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  • Gabrielle McAree

The Girl With the Peanut Butter Breath

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

A hopeless romantic with a peanut allergy, Nick gets a kiss of deathliterallyfrom his ultimate crush on the 13th of February.

Arthur's Invitation

It’s the 13th of February, and I’m dazed and confused. I don’t know if it’s the cherry-colored hues in her maple leaf hair or that her breath always smells like peanut butter. I’m not naïve; I’ve had crushes before—my bus driver, my school nurse, my sister’s best friend, all five of the Spice Girls—but they were fantasies, potential what-ifs, lottery-winning aspirations hot-glued together by my ability to get an erection. But this crush, this crush plants roots in my bloodstream and lays eggs in my cardiovascular system. This crush consumes all my energy, all my thoughts, and her breath is like breathing in an ocean of creamy peanut butter.

I don’t even care that I have a severe peanut allergy. That I’m 100% allergic to peanuts.

And I’m not trying to blame her, but she’s the sole reason I’m failing Pre-Algebra.

I just want to sit with her on the bench outside our junior high school and hold her hand. I want to know if she likes milk with her cereal and if she has siblings and if she eats broccoli willingly and brushes her teeth twice a day and how she feels about global warming. I want to smell the shampoo she uses and go out and buy it for myself.

I’m in LOVE. The capitalized, italic, bolded, and underlined version.

It doesn’t matter that I’m thirteen. Or that I don’t know how to drive, or that I have no income or potential career path. It doesn’t matter that I’m afraid of heights and large spiders and pigeons. Or that my new haircut sucks, and I haven’t fully gone through puberty. Or that I’m 5’4” on a good day. None of that matters because, someday, I will buy her a ring for her ring finger.

Today, I buy her a Scooby-Doo Valentine.

My hand twitches as I hold out the Valentine I’ve signed just for her. It has extra Xs, extra Os, and looks like something out of our offensive line playbook. I forget how to speak English, so I bury my hands in my khaki pockets and force the muscles in my face to resemble some kind of smile. I imagine I look like the Joker or Freddy Krueger or someone old without teeth. If only liking someone were as easy as memorizing a playbook. Or assembling LEGO sets. Or eating cheeseburgers. If only I weren’t allergic to peanut butter.

“Thanks,” she says, adding my Valentine to her mountain of store-bought declarations of other people’s love. It’s obvious, she is the most popular girl in class. I build LEGO sets and sometimes block for the second-string quarterback. She’s out of my league, I know it. But she smiles at me, (me!), and says, “I have one for you too.”

She hands me a homemade Valentine with hot pink hearts and little footballs. It looks like a glitter machine threw up on white paper. I envision myself smacking my head on her desk and being airlifted to the nearest hospital. All I can see are red spots. Red hair. All I can smell is peanut butter.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Nick!” she says, flipping her hair over her shoulder like one of those shampoo commercial ads. “I’d give you a Reese’s, but I know you’re allergic.”

My brain does 90mph backflips and my heart races to Olympic levels. She knows I have a peanut allergy. She knows my body rejects peanuts and shuts down like a dial-up computer. She knows I could die by peanut butter.

“Yeah. It sucks being allergic to peanuts,” I say, staring at my scuffed tennis shoes.

“Yeah.” She takes her stash of Reese’s and dumps them in the waste bin underneath the pencil sharpener. “I’ve decided to quit peanuts. If you can’t have them, neither can I.”

She laces her fingers through mine and plants a slobbery kiss on my left cheek. I can’t even enjoy it though because the reaction happens instantly. My skin tingles, vibrating my body with a force of rogue fireworks, and my cheeks swell to a size chipmunks would be jealous of. My face is so hot you could cook eggs on it, and I can’t remember any of the plays from the playbook. But I am conscious of the fact that I’m chronically allergic to the girl I love.

“Oh, no!” she says.

It’s the last thing I hear before I smack my head on her desk. I wake up in a fluorescent-lit hospital room and ask every nurse who passes if I was airlifted here. “I want to know if I unlocked dormant powers to predict the future,” I say.

They laugh, adjusting my medicine, and tell me my bus driver brought me in.

“Oh, great. That’s just great. I can’t predict the future and Ms. Bailey saw me unconscious.”

Mom scolds me for fifteen minutes for not carrying my EpiPen and then says, “Someone’s here to see you.”

Twelve years later, I marry Daniella Rhodes at a ceremony without peanut butter. She tells this story at our wedding.

She says, “So, have I told you about the time I almost killed Nick?”

Shelby Van Pelt | Author

By Gabrielle McAree

Twitter: @gmcaree_

Gabrielle McAree is from Fishers, IN. She studied Theatre and Writing at Long Island University Post. Her work appears or is forthcoming in X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, (mac)ro(mic), Reflex Press, Tiny Molecules, Versification, and others.

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