Author's Note (again): I feel like a bit of a broken record, but thank you thank you thank you again for being so patient and waiting for this next piece. I'll be honest, writers block is a pain in the butt. Thank you for all of your encouraging feedback over the last few months, you all help me keep writing! Rock on and enjoy!

Just Breathe

Part 7

By S. Lynne

"Alright, Greeny, you got me off my butt and made me drive all the way over here like a maniac. Not that I don't normally drive like that all the time, but whatever. That's really beside the point. Tell me what's going on!" Rachel whispered loudly as I ushered her into my room. "I even had to make nicey-nice to your mother downstairs, BLECH! I thought I might throw up or something!"

"Shhhh! Just get in here!" I whispered back harshly, shutting the door behind us.

"Jeez! What the hell is going on, Ky?" Rachel asked, crossing her arms and sitting down on my bed. I began pacing in front of her, trying to figure out how to tell her what happened.

"I... Well... You see..." I started. There had to be a good way to tell her.

"Spill it, Kyle!"

"Amy's gay!" I sputtered, out. That was real good, Kyle. I looked at Rachel and watched as her eyes grew wide, her jaw dropped, and her arms dropped to her side.

"I'm sorry, what?" she asked, eyes still wide.

"I know, right?" I asked, pacing again.

"No, no. Say it again. I want to make sure I heard you right," she said, shaking her head like she wanted to make sure there was something inside her ear making her hear things.

"Amy's gay," I replied. I stopped pacing and plopped down on the floor.

"Holy crap on a crutch!" Rachel shouted.

"Shhhh! Keep it down!" I whispered harshly. Rachel scrambled down off the bed and joined me on the floor.

"Are you serious? How do you know this? Do you know what this means?!" Rachel squealed.

"Yes, I'm serious. I know because she told me after the camp today. And no, I have no idea what this means!" I frantically replied.

"Duh, Kyle-Lynne!" Rachel replied, smacking me on the forehead.

"Ow!" I said, glaring at her and rubbing my forehead. "What?"

"It means... you're gay... she's gay... helloooooooooo!" she said, throwing her arms up in the air.

"Yeah... and?" I really wasn't getting it.

"You really are that dense, aren't you?" she said, looking at me incredulously.

"No! I mean, maybe, I mean... what?"

"Argh! It meeeeeeeans," she drew the word out, "that the two of you could totally hook up!"

"WHAT?!" I shouted.

"KYLE-LYNNE! Keep it down up there!" my mother yelled up the stairs.

"Sorry," I shouted back. I looked at Rachel and she had the biggest grin on her face and a twinkle in her eye. This couldn't be good.

"Seriously, Ky, you could totally hook up with her!" she whispered.

"What? No way!" I whispered back nervously.

"And why not?" she asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

"Well because... because..." I stumbled.

"See! You can't think of a reason why not!"

"Yes I can! Because... well, we're teammates... and... and she's popular!"

"So?" she asked.

"Duh," I replied. Wow, there's that rapier wit once again, Kyle.

"Duh? That's it? That's your reason?! Duh?" she said.

"Well... I... no. I mean, just because she's gay, that doesn't mean she's going to automatically like me or anything, y'know?" I replied. Rachel was silent for a moment.

"Hmm, you do have somewhat of a point," she conceded.

"See?" I said, smiling triumphantly.

"Ok then, tell me exactly what happened today... and don't even think about leaving anything out, you got me?" she said, poking me in the shoulder. I began telling her about what had happened, only leaving out the bit about telling Amy what had happened in the locker room so long ago. Instead I told her that I panicked about school starting so soon and it being our last season on the team and all. I'm not sure she bought it, but she let it slide as I let the story continue. I told her about the asthma attack in the driveway, about talking in my room and my mom coming home.

"Wait, wait, wait! She did what?!" Rachel asked fervently as my story came to a close.

"She told me I was cute when I blushed and kissed me on...the... cheek..." I replied, watching as Rachel's eyes grew wider than I had ever seen them.

"She kissed you?!"

"Yeah. So?"

"Kyle! She kissed you!" she replied, shaking her hands at me.


"Oh my God, Kyle. I can't believe we're friends sometimes," she said, throwing herself backwards so she was laying on the floor with her arms stretched out above her in exasperation, "I'm pretty sure that means she likes you, dummy!"

"W-what?" I stuttered. Rachel rolled over onto her side and propped up her head on her hand.

"Usually, Kyle, some kind of physical contact... like kissing you on the cheek... means that a person likes you. Not to mention, when someone holds your hand... touches you on the leg..." she pointed out. Amy had done all of those things.

"Oh my God," I whispered, looking down at my hands, afraid to think that what Rachel was saying might be true. Rachel scrambled to her knees next to me, putting her hand on my shoulder.

"Kyle," she said softly, "Kyle, you OK?"

"Yeah," I said, looking Rachel in the eye for the first time since we started this conversation, "yeah, I'm alright. It's just a lot to think about is all."

"I bet," Rachel replied, moving back to a sitting position next to me, "the woman of your dreams has a crush on you, too, kind of a huge deal."

"Mmmhmm," I muttered back.

"So what are we going to do about this?" she asked.

"I have no idea," I said, dropping my head into my hands.

"Well, I think you should just go up to her tomorrow and jump her bones at the basketball camp," she said matter-of-factly. My head flew up.

"Are you kidding me?!" I asked. Then I saw the mischievous look in her eye.

"Gotcha!" she said, giggling. I couldn't help it, her giggle was infectious. Soon we were both laid out on the floor, all out laughing. It felt good to laugh like that. Once we calmed down, Rachel turned her head to me.

"Seriously, though, what do you want to do about it?" she asked sincerely.

"I'm not sure," I replied, staring up at the ceiling with my hands behind my head, "I mean, I like her, have forever. I don't know what to do."

"Well, do you want a suggestion?" Rachel asked, propping herself up on one of her arms.

"I dunno," I replied warily, "does it have anything to do with jumping someone's bones?"

"No," she said, poking me in the side.

"Ok then, what's your suggestion," I asked, swatting her hand away.

"Just keep doin' what you're doin';" she said.

"And what's that?" I asked, slightly confused.

"Just being yourself, you big goober!" Rachel replied, smiling.

"That's it? That's your big advice?" I said, sighing.

"Yup," she said, "I mean, think about it. If she likes you... like she does... it's because she likes what she sees and what she knows about you."

"Yeah, that makes sense," I replied. I sat up suddenly. "But what about tomorrow at the camp?!"

"Whoa, calm down tiger," Rachel soothed, "just treat it like any other day. But maybe smile at her a couple of times, y'know, let her know that everything's cool."

"That's all I have to do?"

"Yup, simple as that!"

"Yeah, simple."


"Wow. That musta been one hell of a night, huh?"

"No kidding. I couldn't believe it. In the matter of one day I'd told the one person I never wanted to know that I was gay and what had happened in the locker room, figured out that she might like me in return, and had an all out asthma attack to boot. Needless to say, by the time Rachel left shortly thereafter, I was so beat all I could do was go to bed."



The class is quiet again. That's ok. It was a lot for me to take in back then. If Rachel hadn't been there for me, I don't know how I would have handled everything.

A hand raises.


"So what happened the next day?"

"I was hoping you'd ask that..."


I woke up early the next day. I couldn't help it. I was nervous and excited about what was to come. As I got myself ready for the camp, I kept wondering what would happen. Would Amy want to talk to me about everything that had happened the day before? Would she even look at me? I had a thousand questions running through my mind as I ate my breakfast quietly.

"Good morning, Kyle-Lynne," my mother said, entering the kitchen.

"Morning mom," I replied quietly.

"You had quite a day yesterday, didn't you?" she asked nonchalantly. I sputtered into my milk.

"What do you mean?" I asked hesitantly.

"Well, you had two visitors over in the span of a couple of hours, that's not like you Kyle-Lynne," she replied, looking at me over her coffee cup as she leaned against the counter.

"Oh, right, yeah, I guess," I replied, looking down at my toast.

"Your friend, Amy was it? She's not been here before," she continued.

"No, she was just dropping me off. Thought I'd show her my room and all," I replied.

"So she's on the team with you, then."

It wasn't a question, so I just continued to eat in silence.

"Well, it's nice to see you branching out from just hanging around one person all the time. People might begin to talk, you know," she said, putting her coffee cup in the sink.

"Talk? What do you mean, 'Talk'"? I was confused.

"You know, that you might be spending too much time with one person, a girl no less. It could look bad, is all I'm saying," she replied, grabbing her purse and brushing by me on her way out of the kitchen, "have a good day, dear."

And with that, she was gone. What, did my mother have a sixth sense or something? How did she know that's what I had spent the entire day before struggling with, only not in the way she was thinking? I couldn't believe it. I also couldn't finish the rest of my breakfast. My stomach was now completely in knots. I put my dishes in the sink, grabbed my bag and keys and headed out.

As I began my trek to the school for the last day of the camp, I was lost in my own little world. I kept thinking about what Rachel was telling me before she left...

"Seriously, Kyle, just play it cool," Rachel said, putting on her sweatshirt and looking up at me.

"Rachel, have you ever known me to be cool... in any way?" I asked.

"Good point," she replied, "look, just be yourself, that's all you gotta do, OK?"

"Yeah, fine, OK," I muttered. Rachel sighed, rolled up her sleeves, and smacked me in the arm.

"Ow! What was that for?" I asked, rubbing my arm.

"I dunno, just seemed like the thing to do," she grinned. I smiled back.

"Ah, see? There's the smile! Just use that on her, stay calm, cool, you'll do fine."

Yeah, sure. Stay cool. Calm. Right. The hottest girl on the freakin' planet might like me, or whatever, and I'm supposed to be calm. Something's telling me that's not going to happen.


"Ahhh!" I yelled, throwing my bag over my head and falling flat on my ass as a car came to a halt right next to me.

"Oh shit! I'm sorry," I heard Amy's voice from above. I looked up and saw her staring at me from her car window, "I stopped by your house to see if you wanted a ride, you weren't there, so I thought I'd check to see if you were on your way, and you were, so I thought I'd honk and catch you, but I scared you..."

She was rambling. It was adorable.

"It's OK Amy, no worries," I replied, smiling. She blushed. Maybe Rachel was right. Maybe all I had to do was smile. I started to get up to get my bag.

"Here, I'll help you up," Amy said, opening her car door. She opened the door to fast; I was still off balance trying to get up when the door smacked into me from behind, laying me out once again.

"Oh my God! I'm so, so sorry!" Amy said, scrambling out of the car to help me. The look of horror on her face was too much. I started laughing. She looked at me like I was crazy. So of course I laughed harder.

"Um, are you sure you're OK?" she asked, skeptically.

"Yeah," I managed through the laughter, "I'm fine. Really."

"Yeah, well, I'm still sorry," Amy said, standing up and reaching a hand down to help me up. I took her hand and stood up at the same time as she pulled, forcing me to my feet a little faster than I had planned. When I was finally standing I found myself standing very close to Amy. All of my laughter seemed to slip right out of me. We were so close, if she had leaned just a little bit forward her head would have rested on my...

"Oh, uh... yeah," I said stumbling a little backwards. Amy looked up at me and smiled a little, then walked past me to my bag and picked it up.

"Here you go," she said, handing me my bag. Suddenly, I was shy all over again.

"Thanks," I mumbled, taking the bag from her.

"Yeah, well, it's the least I could do after almost killing you," she said, smiling up at me. I smiled back, and for a moment, we stood there, just smiling at each other. I'm sure if someone had walked by and seen us, they would have thought we were goofy in the head or something. But in that moment, it felt right to be just standing there with a huge grin on my face.

"So, how bout that ride?" I asked quietly, not wanting to break the moment. Amy, who had been smiling just as goofily as me, shook her head a little as if to clear it.

"Yup, hop on in," she said, opening the door and taking the driver's seat. I walked around to the other side of the car, tossed my bag on the back seat and then climbed into the front. Amy sat for a moment before starting up the car and pulling out onto the road. We rode to the school in silence. Not the awkward kind that I was so used to, but the kind that was kind of... I don't know... comfortable, or something. Like we didn't need to talk. But at the same time, I wanted to ask her a million questions...


"Damn, I bet you did!"

"Like... 'hey baby, wanna kiss me?'"

One of the students is making kissing sounds with his mouth, causing others to laugh. I smile. The teacher's frowning. Uh oh.

"Hey y'all, calm down, alright?"

"But that's totally what you were thinkin', right?"

"Well..." I draw it out until I'm sure I have everyone's attention again. "Duh."

Laughter. Even the teacher's eyes have softened, though the frown stays put. Alright, time to get back on track.

"But that was only one of the questions that were on my mind. Some of the others were, 'What is she thinking?' and 'Will she want to kiss me again?' or 'Why does her hair look so soft in that light?'... yeah, I know, corny, but it's what I was thinking. But the biggest question I had on my mind was...


"...what comes next?"

"Um, excuse me?" I turned to Amy, eyes wide. I was sure she had either read my mind or I had accidentally said what I was thinking out loud.

"Earth to Kyle!" she said, glancing over at me, and then back at the road, "I was saying, I can't believe we're already seniors, it's got me thinking, what comes next? College, maybe playing ball there, who knows, y'know?"

"Oh, uh, yeah, who knows?" I repeated back to her, sighing.

"What was that for?" she asked, pulling into the school parking lot.

"What was what for?" I asked, not sure what she was talking about.

"That big sigh," she said, imitating my sigh from moments before, "what was that for?"

"I was just..." c'mon Kyle, think of something, "I was just thinking." Brilliant, Kyle.

"Oh yeah?" she said, pulling into a parking spot. She turned off the car and turned to look at me.

"Yup," I said, folding my hands in my lap and not looking at her.

"What were you thinking about?" she asked. I suddenly got very nervous. I didn't want to tell her what I was thinking about. Not now. Not here.

"I was... umm... thinking...umm...we should get going inside, help set up since we're early and all," I was stalling, pure and simple.

"Nope, we're seniors, we don't have to help with set up if we don't want to," she said, folding her arms across her chest. "What's on your mind Kyle?"

"I dunno. Lot's I guess." There, that should do it. Right?

"Well then, tell me about it." Wrong. I looked over at Amy then and had to catch my breath. She had a small smile playing on her lips; one arm lifted with her hand behind her head and was leaning against the window. I could tell that she was genuinely interested in what I was thinking about.

"Kyle, you're staring."

I looked away quickly, blushing furiously. I put my face in my hands to try and hide it, but I knew she had seen the embarrassment written all across my face.

"Hey," Amy whispered, suddenly much closer to me. She rested her hand on my bare knee, "it's OK."

"No... I... I mean," I couldn't concentrate with her hand on my leg again. And to make it worse, she started making circles with her fingers.

"Kyle," she whispered my name. It felt like she was right next to my ear, it sent shivers down my spine. "Tell me what's on your mind Kyle."

I took a deep breath to calm my nerves. I needed to tell her. I wanted to tell her. I could do this.

"Amy I..."


"Girls! Why're you sittin' out here in the car? You're here early enough, why don't you get yourselves on inside and help the others get set up!"

Our coach's voice startled both of us. I looked out my window and shrank back with a start. My coach's face was looming in the window. He was frowning. Oh my God, what had he seen? As I was freaking out, Amy hopped quickly out of the car.

"Sorry coach, we got caught up chatting, we'll be inside in a sec," Amy said, grabbing her bag from the back seat.

I quickly took off my seatbelt and opened the door just as soon as coach had moved away.

"Good. See you ladies inside."

And with that, my coach turned and started walking towards the gym. Silently I opened the back door of Amy's car and grabbed my own bag. I shut the back door, then the front, and began quickly walking to the gym.

"Kyle," Amy hollered, jogging to catch up to me. "Kyle wait up!"

I kept walking. What had coach seen? Oh God.

"Seriously Kyle! Slow down!"

I stopped.

"Geez, Kyle," Amy said, catching her breath, "those long legs of yours sure get you going fast."

She looked up at me and the smile she had slipped from her face.

"Kyle? Are you OK?" she asked, stepping closer to me. I backed away quickly.

"Yeah, I'm ... I'm fine," I said, turning to continue into the gym. She grabbed me by the arm, forcing me to drop my bag and stop again.

"Hey. Don't walk away. I still want to know what you were thinking about," she said, holding tight to my arm.

"I wasn't thinking about anything," I replied, probably too strongly. Amy looked up at me, then let go.

"Fine," she said, re-shouldering her own bag, "be that way Kyle-Lynne."

And with that, she turned away and walked into the gym. I looked down at my bag, tears prickling at the back of my eyes. I had blown it. All I had to do was keep my cool, smile, and it would be all good. But I had just blown it.

"Kyle! Get in here and give us a hand!"

"Yeah, coach, I'm on my way."


All through the rest of the day, I tried my best to avoid Amy. But it was the last day of camp. Every year, some of the younger girls and coach would get together to honor the girls who would be playing their final season. Amy and I weren't the only girls who would be seniors, but we were forced to sit next to each other while some of the camp participants put on a skit in our honor. It was actually quite good, the skit. The girls each pretended to be one of the seniors and mimicked how we led the camp. The girl who played me had brought stilts in order to imitate how tall I was. By the end of the skit, we were all wiping tears of laughter from our eyes.

As things calmed down after the skits, the day wound down quickly. Awards were given to the participants; a few last words of wisdom were shared. Before I knew it, the day was done and the last girl had been picked up. I looked around the gym after leaving the locker room with my bag, trying to find Amy. She wasn't anywhere to be seen. We weren't on clean up duty, so she must have taken off pretty quickly after the last girl was picked up. I heaved a heavy sigh.

"See ya later coach," I hollered across the gym.

"Enjoy the last few days of summer, Kyle. See you at the first open gym in September, huh?"

"Yup. Bye."

As soon as I was out of the gym, I looked for Amy's car. It was gone. She was gone. My chance, I knew, was gone. I started down the road towards my home, my head down. I scuffed my shoes, dragging my feet, angry at myself. Why had I freaked out? Why couldn't I just tell her how I felt? I felt like an idiot. It was a very slow walk home that day. I didn't want to get home to fast and face an empty house with all of the crazy feelings I was having. But step by step, I drew closer.

"Hey shorty, why the long face?"

I stopped abruptly and looked up, recognizing Amy's voice instantly. She was sitting on the trunk of her car in front of my driveway. I hadn't realized how close I was to home.

"You look like you lost your best friend. Rachel OK?" Amy asked, smiling at me from her perch. I couldn't help it, I smiled back.

"Yeah, I'm sure she's fine. Probably talking someone's ear off right about now."

Amy continued to smile up at me as she slid off the trunk to lean against it with her hands in her sweatshirt's pockets.

I walked up next to her and leaned against the trunk of her car next to her. For a while, we didn't say anything to each other. Just stood there, leaning against her car.

"I'm sorry."

I heard myself say the words as if I were someone else. Amy turned to me.

"Why? You don't have anything to be sorry for. If anything, I'm sorry."

"What? Why? I'm the one who freaked out earlier. You just wanted to talk," I replied. Amy moved away from the car and started pacing in front of me.

"But I know you're shy and don't like to talk much. I was pushing you. I shouldn't have."

"It's OK, Amy, really."

"No it's not! I made you uncomfortable and then I acted like a real jerk after that."

"Hey," I said, reaching out to stop her pacing, "it really is OK. I like that you wanted to know what I was thinking. Besides Rachel, I really don't do a lot of talking."


"Yeah," I said, letting go of her arm, "I wanted to talk to you, too. But coach kinda freaked me out, y'know?"

"Totally, scared the shit out of me when he knocked on the window, and all," Amy replied, smiling again.

"Nearly made me jump out of my skin," I said, laughing a little. Amy turned to me again.

"I really did want to know what you were thinking about," she said softly.

"I know," I replied.

"It's OK if you don't want to talk now," she continued, "like you said, you don't do it all that often, and that's cool. I just wanted to make sure things were cool between us, and all."

"Yeah, we're cool," I said, smiling at her.

"You have a really pretty smile, Kyle," she said, then giggled a little, "smile...Kyle... that rhymes."

"Yup, sure does," I took a deep breath and decided to take a chance, "I think you have a really pretty smile, too, Amy."

To my astonishment, Amy looked down and blushed, a smile still lingering on her lips.

"Thanks," she practically whispered.

A car drove by and drew my attention away for a moment. And in that moment, I felt a hand tentatively take mine. I opened my fingers, and Amy intertwined hers with mine. I looked down at our hands, then out to the street. For a moment, I felt like I couldn't breathe. Then I looked at Amy again, saw her smiling, and I could feel myself breathe again. In that moment, I didn't feel six feet tall. I felt a thousand times taller. And for once, I reveled in it.

To be continued...

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