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Five First Kisses & One Last

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I

 

What Scott counts as his first kiss happens when he is ten, at the Ilderton Carnival and the girl he kisses is Tessa Virtue. She is his Girlfriend, at least that is what they had decided a while ago, the one time they had actually really talked to each other. Since then, their boyfriend-girlfriend-thing has been mostly sitting next to each other in silence holding each others clammy hands. They did that a lot on the ice when they skated together so it really wasn't that scary off-ice but talking to her, oh boy, that was something else. He did try to, he really did, but she was very shy. It had taken him about a month to notice that her eyes were green like seaweed because she would hardly ever look up at him.

 

Anyway, they are at the Carnival and there are flowers being handed out and because Scott doesn’t have an allowance to buy his girlfriend a bouquet, he steals one from the big bucket they’re keeping them in and makes his way over to Tessa who stands on the edge of the ice and watches him get closer.

“These are for you,” he tells her, lest she misunderstand and think he might just have gotten them himself which would be unfortunate since he already went through all this trouble.

“Oh, thank you,” she says politely and smiles. This time she almost looks at him and takes the flowers gingerly, as if a spider might jump out of them into her face. It feels somewhat anticlimactic. Scott thinks he still needs to do something. This is not done. What do the people in the movies do? What does his Dad do when he brings home flowers for his mother? Right, he kisses her! So Scott figueres, that’s what he’s gonna do. It can’t be that bad.

 

Thinking of it kind of as a bandaid (which you are supposed to rip off fast so it won’t hurt as long, his brothers said), he darts forward, puckers his lips and pecks Tessa on the cheek (really almost on her ears) and snaps right backward, finding his skating partner staring at him wide-eyed, possibly seeing him right for the first time since they’ve known each other. She is bright red, like a clam. His ears feel hot and he kind of has to smile. But it wasn’t that bad. She is his girlfriend after all and boyfriends are supposed to kiss their girlfriends. It’s not a big deal.

 

A few years later he will have his “actual” first kiss (playing spin the bottle at a party at a friends house) and it’s not with Tessa. A few years after that, he decides he’d rather count the one with her (on the cheek, at the Carnival as a kid) as his first. Just because he can.

 

II

 

Tessa has her first kiss when she is thirteen. She isn’t really sure if she can actually count it as such because it happens on the ice while they are practicing a pattern. Scott gets too close to her and somehow his lips land square on hers and they go cross-eyed looking at each other when it happens and then he breaks away and she is in shock. She is mortified. And worst of all, she is devastated.

This can’t be it! One’s first kiss is supposed to be special, it’s supposed to be romantic and mean something. You’re supposed to be kissed by your boyfriend with candles and romantic music on! Not in a cold, dingy rink with ice breath, cold lips and by accident by our skating partner. It would be a different thing if Scott had wanted to kiss her (that would change quite a lot of things) but he hadn’t. So it’s really quite miserable, possibly the worst thing that has ever happened to her. She can’t stop thinking about it, she thinks about it so hard, she butchers the rest of the pattern until Susanne calls from the board to stop and do laps until they can focus again.

“It’s just a brush, kids, it happens,” she calls to them as they skate past her in perimeter. “It’s not a big deal, happens to the bigger couples all the time. You’re gonna have to get used to it.”

 

Tessa doesn’t get used to it. She is half embarrassed and half angry for the rest of the day and half of the next and she does so badly out on the ice because of it, that Scott gets really angry and mean until Susanne plucks them both from the rink and puts them in the empty girl’s dressing room to talk things out.

“Scott, can you tell us why you got angry?” She asks him in her calm voice, which she uses mostly when Scott has one of his outbursts. Listening to her, one would think he’s a rabid animal. (Sometimes Tessa thinks he might be and it would be really easy to dislike him when he’s being mean but unfortunately she likes him a lot and so instead, she always thinks she might be the worst person in the universe when he is mad at her.)

“I feel angry because I feel like Tessa is not focusing on practice,” he says, audibly trying to measure his voice and remembering the lesson to say how he feels instead of saying what he is–he feels angry, not he is angry, it feels like Tessa is unfocused, not Tessa is unfocused...that’s an important distinction to communicate or so they have been told.

“I also feel angry because she acts like I did something bad to her when I did not,” Scott continues. “And that’s unfair because–”

“Okay, Scott,” Susanne cuts in. “You’ll get your turn to explain, now it’s for Tessa to say how she feels.”

 

“I feel sorry for skating bad today,” she says sheepishly and looks at her hands that she’s clasping. “And I don’t act like you did something wrong.”

“Yes, you do,” Scott argues immediately. “You do, you’re mad at me and you won’t tell me why.”

“I’m not mad at you,” she says.

“Are, too,” he says.

“Am not.”

“Are. Too.”

“Am. Not.”

“Stop lying!” His voice breaks on the raise of it and he sounds a bit like a smurf with a cold.

“I’m not lying,” Tessa insists.

“Guys,” Susanne tries but she can’t cut between them when they’re like this.

“Yes you are, T, I know it when you lie and now you lie,” he says, staring her down and she feels heat rise in her cheeks. “Tell me what I did this time so I can apologize and we can get back to training.”

“Why should I tell you, you don’t mean it anyway when you apologize,” she says.

“I always mean it,” he says, almost offended. “I don’t want you to be mad at me.” He softens then, if only marginally, but enough to make Tessa waver (she hates him for having that power over her but she can’t help it either. She just likes him. A lot.) “Please tell me why you’re mad at me.”

“I’m not mad,” she says again and tries to hold his stare but finds soon that she can’t. “It’s embarrassing.”

“Nothing is embarrassing, sweetheart,” Susanne says, finally getting a word in. “Everything that you feel is valid and is okay to say. If it matters to you, it’s worth saying out loud.”

“I don’t want to.” Tessa tells the cracked old tiles on the floor.

“But you want to have a good practice and for that, you two need to be on the same page and for that, I’m sorry to say, you have to be communicating,” Susanne replies, like she has about a million times before and Tessa sighs, squeezing her eyes closed and putting her chin on her chest.

 

When she speaks, she speaks fast and huddled, almost a mumble into the space between her thick scarf and her knees perched up on the hard wooden bench, “I feel angry because of the kiss yesterday. I know it’s stupid and it shouldn’t matter. But...but it was my first–” She stops mid-sentence, feeling too humiliated to go on but neither Scott nor Susanne say anything, so she has to go on, as much as it pains her. “It was my first kiss and that was supposed to be special and it wasn’t. It was just a stupid accident and he didn’t want to kiss me at all and I didn’t really want to kiss him and now my first kiss is wasted and it’s never going to be special.”

 

When she is finished, there is a silence loud enough to deafen them all and when it gets unbearable and she hopes to die but then unfortunately doesn’t, Tessa looks up and meets Scott's eyes instantly. He is looking at her with a face like a novel in a different language. There are some things there she understands; a little hurt pride, a little shame, a little apology, but also a lot that she can't translate. He speaks before Susanne can though and his voice squeaks and breaks on the words, which make them sound more emotional than they are.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I didn’t mean to...to take your first kiss away. It really was an accident. But nobody saw, T. We can just say it never happened. It was a practice accident. You don’t have to count it.”

 

And so she doesn’t. She wishes that she could have, that her first kiss had really been with Scott and with candles and music and a big moment and both participants willing to share a real, actual kiss. But alas, that is not her life. So she doesn’t. She doesn’t count the mishap as her first kiss. The one that she counts will come later and it won’t be with Scott.

 

III

 

The first time Tessa and Scott kiss for real (with both participants willing to share a real one and a big moment and all that), it’s the night before Tessa leaves for the big surgery on her shins. She is terrified of that surgery and he technically has a girlfriend. None of that matters when it happens though. Nothing at all matters when their hands brush a moment too long on the front door knob that she was turning to leave after saying goodbye to him, telling him not to worry and that everything would be fine (which she had no idea if it was true at all).

 

His hand lands on hers because he made the reach to let her out at the same time as she did and he doesn’t pull it back. Instead they both freeze, standing shoulder to chest, him half folded behind her and when she turns her head, he is right there, his nose almost brushing her forehead, eyes downcast and lips parted. It’s just that he isn’t breathing. Neither is she.

 

Suddenly the air is thick with tension, crackling with static and suspense and fear. They don’t know what will happen. Tessa is terrified of the surgery, Scott is terrified of something going wrong, they are both stiff scared of losing their partnership and no one can tell them it’s going to be okay. Everything is going to change once Tessa leaves his place and neither of them knows in what ways. They’re afraid and they’re longing for each other and they are hungry to prove to the other that they’re together in this, that they will make it out okay. And that they love each other. It’s a dangerous cocktail of emotions and it’s running over. Scott raises his gaze from her lips to her eyes and breathes, ever so softly. They’re standing so close that she can feel the moisture of it on her forehead. He moves in closer, just a hint.

 

She tilts her head upward, ever so slightly. She’s not ready for this. But in her head is only one chant, loud and clear: “Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me, kiss me.”

She has wanted this so long on and off through her entire teenage life, she hardly remembers what it was like to not think about how it would feel if he kissed her in earnest. And now that everything might be ending anyway, it’s hard to find a reason not to finally find out. So she whispers his name over a breath of her own, so softly, it’s barely audible. She isn’t all the way sure but she thinks he winces in response and in the next heartbeat, his mouth drops on hers. It’s like a thought at first, light but present, clear but somewhat intangible, like it could pass any minute, just the press of a part of his body on a part of her body. It isn’t until he breaks the kiss and then renews it, leans into her again and slightly parting her lips with his lower one that her stomach dips and the butterflies hit. There’s a gurgle in her throat when the sensation rolls through her chest to below, below, landing right there and making her tingly and short of breath and as if on reflex, she brings her free hand to his neck, to somehow get him closer. He follows her lead and what had been a soft kiss before now turns more demanding.

 

Before she knows what’s happening, he has buried his hands in her hair and flipped her so she winds up with her back against the front door and him pressing against her in a way that feels deliciously scandalous. This is Scott. She can’t believe she is doing this with Scott. She can’t believe he’s so good at this. She can’t believe they’re doing this now. She can’t believe she’s going away to have surgery in the morning. She can’t believe they’re doing this now when this is Scott and he has a girlfriend and she has surgery in the morning and she can’t believe they are doing this. Why are they doing this? They shouldn’t be doing this. They shouldn’t be doing this!

“Scott,” she mumbles against his roaming lips that have made their way to her neck (God, her neck, shit, if he keeps going like this she won’t be able to leave, probably ever, and that’s no good at all).

“Mmmh?” He breathes into her skin, following that with a nibble at her flesh, the hint of teeth making Tessa roll her lower body against his in a primal response. He groans, throaty and guttural and thrusts his hips forward, hitting that spot right there, and Tessa sees stars at the friction. And he is...god darn it, he is hard and pushing her against the door, wedging her knees apart to settle in between them and she needs to leave or they will go somewhere they can’t come back from.

“Scott, wait,” she urges, breathlessly and he let’s go of her immediately, as if she had hit him and takes a step back. They look at each other with faces blazing and he looks drunk even though they’ve had nothing but water all night.

“I...uh...I have an early morning, um, a...big day tomorrow,” she says under her breath. “I should go.”

She can feel it in her gut even then, everything is going to change. He nods, like he is still fighting a thick fog clouding his head. “Yeah, yeah, that’s probably...probably best.”

“Okay,” she mutters and then makes her way out of the door.

 

It closes behind her and for a second, Tessa can’t move. Did this really just happen? She is still doubtful about it by the time she is halfway at her car. This really did happen, she thinks eventually, if only evident by the way that her body is still beating in the rhythm of his heartbeat. And if this really did happen, it could happen again. So why is she walking away? She wants this, she’s wanted this so long, why is she walking away? That makes no sense. She should go back.

 

She stops walking. Yes, yes, she should go back and kiss him some more. That was good. She’s barely coherent all the way back to his door and she takes the last two steps up to his apartment at once and nearly crushes into him as he rips open the door and then startles backward. He was coming after me, it registers dimly, but by then, he has already pulled her back into his arms. This is Scott. This is so weird. Everything is going to be different now. But it will be alright, somehow. Surely it’s going to be alright.

 

It won’t be. But when she follows him back into his bedroom, she doesn’t know that yet.

 

IV

 

Their first kiss, that really big dramatic first kiss that starts something new, happens a thousand years later in Tessa’s house in London, more specifically in her doorway with Scott dripping onto her hardwood floor. She isn’t all the way sure why exactly because he hasn’t stopped to explain his state of soakedness but apparently he had walked to her from the pub through the giant rainstorm that is raging outside. He doesn’t elaborate on that though, he is too busy almost yelling at her.

 

“You can’t do that, T,” he says, voice raised to a few octaves higher than usual. “You can’t just...change your mind and just decide that on your own, you can’t...declare something like that and that’s that. This is a decision we have to make together.”

“But you said if I wanna come back, you wanna come back,” she argues (this is true, he had said that, back in Scotland on the stony shore with the sea spray and dopey grins on both their faces).

“I was drunk when I said that,” he protests.

“You are half-drunk now,” she deadpans.

“And why wouldn’t I be?” He challenges. “I was just informed today that I am going to have to win an another Olympic games.”

 

“Why is that such a big deal? I thought you wanted this? Weren’t we just waiting for one of us to finally make the definite decision?”

“Not like this,” he says, getting loud again, clamouring for his phone in his pocket and taking it out to wave it in her face. “Not just...not like this with a stupid text and a fucking bunch of emojis, Tessa. This means something. It’s not a fucking funny, whimsical texty-thing. This is gonna fuck up my whole life.”

“Excuse me?” She says, taken aback and piqued, her own voice now raised. “If you don’t want to come back I won’t force you, just say the word and we’re done.”

“Of course I want to come back,” he nearly shouts. “Of course I do. For fuck’s sake, Tessa.”

“Well then, how is this gonna fuck up your life, huh?” She moves in as he stalks backward, suddenly retreating as if she’d poked something he didn’t want poked. “Scott, I’m talking to you, look at me.”

“Are you seriously asking me that?” He looks up and suddenly seems a lot more sober than just a moment ago.

“Yes, I am.”

“My God, woman!” He runs his hand through his wet hair and she notices for the first time that it’s getting a bit long..he must have missed a haircut. She kinda likes it. But this is not the time to get distracted. Not when Scott is gearing up for what must be a speech by how puffy his chest gets. “Because I will die this time for real, I’m not kidding. If we do this, three months into fucking training I will have ruined my relationship or what’s left of it since Scotland anyway and by six months, I’ll be so fucking in love with you, I won’t be able to sleep. I wanna skate with you more than anything but this is going to ruin me. Because I fucking love you and I fucking want you and I can’t have you. And I’m sorry but I can’t do two and a half years of being around you every single day and keep that a secret as well. If you wanna come back, then you have to know how it’s gonna be. I’m gonna fall right back in love with you. And it’ll kill me.”

 

“Who the fuck says you can’t have me?” Tessa challenges, at about his level of exasperation now and positively shouting too.

“What?” He shouts back.

“Who. The fuck. Says you can’t have me?” She repeats, her jaw clenched and eyes feeling like daggers in her skull. That stupid man, she wants all of him. She breathes out hard and that is where the coin drops on his side and his face turns from irritation to revelation but then quickly halfway back to puzzlement.

“What are you saying?” He asks her, suddenly soft-spoken again.

“I’m saying you’re an idiot,” she tells him. “And I’ve been in love with you, pining like a schoolgirl, for about a year now and if you haven’t noticed yet, you’re even more ignorant than I thought.”

“You’re in love with me?” He asks, matching her tone exactly and it would be hilarious if she wasn’t so frustrated with him.

“Yes, you absolute walnut!” She tells him with a jab to his chest. “Why do you think I wanna come back in the first place?”

“Why do you think I would wanna come back?” He yells, throwing his arms up.

“Well, is it settled then?” She yells back.

“Yeah, it’s fucking settled!”

“Fine!” She takes a step forward.

“Fine!” He matches her stride.

 

They stare at each other for a breathless moment and then he has scooped her up into his arms and kisses her silly.

 

V

 

The most wonderful first kiss that Tessa and Scott share is one that they actually share, with both their lips but not on each others. No, it’s both their lips on feathery, pitch dark hair on a tiny little head on a tiny, wrinkly body that the nurse has just placed on Tessa’s chest. Scott can’t believe it, he just can’t.

 

This is a small human, a small human that they made and they can finally hold him, finally touch, finally kiss, and that they do. And it’s the most wonderful thing in the world.

“You did so well,” he tells her, kissing her right after they’ve kissed their son. “You’re so amazing.”

“Thank you for being here,” she says, tired but blissful, as he moves from her cheek to her forehead. “And thank you for him.”

“No, my love,” he whispers, “thank you.”

 

+I

 

The first time Tessa and Scott kiss each other as boyfriend and girlfriend is also the last time they ever kiss as boyfriend and girlfriend. At the Ilderton Carnival when Scott is ten and Tessa is eight years old. A couple of months later a friend of his will call her and Scott will take the phone from him to proclaim how he doesn’t want to go out with her anymore and Tessa will spend a good chunk of her formative years believing that nothing more will ever happen between them. The same way that Scott is going to grow up convinced time and time again that he made the biggest mistake of his life breaking up with her back then, that his life’s greatest regret will be the fact that he’ll never get to be Tessa Virtue’s boyfriend again.

 

They are somewhat right about their fears in the end. They never go back to boyfriend and girlfriend. By the time they get their timing right (finally!), they’ve moved way past such narrow terms. Without even trying to, somewhere along the line of their 20 year partnership, they have turned into life partner territory, rendering such terms as “dating” and “couple” terribly insufficient to describe them. But by the time they get there, it doesn’t matter much more anyway. Sometimes, when she feels like it, Tessa calls him her boyfriend anyway. Until the day she calls him her husband at least.

 

So really, things will turn out quite well for them. But they have no idea about that on that April day in 1998, when Scott Moir has his first kiss. Or the one he is counting at least.