Hey everyone! This week’s #wordbound post is coming in hot, mostly because I’ve been on a work trip since early Monday morning and this has been my first few moments of down time. I actually wrote a short story for this week’s prompt on Sunday, but I needed to do one more pass of editing before I was ready to share it.
A little backstory: I sat down to work this week’s prompt into the novel I am currently working on, and no matter what I tried, I couldn’t do it. So I decided to write something new, which turned into the short story I’m about to share with you in its entirety. After a couple tough months working on my book, it was surprising how easily this story flowed out of my fingertips. Anyhow, I literally don’t think I’ve ever shared this much fictional writing with the internet, so I hope you enjoy. I won’t always share this much, but I’m going to today. Here’s to new things, and to #wordbound!
This week’s prompt was: “A character writes a secret message somewhere.”
My first kiss was a learning experience. No, really! I know everyone probably says that, but mine really and truly was. There were rumors all week about something secret and scandalous happening out back by the old baseball field no one uses anymore, and something about Roger.
Roger kind of has a reputation, if you know what I mean. Oh, do you not know what I mean? I’m talking about kissing. You must need lessons as badly as I did, if you had to ask about that.
Anyway, the rumors spread fast, and by Wednesday it wasn’t uncommon to see a steady stream of girls flitting out past the four-square courts, around the tetherball, and straight back to that old baseball field. I don’t think they even used that field when my brother Jimmy went here. And Jimmy’s in college now.
The girls look like a line of ants, marching off to see for themselves. What is Roger up to? Is it true? Is he really giving kissing lessons?
I heard from Sarah that he charges a dollar. Emmy said he charges two dollars. I’m not sure if one of them was lying about going over there, or if Roger’s prices have gone up.
But despite all this, I’m still curious. What’s a kissing lesson all about, anyway? Is it gross? Do I really want to have the same first-kiss as all the other girls at my school? Or will I be inexperienced if I didn’t do it, like how all of Jimmy’s friends went to college except Brian, and now Brian lives in his mom’s basement and talks a lot about his war-gaming miniatures. I don’t even know what war-gaming miniatures are, but Jimmy always gets this sort of sad look on his face when Brian comes up nowadays.
On Friday at lunchtime, I find my feet taking me out past the four-square courts, around the tetherball, and straight back to the old baseball field. There is one girl, Veronica, standing awkwardly around third base. I give her a small wave, but she seems so nervous she doesn’t even notice me.
I know at the bank and the doctor’s office you’re supposed to stand back to give other people privacy, and this feels weirdly similar, so I don’t walk any closer than second. I brush dirt off the old, cracked base with my toe, and check my pocket to make sure the two dollars are still safely tucked inside. I had to tell my mom there was a book fair to get money out of her. I hope she doesn’t ask me which book I bought. Wouldn’t she be surprised.
Erica emerges just then from the dugout, her face flushed. She waves Veronica inside, and I take my place on third.
“How was it?” I ask Erica, and she shrugs.
“Weird I guess.”
“But do you like…” I try to convey a largely abstract question with mere eyebrow movement, and Erica doesn’t grasp what I’m getting it. I try again in plan English: “Do you feel prepared now?”
Erica, you’re never going to get anywhere in life if you just keep guessing about everything. I feel the butterflies flare up in my stomach as she heads back to the courtyard, and then all of a sudden Veronica is walking out too. How long was that? Thirty seconds? I’m not ready!
“You’re up,” Veronica says, finally acknowledging me. I’ve learned from my mistakes with Erica and don’t bother asking her how it went. I take a deep breath, lift my head high and walk into the dugout.
Roger is sitting at the far end, a notebook and envelope beside him. He’s sitting on the bench sideways, one leg tucked under him, and he gestures for me to come over. Then he pats the seat in front of him.
“Did you bring cash?”
I take the two dollars from my pocket and hand it to him. I’m embarrassed that they’re crinkly, but he doesn’t seem to mind as he shoves them into the bulging envelope.
“Two dollars gets you a full minute.”
“Um,” I say, finally sitting in front of him. I opt for one leg on each side of the bench. He smells like the cologne my dad wears, when he and mom are going out. I immediate associate this scent with babysitters, even though I haven’t needed a babysitter in at least two years. It makes me feel weird.
“I’m your blank canvas. You can practice on me. Use me as your muse,” he says. I have no idea what that means. What’s a muse? When did anyone ever kiss a canvas?
“Are you going to like, teach me anything?”
“Kissing cannot be taught. Kissing must be felt.”
I’ve never kissed anyone in my life, aside from i-love-you kisses with my parents. I know kissing a boy is a lot different, and I’m shocked he wants me to just… go for it. In a dugout. Without any kind of prep. Does my breath smell okay? Why did I have chicken nuggets for lunch?
“Clock starts now,” he says, and sets a timer. A real timer. On his watch. I hear the little beep and everything.
I panic, and instead of thinking – I rush my face at his. Our lips are nowhere near each other, and his nose goes right in my eye. I’m instantly humiliated, but Roger says nothing. His eyes are closed. Thank goodness.
I think of the timer.
After a deep breath, I try again. My palms are sweaty and I don’t know what to do with them, so I leave them in my lap. Then I lean forward, make a little pucker motion with my mouth to match Rogers, and touch my lips to his. For a second I am frozen, eyes wide open and way too close to his face, and his warm but sort of chapped lips are unmoving against mine. I don’t think this is what it’s supposed to be like, but I have no idea how to improve upon it. I move my mouth a little, turning a bit to the side like I’ve seen in movies. Then I try parting my lips and it’s a little better, and Roger actually responds by parting his.
I’m thinking maybe I’m doing it right when his watch beeps again and he springs backward.
“That’ll be all, thank you,” he says, all business. I’m still leaning forward with my mouth slightly open, but he’s already grabbed his notebook and starting to scribble in it. I lean forward to see what he’s writing, but he covers it with his arm.
He says nothing.
“Do I get any feedback, or whatever? Was I okay?”
He looks up at me, dramatically pausing his note-taking. “You were fine. You get a 50% discount on a second session if you refer a friend.”
“I was fine?” I ask. “I just shared my first kiss with you and all you can say is I was fine?”
“Oh, I wish you’d told me that was your first kiss. I actually charge as extra dollar for first kisses.”
I’m starting to get upset. “What are you writing?” I ask, hands on hip.
“Just some business documentation. You may exit the way you came in. Please send in the next girl.”
I’m mad at him, and so I’m not thinking. He assumes I’m going to leave, but at the last second I pounce and rip the top page from his notebook. He so shocked I even have time to read it before he snatches it back.
“Amelia: kept her eyes open the whole time?!” I yell, incredulous. “You’re taking notes on all of us?”
“Well it’s just good business to keep accurate records of —“
I lunge at him and rip the entire notebook from his hands and start running. As I run around the tetherball and across the four-square courts, I flip through page after page, ripping them out as I go.
Veronica: Beads at the end of her braids kept smacking me in the face
Oh my god.
Erica: Alien tongue
Deb: I should refuse service to girls with braces
Roger is the slimiest of slime buckets.
Samantha: A+ would kiss again
Oh well good for Samantha.
“Hey! Amelia!” I hear Roger shouting behind me, but I have at least ten feet on him. “Give that back!”
I don’t know what I am going to do with the book. I could try to out him, but I don’t think that’s the best idea. If anyone else sees this, it would just embarrass the girls who trusted him. I don’t want that to happen.
I just want to end Roger’s kissing career, for good.
He’s gaining on me, so I veer toward the pond at the north edge of the courtyard.
I’m starting to panic.
Roger catches up to me and wraps his fingers around my arm, even though there’s people around. I don’t know what else to do, so on a whim, I toss the entire book into the pond.
“You bitch!” He says, and I think it’s the first time I’ve ever been called that. The book sinks below the surface, fading away into the green muck. He stares at it a moment, incredulous, before turning to me.
“It won’t change anything,” he snarls. “I’ll just get another book.”
There’s a few crumpled sheets of paper with names on them still in my hand. He realizes as soon as I do, and I shove them all up my shirt before he can grab them from me. Even Roger wouldn’t be dumb enough to put his hand up my shirt with teachers watching. I think for a moment that Jimmy would be proud of me. He’s been learning about feminism at college, and explained it to me over Christmas. I think he tried to explain it to Brian too, but I don’t think it went well.
“I’ll tell them what you did. The girls. And then we’ll tell the whole school that you’re the bad kisser.”
The color drains from Roger’s face. “That would ruin my whole business.”
He’s having a momentary internal struggle, but then he lets go of my arm. People are starting to stare. “I’ll make you pay for this, Amelia.” His voice is low and serious, but he takes a step back.
“No, you won’t Roger. Because if you stop – right now – I won’t say a word.”
“And if I don’t?”
I grin at him. “I’m not very worried about that, Roger with the chapped-lips.”
He glares at me. He opens his mouth to say something, but then he changes his mind. Then he lets out a frustrated scowl and stalks away.
I take the loose pieces of paper out from my shirt, rip them into tiny pieces, and throw it all into the recycle bin. I feel light on my feet, and a smile twinges at the side of my mouth.
For a first kiss… I’m quite proud of myself.