Home > Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)(14)

Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)(14)
Author: Miranda Kenneally

Wind blows through the trees, rustling the branches gently. “So let’s make a pact that things won’t get weird.”

“We can say those words, but what if it happens anyway?”

I get what he means. People can promise a relationship won’t change all they want, but that’s part of life. Things always change, no matter how hard we hold on tight.

“What if we make a pact to stay open with each other?” I ask. “Like, if things are getting weird for you, you tell me how you feel and we’ll talk.”

He nods. “Okay. Um, how far do you want this to go? I mean, you’re a virgin, right? And I’m not—”

“I’m not sure how far we should go,” I say. The temperature of my blood jumps from 98.6 degrees to volcanic lava.

I want this. I want to make out. All of a sudden I have the opportunity, but it’s with my best friend, and oh my god, am I out of my mind for wanting this? I want control. I want to feel safe. Am I overthinking it? I have a nice, cute guy in front of me, and he’s agreed to fool around.

I look up into his eyes, and they’re patient and kind. The same eyes that belong to the guy who splits his bagels with me and opens my car door every morning.

So I just do it. I lean forward and press my mouth to his. Once, twice, three times I peck his lips.

We pull away and look at each other. Then he threads a hand through my hair and edges closer to me, bumping my hip with his.

“Where do I put my hands?” I ask shakily.

He smirks. “Anywhere.”

“That’s not very specific.”

“Hooking up isn’t supposed to be specific. You do whatever feels right.”

I kiss him again. It’s warm, soft, and slow moving; his lips feel like sunshine.

Does he think I’m an okay kisser? Does he think this is weird? Will he stop this before we even get started? My shoulders tense.

He gently squeezes them. “Stop thinking so much.”

I open my mouth. His tongue sweeps out to meet mine. My hands feel his arms, his strong muscles. I slip my hands inside his puffy coat to grasp his back through the cotton of his long-sleeved tee and trace his spine, because it’s a straight line to follow. I’ve touched him thousands of times as we glide past each other in the pool, but when his hands firmly grip my hips, goose bumps break out across my skin. A shiver ripples through my body.

He breaks the kiss, breathing deeply, our lips a heartbeat apart. A lock of hair falls across his forehead as his eyes gaze deeply into mine. His stare makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

“Hunter was right,” he says, wrapping his arms more securely around me. “You’re a terrible kisser.”

I playfully slap his chest in response.

Still sitting down on the rock wall, he pulls me to a standing position in front of him. I always dreamed of kissing a guy under the moonlight. I just never pictured Levi as the guy. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I feel plenty fine about his warm kisses though. Speaking of, he slips a hand behind my neck to bring my mouth back to his.

I’m flattered, obviously, that he’s continuing to kiss me. And that he’s out of breath. But what happens when the kissing stops? Even though this was my idea, I don’t want our friendship to be awkward. How can I want two very different things so badly?

“Maggie,” he says quietly, touching his forehead to mine. “You’re clenching up again.”

“I thought guys were easy to please.”

“Oh, I am. It’s just, if you’re doing this with a guy, it’ll make him nervous if you’re nervous. He’ll worry you aren’t into him. Relax with me.”

And it shocks the bejesus out of me when he grabs my waist and pulls my hips to his, and I discover the hardness of his body. I guess he is easy to please.

We’ve been kissing maybe two minutes at the most—not nearly long enough—when he suddenly pulls back. Again, he won’t look directly at me as he works to catch his breath.

“C’mon,” he says, standing up to his full six foot five. He towers above me.

“Why’d we stop?” I whine. “I was getting into it.”

He kisses my forehead. “Magpie, you don’t need lessons. You know what you’re doing just fine.”

“But I don’t know nearly enough. How do I know when it’s okay to make a move on a guy?”


“How do I know when to take off his shirt?”


He thinks it’s so simple? Time to pull out the big guns. “If I’m giving him a hand job, how hard do I squeeze?”

“Yes.” Levi whistles for Pepper to join us. “Let’s see if we can find Martha.”

He doesn’t say explicitly that my lessons are over, but it sure feels that way.


I wake up to the sun pouring in through my bedroom windows.

It’s a nice feeling. A rare feeling. Warm.

I touch my fingers to my lips. I kissed Levi.

Holy shit. I kissed Levi.

Mom pounds on my door. “Tadpole, almost time for church!”

I groan. I don’t want to get up yet. But get out of bed I do.

Levi and Hunter don’t go to my church, but Georgia does. We sit next to each other during the service and write notes back and forth on the little envelopes they use to collect offerings, using the tiny pencils, like when you play minigolf, which are in the pews. She tells me about how this guy David has been texting her.

She writes: He’s not my type!

Do you like him?

He’s cute, I guess, but kind of nerdy

That is true. His glasses always slide down his nose, and he runs track so he’s super skinny. His body never fills out his jeans, but his lopsided smile is appealing, and he’s very smart.

The last guy Georgia dated was a linebacker named Kevin who definitely filled out his clothes. On the other hand, he cheated on her. David, however, seems like an okay guy. He’s president of the student body and always smiles and says hi to everybody in the hallway.

Did he ask you out?

Not yet but I know he wants to and I’m not sure about it. What do you think of him?

I decide to tell her what I was thinking. Great smile. Very smart. I approve.

A grin blooms on her face. She likes him. I can tell she does. But the smile quickly fades, and her expression becomes preoccupied. Getting cheated on really affected her. We told her that he was the jerk because he cheated, but she still felt it was a reflection on her, that it may have been partially her fault, that something must have been lacking about her if he felt the need to fool around with another girl.

I roll the little pencil back and forth between my hands like I’m heating them over a campfire. Part of me wants to tell Georgia about what happened last night with Levi. We’ve never kept secrets from each other, at least as far I know. But this feels very private. Telling her could also make things weird with our circle of friends.

I put the pencil back in the little holder next to the hymnals and spend most of the pastor’s sermon replaying last night over and over again in my head. If I have a few daydreams about Levi in Superman underwear, does that make me a total sinner? Probably. I concentrate extra hard during the Lord’s Prayer, in case God is offended by my fantasies. Annnd then I go right back to fantasizing.

After church, I ditch the skirt and change into my swimsuit and sweats, and wait for Levi at the front door. I’m a little nervous about seeing my friend. After we kissed, he wanted to go looking for Martha. Yes. The boy used a snapping turtle as an excuse to stop kissing me.

I don’t exactly blame him. It was starting to get intense. Part of me even wanted him to take off my shirt, but it was like forty degrees out, and no guy is worth hypothermia.

He honks his horn. At least that hasn’t changed. After grabbing our chocolate milks and protein bars, I run out to the truck to meet him. He’s already standing outside the passenger door holding it open. I climb inside.

Once we’re driving down the road, I decide to take the edge off of the silence by being cheeky.

“So,” I say. “Do anything interesting last night?”

After a pause, laughter erupts from him. “I found some turtle eggs.”

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