Chapter 10: Je T'aime

AN: AND NOW, the moment you (and I!) have been waiting so patiently for: the final chapter... tears :'c but no worries! I may be back, if you want me to include a CBPP part. I've had a few ideas swimming around in my head, and I'm open to any and all suggestions, although I guarantee nothing.

If you guys want, I invite you to follow me on my new twitter page designed specifically for you guys: mmmarisalee ! Also feel free to follow my personal account: mcampitelle , if ya want. ._.

Twitter is good.

ANYWAYS! Here we are, the final chapter, the home stretch. I apologize from the bottom of my heart if it seems a bit ooc ; I tried my best. It's gonna get VERY intense. So I hope you came prepared. I really would have loved to add more CBPP, but I sort of felt as if it had gone on long enough. Maybe I shall add some in there, if you ask me very, very nicely. It certainly took long enough, but it's finally here. I sure couldn't have done it without all of you lovely readers! Without you I would be nothing! All the reviews I've received, everything! Thank you so much fanficcers! :) And now, without further ado, I present to you the last chapter of the single greatest fanfic I've ever written in my young life, Je T'aime. Please enjoy. It was a fun ride.

I love you all,

xoxoxox ~ml

Lucy

The cloudy night sky was dark and menacing above Lucy's head as she continued down the street. She shook out her hair, ripping out the pins that held each curl in place. The curls had flattened now, looking sad and tired after the night's events. Her makeup had started running down her face, mingling with her salty tears sliding down her bright pink cheeks in contrasting black streaks, dripping off her chin forming dark splotches on her dress. She carelessly swiped at her face with the back of her hand. Violet's house loomed in the distance behind her, still visible with its flashing lights and blasting music still within earshot.

She tried her best not to turn around and run back there, to apologize to everyone and forgive the pianist for his slip-up, but her feet moved ever intently forward no matter what. She wandered barefoot down the sidewalk, not entirely sure exactly where she was headed. All she knew was her ferocity with Schroeder. He had promised not to tell a soul about what he'd seen, and yet he'd blurted it out in front of every one of Lucy's closest friends, and her enemies to boot. They knew her weakness, and they'd taken it in the exact way she'd always known they would. They were a bit shocked, yet not entirely surprised. Lucy had always been the most likely to get involved with those sorts of things. However, it wasn't like she'd made a habit out of it. She'd smoked two cigarettes and afterwards she'd sworn to herself that she'd never do it again. Yet Schroeder had made it seem like she had an addiction.

She was angry, of course, and why shouldn't she be? But she couldn't stay angry at Schroeder. He had admitted something she'd been waiting for so many years to hear. He'd finally said it. He'd finally said it, and she had told him she hated him. But she didn't really. She loved him and she loved him just the same as before.

However much his little confession had certainly hurt her, even now, continuing down that lonely, dark sidewalk late at night, she regretted it. She shouldn't have acted so rashly. She should have just accepted it; should have let it go. The gang was bound to find out about her little mishap regardless of Schroeder's confession to them. She could try to blame it on her anger with Violet, that it had gotten her all riled up, or her exhaustion, or anything at all. But the truth was, she was still angry with Schroeder for God knows what. It always seemed like she was angry with him. He was never innocent to Lucy.

Lucy kicked a stone lying on the sidewalk with her bare toe. It ricocheted off of a parked car tire nearby and clattered into the silent street. It was then that she heard it. The mumbled shuffles of company.

She wasn't alone on the street that night. She looked around nervously, clenching her fists instinctively. The shuffling continued and a few muffled voices reached her ears from around a corner. The voices were coming from a small, run-down house on the street corner. Lucy stopped in her tracks and froze.

Rounding the corner out from behind the house, three large men who looked about middle aged, staggered towards her. They were obviously drunk, and they each wore ragged old t-shirts and jeans. One of the men had a long, scruffy black beard on his chin. The second man peered through dark threatening glasses to reveal a pair of evil looking black eyes. The third looked to be the youngest, even possibly in his late twenties, with a full head of red hair and a face full of tan freckles. All three of them staggered towards Lucy, absorbing the sight of her standing in the dark street in her homecoming dress with eager, perverted eyes. The bearded one let out a low, growled chuckle.

Lucy simply couldn't move. She was rooted to the spot in fear and anger.

"Well fellas," the bearded one said menacingly, "would'ja lookit what we got 'ere."

Lucy crossed her arms. The men inched closer and she backed up.

"Yer a shy one, erm?" the bespectacled man muttered, laughing along with his friend. He was close enough to touch her. Lucy knew she should run; should get away from them. But she was still frozen to the spot. Maybe if she just let her guard down for a little while, she could show Schroeder and the rest of the gang that she was as serious as she was. "S' a pretty dress ye've got on," the man continued. He reached out and ruffled her skirt. Lucy winced.

"Where's yer lil' boyfriend, cutie?" the bearded man asked, joining his friend in ruffling her dress. Lucy, at least, had enough sense to smack their hands away.

"I haven't got one, what do you think!" she snapped, continuing to swat at their hands as they tried to touch her again.

The men raised their eyebrows. "Yer a feisty one, sweetheart," the bearded one scoffed. "You wanna play rough? We can play rough, can't we fellas?" the other men nodded and closed in on her. Lucy let out a whimper and caught her last look at the starry night sky before the men obscured her vision and made it impossible for her to breath.

Schroeder

A high pitched scream pierced the night and broke the tense atmosphere of the group. We had been quietly, awkwardly talking to each other about what had just happened. Charlie Brown had been attempting to comfort his girlfriend, while the other boys such as Pigpen and Roy were just staring at me. I had to admit, it was starting to get a little weird. Linus had been trying to convince me to chase after Lucy, to follow her into the night, but I couldn't do that. I figured I'd done enough damage; I couldn't hurt her any more than I already had.

But the blood-curling screech broke all communications between us. Charlie Brown even stopped talking to Peppermint Patty and looked around. His eyes locked with mine and I saw him hiccup. I couldn't wait; couldn't pause; couldn't blink. All I knew was that scream. Then again, who doesn't know that scream? The rest of the gang knew it, too. But I was the one who finally moved a muscle. I darted towards the gate where Lucy had left the yard only a few moments ago. Throwing open the gate, I sprinted through it and down into the street. I didn't know which way she had gone. The screaming had stopped, but I prayed that Lucy had enough sense to keep working her lungs. She did. The scream began again, this time rather muffled and in short bits, like Morse code. I glanced over my shoulder and spotted Linus on my tail, followed by Pigpen. I didn't have time to stop and think why he was following us; I just had to make up my mind and turn left, darting down the street towards the screams.

The three of us reached the end of the block, panting and whipping our heads every which way, trying to decide which direction the screams were coming from. This task was becoming increasingly difficult as we drew closer to Lucy's screams, for the sound seemed to engulf us all, surrounding us and trapping us inside of itself. After a brief moment of confusion, I pointed to the left.

"This way!" I slurred quickly, barely giving anyone time to look where I was pointing before heading off into that direction. The others luckily caught on quickly and rushed after me, high on my heels, panting and sweating behind me. The most ironically funny part of all of this, I must admit now that I reflect on it, is imagining people's reactions as we darted down the streets at midnight, chasing after the screams in nothing but our formal attire. We must have looked pretty silly to the common passerby. But I wasn't particularly worried about that at the time.

"Lucy!" I heard Linus screech. My gaze darted behind me and I saw Linus stop dead in his tracks. One by one, Pigpen and I followed his lead. He was staring at a red pickup truck, parked on the curb in the street. Although the rest of us had been running in the street, looking every which way for the girl, we had failed to look very closely. The screams had become muffled and faint because there she was, sitting inside that red pickup truck, banging on the windows for help. Three men stood around the truck, each smoking a cigarette and looking positively wasted. They grinned eagerly at us as we approached.

"I knew 'er little boyfriend would be showin' up sooner or later," one of the men said, flicking his cigarette butt in our direction. The blunt missed Pigpen by an inch, nearly scorching him by the dirt cloud that surrounded him. The other two men sniggered. Lucy proceeded to holler even louder than ever, now that she saw the three of us.

"Must be this one, he looks pretty confident," said the second man, jabbing his thumb in my direction. I straightened my shoulders.

"Let her go," I growled at the men, standing as tall as I could and trying to look fierce. I suppose my tone wasn't quite convincing enough, for the men sniggered again and Pigpen hiccupped.

"Why don't you just try and make us, squirt?" The first man threatened, taking charge in front of his buddies. The second man now flicked his own cigarette towards us, and it landed at the ground near my feet. The glistening embers on the end of the stick glowed brightly for a moment before fading to black ash. I stepped on it, nearly feeling the heat beneath my shoes. The third man, mute thus far, followed in his colleagues' actions and attempted to flick his cigarette, however it flew in an off direction and landed in the grass nowhere near us. Linus ignored him, running up to the truck and trying to force open the door. No such luck—it was locked. Nevertheless, he yanked frantically on the door, with Lucy on the inside, attempting to find a lock button. The men just laughed. By the sound of their laughter, I don't think there actually was a lock button on the inside.

I was furious. Just the sight of Lucy in that car, and Linus nearly in tears trying to open the door, and Pigpen's hiccups echoing in my ears, mixing with the sound of Lucy's screams and the men's laughter made me see red. I didn't know what to do. These men were at least three times my size. I glanced around. We were standing in front of a normal brick house, assumedly belonging to the men, or one of them, the windows black and forbidding. All of the surrounding houses were identically dark, taunting the three of us, teasing us and daring us to make a move. On the front lawn of a house next door I spotted a black mound of something. It was misshapen and lopsided. It looked like it was a pile of something ...wood ...or metal planks, possibly. The neighbors must have been doing some construction. Nobody moved, save for Linus, still frantically trying to unlock the car. My eyes darted to my left, trying to lock my gaze with Pigpen's. He didn't look at me. His eyes were locked on the men, looking absolutely disgusted with them—a real accomplishment for him. Pigpen never thought anything was disgusting. I wasn't going to turn around and face him completely; I didn't trust my back against these guys. I figured I had one chance at this.

I locked eyes with the first guy again. He stood there grinning at me. The other two guys had their eyes on Linus, taking minute, inching steps towards him with their fists clenched. This had all happened in a matter of seconds. With one last prayerful glance at Linus, I made my move.

I darted towards the pile of wood—I could see that it was wood now—and grasped one of the planks. I didn't look to see everyone's reactions behind me, but I heard not a sound. It was then that I realized my arms were built for piano playing, not heavy lifting. I barely dragged the plank off the top of the pile. I stole a glance at the men back by the truck, who watched me with sort of amused, quizzical looks. I paid them no mind, and began to wonder if I was ever going to be able to lift this thing. All of a sudden, Lucy let out another one of her famous fussbudget screams. I don't quite understand why, but right then I was reminded of something that had happened two summers ago. Lucy had been over my house, listening to me play Beethoven as usual. I had been very amused with playing this game with her, reeling her in and then granting her slack. She became very annoyed, more annoyed than I had ever seen her, and she screamed something in my face that still haunts my dreams to this day. She had looked me dead in the eye and hollered, "Schroeder, if you love me, then why don't you act like it?" and she'd stormed out on me right then and there.

That moment, standing there trying to lift up that wood plank with Lucy's screams causing my eardrums to throb, I was reminded of her accusation from so long ago, and I was filled with the strength of fifty men. I was determined to prove it to her now, to make up for all the times I could have but didn't. I lifted the wood plank with ease, swinging it over my head and charging at the men. I wasn't quite sure what it was I planned to do with the plank, but I was sure something would happen. I shouted out a battle cry, startling the men, who backed up and exchanged a confused look. I heard sirens in the distance. Thank god. Pigpen's hiccups grew louder and louder, almost as loud as Lucy's screams.

"Linus, move!" I belted, heading towards the truck. Linus started and hopped back just in time for me to bring down the plank on the windshield.

By some stroke of miraculous luck, the windshield shattered under the impact. I hoped with all my living being that I didn't hit Lucy. At that moment, many things happened at once. It all seemed to go by in slow motion, as if somebody had tapped a button on some ominous remote above us, determined to watch the whole scene as it played out.

"My truck!" the first man bellowed, his hands flying to his head, his mouth held open in a great big O. Glass shattered everywhere.

"Dude, it's the cops!" the second man worried, slapping the third on the shoulder. He had been right. A blue-and-white police car pulled up to the scene, siren blaring above any other sound. The red-and-blue lights reflected off of the shattered glass like a laser light show, cutting through the pitch black night like a red-and-blue fish through black water. The two men glanced back at the first man, and then booked it towards the house, tripping over their own heels as they ran. I saw the arms of the policemen suddenly wrap around those of the first man, holding him tight, however he did not fight back. He was still concerned about his precious truck, almost afraid to approach it, as if he was caught in the middle of a bad dream.

As the glass and dust cloud cleared, I closed my eyes and prayed, reaching my arm through the windshield of the truck, hoping Lucy was still able to receive the gesture and allow me to help her out of the wreckage.

Lucy

It was like an explosion. One second, she was pounding on the window, screaming bloody murder, and the next thing she knew, she was throwing herself down onto the floor of the truck, trying to get out of the way as the glass shattered all around her, the sound echoing in her ears. It was just exactly like an explosion. It felt as if each and every tiny shard of glass had pierced her skin somewhere. She felt the tiny sparks all over her body as if someone had suddenly set her on fire.

She lifted her arm in front of her eyes, attempting to shield herself from the impact, yet only scratching herself in the process. She could barely feel it now, with varying levels of pain spreading throughout every inch of her body. She quickly became numb and pushed the pain to the back of her mind. When the shattering had stopped, and all of the glass lay still and she could hear the sound of sirens and footsteps and shouts of confusion, she opened her eyes. The first thing she saw was a hand. It was his hand, and she recognized it right away. Only this time, instead of being smooth and gentle whilst composing Beethoven on the black-and-white keys, they were rough and calloused and reaching for her through the wreckage like a light in the darkness.

Lucy removed her arm from over her face and grasped his wrist tightly. The action stung, but she barely felt it. With a firm yank, Schroeder pulled her up through the windshield and out of the demolished truck. She locked eyes with him and he grimaced. She didn't know what it was that had made him do that after seeing her, but it was quite likely she didn't want to. She could plainly see that her once-perfect blue dress had been torn to shreds by the glass and the violent men. She felt disgusting—sticky and hot and gross. She could tell she was bleeding somewhere, but she didn't even want to know where.

She stepped over the dashboard of the truck onto the hood. He took hold of her waist and carefully lifted her down from the truck, setting her back on the ground below.

Their eyes were still locked; Lucy's arms wrapped tight around Schroeder's. He still held her firmly by the waist, and neither one had any intention of letting go.

"Lucy, I'm so, so sorr—" but he didn't have time to get the words out. Before he could finish his sentence, her lips were on his, taking him by surprise. Time stood still for that moment, the moment their lips were together and their arms wrapped tightly around one another. The kiss sent shivers down Lucy's spine, dulling her pain completely and soothing her. Schroeder, though met with her lips by surprise, quickly caught up with her and returned the kiss in full valor, nearly eleven years' worth of feelings come gushing out of him in one gesture.

When at last they pulled apart, the world began to turn again, however in slow motion it may have been. They stared at each other for another minute, Schroeder in complete shock and Lucy with a wide grin on her scratched up face.

Then she fainted into his arms. The excitement must have been too much for her—that was crazy, since this was Lucy. However upon further observation, she did have pretty deep cuts all over her arms and legs that were causing her to lose a lot of blood. So she passed out—and Schroeder had been right there to catch her this time.

Linus

*The next day*

They let Lucy go home after asking us about a million questions and patching up her scratches. There were a few tears of the skin here and there, and her dress was no more, but she was alive and well and that's all anyone, especially Schroeder, could have hoped for.

Still, I don't think I've ever been more scared of anything in my whole life.

When I heard my sister's screams and saw her locked in that truck like that, something snapped inside of me and I don't know what. I just knew I had to get her out of there, no matter what. I've never been more frightened—right after she'd attempted giving me relationship advice, too! I never saw her look so small and weak. I had always seen my big sister as the strong one, the independent one. But I was wrong. On the outside, sure, she's strong and tough and mean, but on the inside she's soft, delicate, and breakable. I knew she had been smoking. I didn't ask her about it, I just was there to hold her hair while she hacked into the toilet after doing it. I couldn't understand why she would want to destroy herself like that, but I wasn't going to ask. I didn't want to be slugged. I saw that soft underside of Lucy when Schroeder had come into the backyard that night. I saw the mixed feelings of longing and pain in her eyes, and I felt for her, I really did. Because I knew—sort of—how it felt.

Through all the excitement, I had completely forgotten about Sally. The kids back at the party for sure knew of the goings-on with Lucy before it had even happened. But I figured Sally was too preoccupied with, uh, other things to really care about my sister. Still, she did visit the next evening, sporting tight black leggings and a striped grey and off-white turtle neck (due to the innumerable hickeys on her neck, or simply because of the weather I did not know). From the cream-colored hat on her head to the fluffy white boots on her feet, she looked stunning. But I couldn't let her know I thought so. I was still furious about the night before. So when Sally Brown knocked on our front door with a little package in her hands and adorable pink flush in her cheeks because of the cold, I winced internally and scowled at her.

"Lucy's in her room," I muttered, without even sparing more than a glance her way. Unluckily for me, that tiny glance happened to be directly into those piercing blue eyes, and I shivered visibly.

Sally shook off her boots and stepped inside, those wide blue eyes conveying the front room as if it were her first time being there. I rolled my eyes when she had her back turned, but somehow I felt she could still sense it.

She removed her little boots and set them on the mat by the door, whispering, "I'll only be a minute," to me and shuffling down the hall with her little package. I kept my eyes on her boots, sitting there by the door, innocent and cute as a button. I felt like I couldn't look away from them without bursting into tears. It was strange.

After about a few moments or so, I could hear Sally's soft padded footsteps down the hall, followed by smaller, quicker ones. I couldn't look, but I knew they were there; Sally stood before me with my little brother, Rerun, both watching me stare at the boots. Sally's small talk was enough to make me rip off my own ears.

"You like those boots?" she asked devilishly. I flicked my eyes to her and stared at her menacingly. "I got them as an early Christmas present from my Aunt Griselda. You know, she..." but once she saw the look on my face, she knew it would be a poor choice to continue. Rerun stood there with his arms crossed over his chest.

"You didn't tell me Schroeder was here, Linus," he said to me. "His car's in the driveway!"

I nodded, not taking my eyes off of Sally. "Yeah, he's been here a while now. He's in Lucy's room."

Sally's face brightened. "Oh, Rerun, why don't you go say hi?" but he didn't need to be told twice. He was already halfway down the hallway before she'd finished her sentence.

She straightened her back and faced me. "Do you want to take a walk with me, Linus?" she asked quietly. Her eyes shifted to the floor, but I could still see the look in her bright eyes. All I could do was nod. It felt like the homecoming dance all over again, only this time, she wasn't leading me to heaven, she was leading me straight to hell. I threw on my coat as she stuck her feet into her boots and we both headed outside into the cold.

It had snowed overnight and there was a fresh thin layer of the fluffy white stuff sugaring the ground. I shoved my hands into my pockets. In the left one, my blanket felt warm and comforting, assuring me that I could do this. We trekked wordlessly through the light snow down the front porch and out onto the sidewalk. For a few moments, neither of us said anything, the only sound between us the crunch of snow beneath our feet. Our footsteps left a haunting trail of memories behind us. I was reminded of the night before, and I winced.

"What is it?" she asked dumbly. She had been watching me. What a silly question.

"What is it?" I repeated with a scowl, "I'm pretty sure you know very well what 'it' is."

She shook her head quickly as if shaking out a memory. "I know, Linus, I know what's bothering you. But you can't sulk about the fact that I kissed someone who wasn't you. Just because we were dates at the dance doesn't mean you own me."

I stopped walking, my jaw hanging unattractively down by my neck, and she turned around to face me. The icy look in her eyes pierced right through to my soul. "Yes, Sally, I'm upset that you did that. I thought...I really thought we had something."

Sally looked away from me, watching her feet. "So did I," she mumbled, "until you left me alone on the dance floor."

That stung. It really did. I lifted one of my hands to cover my reddening face and the other tightened around the blanket in my pocket. I grimaced and stared at the ground, not able to meet her eyes. "Sally, I'm so sorry about that. I just... I got nervous, and I didn't know what to do—"

"So you ran away from me? This whole time here I was, thinking I did something wrong, after all the effort I put in to make you happy, and you left me there." she paused. I still couldn't look at her, but I could tell she was looking at me. She sighed. "I thought I was about to get my first kiss, Linus. I was excited, because I wanted my first kiss...and I wanted it to be with you."

I winced again. Every word she said was like another stab straight in the heart.

"If you wanted it to be me so badly, then why did you just give it away to that Stephen kid?" I asked her honestly.

"Because I was mad, okay? I never wanted it to be him, but I told myself I'd get my first kiss last night, even if it wasn't yours."

Just the mere thought of Sally Brown having her first kiss with someone as shallow as Stephen make my heart ache. The memory of the two of them on Violet's couch made me want to hurl.

"Besides," she continued, brushing a strand of hair away from her face, "he's a nice guy. He's sweet, sensitive, and he knew just what to say." she shrugged, as if that was the most logical explanation. To me, it wasn't. I scoffed.

"Well if you love him so much, why didn't you force him to go to homecoming with you and not me?"

She seemed infuriated by that question, and her eyebrows scrunched together angrily. "You know perfectly well that I don't love him!" she shouted at me, for now the both of us had raised our voices. "You know that the only one I've had my heart set on for ages is you and you alone." tears began to make her eyes glisten and she sniffled. It somehow felt good, having her yell at me. I felt like I deserved it. "And for a moment there on the dance floor last night, I thought you might possibly felt the same way. Well, I guess not." Two glistening tears slid down her pink cheeks, and she stuck her tongue out to lick them off her lips. I know it sure wasn't the time or place, but I sure thought that there was nothing in the whole world that was more innocent than that little movement. I wanted to comfort her somehow; I wanted to say the right thing. But at that moment, I felt exactly like Charlie Brown. Lost and hopeless and lonely. And I was angry. If she thought we had so much, then why did she just give up? Why didn't she chase after me, call me back?

I asked her. Why didn't you chase me? After a long pause, I decided that she just wasn't going to answer that question. She just shook her head without a word. The tears were streaming down her face and she didn't look at me. She turned to the side and wiped at them frantically with the back of her hand, as if she could hide them from me somehow.

Finally, she spoke. "I've been chasing after you for my whole life, Linus. I've done my time chasing you, and just look where that got me. Maybe it was your turn to chase me."

Then she whirled around. Her voice cracked and the tears continued to swell in her eyes. Then she did something that absolutely killed me inside. She started to walk away. The sky had begun to dim, the short wintry day wasting away into nothing. The low sunlight sparkled off of the blankets of snow, sending bright rainbows of color across the crystal ground. I looked up to the sky. There were clouds overhead, not dark ones, not ominous ones, but big, billowy, snow clouds. It was going to snow.

Sally was walking away, and she was walking away fast. I wanted to say something, to call after her. But I couldn't. My voice was caught in my throat and I couldn't think what to say. Sally walked back towards my house, slowing her pace just a little once she reached the corner of the block. I could tell she wanted me to follow her; to chase after her and beg for her to stay. But I didn't. I couldn't. I watched her get smaller and smaller in the distance. My heart was torn. I was going to just let her go, then? Was that it? Just let the only girl who'd ever loved me disappear into the distance as I looked on? I was going to let her slip away from me? When I was so close—so close, man!

No, of course not. I had let her get away once already, and that had been my fault. That should have been me, giving Sally her first kiss. That was my kiss. For her. What would have happened if I would have kissed her on the dance floor, instead of running away? I pictured the image for the millionth time since the night before. I could almost see those tender blue eyes; could almost feel the softness of her strawberry blonde hair...

I was holding my blanket in my arms. I didn't know how long I'd been standing there, watching Sally go until she'd gone. I knew only two things. First of all, I was never going to give Sally her kiss unless I made a move and went after her. Secondly, my blanket had nothing on that luscious hair.

In one quick movement, I jumped up (I had fallen to the ground in my little fantasy) and began to sprint off towards my house. The sound of my feet crunching the snow beneath them pounded in my ears. I ran until I couldn't feel my lungs anymore and I could taste the snow on the air. Finally I approached my house. I prayed that Sally hadn't gotten picked up yet and she was waiting for me back inside the house. I burst through the door, startling Rerun, who happened to be standing in the living room with a plate of cookies and a glass of milk. He jumped three feet in the air and there was suddenly a 100 percent chance of milk showers and chocolate chips.

"Linus!" he cried, kneeling over to pick up the accident.

"Where's Sally?" I panted. He just shook his head. I scrunched my eyebrows worriedly. "What? Where is she?"

"Not here, obviously. She probably hates you now."

"What?" I cried disbelievingly. It couldn't be. "She does? Did she tell you that? Was she in here? What did she say to you?"

"Why?" he teased, fetching a dish rag from the counter on the kitchen island to clean the milk. "What do you have to say to her?"

I blinked. I didn't have time to be interrogated by my little brother. "Is she here, or not?"

"That depends on what you have to say."

I almost ripped my hair out, I was so furious. I grabbed Rerun by the scrawny, bony shoulders and gave him a good shake. "I need to tell her I love her, that I'm sorry for everything! That I should have kissed her at the dance and I never should have let that bastard Stephen lay a hand on my girl!" I choked out in one breath. "Now, can you tell me where she went, please?"

Rerun chuckled slyly. "Sure, you blockhead." I could have slugged him. "She's still here. Try Lucy's room."

Before he had even finished his sentence, I had darted through the hallway and barged through the door of Lucy's room.

Baaaaad idea. Lucy sat up on her bed with Schroeder stretched out beside her, their faces permanently sewn together, their arms do intertwined I couldn't tell whose were whose. I grinned sheepishly as they didn't even pull apart, backed out of the room, and closed the door behind me.

I was about to run and kill my kid brother for lying twice, when I heard something from behind the door to my room across the hall. I didn't remember shutting the door, but it was closed. For some reason, I was afraid to go in. But that seemed silly. It was my room. If Sally were in there, she'd look like the foolish one. So I straightened my shoulders, have a curt nod, grasped the handle of my bedroom door and pushed it open.

The room was dark save for the thin sliver of light by the door that I'd slid through. I reached for the light switch, but something—someone—caught my arm. She took my hand and held it in hers, inching ever so close to me. In a split second she was right up next to me, her arms wrapped around my shoulders, shutting the door behind me. The room was now so dark; I could not see a thing. I could, however, feel Sally's arms around my neck.

"Linus," I felt her whisper in my ear. I couldn't respond. My voice was caught in my throat. "Did you mean it, what you said?" What I said? What did I say? I couldn't think straight. My left hand flew to my pocket, wrapping my fingers around the blanket.

"Did you mean what you said to Rerun just now?" she repeated. I stopped. Did she hear what I'd said?

I nodded. "Y-yes," I stuttered. I shut my eyes tightly and started rubbing the blanket again.

Before I knew what was happening, her soft lips were on mine, and she was kissing me. And the funny thing was, I was kissing her back. I let go of my blanket.

After about a million years, she pulled apart from me. Even in the pitch blackness, I could see her bright white smile shining a million watts at me. It was enough to light up the entire room. I reached up and allowed my hands to get lost in her soft, silky blonde hair.

"I'm so sorry, Sally," I whispered. But she just shook her head, that smile still stuck on her face. "Really, I am," I assured her. She kept smiling.

"Now that was a real first kiss," she said. "No matter what anybody says."

I blushed intensely and she giggled.

I flipped on the light switch. After blinking a few times to get used to the light, I looked at her. I mean I really looked at her. She was more beautiful than ever, with that true smile on her fair face. She blushed a little when she noticed me looking at her, and she was ten times more beautiful. Just then, looking into her eyes, her kiss still making my head spin, I did something without thinking.

In one swift movement, I had my blanket out of my pocket and into the trash can beside my desk. I didn't even look twice as I turned back to Sally, pulling her arms around me again.

"But Linus," she protested with a little gasp. Even her intake of air was enough to drive me crazy. She pulled away from me and her eyes darted to the trash can. "That's your blanket... your blanket. Don't you ...need that?"

I just shook my head, pulling her closer to me again. "Not anymore," I told her. I wasn't lying. "I've got something much better. So much better."

Without another word, I closed whatever distance there was between us and tangled my fingers in her soft hair again. Her bright blue eyes twinkled at me and that perfect smile grew back onto her tempting mouth. I didn't say a single word. She reached over my shoulder and flipped the light switch back off, meeting her lips with mine once more.