I can't sleep.

I'm lying here staring up at the ceiling, and the day has been so overwhelming, I couldn't possibly sleep even if I wanted to. Whatever possessed me to kiss him? I didn't plan on it, that's for sure. I've spent too many years keeping my emotions under control, but when I looked into his eyes, everything flew right out of my head.

I only meant for it to be a peck on the cheek like I give my little brother, just a safe  brother-sister type kiss to thank him for keeping my secret. But then he turned his head and our lips touched.

My first kiss. Oh, those stolen kisses with Johnny Fischer at the orphanage don't count. This was the real thing - gentle and sweet. I was so shocked that I couldn't push him away, and after a minute, I didn't want to. I wasn't quite sure what to do, Johnny's kisses never felt like that. So I just stood there and let myself experience it. His mouth was warm and soft on mine, but I sensed a hunger underneath. It scared me, just a little. I wasn't afraid of him, exactly, something about him makes me feel safe; I know he wouldn't hurt me. I guess I was more afraid of letting go of my tightly held control, of letting him in. It gave me the strength to pull away from him, staggering on weak legs like a newborn foal.

So now I can't sleep for thinking about it, remembering. I've been lonely for so long that I'd gotten used to it, pushed it deep down inside. It only came out on those long nights when I lay wrapped in my bedroll on my way to nowhere in particular. The ache in my chest would grow until I couldn't stand it anymore and the tears would come. I hate crying. I learned a long time ago that it doesn't help anything. On those nights I just wanted to die, to end the torture of what I was sure my life would be - wandering from town to town, without friends or a home.

After Mama died, and we went to the orphanage, I never thought I'd find those things again. Until I came here with Teaspoon and Emma and the boys.

And still there's that other thing that I've never let myself think about too much. That need that even he was unable to steal from me. That need to be loved and held and cherished, to be the center of someone else's universe. Maybe I've found that too.

THE END

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