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It's About Half Past Ten and I Have to Catch my Ride

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Jenny wakes up thinking about Lola Perez.

This is unfortunately becoming a common occurrence and she’s not entirely sure what she’s supposed to do about it.

She rolls over in bed, putting off getting up for a few, precious, stolen moments. It’s a Saturday, which means she doesn’t have to force herself through the routine of getting ready for school, of making herself look presentable and friendly, approachable, even though all she really wants to do is be left alone so that she can attend classes and ask questions and add more notes and facts and formulas into her already full notebooks. She wishes the year was over, that the months crawling closer to graduation would hurry up so that she stopped having to worry about the opinions of classmates that she honestly doesn’t care about.

What would they say if they knew that, a few weeks ago, she had spent the night in the city with Lola Perez. In a matter of speaking, of course. That particular phrasing makes it seem like they had…

Jenny stops that line of thinking abruptly, ignoring the sudden heat that rushes to her cheeks.

What would her classmates say if they knew thinking of Lola Perez made her cheeks get hot and her heart beat funny in her chest. She’s already getting odd looks from most of the girls because of all the time that she’s spending with Zac Chase and the fact that she’s starting wearing her hair down, that she’s taking it easy on the layering, that she doesn’t hold her stack of books and binders to her chest anymore like a shield.

Jenny sighs, trying to push those thoughts away too. Why is she spending the first precious hours of her Saturday morning thinking about what her classmates think of when they look at her?

Why does it matter what they think of her hair, freed from its usual ponytail now? Last week, when she had met Lola for coffee, Lola had been quick to reach out and brush her fingers against the ends of Jenny’s hair while they waited for their drinks. “No more ponytail, Parker?”

“Not today,” Jenny had said, touching her own hair self-consciously, unwilling to admit that she’d been wearing her hair down daily since that night in the city. Katy might have given her an emergency make-over to catch Zac’s attention, but Jenny can’t help but be glad that he’s not the only one noticing the changes.

Jenny’s hand slips out from beneath the comforter on her bed, reaching for her phone, dutifully plugged in and charging on her otherwise empty nightstand. She tries to keep her room free of clutter, tries to ensure that all her books and papers and assignments are kept in neat piles on her desk and shelves.

Briefly, her thumb hovers over Lola’s name on her message history and she composes a text in her mind, running through dozens of different words that she could type out. Are you free today? Coffee? For some reason, even that message seems too desperate, like Lola will somehow know that Jenny woke up this morning thinking about her.

That she’s done that several mornings already.

That Jenny likes to think it means that she was dreaming about Lola.

Before Jenny can decide on a different message, her phone vibrates in her hand, surprising her. It’s from Zac and Jenny tries to remember when she was the type of girl who would have danced around her room at the thought of Zac Chase sending her a text message.

Now she feels only a vague sense of curiosity as she opens the message. Hey :) party tonight at thomas’s wanna go?

Jenny stares up at the ceiling, briefly contemplating wrapping herself in her comforter and staying in bed all day. She and Zac have gone out a few times, though only once alone and though she let him hold her hand, when it came time for the infamous goodnight-kiss, she had quickly given him her cheek, ignoring Zac’s embarrassed attempts to make it seem like that was his intention all along.

Is that how she’s supposed to feel in this particular situation? Jenny isn’t entirely sure it is. It’s definitely not how she imagined feeling when she had her first crush turn into more than just a crush.

She knows enough to know that her first instinct shouldn’t be to see what Lola is doing first.

During their last trip to get coffee, Jenny had thought about asking Lola about Zac. She’d thought about bringing up her confusing feelings and the fact that she was far from excited whenever she saw Zac in the hallways or whenever he sent her text message. Even though most of the time his messages where either gifs or Vines and pretty much irrelevant to anything they’d been talking about.

But Jenny hadn’t brought him up at all. It had been more fun to listen to Lola talk about her internship and colleges that she was considering and it had been better to make Lola laugh recounting some ridiculous babysitting stories and it hadn’t seemed all that important to ask about Zac at all.

Rather than text Lola, Jenny just sends a response back to Zac. Sure. That sounds like fun.

It doesn’t, not really.

But still, Jenny spends the majority of her day preparing for the evening to come. She does her homework, tends to her pending college applications, snaps a few pictures of birds in the backyard. She might have decided to put her photography career on the backburner for the moment, but it’s still a nice way to waste some time and she thinks she’s getting better. Lola probably won’t be too impressed with the pictures but even still, Jenny makes the mental note to text her about them tomorrow, to use their existence as an excuse to bring up another coffee date.

Or, not date.

Or…whatever.

Despite the effort she’s attempting to put into handling all life’s little responsibilities, the party and meeting Zac are never far from her mind. She thinks about seeing Zac and who else will be at the party and will she expected to drink, to dance, to think even more about what everyone is thinking when they look at her? And what will she wear?

At least the latter question has an obtainable answer. She settles on a maroon dress with lacey sleeves and lace hemming the bottom, which falls an acceptable mid-thigh length. Staring at herself in the mirror, Jenny debates for a moment about pulling her hair back and snapping the hair-tie firmly into place. But she resists the urge, letting her hair spill past her shoulders instead.

Zac smiles when he sees her. “You look nice.”

Jenny ducks her head, following him down the front steps and toward his car in the driveway. “Thanks.”

They don’t talk much during the drive, listening to music instead, though Jenny tries to resist the urge to forcibly remove Zac’s hand from the radio dial. Not only is it unsafe to drive with only one hand on the wheel (hello, was she the only person paying attention in driver’s ed?) but she doesn’t think she can handle the continual channel surfing, the way each song seems to blend into the next until it’s an unintelligible jumble.

She’s trying to follow the advice of Lola and the kids. Trying to unwind, to give herself and the rest of the world a little bit of slack.

It’s harder than it had seemed that night.

When they get to Thomas’, the place is already full of people, the driveway and surrounding streets already jammed with cars. Jenny looks at the house with its humming bass and low din of conversation, smoothing her hands nervously down the front of her dress, trying to remind herself that this was a good idea after all.

Zac reaches for her hand as they walk up the grass and toward the front door and Jenny holds tightly because she’s never been to a party before and having an anchor seems like it might be a good idea right about now.

“It’s going to be fun,” Zac says with a toothy smile that Jenny can’t quite imitate. He doesn’t look quite like someone offering reassurance. He sounds more like someone making a statement, setting the perimeters for the night: fun.

Jenny nods. “Yeah, definitely. Um, which one is Thomas again?”

She doesn’t get an answer to her question because they’re already in the foyer of the house and Bruno Mars is playing on the speakers in the living room and Jenny finds herself standing in the house of someone she can’t even entirely place because all of Zac’s friends look the same and none of them really look twice at her anyway.

Jenny recognizes most of the people here from her classes or from the hallways at school but wonders if they can say the same about her. She gets a few looks, a few half-hearted waves, though most everyone seems to be far more enthusiastic about seeing Zac. His hand is dislodged quickly from Jenny’s and she doesn’t really miss it, not really, his hand sweaty and too big in her own. But she does miss the stability, the reassurance that she was supposed to be there, that she came with someone after all.

As half of the baseball team pulls Zac into a conversation of sorts, one that involves a lot of slaps on the back and handing him a red solo cup, Dominque Cassidy seems to take pity on her, dragging her boyfriend over to talk to Jenny while she stands there awkwardly on the outside of the male bonding ritual that’s going on beside her.

“Do you want a drink?” Dominique asks, holding up her own red cup to support her words.

Jenny can smell the beer, bitter and prominent in the air thanks to the amount of cups around and the surfaces that are already sticky with alcohol. “I…”

“You can say no,” Dominique remarks, though not unkindly. “Or they have soda.”

“Yeah…I’ll…” Jenny glances over her shoulder, to where Zac is being lead off by his teammates to a game involving cups and quarters going on on the coffee table.

Dominique gives her a look, one Jenny has gotten used to seeing over the years. It’s the what, exactly, are you doing here look. Like Jenny Parker was somehow doing something wrong by showing up to school with books and pencils, like she was the one who didn’t belong.

“Is this your first party?” Again, Dominique’s tone borders just on the edge of sharp and curious.

Jenny points to the kitchen over Dominique’s shoulder. “I’m just going to go get that drink.”

What happens next isn’t entirely her fault, Jenny can admit that, at least. She’s in a hurry, eager to get away from Dominique and Zac and disappear from the people who may or may not even care that she’s there at all and she’s letting her feet take her in the direction of the kitchen without even watching where she’s going. But she’s not the only one who isn’t paying attention, which is how she ends up colliding with Tommy Banks from the football team and getting the contents of his cup splashed down the front of her dress.

“Hey, sorry,” Tommy says, stepping back and blinking at her like he can’t understand where she came from. “Uh…Laurie…right?”

Jenny feels her face heat up and she can’t do anything but look at the stain darkening on the front of her dress. She can’t even correct Tommy, her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth.

“It’s Jenny, actually.” The voice is right beside Jenny’s ear suddenly but what makes her jump is the sudden arm that snakes around her waist. “You good, Jenny?”

When she turns her head to see Lola standing there beside her, Jenny is pretty sure that she’s never been better in her entire life. Though all she manages to say is, “Uh huh” which she thinks might actually save her some sort of embarrassment.

Lola smiles at her and Jenny can see Tommy watching the two of them, no doubt trying to figure out how the mousey girl from his biology class (not that Jenny thinks he remembers that specific detail) is the one standing there with a leggy brunette at her side.

Jenny is wondering the same thing.

“There’s a bathroom down here,” Lola is saying, bringing Jenny back to the present and pulling her away from the kitchen and the people studying the scene and back toward the living room and the hallway that snakes off to the left. “Ugh what an idiot.”

Jenny assumes that Lola is talking about Tommy, though she might be making a pretty good case for earning the moniker herself given the fact that she hasn’t really spoken since Lola magically appeared by her side.

“What are you doing here?” Jenny finally asks and Lola tugs her into the bathroom, locking the door behind the both of them.

It seems like a totally logical question, all things considered. There’s a small part of Jenny’s mind that thinks she just might have conjured Lola here somehow, summoned her with just the power of her thoughts.

It’s as embarrassing as it is appealing.

“I went to school with Michael,” Lola says, turning on the faucet. It takes Jenny a second to place this Michael; he’s Thomas’ older brother. “I didn’t really have anything else going on so I thought, eh, why not.”

Lola points to the closed toilet lid and Jenny takes a seat. “Now,” Lola continues, “I’m glad I decided to say yes.” She wets a handful of toilet paper. “I didn’t know you were going to be here.”

Jenny shrugs. “Zac invited me.”

Lola lifts her eyebrows. “Ah, Zac,” she says, though she doesn’t look at Jenny, focusing all her attention on the dampening toilet paper in her hands. “And where is the infamous Zac?”

“Here somewhere, I guess,” Jenny says. “I dunno I kinda lost sight of him.”

Lola hands over the damp mess of toilet paper. “You don’t seem that broken up over it.”

“Well, I found you instead,” Jenny points out and feels her face start to grow hot all over again. “So…not totally friendless.”

It’s a nice save, she thinks, but for some reason it makes Jenny wish she could use a different word to describe the girl standing in front of her.

“If I’d known you were going to be here we could have come together,” Lola says, “I promise I wouldn’t have ditched you.”

Jenny wonders if her face looks as hot as it feels. Can Lola tell that her body temperature is steadily increasing as she sits there in a stranger’s bathroom clutching a clump of wet toilet paper?

“That should help,” Lola says, and Jenny looks at the tissue in her hands. “Well, a little bit anyway. You’ll probably have to get it dry-cleaned.”

“Uh, yeah,” Jenny says, wrinkling her nose at the thought. Hopefully she can hide the dress from her parents so they don’t have to wonder how she got beer spilled on the fabric.

Lola shakes her head. “Too bad. You look great, Parker.”

When Jenny looks up, she can see Lola’s eyes lingering on her, settling across the lace at the hem that presses against her thighs. Her gaze sizzles, making Jenny feel electric, seen and appreciated.

She sits up a little straighter, blotting half-heartedly at the fabric. “Thanks for the save, by the way.”

Lola tilts her head, smiling. “I think it’s fate,” she says in a conspiratorial tone. “I was just thinking about you.”

“You were?” Jenny searches Lola’s face and can find no sign of teasing or insincerity.

“You wanna get out of here?” Lola says by way of an answer. “I think this is party isn’t really my scene.”

Jenny doesn’t even have to think before she nods, getting to her feet and tossing the useless tissue into the trashcan. “Yeah, I really do.”

Lola opens the door, stepping into the hallway. It takes Jenny a split-second to realize that the person standing outside waiting to go into the bathroom is Dominique Cassidy, of all people. Her eyes widen as she watches Jenny follow Lola out of the bathroom, her lips curling into something of a smile. Jenny tries to ignore her, hoping, once again, that her blush isn’t entirely noticeable.

At least she thinks Dominique will tell Zac that she disappeared with Lola Perez. Though she sends him a text to be on the safe side, explaining that she spilled something on her dress and got a ride with a friend and that she’ll text him in the morning.

A friend. That word again.

For years, Jenny had wanted someone she could give that moniker to, someone she could call her friend.

So why does the word seem to rub her the wrong way now?

“I’m digging the dress, Jen,” Lola says as they walk past the array of cars parked along the sidewalk. “How come I’ve never seen you in heels before.”

“Not exactly babysitting attire,” Jenny points out, Lola’s familiar and impossible-to-miss Jeep coming into view.

Lola nods. “Oh, of course, how could I forget Rule Number Eighty-Three,” she teases, “‘No heels.’”

“Makes it hard to chase after the kids,” Jenny agrees.

“But perfect for getting milkshakes and perfectly greasy fries,” Lola says, sliding into the front seat of the Jeep. She looks perfectly suited to be driving a car with eyelashes.

Jenny knows that she doesn’t hop into the Jeep nearly as smoothly, trying to maintain a little bit of dignity and keep her already stained dress from riding too far up her thighs. “Is that where you’re taking me?”

“Is there a rule against greasy diner food?” Lola smirks. “Rule one-hundred-and-one?”

“Actually it’s number five.”

The way that Lola laughs lets Jenny know that Lola thinks that she’s kidding. She doesn’t bother to correct this assumption. Instead, she just bites the inside of her lip to keep from smiling too wide, feeling her heart knocking against the inside of her chest at the sound of Lola’s laughter.

There’s no top to the Jeep and the spring air still has a chill to it and it doesn’t take long before Jenny’s arms and legs are covered in goosebumps. She wouldn’t have worn a dress if she had known that her night would have somehow ended up like this, with her sitting in the passenger seat of Lola’s Jeep.

Of course, she wouldn’t have done anything differently on the off-chance that some small change would have stopped her from ending up here at all.

Lola still drives like she’s trying to get five kids and two babysitters back home before everyone’s parents return for the night. Jenny doesn’t mind as much as she did before, doesn’t mind much about being in the car beside Lola, the wind whipping through the missing sides of the car, her hair a lost cause. The radio is loud but stays on one station, the words getting sucked up by the wind, Lola’s bracelets jangling as she taps her steering wheel in time to music that Jenny can barely hear.

The noise of the wind makes conversation pretty much impossible but Jenny doesn’t mind. What could she possibly say that would somehow add to the feeling of driving down an empty street with Lola Perez behind the wheel.

That thought alone would have terrified her a month ago.

That thought never would have entered her mind a month ago.

Now…now Jenny watches Lola out of the corner of her eye, watches her features in the passing streetlamps that briefly illuminate her surroundings. A camera wouldn’t do her justice, Jenny thinks. For the first time, she wishes that she had something else, something other than film. Pastel or charcoal stained finger tips that she could use to trace the swoops of Lola’s features onto the paper, helping her memorize every millimeter of Lola Perez. The thought, the longing, makes Jenny’s fingers tighten into fists in her lap and it’s hard to remember wanting something in this way before.

Of course, Jenny knows that she’s never wanted anything like this before.

They come to a stoplight and Lola’s eyes immediately flick in her direction. “You’re staring.”

“You’re supposed to be watching the road,” Jenny points out. “Not me.”

Lola opens her mouth but seems to think better of it, shaking her head instead. After a beat, she says, “I can feel you watching me,” and Jenny thinks that wasn’t what she was going to say at all.

But it doesn’t stop her cheeks from reddening all over again.

She really needs to work on that reaction.

The light changes and Jenny is grateful when the wind makes it impossible to answer Lola’s question. She turns her head just in case, watching the streets pass by through the gaping spot where the passenger side window should be. Jenny closes her eyes briefly, wondering what it would be like to just…be here in this seat forever. To not have to go back to her house and explain where she’s been and why her dress is stained. To not have to go back to school on Monday and explain why she left the party or why she left with Lola or where she went after. To just…drive.

For the first time, she thinks that she actually understands Lola’s attitude. Just a little bit.   

They finally get to the diner and Jenny flips the visor down, studying herself in the mirror. Her hair falls in crooked tangles and she crinkles her nose, attempting to run her fingers through the mess to restore some semblance of order.

“Sorry,” Lola says. “Downside of the Jeep.”

Jenny figures there’s no point in arguing that Lola manages to make the windblown look work for her. She probably already knows.

Lola reaches across the center console, her arm brushing the bare tops of Jenny’s legs as she leans closer. Jenny tenses, stiffening in her seat, not that Lola seems to notice. Instead, she opens the glove compartment, fishing around for a second before withdrawing a hairbrush. “I have a few tricks up my sleeves.” She hands the brush to Jenny.

Jenny tries not to feel too disappointed, focusing instead of on taming her wild locks.

There aren’t many other people in the diner when they walk in and a bored looking man behind the counter tells them to sit anywhere. Lola makes a beeline for a two-person booth toward the back, against a window, where they can see the mostly empty parking lot from the booth seats. The booth is small enough that Jenny can feel Lola’s knees pressing against her own, that she can’t envision more than one plate fitting on the surface of the table. Lola looks perfectly at home, leaning back against the red vinyl seats.

A waitress walks up, tugging a worn ordering pad out of the pocket of her apron. “You girls look like you’re dressed for a party. You heading there after this?”

“We already left, actually,” Jenny says firmly, as though the waitress might somehow imagine them back in the overcrowded, overloud house.

“Oh.” The waitress checks the watch on her arm, one where Mickey Mouse’s hands serve to point out the time. “I don’t normally see teenagers here until later. Gotta get something in their stomachs before going home, I guess.” The waitress grins.

“Well, the food here is hard to resist,” Lola says sweetly and she and the waitress share a look like they’re in on some sort of secret that Jenny isn’t privy to.

Jenny doesn’t question it, though, following Lola’s example and getting a chocolate milkshake and fries.  

“Oh, and onion rings,” Lola says decisively as the waitress starts to turn away.

“What happened to greasy diner fries?” Jenny questions.

Lola shrugs. “You got the fries. I got the onion rings. Best of both worlds.”

There’s something that feels perfectly intimate about sharing food with Lola, though Jenny firmly closes that door in her mind before she can start doing what she does best and launch into overanalyzing the situation.

What is there to overanalyze? She’s in a diner with Lola instead of at a party with Zac. What more does she need to know.

“So you only wanted me to come along so you could steal my food,” Jenny says. “I see how it is.”

Lola shrugs. “I mean I could have gotten both without you,” she points out. “It would have just been a lot more depressing.”

“I get the feeling you come here a lot,” Jenny says.

Another shrug. “Best food ever, remember?”

Jenny glances dubiously in the direction of the kitchen, taking in the sight of the old coffee percolating in a tired looking coffee pot behind the counter beside a display of slices of pie. “If you say so.”

“Hey, the waitress isn’t wrong,” Lola says. “It’s the perfect after party food.”

“If you haven’t figured it out already, this is my first high school party.”

Lola’s eyes get comically wide but her smile stays soft. “No! I never would have guessed.”

Jenny tosses her unopened straw across the table at Lola. “I’m still working on the whole getting out of my comfort zone thing.”

“I think you’re off to a pretty good start,” Lola points out. “Plus you are hanging out in a shady diner on a Saturday night.”

Jenny casts another nervous glance over her shoulder. “Shady-”

“Relax, Jen,” Lola says with a roll of her eyes. “The only thing really shady about this place is the health inspection score.”

That doesn’t exactly make Jenny feel better, but she forces herself to do as Lola instructed. Relax.

Something easier said than done with Lola’s knee pressed in between her own.

“I’m glad I ran into you at the party,” Jenny says. “Figuratively speaking.” She looks down at her dress, the proof of a less-than-figurative encounter.

“Yeah,” Lola says with a nod. “Me too.”

Sitting across from Lola is the perfect excuse to study her features. It’s not like Jenny can look anywhere else, unless she wants to commit a poster advertising the different kinds of pancakes available to her memory. Which doesn’t seem nearly as appealing as the other thing she could be looking at. The impulse strikes her again, the need to try her hand with another medium, to experiment with putting Lola’s features down on canvas. She has the picture of her and Lola from the night in the city saved on her phone and she knows from experience that the digital version of Lola doesn’t do the real one justice. Maybe paint and charcoal wouldn’t either, but it seems tempting to try.

“Sometimes I can’t figure you out,” Lola says suddenly and Jenny blinks, shaking away the thoughts that had slipped into her mind.

“What do you mean?” For some reason, the statement makes Jenny’s cheeks flush with color and she feels pricks of embarrassment start to spread through her chest. She isn’t sure that she wants to be an enigma; she isn’t sure that she wants her thoughts to be difficult to decipher.

Lola shrugs, tapping her fingers against the surface of the table, her bracelets jangling a rhythm. “Sometimes you still look like you’re afraid of me.”

Jenny scoffs. “I was never afraid of you,” she assures Lola, raising an eyebrow.

“Okay, whatever,” Lola says, holding up her hands in surrender. “Not afraid then just…sometimes you look like you don’t know what to say.”

“Sometimes I don’t,” Jenny admits. “Sometimes I still can’t believe we’re hanging out at all.”

This answer seems to satisfy Lola enough to erase the crease of worry that had appeared between her eyebrows and she leans forward, propping her chin in the palm of her hand. “I told you: destiny.”

Jenny flicks her eyes toward the poster of pancakes to avoid letting her gaze burn a hole in Lola. “It’s destiny that we’re sitting here in this shady diner?”

“Definitely,” Lola says. “Just like it’s destiny you were at that party tonight too. And destiny that our phones switched and we ended up chasing after Trey in the city.”

“I actually don’t think that was destiny,” Jenny argues. “I think that was your fault actually.”

Not that her semantics seem to bother Lola in the least. “Destiny comes in many forms.”

Jenny shakes her head. “So you’re telling me that when we had geometry together you knew that fate was going to bring us to this exact moment?”

Lola doesn’t answer right away and Jenny feels like they’re locked in an impasse, staring at one another across a tiny table in a diner that smells like grease and old coffee and is inexplicably freezing.

“Maybe not then,” Lola admits finally. “But my feelings on the subject have changed since then.”

There’s that rush again. The rush of heat to her face and pooling in her stomach. The sudden pounding of her heart in her chest. The longing. All the things that seem to follow any sort of conversation with Lola, making it difficult for Jenny to think of anything else.

“You never told me why you were thinking about me at the party,” Jenny blurts out, which is probably not the thing that should follow a statement like Lola’s.

How have your feelings changed? would have been a much better follow-up question. But Jenny is a little afraid that she might not get the answer that she’s hoping for.

Lola shrugs one shoulder. “I guess you’ll never know,” she sing-songs.

Jenny huffs, leaning back in the seat and crossing her arms over her chest. “Funny.”

Lola looks entirely too pleased with herself.

The waitress reappears, setting two frosty glasses down on the table, followed quickly by two plates loaded with fries and onion rings. “Enjoy.” She winks like, once again, there’s something that she knows that Jenny just doesn’t.

Lola slides one of the milkshakes in her direction, immediately plucking out the cherry and popping it into her mouth. Jenny quickly reaches for the ketchup, happy to have a distraction before Lola does something worse like go for the whipped cream on top. She doesn’t even like ketchup yet here she is, carefully squeezing a pool onto the corner of the plate.

The fries are nice and hot, which restores some of Jenny’s faith in the place. It seems reasonable to assume that cooking something in a deep-fryer would at least get rid of any lingering bacteria found in the place as a result of shady health practices, so Jenny tentative takes a bite of the fry. It doesn’t taste like e coli, which is a plus.

“See, what did I tell you?” Lola says, carefully tearing an onion ring in half without managing to pull the onion away from the breading. “Pretty good, right?”

Jenny shrugs, picking up another fry. “Greasy diner food,” she confirms.

Lola just grins like that’s exactly the point she was trying to make.

Ignoring the ketchup on the plate, Jenny dunks the fry into her milkshake, swirling it around to capture the chocolate and whipped cream before taking a bite.

Lola gapes at her, a horrified expression sliding across her face. “What are you doing?”

“Um…eating a fry?” Jenny looks down at her hands to make sure they aren’t doing something on their own to prompt Lola’s question.

“That’s so gross,” Lola says. “I might need to rethink this relationship.”

Relationship. Another word that Jenny has given a lot of thought to in recent years, hoping to find someone to attach the word to, someone who would get her enough to want to stick around despite all the perfect boxes that Jenny puts her things and herself into.

Someone, she’d assumed, just like Zac Chase.

Not Lola.

Who is the exact person that Jenny wants to be with in this exact moment.

And all moments, if she’s being completely honest.

“You’ve never done this?” Jenny questions, grabbing another fry and illustrating her point by dipping it into her milkshake.

Lola’s expression doesn’t change. “Uh, no,” she says. “Because I’m a normal person with respect for fries and milkshakes.”

Jenny smirks, shaking her head. “You’re missing out.”

“I think I’m good.”

“I never thought I’d see Lola Perez afraid to try something,” Jenny muses breezily, contemplating the fries on the plate. “I guess there’s a first time for everything.”

Lola narrows her eyes slightly. “Cheater.”

Jenny can’t quite hide her victory smirk. “How do you like when the shoe is on the other foot?”

Lola doesn’t have an answer for that. Instead, she just gets up, sliding into the seat beside Jenny. The seat barely big enough for one. Jenny finds herself pressed between the wall and Lola and is too surprised by the turn of events to raise much of a protest. She just looks at Lola with wide eyes, her lips parted, so many things on the tip of her tongue that she doesn’t think she’ll actually be able to say.

“Well, let’s have it,” Lola says, a challenge in her words and her eyes.

The moment with Zac flashes through Jenny’s mind, how she had felt standing on the front step of her house, certain that he was leaning in to kiss her. She could feel it, an unspoken fact there between them: Zac Chase is about to kiss me.

That’s exactly how she feels right now. That a kiss, suddenly, is inevitable.

The thought had filled her with panic when Jenny had been faced with Zac and his lips and that inevitable kiss. She had panicked, turned her head, left them both red-faced with embarrassment and brought that night to its immediate end.

That’s the opposite of how she feels right now.

She feels electric, certain, impatient.

And so, Jenny leans forward, pressing her lips to Lola’s.

The touch sizzles, just like Lola’s eyes on her earlier. Just like Lola’s hand on her knee, now. Jenny feels breathless, everything flying out of her mind immediately, leaving an expanse of emptiness in its wake. The only thing left behind is Lola.

Lola smiles as she pulls away and Jenny tries not to feel disappointed that they aren’t still kissing.

Honestly. Why aren’t they kissing anymore?

“I meant the fries,” Lola says.

Jenny’s lips form a perfect ‘o’ of surprise, embarrassment creeping up the back of her neck. “I…” She starts to lean back.

But she doesn’t get very far because Lola is reaching for her, her hand slipping around the curve of her neck, pulling Jenny back to her. “But this is good too,” Lola says and then, just like that, they are kissing again.

“I’m really glad you were at that party,” Jenny says, wondering if she should be embarrassed that she’s having a hard time catching her breath or because of the way her lips are tingling from Lola’s.

What are her parents going to think of her when she comes home with her dress stained and her hair tangled from Lola’s fingers and her lips bruised? The thought makes Jenny smile. Definitely not how she thought this night was going to go.

Lola nods, her fingers still splayed across Jenny’s knee, her skin warm. “Yeah. Me too.”

 


 

After they get the check, Lola drives Jenny home and she tries to stamp down the feeling of disappointment bubbling in her chest. She’ll see Lola again, there’s no doubt in her mind. This might just be the first of many nights that she spends driving around with the wind in her hair and her lips tingling from the memory of kissing Lola Perez.

Not that Jenny wastes the opportunity to get one last good night kissing, leaning across the center of the Jeep to kiss Lola again. And again. She doesn’t think she’ll ever get tired of the feeling of Lola’s hair slipping through her fingers or feeling of Lola’s hand pressing feather light across her hip and knee and shoulders.

Grinning, Jenny finally forces herself to whisper a final good night, getting out of the Jeep and slipping her purse over her shoulder. She starts up the driveway toward the front door, praying that she doesn’t trip or fall into the bushes or do something equally embarrassing. Jenny also stops herself from turning around for one last look at Lola, certain that if she sees her again that she won’t be able to remember why she’s supposed to be walking to her front door.

Inside her purse, her phone buzzes and Jenny hesitates for a second before reaching for it. It’s probably Zac, trying to figure out what happened to her, hopefully making sure that she made it home safely. She feels a twinge of guilt at having just abandoned him there at the party but she’s pretty sure they both had a better time.

But it’s not Zac’s name that Jenny sees on the screen. It’s Lola’s.

Jenny, the message reads, will you go out with me sometime?

Jenny looks up from the phone, turning back around to face Lola. She’s not at all surprised to find Lola already grinning at her.

“That’s what I was thinking about at the party,” Lola says. “That’s what I was going to send before I saw that you were there.”

It takes all of Jenny’s self-control not to retrace her steps and climb back into the Jeep beside Lola once more. If that happens, she has a feeling that she’ll never make it inside and she’s not sure she’s ready to have that conversation with her parents.

Instead, Jenny forces herself to wait until she’s safely inside the house before she responds to Lola’s message. Yes.

The answer is probably obvious at this point. Inevitable, even.

But it still makes Jenny smile to type the word.