Memories can either be happy, sad or a mixture of both. I have enjoyed reliving this memory. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Comments, feedback and critiques are welcome (Although I prefer all nice ones 🙂
Just a Kiss…
1983 was the year when music and boys, mostly one boy in particular made an everlasting impact on a shy, freckled faced, red haired girl… Me.
This was my first church youth weekend away and although I was two months from celebrating my 13th birthday, after pestering my leaders I got permission to go.
Matthew was 6 months older than I, was about twelve inches taller than me, his hair was light mousey brown, styled in a typical 80’s guy haircut; but not a full blown mullet thank goodness. Normally, he wore his hair neatly styled but as we all shuffling to keep warm on an open hilltop, the wind kicked up and Matthew’s hair took on the wind swept look. Standing with his hands dug into his front pockets, he chatted with his cousin Darren, as he patiently waited to take his turn abseiling.
Standing, I listened to the instructor spew out all the rules and regulations as what to do and what not to do as you abseiled down the sheer rock face. My heart began to pound in my chest, my palms were clammy and shaking and a resounding NO echoed through my mind. Looking around at all the other kids my eyes landed on Matthew, which for some odd reason added a calmness and butterflies all at the same time which added to the anxiousness I was already feeling.
From a safe distance I watched the well tanned, muscular instructor geared up in his climbing harness, he took the rope in his strong hands and leaning backwards over the cliff he began to abseil down with ease, like a leaf gently floating to the ground.
Another instructor called out, “Okay, who’s first.”
“I’ll go.” Darren said, stepping forward.
I watched with uncertain eyes as Darren got harnessed up and was maneuvered to the brink of the cliff. With a slow push back, he deployed himself over the edge. My head was shaking, there was no way I could do this and why would I ever want to do something as stupid as this. A number of negatives ran through my mind – I took another tentative step forward. A few more of the boys lined up, got togged out and over the edge they went. My head kept shaking left to right, right to left and from the corner of my eye, I noticed a number of the popular girls backing out, was it they were too afraid to take the plunge, or that they didn’t want to get their perfect hair, nails and clothes ruined. Glancing down at my clothes, they were not the best and a far cry from the latest named brands. I sighed.
“Okay girls, who is going to have a go?” Called out one of the instructors.
“They’re too chicken.” Yelled one of the boys, while the others; laughed. Except for Matthew, for some reason he smiled in my direction. I returned the smile, but wondered why he still hadn’t taken his turn.
The instructor asked again, “We don’t have all day now,” he shook the harness, “are any of you girls going try this?
“I’ll give it a try.” I stepped out from behind the huddle of popular, fashion forward girls. However, the closer I walked towards the instructor my heart felt like it was going to pop right out of my chest.
“Hi.” I replied.
“Alright, let’s get you hooked up, shall we.”
Looking at his face, a wave of concern washed over me, one of his eyes was not only a different color than his other, but it looked the other way!
“Um….” Was all I could muster.
Holding the harness open for me to step into he said, “No need to worry, you‘ll like this.” He said as he double checked the harness and plopped a helmet on my head. We walked over to the edge of the cliff, “Okay, how about we step this up and go forwards!”
Whipping my head, I looked at Stig, “What! Are you crazy?” My blue eyes searched his.
Nope.” He said. “Watch me first, then follow. Let’s show those other girls and boys how brave you really are!”
Me, brave? Watching him teeter over the edge and run facing forward down the rock face. I felt sick, my hands were trembling. Everyone cheered me on, “Go on Helen, you can do it.” However, amongst the cheers rose a few negative words, loud enough for me to hear, “She’ll never do it, she’s too chicken.”
Leaning forward, my breakfast made unwelcome noises in my churning stomach, I was sure I was going to throw up. That was when I could hear Matthew’s voice above the others, “You’re safe. Go for it Helen, you can do it.”
That was all I needed, the young boy I fancied spoke to me! With the rope firmly in my sweaty gloved grip, I moved my right foot over the edge, followed by my left. I said a hurried, “please keep me safe,” and ran down the jagged rock face. The wind rushed against my face as I sped up, the rope glided through my gloved hands and I kept my eyes firmly on Stig; the instructor with one wonky eye! The whole experience lasted for less than 2 minutes, but to me it felt like forever. Yet, it was the most exhilarating thing I had ever done so far in my young life.
“Nicely done Helen.” said Darren.
Those words filled my head as Stig unharnessed me. Moving to the side, I watched as Matthew took his turn, my slight grin gave way to a full smile as he looked at me the whole time he abseiled forwards down the rock! From that moment on, we had begun a new friendship.
The rest of the day was spent trying various assault courses, zip lines, crawling through muddy rivers which resulted in my friends and I ending up covered from head to toe in thick stinky mud. During those hours I’d noticed Matthew frequently peeking in my direction many times, each time I blushed and shied away from his glances. After a dinner of burnt sausages, lumpy potatoes, gravy and many a grumbling word from the other kids, my friends and I trudged our aching limbs to our dorms and showered. My sister’s spent the next hour pampering and preening me for the disco, it would take me another year to master putting on my own make-up on as not to resemble a clown. I was never one to wear much make-up, so by the time my sisters had finished, my eyelashes were thick with mascara and my eyelids a light shade of blue!
80’s music drifted down the hallways searching out the inhabitants of perfume and Hairspray filled bedrooms, the bass pounding on our bedroom door beckoning us to follow. I took one last peek at the reflection in the mirror, unsure if I liked what I saw, when my best friend tugged on my sleeve hurrying me along. We ventured out from the safety of our room and we strolled arm in arm with excitement down the hallway and into the main hall.
“Wow, Helen, you rocked it today. I never knew you were so brave.” said Brent, one of Matthews friends.
Blushing, I thanked Brent. Again, I was grateful the lights were dimmed, between the blusher on my cheeks and the redness, flushing my cheeks, I’m sure I would have resembled a beetroot. Other kids gave approving nods and smiles, while some gave walloping pats on my back. You’d think I’d just won a major award or something.
Donning new shoes with the accompanying sore heels and squished toes didn’t bother me, my friends and I were dancing and singing our hearts out to our favorite songs that were thumping and buzzing in our ears. My innocent glances and smiles towards Matthew while he danced with one of the popular girls didn’t go unnoticed, he willingly returned smiles making my young heart flutter.
The DJ changed the record, people mingled and chatted excitedly about their day as they waited for the next song to play. The popular girls hovering around the mirror checking their make up, some pointing and giggling at the other girls who didn’t quite meet up to their fashion standards. I, on the other hand, patiently stood against the stone fireplace as I waited for my friends to come back from the bathroom. Standing like an awkward wallflower, I tried to avoid the pointing fingers from those girls.
The first bars of Red Red Wine, by UB40 started to play and everyone started smiling and singing with excitement, it must have been one of their favorite songs. Yet, no-one danced. It was like they were afraid the dance floor would swallow them up or something. Then a boy a couple of years older than me, strolled over to my sister and asked her to dance. That was all it took, all the other boys came buzzing around the girls like they were flowers asking them to dance. Looking around, I must have been invisible or something; as I was not being asked to dance. Apprehensiveness wriggled its way into my thoughts, I turned to look down the hallway and started to wonder what was keeping my friends so long. Then came a gentle tap on my shoulder.
“Helen. Can I have this dance?”
My stomach did a flip. Balling my fists, I tried to stop them from shaking, turning around smiling I said, “Hi Matthew.”
Matthew smiled back, “Do you want to dance?” He asked as he held out his hand, convinced I’d say yes.
Who in their right mind wouldn’t say yes to a boy they had a crush on, “Yes, I’d like that.” I said as I released my fist, quickly wiped my clammy hand on my skirt as I lifted and held it out.
Taking my hand in his Matthew led me to the dance floor. Standing an arm’s length away, he danced and boy, could he dance. I began to sway side to side moving my arms to the beat of the music, a felt a little nervous and prayed I didn’t look like a gangly freckled kid with no rhythm, which was what I feeling like inside.
Leaning forward Matthew said, “This is one of my favorite bands. Do you like UB40?”
Smiling, I said, “Yes, I like this song.”
This was new territory for me, boys actually talking to me. That was when my shyness kicked in, my hands began to tremble and my mouth felt dry and rough like sandpaper. The song ended and another started; New Song; by Howard Jones. This was my favorite song at the time, smiling, I thanked Matthew for the dance. Swivelling on my heels, I started to walk away, but Matthew caught my hand and asked, “Dance with me again?”
My heart was persistently melting, turning I faced Matthew, not only did his mouth smile, but his eyes were smiling too. Inside I was jumping up and down, I said, “Yes, I’ll dance with you again.”
Dancing, talking and laughing for six songs straight, I was finally relaxing and enjoying my time with Matthew, until his cousin Darren came up to us and said, “I think you need to let some of us other boys dance with Helen.”
My smile couldn’t get any larger, Matthew made a face and reluctantly allowed his cousin to dance with me. For the following hour, I danced with all the boys who asked. I was aware of Matthew’s eyes on me for the whole time, which made me feel for once that I was appreciated by other boys, other than my dad or uncles.
The disco drew to an unwanted end, disappointment filled my thoughts. I didn’t get to dance with Matthew again or that I didn’t get to say Goodnight. My friends and I took off our shoes and slowly walked back to our room giggling at how we’d finally been asked to dance by the Merthyr boys. Not wanting to let the thrill of the night come to a complete end, we made a detour and meandered outside. We’d made it half way across the mid section of grass when from behind us, we heard a deep voice call out.
“Girls! What are you doing out here. You should be in your room?”
We all froze in place and turning around slowly we were expecting to see one of the adult leaders, but to our surprise it wasn’t. It was Darren and Matthew and I let out the biggest sigh of relief.
Lisa blurted out, “We were too hot, so we decided to go for a walk to cool down.”
Suppressing a giggle, I rolled my eyes, thanking the heavens it was dark outside and no-one could see me blush yet again.
Matthew said, “Well, do you all want to come back to our room and hang out.”
Glances of should we, shouldn’t we, crossed not only my face but of my friends also. Our smiles were followed by an assertive, Yes! Following the boys to their room, like sheep following a shepherd, that was how we looked. For the next couple of hours we spent, chatting, laughing and reliving the day’s events, including me being the only girl to abseil forwards. Then sleepiness crept in and I began to yawn.
Matthew got up from his bed and said, “How about we walk you back to your room.”
In a mid yawn, I said, “Huh? Oh, no, it’s alright, it’s just across the way.” Scooting to the edge of the bed, I stood up, followed by Lisa and Tracy, but so did Darren, Brent and Matthew.
“We’ll walk you back.” Answered Brent, as a cheeky grin crossed his face.
A natural pairing occurred as we ambled across the carpet of grass, Tracy – Darren, Lisa – Brent, Matthew and me. Approaching the entrance to our dorm, everyone walked inside except for Matthew, he reached for my hand and gestured with his head said, “Let’s walk a little longer.”
The night air had a crispness to it, I began to shiver. Taking off his jacket Matthew draped it over my shoulders and said, “You were brave today Helen.”
There is something quite beautiful when a boy you like says your name and for me a shy girl with no life experience; it felt wondrous. We carried on walking, holding each others hands when Matthew stopped and giving a light squeeze of my hand. I turned to face Matthew, my breathing in and exhaling out increased and it must of looked like I’d become a cold cloud breathing dragon.
Taking a step toward me, he raised my chin, while his other hand still held my hand. His eyes staring into mine, my eyelashes fluttering, I lowered my gaze as my face flushed.
“I’ve been wanting to do this all day.” He leaned in, slightly bent his head and gently pressed his lips to mine.
I‘d heard how to kiss from my sisters and friends, but now the time had come I was unsure I knew what to do. My nervous lips welcomed Matthews and as he parted his lips on mine, I followed suit. I didn’t know if I was doing it right, it wasn’t like I’d done this before. Matthew’s hand moved from my chin and caressed my neck, drawing me closer as he deepened the kiss. It sent shivers down my back, butterflies in my stomach and the feeling that I could float away on a billowy white cloud.
Just as gently as he’d started, Matthew drifted away from my slightly parted lips. Nothing more was spoken between us as we walked back to my room, content with his arms wrapping around my waist and mine around his. I no longer felt the cold, just heat radiating from Matthew and the warmth of his lips still lingered on mine. Reaching my door all too soon, we stood facing each other, my lips still tingled, red and plump from kissing him. Smiling at his brown kind eyes, I blushed.
“You are pretty Helen.” He gave me hug, “Goodnight and sweet dreams.” And with a quick kiss on my lips, he smiled and walked away. Leaving me standing there with his jacket still around my shoulders and a memory that embedded deep in my young soul.
I opened the bedroom door and was faced with my friends’ eyebrows raised and big smiles spread across their faces. That night, I slept with his jacket next to me and I dreamt of Matthew; his kindness, his sweet kiss and how he had awakened new and strange but amazing feelings deep within my core.
Matthew was my first kiss and he’d set my world ablaze, and saying goodbye the next day was hard. We lived forty five minutes away from each other, however, our friendship didn’t die that day. We continued to date for a little while and every chance I traveled to his town and we hung out, grew closer as friends, and spent plenty of times working on my kissing technique. Over the years, we both married, I moved to USA and whenever I travel home to Wales and get the chance get to see Matthew, we always make time to chat and when it’s time to say goodbye, we do, with a hug and smiles. I will always remember that wonderful time in my life when Matthew cheered me on, when we danced to a number of songs that hold a special place in my heart to this day. How, after a while he made me feel at ease, making my shyness abate, how we talked, laughed and the tenderness he showed me when we kissed under a dark velvet September sky.
Copyright 2014 Freckles. All Rights Reserved.