Jake's Latex Slingshot

by Jennifer Donnell

The first time I felt it, I didn't know why. I assumed it was normal and perhaps it was. I was hiding under an orange blanket in the living room. My best friend, Kimmie, (a year and a half my senior) and I had built a fort out of sheets and blankets. We'd been helped by two boys from the neighborhood, a pair of freckle faced hoodlums. They'd come over to play in their after school clothes, after walking to a nearby hospital and collecting latex tubing from the trash. They made the recycled latex into sling shots, which I found particularly impressive. One of them, Jake, told me where I could find the tubing, in a dumpster at the back of the emergency room parking lot. Then, he used his slingshot to catapult the rock so far away... that it almost broke the neighbor's bedroom window. 

Jake and I had a lot to talk about and I quickly realized that I was good with boys. I spoke their language and liked the same things they did- jumping in the mud, climbing trees, and riding bikes. They seemed to laugh at my jokes and I liked that too. Jake was handsome, not that I liked boys... exactly. I did like the book I'd bought with my allowance, the one that talked about a kissing party on page one-hundred-and-nine. I'd read that particular chapter over and over, each time feeling a tingle blossom in my belly. I wondered if I would ever go to a kissing party and play spin the bottle, like the book's main character had. Newsflash: I wouldn't.

There was something about Jake's face that I found more interesting than other boys I'd met. He had a nice nose, while his freckles had a certain rebellion to them, haphazardly scattered across his cheeks. His hair was strawberry blonde, almost red, and he smiled like he knew the secret behind every magic trick ever invented. After we built our indoor fort, we decided to play ‘cops and robbers'. I had a pair of fake handcuffs from the toy isle of a grocery store. Jake took the handcuffs and told me to hide. I hid in the back yard first, but he saw me and chased me around toward the front steps. Feeling a strange heat flush my cheeks, as he chased me like a lion would chase a deer, I ran inside and hid behind our fort of blankets. I kept very still, but could feel the beat of my heart. I heard foot steps and a rustling. It was Jake... and he'd found me.

“I'm going to capture you!” he exclaimed, his eyes fiery with the game. I shrieked in terrified joy. There was something about him finding me that I liked. Maybe it was his hot breath on my cheek, as he told me to place my wrists out in front of him, not realizing that I knew how to unhook the handcuffs via the safety link. However, I decided to play along and be a good sport. I could hear Kimmie and Jake's friend, Max, playing outside on the tire swing. My wrists shook as Jake placed the handcuffs on my wrist. He put them on too tight, at first, but then adjusted them. As he leaned down to fix the latch, my blonde hair tickled his cheek. He smiled suddenly, from the unexpected sensation, and my stomach fluttered. It felt like I'd swallowed a humming bird. I wondered if the excitement I felt meant that Jake was about to kiss me. Sure, it wasn't a kissing party like the girl in my favorite book had, but his lips were close to mine and he smelled of his powdered latex sling shot and adventure.