"Alright children," she said with a smile, "you can enjoy the snacks we prepared for you. Now don't forget to memorize your Bible verses for our next meeting."
She rose from her chair. I saw she was having a hard time of it leaning against the wall next to her. She smiled at me and waved me toward the table in the corner covered in cookies on plates and bottles of Cocola.
"Go on, Rickey. Join your friends. I'll be back shortly." She walked slowly and deliberately to the next room closing the door behind her. Turning toward the snacks I saw HER talking to my buddy. I felt a twinge of anger at their conversation. Jealousy was new to me.
"Save me a cookie," I said. They were home made instead of the usual Oreos.
"I brought them in," said the most beautiful twelve year old girl in my existence. "I helped mama bake them. Chocolate chips. You said you like chocolate chip cookies, didn't you Rickey?"
Blushing the words came out, "Uh huh."
"Aren't you going to have one," she asked looking at me as my mind wandered off into the future and our marital bliss to be. "Rickey?"
"Huh?" I blurted out returning to the present. "Oh yeah, a cookie. You betcha. I love chocolate chips."
Taking one I looked at my buddy who was frowning. Was he feeling that twinge of jealousy I had felt moments ago?
"She baked them for me," I said, smugness in my face so close to his. His eyebrows bent onto the bridge of his nose as a light steam wavered from his ears.
"I baked them for you too," she said to my buddy. Her face was bordering on crimson. His was lightened by a smile. Voicelessly he mouthed the sound Nyaah in my direction.
She had returned to the table. Replacing the tray she picked up a cup of Cocola. A quick gulp of the cool liquid put out the fire in her face. My buddy and I faced one another in a challenging position when the words, "Let's play spin-the-bottle," were whispered.
"We're in church!" one of the other kids said.
"So?" came the reply. "It's just a kissing game."
Kissing? Kissing? What was that kid talking about. He was a couple of years older than most of us. He'd been eyeing my girl all evening.
The other kids mulled it over. There were four guys and four girls attending this Bible class in preparation for baptism and communion. We had been meeting on Sunday afternoons for about four weeks. Two more and we would be welcomed into the baptismal pool after passing the test and Bible verse memorization. It had been an awakening for me because I had begun to notice how pretty the girls were. Glenda was the prettiest by far in my book. It appeared the other boys had borrowed the same book because they all gazed at her as time allowed and at times when it didn't. Personally, I was smitten with feelings that were completely new.
"What about cooties?" I asked immediately regretting it.
"Cooties?" She asked in mock terror. "You think we have cooties? It's you boys who have cooties. What makes you think we want to get cooties from you?" Her demand was focused on me.
"Why would we want to kiss any of you?" She turned folding her arms across her budding chest which I noticed, really noticed, for the first time. Heck, I didn't care about cooties all of a sudden.
"Oh, I was just kidding. It's a kid's tale. Cooties don't exist," I said leaning toward my buddy and whispering, "Do they?" He looked at me like I was from outer space, a bugged eyed green interloper.
She didn't notice my eyes wavering over her introduction to puberty. When I did, my face blazed scarlet.
"So? What y'all wanna do?" asked the older boy. "Wanna play or not?" He was looking at My girl while asking.
Immediately, she answered. "Yes!" The rest of us nodded consent. One of the bottles from the table was placed on the floor by Mr. Sophisticate. We all formed a circle around it. I was worried that my nervousness was evident as I plopped down across from her. She avoided my gaze concentrating on the older guy catty-corner from her.
"You all know how to play?"
The girls nodded yes. The rest of us shook our heads. Kissing? Break the cootie barrier? Not something that had entered our heads. Ever!
"You guys are just kids. Maybe you better sit it out. I'd be happy to kiss any of these fine young women." What a smarmy jackass.
"Well, here are the rules," he started to explain when my buddy spoke up.
"Shhh. I think the teacher is returning."
We scrambled to our feet. As the door opened we wandered in different directions. Smarmy guy had the bottle behind his back.
"You children doing OK in here?" asked the teacher who had poked her head around the half opened door.
"Yes ma'am. We're testing each other on verse memorization," said mister bottle hider.
"Well, that's good. I trust I can leave you alone for a while longer?" Her face beamed with that trust. A couple of us kids blushed as we told her yes.
"Alright, then. I'll let you continue your practice." She closed the door. We listened to her footsteps recede.
With the click of the door we were sliding back into the circle. Mr. Know-it-all was placing the bottle on the floor once again.
"Here's the rules. One person spins this bottle. Who ever it points too when it stops spinning has to kiss the spinner. Now if a boy spins and it points to one of the boys he spins again. Same for the girls if it points to a girl. Got it?"
"Yeah," came the nervous answer.
I saw she was watching him as he spun the bottle. It made a rasping sound as it moved on its side. He kept looking at her, licking his lips, as it spun. It slowed, stopped and pointed at the girl next to her. She looked disappointed. I was disturbed.
"Oh yeah, I forgot. To kiss the two have to go into that closet for privacy."
"What!" exclaimed the girls.
"Well, yeah. Kissing is kind of private don't you think?" he said with a wink.
"The girl got up. She was smiling. I was certain she must have played this game before. No cooties on her mind.
He smiled, took her hand and led her into the closet. The door closed. We looked at the clock. We stared at the clock. Two minutes. I looked at my buddy. He shrugged. I looked at the clock.
"How long does it take to kiss a girl?" I blurted out. She gave me a look I hadn't seen before. Hurt? Anger? Girls whatcha gonna do?
Finally they emerged. Her hair was a mess and her clothes were a bit rumpled compared to her entering the closet. His face was covered in pink lipstick. His hair was mussed up too. What the heck. I thought kissing was touching lips. Shouldn't take that long. Maybe it was too dark in there to see.
"OK. It's my Lady's turn now," he said handing his kissing mate the bottle. She looked a bit dazed, placing the bottle on the floor. With determination she spun it. It scraped the floor as it turned. It slowed. It stopped in front of my buddy. He looked at her. She smiled at him. He was up in a flash as she led him to the closet.
There was a noise outside. We jumped up and mingled. The door opened. Our teacher poked her head in again. She was mentally taking a head count.
Stepping into the room she pointed with her finger ticking us off. "Five...six. Two of you are missing."
"Yes ma'am. Bath room break."
"Oh, OK. I'll be back to check on you. Your parents should be arriving soon so get ready." Her trusting smile pulsed guilt into our hearts. When the door shut the guilt departed and our fannies were parked in front of the bottle once again.
That had take ten minutes and the closet was still closed.
"Hey! The rest of us want a turn."
The door opened. My buddy appeared to have never combed his hair in his life. His partner's eyes were glazed and she looked short of breath. maybe cooties were for real I thought. Looks like they might be catching something.
My buddy cleared his throat. Looking at his partner he spun the bottle. It stopped pointing at me. the laugh it brought was accompanied by a louder SHHHH!
He spun it again. It landed on.... My face turned three successive shades of crimson. ...my girl! I looked at him. He smiled at me as he took her hand helping her up and into the confines of the darkness behind the closet door.
Agony set in. I didn't know what agony was until that moment. It was only a moment though. Behind the door was a muffled slap. The door came open. She ran out and sat in her spot once more. My buddy sheepishly walked out a hand print across his face. I turned to her. Her head was down but I could see it was fire engine red. I smiled. He sat beside me. He shrugged.
"I thought it was all part of the game." He grinned.
"Kissing! It's a game of kissing!" she spat at him.
What in the world, I wondered, had happened.
His sheepish grin returned. "Well, you can always try."
I looked at him questioningly. Daggers spurted from her eyes.
"Your turn," he reminded her.
Yanking it from his hand she placed it in front of her and spun it.
GLORY BE!!! IT LANDED ON ME!!! Oh, wait. It's a kissing game. I didn't know nothing 'bout no kissin'. What the heck will I do? She was standing in front of me offering her hand. Her smile was warm and fetching.
I forgot my panic and stared into her smile. I became warm all over and became fluid of movement as I took her hand. The warmth of it enhanced mine as I stood to walk with her into the unknown. She looked back at me as she led me into the.. . I didn't care. She could have led me anywhere as long as my hand was in hers. Those eyes offered I didn't know what but I was willing. The darkness was complete when she shut the door. Once I couldn't see her the panic flooded in.
"Shh," she said. "Just relax. It's going to be alright." I could feel the warmth of here face as she leaned into me. Her lips touched mine. They were soft and warm. I wanted to dive in. My arms went around her waste and I leaned into the embrace of ...
BAM! BAM! BAM!
"She's coming. Hurry up."
I like this. I don't want to leave. As those thoughts evaporated the panic once again rose. My stomach dropped to my toes and I pulled away.
"We gotta go!"
In the darkness I lost track of the feelings that had engulfed me. The fear of being caught became adamant. I couldn't see it but I felt the disappointment she felt for me increase.
I flung open the door and ran to the table. The nearest warm coke I raised to my lips and took several gulps. She strolled out looking at me.
"Washing the cooties away?" she asked. I could feel the derision in her voice. "It's alright I don't have that many."
"No, I..." The thought was never completed because the door opened. Our teacher walked in smiling.
"Gather your things, children. Your parents have begun to arrive."
I looked at her. She looked at me. Her hand touched her lips. She aimed it in my direction palm up and blew across it.
I turned red, grabbed my Bible and ran into the hall. I'm sure it was laughter that followed me out.