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The air was brisk as the snow fell, delicately adding to the white blanket covering the earth, turning to ice. I could see my warm breath as I breathed hesitantly in one spot my boots were frozen to the ice or at least that’s how I felt. Petrified, I focused my eyes directly towards the playground. The same playground where I first met Jessie, and the same playground where I lost her. I had only known Jessie for two hours of my life, but it had only taken those two hours for the two of us to become best friends.
“Alex, wait for me!” my baby sister, Kate, wined, moving her small chubby legs at a slow pace as she tried her best to catch up with me. However, I knew that I was way faster than Kate, running twenty five miles per hour on a high quality playground. I dashed up the slide, and made a break for it through the yellow tunnel. Breathing heavily, a satisfied grin made way across my face.
“Hi,” a voice suddenly squealed in high volume. Startled by my sudden neighbor, I almost jumped out of my skins. I turned my head to find a deviled little girl, with wavy brown hair and effulgence green eyes, giggling at my fright. “My name is Jessie, I’m ten,” she exclaimed. “Who are you?”
I stared down at my sweaty hands, fumbling together in my lap. Swallowing my nervous fears, I answered, “Alex, and I’m nine.”
“Ha, I’m older than you!” Jessie shouted, sticking her slimy pink tongue in my face.
“So,” I sneered, but at the same time began to smile.
“Do you want to play with me?” I watched Jessie’s eyebrows raise as her face lightened. I stared back down at my hands in my lap, feeling the chills slide up my arms, beneath my skin, and my armpits working up a sweat. Losing my words and all ability to speak, I simply nodded my head in reply. “Ok then, we’re going to play tag. Tag! You’re it!” Jessie gave me a harsh shove to one side and dashed off. Taking not even a second of time to loose, I scrambled after Jessie. Jessie laughed like crazy when I came close to tagging her, and when I was only inches away from her, I took my chance to grab a hold of her from behind. Jessie screamed as we fell into the mulch, laughing our heads off. I then retrieved to my feet and bolted away from her before she had the chance to tag me.
When we were both out of breath, we sat underneath the playground, hiding from the sun as it began to bleach our skins. I shifted myself closer to Jessie. I now felt more comfortable around the girl and became antsy to be near her. “Jessie,” I asked, “will you be my best friend?”
Jessie’s face glowed just like the sun. “I never had a real friend before.”
“Why not?” I asked her.
“Well my mom and dad are always busy with their work and don’t have much time to play with me.”
“Don’t you make friends at school?”
“I don’t go to school; my mom and dad can’t afford it.” This surprised me; I never really met anyone who was poor. How could somebody just not go to school? It was like in the rule book. Not coming up with anything to say me and Jessie sat together under the shady playground without saying a single word until she finally piped up again. “Alex, will you kiss me?”
“Kiss you?” This startled me even more. Why did she want me to kiss her?
“Well I’m a girl aren’t I?”
This was defiantly true, but in all my nine years, I had never kissed a girl before. “I don’t know how,” I protested. Jessie stared at me confounded, the small freckles on her face lining up together, but before she could answer me, my mother called for me to go home. “Just a minute, mom!” I shouted back. “Can I walk home?”
“Yes, but if you’re not back in five minutes I’m coming to get you.”
We waited until we heard my mother drive home in her car. We only lived down the street, but for some reason it seemed liked forever before she was gone. When I couldn’t hear her car anymore, I grabbed Jessie by the hand and pulled out from beneath the playground. All around us the park was deserted as all the kids had left to go eat dinner. The sun was disappearing beneath the earth and darkness was slowly easing its way into our world. I felt my heart beating heavily as if it weighed a hundred tons as I was hesitating about kissing Jessie. Before I could make up my mind, there was a strong voice, from a stranger, coming up behind us. He towered over both of us put together and wore dark heavy clothes, his face hidden beneath the darkness. “Hey little girl, come here,” the man called at Jessie. It was that easy. Without a word said, Jessie waltzed away from me and towards the strange man. As soon as Jessie stood next to him, the stranger plunged a knife into her thigh.
Immediately blood began to soak up Jessie’s purple t-shirt. “Alex!” she screamed her face red and full of pain. “Help me, Alex!” The stranger picked Jessie up, still bleeding, and started walking away with her. Jessie kicked, screamed, bled, and cried like heck, but all I could do was stand there, watching her.
“Jessie!” I screamed so loud my throat bleed, but that was all I could do. I wanted to run; I wanted to punch that man in the face and rescue that little girl, but it was if someone had glued my feet to the ground. I literally could not move, my heart beating so hard I thought I was going to have a heart attack. The stranger shoved Jessie in his van and drove away with her, and that was it.
I watched,in enmity, as the cool snow covered the playground. Pulling my thick Wildcat jersey closer to my shoulders, I made way towards the playground, the thick layer of snow crunching beneath my feet. For seven years, I had done everything, in my power, to avoid this particular playground, but for some reason, today I had finally developed the courage. I grabbed onto the metal bars and easily pulled my heavily body onto its platform. Hearing a strident, sharp cough coming from the yellow tunnel, I wondered if there was some other lonely kid here. “Hello!” I hollered, keeping a close eye on the tunnel. I waited a minute, before she came out. What I saw caused my chest to jerk so hard, I was left shaking out of my mind. Crawling out of the tunnel was Jessie.
She didn’t look like the girl I once knew, however. Jessie’s purple t-shirt and short brown skirt was so torn there was hardly any clothing left. Her skin was so sallow that it almost seemed gray. My eyes directed towards Jessie’s wound, taking the color of fawn as pus seeped out its slim cracks. Her green eyes carried the darkness as black shadows surrounded them. Jessie’s brown hair was now torn and covered in mats. Knowing that she wasn’t really alive, I hesitated to go over towards her. “It’s ok,” Jessie exclaimed in a softer, whinier tone than I remembered. “Alex, I’m cold.” Jessie looked as if she were about to cry, turning my fears into sympathy. Taking one smooth step at a time, I waltzed over towards the small corps and draped my jersey over her frozen dark shoulders. “Alex,” Jessie began to ask, “will you kiss me?” I didn’t say anything, felling my hands beginning to sweat once again. I hadn’t forgotten the kiss I never gave her. The kiss she had never gotten to feel, to enjoy, or to remember. Jessie stood up as a little girl, but in a few flat seconds she was the age she should be by now; one year older than me.
Jessie’s long brown hair gracefully flew around her shoulders, her green eyes bringing the sun back. Her perplexed skin was clean, free of anything filthy and distasteful. Renowned blue jeans plastered her legs, my jersey wrapped around her naked chest. She was beautiful, and she could have been mine. Feeling the warmth already flowing through my system, I lolled into Jessie’s face, my lips soothingly connecting with hers. Jessie’s sidelong mouth pressed against mine, I moved my tongue up against hers, tasting her every breath as it was the sweetest thing I had ever tasted. It was warm, it was good, and it was real, but it wasn’t’ lasting.
One moment I was playing with Jessie’s mouthwatering tongue, the next, hundreds of small critters filled my mouth. They crawled up and around my cheeks, making their way down my throat. Chills swarming up my spine, I opened my mouth to gag them all out. I took a great deal of time as well as a great deal of effort to get every single insect out of me. When I could finally breathe clearly again, I saw that Jessie was gone and my jersey lay lonely on the playground. I picked it up and pulled it over my bare arms.
Starring back at the yellow tunnel, the same one where Jessie and I first met, I felt hot tears slide across my frozen iced cheeks. For seven years, I could never understand why that man had to interpose between Jessie’s and my friendship. Why he took Jessie instead of me. Why I had to be so scared that I couldn’t do anything about it until she was already gone. But after seven years, I was now beginning to understand that it was all just life. It was going to happen weather I liked it or not. However, Jessie had come back for one reason, and that one thing I will never forget: Jessie’s kiss.