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After All These Years
I pushed strands of curly black hair out of my face and picked up the giant box of utensils from the floor. “Genevieve, can you come get the couch!” my mom calls from outside. I sigh and drop the box of utensils on the counter. When I come outside, I see my mom struggling with our unique bamboo couch. She was able to pull it down from the moving truck, where it lays sideways on the grass. I lift the couch, and with the help of the moving guy, I hoist it through our front door. I stand back and enjoy the effect of the couch against the pastel green wall. The wall still had a small blue pen mark from 8 years ago, when I decided to draw on a piece of paper taped to the wall. Naturally I missed the paper and the ink went on the wall. I was 8 years old, give me a break.
We moved out of Virginia when I was in 5th grade and went to France. From France I moved to Thailand, to Hong Kong, to Chile. Then it was back to square one. I knew this neighborhood so well, the people too. But now I couldn’t even remember my neighbor’s name. I thought hard – was it Mary? I had no clue.
I stepped back and leaned against the pillars near our front door.
Suddenly, I saw a flash of gold out of the corner of my eye. I turned to be met by my golden retriever Nectarine. My behemoth of a puppy pushed my shoulders to the pavement and jumped right over me, and out the door. This had happened before in the streets of Santiago (Chile, if you were wondering), so I yelled to mom, “Nectarines out! I’ll be back in an hour!”
I heard mom yell back, “OK sweetheart!”
I hopped up and dashed out after my mad dog. A black Ducati zoomed by our house, and Nectarine took off after it. I yelled “Nectarine, Nectarine, stay, stop!” Nectarine kept running after the motorcycle.
My dog had a thing for motorcycles – she had been chasing a cherry red one last time.
I pumped my long legs and ran faster than I thought I could. As Nectarine turned the corner, I remembered my lungs. My poor dilapidated lungs. After an auto accident my lungs were permanently damaged. My doctor said not to breathe too hard. The pressure of the airflow may make my lungs collapse.
Too late for that, I thought. I kept running until I saw the Ducati pull into a driveway, the driver was greeted by Nectarine. I heard him laugh, and pet the dog. As I ran into the driveway my vision began to go blurry. “Oh no” I groaned, but there was no stopping it now. I felt myself sway on the spot and then it was lights out.
When I came to someone was kneeling beside me on the grass. They were shaking me softly by my shoulders, “Hello, hello, hellooo?” I heard Nectarine bark and my head shot up. The person shaking me leaned backward in surprise. It was a boy about my age. He smiled and said, “Hey, you’re up!” Something about his voice intrigued me. I took a good look at him. Messy black hair, icy blue eyes, and perfect rosy lips – he looked like a model. I sat up fully and immediately regretted it. “Oh” I groaned and lay back down on the grass. But the guy had his hand on my back, and he pulled my upright. He smiled again, “Come on, come on, let’s go inside, I’ll get you something to drink.”
He scooped me up like a baby and carried me in. Wow, I thought, he’s strong, he wasn’t even struggling with my 130 pound frame. I was too groggy to refuse the glass of lemonade he handed me. I took a sip of the cold drink and my blurry vision cleared. Then I realized that I was in a stranger’s house.
I must have looked surprised because the boy set me down on the couch and stuck his hand out for me to shake, “Hey, I’m Ryan. I don’t seem to have seen you around here before? Are you new?”
I shook his hand, he seemed friendly enough. “Yeah, I’m new, moving in today. Name’s Genevieve.”
His eyes widened and he let go of my hand, “Genevieve, like Genevieve Hoffman?”
Now I recognized him, in a rush of emotions, “Ryan Williams?” I set down the lemonade glass and he smiled showing white perfect teeth that used to be full of childish gaps. He put his hands around my waist and lifted me off the couch and into his arms. I threw my arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. I couldn’t believe that my best friend from eight years ago was still here.
“I didn’t even recognize you Genevieve! You look so different!”
He held me at an arm’s length and looked me over, smiling. I noticed his eyes paused slightly on my chest before meeting mine again. I was suddenly aware of his hands on my back and my legs wrapped around his hips.
“I didn’t recognize you either, you’re tall, and…” I trailed off knowing what I would have said if it hadn’t been embarrassing.
Ryan smirked slightly, and I felt like he knew exactly what I had been thinking. He pushed his thick black hair out of his eyes, and I felt a sudden compulsion to touch it. I ran my fingers through his hair. It was so charming, like baby hair. “So different” I said quietly, and he pulled me in for another hug. Different, I could feel his warm hands on my bottom and his lips in my hair just above my ear.
“I’m really glad you’re back” he whispered. “I missed you so much”
“Me too,” I whispered. My hands were on his back and chest. Much more muscular than the ten year old version. He smelled faintly like the heavenly cologne I used to complain about as a 5th grader. He wrapped his arms around my waist fully pulling me right up against him. He ran his hands through my long hair until he reached my neck and tipped my head back to face him. His hazel eyes stared into mine and he brought his face down slowly, barely brushing his lips against mine. They were soft and tasted like strawberries.
My first thought was – no way. No way Ryan liked me. No way was he still the same gregarious guy. No way is he kissing me.
I was brought back when I felt his tongue run across my lips – waiting for me to respond. I opened my mouth and let my lips move freely against his. After a long minute he pulled back.
He let me go with a sigh.
“What?” I asked, slightly worried and still reeling from that wonderful kiss.
He sighed again and addressed the ceiling, “God, you can take me now. She finally kissed me! After all these years!” He looked back at me grinning “So I’ll see you around?”
I grinned back, he knew all about my trouble with Nectarine, he knew I needed to go home soon.
“Yeah, I’ll see you around!” I aroused Nectarine who had been napping by the door. She got up and followed me out the door. Ryan came behind me. I jogged down his driveway and onto the sidewalk home. I saw him wave a last time, and I waved back.
After all these years.