Molly and Jumper


Jumper had known Molly Jensen since the moist-eyed days of early youth. Charlie Rickford had teased Jumper about hanging out with girls -- until Molly beat him up and made him cry in front of Arthur Jones, Jonathan Loo and even Quentin Clarke. And this was in the second grade, where crying meant the end of hanging out, of chasing each other at near light-speed on bicycles, of endless adventures in the any-world of the fantastic playground. It was, in the second grade, like another fall of man. but Charlie was reunited with the gang the next day, his... unmanly tears forgotten in the furious pace of a seven-year-old's life.

Jumper liked Molly because she never asked him to marry her, never wanted to play house, was interested more in transformers than in the fake Barbie dolls that you could cut the hair off of and it would never grow back. Not that Jumper pretended or even thought that girls were yucky; he liked them on the whole. but they were so much less real than Molly was. Jumper still got frightened at the movies, went swimming and played get-dirty-get-scraped tag with the guys, but he reserved his most fantastic adventures for playing out with Molly. The any-world of Charlie and Arthur and Jonathan always had the same machine-gun fights (even when they played knights and dragons), the same gory deaths, the same everything. Molly and Jumper created worlds better than anything on TV, filled with the black-and-white hopes and fears of second grade, because Jumper and Molly were best friends.

When they reached intermediate school, and Charlie and Arthur all eagerly pretended to be grossed-out by spin the bottle and the other I'm-curious games of adolescence, Molly and Jumper, impossibly, grew closer together. One day at the park Molly wanted to play on the swings instead of play four-square, and she began to talk about the grayer hopes and fears of thirteen-ness. And Jumper, amazingly, found that he really didn't mind.

So, they learned from each other -- Molly talked about training bras, about stupid slumber parties, about the unbelievable pain of braces. Jumper talked about his middle name (Xavier), about not making the basketball team cut, about the requisite machismo of being a teenage guy. And they both got to sleep a little easier because of it.

They stayed friends even through the intense world of high school. Through Nazi history teachers who pulled pop quizzes and looked at someone else but asked you a question, through class struggles that made Sally Hart laugh at Jumper when he asked her out, through Valentine's dances and Homecoming games, club fundraisers and the slow invasion of the pressures of the outside world. Not that they were boyfriend and girlfriend. You never saw Molly and Jumper talking and crying or stuck together like Siamese twins. They didn't even go to prom together -- Jumper went with Sally, who was much nicer after she stopped hanging out with the soc crowd, and Molly went with Quentin. They exchanged pictures and signed yearbooks and talked just like regular friends, right up through graduation. But only Molly knew that Jumper came close to flunking out of school, and only Jumper knew that Molly had slammed the door in Quentin's face after prom (although Quentin told it differently).

Then, while waiting in the registration line at State, wedged between his roommate (who claimed to be an anarchist, making Jumper go look the word up) and a huge woman who wore a hideous shade of green and smelled of anchovies, Jumper realized that he loved Molly. All it took was his roommate telling him, as Molly walked into the gym, that his girlfriend had arrived. Jumper started with the automatic response of "She's not my girlfriend," since he had been asked that too many times to count in high school, when all the memories of their time together pressured it back down his throat and lodged it painfully in his chest.

For the entire semester, when Jumper was at Molly's dorm doing frosh English or just talking, his mind was racing through thousands of scenarios of confessing his love. "Molly, I love you" wasn't quite right, and the moonlit walk through Bishop Yard was a little too saccharine (and dangerous). When they fell to talking as they had been so used to, he lied when she asked him about his love life. Jumper knew that if she didn't love him (how could she, so beautiful, so warm, love me? he thought) then that put their friendship in a precarious, awkward position. Their 12-year friendship was too much to gamble. But then, the pain that had stayed from his realization in the registration line (Jumper had thought that it was indigestion at first) was eating him up from inside and burning through his skin every second of the day.

Then, one night Molly told him that she had a crush on Adam Rawlings, the athletic water polo player down the hall. Jumper died inside. Dammit! Jumper only wanted Molly to be happy, but that meant her having Adam, and not having him. But Jumper, who truly loved Molly, decided to get him for her. Jumper and Adam knew each other from weekly physics problem sets, and, through cajoling and begging and innuendo, Jumper got Adam to ask her out. Then, as Jumper was about to go drink himself into a stupor over what he had done, Molly asked him to come over.

"Adam asked me out."

Jumper acted surprised. "Great! What're you going to do?"

"I'm not going. I told him no."

Jumper said nothing. "Jumper, I've known you since second grade." Her words came slowly, choked. "I ... ever since high school ..."

And Jumper knew that she loved him too. He said nothing. He grabbed her hand and ran outside, into the parking lot, where the cold bit at the skin, but Jumper and Molly didn't mind because they were warmed inside and the moon was coming out from behind the clouds and someone, somewhere, was playing mambo music a little too loudly, and they didn't have to say anything to each other because saying anything would have been anticlimactic, and he slipped his arms around her and amazed, felt her against him, and he lowered his lips to hers, happy beyond all joys.

Then a truck ran them both over and smashed them to bits.


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