I fell in love with John Gibson the first time I saw him.
It was right after Pastor Taylor started his Sunday morning sermon. John and his family walked right down the middle of the aisle and sat in the pew in front of my family.
Hardly anyone ever dared to be late to church. It's not that Pastor Taylor made a big deal out of it, but some of the people in the congregation did.
They usually wouldn't say anything during church. They'd wait until after to speculate and whisper about whoever dared to be late as if it were a mortal sin.
I wondered if they even bothered listening when Pastor Taylor preached about gossiping. Or did they just not understand that's what they were doing?
Anyway, it was unusual that people were late and even more unusual that they sat where John's family did when they were. We were almost at the very front.
Generally, people in their situation would sit in the back.
But I was glad they didn't, because that's when I first saw John.
I guessed he was my age or a little older - maybe ten. He had dark brown hair that stood up in the back, light brown, almost golden eyes, and the most adorable smile.
After his family sat down, John looked around the church, noticing all the people watching him. He met my eyes and gave me a goofy grin. I couldn't help grinning back and that's when I knew I was going to marry him one day.
Not for a long time, of course, I was only eight and Papa said I wasn't allowed to get married until I was eighteen. But one day, I just knew I'd be marrying John.
And I just knew it was a sign from God that the message that morning was about love. It wasn't romantic love, of course. But still, I thought it was fitting.
Shortly after that, John joined our tiny school and I found out he was only a year older than me.
His family had just moved into town and I learned that he was Mr. and Mrs. Collier's grandson.
The Colliers owned a ranch about ten miles outside of town and were almost the richest people around.
Not that it mattered to me. I was just surprised that John turned out to be so nice since the Colliers were always so crabby.
I hadn't had the courage to talk to John after church, but he remembered me anyway and came over and introduced himself at recess.
He wasn't like the other boys I knew. They were all pretty awful most of the time. They'd tease me and the other girls, call us names, and sometimes put mice in our desks.
I hated them all and John was nothing like them.
He was nice to everybody and he didn't mind when the girls wanted to join whatever game the boys were playing. Since all the boys wanted him to like them, they didn't give us a hard time either.
John and I had alot in common. We both did well, but pretty much hated school. We both liked fishing, swimming, and climbing trees. He taught me all about horses. I already knew alot of it, since Papa taught me, but I liked having John teach me again and he seemed to like teaching, so I didn't say anything.
After that, we'd go riding together for hours. It was mostly just Saturdays, after our chores were done, but we'd go after school sometimes too.
I'd never had a boy as a friend before, since I could hardly stand the other boys I knew, but John became my best friend after only a few weeks.
He could have sat with anyone for lunch, but he wanted to sit with me. He stood up for me when that horrible boy, Billy Arnold, started picking on me again. He even got in a fight one time when Billy said something really nasty about my Mama being dead.
My Mama died when I was just a baby. Papa married Julia when I was about a year old and then my sister Jenny was born when I was two. I wished I'd known my real Mama, but I loved Julia too. She was the only mother I'd ever known and I knew she loved me like I was her real daughter.
After the teacher broke John and Billy apart, they both got punished. Which I didn't think was fair.
John didn't complain, though, and he met me after school to walk home together, like nothing happened, even though he had a black eye and his clothes were torn and dirty.
After that, there was no doubt in my mind. I was head over heels in love with John and we were gonna get married one day.
He just had to realize it.
After a few years, I was really getting sick of waiting. By the time I turned twelve, I was more than ready to get things moving. What was taking him so long? I knew some girls who got married at fifteen. And then there was the year or two that they'd courted. So, why was it taking John so long?
"You in there, Lady Bug?" Julia asked, tapping my nose, pulling me from my thoughts about John. I'd been staring at the table where my homework sat, half finished.
I tried to smile, but I didn't really feel like smiling.
"What's wrong, Kathryn?" She asked more serious.
"Nothing." I said sadly.
"Come on." Julia pushed.
I wasn't surprised that she didn't believe me. I wouldn't have believed me either. But I didn't say anything, I just shrugged.
"John?" She asked. Again I wasn't surprised. It was pretty much common knowledge that I loved John. At least, around the house, it was.
I nodded sadly.
"What did he do?" She asked.
I sighed. "Nothing." I said. "Mama, I've waited so long. Why doesn't he love me?"
"Oh, Sweetheart, you just have to give him some time." She said.
"I've known him for years now." I said. "How much time does he need?"
She smiled. "You just need to let John catch up with you."
"But he's older than me." I said, confused.
"But right now, you're a little older on the inside." She said.
I still didn't get it. How could someone be older on the inside than they are on the outside?
"Look at you and your sister." She said. "You've liked John since you were younger than she is now. But she still doesn't want much to do with boys at all. Do you understand?"
I nodded. I guess that made sense.
"How long do I have to wait?" I asked.
She smiled again. "Everyone's different, Sweetie. But I promise, one day John will wake up and see girls differently. He'll notice they're more than just good fishing partners or friends to go riding with."
"You promise?" I asked, hopeful.
"I promise." She said. "One day, boys are going to be falling all over themselves for your attention."
I half-smiled. "I don't want any boy but John."
"I know." She said, pulling me into a hug. "But just give it some more time, ok?"
I nodded and leaned into her. "Ok."
I didn't feel very confident in Julia's idea that John was magically gonna see me differently one day, but I had to admit, he didn't seem to like any other girls either. He'd never said anything about girls being pretty and he didn't talk about them any differently than he did about the boys.
I reconciled myself to waiting until he finally matured, like Julia said. I guess I didn't have much choice. Besides, how much longer could it take?
I didn't have my answer until almost three years later. John came over, like he did most Saturdays so we could go fishing.
But when I opened the door for him, right away I knew something was different. He looked much nicer than he usually did to go fishing and he was holding flowers.
I was sure, like Julia said, he was finally starting to notice me.
In my impatience, I'd attempted making him jealous by spending time with Andrew King.
Andrew had a crush on me for years and I was sure John knew it. Maybe it was wrong to use him like that, but I couldn't think of anything else to get John to open his eyes and really see me the way I wanted him to.
Anway, I guess it worked, so I didn't feel too bad.
I smiled brightly at John and told him to come in.
He looked nervous and I felt myself blush. And then I felt stupid for blushing. It was only John. I'd been with him a thousand times before.
He was about to say something when his attention was drawn to something behind me.
I peeked over my shoulder to see what he was looking at. Jenny was standing in the doorway, looking all goofy at John. I'd known for a while now that she had a crush on him. But she was just a kid and anyway, John was mine.
I rolled my eyes before looking back at John to share one of our smiles that said she was crazy.
Only when I looked at John, he wasn't looking at me at all. He was still watching Jenny.
To my complete horror, I noticed he didn't look like he thought she was crazy for looking at him that way. He didn't look like he thought she was just a kid, either.
He was looking at her the same way she was looking at him.
I looked between the two of them a few times, feeling like I couldn't breath, before John walked passed me and gave Jenny the flowers he brought with him.
I felt my eyes burn with tears as she smiled and giggled at something he said.
Unable to take more than a minute of standing there, I flew out the open front door and ran as fast as I could. I didn't know where I was running to, but I had to get away.
And the thing that really hurt was, John must not have even noticed I was gone because I didn't hear him call me, like I know he would have.
I ran and ran, blinded by my tears, and hardly able to breath through the sobs.
I finally found a tree and slumped against it before I buried my face in my hands and cried.
This couldn't be happening. John was mine! Jenny was just a kid!
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized, she really wasn't a kid. At least not looks-wise.
She was almost as tall me and people had always said she was pretty. Even when she was really little, everyone would comment about how beautiful she was.
She had long golden blond hair like Julia, light blue eyes, perfect skin, and a more grown-up body than me.
They'd say something nice about me too, but it was more of an afterthought, to be polite.
I was sort of the odd one in my house. I think I looked more like my mother with my reddish-brown hair and brown eyes. I had a face full of freckles, which I hated and, unlike Jenny, I was still waiting to fill out in certain places.
I didn't think people were really lying when they said I was pretty too. They just wouldn't have necessarily said it without noticing Jenny first. I was just sort of pretty. I blended in with most other girls. Jenny stood out. She was the one people - mostly boys, looked at all the time.
I never cared before. She was my sister and I loved her. I didn't care that she was prettier than me.
But now I cared.
How could they do this to me? It was no great secret that I'd always loved John.
Sure, maybe I didn't go announcing it in front of him, but could he be that stupid not to have figured it out by now?
And Jenny definitely knew.
How could they be so cruel?
For the first time in my life, I had to try really hard not to hate my sister.
I guess Julia was right. John just needed to mature and start noticing girls.
Why couldn't it have been me that he noticed?