Mercy and Landry lay on the soft grass in his backyard staring up at the summer sky with puffy white clouds passing by. They were twelve years old, still young enough to describe what they saw in the shape of the clouds, laughing when they came up with something dorky or foolish.
"Do you think it will ever change between us?" Mercy worried.
"We've been best friends since kindergarten," Landry reminded her as he chewed on a blade of grass. "How could it?"
"Well, we're about to enter The Danger Zone," Mercy warned.
"The Danger Zone?"
"Teenage-hood!" She laughed. "Hormones. Peer pressure. Temptation. Rebellion."
"That won't happen to us," Landry predicted. "We'll always be the same together as we are right now."
"I hope you're right," Mercy sighed.
Landry sat up and looked at her. "I pledge to you right here and now that you will always be my best friend," he said seriously. "That I will never do anything to hurt, harm, or disappoint you."
"You said you were going to marry me," Mercy giggled as she sat up too and turned to face him.
"I did?" He smirked.
"After First Communion," she said. "You don't remember?"
"I remember," he smiled. "We were all dressed up. It felt like a wedding. I was in the mood."
Mercy laughed. "I said yes."
"I remember," Landry said. "I'm going to hold you to it!"
She blushed slightly. "I'll wait for you," she said, sounding so serious that Landry couldn't help but stare at her with his heart beating heavily in his chest.
"You're as beautiful today as you were on that First Communion day," he told her.
Her black curly hair blew with the summer breeze and he could count the freckles on her face if he wanted to. Her smile was one of an angel and there was a glow to her that made him feel warm whenever he was with her.
"Remember your promise," Mercy said as she stood.
Landry got off the ground too, tossing the piece of grass he was chewing on aside. "I will always be true to you," he vowed.
"And you won't fall into The Danger Zone?"
"Never," he assured her.
Landry led Mercy up the stairs to his bedroom.
"I'm not supposed to be in boys bedrooms alone," she told him.
"I want to show you something," the fourteen year old said, as he opened the closet door. He rattled around in a box and pulled out a disc.
"What's that?" Mercy frowned.
"Popeye gave it to me," he said, taking the CD out of the disc holder.
"That guy's bad news waiting to happen," Mercy warned. "I don't know why you hang out with him for."
"He's my friend," Landry said dismissively as he put the CD into the player. "Listen to this!"
Loud music filled the room and when the lyrics began to play Mercy frowned at him.
"That's devil music," she said. "Turn it off."
"You don't like it?" Landry pouted with disappointment.
"It's loud, it's vile, and it's disgusting," she protested. "Why are you listening to that crap for?"
"I like it," Landry admitted, but he did what she asked, turning the music off and slipping the CD out of the player.
"Is that why you hide it in your closet?" She made a face at him. "So nobody will know? So nobody will see it?"
"I only listen to it when nobody's around," he admitted with a shrug as he returned the disc to its secret place in the closet.
"Because you know your parents will disapprove," Mercy said. "Doesn't that make you feel bad knowing you're doing something they don't want you to do?"
"I was hoping you'd understand," Landry groaned with defeat. "You don't feel something when you hear the music? You don't want to hear it again?"
"I didn't even want to hear it the first time," Mercy replied as she headed for the door. "You're doing something wrong and you like it."
"Maybe you're still just a kid," Landry complained as he followed her out of the room and down the stairs.
"So, it's begun," Mercy sighed heavily when she reached the bottom of the stairs and turned to face him.
"What's begun?" He asked with confusion.
"The Danger Zone," she replied. "You've been introduced to it and you like it because it's different from what your parents taught you."
"Maybe I'm just growing up," he rebutted. "What's the big deal about listening to a little music? There are far worse things that I could be doing."
"Like what?" She tested.
"The problem is that my parents and the life they want me to lead really isn't normal or realistic," Landry grumbled.
"It's not?" Mercy asked with surprise. "So I suppose Popeye knows better?"
"He's cool," Landry insisted.
"And you're going with him down the rebellion path that's going to lead you into a dark, lonely and empty place," Mercy said sadly.
"You're being way too dramatic," Landry protested.
"You're going to fill your soul with sin," Mercy warned. She headed out the front door onto the porch.
"You're way too much into religion," Landry said, following her outside.
"And you're starting to act way too much like someone you're not," Mercy replied. "Probably because of Popeye."
"We get along great," Landry said.
"Do you like him better than me?" Mercy wanted to know.
"Don't be stupid," he groaned.
"You're going to have to decide," Mercy said.
"Decide what?" Landry asked.
"Him or me," Mercy replied.
"What, you're giving me an ultimatum?" He laughed.
"Yes," Mercy replied seriously.
"That's stupid!" He cried.
"You're going to have to decide, Landry," Mercy let him know. "You're my soul mate and my everything but I'm not going to let you drag me down the same dead end path Popeye is taking you down. If you're going to rebel, you're going to have to rebel without me."
"You want me to follow you and my parents in obedience?" He snarled.
"Why is it such a difficult decision?" She asked. "You love your parents. You have the best relationship you're ever going to have with any girl with me right now. But you're going to choose Popeye over us?"
"If you're going to start manipulating me now maybe we shouldn't be friends," Landry said angrily.
"Maybe we shouldn't," Mercy said sadly. "Goodbye, Landry."
She walked down the porch steps refusing to look back but waiting – and hoping – Landry would stop her with his words of contrition. But there was nothing but silence and she waited until she got home before she broke down in tears.