“I should kiss you.” David Rossi said.
“If you put your lips anywhere near mine I'm punching your lights out.” Erin Strauss glanced at him with a side eye.
“You can't do that; I'm your boyfriend.”
“No one said anything about you being my boyfriend.”
“You didn’t have to say anything.” The 13 year old boy held up their joined hands. “We’re holding hands.”
“Holding hands means I'm your boyfriend.”
“Does it really mean that?” the pretty blonde looked at him. “I don’t think that it means that.”
“Yep, it does.” Dave nodded with a smug look on his face.
“What if I don’t want you to be my boyfriend?”
“But you do…don’t you?”
“I don’t know.” She shrugged.
“You like me, Erin.”
“I don’t…not that much.” She shook her head.
“I don’t believe you.”
“Well I don’t care.”
“Let me kiss you. I bet you'd like me more after that.”
“I doubt it.”
“You're difficult.” He said.
“My father said it’s an admirable trait.”
“I find it ridiculously attractive.”
“I'm letting you hold my hand and walk me home. I think that’s enough for today.”
“OK.” He nodded.
“That was easy.”
“Sometimes I am.” Dave smiled.
“No, no you're not.”
They stopped at the red light on a busy corner. He’d been asking to walk her home from school for a week but Erin said no. She didn’t like him and could walk herself home. She was 12 years old now and even though the city had its fair share of dangers, her parents held their breath and let her do this. Surely her mother was downstairs in the lobby of their building timing her.
She couldn’t let Dave walk her to the door and had to find a way, a polite way, to shake him off before they got there. She didn’t want to seem like a baby whose mother was waiting for her. But being inside the lobby doors was surely better than waiting for her outside of school. Erin promised that she would walk fast. She was in middle school now and needed to spread her wings just a bit.
“My mother is waiting for me in the lobby of my building.” She said. OK, so maybe the truth would work.
“This can be a dangerous city and you're a beautiful girl. I don’t blame her.”
“It’s a mother thing. My mom can be too. She knows exactly what time I'm supposed to get off the train and be walking in the door. So she’s usually calling on the phone if she hasn’t made it home yet.”
“What's your mom do?” Erin asked.
“She’s a teacher. She usually leaves school around four but sometimes later because of meetings and stuff. What about your mom?”
“She's the lifestyles editor for a high end magazine. She goes in when she feels like it.”
“That sounds like a job I would love. I don’t mean the magazine part; I mean the going in when I feel like it.”
“The magazine part is kinda cool.” Erin smiled. After they crossed the street she stopped walking. “We should probably stop here.”
“You live a block and a half away.” Dave reasoned.
“I know but…I can make it from here.”
“Your mom doesn’t know you have a boyfriend, does she?”
“No, because I don’t have one.” Erin shook her head.
“I’ll walk you to the next corner.” He said. “Don’t worry I'm not at all offended that you want to keep our love secret for the time being. It’s cool.”
“You're the weirdest person I think I've ever met.”
“Thanks.” Dave smiled. “I adore you too.”
“David…” she rolled her eyes but kept walking. Dave was still holding her hand so he walked with her.
“I like that too. I like that you call me David.”
“Well that's your name isn’t it?”
“Sure, but no one calls me that.”
“I can think of some other names to call you but I'm not allowed to use bad words.”
“Ouch,” Dave put his free hand over his heart. “I adore you woman, but you cut me so deep.”
“I don’t understand you in the least.”
“I think you do. But if you really don’t then that’s what getting to know each other better is for.”
“We’re almost at the corner now so I guess that’s going to have to wait for another day.”
Dave didn’t want to let her go. He also didn’t want her to get in trouble with her mother, if the story were true. But Erin Strauss hadn't lied to him yet, even when she was rejecting him time after time after time. And she did let him hold her hand this far. It was with cheeky protest but Dave enjoyed her cheeky protest. If she didn’t want him around Erin was not the kind of girl who would tolerate him.
That was part of what he adored about her. There were many things to adore about her. She was the smartest girl in their class. She was bright, bold, and had no problem showing up those who might think differently. With her sunny blonde hair and bright blue eyes, she wasn’t always the nicest girl but he wanted to be close to her anyway. It seemed as if, for the time being, she was letting him.
Dave never had a problem getting girls to like him. He liked them all as well. It was the perfect distraction from things like books and projects. Erin Strauss was his greatest challenge yet. Sometimes he had no idea why he did things like this to himself. But the heart was a muscle that didn’t let you tell it what to do. It had ideas all its own.
“Maybe I can call you later.” He said.
“You don’t have my phone number.”
“We can change that. Give it to me, my mind is sharp and I’ll memorize it.”
“I don’t think so David. I've got a lot of homework and things to do. I don’t have much time to talk on the phone.” She said. “I’ll see you in school tomorrow.”
He took their joined hands and held them to his lips. Erin opened her mouth to protest but in the end she didn’t. She just gave him the evil eye, and he found that he liked that.
“I’ll meet you out front, if you want.” He said.
“I don’t want.” She shook her head and slipped her hand out of his. “Goodbye, David.”
“Bye.” He held up his hand and waved as she walked around the corner.
He wanted to follow, see which of the big buildings filled with overpriced condos she lived in. But that wasn’t fair. If she wanted him to see then she would've let him walk with her. Plus she was sure to look behind her and he didn’t want to be seen. Looking at his watch Dave knew he had to get going.
His mother expected him to be at his father’s garage by a certain time. If he wasn’t there when she called then he better have a good reason. His mother giving his father ideas meant there were going to be way too many questions to answer. For the time being he wanted to keep Erin to himself. There would be a time for the whole world to know and celebrate but that wasn’t today.
He’d turned toward the train station and home when the shouting of his name stopped him. Erin was running in his direction and Dave saw that was something else she did well. He didn’t answer her but wasn’t moving from the middle of the sidewalk either. She reached him, put her hands on his shoulders, leaned in, and kissed his lips. The smug smile on his face was impossible to conceal. Her lips were awesome.
“If you tell a soul,” she whispered with her lips still close to his. “I’ll beat you senseless.”
“Your secret is safe with me.” Dave whispered back. “Have a nice night.”
Erin smiled and then rushed away again. Now Dave was frozen in the middle of the busy sidewalk for a completely different reason. He was almost run down by a dude on a bike before he snapped out of it. To skip to the train station would've been a bit insane. It was impossible to skip anyway since his feet weren't quite touching the ground.