Sealed With a Kiss

Chapter 21

After the incredibly stressful weekend I'd had, it felt like a weight was lifted from my chest. The secret I'd carried around for so long was out in the open - I'd told Bree and she amazingly did not judge me. Not only had that transpired but I also somehow managed to enter a new beginning with my family. It seemed like we were all moving on. I had to wonder though - was it really moving on or was it simply moving forward? We would never forget, nor would we want to. Dad was a huge part of each of us and he'd made us who we are today. I knew he would continue to mold me into the woman I would be in the years to come. That kind of influence doesn't fade just because a person isn't around anymore.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and quickly glanced up. I'd managed to get to English class before most everyone else, which allowed me a moment of thought. A happy smile lit up my face as I saw Bree's gentle expression gazing down at me. "Hi."

"Hey," she replied softly. With a squeeze of my shoulder, she sat down in the seat in front of me. She turned so she could face me, resting her arm on my desk. "How did the rest of your weekend go?"

"Better than I expected."

"Yeah?" she asked hopefully.

"Yeah. My mom had a breakthrough - not a breakdown, thank God. And I think Phillip and I have come to an understanding regarding my dad. All in all, I really feel like it was a turning point for all of us."

A relieved smile rose up Bree's cheeks. She reached out to squeeze my hand on the desk. "I'm so glad." She glanced around a little bit to see if anyone was looking, then gently caressed my hand with her thumb. Her voice was soft. "I was thinking about you all yesterday."

"Yeah?" My eyes lingered on the image of her caressing my hand. I swallowed a bit, wondering if I would ever get used to her touch. It still sent an electric current up my arm and down my back, making me shudder a little from the chill that went through my body.

"Yeah," she said quietly. "I missed you."

I raised my eyes to find Bree's eyes darker than normal, a sort of need or longing underneath the surface. I swallowed again, feeling nervous regarding the way she was staring at me. "I missed you too. I'm not sure how just one day apart can feel so long but alas, it feels that way when it comes to you."

Bree took in a shaky breath. "Maybe we can meet after school? Maybe… go back to my place?" Her eyes lowered to look down at our hands as well, as if she didn't trust herself to look in my eyes after her request.

I felt my breath catch in my throat. She's asking me back to her place? She's never asked me back to her place. I also took in a shaky breath before responding. "What about your family? Will they be there?"

Bree shook her head and slowly raised her eyes, still just as dark as they'd been a moment before. "They won't. At least not for awhile." She lowered her voice. "I really would like some time alone with you."

My heart began to race as I wondered what that meant. Does that mean physical time alone with me? Am I ready for that? Shit, calm the fuck down, heart! I shifted in my seat uneasily, glancing away from her eyes, unable to handle the current coming out of them. "Okay."

A moment of silence passed until Mr. Waltman called out for class to begin. My eyes darted back to Bree. A sigh of relief came out of her lips and she squeezed me hand. "Okay," she whispered.

With that, she turned back around in her desk to leave me staring at and fantasizing about a sea of red.


"That's right, loves… who's the best?" Jodie slowly turned on her heel to face me and Parker, a smug smirk on her face. Mrs. Schwartz had waved a piece of paper in front of the class, taunting us with the news of who had won the roles in the musical with a wiggle of her eyebrows and then taped it up to the chalkboard. She quickly stepped out of the way as the entire class hopped out of their seats and hurried to the front. Somehow Jodie had broken through the pack to get a front row perspective.

A big smile broke out on my face. "You got the lead?"

"Damn right, I got the lead. As if there was ever any doubt." Jodie bowed in an over-dramatic fashion and then stood back up. She couldn't contain herself, bouncing a bit on the balls of her feet. "This is fucking fantastic!"

"Ahem," Mrs. Schwartz cleared her throat and Jodie turned to see her disapproving stare.

"Sorry, I got a little carried away," Jodie chuckled apologetically.

"Mm hmm." Mrs. Schwartz raised an eyebrow at her from underneath her reading glasses, pushed them back up her nose, and then turned back to what she was working on at her desk.

Jodie's smile was sheepish as she turned back to us. "Um, yay?"

Parker laughed and pulled her into a side-hug. Jodie fit just under his armpit as he squeezed her tight against him. "Congrats, Jodie."

I watched as a larger smile spread across Jodie's face and a hint of red accented her cheeks; it was obvious she was enjoying the attention from Parker just as much as I knew she was. She may play things close to the vest and only comment on Parker's hotness factor but the truth of the matter was that I knew my best friend was developing a bit of a crush. She hadn't told me this of course, but I knew it was just a matter of time until she did.

"Thanks, Parker." She looked up at him from his embrace, a mischievous glint in her eyes. "And guess what? You got the part of Evan."

"I did?" Parker sounded surprised. He glanced back at the sheet hanging on the chalkboard, squinting to see if he could see the name next to the role. His expression quickly changed to one of happiness as he realized she was telling the truth. "Shit!"

"AHEM," Mrs. Schwartz cleared her throat once again.

All three of us laughed. I turned to Mrs. Schwartz and waved a hand toward the two of them. "Complete and utter misfits, I know. Kids these days." I lowered my head and shook it sadly.

Mrs. Schwartz laughed. "Oh Kendra. You sure you don't want one of the lead roles? Your acting skills are obviously fantastic."

"Not the foghorn!" Jodie exclaimed. "Anything but the foghorn!"

I smirked and tried to kick her with my foot but she managed to narrowly dodge it.

Jodie frowned and brought her leg up to rub a little with her hand. "Woman, I still have the bruise from the last time you kicked me."

I grinned and winked in her direction. "You deserved it."

"I think Bree-" Jodie stammered and quickly glanced up at Parker. "Britney Spears has someone to live up to, uh, with this blimey brilliant dancer." She flashed me an apologetic smile.

With a furrowed brow, Parker looked down at Jodie with confusion. "Britney Spears? Where the hell did that come from?"

Jodie chuckled nervously and shrugged her shoulders. "You know Ken is a better dancer than her." She quickly changed the subject. "So you and me, huh? Evan and Andrea are going to light up that stage. I'm looking forward to our duet." She poked his chest with her finger with a wiggle of her eyebrows.

Parker laughed and they started to banter amongst themselves.

While it was great that Jodie knew about Bree and was becoming a supporter of our relationship, I also recognized that she had a big mouth and eventually, that news would no longer be a secret. I bit my lower lip as I contemplated whether I should tell Parker or not. Based on Bree and my encounters in English class as well as after school, I wouldn't be surprised if our classmates were starting to figure things out and putting two and two together. I'd noticed a couple of lingering glances in class after Bree and I spoke to each other - thankfully, they appeared to be more out of curiosity than contempt.

Bree was out and proud - something I truly admired - even though some people were downright rude to her. She usually brushed those kinds of encounters off or ignored guys when they'd yell something out in the quad and keep walking. I'd watched her from afar as she held her chin high and aspired to be just as strong as her when the news officially broke. Given the fact that I'd been with Tyler for two years and knew many hoped we would end up back together, I imagined the news would be a shock to many. With all that said, I knew I didn't want Parker to find out through the gossip mill or the whispers behind my back. He needed to know before all of that; his friendship deserved that much. In my head, I made a mental note to talk to him soon - in front of Mrs. Schwartz was not the right time.

Mrs. Schwartz cleared her throat again and raised her voice so the class could hear her. "Class! We will be having our first rehearsal tomorrow at three! Be sure you are there. We've got a lot of rehearsing to do - opening night is only one month away!"

A few cheers were heard throughout the class. The bell rang and we all went to gather up our belongings. As I started to follow Jodie and Parker out of the classroom, Mrs. Schwartz grabbed my wrist to stop me. I turned to look down at her at her desk. "Yes, Mrs. S.?"

"Are you ready for tomorrow? Do you have the choreography figured out?" Her expression looked hopeful.

I smiled. "Of course. You know I've been listening to that CD non-stop and have it all in here." I tapped the side of my head with my index finger.

"I never doubted for a second!"

Laughing, I patted her shoulder. "Don't worry, Mrs. S. I got us covered. I'll see you tomorrow!"

"Thank you, Kendra!" Mrs. Schwartz called to me as I turned to leave the classroom.

With a smile, I walked down the hallway and started heading toward my locker to pick up the books I would need for homework tonight. While I normally would have headed toward my spot at the end of the day, Bree's words echoed in my head about wanting time alone with me. I imagined when she said after school, she didn't mean after my hour chilling on the grass.

As I turned a corner, I ran straight into someone and stumbled backwards from the impact. As I started to fall, strong hands quickly grabbed me and pulled me back up into a standing position. I looked up to say sorry and thanks all at the same time when I saw Tyler's piercing gaze staring down at me. I took in a sharp breath. "Hi."

"Hi," he said quietly. He slowly removed his hands from around my waist and then hastily pushed them into the pockets of his shorts. His eyes glanced past me in the direction of his class and then came back to me. "So um, how are you?"

I swallowed. "I'm doing okay. Um…" I paused and bit the inside of my cheek nervously. "Thank you for… you know… making sure I was okay this weekend. And for the rose."

Tyler nodded slightly, his fair cheeks giving away the hint of a blush. "You're welcome. I'm just glad that I could be there for you when you needed me." He added hastily, "Or just needed someone I suppose."

My eyes narrowed and I placed a hand on his arm. "Hey. All of this… it doesn't change the fact that you were - and hopefully still will be one day - one of my best friends. I did need you. I was glad that you could make me laugh. And honestly, that you helped me remember. Some things need to be remembered." I noticed his eyes lingering on my hand on his arm and quickly removed it, wrapping my arms around my chest.

"Hopefully one day," he repeated quietly as he raised his eyes back up to me again.

We stared at each other for a long moment, caught up in the extra meaning behind his words. The bell signaling the start of class jolted us back to reality.

Tyler smiled sheepishly at me and nodded toward his class. "I better go before Mr. Hishan gives me detention for being late. My coach will be pissed."

I nodded and moved aside to let him past. "I gotcha." As I watched his lanky legs walk away, I couldn't help but call out to him, "Tyler?"

He paused hesitantly and turned back to look at me. "Yeah?"

In that one moment, I wanted to say everything that I was thinking and feeling. I wanted to tell him that he was a great boyfriend and that he deserved someone better. That he was a great friend and I was honored to have him as one. That there were places in my heart reserved just for him and always would be. But as I gazed into his hesitant blue eyes, I felt myself biting the inside of my cheek, knowing that all of those words would only be said for my benefit. It wasn't what he needed to hear right then. It would be selfish of me to say them and expect him to be okay afterwards. I was fairly certain that it was taking all he had to be civil to me. Instead, I smiled slightly. "Thank you. For everything."

Tyler nodded with a smile curving up the edge of his lips. Without another word, he turned and headed toward his classroom. I watched until he opened the door and disappeared inside.

Taking in a deep breath, I resumed heading in the direction of my locker. With each step, I felt the excitement and nervousness building in my chest as I realized that in just a few moments, I would be heading over to Bree's place for the first time. Suddenly, it dawned on me that we hadn't really worked out the logistics of it all and that I truly had no idea where she lived or how to get there. I wondered if we were going to meet up with one another at her car or mine. Or if she expected my stalker tendencies to show themselves by me magically figuring out where she lives and showing up there. I was truly hoping the last option was not the case.

I was hoping to see Bree waiting at my locker but she was not there. With a sigh, I turned the lock to match up to my combination and opened the door. That's when I saw a folded up note lying at the bottom of the locker on top of some textbooks. Crinkling my eyebrows, I picked up the note and unfolded it.

515 Boston Rd.

4:00 p.m.

Bring something red.

(That's me trying to be smooth and sexy.

Wine's not an option at our age, so Coca Cola will do.

See you soon, darlin'.)

While a blush rose up my cheeks, I couldn't help but laugh at Bree's note. I pressed the note against my chest and sighed happily. The note made me wonder what in the world Bree had planned. I couldn't help but constantly feel a measure of anxiety regarding this date because for some reason, it felt like it signified we were bypassing a crush into something more.

I fully realized though that our previous conversations had bypassed casual. Way bypassed casual. The things that I had shared with her were things that I hadn't shared with anyone else. We were certainly heading in the direction of a relationship and the idea both thrilled me and made me incredibly nervous. What would that mean? Would things change? Of course things would change, Kendra, you've been in a relationship before, for the love. But not this type of relationship… this type of relationship changes everything. I kept hoping I was ready. I kept hoping I was as strong as Bree thought I was.

Taking a deep breath to steady myself, I folded the note back up and put it into my backpack with the textbooks I would need for the night. Zipping up my backpack and closing the locker, I flung the backpack over my shoulders and started making my way out to the parking lot. My eyes kept darting around to see if I happened to catch Bree still around school but she was nowhere to be seen.

Once I reached my car, I quickly called my mom to let her know that I would be late tonight and then started heading in the direction of the store. After all, I apparently needed to pick up something red.