I first became aware of her in October of my 14th year. It was at the school Halloween Carnival and we were paired at the Hoop Shoot; a game where people could publically demonstrate their lack of basketball prowess by attempting to make baskets from the free-throw line. Our task was simple; take the tickets and retrieve the balls. I don?t remember our talking much. She was new to the school, her presence the result of the consolidation of school districts. She wore a blue sweater and I thought her cute.
It wasn?t until our sophomore year that I took more notice of her, an interest that must have been obvious because we began to be teased. That spring I got my driver?s license and I asked her out. ?I have to ask my parents,? she said and I worried all night that they would say no. ?Yes,? she told me the next day. Our first date was a movie and a coke afterwards at the drive-in. We dated intermittently over the coming months but I was terribly slow and did not get up the nerve to kiss her until our 7th date. Life changed with that kiss. Soft, fleeting, I knew then what I would only admit to myself later; that I loved her. I thought her pretty.
We began going steady that fall and our relationship became more intense. Out on a double date one winter?s night, we had stopped for a coke. I had the earphones for my radio in my pocket and we began to treat them as tin cans on a string, pretending to say things to each other through the thin wires. At some point I whispered ?I love you? into my hands, into the wire cupped therein. The other couple was oblivious, not part of our game, but she must have sensed what I said because she made me repeat it later, as we sat alone in the car outside of her house. I resisted for a time but finally blurted out ?I love you.? ?I love you too,? she whispered. It was then that I began to look at her. I thought her beautiful.
Ours was the typical teenaged relationship, going farther than some, not as far as others. Ours was a society of appearances and at least the facade of chastity was maintained, if not observed. Engaged at 17, we were too young, of course. It didn?t matter and it never was a decision that was questioned, for she remained, remains, too beautiful for words.