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Mary H., 6th grade

I was a flirty sixth grader with red hair and freckles. He was the strong silent type sure to sport tattoos and a pierced nipple later in life. He had brunette hair and skin a light brown color like a 70's leather thrift shop jacket. He was a white boy, but a tan and rebellious white boy, which hinted at an exoticism I would chase later in life.

We became boyfriend and girlfriend over a game of dodge ball. He protected me from the mean girls that slammed me silly with the red rubber ball, and I figured I owed him. We started walking hand in hand during recess rather than play team sports, which I sucked at and turns out, he did too. I felt naughty during our daily walks, as the other kids teased us by making smoochy noises. When one day he led me toward the metal backstop at the far end of the baseball field, I felt all pukey and excited at the same time, like I'd just eaten too much cake frosting.

There was a cluster of semi-dying bushes there with a round parting of branches forming a natural fort. There was no chitchat between us during our approach, but then we never talked. Our relationship was built on social discomfort. When I went to sit down, my dress lifted up and my underwear made direct contact with the dirt. As I leaned forward to wipe off my smudgy behind, I felt his lips on my lips, soft and weird. First there was a quick peck followed by a lengthy closed-lipped kiss. I breathed through my nose. I didn't close my eyes and instead looked though the bushes at the students gathered to spy on us. Any latent leanings toward exhibitionism were squashed at this early point, as my face burned red.

In high school, he dated a cheerleader and I was a drama geek who only kissed college boys. He ignored me, I ignored him. But his skin retained that soft, brown color, while my freckles faded away.

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