How to celebrate a 99-cent sale on a super romantic royal box set? How about a never-before-seen prequel scene??
“This was the best idea ever, Ky.”
My grandmother lifted the bottle of wine toward me just before she took a long swig. Next to me, my best friend Shelby giggled.
“Go, Honey! I’m impressed.”
Honey grinned at her. “Sweetie, never go up against this old hippie in a drinking contest. You’ll always lose.” She passed the bottle to me. “But I’m serious, Kyra. Having a girls’ night to christen your new digs here in Maine was inspired. And I appreciate that you two young ones included this old broad.”
“If you’re an old broad, Honey, I want to be just like you when I grow up.” I took a less-ambitious sip of the bottle.
“Genetics tells us you have a pretty good shot.” My grandmother winked and nudged me. “But you know that old saw about how you’re only as old as you feel? It’s true. I know that to you girls, I probably seem ancient, but in my mind, I’m a spring chicken. Young and spry. Just had my first kiss last night.” She sighed with a reminiscent smile.
“Ooooh, tell us about it!” Shelby leaned forward, her eyes sparkling. “I want to hear all the dirty details. Who did you kiss? Where did it happen?”
“Oh, darlings.” Honey held out her hand for the wine. “Well, it will sound tame and boring to you two, but for me, it was pure magic. ” Her smile broadened. “It was a sock hop, of all things. I went to a private school, but my best friend and I had learned that the local public high school was having a dance one Friday night. I’d been mooning after a boy who was a student there–we’d met at the library, and even though we’d barely spoken more than a word or two, I was positive that it was love at first sight.”
“And was it?” I tilted my head.
“Perhaps,” Honey allowed. “Maybe it was first love, that tender, precious bud that rarely weathers the storms of life. At any rate, Louisa–my best friend–convinced me that we should show up at the dance. So we played that old trick of telling our parents that we were each at the other’s house for the night, and then we snuck off to the dance.”
“You were such bad girls,” I teased. “And was your crush there?”
“Oh, yes, he was. Surrounded by girls, which made me want to turn around and leave. But then he saw me, and it was just like a storybook. He pushed through his crowd of admirers and came to me. He asked me to dance.”
“And you said yes, of course,” Shelby said.
“I don’t remember saying yes, but the next thing I knew, we were holding each other close on the dance floor while the band played Earth Angel.”
“So romantic,” I groaned. “Then what?”
“As the song ended, he drew me even closer, lifted my chin with one finger, and he kissed me right there, in front of all of his friends and classmates.”
“God, I can’t stand it!” Shelby shimmied a little in her chair. “What happened next?”
Honey screwed up her face. “Then suddenly my father was there. He put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and yanked him away from me before he took me by the arm and dragged me–and Louisa–from the gym. All the way home, we got the tongue lashing of our lives.”
“What about your crush? Did you ever see him again?” I demanded.
“No.” Honey shook her head. “That night was the beginning of a new restlessness in me, a growing resentment of my parents’ restrictiveness and their expectations that I would follow in their footsteps. Six months later, I ran away from home and ended up in San Francisco, where eventually, I met a man who showed me what real love looked like.”
“I hope you’re talking about Handsome.” Shelby raised her eyebrows.
“Of course I am. Once I caught sight of him, he was it for me. No one else existed. I still feel the same way.” Honey sighed. “But I still never forgot that first kiss at the sock hop.”
“That’s so sweet.” I took my turn at the wine and reached for a handful of popcorn. “It’s your turn, Shelby. Tell us about your first kiss.”
“It wasn’t nearly as romantic as Honey’s story,” my friend retorted. “I was with a bunch of friends at the bowling alley, and a guy at the next lane suddenly came over to chat me up . . . and when I got a strike on my next turn, he kissed me.” Shelby rolled her eyes. “I found out later that his friends had bet him he couldn’t get a kiss before our games ended. I was super pissed off.”
“Ugh, that sucks.” I patted her arm. “But you’ve more than made up for it in the years since.”
“It’s true,” she agreed smugly. “I’ve had my share of kisses. But I’m still irritated that the jerk stole my first one.”
“Karma will get him,” Honey assured us. “And doesn’t your sister still write that column about having to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince, Shelby? You just happen to have hit an especially slimy frog first thing.” My grandmother’s gaze slid to me. “Speaking of princes . . . I think it’s your turn to tell us a story, Ky.”
My face heated. The tale of my own first kiss was still a somewhat sensitive memory, and I rarely shared it. But now Shelby was watching me with anticipation and interest, and a small, knowing smile played around Honey’s lips.
“Oh, mine’s . . . it’s actually kind of boring. We used to spend the summers at Honey and Handsome’s house down in Florida when we were growing up. Honey’s best friend Louisa–the one from the sock hop–had a house right next door, and her grandchildren used to come for about a month every summer. One of them was a boy around my age, and one summer night . . .well, he kissed me.” I shrugged. “And that was my first kiss.”
Honey was watching me with an inscrutable eye, and I knew she must have been thinking about what I’d left out of the story–and why. But she didn’t say anything.
“C’mon, Kyra, there’s got to be more to it than that. Give me the deets, babe. You always tell the best stories, and this one was like the Reader’s Digest version. I need more.”
“There isn’t any more,” I replied, my words clipped. “I was fifteen. He was sixteen. We were on the beach, and he was leaving the next day. He kissed me, then he went into his grandmother’s house, and the next morning, he was gone. I never saw him again.”
“Did you have feelings for him?” Shelby pressed.
“I–I mean, I guess–” I tossed up both hands. “I was fifteen, Shel. Any feelings I had would have been shallow and . . . inconsequential.” Grimacing, I added, “And clearly he didn’t feel anything for me since he left without a backward glance and didn’t bother to ever write or call or anything.” All these years later, that pain still twinged just a little.
“But—” Shelby looked from me to Honey, obviously waiting for one of us to break. I caught my grandmother’s eye and telegraphed a plea for rescue.
“Shelby.” Honey snagged the wine and shook the bottle a little. “I think we need to crack open a new bottle. And once we do, I’ll tell you what it was like to be in Haight-Ashbury in the summer of 1969 . . .”
As my grandmother and my best friend disappeared into the kitchen to open another bottle, I breathed a silent sigh of relief. There wasn’t much I hid from Shelby; she’d been my best friend since we’d met in college, and now she was also my housemate.
But even so, I wasn’t ready to tell her that the boy who’d given me my first kiss was Nicholas Windsor . . . a prince of the United Kingdom and a grandson of the Queen.
After all, it wasn’t like I was ever going to see Nicky again.