Courtney always pretended to hate the sweet watermelon and bubblegum smell of the cloud covering Duncan. "You know that's going to kill you, right?" She would remind him every time that he brought the pen to his lips. But, tonight was different. Courtney wasn't doing it to nag her boyfriend. She was doing it to comfort herself.

They were standing outside of the Swirlie's parking lot, no different than any other night with their friends. The night was cool enough for her to actually wear the Oakdale High Debate Guild sweatshirt that she insisted the club buy, even though she had enough swag from every other extracurricular. The electric blue neon light from the sign above them washed the teens in an oceanic hue. Courtney felt even colder covered in the light. Between vape pulls, Duncan's eyes met hers and heat began to pool in the pit of her stomach. His eyes looked supernaturally blue, "Babe, look." Duncan pushed the vapor out of his nose like a dragon. And as immature as it was, every time he did the simple trick it made Courtney smile just a little. She stared at him and felt normal for a minute, but then the heat started to build as they stared at each other a moment too long. She quickly turned to look at her friends through the storefront window, just to break the tension that was building.

DJ was inside being consoled by Heather about the latest drama in his romantic life. And Heather was telling him how he lets girls use him like a doormat and that he needs to get a backbone, and that she could make arrangements for her to wake up a shaved head or a hacked Photobomb account. DJ just listened and watched his vegan chocolate frozen yogurt melt- the marshmallows and graham cracker bunnies mocking him in their fudge pool. Geoff was sampling each topping and flirting with the cashier and his new crush, Bridgette- the reason they were even able to be in Swirlie's after hours. The two had become inseparable after Geoff's last blowout party before school started. Geoff, party god and star quarterback, had a fan club at their high school. But, he never cared for any of those girls because they wanted to be arm candy. Bridgette just wanted to be his friend. And after she smoked him out, Geoff fell in love and would drink her bathwater if she asked. Not that she would ask that, but it does explain all of the volunteering he had been doing at the animal shelter.

"Courtney! Duncan! What're you guys doing outside? There's cheering up and cherry froyo inside!" Lindsay's bright voice broke Courtney from her trance and centered her back into reality. Courtney was grateful to not see her friend's new boyfriend, Tyler. Something about him was just- off. And, if the texts that Lindsay sent to the group chat held any weight, he wouldn't be her boyfriend for much longer. "C'mon Court, let's go inside while Duncan does his dragon breath thingy."

Courtney welcomed the bubbly interruption. The tall blonde draped her arm across Courtney's shoulders as they walked toward the entrance of the frozen yogurt shop. Lindsay was bursting with excitement for her friend. But, she also knew that there was a reason that the typically assertive, take-charge C.I.T was so not herself. A knowing smile came across her face, "So… did you two do it? Is that why you're being so quiet? How was it? Did it feel go-"

"Lindsay!" Courtney stopped short of opening the door. Her fire came back momentarily. She didn't want to get into the details because there were no details yet. Tides of anticipation rose and fell in her gut, and she wished they would just drown her.

Tonight was the night that Courtney and Duncan planned to have sex for the first time, together. Two virgins, a fabricated sleepover with girlfriends, and a house that would be free from parents until four in the morning- what would go wrong?

Duncan and Courtney were very passionate people. Courtney would weave the most eloquently biting retorts during debate meets, that may or may not contain personal jabs in addition to facts. Duncan would always leave it all on the field and tackle guys even though he played offense and that didn't make Coach Hatchet happy at all. There was never a need for the couple to go official on their socials- the deep, dark, and asymmetrical marks on Duncan's neck and Courtney's swollen lips after every class transition were enough. Oakdale High's resident rebel and the class president were a thing.

On the outside sure they didn't make any sense together. But, they had a lot in common. They both care deeply about their families. They both have serious tempers, that can be flared over the most trivial things; and they both will say blame it on "the principle of the matter." They are both Catholic, and go to the same church unless Courtney goes to Spanish mass with her grandparents as she says "to reinforce her culture and heritage." And, she's a Virgo and he's a Taurus. So the last eight months had been perfect for them.

They sat close enough to each other to flirt, but still far enough for Courtney to pay attention in Honors Canadian history (the only advanced class Duncan was in). They sent texts throughout the day and only ate lunch together once a week (because Courtney uses her lunch period to practice violin or her role as Rizzo in the winter musical). Friday nights Courtney was the self-appointed head of Duncan's fan club. She cheered on her favorite neanderthal as he caught Geoff's passes; she cussed out every opponent that even thought about harming a hair on his head (and they definitely heard her, to Chef Hatchet's approval).

Win or lose, they would end up in the backseat of Duncan's hand-me-down SUV that was his brother's and his mom's before that. The stale air that was a mix of close to mildewed gym clothes, wood shavings, and sickly sweet vape smoke didn't bother Courtney. In those moments, they completely belonged to one another. Duncan didn't care that the glitter that the spirit squad smeared on Court's face would get all over the seats and his clothes- it made her look like the fairytale princess in his head. She would trace the lines of his new tattoos- especially the small C on his chest, right next to his heart. He would kiss the trail of freckles from the bridge of her nose down to her chest. Courtney didn't care that Duncan's hair was still wet and the semi-permanent green, blue or red hair dye would stain her hands a little. That backseat was their palace, and the foggy sedan windows marked their kingdom.

She loved it when he would pass his hands over the warm, damp cotton- her breath would hitch in her throat and for once she would be speechless. This sensation was only rivaled by the ice-cold metallic smooth surprise of his tongue piercing around her nipples. It didn't matter that the seat belt fastener was poking into her back- she was being worshiped and adored because of who she was, not her accolades. Her hands roamed all of the lean muscles from his wide shoulders to his narrow waist- she loved how soft his skin actually was. She felt accomplished when he writhed searching for comfort.

Duncan was just grateful that she wasn't afraid of him like everyone else. There was no fear in her eyes when she looked up at him over heavy lashes. He was always a little terrified of her- how powerful she was, how sure she was. He knew how to put on a good front, but he was terrified of the unknown. He rebelled because that was expected of him. He knew how to play the role of the bad boy, the fuck-up. He had never been a loving boyfriend, as much as he wanted to be. Courtney made him realize that he was capable of expanding his potential. That he didn't have to have this hot and cold relationship with order and authority. He was allowed to be in control of his own life, it didn't have to belong to someone else.

That's why he took what Courtney asked him last week more seriously than anything in his life. The nerves had been building for the last hour. She felt like her throat would collapse in on itself. She felt like she was drenching the backseat in sweat. Her voice trembled as she rambled, "Duncan, I know that you probably have more experience than me. And I know that this is something that's really important to me. I promised my Abuela that I wouldn't be with anyone before marriage. But, I'm scared of how much I want you. When you said that you loved me after six weeks and two days of official dating, I wasn't scared because I believed you. And, I've been thinking about it a lot. I can't think about anything but this when I should be practicing scales, filling out early college applications, or listening to how my family's days went at the dinner table. I said phallus instead of fantastic at breakfast this morning," the flush over her freckled cheeks deepened, "I want to be with you, all of you. I want to have sex with you."

Duncan had imagined this moment. The reality of it was still overwhelming. He usually had something charming or cheeky to say, but he didn't this time. He saw how much this meant to her- the unsure look after making such an unusually inarticulate plea, the blush that took over her face and chest, the glassiness of her eyes like they wanted to cry but couldn't. And, he started to get a little emotional. The butterflies burst from unknown cocoons in his stomach and flew around his entire body. Duncan was also unsure of what this meant, but he knew that he loved her so much it scared him.

He didn't make a joke or even crack his usual smirk. He entwined his hands in her hair, the soft smell of vanilla and sandalwood shampoo escaped into the air mingling with the heavy smell of passion and sweat. He pressed his forehead to hers, their eyes were connected. The depth of her brown calmed him, and the intensity of his blue electrified her. "Me too, princess," he smiled as their lips met with unbridled ecstasy and a new nervousness.

That was a week ago and they were both still so nervous. Meeting a Swirlie's was the most they had seen each other all week. But they still tried to keep up a front of being normal in front of everyone else. But, it was hard to feel normal- everything was about to change. Duncan sat in his SUV in front of Swirlie's staring at his friends inside. Then he stared at Courtney, she was acting like her old self. Meticulously, she sampled each frozen yogurt flavor adding a tiny cup to the stack- she insisted each flavor has its own cup to retain the integrity of each taste. He loved how her nose would pinch from the flavors she didn't like and would lick her lips over and over to savor the ones that she did. Duncan was completely enamored, he brought his wrist to his nose and inhaled. Courtney's dark green scrunchie was wrapped around his wrist, the smell of her shampoo, conditioner and hair oil calmed him. And for a second, he forgot about what made him so nervous: that he was a virgin too.

Some things about Duncan were still innocent like his fear of Celine Dion standees, his pet tarantula Scruffy, the way his eyes lit up every time he saw a dog that looked like the late Petey, blue raspberry being his favorite froyo flavor and that he had never had sex. Sure- everyone assumed it, it was fair of Courtney to do the same. It's hard to believe that someone that terrified half of the student body, had been to juvenile detention, had several tattoos and piercings, and generally seemed to be wiser beyond his seventeen years hadn't gone all the way. He definitely had opportunities with girls at school. But something always held him back, that fear of the unknown or the desire to follow one rule. He thought that maybe it was all the years of strict Catholic Sunday school lessons- but deep down he knew why. It was actually special, something that actually mattered. It was the one aspect of his life that he didn't want to act capriciously in.

But, right now he wanted to feel normal. So he texted Courtney his froyo order.

"blue raspberry with those little burst balls Princess, had to check on lil bro at home alone"

"Ok - What is the magic word?"

"plz"

"Say it correctly."

"Please, Princess."

A burst of purple and green heart emojis covered Duncan's screen. He smiled and pushed the phone down into his pocket- just like he pushed down the butterflies that threatened to burst from his mouth. He knew that this is what he wanted, but damn was he scared of it. The past week, Duncan had been more like his Type-A girlfriend. He had spent every night researching how to make the first time as comfortable as possible. Mrs. De Luca wondered why he had kept his room that was usually cluttered with clothes and woodworking projects obsessively clean. He had vacuumed every day, never brought a single snack upstairs, dusted every surface, washed his sheets with fabric softener, and asked his mom if he could have one of the candles from her stash. His mother wondered if something was amiss, but decided that Courtney had actually become a good influence. She was amazed at how the sixteen-year-old's eight months of constructive criticism had taken better than her seventeen years of parenting but didn't complain. Duncan even texted his big brother for advice, he told him to make sure to have towels ready for any mess. Duncan was okay with blood, his favorite movie is Blood Bath 2: Summer Camp Reign of Terror, but he was terrified of hurting his princess. He thought about keeping this a secret from DJ and Geoff, but he knew he couldn't. And they would be able to give good advice. Geoff said to stay chill and to not rush it and not to be surprised if it didn't last long. DJ suggested that he get non-latex condoms to be mindful of any possible allergies and that it's okay if they still wanted to wait.

Courtney thought she could keep this revelation close to her chest. But, she burst at the seams when Heather called out her nasty nervous habit of biting her nails when they were on the way to get manicures. Heather's advice was tinged with her trademark straight to the point attitude. "Don't shave the day of, you'll have a whole razor burn situation and it'll hurt like hell," she spoke over the whirr of getting a full set and a little too loudly for Courtney's comfort. "Don't be afraid to get on top, if you're up to it, be the fierce bitch you always are." Lindsay blew on her nails making sure they were dry, "It's all about you. You just lay there and be pretty." She kept absentmindedly blowing on her nails, "Oh! Pee right after. Paula taught me that because she got a really nasty UDI when she went off to college!"

Everyone in the crew knew what was up between the two. When Duncan walked into the frozen yogurt store, each of the friends shared a knowing smile but didn't say anything. The conversation went on as usual. Lindsay shared the details of the nightmarishly awkward dinner that she and Tyler had with her parents. She even led on that she was a little upset that she didn't take Trent up on a date after their summer as counselors at their church camp on Lake Wawanakwa. Heather spilled the gossip before she published it to the Oakdale Anonymous gossip page she ran. "Who do you guys think that Butter Liz thirst trap page is? Probably someone that's super off the radar. Or what if it's a teacher?"

Gossip almost invigorated Heather more than the power high she got from being Dance Team captain and cussing people out in two languages. DJ laughed a little here and there, gently stirring the melting frozen yogurt and still heartbroken. Geoff and his new friend, Bridgette had gone to the back after Geoff asked, "How do all the machines work? Are there even more toppings that you're not sharing with the customers?" A slightly skunky odor filled the shop and occasional giggles carried through the events. They were definitely doing their two favorite things together: smoking and making out.

Courtney and Duncan were still uncharacteristically quiet. She didn't have any tales of how the youth symphony was going to place first in the province, or how she completely owned Noah in debate practice, or how they should get their tickets to the fall musical because her Rizzo was going to take down the house. He didn't have any embellished stories of how he got over on Coach Hatchet, or how he successfully charmed his way out of in-school suspension, or how he nearly beat Tyler's ass for being a creep during football practice. They were going through the motions- simply preparing for what would happen next, each of them a bundle of nerves.

But one thing calmed them. Courtney decided to share a big cup of blue raspberry sherbert that Duncan always called frozen yogurt. She put the lemon-lime boba on one side for Duncan and kiwi and pineapple on the other side for herself. As she prepared the dessert, she was reminded of how her parents taught her that all relationships were about compromise or finding a happy medium. Which is why they were some of the best arbitrators in the tri-city area.

Duncan scraped the plastic spoon against the bottom of the cup, savoring all of its flavor. He felt like it was time to go but still hadn't planned the smooth exit. Geoff and Bridgette had emerged, heavy-lidded and generally giddy. Bridgette was a sweet girl, she went to school across town and her mom was a holistic healer and owner of the only health food store around. She fit into the group seamlessly unlike some other new additions. She was unbelievably perceptive, probably something to do with her daily meditations and crystal charging that followed the cycles of the moon. Bridgette noticed the nervous energy around the couple. She silently watched Ducan's eyes dart between the door, his phone, and the floor.

"Hey guys, Geoff and I are hungry and thinking about grabbing some pizza. Are you guys down?" Smooth, really smooth Bridgette. Everyone shared a knowing look and waited for Duncan or Courtney to interject.

"Actuallywewerethinking-" both Courtney and Duncan blurted out their objection simultaneously. Duncan actually blushed from embarrassment, he felt out of his element.

"Duncan and I were going to watch a movie at his house actually. You know the new thriller about the teens on the island being tormented by a sociopath for the nation's entertainment?" Courtney cooly explained, her boyfriend tapped her shin under the table and smirked. He was proud of how quickly she came up with a cover story when he couldn't.

"Aww, c'mon you guys that movie isn't going anywhere-" Geoff was quickly elbowed by both DJ and Bridgette and he realized, "we'll catch up with you guys tomorrow!"

Duncan reached out across the table that was a bit too sticky for Courtney's liking. He needed to feel her. She laced her fingers with his and they stood up from the table and headed toward the door. As the off-key electronic tone sounded and as soon as they were outside, Duncan heard a soft hoot from Geoff. Duncan turned around quickly to scowl and throw the middle finger. And much to his delight, Courtney joined in too.

"That's what I'm talking about babe," he laughed and she laughed too.

Duncan lived exactly ten minutes from Swirlie's. But this drive felt like ten hours. Courtney stole glances at Duncan throughout the drive to distract herself from the barrage of encouraging texts from Heather, Bridgette, and Lindsay. The heat began to build inside of her again. His face was even more intense than usual.

She wanted to tug at his hair that needed a cut. His eyes were glued to the road; she couldn't wait to stare into them and feel the electricity all over her body. She wanted each hair on her body to stand on end and the good kind of chills. The good kind of chills that spread from her neck to her back to between her legs whenever he huskily whispered into her ear- his voice dripping with desire. She was jealous of the lyrics that he was whispering, she needed it to be her name. She wanted to hear him beg, Courtney, Courtney, Courtney.

All week long she fantasized about sneaking into his house. They wouldn't be able to wait and they would kiss all the way to the back door. He would be fumbling for his keys- and she would be behind him slipping her hand beneath his hoodie and then under the band of his shorts, feeling how hard he was. She would torture him with her touch. They would be out of the range of the motion detection lights. The cloak of the night would give her the courage to say, "let's do it right here." And Duncan would listen like a knight in duty to his princess. He would grab her hips and hoist her onto him roughly. Pinning her against the brick wall, the patio furniture would be their audience. The drone of crickets, owls hooting occasionally, the melody of their uneven and heavy breathing, and the bass of their heartbeats acting as the soundtrack. Duncan would nibble down from her ear to her neck, before stopping at her collarbone. He'd lick his way back up to her ear. He'd take his time softly blowing, the warmth made her want him even more. He'd bring his lips close enough to not touch- teasing her now. His voice would be deep with passion, "anything for you Princess."

She didn't even notice that she had drifted into her fantasy until the slight squeal of Duncan's brakes snapped her out of it. She felt hot, a bit of sweat had built around her upper lip, hairline, and at her back. She became conscious of what felt like an ocean beneath her legs. More than anything, she wanted to jump in the coldest shower to cleanse herself right now- but she couldn't. That wasn't the solution this time. This time she was literally minutes away from fulfilling her desires. Courtney checked her pulse, her heart rate was the same as when she would take a jog on Sunday mornings. Everything throbbed. She didn't even realize she had been squirming in the passenger seat until she had to pull bike shorts down as they had inched up. And she didn't know that she was so close to release; she had to press her toes into the soles of her sensible sneakers to stop from screaming when Duncan gripped her knee as he approached his home.

Her breath was ragged because she didn't want to make sense in Duncan's car. Her heart began to race again as she realized that they were sitting in Duncan's driveway. The De Luca house was pretty normal. She knew that his little brother was close to being grounded because the lawn was uncut and his bike was sprawled on the front lawn collecting dew. Duncan's parents were on the night shift and wouldn't be back until the early hours of the morning. The youngest De Luca would be wrapped up in his video games and watching hours of Fly-By dance videos- so it was like they had the house to themselves. Duncan squeezed her knee, and she was hesitant to look at him because she knew it meant that it was time.

He licked his lips, not because they were dry. He bit down to remind himself that he wasn't dreaming- this was actually happening. Their eyes met; he was comforted and she was electrified. Duncan pulled Courtney in for a kiss. It was soft and tender, reminiscent of the first kiss they ever had. Both of them wanted to intensify the kiss- to grab each other's bodies as if they were to fuse into one body with two spirits. He ended the kiss this time, she ended their very first kiss. She pressed her forehead to his- still needing some connection. They were both flushed and for the first time all night, eager. In a voice even softer than a whisper, Duncan confessed.

"Courtney, I'm a virgin too."

Relief washed over him, and little did he know she was just as relieved. "Okay," she ran her hands along the stubble on his jaw, "that makes this all better." She had never seen Duncan so vulnerable, so soft. It was as if he took off all of his armor after the battle. Courtney kissed him chastely.

And the nervousness they both felt all night washed away. Each step toward the front door made them more confident. The night air was soothing. Duncan didn't fumble with the keys. Courtney felt tall under the light of the front porch lamp. As they passed under the threshold of the home, the soft blue light of the television shrouded everything. His little brother was soundly asleep on the couch, game controller, and headset still in place. But, before they started up the stairs they grabbed each other's hands and looked at one another.

"Are you ready?" he asked, needing the answer to affirm him.

"Always," she responded, needing the question to affirm her.

The couple started up the stairs into the unknown.

Duncan and Courtney were going to have sex for the first time.