The story so far: Kate’s night has been a bust. Brian is acting like a jerk, Andrea, her best friend, is drunk, and she ran into Allison. The only bright spot has been seeing Julie, her friend recovering from leukemia. Kate now finds herself cornered off with Andrea, wondering how much longer she has to stay at Eric’s party. The year is 1987.

KATE

Andrea nurses a bottle of water and goes back and forth between sitting on the couch and standing to chit chat. Mark Koenig has arrived at the party. He’s standing in a corner of the room opposite us, trying to acting all brooding and mysterious. He steals longing glances at Andrea, and then quickly turns away when she looks in his direction. He’s wearing a black track suit with a white T-shirt underneath, high top Adidas sneakers, and a Cleveland Indians hat turned backwards.

Sarah Wilkens walks over. She carries a can of Diet Coke and an extra bounce in her step and her boobs. Like a super model walking a runway, she approaches in perfect step to “Let’s Go All the Way,” now playing in the other room. Sarah hugs Andrea and me. She stands back and looks around the room.

“Nothing changes in this house.”

Nothing ever changes in Cuyahoga, Sarah should know that. Hell, she looks exactly the same as she did when she graduated last year. Doesn’t college make you fatter? I swear she hasn’t gained a pound.

“So, how does it feel to be seniors?” she asks.

“Awesome!” Andrea says. “I thought I would DIE before this day came.”

Good old Andrea, queen of the hyperbole.

“Kate?”

“Oh, it’s great. What Andrea said.”

Sarah furrows her brow. I know what’s coming next. After all of the double dates Brian and I went on with her and Dennis, I think I can read her pretty well. Sarah’s going to pretend that she’s already a psychologist or something and try to solve my problems.

“That didn’t sound very convincing.”

Andrea puts in her two cents. “Brian trouble.”

girltalkPart of me wants to grab Andrea by her long red hair and shove her gangly, freckled body against the wall, tell her to mind her own damn business. Knowing Andrea, she’d lose a contact lens, cause a big stir and have half the guys in here helping her look because she’s wearing a loose fitting tank top and they might catch a flash of something. Mark Koenig would rush to her rescue.

I have to stop that. Sorry, Andrea, even if you can’t hear me.

“What’s the scoop?” Sarah inquires.

“We’re just… we’re not communicating very well.”

“Again,” Andrea points out. “It’s almost as bad as after he kissed Allison McKenzie.”

BAM! The wall.

“Wait,” Sarah asks, “Brian kissed Allison?”

“I… don’t really want to go into it,” I reply, but Andrea has no filter after she’s had a couple of drinks.

“Brian kissed that BITCH Allison while they were in Washington D.C.” Andrea tells Sarah. “He claims that all they did was kiss.”

Andrea tips her bottle for a drink, and I “accidentally” bump into her. Water spills down the front of her shirt.

“Crap,” she pouts, walking off to the kitchen.

Sarah pauses until Andrea is around the corner. Then, “Now that she’s gone, tell me what’s going on, Kate.”

“They had a ‘moment,’ and they kissed. It happened while they were on this student council trip in March, and when they came home, he was all weird. We went down to the Metroparks one night, and he just blurted out the truth.”

“Why didn’t you break up with him?”

“I love him, Sarah, and he was being honest about it. He swore that they only kissed and that it’d never happen again. In fact, after he confessed, we were closer than ever.”

“So what happened?”

I shrug. “Allison had this mental breakdown, and it really freaked him out. I mean, he had to go see her, right? They’d been friends for a long time. I couldn’t tell him ‘no.’ What kind of person would that make me?”

“But it bothered you, right?”

“Of course. But I got over it. I am getting over it. Soon. This summer. Let’s talk about something else.”

Sarah sips her drink. “What about you?”

“What about me?”

“Have you ever cheated on Brian?”

“Absolutely not. Wait… have you?”

She looks around to see if anyone is listening.

“Dennis and I broke up briefly last year.”

“I didn’t know that,” I reply.

“His college buddies were all on him because he has a girlfriend. Dennis told me he wanted to see other people. We were non-exclusive for a couple weeks. Then he saw me at a party with another guy and freaked. That night, he showed up outside my dorm room, crying and begging me never to leave him.”

“Wow,” I say, surprised. “I never would have expected that from Dennis.”

“I know, right? How do you think Brian would react if he saw you with another guy?”

“I don’t know.”

“Maybe you should find out.”

I react, eyebrows raised.

“Look, Kate, I’m only giving you advice based on talking to you for a couple of minutes, but you don’t seem happy.”

“It isn’t supposed to be this hard, is it, Sarah?”

“Not during your senior year. There are other guys. Brian doesn’t have to be the one. Sure, Dennis and I have been lucky, but the more I look around, the more I realize that we’re not the norm. Kate. It’s high school. Most high school relationships are doomed by nature.”

Andrea returns with Mark Koenig following her like a lost puppy. The other person with her makes me do a double take: Tom Meany. He has a smoldering look on his face, as hot as ever. Come to think of it, he always has a smoldering look on his face. It’s the kind of look that gets stuck in your head and floats around in your dreams.

“Look who I found!” Andrea says.

“Hi, Kate,” Tom says. He has his arms around me in a hug before I have a chance to react. Sarah gives him a once over and nods, impressed.

“Where’s Brian?” Tom asks with a touch of derision in his voice. They’ve never liked each other.

“Around.”

“Need me to, like, look for him?”

“No need.”

Tom smirks: exactly the answer he wanted to hear.

“So, what’re you doing this summer? Cause… I thought maybe we could grab a coffee. Have you heard of that place, Cleveland Grounds?”

His words are velvet, smoothly sliding out of the side of his mouth.

“Actually, I’m going to be in Vermont all summer. I’m working at a special horse camp for kids with disabilities.”

Tom steps back, surprised, then touched.

“Kate, that… that is the coolest thing.”

Tom reaches over and squeezes my shoulder. He slides his hand down the side of my arm, lightly. It’s tantalizing. I bow my head in embarrassment, and then glance at Sarah. Behind her, I see Brian rushing upstairs with Eric and Allison’s friend, Gwen. At the same time, Sarah’s lanky boyfriend, Dennis, walks over. He lovingly wraps himself around Sarah.

“Ready to go, babe?” he asks her.

Tom checks his watch. “It’s only ten o’clock.”

“We’re going to Cedar Point tomorrow,” Sarah informs us.

“Dennis,” I ask, “where’s Brian going?”

“Don’t know. Something about Allison. Anyway…”

I don’t hear another word he says. I’m fuming.

Something about Allison. Of course it’s something about Allison.

*****

Today’s artwork was by Maria Vittan. Maria is an illustrator from the Philippines living in Los Angeles working in the animation industry. She likes to camp and paint. You can find her on her website at mariakvitan.com and her tumblr mariatumbles.tumblr.com

Sly Fox’s song, “Let’s Go All the Way,” is found on their 1985 album, Let’s Go All the Way.

Previous Chapters: Chapter 21, Chapter 20, Chapter 19,  Chapter 18,  Chapter 17, Chapter 16, Chapter 15, Chapter 14, Chapter 13, Chapter 12, Chapter 11, Chapter 10, Chapter 9, Chapter 8, Chapter 7, Chapter 6, Chapter 5, Chapter 4, Chapter 3, Chapter 2, Chapter 1, Introduction

Read Chapter 23 of Legendary.