The sound of a kiss is not so loud as that of a cannon, but its echo lasts a great deal longer.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes
I remember my first real kiss better than I should. It was the culmination of a long overnight road trip, a stumble onto beach at sunrise, and followed by breakfast at Waffle House. I was delirious as shit, from both the amount of time I had been awake and the experience itself. You never forget that first real kiss. All the kisses that have followed have been built from that first real kiss, that jolt of electricity fueled by hormones and caring and just the right setting.
Kisses can bring about great change. They can signal the beginning of something great, both short term and long term. They can open doors and fill a mind with excitement. They can also cause everything to crash down around you. A real kiss can make you forget yourself. Being that close to another person breaks mirrors in the mind.
I forgot myself today.
I could hear the crying when I opened the door to the library. Soft, quiet sobs coming from the children’s stacks. I followed my ears.
Ava sat at the end of a long row near the front of the building. The large windows here stretch from the floor to ceiling and the morning light cast her shadow long down the stacks. In front of her lay a cell phone, the front display smashed.
“Ava?” I said.
She looked up at me, surprised. She started to get up, but I stopped her. She looked bad.
“It’s so quiet at home,” she said, “I thought I would come in. I know you gave me the week off, but it’s so quiet at home.”
After the incident on Viper Day when her son was bitten by the snake, I had given Ava the week off. I had planned on doing so anyway after how hard she had been working for the summer reading program despite being just hired, but with what happened...
“What’s wrong?” I said, “Where’s Forrest?”
When she heard her son’s name, she started crying again. I sat down next to her on the floor, leaning my back against the window. Quickly, I checked my watch. We did not open for at least another half hour, so time was not an issue.
I usually like to be in the library when the public is not allowed.
She gained control of herself and looked at me. I handed her some tissues from my pocket that I carry for my hay fever. She dabbed at her eyes which did little to help.
“He took him,” she said, “Got permission saying I endangered him and just took him.”
“Who? What happened?”
Through sobs, she told me about how after she and Seth, Forrest’s father, took their son to the emergency room she was questioned by the police. The police said Seth told them Ava was a danger to the child, placing Forrest in danger while unsupervised. Then they asked her about how the alcohol got into the punch at the summer reading.
“I don’t know anything about alcohol in the punch,” she said, wiping her nose, “I made that punch at home and it was safe. Did they ask you about it?”
I nodded, “They took a sample, but I assured them it must have been a mistake. Captain Stein said he thought so, too, probably some kids playing a prank.”
“Well, the lawyer found a judge on Saturday, issued some temporary thing and Seth took Forrest home with him. I haven’t seen my baby since Saturday, Evan.”
“I’m sorry. Have you talked to your lawyer?” I said.
“Of course I have, spent all yesterday with him. He said some bull about ‘things don’t go so well on Mondays” or whatever.”
She leaned over and grabbed my hand, “I need my son. Do you know someone? Anyone that might can help? You were there, with your family, you could convince someone... I need my baby.”
Her lip quivered and tears fell down her cheeks. Those deep brown eyes were big and pleading, warm and determined.
“I can call Captain Stein, see what I can do,” I said.
She leaned up, grabbing my shoulders in a strong embrace. I found my own arms wrapping around her, hugging her tight. Another sob caused her to twitch, but I held her close. She smelled of lavender.
I do not know when the hug became the kiss. I remember her eyes, the brown so soft and she was so warm and... it happened. Electric fire, passion born from pain and need and want. I am not sure if it was her want or mine.
Then it ended. She held my gaze, one hand lightly brushing my cheek. She smiled.
“That...” she said.
“That should not have happened,” I said.
“But it did,” she said, “The library doesn’t open for a bit. Can we just sit here? Please?”
I nodded and she leaned in again, this time laying her head on my chest. I could feel her tears dampen my shirt, I could taste them on my lips. I leaned my head back and stared out the window.
Natalie stared back at me from the parking lot.
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