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Dear *Joshua,

There’s something you should know.

Remember when you dumped me on grad night? Not ours, but that’s a miniscule detail.

I kissed someone. Five days later.

My friend *Lynn and I planned a duo trip to the yearly carnival. With unlimited ride passes. Salt and Pepper Shaker. The Polar Express. But after you “let me go,” my excitement for the Tilt-a-Whirl dwindled. I was barely in the mood to ride the Tea Cups.

But Lynn made me suck it up, and we were carnival bound. Once we devoured cotton candy, I hit a sugar high. Jumping into the Polar Express. Hell, yeah, I want to go faster! We hopped from ride to ride. Having the time of our lives on the Tidal Wave and The Rotor. For awhile, I forgot about you.

Lynn and I gorged on corn dogs, and then I tried my hand at the so-not rigged games. I chose ducks. I chucked basketballs and darts. And I tossed rings onto bottles.
That’s when Julio leaned on the counter – and I missed all my throws.

“My, my, hormosa,” he said, watching me toss my last ring. “You throw so nice. You should try again?”

In a Spanish accent. The type that could transform Crisco into butter.

Julio’s café au lait eyes pierced through the darkening skies. He smelled of spicy wood and crisp clover. Tall, with a cleft in his chin and tight curly hair. Onyx, with a dash of salt. Telling me, Julio was not my age.

And Julio’s lips? Clearly, he was the love child of Shane Donovan and Taylor Hall.

“No,” I said, my throat was as dry as the Sahara Desert.

Julio stepped closer. “I am Julio. And you are?”

“Tessa.” I said, nay, I squeaked. I noticed Lynn disappeared into the crowd. “I should … go …” I said, inching from the counter.

“Tessa. You must wait,” said Julio, laying down an American five dollar bill. For a second, I thought he was propositioning me. “Try again. Maybe you’ll have better luck.”

I wasted Julio’s fiver. Tossing rings no where near the bottles.

“Sorry,” I said. “I’m awful at this. I really should catch up with my friend.”

Then Julio grabbed my hand. Leading me away from the ring booth. He smiled and cupped my face. I smiled back. Like a duffus.

“Why must you rush on a beautiful day such as this?” said Julio. On cue, it started to rain. Cool, fat drops. “I noticed you. When you first walked through the front gate.”

“You did?”

“Yes,” he said. “It was your eyes.”
Frankly, I didn’t care if it was a line. I was seventeen, and my left cheek sinking into a man’s hand. A man who smelled like Obsession-Polo-Drakkar Noir-dark chocolate and espresso. My brain had long shutdown, and all I could muster was:

“Okay.”

“You’re mesmerizing,” said Julio as he brushed my face. “Your eyes. Such beauty.”

“Okay.”

Joshua, remember our first kiss at that birthday party? The years and years I wrote about our potential kiss in my diaries? From grades seven to ten? I thought that was anticipation. No, this was anticipation as Julio primed me like an engine. Thumbing my lips and jawline. Then he tilted my chin with his forefinger.

“May I?”

I’m not quite sure what I said. But it must have been agreeable, because Julio’s lips were on mine. Despite the cold rainy day, his lips were hot – as though preheated. When the kissed ended, Julio stroked my hair. I felt like a long lost puppy.

“One moment,” said Julio. And he went to the booth, returning with a baby pink snake. “To remember me by.”

Julio kissed me once more. Deeply. Passionately. Intensely. Maybe, too intense.

“Here,” said Julio, and he gave me his phone number in the United States – but I didn’t reciprocate. “I live with my sister. Please. Call me. However, I may not return your call for awhile.” It felt like a, “I’m being shipped off tomorrow, baby,” moment. And we parted.

I found Lynn, and we left the carnival. Julio consumed my end of the conversation on the way home. I couldn’t wait to call him. But more importantly, I couldn’t wait for you to find out.

But at home, I thought about my actions. I didn’t have years of diary entries stating, “Hope I kiss someone at the carnival. Seeking revenge.” For three years, Joshua, you were my world until you dosed the flame. I thought about Julio. He was a complete stranger. And my second kiss. What was a thinking? Clearly, I wasn’t.

In a puddle of tears, I fell to the beige carpet in my bedroom. Followed by two more weeks of wallowing.

A kiss shouldn’t be just a kiss. There should be a strong connection. I feared I’d never feel that again.

I threw the snake under my bed and Julio’s number into my desk. I never called him – but I still have that scribbled piece of paper in a memory box.

I failed at revenge. But I say that with pride. Because regret follows revenge. Those two work together like a tag team.

Julio, the tall, dark, sweet, spicy-scented stranger found me when I felt ugly and unworthy. The “reasons” you broke up with me were hurtful, Joshua. You were breaking up with a person. Not a water heater.

If you know about Julio, great. If not, now you do. It doesn’t matter. Because I don’t want revenge for one of the best gifts you ever gave me.

My freedom and independence.

Speaking of gifts though – did Julio have to give me a snake?

It just reminded me of you.

Always,

Tessa

************
*Names changed for privacy

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