Chocolate Covered CherriesbyDesdmona©
In sixth grade on Valentine's Day, I got a valentine from Ritson Smart. Only it wasn't just a valentine, it also had a stick of gum, Fruity Stripes--the cherry one. We weren't allowed to chew gum at school, so I had to put it away for later. When it came time to compare our valentines, we girls sneaked to a hidden alcove in the bathroom. We called it the Bippy Corner. Whenever there was something special to share, we would cram ourselves in. It was important to be one of the first to the bathroom to get the best spot.
That February fourteenth, as we huddled in the Bippy Corner, we learned that Curt Turner had given everyone heart candies that said things like, "Be Mine," "Yes Dear," or "True Love." And Matt Hodapp had given Kim Ferguson an adult valentine, not one from the department store packs, but a card store valentine. All of us ooh'd and ahh'd and felt a twinge of jealousy even though it wasn't much of a surprise. Two weeks before, at morning recess, Matt and Kim had professed their liking for each other.
When it was my turn to share, I hesitated. I wasn't sure how a red-striped stick of gum would compare to a fancy card from Hallmark. But the girls crooned their encouragement, and I pulled out the stick of gum. There was a moment of silence, a reverent moment like we'd just unearthed the Shroud of Turin. And then the chatter started.
"No one else got gum."
"Ritson must like you."
"Do you like him?"
And from Kim: "It's just a stick of gum, it's not even the whole pack."
Of course she was right, and everyone was silent again until Terri Fisher said, "Yeah, but it's the red piece. Everyone knows the red piece is the best one."
Terri Fisher had been my best friend for two months, ever since we discovered we were the only two girls brave enough to do the flip-over move on the horizontal monkey bars. It was a scary move when you were eleven. You had to trust your arms would be strong enough to hold you. You laid flat on the top of the bar, reached under, grabbed the bars your belly rested on, and then rolled off the bars in a sort of somersault move while still holding the bars. It wasn't considered successful unless you could hang with your feet dangling above the ground for five seconds after the flip.
And in the bathroom that day, Terri Fisher proved once again how brave she could be. It was very risky to go against anyone who had a two-week relationship going. Kim had been our heroine, the girl we all wished we could be, for more than a week. But Terri had faced up to her.
Later, when we were back in class, I couldn't help but glance at Ritson. He looked the same as always--blond shaggy hair, brown eyes, and two light brown moles on his left cheek--but suddenly he was the cutest boy in the whole world.
He caught me looking at him, and I thought I would die sitting right there in Mrs. Wisecup's class. My cheeks burned and my sweaty palms could barely hold my pencil. And then he smiled. Not a huge show-all-your-teeth-smile but a half-smile that still caused his eyes to crinkle. My belly shuddered like I'd just gone over the hill of a roller coaster.
At afternoon recess, Terri Fisher and I were back on top the monkey bar. We elaborated on the flip-over move, by adding a song. "On a high tin roof Del Gato sat..." When the song called for the cat, Del Gato, to tumble off the high tin roof, Terri and I would do the flip-overs. We didn't have a huge audience, but a few kids stood around, and we performed for them.
As we were belting out, "meow meow meow" for the third time, a group of girls, led by Kim Ferguson (Kim was the leader in most ranks) marched to the monkey bars.
"Ritson Smart likes you." This came from Kim, only she said it in a way that led you to believe it wasn't a happy proclamation.
I wanted to ignore her, but then I remembered how my belly felt in class when Ritson smiled at me, sort of like doing a flip-over. I couldn't resist answering.
"How do you know?"
Kim looked around. I was sure it was to see if she had everyone's attention before proceeding. When she was satisfied, she said, "Because I asked him."
The crowd gasped. Kim Ferguson had just done something no one had dared to do before. That kind of information was saved for secret notes or second hand news from other boys. But I wasn't impressed. I was embarrassed. Now instead of covert glances in a classroom, Ritson and I would be placed under the tightest scrutiny. Boys would watch Ritson. Girls would watch me. And all to see if either of us gave away some hint of affection. And while my heart screamed, "He likes me!" the unwelcome attention and embarrassment made me say "So?"
Kim harrumphed and then turned, with gang in tow and went straight to Ritson who was playing football with the boys.
Terri howled out the next line, "He went there to read a letter, meow meow meow, where the reading light was better, meow meow meow..."
The few kids that had been watching our performance drifted away until it was just Terri and me for the flip-over finale.
When recess was over and we were lining up to go back inside, I stole a glance at Ritson. He looked at me for a brief second and then quickly looked away. No smile. No crinkly eyes. Two days later, Kim Ferguson and Matt Hodapp broke up because Kim had a new boyfriend: Ritson Smart.
* * *
When I was seventeen and Valentine's Day rolled around, I had a steady boyfriend, Woody Hall. Woody and I were both in the High School band. He was a senior and played drum. I was a junior and played clarinet.
Our relationship started on a Friday night in October. The band was traveling to an away football game, and I was running late. I parked my car and sprinted to the bus. Mr. Foiles was standing at the top of the bus steps as I hurried to climb aboard. He waited until I was standing at the top of the steps and then yelled.
"It's very inconsiderate of you to keep everyone waiting!"
I wanted to find a seat and sink into oblivion, so I slumped into the first available spot. Woody Hall was the other occupant. At first, we sat mute, afraid to draw more attention our way. But by the time ten minutes passed, the bus still hadn't moved, and conversations popped up all over. Woody leaned over and whispered.
"Mr. Foiles is such an old fogy."
And I smiled.
Woody's shoulder touched mine for the entire trip, and I learned to love the combined smell of Brute cologne and Dentyne gum.
After the game, when it came time to load back onto the bus, Woody asked if I'd sit next to him on our way home. I hurried to tell Terri Fisher, and we both giggled with excitement. His shoulder didn't lean against me on the return trip and his Brute had been washed away by the cool night breeze, but twice Woody's thigh bumped against mine, and by the third time, he didn't bother to move it away.
Because Woody and I were in different grades, we didn't see much of each other during school hours. But every Friday we sat together on the bus or in the stands at the football game. At one especially close game, our mighty Bucs scored a late quarter touchdown that gave us the lead. The bleachers were filled with hundreds of ecstatic fans. Woody and I were among them. In the thrill of the excitement, Woody hugged me to him and kissed me. His lips were dry and cold, and they only touched mine for milliseconds, but I was warm the rest of the night.
When football season was over, Woody and I still spent Friday nights together at the movies, or the arcade. I played Centipede; Woody played foosball. Or we'd stay at my house with my parents and watch "The Odd Couple" and "Love American Style." When we were alone, Woody would hold my hand and kiss me over and over--warm, moist kisses that were nothing like the kiss at the football game.
On Valentine's Day, Woody made special plans for dinner. When he picked me up, he was dressed in gray corduroy Levi's and a buttoned- down shirt that was open at the collar. He handed me a heart- shaped box full of chocolate covered mints, creams, and cherries and told me how much he liked my burgundy wrap- around dress. I tipped up to kiss him above his open collar and inhaled the woodsy smell of Brute.
Dinner was two towns away at the Carousel. The restaurant set high atop a hotel and revolved, so the view during your meal alternated from city lights to distant mountains. There was no menu. Instead, the waiter recited the selections. When he'd finished, I wasn't sure what to order. He resented my hesitation and brusquely told me they didn't serve hotdogs. I ordered shrimp.
Woody said he wished we were old enough to order wine, but I wasn't disappointed. Being alone with Woody in a different city and sharing the magnificent view with him was intoxicating enough.
That night when Woody parked in front of my house, his kisses turned hot. His hands fumbled over my body and when he first touched my breast, I shivered in shock. Everything seemed to stop, like someone had lifted the arm of the phonograph. Our lips were still together, but our tongues didn't move. And neither did his hand. When I tried to breathe, my breast pushed against Woody's hand, heavy and warm. He finally squeezed, and I moaned. The record started playing again. He squeezed harder, and our tongues tried to get deeper. My heart pounded so hard, I was sure Woody could feel it beneath his hand.
By the time the porch light flashed on, Woody had worked his way inside the vee of my dress and was teasing the soft cotton of my bra. We separated fast. Flustered, I jumped out of the car and forgot to say "Goodnight." Dad didn’t say a word when I immediately went to my room. I lay in bed, thinking of Woody and how he had touched me. I fumbled with my breast, hoping to evoke the same feeling as Woody's hand.
Our annual Sadie Hawkins celebration was the following week at school. Even though it wasn't a leap year, our school liked celebrating. It was nearly spring, and spring was a time for new beginnings--a time when a girl got the chance to ask out a boy, and by custom, he couldn't say no. So it became a tradition at Mercer High to celebrate Sadie Hawkins even if there wasn't a February twenty-ninth.
I thought for a long time before I decided how I would ask Woody. Instead of asking him outright, I'd send him a note. The note was childish, but it was meant to be.
Will you go to the Sadie Hawkins Dance with me?
I slipped the note into Woody's locker between second period chemistry and third period algebra. I knew Woody would be going to his locker right after fourth period.
By seventh period, I still hadn't got the note back. I didn't worry too much. But when Woody wasn't waiting for me after school, my heart did a flip-flop. He'd met me every day since the football season.
At home, when I was watching Brady Bunch reruns, the phone rang. My mother picked up and seconds later yelled, "It's Woody." I should have felt relief, but all I felt was dread. My mouth was dry, dry and cold like a chilly October night.
"I didn't know how to tell you," he said. He'd already been asked to the dance. Kim Ferguson and Woody shared third year Spanish fifth period. And Kim had asked Woody in front of the whole class. She'd made the request speaking in Spanish. Everyone was impressed, especially the teacher. Apparently, Kim really knew how to roll her Rs.
By the night of the dance, Terri had spent hours on the phone with me, commiserating. We tried to find a reason why Woody hadn't told Kim he'd already been asked. We failed. I didn't bother to ask anyone else. I didn't want to dance with anyone but Woody. So I sat home and ate stale chocolate- covered cherries and light butter creams, and waited for Terri to call me when she got home.
Kim Ferguson dated Woody Hall until he went off to Berkeley in the fall.
* * *
In my senior year of college, as Valentine's Day approached, I didn't have a date. I didn't have a date because Alex, the man I'd been seeing, was married. And Valentine's Day was one of those days he saved for his wife.
He assuaged my disappointment by asking me to share the weekend before Valentine's Day with him. His wife was going out of town. He tempted me with pleas like, "Wouldn't it be wonderful to wake up together?" and "I just want to spend time with you without having to worry." I let him convince me.
I was still wondering if I'd made the right choice when he pulled me into his bedroom. The frilly linens must have been his wife's touch. Initially, I thought he'd meant we would spend the weekend at a hotel, or maybe at my apartment, but he needed to stay home in case his wife called. I'm ashamed to say there was a wicked delight in it--parking my car a block away, sneaking into his house after dark, fingering all the things in the house that were hers. Maybe if there had been children, I would have made different decisions like never pursuing Alex in the first place or not agreeing to this weekend. But it was just Alex and his wife.
We were adults. Alex wanted me. And I wanted him.
The room was already prepared. Candles flickered and cast shadowy dancing demons on the wall. The floral comforter was folded neatly at the foot of the bed, and crisp, white sheets were adorned with rose petals. Alex had put together a perfect bed for sin.
We weren't new to each other, so stripping was less a seduction and more an act of eagerness. But though Alex was hungry, he started gently. He smoothed back my hair and cupped my face. His fuzzy chest hair tickled my nipples as he leaned in again and again to dust butterfly kisses on my cheeks, my eyes, across my nose, and finally to my lips.
He tasted of mint and smelled of aftershave--something expensive that was more allusive than distinct. He caressed my neck, my shoulders, and down my arms, little pets that were neither hurried nor firm. He licked along my lips, first the top lip and then the bottom lip. He nibbled and sucked like a baby bird, impatient but soft.
He slipped his tongue into my mouth and it tangled with mine. Our lips, wet and slippery, glided together, and our hungry mouths sucked. His penis lurched hard against me, dotting me with tiny beads of his moisture.
He broke the kiss, stepped back, and reached for my hand. "Come with me," he said, and he pulled me along.
He sat on the edge of the bed and opened his legs so I could wedge between them. I leaned closer and his mouth latched onto one nipple while his thumb made circles on the other. A warm rush of pleasure rushed through me, spreading out from my breasts and sweeping between my thighs. I locked my fingers in his shiny, blond hair and pulled him closer until his entire mouth was full from my breast. He sucked and licked and laved my nipple, my areola, and all the flesh around them. His relentless fingers kneaded and squeezed my other breast until I couldn't stand the waiting.
"I want you in me," I told him.
Alex released my breasts and his cock rose between us, hard and erect. He grabbed the base and made long, slow strokes up over his shiny head and down over the taut skin of the shaft. He lay flat on his back with his legs still touching the floor. I deliberately slid along his thigh, smashing myself self against its mass. He still held his penis tight and I slid right down on it. Our bodies slapped together with the fit.
He grabbed my ass and worked his fingers toward the crevice. The closer he got to the rosebud of my anus, the more I pushed against him. I used his chest for leverage, digging my nails in deep, riding him feverishly. I flexed my inner muscles to tighten around his cock, milking its length. My breasts bounced viciously above his face as I ground my clit against his pubis.
When I was just about to come, he overpowered me and slung me to the bed. His penis popped out--angry, red, and wet. He slapped my legs apart and climbed between them. He spread my pussy open and shoved two fingers inside, burrowing until he was as far as he could get, and then he wiggled them like little worms, spreading and stretching and tormenting my cunt. He pulled his fingers out and slid along my slit, seeking my asshole. He teased the rim, and my sphincter contracted. And then one slippery finger found its way inside, past the rim, past the sphincter, and all the way in. At first, he held it perfectly still and then began to wiggle just as he had done in my pussy. He wiggled until I wanted to beg. Until I did beg, "Please, please."
He pulled his finger out and sluiced upward, bathing all his fingers in my cream. When his fingers were oily and slippery, he wrapped them around his cock and penetrated me. A quick jab followed by excruciatingly slow strokes. I locked my feet around his waist and squeezed him tight. I clawed at his arms, and he slammed harder, faster, until we were one manic animal struggling together for release.
When release came, it came for both of us.
Alex fell to my side face down. His breathing was ragged and his hair was matted to his scalp. I trembled with tiny aftershocks that continued to vibrate inside me.
"God, you're a fantastic fuck," he said. Minutes later he was softly snoring.
I was wired with crazy energy. I hopped up from the bed and went to the bathroom. I found a washrag in a closet that was full of feminine toiletries: tampons, perfumes, powders, and lotions. Faced with evidence of Alex's wife, I knew what I had to do. I tip-toed back into the bedroom.
I couldn't spend the night with Alex, and I couldn't wake up with him in the morning. I might have felt sorry for him if he hadn't entered into infidelity so easily. I quickly dressed and gathered my things. Alex still slept.
I opened one dresser drawer and another until I found the one that I wanted, and in it I placed a small red box with a pink chiffon heart on its lid. A Valentine's Day gift: one stick of fruity cherry striped gum, two chocolate covered cherries, and a note that said, "I hope you'll always remember me!"
When I got home, I called Terri.
"I tucked it in Kim's panty drawer, right where she'll find it," I told Terri.
I might have felt a pang of regret, except Kim had hated me all my life, and at least now she had a reason.