It's Saturday afternoon and Hannah and I are sitting at the malls food court, eating frozen yogurt.
"I don't know, it's always sounded kind of sketch to me," I scoop another spoonful of yogurt. "I mean people have genuinely met and fell in love before, but more often than not it ends up as an episode on Dateline or something."
"Hmmm," Hannah hums. "I think I might try it."
I almost choke. "What? Where is this coming from?"
She shrugs. "I don't know. Seeing you and Theo together kind of makes me realize how lonely I am. And I'm just not attracted to any of the guys at school."
"What if you like girls?"
"I'm not attracted to them either."
"Maybe you're asexual then."
Hannah gives me a look. "I'm not gay, asexual, or bisexual," she pauses. "Well, maybe a little. I think some girls are hot. I just wouldn't want to date them. Pussy is weird anyway. I don't even like my own. It's all squishy and shit."
"So is dick."
"Until it's not," she suggestively licks her spoon and I gag.
"And you like it," Hannah winks.
"Okay back to the online dating thing. I don't know Han, it sounds kind of dangerous. What if you meet some psycho ax murderer or rapist who keeps girls locked in his basement?"
Hannah rolls her eyes. "That only happens on tv."
"Which is based on real life events."
"Not always. Besides, I'd be careful of course."
"Still...maybe you should give someone at school a chance," I rack my brain trying to think. "How about Jack?"
Hannah wrinkles her nose. "Ew, no. He reminds me too much of Jack Frost."
"But Jack Frost was cute!"
"Yeah if you're into the whole blonde hair, blue eye thing. Not my cup of tea."
I raise a brow quizzically. "What exactly is your type?"
Hannah looks thoughtful. "I don't know actually. I don't think I have a type. Just not that."
"Ugh no. He's a douchebag."
I go on listing all the guys we know in our grade, but Hannah finds a flaw in every one of them. They either laugh weird or smell funny or their eyes are spaced too far apart.
"You're impossible," I huff. "Seriously, I had no idea you were this picky. Maybe you should just stick to the guys in your books."
"I'm tired of fictional guys. They can only hold me off for so long. I need the real thing."
I have no idea where this is coming from, whether she's really lonely or just bored and wants to experiment. Hannah starts tapping on her phone.
"What are you doing?"
"Downloading Tinder," she replies. "Who knows, maybe I'll meet my dream guy."
"If he even exists," I mutter.
But Hannah is optimistic. "Worst case scenario, I go on a few bad dates. Now help me pick my profile photo. It has to be cute, but sexy. I don't want to give too much away."
Together we scroll through a selection of selfies and pick out the perfect photo. I had no idea how easy it was to set up a Tinder. However I'm still wary. "Are you sure this is a good idea? In a few months we'll probably be living in New York. I'm sure there are tons of hot guys there."
"Yeah but I need experience," Hannah explains. "I don't want to just jump into the dating pool blind. At least this way I'll know for sure what I like and don't like."
"Well based on earlier it sounds like you don't like a lot."
She smacks me playfully. "Haha. We can't all be lucky like you and have the perfect first boyfriend."
I smile dreamily. "Theo is pretty perfect huh?"
"No one is perfect. But he's close enough. And he's good for you, which is ultimately all that matters."
We finish our yogurt and throw the empty cups in the trash before continuing to stroll through the mall. I can't remember the last time we did something like this together. Sure we spent a lot of time hanging out, but it was usually either at school, the antique shop, her house, or mine. My mom was always so strict about letting me go out. Even when I was a kid I rarely got to go to my classmates birthday parties, school dances, or trips. I hated it, but I just had to learn to live with it.
Until this year when I started sneaking out.
Thankfully she doesn't know about that, and ever since our fight and the talk about my father she's been less rigid. I can tell she's still apprehensive, like one day I'll come home and announce I'm pregnant, but she lets me go out more. As long as I stick to my scheduled training, keep my eye on the prize, and adhere to her curfew, she's okay with giving me more freedom. Still. I don't tell her everything I'm doing.
Sometimes it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
We walk by Victoria's Secret and Hannah stops. "Wait. Let's go inside." Before I can respond she's already dragging me in. Immediately we're greeted by an overeager sales associate.
"Hi!" she chirps, giving us a blinding bright smile. "Welcome to Victoria's Secret. How can I help you two today?"
"We're looking for something innocent yet sexy," Hannah informs her. I do a double take. Wait what?
"Ooh, I know just the right section! Follow me," she spins on her heel and walks off without waiting to see if we follow. Obviously we do, but details. We're lead to the lingerie section, with images of models posing in their bras and wearing flirty smiles.
"Let me know if you need anything else," the associate gives us another Colgate smile before stalking off, presumably to find her next prey.
Hannah digs right in and I cross my arms. "What are you doing?"
"Looking at underwear obviously."
"No I mean what are you doing? 'We're looking for something innocent yet sexy?' I thought we were just browsing!"
Hannah smiles innocently. "We are browsing-"
I open my mouth.
"-for something innocent yet sexy," she finishes and pulls out a strip of cloth that I think is supposed to pass for underwear, but I'm not sure.
"Um, what is that?"
"I've seen thongs that cover more skin."
"Listen Aurora, you gotta work with me here."
"Work with you? I don't even know what we're working for. And we can't afford anything here! It's like fifty dollars for a pair of underwear."
Hannah rolls her eyes. "Sometimes you have to spend a little money if you want nice things. And just imagine Theo's face if he saw you in lingerie," she waggles her brows suggestively.
I have to admit, the idea does have some appeal. I've never wanted to look sexy for a guy before, at least not in this sense. But now that I actually have a boyfriend...
Still, I shake my head. "It's a no for me."
"Come on," Hannah insists. "If not for Theo then at least do it for yourself. You have a banging body. I bet you'd look hot in everything here. Meanwhile I have to find something that will make my little pouch and rolls appealing," she pats her stomach.
"You do not have rolls. And your body is perfect the way it is." Seriously. She had nice sized boobs—not too small and not too big—and a great ass, things I could only dream of having.
"Yeah, yeah, body positivity and all that jazz," Hannah does jazz hands for emphasis. "If only you could lose weight playing the piano. My fingers are skinnier I think, but that's about it."
I snort on a laugh. "Fine. One pair of underwear. That's it."
"And a bra."
I narrow my eyes at her.
"What? You have to buy a matching set!"
We browse their selection of lingerie, but everything feels way too skimpy for my taste. I'm not sure I'd be comfortable wearing any of it. Finally I settle on a pair of pink lace panties and matching bra. They're the tamest thing I could find, and that's really not saying much. I cringe at the price as the woman at the cash register rings us up. When we finally leave I'm relieved, and so is my wallet.
"I can't wait to try them on and take pictures," Hannah says excitedly.
"For your eyes only right? Please don't send any nudes to random guys on Tinder."
"Like you have any room to talk. You literally let a guy you didn't even know paint you naked. Or are we forgetting that?"
"At least that was in person and there was only one copy, which I have. My naked body isn't floating around somewhere on the internet."
"You don't know that," Hannah argues. "He could have taken secret photos or something. There could have been a hidden camera in the canvas."
When I shoot her a look she laughs. "Kidding. And I promise I won't send any nudes to random guys. Just you."
"Me?" I ask.
"Yeah. I'll need your approval of course."
That night after I'm sure my mom has gone to bed, I take out the Victoria's Secret bag hidden in my closet and peel back the pink wrapping paper, revealing the lingerie underneath.
I can't believe I let Hannah talk me into buying this. What was I thinking?
I take out the bra and hold it up. They had to measure my bust and I tried it on to make sure I bought the correct the correct size. I couldn't try on the underwear for obvious reasons, but I already knew my size in that.
I'm never going to wear these, I think to myself, pulling out the panties next. Ever.
A few minutes later I'm trying them on together.
Twisting and turning, I examine myself in the mirror. I have to admit, I like the way they make me feel. Sexy. Powerful. Like I own my body. I shake my hair out to give it a little fluff and pose in the mirror.
Oh my God. No. Just no.
Everything is all wrong. I'm too skinny. I've got no curves and that sexy pout girls make? It looks like I ate something sour. I might as well be wearing a clown suit with big shoes and a red nose. I feel ridiculous.
I quickly change back into my regular underwear before shoving the Victoria's Secret bag with the lingerie inside the back of my closet. Where it's going to stay. Forever.
What a waste of money.
Sighing I flop down on my bed and cover my eyes with my arm. My phone pings with a text and I grab it from the nightstand.
Theo: hey. what are you doing?
Me: laying in bed. wbu?
Theo: outside your house
I abruptly sit up.
Me: OMG!!!! are you crazy?!?!?! you cannot be here. if my mom sees you she'll kill us both
Theo: then you better come open the door before i start making a lot of noise 😁
I leap out of bed and do a quick check in the mirror, straightening my clothes and fixing my hair. Then I hurry to the front door, making sure my moms room is still securely shut and she's not lurking around. When I open the door Theo is standing outside. I peer around him, noticing his car is nowhere to be seen.
"Hurry," I hiss, pulling him inside and shutting the door quietly. "I cannot believe you just showed up to my house. What if my mom saw you?"
"I parked my car down the street," Theo grins. "I'm an expert at sneaking around you know."
I roll my eyes. "Yeah, I'm sure you are. Now come on before she comes out and sees you." We silently sneak back to my room and I shut the door, letting out a breath. I wish I had a lock, but my mother doesn't believe in locked doors. She believes she should have access to every room in the house, at any time. The only door that locks is the front door. We'll just have to be super quiet.
I turn around to see Theo looking around my room and I become anxious. I didn't have enough time to clean it. Not that it's super messy or anything, but I could have tidied up a bit. There's really nothing interesting to see. I have a desk with all my things strewn about. Christmas lights. A cork-board with random notes and photos. My bed. Dresser. A mirror.
"No trophies?" Theo asks with a smirk.
I laugh. "You don't get trophies in ballet. You'll be lucky if you even get a pat on the back."
"Do you get trophies for art?"
"No but we get awards at least. How are you motivated to dance if there's no reward at the end of it?"
"The crippling fear of failure is motivation enough."
Theo stares at me. "I want to laugh but at the same time I'm not sure I should. That's kind of fucked up."
I shrug. "That's just how it works."
He plops down on my bed and I try to keep myself from freaking out. He's on my bed. My. bed. "So what's the deal with your mom?" Theo asks. "Not that I don't think sneaking around isn't hot and all, but are you not allowed to date or something?"
I exhale. "Or something. My mother has this irrational fear that I'll come home nine months pregnant. Since she got knocked up when she was sixteen, she thinks the same thing will happen to me."
Theo furrows his brows. "She does know there are like several different forms of birth control right? There's even plan b."
"Try telling her that," I sit down next to him. "It's not my fault she didn't use protection, and now I have to live with the consequences."
"Well..." Theo says. "I'm kind of glad she didn't."
I blanch. "What?"
"Think about it. If your mom used protection, you wouldn't be here. Then we'd never have met. How tragic is that?"
I smile. "Devastating."
Theo narrows his eyes at me. "Are you being sarcastic?"
"Yes you are," he pins me down on the bed and starts tickling me. I squirm and squeal, trying to control my laughter.
"Theo! Stop! I'm super ticklish!"
"Oh yeah?" He grins and tickles me harder. By now I'm gasping for breath.
"I'm sorry! I wasn't being sarcastic, I swear!"
He stops tickling me and I lay there trying to recover, my sides hurting from withholding my laughter. Theo hovers above me, a smile playing on his face. I smile back and trace my thumb across his bottom lip, staring up in wonder at this boy I get to call mine.
How did I get so lucky? I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, but so far nothing. Everything is perfect. I've never been happier.
Theo leans down and presses his lips against mine, softly at first. It feels so intimate, like we're breathing each other in. He doesn't kiss me in any hurry or rush, but like he wants to savor me, savor this moment. If I wasn't sure before, I am now.
I'm in love with Theo Knight. I don't know how it happened. I don't even know if it's supposed to happen this fast or if I'm rushing into it, but I don't care. I know in my heart what I feel for him, and it's more than I've ever felt with anyone in my life. Maybe I'm just young, stupid, naive, or all three, but it doesn't matter. I want to be with him. I want to be his.
"Theo," I breathe, breaking away from the kiss. "Let's go to your house."
His face morphs into confusion. "My house?"
"Yes," I stare at him meaningfully, hoping he gets the message.
And he does.
"What about your mom?" he whispers, kissing the inside of my wrist.
"She's dead tired from work and sound asleep. She won't even notice that I'm gone," I smile. "It's not my first time sneaking out."
I tell Theo to go get his car and that I'll meet him outside. Then I stand in front of the mirror and let out a breath, staring at myself.
Will I be different afterwards? I have no idea. They say sex can change a person. It definitely changed my mom. Maybe it'll change me.
And maybe that's not such a bad thing.
Before I leave I text Hannah.
Me: i think i'm about to lose my virginity
Then I give myself one last look in the mirror before turning off the lights and quietly climbing out the window.
if you've ever used tinder or any dating app, share your worst experience (if you're comfortable)