“Are you sure this is going to work?” Ali asks, her voice hushed as her lanky body leans across the diner’s counter. The three girls behind her squeeze closer– the same question cycling their thoughts. If their plan works, this will surely be the best thing that’s happened since they all became friends.
Drew, the worker behind the counter, shrugs while continuing to clean the coffee mug in his hands. “I don’t see why it won’t.” Their plan has been in the works from the day Ali mentioned off-handedly the tradition her parents had of hanging mistletoe in carefully planned places during the holiday season. And today just so happens to be the perfect.
Both participants will never know what hit them.
A voice pipes up over the quiet laughter of the girls. “Well statistically speaking the possibility of both of the actually reaching the designated spot under the–”
Groans cry out and the group turns to face their petite friend. “Amy! You’re taking the fun out of it,” Ali complains. The surrounding girls nod in a synchronous motion. This is no time for science or math. Just time for good cheer and fun.
Stepping back, Amy lowers her head and allows for her short brown bangs to cover her eyes. “I-I’m sorry.” She understands her friends’ game–but she just wants to ensure the results of their game are desirable for all parties. Well, all parties aside from the party the game is victimizing.
Savannah, the tall athletic brunette, smiles and pulls her friend close to her. “It’s okay, Ames. We’re just joking, you know.” The small girl looks up and smiles. The line between seriousness and joking is so thin sometimes between the friends. Sometimes too thin distinguish.
A silence falls over the group.
Around them the Crown Diner is in full gear. Students relish in their holiday break and parents are happy to be out of the house. Others are taking a break from shopping, the evidence splayed across the floors in the form of shopping bags from all over the shopping mall. A few people go out of their way to look up at the ceiling with confused looks on their faces before shrugging it off and continuing with their day.
Any moment now.
“Just because I am here this late does not at all mean I had detention, jerk!” A girl shouts, the bells ringing as she shoves the door open. She pauses for a moment to make sure it stays open for the man in the green jacket before rushing forward. “I don’t always have detention, you know!” She swings her blond braids behind her, meaning it to be the end of the conversation as she spots her friends across the way. “Hey, guys!”
Let the game begin.
The man who walked in behind her smirks, grabbing the girl gently by the arm. “Yet that doesn’t answer my question, . Did you, or did you not have detention today after school?”
Jenna stays still for just a moment as she contemplates her answer. No matter what she says though–she is absolutely positive that Noah will have something negative to counter it with. “So what if I did?” She tugs her arm away from his grip before once again turning toward her friends.
Yet Noah catches her arm again. “So I was right?” He gives the girl a large smile, happy with his win.
Across the way the group at the counter sit at the edge of their seats. Drew puts down his mug and inches closer to the counter, hoping to get a better look. Only a few more feet and they will reach the designated spot. Only a few more feet.
Struggling against his stronger grip, Jenna tries to weasel away. “Yes! You were right! Can you let go of me now? I kind of want to go talk with my friends!” She motions to her friends who all quickly turn away, pretending as if they were not just watching their every moves.
“Drew is over there too; I’ll walk with you there.”
The blonde gives another yank at her arm. “Only if you let go of my arm,” she cries, now peeved she has yet to have control of her arm since she left school. Noah caught up with her as she was leaving the building and has been tugging at her arm ever since. There is no giving up with him.
Noah shrugs and releases the girl’s arm. With a exaggerated sigh of relief, she motions for the boy to step forward. “You first.”
Not seeing a logic to the girl’s request, Noah finds himself confused for only a minute before taking the first step. Jenna falls into step beside him and the duo moves toward the group sitting at the counter, each individual trying to make it less obvious they were watching.
A few more steps and they jump up, all holding their hands up. “STOP!” The shout comes from the group of five in unison and Jenna and Noah stop, confused. Around them the arcade also falls silent, trying to watch the big commotion. A few take only a minute to realize what is to happen and they laugh to themselves. The others watch with rapt confusion.
“I-I-is something wrong, you guys?” Jenna squeaks, daring to be the first to speak.
Ali breaks off from her friends and walks toward the duo. The blonde points up to the ceiling above them. “Mistletoe.”
The arcade cheers, the rest of the group realizing the plan put into action. Tradition behind the mistletoe is known across the room and the only confused ones would be the children who are too young to comprehend the concept.
Jenna’s cheeks flush a bright red. “What?” She looks back up at the bunch of greens tied together by the ribbon before turning back to her friend. “With him?” She points accusingly at Noah.
“With her?” Noah counters, his own face, which is typically impossible to read, begins to turn a deep red. The duo look at each other, unsure.
“Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!”
Shouts begin in the arcade. Mainly from the adults. But when the children get a whiff of it, they squeal and laugh while they clap their hands to the chant.
“Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!”
Jenna and Noah turn to each other, the chanting of the arcade becoming too much to claim ignorance. “On the count of three,” Noah whispers to her, his eyes pleading with her.
She nods, licking her lips as she steps closer to the boy she calls her enemy. “Three.”
“Two.” Noah grabs the girl’s hand.
The arcade finishes the countdown for them. “One!”
With the final number, Jenna and Noah turn toward each other.
And make toward the door in a sprint–their cheeks red as Rudolph’s nose.
“Have you lost your damn mind?”
I shrink away from my friend and look carefully down at my shoes. This is different from the usual times he’s mad at me–I can’t feel his vengeful hate waves drilling themselves in my direction. Instead, a cold wave washes over me as his tall frame towers over my body. “I-I’m sorry, Rennnn.”
And in that instance the wave drops.
When I look up, Ren’s face is twisted in pain. But only for a second. Guilt and shame seem to take up residence across his features. In a way that looks oddly familiar in a way that I just can’t place my finger on.
“I am so sorry, Kelsey.”
Hmm? My eyebrows pull together and I blink. Wasn’t I the one who was supposed to be apologizing? I was the one who messed up today. Ren was just being protective and angry about my faults like he normally is. So what changed this time?
“Ren?” No response. “Ren, are you alright?” I carefully reach my hand out to reach for his arm but he gracefully moves just out of reach. Avoiding my touch. A pain swells in my chest. He never does this. What I did this time…I never realized that it could have so much repercussions. If I knew it was going to push my friend away from me….
The best option for me, then, is to leave. Give him space. Fix today’s mess on my own. And maybe tomorrow I will be able to make amends and have him trust me again. But before I have the chance to turn and walk away, I feel a familiar pair of arms wrap their warmth around me. I am pulled flush against Ren’s chest and I feel his lips on my hair and it takes everything in me not to go weak in the knees.
“Don’t scare me like that, Kelsey.”
only for the strong
left for the broken.
Flames lick my fingertips
Steel caresses skin
And I shiver.
I strongly wish
not as me
Baillie Puckett–19, English-Creative Writing Major, Lover of books and cats. I probably own more books than you.