The first boy she ever kissed was actually two. Behind the heavy velvet curtains on the stage at the community center. It was summer; they were counselors who ignored their campers, who smoked the dried-up weed she had found in her brother’s dresser, smoked it behind the dumpster during lunch, crouching to avoid the hot, wet sun. Then inside, the coolest darkest place at the back of the gym. Was it a dare? Or the truth: suddenly she had a power over them she had never imagined existed.

One boy was dark, the other fair, with hair on his chin so light it was almost translucent. She wanted to run her finger over it, but didn’t know how to ask. The first boy had broad shoulders. His forearms were tan and smooth. Like melted caramel. The second moistened his lips. Their breath. Their hands.

They sat on a dusty couch, covered in a white sheet like a body would be. She between the boys. Her brother’s army shirt over her new red bikini top, his dog tags cool against one sunburned breast. The wall behind them was a painted scene from a play. Some dark-green, leafy place. Another world. There was no fear. No thought yet for her reputation. Only anticipation. Curiosity. And a sense of the future stretched wide.

Boy number one leaned in. His hair fell over one eye. He smelled like smoke. Then grape jelly. His lips were rough and hot. His kiss was a dry brush like a moth flying by, but his hand shook where it cupped her ribs.

Then the pale boy stuck his tongue in her mouth. A wet muscly fish. She bore it for a minute then pushed his forehead back with a laugh. He ducked his head.

Was that all there was to it? Two whole boys, both hers.

She was fifteen. It was summer. A satellite took pictures of the craters on the moon. A radio out in the gym sang, “As the present now / Will later be past.” And her world opened up like a flower, like a bomb.


Claire T. Lawrence is a professor of creative writing at Bloomsburg University. She has published fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in numerous journals and anthologies, including Literary Mama, Tri-Quarterly, Crab Orchard Review, and The New Earth Reader. She lives in flyover country with her husband, two children, and their Pekingeses, Mushu and Kung Pao.