I was inspired to write this when reading the First Kiss/Best Kisses thread on AfterEllen; maybe one day I'll let the girl whose best kiss sparked my muse know that I wrote this, but in the meantime I'll just hide it here.
I met her in the elevator on the way down one evening. She was on the ninth floor, I was from the seventeenth, both of us on the way down to the ground. She was dressed for work, even at seven in the evening, in pumps and a three-piece grey suit.
"How long have you been playing?" she asked me, nodding at the soccer ball I held in my hands. I'd almost kicked it into her chest when she'd come in; instead, I managed to shove my knuckle into her left breast while attempting to save her from the ball.
It would've been a damn lucky ball. As it were, my fingers could still imagine the soft caress of the silk and the flesh beneath.
"I don't play," I said. "I didn't make the team. This is just to make myself feel better."
And then the elevator landed and her heels clicked away on the marble lobby and she said, "Have a good night,…"
"JP," I supplied, not exactly sure why I offered up the nickname I hadn't been called since fourth form.
"JP," she repeated, and it sounded like heavenly melted chocolate, "Well, have a good night, JP."
When I turned to leave the visitor's carpark, she was leaning against one of the wooden poles holding up the sheltered walkway she was under. "Hi."
"Hi," I said. I didn't know what to think. I could barely see her; I had to squint to make sure it actually was her. But she was unmistakable.
"I noticed you on my way in. You're good."
"I know," I said, the words leaving from my mouth before I'd consciously registered them. "I mean—"
She smiled, and we automatically fell into step with one another and headed back to the apartment building. "I know what you mean," she assured me. Then, when we were in the elevator, she told me, "I'm good, too. But I lost an important client this afternoon."
I kept the door open on the ninth floor. "Shit happens," was all I managed to say.
"Yeah," she agreed, a small smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. "More often than not."
After that, I think we purposely timed our exits – me on the way to school, her on the way to work. It was impossible to time our return from our respective destinations; she worked the strangest hours that I couldn't possibly fathom in my young age, to which I replied, "I'm eighteen and I waitress in a restaurant; we have very strange hours, I'll have you know," and she just laughed and touched my arm.
Soon, and it doesn't matter how it did – the important thing is that it did, it culminated into going out for drinks on Tuesday evening, and she'd tell me all about working as an IT consultant. In return, I regaled her with the uprising and downfall of the French Revolution; Robespierre and the Jacobins and the rest of the philosophes, and when we were past the initial pretension of being fascinated with the other's daily life, we talked about everything but.
Each week, I walked her to her door. Each week, I hyped myself up to kiss her because, hell, wouldn't you want to kiss her too? And each week, I said, "I said I'd kiss you tonight, so… can I kiss you goodnight?"
And each week, it was the same answer. "I can't," she said each time, "I'm thirty-seven and you're eighteen. It's just… way too big. There's a pretty young thing out there for you, and I bet she's real pretty and she's real into you."
She had this knack for dropping pop culture references into our conversations, although did Rilo Kiley count as pop culture? Each time she turned me down, it was a new song or a new movie; sometimes it was cheesy and didn't really make sense, but the answer was always the same: no.
My last night in Auckland was a Monday but I went to her place anyway to see if she was in. When she opened her door, she stood back and I entered, just standing in her doorway. She stood a little bit further in, the both of us just looking at each other.
"I've got Beck in my head," she said. "Time Bomb."
I couldn't quite figure the relevance of that. Usually, they fit perfectly into the situation or she'd fake it and later say that she was trying to test me, but this time she actually didn't have anything to say.
"Do you want a coffee?"
"No, thank you. I made my very last coffee this afternoon," I recalled happily. Hopefully, in Melbourne, there'd be no more making long blacks for customers who then wanted to know why there wasn't any milk with their coffee. "But if you've got juice…"
She gave me her small mouth-tugging smile. "Juice," she repeated.
"Yeah," I said, lifting my chin and daring her to challenge my choice, "Juice."
So she got me a glass of cranberry juice and we sat on her couch to talk. I'd never been inside her apartment before. It was clean, spacious, and white, but warm and well lit with a cream leather lounge set. It occurred to me then just how successful she was, while I was on my way to Australia on a track scholarship. My whole life was ahead of me.
I recalled every week we stood outside the door, me asking to kiss her while she carefully, gently, rejected me. It was only now that I was realising a small bit of what she was thinking every time she turned me away.
"I think I'll miss you," she told me, when I got up to leave for the airport.
I said, "I think I'll miss you too," and she just laughed and touched my arm.
Out of habit, I said, "I haven't asked. You know what I'm going to ask. And you can say no, just like you always do."
She looked at me, clear blue eyes sparkling under the bright spot-lit ceiling. "I don't want to say no."
This was different. A deviation to our play. My heart skipped beats along with the hope and my palms grew damp. "So don't."
I stood there, hesitating, wondering if she was giving me the green light, or if she was going to add some sort of "but," or variant of. But then she said, "Well, I'm standing right here."
Honestly? All I remember of it was the way she bit her lower lip as I moved closer, and how it was really everything like, and better than, what I'd imagined since the first Tuesday seven months ago. Her soft, full lips closed firmly over mine and her hand cupped my cheek. It was sweet, quick, all too fleeting, and she bit my lower lip before we separated.
"Well," she said, slightly breathless, her face still close to mine, "Have a good night, JP."
I must say, it was definitely worth the wait.