YA Highway asked for its readers to comment on their favorite “display of affection” in YA literature. It got me thinking about affection and what my definition of it would be. Affection to me seems to be letting someone else know that you care about them. If you’re a lover of romance, affection could be a first kiss, the holding of a hand or even admitting to someone that you do have feelings for them. However, I’m not big on romance. Affection to me isn’t always butterflies and rainbows in books. In fact, I usually avoid reading sappy love stories (or any book promoted as a love story).
The scenes that make the biggest impact on me in literature are the scenes of affection when a character reaches out to another character. The scenes that really get me are those moments in writing when a character lets another character know they are not alone. For example, I love the last scene of 13 Reasons Why (Jay Asher) when Clay reaches out to Skye (I won’t go into any more detail in case you have read the book, but if you haven’t, shame on you!). Or in Some Girls Are (Courtney Summers) when Michael doesn’t turn away from Regina, but starts to connect with her.
I do love almost kisses. Those scenes in books where a character is so close to kisses someone, but it doesn’t happen. It’s especially tragic if the character never gets another chance to kiss the character like Susie Salmon in The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold). The antsy suspense that I’m sharing with the characters drives me through a story and makes me cheer if they finally do kiss.
If I had to pick my favorite display of actual kissing in a book, it would have to be the first time Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan kiss in The Great Gatsby (F Scott Fitzgerald). Gatsby knows that when he finally kisses Daisy, nothing will ever equate anything close to the anticipation of kissing Daisy for the first time, “He knew that when he kissed this girl and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God.” He waits and holds this kiss for a few seconds, because it’s the kiss he has been picturing his whole life. I love the moment the two of them finally kiss, although for Gatsby, it’s the moment that seals his love to her forever.
Affection, however it’s depicted in literature, has to be realistic. It has to be honest and true, or I’m not going to believe it. There’s often an awkwardness in affection, it’s not always perfect, but it doesn’t have to be.
My Valentine gift to you is an early draft of the first kiss Kate and Jack share in my book. Kate is at a party and left her friends to look for a bathroom. She finds Jack instead. Their meeting isn’t perfect, but definitely worth it:
The path to the house was more crowded than when Ali and I had first walked down it. The steps leading up to the deck had two or three people on each level, and I didn't think it would be easy to elbow my way through. Instead, I elbowed my way to the side of the house where concrete blocks on the side formed a path. I pushed my way through the bushes and low hanging branches, following a sort of tunnel, feeling the branches grab onto the sides of my shirt. I broke free, and stumbled onto the driveway where I ran into the back of a guy leaning all alone against the garage.
“Whoa, sorry,” I apologized stumbling back and nearly tripping over my own feet. “There sure are a lot of people here,” I said more to myself than to him.
The guy turned to face me, and his eyes fixed on mine he said, “Where else would we be tonight?”
I felt my face heat up when I realized who it was.
“So we meet again.” Jack Blane said slowly.
My stomach flipped. The one person who I’d wished to see here, the one person I was afraid to see here, had seemingly appeared out of nowhere, out of thin air.
Why was he alone on the driveway?
He didn’t seem like the type of person who would hang out alone on the driveway at a party. He was the type of person who should be surrounded by girls at a party. Pretty girls who wore tiny swishy skirts with flip-flops. Girls who painted their toe nails bubble gum pink and had long shiny hair; the kind without kinks of frizz. Girls who screeched as boys chased them through the hallways trying to tickle them.
Girls who weren’t like me.
Girls I had no idea how to be like.
I looked around, trying to figure out what to say. “I meant there are a lot of cars here, parked all over. The neighbors must notice what’s going on.”
He laughed and touched my arm.
I started sweating and prayed it didn’t soak through and show on my shirt.
“I don’t think most of the people here will care if the neighbors notice. Now Joe might, when his parents come back home, but as for us…” He grinned. “We’ll be long gone. You don’t have to worry.”
I didn’t know what to make of his comments. Was he making fun of me? Why did I have to say such stupid stuff? I looked down at the ground.
“Don’t worry, it’s okay, Kate. I was joking. You don’t have to look so serious,” he said. “I wondered when you were going to show up.”
My head snapped back up. “You were looking for me?” The words tumbled out before I could stop them.
“Of course I was looking for you. Why do you think I mentioned the party? After all, we have some history. We spent the night together.”
“We did, didn’t we? I wanted to see you here too,” I said quietly, unexpected courage surging in me. I thought back to the night of the fire drill, waiting outside with Jack as the sun came up.
“We did.” His hand found mine and then, the two of us were moving towards each other, and suddenly like the night outside our hotel, talking to Jack became nothing.
The memory of the first time we talked, the cold bench, his warm sweatshirt, the early morning, were erased.
The conversation we had outside the hotel wasn’t important.
The feel of his hand on my back when he had caught me from falling off the wall was just slight pressure, brushed away from memory.
The solidness in his hand when he helped me up from the wall erased.
Because nothing came close, not an inch or an ounce to what it felt like when Jack kissed me.
Smokey breath met sour heat.
Chapped lips met glossy moist.
Exploring curious tongue met smooth white teeth.
Rough firm hands met sweaty moist palms.
Bristly itchy cheek met red-flamed blush.
Jack met Kate.
Kate met Jack.
We broke apart. We stood still. It didn’t matter that we were separated. Because it felt like we were together. A truck screeched up next to us, before we could say or do anything.
Someone laid on the horn.
“Where the hell have you been, Jack? Get in the car,” a passenger yelled out the window.
Jack started to say something, but the driver laid on the horn again. He turned and climbed into the truck, which peeled out of the driveway, kicking up dust in my face.