Reading time: 3 minutes
Prompt: Write a character description of the first person you ever kissed.
CONTENT WARNING: mentions of childhood abuse, sexual abuse, familial relations/incest.
Stevie Nicks famously sang about a girl named Rhiannon, who “rings like a bell through the night”. She’s a feminine icon, the blueprint for what we now call the “manic pixie dream girl”. She’s an archetype of the bewitching, free spirit; an enigmatic woman, magical and fleeting. She’s the girl-next-door. She’s the Madonna, and the Whore. She’s a dream and an aspiration, forever ‘the one that got away’, the one you couldn’t pin down if you tried.
When I met my Rhiannon (that really was her name) we were just children, both cut from the same cloth, buried in the same cycles of abuse and poverty. She was sweet and timid, affectionate and ultimately as lost and afraid of the world as I was. Her stepdad drank and hit her mom, her older brother touched her, her young life was polluted and painful, and yet she had the most luminous eyes, lit from within with an unstoppable innocence and peace.
Decades have passed, but when I imagine Rhiannon as an adult I see a lithe, powerful woman. She is stoic and composed, that inner light is still bright, but shared more judiciously. Life has been hard, it shows in her face, but she is more magical than she knows and her dark features and husky voice give her an air of mystery that is magnetic and alluring. She is not a typical beauty, but her gaze is arresting and her energy is unforgettable.
As a character in my mind’s eye, Rhiannon is the basis for every woman I write, every grown up little girl who had to claw and scratch and fight to be heard and seen. She is the reminder that when we are beaten down and it seems everything has been pulled out from under us, we always have ourselves to turn to. Rhiannon is the spirit of survival. She is the reminder that pain is not insurmountable. She is the head back, arms flung wide, primal scream of women everywhere. As the song says, ‘… she’s like a cat in the dark, and then she is the darkness.’
Rhiannon is a memory, gauzy as a fever dream yet as real as my own reflection. Rhiannon is you. Rhiannon is me. Rhiannon, simply is.
Some people just make an impression – was your first kiss memorable? Share in the comments below!
This post is part of January Jumpstart 2023, a community writing project designed to help you get a jumpstart on a new year of writing. Want to join in or get more info?