Short story of first love
“Filene! Casper! Blackie! Rex!”
Sixteen-year-old Tim watched as the girl banged a large spoon on the bottom of a cake pan. Various cats and a big black dog came running. The cats rubbed against her bare legs; the dog stood facing her, tongue hanging, tail wagging.
“You crazy ole dog! Wait your turn!”
She threw out an arm just in time to prevent the dog from stepping on one of the kittens.
He saw her light-brown hair brush across one cheek as she bent to lift the kitten out of danger. She held it to her cheek, breathing in the kitten smell.
“Ooh poor baby! Did that big ole dog scare you?”
She crooned to the kitten, rubbing one cheek against its soft fur. But the kitten would have none of it. It struggled against her soft voice, her gentle hands.
Tim stood in the doorway looking at Maggie for the first time that summer. He saw through her light cotton dress in the early evening sun as she put the kitten on its feet. To him, her skin looked like burnished gold.
Maggie straightened and caught him watching her. She threw a baleful look in his direction before returning to her task. Her long legs flashed through the dress as he continued to stare at her but he at last turned away...
Or rather he was pulled away by his brother Gabe, who grabbed his arm. His brother always sneaked up on him. He wondered if he had caught him looking at Maggie.
“Hey, come shoot pool with me. They have a table in the basement.” His brother said, giving a quick sidelong glance at the girl in the light summer dress.
“Okay.” Tim replied.
“Yeah. It’s great that Mr. Glanville founded this club. So, who’s the girl?” Gabe asked Tim as they went down the stairs to the basement.
Tim spoke without looking at his brother.
“Must be his daughter.”
“Think she’ll join this club he started? She’s something!”
“Um...maybe she will.”
“Yeah. Well, think she’ll come shoot a game with us?”
“Maybe.” Tim replied, shrugging his shoulders, concentrating on arranging the balls on the table.
That summer still haunted him. The heavy air was redolent with scents and scenes that came unbidden to his thoughts at the weirdest times. The perfume from the blossoms of the plants, the covered swing that swayed gently as a slight breeze caressed the oak tree where it hung, the clean smell of Maggie as she brushed past him.
He realized that he loved her even then. Pure and simple. There were days when he would either watch and listen furtively or follow her around but always with a sick empty feeling in his stomach. Looking back he thought how stalker-ish that was, even for a sixteen-year-old.
Although she treated him with disdain from the first day they met, he never allowed that to stop his obsession with her. Not to say he hadn’t tried to banish her from his mind. There were times when his intense attraction drained him of all feeling for her. It was those times that he talked to her, learning more about her, discovering her secrets, slowly becoming her friend. But inevitably, sharing her aura awakened the old obsession, released the butterflies in his stomach. Thoughts of her raced through his mind day after day of that summer as his love for her coiled itself around his heart.
By popular vote after much discussion the group decided to name themselves Tomorrow’s Citizens. Tim thought it was a hokey name, but the other names suggested were, to his thinking, much worse. Mr. Glanville told club members he would make sure the front door remained unlocked until seven on weeknights, ten on weekend nights, so they could drop in to play pool, board games, or just hang out.
Maggie began participating in club activities. He suspected her father’s nagging had finally paid off. Many times in the meetings he saw her glance resentfully at her father as she sat quietly with her hands folded in her lap. It was not unusual for her to disappear as soon as the meeting was over.
At least once a month, Tomorrow’s Citizens members went on an excursion. Whether it was hiking, performing some community activity, debating other clubs, going to museums, or to the beach, Maggie grudgingly participated.
At the beach she developed a ritual of sorts. Running into the sea, kicking up foam, then diving into the water. He usually found himself holding his breath until he saw her head surface.
Once he ventured to join her in her romp in the sea. She tolerated him for a while but then he tried to tickle her and accidentally brushed her breasts with his fingers. Without a word she swam back to the beach, rising regally from the water, adjusting the tiny bottom of her swimsuit as she walked to her towel. He watched her swaying hips as she walked away from him. She never spoke to him without cause for some time after.
There came a time however, when Maggie welcomed his arms around her and allowed him to express his love for her with his immature kisses.
Early one evening as she fed the animals, he heard her father call out to her. He had dropped in to see if she needed help with some math. Maggie had expressed frustration when he had seen her in the cafeteria at school and asked his help with some homework problems.
“I’m out here Daddy,” she answered, as she bent to spoon food into the animals’ bowls.
When he heard Maggie answer, Tim crouched behind the sofa in the family room, which overlooked the back veranda. He loved seeing her boss and pet the animals.
Mr. Glanville was in a foul mood. He hated the animals. He barely tolerated them.
That evening, rain poured from a gun-powder-grey sky. The animals were restless. They all hated the thunder that accompanied those storms.
“These animals are a nuisance, Meg!” Mr. Glanville strode onto the porch almost stepping into a water bowl.
Maggie stopped what she had been doing. Tim felt tension radiate from her as she straightened. She nervously pushed her hair off her face.
“Meg, did you hear me? I’m tired of these animals! We should get rid of them! What good are they anyway? All they ever do is eat!”
Tim watched as Mr. Glanville approached her. She quickly bent, scooped up a kitten and stood with it in one arm.
“And these kittens, they’re everywhere! I just want to relax on the porch and enjoy my...oh!”
It was at that point that Mr. Glanville stepped on Filene’s tail. She hissed at him. He backed into Casper and the surprised cat jumped hissing, before scooting under a chair. Rex growled as Mr. Glanville kicked at his bowl. Mr. Glanville’s annoyance turned to fury. He unbuckled his belt, pulling it through the loops with one hand. Tim watched in horror as he swung it.
“Oh my god! No! Daddy! Don’t!”
Maggie held the kitten closer to her and with her other hand grabbed her father’s arm as it hung suspended in the air ready to swoop down with the belt on the defenseless animals.
Her father turned on her, his face surly and scowling.
“Get outta my way girl!”
“No daddy! You’re hurting them!”
She held onto his arm. He pushed her back.
She lowered the kitten to the floor and Tim watched as Mr. Glanville kicked it into a corner.
Maggie straightened, trying to hold both his arms.
Her father pushed her against a wall.
“I told you to get outta my way, Meg!”
He slapped her as she struggled to free herself.
“Please Daddy! No! Don’t!”
Tim sprang from his hiding place. He ran onto the porch and grabbed Mr. Glanville’s arms from behind. At sixteen he was already 5 feet 10 but Mr. Glanville was over 6 feet tall and weighed well over 250 pounds. He shook him off easily and slapped Maggie again as she cowered with her hands over her face.
Tim punched him in the back putting all his 130 pounds into every punch but again Mr. Glanville shook him off. He found himself sitting on his backside on the porch.
But Maggie surprised them both. Just as it seemed her father would hit her again, she suddenly pushed away from the wall and punched him in the space between his ribs and his abdomen. Tim heard a whooshing sound as the air was forced out of Mr. Glanville’s lungs.
As his body folded in half, he heard Mr. Glanville ask softly, “Meg, how could you do this to me?”
Maggie stood with tears coursing down her face. Tim went over and gently held her. She allowed him to caress her hair, to murmur reassurances, to kiss her brow. He led her away to her room where he left her for a few seconds as he found and brought a cool, damp washcloth for her face.
He spent the rest of that summer in a daze.
Whenever he thought at length of Maggie, his thoughts inevitably returned to that summer. There were other summers, of course, but none like the first.
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