Teagan and Kali attend their first day of Senior year.
The last first day of high school starts with a bang on my door.
“Are you ready?” Kali yells.
Winding my curls into a braid, I struggle to pop open my bedroom door with a free hand to reveal Kali, her backpack over both shoulders and wearing the same t-shirt/skirt combo I saw her last in two weeks ago.
“I thought we were meeting at school?”
Kali chews on her thumbnail and stares me down with wide brown eyes. “You okay?” I don’t quite meet her eyes but grab my backpack off my bed and join her, closing the door behind me.
She doesn’t answer until I look up. She rolls her eyes and sighs, a sure sign she’s trying not to cry. “Of course not.”
“But you will be,” I decide for her and lead her down the stairs.
The house is quiet with both of my parents instructing eight AM classes. I spot a muffin on the table but keep walking. Kali and I had a plan of action and that meant getting to school almost an hour early. That plan was set in stone via text last night and she seemed a lot surer about it then but I can’t let her change her mind now. I lock the door behind me.
When I turn around, I blink in the bright sunlight across the porch. Kali’s head is down and her hand is at her mouth again. She must be down to her cuticle by now.
“Stop that,” I say and she drops her hand. Listening to me for once. “You’re ruining your image and you look good. Let’s go.”
A corner of her mouth flicks up for a second as she mounts her bike. I grab mine and pedal forward to take the lead, fastening my helmet with a free hand.
“Where’s your helmet?” I ask as she pulls forward, hitting every leaf on the sidewalk in her way.
She shoots me a look and fluffs her curls with one hand. “If you think I’m going to school with my hair flattened down, you’re crazy. If I’m going to do this, I need to be a hundred percent.”
“You won’t be a hundred percent if you crack your head open,” I mutter.
She only shrugs a shoulder at me and I don’t comment further. She doesn’t need to be dwelling on death before we even get to school.
The sun is hot on the back of my neck and I breathe in the smell of grass clippings and soil from the front yards we pass. Summer comes and goes quick here and while my summer wasn’t what I imagined, I wasn’t going to wish for the season to be over.
I catch my first glimpse of the school through the thicket of maple trees. Kali slows down and bikes behind me again.
“Here I am,” she says. “Actually, doing this. Are you sure it’s a good idea?”
I start to wonder if maybe I should have let her transfer to a different school. Senior year be damned. “I thought we talked about this.”
“Just let me know if you see her.”
Carla. The theme of the summer. Kali hasn’t seen her all break and she seemed to be getting over her two weeks ago, but today is the real test. I’m not sure what she’s afraid she’ll do. Cry? Not really a Kali move. Scream at her? Even less so. Have a panic attack? Possibly.
I follow Kali to the front of the school, dodging the few students filing out of an early bus. We lock our bikes to the rack but don’t move from our spot. Kali keeps her eyes firmly planted on the ground while I look around.
“Any sign?” she whispers.
No Carla or anyone else from the soccer team that I can see. Up on the hill, the field is filled with blurry figures running around.
“Looks like morning practice is still going on,” I say. “We can have breakfast now.”
To my disappointment, Kali looks up from the ground and shakes her head again. “If she talks to me, I do not want to freak out in the cafeteria again.”
We sit at the garden benches under a tree that provides some shade. A few boys point to Kali as they walk past but she’s focused on the people barely visible on the fields. I glare at the boys until they look away. It’s possible that they were freshmen and didn’t know her. They might have been checking her out. Too bad for them. I’m not trusting anyone today.
One panic attack in the cafeteria and suddenly you’re a school spectacle. She didn’t even leave school. I thought summer drama would have buried Kali’s but her disappearing for those months seemed to have made things worse.
“They’re leaving,” Kali hisses. I look up to the field and see that the figures are trailing to the locker rooms, some already descending the hill.
She tucks her bare knees under her chin and wraps her arms around them. Her skirt falls a little, revealing the black shorts underneath. “Keep an eye out, please.”
Being the dutiful friend, I swing my legs out of the shade and face the hill to watch the first group of girls come down.
They’re all bouncing around in bright white shoes on the sidewalk, staying far from the muddy edges where the grass hasn’t quite grown. I carefully check to make sure no soccer players are in the group and then lean back on the bench.
“Cheerleaders,” I say.
One of Kali’s hands has strayed to the garden behind her, picking out the threads of grass. “Is the waiting worse? I feel like the waiting is worse.”
People yelling makes me look back to the hill, but they’re all jumping on each other and laughing. Junior boys’ soccer team. I turn back to Kali.
“You won’t be as nervous when you see her. We’ve rehearsed it and you even said you were ready for this.”
Kali’s free hand is now wrapping in the coils of her hair. She stretches a few out and lets them bounce back.
I scoot closer to her, forgoing my watch of the hill, and grab her hand. She lets out a breath and holds my hand in hers. I squeeze it before setting it down on the wood. It’s the first time we’ve held hands and my body hardly reacts. Hurrah for mini successes.
“You won’t be as nervous when you see her,” I promise.
I stare at her until she looks up, bottom lip at a slight pout. A few wisps of hair brush her cheeks with the breeze. She blinks in the glare of the sun but meets my eyes.
It takes me a second to recover. “You will get through today. You made it through the summer and now you only need to face her.”
“Rip it off like a band aid,” she mutters.
Considering she’s cried, raged, and I’ve been there to clean it up, I wouldn’t say this metaphor was fair exactly.
I pat her knee. “I’m going to go back to being your look out. Relax.”
Kali nods and sits criss-cross, clasping her hands together. She’s focused on the sidewalk but it’s better than being all curled up.
There’s a group of people coming down the hill laughing, but I can’t make them out. When I start seeing gym bags and ponytails, I nudge Kali.
“Heads up,” I whisper to Kali and she literally looks up. Not what I meant, but good enough.
The girls walk closer and I spot Sienna waving to me. She and Carla break away and head towards us.
Kali slides away from me ever so slightly.
When Sienna and Carla are close enough to talk to without shouting, I say, “Hi Sienna, Carla,” in an effort to be friendly.
They stop in front of us. Sienna has a grin stretched across her face and considering the situation happening next to us- Kali staring at the ground and Carla staring at Kali- I have absolutely no idea where that urge would come from.
“Did you see who moved back?” Sienna asks.
I’m watching Carla. She only glares back at me before returning her attention back to Kali. It’s not like we were friends or anything before the two of them dated, but okay.
“Teagan!” I jerk my head back towards Sienna who still has that huge smile and cannot take a hint.
“No,” I say. “I don’t.”
If possible, her smile only gets bigger and smug. Great.
My heart sinks a little.
“What?” Kali says. She’s staring very pointedly at Sienna as if Carla isn’t there. I feel a little better.
Sienna raises her eyebrows far into her curly bangs. “You didn’t know either Kali?”
I refuse to look away but can’t quite say the words out loud. As if she didn’t know anyway. “We lost touch,” I mumble.
“Oh! Really?” I watch her face light up with satisfaction. When she realizes I won’t look away, a blush blooms across her face.
It only takes a second for her to recover. She pushes her long hair behind her shoulders and props a hand on her hip. “We saw him on the varsity soccer team. You should see him.” She waits for me to raise my eyebrows before going on. “He looks...well you’ll see.” The smirk on her face tells it all.
Great. A hot Finn.
The bell ring saves me.
I grab Kali’s wrist and pull her up. “I’ll make sure to check him out.” I say and pretend I chose those words on purpose.
The regular busses begin to flood the lanes and we fight through the crowd losing Carla and Sienna. Thank God. I practically drag Kali into the half empty cafeteria.
“Finn is back, He seriously didn’t tell you?” Kali grabs a tray off the stack and we both grab some sad looking fruit and pancake on a stick. The breakfast was parent-free and free-free but also taste-free.
Something twists in my stomach. “Thanks for reminding me.”
She sucks on her bottom lip. Kali and Finn were friends too and I’m sure it hurts that he didn’t reach out but Finn and I were close. The last time I saw him, he kissed me. My dad walked in on us two seconds later, but I was convinced we would be together forever. Eighth grade is rough.
“Sorry,” she says and then looks over her shoulder. I don’t bother. “Do you think we should find him first?”
The crowd from outside is coming in and people line up behind us. I keep my head down.
“He’ll find us or we’ll find him sometime today,” I grumble and jerk my tray up. “School isn’t big enough to miss him.” It would feel nice to be the one to be ambivalent to his existence.
We sit down at a somehow already sticky table away from our classmates. When Kali doesn’t talk about Finn more, I kick her foot.
“You kept your cool. With Carla, I mean,” I say.
Kali’s shoulders slump and she takes a tiny bite of her pancake.
“It was weird.”
“Carla was just as awkward,” I assure her. “It wasn’t any weirder than it should have been.”
“I’m tired of weird.”
“Me too,” I say without thinking.
Kali leans her head on her hand and blinks, her full attention on me. “Yeah about that…”
“Nope,” I say.
“I just think we should-“
“We definitely should not.”
Kali crosses her arms and leans back against her chair. This is the most confident I’ve seen her all day. I’m happy and extremely uncomfortable all at the same time. I know she’s trying to be serious and probably does feel bad, but I do not need to relive it again.
Before she can say anything more, I speak first feeling only a little jittery. “Since you’ve apologized for it and we haven’t seen each other since then, I think we’ve both dealt with it.”
Kali raises one eyebrow. “Is there something to deal with?”
“No.” I don’t blush. Thank God. “You were emotional. I was there. That’s that.”
She narrows her eyes a little and says, “that’s that?”
I don’t respond and eat my fruit. Kali is smiling but she takes a bite. “Okay,” she says through her pineapple. “That’s that.”
Advice: Don’t fall for your gay best friend who thinks your straight and somehow get the universe to get her to kiss you.
As if that’s not obvious.
Despite replaying the moment for the twenty-four hours over and over after it happened, it made getting over Kali easy. I went home to a wall of text from Kali apologizing for doing something like that and how she wasn’t using me but she had too much going on in her head and maybe we should get ready for our Senior year instead of dwelling on her relationship problems. I sent back a thumbs up and decided it was time to make better choices and having a crush on my best friend was not in my best interest.
Thankfully, the crush stemmed from hanging out with her every day of summer and didn’t start until summer was almost over anyway. In total, the crush lasted for three weeks. Now, it was back to just being me and Kali.
Kali reaches over and squeezes my hand. The thrill that goes through my body is small and almost inconsequential. Another success. “Thanks Teagan.”
I know she’s thanking me for the Carla thing this morning, so I smile. We both stand up and start walking up the stairs.
A few people look at us, but they go on with their conversations. I don’t spot Carla and I try to avoid looking at any blonde boys.
As if reading my mind, Kali says “Finn Bevill. What’s that going to be like?” She’s teasing me again.
I feel sick at the thought. “Don’t know.”
“I’m pretty pissed off,” she says. “Do I yell at him if I see him? He disappeared and totally left you heartbroken.”
She tugs at the end of my braid jolting me out of the memory of Finn. “Teagan you’re bright red.”
“Great,” I say. I throw my braid over my shoulder. “I haven’t seen him since I was thirteen. I have no clue what I’m going to say to him. We don’t even know him.”
Kali opens her locker, putting extra books on the empty shelf. “If I see him first, I’ll let you know what he’s like.”
“I hope you see him first,” I say. “He might be in Chemistry and maybe I won’t be able to handle it. What if I cry or scream?”
“Are you me?” she jokes.
She shuts her locker and we continue down the hallway. I nod to a few people I talk to but Kali lets her eyes slide over faces ignoring most gestures of recognition. The second bell rings.
“Let me know what he looks like if you see him first,” she says, waggling her eyebrows.
“You’re gay,” I remind her as she walks away.
“As if I can’t tell when someone is hot!” She calls this down the hallway and a few people look to see who she’s talking to. I slip into Chemistry before anyone can put two and two together.