There are so many forms of love!
This series will address romantic love, of which there also are multiple forms. Part One deals with that soul-shocking first love, using an excerpt from my newest novel, The Eyes Have It. “You never forget your first love” is a statement made by nearly everyone who has experienced it, even after years—even decades—have passed, whether or not the love was sustained.
He stopped in front of me.
“I need to ask you something,” I said, as I tossed the last of my desk litter into my bag, Then I looked up at his face.
He smiled. The room around us receded into a haze.
Omigosh. What was that, a surge of electricity? The one that just passed through my center and blurred my vision and drained the strength from my legs? I hoped leaning on the desk to keep myself upright wasn’t obvious. I had never been this close to him. That smile could melt an Alaskan glacier! Not to mention the way his eyes lit from the inside out. They glistened. Not in a weak, teary-eyed way. Just so perceptive. No, intense. Nah, that wasn’t it either. It was like they spoke to me personally. His focus was entirely on me. What color were they? Brown with green flecks? Green with brown flecks? Not brown flecks—gold! The color seemed to change with the slightest movement of his head, like colors in a kaleidoscope. I could lose myself in those eyes. But his mouth was moving. With reluctance and difficulty I pulled myself back from that other dimension.
“You wanted to ask me something?”
His soft voice contrasted with his hard body. Good grief, I sound like a porn movie. Not that I’d ever seen one.
“Uh, yeah. A friend of mine asked me to ask you for one of your senior pictures.”
Lame. That sounded lame. Especially with my voice so high and squeaky.
“A friend of yours?” This time his voice was teasing. His eyes crinkled at the outside corners, and his smile evolved to a smirk.
“Uh, we’re going to be late for our next class. We can talk about this tomorrow.” When in doubt, escape.
He smiled again. The first one. The warm—make that hot—one.
Holy crap. My God, my legs feel like rubber.
“What?” he asked.
Did I say that out loud?
His eyes crinkled upward at the corners again. Some alien force sucked the power out of my chest and my heart fluttered.
No way. I was not like that. Boys didn’t have that kind of effect on me.
“I have my package of pictures in my locker. Meet me there after school.”
“Where?” I asked, before my more controlling inner self thought to say no, that it could wait until tomorrow.
“1302,” he said, started to turn, then added, “north wing.” He glanced at the clock, added, “Gotta go.” But before he left, he flashed one more smile. And a wink.
And where was my inner control freak when I needed her?
And, by the way, why was I not wearing my skinny jeans? For sure he would have been more impressed, right? Maybe then he wouldn’t have noticed the empty space where voluptuous boobs were supposed to be. He’d probably be relieved to know it was Chris who wanted his picture. Her chest could rival Dolly Parton.
By the end of the last period, I was back to my normal self. What had happened with Ethan was just a fluke. Maybe I was getting my period early or something. Whatever it was, the real Olivia Regan was back in charge.
My homeroom was on the first floor. Ethan said north wing. Number 1302 would be on the same floor, but at the other end of the sprawling school building. I grabbed my bag and headed for my own locker, which was almost directly across the hall from my homeroom, pulled on my jacket, and mentally itemized what I needed for my homework assignments. Including 1984. Could I read it in time to write the paper Mr. Dickenson assigned? Not a chance. Methinks I’ll see what I can find on line. Piece of cake. Methinks.
I strode confidently down the north wing in the direction of locker number 1302. Other kids crisscrossed the halls, some rushing—probably to grab a good seat on their bus—some leaning against lockers talking to others. Weaving through the human traffic, I waved to those I knew and proceeded on, scanning the locker numbers.
I felt Ethan before I saw him, and it nearly did me in. He came up behind me. The heat of his breath reached my neck before he touched my arm. My face burned, and yet I shivered. I turned toward him, convinced I was coming down with something.
We somehow communicated silently to move out of the people traffic and lean against his locker.
“Are you okay?” he asked, grinning.
“Uh, I’m fine. Just been rushing around a lot. And now I have to figure out how to write a paper on a book I haven’t read.”
He studied me.
“Here I thought you were the studious type.”
That teasing smirk again.
“Funny, I thought that would mean you always did your homework.”
Smirk or not, that was uncalled for.
“I do always do my homework. I just—well, I just don’t like reading phony history, which is what 1984 is. It was over three decades ago, and it’s not real history. But it didn’t feel like fiction. It was stupid. I couldn’t get into it.”
“Isn’t that so-called history a lot like today? Like what’s going on around us in today’s world? Maybe the reality Orwell described just took longer to evolve.”
“Hey, I thought you were a jock.”
His smirk drooped to a frown.
“What’s that mean?”
“The jocks I know don’t have a lot of interest in studies of any kind unless they involve balls.”
He cracked up. After being baffled for a few seconds about what was so funny, I wanted to climb into his locker and close the door behind me when the double meaning of my words hit.
“Why’s your face so red?” he asked, grinning, those eyes penetrating into my mortified soul.
“I must be coming down with something,” I mumbled. Lame. “Can you just give me the picture? Please? I have to get home. I have a whole book to read and write about before tomorrow.”
His eyes gleamed, but the smirk had morphed back to that deadly smile.
“Something tells me you’ll write a paper with or without the reading part.”
He touched my cheek, and I flinched. I wasn’t prepared for actual touch, and the way his touch burned my skin and turned me into mush all over scared the crap out of me.
“I’m sorry,” he blurted, pulling his hand back. “I’m sorry. It was an impulse. Obviously the wrong one.” He turned toward his locker, reached inside a bag on the top shelf, and brought out a photo. I noted he had no pictures of girls hanging in there, so maybe he didn’t have a girlfriend. Geez, what did I care? He pulled a pen from his pocket and, leaning against the neighboring locker, wrote: “Dear Olivia, I hope we get to know each other better this year. Sincerely, Ethan.”
“Uh,” I said, when I realized what he wrote. I knew he didn’t believe I had a friend who wanted it. “The picture. It really was for someone else. You know Chris? She sits next to me in class?”
His expression darkened briefly.
“So you don’t want this?” He held the photo toward me.
“Um, yeah, I sort of do. But I did promise Chris.”
That warm, melting smile returned as he studied me.
Legs, please don’t let me go down.
Ethan reached for another picture and scribbled, “Chris, hope you have a great senior year. Ethan.”
“Not very personal,” I said, reading it and returning his smile.
“Not meant to be,” he said. Closing his locker, he added, “See you tomorrow?”
“With essay in hand,” I joked.
I saw the shadow as I reached to pick up my bag. My body tensed and flashes of my self-defense course power-pointed through my brain. My bag was loaded with books and pens, ready to be weaponized. I picked up my pace. My possible assailant mirrored the move. The shadow was gaining on me. I was surrounded by a city in transition. Most streets were crammed with houses. Some older blocks had been razed for new development. The side of the street I was on was dotted with vacant lots, awaiting an eager investor. Across the street was a convenience store I rarely went in, both because I had no need most days, and because it was dark and crowded, with aisles close together. Still, it was a possible escape where I wouldn’t be alone. I remembered it was better to face the attacker than to be attacked from behind. If you couldn’t avoid a physical confrontation, aim for the parts of the body where you can do the most damage easily—eyes, nose, ears, neck, groin, knee, top of the feet. Avoid first. I stepped off the curb to cross the street. He followed. As I stepped up on the opposite curb, I gripped the handle of my bag and spun, swinging the bag as hard as I could.
“Hey!” Ethan shouted, his soccer reflexes kicking in as he deflected the bag with his elbow. “What are you doing?”
“I thought you were an assailant!” I scowled at him. “What were you thinking, following me and not telling me you were there?”
He looked a little sheepish. “I wanted to see how long it would take you to realize I was behind you.”
“I knew someone was behind me. How was I supposed to know it was you? I don’t have eyes in the back of my head! What are you doing here, anyway? Do you live around here?”
Ethan shrugged. “I live that way,” he pointed east. “Just over the bus line, but I usually walk. I just took a little detour today when I came out of school and saw you walking.”
His turn to blush. But it only made his smile brighter. He had luscious lips.
“I wanted to spend more time with you.”
Valentine’s Day was over a week away. But in that moment I felt like I understood why Cupid’s signature was his arrow, and it seemed he was on the prowl early. That was the only possible explanation for the sudden contraction and ache in the area of my heart. A wave of heat rushed through me. My hand had a mind of its own and reached out to touch his elbow.
“Did I hurt you?”
“Nah. Soccer balls come at me faster than your bag did.” He grinned. “You should work on that swing if it’s your first line of defense.”
I couldn’t pull my eyes from his face. How had I not noticed him before? I sucked in a deep breath, feeling like I couldn’t get enough air. An unrecognized feeling swelled within me, an odd combination of awe and anxiety, excitement and exhilaration, heat and happiness.
He raised his hand slowly. “May I?” he asked, as his hand approached my cheek.
I nodded, my breath hitching at the warmth of his touch. And this time I didn’t flinch. I leaned into his hand, closing my eyes, savoring the feeling that flowed through me.
“You feel it, too,” he half-whispered.
I nodded, still not understanding what “it” was, but relieved that I wasn’t alone in the feeling.
“We don’t know anything about each other,” I said, still leaning into the warmth of his hand.
“We know our feelings. The rest can follow if we spend more time together.”
“But what if the feeling doesn’t last?” A parade of casual boyfriends marched through my mind, mocking me. Even as they marched, I knew this was different.
“There’s only one way to find out.” He leaned down and kissed my forehead, sending a power surge straight through to my toes and back. “I have to go,” he continued. “I work for my dad a few evenings a week. I’m saving up for a car.” He sighed. “It’s so hard to leave you. What time do you get to school in the morning?”
“In time for the homeroom bell, but the building opens at 7:30.” Was he asking me to meet him?
“Would you come in that early?” His question so eager, so open.
I gulped a deep breath through my mouth, not quite a gasp, but close.
“Uh, sure.” Of course. Anything you want, you got it. I’m yours.
I was so screwed. I hated that. I also loved it. How could that be?
He smiled that deadly, beautiful, leg-melting smile that started this just a few hours ago.
“My locker, whenever you get there. I’ll be waiting.”
I would have been a prime victim for a predator as I walked the last few blocks home. I was on another planet. On Cloud Nine. In La-La Land. How many other clichés applied?
I felt it in my gut—life as I’d known it was about to change. Dramatically.