Colin and Jen walk home together. With the already confusing prospect of Michael's proposal in his head, and the terse lunch discussion earlier, Colin has to settle the hidden feelings he has for her.
"It's okay to admit it, you know."
Jen and I were walking home from school together that day, and as we usually did, we talked about everything and nothing while walking to her neighborhood three blocks away. We both lived relatively near school, though her house was closer to it than mine. Every so often we'd walk together whenever our schedules allowed it.
"Well . . . fine!" I replied with gusto. "Okay, I admit it! I hate Anthony's guts! That guy is just unfair, especially with that stunt he pulled in class today.
"Of course, I also knew that Bean was a foil for Ender's character development. It's just that Anthony probably cheated somehow and realized it faster! He also raises his hands, like, super-fast. I bet he does nothing at home all night but practice raising his hand so that he always gets called on." I then snapped my right arm straight up above my head and mimicked the desperate hand-wave that Anthony always did to attract a teacher's attention. Though, it was probably an exaggerated version.
"You are so petty for someone so smart," Jen said, again with her 'mom' tone.
"We're practically the same, him and I—he's just cheating somehow."
"You boys! It's so easy for you to accept that someone is better or worse than you, but you can never accept an equal because that would threaten your established rank," she muttered wistfully.
Without missing a beat, Jen continued. "Besides, Anthony can actually count."
"Hey, that's not fair—"
"—And it's not what I wanted you to admit."
"Well, what then?" I hesitantly replied. I was beginning to feel nervous.
"You like me."
"Oh, c'mon, Jen. We're friends and . . . "
"Colin, you really suck at lying."
And just like that, my stomach dropped like a brick. I stared blankly at her before my confidence just crashed all at once. How could this just happen without me seeing any signs, or hints? Where had I gone wrong? I could just imagine the hypothetical office in my brain being engulfed in flames, with all the little Colin-employees rushing madly toward the fire escape.
Well, now that Jen's outed me, there was no use trying to pretend that I didn't like her.
"Yeah . . . I do."
It's kinda like I'd just said 'yeah, I like you' and 'yeah I suck at lying'. I sighed as I admitted it, knowing that there was nothing else to hide.
Jen gave me a sidelong glance. This must have been kind of hard for her to say as well. "You already know my answer, right? I told you during lunch."
"Yeah." It was the only thing that I could say with the sinking feeling in my stomach. I didn't have the willpower to do anything besides staring down at my feet.
"Colly, you don't need a girlfriend. Not now. And I don't need a boyfriend. What we are right now, that's everything that we need. We're friends, and we need to stay that way, okay? Can you promise me that this changes nothing between us?" She was looking at me with what I could only describe as the most honest look that I've ever seen in a human being.
We just kept walking for a few more seconds. I didn't give my answer immediately. It was hard to answer, actually. But I knew that I owed her that same kind of honesty. "I don't know . . . I don't think I can."
Again, we walked in silence. It felt like five minutes had gone by. Or maybe it was five hours. I was currently in the midst of reliving all of our happy memories together, because I knew that right then, I was ruining our friendship.
Suddenly, she stopped and looked at me. I stopped automatically, as if my feet were being controlled by her pace. I looked at her questioningly. She replied with just a raised eyebrow.
Well, that . . . and leaning towards my face and kissing me on the lips.
So . . . that was my first kiss. If anyone ever asks, it could be best described with just one word—wet. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn't really warm. It was actually cold. Maybe I was feeling cold all over because of nerves, or maybe her lips had been wet before she'd pressed them against mine. Either way, they were there, and I could smell the last traces of her cologne. I'd stopped breathing by then, and my mind had gone numb. Jenny Weller was kissing me, and for some reason, I didn't feel anything at all.
Jen broke off the kiss with a smirk on her face, staring at what must have been my dumbfounded expression. "So, what did that feel like?"
"I . . . I don't know." I really didn't. "Wet? Cold?"
"No . . . nothing." I'd always thought that first kisses would be more spectacular. I guess expectations are almost always better than reality.
Jen kept her eyes on me, as if carefully studying me for the first time in her life. She closed her eyes as if contemplating and then opened them again with something that seemed like resolve.
"Colin, did you get hard?"
"N-no!" I felt the need to shout my answer. For some reason, her assumption that I would react that way royally pissed me off.
"Then what about this?" she asked as she got close to me again.
I instinctively stepped back a bit, but she pulled closer. The next thing that I knew, her head was on my shoulder, and her arms were wrapped around me.
"Colin Cress, you are one of the most important people in my life," she murmured gently. She sounded different. Softer. "You are one of the few people that I can ever trust."
There was something wet on my shoulder now. Somewhere in my head, there was music playing. It was the kind that was soothing, calming . . . and wet.
"I need you in my life, Colin. But I need you as a friend. Please. Don't ever stop being my friend."
"I won't . . . I promise." My answer came naturally, as if I'd been waiting to say it since forever. Everything felt right, and the music was still playing that melancholic yet soothing tune in my head. I think it was a piano, playing only a few chords at a time for dramatic effect. It made me want to return the hug, which I did. Jen was warm. And the warmth answered all my doubts.
Jen pulled back after a while and wiped her eyes. She was smiling the widest smile that I'd seen her smile today. Or ever. "Well, go on then. I'll see you tomorrow."
"What? We still need to walk a bit further—your house is three blocks out, right?" I asked, thoroughly confused.
"Two, you dork," she said with a light giggle, as she opened the door of the house that we'd been apparently standing in front of the whole time.
As she disappeared inside, I could hear a man screaming wildly. At first, I just assumed that he was screaming at the TV, and that maybe his basketball team had missed a couple of free throws. That was what I wanted to believe, anyway.
But every second that passed made it obvious what was going on. I still fervently wished that the man's furious shouts really were just disappointed jeers, and that the 'team' wasn't really a desperate-sounding woman, and that the sobs were anything but what they actually were.
I also wished that my hearing wasn't so good.
But then, I had no such luck. As always, expectations . . . or even wishful thinking . . . is better than reality.
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