My family moved from one coast to the other the summer before my freshman year of high school. I was crushed, naturally, but resolved, too. I was going to shed the image of the pee-scented overalls and the wackadoo haircut and be cool. Beautiful, even. I’d grown my hair out and cut my bangs to match my cooler friends’ bangs, and I had some really short white shorts that made my legs look long and thin. When I looked in the mirror, I could almost imagine the woman I was going to be, and that the awkward girl was gone.

That was the summer I met Joe.

I met Joe at church. You’d think this would be a good thing. Church is generally a good place to meet wholesome gentlemen. But Joe, I knew from the start, had a streak of bad hiding under those long, blonde curls. He was like an angel, all white teeth and gold hair and big arms—except I knew he wasn’t really an angel because I didn’t meet him until halfway through the summer, when he actually decided to show up to church one week.

Also, he was seventeen. My mom didn’t like that he was seventeen. My dad didn’t much care, as long as he was allowed, finally, to tease one of his daughters and embarrass her horribly in front of every boy she ever brought home. Lucky me; I got to go first.

Joe and I spent the rest of the summer circling around each other. For my part, I thought this would be another one of those unrequited love things. I would sit back and admire from afar, he would never notice me, and eventually he would go away, or I would go away, or another boy would come along that I could fall in love with instead… from afar, of course.

But when the school year started, Joe asked me out. I honestly, truly never saw it coming. I thought he was teasing me. I think I may have actually laughed. But he wasn’t kidding. And I fell headlong into a relationship with the not-really-an-angel from church.

Jesus wept. I imagine my mother did, too.

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