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Author's note: Based on a true story.
This is the story of a boy with brown eyes, and the girl with a ticking heart who loved him, and came to realize that she would never forget him.
I typed the letters into the search box and pressed enter. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach as the page loaded. I wiped my sweaty hands off on my pants.
Would it work? Would I find it? What if it’s not there? Questions filled my head, making it feel light and dizzy.
Suddenly, the results appeared. Fifteen people with the name of Joshua Reed. One with a mutual friend. Hardly breathing, I clicked on the name. I was transported to another page. I shut my eyes tight, hoping with all of my heart that it would happen just the way I had pictured it. Then I opened my eyes.
My heart stopped.
No. That was my first thought. No. That can’t be him. My Josh, the Josh I knew did not look like that. At all. This boy was tall, and he had a buzz cut.
I leaned back in my chair. I looked down. I leaned forward. I looked up.
But it was. I saw the resemblance. His freckles, his big, brown eyes. But he just looked so different.
What happened to his dark, wavy blond hair? Where was that solemn look that had always made him look older than he really was? Who was this stranger he had become?
I stared at the photo. Josh was holding a little girl and laughing. Laughing. Never in my life had I seen Joshua Reed laugh.
I noticed his info. It said, “works at Patrick and Sons Plumbing”. That was it. No school, no state, no age. I studied the picture, leaning in to get a better perspective.
I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t him, but deep down, I knew. I would recognize those eyes anywhere. Huge eyes, like a deer caught in a headlight. Brown eyes, with little flecks of bronze and gold. Eyes that made me notice him three years ago.
Sighing in confusion, I leaned down and rested my head on the desk. It was true. So true. What everyone said, what I’d heard so many times.
You never forget your first love.
I remember the day you caught my eye,
Glancing at me as I walked on by.
I remember the look on your face,
The solemnity, the thoughtful grace.
It stayed with me for all that day,
Until that night, in bed I lay.
I thought, who is he? What’s he like?
Does he read? Does he bike?
I tossed and turned, then dreamed of you.
I wondered if you noticed me too.
I felt so happy, so full of joy,
I knew you were my dream boy.
In my heart, I was sure I knew,
This was the start of something new.
“Hey Katie. Who’s that dude?” I asked. We were out on the playground. “Who, that one?” she said, pointing. “I think his name’s Josh. Why do you care?” She crossed her arms and made a face.
I shrugged. “I just wanted to know. Is he in sixth grade?” “Yea, he is.” answered Brenda. “So what?”
Suddenly, Marianna gasped. “Emily, do you like him? Do you think he’s cute?!”
My friends all shrieked in horror and delight as I tried to deny it. This was the kind of gossip that they loved.
“Okay, you have to go talk to him,” said Kyler. “He’ll never notice you if you don’t.” I shook my head. “No way. Not in a million years. I am not going to talk to him.”
My friends all started talking to me at once, yanking me to my feet and pulling me in Josh’s direction.
“Just say hi!”
“We’ll go with you!”
“Fix your hair!”
I let them drag me a little bit, then I planted my feet. “No! I’m not going to do it, okay? I don’t even like him! Just leave me alone and don’t tell anyone!” Of course, they would never agree to this, so they spent the next few weeks begging me to approach him.
As for me, well, by then, I was so far gone that I just couldn’t do it. I loved him so much that I had become terrified of him. Terrified that he would laugh at me, reject me, or even worse, just ignore me.
No one understood what I was going through. Josh was known as the “bad kid’ at school. He wore black clothes and talked back to the teachers. He was always ditching school, and rumor had it that he had just broken up with his eighth grade girlfriend.
My friends thought he was obnoxious and stupid. I thought he was handsome and daring. And no matter what they said, they couldn’t change my mind.
I can’t breath,
You blow my mind.
You truly are
One of a kind.
I love your style,
Your look, your swag,
Your white t-shirt,
And your silver dog tag.
I love who you are,
Attitude adults despise,
But what I love most of all,
Is your gorgeous eyes.
You’re so perfect,
So right for me.
I find myself thinking of
All that we could be.
You’re my Romeo,
My love, Prince Charming.
When I think of you,
I feel such yearning.
I know it for sure,
This love is legit.
And I’ll sit here and wait,
Until you realize it.
This was it.
I had finally worked up enough courage to approach him.
I was passing a message along to him through Mario, a tiny boy in my class who was both of our friends.
“Okay, Mario,” I said, “just tell him...tell him...”
“Tell him there’s a fifth grader who’s crazy in love with him, and she’s been stalking him for like, a month!” shouted Marianna.
I blushed and looked down at my shoes as my friends erupted into laughter. When I looked back up again, Mario was gone. I looked around desperately, until I saw him at the other end of the playground. Talking to Josh.
“NO!” I screamed. “No! Why did you do that?!” I turned on Marianna, glaring at her with pure hatred. Her mouth was open in shock.
“Oh my gosh,” she stammered. “I was totally kidding! I’m so sorry! Oh my gosh.”
We were all silent as Mario came running back. “Well, what did he say?” ask3d Brenda impatiently. Mario paused, happy to be the center of attention. “He said…he said he’s noticed you guys following him and watching him all the time. He doesn’t know which one of you likes him, though.”
Before I could say anything, Kyler grabbed Mario’s arm and said, “ask him if he would go out with one of us!”
Mario ran off again.
I grabbed fistfuls of my hair. “What are you guys doing? This is my problem, not yours!” Katie put a hand on my shoulder. “Look, we’re only trying to help.” The rest of them nodded in agreement.
I covered my face with my hands, leaning against the fence. This was definitely not going the way I had planned it.
Mario came back.
“He said maybe. He usually only dates older girls, so you guys are just maybes.” I sank to the ground.
Maybe. That was all I had to cling to.
Just then, the teachers blew their whistles, signaling the end of recess. I got up slowly and made my way to the fifth grade line, surrounded by my friends, who were complaining at being called “maybes”. Then I saw him. Josh, heading our way. I panicked, realizing that he had to pass us on the way to the sixth grade line.
I grabbed someone’s hand, Katie’s, and squeezed as hard as I could. “Ow!” she screamed, and then she saw him. She turned to the others and hissed, “here he comes!”
I stared straight ahead, trying not to cry. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him getting closer. Closer. Close enough to touch. The world seemed to switch into slow motion as he passed right in front of us.
And then he looked at me. Looked at me, with those dark, haunting eyes. And when he looked, I felt like I was the only person on the planet.
Someone shoved me from behind, jolting me out of my stupor. The line was moving, and Josh was gone. l let out a long, shaky breath and headed inside.
I stop breathing,
I can’t speak.
Hear my heart beating,
See my eyes leak.
My mind goes blank,
You goose bump giver.
My stomach sank,
You made me shiver.
All you make me do and be,
Shows you what you mean to me.
Weeks passed, uneventfully. I spent my day daydreaming about Josh, and freaking out every time I actually saw him.
I realize now that in my own mind, I had been building him up to be a whole lot greater than he actually was.
As the time passed, my love for him became desperately powerful. One day, I decided that I couldn’t take it anymore. Something had to be done, and the best time for it would be the upcoming Halloween Dance.
At the dance, my friends and I were all huddled in one corner of the large cafeteria, gossiping and rating each other’s outfits. Mine came in second place.
I inconspicuously (or so I thought) watched Josh, who was leaning against a pillar near the girl’s bathroom, surrounded by his brother and their friends. One time, he looked up, right at me, and saw me watching him. I quickly looked away, feeling my face flush.
Right then, the Cha-Cha Slide came on, and I was herded onto the dance floor by my friends. I deliberately avoided looking in the direction of the bathrooms.
When the song was over, Kyler came running over to me. “Emily! Josh was totally staring at you this whole time! I saw him!"
As if to confirm this, Mario suddenly appeared out of nowhere and declared that, “Josh wants to know which one of you likes him. He said for you to smile at him.”
Marianna squealed. “Oh my gosh, Emily! I think he wants to go out with you!”
I was shocked. Shocked that I was feeling more scared than overjoyed.
“Alright,” said Brenda, “we’ll all go into the bathroom, and when we pass him, you smile, okay Emily?” Before I could agree, or even disagree, for that matter, I was striding across the cafeteria, being pulled along by my friends.
I couldn’t seem to be able to form any thought in my mind. My heart felt like it had been replaced with a ticking bomb. My stomach was churning with butterflies.
I could see him, sitting there, arms crossed, in his black jeans and white t-shirt. He did that thing which would later come to be known as the “Justin Bieber hair flip”.
My ticking heart exploded.
A moment later, I remembered the plan and gave him a shy smile, then turned and ran the rest of the way to the girl’s bathroom. Once inside, I sank to the tiled floor and thought to myself, I’m either going to faint or throw-up.
My friends were laughing.
“Did you see his face?”
“He definitely likes you, Emily.”
“Oh my gosh, you guys are going to make such a cute couple!”
I pressed my trembling hands together. This was all happening too fast. Josh and me, a couple? Was that what I had wanted? Now that it seemed to be highly possible, I found myself doubting it. I didn’t feel ready.
“Come on, Emily,” said Katie, “let’s go back out there and see what he does!” Slowly, I got to my feet. We left the bathroom and went back to our little corner of the cafeteria. We sat in a circle on the ground and waited.
We didn’t have to wait long.
“Emily! Oh my gosh! Emily! He’s coming over here!” exclaimed Kyler. I looked up and saw that she was right. Josh was walking, slowly, in my direction. And he was smiling, a small, flirty grin. My friends all started squealing and poking me. And then I did the worst thing possible.
“No,” I said, getting to my feet. “No. I can’t do this.”
“What do you mean,” asked Marianna. “What are you doing?!”
I shook my head. “I can’t do this.”
Josh stopped in his tracks, thinking that I was going to meet him halfway. But I didn’t. I ran right past him. I rushed into the bathroom and leaned against a stall. One single tear squeezed through my shut eyelid and rolled down my cheek.
Marianna came in. “What happened?!” she asked. Kyler came in next, saying “what were you thinking?!” She was followed by Katie and Brenda. And Mario.
We all screamed. “This is a girl’s bathroom,” I yelled at him. “What are you doing here?!”
All he did was laugh. “Josh wants to talk to you.”
I shook my head. “I don’t want to.”
Mario left, only to return again in a moment. “He wants you to go out with him.”
The girls shrieked.
“He wants to know if you’ll go to the movies with him tomorrow.”
I shook my head. My panic was turning into anger. “No! I don’t want to go out with him, okay? I don’t want to talk to him, either. Just go away and leave me alone!”
Mario put his hands up. “Alright, alright, I get it.” Then he turned and left the girl’s bathroom.
I sank to the floor and began to sob. My friends stood off to the side, shocked at what they had just witnessed. Brenda was shaking her head. “He was all you talked about for two straight months. And now you hate him.” She turned and walked out the door.
“You blew it,” said Marianna, following suit.
“So, Emily,” said Kyler, “since you don’t want him anymore, can I have him? I kind of think he’s cute.”
I glared at her.
“Okay, never mind,” she said, bounding out the door.
I turned to Katie, my last “friend” left. She shrugged. “I’m sorry,” she said. Then she left, too.
I sighed. In the span of about five minutes, I had lost my four “best friends” and the love of my life. Tears fell relentlessly.
Ten minutes later, my makeup was washed off and I was ready to go out and face the world. I took a deep breathy and pushed the door open--only to find Josh on the other side. “Hey…” he said, reaching for my hand.
Quickly, I stepped back and shut the door again. Really? What part of, I don’t want to talk to you, does he not understand? I stayed in the bathroom until the party ended.
The next day at school, my friends told me excitedly how Josh had waited for me all night outside the bathroom door, until his brother made him leave.
For the next few weeks at school, every time he saw me, Josh would smile and try to talk to me. I never let him.
Soon, Josh stopped coming to school. After about a month, it was clear that he was never coming back.
There were all kinds of rumors about what had happened to him and his brother.
“I heard they got expelled.”
“They’re under house arrest for stealing car.”
They got sent to military school.”
They’re in Juvy.”
As for me, I was unsure about how I felt. Part of me knew that I’d made the right decision. I knew that Josh was nothing but trouble.
The other part of me, however, was devastated. How could I have let such a great opportunity pass me by? Josh was my Dream Boy. Hadn’t I said so myself?
For years, those two parts of me battled each other out.
I arrived at my board, juggling a laptop, an oversized water bottle, my sweater, several books, and a large pile of papers. I tried to set it all down at once, but then I lost my balance. I had a split second to decide between dropping the laptop or dropping everything else.
I held on to the laptop.
Papers went flying everywhere.
I groaned, smacking myself in the forehead. Why was I always so clumsy? I was about to bend down to pick up my things, but someone beat me to it. A boy, in suit, with his hair parted down the middle.
He looked like a real nerd.
“Here you go,” he said, handing me back my things with a sweet smile.
I took them.
“Thanks…” I glanced at his nametag. “Thanks, Grant.”
He smiled again. “No problem.”
I shook my head. “I’m being extra clumsy today. I think I’m just nervous.”
“Don’t be,” he said. “I saw you give your presentation earlier. You were amazing.”
I smiled. “Yea, well, the presentation is just sugarcoating the fact that I did terrible on the actual project.”
He laughed. “Well, you sure fooled me.”
Grant and I talked all morning. I learned that he didn’t have a cell phone, like me, he was going to St. Ignatius for high school, like me, and he was really into the sixties, unlike me. Before I left that day, I gave him my phone number, hoping that we could stay in touch.
Talking to Grant somehow reminded me of Josh. I remembered how perfect I’d thought he was, how no other boy could compare.
Wow, I thought to myself. I’m never going to forget him, am I? And the answer is, no. I will never forget Josh. He stays in that one place in my heart reserved for my first love. A small portion of my heart still belongs to him, and always will.
I will never forget my first love.
A first glance,
A first sight,
A first spark,
A first light.
A first tug,
A first feeling,
A first pull,
A first reeling.
A first want,
A first need,
A first start,
A first seed.
A first story,
A first tale,
A first heartbreak,
A first fail.
A first memory
A first thought,
Maybe it’s happy,
Maybe it’s not.
My heart soars, flying above,
I will never forget my first love.