“I wake up Saturday morning and check my phone from my bed. Looks like it will be another sunny day that I spend inside. I have been rehearsing the musical Legally Blonde all week, and tonight is the performance. I play Brooke Wyndham, an exercise queen accused of murder. Some of my friends and family are coming, so the show has to be really good. While I’m sad it’s almost over, a sense of relief washes over me. It has been a lot of work.”
I wake up Saturday morning and check my phone from my bed. Looks like it will be another sunny day that I spend inside. I have been rehearsing the musical Legally Blonde all week, and tonight is the performance. I play Brooke Wyndham, an exercise queen accused of murder. Some of my friends and family are coming, so the show has to be really good. While I’m sad it’s almost over, a sense of relief washes over me. It has been a lot of work.
My phone buzzes, and it’s my very energetic best friend Hazel.
GUESS WHAT??!! she writes.
WHAT????? I jokingly reply. We love goofing off together and have been doing it for years. Since fourth grade to be exact. It’s crazy to think that now eleventh grade is just around the corner.
ASHER IS COMING!!!!
My heart leaps into my throat. Asher, my crush since, well since forever, is coming to my show?
WAIT WHAT?! I reply, hoping that what she says next isn’t true. I haven’t talked to him, like really talked to him, since sixth grade when we shared snacks once. I am one of those people who observe and admire from afar.
He asked me about show dates and times and said that there was someone special in the shows that he wants to see. I think that means you!!
O-M-G. My heart pounds. Why would he be coming to see me? He doesn’t even know me now. Sure, our families are friends, and we used to be friends. Before popularity became a thing, we used to ride our bikes together down to the little cafe and get milkshakes. Him, chocolate. Me, vanilla.
I can’t think about this now. I have to focus on tonight. On giving a fabulous last performance. I get dressed and start my hair and makeup; I will finish it when I get to the theater. I grab a frozen waffle and pop it into the toaster oven as I get my things together. My mom comes in from an early morning grocery store trip and pulls out some chocolate cookies, strawberries, and grapes for me to take out of the grocery bag. I stuff them into my already overflowing backpack and run to the car.
“You forgot your waffle,” my mom says, getting into the driver’s seat. She hands me the warm, crunchy waffle wrapped in a napkin.
“Thanks, Mom,” I say, my mouth already full of the sweet breakfast.
“I got you something,” my mom says. She reaches into the back seat and grabs a cold glass bottle filled with some pink liquid and hands it to me.
“What is it?” I asked, a little skeptical of what it was.
“It’s called kombucha. It’s a fermented tea that is really good for your digestion. I want you to try it. It’s grapefruit jasmine flavored and it’s fizzy.” She glances over to me and gestures for me to open it.
I do. Only to please her; my mom always goes on health food cleanses, so it is easiest for everyone to get this over with ASAP. It reeks of vinegar and raw fish — without a doubt, the grossest thing I have ever smelled. I take a small sip, try to hide my gag, and give it back to my mom.
“Here. You try this and tell me if it is something you would drink.”
My mom takes a big sip of the kombucha and chokes.
“That was horrible! I am so sorry I bought that.”
My mom hands the drink back to me, and I put the top back on. We open the windows to air out the car.
“Take it with you, maybe one of your friends will want it.” My mom laughs as I stick the glass bottle as low into my bag as it will go.
As we pull up at the theater, I run in and throw my bag in a corner near where I see my friends Jake and Sami sitting.
“Are you guys pretty nervous too?” Jake continues to run his hands through his nicely gelled hair.
“Stop! I just did your hair. Don’t you dare mess it up again,” Sami responds. She stretches her long, tan legs to get ready for all the dancing we have to do.
We talk for a little bit longer and run a few lines before the stage manager comes in and says, “Time to go into the theatre for notes.”
A few minutes later, we go onto the theater to listen to notes, and I try not to think about that gross kombucha smell at the bottom of my backpack.
Once we finish notes, I grab the kombucha thinking I’ll throw it out, but the stage manager says we can’t leave the dressing room until we are ready for places. Looks like I’m stuck with this gross drink until after the show. I put the it down in the corner and finish getting ready for the run. I take off my clothes and throw them in a pile near the kombucha and get put my costume on.
“PLACES!” yells the stage manager as she rushes through the room.
After two solid hours of intense dancing, singing, and acting, the entire cast is super excited for final bows. I am overjoyed because I nailed the super hard dance break in the middle of my song right after intermission. While we are bowing, I try to look over the blinding stage lights, but I can only see as far as the third row. In the first row, my parents stand, smiling and cheering. I still have no idea whether Asher even came or not.
After bows, I go back into the dressing room with Jake and Sami. We change out of our costumes.
“Great show, guys! I’m so happy I didn’t forget my lines,” Jake gushes. I am going to be sad not seeing them every day anymore.
“I’m so happy you didn’t mess up your hair,” Sami jokes.
I smile and pull on my T-shirt, vaguely aware of a weird smell. Everyone smells bad; it’s the last day of shows, that’s how it works. I don’t really think anything of it because we are all sweaty and tired of being in bulky costumes for two hours. Also, the chemical smell of hairspray and hair gel fills the air. Once I am dressed, I wave goodbye to my cast and friends and go out to meet my family.
As I walk out of the dressing room, I see him. Asher. His dirty blonde hair brushed to the side. His shy smile that only reaches the left side of his mouth. His blue eyes that look like the sky on a bright, sunny day. He’s wearing a nice button down shirt and jeans that fit perfectly. He’s looking right at me, and I freeze. As I start to walk toward him, I take a sharp right into the girls bathroom.
I take out my phone and call Hazel.
“Oh. My. God. He’s here. What do I do? What do I say? Oh my god ohmygod ohmygod oh — ”
“AHHH you’ll be fine! You were absolutely stunning out there. You look like a queen! I am on my way to your house, so you can fill me in on all the juicy details!”
Hazel is way too excited for this. I wonder what she knows, but I don’t have time to ask because Asher is here. In the girls bathroom.
“Asher?! What are you doing in here?”
“I was about to ask you the same thing, Zoe. I saw you ran in here, and I thought you should know it’s the boys bathroom.”
“Asher?” Hazel screams before I have time to hang up.
OH MY GOD.
“Oh yeah. Um yeah.” Crap. There’s no way out of this.
I rush out of the bathroom as fast I as I can. Asher follows me.
“Hey, I got you these.” Asher grabs a small bouquet of roses from a chair in a corner.
“Thank you, Asher. Thank you for coming too, you didn’t have to do that.” My face must be the color of an overripe tomato. I can’t believe this is actually happening.
“I did. I wanted to see you.” He takes a step closer. What was he doing? His face changes as he gets closer. His nose crinkles, and he steps back.
I look down and see a light pink stain on my white T-shirt. A stain so big, so smelly, you can practically see the waves of horrid scent coming off it. The kombucha. It must have spilled on my shirt, but I hadn’t noticed because I was in such a rush to see if Asher had come. I cover it with the roses, stutter, “Uh gotta go. Bye,” at Asher and run out of the hallway.
When I get to the dressing room, the smell of vinegar and dead fish hits me like a freight train. I go to where I had put the bottle, and there is a big crack in the glass and juice is leaking out of it. Right into a puddle where my T-shirt had been. Great.
I grab my stuff, throw away the bottle, and go find my parents so we can leave before anyone else knows that the kombucha smell is me.
Asher is still standing outside the bathroom looking confused. He is texting someone on his phone, so he doesn’t see me rush by. That’s probably a good thing.
“Good job, sweetie!” my mom says as she tries to give me a big hug.
“Trust me, Mom, you don’t want to. Let’s just go home.” I need to go home and shower!
“Hey, Zoe! Did you see who came?” My dad loves teasing me about my crushes. He just thinks it’s so funny how little they like me back.
“Yeah I know. He gave me flowers,” I shoot back. I feel some heat come to my face when I see Asher walking towards us.
“Hey, Zoe. Hey, Mr. and Mrs. Brown. Thanks for the ride home.” He’s riding home with us? Oh no.
It is a very quiet car ride home. I just try to suck all the smell off of me onto my side of the car. I open up the window and think very hard about jumping out of the car. Unfortunately my fear of death holds me back. When we drop Asher off at his house down the street from ours, he tries to say something to me, but I push him out and close the door before he can tell me how bad I smell.
“Get me home.” I lean into my parents so they can smell the emergency.
My mom hits the gas.
I jump out of the car once we get home and run into my room. Hazel is sitting on the bed.
“So??? What happened? What did he say to you? C’mon, Zoe! Say something!”
So, I tell her. Everything. From the boys bathroom, to the roses, to the shared car ride. Then I let her smell me as I was still standing in the doorway. Of course she gags and pushes me into the shower, yelling at me for not bringing any body spray or perfume.
“It’s not my fault!!! I didn’t realize kombucha would ruin my life!” I shower and make sure to scrub extra hard.
Once I get out of the shower and into cleaner, comfier clothes, Hazel and I put on Mean Girls and settle into my bed.
Right before we start the movie, the doorbell rings. Hazel goes to the window and squeals.
“You have to get the door, Zoe! MR AND MRS BROWN, ZOE’S GOT THE DOOR!”
I walk to the window, look down, and there is Asher. He’s rocking back on his heels, and he’s holding something. Hazel squirts me with some perfume and pushes me down the stairs.
I take a deep breath and open the door.
There he is, a look of relief on his face as he holds up a piece of paper.
“I was going to leave this for you if you didn’t answer the door,” he says and he holds out the note.
“Um thanks.” I take it but don’t open it yet. I hesitantly step outside and shut the door behind me.
Asher take a step towards me. “Zoe, I don’t know how to say it, but Hazel said — ”
“Hazel? Why were you talking to her?” Yes. I am a little jealous and very confused. Why wouldn’t she have told me?
“Because Zoe, she’s your best friend. I needed advice.”
“Advice on me?” I cross my arms in front of my chest.
“Advice whether to do this.” He steps in, grabs my elbows, and pulls me into a long kiss.
I step back, shocked. Why would Asher like me? What did Hazel do???
“Well I guess she gave me good advice. I’ve liked you for a while, Zoe, I just didn’t know how to tell you. I went to Hazel for help and to see if you would ever say yes,” Asher says, our faces just inches apart.
“Say yes to what?” My heart is trying to fly out of my chest.
“Open the note.” I look down at the note and slowly unfold it.
Written on the paper are the words Please go out with me? Circle YES or NO. I smile at the funny gesture and look at Asher. He has a nervous look on his face as he looks into my eyes.
I laugh. “Yes of course. Yes, Asher!” I lean in and kiss him again. I hear squealing coming from the window, and we look up to see Hazel screaming and jumping around. Asher and I look at each other and laugh.
“I better go, but I’ll see you tomorrow?” I smile and hug him one last time.
The next morning, I open my eyes and turn to see Hazel still sound asleep next to me in my big bed. She spent the night at my house, so I could fill her in on all the details. The light creeps out from behind the window shades onto my purple walls. The pictures of my family and friends that are hung on my wall glint and sparkle.
I roll out of bed onto my fuzzy carpet that keeps my feet warm in the winter and go to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I see that my hair is a big tangled mess and not all the makeup has come off of my face. I grab a makeup wipe and try my best to rub off the mascara. I can’t stop thinking about last night; I wonder if it was all a dream.
As I go back into my room, the light has fallen on a small bouquet of roses on my bedside dresser with a note tucked into one of the flowers, and I know I wasn’t dreaming.