Pivotal Moment

Note: I watched the Mansfield Park movie again and when Fanny accepted Henry's proposal and they kissed, I found myself thinking, "What a pity it'd be if this was her first kiss!"

Even as she kissed Henry Crawford on the pier in Portsmouth, Fanny caught herself thinking how glad she was that this wasn't her first kiss.

She suppressed the thought as quickly as it had come, aware how very inappropriate it was, now that she had finally made her mind up to forget all about the past and marry Mr. Crawford. Henry. Who was so very happy now that his handsome face shone. It suited him much better than the appearance of patient martyrdom he had been wearing during his courting of her. And yet Fanny had to constantly govern her thoughts, snatching them back from memories of the only other time she had been in another man's arms like this, the only other time she had tasted another's man's lips. Edmund's lips.

Did he remember her as well when he kissed Mary Crawford? Had the memory ever been just half as special to him as it was to Fanny? Fanny couldn't silence the voice in her head that asked those silly questions, especially after Henry had left, content with himself and the world. Fanny slowly came to realize that this was it, that she was engaged to be married now. And not to the man she had always secretly dreamed of spending her life with, the man who had always been at her side, even as he grew from boy to man, affectionate and faithful.

Lying in the bed she shared with her sisters, Fanny smiled at the memory, still so very fresh in her mind. It had changed everything, that one kiss. It had made the girl Fanny Price into a woman – and it had affected her feelings for her cousins much more deeply than she had been aware of at the time.

They had been out riding, she on one of Maria's old ponies, so that Edmund had to wait for her every now and then. Suddenly it had started raining, a heavy downpour that made riding on impossible. Luckily they had found shelter under a great willow tree, the trailing branches closing around them, hiding them from the elements. They had talked and laughed, as they always did, and Fanny had continued one of the exciting story she was currently writing for Susie, full of murder, passion and betrayal. When she had reached the part where the hero and the heroine embraced, she had suddenly stopped to ask something that had been troubling her more and more often since she had turned fourteen:

"Edmund, I cannot help but wonder whether I get these parts horribly wrong."

As usual, Edmund had taken her seriously and inquired what it was she was talking about.

"The parts where they… kiss. I mean, it's easy to write about love and hate, tragic misunderstandings, terrible crimes of passion and that sort of thing, without every having to experience it oneself. But, Edmund, I cannot help but feel, that, as a writer, it is essential to pay attention to the details, lest the whole story ends up being nothing but the meaningless babbling of a young, inexperienced girl. And I must admit I find it very hard to imagine what kissing is like. It seems a very strange thing – not very pleasurable at all, if one thinks about it."

There she had stopped, blushing hotly and all of a sudden unsure where she was going with this. Why had she started this awkward conversation in the first place? It was not as if Edmund would kiss her, after all… or that she even wanted him to. At this point her thoughts had come to an abrupt halt, because Edmund, who had seemed deep in thought himself, had looked up and asked calmly: "Well, shall we try it then, Fanny Price?"

She had been so surprised; she had probably gaped at him as if she was still the poor, ignorant girl fresh from Portsmouth. All she had been able to reply had been a weak "Try what?"

Edmund had smiled then, and Fanny had suddenly remembered that he was five years her senior and had already been out in the society for a while. "The kissing thing, of course! Let's see if it's actually worth being written about…"

By then the rain had lessened, but neither one of them had made a move to leave their shelter under the willow tree. The air smelled fresh, and Fanny could hear the horses move around nearby. But all she could see was Edmund's face, coming slowly closer, giving her plenty of time to move away. At first she had remained motionless, frozen to the spot, not quite sure herself whether in terror or excitement, but when Edmund had almost reached her, she had shaken off the paralysis and decisively closed the gap between them.

It had been clumsy at first, until they had found the right angle. Then it had changed, into something completely different. Fanny still shivered when she remembered the way her body had reacted to Edmund's caress, the touch of his lips on hers, the taste of him on her tongue, the pressure of his fingers on her hips... It felt as if it had happened only yesterday, although the kiss had barely lasted more than a moment or two. Then Edmund had stepped back, smiled – and been Edmund again, her best friend, her favorite companion.

"Well, that settles this matter, I would say," he had laughed. Offering her a hand, he had led her through the trailing branches of the willow, back outside, to the real world. Outwardly Fanny soon shaken off the strange feelings the kiss had awakened in her – but on a deeper level, that kiss had changed everything. It didn't matter that her cousin had probably forgotten all about that magical moment, since he had never given her a sign that he would ever see her as anything but a dear friend and sister.

Fanny sat up in bed; eyes wide open but not seeing anything but Edmund's face in the darkness. Fanny could not possibly marry Henry Crawford. Not when her heart was still under that willow tree.