Chapter 9 (Epilogue)

Nona and Danny rode their bikes to 'the ledge' part of the river bank along the bicycle path on Sunday afternoon, the day after the Freshman Welcome.

It was a brisk but warm Autumn afternoon and they ate Frito corn chips out of the bag while drinking their soda from cans.

"When something bad happens, it's hard to talk about it," Nona said as they sat on the bank watching the river in front of them. "You bury it deep inside you and you deny it's even real. You wish it never happened and sometimes you pretend it never did."

"I really haven't had anything terrible happen to me yet," Danny admitted.

"But when something wonderful happens to you, you never want it to end," Nona added.

"Maybe it won't," Danny said hopefully.

"Losing Elsie as my best friend hurt so much," Nona revealed. "After everything we've been through, I can't believe she let stupid Kyle Meeks come between us."

"She didn't want to Freshman Welcome you," Danny explained.

"She has no understanding of what's really important in life," Nona complained. "I can't believe she threw me under the bus like that."

"People do what they think is necessary to survive and fit in when it comes to high school," Danny said.

"I would have felt so alone if you weren't my friend," Nona said.

"Maybe you and Elsie will work it out," Danny suggested.

"What's the point?" Nona asked. "I could never trust or believe in her again."

"The sun's setting earlier now," Danny observed, glancing behind him toward the western sky.

Nona watched him watch the sky and when he turned his head back she closed her eyes, leaned in and kissed him, without the ice cream on her lip or his father watching them. Danny had kissed her twice but it was the first time she had kissed him. Danny lifted his hand up to the side of her face and she felt his fingers brush along her cheek.

"I'm sorry about what happened in the pool," he said awkwardly, his voice sounding strained.

"I'm not," Nona said, kissing him again without thinking about it, feeling warm and close and happy.

They kissed for what seemed like forever until Nona finally broke away from his lips and she stared into his eyes.

"It's going to be okay," Danny assured her. "We're in high school now."

"Thanks for welcoming me," she smiled, resting her head against his shoulder as he took her hand in his.