My first kiss turned out to be with Pete, the boy I’m melted into right now, the boy who is with me even when we’re not together because I’m always daydreaming about the taste of his lips, the smell of his skin. I get woozy at the thought of him being near.
I sometimes think that if Becky hadn’t come biking with Todd and me shortly before summer’s end, I probably would never have spoken to Pete. I would have been with Todd instead. At the church barbeque where Pete and I met, Todd was lurking in a corner of the yard with his buddies. I hadn’t seen him since he and Becky had gotten into a big fight during our ride. It began when the three of us stopped for a Burlington Northern train racing along the tracks toward Chicago. Becky said her family was moving to a town that has a roller rink. She wound a ringlet of hair around her finger and tried not to smile. She broke into a grin anyway, unable to hide that she was excited to be going to a place more like her hometown in southern Illinois.
After that, Todd and Becky argued about everything, from whether to sit or stand while pedaling uphill to whether her new school is as good as ours. They spat out insult after insult. Then she pulled a marble from her pocket, aimed and hit him in the neck. He rode up alongside and shoved her, almost knocking her down. She caught her balance and sped away. Rattled by the fight, I followed Becky, leaving Todd fuming in the street.
I didn’t see Becky again till the day she moved. She’d been busy packing. I’d wanted no part of helping her leave me behind.
“It’s only a few towns over—ten, twelve miles,” she said before sliding next to her brother in the back seat of her family’s Woody wagon. “We’ll still see each other.”
“We won’t be going to the same school. You might as well be moving to Siberia,” I grumbled, as the wagon backed out of the driveway.
Sorely missing Becky at the barbeque a few days later, I saw Todd with his friends and wondered if he expected me to join him or whether he was about to come over and say hello. Then it occurred to me that he might not like me anymore because I’d left with Becky after their argument. While those thoughts preoccupied me, Pete sidled up with a mischievous look in his brown eyes and an open bottle of Coke in each hand.
“It seems I’ve got an extra here. Do you want it?” He sipped one drink and extended the other toward me.
I was drawn to his gap-toothed grin. “Yeah, sure.” The cold, moist surface felt good in my hand.
Pete and I moved to the buffet table, where we hovered like humming birds at salvia until the barbecue ended. Pete offered me a ride home. I glanced at Todd; he scowled back. I hadn’t noticed before how bony he was, how stiff, like the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. Pete took my hand. I felt a surge of warmth, a sense of possibility.
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