The cool October air smacked into Katherine’s pale, freckled face like a swatter on a fly. She zipped up her jacket and slipped her hands in the pockets.
I didn’t know it was gonna be this cold! She thought as she turned the corner.
Her thoughts about the weather quickly faded as her gaze went straight ahead toward Fingleberry Park. But it wasn’t the yellowish-brownish tree leaves that caught her attention, nor the little boys and girls laughing and nudging each other while eating the Skittles they knew they weren’t supposed to be eating before dinner: No, she was looking farther to the right, just a couple feet next to the giant oak tree, which looked centuries old.
The shaggy blond hair, the tall, broad shouldered physique. Kevin Roberts. He was chatting with two of the guys from the football team. Those big, brown eyes twinkled whenever he smiled. Oh, that smile! Those straight, pearly whites and those smooth lips. At least that’s how Katherine imagined his lips to feel.
Katherine has had a crush on Kevin since they were both twelve years old and got to sit next to each other during the seventh grade class trip to the Smithsonian Museum, where they both talked and joked around the entire time.
That was three years ago and the last time she had a complete conversation with him. I mean, it’s not like Kevin forgot about her existence, it was just that he had school and football to think about. At least that’s what Katherine made herself believe.
Before Katherine knew it, she was standing at the corner of Boar Street looking straight ahead at Kevin. Not moving, just staring, admiring his distant presence, not caring about how numbly cold her hands were becoming. Lost in her thoughts when she finally snapped to reality and noticed he wasn’t talking with the guys anymore, but looking at her!
Oh my god! She frantically thought; what do I do? What do I do? Katherine thought desperately.
The panic in her mind made her knees buckle and before she knew it, she turned the corner and was pacing faster, faster towards her street. Her head down, her pale cheeks now a reddish color.
I’m so stupid! She scolded herself as she unlocked her front door.
The smell of chicken potpie swirled around Katherine’s nose.
She furiously unzipped her jacket, dropped her book bag, whirled her jacket off and walked towards her kitchen; passing the old family portraits of great-auntie Suzie and Grandpa Joseph.
“Kathy? That you?” Marie’s high-pitched voice called from the kitchen.
“Yeah,” Katherine answered as she walked in the kitchen and slumped down at the table.
Marie was Katherine’s stepmother. She had been her stepmother for a little over seven years now. Katherine still couldn’t believe how fast time flew. It had only been a year after her mother—her real mother—passed away that her father met Marie. A Macy’s store clerk from Idaho.
Katherine still remembered the first time she met Marie:
Her shouldered-length, brown curls bounced all over the place as her father guided her through their front door. The dark blue eye shadow she had on reminded Katherine of the Halloween makeup her mom would put on her. Her short legs were covered by long, flared jeans topped with a red turtleneck and matching boots (she didn’t look much different now).
Marie’s eyes lit up as she saw Katherine’s tiny, eight-year-old self shyly walking towards them, dragging her stuffed bunny behind her.
“Hey there!” Marie had said in, what Katherine at the time thought was the funniest baby voice she’d ever heard.
Katherine and Marie have hit it off since then. But there were times when she questioned what her father truly saw in Marie. I mean, her father was this tall, serious-faced, work-comes-first kind of man and Marie was a happy-go-lucky, “you’ve got to live life to the fullest” type gal. It’s not that they didn’t love each other; it was just that they were the complete opposite. But Katherine could only think of “Opposites Attract” as an answer.
The warmness of the oven door opening surrounded Katherine. Marie grabbed the chicken potpie with some mittens and closed the oven door with her foot, gently placing the potpie on the table where Katherine was at.
“And for the finishing touch…” Marie placed a tiny leaf of cilantro on the top of the potpie and clapped her hands together.
“…TA-DAAA!” She finished as she looked at Katherine, waiting for a response.
“Nice,” Katherine uninterestedly said.
Marie’s shoulders dropped and her happy face expression turned to this sarcastic “you’ve gotta be kidding me” look.
“Oh come on! You’ve got to find a better word than nice! I mean look at this,” she extended her hands out to the chicken pot pie; “It’s a masterpiece! Or do you think it’s awful?” Marie yelped.
“No, no, no, no, no! I didn’t mean it like that! I meant to say it looks…awesome!” Katherine quickly replied.
“Thank you,” Marie’s smile appeared again.
Marie quit her Macy’s job after she married Katherine’s dad and joined some “Generous Women of America” club that involved helping and serving the senior citizens in their neighborhood.
“Mrs. Peters is gonna love this!” Marie whispered to herself.
“Has Alyssa called?” Katherine said interrupting her stepmother’s thoughts.
“Oh, uh, yeah. She said to tell you to call her when you get back from the library.” Marie adjusted the cilantro leaf on the potpie.
“K,” Katherine answered as she leaped from the table and ran out of the kitchen towards the stairs.
“Pick up your jacket and hang it up! You know how your dad gets!”
But Marie’s yelling was no use. Katherine was already upstairs.
She pushed open her bedroom door and threw herself on her bed, making the scattered clothes on the bed fall to the carpeted floor.
She dialed Alyssa’s number. As she waited for someone to answer, she played with the bracelet on her left wrist. Tiny holes and dirty spots were visible on the faded, dark pink leather bracelet. Obvious signs of years of being worn. Alyssa had made it and gave it to Katherine, and Katherine made one similar to hers and gave it to Alyssa, which she wore on the same wrist, when they first met.
It was the first day of first grade and Katherine was wishing her mom were there to sit with her during lunch. She was a half-inch shorter than the other kids so she was an instant target to pointing fingers and teasing.
“Leave me alone!” Katherine would squeal. But with no avail. Until another little girl, about an inch taller with long blond hair stepped in and shut those bullies up quicker than you can snap your fingers. They made each other those bracelets that same day during art class. After that, no one, including their parents, could keep the girls apart. They were best friends, always and forever. But they were like Marie and Katherine’s dad: opposites. That’s probably one of the reasons they were so close. One was quiet and kept to herself while the other was loud and outgoing. But they made it work.
“Hello?” a woman on the end answered.
“Hey Ms. Marccero.”
“Hey Kathy! How’s everything?”
“Everything’s fine. Is Alyssa home?”
“Yeah. Let me get her.”
“Lyssa! Katherine’s on the phone!” Katherine heard Ms. Marccero yell.
Katherine always liked Alyssa’s mom. She, at times, reminded Katherine of her mother.
After some phone rumbling, Alyssa came on the phone.
“Hey, hey!” Alyssa said.
“So, how was your studying?”
“You know how studying is: boring!”
“You see, that’s why I don’t study”
“Trust me, I know!” Katherine chuckled.
“So what theme are you planning on doing for your birthday party?” Alyssa asked.
“I don’t know yet.”
“Well you better know soon!”
“Whoa! What’s the rush? It’s like a month away! Plus, I don’t want a big party. I just want a cake, and some presents, and—“
“Kathy. Your birthday party needs to be awesome! It has to be the best party anyone in this tiny town has ever been to!” Alyssa exclaimed.
“Well why don’t we close all the stores and call November 27th “Katherine Day”!” Katherine sarcastically joked.
“You know…that’s not a bad idea! I can totally have my mom talk to the sheriff!” Alyssa joked back.
“Shut up, Lyssa!”
The girls laughed.
After two hours of talking and laughing, the girls said their goodbyes and hung up.
The next morning started the same as any other day for Katherine: she got up; slipped on whatever jeans and blouse she could find, quickly combed her hair and ran downstairs to the kitchen where Marie and her father were.
“Morning, Daddy.” Katherine said to her already dressed, newspaper-reading father.
“Morning, Kathy.” He said from behind his newspaper.
“Kathy, your bagel’s in the toaster oven.” Marie said as she emerged from behind the ‘fridge door.
“Stock markets are down,” Katherine’s dad blurted out.
“That’s good, honey,” Marie said as she patted her husband’s head.
Katherine smiled as she took a bite from her bagel.
After saying goodbye to them, Katherine made her way to school.
South Valley High School was like any usual high school: annoying teachers, the cliques and groups, and in South Valley High’s case: the worst football team in the state!
Katherine never understood why anyone ever went to their stupid games and pep rallies because no matter how much support, the South Valley High Jaguars sucked! There was no nicer way to put it. They hadn’t been to the Championships since 1981. They lost almost every game they played. But the town still thought they had a chance. How many times has Katherine heard that before!? She felt sorry for Kevin, having to play for such an awful team.
“Sup.” Alyssa said as she walked up to Katherine at her locker.
“Hey!” Katherine said.
“UGH! I’m so happy its Friday! Last day of the week means no homework, no nasty school lunches, and more importantly: no Ms. Stuart!”
Ms. Stuart was Alyssa’s Biology teacher. And her worst nightmare!
“Can you believe she’s assigning our partners for that dumb project? Ugh!” Alyssa gently slammed the back of her head on a locker.
“Don’t worry; maybe she’ll have sympathy for you,” Katherine soothed.
“I doubt it.”
The first period bell cut the girls’ conversation short.
“I’ll see ya at lunch.” Katherine waved to her friend.
“k,” Alyssa answered and they both walked away.
After getting her lunch, Katherine tiredly slumped down at the nearest table. She couldn’t wait to go home. She was swamped with work the whole weekend. She had to study for a French test, had a two-page essay due for History, and a research paper for Science.
“Just three more hours…three more hours,” Katherine sighed.
Just as she was about to take a bite from her apple, Alyssa suddenly appeared and slammed her food tray on the table, startling Katherine.
“Oh my gosh! You are not going to believe who Stuart partnered me with!” Alyssa furiously said as she sat down.
“Well hello to you, too,” Katherine replied.
“I don’t know. Who?” Katherine sighed.
“Carla Myers!” Alyssa exclaimed.
“NO!” Katherine’s eyes widened.
“Are you serious?!”
“Serious as a heart attack!”
“Is that teacher crazy?”
“I guess so! I wanted to die when she said that witch’s name after mine!”
“What’re gonna do? Ask for another partner?”
“I can’t! I either work with Carla or get an F. My mom said I get one more F and she cancels our trip to Florida, and after this winter, I’m gonna need a tan!”
“When’s the project due?”
“I know! I’m so mad right now! I mean, why couldn’t she have paired me with one of the emo weirdoes?”
“They’re not all weirdoes!” Katherine retorted.
Alyssa shot her a look.
“Yeah…they kinda are weird.” Katherine realized.
“That Carla Myers says one smart comment to me and I swear I’ll—“
Alyssa furiously stabbed her fork into the ‘mystery meat’ in front of her, causing Katherine to jump.
Carla Myers is the definition of mean, to the girls. They didn’t like Carla and Carla didn’t like them. But it wasn’t always like that. They were all best friends eight years ago. They even called each other the ‘Three Musketeers.’ But when Carla’s dad won a promotion at work, that meant more money, and more money meant a happy, spoiled Carla. And a happy, spoiled Carla with a daddy with money meant she was too good for two little girls with middle class parents. So they drifted apart until they were the two musketeers and the mean girl.
There wasn’t a time when the girls didn’t share some heated words with each other when they were together. Especially open minded Alyssa and smart-mouthed Carla.
“I have to go over her house to start the project.” Alyssa said.
“Why her house?”
“Because I don’t want that witch cursing up my house!”
“Man I was really looking forward to us going to ‘Sally’s’ for some frozen yogurt to get my mind off all this homework.” Katherine pouted.
“MMMMM. Frozen yogurt in October’s the best! I really wish I could go,” Alyssa pouted her lips like a sad little girl who got her toy taken away, “how ‘bout I call you tonight to tell you how things with Carla went and we’ll go out for some fro-yo tomorrow? Sound good?” Alyssa suggested.
“That sounds great!”
As the girls laughed and talked, Alyssa noticed someone behind Katherine walking towards them.
“Bitch Alert.” Alyssa smirked.
“Alyssa!” Katherine loudly whispered as she saw whom she was referring to.
Carla’s long, wavy, auburn hair swished as she walked up to the girls’ table. Her French manicured hands holding tightly to her tray of food. Not even daddy’s money could get her a personal chef.
“Marccero. Smith.” She said while looking at both girls.
“Myers.” Alyssa slyly responded back.
Carla turned to Alyssa.
“Look, I hate this partner thing just as much as you—“
“You got that right.” Alyssa interrupted.
“So let’s get this over with so I can get my A+ and never have to speak to you again, okay?” Carla forced her glossed lips into a smirk.
“Sounds good to me, Myers.”
Carla rolled her eyes and walked away, her body swaying like she was walking a runway.
“So let’s get this over with so I can blah, blah, blah,” Alyssa held her hand like a puppet, mocking Carla, “Ugh! I swear Kathy, just one arrogant comment—just one—and I’ll—“
“Trust me I know what you’ll do.”
The girls giggled.
“You better be careful,” Katherine began, “she might get her Chihuahua to attack you!” Katherine grinned.
“Oh no! I’m gonna be so scared!” Alyssa pretended to be scared.
“That was a good one, Kathy.”
After some more laughing and teasing, the girls said their goodbyes and headed to their last classes.
Once Katherine heard the dismissal bell, she quickly gathered her books and headed out the school doors.
See ya, South Valley High! Katherine happily thought.
Alyssa was already outside the school waiting for Katherine. Her last period class was on the first floor.
“Finally! Come on, let’s get away from this place.” Alyssa linked arms with Katherine and they walked away.
“So…have you heard from your boyfriend, yet?” Alyssa teased.
She always knew Katherine liked Kevin. She offered to talk to Kevin, once, but Katherine begged her not to.
“Shut up.” Katherine rolled her eyes.
“You seriously need to get over that guy! He’s so stupid!”
“He is not!”
“He is too! He’s stupid for not noticing you!”
“I made a complete fool of myself in front of him yesterday.”
“Maybe that’s a sign that Kevin’s not the guy for you.”
“Whatever.” Katherine knew deep down, her friend was right. She just couldn’t admit it.
The girls stopped in front of Katherine’s house.
“Well, I’ll call you tonight.” Alyssa said as she hugged her friend and began to walk away.
“Okay. Have fun on your study date!” Katherine jokingly yelled.
“Get inside, Kathy.”
Katherine smiled and walked inside.
She wasted no time: she said hi to Marie and went straight to her room to begin her homework.
She was so focused on her studies, that when she finally took a break, it was 8:45 p.m.
She remembered that Alyssa was supposed to call her once she left Carla’s house, about two hours ago.
Oh my gosh! What if she killed Carla?! Katherine thought.
Katherine shrugged her silly thoughts away and grabbed her phone and dialed Alyssa’s number.
“Hello?” Ms. Marccero answered.
“Hey Ms. M. Is Alyssa home yet?”
“No actually, she’s still studying with her partner.”
“Oh…okay then. Well, can you tell her to give me a call?”
“Yeah, sure thing.”
“Thanks, Ms. M.”
“You’re welcome, honey.”
Katherine didn’t sleep well that night. Aside from still having the French alphabet in mind, she never remembered a time where Alyssa didn’t call her when she was supposed to.
The next morning Katherine called Alyssa’s house again. But her mom said she had gone to the library to do more research.
Library? Alyssa…at the library? Katherine knew she had lied to her mom.
Where was she?
Katherine couldn’t hold any longer: she grabbed her jacket and zoomed out her front door.
I’m getting some frozen yogurt. With or without her! Katherine thought.
Katherine entered the small, freshly painted white ice cream shop.
“Hey, Bill.” Katherine greeted the man behind the counter. His wrinkled face and tiny, green eyes lit up when he saw her approaching.
“Booger! HA HA! How you been?” Bill’s loud, scratchy voice boomed.
Bill had known Katherine since she was three years old. Her mom would take her to get frozen yogurt every-other Saturday, even in January.
He called Katherine booger because when she was younger, she’d pick her nose a lot. Something he always found funny, while Katherine would look back at and feel disgusted.
“I’ve been good. Swamped with homework—but still good.”
“Atta girl! Want the usual?”
“You know it!”
Katherine ate the same vanilla with warm caramel every time she went there.
After chatting with Bill for a bit, she thanked him and left the store.
As she crossed the street, a familiar laugh caught her attention. As she looked around she saw where it was coming from: the burger joint two stores over to her left.
She walked towards the sound.
The laugh, the long, blond hair.
It can’t be—NO!
What the heck was Alyssa doing here? What was she laughing about?
As Katherine walked up to her friend, her legs froze as she saw whom she was with: Carla Myers and Kevin Roberts.
Is this a nightmare?
“She has like the biggest crush on you!” Alyssa said to Kevin.
“That is so sad!” Carla managed to get out while laughing.
“I know!” Alyssa responded.
They all laughed. Once they saw Katherine standing behind Alyssa, Carla and Kevin went serious.
“What?” Alyssa said while wiping a tear from her eye.
When she turned around, her grin disappeared as she saw Katherine’s shocked face.
“Katherine! W-what ‘re doing here?” Alyssa stuttered.
Katherine dropped her frozen yogurt and quickly walked away.
“Kathy! Wait!” Alyssa ran after her.
“Leave me alone!” Katherine yelled back.
“It’s not what you think! I can explain!”
Katherine suddenly stopped and swirled around.
Alyssa couldn’t get any words to come out. Her mouth was open, but she said nothing.
“EXPLAIN!” Katherine yelled as her eyes watered.
“I’m sorry.” Alyssa quietly said.
“I can’t believe you.” Katherine yanked her bracelet off and threw it at Alyssa.
Katherine turned around and ran home, not caring to wipe the tears from her pale cheeks. She couldn’t believe her best friend, who she trusted with all her heart, betrayed her like that. How could she talk about her behind her back? And with the main two people Katherine had trouble with!
Katherine got home and didn’t bother finishing any of her assignments. How could she when her heart was broken? She just laid in bed the remainder of the day and cried it all out for Marie at night.
The next morning, Katherine quickly grabbed her books from her locker, sat at a different table with different people at lunch, and walked a different way home after school, just to avoid speaking to Alyssa. This went on for about a month.
As Katherine walked through the front door, she heard Marie on the phone.
“Wait, I think I heard her come in, hold on.” Marie held out the phone to Katherine and mouthed the name Alyssa.
Katherine frantically shook her head and mouthed the words No! No way!
Marie sighed and began talking into the phone again.
“I thought it was her but it was the uhm, TV, you know how my hearing’s a bit off sometimes,” Marie nervously laughed, Katherine forgot how bad of a liar Marie was, “yeah…okay…I’ll tell her…thanks Alyssa…bah-bye.”
Katherine heard Marie close the phone. She started walking up the stairs when she heard Marie call her name. Katherine rolled her eyes and made some lame excuse about reading some French book, knowing where the conversation was going to lead. But that didn’t stop Marie.
“Katherine. Get downstairs.” Marie firmly said. Katherine only heard this side of Marie when she was either really mad or upset.
“Yes?” Katherine sighed.
“Why are you ignoring her?” Marie said with her hands holding on to her waist.
“You already know.”
“You and Alyssa have been friends for a long time. You can’t just erase her from your life after something stupid she said.”
“It’s not what she said! Its how said it! She said it like I was just some random girl at the mall! Like I wasn’t her best friend!”
“Kathy, you can’t let that get to you. Think about it,” Marie said while sitting Katherine down at the kitchen table, “what do you think you’re getting out of this?”
“I don’t know.”
“Are you trying to teach her a lesson?”
“No, not really…”
“Give her a chance to explain. Everyone deserves a second chance. Okay?”
Katherine sighed and shot Marie a small smile.
As Katherine made her way downstairs, she tried not to step on any of the red and purple balloons scattered about. She became excited as she sniffed the aroma of sweet potato pie.
“SURPRISE!” Her father and Marie yelled as she entered the kitchen. There were even more purple and red balloons on the floor and colorful “Happy Birthday!” posters hanging on each wall including the refrigerator. Katherine couldn’t keep her excitement hidden any longer.
“This is awesome!” she said as she caught a glimpse of the medium-sized chocolate frosted cake with the lavender writing. HAPPY 16th BIRTHDAY KATHY!
“Oh my gosh! Thanks you guys!” Katherine said as she hugged both her father and Marie.
“Now, come on! Let’s sing you happy birthday, now, so you have time to open all your presents,” Marie quickly said.
While Katherine’s father placed a birthday cone on Katherine’s head, Marie lit up the number one and six she had glued together to make the number sixteen on the cake.
“Okay, you guys ready?” Marie asked.
“Yup!” Katherine and her father said at the same time.
“One, two, three! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear Katherine! Happy birthday to you! YAAAAAAY!”
Katherine grinned as her father dipped his finger in the frosting and placed a smidge of it on Katherine’s nose.
“Happy birthday, sweetie.” He said as he hugged her.
“Who wants a piece of cake?” Marie asked as she grabbed a knife from a drawer.
“I do!” Katherine excitedly yelled.
“Cake? I want a piece of that pie!” Katherine’s dad replied.
As he went in to snag a piece of it, Marie slapped his hand.
“No pie until after she opens her presents!”
“Aw, come on!”
Katherine laughed. She loved seeing her father like this instead of his usual serious self.
Just as Marie went to cut a piece of cake, the doorbell rang.
“You expecting someone, Marie?” Her father asked.
“Nope,” Marie replied.
After some distant talking and the door closing, they heard some footsteps.
Who is that? Katherine asked herself.
“Someone else will be joining us.” Marie said as the mystery person walked in behind her.
Her long, blond hair swayed as she stood beside Marie.
“Alyssa! Long time no see!” Katherine’s dad hugged her.
“Hey, Mr. Smith.” Alyssa said.
Katherine stood there, not knowing what to do.
“Well, we’re gonna go…. check the front door,” Marie awkwardly said.
“Check the front door?” Marie’s father confusedly asked.
“Oh, just come!” Marie tugged at his sleeve, pulling him out of the kitchen.
Both girls stood in silence for a while.
“Happy Birthday,” Alyssa finally said, breaking the silence.
“Thanks.” Katherine replied.
“I brought you a present.” Alyssa handed her a small, wrapped box.
“Thanks.” Katherine gently ripped the paper off. When she opened the box, a smile formed across her face as she saw her friendship bracelet. “I’ve been looking for this. Thank y—“ she was cut short when she looked up and saw Alyssa’s watery eyes.
“I’m sorry, Kathy. I never meant to hurt you like that.” Alyssa sadly said.
“But why did you?” Katherine asked.
“Because I was stupid. I got sucked into Carla’s stupid lip gloss world.”
“Lip gloss world?” Katherine jokingly asked.
“You know what I mean, Katherine!”
Katherine ran up to her friend and hugged her.
“I’m sorry, too.”
“I forgive you.” Alyssa sniffed.
“I forgive you, too. But don’t ever do that to me again! Okay, Marccero?”
“Oh, so now we’re on a last name basis?”
The girls laughed.
Alyssa wiped her tears away as she helped Katherine put on her bracelet again.
“I’ll never take this off again.”
“You better not, Shorty!”
“Shut up, Lyssa!”
“Okay! Enough crying! Let’s get some cake!”
“Well, we better get to it before they do!”
The girls grinned and ran towards the cake, but not before Marie and Katherine’s dad suddenly appeared in the kitchen.
“Wait for us!” Marie yelled.
“Grab the cake and run!” Katherine quickly said to Alyssa as she tried to get around Marie and her dad.
“Oh, no you don’t!” Katherine’s dad said as he picked her up.
Before they knew it, they were running around the kitchen throwing cake at each other and laughing hysterically.
And at that very moment, Katherine wasn’t worrying about having an enormous birthday party, how cute Kevin looked, or how much of a witch Carla was. She was thinking how great her birthday was going and how awesome it was that she was enjoying it with the four people she loved most: her dad, Marie, Alyssa, and her mom—who was grinning down at her from up above!
Danielle Perez found an interest in writing at an early age and especially enjoys creative writing, one of her strongest fields.