Second Kiss by Chelsea M. Cameron




  One

  “Hello, Daisy Grace,” she said. Normally, my name doesn’t make me into a clumsy fool, but that voice did. The measuring cup full of milk slipped from my fingers and splattered all over the floor of the bakery.

  “Shit,” I said under my breath, grabbing a towel to clean it up. I couldn’t turn. Not yet.

  “Oh, sorry about that,” she said, and I still couldn’t look at her. How long had it been? She’d moved away just before high school started, so that was . . . more years than I felt like doing the math on as I tried not to cry over spilled milk.

  “It’s fine,” I said to the floor as I mopped up the rest of the milk. It was on my shoes too. Great. Now I’m going to have to wash them. Not like they don’t get covered in flour on a daily basis, but having shoes that smell of old milk wasn’t something I wanted.

  I finally stood and turned. There she was. Molly Madison. My childhood BFF who was now a twenty-two-year-old woman standing in front of me.

  “Hey,” she said when my eyes made it from her sandal-clad feet—toes painted a cute mint green—to her black maxi dress and up to her face. A face I had stared at during summers at the beach and winters during sleepovers, watching the moonlight move across it. She was the same. Almost exactly the same.

  “Hey,” I said, feeling like all the oxygen I’d been saving in my lungs had deserted me. Her eyes were still blue, her hair was still dark with subtle highlights of red. Her cheeks were still round and high, even more so when she smiled. Like she was doing now. But it was a trembling smile. A smile I hadn’t seen in so long.

  “Daisy!” Jen, one of my bosses called. Her wife, Sal was the other half of the duo. Jen was always the more stern of the two, so when she said my name like that, I knew she meant business.

  “Yeah?” I asked, turning back toward the kitchen where she was putting together sandwiches for an order.

  “You okay in there?” I locked eyes with her. She must have seen my milktastrophe and she knew me well enough to know when I was rattled. Like right now.

  “Sure, fine,” I said, but I wasn’t convincing anyone.

  “Okay. Just remember that we have to get those orders started tonight so we have them for this weekend.” Right. I totally forgot. In addition to being Violet Hill Café, we also sometimes hosted events, including a birthday party this weekend for one of our favorite customers.

  I nodded at her and then she finished the sandwich and shoved it on the counter for one of the servers to pick up and take to a customer.

  “Why don’t you take your fifteen now?” she called back to me, her eyes flicking between me and Molly.

  “Oh,” I said. I looked over at Molly and she was still staring at me. I could only imagine how much flour and other baking supplies I had on my face, and my hair was definitely falling from its clip. I’d recently gotten it cut and it wasn’t quite long enough to stay up all the time. I was also still getting used to the undercut on one side. Molly’s eyes had raked across it and I wondered what she thought. I wondered a lot of things actually. Namely, what the fuck was she doing here?

  “Sure,” I said. “Uh, give me a sec?” I held up my milk and flour covered hands to Molly and she nodded.

  “No problem.” I quickly scrubbed off the worst and hoped my hair was arranged. She was still within my sightline, so I couldn’t exactly fix myself without her seeing. And I didn’t want her seeing me doing that.

  “Um, why don’t you come around the back?” I asked, pointing to the door. Violet Hill was a wide-open space, punctuated with shabby tables, chairs, and couches. A comfortable place that looked like it had been decorated with only yard sale finds. Which it had been. The bakery was only separated from everything else by a half-wall that had my sinks and supplies, with the ovens and shelves on the wall behind me. At first, it was a bit unnerving knowing that the customers could see me while I was working all day, but I got used to it.

  I ushered Molly out the back door and into the little courtyard that most of the other employees used as a gossip-slash-smoking area. A few rusty café tables and lawn chairs were strewn about. I took a chair and Molly sat on one as well.

  “What the fuck are you doing here? I thought you moved to Chicago.” Well. That wasn’t exactly what I wanted my opening line to be, but whatever.

  She shrugged one shoulder.

  “Moved back. Got left the cottage when Gram died and wanted a change. So. Here I am.” She folded her hands and looked down at them. I was still having problems processing this.

  “Oh,” I said. I sounded like I didn’t know another word.

  “I know it’s been a long time, but I heard that you worked here so . . .” She spread her hands and shrugged again. “I thought it would be nice to see you and catch up.” Catch up. Yeah, I’m sure we can catch up the almost nine years that we haven’t seen each other.

  “You said you were going to write. Or call. Or email.” She’d promised. And then she didn’t. I’d tried again and again and figured my best friend had just found a new best friend. Or maybe it had to do with that party at Elizabeth Walker’s house. What happened that night shoved itself to the forefront of my brain.

  “I know. I’m so sorry. Things were just . . .” she trailed off and then shook her head. “There’s no excuse for it, really. I’m sorry. I bailed on you. Completely.” I crossed my arms.

  “Yeah, you did. So what do you want from me? Forgiveness? From so many years ago?” She opened her mouth to respond and then shut it.

  “You look really good, by the way.” Well, that was out of left field. She looked good, too. Clearly, she had filled out more since I’d seen her last because she was working that maxi dress. I had to tell myself not to stare at her chest. She wasn’t into girls.

  “So do you,” I said reluctantly, wiping some sweat from my upper lip. It was cooler out here than in the bakery, so I was going to enjoy the breeze and the palpable tension.

  “I . . . I don’t know what I want. I just wanted to see you. And to see how you were doing. What you’d done with your life. I thought about you. So many times. I almost contacted you, but then I couldn’t.” Why not? I was sure she had some excellent explanation. Maybe she’d been abducted. Or she joined a cult.

  “I thought about you a lot,” she said again, and I couldn’t help but feel a twang of pain as I saw the regret written plainly on her face. Maybe she should have done something about it sooner? Like, an email? A Facebook message? Fucking social media had made communication easier than ever. So why now?

  She sighed.

  “I know you’re probably pissed at me. And I don’t blame you. I just . . . Do you think we could maybe have some coffee and talk?” I snort. I work in a fucking coffee shop.

  “Oh, right,” she said when she saw my look. “Or maybe a drink? Or some pizza? I don’t know. I would really just like to catch up. Do you think we could do that?” I wanted to say no. I wanted to tell her that I’d been living without her for years and I’d been doing just fine. But that’s not what happened.

  “Sure,” I said in a choked voice. I’m not sure how it happened, but it did. And then I realized that my break was over and I needed to get back to work. There were croissants that needed to be rolled and bread to be baked and cookies to decorate.

  “Great,” she said, standing up and wiping her hands on her dress. As if her palms were sweaty. I hoped she was just as nervous as I was.

  “So, um, here’s my number,” she said, handing me a business card from her bag. Huh. A business card. How adult. I didn’t read it as I took it from her and tucked it into my apron pocket.

  “Okay. I’ll call you,” I said, my voice sounding like not my own. She gave me a little smile that seemed hopeful.

  “Good. I look forward to hearing from y
ou. And catching up.” I walked her back through the café and she lifted her hand in a little wave before she was out the door. Didn’t buy anything. Huh. Whatever.

  I went back to work and Jen came over to talk to me.

  “So. What was that?” she asked me, leaning against the counter and crossing her arms. She was rocking some seriously gorgeous cat eyeliner and red lipstick today and had her brown hair up in the perfect messy bun.

  “What was what?” I said, covering my hands with flour so I could knead some dough for sandwich bread.

  “That girl that came in here. That was some major sexual tension if I do say so myself.” I stared at her.

  “Are you kidding?” I shoved my fingers in the dough. I wasn’t focusing on my work. I was too stunned at what Jen had said.

  “Um, no. I would never kid about something like that. Seriously, I thought you were going to jump over the counter and start making out with her.” What the fuck is she talking about?

  “What?” I said, blinking a few times. Jen laughed.

  “Oh, my sweet baby.” She patted my cheek and started whistling as she went back to the kitchen.

  Seriously, though. What the fuck?

  Two

  I pulled Molly’s card out of my apron before I left work and slid it into my jeans pocket.

  When I got back to my apartment, which was walking distance of the café, I fed my cat—I know I am a lesbian cliché—Pumpkin, and stripped off my clothes before heading to the shower. I had to shower immediately when I got home so I didn’t track flour everywhere. I also smelled like baked goods all the time and it could be kind of irritating when you were trying to cut down on carbs.

  After my shower, I wrapped myself in my fluffiest robe and sat down on the couch with a cup of tea. The card was black with white glossy font.

  Molly Madison, Social Media Marketer. And PR professional. Interesting. I turned the card over and saw a phone number as well as several social media accounts. That wasn’t what I saw her going into, but it fit. She’d always been good with people and computers, so I guess that worked. Didn’t explain what she was doing back here, though. I didn’t think there were a whole lot of job opportunities in this small town in Maine, but maybe she worked remotely?

  Why was I thinking about this? It didn’t matter. We were going to meet up, catch up, and then I’d go back to never hearing from her again.

  What Jen said was still bothering me. Sexual tension between me and Molly? I had no idea what she meant. I wasn’t into Molly and she wasn’t into me. We hadn’t even seen each other in years, and when we’d been friends it hadn’t been . . .

  I was completely ignoring what happened at that one party. It didn’t count. “Spin the Bottle” doesn’t count.

  It. Didn’t. Count.

  Still, I grabbed my phone and decided to do the cowardly thing and send her a text message.

  Hey, this is Daisy. I’m free tomorrow night if you want to go out.

  That sounded suspiciously like an invitation for a date, but I wasn’t sure how else to phrase it, so I sent the damn thing anyway. She responded immediately.

  Sounds great! How about Zukos?

  I couldn’t help but smile. Zukos was the pizza place that we always used to go to when we were kids. More than one pizza party had taken place under that roof. What a throwback.

  Sure. Is seven okay?

  My hands trembled a little as I sent the message. Why was I flipping out? I was still angry, but it had cooled somewhat. Now I was nervous and curious. Curious enough to actually go through with it.

  Sounds good. Meet you there. I’m really looking forward to it. She added a cute little winking emoji that was at odds with the tone of our conversation earlier. Huh. Seemed like she was trying to mend fences or bridges or however the saying went.

  Now I just had to fret about everything until tomorrow night. I even got out the photo album my mom had made. Molly was in a lot of those pictures. Birthdays and sleepovers and trips to the beach. We both smiled with missing teeth, arms around each other.

  Best friends forever. We’d even had those heart necklaces.

  I sighed. Funny how things could change. Lives changed. People changed.

  *^*^*

  I had to rush home after work the next night so I’d have enough time to shower and get myself presentable before seeing Molly. I didn’t want to look like I was trying too hard, but I didn’t want to look like a slob either. Was there something between fancy and not fancy at all? I wasn’t sure. Usually I just wore clothes I didn’t care about getting covered in chocolate and jam and baking powder. Not that I didn’t dress up every now and then, but as I looked through my closet, nothing really jumped out at me as something I wanted to wear.

  Finally, I settled on a pair of jeans, my most comfortable sandals, a cute tank top, and a few silver rings. Simple. I kept the makeup light and brushed out my hair and dried it until it was straight. I wasn’t a bombshell, with my brown eyes and brown hair and average everything else, but I could clean up okay.

  Why was I thinking about that? This wasn’t a date. I mentally smacked myself.

  Of course I arrived five minutes early, but when I walked in, Molly was already sitting down in one of the booths, tapping her fingers on the table.

  She rose when she saw me, rocking another beautiful dress. She’d always loved wearing dresses when we were kids. Guess that hadn’t changed.

  Her cheeks flushed and I tried not to think about how pretty she was.

  “Hey,” she said, reaching her arms out. Probably for a hug. I ended up just sort of walking into them and she wrapped them around me. She’s only about three inches shorter than me. Growing up, we’d been evenly matched in terms of height.

  She let me go and let out a tiny little sigh and then sat back down.

  “I thought you were going to bail on me,” she said, putting her fingers on the table and softly drumming them again. I wanted to reach out and make her stop, but I didn’t want to touch her any more than was necessary.

  “I wanted to. I thought about it.” I figured honesty was the best policy, right?

  “I thought that you might. I know . . . we have a lot to talk about.” The waitress came and asked what we wanted to drink. I figured why the hell not have booze, and ordered a mojito. Molly does too. As soon as the waitress left, I busied myself with the giant menu so I didn’t have to look at her and trace the sweep of her eyeliner with my eyes, or look at her lips as they moved as she talked.

  The words on the menu swam in front of my eyes and she coughed. I looked at her over the top of the menu.

  “So, um, what are you gonna get? I thought maybe we could share a pizza? Or something?” She was really giving this a lot of effort, I had to give her that.

  “Sure. Tomatoes and olives?” I said and she smiled.

  “Tomatoes and olives.” Guess that hadn’t changed either. We still liked the same kind of pizza.

  “So, you’re in PR and marketing?” I asked after we shared a moment of super intense eye contact that made me blush a little.

  “Uh, yeah. I ended up going to the University of New Hampshire and majoring in communications, and then got more into advertising and social media when that started taking off as a marketing tool. I guess I’m pretty good at it.” She shrugged one shoulder. Modest. Always modest Molly.

  “That’s great. And you like doing it?” I asked. She nodded.

  “I do. I know some people see it as superficial, but it’s a lot of hard work. It’s a lot of figuring out why people click on the things they click on and how to get them to click on something.” That made sense. She asked me how long I’d been working at the café.

  “Well, I went to college and tried out a few majors, when I started working in a grocery store bakery doing the graveyard shift and I found that I liked it better than I liked going to school. So I dropped out and I’ve been bouncing around ever since.”

  She stirred her drink with her straw.

  “You
r mom must be happy to have you around.” I laughed a little.

  “That’s an understatement. I have never seen a parent so thrilled that her daughter was dropping out of college.” I was an only child, so all the burden of succeeding was on my shoulders. Fortunately, my mother set the bar pretty damn low. Basically all I had to do was have a regular job and stay out of jail and she thought I was the greatest kid ever.

  “And yours?” I asked. Molly had never really been close with her parents. They’d been so wrapped up in her brother, who was four years older and a super high achiever. Not that she wasn’t. She got good grades and did a lot of activities, but since she wasn’t a National Merit Scholar, she couldn’t compete with him.

  “They’re fine,” she said, sipping her drink. Oh. There was definitely a story there. I’d seen her parents a few times over the years when they’d moved back. They’d never liked me, so we didn’t even exchange a hello, despite me having been under their roof almost as much as I’d been under my own.

  “And Jason?” I said, asking about her brother.

  She smiled, but her lips twitched just a tiny bit.

  “He’s good. Married. Has two little boys. He lives in Minnesota now.” Oh, wow. I didn’t keep track of him, but I knew he’d moved away.

  She pressed her lips together and I could tell that this was part of the catching up that she definitely wanted to get past. Okay, then.

  “So, are you working a lot here or . . .” I trailed off. I was pretty terrible at this whole situation. Hopefully that meant we could end it sooner. I was starting to regret coming. And I needed another drink. I sucked down my first one and rattled the ice a little to see if the waitress would hear and bring me another one. She did. I’d have to take it slow on the second one because I was a bit of a lightweight.

  “I’m trying. Things are a little up in the air right now,” she said. She hadn’t even finished half her drink yet. Always the more moderate of the two of us.

  “Yeah?” I said.

  She nodded. Our pizza finally arrived and we busied ourselves with chewing and trying not to burn our tongues on the melted cheese. This was going so well.

 
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