Three

Nicole’s wisdom teeth were pulled in the middle of Joe’s freshman year.  She was under orders to rest and heal.  Her typically slender face with porcelain skin was as puffy as he’d ever seen it.  Joe saw his opportunity to pierce the bubble between them.  He brought her a smoothie to help cool the pain and reduce the swelling.

“You’re so sweet,” She told him through the gauze.

“Thank you,” was his response.  He didn’t have any other words to utter through the grin on his face.

“Stay that way.”

“As you wish,” the only response that seemed natural to him.  He smiled and couldn’t really say much more.  She was in no condition to talk.  There wasn’t anything else to say.  Her mom realized she was up and let Joe know it was time to go.  “Yes, ma’am.”  With that he left, catching one last glimpse of his beauty over his shoulder with puffy cheeks and a gauzed smile.

Shortly after, she sat down with him at lunch.

“Hi, anyone sitting here?” she started.

“You I guess,” Joe replied, with his dimples boring deep into his cheeks as he smiled.

“That’s good.  I’m Nicole.”

“I’m Joe.”

“I didn’t really get a chance to say thank you for when I had my teeth pulled.”

“That’s ok.”

“That’s really about the sweetest thing anyone ever did for me.  My boyfriend, well… my ex boyfriend didn’t even bother to stop by and see how I was doing.”

“I guess that’s why he’s your ex.”

“Yes, that and other things.  Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you.  I hope you weren’t scared of how puffy I was.”

“Not at all.  I was just happy to make you smile,” as he said this his eyes brightened and the dimples showed full.  “I just figured it was something that would make you feel better.  With my braces,  I’m going to have mine pulled too.  I just figured it would be nice if someone brought me a smoothie.  You know, nice to have someone think about you.”

She smiled.  “That was very sweet of you.  I guess you don’t have a girlfriend.”

“How could you tell?”

“You wouldn’t be bringing me a smoothie if you did.”

“True…. Unless.”

“Unless what?”

“Nevermind.”  His cheeks turned a little red at the thought.

“What?”

“Well…”

“You’re so cute… just spit it out.”

“Well, just thinking unless you were her.”

“Your girlfriend?”

“Yes.”

She sat there for a moment chewing on the idea.

“Do you like food?” he blurted out.

“What?”

“Do you like food?”  He was more composed the second time.

“Of course, what kind of question is that?”

“Well, you don’t have to be my girlfriend, but I was wondering if I could take you for a bite sometime?”

She thought for a moment, Joe squirmed inside for what felt like an eternity trying to read her response.  He’d never taken a risk like that.

“I guess.”

“Are you doing anything Thursday?”

“Yes.”

The glimmer in Joe’s eye faded for a moment, then as he started to speak, she put her finger on his lip to keep him from ruining the moment.

“I’m going to be eating with you.”

A huge smile grew on his face.  They got to know each other and he crawled out of his shell, or she crawled in.  They felt comfortable together.  They went to a local place that’s packed with tourists during the summer.  In the off season, the dollar bills fluttered in the wind and the place was mostly empty.  He’ll never forget how she had her hair pulled back, and a sweater over her shirt.  He was in jeans and a grey shirt.  They talked.  She thought he was cute.  He learned she grew up in California, and spent a few years in Albuquerque before finally moving to the Gulf Coast.  He bit his tongue on the Bugs Bunny jokes, but she smiled as he opened up to her.  After dinner he kissed her the first time, he was addicted.  She was his every thought.  He found himself smiling for no reason.  He couldn’t focus, he couldn’t think, he couldn’t sleep.  He was in love.

He made her laugh.  For a shy kid, he had a quick wit, and deep dimples.  She liked those dimples.  His jokes kept her smiling.  Soon they were sitting together at lunch every day.  The braces eventually came off, and the nick name died. His smile, with the dimples, was one of the things Nicole found most attractive.  She didn’t know him if he wasn’t happy.  When he saw her, he couldn’t hide it long.  By homecoming sophomore year, they were an item.  She would go to his swim meets and karate tournaments.  He would take her to baseball games and the beach.  They had their rough spots.  He was very much a left-brain, logical and orderly.  She listened to her feelings more, and would drag him along to get him in more trouble.  He was always able to get her out.  It was a good arrangement.

That summer they dressed as pirates for the local pirate festival.  Every other word out of his mouth was “Arrrrrrgghh,” or “Shiver me timbers.”  She thought it was cute.  They were inseparable.  They held hands everywhere they went.  They were two different notes, but together in perfect harmony.  Her friends came along, and he was a sheepdog to the flock.  Kristie was her best friend and teased him most.  She dared him to buy a brass rose and give it to her on one knee.  He bought the rose, but couldn’t go further.  He protected it in his bag and kept it at home.

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