He was bursting from his seams with joy. The way music transformed him—the way music freed him from any of life’s restraints—I loved it.

I loved his joy.

“I got you this!” he said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a pin from the show. “They were the band tonight: Jungle Treehouse. Gosh, Maggie, you would’ve loved it. I know you would’ve. I wish you could’ve been there. On the way back to your place, I charged my phone in the car and downloaded a few of their tracks onto my phone if you want to listen.”

I did.

We lay down on my bed with his earbuds in, and our hearts on our sleeves, listening to the music as the dim light glowed in the corner. He tilted his head in my direction, and I tilted mine is his direction, too. He clasped his fingers with mine and placed his hand over his chest. I felt his heartbeat racing through his chest as the music vibrated from my soul to his.

“I love you, Maggie May,” he whispered, looking into my eyes. “I mean, I keep staring at you, and I can’t help but think, ‘Wow. I’m really loving this girl right now.’ You know? Everything about you, I love. The easy days and the hard ones, too. Maybe I love you even more on the hard days. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say it yet, because I don’t know if you’re ready, but that’s okay. You take all the time you need, but I wanted to let you know, because when you love someone, I think you gotta scream it, otherwise the love in your chest becomes a bit heavy. It weighs you down, and you start wondering if the other person loves you, too. I’m not worried about that, though. I’m just sitting here, next to you, looking at the small freckles on your face that most people miss, thinkin’ about how much I love you in this moment.”

I snuggled closer to him, resting my head on his chest, as his arms wrapped around me. He closed his eyes and held me against him as his chest rose and fell with each inhale and exhale, falling asleep after a few minutes. I pressed my lips against his neck, kissing him softly. I grazed my mouth against his, and he stirred a bit. I took his bottom lip between my teeth and nibbled it gently. His eyes awakened, sleepy and dazed, but he smiled. He always smiled when he looked my way.

I kissed him once and then met his stare. I kissed him again, and he pulled my body on top of him.

“Yeah?” he whispered.

I nodded.

I loved him.

I loved him, and he knew it. Even if I couldn’t say the words, he felt them in the way I touched him, the way I kissed him, the way I held him.

And wasn’t the best kind of love the kind one felt?

“I love you, too,” he said softly, his lips resting against mine. “I love you, too,” he said once more.

We started undressing one another, slowly, with ease, with care. That night we made love for the first time. With each touch, I fell more for his spirit. With each kiss, I tasted a part of his soul.

In my mind, I whispered back to him, time and time again. With every tear and every heartbeat, I spoke to him. So quiet, yet so loud.

I love you, too. I love you, too. I love you, too…

“Are you ready?” Brooks asked, walking into my room with his acoustic guitar on his back a few days later.

Don’t you have band practice?

He nodded. “Yeah, but not with The Crooks tonight. Tonight I’m starting a new band called BAM.”


He bit his bottom lip and walked over to me, kissing my forehead. There was always a tenderness that he had whenever he touched me. I loved that feeling. “Yeah. It stands for Brooks and Maggie.”


“It’s on your to-do list—play in a band. I figured why not start crossing things off your list right away? No reason to wait when we can do some of the things now. Now come on. I’ll teach you how to play Bettie.”


“Named after my grandma.”


He placed his guitar in my hands and as I went to strum, he stopped me. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. You can’t play her like she’s just here to be used, Maggie. You need to introduce yourself. You need to learn about her, her parts, like her beautiful headstock, and her neck, which is home to the fretboard.” He went on explaining the different parts of the guitar for a good thirty minutes, and I listened selfishly. I loved how much he loved music. I loved how he wanted to introduce me to his world. When it came time, he had me practice fretting the strings, then later on, we went over the first position chords.

Whenever I messed up, he still cheered me on. “That’s good, Magnet! You’re literally one hundred times better than me when I started playing.”

After a few hours of playing, Daddy came and told Brooks he was never allowed back into our house after he caught us kissing. “I better get going anyway, seeing as how you’re yawning.”

As he stood, I grabbed his arm, making him pause. Rushing over to my books, I picked up one of my favorite books.

“The Kite Runner?” he questioned, taking the book from my hands. Khaled Hosseini’s novel was one of my favorite reads that Daddy had given me, and I wanted Brooks to know that part of me—the same way he wanted me to know music. The book was marked with small pink tabs, indicating my favorite sections. “It’s one of your favorites?”


“Then I’ll read it twice,” he replied, kissing my temple. As he leaned in, he whispered against my ear. “I’ll sneak back into your room tonight after your dad’s asleep for a sleepover.”

“GO HOME, BROOKS!” Daddy hollered, making us both chuckle.

“Um, Earth to Brooks. You still there, dude?” Rudolph asked, tapping me on the shoulder as I sat on Oliver’s stool in the garage. Rudolph kept waving his hand in front of the book I held with an apple in his grip. “Normally when we are on a break from rehearsing, you’re strumming a guitar, but now you’re like…”

“Reading!” Oliver said, walking out of Calvin’s house with two apples in his hand. He bit into both at the same time and chewed loudly. “I didn’t even know you knew how to read. Are you sure the book isn’t upside down?”

I shushed them, waving my hands at them as I flipped the page. My forearm was filled with small yellow tabs I was using to write notes back to Maggie. The twins kept trying to get my attention, but I was too far deep into the book.

Calvin came into the room, holding three apples in his hand and biting out of all three. Dramatic. My friends were dramatic. “Dude, don’t bother. He’s too much in love to focus on anything else.”