Chapter One

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"Are you sure?" Jessie asks me. His brown eyes are wider than I've ever seen them, searching mine for any signs of doubt while I do the same to him. He looks scared, I guess, although it's hard to think of Jessie Masood as being scared. He's always been the reckless one between the two of us—act first, deal with the consequences later.

Am I sure? I was fifteen minutes ago. I've known Jessie since the ninth grade, when we had both just barely cracked five feet tall. We've been the M&M's—Masood and Murphy—ever since, together through two patchy dye jobs (me), three broken arms (Jessie), and a serious growth spurt (Jessie again).

This could change everything, if we let it. Did I want to take that risk?

"I'm sure," I tell him. "Are you?"

He nods, flashing a nervous smile. The sight of his neon pink braces makes me want to laugh. Last week, they were bright blue and I hadn't noticed the colour change until now. He settles on top of me, all long limbs and crazy hair.

"You're crushing me," I say, faking a wheezing sound.

"What's that? You want me to crush you? Okay, Rowan, whatever you want." He goes boneless above me until I start giggling, and then he goes back to supporting most of his own weight.

This is the closest I've ever been to him, I think. Certainly the closest I've ever been to him without clothes on. It's kind of nice. He's warm and his skin is soft, except for the smattering of chest hair that itches when it rubs against me.

He kisses me and it feels weird. Not quite bad, but not quite good, either. Not that either of us have had much practice. That is, after all, why we're doing this. Jessie moves his mouth against mine sloppily and there's too much spit. I feel silly, all of the sudden, like a kid playing grown up. I want to giggle. When he slides his tongue into my mouth, I do.

"What?" he asks, a little annoyed and a little hurt. I realize that he must think I'm laughing at him.

"It tickles," I tell him somewhat honestly before pulling him down for another kiss.

I've only ever kissed one other guy—Eric Le, who I met at sleepaway camp when I was thirteen. I was madly in love with him, or at least what madly in love is when you're thirteen, and on our last night there, he pulled me behind the equipment shed and kissed me senseless. I was completely absorbed by it, feeling nothing but his lips on mine and his hands around my waist. Everything else melted away.

It's not like that with Jessie. I stay acutely aware the whole time, feeling the scratch of the carpet on my bare back and the discomfort of my bra strap digging into me. I can hear the buzz of the TV on in the background, a cover for the off chance that his parents walk in on us, and the footsteps of his older brothers upstairs.

"I guess this is it," he says.

He sits up and I feel too cold, exposed. He fumbles for a minute with the condom, trying to figure out which way it rolls down, and then there's a sensation that's more stinging than pain.

For a second we're both completely still. I ask, "Is this it?"

"I think so."

"Huh." Another pause. "Do you think...are we doing it right?"

He laughs. "I don't think there are many ways you can screw it up." He starts moving.

It goes on for about a minute before he stops again. "Does this feel good to you?"

"Um," I say. "No. Not really, I don't think. You?"

"Um," he says. He moves a bit. "It's weird."

"Maybe we should stop."

Jessie lies down next to me, pulling a blanket from the sofa to cover us. "Well, we're not virgins anymore." He reaches over and high fives me.

I laugh, a bit too loudly. "I thought it would hurt more."

"I thought it would feel better."

"It was just..."


"No offence!" we rush in unison, which makes Jessie laugh. His laugh always sounds a little like he's choking, but I like it. We pull on our underwear and finish watching the episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine that had been playing. All in all, the whole thing lasted less than half of the twenty-minute episode.

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