This is a response to the 'One Hour Challenge' set by Princess Destiny, #35. The sentence which has to be incorporated is as follows:
"Okay, THAT is a surprisingly lethal high-heel made from imported Italian leather".
Of all the places I expected to see her, it wasn't crouched in the stairwell of Angel Grove High School, looking for all the world as though she were sixteen again, and frantically trying to finish her math homework before her teacher came down on her like a ton of bricks and sent her to Billy for tutoring again.
I clear my throat pointedly, and Kim looks up in horror, before the expression in her brown eyes turns to one of relief. "Oh, thank god, it's you."
Now there's a sentence I didn't think I'd hear her say. "Why?" I ask, in trepidation.
She sighs, and stands up from her crouched position, stretching as she does so and reminding me just how good she looks in all her reunion finery – a pink dress, in honour of the time period, and a silvery wrap currently all askew over her shoulders to keep away the slight draught which always penetrated the walls of the school, even when the air was still outside. "You know how you told me that Bulk and Skull had reformed?" she says, narrowing her eyes at me.
"They have!" I protest, holding my hands up in innocence. "Bulk owns a hotel, and Skull's making a very good living for himself playing the piano."
"I'm disinclined to believe you," Kim says darkly, and looks both ways about us before proceeding cautiously towards the school gymnasium. "Either you've lied, or they've regressed 15 years since you saw them last. They took one look at me and then started babbling about how wonderful I looked, and whether I'd reconsidered my concrete refusal to ever dating one of them."
I struggle to repress a giggle, and ultimately fail, which only serves to subject me to one of Kim's most annoyed glares. "You never had to deal with them constantly following you, asking you out and then refusing to listen when I said no! I don't care if they're completely reformed characters, I'm perfectly happy the way I am, thank you."
"So… that's why you felt the need to hide from them?" I ask incredulously. "Couldn't you have spoken forcefully to them?"
She stops dead in the middle of the corridor, still twenty feet away from where sane people are currently enjoying our class reunion. "I did!" she protests. "I was outside, because I needed some air, and that's when they attacked me! But then… I said things, and kind of had to make a sharp exit."
Kim begins to move again, but there's no way I'm letting her get away with that so easily. "Kim… what did you say to them?"
"I don't want to tell you," she pouts, and turns back to face me. "Can we just go back inside now?"
"I want to know what made you run away from Bulk and Skull," I say, in my most calm, teacherly voice. "It must have been good."
Kim pouts some more, and shifts her weight from side to side once more, and again looks 16 years old, and as though she's being reprimanded by Ms Appleby for talking to Trini during class. My analogy is further backed up by Kim suddenly saying "It wasn't my fault!"
"I'm sure it wasn't," I say soothingly, and decide to keep Kim out of the reunion for the time being, so guide her to a little seating area near the entrance to the gym, which must have been installed since I left the school unless my memory really is as bad as people say. She sits down unwillingly, and doesn't say any more.
"So, Bulk and Skull were hassling you?" I hint, not-so-subtly. Kim nods mutely, and refuses to look me in the eye. "Come on Kim, out with it so we can get back to the party. I hear Mr Caplan's planning to start the conga dance soon."
"They really did start it," Kim mumbles, so softly I can barely hear her, and have to dip my head lower to make out the words, although she begins to get louder as she gets into her stride. "They just wouldn't leave me alone! Bulk kept saying how he had plenty of spare hotel rooms that he and I could make use of, and then Skull insisted on singing about 20 ballads he claimed to have written about me over the past 15 years, and they wouldn't stop talking… It was driving me insane!"
Splotches of red are travelling over Kim's face, and she's turning dangerously pink, so I rub her back soothingly. "Do you want a glass of water?" She shakes her head.
"No, I'm fine. So, I thought the best way to make them go away would be to keep quiet and not say or do anything to rile them," she continues.
"That sounds like the best thing to do," I say, still rubbing her back in the movement of small circles, and feeling horribly like I'm talking to one of the students at Reefside High when they've been caught out. "Then what happened?"
"Both Bulk and Skull started talking at the same time, and then they started shouting to try and make themselves heard over the other. The noise was just getting so loud, and I couldn't cope with it any longer, and they were standing in front of the door to get back inside, so I…" Kim dips her head even lower than before, and talks into her hair, so that all I can hear is mumbling.
"Kim, sweetie, you're going to have to speak up a little, I didn't hear a word of that," I say cajolingly, and push her hair back. Kim's eyes meet mine, and I see that the spark is back, meaning that she obviously did something reminiscent of our high school days which put Bulk and Skull firmly in their place.
"I acted like a 14 year old, instead of over 30! I said… I said that I'd batter them with my shoes if they didn't let me through, and then I took them off and kind of… brandished them threateningly." Kim wails, and goes bright pink again, although through embarrassment more than anything.
"Kim, I thought you were going to wear flat shoes to this? They're not exactly threatening from close range," I say, not entirely comprehending – when we had walked together just a few moments before she had seemed her normal height, and I was sure I'd have noticed had she been taller. However, she sheepishly holds up something which has until now gone unnoticed clasped in her left hand… a pair of black leather strappy sandals, with heels at least four inches long, and pointy to say the least. "Okay, THAT is a surprisingly lethal high-heel made from imported Italian leather."
"I know," Kim says miserably, and drops the offending shoes onto the floor, although making no move to put them back on. "But they were so pretty! And seeing as I was stuck wearing a dress I hate, I wanted to at least wear shoes that I like. My feet started swelling up though…I had taken them off earlier, because they were hurting me so badly, and so when I aimed them at Bulk and Skull, I did so really quickly. They got really scared, and ran back inside, saying something about assault, and serious injury, and things… I was worried they were still around in the corridors, which was why I sat in the stairwell." A slight look of pain crosses her face for a few seconds, until she relaxes, and I remember why Kim was meant to be wearing flat shoes in the first place.
"Kim… have they started?"
Kim says nothing, only grips my hand tightly, and I suddenly feel a knot of panic form in my stomach which refuses to dissipate.
Kim had insisted on coming to the reunion, and who was I to refuse her? Unfortunately, it happened to fall on her due date, and I had to put up with weeks of moaning as she tried to find a maternity dress which would fit her on the day, and which she 'wouldn't be ashamed to be seen in', in her exact words. Her OB/GYN had said there was no reason not to go, seeing as the school is so close to the hospital, but to take things easy.
The evening has been a complete success so far… the buffet meal was perfectly edible, the speeches ranging from not too boring to entertaining, and of course it was great to see the whole gang together in almost a year – since Kim's and my wedding, in fact. Even though Billy graduated early, and half of us didn't graduate from AGH – we managed to get around the rule by pleading, begging, and eventually bringing those who hadn't directly been invited as guests.
Kim and I got back together after my latest turn of duty as a Ranger ended. Everyone descended upon Reefside once Mesogog was defeated for a celebration party, and friendship subtly turned into something more. We swore we'd take things slowly, but somehow, I found myself proposing to her on our six-month anniversary, and we got married and moved back to Angel Grove a year later. The pregnancy wasn't exactly planned, but came as the best surprise we'd ever had, nevertheless.
About twenty minutes after the speeches had finished, Kim had disappeared, saying she was going to get some fresh air. Trini went out to see her five minutes into her disappearance, and came back quickly, saying Kim was fine but just wanted a bit of peace and quiet. I gave her that, and then came out fifteen minutes afterwards to make sure she was okay.
I didn't expect her to provoke a fight with Bulk and Skull, let alone for her to go into contractions while she was doing it. Sure, I know it's her due date, but Dr. Field said most first babies are late, so we were subconsciously expecting it to be the same with us, I guess.
Kim lets go of my hand after a few seconds, and then looks at her watch. "They're still fifteen minutes apart," she informs me, and pauses for a moment before getting up and pulling me after her. "Come on, are you coming back inside to join Mr Caplan's conga line?"
I stare at her, dumbfounded. "Kim, we need to go to the hospital. Like, now. Or at least get you away from Bulk and Skull so you can't assault them again."
"Stop putting the blame on me! They're the ones who were hitting on a pregnant woman, not to mention the fact that I'm married," Kim retorts. "It's not my fault I am the victim of my hormones, and can't control my mood swings. They just caught me having a funny five minutes."
A thought comes to me. "Is that why Trini came back inside so quickly?"
Kim looks remorseful, and chews her lower lip. "I told her to go back inside and stop acting like a mother hen," she admits. "It's a good thing you didn't come after me earlier, or you'd have been the victim of a few choice insults for putting me in this state in the first place."
"I told you, you're beautiful when you're pregnant," I reassure her. And it's true – although she knows she'll always be beautiful in my eyes. Still, that doesn't take away from the fact that – "Kim, we need to get to the hospital. Pronto. Is your overnight bag in the car?"
"You put it there!" she reminds me, and while I'm about to fall to pieces under the sudden stress of it all, she has changed moods completely, and is calmly serene. "Tommy, remember what Dr Field said? I don't need to go to the hospital until my waters break, and they haven't yet. Now let's go back inside so I can apologise to my best friend for being such a moody woman, and as long as I don't join the conga, I'll be fine for another couple of hours."
"Are you sure?" I ask warily, taking the first few tentative steps back into the gym.
"How many times do we all get a chance to spend some time together? I'm not going to let a little thing like labour get in the middle of it – but if things get worse, I'll tell you straight away, and we'll go. But… let's not tell anyone, okay?"
"About you being in labour, or threatening to emasculate Bulk and Skull with your shoes?" I smirk, as we lock hands once again and push through the double doors into the room where all our classmates are, sitting, dancing, and reminiscing.
"Both – hey, I did not threaten to emasculate them! Just… give them a shock, is all," Kim argues, as we wind our way slowly through the maze of tables back to our friends. Kim gives Trini a hug, and whispers a few words of apology into her ear, while I scan the room for Bulk and Skull, and eventually find them trying to blend into the background against the far wall. I don't think they'll be bothering Kim again any time soon…
Kim grips my hand again, but a look in her direction reassures me that it's not because another contraction has hit. She looks completely happy, and it hits me that I am as well.
Although, in a sense, one chapter of our lives is just ending, another is just beginning. And we'll always have our friends… and each other.
End note: I'm not sure if I should be proud or worried that I wrote the same number of words in an hour as the word count for each of my 3 essays that I had to write over Christmas. Either way, please review!