[Disclaimer: I own nothing.]

You have known her as long as it mattered. Are you ten when you meet her? Eleven? You're the new girl, fresh off the moving truck from Cleveland. You were angry from the moment your father moved his practice, and you were plucked from your school and the friends you had fought for—literally fought for—to get stuck in this crappy little town featuring nothing and no one. In a school where they act like they've never seen a Latina before.

But Brittany is different. Brittany is sweet. Popular, because she's pretty and a good dancer already and a threat to nobody. She sits next to you in art and wants one day to borrow your burnt umber colored pencil for her horse's mane. And all of a sudden you're talking, then swapping desserts at lunch, and in a few weeks Brittany is scoring you invites to the popular girls' slumber parties. That's all you needed: an in. After that, you know how to work them. All you have to do is be a little mean most of the time, a little nice now and then, and you've got them wrapped around your finger.

But Brittany's different. You've never wanted to be mean to Brittany. You've never had to. She likes you when you're sweet. Sometimes you even let her hold your hand when you walk home together.

The summer after eighth grade you spend nearly every day together. Brittany comes over in the early afternoon and you swim for hours, until your hands and feet are wrinkled and your hair sticky and your skin too hot. Sometimes you watch the ants together as they file along the crack between the pool tiles and the concrete. You like to splash them with pool water and watch them struggle and drown, but Britt begs you to leave them alone, so you do. Then Britt shows you how to let the water jet hit between your legs, how if you wait long enough something comes over you to make your body shake and make you forget the temperature of the water and the brightness of the sun and the march of those ants along the crack of the tile. You take turns. Sometimes you watch Britt close her eyes and bite her lip and you try to spot the moment she tumbles over the edge. Her body moves unconsciously under the surface of the water.

Whenever she stays over for dinner, she sleeps over. It's hot; Britt sleeps in a tank top and underwear. Her breasts are a little bigger than yours; you like the way her belly sinks between her hipbones. You like to touch her knees—so small and pretty—and trace the light freckles on her shoulders and forearms with your fingers. You take turns lying in each other's laps and digging your fingers deep into each other's hair. Her hair is fine, slippery; when you catch the occasional knot you tease it apart easily with your fingertips. Her fingers are long and thin and give you a funny feeling in your belly when they stroke the skin behind your ears.

You sleep beneath one thin sheet, until Britt gets cold in the middle of the night and starts shivering. She never wakes up, as though she didn't know she felt cold; you pull another blanket over the two of you and drape yourself against her until she loosens. You don't understand how she gets cold: her body gets so hot when she sleeps that her skin seems to glow from it, the way it does when you lay out on the towels and dry yourselves in the sun like lizards.

You love her so much it makes your throat ache. You want to swallow her up; you want to shrink her down and keep her in a pocket so you're never apart. When you watch her bike roll away the next morning after breakfast you pine until she comes back over that day, or the next.

Good thing your parents love her too. Your mother constantly embarrasses you about it; she tells you she had crushes on her girlfriends at your age too. It's the hormones, she teases. She says she misses being that close. She tells you to enjoy it.

Your mother doesn't know what she's talking about. How could anything she ever had be like what you have with Britt? You think about it as you brush lemon juice into her hair as she lays back, supine and content as a cat, on a towel in the grass.

It's late in the summer before you start talking about high school. You're both nervous—you can see it in each other—but neither of you will admit it. You paint each other's nails and talk about boys from your old school.

I bet high school boys will be a lot hotter, you say. It's late at night and you're both lying tummy down on your bed, flipping through a Cosmo you slipped into your beach bag in the magazine aisle when you went grocery shopping with your mom.

Yeah, I guess, says Brittany. I still can't think about kissing a boy, though. What if he was like Brandon or Matt? They smell like sweat and stink breath all the time. And they're so short.

High school guys aren't munchkins like middle school guys. You flip through the magazine until you find a glossy ad of a guy with tousled hair and gleaming, oiled skin. They're more like this. They'll be taller than you.

What do you think it's like to kiss someone?

I dunno. You swallow. You have an idea, watching her bite her lip and stare at the magazine. And all of a sudden, for no reason, your heart starts pounding. But you say it anyway. Wanna try it now?

Britt looks at you as she considers it. Okay, she says. Then you lean into each other and, hesitantly, touch your lips together. A light current shoots from your mouth to the place between your legs.

Ooh, she says, pressing her forehead to yours before pulling back. I just got kind of a shiver. Did you feel something?


So you do it again a few times, just little feathery kisses, before you both start giggling and go back to talking about everything and nothing.

Sometimes after that, in the middle of the night, when you hold Britt to keep her warm, she turns her body toward you in your arms and kisses you again. Her mouth is slightly sour from sleep, but you don't mind. You kiss slower, drowsy and half in dream. Sometimes your hands wander over each other's hair and necks and waists. You try pressing your hips against her thigh once and it feels too strong; you get scared and pull back. You hope boys' kisses will feel as good as Britt's dream-kisses.