- the natural satellite of the earth, visible (chiefly at night) by reflected light from the sun.
- behave or move in a listless and aimless manner.
It was Saturday night, date night, and there were only three weeks left before the end of high school. Katrina prided herself on making this recurring weekly date night happen — she felt so grown-up, so mature. So ready for graduating and the rest of their lives together.
She'd gotten the idea from her mom and dad, two of the people she admired most in this world, and since they had such a steadfast marriage, Katrina was sure a similar tradition following in their footsteps would keep her and Chloe going strong. She'd even chosen to have their first date night, seven months ago, at the same restaurant she knew her parents had their first date at: Lu's Wok House. Sure, it wasn't her and Chloe's first ever meeting — they'd been friends since sophomore year of high school. But only in the beginning of senior year did Katrina find the courage to come out to Chloe, and find to her great relief and happiness that Chloe felt the same. So it was fitting to Katrina, then, for their first official date (not just another night out as friends) to eat at the same place that led to her parents' happily ever after.
And so it was this Saturday night, three weeks before the end of high school, that Katrina had chosen Lu's Wok House again for their date night. She'd arrived before Chloe, who had said she'd need to arrive at the restaurant separately because she was coming from an all-day volunteering effort with the Key Club. Katrina smiled just thinking about it – her Chloe, giving back even though it didn't matter to her college applications anymore. Doing it because she cared.
The bell on the front door of the establishment jingled, and Katrina looked up, her face breaking out into a wide grin as she saw Chloe emerge from the doorway. Sure Chloe wasn't as dolled up as Katrina for their date — her hair was just back in a ponytail and she was wearing her Key Club shirt — but Chloe shone brightly to Katrina no matter what she looked like. Her simple presence made Katrina glow.
“Hey babe,” Katrina said brightly, jumping up from her seat to greet Chloe with a kiss. Chloe squeezed her hand as they both sat back down.
“Did you already get-” Chloe started.
“Pot of tea? On its way,” Katrina finished.
“Girl yes,” Chloe relaxed into her seat. “I need it, stat. Today was exhausting. Did I tell you that Charlie is taking over as President next year? He spent all day at HopeFull badgering me with questions. Like hello, shouldn't you already know how to do this stuff? Were you not my VP this entire year?” Chloe sighed loudly.
Katrina clasped her hand tighter. “He's probably nervous because this was the last chance of the year for him to see you in action. Now it's all on him.”
“I hope he doesn't think that! That's the whole reason I made the team this year work on updating our club handbook, so it's easier when us seniors graduate.”
“True, true. God Chloe, you think of everything.”
“Not date night,” Chloe acknowledged with a small smile. “That was all you.”
Every inch of space on the table was covered with plates of food: fried wontons, beef fried rice, Szechuan chicken, sauteed vegetables. The two girls piled their own plates with a helping from each dish.
“My parents said we could spend a bit extra on this meal,” Katrina said, lifting her chopsticks with a large bite of chicken in them, “because I think they secretly wanted us to get too much and bring them home leftovers.”
“No way! It is my mission to eat all of this!”
“Aye aye, captain.”
“Dork,” Chloe mused.
“Your dork,” Katrina chirped back.
They sat in silence for a minute, savoring the taste of their meal and listening to the sounds of the restaurant: bustling kitchen, instrumental versions of pop songs, frustrated murmurs of white folks struggling with their chopsticks.
“You know, it's not a bad idea to look through Yelp at all the restaurants around State, maybe even take a road trip and do some taste testing this summer. Find our favorite date spots early. We'll be the only freshmen in the know.”
“I mean yea there will be dorm food, but it'll probably be nice to eat out once in awhile, especially if we're on campus all the time. And my mom will totally be down to give me some extra funds if she knows the money's going toward date nights.”
“What?” Katrina was caught off guard, lost in her future plans. “You know I can't resist planning.”
“I know, and I love that about you,” Chloe said. Always I love that about you or I love when you do that. Always tiptoeing around the more succinct, three-word sentiment Katrina missed hearing. It came so easily to Chloe before they were dating, just rolled off her tongue any time they were giggling together, getting into mischief, or even just helping each other with homework. But ever since they became a couple Chloe hadn't said those three words. Katrina felt like Mr. Gilbert, their AP English Language teacher. Stop using filler words. Get to the point.
“Okay, so...?” Katrina held her gaze. But she was thinking I love you I love you I love you and completely missed Chloe's response.
“Wait, what?” Katrina replied dumbly.
“Something big happened today, and, well, I don't know if I'm going to State in the fall.”
Dumbstruck, Katrina started laughing, then coughing, then choking on the fried wonton she'd just taken a bite of. Chloe blanched as Katrina slapped her hand on the table, hard, willing the large wonton chunk to dislodge from her throat.
Chloe waved over a server to refill Katrina's water, which Katrina hurriedly drank, finally overcoming the vindictive piece of wonton.
“Bit of an overreaction by me, but it sounded like you said you're not going to State in the fall,” Katrina wheezed.
Chloe's eyes flicked down to her plate. “I'm not going to State in the fall.”
“What the hell, Chloe?” Katrina shot back. “We graduate in less than a month! How are you only telling me this now? Not to mention we freaking planned out State together.”
“I know, I know,” Chloe looked across the table again, eyes moist and pleading. “But it really did just happen today, like I said. This opportunity-”
“Opportunity?” Katrina cut her off, tasting the word in her mouth.
“Yes, an opportunity to take a gap year volunteering with the HopeFull organization.”
Katrina interrupted again. “Hold up, I thought you said you weren't coming for fall. Now it's a gap year?” Chloe opened her mouth to speak, but Katrina kept going. “And I thought you just went with Key Club to HopeFull today. How does that turn into a volunteer gap year?”
“The founder of HopeFull happened to be there today. And I got a chance to talk to her and she was just so cool, so inspiring. And I told her how great I thought it was our Key Club got to help them make a difference, even though we're just in high school. And then she told me that 'young motivated volunteers' were exactly the kind of people she wanted on her team. And then voila, the opportunity!”
Katrina's head spun. She couldn't make sense of her thoughts. Chloe taking a gap year. Chloe volunteering. Chloe leaving her to go volunteering. For a year. Without her.
Katrina finally found her voice. “You didn't even think to check with me first?”
Chloe winced. “I called my parents on the way over here.”
“But you didn't talk to me.” It wasn't a question.
“I know how much you were looking forward to us going to State together.”
“And you weren't?” Now that was a question. Katrina couldn't believe what she was hearing.
“I mean, it wasn't my first choice.”
“So now you tell me.”
“I didn't not tell you before,” Chloe contended. “When we compared all our acceptance letters, you know where I applied, where I got in.”
“Sure, but when I said I was leaning toward State to save money, you were gung-ho.”
“I wanted you to be happy!” Chloe said, exasperated. It caught Katrina off guard. She took a sip of her now lukewarm tea as Chloe took a breath of her own.
Chloe smiled sadly. “It was a lot easier when we were just best friends.”
“It was a lot less fun when we were just best friends,” Katrina huffed back instantly, her mind wandering to the very first time they kissed, really kissed, and the many delicious times after that. Chloe chuckled, affection in her tone.
“Kat, you dork, I have no regrets about any of that fun.” Chloe shook her head sadly. “And I don't regret us at all. I just,” she paused, collecting her thoughts. “I just loved when we could be completely ourselves with each other, but being in a relationship I feel like there's this pressure to be the exact version of myself you expect me to be.”
“I love you for you,” Katrina responded emphatically, urgently.
“And I-” Chloe seemed to bite back her words. “I love you too. But I also miss being our own people. And I feel like this gap year with HopeFull will help me be more of myself, you know?”
Katrina's ears were ringing. Her world was shattering. She'd finally heard those three sweet, desperately desired words from Chloe again after all these months. Only, not. Not at all. Not in the way she wanted them. This was old Chloe. This was best friend Chloe. This was Chloe putting their relationship second.
“I don't know who I am without you,” Katrina said in a small voice hesitantly.
“If that's true, Kat, that makes me so sad.”
“Sad and mad, at myself. For letting that happen, for not pushing you to find yourself too. Sure we're only eighteen, and we're probably not supposed to even know who we are yet or what we want to do. But I'm pretty sure at least that we're not supposed to only define ourselves by another person.”
Katrina tapped her chopsticks against her plate. “What if I join you volunteering for HopeFull for the year? And then we both start at State next fall instead?”
“Kat, are you even listening to me?”
“I'm trying to think of a solution to keep us together.”
“I never said we had to split up. We just don't have to do the same thing.”
“What's the difference?”
Chloe sighed, agitated.
“No, you don't get to sigh at me,” Katrina huffed. “I'm the one who is getting literally no time to process this news.”
“Okay,” Chloe held up her hands in surrender. “Okay, process.”
Chloe and Katrina spent the rest of their meal in silence. Chloe, trying every minute to catch Katrina's eye. Katrina, looking determinedly away. Finally, the server had cleared their plates, and brought over two fortune cookies along with the check.
Katrina cracked open her cookie and took out the slip of paper from the crumbs. She read it once, twice, three times, before finally looking directly into Chloe's eyes. “Be open to change.”
”-in bed,” Chloe finished, a wicked glint in her eye. “Should we go buy a sex toy?”
Katrina's laugh spluttered out of her before she even had a chance to hold it in. She clapped her hand over her mouth, which made Chloe cackle loudly. The girls didn't notice when the server shot them a look from across the dining room.
Chloe began opening her cookie as well, but stared down glumly at the cookie halves, fortune nowhere in sight. “Darn it, mine's empty.”
Katrina glanced at the cookie, then back at Chloe. “We can share mine,” she offered.
Chloe looked up. “Really?”
Chloe's earnest face broke Katrina, and yet brightened her at the same time. “Yes.” Katrina held out her hand to Chloe. “Really.”