I’ve written quite a bit about other people’s stories, so I think it’s time to share one of my own. Below is a short story for your consideration. Please feel free to leave a comment—writing is almost always a work in progress, and I would like to hear what you think.
The first time I met my husband, I slapped him.
I was at a new high school senior year because my dad switched jobs. I hated leaving my long-term friends back home, but I shoved my anxiety into the deepest crevices of my mind and told myself to make friends or die trying. By lunch the first day, I had met a few girls in Physics who invited me to sit with them.
We were sitting down at a table in the shade when we heard raised voices coming from the lockers. Several seniors were tormenting a cornered freshman.
One of my new acquaintances nodded to the senior in the middle, who was laughing as his friend shoved the freshman into the lockers.
“That’s John. Everyone wants to go out with him, girls salivate when he walks by.”
I shook my head. “I wouldn’t want to go out with anyone who’s such a jerk.” An image flashed in my mind—my best friend Owen had received a few beatings our freshman year. I had been too afraid to do anything at the time, and it still caused a sick knot in my stomach. My friend had needed help, and I hadn’t been brave enough to stand up for him.
I put down my plastic fork. “I’ll be right back.”
As I marched over to the lockers, I wondered what I was doing. It was my first day—I should be making friends, not enemies. But I kept picturing Owen.
“Excuse me,” I said to John. He turned to me, surprised. Without waiting for an invitation, I stepped around him to stand in front of the freshman. “I think this poor kid has been bullied enough for one day.”
They stared at me. “Who are you?” John asked.
I tried to make myself as tall as possible. “I’m Christina. Don’t you have lunches to eat?”
John’s face turned from surprise to incredulity. “You think you can just interfere?”
I realized that I was eye-level with the middle of his chest. “That’s exactly what I think. You’re a big bully, and I won’t have it.”
He took one step forward, and that was when I slapped him. My hand left a light pink mark on his cheek. He gaped at me.
“Don’t let me catch you again.” I let the freshman make his escape, and then went back to lunch and my awestruck classmates.
I spent the rest of the school year fending off John’s romantic advances. He wanted to get my number, to buy me coffee, to take me to homecoming and winter formal and prom. He wanted to drive me home when he found out I took the bus. He even invited me to the Sadie Hawkins dance. But I had told Kendal I didn’t date jerks—no matter how attractive—and kept to my word. It didn’t matter that he had stopped bullying. My first impression of him had stuck.
When I started my freshman year at Arizona State University, I walked into my first day of my backpacking PE class and saw John at one of the desks. I tried to sit in the back, but he saw me and moved to sit next to me.
“Hey Christina,” he said. “I didn’t know you were going to ASU.”
“Look. I know we got off to a bad start last year, but could we try again? Please?”
I looked at him. While it was true that all the girls at high school had salivated after him, he hadn’t dated anyone our senior year. “Sure,” I said. “Why not?”