Mike is a delivery driver and extremely amateur writer living in Lakemore Ohio south of Akron, Ohio.
Jenny sat in the football bleachers with this boy holding his hand. She was surprised how such an old-fashioned notion as holding hands could feel so right and progressive. But after all the fighting, school work, running and whatnot she was finally here with this boy. Not the one she wanted, but the one she knew was right. Now with all the drama past, all that was left was to do what she planned. She felt that this would be a moment she would remember all her life. When they sat down, they were at arm’s length, but now they were close enough. He leaned in and closed his eyes.
Fourteen hours earlier.
Jenny woke up feeling like life changed while she was asleep. Just a few hours ago, she was a tween, but now she was officially a teenager. The training-wheels were off the bike, and she was free to ride where ever her new status was going to take her. Her house was quiet for once. Her mom was working nights, and her niece was finally sleeping through the night. Rihanna was thirteen months old. Her niece and her sister Bethany shared a room down the hall. Beth was seventeen and a poster child for what not to do as a teenager in high school. Knocked up at fifteen, she was struggling to finish school. Rihanna cried all the time. Jenny loved her niece, but she also saw her as the ultimate birth control. One night with a teething baby and a girl’s legs would remain closed. But none of that mattered now. Today was her birthday.
Firsts and beginnings
Jenny was obsessed with firsts. Her first time walking to school alone, her first time to ride a bike without help and her first kiss. She was the last girl in her group to have not been kissed. She wanted the romance of her books. In her books, boys seemed to exist only for the girls; in her reality, they seemed to only exist for Call of Duty and basketball. Her friend Jen said her first kiss tasted like Gatorade and beef jerky. Most of her friends seemed to have this awkward first encounter rather than that first perfect moment. Teenage boys weren’t interested in just kissing a girl. They either wanted it all or their video games. Jenny was also a gamer. She would go on and play against boys kicking butts and taking hits. Jenny played using a male avatar as well as a male name. She read and saw how girls were harassed for wanting to play video games, and all she wanted to do was play. Let someone else play identity politics in their spare time. She had guys to kill. She also had a guy to kiss.
Picking the boy
She knew who she wanted to be her first kiss. His name was Devlin, and he was everything she thought of when she thought about boys. Tall, but not too tall, handsome in a boyish fashion, and most of all, he was available. He played basketball and Halo. She knew him from the game, but he had no idea that his partner was a girl. Jenny decided to tell him today and kiss him tonight. She watched as other girls would walk by him with those sad cow eyes as they dreamed about something they would never have. He was going to be hers. Her classes went like any other day. Jenny felt like the day was slipping by without a single acknowledgment of what the day was.
Cells and Surprises
The school had a strict rule on phones. They had to be in their lockers or face having them taken. At lunch, Jenny checked her phone and saw she had fifty messages. Mostly emojis of cake and smiley faces. She knew that her friends were waiting for her in their lunch place. The place on the grounds where they all met to eat lunch and talk about whatever they wanted. She wanted to speak to Devlin before lunch, so she followed him to a place hidden away from prying eyes. As she walked, she wondered if he was leading her there. Just maybe her first kiss was about to happen. Jenny went to turn the corner and saw something she didn’t expect. Devlin was kissing someone else. His name was Steve, and yes, he was a boy. They were up against a wall kissing. Hiding who they were because it was no one’s business but their own. Jenny slipped away, stunned, and just a little angry. Most of all she was embarrassed, she didn’t see it before. How he never looked back at any of the girls that walked by him staring.
Her friends all talked and danced as they made plans for the weekend. Her birthday party wasn’t until next week. Her mother was working nights, so she could watch Rihanna while Beth was in class. Next week the father was going to watch her. That is, the father’s parents were going to watch her. Scott was a father in name only while his parents loved Rihanna. They would take a week and watch her, so her mother could take a break. Jenny had told her mother that she shouldn’t bother. The last thing she should have to do is deal with a gang of teenage girls on her time off, but her mother insisted they were having the party. That all seemed like a thousand years ago. Her first kiss was kissing someone else. Then the day got worse.
From her first day of school, she was plagued by a boy named Brad. He was nothing but trouble. He would pick on her at lunch then push her in the halls. Somehow, he would plan his harassment so none of the teachers would see. One day she had enough and kneed him in the boy parts just as the principal walked around the corner. Brad made sure to fall back as if she struck him hard. A suspension later, and they were bitter enemies. Brad saw her in the hall and walked over. He knocked her books out of her arms, then as she went for the books, he tried to push her over. Jenny had no idea why this boy hated her so much. He just did.
Before Brad could knock her over, another boy turned and ran into her on the ground. He went over her, and his foot struck Brad in the face. Jenny was sure she saw a tooth hit the ground. Brad and Jenny were called to a meeting with the principal. There they both learned about the cameras, and Brad was on his way to detention and just maybe worse. Jenny pictured Brad in a striped onesie breaking rocks in a fictional jail with a chain around his leg. Just outside the door was this new boy. His name was John. He apologized for tripping over her. She told him it wasn’t his fault, and that was that. This generic boy was in the rearview.
All that day, she felt the eyes of this boy on her. It felt a little stalker-like. Then it occurred to her that she did the same thing to Devlin. But that also felt like a thousand years ago. Devlin was a friend in the game and nothing more. She thought about what he would say in the game. Somehow, Jenny forgot how her avatar was male, and she used a microphone that distorted her voice. She now knew that he was hitting on what he thought was a boy and not her. Jenny felt kind of dirty in treating this boy like this, but she also wanted to keep doing it. The school day was over, and she was alone. Her friends all went home to stare at their phones. She tried to get them to watch Black Mirror, but none of them caught on. They were all just parts of the machine. She thought this as she watched her Twitter feed and IM for messages.
Dinner for One (again)
Her sister was supposed to cook dinner that night, and as usual, she was gone. Both she and Rihanna were at one of her friend’s house eating someone else’s cooking. Jenny went to her usual place and purchased her typical salad. That day she wanted to be alone. Her sister forgot her birthday and well wishes were all from her friends. Instead of going home she went to the football field near the house. She ate her salad as she watched a boy run the track that went around the field. He was shirtless and had a runner’s body all lean and fit. He was way out of her league. The boy stopped and asked her if she was OK. To her surprise, it was John.
He came into the bleachers and asked if he could sit down. Once again, it felt so old-fashioned. He sat down at arm’s length and stared out at the field. She didn’t know this boy, but she also didn’t know the boy she thought she knew. He had said something, but she didn’t hear him. All she could hear was her heart thump in her chest. Then she realized he said, “happy birthday.” Her friends texted and Tweeted it, but none of them mentioned it. Here was this strange boy saying the words she wanted to hear. She moved closer to him. He looked back at her and took her hand. He had slightly sweaty palms from either his running or the moment. Jenny wanted it to be from the moment. It felt like one of her books. A mysterious boy, a chance encounter, and circumstances that would be R rated if they were older.
The Miss and the Kiss
Jenny said, “I don’t want you to get the wrong impression.” John went to pull his hand away, but she held on. Jenny said, “I want you to kiss me.” John turned to her. He seemed nervous. She said, “it will just be a kiss and nothing more.” John nodded. For a second, she wondered if this was a mistake. He leaned in. Jenny said, “I think you are going to have to get a little closer to me.” He moved in, and they came face-to-face. He closed his eyes, which was a mistake. Their noses collided in a thump. Then quickly recovering, she turned her head to the right, but he turned to the left, and they collided again. Jenny said, “please open your eyes.” They both laughed. The laughter seemed to take all the edge out of the moment. The next time he went to the right as they met lips to lips. John jumped and said he had to go. In his haste to run away, his shorts got caught on a corner of the bleachers, and he inadvertently flashed her. John quickly recovered and ran away. He left his shirt, phone, and book bag behind. Jenny took his stuff and left a note for him.
If you want your bag back, IM me at this number. And if you can keep it in your pants, then maybe we could do that again.
© 2018 Michael Collins aka Lakemoron