The Ghost of You and Me

By: Kelly Oram

For Aunt Leslie and Uncle Chris.

Trisha reaches over Chase Lansing and punches my arm because I’m frozen, still as an ice sculpture. It’s my turn. I want to bail. I want to run away screaming like the scared little girl that I am, but I can’t back out. Eighth graders are brutal. If they figure out how afraid I am or that I’ve never been kissed before, they’ll make this moment so much worse than it already is.

Before I reach for the bottle, I try to wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans without anyone noticing, and I glance at all my possibilities. Eight boys sit crisscross applesauce around the tight circle, smirking, winking, or nervously wetting their lips in anticipation. Six of those boys I’d rather die than let kiss me, but the other two…

Spencer Schott and Wes Delaney are my two best friends in the entire world. Spencer’s house and mine are separated only by our backyards and one giant oak tree that turns a brilliant shade of red in the fall and is home to the greatest tree house ever built. Spencer, Wes, and I practically lived in that tree house, until we hit middle school and decided secret hideouts were for kids.

We’re still best friends, though, and both Wes and Spencer dutifully came to this party with me tonight even though they didn’t want to. It’s Trisha Talbot’s fourteenth birthday, and Wes and Spencer think she’s mean. She kind of is, but it’s better to be her friend than her enemy, so when she surprised me with an invitation to her party, I didn’t dare refuse. Now I’m about to give up my first kiss to a game of Spin the Bottle.

I twist the glass container that had only minutes ago been drained of Coke and give it a powerful spin while sending up a prayer to whatever higher power exists that it will stop on Spencer or Wes. I don’t care which one. Truth be told, I have a crush on them both.

Spencer has red hair and hazel eyes framed by nice-looking wire-rimmed glasses. Some kids make fun of his freckles and glasses, but I like them. He isn’t the cutest boy in the world, but he is the nicest and the funniest.

Wes, on the other hand, is hot. He’s taller than most of the other boys and has thick brown hair and eyes so dark they’re almost black. He’s quiet because he doesn’t like big groups, but when it’s just he, Spencer, and I hanging out, he talks like he needs to make up for lost time.

As the bottle twirls around in manic circles on the linoleum of Trish’s kitchen floor, I meet both Wes’s and Spencer’s eyes. Wes is on my right and Spencer is just to the left of being directly in front of me. Neither one of them looks as nervous as I feel.

The bottle starts to slow. As it sweeps past Wes, I know it won’t make it back around to him. Wes knows it, too, and his eyes narrow on all the boys still left in the running. The glare makes me smile. I know he’ll protect me if anyone gets too enthusiastic during the kiss—which is likely to happen if the bottle stops on Jake Wainwright. Jake was bragging about French kissing a ninth grade girl earlier tonight.

Not Jake. Not Jake. Not Jake.

The bottle stops on Penny Martin. Since she’s sitting between Jake and Spencer, she gets to choose which one I have to kiss.

Not Jake. Not Jake. Not Jake. Please, not Jake.

Either Penny picks up on my mental vibes or Spencer pinches her in the side, because the bottle looks like it’s leaning more toward Jake, but she still says, “I pick Spencer.”

For a brief moment I’m overcome with relief, but then I realize I’m about to kiss Spencer!

Spencer worries his bottom lip in his teeth as he rises up onto his knees. Swallowing down a stomach full of butterflies, I meet him in the middle of the circle. Neither of us says anything. Spencer wets his lips, and his eyes fall to my mouth. He’s shaking a little as he leans in.

I stop breathing.

The rule is our lips have to touch for five seconds. All the kids in the circle count it off. I thought having an audience would embarrass me, but when Spencer’s lips touch mine, I forget about everyone and everything around me.

My eyes are pinched shut, and I pucker my lips so tightly they’re hard as rocks, but Spencer’s touch is so light and soft that I relax. A small sigh escapes my mouth, and when my lips part, Spencer captures my top one between his. I instinctively copy his movements, and suddenly we’re kissing. Actually kissing, not just pressing our lips together while our classmates count to five.

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