Sonata Five: A Texan Reverie
If her Dad found about this she'd receive an ear-full from him when she got home. After all, he had the good sense to know that finals were more important to his daughter's future than 'recreational sports'. Somewhere in the back of Kris' head she knew that he was right to think that. Somewhere in the back of her head there was an annoying little voice screaming "Not Now!" in the vain hope of turning her way. It didn't work. The rink, her skates and a puck were the first things on Kris Taylor's agenda the very second she ran out of the Mitchell household.
She weaved a careful line across the ice, L-shaped hockey stick in hand, guiding the actions of the skirting puck with razor-careful quickness until she was far enough away from the south wall to making shooting open goal a challenge. Kris smacked it. Hard. She and Emma watched the puck shoot like a blur of black into the netting of the goal. Inelegantly. Shoddily. With none of the refinement that the Taylor girl was so famous for.
What the hell was up with her game right now? Kris sneered, yanking the helmet from her skull, and wracked her brain trying to figure out where she was going wrong. Something was really off when her shots were this damn sloppy. Whatever the reason, Kris sighed, realizing now that she wasn't going to work it out here. She languidly skated to west wall where Emma sat alone behind its protective glass. She looked cute in her little woollen hat and rainbow mittens -- shuddering her little ass off.
"...T-that was great, K-Kris." Emma's pearly whites chattered.
"Are you kidding me? I sucked. I dunno why my shot is so off today. It's driving me crazy. I haven't been out of practice that long, have I?"
It was so cold in here that Emma's breath became visible. "It's b-been t-three months."
"No kidding," Across the rink Kris caught Schmitz tapping his watch and grumpily glaring at her. Schmitz was one of her many cousins and he worked here part-time to help pay for his college tuition fees. He was kind enough to sneak she and Emma in after hours even though he could've been fired for it, which was why Kris didn't want to push her luck with him. "I think we better go."
Emma held her cotton-sealed hands up. "N-no arguments here. G-get changed."
She did just that. Kris skated to the sidelines, gesturing to Schmitz, who breathed a heavy sigh of relief watching her climb off the ice and undo the strapping of her blades. When they were off Kris walked the rest of the way into the lockers. While she took off the rest of her gear (shin guards, neck guards, elbow pads, etc) she didn't think much about why she was really here. She thought about what her Dad might think if Schmitz told him that she did this. "How could you risk that boy's job?" he'd blare. He wouldn't be wrong to be angry. For some reason that thought struck her less severely.
A door opened behind her. "Do you wanna talk now?"
Kris fitted her Dallas Stars jersey down the length of her body and slotted her sinewy arms through it. She offered no reply. So Emma parked herself on the bench next to the hockey star and asked the question again. This time she got an answer. "I just felt like-"
"Blowing off steam?" Emma challenged.
So her best friend gave herself a congratulatory smirk. "...Wow. This girl's really gotten under your skin, hasn't she?"
And there it was. Kris knew it and Emma knew it too. This had nothing to do with sharpening her skills or getting back into the flavour of things and had everything to do with that beautiful little blonde girl who helped her study a day ago. Bonnie Mitchell. When silence between Kris and Emma became more and more conspicuous it was clear to them both where the problem was. But did that mean she wanted to talk about it? With a deep exhalation Kris yanked her denims up her legs and began fitting on her boots.
"Kris, talk to me. What happened?"
Of course her not wanting to talk didn't mean that Emma didn't want to talk. For a moment Kris really wanted to ignore this, to ignore thinking about what happened last night, but she knew that Emma wouldn't let it go -- especially not since she'd be kind enough to graphically explain how she and Summer made sport of one and other. Kris and Emma had a tradition of sharing the business of their love lives. In other words? She had no choice.
After looking around the lockers to see if anyone might overhear them (despite the fact that the only person who could've possibly been here at this time of the night was Schmitz) Kris sat herself down and vented.
"We studied," she began despondently. "That's what I went there for, that's what she wanted to do. Study. I don't know why I'm so surprised. And you know, things were fine like that for a while. She explained things to me, showed me websites, read quotes for me, all of that. Then..."
Kris dropped her face into her hand. "...I-I dunno, maybe I'm seeing too much in it.."
"What happened?" Asked Emma.
"I'm not even sure. I don't even remember what we were doing at the time. All I remember was that somehow she'd gotten really close to me, or... I got close to her, whatever... and she backed off. Hard. Like I'd just grown a second head or something. Jesus, you should've seen the look on her face, Emma. I can't stop thinking about it."
"Was it that bad? Are you sure you're not just overreacting?"
Kris glared plainly at her. "You don't get it. We were close enough to kiss, okay? She thought I was gonna kiss her and she backed off like I was Typhoid Mary. What am I supposed to think?"
In thinking about it Emma paused for a moment. "...I guess you read her wrong."
"Do you still think she's gay?"
Kris shook her head. "I never said that she was. And to be honest that's beside the point. Even if she was it wouldn't mean she'd want me. Maybe-"
"...I don't know." Kris paused a moment and shovelled her hockey equipment into her gym bag. Then she paused again. "...I really like her, Emma."
Emma wound a sympathetic arm around her friend's shoulders. You wouldn't think it to look at her because she carried so confident and casual an air, but Kris Taylor wasn't the least vulnerable person in the world. That was one of the reasons Emma liked her as much as she did. She was the kind of girl who only froze you out to a point -- then let it gush. It was the kind of quality that didn't seem impressive at a distance but if you thought deeper, about the vast numbers of fakes and fakers out there who let their pride get in the way of their life, it was kind of remarkable.
Emma cuddled her tight and carefully brushed the heavy black bangs from Kris' dejected eyes. "Sweetie, I told you to be careful about this. If she's straight or curious or confused or something... it's best to just let her alone. Girls like that only mess you up in the end."
All they had to do was talk about Bonnie and suddenly she was the only thing on Kris' mind. She was so pretty, so naturally pretty, and kind and considerate. Helpful. It didn't hurt that she had a cute blush either. How was anyone supposed to just walk away from a girl like that?
"Do you think I should talk to her?" Suggested Kris.
"Would you even know what to say? You told me yourself, you're still not sure what happened between the two of you. And you know what? Yeah, maybe it was nothing. But what if it wasn't? What if it was something? What if it was sign that you need to cut your losses and look elsewhere?"
Kris stood upright. "I'm not sure. I get what you're saying, Emma. Don't think I don't. I just feel like I should try again somehow."
"Look, have a think about it," said the fashionista, standing up with her. "But don't do anything hasty, okay? We're not out yet, Kris. Neither you nor me. What if she isn't gay? What if you say something and she freaks out again? What if she spreads it around the school? You know what life will be like for you if anyone finds out? This is Texas, girl."
Therein lay the problem. Kris had no idea what was running through Bonnie's head and it was becoming painfully clear that she never really did. That nagging voice in the back of her own mind kept screaming that something was off, that there was more to Bonnie's reaction than some kind of awkward revulsion, but better sensibilities were telling the hockey star something different. What if it was more than what it seemed and Emma was right? Bonnie was capturing every drawn-out thought and feeling in Kris right now and she hadn't felt like that in... ever. So did she really want to walk into a mine field for someone she wasn't even sure of?
For some stupid reason the answer was yes.
Maybe it was just because she'd spent so much time thinking about her recently but Kris couldn't fathom just walking away. The dark-haired one glanced at Emma; always at her side with that soothing smile of hers. Kris knew that what Emma was saying had some measure of truth to it -- that she was making a mistake by not stepping away from Bonnie when she had the chance, that the consequences of being wrong were too damn big -- but it rang hollow somehow. Maybe because it was coming from a girl who was so loved up she was drunk on it.
"What about you and Summer?" Asked Kris, changing the subject. "How'd it go?"
Emma's concerned smile slickly morphed into a sly grin. "My hips are still sore."
"That good, huh?"
"Eventually. She was tender with me the first time around. I'm just lucky my Mom didn't catch us."
Kris frowned at her. "You slept with her while your Mom was in the house?"
"No, don't be stupid. We were in the middle of things when my Mom and my brother walked in. We didn't get caught because we were upstairs and my baby has a good ear. And as it happens Summer and my Mom got on real well."
"Is that right?" Jabbed Kris. "And would she be breaking out the cheddar biscuits if she knew Summer deflowered her daughter?"
Emma wiggled her nose at that. "I think the whole `Summer being a girl' thing would hit her harder, don't you?"
Somehow it seemed less funny when Kris thought of it like that. She and Emma were unique. Kris liked to think that a great deal of the kids out there growing up gay had no one to turn to outside of the internet or a guidance counsellor's office. She felt she was lucky in that she had Emma; a living, breathing lesbian friend. At the end of the day though, that was all they had, each other. That was why Emma was in a position to suggest things about Bonnie that Kris would allow no one else to. Neither one of them considered telling their parents about their sexuality. Not yet.
"So how's it going with her?" Asked Kris as she tugged her gym bag and hockey stick over her shoulder. "Really."
Emma gleefully gushed, stretching out her arms and admiring the rainbow pattern of her cute little ice rink mittens. "I'm crazy about this girl. I know things are moving kinda fast but I like her so darn much. She understands me, you know? It's not about the sex. I really think we can go the distance. Except..."
Kris sighed. "Holly-Raine Johnson."
"We talked about her," Emma and Kris left the locker room together as she explained. "I don't have a shot with Summer unless we're like... best buds."
"Would it be that big of a deal?"
Emma wiggled her nose again. "...I don't like the idea of my girlfriend hanging around with someone like that. Is that unfair? C'mon. If it was Bonnie palling around with the town slut, wouldn't YOU be nervous?"
Kris said nothing.
"...Oh. Too soon?"
She squeezed an invisible marker between her trim fingers. "Just a smidge."
"Sorry," Emma stuck her tongue out sheepishly.
Down the length of the darkened corridor you could still feel a chill from the rink. Even with her coat and mittens Emma shivered at it. Luckily Schmitz was waiting for them at the door. His cantankerous expression belied the sympathy he'd extended to Kris tonight. All of a sudden she felt even guiltier for having him risk his job solely for her venting needs.
"I really appreciate you doing this for me," Thanked the girl. "You aren't gonna tell my Pop, are you?"
Schmitz's vocal exhalation confirmed that he wouldn't. "...I'm not gonna saying anything. But this has got to be the LAST time, Kristine. I can't afford to lose this job right now and I can't have my Uncle ripping me a new one for it."
Though they parted on hugs he didn't shed any tears when the girls made their way out and the chill of the ice rink was replaced by the chalky warmth of a Texas summer night. Emma peeled off her mittens before she started sweating them off.
"Can I ask you a question?"
Kris followed her to the empty bus stop down the street. "Shoot."
"Why'd you call your cousin `Schmitz'...?"
"Oh, he was a messy eater as a kid. My Aunt Betty used to say she could earn a living wiping the 'schmutz' from his face and it snowballed from there. Why?"
"No reason. It's cute."
A little smirk. "Oh I forgot...! You're country by commute not birth."
"Hey, don't even start that out-of-towner crap with me. I eat chilli, my Dad loves the Cowboys and hates the Redskins, and my Mom's a card-carrying Republican. I'm more Texan than Dubya."
That was a hard argument to make with those darn New York fashionable mittens of hers but it made Kris chuckle all the same. That was another thing she and Emma shared. A displacement. They just weren't like everyone else around them. That was one of the reasons they gravitated to one and other so flawlessly.
Kris and Emma waited only a few minutes for a bus (they were quicker coming by these days) and rode it all the way home. They exchanged a quick hug before Emma disembarked by her block. It was a little further to go for Kris who got off six stops later and walked the rest of the way home. When she unlocked her door she found her father fast asleep in the lounge. He snoozed in the warmth of his russet leather armchair with a copy of Entertainment Weekly in his lap and a coffee froth moustache encrusting upon his upper lip. The glow of the TV screen lit up his burly profile in the darkness.
She could've woken him up to tell him she was back but Kris thought better of it. Her Dad worked hard all week and she hated disturbing him, so she crept out of the lounge and up her stairs as quietly as possible.
It was when she had unpacked her hockey gear, whilst she was busy cleaning the slushy wetness off the blade of her skates, that the phone call came. Her cell phone buzzed. Kris knew at once that it wasn't Emma. If you had to place a bet on who Emma would be on the phone with now you'd be a fool not to slap a buck on Summer. No one else made a habit of calling her at this time of night. As she unzipped the pocket in which she'd slipped her phone the shy smile of a blonde girl bounced back and forth inside her skull.
But it wasn't a blonde voice on the other end. "Hey. It's me."
* In keeping with my new "smaller-and-more" updating policy, this new chapter of Smells Like Sapphic Spirit is shorter than usual (about 2700 words or so). The benefit of this is that it lets me update more frequently. I think this chapter works better short because I'd prefer to stay in Kris' perspective right now.
* Send any and all comments firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my blog; http://ksn-kaiser.blogspot.com/ and make your voice known.