"Tang" by Liz Hedgecock
You didn’t exist until the day we were playing tag on the school field and I was running full tilt to get away from you. I caught my foot on a root, tripped, and you cannoned into me. We went sprawling together. Dry grass in my mouth, freshly-baked earth and you, panting, sweaty, smelling of boy, pinning me down. Something inside me flared as you rolled off me and extended a hand.
Later, much later, I breathe you in with your kisses. Cheap aftershave and that stuff you use on your hair, and I try to tell myself that you’re the same as all the other boys. I don’t believe it, though, not until a few months later when I catch a strange floral top note and immediately think of my friend Jennifer.
I dress carefully. I want to look classy, to show that I’ve moved on. I make Paul buy a better suit, choose him a suitable tie. We hold hands in the church; he squeezes mine when the priest says ‘man and wife’. In the receiving line I peck Jennifer on the cheek, then move to shake your hand. You pull me in for a quick hug, and though your aftershave has grown more expensive underneath it you are just the same. After the food I plead a migraine. I can’t trust myself.
Sometimes you ask me why I don’t wear perfume any more. ‘I loved the one you used to wear, what was it?’ I still wear it, but not when I’m with you. We won’t be caught out.
Now, when I think of you, I smell lilies. The church was filled with them; they were heaped on top of you. Sweet, cloying, drowning you out, like that retouched photo on a stand. Jennifer’s version. But on a hot summer day I can go down to the meadow, lie down in the grass and close my eyes, and there you are again. Just a boy, new-made, and I’m just a girl waiting to be fallen over.