The night Rick Finnegan kissed me changed my life--but not in the way I'd expected.
He had given me a ride home from my best friend Blythe Carlson's house, where we'd all been drilling one another on vocabulary for the PSATs. There we were, sitting in his dad's Buick outside the Palms bungalow apartments, where my mom and I live, when out of nowhere Rick slipped his arm around me.
I don't know what got into him, but one minute he'd been defining the word alacrity, and the next thing I knew he was demonstrating it. He moved across the seat so fast that I didn't have time to react. Suddenly, his mouth was on mine. Instinctively, I closed my eyes--and he kissed me.
"Amy, I . . . I think I'm starting to like you," Rick whispered.
My eyes flew open in surprise. But instead of seeing Rick, I saw Chris Shepherd, who's on my swim team, the Dolphins, and in my physics class, too. He's also the guy I've been daydreaming about for weeks. "I'm the one you really want," Chris in-my-mind said. I gasped and jumped away from Rick, leaving him to kiss air where my face had been.
"Rick!" I shrieked, staring at him.
"Amy?" Rick said, looking sheepish. "Are you mad? What's wrong?"
"N-n-nothing," I stuttered, trying to collect my thoughts. I couldn't believe that Rick Finnegan--my buddy since kindergarten--had just kissed me!
I put my hand on his shoulder. "Look, Rick," I said gently, "I'm very flattered. You're a great guy. But we're friends--and I'd like to keep it at that. I've got so much going on right now, I don't have time for romance."
But Rick didn't look convinced. "Amy," he said, twisting a lock of my straight brown hair around his finger, "you know what they say about all work and no play. . . ."
"Maybe," I said, stepping out of the car, "but all play and no work gets you a career dipping cones at the Dairy Queen."
Actually, I didn't say that. I didn't even think up this perfect comeback until the next day. What came out instead were my mother's words, words often meant for me.
"Your passion is misguided," I informed him, closing the car door behind me.
"My what?" I saw Rick's lips form the question behind the window glass right before I waved and turned away. I couldn't believe I had said that. Mom uses passion in a way that doesn't have anything to do with kissing. It has to do with enthusiasm and ambition.
According to my mom, passion, like money, runs out. So you have to be careful not to spend it carelessly. My father, for example, turned out to be a bad investment. He wasn't around long enough to see me turn two. I don't really remember him, but Mom said that once she'd loved him so much her heart hurt. After he took off, she poured what was left of her passion into me.
"Don't throw away your talents the way I did," my mom was always warning me. Believe me, I wasn't planning to, not when my whole future, starting with a swimming scholarship to college, was at stake. I felt kind of bad saying what I did to Rick, but I guess the kiss really caught me off guard. I turned again to go back and apologize, but he was already driving away.
I stood for a minute outside our apartment, looking up at the stars and thinking about the fact that one of my oldest and best friends just kissed me. When did Rick's feelings for me change, and why hadn't I realized it? I had felt nothing when Rick's lips were on mine. But for some unknown reason just the thought of Chris Shepherd's lips sent my heart racing. It was true what I'd said to Rick. I never had had time for guys. Until now.
Chris and I had known each other for a couple of years from the swim team, but he had never treated me any differently from the way he had treated any other girl on the Dolphins. He was always friendly, and he kidded around, but that was it.
I had always liked Chris, but over the last few months I had been noticing different things about him--admiring his long, lean body, his thick, glossy brown hair, his quick sense of humor . . .
I shook my head to get rid of the thoughts. I had feelings for Chris I'd never had before for a guy, but I was still too shy to do anything about it. He had been a fantasy tonight, and he'd probably always be a fantasy, I thought dejectedly as I headed inside our apartment.
"You're just in time for the latest episode of The Young and the Restless," Mom said as I walked into our combination living/dining room. Mom worked two jobs. She worked from nine to three at the Arizona Bank, and evenings at El Rancho supermarket. Everyday she taped her favorite soaps, and when she got home from the El Rancho, she'd curl up on the couch and watch them.
"Thanks, but I've been studying vocabulary for hours," I told her. "I'm afraid I'll erase what I've learned if I zone out on TV."
"Good for you," Mom said. "You go ahead and get a good night's sleep."
"I think I will." I hesitated for a moment. "Mom? Something pretty weird just happened," I said.
"Well . . . Rick drove me home from Blythe's. And . . . he . . . well, he, um . . . told me he liked me," I explained, blushing. I didn't think I needed to tell her about the kiss. It was kind of embarrassing.
Mom sat up straight. "What did you say?"
"I told him I didn't like him that way. That we were just friends." I watched as Mom breathed an almost undetectable sigh of relief.
"Good answer, honey. With your schedule, a boyfriend is the last thing you need," she said.
"Yeah. I guess," I said, shrugging.
I kissed her on the cheek and went to my room. There's no way I could have sat through the soap. I was having a hard enough time already putting Chris out of my mind and concentrating on my work. The last thing I needed was to fill my aching brain with stories about star-crossed lovers and abandoned dreams.
Excerpted from My First Love by Callie West. Copyright © 2010 by Callie West. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.