Such an ugly smile!

“Daddy, can I go with Brooks?”

My eyes darted to Mr. Riley, and I knew I was doomed, because Mr. Riley suffered heavily from DS—daughter syndrome. I’d never once seen him say no to Maggie, and I doubted he had any plans to start that afternoon.

“Sure, darling. You two have fun.” He smiled. “We’re gonna get the boat set up, and once you’re both back, we’ll get out on the water.”

Before we headed out into the woods, I made sure to give Jamie a hard slug in the arm. He slugged me harder, making Maggie laugh. As she and I headed into the woods, I put in the earbuds attached to my MP3 player and hurried my pace, hoping to lose her, but her skips and twirls were surprisingly fast.

“So, have you found a tie yet?” she asked.

I rolled my eyes. Even with my music playing, I could still hear her loud mouth. “I’m not marrying you.”

She giggled. “We’re getting married in two days, Brooks. Don’t be silly. I’m guessing Calvin is your best man, or will it be Jamie? Cheryl is going to be my maid of honor. Hey, you think I can listen to some of your music? Calvin said you have some of the best music ever, and I think I should know what kind of music you listen to if we’re getting married.”

“We aren’t, and you’re never gonna touch my MP3 player.”

She giggled as if I had told a funny joke.

I started digging around in the dirt, and she swung on tree branches. “Are you going to help me dig or what?”

“I’m not touching a worm.”

“Then why did you even come out here?”

“So we could finish planning together, duh. Plus, I was hoping we could go look at the cabin not far from here. It could be our house, if you wanted it to. We could fix it up for us, Skippy, and Jam. Ain’t nobody living there, anyway. It’s big enough for our family.”

This girl was a lunatic.

As I kept digging, she kept talking. The quicker I dug, the faster she spoke about girly crap I didn’t care about—shoes, makeup, first dances, wedding cakes, decorations. She even talked about how the abandoned cabin could be used to put the food inside for a reception. The list went on and on. I considered ditching the shovel and pail and running for my life—it was pretty clear that Maggie was out to kill me. When she mentioned the naming of our first child, I knew things had gone too far.

“Listen!” I shouted, knocking over the pail with the few worms I had found. They wiggled around, trying to find their way back into the dirt, and I didn’t even care. I puffed out my chest and shuffled my feet in her direction. My fists thrust in the air, and I screamed straight into her face. “We are not getting married! Not today, not tomorrow, not ever! You disgust me, and I was only nice to you in the last letter because Jamie said if I wrote you any meaner letters, he’d tell my parents and I’d get in trouble. Okay? So just shut up already with all this wedding talk.”

Our faces were inches apart. Her fingers were clasped behind her back, and I saw the small tremble in her bottom lip. Maggie narrowed her eyes, studying me, as if trying to decipher the clear-as-day words I had just delivered to her. For a second she frowned, but then she found that ugly smile again. Before I could roll my eyes, she leaned in toward me, grabbed my cheeks with both of her hands, and pulled me closer to her.

“What are you doing?” I asked with smooshed cheeks.

“I’m going to kiss you, Brooks, because we have to work on our first kiss before doing it in front of our family and friends.”

“You definitely aren’t going to kiss—” I paused and my heart thudded. Maggie placed her lips against mine and pulled me in closer to her. Without hesitation, I yanked away from her. I wanted to say something, but speaking seemed hard, so I stared, awkwardly and uncomfortably.

“We should try again,” she said, nodding to herself.

“No! Do not kiss—” Again, she kissed me. I felt my whole body heating up, with…anger? Or maybe confusion? No. Anger. Definitely anger. Or maybe…

“Will you stop that?” I hollered, ripping myself away again and stepping backward. “You can’t go around kissin’ people who don’t want to be kissed!”

Her eyes grew heavy and her cheeks reddened. “You don’t want to kiss me?”

“No! I don’t. I don’t want nothin’ to do with you, Maggie May Riley! I don’t want to be your neighbor anymore. I don’t want to be your friend. I don’t want to marry you, and I most certainly don’t want to kiss—” I was cut off again, but this time by myself. Somehow, during my rant, I had stepped closer and closer to her, and my lips stole her next breath. I placed my hands against her cheeks and smooshed them together, kissing her hard for a whole ten seconds. I counted each second, too. When we pulled away, we both stood still.

“You kissed me,” she whispered.

“It was a mistake,” I replied.

“A good mistake?”

“A bad mistake.”





“Can we have one more bad mistake kiss?”

I kicked my shoe around in the grass and rubbed the back of my neck. “It won’t mean I’m going to marry you.”


I cocked an eyebrow. “I mean it. It will just be ten seconds and that’s it. We’ll never kiss again. Ever.”

“Okay,” she replied, nodding.

I stepped in closer, and we both smooshed each other’s faces. When we kissed, I closed my eyes, and I counted to ten.

I counted slowly, as slow as the worms moved.





“Brooks?” was muttered into my mouth, and my eyes opened to find Maggie staring my way.

“Yes?” I asked, our hands still smashed against each other’s cheeks.

“We can stop kissing now. I’d already counted to ten five times.”

I stepped back, embarrassed. “Whatever. We need to get back to the boat, anyway.” I hurried to try to recollect the worms, failing terribly, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Maggie swaying in her dress, humming away.

“Hey, Brooks. I know I said you could wear the mud-colored tie for the wedding, but I think you’d look better in a green one. Bring the tie for our rehearsal tomorrow. Meet me right here at seven.” Her lips curved up, and I couldn’t help but wonder what had changed about her in that moment.