The Monday after the party, Marisol pulled Ed aside to speak to him.
“So,” she said to him, an edge in her voice, “Kristen’s your girlfriend now, is it? Must have been one hell of a party.”
“That’s what everyone’s saying.”
Marisol laughed. “Did you seriously not know?” Ed shrugged. She put her hand on his shoulder. “And here I was working myself up to yell at you for not telling me.”
“I told you what happened at the party,” Ed said. It was mostly true. He left out the sitting on his lap and whispering in his ear part. But he told her most of it.
“Oh Ed,” said Marisol. “What in God’s name are we going to do with you?”
Sure enough, Ed started to notice that his classmates were giving him strange looks. He had no idea how to interpret these new expressions. Nothing like them had ever been directed at him before. They were partially “you’re weird,” but he recognized that part. There was something else there, too, that he couldn’t identify.
He more or less wrote it off as one of the many things about the world he would never understand until Steve came up to him outside of the locker room. He held up his fist for Ed to bump, and said, “Respect,” with a sly smile on his face.
Respect. So that was it. Huh.
During fourth period someone brought him a note from Kristen.
“Lunchtime. Outside the auditorium. Let’s make this official.”
One thing he could say about Kristen. She wasn’t predictable.
When the bell rang for lunch Ed headed for the auditorium. He noticed a lot of other people were heading in that direction, too. When he got there he saw that a crowed had gathered.
“Oh, Ed!” Kristen’s voice rang out from the center of the crowd. “There you are. Get over here!”
Ed walked through the throng of people, who moved out of the way to let him pass. He saw students and teachers alike, all staring at him with half-formed smiles on their faces. Even the principal was there, and Mr. Clark, the janitor. As he reached the center, he saw Kristen sitting in one of two chairs laid out in front of the auditorium doors. She waved her hand at the other chair, and Ed took that as a cue to sit down. From the smile that blossomed on her face he figured he was right.
“Now Ed, as you know I’ve decided you are to be my new boy,” she said. There were scattered giggles from the crowd. “I think the time has come to show everyone what that means. Don’t you?”
Ed stared at her for a long moment before realizing she had asked him a question. “Oh,” he said. “Yeah. Um…yes.” He heard more giggling.
“Good, then,” she said. “It’s settled.” She closed her eyes and leaned forward. Ed stared at her. She had beautiful eyelids. Soft but very strong. Like they could keep the fires of hell from burning through to her eyes. He wanted to lean forward and kiss them. She was so close to him.
“Kiss her, you idiot!” someone called out from the crowd. Everyone broke into laughter. Ed suddenly realized that she wanted him to kiss her. It was the only thing that made sense. So he leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers.
She grabbed him by the back of the head and pressed him into her. The crowed erupted into hoots and shouts. Kristen’s tongue snaked into his mouth and wrapped around his. The feel of her, the taste of her, inflamed his senses. He felt fire running through his bloodstream. Steam slow-cooked his brain as the kiss went on and on, and his thoughts boiled into overcooked lumps of useless matter.
The longer it went on the more tightly her fingers seemed to press into Ed’s skull. The more deeply her tongue seemed twined into his soft tissue. It felt like her body was stripped of coverings, and every inch of her flesh was pressed against him. It felt like her tongue had sliced open the front of his torso, from the neck to the scrotum, and was now bathing his organs in its caresses.
Then suddenly there was a sharp sensation in his mouth. It didn’t hurt, of course, but it felt like a sting. He felt Kristen pulling away from him. He became aware of the babble and cheers of the crowd.
“Your first kiss,” said Kristen, loud enough so everyone could hear. “I wanted to make sure you would never forget it.”
A few people in the crowd clapped.
Kristen looked into his eyes. She was smiling. Aflame. Triumphant. But there was something else there, too. He couldn’t quite place it. He wasn’t very good at this sort of thing. But he thought, just maybe, it was disappointment.
He guessed he wasn’t a very good kisser.