I woke the next morning almost an hour before I usually did. Part of that was because I wanted to have time to shower and finish up some homework that I hadn’t done the night before; the other part was that I couldn’t sleep with my cast. It was impossible to find a comfortable position that didn’t involve sleeping with my arm behind my back like I was being arrested. It was six in the morning – school didn’t start until eight forty five – and I was regretting getting out of my bed. It was one of those foam mattresses. So damn comfortable. “Jake?” Mom called from the stairs below me tiredly. “Jake, come down here for a sec.” I groaned, expecting the worst. Chances were she was going to make a scene about what had happened last night, and I really didn’t want that. I just wanted to forget about it, mostly because if I kept thinking about it I would’ve wanted to attack Zack again. “What’s up?” I asked, walking down the stairs without a shirt on. “Jacob Benson?” a deep male voice announced as I turned the corner into the living room. I wasn’t expecting it so I jumped a little, but I tried to sound calm and manly once I realized that it was a police officer that was asking my name. “Uh, yeah?” I replied cautiously. “My name is Officer Bauer. I’m here to take your statement on the events that occurred yesterday involving Amy Shepherd.” I gulped loudly. S***. “Are you going to arrest me?” I asked stupidly, my voice shaking. I sounded like a scared little twelve year old girl. He laughed quietly, making my muscles un-tense a little bit. “No, son. I’m just here to confirm that your statement matches Amy’s. Nothing to worry about.” “Oh,” I sighed. “What do I have to do?” “Just tell me what happened, in your own words. That’s all you need to do.” “Okay.” I took a breath. “It started when I walked into my English room.” As I told him the story of everything that’d happened, I couldn’t help but feel judged. He was staring at me intently, committing everything I said to memory. Occasionally he’d write something down in his notebook, which made me even more self conscious. “And then we got the hospital and found out she had broken ribs and a bruised liver,” I finished dumbly. The entire time I was talking my heart raced. Even though Officer Bauer had said I wasn’t going to be arrested, I still had this overly paranoid feeling that he was going to go back on his word and end up handcuffing me right there on the spot. “That matches identically to what Amy said,” he explained, smiling a little. “That’s all I need to know.” “Wait,” I began when he stood up to leave. “What’s going to happen to Zack?” “He’ll most likely be charged with assault,” he answered. “There will be a trial you’ll need to speak at.” I nodded my head, a silent way of thanking him. I suppose it looked like I was thanking him for listening to my side of the story, but in reality it was me thanking him for not locking me up or beating me with his battering stick I knew cops loved to use. Mom stood up with him, and after he was gone, she ran up to me and hugged me. “Helping Amy was a brave thing to do, Jake,” she said into my shoulder. I was a good six inches taller than her. “I’m very proud of you.” I squeezed her back but eventually found myself releasing her. “I have to finish getting ready, Mom,” I whispered into her hair. “Alright. I love you, sweetheart.” “I love you, too,” I mumbled, letting her go. I climbed the stairs two at a time and immediately turned on the shower. It was freezing when I jumped in, but I needed something to clear my head from all of the overwhelming details surrounding it. Overwhelming detail number one: Zack was, most likely, going to end up in Juvie or jail, depending on if he was eighteen or not. That meant we’d just lost our best running back and one of my best friends. Overwhelming detail number two: I didn’t care. I was being honest. I didn’t care that Zack was going to rot in some form of prison, because he’d hurt Amy. If I could’ve done it all over again, I still would’ve hit him the way I did. Probably even harder. Because something inside me forced myself to realize the final, most important detail of my life. Overwhelming detail number three: Amy Shepherd wasn’t the psychopathic b***h I’d thought she was. She was… I don’t know what she was. Something strangely – and confusingly – amazing. After I showered, I put gel in my hair for the first time in a year. I twisted my brown hair in my hands, giving it that just-out-of-bed look. I had to admit, it looked sexy. I wonder if Amy will like it. I stared at myself in the mirror, my eyes widening in shock. Had I really just wondered if Amy Shepherd would like my hair? Was I really thinking about that? I took in a mystified breath and kept looking at myself. I was shirtless, tan, and relatively buff if I may so myself, but that wasn’t what had caught my eye. There was a huge, brown bruise all the way across my stomach and chest where Zach had kicked me. You know what freaked me out the most, though? I didn’t care. I would’ve taken a hundred of those bruises if it meant keeping Amy safe. And that thought terrified me. My original plan was to pick up Amy at her house and take her to school because I knew she couldn’t drive herself. It was going to be me making up for all of the things I never did. But when I found myself wishing she would kiss me on the cheek again, I forced my foot to stay on the gas pedal as I accelerated past her house. I wouldn’t let myself stop. I wouldn’t let myself get stuck in a situation where I’d have to resist the urge to ask her to kiss me again. Something was wrong with me. And it was all because of Amy Shepherd. I slammed my car door shut after I took my backpack from the back seat and the noise echoed across the parking lot. There were at least a hundred other cars sitting there, but for some reason it felt like there was no life at the school. At all. I’d just turned to face the entrance when I saw her stepping off of the bus. She’d dropped all of her books and binders as she’d stepped off the last step, and I watched every single high school student walk past her like she wasn’t even there. She was trying to bend over and pick them up, but she couldn’t. And no one even bothered to help. I found myself instinctively running over to where she was. I exhaled loudly, silently cussing myself out for giving in to the temptation so easily, and she looked up at me. Small tears had started to form – one was starting to roll down her cheek – but, for some reason, she smiled when she saw me. For some weird reason, she looked happy. “Need some help?” I asked rhetorically, bending down to pick up the books and binders she’d dropped. I didn’t hand them over to her because they were heavy. Instead I kept them in my arms while she continued to smile. “You just keep rescuing me, don’t you?” she replied, smiling sarcastically. “Do you not want me to?” I laughed. She grinned, looking me up and down as we walked, and mumbled, “No, I guess I can let you tag along for a while.” I scoffed jokingly. “In that case, I guess I’ll chill with you for a few minutes.” She laughed quietly but abruptly distanced herself from me as a group of people walked in front of us. We were just now making it to the school, only half the distance of a football field away from the front doors. “I can carry my books from here,” she said, stopping. “If you want to go in ahead of me, I understand.” “What?” I asked, not believing her. “Why would you think I’d do that?” “Jake,” she sighed. “You’ve already done so much for me. If you don’t want to be seen with me, I understand.” I felt myself take a split second of hesitation before I answered her, because she was right. I was worried about my reputation. I mean, I still cared what people thought about me. But if people had seen the Amy I’d only just begun to see and not just what everyone said she was, they wouldn’t have cared if I was with her. It was finally my chance to make up for everything I’d never done to help her. Of course I was going to take it. “Shepherd, I jumped one of my teammates for you. If I was really that worried about my reputation, I wouldn’t have done that in the first place.” I shook my head. “Why do you beat yourself down so much?” “After being told by everyone that you’re a freak, it just kind of starts to come as second nature.” She sighed and looked up at the sky, squinting her eyes in the sun. I tried to smile at her. Of course, there was nothing funny or happy about the situation she was in, but it sucked, having to watch her look so depressed. Some of that was guilt because her sadness was partially my fault, but, for the most part, I just wanted to see her happy. Was that cheesy to say? “If it helps, I don’t think you’re a freak. Not usually, at least.” I shrugged, attempting to lighten the mood, and opened the door to the school for her. She laughed quietly and looked back at me, gluing this half smile on her face that I’d grown accustom to seeing on her. Surprisingly, she was gorgeous when she smiled. I mentally slapped myself as my thoughts turned to her kissing my cheek again. People stared as we walked into the school together. I waved and smiled at all of the people I knew, trying to act like nothing was out of the ordinary, but inside I knew they were going to give me hell for it later. But, for some reason, I didn’t care anymore. I didn’t know why, but I was happy. Somehow being with Amy made me forget about every stupid little thing going on in my life. It made me realize that there was a hell of a lot more than just football and high school. There was Mitch. There was her dad. There were her broken ribs and bruised liver. There was the giant bruise on my chest. Somehow we managed to walk all the way to my locker before she responded. Amy snapped me out of my reverie when she mumbled, “Shut up,” and playfully punched me in the chest. She hadn’t hit me hard at all, but the pain quickly spread to my entire upper half. Before I knew it, I was buckled over in the puking position, nearly dropping everything I was carrying. “Jake, are you okay?” she asked, staring at me worriedly. I grunted in response, a noise that was supposed to sound like Yeah, but she didn’t seem to understand it because she was still freaking out. “Oh my god, what did I do?” “I’m fine,” I choked out, leaning against the wall with the lockers on it. “Just a little sore.” She took in a deep breath and murmured, “Is Zach the reason you’re sore?” I narrowed my eyes – I was still pissed off to the extreme whenever I thought about him – and nodded slightly. The breath was coming back to me in shallow bursts. I hadn’t realized how sensitive that area really was. I probably should’ve gotten checked out while we were at the hospital. Amy squeezed her eyes shut and eventually opened them forcefully. “I wish I could kill him,” she whispered furiously, the hatred seeping into her words. I laughed bitterly, saying, “So do I.” She sighed and glanced up at me. She’d been staring at the place where she’d hit me and looked like she wanted to cry. “I’m sorry I hurt you,” she whispered. “I feel really bad for making it worse.” I attempted to shrug it off, waving my hand nonchalantly. “Don’t worry about it,” I replied as I regained my composure. I couldn’t look like I was really hurting. I wasn’t anymore, which was nice, but I still didn’t want her to feel guilty. I mean, I’d just made fun of her. I was asking to get a punch for that joke. She sighed and smiled softly, saying, “Well, class is about to start.” She shifted on her feet but made no move to leave, so I took that opportunity to stare at her, to really take in everything about her. She was probably four or five inches shorter than me, with brown hair the color of the grandfather clock in my living room, a chestnut honey. I could just barely see the outline of her brace when I looked at her shirt – she was wearing surprisingly tighter clothing today – and it was then that I realized what kind of figure she had. To keep it simple, she could’ve been a model. I looked at her up and down, hormones kicking in. I didn’t know how or why, but suddenly Amy Shepherd was the sexiest girl I’d ever met. I swallowed, forcing my hands to stay by my sides. I can’t do this, I told myself. I can’t kiss her. A few seconds of silence later, I set the books down on the floor. Amy stared at me, wondering what I was doing but not objecting, and my hand moved itself to the side of her face, sliding the stray strands of hair away from her cheek. Before I could tell myself not to, I found my lips getting closer and closer to hers until they were only inches apart. “What are you doing?” she asked shakily, her breath touching my lips. It smelled like spearmint. I paused, keeping my lips the same distance away as they were before she’d spoken, and murmured, “I think I’m kissing you.” She laughed nervously. “Why?” That was a surprisingly good question. Why was I about to kiss Amy Shepherd? Why was I so desperate to be close to her when yesterday I wouldn’t have cared if she dropped off the planet? What was happening to me? Those questions repeated in my head continuously, no real answer in sight. Eventually I stopped asking them and allowed myself to say, “Because I want to.” Shortly after that I felt the touch of her lips against mine. And it was unbelievable.