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TAKING NOTICE They were known throughout the school to be extremely close friends. The crew consisted of James, Peter, Morris, Mark and Derrick Altman. They had all met their freshman year and since then, they rarely went anywhere without one another. They looked out for each other as though they were family and they allowed no one to come between them. Rose came into the picture at the beginning of their sophomore year. She met Morris in his science class, the two bonded and he brought her to the crew so she could be included into the fold. Morris thought they would be excited about having a girl in the group, especially since she shared a lot of the same interests as them. The boys had mixed feelings immediately. While Morris and Derrick didn’t have an issue, Peter, Mark and James brought up the fact that it would look suspicious around school that there was one girl in a group of boys. High school gossip was the worst and they wanted to be sure that should they bring Rose in, her reputation would not be tarnished or dragged through the mud. Mark was the most vocal about it, stating that there was more than just gossip to worry about. He felt that it wasn’t a good idea to have their resolve tested by having a girl in the crew. Should anyone of them become attracted to her and attempt to date her it would lead to the crew breaking up. But the other guys didn’t feel that would happen. None of them looked at Rose as a potential girlfriend but they understood Mark’s concern. So they decided to let Rose hang out with them for a week to see if anything around school or

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within the crew changed. Should anyone in the crew show the slightest interest in her or if they heard whispers around the school about her of an unsavory kind, they would agree to stay clear of her. After a week among them with no issues, she was formally accepted into the crew. Their presence kept away any boys that had bad reps away from her. And although they weren’t over protective of her, they kept a close watch over her in between classes and after school. As far as she was concerned, she was one of them and they treated her that way. One spring morning, an incident happened that would change the dynamics of everything. Derrick was always the first at the lockers in the mornings. The rest of the crew came within ten to fifteen minutes after. On this particular morning, Derrick had come to school extra early to use the quiet time to catch up on some reading for an English class. In the locker bay (it was called this because the lockers sat in a sort of cul de sac at the end of the halls) he sat reviewing The Once and Future King when Rose arrived with a box of donuts and bag of orange juices. It wasn’t unlike her to bring the boys breakfast, but she was never in so early. Rose walked into the bay smiling as she placed the food down next to Derrick. He looked up and smiled as he was both surprised and happy to see her. “You’re early,” Derrick said. He looked at his watch. “This is a first.”

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“Yea, I just felt like coming in early.” Rose took her book bag off, then her coat before taking a seat next to him. “Hungry?” “Yea,” he said as he put the book down. “This will be a first that I get a chocolate donut before Mark grabs them all up.” “I bought extras of those,” Rose said as she opened the box and let him take one. “Catching up on some reading?” “Mhm.” Derrick nodded as he chewed and Rose opened an orange juice for him. “I didn’t quite understand the chapter on. . . . What is that smell?” Rose looked at him curiously. “What smell?” Derrick turned in her direction and looked at her. He sniffed the air, then leaned in and sniffed at her neck. “Are you wearing perfume?” “Yea. I borrowed some from my older sister,” Rose said. Derrick sniffed again. “You don’t usually wear perfume do you?” “No. I just thought I would try some. I liked the smell of it.” Derrick smelled her again. “It’s nice.” Rose smiled and scooted closer to him. She watched him eat a little more before she leaned on him shoulder to shoulder.

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“That was crazy what happened yesterday,” she said. Derrick looked at her curiously. “What happened yesterday?” “That incident with Justin Kramer at lunch.” Rose looked at him. “What you said to him and how you almost got into a fight.” Derrick swallowed. “He disrespected you so I had to put him in his place.” He wiped the donuts crumbs off his hands. “You’re one of the crew. I was looking out for you.” “Yeah, but you got up in his face about it.” Derrick took a swig from the juice bottle. “Damn right I got up in his face. Well he called you a –” “Want another donut?” “Sure.” Derrick took another donut from the box. “He had no business calling you a heifer. It’s not polite and you’re not even fat.” Rosa sat up and turned her body slightly to him. She tucked her long black hair behind her ear and smiled. “You don’t think so, huh?” “No way you’re fat,” Derrick said before eating the donut. “You got a nice shape on you. He’s an idiot.”

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Derrick was very nonchalant in his statement about her figure. He was simply complimenting her, but Rose was sure it also meant that he had been checking her out. He didn’t notice that Rose was smiling big at him. Derrick kept eating the donut. Rose put the box of donuts down and stood up. “I’ll be right back.” As Rose started to walk away she put a little switch in her step hoping he would notice. Derrick watched her walking away. She looked back, smiling. Derrick was watching her but he wasn’t noticing that she was switching. He was actually enjoying the smell of her perfume that was now lingering and he smiled back. Rose turned the corner and covered her mouth as she started to giggle. She jumped up and down with excitement, then she quickly calmed herself down. She took a deep breath, exhaled slowly, then walked back around the corner with a simple smile on her face. She sat back down closer to Derrick and put the donut box in his lap. Derrick smiled and started to take another donut when Rose put her head on his shoulder and nuzzled him. Derrick turned to look at her and caught a whiff of her hair. It smelled like the beach; a combination of the sea and coconuts. “Your hair smells nice. Smells like the beach,” he said. “Thanks,” Rose said, smiling. “You okay?” he asked. “Mhm,” she said. “You know I thought you were going to hit him.”

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“Hit who? Oh, na, I mean it didn’t call for that.” Derrick started to take a bite of the donut. “Okay maybe I should have slapped him.” “Lemme see your hand for a minute,” Rose said. Derrick held out his hand and Rose put her hand in his. His hand saw just slightly bigger than hers and she admired that. Derrick looked at her hand. “You have small hands,” he said. “Not that small.” “Lemme see something.” Derrick took his fingers and closed them in-between hers. “My hand is pretty big, huh?” “Yep,” Rose replied, then she closed her fingers around his hand and held it. They kept their hands in that position for a moment, then Derrick dropped his hand to his side. Rose didn’t let go. He could feel her tighten her grip and he didn’t protest. Rose nuzzled him a little more. Derrick finished the donut and turned to her again. “Your hair really smells nice,” he said as he smelled it again. “Glad you like it,” she said softly. She moved her body closer to him. “It’s so quiet right now.” “That’s why I come in early. I just like to sit alone and either read or take time to think.”

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“Oh,” Rose said. “So, I’m not bothering you by being here am I?” “No.” Derrick shook his head. “Why would you think that?” “Just asking,” she said. She tilted her head back and her nose brushed his cheek. “I can see why you like having some alone time.” “Everyone needs it,” he replied, then he looked at her. “It’s cool that you’re here.” “Really?” “Yea, I never just get the chance to hang with you.” “You think about hanging with me?” “Yea, sometimes. Nothing major. I mean I hang with the guys all the time you know,” he replied. “How come you’re here so early anyway?” Rose lifted her head and looked into his eyes. “Honestly? I wanted to surprise you.” “Me?” “Yes.” “With the donuts?” “Not really.” “So, you wanted to surprise me by showing up early?” Derrick asked.

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Rose realized at that moment that Derrick was unaware she was flirting with him. She squeezed his hand she was holding and lowered her eyes a little. “Maybe,” she said lowly, then she looked back into his eyes. Derrick stared at her for a moment. He looked like a deer caught in headlights. He could feel his entire body getting warm as Rose took her leg and placed it over his outstretched leg and leaned in more to him. Derrick had never had a girl flirt with him before so he wasn’t clear on what she was doing or trying to do. He looked down at her leg on his and noticed she was wearing her skinny jeans. His eyes traveled up to her hip, then up to her face. Rose smiled at him. “Uh,” he swallowed hard to moisten his throat. “I um–” “Thanks for speaking up for me yesterday,” Rose said tenderly, then she bit her bottom lip slightly. “I appreciate it.” “I didn’t do anything that the others wouldn’t have done,” he said nervously. “I don’t think the other’s see me as a girl like you do,” she replied. “They know you’re a girl.” “Mmhm,” she said softly. “They know I’m a girl that hangs out with them. But you notice that I’m not just one of the guys.”

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Derrick felt his heart start to beat hard in his chest. His face got warm as he looked at her brown eyes then at her lips. Slowly he looked back down at her hip and carefully placed his hand on it. Rose watched his hand and when she felt his finger touch her she smiled and looked back at him. “I, um. I have noticed that, well, your name suits you.” Rose looked at him slightly confused. “What?” “You name, Rose, it suits you. Because you’re pretty like one.” He swallowed hard again. “And you smell good like a Rose.” Rose blushed and smiled at him. “That’s so sweet.” Derrick looked at the floor for a moment before looking back at her. “Can I kiss you?” “Yes Derrick, you can kiss me,” she said. Derrick leaned in and gently placed his lips on hers. They closed their eyes at the same time as Rose pressed her lips firmly against his and they started kissing. Derrick slowly moved his hand from on her hip to around her waist and pulled her into him. Rose’s breathing intensified. She pressed her lips against his more as she put her arms around his neck and held on to him. Their lips glided over one another’s, ending with a subtle release, followed by a quick connection again.

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Derrick felt his body heat up from the rush of affection. Rose slowly repositioned herself and sat on his lap. She broke the kiss briefly to look at him and caress the side of his face. They didn’t say a word. Their eyes spoke for them. The sudden discovery of their feelings and the realization that the connection between them was happening made Rose kiss him again, but more passionately. With her lips locked around just his upper lip, she slowly pushed the tip of her tongue out and glided it across the top of his lip. Derrick felt a huge rush in his chest, like a dam breaking and the gentle water behind it rushing out. He slowly parted his bottom lip and pushed his tongue out and glided it against her bottom lip. Rose sighed, wrapped her arms back around his neck and made her tongue meet his. Slowly rotating her tongue around his she then kissed him deeply and the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. Derrick pulled her closer and kept kissing. After a moment, he broke the kiss and looked at her. Suddenly he realized that he was kissing one of the members of his crew. He was about to let her go when she smiled. That’s when he saw Rose the girl. He was suddenly aware of the shape of her body in his arms. The softness of her lips lingered on his and his desire to feel them again made him lean in and kiss her again. Rose rubbed her nose against his and smiled. “Did you like that?” she whispered.

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“Yeah,” he replied with a smile. “It was nice.” “Very.” “Derrick?” “Hm?” “You think we made a mistake just now?” Rose asked. “It didn’t feel like a mistake.” He kissed her gently. “I didn’t know you liked me like that.” “Do you like me?” “Yes,” he said. “I mean I have always liked you, but this is kinda different.” “How so?” Derrick looked into her eyes. “Because I guess I just saw you as one of us and now–” “I’ve seen you check me out a couple of times,” she said with a grin. “I’ve never checked you out,” he said defensively. Forgetting for a moment what happened between them. He felt her curves again and changed his tune. “I mean I don’t go around checking you out.”

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“Mmhm,” she said. “You checked me out enough to know I’m not all the terrible names I was called.” “You’re a sweetheart. I just–” “I’m a sweetheart?” Derrick looked at her and smiled. “You’re beautiful, Rose. Really beautiful.” Rose kissed him again then hugged him. Derrick hugged her back, his eyes closed as his mind filled with visions of Rose in the park with him and the guys a week before. They were all on the bench talking. Rose was leaning against him laughing at a joke Morris told. He remembered how nervous he felt with her leaning on him. No, it wasn’t nerves, it was guilt. Guilt for liking the fact she was leaning on him. He opened his eyes and broke the embrace. “I have to get up,” he said. Rose stood. Derrick used the lockers to get up. His legs felt weak, but he was able to stand up fine. He fixed his shirt at the same time Rose did, then they looked at each other. He was only an inch taller than her. Derrick’s eyes moved down to her hips again and he took hold of them. He pulled her into as she put her arms around his neck once more. Without hesitation he pulled her into him and kissed her passionately. Out of the silence came a gasp followed by the sound of a bottle breaking. Rose and Derrick broke the kiss quickly and turned in the direction of the sounds.

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Mark, James and Peter stood frozen, their eyes wide from shock. Morris was standing in a puddle of iced tea from a busted bottle that he dropped. He too looked shock. Derrick and Rose didn’t move. They held on to one another tightly. Their eyes fell on each of the boys then finally on Morris. In his hand were three yellow daisies, Rose’s favorite flower. “Oh no,” Rose said as she saw the rejected look on Morris’ face. Derrick closed his eyes and turned away from them. No one spoke for a minute. Then Mark cleared his throat. “Well,” he started, “No one wanted to listen to me. I knew this was bound to happen.” “What was?” James said. “I told you guys it wasn’t a good idea to have a girl in the group. This was the resolve I was talking about,” Mark said. “But when did they start liking each other? I thought Morris was into her,” Peter replied as he turned to Morris. “Didn’t you tell me–” “Shut up!” James said as he kicked Peter. “Ow, what’d you kick me for?” “Wait, when did Morris tell you he liked Rose?” Mark asked Peter.

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“Hey! Shut up!” James screamed. Mark sighed, then he marched over to his locker and opened it without saying a word. He looked at Derrick and Rose as they slowly broke their embrace. Morris moved next. He walked over to Rose, handed her the daisies, then shuffled over to his locker. Finally James and Peter joined them. Peter went straight for the donuts and ate happily while James whispered something to Mark. After several moments of silence, Morris slammed his locker door and stormed off. James ran after him, screaming for him to stay calm. “I didn’t know,” Rose said to Mark. “It was inevitable,” Mark said. “I knew something was up after the whole thing in the lunchroom. I saw it in your eyes when Derrick came to your defense.” He shook his head. “Doesn’t matter how much we tried to deny it, I knew someone in this group was going to fall for you. Or worse, you fall for one of us. You never let a girl come between your boys.” Mark looked at Rose. “But if you like each other, nothing should stand in the way of that either. Better we find out like this than through some nasty rumor. Lemme go talk to Morris and see if I can get him to calm down.” “Should I say something to him?” Derrick asked. “Dude, silence is foo. Let us handle this,” Mark said.

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Mark closed his locker and walked around the corner. Rose started to follow, but Derrick held her back and shook his head. He held her in his arms and she wrapped her arms around his waist. “So,” Peter said. “Does this mean no more donuts in the morning?”

©Copyright 2012 Marc L Abbott

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