If you haven’t read the first half of the story you really, really should. In fact, this entry won’t make much sense, nor will it have anywhere near the same emotional impact if you don’t start from the beginning — so go and read the first half!
It’s the last night of school, the summer ball. A coming of age for many, but I still haven’t had my first kiss. We walk away together, muted, numb, hand in hand. I turn to face her when we reach the car park and I’m reminded of just how much taller than her I am. She’s at least a foot shorter than me and still as beautiful as the day we first met, 2 years ago.
We continue to wait in silence, not really sure of what can be said; what should be said.
‘Would a kiss be out of the question?’ I’m the one breaking the silence. It would be quite a different story if she’d been the one asking.
‘You know I can’t… we can’t…’ She sounds so incredibly disappointed, held back by a promise made to someone I’d never met, her childhood sweetheart. Her fiancé. Her thief, unwittingly and unfairly stealing away the love of my life.
My dad arrives and we hop tentatively into the back of his car. I cry quietly. At least she can’t see my face or eyes. She too begins to cry. We head back to her place, both in some kind of dark void — limbo — unaware of anything beyond our immediate surroundings, intent on keeping one last crystal-clear shared memory, sharp and deeply etched. Maybe wind rushed in through an open window, or music tumbled lazily out of the radio, I don’t know. We’re both lost in the moment, crying. The car stops and for a moment silence rules. The memory of her opening the door and slowly stepping out into the dark night is quickly and vividly seared into the memories of my adolescence.
I open my door and follow her to the doorstep.
I smile in the darkness, my lips twisted into some kind of disgusting rictus; irony and self-pity rolled into one. She’d played me all along. A game that, while beautiful, had had its outcome set in stone since the day we’d first met. I’d fallen for her and she’d fallen for me, but try as we might, this parting moment had been inescapable. Preordained is the word I think they use, and I wouldn’t have minded if someone Up There had taken her from me. But it wasn’t God, nor some angelic, oiled-torsoed Adonis: it was some pesky, backward farmer boy with a predilection for big, shiny tractors.
‘Bye, Sebby.’ I nodded with finality and turned to leave. I stopped for a moment, looking over my shoulder.
‘You owe me a kiss.’ That was me talking again. I meant it.
Five years went by. Five. A lot happened in those five years. I aged from 17 to 22. In truth, I’d almost forgotten about her. She was always there, in the back of my mind, one of a few ‘what ifs’. I’m not one to linger and dwell though; my thoughts of her were of platonic curiousity rather than visceral yearning — I wondered how she’d been, if marriage had been worth it. If she regretted not kissing me that night on her doorstep. Most of what you’ve read on this blog happened after she vanished.
I know it sounds like some kind of awful Hollywood, silver-screen cliche, but I knew she’d come back. There was too much unfinished business to simply… up and leave. That’s not to say I wrote sappy love letters, or abstained from sex and relationships, hoping that one day the phone would ring — no, university came and went without contact. I begun my travels around the world — there were even trips to America and Los Angeles, close to where I thought she might be. But of course, I had no address — her mother forbade any contact. I briefly thought about quizzing people on the streets if they’d ‘seen this girl’, but the only photo I had of her was 5 years old and probably no use. Plus, people don’t really do that in real life… do they?
It was now January 2007. 20:00 January 17th, 2007 — midday, Pacific Standard Time, her time. I have new email, and it’s from her. I can’t really describe how I felt at that instant, but I should at least try: light-headed euphoria. Righteous vindication. I’m so rarely wrong — I so rarely make a bad call — but I was seriously starting to doubt if I’d got this one wrong. 5 years is a long time to leave a guy hanging for a kiss; I’m patient, but there are limits! When that email finally arrived, I breathed a sigh of relief.
Returning… — January 17th 2007
I’m considering returning back to the UK very shortly to live there for a bit.
Saw your photos. Very nice! Quite the world traveller these days, aren’t you?
I’m sure I’ll hear from you soon.
Understated, as always. A fluttering, torrential storm of mail followed as we quickly caught up, though a lot remained unsaid until we finally met again in person, a month later.
To this day, I still can’t believe she was reading my journal and looking at my photos — keeping tabs, like a voyeur. She could’ve said Hi, just once, but no, she made me wait. I guess that should’ve been the first sign that the ball was still very much on her side of the court. My heart thumped a rhythm dictated by her carefully-orchestrated maneuvers. 7 years had passed since we met, but nothing had changed.
If only I’d known that in March, when we first kissed, that this wasn’t going to be the happily-ever-after that I — we? — had so hoped for. Nothing had changed for the better — or for worse — we were still very much in love, but it wasn’t going to be an easy ride.
A year later, after some of the most blissfully memorable moments of my life, she left me again. A year of apocryphal magic — times of love, of her tiny body wrapped in my arms, her soft skin teasing my fingertips — tainted by lows that still haunt me today: would things have turned out differently if I’d whispered different sweet nothings into her ear?
Seven years of strife for a single year of part-time love.
I haven’t seen or heard from her since. I don’t think she’s coming back this time, either.