I eased into the seventh grade. With Nick Pike and Buddy Barret as my two best pals, I never had too much trouble. They were always there to back me up and we had become the three musketeers. Besides those two, I always had Charlotte to talk to. She had become a sort of outsider in her grade so she would eat with the boys and me.

It wasn't until a few weeks later that I found out she had a crush on me. We had gone to a party at the Pike house and she cried when I told her about my Karen woes. Feeling sorry for her, I kissed her and we tried to go steady. Charlotte wasn't quite as shy about her bumps as Karen was. I suppose that was because her Mom is a Doctor and would have explained things to Charlotte about her body. When we went to the movies, she let me touch them in the dark cinema.

They were more developed than Karen's. They were soft under my touch and I thought I was in Heaven. A nagging thought kept entering my mind as my hand wandered down Charlotte's top. I wished it was Karen, sitting beside me. In stead she was at the "little house" that weekend. Even if it was "Big House" weekend she still would be else where instead of in the cinema with me. Instead it was Charlotte beside me and I had created the mess when I first kissed her.

It was no secret that Charlotte and I were an item. The guys on the football team teased me about it, endlessly. Mostly it was banter about dating an older girl. I didn't have to heart to tell them Charlotte was the same age as me. That little detail was blurted out by Jack Rodowski who took great pleasure in my red cheeks. Jack and I were rivals. I never knew it until years later, that the reason he hated me was because he was interested in Charlotte. Charlotte, because of her feelings for me, didn't even notice his existence.

It all came to a head when we graduated from Junior High. I couldn't take it anymore and broke it off with Charlotte. I didn't love her like I did Karen and I knew it wasn't fair. Charlotte was one of my best friends, but I wasn't happy with her as my girlfriend. Jackie found out and punched me out on graduation day. Not long after that they began seeing each other and I lost Charlotte as a best friend as well.

Karen had gotten over the hate she had for me and we were friends again, but she was in a steady relationship with Linny Papadakis, Hannie's brother. I was glad she didn't hate me anymore, but I still wanted more. I wanted to kiss Karen like we used to.

A lot of things changed for use that summer. Karen's Mom died suddenly in a car accident and not long after that, Watson lost his Job. Because of this, Karen was attending Stoneybrook High School with me and Andrew started Stoneybrook Middle School. It was an awful time for them both, but Karen took it all especially hard. She confided in me a lot over the following months.

What made things worse was that Jack had spread it all over the school that I liked Karen and we were teased about liking each other more than a brother and sister should.

"He's only my STEP brother," Karen retorted, "And besides. I'm going out with Linny. The words cut into my heart, like a jagged knife.

Then one day in sophomore year it happened. Linny dumped Karen and we decided to go to the dance together. We had the best time, although Karen was clearly heartbroken about Linny. A slow song came on, which I'll remember forever. Vanessa Williams' voice filled the auditorium with the words "you went and saved the best for last..." and Karen was crying on my shoulder as I held her. Sensing she needed to go somewhere quiet, I led her out to the stairwell in the hall andcradled her in my arms.

"What's wrong with me, David Michael?" Why can't I let anyone love me? Its my fault he dumped me."

"Linny's the ass, Karen. He doesn't know what he lost." My heart ached with every word I uttered. Couldn't she see how amazing she was? Linny obviously couldn't. "Karen we never talked about what happened between us, but I was an idiot to treat you as I did."

"I was the idiot, David Michael. You always liked me and probably loved me." I nodded. " I got cross with you but I didn't explain why."

"It's okay Karen. You don't have to. I pushed you. I was selfish." She took my hand.

"It's so stupid, David Michael. We were curious kids." She squeezed my hand, sending tingles through my body.

"Do you want to start again, slowly?" I asked. She nodded and then before I knew it she was kissing me. "Let's never fight again, David Michael."

I hoped we never would.