Love Me Not

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This was it, the moment of truth. Candi Samples was pulling out my valentine from its envelope.

Not an ordinary valentine, mind you. A deep red card covered on the outside with candy hearts hand-glued by Yours Truly. Each displayed my feelings for the blue-eyed, long-haired blonde from California: “True Love” “Crazy 4U” “Angel” and “Be Mine.”

On the inside, right in the center of the card, I glued a pink heart stating my true desire: “Kiss Me.”

It had cost me everything — a whole fifty cents, but it was about to be worth every penny. The palms of my hands started to sweat. Would she smile, blush, or even come over and offer up a kiss? I could hardly stand the wait. Anticipation was about to kill me.

Of all the kids living on Flamingo, I would be the last one to receive that elusive first kiss. But having to wait so long would make it even sweeter.

Neighbor Thomas received his kiss the first day of school from an older girl he didn’t even know. Although really an accident, it still counted.

While getting off the school bus, a fifth grader stumbled and fell to the ground, spilling the contents of her book bag on the concrete. A step behind her, Thomas quickly helped her get back to her feet and collected the scattered books, pads, and pencils. The reward for his act of gallantry — a quick kiss on the cheek.

The very next month while Bubba Hanks and Blabber Mouth Betsy were walking home from school, dark clouds finally opened, and rain started to fall. He gave her his raincoat so she and her new pink dress wouldn’t get wet. Once home, she gave Bubba the coat back and then gave him something else – his first kiss.

In October, Goofy Steve also got kissed. Sure, it was during Halloween, and the kiss was from a good witch who was trick-or-treating, but it was still a kiss, nonetheless. The good witch, we think, was Betsy’s best friend Tina.

Even the kid we all called Booger had gotten his first kiss. He said it was the sweetest kiss ever. During the pancakes with Santa breakfast at our school, Booger said Mrs. Santa Claus kissed him. (Later we found out Mrs. Claus was actually his mother, but we still counted it.)

By February of my third-grade year at Mt. Olive Elementary School, every kid living on Flamingo had been kissed except me. But all that was about to change.

Old Mrs. Crabtree had her back to the class, so even from her seat one row over, Candi could get away with a peck on my cheek if she was quick.

Holding my breath, I watched as she opened my oversized valentine. She read my desire, then looked over at me. That’s when it happened. The impact was so sudden; I really didn’t know what to do. The entire class heard it, and the subsequent comment, and then started to laugh.

“How’d ya like that kiss, Lover Boy?” The golf ball-sized wad of wet paper that had splatted loudly on my neck was now sliding down my shirt. It had come flying from the back of the classroom compliments of my archenemy Down the Street Bully Brad.

Old Mrs. Crabtree quickly yanked him out of his chair and out into the hallway by his ear. Bully Brad’s cries of “Owee! Stop that! That hurts!” echoed all the way down to the office.

She didn’t fool around when it came to spitballs thrown in her classroom. But the real damage and hurt had been done. Laughter followed me around the school for the rest of that day. And I knew, without a doubt, I’d be an old man before my first kiss – if ever I got one at all.

Embarrassed beyond belief, I walked home that afternoon by myself, pausing just for a moment in front of Candi’s house to think about what might have happened if I hadn’t been so foolish as to send that silly valentine.

Then it happened. Out of nowhere, I felt something on the side of my face, and then just as quickly it was gone. For a second I thought, somehow, Bully Brad had escaped from afterschool detention and flung yet another spitball. But I was wrong.

A soft angelic voice said, “Thanks for the valentine. It was really sweet.”

I watched Candi walking up her front steps and unlocking the front door. Pausing for a moment, she turned and tossed a smile at me before disappearing inside.

Staring at her front door, trying to understand what just happened, the rest of the world faded from view. Is this what love feels like? That’s when it hit me.

As the dirt clod smashed into the side of my head, Bully Brad growled, “Miss me, Lover Boy?”

That day, in front of Candi’s house, I got my first kiss … and something else I’ve never forgotten — the answer to my question.

Love can really hurt.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]