Perfect Kiss

PERFECT KISS

BY EDWARD DRAKE

This story came to me in a dream.

It stayed with me for weeks afterwards, especially the end.

It was my first day at the new college. I did not know anyone there, my family moving house after I had finished high school, leaving the friends and the life I had known before far behind. I was not happy about it in the slightest, but kept my thoughts to myself as it was not my parents’ fault we had had to move. My father’s job had been transferred to another county, so it was either resign or relocate. My mother and I had supported him all the way, but then, as I walked across the playing field and the courtyards of the college towards the main reception, I was filled with trepidation. I saw the other kids my age, all in their groups of friends, laughing and joking, yet I was alone, starting afresh.

At the main reception I signed in with the secretary, registered myself as a new student and was handed my timetable for the year. English Literature, Business Studies, Mathematics and Art, nice and varied, and the only subjects I had ever been any good in at my last school. The secretary gave me directions of where to find my first class before she answered a call on the telephone, waving me away.

I wandered the now empty corridors, classes having begun already. Not a great start, the new kid and already I was running late because of the registration. Eventually I found the Business Studies class and was advised by the strange looking teacher in a tracksuit and sandals to take the only available seat in the room.

‘So you’re the new kid,’ greeted the guy sat next to me. He had spiked up, gelled hair and a big, wide grin. He was about my height and wore an Arsenal football shirt and bright colour shorts. ‘Welcome to the college. I’m Jason, but friends call me Jace.’

I greeted him and we talked for a bit during that first lesson. He seemed easy going enough and did not really seem to care what anyone really thought of him, truly laid back. We shared a lot of the same classes and he said he would show me around the place. It was great to have already met someone I could get along with and at lunch I joined Jace and a few other lads in a game of footie. They seemed a good bunch and welcomed me well enough.

After lunch we attended the first Art class of the year and were assigned our first project, redecorating the outer walls of the school with modern murals, or as the eccentric teacher put it, ‘tasteful graffiti.’ We were given white overalls to wear that drew a lot of laughs from many in the class, but were then divided into small groups to work on individual sections of the mural.

Jace and I were partnered with two girls of the class. One was a pretty blonde by the name of Amy who seemed popular amongst the class and Jace especially as he nudged me with his elbow, an even bigger grin than usual on his face at the prospect of working with her. The second girl was Jess, Amy’s close friend, who appeared very pale, with green eyes and dark hair. She looked young for her age and was also quite short. I am not the tallest person around, but she was only just over half my height. What I noticed most of all though was her constant smile.

Our first task of the assignment was to assemble the required paints from the supplies room. Inside arrayed on the walls in dozens of rows were tubs of paint powder of every colour imaginable.

‘So Amy, how was your summer?’ Jace asked as soon as they were inside the room.

‘Good thanks Jace, you?’ she replied.

‘Can’t complain, holiday in Spain with the family,’ he replied and I could see that already he was going to try and impress her. ‘I did scuba diving and a bungee jump…’

‘You never did a bungee jump!’ laughed Jess as she looked over a few of the paint powders. ‘You’re afraid of heights!’

‘Am not!’ Jace argued, perhaps a little too quick and insistent, his voice a little high too.

‘I remember you getting stuck on the climbing wall last year!’ Jess teased. ‘Mr Woods had to go up and coax you down!’

‘Did not!’ Jace said in vain. ‘My leg cramped up!’

‘I remember that!’ giggled Amy, but as she did so her arm caught a full tub of bright green paint that poured down onto her white overalls, covering one entire side.

Jace burst out laughing before being hit by the contents of a blue tub from Amy and then a yellow tub from Jess. I was then hit by an orange tub square in the face, with no idea who threw it. The fight then broke out and only ended when all four of us were absolutely covered in powder from all the colours of the rainbow, all laughing hysterically. Our teacher did not find it funny.

 xxxxx

Over the following weeks of detention a friendship grew between the four of us. Amy and Jess had been best mates since nursery and Jace and I formed a friendship very quickly, joining the same weekend football team. During classes and outside the four of us spent time together, joking around, teasing each other, enjoying life. Jace was funny and carefree, Amy pretty and popular but not at all big-headed about it and Jess clever, quick-witted and with a great sense of humour.

Amy, Jess and even Jace found themselves leaving their old groups of friends and social clicks to hang out more with myself as a four. We stuck together in classes and spent evenings and weekends together. It was a fast but firm friendship, all of us looking out for each other. Jess had been off school sick for a lot of the time, but the rest of us made sure to visit her when we could to cheer her up and hopefully make her feel better. On one of the days she asked if we could all go to the beach. Jace, Amy and I needed no excuse to skip a day off college.

 xxxxx

The waves calmly rolled upon the shore as the sun beamed down upon us, heating the sand so that it was warm beneath our feet. We had the entire beach to ourselves, a disposable barbeque cooking whilst music blared out from Amy’s iPod and speakers. Jace, always the hyper one, suggested a simple game of catch, one knee two knee, but even that left us all laughing loudly as we messed around.

‘That’s not fair!’ Amy laughed as she knelt down on both knees, only able to use one hand.

‘You should have been paying attention rather than eying up that runner!’ replied Jace.

‘He was wearing very tight shorts though,’ Jess added mischievously. She looked pale, even more so than usual, but still she had her ever-present smile. We asked her a few times if she was okay and if she wanted to head home, but she had silenced us all by ordering us not to worry about her and to simply enjoy the day.

‘So if I wore mine like this,’ Jace said, pulling his shorts up high and tight, ‘you girls would pay me some attention?’

‘Not with that bony bum on show!’ teased Amy, before she missed yet another catch.

‘Another round?’ she suggested, determined to win at least one game.

‘I’ll sit this one out,’ Jess said, ‘you guys keep playing though.’

Unseen by the others I then saw Jess stumble before she sat down on our towels near the barbeque.

‘You two play on,’ I said to Jace and Amy before walking over and sitting at Jess’s side.

‘You should carry on, I’m just taking a breather,’ Jess told me.

‘Be honest with me Jess,’ I said quietly, unheard by the other two. ‘There’s something wrong, I can tell.’

‘It’s just a little bug…’ she started to say before I cut her off.

‘Jess, please.’

She turned away, looking down into the burning coal of the barbeque. Keeping her voice low she then explained it all to me.

‘You’re right, I’m not well,’ she confided. She did not sound sad or depressed, but accepting as she raised the sleeve of her jumper, revealing needle track marks. ‘Don’t worry, they’re from my time in hospital, although with the amount of drugs in me and these marks I could be mistaken for an addict.’

‘Is the medication working?’ I asked.

‘It was, but not anymore. They’re trying me on a new combination but… basically my time is coming.’

‘You should be resting, giving the medication a chance!’ I said in shock.

‘I have wasted far too much of my life already,’ she swore. ‘I have let it rule me for so long. I can accept that it is winning, but I won’t just lay in my bed waiting for the end.’

‘Jess you should tell the others, especially Amy, she’s your best friend.’

‘No, I can’t burden her with that. I don’t even know why I’m telling you. There’s something about you that just makes me open up to you. I feel that you are very trusting.’

‘How long do you have?’ I asked.

‘I don’t know. But what I can tell you is that I will not let this slow me down, that’d be giving in. I will not let it own me, nor will I even dignify it with a name. I guess none of us know when our last day will be and therefore I just want to live my life to the fullest whilst I can.’

‘That’s good to hear,’ I said, not knowing what else to say.

A quiet then settled between us as we watched Amy and Jace playing and laughing. My own family had lost people to illness and I had seen exactly how that affected them. Jess though was a fighter and I saw so much spirit in her. Still, it did not help in knowing what to say to Jess or what to do.

‘See, already it is weird between us,’ Jess said, although still smiling. ‘We will not talk of this again and you are not to tell anyone. Can I trust you?’

‘You know you can,’ I replied, forcing a smile.

‘Good. Now, changing the subject, tell me about your crush on Amy,’ she teased.

‘What?!’ I blustered. ‘I have no idea…’

‘Now who’s lying!’ she giggled, prodding me in the side. ‘It’s okay to like her, everybody does. I see how you look at her sometimes.’

I shook my head, laughing as I did so. Jess may have been suffering from a sickness, but she saw more than most people did.

‘Okay, yes you are right,’ I gave in. ‘Let’s just say I see what all the fuss is about with her.’

‘You should tell her,’ Jess encouraged me.

‘No,’ I replied, already sure about that. ‘I know Jace really likes her and besides look at them.’

‘There may be more than a spark there,’ agreed Jess as she saw them playfully wrestling each other for the ball in the sand. ‘You’re a good friend.’

‘I try,’ I replied.

‘Shame you’re not as good at catching as me though,’ Jess taunted as she stood up and pulled me up for another round.

 xxxxx

As the evening drew in we built a fire upon the beach and the four of us sat around it exchanging stories. Best holiday, best night out, best birthday and finally, Amy’s brought out subject, best first kiss.

‘Mine was with an ex-boyfriend, Marcus Stevenson,’ she began. ‘He was from the year above, captain of the school football team, and I was the envy of everyone in the school. We dated for a few months after that.’

‘And what happened?’ Jace asked, a hint of jealousy in his voice.

‘I caught him alone and lip-locked with Stacey, one of my friends,’ Amy replied. ‘I got my revenge though, trashing his prized bike and painting his locker with the word CHEAT.’

‘Remind me never to cross you,’ I laughed.

‘Now for you Jace,’ Jess said.

‘Abby Clarke,’ he said with a grin. ‘We kissed at the end of year ten dance. It was a great kiss, truly unforgettable.’

‘And what happened?’ Amy asked, repeating his question, her cheeks a little blushed.

‘It was unfortunately our last kiss as less than an hour later she was together with her ex in the cloakroom.’ He laughed at it, really not caring, making the rest of us join him.

‘Now for you Jess,’ Jace passed back.

‘Nothing really to tell,’ she said. ‘I’ve never had a truly great first kiss, nor a proper one from a guy really. I’m not usually the one who is seen by the guys.’

‘And they are missing out,’ Amy supported her friend as she hugged Jess tightly.

‘How about you?’ the smaller girl asked me.

‘There have been one or two…’ I began before the others teased me. ‘But I would probably say the girlfriend I had before moving out here. We had been friends for a while and eventually we became more.’

‘What was your first kiss like?’ Jess asked. Looking back to her I saw that her lips were smiling, as they always did, and I could swear that her eyes were smiling at me as well.

‘It just felt so right,’ I replied. ‘As if we should have been doing it for years. It was perfect and that’s how I think they should all really be.’

‘I agree,’ she said, her eyes still looking into mine.

 xxxxx

After that day at the beach Jess and I spent more and more time together, even without Amy and Jace there. We shared a secret, but never spoke of it, and instead both of us focussed on enjoying life as much as possible. She was right, none of us know when the end will come, so the two of us made it our goal to live life to the fullest. Jess did not want me to make a fuss or give her any special attention, but she quickly realised that I would not take no for an answer. She appreciated the time I spent with her, enjoyed it, and I think it helped her to have someone with her who knew what she was going through, even if we never spoke of it.

With Jess’s illness and the medication she had good days and bad days. On those good days we made the most of it with trips to theme parks, the beach and visiting places that Jess had always wanted to see but had never had the chance to. On the bad days Amy, Jace and I rallied around her and helped her pull through. Amy and Jace knew that something had to be wrong, but Jess never told them, nor did I.

Spending all that time together a bond stronger than friendship grew between Jess and I. I missed school and even football matches to be there for her. I thought of her all the time, not the illness, the person, her smile, her laugh and the way she made me happy when I was with her. Maybe there was a touch of love there but neither of us ever acted upon it, simply enjoying the time together.

 xxxxx

It was a Friday afternoon Art class and again my group were assigned to assemble the required paints for the entire class from the supplies room. We had music playing throughout the class and within the supplies room, away from the eyes of the other students, the girls led us in a dancing session to the tunes. Amy and Jace were dancing closely at one end of the room with me and Jess messing around in the other, as always my dancing being the source of much hilarity.

Jess was joyful and laughing, happy. Seeing her like that, all I could do was smile and want that moment to last longer.

‘Show me those moves,’ she taunted me before suddenly stopping, a look of concern on her face. She gripped on to the shelves beside her before managing to say ‘I feel dizzy.’ A trickle of blood ran from her nose and I was only just in time to catch her as she began to fall. I knelt down and held her in my arms and she felt even smaller and thinner than I had thought possible. Her body then shook, her eyes shut tightly, a brief and sudden seizure taking her before her eyes opened again.

‘It’s coming,’ she whispered, looking up into my eyes, not with fear, but with love.

‘I should get you an ambulance,’ I managed to say in utter shock.

‘No,’ Jess calmly said. ‘I only want one thing. Make it special. Make it perfect.’

As she closed her eyes I knew what she meant and closed my own as our lips met. It felt right, it felt special and I wish I had done it months before. Parting, our eyes opened, both with smiles upon our lips, happy.

‘Perfect,’ she whispered, before her eyes then shut again.

I hugged her frail and weak body closely, tears flowing from my eyes as I felt her heartbeat slow and then stop. My own body shook then, my breathing broken as I cried loudly. Amy and Jace approached but I did not hear what they were saying, my grief overcoming me. I could manage only a single word in Jess’s ear.

‘Goodbye.’

Edward Drake. 2012

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