“Grab your sweatshirt,” Aiden said. “It might get chilly later.”
“It’s chilly now,” I said. “Where are you taking me?”
“The pier.” Aiden’s grin spread wider. “And then out to dinner, and maybe a movie if you haven’t gotten sick of me by then.”
“I haven’t been to the pier in years. It’s usually so busy.” I pulled my hoodie off the hook near the back door.
“Not in early November,” Aiden said.
“That’s because it’s freezing in Michigan this time of year.”
“It’s fifty degrees. I think you’re exaggerating. And it’s supposed to get up to sixty this afternoon.”
“Ooh, balmy.” I faked a shiver.
We wound our way down Harbor Drive along the Grand River and turned into the Grand Haven State Park, which was busier than I thought it would be for this late in the season. The white sandy beaches, so popular with tourists all summer long, were mostly bare, only populated with people in sweatshirts and jeans, like us.
The parking lot had plenty of spaces available, so we didn’t have to walk far to step onto the concrete pier. A light wind blew off Lake Michigan and I was glad to have brought my sweatshirt.
The waves crashed but didn’t break over the edge. In a few months they’d whip off the water creating giant ice sculptures over the sides of the pier rendering it unsafe for walking.
My hands stayed in the pocket of my sweatshirt until our brisk walk warmed me and I pulled them out and let them hang by my sides.
Aiden immediately took advantage of my free hands and not-so-casually lifted my right hand into his left, swinging them between us like we were two kids. In a lot of ways, we were just two kids. Two kids nearing the crossroads of making big, adult decisions. Where to go to college. What careers to pursue. With whom to build relationships.
I kind of liked the relationship building slowly between the two of us. Although in the same circle of friends, I barely remembered Aiden these past few years. He had been a figurehead in my boyfriend’s shadow, not Skyler’s best friend, but definitely one of his friends.
As if sensing the direction of my thoughts, Aiden asked a question that caught me off-guard. “Did you know I’ve had a crush on you for years?”
“No.” I pulled away just enough to look up at him. “You did?”
“Yeah, and you didn’t even know I existed.”
“You’re right. I was just thinking the same thing.”
“Wow, I was kind of hoping you’d say something like, ‘of course I knew you existed. It’s just that I had a boyfriend.’ Or something like that.”
“Well, I did have a boyfriend,” I said, raising my eyebrows. “I would have been kinda cheating on him if I’d been looking at other guys.”
“But I know you exist now…” I bumped my shoulder against his arm. “And isn’t that the most important thing?”
“Definitely. Good point.”
We had made it to the end of the pier and took a moment to gaze up at the majestic lighthouse. The bright red contrasting with the dark blue water was breathtaking.
Making our way around the outside edge, Aiden leaned against the base of the lighthouse and pulled me closer. I leaned in and didn’t resist when he rested both hands on my hips, slipping his fingers into the beltloops of my jeans.
Lake Michigan disappeared into my peripheral vision and all I knew was Aiden’s eyes darting back and forth between mine. He sighed and pulled me even closer so that I was resting against him. He leaned forward, pulling away from the concrete base but hesitated as if waiting for me to make the next move.
He was leaving the choice up to me. Was I ready for this? Although Skyler and I had only broken up a week ago, we hadn’t been truly intimate in a long time, if ever. His kisses were quick pecks when we said hello or goodbye. The few times we’d tried to make out had been awkward and forced, as if we were only making out because it was expected as boyfriend and girlfriend.
I was nervous, as if this were my first kiss. In a way, it was. This moment could become whatever I wanted it to become. We could share a quick peck and call it our first kiss, assuming we’d someday explore this further, or I could allow this feeling to flow through from the top of my head to the tips of my toes.
My hands reached up and wrapped around his shoulders and neck. Bravery overpowered nervousness and I pulled him forward, slowly and gently. But insistently. No hesitation. I wanted this and I knew he wanted me to set the pace and tone.
When our lips met, Aiden lost his perfectly controlled defense. His hands left my waist and roamed up my back and into my hair, pulling me closer as I pulled him closer. He was giving me the best first kiss a girl could ever ask for. It didn’t matter that this wasn’t technically my first kiss, it was our first kiss.
The waves of emotion washing over me caused me to abandon all thought to its power. Which is probably why I wasn’t prepared for the giant splash of water that crashed over the top of the boardwalk, drenching us both in cold water.
We pulled apart, laughing and shaking water from our arms. My hair was drenched, my back was drenched. Aiden had mostly been protected with my body between him and the wave. There was that moment of disbelief when I couldn’t tell if we were shocked from the way our bodies had been locked together, or the way we’d been so rudely interrupted.
“Curse you, Lake Michigan,” Aiden called into the air with frustrated laughter. “You ruined my first kiss.”
“That was your first kiss?” I giggled as I tried unsuccessfully to brush the water off.
“Mm hm.” Aiden grinned like a little kid and rested his hands on my hips again.
“Was it everything you dreamed it would be?” I asked, leaning closer so that I was inches from his face again.
“A million times better than I’d imagined.” Aiden’s voice grew husky and serious.
“It was me, wasn’t it?” I glanced down nervously and rested my hands on his strong, athletic arms.
“What was you?” he asked.
“Your first love.”
Aiden lowered his gaze, bit his lower lip, then raised his head to look me in the eyes. “How’d you figure it out?”
“A bunch of little things all adding together,” I said then leaned closer again. “Do you think, maybe, we could have another first kiss?”
“Maybe a little less-passionate the second time?” he suggested. He raised his eyebrows. “I don’t want Lake Michigan to think I need a cold shower again.”
“I’m the one who got the brunt of the water,” I scoffed.
“Maybe you needed a cold shower too.” He grinned, pulling me even closer.
“I’ll take my chances.” And I did.