Kiki spun around in front of her full length mirror, making sure her jeans fit the way she wanted them to and her navy and white baseball tee didn’t have any stains she wasn’t aware of lurking on the fabric.
Satisfied, she made a kissy-face at the mirror with her red painted lips and turned to grab her brown leather messenger bag off the bed.
Just in time too because Kiki heard a distinct honk outside in the street and knew it belonged to the white Lexus convertible parked outside her house. She bounded down the stairs and called out, “Bye, Mama!” as she headed out the front door.
At the same time, the front door of the house across the street opened and a girl came out, sporting a baggy pair of jeans and a tight, camo print top.
“Amber!” a voice called behind her and soon a woman in a clean business pantsuit marched out, blue cardigan in her clenched hand. “I think you forgot something.”
Even from where she was, Kiki could see Amber try not to roll her eyes as she took the sweater. “Thanks, Mom.”
“Morning, Mrs. Lepowski!” Kiki called as she got closer, trying to distract the woman from starting any lectures about appropriate school attire she was thinking about laying out on Kiki’s friend.
Mrs. Lepowski smiled. “Good morning, Kiki. How’s your mother?”
“She’s good,” Kiki assured her.
She nodded. “I should really invite her over sometime. It’s been awhile.”
Amber warily eyed her mother.
Kiki tried not to laugh. “I’m sure she’d like that.”
Mrs. Lepowski nodded and sighed as she looked at Kiki’s house. She was a college professor and was usually very concerned about Kiki’s mother. She was convinced that Mama’s life couldn’t possibly be fulfilling as a stay at home mom and seemed to think it her mission on occasion to save her from the oppression of cooking and cleaning and taking care of her children. She’d have Mama over on weekends for coffee and have less than subtle conversation about professional goals or send her home with brochures on night classes. Amber was always humiliated and apologized to Kiki, but Kiki (and her mom) were heavily amused by the whole thing.
“Well, anyway,” Mrs. Lepowski went on. “Have a good day at school, ladies.”
Kiki and Amber said goodbye and got into the backseat of the Lexus, which currently has the top up, giving Amber enough privacy to mumble, “Sorry about that.”
“Sorry about what?” said the driver, turning in her seat, her long, red hair falling over her shoulder and spilling down the front of her Gucci dress.
Amber turned her hazel eyes to Taylor Johansen. “My mother continuing her quest to better the lives of the minority.”
Kiki finally let herself laugh. “Amber, it’s fine. All she said was that she and my mom should get together.”
“Ooh!” enthused the young man in the passenger seat. Simon Peterson—or “Busta” as he was known to everyone, including his teachers—bounced as he turned around to face the two girls. His shaggy black hair was streaked purple today and fell into his brown eyes. “If she can’t make it, I’ll get together with Mrs. Littles! That drink she made for us last time . . .” He smacked his lips, then pretended to wipe some drool off his chin with the collar of his Foo Fighters T-shirt. “Delicious. What was it again?”
“Hot chocolate,” Kiki said.
“Yeah, but say it in Spanish.”
Before she could, Taylor lowered her Saint Laurent sunglasses and peered at Busta with her turquoise-colored eyes. “I’m not sure if I should be jealous right now.”
“You should be. It’s no use standing in our way anymore, Tay. This is bigger than all of us.”
Kiki wrinkled her nose. “I’m not sure if you’re talking about my mom or the champurrado. Either way, please stop.”
“Ooh, champurrado,” Busta repeated with heavy-lidded eyes. “Say it again . . .”
“Oh my gosh,” Taylor mumbled, putting the car in gear.
Busta grinned widely before leaning over to plant a series of loud, smacking kisses on Taylor’s cheek.
His girlfriend giggled, finally.
“Enough,” Amber mumbled, never particularly comfortable with anyone’s PDA.
Kiki honestly didn’t mind. She and Taylor had been friends for as long as she could remember. Her last relationship (which had also been her first) had ended badly and Kiki had worried it would make her cynical of anything in the future. But before it could, Busta had moved to their hometown of Mt. Blue, California from Chicago. Kiki loved his offbeat and goofy personality and had fallen in love with the fact that he and Taylor had fallen in love.
Busta settled back in his seat and pointed out the window. “Onward ho!” He patted the roof as he brought his hand back in. “You should put the roof up, though. It’s so nice out.”
“It’s Southern California. It’s always nice out,” Taylor said. “Besides, it will mess up my hair.”
“That’s never stopped me before,” Busta said with a grin.
Taylor tried to hide a smile. She reached over and tried to push his hair out of his eyes with her manicured nails. “Well, maybe that’s a decision you should rethink from time to time.”
“Taylor,” Amber interrupted, clearly ignoring any conversation that had been going on. “How late were you up last night studying for the calculus test?”
“Oh,” said Taylor, who shared all her AP classes with Amber. “That’s today, huh?” She shrugged. “I guess I forgot.”
Kiki watched Amber’s eyes bulge. “You forgot?” She ran an anxious hand through her copper-colored hair. “How? I was up so late cramming for it.”
“To be fair,” Busta pointed out, “you’re up so late every night cramming for tests. And you always ace them.”
Taylor smiled. “Funny. It’s almost like those two things are connected somehow.”
Busta put his feet on the dashboard, though not for very long as Taylor waved them off. “Oh, come on,” he said. “You never study, Taylor, and you always get perfect grades.” He had turned in his seat and was hanging his legs out the window instead.
Taylor glanced in the rearview mirror, but Kiki knew she wasn’t checking traffic. She was looking at her. “All right, let’s stop talking about school. We’re about to go and spend six hours there. Amber, don’t sweat the test. At this point, the rest of the year is just busywork. We already got our college acceptance letters. Let’s just enjoy the rest of our senior year. Now, Busta, go through my iPod and put on some music, preferably something in the boy band genre.”
As Busta groaned and fiddled with the device, Kiki couldn’t help but mentally correct Taylor. Not all of them had gotten college acceptance letters.