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First kiss junkie: three BFs in three weeks? The first step is admitting you have a problem.

"Well, I broke up with Brian," I tell Nicole as I jerk the handle on my locker.

"What? Already?"

"Yeah, I dunno ... the magic was just gone."

"Oh, I totally understand. After all, you'd been going out for ... " She counts on her fingers. "Whoa, nine whole days!"

"Let's not start this again. Pita chips?" I offer a bag from the shelf in my locker. She just waves them away.

"What was wrong with him, anyway?"

I roll my eyes. "The only thing he ever talked about was baseball. I had to get rid of him before the World Series or I was going to lose my mind."

"Too late, I think you already did."

"Nic!"

"Come on! All weekend you couldn't stop talking about how Brian kissed you in the rain, how it was the most romantic first date ever. And now he's Melissa Irving Reject No. 6."

"But everything went downhill from there. It kind of always does, you know? The first kiss is always the best part."

"Not true. The best part is when you know the person so well you're totally comfortable with him, like with me and David. I can hang out in my glasses and sweats while we watch American Idol. You can't have that in nine days."

"Yeah, yeah." Nicole has been my best friend forever, but she doesn't exactly live life on the edge. When we got fake tattoos at the beach last summer, I got a purple dragonfly on my shoulder and she got an itty-bitty pink rose on her ankle. She ignores the other 30 flavors at Baskin-Robbins and always orders mint chocolate chip. And she's dated David since the end of freshman year. She probably can't even remember what a first kiss feels like.

Nicole picks up her violin case. "Gotta go to rehearsal. By the way, you've officially missed the bus. Again."

"No!" I whirl around, searching for the clock on the wall. 3:07. Dumping Brian took longer than I thought.

"You might be able to catch Patrick. I saw him hanging by his locker just a few minutes ago."

Patrick is Nicole's older brother, a senior. We see him all the time, since he and David are in a band together. Or, at least, they think they're a band. Mostly, they just make noise in Patrick and Nicole's basement. Still, someday they might be famous so we'll get backstage passes to all their shows.

"Crap. I'll IM you tonight." I slam my locker shut.

Please let Patrick be there. Please let Patrick be there. As I round the corner into the main hall, I see a tall guy in an Allman Brothers T-shirt making his way toward the front doors.

"Patrick!" He turns around as I run up to him, repeating, "Patrick, Patrick, Patrick!"

He raises his eyebrows. "Let me guess. My sister sent you to bum a ride."

I give him my cute I-am-irresistible grin. "I'll be your best friend forever."

"You said that yesterday when you missed the bus. And Monday. And last Thursday," he reminds me. "Come on." "Thanks. This time next week, I'll be able to drive you home."

"Oh, yeah? Two words: tricycle incident." He thrusts his arm in my face.

"Ew, don't show me that scar. Besides, that was 12 years ago." I toss my bag into the back of Patrick's ancient Volvo wagon, on top of his drumsticks. "Just because I kind of accidentally ran over you when I was in pre-school doesn't mean I shouldn't be allowed behind the wheel now."

"Uh-huh."

"Just think how sad you'll be when you have to play My Three Songs all by yourself," I say as I lean over to turn up the radio. The station he listens to does this game where they play three songs with something in common and, if you guess the theme, you win movie tickets. Like, they might play "Brown-Eyed Girl," "Paint It Black" and "Yellow Submarine," so they all have colors in the lyrics. But they're usually much harder. I have never, ever gotten one right.

Patrick likes classic rock, which is not exactly my thing. I'd rather listen to Snow Patrol or some other band in which the members are still living, you know? But, today, the first song is "Fly Like an Eagle." Next comes "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress." And the third is "Sweet Emotion."

"Songs with birds in them. Or ... I don't know, songs about women?" I suck at this, but it's fun to guess.

"You're worse than Nicole," Patrick says. "It's clothes. You've got shoes, a dress and ..." He points to the radio as Steven Tyler sings something about his pants being on fire.

I dig out my cell. "Yes! We are going to win this time!" I hit the speed dial for the radio station. Busy, naturally.

I redial a few times, but then we hear someone else win.

"They got our movie tickets. Devastating."

"Don't worry," Patrick says. "You'll probably miss the bus tomorrow, and we can try again."

My pink bowling ball wobbles down the lane and knocks into the first pin. One by one, the other nine topple over.

"How does she do that?" Nicole asks, looking around at the rest of our crew.

"It's a gift," I tell them.

"It's luck," says Sam.

"You're jealous." I push Sam playfully; he pushes me back.

"It's not even a real sport." He shoves his shaggy blond hair away from his eyes.

"Says the man with five gutter balls in a row. It's a long way down from the state lacrosse championships, isn't it?"

I shriek as Sam grabs me around the waist and carries me back to the seats. He dumps me next to Nicole, saying, "Maybe if you would stop distracting me ..."

"Oh, sure, blame me," I say as Sam goes off to find his ball.

Nicole raises her eyebrows at me. "What is up with you two?" she whispers. "You've been flirting with each other all night."

"And this is unusual because ...?" Sam is such a cutie--he and I flirt all the time. He's my bus bud, or at least he used to be. We'd sit in the back and watch Lost on his iPod, but then he got his license and left me to ride the cheesewagon all by myself.

That reminds me. "Hey, Patrick!" I lean over the back of my seat.

"Yeah?" he says from the next lane over, where he and David are talking about chord changes in "Purple Haze."

"What happens if you win My Three Songs when I'm not there? After I get my license, I mean. You'll still share the movie tickets with me, right?"

"You're so sure you're going to pass, huh?"

"Of course, she'll pass," Nicole says.

I hug her. "See? Nic is a true friend. And she got me cute shoes." I stretch out my legs, admiring my feet. Nicole and I go bowling a lot and, tonight, she brought me an early birthday present: my own pair of bowling shoes. They're red, blue and gray, and just geeky enough to be really cool. They even have "7" on the back of each one for my shoe size, just like the rentals do.

After the last frame, we all pile into our cars and go to the Cheesecake Factory. I'd ridden over with Patrick, Nicole and David, but somehow I end up riding in Sam's GTI.

"I miss you," I tell Sam. "And I miss your iPod. I haven't seen Lost in over two weeks."

"Want me to tell you what happened? They find out ..."

I clap my hands over my ears. "La-la-la, I can't hear you!"

He looks at me as he stops for a red light. "You should come over this week. We can watch the new one together."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

"OK, cool." Hmmm, interesting. Maybe Nicole's right--I'm starting to get that tingly feeling that means something big is about to happen.

We're almost there, and I'm hungry. "Should I get the Chocolate Oreo Mudslide? Oh, wait--White Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle! What are you getting?" I ask Sam.

"Is there anything with a longer name? I want that."

"Fine, I'll pick for you. You're getting the pineapple one."

We get out of the car, and I grab Sam's hand and pull him toward the door, saying, "Let's go. I'm starving!" This all feels pretty normal. Maybe I'm just imagining things. But then ...

"Wait," he says, and I see it coming. He leans in to kiss me.

I kiss him back, of course. How perfect is this? It's like getting two early birthday presents--cute shoes and a cute guy.

But then I step away. I'm still all tingly, but something doesn't seem right. "Sam?" I bite my lip. "I don't know if this is such a good idea." Did I really just say that?

He looks at me for a second, then gives me a crooked smile. "Yeah, maybe you're right."

"I mean, if we were to hook up, who would flirt with me the rest of the school year?"

He laughs. "OK, come on." He slings his arm around my shoulder as we go into the restaurant. "But what about Lost? You're not bailing on me, are you?"

I grin. "No, I'll be there. Definitely."

Nicole shows up Sunday afternoon to help me study for geometry. Our big unit test is Tuesday, and I need to keep my B-minus if I want to be able to use the car once I get my license. But I can't think about isosceles triangles until after I tell Nicole about Sam. I thought I'd explode at the restaurant, but I couldn't say anything with him sitting right next to me.

"So guess what. Sam kissed me last night."

Nicole's eyes widen. "OK, spill. When?"

"Just when we got to the Cheesecake Factory."

"This is so exciting! He's much cuter than Brian."

Uh-oh. "Well, no, actually ... we're still just friends."

She narrows her eyes. "So you just kissed, and that's it?" I shrug, and Nicole lets out a huge sigh. "Melissa Irving, you are turning into a first-kiss junkie. I'm staging an intervention." She sits me down on the sofa and puts her hands on her hips. "You can't just keep jerking people around like this."

"Come on! You saw him. He's completely fine with it."

She rolls her eyes. "It's not Sam. Can't you ..." She stops.

Now I'm confused. "What are you talking about?" Silence. "Seriously, fill me in, because I don't know."

She says, "Look, your assignment this month is to care about a guy for more than three days. Think you can do that?"

"Sure. Wait--do all three days have to be for the same guy?"

"Hilarious." She yanks the zipper on her backpack and pulls out her geometry book.

As we leave the cafeteria, I grab Patrick's arm and look at his watch. "12:31. In 22 minutes I will officially be 16!"

"Good, does that mean you can get rid of these then?" He pushes my bunch of balloons out of his face.

"Hey, I bought those, leave them alone," Nicole says.

Patrick ignores her. "You aren't taking them on the bus, are you?" he asks me.

"Not if you're offering me a ride." He nods.

"Excellent. My dad is coming home early to take me to the DMV. So the sooner I get home, the better."

Sam sneaks up behind me and gives me a huge kiss on the top of my head. "Happy birthday," he says, then he's gone.

I wave. "See?" I whisper to Nicole. Sam is not mad. He's been acting just like Sam all week.

The warning bell rings, and I say, "OK, so I'll meet you guys at the car after school?"

"Sure," says Patrick.

"Not me, I've got orchestra," Nicole says. "But text me as soon as you get home from the DMV."

"Definitely."

Patrick and I get halfway to my house before My Three Songs comes on. Today, the first song is "Don't Stand So Close to Me," and the second is "The Dangling Conversation." I grab my phone. "Oh, I know it this time!"

"You haven't heard the third song."

"I don't need to. It's authors. The first song had Nabokov, and they just said Emily Dickinson. I'm calling."

I hit "send" just as the third song comes on. "What is this, anyway?" I ask.

"'I Am the Walrus'," Patrick says. "You're right--Edgar Allan Poe!"

"See? Go with your instincts."

Someone picks up. I can't believe I've gotten through. "The answer for My Three Songs is authors, right?"

"Congratulations!" says the DJ.

I shriek, "You and me, stadium seating, this weekend!" I tell Patrick, and he squeezes my shoulder.

By the time I've given my info to the station, we're at my house. Patrick says, "Shut your eyes."

I do, and he puts something in my hand. When I look, I find a keychain with a tiny green turtle on it.

"Happy birthday, Miss Slowpoke," he says, and I laugh.

"Now, I just have to pass the test."

I wait for him to mention the tricycle, but he doesn't. All he says is, "You're going to do great." Then, he leans across the gearshift and kisses me.

He kisses me! Patrick! Right in the middle of my driveway!

"What are you doing?" As soon as I say it, I wish I hadn't.

Patrick sits back in his seat and mutters, "Going with my instincts."

"Patrick, I ..." I look at him for a sec, then I shake my head. I can't deal with this. "Thanks for the ride."

"Yeah, you can drive yourself now."

Ouch. That is so not Patrick. I don't even look at him as I get out of the car, and I bonk my head on the door as I gather up my balloons. Double ouch.

I drive to the DMV in a daze. My dad probably thinks I'm nervous about the test. What just happened? This is not the way I'm supposed to feel after kissing a guy. Usually I'm psyched, but I just feel like crying.

I need to talk to Nicole. God, no, I can't tell Nicole. I've just dissed her brother. Besides, she'd just go off about how I'm a first-kiss junkie. Maybe I am. Three guys in three weeks? That does sound kind of lame.

But I couldn't go out with Patrick. I've known him forever. Besides, we've already wasted the first kiss. It wasn't a bad kiss, but it's over, and there's no going back. There's no such thing as a second first kiss.

I pull into the DMV lot, and my dad says, "Great driving, hon. I know you'll ace this thing. Are you ready to go?"

What choice do I have? I slip the car keys into my pocket, and my dad and I walk up the steps to the building.

The next morning, I'm waiting at Patrick's locker. I wave when I see him, and he waves back. But when he gets there, all he says is, "Hey."

"Don't you want to know how I got here so early?" I try my irresistible grin but, apparently, it isn't working anymore.

"You passed." He turns to his locker.

"I did. Look." I hold up my very own set of keys to the Civic. They're dangling from the turtle keychain.

"Congrats." He doesn't hug me like I hope he will, but he smiles at least.

"Patrick, about yesterday ..."

He shakes his head. "No, forget it."

"I don't want to forget it," I blurt out. I couldn't stop thinking about it last night. Why did I pull away from him? I know him better than any other guy, but that isn't a bad thing. It's not the rush of getting to know somebody new, but I like him. Besides, as I wait for Patrick to say something, my stomach feels just as churned-up as it does on any first date.

"What do you mean?" he finally says.

"This." I stand on my tiptoes and give him kiss No. 2. He kisses me back--that's No. 3 ... but never mind. When it comes to kissing Patrick, I'm already looking forward to losing count.
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Title Annotation:best friends
Author:Chappell, Kathleen Feeney
Publication:Girls' Life
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2006
Words:2707
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