"You're coming to the bonfire tonight, right?"
Her hand swings over my shoulder, and I bend forward at the sudden impact, almost dropping my phone in the process.
"Jeez Zoe, keep that thing under control," I say with a laugh, pushing her away. She laughs too, hooking her arm over me again as we continue down the hallway of our nearly empty high school.
"What, you mean my arm?" she says innocently.
"No, I mean your pet tiger that you take everywhere," I say with a point and when she instinctively looks down, I jab her quickly in the stomach, making her body jump with an involuntarily squeal. This time, it's her turn to push me away, "Jeez Ky, keep that thing under control! And you didn't answer my question... are you coming? Please say you are, cause it's the last day of our junior year, and I've been planning this since I was a tiny freshman." I press my lips together, pointedly looking at her.
"I know, I know, your parents are kinda strict, but it'll be totally worth it! My parents will be there, and it's not like I'm going to be getting bear. After all," she looks over to me slyly, and then says with a singsong voice, "Cris will be there." My hand jumps up to my mouth quickly, and I feel my heart jump a little. "Shut up! That's not the only reason I would come. And that sure as heck isn't going to be my pitch to my parents. Think of something better."
She laughs at my reaction, then looks down as though deep in thought. With a shrug, she looks back up to me. "I don't know, Ky. What would your parents like the best?" I sigh, as though I was really hoping she'd be able to figure out something. "It's fine. I'm sure I'll be able to convince them with something. I really do want to go."
"Fine, just text me when you get an answer! Now, I'm going to go get Mr. Henderson to sign my yearbook before he leaves. I'll see you at my house later." She says it all as though just by her saying it, it's bound to happen. Even though my parents didn't like knowing I was outside of their circle of protection. And even though Mr. Henderson hating signing anyones' yearbook. But with that, she bounds off toward C hall, almost running over some sophomores, even when the hallway is practically empty for the end of school. I smile to myself, then stop when I realize it. Trying not to get my hopes up for the party, I walk outside to my parked car, nodding to a couple people on the way out, to drive home.
When I get to my house, I throw my yearbook and keys on my bed, the only things I brought to school, and toss myself onto a couch in the living room, watching TV until one of my parents gets home. I get through a couple episodes of The Flash when I hear my moms car park in her spot. I call always tell its my mom, cause her engine doesn't drone like my dads does. I quickly switch off the TV, running my hands through my hair so it doesn't look like I've been laying down for the past two hours. The lock clicks open, and my mom hustled in, her hands full with her backpack, purse and random garbage from her car.
"Hey Mom," I say, reaching out my arms to help her. "Hey, hon, just gimme a second." She dumps the trash into my arms before jogging up the stairs to go to the bathroom. I go throw it all away, even going as far as to put her backpack and purse away in the closet. Not sucking up exactly, just showing that I could be helpful and responsible. When she comes down, I can tell today has been a good day at work, cause she's smiling like she finally got some douche to admit that he's been treating his employees awful. As a management consultant, most of her days are long and obnoxious. But I ask anyways, and she goes into a whole story about how the district manager at that new tech company finally admitted that he was stealing one of the secretaries ideas for each his presentations, and how she finally has got a reason to let the CEO know to fire him, cause 'that jerk has totally been ruining any progress for the rest of the team.' I nod along, asking if it was the same guy who she was talking about a couple days ago, all the while, making her some of her favorite tea, baring through her excited small-talk until I could ask about Zoe. She takes a breath. "Anyways, hon. How was your day? Get any cool signatures?" I tell her about the handful of HAGS I got, the handful of teacher signatures, and the one long note from Zoe, and her mission to get Mr. Hendersons signature. "It's actually way cool. Zoe's throwing this awesome bonfire party at her house tonight, in honor of the start of summer. Anyways, she invited me and I was wondering if I could go?" My hold my breath, trying to be as casual as possible.
"That sounds like a lot of fun! Who else is going to be there? Will her parents be home?" I breathe out, answering her questions with enough enthusiasm to make her feel a bit guilty if she were to change her mind.
I go back into the living room, pulling out my phone to send a quick text to Zoe.
I'm able to come! Just make sure that tiger of yours is in its cage ;)
The sun is just going over the mountains when I pull into the front of Zoe's house, quickly getting out and walking to the door before I could get too nervous and walk out. I adjust my short sun dress to make sure it didn't get tucked up, then knock on the door. Zoe's sister, an older girl with a bright green shirt answers the door. She guides me through the house to the backyard, where a dozen or so people are already hanging out and dancing to music blaring from the speakers. The sliding door had just closed behind me when Zoe attacks from behind, as per usual, laughing loudly like she was in the middle of a joke.
"You made it!" she yells to me, through the constant thrumming of the speakers around us. I smile, yelling back some sort of reply, but really I'm just taking inventory of who's already there. Tina, Harry, Jaxon, Lily... and Cris. There, next to the huge pile of wood that is to become a even huger beacon by the end of the night. Though I'm trying to be sly, Zoe notices my glance immediately.
"Go talk to him!" A familiar jump in my chest.
"No way! I just got here. I want to at least get a drink." She laughs at my embarrassment, and I have the thought cross my mind that she might get a little too much enjoyment from my inability to talk to other human beings.
It isn't for another half hour or so, when we start dousing the wood in gas to light the fire, that I approach him. And even then, only because he finally left his small group of friends from dancing to get some water. "Hey, Cris!" I blurt, my hands practically stiff at my sides. "Hey, Ky," he responds, looking up from the cups to me. He is smiling slightly, his hair swept back, like he's trying to keep it out of his face but failing. I feel myself blush a little, but continue to pretend nonchalance. "Did you hear about how Zoe was able to get Mr. Henderson's signature?" He laughs... and, yep, his hand reaches up to smooth back a stray piece of hair.
"She's so legendary," he says jokingly. "I heard she's the only one to get him to sign in like, six years." I laugh with him, the pressure in my stomach lessening a bit. It's ok. This is ok.
"Who's your favorite sibling?"
He laughs. "I have too many, I couldn't choose."
"Sure you could! If I can pick a favorite book, you can pick a favorite sibling."
Pause for laughter.
"Did you just compare a bunch of pieces of paper to a human being?"
"Sure," I say with a shrug. "I'm an only child, so books really are so superior to people, at least for me." He chuckles, glancing at me from the corner of his eye. "You're pretty funny, Ky. I never would've guessed from meeting you in chemistry." I blush. "Thanks, I guess." We're sitting near the fire, which had been ablaze for a couple hours. Everyone else in dancing nearer to the house, or getting food from the long table that was set up a while back. So it was just Cris and me... Sitting near a fire... And he just told me I was funny.
We watch the fire for a few minutes in silence, and I'm thinking of asking him to dance when one of the theater girls, Kit, calls to him, wanting to see him dancing instead of 'sitting on his butt all antisocial'.
Almost perfect, I think while I smile awkwardly at Cris when he stands up. He smiles back, offering his hand to help me up. Around me, ashes fall, reminding me of gray snow, smearing the grass with charcoal.