The summer rains have washed ruts into the now drying dirt beneath our feet. Graduations have come and gone, hugs have been offered more frequently, and every moment of time we can be together we are. There is one unspoken rule between us now: Don't speak of August 20th.
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This rule is fairly easy to abide by for the time being. It is June and the sun is warm, the air is thick, and my tan is excellent. It is a lazy Saturday and I find myself lounging on the couch at Brent's house. His parents will be leaving soon, so we're making plans for the day, as neither his or my parents want us to be alone in their homes.
After deciding on Shrek II, we pull our lazy bones off the sofa and make our way to the car. On the porch he stops me by gently grabbing my elbow. I wheel around to face him. I am no longer afraid to look directly into his brown eyes. He doesn't say anything, but instead he wraps his long arms around my torso. I reciprocate, reaching up to wrap his neck in an embrace.
We stand for a moment, interlocked in the warm shade on the porch. I know what I am feeling now is not just excitement and butterflies and prom jitters and everything else that comes with teenage romance. I know that what I am feeling has been bubbling beneath the surface for years. Three years ago when I saw this boy grab his guitar on that mission trip, I simply wanted to get to know him more, but now that I know is thoughts and passions, his loves and dreams, I know what I am feeling for him is more than wishful teenage hopes.
I don't dare speak my mind though, after all our first kiss hasn't even been shared. Could I really love him already? I open my mouth. Because of our embrace, he can't see me and I shut my lips together once more. We slowly release our grip from one another, and he slides his hand down my arm to my hand. Before I realize what is happening my mouth is open again and almost inaudibly I whisper, "Thank you."
Late afternoon is approaching dusk as we pull into his driveway. The movie is long over, and post-movie ice cream cones have long since been devoured through laughter and more easy conversation. His parents still aren't back, and I need to get home, so we linger in the driveway putting off the inevitable, "See ya later."
I kick a piece of gravel with my sandal covered foot as he asks me what my week looks like. "Tomorrow we have a dinner after church, so I probably won't get to see ya then. When do you get off work on Monday?"
"5:30 or 6, I'll have to check."
"I may ask Mom if you can come over for supper then?"
"Sounds good." He smiles at me and then pulls me in for another hug. I lay my head on his shoulder. We hold each other in silence for several moments.
"Okay…I probably need to head out," I say as I reluctantly pull myself away from his arms. Standing face to face, we gingerly hold hands at our sides. I tilt my head sideways, smile, and say, "Okay…I probably need to head out."
"Umm…yeah…okay…" he says distantly, looking at the ground. "But…uhh…hey, what did we ever decide about, you know?…uhh." I have no idea where this is going, and no real clue about what he is talking about. "You know, I mean…what did we ever decide about the whole kissing thing?"
WHAT?! My whole body tenses as I try to keep my face relaxed and calm, lest he know what I am thinking. Am I ready for this? My first real kiss? Have I watched enough Disney movies to know how to lean in properly to get the most magical effect? "I didn't know we were deciding something? I thought…uh…it would just, ya know…whenever it's right."
"Okay." He pulls me back in for another hug.
Seriously? All that and nothing? If this fool doesn't kiss me after…
Brent leans back from our embrace and searches my face. I try to let it say, "KISS ME!" but am afraid it is coming across as, "I have to go to the bathroom." But before I can think about it much longer, his hands wrap around my face, he pulls me closer to him, and gently allows his lips to meet mine. They linger, but just for a moment, before he pulls back. As his hands leave my face, I slowly open my eyes to meet his smile.
Before either of us can say a word, we hear tires crunching gravel and see his parents who, with their impeccable timing, are pulling up the driveway.
"Of course," Brent kids, as we wave and then walk towards my car. Beyond my mortification at having possibly shared my first-kiss-moment with his parents, I'm grateful that it has provided us a transition through the awkward post-first-kiss-moment, when no one is quite sure what to do. Do we talk about the fact that we just kissed? Do we carry on like it never happened? Do we kiss again? Do I just say goodbye now? Instead, for us, we say hello to his parents as they make their way to the house.
He opens my car door and I situate myself in the driver's seat. He shuts the door and leans through the open window. "Let me know about Monday," he says, and quickly moves forward, kisses me once more, then begins walking towards the house.
The inevitable is only one moment away at all times. August 20th loomed before us, and was now only one day away. Tonight we would be saying goodbye.
I sort through and label boxes all morning, the knot growing tighter and tighter in my stomach while waiting for Brent to get off work. I eat the sandwich my mom makes me for lunch out of necessity, not because I am hungry.
Before I know it, I am at Brent's. We have three hours before that moment. We want to spend it normally, but this task seems impossible. I help him pack some stuff, as he will be leaving in a week for his own college adventure. We make it through supper with his parents in a haze. And then it is time.
We step out into the humid air that we have grown so familiar with this summer. This summer--and that thought makes my mind reel-- evenings spent by a campfire; a date to the park that turned to a vicious rain storm which forced us into the public restrooms, we laughed and kissed as the power went out and the rain poured down; dinner time conversations surrounded by family and friends; movies together while curled up on the couch, my hand in his; worshipping side by side at church; two additional songs he wrote and sang to me. Yes, this summer had been an exceptional one and I was not ready to put it into our past while being so unaware of our future.
Before he even says a word or moves to wrap me in his honey-tanned arms, I begin to cry. Slowly but surely it turns to weeping. Before long, fifteen minutes have passed and he simply holds me in his arms, whispering, "Shhh. It's okay. Shhh."
Taking a deep breath, I finally work up the nerve to look at him. A tear is streaming down his cheek. I reach up and wipe it away and hold his face in my hands. "How are we going to do this?" I question.
"We just will. I have no doubt in that."
"Really? No doubt? It's eight hours…" I trail off as I swallow the sob that is rising in my panicking throat.
"Kels, look at me." I look up as he grabs my hand. "I told you I will wait for you through this. We'll make it work. I trust you. Okay?" Through his sad eyes I see something else. There is an earnestness in them that begins to break through my panic. "There will be no one at Ozark like you. Kels, we'll make it work."
I could no longer stifle the tears. My bleary, red eyes peer at him and trust him. I simply nod my head as he wipes my cheeks clear then wraps me in his arms again. I could stand here for hours more, in this embrace that has come to mean safety and warmth, but I can't put myself through this right now. I pull away, indicating it is time, and he grabs my face and kisses me. I can taste the salt from his tears and mine as they intermingle on our lips.