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girls kissing in a tree
Judging from Sister Marie’s strict instructions to behave and “complete the educational activity being taught by the experts,” running away to kiss someone in a tree would not be permitted. Kissing a girl would also be breaking the rules enforced yesterday, the start of Field Trip Week. Once a year, my conservative Catholic school just outside of Lincoln holds a week full of Field Trips. It’s an interesting approach to ensure the school still covers the curriculum and receives grants. I genuinely question why the school has to rush the absorption of topics right at the end of the year, but then I remember: Theology.
Required every year, all year, every student at St. Mary’s Academy for Scholars suffers through lectures, Bible comprehension worksheets, and end-of-semester scripture projects. Unfortunately, not every student enrolled in Theology finds as much displeasure in the material (and pleasure in mockery of teen Bible activities) as I do. My friend group consists of the school’s misfits: students that openly mock the teachings of Catholicism. I made it my primary goal during the first week of freshman year to recruit buddies that shared my effort to fail Theology. I failed at something else, too.
I thought I could do it. Lie low, blend in with the straight girls. Live an uneventful high school experience. The only people that know I’m queer are the only other queer girls at St. Mary’s. I never had to tell them, they just knew. That’s not the problem though.
Fast forward to the end of sophomore year. I’m still in the closet. Honestly, I plan for it to stay like that. I have survived half of high school already, just barely, I mean, but I haven’t f*cked up. The teachers and nuns don’t assume a thing. My usually rebellious mouth hasn’t argued with the Theology teacher on the multiple occasions where she enforced heteronormaive standards. I haven’t requested queer Sex Ed. I have not fallen for anyone.
Except that I have. I fell for the worst person to fall for, of course. When I think of kissing someone, I want it to be Maggie Bates. That’s a problem, because I know for a fact that she would never daydream about kissing me. It’s a guaranteed rejection, and yet, my desperate heart holds onto the sliver of chance. My mind plays and replays our sweet moments on repeat. Nothing Maggie does should mean anything, but then again, I shouldn’t be falling for a straight girl, and here I am.
Perhaps the “sliver” of hope is more than just a sliver. Perhaps I made a move. Perhaps we sat thigh to thigh on the ride to Dave Family Orchards and Fields. Perhaps that occurred from my asking. I would have done that for a regular friend, right? And a regular friend’s face would slightly darken with a rosy blush upon hearing of my request, correct?
I’m overanalyzing this. Maggie only agreed to sit with me because I asked. Maybe I pressured her. That’s not good. I should apologize and sit with Cassie on the way back. Maggie would be appreciative of that. I already made her sit very close to me on the bus. She probably hates me now.
As we’re getting off the bus, Maggie, situated in the aisle seat, rises first and turns to look at me. It appeared that she was going to say something, but then quickly she shuts her mouth and walks towards the front of the bus. I could have sworn she blushed again, but it’s quite possible that my mind is merely imagining what I want to be real. I want Maggie to fall in love with me. I want her to want to kiss me. I want more contact with her than the accidental bumps that people in lines make.
I snap out of my daylight as I step into bright sunlight and a group of uniformed teenagers. The boredom had begun, Sister Jane reads off the field trip rules still fresh in the listeners’ brains from yesterday, and still completely missing from the brains of others. It is hard to focus on the rules. Maggie stands to the right of me, and I have to fight the urge to grab her hand. I wonder what her hand would feel like in mine. That’s a lovely and thrilling thought.
I want so badly to test it, but that would be risky, and besides, I don’t want to expose my sexuality. My brain aligns itself and begins to focus on Sister Jane’s lecture.
“No cell phone usage on the tour, unless you get lost. Also, no getting lost. Always have a buddy, and before you complain, I know that all of you fine, young ladies of God are mature enough to use the buddy system. Your buddy will be the person you sat next to on the bus. No switching.” Sister Jane glances at her clipboard for attendance, as I look at Maggie’s beautiful face.
“We’re partners then, cool.” Maggie tells me. She used the word “partners,” instead of “buddies!” Or am I just imagining that? Her deep emerald eyes are quite distracting. “We are.”
“Don’t you think partners have to link arms in order to effectively stay together?” I suggest.
“I would say partners need love and good communication skills to effectively stay together.” Maggie looks up into my eyes for a split second, before realizing what she did and clamps her hand over her mouth. I smile, and likely blush upon Maggie’s comment, but she feels terrible.
“Oh my God that was so forward of me! I’m so sorry! Please forget what I just said! I wasn’t trying to imply anything at all!”
“It’s ok, Maggie,” I assure her as my arm links with hers. I know I won’t forget what she just said. I’ll store her words in my mental memory box. Her smile softens and her arm fits perfectly with mine. The group begins to migrate, so we follow arm-in-arm to start the orchard tour.
“The orchards are so pretty,” Maggie observes. She was right, the leaves carry small, premature fruits in their bright green leaves. A worn barbed wire fence encloses the magical, sprawling orchard with us in it. The pathway the group travels on is worn, but adds to the aesthetic appeal. In the distance, fields full of crops spring up in front of our eyes. The prettiest part of the scene, however, has her arm intertwined with mine. Maggie.
“As are you,” I dare to add.
Maggie faces me with a look of joy coating her face. A grin spreads as fast as a light blush starts to develop. “You add to the whole scene, girl. And thank you.”
My mouth opens in a wide smile. Before I can compliment her again, a middle-aged man in dirty farm overalls begins his tour.
“In 1856, my good ol’ ancestors established the Dave Family Orchards. It was in 1913, when these farmlands went up for sale, did the fields come into the family business and tradition. I’m very happy to give y’all the official tour of my family’s farm.” Some of the Sisters clap, but the girls aren’t feeling it today.
Unwavered by the overwhelming unenthusiasm and boredom, Mr. Farm Dude continues his story. “First, our group will be touring the abundant orchards. Stay with your assigned buddy and keep your feet on the path. No picking fruit.”
“Got it, girls?” Sister Marie asks in a way that feels similar to a command rather than a question. A murmur runs through the crowd. “Let’s begin, then.” With that, my brain mutes, instead hyperfocusing on the beautiful view. Both the breezy orchard and the girl so close to me. Maybe I should hold her hand. Would she let me? Does she even like me? We’re not even that good of friends.
I contemplate the pros and cons of moving my hand slightly to fit hers while the group slowly inches towards the fields. It could either go completely wrong or be utter perfection. There’s no way she won’t reject me. Forget it.
Mr. Farm Dude is lecturing about the “fascinating development of fruit” now. “Not all developing fruits will make it to be full grown, edible plants. Only with adequate water, time, and care will the fruit mature. That’s where our orchard maintainers and farmers come in. They work to ensure that the apples, for example, become large and hard.”
“That’s what she said,” Maggie whispers next to me, chuckling as she does. I let out a loud, distracting laugh that, in turn, elevates the audacity of Maggie’s voice. We’re far enough away from the front of the girls to not receive scolding from Mr. Farm Dude, but Sister Theresa gives us a harsh look. Maggie and I turn to face each other and smile. Her bright smile made up of her bubblegum pink lips looks so sweet. I want nothing more than to kiss her, but she wouldn’t want that. Right?
Mr. Farm Dude has continued on. “Pollination plays a major role in the making of this fruit. Does anyone know the main organism in charge of pollinating the baby fruits?” Maggie, among other girls closer to Mr. Farm Dude, raise a hand. He chooses a blondie with glasses.
“Bees,” the girl answers, right as Maggie whispers “I love bees” in my ear. It sends a shiver through my spine, despite the humid June air. I smile at her. I love her.
“Correcto! Bees are the farm’s main helpers for making the fruit grow. Up here is our collection of bee boxes. We are going to keep our distance, y’all, but notice the bees’ movement. There are eighteen bee boxes, each painted blue, which is the bees’ favorite color. Some of the boxes are for hibernation, while some of them are for honey. The boxes designed for honey hold bee larvae, worker bees, and honey, obviously. The hibernation boxes can be used to hold bees during the cold winter and possibly for laying eggs. Does anyone want to explain how the hibernation bee boxes work?”
A few hands pop up, including Maggie’s again, but somewhere near the middle of the bodies, a hand is pulled up. Ashley, a junior, tries to pull her hand down, but her friends jokily thrust it back up. Much to the friends’ amusement, Mr. Farm Dude selects her.
“Umm,” Ashley sends death glares in the direction of her friends, “they put stuff in the holes.”
“That’s what she said,” I say to Maggie. This time, it's her turn to release a loud, troublesome expression of laughter.
Sister Theresa is directing death glares at Maggie and I, not unlike those that Ashley issued earlier. Oops.
“Girls, you are being a distraction. Kindly move to the back of the group and think about what you have done. The excessive laughter is taking away from everyone’s learning. Please stop.”
Maggie and I make our way past everyone. “Maggie, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to get us in trouble. Please forgive me.”
“Forgive you for what, dear Faith? The jokes were as much your fault as mine.” Oh my gosh, she called me “dear Faith!” My happiness at her word choice spreads to a blush coating my cheeks. I hope she can’t see.
Maggie leans on a pear tree, or what I assume is a pear tree. I lean back too. “Wow, look at the sky.”
Maggie tilts her head to admire the clear, sapphire sky. I watch her. She’s so beautiful when she’s at peace. A slight breeze blows her shiny, auburn hair into her face and in my direction. Before she can adjust it, I move my fingers to gently brush it out of her eyes. Maggie’s smile widens and she looks back at me for a second, before returning her gaze to the heavens.
I’m daring once again, as my hand finds hers along the rough tree bark. Her delicate fingers answer back. Maggie’s warm fingers are intertwined with mine, and it's millions of times better than when she catches my eye in English, or when we sat together on the bus, or when she laughed her lovely laugh at my joke. Feeling Maggie’s hand enclosed in mine locks us in our own bubble. The breeze and the quiet bird chirps are our music, and the sky is no longer a wonder. Maggie is looking me straight in the eyes, occasionally darting her eyes to admire our connected hands. Next, she sweeps her eyes over the crowd to ensure that we are not drawing attention, despite our unearthly state of mind. How is no one else focusing all of their possible attention on the beautiful girl holding my hand? Does no one else feel the magical air and smell the honey from the bees? Are the birds not chirping a harmonious song in everyone else’s ear?
It’s a good thing that no one else is our dream world, because Maggie grips my hand tighter and pulls me further into the orchard. We quietly stroll, as to avoid detection, but turn to run after concealing ourselves from the Sisters’ eyes. Maggie skips with me, and twirls me through trees. We’re most certainly lost, but for now, we’re lost in our own world.
Our hands are still touching when we reach an end to the rows of trees. Thick vines and overgrown hedges create a wall parallel to the final trees. Most of the trees are dead back here, eerie, but oddly romantic.
Maggie and I gravitate towards a hollow tree to our left. Somehow, fate maybe, the tree’s hole is large enough to fit both of us inside. The fit is tight, but we don’t seem to have any problems being close.
Maggie’s hands are around my waist, and mine make a loop around her neck. Her breath is cool on my cheek, setting me at just the perfect temperature. Everything about this moment is perfect, really. We just stand, together through our positions and together through our gaze. Maggie’s shining irises, the color of dandelion stems and apple tree leaves, stare into mine. There’s no need for speech, we can read each other’s minds in the moment.
My mind thinks to fill the gap even more, and I can tell she agrees. I lean in as Maggie nods her sign of consent for us to meet. The meeting is pure magic. I feel an explosion of excitement rush through my body, ranging from the lips Maggie just kissed, to the soles of my feet. My soul, though, it feels complete. Beyond complete.
Kissing her feels like the single best, most interesting, most needed experience in the universe. Maggie’s Burt’s Bees chapstick is my new favorite taste. My arms interlooped to hold onto her is the only thing position they should hold. I could read all of the fantasy romance novels in the world, but none of them would prepare me for this. None of them could prepare me for kissing Maggie.