“I hope you’re all ready to get your butts kicked.” I pretended to swing my putter like a professional golfer at the U.S. Open.
“In your dreams, short stuff.” Hannah was tall like Taylor and Kade. She had a darker complexion with big, brown eyes and natural makeup. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and she wore jeans and sneakers with a graphic T-shirt. Basically, she’d come straight from the community center where she helped run the kids’ sports programs and I regularly volunteered as a tennis instructor.
“Hey now, slow down,” Kade said. “Save the trash talk for the course.” Dressed in black jeans and T-shirt, Kade looked more like Hannah’s date than mine.
Taylor chuckled but didn’t saying anything. I wondered if he felt uncomfortable being here with Kade. He certainly seemed out of place standing beside the two of them. His khakis and knit Polo shirt mirrored mine and I tried to shake off the sense that we were paired incorrectly on this date.
We walked to the first hole with our color specific balls so that we could tell them apart. The mini golf course was lively with several families and other couples on dates. The flashing lights from the animatronic pirates and birds combined with the adventurous water features made a fun, lighthearted atmosphere. Perfect for a first date, and for Kade and Taylor to hopefully relax around each other.
“So, who wants to go first?” Hannah asked.
“How about oldest to youngest?” I suggested. “Kade, when’s your birthday?”
“June 28th,” Kade said without hesitation then glanced at Taylor, who looked like he was clenching his teeth.
“Huh, what are the odds that you and Taylor would have the same birthday?” I asked, also glancing at Taylor.
“Pretty slim I would say, but stranger things have happened.” Kade shrugged and cleared his throat.
“Guess our parents must have both had a party in October and gotten carried away,” Taylor said with a sneer. Why did he always have to show such animosity toward Kade? I’d gotten to know him more through our chemistry class when he was assigned to be my lab partner. He’d been super helpful the whole week and was incredibly smart. I hadn’t expected that from with his rock star bad boy persona. He certainly didn’t seem to be the jerk Taylor claimed he was.
“I wouldn’t want to share a birthday,” said Hannah. She seemed oblivious to the tension between our two dates. “I like to have a day dedicated to just me.”
“Same,” I agreed. “My birthday’s July 17th. What about you, Hannah?”
“Mine’s May 13th so I’m the oldest. Why don’t we go me, Taylor, Kade, then Gracie?” Hannah’s question sounded more like a plan that was not up for discussion.
“Sounds great,” said Taylor. “Let’s do this.” He held out his hand, inviting Hannah to step up to the tee.
Hannah putted her ball close to the hole and offered Taylor a high five as he took her place. Why did that make me jealous? He wasn’t my date.
Taylor’s ball bounced off the brick barrier a few times but ended up on the green close to the hole.
Kade wasn’t even close and had to re-hit his ball twice just to get it over the first hill.
“Alright Gracie let’s put some of that trash talk to the test.” Hannah sneered playfully.
I stepped up and set my hot pink ball down on the tee, lined up my shot, and with one quick swing got a hole in one.
“Boom!” I cheered, jumping in the air to celebrate my awesome shot.
Kade lifted me in a hug of congratulations, and Hannah offered me a high-five.
As we walked toward the end of the green to retrieve our balls, Taylor leaned close to me and asked, “It’s that lucky charm I got you, isn’t it?”
“I came prepared,” I said with a wink, shaking my wrist so we could hear the charms jingle.
I looked down at the charm bracelet Taylor had given me on my 16th birthday, shortly after we became friends. Every now and then he would surprise me with a new charm. A tennis racket, of course, in remembrance of how we became friends, a music note to commemorate the day we went to a Buxton Peak concert together. Another charm was a stack of books for the late nights we spent together studying. There were others, but the most recent charm was declared to be my lucky charm. It was a yin yang symbol to help me remember that opposites can complement and help one another, even if it doesn’t always seem that way.
We kept playing through all eighteen holes, and predicably I won. Hannah was a close second, but Kade and Taylor hit their balls into the water so many times that we stopped counting their shots at hole ten.
“Well, now that I have been thoroughly reminded how bad I am at sports, how about some ice cream?” Kade suggested, wrapping his arm around my waist and leading me to the concession stand.
“Yes please. I always have a terrible sweet tooth, especially for peanut butter chocolate ice cream.”
“I will gladly satiate that sweet tooth,” Kade said in a sultry voice. I smacked his shoulder in response to his flirting.
I looked back and noticed Taylor and Hannah were smiling at each other as they took our clubs and balls back to the main counter. They seemed to be hitting it off, sort of. I fought that same pang of jealousy even though I had been the one to set them up on this date in the first place. Hannah was a great person but not good enough for my best friend.
Kade either didn’t notice my frustration or chose to ignore my creased brows and distracted glare. He ordered our ice cream, and we sat at a nearby picnic table opposite each other as we waited for Hannah and Taylor to order theirs.
“Tell me the story about your necklace.” Kade pointed to the heart I wore on a delicate chain. “You always seem to be wearing it.”
“Tay got it for me this past Christmas.” I reached to fiddle with the heart between my fingers. “It says Omnia vincit amor, which means love conquers all.”
“Love, huh?” Kade smirked knowingly. I realized I needed to clarify the meaning.
“My parents fight a lot, and Tay got me this necklace to remind me that they love me, and deep down they probably still love each other. And at the end of the day, love is what gets us through our hard times.”
Kade didn’t say anything but stood up and leaned over the table. With his face inches away from mine, I could smell his cologne. My heart pounded as I waited for his next move.
Gently, he brushed my fingers away from the words so he could read them, and a soft smile appeared on his face. He whispered the phrase as if he were saying it to himself. His glance shifted so that he was looking me in the eyes.
“Tay’s really lucky to have you,” Kade whispered. Then he reached up and kissed me on the forehead before settling back down on his side of the bench.
I was speechless. This was not the Kade that Taylor described to me, and the more I got to know Kade the more I thought Taylor misunderstood him. I also realized that my relationship and interest with Kade had shifted since we first met. Although I still found him extremely attractive, he was more like a brother to me, just like Sean or Clay.
Kade and I sat in silence across the picnic table from one another, eating our ice cream and waiting for Hannah and Taylor to bring their ice cream over and sit with us.
“Yum, give me a bite.” Taylor leaned close when he sat beside me on the bench. “You always get peanut butter chocolate. My favorite.”
As he took my cone, he handed me his and I teased him. “If peanut butter chocolate is your favorite, why do you always get strawberry?” Without considering the notion that we were swapping spit, we traded back after I took a huge bite of his, scoring a large chunk of frozen strawberry.
Kade raised his eyebrows and smirked at me across the table, his eyes darting back and forth between me and Taylor. Bumping his elbow gently against the girl who was supposedly on a date with Taylor, Kade offered his cone to Hannah. “You wanna trade?”
Hannah wrinkled her nose. “No thanks, I don’t like mint chocolate chip.”
“That’s okay, I don’t like butter pecan either.” Kade resumed eating his own ice cream.
The rest of the evening was lighthearted and playful, joking around and having fun. This no longer felt like a date other than one time when Taylor wrapped his arm around my back, reaching to snag the last bite of my cone.
As we were wiping off our table and getting ready to leave, I noticed Laura was near the edge of the patio taking pictures of students from our high school as they obliviously played mini golf and ate ice cream.
She was often singlehandedly in charge of running the entire school paper. She did everything from reporting, to photography, and right down to the editing.
I wondered what crazy project she had planned for this week’s edition and how kids playing minigolf factored into her story. Guess I would have to wait for Monday during homeroom. The school paper was a major highlight every Monday morning and that was in large credit to her diligence over the prior week.
Gathering up my used napkins, I threw them in the trash, then followed my friends to where Taylor had parked his car.
Kade opened the back door for me like a gentleman and I slipped into the seat, wishing I could sit up front. Where I normally sat. When Taylor wasn’t on a date with someone else.
Book Club Discussion Questions: Now that Gracie realizes her relationship with Kade is more like a brother/sister friendship, what should she do?