Fourteen year old Jess Aarons exited his house quietly. It was early, only six o' five AM, and his father had left for the hardware store scarcely five minutes before. Everybody else in his house was still asleep, but Jess wasn't. Somebody was waiting for him, outside. They were going to run.
What is it, to feel needed? Why does it make us feel happy, like we're king of the world? What is it, to have a friend? A best friend? Why does one not realize how empty life is until they find one? What is it, to be in love? Makes your heart soar, but sometimes it flies so high you feel sick. Jess experienced all of this, and he knew not one answer. She would, he knew. She would know the answer to every one of those questions. She was wise like that. But this was one thing he could not ask her. Why?
She was his problem.
Yes, it was true.
He was needed and valued by her. He valued and showed her she was needed. She was his best friend. She made his heart soar.
He had many feelings for his best friend.
He was in love.
Who was the young lady?
His best friend.
So you can see his problem, right? Right.
Half the time he wanted to kiss her, half the time he was repulsed by the very thought of touching any girl's lips with his, let alone Leslie's.
Jesse Aarons was one confused boy.
But that didn't matter this morning. No. This morning, all they were going to do was run.
He turned to see her running towards him, out of the morning mist. Her golden hair was streaming behind her, a bight smile was painting her face. Her blue eyes were shining, her black and white mutt following her.
Okay, Aarons, you're distracted. Snap out of it!
"Hey Leslie!" He jogged towards her.
"Ready to run?" She asked. She gave him her brightest smile.
Gotta love that smile. He thought. I wonder if she just smiles that way for me…no, that's ridiculous! But what if it's not…
"I'm ready to run, Les. When am I not?"
She laughed. "But the question is: can you beat me?"
"Today I can!"
"Race you the rope. On your mark, get set, GO!"
(A/N: Sorry for the A/N in the middle of the story, but just so you know: THE ROPE NEVER BROKE!! And it never will…so Leslie will always be alive!)
And they were off. Despite the slick footing of the dirt road that was their race track, (it had rained the previous night.) both moved like lighting. Mud flew from underneath their sneakers, their laughing disturbed the sleepy birds in the oaks that lined the path. The wind blew the dark and blonde hair alike, the blue eyes caught the brown and they smiled to one another through the telepathy best friends often share.
"See ya, slowpoke!" Leslie called to him, after they had been running side-by-side for about a foot and a half. And with a sudden burst of speed, she was gone. Jess found himself looking at not her eyes, but the back of her head.
"Mhh!" He grunted, and pumped his arms.
Today was his day.
The day he would beat her.
Today he would finally show her.
Digging his sneakers into the dust, he pushed. And you know what? It worked. Within three strides at this new pace he was with her. They were so even his elbow brushed hers, and electricity shot through his body at her touch.
This was not the time to be daydreaming about Leslie!
This was the time to think about crushing her.
Well, that was embarrassing.
Even though Leslie had absolutely no idea what he was thinking, his face heated in embarrassment. He had to get away from her. He pushed his body harder, and well, the body differences between a man and a woman (even though they were young ones.) kicked in. He surged past her, adrenaline filling every pore.
They were nearing the end of the road. He could smell the victory. Jess smiled. Today was his day. He could hear Leslie panting behind him. Uh oh. She was close. But he was closer. He would win!
They were there. The tree, their finish line. He had done it! He finally beat Leslie. Jess had never been more proud.
And pride is a powerful thing.
He decided to make a show of his long awaited victory. He began to run around the tree, so he would meet up with her when she reached the tree only a few strides after him. He made it around most of the tree without a hitch, but Jess hadn't noticed the patch of slippery mud around the last bit. He slipped and slid and sloshed, trying to regain his footing. Jess skated on the thin strip of mud, and watched in horror as Leslie neared the oak. He was going to crash into her!
And crash they did.
With Jess slipping and sliding at a surprising speed, and Leslie running with such astonishing force, their impact was big. He was still sliding and she was still running, and they met at exactly the same time, Leslie's blue eyes widening with fear as she realized what was about to happen.
Since they were growing up, as all children should, Jess was already quite bigger than Leslie (his voice was deepening as well, much to his dismay.) and he was heavier. So, naturally, when they collided, the force of Jesse's larger body on Leslie's petite one sent her flying onto her back, the boy following her. Their heads jerked forward in whiplash, and it happened.
Jess's mouth crashed into Leslie's.
It only lasted for about four seconds, and was rather painful, and was most certainly NOT the most romantic scenario at all. But this poor confused boy couldn't help but feel what he did. He wanted to hate it, to feel nothing at all, so he wouldn't be lying when he and Leslie laughed about it being like kissing your aunt a few seconds later. But he just couldn't help it. The feeling of Leslie's lips on his sent fireworks through his whole body, and at that moment he realized just how stupid he was for denying his feelings for this angel of a girl. Seriously, how stupid was he? He asked himself this in his mind. He saw everything now, crystal clear.
He was in love with Leslie Burke.
Completely and totally.
And you know what?
He was proud, gosh darn it!
Wait, you readers must be saying. Another bam?
Yes, another bam. This is not the bam where they start falling, but where falling actually hurts: when you hit the ground.
Their lips broke away rather harshly, and Jess heard Leslie gasp as her back hit the hardened dirt.
"UHHH!!" They both moaned, and Jess found himself looking into a red faced Leslie.
She knew what had happened with the whiplash.
It was now Jesse's turn to be red faced. He immediately rolled off of Leslie and stared at the ground as he struggled to sit up.
This was, by far, the most embarrassing day of his life.
"Uh…Jess?" Leslie whispered.
Then he heard: "Uh…Jess?" Again.
This time he turned to face her.
"Listen, I feel really stupid saying this, but…you know…when we fell, I think we might of…accidentally…possibly…"
"Kissed?" Jess finished for her.
"Did you, um…uh…well…"
"Yeah. Thanks, again."
"You're welcome. And to answer your question…I dunno. Did you?"
"I dunno…" Leslie looked at her sneakers. "Maybe, I uh, guess."
Jess stared at her, eyes wide.
"Yeah." She said sheepishly. "Sorry for saying anything." Leslie started to get up.
"Leslie, wait!" He grabbed her wrist and pulled her down onto the dirt again.
"Felt something too, maybe?" Leslie finished, hope brimming in her voice.
He smiled her, his brown eyes peeking out from underneath shaggy hair.
"Yes, thank you."
Silence, though it's illogical.
"So…" He said.
"So…" She said.
"Um, Les, you're the reader. Do any of your books tell us what to do now?" He sounded so nervous, so pathetic, that a smile broke out on her face.
And she started to laugh.
Leslie began laughing so hard that she fell down and started to cry. She rolled and cried and felt awful the whole time she felt Jess staring at her incredulously. But she couldn't help it.
And soon, Jess started laughing too. He was soon beside his friend, laughing and crying and rolling on their backs for reasons they could not understand.
Leslie was still laughing when Jess got some of his sanity back. He may not have read any of Brenda's sappy romance novels, but surprisingly, he knew what to do. He rolled onto his stomach so that he was at Leslie's side, and looking down on her giggling face. And instantly, he closed his eyes and covered her mouth with his.
Leslie stopped laughing in shock, her eyes staring at her friend's closed ones. The kiss only lasted a few seconds, and by the time she closed her eyes it was over.
"That's what I was supposed to do, right?" Jess whispered, his eyes still partially closed.
Leslie didn't say anything. She just slung an arm over his neck, placed her hand on the back of his head, and pushed his lips to hers again. Both smiled in the kiss, and stayed connected longer than either thought possible. They just stayed there, in the mud, wet and sweaty, kissing their best friend. It was really rather funny, when they thought about it.
When they finally had to break away, their faces stayed only inches apart.
"I'm glad you finally beat me."
He smiled and rubbed his nose gently against hers.
"Me too, Leslie, me too."
Then they kissed again.