Ben was trying to look interested, he really was, but Sadie was discussing with him her mealworm experiment and about an upcoming science competition. He tried to follow what she was saying, but his attention was continually drawn to her face, her eyes, even her nose and ears. Right now her eyes were bright blue; they always brightened when she was excited about something. Sadie's hair was down and kept falling to the side of her face as she leaned over the bucket of worms. She kept absentmindedly brushing it back but it would fall right back down and frame her face. Still talking, Ben was enthralled by the simple and continuous movement of her lips.
At that point Ben knew he had to take a picture of Sadie. Ben tried to lie to himself and say that he was merely observing her from an artistic viewpoint, but couldn't. He wanted a picture of her because she was beautiful and amazing and so much more.
Ben cautiously pulled up his camera when Sadie became enthralled with a particularly large mealworm. Just one picture, he told himself. Click.
Sadie's head turned upward and came face to face with a bulky black camera. Click. As Ben looked through his viewfinder, his entire field of vision was filled with a fuming redhead.
"Ben," Sadie started, her voice rising.
"Sadie, I'm sorry. Really." He cut her off, dropping his camera and letting it hang around his neck.
"You don't have to be here, you know. All I wanted was to share with you something that's important to me, but obviously you don't seem to care. And why should you? I don't expect Rain or Margaret to care, so why should you?"
"Ben, please," Sadie whispered. "Just go." Her eyes shone brightly, but not from enthusiasm but rather unshed tears.
"Red..." Ben started but the pained look in her face stopped him. He wanted to tell her that he really did care about the mealworms and that he only wanted one picture of her because she was so beautiful, so beautiful in fact that every time he saw her he wanted to kiss her. But it all died on his lips.
Slowly Ben dragged his feet across the room and through the door without another word. Sadie heard a small click when the door shut.
That evening Sadie was still sulking on the couch. Mr. Hawthorne had his cheeks puffed out and was crawling on his hands and knees around the living room.
"Oh! A monkey! An ape!" Mrs. Hawthorne gestured wildly and screaming out her guesses. "An orangutan!"
"Yes!" Mr. Hawthorne said. "We win!" The two jumped up and down and then turned to see their two teenagers looking dead on the couch. Two married couple gave each other knowing looks then swooped in on the attack.
"Why so glum you two?" Mr. Hawthorne asked.
"Nothing," Sadie mumbled. Hal on the other hand was more than ready to share.
"Theresa dumped me this morning," Hal said pitifully.
"Oh, Hal," Mrs. Hawthorne rushed to comfort her son.
"You know what used to cheer me up when my girlfriends dumped me?"
Sadie never learned what made her father happy because the doorbell rang and she was more than willing to escape her parents' interference. "I'll get it," she said and quickly left the room.
She opened the door and was surprised to see Ben standing there with his camera around his neck and a single red rose in his hand.
"Ben, why are you here?" Sadie asked dejectedly.
"I thought the flower made it obvious."
"If you're here to make jokes then you may as well leave now." Ben looked down to her and saw how tired she looked and how her eyes had lost their spark. Unhappiness clouded her face. What else was it? Was it hopelessness? Ben's heart dropped a little. This wasn't the Sadie he knew, not the bubbly, enthusiastic and passionate Sadie and he knew a part of it was his fault.
"What's wrong?" Sadie asked, her voice rising. "What are we Ben? Are we boyfriend and girlfriend? Are we just friends who banter? What?"
"I...I'm not sure," Ben confessed. He knew he should admit how much of a coward he had been lately.
"So what's the point Ben? Why are you here? And with a rose?"
"The point is that I care about you and I'm such a jerk for making you mad and I'm sorry." Ben extended his hand and offered her the rose. A corner of her mouth curved ever so slightly and Ben had the sudden urge to reach down and kiss it.
Sadie took the rose and thanked Ben.
"Do we have a truce?" He asked.
"I think we do." Sadie said, smiling. She knew not everything was okay, but it was a start. "Want to join us for a game of charades?" Ben laughed.
The next two weeks were more or less normal between Ben and Sadie. They joked, bantered and nearly-oh-so-close-almost-there-but-not-quite kissed. There were those awkward moments and memorable ones. Sadie had forgiven Ben and they were on good terms again.
"Ben Harris, you'll never believe it!" Sadie Hawthorne shouted down the hall. "Ben! Ben!"
Ben turned around and only had a split second to prepare before Sadie flung her arms around him.
"I won Ben! I won the contest! My mealworms! They won!" She squealed into his ear.
"That's great, Red," Ben congratulated, whispering in her ear and giving her a special squeeze.
Moments stretched on and Ben knew he should let her go, but he caught the scent of her shampoo (something fruity) and she felt so warm and soft. Her sweater had ridden up slightly, revealing only an inch of skin. But that inch was softer than the cashmere in her sweater. Her red hair tickled his nose. All of Ben's senses and thoughts were consumed by Sadie.
Sadie's arms remained around his neck. A part of her was humiliated that she hadn't let go of him yet. He must think me a freak, a small voice said. But he smelled so good; there was a faint smell of dark room chemicals, but mostly he smelled like good clean soap. She snuggled her face into his warm neck and treasured the feeling of his arms around her. She heard the quickening of his breath and his heart beat.
Ever so slowly the two released one another and Sadie was lowered to the ground, but their eyes remained locked.
This was it. They both knew it. Sadie saw sparks in Ben's eyes and felt chills run down her spine. Ben leaned down as Sadie rose up to stand on her tip toes and their lips met in the middle. The kiss was soft, slow and long. Ben's hands clutched Sadie's sides as Sadie's own hands roamed through his hair. Both their cheeks were flushed and their hearts racing. When they pulled apart, ben continued to gaze into her eyes and reached his hand up to brush a piece of hair out of her face. He then began to stroke her cheek, jaw, neck.
"You're amazing," he whispered to her. Sadie was about to respond, but jumped when the bell rang. They were late. "I'll see you after school, Red." He leaned down for a quick goodbye kiss, then let go of her.
"Okay," Sadie's voice manage and they both began to walk to their classes, stealing glances backwards to watch the other leave.
Both knew it was going to be a wonderful day.