I met him five years ago.

I was a new student, an eighth grader at Ingomar Attendance Center. I had moved up a year because my teachers had cited that I was "academically gifted" and too advanced to be taking the classes I was taking. The other kids were intimidated by me; their awe, although present, was shown through bullying and teasing rather than respect or acceptance. There was, however, one exception.

His name was Zach. He wasn't in any of my classes, but somehow, within the first week of my double grade promotion, he found my email address and sent me an instant message. I found out later that he had put his best friend--who was in my homeroom--up to finding it, just to talk to me. To him, I wasn't a freak. I was someone that he could talk to intelligently, a girl who wouldn't pretend to be less intellectual than she really was. He admired me, and as we began to email each other on a daily basis, he became comfortable telling me that. I enjoyed his company too--he was much more than a crutch to get me through the year.

He became my best friend when he asked me to come to the computer lab before classes started one morning not too long after our emailing became routine. He wasn't insanely gorgeous--he didn't have a bulging six pack or the most attractive features I had ever seen, and his hair was so curly that it was untamable, but his eyes--. When he looked at me that very first time, and when I looked at him, it was like coming home. He smiled a welcoming smile and began to talk to me like he had been waiting for that moment, that conversation with me all of his life.

I began to think of him as more than a friend when our class took a field trip to Nashville, Tennessee. He asked me days in advance if I would sit with him on the chartered bus there and back. He told me that he had to "reserve me early, otherwise someone one else would ask and he'd be all alone". I scoffed and told him that he didn't even need to ask. His cousin Kaitlin overheard the conversation and him cornered at lunch later that day and asked him if we were dating. I remember hearing him reply, "No, I don't like her." There was an unexpected pang of disappointment when I heard him speak those words.

He told me of her inquiry later that night. I was uncharacteristically short with him, so much so that he finally asked me what was wrong. I only answered his question with a question-- "Why are you my friend if you don't like me?"

He became confused and responded, "She asked if we were dating…"

I teased him, which only confused him more, "But you said you don't like me! How can I be your friend when you don't like me?" He didn't see that I wasn't being serious and tried again to guess what I meant.

"So you mean if I liked you, we would be dating?"

That was the million dollar question--a question that I was too embarrassed to answer. I had never liked anyone before. I had certainly never had a conversation like this with anyone else in my life. So, I chose to respond, "That's not--that's not what I was saying. I was just teasing. I overheard you say that you didn't like me, and I took that to mean that you didn't even like me as a friend. Just, sorry that my idea of funny isn't." He just chuckled at me and pretended that the conversation never happened.

The day of our trip to Nashville, I got on the bus promptly at 4:30. Half an hour later, Zach trudged up the steps still half asleep. I stood up and let him have the window seat so that he could rest his head against the glass. When the bus started moving not much later, Zach woke up. He began telling me all about his morning--from the song that had woken him up on his clock radio to how his brother had eaten all the pop-tarts. We conversed the entire drive, up to about 10 a.m. when we finally arrived in the city.

We toured the grounds of Andrew Jackson's mansion. He stayed close by my side, blocking me from the wind and keeping me from being cold in the winter weather. His friends and my acquaintances looked at us with nosey eyes, keeping watch for any gesture that might give us away as a couple and give them something to gossip about. No gesture came until the bus ride home. We had spent twelve hours in Nashville, and I was exhausted. Zach and I traded seats, putting me nearest to the window. The temperature had dropped to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and I was freezing. My mother refused to let me bring a blanket for the bus because I had mentioned that I would be sitting with Zach. She was overprotective and had seen too many Dateline special news reports about promiscuous teenagers. I told Zach about my mother's concerns, and two of us laughed freely, though there was a tension enveloping both of us.

After a period of silence, I pretended to be asleep just to gauge what he would do. He took off his jacket and draped it over me, rested his cheek on the top of my head, and began singing softly under his breath. "Oh my love, in my arms tight. Everything will be alright…" I truly did fall asleep at the sound of his melodic voice.

I woke up when we finally arrived back home late Friday night. The two of us stood up, I handed his jacket back to him, and we both blushed awkwardly and said that we'd see each other on Monday.

It was Sunday afternoon after church when I talked to him again. He sent me a message. "I don't know exactly how to do this, but--I like you. I like you a lot. You're perfect. And I just need to know if there's any way you might possibly in some tiny way like me too."

"Yes!" I typed back as fast as I could. But it was too late. He had changed his status to "Away". I waited anxiously in front of my computer screen for an hour and thirty seven minutes before he finally came back.

"Where did you go??" I asked him, a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach taking over.

"I was too anxious. I had to go outside for a walk." He answered quickly. "So, your answer is yes?"

I replied affirmatively. "How do we do this now? Are we--dating?" I stumbled over the word.

"Yes!" He answered quickly. "I mean, if you want us to be." He amended in type.

"Okay then, it's settled." I replied, and from that day forth, it was just the two of us.

It was three months later when he first held my hand. We were standing in front of an iron lung in an area history museum on another field trip when a bug began buzzing around my head. I grabbed his hand instinctively and when he smiled at me, I couldn't let go. Earlier that day, we had gone to a nearby park, and we had seen an elderly couple--at least in their eighties--, holding hands and strolling on the walkway. "That's going to be us," he leaned over and whispered into my ear.

After we had held hands, it was like we couldn't wait to explore each other and our relationship. Our hands were permanently attached. A month later, we were talking to each other on the phone when his little brother got on the line and started singing, "Zach and his girlfriend sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!" I could hear the sounds of a scuffle going on in Zach's room, and I just laughed. I heard him say, "Luke, we haven't--. Just go away." and then a loud exclamation from his brother, "You mean you haven't kissed her yet?!"

"You know," I told him later on the phone, after he had made sure his brother couldn't get back on the phone with us or in his room, "I wouldn't mind… being able to tell him yes."

So, we began attempting to plan our first kiss--as a couple and ever. We decided that we would go see Spiderman 2, and when a dramatic kiss was happening on screen, then we would do the same. We were both anxious and ready. We picked a good spot in the movie theater, and I practically sat in his lap through the movie. The music swelled, and the hero kissed his woman, but Zach did nothing. After the movie, I asked him what was wrong. "You had your head down." I scoffed, "You don't think you could have done something about that?" He simply replied, "I just wasn't thinking," and we moved on.

A month later, after school had started back again, we were working on a project for French at my house. My parents were at work, and he had come over at about 8 that morning, and we had started to work researching Francophonic countries. As we took a break, he held me in his arms and hugged me, closing his eyes and smelling my hair. I couldn't help it--I reached up and touched my lips to his.

His eyes jerked open and I smirked, "Hey! I missed that." I played coy and told him it was his turn. He put his hands behind my neck and kissed me thoroughly, not letting me go until he was satisfied. He sat down on my queen-size bed and patted his lap, motioning for me to sit. I was so nervous that I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. From that moment on, the French project was forgotten. He had an endless supply of kisses built up for me, and I for him. Our mouths worked together perfectly to create a rush that I had never known before. I stopped being able to breathe completely when his tongue began tracing patterns on mine. Every move he made was in perfect synchronicity with what I had pictured my ideal kisses to be like. That was how we spent that day and many days after that. At lunch the next Monday, he couldn't help but rest his hand on my thigh underneath the table, his way of expressing that I was his and he would take care of me.

A couple of weeks later, we went to the end of summer weekend at a theme park near by. I was an avid lover of roller coasters, but he had never ridden one. I couldn't convince him that it was a fun kind of adventure, not dangerous and scary like he perceived. I took a Hershey Kiss out of my purse, unwrapped it, and let it begin to melt in my mouth. I tried to persuade him innocently to ride with me, but when he refused, I kissed his mouth solidly.

"Mmm," he paused, quirking his brow at me, "what--what did you do to me?"

"It's a kiss squared." I replied and winked at him, "now let's go get on the roller coaster. There's a tunnel and forty-five seconds of total darkness."

He followed just like I knew he would.