John looked over at her. The bright, silvery moonlight lit up her face and hair from behind, like a kind of celestial backlight. She was as radiantly beautiful as he had ever seen her. “And there never can be.” he said ruefully. She only nodded, slowly.

“We’ve know each other for a while.” John said at length. “And it occurs to me that we’re not going to see each other much anymore. After tonight, there’s just two weeks of school left, and then summer jobs, and then college. This may well be the last time we can really talk. I’d like to end our friendship on a high note.”

She cocked her head. “What do you mean?” she said.

“Have you ever kissed before?” John asked.

She nodded.

“Well, I haven’t. So, will you do me a favor? For just a moment, pretend that you’ve never kissed anyone before. Pretend that we’re in love, and that we’ll never see each other again.” John gently put his hand on her shoulder, and drew her toward him. She didn’t resist, didn’t cry out. She simply closed her eyes and gave a little half smile

They kissed. Not a short, impersonal peck on the cheek. Not a vulgar, lingering wrestling match between tongues. Not even the passionate culmination of a wedding vow. Just the simple, pure essence of physical contact. They lingered there for what felt like an eternity, locked in a tight, personal embrace–the most perfect, innocent, and pure expression of love that the cosmos had ever seen.
Perhaps because it never really happened at all.

That was the evening John preferred to remember, the one he described to his children years later. He never really talked to that girl again, but he heard second-hand of her happy marriage. John knew that his cherished memory was a fantasy, but he clung to it nonetheless; an inner monument to mistakes made, painful lessons learned, and redemption.