Chapter 4

As I stepped through the door into Tiffany's house I was greeted with the familiar smells of cinnamon, sugar cookies, and a faint trace of gingerbread. I will never understand it, but Tif's house always smelled like Christmas. Always. My own home smelled like Christmas for maybe two or three days a year, and only at Christmastime. The smell of Christmas warmed my heart, a little, and was actually a huge comfort to me that day. I was very glad that I had taken Tif up on her offer to come inside.

I followed Tiffany up the stairs toward her room, and I climbed the steps I began to hear John Lennon singing 'Power to the People.' My right eyebrow probably shot toward the ceiling; why had I not heard any yelling yet? Tif's little brother was horribly obsessed with the dead man, but Tif did not share Eric's love of the late Lennon. In fact, it should be mentioned that Tiffany hated John Lennon with such ferocity that she actually threw a party on the anniversary of his death. My confusion did not last long, as I reached the top of the steps I heard yelling from down the hall where Eric's room was.

"Eric! Why the hell are you playing this shit? God, don't you have any taste?" Diplomacy was not Tiffany's strong suit.

"Get the hell out of my room!" came Eric's reply.

"Turn this shit off!"

I chuckled at the mental image I had of their confrontation. Tiffany was not a tall girl, perhaps five foot one, if she stood up as tall as possible. Eric, though three years younger, was over a foot taller than her. So I imagined, probably rightly, that Tif was standing before her baby brother poking him in the chest with one of her long, manicured, green painted nails, with him towering over her, his blue eyes concealed by the vivid red forelock that he never let get long enough to pull back into the ponytail at the base of his neck that kept the rest of his red mane under control.

I walked into the room directly on the right side of the stairs and waited for my best friend. As I usually did, I collapsed onto her bed, staring at her ceiling and ignoring the many posters of male celebrities adorning her walls. They always made me uncomfortable, with their supposedly seductive smiles and staring eyes. I felt like they were staring at me with some sort of stalker-ish intent. At least she wasn't a Clay Aiken fan, that would have driven me up the wall. Wouldn't you be frightened of a poster of the man who sings the ultimate stalker song staring at you?

Eventually the yelling down the hall stopped, and John Lennon was replaced by some weird techno version of one of Mozart's sonatas. Eric liked the strangest things, not that I had room to talk. I was a huge fan of the most obscure bands and artists from all genres. Shortly after the techno began Tiffany came into the room and shut the door behind her.

"Well, you made yourself comfortable, I see," she said with a laugh as she slid off her flip flops and tossed them into the closet.

"Of course. Your room is my room, that's how friendships work."

She laughed at me, and crawled onto the bed, until she reached where my head was, then she sat cross legged and stared down at me. "So, Julia does know what you look like, right?"

"Naturally, she's seen pictures of me," I smirked, "and, how many Asian girls do you know that have blood red streaks in their hair? And the piercings are rather noticeable as well; five silver rings in one ear, four in the other."

"Those are only seen at close range though, your hair covers them normally, Kit."

"Yeah, well, I'm sure the 'tiger stripes,' as you love to call them, will get her close enough to confirm my identity by inspecting my ears."

Tif laughed again, and then stared at my face some more, as though she were studying it.

I looked back at her for a moment, then I began to get a little uncomfortable under her scrutiny. "What do you want, Tif? Why are you staring at me like that?"

She smiled a small, almost self conscious smile, "I was just thinking that she's going to be shocked when she sees you. You photograph well, my friend, but pictures cannot do your beauty justice."

Her words caused me to blush, "I'm not beautiful, merely good enough looking to not shatter mirrors when I look at them."

"No," she disagreed softly, "you are beautiful, my friend. She's going to be speechless when she sees you, I just know it."

"Tif, if I didn't know better, I'd think you had a little crush on me," I joked, trying to change the subject.

A slight blush crept over her cheeks, "Maybe a small one. Pretty much everyone who knows you does."

I was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, I just stared up at my best friend as the blush that had already begun when she started this line of conversation deepened. My ears were burning. "Please tell me you're making a bad joke."

She laughed quietly and nervously, "I can't, it's true. It's just a small one though; I would never act on it, even if you weren't in love with Julia."

I ignored that, I didn't want to think about it anymore than I had to. "No mention of Jay?"

Green eyes rolled. "Please, Jay is just there. I'm gonna break it off with him anyway, before I leave for college. I'm only dating him because I haven't found anyone better. I don't love him, not in anyway that really matters. I'm not sure I even love him at all, anymore."

"Oh." There was nothing else to say, she had effectively killed that line of conversation.

"So, what time does her flight get in?" she asked as she played with my hair.

"One fifteen, if it's on time."

Her eyes turned to her clock, and I followed her gaze: eleven forty-five. It had taken longer to get out of Ridgemonte than I had hoped, then the drive to Tif's house, and the time I was spending talking to her now, there was no way I was going to be able to make it home and clean up and then get back to the airport on time.

"So, what were you planning on doing while waiting for her?" Tif asked as she turned to look back down at me again.

I smirked up at her. "Well, before someone climbed into my car and asked for a ride home, I was going to head home, take a quick shower and put on some clean clothes, then head to the airport."

She raised an eyebrow, a mannerism she had picked up from me somewhere along the line in our lifelong friendship, "Wouldn't that have been cutting it close?"

"It probably would have gotten me there right on time, but after I brought you home, there was no way it was going to happen; so instead, I'm here, laying on your bed talking to you."

"Well shit," she swore, "I didn't realize that I was gonna mess up your plans. Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because it doesn't really matter, I can take my shower tonight, or tomorrow morning. And I don't look that bad. I mean, the jeans are clean, and so is the t-shirt," I said as I looked down at what I was wearing: dark jeans with tears on the left thigh and right shin, earned from getting into a fight with some equipment in the shop during the last school play and paint splattered navy blue t-shirt with "I only look straight" printed on the front. Maybe I didn't look great, but I looked okay, and the clothes fit me well enough and looked good on me.

Tif stared at me in disbelief. "You're going to meet the girl you are in love with, and instead of wanting to impress her, you say, 'I look good enough,' and plan on wearing those rags. Well, not rags, the jeans are nice enough, and the rips show just enough skin to tantalize and tempt yet not make you appear to be a slut, and the shirt would be fine if it didn't have all those paint spots on it."

"Hey, it isn't like the paint clashes, I mean, the colors are dark," I defended my shirt, you do not insult someone's paint spots, it just isn't right.

"Still. I think you shall have to take your shower here, I have one of your shirts lying around here somewhere, I even cleaned it for you and everything. You can wear that instead of Paintzilla there."

I laughed. "Paintzilla? Tif, it's just a shirt, who cares?"

"I do! It's my fault that you aren't going to have something nicer, so let me make it better. Shower here, then wear the shirt I find, it think it's the dark green one with the Looney-Toons cat on it."

"The one where she's got the leather jacket on saying 'Bad Kitty' on it? I've been looking for that shirt!" I sat up and poked her in the side.

She jumped; yes, I got the poke spot. "I only borrowed it, and I was gonna give it back anyway!"

I laughed. "Alright, we'll do it your way." I glanced at the clock again, "But, I get to take a nap until it's shower time. Wake me up at twelve fifteenish? That should give me about twenty-five minutes."

Tif grinned, "Yea, no problem. Power naps are the shit!"

I rolled my eyes and lay back down, covering my eyes from the light with one arm. As I slowed my breathing and began to relax I heard Tiffany toss a CD in her stereo, then he opening line to 'Going Under' played. Happy music for Kit to sleep to, I was pleased. And then I was asleep.

I was awakened by a towel hitting me in the face. "Mmmph," was my groaned response.

"Go get clean, you smell. I left the shirt in there for you when I found it." Tif's voice.

"Fine," I mumbled as I sat up and stalked sleepily to the bathroom. Twenty- five minutes was not a good nap, it was just long enough to piss me off, not revive me. Lesson learned.

I undressed and slid into the shower as soon as I had gotten into the bathroom and locked the door. Then I turned on the water, and swore as a wave of freezing cold water hit me full in the face. I had forgotten to turn the hot water on as well. After fixing my error, I grabbed the soap and scrubbed the smell off of me, not that I really thought I had a smell, but why take chances? After that I found Tif's shampoo and cleaned my hair. The bottle promised me that it would be rejuvenated and shiny and that its body would be enhanced. Shiny was good, I like shiny things, but I had no idea what the body enhancing thing was talking about. It sounded like it was supposed to be a good thing, so as I stepped out of the shower when I was finished cleaning up I didn't worry myself over it. Instead, I just redressed, putting on the green shirt instead of the blue one I had worn earlier and ran a comb through my newly rejuvenated and enhanced hair. I liked my hair, the streaks made me happy, and I had finally found a length that made me happy with it falling just an inch or so above my shoulders.

As I left the bathroom I literally ran into Tiffany, who apparently was coming to tell me to hurry my ass up. "Good, you're out. If you hurry, you can be there a few minutes early, maybe you'll even get there with enough time to get her some flowers."

"Flowers?" I asked, slightly confused.

"Yes, flowers. Typical romantic gift and they're friendly enough to not freak her out if you just out of nowhere give them to her. People like flowers. Especially girls," She explained as she began herding me toward the stairs.

"I know that, it's just.give her flowers?" I started down the stairs, apparently Tif wanted me to definitely get there with enough time to get those flowers.

"Yes, give her flowers. It's always nice, if you pick the right ones, it can hint at the feelings you still have for her, maybe she'll even make the first move that way, less work for you."

"What flowers would do that?" I was confused, she was moving too fast in the conversation, and not making a lot of sense. Or, maybe I was just being slow.

She sighed, sounding rather exasperated. "Roses, Kit, roses. Get her roses. A red one or two, some coral ones, orange, maybe a little pink. Whatever you like. Yellow, is good, yellow means friendship," she was pushing me toward the door, "If I were you, I would give her yellow ones, red ones, and several yellow ones with red tips. Those mean friendship and falling in love."

As she was ushering me out the door I repeated, "Yellow with red tips, got it."

"Good," she nodded, and then smiled at me, "Good luck, Kit."

"Thanks," I called back as I ran to my car. As I slid into the car and pulled out my keys, I was thinking about how much I was going to need it.