It started innocently enough. I was studying for an American History test at the kitchen table, my legs tucked underneath me, biting gently on the tip of my purple Bic pen. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams, I repeated over and over in my head. It seemed ridiculous to have to learn the order of the U.S. presidents. Boring to be sure, but at least history was mostly just memorization, which I could handle. It was math that reduced me to a quivering mess.
Just then my mom and her boyfriend walked in with a bunch of really hot guys, one of them being boyfriend’s son off limits and a player. I felt my face flush as I looked down at my dorky plaid uniform skirt and suddenly wished I’d stayed in my room to study. But it was too late.
Mom looked at me and said, “This is my daughter, Bella.”
There were some nods and awkward waves as they indroduced themselves. Boyfriend’s son was Brian, whom I’d already met several times, and his two friends were Travis and Bill. They wanted to go swimming, so mom had offered up our pool, apparently without thinking to give me a heads up so I could at least pretend I wasn’t a junior in high school.
The guys were joking with one another and my mom started handing them cans of beer from our fridge. I wasn’t sure, but I guessed they were in their early twenties. I quietly gathered my books and started to sneak out when one of them said, “Hey, where you goin’? You’re not gonna swim with us?” My stomach lurched and I coughed out an excuse about having to study. Then my brilliant mom butted in and said, “Bella, you really should take a break. You’ve been at it all day and if you just cram….” she dribbled off. Once the guys made their way outside onto the patio mom pulled me aside. “You should go swimming for a little while,” she said, and I could see a twinkle in her eye. My insides were doing somersaults, but I figured I had nothing to lose. I sighed and said, “Okay. I’ll go.” As I turned to head upstairs to change, she called, “Great! I’ll turn on the hot tub!” Shit!
Upstairs I put on my black bikini with the polka-dots that I hoped camouflaged my flat chest. I took deep breaths. I told myself it wasn’t a big deal. But it was. These guys were older and good looking and I felt like a kid. I shoved the feeling down and wrapped myself in a towel as I headed back downstairs.
When I went outside I was terrified to see them all in our hot tub. The pool is one thing, but sitting in a hot tub with a bunch of guys? More somersaults began. One of them (who turned out later to be Travis) saw me and said, “Hey, come on in!” I quickly dropped my towel and plopped into the water, sinking down with bubbles up to my chin so no one could see me.
We talked and when they questioned me about my test, I reluctantly told them it was for my American History class. Jokes started flying and someone said something like, “Studying? I was never really good at that part,” and they all laughed. Travis positioned himself directly across from me and began asking me about myself. How old I was, was I dating anyone, what I liked to do in my spare time, etc. Eventually I relaxed a bit. Someone handed me a beer and I made myself drink it so they wouldn’t think I was a total geek. Someone’s foot slithered up my leg and I quickly pulled away thinking it was an accident…until it happened again. I felt Travis’ eyes on me.
Later when only the backwash of my Bud Light was left, I had to pee and was dreading it, but finally couldn’t wait anymore. I stood up, quickly hopped out and hid myself in my towel. “I’ll be right back,” I said, as I tiptoed towards the door. When I walked in, the air conditioning gave me goosebumps and I left wet footprints down the hall to the bathroom. Just as I’d closed the door behind me, it opened and Travis came in. My heart threatened to jump out of my chest. “What are you doing?” I asked as I gripped my towel with my pruned fingers. He turned and locked the door, pulled me close and said, “Kiss me.”
“What?” I asked.
“C’mon, just kiss me!” he pleaded, and I blurted out, “But I really don’t know how.” Oh my God, did I really say that out loud?
The next thing I knew his lips were on mine and we stood there kissing, me not really knowing what I was doing and him not seeming to mind. He put his hands on my face softly and stepped closer to me. I could feel a puddle of water pooling at my feet and was suddenly embarrassed that the bar of soap next to the sink was the same cruddy bar that had been in there forever. And that my little brother had probably left pee all over the toilet seat. Yet this 23 year-old man was kissing me.
Something in me unraveled. I let go of my towel and it fell to the marble floor. I wrapped my arms around Travis and etched everything in my brain so I’d never forget.
There’s so much more to life than studying for a stupid test.