Bright light streamed in through the window, dancing across Kaylee’s eyelids and instantly waking her up from a rather pleasant dream. She reached behind her to grab her phone and squinted to check the time. It was only 6:34. In the morning. Why is it so bright out already. Kaylee cursed herself for being lazy last night, forgetting to pull down the shade and plunging into a deep sleep instead, which was now totally ruined. She was so exhausted from last night’s post-Christmas festivities—and from drowning her sorrows in one too many sugar cookies—she didn’t even bother to change into pajamas. Well she had her pajama pants on, but was still wearing her red sequined sweater and had left her bra on. Half her makeup was smeared across her pillowcase. Great, she moaned to herself.
Kaylee crawled out of bed, unraveling the cocoon of blankets to close the shade. It had snowed during the night, and everything was blanketed in a fresh coat of sparkling white. Cynically, Kaylee thought it was just like life to snow after Christmas, when it didn’t really matter anymore. She pulled the shade down almost to the sill, letting in just a sliver of the morning snow light. Kaylee was in mid-hop back into bed when she decided she might as well change into her actual pjs. She felt around on the floor and grabbed an oversized T-shirt. It felt cool on her skin, which she didn’t realize until now was overheated and slightly itchy from the sweater. Kaylee had gotten compliments on her outfit all night at the annual Neighborhood Day-After-Christmas Christmas Party. From everyone that is except Rob. Not his fault though, she thought. Can’t compliment someone when you don’t show up. To the party at your own house. “Waste of mascara,” Kaylee sighed as she flipped her pillow over to a cleaner side and crawled back in bed.
Now Kaylee was completely awake, staring at the blankness of the ceiling, and the pity party in her mind had started. She couldn’t stop feeling stupid for waiting around all night long at Rob’s house, long after her parents and most of the block went home, for him to come back from hanging out with friends. They had talked a little when the party first started; about classes, how happy they were to be on break, and how they couldn’t wait to start college, the usual high school smalltalk. Rob’s mom had put him on door duty to collect people’s coats as they filed in, and Kaylee took whatever chance she could get to be alone—or at least as alone as one could get at a holiday block party—and dutifully helped collect coats… and continued to collect coats as Rob headed out to meet up with friends.
“Hey well it was fun catching up,” Rob had said as he replied back to a text that was clearly more fun than hanging out with Kaylee.
“Yeah, me too,” Kaylee smiled. “I feel like we haven’t had the chance to really hang out in a while.” Kaylee nervously tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, thinking she couldn’t have sounded more lame. Rob stepped closer so they were only standing inches apart, causing Kaylee to take an audible gasp of breath as Rob… reached behind her into the pile to pull out his jacket.
“Yeah me too,” he smiled as if he knew. Kaylee could feel her cheeks grow hot, shook her head in awkward agreement, and busied herself with organizing the coats.
“I’m heading out now,” Rob shouted around the corner to the kitchen where his mom was arranging food platters.
“Okay sweetie! Have a good time,” Mrs. Green sing-songed back.
“Cool, well hope the party’s fun. Maybe I’ll see you when I get back.”
Rob’s hand was on the doorknob, already stepping out into the chilly December night, when Kaylee eagerly half-shouted “Sounds great!” Old Mrs. Fitzgerald from across the street was coming up the walkway at the same time.
“Hey there, cutie,” she said to Rob. Everyone was cutie to Mrs. Fitzgerald. “Where you heading off to? If all you youngsters leave, it’ll be up to me to be the life of the party, and trust me cutie, no one’s prepared for that.” She gave him a sly wink.
“I’m sorry I’ll be missing that,” Rob smiled and winked back. Kaylee thought that Mrs. Fitzgerald was a better flirt at seventy-eight than she at eighteen. “Made plans with some friends though, but don’t worry, my brother Jimmy is around and he’s almost as cute as me. And Kaylee’s here too.” He nodded her way, to where Kaylee stood shivering with the door open to help Mrs. Fitzgerald, and continued his escape to his car.
“Well there, don’t you just look gorgeous cutie,” she chirped as she slowly made her way up the stairs with Kaylee’s assistance.
“Thank you,” she said sheepishly. “How was your Christmas, Mrs. Fitzgerald?” Kaylee wished she wore pants instead of her curve-hugging pencil skirt now that her legs felt like popsicles. Finally she closed the door behind them and the warmth of party pricked her skin back to life.
“Waiting for someone special, eh?” Mrs. Fitzgerald asked instead, slyly winking at Kaylee. Kaylee turned the same shade as her sweater and Mrs. Fitzgerald, cackling at her own joke, tossed her bright purple coat to Kaylee and continued onto the party. Another guest was making their way in, and Kaylee, always a stickler for responsibility, continued collecting coats. And she waited, because she stupidly really thought he’d back to hang out with her. How pathetic.
At least she didn’t pine totally alone. Kaylee always had a good time hanging out with Jimmy. Jimmy was only a year younger than Kaylee and Rob, and growing up they all used to play together. Then high school hit. Rob, a typical jock, found a new crowd while Kaylee stuck with books and stayed in honors classes, a few of which Jimmy took as well, though he was technically a grade below. Everyone joked how the Green brothers were “Beauty and the Brains”. Kaylee thought that was a little unfair; Jimmy was good-looking too, in the goofy, Jim Halpert from The Office, boy-next-door kind of way. Rob was hot. And a football player. High school standards made him “The Attractive One” by default. Could be worse for Jimmy, I guess. At least they’re not saying “Beauty and the Beast”. Kaylee snorted at her own joke and immediately felt like a jerk. Jimmy saved her from looking like a complete idiot last night and played Sugar Cookie Poker until Kaylee finally called it quits.
I should just call this crush quits, Kaylee thought as she rolled restlessly under the covers, completely wide awake. Rob clearly doesn’t seem to notice me and so what if I graduate high school unkissed? New Year’s Eve would be her last good chance to get kissed by Rob and as far as she could tell no one from school seemed to be throwing any parties this year. Naturally. Just as Kaylee was about to crawl deeper under the covers and replay her holiday overstay shame, her phone pinged.