Peggy Lee Albert reclined back on her elbows and turned her face towards the heat of the sun. Stretching her toes, she closed her eyes and breathed a sigh.
“Are you ignoring me?” J.J. Lewis asked in his gravely voice.
So much for relaxing, Peggy thought, as she opened her eyes and focused her attention on the well-muscled boy sitting next to her. “I hadn’t planned on it, but if you keep pestering me I might just do it.”
He rewarded her with a lopsided grin. “Peggy Lee you’re such a tease.”
“Me?” she asked sitting upright on the blue and white striped beach towel. “J.J. Lewis you’re the biggest flirt this side of the Mason Dixon and you know it!”
His soft chuckle was her only answer. Running a hand through her short blonde hair to loosen the curls she avoided his heated stare.
“Who in the world told you that?” he finally asked.
“Let’s see–Doris, Bobby Joe, Malcolm, not to mention my Momma,” she answered, her brown eyes meeting his blue ones. “And the list just goes on and on.”
“Folks like to talk.” He lowered his gaze to the grass. Peggy watched as he reached out to pluck a piece of clover and roll it between his thumb and forefinger. She fought a blush when he looked up and caught her staring. “Half of what you’ve heard ain’t got a shred of truth to it.”
“And how would you know? You haven’t a clue what I’ve heard, now have you?”
“True,” he said with a laugh. “But I’d wager a coke and burger on it.”
“That’s just a ploy to get me out on a date.”
“Perhaps,” he said. “And then again, maybe I just want to ride around town with you.”
“Alright, so you didn’t take Sue Martin over to Fred’s Place last Thursday?” she asked somewhat hopeful.
A red blush stained his cheeks. Avoiding her stare, he turned to look out at the waters of Norris Lake. Peggy felt somewhat deflated.
Silence settled between them and she turned to watch two squirrels foraging in a pile of dead leaves. A faint breeze began to blow causing the leaves overhead to rustle and dance. Peggy watched a bird hop from branch to branch on the old oak tree and wondered to herself if J.J. liked Sue better then he liked her. Shooting him a curious look, she asked, “Cat got your tongue?”
“No,” he said, turning to face her. “I did take Sue over to Fred’s last week, but it wasn’t a date.”
“What was it then?”
“She was looking for Hank Parker and she asked me to drive her. That’s all it was.”
Silence settled between them again. After a few minutes, Peggy tucked her feet beneath her bottom and leaned close to brush a piece of grass off from his shoulder. As she lowered her hand, he grabbed it in his and wrapped his fingers around hers in a tender hug.
“I like you Peggy,” he said. “I like you a lot.”
At the touch of his hand, gooseflesh rose on her arms and a pleasant shiver trickled down her spine. Laughing softly, she tried to pull her hand free, but he maintained his hold on it.
“Poppa don’t approve of you, you know” she said somewhat breathlessly.
“I know,” he said giving her another boyish smile. “But the big question is, do you approve of me?”
“You’re a bad, bad boy, Jimmy Joe Lewis.” Deciding to savor the moment, Peggy relaxed her hand in his and rocked back on her heels. “Girls like me don’t date boys like you, you know?”
“I know,” he said. “But you can’t fault a man for trying, now can you?”
Deciding to throw caution to the wind, Peggy climbed to her feet and pulled him up to stand beside her. “Perhaps if you tried hard enough I’d consider going out with you.”
J.J. took a step closer and draped his arm across her shoulders, then pulling her close he rested his other hand on her waist. “How am I doing?”
“You’re getting there,” she whispered.
When he hooked one finger beneath her chin and tilted her head upwards so he could gaze into her eyes, she felt a rush of butterflies in her stomach.
“What about now?” he whispered close to her ear.
“That’s much better,” she said.
Then he lowered his head, so his lips could claim hers. And in that instant, that moment before the kiss, Peggy Albert gave her heart to Jimmy Joe Lewis for life.