Jed is in love with his best friend Karli. Frankie, their other best friend, finds out, and doesn't know how to feel about that. Romance/Hurt/Comfort. Rated T, later chapters will be M. R&R please! I appreciate constructive criticism.

Chapter 1: Nightmare

She was crying, her angelic face twisted in emotional anguish. She looked down at me. "Jed, if you love me, please-" she choked back a sob. "Please don't follow me. You'll have to understand."

"No," I whispered in horror. "Please don't."

She grabbed both of my shoulders. "I have to. You don't understand, but maybe one day you will." She shoved some papers into my small hand. "I'm leaving everything I own to you. Do whatever you want with it, but promise me you'll save some money for college."

"But...but-"

"Promise me!" she shook me fiercely.

My lip quivered. "I p-promise."

"Don't cry, Jed. Please don't. I'm not worth your tears. Now, I left money in the bank for you, but you can't touch it until you're eighteen. And upstairs in the attic, there's a million dollars in cash. It's for you and only you. Don't let him take it." I nodded obediently. "That money is to last you for the next seven years, so don't be rash. Use it for necessities. I have to go now."

"But why are you leaving me?"

"You're strong enough now. You can take care of yourself. Don't make this harder than it needs to be. You have to be my brave little soldier. If I stay, I'll just make everything harder for you. I am so sorry." She threw her arms around me. "Goodbye, Jed. Maybe I'll see you again someday." With one last kiss on my forehead, she opened the front door and plunged into the pouring rain without looking back, lightning illuminating her silhouette as she raced away from me.

Grief filled my heart. "No!" I screamed to the darkness. "Don't leave me!"

"MOMMY!" I sat straight up in bed, feeling a little more than foolish. Eighth graders don't scream for their moms. Even though I do wish with all of my heart that she would come back, but she can't and she never will. I looked at my clock. Too early to get ready for school. I rolled onto my stomach and stared at the wall, lost in sad memories and false hopes until my bladder urged me from my warm sheets. I was surprised at how cold the floor was. It was only late September.

My alarm was shrieking loudly when I got back to my room. Normally, it took all of my willpower to even lift an arm in the morning to turn off my alarm. Today, however, I was not in any way eager to wait until the last minute to get ready. I showered and dressed half-heartedly, not in the mood to go to school. Not even to see Frankie, my best friend. He could probably make me feel better, but the thought was still unappealing. Until I remembered that school meant homeroom, and homeroom meant sitting for twenty-five minutes next to the most perfect girl in existence.

Think about the prettiest girl you know. Now multiply her beauty by twenty, add shiny blonde hair, bright blue eyes and brains...she still wouldn't come close to Karli. Also imagine that girl being your other best friend, being completely in love with her and being unable to tell her. Yeah, I know. Sucks. But at least I get to see her a lot.

The thought of homeroom brought me back to my senses and I flew to the bus stop. My middle school is too cheap to own a school bus, so we all take public transportation. The bus took forever, of course, and so did the ride. I think the bus driver picked up on my mood and decided to torture me by driving at a crawl. I swear a turtle would have beaten us there.

I climbed off of the bus where Karli and Frankie were waiting for me. My heart stopped at the sight of her. I shook hands with Frankie ("'Sup, man?'") before turning and embracing Karli, sneakily taking a whiff of her hair. It smelled like strawberries.

"Hey, Karli. You smell good today."

She smiled, her teeth blinding. "Thank you, Jed."

"Your hair smells like strawberries."

"Well,that's what I washed it with."

I raised my eyebrows. "You washed your hair with strawberries?" Frankie elbowed me.

"My shampoo, you goof," she giggled.

"You washed your shampoo with strawberries?"

"Jed, you are such a dork." Frankie shook his head while Karli cracked up.

"I'm a dork? Have you looked in the mirror lately?" Frankie's brown curls were wilder than usual today. He wore a Star Wars t-shirt and black skinny jeans.

"Yes, I have. This morning."

"I'm glad you didn't look too long."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, if you look too long, you might ugly yourself to death." I laughed at my own joke.

"Hey, you aren't too pretty yourself, pal."

"What are you talking about? Didn't you hear? I won the Miss America pageant."

"I'll bet your favorite part was the sparkly makeup," he smirked.

"Okay, see, that's where you're wrong." I jabbed my finger at him. "It was sparkly princess makeup."

"I think I'm going to throw up." He pretended to barf.

"Umm, guys, can we get to school please?" Karli interrupted.

"But of course we can. Frankie, stop acting like a preschooler so we can leave."

"Oh, I'm the one acting like a preschooler?" We began walking toward school. "At least I didn't put on pink sparkly princess makeup."

"Oh yeah? Well, I'll have you know-"

"Guys, can we put the arguing on hold?" Karli batted her eyelashes. "Please, for me?"

I nearly swooned. "Okay, Kar. I'm sorry."

"Of course he is." Frankie clapped me on the shoulder. "And I would be too, if I had done anything wrong."

"Dude, are you serious? You started the whole thing!"

"I did not! You're the one who insulted me."

"I didn't insult you, I only told you the truth. You look more like a dork than I do. I mean...you're almost fourteen, and you're wearing a Star Wars t-shirt!"

"Being a fan of Star Wars is not being a dork!"

"Yes it is," I sneered. "I'll bet as soon as your mom says you're old enough, you'll go to a convention dressed as Darth Vader."

"WHY am I friends with the two of you?" Karli shook her head, making her golden hair swish and glitter even more as we walked.

"I'll have you know," Frankie pressed on, "that I would never degrade myself that way."

"Good."

"Dressing as Darth Vader is so cliché. I'd go as the Emperor."

"And with that, this conversation is over." I turned to Karli. "So what's up, Kar?"

She narrowed her eyes at me. "Don't come 'what's up' me after acting like a three-year-old. Why I bother to hang out with geeks like you two is beyond me." She shook her head again and I was mesmerized by the shiny strands. When I say her hair is golden, I mean it. It's not blonde or yellow, but gold.

I stopped walking. "Did you just call me a geek?"

"Uh-oh," Frankie commented.

"A geek of all things?"

"You really did it this time."

I dropped my bag on the ground. "I think someone wants to be tickled."

Karli's eyes widened with fear. She detested being tickled. She swore she was dying from laughter whenever it happened. "You wouldn't."

"Oh no?" I extended my arms and wiggled my fingers. She shrieked and took off toward school. "You won't win!" I yelled after her as I ran. I caught up to her just outside of the school gates, put my arms around her and tickled her stomach. "What were you saying?"

She tried to escape by pinching my hands, but I only tickled her harder. "I'm s-sorry," she screamed through laughter. "Stop! Stop!" Satisfied, I released her. "Forget geek," she said, wiping away her tears. "You're a jerk."

"Watch it blondie," I called as she walked away. "Next time, I might not be so forgiving!" She stuck her tongue out at me over her shoulder as she joined the cheerleaders at their table. Frankie came up beside me and handed me my bag. "Thanks." Then we went to sit at our usual table under the tree, Frankie across from me.

"So," Frankie said, leaning toward me.

"So what?"

"You and Karli, huh?"

"What? What are you talking about?"

"Oh please, don't give me that." His teasing tone became serious. "I saw the way you were looking at her."

"And what way is that?"

"The way you always look at her." His usually twinkling eyes had darkened. "Hungrily. Like you're a starving man, and she's a Big Mac."

I wanted to punch him. "A Big Mac? Dude, did you just compare Karli to a burger?"

"That's you're favorite food."

"Even so, she wouldn't be a burger. She would be dessert. Probably a nice fluffy, creamy, delicious strawberry shortcake."

Frankie smirked before looking at his hands on the table. The smile disappeared. "Huh."

"What? What's wrong with you?"

He looked up at me. I could see the confusion in his eyes. "Nothing. It's just that...I realized..." His eyes bore into mine. I started to get uncomfortable. "Nothing."

"Just tell me what it is, Frank."

"I can't."

"Dude. Of course you can. We're best friends, remember?"

"I really can't, Jed." This time he didn't meet my eyes.

"Come on, why not? We tell each other everything!"

"I'm sorry, Jed."

Okay. I have to admit, that hurt. Frankie always let me know when something's bothering him. "What's wrong with you?" I asked just as the bell rang. I grabbed my bag and stood up. "Seriously, you're being really weird." I stalked into the building without waiting for him.

"Don't tickle me, Jed," Karli warned as she opened her locker next to mine. "You'll regret it if you do." I didn't respond. "Hey, what's wrong?"

I pulled a Frankie. "Nothing." I missed my combination and let out an aggravated sigh as I started over. I felt Karli watching me as I missed the combination again. I slammed my fist against the locker. "Come on, dammit!"

Karli pushed my hand from the lock and leaned against the locker door facing me. "Okay, what did he do this time?"

"Come on, move!" She didn't budge. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Frankie. You only get like this when he pisses you off, so what did he do?"

I wanted to scream at her, but I took a deep breath instead and told myself to cool it. She did nothing wrong, and she just wanted to help. "He's being really weird today."

She waited, but I didn't say anything else. "Okay, well, don't let him get to you. You know Frankie's like bipolar or something."

I hung my head. "I know." I suddenly realized how close together we were. My bowed head almost touched the top of hers. My anger ebbed out of me, leaving an overwhelming desire to kiss her.

"You know he likes to bother you."

"Yeah, I know." She said something else, but I wasn't listening. I was watching her lips as she talked, so pink and supple, perfect double curve. I looked into her bright blue eyes, hypnotized by their glow. Her perfect face, framed by those long, glittering strands of blonde hair. Unthinkingly, I swept some of them behind her shoulder.

"Jed, are you okay?" She looked worried.

"What?" My senses returned, and I realized my hand was still on her shoulder. I felt a blush creep into my cheeks. "I-yeah, I'm fine."

"Good. Now, give me your combination so we can get to homeroom on time."

I sighed and gave it to her, memorizing the back of her head. False hopes of a different nature filled my mind. Maybe if I got some kind of clue she felt about me the way I felt about her even a little, I could move in on her. But that was ridiculous. We were only friends and nothing me.

...But I did like the way she said "we." I liked that a lot.