Eleven years ago
Meet u at ur place in 30. Luv u.
I grin and type back a quick luv u 2 and snap my phone shut as I hurry home from dance class. I really wanted to skip dance today, but Mark insisted that I go. He said he understands how important dance is to me and that he would see me later.
We are celebrating my seventeenth birthday tonight. It’s a week early because my mom will be home on my real birthday, but she’s gone tonight on a business trip, and Mark told his folks that he’s staying at a friend’s house so he can stay with me all night.
I can’t decide if I’m super nervous or super excited. Maybe I’m both.
Because tonight we are going to do it.
I grin and shimmy my butt in a little happy dance in the driver’s seat of my 1995 Ford Escort. I just have enough time to take a quick shower and touch up my makeup before Mark gets to my house.
I hurry through the shower, but pay extra attention to shaving my legs and bikini line. I wipe the fog off the mirror in my bathroom and wrinkle my nose. My makeup did not survive dance and the shower, so I quickly scrub my face clean and just reapply my eyeliner and mascara and smooth some lip-gloss on my lips. Mark’s seen me without makeup plenty of times, but I want to at least look like I’m making an effort tonight.
I pull the short black skirt and red-cropped sweater that shows off my belly out of the closet and after slipping into some lacy black underwear that I’ve been saving for this exact occasion, I shimmy into the cute outfit and take a turn before my mirror.
“You’re so beautiful,” I hear from behind me and smile when I turn to see Mark leaning his shoulder against my doorjamb. “So this is what it looks like.”
“This is it.” I open my arms wide and glance around my bedroom. Mom doesn’t allow Mark up here with me when he comes over.
And, it’s probably a good idea, given what we’ll be using this room for tonight.
Nerves suddenly take hold and I wring my fingers as giant butterflies take flight in my belly.
“I like it.” His eyes still haven’t moved from me. I smile shyly.
“You haven’t even looked at it.”
He smiles and glances about my frilly room. My dance shoes are scattered about. Photos of my dance teams and friends clutter a cork bulletin board above my desk where my computer sits. A photo of him and I together at Pike’s Place Market is framed next to my bed. The top of my dresser is littered with makeup and jewelry. My double-sized bed is made neatly. I changed the sheets before I left for dance this afternoon.
“I like it,” he repeats. “Why are you standing way over there?”
I shrug one shoulder and glance out the window, watching the rain fall down the window pane.
“Hey, M.” He walks to me and hugs me close. This is what I needed, the familiarity of his smell and the feel of his strong arms around my shoulders. He’s so much bigger than me. His muscles are crazy defined, but it’s his sweet smile and blue eyes that have done me in since the day I saw him in biology class last year.
When he smiles, it looks like he has a naughty secret.
I hope I learn all of his naughty secrets tonight.
“I’m making you dinner,” he says before kissing my forehead and taking my hand to lead me downstairs to the kitchen.
“You are?” I giggle and bounce down the steps behind him. “What are you making?”
“Chicken parmesan and pasta.”
“Holy calories, Batman!” I exclaim and mentally calculate how many miles I’m going to have to run to burn it off.
“It’s your birthday, M, the calories don’t count,” he says and leads me to the breakfast bar in the kitchen.
“You brought me flowers!” I exclaim and immediately bury my nose in the beautiful red roses sitting on my kitchen counter. I yank the card out of the plastic holder and read it aloud. “To M, Happy Birthday. Love, M.” I grin but in my head I’m bouncing up and down like a big dork and launch myself in Mark’s arms. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” He kisses me hard before setting me down and getting started with dinner. “You’ll get your real present later.”
“There’s more?” I ask and clap my hands excitedly.
“Yep,” he replies. He pours me some bubbly water and I sit back and watch my man move about the kitchen.
“You’re good at this.”
“Mom makes us all take turns cooking,” he replies with a shrug. “She says we have to earn our keep.”
“I love your mom,” I say and sip my water.
“She loves you too.”
“I’m so glad that we like each other’s parents. It would really suck otherwise.”
“Did you have any doubt that I could charm your mom?” he asks.
“No.” I giggle and shake my head. “You’re quite charming.”
“I’m just kidding. I like your mom a lot. I feel kind of guilty that we lied to her about tonight.”
“I know.” I bite my lip and look down into my glass.
“Hey, it’ll be okay.”
I nod and sit back to watch him bustle about the kitchen, enjoying the way he moves. He has a natural grace that appeals to the dancer in me. When we danced together at the junior prom, I didn’t think that anything could get any better than that.
When dinner is done, he serves me first and we laugh all through the meal, talking about school and our mutual friends.
“How is Luke?” I ask casually.
“Good. He’s about to audition for some movie project about vampires,” he replies with a laugh. “Can you see my brother as a vampire?”
I laugh with him and shake my head. “He’s too nice to be a vampire.”
“Sam is enjoying college,” he continues as he clears our dishes. “The house seems quiet without her.”
“She doesn’t like me,” I reply and bite my lip. No matter how hard I try to talk with Mark’s older sister, she just doesn’t like me.
“Sam doesn’t know you very well, and she’s kind of stand-offish with strangers,” he says and loads the last dish into the dishwasher, then takes my hand in his and kisses it gently. “Besides, I don’t care if Sam doesn’t like you. Sam isn’t dating you.”
“Thank goodness,” I say with a grin and lean into him, hoping he’ll kiss me again. I can’t get enough of Mark’s kisses. He rests his forehead against my own and rubs his hands up and down my arms softly, sending shivers through me.