This time I don't let the girls doll me up. I wear my plain blue dress that does nothing to flatter me, but also does nothing to unflatter me. I wear my hair down, with the front loosely pulled back. I wear the only pair of heels I own, gray with black straps. I wear no makeup. He can take me as I am, or not at all.
I told him no pubs. He said to be ready by seven. So now it’s seven and I’m waiting outside of my barracks by the dirt road and the sun is setting.
And he pulls up on a motorcycle.
He’s wearing gray pants and a plain white button-up with the sleeves rolled to his elbows. His hair is dangerously disheveled. His eyes roam over me shyly. His smile sits crooked and perfect on his chiseled face.
It’s all I can do not to die right then and there.
“Beautiful,” he says to me.
“Thank you,” my voice cracks. I clear my throat and stand awkwardly in silence before walking over to him.
“Scared?” he asks and motions to his bike. I scoff with false confidence and shake my head. He raises an eyebrow at me as I cautiously clamber onto the seat. This bike was made for only one rider, so my body presses flush against his. He’s so warm. Why is he so warm? I hesitantly place my hands on his sides, but he grabs them and pulls my arms tightly around him until my hands are gripping his abdomen. Which is unsurprisingly rock hard. I can feel every contour of his defined torso and I’m so happy he can't see me turning bright red.
Without warning, Willem takes off. I yelp and cling to him tighter, squeezing with my thighs. I feel him chuckle against me. We ride in the opposite direction of town, out into the countryside. Bicyclists and houses become scarcer, until there aren't any at all, until we are surrounded by endless fields of tall grass. We ride into a field just as the stars start lighting up the sky. The tall grass scratches my legs as we speed through it. Willem seems to know exactly where he’s going. We begin to slow down, and in the silver moonlight, I can see us approaching a blanket that is flattening out the grass beneath it. We stop right next to it. I smooth out my dress after climbing off of the bike and Will leads me to the blanket.
“We watch stars,” he tells me, then gently pulls me down to lay next to him. Everything is quiet for a while, except for the crickets and the wind through the grass, Will’s bike cooling down. Will’s soft breathing. My pounding heartbeat. I pretend to focus on the stars, but all I’m really aware of is my arm pressed against his. My hands are folded neatly on my stomach. I don't know where his are. After the long silence, Willem fidgets and clears his throat. “Your, um, friends?” He tries to initiate conversation.
“One second,” I hold up a finger and pull an English to Dutch translation book out of my small purse. It’s the only thing I brought. I have already gone through it and written down any words and phrases that might come up between us. I figured I owe him that, since I am in his country, and since he goes out of his way to speak broken English to me. I explain to him each of my friends, Cat, Shirley, and Margie (though he already knows Margie), previously written down on my cheat sheet. “Parents?” I continue in Dutch.
He nods. “Mother and Father. Live away. Small town. You parents?” He speaks English.
I ignore him. “Brothers? Sisters?” I ask in Dutch.
“One brother. Older. Bigger.” He puffs out his cheeks and makes a big semicircle with his hands over his abdomen. I giggle, then blush from giggling.
Our conversation continues with Dutch and English exchange, until after a while it starts to blend. “You get along?” I continue.
He shrugs. “Eh.”
“What about your friends?” I ask.
“No say it like that,” he laughs.
I huff. “Well then how am I supposed to say it?” I ask in English.
He seems to understand. He proceeds to teach me the correct sentence structure, which sounds like complete gibberish to me. Then we jokingly teach each other profanity. He continues to teach me how to say ‘moon’, ‘star’, ‘sun’, ‘motorcycle’, ‘blanket’, and pretty much anything we can see or touch. Grass, dress, pants, shirt. Heels, shoes, dirt. Hands, feet, legs, arms. Hair, eyes, ears, nose. Lips. When he tells me this one, he stares at my lips. I bite them and look back up at the sky.
“How do you say... fart?” I ask to break the tension.
He gives me a puzzled look. “Fart?” He has no idea what I’m talking about. I stare at him for a few moments, then bring my palms to my mouth and blow in them, making a farting noise.
“Fart,” I repeat. We both burst out laughing. His is deep and rumbling and beautiful. Mine is loud and bursting, with the occasional snort. As we quiet down, we end facing each other, propped up on our elbows. I’m still giggling as Willem reaches to tuck some escaped hair behind my ear. He lets his fingers linger, then gently trail down my jaw until it reaches my chin. By now I’ve stopped giggling and am fighting the urge to close my eyes.
“Your family?” He asks softly.
I look down and am silent. I reach for his hand and hold it in mine. “Was Gerta really just an old friend?” I ask in a strange Dutch/English mix.
He sighs. “No. Girlfriend. Long time ago. No more. Now you. Just you. Promise.” His eyes peer sincerely into mine and his hand squeezes.
My breath catches in my throat. He sees this. And I know he’s about to kiss me. I see it written on his face. I feel him slowly leaning towards me. My mind races with a million thoughts. I’ve never been kissed. I don't know the first thing about kissing except to not use too much tongue and to not eat his mouth. Shirley has told me that every bad kisser she’s ever kissed has done those two things. But there is also the mentally giving in. Letting down that part of my wall that I’ve spent so much time reinforcing. I’m between giving into him and pulling away. He hasn't proven his trustworthiness yet. Sure, he’s been kind and endearing (and I definitely don't hate him), but that doesn't mean I can trust him. In the end, this still doesn't make sense to me. Him liking me. And that is why I am cautious.
I sit up quickly and let out a frustrated sigh. “Anna?” Will says softly, straightening up.
I struggle to find words that he will understand as I explain myself. “This doesn't make sense, Will. Why are you pursuing me? Why do you care? Do you understand?”
I can see him concentrating so hard. He’s trying to piece together my words.
I continue. “You,” I gently place my hand on his shoulder. “You,” I try to gesture with my hands, hoping that will help with his comprehension. “You are... beautiful. Me, not... beautiful.” I pull my hand to myself and shake my head. “No fun. No special. Why are you interested?” I ask him in Dutch. I looked this phrase up before tonight.
He stares at me. He looks disappointed. I know he understands what I am saying. He opens his mouth to speak, but is silent. He’s fighting for words. He reaches for my translation book and flips through it.
And this is probably one of the most funny, awkward, and ridiculous moments of my life. But also the most beautiful. We have so much to say to each other, but are restrained by our barrier of language. We must rely on a ratty book or a nasally doctor to communicate our thoughts to each other.
“You...strong,” he says, then flips to another page he marked. “You selfless.” He continues this slow process as he speaks. “You funny. You independent. You brave.” He cups my face in his hands. “Those make you beautiful. I see you, Anna. I...stuck. You here,” he taps his temple, “always. You beautiful. I care.” His emerald eyes search my face for any reaction.
Tears sit on the brim of my eyes. I’m not used to kind words. They make me unsure of myself. I don't know whether I should deny them to be polite or to say thank you or to stay quiet. I’ve just never experienced this. Once I find my voice, I say, “That’s not how you say it.” He crinkles his forehead in confusion. “You say ‘are’ between all those words. Like ‘you are strong’ and ‘you are brave’.”
“Anna,” he smiles a little, brushes his thumb over my small lips, “You are beautiful.”
And my eyes close. And my body relaxes as I finally exhale. I’ve been holding that breath my entire life. Waiting for someone to see me. The real me. Not this body I wear, but me. I don't even care about the tears falling down my speckled cheeks. Willem’s thumbs take care of them. He leans in. Our foreheads touch. Our noses brush. I try not to breathe too sporadically.
“I’ve never kissed before,” I blurt out in my last attempt of defense. Will pulls away an inch so we see each other without our faces blurring from the proximity. I touch my lips and shake my head. “Never kissed,” I whisper. He responds in Dutch, his voice husky, his eyes hungry. I don't know what he said, but it still causes shivers to race along my skin and the metal butterflies to break through my stomach. And then I am done. I let the edge of my wall crumble into a dust that gets blown away by this soft summer breeze.
And he kisses me. Not too hard, but not too gently, either. His hands hold my head in place. I’m surprised and tense up and relax at the same time as the butterflies soar into every atom of my body. But that’s really the only metaphor to describe it. I’m not going to be ironic and say there are fireworks or that I see stars. That would do this kiss injustice. Because this is real. This is what a real kiss feels like. This is what every kiss should feel like because he knows exactly what he’s doing and exactly what he does to me. I didn't think his lips would feel so soft and warm, but they are. It’s much different than I imagined, but so much better. But it’s not just his lips that consume me. It’s every other part of him. His hands make me shiver as they hold me possessively. The feeling of his skin brushing against mine as we kiss is consuming my mind. The pounding of his heartbeat. Those all contribute.
He finally breaks away for a breathless moment to readjust his lips, and this time mine can respond. His carefully form around my lower upper lip and mine around his lower lip, perfectly fitting together. Every tiny movement of his mouth against mine hitches my breath and tickles the knots built up in my lower abdomen. He continues kissing me at different angles, at different parts of my mouth, as if he’s trying to memorize my lips. My mouth responds as if I’ve been doing this with him my whole life. My mind is scrambled and I don't know what to do with my own hands, as they are still folded against my stomach. I slowly and tenderly reach up to hold his forearms. At my slightest touch, he responds by letting out a soft moan and gripping me harder. I reach one of my hands to his chest, then slide it to his shoulder to gingerly pull him closer. I don't even know why I do this. All I know is the air is too cold where our bodies aren't touching.
He shifts so that one arm is wrapped tightly around my shoulders and the other is placed on the blanket behind me so he can support both of us as he lowers me to the blanket. My heart races faster. I reach my hands up to hold his face, this face I’ve been wanting to touch since the moment I saw him. And his skin is so smooth. Except for the slight stubble that I feel rub against my face as he continues to shower me in warm, perfect kisses. I let my fingers trace the hills and valleys of his face. He moans against my mouth again. My fingers continue to trail along his jawline, behind his ears, down his strong neck, along his soft collarbones.
This is his undoing.
He grabs my wrists and pins them above my head. I’m surprised I trust him enough to let him do this. A sound escapes my lips as most of his weight rests on me. But I don't care. I love the feeling of him. He kisses every inch of my face. I giggle and squirm. He kisses the corners and edges of my mouth, teasing me. I let my lips part. He trails his kisses down my neck, kissing my throat hungrily. My body arches a little before I can stop it. He lets go of my wrists to grip my waist, holding me to him. My hands fly to his face as he returns his mouth to the comfort of my lips. One of his hands grips my hip. My large, soft hip. I squirm. Why does he seem to find the most imperfect parts of me? His hand tightens on my hip, refusing to let go. He finally calms my squirming with a brush of his tongue across my lips. I freeze. He continues, knowing exactly what he’s doing. He gently kisses me, letting his tongue brush more and more until my lips finally part. I have to control my mouth, making sure I don't lose control of myself. Because right now all I want to do is taste every inch of him.
The tips of our tongues slightly brush as our mouths fold into a deep kiss. We do this again and again, each time deepening the kiss. A moan rumbles through me, and I entangle my legs with his. So this is what it’s like to taste him. This. This is his taste. Each kiss, each brush, sends molten lava down my throat and into my heart. I feel him smile against me and he gently bites my bottom lip. I didn't even know that was a kissing thing. I didn't know it would feel so good.
“Willem,” I breathe in ecstasy.
He pulls back so we can finally see each other after an eternity of kissing. His hair is wild, brushed in different angles across his forehead. His skin is glowing, his cheeks are rosy. His lips. Oh, god, his lips. So pink and swollen. But his eyes, his glowing green eyes, look upon me in complete and utter adoration. I’ve never seen anyone look this way at another person, especially not at me.I wonder what my eyes are saying to him.
He’s resting on his forearms, placed on both sides of my head. I gently reach up to brush the hair on his forehead. I don't know why, but all of the sudden I have this urge to take care of him. To make him smile. To know his secrets. To know the pains he has endured. I bite my lip to fight these strange urges. My hands trail down to his hard chest, where I feel his beating heart. It’s pounding faster than mine. I peer into his eyes innocently. His eyes search mine as his lips fidget self-consciously. I smile at this. He lifts a hand to brush all the hair from my face, completely exposing me. He brushes the back of his hand slowly on my skin, as if he’s trying not to break me. Which I suppose is accurate. He smooths out the worry lines between my eyebrows, not flinching at the feel of my un-smooth skin. We continue this way, finding all the imperfections on each other’s bodies, loving them.
Our feelings grow stronger with each fault. His hand once again finds my hip, caressing it, gently squeezing it. I find a mole on the back of his neck. He brushes the callouses on my hands. I trace the scars along his hands, noticing them for the second time. Wondering where he got them. He tickles my ears, too small for my head. I trail my fingers along his hairline, finding that one side is receding a little more than the other.
He finds the straight, neatly lined scars on my inner left forearm. I suck in a breath. I knew I should've worn long sleeves. His eyes shift from adoration to concern. I quickly but gently pull my arm away, instead wrapping both of them around his back. I run my hands along the fabric of his shirt, feeling his warm muscles tense as I brush over them. He groans. When I reach the dip that is the base of his back, I find his shirt has come un-tucked from this pants. I give him a deep look, then let my hands softly reach under the hem of his shirt. I find smooth, warm muscle. I trace along the edge of his pants, feeling two small dimples at the base of his back, but I would hardly call those imperfections.
This must be too much for him, for he almost immediately crushes his mouth to mine, thrusting his tongue through my surprised, parted lips. I move with him, fitting to him perfectly. He kisses down my throat again, lower, lower...Then he speedily undoes the top two buttons of my dress like he’s done it a million times before, like it’s his job. I gasp as he pulls my dress and bra strap off of one shoulder. He’s back to trailing devouring kisses along my collarbone and to my shoulder. He lets his tongue brush along my skin as he rubs his lips on my shoulder. He starts murmuring in Dutch, letting me catch the word ‘roses’ as he breaths on my skin. He must notice the rose-perfumed body wash Cat let me borrow. Now his kisses travel below my collarbone, to the base of my throat, down, down... he squeezes my hip tighter... down, down, down...
I finally exhale the breath I must’ve been holding. I need to regain my bearings. Slow down. “Willem. Willem, wait...” I try to push him gently. He just grunts. “Slow down, please. Please stop,” I beg him, and he finally pulls back to look at me.
He apologizes when he catches his breath. “No, no! I’m sorry,” I say hastily as I sit up and pull my dress back over my shoulder. “I shouldn't have...I mean, I c-can't I, um, can't do that.” I pray he can understand me.
He nods and apologizes again. I smile a little. “I just you should know that I’m...I’m only seventeen.” I don't know why I just told him one of my biggest secrets. If my bosses find out, I will be shipped back to the U.S. My hand flies to my mouth.
His head snaps to me, his expression shocked. “Seventeen? But how...the army?”
“I lied when I enlisted. Said I was eighteen.” And I am going to be eighteen in a week.
We are both silent for a bit. Then he speaks up. “Your only lie?” He raises a teasing eyebrow at me.
“What do you mean?” I ask suspiciously.
“You never kissed?” He laughs. “Yeah, right. Never kissed, my ass.”
I blush, but at the same time notice that he used an English phrase in the right context.
“So that’s okay then?” I ask nervously.
“Me being seventeen.”
He smiles crookedly. “You okay I twenty one?”
My cheeks flush. I smile down at my lap, crossing my ankles straight out in front of me.
“Thank you,” he says.
I look at him. “For what?”
He looks down sheepishly. “You give me chance.”
I lean forward and gently kiss him, surprised by my own confidence. We don't touch as that kiss turns into hundreds of tiny sweet kisses. “You must stop evil kisses,” He murmurs against my lips. I smile and pull away slightly, only to have him catch the back of my head and pull me back in. We continue kissing until Willem pulls me to my feet, telling me he needs to get back to his base. I rest my head against him the whole ride back, falling asleep to the steady rhythm of his heart.