by Allie Boniface
I socked her.
Hard, right in the arm. Hard enough to bring tears to her eyes.
It was our noontime ritual, hers and mine, to see which of us was tougher. Who’d blink first. Who’d flinch harder.
She looked me square in the eye. “Didn’t hurt.”
She shrugged and turned away, ribs sticking out from that pink t-shirt she always wore.
“Didja ask her?” Dougie and Sam inched their way over from the slides. “What’d she say, huh?”
I didn’t answer. My gaze slipped across the gravel to where she’d rejoined her friends, a knot of pale faces with ponytails falling down their backs. Over her shoulder she glanced, a smile tugging at her lips, before she leaned in for the whisper that meant Girl-Gossip. Laughter erupted, and my face burned.
“She didn’t say nothin.’” I dragged the toe of my brand new sneaker in the dirt.
“Bet she turned you down.”
“I didn’t ask her yet, moron.” I stuffed one hand into my front pocket and felt the fibrous edge of the twenty Dad had given me for mowing the lawn last weekend.
Again the laughter came, and again I felt about two feet tall. But criminy, looking at Denise Reynolds on the playground that June day, watching the way her hair shone and her waist curved and her fingers drew patterns in the air, I thought I’d about die if she didn’t go to the movies with me.
Eleven years old, and I never again felt more crushed by love than in that fifth-grade moment when I looked at the girl I would someday marry and watched the sun move across the back of her neck.
I could punch harder. I could run faster.
But she had all the power, and we both knew it.
About the author: Allie Boniface is a romance novelist and high school English teacher living with her husband in the northern New York City suburbs. She’s had a soft spot for love stories and happy endings since the time she could read, and she’s been caught scribbling story ideas on scrap paper (when she should have been paying attention to something else) too many times to count. When she’s not writing, shoveling snow, or grading papers, she’s traveling the United States and Europe in search of sunshine, back roads, and the perfect little pub. Visit Allie’s website to find out release dates and all the latest news, or hear what’s on her mind today at her blog.