Once, when they were much younger, Jackie asked Gabe why she always had to be the damsel in distress when they played adventure games. A seven-year-old Gabriel, in his infinite knowledge of the world, informed her, "Because that's the way it is."

Jackie pulled off the princess tiara she'd received for her birthday just a week prior and held it out to him. "Here."

Gabe shrank away. "Are you crazy?" he asked her, as amazed as he would have been if she had suddenly revealed to him that Santa wasn't real, or where exactly babies come from. "I'm not wearing that!"

"Why not?"

As if he were explaining something to a two-year-old rather than a nine-year-old: "It sparkles, Jax. Boys don't wear sparkles." He puffed out his chest to display just how much of a not-sparkle-wearing boy he was.

Pensively, Jackie turned the plastic tiara around in her hands and then threw it onto the pavement and stomped on it. She puffed out her chest and asked, "So what if I want to save you for a change?"

Friday, 8:00

I first kissed Jackie Blue when we were in sixth grade. We'd been really close friends since before either of us could ever remember (one of those friendships so fantastic that it's almost like God; no beginning, no end), and when we reached a certain age, kids began to assume we were going out. Wasn't long before I began to entertain the idea. Sure, Jax wasn't girly—at all—but she was pretty, and we basically already did everything couples did in sixth grade. We went to the mall, we talked on the phone, we saw movies together, I paid for her lunch sometimes. Not that I'm making excuses, but it seems totally understandable for me to have misinterpreted our friendship.

Well, it started out like absolutely any other Wednesday. Jax's mom—Mrs. Blue—had given us the O.K. to play videogames in their basement on the basis that it was raining and we couldn't really play outside, and we were playing some game with very poor graphics. Jackie was kicking my ass, as usual, but I didn't mind. I already had the whole thing mapped out; I'd been giving this thing an awful lot of thought. Unfortunately, I hadn't considered the idea that she might not just go with it.

When she finally beat me in the game, all I could think about was how the last time I brushed my teeth, I hadn't flossed. While she crowed and cheered her victory, my heart beat so rapidly that I grew concerned about the likeliness of an explosion. But when I finally did it—when I finally reached over and took her face between my hands and placed my lips to hers—all anxiety vanished. I was successfully being smooth; wait until the kids at school hear about this!

Jax, however, had other plans. Before five seconds had passed, she pulled away and quickly blurted out, "I accidently saw up Cassie Luther's skirt one time, and I dreamed about it for three months after." Her face flushed—one of the only times I've ever seen her so embarrassed—and I just stared. I didn't know what to make of it…so I just packed up my things and walked home.

And things definitely became awkward between Jackie and me. There was at least a week (though it felt like years) in which I tried to survive without her…But nothing I did could ever distract me from thoughts of her. Jax. Didn't take too long for her to become impatient with me. "Are you ever gonna talk to me again?" she demanded loudly during homeroom one day. "Or are you just gonna pussy out?" And boom:

She was just my Jax again. Same ol' Jax; not some mysterious vixen, or some untouchable entity, after all. Nothing to be curious about: I already knew Jax. She was just my best friend. And we laughed at stupid jokes and played our stupid games, and I stopped wondering what it would be like to share a real kiss with her. We were friends. We never let it escape to anything more.

Signing off,

Gabe Smithson

Corey O'Donnel never minded Jackie. She was intimidating at first—when Corey was only five years old and Jackie (thirteen years old) moved into his house, wearing an eyebrow piercing and eyeliner a mere half-shade lighter than her midnight hair. She could be obnoxious sometimes—on the days when she was in a bad mood for whatever reason and simply snapped at everyone. But a lot of times, she was cool; like right now. Blasting music on the speakers of her truck, allowing Corey to sit up front, honking her horn at pretty girls as they passed. She was…cool.

"I tell you something, Corey, m'boy," she yelled over the music, and Corey refrained from rolling his eyes. Jackie often told him things; when he was in the car with her, she seemed to talk in a non-stop flow. "I'm still not convinced that this Candy Fischer is right for Gabriel." Corey just listened; he'd never met or seen Candy, but Jackie talked about her often enough for him to give a full, accurate description of her. "I mean, she's nice enough and, sure, she's pretty, but once you get down to the basic facts, Gabriel needs a stern, guiding hand." She tapped her fingers lightly on the steering wheel along with the song on the radio. "He needs someone a little less conformist, a little more amusing, kinda cool."

"Like you, Jackie?" Corey asked bashfully. He generally remained silent during conversations with Jackie; she had a way of out-talking you when she got on a roll. Plus, he hated sounding stupid, or being wrong. But, just now, Jackie's words seemed to be connecting, making sense. Gabe needed someone to guide him? Jackie always gave him advice. Gabe needed someone stern? Jackie could really yell sometimes. And cool? Jackie occasionally wore the "Queen of Cool" crown on her head of short hair.

But Jackie laughed at him, and he sunk into his seat, embarrassed. "No, kiddo," she grinned, reaching over to mess up his hair. "No, no way. Gabe also needs someone with a feminine side, I think."

Corey just looked out the window. He officially quit trying to understand Jackie. His theory had made enough sense to him.

Thursday, 9:00

My house is always empty without her. That's why I hate it when she goes to work. She's there until almost midnight sometimes, and I just have a hard time filling my hours without her. Mostly, I do homework and watch T.V. Tonight, I woke up from where I'd passed out on the couch, and she was gone.

I mean, she's still gone; it's only nine. And at ten, she'll call my phone and tell me when she'll be home so I can open the door for her.

She's been pushing Candy Fischer a lot lately. Makes me kinda nervous; I don't know what it is about that girl, but she gives me heartburn. A nasty case, too. Something about the way she says my name. And those dreams I've had of her.

Candy Fischer is probably the only problem in my life that Jackie doesn't fully understand. And at the same time, all her talk about The One, and the way she looks at Amber…I always find myself thinking that she does understand.

Signing off,


So What Do I Do Now?

I've found that place where I belong,

And only three weeks left to live.

He loves me like she never could.

He knows how to forgive

All the rude things that I do and say:

The way I fight and don't make sense.

She flirts and lies and disappears,

And leaves me feeling tense.

I've found that place where I belong,

So what do I do now?

When he's insane for someone else,

And I can't see an out?

I love him; he's where I should be.

But I cannot see how

I'll make him realize that I'm here,

So what do I do now?

Jackie scribbled her name at the bottom of the poem, and then erased it. That was the beauty of writing in pencil; you could erase anything and everything that you didn't like. Herself, for example. Jackie loved erasing herself.

"Jacquelyn Blue," Mr. Woolf called lazily from his desk, not even opening his eyes to glance around the classroom from time to time like most teachers. "Dare I ask if you have the answer to number four?"

Jackie looked down miserably at the sheet of loose-leaf paper that would have been her physics homework but had ended up as pointless iambic pentameter. "That depends," she replied with a sigh, looking back up at Mr. Woolf apathetically. "Did you want the right answer?" she asked dryly, gaining a laugh from some of the class. In front of her, Amber Lynn chuckled lightly. Jackie set her pen down on her desk, next to her notebook.

Mr. Woolf's eyes popped open and he glared across the classroom at her, responding, "That would, obviously, be preferable, Miss Blue." He closed his eyes again and sunk back into his chair. "Now, do you have the correct answer? Or are you intentionally wasting my time and effort?"

Jackie felt the panic—light and fluttery—settling in the pit of her stomach. She didn't have the right answer—she didn't have any answers; she never did her homework. Mr. Woolf always did this to her; trying to embarrass her, make her look as stupid as she always felt in this class. And Amber was sitting right there—and she was turning around! Now Jackie was really humiliated. Amber would look and see what an oaf she was, what a dumb ox, a stupid cow. But…no. When Amber turned, she quietly muttered, "The answer's sixty-two." She smiled gently and seemed, almost, to glow for an instant before she spun back around to face front.

Half-dizzy with the scent of Amber's perfume, Jackie repeated out loud, "The answer's sixty-two."

There was a magical moment where she actually thought it might be okay, Mr. Woolf might actually let it go, but then—"Miss Lynn, are you trying to insult my intelligence?"

Amber seemed shaky in her response. "No…"

Mr. Woolf quickly jumped to his next question. "And are you trying to insult Miss Blue's intelligence?"

Amber's resolve solidified. "No."

"Well," Mr. Woolf responded, kicking his feet up onto his desk and relaxing further into his desk chair, "You really must have been. Because otherwise, you wouldn't have implied that I lack the ability to catch you cheating, and that Miss Blue lacks the ability to figure out such a simple problem for herself." Jackie blushed. Of course it was a simple problem, they were all simple, if you were the teacher. And Jackie couldn't have figured out the answers for herself; that was the only reason she didn't try. She felt indignant for Amber. The poor girl must have felt terrible, but Jackie knew she wasn't making fun of her. She was only trying to help.

When Amber didn't respond, Mr. Woolf continued, "Mr. Knightly, the answer to question five, please."

As the class went on around them, Jackie scribbled a note to Amber: I know you weren't calling me stupid, even though I am. Thanks for helping me. Carefully, she tossed it over Amber's shoulder and onto her desk, holding her breath the entire time. What was she expecting? Flirting? A phone number? A prom date? Jackie knew that her erratic heartbeat was nothing, that the way the blood pounded heartily in her temples was nothing, that any affection she ever felt toward Amber…nothing. None of it mattered. Not the sweaty palms, not the knots in her stomach, not even the heavy breathing. Amber would never notice her that way, and that was that, and Jackie knew it very well.

…but she couldn't help biting her lip hopefully as Amber wrote a response. And she couldn't stop her eyes from hungrily staring as Amber stretched, arching her back and dropping the note stealthily on Jackie's desk.

Gabe never found out for sure what was on the note when Amber passed it back to Jackie, but the look on Jax's face really told him all he needed to know. Amber was a nice girl, he now knew. A nice, brave girl. Not many girls in Winchester High ever had the nerve to talk to Jackie, let alone be nice to her. Jax smiled softly—smiled for herself, a sign that she truly was happy—and went to write back, but seemed to think better of it.

You're not stupid. Who gives about physics, anyway? It's only a place-holder on the report card. If you need a tutor, I'm available after school, most days. She had scrawled her name at the bottom of the note: Amber. Jackie felt tingly somewhere just north of her stomach, and she struggled to find a way to reply. 'I've wanted to talk to you since freshman year?' No, that sounded creepy. 'Thanks, you really don't have to, though?' But Jackie did want Amber to tutor her. Saying that would only discourage her. She resigned herself, instead, to silence, and allowed herself to gaze wistfully at the back of Amber's head as Mr. Woolf talked. She knew Gabe would mock her for it, later, but she didn't care.

That tingly feeling lasted right up until the dismissal bell rang at the end of the day.

A/N: I'd really really really like to have a following of sorts on this; I love writing it, and I'm sure people will love reading it. (Not to sound cocky, which that probably did, but who cares, anyway?)

If you liked it, type a quick review. If you hated it, type a quick review.

Anything to know that someone else is reading this. XD