Peppermint Gum

Originally written for Albino Peacock as a thank-god-it's-finally-summer gift.

"And now I'm breathing deeply, walking backwards
Finding strength to call and ask her
Roller coaster, favorite ride
Let me kiss you one last time..."

-Blink 182

It started off like any other normal day. My alarm went off at exactly 6:05 in the morning as I sullenly rolled out of my bed and, taking a quick glance at my mussed-up hair in the mirror, I trudged off towards the shower. Completing my shower shower within ten minutes, I then got dressed, and headed outside towards the mess hall for breakfast where I joined a small group of friends to eat.

Like I said, the day started normally.

However, it was when I walked out of the mess hall and was heading towards my 8:00 class that everything changed. Because, at precisely 7:52am in the middle of a school hallway, the one and only James Whitaker kissed me.

Firstly, I must take the time to say that the kiss was a complete surprise to me. If I had known James was going to kiss me, I might have dressed nicer, or at least taken the time to put some makeup on. But no, I was makeup-less and wearing jeans and a plain t-shirt when I was rather rudely pushed up against the wall.

"What the hell?" I wheezed, my back aching from the sudden collision. One second, I had been walking towards the lecture hall for English Lit. class, when suddenly I was knocked over by a sudden force and crushed against the wall. A few surrounding people gasped, but none made any effort to help me. My mind was whirring, trying to figure out what happened, and my heart was beating irregularly from the shock of it all. But, even more puzzling, was that my shoulders were pinned tightly back, and there was a solid body keeping me from moving.

I looked up, breathless, and met the dark blue eyes of a certain James Whitaker.

"Hello!" he said, a crooked grin making its way across his face.

I blinked.


All snappy comebacks, sarcastic phrases, and witty retorts were lost as I continued to stare into those deep blue orbs, completely mesmerized. Even though he was a social flirt and had the reputation of a player, James was by far the most attractive man on campus, with jet black hair that fell into his face, accented with angled cheekbones, pouting lips, and a small brown freckle on his right cheek. And the worst part of all was that he knew he looked good. He even had a whole mob of girls follow him around every day, declaring themselves to be the 'James Whitaker Fanclub', and they have special t-shirts they wear on every James Whitaker holiday. So it was amazing, really, to be this close to him and have him talk to me of all people. While I didn't worship the ground James walked on, I didn't miss his sexy looks and charming grins. I'd be lying if I said he wasn't affecting my normal judgment, which would be to sprint off in the other direction.

My stupefied silence, luckily, didn't last too long. Just moments after James said hello to me, I heard the loud screeching of girls and immediately knew James' fanclub wasn't that far behind us. My eyes once more locked onto the blue-eyed Adonis and, right as I opened my mouth to speak again, he clamped it shut with his hand. My shock only registered after I saw the look on his face.

"Nice day isn't it?"

I gaped wordlessly at him. Was he honestly trying to small talk me after pinning me against a wall? However, my silence didn't perturb James at all, because he kept on talking.

"Okay, Emily, I know this is going to sound really, reallystrange but I am in desperate need of your help."

James lowered his voice and continued in a harsh, frantic whisper, all the while his blue eyes skittishly flickered up and down the hallway. I could tell from his body language that he was paranoid about something... or someone coming down here. And even though James was whispering, his voice still echoed bluntly down the corridor. I tried to follow what he was talking about (because it sounded dreadfully important), but I kept getting distracted whenever his dark blue eyes would lock onto mine. This close up, I could see flecks of silver and lighter blue around the pupil. Just looking at his eyes this long was intoxicating; I was inside of a spinning, blue kaleidoscope... so dizzying. And then there were his rose-colored lips, so soft looking and mere inches away from mine. Occasionally I caught a glimpse of his pink tongue or felt a warm puff of air as it was expelled from his mouth... his breath smelled like peppermint, or maybe it was spearmint... I could never tell the difference between the two anyway.

"...and whatever happens, just go with it, okay? Do you understand?"

I jolted myself out of my mental monologue to see that James had stopped talking and was now looking at me expectantly.


Okay, so that wasn't the most intelligent of comebacks, but I rewarded my vocal chords for coming up with something articulate this time.

James, however, was not pleased. He ran a hand through his mussed black locks and sighed in frustration.

"Did you not hear anything I just said?"

I caught another whiff of peppermint and had to stop myself from sighing. Was it his toothpaste that smelled this good, or gum or maybe even mints? Honestly though, I didn't care. This guy was a walking aphrodisiac, not matter what toothpaste he used.. There should be medication for this sort of thing. But I didfeel a twinge of regret for not paying more attention to the actual words coming out of his mouth earlier.

"I-I'm sorry, I just-"

Luckily, my pathetic excuse was cut short by the sound of shrill, feminine voices and multiple pairs of high heels clicking down the hallway at an alarmingly fast rate. James tensed up immediately at the sound, but I was curious. Whoever could run that fast in high heels was someone to be admired because I most definitely missed out on that life lesson. The last time I wore high heels, I ended up having a cast on my ankle for over three months.

"Emily? Emily? Hello! God, sometimes I wonder where your mind is!"

I opened my mouth to apologize (I seemed to be doing that a lot today), but then I felt rather than saw a strong, tanned hand grasp my chin and tilt it up so I was now fully facing the enigma that was James Whitaker. His dark blue eyes were sparkling with their silver glints, and those pouting lips were even closer to mine now.

Dear lord, how much longer was this torture supposed to last?

"Do you trust me?" he breathed. I inhaled the sweet smell of peppermint and, momentarily lost in the sensations, one tiny part of me was telling me to nod. What had he asked me again? Having no idea but not wanting to deny James of anything, I took it upon myself to nod. So I nodded.

And immediately I was glad I did, because I was then rewarded with a dazzling smile from James as his face descended even closer towards mine.

"Good. Then I owe you a huge favor after this."

I staggered. Wait, what? Huh? After what?

"Wait, what're you talk-mmmpph!" my words were smoothly cut off as James Whitaker's lips pressed softly against mine.

What was going on?

My eyes bulged out of my head, and I frantically tried to push him off of me, but his arms gripped me even tighter, one hand tangling itself in my hair as he tilted his head to deepen the kiss. One drag of his tongue across my bottom lip and I was lost, almost light-headed with the sensations I was feeling. My bones melted and I limply pressed my body against the strong chest holding me down, fingers clutching desperately at his thin t-shirt. His slick, velvety tongue probed mine gently, drawing me into an erotic dance that neither partner could win. He tasted just like peppermint. Vaguely, I felt my eyes flutter shut, my body arch against his, and I couldn't contain the moan that was trapped at the back of my throat. Shudders ran down my spine when I heard him moan in reply. Never in my life time had I been kissed as good as this and- oh my god. My tongue brushed against what I knew to be a wad of chewing gum, and I eagerly transferred it to my own mouth, only to bite down and take in the heady sensations of the peppermint flavor. God, I was losing it, I didn't even know I could lose control this much, this good... it was like nothing I'd ever-


I jumped so fiercely that my body knocked into James', sending me straight back into the wall he'd been pinning me against. Standing there in front of us, some looking distraught but all severely shocked and furious, was the entirety of the James Whitaker fanclub. And the entire group was glaring daggers at me. To say I was scared would be an understatement.

"Why, he-llo ladies What seems to be the problem?"

How did the man do it? One second, his lips were permanently attached to mine in a frantic lip-lock, and next he was casually leaning against the wall, one hand protectively grasping my hip, and acting as if this were an everyday occurrence. The only trace of our previous passion was the glittering expression in his eyes and the swollen redness that tinged his lips. God, only James Whitaker could look even hotter after making out with someone. I envied him, all the while trying to calm down my heart rate and piece together what the hell was happening.

Then Brianna, the ever-perfect, gorgeous looking brunette and officially the most popular girl in the entire college, stepped forward and glared at me like I was a piece of dirt stuck underneath her newly manicured fingernail.

"Girls," she directed towards the herd of sheep behind her, "you can leave. I'll take care of this alone."

I gulped, tugging unpleasantly at my shirtsleeves. There was an awkward pause where I tried to get out of James' group, refusing to look anyone in the eyes, while the rest of the fanclub slowly moved out of the hallway. Then I heard the sharp click of Brianna's stilettos against the tile floor and knew she was getting closer.

"James, what is going on here?" Brianna spat. When I looked up, her fierce glare was still on me. I shifted nervously. This was the girl who put glue on my seat in 2nd grade and spread rumors in middle school about me having a crush on the mean, fat kid even though I didn't. This girl had power over people, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't phased by it – even more so now that we were in college. But I didn't even think about her and James' relationship until the guy currently holding me spoke up.

"Emily and I were just... having some quality time before I walked her to class."

If not for the current situation I found myself in, I probably would have slapped the blue-eyed Adonis for making such a suggestive comment. But since he was talking to Brianna, his ex-girlfriend, I smiled and elaborated on the story by twining my fingers with his. It was a subtle movement, but when James squeezed my hand back in return, I felt quite accomplished. Interrogating James about the kiss would have to come after my revenge on Brianna.

The brunette released her lethal gaze on me and locked two simpering brown eyes onto James instead.

"Butbaby, you know that if you keep on doing this, Emily here might just think she has a chance with you."

Inwardly I was gagging on the honey-coated words just oozing from Brianna's mouth, but I kept quiet. James was speaking again.

"But Brianna, you forget that I'm a single man now, and that Emily couldjust be the next girl I date." he countered immediately, as if expecting Brianna to say something like that. I remained a quiet spectator, not knowing if my presence would benefit or ruin the argument between these ex-lovers. Plus, I didn't exactly trust my voice box at this moment. Did the one and only James Whitaker just imply that we could be dating?

That was pushing it a little too much for my acting skills, so I make a quick decision to stop this conversation, presence be wanted or not. I could not just stand here and let them talk about me. Turning around in the position James was holding me, I looked up into those deep blue eyes and whispered just loud enough that Brianna could hear: "Jaaames, we're gonna be late for class if we keep talking toher."

Even from where I was standing, I heard Brianna's indignant huff, and grinned smugly to myself. James caught on with my act quickly, the gleam his eyes dancing wickedly in front of me.

"Of course, Em. Let's get you out of here."

And so James Whitaker and I waltzed out of that hallway, leaving a very stunned Brianna in our wake. My fingers were linked with his, but I wasn't happy. You see, while I had been stuck in that conversation earlier, I had thought of something. Surely even the great James Whitaker couldn't have been that smooth in such an encounter, could he? I mean, he is still human! Shouldn't he have been at least a little frazzled by the appearance of his ex-girlfriend while moments before making out with another girl? A girl he didn't even know until he pinned her against the wall and...

Once we were out of earshot, I wrenched my hand out of his grasp, and whirled around so I was face to face with James.

"You set that up. That's why you kissed me, wasn't it? Because you knew she was coming."

James' guilty expression told me all I needed to know. All of my previous hope and giddiness from the kiss and my revenge on Brianna meant nothing to me now. I had been used, and that was that. How could I have missed that? I mean, the whole time he had me pinned against the wall, he was trying to tell me that he just needed me to act like I was enjoying the kiss! And I had been so enraptured by him that I completely missed all of that! How could I have been so... so stupid?!

Before James had the chance to open his mouth, I stormed away to my English lit. class, hoping that this day would just end fast enough. He tried to follow me for awhile, apologizing and saying that he'll make it up to me somehow, but I just ignored him.

When I passed the large, gray trashcan, I spat out the gum I had stolen from him earlier. It had lost its flavor anyway.

My English class was long and tiresome – the professor barely let us breathe before we were taking a new set of notes – but I welcomed the work because it kept my mind off a certain guy and a certain kiss. I didn't want to have to think about it, but most everyone that had a social status spent the entire class whispering behind my back and giving me strange looks. The gossip at our school spread like wildfire, so I was sure they were talking about "The Incident". One girl even had the nerve to walk up to me and talk to me.

"Hey you, did you really kiss, like the James Whitaker?"

I stared blankly at her snotty little face, wishing she would spontaneously combust. The group of girls I figured out to be her friends all looked at me expectantly.


Her apple candy eyes squinted at me, and it took me a while to understand that she was glaring at me. Great. Today I had made more enemies than I had made in my entire life. How would I be able to walk into school tomorrow morning?

Another one of her friends jumped into the conversation, bounding over towards my desk.

"That's not true, I saw you guys! I was in the hallway when it happened!"

Thus began the battle between me and the snotheads. I was winning, mainly due to the fact that I wouldn't stop glaring at them and convincing them that they were hallucinating and that James must have been kissing someone else and not me. But then, wonder of wonders, who else but the one and only James Whitaker came strolling into my classroom!

I swore I was going to become homicidal by the end of the day.

That arrogant, pompous jerkface who decided that he owned the world flashed a dazzling smile towards my professor, who stuttered and lost what she was saying mid-sentence. Then he strode over to the desks, and I shrunk down in my chair, hoping he wouldn't see me. Unfortunately, he did.

"Emily! I'm afraid that last conversation of ours didn't end too well, so I just came here to deliver a note to you. Please read it, okay?" The last part of his sentence was a dead whisper so that only I could hear it.

My first instinct was to brush him off completely and not even look at him, but the tone of his voice just sounded so sincere and apologetic that I had to turn around and face him. And then I got caught in those dark blue eyes, the raging sea that never fails to draw me in. James dropped a scrap of paper onto the top of my desk, and I gave him an imperceptible nod. In return, I got a quick smile and the satisfaction of watching him walk out of the classroom.

Then all hell broke loose.

"OH MY GAWD! Did you just see that?"

"Emily, you lucky bitch! I cannot believe he came in here just to deliver that note!"

"Awwwwww that was so sweet! Delivering his note personally..."

"You lying little skank! You so are going out with James!"

If I were sane, or at least had a brain that was in working order, I would have ran out of the classroom after James – at least I would have had some peace and privacy. But no, I got stuck in the middle of an obnoxious, giggly crowd of girls all asking me questions. When the bell finally rang, I bolted out of that classroom like the apocalypse was coming. Never before had I actually been the center of the gossip mill's attention like that. It was stifling. I had even been planning on sprinting down to the utility closet, grabbing a broom, and leaping out of the third floor window in hopes that I had magical powers and could fly over to Hogwarts and get myself an invisibility cloak. Okay... maybe that was a bit drastic, but I was a desperate girl here! I didn't want this attention!

Once I was in the safety of my own dorm, I pulled out the note from James and read it quickly. It was short, messily written, and on the back of a gum wrapper no less. But it still warmed my heart and brought a smile to my face.


Sorry about this morning in the hallway. I don't know what

you're thinking, but just know that I feel bad for using you.

I was a bit desperate to get B off my back.

If you've forgiven me enough to look me in the eye again,

will you meet me tomorrow morning at the coffeehouse at

7:00? Consider it as payment for what happened today.


I could not believe what I read. So I re-read it once, twice, maybe ten times, still grinning to myself. He really felt bad about what he did! And he wants to meet me for coffee tomorrow morning! This was just way too crazy for me to handle. My fingers were beginning to smudge the ink on the back of the wrapper from extensive reading and re-reading of the note. On a whim, I lifted the wrapper to my nose and sniffed it. Immediately the sharp scent of peppermint (or was it spearmint?) evaded my senses, only bringing more excitement to the moment.

Did James Whitaker really and truly like me? Would he have made this much of an effort if it had happened to someone else?

I had to find out. I had to ask him. And the only way I could get my questions answered was to meet him at the coffeehouse tomorrow morning. And, since the next morning was hours away, I took the time to relax.

Well, 'next morning' found me much sooner than I would've liked. My alarm clock went off at 6:05am like it always did. The weather was nice, there was hot water left in the shower, and my roommate was still asleep. To the rest of the world, it seemed like a normal day.

I was beginning to develop a paranoia towards normal days, especially if they involved James Whitaker.

The walk to the campus coffeehouse wasn't too bad, so I made it over there almost ten minutes early. That would give me enough time to collect my thoughts before heshowed up. What I didn't expect was for James to already be there. In all of my previous dating experience, the guy never showed up on time, much less earlier. But there was James, waiting for me with a perky smile on his face and his dark blue eyes gleaming with happiness.

"I'm so glad you're here!" was the first thing he said to me, as his steady hand grasped my elbow and led me towards a more secluded table. Students I recognized from some of my classes were all around, giving me peculiar looks and others whispering behind my back.

Don't think about them, I told myself, just remember what you're here to do. Think about the questions you have to ask him.

Even though I had been thrown off by James' early arrival, I would not forget my task. However, forgetting my task seemed to be the exact reaction James wanted, for when I arrived at the table, I saw two steaming mugs of coffee already sitting there. My inner romantic (the one I never unleash) squealed rather girlishly at the prospect of a coffee date with James Whitaker. I sat down quietly, no knowing what to say first. How could this guy throw me off course every single time?

"I just got you plain black coffee since I didn't know what you wanted, but I can get you some cream or sugar if you'd like." James started, gesturing towards the mug in front of me.

"Thanks. Black coffee sounds good to me."

Hesitantly, I blew at the steaming brown liquid before taking a sip. Mmmmm... pure black, caffeinated coffee. It tasted good.

"So..." I ventured, "I really don't know what's happened between the two of us the past couple of days. Would you care to, um, I dunno, offer some sort of explanation before I start asking my questions?"

I only said the last part because James kept opening and closing his mouth, looking ready to interrupt me at any chance he got. Even for not knowing him at all, I could tell this was not normal James Whitaker behavior. He looked... frightened – nervous, even.

"Yeah, yeah I do. Thanks." he blurted out quickly, and I gave him a not to let him proceed. James cleared his throat and began: "Well, you and I both know the technical details of what happened. But I don't know what you've been thinking or feeling, or any of that really. So first I'd like to apologize for messing with you emotions, whatever those may be. I did not think everything through yesterday in the hall. And, secondly, speaking of yesterday in the hallway, I guess you should know that the kiss and, well everything, it wasn't just random."

He then paused, letting out a shaky breath and ran a hand through his hair. Dark blue eyes refused to meet mine, but instead stared out the window. I was blushing, also refusing to meet his eyes but straining my ears to take in every word he said. What did James mean that the... kiss wasn't random?

"I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I like you Emily. A lot. I've liked you for a while now, but you weren't like all the other girls who follow me around and idolize me, so I didn't know how to act around you or how to get you to notice me. We've been in the same few classes for months now, but I barely even got an acknowledging gaze from you. I don't know if it was because you believed all the rumors about me, or if you just weren't interested. And so I recklessly decided to figure out what would happen if I got you to notice me. I knew I had to do something drastic. But looking back on it, maybe if that wasn't the right thing to do, I still don't regret any of it."

He finished, and I was left staring unbelievingly at the man in front of me. How the hell had I missed so much? Was I living under a rock or something?

"Wow. Wooooow. I did not see that one coming. I mean, you... you... it was on purpose?" I stuttered, setting down my coffee mug and trying to grasp hold of the situation. James, however, began to smile at me, and I forgot what I was supposed to be doing.

"Yes," he whispered, "It was very much on purpose. Now, didn't you say you had some questions for me?"

"Questions..." yes, questions. Oh wow. I had plenty of questions for James now, it was just a matter of choosing which ones to ask him. Like, for starters, why do you like me over Brianna? What did Brianna have to do with your plan of kissing me? Were other people in on this plan? Was yesterday just a random day you chose to act, or was the date somehow significant? And why did you choose to kiss me of all things? And why are you so good at kissing? And why me... and...

"Would you kiss me again? Right here, right now?" I breathed, feeling myself lean in closer towards James without even meaning to. I just had to know that if he kissed me, it would feel the same as yesterday. Did I like James as much as he claims to like me? Yes. But that didn't mean I could just recklessly jump into this relationship without confirming my feelings.

But, oh my, how James' blue eyes glittered when I asked him to kiss me. I felt my heart jolt when his face leaned in closer towards mine, and I could smell the coffee on his breath. His soft lips quickly descended towards mine, and I was once again spinning in the intoxicating dance of passion, and had no control over my actions, or my thoughts. All I could do was feel, as if the emotions inside me were bubbling up and threatening to overflow. It was a soft, gentle kiss, and yet I could feel my heart soaring above the clouds. The hint of coffee was subtle yet strong – a different kiss from the first, but not at all disappointing. I still had a smile on my face when we pulled apart.

"Wow." was all James said, but a wicked smile told me all I needed to know. Things would be much different between the two of us now.

Laughing to myself, I grabbed my things and the two of us left the coffeehouse, fingers intertwined.

"What's so funny?" James asked, nudging me teasingly with an elbow.

"Nothing really. I just thought that the first kiss was better than the second." For a moment, James looked offended, but I laughed and went on to explain my thought process. "Well, the last kiss we both just had coffee breath, but the first one you tasted like peppermint."

Now it was James' turn to laugh, and he let go of my hand momentarily to pull a pack of gum from his pocket.

"You mean this?" he questioned, pulling out two strips of the gum and popping one in his mouth before offering the second one to me.

"Yeah, that's the stuff."

Biting down on the gum, I felt an effusion of flavor overwhelm my senses. The sharp scent of peppermint was making me heady, and I was lustfully reminded of that first kiss in the hallway. I let out a moan of approval.

"If I knew spearmint gum would have that kind of affect on you, I would have tried that a lot sooner." James teased, leaning down and pecking me on the lips, which turned into more kissing.

"Spearmint?" I questioned in-between kisses. "I thought it was peppermint."

"Ah, well, what's the difference anyway?" James groaned, dragging me back into another kiss. I grinned, responding immediately to his insistent lips and just let my thoughts slowly drift away.