Practice Makes Perfect

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Practice Makes Perfect


Life is all about practice. Preparation and other things that put me to sleep. You go to kindergarten, to learn your shapes and numbers for elementary school, to prepare for middle school, to do well in high school, to get in to college, to find a career, and blah, blah, blah. Not me, I prefer to live in the moment where things can either go up or down, not spiral in a thousand directions and take you off guard when you end up going down an unfamiliar road. There was only one person in the world who would be there with me.



I wasn't like most girls in my class. For one thing I had a tornado of fizzy gold curls that I would string beads, feathers, and sometimes even a plastic tiara through. I listened to music twenty years before my generation like Elton John and Guns N' Roses. For another, my best friend all through my life was a boy named Clay Waters. I was convinced from day one when he moved into my neighborhood and we played for hours on my tire swing talking about Power Rangers that he was my soul mate. While other girls were practicing skipping rope and turning cartwheels, I was thinking of ways to get him to see me in a different light.



Then came an eclipse to my fantasy. Amy O' Donner had a denim mini skirt, leather boots that clicked on the sidewalk sweeter than the sound of candy dropping from a pinata, and a silky black ponytail as smooth as spring sliding into summer. Her skin was sun kissed and passing her into the hall was like breathing in the smell of a morning bakery, vanilla and cinnamon rolled in desperation.


Even before Oliver was talking about her constantly as if his words were runaway trains, and before he chased her down the halls like a dog after a bone, I hated her. Her silver eyes drained to gray when they turned on girls like me, as if I wasn't worth that kind of glamor. I hated her spidery legs that always showed too much and the plucked eyebrows like an over-trimmed hedge, and I hated that she had stolen the heart I had planned and mapped out my plan for my whole life. She had snatched it in a single look.

“Hey, Mel,” Clay called out one day. It was stupid, but when he called my name like that my breath would catch in my throat suspended in midair, waiting for a huge confession, only to fall back into a net of thorns below. “I was wondering if you could help me?”

“I can,” I breathed, “Doesn't mean I will.” He rolled his eyes.

“You're the only girl I know,” his face went the color of an eggplant. “I need you to help me get Amy.”


And so we began. It started with approaching a girl, then to making small talk. Baby steps that felt like kicks in the stomach, but went deeper than that. I was kidding myself because there was only one guy for me who couldn't be any more perfect, but he only turned to me when he wanted to know if girls liked floppy or spiked bangs. I almost took my gum and stuck it in his hair.

“You're ready,” I said as we sat on the bench in his back yard, chewing on licorice.
“I don't feel ready. Maybe you should resign from your teaching position.” I chuck my licorice at him and it slides down inside his tee shirt. He dig it out, licks it, and throws it back where it tangles in my hair.

“I would end up getting fired if I ever had you as a student!” I say ripping the ribbon of candy out of my hair.
“For abusing your students or having giant hair?” he teases.
“There is one more lesson we haven't covered...” I say. His eyebrows knit together.
“What?” I feel my cheeks catch on fire.
“Kissing,” I say. The tips of his ears flame red as if it's contagious.
“You need to practice so when it's time for the real thing...” The words, slick with pain, slide back down my throat. Then an idea hatches in my mind. “I could do it if you want.”


There is a pregnant pause. I hear the gears turning in his head. I wonder if he can't kiss me simply because we've known each other for too long, or it's just me he doesn't want to share it with. But when I turn my head he is leaning in, something I have only seen in my mind's eye. I turn my head to the left of his face where I can still sew the tiny half-moon scar he got from falling down the stairs. When we touch, it is a hurricane, an electrical storm, and fireworks all at once. His lips mold to mine, a soft pink melon. Our breaths intertwine like lace and the heat that comes off his body hits me like a wall of fire.


When we finally pull away, it is like a painting torn in half. This is my first and last kiss with him and it's over.

“Melody,” he whispers. “Do you think we could do that again?”
“Why?” I snap, giving him a glare that drips acid. “So you can show Amy all your new moves? Practice for the real thing and toss me out to dry once she comes along?”
“No,” he says flashing a smile like a sky full of stars. “Because I think you are the real thing.”
This is why I live for the moment. Instead of taking the stepping stones one by one, I want to take a running leap. And now I have someone waiting for me on the other side.

“Practice makes perfect,” I say feeling a smile split my face in half. This time when we kiss, we don't pull away, not till afternoon rolls away behind us, not until the sky turns as pink as our blushes. Not until we make up for all the lost time.





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