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All Kinds of Adrenaline
I sling my bag over my shoulder and begin climbing up the stairs to board the bus. Someone calls my name from behind, and grimacing, I turn. I am assaulted by the brilliant flash of my mom’s camera. I flush a deep crimson, and after glancing around to see if anyone notices my embarrassment, I leap aboard the coach and take my seat beside my best friend.
“Mom?” Amy guesses, observing my scowl and reddened appearance.
“How did you know?” I spit out through bared teeth.
“Oh, come on Mags, chill,” she commands. “These next five days are just about you, me, and a certain special someone.”
Just as I had regained my composure, I feel my entire face grow pink. Seth. He had been my boyfriend for almost four months, yet we had only seen each other twice since establishing our relationship. As we lived two hours apart, the only time we had together was spent at swim meets such as the one we were traveling to now. Neither of our coaches was making the trip to Buffalo, so this weekend would be our first opportunity to actually hang out without constant supervision. I spent so many weeks dreaming about this meet that I had all but forgotten that the real reason I was attending was to swim.
Realizing that we only had an hour before the bus arrived at Seth’s stop, Amy and I bent our heads together to make last-minute plans.
“So.... are you going to kiss him?” Amy whispers.
A tingle goes through my entire body as I consider her words.
“I don’t know. I guess I want to, but what if he doesn’t? I mean, how could I ever bring up the subject? Or should it just be spontaneous? Ugh, I never imagined it would be so complicated. Why can’t it just be like it is in the movies?”
I close my eyes and lean back in my chair, drifting away from reality.
Suddenly, the bus lurches to a stop, breaking my reverie. My heart flies into my throat as the doors creaks open, and a brown-haired, green-eyed boy bounds up the steps. Seth scans the aisles, searching for me. After we lock eyes, he walks swiftly past empty rows, sliding into the seat across from me and Amy. I looked over at Amy, asking her silent permission. She nods once, laughing, and I am out of my chair in an instant. Seth and I spend the rest of the ride together: holding hands, learning about each others’ likes and dislikes, dreams, ambitions, and fears.
All too soon, we pull up at the ECC pool, Seth guides me down the aisle with his hand on my back. I was melting inside as he offered to carry my bag and held all doors open for both me and Amy. In that moment, I realize the answer to Amy’s question: Seth is the only one I can ever imagine giving me my first kiss.
The next day, I had to focus on my swimming instead of Seth. All summer long I had been training for my best event, the 50 butterfly. It would be my last chance to swim this particular race, because I would turn thirteen at the start of the next season, and no longer be eligible to swim 50s. I wanted nothing more than to win the race, but the competition would be stiff, as the meet was made up of all the fastest swimmers on the East coast. To qualify for finals, I would have to be one of the top eight swimmers after preliminaries.
Behind the blocks, I did a few jumps and shook out my muscles, trying to concentrate on the task at hand. Seth came up behind me, massaging my shoulders.
“No matter what happens, I think you’re the most beautiful girl in the whole world,” Seth said. “I know you can do it.”
He gave me a final squeeze before heading down to the other end of the pool. The official blew his whistle, and I climbed onto the block. The beep sounded, and I exploded off the start with all of my strength. I propelled myself through the water, barely having any time to think before I touched the wall and it was over. I had won my heat, but one other girl beat my time in an earlier heat, so I would be seeded second going into finals. I hoisted myself out of the pool, breathing hard, and threw myself into Seth’s waiting arms. Finally, I had to force myself to let go and headed towards the warm-down pool, my heart pounding, but not just from exertion.
I had finished racing for the morning, so I went back to the bleachers to sit with my team, where I formed the perfect plan. I asked a coach if I could wait in the lobby, because the humid air was bothering my asthma. I dragged Seth out with me, and we wandered the halls together, searching for an empty spot. He quickly grasped my train of thought, and we stopped in an abandoned stairwell. Butterflies filled my stomach as he got closer and closer; I became filled with dread. Something felt so wrong and off, but I couldn’t understand. What was wrong with me? My knees went weak, and I thought I was going to throw up. I mumbled an apology, ducked underneath his arm, and fled towards the girls’ locker room, sobbing.
The next few days passed in a blur. Seth and I walked on eggshells around each other, and I avoided him at all costs. I ended up winning the 50 butterfly, and as thrilled as I was, nothing could make up for the dull ache I felt at every moment. Seth had to leave early, because his brother had come home from Iraq for the first time in a year. We said our quiet good-byes, his sad eyes begging me to explain, to make everything right again. He apologized over and over, which only made me feel worse, because nothing was his fault. As we hugged one last time, I knew I had lost my chance, maybe the only one I would ever have. I turned away before he could see my tears, and Seth walked out of my life.
I arrived home late Sunday night, where my mom enfolded me in her arms, telling me how proud she was of me. I shrugged away from her affections, and headed to bed. My sister Allie knocked on my door, and when I didn’t answer, she entered anyway. She sat at the foot of my bed, and pushed my hair away from my face.
“Do you want to tell me what happened, or should I just assume things didn’t go well with Seth?” Allie asked.
“I couldn’t do it,” I whispered. “I don’t know why not... I wanted it for so long, but when it actually came time, I just felt awful.”
I told her everything that happened, not noticing that I was crying until Allie moved up on the bed and held me, like I was a baby instead of a twelve-year-old. She wiped away my tears, stroked my head, and just rocked me for a moment before speaking.
“Maggie, I really think you did the right thing. You’re still so young, and it sounds like you just weren’t ready yet. I don’t think Seth is mad at you, and if you want it badly enough, of course you’ll be able to find another time, when you will be ready. When you’re older, and your kids ask about your first kiss, are you going to want to tell them that you were pressed up against a wall in a stairwell, and you thought you were going to pass out, that you knew it was wrong, but you did it anyway? No, of course you don’t want that. You’re stronger than that, you’re smarter than that. And maybe Seth just isn’t the right one for you, but someday you’ll find the one who is, and you’ll just know. I’m so proud of you, honey, I love you.”
My cries slowed, and I continued to let Allie hold me like a child, letting her soothe me, and I knew that she was right. For now, I was still too young to be involved in such matters, but that wouldn’t always be the case. There would come a time when Allie and I would get to discuss the same story, but with a much different ending. That time, there would be no tears, and I would accept the role of an adult instead of a child. I know that despite the boys that will come and go, it is my sister that will always be there for me, no matter what I choose or who I become.