I was fifteen.
Maybe that's late, but I was brought up to be a nice girl, and my mother taught me from an early age that men won't pay for the cow if they can get the milk for free.
Not that my mother was comparing me to a cow, but you know what I mean.
So I was fifteen. A fresh and newly minted fifteen. And I'd been on a date with my brother Dix's best friend Todd Satterfield. Dix was dating my best friend Charlotte; it seemed ordained, somehow, that I should date his best friend in return. Mother and dad adored Todd, Pauline and Bob Satterfield liked me, and Todd and I got along just fine.
It was the day of graduation, but not for any of us. Charlotte and I were finishing up our freshman year, while Dix and Todd still had a year left of high school. We'd taken Todd's new car from Sweetwater to Columbia to see a movie, and on the way home, we'd run across another kid from school and driven him back to Sweetwater and dropped him off where he lived, in the trailer park on the south side of town. Todd was none to happy about that, since Rafe was drunk, and bleeding all over Todd's new leather upholstery. Oh yes, and because it had been my idea. While the others just wanted to leave him there, sitting on a curb in Columbia, drunk and bleeding, I'd insisted on taking him with us. It's the duty of every properly brought-up Southern Belle to help those less fortunate, and Rafael Collier was clearly less fortunate.
So we loaded him in the car, I crawled into the back seat with Dix and Charlotte - and inadvertently ruined their plans for necking for the twenty minute drive home - and we set off. And when we got to the Bog, Todd stopped the car on the main road, as if he was afraid the dust from dirt road would soil the paint. I got out to open the door for Rafe, since none of the others seemed inclined to.
He needed help getting to his feet, and for a second we both stood swaying while he took the opportunity to grab a handful of my butt. "Thanks, darlin'," he said.
I told him it was no problem, and took his hand off my derriere. And then I got back into the car and Todd took off, with a spray of dirt and rocks, while Rafe staggered down the path toward the trailers.
When we got back to the Martin Mansion, Todd kissed me.
The funny thing is, what I remember most about that evening, isn't the kiss, even if it was my first. It's Rafe. In retrospect, I think that should probably have told me something. As it is, it took me twelve years to pick up on it...