My husband and I first met when we were both 11 years old.
We had just moved back to my hometown and into the same apartment complex I'd lived in from ages 7-9. There was a family with 4 kids that lived across the courtyard, and I quickly became friends with the older daughter, a nine year old named Jennifer. We were both Welfare kids with stay at home moms, absent dads, and bratty brothers, it was a friendship made in heaven. We spent countless hot summer days swimming in the pool, running barefoot through the courtyard and adventuring in the playground and creek that ran behind our apartments.
One sweltering day in mid July we were out at the pool. Everyone in the complex was out at the pool. It was that kind of day. The kind where those with air conditioning probably never left their houses. We didn't have air conditioning, but to us, the pool was better. It was crystal blue and freezing cold. Full to the brim, teeming with children, parents carrying margaritas and bottles of budweiser, intertubes, hot pink inflatable rafts, nerf footballs and squeals of laughter erupting from every side.
That was the first day I saw him. In our apartment complex, I knew just about everyone, and I was certain I'd never seen him or his brother before in my life. His hair was dark and on the longish side, he had bright blue, watchful eyes and a dangling cross earring in his left ear. He was very "21 jump street" in an 11 year old's body. My heart tumbled over itself, and my stomach, fully bared in my french bikini, tangled up in knots.
I quickly pointed him out to Jennifer and it turns out that he was actually staying with her.... in her house! Jennifer's mom had a boyfriend, and these boys were his sons. Introductions were quickly made. Billy was 12, one year older, and Patrick, or Levi as most everyone called him, was just my age. The rest of the day was spent playing, and flirting as children do, snatching each other's toys, grabbing an ankle as you swim by, splashing and teasing.
Late in the afternoon I pulled my exhausted body from the water and lay out on the ground. I closed my eyes. They were stinging from the glare of the sun and the burn of the chlorine. My back was freezing, soaking wet and covered in goosebumps, and my front was on fire, my cheek resting on the scorching concrete, and I was floating.
It is one of the happiest memories of my life. Something significant had changed in my little pre-adolescent heart, something that could never change back.
18 hours ago