I did not like high school, but of my 4 years trapped in that institution of learning my junior year was the best of a bad lot. I fell in love with a boy named Randy. The year was hearts, flowers, and learning the periodic table. I was not the only one falling in love. Unbeknownst to anyone else Natalie was also in deep with one of my classmates, Mollie. I knew Mollie fairly well, we ran with the same crowd, the nerd crowd.
Once a year Mollie would have a bonfire at her house and all the nerds would converge on her backyard. This year Natalie was also there and it really was one of the first times I interacted with her in a social setting. I noticed immediately she was aloof and sharp tongued, not someone I felt comfortable around.
Our group had a habit of playing spin the bottle whenever we were together with no adults around. Not long after the s'mores were eaten the bottle came out and Mollie said, "You know who I want to kiss," to the bottle and spun it with a flourish. I don't remember who got picked first, but I do remember at one point in the game Mollie's spin landed on Natalie and they jokingly kissed each other. I did not think anything about it. I was too busy kissing the boys gathered around the bonfire. I went home that night smelling like a campfire and with chapped lips.
Later in the school year I had a birthday party for Randy at my house. We were on the cusp of technology with a rented VCR and the film Poltergeist as the entertainment. My parents had left for awhile and all of my friends had come to celebrate and watch movies. Natalie showed up with Randy's best friend, Sean. The two of them came in snapping at one another and slamming doors. Everyone got very quiet as Sean and Natalie continued to fight with one another. At one point they even went into my parents room and appeared to be deep in discussion. Natalie came out of the room and threw herself into one of our living room chairs taking out a pack of cigarettes. "Can I smoke?" She asked. I did not want to make her madder so I said yes and got her an ashtray. My parents came home just in time to see Natalie smoking a cigarette in their non-smoking house. I had some explaining to do after she left.
Through out that year I would run into Natalie, but I found her too blunt and cutting to be someone I wanted to spend much time with. On the last day of the school year our group got together and she was there. I don't remember being excited to have her there. We went to a local park and did the usual misspent youth thing of loitering and telling dirty jokes. We all started talking about our summer plans. Natalie told us she was going to spend the summer with her mother in Maryland. I know my ears pricked up. Maryland seemed like a an exotic place to me, the girl who had spent most of her life stuck in mid-Missouri. She even said that her mother was going to try to get her to move back, at the time Natalie lived with her grandparents. A part of me hoped that her mother succeeded and I never saw this girl again, after all she had ruined my boyfriend's birthday. Not that I was holding a grudge or anything, not me. At the end of the night I went home without a thought about Natalie and my lips were chapped from kissing Randy in the park.
Postscript: Years later Natalie would confess to me that she and Sean were playing a joke on us. They were only pretending to fight.