"Girl, you were so good up there!" Brad exclaimed as Kayla came offstage from her duet with the guys that night.
She grinned weakly, wiping her face with a towel as Brad enveloped her in a huge hug. "Thanks sweetie," she breathed.
Brad laughed. "Tired?"
Kayla rolled her eyes. "What do you think?"
"Hey," Brad said, "you may be tired, but I'm not afraid to mess up your hair."
Kayla gave him a pitiful look.
He grinned. "Okay, fine, I'll let that one slide. Hey, are you hungry?"
She raised an eyebrow. "I can be," she said coyly.
"You wanna get some ice cream with me? I know the perfect place," he said alluringly.
Kayla smiled. "Sounds great. But one question. How are we gonna get there? We can't exactly take my bus."
Brad shrugged. "I'll call a cab?"
"Okay...mind if I change first?" she asked with a grin, glancing down at her sequined dress.
Brad grinned. "Be my guest."
"Wow," Kayla remarked as she and Brad sat down at a table. He had taken her to an ice cream parlor that looked out on the ocean, and they were sitting outside.
"I know," Brad agreed. "All the girls love it here. The guys like to take them here to try to get play," Brad said with a grin.
Kayla raised her eyebrows. "I hope you're not getting any ideas with me," she teased.
"Well..." Brad began. He grinned. "Nah, I'm just playin'."
"You'd better be."
"What if I wasn't, huh?"
"I think you'd end up quite unsatisfied."
Brad reached forward to tousle her hair.
"Just kidding!" she said quickly, pushing his hand away.
"No...you know I'm not like that, right?"
Kayla smiled. "Yeah."
There was a moment of silence. Brad looked like he wanted to do something, but he was restraining himself to prove his point.
"So...have you talked to anyone else from our class?" Kayla asked.
"Actually, yeah, there was a reunion, and I went," Brad replied.
"Oh, right, I got invited to that, too, but my parents wouldn't let me go," she recalled. "Who did you see?"
"Practically everyone," Brad said.
Kayla smiled wryly. "All sixty of them?" They had come from a small private school.
Brad chuckled. "Yeah."
"Aw, so you saw Jenny? And Dylan?"
"Yep. Didn't you have a crush on Dylan?"
Kayla began to blush. "Yeah, in fifth grade."
"What about sixth grade?"
She blushed more. "Um...sixth grade...I liked you," she admitted shyly.
Brad smiled. "I liked you too."
Kayla raised her eyebrows. "Really? But I thought you had a thing foró"
"Leah," Brad finished for her. "I know. That was just a cover. I liked you. Remember I asked you to dance, like, three times at that little party?"
Kayla grinned. "I thought Lee made you do that to make me feel better. She knew that I liked you."
"I never told anyone," Brad said. "I was so afraid you would find out."
"So was I," Kayla agreed, "but I knew that I could trust Leah."
Brad smiled. "What would have happened if we'd told each other?" he wondered.
Kayla shrugged. "I would've had a different first kiss?"
"Hopefully," he agreed. He slowly slid his hand on top of hers. "I guess it's a little late to change that...but..." He smiled. "Maybe I could be...your tenth?" He took her smile as a yes and, holding her hand, leaned in and kissed her softly.
It took until he had pulled away for Kayla to laugh.
"What?" Brad asked, thinking he had done something wrong.
"You're overestimating it a little with ten," she replied, grinning. "More like five."
Brad grinned back. "Yeah, shut up, it was a compliment," he muttered, looking away.
She giggled and reached for his face. He turned back towards her, and this time, she kissed him.
"So," Brad said when it was over, "does this mean you'll go out with me?"
Kayla smiled and was about to say yes, but then, out of nowhere, an image flickered in her head. She suddenly remembered that night only a week or two ago, after she had given herself to Nick. She had been lying in the dark room with her head on his chest and his arms around her, and just as she had drifted off to sleep, she had felt his hand stroking her hair and his lips kissing her forehead so gently. Suddenly, sitting there with Brad, she felt out of place...that not only did she not belong there, her being there also meant she was betraying someone.
"Kayla?" Brad asked cautiously. "Do I get an answer?"
She hesitated. "Oh...um..."
"Uh oh," Brad said, knowing what was coming.
Kayla smiled weakly. "Sweetie, it's not you, really. And that was really nice, I promise...I just..." She sighed. "There's this guy, and...a lot of things have been happening between us lately, and...I just don't want to ruin it," she explained reluctantly. "I think it could really be something."
"Okay...I understand," Brad replied, trying not to sound dejected.
Kayla sighed. "I'm sorry," she said, wrapping her arms around him. "Can we still stay in touch and be friends though?"
Brad smiled wryly. "Sure."
There was a brief silence as both of them ate more ice cream and looked out over the ocean.
"Who is he?" Brad finally asked. "Just out of curiosity."
"Um...I don't think I should say anything."
Kayla looked at him in surprise but caught herself. "Why would you think that?"
Brad shrugged. "That's been the rumor."
"Oh yeah, so I heard," Kayla recalled. Good...he was just guessing. He hadn't picked up on it.
"So...is it Nick?"
"You sure about that?" Brad asked, amused.
"Yeah," Kayla said quickly.
Brad still didn't look entirely convinced, but he didn't push it any further. "Well, whoever he is, good luck with him."
Kayla smiled. "Thanks," she said. With the way things had been going so far, she was
going to need it.