The first time we kissed was innocent.
As we walked along the sidewalk toward her elementary school, the old street lights dimly showing us our path, she slid her hand into my own, which she often did. It was a cool, windy summer night and she was sleeping over. Her parents were out that night; it was before they divorced. They were out dancing, I think, or drinking. I don't remember which.
We weren't supposed to be out of the house, of course. We were only 11 and 10 respectively- her birthday was before mine -and my parents were understandably quite paranoid.
'The moon is pretty,' she said to me as she stared out the window, her hands tapping lightly on the pan.
'Yeah,' It was Link's third time defeating the giant spider on the first level of The Ocarina of Time and I was well on my way to the second level when she came over and stood in front of the television screen.
'You're not even looking at it.'
'Looking at what?'
'Oh.' I rolled my eyes and paused my game, setting the Nintendo 64's controller down on the macaroni spotted carpet. I dusted off my ripped jeans and shoved my hands into my pocket as I casually strode to the window. I stood before it and poked my head forward, looking up at the round white moon that adorned the sky.
'Isn't it pretty?'
'Yeah.' I replied, this time sincerely.
'I bet the moon kingdom is having a party right now, huh?' she asked as she leaned against me. I remember taking a sharp intake of breath then and not knowing why I did it, but recognizing that I did not want her to move away.
'The moon kingdom doesn't exist.'
'Yes, it does.'
'No, it doesn't, silly.'
'Don't call me silly,' she whined, rubbing her nose against my shoulder.
'Then don't say silly stuff.' My heart beat was beating faster.
'You're the one who watches Sailor Moon!'
'I do not!'
'Do too!' she moved away from me and I immediately felt colder, calmer. I turned around to see what she was up to and watched in horror as she rummaged through my video games and movies, taking out one by one my Sailor Moon VHS tapes.
'Put those back!' I exclaimed rushing over and grabbing the tapes from her warm, pale hands. I shoved them into the back of my collection. She stood up and walked huffily back to the window. I stayed beside the T.V. We were silent.
'I'm sorry,' I said after a moment, standing up and putting my head onto her shoulder, leaning down a bit to match her height.
'Don't call me silly.' I could hear the pout in her voice.
'Okay. I'm sorry.'
She continued to stare at the moon and I continued to lean against her shoulder.
'I want a better view.'
I lifted up the window and pushed out the screen, the way I often had when my mom had forgotten something at our house and needed me to sneak into my room, so that we wouldn't wake up the drunken giant, my stepdad.
I was the first to step out of the one-story house and then helped her out of it.
Though the elementary school was only a ten-minute walk from my house, our short legs felt as though we had been walking for a half hour. We both jumped the gate and headed toward the playground.
We sat beneath the hood, right at the top of the slide, the way we had many nights before without our parents knowing. The moon was always pretty at the top of the slide.
'It's prettier when you're outside,' she said as always.
'Yeah.' I still wasn't looking at the moon.
'Sorry you had to stop playing your game.'
'It's okay. I beat it already.'
'I know. But don't you think it's pretty?'
'Do you think the moon kingdom is having a party?'
'Do you think it's pretty?'
'No, the kingdom. Do you think the kingdom and princes and princesses are pretty?'
I laughed, 'Princes can't be pretty!'
'A prince and princess are probably getting married, right now. Like Serena and Darien, huh?'
'Yeah, like Serena and Darien. They're probably kissing right now!'
'Ewww!' she made a face of disgust and giggled quietly, 'You know, my mom says that my name means 'Dear Moon' or 'Beloved Moon.' Cara-Soma. Maybe that means I'm a moon princess too!'
'You'd make a pretty princess.' I replied and blushed a bright red, noticeable even despite my dark skin.
'I think you'd make a pretty princess too.' She said shyly. 'I wonder if two princesses can get married?'
'No,' I said, 'Only a prince and princess can get married.'
'Because only a prince and princess can kiss. That's what my mom says.'
She was silent for a moment and looked at back at the moon. She was scratching her left arm, like she often did when she was in thought.
'I think you'd make a pretty prince,' her voice had gotten quieter. I said nothing.
'Well, so… kissing is gross.'
'We should go back.' She nodded and walked around me, to leave the playground.
'Hey, Evey?' She said, before her departure.
'Yeah?' I did not expect my voice to be as hoarse as it was, nor did I expect the chaste kiss she planted on my lips before slipping down the giant yellow slide, giggling the whole way down.
I had a giant smile on my face as I followed her.
You would think that, after something like that, some things would have been realized. For Cara, things had been. Her second kiss was in the sixth grade with a geeky brunette named Sarah Foster who Cara had befriended after being partnered with her for a school project. She had her first girlfriend in the eighth grade. Her name was Jeanette Mitchell, a tomboyish blonde who had a thing for matches, Edgar Allen Poe, and The Cure.
All the while, we stayed friends and nothing more, growing closer as the years passed with Cara teasing me about our childhood kiss and how I had yet to add on to my experiences with any 'lucky' boys… or girls, she would add coyly.
She came out to her parents right after she broke up with her second girlfriend, Winter Brigs, and pursued a more serious relationship with a girl who was two years older than her- a senior in high school. My mom and stepdad had divorced when I was twelve and by this time, both of her parents had divorced and were seeing other people.
Thus, she sat down all four of her parental figures on the long couch in the living room, with me on the loveseat, ready to defend her at any time.
'Are you sure you want to do this?' I had asked as she prepared in her room several minutes before. 'They don't have to know yet, you know. You could wait until college or something. When they can't kick you out.' I knew Cara's parents were fairly laidback, much more so after their divorce. Happier, I guess. They were 'non-practicing' Irish Catholics, unlike my deeply Evangelical mother who loved me but would surely cast me on the street if I ever pulled a stunt like this.
'They won't kick me out,' Cara coddled, as she patted down her clothes and checked herself in the mirror. Then she turned to me, flashing a brilliant but nervous smile, and kissed me on the cheek. 'Wish me luck!'
I remember wondering, with an acute sense of anger and overprotection, why Lindsey, the new girlfriend, hadn't been there to give support. But I didn't voice my thoughts.
When Cara announced, with little preamble, that she was gay- 'a God-fearing, woman-loving, girl-kissing, college-bound, straight- A lesbian,' the room was silent for about a split second before her father's girlfriend Rebecca shrugged and asked anyone if they were hungry.
Her mom smiled encouragingly and said, 'Oh, that's nice dear. But it was rather obvious with the other girl… that friend who used to sleep over all the time and then suddenly disappeared…'
'Winter,' her dad offered.
'Yes, her. See, sweetheart? We're not as blind as you think we are. Now then, since you gathered us all here, let's not waste a nice Saturday afternoon. Is everyone okay with sandwiches? Rebecca, come help me in the kitchen, will you?'
And the adults dispersed, leaving me wide-eyed and open-mouthed as Cara stood front and center in her living room, staring at the empty couch that her parents had just occupied.
Then she broke out into a laugh, 'That was awesome!'
It was, indeed, awesome for her. She continued to have a myriad of other relationships soon after Jennifer, with whom she parted ways after the older girl went off to college. She even brought a few girls home to meet her family. And me, of course.
As for my personal life, I continued to live vicariously through Cara, having little interest in the boys around me and never daring to look at another girl, though I found it increasingly harder to do after each Volleyball game as we showered and changed in the locker room. Instead of dating, I found solace in studying and working hard, making Varsity Captain in my senior year and becoming copy editor for the school yearbook. I didn't make straight A's like Cara- God knows how she did it, what with her being too busy getting caught with her girlfriends in the bathroom all the time. But she was a hard worker too, and a charmer to boot. There was never evidence on her record of any sexual misconduct.
My grades and activities helped land me a spot in the freshman class of San Francisco State University; of course, Cara got into UC Berkeley. We never did like being too far from each other.
In the summer before we would be leaving our homes and going off into the world of college undergraduates, I began dating a boy named Luke Skylar. I'll admit that I was more attracted to his name than his looks, but he was a handsome boy. Tall, with curly brown hair and light blue eyes, and pants that fit a bit too snugly. He was going to attend the California College of the Arts and loved to make plans, especially ones that concerned us. Cara didn't like him and he wasn't too fond of her either.
After our third date, our relationship was consummated with our first kiss. When I told Cara that I finally had my second kiss, she wasn't as pleased as I thought she'd be.
'Oh,' She had said, as she thumbed through the latest issue of Entertainment magazine. I expected her to jump up excitedly and tackle me to the ground, demanding details. How was it? Did you like it? Was there tongue? How'd it happen? Tell me, tell me, tell me!
But there was none of that. Just a simple "oh" as she lay on her bed, her long white-blonde tendrils framing her face.
'Yeah…' I said, unsure of how I might continue and decided to keep talking, to fill the awkward silence that had ensued. 'We uh… he walked me to the door and just sort of leaned in and that's it. It felt weird… like, I felt awkward because I was a little shy, you know? I had never kissed anyone before… I mean, never really kissed anyone. You don't count,' I tried to laugh at this and expected her to do the same, to begin teasing me as she had done so many times in the past.
Still, she remained silent, her lips in a thin line as her eyes stared hard at some article the magazine was opened to.
'Uhm. So yeah.' I continued, 'There was tongue, but that got a little awkward too. It felt good, though… the kiss, I mean, overall. I mean, it didn't feel bad. Not really what I expected a kiss to feel like… with like fireworks and that whole 'butterflies in your stomach' feeling but it was…you know…' I started getting nervous again. I didn't know what to do with the reaction, or lack thereof, that she had provided me with.
Then suddenly she closed the magazine and stood up, stretching a little as she did so. 'Well, I'm happy for you. It took you long enough!' She gave me a weak smile, 'But I'm tired now, so I think I'm going to bed. Do you want to stay over the night?'
'No…' I said, somewhat confused. 'Ah, no I'll just…I'll go home. You rest. I have to start packing anyway.' We hugged and I departed.
We didn't see each other for three weeks after that, which was the longest time interval our friendship had ever experienced, not including when she left for cheer camp the whole summer of eighth grade and I cried for two days straight. I tried getting in contact with her, but she always had an excuse or was doing something else, too busy for me.
During that time, Luke and I got closer and kissed more frequently, making me feel much more like a pro each time. Still, that butterfly feeling had yet to overtake me. It was merely an action of affection to me, like holding hands.
When we finally did see each other, Luke and I were on a date to the movies. Cara was in the concession line with a girl I didn't recognize. Our eyes met and then she saw Luke. The girl tugged on her hand and she turned away, toward the cashier, without another instance of acknowledgement.
We didn't speak for another month and this time, I didn't bother trying to call her. When my parents asked about her, I would merely shrug and say we got into a fight. It was true, sort of. I mean, we hadn't really fought but something was clearly wrong and I wasn't sure what I had done to cause the rift. Confident that I had done nothing, I wasn't willing to subject myself to punishment for it and instead focused on my relationship with Luke.
Then came the weekend before I would depart for college. Cara and I had made plans months in advance to take a road trip to San Francisco together, something we had always wanted to do since we were younger but our parents hadn't trusted us enough. However, since we had barely spoken in two months, I didn't have any expectations for such a journey with her.
My mom's boyfriend, Jesse, and I were loading up my car and my mom was crying behind me, asking him if he remembered little things from my childhood, like when I first learned to walk or when I used to fall asleep in the backyard. I suppose she forgot that she and Jesse only started dating when I was thirteen, but he didn't seem to mind. They both had been more than hesitant about letting me drive to Palo Alto on my own, but I convinced them that I was a big girl and that this was their first step of letting me be an adult. I'm sure they weren't convinced, but somehow they agreed to let me go anyway.
'My little girl is leaving me!' My mom wailed as she flung herself into Jesse's arms. He gave me a wink as he tried to comfort her and led her inside the house, probably so that she wouldn't chase after the car as I left.
'You be good,' he warned in his warm fatherly tone before embracing me in a giant bear hug. 'Luke is meeting you in Bakersfield, right?'
'Yeah, his parents are going to drop him off and we'll drive together from there.'
'And remind me again why this boy isn't meeting you here and driving with you the whole way through?'
'Because, Dad, his family wants to see him off so I don't know when he's leaving but it'll be later on today and I will be okay without him because I can defend myself. You taught me well.'
'It's not about defense! It's just you, at least with Luke or Cara-,'
'Yeah yeah yeah, strength in numbers, I know.' I kissed him on the cheek, 'I gotta go if you want me in Bakersfield before nighttime.'
'Okay, okay. Be safe, I love you!' He headed inside as I got into my car, revved up the engine, and left my home of 15 years.
I didn't get very far down the street, however, before a car started honking at me from behind. At first, I thought it was my mom, wanting to ask if I needed a pack of pads or something, but then I recognized the car to be Rachel's, a friend of mine and Cara's from school. And in the passenger seat was Cara.
I slowed and parked at the curb with Rachel doing the same. She didn't leave the car, but Cara popped out and jogged over to my window, which I rolled down for her.
'What're you up to?'
'Just… going to college…'
'Awesome. Can I come with?'
I stared at her for a second and realized that, despite the amused smile playing on her lips, she was dead serious.
'Are you serious?' I had to make sure.
She just laughed and instructed me to pop the trunk before jogging back to the car and lugging out two huge suitcases and shouting at Rachel to "get off her lazy ass" and grab the other two.
'Do you mind helping, babe?' She called from behind as she stood beside the rear of my car. I nodded numbly, unbuckling my seat as I got out and helped her and Rachel rearrange my own things to accommodate her bags.
I took a second to admire the flexibility of my small car's space composition and then took another minute to pray to God that the car itself had the same level of endurance.
Cara thanked Rachel and took up residence in my passenger seat. I stood beside the rear of my car and looked at Rachel, who was heading back to hers.
I was giving her a 'what the hell' look, but she only responded with a shrug and a smile before driving away. I walked slowly back to the driver's seat and started the engine. I looked at Cara, but she offered me no explanation and turned on the radio, which was blasting Mika. Too shocked and confused to be remotely upset, I put my car into 'drive' mode and headed off towards Bakersfield.
I had miscalculated the amount of time it would take me to get to the city, what with a few unexpected twists in my plans. We ended up stopping to eat at Denny's after I found out that Cara hadn't eaten, and that took up about an hour and half. Still numb, I didn't bother questioning her then and neither of us spoke much to each other for the duration of the car ride. It had been now four hours since I pulled out of the driveway of my house and the sun was beginning to set. I knew I should've called Luke to let him know what the delay was- it only takes about two hours to get to Bakersfield from Glendale. I'm sure he had called, too. But, he was really the least of my concerns at the moment. About twenty minutes away from the city, I finally cracked under the pressure of my own thoughts and pulled over into the driveway of a Wendy's.
'Okay, Cara, what the hell?'
'Why are you here?'
'In the car?'
'Yes. No. I mean, what are you doing in the car? With your luggage as if everything is totally peachy keen with us?'
'What are you talking about? We've been planning this for years.'
'We haven't spoken in months.'
'Oh my God.' I shoved open my door and slammed it shut before stalking over to the railing in front of the restaurant.
For a moment, Cara stayed in the car and I leaned against the railing before I heard the soft click of the passenger side door. I didn't acknowledge her when she placed a hand on my shoulder.
I continued glaring at the street.
My eyes bore holes into the cement.
Finally, she put her arms around my waist from behind and laid her head on my shoulder.
'The moon is pretty tonight.'
'You can barely see it,' I muttered, spotting the faded moon that was overshadowed by colors of dusk.
'It's still there. I can tell it's going to be pretty.'
'Cara.' I groaned, looking away from the sky, 'Will you please tell me what the hell is going on? Why did you ignore me for the whole summer and then randomly appear out of nowhere the day that I'm leaving?'
' I was mad at you. But I wanted to see you.'
'For what? What the hell did I do?'
'Nothing.' It was her turn to lean against the railing, her back facing the street.
'You threw away our friendship for an entire summer- the summer before college, the last summer we have to really spend together with just us- for nothing?'
'It wouldn't have been just us.'
'So you threw away our friendship because you have something against Luke.'
'Yeah. After you two started dating, I didn't want our friendship anymore.' She was looking at an older couple through the restaurant window.
'Why? What do you have against him?'
She shrugged. 'Nothing. I just didn't want him to be your boyfriend.'
'Because… because you're a dumbass.'
I blinked in surprise. 'I'm sorry?'
'I didn't want our friendship anymore because I didn't want Skywalker to be your boyfriend because I wanted to be your girlfriend. Seriously, Evey. It's not that hard to figure out.'
I stared at her. And continued to stare. I didn't know what to say. 'I… I'm not gay, Cara.'
'Right, because you read Playboy for the articles.'
'I do! I mean, I don't. I don't read Playboy.'
'I guess you forget that I've known you for fifteen years, and your collection of random crap. Sailor Moon stuff behind your Playstation 3 games and both Playboy and Maxim magazines in your underwear drawer- bottom one on the left.'
'They're …not mine. They're….uh… a friend's and she…if her parents found them…'
'Okay, fine.' She pushed herself off of the railing… only to push me against it. She placed a hand on my cheek and pressed her lips to mine. Immediately, my stomach was attacked by butterflies of every species. I gasped and she took the opportunity to taste my tongue. I didn't know what to do, but I knew I didn't want her to stop. Instinctively, I placed my hands on her hips and brought her closer to me. When she tried to pull away, I groaned in protest and deepened the kiss. So caught up were we that we didn't notice the couple inside cheering us on with waved arms.
We pulled away from each other to catch our breaths and I leaned my forehead against hers.
'So. Not gay, huh?' She whispered, her hands tracing up and down my sides.
'Fine. Okay… so I… like girls a little. It's not that serious.'
'I don't know about you, but I think that kiss was pretty serious and I was sensing some serious repressed desire just now. From both of us.'
I moved and buried my head into her shoulder, and she responded by wrapping her arms around me and caressing my hair. 'It doesn't matter. We can't do this.'
' My parents…'
' No. No, no, no, no, no. We aren't doing this right now. We aren't talking about them right now. I don't care about your parents, or Skywalker, or the strange old couple giving us the thumbs up sign behind you. I care about you. And me. Do you like me?'
'Yeah.' I laughed, 'Yeah, something like that.'
'More than Luke?'
'I thought we weren't talking about Luke?'
'Just answer the question.'
'Way more than Luke.'
'Cool, okay. Then. That's settled.'
'I'm your girlfriend.'
'Wait, what the hell?' I pulled away just enough to look into her eyes.
'What? You rather obviously like me and you like me more than whatshisface.'
'Yeah, but we can't just-,'
'Yes we can. It's our lives, we can do whatever the hell we want.' She looked at me pointedly and I just started laughing. After a while she did too and we stood there, holding each other and laughing.
Several minutes passed, after the laughter subsided, and I held her against my chest, lost in thought. In less than an hour, we would be reaching Bakersfield and Luke would be waiting for me. When we and Cara made it to San Francisco, I would be breaking his heart and officially embarking on a journey I never thought possible with the person I had been pretty close to being in love with for nearly fifteen years. And after that, we would have to deal with the knowing smiles that would likely come from her family and the wrathful consequences that would come from mine.
Cara always knew how to get us in trouble.
But she was right. For now, just right now, she was the only person that mattered to me and I was the only person that mattered to her. For right now, we would do whatever the hell we wanted. So, instead of thinking of consequences and talking about what may be, we said nothing and only enjoyed each other's presence as the sky grew ever darker and the moon took over her reign as queen of the night.
'See? I told you the moon would be beautiful tonight,' she whispered to me.
'Yeah, you were right.' I wasn't looking at the moon.
'You know what else I was right about, Evey?'
'You make a very pretty prince.'
I laughed softly, 'And you make a gorgeous princess, Cara-Soma. But I rather think I'd make a better princess.'
'I thought you said two princesses can't kiss?'
I pulled her closer to me once more and placed a feathery kiss on each side of her mouth, 'I was wrong,' I whispered, and kissed her gently on the lips.