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Never been kissed (Jolie)

“Jo, stop fussing, you look great!”
“You think so?” The slightly taller and darker teenager turned from the vanity mirror to study her best friend’s face. Sammie never lied to her, never disrespected her. She’d accepted Jolie from the moment she’d set eyes on her almost ten years ago. Which was why she was allowed to call her ‘Jo.’ No one else in the world (not even Grandmere Adelaide) got to do that. Jolie refused to be called by a boy’s name. “I hate the way this shadow makes my eyes look. And Afro puffs? Really?”
“Stop it,” Sammie answered, grabbing the lanky teen’s arm and pulling her up from her stool. “Steve and Ray are waiting. Mom’s got lunch made, your hair looks fine. Let’s go.” Sammie had a gift for bringing Jolie out of herself. It was because what Jolie was simply held no interest for her. It was the person inside which interested her.
“I can’t go swimming,” Jolie complained, following behind, allowing herself to be dragged. “Not that I’d want to in a dirty old lake anyway.”
“Look.” Sammie stopped the both of them in the upstairs hallway, Jolie nearly bumping into her. “Steve thinks you’re cute. This was all his idea. Ray and I will go along as your cover, but I want you to stop whining already, ok?”
Jolie’s mouth fell open, she was unable to speak for several moments. “He. . .said that?” she asked breathlessly. The thought that she could easily be found out by the slightly older boy didn’t even cross her mind. Steve was so handsome, exactly the type Jolie went for. At least in her mind she went for that type. She’d never been so forward as to actually approach any boy. The risk was far too great. “And he asked for me?”
“Yeah.” Sammie smiled and tugged her friend’s hand. “He said ‘Make sure Jolie comes.’ So c’mon!”
Grinning, Jolie allowed herself to be dragged on down the stairs toward the waiting boys.

She could feel his eyes on her all the way down the stairs. Steve was actually staring. And he was staring at her!
“Hi,” she said softly, feeling a heated blush come to her cheeks.
“Hi,” he replied, almost as bashfully. “I like your hair. I think it’s pretty.”
Jolie’s hand stole up into her curls, captured into two high ponytails.
“They make me feel like I’m about six,” she answered, embarrassed. Secretly, she liked Afro puffs. They felt like the ultimate in girly to her.
"Well, I like them." Jolie studied the pale face in front of her, amused at how apparent his blush was. "Umm, are we ready?" The question was directed at all four, though Sammie was in the kitchen, lugging the heavy cooler filled with lunches for the whole group. "Let me help with that," Steve insisted, taking one handle from Sammie and helping her to manage. No better way to impress a pretty girl than by impressing her best friend, he was sure of it. And Jolie noticed.

Four pairs of hands switched off carrying the cooler all the way to the lake. Even Jolie helped, earning her a raised brow from Ray, who'd never seen Jolie do a bit of work in his life. Sammie made it her business to kick her brother in the shins and keep him quiet. This was Jolie's chance and there was no way she was letting it be ruined by an annoying little sibling. She and Steve were handling the cooler by the time they made it to the lake, shining water reflecting off of all their faces.

Setting it down with a grateful bump, Jolie slid onto its top, watching Ray dive into the cool water with all his clothes on. For once that looked almost refreshing, but it was also dirty and Jolie knew better than to even think about going in. Not only would it ruin her makeup, but it could very easily weigh her clothes and reveal the truth about what was beneath them. As though he'd read her mind, Steve spoke, glancing back and forth from a splashing Ray into Jolie's face.
"You want to go in?"
"Umm, not right now," Jolie answered. "You can go ahead."
"Nah," he replied, trying to stay cool. "I'm kinda tired. I think I'll stay here awhile."
"Ok." She worked mightily not to reveal how happy that decision made her and failed completely. "Umm, when does school start here?" It was a lame question, but Jolie hadn't a clue how to deal with boys. He was the first who'd talked to her for any real length of time.
"September," Steve answered, just as awkwardly.
"Aww, lucky! We have to start in August in New York! And we only got out last week!"
"Wow, that does suck," Steve answered, his grin mirroring her own.
"Yeah, well, at least we have a summer break, I guess. I heard some schools were going to start going all year 'round."
"Ugh," was the only reply. "I can't imagine that! That's the best part of the year, coming out here and swimming, hanging around with my friends. Sometimes I even get to talk to pretty girls."
It took Jolie a moment to realize he was talking about her, and then she blushed bright red. "Oh," she said sheepishly. "That must be nice."
"It really is."
"Hey! You two are lame! Get your ass in this water, Steve!" Jolie rolled her eyes at Ray, who almost invariably made her glad she had no siblings.
"C'mon let's go." Steve stood, offering Jolie a hand which she took with only a moment's hesitation and stood alongside him. She let him lead her to the edge of the lake, then leaned on a tree as he took off his shirt and shoes. Her eyes were more than a little fixed on the pale skin he revealed, a little at a time.
"You did bring your suit, didn't you?" he asked, turning back to Jolie. Silently, she shook her head.
"Well you'll have to go in in all your clothes then!" Steve turned unexpectedly and scooped Jolie up as she shrieked and instinctively grabbed for his neck.
"No, Steve, put me down!" she insisted. Perhaps the note of urgency was missed by the amorous teen, but Sammie caught it and hurried to his side, putting a hand on his wrist.
"Hey, Steve, Jolie . . . really doesn't know how to swim, so we usually just let her sit out. She's . . . kind of scared of the water." It was all true enough, Sammie was just omitting some of the truth as well.
"Oh." Steve was deflated as he set Jolie back on her feet. "I'm really sorry. I was just playing."
"It's ok." Jolie straightened her clothes, trying to surreptitiously make sure that none of the padding in her bra was obvious. "You go ahead. I'll just. . .sit here and watch."
Glancing back over his shoulder at her, Steve did as he was asked. Sammie came and sat alongside her on the cooler again. "You ok?" she asked, her eyes fixed on the boys.
"Yeah," Jolie replied, a distant smile on her face. "Did you see how easy he picked me up?"
"That's 'cause you don't weigh anything at all." Sammie snorted. "I wish I were that lucky."
Jolie just shrugged. "I think it's 'cause he's all muscular and stuff," she replied.
"He kinda is." Sammie couldn't help but be a little jealous that the boy was more interested in her friend than in her, but Jolie deserved it. It had been one hell of a year for her. "It's hot. I think I'm gonna go get in the water. You want me to send Ray up here to sit with you?"
"No," Jolie answered, before the question was completely out of her friend's mouth. "I'm fine by myself."
She watched the group of them play until it was nearly dark. From time to time one or the other would come sit with her and chat; she and Steve were getting along beautifully by the time the sun set.
"I want to roast marshamallows." Ray had hardly come out of the water all day long and now he was making demands.
"That actually sounds like a really good idea," Steve answered. "I think there's a fire pit around behind that house where you all are staying. We can make a fire, go to the store for some marshmallows and stuff. How's that sound to you, Jolie?" As he asked the question, he shyly slid his hand into hers.
Jolie could only nod, her heart doing a mile a minute as he touched her.
"Sure." Sammie waved to her brother. "C'mon Ray, this cooler's a lot lighter now. It's you and me all the way back to the house."
Ray started to protest, but Sammie stopped him with a look. Rolling his eyes, he took hold of the other handle and conformed to his sister's brisk pace, which was naturally designed to keep Steve and Jolie behind on their own. They were silent a long time before Steve spoke. "Why are you here with their family? I mean, it's pretty clear you're not blood-related, you know?"
Jolie paused a moment, then answered. "Yeah, well, our families trade off. One year, they come with us, one year I go with them. It seems to work out well that way." Sure it was another lie, but the truth would sound like a play for sympathy, surely. "This is the first time I've ever been to Maine, though. It's kind of. . ." buggy, humid, dirty, uncivilized ". . .pretty here."
"You don't like it?"
"Umm, no, I like it. I'm just not. . . the outdoor kind, really. No one really goes outside in New York."
"Oh. That sounds kind of weird."
Jolie shrugged. "Maybe. But it's what I'm used to."

Ray was all over the fire-making idea and it wasn't too long before he and Steve were arguing over the best way to get it going 'right.' Jolie and Sammie just watched, small smiles on their faces, as the pair worked together, even as they seemed to oppose one another. Boys were so weird. Within a half an hour it was dark and the pair had a pretty cheery little blaze going. Without a word, Sammie slipped off the log she was sharing with Jolie and settled on a bench on the other side of the fire. Steve looked a little bit sheepish as he sat in the space which Sammie had so recently vacated and took Jolie's hand again.

"Ray, didn't we have some marshmallows in the house?" Sammie asked her little brother.
"Yeah, in the pantry, I think."
"Well, come help me find them."
"I don't want to, we just got the fire going and I want to sit and watch it awhile."
"Now, Ray."
With a whine, Ray stood and followed his sister into the house.
Jolie watched them go silently, then realized that she and Steve were alone together for the first time all day. With the kind of full darkness reserved only for rural areas around them, it felt like they were the only two people on the planet.
"Nice fire," she said stupidly.
"Yeah, I built it for you."
"Oh." There wasn't much more to say to that.
"Jolie. ..if it's ok, I'd like to. . .well, I'd like to kiss you."
She was struck dumb by those few words. It felt like she should say something, tell him and she stammered a minute, no words, only shapeless syllables falling from her mouth. Her eyes were locked with his as she nodded.
With a smile, Steve put his hand on her cheek and leaned in close, gently pressing his lips to hers. Jolie was surprised at how soft they were, how wet and how she could smell him so close, a combination of mint from the gum he'd had awhile ago, the fire he'd just built, and the lake this afternoon. He smelled like a perfect summer day. And she. . .well, she wasn't thinking for the moment about her body or how he could touch her any instant and find out about her. She was completely absorbed in the moment. Once he broke the kiss, she smiled, sighing through it.
"Was that. ..ok?" he asked.
"Yeah," she answered, still unable to think too much. She leaned to him again and kissed him again, this time a little slower, a little deeper. It surprised her slightly to feel his tongue on her lips, but she opened her mouth and let it explore her as his hand slid down her neck to her shoulder. She was going to have to stop this soon, she knew, but she wasn't ready yet. There was nothing she wanted more than to feel his hands all over her, but that couldn't possibly happen. A slight rustling nearby caught his attention, stopped him.
"Sammie and Ray are coming back," he whispered and Jolie giggled giddily.
"That was really good," she told him, squeezing the hand she still held.
He cleared his throat and moved the smallest bit away from her as the others rejoined.
"Marshamallows!" Ray crowed, holding out the bag. Sammie caught him up a moment later and caught the blush on Jolie's face. Clearly they'd been away long enough.


A thing of such beauty must be called love.

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