September – Two Months Later.
The only person who had ever knocked me off my feet was my best friend Felicity and today was no exception, especially since my balance was quite lacking. She was a whole head shorter than me, but that didn't stop her from being strong, or fast now that I think about it.
Felicity had long dark brown hair, ice blue eyes and lips that were always painted with a dark red lipstick. I had no time to notice what she was wearing that day, which is something I usually did because she always manages to look amazing – I was too busy trying not to fall to the ground and keep my books in my arms.
"Whoa! Watch it, Felicity!"
"Sorry!" she said with a sheepish grin, plucking a sheet of paper out of the air as it fell to the ground and then she handed it back to me. "I just have the biggest news ever."
"Uh huh?" I replied, not really listening as I tried to shuffle my notes into some kind of order. My bag slipped from my shoulder to my elbow and I groaned, heaving it back up and blowing stubborn hair out of my face irritably.
"You look terrible." She stated, staring at me.
I glared. "Thanks."
It was the first day back after summer vacation and I hadn't even made it to my first class without something going wrong. That had to be a new record or something.
"Did you go out in the sun at all?" she asked, "You look whiter than before I left."
I ignored her. "How was your trip to California?" I asked, walking with her towards the front entrance. I had to get her talking about something other than my appearance because once she got going it was quite hard to get her to stop.
"Absolutely amazing. The weather was incredible and I went to the beach every day. The shopping was incredible and I took some amazing photos too." She pulled the door open and we stepped into the busy building. "I didn't get a lot of chances to write anything for the school paper."
"That's a shame." I said and I meant it. She loved that bloody newspaper. It's all she talked about sometimes, but I suppose there were worse things that she could be doing with her time than writing articles about the school gossip.
"Speaking of the news, did you hear about that accident over the break? The one with Phillip?" she asked. We reached my locker and I began dialling the combination to unlock it.
"I was there when everybody came into the hospital. I had to patch up a grouchy old man who was part of the collision."
"It was a pretty brutal crash. The police were amazed that nobody died. The car was totalled but I suppose it's better that a piece of metal got destroyed and not a person." She said, then glanced at me curiously. "So are you still volunteering at the hospital?"
"This is my last week." I replied. "I'm leaving so I can concentrate on this year."
"Have you..." she glanced around and lowered her voice, "Have you seen Phillip?"
"I have. They took the last of his bandages off last week. He's completely healthy, except for the fact he's still in a coma."
I had read to Phillip every day for the entire summer since the accident. I read my school text books, the summer reading list, the local newspaper, even some of Felicity's work from the school newspaper. Eventually I had run out of material and just started talking to him. Telling him about my parents, my life, Felicity, basically anything that came to mind. I even put my iPod on for him to listen to, some of the latest stuff but also some of my ultimate favourites.
But nothing. He wouldn't wake up. Nothing I tried had worked.
"You reckon he'll wake up soon?"
I shrugged, uncertain.
"So what did you do all summer?"
"Volunteered. Mom, dad and I went to see my grandma for a few days but nothing all too exciting. It was kinda boring without you around."
"You spent your entire summer break at a hospital?" Felicity asked, sounding disgusted. "That's pathetic! You should have been going to parties, meeting boys...being normal for once in your life!"
"Hey! Volunteer work looks good on college applications." I reminded her. "Besides boys don't want to talk to me. They want to talk to girls like you."
"Girls like me?" Felicity asked, crossing her arms. I closed my locker and leaned up against it, looking at her. "What's that supposed to mean?"
I looked at her pointedly. "Pretty girls. Outgoing girls."
"What are you talking about? You're pretty!"
I scoffed. "Yeah. Right. Everyone in this school knows that out of us two, you're the pretty one. I'm just...average."
Felicity rolled her eyes. "You're so full of it."
I grinned, "Full of what?"
I stuck my tongue out at her.
We pushed off from the lockers and made our way through the busy corridors, which were loud with excited chatter, friends catching up after two months were exchanging gossip and news about the accident. I heard the same story repeated four times before we reached the stairs to get to the second floor.
"So you didn't meet any boys? At all?" Felicity asked, trying not to sound like she was deeply upset and failing.
"Nope." I replied. "Did you?"
Felicity was silent for a moment, then, "Well now you mention it..."
I raised my eyebrows at her, surprised, "You met somebody in California? Who?"
She pulled out her phone and began scrolling through her photo gallery. "His name is Matt. He's in college and he's really nice. He's on a football scholarship at the moment."
She finally handed me the phone and I gazed at the photo while we walked. He was really cute. He had big blue eyes and short brown hair. He looked a little boyish but I could see the appeal.
"Cute." I nodded. "So are you guys dating?"
"Well, no." she said, walking backwards as we turned into our homeroom, towards our seats on the left side of the room near the back. "We kind of agreed it would be one of those fleeting summer romances, you know?"
"Not really." I laughed, dumping my books on the table and taking my seat. "So you're not going to see him again? Ever?"
"I don't think so. We live in different states and he's older than me...it's just easier this way. Besides, we had fun while it lasted." She winked at me cheekily. It took me a moment to realise her intention.
I gasped, "No way! You didn't! You lost it?!"
Felicity grinned at me, "I sure did."
"Wow." I put my chin in my hand, turning sideways in my chair to fully face her. "You had sex."
"I sure did. And it was awesome. I see what everyone raves on about all the time." She told me, inspecting the ends of her hair critically. "Although, nobody ever tells you how messy the whole thing is. And how awkward sometimes. Don't even get me started on how freaky looking that thing is – "
"OKAY!" I interrupted loudly, holding my hands up to stop her. "That's enough. I really don't want to know."
Felicity grinned, "Everybody wants to know. It's just girls are taught to be ashamed of that kind of thing instead of curious."
"Please don't start ranting about social expectations and feminism please. It's nine in the morning." I laughed.
"But damn was he a good kisser." She went on, pretending to ignore what I said. "And he had really big arms so hugs were always really nice."
"I'm...happy for you?" It was supposed to be a statement but came out like a question.
She shook her head at me, "I still can't believe you haven't kissed anyone. I mean, it's fine if you want to save that stuff for marriage but kissing is harmless. And you're eighteen. It's almost unheard of."
"Please. I bet a lot of people haven't been kissed and they're eighteen." I replied, feeling my cheeks grow how. Felicity didn't mean to make me feel embarrassed or upset, she was just a really blunt person.
"I dunno. I think you might be the only one in the school...and I'm including the freshmen." She grinned and I fidgeted in my seat, turning around to face the front again. I knew she was joking but now I was really starting to feel uncomfortable. I was almost thankful when the bell rang to begin the start of the day.
When the school day ended, I was almost ready to punch Felicity in the face. Now, I'm not a violent person usually, but she just would not stop teasing me about having never kissed anyone. I refused to let my temper get the better of me, but she was always very good at pushing my buttons.
I decided to head to the hospital. I wasn't supposed to be in tonight but as it was my last week and so I thought that perhaps one extra night wouldn't hurt.
I made my way in, none of the nurses or doctors questioning me or even bothering to stop me. I practically lived here anyway. I thought about going up to the children's ward, hoping to see some happy faces, but as I saw the button to the floor that held the ICU, I stopped. Licking my lips I decided to go up to level four. When I got there, I walked into Phillip's room, closing the door behind me. The room was dimly lit by a warm yellow lamp and the machines beeped consistently. I slowly walked over to the bed and sat down on the edge, near his left hand and sighed, studying the line of his heartbeat on the monitor. It felt strange to be sitting on the bed and not in my usual visitor's chair, but also kind of nice. Like I was more than a stranger to him.
"First day of school today." I told him. "Everyone was talking about your accident. I didn't see any of your friends, but maybe they're still getting used to everything and didn't want to come. Felicity was being her normal self today. She started teasing me about not having been kissed. I don't really get what the big deal is, but I felt really embarrassed about it. Isn't that strange?"
I paused, looking into his face for any sign of movement or consciousness, but there was nothing. Just his strong, even breaths. "I won't be coming to see you anymore." I said sadly, "I'm stopping my volunteer work here this week so that I can concentrate on school. Exams aren't very far away and I need to start applying for college. I think I'm actually going to miss you. I mean, it's been strange sitting here and essentially talking to myself, but I've enjoyed trying to help you get back to your old life."
I slipped off the bed and gathered up my bag again, sighing. "I hope I get to see you back at school, even if you are a bit of a jerk."
And then I did something so completely out of character for me.
I leaned over and without thinking, without hesitating, without stopping to contemplate just how absolutely ridiculous this was, I pressed my lips to his and kissed him.
His lips were soft and full, very pleasant and I couldn't help thinking, 'This is it? This is what gets everyone so riled up?' But that very thought snapped me out of whatever it was that had possessed me to do this and I jumped back in surprise, covering my mouth with my hand, staring wide eyed at Phillip.
Without another word I turned and fled from the room, running all the way to my car. I yanked the door open and sat in the front seat, breathing hard from the effort of my escape. With a groan, I let my head fall forward to bang against the steering wheel, closing my eyes in misery.
"Stupid." I muttered, "Absolutely stupid. What were you thinking?!"
Sitting up straight again and still grumbling to myself, I inserted the key into the ignition, started my car, and went home in order to crawl into bed and try to forget what I'd just done. I was only thankful that nobody had been around to see it.
I was awoken by loud, obnoxious ringing. It took me a second to wake up enough to realise that it was my phone that was making the noise, the loud ringtone hurting my ears. I glanced at my alarm clock and groaned: 3 a.m. Rolling over and unplugging it from the charger, I answered the call.
"'Lo?" I said, voice cracking with sleep and rubbing my eyes.
"Oh my god, Rhea! Guess what I just heard!"
On the other line was Felicity, her bubbly voice excited and way too full of energy for this hour. "Flick, it's three in the morning."
"I know, I know, but listen! You are going to die when you find out!"
"Find out what?"
"Okay so," I heard her take a deep breath and imagined a beaming smile on her face, "Phillip Kingston woke up a few hours ago!"
I sat up in bed. "What?!"
"I know!" Felicity squealed, "Apparently he's walking around and talking and remembers who he is and everything! He'll be back at school on Friday."
"Friday?" I frowned, "So soon? Shouldn't he rest? Get back on his feet?"
"Doctors say he's completely healthy." Felicity said, "Apparently he started ranting on about how some angel kissed him and saved him from death. He was a bit delirious but he's fine now! Isn't this great?"
My expression dropped from my face and I sat in shock. He was awake. And he remembered a kiss.