"I don't get how you can drink that stuff," Jackson said to me. I glanced down at the can of opened Pepsi in my hand, and then looked back to him. "It's completely disgusting."
I scoffed and leaned back onto the hard bleacher behind me. "Says the guy who eats peanut butter and bananas—combined. Besides, I don't see what's so great about that Coke you have there."
He rolled his eyes and tucked a lock of black hair behind his ear as I took another sip of my warm soda. "Coke is totally better than Pepsi. It is the original cola, after all. Besides, red is a better color than blue."
"In your dreams." I rolled my own eyes—partly at my lame comback—and then looked out toward the empty football field. I loved eating our lunches here. "Coke has such a nasty aftertaste; it's got this flavor that sticks with you long after you're done drinking it. And just because Coke was the original, that doesn't necessarily mean it's better. There are plenty of imitations that could wholeheartedly win a contest against their predecessors. Pepsi is just so…so…I don't know, I can't explain it."
Rather than ramble on stupidly, I closed my eyes and took a big swig of my Pepsi, savoring each drop I swallowed. When I finished the sip, I glanced at Jackson, only to find he was staring at me with an intense interest. His dark green eyes bore into my plain brown ones, and I felt myself slightly blush in his gaze.
Jackson and I had been really close friends since we were in diapers—our mothers were very close, and gave birth to us only two months apart, him before I. All throughout elementary and middle school, we were so incredibly tight…nothing could rip us apart. We were always together, whether we were riding bikes, or doing homework. Jackson and I were attached at the hip.
When high school rolled around, we both matured—both physically and mentally. Jackson went from having a round face and playful green eyes to owning prominent cheekbones, full lips, and deep-set emerald orbs. His new-found looks caught the attention of many girls, and he went through his fair share of girlfriends—but they never came between our friendship. The relationship between us was undying, and I knew it always would be.
But recently, I found myself staring at him with new eyes, like a baby who's just seen for the first time. I saw how genuine he was, what an honest and decent guy he could be, and I was beginning to have…deeper feelings for him. Deeper than a sixteen-year-old should be having for any guy—no matter if he was my best friend or not.
"What are you looking at?" he asked amusedly. His eyes still hadn't left mine, nor mine his.
I smirked. "I could be asking you the same thing, Jack-jack."
His eyes grew wide. "Oh please, not with the Jack-jack crap!" he whined. "You know how much I hate that nickname."
"And you know how much I love it." I grinned.
He quickly put his peanut butter and banana sandwich—ew—into a Ziploc bag, and then leaned toward me, playfully ferocious. "I will stop you from calling me Jack-jack, if it is my last dying wish."
"Psh, yeah, right. You couldn't stop me from calling you Jack-jack even if you tried. Why do you hate that name so much, anyway?" I glanced at him with curiosity.
"Haven't I told you this story before?" he asked. I shook my head, surprised there was a story about him I'd never heard, and he shrugged his shoulders, defeated. "My aunt, Aunt Elma, used to call me that. She used to visit when I was younger, before she passed. Anyway, she was this big woman, with a hairy mole on her nose, and she always wore way too much makeup."
I giggled at the image, trying to hide my laughter behind my hand. Jackson smiled at me before continuing.
"That's not the worst part, though—her lips were huge, and they were always wet. I think she licked them a lot." He shuddered. "She would visit, and when she saw me, she'd hug me tight and say, 'Oh Jack-jack, how I've missed you!'" His imitation of her made me laugh uncontrollably; hiding the giggles behind my hand wasn't working too well anymore. "And then she would say, 'Come and give your Aunt Elma and hug and kiss, Jack-jack.' And she'd lay a big, wet one, right here!" He pointed toward his lips and shuddered once again, his expression hysterically funny.
My body shook with laughter as I leaned back onto the bleachers, my elbows keeping me supported. I couldn't contain the giggles as my head fell back, and every time I thought the laughter had subsided, another round would come, leaving me smiling and gasping for air.
Finally, I finished my crazed giggling and turned my attention once more toward Jackson, who just had the tiniest hint of a smile on his face.
"And that is why I don't like to be called Jack-jack."
I tapped my finger against my chin and pretended to ponder, looking up at the sky. "I suppose I see your point…but that still won't stop me from calling you Jack-jack." I made my voice grow louder as I said the nickname, and it reverberated in the empty stadium. "Sorry, though. I can see where you're coming from."
Jackson stared at me intently. "I still say I could make you stop, if I wanted to…" he murmured.
I decided to have pity on him; the flush under his deeply tanned skin wasn't missed by my eyes. "Alright, I won't call you Jack-jack anymore…"
His emerald eyes widened, and a brilliant smile flashed across his face.
"If…" I continued.
He sighed. Honestly, was he expecting me to give up such a nickname without prerequisites?
"You admit that Pepsi is better than Coke."
Jackson's jaw fell slack. If there was one thing he hated more than "Jack-jack", it was claiming that anything was better than Coca-cola. My satisfied smile didn't waver once.
"You've got to be joking, right? Aren't you?" He stared at me incredulously. "Oh, dear God…you're not joking, are you?"
"Nope." I popped the "p" on my lips. "Admit to me, right here and right now, that you love Pepsi way more than Coke."
He groaned and dropped his head into his hands. But just as quickly as he did it, his head shot up, and he looked at me with a grin on his face.
It was kind of maniacal. I grew tense immediately.
"Whatever you're thinking, it's not going to work. I'm not cracking. That's what you've got to do." I took another sip of my Pepsi and nodded fervently.
His green eyes darkened—something I'd never seen before—and he shrugged casually. The grin never left his face. "I think I can figure out another way to keep you from calling me Jack-jack."
I rolled my eyes and set my Pepsi on the bleacher behind me. "Somehow, I doubt that. Nothing in this world could possibly keep me from calling you—"
But I wasn't able to finish my sentence, due to the fact that Jackson's lips were suddenly on mine.
They were warm, and soft—oh, they were so soft. They were extremely gentle, I noticed, as well. They pressed against mine tenderly, softly coaxing mine to respond. One of his arms wrapped around my torso, holding my midsection almost protectively, as the other cupped the nape of my neck, his fingers intertwining with the brown baby hairs on my scalp.
I'd never kissed—and had never been kissed by—anyone before, so I was unsure of what to do. Were my hands supposed to hold his face, or his arms? Maybe they were supposed to wrap around his neck… and what was I supposed to do with my lips? Was tongue needed? Because I sure didn't know how to handle that…
As the thoughts raced through my brain, Jackson seemed to sense my hesitation. He didn't increase any pressure on my mouth, but he took my hands in his, which were warm and calloused, and guided them toward the back of his neck. My hands interlocked, and, sure that they wouldn't move, his hands found their previous spot on my body.
Seeing as I had no clue what to do with my mouth, I just returned his pressure, slowly and calmly moving my lips against his. This seemed to satisfy him, because the lightest groan left his throat and hummed against my lips. He drew away from my face and pressed one, two, three soft and quick kisses against my mouth once more, before placing his rough hands against my cheeks.
I reveled in the silence that followed our spontaneous kiss, completely in awe, my thoughts incoherent. It was so unexpected, but so…nice. I hadn't felt violated at all—if anything, I felt as in control of the action as he was. And his lips were so tasty, so warm, so comforting…perfect.
I hadn't realized my eyes were closed until I felt the pads of his thumbs brush over them. As soon as they moved, I opened my eyes and saw his face merely inches from my own. His warm, quick breaths scattered over my parted lips.
Jackson's eyes were twinkling as he whispered, "I told you I could find another way to stop you from saying that God-awful nickname."
I smiled in spite of myself. "And you sure did," I said back. "Which reminds me…I believe I told you that imitation could often be found better than the original. How did I compare to Aunt Elma?"
"Your imitation was much, much better," he agreed, grinning. "Just as wet, I'll admit—" he threw a pointed glance at my Pepsi can, and I laughed under my breath "—but with completely different sensations. Completely better sensations." His eyes became more intense. The air between us grew tense…there was more friction in the air.
Jackson leaned in quickly once more, brushing his lips with mine. This time, I felt the tip of his tongue barely make contact with my bottom lip, and as he pulled back, he made a grand show of licking his lips.
Pressing a kiss against my forehead, he murmured, "I suppose Pepsi doesn't taste so bad anymore."
I laughed and leaned my forehead against his chin. "And Coke isn't totally revolting, after all."