Chapter 2: The Meeting

The sun shone bright into Bay's window, rousing her from sleep. Sitting up in bed, she proceeded to wipe away the remnants of last night's fitful slumber from her eyes. Today was the day she would meet Ripley. Well, assuming she could locate him. It wasn't as if she had a picture of him. She wished she had. It was funny; the last few days had brought upon an urgency that hadn't existed before. Mere curiosity had become something much more.

Bay threw her red covers off of her and leapt out of bed. Standing in her bathroom, she gave herself the once over in front of the mirror. Who was this stranger inhabiting her body? She was, if nothing else, giddy. Bay didn't do giddy. Morose she did. Restless? Check. Combative? Quite right. But ecstatic? No.

Then again, she didn't have much to be giddy about these days. School was boring. Most of the kids there were vapid and superficial. She had less than nothing in common with them. Sure, she was popular by association. The daughter of a former baseball player; the girlfriend of a star football player. But none of those things mattered to Bay. And unfortunately, there was no elation in seeing Liam these days either. In fact, she would describe their relationship lately as cumbersome. They just didn't fit. He wanted her to play a role she hadn't even auditioned for. So of course, she'd relent and rebel and they'd argue. Bay had never been Miss Ray of Sunshine, but she'd never been this bitter, either. It was pure exhaustion. After all, it was tiresome to forever be relegated as the bitch. That wonderful use of misogyny had become Liam's pet name for her. Or at least it seemed to be. He referred to her as one enough.

But no, she refused to think of Liam today. Today was about new beginnings.

Deciding on black-laced camisole and a jean skirt, Bay headed downstairs to the kitchen. Wafting from it was a particularly pungent odor, of what she wasn't quite sure.

"Hi honey."

Bay wondered how it was possible to be related to someone with such a constant cheerful demeanor. And with Kathryn it wasn't an act; she was just a naturally jovial person.

"Hi..." Bay responded, a bit of hesitance in her voice. "Dare I ask what you made?"

Kathryn let out an embarrassed laugh. "Well, I aimed for Frittata, but I think it's more of an omelette?" It was obvious to Bay that Kathryn had no clue either. "Want to try it?" Kathryn offered Bay a plate.

"Uh, no thanks," Bay responded with a bit of an uneven tone.

As much as she loved her parents, Bay could never be entirely comfortable around them. She found herself cautious. Always traveling in and out of their lives with modest trepidation. Always wondering if she was the daughter they wanted. There was no doubt about it; Bay was the odd one out here. The black sheep of the otherwise ideal Kennish family. The sore thumb. It was obvious, to everyone. On the occasions her parents would hold cocktail parties and fundraisers, she'd hear them. The comments whispered. The judgments disguised as concern. The gossip.

Toby is such a good kid, but Bay?

I know. It's such a shame she'll never live up to her potential.

Bay pretended it didn't bother her. They were sycophants with no guts. But as hard as she tried, she couldn't deny the hurt she felt. The gnawing in the pit of her stomach. The never ending bright lights exclaiming, "You don't belong here." Because she didn't. She never had. And she accepted that. She stopped searching for reasons. There weren't any. If she kept looking, it would consume her. Acceptance was her only means of sanity. So she wouldn't go to an Ivy League school. So what? Her grades were mediocre at best, but who cared? So she was clumsy and colorful. The world needed color, didn't it?

"So," Kathryn said, bringing Bay out of her musings, "Got any plans for today?" And Bay had an immediate pang of regret for her previous thoughts. Kathryn was great. She was. Eager to connect with her enigmatic daughter. She could have given up at any time, yet, she never did. Instead, she forged ahead, determined. Bay knew she could cut her more slack. She would.

"Well, there's an art show at UMKC. I was thinking of going to that."

"With Liam?"

"Ha. No, definitely not."

"Trouble in paradise?"

Yeah, sure. Except that would imply being with Liam was paradise.

"I guess."

"You want to talk about it?"

And there it was again, the desperation to connect with her daughter. Bay wished she could throw a life raft out to her mom, but she couldn't. The truth was she just did not want to talk about Liam. But she appreciated Kathryn's efforts. She did.

"No, that's okay. Thank you for caring though."

Kathryn gave her daughter an earnest smile. "You're my daughter. Of course I care."

Kathryn reached out for Bay's hand and for the briefest of moments, they connected. What was more, Bay allowed the connection. Allowed the tenderness. It was a rarity that both women wanted to cherish.

"Aww. How sweet. Are we having a moment?"

Bay turned around to see Toby mimic barfing.

"You're such an ass."

When Kathryn wasn't looking, Bay shot him the middle finger.

"Classy."

Kathryn let out an exasperated sigh. "Can you two just...not today?"

"Fine," said both at once.

"A detente has been reached for today," Toby said, offering Bay his hand. Bay took it. In all actuality, Bay and Toby got along great. They weren't siblings who hated each other. Not even close. They just had a way about them, a banter that their parents didn't understand. Which often resulted in a "Can you two just not today?" request. It was a joke that they laughed about when J and K were not around. Their own secret. Toby had Bay's back, and she had his.

Toby walked over to the Keurig and poured himself a cup of coffee.

"Want one?" He asked Bay.

"Uh-uh," Kathryn started, giving Toby a pointed look which suggested his offer was unwelcome. "No coffee for her."

"Mom, she's fifteen."

"Almost sixteen in less than a month," Bay clarified.

Toby shrugged. "You gotta let the bird fly out of the nest at some point."

"Yeah, what he said."

"No!" Kathryn shook her head. "I don't want either of my babies flying out of the nest." She sniffled. "You're both getting so old." She reached her hand out to Toby's chin, a move he soon rebuffed.

"Okay, nostalgia, table of one."

"And that is our cue to leave."

Kathryn threw her hands up in the air. "Oh, fine. You're both rotten children anyway." But she smiled as she said it.

Already halfway out the door, Bay winked at her mother. "And don't we know it."


The UMKC campus was abuzz with commotion that Saturday morning. It was an discovery Bay found surprising. She figured most kids would either be sleeping in (if they dormed) or at home (if they commuted). After all, who would be willing to take classes on a Saturday? Well, unless they worked all week that was.

The art show website indicated the show would be in the student center. Not wanting to wonder around aimlessly, she stopped someone.

"Excuse me," her voice sounded more raspy than she intended, "where is the student center?"

The person pointed to their left. "You see that building way over yonder? That's it."

"Thanks."

"No problem."

As she walked towards the building, her anxiety seemed to expand by the second. What would Ripley look like? What would he sound like? Would he be attractive?

Whoa, way to be shallow, Bay. Perhaps your concern should lie with whether he's a decent person?

Looks shouldn't matter; her inner Jiminy Cricket scolded. And he was right. Whomever Ripley was, whatever he looked like, she'd give him a chance. After all, personal connections were what it was all about.

That's better.

Okay, enough with the conscience.

The bustle in the student center excited Bay. She hadn't expected it to be so busy. Or seem so professional. There were pieces on tables; pieces on the walls. Bay had read Siddhartha last year, but until now, nirvana was a foreign concept. Here, though, here she was at home. Images of art critics regaling her work in their newspapers danced around in her head. All it would take was for one person to find her work fascinating. Just one.

As she moved around from table to table, she looked for Ripley. She tried to be discreet, but that was a failure from the get go. Bay had plenty wonderful attributes. She was imaginative, generous, but she was also clumsy. In general, she was quite an unbalanced individual. As such, it was no shock when she rammed into some pour soul.

"Oh, my God," she cried, blushing furiously, "I am so sorry."

The victim of her hit-and-run had red hair, piercing blue eyes...and a camera. Could it be? The infamous Ripley?

"Are you Ripley?"

She stood, awaiting a response. Instead, the boy started to move his hands around. Bay had no idea what was going on.

"I'm sorry. I didn't...get that," she informed him.

Embarrassment crept onto his face.

Well, this is awkward.

Shush, you.

He took out his phone and typed away. When he had down what he wanted to say, he showed it to Bay.

I'm Ripley. And I'm Deaf.

"I'm sorry. I didn't know."

Bay felt like a complete and total heel. If she could have kicked herself right there, she would have. In addition to being clumsy, Bay also managed to have foot-in-mouth syndrome. It was a weekly - if not daily- occurrence. Much to her chagrin, of course. Now she found it inevitable that she would undoubtedly slight someone. Not that Bay was some angel; far from it. But more often than not, the slights were unintentional. And the last person she wanted to insult was Ripley. After all, their nightly chats had become the one constant in her life. He had somehow morphed from confidant to could-be soul mate.

Soul mate? When did Bay become a person who used words like that? That was so far removed from who she was. Yes, she was romantic. But she was also cynical and jaded. Except around Ripley.

Her legs felt jittery.

Say something, she silently willed of him.

He wrote something out on his phone again.

It happens more often than you think. Are you Bansky?

Bay acknowledged his question with a shake of the head.

"Can you read lips?"

He responded with a nod as well.

"I'm Bay."

Type, type, type.

He revealed his phone to her.

Emmett.

"Like in Twilight?"

His brow furrowed.

You read that crap? I have to say, I had higher expectations.

From Liam, that would have sounded insulting, but from Emmett, it bordered on flirtatious. Especially when he gave her a wink to go along with his admonishment of her literary taste.

"Sorry. We all have our flaws."

Emmett simpered.

And aside from crappy literature and douchey football player boyfriends, what are yours?

Maybe she should have taken offense at Emmett referring to Liam as douchey. But he was right.

"Nope. My only crimes against humanity are reading Stephanie Meyer."

And douchey football playing boyfriends.

"That too," she affirmed.

Are you liking the show so far?

"From what I've seen, yeah. It's great. You?"

Definitely.

Bay motioned at the camera Emmett had slung over his shoulder.

"Do you always bring that with you?"

Of course.

Then he patted it for effect.

It's my baby, he wrote, accompanied by a satisfied grin.

Bay found that amusing. Also, it was kind of sweet. He was dedicated to his craft. That was a plus.

Emmett's eyes darted around the room, finally landing on a photograph at the opposite end.

You want to take a look?

"Sure."

Together they strolled to the photograph. Bay noticed a sparkle in Emmett's eye as he observed it.

That's beautiful.

And she had to agree, it was.

It was black-and-white. Simple. Two hands intertwined. Nothing else. Did there need to be anything else? Bay didn't think so.

"I love it."

Emmett looked at her; a question loomed in the air. She felt her face get hot and flushed.

Do you want to get out of here?

God, yes.

"I do."

As they sauntered out of the building, Bay felt overjoyed. She followed him to the parking lot. Shock illuminated her face when they reached his mode of transportation.

"A motorcycle?" She cried.

Emmett face had become crestfallen.

Is that a problem?

"No, not at all," she assured him, thankful he couldn't hear the shakiness in her voice.

Holding out the spare helmet with one hand, he wrote with the other: Then hop on.

Okay, so perhaps getting on a motorcycle with a guy she barely knew was not wisest choice. It could, in fact, turn out to be a colossal mistake. But it was a mistake she was willing to make, for Emmett offered her something tangible. Meanwhile, Liam only offered her the abstract.

"Let's go."