eyebrows.  “But, you don’t think about any of that.”
I shrugged.
She exhaled the words.  “Well, you must be right, because no one has ever thought of kissing me.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Because no guy has ever kissed me.  I always thought I’d have my first kiss before I started high school.”  She gazed at me with her big green eyes.
I don’t know what came over me since every action I took had always been carefully thought out.  Maybe it was because I wanted to have my first kiss as well, or that I knew she wouldn’t laugh at me, or that her fair skin shimmered in the moonlight.  My mind went blank when I craned my neck and pressed my lips to hers.  She tasted like strawberries, sunsets, and honeysuckle.  My first kiss lasted just long enough to wonder if Sophie’s mouth was made of flower petals.
For a while there was only the laughing of children running in the yard, the adults banter that grew in volume throughout the night, and the hooting of a distant owl, until I said.
“Now you don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
She opened her mouth and began to respond when an explosion of fireworks erupted.  Red, white, and blue lit up the sky blocking out the stars and planets I loved so much.  Neither of us ever mentioned the kiss.
But, we did hold hands until the display of perchlorate, copper, and sulfur diffused into the atmosphere.