Do you remember your first love?
BY JEAN P. MOORE
The summer between sixth and seventh grade, Tilda’s boyfriend, Jonny Langer, called to tell her he was having a beach party. Jonny was the cutest boy in her class. He was fun to be around and had the best blue eyes. She’d had a crush on him all year. Apparently, he felt the same way because at one of their class parties, he asked her to go steady. She wore his ring around her neck on a long, silver-plated chain, often reaching up to cradle the ring in the palm of her hand, proudly bearing its weight. Her friends could barely contain their envy.
Call out: “As they plunged into the surf, he grabbed her hand, and with heads underwater…”
On the phone he told her there would be hamburgers and cold drinks, even volleyball at the party. As soon as she hung up, Tilda knew what she would wear: her new two-piece pink-and-white-striped seersucker bathing suit. It had a hint of padding in the top.
On the day of the big event, Tilda was unaware of the hours she’d spent in the sun until the sand between her bathing suit and skin began to itch and burn, until even raising her arms to hit the ball back across the net set off prickly pain in her shoulders. Tilda was ecstatic when Jonny asked her to run into the water with him one more time before his mother would call for him to help pack up to go home.
As they plunged into the surf, he grabbed her hand, and with heads underwater, eyes open, and only surfacing to get a gulp of air, they kicked their way out until the water was just deep enough so they could touch bottom.
Call out: “…he pulled in closer, putting his hands around her head, and he kissed her on the lips.”
“Let’s see how long we can hold our breath,” he said. “And when we’re under, let’s open our eyes and look at each other to see who can stay under the longest.”
“Okay,” said Tilda, quickly taking a deep breath and diving under the water. Soon Jonny was in front of her, with his eyes open, looking at her. Then he pulled in closer, putting his hands around her head, and he kissed her on the lips, their bodies floating out behind them, until they could stand it no longer and had to surface. Tilda wanted to grab him and hold him against her body. She felt so strange, as though nothing but holding him to her would help.
“Want to do it again?” he asked. “Okay,” she answered. But the strange feeling grew stronger and a little frightening.
After the third time, Tilda said, “We’d better go back now.” As they started to swim, he grabbed her hand again, and they kicked their way back, heads submerged, only popping up to take a breath. No one could see he was holding her hand. Soon after, when Jonny’s father, a violinist in the Miami Orchestra, got an offer for first chair in Philadelphia, Jonny and his family moved away, breaking Tilda’s heart. She had had a terrible sunburn after the beach party, forever sealing the day in her memory with thoughts of both pain and longing.
This excerpt from Tilda’s Promise was published with permission by the author.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR – JEAN P. MOORE
Jean P. Moore grew up in Miami, Florida. She began her professional career as a high school English teacher and worked as an executive director of workforce development. Jean has since returned to her first loves; the study of literature and writing. Her novel Water on the Moon was the winner of the 2015 Independent Publisher Book Award for contemporary fiction. Her poetry chapbook, Time’s Tyranny was published in 2017 and her latest novel, Tilda’s Promise, publishes in September 2018.