It was May of my sophomore year when mom announced her pregnancy. Wyatt was home for the summer and we were sitting at the dining room table playing cards.
"Your father and I have an announcement," Mom said. She didn't look particularly happy or sad. Just tired. Dad, who was standing behind her, was looking at me. When our eyes met he looked away quickly. His face said it all, I knew this was going to be bad news. "I'm pregnant." Mom's face had a fake smile on it. My stomach churned.
"How many months are you?" Wyatt asked. He acted as if none of this mattered.
"Three, it's a girl." Now it was a real smile. Both mom and dad were looking at me. I stood up and pushed my chair away from the table. I ran upstairs and slammed my bedroom door. I tried not to cry but my hate for my father made the tears spill over. You're probably wondering why it's dad I'm mad at.
When I was six I was sitting on dad's lap as he read Lily's Purple Plastic Purse to me. Dada was the one who always read me bedtime stories. I loved how he made each character have a different voice. Plus, I'd always been "daddy's little girl". I just naturally gravitated towards him. I loved him and mom the same, I guess I just liked dad more. Anyway, in the middle of the book I asked him, "Daddy, how did you learn how to read?"
"When I was your age my mommy and daddy would read books to me," he responded.
"How do you know they weren't lying to you? Maybe those really aren't the words." I was a kid who asked a lot of questions. I didn't trust anyone too easily. Everything had to have a reason and a purpose with me.
"If they were lying to me," he said. "Then everyone's parents were lying to them too."
Later that night when he was tucking me into bed I asked him if I was his favorite girl.
"Yes, you and your mother are my favorite girls in the whole world." He kissed my forehead and started towards the door.
"And Wyatt's your favorite boy?"
"Yes, Wyatt is my favorite boy."
"Will I always be your favorite girl?" I was a kid with a lot of questions.
"Yes, always," he said.
"I promise." With that, he turned out the lights and left.
My mother had always taught me that you should never break a promise. If you feel strongly enough to make a promise to someone then you should never, ever break it. She told me that her and dad had made a promise to stay married forever. I guess this promise thing is why I was so mad. I'd been taught that promises were meant to be kept. He's broken his promise to me. From then on, my relationship with dad was broken. I know it could be considered selfish. I mean, he didn't plan to have another girl. It just happened. But a promise is a promise is a promise.
. . .
We don't talk about it. It's kind of an unspoken rule. I told mom and dad. Mom bawled and dad tried not to cry but I could see the tears in his eyes. Someone, mom or dad, I'm not sure who, called Wyatt at college and told him. He wanted to talk to me but when I saw his name on my phone I let it go to voice-mail.
Sometimes it's easy not to talk about it when Matthew and I are together. Like when we're at our favorite spot in the park. Or when we're laughing and having fun. Or when we kiss. But it's those times when the radio's not on and he's driving me home that we feel it there. It's like death is sitting in between us with its arms slung across our shoulders. We both try to ignore it, but it's so obvious, we can feel the thickness of it in the air.
In the middle of English Matthew puts a note on my desk.
Wanna go somewhere after school?
My heart thuds like it always does when I think about going anywhere with him.
I scrawl back.
Anywhere but home.
My response is not responding at all. I'd go with him to the sun if he wanted me to. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating. If he was honestly considering going to the sun he'd need a different type of medical help.
Since English is the last class of the day it seems like the longest. I keep glancing from the clock to the back of Matthew's head. He sits right in front of me. English is the only class we have together. When the bell finally rings I practically jump out of my seat.
"Hey, Kaitlynn. Can I talk to you for a minute?" It's Bryce. We haven't talked much since him and Rue split. He's Matthew's best friend so we've only said hello in passing.
I glance at the door where Matthew's standing. He mouths that he'll meet me by my locker but not before giving me a puzzled look. Trust me, I'm just as confused.
"Sure," I lean back against my desk and he leans against Matthew's.
"It's about Rue," as if I hadn't guessed. "I still feel the same about her. I can't get her out of my mind. I mean, she was drunk. Maybe she didn't mean it. I was wondering if you could, like, talk to her."
"What are we, sixth graders?" I didn't mean to say it, it just slipped out. But seriously, why can't he talk to her himself.
"You know she won't listen to me."
"Why not? She was the one who broke up with you. She's the one who regrets it every single day." I'm not sure if she regrets it every single day, but I know it's damn close.
"Hell yeah, talk to her yourself. I'm not some kind of messenger. I've got bigger fish to fry," I say using a figure of speech that dad often uses.
"Thanks," he said, although I wasn't exactly sure what he was thanking me for.
I walked to my locker where Matthew was waiting for me. "What was that about?" he asked.
"You should know, Bryce is your best friend," I responded.
"Was it about Rue?" I guess he didn't know
"He wants to get back together with her," I said.
He nodded once. "Let's go to the lake," he suggested.
"The lake?" I deadpanned. "For what?"
"But what's at the lake?" I zipped up my jacket which was light because it was only fall.
"Swings, we can swing." He smiled at me and held my hand as we walked out of the building.
"Okay," I said mimicking his enthusiasm. "Let's go swing at the lake."
On the way there we listened to The Fray. Matthew was obsessed with that band. I really didn't understand why he liked them so much. Sure the music was good, but he was constantly listening to them.
"Let's try not to think about it," he said, turning the music down. I immediately knew what he was talking about; there was only one "it".
"It's kind of hard not to think about it. It's like the elephant in the room." I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear and glanced at him.
"Well let's try. I want us to be how we were before this. I know it's gonna be he hard, but we can at least try." He ran a shaky hand through his hair.
"Yeah, me too. I mean, I want to be how we were before too." We pulled into a parking spot and just sat there for a minute. Finally, we got out and started towards the playground.
"What if there are kids there?" I asked as we walked hand in hand.
"So what, nobody said playgrounds are just for kids," His curls blew wildly in the wind.
"Well, Matthew, I hate to break it to you, but they were designed for kids."
He laughed and bumped into me softly with his shoulder, "Well, we can pretend we're kids for to day." We were doing a lot of pretending today.
Luckily, when we got to the playground it was vacant. The springs were pretty high up, but my feet still grazed the ground. Matthew was at least a head taller than me and his feet could be planted on the ground.
"It's a lot colder down here," I pointed out. I gathered my hair, which was whipping my face hard from the wind, into a ponytail.
"Lake effect," he said. That's when I noticed he was higher than me. Much higher than me, in fact. He was actually trying to swing. At seeing the confused look on my face he laughed. "What? We're at a park, on swings, you expect me not to swing?"
I just shook my head and watched him. He looked like an adult trying to be a kid. I guess that's kind of what he was.
"Come on, Kaitlynn. It's really fun." He sounded just like a little kid. Come on Kaitlynn, it's really fun. So I just did it. The wind whipped around me, but it felt wonderful. My heart felt light; almost nonexistent. For some reason it made me want to cry. That feeling of emptiness. But instead I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. When I opened my eyes Matthew was looking at me and smiling. It immediately made me blush, because I imagined how stupid I must look.
"What?" I asked, somewhat harshly.
"You just, you looked so happy." He had slowed down and was close to coming to a stop. That was when I felt like crying they would've been tears of happiness. I was here with Matthew, on swings. He was the only person in the world that I would want to swing with.
"I was, were you?" I came to a stop next to him.
He nodded and sighed. It was this terrible, painful sigh. The kind of sigh that happens when something fun has come to an end. I remembered how I used to love coming to the park. The first place I would run was to the swings. I remembered telling mom that if I went any higher I'd go over the bar. She said I wouldn't, but I never believed her. I also thought that I could shoot off into the clouds at some point.
"I love you, Kaitlynn," he says finally; after a few minutes of silence.
"I love you too."
. . .
Matthew and I waited to have sex until the summer before our junior year. Before the summer we had never really talked about it. When we were making out it was sort of an unwritten rule between us that we wouldn't go any further. Except we did. Our shirts would come off, and my bra, and our hands would travel below the belt. One day when he came over I got up the courage to speak. I pulled him into the living room where we usually held our make out sessions. As he leaned in to kiss me I put my hand on his chest to stop him.
"We should probably talk before we go any further," I said.
"Go any further?" He looked confused and somewhat hurt.
"Not in our relationship! That's fine, I meant, like, go any further." I widened my eyes and bit my lip.
"Oh, oh, yeah, we should." There was an awkward silence in which he ran his hand through his hair repeatedly and I stared at the ceiling. He took a deep breath before asking, "Do you want to make love with me, Kaitlynn?"
Before I could help myself, I laughed. I buried my face in my hands and shook my head.
"I'm guessing that's a no…" He trailed off, obviously hurt. I sat up and shook my head again, smiling.
"Of course I do. It's just that you're so corny. 'Make love with me'? Come on, Matthew. Gosh!" He smiled and laughed as well.
We didn't have sex that day. It was something that we planned over the next week. It got uncomfortable quite often. Correction: I got uncomfortable quite often. Matthew would crack up when I blushed when he talked about condoms. Or when he asked where we wanted it to happen at.
"Jesus Christ, I'm not talking about the kitchen table," he exclaimed. "I meant your house or mine."
We found out which of our families would be out of the house first. It happened to be mine. I was nervous, very nervous. We would be having sex in my bed!
My parents were gone for five hours. Tibby was with one of mom's friends. And there I was, twirling my thumbs in nervous excitement and waiting. It was the night that we would consummate our love. My heart beat fast in my chest and my stomach was in knots. I was standing right by the door and when the bell rang I jumped nervously.
"Hey," I said. He was wearing a white button down shirt and jeans.
"You look gorgeous," he told me. I looked down shyly. My skirt suddenly seemed silly.
"Thanks, you look great too."
He took my hand and squeezed reassuringly like he'd done so many times before. I trusted him. He hadn't ever been anything but loyal to me.
"We don't have to you know. We could just hang out," I could tell he wanted to though. He didn't just want to hang out.
"I don't want to hang out." I led him upstairs to my room.
At first we just kissed. His hands around my waist, mine around his neck. Slowly I was lying back, pulling him on top of me. I didn't realize it until my head hit the pillow. I opened my eyes and saw that he was watching me.
"I'm nervous, too, you know. But I'm glad my first time's with you."
I responded by kissing. It gradually just came together. My hands unbuttoning his shirt. His pants as well [I blushed while doing so]. His hands pulling my shirt over my head and slowly tugging down my skirt. I was so nervous, but he was with me, nothing else mattered. He made sure to put on a condom saying, "Can't forget the protection." He dangled it in front of my face, trying to make me laugh, before slipping it on.
It didn't hurt much, he'd asked repeatedly. When it was over I felt like laughing, but instead I cried.
"What's wrong?" He wiped my cheeks and pulled me closer to him.
"I-I was just so nervous. And I was so scared. And it was so scary. I was with you, and it was fine." I knew I was probably incoherent. I just laughed and buried my head in his chest. I felt embarrassed and sappy.
"Yup, it was fine. I hope. Was it?" He looked at me, wiping my tears again.
"Yeah," I smiled. "It was great." Which it was, not the sex, but the experience. Being with him.
As you've probably noticed, I'm having trouble with the tenses. Please, bare with me. Both the regular part and the italicized parts are supposed to be in the third person. If you haven't figured it out, the italicized parts are flashbacks. They are going to set the scene for what's to come :].