September, 2010. I was a fifteen-year-old with the ID card of a sophomore but the mental maturity of a seventh-grader. I’d always been somewhat religious – grew up in a church, volunteered for Sunday school, had the cross on a wall in my home – and the Christian stance on sex and marriage had been ingrained into my head since the time I came back from school and told my mom I was crushing hard on dreamy-eyed Andrew. I was given the whole flower metaphor, the lectures to stay chaste until marriage or you’ll regret it, the reminders that all boys except for my brother were straight from the devil and only wanted one thing: to get into my pants.
Not only that, but I was the epitome of a “good girl.” Honor roll, AP classes, captain of the water polo team and president of the newspaper club, not to mention that I’d been asked out twice and turned down both. And so when my two best friends, who were very much aware of my status as a proud virgin who wasn’t intending to give it up anywhere else but the marriage bed, offered me fifty bucks in exchange for my virginity by college graduation, I threw my head back in laughter and immediately accepted. Jackie and Adrian (my best friends) simply rolled their eyes but said that college graduation was very far away, and my good girl reputation wouldn’t hold out for that long.
I’ll admit it – I have a stubborn streak, and so the minute they said that, I was ever the more determined to hold onto my virginity and win those fifty bucks. I was so smug about the whole thing I started already thinking of how I would spend the money.
Jump to November of the same year. Over time Adrian and I became more close, texting each other late at night and giving little brushes of touch that were a little bit too long to be entirely platonic. Before I knew it I was harboring a massive crush on him, but I brushed it off because, well, the bet. I would rather have been damned than to lose that bet, and somehow I convinced myself that he didn’t return my feelings, so what did it matter anyway? I purposefully ignored all the signs he threw my way: paper notes tossed to me in our classes, soft touches that were entirely unnecessary but taken full advantage of, flirty texts stuffed with innuendo, and complete and utter hostility to the two guys I had previously rejected.
This ignorance led me to complete and utter shock when I checked my email one morning and saw that he had written me a love letter, and he would send me these on a biweekly basis for the next few months. Next day at school I made a little joke about it, but I refrained from getting too much into it because I didn’t want to make him feel awkward. We never discussed the letters and yet they were present, whether it was me referencing a line he had penned or their soft, sweet words lingering over our heads whenever we were alone.
February, 2011. I knew that somehow he had progressed from being a crush into someone important when he was out of school due to a cold and during class I could hear his voice in the back of my head, giving a wry commentary when I missed the trash can or a soft “know-it-all” if I answered a question correctly. It terrified me to feel this way for someone who I knew didn’t have the same principles and values that I held, and so one day I talked with him and said I didn’t like him. For two days we didn’t talk. Our other best friend, Jackie, picked up on the sudden coldness between us and tried to make the ice thaw, but to no avail.
Those were the most awful 48 hours of my life, and I regretted saying that so much that I ended up writing an apology letter, begging for forgiveness, and admitting that I lied to him. As it turned out, he felt the same way, and gave me an apology letter too – along with a side note asking me out on a date for Valentine’s Day. Laughing to myself and chiding the more strict part of my head which reminded me of the bet, I agreed, and we spent Valentine’s Day hanging out together in an empty classroom, trading puns and engaging in banter. Jackie seemed relieved to have our dynamic back, and everything – including his non-stop courtship of me – went back to the way it was.
March. By now, Jackie was teasing the both of us that Adrian would be the one who made me lose the bet, and every time she said so I shook my head and Adrian smiled in delight at the prospect. I never took to the idea seriously, and I was still confident that by the time I graduated from college I would have fifty dollars in my pocket. By now, I’d been kissed a grand total of two times: my first was on a dare, and the second was without my consent. One day Adrian toyed with the idea of kissing me, saying it would be a purely scientific experiment and that he could make a waiver and everything. Jokingly, I agreed, and – surprise! – I found a waiver in my email the next day, with a place for my signature and a date set for the experiment. Shocked, I mulled the idea over in my head for who knows how long before finally saying screw it and signing the waiver with absolutely no feelings of regret.
To say he was ecstatic was an understatement, and before I knew it the day of the so-called “experiment” was upon us. He walked me to a quiet, empty hallway and we debated the whole way about whether John Locke or Thomas Hobbes was a more influential person before I opened my mouth to present my next argument but it never came out because he kissed me.
It wasn’t some great, awe-inspiring moment, and I didn’t expect it to be. Neither of us were experienced at all and it took a few fumbling, awkward times to get it right but finally we made it work, and yeah, it was amazing.
May. By now we’re going steady and I had honestly forgotten all about the bet I’d made all those months ago, until he whispered into my ear when he was going to win and my heart shattered in two because as it turned out, he only wanted one thing when it came to me, when it came to us. Take a wild guess at what that was.
Shocked and stunned, I broke up with him on the spot, deeply hurt that all the sentiment – all the poems and letters and staying up late to send that one last loving text – was for nothing, that he didn’t have those feelings, that he actually wasn’t in love with me.
I cried all night and swore never to trust again, and I didn’t. We broke off contact to the dismay of Jackie, who was confused and tried to make those wounds heal, but finally I graduated college and the day after, I got a check in the mail for fifty dollars.
Yeah, maybe I won, but to this day I wonder what it cost.