Helping others was something she had done since the second grade. She was in girl scouts then, and her troop visited a local nursing home regularly. Each of the girls in the troop had ‘adopted’ a grandparent and while some stopped visiting after just a few months, Katie continued visiting Mrs. Reynolds for almost 2 years. She would go by at least once a week just to sit with her sometimes. Mrs. Reynolds died when Katie was in the 4th grade, but she had never forgotten the sweet elderly lady, or how much she enjoyed helping her.
As a junior in high school, Katie still made time to do what she could to help others, though it was usually outside of school. It seems that at school, everyone was too busy trying to be cool and didn’t have time to be nice and help others.
Every year there were new elective classes added to the curriculum. More choices for the students to make, like there weren’t already enough. Katie had heard there would be several additions this year, but she didn’t care. She would take the classes she needed, her art class and nothing else. Most years, she didn’t even know what the new classes were.
On the first day of the school yeah, her junior year, Katie went to school as usual, driving her old Beetle the 6 miles. She waved to a few friends in the parking lot.
“Hey Katie, have you heard about the new class they’ve added this year?” Tom asked.
“No, I haven’t heard anything. And you know me, I always take art,” Katie responded.
“Yeah, I know you do. But I think you’re gonna like this new class,” Tom said.
“I doubt it,” Katie said with a shrug.
“Let’s make a bet. If you like the class, you go out with me. If you don’t like, I promise never to ask you again!”
Katie stopped walking and stared at Tom, eyebrows raised. “You’ll never ask again?”
“Then you’ve got a bet!” she said, walking away and leaving Tom staring after her.
When Katie entered the main building, she saw a cluster of students around the bulletin board outside the office. She knew they were looking over the list of new classes, including the one she had just bet on.
She waited a few minutes for the crowd to clear before stepping forward to read the list. Unimpressed, she read out loud to herself, “Shop class, horticulture, chemistry II. Chemistry II? Who would take that as an elective?” Not impressed, she continued reading in silence. She had read most of the list and was about to walk away when the word ‘volunteer’ grabbed her attention.
“What?” she said to no one in particular. That’s when she saw it. The last class was listed as ‘community volunteer course.’ In parenthesis, a brief description of ‘earn a school credit while helping your community.’ Glancing around to see if anyone was watching, she stepped closer and read it again.
Several thoughts were racing through her mind. One was that she could tell Tom she wasn’t going to take the class and had no interest in it. But he would know she was lying. Or she could sign up and go out with Tom. He wasn’t so bad. He was kinda cute. He had a great sense of humor.
She laughed when she realized she was trying to convince herself to go out with him. She wanted to take the class. She could handle ONE date with Tom.
“So, do we have a date?”
Katie almost jumped out of her skin when Tom spoke from right behind her.
“Dangit, Tom! Don’t do that!” She said, hitting him on the arm.
“Ow,” he said, rubbing his arm with a grin on his face. “Well?”
She glared at him for a minute then rolled her eyes.
“One date. That’s it. No more. No kissing. No handholding. Got it?”
Grinning stupidly, Tom replied, “Yes ma’am!”
Tom loped off in the direction of his next class, but not before giving her a salute, “Laters!”
Katie rolled her eyes again before heading in the opposite direction for the girl’s restroom. Her next class was art and she knew the teacher wouldn’t mind if she was a minute or two late. She put her books and bag on the shelf near the door and paced back and forth, muttering to herself.
“I can’t believe I have a date with Tom!”
She had never told anyone that she had had a crush on him since Jr. High, Tom didn’t even know. Everyone thought they were just best friends. Now they were going on a date. On one hand, she was thrilled. On the other, she was terrified. What if the date was horrible and their friendship ended? What if he didn’t feel the same way she did?
Pacing and biting her nail, she asked herself, “What am I gonna do?”
Carly, another long time friend of Katie’s, suddenly appeared from one of the stalls.
“Just go out with him and stop worrying about it! You’ll have a blast, you guys were made for each other!”
Exasperated, Katie asked Carly, “What are you doing in here?”
“Umm, peeing. That’s ok, right?”
With a sigh, Katie apologized. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to shout at you. I’m just so nervous about this.”
“There’s no reason to be nervous. Tom is your best friend. What’s the big deal?”
Katie covered her face with her hands and mumbled in to them, “I’ve had a crush on Tom since Jr. High.”
“What did you say? Oh my gawd! You have a crush on Tom? Why didn’t I know this?”
“Nobody knows, not even Tom. I didn’t want to ruin our friendship. And now this. What if it ruins everything?”
“We gotta get to class. I’ll come over after school and we’ll talk, okay?” Carly said, grabbing Katie’s arm and aiming her towards the door.
Katie took her bag and books from the shelf. “Okay, that sounds good. I’m glad my next class is art so I don’t have to think!”
That afternoon, Carly drove to Katie’s house after school. Katie wasn’t home yet, but Carly and Katie had been friends for years, so she let herself in. She went to the kitchen where she knew she would find Katie’s mom cooking dinner.
“Hey, Mrs. C! How are you? Oh that smells good, what is it?”
“Hi Carly! I’m good and its chicken and dumplings. It’ll be ready in about an hour.”
“Okay great,” Carly said as she grabbed a soda from the fridge. “I’ll be up in Katie’s room!”
“Alright,” Mrs. C. said to Carly’s back as she headed up the stairs.
Carly made herself at home, turning on the stereo while she waited on Katie to get home. She didn’t have to wait long.
“Oh my gawd. What am I gonna do, Carly? I have a date with Tom!” She threw herself onto the bed. “Tom, of all people!”
“So, you’ve really had a crush on him all these years and he doesn’t know? Wow.”
“I couldn’t tell him!”
“Well, you could’ve told me!”
“I didn’t want anyone to know. You’re not supposed to have a crush on your best friend. Besides, what if he doesn’t like me?”
“How many times has he asked you out?”
“Oh, I dunno. Hundreds.”
“And why do you think he keeps asking?”
“I don’t know! Because that’s what guys do?”
Rolling her eyes, Carly asked, “And how many times has he gone out with other girls?”
Katie answered instantly, “He’s never gone out with anyone!”
“Exactly!” Carly replied.
Katie gasped, realizing Carly’s point. “You think he likes me?”
“Honey, I KNOW he likes you! Nothing is more obvious!”
Katie couldn’t help the smile that spread across her face.
“So, when’s the big date?” Carly asked.
“I don’t know yet, he’s supposed to call me later.”
Katie sat there on the bed for a minute thinking about what Carly had just told her. Tom likes her! She was thrilled! She jumped up off of the bed and started dancing around the room.
Carly laughed at her. “Well, I can see you’re happy about this!”
“Yes I am!”
Just then, Katie’s cell rang. It was Tom’s ringtone. For the first time in the eight years she had known him, she was nervous about answering his call.
“Ok, so no handholding. No Kissing. Any other rules?” Tom asked, laughing.
“You keep being a smart ass and there won’t be any date!” Katie answered jokingly.
They had always teased each other, but for some reason, it suddenly felt different, awkward even.
“Okay, okay. Chill out. I was thinking something simple, like dinner and movie. Does that sound okay?”
“You know I hate gong to the movies.”
“True. I wasn’t thinking. Sorry. So what do you want to do?” he asked.
“How about bowling?”
“Sure, that’ll be fine! Pizza?”
“Okay, I’ll pick you up tomorrow around 7.”
“Okay, bye,” Katie said, hanging up her phone.
“Well, that was the oddest first date conversation I’ve ever heard!” Carly blurted out.
“What do you mean?” Katie asked. “We always talk to each other like that. I’ve known him forever.”
“I know. It was just weird!”
Laughing, Katie said, “You’re weird! Lets go eat!”
“You’re weirder,” Carly said as she followed Katie down to the kitchen.
“Well, what are you girls laughing about?” Mrs. C. asked.
Before Katie could say anything, Carly told Mrs. C “Katie has a date with Tom tomorrow night!”
“Shut up!” Katie told Carly.
“Tom? Our Tom?” Mrs. C. asked.
Sighing, Katie said, “Yes, that Tom.”
“Well, it’s about time!” Mrs. C. said.
“What?” Katie and Carly said in unison.
Mrs. C. explained, “Well, you two have been crazy about each other for years. I was wondering when this would finally happen.”
Katie shook her head, not sure what to say.
“So, when’s the date?” Mrs. C. asked.
“Tomorrow night,” Katie said as she took a bite of the chicken and dumplings.
The next day, Carly was at Katie’s house helping her decide what to wear on her date with Tom. She finally decides on jeans and a cute top. They agreed that bowling wasn’t a short skirt activity.
By 6:30 Katie was ready and pacing the floor while Carly sat on the bed watching her. After a few minutes of non-stop pacing, Carly spoke up.
“So, what are you gonna do if Tom tries, well, you know?”
“Oh my gawd, I would just die!” Katie replied. “I’ve already told him no hand holding and no kissing.”
“But did you really mean it?”
Surprised by the question, Katie stopped pacing and looked at Carly thoughtfully. She quickly sat on the bed near Carly.
“I don’t know. I’ve dreamed of him kissing me so many times!” she told Carly. “I don’t know how I would act if he actually tried!”
She jumped up, pacing again. Throwing her hands up, she turned to Carly.
“What would you do?” Katie asked.
“I would kiss him,” she replied.
“Kiss Tom,” Katie said to herself. “Kiss Tom.” Slowly, a smile spread across her face. “That sounds like Heaven! Should I kiss him? Or should I wait for him to kiss me?”
“You’ll know when the time is right. It’ll be better if its spontaneous, not planned.”
Nodding, Katie agreed, “That makes sense. Ok. No planned kissing.”
At that moment, they both heard the doorbell and they could hear Mrs. C. talking to Tom. Carly hugged Katie.
“Have fun,” she told Katie, and bounded down the stairs and out the front door, waving at Tom and Mrs. C. as she went by.
Katie took a deep breath, and headed for the stairs. Looking down, she saw Tom. ‘There he is,’ she thought to herself. ‘He’s so good looking.’
Going quickly down the stairs, she kissed her mom on the cheek and grabbed her bag.
“Bye, Mom,” she said as she went out the door.
“Bye kids. Have a good time!”
Tom and Katie climbed into his truck and buckled up. She took a deep breath to calm her nerves.
“Let’s skip the bowling and ride out to the lake,” she said.
Tom was really surprised, but pleased. “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” she answered, as she unbuckled and slid across the seat to sit next to him.
He smiled and leaned towards her. She thought he was going to kiss her, but he whispered, “I’ve waited a long time for this,” as he stroked her cheek gently.
She smiled, knowing everything would be fine.