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First Love

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

(2/2016) Being a teenager is hard for everyone and the added stress of having a social life and trying to "impress" boys was always something I was quite frankly horrible at. Even then I was just awkward in appearance and action. My hair was a strange mix of being curly and straight at the same time but still not exactly wavy and somehow always seemed greasy. My pants were a little too short since my growth spurt over the summer and I still felt too lengthy when I ran. My teeth were covered with pink and purple rubber-banded braces that my lips got stuck on when I tried to smile. My face was an awful mix of being two shades too dark where I tried to cover up existing pimples with my mother's makeup and red and annoyed where new pimples were forming.

It was not a good look. Not for me and not for anyone. Yet we all went through this phase, didn't we? To make matters worse, I had an early birthday, which meant that I was nearly half a year more mature than the rest of the kids in my grade. It seemed like a big difference to me at the time. Looking back, I was probably among the least mature in my class, but I still won't fully admit it.

We were all in transition, phasing out of being a "child" and becoming what we thought were adults. We were about to enter high school. It was something we all spoke about fearlessly but deep down we were all undoubtedly anxious about it. High school brought a lot of unknowns. The least difficult were questions about where you would sit at lunch or on the bus in the morning. The more challenging questions to find answers to were how the other freshmen would like you and even more frightening, how the upperclassmen would like you. I remember my eighth grade graduation being exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. I was thankful that I would have the summer to figure out who I wanted to be going into high school.

I was too young to have an official job, so I would lie around the house until my mother couldn't stand it anymore. She'd get back from a long day of work and I'd be lying on the couch still in my pajamas watching another rerun of something I'd seen a million times before.

"Harper," she would say as she rolled her eyes at me, "did you get out of the house at all today?" Most of the time my answer was "no."

I remember the weekend my mother decided things were going to be different. She had talked to a few of my friends' mothers and they had all come to an agreement of some sorts. It was a Saturday morning when my mother opened my bedroom door and made me get out of bed before my noon-alarm clock. I sat up and rubbed my eyes.

"What's the excitement for?" I asked her with a yawn.

"There's someone I want you to meet," she said with joy as she fled from my room. I got out of bed, got dressed in shorts and an oversized T-shirt and met her in the kitchen. "No, no," she said as she looked at my attire, "that won't do." She went to my room and threw a pair of jeans, socks, and a shirt that was my size onto my bed. "You'll need to wear your sneakers too," she said, "they will do for now."

Soon enough, we were in the car and mom couldn't stop humming to the songs on the radio. I knew she didn't even know how they went but she clearly didn't mind. We drove for about 10 minutes until we came to a stop.

"Here we are," she said with a grin.

"This is where you wanted to take me?" I said with confusion. We got out of the car and I saw a few of my friends with their mothers. We went over to greet them before a woman in her late-twenties with a long blonde braid draped over her back approached us.

"Hello!" she said with a warm smile, "My name is Jennifer and I am so glad to meet each of you!" She led us around and we followed unquestioningly. I remember being skeptical but entranced. In pairs we filed off with our mothers by our sides.

"Harper," Jennifer said as she looked me in the eye, "there's someone really special I want to introduce you to." We rounded the corner and I instantly came to a stop feeling myself getting awkward again. "This is Charlie", Jennifer said, "I felt like you two would get along well."

I remember the feeling I got when I met Charlie's big brown eyes for the first time, the way they seemed so knowing and soothing. I remember us on long walks together and running through the fields. I remember sometimes I would just sit with him for hours reading or doodling and he never grew impatient. Sometimes I would tell him the gossip. I would share my fears and my hopes and yet somehow he always made me feel as if he already knew. One day we walked through the woods and I remember finding a tree to carve our names into. My mother and friends took a liking to him too and I remember how we would run down to the nearby stream on those hot summer days and splash around without a care in the world. He was always there to turn to when I was having a rough day or when my emotions took over and I couldn't control them. He was always calm and gentle and eager all the same. That summer turned into the two of us spending all of our time together. I would ride my bike down the street to see him and he would be there, ready and waiting. I would scribble our names together on notebooks with hearts and draw pictures of us that I would bring to show him and hang up for him to see. We were inseparable and I adored him with every ounce of love within my 14-year-old heart.

When the day came for high school to begin, I finally felt ready. Charlie had helped me establish a new sense of confidence and calmness. As high school went on, Charlie and I grew out of touch. I became increasingly busy and I knew he understood but I wondered if it bothered him and if he missed me and those times when we would spend all day together.

It took me a while to go back. I was afraid he wouldn't remember me and afraid that the memories we had shared would have escaped him. Time had driven us apart. So much had changed since our magical summer together. I was long into college when I went to visit him again. I had seen him around but I had never stopped, until one morning I decided to change that. I put on a pair of jeans, socks, and a fitted T-shirt and found an old pair of worn boots. I laughed as I slid them on, realizing they still fit. On my way out I grabbed an apple from the kitchen counter and then I got into my car and drove 10 minutes down the road. The pavement turned to gravel and I slowed my car before parking. I got out and shut the car door as I took a deep breath. Inside the barn, Jennifer stood helping a young girl tack a chestnut mare. She looked over at me and waved with excitement. "Go see him!" she yelled to me, "He's been waiting."

From the fields, a dark bay horse with soft brown eyes looked up from grazing. He turned his head as if to smell the wind. I took a few steps closer to the fence and he took a few steps closer to me. Before I knew it, we had met each other in the middle of the field. We stood there for a moment, holding each other's gaze as if to say, "What took you so long?" and then I had flung my arms around his neck and grabbed hold of his withers. He nodded his head as if to pull me closer. "I've missed you," I said with a trembling voice. Charlie grunted and whinnied. I found myself laughing as I blurted out loud, "I guess it's true what they say then, you never can forget your first love." Then giggled to myself as I thought, "Even if they are a horse."

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