May 15, 2023

The First Cut is the Deepest.

And she is 15, almost 16.
And she is falling in love for the first time, with a boy she knows she has no business being with.
But, he is wild, and funny, and bad, and cool.
And sister, that’s all she wrote.
He had her at his casual hello.
He had her at his too long hair, his prominent nose, his weird grin.

And it is Candlewood Lake in July.
Lazy summer days, uncounted.

And they are floating on big black tires, the ones from a local gas station, the ones the guy at the gas station blew up for them, the ones the boy threw into the back of his truck, the ones she pressed between her hands to check for firmness.

And he is telling her all the things a good girl likes to hear, a girl who is trying like hell to not let go of being good, a girl who is trying like hell to look sexy and older for this moment, a girl who was trying, a few hours before, with the extra mascara, the extra Kissing Potion, the extra mist of Love’s Baby Soft.

“You look pretty,” he said.
“You don’t even have to try,” he said.

But boys just don’t know.

When he said the words, their tires bumped, sending her drifting away, and he followed her, quick doggy paddling that made her giggle.

“Every Breath You Take” floats through the air, the bass cantering along inside a summer breeze, the notes and the melody hanging in a haze of sunshine that casts a spell over the lake, over the two sweet teenagers who can’t get enough of each other.

Every Little Thing She Does is Magic and he just can’t get enough.

He can’t even think.

And she has no idea this will end in tears.
How his callous goodbye will break her teenage heart, an innocent heart that will need time to recover from this first bruise.
He’ll ask her to meet him in the senior hallway after Chemistry.
He’ll tell her, “This isn’t working anymore.”
He’ll tell her, “Let’s just be friends.”

But here and now, the blow off is a far-off thing, a thing that doesn’t exist, a thing, just like air, that isn’t present until you breathe it in.

Here and now, her navy blue one-piece is bursting with a ripe fruit salad—all Golden Delicious and honey mangos and nectarines and pink passion.

Her long hair is wet and slicked back, and they do not talk much.

Later, he’ll kiss her completely and ask her out and they will be a couple, a thing, a thing to talk about with her friends, a thing that makes going back to school way more exciting.

He cracks a joke. He has a genuine wit, this one with the tan skin, the white teeth, the smooth, muscular arms.

And she throws her head back, laughing for real.

They both have brown eyes—hers like heart-shaped milk chocolate drops and his like dark sophistication but ready for trouble.

Here and now, the Gods of Youth have sprinkled enchanted dust, a dust that captures a moment in time.
And they are high, inhaling the power of it, all of it lost to the past now, perhaps, but she remembers.

She remembers how it felt, how he wrapped her in his arms, how he told her it was love for real, and how he smashed that fantasy to bits, how her hand slipped into his pleading, and how he dropped it without remorse, how that very hand had cupped her breast, how those fingers had entered her forbidden valley, how important it was to her that he be the first pioneer.

And when she remembers this, she doesn’t smile wistfully, and think it was nothing.
It was once upon a time, a time long ago, but she knows it made her stronger.

Because it took forever to heal.
Because the first cut is the deepest.


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