First Kiss by Jessica Sharp
Edited by Jack Greenslade
Cut lines Highlighted.
Added words in bold.
My first ever kiss was also my last. That’s the beginning and the end of the story, really, but I suppose what you want to hear is the middle.
Now before you start thinking I’m some sort of awful spinster or suchlike, I should tell you that I’m nothing of the sort, and I certainly ain’t ever going to be. But here I am getting ahead of what I’m trying to explain. You just listen patiently and it’ll all make sense.
It all happened in the October of 1953, when I was thirteen years old, and head over heels for this boy from my school, Michael Cartwright. Ever since the school year started six weeks before, he’d been passing me notes in class when Miss Thomas wasn’t looking. To be perfectly honest with you, I hadn’t even noticed his very existence until the first folded piece of exercise book paper appeared on my desk during one dreary science class. Michael wasn’t the handsomest or most popular boy in school, but after that, I just couldn’t think about much else.
We carried on with our furtive correspondence for a good few weeks, whilst of course pretending in the schoolyard that we’d never laid eyes on each other. I would be drawing little love hearts and arrows in English class, with no suggestion whatsoever to my girlfriends that anything out of the ordinary was going on. Finally, however, Michael picked up the courage to speak to me one Friday at the school gates, to ask me if he might walk me home. I tried hard not to look too eager, and told him of course he could.
I have to tell you that most of the walk back was excruciatingly silent. Thirteen year old boys and girls don’t really have an awful lot in common besides a vague idea that they really should be having some kind of involvement with each other, and neither Michael nor I was really the talkative type. Still, we carried on, and once we’d turned off the road across the field towards the farm where I lived, he even took hold of my hand, although it seemed a little like he thought it might bite.
In due course we reached the wooden bridge, which was really just a bunch of planks of wood, which crossed the river into the field at the bottom of our farm. We sat down on the side of the bridge, dangling our feet over the side and watching the water running past. After a little while I mustered up the nerve to thank Michael for walking me home, and he shyly offered to do the same the next Monday. At that point, I heard my mama calling from the top of the field for me to come in and do my homework. I leapt up, tangling my feet momentarily in the strap of my schoolbag, and slipped straight off the bridge into the river.
There was probably six feet or so between the bridge and the water, and it wasn’t really much of a river at this point, more of a brook, but there were a few rocks in the bottom, and it was a few feet deep. I caught my ankle in a gap in the rocks as I landed, tipping me off balance, and sending me backwards into the water, where I cracked the back of my head on more one of the rocks. It felt like lightning in my brain itself, a burst of I don’t know what lighting up my internal sky. I managed to sit up, and I saw that everything looked darker than it should. My ears felt like they were full of cotton wool, although I could just about hear Michael shouting something. I could feel the chilly water around about me, up to my shoulders, pulling at my arms and legs, and I tried to get myself more upright and out of the water. Then the darkness closed in properly, and I pitched forwards face first into the water.
Poor Michael, he didn’t have a clue what to do. Back then, kids didn’t really get taught any first aid, and all he knew was what he’d seen a lifeguard doing at the local pool back when he was about eight. Sad thing is, he had it so nearly right. He managed to drag me out of the water, once he’d gotten my ankle out from where it was stuck, and pulled me up onto the bank, where he attempted to give me the kiss of life. He was blowing the air into my mouth just fine, but poor Michael didn’t know he had to hold my nose closed, and so much of the air just came rushing straight back out, that he just couldn’t get me breathing again. By the time my mama heard him hollering and called an ambulance, I’d been blue for too long.
Of course I forgave him. When you’ve had as long to think about things as I have, you end up forgiving pretty much everything. And of course everyone ends up here in the end, even Michael, and I expect then he’ll forgive himself too. After all, at least I had my first kiss.