17 FIRST KISSES is about a lot of things, and one of those things is the complicated friendship between Claire and her best friend, Megan. And then there's Luke - the boy who does the complicating. Here's the scene where Claire meets him for the first time:
All day at school I think about the pact I made with Megan. Right up until the last bell rings and it’s time to go to soccer scrimmage. I weave through packed halls, past Buck Bronson (Kiss #1), who is shoving some scrawny freshman boy into the girls' bathroom, and Steven Lippert (Kiss #7), who is picking his nose and wiping it on the bottom of his tuba case. He’s a complete tool, and I never would have let him kiss me anyway had I not been under extreme emotional duress at the time of said kiss.
I change clothes at warp speed because I like being first to the park and having extra warm up time. I've vowed to make this year different, to make my next kiss count. But seeing Steven and Buck just reinforces how desperate and impossible my situation is. I shake my head as I pass the entrance to Salt Lick Park, a Christmas tree farm on my right, acres and acres of unused fields on my left. I have no idea how I’m going to pull off my end of the pact.
And that's when I see him.
Bouncing a soccer ball from foot to foot and looking so perfectly gorgeous, I half expect to see a halo of light descending over midfield. What can I say? Nothing is hotter than a boy in soccer gear. I think it’s the shin guards that do it for me.
He’s wearing this black, vintage Felix the Cat tee, totally different from the redneck-prepster look most of the guys at school have. In fact, he doesn’t look like he’s from around here at all. I start to wonder if I’ve wished him into existence. Then I realize: A. I’ve stopped walking, and B. I’m staring (in what is probably a really dorky and obvious way), so I jog over and say hi.
The boy kicks his ball into the air and catches in with one arm. “I’m Luke, uh, Dawson.”
He smiles and holds out his hand. I try to ignore the giddy feeling I get when our palms touch.
“Are you here for the scrimmage?” I ask. Maybe he goes to school in the next town over.
“Nope, just messing around.” He shifts from foot to foot and flicks his strawberry blond hair out of his eyes. “Is there a game starting soon? Do I need to clear out?”
“No! I mean, it’s fine. It’s not an official game or anything. The high school girls’ and guys’ teams get together and play pick up games during the off-season so we don’t get rusty.”
“You mean Rutherford High School?”
“Uh-huh. There’s just the one.”
“Cool. I’m starting at Rutherford tomorrow.” He tosses the ball into the air and maneuvers under it so it bounces off his forehead.
“Yeah. Just transferred in from Miami,” he says, still heading the ball.
Score. A new student means he’s never dated, crushed on, or stalked my best friend. If you made a Venn diagram of all the hot guys at school and all the guys Megan has dated, you'd have about three guys left. And speaking of hot guy Venn diagrams, if you made one with all the hot guys at school and all the guys who are smart, there’d be, like, four guys who are in that middle overlapping section, two of which I already kissed in a debacle that earned me the Yoko Ono nickname.
“What year are you?” With my luck, he’ll be a really tall freshman.
“I’m a senior.”
“Me too. Wow, you had to switch schools in the middle of your senior year?”
He nods, and the ball bounces off his head at a funny angle. He starts passing it from hand to hand in circles around his waist, and I can’t help but smile at his inability to hold still.
“Yeah, it kind of sucks, but my dad’s in the military, so I’m used to making friends fast.” He shrugs. “At least I got to spend middle school in Germany.”
“You did? That’s awesome.”
I am genuinely impressed. Our eight stop light town is halfway between Atlanta and Alabama and all the way redneck. Most of the kids at school have all the culture and ambition of sea monkeys, so it’s nice to meet someone else who realizes there’s a whole world out there.
“So, do you think it’s cool if I stay for the scrimmage?”
“Definitely. It’s not for another 20 minutes, though. We could play one on one while we wait? First to five wins?” This guy may be cute, but the true test is how he performs in this soccer game.
He gives me a confident shrug and tosses me the ball. “Sure. Ladies first.”
I don’t like the way he’s standing there, all cocky and sure of himself, so I set the ball down and give it a few dainty taps. His stance relaxes, the way it would if you suddenly realized your opponent was five years old.
This is going to be too easy.
I cut to the left and before he has time to think “I just got beat by a girl,” I’m past him and I kick a straight shot to the back of the goal. Too. Easy. His eyebrows rise into his hairline. I know that look. It’s the face people make when they realize how good I am. I live for that look.
“Ohhh…” says Luke as I run to retrieve the ball. “I didn’t realize I was playing with a shark.”
I hand him the ball with a smirk. “Maybe.”
“It’s cool. I like a girl who can play.” He winks at me, and I’m momentarily startled by his eyes. They’re blue and dreamy and everything, but there’s something else, something shuttered, and that’s the part I find myself strangely drawn to. If my life were one of those paranormal romances, he would be the guy that turns out to be a were-manatee or whatever.
And because I’m so busy mooning over said manatee eyes, Luke gains the split second advantage he needs to get around me and score. Oh, it is on.
I have to earn my next point. With fakes and spin moves and every trick in my arsenal. Luke isn’t cutting me any slack, and I’m glad. I could never respect a guy who did. Plus, I kind of like the way he’s all up in my personal space. I finally pysch him out with a quick Cryuff turn, and my shot just makes it.
Then it’s Luke’s turn. He manages to maneuver around me, and not to be outdone, crosses one leg behind the other when he kicks the ball into the goal. It is a showy, showy move.
My mouth hangs open. “Seriously? Did you just Rabona me?”
He fixes me with a charming smile, dimples included. Whew. Any second now, his new guy glow will wear off, and I’ll realize he has poor dental hygiene and a hunchback, but I’m swooning over those dimples until then.
I fake glare at him. “You just wait.”
I drop the ball and take off, juking from left to right, wracking my brain for a move that will top his. Luke’s on me in a second, stealing the ball away. Crap. I should have been more worried about winning than getting fancy. Crap, crap, crap. I mark him with my hand against his shoulder, determined to steal the ball back. He makes a tiny mistake, and I lash out, kicking it away from him. He’ll be on me again, so I have to hurry. I turn, putting on a burst of speed, my arm flailing behind me…and I feel something crunch against my elbow.
I turn to see that the something was Luke’s nose. It’s bleeding. Like a faucet.
“Ohmygosh, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay,” he says with his hand cupped over his face.
I run over to my bag, scrambling for something, anything, to stop the bleeding.
A crumpled receipt, some gum wrappers, a couple movie tickets. Useless. My hand brushes against something in the side pocket, but I can’t use that. It would be mortifying. I give my bag a second sweep, hoping a Kleenex or something will magically appear, but there’s nothing. I know what I have to do.
I reach into the side pocket, cringing as I unwrap it.
Luke’s eyes bulge. “Is that what I think it is?”
“I don’t have anything else!”
And then I wrap one hand around the neck of the cutest boy I’ve ever met, and shove a tampon up his nose.
Day 11 of the 17 days until 17 FIRST KISSES countdown. Other posts here.