I didn't mean to kill her. If she had just stayed still, hadn't fought me, hadn't tried to pull away… if she hadn't screamed, I never would have gotten so angry, so scared. If she hadn't told me no…

It still makes me angry to think about, even now, even as upset as I am, as stricken over what I've done, the damage wreaked by my own hands. It's hard to believe that the same hands which trembled, yearned to caress Felicia's soft cheek, have now crushed the life from her.

Felicia, her name was Felicia… she was sixteen, as beautiful as a Russian princess. I'm not sure what race she was, but her skin was the color of polished dark wood, her hair long and thick, falling down her waste like a dark flag. I saw her and caught my breath, for I knew we were meant to be together. I knew she knew as well- I could see it in the way her eyes sparkled whenever she looked at me, the special smile and warmth in the way she said my name. Oh yes, she knew we were meant to be- she was only waiting for me to make the first move.

I t had to be fate- how else could you explain my choosing to buy a house, my very first one, and it just happened to be right next door to hers? How can you explain the fact that at age 26, I was still unmarried, with no girlfriend- just waiting for Felicia to enter my life?

The first time I saw her I was moving furniture from the back of my car into my new house. It was a good deal, a house I could actually pay off- only $55,000. In today's estate market, that's nearly unheard of for a three bedroom house in a decent neighborhood.

She was sitting on her front porch swing, kicking her legs idly as she sucked on a grape popsicle. I was so distracted I nearly dropped the chair I was carrying. Between our houses was a chainlink fence, so I could see straight across my land into her yard, her porch.

It was August, and she was in shorts; an orange tank top showed off the graceful slope of her collar bone, the beginning shadow of her cleavage. I could only stare… and when she caught me watching and waved, I knew she knew. Fate…

She came up to the fence and spoke to me later, introducing herself. Her words were neutral, innocent to an outsider's ear, but I knew her true feelings, saw them glowing unspoken behind veiled phrases and shaking of hands. When I took her cool hand in mine, my palm sweated, and I did not want to release it. This was the hand of my soulmate…

I watched her then, waiting, watching for the right moment to seal our love. I saw her leaving for school, her slender back laden with her backpack… I watched her return with groups of girls her age, giggling and silly, none of them near as lovely as she. I saw her walking her dog, long hair bouncing with each step, her stride so wonderous I could barely catch my breath. I saw it all, and I knew it to be an invitation, a declaration… a promise.

The problem, I knew, was Felicia's parents. They wouldn't care that we loved each other. They would only see our ten year age difference. She did not approach me directly, dared not, I knew, because she feared her parents would ban her from seeing me. It was because she loved me so much that she rarely spoke to me, rarely looked at me.

I waited patiently, knowing my chance would come… and it did.

One day, I saw her parents leaving as Felicia stayed behind, home alone, without the girls usually accompanying her in their absences. It was a Saturday… she would be home all day. Now was the perfect opportunity to relieve us of our long wait for each other.

I came over, so glad that my job shift was at night, so I could see her during the day… so glad I could not sleep, and so rarely missed viewing her when off duty.

I knocked on her door, and she answered it in snug jeans and a pink sleeveless shirt, holding herself in such a way her chin lifted, exposing the fragile hollow of her throat. As she blinked, smiled at me, I knew she knew what I'd planned for us, and she appreciated it, loved me for it.

"Hey, Ross," she said, her voice mellifluous, flowing like honey to my hungry ears. "What's up? Do you need something?"

I could hear the sexy undertone to her words, knew it was a new game, a verbal foreplay, that she wanted me to respond in kind before sweeping her off her feet. I decided to indulge her.

"Oh yes, Felicia, something's wrong with my phone line. I can't make calls, and I have an important call to make. Would it be all right if I came in to use yours?"

"Oh sure," she said, and my heart wrenched with desire. "come in."

I stepped inside, feeling acutely how very close Felicia was to me, smelling her hair, her skin… she was only a foot away from me, so close. My every sense was heightened, overloaded by Felicia's proximity. Once the door was shut, once we were safely away from the others' prying eyes, she'd be mine, all mine… I would love her and she would love me, forever.

Felicia turned to face me, the door shut, at last… she was smiling, her eyes shimmering, all that desire for me so clear.

And yet still she stuck to our old game.

"The phone's over there," she pointed. "You can go ahead."

But I only looked at her, drinking in up close every inch of her beauty. I could hardly believe it belonged to me…

"You can finally stop our pretense now," I said huskily, "now that we're alone."

Felicia looked at me with her head tilted, frowning, as if she couldn't' understand what I meant. I was tiring of her games- I wanted to love her as she deserved, as she wanted.

"What are you talking about, Ross?"

But I knew what she wanted, she was only waiting for me to make the first move. Always she wanted it to be me who made the first move…

So I took Felicia's wrist and pulled her to me, cupping her face in one hand, the back of her head in my other. And oh, how sweet it was to finally touch her, hold her, feel her skin against mine! And I parted her lips with mine, almost gasping at the sensation…

She gasped, pulled at me, but I held her close to me, showing her it was safe now to let go of the game…

But then Felicia elbowed me hard in the side, wrenched herself from me with a little cry… I was stunned, staring at her in disbelief as I held my side. What was she doing- what had I done wrong?

She was staring at me too, shaking, angry, afraid- angry at me, afraid of me? How- why was she mad at me when this was what she had wanted?

"What are you DOING!" she almost shouted. "Get away from me!"

"Felicia, it's okay now," I said, going toward her, but she quickly backed away, eyes wary. "Your parents are gone- they'll never have to know. We can finally share our love- it's safe to. You don't' have to pretend, you don't' have to fear."

"LOVE you? I don't love you- I barely know you!" Felicia sputtered. "Please, get out Ross, just go away. "

I couldn't believe it. I KNEW she loved me, knew it! This had to be a test- she was seeing how much I really loved her, how far I would go to convince her. I could not fail her test.

"I know you don't mean that," I said tenderly. "Let me show you how I love you."

I pulled her to me, began to kiss her lips, her neck. But she writhed in my arms, rigid and flailing, as though my touch appalled her- disgusted her!

"Oh god, get off, get off of me! I don't love you- stop it! I don't love you, leave me alone!"

What was she saying? She couldn't' mean it- she couldn't! I had no doubt she loved me- but then why did she keep fighting me, keep denying me?

Confused, I tried even harder to kiss Felicia, to hold her against me. But she still fought me… and now she was screaming, screaming so loudly I was alarmed. What if someone heard? What if they misunderstood, thought I was hurting her, did not understand our love?

So I put my hand over Felicia's mouth, clamping it tight. But she kept screaming, the noise still audible…

I kept my hand over her face, her nose, pressing harder, trying to keep out her yells… and I held her hard around the waist, all the time pleading with her. "Stop, Felicia, stop, I love you…"

I thought she was listening… her screams got quieter, she wasn't hardly making any noise… she stopped kicking so hard, and then she stopped completely. I was so glad, so happy…. I kissed her then, hugged her, told her how much I loved her, how good it would to be with her.

But then I realized- she wasn't moving, but neither was she breathing. She was so still…

I had suffocated her, somehow my hand had suffocated her….

I began to weep as I held her against me, my Felicia… for I had loved her. I had loved her, and I had destroyed her, taken her away so I could never fully have her, as I had dreamed…