Chapter One~ Meet
“Well, isn’t that brilliant?” Brianna complains, sarcasm dripping from her words.
“I don’t think he meant it that way, Brie.” I answer. “I know he wants us to play—just not tonight, I guess.”
“Whatever.” Brie says. It’s her favorite go to expression when she doesn’t want to deal with a situation, such as the one we are in presently.
Brie and I make up a two person rock band, think the White Stripes with chicks. Brie rocks the drums, while I play the guitar and sing. Our friend Joel said he had a gig for us tonight. We show up with our equipment in tow, just to find plans have changed. I get it, beggars and choosers and all. But hello? A text message maybe?
“We should go. I still have to study for that biology test tomorrow.” That isn’t entirely true, but if I know Brie, she hasn’t studied yet.
“Ugh. I flipping hate biology.” She grumbles. “Let’s go.”
We pile everything back into the station wagon and head back to her house. At seventeen, Brie gets to do stuff like borrow her mom’s car. With my own seventeenth birthday a few days away I’m hoping to obtain some kind of transportation of my own soon. First, I guess I need to obtain a driver’s license. But I like to consider both of those things minor details.
Brie flicks on the headlights and windshield wipers. It begins raining, and the temperature of this early fall evening switches from mild to chilly. It also lengthens our quick twenty minute drive back to our sleepy town in the northwestern corner of Connecticut to a half hour at least. Wet leaves cover the winding roads, making the roads slick. Luckily, Brie is a cautious driver to begin with.
“What did your mom say about this weekend?” Brie asks.
“The usual, keep my phone on and text her when we get back to your house.” I roll my eyes.
“Kickass, are you excited?”
I shrug. “I guess. It’s just another birthday.”
“Please. We are going to throw you the party of all parties. You’ll see.”
I decide to throw her favorite word back at her, “Whatever.”
“Mom, I’m home!” I yell, walking through the kitchen door.
“I’m in here, Kat!” I hear her call back from the living room, knowing what she’s doing before I appear.
My mom has an affinity for sappy old movies. She can, and does, watch them for hours on end. Tonight, she’s watching White Christmas on DVD. It was only a couple of years ago that I discovered it’s odd to watch holiday movies year round. I don’t complain though. If this is her chosen idiosyncrasy then I guess it could be worse. Like poor Brie, for instance. Her mom collects porcelain clown figurines. I shudder; those little smiling faces are creepy. I won’t venture into Brie’s mom’s room for anything.
“That was an awfully quick show,” my Mom says, not tearing her eyes away from the TV.
“Yeah, Joel forgot to text us to tell us it was cancelled.”
“Yeah, it does. I’m going to head upstairs, goodnight, Mom, love you.”
“Goodnight, Kat, love you, too. Sorry about your show.”
After reaching the destination, my stuff is dropped in the chair by my closet. I’ve been living in this house for as long as I can remember. My interior decorating skills come to light for my fifteenth birthday. So, it was out with the frilly white curtains and pink walls and in with the steel colored paint and purple drapes. Overall it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it. A study reminder is sent to Brie via text from my phone. After she sends a grumpy face in response, my lips break into a smile.
I set out clothes for tomorrow and grab my pajamas so I can go take a shower. Once done, I get lost in the contents or my ereader and get lost for a while. I’m not really tired, but the clock says midnight, so it’s time to get some sleep. I turn off my light and wait for sleep to come. While mentally reciting biology terms, I’m out in minutes.
Brie and I walk into school the next morning and she’s still griping about the biology test. I remind her that at least she has a study hall first period, where as I get to go to PE, my least favorite thing in the world. She admits I have the crappier deal, and she asks to borrow my notes and biology book. Being a great best friend I hand them over and watch her skulk off to study hall. After turning around, I plow into a broad chest. Blushing, I look up into an unfamiliar, really gorgeous face.
I’m too busy collecting myself to say anything when he speaks. “Do you know where the office is?”
Still stuck on stupid, I point down the hall to the doors marked ‘Main Office’. He gives me a smile, that does nothing to help my brain kick back into gear, and moves a piece of my auburn hair out of my face before turning and disappearing into the office doors. I give myself a small head shake and continue down the hall. I mutter to myself under my breath. “Real smooth Kat, real smooth.”
“Talking to ourselves again, Kitty?” The voice makes me cringe inwardly. It also makes me want to hit something, particularly its owner. “You do know that’s a sign of insanity, right?”
Kiera has been a pain in my ass for as long as I can remember. Ever since we were little, she’s made it her goal to harass me. It’s not enough that her long, straight blond hair always behaves itself, whereas my wavy auburn locks are constantly doing unwanted things. Or that she’s the most popular girl at school. Nope, she has to be a bitch, too.
“We already knew that, Kiera.” Her friend Shelby chimes in. “Why, just look at her. She’s the very definition of a hot mess.”
I’m already not in the best mood, so I decide to ignore them and continue on my way. I don’t think of myself as a ‘hot mess’. Granted I’m not as polished as Kiera, Shelby and their friends, but I’m not that out of it. My hair, well, I learned to accept that a while back. I have a baby face, much to my dismay, with big green eyes and pouty lips. It certainly doesn’t help me to be taken seriously. I’m not very tall, and my body is more curvaceous than other girls my age. Not fat—just full of hips and other things that haven’t fully developed on the other girls yet. I glance down at my jeans, t-shirt and sneakers. At least I don’t have on some micro-skirt, with my assets out for the world to see.
The perfect mood is set for PE. I go to the locker room and change, making it to class just as the bell rings. My mood brightens minutely when I find out we’re starting basketball. I don’t totally suck at basketball, but I do totally suck at badminton, which we were playing last. My mood brightens even more when I get picked for the team that doesn’t have to wear the stinky jersey.
By the end of class my team’s winning and I’m even scoring some shots. I get the ball and make one last three-point shot as the PE teacher blows the whistle signaling the end of class. My male and female teammates cheer, making fools of themselves. I’m just happy to be able to contribute after weeks of not. As I’m grinning the back of my neck tingling. I turn to look, and see the mysterious, gorgeous guy I plowed into and went mime on earlier. He’s directly en route to the locker room. Perfect.
I put my head down, hoping that he associates my flushed complexion to playing the game rather than seeing him. I’m almost to the safety of the locker room door when he speaks again. In my previous stupor I didn’t notice the calming effect of his baritone voice. “Nice moves out there.”
Rudeness is not in my vocabulary—my mom made sure of that. I glance up before my gaze settles on his sneakers. Maybe if I don’t look directly at him my brain will continue working. “Thanks…you must be new here. I’m Kat.”
His hand lifts my chin, so I can meet his gaze. “That’s better.” He smiles and a connection somewhere in my brain fries a little. “Hi Kat, I’m Mason, it seems we keep running into each other.”
I can’t help myself; I’m a sucker for bad puns. “Quite literally at times. Sorry about that, by the way.”
He shrugs. “Never hear me complaining about having a pretty girl throw herself at me.” My cheeks become warm, and before my brain processes he called me pretty, the bell rings.
“I should go before I’m late.” I motion towards the locker room.
“Yeah, maybe I’ll see you later.”
“Maybe,” I half mumble to myself as I walk into the locker room. I dress in a daze before meeting Brie in Biology. She’s already there and gives me back my notes and textbook before we enter class and take our seats.
“Did it help any?” I ask.
“Yeah, thanks.” She faces me and strikes her gossip pose. Brie loves her gossip. “Did you hear we have a new guy?”
“Um, yeah, we’ve met actually.”
Her jaw drops. “Is he as cute as I keep hearing?”
The bell rings before my reply so I nod my head and focus on Mr. Murphy who is handing out our tests and giving us verbal instructions. Forty minutes later the test is done and I’m feeling pretty good about it. Brie must have done alright because instead of her usual bitching she jumps right back to questioning me about Mason.
“So, the nod was yes to cute, right?” She asks.
“Yes, Brie, he’s adorable.” I roll my eyes. “Our conversation lasted for all of two minutes.”
“I can’t believe you talked to him!” Brie practically squeals as we start walking down the hallway.
“Neither can I!” Kiera chimes in, always behind us at the wrong time. “Why anyone would want to talk to Kitty is beyond my comprehension.”
Brie goes on the offensive. “Please, Kiera anything that’s not slathered in cover-up or pumped full of silicone is beyond your comprehension.” The two glare at each other. Brie takes a more aggressive stance in response to Kiera and her friends—I definitely appreciate it.
“Says the weird girl- now move before you make me late,” Kiera struts off, an overwhelming cloud of perfume left in her wake.
“What a bitch!” Brie comments.
“Yeah, she really needs a hobby.” I agree. “Anyway, off to calculus. See you at lunch.”
Calculus is usually boring, but today being good at math has some advantages. Two rows over I see Mason take his seat and this grabs my attention. I pretend to read my text book, and when I sneak a glance in his direction he’s smiling at me. My heart races and my insides swoon a little, but I return his smile before the bell rings and class starts.
Between paying attention to Ms. Fletcher, and staring (hopefully inconspicuously) at Mason, the class goes more quickly than usual. I’m surprised when I stand up to find him beside me. “Oh! Hi, again,” I try to act like I wasn’t staring at him this whole time.
He again flashes that smile. “Hi…I don’t suppose you’re going to lunch now?”
“Actually, I am with my friend Brie. You’re welcome to sit with us, if you’d like.” I catch myself right before I walk into the doorframe.
He slightly shakes his head. “That’d be cool. Um, do you walk in to stuff a lot or is it just for my benefit?”
Before I can answer Brie joins us, obviously overhearing Mason’s question. “Nope, she does that all the time.” She grins at me. “Hi, I’m Brie. You must be Mason.”
“Yep, I might as well have a sign that says ‘New Kid’.” Mason looks around. Sure enough we are attracting everyone’s attention.
“I think it’s more than just that,” I accidently murmur.
“What’s that?” Mason asks.
Brie quickly notices my panicked look. “She means this is a small town. We’ve all known everyone forever. So, when fresh meat arrives we know it.” Brie says, ending with a big smile.
I breathe a sigh of relief, and give a look of gratitude. I focus on not saying anything else that’s stupid or embarrassing. Once we arrive at the cafeteria, it’s too loud to talk anyway, until we get to our table. We’re almost there when I hear Kiera’s. Today just isn’t my day! It’s apparent her sweet tone isn’t directed to me.
“Hi, Mason!” She sticks her chest out more than usual, and throw up stalls in my mouth. “I saved you a seat.”
He turns towards me and Brie, and I brace myself for the letdown that is my life. “Um, sorry.” my eyes lower to avoid his. “I already have plans today with Kat and Brie, maybe some other time.”
I look up and my mouth gapes open. Kiera has a similar expression, but she’s more pissed off than shocked. She’s unaccustomed to not getting her way. “Well, just so you know, being new and all, you may want to be careful who you associate with here, just saying.” She flounces back to her table.
Brie starts mumbling, but stops when I elbow her arm. Mason looks at us. “Wow.”
“Yeah, sorry about that; she kind of hates us.” I say.
“Nah, she’s just a spoiled bitch.” Brie pipes in.
I’m about to chastise her when Mason laughs. “That’s pretty much what I was thinking.”
“I think we’ll get along just fine.” Brie tells us.
Mason looks right at me, “Me, too.”
The rest of the afternoon is pretty mundane. Mason is in two more of my classes, and even gets a seat next to me. I try not to over think how friendly he is towards me. Someone who looks like him could never think of me as more than just a friend. My imagination is just running away with me. Once he sees how beautiful Brie is without all of her punk makeup, I’ll be a distant memory. Which is fine, really.
The last bell announces freedom and you can hear the relief waft off all twenty-something of us in the classroom. English class I love; Homer’s Odyssey, not so much. Mason looks at me. “What do you do for fun around here?”
I laugh—has he seen the town yet? “Not very much; Brie and I usually practice at her house after school.” I leave it open ended, unsure if my ego can handle a refusal from this guy.
“That’s cool. What do you practice?” He falls in step beside me, so I assume he’s coming with us.
“We have a band. It’s just the two of us, though.” I watch where I’m walking, so I don’t look foolish again.
“That’s sweet! What’s it called?” Mason asks. He sounds sincere, excited and impressed. Huh…it’s not the typical reaction we receive around these parts.
“Hot Noise,” I feel silly so I add, “it sounds better when Brie says it.”
“It sounds awesome. Would you guys mind if I watched you practice?”
His eagerness takes me by surprise, “I guess so—if you want to, I mean.”
He smiles that smile again, the one that stops my brain from working, and I quickly turn forward. “Kat, I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t want to.”
“Oh. Okay, then, sure.”
Soon Brie, Mason and I are in Brie’s garage. Brie flicks on all of her equipment. All I know is that whatever it is that she does, it works. All that techie stuff is her deal. I pick up my guitar and make sure it’s tuned. Mason appears surprised, but he doesn’t say anything.
Brie gets behind the drums and starts tapping out the opening to one of our songs. I smile. Figures she chooses this one first—it’s our only slow number. She swears she’s near tears every time I sing it. I’ve never played it for anyone else, other than our moms. Mason’s presence increases my nervousness, but my anxiety doesn’t hit my fingers, which have the song memorized themselves. I close my eyes and start to sing a sad ballad about a lost lover. My eyes stay closed the whole time, to prevent gauging Mason’s reaction.
When I’m done, it’s cricket chirping silence. My eyes open to find Mason’s jaw dropped in amazement. “Holy crap, Kat, you freaking rock!” His excitement is palpable, and his reaction relaxes me. I hadn’t realized how much his approval meant, until he articulated it.
“I keep telling her that, but she never listens to me.” Brie throws out. “Maybe you can change her mind.”
“Well, thanks, but really that’s the only song like that we have.” I desperately try to change the subject. “Let’s play some other stuff, Brie.”
Maybe an hour or so later, we finish up and Brie flips off all of her equipment. She grabs three bottles of water out of the mini-fridge that she keeps stocked and passes them out. “We’re getting better.” She declares.
I nod too busy chugging water to speak.
“I think you guys have some real potential.” Mason says. “Have you played anywhere yet?”
Oh, no. Here we go. I open my mouth to answer, but it’s too late. Brie’s already beginning her rant. “We’ve played a couple places. We’d play more if our loser, quote unquote, manager did his job.”
I don’t know why I always feel the need to defend Joel to her, maybe because he’s always been so supportive. Either way, I begin my calm rebuttal, “Brie he tries, but he’s got other things going on, too.”
She looks at Mason. “No, he doesn’t.”
Mason is now standing with his hands out in front of him. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to start anything.”
Brie exhales noisily. “It’s not your fault. I’m not really even mad at him, just frustrated. Sorry, done flipping out now.”
“I should get going anyway.” I grab my bag. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”
“Bye,” Brie says.
“Wait, Kat, I’ll walk with you.” Mason calls, “Thanks for having me, Brie. I got to get going, too.”
Brie shoots me a look that guarantees she will be calling me later. I suppress an eye roll and wait for Mason to join me. He’s by my side in seconds. “Where’s your house?” I ask.
“We moved into a house on Bruyn Ave. Do you know where that is?”
“Sure, that’s around the corner from my house. Which house is it?” I think I know exactly which one, but wait for his confirmation. There weren’t a lot of houses for sale on that road.
“It’s white, with dark blue shutters.”
I smile. “That’s funny. Ironic even, just follow me.”
I take the side yard, past the dining room. I pray my mom is in the living room so she doesn’t bombard me with embarrassing questions when I get in. When we get to the backyard, recognition hits his face. “Hey,” He gives me that smile again. “We’re neighbors.”
For the first time I return it. “Yeah, we are.”
He shuffles his feet a bit and looks uncharacteristically nervous. “Thanks for letting me hang out with you today. I had fun.”
Now his nervousness makes me nervous. “Thanks, anytime. Really, I mean it’s usually just Brie and me.” I bite down on my lip to decrease my babbling.
Mason chuckles a little. “Can I walk you to school in the morning?”
I grin. “I’ll see you then.”
Looking thoughtful he steps towards me. “Goodnight, Kat.”
“Goodnight, Mason.” I turn to go, but he grabs my hand and spins me to him. I’m about to question him, when he pulls me to him and quickly, gently lowers his mouth to mine. My entire body ignites into a very pleasant tingling sensation. Everything is amplified while our mouths are joined. I’m frozen in disbelief as he pulls away. From the smile on his face, he enjoyed it as much as I did.
“Was that okay?” He asks me, with a smile playing on his lips.
Grinning and nodding, I’m unable to speak. He releases all of me, except my hand.
“I’ll see you in the morning?”
I smile and nod some more—feeling kind of like a moron, but not caring. He chuckles and plants one last chaste kiss on my hand that’s entwined with his before he lets go. He starts walking to his house and turns around halfway. “Goodnight, Kat.”
“Goodnight, Mason.” I manage to say again, before I head back to my own house. That was…nice. A thought crosses my mind. I know that that was my first kiss, but I’m hoping it wasn’t obvious. This is what’s rambling through my brain as I make my way inside. I wave a quick hi to my mom, barely making it to my room before my phone goes off. I don’t have to look to know its Brie.
“Hello?” I answer.
“He was so making eyes at you!” Brie replies.
“I have to admit, I wasn’t sure if he was…until we walked home—his house is the one right behind mine by the way and, well-“
“Spit it out, Kat!” I love getting her worked up.
“This stays between us, for now. When we got to the backyard, we said goodbye. Then, he sort of kissed me.”
I hear Brie whoop loudly on the other end of the phone. “It’s about freaking time, Kat! I was wondering when a guy would finally catch your eye. How was it?”
“Freaking phenomenal! If that’s what kissing someone is like, I have no idea what took me so long.”
“Trust me; it’s not always a pleasant experience. I’m actually kind of proud of you for waiting until you found a ‘freaking phenomenal’ guy to practice on.”
I smile. “He seems pretty great. He wants us to walk to school together tomorrow.”
“Then I’ll get my mom to drive me,” I start to protest, but she continues, “a one-time deal mind you. This way you two can have a little time to get to know each other better. But once you hit school grounds, all bets are off. I’m going to have to get used to sharing you.”
“Thanks, Brie. You know you don’t have to share me, though.”
“Yeah—as your best friend, I kind of do. Now go get all beautified and rested, so you can knock his socks off tomorrow morning.”
She’ll protest if I get all mushy on her. “Night, Brie.”
I hear my mom yell up the stairs, “You eating tonight, Kat?”
“Be right down!” I yell back. I think about Brie’s beautification suggestion. I better hurry up with dinner; apparently I have a lot to do.
I’m up early the next morning. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to see Mason again. I’m not just excited, but also super happy and a bit nervous. The total effect is quite overwhelming, and the closer the departure time, the worse it’s getting. I take a deep breath as I hear a soft knock on the back door. I’m also grateful my mom leaves before me. She’d inadvertently add stress to the situation.
Opening the door, I grab my bag and keys and am momentarily floored by Mason. My mental images did not do his face justice at all. I force myself to speak. “Good morning, Mason.”
“Hey, Kat,” He replies, “good morning to you, too.”
To my surprise, he reaches for my hand to help me down the stairs and doesn’t let go. Perplexed, but happy, I don’t say a thing.
Mason turns to me, “So, I need to get your number. I forgot to yesterday, and short of throwing rocks at your window, I didn’t know how else to get a hold of you.”
I smile at the thought. “That wouldn’t be so bad, but I can give you my number too.”
“If I had known which window was yours, I might have.” He pulls out his phone and dials in the recited numbers, and then calls me quickly so I have his number, too.
As we make our way to school, I admit walking extra slow to prolong our time together. Our conversation consists of more getting to know each other. We talk about favorite music, books, movies and the like. We have some similar choices, but I like some things he’s never heard of and vice versa. We debate the best Iron Man movies as we head into school.
Maybe it’s my exceptionally great walk to school, or the fact that I like basketball, but gym isn’t that bad again today. By the time I meet up with Brie in Biology, I’m grinning from ear to ear. It could also be because I’ll see Mason next period. It certainly helps. She doesn’t have a chance to start grilling me before Mr. Murphy pushes a television into the classroom. His excitement is palpable.
Mr. Murphy is easily one of my favorite teachers. He’s older (perhaps in his fifties) with mostly silver hair and a soft midsection. It’s his excitement that makes him seem larger than life, not his stature. When he’s really excited his faces flushes red.
“Special class today, guys!” Mr. Murphy says exuberantly. “We will be focusing on BioNano and watching their news conference in a half hour. Big things happening people, big things!”