After a few belted out hits from the Backstreet Boys’ Millennium album, they arrived at school.
“If anyone asks,” Busta said, opening Kiki’s door for her, “I did not partake in that singalong.”
Kiki grinned. “Aw, but you do such a great job. It’s not just anyone that can do the Howie and the Kevin part.”
That seemed to give him pause. “You do make a valid point. I just–Brent!”
Even if Busta hadn’t shouted the name and enthusiastically pointed, Kiki would have known that Brent Rosco was entering the student parking lot by the sound of the revving motorcycle. The bike pulled into a parking space near the Lexus and its rider killed the engine. Brent pulled off the helmet, revealing spiked black hair, narrow ice blue eyes, and his ever-present scowl.
“God, he’s cool,” Busta marveled.
Taylor came up next to him. “Do I have to worry about you running off with everybody today?”
Brent got off the bike and pulled out a skater cap to put over his hair/
Amber practically skipped over to him, all her stress from that morning about her family and school seeming to disappear. “Good morning.”
A smile for Brent was rare, but Kiki saw a hint of a one on the nineteen-year-old as he put his arm out to bring Amber in close. “Morning,” he said back. They gave each other a quick peck of a kiss before joining the rest of the group making their way inside.
“So, Brent,” Busta said. “Remember how you promised to teach me to ride?”
“Not on my drunkest day would I ever promise that to you,” Brent said without missing a beat.
“Right. But I think that’s a subject we should visit.”
“No,” Brent said.
“So what you’re saying is you’ll think about it.”
“We’ll do lunch.”
“Ladies and weirdos!” called a thick Boston accent from across the parking lot. “You are about to see something amazing?”
As the group drew nearer to the blond young man in the Red Sox cap, Brent rolled his eyes. “I’ve seen you in the locker room. It’s not that amazing.”
“First of all, bullshit,” A.J. Campbell said, pointing at his friend. “Second of all, that’s not what I meant. Look.” He grinned widely, showing off straight, white teeth.
“You got your braces off!” Kiki enthused.
“I did indeed! To celebrate, I bought every pack of gum 7-11 carried.”
“Good,” Taylor smiled. “Now you can rot out the teeth you just straightened.”
A.J. paused. “I didn’t think of that. Dammit.” He glanced around the lot. “My girlfriend here yet?”
“Well,” Taylor went on, “it’s not the middle of first period, so no.”
“And that is why I no longer carpool with my cousin,” Brent said.
“I thought it was because you no longer wanted to be seen in the backseat of her car,” Amber said.
“That too.” Brent’s scowled deepened, no doubt picturing the baby blue VW beetle in his mind.
Kiki hated that her friend was always late, mostly because it meant who she carpooled with was late too.
Sure enough, right in the middle of Kiki’s first period English class, Brandy Ryan burst through the door, all blonde pigtails and dramatic hand gestures. “I know, right?” she said by way of greeting. “I am so late. But you will not believe the drama that was my house this morning. First, my little sister was wearing my pink sweater and I was like, ‘Rose, that doesn’t even fit,’ and my grandmother was like, ‘Brandy, share with your sister, and then my other sister starts singing this ‘Sharing is Caring’ song and my brother told her to be quiet, which was, like, so mean because she’s only six, you know? so we’re finally ready to go and my other brother, Tobias, is outside flirting with three girls. Like, first of all, ew, and B, rude. Like, what were they even doing outside my house? Does anyone care about school anymore? I mean, now I missed seeing my boyfriend’s new teeth. Well, they’re not new, but he got his braces off and I really wanted to see. Do they look amazing, Kiki?”
“Miss, Ryan,” their teacher said, finally able to speak now that Brandy had taken a breath as she sat at her desk. “Detention.”
Brandy frowned. “Um, manners, anyone? I just told you about my hectic morning. Do I give you detention when you tell me about your day?”
The English teacher parted his lips but then just closed his eyes and shook his head before continuing to speak about the Robert Frost poem written on the board.
Brandy pulled her heart-framed sunglasses off her head and put them in her teddy-bear backpack. “So do they?” she whispered to Kiki.
Kiki glanced at the teacher to make sure he wasn’t looking their way before whispering, “What?”
“A.J.’s teeth. Do they look good?”
“Yeah,” Kiki said. “I thought you were going with him yesterday to get them off.”
“I was, but Rave was having a buy one, get one free on clearance annual sale. Like, how often does that happen?” Brandy was no longer whispering.
“Miss, Ryan,” their teacher warned.
“Sorry!” Brandy whispered loudly. “I’ll be quieter.”
“Try silent, Miss Ryan.”
Brandy huffed and pulled out a sparkly notebook and feather pen from her bag so she could “take notes” the rest of class. By the time the bell rang, she had a paper full of smiley faces, hearts, flowers, butterflies, stars, diamonds, mushrooms, aliens, her signature, and “I ❤ AJC.”
Kiki gathered up her things and walked with her best friend out in the hall. They headed outside to their lockers on their “open air campus.”
Brandy was going into great detail about all the clothing she had bought, but admittedly, Kiki was distracted as she looked around the campus. Her eyes scanned the crowd, looking for the broad shouldered quarterback with the warm brown eyes and the side-parted brunette hair that he always made sure was perfect.
Even as Amber and Taylor joined them and Brandy relaunched her saga of that morning and went through her shopping trip inventory, Kiki wasn’t bothered, still searching.
And then there he was.
People said hello to him as he passed through and he said it back, flashing that heart-melting grin that made you feel important. Because this was the captain of the football team, the most popular guy in school since kindergarten who wasn’t just good-looking and a natural leader, but a genuinely nice guy that helped people pick up their books and literally once saved a cat from a tree. But as he came nearer, his eyes were only on Kiki and it made her heart swell.