For the last few weeks I’ve been enmeshed in the re-writing of my second novel, We Danced to Ray Charles. The night the story’s two life-long friends, Amy and Mark, first kiss is a key moment. In the book’s current version. The scene occurs about half-way through as a flashback/dream told from Amy’s perspective.
What I’m thinking about doing is adding Mark’s version of the same scene to the opening chapter. Tha appeared in my last post. Today's post gives Amy's perspective. There'll be one more related post, detailing what happens when they chance to return to that spot.
For those faint of heart and/or weak of stomach, they don't go, "All the way." Maybe they should. Maybe it's too detailed or not detailed enough. Maybe the very idea of presenting the same scene from the perspective of each participant is weak. Your feedback, whether it be brickbats or bouquets, hallelujahs or hand-grenades, posted here or sent by email, is needed and will be appreciated.
A Kiss Is Just A Kiss?
An excerpt from Chapter 17 of, We Danced to Ray Charles
by Bill Fullerton
Aaron Duplantier was an architecture student from an old New Orleans family. With his long, almost black, hair and dark eyes that were so sexy, he was hard not to like. His also being cultured, fun, easy-going, and a gentleman had made it impossible for Amy. They began dating during her second year at school. Last fall, Aaron gave her his fraternity pen.
Being “penned” was serious business, one step short of being engaged. With that symbolic sanctification, she gave herself to him. And while there was no one for her to compare him with, she sensed he was a talented lover who enjoyed giving her pleasure.
After Christmas break, he came back to school with a tall, longhaired creep named Rodney Mannheim. “Rod’s a part-time student and full-time poet,” said Aaron. “We met in Mexico over the break. I convinced him to come to LSU.”
In the weeks that followed, she saw more and more of Rod. That meant she spent less and less time alone with Aaron. By the beginning of May, it’d been weeks since she and Aaron had made love. Even going on a date without Rod tagging along was a rare event.
That’s why she was so happy when they managed to get away by themselves. After supper at their favorite Italian restaurant, Aaron told her he was transferring to some school in California. He said that in the world outside of backwater Baton Rouge things were happening that he needed to experience. He said Rod, who hated Baton Rouge and wanted to go back to the coast, had convinced him to make the move and would be going with him.
There was no mention of her in these plans. He’d always treasure their time together, he said, and was sorry if this hurt her but….
The rest of that night and the days that followed were a hazy memory. She got around on autopilot, moving like a zombie to classes, and then coming back to her room. Once there, she’d collapse on the bed and cry herself to sleep.
It was Thursday before she worked up the courage to call Mark. She felt hurt, mad, embarrassed, confused, and didn’t think she could handle a face-to-face meeting. Over the next few days, they spent hours talking on the phone.
Near the end of another marathon confessional, she heard him say something about a party that weekend on the nearby Mississippi River levee. While not sure about what he said, she remembered telling him that going to a party was the last thing she wanted to do on Saturday.
Saturday afternoon, her room was invaded by three girl friends. Saying she’d been in bed all day, which was true, they forced her to get up and come with them to the party.
As she’d suspected, it was Mark who arranged things and turned her friends into kidnappers. When they arrived, he was waiting for her with a grin on his face and a beer in his hand.
LSU students are always ready to party. It seemed like everyone she knew was there. At first she tried to be a good sport and get into the spirit. But the laughter and good times just annoyed her. After a few beers, some cheap wine, and her first experience with marijuana, she was a little drunk and, for all she knew, maybe even stoned. But most of all she felt more miserable than ever. Rather than be a wet blanket, she grabbed a beer and wandered away.
As the sound of the party began to fade, she found a small driftwood sanctuary near the riverbank. That’s where Mark found her a few minutes later, sitting behind a big log, crying.
Without a word, he sat down beside her. There was a light, cool breeze coming off the river. When she shivered, he put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. That did it. She let out a sob that was a mixture of despair and release, then laid her head on his chest and cried until she ran out of tears.
When her breath began to even out, she noticed the front of his old dress shirt was soaked. Fascinated, she slid a fingertip across the damp cloth. He’d come to be with her, to comfort her. And in return she’d drenched his shirt with her tears and probably smeared it with mascara.
She lifted her head and looked up at him. In the moonlight, she could make out his familiar, comforting smile and felt better.
He’d always been there, close and caring, whenever she needed a friend, needed a shoulder to cry on, just like tonight. Because, because he loves me. And I love--. A new emotion swept over her, a warm, tingly sensation that had nothing to do with friendship. She no longer just needed Mark—she wanted him, now.
Slipping both hands behind his neck, she pulled his face to hers and began kissing her best friend.
Later, much later, their lips parted, and they looked at one another. There was an uncertain, questioning expression on Mark’s face.
It was his turn. She silently prayed he wouldn’t be sensible or cautious or, even worse, make a joke. Damn it, Mark, just kiss me. Please.
Then he leaned forward until their lips met and he began kissing his best friend. At some point it crossed her mind that Mark was a very good kisser. In a strange sort of way, she felt proud that her best friend was so gifted. And she loved being on the receiving end of his gift.
The next time their lips parted, she could tell Mark was about to say something. It was going to be about how they should stop. She was sure of that and sure he was right. They’d have to do that, soon. But not now, not just yet. Before he could speak, she snuggled closer and pulled him back onto her waiting mouth.
After that, the kisses became more intense, the touches more intimate. Mark’s hand slipped under her sweatshirt and she shivered with pleasure. The smooth, sensuous pressure seemed to ease the anguish in both her body and soul.
His fingers took possession of her breast and gently massage its hard nipple. The feeling was incredible.
When lips replaced his fingers, she moaned and arched her body to meet his touch. She felt loved and wanted and safe. This was Mark who cared for her, who was always there when she needed a friend, who she could count on to do what was best. Would that include their making love?
On some vague level, she was aware of his fingers sliding down to her jeans. Then he started fumbling with the zipper. They were going to do it! She and Mark were going to make love. She shivered at the thought and wrapped her arms around his head. When the zipper began to yield, she gave up thinking.
It wasn’t until she felt his body sag, that she realized Mark’s fingers, lips, tongue were motionless. After giving each breast a parting kiss, his lips moved up to her mouth. As their lips re-united, his fingers began to caress first one breast, then the other. It was a gentle, searching touch, as if trying to memorize their texture, shape, and warmth.
With an unsettling mixture of relief and regret, she understood he’d decided their making love wasn’t what was best. The kissing continued, but now it was with increasing affection and decreasing passion. He was, she realized, letting them both ease down from their physical and emotional high.
A sudden dip in the road banged Amy’s head against the window. At first she couldn’t figure out what had happened. Instead of sitting in the moonlight near the river kissing Mark, she was in the front seat of his car speeding down a four-lane highway.