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Fifth Time's a Charm

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She disappeared, and he was shaky he could hardly stand. He sat down on the couch wondering how long it would take to recover his composure. What the heck had just happened?


His laptop was gone, and he was unsure when he’d get it back, but that wasn’t why he was freaking out. Marisa had kissed him—on the lips and twice. It was an “accident”, and she had screamed in surprise both times. But how did one accidentally kiss someone twice in a row? They’d been friends forever, and this had never ever happened before.


Could it be that this was no accident but that she like he had dreamed of this forever? This wasn’t supposed to happen. She was the girl next door, had been KC’s best friend so long that she should have been his other older sister. But he couldn’t see her that way; he hadn’t for so long although he couldn’t tell you when everything changed. All he knew was that he thought she was the most beautiful girl he had seen in his life, and he couldn’t stop thinking about her even when he hadn’t seen her for a few hours.


He wasn’t even sure how to explain it. She was Marisa, and no one else ever stacked up to what that meant. He’d spent years getting to know her now, and he could tell you about how she swayed when she walked her blonde hair flying behind her and how scared she was to let anyone know she wasn’t really ditzy.


Marisa—she had really kissed him, and now he wasn’t sure what he was going to do. He knew it would be running through his mind on repeat for a very long time, and he wasn’t sure what he’d say the next time he saw her. But all he knew was that things had changed in the most wonderful way possible, and things would never be the same again. It might be rocky for awhile, but if his dreams were coming true, what kind of fool would he be not to take it?


————-
He was still tasting mango when Marisa ran out yet again. He definitely preferred the cherry from earlier, but who was he to complain when she had kissed him again? What in the world? It was supposed to be a one time thing, but it had happened again and too soon for his sanity. He sat down on the couch to try to settle his spinning head and beating heart.


He had been shocked to see another kiss coming but not too shocked to catch that she was the one who leaned in first. Marisa might be a little crazy boy crazy, but he had never known her to kiss anyone she didn’t have any feelings for. Could she like him back? Or dare he say, did she like him back?


Afterwards, she had looked at him with fear in her eyes unable to say anything except that they should talk about it. Maybe her heart had gotten the better of her and she was just as surprised as he was or maybe she knew there was no way he would think a third kiss was an accident. Either way, she didn’t want him to know how she felt and didn’t know how to deny it. She had been visibly relieved when he took the reins even though all he had been able to come up with was something that now struck him as incredibly stupid. When did appreciation ever make you kiss your best friend’s little brother on the lips?


It was what had followed that had been worse. She had denied to have any feelings for him, and he had lied and professed the same. He had been vehement in his denial–now he wasn’t sure why when her denial had been weak and tentative at best. But he had been afraid and too mentally fuzzy to see how little meaning there was in her words. They had both been desperate to take things back to before, but he could now see that was impossible. There was no going back, he knew that and he was sure she did too.


It wasn’t just a kiss or rather three of them. The kisses were nothing. But giving way to feelings they both had never admitted they had, that was something new. Even if he could forget how her lips had felt, that expression of feelings could never ever be taken back. They needed to talk it over–his sorry, ridiculous explanation wouldn’t do–the sooner the better.


—————————


He slipped out the patio door and found Marisa on the bench on her phone. “Oh hi,” she greeted him looking up briefly from her phone.


He sat down on the other side of the bench. He cleared his throat and summoned his courage. “Marisa?” He smiled, loving as always the way her name rolled off the tip of his tongue.


She turned her phone upside down and set it on her lap. “Yes?” She turned to face him, and her expression was soft and thoughtful.


All rational thought left his mind, and all he could think was that he really needed to know what it was like to kiss her for a little longer. Before he could stop himself, his hands were on her cheeks. “Allow me?”


She squirmed slightly moving so she could see his face. “What?”


He smiled. “I want to kiss you again. The other three were much too short for my liking.”


“Okay.” She nodded slightly flustered.


He leaned in and kissed her. Instantly, he was transported to another world where all that existed was Marisa. Lost in the kiss, it was a jolt back to reality when suddenly he didn’t feel her lips anymore and he opened his eyes to see her running away. He stood up feeling ridiculous stupid. Why had he let his feelings get the better of him? Who was he to think that kissing one more time would make anything better? When was the fourth time ever a charm? They still hadn’t talked, and that was what had the power to make everything better.


He was still too emotional to think, and in retrospect he should have been afraid of that. But in his disturbed state of mind, fear was the last thing he was thinking of. He found himself on Marisa’s doorstep ringing the doorbell before he even realized what he was doing.


The door opened all too quickly, and Marisa’s mom appeared. “Hi, Ernie.”


“I’m looking for Marisa?” he said trying his best to remain calm.


“Come on in. I saw her run to the backyard. You might try looking out there.“ She disappeared into the kitchen.
He went outside, crossed the yard, and made a beeline for Marisa’s old playhouse. He gently knocked on the door.
“Go away,” was Marisa’s quiet reply. It sounded like she was crying too.


Her her choked up voice made him even more determined to stay until she let him in. There was no way he was going to let her suffer alone when a talk from him would likely make things better. Besides, he had been the one to upset her, and it was only right that he would be the one to help her. “It’s me,” he said. “We need to talk. I’m not going to kiss you. I promise.”


"Okay, you can come in,” he heard her muffled voice say.


He cracked the door and saw Marisa on the floor in the far corner her hands around her knees. He crouched down, stepped in, and took a seat beside her. She glanced at him and then looked quickly away. Her eyes had glimpses of tears, and the air was heavy with emotion. His eyes wandered around the room with its tiny pink furnishings in wonder. The playhouse had been first Marisa’s play place, then she and KC’s hangout, and more recently Marisa’s retreat. But he had never exactly been invited in. Being inside felt sacred somehow, and he didn’t want to violate Marisa’s trust.


“I’m sorry.” He heard himself say.


She lifted her glance slightly but still didn’t turn to look at him. She didn’t cry, but her voice was low and quiet. “It’s okay. You were a complete gentleman and asked first. Not many guys do that, and I’d know.”


He wanted to put his arm around her and tell her everything would be alright, but he knew that would just freak her out, so he just wrung his hands and placed them in his lap. “But we should have talked first, and I let what I wanted get in the way.“ He hesitated for a moment not sure he really wanted to say it. "I like you, Marisa. I mean like you like you. I guess I was scared to admit it, but that’s what’s true.”


She just stared off into space when she breathed it was in an audible gasp that left him wondering if his confession had been too much. He was pondering whether he should just quietly sneak out when she turned her head his way. She just as quickly looked away. “I like you too.” Her words came in a stream so fast he could hardly understand them.


"You do?” It was what he was expecting, but hearing her say the words sent his heart fluttering. But then he remembered that she was crying and felt in over his head.


“Yes, I like you, Ernie. I know I don’t act like it, but I do. You’re so kind and smarter than I’d ever dream of being.”


He felt his jaw drop in surprise. How could this possibly be real life? “But you’re crying?”


“I-I-I really liked kissing you, and it scared me because everything…” she choked up. “Everything is going to change. I’m not ready for that, Ernie.”


“But it doesn’t have to. Can’t you see? I’ll still be next door, and you’ll be here, and you’ll hang out with KC. But if you’d like, I could kiss you a little more than we’ve been doing.” He laughed.


“But how am I going to be hanging out with KC and kissing you? You don’t get girls do you? We just can’t be as close if I’m dating you. I want you, but I can’t lose KC either.”


He scooted closer feeling that she would be able to take his arm around her now. “Now, now,” he said feeling better to finally know what her worry was. “It’s going to be okay. I’m sure you’ll figure this out. When have you ever not been able to figure out this kind of thing?”


“But it’s me and KC and you..”


He rubbed her back. “I’m here for you whatever you need. Just name it, and I’ll do it.”


She turned to him with a smile that lit up her whole face. “Then kiss me. I need to forget this whole mess.”


He laughed. “I was worried you’d ask something hard, but that I can easily do.” He leaned in with his heart so full of joy he couldn’t believe that this was really happening.


She pulled away after a moment and looked at him with a smile. “I can’t believe I’ve missed out on that for so long.”


“Same,” he said. “I think they’re wrong. It’s the fifth time that’s a charm not the third.”


She laughed, and his heart was so full he thought it would burst.


“Or the sixth?” He said laughing. “Shall we try?”


She giggled. “Let’s not chance it. Things are pretty perfect right now.”


He bopped her nose. “You’re right. It can’t really get better than this.” His words echoed in his head. There was nowhere else he’d rather be than sitting in Marisa’s old playhouse holding her in his arms and knowing this was only the beginning.