I was used to my first kiss with someone being feverish, something that happened in the hasty throes of pseudo-passion. In hindsight it always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; Nothing but hungry hands and desperate mouths acting on impulse. A drunken mistake, an act of pity, or simply the claws of an envious predator. However, some moments in life decide to be generous to me. It’s not often that I actually get to experience a genuine moment of intimacy, at least not with someone new. Most vividly I recall it happening with Will. Not even a year later and now it was happening with someone else.
Speaking of Tyler: He’s sweeter than the words that preluded our embrace. His kisses were tender and slow, obviously indulging themselves in previous desires. Not that I can blame him; I’d been thinking about it for half the night too but I didn’t expect it to happen like this. No, I expected it to be just as reckless as it usually was. I thought maybe he’d plant a sloppy kiss on me while we danced or that I’d play coy before challenging him to make out with me in a drunken game of “Truth or Dare”. I didn’t expect a heartfelt confession or a realization so deep that it made us fall into our own cessation of time. I could trust him and his careful hands, his sincere lips, and his soulful gaze. If it was any other time this year I would have already been screaming words of regret into my own ears. But I was done with that. I was free of my old habits, finished with doing things at the expense of others and beating myself up for past mistakes. I didn’t just want this, I deserved this.
I felt Tyler’s fingers curling into my hair from the base of my neck. I didn’t think I could get anymore goosebumps but I did. I’ll admit that there was always something exciting about kissing someone new. Luckily this time it wasn’t just another shot in the dark.
Eventually his hands returned to my waist and he slowly pulled away from me. I almost wanted to let out a small whine in protest.
“Didn’t see that coming,” he said, raising an eyebrow at me. The undertone of sarcasm in his voice and the reassurance of his smile made me feel confident in my impulsive maneuver.
“What, you don’t like surprises?” I asked, dancing my fingers up and down the front of his shirt.
“Oh no trust me, you keep surprisin’ me like that and you’ll hear no complaints outta me.”
“Nice to know,” I smiled.
“Hope I didn’t ruin your makeup,” he said, leaning over my shoulder to check his reflection in the car window. It was certainly better than: “You didn’t get that crap all over me did you?” I arched my neck to take a peek at my own reflection behind me and saw that, just as Tara promised, my lipstick was still in place.
“Nope, it’s all good,” I replied happily as I turned my head back around.
Tyler was still pressed against me and had just begun pulling his face away from the glass. As he went, his cheek brushed against mine and I instinctively turned to catch his lips and start kissing him again. He obliged without faltering and pulled my hips against him. I threw my arms around his neck and he moved down to my collar, pressing his lips over the skin gently. He found the sensitive space above my collar bone and gave me a small bite. The tickle from it made me giggle immediately.
“You keep that up and we’re never gonna make it back,” I said.
“That ain’t so bad is it?” he jested, kissing my lips again. Nope, I thought. Not bad at all.
Our intentions wouldn’t last so long, however. My phone started buzzing in my back pocket with a call. I tried ignoring it at first but I couldn’t help but wonder if it was Tara getting impatient. After a few seconds my mind began thinking responsibly and I stopped kissing Tyler, pressing a finger to his lips in the process. I quickly pulled out my phone just in time for the call to end and the notification to appear on my screen that I’d missed it.
“It was Tara. She’s probably waiting for us,” I said solemnly. My finger remained resting on his soft lips. “I’m sorry.”
“No need to be sorry,” he curled his hand around mine and kissed it. The tenderness of it made my face flush. He flashed me a smile, the kind that bad boys use to make unsuspecting women swoon. Though Tyler wasn’t a “bad boy”, he sure knew how to play at a woman’s heart strings. I hoped it was all with good intention. As tempting as he was I couldn’t let him distract me too much. If it wasn’t for Tara I wouldn’t really care but I didn’t want to ditch out on our first party together, not even for Tyler. She might change her mind and give me her blessing later but I wasn’t going to count on it tonight.
Tyler took a step back from me and started fumbling in his pockets in search of his keys. As he did I circled around him and plucked the pack of cigarettes from his jacket. After removing one I slipped it back into the fold and grabbed his Zippo lighter from beneath it. With a flick of the trademark lid and a single strike from my thumb the cherry ignited before my eyes. I took a drag, the cool smoke coating the remnants of his kisses. He finally found his keys in his back pocket and held them in the air as they jingled triumphantly.
“Aha! Found ’em,” he said.
I unlocked my phone and looked at the text that Tara had just sent:
“Ya’ll get lost orrrrrr”
“Got caught up talking. we’ll be back soon” I replied. A few seconds later she texted back:
“Tell Tyler you’re coming home with me tonight sry 😡
“lmao shut up. see you in a min.”
I put my phone back away and looked at Tyler. He was leaning against the door of his car waiting for me to finish. His eyes were drawn to something down the road and I got to admire the profile of his face and the composure of his frame. God damn he was gorgeous.
“Ready?” he asked after noticing I was finished.
“As I’ll ever be.”
We got in the car and pulled out to the main street. We had already gone passed the reasonable time frame for a “quick trip to the gas station” so I knew that Tara was going to expect details once we were alone. The excitement I felt at the thought of telling Tara about Tyler and I’s heart to heart—and the ensuing make out session—was a feeling I missed having. The best part was that the night wasn’t even over yet.
I couldn’t help but think about how the same feelings played out with Will. I was just hoping that it wasn’t another doomed romance that I had to tiptoe around. As part of my effort to move on I kept reminding myself that while I appreciated the experience that we shared I needed to make a conscious effort to stop making Will the default expectation of my love life. I tore myself apart thinking that he was my only shot at having someone authentic. Regardless of whether Tyler and I get romantic or not, the care that him and Tara have shown me is enough to refill the space that Will left.
“You’re not trying to save me, right Tyler?” I blurted out suddenly. Tyler, whose attention was completely devoted to the road, broke his concentration to glance at me.
“Can’t save anyone but yourself sweetheart,” he said effortlessly, making my neck prickle in delight. “I’m no white knight, you already know that.”
“Thank God. I was just thinking about something and… it seems like everyone wants a guy who will feel sorry for them nowadays.”
“Yeah, I can see that.”
“I used to think I did too.”
“I dated a few of them. Stupid girlish fantasies screwed up my insight and I ended up wasting both my time and theirs.”
He lit up another cigarette and I watched from the corner of my eye. Smoke tumbled out of the window and disappeared behind us. The street lights shined into the car with alabaster beams. I watched the shadows roll away from Tyler’s face each time we drove by, revealing his handsomeness in a milky glow. He was one of those guys who would probably get to enjoy his looks for many decades to come. I noticed his long eyelashes and the other more delicate definitions of his face. I wondered how many times he’d looked at my features in admiration too.
“In your defense, a lot of boys think they have a thing for sad girls too. Sometimes it’s ’cause they really care. Other times they think it’ll make ’em feel better by being with someone more fucked up than they are. Usually they wanna lay claim to ‘fixing’ her under the guise of love,” he said.
I started laughing. “Oh, like my ex?”
Tyler began laughing as well. It felt mean for a moment but it was still true, at least from my new understanding of it. It’s hard to deny that you had an affinity for pity parties and mishandling disappointment. My light-hearted quip, as I’d later find out, would have more weight to it than I thought.
“I can’t laugh too much now. I’ve made the same mistake,” Tyler said honestly. “Of course after I got over it I met Rebecca like, the next year. She wanted the knight in shining armor back. She wanted somebody to fix her and I couldn’t help but try.”
“Maybe that’s what went wrong; Will was supposed to be with her and you were supposed to be with me.”
“Shit I guess,” he laughed. “But then none of us would’ve learned a fuckin’ thing.”
“True. I’m sure they’d be happy though,” I said, leaning back into my seat. Tyler grimaced and tilted his head side to side.
“I dunno… I care about Becca, I do, and I wish her the best in life but… holy shit. Even your ex would’ve blown a head gasket. Once we shacked up the poor girl needed me for everything. Paying the bills, doing her job applications, making appointments. She would have failed two classes had I not picked up her homework.”
“Are you serious?” I responded.
“Not everything that glimmers is gold I guess. Remember those insecurities I told you about? Impenetrable. I tried to help her, I really did. I thought maybe she’d been really hurt or something, that she just had some emotional issues. But no, it was literally just the way that she was. She didn’t want help. When you’re used to a certain lifestyle it’s kinda hard to learn the opposite.”
“It’s kinda sad in a way for her y’know? Will was pretty insecure too but that was because of an ex. He pretty much expects everyone to cheat on him or something.”
“Oh Becca had that deal going on too. She was on my phone so much you’d think it was her’s.”
“She had to keep tabs on all your side chicks, duh,” I teased.
“Haha, yeah. ‘All my side chicks’. All zero of ’em.”
We finally turned into the neighborhood where the house party was at. The car continued weaving through the dark streets and back to the secluded cul-de-sac. Judging from the continuous music and the amount of cars still lined down the road I knew that the party was still going strong. Tyler parked close to the same spot as before and we got out of the car.
“So, is this our dirty little secret?” he asked as we started walking towards the house. He wrapped an arm around my shoulders and I pondered for a moment.
“Is it supposed to be?” I inquired back, looking at him. He shrugged and gave me an unbothered expression.
“No, not at all. I just didn’t know if you were like, worried about your ex getting pissed or—”
“I really couldn’t care less,” I said bluntly.
I was almost a bit annoyed that Tyler brought it up. It’s not like Will owned me or something. I always thought those little codes about dating exes were stupid anyway. I’ve seen too many people causing drama about someone dating their ex even months after everything was said and done. If there’s distance established, it shouldn’t matter. I thought I would be upset about seeing Will with another girl but now I’m not so sure. Besides, why should he get the benefit of seeing me that way?
“It’s not like we broke up yesterday,” I continued. “He’d probably be mad that I was out having fun anyway and not like, crying at home or something.”
I could taste the sudden bitterness in my mouth like an open wound. Maybe all that trash-talking about our exes got me riled up. Tyler knew I was bothered and gave me a comforting squeeze.
“Hey now, I’m sure it ain’t all like that. Besides, you’re a grown woman. You can do whatever you want.”
“You’re right…”I said quietly.
“Just be happy,” he rubbed the side of my arm and my nerves started coming back down. “Enjoy what’s goin’ on right now.”
“Oh I am, trust me.”
“That’s good…” Tyler slowed down his pace and stared ahead. I didn’t think too much of it until he stopped walking completely and took his arm off my shoulders. He started running his fingers through his hair and looked up at the sky.
“Are you okay?” I asked as I placed a concern hand on his arm. He started shaking his head and chuckling.
“I just realized I’m fucking blitzed.”
“You’re kidding me,” I said with a laugh.
“Do you want to go inside still?” I asked, waving towards the house. He squinted at the over-crowded home in consideration. I know I wouldn’t want to go back in if I was him, at least not right away.
“Just… Tell Tara we’re going for a walk.”
I nodded and got out my phone again. I told her that the brownies had finally kicked in and Tyler didn’t feel like being surrounded by people right now. Between the nicotine of his last few cigarettes and the endorphins from our intimate little moment together he was doomed to succumb soon. The weed and alcohol was—admittedly—still circulating my system too. I wasn’t entirely sober myself but I sure wasn’t on Tyler’s level either. Luckily I still had a whole Gatorade to finish and get re-hydrated with. When Tara replied I was expecting some kind of annoyance but she simply said: “lmao ok“.
“Aren’t you high too?” Tyler asked as we redirected our path to the sidewalk. I slipped my fingers around his.
“On life maybe,” I grinned. “Thanks to someone.”
“Oh yeah? And who is that?” he asked, playing dumb.
“I dunno, take a wild guess.”
“Hmmm…give me a hint.”
I stopped walking and moved in front of him, bringing my hands up to rest on his shoulders. He watched me as I drew around the curves of his arms and back to his collar. I kept my eyes lowered and focused on the little pictures I was tracing.
“He’s…about six feet tall. A real sweetheart. Smokes Marlboro Midnights…” I mused. Tyler looked up in feigned thought.
“Tries to act cool and distant? Hangs out with cute girls named Brooke? Think I know a guy,” he said with a wink.
“Oh yeah? Isn’t he devilishly handsome?” I asked, still playing pretend. Tyler slipped his hands through the opening of my cardigan and around the exposed skin of my waist. I slowly pressed into him.
“Oh now you’re just flatterin’ me,” he purred. High or not, Tyler was smooth. I could tell by the look in his eyes and the slight part between his lips that he wanted to kiss me again.
“I would never,” I said incredulously. I reached up and lightly touched his bottom lip before giving the line of his jaw a caress. He took the cue to close the space between us and didn’t waste another moment subjecting his lips to the deprivation of mine.
These moments of sweet escapism weren’t destined to last all night, however. It was as if the universe didn’t want us to get too caught up in ourselves and our newfound feelings just yet. When we took a moment to break away I looked behind Tyler and saw that Tara was walking around the cul-de-sac, probably in search of us. He saw me watching her and turned to see for himself.
“Looks like she’s ready to leave,” he said.
Tyler sighed and rolled his shoulders back. “Dammit.”
We started walking back down the pavement and towards the house. To keep with my vow that I didn’t care what Will, or anyone, thought about me and Tyler, I held on to his arm as we went. Tara finally spotted us and waved.
“I wish I didn’t have to go,” I said as I waved back.
“I mean, it’s not like your mom’s picking you up. It’s just Tara,” he laughed.
“I know but…”
I could see Tara beaming as we got closer. I knew that she wanted something to happen between me and Tyler but I really didn’t want to just disappear without talking to her first. And as much as his temptatious nature was dividing me I was eager to tell her about our night. She’s known him longer than I have so it seemed like a good sign that she would egg me on. Tara was obviously a sweet girl and wouldn’t push me into the arms of a bad guy, at least not purposely. She’d heard all about my other shitty relationships and failed romances. Something about Tyler clearly gave her good faith.
“Besides, I feel like I should let you go home and get some rest,” he continued.
“I could get rest at your place,” I insisted with a nudge. “I’ve done it before haven’t I?”
“Yeah but if you came over…” he leaned close and lowered his voice. “We both know it wouldn’t be to get some rest.”
I punched him in the arm, not because I was taken back but because he was probably right. He started laughing at me.
“What’s so funny Tyler?” Tara asked once we got close. She put her hands on her hips and looked at him with an unintimidating glare.
“Fuckin’ everything thanks to your goddamn drugs.”
“Oh don’t be such a baby,” she hissed.
“Where’s Lana?” I interrupted.
“She was whisked away by responsibility,” Tara replied dramatically. “She’s opening shift tomorrow.”
“Damn, well sorry we were gone so long,” I said.
“It’s okay,” Tara pulled her keys out her purse and tossed them to me. Somehow I was quick enough to catch them. “You’re driving though. I’m a teensy bit drunk.”
“What about me?” gloated Tyler.
“What about you?” Tara said, her faux attitude gleaming through. He scowled at her and she waved it off with a laugh.
“I’m kidding! How about weeeeee… Go grab some food and relax? That way I can eat my weight in chicken nuggets and you can come down off that high of yours,” Tara suggested.
“Now we’re talkin’,” Tyler rubbed his hands together.
“Come on Brooke, the night is still young!” Tara sang as she skipped towards her car. I smiled and followed her, pulling Tyler along with me.
We all hopped into Tara’s car and drove out to the closest 24 hour fast food joint. After a short wait at the drive thru, which was lined with a few other cars coming from the same party, we got our food and found a place to park nearby. Tara immediately tore into her twenty piece order of chicken nuggets while Tyler savored a double cheeseburger and fries. I settled for a grilled chicken sandwich and a chocolate shake. As we ate we listened to Tara tell us about what we missed at the party while we were gone. I guess she witnessed two separate breakups and almost got into a fight with another drunk girl who mistakenly assumed she was her boyfriend’s side chick. Luckily Tara was able to quickly convince the girl that she had no idea who she or her boyfriend was. After that the girl apologized vehemently and collapsed into Tara’s arms and started crying.
“I was like, laughing at this girl at first because I couldn’t believe she for real wanted to throw hands at me. She swore on her whole family that my name was Taylor. I was like: ‘oh my god bitch look at my driver’s license. My name is T-A-R-A’. Then she felt hella sorry and started crying. I had to hug her because I felt so fuckin’ bad. I told her she needs to be boxing her boyfriend, not some hoe named Taylor.”
“If I was there I seriously would have just turned to you and been like: ‘Wow Taylor quit lying’,” I replied. Tara smacked me in the arm and Tyler laughed.
“Of course you would. You just want to see me get my ass beat.”
“Don’t be modest Tara. You know you can fight,” Tyler added.
“Look at me dude,” she said sternly. “I weight a buck ten. No gains. Tiny hands. I’ve fallen over because the fuckin’ wind was blowing too hard, Tyler.”
“You’re bulletproof,” I grinned.
The three of us continued to talk about the party until we finished our food. When I turned on the car again I was actually surprised to see how much time we’d killed. I asked Tyler if he was feeling a little more “down to earth” and he nodded. Tara mentioned how drowsy she was now that we’d eaten and we all agreed to call it a night. I drove Tyler back to his car and we had a quick, unceremonious departure from one another. After he wished us a good night and thanked me for inviting him we all exchanged promises to start hanging out more. I watched him, the focal point of my attraction, walk away as I rolled up the window. We hadn’t even made it out of the neighborhood when Tara nearly jumped on me with excitement.
“So!! What happened?!” she squealed. I felt her gripping my arm as if she was trying to squeeze the truth out of me.
“Jeez Tara, ease up on the vice,” I laughed. She removed her hold on me but kept her eyes locked with intensity. I continued:
“Well, we went to the gas station right? And he bought me a Gatorade and we shared some cigs. He had told me before that he thought I was super cool and was glad that I went with him.”
“Ohh! Has he hit on you before?”
“Not really. Tonight we were just kinda flirting low-key the whole time but I figured it wasn’t really gonna go anywhere.”
“Why wouldn’t it? You’re a babe, inside and out,” she said. I laughed and tried racking my brain again.
“Because…I don’t know actually. I don’t know why I thought that,” I sighed. I knew why, I just didn’t want to go into it with Tara. Before kissing Tyler I was dealing with a hefty mix of feelings; Lingering guilt from my time with my ex, nervousness at getting so close to someone new, and worry that I might just mess it all up. There was a lot going on in my head that made me think Tyler and I weren’t going anywhere. I’m just glad that it all turned out to be fruitless.
“I know why,” Tara teased. “Because you’re silly. So what happened next?”
“He asked if I was really okay after the breakup because he was worried that I was putting on a front about it. I told him that I was really doing better, I actually mentioned how I felt like I could really talk to him, for hours even. So then he asked me why I didn’t.”
“What was he like, pissed?”
“No, he wasn’t pissed. He was just curious why I kept space between us until now. And I couldn’t really explain it at first but I had an epiphany about Will and our relationship; I realized that I couldn’t keep losing myself in guilt and that I had a good opportunity standing right in front of me. So I asked Tyler why he cared about me so much because I honestly wanted to see what he’d say. He explained how I just stuck out to him, that there was something about the way I handled myself that made him trust me more than other people. I think his exact words were that I was someone worth investing in.”
“Makes sense. I mean the first time you guys met was a pretty unique introduction to one another. What’d he say next?”
“I asked him if he’d still think I was worth it if he didn’t have anyone else to compare me to. He said yes. Next thing I know I wanna kiss him really bad. I mean, I’ve been sorta warming up to Tyler lately anyway but tonight was off the charts. After being so genuine with me I wanted to take a chance, so I did. I kissed him.”
“Annndd?” Tara leaned in closer to me. I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I remembered.
“It was awesome. Beyond awesome; It was fuckin’ amazing. Earlier he was joking about how he comes off as ‘cool and distant’ or whatever, but once those walls come down he just makes me forget about everything. He’s charming, he’s smart, he’s sexy, he’s….ugh.”
Tara was clapping her hands together in elation. “Yes! Oh my god, I was praying for this to happen I swear. Tyler really is one of those guys who you can honestly connect with.”
“That’s what kind of sparked it in the first place. He’d gone through a rough breakup too so he knew the deal. It was so easy to talk to him about everything. When we first met he made me hopeful that Will and I might still have a chance. I wasn’t really thinking about him like that but the chemistry was still there. Besides, he gave me the vibe that he had left over feelings for his ex too.”
“Oh Rebecca? I knew her,” Tara said thoughtfully. “Bit of a mess but she has a good heart, that’s what Tyler liked about her. I wouldn’t worry about it though. To be honest I don’t think Tyler knew whether to feel sorry for her or in love with her most of the time. It’s not like they’re buddy buddy now anyway, not since she moved on with that other guy.”
“Yeah…” I focused back on the road. How ironic would it be to finally meet the right guy just to watch him get back with his ex? I don’t think I could survive another hit like that.
“Don’t worry, Tyler’s pretty feely. If he was still caught up with her he wouldn’t have been making moves on you.”
“You’ve got a point,” I replied.
Tara relaxed back into her seat, reaching for the lever in order to recline it for the rest of the ride home. “Now let’s see if he sends you the ‘let me know when you’re home‘ text. That’s how you know it’s real,” she said.
Sure enough, not even five minutes later I felt my phone buzzing again. I asked Tara to grab it so that I could keep my eyes on the winding highway ahead of me. She let out a happy sound and flashed me the screen.
“Tell me when ya get home safe 😉“ said the text.
“What a sweetie,” she mused. “I am living through you right now.”
“Oh yeah?” I asked, amused by her excitement. I had forgotten how it felt to have a friend who genuinely felt happy for your well-being. Most of my old friends would be probably be bitter or try to redirect my focus to a less positive outcome.
“You deserve this so much,” she said.
I nodded at her words, believing in them wholeheartedly. I did deserve this, this and everything good that’s happened to me lately. This was a fresh start and I wasn’t going to let anyone take it away from me.