Back in late March, this video of 20 strangers kissing went viral. And yes, I am aware that it ended up being an advertisement, however, regardless of it’s genesis it evoked a lot of emotion (because, hello . . . first kisses!). My immediate reaction was “what happened next?” So I was super excited to be asked to write a piece of short fiction for the First Kiss Blog Hop and offer my answer to that very question. My story is below and you can click here for links to all the others (by some seriously fabulous authors!). Enjoy!
A Little Uncomplicated Kiss
What was I thinking? I didn’t have to take every job the talent agency called about. Seriously? They said this was a commercial. Mentioned that it involved kissing. Not that it was just kissing. Like no script, just kissing. Look at those two. There is no way I look that awesome kissing. It’s getting a little intense. Is her shirt going to fall off? Did they really just meet?
“Annie and Jeff, you’re up.”
Jeff. Which one was Jeff? I wished I hadn’t worn this high-necked long-sleeved dress. It’s hot under these lights. What if I pass out? Okay, Jeff’s the one in the jacket and jeans. That little flip of hair standing up in the back. Adorable. And tall. Great. I am going to awkwardly kiss a tall person on film. Sexy.
“And we’re rolling.
He shifted side-to-side and smiled and his eyes darted everywhere, not focusing on anything. Taking in everything.
“This here, this is the awkward moment,” he finally said.
“Meaning it’s about to get less awkward?”
We laughed. His hazel eyes danced.
“Good point. I’m Jeff.” He shrugged and winced a little at his statement of the obvious. There were little wrinkles in the corners of his eyes. The tiniest flecks of grey in his hair.
“Annie.” I echoed.
He moved in closer. I reached up to brush my hair out of my face, even though it was already pulled back. He reached for my hand and I stretched up on my toes and circled my arms around his neck, as if we were going to dance.
“Here goes,” he whispered, smiling. Our lips connected. And for a few delicious seconds I was lost. He was still smiling while we were kissing –the best kind of kiss. The kind it had been a long time since I’d had. He nipped my upper lip with his teeth just a little. (Which he was really good at, because done wrong that’s just not awesome . . .but this . . .) I moved my hands up to his neck and ran them over the strong line of his jaw. Still smiling. So was I.
“Great job, go ahead and wrap up whenever it feels right.” The director’s voice sounded very far away. We slowly pulled away and interlocked hands again. He dipped his head and smiled. I laughed louder than I meant to.
“I have lipstick all over me, don’t I.” He wiped at his lips with his hands.
“Yes, yes you do.”
“All right. Greg and Ingrid, you’re up,” the director called.
One of the production assistants handed us each a clipboard. “Thanks so much, guys. If you can just take a look at this and make sure we’ve got the right name and address for payment. Then you can head out.”
I nodded, skimmed the paperwork, initialed where appropriate and handed it back to her. The whole time feeling a little disembodied. A little shake-y on my feet. I shook my head, in an attempt to regain touch with reality.
“So, weirdest job ever.” Jeff said, slinging a messenger bag across his shoulders. “Not what I envisioned when they said some kissing.”
“This is my first job with this agency,” I replied.
“Hell of a start.” We both laughed. “It’s usually more like peddling free samples at home and garden fairs.” He smiled and rocked back on his heels, fumbling with the strap on his bag. “This was good though. I mean you were good . . .” He blushed a little. “I’ll just stop, talking . . .”
“No, no, thank you.” I gave a little shrug, indicating that whatever odd look was on my face wasn’t related to his compliment, as much as the situation in general. “You were good too.” Then I blushed and laughed nervously again.
“So . . .” he started.
“So . . .”
What’s the appropriate goodbye for the stranger you just shared a moment with? “Thanks.” “See you around.” “Hope to catch you at the next kissing on film thing.”
He glanced at the floor. I pretended to search my purse for something.
Finally he said, “So, anyway . . . I’m going to grab a beer. Any chance you’d like to join me?”
“Sure. Yes.” My quick answer was as much about extending our moment as avoiding another night spent alone in my apartment full of boxes waiting to be unpacked.
“Excellent. Seems only right,” he said.
“Sort of like a reverse date,” I offered, then clarified, “Not that this is a date, just you know . . .”
“I was thinking exactly the same thing.” His smile was broad, I could still feel his lips on mine, the corners turned up.
“So what’s local?” I asked pouring over the rather extensive beer list the bartender had just handed us.
He pointed out a few and made recommendations. I opted for a saison.
“Nice choice. Where did you move here from?”
“New York. I’m starting graduate school at Monroe. MFA in Theatre, Pedagogy.”
“What specialty?” Most people weren’t even sure what pedagogy was, much less that it had specialties. Then again, he was presumably an actor. Still, impressive.
“Did you do your undergrad in New York?”
I nodded, “NYU.”
“So what brings you to Richmond?”
“Monroe’s program is great and the local theatre scene seems vibrant for a town this size.”
It was more than that of course.
He nodded, but raised an eyebrow, as if he could tell this was a rehearsed answer. As if some window to my soul got propped open when we kissed. The back of my neck went tingly as his kind eyes darted across my face.
I nervously brushed my bangs back. “It’s complicated.”
“Isn’t it always?”
We both took long sips of our beers and I thought that maybe what was so nice about this whole thing was the simplicity of it. Kissing someone for the pure sake of kissing. Having an unexpected beer with someone without friends setting you up and countless text messages planning every last detail.
“So what do you do when you’re not being paid to kiss strangers?” I asked.
“I teach at Monroe. Theatre . . .”
“Can I interest you all in any of our happy hour appetizers?” the bartender asked, sliding a menu between us.
“So we have to get an order of the pimento cheese. Theirs’ is the best and it’s an appropriate culinary welcome to the south.”
“Perfect. Speaking of food in this city: you seem knowledgeable. Tell me everything, I’m a sponge.”
“Got a pen.” He pushed a bar napkin my way.
By the time we finished our second beer, I was armed with three napkins full of recommendations. He had spent a fair amount of time in New York, so we also chatted about our favorite spots there. The conversation was light and easy, dipping only into the best parts of the past, none of the rest. Keeping the focus most blissfully on today. This moment.
He glanced at his watch after he drained the last sip from his glass and cringed. “I’ve got dinner plans with friends soon.” There was a tinge of regret to his words, as if he hated to leave the magic of the unplanned, as well.
I wrapped my jacket tighter around me as we left the warm restaurant.
“So . . ” he said.
“So . . ” I said.
He took a step closer and grabbed my hands. I stepped closer. He smiled, leaned down and kissed me. No pretense. Simple. Uncomplicated. Lovely.
He held my hands as we moved away. “Let me know if you’d like some company to any of those places.” He gestured to my purse where I had placed his recommendations.
“Are you asking me out?” I teased.
“Something like that.”
“Then I something like accept.”
“Excellent.” He reached in his bag, pulled out a business card and jotted his cell phone number on the back.
“Don’t feel like you have to wait to call, I mean we’ve made out twice. I think we’re past that.”
As he walked away, he turned and gave a little wave over his shoulder. That smile. Those eyes. I took a deep breath of the cold night air and turned to walk home. I liked this city already. I glanced at his card before putting in the pocket of my jacket: Jeffery D. Thorpe PhD, Monroe University, Theatre Department, Pedagogy. The hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention. Thorpe. Why did that sound familiar? There was a whirring in my ears as I pulled out my phone and frantically searched though my e-mails.
“Welcome to the MFA program. Glad to have you. Your assigned advisor: Jeffery D. Thorpe.”
Click here to find out what happens next!