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The product of a ten-minute writing challenge issued to our Art Night group, which theme was “First Kiss.” Because I can’t draw even a stick figure in ten minutes, I stuck with writing. Not surprisingly, mine was the darkest of the group’s pieces. This little drabble is actually one of the earliest attempts at (and inspirations for) what eventually became Fearless.

It’s the aerosol feel of splashing, salty waves against rocks that reminds her of another time like this one, where her husband once sat beside her beneath a shimmering moon and asked if she would always be his. That’s what makes her turn to the boy beside her now.

He’s so very young and so very strong, like her husband was, so long ago. He’s a different kind of handsome, this boy, though it’s a different era, now, isn’t it? Her husband had a gentleman’s part in his already-greying hair, and it was soft and silken, a controlled coif atop chiseled features. The boy’s blond locks – made coarse and dry by too many mornings spent in this salty sea – fall loose around still-full cheeks; he’s got no crow’s feet or laugh lines. He can barely grow a semblance of a beard over his chin.

But the boy is here, where her husband is not. The boy is beside her, and that is perhaps the reason most of all that she speaks to him, now.

“You’re quite cute, you know,” she says with a tickling smile.

He laughs, looking embarrassed as he glances away. But then he turns back again, and that boyish abashment is replaced by a more manly boldness. “You think?” he asks…though it is much more a goad than a mere question.

He isn’t very good at fishing, but she bites anyway – the hunter playing prey – and inclines her head. “I do.”

She lifts her chin again, stretching her neck. Will he bite, this time, she wonders? She thinks he will; he’s that right blend of curious and bashful: a boy looking for…not quite love, but perhaps a boastful notch on his belt (or on that board sitting forgotten beside him).

“It’s been a long time since I was with a man,” she tells him, and that’s truthful enough. “Would you mind very much if I kissed you?”

He blinks, but he doesn’t look away. “Not at all,” he murmurs, his eyes never leaving hers.

She smiles at his answer; she’s still very much a woman, no matter what any of the crones around this small-minded village say. This boy’s needy kiss is proof enough.

Of course, it’s not just one kiss, and it’s not just two. It’s not even just five or ten or twenty, but a brief misjudgment of propriety that becomes sojourns behind the rocks, and made-up excuses, and a shouting match behind tightly-shuttered windows.

And the tears of a grey-haired man.

And a boy’s broken heart.

But she’s still a woman. She’s proven that much, if nothing else. And that’s what matters.

The Graduate still

One of the more (in)famous May-December seduction scenes, from "The Graduate"

There’s a lot of taboo around May-December romances, though more often when it’s the woman who’s older. She’s seen as a temptress, a cougar, a sexual predator. This character – who would become the prickly Susanna Braden in the final story – is really not that different, at least from Ross’s point of view. Still, it was interesting to get her perspective on things.