First Love, Last Love

Now I am alive, she thinks.

He’s across the room, something’s opened up between them, a path that goes into the unforeseeable future. She’s been avoiding his look for weeks, knowing who he was, a lawyer, a lot older, someone with a thing for young girls. She’d already heard all that and knew without saying it that she’d wait until the look was about her and only her. I’ll make him see me, she thought, while one party after another his glance came to her out of the corner of his eye. Now he’s across the room and turns all the way, and it opens up between them. I’m alive, Sarah thinks, the slam of his look going all the way in.

There are parties like this, lots of them, events at the edge of the regular world. A fund-raiser for the community radio station, say, or a theater party, where she has friends in the play. Her mom drops her off because her mom has somewhere else she wants to be on a Friday after a long week at work, or on a Saturday, because she and her mom are sick of being with each other all the do-nothing day, and now the days of just the two of them together are over. Sarah longs—she doesn’t often admit it to herself, but she longs to be just the two of them on the sofa in front of a movie and bedtime at ten o’clock. But those days are over, and something is forcing her, demanding that she enter the world. Her mom drops her off, saying she’ll pick Sarah up at ten, and seeing her mom’s last-minute worried, guilty, relieved face, Sarah goes into the party, where there are friends from school and some older guys, and that’s how it happens.

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