He walks on the curb, trips into the street. She catches his arm and holds him up and smiles. So goes their relationship: calmly, without incident, and with many, many smiles of immediate forgiveness. They did it right.
* * *
Her shovel is blue and his is green. He does not learn for four more years that he is colorblind. He steals her shovel.
She cries, and throws sand in his eyes.
Later, he blames his colorblindness on her. She cries again. This time, she has nothing to throw. He is sorry and so is she, unnecessarily. In the end, they are okay.
* * *
Anyway, when she cries, she attracts the attention of his mother--not hers. She clears the mishap right up and yells at her son, who then starts to cry in turn. Clumsily, with the innocence of a three-year-old, she hugs him. He kisses her cheek wispily, and their friendship is cemented, his child's-saliva as mortar to their sturdy brick wall.
* * *
In pictures from a decade and a half ago, her hair is white-blonde and his is light brown. Hers is in tiny pigtails and his is short, cropped close to his head. Both have large, guileless blue eyes.
* * *
How quickly that changes.
* * *
They enter kindergarten together, with matching backpacks and lunchboxes and short bob haircuts. Starting then, they are AdelineandJonah. Crazy how two people can share only one name, but they do it. And they do it right.
* * *
Every day after school they eat triple-decker peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, two parts jelly, one part peanut butter, and three parts bread. They watch old-school cartoons and laugh together. They help each other with their homework. He excels at English; she's magnificent with Math. Both love History and Science. They are a perfect pair. They're only five.
* * *
They grow up this way, studying for tests and living a lovely symbiotic relationship. She falls out of a tree when they are nine. He helps her to the house. She has a broken arm. He is the first to sign her cast. He is the only to write the word "love".
* * *
In junior high school, they go to dances together. They meet more friends, Alexander and Elizabeth and Jenna and Sarah and Thom, and they all dance together. Adeline begins to like boys, to notice Thom's baseball-player-arms and Alexander's beautiful face. Jonah confesses a "kind-of" crush on Jenna. After dances, they all sleep over at Adeline's and listen to old Get Up Kids CDs and just freak out. Adeline often wears Jonah's old Boy Scout shirt. He wears her Lacey Rennolds School of Dance-I'm a Little Ballerina shirt. They've traded. It's a balance.
* * *
In eighth grade, the have their cliché first kiss.
"I might kiss Jenna at the party tonight," Jonah says. There are parties every Friday, parties they can go to because they know high school kids. Thom is in a band with some of them. Jonah would like to join. Jonah plays every instrument imaginable, from violin to drums to piano, with guitar, bass and trumpet thrown in. Adeline can play acoustic guitar and piano. They took lessons together.
"Cool," Adeline comments. They listen to the first Bright Eyes CD as she lies on her bed, reading a beat-up copy of A Separate Peace. Jonah sits on the floor, thumbing through Rolling Stone.
"I've never kissed anyone before," he says.
She puts down her book. "I know that."
He raises his eyebrows. That's all it takes to communicate his question.
"Come up here," she says, moving away her pillows.
They learn a lot that day, from pecks to french kissing.
You could probably say that that was where it started.
* * *
Jonah never kissed Jenna. Instead, a week later, he told Adeline that he was in love with Elizabeth. He made her a mixtape with half of the songs chosen by Adeline.
They dated for almost a year. In that time, Jonah made three mixtapes and bought ten bouquets of flowers. Adeline received one of each.
Elizabeth dumps him, after eleven months and six days, and dyes her brown hair blonde and boys some jeans from American Eagle. This is a week before high school starts.
Jonah cries to Adeline, who says that she loves him no matter what. She bakes him cookies and they listen to Dashboard Confessional together. Jonah is reminded what friendship is.
* * *
Adeline's first boyfriend is a senior boy named Adam. His hair is blonde and his eyes are pitch-black. He plays her power chords on the guitar. She decides that she is in love.
Jonah hates him.
Adam makes Adeline no mix tapes, buys her no flowers. Still, she kisses him, and not Jonah, who finds that girls are tiresome and cruel.
Elizabeth, by now, has a new boyfriend, preppy and athletic, who fails half his classes. Jonah just has messy black hair and blue eyes and silver-framed glasses, and a collection of corduroy pants and tight slogan t-shirts that would made any Goodwill shopper envious.
This does not seem like a lot. He rarely sleeps over at Adeline's anymore, but two weeks after he does she is at his doorstep, in tears, wearing a shirt he left at her house. Adam has another girlfriend. Jonah finds his Dashboard CD and they talk to the tune of a blender making milkshakes. She sleeps over and decides that she will be okay.