I was 17 and it smelled like winter outside. The sky was an undecided bluish gray, studded with clouds. I had just finished up a grueling cross-country practice and quickly threw on sweats to protect my skin against the chill.

I impatiently checked my watch and saw that it was just past 5:30. I had an hour to eat before heading into the theater for rehearsal. December 8th was the winter play’s opening night and we were less than a month away. There was a script to memorize, blocking to learn, and costumes to be fitted.

There was also a cute boy to flirt with.

We sat in the very last row of the theater running lines and joking around while others rehearsed scenes on stage. He was tall and lanky and smelled like bonfires. His eyes were steely blue and lined with jet-black lashes. He was handsome and funny and smart. He was also my best friend.

After years of playful banter and “would they / won’t they” discussions, we were both firmly committed to being just friends. Friends was safer, we agreed. We were too busy to be “together together”. Our parents were too strict.

But, I remember the way my stomach flipped and tilted whenever he walked into the room.

In the play, my character was in love with his character. And, on this day – this otherwise un-special day in November – we were instructed to practice kissing to avoid any awkwardness when it came time to lock lips onstage.

I remember slipping a Listerine breath strip onto my tongue and feeling the minty tingle spread throughout my mouth. When he looked down at his script, I quickly smeared on some strawberry chapstick.

We recited our lines.

He said. She said. He said.

My heart was hammering in my chest. My palms grew wet. He leaned in. Our lips met.

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