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The Intentional Walk to First

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Monday, April 5, 4 pm, Aroma Espresso Bar

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. I cannot believe I just thought that. There is totally something wrong with me. I mean, beyond all the things that are ALREADY wrong with me. Let's review:

1. I am an honest-to-God princess, one day to rule over a small European nation (with the help of the recently-created parliament, thanks to yours truly... Grandmere finally forgave me for that after my dad won the election for Prime Minister).

2. I am about to graduate from Columbia and I have NO IDEA what I'm going to do after that. Sure, there are always princess-y things to do, and I'm in the middle of revising my third novel, but I feel like I owe it to Genovia to get some real life job experience. Tina got into med school at Johns Hopkins, Boris is recording yet another album of Russian violin concertos, Ling Su and Perin's joint senior collection got them their first gallery show, Shameeka's going to Harvard to get an MBA, Lilly moved to Hollywood and is shopping around another show (Sean Penn is involved somehow; Lilly says she still hates the guy, but she's not above using him for his connections—and no, not that kind of using, she's still with Kenny, I mean, Kenneth, who's doing some kind of incomprehensible biotech research at UC San Diego), and Michael's been thinking about taking his medical device consulting company public! Compared to my friends, I'm a total slacker.

3. I seem to be single-handedly raising my baby brother (who might be six years old already, but he'll always be my baby brother to me). Last time I went to the loft for the weekend, I found Rocky gorging himself on Slim Jims and reading R. L. Stine novels. It's not like I'd explained to Mom and Mr. G over and over how harmful the preservatives in processed meats are to growing children, or anything. And they know that horror stories give him nightmares!

4. I apparently want to see my boyfriend kiss another guy.


It doesn't make any sense! Even if I did want to see two guys kiss, sure, Michael would be one of them, but wouldn't the other one be, I don't know, Ewan MacGregor or Orlando Bloom or someone??? It definitely wouldn't be BORIS PELKOWSKI. Who, okay, cleans up nice enough, but still tends to tuck his sweater into his pants unless Tina reminds him not to. She has to tug it out of his pants every time he comes back from the bathroom.

And I don't even like classical music! Give me Blondie or Pink any day.

But they were just sitting on the couch in their living room, like they do all the time, playing Mario Kart and laughing. And I just... I saw it. Saw it in my traitorous mind.

Boris kissing Michael. Michael kissing Boris.

Gross, right? Except it WASN'T. It was... hot.


Ooh, someone's IMing me!

Oh no, it's Tina! How do I tell her I imagined my boyfriend kissing hers? I can't, right? I shouldn't, she would never forgive me. Except Tina always forgives me. But I can't tell her!

Oh, I should probably reply, otherwise she'll know I'm freaking out.


Iluvromance: Hi Mia!

FtLouie: Hi, T.

Iluvromance: What's the matter? You sound down.

FtLouie: Nothing's wrong. I'm fine. Just freaking out about finding a job, the usual.

Iluvromance: You have a job. Princessing is a lot of work!

FtLouie: I guess. Listen, I have to go. TTYL?

Iluvromance: Mia! Seriously, what's wrong?

FtLouie: Nothing's wrong, Tina. I'll see you at the Holodeck.

FtLouie has signed off.


The Holodeck is what Michael and Boris call their loft on Spring Street. It's technically Michael's, but Boris has been living there for the last few years while going to Juilliard. Michael, Boris, Tina and I all have dinner there every Monday night—sometimes we cook, sometimes we order in or one of us picks up something on the way. Tonight Tina and I are going to try making sushi. Because that won't be awkward at all. (NOT.)


Monday, April 5, 6 pm, the Holodeck's bathroom


Just... wow. Apparently I'm not the only freakish one here. Tina and I were in the kitchen rolling sushi (Boris was at rehearsal and Michael had just stepped out to get some green tea mochi ice cream for dessert), and somehow she managed to worm it out of me.

"Mia," she said, as soon as Michael's footsteps clattered down the stairs. "You know it'll just bother you until you tell me."

And I just blurted it out! And she laughed. LAUGHED!!!!!

Well, giggled, really. "I always thought that would be hot," she told me. "I mean, Boris is hot, Michael's hot, what's not hot about that?"

I gaped at her, until Grandmere's voice echoed in my head, informing me that princesses were not fish, and that tiny mermaid girl certainly didn't count. I closed my mouth.

"Mia!" Tina laughed again, though not at all unkindly. "You should see your face! You mean you've never thought about it before?"

"Why—" I gulped. "Why would I think about that?"

Tina looked at me knowingly for a moment, then giggled again.

"I have to go—" I gestured toward the bathroom. I heard Tina calling after me, "Mia, wait!" but I went anyway. And now I'm here. Freaking out some more.

Oh, hey, my phone beeped. Where did I put that phone...?


Monday, April 5, 6:15 pm, the Holodeck's bathroom

Well, that was weird. Am I the ONLY GIRL who hasn't thought about her boyfriend kissing another guy??? And LIKED IT?????

The text was from Lana.

M— Trish and I are thinking about getting VIP tickets to Sense and Sustainability this Friday when I come up to the city for the weekend. Charity and fashion, fully up your alley. You should join us!

L— Thanks for the invite, but I don't know if that's a good idea. I'm just not sure I can think about clothes right now. —M

What? Of course you can think about clothes! There is nothing better for a crisis than a little retail therapy. And how can you be having a crisis, anyway? You only have a month left of school! You're practically FREE! I mean, I know you're worried about what you're going to do after or whatever, but you could at least take a few months off! Live a little. And come with us on Friday! I heard the shoes are out of this world.

Not everything can be solved by shoes, sustainable or otherwise.

Bullshit. And hurry up and tell me what's wrong already. I've got a mani/pedi appointment in a few minutes.

... Okay. Just don't laugh. Have you ever thought about your boyfriend kissing his best friend?

Zane? Nope, can't say that I have. But now that I think about it, that's kind of hot.

Is EVERYONE crazy?? It's WEIRD.

Okay, if you say so. But I wonder if he'd do it if I asked him to. Listen, you have to come on Friday, you know those designers would KILL to have you wear their clothes. Lots of free stuff! Eco-conscious or whatever. And we'll get cupcakes at Magnolia after!

Well, I guess if it's eco-conscious.

Good. I'll get the tickets! See ya! —L.

So yeah. Everyone around me is nuts. That is the only possible explanation.


Tuesday, April 6, 2 am, Michael's bedroom


Tina knocked on the bathroom door after that last text from Lana. "Mia? Are you okay? I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to laugh! Please come out."

I opened the door, and Tina threw her arms around me. I hugged her back, automatically. She smelled really good, soft and sweet like pink spun-sugar roses and carnations as usual, plus a thin overlay of ginger and wasabi and toasted sesame seeds. The only person who ever smells nicer than Tina is Michael.

Maybe that should've been a clue.

"It's okay," I said into her hair. "Let's just never speak of this again."

She pulled back to eye me narrowly, then smiled and nodded. "For now, anyway."

Crud. Maybe she'll forget about it. I tried to distract her by telling her all about the Jennifer Crusie novel I read last week, but I'm not sure if it worked.

We finished rolling the sushi by the time Boris and Michael both made it back, Michael bearing the promised mochi, Boris toting a bottle of plum wine in addition to his violin case and music bag.

While eating, we watched the next movie in our Netflix queue (which used to be just Michael and Boris's Netflix queue, but after we started doing the regular Monday night thing, it kind of morphed into more of a group effort), Zombieland. It was way more funny than scary, really, but I clutched at Michael's arm anyway, and I noticed Tina doing the same to Boris.

Afterwards, Michael and Boris took the plates back into the kitchen to wash (unspoken rule of Monday night dinner: whoever cooks doesn't have to clean up, unless we all cook) and Tina and I had a stimulating discussion about the merits of Columbus versus Tallahassee. We both agreed that if they all managed to survive a few years, Wichita should stay with Columbus and Little Rock could consider Tallahassee (the zombie apocalypse is the only thing that might make me reconsider my stance on gun control, but even then I feel like we ought to find more humane methods of restraining the zombies), but would probably be better off searching for a guy closer to her own age. Someone else had to have survived the zombie apocalypse, after all. Maybe they could go to Europe! Tina also thought that maybe Columbus and Tallahassee should get together instead, but then who would the girls date? But I reminded her of the Europe plan, and we agreed that that could work, too.

When Michael and Boris came back into the living room, Tina abruptly stopped talking, so I did, too. She stared at them for a moment, and they stared back. I was trying to decide if I should look at her or at them, until Tina said, "Mia and I have something to ask you guys," and I realized that looking at her was definitely the right choice in this situation. My mouth was hanging open again, I'm pretty sure.

"Shoot," said Michael, and Boris nodded.

Tina gave them a small smile. "What would you say—and this is just a thought, we can totally just forget I ever said anything if you want—if we asked you to kiss each other." Tina darted a quick glance over at me, but kept her attention on the boys. "Mia and I both think that could be really hot."

Silence. I could tell my face was bright red, but I managed to tear my gaze away from Tina and her hopeful smile to check out Michael and Boris's reactions.

They both looked as flabbergasted as I'd feared they would be.

"Seriously, we could just forget about it," I blurted. "It was just a random idea, no big deal, we should just forget it." I stood up to rush out of the room.

"No, wait," said Michael. He was talking to me, but his eyes were on Boris, who was looking right back at him. Boris also had the beginnings of a blush creeping down his neck, but there was something determined in the set of his shoulders. He nodded at Michael, once, decisive. Michael nodded back.

"Okay," said Michael. Okay?! I thought. OKAY??? Just what is OKAY about this situation. But I didn't say any of that out loud, mostly because I couldn't seem to get my throat to work.

"But you and Mia have to kiss, too," Boris broke in, his voice rough and a little nervous. "Okay?"

When I turned to look at Tina, she was already focused on me. The look in her eyes was as hopeful as her smile.

And my mind went completely blank, but I heard myself croak out, "Okay," and collapsed back onto the couch.

"You're sure?" Michael's voice came from right next to me, and when I looked up, his eyes met mine, serious and concerned and—I thought I could see—also hopeful. He reached out and took both of my hands in his. "I mean it, Mia. Are you sure?" His eyes bored into mine like he could see my soul if he just looked deep enough.

I swallowed, nodded, and took a deep breath, burying my nose in his neck. He smelled amazing, like he always did, and suddenly I knew. "Yeah," I rasped out, then cleared my throat and said louder, "Yeah. Yes, I'm sure."

He kissed me, gently. "Okay."

He straightened up and let go of my hands. Boris and Tina were still kissing, but after a moment they stopped, as well, and Tina and I ended up sitting on the couch, sides pressed together, hands clasped, as Michael and Boris faced each other.

"Ready?" Michael asked Boris.

"Yeah," said Boris, and put his hand on Michael shoulder, and slowly leaned forward until their lips met.

Tina's hands tightened around mine, and I squeezed back. It was, wow. Way, way better than I imagined, just—

And then Michael opened his mouth just a touch and tilted his head, and his hand came up to rest at Boris's waist, and it was just more, more everything, and I think I was holding my breath because when they finally broke apart I felt a little light-headed.

"Wow," Tina breathed. She relaxed the death-grip she had on my hands, but didn't let go.

I would have echoed her, but my throat was doing that not-working thing again.

Boris cleared his throat. "Now you," he said.

Tina and I just looked at each other for a moment. Tina let go of my hands, and I let go of hers, and when she stood up the whole right side of my body felt chilly where her warmth had been.

She turned to me and held out her hand, and when I took it she tugged me up to stand facing her.

"Mia," she said, and took my other hand as well.

"Tina," I whispered back.

Her lips on mine felt soft and plump, gentle and sweet like Tina herself, and stayed like that until she pressed just a little harder and her tongue touched mine and then the next thing I knew, we were kissing almost wildly, my hand burying itself in the hair at the nape of her neck and clutching hard at her waist, her fingernails digging into my shoulders as she nipped at my lower lip.

One of the boys—it was hard to tell which—made a strangled sound. We stopped, gasping for air, and found them both staring at us dazedly.

Tina smiled shyly at me, then took my hand and led me over to where they were standing.

She placed my hand on Boris's chest, right in the center over his breastbone. Then her fingers guided mine in slipping the first button of his white dress shirt through the buttonhole, and moved my hand to the next button. I could feel Boris breathing—he was mostly over the mouth-breathing tendencies of his past, but I guess the stress of the situation was getting to him. I sympathized, but in the end, I knew what I wanted. I undid the second button, and then the next, and then the next, until his shirt was completely untucked and hanging open. I stole a glance at Michael, where he and Tina were standing arm in arm, watching. He grinned at me, joyous and warm, and that gave me that last push I needed to set my hand on the flushed, bare skin of Boris's chest.

Boris sucked in a sharp breath, then slid his hand along my jaw and kissed me. We kissed and kissed, and as he dropped a line of kisses down my neck, I opened my eyes to look at Tina and Michael. They were kissing, too, arms wrapped around each other, and then, as if they could feel my gaze on them, they paused and looked back at me. The three of us smiled foolishly at each other for a second, and then Tina took Michael's hand and they started towards us, and maybe this makes me a freak but I don't care, because in that moment, all I could think was yes.