"Frankie Epps! You stop that!" Mary swatted his arm. She was careful to keep her voice low.

"What d'you mean, Mary? Stop what?" Frankie laughed. He poked her cheek.

"That, Frankie! You stop that cute pokin' and proddin'!"

The two teenagers were standing behind Frankie's father's bookstore. The front was a quaint red-brick building with white wooden trim and big golden letters on the window saying Epps' Book Emporium. The back was not as sunny, with a little stoop of four steps leading off of the door, which is where Mary Phagan was standing- on the second highest of the four steps. With her lack of height and Frankie going through a growth spurt that left him gangly in areas, she was only slightly taller than him right now.

"So I'm cute, now, am I?"

"Now you're twistin' my words!"

"So I'm not cute." Frankie faked hurt.

"I didn't say that neither!" She is so cute when she's frustrated, Frankie thought. Her cheeks get a little red an' her blue eyes look like a ragin' storm. An' she always purses her lips like her Momma does when she catches me with her baby girl.

"Then what d'you really mean, Sunshine?" She smiled at his nickname for her. Her smile was like a glass of lemonade.

"I mean, you're more than just cute t'me, Frankie," She said, twirling a tendril of his molasses brown hair. The boys'd say she's got me wrapped 'round that cute little finger, but I don't care. The boys call her 'Mary-don't-go-there-Phagan', but I don't care. The first one's 'cause I've always loved Mary, an' that last one's 'cause her Momma won't let her go with anybody 'til she turns sixteen, an' no boy in Marietta wants t'be on the wrong side o' Mrs. Phagan. "You're clever an' smart, an' charmin'. You're gonna be handsome someday, an' I wanna be there t'see it."

"What you sayin', Sunshine?" He very well knew what she was saying, but he wanted to hear her say it.

"I want t'be yours, Frankie Joseph Epps. Forever an' ever an' ever."

That was exactly what he wanted to hear, so with that remark, he pulled her close and kissed her, one arm wrapped all the way around her waist, the other tangled in her curly brown hair.

He could feel her lips pulling into a smile and he picked her up and spun her off the step. The silence that surrounded them as they simply stared at each other lasted a long time before it was broken.

"Mary Evangeline Phagan? Where are you at this ungodly time of night?" It was ten o'clock, but by no means did Frankie think it was 'ungodly' and hour. But the voice made him scared.

"Momma…" Mary whispered. "Go! She'll skin you if she finds you wi' me."

"I'm not goin'," Frankie whispered back. He just got Mary- he wasn't going to let her go. She kissed him long and hard, making Frankie severely dazed.

"Now go!" He ran off into the dark night, past a couple of seventeen year olds in an alley. He hid behind a garbage can.

"Mary?" Her momma's voice was shrill, like a penny whistle.

"Over here, Ma!"

"Why in God's name are you out here by Epp's bookstore? You should be at the library right now!" Frankie smiled in the dark. 'Cause, ma'am, your daughter'd rather spend time with me. He chuckled to himself as he raced off into the dark.