Title: Secrets in the Tree House
Summary: Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke told each other all kinds of secrets in their tree house. But the best by far was the one they never spoke of. This is a first kiss story.
Pairing: Jess and Leslie
Disclaimer: None of the characters from Bridge to Terabithia belong to me. I promise. If I were to venture a guess as to who owns them I might say Katherine Patterson, but now that the movie is out perhaps they belong to several other people as well. I'm not making any money by writing this story.
Secrets in the Tree House
Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke told each other all kinds of secrets in their tree house. But the best by far was the one they never spoke of.
One hot Sunday afternoon not long after their discovery of Terabithia, they were being chased through the forest by trolls.
"Hungry trolls," Leslie had told Jess, grinning in her excitement.
Jess had grinned back, and they'd taken off running.
That had been over an hour ago, and now they were exhausted. Leslie just barely beat him back to the tree house, and they flopped down underneath it, their laughter interspersed with huffing and puffing as they tried to catch their breath.
"I think we escaped," whispered Leslie triumphantly, rolling over to look at her best friend.
"Yeah, I think we did!" Jess agreed breathlessly as he turned to look at her.
They smiled at each other for a second before closing their eyes and throwing their heads back against the grass. It didn't take long for them to fall asleep.
Jess woke when the wind picked up. Yawning, he sat up and looked around, trying to figure out where he was. He smiled when he saw the girl beside him.
"Leslie," he called to her.
And then louder,
"What?" she mumbled, her eyes opening slowly.
"Jess? Where are we? What time is it?"
"We're under the tree house. I don't know what time it is; can't be too late though 'cause the sun's still up."
He glanced around.
"But it's getting windy. Might rain."
He reached down to help her up.
"You mean the Terabithian Warriors are on the move again!"
"Yeah," he grinned. "But I think they're leaving."
He was still pretty tired.
"C'mon, let's go inside."
She nodded, and they scrambled up the side of the tree house. After tripping over several jars, sticks, and notebooks they had brought up, Leslie found Jess' box of paints. She handed them to him.
"Here. Why don't you paint a warrior on the wall? That way they'll know they're always welcome here."
"Okay," Jess agreed.
"You can help me. But I sure wish we had something to eat first."
"I'm way ahead of you."
Leslie went to the box of "supplies" they kept under the far window and came back with two packages of crackers.
"Fit for the king and queen," she announced, handing him one as she sat down beside him.
"So," mumbled Jess between bites of cracker.
"It looks like we still have a while 'til sundown. What else do you want to do?"
"Well you should work on learning to chew with your mouth closed," laughed Leslie.
"But I'm going to get started on this painting."
"If you knew how to paint," he teased her.
She stuck her tongue out at him.
"See if I don't."
"I don't have to see it, I already know."
She tapped him on the head with a paintbrush.
"Just get up."
He smiled and took the paintbrush from her, along with the wrapper from her crackers. He threw her trash as well as his own into their makeshift garbage can (which was really a plastic bag hung over a tree limb) and then Leslie found another paintbrush and they set to work.
Half an hour went by in happy silence, Jess painting steadily while Leslie painted odd designs in wide, uneven strokes. Jess touched up Leslie's work, and Leslie added color to his where she thought he needed it.
After a while they began to talk about school, and then they made up secrets.
("Secrets make Terabithia special," Leslie had said one day.
Ever since then they had invented for each other the long-hidden secrets of Terabithia. Sometimes when they were bored, Leslie wrote them down in a notebook that they kept in the box under the window.
Every now and then, one of them would sneak in a real secret, and they would smile at each other, silently swearing never to tell. Leslie never wrote those down.)
Another half hour went by, and Jess declared their masterpiece complete.
They smiled at their handiwork.
"It's missing something," Jess muttered, trying to figure out what it was.
Leslie leaned over him and regarded their warrior as well.
"He needs some armor. We'll call him Blue Knight, Grand Protector of the King and Queen," she declared.
"We don't need protecting," said Jess, offended. "We're the rulers."
"Grand Protector of Terabithia, then," amended Leslie. "At least when we're not here."
She wrote his title above his head, ending the 'a' with a flourish as Jess finished up his armor. They stood back and admired the painting. The sections Leslie had done weren't nearly as good as the rest of him, but they agreed that he looked decent all the same.
"I like the parts you painted," said Jess. "They give him character."
"They sure do that!"
Jess looked embarrassed. He had intended it to be a compliment.
"You know what I meant."
"I do," said Leslie. "And thanks. Even though it's not true."
And with no warning whatsoever, Leslie turned to face him and kissed him on the cheek.
Jess stumbled back and stared at her, but she had already turned back around. It had been a quick kiss, and apparently she didn't think anything of it; she was already cleaning off the paintbrushes.
But Jess certainly thought something of it.
May Belle and his mother had kissed him, of course, and Brenda and Ellie had when he was younger, though they'd never stoop so low as to show affection to the likes of him now. But aside from them, and possibly his father and grandparents when he was a baby, no one else had ever kissed him.
Jess was shocked.
Leslie finished with the paintbrushes and put them back in the box. She turned to Jess and looked at him oddly.
"Are you okay?"
She came to stand in front of him.
"You kissed me," said Jess.
He had meant to say it just to confirm that it had actually happened, but Leslie took it as an accusation, and her face turned a light shade of pink.
"Oh," she said. She wasn't sure what to do. "Um, I'm sorry?"
Jess opened his mouth, but nothing came out of it.
Leslie looked sheepish.
"I guess I shouldn't have done that, huh?"
He just looked at her, and after a minute she began to get embarrassed. Leslie Burke did not get embarrassed very often, and she wasn't sure why she was now. Jess still hadn't said anything, and she was beginning to wonder if he ever would.
She bit her lip.
"It's not like I kissed you on your lips or anything," she defended herself.
Jess blinked at her.
"Would you do that?" he asked.
Leslie was shocked.
"No!" she cried out.
Jess stepped back when she yelled. He hadn't ever thought about her kissing him before, but for some reason it kind of hurt to know that she wouldn't. He didn't realize it, but he looked like he might if she'd punched him.
Leslie felt bad.
"I mean… unless you… wanted me to."
"What?" asked Jess nervously.
"Nothing. You just looked like you were gonna get mad at me when I said no."
"Well, I wasn't."
"Okay," said Leslie. "You don't have to get so defensive."
"Well this is awkward."
"Yeah," agreed Jess.
They both looked at the floor, glancing up at each other every couple of seconds.
After a minute or so they accidentally met each other's eyes. For some reason they both thought this was terribly funny, and they burst out laughing.
Jess accidentally knocked over a jar, and then Leslie knocked over some paper that was sitting on a ledge, and that made them laugh even harder. After a few seconds they sat down, but they continued laughing as though one of them had said something incredibly amusing.
"So…" said Leslie, when they had finally stopped. She was biting her lip again, but she was smiling.
"So…" said Jess, trying to think of something else to say. But it seemed pretty safe to just copy Leslie.
"Why are we laughing?" Jess asked her.
"I don't know."
They looked at each other again and grinned. For a fleeting instant Jess felt bold.
"Hey, have you ever really kissed anybody?" He asked.
"No!" Leslie laughed.
When Jess didn't laugh with her, she suddenly grew shy.
"Um, why?" she asked.
"I was just thinking… you're really pretty, Leslie."
Her eyes sparkled.
"Really? Thanks. 'Cause… you're really handsome."
Jess' mouth dropped open, and she grinned at him.
"Aren't you going to say anything?"
He grinned back, feeling stupid.
They sat there, grinning at each other, for several minutes. Finally Jess reached out his hand and helped Leslie up. They started picking up the things they had knocked over.
He turned around to face her.
"Have you ever really kissed anybody?"
He smiled at her.
Leslie smiled back.
"Well, I was thinking…"
"Maybe we could kiss each other?"
It sounded more like a question than a statement.
Jess dropped the stick he was going to throw out the window. His eyes widened.
"What? Did you just ask me if we could kiss each other?"
"Well we don't have to," Leslie backtracked quickly.
Jess didn't know why he did it, but he opened his mouth.
"Well maybe we could… I guess. I mean, there's no reason why we couldn't…"
"No…" agreed Leslie.
"Okay," said Jess. "But we have to promise never to tell anybody, okay?"
Leslie nodded. That would make them the laughingstock of the school. Not to mention Jess' sisters.
"Let's spit on it."
Leslie wrinkled her nose.
They spit into their hands and shook on it.
"What now?" asked Leslie.
"I don't know; it was your idea."
"Was not!" said Leslie, even though she knew it had been.
They glared at each other.
Finally Leslie sighed. Apparently she was going to have to say it.
"I think we just sort of… lean in and touch lips."
"Okay," said Jess.
"I guess we should close our eyes," mused Leslie.
"Then how are we gonna know where we're kissing?"
"I don't know. Let's just try it."
Leslie closed her eyes, and suddenly she felt something warm and soft on her lips. Her eyes opened wide and she found herself staring into Jess' eyes.
They jumped apart, their mouths dropping open.
They both put their hands over their mouths and stared at each other.
"You didn't close your eyes!" accused Leslie.
"I didn't want to hit your nose," said Jess quietly. He was looking at her in a way he never had before.
"Oh," said Leslie, just as quietly. "Thanks."
Jess looked down. They were still holding hands.
"You, uh, you wanna do it again? You can keep your eyes open if you want," he offered.
"Um, okay," said Leslie.
She leaned in, watching what Jess did while he watched her, and this time she closed her eyes when his lips touched hers.
Tentatively, she pressed her mouth against his, and she felt him squeeze her hands. They both started laughing, and then they pulled away. Jess released her hands and they grinned at each other, blushing.
Leslie reached up and touched the spot where he had kissed her. She watched him do the same thing. His smile grew wider.
"Remember," said Jess, his face red as a tomato, "you can't tell anyone."
"Never," said Leslie. She knew her face matched his own.
"Well… what should we do now?" she asked him, swinging her hands in front of her.
Jess looked at her hands and smiled at her.
He took some paper off the shelf and handed Leslie a drawing pencil. He took one for himself, and they lay down on their stomachs on the floor of the tree house. Together they drew Terabithia, the king and queen smiling up at them in the middle.