Better Than Before

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Do you remember your first love? Do you remember how it felt to hold their hand, or the way they smelled? Do you remember the way their lips curled when they smiled, or how happy they sounded when they spoke about the things they were passionate about? I do. I remember everything. I remember how he smelled; how happy, and kind his eyes were. I remember him getting so worked up over football games he would turn red, and I remember loving it even though I didn't understand it. He had so many things that made him perfect in my eyes whether I understood mine and the feeling that always came with it. I miss the butterflies I got when he would kiss me. It's hard not to miss someone so important in your life. I guess that's just how it works. You love, and you get hurt. Life goes on though, and you are forced to pick yourself up and keep moving. Life doesn't stop just because you're hurting. I wasn't going to waste my life thinking that it did either.

Age Rating:

Chapter 1

Chapter 1:

July 5th, 2011

"Allison, c'mon now service is starting." My moms' voice spoke from behind me. I gave my mom a soft smile and followed her into the church, taking our familiar seats in the middle of everyone. With seats like these being late was not an option. Everyone would notice. Luckily this wasn't a traditional service. Every year the church has the annual Independance Day cookout on the fifth of July. I guess they assumed no one would show up if they did it on the fourth. Anyways, they have a short hour long sermon relating to America and its relationship with God, and what we as a congregation can do to fix it.

The sermon dragged on, as it does every year. I'm convinced half of these people only came for the free hot dogs; myself included. It's actually a fairly large cookout. A lot of people attend, and every year the guest list seems to grow; so do the food tables. It is always a covered dish dinner so everyone is expected to bring something. My mom always brings the same thing, her world famous apple and cinnamon pie. (World famous as in, our small town of Short Pump famous.)

Short Pump is a small town with a population of about 27,000 people. That sounds like a lot more than it is. Short Pump is a nice little suburban area in Richmond, Virginia. We have a few coffee shops, plenty of churches, gas stations, restaurants, and a lot of parks. It's just a classic suburban town, nothing special going on here.

"Allison, honey. You are awfully spaced out today, are you feeling alright?" The worry in my mom's eyes was evident as she placed a hand on my forehead to make sure I wasn't feverish. Bless her. I assured my mother I was okay and we walked arm in arm towards the back doors of the church which would then lead us to the picnic and pavilion area. My mother and I were very close, I was really all that she had. My grandparents passed a few years ago, and just recently my father passed as well. It has only been a few months since his passing, and it hurt both of us so deeply. My mom puts on a strong face for me, but I know she is hurting everyday. I am too.

"Malorie, it's so nice to see you!" A voice called to my mother when we stepped outside. Mom released my arm and walked to hug the woman.

"Bonnie, it's been ages! When did you come back up this way?" I tuned out of the conversation and stared at my shoes, kicking the rocks below my feet. My white flats had dirt on them from my rock kicking, but that didn't make me stop doing it.

"Is this your daughter? Wow she is beautiful, she looks so much like Allen!" The woman, Bonnie said with a wide smile. At the sound of my dads' name my ears perked up, and I tuned back into their conversation. My eyes immediately went to my mother, I saw her flinch at his name. I knew that hurt her, maybe Bonnie didn't know. "Where is he? I would love to say hello, it's been so long since I've seen you all."

Mom took a deep breath in before explaining to Bonnie that my dad was no longer with us. Bonnie took my mom into a hug and offered her condolences as well as what felt like a million apologies for bringing up the subject.

On another note it made me happy to hear that I looked like my father. It made me feel like he was with me in some weird way. I shared his bright blue eyes, and his sandy blonde hair. My mom told us it was a unique combination of features, and that was one of her favorite things about us. I also shared his quiet, calm nature, unlike my mom who is extremely outgoing, and very energetic.

"How is Monte doing, and your little boy?" My mom asked her, moving the conversation topic away from my father. As she spoke a dark haired man who looked to be in his late 40's was waved over by Bonnie who was again beaming. She rested a hand on his chest and spoke about her husband, and family, and how they had sold their house upstate to come back to short pump.

"That is my son, Massimo. He isn't so little anymore as you can see." Bonnie spoke with a laugh as she pointed towards a dark haired teenager who was speaking with the pastor. Bonnie called the teenager over with an energetic wave. She was exactly like my mother. "Massimo, this is Malorie and... I'm sorry sweetie what was your name, again?"

"Allison" I say softly, staring at the boy in front of me. He was so handsome. His hair was dark like his fathers, and his eyes were the brightest green I have ever seen. Massimo gave me a small smile when he noticed my staring, and I felt my cheeks starting to burn. He reached out his hand to my mother, and I.

"Call me Max." His voice was just as beautiful as his face. It was smooth; comforting even.

My mom was eyeing my expression. She knows just by looking at me what I think of Max. I've never shown much interest in guys, I'm only 13. I don't even know what a boyfriend really is yet. I have friends; that's all I really need. My mom can read my mind, though. Maybe it's a mom thing, I don't know, but somehow she knew what I thought of Max, and she took full advantage of that.

"Bonnie, Monte. Why don't we go catch up, and let the kids get to know each other?"

Bonnie's eyes lit up in excitement, and Monte had a small smirk on his face. The adults left, and I was frozen in my place. Why would she do that to me? I don't know this kid, what if he killed me and buried me under the church?

"Wanna get a hotdog?" His voice startles me out of my own head. I nod, but say nothing. He smiles at me, and we walk to the food table. There he gets a hotdog, places it on a bun, and hands it to me. I thank him and just continue watching his every move. "So which school do you go to?"

"Short Pump middle." I wonder how old he is? He doesn't look that old, but he's definitely older than I am.

"Oh cool, I go to Thomas Jefferson High. It's my first year. I'm super excited about it. I think I'm gonna try out for soccer. Us italians love soccer." He laughed. I loved the sound of that laugh. It made me want to laugh along with him.

"You're italian?" He definitely looked italian, but I guess it just didn't cross my mind. He didn't have an accent like one would assume an italian would have. I guess I was expecting more Mario and Luigi.

"Well technically no." He rubbed the back of his neck nervously. "I was born here, but my pops is from Italy, and my grandparents. My mom and dad met when my mom went to Italy and stayed with my aunt for a week as a foreign exchange student. Her and my dad had an instant connection, and the rest is history."

"Oh wow, how'd they make that work? That's a lot of distance." His parents' story was a beautiful one that I definitely wanted to hear more of someday. Maybe Bonnie would tell me if I asked her. Their story seems so romantic.

"I guess if it's the right person, distance doesn't matter." He smiled at me again. I got a warm feeling in my stomach when he smiled, and I didn't quite understand what it meant. I've never felt this before. "Hey, why don't you give me your number? Maybe we can hang out sometime?" He held out his phone to me, and I put my number and name in. I handed the phone back to him with a soft smile.

"That'd be cool."

Max and I joined our parents again and the rest of the cookout went by quickly, almost too quickly. My mother, and I spent well over an hour talking to Max, and his family, and even made plans to go out to dinner with them. I also finally got to hear Monte speak. He had a thick italian accent; the mario and luigi accent I was expecting only deeper. Apparently my mom and Bonnie were good friends in high school but were separated when they graduated, and Bonnie moved to Italy to be with Monte. That's a huge sacrifice to make if you ask me.

I was giddy on the drive home with my mom; she knew exactly why too. She didn't say anything though, and I was glad for that because that would've been way too embarrassing. I rested my head on the side of the car, and stared at the clouds. I kept my mind on Max, and the possibility that maybe he would call me.

July 7th, 2011

"Hey." His voice rang through my phone speaker. I knew it instantly; even though we only met once.

"Oh hey Max." I said nonchalantly, trying to pretend I didn't wait by my phone for an entire two days for his call. He chuckled at my response, I guess he heard my excitement. Way to go, Allison.

"What's up?"

"Oh you know, just chilling." I smacked my hand to my forehead. That sounded so stupid. Why couldn't I have made up something cool?

"Well my parents were wondering if you, and your mom wanted to come over for dinner tonight?" He sounded hopeful again. How could I say no?

"Yeah, definitely."

"Don't you think you should ask your mom first?" He laughed. I smiled at the beautiful sound.

"Nah, she's cool. She'd love it. We were just getting take out anyways." I lied. I knew my mom was downstairs starting dinner. I just had to make sure I got downstairs before any serious cooking was done. I rushed out a goodbye, and quickly ran down the stairs into the kitchen where mom was already in the middle of cooking. Crap.

"Mom, Bonnie and Monte want us to come over for dinner." I said excitedly. Mom stopped stirring whatever was in her pot and looked at me.

"Allison, I'm in the middle of making dinner. We will just have to reschedule." She waved me off, and continued her stirring.

"Mom, please!" I showed her the best pouting eyes that I could. I wanted to see Max again.

It was like a lightbulb went off in her head. Her eyes got wide, and she smiled at me.

"You just want to see their boy again, what was his name? Massimo?"

"Max." I told her. "He doesn't like Massimo."

Her smile got even bigger and she quickly turned off the burner, and pulled her floral apron off. She washed her hands and walked over to the island I was leaning against. Mom grabbed my hands, the smile never leaving her face.

"Do you like him?"

My cheeks burned. Maybe I did have my first crush. All I knew is that I really wanted to see him again. I shrugged my shoulders because truthfully I didn't know what it felt like to have a crush. I certainly didn't want to have that conversation right now though. Mom gave me a kiss on the forehead, and told me to go get ready and she'd call Bonnie for the directions. With an excited squeal I rushed back to my room to find an outfit that I thought Max might like.

I barely know this kid, what does he like? Floral? Animal Print? No, nobody likes animal print anymore. Floral print is too childish. Let's go with something neutral, maybe a little grown up. He is a high schooler after all.

I pulled on some dark wash jeans, and a grey blouse. Looking in the mirror at myself my hair was an absolute mess. I brushed through it and I felt good about myself. Simple is good. Simple is grown up. Max probably likes girls who look more grown up.

I went downstairs after getting ready to where my mom was patiently waiting for me. She asked me if I was ready to go and with a smile and a nod from me we were out the door.

"Hey, come on in. Thanks for coming. Bonnie was really happy you accepted." Monte answered the front door with a smile. Bonnie, and Monte were such friendly people. I was looking forward to spending time with them tonight as well.

When I walked into the house I smelled food immediately. It smelled really good. I also smelled vanilla, my guess would be from candles somewhere. Their house was very brightly lit and nicely decorated. Pictures were hung all over the walls and the living room when you walked in was huge. They had a big leather couch, and a huge tv.

"Woah." I said accidentally out loud. Monte chuckled. Don't get me wrong mom and I had a nice house, but nothing this fancy.

"Malorie! Allison! Oh I'm so happy you came!" Bonnie walked into the living room from where I assumed was the kitchen because she still had a wooden spoon in her hand. Bonnie gave both my mom, and I a hug. It was nice, very welcoming. I was starting to really like Bonnie. She was so kind, and not to mention beautiful. She had long, and very dark hair like Monte, and Max. She had a beautiful figure as well. I hope that I can look like her someday.

"Bonnie, your home is beautiful. I love what you've done with it" My mom gushed to her friend.

"Thank you! I guess all those years of decorating for money have finally paid off!" Bonnie said with a laugh. My mom told me Bonnie was an interior designer. She designed homes for people and has been doing it for about 12 years now. I can see why their home is so nice. I'm sure that pays well.

"Max!" Bonnie called towards the hallway. Max came in just a few minutes after with a smile on his face. "Max why don't you give our guests a little tour of the house?"

"Yeah sure, Ma."

"Actually, Bonnie. I would love it if you would let me help you in the kitchen." My mom said, eyeing me. I knew what she was doing, but I wasn't mad about it. Gives me a little time to get to know Max.

"C'mon Alli, I'll give you the tour." Max reached his hand out to me with another one of those beautiful smiles of his. He called me Alli. I blushed at the nickname that he'd given me. I've been called Alli before by my family, and a few of my close friends, but when he said it I felt warm inside again. I grabbed Maxs' hand and instantly turned red. I've never held a boy's hand before now, and I kind of liked it. It also made me kind of nervous, and sweaty. I hope he doesn't notice.

Max pulled me into the hall, and up the wide staircase to the second floor of the house. It was decorated just as nice as the first floor. Plants, paintings of all kinds, and family pictures lined the walls. There were five doors, all closed, on this floor. Max let go of my hand to open the first door, and show me inside. My hand felt cold without his, but I pushed that thought away and followed Max into the first room.

"So this is the guest room. It's never been used since we just got back a few months ago." He waved his hand towards the spacious room we were in. It was nice, perfectly sized and decorated. Not a surprise in this house. There was a large bed with a beautiful white blanket that looked so soft. I smiled at Max.

"This is nice." I said to him. Max proceeded to show me the rest of the rooms which consisted of his mom's room, two bathrooms, and lastly was his room.

I never thought about what a teenage boys room would look like, but if I did this was definitely not it. His room was almost spotless. It was very bright, and smelled clean. I could smell some cologne, but not enough to choke you like most guys wear. There were one or two band posters hanging on the wall, and a guitar in the corner of the room.

"You play guitar?" I asked, walking over to pluck a single string. Max nodded, and walked to pick the guitar up from beside me. I got another whiff of that same cologne I could smell in his room. I learned that I liked the way he smelled. Max sat on his bed, and patted the spot beside him as if he was gesturing for me to sit. When I sat down he gave me a small smile and started to play a song. It was a slow one. He played the chords almost perfectly. I could tell it was a song he played a lot. He looked so focused, like he was trying really hard to not mess up. It almost made me laugh.

Max looked up from his guitar, and smiled at me. I guess I did laugh without realizing it. It seemed to make him happy though. Regardless, my cheeks burned again. What is happening to me?

Max, and I went downstairs for dinner shortly after to join our parents for dinner. It was a nice evening. There was a lot of laughing, some really yummy pasta, and lots of stories about their time in Italy when they visited Montes' parents. I have always wanted to go to Italy, and hearing stories of it from someone who has been there many times makes me want to go that much more.

My mom thanked the D'amores for inviting us over and we left with a promise to make dinner for them next time. The entire way home my mom quizzed me on Max, and everything we talked about. I told her all about his guitar, and how beautiful the song he played for me was. My mom acted like a fangirl. It made me laugh. I was happy about meeting Max, and his family. They were nice people, and I looked forward to maybe having Max as a new friend.

July 8th, 2011

"So how old are you?" Max asked me through the phone.

"I just turned thirteen on the fourth."

"Your birthday is the fourth of July? Cool." He chuckled. "I'm fifteen. I turn sixteen in January."

"That's cool." I tried not to sound too interesting, but realistically I wanted to know every little detail about him. The fact that he was older than me didn't seem to bother him. I mean we are only a few years apart, but I feel like a child compared to him.

"I'll be getting my license hopefully on my birthday. Maybe I can take you out sometime."

"I'd like that a lot." I told him honestly. The thought of hanging out with him excited me. I wanted to get to know him, and learn more about who he is. Max and I made plans to go to one of the parks in town together soon, and I already couldn't wait.

I was laying on my bed; my feet against the wall, and my phone pressed to my ear tightly. I hung onto his every word almost afraid that I would miss something. Max had called me an hour ago, and we've been talking nonstop ever since.

Max, and I talked about everything from family to school, and some things we like to do. We were learning a lot about each other already, and I loved every second of it. My phone conversation was cut short by my mom who called me downstairs for dinner. I told Max goodbye, and happily walked down the steps to the kitchen. Life couldn't be better.

July 14th, 2011

"Wait, slow down!" I squealed as Max pushed me higher on the swing. I should've known this wasn't a good idea. We probably looked like little kids, but he offered to push me and like a doofus I said yes. Now I'm gripping the metal chains like my life depends on it because I'm being pushed into outer space. Max laughed at my very obvious fear before slowing the swing down and letting me off. I smacked his shoulder lightly when my feet were finally on the ground again, and let out a deep sigh of relief. "Never again will I let you push me on the swing." I pointed a finger at him. He smiled at me, and grabbed my finger with his, interlocking them. He pulled me in the direction of the concrete path, and we started to walk. We followed the path in silence. We were just enjoying each other's company, and the weather, with our index fingers looped together. The park was quiet today. There were only a few kids running around. A few men were fishing in the pond, some people were running along the path. It was a nice day; peaceful.

"Are you excited to start at the high school?" School was looming, and I was dreading it. Max, and I had barely spent any time together. Soon enough we'd both be back at school, and who knows if we would even still be friends.

"Kind of, it would be a lot better if you were there too though." He bumped my shoulder with his, and I laughed. What would high school be like? I was definitely excited to start, but I still had two more years before I would be there. Two more years and I could go to school with Max.

"Two more years, and I will be."

"Can't wait." Max said. Somehow we had gone from fingers locked to full on hand holding. I wasn't going to complain though.

"So what do you wanna be when you grow up?" I asked him, moving the conversation topic so my cheeks could cool down.

"Rich." He laughed. I laughed along with him; his laugh was contagious. "No, seriously. I'm not sure yet. What about you?"

"I'm undecided too. I like writing, but I'm too shy to be a journalist. I'm more of a fly on the wall kind of person. Maybe a secretary, or something easy."

Max laughed at my response, and stopped walking to sit on a bench by the pond. I sat beside him, and together we watched as a man reeled in a fish.

"I bet I could catch something way bigger." Max said. I laughed, and shook my head. It almost seemed like he was trying to impress me. "We should go one day."

"Fishing?" I raised an eyebrow at him. My dad used to go fishing, but that wasn't really my thing. Max nodded at me. "I don't know, fishing doesn't really sound like fun to me."

"C'mon Alli, I bet you would love it."

"Maybe." I didn't ever plan on fishing with him, but he looked so cute, and hopeful, I just couldn't tell him no. My answer seemed to satisfy him enough, and he went back to watching the guy in front of us catch fish after fish.

"Hey, come over here. Let's take a picture by the water!" Max said, excitedly. I followed behind him towards the pond where he then knelt down on the ground; I did the same. He pulled out his phone, and threw his arm around my shoulder. We both smiled for the picture, and all of a sudden before I knew it I was getting splashed by dirty pond water.

"Oh my god, Max! What is wrong with you?" I yelled, wiping the excess water away from me. He started to laugh, but quickly quieted when he saw the look on my face.

"Oh I'm sorry, Alli, I thought you would find it funny." He looked so sad to have upset me. I started laughing, and quickly splashed him back Ha, take that!

I jumped to my feet, and ran away from the pond so he couldn't get me back again. I looked behind me and saw he had gotten up, and was chasing me. Man, he is really fast. My little legs pumped as hard as they could, but I couldn't make them move any faster, and he was gaining on me.

"No!" I yelled with a laugh when two arms wrapped around my waist, and I was lifted into the air. I was laughing so hard my cheeks were cramping while Max spun me in the air; he was laughing as well.

"Kids, it's time to go home." Bonnie's voice yelled from the parking lot. She was beaming at us while she waved us over; phone in one hand, keys in the other. Max put me down with a huge smile on his face.

"Race ya." He then bolted towards the car. I tried, but of course I lost. Bonnie then drove me home where my mom was happily waiting for me in the living room. She had a smile on her face resembling that of Bonnie's when she picked us up.

"What's up, mom?" I asked, sitting beside her. Mom showed me her phone where there was a picture of Max, and I. I was in his arms being held in the air, and he was smiling widely up at me. We looked happy; I loved this.

"Can you send that to me?" I wanted to stare at that picture forever. We looked so happy. Max was a great friend. I can't wait to see what other goofy pictures we take together. For some reason I have the feeling this is just the beginning of something really amazing.
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