It was Hankle who suggested the nude prank weeks before graduation from high school. Bake quickly dismissed Hankle's suggestion as foolishness but the others in the newspaper office took an unexpected interest in the proposition, especially sweet Reed of all people.
Bake spent his high school career building his legacy and reputation to find his specific identity and talent separate from his family. Instead of pursuing sports like his athletically gifted twin brothers or music like his talented sister Darlene, Bake became a popular and involved member of both the student council and the student newspaper and by senior year he was one of the most recognized kids in the school.
Classmate Reed Pinho was also active as a student council representative and the two became friends because of their shared interests. Reed was a tall attractive brunette, popular among her peers and Bake found her to be interesting, personable, humorous and intelligent - not to mention pretty!
One night early in their high school friendship, Reed called Bake at home to discuss a student council issue and he was dumbstruck that a girl like her would call a nobody like him. He had been timid and self-conscious around girls but Reed calling him reminded him that he was in high school now and it was time to start getting brave around girls.
Bake didn't want Reed to think he was just some jerk guy so he tried to sound sophisticated and worldly but he came across as a buffoon and when he ended the call Bake realized that he was a sappy loser. He went to bed depressed, convinced that Reed would avoid him for the rest of the school year.
Much to his relief, Reed talked to Bake at school the next day and he began to hope that maybe she actually liked him. He didn't want to obsess about the possibility but he couldn't stop thinking about her! The twins had already gone through a half dozen girlfriends between them and Bake's sister had been going steady with Tim Colt for a few years so maybe it was time for the youngest Bakersfield to show that he could interest a girl.
Amazingly, Reed continued calling him most nights. Bake would sprawl out on his bed and chat away, sometimes for hours. He mastered the art of phone conversation and he was relieved when Reed welcomed his stories, comments, remarks and insights. Bake wondered if he was better on the phone than he was in person.
Reed began sitting with Bake in the cafeteria during lunch and he walked her home most days too. Reed liked to take a short cut through a cemetery and sometimes they'd stop to read gravestones and make up stories about the people whose information was carved on the granite.
"You probably think I'm ghoulish or a zombie lover because I like hanging out in cemeteries," Reed remarked their second stop among the stones. "It's just that I find it peaceful here," she explained. "I like to ponder about life."
"Not death?" Bake asked.
She laughed and that's where they held hands for the first time, walking among the stones. Bake wondered if it might be a bad omen holding hands in a graveyard but he knew that he liked being with her. The cemetery is where they shared their first kiss too- it was his first one, of course, but Reed admitted that she first kissed a boy at a friend's birthday party in seventh grade.
Kissing Reed felt magical. Her lips were soft and moist and Bake knew it was special and that's why he didn't talk about Reed to his siblings or friends because he didn't want gossip spreading although it was hard to mask his excitement because it felt so right being with her. Bake wanted to scream and shout and dance in celebration but he forced himself to stay calm, cool and collected to protect Reed's privacy and reputation.
Some of his friends like Hankle complained that Bake wasn't hanging out with them as much anymore because of his interest in Reed and Bake felt guilty about that but he also resented his friends for giving him a hard time when any one of them would bail on him in a flash if some girl struck their fancy.
It was Reed who talked Bake into joining the school paper with her. Reed was a natural writer with a flair for flowery descriptions. Bake had to work hard at stringing together coherent sentences and he didn't want to get razzed by Hankle who was a better writer than Reed but Bake enjoyed learning about putting a newspaper edition together and working alongside Reed, just like on the student council.
The two attended the Hurricane football games and watched the twins play (and Denise in the marching band). Reed even covered one of the games for the school paper and Bake walked the sidelines with her lugging a camera for action shots.
Talking on the phone remained Bake's favorite activity involving Reed. There was something truly intimate about hearing her voice in his ear and it seemed that they were more honest, bold, daring and flirtatious on the phone than they were when they were together. The world made sense when they talked long into the night. Bake loved it when Reed laughed listening to his silly stories and unimportant drivel about the day.
Bake knew he was no longer a goofy kid if a girl like Reed liked him! Peers looked at him differently now - some with envy, others with respect, most with acceptance. Even the twins razzed him less and the first time they saw Reed visiting the Bakersfield house they were actually nice to both her and their kid brother.
The Bakersfield house was consistently chaotic and active with kids coming and going and hanging out. The house was older and definitely lived in. Reed was amused by the almost frat-house feel to the place and how easygoing Bake's working class parents were when it came to all the activity and excitement that always seemed to be happening around the Bakersfield place. Bake's Dad worked for the town's highway department and his mom was a teacher's aide at the elementary school.
The Pinho residence was in sharp contrast to Bake's house. The modern brick home was well maintained and full of fancy furniture and collectables. Reed's Dad was a lawyer and her mom worked from home as a management consultant. They were prim and proper with rules that Reed was expected to follow. Reed's parents were accepting of Bake but they were consistently making 'suggestions' about his future plans, studying hard for college, taking AP courses to improve his GPA standing, and involving himself in added extracurricular activities to pad his resume. Bake understood without her saying anything that there were a lot of expectations on Reed and he knew that's why she was such a dedicated and disciplined student.
Reed liked hanging out at the Donaldson place because everybody was allowed to do their own thing. She was relieved when Bake's family welcomed her and soon knighted her as one of them, even making her feed the dog when his bowl was empty! Bake feared Reed might think his family was a dysfunctional group of nut-jobs but she had little trouble adapting to the crazy ways of the Bakersfields!
"I can burp at your house and nobody's going to give me a lecture on etiquette!" Reed remarked.
The two teens hung out together, spending mutual time among a group of friends – student council types, fellow newspaper staff folks – and Bake valued Reed's company and companionship. He had a great time whenever he was with her, perfectly content on holding hands and exchanging the occasional kiss.
Reed was smart, kind, sweet and amazing. Because of her, Bake was a better and more involved and knowledgeable student council member and newspaper writer. The first time they shared a byline together ("Favorite Desserts of Hillsboro High's Lunch Crowd"), Bake felt famous!
Bake discovered that he was a much more confident person because of his friendship with Reed. He didn't take shit from the twins anymore, he spoke out more often in class, he talked to other girls without feeling insecure or stupid, and he felt comfortable just being himself. He was honestly happy with his life and he looked forward to going to school each day (mostly to see Reed!).