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First Kiss

Fourteen year old Zelli is engaged in a constant internal battle between being true to her feelings and desires and being accepted by the popular crowd in school. This is evident on the last day of the school year, when Zelli joins some of the "cool" kids for lunch. Although she is at times humiliated by their behavior towards her, she also envies them. As she heads off on her summer vacation, a visit to her cousin's in New Jersey, she vows to act more like the popular girls from now on. Meeting Johnny, the boy of her dreams, gives her a chance to try out the "new and improved" Zelli. But she almost loses the chance for love with her reckless behavior, until Johnny teaches her about being true to herself and they share the first kiss.

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release

Terri Pepper Gavulic

First Kiss is Terri’s first novel, completed just as she turned 40 and had her first child. In 1997 her short story, Eva and Pops, was selected as a winner in the "O, Georgia!" literary contest. Terri has served as editor for the 1998 "O, Georgia Too!" anthology and has edited the manuscripts of numerous authors. She is Director of Client Services for a large Atlanta law firm and is currently at work on her second novel, Best Friends. She lives in Atlanta with her husband Ken and their daughter, Zelli.


"Terri Pepper Gavulic has written a delightful and insightful story of first love. Honest and straight- forward, First Kiss is a gem! Perceptive and sensitive, First Kiss is a remarkable story."

Barbara Corrington -- Romance Communications

"A must read with heart, FirstKiss is a charming story of a high school girl caught up in the confusion of young romance. What sets this novel apart is the strength of its characters, who are funny, sympathetic and totally believable. Ms. Gavulic has also done a wonderful job with the pacing of her story. It never lags, and there are enough twists to keep you guessing along the way as to whether her young protagonist will make the right choices, and whether she will be able to deal with the wrong ones. This is an impressive debut!"

James Grippando, bestselling author of "Found Money"

"A YA aimed at the very young adult, probably the 11-to-14 set, FIRST KISS is a delightful and insightful look at one girl's first steps toward maturation. Ms. Gavulic has ably created a character that is bewildered, searching, and, as yet, unable to trust her own knowledge of what is right and wrong for her. FIRST KISS is, very obviously, a book for girls and I would recommend it to mothers with daughters in this age group. It is innocent but very much a 90's book. Good job, Ms. Gavulic! Highly Recommended!"

Under the Covers Book Reviews

Chapter 1

ZELLI ENTERED the cafeteria on the last day of school, clutching her bulky copy of Genesis, the annual yearbook. As usual, she was assailed by a blast of sounds -- kids talking and laughing, chairs scraping, silverware clanking, and music blaring in the background. Midway across the room, Zelli's next door neighbor and friend since childhood, Susan Jones, sat at a table with her boyfriend of the week, Paul. Susan saw Zelli and waved her over. Zelli zigzagged her way to the table while quickly scanning the crowd for her best friend, Lisa, whom she was supposed to be meeting for lunch. Lisa wasn't there yet, which gave Zelli some time to think about how to justify her seating choice to her best friend once she did arrive. Lisa didn't think Susan and the rest of the popular kids were as cool as Zelli thought they were.

"Hey Zelli, come sit with us," said Susan.

"I'm supposed to be meeting Lisa. Is it okay if she sits here, too?"

"Sure," Susan replied with uncharacteristic generosity. Zelli plunked down her yearbook. After grunting a hello to Zelli, Paul tried to regain Susan's complete attention by wrapping his arms around her and pulling her tightly to him. Feeling like she was interrupting a private moment, Zelli immediately regretted her decision to join the pair.

"I'll be right back, I'm going to get something to eat," she said, rising.

It's so weird how different Susan is in school, she thought. She and Susan had known each other practically their whole life. When it was just the two of them at home, Susan was great fun to be with. But in school, she acted just like all the other girls in the popular clique -- kind of rude and oblivious to the feelings of anyone but themselves.

Admit it, Zelli admonished herself, you're just jealous. Boys are always falling all over Susan. Why she's had at least five boyfriends so far and you've had none.

Returning to the table in a few minutes with a tray laden with a hamburger, fries and apple juice, Zelli settled herself on the hard, red plastic chair. Looking up she spotted Lisa and waved her over. She watched her best friend make her way to the table. At 5'6", Lisa was tall compared to many of the kids. She was on the plump side and didn't take as much care with her appearance as perhaps she should have. She didn't even wear makeup yet. Her mother wouldn't let her. Her black hair was cut short, and her brown eyes flashed a look of bewilderment in Zelli's direction.

"Hey," said Lisa to Zelli. "I thought we were going to sit by ourselves so we could sign each other's yearbooks. What are we doing here?"

Zelli glanced up to see if Susan and Paul had heard Lisa's comment, and was relieved to see them in the midst of a mini food fight, in which Susan tried to put an ice cube down Paul's shirt, and he tried to rub ketchup on her nose.

"Come on, Lisa," Zelli said through gritted teeth, "chill, please. They invited me over to their table. What was I supposed to say? Let's just have a nice lunch and we can sign our books later."

Giving in, Lisa took a seat and pulled a brown paper bag out of her navy, canvas backpack. Spying the homemade lunch, Paul grabbed the bag.

"My bag," he read. "How adorable. Did your mommy pack this for you?" he taunted.

With her face reddening, Lisa tried to grab the bag out of Paul's hands, but he kept pulling it just beyond her grasp.

Zelli was humiliated for her friend, but afraid to step in lest she became the object of Paul's teasing. She silently appealed to Susan with beseeching eyes. Susan took the hint.

"Paul, give her the bag. Honestly Lisa, nobody in high school brings their lunch. It's way too babyish," Susan explained in an exasperated tone.

Lisa took her bag back and defiantly unpacked her sandwich and chips. Trying to change the subject, Zelli asked Susan and Paul if they'd sign her yearbook.

"Sure," they each replied, and Zelli handed it over. As soon as the couple was engrossed in their signing activity, Zelli turned to Lisa.

"Sorry about that," she whispered.

"You know, I knew better than to sit here. I don't know why I let you talk me into doing stuff I don't like. It's the last lunch of the year and we're wasting it on these jerks. I'd much rather be sitting alone with you or maybe with the other kids from Club."

Club was FTA, Future Teachers of America, a group that included both Zelli and Lisa as members. Zelli looked up quickly to assure herself that Susan and Paul were still busy with the yearbook. She enjoyed her affiliation with FTA, but knew Susan thought her extracurricular activity was definitely not cool. Most of the popular kids were involved in the Drama Club or no activities at all. If there were a "Beach Club" they'd probably join that. Living in Miami, it was almost a certainty that the popular crowd would head to the beach two or three days a week after school.

Before Zelli could respond to Lisa's comment, another couple stepped up to the table.

"Fries, cool. Can I have one?" asked the boy.

"Um, sure," Zelli replied, trying to be nonchalant. The boy, Peter Marks, grabbed a handful, leaving Zelli with a few greasy pieces of potato in the cardboard container. She had really wanted those fries, but she wouldn't say anything -- even if her life depended on it. Peter Marks was the most popular guy in school and this was the first time he had ever even said two words to Zelli.

The girl accompanying Peter, Corrine Carter, turned to Susan and Paul, clearly ignoring the other two girls.

"Susan, everyone is coming over to my house after school to go swimming. Can you and Paul come?" she asked.

Zelli prayed that she and Lisa would be included too, but no invitation was extended. Rising, Lisa said she would be right back and headed to the lunch line to buy a drink. As soon as she vacated her seat, Corrine sat down.

Much as she didn't want to cause a scene, Zelli felt compelled to protect her best friend.

"Um, Lisa's coming right back. She went to get a drink, so, um, she'll need her seat back."

"You snooze, you lose," snorted Corrine disdainfully. Zelli felt her face grow warm as a flush of embarrassment swept over her, but she kept silent, thinking Corrine wouldn't possibly keep the seat once Lisa returned to the table. It was inconceivable that anyone would be that rude. Looking for something to do in the meantime, she picked up her yearbook that Susan had placed on the table, partially in a small puddle of water. She was wiping it off when Lisa returned to the table with a carton of milk in her hand. Seeing Corrine in her seat, she gathered up her belongings.

"I gotta go," she said to Zelli. "I'll see you later. Meet me outside after school."

"Okay, bye," said Zelli, secretly relieved a potentially mortifying scene had been avoided.

Peter pulled another chair over and sat with the group. Everyone was talking and laughing, everyone except Zelli that is. She sat there feeling increasingly uncomfortable. She had nothing to contribute to the conversation because the other kids were talking about the antics of a boy from another school who she didn't know. He'd apparently been the life of one of their recent parties. Zelli tried to laugh in all the appropriate places, but she hadn't been invited to the party and all the anecdotes were "location jokes." You just had to be there to get them.