Kiki ūüĆł 006

Don’t cry, Kiki ordered herself as she walked out of the classroom.¬†Don’t cry. Don’t cry.

“Kiki?”

She inhaled sharply and blinked in rapid succession before turning at the family voice. “Hey, Amber.”

Her friend and neighbor didn’t return the smile. “Can I talk to you? It’s about me and Brent.”

Kiki nodded, trying to push aside her own horrible feelings for the moment so she could listen. “Of course you can. What’s up?”

Amber sighed as they headed for their lockers. “Do you think I was too harsh on Brent this morning?”

Kiki often thought Amber was too harsh on Brent, just as she thought Brent often lost his temper too easily with Amber when she did. But coming right out and saying that bluntly wasn’t going to help anyone.

“I think you were frustrated and you let that get the best of you,” Kiki said carefully.

Amber sighed. “Yeah, I think so too.” She shook back her long, auburn hair. “I just don’t like that, you know? I can answer for myself. Just because we’re dating, we’re not married. And even if we were, so what? I’m my own woman.”

Kiki nodded. “Sure. You want to be an independent woman.”

“Exactly,” Amber said.

Kiki gave her a small smile. “And I think that’s fine for a high school dating situation, but . . .” She thought of how to word this.

“But what?” Amber prodded.

“But if you’re taking the relationship more seriously, that doesn’t work. You can’t be in a partnership and independent, not in the way you’re thinking. No I in team and all that.”

Amber’s brow had furrowed and Kiki knew her words disturbed her in some way. Kiki just wasn’t sure if it was because she disagreed with them or agreed with them.

Kiki smiled at her. “Look, that’s probably too heavy for the situation at hand. Like I said, we’re all still in high school. As far as you two fighting goes, all I can really say is be kind to one another.”

“Well, isn’t that just adorable?”

Kiki felt that familiar sick, plummeting feeling, though this time it had nothing to do with taking a test.

Liz Carter was a classic delicate beauty. Her silky blonde hair hung all the way to her tiny waist. Her eyes were China-doll blue and her skin was equally as flawless.

But that was where the beauty ended.

With her high grades and wealthy family, Liz had all the makings of someone that should have been popular. But she was so horrible to people, the only ones that hung out with her were the ones she could buy with expensive gifts and exclusive trips with her family to lavish vacations.

Liz had always had a crush on Jake and in the fourth grade, she had gone up to him at recess and all but demanded he be her first kiss. Jake had been red-faced and flustered, all his ten-year-old buddies oohing and laughing as children do.

“Look, Liz,” he had said. “I’m really sorry. But I don’t want to kiss you.”

Liz had gone even redder while Kit Shaw had crowed, “Shut! Down!”

Jake, ever the nice guy, had tried to shut him up.

“Well, who¬†do you want to kiss?” Liz angrily stamped.

Jake hadn’t answered. At least not verbally. But his brown eyes slid over to the swings.

Right where Kiki had been sitting in his giant bow and floral dress, watching the whole thing.

And eight years later, Liz Carter had not let it go.

“And what episode of¬†Barney the Dinosaur¬†did you rip that advice from?”

Kiki swallowed, feeling her cheeks burn with embarrassment.

Amber stepped in instead. “Isn’t there a pair of ruby slippers you have to try and steal?”

Liz glanced at her as if just noticing her. “Hilarious,” she said, deadpan. “But excuse you. I wasn’t talking to you.”

“And we weren’t talking to you,” Amber said. “No one was. Ever. Not since I’ve known you had anyone spoken to you of their own free will.”

Liz scowled at her and then turned her attention to Kiki. “Guess I shouldn’t be surprised you’re letting your friends fight your battles. You know what they say about Mexicans being lazy.”

Amber slammed down her books on the floor, fists balled as she took a threatening step forward. “Get the fuck out of here, Liz!”

Liz had the sense to take a step back with wide, frightened eyes. But she tried to recover by rolling her eyes and mumbling, “Whatever,” before flouncing off down the hall.

Amber practically growled as she went to pick up her books. “Racist bitch.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Kiki said. “She’s only using the race thing because she’s trying to hurt me.” And it worked, Kiki added silently.

“Like that makes it better,” Amber muttered, straightening. “The fact that she could even come up with something like that‚ÄĒ”

“Hey!” Jake said brightly, approaching them and interrupting Amber without realizing it. “How’d the test go?”

The test. Liz. Which disaster was Kiki more upset about at the moment?

It didn’t matter.

Because at the other end of the hall, a fight had broken out.

“Oh, crap,” Jake groaned before rushing down the hall.

Amber’s eyes widened. “Brent!” She followed after Jake, and Kiki wasn’t far behind.

It wasn’t until Jake broke through the crowd that Kiki could actually see what was going on.

Brent was in the middle of a scuffle with a blonde football player named Kit Shaw. Kiki had grown up with him and he had been both Taylor’s boyfriend and Jake’s best friend. Until he had cheated on Taylor one summer. Both Taylor and Jake cut him out of their life after that and now Kit constantly made a point to be a first class jerk to both Taylor and Busta.

Who Kiki could see was on the hall floor, blood streaming down his nose.

“Busta!” Kiki cried in surprise, rushing to him and dropping to his side. “Are you okay?” She looked at a student standing nearby. “Go get him some paper towels, please!”

“I’m fine,” Busta all but growled at her.

Kiki blinked at him in surprise at the rough tone that wasn’t usually in Busta’s sweet nature.

A look of guilt flashed over his face. “Sorry.”

But Kiki shook her head and immediately became distracted watching Jake tear Brent off Kit. “Enough, Brent!”

Kit laughed, breathless, his normally perfect blond hair completely mussed. “Yeah, down, boy,” he said in his typical smarmy tone.

Jake turned fiercely to him. “Shut up, Kit!”

If anyone else had said that to him, they would have gotten a smirk and another smartass remark. But with Jake, not only did Kit actually shut up, but the smile was gone as well.

He had taken the loss of Jake’s friendship hard and had never gotten over it. Kiki would have felt sorry for him if he wasn’t just an asshole.

But the shutting up only lasted for a few moments before Kit pointed an accusatory finger at Brent. “He attacked me!”

“You sucker punched Busta, you little bitch,” Brent growled, glaring at him with those icy blues of his.

“He took a swing at me,” Kit said defensively.

“Busta had gotten to his feet again, anger in his features. “He called Taylor a slut.”

“Yeah, well, if the whore shoe fits‚ÄĒ” Kit started.

Chaos erupted anew. Busta and Brent tried to rush forward. Brent didn’t get far as Jake held him fast, knowing he was most likely to do the most damage.

But that left Busta, and Kit was rushing to fight with him as well. Without thinking, Kiki got in the middle, just as the two boys collided.

She wasn’t sure whose elbow caught her in the ribs, but she did remember the sharp pain and the blow hitting her hard enough to knock her to the ground and blow the wind out of her lungs when she landed.

She felt dizzy for a moment, more surprised than anything. But she did hear an audible gasp from the crowd, including Amber, who said, “Oh, God, Kiki!”

When her vision cleared, the first face she could see clearly was Jake’s.

Kiki had never seen that look on his face before. It was a look of pale horror and shock. And then it changed to another she had never seen before either. Something beyond anger.

And when he spoke, it was a booming voice of rage that echoed through the hall.

“GET THE HELL AWAY FROM HER!”

The fight between Busta and Kit had broken apart. Busta stared down at Kiki. “Oh God, Kiki, are you okay?”

Jake was scooping her up in his arms to help her to her feet when she nodded. “I’m okay,” she assured him, feeling shaken, which she was sure was more due to surprise than actually being hurt. She looked into Jake’s brown eyes and nodded. “I’m okay,” she said again, bringing up her hand to his cheek, trying to calm him.

“I didn’t see her . . .” Kit started to say.

He didn’t get further than that as Jake stepped away from Kiki toward Kit. “Get. Away,” Jake said. He was no longer yelling, but his low voice was somehow more intimidating.

Kiki could visibly see Kit swallow and he stepped back before turning and walking down the hall.

The crowd that had gathered dispersed as Jake’s eyes swept over them, a silent command for them to go to class.

One person did emerge. A.J. munched on a Cheeto, reaching into a crinkly bag for another. “What’d I miss?” he asked cluelessly.

“Just a run in with one of the many assholes that go to this school,” Brent muttered.

Jake finally closed his eyes and blew out a breath before asking, “Are you sure you’re okay?”

Kiki nodded. “Promise. But I’m more concerned with Busta.” She looked past him where A.J. was inspecting Busta’s nose with mild disgust, but not enough to keep him from shoving another Cheeto in his mouth. “Come on, Busta,” she said. “I’ll take you to the nurse. I have a free period.”

Jake hesitated. “I can do it.”

But Kiki was already shaking her head. “You have class, which you’re already late for.” She looked around to her friends. “All of you.”

Brent shook his head. “I’m not going to class. I’m too wound up.”

Amber slipped a hand into his. “Let’s go for a walk,” she suggested.

Brent looked a bit surprised by the suggestion and Kiki had to admit, so was she. Amber took school pretty seriously and she didn’t take skipping class lightly. But Brent didn’t point that out, instead just nodding and heading off with her.

Jake was still hesitating and Kiki forced herself to smile for his benefit. “Go. Learn about some war in history class. That should bore you enough to calm down.”

“Or give you some ideas against Kit,” A.J. said before tipping the bag back into his mouth so he could catch the crumbs.

Kiki frowned but didn’t respond to that, and before Jake could argue with her, she bounced to her tiptoes and kissed his mouth before turning and linking her arm through Busta’s, leading him toward the nurse’s office, which, admittedly, was a bit of a walk.

“I’m really sorry about this, Kiki,” Busta said, trying to both tilt his head back and see where he was walking at the same time.

Kiki steered him from walking into a water fountain. “Don’t. I’m sorry Kit’s an ass.”

“Pretty sure you had nothing to do with that.” He paused. “What are the chances of you not mentioning this to Taylor?”

Kiki gave him a look, even though he couldn’t really see it. “Um, hi, in case you forgot, this is high school. Gossip is currency and a fight in the hall is a black Amex. Pretty sure Taylor’s gonna hear about it, most likely from Brandy.”

“Brandy wasn’t even there.”

Kiki knew she didn’t even have to respond to that.

“Right. When has that stopped her?” Busta sighed. “I can handle her knowing I was fighting, though she definitely won’t like that.” He paused. “It’s the why I was fighting I don’t want her to know.”

Kiki smiled sympathetically and rubbed his arm. “I know.”

They reached the nurse’s station and Kiki finally let Busta out of her sight. As she made her way to study hall, she let out a breath. This day was pulling out all the stops.

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“To [2018]: F*ck you!”

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This is paraphrasing a quote my dad said one new year’s a couple of years ago, but I think it’s fitting for 2018. It was a hard year. I moved back home. My brother, who is also one of my best friends, moved halfway across the country. I had some knockdown, drag-outs with my depression. I experienced two deaths of two different people that I once had strong relationships with and no longer did anymore.

But even in those hard times, I found things to be grateful for. I had a home to go back to when things were hard for me. I have a brother I’m close to and I got to go on a cool road trip with him, which led to me finally spending some quality time with my friend, Kate, down in Texas. After those bouts of severe depression, I’m still here and can recognize that I cope with them better than I did when I was younger. The deaths are harder to find things to be grateful about, but I can say that I’m grateful my grandfather came to a peaceful end of a long life and that I got to hear from Josh the day before he left this life.

I worked on myself a lot this year. I finally started sending my writing out to agencies again. Even though that’s led to a lot of rejection letters, it’s still a sign that I’m trying. I started going to the gym and can actually say now that I consistently go six days a week. I made the decision to go on Weight Watchers and lost 22 pounds so far. More than that, I recognize that neither of these moves for my health are quick fixes I can quit someday when I reach a certain size or scale number. Some people have problems with alcohol or smoking. I have problems with food, both eating too much and not eating enough and I need to treat it like an addiction that I’ll have to pay attention to for the rest of my life. I accrued a large amount of debt when I moved out last year and now that I’m home, I’m on a plan to get that taken care of.

I also started just going out and doing things on my own. That’s a hard thing to write. It sounds empowering, but to me, it sounds lonely. And it is. I do a lot of my life alone. All my friends live very far away and now so does my only sibling. I don’t have a romantic partner and never have. So for a long time, things like going shopping or to lunch or to a movie were just activities I thought I couldn’t do because they’re considered things to do with friends and family. I made excuses not to do them. I stopped doing that in 2018. If there was a movie I wanted to see, I went and saw it. It’s only playing on the Cape? That’s okay. I’ll see what cafes are around there and go see it. 2018 showed me that you never know when you’re going. You can’t always wait for another person. We’re social beings and I truly believe people are better with other people. But sometimes, it’s out of your control and you just need to take the 10 bucks and go see that dumb indie movie that’s playing an hour away because, yup, you just want to see that one scene with the hot actor from that vampire show.

All right, enough heavy. Let’s go onto my picks for favorite movies/books/shows/music of 2018 (in no particular order).

Music

  • “Love Is Madness” 30 Seconds to Mars featuring Halsey – This whole album was excellent, but this song was my favorite
  • “Hey Hey” Joshua & The Holy Rollers – I promise I’m not even biased because this is Hanson’s little brother. It’s just a damn good song.
  • “So Will I” Hillsong Worship
  • “Who You Say I Am” Hillsong Worship – Again, this whole album is good, but this one and the song listed above are my favs
  • “Nunca” David Hidalgo & Los Refugio Tiernos – I was very disappointed with the Mayans MC show and stopped watching, but the theme song is excellent.
  • “We’ve Got Tonight” Chord Overstreet – Now I am biased.
  • “Dancing On My Own” Calum Scott – This is definitely my favorite song this year. It made me cry. I still listen to it every time I get in the car. Just so good.
  • “Born Again” Austin French – Just a good jam.
  • “Everything Is Fine” All Time Low – I love everything this band puts out and they put out two songs this year. Honestly, I love them both and had a hard time which one to pick.
  • String Theory Hanson – A selection of Hanson songs with a full orchestra. It’s hard to get me to like Hanson more, but the boys managed to do it.

TV

  • Tell Me A Story – A twist on the dark fairy tales set in modern times. Two complaints about this show though: It’s a bitch to watch because who the f*ck actually pays for CBS Access? And I was promised Austin Butler in this show and he was not in it -_-
  • The end of The Originals – I was sad to see it go and a lot of the characters go with it, but I’m also satisfied with it.
  • Legacies –¬† I’m definitely enjoying The Vampire Diaries and Originals spinoff, especially when I get to see some old favorite characters pop up. My mom actually started watching this one too.
  • “Joseph Vittori” episode from Medal of Honor – I watched this one episode from the Netflix series because I love Steven R. McQueen and he starred in it. It’s a documentary series on all different people that have received the Medal of Honor, with their stories told by historians, eyewitnesses and then reenacted by good actors. I never knew the story of Joseph Vittori, who’s from my home state of Massachusetts, but it was so amazing and made me emotional.
  • Hocus Pocus 25th Anniversary Halloween Bash – I enjoyed every second of this tribute to my favorite Halloween movie.
  • Castle Rock – I’ve only read two Stephen King books, so I’m sure I missed all the references this show made, but the plot was interesting and I really enjoyed it, even if the ending confused the hell out of me.
  • So You Think You Can Dance – I started watching this once Vanessa Hudgens became a judge, but I got very into it this season. I know shit about dance, but I think the right person won. Still, I have no shame in saying I was HERE for the Slavik and Genessy chemistry and am thrilled beyond what is healthy that they’re now dating irl.
  • Deep State – Okay, this one is pure Joe Dempsie love. The plot goes right over my head.
  • The end of Once Upon A Time – I’m glad they finally put this show to rest. I love that I got some Nathan Parsons in the last season, but it should have ended the previous season. Still, it was a fitting ending finally.
  • Roseanne – This one is hard. I loved that they brought this show back. It was hilarious and had SO much potential. I loved that they showed both sides of a lot of issues because so much of the media is one-sided. But obviously it was pulled and I understand. They spun the show off, but it’s just not the same.

Movies

No real explanations for these. Just some movies I enjoyed this year ūüôā

  • Been So Long
  • Bad Times at the El Royale
  • Colette
  • A Simple Favor
  • Dark River
  • Deadpool 2
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Dude
  • Black Panther
  • 12 Strong

Shorts

Normally, I have a music video section, but there weren’t enough I wanted to note, so this very short list is both shorts and music videos I enjoyed this year.

  • “Lay With Me” Phantoms & Vanessa Hudgens
  • “Better With You” Jesse McCartney
  • Shrimp
  • Tourism Australia

Books

  • Circe Madeline Miller
  • The Thorn Necklace: Healing Through Writing and the Creative Process Francesca Lia Block
  • Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles
  • The Byline Bible: Get Published in Five Weeks Susan Shapiro
  • D-Day: The World War II Invasion That Changed History Deborah Hopkinson
  • Engineering for Cats: Improve the Life of Your Pet Through 10 Ingenious Projects Mac Delaney
  • Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race Margot Lee Shutterly, Winifred Conkling, illustrated by Laura Freeman
  • Red Sparrow Jason Matthews
  • The Secret Life of Cows Rosamund Young
  • The Duchess: Camilla Parker Bowles and the Love Affair That Rocked The Crown Penny Juror

Grandpa’s Clothes

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written by me, age 10

“Did Mom take those trash bags out of your backseat?” my Dad asked as I looked for my keys to go to the gym today.

I shrugged. “I don’t know. Did she?” I had come outside a few days ago to see three massive black trash bags filling the back seat of my car. I kept meaning to ask my parents what the hell they were, but every time I got home from the gym/errands/sneaky Dunks run I forgot to ask, more concerned about the possible flat tire I might have and getting out of my sweaty Star Wars leggings.

“That’s what I’m wondering. Are they still there?”

“They were yesterday. If she took them out today, I have no idea.”

My dad just nodded.

“What are they anyway?”

“My dad’s clothes. Mom was gonna do something with them.”

My eyebrows went up as I stared at him a moment. “So I’ve been driving around the past week with my dead grandfather’s wardrobe in my backseat?”

My dad smiled a little. “Yes, you have.”

 

I knew the day was coming and probably soon. Up until Saturday, I was 32 years old, had five grandparents and all of them were still alive. Most of my friends had lost at least one, some all of them. So when my grandfather died this week on his 87th birthday, I wasn’t shocked. But death always takes you by surprise anyway.

When I was born, my parents and I lived with my grandparents and my two great-grandmothers. Living with my grandfather that first year of my life probably made me more comfortable around him as a kid. He had dentures and I thought it was hilarious to reach into his mouth and pull them out. I don’t know what’s weirder: that I did that or that he let me.

His greeting to me was never just a hug and a kiss. It was a sneaky smile with his hands up like he was creeping up with his attack hug. He loved bread and butter (on Italian bread, of course) and he always gave me as many slices as I asked for (I’ll blame him for that particular carb love). He didn’t ask me questions I hate/d to answer. Not how school was going or what I did for work now. He didn’t try to think of things to say to me just to get me talking. He was fine if I didn’t want to say anything but he listened if I did.

I remember sitting with him once on my aunt’s back porch as my cousins ran around the yard, just talking about whatever a six-year-old talks about with her grandfather. We got on the subject of being old.

“You won’t see me when I’m an old woman,” I said.

“Nope,” he said. “I’ll be in Heaven.”

Toward the end of his life, I didn’t see my grandfather as much. I think the last time was at my cousin’s wedding. I don’t remember talking to him. Nothing sticks out from the event. Maybe that should be unsettling to me, but I’m at peace with it. There aren’t enough memories of the end of his life to overshadow the memories I have of him when he was “one of my favorite relatives.” That’s the way I want it.

I came out of the gym today and looked at those bags of clothes. I thought about opening them up and looking at them. Instead, I just touched the outside. I could feel the outline of the stacks of fabric and it felt as real as if they were on a person. On him.

And then I drove home, talking to myself, drinking my latte and blaring Hanson from the stereo.

So that’s going to be my last memory with my grandfather. Driving around with pieces of him in my back seat, while I went on being nothing but myself.

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Kiki ūüĆł 005

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“Don’t turn these over until I tell you to,” Mr. Carita warned as he came around the room, slapping down stapled sheaves of paper on every desk that he passed. Somehow, Kiki thought it made the desk, already bare of the usual books and notebooks, even starker. All the blank spaces made Kiki dizzy.

“The first page, you will fill in the missing word or answer. The next two pages are multiple choice. On the fourth page, please choose one of the three essay questions provided. And make sure I can read it. I’m looking at you, Mr. Doyle.”

Essay? Kiki thought. There was going to be an essay? Had she known this? Did he say? She wasn’t prepared for an essay. She studied basic facts to memorize as best she could. She tried to go over them in her head, searching for one that would be expanded into an essay form.

SLAP.

Kiki started at the sound of the sheaves of paper her teacher put on her desk.

Breathe, Kiki, she ordered herself. It’s just a stupid test. Just like all the others.

All the others you failed.

“All right,” Mr. Carita said. “You can now begin.”

Tests were flipped in a mad rush of papers that made Kiki’s heart rate pick up anxiously.

Ignore them. Focus.

Even as she turned over her test, she could hear the tappings of ballpoint pens hitting paper and Formica desks. The sound filled the otherwise silent room. That and the damn clock.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Focus!

Kiki made herself ignore the tiny noises filling her head and read the first question.

  • The type of chemical linkage between the monosaccharide units of disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides, which is formed by the removal of a molecule of water is a __________.

What.

The.

Hell?

That was the first question?

Was that even a sentence?

Kiki tried reading it again, slowly, but that didn’t help her understand it any better. The big, scientific words all placed next to each other were making her head swim. Okay. Maybe if she broke the sentence down she could get it.¬†The type of chemical linkage. Was linkage even a word? It had to be. It was on a test. Not that this was an English test, but . . .

She heard a few papers flip.

People were already done with the first page?!

All right, she told herself. Skip question one. Taylor always told her to do the answers she knew first and then come back to the more challenging ones.

  • A bond between two sugar groups and a phosphate group is a ________.

Oh, God. Oh God, she knew this. She knew she knew this. It started with a P. She remembered trying to figure out how to pronounce it. She totally forgot to memorize how to spell it too. She tried printing it out a few different ways, but nothing looked right.

Move on.

  • A covalent bond joining two amino acids is a _________.

Pepto bond! she thought triumphantly and started to write it down.

She went through the rest of the page, filling in the answers she knew and skipping the ones she didn’t, which, to her dismay, was a lot.

The next page was the multiple choice. The good news was she didn’t have to spell anything. The bad news was multiple choice confused her.

This test no different. The first two questions had the same options given as answers and that made Kiki second guess what she had circled for the first answer. She got caught up in making sure she didn’t circle too many A’s or not enough False’s, all the while trying to ignore the way the clock ticked down her time or how her classmates scribbled their answers or flipped their pages, making the room both too noisy and too quiet.

Finally, she reached the last page. The essay. She read through each question, but they all seemed long, complicated and once again, it took her a few minutes to work through each one slowly as she tried to understand what was being asked.

Just as she decided the second question was her best bet, just as her pen wrote down the first word of her first sentence, the bell rang.

Kiki’s head shot up. No. It couldn’t be. This had to be a fire drill. A prank. Anything but the awful fact that the period was over and her test was half finished.

“Bring your tests to my desk on your way up,” Mr. Carita said, not even looking up from whatever he was working on.

Students filed up, some looking relieved the rest was over. Most looked bored. Kiki could guarantee that not one of their faces held the burning humiliation, deep disappointment, and agonizing failure that hers did.

Kiki ūüĆł 004

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To read chapter one, go here. To read my intro about Kiki, go here.

“Jake!” Brandy said. “Vouch for me. Didn’t we hit every red light on the way to school today?”

Jake nodded. “We did, but you also ran them all, so I don’t think that can be your excuse for why we were late this morning.”

Brandy huffed. “That wasn’t the¬†only reason–”

“Yes, The Great Sweater War of 2004. I remember,” Jake said with a grin.

“Did you get detention?” Kiki asked.

Jake shook his head. “Nah. First period is Health, which Coach teaches. I think I’d have to light him on fire for him to give me detention.”

Taylor snorted. “Even then, he’d be like, ‘Sure you had a good reason for it, West. You go over those plays yet?'” She did a pretty decent impression of the football coach, Kiki noted.

Jake chuckled. “You’re probably not off.” He reached down and took Kiki’s hand in his.

Eight years they had been a couple, since the ripe age of ten, and Kiki still felt a beautiful warmth whenever he touched her.

“Brandywine!” A.J. called out, jogging toward them.

Brandy squealed and reached for him. “Lemme see! Lemme see!”

A.J. spread his arms wide, smiling even wider.

She squealed again. “Ohmigawd! They look so good!” She smirked then took his face between her hands. “Now lemme feel,” she said before going in for an open-mouthed kiss.

“Stop it. Stop it right now,” Brent said, approaching the group with Busta in tow.

Brandy completely ignored her cousin while A.J. flipped him the bird.

“So, Brent and I were thinking–” Busta started.

“No,” Brent interrupted. “No, you and Brent were thinking of nothing. Brent was trying to ignore you and you kept talking.”

Busta grinned. “Underneath that adorable scowl is a heart full of love for me. Anyway, we were thinking that since it’s Friday, we should do a bonfire on the beach tonight.”

Taylor sighed and stepped forward, taking Busta’s face in between her hands. “Oh, Busta, my sweet little goofball.” She kissed his forehead. “It’s Tuesday.”

“It is?” he said, face falling. “Wow. That’s way too bad.” After a pause, he shrugged. “Oh well. We should still do it.”

“I’ll go if Brandy and A.J. don’t go,” Brent said.

Brandy unsunctioned her mouth off of A.J.’s to frown. “That’s not very nice,” she pouted.

“Neither is listening to you screw in the beach grass and then try and tell everyone you were looking for seashells.”

“We were!” Brandy argued.

A.J. grinned, not put off by the conversation at all. “And then we got distracted.” he looked at Busta. “We’re in.”

Brent scowled, giving up. “Yeah, us too.”

Amber frowned up at him. “Um, excuse me. I can speak for myself.”

Brent looked at her in surprise. “Oh. Uh, sorry. Do you want to go?”

“Even if I did or didn’t, we don’t have to do¬†everything together. If I didn’t want to go, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go.”

Brent stared at her for a moment and then said, “So . . . you don’t want to go?”

“Yes, I do! God!”

Brent threw up his hands and turned away from her, rolling his eyes.

Kiki cleared her throat and looked at her boyfriend. “Jake, didn’t you dad get that portable grill for his birthday? Do you think he’d let us borrow it?”

Jake quickly jumped on the subject change. “Oh yeah, for sure. We could definitely do some burgers and dogs.”

That caught A.J.’s attention. “Hey, I’m always down for some eats.”

“Shocker,” Brent muttered, but there was less annoyance in his voice now and his scowl wasn’t as deep.

“Great!” Kiki said. “Jake will bring the grill. I’ll go shopping for the food and stuff after school. Anyone want to come?”

“I will!” Brandy said enthusiastically. She couldn’t pass up a shopping trip, even if it was just barbecue items.

“I’ll drive,” Taylor volunteered.

“Yeah,, I’ll come too,” Amber said, giving in.

“And I’ll bring the brewskis!” A.J. announced.

“Yeah, maybe let’s hold off on that part,” Jake said. “As Busta helped point out, it is not, in fact, the weekend and I am not going to hear about how hungover you are tomorrow.”

“Hey, I got Irish blood. I’m not gonna get tanked over a beer or two.”

Jake clapped him on the shoulder, grinning. “No doubt. Now if only I believed you were capable of limited yourself to a beer or two.”

A.J. grinned back and gave him a punch in the shoulder. “Screw you. Just because you don’t ever partake . . .”

“Jake’s always our DD,” Busta reminded him. “If he partook, we’d all be still passed out on the floor of someone’s house.”

A.J. slung his arm around Kiki’s shoulder. “Miss Kiki could always do it.”

“Oh yeah, that sounds fun,” Kiki smiled. “Dragging you guys one by one to the car.”

“Besides,” Brent muttered. “Jake likes being the DD. It gives him an excuse not to drink and ruin his figure.”

Jake shrugged, not put off by the assessment. “Nothing wrong with staying in shape.”

“Yeah,” Taylor laughed. “That’s why you do it. The health benefits. Nothing to do with vanity.”

Jake unsuccessfully hid a smile. “Just a very fortunate side effect.”

A.J. laughed. “Yeah, so is standing in front of the mirror for three hours so a hair isn’t out of place.” He reached over to rub a hand over Jake’s chocolate-colored locks.

But Jake ducked away from the hand, looking very serious suddenly as he said, “Don’t touch my hair.”

Kiki bit her lip to keep from laughing. Maybe it should have been off-putting that Jake leaned a little on the vain side, but she actually found the flaw endearing. He seemed so perfect in all other aspects of life. It was oddly assuring to know that he wasn’t.

Or maybe she just had a bad case of love goggles.

“All right,” A.J. conceded. “No beers. But you ladies better grab some Doritos too. I’m gonna be extra hungry.”

Brent eyed the ex-Bostonian’s stocky figure. “When are you not extra hungry?”

“Fuck you,” A.J. said automatically, handing Brandy some cash from his wallet for the food.

The warning belle rand and Taylor sighed at it before the group dispersed and headed for their separate classes.

Jake kept up with Kiki. They didn’t have any of the same classes, unfortunately, but his second period History was right next to her Biology class. “Don’t think I got to tell you good morning yet,” he said, flashing out that smile she loved.

“Well, that’s not okay,” she teased. “What are you gonna do to make it up to me?”

He pretended to think about it. “Love you forever?”

Kiki’s heart warmed, but she stopped in her tracks and stood to face him. “That’s pretty good. What else you got?”

“Hmm,” Jake hummed thoughtfully. “Call you pretty and take you to prom?”

She nodded approvingly. “I like that too. Yet somehow, I’m still not satisfied . . .” She tapped a finger on her lips.

Jake’s grin broadened and he stepped closer. One of his strong hand slid over her jaw and under her ear to push back into her hair. Their faces drew together like magnets and Kiki soon felt the firm press of his soft lips on hers.

She wasn’t like Amber. She didn’t mind PDA. If it was a choice between caring what people were thinking and Jake’s mouth on her, she would choose Jake every single time.

Their lips parted and Kiki’s eyes opened hesitantly, knowing it was going to take her from that happy and warm bubble where only she and Jake resided and back into her school hallway.

“Good luck,” Jake said.

Kiki frowned. “Good luck?”

“Your biology test,” he reminded her.

“Oh yeah,” she said remembering. Then she felt her stomach sink, really remembering. “Oh yeah.”

“Hey,” Jake said, hand still in her hair as he leaned in to press his lips to her forehead. “You’re gonna do fine. You just breathe and go with your instincts.”

Kiki wanted to stay right there though. If she could just take the test with Jake so near and assuring, maybe she would actually relax. But she pushed the smile back on her face and nodded. “I know. I studied. I’ll be fine,” she repeated.

Jake pulled back and studied her face for a moment, then smiled softly, ignoring the final bell. “I love you.”

That made her forget the test in that brief moment and she smiled a little more genuinely. “I love you too.” Her eyes flicked behind him. “You should go, though, before we’re both in trouble and I’m guaranteed an F.” It was a joke, except not really.

Jake nodded, though there was hesitation in his steps as he backed away from her. He flashed one more encouraging smile and Kiki gave him one back, both saying that there was nothing to it and this test wouldn’t be like the others.

She just wished she could believe it.

Buffalo Chicken Wontons

Anyone that knows me knows that I’m an extremely picky eater. Most people also know that I hate to cook. I’m not good at it, almost everything I make ends up burnt or undercooked (sometimes both; I’m just that talented), I don’t have the patience for it, I don’t like the mess or the cleanup or standing in front of a hot oven/stove/anything. So the combination of being a picky eater and being a terrible cook results in a lot of take-out or things I can shove in a microwave.

It’s an awful combination that forms bad eating habits. Recently, I joined Weight Watchers (or WW, as they’re trying to rebrand themselves). I’ve been on it for about a month and a half and lost 14 pounds so far. I haven’t had to give up all the foods I like, it’s just making sure that I don’t eat as much of them, especially one after the other. It’s meant eating a lot of chicken breast (it’s zero points) and to find things I can actually make for myself.

Behold the buffalo chicken wontons. This is a dish I used to order all the time at a diner called Stars whenever I would visit my friend. Theirs are fried. However, while browsing recipes on the WW app, I saw a wonton recipe, only baked instead of fried. Theirs were stuffed with pork and shrimp and a medley of other things I wouldn’t have found appetizing. So I decided to combine the two ideas and now, it’s one of my favorite meals. And it’s only two points for four wontons! (5 points if you eat eight like I do >.>)

Ingredients

  • wonton wrappers (I use Frieda’s Wonton Wrappers, which I found in the produce section of Walmart)
  • buffalo wing sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray’s)
  • chicken breast
  • cooking spray
  • (optional) ranch/bleu cheese dressing

Chicken

If you have your own way of making shredded buffalo chicken, by all means. This is just how I do it.

  1. Pour buffalo sauce into slow cooker, enough to coat the bottom.
  2. Put chicken breast in. One good-sized breast is probably enough for eight wontons, but I always make two. I like the leftovers (my good friend Lara has lots of buffalo chicken dishes over at The Picky Gourmet) or the option to make more wontons, which I always end up doing because my family usually ends up grabbing some, even though they say they don’t want any.
  3. Add more buffalo sauce to cover breasts.
  4. Cook on low for 4-5 hours or on high for 2 hours.
  5. When done, remove breasts and shred the chicken with two forks. The chicken should shred and fall apart easily.
  6. To add more buffalo flavor, spoon out some of the buffalo sauce from the slow cooker and mix into your shredded chicken. Keep adding large spoonfuls until it has the taste and consistency you want.

Wontons

  1. Preheat oven to 400¬į.
  2. Lightly spray cookie sheet with cooking spray.
  3. Lay out wonton wrappers on cookie sheet.
  4. Spoon out buffalo chicken mixture onto center of wonton wrappers, leaving room around the edges. The more you use, the harder it is to fold over, but they are more delicious with more filling.
  5. Optional: For extra flavor, add more buffalo sauce or even a little ranch or bleu cheese dressing. Just note that adding dressing will cause the calories or WW points to increase. If you’re not watching that sort of thing though and this sounds good to you, go for it!
  6. Wet the edges of the wonton wrappers. You can use water, but I like to use a little bit of buffalo sauce to add more flavor.
  7. Fold over the wrappers so they’re in the shape of a triangle and pinch the edges together so they stick together. You may have to pick them up off the sheet to do this. I usually have to.
  8. Spray the top of the wontons LIGHTLY with the cooking spray.
  9. Put in oven for 6 to 10 minutes, turning halfway through. The directions on the WW app says six minutes and to keep adding time if they’re not crispy enough. I find that just putting them in for ten works best for me, but your oven could vary.
  10. Take them out and put them on a cool plate, like my new wolf/bat one I got from Walmart. Eat them on their own or have a dipping sauce you like paired with it.

Disney Villain Pumpkins ūüéÉ

Recently I went back up to New Hampshire to go visit with my roommate. One of the places I wanted to visit was the farm that wasn’t too far from our house, Tendercrop Farms. They make their own soda and carried my favorite butter mints in their general store. But around the Halloween season they also have a giant corn maze and sell lots of pumpkins. My friend and I got completely lost in the corn maze and took an emergency exit to get out.

But we also bought pumpkins to paint. I saw the Maleficent one done on social media, but then I also had the idea to paint one as the poison apple from Snow White.

I used white pumpkins for both of these as it make the colors stand out more and I wouldn’t have to do so many coats. The Maleficent one uses three colors: mint green, lavender and black and I just painted like so. As for her horns, these are pumpkin stems. Try to find ones that are curvy and pointed and then paint them black. I tried hot gluing them to the pumpkin, but they kept falling off at the slightest touch. When I got home, I used super glue and that stuck much better.

For the Apple, I found a pumpkin that was a bit narrower at the top, broke off the stem and flipped it upside down. For the Apple colors, I mixed bright red with just a touch of black and painted the whole pumpkin, making sure it was streaky and those brush strokes showed so it looked like a real apple. For the poison skull drippings, I took white with just a touch of the mint green from Maleficent and painted on the poison, leaving holes for the eye sockets and nose. The red was still wet, but that was perfect, as it mixed with the white and gave the poison a more translucent, ghostly look.

Are you into decorating pumpkins? Carving? Painting? Share your creations!

September 2018 Playlist

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  1. “Love Is An Open Door”¬†Kristen Bell, Santino Fontana
  2. “The Letter”¬†Vanessa Hudgens
  3. “Pet Sematary”¬†Ramones
  4. “Animal Friends/With a Smile and a Song”¬†Adriana Caselotti
  5. “Streets Of Gold”¬†Ruth Pointer
  6. “Stand Out”¬†Tevin Campbell
  7. “Hey Hey”¬†Joshua & The Holy Rollers
  8. “Can’t Get Enough” Bad Company
  9. “Rock Steady” Bad Company
  10. “Ready For Love” Bad Company
  11. “Don’t Let Me Down” Bad Company
  12. “Bad Company”¬†Bad Company
  13. “The Way I Choose” Bad Company
  14. “Movin’ On” Bad Company
  15. “Seagull” Bad Company
  16. “Before You Called Me Baby”¬†Caitlyn Smith
  17. “Made Of Gold”¬†Craig Wedren & Matt Novack with Jasmine Cephas Jones
  18. “Lost Stars”¬†Adam Levine
  19. “Tell Me If You Wanna Go Home”¬†Keira Knightley
  20. “Nunca”¬†David Hidalgo & Los Refugio Tiernos
  21. “Honor to Us All”¬†Lea Salonga, Marni Nixon, Beth Fowler, Chorus
  22. “I See the Light”¬†Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi
  23. “What A Dog!/He’s A Tramp”¬†Peggy Lee
  24. “Following The Leader”¬†Bobby Driscoll, Paul Collins
  25. “Pay Attention/In A World Of My Own”¬†Kathryn Beaumont
  26. “Dig A Little Deeper”¬†Jenifer Lewis Feat. The Pinnacle Gospel Choir
  27. “Lay With Me” Phantoms feat. Vanessa Hudgens
  28. “We’ve Got Tonight” Chord Overstreet
  29. “Zero To Hero”¬†Lillias White, LaChanze, Roz Ryan, Cheryl Freeman, Vaneese Thomas, Tawatha Agee, Chorus – Hercules
  30. “No Longer An Elephant/Dumbo’s Sadness/A Visit in the Night/Baby Mine”

Mwah! My Lippie Collection

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I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup until I was eighteen.

My parents were overprotective when I was growing up, especially when I became a teenager and they regret a lot of the rules they enforced. I’m not sure if not letting me wear makeup was one of them, but it should be. I think teenagers need to experiment with makeup if they want to, with the understanding that it’s not something they need to be beautiful. They need to wear too much and get those crappy lines on their lids and get out all those mistakes early so they’re not the floundering adult that I was without any idea what I was doing. For a long time, I actually insisted that I didn’t like makeup, but I think that was more to make myself feel better that I wasn’t wearing it.

When I started, it was strictly eyeliner on my waterline. Then I added in eyeshadow and mascara. Lips, though, that was the last thing I got into. With my eyes, I was willing to go any color, any liner. But I thought any bold lip color made me look like some sort of weird doll and I stuck with chapsticks. Slowly, slowly, I started getting a little more courageous, trying out darker berry shades and reds. Now I’m up for anything.

Which is how this mess happened. I’m actually very diligent about throwing out old makeup. I keep a log book when I buy makeup and write down the month I’m supposed to toss it. The first of every month, I go through the notebook and throw out everything that’s gone bad. But even after a clean out, I still have this sort of pile on my hands. How do I acquire so much? That’s for another blog post in the works on how to build your makeup collection without breaking the bank.

But for now, we’re here for the lips.

Urban Decay

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gloss – “Goldmine” “SPL” “Naked” Yes, that first one is a gold lip gloss that comes out just as sparkly as it looks. The other two are a little tamer. I generally like the UD packaging and like the unique shape of the first gloss.

L’Oreal Paris

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lipsticks – “Blake’s Pink” “Blake’s Red” I love Blake Lively so when L’Oreal did a line with all their brand ambassadors coming out with their own shades of pink and red, I snatched these right up.

Illuminate by Ashley Tisdale

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gloss “Aloha” “Tan Lines” “Hibiscus” “Coral Reef” “Bonfire” I actually did a blog post on these before which you can check out here.

NYX

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gloss “Crushing It” “Eclair” Oh, yes, that first one is a holographic lipgloss! This reminds me of junior high, which should make me cringe, but I can’t help but love it.

lipstick “Shocking Pink”

Too Faced

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liquid “Queen B

plumping gloss HOLY STINGING HORNETS, BATMAN. This one is actually going in the trash because, one, it hurt like a mutherf*cker and, two, the area around my lips started to turn red.

lipstick “Teddy Berry” I think this is old and I don’t think they make it anymore, which is a shame because it’s a great color, way more subtle than it looks

Rimmel London

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lipsticks “Pink Blush” “107”

Zoella Beauty

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balm “Kissy Missy”

oil “So Soft”

As much as I love Zoella and swear by her bath and body products, her lip products just aren’t that great. The colored lip balm came out in the Tutti Frutti collection, so it’s not out anymore, but it was a garish pink you had to rub on with your finger and tasted like wax. I talked about her lip oil in a past post so I won’t repeat myself. To her credit, the clear or shimmer balms she’s come out with in her Christmas collections have been fine.

MAC

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pencil “High Energy” I love using lip pencils on my whole lip. The pigment is just really strong and sometimes they last longer than other products.

gloss “Lipglass When you want the shine but not the color or want to put it over your favorite matte.

conditioner

Bite

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lipstick “Chai” “Cashew”

crayon “Glace”

Make Up For Ever

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lipsticks “Hot Red” “Rose Wood”

Revlon

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lipsticks – “Pink Pout” “Nude Attitude” “Tutti Frutti”

lipgloss – “Sizzle”

Sephora

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liquid “Always Red”

lipsticks “Love Spell” “The Red” “M11”

gloss “Pin-Up Pink”

NARS

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lipstick – “Bette” “Orgasm

pencil “Let’s Go Crazy”

Tarte

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crayons “Latergram” “Mood Ring” “Wonder”

Randoms

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Lorac –¬† Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales lipstick and lipgloss duo “Ahoy Matey” This was a bargain buy because I’m sure not many people want a blue-gray lipstick or lipgloss but I went for it. Plus this has a little mirror on it, which is cool. And yes, I love POTC

Tanya Burr Cosmetics lipgloss “Daydream”¬†My number one favorite lip gloss AND THEY DON’T MAKE IT ANYMORE D: Every time I’ve worn this, someone asks what I’m wearing and where they can get it. I know I’ve said I’m diligent about tossing my makeup, but this one I can’t part with.

Grande Lips lip plumper Admittedly, I have pretty full lips. But this was a sample sent to me and I tried it once. Yeah, I can’t handle the stinging.

Ulta Beauty lip oil “Cranberry + Pomegranate” This one is a little more tolerable than the Zoella one, but I just don’t think lip oils work.

By Poppy Lipstick Queen “Jungle Queen”

Black Moon Cosmetics liquid lip “Mourning” This company has my favorite packaging and this is my current favorite liquid lip.

Buxom lip gloss “Dolly”

Maybelline New York Baby Lips “Peach Kiss”

Sleek Lip Star lipstick “Flaunt it”

Almay lipstick “Berry-Light”

Fresh Sugar Dream lip treatment

Clinique lipstick “Black Honey”

Kat Von D liquid lip “K-Dub” This line has my second favorite packaging. Her liquid lips are AMAZING do not come off. This one is a sample I got, but I’ve bought her full sized ones in the past in darker shades and they come out so amazing: bold and smudge proof.

Hanson chapstick I don’t use this one anymore because it’s old, but I’ll never toss it. This was an exclusive item for people that went on Hanson’s Walk Bus back in 2008, a tour bus that followed Hanson around for a week. It was one of my favorite experiences I’ve ever had.

Estee Lauder lipstick “Rich Red” This is another one that is old and should be tossed, but it was the first high-end lipstick I bought and my first red. I love how old school the case looks.

Hard Candy lipstick “Black Diamond”¬†My only black lipstick. It’s pretty cheap and when it’s time to toss it, I think I’m going to replace it with Kat Von D’s “Slayer” (highly recommended by the gorgeous Thunderella)

Smashbox liquid lip “Driver’s Seat”

Wander Beauty lipstick “Wanderberry”

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August 2018 Playlist

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There’s not much to say about August. I just wanted it to be a month of healing, to breathe and regroup. That doesn’t mean I was lazy or stayed in bed every day (though that did happen at least once). In some ways, it meant finally sorting some things out in my life that needed to be sorted. I went on Weight Watchers, which has been really helping me (down four pounds the first week thankyouverymuch). I worked on a financial plan with my dad that would both help me get out of the debt I got stuck in when I moved a year ago, but would also let me have a life again. I got my car inspected and the oil changed and all the fluids topped off so it runs like new now. I submitted a story for a contest, which is the first writing I’ve submitted to anything in about a year. And I worked, of course. But throughout, made sure to do things I enjoyed. I checked out books from the library. I binge watched a TV series. I watched a werewolf movie on the full moon. I stayed up too late writing fiction with friends. I voted for dancers in So You Think You Can Dance. I lit candles and put on my bat shaped fairy lights and ignored the voice in my head that said I was wasting the batteries. I even drove down to the Cape and ate at a cafe I never had been to before while I edited my story, and then took myself to the movies where I was literally the only person in the theater.

And during this healing and breathing and sorting, I wanted comfort music, which meant three things: Worship, Disney, and Hanson. For worship music, I went with the new Hillsong Worship album, which is excellent. For Disney, I had a random selection, mostly some of the more obscure tracks, but most of which made me smile or laugh outright. (“Oh, my dear Bartholomew. I’m afraid you’ve gone and upset me . . .”) And I actually got a new Hanson tune! Well, sort of. It’s really Mike Love’s new song (from the Beach Boys for all you kids that need to be educated), but it features Hanson. Also, had to throw a little Aretha in there because rest in peace

Huh. So maybe I did have something to say about August.

  1. “Who You Say I Am”¬†Hillsong Worship
  2. “I Never Want To Go Home Again” Vanessa Hudgens
  3. “You Are Life” Hillsong Worship
  4. “In Summer”¬†Josh Gad
  5. “The Passion” Hillsong Worship
  6. “I’m Wishing/One Song”¬†Adriana Caselotti, Harry Stockwell
  7. “The Music Lesson/Oh, Sing Sweet Nightengale/Bad Boy Lucifer/A Message From His Majesty”¬†Ilene Woods, Rhoda Williams
  8. “Be Still” Hillsong Worship
  9. “Give a Little Whistle”¬†Cliff Edwards
  10. “Remembrance” Hillsong Worship
  11. “On The Open Road”¬†Aaron Lohr, Bill Farmer
  12. “Valentine”¬†Hillsong Worship
  13. “A Guy Like You”¬†Jason Alexander, Charles Kimbrough, Mary Wickes, Mary Stout
  14. “Perfect Isn’t Easy” Bette Midler
  15. “Touch of Heaven” Hillsong Worship
  16. “Think”¬†Aretha Franklin
  17. “Lettered Love”¬†Hillsong Worship
  18. “Mother Knows Best”¬†Donna Murphy
  19. “The Lord’s Prayer”¬†Hillsong Worship
  20. “A Girl Worth Fighting For”¬†Lea Salonga, Matthew Wilder, Harvey Fierstein, Jerry Tondo, James Hong
  21. “New Wine”¬†Hillsong Worship
  22. “Whistle Stop”¬†Roger Miller
  23. “It’s OK” Mike Love feat. Hanson
  24. “So Will I”¬†Hillsong Worship
  25. “Ev’rybody Wants To Be A Cat”¬†Phil Harris, Scatman Crothers, Thurl Ravenscroft, Al Rinker, Liz English
  26. “Do You Hear That/I Wonder”¬†Mary Costa, George Bruns
  27. “If I Never Knew You”¬†Mel Gibson & Judy Kuhn
  28. “Friends On The Other Side”¬†Keith David
  29. “World’s Greatest Criminal Mind”¬†Vincent Price
  30. “A Pirate’s Life”