Y’all remember Keslie from Sea Glass & Pressed Flowers, right? Well… I might have gotten attached to her and planned a whole series of short stories with her as the main character. This is the second of currently five planned short stories following her and her friends (as will be introduced mostly in this story), and hopefully you like them, because there are going to be several, lol. Enjoy. :)
“Keslie Bardell, would you please pay attention when I’m talking to you?”
Keslie’s gaze snapped up to the front of the classroom and she turned beet red. This was at least the fifth time she’d been caught gazing out the window in class today. “Yes, Miss Pieterse.” All eyes turned to Keslie, but as soon as the teacher started talking again they looked away.
“Thank you. Now as I was saying, the correct way to shade a sphere is to….”
Keslie’s mind wandered again. She was missing her dad again, as usual. She drew her gaze away from the window for the umpteenth time and decided to set her attention to listing off as many things as she could about each student in the room.
Dominic Cole. Running back for the school football team, best friend since who-knows-when, barista at the Piano Shoppe Cafe.
Teresa Kyle. Cheer captain, semi-friend semi-acquaintance, loves painting.
Her gaze stopped on the new girl. Livi Brooklyn? She didn’t really know much about her, but she seemed quite absorbed in her classes all day. Unlike Keslie… The girl had silky black hair that fell in waves to drape around her shoulders, and her Asian features were quite pretty. She wore bright yellow Converse, which immediately made Keslie think of Dominic; they were his favorite kind of shoe.
The bell rang and Mrs. Pieterse gave them their assignment. “On Friday I’d like a piece of work that shows any pencil techniques you remember from last year. You’re dismissed.”
Keslie hurriedly stuffed her supplies into her backpack, making it even heavier than it already was and hurried out of class to find her mom. The red SUV wasn’t at the sidewalk yet, which surprised her. She saw someone skip up beside her, bright colors catching her vision out of the corner of her eye. She turned to see Livi standing beside her, a pink floral backpack slung over her shoulder, bright yellow top almost neon and pink skirt the color of bubble gum.
Livi turned to Keslie and extended a hand. “Hi,” she said with a bright grin. “I’m Livi Brooklyn. I’m riding with you to dance class.”
Keslie shook her hand. “Keslie Bardell.” She almost winced. Of course Livi already knew that. She’d been called out several times by name. “You dance?”
Livi nodded, dropping Keslie’s hand. “Since I was little. It reminds me of my mom. She was a dancer. She died when I was five. It almost makes me feel like she’s here again when I dance.” Another bright smile. Her teeth were almost perfectly white.
“That’s cool,” Keslie said, at a loss for words. Livi was more talkative than anyone she’d met before, and she was shocked she spoke so freely of her deceased mother.
“What does your mom do?”
“She’s a journalist. She’s working on writing a book right now, too.”
“That’s cool. Does she write for magazines or the paper?”
“I’ll have to buy one later. What about your dad?”
“I’m not sure, actually. I think he’s a piano teacher. He lives up in Nebraska.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“Yeah.” Keslie gave a wry smile. “What about your dad?”
“He’s an architect.” The red SUV pulled up. “Is that your mom?”
Livi skipped over to the car and slipped into the back seat, and Keslie walked around the other side and got in. “Hi mom.”
“Hi sweetie. Hello, Livi.”
“Hello, Mrs. Bardell.”
Livi talked Keslie’s ear off the whole drive, and Keslie tried to pay attention. In truth she was a little overwhelmed, but she didn’t want to be rude. Livi rode home with them after dance and skipped up to the door after Mrs. Bardell.
“My dad won’t be home until six,” she explained, “So your mom offered to let me stay until he gets back.”
“Dominic and I actually were planning on studying together this afternoon…” Keslie said, looking at her mother.
“Oh. Well I can stay out of the way if you need me to. Or I could help out? Either one works for me. You live right on the beach, so I could certainly amuse myself while I wait.” She grinned.
“I’ll get you girls some cookies,” Mrs. Bardell said.
“Thanks!” Livi said.
“I’ll see what Dominic says,” Keslie said with a polite smile. “Do you want to leave your backpack in my room?”
Livi nodded and followed Keslie up the stairs to her bedroom at the end of the hall. Keslie set her backpack on the bed and Livi tossed hers with it, but her attention was on the sea glass sun-catcher in the window. She brushed it with her fingers.
“This is beautiful! Did you make it?”
Livi’s attention was riveted on the sun-catcher for several more minutes before it was drawn to a framed piece above the bed, pressed daisies on a bright blue background. “This one too?”
Keslie nodded again. “My dad and I pressed flowers up in Nebraska when we went to visit my grandparents one year, before he and my mom split up. I kept them in a tin for a long time.”
“They’re beautiful like this.”
“Thank you.” The doorbell rang. “That’ll be Dominic. I’ll be back in a minute.” Keslie rushed down the stairs and opened the door. Dominic stepped inside, his backpack over his shoulder.
“Hey, Keslie.” He smiled, making his blue eyes sparkle under a crop of black hair.
“Hey, Dominic. Livi Brooklyn is here, so she might be studying with us.”
Dominic nodded. “She seems cool. We talked a bit in the hallway before class today.”
“She’s very chatty.”
Mrs. Bardell came out of the kitchen with a plate of fudge-striped cookies on a plate. “Hello, Dominic. Would you like some cookies?”
“Yes please.” He took a couple of cookies. “Thank you.”
Mrs. Bardell looked at Keslie. “Is Livi upstairs?”
“Here, take this up with you.” She handed her the plate.
“This is dangerous, Mom.” A teasing smile came onto Keslie’s face.
“I trust you.” Mrs. Bardell winked and headed back through the kitchen to the dining room, where she’d had her laptop set up for the past several days.
Dominic took a bite of cookie and followed Keslie upstairs. Keslie set the plate on her desk, across from the bed, and Livi rushed to grab cookies like a magnet drawn to metal.
“Hi, Dom,” Livi said with her mouth full of food. She waved.
Dominic waved back with a smile. “Hello, Livi. How are you?”
“Excellent, now that I have cookies.” She gave a crumb-filled grin.
“I’m sure it was just unbearable before that,” Dominic joked, his eyes dancing.
“Oh yes. Absolutely.” Livi swallowed the cookie and grinned.
The study session flew by, Livi and Dominic joking and teasing the whole time and Keslie keeping them on track as necessary.
Livi looked at the digital clock by Keslie’s bed. “It’s seven o’clock already! I’m surprised my dad hasn’t come to get me.” She laughed.
“I guess you’d better get home,” Keslie said, a little disappointed to see her go.
“Yeah. I just live a few doors down. 221.”
The three of them collected their supplies back into their respective backpacks and headed downstairs. Keslie heard chatting from the living room as she neared the bottom of the stairs and saw Mrs. Bardell and a middle-aged man with dark hair talking in the living room. She assumed it was Mr. Brooklyn, and her suspicion was confirmed when Livi headed in and hugged him.
“Hi, Dad,” she said, taking a seat on the couch next to him.
“Hello, Sweetheart. Did you have fun?”
Livi nodded. “Dance was awesome, and Keslie and Dominic are a lot of fun.”
“Dominic?” Mr. Brooklyn turned toward the doorway and Dominic waved.
“He and Keslie were studying this afternoon, and Dominic invited me to join them.”
Mr. Brooklyn nodded. “It’s nice to meet you. And you must be Keslie.”
“It’s nice to meet you, too. I’m Zach Brooklyn. You can call me Zach.”
“Nice to meet you.”
“Come on in,” Mrs. Bardell said. “You don’t have to stand in the doorway all evening.” She smiled. “Zach and Livi are staying for dinner.”
“We are?” Livi said, her blue eyes lighting up.
“Mrs. Bardell was kind enough to invite us to stay,” Zach replied.
“Lilah is fine,” Mrs. Bardell said. Oh, but I should go check on the meatloaf. I’ll be right back.” She disappeared into the kitchen and Keslie rubbed her arm.
“So you’re sixteen?” Zach asked.
Zach turned to Dominic. “And you’re…?”
“You have a job?”
“I work at the local cafe with Keslie.”
Keslie shifted her weight.
Zach nodded as Lilah came back into the living room. “The meatloaf’s ready.” She beckoned them toward the dining room.
Dominic leaned toward Keslie as they walked. “If I didn’t know better I’d almost think he was testing me.” A slight smile played at his lips.
Keslie bit the inside of her lip to hide a smile of her own before answering. “I’m sure he was just asking.”
They took seats around the table, grabbing the desk chair from the study and one from the desk in Lilah’s room to give Zach and Livi something to sit on.
Dinner was eaten over casual conversation, and Keslie found that her mother was acting rather strange. Not badly, but strangely. Uh oh…
“You noticed that, right?” Dominic asked as they headed to the door.
“You mean that my mom is acting in a way she hasn’t for over two years? Yeah.” Keslie bit her lip. “I really hope it’s not what I think it is…”
“I’m sure it’ll be fine if it is. Zach seems like a pretty cool guy. And you already know his daughter is awesome.” He smiled and put a hand on her shoulder. “It’ll be fine.” He headed out and put up his jacket hood as he found it was drizzling.
Keslie closed the door behind him and took a deep breath before heading back toward the dining room. The other three were standing in the kitchen talking.
“Dinner was delicious,” Zach said, “But we should probably be getting home. I’ll see you tomorrow evening? We can stick with this setup? Not necessarily dinner, since I don’t want to inconvenience you, but…”
“It was no trouble.” Lilah smiled, and Keslie saw a distinct sparkle in her eye. “I loved this setup, actually.”
“All right. Tomorrow evening, then.” He put an arm around Livi’s shoulders and Lilah walked them to the door.
“Wait!” Livi said as they reached the door. She hurried over to Keslie, who was standing on the boundary between the living room and study. “Could I have your phone number?”
Keslie nodded and Livi pulled a flower-shaped notepad and neon yellow pen from her pocket, handing them to Keslie. The number was scrawled onto the pad and the writing tools were handed back.
“Thanks.” Livi hugged Keslie before hurrying back to her dad, tucking the notepad and pen away in her backpack again.
The Brooklyns headed out into the rain and Keslie headed up to her room, flopping on the bed and closing her eyes, trying to banish what she knew was beginning to happen.
“I have to go to work,” Keslie said as Livi bounded into the house ahead of her.
“Okay. I can keep myself occupied.” Livi smiled and opened the fridge to grab the jug of milk.
“Yeah, make yourself at home.” Keslie still wasn’t sure what to make of her cheery neighbor. She was a lot of fun, but she was certainly boisterous. “I’ll be back around four, and of course mom is here for the rest of the afternoon.”
Livi nodded and poured herself a glass. “I’ll see you when you get back.”
Keslie left her backpack on the island and headed back out the door, grabbing her bike and riding to the cafe a few blocks down. She docked her turquoise bike alongside a black one she recognized as Dominic’s and headed inside, a bell above the door heralding her entry.
“Good afternoon, Keslie.”
Keslie waved to the man behind the counter, who was drying out a red ceramic mug, and headed behind the counter, grabbing an apron and tying it around her waist. She headed to the cash register just as a customer entered.
Dominic stepped behind her, filling a cup from the containers along the back wall. “Hey, Keslie.”
She finished taking the order before turning to Dominic. “Hey. Large mocha for here.”
Dominic nodded and set down the cup he’d just filled on the counter. “Green tea with extra honey for Lacy.” The customer came and got her drink, her departure rung from the door bell.
Keslie’s shift seemed to fly by and she hung up her apron with a sigh at four o’clock. Dominic hung his next to hers and turned toward her.
“Are you still up for studying this afternoon?”
Keslie nodded. “Yeah. Livi will probably be joining us again. Her coming home with me is now a normal thing.”
“Sounds good. I’ll ride home with you, then.”
They rode their bikes to Keslie’s house and Keslie spotted Livi out back on the beach, unmistakable in a bright pink bikini.
“I’ll go get Livi,” Keslie said.
The next week followed much the same way, and Keslie saw a distinct relationship growing between her mother and Mr. Brooklyn.
She was in bed Friday night when her phone chirped. She grabbed it from the bedside table and opened a text from Livi.
You see what I see, right?
Keslie took a deep breath before tapping out her reply. Yeah. Love is in the air.
We could be sisters!
Keslie couldn’t help the smile that spread across her face. She may not be crazy about her mom being in a relationship, but having Livi as a sister wouldn’t be bad. That would be cool. How do you feel about it?
There was a short lapse before Livi replied. I’m not sure. I think I’m happy for them.
Keslie hesitated, looking past her phone at the wall opposite her bed. Yeah. But it hasn’t been very long since she entirely cut things off with my dad. Only about a month.
They were divorced two years ago, but he came back to visit about a month ago to see me. She told him to leave again.
I’m sorry. What do you think of my dad?
He’s cool, I guess, but he’s not my dad.
Yeah. Same with your mom. She seems pretty cool. It’s been a long time since I lost my mom, but I still remember her. She was a bit like your mom, actually, but she was a dancer, not a writer.
The conversation went on for another hour or so before Keslie glanced at the clock and saw it was already midnight and told Livi goodnight. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.
The phone rang and Keslie picked it up. “Hello?”
“Hey, Kez. It’s Livi. I was wondering if you wanted to come over today and hang out.”
“Sure. I’ll ask mom.”
“Dad already talked to her last night. She said it’s fine.”
“All right. I’ll be over in five minutes.”
“Cool! See ya!”
The connection clicked and Keslie hung up, heading up to her room to slip on a pair of sandals before heading two doors down to Livi’s house. She had barely knocked when the door opened and Livi’s beaming face greeted her.
“Hey! Come on in!” Keslie stepped inside and Livi closed the door. “I invited Dominic over, too. He’ll be here in just a couple of minutes.”
Keslie nodded, biting the inside of her lip to keep from smiling. Livi’s joy was contagious.
Livi chattered at Keslie before the doorbell rang and Dominic came in.
“Hey, Dom! How are you?”
Dominic grinned. “I’m doing well. How are you?”
“Fabulous as always!” Livi twirled, her yellow skirt spinning around her. “Come on, we can chat in my room.”
The two guests followed Livi up the stairs and into a room that was painted – surprise, surprise – bright yellow. Prisms were set up all over the room to reflect rainbows on everything, and there were numerous bright paintings hanging on the walls.
“Did you do all those?” Dominic asked, pointing to a painting of an autumn forest next to the window.
“Yep! Those were a lot of fun. That one’s my favorite. I painted it last year when I went to visit my grandparents for Thanksgiving. They live on a farm with a lot of wooded areas behind it, and I always have a lot of fun exploring. I update the painting every year, sometimes with paints, sometimes with pencil. It depends on my mood that year. I’m looking forward to going again this year. Maybe you could come.”
“That sounds like a cool place.”
“The coolest. They grow pumpkins, apples, and corn, mostly. They have a couple of horses, too, and Jake has a cat named Pumpkin.”
“Who’s Jake?” Dominic asked.
“He’s their only employee. They’ve kind of adopted him as a grandson, too, so he’s part of the family now. I think you’d both like him. He has a really cool accent.”
“These are cool,” Dominic said, flipping through a collection of vinyls that sat in a box next to a record player.
“Thanks! I’ve collected them for years. I love retro stuff. Records, polaroids, stuff like that.” She grabbed a polaroid camera from her desk. “I keep meaning to get you guys together so we can get a picture. We should do that today. We should head onto the beach and get a picture. I don’t actually listen to those super often, though. I tend to listen to my iPod instead. It’s got a lot of good music on it, too. And I have, like, five pairs of headphones.”
“You’re really into music, aren’t you,” Dominic asked with a chuckle.
“Yep. It’s an escape of mine. Ooh, you know what? I think I have some string around here. We could make friendship bracelets!”
Keslie grinned and Dominic laughed.
“You’re such a flibbertigibbet,” Dominic said.
“I know. My dad calls me that all the time.” Livi rolled her eyes with a grin. “One of his nicknames for me is Gibby, for that reason.” She dug through one of the drawers in her desk and pulled out a package of string. “Here we are. Come on. We can sit on the beach and make them. Maybe we can find some seashells to add on.” She grabbed her camera and rushed down the steps and through the living room to the back door. Dominic and Keslie followed, and Keslie closed the sliding door behind her.
Livi was already to the very water’s edge by the time Keslie got there, and Dominic was only a few steps ahead of the blonde.
“This is a nice spot. I’m glad Dad picked it.” Livi plopped down on the sand and opened the package of string, pulling out the brightest colors she could find and handing the package off to Dominic, who was sitting between the two girls now. “Aw crab-apples! I forgot to grab a pair of scissors!” She jumped up and ran inside, rushing back a moment later with a small pair of bright pink scissors. There were happy face stickers all over the handle.
Livi got up and looked around for seashells several times as they were weaving their bracelets and had soon amassed a small pile in front of them. It took her almost twenty minutes to finish hers, because she kept getting distracted, while Keslie had two done in that time. It helped that Keslie had drawn from Livi’s pile, with permission of course, instead of having to hunt the beach for them.
“There we go!” Livi held up her rainbow-colored bracelet with a broad smile on her face. “All finished!” She handed it to Dominic. “Here you go.”
He tied it around his wrist and handed her the one he’d finished, a bright pink and yellow one.
“Aw, it’s perfect!” She tied it one with a grin and started to work on a second bracelet.
In two hours all three of them had wrists covered in bracelets, each one unique.
“Now we have to get a picture of our wrists,” Livi said, “Because this is cool.”
She got a picture of their arms and tucked it into her pocket so the sun wouldn’t ruin it.
“Let’s get some goofy pictures,” Dominic said.
“I don’t make good silly faces,” Keslie protested.
“Oh it’ll be fine,” Livi said. “And even if the faces aren’t great, it’ll still be fun.” She grinned. “Let’s do it.”
Keslie followed them onto Livi’s back porch, pretending to be reluctant but truthfully trying not to grin. Hanging out with Dominic and Livi had quickly become one of her favorite things to do because they were such fun to be around and were always up to something. They were basically the twins while she was the responsible older sister who pretended to be stern but truly loved watching them tease and play around.
Dominic wrapped his arms around both their shoulders and went into a cross-eyed grin, while Livi stuck her tongue out and winked. Keslie felt lame doing nothing more than sticking her tongue out, but she wasn’t creative when it came to silly faces.
“Awesome!” Livi said. “Now we just have to wait for them to develop.” She grinned and wrapped her arms around their necks. “You guys are awesome.”
“It’s cool how we’ve become like siblings in so short a time,” Dominic said with a grin. “I mean, Keslie I’ve known forever, but still. We didn’t tend to joke around this much.”
Keslie smiled. She definitely wouldn’t mind having Livi for a sister. This was a family she could get used to.