A Thousand Boy Kisses

By: Tillie Cole


My mamaw smiled big and kissed me on my cheek.

I knew this would be the best adventure of my life.





Rune

Two years ago

Aged Fifteen



Silence fell as she settled herself on the stage. Well, not everything was silent—the thunder of blood rushing through me roared in my ears as my Poppy carefully sat down. She looked beautiful in her sleeveless black dress, with her long brown hair pulled back in a bun, white bow positioned on top.

Lifting the camera that was always around my neck, I brought the lens to my eye just as she positioned her bow against the string of her cello. I always loved to capture her at this moment. The moment she closed her big green eyes. The moment the most perfect expression drifted over her face—the look she wore just before the music began. The look of pure passion for the sounds that were to follow.

I snapped the picture at the perfect time, and then the melody began. Lowering my camera, I focused simply on her. I couldn’t take pictures while she played. I couldn’t bring myself to miss any part of how she looked up on that stage.

My lip hooked up in a small smile as her body began to sway to the music. She loved this piece, had been playing it for as long as I could remember. She needed no sheet music for this; Greensleeves poured from her soul through her bow.

I couldn’t stop staring, my heart beating like a damn drum as Poppy’s lips twitched. Her deep dimples popped out when she concentrated on the difficult passages. Her eyes remained closed, but you could tell which parts of the music she adored. Her head would tilt to the side, and a huge smile would spread on her face.

People didn’t understand that after all this time she was still mine. We were only fifteen, but since the day I kissed her in the blossom grove, aged eight, there had never been anyone else. I had blinkers on to any other girl. I only saw Poppy. In my world, only she existed.

And she was different to any other girl in our class. Poppy was quirky, not cool. She wasn’t concerned with what people thought of her—she never had been. She played the cello because she loved it. She read books, she studied for fun, she woke at dawn just to watch the sunrise.

It was why she was my everything. My forever always. Because she was unique. Unique in a town full of carbon-copy bimbos. She didn’t want to cheer, or bitch, or chase boys. She knew she had me, just as much as I had her.

We were all we needed.

I shuffled on my seat as the sound of her cello became softer, Poppy bringing the piece to an end. Lifting my camera again, I snapped a final shot as Poppy raised her bow off the string, a contented expression gracing her pretty face.

The sound of applause made me lower the camera. Poppy pushed the instrument off her chest and got to her feet. She gave a small bow, then scanned the auditorium. Her eyes met mine. She smiled.

I thought my heart might smash through my chest.

I smirked in return, pushing my long blond hair back off my face with my fingers. A blush coated Poppy’s cheeks, then she exited stage left, the house lights flooding the auditorium with light. Poppy had been the last to perform. She always closed the show. She was the best musician in the district for our age group. In my opinion, she outshone anyone in the three age groups above.

I once asked her how she was able to play like she did. She simply told me that the melodies poured from her bow as easily as she breathed. I couldn’t imagine having that kind of talent. But that was Poppy, the most amazing girl in the world.

When the applause faded out, people began to leave the auditorium. A hand pressed on my arm. Mrs. Litchfield was wiping away a tear. She always cried when Poppy performed.

“Rune, sweetie, we need to get these two home. Are you okay to meet Poppy?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I replied, and quietly laughed at Ida and Savannah, Poppy’s nine- and eleven-year-old sisters, sleeping on their seats. They didn’t much care for music, not like Poppy.

Mr. Litchfield rolled his eyes and threw me a small wave, then turned to wake the girls to get them home. Mrs. Litchfield kissed me on my head, then the four of them left.

As I made my way out of the aisle, I heard whispers and giggling coming from my right. Glancing over the seats, I spotted a group of freshman girls all looking my way. I ducked my head, ignoring their stares.

It happened a lot. I had no idea why so many of them paid me so much attention. I’d been with Poppy for as long as they’d known me. I didn’t want anyone else. I wished they’d stop trying to get me away from my girl—nothing would ever do that.

I pushed through the exit and made my way to the backstage door. The air was thick and humid, causing my black t-shirt to stick to my chest. My black jeans and black boots were probably too warm for this spring heat, but I wore this style of clothing every day, whatever the weather.

Seeing the performers begin to pile out the door, I leaned against the wall of the auditorium, resting my foot against the white painted brick. I crossed my arms over my chest, only unfolding them to rake my hair from my eyes.

I watched the performers getting hugs from their families, then, catching the same girls from before staring at me, lowered my eyes to the ground. I didn’t want them to come over. I had nothing to say to them.