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Hayden Chalmers. Now that was one fine lookin' man - tall, with dark hair, except for exactly three gray ones, even though he was just a young man. He had the most exquisite blue eyes that were as clear as my koi pond on a cool winter day. And those sweet kissable lips. My oh my, you could kiss those lips all day long, take a break for a quick dinner, then go right on back to kissin' 'em again like they were cherry pie dessert with whipped topping.
Tasty and delicious. That's what he was from head to toe and I couldn't get enough of him. I would never say it was love at first sight, but I would surely say it was love at first kiss. Oh there was a lot more to Hayden than those lips, but they were what started it all for me.
We were in his daddy's car, no less - an Oldsmobile Rocket, like a lot of middle-class folks on Herbert Street had in those days. And before you go thinkin' that we were parkin' out on Lost-Love Point, we weren't. We were good Christian kids, sittin' in that car right in front of my best friend Ellie's house waitin' for her to finish curlin' her foot-long hair so we could all go to the movies.
I remember thankin' her later for takin' so long with her hair, because it gave me more time to fall in love with Hayden Chalmers' lips. But eventually she came out to the car and we pretended that nothin' had happened. It was our first date after all and I wasn't that easy. Well, I was when it came to first base, but that's all he was gonna get 'til I saw an engagement ring. That's just how you were in those days. A boy had to ask you good and proper and he had to ask your daddy first. Even then most girls I knew didn't let their fiancé's see 'em naked 'til the weddin' night. I guess that's a bit old fashioned these days, but my momma brought me up right.
I'm not sure I even remember the movie we went to that night. I think all I really remember was the soda drink I had hangin' on the window next to the speaker. All I could do was drink that cola and think about those sweet lips I'd kissed, and how I was quite possibly in love. I was watchin' Hayden while he was watchin' the movie. He looked over at me a few times and gave me a big smile like he knew that I was gettin' sweet on him. I think I must've gone through five or six sodas that night. I know when I got home I had to pee like somethin' fierce.
Well that wasn't our last date for sure. In fact, Hayden Chalmers and I became quite the hot item that year. Everyone at school talked about it - the girls mostly, because I kept tellin' 'em so much about his sweet kisses they wanted to give him a try for themselves. But Hayden knew better and saved 'em only for me - which was good because I would have had somethin' to say to those girls if they'd laid a hand on my Hayden.
But I guess I should start at the beginnin' and tell you that I went through a few other boys before I met my Hayden.
Chapter Two Twins and Milk Stains
Now when I say I went through a few other boys, I don't mean I was easy. I'm talkin' about havin' a schoolgirl crush - you know those crushes because a boy's got fine curly hair, or a Cheshire dimple, or maybe smiles at you sometimes. He doesn't smile because he wants to marry you one day, only maybe your hair looked especially pretty, or your dress that your momma made for you was extra clean. Anyway, those are the kinda crushes I'm talkin' about.
I remember there were a few boys at my church that made my heart beat so fast I thought I was the drummer in a crazy band. I think that's about the only reason I liked goin' to the Second Methodist over on Spring Street on an early Sunday mornin'. I don't know where the First one was, but I was sure glad that those boys decided to come to the Second instead. Seein' those boys dressed up in their dark suits and ties and shiny black shoes, well my heart just fluttered somethin' fierce. I couldn't keep my eyes off of 'em.
Momma always dressed me up in some bright flowin' skirt like a trailer park princess, but I would parade around whippin' those hems back and forth and showin' off like I was the daughter of the King and Queen of England. Daddy laughed at me every time, but then when it was time for church to start he took my hand and gave it a little squeeze lettin' me know I had to pay attention. Well I paid attention to the boys in the pew across from me. Even at ten years old they looked like little gentlemen. Twin brothers - and they really did look exactly alike. In those days, parents would dress their twins up to look exactly the same. Same slicked down haircut, same freshly pressed suit-outfits, and oh they both had the same sweet dimples on their cheeks - you know those dimples where you want to just kiss 'em and see how far down they go.
I remember that summer my daddy told me I had to go to Vacation Bible School and I was not too happy about that. But on the very first day, as soon as I got into the classroom, those twins came in after me and sat down right there across the desk. Well I opened up my little Catechism book and started readin' like it was my favorite book in the world. I don't know how much I learned about Jesus that summer, but I sure did look at those boys quite a bit. But wouldn't you know it their family packed up and moved away to another town at the end of the summer. My twin boys who I'd never had the courage to say one single word to were gone. I cried my eyes out when I heard they moved, and when my momma asked me what I was so sad about I told her it was because Jesus died on the cross. I don't think she ever knew that I was really cryin' because my twins had left.
It was a few years before my next crush came along and that was a good lookin' boy named Walter. Now I don't think I've ever told anyone about Walter, but if there was any boy who could have given Hayden Chalmers a run for his money it might have been that curly haired Walter Haskins. I was thirteen and so was he and we were in English language class together. While I was tryin' to learn all about spellin' and grammar, I was also tryin' to catch the eye of Walter. I think he reminded me of those twins a little since he had a big dimple on his cheek and always wore nice lookin' outfits to school.
He sat a couple rows over from me and I was sure that he knew my name. I was too scared to actually talk to him directly, but I made sure I raised my hand and answered as many questions as I could just so the teacher would keep sayin' Sophia. I figured if he knew my name it would be easier for him to just say "Hi Sophia", if he saw me in the hallway or in the cafeteria. It was a silly girl thing to do, but eventually it paid off and he did finally say somethin' to me. Unfortunately, I was a clumsy fool and spilled my lunch all over him. That's why I've never told anyone about Walter, because I'd have to tell what a mess I made of his brand new pants that his momma bought him for his birthday. So don't you say a word about what I'm gonna tell you.
Everything was goin' just fine that day at school. I had my lunch bag with a jar of milk and a big sandwich momma made for me that mornin' while I was washin' up and gettin' ready to leave the house. I had on a light blue colored dress that looked like a bluebird's egg, and my shiny white shoes that I usually only wore to church. Most days I sat with one or two other girls in the cafeteria and we'd talk about which boys we thought were good lookin' and which ones we thought were really smart. Most of the time those were two completely different sets of boys, and I was secretly hopin' that one day we'd find one that was cute and smart at the same time. Well I think that first one was Walter. That curly hair of his was always in a big mop on top of his head. I don't know if he ever combed it a single day of his life, but it made him look like one of those cherubs you see in antique stores with their curly hair and that bow and arrow shootin' love into people.
Well I think he must have shot that love arrow right at my heart that day. He was lookin' right at me as I sat there with Ellie and her sister Urna. I was just holdin' that milk bottle right in my hand, not even drinkin' it. I think the girls realized somethin' was goin' on because I was just starin' across the room with wide eyes and not sayin' anything, even though they were talkin' right to me. Well of course they both turned right around and saw who I was lookin' at. It didn't take 'em but a few seconds to start chatterin' about Walter and how he was starin' right at me. They both thought I should get up and walk over to him and say hello. I thought they were both crazy. There was no way I was gonna go talk to a boy that I had a crush on.
And I didn't have to. He got up and walked over to me! I don't know what that fool boy was thinkin' and frankly I don't exactly remember what happened next, probably because I was so embarrassed that I don't want to remember. I had just had a sip of milk when he said "Hi Sophia". You know that milk came sprayin' right outta my mouth and onto his light khaki pants. Ellie and Urna both screamed across the cafeteria from the shock of me explodin' with milk, and I burst out cryin' right there at the table. I couldn't even tell him I was sorry, I just got up and ran. I ran right into the girls' bathroom and into the first stall still cryin' my eyes out. Pretty soon Ellie and Urna were in there with me tryin' to get me to calm down and pickin' up huge wads of tear-wet toilet paper that I'd been usin' to wipe my face.
One of my teachers had to come in and get me before I'd come outta that stall. I didn't want anyone to know what I'd done, but of course the whole school found out. Most of the kids had been in the cafeteria when Ellie and Urna screamed, so they'd seen the whole thing. I couldn't even walk down the hall without every girl there laughin' at me. One of 'em even came up to me and told me that I better start drinkin' water instead of milk. The boys acted like I had some sorta disease and they would back away when I got near. They joked that they were backin' away from my "spray circle".
Thankfully, Walter wasn't angry. He was more shocked that I sprayed my milk all over him when he said hello. It was almost two days before I worked up enough courage to tell him I was sorry. He told me it was okay, but he didn't really talk to me much after that, and I never did find out why he came over to say hi to me in the first place. Who knows what might have happened if I'd put that milk down before he walked over?
But you know, it wasn't too many years before I'd forgotten all about Walter and had my eyes on a few other boys in high school, Hayden Chalmers bein' one of 'em.
Chapter Three Hayden Chalmers' Lips
It was 1952 and I had big hair. All the girls did in those days, and we spent hours teasin' it up into the roundest, tallest, puffiest mass of hair you'd have ever seen. It's a good thing I never had a sister, because we would have spent every mornin' fightin' over the bathroom and the hot rollers.
I did have a brother once. He didn't die in a war like most young men those days. He died only a few days after he was born. It was a rough birth for him and my momma. Unfortunately, momma was the only one who got better and little Reggy Baskins, named after my great uncle, was buried later that week.
I was born almost three years later. My momma was scared to death I'd wind up like little Reggy, but the most she had to worry about was a little jaundice that didn't do much at all after a month. I'll tell ya, my parents weren't too creative when it came to names. After Reggy they decided to stay with another family name, so I wound up with my great aunt Sophia's. Course, these days I tell people I'm named after that gorgeous Sophia Lauren and they never know the difference.
But where was I? Oh yes, high school and big hair. I was one of our high school cheer squad captains. That meant I had big hair and yelled a lot, at least at all the games. Hayden came to every game with a bunch of his buddies, and although they were all good lookin', he just happened to be the first one that kissed me and that sealed the deal.
He was tall and thin, not an athlete really, but he had a nice body and looked mighty good in a suit - I'd seen him and his daddy all dressed up at church before. He could have played on our basketball team any day he wanted on account of his height, but it never interested him to try out. He came to every game though, sittin' up in the bleachers and cheerin' the team, and the cheer squad, on to victory.
There was a rivalry between our school, Herbert Park Senior, and the big high school across town, James Madison Prep. We used to joke that prep was for preppy instead of preparatory, because those boys came from families with old money. They wore bright colored new uniforms that put our old black and whites to shame, and they always showed up in fancy cars - Cadillac's as I recall. I think we were more jealous of the cars though - shiny chrome bumpers and trims with the prettiest hood ornaments I'd ever seen. I think all their fancy money made us work that much harder to beat 'em. And we usually did. All the fancy cars in the world can't stand up against the tallest boys around in their hand-me-down uniforms scorin' basket after basket.
I was glad that it was my senior year, though. I'd been cheerin' for about three years at that point, and while I liked all the girls and loved to cheer for our team, I was ready for school to be through so I could settle down and start a family. That's what I wanted to do in those days, as did most of my girl friends. We never dreamed about workin' unless it was teachin' or maybe some gardenin'. I really did want to have the perfect white house with a long picket fence runnin' around the yard, and a kid runnin' around the kitchen while I tried to cook dinner.
These days you don't hear that from girls very much. They go from high school right into college and get all kinds of degrees. By the time they even finish school they're almost too old to have kids, or maybe don't even want any. All these young families around here just work, work, work. I don't know how they can stand it bein' cooped up in a building all day. I loved those days after school - comin' home and runnin' right back outside into the yard or down the block to socialize with my girl friends.
Senior year also meant the prom. Which meant that I was gonna need a dress, but more importantly, a date. Before I knew it, most of the boys were pairin' up with my girl friends, and I realized that if somebody didn't ask me pretty soon I wouldn't be goin' to the prom! Luckily, the one boy who was wantin' to ask me out didn't wait much longer to tell me.
I was just comin' out of one of those girl classes, you know like home economics or home makin' - I can't remember what they called it in those days, but we had just made a disaster of some chocolate cakes and I had icin' on the hem of my dress, and somehow, in my hair. I'm almost positive it was Martha Bouvier who stuck that icin' in my hair, but she denied it right to the teacher's face. There wasn't much more I could say. But that icin' didn't matter, in fact, it might have made me seem just a little bit sweeter when I saw Hayden Chalmers walkin' down the hallway toward me.
I made a mad dash for my locker, which was just across the hall. I probably broke a speed record openin' the door and hidin' my face inside. Oh Hayden looked fine that day. Tight slacks and a shirt that looked like he'd just ironed it only a minute before. And wouldn't you know it, some spicy cologne. That's how I knew he was standin' right on the other side of my locker. I could smell that cologne comin' right around the metal door and into my nose. Whoo! He smelled good.
I probably stood there for a good minute before I took my shakin' hand and closed the door to look at him, but inside my head it felt like I stood there for a day. He stood there smilin' at me as I slowly closed the locker door. I'd put all my books inside without realizin' I was gonna need 'em to get my homework done that night. But this was the closest I'd ever been to his face and I wasn't thinkin' clearly. I looked up from his luscious lips to his dreamy eyes. He was handsome. He had a good jaw on him and I could tell he'd shaved that mornin' from the one or two little nicks from the razor. He actually looked like a lot of the other young men at the school. Pre-military. They all had their heads shaved like they were already in the army, and the way they would push and wrestle on each other in the courtyard outside the cafeteria you'd think they were livin' in the barracks.
Excerpted from SWEET KISSES by Heath L. Buckmaster Copyright © 2008 by Heath L. Buckmaster . Excerpted by permission.
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